The Vision Is Blurry

A Look Back: Brandy’s Debut Album

Brandy

Released: September 27, 1994

Singles: “I Wanna Be Down” (1994), “Baby” (1994), “Best Friend” (1995) and “Brokenhearted” (1995)

Sales: 4× Platinum (U.S.)

Thoughts: I remember my best friend telling me that the girl from Thea had a new song out on the radio called “I Wanna Be Down“, which reached number 1 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Number 6 on US Billboard Hot 100. On this single, Brandy sangs about winning the affections of a boy that she’s admiring. I remember school starting back up and girls were singing this constantly. Now when the remix video that featured MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Queen Latifah hit the airwaves, that was it! These are the musical co-signs that are missing in today’s music. Brandy had a hit debut single and a remix to back it up.

So when Brandy dropped, my best friend purchased it on cassette and we (my best friend, her brother and I) listened to it to see what she had to offer. During this period, Aaliyah had came out with Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number during the Summer so she was getting airplay all over. The majority of the album’s writing and production came from Keith Crouch and the group Somethin’ For The People. The album’s next single was “Baby” which was again, Brandy singing for the affections of a guy that she was checking for. (“Words just ain’t enough, baby, baby/But that’s all I can use to state my intentions/Hope it gets to love, baby, baby, yeah/It’s the perfect situation“) The video for “Baby” was shot partially in Times Square and the song reached number 1 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard) and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. “Best Friend” was dedicated to her brother Ray J and was the album’s next single in the Summer of 1995. It reached number 7 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard) and number 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The video was Brandy dancing around with her dancers and Ray J was also in the video. “Brokenhearted” was the last single to be released from the album. The Soulshock & Karlin produced version featured Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men and was the radio single and filmed video version. (“I’m young but I’m wise enough to know/That you don’t fall in love overnight, oh yeah/That’s why I thought if I took my time/That everything in love would be right/But as soon as I closed my eyes/I was saying to love, “Goodbye”“)

As for the other tracks off the album, “I’m Yours” had me all in the feels (especially when Brandy broke it down at the end). There was a young lady that I went to high school with that whenever I heard this song, I always pictured myself singing it to her. My best friend would get annoyed with me always rewinding and playing this song constantly. “Sunny Day” could have been released as a single. It was one of those tracks where you just reflect back on those good days that you shared with those that meant a lot to you. (“It’s funny how you learn from your mistakes/Sometimes we take things for granted/But now that I have a change to make it right/I wanna give you, I wanna give you all my love“) The “I Dedicate” interludes was Brandy’s way of showing appreciation to those that inspired her to sing. The album ended with the gospel themed “Give Me You”.

Brandy was fitting for teenagers that was into that R&B sound of the 90’s. Brandy’s image was very clean cut on this album and there wasn’t anything sexually charged on the album (Word on the street was that her mother wasn’t having it.) If you were looking for an album that defined teenage years during the 90’s, this was it.

Album Review: Tinashe – Aquarius

Aquarius

It’s been a long time coming for singer Tinashe. After having moderate success with the group, The Stunners, Tinashe embarked on her own solo career in 2011. In 2012, she released two mixtapes In Case We Die and Reverie. It was prior to the release of Reverie that she announced that she signed with RCA Records. In 2013, Tinashe release her third mixtape, Black Water. Tinashe sound has received comparisons to the late Aaliyah and The Weeknd. With her debut album Aquarius in stores now, it’s time for this new artist to shine.

