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.”

christmasrap

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 – All About the Benjamins

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cube Vision Productions

Here I am trying to update this a little more often and because I had just watched this, I thought why not? I am also considering doing separate blogs related to other things, one being movie-related, but this review still pertains to hip-hop, as Ice Cube not only starred in the movie, but also produced it.

And yes, I have also been including films that were given theatrical releases, but it mainly pertains to how big a rapper’s role in the movie is. A little fun fact, I even considered doing a review of the 2009 film, Whip It, because Eve was in it, but her role was not big, so that will go in another one that I will do in the near future. It probably would be more appropriate if I cover the Barbershop films, which not only Eve was in and had a bigger role, but also Ice Cube produced and starred in them.

Anyway, onto the main subject at hand. It had been quite a while since I’ve watched this film. I remember seeing a trailer for this film in front of Rat Race back in 2001. Something tells me that this film was delayed. Now I can’t confirm anything, but Rat Race was released in August of that year, but All About the Benjamins was released in March of 2002, which is a 7-month gap. Usually those gaps with trailers pertain to big releases with hype, but this film was just an action-comedy that didn’t have a high budget and had a limited audience, particularly any fans of the Friday series. Not to mention that this film came out the same year as Friday After Next, as it was released in November of that year.

The first time I saw this, I remember renting it at Hollywood Video. I liked it a lot back then but it took me years to revisit it, sometime after I bought a 4-pack of films, which included the Friday films. Funny thing is that I can kind of compare this to Class Act, the 1992 Kid N Play film, as it was not a part of the House Party series, all of which I will cover one day.

Why do I compare it? Because Ice Cube and Mike Epps had done Next Friday and Friday After Next, but this film came in between those two films, just like Class Act came out between House Party 2 and 3. So this is kind of like that, as this film is unrelated to the Friday series, but has the same two leads.

With this film not being connected to the Friday series, it goes like this: Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter named Bucum, who wants to start his own private investigation firm, but is stuck doing jobs catching bail-jumpers. Mike Epps plays Reggie, who is a fugitive and has had run-ins with Bucum, as he missed court dates and such. When Bucum was trying to catch Reggie, he stumbles upon a deal with some shady figures and a rich man involving expensive diamonds. He stows away in a van with the gangsters and gains knowledge about this. So the bad guys go after him, but Bucum finds out about this, and tries to protect Reggie and his girlfriend Gina (Eva Mendes). Of course, Bucum and Reggie have the standard bickering but they end up growing on each other as they work together. You’ve seen this plenty of times.

Cube and Epps have shown that they have great chemistry and it showed here. With Cube playing the tough guy who is no-nonsense, while Epps was the goofy sidekick. There were plenty of funny moments when these two were on screen together. If anything, these two make the movie. As well as Tommy Flanagan’s role as the villain, who totally played it straight. It’s not the first time you’ve seen an action comedy where the villain was playing it straight, though had moments of mild levity, so he didn’t have a dark vibe like, say, the main villain from Bad Boys or even the biker gang leader from 21 Jump Street.

Another standout was the visuals. It had some pretty good shots of Miami, especially the overhead shoots of the boatyards and also shots of the city. This film also had moments of freeze-framing before cutting into another scene, which worked in some ways, as well as closeups and a few slow-motion sequences. It was sort of flashy and cool without trying to be.

This film was definitely an underrated action-comedy. Great visuals, funny scenes with the usual banter between the two leads, as well as an intimidating villain. Plus the action scenes were interesting, as well as a good soundtrack. It’s such a shame that this film flopped at the box office. You would think that with the first two Friday films being hits that this would have done better. I wonder if it was because it was released in March or maybe it wasn’t promoted much. I mean I sense that this film was delayed a few times. I swear that this was originally supposed to be released in late 2001, or even in January of 2002. I swear that I remember seeing a release date for January on IMDB back then, but I can’t confirm it.

Either way, this is definitely recommended. I might cover the soundtrack one day, but I just need to get my hands on it.

