Monthly Archives: July 2013

All Eyes on Us: The Zimmerman Aftermath and Our Need to Organize


By: Daniel Hodgman

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” –George Washington, September 19, 1796

With the recent verdict and acquittal of George Zimmerman regarding the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we have once again been thrown into the twirling ring of “true America”. Although the concord of the United States has proven itself at times in this country’s young history, we live in an age where George Washington’s grave prediction of a “frightful despotism” is hard to shake off. It’s not just the Zimmerman trial that has caused an eruption and desecration of our country’s whole either. Rather, it’s been a multitude of tragedies and events for centuries. At this point, how can we have a country where the government doesn’t trust the people, the people don’t trust the government and the people don’t trust the people? Why do we have to live in a constant divide? Now, of course America is not alone in this regard, but if we want to solidify our world as a whole (because our government thinks we should police this planet), we can’t be living in a country with blatant injustice thrown before our feet. The result of this injustice is the separation of our country, whether it’s regarding race, politics, religion or gender, and the suffering from this divide is immense.

The story revolving around Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman has represented so much depending on how you see it—this goes without saying that most people see this story representing multiple facets of its overall blueprint. For most, it’s been an issue about race, civil rights and racial oppression. For others, this story represents everything from the country’s legal system, to gun control laws and mainstream media, and if anything is to come out of this case unhinged from the start it’s that we are still a grossly divided nation: those fighting for Trayvon Martin, his family and justice in America are opposed by those who firmly believe Zimmerman acted in self-defense and nuts like Ann Coulter; those fighting for stricter gun laws and background checks are opposed by those who stand by today’s gun regulations and most likely own many firearms (three out of the six jurors in the Zimmerman trial are gun owners); and those fighting for blue states are opposed by those fighting for red ones.

To put this into a perspective that makes more sense these days, Unreal News Online has reported that last Sunday (24 hours after the Zimmerman verdict) Facebook experienced more blocking and un-friending than any day in its history. Says Mark Zuckerberg:

“Everybody had something to say about (Saturday’s) verdict. Charges of racism were thrown around at everyone. Tempers flared and a lot of connections and ties were severed. It was even worse than the day the Casey Anthony verdict was announced. It really makes you wonder what would have happened if Facebook were around in 1995 when the O.J. Simpson trial reached its conclusion.”

Although this is a small sample of the big picture, it nonetheless shows how we are at the core. Our division amongst each other and our government not only hinders the country’s ability to progress as a whole, but it clinically showcases our flaws. Most of the time, we as people tend to bash on the things that we hate rather than promoting what we love. I think, to speak realistically, we’re all susceptible to this flaw and it truly affects our overall being.

And yet, through all of the division and separation, anger and sadness, our country continues to amaze me.

If there’s a positive I can take from recent travesties such as the Trayvon story, the Oscar Grant shooting (Fruitvale Station is now out in theaters), the Marissa Alexander conviction, the highly unreported slaying of Jordan Russell Davis and the thousands of other stories that go unreported, it’s that these events have spurred the congealing of people from all backgrounds and cultures unified for a common cause. Just when I think the division among the people of this country has come to an all time high, rallies and protests in response to these tragic events have calmed me down, subtly reminding me that the good always outnumbers the bad.

Regarding the George Zimmerman verdict, much like the protests that spurred an investigation in the first place, people from all over the country have come together to resist the forces that continue to separate the people.

On Sunday evening in New York City, thousands gathered as part of a nation-wide movement to fight against injustice in the legal system and racial oppression.


New York City via AP


New York City via AP

Like New York City, protests all around the country connected thousands.

Neighborhood Watch Wisconsin Reax

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via AP


Detroit, Michigan via AP


Seattle, Washington via


Jacksonville, Florida via AP

The Trayvon Martin blackout protests and million hoodie marches have further shown me that our country is still a wondrous entity. For times I have forgotten just how immense and absorbing we all are. But to this I must ask why it takes a tragic or monumental event like this to bring us all together. A year from now, if things haven’t changed, will we continue to march upon the steps of Washington with words of protest? Or will we, like so many times before, step down until another saddening event throttles our emotions? Is this just human nature?

If we can take something like the Trayvon Martin story and demand change for our legal system and call for justice, we must learn how to do this without the wake of such an event. To continually fight means to never succumb and forever persist, and it’s with this where we must stand.

