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Curren$y

With his Smoker’s Club revue, this New Orleans rapper and has brought friends and fellow marijuana connoisseurs like Big K.R.I.T., Method Man, Fiend, Mac Miller, and the aptly named Smoke DZA to the New York City stage. Tonight, he comes to S.O.B.’s for a solo gig, with his drawling tongue-twisters front-and-center.

Thu., Jan. 3, 9 p.m., 2013

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GRIND TIME

With the recently reissued Liquid Swords, GZA wrote what many would consider 
the crown jewel of the impeccable run of first wave Wu-Tang solo albums that 
began with Method Man’s Tical and ended with Ghostface’s Ironman nearly two years later. They don’t call him a genius for nothing: These days, he’s mixing performances and recording with keynote lectures at MIT and the EMP Pop Conference. Stay for him, but make 
sure you arrive early enough to catch Killer Mike (pictured), the Atlanta stomper whose latest, R.A.P. Music, features fierce political rhymes over impenetrable El-P beats. With Bear Hands and Sweet Valley.

Thu., Oct. 18, 7 p.m., 2012

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Musical Heroes: A New York Comic-Con Playlist

If things seem a little more heroic around you than usual, it’s because today marks the start of the 2012 New York Comic-Con. The NYCC is one of the nation’s biggest comic conventions, attracting fans, artists, industry types and celebrities from all over the entertainment world. The lines waiting for autographs and seminars are going to be long, so we’ve done you the solid of coming with a Super Hero themed playlist to help make the wait a tad easier.

See Also:
Ladies of Batman at Comic-Con
The Pop Culture Cosplayers of Comic-Con
Cosplay on Display at Comic-Con

Method Man – “The Riddler” 1995
Thanks to Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” the Batman Forever soundtrack is most likely a part of you or a loved one’s music collection. Also on it is a shining piece of mid-90s RZA-produced Wu-Tang greatness, “The Riddler” by Method Man.

Jurassic 5 – “It’s Clobberin’ Time” 2005
While not making the cut for the official Fantastic Four motion picture soundtrack, neo-old school rap outfit Jurassic 5’s “It’s Clobberin’ Time” found itself a home on the film’s officially licensed video game. For more Fantastic Four rap-endeavors, we would like to draw your attention to The Thing’s own attempt at rapping from the team’s mid-90s cartoon show.

The Flaming Lips – “The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-Man How to Love” 2007
People love to hate the third entry in the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man franchise, but if one thing can legitimize its existence, it’s The Flaming Lips’ “The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-Man How to Love.” The highlight of the film’s soundtrack, it chronicles Muhammad Ali teaching everybody’s favorite web-head how to truly love by boxing him. With Spider-Man first debuting in 1962, it’s amazing it took this long for such a song to be written.

Ghostface Killah – “Slept on Tony” 2008
Ghostface has been using Iron Man imagery for years. His alias is Tony Starks. He called his debut Iron Man. He has a brief and crafty cameo in the Iron Man movie too, where a video for his song “Slept on Tony” can be seen playing in a scene. On the track, Ghost fittingly takes his Tony Starks parallels to their ultimate extreme.

Nyle – “X-Man” 2009
If you like your comic book-themed songs riddled with name drops and references AND you’re an X-Men fan, stop drilling, you’ve struck oil. Philly MC Nyle, most known for his “Let the Beat Build” viral video a few years back, served up this tribute to one of his favorite franchises, all in the guise of song about an all-too-common relationship problem. It affects us all, bub.

Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death – “Marvel” 2011
Finally, last year saw Seattle rap artist Nacho Picasso team up with production duo Blue Sky Black Death for their fantastic comic tribute “Marvel.” A true ode to the imprint, Nacho brings his mischievous stream-of-conscience flow to utilize many of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Universe while conveying the simple joys of being a comic fan.

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Method Man Raps About Sour Patch Kids Gone Bad

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Method Man rapped about Sour Patch Kids as CGI candy ran around causing havoc in a nicely appointed kitchen? Of course you haven’t, but, for some reason, it’s happened anyway in a new spot labeled “World Gone Sour (The Lost Kids).” Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics, shall we?

The gist of the song is that the Sour Patch Kids are basically royal dicks. A few things you can expect of them:

  • Crushing all your dreams, cut the strings in your yo-yo
  • Trade your Lamborghini to your Volvo
  • Throw bleach in your laundry then unfold your origami

And, worst of all, “Now they’re on your Facebook deleting all your friends.”

