Murs – Have A Nice Life Review

Album Specs

Tracks/Length: 14 tracks, 47 minutes (+2 bonus tracks, “The Strangest” and “Fun-eral”)

Notable Guest Appearances: MDNR (“No More Control”), King Fantastic (“Two Step”), E-40 (“PTSD”), Slug of Atmosphere (“Fun-eral”)

Album Genre/Tone: Hip-Hop, serious topics and positive tones both approached with humor, great variety in instrumentals

Lead Single: “Okey Dog”

Purchase album at Strange Music.


Review Scale:

The mythical A+: Pretty much the best eargasm you’ve ever experienced. This is the album you will be listening to when you are sixty and your grandchildren will be judging you for.

A: All you need to appreciate this album is two ears connected to a heart. Whether it’s the deeper message, the prolific beats or memorable lyrics, everybody should be listening to this record.

B: If you like the genre, then you will love this album. You might keep it on repeat for a month, but it will eventually find itself in the bowels of your shuffle list. Hardcore fans of the artist will disagree with this rating, but it can be considered more niche than universally acceptable.

C: There are a solid tracks, but it’s really only worth a few rotations as a complete package. Those not into the genre probably shouldn’t even bother. It’s the musical equivalent of a sad handjob.

DThis album fails, in most aspects, to make a good or lasting impression. However, some out there might find joy in it, if even for only a few songs. 

F: The only thing this album is good for is to make your ears bleed. You should steal every copy of this album and throw them all into a fire for a sacrifice ceremony meant to disband the demons living in the CD. And I say steal because it is obviously not worth the money. Or it would make a great gift for your enemies.


History Behind the Album

Perhaps one of the most important things to realize about this album is that it is Murs’ first album under the Strange Music label. Murs’ journey with Strange Music began between 2006 and 2007 when Murs invited the Strange Music crew to perform with him at the “Paid Dues” festival. Little did he know, this event would create valuable partnerships for him. Tech N9ne and the rest of the crew recognized the respect Murs had for Strange Music and Hip-Hop – as well as his skill – and proceeded to fly him out to meet the whole Strange Music crew. Murs was later asked to join Tech on a major tour he was preparing to journey on as sign of mutual respect. Murs recognized the mutual appreciation and had never experienced a true partnership like this throughout his career. After breaking bread with the Strange Music family and turning down a separate, more visible tour, Murs’ journey down the strange road official began. Although Murs did not officially sign with Strange Music until February 2, 2014, the connection was always there.

murs better call saul

With this album in particular, it was vital for Murs to make it was self-reflective as possible. With the label approving Murs to have creative control with his album, the rest began to fall into place. The first step to achieving this goal was asking his old homie, “Jessie,” to produce his album and take the album’s sound as close to Murs’ roots as possible. Murs aimed to have this album speak to him personally. Throughout his career, he has had songs which highlight his personal sound; however, none like Have a Nice Life. Murs saw this album as a new start to his career, a new beginning, and a fresh chance to put himself in an album. During an interview with HotNewHipHop, Murs speaks upon his new album by stating, “Basically the duality of the term Have A Nice Life is, it could be a nice way of just wishing someone the best, or it could be a nice way of saying ‘Fuck outta my face’ without saying it. It’s something I’ve used with the police often, and people who fuck up my order at Chick Fil A.” He continued by explained “It’s just me, it’s who I am.” With little press showcasing Strange Music’s addition of Murs’, the album as a whole did not receiving major attention, only being announced just over a month before its release. Murs officially announced his new album on April 14, 2015, and proceeded to drop on May 19, 2015.

What You’re in For

While Murs has made a name for himself throughout the years, most of his career has been spent creating music with others. Whether it’s being part of a group of lyricists (Living Legends, 3 Melancholy Gypsies, The White Mandingos, ¡Mayday!), a single artist (Slug from Atmosphere, Fashawn, Terrace Martin) or his well-chronicled masterpieces with producer 9th Wonder, Murs has not had the opportunity to put out his own sound since his major label debut, MURS for President. Murs hasn’t really been censored or boxed in when it comes to what defines him, but Have A Nice Life is a byproduct of his twenty year career forged in struggle, love and heartbreak.

black lives matter

Most artists go for a specific theme or genre when it comes to a concept record, but this album has so much variety that you there is something for everybody on it. Instead of letting the songs define the type of music on the record, the man that Murs is defines the content of his songs. You can expect social and political commentary, but it’s not the familiar rage that has permeated its way onto most Hip-Hop tracks. The album’s leading single “Okey Dog” is a fresh take on a similar concept, giving kids a way to still show strength without succumbing to the pitfalls of gang violence. Murs comes across like your cool uncle who tries to school you on how to be a man as opposed to the angsty raptivist who wants to burn the world down.

okey dog

While heavy topics like gang violence and death are discussed (“I Miss Mikey,” “No More Control,” “Woke Up Dead”), the majority of the record is spent on talking about love (“Mi Corazon” is a bi-lingual masterpiece that takes listeners back to their first love) and just… growing old and happy (“Pussy & Pizza”). Some of the songs come across as flat and not very memorable, but it doesn’t derail the experience of the album. Each track can be enjoyed separately (thank you, mp3 players), as the album isn’t really a cohesive experience. It almost feels like 14 tracks that were released separately instead of being created with a singular entity in mind.

okey dog old man

One of my favorite aspects about Murs is that, like Slug of Atmosphere, everything he says is clear and concise, making it easier for listeners to connect to the music instead of spending time trying to figure out what he’s saying. The rhyme schemes are very straight-forward; there isn’t much figurative language to his lyrics, but his strength has always been powerful statements and poetic story-telling. However, with no track lasting over four minutes, it’s to be expected that most of the album’s moments would come from the musical arrangement of the album as opposed to complex concepts.

Songs On Repeat

“P.T.S.D.” featuring E-40

Candy Bars: “You really think you know how my people live?/You think you down because you know who Deebo is?/PTSD on my emo shit/Deep down in my heart, where the evil lives.”

