Feb 28, 2011

REVIEW: Marsha Ambrosius: Late Nights & Early Mornings


In 2002 I was flipping through the channels and came across Floetry's "Say Yes" video playing on one of the music video channels and was immediately drawn in.  The mixture of smooth soulful music, and the pure sexuality of the lyrics was a powerful combination.   Add in my affinity for English women's accents, and I was sold.

I went out and bought the album, Floetic,  that day, and found the rest of the album, in a rare coup for me, matching up to the enjoyment of that first single.  Floetry was made up of "Songstress" Marsha Ambrosius and "Floacist" Natalie Stewart.   Their combination of soul music and spoken word was a welcome breath of fresh air.

Sadly, Floetry only put out one more album (plus a live album) before splitting up to go solo.

The Floetic couple's final album was released 5 years ago this past November, and finally we are getting another taste, albeit in solo efforts.

Last year Natalie Stewart put out an album called "The Floacist" which was fantastic. Pretty much what you would expect from one of the members of that great group.

This year it's Marsha's turn, albeit long overdue.  Over the past five years or so she has put out numerous mixtapes and been featured on songs by other artists including Nas, The Game, Busta Rhymes, Earth Wind & Fire and Slum Village among others.

She was originally signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath records, and unfortunately much like the good Doctor's own Detox album, Ambrosius' solo debut has been pushed back many times over the course of the last year.

 Now, however, she is no longer with Aftermath, and  finally the album is here, and many people are wondering whether or not it would live up to the hype.  Whether she could match the brilliance of the Floetry days, or the level of Stewart's album.

I'm here to tell you it does.   If you have ever heard a Floetry album, you know what to expect here.  Smooth soulful music, with lyrics that are poignant and real.   There's no cookie cutter teen diva wannabe type lyrics on here, these are raw emotional subjects tackled by the Songstress.

Her single "I Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)" is both hilarious and shocking in it's bluntness and emotion.  Telling of her man who has left her for someone else, and her wishing him to get hte same type of treatment that she got.  For him to know what it feels like to be betrayed, and to take it to that next level, for it to be an athlete.

There are various ways you can view that aspect of the song, whether it's a sort of added insult that she's dating a pro-player, or just the high profile diss.  Either way, this song signals that Ambrosius is more than capable of stepping out on her own.

Some artists when going solo after being in a group, are unable to really duplicate that success when moving on by themselves for whatever reason.  Ambrosius is more than willing and able to put the doubters to rest with this solid solo debut.

Standout tracks include: I Hope She Cheats On You, Far Away, and Lose Myself among many others.

Production on this album is tight, with much of the production work being done by Ambrosius herself, but also some assists by Just Blaze, Andre Harris, Vidal Davis and Syience.

Overall this album is very sensually seductive.  This is grown folks music here, ladies and gentlemen.  This is not Rhihanna.  This is not Ciara (who I like).  This is not Beyonce.   This is a real woman speaking from real experiences and doing so in her own way.   This isn't the same old stuff you hear on the radio that you probably wouldn't be able to tell who sang it.   In the vein of Erykah and Jilly from Philly, Marsha Ambrosius is here folks.

Now let's just see if we can get a Floetry Reunion album next year, huh?

Searching For Chet Baker Podcast #3 (March 2011)

It's that time again folks.   Time for the third installment of the Searching for Chet Baker Podcast.  As I try to do with each one, I included a little bit of commercial hip hop with some more progressive and indie fare.   Had some issues with Audacity, so I couldn't use some of the songs I had planned, but I think this one turned out fairly well, all things considering.

As always, the links in the tracklisting below will take you to where you can buy the songs if you enjoy them enough.   I get a small percentage of each purchase made once you go to Amazon through that link, which I use to buy more music to use in these podcasts.  All the music in my podcasts are 100% purchased (including the now out of print tracks).

So enjoy, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.


