Archive | January 2014

The Evolution of Rap Part 1

I have previously written about how I feel rap is the perfect example of the concept of remixing, taking existing material and using it to create something else.  With the upsets that happened in the Rap categories in the Grammy’s, I have decided to dedicate a series of posts to the evolution of rap and its current state.  This series will consist of three blog posts going from the origins/early days of rap, the introduction of rap to the mainstream, and where rap is today.  Like every form of art, rap’s role in society and its subject matter has changed over the years and gone through different stages along with its contemporary society.

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The origins of rap come from hip-hop which began its inception during the 1970’s in New York as people experimented with both technology and new styles.  The basis of hip-hop came from samples from soul, funk, and disco music as DJ’s began to use the percussive beats from songs and looping them with new sound systems, like turntables.  MC’s, or emcees, would incorporate rhythmic vocals much like spoken poetry  along with the beats and eventually rhymes were added in an effort to differentiate from other people.  Different styles and delivery methods developed as people would gather around in blocks and rap aloud to each other.  The first hip-hop recording would come in 1979 from The Sugar Hill Gang using the beat from Chic.’s Good Times in the hip-hop classic Rapper’s Delight.  The 1980’s wouldn’t just bring a new wave of music across America, but it would also introduce new elements to hip-hop/rap and bringing it more to the public eye.

 

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The early 1980’s brought a new wave of elements like electronic sounds and more effects to recordings of hip-hop/rap.  Lyrics were full of boasting about how great one was at spitting rhymes and it also became a new medium for expression for many artists.  Artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow early on started to use these new sounds and styles to enhance their records.  New recording and sampling technology would help artists create their records and add piece together everything more efficiently than before.  With these devices becoming more accessible, many groups emerged to try and make it big and in reality few did, this can be seen in the success of the group Run-DMC.  This group formed in Queens, New York in 1981, becoming of the most influential groups in history as they would influence all other acts to come.  They also demonstrated the importance of a healthy relationship between MC’s and DJ’s, helping each other to create the best work possible.  One of the group’s greatest records was the perfect blend between rock and rap as they sampled Aerosmith’s Walk This Way to create their own version of the song.  This song really represented what rap was about at the time, it was mainly seen as music for African Americans, and creating a song with Aerosmith, mainly popular with White America, would bring rap more to public eye as more than just music popular in the African American community.

The success of Run-DMC would give them the first Grammy nomination every by a rap group and would influence other artists like LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys.  Before becoming an actor in detective shows, LL Cool J used to be the quintessential suave ladies man of hip-hop during the 1980’s, in fact his name stands for Ladies Love Cool James.  When most people think of LL Cool J they think of muscles and a boom box, and LL Cool J got his start in the mid 80’s and would later make one of his most iconic songs in the 1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out.  On the other hand, The Beastie Boys formed in the early 80’s as a punk rock group but later influenced by rappers at the time decided to rap while using rock beats and samples.  They found success in across the demographics of those who enjoy rock and those who enjoyed rap with their debut album Licensed to Ill.  This album would give them some of their greatest singles like No Sleep Til BrooklynFight for your Right, and Brass Monkey.

 This kind of rap would eventually give rise to a new stage or genre of rap, a kind that was more politically active, with groups like Public Enemy.  Public Enemy is most famous for, aside from their hype man Flava Flav, their politically charged and influenced music which was a response for their feeling of oppression and misrepresentation of minorities in urban areas.  Songs like Fight the Power and Can’t Truss It were songs against the Man and to bring the struggles of minorities to the forefront.  These songs would have a huge influence over rap for decades to come as it would inspire rappers to talk about the struggles of the streets and inner city life.  It would have direct influence over groups like N.W.A. and other groups which would define the next era of rap that would go through the 1990’s, Gangsta Rap.  

Yeaaa Boyyyy!

Yeaaa Boyyyy!

-Carlos

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The Raid 2

As previously mentioned in a post, I have claimed The Raid Redemption to be one of my favorite modern martial arts/action films of all time.  Last Tuesday, The Raid 2 Berandal premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and I was waiting that night for reviews of the film.  I patiently waited until early morning the next day and finally…word came out.  Suddenly, a flood of attention and hype came on other blogs and movie review sites appeared.  Let the hype begin.

