Check out the new music video for Erykah Badu’s newest single, “Jump Up in the Air (Stay There)” featuring the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive” Lil Wayne. Accompanied by a deep shade of purple, this psychedelic video presents a kaleidoscope vision of Badu and Weezy. It is truly a sight. Surprisingly, this song will not appear on Erykah’s upcoming album, New Amerykah Part II: Return of Ankh.
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My favorite Mario Bros. is the SNES version. It’s not a fun issue. Super Mario Galaxy, Mario 64, and the other games in the series all have their moments. They just don’t inspire the same degree of fascination that Super Mario World has drawn out of me. I can usually plow through the game in a handful of sessions, unlocking every secret through muscle memory. I know the levels to milk for lives when you’re running low. The route to the Blue Yoshi is permanently burned into my mind. I’ve beaten the game’s 2-D predecessors without ever having much interest in going back. I play the 3-D ones, but by about the 50th star, I just want to get it over with. What is this game doing that keeps me coming back?
From a design perspective, Super Mario World is unique in the amount of options that you have when deciding how you want to begin a level. Unlike Super Mario Bros. 3, I can go back to beaten levels and snag power-ups before hitting start then select to immediately exit. There was a bit of dabbling with this in the third game with the inclusion of an inventory system, but it was always a finite resource. There are only so many treasure houses, and the results were usually random. In Super Mario World if I want a cape, I just go get one then try the level again. The DS version (calling it New Super Mario Brothers seems to just confuse people) also plays with this idea, but there were really only two power-ups to collect: big and fire flower. In the 3-D versions, you always start as Mario, and you can’t even carry powers into a level. The only time that you get the bee suit is if it’s an option that the designer includes. Likewise, the only time you get to fly is if the level is built for it in Mario 64. By contrast, the only constraint that Super Mario World imposes is in the ghost houses or castles, and even then, it just means dismounting Yoshi. You are free to bring whatever you like to most levels and engage with them on your own terms.
People place a log of baggage and lazy description in the word “old school” in hip-hop. It’s a way to insult someone’s credibility, make a crude comparison or simply use free hand for “the way I imagine my youth”. I prefer to emphasize old school as the feeing you get when an MC does something spectacular from what falsely appears to be simplicity. Ra the MC Ra the MC has a double dutching tongue and fierce, self-assured charisma that emanates from the quick upper cuts of her flow. While the sample in “Lost Ones” is from Lauren Hill’s song of the same name, the reconstruction here conceives the song in curt knots of piano and percussion that booms and clatters, less backdrop and more of an announcement of Ra’s prowess. So few female MCs can manage to pull off hard feminity without resorting to overt violence, myna-masculinity or the suggestion of sexual accessibility. Ra brushes off roles with vison and earned bombast: she’s all defense and verbal ratatat layed out in checkmate architecture.
I admit that I have a weakness for the neighborhood tour video, a beautiful reminder that the best video interpretations of a song are those that engage with its context, its era, its scene, its source of passion. In this scan and span movements of the video there’s more life, verve, and sync with the song than there would be on a shoot filled with Aston Martins, champagne bottles and women synced in ass shake. Perhaps I’d rather have fantasies that simply magnify the real rather than simulate the discredited fantasies of money and the regal isolation of fame. In hip-hop, confidence can quickly morph into the despotism of the narcissist (Diagnosis: Kanye). Ra brims with seductive energy that doesn’t have to be amped up or tricked out in futuristic hooker garb. It’s hard to find easy touchstones for the way she shifts from hard dense lyrical cuts into easy, torn open, singing. A few obvious trendsetters come to mind: Bahamadia’s zen frame of phrase, Rah Digga’s weaponized delivery and even Jean Grae’s cagey intellectual poetry. This D.C. up and comer has few peers to stand in the way of her becoming a defining force among the new faces of hip-hop.
What? Are you kidding? It actually means nothing. Just like the low numbers for recent RomCom disasters When In Rome and Leap Year, the fact that Gary Marshall Valentine’s Day (which we here at SE&L lovingly refer to as Shit Cuts, in smarmy homage to Robert Altman’s masterful 1993 look at LA) was the number one movie over Valentine’s Day is no big surprise. It’s like buying pumpkin futures before Halloween, or releasing a Christmas movie over the 25 December holidays. The biggest date night of the year - which lucky fell over a four day weekend - had to be money for Warner Bros, especially when you consider the all star cast (a draw in itself) and the tightly held $50 million budget. If they blew this one, pundits would have been laughing all the way to the lonely hearts club.
With an A to Z list that runs the gamut from still popular (Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx) to up and coming (the Taylors, Lautner and Swift) and questionable at best (Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey) Marshall, who literally redefined the hooker with a heart of gold - remember Pretty Woman - took Army Wives scribe Katherine Fugate’s cliché strewn script and simply stuffed it full of celebrity. The result, a hodgepodge of predictability, sitcomedy, and by now rote RomCom beats, is pleasant piffle, a two hour plus time suck that strives for very little and achieves the same. It’s not meant to be meaningful or earth-shattering. It’s not designed to redefine the genre. But one would hope that audiences would recognize subpar slop when they see it and not favor it financially, possibility of post-screening sex or not.
Look at that guy. You know which one I’m talking about. You’ve got three surfer dude boys in the band and the frontman with the thousand yard smirk.
You know that guy. So do I. He’s the dude who always had a copy of the exam beforehand, always had a parent’s note (that he wrote) each time he was late for school. The guy that never kicked in for the keg then left the party with the best looking girl. The guy who would end up wearing his high school letter jacket after graduation, unless he happened to become a millionaire. And the big difference: that guy in your life doesn’t have the redeeming value of writing a transcendent pop song that gets inside of you like herpes simplex and never leaves. Doug Fieger was that guy. And now he’s gone.
Rest in peace, you rascal.