Today’s episode of “A Legally Black Blog” is a special one, as I’ll be doing my first-ever collaboration (after three-and-a-half goddamn years of writing on my own) with a guest writer. This writer goes by the name of Michael “Yuka Toshi” Richards, and he is the founder of PHASTRAQ VFX, a Trinidad-based computer-generated digital imaging and compositing service provider for film, commercial and video productions. In this write-up, we will collectively count down our picks for the top 5 best and worst movies we’ve seen this year, and respectively tackle the films with the best use of VFX (Michael), best hip-hop albums (me), and best hip-hop instrumentals (me again) of 2014. Why five, you ask? Well, the answer’s simple! As opposed to doing five top-10 lists which would either be crammed together into one post (that will prove difficult to write due to lack of time, and even more difficult to read for the same reason) or spread apart into three or four separate write-ups during the last few days before New Year’s Day (that either won’t get completed in time due to that pet peeve of mine called procrastination – and boy, did I deal with that one too many times this year – or won’t get read since 95% of the world’s population would be too busy gearing themselves up for Old Year’s AND New Year’s Day), we figured that it would be a better idea to shorten these lists reasonably enough so that they can be added into the same blog post without the whole thing feeling bloated. Well, at least we HOPE so. Anyhoo, we have a LOT to cover today, but trust us, you WILL be entertained! Leave some messages for us below, and while you’re at it, make sure to check out PHASTRAQ VFX on its official website (http://www.phastraqvfx.com/) and on Facebook when you get the chance. So without further ado, it’s time to sit back, relax, turn your computer speakers up to 11 (especially when you reach to the hip-hop section of this post), refresh this webpage (trust me, you need to!), have your snacks and drinks nearby, and enjoy THE TOP 5 BEST MOVIES, WORST MOVIES, VFX MOMENTS, HIP-HOP ALBUMS & HIP-HOP INSTRUMENTALS OF 2014!!!!
MICHAEL: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Actually this year was really a mixed bag for films, even more so than previous years, with some really awesome movies coming out throughout the year and some pretty bad ones as well. Now before you start organizing a lynch mob to go after me because your personal favourite film may not be on my list, please keep in mind that this list represents the best films that I saw. It was damn near impossible to see everything of note that came out this year. So let’s start with some honourable mentions of films I thoroughly enjoyed but couldn’t possibly be squeezed into such a short list.
EARTH TO ECHO: From the trailer this film looked like an E.T. knockoff but I was pleasantly surprised when I actually took the time to watch it. It skillfully blends elements of “Super 8” (2011), “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), “Flight of the Navigator” (1986) and “Chronicle” (2012) into a story that feels original and manages to capture all the best qualities of those films.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: This film was way more hilarious that I went into it expecting. It’s a quirky little comedy about some very serious events that has a lot of heart. It’s not easy to categorize but in many ways it feels like a deeply satisfying novel.
EDGE OF TOMORROW: It’s what you get when you cross “Groundhog Day” (1993) with “Starship Troopers” (1997) and drop it on the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).
THE CONGRESS: A remarkable satire on the current and future states of the film industry and how studios go to increasingly great lengths to own the souls of actors both figuratively and literally. This movie is almost 2 separate films entirely with the first half being drama and the second half being some trippy ass shit.
GONE GIRL: My only gripe with this movie was the ending which seemed a bit too convenient but after almost 3 hours of none stop tension building I’m prepared to forgive them.
THE BOOK OF LIFE: One of the most refreshing and stylized animated stories I’ve seen all year. I loved everything about this movie and were it not for the other heavy hitters on the list it could have definitely crawled its way into my top five list.
Now with all those great movies down you are probably wondering just what the heck actually made it into my top films list so let’s kick it off with:
5. THE BABADOOK – I’m a fan of the horror and thriller genres and I often take time watch a “scary” film on a Friday night with my toddlers, Mikey and Eli. Needless to say that the genre had been lacking in scare factor for some time now and has degenerated into the use of jump scares, jarring sound effects and the same old tired tropes year after year. “The Babadook”, however, is not that kind of film. This Australian movie came out of nowhere and reminded me of what tension in a film should really feel like. It even holds up to multiple rewatchings so if you haven’t seen it yet, get your hands on it now!… Go ahead, I’ll wait. This article will still be here when you get back.
