Monday, July 27, 2009

30 Days & 30 Nights At Sea

I am fortunate to call Corbin Watkins my friend.

For those of you who have heard his last album, "The Space/Time Continuum," I don't need to wax adoringly; but for those who are unfamiliar with Corbin's music, I can say honestly that you are missing out.

While "Space/Time" was a project of expansive craftsmanship (just check out the booklet inside the CD for an example of his creativity), the journey that Corbin has just completed is simply awe-inspiring. It's called "30 Days & 30 Nights At Sea," and it showcases not only Corbin's unique take on the world around him, but the single-minded dedication to a project that great artists have.

Corbin wrote and recorded 30 songs in 30 days, his music tracking the adventures of a sailor on the open ocean. That's right -- 30 songs, 30 days. Along the way, he tapped some of Bellingham's brightest artists like John Furtado, Dana Little, Jeremiah Austin (of the Love Lights), and John Van Deusen to help him tell his stroy. the result is remarkable.

I encourage all of you to check out the "30 Days" album here, and you can click on each track to not only hear the day's recording, but to see the video of the recording that Corbin made.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death Of Auto-Tune

Jay-Z has finally created the song that puts words to the thoughts I've had about mainstream rap music for years.

Let me explain: his new single D.O.A (Death Of Auto-Tune) is the long-awaited call to revival that hip-hop has been thirsting for. For the last few years, anyone trying to listen to hip-hop on the radio or at a house party or in the club has had to endure endless strings of songs by T-Pain, Rihanna, Akon, and a million one-hit wonders who sing with warped voices over a dope beat and a catchy hook.

It's impossible to tell if they have any talent because the auto-tune that their voices are on manipulates them into that addictive, near-mechanical quasi-whine that gets everybody to sing along before they even realize they're doing it. It was fun at first, but then everyone realized that it was just much easier to have a hit with an auto-tuned song than with real, hard-hitting skills.

It's not just the poppy Teen Beat artists that use it either. Besides goons like Chris Brown, Ray-J, and Jeremih -- whose fun but ultimately inconsequential songs dominate the airwaves -- legitimate MCs like T.I., Lil Wayne, and Wyclef Jean have all fallen prey to this trend.

Auto-tune is to the current music scene what the synthesizer was to the 80's, only not as iconic or productive. It has softened the mics of the MCs and the minds of the audience. Jay-Z attacks the the current downward trend, trying to single-handedly cause hip-hop to regress back to the mean, where live MCs like Mos Def and Talib Kweli can get their propers instead of being pushed to the fringe by "Birthday Sex" and "Buy U A Drank."

Maybe it takes an artist like Jay-Z to make this song. For years, talented but non-mainstream rappers like Atmosphere, Brother Ali, and Pharoahe Monche have bemoaned the pop-ification of hip-hop, but none of them is Jigga. Perhaps only HOVA himself can turn the downward slide of the genre.

Jay-Z is an empire unto himself; "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man" he says in one of his verses. He is widely considered as the greatest rapper of the post-Tupac/Biggie era and has used his talent to build a colossal fortune through various businesses and investments. And he did it all without selling out. He's mainstream without trying, the perfect storm of talent, aura, charisma, and marketability.

Jay-Z comes with a loaded lyrical bazooka on this track and backs it with real live, stone-cold, smoky-as-a-jazz-club band music that drives his point home. It's a Big-Tent call back to the hip-hop gospel and here's hoping that the revival is real.

"I'm hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That's what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that's from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter."
-- Jay-Z

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baseball Perfection Incarnate?

"The first thing that a pitcher has to understand is that Albert is better than you." --Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer

We only get to see a few transformative sports figures come along in our lifetimes. Only a handful that are so surpassing in talent that you wonder how one person can break away from even the elite tier in such a substantive fashion.

You know the names: Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Ken Griffey Jr, Jerry Rice.
All of these players stand out from the crowd, all of them are household names. You don't need to know much about any of their sports or teams to recognize that those players are greatness personified.

But there's one man going right now that is so much better than everyone else in the world at his sport, that he belongs in that echelon. His name is Albert Pujols and he is quietly putting together one of the best careers in the history of baseball.

His strengths: All of the strengths. Yep, all of them.
His weaknesses: None.

Seriously. The traditional stats (HRs, RBIs, Batting Average) are eye-popping. His sabermetric stats are explosive. His fielding numbers lap the field. His ability to get on base and hit everything hard means that he is as likely to hit a home run as he is to strike out. That's lunacy!

ESPN recently profiled Pujols from the four main aspects of baseball: hitting, fielding, defense, and the approach pitchers take to him. It is a specatcular read and gives perspective to just how lucky we are to be sharing the planet Earth with the quasi-deity that is Albert Pujols.

ENJOY! (Click for the ESPN article)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ferrets Mean Business

You probably all know that a group of Fish is called a 'School.' And that a group of Geese is called a 'Flock.' 'Pride' of Lions, 'Herd' of Cattle, etc. But did you know that a group of Ferrets is called a 'Business?'

Here are some other favorites:
*A Congregation of Alligators
*An Obstinancy of Buffalo
*A Sleuth of Bears
*A Crash of Rhinoceroses
*A Peep of Chickens
*A Revolution of Dizzos
*A Clowder of Cats
*A Murder of Crows
*A Cackle of Hyenas
*A Lounge of Lizards
*A Wreck of Seabirds
*A Prickle of Porcupines

-The more you know.