The common result among our country has been that one of the biggest injustices is that of the separation of our country, whether it’s among racial, religious, political, sexual or cultural grounds. From the Trayvon Martin story to the NYPD pat down service to the ridiculous bills being passed that are further trying to chip away at women’s rights, the core institution of the United States has divided us instead of celebrating the uniqueness everyone brings to this great country. We have, as citizens, joined together to fight these injustices and demand change, but we need to be more frequent. By doing this, our voice will constantly be heard, and we will never fall beneath the abyss. By doing this, we’re not only demanding change, but we’re shaping the future of our country and the way it’ll speak for generations.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

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Show Review: Killstreak Debut Album Release Party


By: Kathryn Hehre

“WE WERE BORN TO DIE RUNNING,” rapper Tony the Scribe spit into the mic as the lights flew on and producer ICETEP dropped the beat. Throughout the past two years of collaboration, KILLSTREAK, a hip-hop duo from Minneapolis, Minnesota, has shown no signs of stopping. After announcing their debut album Janus on July 9th, KILLSTREAK headlined their album release show last Thursday night at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry.

Openers Z x John Daniels, Rich Garvey x Psymun, Chantz Erolin of Audio Perm, and host Botzy hyped up a perfect amount of energy with the crowd throughout the evening leading up to KILLSTREAK’s performance. After these acts, the audience was in for a treat. Suddenly the lights went out and the sound of rain fell from the speakers as ICETEP spun the Intro to Janus, capturing everyone in attentive darkness.

KILLSTREAK’s setlist consisted of the album in its entirety. Though the duo is still playing around with their live performance, by the beginning of their second song, “Smoke,” they had the audience holding up their drinks and wiling out in all the right places. Tony the Scribe took the crowd through the duality of a college experience: the intelligence and the ignorance, the brains and the beer, growing through themes of morality, excess and being nineteen in today’s society. ICETEP’s beats consisted of ebb and flow with surgical precision, successfully blending hip-hop and electronic dance music, which gave their music a unique sound that few others in the scene today have.

KILLSTREAK is a story you want to experience. So, as Guante (a well respected Minneapolis artist featured on Janus’ second to last track, “Collateral Damage”) said during his performance with KILLSTREAK: “put your headphones in, close your eyes, and listen.”

You can stream the album for free or download it here.

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Album of the Week: Blaq Tongue Society Self-Titled


Blaq Tongue Society
Blaq Tongue Society
Sickocell Recordz, 2013

Daniel’s Thought

The first thing that comes to mind when listening to Blaq Tongue Society’s self-titled debut album is that there are many influences resonating on the surface. “Age of the Pyramidz” has the same attitude, flow and fleshed-out production as any Army of the Pharaohs cut; “8 Octogramz Of Shinigami” starts off with the same sort of kung-fu b-movie sample you’d expect on a RZA track; “Panthion” absorbs the harmonious sounds and funky flow of underground legends Kool Keith and Del tha Funkee Homosapien; and “Terraform” locks onto the gritty underground movement of the late 90s and the futuristic sound El-P introduced with The Cold Vein.

With that being said, Blaq Tongue Society flawlessly takes their debut album and folds it into something they can call their own. While this album is mostly a contingent of underground sounds, it’s hard to ignore the weird paradoxes. “Code of Hamurabi” propels like a tribute to faith but at the same time haunts with dizzying horns and offsetting vocal tones; and “Sinister S.E.V.E.N.” remains minimalistic in nature, but packs a powerful punch from open to close. Elsewhere, cannibalistic flow dominates “Butcherz Of Babylon” over haunting production that backs a horrorcore-like sound. If “Butcherz Of Babylon” isn’t going to move you with its ill lyricism (“Slash you in the jugular, Tibetan book of death”), then the production will. The percussion sounds like something Mola Ram would compose in The Temple of Doom, and I get the feeling this is everything Tyler, The Creator’s “French” wanted to accomplish but failed to fully reach.

It’s amazing how much Blaq Tongue Society covers, and with 19 tracks this may seem like a stupid thought, but when you really delve into this record it comes full force. The styles and varying flow from this group and all their guests (including: Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples and Self Jupiter of Freestyle Fellowship) make this a lengthy project without the bore or drone. Fans of artists like Hieroglyphics and Formula Abstract will thoroughly enjoy this record, but for those wanting to explore hip-hop’s distinct ability to branch out, this is a must.

