Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Rap and Hip Hop’s Dark History: Anything For Money   Leave a comment

I want to preface this post with these two videos:

 

…Let’s be honest: This was what fueled the sharp rise of Hip Hop in the U.S. in the 1980s, the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the mid-1990s, the industry’s implosion during the mid-2000s and the mostly watered down stuff we see in the mainstream today.

Now me, I’m old enough to both remember and appreciate The System (The Government) and the Music Industry’s carefully laid out plans to indoctrinate, manipulate and brainwash the unsuspecting masses with African Americans as the primary focus. Most Blacks stopped listening to and playing Rock and Roll after Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis made it famous among White Americans during the 1970s. The politics of the time and the start of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” during the 1980s left many African American youth without a healthy outlet to ease pent-up frustration.

That all changed when Hip Hop was “re-discovered” in The Bronx in the early 1980s. Its popularity in African American cities exploded almost overnight. It came in at just the right time: Many young African Americans were researching their ancestors. Hip Hop, which survived in Africa was virtually unknown in the U.S. The self-appointed keepers of Hip Hop Lore, the original grandmasters and DJs of the early 80s still living in the Bronx often talk about how far Rap and Hip Hop has gone from its early years.

Here’s Kool Moe Dee’s Wild Wild West:

…And N.W.A.’s Express Yourself:

One thing both songs have in common is they tell a clear, concise story or message. THIS was Rap and Hip Hop’s original purpose. It’s like I said before: Rap is poetry over beats. Like other genres of music, Hip Hop is used to tell a story or message, usually about the times or who you are as well as uplift and empower.

…How then did we go from the above to this:

 

…Given I talked about the first song two years ago, my opinion of this type of music has changed since then. I now consider both Silento’s Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae and Soulja Boy’s Crank That to be fake Hip Hop and actually do more harm than good to the history of the genre. Why? Because they’ve become the blueprint for how to make “Safe Hip Hop”. You know, stuff that won’t offend privileged White Americans who don’t want to be reminded of how good they have it compared to many African Americans.

The real problem with both of these “songs” and the copycats they spawned isn’t the dancing. The dancing is freaking awesome. The REAL problem is both “songs” are not real songs. I mean that literally and that’s why I threw in the quotes. Recite The Alphabet. Now Recite The Birthday Song (“Happy Birthday To You”). Notice how both songs don’t just have rhythm but have subtance and is purposeful. The above songs lack both substance and purpose. The focus of both songs is the dance and this is why they’re both so “simple”. All you hear is what would be the chorus in a normal song the whole time.

Let’s take a look at PSY’s Gangnam Style, which was recently dethroned on YouTube for Most Watched Ever:

Yes, it’s goofy and in Korean but this is still a full song. I’ve seen the lyrics translated into English so I can say that. Yes, the focus is obviously on the Horse Dance but it’s still a full freaking song.

All that said, let’s now look at the song the put the U.S. Government on edge:

…I decided to go with the full version so you have the full, political context of the song. Public Enemy put both the U.S. Government and the Music Industry on notice with this song: To empower young African Americans to become politically involved, politically engaged and demand change from both themselves and the system. Believe it or not, this scared The System even more than N.W.A.’s F*** tha Police. They shut down that song by simply saying anyone who listens to it hates police and the mainstream ate up that lie like candy.

As the 1990s began, Hip Hop Artists realized they were being forced to do one of two things: Avoid politics and increase their chances of making alot of money or dive into politics and risk not just being blackballed but even killed. Most picked the former. All you need to do is look at popular rap music from about…I wanna say 1992 to now. Most of it is about glorifying money, sex, drugs, violence, alcohol and guns. It wasn’t until about…I wanna say 2007 Artists started to avoid the subjects of drugs, alcohol and especially guns. They knew the history so…yeah.

