Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

By any reasonable measure, Kanye West has done his penance for whatever injustice he inflicted upon Taylor Swift many moons ago. He removed himself from the equation to come to terms with it, and patiently answered questions about it in every interview request he has granted since (except for Matt Lauer). These days, even the most catastrophic events fade from view within a week, yet Kanye's stage crashing over a year ago continues to occupy front and center in the public consciousness. As the months passed and the topic continued to simmer, it became clear that only Kanye himself could change the conversation. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy success has turned the page, while shedding some light on what spurred the outburst to begin with.

When Kanye joined Twitter in July, he instantly became one of its most captivating voices, sharing glimpses into his life of fashion shows, private jets and tantrums. Twitter became an extension of his persona, one that provided virtually instant praise and criticism for every tweet. Alluring? Certainly, but perhaps not the best venue for someone with such a fragile psyche. Despite this, he thrived, and found a more than willing contingent of fans who relished his every move and looked forward to his G.O.O.D. Friday releases like Christmas morning (myself included). In the wake of the Taylor Swift news-cycle, I expected Kanye to come back with the familiar celebrity idiom, the hail mary for stars who prove their fallibility; the I-am-not-a-role-model defense. He didn't, and MBDTF is all the better for this.

I don't usually preface reviews with a two-paragraph refresher of an artist, but in Kanye's case, I think it is warranted. There's a fine line between asshole and assured, and it's hypocritical for us to expect this swagger in his music and expect it not to bleed into his personal life. From the very first note on MBDTF, we see a Kanye who is keenly aware of his shortcomings and the repercussions of them. He drowns sorrows in alcohol and takes pills, he talks about night terrors one line and a Lamborghini Murcielago the next. And it would all be depressing if it weren't so beautiful. The following songs find every facet of his character amplified to deafening levels. He is incredulous on Gorgeous, destitute on All of the Lights, defiant on Monster and remorseful on Blame Game. The production mirrors this from song to song, opting for rising strings or an chopped electric guitar riff when the song calls for it. Take the 9-minute "Runaway" as Exhibit A. A lonely piano plinks a single note for 20 seconds before Kanye pulls the trigger and the song explodes with bass and synths. At the song's close, Kanye autotunes his voice past the point of coherence, his words transformed to indecipherable digital moans that is as arresting as his sharpest words.

Before MBDTF, I had never wholly "loved" a Kanye West album. While each had their high points, each also felt incomplete and superficial, the work of a fascinating artist who had yet to figure himself out. The events of the past year introduced humility to Kanye's vocabulary, but also served to sharpen his edge and enhance his bravado. Lesser artists would likely have dropped out of music forever (or worse), but Kanye emerged on the other side, hungrier and more determined than he had ever been and created the most complete and captivating work of his career. Congratulations Kanye, you've earned yourself another chance. Don't ever change.

Monday, November 22, 2010


While I formulate my thoughts on Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Pitchfork gave it a 10.0 this morning, the first time they've bestowed this honor on a new release since Wilco's 2002 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), I'll share my most recent soup exploration and offer a delicious Thanksgiving recipe from the Queen of the Quadruple Bypass, Ms. Paula Deen that I made a few weeks ago. Trust me when I say it is every bit as delicious as you are imagining right now, and even less healthy. Let's get on with the soup.

Albondigas Soup is the Mexican equivalent to Campbell's Tomato. A warm, soothing bowl of comfort that Mexican mothers would whip up for their children with meatballs, tomatoes, and whatever other vegetables/spices were available. I've been hoping for a chance at meatball redemption since my my previous meatball-centric soup was a disappointment, and the god's provided me one in the form of this Albondiga's soup recipe, or so I thought.