Gus’ Thought

As the 21st century moves forward, the advancements in technology have made it possible for anyone and everyone to try their hand at making music. This is truly a blessing and a curse. Anybody can write a rhyme, make a beat and put it up on the Internet for the world to hear. Because of this, there is a sea of music, new artists and albums every single day. It can be extremely difficult to find the new, profound sound with the overload of new stuff. However, when you find the sound that is meaningful and worth a listen, it soars above the rest.

The Los Angeles based group, Blaq Tongue Society, does just this with their in your face style, hardcore production and revolutionary lyrics. In May they released their self-titled debut album, entering the world of hip-hop with an original, untamed sound, showcasing many MCs and producers in the underground scene of LA. Their music harnesses the raw energy of artists such as Public Enemy, N.W.A., Dead Prez, Immortal Technique and Pharoahe Monch. These MCs aren’t afraid of honesty and refuse to sugarcoat the content of their music. There are times when hip-hop artists are needed to deliver content that is raw and in your face. In an industry that is obsessed with the top 40 and the next hit, this approach to hip-hop feels a like cool breeze on a blisteringly hot, 90-degree day. The method of Blaq Tongue Society delivers in this exact way.

With lines such as, “Gushin’ pores is whatcha in for / Brothers of another smothered mother, ex-lover / Government cover-up, agent Smith last he’s one of em’” from “Terraform” the group is establishes their lyrical brilliance and originality in a genre that is often saturated with snare hits and hooks. Blaq Tongue Society also stands out with the production from the likes of those that manage to create a sinister atmosphere that is perfect for the meta-physical and socio-political lyricism spit by each MC. Blaq Tongue Society is worth the listen because of their radical sound, powerful lyricism and shadowy style of production. Clearly, the underground scene in LA is alive and well.


“Butcherz Of Babylon”



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Yasiin Bey Submits to Guantanamo Force-Feedings: What This Means


By: Gus Navarro 

On Sunday, via The Guardian, hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey released a video of protest in which he voluntarily underwent standard operating procedures for force-feeding in Guantánamo Bay.

This past February, the detainees in Guantánamo Bay went on a hunger strike, refusing the food placed in front of them. This was in response to when a search of cells by guards turned up hidden contraband among the prisoners but also led to accusations of heavy-handedness. The number of people participating in the strike has grown significantly since February and has now reached a total of 106 people and is continuing to grow. Of those involved in the strike, forty-one are now being force-fed so that they will be kept alive.

Force-feeding is a brutally invasive procedure where the prisoner has an IV inserted, is strapped to a chair and a tube is thrust into their nose. This allows the nutrients to flow into the body. More important to note however, is that this is a process that causes immense pain for the detainee and could easily be considered torture. In a New York Times editorial released through his lawyer, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a detainee since 2002, explains that he has yet to receive a trial, proclaims his innocence and describes the process of being force fed:

“Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

The situation continues to intensify as the Obama Administration has made it clear that they would continue the force-feeding—even with the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. On top of that, as stated by the Huffington Post:

“A U.S. federal judge ruled Monday that she lacks the authority to halt the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, while pointedly noting that the practice appears to violate international law and that President Barack Obama can resolve the issue.”

Regardless of your opinion on Guantánamo Bay, it is undeniable that these prisoners are being subjugated to outright cruelty. With that in mind, this circumstance must be critically examined and stopped immediately.

In the video, Yasiin Bey is seen in an orange jump suit, apprehensively eyeing the situation as he is strapped to a chair. As the procedure begins it is impossible to not to feel his nervousness as he begins to squirm and scream out in total suffering as the tube is shoved up his nose. Bey is unable to endure a second round of feeding, hysterically refusing between uncontrollable breaths and tears, a luxury clearly not provided to the people of the high security prison.

This was a socio-political demonstration from an artist that cannot be overlooked. It is here where Yasiin Bey is using his status as a respected MC to lead the charge against the injustices that people are facing all around the world, and in this case the prisoners of Guatánamo Bay. These are people that deserve a voice. As conditions at the prison and around the world worsen, Howard Zinn’s words come to mind,

“Very often rebellion starts in the culture. It starts with the poets and the writers. I’ve always been heartened by the fact that that the artists in society have almost always been on the side of peace and justice.” (Zinn, 2012, p. 158)

This was true in the 20th century as musicians, artists, actors and writers such as W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell played a huge role in providing the necessary expression of discontent that fueled social change. With their work, they were able to bring people together and move as one.

