Dropping Science: Marvel’s November Hip-Hop Variants

After immense success with putting Hip-Hop duo Run the Jewels on the cover of a few of their books, Marvel has expanded the idea to give each and every single book in their All-New All-Different line-up its own Hip-Hop variant. We’ve tracked down each cover, provided information about the album inspiring the variant cover, and given our two cents on whether it fits the subject. We’ll be doing this each month for as long as the All-New All-Different brand keeps putting out variants!

October 2015 Hip-Hop Variants

November 4th

Extraordinary X-Men #1 - 3 Feet High and Rising

Extraordinary X-Men #1
Marvel Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Artist)
Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
Hip-Hop Album: De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Me, Myself and I,” “Buddy,” “Say No Go,” “Eye Know
How well does it fit?: De La Soul were on the front lines of the wacky, relatable, and socially responsible rhymes. With Lemire writing this new X-Men series, it’s about damn time the X-series got back to its roots.

 

Deadpool #1 - Attention Deficit Deadpool #1
Marvel Creative Team: Gerry Duggan (Writer), Mike Hawthorne (Artist)
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews
Hip-Hop Album: Wale’s Attention Deficit (2009)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Pretty Girls,” “Chillin‘,” “Beautiful Bliss
How well does it fit?: The album name definitely fits here, as Wade Wilson is one of the most absent-minded characters in pop culture. Wale isn’t nearly as popular as Deadpooly over here, but he gets to have brunch with Jerry Seinfeld, which is kind of zany for a Hip-Hop artist.

 

Drax #1 - Man on the Moon II Drax #1
Marvel Creative Team: CM Punk/Cullen Bunn (Writers), Scott Hepburn (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mike Choi
Hip-Hop Album: KiD CuDi’s Man on the Moon II (2010)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Erase Me,” “Revofev,” “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young
How well does it fit?: Drax has been gaining tons of popularity for his sardonic sense of humor, but really hasn’t done anything to make me want to invest time in his solo career. Same with Cudi. His early success that was launched almost solely from Kanye’s sound floundered around until he began his “acting” career. Here’s hoping Drax won’t flop on his own.

Hercules #1 - Black Flame
Hercules #1
Marvel Creative Team: Dan Abnett (Writer), Luke Ross (Artist)
Cover Artist: Theotis Jones
Hip-Hop Album: Lil B’s Black Flame (2011)

Howard the Duck #1 - Return to the 36 Chambers Howard the Duck #1
Marvel Creative Team: Chip Zdarsky (Writer), Joe Quinones (Artist)
Cover Artist: Juan Doe
Hip-Hop Album: Ol Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers (1993)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” “Brooklyn Zoo,” “Raw Hide
How well does it fit?: Before his untimely death in 2004,  ODB was one of the grimiest dudes in rap. He was one of the few to transform his Wu-Tang membership into a solid career. His shining characteristic was being able to grab his nuts and throw up his middle finger to the authorities – any authority – just like our fowl friend, Howard. Howard, though, might not have the same FBI file as Dirt McGirt, which includes a shootout with NYPD. Rebel.

 

Nova #1 - Born Sinner Nova #1
Marvel Creative Team: Sean Ryan (Writer), Cory Smith (Artist)
Cover Artist: Eric Canete
Hip-Hop Album: J. Cole’s Born Sinner (2013)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Crooked Smile,” “Power Trip,” “Rich Niggaz,” “Born Sinner
How well does it fit?: Cole is one of Hip-Hop’s brightest stars right now. His ability to relate to listeners with common themes and wrap it up with great music is one of his charming qualities. What makes him an ironic choice for a Nova cover is that this is very much a father-son book; J. Cole often raps about his crappy deadbeat father who abandoned him. Dick move, Marvel.

 

Vision #1 - Rolling Papers Vision #1
Marvel Creative Team: Tom King (Writer), Gabriel H Walta (Artist)
Cover Artist: Vanessa Del Ray
Hip-Hop Album: Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers (2011)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Black and Yellow,” “On My Level,” “No Sleep
How well does it fit?: I don’t know what kind of hallucinations that weed is giving Wiz, but they’re not the same one that the Marvel robot gets. Wiz Khalifa looks like the type of kid who got beat up a lot in high school, but he’s been the face of the Hip-Hop skater stoner movement for the past 5 years. Don’t judge him by his appearance, he actually makes some pretty legit feel-good music. A sequel (because album sequels are a thing now) to Rolling Papers is due out next year.

