A Post I didn’t want to have to write…R.I.P. “Esco”

First got word on the possible death of the homie at the beginning of the month. It came out of nowhere and too many of my Howard University alum were buzzing about it via the social networks for me to just brush it off.

We were all hoping it was just an really really bad rumor or something that got blown out of proportion seeing as no one could provide documented proof.

That proof came in today in the form of a report in a New Jersey news column that not only identified Jubar “Esco” Croswell by name, but stated that his remains were found last week and the motive and cause are being investigated.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/authorities_say_ny_man_was_fou.html

Remains??! meaning time has passed and there’s definitely foul play involved. How insane…

This was absolutely a post that I didn’t want to have to write…

Last time I spoke to my former classmate and all -around campus superstar Esco, he was on my block randomly and telling me about the things he’s got going on. He was tight with Lupe‘s FNF family, and we’ve all seen in him in the multiple appearances he’s made in print and music videos as a model. But out of respect I just want all that knew the man to show love today and pray that the questions all get answered, Justice gets served and the Universe Balances itself out.

I leave you with this video from ’05 featuring the kid.

R.I.P. Jubar

Brooklyn keeps on Taking It!

If you’ve ever been bored enough to sit around watching network Television and bumped into Damon Wayans’ built-for-the-sitcom-world-only attempt at a parenthood comedy, My Wife And Kids, then you were sure to see at least one bright light…And no, I don’t mean the cute little racially ambiguous genius kid who played the neighbor. No, the other racially ambiguous character who is cute in a whole different way!

No disrespect to Tisha Campbell, but “Vanessa” was my favorite woman on the show, and she’s the only thing that has allowed me to watch it the 10 times in my life that I have. If I’m not mistaken, she replaced my uber crush, Megan Goode as the pregnant girlfriend of the son. Teen pregnancy never looked so not-fucked-up! Doing a much better job than ms. Goode, and providing the only decent acting besides Tisha, she showed that she has potential to be a face and a name to get familiar with in the future.

For now, her television run hasn’t translated into much beyond a God-Awful Chris Stokes and Marques Houston flick and a few off-brand indies, but where you can really catch her shining is in her previous work as a print Model. It’s as if she was born to grace the pages of magazines; Her solid symmetry, coupled with star-gazing eyes that gleam are all captivating features that allure and provide a cool mystique.  She looks kinda Alicia Keys-ish, which is common of most pretty Halfrikans, (a term coined by one of my ex’s who is bi-racial) and I guess I would know a thing or two about that by now given my experience.

On top of all of that, I’ve noticed that she’s pretty low-key as far as dress and style. With Model looks, she has a fashionable approach, but you won’t see any see-thru dresses and corset numbers popping out in press footage. Nor is it likely that you’ll hear any juicy stories or scandals creeping out the woodwork from this former high school Valedictorian and Ivy league Candidate. Not bad for a product of an entertainment union – oh…Did I mention that she’s the Daughter of Disco and Pop Queen, Donna Summer?? Silly me….

We haven’t seen anything yet from this young stunning beauty, and based on her credentials, she has alot more to show. If ever she decides that acting is moving too slow, I’m sure she won’t pull a Montana Fishburne and try to fast-track things. It’s more likely that she would probabaly apply her wit towards tackling something else impressive and shining there as well. She’s serious about her career, and unlike alot of her peers who are under the radar and don’t have thousands of fans stalking her yet,  she has her own website, http://www.brooklynsudano.com/, where those who wanna stay abreast (pun intended) can keep up with her latest appearances or get familiar with some of  her past work.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this chic with the coolest name I’ve seen in Hollywood in a while.

And With that,

Brooklyn Sudano, (who based on this picture can pick me up at a bar anywhere, anytime)

You!

Are My New Crush!

