Documentaries

Documentary Review – Welcome To Death Row

Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: Xenon Pictures

For a while, I have been considering reviewing documentaries. I have done album reviews (Though I should also review more albums from groups and artists), as well as movies with rappers in them, and I also plan to write about a few biopics in the future, and there are so few of those (I guess I should also include the TV movies like the one about Hammer and the one about TLC, as well as others).

What I am going to talk about right now is “Welcome To Death Row,” which is the documentary on, you guessed it, Death Row Records and how it rose to the top of the rap game and fell from grace.

This film documented everything well, from how Dr. Dre and Suge Knight had started the label, to bringing in Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, to people talking about how Suge was a nightmare to work with, and also to Tupac Shakur’s arrival to the label and everything else that lead to its downfall.

I remember having watched it on, I think, Encore or Starz a long time ago and ended up watching it from the part when it talked about Suge and Dre forming the label but trying to find a parent label to back it, all to the way to the end. So I got to see from the start, when it talked about when Dre was with N.W.A. and how he met Suge when he was a bodyguard for the group. Also, how Dre was still sort of in connection with Priority Records, which backed Ruthless Records, the label Dre was a part of when he was in N.W.A., which was a point in the whole feud between him and Eazy-E.

Now I am not going to summarize the whole story about its rise and fall. What I am going to touch on are the documentations of the events during the label’s reign. I have my read my share of stories about the shady dealings that the label went through, like how Suge had some fellow gang members work security for him or work for him at some other capacity in the label. Each of the interview footage that was shown told a lot of detail about what some people had gone through during their time working there or at least working WITH the label. It seemed like only a few people were interviewed around the time this documentary was being shot. The ones who I saw were recruited during that specific time were Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Jewell (Not, I repeat, NOT to be confused with Jewel Kilcher, the folk and country singer; this artist had that extra L in her name and it was pronounced “ju-ell”) and others who were journalists, publicists, rappers, and so forth. However, some other interviews were archived footage that were edited into the film, particularly the ones from Dre and RBX.

The only thing that was distracting regarding the interview footage was that some of the editing and camera work relied too heavily on odd camera angles and closeups. Sure, some of the footage was fine when it shot the interviewees from a standard angle and a minor closeup was fine. But it didn’t need to get to a point where one guy was talking, but you could see the majority of his face but not his mouth.

Also, being that I watched this on Xfinity On Demand, it seemed that this was an updated version as right at the end, it documented what had happened in recent years. It even mentioned about how Jerry Heller was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in “Straight Outta Compton,” which released 14 years after this had come out. It also even talked about how Death Row was acquired by WIDEawake and eOne, which had happened later, also.

I also must add that there has been talk in the past about how some people want to do an actual movie about Death Row one day, especially after the success of “Straight Outta Compton.” Personally, I am not even sure how they would do it. If they do it, should they cast different actors to play certain guys? The reason I wonder is because with “All Eyez on Me” coming out not too long from now, I wonder who could play Tupac. The guy who played him in AEOM? Or the guy who was seeing for a few seconds in SOC? Or even the guy who played him in that Michel’le TV movie, “Surviving Compton”? Also, would the guy who played Dre in SOC be brought back? That is a good question. Don’t get me wrong, the movie makes for a good story even on a cinematic level, but it just seems hard to cast some parts when there have been a couple of films that came out in recent memory with different actors playing certain people and one coming really soon and having other people play those same people. Though there are some exceptions. Suge Knight was played the same guy in both “Straight Outta Compton” and in “Surviving Compton,” while Biggie in “All Eyez on Me” was played by the same guy who played him in “Notorious.”

Anyway, this documentary gets a pass.

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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – The Wash

Year of Release: 2001

Record Label: Aftermath Entertainment/Doggystyle Records/Interscope Records

When The Wash came to theaters, there was no denying that with who the two lead actors in that film were that there would be a soundtrack album to go with it. As I had noted in my review for that film, there was some heavy plugging for the soundtrack. But just how good was the soundtrack? Well, let’s see about that.

There was a time when you would see that if a recording artist had a part in a movie, whether the person was playing a character role or appearing as him or herself, there was a good chance that the artist would be featured on the soundtrack. In the case for this film, there is a lot of influence from both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on this album, with Aftermath and Doggystyle respectively having their labels imprinted on the artwork for the cover and disc.

