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Rest in Peace, Earl “DMX” Simmons

Hello, people. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? With the recent news of DMX’s condition that led to his eventual passing, as well as him being one of my favorite rappers from my youth, I knew I had to write something about this. However, I really hoped that he would pull through from this.

I know that in these hard times many people had died from COVID-19 and complications from the virus. However, this was a different case as DMX has had a history of drug addiction. Now I could talk about his personal demons, but I’d rather not have this be a topic of that. Instead I want to talk about positive things about the late rapper.

The first time I had heard DMX was back in the late-1990s when I was in middle school. I remember hearing relatives of mine play “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” as well “Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood.” In that very moment I had become a fan of his. Then came when I saw him in the trailer to “Romeo Must Die.” I was intrigued that he would be in a movie. At that moment, it seemed like his career was going places. Of course, I wouldn’t go so far as to call some of the movies he was in masterpieces, far from it, but some were entertaining, and then others had a charm to them despite the issues they had. Some of the movies that I liked of his were those early-2000s martial arts movies like the aforementioned “Romeo Must Die,” along with “Exit Wounds” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.”

As for his music, there was something about his style that really drew me in back then. I had always liked his music, as my top two favorite albums of his are “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” and “…And Then There Was X.” Not to say that I didn’t like others, but after “Year of the Dog…Again,” I hadn’t followed his catalog much. Though I will note that aside from some of the hardcore songs he did, he had some positive messages in some songs he did. Even in a lot of his albums there was a track dedicated to a prayer interlude.

In honor of DMX himself, I plan to get back to what I did before and review his albums. I may have to get my hands on some, though. I also plan to review some of the movies he had done, along with the soundtrack albums. This may be quite a project, but as a longtime fan of his, I feel that I should do this.

As for his anything else, well, all I can say is that is that his last few days have been pretty sad as he was in a vegetative state after his recent overdose, but he kept fighting through it. I was even hoping that he would make it. It’s been said that drug use is no joke and I completely agree. Even X himself said in an interview on Talib Kweli’s “People’s Party Show” that his drug use goes back to when he was a teen. According to an article from MSN that mentioned that interview, it was said that X got emotional in that interview and said that he had never smoked anything before that night. He even said, “I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy.”

Rest in Peace

Earl “DMX Simmons

December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021

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Editorials/Rants/Ramblings

Rest in Peace, Tom “Tiny” Lister

Hello. I know I have not done too much lately. I know every year I try to put in a holiday tradition for this blog and I am not backing out of it, because I have at least one thing that I want to touch on. Other things I never got a chance to acquire because of the sad times that we’re all living in, which is a part of the topic for this.

I recently read about the passing of Tom “Tiny” Lister, best recognized as Debo from the first two Friday movies. This man was well-recognized in a lot of movies, especially hip-hop movies. Also, as a wrestling fan, I will note that he also had a short-lived career in professional wrestling where he sort of portrayed his character of Zeus in WWE (then known as the WWF) that he played in the 1989 film, No Holds Barred, which starred Hulk Hogan. He even also appeared in WCW for a bit later on before retiring as a wrestler and being in more films.

According to some sources, it was said that Lister had suffered through the symptoms of COVID-19. From that same article, he was even in the middle of shooting a film, or something of that nature, and some had gotten worried because “he never missed a shoot.” When I read about this, I was shocked. When I read about the cause of death, it made me feel a little saddened over this. This whole year has been disastrous and depressing, with the pandemic being the primary reason. This whole virus thing is no joke and it saddens me to see a lot of people die from it.

May he rest in peace.

Rest in Peace

Tom “Tiny” Lister

June 24, 1958 – Dec. 10, 2020

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – The Players Club

Year of Release: 1998

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cubevision Productions

It’s been kind of a long time coming, but I decided that it was time for me to finally see this. Not that I didn’t have chances before, nor did I not see any bits and pieces of this movie before watching it in full finally. But the time had come, as it was definitely a movie that suited my category of “rap movies.” Why? Because it wasn’t just a movie that had some rappers in it, but it was also produced, written and directed by one. The one and only Ice Cube was the person who wrote and directed it, and was also executive producer. If anything, before The Man with the Iron Fists, this was probably the first mainstream film that had a rapper direct it. It felt like it was Ice Cube’s pet project or something.

Anyway, onto the review. Before I give my take, I will say it’s hard to really say where stripping stands in actual work for people. It’s not respected enough that people still consider it to be a degrading line of work, whether it’s women or men being looked at as sex objects or the sleazy dealings that come with it. While Hustlers had shown that the dancers can be just as shady as any patrons or even owners (it was also based on a true story involving strippers scamming rich patrons), it definitely had deserved its praise. But then you had a movie called Showgirls before it, which has a bad reputation (though there is this weird curiosity about it, even though I had read and watched videos that displayed the badness of it all). The Players Club showed that some people can get involved in the business for their own reasons but then get in the midst of some shady people, among other problems.

The story goes like this: Diana, played by Lisa Raye, is a single mother and a college student who needs money to pay for tuition because she is studying to be a journalist. It delves into her personal life a bit, like her cousin coming to town and is also a wild girl. Then of course you have another story going on involving the shady owner of the Players Club, Dollar Bill (played by the late Bernie Mac) who got into some stuff with loan sharks and gangsters.

One could presume that’s a simple premise, except for the fact that it feels all over the place in some areas. In fact, it actually was. Let me start off by saying that I could give Ice Cube some credit because it seemed like a passion project and it seemed like he really wanted to write and direct a movie about the stripping business. In a way, it seemed like he copied Showgirls. But really, this movie was more of a comedy-drama, and even it’s hard to see what it really wants to be. One moment you would have something humorous going on, then the next it’s completely serious (not to mention a really dark moment that ruined what flow this film had). It doesn’t help that certain plot elements just pop out of nowhere. For example, Jamie Foxx’s character and Diana hook up more than halfway through the film and start dating?

