The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It's Party Time It's Excellent

My first review for Stylus is up today. It analyzes the little story of two young men, fortuitously named Wayne and Garth. I can assure you that last sentence makes no sense. In case, you were wondering why I'm reviewing a movie that came out 14 years ago, it's for Stylus' weekly Second Take column, which takes a look back at a film or album from the past. Check it out here:

In other news, I covered a Jurassic 5 show last week for Rap-Up Magazine, and while it wasn't as abominable as the Mobb Deep show that I went to last month, it wasn't exactly mind-blowing either. I've probably seen J5 more than any other act, rock or rap. This mainly has to do with the fact that I grew up in Los Angeles and if you grew up in Los Angeles and liked hip-hop , it was practically impossible not to end up at least a few J5 shows. I think this last concert was show seven and without a doubt it will probably be my last one. Since I'm pretty sure at this point Rap-Up decided not to run the review, I'm just going to post it below. Rest assured, I went very easy on J5 just because I used to be a huge fan of the group.

I'm definitely over that phase. I can't knock their live show, as it's easily one of the best in hip-hop, but I'll say this much, if there's anything more tired than rappers who rap about their coke-dealing ability, it's rap groups who rap about how real they keep it. Especially ones that do collaborations with Dave Matthews. I understand that rappers have families to feed too but I also understand that Dave Matthews is a douche that has no place anywhere on a rap song. If they were going to try to sell out couldn't they at least have gotten Chris Martin?

It’s fitting that Jurassic 5’s latest single of their new album, “Work it Out,” is a collaboration with Dave Matthews. In many ways, Jurassic 5 are the hip-hop version of Matthews. While I happen to find J5’s music infinitely more listenable than Matthews’ mind-numbingly dull brand of mellow-rock, Jurassic 5 have shaped their career along the same lines, as both make relatively safe, non-threatening, non-innovative music, popular among stoned wannabe hippie college kids. They both make the sort of music you could play at home in front of your parents and not have to cringe with every offensive lyric. But above all, Jurassic 5 most resemble Matthews in their dedication to producing a fan-friendly live show. And in that regard, the 5 (now actually a quintet with the departure of producer/DJ Cut Chemist) put on an entertaining performance at the House of Blues Sunset on Tuesday, July 25.

Indeed everything about Jurassic 5 is throwback, so it should come as no surprise that their live show partially paid homage to the greats of the past. Accordingly, the crew’s emphasis never veered from the essential basics of hip-hop: strong boastful rhyming, impressive DJ scratching from DJ-Nu Mark, now getting his opportunity to shine solo, and just a general reliance on the art of live performance, something increasingly foreign to younger rappers. As one might expect, Jurassic 5’s set was heavy on the group’s older catalogue as they fittingly came out to “In the Flesh,” off their first album, 1997’s eponymous EP. As always, their performance was tight, the four rappers in the group carefully timing their intros on each song seamlessly, as though they were passing a baton, an analogy that lended itself well to one of the performed songs, “A Day At the Races.”

The strongest part about the Los Angeles-based collective has always been their technical facility and on-stage this strength is only magnified. Every man in Jurassic 5 can rap—quite well. In particular, Chali 2NA stood out as always from the rest of the group. It’s no black eye on the rest of the group how much 2NA betters his peers, as 2NA is perhaps the most underrated rapper in hip-hop. On-stage, his well-crafted rhyme schemes, his powerful baritone voice and his towering persona, make him easily the group’s star. After all these years, the fact that he has yet to release his much-pushed back solo album is a true shame.

In many ways, Jurassic 5’s show was a homecoming of sorts for the rap journeyman having plied their trade over the last four years to crowds as diverse as The Warped Tour, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. And J5’s Los Angeles fan-base was wildly enthusiastic throughout the performance. Indeed, other hip-hop groups would be well served to take a page from J5’s antics, as the group never stopped for a moment, never devolved into some long-winded tangent about the nature of hip-hop and always kept the energy levels in the room high.