Here is the line-up of usual suspects:

1 pound lean ground beef (I used Turkey, USE BEEF)
1/4 pound pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 cup cornmeal
6 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
1 (8 ounce) jar salsa
1 onion, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup white rice

Looks like a lot of ingredients, but it really wasn't bad. I had most of the stuff already, and just had to grab some canned tomatoes and beef broth. Start the recipes by dicing your onion, and tossing it into a large pot with the beef broth, tomatoes, salsa, dried basil, oregano and black pepper. Bring these goodies to a boil. Some commenters on Allrecipes mentioned that it's important to use "green chili" salsa in this recipe, meaning a salsa that uses green peppers, ie Jalapeno's, etc. I used Trader Joes roasted yellow tomatillo salsa, which was probably not a stellar idea in retrospect (it was pretty watery and tasted a bit bland). I'd recommend finding a salsa that uses jalapenos.

Here I am doing my best Vanna White.

Next you want to make the meatballs by thoroughly mixing the egg, beef, pork, cilantro, cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and milk in a large bowl. It was about this time that I began to get a little concerned about the recipe. The cornmeal was inadequate as a meatball "glue", and it was exceedingly difficult to shape the resulting glop into anything that resembled a "ball". I suspect the turkey was partly to blame for this as well, but I contend that if the recipe called for breadcrumbs, it would have been a breeze.

Thankfully, another commenter on the recipe recommended rolling out the meatball cud into "meat-snakes", which can easily be cut and quickly shaped into a ball. Grateful for this revelation, I followed their guidance (thanks opal~/~dragonfly).

Like a said, "meat-snake" about sums it up.

Shortly thereafter I had this little basket of turkey meatballs, and all was right in the world. I plopped these into the boiling broth and tried not to be scalded by the tomato magma.

They floated immediately, which I did not expect. I also added half a cup of rice as this point to thicken things up. The recipe didn't call for carrots, celery, or any other vegetables, but after seeing the pea pods in the top image, I think it certainly could have used them for a "fresher" flavor. Some recipes also called for potatoes, but that was venturing perilously close to stew territory for me.

After half an hour, all the meatballs had risen and the soup was ready to eat. I ladled it into a bowl.

It was still quite hot, but not too hot to admire and photograph. I then added my favorite garnish and ate it.

And.........I was disappointed. The tomatoes were delicious, and the cilantro was a great addition to the meatballs, but the broth itself was too salty (and I have a huge salt tooth) and the meatballs were a little dry and lean. I had hoped to avoid the greasy meatballs I ended up with when I used plain beef weeks earlier, and this time ended up with something on the other side of the spectrum. If I were to make this again, I would certainly follow the recipe with regard to the beef/pork mixture, and substitute a cup of water in place of the last can of beef stock. This brings us to the double-edged sword of making soup. If it isn't great, you are still eating it for the rest of the week. By Wednesday I was ready to give away my first-born for the assurance I would never see another meatball again.

And now, the special bonus Thanksgiving recipe. I think I took pictures of this, but I don't know where they are and frankly, the photos are inconsequential. I made an Pumpkin Ooey-Gooey Butter Cake a few weeks ago for another work-sanctioned bake-off, which was from another nebulae, and I mean that in the best possible way.

The butter-cake portion is the most melt-in-your-mouth, delicious cake you can imagine. It has a very slight outer crispness and density to it that pairs wonderfully with the fluffy mouse-like pumpkin layer on top. It is everything you love in a pie, combined with everything you love in a cake. I used to scoff at Paula Deen and say uninformed things like "anything tastes good if you melt a stick of butter in it", but she wields that stick of butter like Michelangelo did his paintbrush, and Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake is her Sistine Chapel. If you are responsible for making dessert this Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and make this. My mother already requested I bring home a batch. Here's the recipe:

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

3. To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

4. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No mo' Loko

How did a colorful beverage spur the fastest bipartisan response in recent memory? In the span of less than a month, Four Loko has gone from obscure drink to the cause of all societal ills. Yes, Four Loko has caffeine. Yes, Four Loko has alcohol. And yes, if you drink more than one you will likely experience the first 48 hangover of your life (sorry to break it to you, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz). But none of those statements warrant an FDA investigation or a massive product recall. Have these enraged Senators ever heard of cigarettes or Percocet or an Irish Coffee? All of these can be fatal and are available to the general public with minimal legal obstacles. But when a manufacturer has the audacity to offer a single product that combines two things that have been bar staples for decades, well, we need some serious intervention to save us from ourselves. Well I hope you're happy Senator Schumer, because Four Loko is effectively banned starting today and in response, Four Loko has decided to remove all caffeine and herbal supplements from their products in the future. But caffeine and alcohol will live on, albeit in separate containers. I guess if there is any silver lining to the Four Loko saga, it's that it gave us a glimpse into how swift government can work when they have a common cause. Unfortunately, in this case the common cause was finding a scapegoat for stupid college kids. Wait, did Four Loko just turn me into a Libertarian?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Repeat: Girl Talk - All Day

Note: Girl Talk's newest album All Day, is available as a free download via his website here. Also, the wikipedia entry in which fans identify samples is here. There are 373. Whoa.

Maybe this is a cop-out to review as a single track, but as an individually wrapped, single-serving treat is how Mr. Gillis intended his latest opus to be enjoyed. How do you even review an album like this anyway? On what merits do you gauge its success? Samples per minute? Zaniest artist pairings? How many of the sampled songs I downloaded after listening? Gillis has always made his work on his own terms, while the pop-music he samples decays and disintegrates at an ever-increasing rate. Most songs peak and fizzle out in a matter of a couple weeks, while the truly great ones are lucky to chart for a month before they are consumed by the shifting tides. This environment is not conducive to Greg Gillis' sonic collage, but he still finds ways to arrange and assemble recognizable bitlets from hundreds of songs that had previously been confined to the shadowy depths of an iTunes playlist or a blackout Karaoke night and breathe new life into them. Girl Talk's albums are immensely enjoyable because they are incredibly subjective. Each listener will recognize different samples and overlook others. Each person will have different memories associated with the snippets that will resurface and fade away as another takes its place. There is one guarantee with a Girl Talk album however; there will be a handful of chill-inducing moments. Two songs that dance beautifully with one another and transcend the term "mash-up" altogether. Here are mine:

Foxy Brown-Hot Spot/Peter Gabriel-In Your Eyes 12:32

ODB-Shimmy Shimmy Ya/Radiohead - Creep 21:25

Paul Simon-Cecilia/Lil Jon-Get Low 27:50.

Lil Wayne-I Want It All/New Order-Bizarre Love Triangle 31:27

Twista-Wetter/U2-With Or Without You 34:00

Arcade Fire-Wake Up/Birdman-Money to Blow 51:00

Phoenix-1901/Ludacris-How Low 59:40

Rolling Stones-Paint It Black/Wiz Khalifa- Black and Yellow 1:04:39

Fine Young Cannibals-Good Thing/Gucci Mane- Gucci Time- 1:06:05

What are yours?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

EDU: Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Since Mr. LollipopsAndCrisps is getting down with his soup self, I decided that I would make a weekly food item and submit a "guest blog" to go along with his soup post.  I'm not into the savory as much as the sweet and I've been ripping a daily cupcake recipe off of my 365 Cupcakes daily calendar and storing the ones I like.  I've never had a reason to make the recipes before so this is the perfect excuse.  I asked Mr. LAC himself which recipe he'd like to see first and the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes recipe was his choice.

What you'll need for the cupcakes:

1 cup sweet butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 crushed cream-filled chocolate cookies

*I halved the recipe and it made 11 cupcakes.

This recipe is super easy.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Save paper by using silicone cupcake cups and place them in a cupcake pan (or use paper, I suppose).  Then, simply combine all of the ingredients except the cookies in a large bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until smooth.

Stir in the cookies.  I used a potato masher to crush the cookies in a bowl, making sure they were very finely crushed.

