Friday, November 30, 2007

Fun: What's in your iTunes library?

Here's a fun little quiz I got from my man Adam P. Newton on his Dryvetyme Onlyne blog. Feel free to fire up your copy of Apple's jukebox and play along.

How many total songs?


Sort By Song Title: First & Last

"A.C. Bates" by Bone Circus
"?" by Outkast

Sort By Time: Shortest & Longest

0:05 - "Public Service Announcement" by B.L.U.E
2:49:56 - An mp3 file of Damage Control Radio show with UGK as studio guests

Sort By Album: First & Last

from The Bible Experience audio Bible
7th Avenue by KJ-52

Sort By Artist: First & Last

A.B.F. (Alliance By Faith)
832 Movement

Top Five Played Songs

"Yes You Have" by Leeland from Sound of Melodies
"I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" by John Mayer from Continuum
"So Hard" by The Dixie Chicks from Taking the Long Way
"Beautiful Lord" by Leeland from Sound of Melodies
"Easy Silence" by The Dixie Chicks from Taking the Long Way

* This surprises me. Not that I don't dig these songs, but I also don't think I have iTunes or my iPod set up to track this accurately. Guess I'll have to take it up with Mr. Jobs.

Find the following words. How many songs show up?

: 18
Death: 22
Love: 209
You: 536
Home: 40
Boy: 155
Girl: 48

I'm adding a few to the list just for fun:

: 52
Devil: 33 - PWND!
Houston: 3
Thug: 49 - Hmmm.... more than Satan, but less than Christ...
Me: 1,569 - How self-centered are we?
Belshazar: 1 - Johnny Cash + Old Testament Bible stories = Awesome!

First 5 Songs That Come Up on Party Shuffle

"This Is How I Rock" (chopped & screwed by DJ Mex) by Icece from Thawed Out Volume II mixtape

"Better Days" by Robbie Seay Band from Better Days

"Youth of a Nation" by S.O.M. from The Journey Revisited (Believe me, them San Diego boys do it better on the original.)

"Gotta Have This" by Applejaxx, Cash Hollistah, Probly Pablo from Best of the Submissions Mixtape Vol. 3

"Truth Be Told" by Eric Cross from The Message Mixtape

So mixtapes rule my digital world. Funny.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Promo: The Listener Project - Nov 28

This is a show you need to attend. Definitely one of the most creative that I've ever seen.

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Listener is an old school Christian rap dude (Labklik & deepspace5) head now doing something he calls "talk music" with a live band. It's a mix of hip hop, spoken word, and performance art.

His "Ozark Empire" album revolves around the concept of a traveling knife salesman from Arkansas. Really.

Be thurr and prepare to be impressed.

"Talk Music" live:

Pics from his last Houston stop:

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Find him online at:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: Jovan MacKenzy - Jihad

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September 11th. The date is forever etched in American hearts.

It’s the day our world changed and we woke up to the very real threat of global terrorism. Shamefully, just six years later, the memory of nearly 3,000 lives is pushed aside in the name of hip hop consumerism.

It wasn’t just 50 vs. Kanye - although their well-orchestrated competition did spur album sales. Wine-0 (fka Nuwine) pimped the memorial day with an expletive-laced diss track video for Ye, Curtis, and his former gospel rap brethren so that listeners would know his new album would be in stores on that date.

Godchaserz Entertainment also saw the 9/11 anniversary as a prime opportunity for pub by dropping Jovan MacKenzy’s disc titled Jihad* and carrying the idea to its cover art with Arabic font faces and Crusades-era battle imagery. This from a [gulp] Christian MC.

Fortunately (?) this offensively brash and exploitive theme doesn’t go much further than the packaging and title song track. However, it’s not the first time J-Mac has courted controversy. His “Shot To Ya Soul” track on the Dat’s Gospel Mixxtape also struck nerves by calling out mainstream rappers (Mobb Deep, 50, Jay-Z, R Kelly) and explaining how their public words and actions appeared to contradict or conflict with modern Christian practices.

Pushing aside such distasteful promotion tactics to evaluate Jihad’s overall content is admittedly hard to do. But there is substance underneath.

MacKenzy has rhyme skill talent and delivers a solid Biblical message about the struggle to lead a sacred life throughout the project. However, this spiritual strife is not the same thing as the “holy war” referenced in the title. “Jihad” and “sanctification” are not synonyms!

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On the album Jovan employs a throwback East Coast type flow over serviceable synth-heavy beats by Godchaserz artist/CEO Brinson. Early tracks like “Capital G” with Dae Lee remind the listener of golden-era mic tag teams and up-tempo party flavor. Later, “I’m So Glad” utilizes Uncle Reese’s soulful pipes on the hook to make a nice, smoothed-out praise joint that is ripe for radio.

Jovan also attempts some concept records with “39 Lashes” and “Class of 08.” The effort is appreciated but the execution could be improved.

“39 Lashes” recalls the beating Jesus took before his crucifixion by illustrating each whip with a description of sin that we, as a global people group, have committed against Him. However, it seems like many of these offenses are external and in somewhat of the same category.

For example, masturbation, fornication, adultery, and prostitution are mentioned but aren’t they all sex issues? What about gossip, rage, greed, envy, pride or other, more internal, transgressions? A few are noted, but it seems that the obvious, exterior behaviors have them outnumbered despite Christ devoting equal, if not more, of his words toward the internal struggles we face.

“Class of 08” brings a bold “spirit of Joshua” from young voices MacKenzy, Rigs, and Readywriter as the new holy hip hop (HHH) torch bearers. The fire and drive is encouraging, but while there are passing mentions to those that came before them, it would have been cool to actually hear a few “Moses” names dropped.