November 11th

All-New All-Different Avengers #1 - Illadelph Halflife All-New All-Different Avengers #1
Marvel Creative Team: Mark Waid (Writer), Adam Kubert/Mahmud Asrar (Artist)
Cover Artist: Jim Cheung
Hip-Hop Album: The Roots’ Illadelph Halflife (1996)
Best Tracks off the Album: “What They Do,” “Ital (The Universal Side),” “The Hypnotic
How well does it fit?: I’m sorry, I have to say it. The Roots are dope as f*ck, and this group of Avengers is dope as f*ck. They might not draw headlines individually (save for Iron Man – he can be the ?uestlove of The Avengers), but as a group, both groups make some wonderful music. This will be a solid book, especially with Mark Waid at the helm.


All-New Hawkeye - Mecca and the Soul Brother
All-New Hawkeye #1
Marvel Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (Writer), Ramón Pérez (Artist)
Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
Hip-Hop Album: Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992)
Best Tracks off the Album: “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” “Straighten It Out,” “Can’t Front on Me
How well does it fit?: Hawkeye and Hawkguy are one in the same. Kate Bishop has come under the tutelage of the Avenger Clint Barton, but has pulled his butt from the fire plenty of times. Similarly, Pete Rock and CL Smooth are a rapper/DJ combination so solid that even saying their names separately sounds weird unless spoken together. Near the end of Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye series, these two split up and the book suffered. Hopefully these two can stick together and whoop some ass.


All-New Wolverine #1 - Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
All-New Wolverine #1
Marvel Creative Team: Tom Taylor (Writer), David Lopez (Artist)
Cover Artist: Keron Grant
Hip-Hop Album: DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Slippin‘,” “Blackout,” “Coming From
How well does it fit?: Unlike DMX, the sun has not set on the possibility for a good Wolverine book. However, X-23 has a lot of unbridled rage that she can channel into a successful stint as the new Wolverine, just like DMX did in songs like “Slippin.” In all seriousness, this album was one of DMX’s weakest, but of all the DMX album covers, this one was too good to pass up.


Carnage #1 - Dare iz a Darkside
Carnage #1
Marvel Creative Team: Gerry Conway (Writer), Mike Perkins (Artist)
Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Hip-Hop Album: Redman’s Dare Iz A Darkside (1994)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Bobyahed2dis,” “Cosmic Slop,” “Rockafella,” “Can’t Wait
How well does it fit?: This is one of the best fits out of all the variants – matching the spastic, chaotic Carnage with one of the biggest weirdos in all of Hip-Hop. Redman is off the charts in terms of his individuality, but still garners enough respect to rock with the mainstream artists. Plus, this cover is CLASSIC 90’s Hip-Hop.

Illuminati - Power

Illuminati #1
Marvel Creative Team: Josh Williamson (Writer), Shawn Crystal (Artist)
Cover Artist: Brittany Holloway-Brown
Hip-Hop Album: Ice T’s Power (1988)


The Ultimates #1 - The Fugees
The Ultimates #1
Marvel Creative Team: Al Ewing (Writer), Kenneth Rocafort (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Hip-Hop Album: The Fugees’ The Score (1996)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Fu-Gee-La,” “Ready or Not,” “Killing Me Softly,” “No Woman No Cry
How well does it fit?: The Fugees exploded onto the scene in the mid-1990’s when Pras, Lauryn Hill, and Wyclef Jean created the Fugees. All solid artists by themselves (except Pras, he sucks), but together make one of the greatest groups in Hip-Hop history. Sadly, emotions got in the way and they split permanently, but we still have The Score to appreciate. When it comes to the book, I’m ready to see a story with Black Panther and Captain Marvel (oh, and Spectrum, I guess).

