Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ego Trippin’: A Tournament of MC Alter Egos (Part Two)

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By: Harry Jadun
Bracket graphic designed by: Rollin Baker

The hip-hop alter ego tournament introductions and first round happened last week! In case you missed it, don’t skip ahead, click here! 

Last week we introduced you to 16 dynamic, warped alter egos for our Alter Ego Tournament. We told you that only the strong will survive. 8 have been weeded out, 8 are left. Now we separate the contenders from the pretenders; the champ from the chumps. Feelings will be hurt, egos will be shattered, tough decisions will be made, but only one will be left standing. The greatest hip-hop alter ego of all time. Let’s get to it!

Quarterfinals

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Slim Shady vs. Wolf Haley

Slim Shady and Wolf Haley are very similar. And that’s because Tyler, the Creator has admitted that he modeled Wolf Haley after Slim Shady. I’m not a big fan of imitators, I want the real deal. Slim Shady is the real deal. In the early 2000’s he made it cool to be crazy. He made it cool to say “fuck the world.” Wolf Haley has a similar message, but Slim did it better, and he did it first. Slim Shady wins.

Roman Zolanski vs. Sasha Fierce

I’m torn with this one. Both of these alter egos have the Taylor Swift effect. You want to hate their music with all your guts, but you can’t help but love it, and soon enough you’re singing along. Roman Zolanski gets the edge in this matchup though, because of his in-depth backstory. Nicki really went out there in creating Roman, a gay man from London, England who constantly fights with his mom and is locked up in an insane asylum. Sasha’s backstory is a little bit more murky; nobody really knows where she came from. Because of that, I feel more of a connection to Roman Zolanski. Oh yeah, he also advances because his flow’s “tighter than a dick in the butt” (another one of his inappropriate but extremely catchy punchlines).

Makaveli vs. Based God

This is a battle of polar opposites. First you have the Based God, inventor of the Based lifestyle, encouraging others and spreading optimism. Makaveli, whose name (and ideology) is derived from Italian philosopher Nicholas Machiavelli, subscribes to the philosophy of ruling with an iron fist. Rather than killing his opponents with kindness, he just kills them. That’s a problem, because here at Bonus Cut we’re huge on spreading positivity. Makeveli’s tournament life ends here, Based God advances.

Dr. Octagon vs. MF Doom

In an alternate reality where pigs can fly and Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t cost five dollars a pint, MF Doom and Dr. Octagon are best friends, sitting back and having a conversation at the bar with the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, said reality isn’t real. In the real world they are pitted against each other, battling for survival in this tournament. If these guys met in the finals it would be completely justified. They both revamped the independent rap scene with their respective albums. Their personalities are gnarly, but Dr. Octagon pulls through due to the fact that he holds the advantage over MF in the eccentricity and creativity department. If this were an EA sports game, Doc Oc would have 99’s in those categories. MF Doom gets about a 90 in both. Sorry, it’s not you MF, it’s Doc Oc. I still love you.

Semifinals

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Slim Shady vs. Roman Zolanski

This one’s relatively easy. Roman Zolanski made it this far due to a fortunate draw and a completely subjective, biased judge. Eminem comes into the arena an overwhelming favorite, a Goliath to Roman’s David. Roman’s slingshot isn’t gonna do much to Slim’s armor either. Eminem invented Slim when he was sitting on the toilet, taking a dump. Go back and listen to the Slim Shady LP. You’ll be appalled by the fact that some of the songs were played on the radio. I remember being on the playground during recess in first grade singing along to the whole album with my friends, swear words and all. I had no clue what it meant. Now I do, and I can’t help but laugh. That’s why Slim is so cool. He had one goal, to rattle the establishment. He ended up doing just that. He had elementary kids talking about killing people and popping pills. And that’s why Slim advances.

Based God vs. Dr. Octagon

Based God, you’re awesome. You challenged Kevin Durant to a pickup game, and when he declined, you went on the best twitter rant of all time: “PEOPLE GET MAD WHEN I GET CLUTCH ON THE COURT ITS ALL FUNNY UNTIL LIL B THROW THAT FLOATER ON YO ASS AND SHUT DOWN D, KD WASUP???” You even went as far as to prophesize that KD will never win an NBA championship. This is awesome for 2 reasons: 1) Russell Westbrook gets a season-ending freak injury in this year’s playoffs, preventing Durant from winning the championship. 2) Based God was dead serious. He legitimately thinks he can beat Kevin Durant, a consensus top five player in the NBA right now, in basketball. But Doc Oc has too much firepower. He brought the rap game into the year 3000 with Dr. Octagonecologist’s super-duper funkadelic scratching and synthesizers. His office’s phone number is 1-800-PP5-1DOODOO. That’s not 10 digits, but it is awesome. Sorry Based God, but YOU GOT KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT (of this alter ego tournament).

Dr. Octagon punches through to the next round.

Bonus Cut’s Alter Ego Tournament Championship

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Slim Shady vs. Dr. Octagon

Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Larry, Palmer vs. Nicklaus. Slim vs. Doc Oc is right up there with the best of them. These guys are head and shoulders above the rest, looking down from the sky. I mentioned EA sports earlier in this article, and these two alter egos are the maxed out characters made playable by cheat codes. Choosing between them is choosing between a Lamborghini and an Aston Martin. But a decision must be made. And the decision is Dr. Octagon. Why? Because of his smooth flow and more comical lyrics. Eminem is funny, but it’s a more fucked up, aggressive, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids funny. Dr. Octagon is a little bit more harmless, so I feel less guilty when laughing at his songs. With that said, even though Doc Oc was killed by Kool Keith’s other (fantastic) alter ego Dr. Dooom in Kool Keith’s Dr. Dooom 2, his legend lives on forever as the Bonus Cut Alter Ego Tournament champion. He’s not with us, but if he was I’m sure he would have an extremely inappropriate, politically incorrect acceptance speech.

FINALTOURNAMENT

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Another Kind of Arrested Development…

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By: Daniel Hodgman

Unless television isn’t your thing or you’ve been living under a rock, or living in a cave, or living up in an attic for that matter, then there’s a very high percentage that you’ve heard of the show Arrested Development. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that 90% of the people who read this piece will shout “COME ON” as if I’m somehow questioning the popularity of the show. The truth is that I’m not, I’m simply acknowledging that some people haven’t seen the light yet. With that being said, Arrested Development is all over the inter-webs these days because of its recent season 4 release on Netflix. Add that to the fact that it’s been seven years since season 3, and that the show’s popularity has grown exponentially since then and you’ve got somewhat of a mess on your hands. When you search “arrested development” on Google and Youtube all of the top hits are clips from the show, reviews of the show and fanblogs that praise the show. But if you dig deeper, you may find another “arrested development,” an Arrested Development that isn’t a television show, but rather a long lost hip-hop group that has taken a backseat to the television classic.

