Archive | September, 2011

Album Review: “Cole World: A Sideline Story”

29 Sep

It’s been a little under a year since J Cole’s third mix tape Friday Night Lights was released. If you were one of the many who downloaded as soon as it dropped, as I did, then you probably realized the Internet almost crashed that night. His buzz was remarkable. With a solid fan base built, a sign by Roc Nation and “In The Morning” on all local radio stations hourly rotation, we were all expecting a follow up album… like now. But, it didn’t happen. Time was passing, the buzz flattened into a fizz and his not so loyal fans focus drifted towards a more accomplished artist (ahem, Drake). With rumors circulating of him being dropped, we were all left wondering: Has his career hit a brick wall?

Fast forward to September 26th, 2011. “Twas The Night Before Cole World,” the rapper tweeted. I was up, (way past my bedtime) waiting for the clock to strike 12 to purchase Cole World: A Sideline Story on iTunes, like the rest of my Twitter followers. Seeing the track listing left me with some concerns. Two mix tapes songs made the album, and “Who Dat” was also a contending bonus track. I couldn’t understand why. Why would “Lights Please” a song we first heard in 2009 even be considered on his debut? Great song, but the fact still remains it was two years old.  I wondered if this could possibly hinder sales.  The album opener, “Dollar And A Dream III” hijacked the thought right out of my mind.  An optomistic beat and a encouraged flow, this track was hopeful.  ” What would you do when you’re on your last dollar?”  A situation Cole found himself in, between graduating from college and being signed, working dead end jobs to make ends meet.  “Do you fold? Grow bitter and cold? No Longer fightin’/now the only thing you grow is old/ Or do you, flip that f*ckin dollar to a dream? Whether a scholar or a fiend, watch a pawn become a king.” Cole played chess well.

“Mr. Nice Watch,” an uppity club track with a beat reminiscent of a 90’s video game which Cole speeds up.  The song was still unfinished just five days before the album’s release date. What was missing? Of course, the first cosign from the boss “What’s up Cole? It’s your time, let these n*ggas know.” Jay-Z  adds what most would call his seal of approval which appropriately compliments the song.  The following track is the albums title “Cole World,” in which the rapper name checks, Sallie Mae. “Bet it on black and pray, I quadruple my salary/ If I win maybe then I could pay Sallie Mae.”  It’s no secret J Cole is a St. John’s graduate, this makes his music that much more relateable. He glorifies the struggle of a post-grad bum, trying to live a dream.  The album’s midpoint Cole incorporates what I feel hip-hop has been missing —  story telling.

In “Lost Ones” J Cole takes listeners through the scene of an unexpexted pregnancy.  First verse is from a man’s perspective: ” I know you’re wonderin’ if this gon’ make me think about wifin’ you/like if you had my first child would I spend my whole life with you….I refuse to bring my boy or girl in the world when I aint got sh*t to give em/ and I’m not with them n*ggas who be knocking girls up and skate out.”  Women’s emotions never go unheard and in the second verse, Cole’s pitch changes. He speaking from a different place, a womans prespective “Tryna take away a life, is you God mothaf*cka? I don’t think so/ this a new life up in my stomach, regardless if I’m your wife this new life here imma love it.” The narration on this song is strong, amazing and ultimately home hitting.

“Rise And Shine”  is a hard-hitting joint. Cole aggressively attacks the beat with meaningful word play. “More than a rapper this a natural disaster/boy, I’m meaner than katrina mixed with Gina, shut up, Cole!”  The intro to the song is fitting, a sample from Jay-Z backstage tour in which he’s discussing the kind of artist he’s looking for. “In between eating his Apple Jacks he’s writing some hot sh*t and he wants my spot.”  Jay may have lucked up.

Cole World  wraps up with the first single, “Work Out.” The album experiences a record vinyl scratch moment with this track, “Straight up now tell me do you really wanna love me forever/oh oh oh.” A  Paula Abdul sample meant for a more mainstream appeal. Although the song recieved a lot of negative feedback it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the disc.  A cohesive song line up — no fillers, pure talent, no gimmicks, and substance. Cole World: The Sideline Story an impressive first debut.



Has Boxing Lost Its Integrity?

19 Sep

As a little girl, I remember spending a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather is a huge boxing fan; its actually the only sport I can ever remember him following.  I found myself watching with him on a regular basis, not because I was interested, but it was a way for me to bond with him.  His love for the sport was reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s character in Million Dollar Baby. My grandfather was no trainer, but if you can remember the scene where Clint’s Character was watching a boxer he trained in his first professional fight, you can probably understand how passionate he was about it.  Through his passion I have grown a great appreciation for boxing.