 

Web Warriors #1 - Lord WillinWeb Warriors #1
Marvel Creative Team: Mike Costa (Writer), David Bildeon (Artist)
Cover Artist: Damion Scott
Hip-Hop Album: The Clipse’s Lord Willin’ (2002)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Grindin‘,” “When The Last Time,” “Ma, I Don’t Love Her,” “Cot Damn
How well does it fit?: If you’ve had your ear to the group in Hip-Hop over the last decade, you may have heard of The Clipse, but chances are that this group is unknown to you. Two ex-dopeboys (Pusha T and No Malice) from Virginia lay colorful metaphor after another in this album produced by Pharrell’s Neptunes label. The lyrics are hard and grimy, but there’s a certain grace and intellect in their rhymes that eludes most rappers cut from similar cloths. The Web Warriors I assume are picking up where Spider-Verse just left off, and have a crazy ensemble you would expect to be gimmicky put together a decent story.

November 18th

Black Knight #1 - Food and Liquor

Black Knight #1
Marvel Creative Team: Frank Tieri (Writer), Luca Pizzari (Artists)
Cover Artist: Gyimah Gariba
Hip-Hop Album: Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor (2006)
Best Tracks off the Album: “The Cool,” “He Say She Say,” “Daydreamin‘,” “Kick, Push
How well does it fit?: Black Knight has actually gone through over a half-dozen iterations since the mid-fifties, the mantle being passed from generation to generation (similar to Azrael in DC). Somehow he’s managed to fly under the radar, even with the most recent iteration in Black Panther (2005). Lupe is innovative and intelligent, but somehow manages to get overlooked by Hip-Hop heads and mainstream fans alike.


Ms. Marvel #1 - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Ms. Marvel #1
Marvel Creative Team: G. Willow Wilson (Writer), Takeshi Miyazawa/Adrian Alphona (Artists)
Cover Artist: Jenny Frison
Hip-Hop Album: Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Ex Factor,” “Lost One,” “Everything is Everything,” “Nothing Even Matters
How well does it fit?: Oh hell yeah, this is a combination I can dig. One of the most socially-conscious R&B artists of all time is paired with one of the most socially-conscious superheroes in the Marvel roster. It’s just… perfect. If you don’t know Lauryn Hill, go Miseducate yourself. Right now.

 

Silk - The New Danger

Silk #1
Marvel Creative Team: Robbie Thompson (Writer), Stacey Lee (Artist)
Cover Artist: Woo Chul Lee
Hip-Hop Album: Yasin Bey’s (Mos Def’s) A New Danger (2004)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Ghetto Rock,” “Modern Marvel,” “Sex, Love, and Money,” “Zimzallabim,” “Sunshine
How well does it fit?: Cindy Moon has had enough of your bullsh*t, and now she’s robbing banks with Black Cat. We’re not sure how she got there from the end of the world in issue #7, but whatever. Yasin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) has the weight of the people behind his voice, and has numerous songs about telling the establishment to eat it (“Dollar Day” and “Rape Over” to name a couple). At the very least, A New Danger is a perfect album cover for knocking over banks.


Spider-Woman #1 - Capital Punishment
Spider-Woman #1
Marvel Creative Team: Dennis Hopeless (Writer), Javier Rodriguez (Artist)
Cover Artist: Natcha Bustos
Hip-Hop Album: Big Pun’s Capital Punishment (1993)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Still Not A Player,” “Super Lyrical,” Twins (Deep Cover 98),” “Tres Leches
How well does it fit?: I don’t get it; is this a pregnancy joke? Before Pun’s death at 28 years old, the guy weighed over 700 pounds. I mean that he was so fat, his Wikipedia page should list years active ending way before his death in 2000. Fun fact about Pun: besides being one of the most respected MCs of the mid-90s, was also a notorious wife beater. Smooth move, Marvel.


Star Lord #1 - Ivry
Star Lord #1
Marvel Creative Team: Sam Humphries (Writer), Dave Johnson (Artist)
Cover Artist: Tradd Moore
Hip-Hop Album: The 100s’ Ivry (2014)

November 25th


Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 - Summertime '06
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1
Marvel Creative Team: Amy Reeder (Writer), Natacha Bustos (Artist)
Cover Artist: Jeffrey Veregge
Hip-Hop Album: Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 (2015)

Venom-Space Knight - Lost in Space Black Elvis

Venom: Space Knight #1
Marvel Creative Team: Robbie Thompson (Writer), Ariel Olivetti (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mike Choi
Hip-Hop Album: Kool Keith’s Black Elvis/ Lost in Space (1999)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Livin’ Astro,” “Lost in Space
How well does it fit?: Oh, isn’t it obvious?? Venom is a Black Symbiote…in space! Kool Keith has changed personas more than a couple times, but each personality he exudes is funky and relatable. 