Shout out cats like Fred Lynch of P.I.D., martyr D-Boy Rodriguez, Sup the Chemist of SFC, or even more modern legends like Lil Raskull, T-Bone, and Cross Movement who are still adding titles to their discographies. Perhaps the young cats are simply ignorant of their musical genealogy. If that’s the case then maybe they get a pass. Still, a more overt acknowledgment of gospel rap trailblazers would have been a nice addition to this message.

The inclusion of a live “Freestyle” track (over a HHH beat no less) is great, as is the smooth wordplay of ingenious Knine atop handclap drum kicks on “Red Carpet Treatment.” The “UFC Cypha” with Excelsius and other MCs is also a fun, pass-the-mic insight.

There’s real meat on Jihad to be sure. One just wishes the way it was delivered was more palatable.**


* “Jihad” is an Arabic/Islamic word used in the Qur’an. Today it is typically used to define a Muslim holy war against unbelievers or campaign against doctrine, policy, etc. One could say that the New York and D.C. attacks on September 11 were part of a Muslim terrorist jihad.

** Am I making too big of an issue out of the album’s marketing?

I can honestly say I never got a real Christian vs. Islam vibe from the project, but I definitely got a "Let's-exploit-their-terminology-and-imagery-in-our-promo" feeling.

Maybe that's the issue.

It's tacky and exploitative – particularly from one who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus.

It doesn't even make sense. Once you get past the cover and suspicious drop date you don't really get the "Us vs. Them" or "conversion-by-force" thematic sense from the rest of the album.

The packaging (not just the physical thing, but the whole concept, 9/11 date, etc.) doesn't match the content. When that outer wrapping is offensive and distasteful to boot, you're just doing yourself a disservice.

It would be like a CD titled The Abortionist Killer Chronicles with cover art that featured rifle crosshairs on a clinic and was released on the anniversary of one of those tragic shootings.

But what if, inside TAKC, when you actually listened to the lyrics, you didn't hear that vitriol? Instead, you got a personal story song about an unwed father who regrets letting his lover abort their child (an actual HHH song I recently heard that really moved me). What if you got lyrics about love and respect for the emotional turmoil these women are going through? That's the true message of Christ.

However, who would know that from the outside? Would they be willing to buy this CD with that kind of outer shell?

And what about the people who WOULD want to purchase a project called The Abortionist Killer Chronicles? What would that say about them?

I guess with Jihad I feel there's a bit of a bait-and-switch going on. And the bait, as it often does, stinks.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

(PRE)view: S.O.M. - The Journey Revisited

NOTE: This album isn't available nationally yet (I think the official release is set for 2008) but I got a copy a while back and wanted to offer my opinion. Enjoy the "pre"-view.

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The cliché says you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

However, Soldiers On a Mission (S.O.M.) is hoping you’ll bypass triteness for tightness with a freshened “revisit” of their Journey LP you might have missed a few years ago.

While the first run was purely independent, this version has the backing and budget of the larger Much Luvv Records label and adds high-profile guest spots to reworked tracks from Journey 1.0. Thankfully, for fans who feel they are being asked to make an unnecessary repurchase, there are also new heat treats added to it.

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Here again, the four-man Houston collective continues their purpose-driven hustla music* There are lots of chants and soulfully sung hooks that no doubt lend themselves to energy-packed, crowd-participatory live performance versions.

Fans of self-feuding rappers from the A-T-L will become S.O.M. enthusiasts after a minimal amount of spins.

The newness includes “Certified Grinders” with underground mainstream legend Lil Keke, then “Real,” and “U Don’t Know Me Like Dat” that both feature Much Luvv’s strategic lyricist Icece. All of them can be considered blazers (with polished production from the likes of Bruce Bang) that could easily find a home on any modern rap playlist. (Take notes radio DJs!)

Other songs are updated versions of solid tracks from the first Journey. The beat backgrounds are occasionally tweaked, but most of the changes come in the addition of a guest verse.

Harmonizing thug Bizzy Bone drops a spiritual bomb on “Jump Back Remix”and Pettidee gets gully on “We Ain’t Leavin’.”

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But like any voyage, there are a few minor missteps along the path. The radio skits with D-Solo are more informative than entertaining and don’t add much overall value. And the rap/rock attempted remake of P.O.D.’s “Youth of a Nation” is simply a limped biscuit that shouldn’t have made the final cut.

Soldier fans that enjoyed the first Journey will love this. To feel ripped off by purchasing this re-vision is preposterous. And anyone who missed out on the first expedition should secure a ticket and enjoy this new ride.

* AUTHOR’S NOTE: I had considered calling it “intellicrunk” but that fad seems to have passed. I also realized it was more of an attempt by this writer to employ some cutesy wordplay instead of providing an accurate description of the sound. In the end my intellect overpowered my ego. I’m sure you (and S.O.M.) are grateful.

[ FULL DISCLOSURE: Yep, that’s me playing the role of a court reporter (a stretch for Sketch, I know) in S.O.M.’s video for “U Don’t Know Me Like Dat” and yes, I do consider the fellas friends.

Nonetheless, I reviewed the first Journey before that relationship gained its present depth and it seems only fitting for me to provide an opinion on the album’s “rerelease.”

I’ve attempted to be as fair and impartial as possible. If your interpretation of my words above leads you to believe this is a hot project it’s because that’s the plain truth and not any sort of preferential bias.]

Find S.O.M. online at:

Tha video: