Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead 2

Year of Release: 2007

Production Companies: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

For my review of the first film, click here.

I often wonder how sequels get green-lighted, even though there is little demand for them or how something can get warranted. I have touched on this in my reviews of The Man With The Iron Fists 2 and also How High 2. Let’s not forget on my review of I Got The Hook Up 2, especially when wondering how long Master P had wanted to get that off the ground. The list goes on, especially when seeing that some movies didn’t do so well enough in theaters, unless it sold a good amount of units in home media. I mean seriously, there are a lot of sequels to Bring It On, as well as a few sequels to Death Race, which I may cover on my movie blog. But in this case, I really wonder if there was a demand for a sequel to Half Past Dead.

I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me tell you how I first discovered that there was a sequel to it. I remember going to Walmart and noticing on one of the DVD racks that there was a copy of Half Past Dead 2. When I saw it, I was like “Huh?” This was in the late-2000s, by the way. I think it was 2008 when this happened. Then I saw who was on the cover. It was none other than Bill Goldberg and also Kurupt. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. Now I didn’t watch the first movie until early 2017, when I went through a Steven Seagal kick. I will note that I was familiar with it, as well as knew that Kurupt was also in it. But when I saw Bill Goldberg on it, I didn’t know what to say.

Some of you may have probably figured out by now that I am a fan of professional wrestling. I have made some references here and there in past reviews and stuff. However, I am also aware that Bill Goldberg had starred in some films like Santa’s Slay and stuff. I heard that it was bad, but being that I actually enjoy watching “bad” movies sometimes, I think I might give it a go sometime. So I wasn’t sure what to say. Then when I saw Kurupt on the cover, it made me see that he was possibly one of the only returning actors from the previous film to appear (Let me remind you that I really mean “one of” in this case, as I will get to that).

Which brings me the topic at hand. So basically the story is that Twitch (Kurupt’s character) gets transferred from New Alcatraz, the prison from the first film, to another prison somewhere in Missouri. It turns out that his girlfriend Cherise (played by Angell Conwell) lives there, but there is more to it than that. Immediately he becomes acquainted with one of the prison gangs, as well as gets antagonized by another prison gang, led by the main antagonist Cortez. Then he cross paths with Burke (Goldberg’s character), a loner who doesn’t like associating with people, but has love for his daughter Ellie (played by Alona Tal). But then trouble arises when a riot erupts in the prison, leaving Cherise and Ellie trapped when it goes into lockdown. Problems escalate from there.

Which now brings me to how this is linked to the previous film, especially when more often than not, straight-to-video sequels are only “sequels in name only,” although that could be a factor in this film as aside from returning characters, the title doesn’t really relate to the plot. Basically, Twitch gets promoted from a supporting character to one of the leads and the only other character who returned was El Fuego, played by Tony Plana, who was the warden from the first film, and was only featured in two scenes in this film. I also must note that there were some story elements, as well as passing references that somehow needed to be told in order to link the two films together, but even in some ways it felt like there had be rewrites to the script. Not to mention some continuity errors here and there. The same could be said about the lighting used for some action scenes.

Also, I really wonder if Steven Seagal was even approached to even star in this at all. At this point, he was already doing a bunch of straight-to-video movies, but I guess with his large ego, he probably thought he was too good for this. I mean, seriously, you know that there is a problem when your comic relief side character somehow gets promoted to main character in the sequel.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film. This is the real kicker. I didn’t dislike the movie at all. Yes, it does have its issues and all, but I found it to be somewhat of time-waster that you could just watch if you have nothing else going on. I enjoyed the movie okay. I wouldn’t call it good, and it would be wrong if I said that I loved it. It was really more average, maybe even halfway decent at best. I will note that I liked some of the songs on the soundtrack. Kurupt even provided a couple of songs of his in this film, one of which was a Dogg Pound song, even though it was his verse that was heard. It was still entertaining despite all of its issues.

This movie was definitely an example of an unnecessary sequel. I guess that was why it was straight-to-video. I mean, seriously, a couple of years prior, Steven Seagal was in a movie with Treach from Naughty By Nature. Speaking of Treach, I wonder if I should cover Art of War III as well. I may do Love and a Bullet one day. But also in reference to Seagal, I will get to my long overdue write-up of Exit Wounds, but that will be for a marathon that will include Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave. I like to think of those three as a trilogy. But overall, if you were to watch this, don’t expect too much and you might enjoy it. It may be overridden with cliches, but a lot of films are. I mean the first film wasn’t great either, but it was still entertaining.

