And He Kept On Preaching In The Synagogues (JAY-Z, 4:44 review)

If I owned a sports bar, clothing line, sports agency, and multi-millions in real estate and art investments, people would probably come running to hear me too.

 

JAY-Z – 4:44

released Jun 30, 2017
********** 10/10

Sean Corey Carter, bettter known by his stage name JAY-Z, which has also been written as Jay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-ZJay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-Z, is an American rapper and businessman. Or should I say, business, man? As it says directly on the album cover, this is his thirteenth studio album, and it’s probably one of this most mature efforts yet.

I mean yeah, Reasonable Doubt was groundbreaking, and The Blueprint a masterpiece, while The Black Album made us miss him, but 4:44 is his apologetic letter for being an asshole, and man does it sing with sincerity and truth. It’s personal, poetic, and poised to take the place of top hip hop record of the year, ironic given that his wife had a top charting album last year. JAY-Z is a legend, and 4:44 is his opportunity to put together an album for him. This is not a cool album, trying to keep up with current day hip hop, there are no singles here. If anything, it sounds like it was put together quickly and abruptly.

So yeah, this is and isn’t a response to Lemonade. It’s more about us getting to see JAY-Z as a fallible human. He raps about being black and racial inequalities, infidelity, his daughter, politics, his personal wealth, and a total dismissal of his ego. It’s fucking brilliant.

But it’s not for your average fan, it’s for those who appreciate his legacy and understand who he is and what he has done for the game.

Kill Jay-Z is a direct reference to the time that Solange Knowles attacked him in an elevator, and it brings up the degradation of his friendship with Kanye West. Also he apologizes for the first time officially to Beyonce, confirming that Lemonade is a true account. He later does that and more on title track 4:44, especially apologizing to all of the women in his life that he has played.

One of my favourites songs is The Stoy of O.J. and it features my favourite line of the album too. This comes when Hova raps “I’m not black, I’m OJ….OK” that sarcasm is a beautiful aftertaste to the cutting wine it was served with. But it’s not like Jay hasn’t rapped about his financial freedom before, nor the fact that black people won’t have security until they understand how Jewish people get rich off of credit. A bold statement within a real album.

Smile is another essential track about his mother Gloria Carter, who outs herself as a lesbian, but JAY-Z lovers her all the more, and encourages all of us to love who we love because life is ever-changing.

We get to see the classic dissing raps of older Jay on Caught Their Eyes and  Marcy Me, going after Prince’s Estate on the first of these two tracks, respectively. Or should I say disrespectively?

Of course the middle of the record also features Family Feud which is a gold mine of lyrics and beats from the heart. It addresses the old schools and new of hip hop, with Jay-Z proving that he has still got it, after all, on track closer, Legacy, he proves family extends to all black people. He wants to leave something meaningful behind in his business work.

Pros: Absolutely essential tracks to this record are The Story of O.J., Smile, and Family Feud. But every song has an element of sincerity to it, making this the most intimate JAY-Z album to-date.

Cons: It’s somewhat awkward to listen to Bam and Caught Their Eyes, they aren’t the most flow friendly tracks. Also that awkward hook on Moonlight about the La La Land fiasco. Seriously?

Runtime: 36 minutes

Points of Interest: Featuring appearances from his daughter Blue Ivy, his mother Gloria Carter, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, and wife Beyonce, this stripped down album has a certain vulnerability to it which we’ve never seen before.

As I mentioned before, this is not your latest and greatest clubbing hip hop record. It is chock full of thoughtful and revealing songs, and deserves the attention of an alumni of JAY-Z’s work. To say that he is the greatest rapper of all time isn’t that big of a boast – the confessional nature of this record solidifies his reputation.

theories Summarized

If it hasn’t been made clear for you just yet, JAY-Z is a business, man. Him and Diddy are almost tied for the most financial successful rappers of all time . But that’s not what this album is about. It’s a testimonial to his screwups, him owning his coldness, and settling into middle age. Hova has worked with so many different arists over the years, but I find it fitting to mention his 2004 collaboration with Linkin Park before I close this post off. RIP Chester Bennington. Jazzy will hold it down for you from here on out.

