Wednesday, November 6, 2013
More than a month later, and not a damn thing changed. I'm still busy, and it looks like it will remain that way until December 13th. Mark your calendars, that's when I'm coming home. I'm looking forward to it. Not only do I miss my family and others dear to me, I just miss being around people more than a few hours a day. I have friends out here, but I'm still a lone wolf for the most part, and that solely falls on me. But it's almost necessary considering the amount of work that has been put in front of me.
The last you heard from me which was back in September, things were sort of a cake walk. My school work was still heavy, but I haven't fully started my job yet. I was breezing through the first half of my final year in grad school. I can't lie, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was averaging a 98% in one class and an low A (or A-) in another. Then October hit, and it hit me like a bus. Not only did my grades take a little dip, but everything else as well. I've mentioned this before and I'll mention it again, whether it can be proven or not, but October and February haven't been very good months for me. It not only occurs on the academic side of things, but also personally. For some reason, bad luck occur to me around those two months. If I'm in a relationship or dating, it always seem to end in February...the premise of a good comedy, right? October seems to be the "rotating friends" or "trying to balance a job/school" type of ordeal. It's much the same as me associating April and June as my good luck months. Of course, people go through these things every single day, but those months in general, things tend to happen. I've witnessed other people go through it during certain times of year as well...so I'm not alone in that aspect.
As much as I wanted to blog, I just couldn't. Yeah, I had some downtime, but that was used for something more wisely such as rest (which I still lack), eating, and other non-academic activities. Some frustration aside (technology issues), I am performing exceptionally well at my job. While it requires about 2 hours a day (5 days a week), I still find myself putting in extra time because I'm one who feels the need to make sure that EVERYTHING is running as it should be. There are some things I've come to accept that can't be fixed, but for the most part, I make sure things are good and up and running. It's a college TV station, but you never know who may take notice of my performance. I'm trying to get as much as I can before May because once I walk across the stage, I'll be transitioning to a much grander stage, and that's professional industry. I don't know all of what my predecessor has done, but outside of what I've been told (job description), I've always made it my mission to go the extra mile. On top of the actual job I do, I keep others in the loop whether it's inform people of my plans via social media or even providing suggestions on how to make what we do better. I feel obligated to do that because if there's any time to show how much of a professional I am or can be, that time is now. I hope to be able to jump into something immediately following graduation.
Speaking of graduation...the clock is ticking and I still don't have my Plan B proposal approved. If I fully understood around this time last year, then I would've had a very effective proposal ready to go by this past summer. So that's one extra weight that has been placed on my shoulders and due to the workload of my actual classes, it's a matter of trying to squeeze time to redo it. What I submitted to the person who verbally agreed to chair my committee, well...let's just say that it's not even worth looking at anymore. It's 2-3 weeks since I've last touched it, as well as my screenplay for it...and I have to get it done either by the end of the semester or within the first 10 days of the next semester. I won't be able to receive my degree if I don't officially register for it. If there is one thing I regret, at least as far as school is concerned, it's definitely that. On top of getting approval and registered, I also have to deal with actually finding people who are willing to work on it for little to no compensation. Most people in this same predicament would make excuses and blame others. Not me...if I don't get this done, it'll be on me, and I should've known better. But we'll see within the next month or two. I hope to find a weekend or two to solely concentrate on it because I don't want to let anyone down. Most of all, I don't want to let myself down.
I did get to meet a couple of cool new people as well as got to know some I already knew much better. That's always a bonus, especially for a graduate student of my stature. As I've mentioned plenty of times before, if there was any kind of relationship I'd like to build in graduate school, it would be a professional relationship. However, personal relationships are a bonus. Do I see us being friends beyond school? There are some I know for sure. There are others who may forget me or choose to no longer "have any use for me" beyond school. And the reason I say that is because there are some people whom I've reached out to from previous schools, whom I thought I had a good relationship with, but have chosen to either ignore or completely cut me off. If that's what they want, then so be it. I'm not going to force myself on people, but I'd be lying if I was to say it didn't hurt a little. But while I'll never mimic what they've done, it has sort of opened my eyes and cautioned me to not let people in my life as far as I'll need to. It sounds a little messed up, but that seems to be the reasonable thing to keep me from experiencing it again.
Anyway, before I go off and ramble on some random nonsense, I want to say that attempting to balance an academic, professional, and personal life is tough. I've complained about it and I hear my peers complain about it all the time. However, once you figure it out and find a method/strategy that works for you, then all of the stress, headaches, heartache, and tears will be worth it. Having that extra title credited to your resume will be so much more rewarding. Just continue to fight through it. I have a few more months left and you better believe that I'll be partying in the end...even if it's for a few seconds. My accomplishments will celebrated, and then it's back to business.
It's been real. I can't officially say I'm back because the next you hear from me could be in December. But it felt good to at least spend a little time getting back into the groove here.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
|Photo courtesy of @surrenderedflow|
Here's something that people may not know or even care to remember about me. I shoot. I snap. I have the ability to get people to jump, run, and even cower in fear.
That's right...I'm a dangerous man when a camera is put in my hand, and I'm here to remind people that no matter how often I'm pushed to the side or told that they'd rather not have me do this or that, I'm going to continue to work on my craft and will get better. The reason I brought this up is because I've been in a little dry spell when it comes to video production. A good percentage of it is my own fault because I've been using the 'affordability' excuse long enough that I'm even cursing myself out at how pathetic it sounds. It's true, I can't afford half of the things my peers have either worked hard for or have been blessed with (thanks to supporters). However, it shouldn't stop me from at least getting to know and learn such things so that I'll be better prepared whenever I do get my hands on them. And while other things have kept me occupied, it's still no excuse since this is what I want to do in life.
