Tag Archives: film

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With James Gardin (Part Two)

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If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Today we’re excited to unveil part two of our interview with the man himself! Check out the video below, and don’t forget to check out James’ pages and music!

Listen to James’ latest single “Selah” here 

For more on James Gardin:
James Gardin on Soundcloud 
James Gardin on BandCamp 
@JamesGardin on Twitter

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Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Hir-O (Part Two)

via blatpack.com

via blatpack.com

Omari Hall (aka Hir-O) is a producer from Detroit, Michigan. As one of the city’s rising hip-hop artists, Hir-O has branded his music with splashes of electronic swells, jazz, soul, live instrumentation and other realms of music that all come to form a cohesive hip-hop force. His projects with DaJaz1, Doss The Artist and Red Pill, along with his instrumentals such as The Voyage Home, reflect the true prowess and versatility of his work, and with future projects coming in 2014, Hir-O is a name you should remember.

Today we’re excited to bring you part two of our interview with Hir-O as part of Bonus Cut Films, a series that looks into the lives of various hip-hop artists across the globe that have impacted and shaped this culture for the better.

If you haven’t seen part one, you’re going to wanna do that. Click here to watch.

Below is the second installment of our Hir-O feature:

Film Credits: 
Writing and Script Design: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Justin Cook 
Directed By: Gus Navarro 
Production: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan 
Camera and Sound Design: Ian Siporin, Julian Stall and Phillip Mcguigan
Editing: Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Songs: “We Are Not Like Them (instrumental)” by Hir-O / “Best Rapper (instrumental)” by Hir-O

Many thanks to Omari for inviting us down for the interview. 

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Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Hir-O (Part One)

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Omari Hall (aka Hir-O) is a producer from Detroit, Michigan. As one of the city’s rising hip-hop artists, Hir-O has branded his music with splashes of electronic swells, jazz, soul, live instrumentation and other realms of music that all come to form a cohesive hip-hop force. His projects with DaJaz1, Doss The Artist and Red Pill, along with his instrumentals such as The Voyage Home, reflect the true prowess and versatility of his work, and with future projects coming in 2014, Hir-O is a name you should remember.

Today we’re excited to debut Bonus Cut Films, a series that looks into the lives of various hip-hop artists across the globe that have impacted and shaped this culture for the better. More importantly however, we’re honored to feature Hir-O as our first Bonus Cut Films artist.

Below is the first installment of our Hir-O feature:

Film Credits:
Writing and Script Design: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Justin Cook 
Directed By: Gus Navarro
Production: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Camera and Sound Design: Ian Siporin, Julian Stall and Phillip Mcguigan
Editing: Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Song: “Voltron’s Heartbeat” By: Hir-O

Many thanks to Omari for inviting us down for the interview. 

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Film Review: Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

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By: Gus Navarro 

Within the first five minutes of Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, the 2012 film by Ice-T, the importance of hip-hop is unmistakable. As Ice-T explains, “I really felt that I had to do this movie because rap music saved my life.” Ice-T, the MC, actor and personality from New Jersey and L.A. doesn’t try to hide anything about his film. Here, Ice-T focuses on what being an MC is all about: it is about the craft of writing verses and the skill it takes to deliver them in the studio and in front of a crowd. What emerges is the artistry contained within the music, the power of writing and an important history lesson about the origins of hip-hop and how it has evolved over time. Ice-T puts this into words, “This movie isn’t about the money, the cars, the jewelry, the girls; this film is about the craft.” In order to educate people on the craft, Ice-T sits down and talks with legends of hip-hop.

Mixed with artistic overhead shots of New York, Detroit and Los Angeles, this film contains interviews from the various legends that transformed rap music. Ice-T sits down with MCs and producers such as Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaata, Rakim, Nas, DJ Premier, Chuck D, Ice Cube, KRS-One, Dr. Dre, Royce da 5’9”, Eminem, Immortal Technique, Yasiin Bey, Big Daddy Kane, Raekwon and Melle Mel, and talks to them about their favorite artists and verses of all time, their writing process and what hip-hop means to them. With this movie you get the feeling that Ice-T decided to be generous and allow you to sit in and get a glimpse at the lives of rap royalty. It’s amazing to hear Rakim talk about growing up, inspired by listening to the jazz his mother would play. With The Art Of Rap, Ice-T makes it possible to know more about the MCs behind the verses we know and love. Not only that, we also get the privilege of seeing almost every MC in the movie do an a cappella verse where they showcase their talent with words. It is a sight to behold as Nas, Immortal Technique, Yasiin Bey and Eminem drop rhyme after rhyme straight from the dome. The best part of this film is learning about the writing process of each MC.

