Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - January 2017 Pt. 2

Here is the second part of our Monthly Favorites for January. Please enjoy!

Miko's Favorites

DJ Snake - Encore (2016, USA)
I think I've become that person that's constantly trying to catch up on stuff. There's evidence from this blog, my iTunes library, YouTube watch later list, and so many other things. This is one of those albums I jumped ahead of the order to listen to after listening to a certain surprising track. Most people know DJ Snake for his collaboration with Lil' Jon and it's possible they might recognize his signature sound in "Lean On" with Major Lazer and MØ, which was easily one of my favorite songs of 2016. While checking out related videos in YouTube, I fell in love with the video for "Middle" featuring Bipolar Sunshine, then backtracked to a song not featured on the album with AlunaGeorge in an attempt to procrastinate looking at his collaboration with Justin Beiber. Eventually, I clicked it and I was surprised that it was the mysterious dance track I enjoyed on the radio. It totally didn't sound like the Bebs! It was really hard to admit that it was my favorite song on the album. It has such an enjoyable music video and the song is addicting. As for the album, it stays true to the sound I'm used to from "Turn Down for What" and "Lean On" while mixing Euro dance, somewhat abrasive electronic dance, and trap beat elements in a very enjoyable package. In 2017, DJ Snake released a new music video for "The Half" featuring Jeremih, Young Thug, and Swizz Beatz. Some of my favorite tracks from the album are "Pigalle", "The Half", "Middle", and "Let Me Love You".

Hidden Figures (2017, USA)
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe | Directed by: Theodore Melfi
As we transition from 2016 to 2017, there was one movie I felt obligated to see in January and it was Hidden Figures. Normally, I don't get too excited about these historical/biographical stories, but because this was one of many untold black stories that focused on women, I felt like this would be a very important movie. I saw this movie with my mother, a co-worker, and her granddaughter the week after its release on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the theater was surprisingly packed for an 11 am showing. Despite the two hour running time, I felt like my knowledge on that era of American history had greatly expanded and I felt so inspired about the feats these women overcame (and a bit dumb because I'm not the greatest with math). Seeing this star studded cast of amazing black female talent also contributed to my excitement. Hidden Figures managed to balance education, encouragement, and entertainment with its content. It also knew how to show off each characters' struggle and how they overcame it to meet one major goal. I seriously hope that every woman, no matter their race, felt significantly empowered and that men also encourage this feeling for every woman they encounter in their life. In short, this movie features some truly effective and believable acting, informative and inspiring content, good pacing, and a great mix of era appropriate and modern soundtrack provided by Pharrell.

Sweet/Vicious (2016, USA)
Starring: Eliza Bennett, Taylor Dearden, Brandon Mychal Smith | Episodes: 10
While watching the occasional Catfish marathon last year, I saw advertisements for this show and it seemed a bit vague, but interesting. It was definitely something I don't think I've seen on television before. The show premiered in November 2016 and slowly lured me into its narrative. The show's main focus and drive revolves around a triggering topic of sexual assault and how society handles it. The story follows our two female protagonists Jules and Ophelia, who are quite the opposite when looking at their lifestyles. Jules is a proud sorority sister and Ophelia is a carefree student and hacker that sells weed on the side. These two individuals come across each other while Jules is in action as her "alter ego"; someone who fights for rape victims by attacking their attackers. Her motivation for seeking vengeance or correcting injustices is caused by her painful past of being a rape victim herself by someone she knows and trusted. All in all, the show doesn't just focus on the various aspects of sexual assault, but touches on trust in relationships, whether romantic or platonic. I really enjoyed the rollercoaster ride I experienced with Jules and Ophelia. They got into a lot of trouble, but they also made a lot of significant growth over each episode, which made me really enjoy these characters. I also liked how they handled such a sensitive topic by exploring different perspectives and injustices related to it. There was also a movie short they featured after one episode starring Zoe Kravitz, which was both infuriating and eye opening, but drove the point across very bluntly. As I type this recommendation, there has not been a confirmation for a second season, but there are talks with the creator and MTV on a potential continuation. Honestly, the way the season ended it looked like there was so much more to come for our fierce vigilantes and I'm looking forward to it!