I have several projects coming soon and one will be my ticket to receiving my Master's degree. Hopefully within the next month I'll be able to share it with everyone so that I can get some help because no matter how much you do personally, production will always be a team effort. Another project I have is this 48 hour film competition. I've witnessed several, but never competed. I'm hyped about it. However, my main concern about it is the fact that when it comes to these things, restless hours and egos colliding may prevent the project from becoming a successful one. It happens on professional film sets as well, but when you have a handful of students putting in time for free, it could get ugly. I've heard from people first hand and even went through it myself working on a class project several years back.
I'm still not entirely sold on which position I want to squarely focus on when I enter the professional world. I love creating my own stories, but my main weakness in that category is dialogue and characterization. My best friend is a screenwriter and she's awesome at characterization. But she and I cover different genres and I don't think either of us would be willing to compromise. I'm good at plotting and creating a story from beginning to end, but that's about it in that department.
For the longest, I've wanted to be a director. The funny thing about this is that I'm an introvert. Everyone who knows me personally will say that I'm shy and probably won't speak unless spoken to. However, the several times I've been entrusted to head a video project (for school and personal use), much of that introvert is gone. It's like an alter-ego or something...remember Me, Myself, & Irene? Something like that, but less cooky.
And last but not least, I have a passion for video editing. Ever since the 10th grade when I was exposed to Avid Xpress Pro, I've developed a love for video editing. Not only did I think it was the coolest position, but I also felt that it was the most creative. Sure, video editors can get out of hand and add a bunch of corny ass effects to cover up their faults, but I still had a passion for doing it. While I'm nowhere near the best among my peers, I do think I can hang with the best of them. My editing style is quick cut storytelling. I can do some of the other stuff. Over the past year, I've come to know and improve on my Adobe After Effects skills. But I'm more of a storyteller with matching action type of editing. In many ways, my style may be more suited for the news, independent films, or television production, which is fine with me. I have experience in all 3 media.
Another thing I'm dangerous with and it could possibly be my most dangerous weapon...is my heart. I know it sounds cliche, but it's the truth. For far too long I've either been cast aside or even told from some of my biggest supporters that maybe it's time for me to do something else. While I respect their opinions and input more than anyone else, I refuse to concede. This is something I've wanted to do since I was 13 years old. That's more than a decade of dreaming, learning, and putting in work. I've lost friends over this and will probably lose more, but this is what I want in life. I admit that I'm not the most tech savvy or the most creative, but not being the best will never keep me from dreaming of becoming the best.
It's nothing wrong with thinking you're the best or going to be the best, but keep in mind that there are thousands...maybe millions more who are thinking the same way. Over the past couple of years, I've been humbled, but I'm also driven to continue working for what I want. I hope my peers, family, friends (current and former) apply the same attitude in their perspective pursuits.
I'm a dangerous man, but I do it with a positive goal in mind.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Throughout the years I've often joked and shared a few laughs in regard to whether Tupac Shakur was dead or not. Whether he's in Cuba, got plastic surgery, or just chillin' in his mother's mansion. It was all fun and games. But death itself is no game, and the fact that we lost someone who was so talented and passionate about his music and cause, makes today an even sadder day. 17 years ago today, the Hip Hop world lost its General, Tupac Amaru Shakur. He died at the age of 25. I repeat...25! How could someone at the age of 25 touch so many hearts? How could someone at the age of 25 make such an impact? That's a very short time. We still have guys who are in their 40s and 50s and have been doing it for more than 3 decades and still can't come close to what he's done. Imagine if he was still around today. Imagine if he avoided attending the Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas 17 years ago. Imagine if he wasn't so close to Suge Knight. Just imagine...
Hip Hop is a culture and Rap is part of the culture. Look at how many lives it has touched. It has given a voice to the young and rebellious generation in the same vein as Rock & Roll. In the 1950s, Rock & Roll was considered obscene. That's how Hip Hop and Rap has been viewed as for the past 3 decades. While it has given us a voice, it has also given us a lot of heartache. Not only death, but self-destruction continues to play a factor in the genre's slow downfall. Yes, Hip Hop is very much popular today, but the more it continues to go in the current direction, the more the culture itself continues to deteriorate. Soon or later, Hip Hop will only be a name.
What attracted me to Hip Hop was the fact that it birthed so many sub-genres. Yes, I loved the music. But I also loved the other aspects of it. I loved the break dances. I loved the beat boxing. I loved the scratching and mixing. I loved the graffiti. I even loved the fashion...including what some may consider an embarrassment today. It all attracted me. As far as music is concerned, I loved almost every portion of Hip Hop music. I loved music with a social message. I loved party music. I even loved Gangsta Rap. As far as the latter goes, I loved it but I didn't love when artists confuse real life with entertainment. As long as they kept it as entertainment, it's all good. Dr. Dre (1995) said it best...