During an interview, Murs speaks about his past, and growing up in a rough neighborhood stating how a majority of the time, he feared for his life. Murs mentions how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something not often spoken about in the black community, because traumatic events are both expected and frequent. Using his own experiences, Murs hopes to reach a wide base with his message.

“No More Control” featuring MNDR

Candy Bars: “If black lives matter, then black lives matter/And the color of the killer shouldn’t even be a factor.”

Murs created this song with the purpose to inspire people to seek change in the black community as well as within the Hip-Hop community. During a press release for the album, Murs states, “’No More Control’ is about not letting the media or powers that be control us or guide us into thinking that the problem is anything other than violence.”

“Black Girls Be Like”

Candy Bars: “Black girls gotta know their worth/And every black girl gotta know this verse.”

The subject matter and vibe of this song are completely not what I expected. Murs LOVES writing songs about girls, and unless they’re romantic, they aren’t usually endearing. However, this breakdancing-inspired sound is an ode to black women and is as empowering as it is dope. It’s genius, because instead of coming across as sappy, “Black Girls Be Like” is an instant B-Boy classic with an amazing message!

“I Miss Mikey”

Candy Bars: “Wanna escape the path that you’re on?/Erasing the pain by waving a wand/Some roll a J, some hit the bong/I let the beat play, then I make a song.”

The loss of Eyedea and Ability rapper Mike Larsen in 2010 hit the Hip-Hop world hard, especially those connected to the Rhymesayers family. Murs’ lament to Eyedea is a wonderfully honest complement to Atmosphere’s “Flicker” off the Southsiders record last year that broadens the sentiment to dealing with the regular loss of his friends.

The Quick and Dirty

Grade: B+

murs have a nice life 01

Have A Nice Life may not refine Hip-Hop, but it defines the man that Murs has become throughout the years. He’s never been about gang-banging, selling drugs or degrading women, but now his voices against them sound more like a sage’s wisdom than a big brother’s nagging. Murs’ debut with Strange Music is 100% Murs and that’s best for all of us.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib and Evan Lowe

Diggin’ Through the Crates: The Roots “Thought @ Work”

Song: “Thought @ Work”

Artist: The Roots

Album: Phrenology

Lyric: “I’m like Aquaman and Brown Hornet/I’m like Imhotep but don’t flaunt it.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

This time on “Diggin’ Through the Crates, we focus our time on parallel subjects: The Roots out of Philadelphia, Aquaman, Brown Hornet, and Imhotep. Chances are, if you have watched Jimmy Fallon do his Late Night or Tonight Show thing in the past few years, then you know The Roots as the band that does all the homemade covers of pop songs (the Sesame Street theme is my favorite). However, to those of us rooted in Hip-Hop, The Legendary Roots Crew are the best damn group to ever rock a crowd. While Wu Tang Clan got all the hype for knockin’ heads in Staten Island, The Roots were noddin’ heads all over the country with their genre-neutral melodies and conscience rhymes. Perhaps being that good was a gift and a curse, with millions of fans across the world yet still not leading to the commercial success that other groups in their class had (Wu Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A., etc). The Roots are always the underdog, and with the release of their most recent record, And When You Shoot Your Cousin, the world doubted they could still put music out like they used to. The Roots are a sleeping giant, and they finally have the recognition they deserve by being on the best late show on television and whether it’s soft melodies like “What They Do” or venomous cyphers like this one here, The Roots always put heart into their music.

“Thought @ Work” is five minutes of hard-hitting rhymes by head lyricist Black Thought, who covers everything from modern superheroes to ancient Gods in just one line. This started off as a way for us to give a nod to the recent photo that dropped of Jason Momoa as Aquaman, but no other reference embodied the spirit of the underdog quite like this gem. Until “Unite the Seven” became a household phrase (well, maybe just our household), Aquaman has been steadily been attempting to gain the reputation of being a comic book character people could get behind. His days of riding seahorses are over; Arthur Curry is a powerful force in the comic book world, possessing skills that no other on the Justice League has. He is a king of his own domain, a domain in which the other Justice Leaguers have no power in. Most importantly is his connection to ocean dwellers – his telepathy can direct the oceans’ inhabitants the way no other being could otherwise. I’m not saying that Philadelphia is the same as Atlantis, but both Aquaman and Black Thought have a special connection to and draw power from the land they rule.

Meanwhile, the Brown Hornet was a reference to a character from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, first airing in 1979. Created by Bill Cosby, Brown Hornet was the first mainstream animated black superhero to air on television. He was given segments within the show instead of his own series, believed to be due to Cosby wanting to avoid the backlash from putting out a black superhero cartoon based on morality – which was unheard of at the time. BH was a parody of the Green Hornet, and sort of a bumbling hero similar to Inspector Gadget, one that resolved issues with the help of his sidekicks, here named Tweetle Beele and Stinger. Black Thought, like the Brown Hornet, is a mighty force for good, but may have fallen to the wayside by not indulging in what mainstream media has dictated should be the content of Hip Hop these days. Even at the risk of falling off in popularity, Black Thought and the Legendary Roots Crew stand for justice and behind their people.

Contributing to this piece was Lewis Brown, the new Brown Hornet. You can find him here!

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Lupe Fiasco “Mural”

Song: “Mural”

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Album: Tetsuo & Youth

Lyric: “I run the Gambit like I’m throwing cards/From popular mechanics to overdosing hearts/Paint cold pictures like Nova Scotia landscapes/Nerd game make Mandelbrot sets when we handshake”

Character Reference/Meaning:

“Digging Through the Crates” is finally back! What better way to ring in the return of “DTC” with a track off Lupe Fiasco’s new album, Tetsuo & Youth. Through the years, Lupe Fiasco has earned a reputation as a complex wordsmith, a conscious rapper who isn’t afraid to speak what’s on his mind, and above all, a BIG FAT NERD. This is not Lupe’s first time getting covered in DTC (See “Lightwork” and “Lupe Back”), and it will definitely not be his last. From Tetsuo‘s Metal Gear Solid (“Adoration of the Magi”) and Breaking Bad (“Deliver”) lines to the numerous anime references throughout his career, Lupe is well-versed at all things geek. The quotable we are focusing on today is this gem from the album opener “Mural,” referring to Marvel’s Gambit.