Nanbaka (2016)
Episodes: 13
Since I started watching new series as they become available through each season, I make sure to go through the release list on MyAnimeList and pick what sounds the most interesting to me. I'm usually pretty good at keeping up with these new additions along with my own personal rotation, but recently I've been slacking, which makes me sad. Nonetheless, I was determined to finish this series to give a proper recommendation for this post. When I started this series, I was unsure how I felt about it completely. I knew I enjoyed the vibrant colors and animation, even though I have no idea why everything's so sparkly and I really enjoyed the characters, even though at times I felt like I wasn't sure if they had much depth to them. Once I started seriously watching it to finish it for this post, the story started to tap into the dramatic areas, giving Jyugo some traumatic and mysterious backstory that made me enjoy him more as a character. The New Year's tournament weaved in and out of its comedy by mixing that backstory with some of the new characters the show introduced with some crazy and meta action, especially when it came to my favorite character Nico. I must admit that in the beginning I wasn't sure where the story was going as I had a hard time taking it seriously with its almost nonexistent plot, but things slowly came together around the tournament and the story behind Jyugo's shackles. Although, I must admit I feel like this series could tackle certain elements a little more cohesively, I still managed to enjoy this ping pong story of comedy and drama. I don't think that everyone would enjoy such an outrageous and a bit unstable storyline, but I'm looking forward to delving into the second season and possibly cosplaying Nico in the near future.

Kamisama Kiss (2008)
Author: Julietta Suzuki | Volumes: 25
Obviously reading manga takes quite some time to complete, especially if you're not fluent in Japanese. You have to wait for publishing and distributing companies to release series in your native language, for me that would be English. So, this series has not been completely released, but it is slowly coming to an end this year. As I type this, I'm currently on volume 22 and awaiting for the library to receive the last three volumes. When I started this series years ago, it made me think of InuYasha and Black Bird, since they're both fantastical romance stories with bits of comedy and drama here and there. Of course, these three stories do have their differences and simply share similar elements to them. Kamisama Kiss features Nanami Momozono who is abandoned by her father who is escaping from gambling debts. She somehow manages to continue her schooling and is taken into a shrine by a kind man. The stranger ends up passing on his shrine to her, giving her a place to stay and a sense of purpose, but with this shrine is a dog guardian (or something like that) by the name of Tomoe. Throughout the series, Nanami learns the ways of taking on the responsibilities and powers of caring for a shrine as well as learning about Tomoe and the other mystical entities that cross her path. While at the beginning, it seems like this story will be all cute and fun filled, but as the story progresses, it does get a little dark, especially when Tomoe's backstory slowly reveals itself to both the reader and Nanami. Currently, where I'm at I have no idea where things are going as it doesn't look too good for our main characters, but I'm hopeful since usually shoujo manga leave on a fairly good note. Even though at times I do kinda mix up this story with Black Bird's, they do have a different feel to them and are distinctly enjoyable in their own way. So, if you enjoy stories like InuYasha and Black Bird, you might enjoy this manga series. It also has an anime, which I'm looking forward to checking out soon.

Giant Days (2015)
Author: John Allison
2016 was the year I decided to really explore the world of graphic novels and comic books. Despite having one unsuccessful attempt, the rest of my findings have been rather positive and now I've invested more time and money into the medium. This simple series was one I looked forward to checking out and anticipated releasing. This comic follows three female college students Esther, Susan, and Daisy. These three ladies come from different backgrounds and are very different in personalities, but quickly become close friends within weeks of the school year. Giant Days doesn't follow a strict storyline, but simply lets its characters live out their everyday lives and organically lets them grow with each relatable and sometimes bizarre chain of events. Aside from the entertaining characters, I really enjoy how much the author has fun with their environment and takes the main characters' personalities to almost bizarre extremes such as Esther bringing Susan back to reality after depriving herself from sleep for multiple days. At the same time, it does touch on parts of reality such as reuniting with old friends from your past and trying to relive the glory days, unrequited love, sexual identity, and just the crazy rollercoaster that is university life.