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Back then, those who did weave politics into their music had some success early on but not for too long. The lucky ones survived the 90s. The unlucky ones…well, this brings me to Biggie and Pac. Let’s be honest, Tupac Shakur was killed because of his mother’s affiliation with The Black Panthers first and his early political messages second. The Notorious B.I.G.’s death was also politically motivated, as was the “so-called beef” between them. THAT was carefully orchestrated to ensure whichever was killed first, the other would automatically blamed so their death could be written off as “retaliation”.

…And both of them knew it. Listen to The Notorious B.I.G.’s last album Life After Death. At a glance, it can easily be written off as your standard rap beef mixed with sex talk. It wasn’t until AFTER he died people began to realize he’d actually foretold not just his death but the reason why he would be killed. Look up Notorious Thugs, My Downfall, What’s Beef?, You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You) and Somebody’s Gotta Die on YouTube as I won’t post them all here to be nice to those who don’t have high-speed internet (LOL!). Overall, there is a reason it is considered his greatest masterpiece and one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of the 1990s. Yes, it’s the same one Hypnotize is on as well (third song on the first disc).

All that said, sadly the overwhelming majority made their choice: They chose profits over principles. They chose to give in to the system they knew could care less about them or their fanbases. There is a certain irony with most of those rap videos of the 1990s and early 2000s: The jets, cars, mansions, clubs and and jewelry prominently featured in them? They were all rented. The scantly clad women and backup dancers were hired or volunteers to shoot the videos as well.

For what purpose?

Simple: The system wanted to present a false narrative and a false reality to African Americans. The reality of the 1990s: Bill Clinton’s Mass Incarceration Policy. It wasn’t until during his wife’s Presidential campaign last year he admitted it did more harm than good as African American men were unfairly profiled in large numbers. The rap videos and music glorifying guns, violence, drugs, alcohol, sex and money were all things many African American youth desired but felt would always be out of reach unless they pursued one of two paths: Music or Sports. Again, the irony being few actually made it in either. I see young artists trying to sell their music in Downtown Boston, Dudley Square and Grove Hall almost every day and have for 15 years.

The sad truth is there are no guarantees in either. While it IS true some of these artists used to sell drugs, the overwhelming majority of them never have despite rapping about it. It IS true some artists recorded while high on drugs or while drunk, though. Most out of their own admittance years after the fact.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s artists in general realized The Industry was taking a bigger and bigger cut of the profits from their music. Some artists didn’t write their own music and that made it easier for record labels to “own” an artist’s blood, sweat and tears. Turns out being indie or starting your own label is the smart thing to do. Few artists in general could pull it off and it was virtually unheard of in Hip Hop. Artists like LL Cool J and Ice Cube reinvented themselves as actors, leaving music entirely. The advent of social media changed the game. Now, artists could cut out the middle man and get their music to fans directly, keeping 100% of the profits.

This actually proved to be an interesting and unexpected perk for indie, underground and new artists as now they could record a song and sell it online by themselves. At the same time, established artists use Social Media to connect with fans and promote their music. Hip Hop and Rap have certainly come a long way. Given the recent politics of America, the time is right for a true revival of the genre with a new generation of promising talent driven not by greed but by passion.

In my next post on the subject, I will talk a bit more about how much Hip Hop has changed since 1979 and where it may be going. Here’s a video to check out you may find interesting until then:

…That cover picture. Really is something, isn’t it?

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Rap and Hip Hop’s Dark History: Hijacked by Greed   Leave a comment

 

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…Right.

This is the first of what will probably be a monthly series on the subject of Rap and Hip Hop’s evolution. I’ve thought about doing this for some time and more so after I wrote that blog post on why I never liked BET. I plan to write on this topic through June ^_^

Before we can talk about Hip Hop’s history over the last 30 years, we first need to talk about its origins. For those who do not know, Rap is basically poetry over beats. Rap as a genre dates back hundreds of years. Like Rock & R0ll, Blues and Jazz, its origins are African. The difference is unlike those three genres, it was not white-washed when it became popular in the U.S. Not until very recently, anyway.

