"Midnight Train" - Cash Lansky

Do not start your music video with an acceplla. Don't, do not. All you're doing is spotlighting your mundane bars in the least photogenic environment currently imaginable: global exposure on YouTube. This cat makes it work off sheer charisma and managed to carry my attention until the beat hits at...just kidding, the beat doesn't hit yet.

They actually made the decision to spend the next 82 seconds on a nicely shot sequence of this dude opening up a restaurant. Really. This is a music video. I won't even begin to hate on the ham-fisted art student audacity of some shit like this. When does the beat finally hit? Past the two minute mark.

The ultimate verdict here ain't nothing nice. Whoever decided footage of this cat hanging out at work was something people would want to watch is, to put it as diplomatically as possible, completely motherfucking retarded. This video takes b-roll and puts it center stage because there's nothing, finally, here at all. Cash Lansky is clearly a good dude, but he's succeeding here as a model rather than a rapper. His energy is compelling, the footage is well done. There ends the short list of Nice Things to Say.

This is being posted mostly as a cautionary example. Don't make 4 minute videos out of 2 minute songs.


"Nowadays" - AK

Humpasaur "Hump" Jones: Let's be honest about this. No part of living in Ohio is easy. Our heart goes out to anyone coping with a burden like that, but there must be some consolation in the fact you're not from Iowa, right? Today's INBOXXX subject is a rapper/cracker named AK who distinguishes himself, right from the jump, as that rare emcee who enjoys smoking marijuana.

DJ Multiple Sex Partners: THE INBOXXX. We're back. This is happening. Once again, I'm being subjected to whiteboy rap because Hump Jones is a closet racist.

HJ: It's true. I chose this one because I wanted it to be good, but it already looks like I chose wrong.

DJ MSP: And yet you're still committed to doing this whole ordeal.

HJ: THE INBOXXX is such a desperate, thirsty meat factory nightmare I feel like we owe it to these mogs to give them the truth as we see it. Also, I feel for this cat.

DJ MSP: Props to director Matt Kaz for keeping things moving despite some pretty Wonderbread footage & material - during the course of this video, you will watch a blunt get rolled and smoked in the company of an attractive young woman. There will also be Rapper Hands. There's a good range of visual styles on display and they put in some decent editing work. Decent isn't anywhere close to great, though.

HJ: Yeah, decent is pretty boring. The beat stays in a very Ohio pocket - heavily reminiscent of J. Rawls in that Cold Turkey boom bap pocket, or pretty much anything Hi-Tek has done in his quieter moments.

DJ MSP: Do you feel like there's a small white elephant in the room you're avoiding?

HJ: I keep analyzing everything except the actual rapper because that whole subject feels like Nietzsche's Abyss staring back at me. It's sleepwalk-mumble braggadocio from a bro on autopilot. He gets lots of weed and wants to bring That Real Hip Hop Back. There isn't a single memorable or even decent bar in this cut.

DJ MSP: There's probably a quarter of a billion kids his age doing the same thing right now.

HJ: But hey, man, like you said last time: Mac Miller. G-Eazy. Cats like this are blowing up right now because mediocre white kids want a mediocre white kid to make it. Vanilla Ice was too pretty, he could dance. Eminem could actually rap good enough to get accepted. Nobody really perfected the recipe until Macklemore, and now that shit is just open season. The White Savior Wars will be remembered as...well, remembered as a pointless side-show that made a lot of money but didn't matter at all because actual hip hop was quietly having one of the best years ever.

DJ MSP: It's impressive that I'm the one in California and yet you're so much higher than me right now.

HJ: I should write a song about this.


DISPATCHES: Through the Ira Glass Dimly

But, if there be, or ever were, one such,
It's past the size of dreaming

Antony and Cleopatra

I hesitated to originally write this piece because it addresses a topic that really stands perfectly fine alone: William Shakespeare’s legacy. A month or four ago, I don’t care when actually, public radio’s most recognizable name took to Twitter casting doubt on the legitimacy of the coronation of the King Bard, the number one draft pick of poets (sorry Tip, but you’re still only number 7), writing that he is "unrelatable" and "unemotional." In his two microtweets, Glass praised the actors but not the playwright, wedging his criticism between the actors performance and the impetus. With one sycophantic and obsequiously lauded tweet, Ira brought into question his intellectual authority on quite a bit. His pessimistic, probably wine cooler induced critique availed us of this side of the publically apotheosized journalist: the uninformed, whimsical and rash commentator he may be in his absolute worst hour.