Tim!

Overcoming Differences, Thru Film (Cross Talk Ep. 25)

 

 

I’m gonna skip the preamble on this episode of Cross Talk. Racism, bigotry and prejudice are big problems in this world we live in, and each of us has a responsibility to deal with it accordingly.

This week Chris, Mike and I tackle the genre defying themes cross-section once more, focusing on how to overcome differences in films. We have some great examples with The Terminal, Gran Torino, and American History X, all examples of race relations, coming at them from unique perspectives.

I urge you to watch this episode with care and full attention, because it’s a serious subject and one dear to my heart. I hope you get a lot out of watching it, because we put a lot of heart into filming it, and while we have fun at the beginning, it gets professional right quick.

This is episode 25 of Cross Talk. This is overcoming differences through film.

I hope that meant as much for you as it did for us on the Cross Talk team.

Yes, the subject matter at hand is difficult to think about and to address in your own lives, but we cannot move forward as a society without overcoming our differences and learning to work together better. I have this theory that films like the ones we’ve listed above are excellent vehicles to teach this idea of celebrating diversity.

But what about you? Do you think sharing American History X in high schools would be a bad idea or a good one? Please, please, please like, share, and comment on this video. We want your feedback! Thanks for your continued support creative cuties, this project wouldn’t be possible without you.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, I’m off to bang my head with some punks while I listen to Descendents at Union Hall. Live your life!

 

Tim!

You Wanna Be Startin’ Something (Michael Jackson, Thriller review)

It’s difficult to find an album that feels timeless, because most of the time, we are in that time and have no frame of reference, but when you start cycling through the back catalogue of musical history it can become pretty obvious when something is brilliant.

And if you’re okay with it, dear readers, I’d like to call it a thriller.

Michael Jackson – Thriller
released November 30, 1982
********** 10/10

michael-jackson-thriller-official-album-cover-art

Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, producer and philanthropist. Known by countless fans as the King of Pop, he truly was a global figure in pop culture for just over four decades.

It’s incredibly hard not to talk about pop music and think of Michael Jackson, well for me anyway. I grew up on MTV, Much Music, and Much More Music videos. I must’ve seen the music video for Thriller more than a hundred times in my youth. And it was one of the only “cool” albums in my parents record collection that wasn’t influenced by country or christmas music, so writing about this album is of special significance for moi.

You know, I don’t think I’ve made this very clear yet. When I was a kid we listened to a lot of country music. A lot.

The radio in the kitchen was always tuned to country music, and whenever we went on the road, it was the same challenge. My dad was a heavy influencer of what was played in the house and it wasn’t until my early teenage years that I really started to spread my wings musically and try other stuff out.

I can partially thank Michael Jackson for that.

Thriller was Michael Jacksons’ most successful album and it remains to this day as the best-selling album of all time, with more than 65 million units sold worldwide. It helped transform the musical landscape of the day by bolstering the success of MTV and bringing more attention to music videos as a medium. The title track, Thriller has a music video which is almost fourteen minutes in length, more than double that of the song. Which should say something about Jackson’s creative vision and ability to correctly champion innovative ideas.

Unfortunately he died in 2009, just over seven years ago, but he left an incredible legacy which I largely attribute to the efforts of this album. What I mean is that Thriller is also a gargantuan effort in breaking down many challenges of race and segregation in the musical arts.  Well in general too, but this is a blog about the arts, so yeah.

Seven of the album’s nine songs became singles over a two year period – The Girl Is Mine, Billie Jean, Beat it, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Human Nature, P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), Thriller.

Which should tell you that it was influential. And both Baby Be Mine and The Lady in My Life are excellent songs in their own right.