Before it was…”re-discovered” in the Bronx in 1983, Hip Hop was lost to time. Much of that was due to the slave trade in West Africa that saw over 15 million Africans forced from their homes, packed on boats and sent to The Americas as slaves against their will. Before Slavery ravaged Africa, Hip Hop was used as a form of spoken word to preserve the histories of families, tribes, nations and traditions. Written literature did exist but it was far more efficient to use hip hop and rap to preserve and convey important and practical information.

When Africans were brought to the U.S., they used music to keep the old traditions alive as well as to communicate in secret under the watchful eyes of their new masters and overseers. The rise of Abolitionist Movement during the 19th Century saw most African American Slaves stripped of what was a way of life for them. They would begin to regain that lost knowledge before and during The Great Depression. As time marched on, old traditions long lost to time began to resurface.

 

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…It would be fair to say that Hip Hop was re-discovered in 1983 in the Bronx. Talk to anyone in the Bronx today and they will tell you that what Hip Hop was in the span of time from 1985 to about…I wanna say 2009 was not what Hip Hop was back then. What happened? Greed, that’s what. The Music industry wanting a piece of the pie and the allure of fame were the main reasons but they weren’t the only reasons Rap changed so suddenly and drastically in the mid-80s.

The message and Hip Hop’s purpose were what changed. Remember what I said at the top: Rap is basically poetry over beats. In the early years Hip Hop was used as a way to talk about politics, where you came from, who you are and what you’re about. You had rappers and artists talking about real issues, empowerment and learning from the mistakes of others. NWA’s “Express Yourself” is pointed to from that era as a song with positive messages though of course you had your occasional diss tracks. They were nowhere near as direct and person as they would become a few years later though.

Starting in 1985, we would see a dramatic shift in how Rap and Hip Hop would be used and how it would be viewed and consumed. People like to blame Public Enemy and later NWA for the dramatic shift but it would be more accurate to say the intentions of those who got into “The Rap Game”–and I will talk about this in a separate blog–were motivated by fame and fortune more than anything else.

…To Be Continued.

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TMZ: Followup to ‘Straight Outta Compton’ in the works   Leave a comment

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…Given Straight Outta Compton just passed the $80 Million mark in profits made since its premiere last weekend, I’m not exactly surprised. Since it IS TMZ that is reporting it, I admit I’m a bit skeptical to take the announcement at face value.

Thr sequel, titled Dogg Pound 4 Life will apparently pick up where the N.W.A’s biopic left off. The new movie will focus on Snoop Dogg and Tupac’s early rise though Warren G, Kurupt and the late Nate Dogg’s careers (For those who don’t know, he died five years ago after suffering a stroke) will be touched on as well. It will presumably cover Death Row Records’ rise and fall under Suge Knight, who Dr. Dre worked with during the label’s early years before leaving to found Aftermath.

Speaking of, I touched on this in my review of Straight Outta Compton but Suge is believed to have had a hand in the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls and possibly Easy-E’s death as well. Suge is currently sitting in prison where he belongs on unrelated murder charges. And he’s dying from a medical complication. AND going blind. Sweet irony, I know.

Anyways, a source told TMZ the new movie will do what Straight Outta Compton didn’t do and not shy away from the influence Gang Violence had on West Coast Rap. I think that idea will backfire if they go all in. Eminem, 50 Cent and N.W.A. were smart in skirting around this in 8 Mile, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Straight Outta Compton, respectively. Not touching it doesn’t mean it wasn’t an influence. You only need to listen to their music to know it was. That doesn’t mean they need to revisit it in such lucid detail.

Ice Cube and his son put out a joint statement earlier today saying they will not be involved in the new movie despite rumors spread saying they were involved. Ice Cube is currently in Europe promoting Straight Outta Compton, which will make it European debut this weekend.  Andre Young, who played his father Dr. Dre in the N.W.A. biopic will reprise the role in the new movie, who is also co-producing the new film.