Something told me that there may have been some scenes of the two characters interacting before this but were left out. Hell, there was a scene involving a patron that followed Diana home. The man was only seen in a couple of other scenes with little dialogue. There had to be other sequences where it showed that this guy gained a crush on Diana that would lead to him stalking her and it wasn’t mentioned again after that.

I am not going to pretend that I didn’t find some scenes funny, though. Bernie Mac really stole every scene he was in. Some scenes with these two crooked cops were funny. Another positive that I could say is the soundtrack, which I should cover as well. But in some ways, I wonder if there was heavy focus on the soundtrack because really, the movie could have been better than it was. Though I can’t say it wasn’t watchable.

Overall, I didn’t hate this movie, but I can’t call this movie great, either. Aside from some fanservice-y bits, especially with the movie’s theme, some moments of humor, and of course the soundtrack, this film was all over the place and could have been a lot better. Like I said before, I can’t completely fault Ice Cube because I can see that it was something he wanted to do, but directing is not for everybody. When it comes to movies, he should probably stick to producing.

I think I will cover the soundtrack, which I remember being a good compilations.

Rating: 2/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Paper Soldiers

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: Roc-a-Fella Films/Universal Pictures

When looking at some stars of today, or of any era, sometimes it’s funny to seek some of that star’s earlier work to see how far that person has gone in his/her career. In this case, when seeing Kevin Hart, the man has come a long way, whether it’s watching the Ride Along films from the 2010s, or even some of his earlier work, like 2004’s Soul Plane, which may be something I should touch on someday. But in this case, we’re going a bit earlier than Soul Plane, when he played the lead role in the 2002 “rapsploitation” flick, Paper Soldiers.

Make no mistake about it, I have covered films like this before. With this being a Roc-a-Fella film, I should probably compare this to the State Property films, especially the second film, considering it was directed by Damon Dash, add to the fact that Beanie Sigel was in this movie. When looking at the cast for this movie, it showed that it was definitely a product of the early-2000s. Hell, the first State Property came out the same year, and this was at a time when you would see a lot of these low-budget movies with rappers in the cast, and this dated as far back as the late-1990s. Though I tell myself a lot that I should cover a much earlier example like 1993’s Who’s The Man, but that’s a topic for another day.

This film’s plot wasn’t really anything special. It mainly revolved around Shawn, played by Kevin Hart, who had just gotten out of jail and is trying to find his way. He has a girlfriend and a son, as well as some friends (and with this type of film, one of them is white guy trying to act street; man, how of its time it was). However, his mother died and he is broke, so he needed to find a way to get by. He decides to turn to burglary. Hey, it was a bit of a change from pushing drugs and such.

What was funny (and I mean funny as in odd) was that whenever there was a character introduced, there were bits when it would go into freeze-frame and the character’s name would appear on screen. Hell, it was even done with the character of Stu, played Beanie Sigel, as he was shown in the artwork/poster and was billed. He was a pretty popular rapper at the time, so it was understandable (though I will get to another billing, just wait).

The thing about this film was that these characters were shown as wannabes, the type of people who are getting into petty crimes but they aren’t exactly threatening. Beanie Sigel actually played a somewhat threatening criminal, but some of that went out the window when being confronted by cops and mocking them when being surrounded. Of course, he got a little violent at times, but maybe it was done to balance his character a bit.

The problem with this film was that it was kind of all over the place in tone. Don’t get me wrong, some bits were a bit funny. It did have some moments. Some of it was even from the rappers themselves trying to act. One funny moment in particular was when Shawn and Stu tried to rob a rapper’s home and found gold records on the wall, only to find that they’re not exactly made of gold, but just vinyl records that were spray-painted gold (duh!). But then you had some sequences that got a little dark in some areas, which brings to light that this film was originally supposed to be a drama and that many of the serious scenes were shot but not added in. Because really, a certain scene was pretty hard to watch.

It made me wonder about the casting for this film. Capone and N.O.R.E. (or Noreaga; I’ll just refer to him as N.O.R.E.) were in this film and had a few scenes. Derrick “Capone” Lee, as in the comedian, played a pretty big role and one part had his character and Capone’s (as in the rapper, whose real name is Kiam Holley) character in the same scene, except the rapper Capone didn’t have any lines in that one. Someone must have really wanted them in the same scene for some reason. Stacey Dash was in this movie but really had nothing to do with the plot. It seemed that a lot of guys lusted after her, but nobody ever got with her. I actually wonder if her character was left in the script for something more but then got scrapped.

Which now brings me to Jay-Z being top-billed for some reason, when he was only in it for less than a minute and had no lines at all, and on top of that, played himself. At least when Memphis Bleek and Damon Dash appeared, they had some lines but it was really more of a cameo for those guys, as well as Jay-Z. Let’s not forget that Michael Rappaport was in this movie for a glorified cameo at best.

I can’t say that this movie didn’t have any redeeming qualities because there were some scenes that were actually funny, whether it was the intent or just the fact that some of the actors were having some fun in their roles. Plus, I’ll have to give Damon Dash some points for some of the direction. Beanie definitely had that aura of a hulking, menacing type, while Hart had that small man-child type of feel that it gave a decent contrast to both characters. This movie was definitely one of those types that back in the early-2000s, you were likely to pass this up at a rental store or maybe come across it and think “huh?” It was like that for me when coming across B-movies, but for some reason I have a thing about those types of films.

But really, this movie did kind of have some issues in some areas that I really wonder if there was a cut that had more of the balance between the comedy and drama or at least the edit of just the serious scenes. Which makes me wonder how Kevin Hart would have done in something like that nearly two decades ago. Yes, he has done drama, but that was in The Upside, which came out in 2019 (well, originally in some areas in 2017), but still, it’s hard to imagine. This movie dragged a bit, but like I said, it did have its moments. I almost wonder if I should give the first State Property another chance as I felt that I was too hard on it in my review from it a while back.