As the world begins to take notice, it is apparent that we need this again. It is of the utmost importance that we, as global participants come together and demand more from our institutions of government. Where are we getting our news from and why is this story surrounding the hunger strike, force-feeding and the Obama Administration’s promises to close Guatánamo Bay not getting significant play in the United States? We cannot wait for the media to provide us with information; we have to seek it out ourselves. On top of that, we as a society must demand more as our fellow human beings are being submitted to unspeakable atrocities that degrade and diminish their humanity. Don’t these incarcerated individuals deserve to at least have their voices heard and in some cases, receive a trial? We have to ask these highly critical questions of our society and hold people accountable in order to strive for a transformation of our culture. We can’t wait for our “leaders” to do it for us. As citizens of the world, we have to come together. Yasiin Bey’s video is shedding light on a situation in need of attention and serves as a poignant example that the platform provided to artists are essential for social change.

You can view the video here.

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The Best Hip-Hop Albums/Mixtapes of 2013 (So Far)


By: Daniel Hodgman

We have now reached the halfway point of 2013, and like any other critic obsessed with rankings and arbitrary lists, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite hip-hop albums and mixtapes of the year (so far). Admittedly, I didn’t think 2013 would provide as well as it has, but with a plethora of diverse works and records already out and six more months of music to add, this is going to be a good year for hip-hop. It already has been.

So without further ado, here are my favorite hip-hop albums/mixtapes of 2013 so far.

DFD- Old Boy Jon

Let me just say that Duke Westlake nailed the production on this mixtape. To be completely honest, I’m not a big fan of glossy and clean-cut production like this, but Westlake completely works with Dumbfoundead’s style. Although DFD finds himself searching for content throughout this album, it’s his ability to turn this album into a visual party that makes this worth the listen.

Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge- Twelve Reasons to Die

I’ll say it right now: I think Ghostface Killah is the most consistent Wu-Tang member when it comes to solo work. With the exception of the mediocre Ghostdini, all of Ghost’s work profiles the best while bringing in something new and unique. I can gladly say that Twelve Reasons to Die follows suit. Here Adrian Younge takes control of the production and layer cakes this record with a cleverly crafted sandbox of haunting sound that gives the sword-wielding and fist bashing lyrics a deeper meaning. I would argue that this record would be better if it was cut shorter, but there’s no denying how sweet it is to listen to such chemistry.

Homeboy Sandman- Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent EP

Homeboy Sandman is an MC from New York City and is signed with Stones Throw Records, a West Coast production company. Not that this really matters or anything, but if you follow Stones Throw (think Madlib, Guilty Simpson, J Dilla), then you know their unique underground hip-hop sound. With Kool Herc, you’re basically getting another Stones Throw, Adult Swim-esque record, but it carries itself well without this label. “Dag, Philly Too” sounds like a smarter Das Racist cut, “Lonely People” mirrors Quasimoto and crafts its own shape, and “Men Are Mortal” rattles your head lyrically, but in a good way (“I been the infamous since drinking infant milk / Whomever want to cause an incident I be like “It’s a deal” / I’m not interested in spending an instant with the infidels / Can tell I used to read Fidel and rock Big L”).

Joey Bada$$- Summer Knights

I’ve always been impressed with Joey Bada$$ because of his seemingly effortless flow, his respect of 90s hip-hop and the mere fact that he’s only 18 years old. After his 1999 mixtape hit the interwebs last year, I knew we had something special. Now that his second solo mixtape, Summer Knights, is out, I now realize Joey Bada$$ may be the second-coming of something. See, I can’t quite equate him to someone comparable, but maybe that’s why he’s so appealing. He is quite literally a new-age rapper with a 90s Golden Age mind. With that being said, he’s so much more than that. His flow is confident and smart, and yet he still carries his youth with him—which is probably why fans of all eras of hip-hop find this kid mystifying. On Summer Knights, Bada weaves stories of youth (“Trap Door”) with lessons to live by (“Word Is Bond”) while flooding the speakers with crisp cadence and guest appearances by Alchemist, Smoke DZA, DJ Premier and more.

