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Album Review: Psalmurai’s BLTN Is A Rap Classic

 

There’s the thing about rap – rap; not the inaudible ramblings that pass for it these days – it has power. Power; in that words that may or may not hold much significance individually become a pledge, an oath, a promise, a threat – whatever the wordsmith intended the listener to feel, when strung together in a witty and interesting way.

Power.

And, in the immortal words of Uncle Ben, or Stan Lee, as the case may be –

With great power –

You know the rest.

 

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Psalmurai is a rapper cut from the same cloth that birthed folks like Nas, Killah Priest, Mode9, KRS ONE and a few others. An understanding that words hold power, and therefore wordsmiths hold a responsibility to their listeners. If you’ve ever listened to anything this MC put out, the first thing that strikes you is how serious he takes his craft.

Starting out as a member of The Kalifate; now rebranded as The Brand, Psalmurai has been putting out solo work for a minute. From the critically acclaimed mixtape Grind Finale to the consistent yearly Wrap Up series (dropping since 2006) listeners have come to expect pure rhymes from this young MC.

And he’s yet to disappoint.

 

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Continuing the pattern of consistency is the latest entry in his catalogue; BLTN an acronym which stands for Better Late Than Never. Seven tracks long, tanking at twenty-six minutes, the tape is produced by MHP, a South-Africa based producer. On the first two tracks, MHP’s XYZ (super-producer, best known for his collaborative album with the great Mode9) influence is apparent – but MHP takes it a notch higher by taking the sound and making it distinctively his. Psalmurai’s bars are sharp and nimble as ever, as he spits on the opening track Dusk To Dawn;

 

Now do I gotta say I’m from the projects?

Or the ghetto in the beast like the Loch Ness?

Chick in stilettos selling sex for a lot less

Sex-working or walking around jobless

But God bless

Not my defense but offence

I’m breaking down the metal gates and the tall fence

Got nothing but smart men in my circumference

And I got what it takes to excite your girlfriend

 

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The feel of the project is introspective; he’s getting on the title track BLTN he goes;

My resolve; praise the Lord God daily

RIP to the late great Marcus Garvey

Who gave you the right, the robe and gravel to judge

We all equal under God and gravel nigga that’s deep

Six feet precisely

 

And then….he goes on further:

 

 Better late than sorry

I’ll rather say never

Instead of sounding stupid

I’d rather sound clever

But if I sound stupid to make a point

That’s clever

The wise can play the fool but –

Not vice versa

He aight – what is missing is the essence

The new school cool – what is missing is the lessons

I want Kalifa high, DJ Khaled blessings

But before God bless us – first He gon’ test us

 

There’s a confidence in Psalmurai’s delivery; he’s basically a ronin walking down a familiar path. For old listeners, it’s a known journey, for new listeners it’s a proper introduction. On Django, he’s does a bit of battling – all the time reminding his audience of his authenticity. And then, the tape kind of switches to the b-side, which has Psalmurai dabbling with some issues and storytelling.

 

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On Single, he balances rhyming with objectivity about the pressure the sexes go through:

She got it, yeah yeah she got it

Front to back she got – she a goddess

Mulatto got me hooked to be honest

She fine you cannot be fine beyond this

More stairs no; skyscraper

Oh boy! She’s been single for the longest

Like a thousand men, trying to date her

Makes it hard to pick and choose who the one is

She fine; ah-yeah yeah she the finest

Broke niggas too broke for her highness

Rich not rich enough for her highness

That is not the facts now let me digress

 

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Rhymes like that is what is missing from rap these days; thought-provoking, challenging and memorable words. Words that create pictures that linger in the mind – long after the record has stopped spinning.

 

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NHICT (No Heroes In Capetown) is the story of the search for greener pastures; a story that ends sourly for our lead character, Johnny who falls victim to Xenophobia.

Traveler is a chronicle of Psalm’s journey; how far he’s come and how he moves in his mind. Maka drops a stirring hook that makes me feel as though they need to collaborate more. Posse Cut has a number of rappers dropping bars that, while lackluster in points, are strong enough to round off the project.

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BLTN is a strong entry into a genre that is going through an evolution; recreating itself for an audience with less and less of an attention span. I believe in Psalmurai.

And if you enjoy rap, you should too.

