talking about Rick Ross, and trying not to hate on this king-sized sack of crab meats 24/7

for 2013, i eschewed my usual policy of making a resolution to do something like “bake all the pies” or “lose all the weight” in order to make some negative resolutions, one of which might actually apply to this website. but recent conversation makes me feel a LITTLE bad about such negativity, so what i have decided to do is be a little positive for a change, and a recent video viewing has given me something to be vaguely positive about: that giant sack of crab meats known professional as “Rick Ross.”

now, i have ripped on Ross many times on this site, despite the fact that i know people that i respect who love him to death and, you know, if i go digging in my milk crates of CDs, i bet i can sadly find a Rick Ross album in there. these things happen! but i am man enough to admit that he’s more infuriating on a personal level rather than a professional level, since, let’s be honest, there is a lot more dishonesty to sell records in the hip-hop industry than just the stuff coming out of Ross, and it’s that dishonesty that makes me object to him. professional, he’s clearly a worker and a furious self-promoter and that’s that. he’s not a lyrical mastermind or anything like that.

so as a tip of my hat to my grandmother, who is not a Rick Ross fan AT ALL, but who likes positivity, here we go with…


Rick Ross' beard

13. occasionally, he actually makes music that doesn’t suck
some things run against this: he’s been very prolific (which is not something in favor of minimizing the shitty music you make) and his strengths clearly run more towards “picking some quality production and collaborators” and not so much “writing some damn lyrics.” that said, if you ARE good at picking production/collaborators and you keep cranking out tunes, you’ll occasionally stumble on some solid material. i happen to think Port Of Miami (this is the Ross album i admittedly own) is overlong and bloated with sub-par material, but i wouldn’t own it if “Push It” and “I’m Bad” weren’t kind of my jams.

12. he rocks a high-quality beard
there’s not much else to say here: the man rocks a beard of impressive size and texture, and i stand impressed with it. in fact, i can probably think of people who are not big rap fans and certainly not big Rick Ross fans who would STILL acknowledge that Ross sports a fairly impressive beard (J.Miles springs to mind). look, we’re not talking about Civil War era beards circa Gods and Generals here, but that’s a bygone era when men sported beards so impressive they were capable of stopping space and time (hence Stonewall Jackson’s impressive run in combat, despite his intense religion-based insanity), and that era isn’t coming back. Rick Ross simply sports a high-end beard meant for our modern times. it might pale a little in comparison to his MMG colleague Stalley’s, but come on, more than one man at a time can have a cool beard.

11. he seems to actually promote artists signed to his label
look, he COULD be fucking them over financially (i consider that very likely). and he CLEARLY assisted in fucking over my boy Pill, although we should admit that Asylum seemed to have something to do with that. but while a lot of artists seem to pull in artists with a buzz and then do nothing with them (i’m looking at you, Young Jeezy, and what you did to my hero Freddie Gibbs, although a LOT of artists seem to do this), it’s also fair to say that Ross really does push his guys: he’s released two MMG compilation albums that gave out some shine, and both Wale and Meek Mill have gotten releases (Meek Mill also being a guy kept on the bench by another notable artist previously). now this may fade out as i think MMG is losing some steam, but i can’t hate on the fact that Ross seems to have legitimately given a fuck about his people.

Rick Ross, enjoying a nice chair
honestly, it’s all for the best that he stays seated all the time: he doesn’t want to exert himself into a three-seizure day, and i don’t really want to see him moving around

10. his predilection for staying seated as much as possible cracks me up
i first noticed this during his video for “MC Hammer,” where Ross dances FURIOUSLY despite being stationed in a chair; granted, it’s lazy as hell to make fat jokes about a fat man who does his dancing while seated, but that’s immediately where my mind went. it was HILARIOUS. and then just the other day, i’m checking out this video for Pusha T’s song “Millions” (which features Rick Ross), and what do i see? Rick Ross dancing while hanging out in a chair. now, it’s a little overshadowed by Pusha T’s insane level of dancing (this video sadly makes me suspect the artist formerly known as Terror might have a coke problem), but it’s still seated dancing. and i love it for its pure shamelessness. and speaking of “Millions”…