2.5/5

By the way, Nathan Rabin wrote a good article about this movie back in 2013. Check it out.

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Editorials/Rants/Ramblings

Rumors of a new Def Jam game – What I think.

So it’s come to this. This is definitely a topic that I have been meaning to touch on lately. I also want to touch on the Def Jam games, but this piece won’t be a review or retrospective on them, though I may make some references about them. No, this is more about the rumors that have been circulating for a while about a possible new Def Jam fighting game in the near future. Keep this in mind, these are rumors based on speculation, so I don’t know if there is any fact to them. But I will state my viewpoint on this.

The Def Jam games are definitely held in high regard and even so to this day, at least when talking about “Def Jam Vendetta” and “Def Jam Fight For NY.” A lot of people like to pretend that “Def Jam ICON” didn’t happen. Personally, I never played that game, but I will touch more on that later. But when talking about “Vendetta” and “Fight For NY,” they were definitely praised when they both came out and even when discussing them now, they still get the same praise. I know that we are far removed from those days as the two games came out in the early-to-mid-2000s, especially when nearing two decades since their releases.

Now these rumors have been going on as far back as sometime in the early or mid-2010s, because I recall seeing some video in either 2014 or 2015 that talked about a new Def Jam game in the works. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the video, but I will show a video that HipHopDX had posted rather recently about the rumors surrounding the potential new Def Jam fighting game.

If I find the video on the earlier rumors, I will do another post on that, but in the meantime, I will discuss my views on this. In my personal opinion, I would not mind, if actually would love to see a new Def Jam fighting game if, and only if it was done by the same developers that did “Def Jam Vendetta” and “Def Jam Fight For NY.” Hell, maybe Yuke’s, the people that did the WWE games even dating as far back as the first Smackdown game could do it, I would not mind that at all. That is if they could implement their wrestling style into more of a street-fighting style. Yes, I am aware that they did the UFC games from 2009 to the early-2010s, but I never played them, so I don’t know. I may have to see how they did with mixed martial arts in those games.

As for anything else, well, even though I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I can remember, I really wonder at this point who would be put in the game. When looking at the Def Jam games from the 2000s, it really does date those games. For example, “Def Jam Vendetta” had the likes of DMX, Ludacris, Method Man, Redman, Capone, N.O.R.E., etc. When “Def Jam Fight For NY” came out the following year, there was a bigger roster with not just rappers signed to Def Jam at the time, but also ones who weren’t on the label but managed to get in, like Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Xzibit, Busta Rhymes, Sean Paul, etc. Hell, there were even non-rappers in it like Danny Trejo, Carmen Electra, Henry Rollins, Omar Epps, Kimora Lee (though I can speculate that she was in it because she was married to Russell Simmons at the time), among others. This is not even getting into the fact that both games had original/fictional characters in them.

But regarding the potential roster, I am not sure what to say about that. I am mostly unfamiliar with a lot of the current acts, or at least the acts that have been relevant the past few years, especially when talking about the hot acts from the 2010s to now. Sure, I could see the likes of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, etc. If it was up to me, I probably would try doing the scenario from the second game with the “crew warfare” theme and have Black Hippy fight Odd Future, as well as Roc Nation. Maybe even bring back the character of D-Mob from the first two games, as long as it doesn’t follow the style of “Def Jam ICON” with its use of adding music to the fighting, and also the storyline involving building a label, which didn’t relate to the fighting.

All I could say is that I would be all for it if the game was done right. Even if the game was to have current rap acts, I wouldn’t mind it if the gameplay was solid and had a good theme and feel to it. I could even tell you that even when playing “Fight For NY,” though I wasn’t a big fan of Sean Paul or Bone Crusher, at least at that time, I didn’t mind playing as them because it wasn’t about their music but rather about their fighting styles in the games (though I will say that Bone Crusher’s special move was hilarious looking back, as well as his pre-match quote). I wouldn’t mind it either if it was just a remake of the first two games. Sure, I still have the two games for PS2 even to this day, but I would love to see how the developers could improve on the graphics. If this game does happen, I would just want a good game, that’s all.

In the meantime, I think I will cover something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. I think it’s time to do a couple of reviews/retrospectives on the two Def Jam games from the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox era. Maybe I should also cover what could possibly the precursor to those games that came out a few years prior, “Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style.” Maybe I should also do something that I never thought I would play, let alone cover, “Def Jam ICON.” I shall see. Stay tuned.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead 2

Year of Release: 2007

Production Companies: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

For my review of the first film, click here.

I often wonder how sequels get green-lighted, even though there is little demand for them or how something can get warranted. I have touched on this in my reviews of The Man With The Iron Fists 2 and also How High 2. Let’s not forget on my review of I Got The Hook Up 2, especially when wondering how long Master P had wanted to get that off the ground. The list goes on, especially when seeing that some movies didn’t do so well enough in theaters, unless it sold a good amount of units in home media. I mean seriously, there are a lot of sequels to Bring It On, as well as a few sequels to Death Race, which I may cover on my movie blog. But in this case, I really wonder if there was a demand for a sequel to Half Past Dead.

I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me tell you how I first discovered that there was a sequel to it. I remember going to Walmart and noticing on one of the DVD racks that there was a copy of Half Past Dead 2. When I saw it, I was like “Huh?” This was in the late-2000s, by the way. I think it was 2008 when this happened. Then I saw who was on the cover. It was none other than Bill Goldberg and also Kurupt. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. Now I didn’t watch the first movie until early 2017, when I went through a Steven Seagal kick. I will note that I was familiar with it, as well as knew that Kurupt was also in it. But when I saw Bill Goldberg on it, I didn’t know what to say.