 

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Visit: https://soundcloud.com/psalmurai to listen to and download BLTN. 

 

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Movie Review: Justice To The League.

 

There’s a reason I don’t read reviews before seeing the movie.

At the end of the day, a critic is still human. And even though he/she is a human supposedly tempered by years of experience, personal bias still comes to play sometimes. However, someone with contrary views should still be able to agree with the critic – because criticism is not art. It is – or should be science – to a certain extent.

For example, we all agree that Beyonce is a beautiful woman. I don’t have to be Jay – Z to know that. What we may disagree on, is how beautiful she is. But to call Beyonce ugly is to talk out of your ass.

I said all of that to say this; Justice League is a solid film.

 

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After four mostly tepid films (Wonder Woman was/is seriously overrated), DCU had to pull out all the stops – including hiring Avengers/MCU alumni Joss Whedon to finish the film and direct some reshoots after Snyder had to step away due to a family tragedy. Though, I honestly cannot say they actually ‘pulled out all the stops’, this movie is a huge leap forward for the franchise.

We know the story. ‘Inspired by Superman’s selfless sacrifice (yada yada yada) Batman decides to recruit a team to protect a humanity he suddenly has restored hope in’.

Very boring premise if you ask me – but it was somewhat justified.

The opening sequences were taken adapted from the animated movie Justice League War which in turn was inspired by Jim Lee’s New 52 Justice League comic. Batman stops a criminal and is interrupted by a parademon, one of Steppenwolf’s (or Darkseid, depending on who you ask) minions who can smell fear. Batman stops said minion who then self-destructs. The criminal then asks Batman, ‘The world is going crazy. It’s because of him, right? Because he’s gone? Where does that leave us?’ or words to that effect. It’s a sentence that hits Batman enough to make him leave the criminal he stopped and swing off.

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From then, we see Wonder Woman stop a terrorist attack – and here is my first, personal issue with the movie; Wonder Woman is suddenly super-fast. Speed has never been one of Wonder Woman’s strengths – though it only makes sense since she’s fast enough to catch/deflect bullets. But her doing things that are best left for Flash – well.

Speaking of, Ezra Miller couldn’t have been better cast. His awkwardness and eagerness rounds off the team perfectly, though he came across as overdoing it sometimes. But he owns several high points of the movie.

Cyborg was mostly a tepid character; he looked good until he stepped out of the hoodie and into his metal shell. For a movie that cost so much to make, you would expect them to get his armor right. I mean, they could have built him rubber suits kinda like Iron Man, no? But no. They had to go full CGI.

It sucked.

That is the same thing that ruined the villain, Uncle Steppenwolf. He would have totally rocked as a bad guy but for the complete CGI thing that ruined him visually. He looked like a prop and talked like a dummy. Ugh.

 

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Superman was brought in as the deux ex machina – but somehow it works. I hated the fact that they killed Supes in his second movie, something we had to wait for 50 years to actually happen in the comics, and then, they brought him back before we had a chance to catch our breaths. But somehow, it works.

The best part however, is the Superman who came back. The character has gone through some growth since we met him in Man of Steel nine years ago (time flies don’t it?), and is starting to look and sound more like the Superman we know and love (or not; depending on who you ask). Though with Henry Cavill’s wooden face, I don’t have a lot of hope there. Still. Also, if you notice there’s something wrong with Cavill’s mouth, it’s because there’s something wrong with Cavill’s mouth. He’s on Mission Impossible 6, and apparently his character has a beard there and he could not shave. Guess what they did?

They CGI’d a mouth and nose on him. GROSS.

Gal Gadot rocked. And despite the intentional toning down of Batman’s awesomeness to accommodate the other guys, there was still enough of him to make me want to see the stand alone Batman film – and to see Affleck play him some more. There was just enough to show why Bats is still the greatest hero ever – simply because he is always ten steps ahead.

Don’t take my word for it. Watch the damn movie.

Jason Mamoa is a pretty sweet Aquaman. Amber Heard is a formidable Mera – and I honestly look forward to the solo fish-man film. I’m not so sure Ezra Miller’s strong enough to hold down a solo Flash movie – but I’ve been wrong before.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

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By all means, watch Justice League in the cinemas – and see to it that you sit through the credits. There are two post credit scenes just like Marvel – and one of them involves my second-favorite DC character; a certain mercenary. DOPE.