09. his solid chemistry with Pusha T…
i don’t like Rick Ross that much, but i love Pusha T, and on the last couple of releases from said Pusha, Fear Of God/Fear Of God II (there’s a reason why i lump these as one release) and Wrath Of Caine, Rick Ross has shown up (cue Pusha’s “EGHCK” ad-lib at the mere thought) and, most shocking of all, featured adequately on probably the best tracks from each: “I Still Wanna” from the former and “Millions” from the latter. now, okay, these songs have solid production (Lee Major and Southside/Kanye West, respectively) and are essentially held down by Pusha T (and, to a less extent, Ab-Liva on the former track), but i cannot deny that Rick Ross showed up, did his thing, and not only did the songs not collapse under the proverbial weight of his awfulness, but they actually turned out well.

08. …as well as with those other aforementioned collaborators
ultimately, i may think Ross is fake as shit and a poor rap artist, but he seems to work with a lot of people i respect, and there has got to be a reason for that. sure, there’s got to be an element of embracing the commercial aspects of a turbo-popular rap artist that even those i consider above reproach are going to find hard to turn down, but still, he’s managed to hang around for a minute now and ever expand the number of artists he’s done SOMETHING with, so i have to consider the possibility there’s a LITTLE more going on there than “well, i guess we can make a couple of extra dollars by throwing this crab meats eating fool on a couple of our records.”

Rick Ross' one true love
this actually qualifies as pornography for Rick Ross

07. as far as i can tell, he’s yet to sing on any of his releases
which matters to me because, damn it, if there’s one thing i DON’T want from rap artists, it’s awful attempts to sing. i don’t care if you can sing a little or if you’re trying to pull off some bullshit about how this is an emotional topic and thus you feel compelled to sing and blah blah blah, i don’t want to hear that nonsense. period. now, it’s never going to be enough to turn me off from some artist i really do like, but it’s definitely a deal-breaker for artists that don’t mean shit to me (i’m looking at you, French Montana, as you are goddamn terrible in every respect). but as far as i can tell –and please, someone, prove me wrong– Ross has never sung on any of his songs (or on anyone else’s song). and i give credit where credit is due.

06. the whole “crab meats” thing
search Google for “crab meats” and you’ll see Rick Ross results immediately; you might need to run with “crab meats” in quotes, but either way, i think you get Rick Ross results very quickly. the joke: Rick Ross dropped the line “used to run the street, young nigga bare feet/now i’m in the suites and i’m eatin’ crab meats” in his song “Mafia Music,” and his use of the phrase “crab meats” has become an ongoing way to generically mock the man… and it never, ever gets old. well, at least it never gets old as far as i am concerned, and isn’t that what really matters?

05. he clearly has a work ethic
there’s a few artists who i don’t really love that much (if at all) but whom i have to respect for the fact that they get in the studio and produce: Tupac probably pioneered this concept, as i was never a huge Pac fan, but remain staggered by the amount of posthumous records he made possible by grinding out tracks; Lil’ Wayne (who i don’t care for) was once much the same, and i think it’s fair to throw Curren$y (who i am mixed in opinion on) on that list, given his steady stream of releases. Ross isn’t necessarily as prolific as those guys, but since the time Port Of Miami dropped in 2006 until 2012, the man’s put out 5 albums, 2 compilation albums for his label, a fistful of mixtapes, and countless gust appearances. i don’t have to like much of that output to admit that the guy at least puts in the hours at his job. there are a lot of big stars who feel less motivated.

Rick Ross, shirtless
some things, you just can’t unsee

04. any man who loves Scarface this much can’t be ALL bad
granted, it’s not like a love of Scarface is anything unique to Rick Ross, and as a Miami-based artist, i figure it’s to be expected. but come on, there’s a reason why everyone loves Scarface: it’s fucking AWESOME. and ultimately, our shared love of this classic movie is probably some common ground for Rick Ross and i to share without anyone getting hostile. and Rick Ross clearly loves it: he sampled it and its soundtrack for various purposes on his first two albums, and i have to presume his tales of being a cocaine kingpin are less “shit i did in the streets” and more “shit i saw Al Pacino do in the movies.” but maybe that’s just me being negative?