Aquarius women are known for their mysterious ways and for being unpredictable and independent. Tinashe uses these traits and others to introduce herself to listeners on this new journey. The album’s title track shows Tinashe is willing to put her man at ease as she’s willing to ride for him. (“I can tell, I’ma be your baby/Feel your stress melting away somehow/These hoes you know won’t hold you down/Getting so hard to see the lights“) She continues that subject on the next track “Bet” which features a dope guitar solo from Devonté Hynes. (“And you know I/Tried to, tell ya/Attempted to warn you/And we’ve been praying, anticipating/Been a long time coming for the road that we had to follow/I’ll be here tomorrow“) With Tinashe just turning 21 this year, the album’s lead single “2 On” (which also features ScHoolboy Q) is a great song for someone her age to party to. (“Yea we can get active/And all my bitches attractive/We go, you know who we are now/Get high, hotbox in my car now“) The latest single is the ASAP Rocky featured, “Pretend“, which is about pretending that things are good in a relationship when it’s the complete opposite. (“Pretend that I’m there when I ain’t there/Pretend that I care when I don’t care/Once upon a time, I did/Now I admit that I was fucking with a kid/Now I pretend that everything’s straight/When everything just ain’t just covered up like paint“)

The album could’ve been better off with out the Future assisted “How Many Times“, which samples Janet Jackson’s “Funny How Times Flies (When You’re Having Fun)”. It might have been Future’s verse that makes me fast forward to the next track. “Feels Like Vegas” has that feel of when your lady wants to get nasty to an uptempo song, which will lead up to other activities happening. (“How you like it, throw me on the bed/Show me how, to love you the right way, hey/When you’re runnin’, and I just can’t take no more/You go even harder and we end up on the floor“)

Listening to Aquarius, I enjoyed what Tinashe has to offer with today’s listening sound. Hopefully this album will gain her some new fans and keep her already existing ones pleased.

A Look Back: Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’s Kings of Crunk

Kings Of Crunk

Released: October 8, 2002

Label: TVT

Sales To Date: 2x Platinum

Singles: “I Dont’ Give A Fuck” (2002), “Nothins Free” (2002), “Play No Games” (2003) and “Get Low” (2003)

Atlanta was slowly making it way to wearing Rap’s crown in the early 2000’s. With the success of Outkast and Ludacris, it opened the floodgates for other Atlanta acts to nab that mainstream attention. Lil Jon and his group the East Side Boyz had made noise with with previous releases We Still Crunk!! (2000) and Put Yo Hood Up (2001). Of course “Bia Bia” was crazy and made everyone pay attention.

With the release of Kings of Crunk, this album set it completely off for me. So many guests appearances and Lil Jon had artists from the East and the West on this album. The album begins with the Pastor Troy featured “Throw It Up“. Talk about setting it off, I’m sure that many a fight have started when this came on. Jadakiss and Styles P shows out on “Knockin’ Heads Off” where Styles P tells listeners “All I need is a lil’ bomb and them East Side toys/You can catch me in the Dirty South, I got a dirty mouth/Sittin’ on the roof with the fuckin’ 30-30’s out“. The album’s first single “I Don’t Give A Fuck” that also featured Mystikal and Krayzie Bone was my shit!!! The video was dope as fuck too! (Emmanuel Lewis had a cameo — Haha!) “The Weedman” was a creative ass song about looking for the dude that has that smoke.

Now there are two artists that had appearances on this album that I expected to have their careers spring board. First, Chyna Whyte who boasted a very aggressive flow, showed out on “Bitch” and “Nothing On“. She was talking that nasty shit on the latter track. (“These titties perky, I ain’t a virgin you ain’t gotta worry bout a thing/Just lay back cause I’m on a mission to please/And I got plenty doe whodie so I ain’t lookin for cheese/Not tonight I got a quarter pound of that weed/And we can go to the verge, come one put it all in me/I like it real deep, wit no rubber so that you can feel me, you feel me?“) The other artist being Oobie, who had a nice voice and presence was known on the records. I don’t know what happened with them but now they aren’t nowhere to be found.

