“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…

13 OBSERVATIONS FROM JANKLOW UPON VIEWING CAM’RON’S VIDEO FOR “DOWN AND OUT”

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.

when the drama starts, there’s simply no time to worry about socks

so most of the time, i legitimately try to make these updates entertaining (really) and so i actually, believe it or not, make some effort to make them about news events or hilarious topics (mostly involving bears) about which i can rant and make jokes. and i’d like to think it works. and then sometimes i get the compulsion to post something i can get really worked up about for no reason (like, say, Ghostface Killah’s video for “Cherchez La Ghost”), after which i maybe get some angry correction regarding my transgression, and then i resolve to walk the straight and narrow from then on.

but sometimes… i’ve just had such a week that i think “who gives a fuck, no one is reading this, talk about whatever nonsense you want, why not?” and that’s the kind of week that gives us updates like this. also, you can thank the randomness of my record-playing MP3-machine this morning if you need something more specific to blame.

janklow’s list of 13 observations based on Ghostface Killah’s verse on “the Hilton”

i suppose i should embed said song here so that everyone can truly appreciate these observations (and one of the most awkward album covers of all time).

i love this song, it’s solid, and it’s ridiculous, and that’s pretty much what should be carved into Ghostface’s tombstone (that or something about “remember how i long-dicked you and broke your ovary” or whatever he was talking about there). so i wanted to take a minute and deconstruct in 13 ways why i love this song so much. or, uh, Ghostface’s half of the song.

Ghostface Killah and ... some ladies
this picture is from an entirely unrelated trip Ghostface took to the Hilton. we can talk about that next time

01. line 2: “heard Nia Long is in the building”
so this is just a random observation that Ghostface throws out to describe the fact that he and Raekwon are staying in the Hilton (for nefarious business purposes, one can only assume), and i like it for two reasons: one, it’s a great little way to reference the fact that they’re in the presence of society-acceptable rich, beautiful people, and two, one guy who i know HATES these kinds of updates is a pretty solid fan of Nia Long (or at least her physique). and three, i love irony!

02. line 6: “what i do? duck!”
the line, as written, isn’t bedazzling, so you have to consider the delivery: Ghostface poses the question of what to do in the face of an armed assailant, and his response is to sing “duck” in a ridiculous falsetto (well, maybe not THAT extreme, but it’s not his speaking voice). the “oh shit” nature of the confrontation is entirely escalated at this point. this is what we call delivery, people. take some notes.

03. lines 7-8: “Rae up in the shower, singing/son don’t know that it’s real”
on the surface, just an observation to paint the picture. but what’s unspoken here is that once, Raekwon was the man and Ghostface was the guy “introduced” (never mind them being peers in the same rap collective) on Raekwon’s album … and now Ghostface is the man handling the life-or-death situation while Raekwon is singing (probably incredibly poorly) to himself in the shower all the while, oblivious to the drama. no hate on Rae, i just don’t think he’s known for his singing voice.

04. line 10: “in a tight jam, red down, matching like Santa”
i suppose you could take this description to mean either guy, but since the gunman facing down Ghostface is presumably dressed like room service would be, this seems to be Ghost’s way of letting us know he’s matching red down with his later-to-be-mentioned “white leather.” the fact that he compares his look to that of “Santa” is both accurate and the kind of ridiculous thing that Ghostface would remark about himself (i also particularly like “robes made from suede and knitted by virgins,” myself).

Ghostface Killah and Flavor Flav
because sometimes you just need to be matching like Santa. and, apparently, keeping Flavor Flav in line (truly a job for Ghostface if there ever was one)

05. line 12: “he bust two shots, i played mice”
one thing about rappers is that they have an intense desire to project machismo all the time; this is why artists don’t, for whatever reason, stand out. now, here we have Ghostface on the run from the assailant’s shots, a perfectly logical move … and he’s man enough to compare his shameless flight from the path of those bullets to frenzied escape of mice. and this is just another part of why Ghost is a championship-caliber rapper: sometimes the most apt phrase doesn’t make you look good.

06. line 13: “ran to the spot where the sun was at, quickly he was blinded by the ice”
one, it’s a clever turn on the whole ‘blinded by the light’ thing; two, if you’re going to brag about the amount of jewels you’re wearing (and yes, i know he already mentioned it), then THIS is the way that you do it: “i’m wearing so many diamonds that light reflecting off them disables even the most motivated of gun-toting henchmen!” only, you know, you do it in a song and not awkwardly like that. also, it helps if you’re a lot cooler than, say, i am.