03. his total embrace of his awful, awful physique
granted, i really, really wish he would keep a shirt on at all times, but i have long felt that way about many artists who have better physiques than Rick Ross. the thing is, though, i think even HE knows he’s fat and disgusting and he just doesn’t give a shit about feeling bad about it. i would never, ever want to compare Ross to the Notorious B.I.G. (a man who could, you know, really rap), but they do have a similar embrace of embodying the dynamic that led Biggie to declare himself “heartthrob never, black and ugly as ever.” this is an embrace i can respect.

02. the release of Gunplay onto the world
internet dudes seem to currently love Gunplay as much as they once loved the Clipse back in the day when their brand of coke rap had the internet going nuts, and since we’re here on the internet… seriously, though, just for “Bible On The Dash,” i can’t hate on Gunplay. and even though i sort of suspect Ross was secretly trying to slide his little MMG group Triple C’s aside in favor of all these higher-profile artists he’s subsequently signed, he’s still allowed this ridiculous maniac to prosper and make records. and for that, i give him credit. i do note that i consider this different than actually promoting artists like Meek Mill and Wale because while those are the kinds of guys who had a buzz and could thus have been shelved or pushed, i can’t remember ANYONE giving a fuck about Gunplay before Ross gave him a push.

William Leonard Roberts II
like i said, absolutely SHAMELESS

01. his absolutely SHAMELESS state of denial
so, long story short, Rick Ross once worked as a correctional officer, and while many (if not all) rap artists exaggerate (if not completely fictionalize) their backgrounds/criminal histories, claiming to be a multimillionaire drug kingpin while ACTUALLY have worked as a correctional officer is an incredible contradiction. and accordingly, Ross has been attacked by rivals and media for this … only to completely deny it for some time, before moving on to a more current “it was my legit job while drug dealing/break from the hustle” claims.

now, first i found this infuriating because of the lies involved, and THEN i found this infuriating because, hell, we all know rappers are storytellers and none of them are drug kingpins, so let’s just admit it. but now? i am just stunned that he blew this off and none of his fans seemed to mind. not one person i know stopped listening to Ross or buying his records as a result, and i cannot think of any artists who stopped working with him. and all i can say about this now? “damn, well-played.”

and there we go! now i shall go back to hating on Rick Ross as per the normal state of affairs.

Big Boi > André 3000; nothing more really needs to be said

once upon a time, there was this rap group –well, i guess they’re really just a duo, but for some reason, people always call them a group– called Outkast, and it contained these two rapping dudes: “Atlanta native André “André 3000” Benjamin (formerly known as Dré) and Savannah, Georgia-born Antwan “Big Boi” Patton,” if we go with Wikipedia’s description. anyway, you know, they became hugely successful and sold all these millions of records and everyone loves them. and i am okay with that; we’re not going to veer into some kind of weird “tear down the memories of Outkast you once held dear” territory or anything like that. what i am not okay with is something else: the commonly-held notion that Andre 3000 (i am not going to be using those accent marks from here on out) is somehow light years more advanced and important than Big Boi.

i think this highlights the juxtaposition fairly clearly

now, let’s be clear: Andre 3000 is good at rapping and he has a cool, futuristic stage name. i am not going to argue that he SUCKS. for some reason, though, everyone seems to visualize the group as if Andre 3000 is a once-in-a-lifetime talent who outshines his partner at every time and in every way. this i strongly object to, and have decided to argue against in the form of a listicle, fittingly entitled:

(sorry, i kind of messed up on the usual listicle M.O. here, so you’ll have to forgive me)

Erykah Badu
warning: this woman WILL destroy your favorite rapper’s ability to focus on making solid rap music for years to come

getting involved with Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu must have something going for her: she can clearly sing, she can clearly lure rappers of respectable talents (Andre 3000, Common, and saddest of all, the D.O.C.) into her web, and the internet tells me she’s known as “the Queen of Neo Soul,” which surely is the kind of title you have to EARN. the catch is this: once she lures you in, you get looping and start making shitty music; the prime example of this remains Common’s Electric Circus fiasco. now, Andre 3000 was probably always a bit of an oddball, but when he started messing around with Badu, i knew deep down that we’d have to prepare ourselves to lose his rapping forever.