Gifted with the ability to transfer kinetic energy to physical objects, Remy LaBeau was created by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee during their early 90’s run on X-Men. Gambit aligns himself with the good guys, but he isn’t necessarily referred to as a “good guy.” Remy’s past is a murky one; raised by a roaming band of thieves, he never knew any life but the streets, and robbing to survive was never a strange concept to him. He became notoriously good at thieving, fighting and cheating – I mean, it’s no coincidence that his arsenal of choice includes playing cards. However, Gambit’s “gift,” his mutant powers, kept him from fitting in with the group of criminals which were the closest thing to a family. If they were to find out, they would reject him – think he was a freak and would not understand his unique skill-set, or how it could benefit the Thieves’ Guild.

His eventual fall from grace in the group came in the form of a betrayal in the name of doing the right thing (Weapon X: First Class 2008), where he refused to give Nathaniel Essex (Mr. Sinister in disguise) old diaries and logs from the Weapon X program, he destroyed the documents to keep them out of dangerous hands. Gambit’s good will would continue to outweigh his past life of crime with altruistic acts like rescuing a young pre-Storm Ororo from The Shadow King (Uncanny X-Men, 1990). After joining the X-Men, his charm and hard work were enough to convince most of the team that he was on the right side, but hatin’ ass haters like Wolverine continued to ride him twice as hard as everyone else because he didn’t trust that Gambit was telling the truth about his past.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Every kid from the inner-city is threatened with the same treatment that Gambit got when joining the X-Men. In order for the kids in this environment to use their natural “gifts” to their full potential, whether they be intellectual or physical, there’s usually an inevitable separation from home that happens. For many, this could mean going to a better school or moving to a new city for a job; no matter the case, keeping true to yourself can become exponentially harder when those around you judge you for who you used to be. Even worse is trying to explain to those you called family that you don’t belong with them anymore. At the end of the day, joining the X-Men is a better life choice than the Thieves’ Guild, but that didn’t make it any easier for Remy to turn his back on them.


Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo and Youth Review

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth Review

Album Specs

Tracks/Length: 16 tracks, 78:27

Notable Guest Appearances: Nikki Jean (“Little Death,” “No Scratches,” and “Madonna”), Guy Sebastian (“Blur My Hands”), Ab-Soul (“T.R.O.N.”)

Album Genre/Tone: Conscious rap, heavy on instrumentals and complex lyrics

Lead Single: Numerous songs that never made the album. Surprise! However, “Old School Love” was probably the most recognizable.

Purchase on Amazon.


Review Scale:

The mythical A+: Pretty much the best eargasm you’ve ever experienced. This is the album you will be listening to when you are sixty and your grandchildren will be judging you for.

A: All you need to appreciate this album is two ears connected to a heart. Whether it’s the deeper message, the prolific beats or memorable lyrics, everybody should be listening to this record.

B: If you like the genre, then you will love this album. You might keep it on repeat for a month, but it will eventually find itself in the bowels of your shuffle list. Hardcore fans of the artist will disagree with this rating, but it can be considered more niche than universally acceptable.

C: There are a solid tracks, but it’s really only worth a few rotations as a complete package. Those not into the genre probably shouldn’t even bother. It’s the musical equivalent of a sad handjob.

DThis album fails, in most aspects, to make a good or lasting impression. However, some out there might find joy in it, if even for only a few songs. 

F: The only thing this album is good for is to make your ears bleed. You should steal every copy of this album and throw them all into a fire for a sacrifice ceremony meant to disband the demons living in the CD. And I say steal because it is obviously not worth the money. Or it would make a great gift for your enemies.


History Behind the Album

Lupe Fiasco is no stranger to controversy. Through the last few years, various Twitter beefs (whether they were actually full of animosity or not) and off-putting political comments have made Lupe somewhat of an outcast in the Hip Hop community. Even us here at Hush, who have been Friends of the People since “Touch the Sky” were beginning to waver in our support for the Chicago artist after the years of oddity. Hell, we even put our The Cool-themed group tattoo on hold. Lupe had become bigger than the words he spit, but rather he became the voice of the people. That’s a heavy burden for anybody in their late 20’s (he is now 32) to carry, especially when he was having to fight his own label, Atlantic Records, to put out the same music that got him that acclaim in the first place.

The relationship Lupe had with Atlantic was a doomed one from the start. Inked in 2005, Lupe signed at a time when the era of pushing an artist to create quality albums was coming to a close – just before the explosion of independent artists, viral video A&R and the comeback of one-hit wonders would become norm for the industry. What followed were outcries of apathy and angst surrounded the release of the albums that followed The Cool, openly accepted as modern day classics in the Hip-Hop community for anybody with two ears connected to a brain. Lasers and The Great American Rap Album had some solid tracks that are still on rotation, but you could almost feel the heart soul that was missing from the records; plus, the depression of being enslaved to his record label, Atlantic Records, had begun to affect his passion for making music. It was like they took away his voice – and just left his Instrumental.

Fast forward to Tetsuo & Youth, the highly anticipated, and LAST album on Lupe’s contract. While the album has been shrouded in mystery (and nearly a year of release delays), Lupe has released upwards of ten tracks in steady of the delays – most notably of which, “Old School Love,” was a radio-made hit with blooming sensation Ed Sheeran. Strangely enough, none of these tracks compiled in the past year and some change made the cut. None of the features (Rick Ross, Big K.R.I.T., Chris Brown) made the album, either. Was this Lupe just reverting further into his shell or was he just starting from scratch? Lupe might be bruised from all his attacks, but in order to shut critics up, he needs to do it with his music, not through Twitter. I’m betting One Ring to Rule Them All that Lupe can get back to his super-lyrical roots and unabashed social commentary that made him beloved on his first album, close the gates of Mordor and return to the Shire with Tetsuo & Youth.