2.5/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – How High 2

Year of Release: 2019

Production Companies: Universal 1440 Entertainment/MTV/Smith-Garr Productions

For my review on the first film, click here.

Like I had noted in my review of The Man with the Iron Fists 2, straight-to-video sequels (or TV, for that matter) are far from a novel concept. What’s funny (as in strange) is that I have seen my share of some, whether they follow a story or are simply rehash of a predecessor, or even just a film with the name slapped on it to draw viewers. I have noted that there are some that I enjoy. There are also some that I didn’t enjoy, like this film that I am about to cover here.

Let me just make one thing clear here. Comedy is definitely a subjective taste, as well as a hard thing to write and produce. Add to the fact that there are different forms of comedy out there. Whether you’re talking about slapstick, dark, romantic, and sometimes even dumb/silly comedy, which doesn’t always mean that it’s unfunny. Really, dumb/stupid comedy can sometimes have its charm because while the comedy may be a bit over the top, some of the time the humor can actually draw some laughs, as well as what could work is chemistry among the leads. Stoner favorites such as the first film, Half-Baked, Friday, and of course, the Cheech & Chong films (particularly Up in Smoke) have their charm because of the chemistry of the leads and good writing.

This film, How High 2, while it had its moments in some areas (I’ll admit that I chuckled a tad at times), it was just downright bad. There, I said it. But how bad was it? Before I get into my review, let me talk about some background info that some of you may need to know.

For starters, one of the main things is that for years, a sequel with Method Man and Redman was considered. In fact, it had been considered since the late-2000s, right around the time Red and Meth were recording Blackout 2. However, Universal didn’t want to fund the movie, according the IMDB tribune. In late 2015, Redman had stated that Danny DeVito signed him and Method Man back onto the film and a script was being written. In early 2017, the script had been rewritten because Red and Meth didn’t like the earlier drafts. They had hoped that the film would start shooting in late 2017 to early 2018. Even around that time, Redman had stated that the script had been rewritten once again, as he had also said that he and Method Man would not return if the script was not funny. Then the script was rewritten yet again in mid-2018 and Universal 1440 teamed with MTV.

At that point, in September 2018, both Method Man and Redman were unaware that Universal went ahead with the production of How High 2 and that they didn’t bother to contact them until the beginning of production. When they got contacted, they declined after production began with Lil’ Yachty and DC Young Fly. So in other words, Universal went ahead and started production on it without their knowledge. Also, it had been said that Meth and Red were supposed to reprise their roles and Yachty was supposed to be Method Man’s character’s younger brother.

So what does this say about the film? Now I’m getting to that, and note, this will contain spoilers.

This film starts off with Roger, played by Lil’ Yachty, working the night shift at a fast food restaurant and then comes across a couple of rich girls, whom he smokes weed with, only to be robbed by them. Then we are introduced to his cousin Calvin, played by DC Young Fly, who I believe was an Uber driver or something of that nature. He was getting high with a co-worker. The two cousins live in Roger’s mother’s basement. Then suddenly, they come across “The Weed Bible,” which not only introduces them to some powerful weed, but also they encounter Baby Powder (Mike Epps) and his sidekick, played by Teresa Topnotch and she is only credited as “Sidekick.” I kid you not, and yes, Mike Epps reprised his role as Baby Powder from the first film (I will get to another appearance, just wait, as well as some sad attempts to link the two films), but this time he wasn’t a pimp who was trying to get his hookers back. No, this time he played a spiritual figure whom only Roger and Calvin see, almost like a ghost or spirit to give them advice. I really did not understand what they did with this character. I really didn’t, especially when his character was just a pimp who slapped people in the face with baby powder (which he also did in this film, and that’s not even the first sad attempt at trying to link the films!). So Roger and Calvin try to sell the weed, only to find that it went missing and then they go around Atlanta to search for it.

Okay, I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be. I have to hand it to the writers for not making this a complete rehash of the first film’s plot, but in a lot of ways, I saw a lot of elements from Half-Baked, Pineapple Express, as well as a reference to one of my all-time favorite films, Back to the Future.