Also, watch for the Green Lantern cameos.

 

Thor: Ragnarok Review – Third Time Is The Charm

 

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The first Thor movie was only monumental because of certain circumstances that surround(ed)  my seeing the movie – a personal story. Mostly I floated through it.

The second movie was worse. I went to the cinema twice to see it – and fell asleep midway through both viewings. What made the second time worse was; I was there on invitation from one of my closest friends. He wanted me to meet his fiancé.

However, I couldn’t help myself. That movie was a snorefest; and its dark themes and shadows didn’t allow it fit too convincingly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Permit me to say now; Thor Ragnarok is Thor’s Terminator II: Judgement Day.

If you don’t know what that is, Google is your friend.

While you’re at it, you might also want to check out Ragnarok – the actual Norse mythology version. In that tale, Loki is the one who brings about the ruination of Asgard by way of his alliance with the frost giants and Fenrir (Hela’s giant wolf in this movie) and Sutr the giant with a flaming sword.

However, the whole story was reworked by Stan Lee and others for the comics – and then reworked for the movie version. For example, Hela is Loki’s daughter in the comics; she was promoted to be Odin’s for this movie. She and him were conquerors who started out to rule the universe. After conquering nine realms, Odin grew uncomfortable with her ambition and bloodlust and sealed her off in a prison with his life force.

As long as he (Odin) lives…

 

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Thor: Ragnarok begins with Thor in chains and in a cage, soliloquizing about how he got there and what the next thing for him is (hold your breath for who his cellmate is) and then, he gets into a sharp quick battle with giant –

And then, he returns to Asgard where Odin has become a wine-drinking, grape swallowing, massage-enduring buffoon (watch for Matt Damon’s cameo). He plays a game of Catch-The-Hammer mostly with himself – and then exposes the fraud.

In a lot of ways, Thor has been reconstructed to better fit into the MCU; better and more regular jokes, colorful scenes and finally, a movie in which Thor gets to show his physicality. He is a better match for Hulk in this round, and the battle is exciting. There’s a scene in which Hulk grabs Thor and wipes the floor with him the exact same way he did with Loki in the first Avengers movie – and Loki, unable to help himself, jumps up in the bleachers and yells ‘THAT’S HOW THAT FELT!’ and effectively blowing his own cover.

A star-studded supporting cast do well in this turn also. Tessa Thompson shines well as Scrapper 142 or the last surviving Valkyrie, Marvel’s answer for DC’s Amazons. She holds her own well – which makes all the ‘feminist’ equality speech by Hemsworth at some point moot. Jeff Goldblum is the stellar Grandmaster, and with the co-opting and retconning of the War World storyline into Ragnarok and making the Grandmaster king instead of The Red King, and making the gladiatorial battles The Contest of Champions (another Marvel storyline) the arena is set for the ultimate smackdown: Hulk VS Thor.

Karl Urban plays Skurge, the original Executioner – who appears here without his usual boss The Enchantress. Instead, he’s a disgraced Asgardian who believes he is destined for greater things and mans the Bifrost Bridge in Heimdahl’s self-exile. Totting two AK-47s which he calls ‘Dis’ and ‘Troy’ he ends up in a way quite similar to his comic namesake’s end. Watch for spoilers. Mark Ruffalo is a great Hulk but an even greater Banner – or maybe vice versa – depending on who you ask, but his presence is felt every time he shows up on screen, either as the puny human who hasn’t ‘come out’ in two years – or his Hulking counterpart.

 

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A few plot holes slow this movie down – but none more than the following; when Thor lands on Sakar he is ‘injected’ with an ‘obedience disk’ which also doubles as a Taser of sorts. He enters the arena armed with double swords which makes sense because years of depending on Mijolnir, but after being pounded well by Hulk, he is able to summon his thunder in spite of being without his hammer. I mean, this man’s eyes were literally white, lightning was running up and down his arms – and yet, he was tazed into unconsciousness. AGAIN.

In a surprising turn of events Loki doesn’t outshine Thor much this outing – even though Hiddlestone remains sharp as ever. Instead, it would seem Thor has been built up and made more compelling – and his character growth is something interesting to watch.