07. lines 14-15 “that’s when Rae ran out of the back/towel on, soap on his arms, spun duke around, fell on my lap”
what’s nice here is the combination of “Raekwon runs out of the shower, still oblivious to the situation, and ridiculously clad in a towel and a spattering of random soap” and, the way i take it, “Raekwon then abruptly shoots the fuck out of this assailant” … and “then half-dressed Raekwon falls theatrically onto Ghostface.” we get a little slapstick with our action. anyway, maybe Ghostface did all the killing during that blinding sequence and i’ve misread the whole situation, but i think it works either way.

08. lines 17-18: “nah, his blood fucked my white leather up/ten Gs down the drain”
again, when you brag about the money you’ve spent on the clothes you’re wearing (something common to those in the rap industry, we must admit), this the way you do it: “i’ve lost five figures worth of clothes thanks to the timely dispatching of the assailant that i disabled with my many bedazzling jewels just moments before!” but again, i recommend you word it in a manner that makes you sound more like a man.

09. lines 24-25: “Rae ran hysterically, slipped on soap/landed on his back with his gat, now that’s dope”
for one thing, this is what i base my assumption that Raekwon did the shooting of the assailant on, since he’s got his gun and he’s not even dressed, although maybe he just grabbed it. and here we have Ghostface once again emasculating Rae for the sake of the imagery: Rae runs “hysterically,” which is not what you’d expect of a Wu-Gambino; he goes skidding out of control “on soap,” which you’d thought a half-dressed guy fresh from the shower MIGHT have seen coming; and he theatrically slams into the ground like a comedy character (but still manages to hold on to his gun, which IS dope). poor Raekwon.

Ghostface Killah and Raekwon
…and now they’re BOTH matching like Santa

10. line 30: “fuck your socks”
seriously, here’s the deal: if myself and a crime partner are trying to get the fuck out of Dodge after killing a man sent to kill us (which Raekwon will explore in the second verse, but whatever, THIS UPDATE IS NOT ABOUT RAEKWON), then i don’t care if you can’t find your socks before it’s time to leave. we have to get out of here! FUCK YOUR SOCKS. anyway, the man says it better than i could. i’d probably stammer out something shrill about “your socks not being essential.”

11. lines 30-31: “that’s when we heard the door knock/’everything all right?’ ‘partying, sir, balloons popped.’
this, if you could not tell, is Ghostface’s cover story for the actual hotel personnel who’ve come by to check on him. for one thing, that Hilton has AMAZING service. for another, you can’t really be too invested in finding out what’s going on in that room if you settle for “balloons popped” as an explanation for sounds that seem suspiciously like shots being fired and Raekwon (aka The Chef) crashing to the ground while damp and not fully dressed. but then again, i wouldn’t question Ghostface either.

12. line 36: “‘what you want, sweetie?’ ‘lima beans and kidney'”
so at some point during their escape, Ghostface takes a call from his wiz (or wifey or whatever term you prefer, as we all have various regional dilects and slang), which he calmly answers with what he’d like to eat later (Ghost being a man of discriminating tastes and all) before, i suppose, abruptly hanging up his phone on her and proceeding with the escape. is there a better way to indicate what a cool customer you are under pressure? doubtful. wives are very stressful.

13. line 40: “praying that we make it out the ‘telly untouched”
and even after handling such a dramatic situation with aplomb (and success), Ghostface is a realist: who knows what shall await them when they make their way out of the room, down the hall, and so on and so forth? (i also enjoy his use of the term ‘telly’ as an abbreviation for ‘hotel’.) i have a feeling, though, that it’ll all work out. you can’t keep a man like Tony Starks down.

so i hope you enjoyed that, but to be perfectly honest… i sort of don’t really care. that much should have been obvious, i guess. so it goes.

“they’ll love you one second, and hate you the next, oh, ain’t it crazy?”

so today i got a review of some past updates that went along the lines of “solid updates, outside of the string of hip-hop related ones.” so of course, the first thing i thought was, “time for another hip-hop themed update!” actually, in fairness, i tried to feel out some of the people who might – and i emphasize MIGHT – actually read the site to see if they thought this update would be a good idea. to a man (or woman), they did not. so i spent some time kicking some additional ideas around, but ultimately my inertia won out. so here we go.

recently i saw a ridiculous video i had not seen for some time, and had many reactions to it: some that exist whether or not you’re hearing this song at all, and some of which are strictly video-related. so without further ado:

janklow’s list of 13 observations based on Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez La Ghost” video

i suppose i should embed said video here so that everyone can truly appreciate these observations.