Both Dre and Snoop had a couple of tracks on this album, “On The Blvd” and the titular track called, well, “The Wash.” Not to mention that they were the first and last tracks on the album, respectively. Both tracks have their merits, with Kokane doing his bit on the chorus of “On The Blvd” and the beat definitely has the right feel when you would go out cruising, especially in a low-rider and hydraulics bumping in the process. However, “The Wash” stands out more in comparison. This song felt like an unofficial sequel to “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” from “The Chronic.” There were some parts of the beat that were similar to that song, as well as the mixing of other parts of Leon Haywood’s “I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You,” which was also sampled in “Nuthin’ But A G Thang.”

Those songs weren’t the only contribution that Dre had on this album. While he had some influence on the production of some other tracks, he had heavy influence on a couple of that songs that featured then-newcomer Knoc-Turn’al. “Bad Intentions,” which also featured Dre as a rapper, had an awesome beat with a good flute sample to go with it. Also, Knoc-Turn’al provided some good lyrics to go with it. However, “Str8 West Coast,” the other song with Knoc-Turn’al on there, showed more of what he had to offer as a rapper, with a good beat to go with it, too.

As far as the other tracks go, it’s sad to say that so few actually stood out in comparison to the aforementioned songs. While the songs like “Blow My Buzz” from D12 and “Bubba Talk” from Bubba Sparxxx are decent, they were already out from their respective albums that were released the same year. They were played in the movie, yes, so maybe that may have given them a pass. The same could kind of be said about “Holla” from Busta Rhymes, as that was also on “Genesis,” but that album didn’t get released until a month after this one. On the other hand, Xzibit had a standout track in “Get Fucked Up With Me.” It felt like he went back to his roots with the Likwit Crew with this one. It is definitely a good song to drink and/or smoke to.

Then you also had the original tracks from the rest of the artists on this album. Now I can’t complain too much about all of them, because some of them had their own qualities to them. For example, longtime DPG affiliate, Soopafly, did a decent job in “Gotta Get Dis Money, but the chorus gets annoying fast. Bilal had a good song on there, too. I remember when he had quite a presence during those days. Then you had some of the no-names on here. Out of all of the less-than-well-known artists, there were only a couple of tracks that stood out. One was the R&B track, “Everytime” from Toi, or I should say LaToiya Williams. She has a very soulful voice and the song can really get you in the mood for some alone time with your S.O., and also a good sample from J. Dilla’s beat to Slum Village’s “Get Dis Money.” The other is “Riding High” from Daks and R.C. Daks had some good rhymes to go with the beat by Focus. The one track that I kind of put in the middle is “Benefit of the Doubt” from then-Aftermath singer, Truth Hurts, along with rapper Shaunta (Not to be confused with Shawnna from DTP). Truth Hurts didn’t do a bad job on the song as she sang well, and Shaunta did fine on her part, but the beat felt a bit out of place. It felt like something you would hear at a Baptist church on Sunday with the organ sample. I was not big on the rest, though. “Don’t Talk Shit” from Ox had a good beat, but the rapper sounded like he tried too to emulate Busta Rhymes. While “No”from Joe Beast got old fast, but the beat was also nice. Then you had “My High” from R&B singer, Yero, who is not a bad singer, but the whole song sounded too much like something Musiq Soulchild would have done back then. Shaunta sounded too much like she tried to emulate Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown with her song, “Good Lovin’.” I don’t mind dirty rap, but she tried a little too hard with this one.

I remember that I had gotten this album as a Christmas present way back when. Now I don’t mind listening to it, but it definitely has not held up over time. The odd thing about this album is that the standout songs on here were from the more known artists. The rest had more to be desired. It was an average album in hindsight.

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The Wash
  2. Bad Intentions
  3. On The Boulevard
  4. Str8 West Coast
  5. Everytime
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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – The Wash

Year of Release: 2001

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films/Lithium Entertainment Group

When I first thought about reviewing “rap movies,” as I like to call them, I had initially thought about mostly doing reviews on these low-budget, straight-to-video releases that had a good amount of rappers in the cast, or at least ones that have a few in starring roles. A couple of examples that I did were Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz, one movie that I fell out of love with yet still get a bit nostalgic over. The other being a film that I would rather use as a torture technique to punish someone who wronged me. However, I had also thought about the films that starred rappers that still managed to make it to theaters. Of course I had done a couple already that were given theatrical releases, Bones and Half Past Dead.