So what exactly was wrong with this film? This film was also full of cliches that you have seen before. For example, an illicit video coming up when trying to expose someone, a typical inspirational sequence by telling the lead that it was all him and not something that got him far, etc. Okay, I will admit that one bit involving the embarrassing video got a chuckle out of me, as well as some sequences with DeRay Davis, but that was about it. But then there’s the typical “marijuana is like LSD” trope that’s been played out for years. Weed is not that powerful. I mean, sure, a joke like that was done in Half-Baked, but it was justified in the plot as the weed that was being used was supposed be “the good shit,” if you know what I mean.

Another thing that was bad was that there was a forced romantic subplot involving Roger and Alicia, who I believe was an old school crush or girlfriend. It was obvious that she and Roger would end up together, but then she finds herself involved in the plot. Okay, I could hand it to the actress playing the girl as she was trying. But then there were bits in the plot with Roger somehow revealing to her that he sort of lied about some stuff. But you know what, it didn’t matter to her. Duh! Plus, I couldn’t buy those two as an item, and why she would even choose him, especially with a guy with that kind of hair.

As for the sad attempts at trying to link the two films, only one other actor from the first film appeared and that was Al Shearer, who played I Need Money (Yes, that was his name). He appeared in this film as I Got Money. I am not even sure if they were supposed to be the same character (Seriously, same actor, but the difference between “need” and “got” could only mean that the guy had improved himself), but don’t even get me started on the forced bit involving his teeth being shown (Yes, that was done in this movie, too). Also, another sad attempt was taking a puff and seeing the ghost of someone. *sigh* WHY?! At least in the first film, the reason for that was because the dead guy’s ashes were mixed with the marijuana seeds and it was what caused the character of Ivory to come back as a ghost. So it made more sense as it was explained in the plot.

Okay, regarding performances, I had already talked about the love interest, but regarding the leads, I had a hard time trying to take Yachty seriously as the straight man of the group. DC Young Fly, on the other hand, well, I am not familiar with his comedy, but it felt like he was trying to be like Chris Tucker or Kevin Hart. He tried too hard. I mean I am not going to crap on these two because I can see that they were trying, but with what they worked with, it just didn’t work for me.

In a lot of ways, Method Man and Redman had dodged a major bullet by not appearing in this movie. I love that movie. I remember seeing it in theaters when it came out. It was definitely a film that holds up now, even if it’s almost 20 years old. This film, on the other hand, when you have it debut on MTV, that really says a lot about it. I found it on Netflix, so I had to see it for myself. I didn’t even go in with high (no pun intended) expectations. Like I had noted, it had a few moments, particularly with DeRay Davis and another bit, but overall, this was just bad. I mean BAD.

Then again, I still wonder about I Got the Hook-Up 2, and yes, that movie does exist. I will cover that one when I see it, even though I need to cover some of the other No Limit films (Including the first I Got the Hook-Up, which I haven’t seen in so long).

Rating: 1/5

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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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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead

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Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Franchise Pictures

I have not really been keeping up with this lately, but because I have plans to write about the Murder Inc compilations in February, I figured that this would be a good place to start. It is not just because Ja Rule is in this film, and also Kurupt, but also because there is a good amount of songs from The Inc on the soundtrack, and also other stuff from non-Murder Inc performers.

I will add that I have also been on a Steven Seagal kick lately, probably thanks to a YouTuber who I follow named Ramboraph4life as not too long ago he had done a Seagal marathon where he reviewed and ranted on films that he starred in. I still have Exit Wounds to do, and I will cover that one in the near future along with its soundtrack, but that will be for my Andrzej Bartowiak’s martial arts hip-hop trilogy marathon which also consists of Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave, along with the soundtracks to those films.

Anyway, I am here to talk about Half Past Dead, the last movie that Steven Seagal starred in that was given a theatrical release, which also has Ja Rule in a starring role. This movie came out nearly two years after Exit Wounds, which was a surprise hit and that was also another movie that Seagal had done with a rapper, who was DMX. For many years I had heard that this film was the last straw for Steven Seagal as a leading man in theatrical movies because afterwards he had starred in a slew of direct-to-video films. I think another reason was that this film was a critical and box office flop. A lot of people disliked the film and it did not make a lot of money. Of course, I decided to see it for myself.

Some of my synopsis may contain spoilers.