Some of you may have probably figured out by now that I am a fan of professional wrestling. I have made some references here and there in past reviews and stuff. However, I am also aware that Bill Goldberg had starred in some films like Santa’s Slay and stuff. I heard that it was bad, but being that I actually enjoy watching “bad” movies sometimes, I think I might give it a go sometime. So I wasn’t sure what to say. Then when I saw Kurupt on the cover, it made me see that he was possibly one of the only returning actors from the previous film to appear (Let me remind you that I really mean “one of” in this case, as I will get to that).

Which brings me the topic at hand. So basically the story is that Twitch (Kurupt’s character) gets transferred from New Alcatraz, the prison from the first film, to another prison somewhere in Missouri. It turns out that his girlfriend Cherise (played by Angell Conwell) lives there, but there is more to it than that. Immediately he becomes acquainted with one of the prison gangs, as well as gets antagonized by another prison gang, led by the main antagonist Cortez. Then he cross paths with Burke (Goldberg’s character), a loner who doesn’t like associating with people, but has love for his daughter Ellie (played by Alona Tal). But then trouble arises when a riot erupts in the prison, leaving Cherise and Ellie trapped when it goes into lockdown. Problems escalate from there.

Which now brings me to how this is linked to the previous film, especially when more often than not, straight-to-video sequels are only “sequels in name only,” although that could be a factor in this film as aside from returning characters, the title doesn’t really relate to the plot. Basically, Twitch gets promoted from a supporting character to one of the leads and the only other character who returned was El Fuego, played by Tony Plana, who was the warden from the first film, and was only featured in two scenes in this film. I also must note that there were some story elements, as well as passing references that somehow needed to be told in order to link the two films together, but even in some ways it felt like there had be rewrites to the script. Not to mention some continuity errors here and there. The same could be said about the lighting used for some action scenes.

Also, I really wonder if Steven Seagal was even approached to even star in this at all. At this point, he was already doing a bunch of straight-to-video movies, but I guess with his large ego, he probably thought he was too good for this. I mean, seriously, you know that there is a problem when your comic relief side character somehow gets promoted to main character in the sequel.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film. This is the real kicker. I didn’t dislike the movie at all. Yes, it does have its issues and all, but I found it to be somewhat of time-waster that you could just watch if you have nothing else going on. I enjoyed the movie okay. I wouldn’t call it good, and it would be wrong if I said that I loved it. It was really more average, maybe even halfway decent at best. I will note that I liked some of the songs on the soundtrack. Kurupt even provided a couple of songs of his in this film, one of which was a Dogg Pound song, even though it was his verse that was heard. It was still entertaining despite all of its issues.

This movie was definitely an example of an unnecessary sequel. I guess that was why it was straight-to-video. I mean, seriously, a couple of years prior, Steven Seagal was in a movie with Treach from Naughty By Nature. Speaking of Treach, I wonder if I should cover Art of War III as well. I may do Love and a Bullet one day. But also in reference to Seagal, I will get to my long overdue write-up of Exit Wounds, but that will be for a marathon that will include Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave. I like to think of those three as a trilogy. But overall, if you were to watch this, don’t expect too much and you might enjoy it. It may be overridden with cliches, but a lot of films are. I mean the first film wasn’t great either, but it was still entertaining.

2.5/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – I Got the Hook Up 2

Year of Release: 2019

Production Companies: RLJ Entertainment/Urban Movie Channel/Genius Minds Pictures

(Takes deep breath) I am going to do my best here to try to explain and review this movie. I never thought I would say this, but after sitting through this, I actually believe that I would give How High 2 a repeated watch before I would even give this a second watch.

Let me make a note here before I go any further. I know I should have covered the first I Got the Hook-Up before I did this, but I must find a way to watch it first. I haven’t watched that movie in years, probably haven’t given it a full viewing since the early 2000s. I remember catching a glimpse of it on BET a few years ago. Though I will say that I don’t understand why BET needs to stretch their programs out to a lot longer than necessary. I get that they need to turn a profit for all the ads that they show, but there is no reason that a 90-minute movie should be stretched to three hours when it is shown on basic cable.

I plan to cover that movie someday, along with the other No Limit films (I found ways to watch the Bout It movies, while I may need to find ways to watch Foolish, Lockdown, even stuff like Da Last Don or Da Game is the Be Sold…). But now I should get right on to this.

I am going to say this. I found out about this movie last summer when I found a trailer for it on YouTube. It made me so confused as to how or why a sequel to I Got the Hook-Up came about. I don’t just mean after more than 20 years, but when looking at how the first movie was given a theatrical release and did a bit decent even for its budget, I guess Master P wanted to do a sequel.

I can only assume that Master P wanted to do a sequel for many years but it just couldn’t get off the ground. It’s the same story as to how Ice Cube has been trying for years to get Last Friday off the ground, but I still hold onto hope for the fourth and final Friday film. After seeing this film, I know that Last Friday will be much, MUCH better.

Okay, I am sure you already see that I am already saying that the movie is bad. Just how bad is it? Well, you’re about to find out.

This movie is totally all over the place that you really wonder what the plot really is. In fact, even when there are sequences related to a subplot or anything similar, you still have trouble figuring out what is going on. In fact, there were so many sequences that were unrelated to each other, with characters we know nothing about nor were introduced and showing some random sequences involving them.

Even though Master P and AJ Johnson reprised their roles as Black and Blue, respectively, they are barely in the movie. Okay, they have big enough roles, but there weren’t a lot of scenes. Some of the scenes involved DC Young Fly and some actor, rapper, or comedian I have no knowledge about and their involvement in the story (if you can call it that).