What is funny about all of this is that there are a lot of movies that have rappers in them, yet I am unsure on which ones to do and what not to do. Of course, at the moment I have a few in mind that I want to do, at least for the time being. One of those films is 2001’s The Wash.

This film was basically a starring vehicle for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. These two have a lot of chemistry when it comes to music. Hell, those two had collaborated a lot dating back to their days with Death Row. But the question is do they also have that kind of chemistry on screen? Well, that is REALLY good question.

Both men in their roles feel like they are playing themselves. Also, Dre’s character, Sean, is basically the straight man to Snoop’s Dee Loc, who is the wisecracker. In some ways it feels like when Ice Cube played Craig to Chris Tucker’s Smokey in the first Friday film. However, those two had amazing chemistry in that film. In this film, that comedic chemistry is lost on Dre and Snoop, despite having worked well together in music.

I have to also note that Dre and Snoop also have production credits in this film, among a few other people. Which I am like “Huh?” I can only imagine that only so many people can help the production of this film. But where the main thing lies is in the writer/director, DJ Pooh (For those who don’t know, his name is actually Mark Jordan). Of course, this film is not DJ Pooh’s first film credit. He had done some of the writing in Friday (And also played a character in that film) and also had written and directed 3 Strikes, a film that I also must revisit. Not to mention he also had a role in this film (More on this later).

Regarding the film’s story and writing is another part that shows how flawed this film is. In a nutshell this movie is about how Sean got fired from a job and ends up getting a job at, well, The Wash, which is the name of a car wash that has the employees washing cars for customers. So it isn’t one of those car washes where people can drive into and the car gets clean by the machinery. Nor is it a car wash where people can do it on their own with the use of hoses and brushes. It seems like a then-modern-day spin on the 1976 cult classic, Car Wash, but with more of a hip-hop/gangsta twist and no Rose Royce soundtrack to back it but rather rap tracks from Snoop and Dre, along with other hip-hop and R&B artists from Snoop’s label and Dre’s label. However, it seemed to have told three different stories in one film (along with a few subplots), which was one of the film’s problems. It even noted the different plot points on the back of the DVD case.

In the film, part of the plot had Sean, Dre’s character, becoming assistant manager to Mr. Washington (George Wallace), who was also called “Mr. Wash” as a nickname. Being that Sean tried to be an honest and responsible employee, he had gotten on the case of Dee Loc, Snoop’s character, for dealing and smoking weed while on the job and slacking. Of course, this rubbed Dee Loc the wrong way enough that it set up some conflict between the two. I must add that those two started off as friends at the beginning of the film who were also roommates. But then later on another subplot takes over the story which showed how flawed the writing was. The other plot of the film involved a kidnapping by Slim, played by DJ Pooh, who was the film’s antagonist, but he didn’t even show up until much later into the film. It was almost the storyline involving him was shoehorned in.

There were some subplots that seemed rather confusing and some that just finished at the snap of a finger. One example for the latter is a romantic subplot involving Sean and a female customer who he hit on at the car wash under the guise of an insurance salesman, when he happened to have stolen a customer’s jacket to hide that he worked at the car wash. Then of course that subplot was dropped not too long after it was revealed that he lied to her. That subplot was not needed at all and it would not have made a difference if it were out of the movie completely. On the plus side, she was never seen again, so there was no predictable part with her coming back and trying to give their whole thing another chance. As for another subplot, I totally wondered what the deal was with Eminem’s role in the film. He played a character who was fired from the car wash, but all he did was just call Mr. Wash and just threaten him. This was before 8 Mile, by the way, and it seemed like he was doing his Slim Shady persona when doing this film. Although I will say that he got some laughs out of me during his appearances.

One thing that annoyed me is that there was a lot of heavy plugging for the film’s soundtrack and also actually saying that the artists who did some songs were from Dre and Snoop themselves, the film’s lead actors. Okay, I get that they played characters, but it just seems odd how even the actors who played the characters exist in this universe as rappers. I don’t recall the Friday movies making reference to Ice Cube albums or ads with Craig present. In one scene, Tray Deee, one of Tha Eastsidaz and also one of Snoop’s boys from the DPG, was even referred to by his stage name and was acting as a character in this film. So he was basically playing himself and hanging out with a few moronic gangbangers? I didn’t understand it either.

Another thing about the soundtrack, and this is a minor spoiler here, is that in the credits, the video of “Bad Intentions” from Dre and Knoc-Turn’al was shown. It was an uncensored version, by the way, and the actual censored version was an extra on the DVD.

