Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome To My World Where Hater's Ain't Allowed

New rappers are a dime penny a dozen nowadays, and most suck horse cajones. While there are a few talented artists tryna get noticed, even many of those are still struggling to not sound like pubescent High School Musical dropouts. I first heard Skeme in his scene-stealing verse from "Play On" on Dom Kennedy's Westside. The first thing that struck me about him was his poise on the track. It's a nuance that many a rapper spends years tryna grasp before they get it right (Dom Kennedy being a prime example). And that's just on top of the fact that dude can rap. Still, being the cynic that I am, I didn't bet the house that Skeme could deliver an album's worth of verses as enjoyable as that one verse, not cuz I didn't believe, but just because that would be foolish to assume.

Well, Skeme delivered. Pistols and Palm Trees is a bonafide banger. I never bought into the first wave of new artists coming outta Cali (Pac Div, U-N-I, etc.), but this tide of post-Dom folk has my ears itching in the goodest way possible. Scroll up there and download it. You won't be disappointed. Disfruta.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To Make A Music Video

James Blake - "Limit To Your Love" Directed by Martin de Thurah.

I accidentally found this video today. I've been jamming to James Blake's cover of the Feist classic for a good minute now (my playlists these days are cuhrazy) and I'm glad to see a video that captured the mood of the song perfectly. Not to mention that Blake does quite a job himself on the cover. Sign me up. I'm sold.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Manhattan Project

<a href="http://thepaxtons.bandcamp.com/album/the-manhattan-project">The Manhattan Project by The Paxtons</a>

The Paxtons have finally dropped their long-awaited follow up to WORK. Entitled The Manhattan Project, it superficially references their relocation to the Rotten Apple, while also referencing the secret military project of the 1940s that produced the world's first atomic bomb. In their own words:

In musical terms, The Paxtons are taking the same approach by building a mixtape that is set to annihilate the competition with lyrics and production that clearly show an unseen hunger and level of progression and creativity from the Chicago-bred MC and production team.

Heavy, and a tall order to say the least. I'm a harsh critic, but I'm pretty sure they nailed it with one of this year's hottest mixtapes. But I'm also a biased listener, so I'll leave it to you to say whether or not my dudes rose to the occasion. So don't take my word for it--get to clicking! Disfruta.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Type Set! It's like Dip Set, 'cept it's not.

From about kindergarten to 3rd grade, I had impeccable handwriting. My teachers would fawn over my penmanship as though I were the Frank Lloyd Wright of writing. I was an architect with lines and curves, ya dig? I'm not sure why or when I stopped writing neatly, but I think it had something to do with learning cursive and moving from wide-ruled to college-ruled paper. Not enough space for a young scholar to express himself. I also had learned how to behave in school by that point, which prolly meant my handwriting suffered as I tried to keep myself from saying and doing inappropriate things to my classmates and teachers. All that evil energy worked its way out my body through my hands. But I digress...

I've always been a fan of people with good handwriting. Experience has shown that these people are usually Chinese (read: Asian) and almost always female. I'm not sure why, but why question God? He chose the Jews to write the Bible, the Mexicans to have excellent landscaping skills, and the Chinese to have great handwriting. You know, those people who can write straight without lines on the paper? Or people whose handwriting looks like comic sans or helvetica without even trying? Yeah, I think those people are cool. I admire them.

I admire them so much, that I might cop this book so I can be like them and regain my lost prominence as a handwriter par excellence. Along with giving a history of typography, it's designed for people like me, normal folk with below-Chinese handwriting abilities, and uses activities to help you learn the art of lettering. It's not out yet, and really this post is more of a reminder to myself to check for it in the coming weeks, but if you're like me then keep clicking this link until it says it's available for purchase.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sole Music

A small rundown of some of the flyest footwear I've come across on the information superhighway. There are others--Visvim is always a standout; also Mr. Hare continues to make the absolute flyest grown man dress shoes in the streets--but these are a few of my personal favorites. Disfruta.

Ronnie Feig for Clarks

Luke Meier for Vans Syndicate

Cody Hudson for Converse(RED)

Parra for Converse(RED)

Band of Outsiders

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Playing Chess With Death

Among other things, this summer has allowed me to watch a crazy amount of movies, new and old. Outside of the same big summer movies everybody else has seen and some other art-house flicks, I've had the chance to catch some classics, like Annie Hall, for the first time, and rewatch some others. On a whim, I got the chance to see the classic Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal and my oh my...