Spoon the batter into the cups and bake them for 20 minutes.  Cool them on a wire rack.

What you'll need for the frosting:

3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 cup sweet butter, softened
Pinch of salt
10 chopped cream-filled chocolate cookies

I have no idea why the sugar has to be sifted but I did it anyway.  Beat the softened butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer until smooth.  I decided to pour in a little whole milk to make the frosting smoother, about two tablespoons.  I think the frosting tastes a lot like butter, it's not my favorite recipe.  Frost the cupcakes.  Chop the cookies up a lot coarser than before and dunk the frosted cupcakes into the cookies to coat them.


EDITORS NOTE: These were delicious. My only complaint is that she didn't make the whole recipe, so there were 30 Oreos left tantalizing me on the living room table. The frosting was perfectly sweet and smooth, and there were several yummy chunks of Oreo to behold. At first I thought it was just a normal cupcake with Oreos sprinkled on top, oh nononono. Oreos abound. I can get used to a weekly dessert guest blog :).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Miracle Of The Sea

After 2 days adrift at sea, Americans have a stunning rescue to rejoice in. In a situation of unfathomable inconvenience, the 4500 aboard Carnval's Splendor of the Seas dug deep, much like Aron Ralston did in his predicament and kept hope alive in the face of cold food and "smelly toilets". I don't think it's presumptuous to assume that if this happened a year or two ago, Danny Boyle would have scrapped 127 Hours to pay homage to this triumph of the human spirit instead.

If you've been on a cruise before, you will likely appreciate the fortitude of those aboard the Splendor, and if you haven't, don't judge lest ye be judged. Cruise ships are terribly bothersome to begin with (a fact best documented by the late David Foster Wallace in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"), with meager entertainment and mediocre table service. In fact, on more than one occasion I could barely tell what type of animal the my hotel-room towels were contorted into. The ice in your drinks melt quickly poolside and it took entirely too many snaps of my fingers to get the attention of a staff member to top me off. And don't even get me STARTED on the food. I wouldn't serve their filet mignon to my dog, and I needed a sledgehammer to crack the creme brulee. So when I heard that the poor passengers aboard the Splendor were enduring Deli Meat and DRY CEREAL, I had half a mind to mail 4500 care-packages to the middle of Pacific. Mercifully, the US Navy air-dropped Spam and Pop-tarts before cannibalism took hold.

I've heard that Carnival Cruise Lines are completely reimbursing everyone and offering them a voucher for a free cruise, but who is going to be there for them when this is all forgotten? Will Carnival be paying their therapy? Their medical bills? Doubtful. Take a look at these two gentlemen. They are going to need some serious psychotherapy to erase these nightmares from their unconscious. Americans get a bad rap for being spoiled wissies, but when challenged with a situation this unbearable, real Americans dust themselves off and ask for seconds. Chilean miners, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nice to Tweet You

I joined Twitter yesterday. My handle is inconsequential. Some may see this as an acknowledgement of its potential as a social network, a tad hypocritical considering my Facebook rant of a few months ago, others might see it as the start of a long, steady spiral that ends in me drinking the dregs of discarded Four Loko cans under the Alewife Bridge. Well, you're all wrong.

I still think having an active Twitter account is probably one of the most ego-maniacal things a person can do. It reeks of self-importance and desperation, like obnoxious Youtube comments that try to direct viewers to their "funnier!" videos that are inevitably marked as spam and deleted by moderators ad nauseum. A study recently estimated that 71% of all Tweets are ignored, a number that skyrockets when you filter out celebrities and internet personalities. Frankly, I'm surprised this number isn't higher. Now before you start with the pot kettle black talk, I'd like to remark that I take great pains to avoid "spamming" people with my blog posts. I do link them to my Google Buzz, and often update my status accordingly when a new post goes up (which I will do seconds after publishing/editing/republishing this), but very rarely post them to Facebook, and never harass people into reading it. I would sooner close the shutters on this blog than bombard people with childish "look at me, look at meeee!" self-promotion. If that is what is keeping me from being a household name, so be it (and let's face it, it probably is).