There were also some cameos by Ludacris, Pauly Shore, Shaquille O’Neal, and Xzibit. Also, one of the female characters was played by Truth Hurts, a singer who was on Dre’s label, Aftermath, at the time, but was credited by her real name, Shari Watson. One small note, but there was an appearance by Shawn “Solo” Fonteno, who is best known for playing Franklin Clinton in Grand Theft Auto V. He played Slim’s right-hand man. I also must add that DJ Pooh was the DJ for the West Coast Classics station in GTA V as well. This movie came out 12 years before that game did, but I just thought I’d mention that.

Anyway, this is not a good film, but I don’t hate it. I remember people had told me that it was not good when it came out, especially because I wanted to see it in theaters. According to some sources, it didn’t do well. It was shot on a $7 million budget but only made $10 million in the box office. I wonder if that was domestically. The first time I watched it was when I rented it when it came out on DVD. I had bought the DVD for this film much later and I had recently found it after having lost it. This film is more or less a time-waster or a movie that you can have on as background noise while doing other tasks. It is not a bad way to spend a boring Saturday or Sunday or any other day-off for that matter when you have nothing to do. You can do better but you can do a lot worse, too. I think it is mostly “meh,” if bad in some areas, but then again, a much funnier movie came out a month after this that starred rappers, which I will cover soon.

NEXT UP: HOW HIGH.

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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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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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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror

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Year of Release: 2006

Film Studio: Xenon Pictures/Social Capital Films/Bloodworks/Snoopadelic Films

Another Snoop Dogg horror film review? Huh? I know, it’s kind of odd considering I was unsure if I would even do this, but I managed to find a way to watch it and figured why not. What separates this film from “Bones” is that this was not a wide release as according to IMDB this film had a rather limited release before coming out on DVD. Another that separates this from “Bones” is that “Hood of Horror” is an anthology film that has three different stories told, a la “Tales From The Crypt” and “Creepshow.”

However, what I will also say is that when it comes to horror movies with Bigg Snoop Dogg, I actually prefer “Bones” in this case. Why? I will get to that. But in the meantime, I am going to give a synopsis about each of the stories that were told.

The first story was about this girl named Posie, played Daniella Alonso, who has a problem with three gangbangers and they have a problem with her too for having tagged on their turf. At some point Posie meets a derelict, played by Danny Trejo, who gives her a tattoo on her arm, which also indicates that she was given a power to be able to eliminate people. It’s like that saying, with great power comes responsibility.

The second story was about this racist couple inheriting a home from the father of the husband. In their inheritance, they have to live in the home with four African-American Vietnam vets, whom also served with the late father of the new landlord. The couple, however, don’t respect the vets and use them as slaves and also harass them in the process, which infuriates the group greatly.

The third and final story is about a rapper who gets famous and is then confronted by a mysterious woman who shows him about his rise to fame and what happened to his friend and how some things are more important than fame.

Now I am about to break down about what I thought regarding these stories. The first thing that I will say that is all stories ranked from worst to best in the order they were shown.

The moment the first story started, the thing that irritated me the most was the acting. As great as Daniella Alonso is to look at in this film, her acting was just unbearable, as was the acting from some of the other actors, especially Noel Gugliemi. Regarding Gugliemi, I am aware that he is typecast as a gang member in a lot of movies, and I have read that he has been down that road before, so I can’t complain about him. Alonso, however, hammed it up in the scenes she was in. I haven’t seen her in a lot of other things, so I can’t comment on her acting as a whole but she just did not do well in this film. As for Danny Trejo, well I am used to seeing him play Danny Trejo, even though he came off as menacing in his role. The story also did not make sense in the end and I thought the ending didn’t convey the message that it tried to tell.

The second story was a mixed bag for me. The villains, played by former “Baywatch” babe Brande Roderick and Anson Mount, who I mostly remember seeing in that Britney Spears star vehicle, “Crossroads,” did not really give me much reason to hate them. Yes, they were total jerks in the movie but they didn’t really make me hate them enough to want to see them get theirs. Ernie Hudson, who played one of the vets in this story, actually saved it for me. I can never complain about seeing him on my screen as I have always respected him as an actor and I like some roles of his, like in “The Substitute” and “Ghostbusters.” However, I cannot say anything about the writing. While the story was predictable, I have to hand it to the writers for coming up with something a bit original towards the end of it. It was a lot better than the first story, but at the same time it suffered from predictability and hammy acting.