Arrested Development is a hip-hop group that formed on the heels of gangsta rap in the late 80s. Unlike gangsta rap however, Arrested Development centered on alternative themes and content that mainly involved heavy use of spiritualism and Afrocentrism, an ideology that focuses on Black history. Their early cuts, especially from their 1992 debut 3 years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of…, swirl with happy-go-lucky clanky production and lyrical content that mainly talks about peace, spiritualism and love. 3 Years… didn’t just touch on guiding principles and an opposition to gangsta rap, but it also opened up hip-hop to the South and paid tribute to funk and soul legends like Sly & the Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The Arrested Development appeal is that this group touched on so many optimistic topics and themes, something that is embarrassingly underused in hip-hop. Songs like “Everyday People” and “Sunshine” revolve around human differences and similarities not through race or culture, but through characteristics. “In Tha South” looks at differences within regions and celebrates the South. And “Somewhere in North Georgia” details the mysteries of life and its wondrous effect on everyone.

Arrested Development is a group that will always be second fiddle to something that’s not even in same realm. Because of the show’s popularity, success and genius, it doesn’t look like the hip-hop group will ever surpass the show on any charts, but in terms of quality they’re right up there. Often overlooked, Arrested Development is hip-hop at its utmost positive and inspiring. So when you’re watching Arrested Development and searching for clips and quotes, remember that the first Arrested Development was actually a hip-hop group from Atlanta, Georgia, and if you’re looking for good vibes and calming cuts, then give them a try.

Notes

Despite the group’s breakup in 1996, they reunited in 2000 and have been releasing music and touring since. 3 Years… is 4x Platinum in the United States and Platinum in the U.K. and their unplugged live album is certified Silver. In 1993 they were named “Band of the Year” by Rolling Stone magazine.

In 2003, the group actually sued FOX over the name Arrested Development. The term “arrested development” is actually a term in the dictionary and a common English phrase and not a creative license so the suit was quietly settled for an undisclosed sum. This is referenced in Arrested Development episodes “Public Relations,” “Motherboy XXX” and “For British Eyes Only.”

Listen to Arrested Development! 

“Somewhere in North Georgia” 

“In Tha South” 

“Everyday People” 

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A Bonus Cut Short Story: The Last View From the Top

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By: Daniel Hodgman

He walked methodically, yet it was hurried, and like many times before, he was caught in the violent scuffle of the city streets along with the other millions trying to get from one point to the next. The buildings that surrounded invaded his mind with frothy shadows, as if he was caught in a never-ending abyss, an abyss that pierced the soul just as much as the howling winter winds pierced his skin. The street intersections would tease him, emitting sunlight through the narrow wind tunnels of the city, but as soon as he crossed, the abyss would take him over again and his mind would decay. He pulled his coat up to his chin. Winter was here early this year.

Nine more blocks

Easing into his walk now, the man glanced ahead. The street he was on shot forward until the horizon overtook it, and the buildings that shouldered each side continually grew until the tallest ones on the horizon were covered in a thin layer of winter clouds. Hiding under the carpet of clouds were large billboard signs on the buildings that advertised even the densest material:

“Get Your Coffee At Moes! It’ll Warm Your Toes!

“Ask Q: Any Question, Every Answer!”

“Bad Cataracts? WE GIVE YOU EYES.”

“Have a Hungry Heart? Hungry Heart Song Productions Will Win You Any Heart!”

Under the glittered signs were ever-present corporations and shops. On one street corner stood a sandwich shop that claimed to have saved a woman from undergoing triple bypass surgery. Its main feature however wasn’t the story of the woman, but rather the sandwich they claim saved her life. It was a shaved turkey on wheat concoction with sprouts, spinach, tomatoes and an avocado spread. Next to the sandwich were a large bag of homemade oven-baked chips and a 16oz glass of diet soda.

On another corner there was a hi-tech computer store run by one of the nation’s biggest corporations. The special feature behind this store was that it sold the newest computers, phones, televisions and accessories at a great low price. Moreover, if another business offered a price on an item, they would match it and give the customer a discount. Everyday, people would stream in and out of this store, with bags full of electronics and smiles on their faces. Their robotic-like movements ran in unison with each other as they approached the store, and like the customers, the employees worked on an invisible conveyor belt as well.

The registered door-greeter would greet each and every customer the same.

“Welcome to Tall Tech! How are you?” They would say. “Welcome to Tall Tech, and how are you doing miss? Welcome to Tall Tech sir!”

This went on and on until they were off of the clock and the next door-greeter punched in for their shift.

From across the street, the folks of Gale’s Great Computer Store—a store that was built from the ground-up in 1964 by Gale Anderson and her family—could see all of the happenings at Tall Tech. People swarmed in and out, like furious army ants on a mission to satisfy the Queen, and at the heart of the store the manager stood behind the counter helping each and every customer and ordering employees to specific spots and locations. During the nighttime rush, it became even clearer to the employees at Gale’s that things were going to tank. From 8pm to midnight, Tall Tech saw its daily surge of customers: those who wanted a taste of technology while between shows, out-of-towners looking to pass time or teenagers who commanded their parents to get them accessories for their new laptops and phones. And as Tall Tech stretched its hours to 24, the folks behind Gale’s saw theirs go from 10am-9pm, to 10am-7pm and eventually 11am-6pm. After four months on the 11am-6pm work schedule, the owners behind Gale’s, for the first time since opening, decided to shut its doors for good.

Seven more blocks…

As the man passed into another realm of block, he glided past an abandoned unit. The door was sealed and it stood modestly behind a metal gate with a government sign sprawled across the center. The windows were intact, and inside the remnants of a former company could be seen. In one corner there were files and papers swimming on the dark blue carpet of the building until they hit a tiny wooden desk, drowning under the legs and resurfacing on the other side. On top of the desk was a computer, and next to the computer there was a printer and stack of books just waiting to be toppled. Near the front of the store was another desk, but this time there was no computer or stack of books. The only thing present on it was a cash register with a sign on the front that read: “Sale. All things must go. 70% off.”

Even though this abandoned unit didn’t halt the man in his path, or deter him from his route, he took notice. As he passed by the last dirt stained window of the unit he couldn’t help but mutter a low, yet undeniably audible hum. “They took another. Goddamn they took another.”

When the man reached the next unit, a bustling workout center for businessmen and businesswomen, he actually stopped and took a glance back at the abandoned unit he had just passed. From thirty feet away his eyes gave him trouble, but the still prominent sign on the window was big enough to read. “Gale’s Great Computer Store: A family owned computer shop that can fill any computer need!”