Ophelia's Favorites

Starring: George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Tygh Runyan
Status: Ongoing (2015- ?)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: In 1667, 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decides to build the greatest palace in the world - Versailles. Drained budget, affairs, and political intrigues complicate things.

There's a multitude of shows based on historical events. Versailles is more than simply another in a long line that includes Downtown Abbey, The Tudors, and The Borgias. The show depicts the beginnings of what would become a lavish period of history with the 28-year-old Sun King deciding to turn his father's hunting lodge into the new seat of power. Of course, the first few episodes are slow as they must introduce the viewer to the cast of characters they'll be spending ten episodes with. However, the series quickly picks back up as it heads toward season 1's conclusion. Another highlight is that the scenery and costumes are as gorgeous as the people wearing them.

Marvel's Daredevil
Starring: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D'Onofrio
Status: Ongoing (2015 - ?)
Genre: Superhero action, crime drama
Synopsis: Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind lawyer by day, and vigilante by night.

Netflix is the perfect place to revive Daredevil after the terrible Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner film from 2003. This series is much grittier and serious than the campy 2003 effort. Perhaps this is entirely due to the involvement of Netflix where shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards have thrived. Where else could a superhero do more without the restrictions of a two-hour plot? It's the perfect formula to explore Matt Murdock's interesting story. He was blinded as a kid due to an unfortunate accident. This doesn't leave him powerless though as the character has graduated law school and opened a firm with his best friend, Foggy. These are characters I loved as a comic reader brought to life in a fulfilling way. Charlie Cox is instantly likable as he switches from lawyer to vigilante. It's not just the hero who's more complex in this form. Vincent D'Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) plays Wilson Fisk, the criminal mastermind known as Kingpin. This version of the character is damaged and flawed, which is exactly what makes D'Onofrio so fun to watch. Season 2 brought in a familiar face for fans of The Walking Dead. Jon Bernthal plays Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher.

Artist: Inaba Koshi, Steve Salas
Album: Chubby Groove
Release date: January 18, 2017
Label: Vermillion Records

It's common knowledge that I'm a fan of Inaba Koshi and his work with B'z. I was really looking forward to the album once I heard that Inaba was teaming up with Salas. They're both accomplished musicians in their own right. This isn't the first time that Salas has worked with the B'z duo. Salas' 2008 album, Set it On Blast!! featured a song that included a collaboration with Matsumoto Tak. He had also guested on Inaba's solo albums, Hadou (2010) and Peace of Mind (2004). Inaba sang a cover of The Clash on Salas' 2010 album, Jam Power. This album is my latest favorite to listen to on repeat. There's not a single song that I dislike or would skip. The genre is more varied like Inaba's solo work rather than the rock, blues style of B'z. Give it a try! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Three February Reviews

 Catastrophic Event Specialist - Ces Cru
(Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Rap)

Ces Cru from Strange Music started gaining my attention every since their collaborations started on Tech N9ne's projects a while back. I eventually sold on them after their first EP on the label, 13. Their approach to rap was something I heavily enjoyed due to their respect for the craft of hip hop, while also daring to push its boundaries as well. I looked forward to this after hearing "Gridlock" from the Deluxe version of The Storm by Tech N9ne. It seemed that they were going to be even more socio-political than before and I was intrigued.

The album is split into three acts: Calamity, Entropy, & Scourge, all of which have their own lounge instrumental track to introduce the section. What follows are songs about the grind the duo partake in, hate for those who disrespect the craft, some thoughts about the political climate, & the daily struggle of life in the city. This is all over their usual style of beats that are of an alternative hip hop variety. The heavy bass is infectious while the surrounding melodies are inventive and promote the head nod effect. The ride is rather smooth as they maneuver through all the tracks with ease and lyrical prowess.

