Album Reviews, Soundtrack Albums

Christmas Special – Reviews of “Christmas Rap Music” and “Friday After Next” soundtrack

Hello, out there. I know that I haven’t been doing much for this site lately. But as usual, I try to keep with a tradition, at least during Christmas time. Rather than do two separate reviews, I decided to combine them. I didn’t get a chance to get other albums that were on my Amazon Wish List. But some of the time, I got to plan ahead for future years, especially during the Christmas season.

So I’m going to do two albums. I’m going to start with “Christmas Rap Music” from Crew X. Not to be confused with the Christmas Rap compilation, which I covered already. The other will be the Friday After Next soundtrack. Right now, onto “Christmas Rap Music.”

christmasrap

Let me start off by saying that I came across this CD when I was looking on Amazon for the Christmas Rap compilation and then saw this on the suggestions list. I had no idea what this album was. From what I understand this was the sole album from a short-lived rap group called Crew X. It seems that little-to-no information is found on them. Hell, the insert for the CD is just the cover art. There was no information about the production of each track. The only thing that I found was information that this was released in 1992 and it appeared that this group was from Nashville, Tenn. because that city was listed on the back cover art. So this portion is not going to be long.

What I will tell you is that each of the songs on this album was a rap rendition of various classic Christmas carols like “The First Noel,” “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” etc. So in other words, this group did a rap spin on those traditional carols. I found it cute (and I never thought I would use this term to describe the beats) that beats had included some instrumentals with some rap beats combined with them. I couldn’t help but think it was kind of cute to hear a hip-hop beat of “The First Noel” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

So what about the lyrics? The rapper did a good job at rapping out the verses for the songs. Some of them had original lyrics added in to provide some additional lyrical content for the tracks. In fact, I found his rapping on “Jingle Bells” to be pretty catchy.

It appeared that it was the same rapper on most of the tracks. One song that had multiple people rapping was on “12 Days of Christmas.” What’s interesting about that track was that each rapper was rapping out the exact lyrics for that carol. It’s got to be heard to be believed.

It appears that the only original track was the final track of the album. It was called “The Christmas Rap.” The rapper on that track talked about Santa Claus, the reindeer, the elves, etc. and also experiences on Christmas and such.

One thing that makes me wonder is that this album was released in 1992, but the songs sound like they were recorded a lot earlier than that. This whole album had the feel of the mid-1980s. Not a bad thing by any means. It was actually interesting to hear rap versions of those old Christmas carols. The producers, DJs, and rappers did a good job at what they did. While it would sound a bit ridiculous to some, there is no denying that the songs were catchy.

If only there was more information I can find on Crew X.

3.5/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The First Noel
  2. Jingle Bells
  3. 12 Days of Christmas
  4. The Christmas Rap
  5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

mi0000372649

Here was something that I told myself to cover a year ago when I wrote my review of the movie, but I didn’t get around to it. Better late than never, right? Anyway, onto the review.

The first thing that unlike the soundtracks to the previous two movies, this was released by Hollywood Records, not Priority. It also seemed that around the time of its release, there had been some ads implying that there was an explicit version with the Parental Advisory label on the cover art. Why am I telling you this? Because this album was edited. I will talk more about this in a bit, but in the meantime, let’s get to the songs.

This album kicked off with the soundtrack’s lead single, “It’s the Holidaze” performed by Westside Connection. So it wasn’t just Ice Cube providing a song for the soundtrack. He also got WC and Mack 10 involved. This whole track was produced by Dallas Austin, as in the same guy who had produced the likes of TLC and Monica back in the 1990s. What was cool about this song is that when you hear each of the verses from Cube, Dub, and Mack respectively, they all have different feels. Personally, my favorite verse out of all them was WC’s.

Another standout track was “High Times” from FT and Tha Eastsidaz, as FT, Tray Deee, and Goldie Loc did a good job on their verses, but the standout part about it was the production from Fredwreck.¬† Even “Just Chill” from Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad was pretty dope, as Busta and Rah Digga provided some good verses. The same could be said about “Got All’at” from Nappy Roots (Remember them?).

Fredwreck also produced another song, which was a “Wonderful World” from Krayzie Bone, La Reece, and K-Mont. It was different, and had that “Whistle While You Work” sample, as well as some other 1950s/1960s vibe going for it, but not bad. It was pretty catchy.

50 Cent also appeared on this album, along with G-Unit. Lloyd Banks shined on his verse, as did 50, and Tony Yayo didn’t do a bad job on his verse. This was not long before he dropped “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” but from what I had read, this was recorded before that as it appeared on his mixtape, “50 Cent is the Future.” So this was before he blew up, even though he made his mark on the 8 Mile soundtrack.

What also could be said that the two tracks from Whateva and Roscoe stood out. Rockwilder presented this then up-and-coming rapper who showed a lot of promise on “Mardi Gras,” but I wonder what happened with him. Roscoe, as in Kurupt’s brother, showed a lot of promise on “Get Ready.” Mr. Kane (or Kokane, as he is better known) provided a good hook like he often does. However, out of these two, Roscoe would have a debut album coming out not long after that.

The last of the original tracks (or modern tracks) would come from R&B singer Calvin Richardson. The guy could sing and Jez Colin did a good job at the production. Being that this album came out in the early-2000s, this definitely has that vibe.

What about the rest of the album? Well, the rest of the album were old songs from Leon Haywood (RIP), Slave, Eartha Kitt (RIP), The Temptations, and Donny Hathaway (RIP). A few of them were Christmas songs, which I believed were played in the movie, and I am sure that the non-Christmas songs from these aforementioned artists were also in the movie. Not going to complain about their inclusions. If anything, they were welcome additions, as the soundtracks to the previous Friday movies had old songs on the soundtracks. The first Friday soundtrack had included the songs from Rick James, Rose Royce, and Roger, despite around the same time of its release, Priority Records had released an “Old School Friday” compilation which provided all the old tracks (plus original score tracks). The same thing happened when Next Friday came out, as there was an “old school” version of the soundtrack as well.

Quality-wise, I can’t complain about the songs on this album. I would rate it high, except for the fact that all of the songs are edited. This is what really got me. I could have sworn that back in those days, there were ads of this showing the Parental Advisory label. I even found pictures online about it. But when I got it, I found out that the soundtrack was edited. I am not sure what Hollywood Records was doing, because they didn’t do a good job at releasing any explicit versions. The songs were actually good, but it’s also distracting to hear the censors for it. Did Priority Records not want anything to do with this soundtrack? If Cube couldn’t get them to do it, he could have at least tried with New Line Records, as they released the soundtrack to All About the Benjamins. Then again, I remembered how Cube did that song “100 Dolla Bill Y’all” around that time and it was used for the promotion of the movie, but it wasn’t featured on the soundtrack to that. Maybe he didn’t submit it in time or there was an issue. I don’t know, but I do know that that song was on his greatest hits album which came out in 2001.

What’s puzzling is that I found a video of “It’s the Holidaze” and it has the explicit lyrics. Someone must have used the version played in the credits and put it in that video when uploading it on YouTube. Check it out:

But like I also said, I don’t have a problem with the soundtrack as the songs are exceptional, but what drops it were the edits on the songs. I could find the explicit versions of some of the songs on some mixtapes or albums (Like that Roscoe song appeared on his debut album).

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. It’s the Holidaze
  2. Get Ready
  3. High Times (Ride with Us)
  4. Just Chill
  5. Bad News
Standard
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.

Standard