According to Adweek “the spot ties into a forthcoming video game from the brand, in which players will be ‘shrunken down to the size of a Sour Patch Kid and made to battle insane candy and deranged humans on their quest to fulfilling their destiny — being eaten.'”

“Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” indeed.

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THE CHRONIC

When the Smoker’s Club Tour first rolled through New York last October, Curren$y had dropped the first of his two breakthrough Pilot Talk albums; Big K.R.I.T. was riding the blog hype generated by his candy-painted, country rap K.R.I.T. Wuz Here mixtape (but had recently been booed off the stage at the then-Nokia Theatre); and Method Man was off touring with what remained of the Wu. In the year since, Curren$y and K.R.I.T. have both gained more fans and come into their own on new releases, and Method Man, well, he’ll always be Method Man. Smoke DZA and Fiend join for a night of strong rapping and stronger weed.

Fri., Oct. 14, 9 p.m., 2011

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Insane Clown Posse

Sure, Insane Clown Posse’s Masters of the Macabre, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have become icons unto themselves–having finally transcended cartoonish horror-core rap thanks to the over-the-top Gathering of the Juggalos meme videos–but the fans are the real stars of every show. When they’re not spraying soda all over each other or assaulting Tila Tequila and Method Man (at the aforementioned Gathering), they’re holding bloody backyard wrestling matches and perfecting their own clown makeup. Tonight, they converge on the 600-person capacity Gramercy Theatre. With No Redeeming Social Value.

Fri., April 29, 7 p.m., 2011

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GZA

With things marginally unstable in the world of Wu (the triumvirate of Ghostface, Method Man, and Raekwon have a record slated for February, and all else is pretty quiet), Clan man GZA is doing the only sure thing: touring. His last album, 2008’s Protools, wasn’t the landmark that Liquid Swords was in the ’90s, but at least it still had better lyrics than its unimaginative title suggested. The standout was the 50 Cent dig “Paper Plates,” so don’t expect to see Curtis at tonight’s show.

Sat., Jan. 9, 9 p.m., 2010

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Def Jam at 25

What is it about hip-hop that, inevitably, almost any conversation revolves around dates—around how far back in the day you can claim to go? Is there a culture as proudly obsessed with its past that still publicly and adamantly refuses to get caught up in a pissing match about nostalgia? Even though those pissing matches are inevitable?

Yet there’s just something about what hip-hop has always asked of us—demanded of us. To treat it as bigger than it maybe was, at least at first. To do more than just fuck around with it. To commit. To be hip-hop. That’s what Def Jam was, and, at its best, maybe still is: a commitment. Now 25 years old, the beloved label, celebrating New York City rap back when New York City had way more to celebrate, always just felt—oh, God, stop me before I say it—real. Knowing that a rapper recorded for Def Jam signaled that he (usually, he) was clearly, exponentially more talented and important. This label was hip-hop, and just picking up a Def Jam record made us more hip-hop as well.

For many of us—for me, at least—to talk about Def Jam is to talk about and remember the ’80s, when I’d spend time in record stores like the now-shuttered Beat Street, asking the in-house DJ to play me this, play me that. And, slowly, I started to differentiate by label—to realize that as with Rough Trade, Verve, or Sub Pop, a Def Jam artist was deeply individual, but also part of an exclusive, narrowly cast collective of like-minded masterminds, led by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons from the onset, and Lyor Cohen later. They haven’t always dominated, but they’ve survived: Marking a quarter-century is cause enough for celebration, but 25 consistent years of anything hip-hop? Much less from a label? Hip-hop hooray! That’s the stuff dreams—and a $60 commemorative box set, and a prime-time VH1 special—are made of.

Hey, kids! You want hits? The Def Jam 25 Anniversary Collection box set has got ’em! Five CDs’ worth! Chart toppers! Grammy winners! Artists that shaped a generation! The fabric of our lives! The set inexplicably does not contain the first two singles with a Def Jam catalog number—the Beastie Boys’ “Rock Hard” and LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat”—but it does include the first single with the official logo: T-La Rock’s “It’s Yours.” And, thankfully, most of the material that follows has aged quite nicely. Arranged by chronology, the five discs come packed in a plastic milk-crate (too cute by half) alongside a cheap-looking T-shirt affixed with the Def Jam and Adidas logos—even legends need corporate sponsorship.