Those who still hold lyricism with high regard can find this project up to par. If subject matter has the high watermark, the few topics may need to be your cup of tea. The few songs that stray from the rap game in general like "Purge", "Gridlock", "Slave", & "Hero" bring their view on social issues and are the small reprieve from the usual topics. "Hero" is the one that may stand out as the one that is meant to have pop appeal which could turn off some due to its prevalent optimism. I personally enjoy it though, but it's not among my favorites: "Tidal Wavy" & "Metal and Flesh". Any Strange Music fan could heavily enjoy this entry, but I'd also recommend this to people who enjoy hip hop that isn't focused on radio play.

Slave (Music Video)
Average Joe (Music Video)
Hero (Audio Single)

 Drogas Light - Lupe Fiasco
(Genre: Hip Hop/Alternate Rap/Trap Rap)

The dichotomy of Lupe Fiasco's album approach is polarizing. The thing that makes it interesting is the fact that Lupe knows this exists as well. Therefore, he announced that he was planning on dropping around three more projects that will separate each side of his style. Drogas Light is supposed to bring the mass appealing Lupe while the following projects, Drogas & Skulls are going to be the more complex and conceptual sides of himself. I still looked forward to it as a person who enjoyed Lasers and his tracks for the hood, despite preferring the intricate lyricism Lupe possesses.

Drogas Light certainly delivers the mainstream acceptable sound by starting off with a trap and hood anthem vibe that eventually ends with a few pop/dance joints. The songs are built to get hype to, make some social commentary, & even tell unorthodox sci-fi stories. Although this is "light" Lupe, the rhymes rarely devolve to a groan-worthy degree since it's more likely like the song's topic to be puzzling. This structure of the album can once again polarize listeners making it easy for people to easily cut tracks from their playlist.

In my opinion, I only would be one of the people cutting tracks due to some of the songs either not connecting to my taste or needing to be in the mood for certain songs. Yet, songs that definitely enter the rotation include "Dopamine Lit", "Made in the USA", "JUMP", "Kill", & "It's Not Design". I'm slightly disappointed that I wasn't able to take more away from it since I loved Tetsuo & Youth, but I can really only vibe with half of the tracklist and find "Pick Up the Phone" & "Wild Child" generic songs that I wish weren't in his catalog. I still would recommend giving this a listen to see which tracks hit you, due to its shotgun approach to popular rap music.

Made in the USA (Audio Single)
Pick Up the Phone (Music Video)
Drogas Light Review (The Needle Drop)

Loverboy - Pryde
(Genre: Contemporary R&B/Hip Hop)

From past reviews, you may know that I'm an avid fan of Pryde despite his similarities to contemporaries I don't enjoy as much. My "version of Drake" announced that he was going to release a brand new project for the ladies in February and I was curious ever since the single, "Left Field" was released. Then he proclaimed that this project would be singing-centric, so it piqued my interest even more. His past efforts toward singing hasn't been anything spectacular, but never anything I didn't abhor either.

Loverboy certainly stayed true to Pryde's claims to be focused on singing because only 2 of the nine tracks feature a rap verse. Though his singing performances still weren't particularly impressive save for "When the Lights Turn On", he still manages to carry the project over various radio ready production with songs about his woes with the girls he comes across in bad relationships (as usual). His ability to deliver these typical themes in his music are still the deciding factor of his likability, though, which I feel are similar to Drake's & Tech N9ne's problem.

I truly find this to be a jam-worthy project due to Pryde's uncanny skill to fit into any style of hip hop he sets his mind to. His genuine writing is what gives me the appeal that Drake can't, and the production of this project is top-notch as it's mainly handled by K-Beatz. My favorite, "Not Winning" is just that perfect blend of atmosphere and lyrical intent. From start to finish are palatable songs, except "West End Rebound"'s borderline "Marvin's Room" theme. Yet, I believe that you have to be in a certain mood for the slow songs "When the Lights Turn On" & "Globe". Either way, I recommend this project to any fans of PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tory Lanez, & Chris Brown.