“See I’m something like a freak, part time pimp
Big block Chevy rider all through Decatur
Wanna know my name, Well it’s Big Sam
And I play no games with these hoes cause they lame” – Big Sam

Play No Games” was my shit. Lil Jon recruited Fat Joe and Trick Daddy on this track and the video was a cool clip as well. The aforementioned “Nothin On” was another track that I fucked with heavy especially Bo Hagan’s verse. (“I kno you freaky you dont have to admit it/I take ‘em petite, or thick in the thighs/I like to fuck ‘em while I look in they eyes/So go on, cut up , girl toot your butt up and do your thang/Sad but I knew your pussy before I knew your name“) When “Get Low” dropped, that was all she wrote. When that song got played in the club, there were empty walls everywhere. Still will have folks acting a plum fool.

Kings of Crunk set the stage for the crunk sound to go mainstream. It’s still a great album to play twelve years later.

Album Review: Banks – Goddess

Banks-Goddess

I was first introduced to Orange County, CA born artist Banks one night while watching Sub Soul on VH1 Soul. The video was for “This Is What It Feels Like“, a song that describes being emotional played with by someone that you care about. (“Remember the first love that we made/You said that you couldn’t sleep cause/Of me, told me/I caught you off guard/And then when you saw I felt the same/You pulled away/Started acting like being with me was too hard“) My initial thoughts were that her musical sound was dark, similar to that of The Weeknd’s. I discovered some other tracks from her EP, London and I enjoyed what I heard from her and kept my ear out on her music.

Banks debut album, Goddess continued on that dark theme that was found on her EP’s (London and Fall Over). The album begins with “Alibi” where Banks sings about wanting to be forgiven or given a pass for actions that made her not herself. (“Baby, I tried/I promise I’m usually better than this/And now I can’t even recognize myself anymore/You turned me into this“) The album’s title track, deals with a woman not being treated as she should and the consequences that came with it. (“Finally surfaced above the downs/Feeling her boldest, she came around/Cause she’s a goddess, finally saw this/And now you’re back, trying to claim her“) That second verse rings true for many that can identify with it.

Banks extends her vocal range on “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From ” that’s an acoustic sounding track where she sings about how the person that she’s with should accept her behavior just because. (“You ought to know where I’m coming from/How I was alone when I burned my home/And all of the pieces were torn and thrown/You should know where I’m coming from“) “Fuck Em Only We Know” is my favorite track off of Goddess where Banks sings about running off with her lover. (“By your side/That’s where I have to be now we won’t hide/I breathe your kisses just to stay alive/I see exactly what you’re thinking/I can feel you with my eyes “) Another song that’s a great listen to on this album is “Beggin’ For Thread” where Banks sings about her crazy ways. (“Stooped down and out you got me beggin’ for thread/To sew this hole up that you ripped in my head/Stupidly you think you had it under control/Strapped down to something that you don’t understand/Don’t know what you were getting yourself into/You should have known, secretly I think you knew“)

If you purchase the deluxe edition of Goddess, it comes with four additional tracks. I enjoyed the overall theme of the album as the producers (Sohn, Lil Silva, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) created a sound that fits Banks voice. I hope in her upcoming projects, Banks explores more of the uptempo sound that she demonstrates on tracks such as “Beggin’ For Thread“. Goddess is a great start for Banks musical career.

Movie Review: The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins

Director: Craig Johnson

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson & Ty Burrell

Story: Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship.

My Thoughts: I caught the trailer for this earlier this week and decided to check out it the theater. Bill Hader plays Milo and Kristen Wiig plays Maggie, twins who both try to off themselves on the same day. Milo’s an actor and while he’s struggling in Hollywood, he waiting tables at a restaurant. Maggie is a works as a hygienist in a dental office and she’s married to Lance (Wilson). Lance is an easy going guy that does landscaping work and he welcomes Milo into their home.

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are known for their run on Saturday Night Live so seeing them roles for a less comedy/more drama role is refreshing. The movie itself is very dark as themes of suicide and an over gloomy nature sets the tone of this movie. The supporting cast of characters add elements to the main characters. Joanna Gleason plays Milo and Maggie’s mother in which they still have lingering family issues with. Ty Burrell of Modern Family plays Rich, who is an former English teacher that had a past relationship with Milo. Boyd Holbrook stars as Billy, who is Maggie’s scuba diving coach and becomes a subject of her affections.