What You’re in For

After four studio albums and witnessing the rise and fall of Lupe Fiasco, Tetsuo & Youth may be the the most appropriate way for Lupe to break free of Atlantic Records and show the world what is to come. With Tetsuo & Youth being his fifth studio album, it is quite possible that Hip-Hop is seeing Lupe for who he truly wants to be as an artist. With his first two albums, I believe we saw the Lupe who wanted to enter Hip-Hop strong and produced track off of the life he knew. Contrasting to his first two albums, the next two appeared to be a Lupe who lost passion due to contract restraints which in turn forced a misrepresentation of character.  However, this album shows Lupe’s balance. Be wary though, this album is not for individuals looking for street jamz, protest music, or simple lyrics. Tetsuo & Youth is pretty much an entire album of “Dumb it Down”-esque songs. If you don’t like to think when listening to music, then this is not for you; however, do not let that deter you from the quality it offers.

Above all, the word that would describe Lupe on this album is “comfortable.” There is no more need for him to be the young kid he was, or the outspoken conscious rapper he came to be. He has matured and I believe is finally allowing fans to view his “art.” Tetsuo & Youth offers a mixture of street and conscious tracks like, “They.Resurrect.Over.New (TRON)” which speaks upon substance abuse, and “Prisoner 1&2,” a track that outlines the similarities of prisoners and guards – how they are both trapped. The soulful “Little Death” featuring long-time collaborator Nikki Jean is another reason that this album excels at being Lupe, while still offering something new to long-time fans. The album is not without its missteps, though, as the lead single (of songs that actually made the album) “Deliver” takes a promising concept and makes it all too literal, which can be hard to take seriously. Also, the group track “Chopper” is nearly nine minutes of entirely forgettable and misplaced features with artists that do not deserve to share a track with Lupe; what happened to All-City Chess Club (Asher Roth, B.o.B, The Cool Kids, Blu, J. Cole and others)?

Overall, the theme of Tetsuo seasons plays very well into the flow of the album, with the songs getting progressively “darker,” before getting more and more hopeful towards the tail-end tracks. Tetsuoa & Youth is the most complex and complete records that I have heard in years, and the fact that there is a whole other (FREE!) mixtape full of other tracks that did not make the album make this a subtle win for fans everywhere. After announcing that “ATLANTIC RECORDS won’t release the album until they get a ‘pop’ single” on his Instagram, it’s clear here that Lupe Fiasco is getting the last laugh with the record label that has tried to stunt his growth for years as he releases an album with no discernible “pop song” to fulfill their quota. Maybe Atlantic is tired of the struggle, or perhaps Lupe has pulled the wool over Atlantic’s eyes and has not yet seen the fallout from his actions; either way, the risk was worth it.

Songs On Repeat

“Blur My Hands” featuring Guy Sebastian

Lyrics to Go: “Were you just being polite with your hands?/And it really means I’m number one, and you’re a fan/Well that’s cool, cause I think you’re number one too”

If you don’t analyze the lyrics in this track, there is a good chance the whole concept will go over your head. However, once you understand exactly what Lupe is saying, the creativity is pure genius. This could be the greatest anti-hater track since “Dirt Off Your Shoulders.” To put a positive spin on the negativity and ill-will Lupe Fiasco gets (and let’s be honest, he gets a LOT), Lu imagines that all those middle fingers sent his way are just a unique way of telling him that he is number one? All of the middle fingers Lupe received, both literal and metaphorical, this whole time were they really just another way of saying, “Hey Lupe, you are number one, man!”


“Dots and Lines”

Lyrics to Go: “And your reflection is your connection to more collections of more directions and paths/If your reflection is a mask, then you’re reflective of mass”

Did you think Lupe Fiasco’s dislike for Atlantic Records had piqued? You would be wrong. Although many of his tracks focus on Atlantic, “Dots & Lines” may be the most telling. This song is a warning to future artists looking to find a record deal. The track explains how Lupe wishes he wouldn’t have signed the contract which took away half the person he is, and how he is counting down the days until he once again becomes an independent artist. Witnessing Lupe lose some of his creative freedom throughout his career has hurt both himself and his fans. It’s hard to listen to his second studio album, The Cool, and then his third studio album, Lasers, and believe they came from the same mind. The technical rhyme scheme and intricacy wasn’t apparent anymore. Yet, this has all changed after hearing this album. In order to understand “Dots & Lines,” you have to have a basic knowledge of mathematics. That’s how you know you’re listening to a Lupe Fiasco song – when you have to explain his lyrics using trigonometry. It’s obvious Lupe Fiasco covets nothing more than to be free of his contract, and if he plans to continue to make songs like these, then I hope he never signs another contract again.


“They.Resurrect.Over.New” featuring Ab-Soul & Tori

Lyrics to Go: “Medusa in the go/’Fore Versace turned words in to turquoise/Medusa turned coke into stone/With a hand on her thigh, she looked me in the eye and said/Proceed to the next level”

Only Lupe can create an entire song about drug use and have you so confused you think the song is about video games. If Eminem is a Rap God, that would make Lupe Fiasco Galileo. Only Lupe will make you want to sit down and read his lyrics just to try to understand what is happening. In case you were wondering, that is exactly what happened with, “They.Resurrect.Over.New (T.R.O.N.).” This is perhaps the most beautiful way to see the combination of “street” Lupe, and “activist” Lupe.  This song shows you that gritty side of the streets through a poets tongue. “TRON”  is Lupe demonstrating the artist he truly is. I believe with songs such as theses, we are witnessing the artist Lupe wants to be. Whether you see this song being about substance abuse or gateway drugs or how to proceed to the next level in Tron, this song will blow (haaa… get it?) your mind.