changing his rap sobriquet to Andre 3000
it’s been awhile since this happened, so Wikipedia had to remind me, but man, does it really annoy me to remember it. let me just run with a quote from Wikipedia: “Outkast’s fourth album, Stankonia, introduced Benjamin’s new alias André 3000 (largely to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre).” okay, first off, his ACTUAL NAME is Andre, so people are going to call him Dre, and adding 3000 to your name is not going to stop that. second, by the time Stankonia came out, Outkast already had a pair of PLATINUM albums. people knew who Dr. Dre was versus who Dre from Outkast was, so this “to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre” stuff is just lame. now, ultimately, this may just be internet foolishness and have nothing to do with Andre, but fuck it, i am holding it against him.

actually, forget what i said before: i think THIS highlights the juxtaposition fairly clearly

the whole Speakerboxxx/The Love Below thing
basically, whenever Outkast does something ridiculous (“let’s make a double album that seems like it’s a solo album from each of us that thus make people believe we’re breaking up the group”), i blame Andre for it. that’s the deal: he’s the crazy, flashy one, and Big Boi is the other guy. so when they did this and it became a huge debate about if/when Outkast was breaking up, i became annoyed and i hold it against Andre to this day. plus, i’m not actually convinced that Andre has the better half of this double album; as far as i am concerned, “the Rooster” is better than anything on Andre’s disc. finally, the way it comes off is Andre’s high-concept musical experimentation versus Big Boi’s Southern hip-hop sensibilities, and you know what? i side with hip-hop on this point.

the whole Idlewild thing
remember when i told you that if Outkast did something ridiculous, i’d blame Andre 3000 for it? here we go again, because this Idlewild fiasco qualifies. i don’t know a single person that recalls this fondly, and it took Outkast from their diamond-selling prior effort (which, being a double album, was sort of cheating) to a mere platinum release. now, okay, in this day and age, that’s phenomenal success and never was really something to sneer at. except… i kind of suspect a lot of people bought this on the strength of being serious Outkast fans before realizing what they’d done. i don’t know, maybe i am just being overly negative about this?

Sir Lucious Left Foot
it was at this point when i realized we might be freed from the tyranny of Andre 3000’s dominance; THANK YOU, BIG BOI

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
i know, i know: it SOUNDS like some horrible mistake visited upon the word by Andre 3000, but it’s actually Big Boi’s first solo album… and it’s actually really good. Big Boi’s rapping like a machine and hanging out with a weird assortment of rappers and singers (which i suppose is to be expected from a rapper who declares his favorite artist to be Kate Bush), and it all works, and yet, i am sure if Andre 3000 was attempting to do the same thing, it would be driving me crazy. but then he’s on hiatus at this time and Big Boi’s out there giving a damn, and basically, what occurred to me was this: we don’t need Andre 3000 to get an excellent album out of Outkast. at least, at this point, i don’t THINK we do…

collaborating with all these damn singers and not making Outkast albums
so, on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Andre 3000 has no guest appearances, despite that being the kind of thing you’d expect the other half of a rap duo to do on his partner’s album… but he did PRODUCE one track, which just makes the whole thing weirder. and yet, he started popping up and throwing verses on people’s songs, teasing us with the prospect of rapping again. this wouldn’t be SO bad… but when you have time to appear on songs by Ciara, Ke$ha, Beyoncé, Chris Brown and Lloyd, to name a few (and i think it’s Ke$ha that really hurts) and you don’t have time to appear on your partner’s album, that’s pretty fucked up.

Andre who? Big Boi may just have all the ridiculousness covered on his own

Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
so Big Boi went out and released ANOTHER rap album where he’s still rapping like a machine and collaborating with all kinds of weird indie pop and rock groups like Phantogram and Little Dragon, all while Andre 3000 is sitting at home doing nothing but pissing me off… and this one is good as well. and i think that’s what did it: you could presume the first solo album was a fluke (it happens), but two of them? Big Boi must actually be onto something here, and it’s clearly something that does not require Andre 3000 to work.

now, the thing is, shortly after all this, i find myself listening to T.I.’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head album (short review: it’s of uneven quality), and all of a sudden, Andre 3000 appears and raps for two minutes straight on “Sorry,” completely killing it, and it leaves me thinking the obvious: goddamn, Andre 3000, THIS is why you’re so fucking infuriating. just make another goddamn Outkast album already!

really, it’s sad because the whole thing mirrors an abusive relationship: Andre 3000 keeps jerking us around, and yet we’re so into him, whereas Big Boi is the nice, stable guy that we’re just not attracted to on the same emotional level. okay, this just got too weird. we should maybe wrap it up for now.