01. K-Murdock Intro
02. Tekitha feat. Capadonna - I Can See (OUT OF PRINT)
03. Cocoa Brovaz - Bucktown USA
04. Damian Marley feat. Nas - Road to Zion
05. D'Angelo feat. Redman - Me and those Dreaming Eyes (Def Squad Remix) (OUT OF PRINT)
06. Jurassic 5 - Quality Control
07. B.O.B. feat. Haley Williams & Eminem - Airplanes II
08. Marsha Ambrosius - I Hope He Cheats On You
09. Mega Ran - Tifa
10. Locksmith - Welcome
11. Punjabi MC feat. Jay Z - Beware
12. Kriss Kross feat. Redman - Tonite's The Night (So So Def Remix) (OUT OF PRINT)
13. Dave (De La Soul) and Del - The Projects
14. Bubba Sparxx feat. Sleepy Brown - Like it or Not
15. The Roots feat. Blu, P.O.R.N. & Dice Raw - Radio Daze
16. CrossRhodes feat. Sy Smith - Three Sides (OUT OF PRINT)

Feb 26, 2011

Portland residents accused of shoplifting five million dollars from Safeway

From the "Yeah, I'm not buying it" files:  Two Portland Oregon residents are accused of shoplifting over five million dollars worth of merchandise from various Safeway stores over the course of several years. 


The probable cause affidavit showed that Safeway began formally tracking the pair last November after suspicions surfaced they had been shoplifting.

Evans told police that the couple stole mostly common items like shampoos, razors, Rogaine, teeth whiteners, conditioners to batteries, DVDs and CDs, according to the affidavit, which also said that Remington stole DVDs on 22 different dates since November.

The court documents said that store surveillance cameras showed Remington involved in 103 thefts between Nov. 19 and Jan. 14, and that Evans was present in more than half of those incidents.

Investigators said the couple would go to several Safeway stores a day and shoplift. They actually used a shopping list for the thefts provided by a a suspect still being sought.

Safeway security officer Trent Drucker estimates that Remington stole $400,000 a year in merchandise over several years, totaling $5 million over the span of thefts.

Several things raise my bullshit detector here.   First and foremost, what took them so long to stop the shoplifters?  If you see them stealing, why don't you intervene right away?  If you happen to miss them the first time you catch them shoplifting, then the next time they show up, why don't you grab them right away, or at least as soon as you see them grab something?   Instead, you wait, and compile a list?   You allow shoplifting to go on over the course of several months while you conduct some wannabe Columbo operation?

Secondly, 5 million dollars?  Seriously?  This smacks of putting the estimate at such a high level so as to make an example out of them.   No one of sound mind and a reasonable intellect would ever buy that these people stole five million dollars worth of common items and DVDS over the course of a few years. 

And if they DID, then what the hell kind of mickey mouse security do they have at Safeway?   Plus, I've been to Safeways.  I don't know if their entire inventory costs five million dollars.

However that's not even the most outrageous aspect to this.   Check out this little nugget:

On Nov. 19, Safeway security officials placed a tracking device on a van driven by the couple. Whenever the van was driven to a Safeway, surveillance videos were carefully scrutinized.

In the weeks following, Safeway officials created a spreadsheet of locations and thefts, which they presented to Portland police. The couple was arrested outside a Safeway store in Portland's Woodstock neighborhood.

Wow, really?  Safeway is putting GPS devices on the cars of people coming to their store?  I realize they believe the people are stealing from them, however this is a gross abuse of authority here, and a clear violation of the suspects rights.  As someone pointed out in the comments section of that post, the recent Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court, ruled that corporations were considered "private citizens".  Therefore, Safeway, as user "Zeprulz" pointed out, " private citizen cannot record another person without their consent and a private citizen (Safeway) cannot track another person without their consent."

This will be interesting to see how it plays out.  Could these folks get off because of Safeway's illegally tracking them?   If they are found to have violated their rights, much like police officers who fail to get a warrant for a wiretap, their findings after the fact will be inadmissable in court.  They could theoretically walk from this.

Feb 24, 2011

"Anonymous" hacks Westboro Baptist Church website during interview

Today on the David Pakman Show, David had an interview with both Shirley Phelps-Roper, and a representative from the hacking group "Anonymous". Recently a press release was sent out, purportedly by Anonymous, threatening to shut down all of the WBC's websites if they did not cease and desist from their protests.