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Seriously thinking about it, there’s not much to tell about Death Row: The label was formed by Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, The D.O.C. and Snoop Dogg in 1991. The label fell apart after Dre left in 1995 and Tupac’s death the following year. Suge Knight serving time after Tupac’s death left the label without strong leadership and that ultimately killed the label, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Everyone was long gone by then to boot.Death Row died with Tupac prettymuch. Everything released after his death was remixes and unreleased tracks made by Dr. Dre and Tupac.

Snoop Dogg is said to be heavily involved as the movie will mostly focus on the label he formed after leaving Death Row, The Dogg Pound. That makes sense given unlike N.W.A., Death Row was quickly forgotten after Tupac’s death. The ironic thing is several artists who were with Death Row ended up dead–Tupac was just the most known. Some say that’s the reason they tried rebranding as Tha Row and why everyone left.

Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A. 27 Years Later   Leave a comment

I watched the movie Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The audience was diverse and the theater was packed despite it being a Tuesday afternoon. Not surprising given who it’s about.

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Top: NWA’s Movie Counterparts. Ice Cube’s son plays him in the movie.

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The remaining Members of N.W.A. and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray and Jason Mitchell, who played the late Eric “Easy-E” Wright (from top-left): Ice Cube, Gray, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Mitchell and MC Ren.

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…Before I begin, I do want to point out Straight Outta Compton is the name of both the movie and the 1988 album by N.W.A. The movie’s nearly two hours long and likely due to time, I noticed certain scenes shown in the movie trailer weren’t in the theatrical release. More on that in a little bit. To those who may be wondering thankfully, the actual music is used. Having ALL of the original members having a part in the movie’s production sure helped of course (LOL).

N.W.A.

Anyone even remotely interested in Rap or Hip Hop knows and if they don’t, SHOULD know that without N.W.A., there would be no Snoop Dogg, Eminem or 50 Cent. There would be no Tupac, Death Row Records, Aftermath Records, Shady Records or Menace II Society. Before there was Bone Thugs N Harmony, there was N.W.A.

They legendary rap group had the balls to speak their minds through their music at the height out the “War on Drugs”. They had the balls to say what everyone was thinking but didn’t have the balls to say. As Ice Cube’s son says as him in the film, their music was a reflection of their reality. 27 years later, the imfamous song Fuck tha Police is heralded as the most controversial track ever recorded. Why?

The track speaks for itself (Lyrics included):

…Unsurprisingly, the track has gained a recent surge in popularity and universal appeal in recent years for obvious reasons. Most folks are familiar with the song Express Yourself, which is actually on the SAME album as Fuck tha Police. The cover track is the first one as well.

Now let’s talk about the movie Straight Outta Compton. As I noted at the top, all of surviving members of N.W.A–Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren–played a part in the movie’s production. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre co-produced the movie. As he said in a recent interview on ESPN, he didn’t give preferential treatment to his son, who plays him in the film. Jason Mitchell plays Easy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. In the days since the movie’s release this past weekend, Easy-E’s daughter made some comments on Twitter some interpreted as concern over how her father is portrayed in the film. She clarified her statements the same day and announced she’s working on a side project about her father. Mitchell has been tapped to reprise his role as Easy-E in it as well.

Another thing folks have been saying online is how MC Ren and DJ Yella were barely there and that Dre, Easy-E and Ice Cube dominated screen time for the most part. Shouldn’t be a surprise given Dre and ‘Cube co-produced the movie (LOL). Seriously though, the movie was done as a tribute to Easy-E. Ren and Yella know that so it’s all good.