“Harlem Shake? shaking to bake, shaking the jakes; kill you, shoot the funeral up and Harlem Shake at your wake”

you know, i listen to a lot of different kinds of music –except jazz; i just can’t get into jazz– but as we all know, my primary musical tastes generally return to hip-hop no matter how many folk rock or soul records i listen to; even Dean Martin is no match for it. but most ridiculous of all, despite the fact that my favorites of the genre are pretty well known (i believe this website has a tag just for articles even loosely connected to Ghostface Killah and i believe my house features a swearing doll version of the man), there is one particular song that i consistently return to as my all-time favorite: Cam’ron’s “Down And Out.”

very quickly: no, i am not really a Cam’ron fan; yes, it’s produced by Kanye West (in his pre-turbo-fame, sped-up soul sample days); no, J.Millz doesn’t want to see me posting about rap music; yes, i am doing it anyway. and that is why this week’s update shall cover…


a couple of quick notes:
–i assure you that i have gotten into legitimate heated debates about the excellence of this song (case in point, quoting this update: “i have, on occasion, been on the phone with someone, heard this song come on, declared this song to be the greatest rap song OF ALL TIME, and then, when they loudly protested, turned the stereo up and jammed the phone against the speaker”), but i will say this: it’s my favorite song. i’m not arguing it’s the Best Song Ever, or the best rap song ever, or the best lyrics or production or anything else. JUST THAT I LOVE IT SO MUCH THAT IT HURTS;
–i have never watched the video for this song before, which sounds weird when you consider that i have listened to this song at least 13000 times, but i guess i’m just not a big video guy? i accept that explanation;
–apologies in advance for the sizing on the images. it’s just the way things worked out, but yeah, it IS annoying, isn’t it?

now here we go!

Down And Out

00:01: let’s be clear: whatever Cam’ron’s other failings are –and they are numerous, starting with the regrettable cover for Confessions Of Fire— he excels at just being ridiculous. he furiously rocked the color pink, he made the movie Killa Season, and he totally steals Paid In Full away from better actors by doing less “acting” and more “being Cam’ron.” so it is no surprise that when i see this video kick off with some beauty shop worker turning on a little shitty television version of Cam’ron, i think two things: first, “what the fuck is this?” second, “oh, right, Cam’ron at work.”

00:14: i kind of miss this era of Kanye. you know, where he’s not a star and he’s surrounded by all these rappers who are the stars (and in most cases can still out-rap him). don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely progressed as a rapper and he makes better music now than he did back then; i still love all of his albums (well, love might be too strong a word for 808s & Heartbreak, but the rest of the albums remain stellar), but i freely admit that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best of all his work. ultimately, though, i still miss exuberant youthful Kanye. call me nostalgic.

Down And Out

00:37: don’t get it twisted: Cam’ron is the king of the smug facial expression. it’s not QUITE at the level of the spammed-all-over-the-internet “you mad?” image, but in a pinch, this will do. it’s almost like he’s fully aware of how ridiculous (in a good way) the whole “drinking sake on a Suzuki/we in Osaka Bay” scenario is.

00:58: thinking back to the days when Bill Cosby lost his goddamn mind (to the extent that Bill Cosby can lose it) simply because his son saw a raunchy Eddie Murphy show wherein Eddie used PROFANITY, i cannot imagine how mad Cam’ron’s “i feel like Bill Cosby, pouring in the pudding” would make him. luckily, though, i imagine that rap music is one of those newfangled things that Bill Cosby doesn’t really understand, if he even knows that it exists at all. i’ve had my grandmother ask for an explanation of hip-hop and be COMPLETELY befuddled by the concept, so i figure Bill Cosby is sort of like that.

Down And Out

01:13: fundamentally, i don’t really like it when the rappers who aren’t tough act like tough guys (yes, yes, i know rap music involves complicated and awkward discussions of “realness” and the like), so i love that we leap immediately from Cam’ron’s drug-dealing-and-violence-committing scrapyard posturing to circa-2004 Kanye bouncing around in that beauty shop in a goofy t-shirt. now THAT is what i call “juxtaposition.” i’m not going to comment on how these ladies seem completely unimpressed, because that might sound a little mean.

