The Gray Area

The Gray Area

Hip Hop Shows Signs of Life in 2008

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Whether or not you believe Hip Hop is or was dead, it’s still fun to say so. For argument’s sake, let’s just say it got its ass kicked and was lying comatose in the hospital for a while. The artists listed here are signs that Hip Hop has not completely punched the ticket yet.

The Roots  РRising Down

Hip Hop can always count on The Roots to deliver, even in the midst of all the madness. While, to me, this wasn’t as good as Game Theory, it’s kinda like complaining that you got head instead of a blowjob.

Joe Budden – Mood Muzik 3 & Halfway House

My favorite rapper.¬† Joe Budden puts my emotions into words. 2008 was a great year for Joe Budden. He grew a lot musically, and put out two dope mixtapes, not to mention forged what could become the dopest hip hop group EVER (Slaughterhouse – Joe Budden, Royce 5’9, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I). He is truly one of the artists who improves on every project he works on. I hope this trend continues. I kinda almost prefer him to stay a dope ass mixtape artist, as opposed to making a mainstream name for himself. This way, he’s still (pause pause pause) my secret. Here’s MM3. And Halfway House.

Fav track

  • MM3 – All of Me

Royce 5’9 – Bar Exam 2

Royce is BACK! I haven’t cared about a Royce song since Bad Meets Evil. Bar Exam 2 shows that he’s still a force. One of the better things to come out of Detroit.

Fav track

  • Done Talkin

Stryfe – Detroit Rap City

Stryfe hooked up wit a French producer named Jihazed for this album. This was truly a bright spot in the year. I think it came at a real good time for me; I was LOOKING for something new.

NERD – Seeing Sounds

Does this count as hip hop? Even if not, the shit is dope, and deserves recognition.

Fav track

  • Sooner or Later

Detroit CYDI – The Rhyming Dictionary

Merry Christmas! I can always count on these guys to deliver hip hop how it should be: FUN! They’re lyrical, funny, and creative. It’s a much-needed break from the norm of “gun-clappin, drug-sellin, nigga-robbin” rap. Very refreshing. Grab it!

Black Milk – Tronic

Black Milk is part of the reason Slum Village stayed so dope after Dilla’s departure. He’s got his own sound, but was clearly influenced by Dilla. On top of that, he’s got rhymes. This album bangs from front to back (with the exception of maybe one track).

Fav track

  • Long Story Short

Elzhi – The Preface

I had given up on an Elzhi album 2 or 3 years ago. When this actually dropped, it caught me by surprise, and I was actually not that excited to listen to it. Once I got into it, all that original enthusiasm returned. Not one song on this album that I skip.

Fav track

  • Fire (remix)

Charles Hamilton – The Pink Lava Lamp

Charles Hamilton is like Lupe Budden Jr. He’s got Lupe’s imagination and eclecticism, with Joey’s emotion. On top of that, he’s an actual musician. He plays to complement his samples instead of letting the sample drive the track. This album consists of songs that I’ve sampled for my own beats, or WANT to. I love listening to artists whose shoes I can picture myself in – this, (and Black Milk) was that for me this year. I relate to his lyrics right behind my own and Joe Budden’s. “My lifestyle needs a Lifestyles; fuck the world!”

Fav track

  • Boy Who Cried Wolf

Murs – Murs for President

Some thought he “sold out” to commercialism on this album. I kinda noticed what they mean, especially with the Will.I.Am track. And one thing that bothered me is Murs stopped sayin “nigga” a couple albums ago, but brought it back for this one. Iono if it’s for the sake of reaching the general hip hop audience, or just had a change of heart about it. Anyway, it’s a solid album.

Fav track

  • I’m Innocent

Q-Tip – The Renaissance

It’s Q-Tip, do I have to explain???

Drake – Comeback Season

Drake is nice!

Feel free to add more. I’m sure there are mad others I’m leaving off.

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Written by TomDaBomb2u

January 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

F*cks Wit Your Head: Grant Morrison on the Individual

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If all goes well this will be the first in a regular series where we bring you fascinating tidbits, random provocative thoughts, and general reality-distorting madness.

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.

Grant Morrison is an interesting dude. When he’s not giving Superman sun poisoning, bringing about Batman’s demise, or just introducing general chaos and craziness into the world of comic books he’s lecturing on about some pretty interesting topics.