Kid Tsunami- The Chase

Australian producer Kid Tsunami is one for nostalgia on The Chase. His beats sway easily, leaving a lot to the MC on the track, but don’t confuse this with simplicity. On “What It Was”, the construction of the song consists of a tumbling bass and Gang Starr-like horns, and although guest J-Live is the center, it’s too hard for him to conceal the contents of Tsunami’s beat. Elsewhere, KRS-One runs on “These Are the Facts”, a swift track that could accompany a car chase scene, and “Ar Toxic” a lounge-like song with guitar twangs and Kool Keith’s recognizable bars.

Killer Mike & El-P- Run the Jewels 

If R.A.P. Music hadn’t been released the same year as good kid, m.A.A.d city, it would have been “album of the year.” That’s because Killer Mike and El-P constructed a package so unique and revealing that it almost threw us all a curve. Their 2013 project is different stylistically, but just as rewarding. Run the Jewels is a harsh listen, and might even be a turnoff for those not familiar with El-P’s production (especially his work with Company Flow), however it’s harsh for all the right reasons. El-P mixes each song with choppy blips, buzzing, choppy guitars, cymbal smacking and dark and heavy synths that stab and smother. What’s most notable about Run the Jewels is that El-P retains his rapping skills and compliments Killer Mike in every way. Since R.A.P. Music didn’t grab “album of the year” in 2012, I have no problem with Run the Jewels capturing 2013.

Sadistik- Flowers For My Father

If you can get past the initial skepticism behind this project (the quirky flow at times, the album art), Flowers For My Father will truly move you. The title and subject matter of the record are telling, which, for the most part, covers the death of Sadistik’s father and the depression that ensued from the event. But sleeping beneath this cover is an MC with content that is as crippling on the ears as it is on the brain. This isn’t a bad thing either; this is an album chocked with emotion and sincerity. Flowers For My Father is built off of crumbling facades: the death of his father, holding onto hope, loss and the death of Minnesota legend Eyedea. On “Micheal”, Sadistik puts everything on the table: “With you Mike I wish that I could hug you again / It’s getting harder to pretend and I can’t undo what’s been / Thank for being someone I could come to, a friend / I hope I make you proud, I love you, the end.”

Statik Selektah- Extended Play

Not only does every track on Extended Play standout with Statik Selektah’s timeless East Coast boom-bap production, but every track also features emcees of all eras coming in and showing off. There are 38 guests in total ranging from Action Bronson and Black Thought to Prodigy and Smif-n-Wessun, and while at times this record has a mixtape-like feel with disheveled content and parity, there’s no denying Stat’s ability to construct a solid record from top to bottom. The variation within the album is there too. On “Game Break”, an airy track with skinny piano chords, backing synth coos and a SWV sample, Lecrae, Posdnuos and Termanology talk about the game making them better men (“Get something man, cultivate a creation / Don’t blame it on your lack of education”). Comparatively, “Pinky Ring” sees Prodigy spitting over a funk-driven track with eerie background squeaks and loose percussion swells. See, Extended Play might not be as cohesive as other albums, but it successfully melds different sounds and eras into one of the most listenable records of the year.

Styles P- Float

Styles P has always been one of the most respected MCs out of New York City because of his strict attention to detail and consistency. With Float, P continues to tread along this blueprint while at the same time throwing in some curveball experimental sound; “Hater Love” sounds like a thrashing epic from a mafia movie, “Red Eye” hops like a dark-disco beat that could fit in the Roll Bounce soundtrack and “Shoot You Down” plays like any other big city anthem with light horns, soaring vocal samples and sample interludes within the contents of the track. Lyrically, P is dominating in every aspect. On the eerie “Manson Murder,” he puts it all on the table: “Basically, hit you with the hard nigga recipe / Fuck you! If you ain’t with me, you’re next to me / I ain’t one for the small talk / Goes to get it in it like Nucky on Boardwalk.”

Ugly Heroes- Ugly Heroes

From an outsider’s standpoint, Ugly Heroes is a concept album that covers everything from class structure to human emotion, but once you delve into the record it becomes apparent that it’s an anthem for hip-hop as a whole. Though most of the record is negative and downtrodden in content, songs like “Just Relax” and “Push” gives Ugly Heroes a light of confidence that only strengthens it as a whole. Red Pill and Verbal Kent are sincere and bold throughout, and Apollo Brown’s lush sample-heavy production provides the two MCs a beat to march to. Even with all of the hype surrounding this project, Ugly Heroes exceeded expectations in almost every category.