I think somewhere along the way, rappers forgot about that. You would think that the murders of 2Pac, Biggie, and several other prominent artists would be an eye opener. Instead, things continued to spiral out of control, and for what reason? Street cred? Do you really think people are going to respect you more if you go out and prove how stupid you are? If you've been brought up properly and been taught right from wrong your entire life, why would hide it? Do you think getting arrested is cool? Do you think being looked at as the bottom of society's food chain is cool? Do you think having your parents bawl their eyes out and question where they went wrong while burying your young carcass is cool? It's not because while people will mourn you, they'll also look at you as another misguided foolish soul.
2Pac was not without sin as well. While he was a prominent activist, he also portrayed the role of the same people who murdered him. For every positive 2Pac record like Keep Ya Head Up, there were two more negative records such as Hit 'em Up and Against All Odds. Whether 2Pac truly believed he was a thug or not, is something we'll never truly know. But what I do know is that he should still be alive today, assuming no illness or unfortunate accident occurred. In my personal opinion, he was at his best when he was trying to uplift the community and became the voice of the voiceless. Yes, I liked some of his negative records, but I listen more to the ones that made you think. I believe that if he was still alive, then maybe he could usher in a generation of rappers who would be able to make you not only think, but to feel and live through their records. Only very few can do that today, and most of them are considered "irrelevant" by today's standards. It's a shame.
I know that this entry is going to be viewed by few and not taken very seriously, but even if just one person takes what I said to heart and think, I'll be satisfied. As a fan of Hip Hop, I am ashamed of what it's become, but I will continue to hold out some hope for a "revival", even if it's a little. You can still promote Gangsta Rap or misogynistic lyrics, but remind yourselves that it's entertainment, and entertainment only. You may be able to feel and uplift yourself through some music, but it's still just entertainment.
I hope today's artists learn from 2Pac's mistakes.
June 16, 1971 - September 13, 1996
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Sometimes, I (unapologetically) pray in public. Normally I'd do it before I eat. I didn't always pray, but after what happened on this day 12 years ago, how could I not? While I don't necessarily claim a religion due to the fact that I think people who do that are bullshit artists anyway, I will say that by default I am a Christian. That's how my family was brought up. I believe in Christ, as well as thy Holy Father. But since that event, I do pray everyday... and not for personal gain. I pray to God to thank Him for another day of life. I pray to thank Him for all He has blessed me with. I pray to thank Him for keeping me, my family, and friends protected. Prior to 9/11/2001, I rarely prayed and when I did, it was normally because of something I want, whether it was money or for a better report card. The latter I had no problem getting regardless. But while there are no restrictions on prayers, I did see that method as a selfish gain, therefore I had to stop.
While 9/11 will be stuck in our minds and hearts forever, I will say that each year my recollection of where I was at and everything that happened tends to fade. I don't know if it's me getting older or the fact that I'm trying not to remember. What I do remember was during my History class, it was a typical Tuesday morning, with more than half of the class clowning as usual. The teacher, who was awesome by the way, wasn't that phased by it because he knew that once he grab our attention for the lesson, then he got it. He's one of those who has earned that right, not only due to his experience and long tenure, but also due to the fact that he treated us as human beings and as managed to build a rapport with us. There was this one kid, who was sort of a class clown, therefore not many people believed him. He just happened to look on his phone or computer or something and said "An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center." No one believed him. We continued on, and then he said "I'm serious." Again, no one believed him. It was then another teacher, came in the room and said nothing. Everyone was looking like "What's going on?" He then whispered something to our teacher and turned on the TV. And that's when all the laughter stopped.
What we as young, immature teens were exposed to was very horrific. What we saw was a split screen of the replay of a second plane hitting the towers. On the other screen, there was a huge cloud of smoke on the ground. While I was in shock of the situation, I still tried to go about my day, thinking we'll find some way to get over it or make whoever did this pay. My first thought was Saddam, mainly because I knew that even prior to all of this, he was very high on America's list. But later on, I've heard about Osama bin Ladin, whom I had no prior knowledge of. But as my day went on, while discussing the incident amongst friends, I started to see the fear in each and everyone's eyes as I pass them by. The more I see them, the more I start to shake. It was almost as if we were linked through mind, body, and soul. Their concerns became my concerns. Their fear became my fear. Prior to all of this happening, I was just excited about getting through my day so I can go get the new Jay-Z album (The Blueprint) that came out that morning. But that had to wait. An album will always be there, but lives will not.
It wasn't until my Mass Media (TV & Radio Broadcasting) class that it really hit me. Normally in that class, we would goof off until it was time to go into production or the day's lesson. But it became a repeat of what I had to see in my previous classes. We were all glued to the TV screen. It wasn't until I noticed a tear coming out of a girl's eye that my occasional shakes became all out panic. I continued to put on a brave front, but I excused myself to go to the restroom. Once I got inside the restroom, I didn't break down and cry, but I started breathing heavily. This was the first time in my life that I started to feel remorse for people I didn't even know. I've always had my concerns, but never on this level. I'm not going to sit up here and say that all of the people we lost that day are innocent, because I'm 99.9% sure that's false. But it couldn't be helped. I grieved for them because that incident shouldn't have happened. We shouldn't be reflecting about it this year nor the past 11 years. Instead we should be worrying about work, our families, what's for dinner, etc.