Chemistry between Hader and Wiig doesn’t misstep here as they both tackle this dramatic role which should push them into stronger roles as they continue their careers. If you’re a fan of independent movies and family dysfunction, this is a great 90 minutes for you enjoy.

Movie Review: The Equalizer

The Equalizer

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, Johnny Skourtis and Vladimir Kulich

Story: A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her.

My Thoughts: Denzel Washington reunites with Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua for the action thriller, The Equalizer. Washington stars as Robert McCall, a widowed, retired intelligence officer with a Special Forces past who lives a quiet life in Boston. His character is that of a mild mannered man that goes out his daily routine such as going to work at his “Home Depot” like job and he’s picked up the challenge of reading 100 books from his deceased wife. McCall works with young man named Ralphie, who’s local to make weight so that he can become a company security guard. McCall frequents a local diner where he would have some tea and just read. It was at this diner where he encountered Teri (Moretz), a young girl that is caught up in a prostitution ring with Russian mobsters. Now after an attack on Teri leads to McCall to extract revenge against her pimp Slavi (David Meunier), that brings in Teddy (Csokas), who is the muscle for the Russian mobster, Vladimir Pushkin (Kulich). Csokas was a complete sociopath in this film and gave no fucks about anyone that wasn’t him.

Reading on the background of the character, Teri was written for an older actress but Moretz impressed during her audition that she was cast in the role. I like the on screen chemistry between Washington and Moretz. The trust between the two characters built up as the movie went on. It reminded me of when Washington co-starred with Dakota Fanning in Man On Fire. Antoine Fuqua’s presentation was interesting to view as the use of slow motion cameras set up many of Washington’s fight scenes. Washington’s character made use of a stopwatch which I would say he used to time his precision in killing enemies. But watching McCall extract revenge reminded me of the aforementioned Man On Fire. Not saying it was exactly the same but everything about the sequence (taking out the bad guys with ease, barely any injuries) was very familiar. My only wish that Washington’s character McCall would have a bit more meaner. I enjoyed the movie and if you’re looking for a great action flick, this is one not to miss.

Album Review: Chris Brown – X

X

Chris Brown’s career has had its share of highs and lows. Both have been well documented in media, think pieces, etc. But hasn’t stopped the Tappahannock, Virginia native from creating music. His latest release, X is his sixth and possibly his most star-studded to date. With production from Diplo, Danja, Count Justice, and others, what would listeners expect from CB this time around?

A few of X‘s singles have been released for a few months now. The Michael Jackson inspired “Fine China” sets to be a song that will have people dancing for years to come. Here Chris sings about how priceless and timeless the lady he’s admiring is and the one she’s with isn’t worth her time. (“He’s so replaceable/You’re worth the chase you’re putting on“) Could have left the posthumous Aaliyah feature (“Don’t Think They Know“) on the cutting room floor and it’s not that it’s a bad song, just not a fan of creating tracks with artist(s) that have already passed on. The Nicki Minaj featured “Love More” is the uptempo track that merges R&B/Pop/Rap that has Chris and Nicki talking about using sex to get things right with them. It’s not always a good move but people are going to do what they do anyway. Lil Wayne and Tyga shows up on “Loyal” which got played to the high heavens everywhere. (There’s another version that replaces Tyga with French Montana) On this track, Chris sings about women not being loyal (funny how the “Fine China” talked about women being priceless then he talks about them cheating on “Loyal“) “New Flame” (which features Usher and Rick Ross) has Chris singing about trying to get some affection in the club. (“Who said you can’t find love in a club?/Cause I wanna tell them they wrong/Come on, just baby, try a new thing/And let’s spark a new flame“)