That said, one of Dr. Dre’s ex-girlfriends said Monday his abusive relationships with his girlfriends was conveniently left out of the movie. Those who know about it knows he settled all that a while ago and publicly apologized. Her words were for the majority who may not be aware. Ice Cube got into fistfights with alot of people shortly after he left Ruthless Records but only one was shown in the movie. Like I said two paragraphs ago, Easy-E’s daughter raised concerns about her father’s portrayal in the movie. At the end of the day, Straight Outta Compton is about the rise and fall of the GROUP N.W.A. I’ll get to this later on but since the group broke up–and this is already well-known–Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have gone on to enjoy success since they left the group.

Moving on, the movie is interesting in which there were no cameo appearances by living persons who were around at the time. After Dre left N.W.A., he teamed up with the Suge Knight and formed Death Row Records. Tupac makes a brief appearance (not actually him, mind you) in the booth recording his smash hit Hail Mary. Snoop Dogg (not playing himself) also makes a brief appearance where he

There were a few scenes that were mentioned in the trailer that diffent make it to the theatrical release: in one, Easy-E pulls an AK-47 out of a black duffel bag. A scene with him holding it does make it into the movie. Another scene cut was Dr. Dre talking to his wife in jail after his arrest in Miami. I assume they and others were cut due to time constraints. Hopefully. they will all be included in the Blu-Ray/DVD Release, which I plan to buy when it comes out.

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Now, let me direct your attention to Suge Knight, above. Alot of folks agreed his portrayal in the movie was spot-on: Suge is alot of things he would later go out of his way to try to sweep under the rug. As Dre would find out in the movie when they worked together, Suge is a user, a snake, violent and greedy. What made him especially dangerous was he didn’t have a problem doing his own dirty work. Now that he’s dying in prison from a medical complication, he can’t hurt anyone anymore. As the saying goes, the longest rope has an end.

You can’t talk about the deaths of Easy-E, Tupac and Biggie Smalls and NOT talk about Suge Knight. Why? Because his name comes up as a person of interest in all three deaths. We know Biggie and Pac were shot but Suge was one of the last people to see both of them alive just before they died. We also know Suge later admitted in an interview after Biggie’s death he was the one who instigated the Biggie vs. Tupac beef that lead to both of their deaths. Their murders remain unsolved to this day and by the way, the two didn’t have a problem with each other. They were both victims of the Rap Game.

As for why Suge’s name is mentioned in regards to Easy-E’s death, it’s because it was well-known they didn’t like each other. In the movie there is a scene where Suge Knight and some of his boys jump Easy-E in the studio to force him to cut Dr. Dre from his contract with Ruthless Records, who was unofficially working for Death Row Records at the time.

We know Easy-E died from AIDS but the million-dollar question yet to be answered is how did an otherwise reasonably healthy man get it? Two things about AIDS have changed since 1993: AIDS is no longer a death sentence and sex with an infected person is no longer the most common way it’s spread. That said, there is a theory that’s been growing in popularity since Suge’s arrest that he had Easy-E injected with HIV-positive blood. After all, Easy-E didn’t know he was infected until it was too late. What makes it even more suspicious is Suge Knight’s disrespectful comments about Easy-E’s death after being told of his portrayal in the movie by his attorney. Just makes him look even more guilty if you ask me!

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Left to Right: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Marshall Mathers aka Eminem aka Slim Shady and Andrew “Dr. Dre” Young.

Switching gears, Dr. Dre is easily the richest former member of N.W.A. and it’s mostly because of the two guys pictured with him above: 50 Cent and Eminem. Dre signed Eminem to Aftermath in the late 90s, turning the Hip Hop world upside down in Eminem’s debut track Forgot about Dre:

…The rest, as they say is history. Even his haters know to gave credit where credit’s due: He knows the game better than anyone else. He’s got the eyes and ears for it.

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Ice Cube, who made his acting debut in the 1991 movie Boyz in the Hood is the most prolific former member of the group. You probably know him from such movies as XXX 2: State of the Union, Are We There Yet?, The Barbershop and Friday. Ride Along 2 will be in theaters September 18 and according to his IMDB page, The Barbershop 3 is coming sometime next year. Ice Cube returned to the recording studio for the first time in over a decade a few years ago for a live show. He’s still got it and he’s come out of retirement as an artist.