(7) Classic Sounds…

Like…

If you came up in the same era as me or was raised anything like I was on hip-hop, then you know Eric B. & Rakim as the end all be all when it comes to Golden age beats and rhymes. You also know them as the single-handed creators of the lyric-dominated style of rap music that introduced a shift towards more laid-back yet hard-hitting production with diverse samples that laid the perfect backdrop to listen to the rapper’s verses without overpowering them. Whereas prior to their inception, the norm was to have beat-driven songs with extended mixes and short verses that carried into sparse, catchy chants. It was either that, or long jam session styled songs. Rakim and the Dj that he elected for President set the precedent for fluid yet evenly paced rhyme schemes delivered in a cool conversational cadence instead of a belted out party-hyping tone. Not only that, but this was the first time that lyrical content was so interlaced with braggadocio and intellectual and spiritual musings in the same breath, from a street-wise sensibility. This was the turning point; the genesis of the modern rap style. Having that said, It’s no wonder why Ra is referred to as the God Emcee. It’s not just his stance as a follower of the 5% school of thought. This is a moniker symbolic of his presence and iconic status.

You can see why that would make it hard to rate and review a classic work of his right? Well, I’m taking on that task and handling the ballsy move of reviewing the 3rd album by the duo. While many have their judgement clouded by the legend and general perception of Rakim, this doesn’t allow them to look at his body of work objectively. How dare I rate an album of his! It’s only right that I dedicate the 7th installment of the Classic Sounds segment to the man born under three 7‘s.

I bought this album on tape in ’98 (or was it ’99?) after reading an issue of The Source magazine where they revisited classic albums that deserved their notorious 5-Mic rating. This is obviously from a time when The Source was still highly valued within the hip-hop community as an epicenter of information and a well of cultural wisdom. I bought it on the premise that their system is usually infallible and had never let me down before. I was a huge Rakim fan and had purchased Paid In Full on the same notion. After listening to this album however, I immediately wished I had bought Follow The Leader instead. At least that one had my favorite Erc B. & Rakim song, “Microphone Fiend” on it.

The word on the street about this album is that it was a project thrown together by the label from loose recordings while the duo was on tour. Supposedly the lines of tension and differences were beginning to emerge between the rapper and Dj/producer, foreshadowing their eventual split after their final album together in 92/93. This was a catalyst for the two to allegedly just go ahead with the label’s project and take the money generated from it. The producer lined up to contribute to the main boardwork on the abum, Paul C, passed away during the making, which somehow lead to up and coming producer -and –soon-to-be-hip-hop -legend-himself, The Large Professor taking on the task. This part of the story is actually confirmed truth and a little known factoid in Hip-hop history as large Prof wasn’t appropriately credited back then for his work. What he brought to the table however, is pivotal, ushering in the early part of that decade’s fascination with Jazz and funk infused Hip-hop with mid to uptempo samples and subdued tones. From a time period when fans, casual listeners and journalists alike weren’t separating music by its coastal region and just enjoyed it for what it was, the production here managed to inundate a certain grit between it’s saxophones and horns, evoking a New York feel nevertheless. Maybe a great deal of that can truly be accredited to Rakim himself, who Conjures NYC by simply breathing on a track. You would swear that the R was from the deepest bowels of Brooklyn and not from Long Island as his menacing  cool pronounces itself all over his verses. In any case, the Production here gave Rakim new, denser ground to plant his rap seeds in, a good but not dramatic upgrade from the unpolished melodious boom-bap of the previous 2 albums.

Exhibit A; the album’s lead cut, “let The Rhythm Hit ’em”, Which can arguably be considered a 1990 version of the last album’s title track, “Follow The Leader” (seriously tho, try listening to both back to back) with its Hyper yet dark audio sound scape and introductory placement. As one of the dozen hip-hop songs to use Bob James“Nautilus”, this one grabs some of the most haunting parts and makes them into the stuff of hardcore rap fans’ dreams. Although he did give birth to the stream-of-consciousness type flow that became prevalent after this album and most notably mastered and redefined by Nas (who was deemed as the second coming of the R after he seemingly ‘fell off’), it’s apparent upon listening in depth that unlike his disciples, Rakim deviates, but never too far from a clear intent. So even tho he may sprinkle some philosophies of teachings from the Nation of the Gods and Earths in the midst of bravado, he always manages to pick up in time to return to his original point which ties into the chorus and title of the song. This is exemplified on this very track where Rakim rips through it with verses that use the beat as a metaphor for a weapon against wack rappers with lines like “You see me in 3-D, when I let the rhythm hit another M.C./ Lyrics made of lead, enters your head/Then eruption of a mass production is spread/when/ music is louder, full of gunpowder, microphone machinery when I see a crowd of…Party people pumping their fist – like this/ You hide in the back, thinking that I might miss”.