The WBC came back and said "Bring it On". Since then, there's been confusion as to whether or not Anonymous ever sent the press release. They denied it and put out their own release saying they did not want to get into it with the fringe church.

So today, while in the middle of the interview, as Phelps-Roper continued to insult Anonymous (and the host, Mr. Pakman himself), the representative from Anonymous had a little surprise for her after she claimed that no one could shut them down.

Check out the interview, and if you like this feel free to subscribe to Pakman's youtube channel and click here to subscribe to his podcast.

Feb 11, 2011

Friday Morning Music Post: D'Angelo Edition

Today, Friday February 11th 2011 is the birthday of the one and only D'Angelo.  So here's some of his brilliant work.  Let's hope there will be many albums to follow the two classic ones he's already given us.

Feb 6, 2011

DJ Billy Bill Presents: Best of the Best Volume 1

Back in 1996 during a visit to the Potomac Mills Mall near DC I bought my first hip hop mixtape, DJ Billy Bill's "Best of the Best Volume 1".  Several months later it got stolen from me and for the last 15 years I've been looking for it.   Now, thanks to the one and only Tapemasta, I now have it again.   He was kind enough to rip it from his original tape and send it to me, and I felt like sharing it today with those who read my blog and love hip hop.

To this day it remains my favorite mixtape of all time, and I hope you guys like it as well.  If you want to hear more classic hip hop mixtapes, check out my man Tapemasta's blog where he's got that good 90's era hip hop mixtapes for you.

And now, here's the download.

And shout out to the great DJ2Mello for helping me identify the two reggae tracks on here.

NOTE: This is split tracked and tagged for Itunes.

DJ Billy Bill Presents: Best of the Best Volume 1 (1996) **NEW LINK 7/7/11**

(features the following DJ's doing sets: Chill Will FTE, Bigg Premiere, DJ Phili, Doggtime, Rello & Jadel and Dexterity)

01. DJ Chill Will Intro
02. Busta Rhymes - Woo Ha! (Blend)
03. Martin Lawrence - Everybody Wanna Be a Gangster
04. Monica - Before You Walk Out My Life (Blend)
05. TLC - Diggin On You (Blend)
06. Erick Sermon - Bomdigi (Blend)
07. DJ Outro
08. Ghostface - Motherless Child
09. DJ Shoutouts
10. D'Angelo feat. AZ - Lady (Remix)
11. The Fugees - Ready or Not
12. MC Lyte feat. Xscape - Keep On Keepin On
13. Lost Boyz - Renee (Remix)
14. Mad Skillz - Freestyle
15. Soul For Real - If You Want It (Blend)
16. Patra - Dip and Fall Back (Blend)
17. The Fugees - Freestyle (Live)
18. Holly Canada - You've Been Mean To Me (Blend)
19. Groove Theory - Keep Trying (Blend)
20. DeBarge - I Like It (Blend)
21. Stephanie Mills - Something In The Way You Make Me Feel (Blend)
22. Raphael Saadiq - Ask of You (Blend)
23. Monica - Before You Walk Out My Life (Blend)
24. Jay Z feat. Foxy Brown - Ain't No...
25. Busta Rhymes feat. ODB - Woo Ha!
26. Buju Banton - Sensimilla Persecution

Feb 5, 2011

James Toney: Neglected Legend or Simply Faded Legend?

I was looking through some boxing websites the other day when  I came across an interview with James Toney hyping up his lackluster upcoming fight with Damon Reed.  If you've never heard of Damon Reed, don't think you're missing anything.   "Dangerous" Damon Reed, as he's known, has a magnificent record of 45-14, going 3-3 in his last six fights.  Those fights include a second round knockout to Monte Barrett, and a sixth round knockout at the hands of faded Hasim Rahman.

James Toney is known for two things really.  His mouth and his horrible conditioning, which I suppose is also related to his mouth.  He's known for talking trash, and there are many who consider him the all time p4p champion in that regards.   And while he's very good at agitating his opponents and talking mountains of garbage, it's a tired and predictable affair when he does. 

You can be assured that there will be a handful of things that will be said each and everytime out.  You could make a checklist and just mark them off as they occur.  You can be assured he'll drop many variations of the F-bomb, mix in some homophobic slurs and accusations, and top it off with some "Creative" altering of other fighter's names.   