What I will acknowledge however, is how great Twitter is for delivery of information. Perusing Facebook for interesting information is like trying to sip from a firehose. You will end up thirsy and soaked. Maybe Twitter is how Facebook could be if Zuckerberg could do it all over again. It lacks a lot of the intimacy (and certainly the stalking), but is far more adept at getting down to the nitty-gritty. As such, I have no intention of posting anything on Twitter. However, I am following several people I consider fascinating, and would like to be notified when they share something, as it will often be thoughtful and most importantly CONCISE. I am following Roger Ebert, Kanye West, Shaq, Astrophysicist Neil Tyson, Stephen Colbert, and others. I follow a few podcasts I like to know when they put up new episodes, I follow a few bands I like for touring/album information, I may follow others if they merit it. Twitter is an unparalleled website for aggregating things you are interested in, in some ways better than Google Reader. It's not great for the deluded looking for a soapbox, but they'll inevitably get the hint sooner or later. It's Myspace without the pedophiles and page layouts that put your browser in a tilt-a-whirl. And oh look, I already have 4 Followers. I can see how people get so caught up in this.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Edu: Lentil Soup

I love soup. Let me define soup for you by telling you what soup is not. Soup should not have a consistency that allows consumption through a straw (I'm talking to you Butternut Squash). Soup should also be served hot, with a piece of warm, soft, crunchy bread. While we're at it, Soups should also not have a broth so thick that it resembles chunky gravy, or worse Gravy Train. Soup should have character, like my delicious Mulligatawny of last winter. Soup should embrace a mix of ingredients and flavors and textures instead of pureeing everything into oblivion. A good Soup is hearty and strangely refreshing. And finally, Soup should be enjoyed in the Fall/Winter months. If you want Gazpacho or Chowder, go away. If you want Stew or Bisque, buzz off. I like soup, and will be making a new soup every week and compiling the recipes here for safe-keeping.

Last week I made a Mini-Meatball Soup by Rachael Ray that I found on the Food Network website. I love Italian Wedding soup, and have been looking for similar soups (meatballs + some sort of pasta) to help me branch out into new soups without getting too crazy. It was pretty tasty, but I should have made Turkey meatballs instead of ground Beef, and added some more spices. The ground beef was just too fatty and the meatballs were a bit greasy. From now on I am sticking with Turkey meatballs and doubling all the spices. For this week's soup, I decided to try an ingredient I have never cooked with before, or eaten for that matter; lentils.

You may or may not already be familiar with lentils, but if asked to describe them prior to yesterday I would have probably used the adjective "beany" and probably "icky". Well, lentils are in fact a legume, but icky they are not. I was actually a little concerned to be making my first soup without meat in it. I think of meat as a soup safety net. In case the veggies are undercooked or the soup is poorly seasoned, sausage/meatballs are there to distract you. This fear proved to be unfounded. I'll stop talking now and get to the recipe. Please follow along at home:

Here is what you will need:

Disregard the Newcastle and the shrubbery. Here are the ingredients in list form for the hard-of-seeing.

1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaf
2 teaspoon dried basil
2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
2 cups dry lentils
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste.

Conveniently, I had most of these things already from the Mini-meatball soup and only had to run out for Chicken broth, lentils and tomatoes. Like all recipes, it is important to have your mise-en-place (not to be confused with mise-en-scene, which I typed first. Although, if you have a cooking show or like to pretend you do when you're alone, this is important too.)

I don't know why I don't just use my stock carrot/celery/onion photo that I've taken a million times, but I don't and always end up getting my camera all wet after washing everything. Obviously I cut the ends off these guys and scrubbed off any dirt/discoloration/worms. I didn't peel the carrots because the skin adds flavor and I have enough trouble handling normal utensils.