While he can no doubt carry each and every song on the LP with his lyrical prowess alone, the notable feature of this album in the Eric B. & Rakim timeline is the growth of basic musical complexity in the production. Prior to this, you’d never hear sunken-in grooves like the enveloping “In The Ghetto”.

This song is apart of the Holy collection of all-time favorite songs amongst Rakim fans and stans alike. It is a hip-hop quotable from the first line of verse 1, and is one of his most lucid and poetic joints. On this particular album, This is also 1 of only 2 songs where Ra breaks from his standard of assassinating weak rappers to speak on something more topical. I guess this would be easy to get away with on an LP that features 11 tracks, one being a less-than-amazing remix to “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em” with more of a funk influence, and another being the requisite Eric. B solo track (“Eric B. Made My Day”) where he just scratches for 2 minutes and change. I always thought those kinds of tracks were just album filler in the post-’87 world. I can’t think of too many people who actually want to hear the flow of an album interrupted by a random display of dj skills. In this case, given the rumored division developing between Eric and Ra, it can be assumed that this was included as a track for the sake of representing both parties, making the album seem fuller and of course tradition, being that one of these type of tracks appeared on the 2 albums before.

So 2 space-saver tracks, and only 2 topical songs on an 11 track album leaves 7 songs for Rakim to tell you about himself and his dj. And that he does. Make no mistake, The R is The R for a reason…He puts words together in ways that should make the average rapper smack his forehead asking why didn’t he think of that, sounding so effortless in execution. However, Ra does get quite repetitive on this album, lacing most of the 7 tracks here with references to hand grenades,  3rd eyes, arson and lighting up the competition. And while Rakim definitely has delivery, he doesn’t have flow so much as he has speeds – in this case being 2; fast or slow. There are no gears to Rakim, just tempos. He prefers to go for the more rapid-fire approach on most of the cuts, which may have been impressive and ground-breaking back in 1990, but he truly shines the most on this project when he takes it down a bit and lets the words marinate. He does this best on the aforementioned “In The Ghetto” and the slick “Mahoghany”, where he rides the drum and descriptively woos a young lady after a show over a clever use of a break from a classic Al Green song.

This is a return to form from earlier albums, mixed with the more soulful feel of this one, as the beat is stripped down, but contains just the right mix of sounds at key moments to make it sound full. This is also evidenced on the tracks “Set ‘Em Straight” and “Step Back”.  

It’s here, when the beats are more open and Rakim raps more steadily that the gems are found.  It’s almost ironic that the more even-paced songs are where you find the most content. It’s symbolic of how you can easily get lost in the redundancy and pacing of some of the remaining tracks – they’re almost interchangeable.

Even tho the production was a step – up and pioneering, it doesn’t mean the album is exempt from snoozer moments. The production itself, may be partially responsible for that effect. For the fact that the beats are subdued and bass heavy with jazz and funk tones, there’s an after-effect that leaves an underwhelming feeling. Couple that with Rakim’s penchant for fast raps and lack of versatility and after a while, it starts to feel like you’re waiting for something that never quite arrives. There’s joints like “No Omega” where Ra kills it with lines like “what’s the matter g? Check your battery/ go get charged up, then try to battle me/ You try hard but Die-Hard – you ain’t ever ready/ when they check your pulse, you’ll be dead as Freddy, but the beat is forgettable, then there’s joints like “Keep ‘Em Eager To Listen” where the lyrics and beat are equally just ok by the time you get to them towards the end of the album. As is the case with most rap songs that employed heavy use of horn samples, alot of the joints here don’t really stand the test of time and just sound dated, even as I listened to it in the 90’s! Late 90’s, but still the same decade.

Overall, this album is both crucial in the history of the duo so therefore more important than say Follow the Leader, but as a whole, it is their worst effort. And maybe because it comes from a lack of just that; Effort. If that is truly the case, it is reflective and visible to the die-hard fan, but still proof that even a lax work by Eric B. & Rakim is still better than the average rap album! This is still a classic album and 5-mic rated masterpiece that spawned important songs.