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My Wet Hot American Summer (Playlist)

rain cry kid

By: Victor Anderson

Do I live in Seattle? Oh, I don’t? I live North Carolina? You could’ve fooled me because for the past three or so weeks every time that I look up I see dark clouds full of water just waiting to drop down on us like some kind of aquatic kamikaze.

But it’s summer!

Summer is supposed to be filled with dry and sweltering heat that should leave you craving a cold brew or a dip into the pool, while being struck by lightning during the summer shouldn’t even cross your mind. One would think that all this precipitation would be good for the crops but think again, they’re becoming flooded. I can’t even skate to work because the pavement is too slick and I’d probably die, so I’m forced to settle for a nice soaking walk in the down pour. I’ve never dealt with such fickle weather in my life.

In the morning, the sun shines loud and proud and the day seems promising and then the rain literally rains on its parade. For some reason, the weather switches moods like a pregnant woman because after the light shower, the sun pops back up; cue muggy humidity. Enjoy the shine while it lasts because if the darkness forming above is any indication, more rain is coming and boy does it deliver. The sky opens up an ocean and people go haywire and this continues for the rest of the day.

Who knows when we’ll be free of these schizophrenic weather patterns? I sure as hell don’t, so I decided to make a playlist to reflect our current weather conditions. From up-tempo, bright summer jammy jams to low-tempo dreary ballads and such. The playlist flows as erratically as our current summer weather so feel free to play this anytime of the day, it just might fit.

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Album of the Week: “Blackout!” by Method Man & Redman


Method Man & Redman
Def Jam, 1999

Daniel’s Thought

I don’t know what it is, but Method Man & Redman’s Blackout! will always be one of my go-to hip-hop records. In fact, it might be my favorite hip-hop record of all time. Whenever there’s an argument to be placed on “the best of the best,” I always turn to this record as an example. Maybe it’s because I’m fanatical about their ability to play off of each other as they digest each other’s bars and add with a bit of their own commentary, quickly making us think that these dudes are both smart and funny. Maybe it’s because of the production, an Eric Sermon dominated piece with tight-knit bass and percussion delivery. Or maybe it’s because Blackout! in its entirety is a playful album with some of the best creativity hip-hop can throw at you with innovative skits (some/most skits are terrible), jib-jab wordplay and intense bars that never end. I like to dissect records for the most part, but with Blackout! I’ve always accepted it just as it was presented to me. Call this pretentious or lazy or whatever, but sometimes a classic record doesn’t need to be thoroughly discussed to be enjoyed. Whatever this album means to me I know for a fact that Blackout! is Method Man & Redman at their best, and when they’re together and at their best they’re unstoppable.

Gus’ Thought

Released in 1999, Blackout! by Method Man & Redman took hip-hop to new heights. This entire album is full of classic tracks such as “Cereal Killer,” “Maaad Crew,” “Dats Dat S**t” and “Cheka” that highlight the production skills of Reggie Noble (aka Redman), Erick Sermon, Gov Mattic and RZA while putting Meth and Red’s dynamic skills as MCs on full display. I will never forget the first time I was introduced to this masterpiece back in high school by my boy G-mess. There are two specific instances, the beginning sequence and a track called “Where We At (Skit),” that changed my relationship with hip-hop forever.

The first thing you hear on the hit record Blackout! is Redman asking, “Do you want to get high, man?” From there, Method Man asks, “Does Pinocchio have wooden balls, man?” The intro, A Special Joint (Intro), develops into a slow, hazy groove that makes you feel like you’re sitting on your roommate’s dingy couch, passing a blunt to the left while at the same time taking a huge hit from your favorite bong. The groove is slow and low (that is the tempo) and if you were impaired it would make your head spin, making your eyelids heavy and droopy. Just as you are becoming one with the hypnotic beat Redman exclaims, “Oh Shit! Where the keys at?!” Then a police siren sounds and tires screech as Meth and Red peel out and the noise of a raucous crowd is heard with an announcer distantly yelling, “Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Method Man and Redman!”

