Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Superfly

Year of Release: 2018

Production Company: Columbia Pictures/Silver Pictures

Remakes are not a new concept in cinema, despite what some people may believe, not to mention that when a remake is being made, most movie fans go up in flames because of it. Of course, with them being all the rage in this day and age, it should not be much of a shock that a 1972 Blaxploitation film called Superfly was going to be remade, even though I personally did not see something like this coming.

This new film followed a similar plot to the original in that Youngblood Priest, played by Trevor Martin, is a well-known drug dealer who wants to do one last deal before leaving the game. Of course, certain things prevent that, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie. He has several conflicts along the way, such as a rival dealer and his gang, as well as the right-hand man who had it in for Priest from the start. Other conflicts involve a Mexican drug dealer, Priest’s mentor, and of course, crooked cops. It is basically what you would see in a movie about drug dealing and gangs, so it’s really nothing that you have not seen before.

So what did this new take on the 1972 film have to offer? One thing that is inevitable is that people are likely going to compare and contrast, especially if the movie is 46 years old. There is no escaping it, but really, this film has its own identity, despite having a similar plot and the main character shares his name with the protagonist of the original. The movie itself, however, is set in the modern world. This movie was directed by Canadian-born Director X, whose real name is Julien Christian Lutz, who is also a music video director. A lot of this movie was shot like a modern rap video with guy’s sporting bling and women wearing as little as possible. Not to mention that some action sequences had some slow-motion effects, whether it was from a hand-to-hand fight scene or a high-speed chase sequence. Another thing that this film differed from the original is that it had more of hip-hop/gangsta-style flavor to it, but that didn’t mean that there were no callbacks to the original, as some sequences had Curtis Mayfield’s songs like “Pusher Man” and of course, “Superfly” from the original film. But this time around, because Future had produced this film, he also had a hand in the production of the soundtrack and it showed as a lot of his songs were played.

Trevor Martin did a decent job playing the role of Priest. He mostly played him as a calm-type who kept his head in all situations, even in situations that were more for one to handle. Jason Mitchell, whom had portrayed Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton, as well as appeared in 2016’s Keanu and Kong: Skull Island, stole a lot of scenes that he was in as Eddie, Priest’s right-hand man. He had brought a little comic relief into the film, even though it was predominately serious. Another standout performance was from Jennifer Morrison, who played crooked Detective Mason. She had quite an odious aura about her, enough that you wanted to see something happen to her in the end. I will say the same thing about Brian Durkin, who played an even bigger jerk of a crooked cop, Detective Franklin. Also, I was surprised to see appearances from Rick Ross and Big Boi, who played the mayor of Atlanta, where this film was set.

There were some sequences that stood out for different reasons beyond getting a good thrill from the action, or getting a laugh from a funny moment. For example, one sequence had Priest visiting his mentor Scatter, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, who was running a martial arts school. The two engaged in a friendly sparring session, while talking about taking chances and trying to get out of the drug game. Of course, not without using some martial arts techniques in the process, which ended with Scatter putting Priest in an armbar. Another sequence that stood out was the gratuitous sex sequence, when Priest was taking a shower and his two girlfriends get in there with him and you get the idea. So there was a threesome sequence, for no other reason than just some fanservice. Not to mention a tackle on racial issues at the end of the car chase scene. It almost seemed that some scenes were added in as a subtle homage to the old Blaxploitation films from the 1970’s. I will admit, I have not seen enough of them, but I have seen some, including the 1972 Superfly.

Another thing that I must add is that it has been years since I have watched original film. I am also aware that there were sequels, one being Superfly TNT from 1973, and The Return of Superfly from 1990, which had a different actor playing the protagonist that time around than Ron O’Neal when he was in the original two films. Maybe just for kicks one day, I might do reviews on them.

The thing about this film is that it is a decent way to pass the time, if you’re going in expecting a bunch of cliches from crime films involving gangsters and drug dealers. It is not that good of a movie, but I would give it some credit where credit is due as the performances were good, and the story was actually decent.