The Quick and Dirty

Grade: B

Most Hip Hop artists get credit for making this rap thing look easier; well, Lupe Fiasco gets credit for making rapping look very, very difficult. The rhyme scheme Lupe uses is most like a lyrical jigsaw puzzle, one that takes hours of attention to even hint at seeing the bigger picture. Tetsuo & Youth is not just an intellectually superior album, but one that musically complements the analytical style of rhymes that can be a little hard to digest at times. The beauty of each track’s instrumentals, coupled with the overall uplifting tone of the album, gives off the impression that Wasalu Jaco is finally at a place where he wants to be. Regardless of his troubles on social media, he has at least found peace on the mic, and the result is gorgeous.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib and Evan Lowe


Diggin’ Through the Crates: RZA “We Pop”

Song: “We Pop”

Artist: RZA Ft. Division & Ol’ Dirty Bastard

AlbumBirth of a Prince (2003)

Lyric: “I cock arm, pass the bomb, like Troy Aikman/Play the basement like Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.”


Character Reference/Meaning:

Welcome back DTCers! Hope you all had a fantastic 4th of July. Over at Hush headquarters, we celebrated the great Red, White, and Nerd! Let’s keep it going, shall we? This week’s DTC features a repeat rapper, the one, the only, the RZA. This track comes off of his 3rd solo studio album and brings with it not only a powerful message, but some supreme nerdiness as well. Like all rap artists, RZA strives for success (he already found it if y’all didn’t know), and in order to be successful you have to make it happen. If you are to become one of the greats and have little boys and girls listening to your hits when you are long past, you have to do one thing. Work. If you don’t put in the work, and have no dedication to your craft, then no one will respect it. That is exactly what RZA expressed in this so skillfully executed nerdy comic reference.

Since 1989, or even before, RZA has been dedicated to his craft. He has put in the work from day one and look at all it has gotten him: multiple albums, countless soundtrack features, tons of features on albums and has been named one of the top music producers according to Vibe, NME, and The Source. RZA has also showed us his acting and directing chops in various films. If you people out there don’t think RZA is neither a star nor a nerd, just Google “RZA” and “Afro Samurai” together, and let all your doubts fade way with your embarrassment for being so foolish. It’s easy to see that RZA is a nerd simply based on this lyric. He doesn’t say “Batman and Robin;” he uses their secret identities. If you know secret identities, then you may be a nerd – congratulations.

RZA understands the importance of having a solid work ethic. Regardless of what you do, if you don’t do it with conviction and dedication, someone who is putting in the work will pass you any day now. Regardless if you are writing the next big comic book, or starting to write your first rhyme, you should strive to be hall of fame quality. You need to be Troy Aikman in a sense, and put everything you have into that one pass. Give your heart and soul into your work, and the work will speak for itself. As you all know RZA goes hard in the paint and truly shows off his craft by using a skillful comic book reference. Most rappers starting out, or even today find their basement to be the base of operations. With eggshell cartons lining the wall, and pantyhose over the microphone, the basement becomes a true recording studio. For aspiring artists on the come up, that basement is the Batcave. In Gotham, if there was no Batcave, would there be a Batman and Robin? If the answer is yes, would they be as effective as they are? Every person, despite the craft, needs a place to make the greatness happen. Batman and Robin have the Batcave, Superman has the Fortress of Solitude, Iron Man has the Stark Tower, and RZA has the recording studio. Similar to the Batcave, the infamous basement recording studio is both out of sight, and underground… I see what you did there RZA, I see it. If you aren’t working hard when you are out of sight and out of mind, then dedication isn’t part of your skill set. Because if you do work hard, who knows, you could be the next RZA, you could be the next Bruce Wayne, you could be the next Dick Grayson. Work hard, do what you do, and make the basement proud!

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Organized Konfusion “Bring It On”

Song: “Bring It On”

Artist: Organized Konfusion

AlbumStress: The Extinction Agenda (1994)

Lyric: “Rippin shit up at prime time, I’m Optimus Prime-time material/Imperial wizard of vocabularic havoc, I eat MC’s like cereal!”


Character Reference/Meaning:

DTCers, ROLL OUT! After a bit of a hiatus that I was on for grad school, we’re back at it again, ready to bring you all another ridiculously nerdy lyric that’ll probably make you want to transform into a rapper AND a nerd. Wait, that doesn’t make sense, because in Prince Poetry’s case, they are the same thing, AND I’VE BEEN SAYING IT SINCE DAY ONE!

Organized Konfusion, the dynamic rap duo out of Queens combines the awesome power of Prince Poetry, and DTC hall of famer, Pharoahe Monch. You would think that Pharoahe’s multiple appearances on DTC mean that he’s due for another spotlight, but today the honor goes to his counter part, Prince Poetry! These two individuals have ON (Original Nerd) status, seeing that they’ve been pushing bars since 1987. Need proof? Look no further than their 1994 hit, “Bring It On.”

With Transformers: Age of Extinction currently in theaters, it seems only right that we pay homage to two leaders of their respective packs – Prince Poetry and Optimus Prime. Shall we check the resumés? Prince Poetry a.k.a Prince Po has been rapping since before I was born, and is the founder of Nasty Habits Entertainment. He has four solo albums and EP’s apiece, in addition to the three Organized Konfusion alums. Impressive stats from an underground rapper. Now onto Optimus Prime. Prime is the leader of the Autobots, originates from the planet of Cybertron, sword enemy of the Decepticons, has saved planet Earth several times, while headlining countless cartoon episodes, movies and comic books. If you ask me, they’re pretty much one in the same.