After school, a couple of friends and I went to the store and the clerk (who was of Middle Eastern descent) was also visibly shaken about this. I don't know if it was out of concern or fear of people actually turning on him. All I know was that I felt bad for him because whether those who did it were his people or not, your typical ignorant American was going to target him. I will say Thank God nothing happened because I've seen him around the store maybe 3-4 more years afterward. But even the look on his face was that of fear. In what became a chaotic day in New York, it was very quiet everywhere else. It was quiet because we were all in shock and in mourning. There was nothing to say. Our "invincibility" was no more.
By the time I got home, no one was there. It was still 2 hours until my mom get off, my brother was somewhere (with his girlfriend, I think), and my stepfather was working as well. I sat in my bedroom, turned the TV on low, and just stared at the wall for about 20-30 minutes. After checking my email and several other things online, I then slumped on the floor and over the edge of my bed. What came next was suddenly fingers on both hands started closing in on each other, leaving no space. Both hands were straight with no curves. Then they started to close in together as if I had no control over them. Once both hands connected, my body leaned forward. I proceeded to bow my head. I blew about 2 deep breaths, and then the words came out.
Dear God...My Heavenly Father,
Thank you for another day of life. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for all of your blessings. Thank you for keeping my family and friends safe. Thank you for giving me the strength to go on about my day. Thank you for keeping me on the right track. And because of that, I will continue to do right in Your name. I love you so much.
Amen.12 years later, I find myself reciting that same prayer almost everyday. Sure, there are some days of which I may be a few words off or forget to say it in general. But for the most part, I have been consistent. I will continue to praise God whether publicly or in person because 1) it's a personal choice, and 2) I want Him to know every time that I am grateful to be here. I will also teach my children the same prayer I taught myself, and while I'd hate to say it, but I'd have to credit 9/11 for it. If it wasn't for that incident, I wouldn't be sitting here talking about prayers.
This is just my personal opinion, but while America continues to put on a front in regard to 9/11 "making us tougher", I will say that if it has made us anything, it has made us even more ignorant. I'm not saying this to shame our country or spit on the graves of those who died that day. I'm saying this because if you look around, we are in disarray. People who were once "brothers", "sisters", and "loving neighbors", are now enemies. We have domestic terrorists going on killing sprees just because the people they target look like those who caused this incident. We have politicians not only sparring with each other, but are making a profit off of this catastrophic event. While we may seem very stable to the outside world, we are very much in a living hell. And at this point, I don't know what will bring us out of it.
Now that there is discussion of us going to war with Syria, I can't help but to fear what may become of us again. I don't know too much about the situation to even comment on it, but I do know that the days ahead are going to get darker because no good could come out of war. On either side, there will be bloodshed of people who probably have no idea or no interest in feuding with the opposition. It makes my heart weep because most of these disputes are petty and will never be resolved. I don't want to hear about a school of children being cheated out of life because of warring nations. I've said it back then and I'll say it now, it's a damn shame.
In closing, it shouldn't take a tragedy to bring us together. While some of their intentions may be good, it also sickened me when suddenly everyone wanted to sing God Bless The U.S.A. at every ballgame and event. It didn't instill any kind of American pride in me because I didn't think it was genuine. You want to know what's genuine? Loving your fellow man each and everyday. Telling your mother, father, brother, sister, wife, lover, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, and even a stranger these 3 simple words...I love you.
Much like it shouldn't take a tragedy to bring us together, it shouldn't have also taken a tragedy to get me to pray consistently. For that, I am remorseful, but I unlike those who preach "Love thy neighbor" now, I continued to do what I started 12 years ago...no half-stepping. While I see dark days ahead, I do have hope that we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel. If I'm not around to see it, I hope the next generation will. I don't want my kids (if I ever have any) to grow up in this environment. The world is getting colder, and it looks like we may be headed for another "ice age"...whether you can see it or not.
This is not me promoting prayer or telling you what you should do to commemorate what happened 12 years ago. I'm just simply giving you my thoughts and how I felt and continue to feel about what happened and what's going on now. I hope you all find your own way of dealing with things, and maybe come up with a way to ease some of the pain we inherited.
God Bless. Love each other...and yourselves.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Now on to today's entry...
Like the Christmas song, it is indeed "the most wonderful time of the year." That's right. I've waited six long months for this. The NFL season is back and in full swing! Of course, I am aware that I have some friends who are either anti-NFL or just don't like sports at all. Also, there are some who feel that the football season dominates their relationships and such. I'm aware, but you must have patience, young one. And to the fellas, if your woman is there during the heartache, the missed field goals, the overturned touchdowns, and other trials and tribulations of the season, then she's a keeper. Yes! The NFL is here!
What am I looking forward to?
Outside of the Baltimore Ravens, I can see some of the same teams being on top. I'm a little biased here, but I do think that my San Francisco 49ers will find their way back to the Super Bowl and possibly win it all. The only team I fear at least within our own conference is division rival, Seattle Seahawks. While San Francisco has been known for its bone crushing defense, I will say Seattle has that and a great secondary. Our secondary is good as well, but opposing teams are adjusting.
As for other teams, I do see the Packers possibly struggling without Greg Jennings and the recently retired Donald Driver. Jordy Nelson is a pretty good receiver, but I don't have much hope for the rest of their offense. Also, their defense is still pretty suspect. I see the Patriots staying put, although Denver is more than likely to dethrone them. I'd hate to count out the Ravens (my 2nd favorite team), but I still don't trust Joe Flacco. Also, with the exits of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and the aging Terrell Suggs, my faith in what was once the most feared defense is fading. They'll survive if they put more emphasis on Ray Rice. I've been saying that for years now.