Since my undergraduate days in the muggy backwater Garden of Eden paradise that is Southern Illinois, I’ve never been able to comfortably stomach Ira’s voice on a cosmetic level, but I don’t want that to be at issue here, just a petty aside that I can usually table: the issue is people in the public at large claiming that Willy Shakes isn’t worth his weight in gold---and the unwritten statute that they have to be brought to task. (although, his querulously toned draw and liberal leanings make the thrill of the kill all the better) I’m no liberal or conservative generally, so I’m constantly amused by the air of superiority NPR affiliates exude when they broach regionally specific or national news coverage with this presupposed fairness and unfiltered “journalism”.That’s not to say that it’s in any way as ignorant or as lopsided as say Fox News or any of its demon acolyte offspring, but since it’s less egregious in its outright lying and dishonesty, we’re prone, as rational and reason seeking primates, to let the libs slide more often than the irrational, clearly psychotic conservatives. I’ll even admit it, I am not as critical of NPR and Ira Glass as I might be of Fox and Sean Hannity or Bill O’Louffah O'Reilly. It’s a visceral and probably genetic reaction for me.

Simply put, there’s no doubt that big loud, obnoxious bigots are just easier to hate. But the flame must be applied equally to all who offend. What separates a thinker, a modern user of organic, sweet white-mattered brainpower from the the seemingly pervasive sports team tribal-like mindset is his or her’s ultimate and perpetual cognitive mutability. To not stick to ideas as if they are sacred team maxims or unassailable truths; to allow the passage of new revelation to go unimpeded into their mental set. We hold this truth to be the only holy truth: That the circle may always be outdrawn.

Like everything ever, this has been thought, debated and said before. Glass isn’t the first to have cast aspersions on the Bard’s status as pre-eminent poet/playwright. Among probably many more than I couldn’t discover with scant internet searches and armchair research, Tolstoy, Wittgenstein, Voltaire, Dryden and George Bernard Shaw all thought his work contemptible. Though Glass is a decent journalist, he’s never written a Candide or a War and Peace or a Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It’s fair to say that he would not do well to stand shoulder to shoulder with the literary giants that share in his Shakespearean critique. Not even close. Candle to the Sun.

Up until now, I’ve read a good share of articles both praising Glass for his honesty and deriding him for his naivete, but a dearth explaining why Willy Shakes is the number one poet. Why should we revel in this dead cracker’s yellow papered lines, archaic allusions and incalculable references to death and drink? If you can’t answer this with quick retort or quoted verse, it’s suggestible that you let Ira have his tenuous opinion; though I will attempt to do the antithesis justice here.

When Shakespeare came to the festering urban shithole that was London in the 16th century, the underpinning narratives of many of his plays already existed; done on a weekly scale, in a manner which modern copyright law would never allow. These plot basics, Caesar, Troy, the kings of old, what have you, were sure winners, crowd pleasers that tugged on the drunken heart strings of all plebeian and patrician attendees of the Wooden O; they were also largely common property and tracing their origin is nearly impossible now. It was, in modern parlance, general public domain (for the theatre) and all the canvas he needed to lay out an unlikely corpus of unprecedented work. It also serves as somewhat of an answer to the charge that Shakespeare couldn’t have written on what he didn’t know about; the basic skeletal structure of many of his works had already been assembled before he arrived.

Some four hundred plus years later, it’s easy to take for granted his cognitive originality and magnanimity of thought. But if we read the greats before him impartially, Marlowe, Kyd, etc, it’s evident to any novice reader that his predecessors lack the flow, the communicative ease and linguistic potency that we find comes uninhibited from a Shakespearean monologue or repartee. The universality in his writing, an ability to relate to and feel what the characters are conveying, with relative ease, is something even a bad or mediocre actor can accomplish by simple memorization. It doesn’t take much to notice his distinction from his contemporaries and most the poets even in the history of civilization, saving Milton, Chaucer, Homer and Dante. Soren Kierkegaard once commented:

"The art of writing lines, replies, which express a passion with full tone and complete imaginative intensity, and in which you can none the less catch the resonance of its opposite --this is an art which no poet has practised except the unique poet Shakespeare."

And the jowly, somehow un-wizened Howard Bloom follows:

"How can a poet think their characters into their own freedom? Shakespeare, with little precedent beyond Chaucer, practices an art of surprise, in which characters can be as surprised as we are. When Milton’s God says of Adam and Eve that he made them “sufficient to have stood but free to fall, “ I reflect that, for just once, that irate Schoolmaster of Souls is being Shakespearean. Othello and Macbeth are certainly sufficient to have stood but also more than free to fall. Shakespeare endows his people with the capacity to change, either through the will or with involuntary force. Either way, there is surprise as the selfsame overhears itself and alters irrevocably."