Also, Black and Blue no longer run a little shop that sells bootleg items or anything. They have gone legit and opened up a restaurant and want to get their business off the ground. Also, for some reason, Romeo Miller (Master P’s son, formerly known as Lil’ Romeo, who was also credited as Executive Producer) has a role in the movie as Detective Johnny Miller, who happened to be Black’s nephew, because another one of P’s sons played Black’s son, Cashmere. As a matter of fact, it turned out that Master P got all of his kids in this movie, including Cymphonique Miller (Best known for playing Kacey Simon on that Nickelodeon sitcom, How to Rock).

There is just no way to describe the plot because there really isn’t one. I mean, sure, a couple of guys get into some trouble with a Mexican gangster (I’m not even generalizing here, as I am Mexican myself and being that this movie is set in Los Angeles, it’s likely that the gangster was Mexican). Then came somewhat of rehash of the predecessor’s plot involving cellphone chips. But unlike the first film, these types of chips enhance wi-fi connections and such. That was the biggest problem of this movie. With there being five writers for the script, that really says a lot.

Also, there were so many forced attempts at humor that I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be funny. I will admit that I got at least a chuckle out of this film, but that was it. AJ Johnson was actually funny in some sequences. But some of the sequences that I found unbearable were with DC Young Fly (I just hope that his stand-up is much better, because I found him unbearable in this film and How High 2) or even some sad attempts at humor when it involves gay panic, negative stereotypes, even some guys obviously drooling over an attractive woman. Also, how do these bits relate to the main story? Oh, I forgot, there wasn’t really a story to it. It didn’t help that when some returning characters appeared that there had to be some elements to connect the first film to this, even though two decades had passed up until the events of this film.

Okay, I have to hand it to Master P for involving his kids, as well as getting a lot of people to come back in this film, as well as credited for this film. Because seriously, the extras just had to be credited (end sarcasm). But really, some characters from the first film returned and also the actors playing them. For example, John Witherspoon (RIP) returned as Mr. Mimm. Tom “Tiny” Lister returned as T-Lay. Even a few other characters returned, but I won’t name them because they aren’t known. Not to mention that these characters only returned for one scene each. I think I also saw P’s brother Silkk in one sequence, though no appearances for C-Murder because he is still locked up.

I wonder if P had tried to contact Gretchen Palmer to return as Lorraine, who was Black’s girlfriend in the first film. The fact that there were multiple writers who wrote the film likely had to find a way to write her out of the script, because I can only guess that she declined to return. Personally, I know Palmer is no spring chicken, but having seen her on social media, she looks great for her age, but even then, she said no to returning. If that’s the case, I don’t blame her.

Part of me wishes that I had covered the predecessor earlier on. I don’t know if, or even think that the film holds up now. Though I am certain that it won’t because while I enjoyed it at one point, I was only 14 when I first saw it. I do plan to cover it, but my gut is telling me that it won’t hold up (if it even would at all). But as someone who doesn’t mind watching bad movies, whether it’s to laugh at, or to just see what the problems are (it’s not the same as hate-watching, by the way), I will cover it sometime, maybe even soon. I’m certain it will look good in comparison to the sequel, but at the same time, I am also sure that my teenage memories will just go down the drain. I’ll be prepared.

There is really not a lot more that I can say about this film. It’s obvious that I really did not like it. Like I said before, after sitting through this, I would very much give How High 2 another watch before I even give this another watch. Don’t get me wrong, How High 2 was bad. It really was, but this movie was bad that it made How High 2 looked good in comparison, and that’s really sad. I have to give Master P props for trying to get the movie off the ground, but at the same time, the execution just failed. When I get to other No Limit Films (and really, this can’t be considered a No Limit film because that company doesn’t exist anymore), I will see how they hold up and how they are. Some have said that some can be entertaining despite the budget and the bad acting. But this wasn’t one of those films.

Rating: 1/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – How High 2

Year of Release: 2019

Production Companies: Universal 1440 Entertainment/MTV/Smith-Garr Productions

For my review on the first film, click here.

Like I had noted in my review of The Man with the Iron Fists 2, straight-to-video sequels (or TV, for that matter) are far from a novel concept. What’s funny (as in strange) is that I have seen my share of some, whether they follow a story or are simply rehash of a predecessor, or even just a film with the name slapped on it to draw viewers. I have noted that there are some that I enjoy. There are also some that I didn’t enjoy, like this film that I am about to cover here.

Let me just make one thing clear here. Comedy is definitely a subjective taste, as well as a hard thing to write and produce. Add to the fact that there are different forms of comedy out there. Whether you’re talking about slapstick, dark, romantic, and sometimes even dumb/silly comedy, which doesn’t always mean that it’s unfunny. Really, dumb/stupid comedy can sometimes have its charm because while the comedy may be a bit over the top, some of the time the humor can actually draw some laughs, as well as what could work is chemistry among the leads. Stoner favorites such as the first film, Half-Baked, Friday, and of course, the Cheech & Chong films (particularly Up in Smoke) have their charm because of the chemistry of the leads and good writing.

This film, How High 2, while it had its moments in some areas (I’ll admit that I chuckled a tad at times), it was just downright bad. There, I said it. But how bad was it? Before I get into my review, let me talk about some background info that some of you may need to know.

For starters, one of the main things is that for years, a sequel with Method Man and Redman was considered. In fact, it had been considered since the late-2000s, right around the time Red and Meth were recording Blackout 2. However, Universal didn’t want to fund the movie, according the IMDB tribune. In late 2015, Redman had stated that Danny DeVito signed him and Method Man back onto the film and a script was being written. In early 2017, the script had been rewritten because Red and Meth didn’t like the earlier drafts. They had hoped that the film would start shooting in late 2017 to early 2018. Even around that time, Redman had stated that the script had been rewritten once again, as he had also said that he and Method Man would not return if the script was not funny. Then the script was rewritten yet again in mid-2018 and Universal 1440 teamed with MTV.