Trey Songz appears on “Songs on 12 Play” which is Chris and Trey’s ode to the ‘Pied Piper of R&B’. The hook composed of titles from R. Kelly songs. (“We gon’ be bumping and grinding/Seems like you’re ready to sex me, baby, baby/And I’m feeling on your booty, driving me crazy/Half on a baby/Cause’ your body’s calling me“) and then 1.5 tracks later, R. Kelly appears on “Drown In It“. Now this track is filthy and with the heathens out there, this should fit right in with them. (“It don’t get no better/My tongue writing you letters/Feeling you get wetter/We’ll be making love until the morning after“) I like the Kendrick Lamar featured “Autumn Leaves” and the Brandy featured “Do Better“. (The latter shows Brandy killed Chris on this track. Fed up vibes at its finest.) The track I play the most is the Jhené Aiko featured “Drunk Texting“. (Told you that this album is star-studded. Mad features, b.) Chris and Jhené sings about being in your feelings as the liquor invades your system. (“I’m blowing up your line/I got you on my mind/And the truth is hard to find, so I’ll be/I’ll be drunk texting, drunk texting, drunk texting you“)

X has 17 tracks on the standard release and 21 on the deluxe. So there’s plenty of music for Chris Brown fans to enjoy. There are some skip moments here on the album but X is a pretty good album to listen to.

Album Review: Jhene Aiko – Souled Out

Souled Out

If you’ve listened to Jhene Aiko’s past releases (2011’s Sailing Soul(s) and 2013’s Sail Out) then you know that her music is an acquired taste. Not everyone is a fan of her music but on the other side of the coin, you have those that swear by the lyrics that she sings. After many delays, Jhene’s debut album Souled Out is finally here for her fans alike to enjoy. So will Jhene bring anything new to the table on her debut release? Let’s review Souled Out.

SO debut single, “To Love & Die” (which also features Cocaine 80’s) shows Jhene singing about the risks of falling in love and the effects of it. (“Cause where I’m from/We live by the love, die by the love/We live for the love, die for the love/I live for you, love, die for you, love“) In the second verse, she borrows the hook from 50 Cent’s “Many Men” as she bridges the gaps from past failed relationships to fighting for the one that she wants to be with. (“Many, many, many men, wish death upon me/Have mercy on me/Cause I’m just a prisoner of your army of one/But I’ll fight to the death or until your heart is won“) The album’s second single, “The Pressure” Jhene sings about the burdens of relationships and as the song dwells the negative attitude starts to show. (“Major weed smoke in the air/Pass it like you just don’t care/Have you seen my fucks to give?/I have none, I cannot live with“)

The music on SO is the sound that may have listeners in their feelings. “It’s Cool” may have listeners relaying to when they are interested in being in a relationship but they are awaiting the other person to make the next move. (“If that is fine with you, it’s fine with me/Definitely love/Definitive love/Infinite love, yeah/I’ve been wrong before/But this time I am for sure/It’s you/Something you did made me feel it deep in my core“) The album’s strongest track comes in the form of a feature with Common titled “Pretty Bird (Freestyle)“. Jhene’s singing about having nothing left to give and how the person on the other end is trying to convince her to keep on pushing. (“Pretty bird, pretty bird, I know your hurtin’/Well so am I, so am I/Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird/Please don’t cry, you can fly/And there’s a blinding light inside of you/There’s a blinding light inside of you/And they cannot deny you, they cannot deny you“) Common’s verse speaks on the pain that we all deal with on the daily. (“They say through the pain is how we learn/You landed on the window of pain, simple and plain/It’s hard for you to fly in the rain/The way love goes is not the way that it came/Come fly, un-die, be born again/I’ve seen the strongest of them be torn from men/Ripped apart and get put back together/Them the ones with the most beautiful feathers“) It’s No I.D.’s production which makes this track stand out.

As stated in the beginning, Jhene Aiko’s fans swear by her music as her critics slam her constantly. Souled Out is one of those albums that you should listen to in the dark and ready to shed some major tears. If you’re looking for vocals with high rifts and bang out production, this is not the album for you.