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The Raid 2 Berandal is supposed to pick up immediately following the first film and follows the story of Rama, the protagonist, in his journey to take down the crime underworld of Jakarta, Indonesia while undercover.  For those of you that have seen the first film, you will understand where I am coming from when I say it is not the type of movie you would watch for its story, its more about the action.  However, from what I have read and heard, the plot in this movie is much more captivating in depth and expansive.  The action scenes and stunt work is also supposed to be revolutionary.  In fact, this movie has been called “one of the greatest action sequels since Terminator 2: Judgement Day”.  That kind of comparison is something that you just don’t throw around.  I grew up hailing Terminator 2: Judgement Day as one of the greatest movies of all time.  I mean the last scene where Arnold goes down on the chain and sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity that was a pretty emotional and heavy scene.  On top of that, the special effects James Cameron implemented where revolutionary in the sense that it added a new dimension to action films, CGI.

Even he gives The Raid 2 a thumbs up.

Even he gives The Raid 2 a thumbs up.

 

Being compared to the sequel of The Terminator is something that is extraordinary, but with these high expectations it opens up more opportunity for the movie to not live up to the hype or exceed the anxiety of influence of previous action films.  However, on Rotten Tomatoes it currently has a fresh rating of 93% and seems to only be increasing.  The only criticism of the movie that I have heard of is that for those that don’t really enjoy violent movies, it may be too violent for those kind of people.  This also raises concerns for what kind of rating it will be given, an NC-17 or R?  The Raid Redemption was released in the United States rated an R, and there has been talk that this sequel might have to cut out some scenes in order for it to get an R rating.  Will these potential changes perhaps affect its performance at the box office or change the vision of those behind the camera?  We will have to see as unfortunately it gets released in the United States in March, which makes me really sad.  You can count on me attending the midnight premiere though.  Here is the trailer released by Sundance:

-Carlos

 

A Review of Lone Survivor

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Last Saturday, I saw what I would consider one of the greatest war films I have ever seen and it was completely by accident.  I went with my friends to go watch the new movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, Her, but it was sold out.  My friends and I then made a decision on the spot, with most of us loving manly action films, we naturally went with Lone Survivor.  Despite the title of the movie and the opening science giving away the end, it is a non-stop suspenseful action movie that is a worthy and fantastic dedication to our troops.  Mark Wahlberg did an excellent job producing this film and of portraying Marcus Luttrell, the survivor of Operation Red Wings.  The whole cast did a fantastic job of taking on the personas of the real flesh and blood people they are dedicating their performance to.

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The special effects and the costume/make up department did a fantastic job as they flawlessly recreated the injuries the SEALS sustained, from trauma wounds from falling down cliff sides to bullets and shrapnel.  The several gory and agonizing scenes where completely necessary to accurately portray the reality behind the film, and to remind the audience that all of this was real.  Actual people lived through the events in the movie.  This movie was an emotional roller coaster as I laughed at the humorous scenes at the base, felt suspense in the action sequences, agony at the injury parts, and I teared up at the heart to heart, emotional sequences as well as the tribute at the very end dedicated to our troops.  Okay, I’ll admit it…I almost cried….definitely got watery eyes.  I can now add this to the list of movies that I have gotten emotional in and the list so far is BraveheartThe Notebook, and now this.  This movie is near and dear to my heart as I had an uncle that was a Marine and I am actively involved in the Wounded Warrior Project.   I felt it was a fitting and well made tribute to the story and you can tell the people behind the film really put their heart into it.  It moved the whole audience.  As soon as the movie was over, a USA chant was started in one corner of the theater and a standing ovation was given.  The movie made my group feel proud to be an American and made us even more grateful for our troops as they put their own well being on the line to protect our livelihood and liberties.  I highly recommend you watch this movie.

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In addition, I would just like to provide an update on the recreational basketball league I am starting that I mentioned in my post High Flying Movies.  The league, the ABA Recreational Basketball League, is starting to take shape as we have teams signing up to play and we are starting to gain a following over Facebook and Instagram.  Our Facebook page is called ABA Recreational Basketball League and our Instagram can be followed at @ababasketball.  We are in the process of editing our and releasing our videos just as the league starts to make the players feel like it is the NBA.  We plan to make highlight reels of the teams and players while documenting the process of making the league along the way.  In addition, with All-Star Weekend coming up in mid-February, we will host an All-Star event as well.   Feel free to follow our pages and support the league, thanks!

