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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