Getting back to the movie Straight Outta Compton, they clearly took a page out of Selma’s playbook with the movie release’s timing: Selma, which was released in theaters earlier this year came out just before Eddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. I talked about it in a blog post on the subject. The same can easily be said about Straight Outta Compton with CNN’s coverage of African American men being pulled over by police, usually ending in their deaths.

The movie touches on this as noted in the trailers where members of the group are shook down by police early on. The reason? They just happened to be black men standing outside their home or workplace. This was–and still is–the reality of black young men and it’s the main reason I stayed the fuck off the streets during the 1990s. THAT is one of the main points the Black Lives Matter Movement is raising: We live in a country where one race is assumed guilty even if proven innocent simply because of their skin color.

Oh, that reminds me: For the Los Angeles and Compton premieres of the movie, there was a heavy police presence “as a precaution”. Not long after, this meme showed up on the internet:

Tongue in cheek but sadly relevant: The same week the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter (not saying his name) got what he deserved, there was another mass shooting in Texas in which two people were killed. A third shooting happened at yet another theater in Lafayette the week after but only the gunman was killed (suicide). All three were white. CNN sounded pretty disappointed nothing happened at Straight Outta Compton’s premeires in L.A. and Compton in an interview XD

…Not owning your mistakes doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

In closing, I give this movie a 10/10 easily. They didn’t outright say it but I think N.W.A. knew they would have to wait before they could do their biopic in their own words on THEIR terms. Owning the music used certainly helped: In other recent biopics based on black artists, they couldn’t use any of their actual music due to how expensive paying for copyright permission would have been. This is why you wanna maintain ownership of your music: Once you sign a contract with a label, it’s no longer yours.

There are many takeaways in the movie, most of which were clearly directed at both those who lived at the time and young people today. The LA Riots after Rodney King’s trial was touched on in the movie. That was a clear nod to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Towards the beginning of the movie, a kid on the bus ‘Cube is riding on throws up a gang sign at two members of the Crips driving next to the bus. The Crips stop the bus with guns drawn and prettymuch tells the kid (and the others) the “Gangsta Life” isn’t something they want to get caught up in. Not unless they wanna end up dead or in prison. This was a pretty important scene given it was a lifestyle alot of kids idolized at the time.

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…Whew, ok I think I covered everything…oh, wait scratch that: As of this writing, Straight Outta Compton’s grossed $60.2 Million at the box office and there is even talk of an Oscar nomination. The same was said about Selma but the movie was subbed when Oscar time came around. This movie getting an Oscar would be both vindication for N.W.A. and the acceptence of rap by the mainstream, which not even Eminem’s 8-Mile got.

Only time will tell.

As a bonus for reading this much, here’s a scene from the movie:

 

 

I finally figured out why Frozen feels nostalgic when I watch it   Leave a comment

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…And the funny thing is I realized it when I bought the soundtrack from a non-Disney classc, An American Tail. For those born after 1995, you probably have no memory of what I like to call the final days of children’s movie blockbusters. In plain English: Hugely popular movies geared towards younger audiences that became smash hits by fans of all ages.

I consider myself lucky to have grown up when movies like Aladdin, Home Alone, Hook and The Lion King premiered. For TOO LONG, there hasn’t really been a kid-centric movie since the late 90s that would easily have folks talking about it 20 years later. Then Frozen came on to the scene two years ago.

Let’s take a look at the hit song, Let It Go:

Not ashamed to say I bought two copies of Frozen’s soundtrack and have listened to this song over 400 times. Now, you millenials are new to the runaway hit phenomenon that is this song. It also asks the question of which is more popular: The song or the movie?