From this epic intro the beat is dropped in the most 1999 kind of way, making the head nod uncontrollable as Mr. Mef and Funk Doc slay the title track with lines such as, “I’m ‘Too Hot for TV,’ rap draw water / My windpipe’s attached to project ballers / you tell: ‘turn the hear down” / My voice, DVD ‘round sound, so I’m heard round town / And chances of y’all leavin? ‘Round now” and, “I spit a .41 revolver on New Year’s Eve / With the mic in my hand I mutilate MCs / The most slept on since Rip Van Wink / My shit stink with every element from A to zinc.” There are those times when an intro bleeds into the next track, perfectly setting it up and this is one of them. I could listen to this sequence all day, everyday.

About halfway through, the intensity of the song “Tear It Off” is offset by the calming sounds of chirping birds and the sound of a docile voice saying, “Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m white. I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and went to a predominantly white college, and I have predominantly all white friends. But at night, when all my white friends are asleep, I bump THIS…” As Redman concludes his spot on impersonation of a white young professional on “Where We At (Skit)”, Doc and Meth take it away with one of the heaviest, most gnarly beats that would get you ready for anything. Beyond that, this skit is an example of the brilliance of Method Man and Redman and why they are some of the best MCs in the business. They are able to shed light on the fact that the majority of hip-hop sales are contributed to white, affluent males wanting to seem “hard” or “gangsta” in a comical, yet humorless manner. The first time I heard this I was blown away at the unbelievable beat along with the inventiveness of how the subject matter was addressed.

Released in 1999, Method Man and Red Man provide insight into complex subject matter with clever lyricism that has to be processed more than once. With funky, head bangin’ production that draws people in and battle-ready lyrics, Blackout! is one of those records that changed hip-hop forever.



“Cereal Killer”

“Mi Casa”

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One Step Forward, One Step Back: DOMA and The Voting Rights Act


By: Gus Navarro

This past week the Supreme Court voted by a 5-4 margin on two cases that will have a lasting influence on future generations. On Wednesday, June 26th, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996—as unconstitutional. This was a monumental victory for the LGBT community as DOMA prevented same-sex couples, whose marriages were recognized by their home state, from receiving the same benefits available to other married couples under federal law. Wednesday’s decision did not legalize same-sex marriage across the country, but it is an important step in the direction of marriage equity. The Supreme Court was praised for having the fortitude to make this decision (to see the absolute joy on people’s faces from images taken that day shows the magnitude of this decision for people all over the United States). As someone who has close friends that are a part of the LGBT community, the decision by the Supreme Court was long overdue. Hopefully, we will soon reach a point in our society where love is not a political issue.

However, on Tuesday, just one day before, the Supreme Court declared parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as unconstitutional. It was voted that sections 4 and 5 be taken out, removing much of the staying power behind the bill. These sections were originally WRITTEN into the bill specifically to combat the legalized apartheid found in the south directed primarily at the African-American community following Civil War Reconstruction; otherwise known as the Jim Crow Era. Before this legislation was passed, voter discrimination was rampant across the United States.

The Voting Rights Act, and specifically sections 4 and 5, were put in place as a way for the Federal Government to determine which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place or redrawing electoral districts. These sections were extremely important, then and now, as discrimination can still be found around the polls today.


It appears that the main reason sections 4 and 5 were removed is because it is thought that they no longer apply in today’s society. Basically the court is saying what they teach in schools; racism ended with Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It takes minimal effort to see that this is not the case and that racial prejudice continues to this day. According to a report done by The Brennan Center For Justice, If Section 5 Falls:  New Voting Restrictions, there were eight states that passed restrictive voting laws in 2012 and nine states that introduced restrictive voting laws in 2013. Some of these states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. In the report there are multiple examples of recent attempts by state and local governments to implement discriminatory voting changes. For example:

In 2001, the white mayor and the all-white Board of Aldermen for the small town of Kilmichael, Mississippi attempted to cancel an election shortly after black citizens became a majority of the registered voters. DOJ objected, finding the cancelation was designed to weaken African Americans’ voting strength. The town refused to reschedule the election until DOJ required it to hold one in 2003, when the town’s first African-American mayor and three African-American aldermen were elected (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

The city council of Fredericksburg, Virginia was preparing to adopt a redistricting plan in 2002 that would have dismantled its only majority black district. The council abandoned the idea when the city attorney warned that doing so would violate Section 5 (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