That about does it for Marvel’s new books and the Hip-Hop variants that come with them. Check back next month for a whole new set of entries.

 

Dropping Science: Marvel’s October Hip-Hop Variants

After immense success with putting Hip-Hop duo Run the Jewels on the cover of a few of their books, Marvel has expanded the idea to give each and every single book in their All-New All-Different line-up its own Hip-Hop variant. We’ve tracked down each cover, provided information about the album inspiring the variant cover, and given our two cents on whether it fits the subject. We’ll be doing this each month for as long as the All-New All-Different brand keeps putting out variants!

October 7th

Amazing Spider- Man #1 - Midnight MaraudersAmazing Spider-Man #1
Marvel Creative Team: Dan Slott (Writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Hip-Hop Album: A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders (1993)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Award Tour,” “Electric Relaxation,” “Oh My God
How well does it fit?: The cover to Midnight Marauders is legendary for the faces in its background, compiled of some of the most famous artists in the biz at the timeAmazing Spider-Man also seems to love this concept, and includes a bunch of famous Spider-faces new and old – even those who will not make appearances in the book.

Contest of Champions #1 - Liquid SwordsContest of Champions #1
Marvel Creative Team: Al Ewing (Writer), Paco Medina (Artist)
Cover Artist: Denys Cowan/Bill Sienkiewicz
Hip-Hop Album: GZA’s Liquid Swords (1995)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Liquid Swords,” “Shadowboxin‘”
How well does it fit?: This book is going to be full of the leftovers of everything enjoyable from Battleworld and smush it back together with pretty drawings and fight scenes in a shallow attempt to recapture the magic… hey! Just like this GZA album. MAJOR shout-out to Milestone Media co-founder Denys Cowan for working on this variant cover. Don’t know the name? Look it up!

Dr. Strange #1 - The ChronicDoctor Strange #1
Marvel Creative Team: Jason Aaron (Writer), Chris Bachalo (Artist)
Cover Artist: Juan Doe
Hip-Hop Album: Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” “Let Me Ride,” “F*ck With Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)
How well does it fit?: Well, there’s the obvious name similarity. Like Doctor Dre, the good Doctor Stephen Strange seems to be all powerful and everybody respects him… but he doesn’t really seem to do anything specifically worth praising. 

Invincible Iron Man #1 - Get Rich or Die TryinInvincible Iron-Man #1
Marvel Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), David Marquez (Artist)
Cover Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Hip-Hop Album: 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)
Best Tracks off the Album: “In Da Club,” “21 Questions,” “If I Can’t,” “Life’s on the Line
How well does it fit?: The biggest difference between Tony Stark and Curtis Jackson isn’t a genius intellect or tendency to play superhero, it’s that 50 Cent is BROKE AS F*CK.

October 14th

Extraordinary X-Men #1 - 3 Feet High and RisingExtraordinary X-Men #1
Marvel Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Artist)
Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
Hip-Hop Album: De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Me, Myself and I,” “Buddy,” “Say No Go,” “Eye Know
How well does it fit?: De La Soul were on the front lines of the wacky, relatable, and socially responsible rhymes. With Lemire writing this new X-Men series, it’s about damn time the X-series got back to its roots.

Update: The release of Extraordinary X-Men #1 has been moved to November 4th.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 - Bizarre Ride IIGuardians of the Galaxy #1
Marvel Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Valerio Schiti (Artist)
Cover Artist: Shawn Crystal
Hip-Hop Album: Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Passin’ Me By,” “Ya Mama,” “Officer
How well does it fit?: The Pharcyde have always been regarded as the “weirdos,” choosing a more melodic tone over gangster tales (which was huge for the early 90’s in LA). Likewise, the most recent Guardians seemed to overcome all odds to become a household name.

New Avengers #1 - The MessageNew Avengers #1
Marvel Creative Team: Al Ewing (Writer), Gerardo Sandoval (Artist)
Cover Artist: Ed Piskor
Hip-Hop Album: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s The Message (1982)
Best Tracks off the Album: “The Message,” “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
How well does it fit?: “The Message” is one of the most humble songs in the history of Hip-Hop, taking aim at social injustice and poverty in the black community. New Avengers? It has Kid Hulk… Yes, this book is going to have to depend on great dialog and humor. Not looking forward to this book.