4/5

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Compilations, Soundtrack Albums

Compilation/Soundtrack Review – State Property

Year of Release: 2002

Record Label: Black Friday/Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam

It’s been a while since I have done anything for this website. I believe that because I have been listening to a particular artist, or at least a couple of them, I am going to start on something that I have been meaning to do.

Also, this will probably be an experiment in doing multiple categories. Why? Because though this album may have been the soundtrack to the movie State Property, which I covered a while back, as well as its sequel, this was also a compilation to showcase some of Beanie Sigel’s affiliates from Philly. Then again, this was also around a time when record labels put out compilations that disguised themselves as movie soundtracks to showcase what the label had to offer. Also, because later on, there was a second volume called “State Property vol. 2 – The Chain Gang,” which wasn’t even a soundtrack to the second film (The album was released in 2003; the second film was released in 2005), this would also be unofficially referred to as “State Property vol. 1.”

I am getting a little ahead of myself here (Note to self: cover vol. 2 in the near future). It’s time to start critiquing the album.

The album kicked off with its lead single, “Roc the Mic” from Beanie Sigel and Freeway. The beat was rather infectious as it will draw you in the moment you hear it, especially with the beat from Just Blaze.

Of course, the lead single was what kicked it off. This isn’t the only song that the two collaborated on, and I don’t just mean the tracks that have multiple artists on them. I mostly meant with just those two, as they teamed up on the Kanye West-produced track, “Got Nowhere,” which is a hidden gem. This was before Kanye did an album and way before he became a tabloid sensation. Even with a lot of the stuff that surrounds him, you can’t deny that he is a great producer.

So what does the rest of Beans’s crew have to offer? Well, let’s see. One thing that should be noted is that Beans appeared on the majority of the tracks on this album. Freeway appears on multiple tracks himself, but at the time of this release, he wasn’t really all that known, except for appearances on Sigel’s “The Reason,” which came out months before this, and before that on “The Dynasty: Roc la Familia.” Even then, some of the other rappers on this compilation had stuff to offer, but with them being not-so-well-known at the time (Though the Young Gunz had their time to shine later on, as they released not just one, but two albums), it seemed that what to draw was the beats.

Some examples where the beats were weak include “Do You Want Me,” the compilations resident dirty rap track, but the synth beat just didn’t work for a song like this, nor did the addition of the synthesized voice in the chorus. Also, Zukhan’s beat for “Sing My Song” just felt like a slow beat mixed in with some lyrical delivery that either sounded lazy or maybe Oschino and Sparks were high when recording them.

So what are the positives on this? Just Blaze’s beat for “Bitch N****z” brought a lot of energy to that track, along with the team-up of Beans and Sparks. Also, “No Glory,” which happened to be one of two solo tracks that were on this album. Also, I can’t help but think that “Why Must I” did a decent job at doing a different interpretation of “Atomic Dog” from George Clinton. The same could be said about “No Glory” with its sample of George Byrd’s “I Cry.”

The only other solo track on this album was Freeway’s “International Hustler.” Right from the get-go, he delivers some dope bars. It’s like you really feel some of Free’s energy in his delivery.

This was actually a decent compilation that Roc-a-Fella had put out to showcase some of what Philly had to offer. I know that this was the second time mentioning Philadelphia, but really, these guys were from Philly. With the exception of the singer Rell (who was from South Carolina), all of the rappers were from Philly and they were all one whole group. There were no appearances from Jay-Z or Memphis Bleek, or even Amil. I also must note that this one of the examples of the soundtrack being better than the movie, though I am a little open to giving that film another chance because I think I was hard on it when I reviewed it a while back. Though this compilation screams early-2000s (And it’s crazy to see how different this whole decade was compared to the 2000s now with the 2010s drawing to a close), it still holds up.

3.5/5

Top 5 tracks:

  1. Roc the Mic
  2. International Hustler
  3. It’s Not Right
  4. Hood I Know
  5. Got Nowhere

Honorable Mention: Sun Don’t Shine

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Friday After Next

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cubevision

It has been said by many people that when a third film comes in a franchise, more often than not, it’s considered the weakest link. A lot of the time, people are right about it, but then you have ones that are better or as good. In the end, it’s really subjective and it boils down to what the viewer thinks.