I choose to review this album, because for me Halloween will always be tied in with Thriller. The song was released as a single about a year before I was born, so it was always around. Not to mention the fact that it features zombies and Vincent Price – Who was also synonymous with horror. Thriller is a a certifiable piece of music history and dammit if it isn’t a fun listen. I must’ve spun it more than a dozen times this week in preparation for my review, and I still want to listen to it. For those of you living under a rock, do yourself a favour and listen to Thriller… it’s over 30 years old now and still relevant.

 

 

 

Happy Halloween my friends. It comes around but once a year, and though I hope you’ll get why I choose a classic record this time around instead of keeping up with the rhythm of releases, consider this. Sometimes providing a quality review is more important than a contemporary one. Which might be the case for tomorrows theatrical entry. But you’ll just have to see for yourselves.

Tim!

 

It’s Mr. Dressup, Stay Classy (Halloween)

When most people think of Halloween, they think of trick or treating, costumes parties, parades, bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, pranks, haunted houses, lots of monster related activities, and in my case, horror movie marathons as a teenager.

But the thing is that Halloween has history reaching back almost two thousand years. Many believe that it originated with the ancient festival of Samhain, something the Celts practiced every November 1st to help ward off ghosts and other spirits. They would dress up in costumes and light bonfires to achieve the proper ritual.

It wasn’t until the eighth century or so that the Catholic Church decided to change November 1st into a day to honour saints, effectively known as All Saints Day, and it even took on some of the elements of Samhain. Which, a lot of Christian holidays have been prone to do. Incorporate a pagan holiday into its fold, to help the people digest the practice better. But that’s something I could spend more than a whole post unto itself on, so we’ll move on, for now.

With that change over, the preceding night became All Hallows Eve and it was celebrated as such until the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

All Hallows Eve-olution

With the puritanical element introduced, the theology of All Hallows Eve was redefined and the ghosts came to represent evil spirits. After all, many Protestants believe that there was no purgatory, only Heaven and Hell, thusly spirits were demons and incredibly threatening.

As people immigrated to North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Irish and Scottish peoples brought their version of Halloween with them, watering it down and assimilating it into the mainstream of secular holidays.

Because of this practice, people focused instead on the symbols and rituals as acts of entertainment, maintaining the elements of fear and acknowledgment of the unknown. When the age of adulthood shifted from 13 to 18, more observances shifted towards children and their development, and thus costuming, craft, and activities became a celebration for them.

Let’s be clear for a second, my dear sweet treats, costuming eventually became the focal point and with that shift towards creativity, the tone of the event shifted to one of creativity and inclusion. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it. Out of the unknown and fear developed an event that celebrates the supernatural.

Which is why you probably shouldn’t dress in racist attire. Yeah, that’s right you thought this was gonna be a informative post, but I twisted it around on ya.

I’m not going to wax a ton of poetic on this but consider avoiding the following before you decided to embark on a party or three this weekend.

  1. Turning a racial stereotype into a costume
  2. Hyper-sexualization of women and hyper-sexualization of male genitals
  3. Mockery of a group of people or individuals

pumkin-bikini-worst-halloween-costumes

There is absolutely no reason to offend or induce harm on others during this holidays, no one wins when you do it, and in fact it reduces individuals into debased identities which they are forced to accept or react violently against. It’s super uncool and perpetuate the flaws of culture without helping us to move forward. But that’s just a theory after all.

Enjoy your weekend friends, and I’ll be back on Sunday with something rather stimulating.

Tim!

Blue? Boycott The Red Carpet and White Folk? (88th Annual Academy Awards Night)

Anyone familiar with apologetics? It’s this concept that reasoned communication in support of a theory, belief or doctrine (usually spiritual) will help win people over to that belief, and the idea behind it is that this method of discussion is actually more useful than the typical debate format.