I caught Grant Morrison in a conference with Deepak Chopra at Comic Con ’08 and I have to say it was one of the definite highlights of the convention for me. What Morrison is talking about here is essentially part of the thesis of Chopra’s Book of Secrets – the idea that there really is only one reality and we essentially dick everything up when we start dividing things into dualities and dichotomies, separating things from each other and ourselves from the world around us (including God). I’d highly recommend checking the book out (or pretty much anything by Deepak Chopra for that matter).

You can check out his entire talk at the DisInfo Conference by following the YouTube link, but I thought this part was particularly interesting.

So much of the culture I grew up in (that’s black, Hip-Hop culture to the lay folks) is built around this idea of the individual. Hell, if you can’t confidently wax poetic about how you have the most, biggest, best, baddest, worst, craziest, or [insert other erroneous adjective here] than the next man you probably shouldn’t even be thinking about becoming an emcee. (You might end up like this guy). But if you think about it doesn’t all of this cause more problems than anything else? We could be sharing stories, exchanging ideas, and generally having a grand ‘ol time, but we seem to waste a lot of time and energy trying to one up each other all for the sake of gratifying our ego.

Rather than really make much of a statement here I thought I’d just sign off quickly and leave you with a few questions:

– You think you’re unique, but how different are you on a core human level?

– What makes you one of us (or them)? What makes them (or us) not you?

– If you take a problem and stop thinking about it in terms of duality (i.e. you vs. him), what does it do for the problem?

– Would things be so much simpler if we could let go of this idea of the individual (or at least change or current definition of it)?

* (-_-)

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January 9, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Addressing negativity. . .

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For the censored, abridged version, check here.

So for those of you who don’t know, I’m getting married (www.thomasandcarollette.com). I’ve noticed two distinct reactions from people when they learn that I’m getting married.

  1. They’re happy and congratulate me, or

  2. they’re pessimistic and sarcastic.

The latter of the two is generally from single (divorced), middle-aged Black men. Their responses generally range from cynicism to full-blown negativity. The typical reaction I get is:

::siiiiigh::, followed by a wide-eyed “Man, you SURE???”

What the fuck is this all about??? I’ll tell you.

There’s a difference between asking out of genuine concern, and trying to be a cynical asshole spewing turds of negativity atcha boy. As I mentioned, it’s generally middle-aged, divorced black guys (i.e my dad’s friends) sayin the shit to me – guys who got married either by force, or without thinking the whole thing through. As a result of their situation, they have a distorted view of marriage.

Granted, it’s not for everybody, but just because it’s not for YOU doesn’t mean you should try to talk ME out of it. Families are the cornerstone of a strong community, and our flawed family structure is part of the reason that lots of Black folks (and Americans in general) are so fucked up. . . but I digress – I won’t get on my “that’s what’s wrong wit Black folks shit.”

Fuck it, yes I will.

That’s what’s WRONG wit Black folks! Our family structure has been broken, and the “pimp” or “player” personae is glorified and emulated. Lots of us were raised outside the boundaries of a traditional (i.e – single-parent) family, and assume that since we’re not in prison or on drugs, that there’s no consequence in bringing up a child out of wedlock. There are certain qualities necessary to a child’s development that each parent brings to the table. And while it is entirely possible for a single-parent to successfully raise a child, the situation is far from ideal, and has further-reaching implications than what is readily observable on the surface.

My ol dude was never what I would call the ideal father, and we butted heads a lot. However, his presence in my life was definitely beneficial. He understood that a boy needs a man to teach him certain lessons. As well, there is a certain disciplinary hand that a father provides, which a woman just does not.

Not all of the lessons I learned from him were intentional. While he taught me valuable lessons on how to be a father, he also taught me exactly how NOT to be a husband. He provided the perfect template for the ultimate divorceable man. So in this regard, his presence was still immensely beneficial. Although I did not have the opportunity to see a healthy, functional marriage in my own household, I still have SOMETHING to build upon, instead of just going at it blindly.

Someone raised by one parent may not realize the disadvantage they’ve been given. They may say “My mama raised me without my daddy, and I turned out just fine!” They are more likely to perpetuate the single-parent epidemic plaguing our community. The lack of understanding of the big picture, mixed with the intense emotions of having a baby makes it harder to take into account the effects on society.

Strong, healthy families are the building blocks which will restore us to prominence as a people, and as a nation. This is a completely attainable goal, but it will definitely not be easy. If raising a child takes a village, imagine what it takes to raise the village.

Just some thoughts to start the year.

Happy 2009.