Three more blocks…

With three more blocks to go the man reached an intersection he was most familiar with. Every time he approached this junction, he would crane his neck to the right, looking down towards the water and the neighborhood that banked on it. The apartments were tall and mighty, but the windows were crammed together and reminded the man of prison. The people of this community were only a mere few blocks from the bustling corporate business sector, but they were trapped, like rats in a cage with only one block of cheese.

At times, the man would walk down towards the neighborhood and the water, looking out over the winter whitecaps in the river and past the shopping malls and clinics that lined the opposing shore. He would walk to the park adjacent to the beach and sit while listening to the city: cars, birds, horns, boats, screams, laughing, shots and more. He would visit some friends he knew in some of the apartments and sometimes spend a day catching up. And sometimes, when he felt eager and sad, he would walk past The Elements, building 5, apartment 5710, his former home.

One more block…

The man could see his goal now, as it stood clear front and center with an overhang stretching far out over the walk and touching the street. Banners hung from the overhang and on them there was writing celebrating the city mayor’s second term. From the base of the overhang the building rose meticulously with fire exits at every other window on every story. It was an odd sight, with all of the red lined windows defacing the beautiful structure, especially since these windows didn’t serve a purpose. The only thing present on these windows was a small metal girder that stuck out over each window ledge. There were no stairs leading from these windows and girders, and the only way a person could escape from these windows was to jump.

As the shadow of the building enveloped the man, the cold shiver rose back into his spine. However, this time it wasn’t the cold winter wind or the shadow that the building cast dropping the temperature a few degrees more. Nor was it the stern looks people gave him as they passed his coat-shrouded face, or the insults vendors threw at him when he denied their food. It was the thought he had in his head walking through the buildings doors. I’m going to die today.

Yes, this man was headed to his doom, a self-sacrificing doom, but a doom nonetheless, and as he stood with other random beings in an elevator that was high and rising 97 stories to a restaurant and the top floor, there wasn’t a clear thought in his mind except for his death. Everything that he had contemplated and thought out rushed in and out of his head, but nothing stuck; death didn’t budge.

The city had taken him long before this day; the strain of his job, the never-ending rush and his recent move were the most damaging to his conscious, but the death of his daughter was too much to bare. And as he tried to seek help through the city, and even his own family, it became clear that he was seen not as a human being, but as a statistic. In a city where big was big, the small was most definitely the small. The buildings trapped him, the windows haunted him, the business sector angered him, his old community saddened him and the most important figures, at least in his eyes, did nothing. As the elevator doors opened to Sal’s: On Top of the World Eats, he was no longer in denial and no longer in pain, for he knew that it would be over soon.

A view from the top…

As he waded his way through the tables of families, business workers, couples, owners and everyday citizens, he kept his head up and his glare on the patio door. The give in the door was a bit strong, as if something was trying to stop him from committing such an act, but as soon as the give came, it went away, and the doors opened to a bitter bite of winter air.

The patio was empty, as with all patios during the dead of winter, and as quickly as the ravaging air sucked all of his energy from him, he made his way to the rail. He didn’t look down, nor did he look around, he simply stared straight into the distance, and as seconds turned to minutes a swift rush of thought filled his head. This rush wasn’t a calling or a quick come to, but it was an appreciation. He didn’t know what it was for, but for the first time in days the man smiled.

Mustering up the rest of the energy he had, the man climbed the three bar railing and sat for a second, contemplating his next move, and as he sat on the railing with his feet dangling nearly 100 stories above the city streets, he took in everything that was sprawled out in front of him.

In perhaps the only section of town, the building he was currently perched on top of had a clear view of the harbor and river a few blocks down. There were no tall corporate buildings blocking his view; there wasn’t anyone bumping into him or shouting obscenities; there were overdue bills on a desk in front of his face; there was no sadness; and there was no pain. Again, for the first time in days, the man continued to smile.

With one quick change of mind, it wasn’t his life that he wanted to throw away, but it was his problems, and whether it was the view from the top or this new mindset that now flooded his senses like rushing water from a broken damn, he decided that today he would change. Today he would see the world and life as it is and strive for something better. Today, he was not going to jump.

Carefully placing his hands behind him, gripping the railing like an uneasy taxi driver, the man cemented his feet on the bottom bar of the rail and attempted to switch positioning so that he was facing the patio from the outside. With a quick spin and plant, he did this successfully. Looking towards the door to Sal’s, he continued to grip the railing while carefully moving his feet up and around the railing. As he began to swing his right leg over the railing his left foot that was planted caught a slick spot on the bar. In less than a second it slipped from the bar, and with his left leg the man was now free from the railing and falling with his right leg hopelessly stretching to catch something. In what seemed like a few seconds, his body turned around and his feet were now below him pointing towards the streets. It was then when his back jolted with pain and his neck swung back, breaking in several places.

Something had caught him, or rather his jacket, and he was hanging on a steel girder that stretched from the building. The streets below were still too small to show detail, and within seconds pain was filling his whole body.

Despite the pain, the man wasn’t struggling or fighting, he was just hanging, trying to stare forward towards the harbor, the buildings below, the opposing shoreline, his old community and everything presenting itself as the winter clouds lifted. With this, the sun peeked through the grey and warmth spread through his body. As numbness started to tackle every inch of his body, a stabbing light hit his eyes and blinded his vision. The light continued to hit him and when he opened his eyes, all he could see was the light. A quick whirring noise came in and came out, but his hearing was soon shrouded by the numbness. With one last attempt to open his eyes to catch something, all he could see was the light and all he could hear were screams and a faint whirring noise that seemed to be getting louder. With one breath he went unconscious.

There was no perception of time, but the man woke up and opened his eyes. He was awake. The pain was gone.

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Album of the Week: “Legends Never Die” by R.A. the Rugged Man

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R.A. the Rugged Man
Legends Never Die
Nature Sounds

By: Gus Navarro

R.A. the Rugged Man’s album Legends Never Die was released on April 30, 2013 to an eager fan base that’s been waiting nine years since R.A.’s last studio album. It debuted at number one on the Heatseekers Billboard chart and 131 on the Billboard 200. Legends Never Die backs up this positioning, because it’s a well-rounded hip-hop record in many aspects. Featuring Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne, Masta Ace and Brother Ali, there is lyrical variance that keeps the listener engaged. Also, the beats are always engaging with tracks produced by the likes of Buckwild, Marco Polo, Ayatollah and Apathy. What becomes clear throughout Legends Never Die however is the fact that R.A. is a fearless white boy, and you gotta love it.