4. NIGHTCRAWLER – Next on my list is a film that also seemed to find new footing in a saturated genre. “Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal, as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. What starts off as way to make quick cash slowly begins to reveal Lou’s unsettling inner sociopath. This movie reminded me so much of Ian Alleyne and “Crime Watch” that it made me kick out a mock poster.
Ultimately the last three films in my top five were the ones that had the biggest impressions on me this year. They are the ones that I was looking forward too for months and actually spent my hard earned peanuts on at the theaters and there was a lot of debate over the placement of these films in my top five.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – Coming in at position #3 is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Transcending itself from “just a sequel” of a “superhero movie” into what could only be described as an action, spy thriller, sci-fi with comedic undertones, Marvel hit every note perfectly in bringing us the continuing adventures of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. This movie literally had me on the edge of my seat from the opening scene.
2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – As if Marvel didn’t have enough hits on their plate already, this year they decided to take their cinematic universe into unchartered territory and “Guardians of the Galaxy” delivered in spades. From the 1970’s & 80’s pop culture references to the very well-played CGI duo of Rocket and Groot, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel can pretty much bring anything to the big screen now and make it a hit. I gave GotG the edge over Winter Soldier simply because Guardians didn’t really rely on any of the previous films in the MCU to get audiences in seats. When you also consider the fact that a talking tree with the all-encompassing vocabulary of “I”, “Am” and “Groot” exclusively in that order, stole the show’s emotional climax and almost caused a bit of ‘eye sweat’ to be shed, then you know that this movie is something special.
And with all the goodness that was 2014 and the barrage of great films that premiered towards it’s end one could almost forget the films that came out at the beginning of the year. But there was one film that could not be denied. No other film this year was as emotional, as full of action or as thought provoking as the film where all of mandkind is the enemy. The number 1 spot goes to… none other than….
1. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – In this sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), Caesar and his crew of simian brethren have peacefully existed in their exile away from the humans since the first film and have prospered, developing language, schools and maybe even a bit of government while humans have basically been spiraling down to near extinction. When the humans accidentally encroach onto the land of the apes it sets off our story and leads to one of the most impressive shows of pure ‘badmanism’ I have ever seen. Not since the days of the old westerns have I felt more killing intent in one sequence than when I saw APES ON FREAKING HORSES! From then on the journey that we are taken on is the most visceral experience I have had at the theaters all year leaving me so thoroughly satisfied that I had forgotten all about the fact that these were CGI apes. That’s right, the two top films of the year both had landmark performances from CGI characters. I think the Oscars should look into setting up a new category. This is the ultimate sequel and it is going to be hard to top this movie with the next installment.
As with everything else in the universe, there must be balance so here are my picks for the worst films of 2014.
WORST MOVIES OF 2014:
5. Aaliyah – The Princess of R&B (Lifetime Original Movie)
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
1. NURSE 3D – So I was wrong. Nurse 3D is in fact a horror. Horrible acting, horribly predictable story and horrible use of nudity that I can’t even fap to. This film was so far below what I consider to be a good film that I think it was a complete waste of my 2 hours even though the running length is closer to 1 hour 27 minutes. That’s right, I even want back the time it took to download this tripe. Best known for her role on “Boardwalk Empire” as the jealous, annoying slut, Paz de la Huerta uses this film to show a bit of her diversity and range as an actress, portraying a psycho, jealous, annoying slut in a nurse costume. Had I paid money to watch this film I would be demanding a refund and suing for the psychological trauma induced by listening to her deliver every god damned line like a 1920’s pin up model on meth. The other actors tried to play it straight to their credit but ultimately the film suffered from a combination of a weak script and poor casting of the lead actress. Forget thumbs, I’m giving this movie 2 stinky big toes up. If you haven’t seen this movie yet don’t even bother watching the trailer.
