WATCH: Kendrick Lamar showcases Compton for Grammys commercial

kdot2Seven Grammy nominations in 2014 was just the icing on the cake for all that Kendrick Lamar had accomplished with the release of his debut commercial album — good kid, m.A.A.d city. The accomplishment of being nominated for seven Grammys was tainted when popular opinion suggested that Kendrick was robbed of Best New Artist and Best Rap Album awards in favor of Macklemore.

Fast forward to 2016, Kendrick is nominated for 11 Grammys (second most nominations for a single night behind Michael Jackson’s 12 nominations in 1984).

I have argued that good kid, m.A.A.d city is better than To Pimp A Butterfly but I will acknowledge that To Pimp A Butterfly has a stronger message and can be considered a more important work of art.

To promote the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony, Kendrick took the spotlight off of himself to showcase the “mad city” that molded him — Compton.

Kendrick should win at least five Grammys out of his 11 nominations. Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, Best Music Video,  and Song of the Year for “Alright.” Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. To Pimp A Butterfly could very well be Album of the Year as well.

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WATCH: Adele joins James Corden in “carpool karaoke” on ‘The Late Late Show’

163dc378James Corden is in an unfortunate place in late-night television by coming on at 11:37pm CT (following The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). Between the horrible time slot and being a new face to American viewers, Corden has struggled to gain much attention with his show. But his “carpool karaoke” series has been a hit! Corden has driven globally-popular musicians around to sing in the car with him, such as: Justin Bieber (twice), Jennifer Hudson, One Direction, Stevie Wonder, and more.

What I enjoyed most about his “carpool karaoke” episode with Adele was, of course, Adele rapping Nicki Minaj’s best verse ever — Minaj’s guesr verse on Kanye West’s “Monster.” But I also loved how comfortable Corden made Adele feel. I haven’t seen many Adele interviews but the few I have seen, she wasn’t nearly this relaxed and personable.

REACTION: 2016 Oscar nominations

2015 offered plenty of good-to-great films (not as many “great” films as one would hope but still a good year in cinema). Some of my personal favorites were Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight, The Big Short, Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and The Hateful Eight.

My first reaction when I saw who was nominated was “so, the Oscars are still super white?!”

  • Best Picture
    The Big Short
    Bridge of Spies
    Brooklyn
    Mad Max: Fury Road
    The Martian
    The Revenant
    Room
    Spotlight
  • Best Director
    Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
    Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
    Adam McKay, The Big Short
    George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
    Lenny Abrahamson, Room
  • Best Actor
    Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
    Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
    Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
    Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
    Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Best Actress
    Cate Blanchett, Carol
    Brie Larson, Room
    Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
    Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
    Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Best Supporting Actor
    Christian Bale, The Big Short
    Tom Hardy, The Revenant
    Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
    Sylvester Stallone, Creed
    Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Best Supporting Actress
    Rooney Mara, Carol
    Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
    Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
    Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
    Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight  
  • Best Original Screenplay
    Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
    Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies
    Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen Inside Out
    Alex Garland, Ex Machina
    Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Straight Outta Compton                                                                              
    [via Vulture]

Just by reading the nominations, I found it HILARIOUS that literally the only white thing about Straight Outta Compton (other than Paul Giamatti) is who wrote the screenplay. The cast is black, the director is black, but the white screenplay writers get the Oscar nomination? Maybe that just amuses me. I mean, the portrayal of N.W.A. and the direction was practically flawless.

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Let’s talk about Creed, I didn’t think Michael B. Jordan’s performance in it was nearly as good as his performance in Fruitvale Station, so him not getting nominated wasn’t really bothersome to me. I liked that Sylvester Stallone got nominated because I loved his performance — hell, he should win! But I also thought Tessa Thompson should’ve been nominated as a supporting actress in Creed, she had a very powerful performance in a semi-limited role.

WESTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Writer/Director Ryan Coogler, Tessa Thompson, Producer Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Creed" at Regency Village Theatre on November 19, 2015 in Westwood, California.  (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)

The Academy can nominate up to 10 films for Best Picture, yet they only nominated eight. I thought The Martian was wack! Straight Outta Compton was highly-praised but yet was still snubbed. Director of Straight Outta Compton, F. Gary Gray, and director of Creed, Ryan Coogler, also deserved consideration (along with Quentin Tarantino) but I understood the choices made in that crowded category.

I don’t think anyone wants an affirmative action-like system in award shows, where nominations are just made simply to diversify the award show but it is baffling how it seems racial-minorities are so frequently snubbed.