Friday After Next is the third film of the Friday franchise. Now I know what you might be thinking. Why am I covering the third film when I haven’t done reviews on the first two yet? Well, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout because I am telling you why. I am sure that last sentence was a good indicator why I am doing this first. If not, the explanation is that it’s December and it’s Christmas-time, and this film in particular takes place around that time and it had a Christmas-theme.

I promise that I will cover Friday and Next Friday, as well as the soundtracks eventually. I might even cover the short-lived animated series one day (Yes, it existed and I have seen a few episodes). But in the meantime, I am going to talk about this film.

The film’s takes place on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Friday (Because for some reason, this film series NEEDS to have it set on that day; more on this later), and it starts with Craig, Ice Cube’s character who appeared in all three films, waking up in the middle of the night and finding a burglar dressed like Santa Claus. Santa was seen robbing Craig and Day-Day’s (Mike Epps) Christmas presents and the one thing that was even more important: rent money. So that’s basically the main part of the plot, though like the previous two films, there were other subplots and such that went on. After all, this film DOES take place in the span of a day.

So Craig and Day-Day get jobs as security guards at a strip mall to try to get money to pay the rent to the guys’ repulsive landlord, Ms. Pearly. Oh, and she has a son named Damon, played by Terry Crews, who just got out of prison and has developed an interest in men over time. Did I mention that Craig also gains an attraction to Donna, the girlfriend of Money Mike, played by Katt Williams? And that Craig and Day-Day are throwing a wild Christmas party in the evening? Like I said, so much goes on in a one-day period.

What I could say about this film is that it was the weakest of the three, but really, this film got better after multiple viewings. I actually remember seeing this in theaters when it came out. I remember having minor chuckles here and there, but there were some other things that left a lot to be desired. However, after subsequent viewings, it kind of grew on me. Another thing of note is that it had the same tone as the second film, which was different from the first. Keep this in mind, the first film was funny film, but it felt a little more serious and straight in tone in comparison to the second and third films, as they felt a little more wacky and over-the-top with some slapstick in the mix. It wouldn’t surprise me if the film’s opening credits done in an animated style went with it, but at least it was kind of interesting. I also found it funny that Mike Epps played another character in this film as a shotgun-wielding old man.

I liked that they made some links to the previous films, as the series’s other mainstay, Willie (John Witherspoon) made his return once again, along with Elroy from the second film. I noticed that Anna Marie Horsford reprised her role as Craig’s mom, but the gripe that I had was that she didn’t really have a lot to do in this film. The one part that I can think of was when she confronted Mrs. Pearly about coming onto Willie towards the end, but overall, she didn’t have a lot of lines in the film. I think I can count on one hand about the lines of dialogue she had. Now that I think about it, I really wonder if the producers even approached Regina King for her to return as Dana at any point. She wasn’t in the film, obviously, but it felt like she was the forgotten character of the Jones family (Okay, maybe not as she was featured in the animated series, but that’s a topic for another day). I read on IMDB that Chris Tucker was asked to reprise his role as Smokey, but he declined. Another thing of note was that Roach was supposed to return as an earlier draft of the script had him appear, but it was scrapped because the actor who played him died.

As far as links to the previous films go, I noticed that Tom “Tiny” Lister didn’t return as Debo, but I suppose that Ice Cube wanted to change things up a bit and not have that character return as an antagonist.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know until today that there was an alternate ending to the film, and this film has been out for 16 years. The alternate ending showed Santa Claus (and I mean the villain of the film, as in the burglar) in a sympathetic light. It turned out that he was homeless and had only stolen some presents to give his children a good Christmas. Sure, there was some humor thrown in there, but it changed the tone up a tad as it showed the true meaning of Christmas at the end. While I like the original ending in that it showed that the villain was defeated, I thought that the original ending was well written and I actually like it more, but in another perspective, it probably would given the viewers a tonal shift.