Disney did this almost every year during the 1990s starting with 1991’s The Little Mermaid. Here’s the hit song from that movie that I know parents are not ashamed to sing acapella in the family car/minivan, Under The Sea:

Samuel E. Wright voiced Sebastian, Triton’s majordomo and royal composer. Wright himself is an experienced musician. After the movie’s release, he recorded some¬† kids’ sing-alongs. Here’s one of them:

 

…He’s got range to say the least! According to an interview with him, Disney approached him to offer him the role. He’s still in the business though obviously, the royalties from his work with Disney ALONE will ensure he’s set for life!

Moving on to Aladdin next. I’ll skip over Beauty & The Beast though the track Gaston (who, by the way is the movie’s bad guy BECAUSE he’s awesome in every way) has been enjoying renewed popularity due to cosplayers. That movie’s hit song Beauty & The Beast, like Aladdin’s hit song A Whole New World has two versions: The movie version and a single post-production version. Here’s the movie version:

We’ll look at three more songs before we stop. I’ll pause for a moment to remind folks the legendary Robin Williams had been tapped for this movie, contributing my personal favorite Prince Ali as well as the smash hit Never Had a Friend Like Me to the film. Disney established its dominance with this film. It was a powerhouse as a movie maker.

Then 1995’s The Lion King changed the game: Three years after its release, Disney was forced to change the movie’s rating from G to PG. The reason: Mufasa’s death scene and the aftermath involving Simba and Scar. That was pretty dark for Disney as they’d never done anything like that up until this movie. The other reason they changed the rating were the high-profile school shootings in America at the time (Columbine happened in 1997). The movie has a number of memorable songs but it’s the opening number that draws you in:

The Lion King was the highest-selling film in studio history until Frozen was released. It nuked all expectations when it was released. The Broadway Adaptation, which launched in 2005 for the movie’s 10-year anneversary has toured all over the world. Here’s the opening number:

Before I forget, the moment where Rafiki raises Simba atop Pride Rock is an homage to Alex Haley’s Roots. Here is the famous scene:

Oh and yes a woman is cast as Rafiki in the Broadway version. No biggie. Johnathan Taylor Thomas voiced young Simba while the legendary James Earl Jones (aka Darth Vader) voiced Mufasa. Moving on, we’re looking at another big budget film that had its teaser included in the original VHS release of The Lion King: Pocahontas.

Like The Lion King before it, Disney did its homework to be as accurate and respectful as possible to the descendants of the Native American tribe featured in the movie. I mean in terms of how they were depicted in the film and its sequel. In the movie’s teasier, Disney did something it hasn’t done since and gave audiences the movie’s lead song almost a year ahead of the movie’s theatrical release, Colors of the Wind:

…By the way, I didn’t miss an interesting message portrayed in the movie: The arrival of the Englishmen and Jamestown’s settlement heralded the beginning of the end of Native American life as they knew it. I don’t think this underlying message was intentionally put in but that message was pretty obvious. It’s more overtly done in James Cameron’s Avatar. The call to protect the unspoiled parts of our world is raised as well. America looked very different from how it does now 100 years ago.

Anyway, I say it’s about time the Disney and knew and loved as a kid made a comeback. The generation before mine has fond memories of The Sound of Music. The current generation now has Frozen. It was a movie that came in at just the right time. The musical numbers carried the movies. Thanks to Frozen, it looks like Disney is going back to its roots ^_^

 

So much garbage on American TV these days   Leave a comment

 

The more I seriously think about, the happier I am with my decision to only watch network TV for sports, the news and Cartoon Network’s Anime block Saturday at 11:30PM to 6:00AM Sunday morning (though I only watch the first hour for Attack on Titan and Bleach, both of which are in their final episodes) . Anything else I might want to watch is where DVDs/Blu-Ray sets, Netflix and Crunchyroll come in.

What’s really sad is there are alot of sensible people out there who would rather watch junk on TV than do something else with their time. This isn’t like the 80s and 90s where you just knew not to watch Daytime TV. These days, it’s rare to find meaningful programming outside PBS. For those with Cable/Satellite you can no longer rely on The History Channel, The Discovery Channel or even TLC.