First, let me say that I can't usually bang with black and white movies. It prolly has something to do with my latent ADHD which is really just my cockamamie excuse for saying I'm too lazy to pay attention, but I needs some color when I'm watching the telly. I don't care how good you tell me a movie is, if I find out it's black and white then you've lost a potential viewer. I've seen the movie a few times on the shelf of the video library and thought about renting it, but I could never bring myself to pull the trigger. The subject matter--a knight returns from the Crusades during the Black Death and runs into Death himself, whom he challenges to a winner-takes-all game of chess--was a little too heavy for me to endure in my leisure time, especially sans ROY G. BIV.

Well, absolute boredom and an existential crisis can do wonders for your palate. I saw it was available one night while flipping through OnDemand's free movies and figured it was worth a shot. It was. It definitely was. By the end of the opening scene I was hooked. If you wanna sit down and watch something that makes you think without broadcasting the fact that it's making you think, this is the one. At its essence it captures the spiritual struggles of mankind perfectly.

This clip is one of my favorite scenes as the knight, unknowingly, makes his confession to Death. It cuts off early, but if it piqued your interest, then make it do what it does and go find the whole movie.

How You'll Get Me To Sing

I've been listening to a lot of Beirut lately. Their music is grand but simple, haunting but still light. It's a long way from Gucci Mane and Yo Gotti, and yeah, you could prolly call it pop polka music, but who cares? Heat is heat, and this is highly flammable. This track is definitely my favorite off The Flying Cup Club, and considering that I've prolly played it 20+ times today to myself in the crib, I figured I'd at least share a vid or two. The way that accordion opens the song is too sick. Word to Urkel. And the harmonies of that hook are my favorite kind. I useta love to play those kindsa chords on the piano. They don't come out as well in this vid since it's a live performance, but holler at the CDQ version below to get my drift. Disfruta.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What are you gonna do? Blog about it?

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs."
-Annie Hall

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Double Vision

Philadelphia-native Bilal is finally about to drop an official album entitled Airtight's Revenge. Other than looking forward to a new set of songs from the Philly falsetto, I appreciate how Mr. Oliver channeled the inner El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz for the album cover.

And for all the twitterati, homey just joined the twitter nation as well. Follow him to stay updated.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

White Boy Can SANG

Not new, but Gavin DeGraw sings one of my favorite Donny Hathaway songs "Jealous Guy" at National Underground in NYC. He kills it (that guitar player wasn't as good as the original tho).

Speaking of National Underground, my peoples The Paxtons will be performing their last June show at National Underground this Sunday with Philly phenom Sela. It's hip hop with a live band soooo.... we gets it iiiinnn. All the pertinent info is on the flyer. BE THERE!!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blow Out The Candles and Make A Wish

So today's my bday. 'Twas a decent day, and, all things considered, I have plenty to celebrate. I'm alive and in relatively good health. I got a few dollars in the bank, a job, a roof over my head, and a nice pillowtop mattress to sleep on. I'm thankful for all the folks who hit me up with cards, phonecalls, texts, facebook posts, tweets, carrier pigeons, and strip-o-grams, just to wish me a happy birthday. Made a young scholar feel loved and what-not *sniff sniff* #nococa.

Either way, 'tis better to give than receive and I've gotten a few requests to re-up the past volumes of Real Niggas Light Candles, so what better day than today to light some muthaphreakin candles?

Before we get into it, I'll do my best to give a quick synopsis:

Real Niggas Light Candles is a series of emotional-nigga mixtapes compiled by yours truly, a self-described emotional nigga. Each volume is an eclectic mix of songs that span across genres but share a few unique qualities: they're smooth as maple syrup, soulful, and hella emotional for no cot durn reason. In other words, it's music you turn off the lights to and light some candles. Maybe you take in some solitude, maybe you bun up with your boo. And it's meant to be played in order--no skipping tracks--because the magic of these mixtapes is in the sequence. It's what separates RNLC from every other blogger's mixtapes. It's always soul, but never in a typical way.

I lost Volume 1 when my old computer died (RIP Roberto Miguel deDell), but I honestly didn't like that one that much anyway (lol). Lucky for all of us I've still got Volumes 2-7. So go ahead and do yourself a favor (or 6) and download these joints. You won't regret it. Promise or your money back.