All in all – Ragnarok is a fun watch. Go see this in the cinemas, and wait patiently; there are two post credit scenes. This is no Winter Soldier, neither is it Avengers 1 – but it is a worthy entry into the Marvel box-office successes.

I’d gladly watch it again.

A Love Story?

 

The air-conditioning was on – but for some reason, the car was colder than it was moments ago.

Moments ago, when we left the cinema holding hands. It’s funny how physically close to someone you can be and yet be oceans apart. Sure, she was right next to me; I could smell the lingering scent of her body lotion mixed with her own smell, but I couldn’t guess what she was thinking. I wanted to ask her what; or make a witty comment about the movie we just watched –

But there was a look on her face that silenced me.

We were driving – or rather I was driving towards her house and the silence filled the car with sound. To hide my increasing nervousness, I pushed the radio power button – but she laid a hand across mine. I pushed the button again, turning the radio off but she still held onto my hand.

I turned towards her slightly, keeping one eye on the road. I had watched too many films of guys driving and being distracted by the women beside them. She was staring at me intently and frankly; I started to sweat around the balls.

‘Is anything wrong?’ I asked.

She swallowed. I started to feel the chill – a chill that had nothing to do with the car air-conditioning. My heart was beating so loudly I could feel it pounding against my eardrums. I held her hand back, realizing how cold it was. I pulled my hand free and turned off the air-conditioning – and then, I held her hand again.

‘I – I’m pregnant. Ba – Seun, I’m carrying your baby.’

You know, the reason I don’t answer all those ‘what would you do’ questions in those Facebook groups is because I know it’s hard to say what you’ll do in ANY situation – except you’ve actually lived through it. If someone had told me before I went into the cinema that evening that everything I thought I knew about myself would change in less than four hours, I’d have sworn heaven and earth.

I’m carrying your baby.

And as I sat beside her, driving towards her house I realized I never meant all the things I said to her. Ideas about ‘always loving her’ and ‘wanting to be with her’ were just that; ideas that couldn’t survive in the real world. I opened my mouth to say something – anything, but I had no idea what, so I closed it back.

I looked at her –

She was in the corner of her seat, sobbing quietly. I didn’t notice when she let go of my hand. Comfort her; the kind part of me insisted. Tell her it will be fine – that everything will be okay.

But I couldn’t bring myself to tell one more lie.

 

Why

 

The question lies;

 

Deep within these friendless skies,

 

Family with who you have no blood ties,

 

And they talk as if all of life; within blood lies,

 

What do they know; really?

 

What do they; or I, or you, for that matter…

 

What do we know of what truly matters?

 

Then; deep, within these friendly highs,

 

Lies the question…

 

Why; then?

 

Why?

 

True Lies.

 

I obsess about the truth. As though that makes me a lily-white saint.

 

However, in my continued mania, I have come to an uncomfortable question; do I really want to know the truth about everything like I claim to want to?

 

The answer is unequivocally NO.

 

Sometimes, it’s better to let some lies lie.

On Me.

 

What if I told you I haven’t spent a lot of time with me lately?

I’m just saying. That sounds…I don’t know, somehow? It’ll make sense in a minute, I hope. Please stay with me.

As I was saying, I haven’t seen me lately. And it has mostly to do with the fact that a number of things in my life are changing. It’s change I’m mostly uncomfortable with; just like a number of other people, I like familiarity. I hate new things. They throw my well-ordered life into some sort of flux.

I am a control freak after all.

But I also know enough to know change is necessary for growth. In familiarity and comfort lies death and ruination if one is not careful. ‘Constant elevation causes expansion’ – so said the great Rakim Allah, which means to me that, to reach your potential, you must constantly elevate – grow, develop, improve. Why stay in a place you’ve conquered?

So I’m experiencing new things, and with that, an augmentation of my world view. I realize there’s so much I remain ignorant of, even in a world I think or thought I know so much of. I still don’t know shit.

And I look forward to spending time with me – so much time, I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m looking at the times; the signs, I’m looking at where I am and where I could be – and I realize; the potential is so so much.

I have not even begun.

How about you? Are you at a point where you feel like – ‘this is it’, or do you know for a fact that there’s still work to be done; and the only reason you’re still where you are is because of…maybe fear?

Only you can tell. I’m just saying that – can you move? Can you do something different – even if it’s a bit? Can you try something new?

Can we?

 

 

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