01:23: yeah, yeah, the “their coochie the juicest” part of the chorus is pretty terrible. it’s the single greatest strike against an otherwise stellar song. seriously, it boggles the mind that someone intentionally wrote that lyric as part of a song, even a part as mindless as a chorus. but let’s move on!

Down And Out

01:38: a considerate Cam’ron begins to pantomime the specific steps his ladies need to take, and that’s helpful in theory, but i think “open vagina” is a pretty straightforward command. if you’re having trouble working out what Cam’ron needs you to do, you may have bigger problems in your life than merely being one of Cam’ron’s motorcycle-riding jump-offs. cut to a picture of Cam’ron riding on a motorcycle BEHIND his lady, and the contrast of “spitting hyper-explicit lyrical sex instructions” and “riding what is traditionally termed ‘bitch’ on a motorcycle” completely blows my mind.

01:44: simply the high point of the song for me: “you got pets? me too: mine are dead/fox, minks, gators, that’s necessary/accessories, my closet’s a pet cemetery/i get approached by animal activists/i live in a zoo/i run scandals with savages.” and this is where i stand up and begin to slowly, slowly clap because i just love this track SO GODDAMN MUCH.

02:05: so this is the part where Cam’ron lists off his war-making equipment: old Timbs, battered boots, hand grenade, goggles, a parachute. the best thing about this list? that while there is somewhat generic gun talk during this song, this list gives us the mental image of Cam’ron prioritizing goggles and parachutes above any kind of firearm. true, he IS packing a hand grenade, but this is not typically the sole armament you’d want to bring to a gunfight, and it’s certainly a far cry from the typically stuff rappers lovingly describe (presuming they’re gun-loving rappers, of course; not EVERYONE is).

Down And Out

02:22: for the record, Kanye West is CLEARLY better suited to hanging out in this beauty shop than mean-mugging in that scrapyard with Cam’ron. CLEARLY. so what do you say we just leave him right where he is, guys? the ladies are clearly starting to warm up to him… and whoa, here’s Damon Dash! so, yeah, Damon Dash: i get that Cam’ron was his little buddy, but at this point in time, does anyone ever look back at see Dash in his heyday and NOT think, “you know, in retrospect, Damon Dash looks like a douchebag?” i admit this is heavily based on after-the-fact knowledge of how Damon Dash grew up to be a failure –he WAS considered cool and successful at the time– but still. and he really, really looks like he’s TRYING to appear foolish here.

02:45: at this point, something cruel happens, for while there is no indication such a thing is going to happen –the video is exclusive titled as that for “Down And Out,” suddenly everything switches over to “Get ‘Em Daddy.” now, i know this was the b-side to the single for “Down And Out” and promotion is promotion, but i do not think i am going to like this, even if Cam’ron starts it off with his traditional ridiculousness. i’ve already sighted Juelz Santana, and if there’s two things i do not like, they’re Juelz Santana and Juelz Santana. also, something something bandana.

...Get 'Em Daddy?

03:00: fifteen seconds in, and i am already remembering that i don’t really care much for “Get ‘Em Daddy.” and look at all that damn Santana!

03:41: and man, is that “get ’em, daddy” sample annoying! see, this is what happens when you trade in classic Kanye West production for whoever the fuck this I.N.F.O. character is. i scanned a list of his production credits and while i cannot swear i have really, truly listened to everything on it, it remains, in my opinion, a distinctly unimpressive list. and frankly, i expect much better from Cam’ron. “Down And Out” has truly ruined me for the rest of his music.

all in all, it was good times until that surprise twist. oh, and speaking of a swearing doll version of Ghostface Killah…

and if you were concerned that an actual Ghostface doll WOULDN’T pose the question “remember when i long-dicked you and broke your ovary?” … well, don’t worry, it absolutely does.

Django Unchained: in which Jamie Foxx apparently DOES kill all the white people

so our hero managed to overcome his annoying bout with influenza and the subsequent coughing and sad tiredness and make it to the cinema to catch a screening of Django Unchained. this viewing actually violated several of my movie-going positions, including “only go to the movies as early as possible in the day” and “only go to the movies when there is a minimal amount of people there,” but i deemed it necessary. occasionally i like to vote with my dollars in favor of certain films and filmmakers, and oddly enough, Tarantino makes that list. so away i went! and then, once there, i acquired a series of observations and opinions that i shall share with you now!

