Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers “Tour Because Awesome” Denver Show

The chanting seemed to come from nowhere as the lights dimmed at the Summit Music Hall Wednesday, July 9th. “DFTBA! DFTBA! DFTBA!”* Crossed Vulcan salutes were raised to the heavens as the crowd screamed their favorite initialism into the air, all in wait for one man— one incredible nerd— to emerge from behind the stage. Dawning various geek attire, over 800 fans crowded the venue to see Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers live, myself included. But we weren’t just there for Hank. Along with him was Rob Scallon, Andrew Huang, Harry and the Potters, and Driftless Pony Club, all of whom played wonderfully, often venturing out into the crowd for high fives and dancing. In the spirit of vlogging, as so many of these performers thrive on, I’ve included short clips (or rather one long clip spliced into several segments) of the concert as well as photos.

Hank Green does seemingly everything. He’s a vlogger, entrepreneur, writer, scientist, teacher, VidCon organizer, blogger, owner of DFTBA Records, charity organizer, and long time musician just to name a few titles. Above all things, Hank Green is a massive, self-proclaimed nerd. January 1st of 2007, Hank and brother John Green launched their video project Brotherhood 2.0 under the YouTube Channel The Vlogbrothers in an attempt to stay in better contact with each other. Seven years later, the two brothers and their videos have a massive following called “The Nerdfighters” with over two million members.

The show began like most. Everyone who had lined up outside the venue pilled into the building and made their way to the front of the stage. While waiting for the show to start, however, the space felt more communal than other concerts I’ve been to. Most of the audience were Nerdfighters and there is a strange phenomenon that occurs whenever Nerdfighters get together “IRL”; we all become instant friends. Nerdfighteria is a large community, but it still remains very close knit because we all generally like the same things. The majority of us also tend to be socially awkward. When you mix these two things, you get a very laid back group of people who understand each other extremely well without even knowing anyone’s name. Thus, while waiting for the concert to begin, the venue was abuzz with conversation between practical strangers.

With most concerts, the opening acts are either announced by someone who works for the venue or by the act themselves and are often ignored by the main performer. “Tour Because Awesome” was an entirely different story. When the house lights dimmed, it was not a venue worker or the first act who walked onstage to welcome us to the show. Hank himself came out, camera in hand, and thanked us for coming. He told us that not only had we chanted more than any other show on tour, but that Denver had the biggest turnout and that he was happy that we were there. He then introduced opening act Rob Scallon and proceeded to introduce every act after him. This is a testament to how much Hank really cares about the musicians that joined him on tour. They are not only some of his favorite musicians, but also closest friends.

 

Rob Scallon only played three songs on his own (he would later come on to drum), but each one them had me absolutely entranced. This guy doesn’t just play guitar. The instrument practically breathes in his hands. With a combination of finger picking, licks, and hammer on technique, it was hard to believe there was only one instrument on stage. As Hank put it, his music “makes your ears feel real good.” My ears felt so good in fact, that I ran to the merch booth the moment he got off stage and bought his album. Lucky for me, he ran just as quickly and not only gave me a free t-shirt but signed the album as well.

 

After Rob Scallon, Andrew Huang took the stage. This guy is hilarious and incredibly talented. He writes songs in a vast number of genres and frequently takes challenges from his fans of what songs to create. He also only played a few songs but joined Hank and the Perfect Strangers later on.

Andrew Huang is extremely creative. One of his songs (video below) had me swaying my hands back and forth, thinking of my past relationships, until I remembered it was actually written about his nipple ring that had grown out. He purposely wrote the song to be vague enough that it could be about any relationship, yet when given the context, it becomes incredibly funny. He also played fan favorite “Show Me Where Your Noms At” which he collaborated with Youtuber Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen to make. This song shows not just how great of a singer and guitarist he is, but also highlights his rapping abilities. He had the entire audience singing along.

 

Next on stage was Harry and the Potters, who led us in a pledge that we would have a good time at the show and use our voices to create positive change in the world. Harry and the Potters are considered the founders of the Wizard Rock genre. They are made up of brothers Paul (newly appointed as Executive Director of The Harry Potter Alliance) and Joe DeGeorge but onstage are known as Harry Potter Year Seven and Harry Potter Year Four, having used Hermione’s time turner to go back in time and start a rock band with themselves.

Harry and the Potters are probably the most exuberant band I’ve ever seen. Their banter with the audience is priceless and they seem to have a limitless amount of energy when it comes to performing, dancing and jumping up and down with each song. Both brothers even jumped into the audience, Joe jumping out twice and asking audience members to sing into the mic. Confetti was tossed into the air several times using a hollow wand and by the end of their act, everyone in the venue was screaming, “HAR-RY! POT-TER! HAR-RY! POT-TER!”