Saturday night, one of the biggest fights of the year took place: Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz.  Boxing stans were going wild with their predictions and theories of the outcome. Most had all bets placed on Mayweather, but the underdog, Ortiz, talked a big game and made it known he was bringing nothing less than an A+ performance.

With all the predictions put forward and the major hype surrounding this match no one could possibly predict the fight to end as it did.  The fourth round sparked the drama, beginning with Ortiz head butting Mayweather.  More kisses seemed to be blown than punches by Ortiz, which left Mayweather an open opportunity to land two clean sucker punches, resulting in Ortiz being knocked out. During Mayweathers post fight interview, that spark of a flame was blown into a full fledge forest fire. Words were exchanged between him and  HBO’s  bumptious commentator, Larry Merchant. “HBO needs to fire you, you aint sh*t…” Merchant responded, “If I was 50 years younger I would kick your ass.”  Watching this fight made me ask myself: Is this the sport I appreciate?

The acts displayed during this match were digusting and flat out annoying.  All parties, whether right or wrong, should be ashamed. Boxing is a sport, an art, and here were grown seasoned men treating it as a dirty street fight. I know my grandfather wasn’t pleased. Usually, he’d be the first I’d contact, chatting him up about any and every aspect involving a fight, but I haven’t. What could I say?  I had high expectations for this fight and it only left me highly disappointed and wondering: Has boxing lost its integrity?

— Channie

The Case of The Ex

1 Sep

What do you do when your ex won’t stay away?

Not these two again...

I’ve held off on writing about this for a while because I firmly believe in the law of attraction: that whatever you focus on is what will be attracted to you. I have a few exes who, try as I might, I cannot shake them (or maybe it’s them who can’t shake me? hmm). In my younger years my solution for an old boyfriend was to replace him with a newer, shinier one but do I need to explain how problematic this line of thinking is? I didn’t think so.

After nursing my wounds from a bad relationship or toxic friendship I often make a vow to myself to be kinder, nicer, more compassionate to myself than the dearly departed were. It’s a vicious cycle that I have fought myself on for years and it goes something like this: make vow to be nice to self –> make progress –> get sidetracked/back slide into negative behavior –> pain –> back to square one. I want to touch on the step smack dab in the middle – getting sidetracked.

Let’s use a real scenario: you’re on minding your business one day and your phone goes off. Its an text or email from your ex – what do you do? I’ll be honest, on a good day I can ignore a message and keep it trucking. On a day where I’m not my best I might engage them but that never ends well. Or maybe you’re the one who is acting as the initiator, sending messages and  maintaining contact with your ex. Opening the door for your ex to communicate with you is never a good idea. I have my theories on why exes come back but this Madame Noire post explains them better than I can. Which brings me to my first point:

Stop Entertaining

Communication is 50 percent what you say and 50 percent what you dont say. In other words, that simple ‘hey, how are you?’ is never that simple. Your ex is an ex for a reason and depending on when you broke up usually no communication is for the best. You might be tempted to reply to that text but think about what it really means. You’ll be waiting by the phone for their reply, reading into the conversation way more than necessary and pretty much allowing this person to rent space in your head.

Distract Yourself

Work and working out are two of my coping mechanisms. When life gets rough I bury myself in work and torture myself with new and creative workouts. Ok maybe the word ‘torture’ isn’t the best descriptor but if my muscles are aching I don’t have time to think about my ex. The time I’ve spent pining over a failed relationship have never brought me anything but a headache. Putting that time to good use on a project or at the gym will always benefit you. Always. I thought I’d never say this but, my mom was right, time really is the best medicine.

Call for Reinforcements

If you’ve put in those extra hours at work, did all you could on the treadmill and you still can’t shake the feeling to call your ex then its time to call for help. Those friends who helped you during your breakup should be on speed dial because a friend who helped you through the break up will not want you to go down that road again. This is not the time to gloss over details or conjure up theories about the hidden meaning of the message he sent. Keep it real with your friends and ask that they do the same for you.

I don’t have all the answers. Writing this post is as therapuetic for me as it is for those of you reading it. What I can say is that usually communicating with my exes came from a place that remembered the good times of our relationship. I won’t lie – I can be a sucker for love. I get to thinking about the good ol days, looking at pictures, listening to some Jill Scott and BAM I’m actually giving the relationship a second chance. It happens to the best of us. What I’ve learned about myself over the years is while I can feel nostalgic for good times with an ex, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was meant to be (Belle touches on this in her book). If you go fishing for reasons to get back together I guarantee you will find at least one that makes sense to you.

The bottom line is this: someone out there is better for you than your ex and keeping in touch with your ex could be keeping you from meeting them. Think about it: how can you get a new living room set if you’re holding on to the old one?

-Nikki B.