At that point, in September 2018, both Method Man and Redman were unaware that Universal went ahead with the production of How High 2 and that they didn’t bother to contact them until the beginning of production. When they got contacted, they declined after production began with Lil’ Yachty and DC Young Fly. So in other words, Universal went ahead and started production on it without their knowledge. Also, it had been said that Meth and Red were supposed to reprise their roles and Yachty was supposed to be Method Man’s character’s younger brother.

So what does this say about the film? Now I’m getting to that, and note, this will contain spoilers.

This film starts off with Roger, played by Lil’ Yachty, working the night shift at a fast food restaurant and then comes across a couple of rich girls, whom he smokes weed with, only to be robbed by them. Then we are introduced to his cousin Calvin, played by DC Young Fly, who I believe was an Uber driver or something of that nature. He was getting high with a co-worker. The two cousins live in Roger’s mother’s basement. Then suddenly, they come across “The Weed Bible,” which not only introduces them to some powerful weed, but also they encounter Baby Powder (Mike Epps) and his sidekick, played by Teresa Topnotch and she is only credited as “Sidekick.” I kid you not, and yes, Mike Epps reprised his role as Baby Powder from the first film (I will get to another appearance, just wait, as well as some sad attempts to link the two films), but this time he wasn’t a pimp who was trying to get his hookers back. No, this time he played a spiritual figure whom only Roger and Calvin see, almost like a ghost or spirit to give them advice. I really did not understand what they did with this character. I really didn’t, especially when his character was just a pimp who slapped people in the face with baby powder (which he also did in this film, and that’s not even the first sad attempt at trying to link the films!). So Roger and Calvin try to sell the weed, only to find that it went missing and then they go around Atlanta to search for it.

Okay, I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be. I have to hand it to the writers for not making this a complete rehash of the first film’s plot, but in a lot of ways, I saw a lot of elements from Half-Baked, Pineapple Express, as well as a reference to one of my all-time favorite films, Back to the Future.

So what exactly was wrong with this film? This film was also full of cliches that you have seen before. For example, an illicit video coming up when trying to expose someone, a typical inspirational sequence by telling the lead that it was all him and not something that got him far, etc. Okay, I will admit that one bit involving the embarrassing video got a chuckle out of me, as well as some sequences with DeRay Davis, but that was about it. But then there’s the typical “marijuana is like LSD” trope that’s been played out for years. Weed is not that powerful. I mean, sure, a joke like that was done in Half-Baked, but it was justified in the plot as the weed that was being used was supposed be “the good shit,” if you know what I mean.

Another thing that was bad was that there was a forced romantic subplot involving Roger and Alicia, who I believe was an old school crush or girlfriend. It was obvious that she and Roger would end up together, but then she finds herself involved in the plot. Okay, I could hand it to the actress playing the girl as she was trying. But then there were bits in the plot with Roger somehow revealing to her that he sort of lied about some stuff. But you know what, it didn’t matter to her. Duh! Plus, I couldn’t buy those two as an item, and why she would even choose him, especially with a guy with that kind of hair.

As for the sad attempts at trying to link the two films, only one other actor from the first film appeared and that was Al Shearer, who played I Need Money (Yes, that was his name). He appeared in this film as I Got Money. I am not even sure if they were supposed to be the same character (Seriously, same actor, but the difference between “need” and “got” could only mean that the guy had improved himself), but don’t even get me started on the forced bit involving his teeth being shown (Yes, that was done in this movie, too). Also, another sad attempt was taking a puff and seeing the ghost of someone. *sigh* WHY?! At least in the first film, the reason for that was because the dead guy’s ashes were mixed with the marijuana seeds and it was what caused the character of Ivory to come back as a ghost. So it made more sense as it was explained in the plot.

Okay, regarding performances, I had already talked about the love interest, but regarding the leads, I had a hard time trying to take Yachty seriously as the straight man of the group. DC Young Fly, on the other hand, well, I am not familiar with his comedy, but it felt like he was trying to be like Chris Tucker or Kevin Hart. He tried too hard. I mean I am not going to crap on these two because I can see that they were trying, but with what they worked with, it just didn’t work for me.

In a lot of ways, Method Man and Redman had dodged a major bullet by not appearing in this movie. I love that movie. I remember seeing it in theaters when it came out. It was definitely a film that holds up now, even if it’s almost 20 years old. This film, on the other hand, when you have it debut on MTV, that really says a lot about it. I found it on Netflix, so I had to see it for myself. I didn’t even go in with high (no pun intended) expectations. Like I had noted, it had a few moments, particularly with DeRay Davis and another bit, but overall, this was just bad. I mean BAD.

Then again, I still wonder about I Got the Hook-Up 2, and yes, that movie does exist. I will cover that one when I see it, even though I need to cover some of the other No Limit films (Including the first I Got the Hook-Up, which I haven’t seen in so long).

Rating: 1/5

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Album Reviews, Soundtrack Albums

Christmas Special – Reviews of “Christmas Rap Music” and “Friday After Next” soundtrack

Hello, out there. I know that I haven’t been doing much for this site lately. But as usual, I try to keep with a tradition, at least during Christmas time. Rather than do two separate reviews, I decided to combine them. I didn’t get a chance to get other albums that were on my Amazon Wish List. But some of the time, I got to plan ahead for future years, especially during the Christmas season.

So I’m going to do two albums. I’m going to start with “Christmas Rap Music” from Crew X. Not to be confused with the Christmas Rap compilation, which I covered already. The other will be the Friday After Next soundtrack. Right now, onto “Christmas Rap Music.”