Yet on some levels, there was something missing from the performance. I’ve seen Jurassic 5 seven times previous, dating back to the pre-Quality Control Days and back when they were still new to the scene there was always something a little thrilling about seeing a Jurassic 5 show. Yet in 2006, 12 years after the group formed there is something a little surreal about a group dedicated to being throwbacks, still plying the same schtick after a dozen years. If I had never seen the group before, I’d inevitably decided that it was one of the best concerts I’d ever seen. Yet on some level, the group’s style hasn’t progressed since its inception and now that they’re on album four, the concept has grown a bit stale and dull for this former Jurassic 5 die-hard. It’s not necessarily from a lack of effort. The group is trying to change, as the new album features the aforementioned Matthews collaboration, not to mention beats from Miami-based hitmaker Scott Storch and former Nas collaborator Salaam Remi, yet these attempts fell flat on-stage, a bit too forced, a bit too calculated to win mainstream Black Eyed Peas-esque appeal. But hey, even though the group’s style may indeed seem Jurassic, a little musty, a little creaking, a little boring, they can still bring it on-stage better than 99 percent of rap crews making music today.Baseball cards have been in the news a whole lot over the past few weeks and I suspect it has to do with Major League Baseball and the baseball card manufacturer's $7 million marketing campaign to remind a generation of children that baseball cards exist. I'm sure a whole lot of money on this campaign is directed towards PR reps to pester journalists to write stories about the decline of baseball cards and the hopes for the industry's resurgence.

If nothing else, the efforts seem to have been generating a lot of press, as Slate's Dave Jamieson wrote a great story on the baseball card industry last week, as did the LA Times.

Speaking of the LA Times, I've always been a big fan of the newspaper and generally regard it as the most underrated paper in America. Sure the NY Times has better op-ed columnists and a better front page and the Washington Post is obviously the Washington Post, but neither of them can mess with the LA Times' sports section or Calender section, both of which I consider to be the best in the nation.
That being said, what in God's name were the Times' editors thinking yesterday when they allowed the entire front page of the Sunday Business section to be about non-local stories, particularly this one about the labor crisis in Minnestota's iron ore industry.

It's not like I have a problem with the story per se, but one of the most constant and valid critiques of the Times' is that it isn't local enough. With that in mind, there were and are plenty of opportunities for Times reporters to write a similar story about workers in Los Angeles. The old newspaper I wrote for, The San Fernando Valley Business Journal, addressed the issue of a graying and untrained local workforce on several different occasions, most notably here and here.

In a time where they're supposedly desperate to cut costs, it seems a bit superfluous that the Times had to travel all the way to Minnesota to cover a trend that has little impact its own readers. All they had to do was ask any aerospace company in the greater Los Angeles area about the demographics of their workforce. I'm sure they'll have a whole lot to say.
As you've probably heard Miami Vice came in at number one this past weekend, grossing $25 million. Sure, that sounds good on paper, but if you factor in that that it had basically no competition this weekend other than a third week Pirates of the Carribbean, this opening can only be looked at as a disappointment, particularly considering their grosses are likely going to be way down next weekend, when the 13-18 crowd is going to be spending their money on Talledega Nights, the new Will Ferrell NASCAR film. Well, that and 24-year old bloggers.

I haven't seen Miami Vice but now that Joey has savaged it mercilessly, I'm certainly not planning on it. But in my mind, this film made two crucial blunders. The first was the uninspired casting choices of Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell. If nothing else, Farrell proves that movie studios can't create movie stars in this day and age. See Jude Law. Johnny Depp is a movie star. Jim Carrey is a movie star. Colin Farrell is not. Why? Because no one will ever go see a movie just because Colin Farrell is in it, Nicole Narain excluded.

The film's second crucial error was to try to make it a serious film. You're dealing with Miami Vice, people want to see neon, people want to see kitsch. This film should've been set in 1984 with full-on pastels and Ray-Bans. Check out the picture above. That's awesome. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in dark suits, not so much. If they wanted to go serious, couldn't they have just set the film in the mid-80s, using the Reagan Administration's failed drug war as a contrast with Dubya's failed war. In all likelihood, the film never would've been great but it could've been a whole lot of fun. Too bad.

And if you're still reading this still looking for more ways to kill time at work, check out two new blogs (at least to me), Bright Stupid Confetti, particularly this well-written post on the greatness of the Wu.