13. no one can get the name of this song correct
i have always understood it to be “Cherchez La Ghost,” as it’s supposed to be (for whatever reason) a play on the song title “Cherchez La Femme.” however, everyone in creation, as you can see from the title of the above video, seems to call it “Cher Chez La Ghost,” which doesn’t make much sense … especially when i would think true Ghostface fans would have bought Supreme Clientele. and Wikipedia doesn’t help matters by calling it “Cherchez LaGhost” … which is doubly weird when you consider that the Wiki article mentions the damn “Cherchez La Femme” thing.

12. the ridiculous singing really makes this song
so here’s the thing: i’m not a huge fan of the “rappers plus some R&B singer” mash-up. either the song they produce is some nonsense for the ladies, or it’s just a goddamn mess. now, Ghostface DID pull it off quite well with “All That I Got Is You” (a serious classic), but that whole “Ghostdini: the Wizard Of Poetry In Emerald City” album, despite being an interesting idea and having the BEST title, was not something i want to listen to again. except maybe for that “Guest House” song with Fabolous, which i don’t think actually had any R&B singing … which is weird for that album.

this crazy-ass singing, however, is totally different by virtue of being insane (see also the insufferable singing on “the Watch,” which i would ABHOR were i not blown away by its insanity), and kicks into an even more ridiculous zone with the “tell ’em, girl/Ghostface, Ghostface” chant-type part later in the song. which is why it works.

Ghostface awakens, rested
attractive? perhaps. restful? doubtful

11. i remain impressed that Ghostface can get any rest with a bed filled with so many women
sure, he’s undoubtedly exhausted from having sexually pleasured them all (even if they can’t freak him because he’s just too nasty), but it can’t be comfortable to try and sleep in a bed littered with randomly-arranged “model dimes.” granted, this is not a problem i find myself commonly confronting, so maybe there’s some trick to it that i’m not aware of?

10. why the fuck is U-God at this party?
seriously. it’s U-God. he’s terrible. okay, he’s not Cappadonna terrible and i guess he’s one of Ghost’s boys from Staten Island, and to be perfectly rude about it, if there was ONE guy from Wu-Tang (and we’re not including Cappadonna) who might need a little help getting some ladies, and Ghostface was going to do him a solid and invite him to his party filled with (attractive) freaks, it might just be U-God. so to be honest, this does make some sense. however…

09. why the fuck is U-God featured on this song?
because he is TERRIBLE. U-God’s weird in that while most everyone in Wu-Tang either a) is universally loved (Ghostface, Raekwon, Method Man for the most part, Inspectah Deck, maybe GZA) or b) has a sincere fan base and critics that will not push the issue (RZA, ODB, Masta Killa, maybe GZA) … U-God is c) the subject of incredibly divisive debate. people either despise him or love him, and you can put me in the former category. and to be honest, i would be fine with a U-God verse (ugh) if he wasn’t the ONLY feature on the song. Ghostface featuring Raekwon and U-God? it happens (and it might even be called “Rec-Room Therapy” and be decent). Ghostface featuring U-God? mistakes have been made.

08. walking around with a championship belt is an excellent idea
Ghostface rocks some extreme fashion choices that i don’t fully understand, so i am not exactly sure where this belt came from (i heard it might be a WCW belt) or what it represents, beyond his excellence (he IS referred to as “the undefeated champion” in this song, but it’s not clear what organization awarded him the belt). this song DOES predate the (superior) song “the Champ” by a few years. however, i have to think that if you ARE going to rock an ostentatious accessory to impress a room/hallway/whatever full of ladies, a championship belt is a solid choice. it’s certainly better than a douchebag fedora.

Ghostface not impressed

07. the above disgusted gesture shown at 0:58 is my favorite “get the fuck out of here” type of gesture ever seen in a music video
…actually, i think that covered it. let’s just continue.