Not every movie you want to keep seeing. Some movies you just have fun with and then deny them the morning after. It doesn’t mean they are bad but they just can’t compete with your main squeeze. Here are my guilty pleasure picks for 2014: Chef, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Dracula Untold, The Interview
Now i wouldn’t be worth my salt in my day job if I didn’t make particular mention to some of the amazing visual effects in the movies this year. Here are my top picks for the films with best use of Visual Effects: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dracula Untold
MATTHEW: Oh, it’s my turn now? FINALLY! Let’s get this shit over with!
TOP 5 WORST MOVIES OF 2014:
5. THE OTHER WOMAN – Not even Kate Upton’s t……alents or Nicki Minaj’s a…….cting were enough to save this movie from being an unintelligent and unfunny excuse for a female-led comedy. [Check out my full review here]
4. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – Jonathan Liebesman’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja TERRORISTS” (as the 9/11-themed poster above strongly suggests) – is supposed to be about mutated turtles who eat pizza, kick ass and yell 1990s catchphrases like “Cowabunga” and shit. Did I ask for a dark, semi-serious plot about a blade-wielding, robotic suit-wearing samurai (Shredder, played in about three scenes by Tohoro Masamune) whose plan involves unleashing a lethal toxin onto New York, just so a shady philanthropist (William Fichtner) can swoop in with an “antivirus” to save the day just so he can be “rich….like super rich” (his words, not mine)? Nope. Did I ask to start the film on Megan Fox’s journalist character April O’ Neil’s motivation to be taken seriously, only to have that motivation pushed aside once the fighting starts and forgotten ENTIRELY by the end of the movie? Nope. Did I ask for four gigantic, monstrous-looking turtles and an ugly-as-fuck, Caucasian-voiced, mutated rat to be the Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Splinter of the 21st century? HELL NAW! But that’s what I got. Yes, the film has a glossy, polished look that only a Michael Bay-helmed movie can provide. Yes, there were some well-designed action scenes (the best being a very engaging chase sequence on a snowy mountain near the beginning of the third act). And yes, Megan Fox’s face is still pretty, which more than makes up (GET IT? Make up?) for her meh acting. And it’s only when the snowy mountain chase scene begins that the film finally figures out what it’s trying to be: an action flick that the kids would enjoy, but with just enough PG-13-level tension to keep the adults riveted. But unfortunately, when the film gives you heroes and villains that aren’t given enough depth, visually UNAPPEALING mutant characters that’re supposed to “please” both old and new Ninja Turtles fans (Honestly, I can’t imagine a child watching these freakish-ass turtles and wanting to be like them), blatant product placement (in one scene, two Turtles “camouflage” themselves as the cups of the bra of a Victoria’s Secret model on a large billboard), pop-culture references and suggestive jokes that will fly past kids’ heads and force adults to scratch their heads or facepalm themselves (“You mess with us … you mess with the WU-TANG!!”, “She’s so hot, I can feel my shell tightening”) and an obviously miscast Will Arnett as the cameraman who tries desperately to talk his way into April’s jeans (literally), you care more about the action than anything else. What a waste.
3. I, FRANKENSTEIN – The main reason why I chose this poster is to show you how BORED Aaron Eckhart looks on it. And don’t get me wrong: he is a great actor. His gripping performance as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is still my favourite Aaaron Eckhart performance to date. But even with the RIDICULOUS yet strangely intriguing premise of “I, Frankenstein” (Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s monster teaming up with an army of angelic-like gargoyle warriors against demonic forces hiding among humans in the near-future), Aaron isn’t given anything much to do except look, talk and act as if he’s been burdened for more than 200 years, fight demons with little to no effort, and of course, walk away from the exploding bodies of “descended” (i.e. sent back to the hell from whence they came) demons — IN SLOW MOTION! Bill Nighy (of “Underworld” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” popularity) does his damnedest to stay invested in his antagonist role, but even he isn’t given the opportunity to go “all in” thanks to the film’s overly-serious tone (there isn’t even a SHRED of humour in this movie). Despite the passable acting performances, visual effects and production design, “I, Frankenstein” suffers from one-dimensional characters, dull action sequences that lack the visceral punch of the “Underworld” films, and an incoherent, downbeat and admittedly boring narrative. YOU Frankenstein?! ME want money back!!