For example, Dana Dane, the MC from New York, talks about how he writes verses:

“The way I write rhymes is kind of crazy too, because I write the story first.  Not even as a rhyme, I just write the story-I guess it’s from school-and I write the introduction, I write the body, and the conclusion.  I always write the conclusion first, I always know where my story is going to end before I even start writing it.”

Dana Dane is engaged in the practice of literacy and makes it possible to get a glimpse into the amount of work it takes to write a truly masterful verse. Grandmaster Caz, an extremely influential MC, is shown working on a verse multiple times. Between hits from a blunt, he is seen writing on a notepad, whispering the words to himself. It may seem that MCs always have the words–in some cases they do–but it also takes a lot of effort to write high-quality rhymes. In the film, every MC has a different writing process and a different opinion on hip-hop. However, what surfaces across the board is the social context from which hip-hop originated.

The first interviewee is Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian. In this interview he describes where hip-hop came from:

“We created something from nothing with hip-hop. With the whole spirit of what hip-hop is. It was at a time when they were taking instruments and shit out of the schools and all of that type of shit. See, black people used to be pretty musical back in the day. It wasn’t unusual for a motherfucker to know how to play the piano or guitar or some sort of horn or some shit like that. At some point, all of that shit was removed from us. Through economics, cutting things outta schools and all that. So they try to take the music from us when we had created an original American music, which was jazz. So what did we do? We had no fucking instruments, no horns, no drums, we’re living in the fucking city and all this, we ain’t got room for that shit anywhere up in the projects or wherever the fuck you’re huddled in at. So what did we do? We took the fucking record player, the only thing that’s playing music in our fucking crib and turned it into an instrument.”

Hip-hop happened because it had to, because it was a way to resist the continued racial oppression that people of color faced following the Civil Rights Era. Similar to today, the funds for the fine arts are being removed from places that need it most. Hip-hop won’t die because it is an art form of resistance. As long as oppression and injustice remain, hip-hop will as well. Hip-hop is a means of agency and self-determination and Ice-T’s film embodies this spirit.

If you are looking to learn more about hip-hop culture and its impact on society, Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap is worth watching. Containing countless interviews with renowned artists, Ice-T’s film highlights the skill needed to be an MC, the history of hip-hop and how it is a form of resistance. Ice Cube refers to his style of hip-hop as “Street Knowledge.” Street knowledge is about, “Letting the streets know what the politicians is trying to do to them. And then, letting the politicians know what the streets think of them, if they listening.” This is an essential point to make in that it grounds hip-hop within the political, social and economic contexts of our communities. This takes hip-hop to another place in that it is directly influenced by the living conditions of the artists and their communities. Ultimately, Ice-T’s film is about the craft of rapping, for which he makes this very clear.  However, it is also a testament to the worldview that is hip-hop.

Check out the trailer for Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap below!

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The American C.R.E.A.M. Series (Part Two)

Photo credit: Carlos Nunez

Photo credit: Carlos Nunez

Periodically, Bonus Cut writer Victor Anderson will be sharing his American C.R.E.A.M. Series, a story where hip-hop is just the tip of the iceberg.

…continued from Chapter One: The Bloch Motel

Three days had passed since I first laid eyes on the intriguing creature named Talia. She had moved in to the room next to mine, Room 11. I couldn’t help but wonder who she was and why she was there. There was only room in this motel for one long lasting tenant and that was me. I knew my reasons for staying at The Bloch but what could her excuse be? Was she running from something or hiding out? It was hard to say because her visiting hours to Room 11 were random and nearly unpredictable.

During the day she was comfortably clothed in band t-shirts, tank tops, denim jeans and sneakers. At night it was a different story. She was dolled up and was dressed to impress.

I’m sure to her my existence was as unknown as an undiscovered species in an arctic jungle, but I didn’t mind, I enjoyed being the man behind the two-way mirror. But I knew one day I wouldn’t be able to settle for just being the observer, I needed to take action and fast because I had no clue how long she was planning on sticking around. But as often as I dreamt about our potential interaction, I was not prepared for what was to come.

I think it was the second day of Talia staying there when I went down to the manager’s office to ask him a few questions about her. He went by the name of Curly and he was a rather plump individual with a certain bubbliness about him. We shared a few moments together throughout my first week at the motel; getting coffee and paying nightly visits to the local strip joint up the road. He seemed to like me because he was always buying me drinks and dances. He wanted to get me laid, so anytime an attractive young lady would check into the motel, he would text me their name and room number. Now that I think about it, Curly must have been the clever mastermind behind Talia’s room assignment.

Anyways, I’m chatting with Curly asking him what she’s like and all I really got out of him was that she was pretty quiet but possessed a set of flirtatious eyes. “If only I was 20 years younger and a few pounds lighter, I would’ve pursued that pudding pop,” he would say. He also mentioned that she seemed a bit anxious and happened to be a bit on the sarcastic side.