06. jerseys can prove to be poor fashion choices
and this is not, to be honest, a criticism of the phase in hip-hop fashion where everyone was rocking jerseys and throwbacks and everything else. i actually don’t think it’s that bad of a casual look. but what i DO wonder is if this guy in the Watters jersey (who pops in around 1:07 or so and appears to be fleeing down the hallway from the raw awesomeness of Ghostface) is maybe now thinking, “hey, maybe i should have chosen a better player’s jersey for my appearance in that classic video?” the answer is yes.

personally, if asked to appear in a video by Ghostface and told, “rock a jersey,” i would rock the Bo Jackson throwback and feel confident that this would stand the test of time. kids would see my appearance and ask their fathers, “dad, who was this Jackson guy? number 32?” and their fathers would get a little misty. “he was too great for our sports, son … he was too great.” and thus the cycle of old people reminiscing over sports and young people being absolutely disgusted with their weird parents would continue for another generation.

05. a short list of things i particularly object to about U-God’s verse/performance includes:
-any time U-God references anything to do with his dick;
-his fucking “walk like an Egyptian” dance;
-referring to woman’s asses as “slim doo-doo makers.”

let’s focus on that last one for a second. i know guys that use similarly vulgar terms to refer to lady’s asses, and it doesn’t make sense to me. so you’re trying to tell me a woman has a phenomenal ass… and you call it a “turd-cutter?” this is absolutely appalling. even worse is the fact that U-God seems to be celebrating non-excessive asses (as there is a difference between a “thick ass” and an overweight woman’s ass) … and yet i can’t acknowledge it because the bastard is using the goddamn “slim doo-doo makers” phrase. TERRIBLE.

Redman ... and inflatable shark?
Redman does happen to top my list of “rappers i would not leave alone with the pool toys”

04. teasing me with cameo appearances by solid rappers is WRONG
granted, one of the ways these videos work is that the crew shows up for some shots and fucks around. that’s not actually my problem. my REAL problem is that it’s downright cruel for me to see Raekwon and Method Man and Redman (and everyone else, those are the examples) hanging out and not rapping on the song … while, meanwhile, U-God is dancing like a moron and talking about those slim doo-doo makers. and i’ll be honest: if Redman said it, i would laugh at it. he’s ridiculous.

03. Ghostface is allowed to do things i despise without complaint
like you didn’t already know this. but, okay, here’s an example: at about 2:05, Ghostface is seen wearing sunglasses inside. now, this is a classic douchebag manuever and it really does annoy me; it’s right up there with the glittery, tight Affliction t-shirts of the world and if a friend of mine was doing it, i would insult him. to his face. in front of his wife, child, and sick grandmother, and i would use profanity. but even though Ghostface is indoors… and in what is clearly a dimly-lit room… and not known to have any medical condition that would necessitate the use of those glasses… i don’t even care.

02. “always will be my friend: Ghostface Killah”: line of the song
absolutely. there’s a million legitimately praiseworthy things you could say about Ghostface (he raps well, he’s a ghost and can’t be broke, and so on) and there’s a million bold statements you could make that may or may not be true (he’s the greatest rapper ever, he uses iced-out Trojans, and so on) … but this statement combines simplicity with something that is legitimate praise. it also highlights for me the fact that despite him having released albums for me for about 18 years now … he still does it and the albums are still good.

Ghostface, excellent as always

01. this green robe is entirely too excellent
i am seriously willing to believe that it was made from suede and knitted by virgins. i just i knew where you could buy such wonderful things.

so, uh, sorry, guys. i’ll try to make it up to you with a) a non-hip-hop update next week and b) this unrelated video of Ghostface on the Jimmy Kimmel show telling “Ghost Stories.” this one involves a show in Vermont, Mini-KISS, and the shenanigans of Cappadonna. seriously.

’tis the season for janklow to be annoyed with the holidays III: it’s all about the rap music

just prior to Christmas, your hero janklow found himself driving around with his father, presumably talking at length about some nonsense (as is our usual routine); on this occasion i was listening to a heavy dosage of Yo Gotti mixtapes, prompting my father to ask me why i wasn’t listening to, you know, CHRISTMAS rap music. now of course my response was to remark that with snow coming down, listening to CM5: White Friday had a certain thematic appropriateness (so clever, i know), but this did raise a good point: is there really even enough legitimate Christmas hip-hop music out there for me to even ride around listening to?

so, of course, i think this warrants going on and on at length (or, as “at length” as we can get on this topic) on the internet about it. don’t you? anyway, what i’ll try to do here is rank the small selection of music that we’ve got, so that you can at least know which of the three Christmas rap tunes are the best of them, okay? okay then.

janklow’s list of the 13 best of all those myriad Christmas-themed hip-hop tunes

honorable mention: Sweet Tee’s “Let The Jingle Bells Rock,” Biz Markie’s “XXX-Mas” (featuring Big Daddy Kane, no less), the Juice Crew’s “A Cold Chillin’ Christmas,” and all the New York music that rocked a ton of sleigh bells for reasons that had NOTHING to do with Christmas.

A Dipset Xmas
this… this is not really what the children want their Christmas to be like

13. Audio Two – “A Christmas Rhyme” (A Christmas Rhyme, 1985)
so let’s start things off with this entry from Audio Two, which i mainly include because it would make some effort to find someone who gives a fuck about Audio Two. 50 Cent sampled them for a single… and i guess they were popular in the early 1980s… and that’s it. seriously, you can find someone to defend most ANY artist –i for one have heard people defend Rick Ross with a straight face on multiple occasions– but i have yet to hear anyone even seem to CARE about Audio Two. anyway, they made a Christmas song, i guess.

12. Busta Rhymes – “Grinch 2000” (f. Jim Carrey) (How The Grinch Stole Christmas OST, 2000)
so i put this one on the list because of the many reason it’s clearly awesome before you even listen to it: it’s got the edgy and extreme “2000” part in the title, it features Jim Carrey for some reason (because no self-respecting rap fan is going to listen to Grinch songs WITHOUT Jim Carrey, right?)… okay, actually, i’m including this song on the list because if my sibling finds out i had a chance to put a Grinch rap song on it and i didn’t, she’ll beat me up. seriously.

11. Treacherous Three – “Santa’s Rap” (f. Doug E. Fresh) (Beat Street OST, 1984)
i’ve never really been a huge fan of Doug E. Fresh (especially now that he’s a Scientologist and all), but what this song DOES have going for it, beyond the Christmas theme, is the fact that apparently someone decided to throw a Christmas song onto a movie soundtrack, with that movie being released in the summer. i have no idea if it’s plot appropriate, as i have never seen Beat Street and, quite frankly, am not about to start watching it now. although ya’ll should be glad that i didn’t quit, because i’m getting too old for this Santa Claus shit.

10. Jim Jones – “Ballin’ On Xmas” (A Dipset Xmas, 2006)
the best/worst thing about this song, of course, is that it’s not just one track off a compilation or a single that stands on its own; Jim Jones and the rest of the illustrious Diplomats decided to go all out and make an entire Christmas album. sure, it’s terrible, and half the album has nothing to do with Christmas at all, but it does feature a handful of Christmas tracks (“Dipset X-mas Time,” “Have A Happy Christmas,” “Wish List,” “If Everyday Was Xmas”), and this is probably the best of them. fa-la-la-la-la, a Dipset Christmas!

Ludacris in Fred Claus
honestly, even if the song sucked, i’d have to include it so i could use photos like this

09. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” (f. Dat Nigga Daz, Nate Dogg, Tray Deee & Bad Azz) (Christmas On Death Row, 1996)
so, okay, it’s not the same as a group/crew deciding to do their own Christmas album, but Death Row once tried to halfway accomplish Dipset’s goal and come up with their own label-based Christmas album, which i assure you features far too much Danny Boy singing Christmas songs. this remains the best track from the album, with some uncompromisingly ominous music (seriously) and the sounds of Nate Dogg, who i really do wish would come by and sing me some holiday tunes every year. ain’t help from no elves, just the Dogg Pound!

08. Ludacris – “Ludachristmas” (Fred Claus OST, 2007)
now, i don’t want anyone to think the inclusion of this song is somehow an endorsement of this “Fred Claus” garbage; nothing could be further from the truth. but what it IS an endorsement of is Ludacris rocking over a solid track with some holiday-themed rhymes. actually, he’s a good choice for such a track, because he’s got skills, but he’s not afraid to relax and make a goofy track. oh, and this is DEFINITELY an endorsement of the title “Ludachristmas.” classic.

07. Eazy-E – “Merry Muthafuckin’ Xmas” (5150: Home 4 Tha Sick, 1992)
you know what i think of when i think of Christmas music? someone telling me a Christmas story about the “bad-ass Eazy-E!” well, no, not really. but if you’re guessing that this Christmas song, despite its catchy beat, is completely filled with inappropriate violence and sexual content… well, yes, you’re absolutely correct about that. that said, it’s like a solid X-rated run-through of the typical holiday songs. and on the third day of Christmas, my homeboys gave to me an A-motherfucking-K!