Besides the 3 singles, my favorite tracks on here are “Step Back”, “Run For Cover”  and “Untouchables”.  Ra really spits on the latter, and the beat on “Run For Cover” is just Hip-Hop to a Tee (pardon the wack intros before each clip – I’m restricted to YouTube here!).

Having that said, this album gets 8 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

Why Celebrity Sextapes Suck!

The answer is simple. These Bitches are Fake!

Think about it…

Between all of the 2 minute world star hip-hop clips of video vixens and reality show wannabe starlets and the full-out Celebrity home-made tapes that you weren’t supposed to see, how many of those have made you say, ‘wow! This chic is outrageous!‘??

Not many huh?

Now this excludes those of you who are just appalled at the sight of anything sexual or voyeuristic, but the rest of us adults notwithstanding, usually come across these videos from a sense of pop-culture curiosity that has fueled the take-over of reality television as the dominant form of entertainment programming since the turn of the century. We are a nosy society. As much as we don’t want to be, we are very much so invested and interested in the ambitions and pitfalls of others. Especially of those others who we perceive or have been lead to perceive as more privileged than ourselves. Alot of it is based on the importance that we place on both money and freedom. These two seem to be intertwined, and the people in the limelight embody both so we have an unconscious inclination to attach our projections of that ideal onto them, whether we like them or not. They represent the dream of unlimited access and unmonitored indulgence and pursuit. Because of this internalization, we care enough to see if, even in the face of all of this power and mobility, the pretty people succumb to the same stresses and woes as us common folk. It’s kind of a self inventory. We check our own potential and map out our own discipline in comparison. It’s super often to hear someone state what they would do if placed in a similar situation as a celebrity and how they would do it better. All this being said, when a celebrity or psuedo-celeb slips up and gives us a glimpse into their bedroom behavior, we’re acting out of that same comparative and curious nature. However, because they are celebrities and used to being in the public eye, we’re often expecting some really exciting and juicy stuff. We’re expecting them to let loose once the doors are closed because this is one of the few parts of their lives that they can keep private. It’s the area where they’re in control of the cameras for a change. But alas… Just like everywhere else where they’re seen, you pretty much get another scripted show.

Anyone who’s ever watched Celebrity Rehab can tell you that it’s very common that your favorite celebutante or notorious character has or is dealing with a lot of pressures and insecurities behind closed doors. There’s this constant need to search for self, or the incessant compulsion to perform. There’s often a void that is so desperately begging to be filled there that the lines between real and unreal are nearly blurred to the extent that real is more of a concept than an existence.

In other words, usually, the victims and subjects of these leaked homemade videos aren’t even having real sex. They’re having Hollywood sex.

What is Hollywood sex you ask? The sex that after viewing one of said sextapes has you reviewing it amongst your friends and co-workers at the water cooler as ‘wack!‘. The internet is flooded with these. A dozen scandalized vids featuring big names that you just knew were gonna be crazy but turned out being about as steamy as a late night movie on the Showtime for women channel. Sometimes, we’re better off with the hacked camera phone pics that surface every few months or so, because at least then we can use our imaginations and create scenarios where these folks are actually enticing and intriguing to watch.

With the exception of the unforgivable and unfortunately unforgettable R.Kelly debacle, the recent rise of leaked tapes have been less than freaky and have featured mostly young social climbers; not too famous, not too bright and not too much of anything else apparently. From Paris Hilton to Kendra, the tapes are supposedly capturing stolen moments in time between them and the person who they were so madly in love with. At least, this is always the quickest, easiest and most logical go-to explanation when addressing it’s exposure to the public. They’re always devastated and shocked that someone could violate their trust. Then they proceed to rake in their portion of the proceeds from Vivid Video.

It’s no wonder how young disturbed chics like Montana Fishburne can see this as not only a way to collect some extra cash, but also a means by which to garner attention and make a name. Whatever that name may be.

