Weekend Review: J Dilla

Pretty much everything Dilla put out is appropriate at any time of the week. However, The Shining Instrumentals makes for a perfect, chilled Sunday. 

The suns out in London, although it still doesn’t feel warm. Bopping around town to So Far To Go and the other amazing tracks on The Shining just puts you in a good place.

Check it out:: J Dilla – So Far To Go


Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.2 – review

Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.2, Marvel ***1/2

Guardians of the Galaxy is not just the best Marvel movie, but one of the best sci-fi films of all time. The original gambled on unknown Marvel comic characters, placed them front and centre, in what became a hilarious, action packed romp through deep space. 

The sequel, Vol. 2, had such impeccable standards to live up to that Marvel needed to pull a film of Empire Strikes Back proportions out of the hat to surpass it. Unfortunately, whilst GotGv2 remains at all times laugh-out-loud funny, and visually comic-book incredible, the lack of plot to drive the story forward hinders the enjoyment. 

The villain is flat out awful: there is, at no point, any threat that they might succeed in their plot. There is not even a lingering menace or inherent evil, the whole second half of the film coming straight out of the Marvel play book. 

In fact, the whole story seems to take place in roughly one day: literally, we are one day further ahead in the plot by the end credits. There are no crossovers (which aren’t essential, but would have driven the MCU plot), no Thanos, and no existentential threat to the Galaxy. 

The viewer learns nothing new about the characters, although the Guardians continue to do their party tricks in hilarious fashion. The action is still brilliantly fun, and the big fight scene is interspered with more great comedy.

Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.2 was an extremely enjoyable instalment, but had it been the first in the series, the whole project would have been dead in the water. What set the original apart from other Marvel films was the novelty: new characters, new settings, new adventures – complete departure from Earth bound superheroes that you were already familiar with. 

Fortunately, with the bar set so high by the original, and the charisma of Star-Lord, Drax and Rocket to fall back on, the lack of plot doesn’t compound what was another awesome space adventure. 

The Guardians of the Galaxy will return: here’s hoping it’s bigger and even better than volume 2.

Weekend Review: Chance the Rapper

No Problem (ft. lil Wayne & 2 Chainz), Chance the Rapper. *****

Coloring Book was undoubtedly one of the albums of the year in 2016, and No Problem is the most uplifting track from a record who’s creator is high on life and the Creator Himself.

img_1291The gospel choir throughout conjure happy memories of Late Registration. Lyrically, the whole record is in the spirit of Talib Kweli’s Quality. On Coloring Book, Chance articulates how content he is, without falling in to generic hip-hop machoism.

No Problem celebrates life throughout, and not just in a got chains/got bitches vein: the birth of his daughter, his relationship with her mother, his success (label free) and his religion.

The hook is the happiest declaration in hip-hop:

“if one more label try to stop me/there gonn’ be some dread hair n- in the lobby”.

With those pulsing gospel samples and the overt threat to the majors, Chance reminds us that not only is this one of the most uplifting songs around, but you’re experiencing the whole album for free.

***making of with Brasstracks:

2666 – Roberto Bolaño: review

2666, Roberto Bolaño. *****

Bolaño’s tour de force takes visceral realism – a poetic movement first coined in The Savage Detectives – to the Nth degree. The sheer absurdity of Bolaño’s scope and vision when world-building is breathtaking, mind boggling.

The Part about the Crimes is essential reading. As a feminist text, Bolaño uses forensic reports as a device to ensure no glorification of the rapes and killings can take place: the horrific deaths of young women, many of whom remain unidentified, are stacked up as case files in front of the reader. This is visceral realism. Factual descriptions relay each hideous murder; it is a very deliberate undertaking that the reader is forced to confront each of these female deaths. And there are literally hundreds. So heavy going was this 400-page section, that it took me a month to complete. Intermittently, female homicides not linked to the killing spree appear as coroner’s reports. This further emphasises the singular lack of safety that women face in fictional Santa Teresa. It is not a stretch to reflect on the basic welfare of women inhabiting the real world.

This main section of the text is an ordeal for the reader. The approach contrasts so spectacularly with the time-lapse, almost cartoon panel-whiz through the Second World War in the finale: The Part about Archimboldi. The intimate, detailed focus on femicide in Mexico sharply contrasts with the Boy’s Own Adventure of Reiter, the German Soldier, who survives the war without killing a single enemy combatant. Simiralrly, the way Zimmer, a German civil servant, passes off his role in the genocide of the Jews he mistakenly takes delivery of dramatically contrasts with the section that has proceeded it. It suggests how easy it can be to gloss over historical atrocities, to wash yours hand of them or say: not my problem.

2666 explores feminism in literature and society: Norton, the female Professor, takes many lovers, even sharing two of her male colleagues, and eventually settling down with a third. At no point does Bolaño’s portrayal of her behaviour conjure the words slut or whore; a description she would no doubt receive from certain male perspectives. Had the gender roles been switched, those same male voices would have celebrated Norton’s Casanovian spirit. Retrospectively, The Part about the Critics is so important in proceeding the killing spree: there is no opportunity to victim-blame, as so frequently happens in 21st century media.

2666 explores death and violence. It forms a contemporary commentary: in 2017, you can turn away from the news, you can turn off the TV and opt out. And yet conversely, our lives seem so saturated with instant, 24/7 news, that you can find yourself zoning out of the reporting of even the most horrific murders or terror atrocities.

By electing to read 2666, which at all times remains a work of fiction, the reader is forced to confront these issues in a way that the social media age has so harmfully dehumanised. By forcing yourself through The Part about the Crimes, it’s not “just another day” of news to tune out from. What is truly concerning is that it takes a work of fiction to make you realise this.

The Night Of: review

The Night Of, HBO. *****

A spectacularly shot thriller, The Night Of proved to be edge-of-your-seat Easter viewing. Staring Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) and Michael Williams (Omar from The Wire), the acting throughout set it apart from other crime dramas.

The tension is at times unbearable; Nas (Ahmed) is caught at the scene of a gruesome murder, and the series tracks his trial. The series creators have not missed a step with the police processes, the detective work or the legal proceedings. It all seems frighteningly authentic.

Lawyer John Stone and Detective Dennis Box are The Night Of’s yin and yang, and both actors are incredible storytellers. Much like The Wire, the series focuses on the real rather than the fairytale. It’s exceptionally difficult to identify the good guys and the bad guys, with the characters moral codes constantly shifting.

The ending is deliberately, infuriatingly, realistically ambiguous. However, what is clear is that despite Nas’s (presumed) innocence, his time inside a New York penitentiary has caused a very dark shift in his psyche. Essential viewing.