What about the Detroit Lions?
What about them? Next question...
...and the New York Jets?
There are only two teams I dislike more than the Lions. That's the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets. The latter I dislike more because they remind me of the loudmouthed kid on the basketball court who knows "the game" and knows everybody and all of their "strengths" and "weaknesses". They talk and talk and talk. But when it comes time to perform, they revel in glorious mediocrity. They cave under pressure. Simply put, they're weak and if it was up to me, they should go back to the AFL.
But the AFL no longer exist...
My point exactly.
Adrian Peterson broke the mold last year, but I see things reverting back to "normal" this season. Without a doubt, this year's MVP is going to be Peyton Manning. While I see the 49ers going all the way, I do think the regular season will belong to the Denver Broncos. For on, the AFC West is sort of a weak division. The only division I would deem weaker is the AFC East and that solely fall on the Jets. Also, while the Patriots always manage to make stars out of "nobodies", I do see the Aaron Hernandez scandal and Gronk's questionable health causing problems for them. The Steelers may make some noise, but health is also a key issue for them. So with his competition having problems, I can see Peyton and Denver running through the AFC.
Although we may never see it again, but I would like to see a wide receiver at least enter the conversation of MVP. Outside of Calvin Johnson (there, something positive for the Lions), I can see Julio Jones in the race. The only thing that's stopping him is Matty Ice's inconsistency. But if the Falcons manage to grab the NFC South title once again, it's a possibility.
I would love to see a defensive player take it as well, but with Ray and Prime (Deion) both retired...it's a foolish dream. The only current player I can see coming close is Houston's J.J. Watt.
But I'm not holding my breath. It's still a quarterback's league.
Don't laugh, but I do think the Arizona Cardinals could potentially make some noise. They may not get to the playoffs, but they could bust a few balls (pause) this year. I'm sort of rooting for the Chiefs this year just because I still think it was wrong of the 49ers to do Alex Smith the way they did. Granted I was Alex Smith's biggest critic, but if a guy is having the greatest stretch of his career and it was helping us greatly, why stop it? Yes, Colin Kaepernick had an outstanding year and helped guide us to the Super Bowl, and I'm grateful for that. I'm just not cool with how that went down. I don't personally see the Chiefs putting fear into opponents' eyes, but I am cheering for them...sort of out of pity.
Any Tebow sighting?
"Don't be mad, UPS is hiring." - The Notorious B.I.G., Flavor In Your Ear (Remix)
The actual games aside, I am also looking forward to Randy Moss commentating. Hilarious Southern accent along with his "I don't give a fuck" attitude, I think FOX Sports has found a winner. As for the season itself, it will be more of the same, but that's a good thing. Aside from the stupid celebration restrictions and the tampering of the kickoff yardage...we're going to have another successful season on our hands. This is that time of the year. There will be lots of cheering, crying, wing eating, beer drinking, chest bumping, and even heated confrontations.
The NFL is back, baby! And outside of my studies, that's what my life will consist of these next 5 months.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
It's no secret that I'm a lifelong fan of Hip Hop music. Sure, my love for it has faded over the years, especially with today's crop of bullshit. But I will always turn on something that will make me smile and regain a little bit of hope. More than 25 years ago, not only an album but a movement was created. A young drug dealer by the name of Eric Wright, better known as Eazy-E orchestrated a collective of 5 artists (himself included) known as N.W.A (Niggas Wit' Attitudes). Prior to releasing the highly successful, but controversial Straight Outta Compton, we got a taste of the ruthless aggression of N.W.A on Eazy's debut album, Eazy-Duz-It. It was more of an N.W.A album but Eazy at the time was the most marketable member. Riding off of the success of that album, they released N.W.A & The Posse (featuring extended members The D.O.C., Fila Fresh Crew, and The Arabian Prince). Afterward, they cut it down to 5 core members:
- Eazy-E (Financial Backer/MC)
- Ice Cube (Primary MC)
- Dr. Dre (Producer/MC)
- MC Ren (Secondary MC)
- Yella (DJ)
Many believed that this album is the sole reason for the existence of the Parental Advisory sticker. Yella's occasional scratches combined with Dr. Dre's samples, which later became known as G-Funk, provided the foundation for Ice Cube's "street poetry", Eazy-E's comedic rhymes, and MC Ren's hardcore style. Before I get into reviewing the album, I must say that while N.W.A was considered Eazy's group, it benefited the likes of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre more. After breaking away from Eazy and Jerry Heller (manager), they later became even bigger stars. Of course it wasn't without controversy, as we later seen Ice Cube and N.W.A verbally spar throughout 1990-1991. Then the widely known feud with Dr. Dre and Eazy, which resulted in the creation of Death Row Records. Unfortunately, we didn't get the reunion we all wanted, as Eazy passed in 1995, due to contracting the AIDS virus. Although the reunion never occurred, the N.W.A has certainly left its mark. Not only was Straight Outta Compton a classic album, it was also a movement.