Left Field (Music Video)
Things to Do (Music Video)
Take it Easy (A live rap track)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - January 2017 Pt. 1

Welcome to our first entry to Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites!
This new feature to Muddy Cult was inspired by AramaJapan and Akidearest of YouTube. Hopefully, this new segment will further implement our opinions and recommendations to our Cult followers like are usual postings. Please feel free to leave a comment below on what you think of this new feature and perhaps share some of your favorites from January!

BlipMasta5's Favorites

Favorite Anime Related Video:

TeamFourStar's Broly Abridged

TeamFourStar has had a fan in me since their start. Their writing, editing, and comedy has continued to improve over the many years and this demonstrates that in spades. As a fan of the original series, they show a great balance of love and exploiting the holes in the plot. If you haven't heard of the allstars of the abridging community, I highly advise you take a look at this and the rest of their channel.

Favorite Music Video:

Broken - Denace & Dispencery7

Many have dealt with depression and just as many have tried to be the depressed's support. I think this song embodies both sides so well that it must be shared. You try your best to keep your head up, but emotions can control your thoughts so thoroughly that it's unshakeable. Plus being a constant support is tiresome as well, but its importance is vital to bear in these situations. Just take a minute to watch the video and it'll all be explained.

Favorite Dance Video:

These Walls (Cover) Choreography

When I saw that one of my favorite Kendrick Lamar songs had some of my favorite crews dancing to it, I had to give it the instant click. I was pleasantly surprised to hear an even jazzier cover of the tune by the female vocalist, Moss Kena. The movements were so clean, I had to share this as a favorite of the month! Witness poetry in motion...

Buonaventura's Favorites

So I have spent pretty much every night of January binging on the No Sleep Podcast trying to get current.  Stories are taken from Reddit's No Sleep community and read on the podcast by a crew of voice actors.  The showrunner/main narrator is David Cummings and he comes across as a lovable dork.  On the Christmas episodes, he tries to impersonate Santa and it's like watching a puppy try to do something and fail adorably.  You can tell he's really into what he's doing.

This podcast hits all the bulletpoints on my horror checklist.  There's a variety of authors so there's a ton of different types of horror.  There's a warning at the beginning of the show and you should heed it if you don't like certain aspects of horror.  Some stories can be pretty intense, involving child-rape and the like.  Because most of these writers are amateurs, even the particularly gruesome stories are still pretty hokey.  There are a few really legit creepy tales but most of the stories fall under b-movie horror where the dialogue is off or the story has glaring plot holes and is too verbose.  It's a fun exercise in critiquing and learning from others' mistakes (y'know, if you ever want to write horror fiction).

The actors do a great job and represent a wide variety of English speakers from North America and Europe.  I swear one sounds exactly like Daniel Day-Lewis.

The podcast is free but you can pay for a longer version with more stories and bonus episodes.  I haven't splurged for the extra content and I find what is offered for free does the job.  The No Sleep Podcast is actually on their first tour right now and they'll be in Houston at the House of Blues on February 18.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Two More January Reviews

Central Standard Time - Stik Figa
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap)

When this project was announced, I instantly lit up with joy. If you don't already know, Stik Figa is one of my hometown legends and has been carrying the torch for Topeka in the underground for a while. When I heard that this project was another one backed by Mello Music Group, I became even more ecstatic because these connections would push their music even further than before.

Speaking of the music, Stik Figa puts you in the mind of the everyman in Topeka, Kansas. He displays his skills as an emcee as he delivers punchlines and paints you pictures of his surroundings and how that environment has affected not only himself, but the fellow townsfolk as well. This is all placed over a generally classic boom bap soundscape with the one experimental rap entry, "James Lemonade" featuring independent stars Homeboy Sandman & Quelle Chris. Other featured artists, such as Elzhi & Rappin 4-Tay, bring their full set of skills, too, adding to the project's enjoyment factor.

In conclusion, anybody who digs the roots of hip hop should find this album a quality buy. Its runtime is concise and doesn't lend itself to any filler, so every song definitely hits its mark. Yet, my personal favorites would have to be "Cold", "James Lemonade", & "The Ends & Outs". The lyrical prowess of this emcee is on full display with this release and it's certainly capable to make it Stik's time in the limelight.

