Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Mid90s

Year of Release: 2018

Production Companies: A24/Waypoint Entertainment/Scott Rudin Productions

For those who grew up in the 1990’s, it’s weird to look at period pieces or movies and shows from that era and see how things have changed since then, no matter how many people say that things are the same now as they were then. Sure, you can compare how much of a change between the 1980’s and 1990’s, and so forth, but when watching a movie like this, it really shows how things were different, especially in this day and age with people’s faces glued to their cellphones and the internet being huge. What’s funny to me is that I have read an article in the past about how no one could make a period piece about the 1990’s that is similar to “Dazed and Confused” and “American Graffiti,” but this may have proved that guy wrong (I can’t find the article, but if I do, I will update and link it).

The movie tells the story of Stevie, who is played by a young actor named Sunny Sujic. Stevie goes through life living through the physical abuse of his older brother Ian, played by Lucas Hedges, as well as living with their mother. Stevie looks up to his brother as he has a collection of rap CD’s from that era, ranging from Wu-Tang to Mobb Deep to Cypress Hill. At some point, Stevie linked up with a group of skaters at a skate shop and then started hanging out with them, trying to find his place.

Did I mention that this film was also the directorial debut of Jonah Hill? Well, he did not just direct this film, he also wrote it. It was clear that this movie was inspired by some other films, namely 1995’s “Kids,” as well as 1993’s “The Sandlot.” A lot of story elements come from the former, like how Stevie hung out with a group of skaters and getting into trouble, as well as doing things like smoking weed and drinking 40’s. How it compares to “The Sandlot” is that it focused mainly on the perspective of Stevie, as he was this film’s version of Smalls. However, unlike “Kids,” this movie is nowhere near as sinister, even though there was some sexism here and there, but if anything, it showed how kids were during that time, add to the fact that it really showed that certain elements would not fly in today’s world. Sure, some characters were not likable in this movie, but then you also had some cool guys and also while you may not like a certain character, you feel for him and also see that he has a softer side than previously let on.

One of the things that stood out about this movie was that it was shot on 16mm, so it was mainly in fullscreen with a 4:3 ratio. Part of me felt that this was intentional as widescreen was not really that much of a thing during that era, so maybe it was done to capture the feel from that time period.

Another that amazed me was that it was a short movie with a lot of story to be told and did not need to be stretched out for everything to understand the main events of it. This movie ran at 84 minutes, but it did not need to be longer to be better. Plus, many of the story elements had some resolution by the film’s end. What was also great was the soundtrack for the movie, as a lot of songs that were played were from a lot of great rap acts such as Cypress Hill, The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, Jeru The Damaja, Gravediggaz, etc.

On a personal note, I found myself relating a lot to Stevie as I had gone through some of the stuff that he had gone through. The main thing that reminded him of me was when he would go through his brother’s CD collection, as when I was a kid (preteen and also teenager), I used to go through my youngest uncle’s CD collection as he had a lot of what came out around that time. I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I can remember, and I saw myself in Stevie, though I never suffered any sort of abuse. Also, another thing that made me relate to him was that I had trouble fitting in at times. I mean, yes, I had friends, but if you saw me during lunch breaks, I either kept to myself or would just hang out in a classroom with a friend of mine.

Jonah Hill really impressed me with his direction for this film. Sure, a lot of people may dismiss him for having done a lot of those crude comedies like “This is The End,” “Superbad,” ” The Sitter,” “Get Him to the Greek,” etc. but he has shown that he has talent, and that includes writing and directing. According to IMDB, he had to talk with some well-known film directors such as Martin Scorsese and Ethan Coen on the filmmaking process. Directing a movie seemed quite a step for him, but after seeing this movie, I wonder what he could do next. It really felt like a passion project for him, as it seemed like he put a lot of effort into making this movie work. Overall, this film was definitely worthy of an hour and a half of my time.

5/5

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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – Bones

Year of Release: 2001

Record Label: Doggystyle Records/Priority Records

Click here for my review of the movie.

I have been long overdue for this. I have been meaning to write a review on this for a while, especially when I do it in the middle of October. Last year, when I devoted most of my reviews to the Flatlinerz and Gravediggaz, I felt that I was missing something. I noted in one of my reviews that doing horrorcore rap albums should not really matter in the middle of October, as there are numerous horrorcore acts out there. But I had meaning to do this regardless. However, it would be hard to really label this a horrorcore album, as there were very few songs of that nature on this. How so? Well, let’s find out.