And Kalibleek, fellow Socalite, Stephen Colbert and Def Jux fan, which pretty makes anyone A-okay in my book.

And with that tune in again next Wednesday for more Wayne's World.


At 5:48 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Excellent first go around at Stylus...Keep it up.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger chris said...

Hey man, thanks for the shout-out, I appreciate it.

Read your article at Stylus: very cool. W.W. is one of those classic movies that is good to be reminded of every now and again. Plus, it was interesting to learn that "The Dana Carvey Show" had such a crazy talented group of writers - Wow! - but maybe, like the Lakers a couple years back, their lack of success with the show was due in part to there being too many all-stars on one team.

At any rate, I’ve added you to my sidebar.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger amphimacer said...

1. About the basball cards: as a boomer (born in the early 50s), I watched this thing explode, and remember saying to my wife in the late 1980s that it would all come to nothing. It's simple: we (my generation) loved our cards (I and my best friend had about a thousand, including at least one complete set of NHL cards, though it was mostly baseball -- and remember, this is when Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were still active players). When the card companies started to produce more and more, unfortunately some of my contemporaries (I knew one such) thought this amounted to real value, not a function of a big bunch of baby boomers reliving their school days. Did they really think that people born in the seventies would be interested in the rookie cards of sixties stars? I mean, I can still listen with pleasure to some minor sixties groups, but apart from a few exceptions, most particularly and obviously The Beatles, younger people aren't interested. And why should they be? I'm surprised that so many card stores are still open, not that so many closed.

2. That was an excellent think-piece about "Wayne's World." The only other films that come to mind that have that over-the-top brilliance as well as the dry wit are some of the screwball comedies from the thirties and early forties ("Bringing Up Baby" and "The Thin Man" as two that come to mind). When they made "WW", everybody thought it would suck, even those of us who thought the ongoing series of SNL sketches with Wayne and Garth were tremendous. It had one extremely unfortunate effect, however, along with "The Blues Brothers": it gave them the idea they could do this, when it was Mike Myers's writing that was the underlying reason for the film's success. Stan Mikita Donuts? Who else but Mike Myers would have had the temerity to make an in-joke that only Canadian audiences would get? (That was indeed a talented bunch at Dana Carvey's show. Writing counts for something, huh? Who would have thought?)

3. Finally, "Miami Vice" . . . Frankly, the series sucked, and the idea of the series sucked, and reviving it now is another idea that sucked. Pastel suits? Okay, but that's not quite enough to make a show, is it? You're surely right about Colin Farrell. The only thing I can remember seeing him in is "Daredevil," and that's only because I saved my money and didn't watch it until it came on TV a couple of months ago. And he wasn't particularly good in that; if you can't look particularly good acting next to Ben Affleck, I'd say you ought to be considering another profession.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger KaLiBLeeK said...

Nice article over at Stylus. Props for that. Dana Carvey is the effin' man. I was into the baseball card thing for a year or two when I was in elementary school (probably 2nd and 3rd grade), then I realized I hated baseball and started collecting basketball cards. And after seeing Will Ferrell on The Daily Show last night, I now have hope for Talladega Nights. The promos didn't do much for me, but the clip they showed (and the Ferrell/Stewart hilarity) pretty much guaranteed I'll see it now. Somebody should make a satire version of Miami Vice, set in the 80s and everything. Something like Robin Hood Men In Tights. I'd actually see that ish.

And thanks for the namedrop homie. It's greatly appreciated.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Zilla the Thrilla said...


Great piece on "Wayne's World." That was the last time Mike Meyers will hysterical without utilizing fart jokes and gross-out sight gags for 90 minutes ("So I Married An Axe Murderer" doesn't count).

I listened to the new Jurassic 5 record and it reminded me of "Elephunk." I can picture the label looking at them in a vast conference room, saying "Ok guys, um you haven't really sold ANY records yet and we're getting impatient so..." Instead of bringing aboard a useless white girl with 86 piercings, they called Scott Storch and DMB. And this album will brick and they will get dropped like Dilated.

Why do these hugely successful indie rap artists (Dilated, J5, Little Brother, Slum Village, Apathy) feel the need to go to a major, only to put out 2-3 albums that almost go gold combined then get dropped?


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