The film’s story in a nutshell is about this undercover FBI who is infiltrating a prison because a criminal plotted to interrogate a prisoner about stolen gold and where to find it. The film’s title has to do with how Seagal’s character was declared dead at the beginning of the film, only to be revived. Seagal played Sasha, the FBI agent who was undercover in a criminal operation with his friend, Nicholas, played Ja Rule. Of course, Ja’s character did not know that he was undercover at first. The opening sequence was more of a prologue as Sasha was shot and the main plot takes place eight months after those events. The villain, who is called 49er One (don’t ask), played by Morris Chestnut, leads a team of criminals, also codenamed 49ers with a number after that. For example, the second-in-command, played by Nia Peeples, is named 49er Six. My only guess is because the film took place on Alcatraz and being that they are after gold, it is rather clear as to why they are named that. In some ways this feels like The Rock, with Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, but with elements from The Matrix thrown in.

In regards to whether this film was bad is entirely subjective, but I personally didn’t mind it. Would I call it good? No, but there was some fun to be had. The thing that really got me were the acting from parts of the cast. I can’t really say much about Seagal’s acting considering how he has admitted that he is not much of an actor and how in a lot of movies he basically plays the same type of character, or is he playing himself? I can never tell. Ja didn’t do a bad job in his role but I have not seen enough roles of his to really say if he is playing himself. I know he was in a movie with Pras (From The Fugees) called Turn It Up, but I have never seen it. He was only in The Fast and The Furious for a few minutes and the only other film that I have seen with him was The Cookout, but that was a long time ago and I mostly remember that being a cheesy comedy. As for Morris Chestnut, his performance as the villain felt like he went through the motions. I couldn’t buy him as a bad guy. I felt that he was more convincing as a criminal-type in the movie Confidence, which came out sometime after this one. He didn’t really convince as a bad guy in this film and he is usually such a good actor. Nia Peeples didn’t have much to work with except be the femme fatale who wore tight leather and did martial arts. Also she reminded me too much of Trinity from The Matrix in this. She even wore a trenchcoat in some fight scenes.

As for others, Kurupt basically played the comic relief in this film. He was actually pretty funny in some scenes, one of which included comedienne, Mo’Nique. I can’t say he acted much before this except for one small scene in The Wash, but that was it.

As for action scenes, this movie was chock full of explosions and pyrotechnics that I think it would make Michael Bay blush. The film was already over-the-top, but it just felt like firework show in some sequences. There was a lot of ridiculousness in some other sequences like one that had Seagal and Ja driving a car and Ja totally flew out of a car or when Kurupt fired a rocket launcher and was sent flying. Those scenes got a laugh out of me for the absurdity in both scenes. Not to mention when a gun got caught in an elevator door and Seagal flipped it over to have it point at the bad guys. Also, I could not help but laugh during the climax when two guys jump from a balcony and start firing their guns. I mean, come on, how could the bullets not hit the other guy who jumped as well?

Of course, I can’t complain about the fight scenes, even though some involved doubles for some people. Although Peeples’ character was a total knock-off of Trinity, she impressed me a bit in her fight scenes. I can’t say that I am surprised because she had done a lot of fight scenes when she was in Walker, Texas Ranger.

Acting and action scenes aside, the complaint I had for the most part were some songs from the soundtrack. I wonder if this movie was edited and initially supposed to be rated R. This was PG-13, and I believe it is Steven Seagal’s only PG-13 film. The reason for my complaint is that a lot of the songs were edited. This film came out around the same time as the compilation, “Irv Gotti Presents The Inc” and a number of songs from that compilation appeared on the soundtrack. The film started with “Gangstafied” from a few Murder Inc artists (Including Ja) and it was distracting to hear parts of the lyrics censored. The same can be said about the use of “I’ma Bang” from DMX. It was just weird to hear it censored when it said “Do My Motherfucking Thing.” If the movie was rated R, the lyrics would all be intact.

I also must add that the song in the credits, “The Pledge (Remix)” contained clips from this film in the music video for it.

End spoilers.

Half Past Dead is more flash than substance, however, the film is still fun to watch for some reason. I don’t think this is a good film, but it is entertaining in some areas. I found myself laughing with and at some scenes, especially at a little Sony product placement with an inmate playing PS2 in a cell. The film also didn’t take itself seriously which was one reason that I had fun with it. I also must add that there is a direct-to-video sequel that stars Bill Goldberg and from what I understand, Kurupt reprised his role in that film. I might watch that and review it one day because judging from the DVD artwork it appears that Kurupt has a bigger role in that one than in this one. I am also curious about Bill Goldberg’s performance being that I am mostly used to seeing him in his wrestling persona. I’ll check it out one day.

