By Ahsan Sajid
We've all listened to some form of hip-hop while growing up, in its heyday. Even the most ardent hater right now inevitably has heard at least one decent hip-hop track and tapped their feet to it. But the post-90s era saw the death of artistry and craftsmanship in hip-hop; so I thought when I gave up on the 'dead' genre completely, as did many fellow music listeners of our generation. The only creativity appeared to be rappers finding new ways to tell people how much money they had, how women are sex toys and how expensive their cars are. While most had written off hip-hop as dead already, a realization came not too late to this reviewer that hip-hop was never dead; creative, real, gritty, humane hip-hop was never dead, it was forced to the underground by image-selling record labels.
Listen to Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, Company Flow, Cannibal Ox, Anti-Pop Consortium, Dalek or cLOUDDEAD any day of the week and you'll see where hip-hop is at right now. But one thing almost none of these rappers have is a charisma and amiable media friendly personality (which is a rather important part of the genre) that Mos Def does, and he has the ability to go furthest with his underground hip-hop.
His arguably best album, Black On Both Sides, has some inspired tracks on it, Mathematics, Fear Not Man, Umi Says, Clime, and Know That. The rest are all extremely good, and the album is a must for anyone that appreciates the power of real hip-hop. With the introductory song, Fear Not Man, Mos Def brings the listener up to speed with the definition and concept of hip-hop. He has an almost spiritual approach one would find reminiscent with A Tribe Called Quest or Roots. Even the worst song in the album, Ms. Fat Booty, is better than most hip-hop out there, in its catchy rhythm and fun style of story-telling inspired by old school mogul Slick Rick. Mathematics is his direct analyzation of the facts of life.
The album is progressive minded, approachable by fans of hip-hop and others alike, and intelligent. Mos Def is definitely the best representation to the world of what hip-hop is right now, and how far it can go. If you like this, you'll definitely enjoy listening to BlackStar, Mos Def's hip-hop duo with Talib Kweli, the better known half- the songwriter with depth, the John to Mos Def's Paul, with all of his pop-y-ness. Don't miss out on a great album because you have ill-given preconceived notions about an entire genre of music.
It's another round of mindless casual games this week. Not really the kiddie games of last time, though. But, just between, er, you and me- I wouldn't exactly call the last few levels of Zuma 'kiddy' in the least.
First up is Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank.
Sounds radical? It totally is. The title of the game, I think, is very self-explanatory. HW is a side-scrolling shoot'em up. It came out in the year 2005, and like Peggle and Zuma, was developed by PopCap Games. I don't know if you've played this game, but if not, you definitely should.
It's 1984, and the Red Star (Soviet Union) launched a global invasion, and the allied forces are reeling in defeats, completely outnumbered by the enemy. In the War Room, there is talk of negotiating surrender, but an unspecified Caucasian President has heard enough of 'liberal whining'- they've got one last line of defence, freedom's last chance… He wants to send in… the ATOMIC TANK!
From Frigistan to Vodkavania to Killingrad, you have to make your way through hordes and hordes of enemy forces. You control the atomic tank going steadily forward towards a boss at the end of the stage. At the end of each stage, the tank drives into an armory where you can purchase weapons upgrades. While blasting your way through the Red Star, friendly airplanes will drop off upgrades for your convenience.
The default weapon is a single line of rapidly fired bloblike bullets or something. As you progress through the game, you get upgrades for this in game allowing you to fire two or more lines, of these blobs. From the armoury, you can purchase homing missiles (very nifty), Laser (3rd level Lasers are waaay awesome), Rockets (nifty, again), Flak Cannon (looks like clouds of fart are eroding enemy aircrafts), Thunderstrike (think Zeus), and Defense Orbs (these orbs circle your tank offering infinite protection, so long as they get in the way). Although, most of the purchases are pretty cool and useful, nothing beats the Megalaser.
Sounds radical? It totally is. It replaces all your current weapons, and only lasts for a while- the Megalaser bar depletes rapidly as you use it, and soon enough you won't see a huge wave of laser bursting out of the nozzle of the tank obliterating your opposition with even the slightest touch.
The graphics are… cute, and the sound effects are awesome- you can feel the whumphs and stuff. There are approximately 19 stages, and they become progressively harder and harder to beat.
One man. One tank. A fictional nation of communists. Total Fragland.
Next up is Crimsonland.
As far as mindless violence goes- this one tops it all.
Another kind-of side-scrolling game from an overhead view, you take control of a lone trooper in an alien world (or probably Earth- never noticed). The purpose? Ward of hordes and hordes of monsters, be they zombies, spiders, lizards, ghosts, demons, whatever the fudge nots!
Crimsonland has simplistic and thoroughly appropriate graphics, nice sound effects, and music. If Heavy Metal had the whumph, Crimsonland has the Mega Whumph. Guns. Guns. Guns. And lots and lots and lots and lots of powerups.