Now don’t get too far ahead of yourself dear readers. I suspect some of you may already be thinking to yourselves… Here we go, we know the topic is the Academy Awards, and the title is referencing the decision-making process behind it. Oh timotheories, you small, silly, social savant, you are about to tell us why the Academy Awards are really actually quite good and that we shouldn’t scrutinize an American institution which is biased “white washing” and ignoring people of minorities.

And you wouldn’t be wrong to say that I am going to address this, because quite frankly it’s out there, and it seems like my Facebook feed and half the articles I’ve seen on other social media are discussing this topic. So let’s get topical, because it’s important.

The Oscars are almost 100 years old, and they are run by mostly American filmmakers. I cannot stress the importance of that word enough. American. Look at what Wikipedia has to say about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) –

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is a professional honorary organization with the stated goal of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures. The Academy’s corporate management and general policies are overseen by a Board of Governors, which includes representatives from each of the craft branches.

The roster of the Academy’s approximately 6,000 motion picture professionals is a “closely guarded secret.”[2] While the great majority of its members are based in the United States, membership is open to qualified filmmakers around the world.

The problem is inherent. You ask someone to rate something and they will do the best they can given their knowledge and experience. And that’s in a vacuum. But when you make that rating system important, segmented, and secret, it creates inbreeding of the worst kind. The authors of these votes are hidden, they cultivate a look and feel for their event, and they want to keep it that way.

After all, that’s what we’ve come to expect.

Someone might say to you, don’t blame the Academy members, they are only voting based on what they know. And I would agree that it’s true that the Academy is working to maintain it’s position whether it’s consciously destructive or not. But that root issue is whether the institution should be allowed to continue to operate the way it does or whether it needs competition and possibly a replacement. Obviously it’s more complex than just wanting one of those outcomes, but change needs to start somewhere.

Because even if we were to overlook the fact that this is an American organization that puts on an award show for films (mostly American films), the United States is made up of more than just Caucasian males, so American movies should be awarded based on a representation of the American population. On the other side of the coin, if you have supported the institution you can’t get mad at it because it’s been defined by it’s public support over the last 87 years.

Think about that for a minute. People watch the show.

Millions of people around the world tune in to watch an American film awards ceremony and complain that it’s flawed. No shit, really? Well we live in a time when democracy, free will, and striving for equality are on everyone’s lips. Subversion and evolution is slow-going, unless enough change happens quickly and at the same time to force a shift in priorities, this won’t change, and we’ll continue to complain about it for decades.

So we have to decide something as individuals. Do we boycott the Oscars? Do we complain about the Oscars on social media and traditional media, through petition? Do we fund organizations that support diversity and quality of film rather than very specific criteria based on opinions dictated by a hidden membership?

Well, shit. I guess you’ve made it this far, so you must want to know what timotheories really thinks about it. We support the rights of representation by population. Organizations should exist to support the majority. Which means that Canadian films should be supported at Canadian awards shows, American films at American ones, and so on, and so forth. What we all should be supporting at the end of February every year is a global award show that showcases the best in film internationally.

So long story short, I think you should watch the Academy Awards, so that you can understand what is wrong with it, and then speak out about it and know what a film awards ceremony should look like. Please also support organizations which are young, so that older institutions like AMPAS have to evolve or die. That’s the only way to see real change.

For you Edmontonians, one way to enjoy this experience is by heading over to Garneau Theatre and joining Metro Cinema as they guest host the event from the comfort of your local independent movie theatre. Metro Cinema is an amazing organization which supports diversity of film and grass roots change is really the best place to start. As I’m sure you already know, dear readers, this event called the Oscars usually takes more than 2-3 hours to complete, so the organizers at the theatre have prepared something special for you to get yourself in the mood and on par with the festivities. Check it out, you just might see me there.

But what do you think? Am I off my rocker? Too much of an idealist, not enough realist? Am I cynical? A white male moron? Please leave some comments and subscribe. I wanna get better.

Those are all of the theories I’ve got for today dear readers, I’ll see you on Sunday with something stimulating!

Tim!