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Album Review: Snoop Dogg presents Christmas In Tha Dogghouse

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Year: 2008

Label: Doggystyle Records

Here I am in my final post for my holiday special, well, for this year, anyway. I had trouble finding another Christmas rap album to do, and then I bought this album because I was curious about it.

Up until sometime this year, I had no knowledge about this compilation. While I had planned on writing about Christmas on Death Row and High Fo’ Xmas for a long time, I had trouble finding something another Christmas hip-hop album. Initially I had thought about buying the Christmas Rap compilation, which also included the holiday classic, “Christmas in Hollis” from Run-DMC, but I didn’t get around to it. I realize that there are more Christmas albums done by rappers out there, so I could probably do those in the years to come. I wouldn’t mind throwing in a few Christmas albums from R&B artists.

Anyway, regarding this album, I will say that it’s kind of odd to listen to, especially during the holidays. I had said that “High Fo’ Xmas” is funny to listen to considering its content and how most of the songs had very little to talk about regarding Christmas, but this album actually took the cake in being an odd listen. For example, the song “A Gift that Keeps on Giving” from Damani felt like a song that belonged somewhere else. While holiday references were made, the flow sounded like he wanted to use that for a totally different song and the chorus repeated itself numerous times towards the end. It almost felt like it had skipped multiple times to the point where it felt like it wouldn’t end.

Also, “A Very Special Christmas” felt like the singer, Uncle Chucc, didn’t put a lot of effort into his vocal performance. It could have been better than it actually was.

In fact, many of the songs on this album left a lot more to be desired. I didn’t have a problem with the beats that were used in a few of the songs, as “My Mama Trippin on Christmas” had a nice beat to go with the holiday feel, but the subject matter in the lyrics didn’t go with the flow of the song. The flow of the rapping went with the beat better than the lyrics, however.

The parts that actually shined on this album were done by the veterans in Snoop, Kurupt, Daz, Lil 1/2 Dead and The Twinz. Nothing against the other artists, but I actually found more enjoyment in “This Christmas” from Tha Dogg Pound as well as “Just Like Xmas” from Lil 1/2 Dead and The Twinz. “Look Out” was another one that stood out as it included a few of the aforementioned veterans, as well as a good chorus from Nate Dogg (RIP). Snoop, Daz and Kurupt all had good verses in the song. “Xmas Trees” from Kurupt is actually a fun track to listen to, especially with a few references to weed. It lit up the album more, no pun intended.

The song “When Was Jesus Born?” from Lil Gee is a song I can give an A for effort, too, but it still could have been better. The vocals reminded me a little bit of T-Pain. The beat was decent, though, and I have to say that the subject matter really captured the Christmas spirit in the religious sense.

Back to when I talked about the songs from Damani, it was not his fault that the songs weren’t great. In fact I am curious about checking out more of his stuff in the future because he had shown promise as a rapper and I know he was also affiliated with Snoop. But the songs he did weren’t exactly great as he was not given decent content to work with.

In spite of a few good things that I said about this album, I really did not care for it. I don’t know if I will find myself jamming to this in the Christmases to come, at least not like Christmas on Death Row. I actually enjoyed that album and High Fo’ Xmas is something that I would put on if I am bored or something around the holiday season. I don’t recommend this album, but it’s a downloadable album so I would only recommend a handful of tracks. It really was not a good album in my opinion.

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Look Out
  2. This Christmas
  3. Twas The Night Before Christmas
  4. Xmas Trees
  5. Just Like Xmas
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Album Review: West Coast Bad Boyz – High Fo’ Xmas

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Year: 1994

Label: No Limit Records/Solar Music Group

Track Listing:

  1. High Fo’ Xmas
  2. Intro
  3. Lock Up Fo’ Xmas
  4. Talk
  5. Jacking Fo Da Holidays
  6. Chillin’ N Da Game
  7. Ghetto Nite
  8. Christmas In Da Ghetto
  9. Hood Carols
  10. Rev. Do Wrong Xmas Party
  11. No Limit Party

So now I am continuing with my Christmas/holiday special. I held on to my promise to do the compilation of “High Fo’ Xmas” from West Coast Bad Boyz. This is a No Limit album, by the way, and unlike “Christmas On Death Row,” this isn’t a traditional holiday album and I will admit that I bought this album as kind of a counter to the Death Row album. I saw that this wasn’t a family-friendly Christmas album to begin with.