This is why I hate award shows and the announcement of the nominees, just give the award out to who you picked as the best movie and keep shit moving.

Award shows are money-grabs, they nominate so many films so the big stars will come to the event and networks will pay hellacious amounts of money to broadcast the event and advertisers will pay even larger amounts of money to get their ads ran during the event on the network. And none of this is surprising when you look at the article The Atlantic posted in 2014 saying out of all of the Oscar voters: 94% are white, 76% are men, and the average age is 63-years-old (although the president of the Academy is Cheryl Boone Isaacs; a black woman).

Did I mention there will be a black host? And it’s Chris Rock of all people? I hope Rock rips the Academy a new asshole! Haha

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NEW MUSIC – “GPS” by: Saba

Last year I just had to lay low, now pass the torch like hot potato

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Chicago hip-hop artist, Saba, hasn’t released a project since 2014’s Comfort Zone but he had a pretty noteworthy 2015 with his solo track on Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’s Surf album and his appearance on Chance the Rapper’s single — “Angels.” Chance and Saba premiered “Angels” with a memorable appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

Now, Saba has kicked off 2016 in a major way by premiering his new song — “GPS” — on a Beats 1 radio show hosted by Hot 97’s Ebro Darden. “GPS” features vocals from Saba’s father, Chandlar.

Kendrick Lamar performs a new song on ‘The Tonight Show’

Well, he did it again…

Hopefully, this amazing performance by Kendrick Lamar isn’t another tease. If you remember, Kendrick Lamar was the last musical guest on Stephen Colbert’s satirical show ‘The Colbert Report’ and Lamar debuted a song with the performance. Despite positive reaction to the performance, Lamar never released that song.

And here we are today with a song that is packed full of topical substance, catchy melodies with a little bit of funk and the general public may never get the studio quality cut. But hopefully my pessimism is proven wrong.

This song is so dope though!

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“YES, I’M THE ONE!”

And above Kendrick Lamar talks to Jimmy Fallon about have the most Grammy nominations for a rapper in a year (11) and almost having the same number of nominations as Michael Jackson had in a year (12).

 

Stephen Colbert interviews Killer Mike on ‘The Late Show’

Killer Mike has proven to be a great MC. Mike has recently gained attention and acclaim from the success of the music he’s been making the last few years with El-P, a rapper/producer, beginning with Mike’s 2012 solo project — R.A.P. Music leading to the duo’s two collaborative albums under the Run The Jewels moniker (with a third on the way).

Mike has always been socially-conscious in his music and opinionated on the political process. And recently he has been given platforms like CNN to express his thoughts on injustices like Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, being killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO.

The recent success and attention has given Mike more than just large platforms to express himself (through music and/or opinions) but he’s also been able to create platforms for himself. Mike interviewed presidential nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders in a six-part video series after endorsing Sanders at an Atlanta rally. Did I mention Mike interviewed Sanders in a barbershop, of which Mike owns a chain of?

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After that slight rundown of everything Killer Mike, it’s safe to say Mike had a lot to talk about on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Colbert probably had a lot to ask Mike about. In just under seven-minutes Mike and Colbert touched on everything from Mike’s barbershop franchise to Run The Jewels to his endorsement of Bernie Sanders and much more.

Conan, Ice Cube, and Kevin Hart get driven around by a student driver

“2Pac was one of the biggest thugs I know and he always wore a seatbelt.” -Ice Cube

It’s kind of bittersweet to see the reunion of Kevin Hart, Conan O’Brien, and Ice Cube because that means Cube and Hart are back on a promotional tour for another movie. Ride Along 2 in theaters on January 15th 2016.

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Last time Cube and Hart were on Conan, the three of them were driven around by a Lyft driver and it was hilarious. This time around the trio raised the stakes of comedy and reunited to be driven around a student driver — who happens to also be one of Conan’s employees. Hilarity ensues accompanied by weed, pinatas, Popeye’s chicken, and “O.P.P.“.

 

This YouTube clip will more-than-likely be funnier than Ride Along 2.

The 10 Best Albums of 2015 (according to Justyn VP)

top10albums2015

Who am I and who is anyone to really say something is the definitive best? I can only give my thoughts and opinion on what resonated with me the most. And that is what I plan to do with this list.