- Straight Outta Compton - Opening track of the album and perhaps their signature song. From the very beginning with Dr. Dre announcing "You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge", you just knew that you were in for a treat. Ice Cube kicked things off with a bang, followed by a very good verse from Ren...not as good as Cube's, but he managed to hold his own. To end it, Eazy came in with the comedic-style rhymes, but still managed to keep the gangsta element. This song and video was so popular that many other songs and videos tried their best to emulate it. Even Chris Rock based his movie (CB4) off the song and group. There was no better way than to announce to the American audience of your arrival than this song. 5/5
- Fuck The Police - While Straight Outta Compton is considered N.W.A's signature song, this has become their most widely known and controversial. I mean, look at the title. This song has not only reached the homes of urban America, but it has also reached the homes of suburban White kids, and they loved every minute of it. It became an anthem of rebellion. The song created so much controversy that the federal government even issued a warning to the group. It was that big. Even political figures such as Dan Quayle denounced the group. If you capture the attention of the Vice President of the United States, then you know you've made an impact. The song was obviously banned from radio stations, but it continued to play in the homes of rebellious teens and young adults. Going in the same format as Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube kicked things off in what many consider his great piece of work. Straight Outta Compton merely set the tone of the album...Fuck The Police in many ways BECAME the album. 5/5
- Gangsta Gangsta - By this time, the album became the Ice Cube show, and with good reason. With Ice Cube being the primary MC and potential breakout star of the group, it was only right for them to showcase him more than the others. Outside of a small cameo from Eazy-E, this song became Ice Cube's first solo record. Not only did Ice Cube display a knack for storytelling, but Dre's funky sample accompanied his flows perfectly. I can't lie, while I love the first two songs, this one has become my personal favorite. 5/5
- If It Ain't Ruff - While I wouldn't consider the song wack, I do feel that it wasn't as strong as the previous 3. I think it has to do with the fact that we were spoiled with Ice Cube on those songs, whereas this one lacks his presence. Actually it was an MC Ren solo outing. Let me just say that I don't have anything against Ren, but he's no Ice Cube. He wasn't bad on this song, but I will say if anything, Dre's production made it more listenable. Outside of that, it was typical Ren. 3/5
- Parental Discretion Iz Advised - Although the previous song failed to match the epicness of the first 3, this one came close. I know you're probably tired of me mentioning the greatness of Ice Cube and even on this song, he came correct. However, I must say that extended family member, The D.O.C. stole the show here. MC Ren was typical Ren, but he managed to hold his own against 2 lyrical heavyweights. There was also a Dre and Eazy sighting. What also made this song enjoyable was the playful tune they rapped over. I wouldn't put this on the level of the first 3, but it's definitely an upgrade from If It Ain't Ruff. 4.5/5
- 8 Ball (Remix) - On this song, Eazy-E pretty much displayed his typical comedic verses. For those who don't know, Ice Cube and The D.O.C. mainly handled Eazy's lyrics. I'm just going to assume that The D.O.C. took over for this one and it showed in Eazy's rhyme scheme. 8 Ball is a very entertaining song because while it comes off as playful, Eazy managed to maintain that hardcore edge. It too has become a West Coast fixture, although it was never released as a single. 4/5
- Something Like That - Finally a Dr. Dre presence (on the mic anyway)! This was a duet between Dre and MC Ren. Now you already know how I feel about Ren solo. But I must say that whenever he and Dre are together, he tends to shine more. I don't know if it's a matter of being more comfortable with Dre as compared to more superior rappers such as Ice Cube and The D.O.C., or what. But MC Ren always managed to shine whenever he and Dre team up on the mic. This is another song with a fun type of feel. 4/5
- Express Yourself - With Gangsta Gangsta being Ice Cube's emergence as a solo artist, I will say that Express Yourself is Dr. Dre's. Of course Dre didn't write this, The D.O.C. accompanied by Ice Cube (who made a cameo in it) helped craft this classic. This song became the 3rd and final single of the album, but it also became their biggest single (in sales). It was not only due to the message that was produced in the lyrics, but also the sample from Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band of the same name. The video featured Dr. Dre and N.W.A participating in a street rally. It also contained elements from the days of slavery, President Kennedy's assassination reenactment, and it ended with Dre literally on Death Row (maybe they predicted the future). This song and video had it all. 5/5
- Compton's N The House - This is another good example of the chemistry of MC Ren and Dr. Dre. What I like most about this tune was the fact that it was more of a party song without losing its lyrical content. What also made this special was the fact that Ren and Dre managed to keep the pace with each other as they rapped in unison for the most part. Of course you had your occasional Eazy-E comedic run-in, which works for this song and the others...but the true story of this was the fact that they managed to further explain where they're from. It was sort of a lighter, but extended version of Straight Outta Compton. Yeah, neither song sound alike, but as far as content is concerned, this song managed to extend the story...but in a more groovy way. 4.5/5
- I Ain't Tha 1 - Now the shift of focus is back on Ice Cube and he didn't disappoint. This song has become a stable of Ice Cube's repertoire because he managed to follow this concept more in his solo career. Basically it tells the story of a guy who is tired of his girl using him for his money. I will say that the song is insensitive towards women, so feminists should stay away. But he gets his point across and this is his way of saying he's not the one for her to play her games with. 4/5
- Dopeman - Another Ice Cube solo featuring Eazy-E. In many ways, Dopeman is a sequel to Gangsta Gangsta, and it's equally as good. While the former was more mellow but still managed to maintain its edge, this one was much harder. Harder beat, harder content, and even a harder delivery. Equally as good as the lyrics and delivery, I must say that it wouldn't be nearly as great if it wasn't for the Ohio Player's Funky Worm sample. It became a perfect marriage and if there was a definitive sound I would give the N.W.A and the West Coast in general...look no further than this. 5/5
- Quiet On Tha Set - MC Ren's second go round with a solo track. This one was a better effort, not because of Ren's lyrics, but his delivery and flow. I'm sure you're tired of me repeating this, but it was a typical Ren outing, such as him rapping hardcore gangsta lyrics. However, the fast paced beat and his ability to keep up with it made it a more enjoyable song than If It Ain't Ruff. 4/5
- Something 2 Dance 2 - If anyone ever wondered who the 6th man on the album cover was, it was original member Arabian Prince, who made his first and only appearance on the album. While this song is a departure from the hardcore sound of the rest of the album, I will say that it was a breath of fresh air. I mean, while consistency is important, there's nothing wrong with going outside of the norm every once in a while. This is a total dance track featuring Yella on the scratches and comedic banter between Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Arabian Prince. While the latter didn't make the core group, I will say that it was a nice gesture of them to include him. 4/5
|Their influence knows no bounds.|
So there you have it, folks - Straight Outta Compton revisited. This album has not only put the West Coast on the map, but it also pioneered an entire culture. Without this album and the N.W.A, you wouldn't have the Geto Boys, Scarface, 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Master P, and the list goes on. I will say that growing up, I've always known about N.W.A and listened to their music on the radio and TV, but my very first exposure to this album didn't come until I was 14. Back then at the mom and pop record stores, they would sometimes bend the rules and let us underage customers buy CDs, and I made sure to pick this up as soon as I got some money in my pocket. And you know what? It was one of the best purchases I've ever made. This album is a classic, not only for its music, but for its impact as well.