Speaking of ms. Chippy D, her tape was the worst Mockery of intercourse in the history of anyone brown. The over-hyped and much maligned released was anticipated with a cringing anxiety attached to it. We awaited the promoted mid-August release date expecting to see Laurence Fishburne‘s daughter disgrace his name with the wildest, filthiest shit ever known to porn. Instead, Montana disgraced her daddy’s name by being stupid enough to think she would earn respect through sex and then not even be good at it! The nastiest thing about her video was the unavoidable shots of her ass-acne!

Yet, now knowing the implications and troubled history involved in her story, including subsequently checking into a mental health facility, we can see that Montana’s story is reflective of that aforementioned need to fill a void shared by her predecessors. Sometimes it can just be a lack of a sense of self or true definition. Alot of us live off of youth and the rush and power that comes with it. You can see that rush being magnified a million fold if growing up within the glamour and glitz. You’re searching as you’re doing. Flying to find your wings so to speak. So let’s take someone like a Kim Kardashian, who supposedly was in her right mind while making her tape with Ray-J. Unlike Montana, Tila Tequila, Paris or even Kendra and Nicole Narain (and her tape with Colin Ferell – which might be the closest to real sex), who’ve discussed how deep they were into drugs around the times of their tapes, Kim K claims to have led a pretty sober life. So her excuse for her wack fucking can be chalked up to just lack of character overall. Maybe a little camera shyness? I’m sure a tape now after having a long running hit show on E! would be a bit more enticing being that she’s used to the invasion of the lens at this point. Or maybe listening to Ray-J‘s corny sex talk made her stiff and bland.

Even Karrine Steffans was super-lame as a porn actress. Her now infamous scene with flick star Mr.Marcus showed Why she’s called Superhead, but was really sleep-inspiring when it came to penetration.

She looked bored herself and you could almost hear her counting her paycheck as she was asking for the money shot to hurry up and get done with. The point here is that empty people have empty sex.

The realest Scandal clip I’ve landed upon was featuring a Miss Universe winner from Trinidad with a dude and another Contestant from Japan.

Maybe because being a pageant winner isn’t anywhere close to being on T.V. everyday, hers was closer to a real life sex-romp. The intimacy and emotion were there in her x-rated debut. There was a real sense of her trying to impress and please her partner. Basically she got down like most of us would and do – or at least the way a man wants his chic to get down! This wasn’t a lay-on-your-back-and-take-it session.

I just think we haven’t seen any leaked footage from anyone with substance. Throughout all the decades and all the Pam and Tommy-Lee frenzy, there hasn’t been anyone caught up looking like they’re enjoying their sex on tape since the fuzzy Jayne kennedy VHS. If ever a day where Angelina Jolie or someone of her caliber lets some old footage seep out, or any real Black celebrity chic for that matter (No,you don’t count, Hoopz, Caviar and Buckeey), then we’ll really see something!! Fantasia better hope that alleged tape doesn’t fall in the wrong hands anytime soon. We all know if she can’t do anything else, she can sing and probably slurp and twerk like nobody’s business! Maybe I went too far there but come on now…

Before I sound like a perv and the ultimate leader of some celeb-porn fetish group or fan club, I’ll just say that I’ve only come across some of these clips by way of other people, or blog-site-hyped previews. This is not something I seek out, Nor do I own any porn. But my feeling is, if you’re gonna go for it, Go all out! Why hold back? This is intimacy we’re talking about here. Maybe I’m tripping and it’s just that looking at home-made films shot from a tri-pod or from switched off first-person angles just doesn’t look as good as professional camera work done by folks who get paid to zoom into pussies and butt-cracks all day. Maybe home -movies only look good to the couples themselves and that’s why it wasn’t meant for us to see to begin with. So that would mean that pornography actually is an art and maybe we should commend and give these ladies of the industry much more credit and respect for making something so fake and detached look so real and exciting because Lord knows these reality chics couldn’t pull it off in the real world.  Their real looks phony. Maybe sex is just as empty as some of the other aspects of these peoples’ lives tho. Maybe this is as good as it gets for them. maybe this just is how they fuck or get fucked. If so, then damn…I’d rather NOT have my life be like a movie… Unless it’s an XXX one from West Coast Productions. The Vivid life is just not so…vivid.