3.5/5

P.S. I may do a review on the soundtrack. I just need to get my hands on it first.

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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – New Jack City

Year of Release: 1991

Record Label: Giant Records

It has been quite some time since I have done anything for this site. My own personal life got in the way, enough that I was started to lose touch with doing this. Luckily for me, I am usually conscious of my own habits, and a lot of the time I try to fight it when my interest wanes a bit, enough that I have to give myself a push.

So what led me to do a review on the soundtrack to New Jack City? Well, recently, I had been in the mood to watch the movie, which I may cover soon as it does relate to the hip-hop culture, as well as Ice-T starring in it, which then also caused me to listen to the soundtrack CD.

Brief history lesson, I first watched New Jack City back in 2001, which was 10 years after it had come out. I remember looking up the soundtrack on Amazon back then and noticing the lineup and thinking that it was stacked some popular artists, as well some who were not known (I’ll get to that). I remember I was intrigued by the soundtrack, especially with its early 1990’s vibe, which also showed signs of the late 1980’s (It really was fresh off of that, if you really think about it).

According to some sources, this was at number 2 on the Billboard 200 back in 1991, which indicates that this album was a hit back then. Hell, a lot of the songs from the soundtrack were released as singles.

The album kicked off with “New Jack Hustler” by Ice-T, who also starred in the movie. Remember, there was a time that whenever a recording artist was in a movie, whether as a character or playing himself/herself, the soundtrack was featured on the soundtrack. Anyway, the song was subtitled as “Nino’s Theme,” as it felt like it related to the villain of the movie, whose name was Nino Brown. The song was about the drug game and a drug dealer gaining success in it. It really describes the movie pretty well, too, and Ice-T did a damn good job on the song. The beat really went with the fast-paced verses that Ice-T delivered.

The second song on the album came from another guy who was also in the movie. Well, one who played a character, I mean (Because some other artists actually sang in the film). Christopher Williams, who had a decent career at one point, had a hit single with “I’m Dreamin’.” His strong vocals were good, but what made this song stand out as well was the New Jack Swing sound that it had. It even had rap verse put in, though I don’t know who it was from.

Of course, that was not the only New Jack Swing song that was on the soundtrack. The song, “New Jack City” from Guy is definitely a good example of it. It’s definitely one song that can get you get moving on your feet.

A lot of the songs on here, actually, are not without merit. Two of the slower R&B songs on here, “I’m Still Waiting” from Johnny Gill and “There You Go Telling Me No Again” from Keith Sweat definitely hold up now. I could be biased because I have always liked Keith Sweat, but Johnny Gill definitely made his song shine with his powerful vocals. Plus, both songs definitely could help you get in the mood for some alone time.

In my personal opinion, the song that stood out the most on the soundtrack was “For The Love of Money/Living For The City” from Troop and LeVert, as well as a rap verse from Queen Latifah. Now THIS song totally describes the movie to a T, especially when watching that sequence in the film when the CMB takes over that apartment building and it had Troop and LeVert harmonizing the songs and singing them acapella. Queen Latifah did a damn good job with her rap verse.

Another song that was a hit at that time was “I Wanna Sex You Up” from Color Me Badd. On a personal note, I remember hearing this song as a young child and having NO CLUE WHATSOEVER what the song was about. Now with that out of the way, one thing that I will note is that there were two versions of this song. There is the one that was on Color Me Badd’s album, “C.M.B.,” and then there was the one on this album. Either way, both versions have their merits.

I think it’s time that I should talk about the songs from the less-than-well-known artists on here. After hearing “Lyrics 2 The Rhythm,” I really wonder what happened to Essence. She actually showed some promise as a rapper, but it seems that this is the only song that she actually had released. Plus, this song was produced by the legendary Grandmaster Flash. “Get It Together” from F.S. Effect also had some good qualities to it. I am not sure if F.S. Effect was a rapper or a group, but the rapper did a good job on his part, not to mention it had a good message behind it. Also, Al B. Sure did a good job in the production on this track. I also cannot complain about Danny Madden’s “Facts of Life.”