Long Live N.W.A...
Friday, August 23, 2013
So it's a known fact that outside of film production, popular sports, and video games, my life revolves around the following:
- Comic Books
- Hip Hop
And before you decide to become a smartass, yes I do have a social life...sort of. But those three are my loves and at times, my guilty pleasures. And I'm not an occasional fan, I actually follow the history of each. I wouldn't consider myself a scholar or anything in that nature, but I know a lot due to just being a fan. But there are a lot of fans out there who has either just as much or more knowledge than I do, but they tend to abuse them. In comics and Hip Hop, for the most part they are called elitists. In wrestling however, they are called purists. In these particular genres of pop culture, both words pretty much mean the same. But before I go further into this, let me briefly refresh your memories on my exposure to these genres.
I've always had a love for the superhero genre. Of course it began with Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman. Then it branched off to X-Men (Remember Pryde of the X-Men cartoon?) and The Incredible Hulk. But it wasn't until I was 8 when I was fully exposed to comic books and its ever growing universe. My mother worked at an organization where they trained and tutored adults who were illiterate. Marvel Comics at the time was doing some promotion with either my mom's organization or a joint venture with the public library. So once a month, they would receive boxes and crates of free comics. At least 5 months straight, my mom came home with tons of comics and give them to me, my brother, and cousins. At age 8, I had at least 300 comics at my disposal. I was hooked. Took a breather during my teen years, but fell in love all over again when I turned 19.
I fell in love with wrestling when I was about 2. Of course I can't remember everything I saw then, but I remember for a few years, my uncles and I would sit, watch, and argue every Saturday when WWF Superstars would come on. Prior to Monday Night Raw, Superstars and Saturday Night's Main Event were the stable programs in WWF/E. I was also exposed to the likes of Ric Flair and Sting in Jim Crockett Promotions (later known as WCW). But of course I grew up in the Hulkamania and gimmick era. I'm not afraid to admit that Ultimate Warrior at one time was my favorite wrestler. But I loved the likes of the Hart Foundation, Mr. Perfect, etc. We used to always watch the big 4 pay-per-view events as well. Also, I went to some of the live events, so my love for wrestling was cemented at a very early age.
My exposure to Hip Hop started with DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), then it eventually evolved into more serious-toned music by Public Enemy, N.W.A., etc. By the time I was old enough to somewhat understand lyrics, I was able to really vibe to it...thanks to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest (my favorite group), Common, and The Notorious B.I.G. I was always a huge fan of the Jazz and Funk samples, as opposed to the hard-hitting beats. My taste was more into the social commentary aspect. Throughout the years, as Hip Hop evolved, I sort of followed suit, except for what is known today as the premiere sound. But I maintained a certain level of love and respect for it.
Now that I have those covered, I want to say that I guess I can somewhat be bunched into the elitist/purist groups since I know a lot. I tend to shy away from it because there's a difference with what I do as opposed to others, and that's be fair on all sides. I frequent social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) daily, but I also frequent news sites and message boards such as Comic Book Resources, E-Wrestling News, and SOHH to get my daily dosage of each genre. After reading an article about something be it a controversial event/decision or just "what to expect", I immediately go to the comments section to see other people's thoughts. And I must say, when people comment on such things, it becomes heated...and as a spectator, I don't understand why. Sometimes I may find myself in the middle of them, but I would still come out as the level-headed participant.