Sam Wilson Captain America #1 - Long.Live.A$APSam Wilson: Captain America #1
Marvel Creative Team: Nick Spencer (Writer), Daniel Acuna (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Hip-Hop Album: A$AP Rocky’s Long.Live.A$AP (2013)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Wild for the Night,” “F*ckin’ Problems,” “Golie
How well does it fit?: A$AP Rocky might be a wonderful artist, who knows? I’m not going to take the time to find out, and sadly, I feel the same way about Sam Wilson being the new Captain America. That being said, it’s a beautiful adaptation of the original cover.

Spider-Gwen #1 - The Great Adventures of Slick RickSpider-Gwen #1
Marvel Creative Team: Jason Latour (Writer), Robbi Rodriguez (Artist)
Cover Artist: Humberto Ramos
Hip-Hop Album: Slick Rick’s The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Children’s Story,” “Hey Young World,” “Mona Lisa,” “Teenage Love
How well does it fit?: Slick Rick was the piece that fit the Hip-Hop scene so well that you almost overlooked the fact that he was a British pirate. Gwen Stacy, similarly, is a product of her multiverse – a damsel in distress that’s supposed to be dead, but instead is one of the hottest new superheroes in the Marvel U.

Uncanny Avengers #1 - Yo! Bum Rush the ShowUncanny Avengers #1
Marvel Creative Team: Gerry Duggan (Writer), Ryan Stegman (Artist)
Cover Artist: Jason Pearson
Hip-Hop Album: Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush the Stage (1987)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Public Enemy No. 1,” “Miuzi Weighs A Ton,” “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” “Sophisticated B*itch
How well does it fit?: Well, there’s Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Thor, Sam Wilson, and Iron Man… So I’m calling it now – Nova is going to be this book’s Flavor Flav. This is by far one of the most diverse teams in Marvel’s line-up, so if they have anything resembling the real talk that Mistachuck can spit, it’ll be a well-deserved homage.

Spider-Man 2099 - Cruel SummerSpider-Man 2099 #1
Marvel Creative Team: Peter David (Writer), William Silney (Artist)
Cover Artist: Afu Chan
Hip-Hop Album: G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer (2012)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Mercy.1,” “New God Flow.1,” “Don’t Like.1,” “Clique
How well does it fit?: G.O.O.D. Music created enough momentum just using Kanye West’s name to get attention, but not enough to really make an impact. That’s pretty much exactly what’s been going on with Miguel O’Hara. Hopefully this new team can take him back into the realm of relevance.

October 21st

Angela Queen of Hel #1 - Pink FridayAngela: Queen of Hel #1
Marvel Creative Team: Marguerite Bennett (Writer), Stephanie Hans (Artist)
Cover Artist: Annie Wu
Hip-Hop Album: Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday (2010)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Roman’s Revenge,” “SuperB ass,” “Moment 4 Life,” “Blazin
How well does it fit?: It’s a pretty bold statement to let Angela’s dopplegänger to be Nicki Minaj. They must really be desperate to sell some books for the Asgardian. However, Angela is just as insane and deadly as Nicki is with her lyrics.

Karnak #1 - Saturday NightKarnak #1
Marvel Creative Team: Warren Ellis (Writer), Gerardo Zaffino (Artist)
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews
Hip-Hop Album: Schoolly D’s Saturday Night (1986)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Saturday Night,” “We Get Ill
How well does it fit?: Karnak and Schoolly D have one district trait in common. I do not plan on picking anything up with their name on it anytime soon. 

The Astonishing Ant-Man #1- Ready to DieThe Astonishing Ant-Man #1
Marvel Creative Team: Nick Spencer (Writer), Ramon Rosanas (Artist)
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Hip-Hop Album: The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die (199?)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” “Suicidal Thoughts,” “Gimme the Loot,” “Machine Gun Funk,” “Warning,” “Who Shot Ya
How well does it fit?: The irony is overwhelming here. Really though, how does Scott Lang sit side by side with the legendary Notorious B.I.G.? Well, like Biggie, pretty much anything with the new Ant-Man on the cover is worth adding to your collection. Ready to Die was also Big’s first album and the platform he used to rocket to stardom.