I went back-and-forth in my head if I should just make this a hip-hop list or touch on music in general. I went with “music in general” because there are a few albums outside of my beloved hip-hop that I want to honor. There are great albums that came out in 2015 that will not make this list such as projects from Bjork, Vince Staples, Tame Impala, Mac Miller, Death Grips, Earl Sweatshirt, jamie xx, Adele, The Alabama Shakes,  L’Orange/Jeremiah Jae, and many more but the albums I listed below are the ones that I have found the most enjoyable.

So, let’s begin…

#10:

bbtmBefore this year, I was not really a fan of anything The Weeknd did, I thought his sound was very dry and boring. I was always able to tell he was a skillful writer but the music itself was usually always an ear-sore for me. My first time hearing “Earned It” on the radio, I knew The Weeknd had altered his sound a little to make the listen more smooth for the casual audience. And I was right, there is much more of a classic R&B feel on Beauty Behind The Madness but The Weeknd did not water-down his content whatsoever, still very rated-R material, just a smoother listen at times.

Beauty Behind The Madness was one of the only two albums that I mostly consumed due to my surroundings (nightlife scene or radio play).

#9:

at-long-last-asap_optSimilar to The Weeknd, I have never been a fan of ASAP Rocky nor have I understood the hype that followed him. Before At Long Last ASAP, I would always use artists like Rocky as an example of style (or “swag”) becoming more important to hip-hop/rap fans than the music but Rocky shut me up with the release of this project. If I had to describe At Long Last ASAP in word, it’d be “artful.”

Rocky had great production on this project to go with his very creative flow patterns. I enjoyed listening to this project a great deal because Rocky’s voice and flow often reminds me of Dipset’s reign in hip-hop but his sound is very un-Dipset like so it is a very attention-grabbing listen.

#8:

q5epzzbrfpnagkhejqgdSay what you will, you cannot deny how Drake dominated mainstream hip-hop this year. From releasing a surprise (?) mixtape/album — If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late — to destroying Meek Mill in a beef Meek provoked, to releasing a collaborative (yet mediocre) project with another super popular rapper — Future.

With all of that being said, I did not like this mixtape/album very much. There are somewhere between five and seven songs that were so good and impactful (when I say “impactful,” I mean, everywhere I turned — whether it was in a club or on the radio — I’d hear a cut from If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late) that I just couldn’t leave this project off the list despite the rest of the album being mediocre and boring.

What I can say about this album that is overwhelming positive is, I like the sound Drake is making and I am anxious to hear what he is cooking up for Views From The 6.

#7:

blackmessiahI cheated twice in the making of this list by including to albums that were released in December of 2014. Criticize me all you want for that but those two albums got much more play from me this year than anything I left off. D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s Black Messiah was released on December 15th 2014, following D’Angelo’s 14-year hiatus from the spotlight.

This album resonated deeply with me because of it’s subject manner in the midst of so many injustices in America. The sounds on this album was a breath of fresh air, the way D’Angelo and The Vanguard fused funk and soul was something we all have missed (whether you knew it or not). Listening back to this album after hearing some of the great albums made after it, the immediate impact of Black Messiah is very apparent.

#6: 

surfHere is an album that just recently grew on me despite dropping in May of 2015. Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment is a Chicago collective of entertainers (from rappers to singers to musicians to dancers and so on). The face of the collective, despite their name, is Chance The Rapper. Chance on his own has had a pretty big year through his guest verses, releasing both of his singles for his future project on national TV (The Late Show and Saturday Night Live), and Surf has to be right up there among his 2015 successes.

The live instrumentation on Surf is incredible but so is the guest appearances on this project (including J. Cole, Busta Rhymes, B.o.B, Janelle Monae, King Louie, Noname Gypsy, Saba, Quavo, Erykah Badu, BJ the Chicago Kid, Raury, and more). I highly recommend checking out this project because I can guarantee it sounds like nothing else from 2015.

My only knock on Surf is that it isn’t cohesive at all. And I don’t think it was meant to sound cohesive but that is something I do look for in albums. This is just a collection of great songs.

#5:

lupe-fiasco-tetsuo-youthThe return of Lupe Fiasco! Seriously, if you have not heard this album just go listen to the first song on the project; “Mural” and thank me after seven-minutes of remembering why Lupe is one of the best lyricists in hip-hop history. After thanking me, continue to listen to rest of Tetsuo And Youth and begin to wash away the scum that was Lasers and Food And Liquor 2 from your memory.