A Look Back: The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die

Ready To Die

The album cover says it all. The little baby with the afro sitting Indian style. The Summer of 1994, East Coast was looking to make a grand return to the hip-hop game. A gem was found in a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn MC, The Notorious B.I.G. (born Christopher Wallace) He had been rapping since he was a teenager and released a demo under the name Biggie Smalls. Mr. Cee , promoted the demo and it was heard by Matty C of The Source.

“Yeah, this album is dedicated
To all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothing
To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of
That called the police on me
When I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter” – The Notorious B.I.G. from “Juicy

Sean “Puffy” Combs was working as an A&R at Uptown Records when he heard of the demo and signed Biggie to the Uptown Records label. That lead to him appearing on Heavy D’s “A Buncha Niggas”. After Combs was fired from Uptown Records, he went on to form Bad Boy Records and signed Biggie to the label and with that came appearances on the Who’s The Man soundtrack (“Party And Bullshit”), Neneh Cherry’s “Buddy X“, Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby” and Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” and “What’s The 411” remixes. But what really set Biggie off to stardom was his appearance on Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear” remix, alongside LL Cool J, Rampage and Busta Rhymes. To me, his verse is the most quotable out of everyone on the record. (“I see the gimmicks, the wack lyrics, the shit is/Depressing, pathetic, please forget it/You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring/Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring“) With that being said, The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album was released twenty years ago on this date. Let’s take a look back at the album that brought the East back.

1. “Intro“: This introduction to the album takes place in different stages of Biggie’s life and is detailed by the music in the background. His birth (Curtis Mayfield’s “Super Fly“), arguments between his parents (Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight“), train robbery (Audio Two’s “Top Billin’“) and his release from prison (Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Tha Shiznit“) As he’s leaving prison, he’s rebuffs the guard’s assertion that he’ll be right back in jail. (“I got big plans nigga, big plans, hahahaha“)

2. “Things Done Changed“: (“Shit, it’s hard being young from the slums/Eating 5 cent gums, not knowing where your meal’s coming from“) On the album’s first track, Biggie details from when he grew up to what was present in 1993. First verse, he raps about ‘motherfuckers being all friendly’ and then in 1993, ‘niggas is getting smoked’. It was a grim outlook of growing up in the 90’s era of Brooklyn. Shit definitely got real in verse two when he rapped about the guy wanting to fight instead of having the MAC-10 on his side. (“Slugs in his back and that’s what the fuck happens/When you sleep on the street/Little motherfuckers with heat want to leave a nigga six feet deep“) In the final verse, he talks about the kids with the guns, pagers and how they got killed going out of town. He asked what happened to the cookouts before dropping the bombshell about his mother having breast cancer. Reality was a hard pill to swallow.

3. “Gimme The Loot“: (“I’m slamming niggas like Shaquille, shit is real/When it’s time to eat a meal, I rob and steal/Cause mom dukes ain’t giving me shit/So for the bread and butter I leave niggas in the gutter“) What was dope about this song was Biggie going back and forth on the track as he altered his voice. Robbery was motive on this record and the shootout at the end was even crazier.

4. “Machine Gun Funk“: (“So I guess you know the story, the rap-side, crack-side/How I smoked funk, smacked bitches on the backside/Bed-Stuy: the place where my head rests/50-shot clip if a nigga want test“) Fucks with this track HEAVY!!! The flow here is incredible and I can just vibe out and listen to this all day.

5. “Warning“: (“I fuck around and get hardcore/C-4 to your door, no beef no more nigga/Feel the rough, scandalous/The more weed smoke I puff, the more dangerous“) I can admit that this track was the least favorite of mine but that won’t stop me from rapping along with the lyrics. I remember on an old episode of Comicview where the young lady stated that Biggie needs an Around The Way bra. I was in tears.

6. “Ready To Die“: (“As I sit back and look when I used to be a crook/Doing whatever it took from snatching chains to pocketbooks/A big bad motherfucker on the wrong road/I got some drugs, tried to get the avenue sold“) Biggie on this track raps about his old life where he was robbing folks without any regret. Wasn’t one of my favorite tracks on the album.