This praise is religiously repeated in most scholarly work from the time of Ralph Emerson to the present day internet-sage scholar. Interestingly, there were few writers before Emerson who really appreciated and took to the bard’s genius before he was apotheosized in the late 19th, early 20th century among scholars and the theatre alike. Emerson had this singular observation, at least for his time:

"Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors, as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others, conceivably. A good reader can, in a sort, nestle into Plato's brain and think from thence; but not into Shakespeare's. We are still out of doors. For executive faculty, for creation, Shakespeare is unique. No man can imagine it better. He was the farthest reach of subtlety compatible with an individual self,- the subtlest of authors, and only just within the possibility of authorship ... He is wise without emphasis or assertion; he is strong, as nature is strong, who lifts the land into mountain slopes without effort and by the same rule as she floats a bubble in the air, and likes as well to do the one as the other. This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, and love-songs; a merit so incessant that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers."

Taking this side in the debate isn’t difficult. It’s actually probably the easiest argument to make and ultimately win. But I am not going to expend effort for the sake of trying to be Wittgenstein or G.B. Shaw. Though, I urge anyone reading this to do more than to watch a movie based on a Shakespearean play. Read the material, rap the poems or listen to the lines read aloud by a good rapper. Christ, get the Cliff Notes if you have to, I did for much of it; and don’t feel bad for looking up the archaic word vomit that appears every line or so. Disagree with me and dismantle everything I have to say. Please, the world is counting on you.

For now, preach on Willy:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,
when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit
of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our
disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as
if we were villains by necessity; fools by
heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and
treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards,
liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of
planetary influence; and all that we are evil in,
by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion
of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
disposition to the charge of a star! My
father compounded with my mother under the
dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa
major; so that it follows, I am rough and
lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am,
had the maidenliest star in the firmament
twinkled on my bastardizing.



"In Full Effect" - Radio Rahim

"I came with these lyrics and left with your respect." That line will probably stick with me longer than this song will, because it was so catastrophically apt. I do respect Radio Rahim, but it's not really about the lyrics he came with.

The video itself is on point, a solid workout in term of editing and after-effects massaging three shoots with mostly natural lighting. Radio Rahim is an energetic subject who eats up space like KRS-One doing William Shatner, which is not intended as a diss: this cat clearly kills it live.

This video is basically filler, but it definitely deserves props for highlighting graf artists instead of some local bar / brand bullshit. I think I am finally too old to hate on hip hop throwback Quaker puritanism.


"Inside Out" - clipping.


What easily could have been a corny concept is instead a professional piece of work. Wicked impressive and worthy of cinema-style video masters like Gondry and Cunningham.

Rap-wise, it makes sense this cat is on Sub Pop, home of Afro-futurist heavies Shabazz Palaces. (And, of course, Nirvana.) His flow is an Aesop Rock x Freestyle Fellowship hybrid and a finely tuned West Coast chopping machine, with high-end articulation and visuals. There's not a great deal of rhyming in most of his bars, but I can't hold that laziness against him when the final results are such an enjoyable ride.

Overall, this gets the coveted Yeti Trax tag and we'll be subjecting you to a lot of their work. WHALAM.


"Take it Off" - 2 Live Crew

Well...that happened. That's right, 2014 shit from 2 Live Crew, and boy howdy let me tell you what right now, this shit is fucking bizarre. And awesome.

One minute intro skits? A dance routine from "Hip Hop Kidz" that looks like something from a 90's sitcom? Trick Daddy and Flava Flav in the building for no coherent reason? Mannie Fresh acting like an EDM bro-core DJ? All of this exists in a Ketamine hallucinatory space, beyond good and evil and bad taste, a short film made by aliens trying to act like old rappers trying to be relevant.

Basically, you have to see this. Fuck yes.


"All In Together Now" - Stranger Day

Hump Jones: Welcome to yet another formal installment of THE INBOXXX, which has basically devolved into a phone call between Burlington and Los Angeles, at this point. This morning we're checking out North Carolina act Stranger Day, which is a pretty excellent name.

DJ Multiple Sex Partners: It's really not.

HJ: Joining me is Los Angeles video director and occasional rap beat producer DJ Multiple Sex Partners, my co-conspirator since the days of Wombaticus Rex.