Bits-and-pieces of what made Food And Liquor and The Cool so phenomenal are found throughout Tetsuo And Youth, such as: Lupe’s ability to just rap his ass off, his conceptual mind, the statements he makes in his rhymes, and some soulfulness that he has been missing for seven-plus years.

#4:

oddisee-the-good-fightOddisee put together one hell of an album with The Good Fight. This album is full of positive vibes, smart rhymes, and strong messages. Oddisee said he named this album The Good Fight because people often thank him for fighting to keep the kind of hip-hop he makes alive but he never looked at it that way, he just makes music he thinks is good.

Something unique about this album — other than just how great the music Oddisee wrote, produced, and performed is — is the fact that he refrained from speaking any explicit language on this album. He said he did this not as some gimmick but because he hates performing at shows full of white facees and screaming “nigga” at them and hearing them say it along with him. Also, he has notices how his fan-base is growing up and  he wants those fans to be able to play unedited versions of his music to their kids.

#3:

R-7014389-1431704816-1655.jpegJust when you thought jazz was dying, here comes Kamasi Washington with a bolt of electricity to remind music fans why jazz was so innovative. The different instruments and the different uses of those instruments composed into a beautiful body of work. Jazz is music truest artform in many ways and Kamasi’s The Epic is proof of that.

There are days I just put on this album and let it be the soundtrack of my life. The feels of funk and R&B are very apparent in this record. There are several new artists in the jazz world worth listening to (such as Robert Glasper) but The Epic, as a stand alone project, is the best thing from the genre in a very long time by my estimation.

I do not give a fuck about award shows and one reason is because someone is always left out of nominations and, in my opinion, that discredits the award. There should be a group of judges for each genre and those judges should consider every album of that genre for the year. It is absolutely ridiculous that Kamasi Washington’s The Epic appears to have been ignored by The GRAMMYs.

#2:

kendrick-album-coverThe most critically-acclaimed album of the year…. BY FAR: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly! The social commentary on this record is some of the best hip-hop has had on the mainstream level since 2Pac.

Mentioning 2Pac, this album gave me my favorite listening moment of the year. It happened when I was on the train heading to my internship, giving To Pimp A Butterfly it’s first listen and I got to the end of the last song, “Mortal Man.” Once the song came to an end, Kendrick started talking as if he was interviewing someone. It turned out he was interview someone and that someone was 2Pac. Kendrick and his team found an old interview of 2Pac and chopped up Pac’s answers to fit Kendrick’s questions, questions that correlated with the subject manner of the album. It was so dope!

The concept of this album has been dissected so many times, I won’t bore my readers with another breakdown of it but it is a fantastic concept. My main problem with the album is that I found it to be overhyped. Immediately after it’s release it was considered “classic” by the masses and that took away from the album for me. It’s a great project but not as good as Kendrick’s debut; good kid, mAAd city, or the album I have at number one on this list.

#1:

2014fhdThis is the second album of the two albums I “cheated” to put on this list. J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive was released December 9th 2014. I consider all December albums apart of the next year’s batch of albums because I don’t find it fair to do a “best albums of the year’ list and try to critique December albums within a month when you had two months to a year to sit with the rest of the albums. I’m glad I did it this way for 2014 Forest Hills Drive‘s sake because I definitely didn’t love this album when it first dropped nearly as much as I love it now.

Cole’s album wasn’t as socially-conscience as Kendrick but that alone shouldn’t make an album better or worse. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is by far Cole’s best commercial release because it is reminiscent of what made Cole special on his mixtapes — The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights — his relatability. To Pimp A Butterfly is a great album but often over-preachy and too layered, which isn’t necessarily bad but while albums should be cohesive, they also should be well-balanced. J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a perfectly balanced album, he is socially-aware, introspective, confident, conceptual, lyrical, and melodic all throughout this project.

J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive is the best album of 2015.

‘Home Alone’: All Grown Up

Just in time for Christmas, Macaulay Culkin revisits the role of Kevin McAllister from ‘Home Alone’ with an interesting — yet probable — twist.

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‘Home Alone’ is probably my favorite Christmas film of all-time (along with ‘Die Hard’ — but that’s a discussion for another day in itself), so to see it revisited in such a dark light is simply awesome.

In the “sketch,” Culkin portrays an older, mentally-disturbed Kevin McAllister. McAllister breaks down how horrible his parents were for leaving him (at eight years old) “home alone” on Christmas. This all takes place as McAllister substitutes as a Uber-like driver for his coked-out wife. Long story short; hilarity ensues.