Uncanny Inhumans #1 - AqueminiUncanny Inhumans #1
Marvel Creative Team: Charles Soule (Writer), Steve McNiven (Artist)
Cover Artist: Damion Scott
Hip-Hop Album: Outkast’s Aquemini (199?)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Rosa Park,” “SpottieOttieDopalicious
How well does it fit?: Outkast is like other Atlanta Hip-Hop acts, except it’s not. They’re weird. They’re fascinating. They’re BETTER. Same goes for the super-race of Inhumans from Attilan(ta). 

October 28th

The Howling Commandos #1 - 6 Feet Deep '06The Howling Commandos #1
Marvel Creative Team: Frank Barbiere (Writer), Brent Schoonover (Artist)
Cover Artist: Wilfred Santiago
Hip-Hop Album: Gravediggaz’s 6 Feet Deep ’06 (199?)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Diary of a Madman,” “1-800-Suicide
How well does it fit?: What a better way to show that your book is full of crazy monsters than with a Gravediggaz album cover? One of the most manic groups in rap is a perfect fit for The Howling Commandos. That’s assuming the book isn’t a corny mess of horribleness.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 - WolfThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
Marvel Creative Team: Ryan North (Writer), Erica Henderson (Artist)
Cover Artist: Phil Noto
Hip-Hop Album: Tyler the Creator’s Wolf (199?)
Best Tracks off the Album: “Domo23,” “Tamale,” “Jamba
How well does it fit?: As childish as Tyler can be, he’s also pretty damn smart and resourceful. And with his group (former group?) standing behind him, Tyler is brazen enough to say and do some of the silliest things in all of Hip-Hop. Doreen is no different. With her misfit college friends and Tippy the Talking Squirrel, she kicks butt and takes names at the same time!

That about does it for Marvel’s new books and the Hip-Hop variants that come with them. Check back next month for a whole new set of entries.

 

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

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Sadistik ft Vast Aire “Writes of Passage”

Song: “Writes of Passage”

Artist: Sadistik featuring Vast Aire

AlbumThe Balancing Act (2008)

Lyric: “I used to cry out why (why!)/Cus like Scott Summers, I couldn’t open my eyes/Cus everyone would die/If i took one peek, everyone would fry.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

Coming to the main stage of “DTC” this week is Sadistik. This very deep and nerdy lyric comes from the featured artist Vast Aire. Now typically “DTC” likes to have fun with its lyrics and show the handsome side of comics and Hip-Hop, however, most things in life both have a dark and light side to them. In both Hip-Hop and comics, it’s not always about saving the day, or speaking about rising above adversity. Sometimes things get dark; there are death, destruction and other pretty ugly things. I think that is exactly what Vast Aire is speaking about in this lyric. I can’t say that I personally know Vast Aire, but my guess is that when he wrote this he had a lot on his mind and some difficult things to deal with. Sometimes when things get so bad, people feel that no matter what they see, no matter what they put their focus on, it all gets broken, destroyed, and turned to ash. That could possibly be what this lyric is saying, that there is so much bad and wrong going on that he could possibly feel responsible. Or perhaps not, like I said before these are all just theories. But what do you “DTC” fans think I am? A one trick pony? Never. I have another theory.

Many rappers in the game aren’t here because everything in their life was sunshine and rainbows. A lot of rappers have experienced poverty, rejection, and death. My guess would be that Vast Aire is no different, that everywhere he goes he sees all these negatives. He sees people trying to provide for their people, he sees people trying to do better for themselves but continue to get pulled down, and he sees people die. So maybe, just maybe, if he closes his eyes, and shuts the world off, the pain will go with it. Like Cyclops when he first developed his powers, if he opened his eyes to the world and to the people around him, they would die. Maybe Vast Aire, was tired of seeing everyone around him go, so the best way to not see it, is to shut it down. Maybe we will be able to see this struggle in the new on going Cyclops series which will be written by Greg Rucka.