The album closed off with “In The Dust” from 2 Live Crew. One thing that stands out about this track is that song was different from a lot of the songs that 2 Live Crew was known for. This song had a positive message behind it, especially when you hear Luke giving a brief interlude about drugs. I am not too familiar with a lot of their catalog, aside from “Me So Horny” and “Banned in the USA,” so it’s possible that they may have done other songs like this.

There was a reason why this album was such a hit back then. Even nearly 30 years later, it still holds up well. I cannot imagine someone blasting this album without skipping a track while doing something. You had a good mix of rap, R&B, and New Jack Swing. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

5/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. For The Love of Money/Living For The City
  2. New Jack Hustler
  3. I’m Still Waiting
  4. There You Go Telling Me No Again
  5. I’m Dreamin’

Honorable Mentions: “In The Dust” and “New Jack City.”

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Uncategorized

Preview on upcoming posts.

Hello. It has been a while since I have updated this. It has been since Christmas when I last wrote something for here. Anyway, I am trying to get back to writing some stuff on here. Right now, I have plans for the following:

  • Lost Boyz albums (All three, or four if you count Forever; I may do Mr. Cheeks’s solo albums down the road, maybe even soon)
  • Review of “Den of Thieves.”
  • Review of the Death Row Chronicles six-part series.
  • Review of Unsolved, the miniseries on Biggie and Tupac.

I am also planning on doing a Death Row marathon, and by marathon, I am talking about a series on Death Row albums, but I may need to also get my hands on some albums or listen to them in some other way (In a nutshell, it’s a mix of a backup drive being on the fritz, as well as my iPod dying on me, unless I can get it fixed in some way). I have a good amount of them, whether they are from their peak, or afterwards, or even the later days when they were bought out and they only released albums that were unreleased. I have a good amount of albums from them, so I think I could do this, but maybe split it in parts. I will post them when I am done. Stay tuned.

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Compilations

Compilation Review – Christmas Rap

Year of Release: 1987

Record Label: Profile Records

Merry Christmas, people. Here I am in my final review for this year’s Christmas/Holiday special. I couldn’t get some albums that I was thinking of reviewing in time, but I did get this one in time, however, so I figured why not close it out with a bang.

This may be the oldest album that I have reviewed thus far, and I know it won’t be my last, either. I also believe that this may be the very first Christmas-themed hip-hop album. So let’s get to it.

The first song on this album is “Christmas in Hollis” from Run-DMC. This may have been one of the better known Christmas rap songs. Hell, it was played in Die Hard, which was fitting in some areas depending on which way you look at it. Run-DMC were definitely big in the 1980’s, and it was actually a catchy tune that could get you in the spirit, especially with the lyrics in the song. I am not sure if I could say the same thing about the following track, “Let the Jingle Bells Rock” from Sweet Tee, however. I am a little unfamiliar with her and while she didn’t do a bad job in her delivery in her song, the lyrical content was a little more to be desired. For example, part of the chorus, which went, “What? You didn’t know didn’t know Christmas went hip-hop? Check the clock, and let the jingle bells rock,” got a little old fast. It wasn’t terrible, but it got repetitive. Though I will say that she did well in the delivery of her rapping.

As far as others go, one that was actually decent was “Dana Dane is Coming to Town,” from, you guessed, Dana Dane. I know that a lot of people had said that he bit Slick Rick’s style back in the day, not to mention that he used a fake British accent, despite the two being friends, but regardless of that, he still did a good job on the song. It was a silly track, but it’s definitely one that stands out in some ways.

However, the rest of the album is filled with some people whom I had never heard of. One track that kind of got my head bumping was “Christmas in the City” from King Sun-D Moet, which had an interesting sample of “Silver Bells” in the beat. He didn’t do badly on the lyrics, either. The same could be said about “Chillin’ with Santa” from Derek B, which had a sample of “Jingle Bells.” It was a fun track. However, “He’s Santa Claus” from Disco 4 was another track that had a “Jingle Bells” sample, but it had more of a synthesized beat to it and it was kind of cheesy.