In 2006, DOJ objected to a decision by a Houston-area community college district to no longer conduct joint elections with several coextensive school districts. As a result, voters would have had to travel to two separate polling places in order to cast their ballots. The change also reduced the number of polling places from 84 to 12, which covered an area greater than 1,000 square miles and served more than 540,000 voters. In its letter objecting to the shift, DOJ noted the assignment of voters was “remarkably uneven,” as one polling site for the school board election with the smallest proportion of minority voters would serve 6,500 voters, while the most heavily minority site would serve more than 67,000 voters, 80 percent of whom were black or Latino (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

In 2012, the city council of Roxboro, North Carolina was considering a proposal to change its body from having two-year non-staggered terms to having four-year staggered terms. This would have made it more difficult for minorities to elect candidates of their choice by reducing the number of people on the ballot at each election. But after local advocates suggested the proposal would not survive Section 5, the city abandoned it, instead adopting longer, but non-staggered terms (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

Even this past week, on the same day as sections 4 and 5 were struck down as unconstitutional, Texas announced their decision that a voter identification law, that had been blocked, would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps would no longer need federal approval.

There are those who believe that with this decision, The Supreme Court has given Democrats a present in that it will encourage members of the African-American and Latina/o populations to frequent the polls like they did in 2008. New York Times writer Ross Douthat concludes his editorial by saying,

Liberal demagogy notwithstanding, voter ID laws aren’t a way for Republicans to turn the clock back and make sure that it’s always 1965. But they are a good way for Republicans to ensure that African-Americans keep voting like it’s always 2008 (Douthat, 2013).

Eventually, this could turn out to be the case, and if so, that would be outstanding. However, this viewpoint ultimately misses the mark. Issues of race are still clearly prominent in this country; racism did not go away the minute after the mass movements of the so-called Civil Rights Era. If racist policies had vanished, there wouldn’t have been the War on Drugs, countless “Urban Renewal” projects that disproportionately affected African-American and Latina/o communities and the state of Arizona would not have banned the Mexican-American Studies Department in the Tucson Unified School District. If racist policies didn’t exist any longer, there would be no school to prison pipeline, and Michelle Alexander would not have written The New Jim Crow, condemning the prison system in the United States. Issues of race continue to play out in education, the work place, in voting and social situations everyday. Despite what some may say, the election of a biracial president did not end matters of race in the United States.


With the DOMA and voting rights decisions, the Supreme Court has given and taken away. On Wednesday there was immense rejoicing, as there should have been, all over the country. It is time to celebrate this monumental step towards marriage equity. However, before we celebrate, we must also consider the decision made just the day before. Are we actually making advancements in the realm of social progress, or are we taking a step forward and a step backward? Why are we praising the Supreme Court when both verdicts were reached by a 5-4 margin? Why was the removal of sections 4 and 5 not as publicized? Is it merely a coincidence that the Supreme Court announced the DOMA decision the day after, attempting to suppress the negative press that was surely to come? In what ways do racist/prejudicial ideologies persist in the United States and how might we combat them? Finally, as residents of the United States, how much longer are we going to sit around and accept the slow churn of politics before we do something about it?

All over the world, in places such as Brasil, Egypt and Turkey, people are taking to the streets to express their frustration over their country’s social, economic and political concerns. In Brasil, a country synonymous with soccer, the situation is so dire that protesters were willing to give up their chance to see Brasil win the Confederations Cup in order to make their voices heard. In the United States there are things such as healthcare, eight-hour workdays and weekends because of a huge labor movement that spanned for decades. In the case of the Voting Rights Act, the only reason it was ratified is because a generation of activists came together against all odds, demanding social, political, economic and racial equality. The government of the United States has never given anything to its citizens voluntarily. The freedoms that we enjoy are a direct result of ordinary people doing more than just listening to one news station and voting. It is a result of past generations educating themselves and seizing what was rightfully theirs. In a matter of minutes, five justices took that away. I hope Ross Douthat is correct and that the decision regarding the Voting Rights Act will somehow turn out to be a good thing, motivating people to make their voice heard at the polls. However, I am hoping for more than that. I hope that people across the country, regardless of race, religion, social class, gender and sexual orientation can take to the streets celebrating the defeat of DOMA, while also denouncing the verdict regarding the Voting Rights Act. We won’t get anywhere taking one step forward and one step back.

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