On this DTC track, Prince Po is, without a doubt, letting you know this. Po is at the top of his game, and all the others dragging behind him, either need to figure out how to keep up, or learn how to step off. What he is saying is that if the rap game was planet Earth, and all the other rappers in the world were Autobots, he is pretty much Optimus Prime in comparison. After hearing his verse on this track, it’s kind of hard to refute that statement. Don’t believe me? Check the play on words. “I’m Optimus Prime-time material.” He is Optimus Prime and Prime Time, the nickname of Leon Sandcastle (That joke is funny). This lyrical ability demonstrates a great transformation in itself. Often times, young black men growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods are seen as useless, and unable to contribute to anything productive in society. Knowing that one in three black men eventually end up in prison, it’s hard to keep the faith. However, Transformers is given the same treatment. To the untrained eye, that hunk of junk truck that’s always sitting in that lot across the street is completely useless. It’s rusted, run down, and it only belongs in a scrapyard somewhere. What if I told you that piece of junk was a Transformer? Does your perspective change? All it takes is one fluid move, and all of the sudden, that uselessness turns into something extraordinary. See, these young black kids growing up trying to be rappers, or even rappers today may seem like pieces of junk to the outside world, but to those who are paying attention, they are greatness. Hip-hop is more than just music to some, it is a way of life, it creates change inside of us that is unstoppable. So, that kid on the corner may seem like a piece of junk now, but who knows when he will transform into something powerful beyond measure.

Basically, Po is nothing short of hall of fame material. When he goes hard on tracks like this one, all the Decepticons suddenly have something to worry about. See, Optimus and hip-hop have many things in common. Probably one of the biggest factors the two share is the their influence on the youth of the 80s and 90s. Growing up in the hood, black community, or any community where hip-hop was a way of life, being an MC’s with dope lyrics was something to strive for. Having a lyrical ability was somethings people admired, it gave you status and an overall sense of purpose despite your upbringing. Growing up in the hood, you are given more opportunities to fail rather than succeed, and it’s much easier to stay up, than to try and climb your way out. Optimus could be viewed in the same light. Despite Optimus being the very last prime, his commitment to his cause and craft never wavered. To the audience, Optimus made it cool to be a good guy. Similar to Captain Planet and G.I. Joe, his courage and willingness to sacrifice everything for what he believed in was admirable. Hip-hop and Optimus are strong, righteous, and dedicated to what matters in life. For Optimus, that meant saving Earth through the way of the sword, maintaining what was honorable and good. Hip-hop does the same thing for planet Earth, only rather than the sword, hip-hop uses the mind and the spirit. Both fight evil, and both create a better way of life, both inspire hope.

Po dropped a transformers reference back in 1994, when hip-hop, nerds, rappers and transformers were all prime indicators of greatness. Knowing that transformers originated as a popular toy line only 10 years earlier, and then expanded into a cartoon television show, and then blew up to what we know it as today, it’s obvious the product hasn’t lost traction. When the toy line dropped, right off the bat, Optimus was the one to have. Little kids on the block were saving up what they have, folding bills in their socks, and begging their parents to go down to the toy store. If you were one of the lucky ones, and actually got that money, or that ride, if you left with anything other than Optimus Prime it just didn’t feel right. If you aren’t Optimus Prime, you might as well be a Decepticon.

FUN FACT: Optimus Prime was created by Denny O’Neil, legendary Batman writer who had a long career alongside artist Neal Adams.



Diggin’ Through the Crates: Ras Kass “Whut Part of the Game”

Song: “Whut Part of the Game”

Artist: Ras Kass (featured on Killah Priest’s song)

Album: View from Masada (2000)

Lyric: “I’m live evil, I know live people/Anxious to bang ya with heavy metal like Magneto”


Character Reference/Meaning:

You would think that Magneto would be a reference that you’d see a lot more of in Hip-Hop. After all, in the grand scheme of the Mutant Civil Rights debate, Magneto is often referred to as the X-Men version of Malcolm X. Both believed that their people should not be bowing down to the populous and assimilate, but rather that their people should be proud of their differences. However, the militant mindset of both leaders led them to conflict with their peaceful counterparts who would rather integrate themselves into the current way of life (Malcolm X with MLK Jr. and Magneto with Professor X). Magneto even calls his band of outcasts the Brotherhood, a reflection of Malcolm X’s famous quote, “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me.” Throughout the years, Magneto ended up fighting against his good friend, Charles Xavier – something that both hate doing and ultimately made them ineffective against the ill will and violence created. Unfortunately, because these were the 60’s and every story needed a clear-cut protagonist and antagonist, the Brotherhood were always painted as the bad guys. It took until the late 1980s to early 1990’s for Magneto to really develop as a complex character.

He stopped mutant experimentations, destroyed Sentinel research (find more on their Hip-Hop relevance here) and even tried segregating them from humans on Utopia. Erik Lehnsherr, as he’s often referred to, isn’t even his real name; it’s one he adopted after escaping a concentration camp. Where Professor X grew up in a loving environment, whereas Max Eisenhardt (read X-Men: The Magneto Testament for that crazy story) grew up in Nazi Germany, where he was forced into a concentration camp and his family was murdered. It’s no wonder why he is willing to win the war for mutants’ rights, “by any means necessary.” The community can go back and forth on this debate, but there’s no nobody that can debate just how monstrously powerful Magneto is.

Word to Ras Kass for recognizing one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel U. His ability to control metal has been crafted to brutal perfection. Along with using metal objects small and large to murder his enemies, he has accomplished far beyond that. To date, Magneto has: turned invisible by wrapping light around his body (Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4), teleported himself through a wormhole he created (Excalibur #8), telepathically resisted Professor X and Emma Frost (Uncanny X-Men #521), and even stopped time itself when he froze the X-Men in place by controlling the body’s electrochemistry (Uncanny X-Men #304). Most devastatingly, Magneto got so pissed off at Wolverine that he ripped the adamantium straight off his skeleton. You do not want to piss this guy off.

You may have seen X-Men and you may have seen X-Men: First Class, but you don’t know Magneto. Forget Michael Fassbender. Forget Ian McKellen. Magneto is the baddest, most powerful mutant of all time. 20th Century Fox may have spent millions to show his prowess, but nothing is doing a better job of that then the new series, written by Cullen Bunn and drawn by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Currently on issue #5, Magneto has been a non-stop rampage to emancipate his people from being experimented on. Wiping out hordes of humans with everyday, household items on the regular, you shouldn’t get in Magneto’s way.