Then you had some tracks that could have better. One good example was Spyder-D’s “Ghetto Christmas,” which made me feel that I was listening to some who was a wannabe of Kool Moe Dee, with a touch of Ice-T thrown in. “That’s What I Want For Christmas” didn’t need to be as long as it was, nor did it need a sample of “White Christmas.” It would be simple just to say that it was not a good song, but there was more to it. I didn’t mind the rapping, but really, it was not a great track that can be skipped. The final track on the album was more or less a mixed bag, as the Surf MC’s had their track with a synthesized beat that overshadowed the lyrical content. The beat was good, but the same cannot be said about the lyrics.

Overall, this album was a mixed bag. The first few tracks were more or less the best ones, while the final few tracks were filler at best.

Check out the back artwork.

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Album Reviews

Album Review – Ashanti Christmas albums.

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ashanti-a-wonderful-christmas-with-ashanti-ep-download

Years of Release: 2003 ; 2013/2014

Record Labels: The Inc Records (Ashanti’s Christmas); Written Entertainment/Entertainment One (A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti)

Here I am doing something that I haven’t done before prior to this. Okay, maybe I have done something similar, as in the past I had done a double review for my college newspaper when I reviewed Grand Theft Auto V and Saints Row IV as a comparison review. However, this is the first time that I have done one on music albums and being that it’s Christmas time, I wanted to do something like this especially if these two albums are from the same artist. I have also noted in the past that I am not opposed to doing R&B albums for this website. I also must add that I am a fan of Ashanti and in some ways, one of these two albums could qualify for this site as Murder Inc was (or is, as it still sort of exists) a rap label. So R&B was never out of the question for me to review on this site.

I will go over these two albums chronologically, which means that I will talk about Ashanti’s Christmas first.

Before I critique the album, I remember that I had contemplated getting this for years but I mainly listened to some reviewers on Amazon, which had given this a low score. Some had compared it to Whitney Houston’s (RIP) Christmas album that came out around the same time as this one did, but you can’t really compare to the two, especially considering how different their vocal styles were. But sometime later I bought her second Christmas album, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give the other one a go. I have to say that I went going with my own instincts and I came out actually enjoying it more than I thought I would, but there were some flaws on this album.

I won’t deny that she had limitations in her vocals, and her singing voice is rather high, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t try her best. She did well in some songs like “Christmas Time Again” and “Hey Santa,” which I initially expected to be a cover of the Carnie and Wendy Wilson song of the same name. I also enjoyed her version “The Christmas Song,” as well as “This Christmas,” but then you had her versions of “Silent Night,” “Joy To The World,” and “Winter Wonderland,” all of which could have been a lot better than they actually were. Also, some of the production had some jazzy feel to it, but some of the other tracks could have better work done to the beats and instrumentals. One of other song that I liked, however, was “Time of Year.”

This wasn’t a terrible album by any means, but in some ways, it is a good to play during the holiday season, but some of the tracks could have been better. In fairness, it was during a busy time for her as this came out the same year as Chapter II, her second album, and I am sure that there was not a lot of time to try to perfect the songs. Still, it’s decent enough to play during Christmas time, as some of the good outweighs the bad slightly.

As for A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti, it could be said that over time that things probably had improved vocally and the production was a little different this time around. I must note that I also bought this during the holiday season of 2014 at Target, which had a version that had two exclusive extra tracks. It was previously released in 2013 as an EP, before another version had come out with more tracks the following year.

What is noticeable is that this album does have the feel for the holidays, even with some songs having an R&B-lite beat for the background in some songs, like “Christmas Love” for example, as well as “It’s Christmas.” But what’s also noticeable is that even the uses of the bell sounds added to the beats to give it a Christmas-like feel. Her vocals had also matured over time. It HAD been a decade since her previous Christmas album.