If anything I bought this as a joke on my part. It wouldn’t be the first time that I heard some Christmas rap song that isn’t really appropriate to listen to. “Merry Muthaphuckkin Xmas” from Eazy-E is a rather humorous song that spoofs Christmas songs. Some songs on here are similar to that, and then you also have songs that didn’t need to be on this album to begin with.

I will note that this album came out in the days when No Limit still represented the West Coast, particularly the Bay Area. This was before they became a more south-based label when they had those gaudy Pen & Pixel album covers. Hence why this was a West Coast Bad Boyz compilation.

One thing that really got me about this album was that it had the intro as the second track, when the intro is often the first track of the album.

Anyway, a lot of the tracks on this album varied and mentioned Christmas and the holidays in passing, but there weren’t that many tracks that were about Christmas. For example, the opening track, which was also the title track, talks about getting high around the holidays in one of the verses, but then the rest has little reference to the holidays. Not a bad track. It has a laid-back beat that has the feel of a stoner song. Hence the name.

“Lock Up Fo Xmas” was similar in that it talked about being locked up during Christmastime but then went into the struggles of being locked up. King George, a rapper who I am really unfamiliar with, actually had good verses in this song. So this was actually a decent track. I will say the same thing, or maybe that this song was better, when thinking of “Jacking Fo Da Holidays,” as that song used a lot of beats from different songs ranging from “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” from Bone Thugs to “Funkdafied” from Da Brat. There were a lot of beats used on this song to name, and it was funny to hear P try to rap some of the verses similar to the rappers from each respective song.

One song that drew my attention prior to buying this album was “Christmas in da Ghetto” and it’s kind of a strange track to listen to as there is some transition in beats when listening to the chorus and the verses. One minute you would hear the chorus, which is similar to “Deck The Halls,” and then when you hear the verses from C-Murder and Master P, it has a totally different beat. I will add that when I listened to one verse from C-Murder, it reminded me of a song from RBL Posse, particularly from their album, “A Lesson To Be Learned.”

“Rev. Do Wrong Xmas Party” is another decent track from other No Limit rappers during that time, Big Ed (RIP), Lil Ric, and Dangerous Dame.

Keeping with the Christmas theme that this album has, a couple of interludes had different versions of traditional Christmas carols, like “Ghetto Nite” was a different take on “Silent Night.” While the “Hood Carols” was Master P singing his own rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” It’s actually rather humorous.

Remember when I said that there were tracks that felt like they belonged somewhere else? Well, those two songs are “Chillin’ in Da Game” and “No Limit Party,” which the latter is a remix. They have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but they are decent tracks nonetheless. I now wonder where I could find the original version to “No Limit Party.”

The only thing that I have an issue with about this album is that it really didn’t have the feel of a gangsta rap Christmas album. Sure, there were songs that talked about getting high, the drug game or hard time around the holidays, but take that part away and it really wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s still a decent compilation, though. I plan to do other No Limit albums in the future and I know that there are a lot out there.

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Jacking Fo Da Holidays
  2. Christmas In Da Ghetto
  3. Lock Up Fo Xmas
  4. High Fo’ Xmas
  5. Rev. Do Wrong Xmas Party
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Uncategorized

Album Review: Christmas on Death Row

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Year: 1996

Label: Death Row Records/Interscope Records

Track Listing:

  1. Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto – Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Bad Azz, and Tray Deee
  2. Christmas Song – Danny Boy
  3. I Wish – Tha Dogg Pound
  4. Silver Bells – Michel’le
  5. Peaceful Christmas – Danny Boy
  6. Christmas in the Ghetto – O.F.T.B. (Operation From The Bottom)
  7. Silent Night – B.G.O.T.I., 6 Feet Deep, and Guess
  8. Be Thankful – Nate Dogg feat. Butch Cassidy
  9. On This Glorious Day – 816
  10. Frosty The Snowman – 6 Feet Deep
  11. O Holy Night – B.G.O.T.I.
  12. Party 4 Da Homies – Sean Barney Thomas feat. J-Flexx
  13. White Christmas – Guess
  14. This Christmas – Danny Boy
  15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – 6 Feet Deep
  16. Christmas Everyday – Guess

It is now December and before I had started this blog, I had planned on doing a review on “Christmas on Death Row,” which was, as you would guess, a Christmas-themed album released by Death Row Records. Not just that, I just realized that today was the 20-year anniversary since its release, so what better way than to kick off this month than to review this album, especially on its anniversary?