Just a minor nitpick. It was said that movie took place on Christmas Eve that fell on a Friday. I am sure I am among a small percentage who would really pay attention to say something like this, but if Christmas Eve in this movie was on a Friday, it sure wasn’t set in 2001 or 2002. Because if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, it would probably be in 1999 or 2004 because of this 5 or 6 year (Depending on a leap year falling in between) pattern that has certain dates go back to a certain day. It was just an observation. But then again, it was only said that it was Friday at the beginning of the film. It was not mentioned after that.

Other than that, this film was enjoyable to pass an hour and a half, especially during the Christmas season. It had some funny gags, especially with the bits involving Damon and Money Mike. What’s weird is that prior to seeing this movie in theaters, I had only known of Terry Crews through this show called Battle Dome, which was similar to American Gladiators with a few elements of professional wrestling thrown in. I didn’t even know that he was actually a funny guy at the time until I saw this movie. It’s the weakest of the series, but it had some fun moments and it’s far from the worst movie.

NEXT UP: Friday After Next soundtrack

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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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Album Reviews

Album Review: Gravediggaz – Nightmare in A-Minor

Year of Release: 2001/2002

Record Label: Empire Musicwerks/BMG Music

Here I am in my final Gravediggaz album review, which is of their third and final album, and also as part of my horrorcore special (That doesn’t I can’t do horrorcore album reviews outside of Halloween-time).

Before I get into the review of the album, it must be noted about the background of this album. By the time this album was already in production, the two main producers, RZA and Prince Paul, respectively known by their aliases “The RZArector” and “The Undertaker,” (I often wonder if there was copyright infringement on the name because it was shared with the well-known pro wrestler, despite the title being an actual profession) had left the group. It was even noted in the liner notes in the CD booklet that RZA had other obligations to attend to (During that time, he was likely working on his solo second album, “Digital Bullet,” along with the two Wu-Tang Clan albums, “The W” and “Iron Flag,” and likely also working on production on solo albums from Wu members).

Also, during the time this album was being produced, Too Poetic, also known as Grym Reaper, was suffering from cancer and in spite of it, he still gave it his all in his contribution to the album. He passed away not long before the release of this album. So it was fitting that this was released as a posthumous album. It also should be noted that with the absence of Prince Paul and RZA, this album was produced by Frukwan (Gatekeeper), Poetic, True Master (who had contributed to “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”), Diamond J, and LG. So with or without RZA and Prince Paul, it had no effect on the quality of the album.

Anyway, how does this album compare to “6 Feet Deep” or “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”? Well, credit is given where credit is due. Some of the instrumentals in some of the tracks were a little weaker than its predecessors, though the lyrical content is still really sharp. The instrumental used for the skit, “Last Man Standing,” was eerie, as it was not only produced by Frukwan and Poetic, but also True Master, Diamond J, and LG.

The first actual song on the album, “Bloodshed,” actually kicked the album off on a high note. Frukwan and Poetic delivered some great rhymes mixed in with a dope beat.

Also, it seemed that there were some appearances from Wu affiliates once again. “False Things Must Perish” had an appearance from Prodigal Sunn, of Sunz of Man, which is funny because Killah Priest and Shabazz appeared on the previous album. Yet, another member appeared on this one. There was also an appearance from Shogun The Assasson, of Killarmy, another group affiliated with Wu-Tang. He appeared on the song, “Man Only Fears.” Both rappers did a good job in their respective appearances.

I can’t think of a lot of negative things to say about this album, except for maybe a couple of tracks, which were “Running Game On Real” and “Wanna Break,” but their flaws were mainly the beats. The beats sounded rather messy and too bassy for my tastes.

Frukwan and Poetic did a great job in the lyrics in all of the songs, but I have to give a lot of credit to Poetic for even going so far as to rap about his illness in “Burn Baby Burn.”