13 of janklow’s observations about Django Unchained

Django Unchained
if nothing else, it has a solid poster, despite my efforts to crop it into submission here

01. the main thing this movie reminded me of? that Chappelle Show episode where Dave Chappelle is talking about skits that didn’t work; one of them was a variation of their “Haters’ Ball” sketch, and features the characters traveling through time, hating on things, until they reach the “good old days” of slavery. Chappelle describes a moment where he (in character) shoots a slave master dead as “stopping the show cold,” and goes on to opine that, apparently no one but he and show co-creator Neal Brennan finds shooting a slave master funny, but that he would do it every episode if he could. and i said the same thing then that i did when i was watching Django and thinking about people’s negative reactions: who doesn’t find shooting slave masters funny?

02. so as always, Christoph Waltz kills his supporting role, which makes me wonder: how much does it suck for other actors in Tarantino movies to know Waltz is in the picture as well? between this and Inglourious Basterds (which won him four awards, including an Oscar), you have to figure that if you’re another supporting actor, you’re definitely getting overshadowed and beaten for any award nominations, so i guess you have to fall back on enjoying your paycheck and hoping Waltz is a fun guy on set.

03. the thing about Tarantino movies is that they really, really make it hard to care about tiny inaccuracies or things that are otherwise weird: patterning Django’s crazy blue velvet outfit after Gainsborough’s painting The Blue Boy is awesomely ridiculous, and even if it’s more accurate (or possible, anyway) than all the sunglasses and derringers shooting out of sleeves Taxi Driver style, they’re both part of the crazy Tarantino atmosphere that makes me just plain not care. it reminds me of Inglourious Basterds killing Hitler: i really, really SHOULD care because what kind of WWII movie does that… but then it’s a Tarantino movie and i couldn’t care less. these things happen.

04. Django likes the way M.C. Gainey dies? well, he should, because M.C. Gainey is a solid character actor who’s in a ton of stuff, and he’s usually in some kind of racist or corrupt role that could probably benefit from a good killing. and those of us who caught season one of Justified know he dies well in projects that also feature Walton Goggins.

Walton Goggins Unchained
Walton Goggins: king of the racist Southerner supporting role

05. i seem to remember some critics bashing the regulators sequence (you know, the hooded mob led by Don Johnson’s character, Big Daddy) as being overlong and unfunny, and maybe in retrospect i exaggerate that position… but man, does that seem completely wrong. it totally killed in the theater and the pacing seemed excellent to me, so either i’m wrong about the level of bashing (i remember at least some low-grade bitching) or critics saw some other edit, because i think it worked 100%. and while i’m at it, the funniest line in the film? when a slave asks Big Daddy, “you want me to treat [Django] like he’s white?” and Johnson answers with a flat “no.”

06. so while they’re taking this slow ride to the Candyland plantation (we’ll just let that name be what it is), we get treated to a revenge-themed snippet of a Rick Ross song. now, to be upfront about it, the use of modern music in a period piece doesn’t bother me; i recall in the past being totally supportive of Tarantino rocking “Cat People” during a WWII-era movie. and the Rick Ross song sounds good in this circumstance. what it ACTUALLY reminded me was how frustrating Rick Ross is: he’s a huge, fake, self-important blowhard who seems 100% unlikeable… and yet, every 20th song or so, he makes something i really enjoy, like his understated verse on Pusha T’s “I Still Wanna” or that “Accident Murderers” verse he had for Nas. and now this Tarantino soundtrack appearance!

07. okay, full disclosure: whenever i spot Tom Savini in a movie, it doesn’t really matter what the movie is or what role he’s playing, i get all surprised and excited. “is that Tom Savini torturing that slave with dogs?!” it probably helps that he a) wasn’t a cameo that was ruined for me and b) always plays something crazy and ridiculous, like a saber-waving bikers or a guy rocking some kind of gun for a penis.