And by the way, RNLC8 is coming soon... (pause granddad)


1. "Do You Feel Me" - Anthony Hamilton
2. "Love Is A Losing Game (Instrumental)" - Amy Winehouse
3. "The Rain" - K-Os
4. "Littlest Things" - Lily Allen
5. "My Song" - Labi Siffre
6. "Hello, It's Me" - John Legend
7. "So Sorry" - Feist
8. "Dear Santa Claus" - Bobby Womack
9. "Here's To Life" - Shirley Horn
10. "Lost and Found (Find Me) (Featuring Karen Briggs)" - Ledisi
11. "Hey Girl (Featuring John Legend)" - Estelle
12. "Only For You" - Eric Roberson
13. "Moon" - Emily King
14. "Static" - Kenna
15. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" - Amy Winehouse
16. "The Visit (She Was Here)" - The Cyrkle
17. "The Colorado Trail - Dave Crusin


1. Martin Luther - "Daily Bread"
2. Yael Naim - "Levater"
3. Janelle Monáe - "Cybertronic Purgatory"
4. Jazmine Sullivan - "Prototype"
5. Hot Chip - "Made In The Dark"
6. Tiombe Lockhart ft. Bilal - "Strange"
7. Jamie Cullum - "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning"
8. The Cinematic Orchestra - "That Home"
9. The Fray - "Hundred"
10. First Aid Kit - "Season"
11. Pauline Croze - "A l'évidence"
12. She & Him - "Take It Back"
13. Janelle Monáe - "Warm Up (Cloud 9 Interlude)"
14. Adele - "Now And Then"
15. Vashti Bunyan - "Train Song"
16. Jason Mraz - "If It Kills Me (From The Casa Nova Sessions)"
17. My People Sleeping - "Seahorse"
18. Casey Dienel - "Asleep At The Wheel"
19. Donny Hathaway - "Misty"


1. "Lilac Wine" - Jeff Buckley
2. "Overrated" - Gavin DeGraw
3. "When I Fall" - Lizz Wright
4. "Dreamworld" - Robin Thicke
5. "I (Who Have Nothing)" - Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
6. "Highway 7" - K-Os
7. "In A Sentimental Mood" - Ledisi
8. "Charlene (acoustic)" - Anthony Hamilton
9. "Kick Out of You" - Dwele
10. "We're Still Friends" - Donny Hathaway
11. "Rope of Sand" - Jamie Lidell
12. "Little Person (ft. Deanne Storey)" - Jon Brion
13. "Little Girl Blue" - Diana Krall
14. "The Thrill is Gone" - Chet Baker
15. "Good Morning, Heartache" - Billie Holiday
16. "Wild is the Wind" - Nina Simone
17. "Make Sure You're Sure" - Stevie Wonder




1. "Game for Fools" - Jamie Lidell
2. "Secret" - Maroon 5
3. "Californication" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
4. "Till It Happens To You" - Corinne Bailey Rae
5. "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" (Live) - Donny Hathaway
6. "Easy To Please" - Coldplay
7. "Immigrant" - Sade
8. "A Dream" - Julian Velard
9. "Long Distance Love" - Little Feat
10. "Marry Ann" - Regina Spektor
11. "Dust and Water" - Antony & the Johnsons
12. "The Build Up" - Kings of Convenience ft. Feist
13. "You've Got It Bad Girl" - Stevie Wonder
14. "Sunshine Juice" - Hyperpotamus
15. "Lonely, Lonely" - Feist
16. "Sometimes" (Live) - Bilal

Single-MP3 Download (cassette style, preferred)

Split-track Download (for individual tracks)
1. "In My Room" - The Beach Boys
2. "James" - Camera Obscura
3. "Starting All Over" - Jeremih
4. "Giving Everything Away for Free" - Daniel Merriweather
5. "Terr et Tiwa dorment" - Alain Goraguer
6. "Dedicada a Ela" - Arthur Verocai
7. "A Forest" - Nouvelle Vague
8. "Too Long" - Yael Naim
9. "Penny's Confession" - Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program
10. "Auburn And Ivory" - Beach House
11. "The Artist" - Jagat Skad
12. "You Have Cum In Your Hair And Your Dick Is Hanging Out" - Palace
13. "Master Sigh" - Andrew Bird
14. "Human of the Year" - Regina Spektor
15. "Galvanize" - Cryptacize
16. "Doctor Blind" - Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
17. "The Strangers" - St. Vincent
18. "Fly" - Nikki Jean
19. "Visions" - Stevie Wonder

Monday, June 21, 2010

808s and Spacecakes

The twitter homey 808sandcupcakes has dipped her toe in the mixtape game and brought the internets 17 tracks to... well, um... just look at the album cover. It's her first foray, but I'm sure it won't be the last. Homey's been takin' notes (lol), and even if you don't engage in cannabinoid activities, this mix is well worth the download. She even went to the lengths of making it all reggae, which is an automatic win in my book. I'ma stop typing, yall click that album cover and crush something. Disfruta.

'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky

Overdoz released this video on April 20 (for obvious reasons) but I think they just released the actual mp3. Either way, the video is hilarious and the song goes hard (pause granddad).

Robert Browning Would Be Proud

Do yourself a HUGE favor. Click play, then click this and download Value Pack 4. I tried to told yall, Fly Union is the future. Ohio stand tall.