06. the Christmas All-Stars (Reverend Run, Ma$e, Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, Salt-N-Pepa, Onyx & Keith Murray) – “Santa Baby” (A Very Special Christmas 3, 1997)
so to understand why i have ranked this song so high, well, just look at the list of artists appearing on the song. first off, it’s not a bad list, but it’s a ridiculously cosmopolitan one. Salt-N-Pepa and Ma$e and Snoop and Sticky Fingaz? secondly, the thing is that some artists can be menacing on tracks and switch it up to playful with ease and without seeming ridiculous, and they’re guys like Snoop. but who the fuck thinks, “do you know what this Christmas song needs? more Onyx!” and that’s why i love it.

Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa
so, yeah, sometimes hip-hop doesn’t make for traditional holiday imagery

05. Kurtis Blow – “Christmas Rappin'” (Christmas Rappin’ 12″, 1979)
beyond the fact that Kurtis Blow is a pioneer in this rap game, albeit the kind no one really listens to after they give him some kind of token acknowledgment, this must be ranked highly for two reasons: one, its massive success is part of why hip-hop took off as a commercial and critical success, and two, i have a soft spot for Kurtis Blow on the grounds that “the Breaks” is one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever. seriously, listen to that shit sometime. but, you know, do it AFTER Christmas.

04. De La Soul – “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (De La Soul Is Dead, 1991)
De La Soul is one of those groups that, if you want to be clear about your hip-hop credentials, you have to recognize them, and so we’re getting our props here. but here’s the catch: this isn’t a Christmas song so much as it is a good, serious song about a girl shooting her abusive father while he’s dressed like Santa Claus. so is this a Christmas song? eh, i guess it’s really not… but what the hell, it rocks and Santa’s in the title. on the list it goes!

03. David Banner – “The Christmas Song” (MTA2: Baptized In Dirty Water, 2004)
it’s a well-known fact that i think David Banner has a turbo-excellent voice, and so i love how this track a) appears smack in the middle of MTA2, b) has an understated, very holiday-appropriate beat (seriously), and c) is, as i would expect from Banner, completely fucking furious and themed around, basically, “since we’re poor as fuck and can’t improve our lot in life, we’re robbing the fuck out of you for the sake of our kids’ Christmas.” awesome.

02. Run-DMC – “Christmas In Hollis” (Christmas In Hollis 12″, 1987)
there are only really two or three songs, all jokes aside, that are “classic” Christmas rap songs, and this is one of them: early enough that this concept of “Christmas rap” doesn’t seem too contradictory, but late enough that the rappers can rap a little. and if nothing else, as the Irishman would point out, the video would feature a pit bull pulling Santa’s sled. Run-DMC would later go on to make a sequel to this track (“Christmas Is”), the very idea of which is really what i find most ridiculous about the whole thing.

Ghostface
he knows if you’ve been bad or good … so be good for old Ghostface!

01. Ghostface Killah – “Ghostface X-mas” (GhostDeini the Great, 2008)
well, you had to know this was coming: i happen to think Ghostface is just, you know, the most awesome guy there is, and i may have even referenced this song before. in fact, i think i described it like this: “”Ghostface X-Mas” [is] essentially, well, Ghostface and friends describing their holiday adventures. “them little elves gettin’ busy in Santa’s workshop’ and “eggnog splashed with Hennessy” indeed!”

doesn’t that sound awesome? even my father, after being forced to listen to this song, had to acknowledge “that was actually a good Christmas song.” so go listen to it!

i still don’t think the holidays are very good, but it is what it is. at least now we know what soundtrack i’ll be listening to during them.

’tis the season for janklow to be annoyed with the holidays II: now with more goats

happy holidays, internet!

COAL FOR ALL
that’s right, your hero janklow makes personalized cards featuring robots for the holidays

i think we’ve said and done this in years past (or, at least, in 2007), but here it is: the holidays are the hottest of hot garbage and once against we find ourselves trapped in the middle of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s-President’s Day-Valentine’s ordeal that goes on and on and on until you just wish Flanders was dead. and you know what? that’s not fair to President’s Day. Washington and Lincoln are far too cool to have to be stuck in the middle of THAT mess. so consider this your official notice of the foundation of my movement to get President’s Day moved to March 16th: James Madison’s birthday. i know, i know, the shortest president of all time (5’4″ and a whopping 100 lbs) gets no respect, and that will be corrected with this altered holiday.

but, you know, since last year this space was reserved for a very stereotypical “here’s why the holidays just make us wish we were dead” style of rant, this year, i think i’ll mix it up and come up with a list of excellent things that have happened during the holidays, specifically the Christmas-related time of the year.