Written by TomDaBomb2u

January 1, 2009 at 12:00 am

Happy Holidays

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Happy Holidays from The Gray Area.

Hopefully you’re out doing awesome stuff and making the world better.

ummm…what else. Nothing more to say. But I mean it.

chea!

Written by Sdot.

December 24, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Pie

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So I was shoveling the snow the other day (yes, shoveling). I shoveled MY house, and both neighbors on either side. Then went and did my aunt’s house. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I saw a task which needed to be done, had the means to complete said task, and finally, completed execution of the task.

I was really taken aback by how FEW people take this attitude.

Driving down 7 Mile (which I do NOT advise during a snow emergency. KWAME woulda had the streets clear…but that’s another blog), I witnessed at least 5 pick-ups just mozying down the street, their plows up, not doing anything about the slippery, slushy shit that we were all struggling through. They were undoubtedly looking for someone to pay them instead of just helping out for the general well-being of everyone else.

I saw FAR too many people with their fancy, heavy duty snow-blowers out clearing their own snow, while their NEXT-DOOR neighbor still had 6 feet of snow in front of the door preventing them from even coming out. Where is the sense of community??? Can’t complain about the price of gas being too high anymore. People are just changing. From what I understand, things didn’t used to be like this. And without being too preachy, I’m just going to say that Black people (all Americans PERIOD) need to really come together and strengthen our bonds if we are to progress to the next level.

I would like to say the next level is the point where we stop looking at each other as Black, White, Brown, and Yellow, and band together as one. We’ve already shown how self-destructive of a nation we can be (economically). Yet we’ve also shown that we’re ready to move beyond the imaginary racial lines ingrained in our American Soul from our very inception, as seen by the selection of our next President.

I want to live in an America where I can celebrate being Black, but am not ostracized for it. I want to live in an America where they don’t ask your race on applications “for statistical purposes only,” because WHY THE FUCK DOES IT MATTER??? I want to live in an America that’s more Canadian friendly, and less divided.

And it starts with me.
And you.

I know I said I wouldn’t get preachy, but I’m really passionate about this. I feel that we’ve come so far, and we’re so close to reaching a point where we can make The World proud of us again. I never understood American pride until November 4, 2008 – that’s when it became applicable to me. I’m gaining an understanding of “The American Dream.” I feel like there’s a slice of that famed (waaaaarm) American pie (wink wink) I always hear about waiting for me now!

Let’s eat, yall!

Written by TomDaBomb2u

December 20, 2008 at 5:18 pm

The Shoes Are Off

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First of all, if you haven’t seen it, take a moment, please.

Hilarious, I know.

The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at W has solidified himself as a national hero (arguably a WORLD hero) in two fell swoops. I don’t even know what the press conference was about, nor do I care – but I’d kinda like to watch the whole thing, just to observe this man.

But let’s talk about the deeper implications of this incident. This angered citizen wasn’t just throwing his shoes, there was much more. From what I understand, muslims view the feet as one of the dirtiest parts of the body, and probably wouldn’t kiss them during foreplay (speculation). By this man throwing his shoes at Prezzo, he was basically saying “kiss something dirtier than my feet, but since I just took a dump before this press conference, I don’t have any shit to throw at you, so here’s the nastiest thing I have access to at the moment, Mr. George W. Bitchassness!” (. . . loosely translated, of course.)

But in all seriousness, maybe he should consider laying low these last few weeks of fuck-upery presidency. I almost feel bad for him…well, actually I feel worse for Oliver Stone; had this incident taken place LAST year, he could’ve put it in the movie (“W”). That would’ve been the sweet, delicious icing on the cake lol.

Now let’s all go watch it again.

Written by TomDaBomb2u

December 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm

The Hip-Hop Discussion – Are We Bored Yet?

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First, hit play on this video…feel free to hit stop at any time.

Blah, Blah,Blah, Blah Blah…

…I’m bored. Not with Hip-Hop itself, but I certainly wish we could stop talking about it. Aside from a handful of sites where you can go to hear new tracks, I’ve really abandoned all interest in Hip-Hop outside of the music itself. I have no interest in who is beefin’ with who (less said beef results in some stunning diss tracks i.e “Ether” or “Can-i-bus”), I don’t care who’s going to jail, might be headed to jail, just got out of jail…I couldn’t care less about who owes who’s baby mama any money and I extraordinarily don’t care about who is dating, married, engaged to, or caught another STD from whoever (whomever?).