 

After Harry and the Potters finished their set, Driftless Pony Club took the stage. I’ve seen this band twice and they never fail to impress me. Their sound is energizing, fun to jump around to, and closely resembles Modest Mouse. Lead vocalist and guitarist Craig Benzine, like most of the musicians on the tour, has his own YouTube Channel WheezyWaiter. The band often makes funny videos with Craig.

Like always, they had the entire venue buzzing with excitement. At one point, bassist Sam Grant climbed over the barricade and into the audience where he danced along with us while he played. My friend Luke and I sang along to every song, bouncing on the balls of our feet and banging our heads to the beat. I’m a heavy metal fan, but nothing makes me happily light headed like dancing to Driftless Pony Club.

 

Finally the act we had all be waiting for was just moments away. I can’t convey to you the amount of excitement that was bouncing off the walls in that room. Every few moments you could hear someone squeal “Oh my god” or watch as another made a few little jumps of excitement. Everyone was grinning. Members of Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers (Paul DeGeorge on guitar, Joe DeGeorge on keyboard and saxophone, Andrew Huang on lead guitar, and Rob Scallon on the drums) made their way onto the stage and began to play ambient music. Suddenly, the beginning of “Perfect Strangers” began and Hank ran onto the stage to sing. Everyone in the venue went nuts and rushed to the front of the stage, screaming, dancing and singing along.

 

Of course no Nerdfighteria event would be complete without some sort of charity element. Before the show started, Hank informed us that their bass drum had broken. Instead of throwing it away, they decided all the musicians would sign it and raffle it off for one dollar per ticket. We had until the beginning of Hank’s set to buy as many raffle tickets as we wished. When the time came to choose a winning ticket, the audience had raised over $500 for the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, Nerdfighteria’s chief charity organization.

Hank played a ton of songs, mostly off his new album Incongruent with a few older songs thrown in here and there. Some fan favorites included “I Fucking Love Science”, “Video Game Books”, “A Song About an Anglerfish” and possibly his most famous “Accio Deathly Hallows”. He also talked with us about touring and his fellow bandmates and joked that Denver needed to fix our air shortage. During Accio Deathly Hallows, he handed a girl his mic while he climbed over the barricade so that he could join us in the audience. After many high fives and lots of dancing, he climbed back on stage and played a few more songs before ending the show. However, we weren’t ready to let him go quite yet. After much chanting, he and the band came back out and played a few encores for us, including the theme from Friends.

“Tour Because Awesome” was an truly spectacular show. Every single musician was on point and had the audience completely thrilled to be there. They also all came out afterwards for autographs, photos, and hugs, despite being absolutely exhausted from the four hour show. I was able to meet Sam Grant after the concert and we talked for a while about how cool online communities such as Nerdfighteria are. We both agreed they are a very unique, kind, and caring group of people that we are very glad to be a part of.

 

 

*DFTBA stands for Don’t Forget to Be Awesome and is the slogan of Nerdfighteria.

Videos courtesy of Lara Griffith and Andrew Huang. Bandcamp music courtesy of Jon Scallon.

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.

 

 

The Fault in Our Stars Soundtrack Review

Album Specs

Tracks/Length: 16 tracks, 61 minutes

Notable Guest Appearances: Birdy, Ed Sheeran

Album Genre/Tone: Soundtrack to the film. Think Summer love, loss, and freedom – with one Swedish rap song thrown in.

Lead Single:  “All of the Stars”by Ed Sheeran

 

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 enjoyable.

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

Based on the New York Times Best Selling novel, so far the film The Fault in Our Stars has gained wild success, earning $48,200,000 as of June 8th and $26.1 million opening day, beating out Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow ($10.7 million) and even fellow Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort’s Divergent ($22.8 million). Rolling Stone Magazine called it “a fresh, lively love story, brimming with humor and heartbreak”. The soundtrack to the film has had similar success. As of June 8th, it has the number one spot on iTunes with “Boom Clap” by Charli XCX landing at number seven on the Top Singles list.

If you’re interested in seeing the movie, check out my review here.

What You’re in For

Compiled mostly of singer-song writer and alternative pop tracks, this album sings Summer, a tone which is appropriate given the film’s June release date, and bounces back and forth between feel good and somber. The album contains fifteen tracks plus a bonus track by Birdy and Jaymes Young. Speaking of Birdy, she is all over this album with three songs “Tee Shirt,” “Not About Angels,” and “Best Shot.” She was also asked to perform for the film’s pre-debut showing “The Night Before Our Stars,” where she played “Not About Angels” solo on piano.

While I’ve been playing all of these songs on repeat since the album was released, my favorite has got to be “Bomfelleralla” by Afasi & Filthy. The Swedish odd one out of the album, it’s upbeat, take-on-the-world feel has gotten me out of many-a-funk. The song feels out of place until you see the film and realize it is played by the character Van Houten during a conversation with Hazel and Augustus.