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Talib Kweli “Distractions”

Song: “Distractions”

Artist: Talib Kweli

AlbumPrisoners of Conscious (2013) 

Lyric: “How you keeping up with my rapping?/ You barely keeping up with Kardashians/You caught up in distraction/It’s the living proof-you try to make the truth elastic as Mr. Fantastic.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

What? What was that DTCers? You ready for another dope ass lyric that drops truth bombs and creates nerdy fallout? We got that! Our main man on the mic this week, Talib Kweli, is bringing it to your front door. If you are looking for some socially conscious rap that not only brings a message but an incredible rhyme scheme with it, then you not need look any further. In this 2013 hit, Talib Kwali dropped this song as a commentary on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. What he is saying in this song is, “Who the hell is paying attention?” There are social issues happening all around us and none of them are going to change by sitting around waiting for the next big gossip. Who is sleeping with who? Who badmouthed which other idiot today? That is why when people stand up and take charge of their own lives, it is viewed as something special. Talib Kweli once said, “Anytime people are willing to take their future into their own hands and attempt something, I think it’s brave.” DARN TOOTIN’ IT’S BRAVE!! But the problem is, so many of us are still distracted, and Kweli notices it all. We may be willing to protest on our street corner for something local, but it seems that no one takes action for causes like the events in Darfur, or are even aware of the Arab Spring movement (Google it).

In this song alone, he tackles such subjects and even points out the flawed history and thinking of this country. From the very beginning with the treatment of Native American’s, we still have missiles (like kill people missiles. Like BOOM missiles) that are named “Tomahawks.” And then we dress up our mascots and name our sports teams after their culture for entertainment. Who’s paying attention and who’s distracted? He even touches on what I perceive to be politics in our chosen lyric of today. Now before I go on and say some possibly hurtful stuff about the Kardashians, congratulations to Kim and Kanye on their wedding. I didn’t get my invite but I’ll let that slide for now. One of the biggest phenomena of the past couple years has been societies infatuation with the Kardashian family. Now I can’t say much about it because I have never seen an episode, but it has consumed many lives and many attention spans. What some may classify as empty media or nonsense television has gained a bigger interest and a larger following than political failings, religious wars, and natural disaster relief efforts. And all the while politicians are out there spitting game at us and very few people check the facts. That is why so many of them can say elastic truths and make them stretch to fit who ever they have their eyes on next.

I know, I sound like I’m preaching and saying, “Yeah I’m good, I know whats up. While everybody else wondering what Ryan Gosling is thinking about, I’m about to go save some third world children.” That’s not the case; I am part of the masses too, but I want to be brave, I want to pay attention, I don’t want to be distracted by shiny objects and blush worthy gossip. Talib Kweli just wants us all to open our minds and see past the bullshit. Even at times when we think we are paying attention, it was just a fake out and we once again are distracted by something that doesn’t matter. Kweli says this perfectly when talking about President Obama addressing his whole “flag pin” issue back in 2008 (Google it). But the president responded by saying, “I have never said that I don’t wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins…This is the kind of manufactured issues that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I’m commander-in-chief…” OH SNAP!! That’s exactly the point. We can so easily get caught up in things that don’t matter. Things that one way or another truly have no effect over our lives or anybodies lives. And the things we should be paying attention to slip right by us because we are distracted.

Alright, that was all pretty heavy. Let’s calm down and pay attention to some nerdy stuff briefly before I end this. Nerdy stuff like the Fantastic Four! In case you all haven’t heard, the Fantastic Four franchise will be getting a reboot that has been defined as “grounded, real, gritty.” According to Kinberg, this film has the same feelings as Batman, Iron Man, X-Men, and more. It will not be goofy like the first films, rather this will be a true drama sprinkled with bit of humor that come from character. Also we will officially be having an African-American Human Torch! I can hear all the critics heads exploding now. However I am very excited by this news especially because Michael B. Jordan will FLAME ON!!! “STRING, WHERE’S WALLACE? WHERE’S WALLACE STRING?” (Google it). Well Wallace is in the Marvel Universe doing badass things with badass powers. And for all you haters, know that Stan Lee is on board with the idea, Kinberg also said, “We knew casting an African-American Human Torch would be news, but I can tell you it’s something that Stan Lee loves, and I can tell you that having been on set and seeing Michael bring him to life, he’s really spectacular.” I don’t know how the story will change due to this, but I love the idea and I cannot wait. If you want more information on Michael B. Jordan being the Human Torch, Google it. If you want more information on Talib Kweli visit his website at So in closing, pay attentions, don’t get distracted so often, and FLAME ON!!!

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Jean Grae and Pharoahe Monch “Killin’ Em”

Song: “Killin Em”

Artist: Jean Grae and Pharoahe Monch

Album: Cookies or Comas (2011 mixtape), free download here

Lyric: “Generally-accused mutant who kills sentinels eventually/For days of future past intentionally”

Character Reference/Meaning:

We just can’t stay away from this legendary MC; who knew Pharoahe was such a nerd? This week’s “Diggin’ Through the Crates” celebrates two occasions. First, Pharoahe is performing live in Denver tonight at Cervantes. If you’re in town, do yourself a favor and go see one of the illest MCs ever to rock the crowd, fresh off his P.T.S.D. album. He’s one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen, and VERY reasonably priced considering the level of talent and interaction you get at the show.

The other reason that Pharoahe graces “DTC” for the third time (“Agent Orange” and “Rapid Eye Movement” have come before it), is because of his acute knowledge of the X-Men. With Days of Future Past released today, we saw it fitting to pick a relevant lyric, but while there were some a couple Kitty Pryde lyrics and even more Wolverine ones, Pharoahe’s verbal portrait of the totalitarian rule in the X-Men’s future takes the cake. You know what? Scratch that, it takes the whole bakery; any MC that has rapped about destroying sentinels, let along read Days of Future Past (you can check out our spoiler-free review of the graphic novel here if you’re interested) deserves some recognition.