Yo, pain builds my character
Deranged cancer cell begin to damage my shell
Tissues begin to swell
A human pin-cushion needles begin pushin’
Through my, melanin color, blood begins gushin’
Hunger, pain is, fed through my veins
Tryin’ to maintain body and brain under strain
Belly bein’ drained from my nose through a catheter
To maintain my stamina, game is high caliber
Flashback my dossier file before the hospital
Lots’ll pay a pile of cheddar to see me rock my style
Got lots of smiles from man woman and child
A grave digga here runnin’ wild like the Nile
Ghetto, X-File, the horoscope bringers
City morgue singers, new rap era beginners
Four years out of seven I remember tourin’
And this year I’m measurin’ my urine

I didn’t know this when I bought this album, but it appeared that there was an original version of this album. There was actually an original release that had come out a few months after Poetic’s death and according to a review on Amazon.com, it said that there were a couple of extra tracks on it. Also, what was noted was that there were different beats used on certain tracks, for example, “Bloodshed” had a different beat on the 2001 release. I am now curious about getting my hands on this version so that I can hear the differences, though I COULD listen to them on YouTube, but still.

Overall, issues with the production aside, being that it was slightly weak (But by no means bad), this album was actually a good swan song for this group. It is a shame what happened to Poetic because he had the skills and talent to really shine as a solo artist. Frukwan later released his own album after that, which I may check out down the road one day. I might even check out his work with Stetsasonic. This was actually a decent album.

3.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Bloodshed
  2. False Things Must Perish
  3. Burn Baby Burn
  4. Man Only Fears
  5. Nightmare in A-Minor
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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films

*Sigh*  I know that I haven’t keeping up with this lately. On one hand, I have been contemplating writing about the rest of my Fast & Furious soundtracks. Another part of me wants to write about Death Row albums, particularly post-Tupac death and also when Dre and Snoop departed the label (Probably because I have been on a Death Row kick lately, especially having written the Death Row Records documentary). Then I have remembered that I also wanted to review the State Property films.

I know that there are plenty of rap movies out there to talk about. The State Property films fall into the same category as when I wrote about Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz. For all the shit that I had talked about with those two, I think I have found a film that kind of blows them out of the water in terms of badness. I am sure that in some areas I still get a little nostalgic for Thicker Than Water and while I have spoken ill about Hot Boyz (Note to self: Watch other No Limit films), I think I may have found a film that I can put above it in terms of some of the worst rap movies that I have seen.

State Property is basically a movie that stars Beanie Sigel as a character named Beans who is trying to make a name for himself in the crime world. He wants to be feared and known by everyone and has a bunch of guys working for him. Of course, there are a bunch of gangster movie cliches of “one guy messing up and getting killed for it” or “someone pissed off the wrong guy, so he has to get tortured.” Not to mention drug deals gone wrong and women getting kidnapped, as well as random shootouts taking place. You get the picture.

Usually with these types of films, I don’t expect great acting from them. Also, the story has every cliche there is. It’s no secret that this film sucks. Although I will admit that there were moments when I laughed AT certain parts. But when these rappers on screen are only good at playing certain personas, that just showed how they needed to take acting lessons prior to it. It didn’t help that there was not a single likeable character in this film. Though Beans was the protagonist, there was nothing about to make me want to root for him.

It also was of no help how this film was loaded with misogyny. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like looking at scantily-clad women just as much as the next guy, but there was no purpose in some of the scenes with closeups of a woman’s body. Also, a minor spoiler, but in one scene when a deal took place, the camera turned and closed in on a couple of women sharing a rather gratuitous kiss. There was absolutely no reason for that part to even be in the movie other than fanservice.

While the poster said had Jay-Z billed, he was only in it for about five seconds max. The other Roc-A-Fella guys had bigger roles than Jigga himself. Damon Dash had a bigger role than Jay-Z, for crying out loud. Hell, I didn’t even expect to see Amil (Remember her? As in the woman in “Can I Get A…”?) in the film. It seemed like this was a film project for Roc-A-Fella.

I really don’t know what else to say about this film except that this was a bad film, though I think you may have already gotten the picture after reading all of this. I will admit that I remember flipping through channels and coming across it on HBO a long time ago and seeing how bad the acting was from the two minutes I saw of it. However, only one positive I can say about it was that it had a good soundtrack, which I may write about in the future.

Of course, I am aware of the sequel, which I will do next.

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