In this series, Rucka focuse on a younger Scott Summer (Cyclops) with illustrator Russell Dauterman. This is exciting because this will be the first on going solo series for Cyclops, one of the original leaders of the X-Men. This series spins out of “The Trial of Jean Gray.” I can’t say much about this series without spoiling what the main focus will be of the Cyclops solo series, however, if you are truly curious it might be a good idea to pick up that comic, or just look it up on the internet because well, you know, we can do that. I’m actually very excited about this series, and I hope it proves to be something special. It should be the same old Scott Summers we know and love, however the story will force us to look at him from a different angle and attitude. Seeing that we will be taking a look at Cyclops in a different time, with a different mind frame will allow us to see how this young character developed into who he is today. This solo series is set to drop in May and my bet is that this comic will be something very interesting and something all comic fans should check out. So remember fans, for every one ugly event in your life, there are fifty beautiful ones waiting in the wing.

Atmosphere – Southsiders Review

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Album Specs

Tracks/Length: 15 tracks, 59 minutes (iTunes Deluxe version is 20 tracks, 77 minutes. TOTALLY worth it)

Notable Guest Appearances: No guest spots. Just a rapper and a DJ, being awesome

Album Genre/Tone: Basement style flow (very comfortable and personal), Overall cynical tone

Lead Single: “Bitter”

 

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

Through the years, Atmosphere has garnered quite the cult following. From what started as high school friends laying tracks together has ended up filling up amphitheaters across the country. Together, rapper Sean Daley AKA Slug and DJ Anthony Davis  (not the eyebrow guy) AKA Ant, along with a couple other friends, founded Rhymesayers, a independent record label focused on making good music. Since opening their doors in 1995, Rhymesayers has been home to Hip-Hop underground royalty like Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, Evidence and Eyedea & Abilities. Rhymesayers artists are heralded for the way they relate to the masses. Atmosphere notably does this by bringing our most common disgraces and embarrassments and celebrating them in a way that makes listeners feel like they are not alone in these dark feelings.

For almost two decades, Slug and Ant have released great music, improving technique with each release. I first got into Atmosphere with their 2008 release When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. I bought it purely off of the name and nothing more; I can still remember picking up the Deluxe Edition, which came with a children’s story to summarize the tracks in the album. It was a true attestation to the hard work and detail that was put into each album. There were plenty of bars that made me laugh, ooh and ah, but they were portrayed in a way that never made you take for granted the fact that Slug was opening the door to the home of his scarred heart and letting you Rick James all over the couch with your shoes on; from alcoholism and drug abuse to relationships with women to just straight up having a shitty day, there’s an Atmosphere song for every mood.

Those close to Rhymesayers, or Hip-Hop news in general, can remember the tragic loss of fellow label-mate and Slugs close friend, Micheal Larsen (Eyedea), who passed away in 2010. The loss shook the whole Rhymesayers house, and has really changed the entire tone of Atmosphere’s music. The songs became tinged with cynicism, and an emphasis on the importance of family and where you come from. Even the album titles The Family Sign and Southsiders echo these tones. The “young and stupid” days of Atmosphere are over; there are no more waking up in “Glasshouses” or resentment towards LucySouthsiders is very much the product of the matured artists it comes from, and if you’ve been along for the ride so far, then this is just the next stop on the bus.

What You’re in For

Southsiders is the eighth studio release from Atmosphere; suffice to say, they’ve done this before. Ant brings back the beats and unique instrumentals, while Slug keeps the words flowing effortlessly over the beats. For the second record in a row, Atmosphere has recorded an album with live instrumentals, and it really pays off. I mean, Ant has always been a phenomenal producer, but using live instrumentals allows him to try out different beats that he has not before. With each track given such a unique flavor, there’s a wide range of sounds that come across on Southsiders, and not all of them will impress the same way with the same people.

While Ant’s production has always been the heart of Atmosphere, the real power of Southsiders is in the voice. The mellow bravado that Slug shows throughout the album is a testament to how comfortable he is while on the mic. Even the subject matter has been dialed up a notch, taking on subject matter from totalitarian fear-mongering on “The World Might Not Live Through Tonight” (“And put your hands up in the air like a drone/Now hold ’em over your head like your home got invaded by the FEDs”), social equality on “I Love You Like A Brother” (“Unless you slept a night in my nest/You shouldn’t waste your breath trying to criticize my mess”). Slug has become extremely comfortable letting fans into his life, and we’re all thankful for it.