I liked how the production was done for “Sleigh Ride” and “Let It Snow,” as they were rather upbeat for this album. The song, “Christmas is the Time,” was actually a re-worked version of “Time of Year” from the previous Xmas album. I liked both versions, but if you were to listen to both versions back-to-back, you can see the differences, as well as the comparisons. She also did a good job in other songs like “The First Noel” and “Santa Baby,” the latter of which I am not a huge fan of, but I’ll listen to her version (Along with Gwen Stefani’s version, as heard in her Christmas album).

The album closed off with “White Christmas,” and it was quite a family affair on this one, as her parents, her cousin, and her younger sister, Chi Chi, all sang on this one. Though the relatives were mainly backup singers in it, it was still a nice track to listen to and I have to give them all credit because it seemed that Ashanti wanted to do a song with her family and I can’t help but respect that.

Out of the two albums, I preferred A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti more than Ashanti’s Christmas, but I really don’t think that her first Christmas album was as terrible as people said it was. She was rather big during the time that album had come out and haters did hate on her during that time (Not to mention that she collaborated with Ja Rule, who was the biggest laughingstock in the rap world in 2003). It could be said that she had improved within that time, as well as more time was put into the second Xmas album, so that is why it was the better album of the two. But I know I will play the first one during the holiday season as well in the future.

Ashanti’s Christmas – 3.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Time of Year
  2. Hey Santa
  3. Christmas Time Again
  4. Sharing Christmas
  5. The Christmas Song

A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti – 4.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Christmas is the Time
  2. The First Noel
  3. Can’t Wait For Christmas
  4. Sleigh Ride
  5. White Christmas

 

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Jim Jones – A Dipset Xmas

Year of Release: 2006

Record Label: Diplomats/Koch Records

It seems that after having done my reviews of Christmas on Death Row, High Fo’ Xmas, and Christmas in Tha Dogghouse, I found that sometimes mixing the holiday spirit with hip-hop can sometimes be a good and bad thing. Okay, maybe “bad” is pushing it, but sometimes you have the good, like the Death Row Christmas album (Believe it or not, it was actually good), then you have the ones that you can joke about like High Fo’ Xmas (Though the Eazy-E Christmas song isn’t far behind), and then you have the ones that left a lot more to be desired, like Christmas in Tha Dogghouse (Though there WERE some good tracks on it).

First off, I can’t say that I was ever a big fan of Jim Jones. I don’t dislike the guy, I just never really heard much of his stuff outside of “We Fly High,” and just thinking about that song took me back to 2006/2007 when that was all over the airwaves. Then again, I can’t say that I got into the Diplomats, either, though I don’t mind Cam’ron or Juelz Santana, as I do enjoy some of their material. The first time I found out about this album was when I read a review about Christmas on Death Row and this was mentioned in the first paragraph. I thought it was a joke until I looked it up on Amazon. I figured that this would be perfect for me to write a review on it.

The main thing that should be said is this album kind of falls in the middle depending on how you look at it. Before I get into the album, the album insert that had a photo of the Capo himself with a snowy backdrop and a quote that said “I wanted to make a Christmas album for kids in the hood and shit like that.” I can’t fault him for that, as the Christmas-related tracks did sort of capture the spirit of the holidays. For example, I liked how “Dipset Xmas Time” had its own spin on Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” I personally am not a fan that song, but “Dipset Christmas Time” was actually a decent track. Also, “Ballin’ on Xmas” was a good hip-hop song with a Christmas theme. It was also good to hear the beat to “Christmas in Hollis” from Run-DMC, whom sampled “Back Door Santa” from Clarence Carter. “Wish List” is actually standout track with mentions of how life in the ghetto was like in the holiday season.

However, the biggest problem that this album has is that only the first five tracks are related to Christmas as the other half isn’t. Hell, I got the Best Buy version in the mail with contained additional three songs and they weren’t related to Christmas. Not to say that those other cuts are bad, though some could have been better, but I wondered if Jim Jones wanted to have some songs that didn’t make the cut on Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment), which came out a month prior to this one. Out of all of the tracks that weren’t related to Christmas, the only one that stood out was the remix to “We Fly High.”