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Let me start off by saying that I came across this CD when I was looking on Amazon for the Christmas Rap compilation and then saw this on the suggestions list. I had no idea what this album was. From what I understand this was the sole album from a short-lived rap group called Crew X. It seems that little-to-no information is found on them. Hell, the insert for the CD is just the cover art. There was no information about the production of each track. The only thing that I found was information that this was released in 1992 and it appeared that this group was from Nashville, Tenn. because that city was listed on the back cover art. So this portion is not going to be long.

What I will tell you is that each of the songs on this album was a rap rendition of various classic Christmas carols like “The First Noel,” “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” etc. So in other words, this group did a rap spin on those traditional carols. I found it cute (and I never thought I would use this term to describe the beats) that beats had included some instrumentals with some rap beats combined with them. I couldn’t help but think it was kind of cute to hear a hip-hop beat of “The First Noel” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

So what about the lyrics? The rapper did a good job at rapping out the verses for the songs. Some of them had original lyrics added in to provide some additional lyrical content for the tracks. In fact, I found his rapping on “Jingle Bells” to be pretty catchy.

It appeared that it was the same rapper on most of the tracks. One song that had multiple people rapping was on “12 Days of Christmas.” What’s interesting about that track was that each rapper was rapping out the exact lyrics for that carol. It’s got to be heard to be believed.

It appears that the only original track was the final track of the album. It was called “The Christmas Rap.” The rapper on that track talked about Santa Claus, the reindeer, the elves, etc. and also experiences on Christmas and such.

One thing that makes me wonder is that this album was released in 1992, but the songs sound like they were recorded a lot earlier than that. This whole album had the feel of the mid-1980s. Not a bad thing by any means. It was actually interesting to hear rap versions of those old Christmas carols. The producers, DJs, and rappers did a good job at what they did. While it would sound a bit ridiculous to some, there is no denying that the songs were catchy.

If only there was more information I can find on Crew X.

3.5/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The First Noel
  2. Jingle Bells
  3. 12 Days of Christmas
  4. The Christmas Rap
  5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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Here was something that I told myself to cover a year ago when I wrote my review of the movie, but I didn’t get around to it. Better late than never, right? Anyway, onto the review.

The first thing that unlike the soundtracks to the previous two movies, this was released by Hollywood Records, not Priority. It also seemed that around the time of its release, there had been some ads implying that there was an explicit version with the Parental Advisory label on the cover art. Why am I telling you this? Because this album was edited. I will talk more about this in a bit, but in the meantime, let’s get to the songs.

This album kicked off with the soundtrack’s lead single, “It’s the Holidaze” performed by Westside Connection. So it wasn’t just Ice Cube providing a song for the soundtrack. He also got WC and Mack 10 involved. This whole track was produced by Dallas Austin, as in the same guy who had produced the likes of TLC and Monica back in the 1990s. What was cool about this song is that when you hear each of the verses from Cube, Dub, and Mack respectively, they all have different feels. Personally, my favorite verse out of all them was WC’s.

Another standout track was “High Times” from FT and Tha Eastsidaz, as FT, Tray Deee, and Goldie Loc did a good job on their verses, but the standout part about it was the production from Fredwreck.  Even “Just Chill” from Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad was pretty dope, as Busta and Rah Digga provided some good verses. The same could be said about “Got All’at” from Nappy Roots (Remember them?).

Fredwreck also produced another song, which was a “Wonderful World” from Krayzie Bone, La Reece, and K-Mont. It was different, and had that “Whistle While You Work” sample, as well as some other 1950s/1960s vibe going for it, but not bad. It was pretty catchy.

50 Cent also appeared on this album, along with G-Unit. Lloyd Banks shined on his verse, as did 50, and Tony Yayo didn’t do a bad job on his verse. This was not long before he dropped “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” but from what I had read, this was recorded before that as it appeared on his mixtape, “50 Cent is the Future.” So this was before he blew up, even though he made his mark on the 8 Mile soundtrack.

What also could be said that the two tracks from Whateva and Roscoe stood out. Rockwilder presented this then up-and-coming rapper who showed a lot of promise on “Mardi Gras,” but I wonder what happened with him. Roscoe, as in Kurupt’s brother, showed a lot of promise on “Get Ready.” Mr. Kane (or Kokane, as he is better known) provided a good hook like he often does. However, out of these two, Roscoe would have a debut album coming out not long after that.

The last of the original tracks (or modern tracks) would come from R&B singer Calvin Richardson. The guy could sing and Jez Colin did a good job at the production. Being that this album came out in the early-2000s, this definitely has that vibe.

What about the rest of the album? Well, the rest of the album were old songs from Leon Haywood (RIP), Slave, Eartha Kitt (RIP), The Temptations, and Donny Hathaway (RIP). A few of them were Christmas songs, which I believed were played in the movie, and I am sure that the non-Christmas songs from these aforementioned artists were also in the movie. Not going to complain about their inclusions. If anything, they were welcome additions, as the soundtracks to the previous Friday movies had old songs on the soundtracks. The first Friday soundtrack had included the songs from Rick James, Rose Royce, and Roger, despite around the same time of its release, Priority Records had released an “Old School Friday” compilation which provided all the old tracks (plus original score tracks). The same thing happened when Next Friday came out, as there was an “old school” version of the soundtrack as well.

Quality-wise, I can’t complain about the songs on this album. I would rate it high, except for the fact that all of the songs are edited. This is what really got me. I could have sworn that back in those days, there were ads of this showing the Parental Advisory label. I even found pictures online about it. But when I got it, I found out that the soundtrack was edited. I am not sure what Hollywood Records was doing, because they didn’t do a good job at releasing any explicit versions. The songs were actually good, but it’s also distracting to hear the censors for it. Did Priority Records not want anything to do with this soundtrack? If Cube couldn’t get them to do it, he could have at least tried with New Line Records, as they released the soundtrack to All About the Benjamins. Then again, I remembered how Cube did that song “100 Dolla Bill Y’all” around that time and it was used for the promotion of the movie, but it wasn’t featured on the soundtrack to that. Maybe he didn’t submit it in time or there was an issue. I don’t know, but I do know that that song was on his greatest hits album which came out in 2001.