Listening to much of this music is like finding an old friend on Facebook: Method Man’s “Bring the Pain” still burns with pot-induced paranoia, Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” still swings, and as for Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” . . . perfection. Has the appeal of Boss diminished with time? Does Hollis Crew read a little, oh, I don’t know, dated? Yeah—and so what? It was the shit back then, you sad-faced clown. Hip-hop is hotwired to be time-coded. It’s about changing up on a dime, and, over the years, Def Jam’s had a lot of currency: LL. Public Enemy. Redman. Method Man. Redman and Method Man. Nas. Jay. EPMD. Kanye.

But never Heavy D. To his dismay. Back in the mid-’80s, before he scored a deal with Uptown Records, the Jamaican-born, New York–raised rapper sent his demo to Def Jam three times, and got three rejections. It wasn’t so much wanting to get signed—it was wanting to get signed with Def Jam. “Other labels were doing hip-hop,” Heavy told me. “But you could see [Def Jam] was a movement and more than just a one-off. They believed in the culture, and that the culture was necessary.” Think of it like the Yankees: Even if they never get a ring, those pinstripes demand respect.

I flipped in and out of the recently aired VH1 Hip Hop Honors show, a yearly fete honoring rap’s past that, this year, served as an extended Def Jam reunion party and love letter. You can only take so much Tracy Morgan outside of 30 Rock, and TV is notoriously unkind to live music, but the show still worked. DMX killed. Likewise Public Enemy. Foxy Brown looked crazy. EPMD looked bored. (Thankfully, they did “Crossover,” the only rap song that bites a Beach Boys lyric, or at least the only good one.)

There were glaring absences: Jay, Rihanna, LL, Ne-Yo, and the Beasties (the latter understandable, of course). Oh, and Kanye, too, but I figure he’s laying low these days. (So much for a “Run This Town” sing-along.) As for those who made it, I was pissed that Mary J. Blige and Meth’s version of the sublime “You’re All I Need” was truncated, especially when Rick freaking Ross got to do all five excruciating minutes of “Hustlin’.” It just sounded awful—the cameras kept cutting to Rick, Russell, and Lyor up in the VIP section looking embarrassed, and Lyor signed the guy. Every second of airtime Ross received made me angrier—or maybe just disappointed. Why did Mary and Meth get bum-rushed while this clown got to shine? What does Rick Ross have to do with Def Jam’s legacy? With hip-hop’s legacy? With the culture?

“He’s had three No. 1 albums,” my 20-year-old son retorted. “Nobody cares about Method Man. He doesn’t sell.” Maybe. Maybe it’s not my hip-hop anymore. But I’m grateful that my hip-hop still exists at all.

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2Gethr 4evr

Method Man and Redman are the Daltrey/Townshend of hip-hop—every live show is a bombastic display, their teamwork almost telekinetic, their bodies and voices extended to breaking points nightly. Method Man is the only member of Wu-Tang Clan who religiously crowd-surfs, and Redman stomps on every inch of the stage he can without making the vinyl skip. Opener Ghostface Killah is more likely to knock you dead with his words, and he’s got a whole lot of them. His upcoming album, The Wizard of Poetry, is apparently a gritty, grown-assed-man r&b album, so maybe we’ll get an early look at how the reigning master of labyrinthine crime narrative gets smoothed out. This show is a kick-off for the All Points West Festival, which, honestly, could have used more hip-hop. With Duo Live, DJ JS1, and Mickey Factz with Stalley.

Thu., July 30, 9 p.m., 2009

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STILL NUTHING TA F’ WIT

Rap’s mainstream barely even exists anymore, and these days, the Wu-Tang Clan‘s eerie murk and ferocious paranoia couldn’t be any further from it. But if the endlessly chaotic Staten Island collective’s shows are now nostalgia-fests, they’re about the most forcefully giddy nostalgia-fests going, thanks in part to the throng of local diehards who will gladly bellow along with everything the group might throw at them. Last time this unruly mob rolled through Hammerstein, crew leader RZA was persona non grata after the rest of the group blamed his woozily psychedelic production job for the commercial failure of 8 Diagrams, their underrated 2007 reunion album. This time, his name is back on the flyer, so maybe someone apologized, and now it’s onstage MVP Method Man whose name is missing from the poster. As ever, it’s fun to speculate about what’s going on within those mysterious ranks: A promoter’s misprint? An internal falling out? Another shitty movie being filmed?

Tue., Dec. 23, 7 p.m., 2008