This album isn’t terrible. At first, I thought that it would be kind of a joke Christmas hip-hop album, but the first five tracks are actually pretty good because it did follow the Christmas theme. But seriously, this album COULD be listened to outside of the holiday season, just as long as you don’t listen to the first five songs. Hell, it would be better if the other five (Or eight, depending on which version you have) was burned onto a separate CD so that you could listen to it during the other parts of the year, while the first five songs can be put onto its own disc (Or playlist depending on how people do it these days).

It’s a soft recommend from me.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Ballin’ On Xmas
  2. Dipset Xmas Time
  3. If Everyday Was Xmas
  4. Wish List
  5. Have a Happy Xmas

Honorable Mention: We Fly High (Remix)

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – The Man With The Iron Fists 2

Year of Release: 2015

Film Studio: Universal Pictures/Arcade Pictures/Strike Entertainment

In the past, when I saw that there was a sequel of The Man With The Iron Fists that was made, I was baffled and not baffled at the same time. It wasn’t until recently that I found out how the first film did in its theatrical run. However, for it to have green-lit a sequel, I could only guess that a lot of units of the DVD and/or Blu Ray sold when it came out on home video. That, and maybe RZA also wrote a screenplay for the film which then got Universal to make it happen.

Like the first film, RZA had more than just a couple of credits as he yet again starred in it, as well as co-wrote the screenplay, and composed the film’s score. He also had an executive producer credit (Along with Eli Roth, the predecessor’s co-writer) and a music supervisor credit for the film, which for some reason was listed as his real name, Robert F. Diggs, whereas the other credits he was credited by his stage name. However, UNLIKE the first film, he didn’t direct it this time, as it was directed by Roel Reine, who is known for directed a lot of straight-to-video sequels. I will admit that I have seen a good amount of his films, ranging from the Death Race prequels, Hard Target 2, and sequels to a few WWE Studios films such as The Marine 2, The Condemned 2, and 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded. What can I say? I have a strange thing for straight-to-video sequels, not to mention that I am also a wrestling fan.

With a different director at the helm this time, it had a different feel to the first film. As far as any returning characters go, RZA’s character, Thaddeus, is the only one to return. Sure, there were some flashback sequences to some characters from its predecessor, but only two of them were played by the same actors. It’s a totally different story this time, too, as Thaddeus went to a different village to seek a temple to make peace with himself. He was found wounded by some villagers and then found himself in the middle of a power conflict in that same village. I will say that RZA had more of a presence this time around, despite having not been seen for a half hour after the first scene he was in.

Another thing that was different this time around were the fight sequences with some characters. It appeared that a lot of the fight scenes included some legitimate martial artists and weren’t reliant on the use of wires. But was jarring were the editing and odd camera angles during those scenes. For example, one scene had two men fighting and then there were bird’s eye camera angles and then moved close to them and then changed angles, rinse and repeat. That didn’t take away from the fact that the fighting in those scenes was good, though, just the editing and cuts were a bit distracting.

Carl Ng, who played the main villain, Master Ho, seemed like he was having a blast playing that role. It’s like he really brought his A-game to it and was committed to it. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa did a good job in his role, too, and the twist/revelation towards the end was definitely something that I would not have expected and he is good as always. As for RZA, he didn’t do a bad job in his role. My main guess is that he was more or less swamped with a lot of his duties in the first film that he didn’t put a lot of effort into the role. He still has room for improvement as an actor, but he did a better job in this film (I didn’t mind him in Brick Mansions, looking back).

RZA also handled the score pretty well. I have always admired him as a producer and I think he should do film scores a lot more. But also like in the first film, there were some rap songs played in some scenes. Now I liked what I had heard, but the song just felt out of place and was just too anachronistic for this.

I must say that I found myself enjoying this film more than I thought that I would. I even enjoyed it more than the first film. A lot of the action scenes were actually decent, especially the big climax. As said before, the fight scenes could have been better without the odd edits and camera angles, but that’s about as far as I could go in regards to the flaws. I wonder now if RZA is planning to do a third film. Only time will tell.

3.5/5

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