Little Jimmy’s been naughty and Sally’s been n-i-c-e

and the Life & Art clan

The Birth of a Prince

Okay. Time to disappear from hot stuffiness into the frosty charge of dark streets and warm jackets, eggnog and long-time friends and family. Come this time each year, rappers compete in the Winter Warz, who has the beats and sharpest rhymes for car rides at night, street light swerves and nostalgic raise-a-glass laughter? Why, RZA and Jigga – did you think not?

While Hova is dipping into the 401K Black that is Beyonce’s milkshake, Prince Rakeem has sweated out that B-O-B-B-Y nonsensical stress in a four-star hotel sauna, and returned rejuvenated on the NY scene, like, “Damn, it is time to have some fun, get crunk and let my thoughts unravel as they may for I am the Prince.” No, I do not know what the hell is up with Wu-Tang, but this is where heads need to head: stop comparing empires (Wu isn’t Murder Inc., oh, so now it’s The Inc. – how lame), stop worrying about total mainstream crossover (Method Man, reign it in) as the ol’ stuff is just hitting its eighth-wind, and keep the beats dark – re: but not pitch-black militant hallway shiv redundant.

From the get-go, Nancy Sinatra croons about flying high on “Bob N’ I” – born again, carefree, different – crisp bass echoes into the background, chills, “sha na na!” Next, a piercing siren isn’t too piercing, all the rewind-flip-it madness of Supreme Clientele’s “Stroke of Death” on “The Grudge,” but RZA is slipping and sliding with the tongue like windshield wipers over sleet – look both ways and you still won’t see the hit.

So much has been heard about comebacks and this is the first Wu CD in sometime where that point is not forced home – over it. “We Pop”: party anthem where the beat (courtesy of Megahertz) is almost sarcastic – it is not, however, whatev, and flows into a “Domestic Violence”-type back-forth hilarity.

And then there was…”Grits”: vibe with it, ’cause it’s tracks like this where the Wu stay young and kind – just big kids at heart battle-axing complex ideas and American struggle. Masta Killa – where is your solo album, dude? He’s honed the better Method for quite the minute – time to ship gold. Eating grits for dinner to survive another day – a less profane image than Ghost’s “roaches in the fridge,” or whatever, but it works.

Back to the paper chase, “wipe the smirk off your fucking face,” “searchin’ for that Bill like Lewinsky,” where there is a girl in the bed in need of the d and a world outside demanding substantial coin-op play. The answer: “Bobby Digital, Zodiac sign: Cancer.” Hah.

RZA brings chimes higher than smoke signals on “You’ll Never Know,” gives “servus” to ancient hood libation on “Drink, Smoke + Fcuk,” Kill Bill hype is fired up via “Koto Chotan” – filled with kung-fu blocks and chop-socky soundtrack – then the disc ends with mountainside meditation. Inverting back to a mother’s womb on “See the Joy” where Robert Diggs is “just a sperm…cell” racing against tadpoles, he is born into another turbulent rat race alongside us listeners. Will it ever end? I hope not.

– Hunter Stephenson


Dwayne Sodahberk

Dwayne Sodahberk is a talented musician and programmer whose main fault registers in is his inconsistency. Unfortunately comes across as two different EPs with the tracks shuffled together like a deck of cards. Oh yeah, his other main fault is that all influences are worn on sleeve. Right out of the gates, he brings the electronics/guitar/female vocals assault that sounds as if he snuck into the City Slang locker room and stole The Notwist’s playbook.

The second track is filled with IDM spasms that are only tied to the first track by his eerie vocals. All of a sudden, Sodahberk really throws a monkey wrench into the whole business by placing the first of his very much shoegaze-influenced-tracks into third position. An average listener is going to look at the CD player to make sure nothing is shuffling and grab a bottle of aspirin, since the bi-polar mood just lags. And that’s a real shame – as most tracks are of a superior quality.

Released on TigerBeat6, this is mostly electronic music that is easy on the ears, and any insrumentation is most likely Sodahberk. Nevertheless, standard fare for the IDM world, and so, he is left trudging down paths already blazed by artists like Inkblot and Casino Vs. Japan.

“Bird” is the standout track – check it out – a cut that starts off with a jangly ’60s-ish guitar hook, and slowly accumulates a spastic breakcore beat ala One Speed Bike or Criterion. The two divergent styles erupt in a swirling drum solo drowning out the over-saturated guitar space. From here, the disc settles back into the par-for-the-course vacillation between better-than-average IDM and laptop folk music.

Sodahberk shot his foot on this album by combining what would have been two terrific EPs into one disc that ends up more perplexing than exciting. It is an artistic decision that splits the audience: the IDM faithful will be left underwhelmed, and the unfamiliar seekers of new sounds will be left entertained by eccentric vision but alienated by confused composition.

– James Hush


Champion Sound
****, ***1/2 (compared to my hotttass bootleg)

There is no doubt that Jay Dee and Madlib have been responsible for some of the hottest beats/albums of the past decade or so. Decade?

Un huh: Dilla used to be a part of the Tribe production team known as the Ummah, for which he laced classics: “Find a Way,” “DaBooty,” “Keep it Moving” and on and on…oh yeah, the Pharcyde’s “Runnin,” Common’s entire Like Water For Chocolate album; ‘get about it, it don’t stop.

Madlib’s smoking enough greens to keep him as antisocial and subsequently productive as can be; here is something that may flip your toupees though: remember that monumental and whoever-you-are-you-gotta-respect-the-fact-that-you-own-it-or-know-the-lyrics-to-every-song-on-it album, Paul’s Boutique? Wells, Madlib mastered all of the production, so again, Champion Sound should be the shit, right?

I was hopping back and forth holding my ween with both hands waiting for the release of this shit since they announced it, then much like Wu-Tang did Wu-Tang Forever, it took forever to come out. I’d heard the single, “The Red” sometime around March or April and every weekend since, so regardless of [hotness] it suffers. They should push “Starz” though, that shit’s guaranteed to take off like a $20 tip at a strip club.

The only reason why I am hesistant about giving this album the hand job it deserves is due to the earlier bootleg version I’d heard and received and, which Life & Art subsequently got a stern talking-to by Peanut Butter Wolf for reviewing. (again: sorry).

Said ghetto CD-R contained, though clearly not as polished, hitters like the Marlins, rollers like a pastry shop, and bangers like a girl who points out to you that her Fruit of the Looms have a banana in the bunch.

It sounded more like Madlib and Jay Dee’s attitude toward music, that being: just do what sounds right. God that sounds shallow, but for real, their lyrics will never be amazing, just on point with the beat; and it’s the beats on this album that will really stick with you, even though “Survival Test,” “React” and to a lesser extent “Strip Club,” all sound the same.

But, with all the crap floating about in the port-a-potty that rap has become, Champion Sound is three handfuls of Charmin, so pick it up, wipe the rest away; plus “No Games” is so full of fire my piss burns.

– Sven Barth

The Life & Art staff ’03 can be reached at