Links to the central, if you have time:
Pardon the Interruption (Music Video)
Cold (Music Video)
Shade45 Radio Freestyle ("I do the rap thing")
Passion of the Weiss Interview
Prey (A music video from the Shame the Devil EP)

SweetSexySavage - Kehlani
(Genre: R&B/Pop)

I became privy to Kehlani a long while back due to a collaboration with one of my favorite artists, Dyme-A-Duzin. They did a R&B track that brought me back to the days I grew up with the genre. I soon decided to look her up and found her rather talented, but the You Should Be Here project grabbed me the most. That was a few years later and since then, I kept up with her single releases on the road to this major label debut with anticipation.

This album reinforced what I believed she had the potential to achieve. She writes and performs songs with a very clear and honest voice. It's all delivered in a way that fuses the throwback feel of 90's/early 00's R&B and today's contemporary take on the sound. This brings a very nice ride with variety as she embodies the album title with each topic. She tells tales of love, lust, trust issues, her musical ambitions, & more. The only gripe may be the length of the track list, despite there not being many misses.

To me, she's an artist that reminds me of heavily hip hop infused R&B artists like Mya, Ciara, Aaliyah, & Amerie. Some tracks that have entered my heavy rotation are "Undercover", "Personal", "Not Used to it", "Everything is Yours", "Do U Dirty", & "In My Feelings". Honestly, this is a very solid debut and warrants a listen for any contemporary R&B fans. I would find it hard not to become infatuated by this sweet, sexy, savage debut.

Ride the Kehlani Tsunami:
You Should Be Here (Playlist of the album)
Gangsta (From Suicide Squad) (Part of the deluxe album)
Sway in the Morning Interview ("Young Sway got the answers")
Nardwuar Interview (Doot Doola Doot Doo)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Sky - Riplon

Sky - Riplon
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/Trap Rap)

Riplon is a Brooklyn, NY born emcee that I've crossed paths with down here in Florida. After seeing him perform down here, I knew he was an artist to watch as he truly is a wordsmith. His style is written in such a way that emotion is clearly emoted and versatile to fit any mood. This was confirmed by the 7th Day EP & the At Home EP. Hence, the announcement of his first full length album, SKY, had me anticipating its release.

This LP traverses a wide spectrum of hip hop production from east coast boom bap to the moody trap sounds of the south and even an experimental track in the mix. Riplon tells you stories of his past that makes him the man he is today, his current ambitions & struggles to make them realized, as well as displaying his lyrical prowess. He seizes the opportunity to show off his traditional use of poetry (i.e. "The Idea of Dying Alone") amidst his witty wordplay and skillful storytelling. This creates quite a dynamic listen throughout the project.

You really get a sense of his upbringing in tracks such as "Pop Off", "Sunset", & "Do it for Love" which both have drastically different styles. He continues to broaden his rhyme style while promoting the message to never limit yourself with songs like "The Conscious Mind" & "Sky feat. Prince Golden". Then insight behind his psyche are displayed in "Searching for My Soul" & "Man of the Cloth". The former has a chorus that I personally couldn't care for, but the verses are standouts on the project. My own favorites would include the aforementioned "The Conscious Mind" & "Pop Off" along with "Killin' it feat. Richie Guapo" & "Sunshine".

In summary, I would say that this is a masterfully crafted LP. The naturalness he brings to each style of genre is impressive enough, but his way with words leave little to be desired. The sequencing of the tracklist are also very well done, making it a very cohesive listen sonically and thematically. I recommend this to fans of other versatile rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole, & maybe Big K.R.I.T.  Riplon is certainly an artist to watch as he has the trajectory to continually expanding his skill set while maintaining a high standard for lyricism. Honestly, the sky truly isn't his limit!

More on Riplon:
Killin' it (One of the singles)
The Idea of Dying Alone (The a capella interlude)
Mieux Magazine Interview (Promo for SKY)
Riplon Live at the Market (The first time I saw him perform)
I Can't Breathe (From the At Home EP)