Carrots and celery joined by 1 medium yellow onion, awkwardly diced on a cutting board that was already half full of vegetables. The things I do for a nice photo. Ah, reminds me of me moderland.

This is thrown into a large pot lined with olive oil on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are "fragrant". If you're not sure what that means, stick your head over the pot and if you are instantly brought to tears, it is fragrant.

Once the veggies are cooked, add your Garlic and spices. Note: As I mentioned earlier, I doubled all the spices and added Cumin and Red pepper flakes not featured in the original recipe. The recipe above contains all my modifications. I apologize for the awkward camera angle, but the light in my kitchen is obnoxious and it's damn near impossible to not cast a shadow on things. As such, I have to stand ten feet away and zoom and hold my camera above my head like a mental patient. I closed the blinds first.

After another two minutes to allow the spices and garlic to work their sultry wonders on the veggies, add you 8 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want the soup to be "truly" vegetarian), your two cans of stewed tomatoes (these have salt in them so I did not add any more salt), and of course, your two cups of lentils. Bring this to a rigorous boil, and reduce to simmer for about an hour. Here's what boiling looks like, you dolts.

What did I do for my hour? I read the Boston Phoenix, ate some Goldfish, stirred occasionally, and watched the first quarter of what turned out to be a shellacking of the Patriots. After an hour, I checked on things and added the Spinach (torn up into medium pieces) and the two tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar. This is what was staring back at me from the stove.

It smelled delightful. I delicately ladled it into a bowl and arranged a few pieces of bread for a photo before I dug in and burned my mouth quite extensively. This is the photo that will be opposite this recipe in my upcoming cookbook.

I like to think I can treat my own food impartially, but this was really superb. Strangely, the lentils seemed to have disintegrated a bit during the boiling process, but actually gave the soup a wholesome and meaty texture that I'm not sure would have been there otherwise. The cumin and red pepper gave it a modest kick and all the veggies were soft without being mushy. Here's what people are saying about it:

"I love this soup." - AG

"I hate to give you compliments, but this is the best lentil soup I've ever had. Even better than my mom's." -JB

"If I were on death row, this would be my last meal." -Anonymous

Friday, November 5, 2010

On Repeat: Lupe Fiasco - The Show Goes On

When you're a musician, inspiration can come from anywhere. Kanye West pieced together snippets from King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" for his single "Power", Lil Wayne and Eminem borrowed Haddaway's "What Is Love?" for their most recent collaboration, and now Lupe has gotten into the game with "Show Goes On" his first single of his upcoming LASERS, slated for a 2011 release. It might be too early to call Modest Mouse's "Float On" a classic (has it really been 6 years?), but Lupe does a fantastic job here of expanding and re-purposing the hook of the original while salvaging intricacies like the prickly guitar part that made it such a hit in the first place. His artistic liberties include an energetic brass section and an army of all-too-familiar tumbling drum hits, but the piece as a whole works surprisingly well due to Lupe's elastic delivery and brainy verses. I'm actually a little embarrassed about how long it took me to recognize the sample, and had to turn down the music to hum the chorus in my car until it came to me.

Shamefully, Lupe's name is rarely brought up when discussing the biggest and best in hip-hop. His first two albums were both critically acclaimed and commercially embraced, each selling over 500,000 copies, but in the 3 years since, he has remained virtually silent. Unlike most hip-hop personalities who would sooner die than have their names fade out of the spotlight, churning out mixtapes and guest verses at a dizzying rate, Lupe is one of the few that still subscribe to "Quality" over "Quantity", as evidenced by his lone mixtape, 2009's brilliant "Enemy of the State". Now that his tiff with Atlantic Records seems to have been smoothed over (his fans have had to picket and petition to get a release date), I can't wait to hear what Fiasco has up his sleeve for LASERS. Hopefully it's enough to get him back into the conversation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The F is for Freedom