Ghostface X-Mas
just in case you doubt the following commentary, well, check out track 16

“Ghostface X-Mas”
this seems like a terrible idea, but in practice, it’s the best idea of all time. we all know that the holidays are the time for musical artists to crank out shitty holiday songs, be they covers of traditional works or their own original messes. and as a fan of hip-hop, this basically leaves me a couple of options: either i can rock “Christmas In Hollis” for the 13000th time (though this being recently appropriated by that weird “Centro Claüs” campaign makes me not want to) or i can run with some ridiculous “Dipset Christmas” concept that makes the baby Jesus want to choke himself to death in the womb. these are not good choices; Kurtis Blow will always have a place in my heart because the man wrote “the Breaks,” but his Christmas material is well-aged at this point.

however, luckily for me, my musical hero Ghostface came out with a weird compilation album that, despite whatever problems it might have (track selection, mainly), features a little song called “Ghostface X-Mas” that is essentially, well, Ghostface and friends describing their holiday adventures. “them little elves gettin’ busy in Santa’s workshop” and “eggnog splashed with Hennessy” indeed! i will absolutely be listening to this song every Christmas.

a Raiders victory over Houston?
this is where i am supposed to make a joke about an Oakland Raiders victory being similar to Christmas in that it happens once a year or something like that, but you know what? that seems a little intellectually lazy. and the fact remains that they DID win a game and that there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

my sibling cracking wise during a church service
so perhaps this really only works if you’re familiar with that Christmas album John Denver made with the Muppets, but a) we both absolutely are (don’t ask why, you know, it’s like that whole Seven Brides For Seven Brothers thing) and b) it was probably bound to happen when the church busted out with “Silent Night.” now, okay, maybe it wasn’t the most appropriate time to be making jokes, but it cracked me up. it’s my holiday joke of the year! and no, i’m not going to explain it, because that would ruin it, but i will say this: it was even better than the whole thing about not abhorring virgin wombs. i know, i know, we really need to grow up over here.

and then there are the goats:

goats goats goats
Christmas goats chilling out with the PIP-Boy

like i said, maturity is in short supply around these parts. happy holidays!

Tony Starks: a dick in comic books, awesome on rap records

despite its constant claiming to be some hippie-style commune for the free-flowing exchange of ideas, i have often found that the internet is in fact a place with some very defined rules, and one of those rules is as follows: if you want to write about rap music on the internet, you have to write about one of the darlings of internet rap bloggers (say, Ghostface Killah or the Clipse), or at least be one of those assholes that argues CONSTANTLY about the difference between rap and hip-hop and how excellent backpackers that are mostly white guys who are borderline rappers are TRUE hip-hop. since the latter is lame and the former is Ghostface, we’ll talk about Ghostface.

or, more to the point, some of my favorite Ghostface moments.

hilarious diabetes misconceptions
okay, so, to be fair, not only is diabetes not funny (as it’s a terrible disease), but it’s also not funny that Ghostface has it (as he’s an awesome dude). however, if you’re going to get diabetes, it’s probably good to do something wacky like claim on a record (“Trials Of Life”) that you assumed it was a sexually-transmitted disease. why an STD, Ghostface? because of rapid weight loss and, i quote, the fact that he’d “went raw on plenty.” this is actually ironic when you consider that he’d noted it wasn’t worth it for one to go raw on “Tearz.”

the glorious fashions of Ghostface Killah
rappers do, it is true, like to try to start fashion trends (and other trends in general, really), but often these are their own brands of established fashions. this, however, has not been good enough for Ghostface, who aside from a religious devotion to Clark’s wallabees (as heard on Raekwon’s “Glaciers Of Ice”), has rocked jewelry such as the “eagle bracelet” and the “Versace plate.” the former was – and there’s really nothing for you to do here but just accept it – a gold eagle statue worn on a bracelet on his forearm. it has since been melted down, but how is this not light years beyond fucking Rocawear?

lyrical highlights
as Ghostface is a rap artist, we should maybe spend a little time discussing his craft.

#1: Ironman, “Poisonous Darts”
Ghostface likes to come with ridiculous, stream-of-consciousness lyrics all day (and probably the night) long, which is a major part of his charm and excellence. and now we will celebrate one of these – “i pull stings like guitar strings down in Spain/i’m so hype jakes label god crack cocaine.” Spain aside, the reference is cool, but Ghostface is definitely cooler than crack (which i have been led to believe is “wack”). i’d probably label him heroin, since all the rock stars seem to think it’s so awesome.