As the album begins, we are hit with a jazzy intro in which R.A. introduces himself to the audience. “This for hip-hop heads, everyone else fuck your opinions / This ain’t generic pop novelty rap, I’m reigning supreme / You’re bout to hear a level of skill you won’t hear in the mainstream.” On tracks such as “The People’s Champ,” “Definition Of A Rap Flow,” “Underground Hitz” and “Laugh, Clown Laugh” R.A. establishes himself as an underground MC that represents the poverty stricken working class population in the United States. But also, he demonstrates his ability to write witty, complex and funny lyrics that will make you laugh and think. For example, on “Laugh, Clown Laugh” he states, “I got Louis Farrakhan dating a platinum blonde / I get skinheads bowing to Mecca and praying to Islam / I can’t afford Dre, Swizz Beatz or a Timbaland track / But I can rip any rapper with just a kick and a handclap.” It is fun to see how MCs put words together and construct their rhymes. With every song, the creativity is in your face in the best way and it is a good time. However, the album also contains more serious content.

“Learn Truth” features Talib Kweli accompanied by thoughtful riffs that put the listener in a reflective place. Talib and R.A. draw from history and current events to discuss the complexities of world politics. As Talib says, “Gotta race to meet Allah like they chasing them with a cop car / Like there’s honor in being a martyr and a terrorist is a rock star / Dodging the Abu Dhabi or dodging the paparazzi / Still probably as popular as Swastikas for Nazis.” In the second verse, R.A. draws from the past to shed light on the present, “.38 Beretta used by Ghandi’s assassin / 16 bullets in Malcolm, it happened uptown Manhattan / And the homicide, Reagan ‘80s epidemic of crack / And soldiers in action dying in Iraq and never coming back.” On R.A.’s more serious tracks, his fearlessness comes to the fore.

The lack of fear is perhaps at its height on “Shoot Me In The Head” where R.A. makes no friends and makes no attempt to do so. In the first verse, “I’m the lowest of the lowest life-forms /And I make it painfully obvious every time I write songs / I’m hated, got liberals begging for the death penalty / And conservatives wishing my mother aborted her pregnancy.” And then in the second verse, “Obama nation, the Bush’s, the Clinton’s, or 80’s Reaganomics / It don’t matter, the government always be taking your profits / The Republicans ain’t shit, the Democrats ain’t shit / What would make you think that either side is ever gonna change shit?” Here, R.A. is suggesting that if you boil it down, both sides of the two-party system in the United States are in fact quite similar. Because of this, the people who really need significant social, economic and political changes will continue to be marginalized.

As Legends Never Die progresses, R.A.’s in your face style can be a bit over the top, however I find it refreshing. He draws in the audience with entertaining, fast paced rhymes accompanied with distinct production. Some tracks are super witty, while others are solemn and deal with important issues that are relevant to 2013 and should be spoken about. Ultimately, I find R.A. the Rugged Man’s approach interesting as the frustrations of people outside politics are felt. 2013 is a year where the cooperation between Democrats and Republicans is at an all-time low. There are shootings, bombings and sexual assaults everyday and yet nothing gets done. R.A. the Rugged Man doesn’t provide any type of anecdote as to how to fix our problems. However, with Legends Never Die R.A. is unafraid to challenge the way we think about race, politics, war, money and rhetoric while describing the cyclical nature of the United States.  R.A. the Rugged Man truly pushes the audience to take stock of their values and think differently.

Must-Listens

“Learn Truth” 

“Definition of a Rap Flow” 

“Shoot Me in the Head” 

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Ego Trippin’: A Tournament of MC Alter Egos

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By: Harry Jadun

Bracket graphic designed by: Rollin Baker

Rappers love pretending to be somebody else. Ever since the conception of hip-hop, alter egos have been used as a tool by MCs to further their music, freeing them up conceptually and stylistically. Here at Bonus Cut we wanted to pay homage to the creativity and ingenuity of these artists, so we decided to host a tournament. 16 alter egos, 1 winner. Over the next two weeks we will introduce you to these insanely cool personas and then pit them against each other. Only the strong will survive. But first, like any sporting event, we have to lay the ground rules. Here goes:

The Rules:

1)     The participants must be alter egos, not alternative names or nicknames. This means that the artist must rap from the alter ego’s perspective at one point or another and this perspective must be significantly different than that of the artist’s.

2)     Only one alter ego per artist.

3)     There were only 16 available spots (we wanted to keep the quality of the artists high).

4)     Seeding was decided by the Bonus Cut Crew. We took into account creativity, cultural significance, popularity and obviously the overall quality of their music.

5)     All matchups will be decided by yours truly, based purely on which alter ego I think is better (creativity, cultural significance, popularity and music). So yes, this is extremely subjective.

6)     This week will only be the first round, due to the fact that I’m going to be introducing each alter ego with fun facts and a healthy dose of knowledge. Next week the tournament will be completed.

7)     Feel free to let us know what you agree and/or disagree with in the comments below. We love feedback!

Now for the main event. Enjoy!

THE MATCHUP:

1) Slim Shady:

Eminem’s lovable homophobic, misogynistic and downright offensive alter ego was introduced to the world on his 1999 release, The Slim Shady LP. A satirical portrayal of rappers, Slim took things so far that he needed a semi-sarcastic “don’t try this at home” disclaimer to serve as the introduction to the LP. Slim was sent to the rap world with the sole intention to “piss people off,” and he accomplished his goal with hit songs such as “My Name Is” and “The Real Slim Shady.” It wasn’t all fun and games, because Slim’s jabs would always have weight behind them, especially when pointed towards popular culture. All of this, combined with the success of the 5x platinum Slim Shady LP, makes Slim one of the favorites to take home the hardware when it’s all said and done.

4) T.I.P.:

T.I. has had some trouble with the law in the recent past. That’s because he hasn’t been able to keep his thugged out alter ego, T.I.P., in check. T.I.P. was born on T.I.’s platinum selling T.I. vs. T.I.P. Throughout the album, T.I. is constantly talking T.I.P. down from resorting to violence or other activities that could get T.I. in trouble. T.I.P. is a thug who will get his way by any means necessary, but things are going to be tough in the first round against Slim Shady.

The Verdict: The problem with T.I.’s alter ego is that it’s not his alter ego anymore; it’s his identity. He hasn’t been able to stay out of jail due to stupid decisions. Also, T.I.P. isn’t winning any points for the fact that T.I. vs. T.I.P. signified the beginning of T.I.’s descent from the top of the commercial rap game. He simply doesn’t have enough to go against Slim Shady, who is one of the most pissed off, warped alter egos ever, and that’s saying something. This dude has a song about bringing his daughter along while getting rid of his wife’s dead body. Slim Shady, no contest.