Curly did his best to help me understand her but if I wanted to get to know this character, I’d have to do it myself. Unfortunately, she was not around at this point during the evening.

Suddenly, we were interrupted by the rapid mashing of the bell on the check-in counter. Curly shouted from his office to notify the new tenant that he was on his way but he soon changed his tone and agitated facial expression half-way out of the door when he notice the woman in front of the counter. She happened to be a tan, young, attractive blonde from Florida and was dressed accordingly. Curly peeked back into his office only to deliver me a wink, signaling that she was some sort of hottie. “How can I cater to your needs, ma’am,” he spurted out as he assumed his position behind the counter.

I exited Curly’s office only to pass this short-haired bleach blonde whose elbows were resting on the counter. The curvature from her back to her ass was impeccable. Her malty pupils met mine and I bashfully averted my eyes to the displeasing carpet. I glanced back for one more peek before I left. She noticed and responded with a shy grin. I’m sure Curly put in a good word for me so I could gamble that the cards might be in my favor on this one. I posted up outside of the office to smoke a cigarette and found myself enjoying the chilled breeze. I was preparing for my possible encounter with Florida by trying my best to embody my inner Cary Grant. His cunning charm and wittiness is definitely how he got the ladies in the pictures, so I was sure it would work for me.

Florida, or Drew as she liked to be called, stepped from the office into the outside air with her round Samsonite suitcase in one hand and her room key in the other. These room keys had large diamond shaped key chains attached to them with the room number imprinted on it. Hers was 7. She kindly greeted me and proceeded to leave distance between us until I caught up with her and offered to carry her key. She thought I was going to say bag and then giggled at my lame attempts at a joke. She invited me in and I would’ve been a fool to refuse. She wasted no time and immediately began to jump on the bed as if it was a trampoline. I stood there watching and laughing because I didn’t know what else to do. I was really concerned that if I joined the fun, the bed would collapse and I don’t think Curly would’ve been able to afford it. Soon she collapsed onto the mattress and admitted that this was one of her rituals when entering any bedroom.

Her position on the bed was similar to that of a pinup model. As she spoke, I admired her beach-surfer body and was distracted by the golden thighs that sprouted from her cut-off jeans. She had my attention and I was soon invited to join her on the bed. I made no moves but I was putting in the ground work through general conversation about her whereabouts.

Strangely, she was on her way to British Columbia, Canada to begin a grow operation with a gentleman she had met online. She was the most attractive botanist that I had ever seen. She had been growing marijuana since the age of 16 after living with her drug-dealing uncle who knew a lot of shady and dangerous characters. She began an intimate relationship with a man twice her age that cultivated copious amounts of marijuana crops. She eventually surpassed her teacher before he was seized by the DEA and began inventing her own strains of the plant but for her own use. Soon, she figured out the potential profit for her creation and is now on the journey to her cousins up north to cash out on her cash crop. Needless to say we got really baked in her car that night.

I invited her to my room for a drink and a movie. I wanted to introduce her to Federico Fellini since we were under the influence and could possibly enjoy the experience of an artistic, experimental or baroque film. We sat on the bed with our backs against the headboard and I hit play on my computer to commence the screen staring. Unfortunately, these films aren’t for everybody and she began to nod off. She fought the battle to stay awake and ultimately gave in to the unconscious urge. Fortunately for me, her head collapsed onto my lap. I was in an odd predicament but I did the nice thing and rubbed her back to wake her up. She didn’t move her head but she began to hum and purr out of enjoyment. Then she started to maneuver her hand towards my thigh and it continued to escalate until the laptop was on the ground, along with our clothes. I had entered the golden gates and I was in heaven. I’m not even sure if Fellini got laid because of Casanova but I wish I could thank him. The film is damn near three hours and we were just finishing up by the time the credits rolled. She left shortly after to get some rest before her drive in the morning. I walked her to the door and received a goodnight smooch before she trotted away and down the steps. I treated myself to a cigarette while I was outside and from my peripheral I noticed her coming back up the stairs but I didn’t want to turn my head and seem eager. I just waited until I felt a touch on my shoulder or something but to my surprise, it wasn’t Drew, it was Talia getting back from where ever she had come from. I turned to see her and she smirked at me as she unlocked her door. I didn’t take my eyes off of her until the door to Room 11 had sealed shut.

To be continued…

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The American C.R.E.A.M. Series

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Periodically, Bonus Cut writer Victor Anderson will be sharing his American C.R.E.A.M. Series, a story where hip-hop is just the tip of the iceberg.