Not to diminish Republican victory laps (although that would be a bonus), but tomorrow marks a momentous occasion, one that transcends politics and promises bring all Americans together in celebration. Tomorrow is November 4th, the day Dwayne Michael Carter Jr AKA Weezy F. Baby AKA Lil Wayne is released from Rikers Island Penitentiary after serving an 8-month sentence for gun possession. Much has been said about Wayne's time spent in prison, from him being forced to serve his final month in solitary after being caught with contraband (headphones) to speculation regarding the release of his massively anticipated The Carter IV immediately following his liberation. It is difficult to confirm or deny these claims, but one thing is incontrovertible fact; Lil Wayne released a ton of music while he was incarcerated. Whether these tracks have been stockpiled for years in preparation for his inevitable prison sentence or he simply went on a recording binge in his final days of freedom (I'm guessing the latter), most of the songs compare favorably to some of his best work. So, in honor  of Wayne rejoining society, I'd like to list some of my favorite imprisoned Lil Wayne tracks to go on top of the 20 (TWENTY) music videos he recorded in the weekend before he reported to jail. Note: All of these songs were released while Wayne was in Rikers.

Bill Gates

Right Above It

No Love  (with Eminem)

Miss Me (with Drake)

I'm On It (with Tyga)

Shades (with Justin Timberlake and Diddy)

Light Up

Somehow the word 'prolific' just doesn't seem right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moss Exodus

I couldn't help but feel a swelling of pride yesterday when I read the transcript of Randy Moss' postgame news conference following the Vikings 28-18 loss to the Patriots in Foxborough. In typical Randy fashion, he accepted no questions from reporters, instead offering a stream-of-conscious monologue in which he referred to his former coach Bill Belichick as "the greatest coach in the history of football", Tom Brady as "Tommy Boy" and physically saluted Patriot owners the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization before he left the stage. He admitted shedding a tear when fans gave him a standing ovation at the end of the game and minced no words at voicing his displeasure with the Vikings lack of preparation.

While I can't speak from experience, what has transpired here is not unlike being a parent of a moody teenager. The Patriots were exceedingly patient with Randy throughout his tenure here, choosing to lead by example with class-acts like Tom Brady rather than put him in the dog-house every time he misbehaved. At every opportunity, the organization took the high road. They praised his effort, aggressively refuted any rumor, and defended him like he was their child, regardless of the truth. He certainly pushed their generosity to its limit, but even as they traded him away, they took great pains to put him where he wanted to go, and continued to sing his praises in the weeks following his departure. This is something that doesn't happen anywhere in life, let alone in the world of professional sports where most players and coaches are egotistical loose cannons and don't have a hair-widths of patience between them. Can you imagine being a complete asshole (albeit talented) at your place of work for three years and getting your boss to write you a glowing recommendation for another job? Some would call Belichick naive, others would call him a psychological mastermind but I have an alternate theory; maybe he is just a nice guy?

Sure there's a business side to the Patriots and they certainly had an incentive to bend over backwards for a player of Randy's caliber, but when was the last time any member of the Patriots organization had anything bad to say about a former player? They have a way of doing business and handling themselves that is best encapsulated in a word that is thrown around far too often but very rarely merited: Professional. Like a parent, Belichick has high expectations for his players, but also like an effective parent, he has unwavering composure and always seems more disappointed than angry when his kids make a mistake. And when he smiles, it's like all of the angels in the sky have joined hands in song. Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said it best following the game yesterday, "Got to keep him smiling."

Even the most professional of organizations surely have moments when they question their decisions, and I'm sure the Patriots are no different. It couldn't have been easy to listen to Randy's first post game rant after Week 1 and continue to support him, hoping upon hope that he would someday come around. Well, it took him a month, but like a spoiled teenager coming home from college for the first time, Randy has finally seen how special the Patriots really are. And considering the Vikings released him this afternoon following his comments yesterday, it's clear what kind of organization Minnesota is as well.