This soundtrack kicked off with an intro bit that had Snoop Dogg, who played the title character from the movie, “Bones,” of which this was the soundtrack. It was not really a song, but rather a narration of the character and his cause with music in the background. It had a nice beat to it, as it quite a funky and jazzy feel. However, what really kicked it off was the song, “The Legend of Jimmy Bones” from RBX, Snoop, and MC Ren. THIS song really had the horrorcore feel, and in a lot of ways, it was related to the movie as it talked about some bits of the plot, not to mention that there was a sound clip from the movie towards the end. The beat really gave it an unsettling feel.

One could expect that this album had a lot of Snoop’s affiliates on it, and that would be correct. Being that this was released under Snoop’s label, it seemed that it was to showcase some of the talent that it had. One song that stood out was “Lost Angels in the Sky” from Lost Angels and Kokane. I am not familiar with Lost Angels, though I am familiar with Kokane, who had done a lot of hooks for Snoop and crew back in the day. It had a great beat done by Battlecat, who had done “G’d Up” from Tha Eastsidaz and “We Can Freak It” from Kurupt in the past. In fact, a lot of people from Snoop’s crew appeared on here, ranging from Kurupt to Nate Dogg, and what better guy to do a hook on a song than this guy? May he rest in peace, by the way.

What I find funny is the song, “It’s Jimmy” from Kurupt and Roscoe. Not a bad song by any means, especially when it’s a collab between this brotherly duo, but this album came out around the time of “The Saga Continues” from P. Diddy and the Bad Boy Family, and the chorus was similar to the song “Diddy.” I am certain that the chorus was derived from another song, but it’s hard not to compare the two.

One song that can really get your head bump is “Death of Snow White,” which featured Bad Azz, along with Chan and Coniyac, 2/3 of short-lived female rap act Doggy’s Angels (Remember them?). Funny I should mention them as the other member, Kola, appeared on the track that followed called “If You Came Here To Party.” Warren G produced a phat beat for that track. If anything, some of these songs could be played at parties or gatherings, and some of them can be danced to, especially “Raise Up” from Kokane. Also, Snoop did a damn good job at paying homage to “Payback” from James Brown on “Jimmy’s Revenge.” Fredwreck did a good job on the production of this song, one of many songs that he produced for this album.

However, it was not just Snoop’s own crew on this album, as there were some cuts from D12 and Cypress Hill. I can’t complain about “These Drugs” from D12, and things were hot for them during the time this came out as “Devil’s Night” came out the summer of that same year. Cypress Hill has never disappointed me with their music, so it was no exception, though I will say a longer version of “Memories” appeared on their album “Stoned Raiders,” which was released not too long after this album had come out. There was another track from a group that was outside of Snoop’s circle, as Outkast appeared on here and collaborated with Snoop on the remix to “So Fresh, So Clean.” I don’t mind that track, by the way, but it felt kind of loud when hearing the beat. Another song from FT was actually pretty dope on a lyrical level and the beat wasn’t too bad either. It had an East Coast vibe to it.

One thing that I had noticed when I was younger is that a lot of these hip-hop soundtracks more often than not had to have at least one R&B track for some reason. Now I do like R&B, but it just seemed that there were not a lot of hip-hop movie soundtracks that were top-to-bottom rap. Anyway, I did like the song “Ballad of Jimmy Bones” from Latoiya Williams, as it did relate to the movie and her soulful vocals really captured the feel for the song. As for “This is My Life,” the singer Kedrick has some decent vocals, but it would have been better if CPO had at least another verse, so it could have been equally singing and rapping. I also liked how “Be Thankful” from William Devaughn was added, as that song was played in the movie. It was a shortened version, as there needed to be more room for the other songs. However, I don’t think that the song “Endo” needed to be put in, as I was not sure what the purpose was. Was it an original score track? I know that Fredwreck produced it, but it just didn’t feel like it needed to be on it.

This album had a good amount of variety on here, but it really did not have a horrorcore vibe as a lot of the cuts were gangsta. Some were even good to play at parties. Even 17 years later, this album still holds up.

4/5

Top Five Tracks

  1. The Legend of Jimmy Bones
  2. These Drugs
  3. Memories
  4. Ballad of Jimmy Bones
  5. Fuck With Us
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Album Reviews

Review and History – Royce Da 5’9″ – Rock City

Year of Release: 2002

Record Label: Game Recordings/Columbia/Koch

There is a question that I have in mind about Royce’s debut album: With there being two versions, could it still be considered the same album or two different albums?

What I mean is this: “Rock City” was set to put Royce Da 5’9″ on the map, mainly due to his close association with Eminem as one-half of the duo, Bad Meets Evil. The two had done some songs together such as “Scary Movies” and “Nuttin’ To Do,” as well as “Bad Meets Evil” on Em’s debut album, “The Slim Shady LP.” To be perfectly frank, the two even did the title track for this album. However, this album was delayed over and over again from 2001 to 2002, that at some point Royce changed from Columbia/Sony to Koch Records. The album was originally supposed to be released in 2001, but then got delayed, and also heavily bootlegged. Not to mention that around that same time, Royce had done a song with a Britney Spears clone named Willa Ford. He did recover from that, despite not being that mainstream, as in subsequent albums, he remained true to his style.