Listening to Southsiders, it’s very apparent that they know this, too. In the words of Pharoahe Monch, Slug is a sadomasochist MC – he bites himself. There are about a dozen lines throughout the album that allude to an earlier piece of work from the duo (let us know how many you find!). It’s very rewarding to long-time fans to hear references to their earlier work. Slug’s strongest trait is that he can write songs like short stories. There is a clear point to every song; I never feel like Slug is rapping just to rap. It’s also worth noting that Slug enunciates everything he says, which is really helpful for fans who struggle keeping up with Hip-Hop’s fast-paced lyrics; word to Riley Freeman, maybe it’s because “white people say the whole word, like this.”

Slug’s mellow bravado could only be that of a veteran MC. He’s always been able to glide across Ant’s instrumentals, but he straight-up flies over the smooth sounds of Southsiders. This should be taken largely as a compliment to Slug’s intimacy with his fans, but pessimists can view it as a form of apathy. I see it as more of a reflection of the connection Atmosphere has built with their fans. Just because the fury that built “Bird Sings Why The Cage I Know” or the desperation that created “Pour Me Another” isn’t in the songs doesn’t mean that there isn’t just as much emotion in each bar on Southsiders. This album is a tribute to the house that love built, Southside Minneapolis and the Rhymesayers dynasty. It’s a legacy that Slug and Ant should be extremely proud of.

 

Songs On Repeat

**You can stream the entire album on Pandora. You lucky people, you.**

“Mrs. Interpret”

Lyrics to Go: “I could look you in the face for all time/And even if I fall blind I’ll still see you in my mind/You got the grace of a raven/It ain’t no misbehaving if I tell you that you’re the taste that I’m cravin’

This might seem like the obligatory love song at first, but “Mrs. Interpret” is a hilarious analogy to how dumb-struck men can get over a beautiful woman. Laced with the beautiful voice of a French girl on the hook, “Mrs. Interpret” eloquently explains how easy it is to get lost in the eyes of a loved one when they talk. The song is relatable and guaranteed to get yourself out of a fight with your significant other over whether or not you listen to them.  It has a playful ambiance, which is a welcome break from the darker tone of the rest of the album.

 

“Flicker”

Lyrics to Go: “Now I’m tryna write a song for a dead songwriter/That wrote they own songs about life and death/And every breath is full of self-awareness/Don’t ever be afraid to be embarrassed”

“Became,” the tale of how he lost a friend who became a “wolf” on The Family Sign, was thought to be an ode to late label-mate Micheal Larsen, AKA Eyedea. “Flicker” takes that concept even further, and doesn’t beat around the bush this time, and we get an uplifting anthem for the fallen MC, rivaling “Yesterday” in terms of earnestness. I can only hope that I get a eulogy of this magnitude. Although the concept is sorrowful, the light-hearted instrumentals of Ant and powerfully upbeat voice of Slug really gives Eyedea the celebrated exit he deserved. While “Became” was more for Sean, “Flicker” is for Micheal.

 

“My Lady Got Two Men”

Lyrics to Go: “My lady got two lovers/One for the funk and the other for the comfort/I’m trying to understand/But I gotta figure out which one I am”

Slug has a knack for telling 90% of a story, and then completing the art with the stroke of a pen at the end of the song. This song walks listeners through the battles of adult relationships – straddling the line between fun lover and man of the house. This is a phase that comes with growing up and, as their fan base grows older, so must their music mature. It’s also inspiring to see Slug’s personal development unfold; with no disrespect to Sean Daley, if he can go from “Trying to Find a Balance” to actually finding a balance, so can I.

 

The Quick and Dirty

Grade: B-

Slug and Ant are on their grown man shit on Southsiders. Atmosphere might not have the pep in their step that they used to, but that doesn’t mean that the message isn’t any less powerful. While Ant’s experimentation on the production side can be hit or miss with me, there are a few tracks that the beats alone warrant a spot in the all-time rotation. Fans of Atmosphere will recognize the beat and the movement, especially when Slug drops his own Easter Eggs over his own tracks, but there’s a distinct difference in the level of maturity that carries on through the album. It’s refreshing for a Hip-Hop album to show a mature stance on life, and Southsiders is an exemplification of where Atmosphere has taken their work, but I’m not sure it brings enough to the table for new fans to want to look back on the journey with us.