You Ain't Even Go To Class

"I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to defend it. Right or wrong, I'm going to defend it."

-Cameron, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Summer Solstice

So as of 7:23 this morning, it's officially summer. Break out the grill and throw on the SPF40, and somebody blow the dust of that slip-and-slide. And while you're at it, get some good, free music. From start to finish, this EP by The Drums sounds like the perfect summer day at the beach: fun and carefree, with maybe a love interest or two, watching the waves roll into the shore. So grab your board and catch the wave, and try not to get your ipod wet in the process. Click the album cover to download.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Climb

Today was graduation day for the 8th graders at my school. It was bittersweet, as these moments always are. Many I will never see again; others, perhaps too often. For some, it will be their final graduation before the thorns of life choke them out of school altogether. Still, it was a day to celebrate, and an honor to share it with the marvelous people many of my former students have grown to be.

I don't think I could ever adequately communicate how much my kids touch my life, how they unwittingly shaped me into the man I've become. While I taught them similes and square roots, they taught me compassion and perseverance. They've made me laugh when I wanted to cry, they've helped me find sunlight when I was fondling through darkness. I will always feel that I've failed them in some way as a teacher, that I wasn't kind enough, or that I coddled them too much. That I didn't push them hard enough, or let them know how important they were to me, their teacher, when they needed to hear it most.

These feelings are the cords of a whip that will always find new skin to tear on my back. It's why, every September, I will always look at each new classroom of bright-eyed, blue-shirted students with a sense of grand opportunity and sheer terror. I know what the future holds: great promise, but certain failure. And it's my job to prepare them for both, to make them believe that anything they dream, they can also make a reality. But also to brush the dirt off their knees when they fall and hold them up when they're weak.

At today's ceremony, part of the program was devoted to an unofficial "class song." It was "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. Taken at face-value, it would seem an odd or even corny choice, but for my kids, my students, my school... me, it was the most appropriate way to bring this chapter of life to a close. These students were my 6th-graders two years ago, when I was a second-year TFA teacher, acclimated enough to the practice of teaching to hold my own in a classroom of knuckleheads and still young enough to relate, but green to the starkest realities of my job. It was the year that I probably grew the most as a teacher, and, perhaps, when I felt most passionate about teaching. That year I realized how much power I held in a single stick of chalk, and how much potential was stuffed into each desk in front of me.

But the past two years haven't been easy. I've been forced to meet the reality of my situation; I am a young teacher of inner-city youth in a broken community of broken expectations. I've buckled under the pressure of trying to be too much to too many, and the shame of knowing that I've not done enough for a simple few. I've dealt with the death of a former student, by suicide, and the memories of how I could have done more are needles that will poke at the walls of my heart forever.

So while Miley Cyrus may seem an odd source of comfort and inspiration, these four years teaching--shoot, my life in general--have been a climb. But if I've learned anything, it's that there's always gonna be another mountain, and I'm always gonna wanna make it move. It's always gonna be an uphill battle, and sometimes I'm gonna have to lose. It's not about how fast I get there or even what's waiting on the other side. In the end, all that matters is the climb.

So in a way, tonight marked a personal graduation of sorts. It's been four years since I sat in the heat of Brookings Quadrangle, the untold promises of a world of verdant opportunity awaiting like the view into Forest Park. I left a place of blinding opportunity to make my home in a city where it sometimes seems you'd see more light if you just kept your eyes closed. It hasn't been easy. In fact, it has been and continues to be the hardest thing I've ever done. And it's why I'm still doing it. I've never wanted to do anything else. Because the climb is worth it.

When Tytiana-- the girl in that pic up there that thinks she's grown now (and also one of my all-time favorite students)--was a sixth-grader in my class, she used to joke saying, "It's real out here, Mr. Garr," her chubby cheeks filled with eleven years of innocence as she grinned. It was her excuse sometimes when I asked her why she did something we both knew she had no business doing. But it was also a lil more than that. It was her explanation for the facts of life that didn't need explaining, that sometimes you do the things you do simply because you've got to. It was an acknowledgement that reality makes life difficult, and in dealing with reality we can make bad choices because they help us cope with those difficulties.

But that cheeky grin told me something else. It told me that there is no shame in failure because no amount of losses can equal defeat unless you allow them that victory. And it's a lesson--one of many--that I will take with me as I close this chapter and begin a new one.

Walk In My Shoes

My born day is fast approaching, so before all of you bombard me with questions, I figured I'd go ahead and tell you what I want for my birthday. Not much, just these. A simple pair of shoes. If all of you pool your money together, then I'm sure you can afford it.