Before I get into the album, let me just give some input on the deal regarding this album. Regarding the Death Row label, anybody who had listened to rap at any point in their lives would know what the contents of the music from this label consisted of, whether they involved drugs, violence, sex, misogyny, you get the picture. I will admit that when I was 10 years old, when I had heard about a Christmas album from Death Row coming out, I chuckled a bit. It just seemed a bit off because of what I was used to hearing from them, whether it was from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, etc. Hell, the album refreshed my memory about four or five years later when Death Row started re-releasing their albums and all the artworks had said “Digitally Remastered” on the cover. However, being that I was a teen then, I remember going on Amazon and looking at the listing and seeing a lot of negative feedback for this album. I was a naive kid then so I assumed that the album would suck. Then came when I reached my 20’s and the curiosity kicked in again.

I looked up the album again and finally listened to some samples and thought “Hey, maybe I would give this a shot.” I later bought it online and noticed that the copy that I got was the original 1996 release. Which I think was better considering how I liked on the “Parental Advisory” label, it had a red bow on top of it, unlike the 2001 re-release. Also, I will get to the part about the PA label.

Anyway, being that a lot of people would assume that this is a rap album that has people rapping about Christmas mixed in with violent content and other no-so-family friendly content, I decided that I would do the rap songs first before I go into anything else.

The song that kicked off this album was “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” from Snoop, Daz, Bad Azz, Nate Dogg, and Tray Deee. It is an interesting song considering how each guy talked about their experiences around Christmas time and as always, Nate Dogg (RIP) delivered a solid hook to the song. Plus, the song had a laid-back beat as it sampled “Do Your Thing” from the late Isaac Hayes. It’s a good song that was accompanied with an even better video. You just have to see it to believe it.

The thing that got me about “I Wish” from Tha Dogg Pound were the lyrics from Daz and Kurupt about how they wish they had love around the holidays. It was refreshing to hear them in a vulnerable state talking about how it was hard for them around the holidays. It had a good beat to go with it, produced by Daz, and also a chorus from a female singer, who I have trouble identifying.

And finally, in regards to the rap tracks of the album, we get to “Christmas in the Ghetto” from O.F.T.B.. I am mostly unfamiliar with these guys as I only know their songs from this album, the “Above The Rim” soundtrack, the “Gridlock’d” soundtrack, and the “Gang Related” soundtrack. I know that they had an album before signing with Death Row and later an album album on Death Row that was released way after the label’s heyday (When the label was seized by Wideawake and released a lot of their unreleased albums), both of which I may check out sometime down the line. Anyway, regarding this track, I have to give these guys credit for rapping about how Christmas was hard for them in the ghetto, but it really didn’t need the beat for the song as it was best suited for any other song. It’s one of my least favorite songs from the album, despite the lyrics and content, both of which also could have been better. Also, believe it or not, this song was the reason that this album was slapped with the Parental Advisory label. Yes, that is right, this song actually had profanity on there. Believe it or not, “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” and “I Wish” had no profanity in them at all. All three songs had minor drug references as they mentioned weed here and there, but that was about it, but the other songs were more appropriate to listen to around people.

That is about it for the rap tracks (Well, there is one other track with a rap verse that I will get to). What? You thought that this would be all rap? Well, that is not the case, because Death Row also had a lot of R&B acts on the label. That’s right, the majority of the album is R&B, which is not a bad thing. In fact, R&B works better for an album like this. First, I will touch on the original tracks before I touch on the traditional tracks.

“Peaceful Christmas” is one of three songs that Danny Boy had done for this album. This is actually a more original track as it isn’t one of those Christmas songs that you hear all the time during the holidays. In fact, some of the lyrics made reference to a few traditional Christmas songs. Danny Boy shined in this track with his soothing vocals, but regarding the beat of the song it gives off a rather dated feel. This album was released in the 1990’s, so it had a 90’s R&B feel. The beat reminded me a bit of “Pretty Brown Eyes” from Mint Condition. If you can look past that, the song is solid.