What’s puzzling is that I found a video of “It’s the Holidaze” and it has the explicit lyrics. Someone must have used the version played in the credits and put it in that video when uploading it on YouTube. Check it out:

But like I also said, I don’t have a problem with the soundtrack as the songs are exceptional, but what drops it were the edits on the songs. I could find the explicit versions of some of the songs on some mixtapes or albums (Like that Roscoe song appeared on his debut album).

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. It’s the Holidaze
  2. Get Ready
  3. High Times (Ride with Us)
  4. Just Chill
  5. Bad News
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Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Caught Up

Year of Release: 1998

Production Companies: LIVE Entertainment/Artisan Entertainment (Later acquired by Lionsgate)

I’m back and I will try to update this more and I have also been contemplating starting my movie blog, which I will link to this one at some point. Also, it’s December, so I may post some Christmas-related stuff soon.

Like in many other reviews that I have done, I give a little personal history lesson and this will be no exception, because this film is something that I never thought that I would revisit. For starters, I actually remember seeing TV spots of this film on BET and/or MTV in early 1998. This was definitely a film that I sense didn’t do so well at the box office as sources had stated that it only made $6.754 million overall. There really wasn’t a lot of advertisement for it, though I remember seeing ads for the soundtrack around that same time, which I also plan to cover.

The other thing is this: In my Hot Boyz review, I had noted that I initially had this movie as part of a 4-pack of movies that I bought for $5 at Walmart way back when. I later sold it, especially considering my feelings towards Hot Boyz (Though I may cover Phat Beach soon, as well as Foolish if I get my hands on it or find a way to watch it). However, this film somehow came crawling back, as I wasn’t fond of it when I first saw it.

What happened was that a local new/used bookstore, which also carried DVDs, in my area was closing sometime recently. It was on its last few days, so I went in and bought a lot of movies. When I saw that this was one of them (As well as another I wasn’t a big fan of), I went ahead and bought them considering the deal I would be getting. I mean what was the harm, right?

Then came an itch of me wanting to give it a re-watch recently, probably because I was listening to the soundtrack. For some reason I had the temptation to watch it. I mean I know I didn’t like it, but then I thought about covering it for this website. As said before, what was the harm?

So I gave it a re-watch and now here comes my take on it. Oh, and how this film relates to it being hip-hop, I will get to that.

Okay, so the movie surrounds Daryl Allen, played by Bokeem Woodbine, a man who just got out of jail after a five-year stretch for being linked to a robbery that his troublemaker friend got him involved in. Before he went through all of that, it hadn’t been long since Daryl’s initial release. That’s right, he went back to jail not long after getting released. It wasn’t like he planned on being involved in the robbery. After his release, he meets a woman named Vanessa, played by Cynda Williams, who looks dead-on like Daryl’s ex-girlfriend Trish (They were played by the same actress). Vanessa turns about to be a tarot reader and foresees Daryl’s future, which shows him getting caught up in some stuff. Hence the title of this film.

Right when you put this on, it’s obvious that this film was shot on a low-budget. Even for late-1990s standards, this film has the feel of a low-budget film, especially with the production company behind it. LIVE/Artisan Entertainment weren’t known for putting out films with a high budget. In fact, I think one of their highest budgeted movies that they released was Ringmaster, that Jerry Springer film (In some ways, I would watch it for shear curiosity, as I have a thing about watching “bad” movies), as it was only shot for $20 million.

Back to this film, what was shown about its budget were the effects and the fact that there were no name actors in this film. Sure, Bokeem Woodbine might have been among the better-known actors, as in recent memory he was in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But if I were to guess, this film was probably among the very few, if only lead roles he has had. Sure, he had billing in The Big Hit, which came out that same year, but that was among the likes of Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips. As for his performance, I think he did a decent job, especially at displaying emotion during certain sequences. Cynda Williams did a good job in her role, even though her role as Trish only came during so few sequences but all of the dialogue was done for the Vanessa character. Plus, I never complain seeing Clifton Powell on screen, as he did a good job with his character.

The problem with this film was that so many things went on that it was hard to keep track what the plot really was. Sure, Daryl wanted to go straight but then got caught up in some mess. One story element had him get chased by some guy trying to shoot him. It was mostly forgotten about until the every end and when you see what it really was about, it was mostly a revenge thing with a character you knew so little about from the start. But regarding anything else, I wouldn’t have expected some twists to occur, which I have to hand to the writers for coming up with that.

Also, Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J had cameos in this movie. While Snoop was just in a scene with Daryl driving him around, LL’s cameo had relevance to the plot. Plus, both guys were listed in the credits as special appearances, so they weren’t just walk-on roles.

One thing that got me was the camera-work and editing in some scenes. For example, during the film’s love scene, I found it funny how the camera circled around the two actors, while some sequences faded into other shots. It definitely had the feel of something that came out during that time.

All I can say is that I wouldn’t call this film good, but it grew on me a little bit since the last time I saw it. While the film does have its problems, it’s not as bad as I remember it. Some parts got me laughing a bit for the wrong reasons. I was also entertained more this time around. Also, I liked Basil Wallace in this film as Ahmad, one of the film’s antagonists. He also reminded me of the character he played in that Steven Seagal film, Marked For Death. This was one of those moments where the film got better on repeated viewings. What amazed me is how it went to theaters, but it probably didn’t take long until it was pulled. It’s one of those films that you would probably watch if you have nothing to do, like during the days when local channels would show movies on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, or even when USA used to show movies at 1 or 2 in the morning. You could do better, but you could do a lot worse, too.

Rating: 3/5

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