-Carlos

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Robocop and Frankenstein

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When reading Frankenstein, I couldn’t help but notice it strikes similarity to another classic 1980’s action movie, Robocop, starring Peter Weller.  This movie is…well…about a robot cop, but is much more complicated about that.  More specifically, it is about a cop that gets in an accident and to bring him back he is the test subject of a new technology program which turns him into basically a crime fighting android.  For the younger audience out there, it is a grown up, darker version of the iconic Inspector Gadget character.    In the movie, the program responsible for the construction of Robocop is responsible for many police officers going on strike since robotic cops would put them out of work.  From this point on in the movie,the parallels between the Creature and Robocop become similar.  

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Much like the Creature, Robocop is a creation that struggles finding its own identity in the world.  The Creature upon learning about his appearance and origins doesn’t quite know how he fits in to the world, besides the fact that he is an outcast, because he is the first of his kind.  Robocop, having a machine body and a programmed human head, struggles between his programming and his own human memories.  This identity crisis between crime fighting robot and the man behind the machine is what propels the plot line, making it more than just an action film.  The Creature and Robocop both have moments where they see their true selves, they see their own reflections.  However, Robocop is able to accomplish something the Creature simply couldn’t, destroy his creator.  This movie , much like The Terminator, shows society’s fear of the potential of the progress being made in computers and robots in the late 1980’s.  It is also worth noting that this movie is being remade, and the new Robocop is coming out next month in February.  It stars Joel Kinnaman as Robocop and it also features Michael Keaton and one of my favorite actors, Samuel L. Jackson.  I will be sure to post a movie review upon seeing it, but already I have one concern that I can’t shake off.  Why does the new Robocop have human hands?  Doesn’t that kind of take away from the robotic aspect of him when he faces enemies causing them to just shoot his hands?  I don’t know if that will be an issue but it was just a thought.

-Carlos

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Frankenstein Flicks

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not only a classic novel, but it has become the basis of a variety of movie genres, from horror to science fiction.  The story of Frankenstein, a scientist who aspires to create life and when he does his creation fumbles out of his own control, has been referenced to and remixed in works of literature, movies, and popular culture.  At the time of Mary Shelley, science was about to reach another revolution as the potentials of science weren’t quite realized to a majority of people.  It was apparent though that science could intrude upon the beliefs of religion and ethics.  Mary Shelley uses the idea of ethics and of the unknown potential of science to fuel the true horror evoked by Frankenstein.

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      The story of how this novel has gotten to the level of popularity it reaches today starts with the novel itself.  The book at first got mixed reviews but over time it gained a following.  At the turn of the century, the first film adaptation of it was made by Edison Studios in 1910 as a Silent short film.  However, this would not get the reception that the Universal Studios’ version staring Boris Karloff would receive in the 1931 version.  This movie solidified and introduced the horror genre to popular culture, while also setting up a kind of archetype for horror movies at the time.  The idea of man playing God and the consequences that follow captivated the minds of audiences everywhere.  This and the rest of the Frankenstein movies by Universal built upon this idea.  These movies helped to build the idea of the mad scientist in the laboratory whose own creation spins out of his own control.  Actually, Frankenstein brought the idea of one’s own creation being more than what the creator could handle, which has been an important staple in the science fiction world.

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The ideas presented above have influenced a variety of famous movies, from action to science fiction.  For example, The Terminator franchise builds upon the idea that man won’t be able to control its own advancements when it comes to robotics and computers.  The idea that machines will rise against man creating a skull filled post-apocalyptic world terrified audiences upon being released since at the time in the 1980’s advancements were being made in computers.  In Jurassic Park, man tries to play God again by bringing back dinosaurs through modern genetics in order to create an amusement park.  In the words of Jeff Goldblum, “Uh…uh…Life finds a way.”  Yes, yes it does, as then the dinosaurs escape and terrorize the island.  Once again, playing on the potential fears of the time, as in the 1990’s advancements in genetics and cloning brought new scientific ethics to the field.  These classic movies, just like in the times of Mary Shelley, is a response to potential fears at the time.

-Carlos