As a fan of all genres, I welcome all opinions because whether we agree or disagree, they have potential to lead into a good discussion. But what I don't welcome is the nastiness that comes with those differing opinions. I would say at least 97% of us who frequent those sites and engage in such discussions doesn't know each other nor had we ever met, but the way people go at it mirrors the great rivalries in this world's history. I understand that we all enjoy such genres for different reasons. I enjoy comics for entertainment and inspiration (I'm a film major). I enjoy wrestling (entertainment and due to it being a family pastime). And I enjoy Hip Hop for entertainment, social commentary, and sometimes inspiration. Others enjoy them for more personal reasons. But what I don't understand is why they can't keep it civil whenever a debate arises? It doesn't make any sense because I'm assuming that most of us who frequent these sites are adults or at least at the age of maturity. But these debates go from a disagreement to snarkiness, a heated exchange, and then sometimes they will evolve (or in my opinion, "devolve") into threats.
In comic books, possibly the most heated topic was the decision to dissolve Peter Parker's (Spider-Man) marriage to Mary Jane Watson in the controversial One More Day story arc. Back in 2007, it set the comics world on fire. Most of the reactions have been negative because:
- In our time, Peter and Mary Jane have been married for 20 years (wedding occurred in 1987).
- Unlike most heroic stories, Peter was faced with a lose-lose situation. No matter what decision he made, he was going to lose someone he loved.
- His decision to dissolve his marriage by means of supernatural abilities instead of something like a divorce. Mephisto, who serves as Marvel's version of Satan presented him with such difficult choices. It was either your aunt's life or your love. Of course Mary Jane remained alive but they would no longer be together. Therefore, they both reached the heartbreaking decision.
After it happened, a huge everlasting debate occurred as to whether or not Spider-Man "sold his soul" to the devil. Nearly 7 years later, it's still at the top of the list of discussions. Reading and occasionally chiming in my thoughts, I have never seen so many people spew such vile language and threats at each other. You would think as if they lived their lives as Peter and Mary Jane. I've also seen people send death threats to the creators as well as other comic book personalities. And most of the people who do that are part of the elitist group. Some people even went as far as to post the address to Joe Quesada's (heavily involved in the story) home, as well as Photoshop images of his head being pierced with a sword. Whether I agree with the direction or not, that's a line I will never cross. I don't care how passionate or in synced you may be with these characters, that's a huge no no. Not only is it a bad look on your psyche, but it can also get you in trouble if people report it. And I'm sure some of those who did go that far ended up getting into some sort of hot water. But that's something you really need to think about before executing it.
The same has occurred with wrestling and Hip Hop fans. With wrestling it's less physical violent threats, but more of trying to mentally break people down. A lot of wrestling purists are fans of the more athletic and (at times) less talkative athletes...CM Punk is an exception. For the most part, these athletes either receive minimum or very little push in the big leagues such as the WWE. Most purists hate characters such as John Cena because he has become watered down and he plays to the crowd of young children. He's basically the WWE's version of Superman...the same as what Hulk Hogan was in the 1980s. I can understand the fact that they're tired of him being pushed down our throats and the fact that his maneuvers may seem basic as opposed to others. However, they will go as far as to wish injury or death on him. Heck, he's currently out with an elbow that will require a 4-6 month absence and people are cheering on the fact that he's injury. Once again, that's a line you shouldn't cross. You can rejoice at the fact that his absence will grant others greater opportunities, but to cheer at the fact that he's hurt and you'll never know what could happen to him or his future...that's wrong. I don't care if it's an opinion or not, sometimes opinions are wrong.
Other arguments purists tend to point out is the intelligence (or according to them, lack thereof) of the casual fan. Don't get me wrong, casual fans be it wrestling, comic books, or Hip Hop can be annoying at times. But whether they are casual fans or not, they still deserve the same level of respect we demand of them. Just because you know more about wrestling doesn't make you any more intelligent than someone who watches it every now and then. It just makes you more knowledgeable in certain aspects of that product...nothing more. I've seen people throw out insults even reach personal levels such as families and even appearances. Both sides tend to argue with each other, but I've seen some of the most scathing insults come out of the side of those who "know more", and if anything, it shows their (im)maturity level.
I don't want to touch on Hip Hop too much because I've discussed this probably more than anything since I've started blogging. But let me just say that I for most part follow and listen to Hip Hop for most of the same reasons as those who are considered Hip Hop elitists. However, my discussion of my tastes never has and never will come into conflict with other people's tastes. For nearly 4 years, I alongside another guy ran this Hip Hop message board for a mutual friend who lives in Florida. We ran the operations of the message board while he runs the main site, which was a news and multimedia site. I must say that being a board administrator is one of the most taxing "jobs" ever because I was obligated to enforce all rules and oversee just about everything people post. And I must say, I had to ban at least 45 people in my 4 years of running the board. It was something I didn't want to do, but had to do because we didn't tolerate threats...and most Hip Hop fans (especially elitists) are known to make threats. It even gotten to the level of someone hacking into another one's PayPal account and stealing money. The website itself ended up being investigated by authorities because of it. And there were also people meeting up to actually fight, while others record it. It was all because of a difference in opinion in music. I honestly don't care what you like nor should you care what I like, but I will never take it any further than a civil debate if we were to share our opinions. I'm sorry, I have too much respect for myself and my fellow man to do that.
Am I wrong for labeling these groups? Yeah, sort of. It is a form of stereotyping. But I did it for a reason, and that was to separate these people from guys like me, who gets a bad rep for being associated with them. If I were to ever give up my love for such genres, it will never be because of a disagreement. It would simply be because I am tired of them...and while at times I have become tired, I still have a love and interest for them. I will always look back at my fondest memories and fall in love all over again.
Anyways, you can disagree, but keep it respectful. If you can't do that, then maybe these things aren't for you.