Now the movie kicked it into a higher gear with the third and final story. I have to say that this one was the most interesting of the bunch as I will admit that I felt a slight chill in my spine when I watched it. Aries Spears of MADtv fame appeared in this story as Quon, the best friend of the rapper Sod, played by Pooch Hall. While Hall was the main character of this story, Spears was the secondary main character of this one. I am mostly used to seeing him do comedic roles. That isn’t to say that he wasn’t funny in this, he was but in a really creepy way. I also didn’t mind the performance from former professional wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page. However, there wasn’t really much story to be told considering how short it was and we didn’t really see how Sod rose to the top of the rap world. At first we see when he was a nobody and then a year later we see him at the top of his game. If it were made into a full-length movie, it would have been better.

Now where did Snoop fit into all of this? Well he was the narrator of the film and played what appeared to be the devil in the story. He would appear in between stories talking about what happened and then would talk about the next story. He basically like he always does, and it is not that different than his performance in “Bones.” I will say that when he had two gorgeous woman by his side, it somehow reminded me of the video to Coolio’s “Too Hot.” If you’ve seen that video, you will know which part I am talking about. Also, he has a few on the soundtrack, one of which was played in the credits. I also must add that there were animated sequences that happened in between. The animation reminded me of “The Boondocks” and “Afro Samurai,” which was among the very few positive qualities about this film.

Now why do I prefer “Bones” to this movie? Here’s why: I actually got a little more scares from that one than I did this and it had a better story. The only story from this movie that I actually would give a pass to is the third one and even there was not a lot of time to develop it. The second story didn’t have enough to keep me into it with the exception of Ernie Hudson. The first story was just bad. When it comes to horror anthology movies, I very much prefer “Tales From The Hood,” which is an underrated movie in my personal opinion. This movie just failed on some levels for me. Despite a few somewhat positive qualities, I think that this movie failed on multiple levels.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Bones

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Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: New Line Cinema

As part of my October special, I was conflicted on what to start with. For a while I wanted to review some soundtrack albums to horror films and also some horrorcore rap albums. However, I decided to kick this off with a review of a horror film that came out many years ago and happened to have starred a rapper.

Horror movies come in different shapes and sizes. In fact, a lot of movie genres do. When it comes to horror movies, you have your tales of the supernatural, you have your slasher movies, you have your vampire movies, you have your stories related to the undead. I could go on. The genre itself has quite a following. I am not usually a fan of such films, but I will watch them and I do find myself enjoying them at times.

I will say that I am a movie buff and while this blog is not geared towards movies in general, “Bones” is a movie that I wanted to touch on because it starred Snoop Dogg. In fact, this came out the same year as two other movies in which he had played a big role in, which were “Baby Boy” and “The Wash.” Come to think of it, “Bones” came out in between those two other films and the difference between this one and the other two is the Snoop had top billing in “Bones.” I must add that I know that he had appeared in “Training Day,” which also came out that same year but he was only in one scene, so that doesn’t exactly count (Or does it?). I am not sure if this movie was made with Snoop in mind as the titular character, but with him being a big-named rapper, maybe it was meant to be star vehicle for him.

The plot of the film goes like this: In 1979, Jimmy Bones (Snoop), a well-respected gangster and philanthropist for his neighborhood, was murdered in his home. However, more than two decades later, some people decide to buy his house to make a dance club out of it. What the people don’t realize is that the place is haunted with Bones’s spirit and a lot of people from that neighborhood tell them to avoid going into that place. Of course the people don’t and still go ahead with the development of their club. All of a sudden, Patrick (Khalil Kain), one of the DJ’s who is involved in the development, meets Cynthia (Bianca Lawson), the daughter of Pearl (Pam Grier), who was Bones’s lover when he was alive. Pearl advocates everyone to stay away from the building. One other thing is that Patrick is the son of Jeremiah (Clifton Powell), who was Bones’s friend and right-hand man. So things are connected for the most part.