But that’s of course all the celebrity type gossip I usually ignore anyway. The big part of the whole Hip-Hop discourse I’m sick of is frankly the discourse itself. I’m sick of talking about the music – how it’s changed, how it needs to be, used to be, could have been, should have been, probably will be, might not be. Beyond the simple “this song is hot/wack because…” I really don’t see the purpose to it anymore. Those sorry America vs. Hip-Hop specials on BET taught me one thing which is that there’s no point to having a discourse within Hip-Hop. Young cats are just down for whatever’s on the radio, old heads aren’t down for anything on the radio unless a rapper from their generation is doing it. There’s this stone wall put up where no one on any side of the discussion is at all capable of admitting that the people across the table might be capable of creating something just as worthwhile and genuine as they can. And, in the midst of all this, we have this endless blathering on about artistic integrity and what rappers should/shouldn’t be rapping about – most of it coming from people (mostly women, gays, and the “conscious”) who only press the issue because they happen to have gotten offended by someone’s lyrics, not because they actually care about hearing a diversity in music) – and at the end of the day it really affects no change in the culture one way or another.

People like what they like, plain and simple. Any fool ass dude who snap dances and blows all his money on multi-colored hoodies is not going to stop just because some older cat hobbles over, waving his proverbial cane, screaming about “That’s not the real Hip-Hop.”

I listen to all sorts of music (I actually do, I’m not one of those people who says that but only really listens to 8 different flavors of rap) so I’m not sure why this gets me so heated sometimes. Maybe it’s because Hip-Hop is to me really the only form of music that actually has what feels like a complete culture (language, traditions, institutions, ect) is built around it. You can argue some forms of rock and other music do as well, but in my experience most of that is people essentially playing dress up on the weekends (yes I’m especially talking to you electronic music people). The rockers who really take the rock music culture to heart the way Hip-Hop heads do are few and far between and I’d bet that the Hip-Hop heads outnumber them about 10 to 1. What I’ve learned is that not everyone likes any other particular genre of music…EVERYONE has at least 1 Hip-Hop song they like – the ones that don’t just haven’t tried it yet.

I guess what I’m asking is why we can’t just listen to the music anymore? It seems like all I hear about is how much anything sucks but no one wants to point and share with me any dopeness that is going on. (Why didn’t anybody tell me about Slaughterhouse, Jay Electronica, or Alchemist’s new album dammit!)

How come any time someone comes out with a shitty album in any other genre of music -it sucks, they don’t sell, and they go away, end of story. But anytime a shitty Hip-Hop album comes out we have to launch into these debates on what it means for the culture and why, where, and then proceed to bemoan for the “good old days.” I’ll be the first to maintain that for all it’s faults, Hip-Hop music is better than it ever has been. Production overall is leaps and bounds beyond what it was even in the 90s and tons of rappers are doing things lyrically that have never been done before. The music is evolving, but no one seems to grasp that you can’t have good evolution without the inevitable platypus popping up here and there.

There’s always been wack rap and there will always be, same with every other form of music. This is how the universe works on all levels, it naturally moves towards entropy and balance – for every Biggie there’s a Diddy, for every Common or Kweli there’s a Solja Boi, for every Ludacris or T.I. there’s a Rich Boy, for every DMX there’s a Rick Ross, for every J Dilla or Madlib or Scott Storch there’s some dude who had some extra cheese lying around for a Korg Triton pressing the “sample” button thinking he’s banging out the next heat for the streets. Yes, I know the argument that the wackness is just coming out super strong lately, but is it really or has technology just made it easier for complaining-ass people to find (and incidentally give shine to) things they want to complain about? There was crap-a-plenty back in ’90-whenever if you were willing to spend enough time in the record store (remember those?). Someday a rapper or rap group will emerge who will be so astoundingly and ground-breakingly ill that their counterpart will be selling millions by talking backwards in Swahili over pink noise – and this will be the only force keeping the global consciousness from being swallowed into a literal black hole of ecstasy.

As far as Hip-Hop, I’ll never stop listening but I’m done talking. If you’ve got or heard about some heat send it this way. If you got that garbage…well, we’re all grown ass kids here…no one needs to see how big a doodie anyone else can leave in the bowl anymore.

….I do not want you to like me. * (-_- )

Now listen to some new real ish…
Onslaught by Slaughterhouse (Joe Budden, Royce Da 5\'9\", Joell Ortiz and Crooked I)

Written by 32523452345234673573

December 18, 2008 at 3:13 am