Straight Outta Compton Review

Straight Outta Compton

compton

If you would told me one of the 10 biggest R-rated movies of all time was an N.W.A. biopic, I’d never believe you. But clearly the original gangster rappers struck a chord with a generation, and also our moment in time.

N.W.A.’s best known members, Beats billionaire Dr. Dre and gangster rapper extraordinaire turned family man Ice Cube,  produced the film, and you can tell they had a roll shaping the narrative. Despite not having the cleanest record, each member comes up looking pretty clean, even though there’s plenty that will tell you otherwise. Even if that’s the case, almost every biopic is pretty celebratory and forgiving of its subjects, so Straight Outta Compton is no exception in this case.

The most interesting character in the film is also its central character, the late Eazy E. Eric Lynn Wright aka Eazy E is played brilliantly by Jason Mitchell, his first major role but one that won’t be his last. He captures the erratic, troubled, but good natured E. He plays an interesting opposite to Paul Giamatti’s Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s original manager who helped Eazy E start his own label, Ruthless Records. It seems like Giamatti has played this angry antagonist role a lot lately, but this is certainly is one of his most interesting roles: clearly caring for Eazy E but also certainly willing to take advantage of him. In most movies, they would make Heller a downright villain, but here, director F. Gary Gray depicts the truly complicated relationship that likely existed.

Straight Outta Compton certainly couldn’t have been released at a better time, as N.W.A’s fight against racial discrimination from the police is the top of the mind for many. The film depicts this sort of discrimination from the police in a scene that’s the impetus for writing “F**k the Police”. While I think in many ways they make this moment look more righteous and purposeful than it likely was, it certainly does well to spell out the importance of the song’s existence.

At a 2.5 hour runtime, I usually have a tough time paying attention. Straight Outta Compton is surprisingly entertaining throughout, even without any major storyline that carries from start to finish. While a bit cheesy and cleaned up at times, Straight Outta Compton is a great resource for understanding the history and importance of N.W.A.

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Apple Music: The Death Knell for Downloadable Music

apple

Once fat and healthy, the internet in the 21st century has thrown the music industry for a loop time and time again, putting musicians and the industry that produces them in a serious identity crisis as to where the money comes from. With the invention of the iPod and eventually the iPhone, downloadable music in MP3 format became the new form, and CDs went the way of the cassette tape. Vinyl strangely came back into vogue as a counter-cultural music fan move to the digital revolution. Throughout the whole age of digital music, file sharing through Napster, then Limewire, then BitTorrent and any number of other file sharing programs made music easily accessible for free. Finally, streaming came about from outlets like Rdio, Pandora, and Spotify to make music as easily accessible, though it does require some data usage, paying the artists at least something for the music, a fraction of a penny for each listen.

Apple’s entrance into the streaming service world, Apple Music, marks the beginning of the end for downloadable music. Apple, who owns the world’s largest music download store in iTunes, has stopped caring about iTunes and instead has thrown all their eggs in the Apple Music basket. The day Apple Music launched, it became extremely difficult to even find iTunes, or a price on an individual album. Instead, everything became focused on getting you to try the streaming service.

With the ability to listen offline, Apple Music completely blurs the lines between your purchased downloads and music you find in streaming. When you are under “My Music” on your iPhone or iPad, all your selected music, whether downloaded or just streamed, looks the same. Thus, Apple is playing a role in changing people’s understanding of your music. It’s no longer what you own, but it’s what you listen to.  All music is available to snatch up and be listened to in the instance of a quick search.

With Beats 1 Radio, Apple also offers an alternate to Satellite (Sirus XM) and Terrestrial (AM/FM) Radio, for people that prefer someone else to curate their listening for them. Already, Beats 1 is off to a great start, with mixtapes/radio hours from tons of influential artists, including Dr. Dre, Elton John, and St. Vincent. Apple is making sure there is a curated option for every music fan under the sun.

St. Vincent is one of many new DJs for Beats 1 Radio
St. Vincent is one of many new DJs for Beats 1 Radio

Some bugs remain, that will keep Apple Music from becoming a complete no-brainer. For example, there is no easy way, beyond a syncing workaround, to get your music that’s not on Apple Music (say a local artist or an album that hasn’t released is not yet on iTunes) on your device. You can essentially turn Apple Music off, get it added, and then turn it back on, but this is a time-consuming affair. There are plenty of other little kinks Apple still has to work out, but I’m guessing a few software updates later, Apple music will be pretty much all you want it to be.

My prediction is by the end of 2016, streaming and vinyl will be the two largest sources of revenue for consuming music. Yes, those are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, but vinyl still scratches the itch of audiophiles who love the tangible aspect of a record and listening intentionally an album at a time. Streaming speaks to our sense of wanting everything now, on-the-go, and for the lowest price possible, only $9.99 a month. It will be interesting how artists survive this new form, but it could be more exposure for artists, and getting some money (if just pennies) from people who may have been downloaded their records illegally through file-sharing before, is a small step up. The music industry continues to be in the wilderness.

Top Ten Thursday: Most Anticipated Albums of 2014

Most anticipated music of 2014
Now that we are almost a month deep into 2014, and the dust has begun to settle on all the 2013 talk, we are ready to take a quick preview of things to come. All of these artists below are set to release albums in the upcoming year, and below are our most anticipated. As with all things in life, sometimes musical expectations just don’t meet reality. For instance, last year the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were at #1 on the list. Then they also ended up #1 on our “Most Disappointing Albums of 2013” list as well. So as always, forgive us our blunders as they arise, and please feel free to let us know what you are excited about in 2014 as well. Onto the list:

10. Joanna Newsom
joanna newsom, new album, 2014
In 2014 Joanna will release her first album in 4 years. Now that she is married to Andy Samberg, I only hope to expect a mix of Joanna’s uniquely classical sounds blended with the nonsensical, over-produced gaudiness of The Lonely Island. Just kidding. Hopefully it is just classic, lovely Joanna.
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Top Ten Thursday: Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

anticipation

Of the artists we most anticipated new albums from in 2012, two of them failed to release a new album (Outkast and Kanye).  We decided to be a bit less lofty with our prognostications this year, and are relatively comfortable that all the artists on this year’s list will end up dropping a new full-length (except my “just missed”, which is the same as last year, and a complete shot in the dark).  As always, some artists will surprise us with great new releases, but we can only base our list now on who has given strong vibes something new is coming in 2013.  Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on who you are personally anticipating or where we messed up.  Enjoy!

 

10. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience

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Has Justin Timberlake ever faltered since he began his solo career?  No, no he hasn’t.  Making as smooth a transition from boy-band front man, to Michael Jackson-esque solo debut, to hyper-aggressive sophomore album Prince sound has seemed all too easy for ole’ JT.  Let’s hope The 20/20 Experience is no different.


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Coachella 2012 Review

Coachella, 2012, lineup, line up, poster, picture, snoop dogg, dr dre, radiohead, bon iver,
^^Incredible Lineup, Meh Festival

How does one review a Coachella? It is hard because you are taking a weekend that is very much a personal experience that involves close friends, music, and the good times you create (or don’t). Some people go to try and catch as many concerts as possible in three days. Some merely use it as an opportunity to explore how many drugs they can fill their body with in three days. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Some people go for the art. Some people probably just go for their friends. Teenagers go to fit in or to look like a rebel. Old farts go to feel young and seem hip. I even heard Bear Grylls showed up to film an episode of Man vs Festivals in order to properly demonstrate exactly how to drink copious amounts of alcohol in 108 degree weather without dying (I think the trick had something to do with mixing every drink with pickle juice). Personally, I only go for the Ferris wheel.
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Top Ten Thursday: The Hologrammy’s

tupac, hologram, coachella, digital

All it took was the one and only Coachella music festival to bring Tupac back from the dead…at least in Obi-Wan Kenobi hologram form.  A hundred grand plus and the unequaled genius of Dr. Dre was what proved necessary to display Tupac’s hologram performing “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Gangstaz” with Snoop Dogg (for those with a more technical interest in the technology used, see this article).  The shocker is that, from the youtube videos and first-hand reports, the hologram actually looked pretty good.  This may not prompt the esteemed writers of LxL to rush out and buy tickets for the inevitable tour of Tupac reborn (who am I kidding, I’m in), but it did get the ball rolling on which deceased musicians we would like to see show up at a music festival near us.  Our preference would be that these legends show up in hologram form, as opposed to zombified (aka Bob Dylan’s most recent tours), because zombies give us the willies.  Enjoy, and let us know who you would like to see brought to computer-generated life.

10. Notorious B.I.G./Ol’ Dirty Bastard

biggy, notorious, crown, king, close-up

Alright, so maybe the connection between Notorious and ODB are tenuous at best (Jay-Z sampled ODB’s “Brooklyn Zoo” for his track “Brooklyn’s Finest”, which contains a verse by Notorious).  But with the power of post-humus production, we would like to see a Watch The Throne-esque collaboration featuring Big Poppa and Big Baby Jesus in a feast for the ears.  Yes, ODB went by Big Baby Jesus for a period of time during his late-career nosedive. 

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Top Ten Thursday: Essential Easter Egg Tracks

 

^Tis the reason for the season ...
Easter is upon us! And what is everyone’s favorite part Easter?Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs of course! Full size, none of that bite size bull spit. A distant second is the Easter egg hunt. And just as that sneaky little bunny manages to hop into our lives once a year to hide those colored eggs around the house, the yard, or wherever he deems fit, artists and their producers have been finding clever (or sometimes not so clever) ways to hide tracks within their albums since the dawn of the LP. That was until recently when iTunes and record labels decided to bone us all by charging a dollar extra for hidden tracks and label the albums as “bonus track editions”. What used to be a fun, playful game turned into a ploy for an easy extra buck. Although, this kind of thing has in fact been happening with bonus tracks for quite some time, just in a different fashion. In fact, some songs on our list began as hidden tracks, but after a striking rise to popularity, labels began printing the albums with the tracks listed on the album. So here you go, whether still listed as hidden tracks or not, here are our favorite Easter egg tracks of all time:
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