One of the few critiques I have of the album is that a few songs were left out of it. One thing that is particularly surprising is that it doesn’t include the score of the film, which is sparse but just as good. OneRepublic’s “If That’s What You Wanted” can be heard in the trailer, but is nowhere on the album nor in the film. There is one song sung by Issac (or rather screamed by Issac) whilst in an emotional meltdown, “Rules” by Nat & Alex Wolff, that I also would have liked to see in the soundtrack; however, the song was not released until after the soundtrack dropped.

I also wish Hank Green, who is author John Green’s brother, had been somehow included on the album. Hank is a singer-songwriter who primarily write songs about Harry Potter and nerd culture. He is one half of the YouTube channel “The Vlogbrothers” whose fans have been a huge part of “The Fault in Our Stars” since the before its publication. Having Hank on this album might not have fit the tone quite as much, but seeing as he was so much a part of the culture that grew around the book, it seemed appropriate. You can check out Hank’s music here.

 

Songs On Repeat

“Long Way Down” by Tom Odell

Lyrics to Go: ” Walking on the rooftops/Talking of times/With our eyes a glowing/Like the city lights/She stands on the ledge/She says, ‘it looks so high

When it comes to the film, this song expresses not only the love story between Hazel and Augustus but also explains a lot of the other themes and relationships in the film. Cancer, love, pain, life; it’s a long, hard journey. You need the people you love and connect with most to get through it. The problem is Hazel and Augustus’time in this world is precarious. Losing either of them would make their loved ones feel like the world has dropped out from under them and they’d fall a long time before being able to get up again.

This can also be seen in the relationship between Hazel and her parents. At one point *SPOILER* Hazel’s mother painfully expresses that if her daughter were to die, she wouldn’t be a mother anymore and it is something that lays heavily on Hazel heart throughout the novel.

 

“Boom Clap” by Charli XCX

Lyrics to Go: ” You’re picture perfect blue/Sunbathing on the moon/Stars shining as your bones illuminate/First kiss just like a drug/Under your influence/ You take me over you’re the magic in my veins/ This must be love”    

This song is just genuinely good to jam to. I’ll admit to jumping around my bedroom dancing with this blaring in the background. It’s definitely the happiest track on the album and juxtaposes nicely against the singer-songwriter tunes. It celebrates the giddiness the comes with love and is paired well with a scene in which Hazel and Gus’s plane touches down in Amsterdam. They’re incredibly excited, hearts beating fast as the song suggests. Having this new place to explore and meet their idol in makes them feel alive; something they haven’t felt in a long time.

 

“Bomfalleralla” by Afasi & Filthy

Lyrics to Go:  (Translated from Swedish) “I expose my chest, must you have time to gore me/ So come on and fight back before you change your mind/ Chew through the aorta/ That transports oxygen for the whole worlds god damn reality TV”

As Van Houten points out during the film, not knowing Swedish shouldn’t keep you from enjoying this song. It’s got a great beat and while it sticks out from the rest of the songs on the album, it’s just as good. It’s the only rap song in the mix as well as the only song not in English. It can be loosely connected to Hazel’s feeling of being a grenade. One day she will die and it will be like a bomb exploded, making her feel like it’s her responsibility to minimize the casualties.

 

“Not About Angels” by Birdy

Lyrics to Go:  “We know full well there’s just time/So is it wrong to toss this line?/If your heart was full of love/Could you give it up?/’Cause what about, what about angels?/They will come, they will go, make us special”

 

To me, this is Hazel’s song. She refuses to romanticize her illness. She understands that she is dying and there is very little she can do about it. She is frustrated that this is the life she has to live, but she is very much a realist. The last line in this song, “It’s not about angels,”really sums up Hazel’s feelings and how people treat both her and her cancer. She’s tired of everyone trying to find a way around it and the only reason she even continues treatment is to make her parents happy. Her disease is not something to be fluffed up with prayers and false ideals of how long her life will be. It’s cancer. It hurts. She only has so much time left and she wishes people would accept that.

This song is hauntingly beautiful. It’s perfect for a rainy day and is able to make me both sad and certain. Birdy performed “Not About Angels”at “The Night Before Our Stars”the day before the film was released. Upon completion, Shailene Woodley (Hazel) could not answer questions for several minutes because she was so overcome with tears.

 

The Quick and Dirty

Grade: A

This album is definitely one you want in your music library this Summer whether or not you’ve seen the movie. It is full of songs either to soothe your broken heart or get you jamming on a bright Summer day. It costs $11.99 on iTunes and is available everywhere CD’s are sold. It should be noted that only several songs are not available on iTunes unless you buy the whole album, which is totally worth it.

 

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 http://www.talibkweli.com. So in closing, pay attentions, don’t get distracted so often, and FLAME ON!!!