By: Victor Anderson 

THE BLOCH MOTEL 

A motel isn’t the living quarters one would typically choose to spend more than a night in, let alone a weekend. Usually families or individuals on their way to a location more appealing decide to settle for a cheap, crummy place to rest for the night, but then it’s back on the road in the morning to potential paradise. Establishments like motels are also the venue for things like adultery, prostitution and prom date hook-ups. Needless to say, not many positive things come to mind when the word, “motel,” is mentioned. So, why have I been living in one for the past two weeks?

Originally it was because I thought I needed an escape, an escape from everything that I was accustomed to. A lot of the kids I knew who went away to college took advantage of attending out-of-state universities or was granted the chance to study abroad in a foreign country but I didn’t stick around school long enough to get that opportunity. I wasn’t even given the normal college student campus living experience. I commuted from home because I wasn’t fortunate enough to have parents that could afford to pay for housing. It probably would’ve been a waste anyway because it only took me a year and a half to completely become fed up with the tedious and mundane work ethic that came with being a good student. The only times that I enjoyed were times that involved non-related academic activities. Having a social life and doing things that I enjoyed was a lot more important to me than cramming for tests on subjects that I had zero interest in.

Almost a year had gone by since I had abandoned my parents dreams of me becoming a college graduate. I was on the way home from my lame job at the cellphone accessory kiosk in the mall when I decided to stop at my favorite convenient store to pick up one of my daily lotto scratch off tickets. Long story short, I won $8,000–after taxes were taken out. It must have been my lucky day.

Now that this hefty sum was all mines, I didn’t have to work for a while and I could truly focus on mapping out my life with no distractions. I left my home that I had been raised in and now for the first time, I’m on my own.

The Bloch Motel is located off of a secondary feeder road on the side of an interstate highway. It’s in a rural town on the outskirts of a major city. The Bloch is a two-story lodge that is coated in fainted pink and blue pastels and has 14 rooms in total. My room number is 10 and I’ve grown pretty fond of it. The exterior of the building is a bit weathered down considering it’s been around since the early ‘60s but the interior of the rooms have been kept in a rather impressive condition somehow. The burgundy drapes that keep the light out match the lamp shades and the blankets on the bed. The wood paneled walls provide a certain type of aroma and style to the room that gives me a sense of warmth for some reason. I’m not the biggest fan of the puke green carpet but it’s whatever, it’s just the floor. There’s a fridge, a microwave, a television and a bathroom and I couldn’t ask for more at $37 a day.

Since I’ve secluded myself here, I’ve been really pondering my future and narrowing down my options for possible career paths. After Day 2, I realized that I wanted to be a thespian—-an actor. It’s cliché but I think I’d be good at it and it sounds like it could be some fun. Not only the job but the dough is rather appealing to a guy who has recently found out how nice it is to get his hands on a good bit of it in a short amount of time. But I’m no sap; I’ve been taking the time to truly study the craft. In my first week here, I spent my days downloading and watching nothing but early silent films. Soon, I upgraded to foreign films; Spanish films, French Films, Japanese films, German films and Italian films. Slowly, coffee became a large part of my diet. I began to take note upon note of the emotions, expressions and voice inflection that were being channeled through the actor. I discovered and became aware of Constantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg and the technique of method acting. Soon, people like Marlon Brando and James Dean enticed me as I made my way through the ‘50s cinema era.

When I ventured out into the world, I would sit in coffee shops, bars and restaurants and people watch, choosing interesting looking individuals to study and thus jotting down my observations on napkins and menus. I’d take note of every single mannerism and facial tick and try my best to figure out what was going through their brains when they chose to demonstrate or execute any specific action that was natural to them. Sometimes, I would imitate them in the mirror when I would get back to The Bloch, or home as I liked to call it. I met a couple of truck drivers in the parking lot my first week there. Of course they happened to be pulling in and crashing for the night. I would approach them and strike up a conversation as a character that I had observed and practiced. After talking to these men who know the roads of this country like the back of their hand I realized that they have seen things and they have stories to tell and that’s what makes them real. I had to figure out a way to make my characters authentic and appear as if they had lived an entire lifetime.

One night I was drinking whiskey with a gentleman from Cleveland who had stopped in for the night and we were leaning over the balcony drunkenly and irrationally strategizing how we would survive the zombie apocalypse and that’s when I first noticed the 1988 navy blue Camry pull into the parking lot. The headlights went dim after the engine went to sleep and the driver’s door casually became ajar. From the car emerged a slender denim leg. The sole of their Converse was placed firmly on the pavement and out stepped a brunette dressed in a black t-shirt. She glanced at us with her two emerald eyes through thick rimmed glasses and briskly walked into the front door to meet the key clerk. That was the first time I had laid eyes on Talia Leslie and it definitely won’t be the last.

To be continued…

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