Posts Tagged ‘Tupac Shakur’

Rolling Stone Top 100 Project Pt. 15

May 23, 2022

84. James Taylor – Fire and Rain

In general, this has never really been my kind of music. Taylor is a bit too soft but I recognize his musical talent. I was obsessed with a punk cover of this song when I was a teen. I like the composition of it and Taylor’s guitar work is impeccable. I also always really liked the symbolism of this song. Fire and rain are such good terms for the bad times. Bad times are not all one thing. Sometimes they are the dreary and unrelenting drenching rain that freezes you deep so you think you will never be warm again. Sometimes they burn hot with a more sudden and immediate pain that leaves a scar forever. The song details the trials and tribulations in Taylor’s life and how he overcame them including the suicide of a dear friend, drug addiction, and the depression that came with fame and fortune.

85. Black Sabbath – War Pigs

It is hard to think of Black Sabbath without Ozzy Ozbourne and for sure Ronny James Dio had a lot of hits as their lead singer. However, this is the song that I keep coming back to when I think of the band. When I was a teenager, I was struggling to figure out my own philosophies. I had long discussions with a teacher about being anti-war. It really helped that Black Sabbath was teaching me about these corporate and political greedy pigs who do not care whether we live or die. It was during a time when I was embracing heavy metal and politics. I still had a long way to go but this helped. Aside from the lyrics, the driving guitar lives rent-free in my head forever. The driving beat just makes this sound like a very epic anthem.

86. Tupac – Hit ‘Em Up

This one is kind of sad as it was a diss track written by Tupac and his crew when they were sure that Biggie Smalls had ordered the hit that put Tupac in the hospital. Tupac thought this because Biggie had released a song called “Who Shot Ya?” right after the incident. It ended up being James Rosemond but Biggie and Tupac’s friendship was already shattered. Still, this is one of my all-time favorite rap songs. Tupac’s flow and lyrics are on point and just go together so well. Part of that is also the backing track which includes a great bass line provided by a sample of Dennis Edwards formerly of The Temptations. This track goes hard and is a bit shocking not only in how violent the threats are but also the believability of those threats being carried out.

87. Gram Parsons – Streets of Baltimore

My first reaction to this artist is “who?” because, although the name was vaguely familiar, I could not place it. Then I realized I was thinking of The Alan Parsons Project. This parsons is a country musician so it makes sense that I was not really familiar with his work. So, I started cruising YouTube to see what I could see, and low and behold, he wrote a song about my beloved Baltimore and I actually kind of recognize it. I am truly a sucker for any time that anybody mentions my hometown and current base of operations. The song is very catchy and speaks of Gram’s lover wanting him to take her to Baltimore City. One of the reasons that this song is familiar is that it has been heavily covered since Bobby Bare first sang it.

88. Miles Davis – Burn

Miles Davis had a long and influential career where he schooled the world on just how much a trumpet could do. He was a jazz musician but, like musicians, in his later years, he adapted and evolved. This track is absolutely an example of that as he played jazz fusion live on stage for charity. That guitarist? That is the legendary Carlos Santana. The fusion of jazz and rock definitely earns the name “Burn”. Davis was a true musical genius and everything he did shows that.

89. The Yardbirds – Over, Under, Sideways, Down

This is a band that I always recognize but I can never remember any of their songs even though they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was an absolute supergroup of musicians. This incarnation was led by Jeff Beck (later to be replaced by Jimmy Page) and his guitar work is excellent. The squealing riff he came up with is so unique and catchy. As are vocals by Keth Reif who uses a dark, deep voice kind of like a rockabilly Jim Morrison here. Steady drums by Jim McCarty who is the only one still in the band after all of these decades. This was written during a time when a lot of rock and roll was still heavily influenced by the blues and it shows. 

Media Update 5/23/18

May 24, 2018

Straight Outta Compton

When I was a kid, I really bought into the whole “Rap is Crap” stuff and I bought into it being dangerous, vulgar, and pointless. However, when I really listened to it, I changed my tune. Like a lot of people, I had condemned something without really giving it a chance. One of the albums that really changed my way of thinking was Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. The music and the beats hit so hard and the rhymes blew my mind. This was the new street poetry and yes some of it was violent and sexualized but it was a reflection of a world that I was not a part of. It was a musical and political awakening for me. I used to listen to that album on a loop as I walked home from high school. I came to it years after the group had broken up and gone their separate ways. This movie is their story. Of course, I am not sure how much of it is fantasy and how much of it is real but it is a good story. There is enough truth in there for me. All of the actors are great at bringing both the drama and the music to life. In fact, Ice Cube’s son got to play his father in the story which must have been quite the experience. Whatever the true truth is, this movie at least reminded me that these legendary figures were (and are) flawed people just like I am. I definitely recommend it but be warned that the movie is two and a half hours long.