THE MATCHUP:

2) Wolf Haley:

World, meet Wolf. Wolf, meet World. Wolf is Tyler, the Creator’s white alter ego. He has appeared in Tyler’s music throughout Tyler’s career, and even directed Tyler’s famous “Yonkers” video. Wolf originally started as a name that Tyler decided to use for Facebook because Tyler didn’t like his birth name, but Wolf eventually developed into his own person. Tyler describes Wolf as “the guy I want to be.” Wolf is wild, cool and gives zero fucks. Wolf often converses with Tyler within Tyler’s head, telling Tyler to do crazy shit that he wouldn’t do otherwise.

3) Humpty Hump:

Life got rough for Edward Ellington Humphrey when he burnt his nose while deep-frying some chicken. He couldn’t be the lead man of his band, Smooth Eddie and the Humpers, after the incident so he tried his hand in rapping under the name of Humpty Hump. Digital Underground member Shock G’s brilliant alter ego, back-story and all, shocked the world in the early 1990’s with his nasally flow on songs like “Doowutchyalike” and “The Humpty Dance.”  He stands out from the crowd with his Groucho glasses complete with the nose and his extravagant clothes.

The Verdict: One of the toughest matchups of the first round. Humpty Hump is an epic character, especially with the detailed back-story, which is completed with the costume. Shock G sold it so well that fans, and even some in the music biz, actually thought Humpty Hump was a real person. But I have to go with Wolf, mainly because he directed that insanely awesome “Yonkers” video. Rarely does a music video captivate the entire blogosphere, but “Yonkers” did exactly that. Everyone and their mother has seen that video and will forever be terrified by Tyler wearing black contacts talking about hanging himself. Humpty, I’m sorry but you’re falling off the wall. Wolf marches onwards.

THE MATCHUP:

1) Quasimoto:

Madlib didn’t like his voice when rapping so he let Quasimoto do it instead. Created by slowing down the beat, rapping over it, and then speeding it up, Lord Quas’ helium-inflected voice has terrorized the rap game for the past decade plus. With two critically acclaimed albums to his name, The Unseen and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, it won’t be a surprise if he makes a deep run in the tournament. Quasimoto is a self-described menace to society, and is not afraid to use violence in order to impose his will. He is well versed in microphone mathematics, and spares nobody with his effortless, slick flow. With another album due up in 2013, you better hide your kids and definitely hide your wife.

4) Roman Zolanski:

Roman is Nicki Minaj’s homosexual male alter ego from London. He has no album to his name, but appears on many of her hit songs, such as “Monster,” “Beez in the Trap,” “Bottoms Up” and “Bed Rock.” The Young Money crew member is often times aggressive and tells the harsh truth Nicki can’t do herself. He used to be violent, but has toned it down at Nicki’s request.  The only thing that stops Roman is his mother, Marsha, who he constantly fights with. Unable to conform to societal norms, Roman was thrown into the nuthouse until an undisclosed date. Things don’t look too good for Roman, who was punished by the bracket gods with a tough matchup in round one.

The Verdict: Quasimoto is a brilliant conception. Anybody with a shitty microphone and voice recorder can speed up his or her voice, but Madlib took that idea and turned it into a terrific rap album. The bad news is, unfortunately, his run stops here. As much as I hate Nicki Minaj, I have to give it to Roman Zolanski, because he has too many quotable lines. Take “Bed Rock,” a song with lines like “lemme put this pussy on your sideburns.” Nobody knows what this line implies, but it’s still an awesome and aggressive bar. Roman’s entire verse on “Monster” is quotable (“Well if I’m fake, I ain’t notice cause my money ain’t!”). It’s too catchy, it’s too fun, and I hate myself for doing it, but I have to put Roman through to the next round. Ugh.

THE MATCHUP:

2) Bobby Digital:

If you love comic books, Bobby Digital is your man. Conceived when RZA smoked a “really good bag of weed” and introduced to the world on Bobby Digital in Stereo, this “lyrical rhyme nympho” is a martial arts master who will “Pierce through your physical faculties/With pin-point accuracy.” He is a pleasure seeker, representing RZA before the fortune and fame. His rhymes play out like that of a comic book, in which Bobby never fails to save the world and get the girl. RZA went as far as making two short movies for Bobby and even pursued a comic deal with publishers, but it didn’t pan out. Bobby Digital is definitely a dark horse, and all those who oppose him better be ready for a tough battle.

3) Sasha Fierce:

Sasha Fierce made her debut on Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce. Everybody loves Beyoncé, and everybody loved Sasha Fierce as well. With chart-topping hits like “Halo,” “Single Ladies,” “Diva” and “Sweet Dreams,” the album was a commercial success. Besides being fierce, Sasha is aggressive, sensual and sassy. Beyoncé claims that Sasha takes over every time she goes out to perform, and she performs a lot. Recently though, B claims that she and Sasha have combined, and are no longer separate entities.

The Verdict: Sasha literally, as Aubrey would say, shut it down, down, down at the Super Bowl this year with her halftime performance. She also gets a boost from the signs that she is a member of the Illuminati, which are littered throughout her music videos. It’s hard to decide against Sasha Fierce. Like, they might come to get me hard. But Bobby Digital is every kid (and therefore grown man’s) dream. You’re telling me I get to be a karate master, comic book hero AND an ill rhymesayer? Just stop. But still, I have to go with Beyoncé because “Halo” and “Single Ladies” were guilty pleasures for a majority of human beings at the time of their release. Oh yea, and because:

Sasha Fierce it is.

THE MATCHUP:

1) Dr. Octagon:

A shape shifting alien doctor from Jupiter with metallic green skin, a pink and white afro and yellow eyes, Kool Keith prescribed just what the rap game needed in 1996 with Dr. Octogynocologist, which put underground rap back on the map. Medically, Dr. Octagon is incompetent, as his patients usually die from malpractice and he can’t resist having sex with his nurses. Lyrically however, he dissects all opposition with his smooth flow, witty wordplay and humorous lyrics over futuristic backdrops. If you ever need him to drop knowledge from his glow-in-the-dark brain, he’ll be glad to. You might have trouble getting a hold of him though, as his office operators have a tendency to be masturbating while they’re supposed to be answering calls.

4) Pop:

Biggie’s friend from the barbershop, Pop is always on the lookout for those plotting against Biggie. He gives Biggie the heads up whenever he sees something fishy and waits for Biggie’s word to take action. Pop represents how valuable loyal friends are to rappers who are constantly in the crosshairs of haters’ attacks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to be a short stay for Pop, who has a tough matchup in round one.

The Verdict: This one’s pretty easy for a bunch of reasons. First, Biggie gets punished for half-assing his alter ego. He could’ve gone with Frank White (which would’ve been awesome), but all he does is mention him here and there throughout his career and never really makes anything of it. Instead, we’re left with Pop, who’s not very creative or inspirational. On the other hand, you have Dr. Octagon, an orthopedic gynecologist (Get it? He puts bones into lady parts) from another planet that has performed with a dead Kurt Cobain and an uncircumcised Chewbacca. Doc Oc FTW.

THE MATCHUP:

2) Escobar:

A Mafioso style drug lord who came into existence on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and has appeared in Nas’ music ever since. The story goes like this: before the fortune and fame, Nas was known as Nasty Nas, another persona who was hungry for success that spent days and nights grinding trying to make it. After Nasty Nas reached the top, Escobar took over. Escobar is a ruthless kingpin in the rap game who is always looking to make the next dollar. He’s a tragic hero who represents how power corrupts and changes humans.

3) The Based God:

The Based God is a diety with the appearance of Ellen Degeneres, Sam Cassell, Dr. Phil, Bill Clinton and many more famous public figures combined together. When seen in public, it is tough to fight the urge to shout out, “Based God, you can fuck my bitch!” Based God is the creator of the now famous “cooking dance” used by athletes all around the world and he occasionally takes over Lil B’s twitter feed in order to drop knowledge on the Based Lifestyle. He always promotes love and forgiveness, even going as far as to write a book on the topic. This alter ego is more than the music, which gives him a punchers chance to take home the bacon.

The Verdict: The Based God is a new-age alter ego, utilizing Twitter as the main avenue to reach his fans. His grammatically-challenged Twitter rants are pure comedy, but they always are done with the best intentions (to spread positivity and tips on how to live a Based life). Escobar is legendary in his own right, as his verse on “Verbal Intercourse” marked the first time ever that a non-Wu-Tang member appeared on a Wu-Tang album. That’s some serious shit right there. But I still have to go with Based God. He’s convinced sane men in relationships that it’s alright for him to fornicate with their girls. Based God, you can fuck my bitch… in the second round.

THE MATCHUP:

1) Makaveli:

Sensitive thugs need hugs. Makaveli never needed hugs. An angry, ruthless thug who strategically ruled the streets, Makaveli feared no man. On Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (which was completed in 7 days), Makaveli fired shots at all of Tupac’s enemies. He represented an artistic rebirth of Tupac, as Don Killuminati featured a much darker tone than Pac’s previous albums. Still, Makaveli’s songs featured Pac’s poetic verses and classic delivery, which is why the album is considered one of the greatest of all time. Based on all of this, Makaveli has both the style and substance to win this thing.

4) Brook Lynn:

Mary J Blige is well known for her singing abilities, but few know about her alter ego, Brook Lynn, who raps. Brook appears on songs such as “Enough Cryin” and “Midnight Drive,” and she teams up with Mary to make a formidable tandem. Brook is a sassy, independent woman who doesn’t do soppy love songs. She may need a soppy love song after the first round, as she is faced with the tall task of trying to beat one of the all-time greats.

The Verdict: I’m not going lie, Brook Lynn surprised me on the mic. She came with the goods, holding her own with the likes of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, DMX and Rah Digga. And she’s dressed the part, decked out with some chains and sunglasses. That’s not even close to enough to challenge Makaveli, who gets huge bonus points because Tupac died before the album was released. It turns Don Killuminati into Tupac’s “say hello to my little friend” moment where he completely disregards his life and gives one last “fuck you” to his opponents. Makaveli lives to fight another day.

THE MATCHUP:

2) MF Doom:

Heroes are overrated. Daniel Dumile agrees, and that’s why his alter ego, MF Doom, is a super-villain. What’s a super-villain? The scholarly MF Doom defines it as: “a killer who loves children.” This charming masked man successfully flexed his complex rhyme schemes and unique flow on both of his albums (Operation: Doomsday and MM… Food). Rappers beware: Stand up to MF and Doomsday could be upon you.

3) Mr. Rager:

Super-duper Cudder’s struggles with drugs are well documented. He constantly battles his alter ego, Mr. Rager, in order to stay on the straight and narrow. Mr. Rager has always been present in Kid Cudi’s rhymes, but it wasn’t until Cudder’s sophomore album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager that he officially existed. Mr. Rager represents everything evil and isn’t afraid to show it, as he only wears clothes that are black. His music is drug-inspired, and his rhymes punch you in the chest harder than the heavy bass behind them. We all have problems, but luckily we don’t have Mr. Ragers.

The Verdict: An intriguing matchup. On one side you have Mr. Rager, who is more real than any other alter ego on this list. Kid Cudi’s career has come close to derailment multiple times because of Mr. Rager. Man on the Moon II is a vastly underrated album, and Mr. Rager has an unbelievably cool video to his name:

On the other hand you have MF Doom, the awesome super-villain who is criminally underrated as well. His creativity is on another level; he’s the guy who rapped about food in 2004. HE EVEN SAMPLED FOOD IN HIS MUSIC. Now cats are Instagramming food left and right, thinking they’re cool. No. MF Doom is cool, and so is his music. I don’t care how many ninjas Kid Cudi karate chops in the Adam’s apple, MF Doom wins in a close decision.

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With this, the first round of the Tournament of MC Alter Egos is completed! I will provide the quarterfinals, semi-finals and championship bout in next weeks issue. Stay tuned! And remember, when in doubt, get yourself an alter ego. 

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Hip-Hop and Comic Books: The Undeniable Connection

LeslievilleSuperheroMural

By: Daniel Hodgman

Connections

The relationship between hip-hop and comic books has always been an ever-present facet when talking about the driving forces behind hip-hop culture as a whole. It isn’t that this connection is a dominating topic like political consciousness in certain songs or the radical prowess of certain artists, but it’s prevalent everywhere in hip-hop. In fact, comic books are spread all throughout hip-hop that it can be considered a sub-culture stemming from the main branch. From Daniel Dumile’s MF DOOM moniker, which derives directly from the villain in Marvel’s Fantastic Four, to graffiti street artists covering walls with comic legends, hip-hop and comic books have formed a flirtatious relationship that continually binds two ever-growing cultures.

Beyond all the music and in-song references, hip-hop and comics actually tread the same water dynamically in other realms. The first thing that comes to mind is that both were cultural rejects in the early days. Comic book culture didn’t see its Golden Age until the late 1930s, despite its existence since the late 1800s. And when urban movements that were considered “hip-hop” in the 1970s formulated, they were strictly underground, not seeing mainstream success until the late 80s. To add, these two cultures both started out in New York City2.