He stopped being a legitimate fighter a long time ago and has been coasting on his reputation and his mouth.  In fact, there are many people who want to see Toney get a shot at either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko, who currently rule the Heavyweight division with their iron fists, based nothing more than on his ability to talk shit.  They figure while the fight will not go very long, as Toney would absolutely be destroyed, that his talking trash would at least make the pre-fight press entertaining.

Well, that's just what boxing needs, right?  MORE sideshows.

Toney has been crying and complaining about how any and everyone that's got a bit of press is ducking him.  David Haye and both Klitschko brothers have been accused of ducking Toney, despite the fact that Toney has done nothing remotely resembling anything to deserve a title shot.    In fact the ONLY case you can make for Toney to get a shot, is that the HW division is shit right now and he's no worse than some others who are getting a title shot.

That's where we're at folks.   When we're championing fighters for title shots based on them being at least as good as these bums that are getting shots. 

While Toney has had an impressive career overall, his recent years have been filled with months and months at a time on the bench, and his foolish foray into the MMA where he tapped out almost immediately against Randy Coutoure, without even throwing a punch.

He's fought five times in four years, including his decision loss to Samuel Peter (in their rematch to Peter's split decision win over Toney).

In the interview that I mentioned above, Toney was asked why he was still fighting, and he replied that he didn't feel he got enough respect from the boxing fans and media, and that he was just going to keep knocking out whoever was put in front of him.

Funny thing about that.  Aside from his last fight against another no-namer/no-hoper Matthew Greer, he hasn't knocked anyone out in YEARS.   In fact, his last "TKO" was in 2003, against Evander Holyfield, when Holyfield's corner threw in the towel.   Before Greer his last ACTUAL knockout was  against Jason Robinson in 2002.

James Toney, to me, epitomizes what I hate the most about boxing.  Trash talking is one thing.  I'm not a fan too much, but I understand it's place in boxing.  But what Toney does, and what Ricardo Mayorga does is a whole different animal.   They don't simply trash talk, they go personal and go over the line of decency into homophobic slurs and whatnot.

With any interview you pick out of a hat from Toney you'll find multiple instances of him referring to other fighters as "Faggots" or some other variation.  Referring to "David Gay" or "The Klitschko Sisters" or whatever is tired and cheap.  

Toney has become that guy that nobody would play with in school.  So he resorted to talking shit to get you so angry that you'd invite him to play just so you could beat the shit out of him in whatever game you were playing.

Toney's standing outside the fence yelling at the Klitschkos "Hey, you don't wanna fight me cause you know I'll win", trying to goad them into finally agreeing to fight him, despite there being no reason, and giving him a huge payday to get his head caved in.

That interview had a headline saying that we should all be ashamed because Toney was a ignored legend.  Assumedly this is because nobody apparantly gives a damn about this upcoming fight against Damon Reed.  As if we should just be falling over ourselves to interview a living legend, despite his piss poor record in recent years, and despite the fact that in replacement of actual conditioning and caring about coming in in the best shape possible, he's resorted to vulgar disgusting trash talk, essentially BEGGING for a fight that he doesn't remotely deserve.

I'll be the first to say the heavyweight division is lacking and while Toney is surely not better than some of the others out there, he's definitely not that much worse.   So I understand those who say "give him a shot, what's the worst that can happen?"   I just don't think you reward people who don't deserve something, because they yell the loudest.

It's like the little kid screaming for a toy in the store until he gets it.   You don't reward that, because it breeds habit.   Which is apparantly what has happened over Toney's career.  He's been enabled by all these people that drool over every uneducated word he utters.   He's a carnival attraction now.  A circus freak if you will. 

And that's all he's become.  There's nobody left that comes to see him for his boxing talents, because they're few and far between.  He's got so much boxing knowledge, but no dedication to his craft anymore.   The one time he actually won a title he was stripped due to taking a banned substance.  Now he's got some no name belt that only he gives a damn about, and he thinks that makes him a champion.