2. THE LEGEND OF HERCULES – If you’ve seen “Braveheart”, “Gladiator”, “Troy”, “300” or at least one episode of the entertaining-as-hell “Spartacus” TV series, then you’ve pretty much seen “The Legend of Hercules” already. Nearly EVERY scene, character, plot device and visual in this movie evokes some element from those films. After Effects sky replacement, faux-Latin vocalizing in the musical score, extensive use of slow motion during fight scenes, pre-final battle rallying speech delivered on horseback. You name it, it’s there! But the REAL issue with this movie lies with the script. When you DUMB your main character down to the point that his sole motivation lies in returning to his homeland to save his love interest (Gaia Weiss’ Hebe) from being married to his asshole brother (Liam Garrigan as Prince Iphicles) who wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to marry her had it not been for his villainous asshole father (Scott Adkins’ King Amphitryon), then you’ve got a shitty movie on your hands. And boy, is this a shitty fucking movie! Blatantly amateur made-for-TV visual effects, flat characters with little to no motivation, tiring, unexciting action sequences, a poorly-paced story that takes itself WAY TOO SERIOUSLY, laughably cheesy dialogue (“King Amphitryon! Show yourself! Where are you, you coward?! Hiding with your Prince?!”). You name it, it’s there! This January 10th release is a pure example of the dreck Hollywood left behind after December 2013. But it did leave behind one of the most unintentionally HILARIOUS action sequences I’ve seen all year. I present to you…..the “ROCK FIGHT!”
1. LEFT BEHIND – 2014 will be remembered for two big-budget, biblical-themed movies that divided critics and moviegoers alike: “Noah” (which I praised for its challenging, thought-provoking approach to the story of Noah’s Ark) and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (Though I have yet to see this film, I really don’t think it’s as bad as many people say it is. Then again, I could be wrong). Say what you want about them, but no other movie this year was as big of an insult to intelligence, common sense, logic AND RELIGION than “Left Behind”. As a tense apocalyptic thriller, “Left Behind” is an absolute failure since there’s absolutely NO tension, thrills or apocalypse. Save for a few mentions about the biblically-prophesied Rapture, a laughably awful riot scene at a shopping mall and a few buildings engulfed in flames near the end of the movie, there’s literally NO scenes depicting the chaos and destruction one would expect from hearing the word “apocalypse”. As an emotional drama centered on the quest of an airline pilot (played by everybody’s favourite bipolar actor (sometimes he acts in good movies, sometimes he stars in REALLY shitty ones – *COUGH*”The Wicker Man“*COUGH*) Nicolas Cage) to return to his family amidst the first few hours of the Rapture, this movie fails on all levels, since most of the scenes involving Nick Cage are set on an airplane filled with side characters that you absolutely don’t give a SHIT about, instead of on the ground, where the last few minutes of the film are set. NOTHING of worth, value or benefit to the story happens until after the first 30 minutes, when people start vanishing into thin air, leaving behind their clothes (which begs the obvious question: Is THAT why the movie’s called ‘Left Behind’?”). The acting talents of the cast (even Nick Cage) are mercilessly wasted, thanks to half-assed character development (each character is either one or one-and-a-half dimensional) and laughably awful dialogue (“Listen to you?! Why should I?! You didn’t listen to you!”). The soundtrack -which sounds like the amalgamation of the music of a Lifetime Original Movie, a Trinity Broadcasting Network promo and an apocalyptic-themed church play, is nothing short of ABYSMAL. And the film’s contrived, unresolved conclusion and far-from-subtle hint of a sequel will have you running to the nearest bar to drink away the pain of suffering through its 105-minute running time as opposed to running to the nearest church for absolution. It’s agonizingly boring, poorly directed, badly written, glacially paced, and awkwardly heavy-handed in its sincere religious messages. It’s also the WORST Nicolas Cage movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and not in a so-bad-it’s-good way either. “Left Behind” was so bad that after watching it, I had to remind myself just how great of an actor Nicolas Cage is (for better or worse), even in a shitty movie. Yes, ladies and gents, I was COMPELLED to watch “The Wicker Man”. When a 2014 movie is so godawful that it compels you to watch “The Wicker Man” (which is a fucking masterpiece compared to “Left Behind”), then you know it deserves the title of Worst Movie of 2014. “Left Behind” is the Judas Iscariot of Biblical films! Take the 30 pieces of silver and leave this piece of shit behind.
NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) Walk of Shame, (7) Sex Tape, (8) A Million Ways to Die in the West, (9) Transcendence, (10) The Amazing Spider-Man 2
DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Transformers: Age of Extinction
TOP 5 BEST MOVIES OF 2014
5. Edge of Tomorrow
3. Gone Girl
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – Now I know what you’re thinking: “Guardians of the Galaxy” was SO MUCH BETTER than this movie. But while I enjoyed the intergalactic adventures of everybody’s new favourite gang of misfits, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had a much bigger impact on me. It stepped out of its colour-coded superhero comfort zone and EVOLVED into a legit, action-packed espionage thriller where characters weren’t presented in black or white – or in Captain America’s case, red, white and blue. The script was well-structured and well-written, the events of the film FOREVER changed the face of the Marvel movie and TV universe (see Season 1 of the highly-entertaining TV series “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” for more information), the performances were fantastic, the action scenes were expertly filmed and edited (especially the car chase sequence in the first act of the film), the fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed, Captain America, Black Widow AND Falcon were all badasses, and the Winter Soldier – hands down – is THE most memorable movie villain I’ve seen this year! What more can I say, except: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is the best action movie of 2014, the best superhero movie of 2014 and the best movie of 2014! There, I said it! HAIL HYDRA!!
NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) X-Men: Days of Future Past, (7) Interstellar, (8) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, (9) Snowpiercer, (10) The Grand Budapest Hotel
HONOURABLE MENTION: Boyhood, The LEGO Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Babadook, Under the Skin
GUILTY PLEASURE MOVIES: The Raid 2, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, John Wick
TOP 5 HIP-HOP ALBUMS OF 2014
5. CyHi the Prynce – Black Hystori Project – An out-of-nowhere release (at least to me) release from GOOD Music signee Cydel “Cyhi the Prynce”Young, “Black Hystori Project” is, in my honest opinion, the BEST mixtape of 2014. Released in February during….you guessed it…. America’s Black History Month, this is a concept album centered on the people and situations that inspired Cydel’s life and music. The first half of the album has Cyhi comparing himself, his beliefs, his talent, his passions and his struggles to famous male historical figures such as “Napoleon” (the STANDOUT track on the entire record), “Mandela” and”Basquiat”, and the following four tracks touch on the social factors that influenced him as an individual (for example, religion in “3:16”, and the U.S. drug epidemic in “Bury White”). But it’s on the album’s final four songs where Cyhi realizes that while he was born alone (“Cydel Young”), he cannot expect to live the rest of his life, alone, as a “king”. He needs a “queen” (“Coretta”), and luckily, he finds one (“Good Night”), consummates the deal (“Guitar Melody”) and begins the rest of his life with his family (“Black Pride”). But that’s my take on the album. Even if the album’s narrative doesn’t hold your interest, you’ll still be entertained with clever, quote-worthy lyrics from Cyhi (“Remember selling nicks at night, no Nickelodeon / Now I’m pulling chicks at night feelin’ like Scorpion / Dr. Kevorkian all in ya ho fallopian / Got her in the car givin’ toppings, anchovy-ing”) and solid music production from start to finish. In short, don’t wait ’til next February to check out “Black Hystori Project”!