#2: Supreme Clientele, “Buck 50”
this is a great group track with some solid guest spots (Method Man, Masta Killa) on a great solid from what’s probably Ghostface’s best album, but more to the point, nothing really highlights Ghostface’s desire to just work some ridiculous words into a line to a) make a line happen and b) totally blow my mind like “Buck 50,” for this line: “supercalifragalisticexpialidocious/dociousaliexpifragalisticcalisuper.” a Mary Poppins reference in (somewhat) reverse? how can one’s mind not be blown?

#3: Bulletproof Wallets, “Maxine”
while i mostly love this song for the RZA’s passionate live drums, this is really a great example of a random but fleshed-out storytelling song (Fishscale’s “Shakey Dog” is also right up there with it), which is a general concept you’d think talented rappers could crank out dozens of, except that they don’t. also, “word?” is about the last thing i’d say if some kids were throwing me out of a window, but then again, that scenario is not likely to happen to me.

#4: the Pretty Toney Album, “Run”
a song about hearing the cops on the way and running for it, filled with Ghostface relating his freaking out, jumping around and losingn his gun, and impersonating cop car noises (“errrrr!”). it’s all about the underappreciated storytelling, i’m telling you!

#5: Fishscale, “Three Bricks”
in a world of rappers talking about gunplay in general, this remains the best (as in, my favorite) reference to such: “fuck working out, all i curl is my index finger.” i’m completely with him on this, mainly as it saves one some serious trips to the gym. also, once again, “Shakey Dog” is fucking awesome.

#6: More Fish, “Blue Armor”
by now you know Ghostface is awesome, so let’s just take a tangent here for me to point out that, despite some criticism of Sheek’s “i’m on fire in the streets/like in Back To The Future, when the car left” line on this song, i have to admit that that line always cracks me up. but that’s just how i am.

video game appearances
for the record, this is pretty much based on Def Jam: Vendetta. now, this argument is not based on me claiming that DJ:V is a good game (i vote no) or that i’m at least good at it or something (like all wrestling games, i suck at it); however, in the words of DJ:V’s version of Ghostface: “i’m a ghost. i can’t be broke!” enough said. i never played the sequels, but it’s not like he could be LESS awesome in them; also, there was that PS game Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style wherein Ghostface could do moves like the “Ghostface Blaster.” sounds fantastic!

the apparent “Tony For Mayor” campaign
“The Watch” starts out with a male singer whose name i don’t recall (if it was ever of consequence) passionately singing in support of “Tony for mayor,” the Tony, of course, being Ghostface “Tony Starks” Killah. more endearing gibberish? perhaps. however, on closer inspection, perhaps we SHOULD make him mayor. would i take Ghostface as a mayor of a local metropolis? well…

-Washington DC: Marion Barry had this job, and he was filled with cocaine at least some of the time, so this can’t be something Ghostface couldn’t handle, as he might at least be more sober;

-Baltimore: after that rant last week? enough said.

fuck it, Tony for mayor.

that song “Underwater”
now, i don’t really love this song all that much, though that’s more about the beat than anything else. but still… we have to talk about it. actually, why tell you about it when my case has been made for me? Tom Breihan: “In one truly stunning moment, he talked about the album’s final song, which is about being underwater, seeing mermaids and Spongebob and the necklace from Titanic, everyone eventually going to a mosque and praying. Just hearing this song is a total mindfuck…” i think that just says it all right there.

samples, samples, samples!
the Wu-Tang Clan, as you might expect from a bunch of guys who stole all their aliases from old kung-fu movies, love to throw samples from these films (and others) into their work, and Ghostface is no exception, be it to declare that he’ll “put trademarks around your fucking eyes” or that “kill one man, or kill ten, it’s all the same, after all, they can only hang you once.” it’s not that these samples are inappropriate and weird, it’s that they’re totally appropriate AND weird. the same goes for spoken word moments that function like these samples, be they the “this guy’s a wrecking ball” Rocky rip-off from “the Champ” or just yelling about guys picking up their car like the Flintstones on “Guns N’ Razors.” it’s always good times. still, a special place must be saved for the “Bad Mouth Kid” skit in which a foul-mouthed youth is told by Ghostface himself that the problem is that kids don’t get beat anymore. and i agree.

conclusion: this may all risk me seeming to sarcastically praise Ghostface for comedic effect as if he DOESN’T deserve it; however, this could not be further from the truth. buy those records immediately!