DJ MSP: Nobody cares about Wombaticus Rex.

HJ: This is true. We've got a great, catchy beat here, big mellow horns, classic break. And ass shots, wall to wall to wall.

DJ MSP: This is basically PBR letting these guys shoot a video at one of their events.

HJ: According to the submission copy in their email, that is pretty much exactly what this is. There is not a huge amount of self-esteem on display here from either sex. First dude up is a solid rapper, just boring.

DJ MSP: I've done gigs like this. You get a lot of girls who want to be actresses drunk, get them to sign release forms and watch them compete amongst themselves for attention. It is horror. You have to drink so much to fall asleep after working a day like this.

HJ: I love how most American males would consider that their peak achievement in life and you're still suffering. Do you think this dude is a good rapper?

DJ MSP: Yeah, but that's about it. He's that dude who's got it down but you know he's just never going to make it because he's not saying anything. Then again, I felt the same about Mac Miller and G-Eazy so my track record is...yeah.

HJ: This next dude must have a full-time day job being mistaken for Earl Sweatshirt. That's a tough cross to bear, right there.

DJ MSP: Once they draw the camera back, this party is pathetically small, dude. That water slide is an embarrassment, I thought they knew how to party in North Carolina.

HJ: They do, it's just not evenly distributed. This Elevator Jay cat is at least interesting, once he gets rappitty-rapping, he's got charisma and flow. I keep getting really distracted by the awkward, drunk dancing in the background. The whole vibe here is like an episode of COPS more than a house party video.

DJ MSP: I think the moral here is that Pabst Blue Ribbon just has way too much marketing money and we need to get some.


"Killa" - J. Brooka

Sad but true, the video still that gets sent out with your promo emails is more important than the copy. I'm a copywriter: we're cheap, dumb animals with immense pretensions. That image is the make-or-break first point of contact, and in the case of J. Brooka, my interest was 100% about his hair. "Holy shit," I remarked to myself, "I will have to check this out later."

I'm glad I did. Not because it's good -- although dude raps better than you'd expect from such a shitty beat -- but because this is a gem of unintentional comedy. The production values are high, sure, but that only heightens the hilarity. Shout-out to over-acting and not having any homies to tell you "don't use that take, man." Shout-out to the lamest, cheapest gunshot effects I have ever heard from a struggle rapper. Shout-out to doing your eight-bar hook three times.

Once J. Brooka gets going, this is technically superb horrorcore in the Brotha Lynch Hung vein. Based on the video, I'm betting this cat kinda kills it live, and also smiles a lot in person. I will probably watch the next video this cat makes -- with actual horror-film production, he could build a little goth-hop empire of blood. Dream big, build daily. Blaow.


"Lazarus Pit" - Tragedy Khadafi

A damn great slice of classic rap, some dark cipher hypnosis. Tragedy Khadafi is one of the best to do it, although he gets outshined by the opening verse here: Starvin B carves out a wide lane that doesn't get equalled for the rest of the track. You know, rapper shit.

Speaking of, this is of course a gloriously "problematic" piece of oral culture, replete with hate speech, surrounded by a gnawing fog of Trigger Warnings. Also, they fucked your bitch at least twice and earnestly want us all to know. Some might see that as a political agenda, but I just take it as further proof that thug life is actually pretty boring and they don't have a lot to talk about outside of work.

And ain't that a bitch?


"Tron Song" - Thundercat

Well, holy motherfucking shit. We said we loved creative & psychedelic low-budget videos and, boy howdy, the Universe provides. This latest gem is directed by Eric Andre -- yeah, that Eric Andre, obviously -- and was allegedly funded with a "mere" five thousand dollars. (Los Angeles does strange things to your sense of proportion.)


"The Flow" - Kool Keith

There's no stopping this motherfucker now. Kool Keith has had more comebacks than any human being could plausibly fit into a single Wikipedia bio, and guest what? 2014 is gonna be his year, too. Sorry.

Only one thing has really changed: he keeps releasing projects as "Kool Keith" now. Which is smart. I've been doing the 10,000 Names Routine for the past 5 years, and it's a powerful shortcut to total obscurity. Kool Keith is consolidating his legacy. He f'ing earned it.

The New York and Los Angles based SharkAlligator has gone from dropping random singles to gearing up for the release of a double f'ing album. The human race may never see the end of this madman's reign. Something to celebrate as we gear down for next phase of the Kali Yuga.