“Be Thankful,” on the other hand, is a very relaxing song to hear from Nate Dogg, along with Butch Cassidy, who provided additional vocals. Nate’s vocals didn’t come in until 30 seconds into the track as it started with an instrumental intro. The soulful vocals were strong with the two singers and the song’s message really stands out too. It had a nice soothing beat, too.

I was unsure if “On This Glorious Day” was a traditional track, but it seemed like it wasn’t as it had more of a holiday feel than it a religious feel from a more common song of the same name. This song was from 816, which I suppose was an R&B group on Tha Row at the time but never came out with anything new. The thing that I also must point out is that the intro to this song was also used in the intro bit for the video to “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto.” Anyway, I have to say that this is actually a solid track. The beat and the lyrics can really get you in the mood for Christmas. It’s actually a standout, in my opinion.

However, the last of the original R&B tracks left a lot more to be desired with “Party 4 Da Homies” from Sean Barney Thomas. The beat was a little too fast-paced and a bit out of place, too. It was mostly a song about setting up a Christmas party with the guys and having a bunch of women over. J-Flexx provided the rap verse for this song, which was also a bit mixed in some areas, as in he rapped about partying in the majority and then at the end said to be thankful for what you have in life. I get that the final bit of the rap verse was to get people in the spirit, but it didn’t help. Also, the chorus was rather repetitive. This song was actually another one on here that I didn’t care for.

The rest of the album had covers of traditional Christmas songs. The main thing that I noticed is that a lot of them were done by the same artists. What I mean is that you had multiple songs by one artist, and other songs done by a group, and then it happened with another few.

“Silent Night” featured an ensemble of B.G.O.T.I. (Which stood for “Bad Girlz of The Industry), 6 Feet Deep, and Guess. I have no idea who 6 Feet Deep and Guess are, but I mostly know of B.G.O.T.I. from their contributions to the “Gridlock’d” and “Gang Related” soundtracks. That is about it. Anyway, this version actually had a gospel-like feel to it. I can’t complain about the vocals from the singers on this song, but I think it was a little too long. That was about it in terms of complaints. But it’s still good. Also, this song had a video to go with it.

As for the other covers, I wasn’t too big on 6 Feet Deep’s version “Frosty The Snowman” as it had the feel of a boy band covering it, but I’ll listen to it if it comes on. The same could be said about “White Christmas” from Guess, which feels dated now as it has that 90’s R&B feel. It had a unique spin on it, but it’s not too bad.

However, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from 6 Feet Deep was actually a pretty good song from them, but it did not need the interlude in the middle of the song with one of the singers talking about the group. So that docked a few points from the song.

Guess’s version of the Smokey Robinson song, “Christmas Everyday” actually surprised me a bit when I first heard it. It definitely has a more urbanized touch to it and the singers really did a good job in trying to do Robinson’s vocal style in it. I cannot complain about this one.

The other two Danny Boy tracks, “The Christmas Song” and “This Christmas,” were more of a bright spot as he had provided soothing vocals and both songs had quite a jazzy beat to them. Both songs stood out and I will also say the same thing about “O Holy Night” from B.G.O.T.I.. Those ladies really gave it their all on their vocals.

Michel’le had only one track on here and that was her version of “Silver Bells,” which was pretty straightforward and she provided some great vocals like always. It was a pretty good track from her. I don’t understand why she didn’t have any other songs on here.

Overall, I have to give Death Row credit for trying to do a holiday album. This album is not bad, by any means. It’s actually decent, even though there are a couple of songs that I did not like, and a few that I wasn’t crazy about but would still listen to. It’s definitely not a gangsta rap album like one would think. It’s kind of funny to see the Death Row logo decked out in Santa gear on the album cover. It also must be noted that with the exception of “Christmas In The Ghetto,” this album is appropriate to listen to around people. So don’t be afraid to blast it while doing stuff (Though skip that track if you must, otherwise just burn a copy without that song). Also, Christmas albums from hip-hop labels are nothing new. In fact, I will review “High Fo’ Xmas” very soon, as in West Coast Bad Boyz. Stay tuned.

Also, check out the artwork that was used on the inside of the booklet. It’s a nice touch how the artist put the wings and halo on Tupac, because this album was released after he was killed. I wonder if he hadn’t died if he would have contributed to it.

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Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto
  2. I Wish
  3. Be Thankful
  4. On This Glorious Day
  5. Silver Bells
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