Another connection that shouldn’t be discarded is that hip-hop and comic books both value the physical setting. Hip-hop as a movement and as a culture has always been rooted with location, hometowns and respects for the given city an artist has grown up in. No matter what city or country an MC or group is from, these artists take every opportunity to rep the area code they were brought up in. To an extent, it’s almost an unwritten rule, like giving credit where credit is due. Whether it’s Atmosphere’s “Say Shhh,” an ode to Minneapolis, or Redman’s Newark celebrating “Brick City Mashin,” artists from all over the hip-hop world keep the physical setting close to their heart.

The world of comics revolves around the same motif. No matter what the story, the characters or the content, setting in comic books plays as big of a role as the story; Superman is to Metropolis as Batman is to Gotham as Spider-Man is to New York City as Thor is to Asgard and so on. What’s even more interesting—despite some exceptions—is that most hip-hop and comic book settings are based in an urban setting. Maybe one of the instrumental factors leading to the hip-hop comic book connection is this very fact. Since these two cultures are so relatable with each other, it’s no wonder that comic books are so prominent in hip-hop.

It’s an odd relationship, but when citizens of Gotham point to the sky and say, “there goes Batman,” it’s to the same extent as the people of New York City pointing to their televisions and shouting, “there’s Run-D.M.C. getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” It’s a sense of pride the community has for these figures that really connects these two worlds. As much as a superhero or MC takes pride in their city, there is no doubt that the city takes just as much pride in that certain individual or group.

Spread Throughout the Field

Aside from the connections, comic books have consistently been a part of the hip-hop world physically. From De La Soul to Madvillain, artists from all over the culture continually rep comic books on selected cuts and separate projects.

One of the first examples of comic book culture making an appearance in hip-hop was with De La Soul’s 1991 epic De La Soul Is Dead. When the record was originally released, it was accompanied by De La Soul Is Dead #1, a comic that told the story of the trio and their music saving listeners from Vanilla Ice.

More recently, Felt3 released a comic with their second studio album A Tribute to Lisa Bonet. Jim Mahfood, a well-known comic book creator4 and fan of hip-hop, illustrated the book. The comic itself is a visual interpretation of the album, and Mahfood takes the lyrics from the album and inserts them into the books dialogue.

With all of this, hip-hop artists don’t just release comic books with records. Sentences: The Life of MF GRIMM, illustrated by Ronald Wimberly, is an interesting graphic novel that covers GRIMM’s life through ink and paneling. It’s a serious take on everything the MC went through, from being shot and becoming paralyzed, to his drug conviction and life sentence.

Cell Block Z (2009) is a comic book that was written by Ghostface Killah5 that dives into the world of Cole Dennis, a boxer that is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. From there, the story sees Cole try to figure out and solve the situation he is burdened with. Cell Block Z is actually the second Wu-related graphic novel; Method Man released a self-titled book in 2008.

A Timeless Venture

The relationship between hip-hop and comic books is a timeless venture between two cultures that are continually growing and evolving. As these two cultures continue to spread and spring branches into various vectors, its undeniable that the connection they share will never diminish. From the specific characteristic nature they both possess to the comic book references being made by hip-hop artists, the only foreseeable change is that more MCs and comic book creators will join forces.

If You Like Hip-Hop and Comics, You Might Like…

MF GRIMM- “Scars & Memories” video set to his graphic novel Sentences: The Life of MF GRIMM

Madvillain- “All Caps” music video 

Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge’s “Twelve Reasons to Die” 


2 Hip-hop itself is an enduring form of struggle that has been around for centuries, but the pillars and actual branches (spread of music, art and dance) only started to surface in the 1970s.

3 Felt is the duo and fusion of hip-hop legends Slug (Atmosphere) and MURS.

4 Mahfood has done work on Marvel’s Spectacular Spider-Man, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up and Kevin Smith’s Clerks comics.

5 Chris Walker, Shauna Garr and Marlon Chapman are also authors of Cell Block Z.

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The Mixes: Keeping a Current With What’s Current

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By: Daniel Hodgman

The Mixes is a Bonus Cut series that focuses on themed mixtapes. The purpose of this series is to share music in hip-hop, but also to share the ability to express feelings through mixtapes. The premise takes after Rob Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape, but unlike his book, these mixes will vary in theme. Although I will have notes explaining why I included each song, the overall interpretation of the songs and the mixtape as a whole is on you. Music is fickle because it triggers different emotions, and one of the greatest feelings is determining your thoughts for specific music on your own. Although Bonus Cut provides The Starting Five, a weekly list of songs the creators are currently digging, The Mixes is an individual entity because of its focus on certain themes. 

The “Keeping a Current With What’s Current” Mixtape 

The theme behind this first installment is simple, in that all this mixtape focuses on is newly released cuts. However, delving beyond this, the reoccurring theme is that there’s new music being released every day and some people don’t get a chance to listen because of missed opportunities or a lack of the songs output. This mix will feature recently released songs from both popular and underground artists, and although there’s no concept except the fact that these are all new, it should be noted that all of these artists are worthy no matter where we are in time.

1. “Flags” -Reks

“I don’t live for U.S.A. hear me / I die for the theory” 

For years Reks has made a name for himself in the Boston underground hip-hop scene with his conscious themed songs and raw delivery. His upcoming record Revolution Cocktail (July 2nd) is bound to continue spraying his insightful thoughts, and “Flags” is just a snippet of what that might be. From the very get-go Reks slays the track over a rough and buzzy synth backdrop and ambient club-like synth pad. Discussing gang-violence and the glorification of capital, Reks has just about had it, and he certainly isn’t the only one.

2. “We Movin'” -AZ

“I play, check the resume, fuck what a record say / Only a fuse to the fire could only rep this way”

Listen to AZ on “We Movin'” and then go back to his 1995 classic Doe or Die and try to figure out the difference in his lyrical delivery and flow. You want the easy answer? There is no difference. AZ is an MC that has adjusted to the changing ways of hip-hop’s sound–just listen to the production on “We Movin'” and you’ll notice more glossy new age ripples–while at the same time sticking to his 90s roots with his rhyme scheme, cadence and song topics. These are the traits that make an MC timeless, and when considering some of the most influential artists of the last 20 years, AZ has to be on your list.

3. “Graves” -Ugly Heroes 

“Start thinking bout the folks who gotta do this til their graves.” 

Ugly Heroes is Apollo Brown, Red Pill and Verbal Kent, three artists from the midwest who give us music that tells the story of the hard-ridden working class of America. Ugly Heroes wouldn’t be a success strictly on this theme alone, and that’s why this project is so special. On the piano and horn-heavy track “Graves,” producer Apollo Brown makes the track breathe with an addicting beat that throws your ears on a blue collar musical conveyor belt, while Red Pill and Verbal Kent mix rhyme with reason, touching on subject matter that is rarely touched upon. Their self-titled LP dropped on Tuesday and has already climbed up to #17 on the hip-hop iTunes Top 100.