4. The Dopplegangaz – “Peace Kehd” – In all my years of hip hop consumption, I never came across The Dopplegangaz. After listening to their fourth studio album “Peace Kehd” numerous times this year, not to mention checking out their previous albums, I can safely call myself a fan of this East Coast hip hop duo. Is it the smooth, hypnotic, cloud-rap-like musical production, or the witty, off-beat, did-he-just-say-that lyrics from rappers/producers Matter OvFact and EP, or is the chilled-out musical soundscape that they create with their projects? For me, it’s all three, and it’s all there on “Peace Kehd”. The album focuses less on technical wordplay and complex beats and more on creating a hazy, mellow vibe that gets more and more addictive with each listen. And though Matter Ov Fact and EP do a fantastic job of holding the listener’s attention, it’s the instrumentals (among the BEST I’ve heard all year) that makes this album a thoroughly satisfying listen. As an added bonus, seven instrumental versions of the songs are available on the Deluxe Edition of the album, which gives you more time to kick back, relax and enjoy the music after the actual eleven-track album comes to an end. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a laid-back hip hop listening experience and a change of pace from the monotony of commercial rap music (DJ Mustard, I’m looking at you!), then DEFINITELY check out the underground sounds of The Dopplegangaz and “Peace Kehd”.
3. PRhyme (Royce da 5’9″ & DJ Premier) – “PRhyme” – Pronounced “prime”, “PRhyme” is the first project by the recently-established duo of Eminem’s lyrical partner-in-crime Royce da 5″9 and one half of the legendary rap duo Gang Starr, DJ Premier. On this nine-track (yep, it’s pretty short) album, Primo steps outside of his boom-bap comfort zone by crafting melodically layered beats using 1970s soul / psychedelic musical samples provided by producer Adrian Younge (who produced the Ghostface Killah concept album “12 Reasons to Die”, my No. 1 favourite album of 2013, as well as the Souls of Mischief concept album “There is Only Now”, my pick for (spoiler alert) 9th favourite hip hop album of this year). And Royce’s rhymes, cocky and fiery as usual, are presented with a sense of maturity, poignancy and insight as he addresses personal and public issues in his life as a (still) underrated rapper. Together, they’ve created a project of high replay value that will have your head nodding from start to finish and your finger reaching for that rewind button. Call PRhyme the Gang Starr of the 21st century, but whatever you do, don’t EVER, EVER ask Royce if he’s here to replace Guru (RIP).
2. Run The Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P) – “Run The Jewels 2” – Just when you thought the critically-lauded 2013 album “Run the Jewels” (which also made it to my Top 10 list last year) was a one-off project, East Coast producer/emcee El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike returned this year with “Run the Jewels 2”. A VAST improvement over its predecessor, “RTJ2” brought venomous rhymes, dense wordplay and a rebellious, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude courtesy of El-P and Killer Mike to the table, as well as thought-provoking themes about sex (“Love Again” (Akinyele Back”)), police corruption (“Early”), religion (“Angel Duster”) and personal guilt (“Crown”). and synth-assisted instrumentals that regularly switched the album’s tone from wild, aggressive and frenetic (“Close your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)”) to subdued, thoughtful and emotionally-moving (“All my Life”). “RTJ2” is living proof that the first album was anything BUT a fluke, and that the dynamic duo of Run the Jewels is a force to be reckoned with. If you haven’t listened to this album, check it out as soon as HUMANELY possible! If you don’t, then do what the song below says and “run those jewels fast”! Fuck a slo-mo!