08. talking about this movie before i saw it, it came up that Walton Goggins is playing what he is the king of: sassy Southern racists. between this plantation overseer/goon role in Django, the Shield (set in LA, but Goggins’ character is from Georgia, as i recall), Justified (okay, he’s not really racist there, but he still sports racist tattoos and seemed that way for the first season), Predators (racist and PROBABLY a Southerner) and that shitty, shitty Miracle at Saint Anna movie (which i always call Miracle at Santa Anna), we could not think of any role where Goggins is NOT some racist Southerner. as in, literally, we tried without looking up his filmography (because then it becomes “let’s see which Walton Goggins movies we’ve seen), and the only thing i could remember was when he played a transsexual prostitute on Sons on Anarchy. he featured giant fake breasts and assless pants, but at least he wasn’t racist! that we could tell, anyway.

Quentin Tarantino Unchained
prepare yourselves for the greatest Australian accent OF ALL TIME

09. so i’ll just say it: i don’t think Tarantino’s Australian accent was that bad. was it great? no, but this was a director’s cameo, not a major role. and come on, we all KNOW he’s not actually from Australia. it was weird –i really don’t understand why all those dudes were Australian out of fucking nowhere like that– but not deserving of all the outrage it’s gotten on the internet. and actually, speaking of things that Tarantino does that make people go CRAZY…

10. where were all the shots of ladies’ feet? seriously, i was told before that there were none, and yet that there WERE enough ladies to see some feet at SOME point. my only other theory was “maybe Kerry Washington has gross feet,” but she appears to have appropriately attractive feet, so there goes that one. did i watch this entire film looking for shots of feet? i did, and there were MAYBE a couple of shots, albeit of men’s feet, that might have qualified, but that seems forced. maybe Tarantino knows we’re mocking him and held back? maybe it was always a weird editor of his (after all, this is the first non-Sally Menke film of his) that was running wild with the foot stuff? although he did admit to having a foot fetish and casting Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn due to that… well, the world may never know.

11. serious topic warning: despite the fact that this film stars Jamie Foxx shooting up things so soon after his “demand a plan” anti-gun bullshit ad, i really, REALLY didn’t want anything like that to color my opinion of the film… but i have to admit that when Django is having his major shoot-out in the Candyland plantation, i was thinking, “boy, this seems like EXACTLY the kind of situation where Jamie Foxx should see the benefit of high-capacity magazines!”

12. serious topic warning redux: so i guess the Big Deal about this film was the racial language, which i will describe here as the generous use of the n-word, even if dancing around the word disappoints Samuel L. Jackson, and to be honest… i have no idea what the big deal was. you know what’s weird to me? Tarantino casting himself as a character in Pulp Fiction who drops said n-word freely in dialogue. THAT was disconcerting, if only because you’re sitting there saying, “well, this is weird.” but in a movie set in Tennessee and Texas and Mississippi during the 1850s? filled with slave trading and slave owning characters? it didn’t seem crazy. ultimately, this is probably something where everyone, both those defending and those attacking Tarantino, are just excessively worked up about it; i know i dismiss Spike Lee as a general rule and in this specific case, i do it on the grounds of “someone sounds JEALOUS…”

Leonardo DiCaprio Unchained
clearly DiCaprio is embracing that phase of his career where you just do crazy nonsense and refuse to care what others think

13. ranking this movie with the rest of Tarantino’s work? well, it’s hard: i like everything he’s done (yes, even Jackie Brown), but his pre-Kill Bill work and post-Kill Bill work just seem very different to me in some respect. i think Inglourious Basterds was better, but this was probably better than Kill Bill (at the very least, it’s less indulgent in some ways) and probably tops his early stuff just because it achieves more. and it’s better than Death Proof, even if it doesn’t end with the combination of Rosario Dawson beating someone to death/the dulcet sounds of “Chick Habit.”

ultimately, between Django Unchained and, in the past few years, films like True Grit and No Country For Old Men (which i am calling a Western no matter what you think about it), it seems to me we shouldn’t be spending a lot of time bemoaning the death of the Western. granted, we’re not going back to the phase where dozens and dozens of Westerns were cranked out successfully, but in retrospect, a ton of those movies also sucked, and frankly, so do a ton of whatever kind of movie is popular at any given time. i just want a periodic awesome Western and i’ll be satisfied.

well, i’d be more satisfied if someone could give me a great adaptation of Blood Meridian, but since that’ll never happen…