4. “Special Education” -Goodie Mob feat. Janelle Monae 

“I eat nuclear waste and spit atomic bombs / Petroleum explosions my trademark / Bust through clouds and sidecarted brain farts.” 

Ah yes, where would we be without a Goodie Mob reunion? Moreover, where would we be without all of these Cee Lo-related projects coming up? With “Special Education,” Goodie Mob teams up with the ultra-talented hip-hop soul musician Janelle Monae to bring us a song about individuality and self-confidence. What may poke your ears prominently is the production, which ravages the listener with a heavily industrial backdrop full of pulsing bass throbs and distorted shrieks. During the chorus Monae graces us with a come-down of sorts over a twinkling beat before the Mob takes over with their rough plot line verses.

5. “In a Minute” -Sir Michael Rocks feat. Ab-Soul and Da$h

“All you need is a minute / Heart jumping out my chest any minute”

“In a Minute” is a composition of MCs that are all familiar with each other and their place in hip-hop. Sir Michael Rocks (one half of The Cool Kids) teams up with up-and-coming Ab-Soul and Da$h over a Larry Fisherman (Mac Miller) produced beat. “In a Minute” isn’t much but a ganj-soaked song about inevitable youth action, but it’s an interesting look at some popular new-age MCs joining forces.

6. “Billy Butcher” -Oscar O’Malley

“No more accession / Me and her being together just causing tension”

Oscar O’Malley’s performance here is riveting in that every couple of bars you’ll hear him change his cadence. “Billy Butcher” almost seems like a poetic journey over instrumentals in the beginning until Oscar picks up his tempo along with the beat. Adding on to this, as the song progresses you’ll hear him slam detail from a relationship into bars relentlessly and then suddenly flow into a few sung lines. Oscar O’Malley’s versatility here is tremendously engrossing, and if you can’t strictly focus on his content, then focus on his delivery over this boisterous beat.

7. “Dodging Dark Clouds” -MoRuf

“Think I’m bullshitting cause it took an extra year for a nigga to graduate”

“Dodging Dark Clouds” is just one of those songs that reminds you of life. MoRuf’s New Jersey flow reminisces on the everyday grind, college and James Blake, and the beat just flows under light-tapping piano keys and percussion chimes. The surprise comes at 2:15 when the beat plays backwards and MoRuf continues to spit. I wish he would release more material, because he’s one hell of an MC.

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Album of the Week: “Revolutionary Vol. 2” by Immortal Technique

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Immortal Technique
Revolutionary Vol. 2 
Viper Records

By: Gus Navarro

The revolutionary stance of Immortal Technique is set from the very start on his 2003 album, Revolutionary Vol. 2, as it begins with an introduction form Mumia Abu-Jamal. From there, Immortal uses his music to discuss history, the international drug trade, politics, institutional racism, terrorism, capitalism, the music industry, the media and religion. With Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique points out contradictions embedded in American political rhetoric, and comes down hard on the Bush Administration. Given the year this album was released, there is much we can learn about the tumultuous years that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center. Beyond that, it becomes clear that there are still gross inequities and oppression that exist, not just in the United States, but also across the globe. With Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique forces the listener to reflect on these global problems that have an impact on our lives.

This is evident on the third track, “Peruvian Cocaine.” With help from Pumpkinhead, Diabolic, Tonedeff, Poison Pen, Loucipher and C-Rayz Walz the complexities of the international drug trade are revealed. Immortal Technique begins rapping from the perspective of an exploited field worker who harvests the coca plant because there is no other source of income. “I’m on the border of Bolivia, working for pennies / Treated like a slave, the coca fields have to be ready” and later, “Dreaming about revolution, looking at my machete / But the workload is too heavy to rise up in arms.” From there we hear from Pumpkinhead, rapping from the perspective of the South American drug lords that have the financial influence to pay off the police. “I got the power to shoot a copper, and not get charged /And it would be sad to see your family in front of a firing squad.” From there, each MC provides a different perspective from the various individuals involved in the complicated cocaine industry that oppresses, kills and makes people rich. As Immortal Technique explains at the end of the song, “The story just told is an example of the path that drugs take on their way to every neighborhood, in every state of this country. It’s a lot deeper than the niggas on your block.” I can hear Clarke Peter’s character from The Wire, Lester Freamon, advising McNulty to follow the money.

Following “Peruvian Cocaine,” Immortal Technique transitions from talking about the international business of the drug trade to the people of Harlem, New York. On “Harlem Streets” he reveals a neighborhood that is demoralized and struggling. As Immortal Technique laments, the citizens of Harlem are not to blame for this unfortunate situation, but rather the long history of racial subjugation in the United States. This song is an example of hip-hop being used to give voice to an under-represented community that is not taken into account in the predominantly Euro-American culture of the United States.

After “Harlem Streets” comes “Obnoxious,” “The Message & The Money,” “Industrial Revolution” and “Crossing The Boundary” where Immortal Technique demonstrates his abilities as an MC in all of his political incorrectness and reveals the exploitative nature of the music industry. Up to this point, Revolutionary Vol. 2 is up close and personal, providing crucial social, political and economic analysis.

On “The 4th Branch,” the content of this album is taken to the next level. With this track, Immortal Technique calls into question the narrative of the media based on the history of foreign and domestic policies of the United States. As he points out in the first verse, “Indigenous holocaust and the home of the slaves / Corporate America, dancin’ offbeat to the rhythm / You really think this country never sponsored terrorism? / Human rights violations, we continue the saga / El Salvador and the contras in Nicaragua.” And then in the second verse, “Embedded correspondents don’t tell the source of the tension /And they refuse to mention, European intervention /Or the massacres in Jenin, the innocent screams / U.S. manufactured missiles, and M-16’s.” Immortal Technique is revealing the highly contested history and imperialist ideology that is not a part of the history we learn. The dominant narrative is about the valiant, Euro-American triumphs. As Immortal Technique makes clear, these “triumphs” have been at the expense of Native Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, the Chinese, poor whites, women and Arabs. It becomes essential to seek out alternate versions of our history. This way it is possible to have a more accurate understanding of the past.

On Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique uses hip-hop to challenge the institutions of oppression within the walls of our world. He presents a different version of history and image of the world we live in. In doing this, he makes it possible not to depend on only one narrative and encourages people to seek out multiple sources and versions of history, and current events. When people have a more complete understanding of history from multiple sources, it truly becomes possible to work for a better future. Ultimately, Immortal Technique’s music is more than revolutionary, it is educational.

Must-Listens

“Peruvian Cocaine”

“Harlem Streets”

“4th Branch”

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