This track from the Jean Grae (who has made her “DTC” appearance with “Jeannie Rules“) mixtape Cookies or Comas features to artists just going in about how dangerous their flows are, likening their love to their apart MCs to various horror movie characters and other serial killers. It’s a track with of pop culture references aplenty, and isn’t just limited to X-Men shout outs. I could go on forever trying to dissect all the Easter Eggs in “Killin’ Em,” but we’ll stick to the mutant issue at hand (get it?).

Days of Future Past, for those that haven’t owned a television or browsed the web in the past four months or so, is a story about the desolate future, where the X-Men’s failure to stop a political murder has ended up causing the election of a radically anti-mutant senator who implements giant mutant eradicators that (surprise!) ends up killin’ everybody in site – much like the MC Lyte-sampled loop on the track suggests. Sentinels are a vital part to the X-Men lore, and represent the cold, heartless authority designed specifically to take you out. If this sounds like a social commentary, that’s because it’s supposed to be!

Let’s start with Pharoahe’s displeasure for the boys in blue. It’s no secret that Troy Jamerson isn’t impressed with the police and the American justice system. A point that Pharoahe tries to drive home is that young black men are a target in this society. The extended video for “Clap (One Day)” off his W.A.R. album illustrates the public shaming of police officers who shoot unarmed civilians, which is more common than anybody feels comfortable talking about. It might not look like it on the news, but the sentinels from Days of Future Past isn’t too far off of life in urban neighborhoods. The evidence is stacked high and people continue to ignore the dangers, and probably will until it endangers them, as well.

When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first introduced sentinels in X-Men #14 almost fifty years ago, it was right in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, when police were systematically trying to dismantle organized groups trying to fight for equality. Hell, the entire X-Men concept is based off the Civil Rights Movement and the right to equal treatment. Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto are often compared to the Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively, of the mutant-filled world. There’s even the concept of “passing” as regular humans, something that some of the X-Men can choose to do, like light-skinned black people would do to avoid scrutiny.

Through the decades, X-Men became a sub-conscious platform for loving yourself and being comfortable with who you are, while still loving the people around you. Sure, there was Wolverine, who encapsulated all the rage and the desire to fight those who persecute, but there was the balance of Storm’s loving view towards all living things, and the logical thinking of Scott Summers (except when it came to Jean Grey; he was crazy about her). Without audiences even knowing it, the X-Men inspired the world to work as a diverse team to thwart injustice – in whatever form it may take.

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Laws “Dark and Twisted”

Song: “Dark and Twisted”

Artist: Laws

Album: (Non Album Freestyle)

Lyric: “Can we get much higher? So high oh/Doomsday-Doomsday went and killed your Superman/Hoes in his red cape, Lois Lane, red face/Around my hometown, so many people know how meth taste.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

Coming to the “DTC” stage this week is up and coming rapper, Laws, sampling Kanye Wests hit, “Dark Fantasy.” And what Laws brings to us today is not only awesomely nerdy, but it hits a serious note as well. DRUGS! WHAT IS DRUGS? Drugs are not only a crippling epidemic in reality, but they have played their part in comics as well. That are a copious amount of fictional drugs that run rampant through the comic book world which bring with them similar problems as they would in reality. Even some of our most beloved heroes such as Iron Man, Tony Stark, have had personal battles with drugs and alcohol, which has been apparent in the movies and comics. Particularly the nine issue story arc of Iron Man titled “Demon in a Bottle.” Green Lantern has also made drug culture front and center in Green Lantern Vol. 2 Issue #85-86, better known as the “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” arc. This was a anti-drug campaign meant to show people the harsh realities of drugs. This was done by Green Lantern and Green Arrow fighting drug dealers and dealing with Roy Harper’s addiction to drugs. This is prevalent seeing that the cover to issue #85 where the green duo walk in on Roy shooting himself up with drugs.

Drugs are a main theme within this Laws song and he presents it so elegantly with this comic book lyric. I viewed this lyric as one big metaphor. Just take a moment and try to come along this imaginative journey with me where “Doomsday” is actually drugs. Doesn’t matter the drug; meth, heroin, alcohol, cocaine, any will do. As many comic book fans out there know, back in 1992, DC released a comic titled, “The Death of Superman.” That’s right, one of, if not the most powerful superhero known to mankind was killed. And he was killed by none other than Doomsday. They fought, scrapped, rumbled, and exchanged blows until Superman lay unconscious in Lois Lanes arms. So what I would guess Laws is trying convey is that even though drugs have the potential to make you feel invincible and high flying like Superman in their peek, ultimately, drugs don’t truly end with anything other than death. So at the time you feel you can outrun death, and stop bullets, when it all catches up to you, it could be you slumped over in the streets with your loved ones around you (Lois Lane) sobbing, mourning your decisions (red face). Also it is not uncommon that many children view the adults in their life as being their “Superman,” and in the end it could be those children left read faced with their Superman completely broken by “Doomsday.” Oh snap, this lyric is so metaphorical.

So now that we went on our little journey, we can safely return back to reality where Superman is Superman, and Doomsday is Doomsday. And if you want to see more of that action you do not have to wait. Superman: Doomed #1 is set to release May 14, 2014 where we will get to see this infamous match-up once again between Superman and Doomsday. With Doomsday sporting some new abilities, this title has been one of the most anticipated stories to come out of the New 52 lineup. So if you are looking for an awesome battle between two powerful forces, than this comic needs to be in your face immediately. Basically if you want action pact panels, with some hit and miss dialog then Superman: Doomed is here to meet your needs. I would say that if you think this is a good place to get into Superman, probably not. This comic seems to be aimed more toward die hard Superman fans, who want that next thrill. However, as a jumping off point, there are many other options that would be much much better. Regardless, it is a comic book and it should be read by all to enjoy. And remember kids, say no to Doomsday…or drugs…just to be safe, say no to both.