According to some sources, this movie was shot on a $16 million budget, but it made only half of the money at the box office. I am not sure if that was only for the United States or if it was the worldwide gross, but it is safe to say that this movie was a bomb when it came out. I didn’t first watch this in theaters, by the way. I watched it on cable and for what it was, it was an okay time-waster. It’s funny to see some of the effects that were done for blood. Rather than use blood squibs, a lot of the blood looked like watered-down paint. Well, at least they tried to keep it practical as opposed to using CGI-blood. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall seeing too many fake effects that were used. It seemed like a lot of effects were physical. For example, the wall of the spirits of the dead seemed rather physical to me. So I can’t complain too much about the effects, even with the use of maggots towards the end, no matter how disgusting that was.

However, I see a lot of problems with the writing and acting. First, I will talk more about the writing. Now I am not so sure what the writers were trying to go for. I read how a lot of scenes were lifted, paid homage if you will, to past horror films. A friend of mine told me that the maggots bit at the club landing on the food was done in “The Lost Boys” during a dinner scene with people eating rice. It’s been a while since I have seen that film, so I might have to see that for myself. Well, I don’t have a problem with lifting elements from other films. But I might have to talk about some other problems with the story.

There will be a few spoilers right here, so read at your own risk.

While it was said that Jimmy Bones was a gangster who was well-respected and gives back to the community, I don’t necessarily see what kind of activity he was involved in as he was against pushing drugs. It didn’t exactly say what he did, just that he was loaded and was against drugs. Also, he was murdered by bent cop Lupovich (Michael T. Weiss), who also played a big role in the story, along with Eddie Mack (Ricky Harris), as well as Jeremiah. So Bones wants revenge on those who had wronged him. I get that, but why go after the people who had nothing to do with his death as well? I will get to that, but it almost seemed like we were supposed to root for him at that point in the film, like he was the good guy. It was almost confusing whether he was the villain or hero during that point of the film. I must point out that Patrick and his crew, along with Cynthia decided to sleep over at the house to test out the place. One of the creepiest scenes in the movie involved Cynthia sleeping and during this sequence, she gets molested by the ghost of Jimmy Bones and alongside that sequence, she has a dream of her getting covered in blood. I know that it was shown to be the spirit of Jimmy Bones haunting those who disturb him and in what used to be his house. However, what I find disturbing is that later on Cynthia was revealed to be Jimmy’s daughter with Pearl. *GASP* Okay, I understand that Jimmy and Pearl were a couple very much in love and she had conceived her right before Jimmy was killed, but that was revealed a bit later in the film, sometimes AFTER the spirit harassed Cynthia in her sleep. Also, I still don’t understand the ending of the film that Cynthia possessed by Bones’s spirit and maggots came out of her mouth. I wonder if there was a plan for a sequel back then.

Also, he went after Patrick and the crew because they weren’t wanted in his house and bought his property, so I guess he went after them because of it.

End spoilers.

As for the acting, well it seemed like the more believable performances were done by Harris, Grier and Powell. Ricky Harris did well playing an aging pimp and drug pusher. Grier also had a good performance in her role, whether it was as a concerned mother and also girlfriend to Bones. Also, I can never complain when I see Clifton Powell on screen, even in duds like “Hot Boyz.” Snoop, on the other hand, just seemed to be playing himself in the movie, or at least his hip-hop persona as how it was done at that point. He was not playing a gangbanger type but rather a well-suited gangster. He was a little intimidating when he was in the form of the ghost. Plus, I liked the makeup that was used on him towards the end that made him look more evil and scarier. Now what about the other characters? Bianca Lawson had little emotion in some scenes that she was in. The only time I saw her express anything in her role was during the scene when she was sleeping. Khalil Kain did alright in his role. So I can’t complain about the acting too much, except maybe from Snoop.

One thing I will point out is that I noticed something funny about the wigs and hair in some scenes. In some scenes when Bones was in his dark spirit form, I can tell Snoop wore a wig because of the length and it looked a bit fake. His hair was a bit shorter during that time and it was about the right length during the flashback scenes and when Bones was with Pearl towards the end. I also noticed that it seemed like certain scenes were filmed at certain times because Pam Grier’s hairstyle was an afro during the flashbacks and towards the end when she wore the dress while dancing with Snoop. Whereas when she saw her reflection, it was the present day version with the dreads. At least they kept with how she was supposed to look.

Eh, I will say that despite a lot of the movie’s problems, I can think of other movies that might be worse than this one. Looking back I am surprised at how this movie was even in theaters. Was it because the producers thought that Snoop Dogg would draw crowds? Nobody knows. Other than that, it was a bit fun, okay if you will. Good? Far from the case, but like I said, I have seen worse.

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