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Public Enemy “Raise the Roof”

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Artist: Public Enemy

Song: “Raise the Roof”

Album: Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987)

Lyric: “From the slammer, swing a hammer like the mighty Thor/ God of thunder, you’ll go under, then you’ll applaud/ And fathom the distance, the mad must reap/ Meet Namor, sea lord, Prince of the deep.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

Continuing with our theme of progressive Hip-Hop artists and groups that helped pave the way for an entire generation and culture, we bring to the stage yet another legendary group, Public Enemy. YEEAAAAHHHH BOY!  Through songs like “Fight the Power” and “Rebel Without a Pause,” this group didn’t shy away from topics labeled taboo at the time – they often rhymed about race relations, the lack of equality and standards of living, and the ever-decaying and neglect of inner city neighborhoods.

It might be hard for the current generation, far removed from the Civil Rights era babies, to grasp, but the emergence of hard-hitting Hip-Hop music was a focal point for the resurgence of pride and political awareness in the black community. Public Enemy was views as being an integral part of this movement. They would see the injustice that was prevalent in everyday life and pour it out in their songs, dropping beats and knowledge. Public Enemy wasn’t afraid to let it known to the general population what was happening in their community and that they had no concerns about polarizing political statements. Public Enemy, beyond the music and the group, was a concept, stating, “if you are black, white, Hispanic, blue, purple or whatever, and are sick of the conditions, injustice, and inequality, then you are a public enemy.” Public Enemy transcended all types of media, they have even been blessed with their own graphic novel. With Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, The S1W and DJ Lord here to fight the Man, the New World Order, corrupt governments, crooked cops, slave traders, drug dealers, child molesters and much more; it’s obvious to see the reach and impact they had on society.

Chuck D has once said, “You can show all emotions in comics,” when asked if being in a comic would lessen the importance of the groups message. He also stated, “Those early Saturday morning cartoons got me…CBS’ Superman, Batman, Justice League. Then Space Ghost, the ABC’s Spider-Man and Fantastic Four led me straight into it.” I’m positive they inspired the masses, and led people from the slammer, to feeling like they had the power of Thor. They’ve allowed people to take a look at their lives and see how far they have gone, see that yes, before they could have been drowning in the hardships and conditions, yet those made them who they are. And through perseverance and strength, they now longer drown, but conquer who they are, and where they came from like Namor. Needless to say, Public Enemy is much more than just a rap group. With their reach in music, television, and even comic books, it is impossible to deem them anything less than superheroes.

Written by Evan Lowe

Diggin’ Through the Crates: MC Chris “Fett’s Vette”

Artist: MC Chris

Song: Fett’s Vette

Album: Life’s a Bitch and I’m Her Pimp (2001)

Lyric: THE WHOLE FREAKING SONG IS A REFERENCE – Pick a lyric; any of them will work

Character Reference/Meaning:

Better strap yourselves in because today is going to be a doozy. Take whatever ship you like, the X-Wing, Millennium Falcon, Slave 1 – any will do. Personally, I’m going to take the Soulless One. Where are we going you ask? Well we are going to go to Marvel Comics of course. As many of you may have heard on January 3rd, Marvel has purchased exclusive rights to create and publish Star Wars comics beginning in 2015. Yes, the very same Marvel Comics that has Iron Man visiting Eminem in his childhood home (Mighty Avengers #3 variant cover) and Wade Wilson dressed up as mega-MC Deadpooly will be bringing The Force next year. Side note: Eminem raps like Yoda, voice and all, in his new album, but that is for a future segment of “Diggin’ Through the Crates.”

So with a merger like this, what could it mean for the future of Star Wars? Will we see an Avengers/Rebel Alliance crossover? Could Loki join the Sith order? It’s all very possible, but how cool would it be to see Lupe Fiasco A.K.A, “Lupe the Jedi” as an actual Jedi in a comic book? With as many comic books fans as there are in the Hip-Hop community, bringing Star Wars into the mainstream comic book community could have great results. The move back to Marvel from Dark Horse Comics isn’t just a popular one, but a sentimental one for some. Star Wars is returning back to its original home with Marvel, which published the first ever Star Wars comic back in March 1977, STAR WARS #1.

With all die-hard Wars fans out there dreading cross-overs, there is one person out there who is very excited about this new owner ship and his name is Patton Oswalt; the man did an 8 minute long filibuster for the TV showed, Parks and Recreation, where we talked about this exact subject matter back in April of 2013. He introduced what he believes should be the movie plot for Star Wars: Episode VII, which involved some of our old favorite characters as well as a huge melding of the Marvel Universe. Before I saw this video, I thought I wouldn’t appreciate merging these two universes; however, if there was a movie to come out or a comic that showed Patton Oswalt’s ideas, I would definitely have to check it out. Maybe we could even here MC Chris write a new rap about it.