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

Rap Movie Review – All Things Fall Apart

Year of Release: 2011

Production Companies: Hannibal Pictures/Cheetah Vision Films

You know, I can’t really say that I have seen a lot of films with 50 Cent in them. I don’t have a problem with 50 Cent as a rapper, but as an actor, I have noticed that he had been in a bunch of straight-to-video stuff. What amazes me about all of this is that when he had been in films that had theatrical releases, he had a supporting role. You would think that at one point with him being a rap star (and he was rather big at one point, and I don’t mean his physique, and more on that later) that he would have gotten lead roles. I think that “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (The movie, I mean) affected his chances of being a leading man in Hollywood, as it didn’t do well. I haven’t seen it, though I will one day and I plan on covering it.

What I am going to talk about is what seemed like 50’s passion project, as he not only starred in the movie, but also had a credit in writing the script and producer. For those who don’t know, back in the early 2010s, in fact it was exactly in 2010, there were pictures on the internet that showed 50 Cent looking emaciated. He looked rather sickly. It turned out he had lost a lot of weight for a role. For years, I wondered what movie it was that he went through that weight loss. Fast forward to this year, when my question was finally answered. My mom had told me about this movie and how she watched it one day and she thought it was good. I ended up giving it a watch one day when it happened to be on.

The movie’s plot deals with Deon, played by 50 himself, who is a star running back at his college. He is so good that that he will be a surefire shot in the top 10 draft picks for the NFL. He is also supported by his mother, played by Lynn Whitfield, his mother’s boyfriend, played by Mario Van Peebles. However, his brother Sean, played by Cedric Sanders, is constantly living in his shadow. Being that Deon is quite a ladies man, when Sean wanted his brother to talk to a girl he liked, Deon ended up getting the girl instead. In fact, Deon had no problem getting women into bed. But then a big change occurs. One day in the locker room, he passed out and it was revealed that he had a cancerous tumor that is only a centimeter away from his heart. But the question on the parents’ mind was if he could still play football in spite of his condition. From that point on, things fall apart from there.

Okay, I must note that I admire 50 Cent’s commitment to this. According to IMDB, he had lost a friend to cancer, so in a lot of ways this film is a tribute and based on a true story. Plus, the weight loss was a definite sign that he was committed to the role. So in a lot of ways, he earns my respect for this. But there were a lot of problems with this film.

I have to hand it to 50 Cent for trying to give a convincing performance when he was at the height of his collegiate football career and when he was in his ill state. He needs to work on it more, but it wasn’t bad. The problems with the film were the writing and the portrayals of certain characters. When Deon was revealed to have cancer, all of a sudden he becomes a burden on everyone else in his family, with his mother having to work multiple jobs to pay off the medical bills. Sean ended up getting the girl, but still resents Deon and looks at him as a burden. Eric, the mother’s boyfriend (later ex), seemed more concerned about whether Deon could play, rather than his condition. In fact, I felt no sympathy for the other characters, except for maybe the mom. One part that stood out for the wrong reasons was when Deon, who was working as a janitor at the college, saw this woman jogging on the grounds and tried to talk to her, except that she no longer recognized him. She was seen earlier in the film, by the way, as another notch on Deon’s headboard. They met in a gym and then spotted him and they worked out together, both literally and figuratively. Hell, the last appearance before that particular scene had implied that those two likely slept together.

What made things even worse was that suddenly, because Deon could no longer play, the university had to revoke his scholarship, during his senior year, no less. Even more ridiculous, he went to a counselor, who said something that “there used to be a star running back with that same name,” then was dumbfounded that they were one and the same.

Did I mention that Deon proves that he could be a car salesman more than halfway and that at the end, there was a celebration with tents and set on the football field with no clear reason? Also, did I forget to mention that Ray Liotta had only three scenes despite being on the cover/poster art? Liotta has a role in this film as the doctor who tells Deon about his condition. So he basically just tells him what he should do, but doesn’t give any medication to help treat his illness.

The film ended with Deon leaving the party, so that he could run down the field and raise his arms in victory for one last hurrah, in a freeze frame, as well. It wasn’t clear what the meaning behind that bit was. Did he want to die on the field? Was it so that he could relive his lost glory that was taken from him? It was vague.

I will say that this is one of those films that I can give credit where it’s due, but at the same time, it just wasn’t that good in the end. 50 Cent had a lot of commitment for this role, but regarding the screenplay, it would have been much better if he had pitched the story and hire a screenwriter to write the script. It would have made the film much better than it was. I also had trouble buying 50 Cent, who was in his mid-30s at the time this was film, playing someone in his early-20s. Usually college athletes are in their late-teens to early-20s, and it would make sense for 50’s character to be around that age, but I couldn’t buy him as someone at that age. He didn’t even look that young to be convincing. That dreadlocks wig didn’t convince me, either.

In the end, I can only admire 50’s commitment and effort for it, but the movie as a whole could have been a lot better.

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