So to answer the idea of we should be ashamed for neglecting Toney?  I say he should be ashamed at becoming a caricature at this stage in his career.   He's put himself in the same category as Evander Holyfield, which it pains me to say.  Holyfield has stuck around way too long and is only still fighting because this division is so watered down that fighters like he and Toney, washed up as they may be, can still compete moderately.

I'm not ashamed at neglecting Toney's career.  He was done a long time ago as far as I'm concerned.

Feb 3, 2011

Review: Mega Ran: Black Materia (Final Fantasy VII)


I have a confession to make: I've never played Final Fantasy. Although I've owned virtually every console that the game has been featured on, including the Super Nintendo, and Playstation's one through three, I've yet to play a single minute of a single game. I've never been one who was into RPG's to start with, plus I don't have the patience or attention span, I don't believe, to sit and pay attention and keep track of all the potions and spells and stuff like that.

I was always more prone to liking fighting games or God of War type hack/slace games. Basically give me a few weapons and let me tear up some monsters/demons/bad guys is my motto.

In fact, the only thing I knew about Final Fantasy is that someone out there by the name of "AtomX" made an awesome fan video based on one of my favorite songs, "Gravity of Love" by the group Enigma from the video clips from Final Fantasy VIII.

So when I heard that my man Mega Ran was going to be putting out an album based on Final Fantasy VII I was interested, but not entirely sold on it. Mega Ran's already proven that he can unleash some creativity when it comes to his music, as shown by Forever Famicom, the collaboration between himself and producer K-Murdock (Panacea, CrossRhodes) which featured Mega Ran's raps over old school NES/SNES based beats.

Now admittedly that wasn't my thing. I bought it and supported the project -- because that's what you do with true innovative music: you support it, because the labels won't -- but I think the old school Nintendo beats just didn't do anything for me. It was tight as hell how the production ended up, and Ran's lyricism is never in question, but it just wasn't for me.

So I didn't know what to expect. Would it feature more of the seriousness of his "RANDOM" disography, or more to the video game "Mega Ran" discography in which it's a bit more relaxed and fun? Well, I have to say that I feel "Black Materia" creates a proper balance between the two.

I do have to point out that this feels like an "inside joke" of sorts. More emphasis on the "inside" part rather than the "joke". It's like when you're around people who all know a specific story and their details, so they laugh about certain things or they'll just make a veiled reference to it. They all knowingly smile or laugh, and yet you sit there confused, but wanting to know about what seems to be an interesting story.

This feels like that at times. As I said I'm not famiilar with the Final Fantasy series, and I have to think that if I had played Final Fantasy VII I would get this so much more. As it stands, I absolutely love it. It's telling this story that, that I'm assuming is the FFVII story, in each track and I'm captivated the whole time. And since I haven't played the game or know anything about it, perhaps that's why I feel this way. Like the old radio shows in which they'd tell stories each week. Each week a new entry in the saga, which would have people huddled around their radios each week just waiting to hear the next exciting chapter.

That's how I felt while listening to Black Materia. I'm wondering though whether it's better to go in blind like myself or be like seemingly 99.99% of the rest of the population who's actually played the series and knows the things that are being talked about.

I have to give it to Random here. He's obviously got immense love for the series and this game specifically, and it is abundantly clear as you listen. Each track a separate chapter in this story from the viewpoint of the characters. It's truly an amazing concept album that you don't see often enough. These days everything is sort of cookie-cutter. There's a formula that people adhere to. I wonder how many people actually TRULY understand that.

The artists today are striving to do the same thing that's been done. No deviation, no wandering too far from the beaten path. And then there are independent artists such as K-Murdock, Mega Ran and Lost Perception that are pushing those boundaries. That are hopping the fence that lines that beaten path, to journey off and see what's over there. That's the very definition of the term "independent".

Awesome album, and trust me when I say you have not lived until you have listened to Don Corneo's track. It'll make you question, in the words of the Don himself, "are you sure this game is rated for Teens?".

Standout tracks include "Don of the Slums", "Tifa" and "Avalanche" among many others. Production is tight and well done, as are Mega Ran and the guest rappers.

Buy with confidence by clicking HERE to go to Mega Ran's website and purchase it.