Brandon Carter Presents – “The Bolt Bus Tour”

Yeah, you read right. Courtesy of every East Coasters’ favorite means of public interstate transportation, Brandon will be embarking on a short Fall tour up and down the Mid-Atlantic. There’s even a Florida stop, and as you guessed it, I might pop up on a few of these dates. Maybe even with my Have-Knotz crew! Be sure to check BrandonCarter.com to stay posted on more show dates or any changes.


How Lazy Can We Get??! Checks that cash themselves…

I originally Just hoped to post up the commercial which I saw last week that sparked this whole thing and made me go WTF?

But damn those copyright laws and provisions!

Well maybe you’ve seen it too. Apparently, Chase Bank is introducing a new technological advance to the mainstream via iPhone that will allow it’s bankers to deposit their checks simply by taking a few pictures of it with the phone. Genius! Right?

The advent of this service came around this time last year and was initially largely adopted by a Military bank for soldiers and their families by the name of USAA. It’s success has prompted commercial banks to employ the new means of processing this fall with Chase leading the pack and Citibank following suit.

As of now, this can be accessed from iPhones and Droids. Preparations to have the technology available on Blackberry’s are in the works.

Now of course, as with all other futuristic moves towards convenience, this makes life easier. I just wonder what else it makes life. Have you ever seen the critically acclaimed animated Disney Film Wall-E?? My boy once told me in high school that every invention has consequentially made humans lazier, from the straw to the cell phone. With things eliminating the need for person-to-person interaction little by little – yet more and more – how far are we away from that 1984 existence? If this isn’t the epitome of convenient laziness, I don’t know what is. The difference is that this time, it’s the most obvious that it’s ever been. I wonder what happens next time we’re so engulfed that it’s not so obvious. As I say this, I set my digital alarm, face my digital cable and get ready to get the hell off of  this computer.

Pac was on to something…Say it ain’t so Jimmy…

I’m not even gonna put up an image for this one. But since we’re talking about Beef, and 2Pac has been brought up in the last few posts, how about something that involves both?

All I have to say is that Pac may not have been the Super-Paranoid trouble-Maker you made him out to be all these years.

I know people affiliated with Jimmy Henchmen‘s Czar entertainment label, so I can’t really say much about his dealings as a businessman. He is apart of the older regime of big moguls with big egos who were very visible in the industry circa the mid-90’s to early 2000’s. But what largely separates him from his peers is his true and well-acknowledged criminal background as a former violent felon. This holds weight in a game that prides itself on street-credibility and authenticity.

Not so good when you’re being implicated as being a government informant. There’s no need for me to go into a diatribe about the whole ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos that resonates throughout the urban Black community. Tho telling hasn’t been embraced by any culture that has it’s hands in the dirt, it just has been made such a spectacle out of in the Black world – particularly the rap world.

So you can imagine how any of this news that has begun to surface this month from federal reports naming Henchman (real name Jimmy Rosemond) as an informant is a stench that he would want removed from the air A.S.A.P. Unfortunately, this is one that sticks and lingers. It’s already the lowest of the low in hip-hop to be called a snitch. To be a former reputable street figure having his named breathed anywhere near the word is living death. Even from a grown-man perspective, Jimmy probably feels too damn old for this shit to be resurfacing, as he’s moved on in his endeavors and this isn’t the first time the label has been tagged to him.

Pac first called him out on it in Industry circles and then ultimately on his infamous classic “Against All Odds” hinting that his relationship to another so called snitch “Haitian” Jack Agnant, was along the lines of treachery.

This revelation and recent development has only added fuel to that old fire, leaving people to either take things in one of 2 directions; that Henchman and Jack were both informants and had something to do with Pac’s 1994 shooting and maybe death, or that their involvement indicates some deeper darker link with government and some conspiracy stuff that I don’t even want to get into.

Some noted folks in the urban music industry have come to Jimmy’s aide and defense in light of the news, but keep in mind that all of these people are associates of his and would naturally take his side. Check out who said what from this article on Newsone.com http://newsone.com/nation/newsonestaff2/music-industry-stars-deny-jimmy-henchmen-rosemond-snitch-allegation/

At the end of his song, Pac asked “what would you do, if you were me?”

Good Question.