1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Piñata” – Yes, ladies and gents, the unlikely pairing of Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and abstract hip hop producer (and occasional rapper) Madlib, is my pick for BEST HIP HOP ALBUM OF 2014. Gibbs’ ear for great beats is on full display here, as he selects a number of SUPERB 1970s-inspired instrumentals to rhyme on. The modern equivalent of a blaxploitation gangster movie soundtrack, “Piñata” is self-assertive in its bold, unapologetic portrayal of the life of a drug dealer (“Thuggin'”), and self-aware of the regrets (smoking too much weed instead of pursuing an education on “High”), heartache (old flame gets pregnant by another man on “Deeper”) and burdens (either get paid selling drugs or go back to being broke on “Broken”) that come with the territory. Sure, you may not like or agree with Gibbs’ approach to the thug life, but with Madlib’s infectious beats (which, if you’re a hip-hop instrumental junkie like I am, YOU NEED TO GET) in the background, it “feels so good….and it feels so right”.
NUMBERS 6 – 10 ON MY LIST: (6) Da Face & Mecasmiastic Ent. – “Buh Wais Dis Vol. 2”, (7) NehruvianDOOM (Bishop Nehru & MF Doom) – “NehruvianDOOM”, (8) Skyzoo & Torae – “Barrel Brothers”, (9) Souls of Mischief & Adrian Younge – “There is Only Now”, (10) clipping. – “CLPPNG”
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Common – “Nobody’s Smiling”, Schoolboy Q – “Oxymoron”, Ratking – “So it Goes”, Statik Selektah – “What Goes Around”, Lord Steppington (Alchemist & Evidence) – “Lord Steppington”
TOP 5 HIP-HOP INSTRUMENTALS OF 2014
5. M.O.P. – “187” – Produce a hardcore hip-hop beat using a sample from the CLASSIC Tears for Fears’ single “Head over Heels”? Lil’ Fame (a.k.a. Fizzy Womack) of M.O.P. did it – and it fucking KNOCKS!!!
4. Lord Steppington (Alchemist & Evidence) – “Step Masters” – My favourite track off the “Lord Steppington” album, “Step Masters” has a grimy, menacing, trunk-rattling beat that WILL, as producers/emcees Alchemist & Evidence eloquently state in the chorus, “blow your miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind”. Step.
3. Run the Jewels – “Blockbuster Night Part 1” – Still not convinced “Run the Jewels 2” is worth your time? Then feast your ears and eyes on the pulsating, punchy, relentless El-P produced first single “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and its accompanying music video. Warning: this song/video is guaranteed to make you go apeshit for two-and-a-half minutes.
2. The Dopplegangaz – “Holla X2” – THIS was the instrumental that drew me in instantly to the “Peace Kehd” album. With its vinyl record-like hiss, haunting piano, old-school drum loop, murky bass and sinister synthesizer, “Holla X2” is the type of beat that would sound perfect in the soundtrack to an urban psychological thriller.
1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Thuggin'” – Madlib’s “Thuggin'” is the musical embodiment of the vintage soul sound that made “Piñata” such a memorable listening experience. You can literally imagine this beat playing in the opening title sequence to a 1970s blaxploitation flick, with the main character driving through the city streets in a Cadillac Eldorado Convertible like “Superfly” (the late, great Ron O’ Neal) did in the movie of the same name. Imagining yourself in the front seat of said Cadillac Eldorado Convertible wouldn’t hurt either.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Joey Bada$$’ “Christ Conscious” (prod. Basquiat), Skyzoo & Torae’s “Blue Yankee Fitted” (prod. Illmind), Schoolboy Q’s “Break the Bank” (prod. Alchemist), Statik Selektah ft. Ab-Soul, Jon Connor & Logic’s “Alarm Clock” (prod. Statik Selektah), clipping’s “Get Up”(prod. Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson)
EPILOGUE (Yes, there’s an EPILOGUE! It’s my blog! Deal with it!) – If you managed to make it through to the end, thank you so much for checking out my final post for 2014. Feel free to comment on your favourite and least favourite movies, albums and songs (hip-hop or otherwise) of this year, as well as recommend movies and music that myself and Michael failed to mention. Make sure to check out Michael’s Phastraq website and Facebook page, as well as share his Ian Alleyne Nightcrawler poster, ’cause it’s awesome! And of course, have a fantastic 2015!