7. “One More Chance“: (“I fuck non-stop, lick my lips a lot/Used to lick the clits a lot, but licking clits had to stop/‘Cause y’all don’t know how to act when the tongue go down below“) Before the song begins, there’s an intro where a child is telling hoes not to call there for Biggie and the child makes sure that his mother approves. Then four women leave messages for Biggie and they are fed up with his shit. This version of One More Chance is the filthy version were Biggie talks all types of shit on this record. (“I’ll fuck around and hit you with the Hennessy dick/Mess around and go blind, don’t get to see shit/The next batter, here to shatter your bladder/It doesn’t matter: skinny or fat or light-skinned or black/Baby, I drop these Boricua mamis screaming ¡ay papi!“) This is also our first introduction to Total, who at the time were Biggie’s background singers. Now the remix sampled Debarge’s “Stay With Me” and had an all star R&B/Hip-Hop cast for the video.

8. “Fuck Me (Interlude)”: (“You chronic smokin’, Oreo cookie eatin’, pickle juice drinkin’/Chicken gristle eatin’, biscuit suckin’, MUTHAfucka“) When this interlude came on, my best friend and I would wonder if he was truly fucking the girl on this skit. A. Yes, he was. B. The woman would turn out to be Lil’ Kim.

9. “The What” (feat. Method Man): (“Fuck the world, don’t ask me for shit/Everything you get you gotta work hard for it/Honeys shake your hips, you don’t stop/And niggas pack the clips, keep on“) Soon as the beat drops, nigga!!!! Biggie and Meth killed this! I mean it wasn’t even fair what these two did to this track. It was dope during the opening verse where Biggie goes “I squeeze Gats till my clips is empty/Don’t tempt me, you don’t want to fuck with the M-E” and then Method Man takes the hand off “…T-H-O-D Man, here I am/I’ll be damned if this ain’t some shit/Come to spread the butter lyrics over harmony grit” Very dope collaboration.

10. “Juicy“: (“And I’m far from cheap, I smoke skunk with my peeps all day/Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way/The Moet and Alizé keep me pissy/Girls used to diss me/Now they write letters cause they miss me “) This is Biggie’s rags to riches tale here. That Mtume sample of “Juicy Fruit” is what set this off.

11. “Everyday Struggle“: (“My daughter use a potty so she’s older now/Educated street knowledge, I’mma mould her now”) What made Biggie great at what he did was the storytelling aspect in his rhymes. Painted his rhymes so vividly and just gave you a great story about the rise and surviving in the drug game.

12. “Me & My Bitch“: (“Moonlight strolls with the hoes, oh no, that’s not my steelo/I wanna bitch that like to play ceelo, and craps/Packin gats, in a Coach bag steamin dime bags/A real bitch is all I want, all I ever had“) Biggie talks about his down ass woman on this track. People cringe during the opening line but wasn’t aware that it was from a Richard Pryor routine “Wino & Junkie“. In true storytelling fashion, the girl dies at the end and Biggie vows revenge for her murder. Also what’s interesting is the conversation between Puffy and a young lady during the chorus.

13. “Big Poppa“: (“Money, hoes and clothes: all a nigga knows/A foolish pleasure? Whatever/I had to find the buried treasure, so grams I had to measure“) Puffy made sure to go with the sure shot commercial singles as this track samples The Isley Brothers “In Between The Sheets” and Biggie spits game to the ladies.

14. “Respect“: (“Rap was secondary, money was necessary/Until I got incarcerated–kinda scary/C74-Mark 8 set me straight/Not able to move behind the great steel gate/Time to contemplate, damn, where did I fail?/All the money I stacked was all the money for bail“) This track had to grow on me, although the autobiographical tale that Biggie tells is dope here. I hated the beat and Diana King’s vocals here were annoying. At the end of this track, there’s a skit where Biggie’s trying to convince a young lady to give him head. She’s denying the fact that she knows how to do it and from the reaction during the action, Biggie knew she was full of shit.