All Eyez On Me

The world was shaken when Tupac Shakur was shot in Las Vegas in 1996. His music was already helping to change the rap game. I talked a lot about it when I reviewed the first few episodes of Unsolved, the miniseries about the investigations into the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. Tupac is still a legend in my hometown of Baltimore because that is where he got his start. It was here that he attended the Baltimore School for the Arts (the same high school my brother went to). This movie is a trip through his life from before his birth to his death. It hits a lot of the highlights of his life including things I did not know like his engagement to Kidada Jones, the daughter of Quincy Jones. Far from “just a thug”, he was a poet who knew Shakespeare and other poets from his education in the arts. He obviously learned from everyone he worked with including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Biggie Smalls. The movie hinges on the performance of Demetrius Tripp as Tupac and he does a great job bringing humanity to the mythic figure. We also get actors really nailing figures like Biggie, Jada Pinkett, Kidada, the villainous Suge Knight, Snoop, Dre, Faith Evans, and many more. The script is a little messy but it gets the impact of the man’s life across and the difficulties and flaws he had to deal with. Most of all, it portrays the lost potential when he died. He could have been an elder statesman of rap or an activist if he had lived to maturity. I also recommend this one as it is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of one man who is still loved.

Roxanne Roxanne

This movie caught my attention as I was going through Netflix looking for the movie Notorious (which I will have to catch at another time). This movie tells the story of Roxanne Shante who was a battle rapper back in the eighties. She started rapping at age nine and started to get famous as young as age fourteen. This was in the golden age of hip-hop when everything was fresh and new. It is the world of graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping that formed the trinity of hip-hop culture. This world was reflected in the fictional story of The Get Down but this is a very real story. Roxanne was a hustler with a brilliant mind who was drawn to the streets where she thrived instead of school. Her life was difficult as she was black, a woman, and she came up poor. The movie is such a snapshot of life in the projects in Queens (and the rest of the east coast) in the eighties. The star of the movie is Chante Adams who just does such a great job bringing Roxanne to life. She is such a likable character. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Roxanne Shante – Roxanne’s Revenge

Tupac Shakur – Hit ‘Em Up

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

The Chainsmokers – The Rookie

Imagine Dragons – Thunder

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Rap Biopics”
– I watched more iZombie Season 4
– I watched more Beauty and the Beast Season 1
– I watched a crapload of PBG Hardcore on YouTube
– I finished watching the Pinkertons
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

Media Update 3/29/18

March 29, 2018

Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.

Back in the day, the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were absolutely mindblowing. I was fifteen at the time and I was just starting to get into rap music so it did not have the emotional impact it had on some others but I knew what a big deal it was. While he was super popular on the west coast, Tupac Shakur was from Baltimore and that meant a lot to me and some of my friends. Their deaths were a mystery at the time but many chalked it up to the tensions stoked up by the East/West GansterRap War. The show presents a fascinating story. Similar to American Crime Story: OJ Simpson, the show presents real events as a docudrama. The show follows the original investigation into Biggie’s murder, picking up about a month after his death. It also follows an investigation into the still unsolved murder ten years after Biggie’s death (in 2007). Finally, there are also plenty of flashbacks that depict Tupac and Biggie before their deaths. This last bit contradicts the usual story that Tupac and Biggie were enemies. In fact, they were friends and they were also each a fan of the other. The second investigation was not heavily publicized at the time and I love that this show is bringing it all to light again. I wholeheartedly recommend this one for a great mystery and great music.

HH Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer

HH Holmes is a great example of how America always has to try and outdo everybody else. While Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London by killing 5 people, Holmes may have killed at least 50. Holmes was indeed America’s first recorded serial killer. He was a born con man who derived sick pleasure in murder, torture, emotional distress, and dead bodies. Posing as a legitimate doctor and landlord, he efficiently killed a lot of people. Particularly, he created an apartment building with hidden kill rooms and torture chambers within. This documentary was great. Holmes’ story is exceptionally creepy but the pacing keeps the story moving without dwelling too much on the morbid details. The documentary covers Holmes’s whole story from when he was a small boy until he was hanged for his crimes. It is a story that I have heard before from The Devil in the White City. The extra gimmick of this book is that they brought in a lot of law enforcement profilers, historians, and forensic experts to attempt to explain what may have happened. The forensic experts also point out that because forensics was still a fledgling science, we’re really not sure how many Holmes killed. It could be over a hundred, it could be less than a dozen, or anywhere in between. I definitely recommend it but strap in for some grisly details.

Lizzy Borden Took an Ax

I wondered when there would be a movie about the infamous murder that was turned into a morbid nursery rhyme. I did not really know a lot about the details of the murder so I was pretty interested in finding out what the theories were on the murders. In 1892, Lizzie Borden was arrested and tried for the murders of her father and stepmother. Those murders were done with a lot of brutality with an ax. This gained a lot of attention, probably because such violent methods were seen as extremely abnormal for a woman to have committed. The movie stars Christina Ricci who I have been a fan of (and had a crush on) since Addams Family (27 years). I will watch whatever she is in. This proved to be a great decision my part because she is fantastic in this TV movie. She portrays a somewhat ahead of her time young woman with a lot of layers. Unfortunately, the movie was not as great as Ricci was. I’m not sure if it was the pacing or what but it was just not that great. I was disappointed. There is a TV show that takes place after the movie ends so I may see if that is any better. I don’t really recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Biggie Smalls – Party & Bullshit

2Pac – Holler If Ya Hear Me

Gin Wigmore – Hey Ho

iwrestledabearonce – Gift Of Death

Bruno Mars – Runaway Baby

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Investigating Murders”
– I watched more Freaks and Geeks
– I watched more The Pinkertons Season 1
– I watched more Hemlock Grove Season 1
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I watched more Peaky Blinders Season 1
– I watched Barry Kramer, Game Grumps, GT Live, and Critical Role on YouTube.
– Happy Easter and Happy Passover! Get ready for some A to Z!

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