Pistols, Uzis, Machine guns, Submachine guns, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Pulse guns, Rocket launchers, Shock guns, Mean Miniguns, or what have you. My personal favorite would have to be the Shotgun, and maybe even the Shock gun.
Now, guns are not all at your possession. You gain XP as you kill enemies, and each time you level up, you are able to select from a list a perk of your choice. You level up slower at higher levels. Perks range from Radioactive or Plague carrier, which kills nearby enemies, and there's Bandage which heals life, there's Fast Reload or Fast Shot, allowing you to reload faster or shoot faster, and so on forth.
Perks are all well and good, but what makes using the Shotgun oh-so-extremely-fun is the Fire Bullets bonus. Bonuses, like guns, are random pickups dropped by fallen enemies. Fire bullets… inflame your ammunition. If you've ever seen the Flak Cannon from Unreal Tournament, you'll know that combined with the Shotgun, it can be likened to the granddaddy of Flak Cannons.
There are 5 levels, each with 10 sub-levels. Obviously, it kinda gets tougher as you progress through them, and of course new weapons are unlocked at each occasional passing of stage. Definitely one of the best mindless casual game I've played.
Both of these games are definitely worth the play- you can try the flash version of Heavy Weapon at http://www.popcap.com/games/free/heavyweapon, and the trial version of Crimsonland is available at http://www.crimsonland.com/?menu=downloads.
If there was an encyclopedia for under-appreciated movies, you can bet that Clerks would be on the cover, on the back, and mentioned a few dozen times before even the foreword is finished. While it is not the latest Zac Effron movie to hit the shelves, it DOES have heart, and even though its an old movie, it is unique (to say the least).
First of all, lets talk about the cast of clerks. Director Kevin Smith(himself playing Silent Bob in the movie) shot this movie at the convenience store that he formerly worked in, and cast long time friends in timeless roles that just 'seemed like a good idea at the time'. And a good idea it was. The actors in clerks (Brian O' Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes) do their part exceedingly well. This will translate to you laughing your ribcage off for a whole hour and a half. And then there is Jay and Silent Bob, possibly the greatest comedy duo since....well they probably ARE the greatest. Anything said about these two characters would be a spoiler, so it is better that the reader runs for the clerks DVD right away to find out.
The movie starts off in a pretty lackluster manner. You cannot imagine when you start the movie that you're in for something spectacular. It is a black & white movie, but that is by no means a turnoff. It's appeal is not flashy special effects, a great soundtrack OR Arnold Schwarzenegger (he's not in it). The movie carries itself solely by dialogue and dialogue alone. A lot of it are very explicit and not for the faint of heart, but the comedy is undeniable and the irony with which the average life of a clerk is portrayed in this movie is really one for the record books.
The language in Clerks is certainly provocative, but it only adds to the overall humor, and does not feel like it has been added on for no reason(like, for example, a Quentin Tarantino flick). Being an old movie, Clerks maybe a bit harder to located amongst our DVD stores, but it is worth the search. It is even worth a download, because Clerks is a timeless and under-appreciated movie that can be enjoyed with friends or if you're just chilling like a villain on penicillin.
Shortly after the Encyclopedia of under-appreciated movies introduce 'Clerks' and set up a shrine in its name, the name that will pop up is Clerks 2. That's right, a Hollywood sequel that does not make you want to throw large lead pellets at the director. Clerks 2 is the brilliant follow up of the events in Clerks, and does a good job of making you feel very VERY satisfied.
The same cast in Clerks is back, of course. But this time, there is a change in scenery, as the Quick Stop burns down, and the two clerks Dante and Randall are forced to work someplace else. There isn't a change in pace, however, as director Kevin Smith takes it upon himself to make sure that you laugh from the beginning of the movie right to the bittersweet end of it.
The movie has colour this time, and a noticeably higher budget than Clerks. It is still not into flashy cars and earth shattering explosions, but you notice the bigger budget because the characters actually GO places and doesn't just sit at their jobs for the entire length of the movie. This isn't necessarily a good OR bad thing, because Clerks 2, as with Clerks, doesn't really need any of this. The soundtrack is lackluster, the visuals wont make you feel like you're in a Van Gogh painting, and nor will the not-so-star-studded cast make you go 'Aah, no Brad no!' at the screen.
Where Clerks 2 fails in cinematography, it more than makes up for with witty dialogues and great direction. Most of the actors (except a few new ones) know perfectly well how to pull off their roles. The foul mouthed Randall, the suffering Dante, and of course returning to screen is the 'New and Improved Jay and Silent Bob'. Because the Quick stop had burned down, they move WITH Dante and Randall and start drug dealing at the new place, with the same enthusiasm as before.