15. “Friend Of Mine“: (“I be cruising up the block, I be passing her/Pimping hard with the female passenger/And the only time I call her to hang/Is when me and Dee/blunted up, pissy, scheming on a gang-bang“) This was the “Who Hurt You” track off this album. Biggie details meeting a young lady then she slept with his homeboy then he (Biggie) fucked with her sister. Just a bunch of pettiness going on this track.

16. “Unbelievable“: (“And those that rushes my clutches get put on crutches/Get smoked like dutches from the master/Hate to blast you but I have to, you see I smoke a lot/Your life is played out like Kwame and them fucking polka dots“) My second favorite track from this album and DJ Premier clearly killed the beat. The R. Kelly scratched in sample from “Body Callin‘” makes this work. Just an incredible song.

17. “Suicidal Thoughts“: (“I can’t believe suicide’s on my fucking mind, I wanna leave/I swear to God I feel like death is fucking calling me/Naw you wouldn’t understand“) This track is still eerie whenever I listen to it and Lord Finesse created a dope beat. The way Biggie ended this album as to set up to Life After Death is still incredible.

The album was remastered in 2004 and “Who Shot Ya” (Still don’t get why that track was left off the original album) and “Just Playing (Dreams)” which was given to Lil’ Kim and she remade it for her debut album Hardcore a few years later. What was incredible about this album was just Biggie’s lyrical wordplay and how he crafted his stories in his head. Just sitting here and listening to what was the start of greatness. The first week sales for Ready To Die was 57k but by 1999, it sold 4 million copies. As a hip-hop fan, I’m appreciative of this album because of the impact that it had on me as a fan. I wonder if he was still here today, how Biggie would describe the process of creating this album?

Movie Review: The Drop

The Drop

Director: Michaël R. Roskam

Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts and John Ortiz

Story: Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

My Thoughts: When I first saw the commercial for The Drop, the cast and the story captured my interest. The story is set in Brooklyn and this particular area of Brooklyn is bleak and gloomy. It seems as all the residents there have seen or want to see better days ahead. Tom Brady plays Bob Saginowski, a bartender at Cousin Marv’s, which is named after Cousin Marv who is played by James Gandolfini in his final movie role. Bob gives off the impression that he’s mild mannered and just runs the bar. The history in the neighborhood runs deep and everyone knows everyone. In regards to Cousin Marv, Gandolfini fits in this role as it is right up the alley from what we’ve seen him portray on The Sopranos. But Tony would see Cousin Marv and just laugh him off. Cousin Marv lost his bar ten years ago (he says it was 8 1/2 years ago) to Chechen mobsters, who uses the bar as part of an drop to an underground syndicate where the mobsters move money around. Another story that develops within the movie is the budding relationship between Bob and Nadia (Rapace). Bob’s walking home from the bar and hears whimpering coming from a trash can. He discovers a dog that he believes that’s a Boxer but Nadia tells him it’s a Pit Bull. The dog was bloodied and bruised up from an attack that occurred from Nadia’s ex boyfriend, Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts). Deeds is touted as being a hitman but once you look at the character, you’ll ask yourself, “Is this guy a killer”? I also enjoyed John Ortiz as Detective Torres, who seems to pop up and has plenty of questions for Bob and knows that he has the answers that he’s looking for. He’s that detective that knows what goes down in the neighborhood at all times.

The flow and sequence of The Drop‘s story and writing is what made this movie a win for me. Dennis Lehane, who did some writing on HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, created a great story that makes me want to read the novel that it was adapted from. The director, Michaël Roskam did a great job in bringing this to life. The on screen chemistry between Hardy and Gandolfini in their respective roles is what makes you want to see it again. The scene where Cousin Marv is telling Bob about how he came up is on point. (“I had something once. I was respected. I was FEARED.“) If you’re looking for a great movie to see over the weekend, The Drop is it. This is definitely a future addition to the DVD/Blu Ray collection.