Controversial from the start, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo was finally cancelled by TLC last month despite having just recorded a new season (which will reportedly cost the network $19 Million). The reason: The matriach of the family’s new boyfriend is a convicted child molester. What’s worse: The ex-con was convicted of molesting her now 21-year old daughter, who was the age of the show’s star at the time. Major props to TMZ for breaking the story and Kudos to TLC for doing the right thing in both cancelling the show and offering counseling to the family.

Moving on, I make it a point to avoid network TV (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX and CW) during state and national elections. The only real way to stop the special interest groups is to not watch at all. I think I mentioned this during the election for Boston mayor last year but many people do not do their own research on candidates or wait until the day before an election to try to do research. A considerable number of folks in this demographic decide who they’re gonig to vote for based on the TV Spots, candidate personality, party affiliation or a combination of all three. This was how Mitt Romney became Governor of Massachusetts and Scott Brown became a Senator in Massachusetts. Yes, the same Scott Brown who tried and failed to run for Senate in NH and the same Mitt Romney who ran for President in 2012.

Anywho, I’m content paying the $15 a month I pay for Netflix and Crunchyroll to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it on demand. I’m also fine with buying DVD or Blu-Ray box sets of my favorite TV Shows or buying digital copies from iTunes, Xbox Live or The Playstation Network. Yes, I hate Political Ads THAT much and no, I don’t use Pandora either. I like being able to own the music I listen to be it digital or physical. Everyone who would prefer to go to the pirate sites for movies are not as smart as they think they are and they are taking money out of someone’s paycheck. Not the actors and the guys on the top but the unsung middlemen who do 80% of the work and are only mentioned by name in the closing credits.

Don’t wanna buy alot of movies? Just wait until it comes out on Netflix.

 

Five Years after death, Michael Jackson continues to inspire the world   Leave a comment

On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died. He was 50 years old.

The five years since The King of Pop’s sudden death stunned the world saw the release of a Movie (Michael Jackson’s This Is It), A video game on multiple consoles (The Michael Jackson Experience) and two new Albums (Michael and Xscape). Only a month after his death, Michael Jackson surpassed Elvis Presley to become the richest dead musician in history. Yet another record he broke that will likely ever be surpassed.

As many of you know, I am a lifetime fan of his music and have nothing but respect for the man behind the music. As many people all over the world take a moment to remember the King of Pop, now more than ever his music is a great source for inspiration.

Here is my Top 20 list of songs meant to inspire with the Album they come from in parentheses. I was originally going to only list 10 but let’s face it, that wouldn’t be enough XD

  1. Human Nature (Thriller)
  2. They Don’t Really Care About Us (HIStory: Past, Present and Future)
  3. Man in the Mirror (Bad)
  4. Jam (Dangerous)
  5. Heal the World (Dangerous)
  6. Black or White (Dangerous)
  7. Will You Be There (Dangerous)
  8. Gone Too Soon (Dangerous)
  9. Keep the Faith (Dangerous)
  10. History (HIStoryL Past, Present and Future)
  11. Speechless (Invincible)
  12. Cry (Invincible)
  13. Hold My Hand (Michael)
  14. Keep Your Head Up (Michael)
  15. Best of Joy (Michael)
  16. A Place With No Name – Both Versions (Xscape: Deluxe Edition)*
  17. Love Never Felt So Good – Both Versions (Xscape: Deluxe Edition)*
  18. You Are Not Alone/I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (Immortal)
  19. Planet Earth/Earth Song (Immortal)
  20. Never Can Say Goodbye (Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection and Jackson 5: Anthology)

* Only the Deluxe Album has both versions of this song. The Standard Version only has the remixes.

Let’s be honest: All of his songs are inspiring. This playlist in and of itself…whew.

In a separate blog post we will explore so of Michael Jackson’s more…forboding songs. It’s sure to be interesting ^_^

 

 

 

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