One thing that I want to note is that while I consider myself a fan of Royce, I have not followed his catalog in years. I do want to change that, though I wonder where to start, whether it’s his actual albums or even his mixtapes. I have listened to “Hell: The Sequel,” as well as the first Slaughterhouse album, however.

Also, I am going to cover both versions. I must note that I bought the version that was released at Best Buy back in 2003 (That was called “Rock City: Version 2.0”), but the original pressing of the album I did not get until about a year ago when I found it on eBay. Also, there are some differences in the two versions, despite some songs appearing on both versions. Also, some songs on Version 2.0 probably made the album better than the original.

The original version suffered from a lot of songs that seemed to go with the mainstream during that time. One song in particular that seemed different from Royce’s style in subsequent albums is “Get’cha Paper.” While the beat from The Neptunes was actually pretty good, the subject matter that Royce rapped about just seemed a bit off. It was had a bunch braggadocios subject matter about getting money, ladies, and talking about being the King of Detroit. I didn’t mind how the chorus was somewhat reminiscent of “Strawberry Letter 23” from The Brothers Johnson.

One song that appeared on both versions that served as its lead single, and that was “You Can’t Touch Me,” which when listening to it now seems rather dated. It had a decent beat, but really it left a lot more to be desired in the lyrics.

Another thing that was noticeable in both versions was the inclusion of Tre Little in a lot of tracks, as well as that there was a song that included a group that Royce was helping to jumpstart at the time called D-Elite, which Tre seemed to be a part of. What’s funny is how on Version 1.0 had two tracks called “D-Elite,” which were split into two parts, the second of which had the full crew. However, Version 2.0 had only part one on it, which had Royce rapping, but the second part was devoted to showcasing the other members. It was also a part of a trend at the time when an established rapper has a crew and then wants to show the world what they’re made of. For example, Eminem had D12; Nelly had the St. Lunatics. You get the idea.

That is not to say that Version 1.0 did not have any song that had any meaning. A couple of songs in particular were “Life” and “Who Am I,” which actually used the beat to 2Pac’s “Pain” and it fit pretty well. “Life” actually had a somber type of feel and Amerie (Remember her?) provided a good chorus to it, and her vocals went with the overall feel of the song.

That is not to say that Version 2.0 did not have some songs that were not that good, however. Right after the title track came the mediocre “Off Parole,” which felt like it was this version’s “Get’cha Paper.” It even included Tre Little on the track. The only thing that song had going for it was the beat. I was also not too fond of “Mr. Baller,” which had a nice beat, but the rest of it just left a lot more to be desired.

So what are some positives that I can say about the two versions? I must note that one song that I did like on Version 1.0 was “We Live (Danger” and I could possibly be biased because I first heard that song in “Grand Theft Auto III” way back in the day (Who says you can’t find good music through video games?). Royce also did a good job in “Take His Life” from Version 2.0, which had a somber beat to go with it. It talked about some serious subject matter.

Also, both versions had “Boom,” which was one of his first singles. I didn’t know this until recently, but it released as a single when Game Recordings was still around, but was also released on the soundtrack to “Carmen: A Hip-Hopera” (Man, just thinking of THAT makes me feel old; I wonder if anyone even remembers that TV movie).

One thing that must be talked about is that the title track had two different beats on the two versions. If I were to pick which version out of the two that I liked more, I would probably go with the one from Version 1.0. If you want to compare and contrast, be my guest.

I have to say that I give Royce credit for his effort in this album (or these albums how ever you want to look it or them), but “Rock City” was really not all that special looking back. If you listened to this, and then “Death is Certain” and other ones after, you would see a major contrast in style. Now if you did the opposite and followed his career post-Rock City and then wanted to see what he did in his debut, one could probably see that it would not be the Royce he/she came to appreciate. I kept one of the versions for so long, but in a lot of ways I am glad that I held on to it. While the other one was done for collecting purposes. I would only recommend it for die-hard Royce fans and collectors, but for those who are interested in checking out where Royce started off, just start with either the early Bad Meets Evil stuff or just start with “Death is Certain.”

V1 – 2.5/5

V2 – 3/5

Top 5 Tracks from Version 1.0

  1. We Live (Danger)
  2. Boom
  3. Life
  4. Who Am I
  5. D-Elite Part 2

Top 5 Tracks from Version 2.0

  1. Life
  2. Soldier’s Story
  3. King of Kings
  4. Who Am I
  5. My Friend

Also, here was the original artwork for Version 1.0

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