April 25

KOD won’t change your opinion on J Cole, but it is the album that will define him

If we’re honest, J. Cole has been a mixed bag for me.

When he’s on his high points, he’s incredible, but his low points are cringe-worthy. The same artist that can deliver powerful tracks like Be Free and False Prophets (his mixtapes are still unbelievable) is the same guy who made goofy downright stupid tracks like Folding Clothes and Wet Dreams (Workout too ugh). Ever since his verse on Jay-Z’s A Star is Born track, the world has been enamored with Jermaine Cole. However, his body of work regarding LPs has brought a divisive response. One side will consider him one of the best in this current generation the other side find him as a lifeless act in the rap scene that has received undeserved praise.  This disconnect has caused a massive question to many regarding Cole’s place in the best current act of rappers. A question Cole himself has no say because he refused to want to be placed in such superlatives. (Seriously Cole the person is way more fascinating than the Cole the rapper). Thus, bringing us to his new album KOD. After middling critical and fan reception 4 Your Eyez Only (I hated this album), this was the album a lot of skeptics (myself included) were waiting to hear to see if he would be able to bounce.  KOD in short for three phrases (Kids on drugs, king overdosed, and kill our demons) was released on 4/20 (great marketing tactic) covers the topic of addiction and what seems to cover the issue what plagues the new crop of artists and kids today (social media, drugs, and influence).

This is not the 1st time Cole has brought up addiction in his music. 2011’s song Breakdown, Cole details the addiction his Mother had to overcome and the absence of his father, but in a spiteful deposition, he attacks society and the dominant influence it had around that time as well as the culture that promotes drug use today like it is a way of living. 4 Your Eyez Only he tackled drugs in the eyes of his Childhood friend who was a drug dealer. He was murdered, and Cole tells the stories to the daughter he left behind. Where attack this issue in more seemingly direct response to the climate then, he takes a very satirical approach to the topic on this album before closing in on the problems similar to the way he did Breakdown. Based on the 1st 4-5 songs on the album everyone, will be able to gather some thought on this album. Each song Cole uses flow and cadence out of his norm and sound eerily similar to the new and popular wave of ‘Mumble” Rappers. Even the beats resemble their beat selection as well. The self-titled KOD plays into such a persona as brags about his skills as a dealer critiques the criticism surrounding him and bring up his introduction into the world of drugs. Photograph cover the impact/addiction social media have towards social interaction amongst the world.  The most radio-friendly on the album ATM discusses the more dilemma of chasing money and fame and the consequences of seeking such.

This 1st of half of this album covers the narrative in his eyes. I’m personally not sure he’s playing the kid in this current and hence why the songs sound as they do, but I found them brilliant in concept but lacking elsewhere. The track The Cut Off is one of the most cringe-worthy tracks on the album. Granted the message is strong regarding eliminating folks in his life due to his lack of trust and felt he was taken advantage of; with his alter ego (I’ll get to that later) telling him to deal with such problems based on the issues presented as Cole whole premise is against drugs. It’s a great idea, but man this song sounded horrible. The middle of this album from Motiv8 to Brackets (The first verse that is) is absolutely skippable.  I will say the second verse in Brackets is one of the best set of lyrics he has ever written and it is worth listening to the track just for that verse alone.

The album picks up at Once an Addict Interlude, a song discussing his mother’s addictions again this time discussing her mom’s drinking problems after her an affair by his step-father which led to a child being birthed. Cole brought up his time in College and believed he escaped her problems, but she eventually calls him at 1 am drunk, and he realized he wished he intervened in her problems more than run away. This was Cole’s most personal track and what I wanted the album to explore further in. More than often rappers bring up problems without specifying about their reason for being so against other than common knowledge. Once an Addict provided the layers most of this album lacked, and I hate the fact I have to treat this as an interlude.  Friends felt like a step backward based on how incredible Once an Addict was. Kill Edward returns but not as annoying as the previous track and the song just lacked for me. Now the two songs which are the best two on the album came at the end of the record with Window Pain (horrible title for a track) and 1985.

Window Pain provides an excellent story begins with a girl seeing her cousin get shot, and Cole begins to reflect on the all the actions and problems he presented in the 1st half of the album. Cole attempts to bring home a very up and down beginning and a middle that is mediocre. 1985 which led to rumors of a second album coming. Was initially seen as a diss to mumble rappers, but funny enough this wasn’t a critique more Cole is advising this new crop of Rappers to stop caving into these influences as well as take control of their lives before they are on Love & Hip-Hop in 5 years.

Coming someone who is diagnosed with depression, I can appreciate the effort here, but the results came off mixed. Cole needs features badly. I believe some of these songs would be better if he had someone who can you know sing do the hooks. Kill Edward was very corny I understand it is Cole’s opposition in his head (hi, I go through this every day), but it didn’t work for me. Cole brings about a very polarizing group of hip-hop fans, one side loves him to death, and on the other hand is bored to death by him. Both sides bring up valid points as disconnect on Cole’s placement in this current landscape of Hip-hop still grows massive. The problem with Cole will be replay value when it comes to an album. Will I return to this album two, three months from now? Probably not and that’s the problem with Cole. The lyrics and concept are excellent, but Cole’s way of creating songs have severely lacked for so long, and some of these songs would be better if he had help. You can make songs that ‘Bangers’ and have important messages in them Kendrick has proved this constantly. This album is a MASSIVE upgrade over 4 Your Eyez Only. But the album is mixed for me. His best songs are incredible, but the rest is inconsistent. I don’t like reviewing things after one watch or listen because overreactions are bound to happen which is why I wait after the 1st few days to talk about it.  If I honestly have to give this a score out of 5, it would be a very strong 3. This album was his most easy to listen to the album, and I would argue his best album to date. The issue here is some of the songs have no replay value outside of his core fan base that will treat this as gospel. Cole usually places in the top 3 in this current landscape. Drake’s popularity/impact is off the charts, and Kendrick’s critical acclaim and awards got him in the all-time arguments now, Cole is here which isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s needed for this generation. This album made me interested in what is next for him, and that’s good in my book.

 

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April 24

Mastermind Team’s Robcast 222 | Caught in the Cross-Fire

In this episode of Mtrthenetwork’s Robcast:

Cross fire!

Cross fire!

“Daryl” Follow-up

The Poom-Poom at Hedonism II

Cross-Fire’s return

Russian Bears

Feeder fetish

LGBTQ Anti-depressants

420 Cuisine

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April 23

Robservations | The Birth of a Nation

Hey man, Rob Lee here and I have something on my mind: The Birth of a Nation. For those who don’t remember, The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 film depicting Nat Turner’s uprising in the antebellum south. The film had Oscar buzz which was later derailed but allegations that Nate Parker, the film’s star, director and producer, sexually assaulted a classmate in college in 1999. The following is a bit of a review on The Birth of a Nation.

Background

The film shares its title with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation also called The Klansman which was released as a Klansman recruiting film over a hundred years prior to this film. Griffith’s film made between $50 and $100 million compared to Parker’s $16 million. Also, with about 3000 more review’s Griffith’s film is rated higher than Parker’s on Imdb. A Klan recruiting video outgrossed a film about a black uprising but America’s post racial. Parker’s film has that distinction of sexual assault allegations but it would be irresponsible to ignore that this country has a rich history of racism. Griffith’s film – The Klansman was shown at the White House by Woodrow Wilson.  That racism I feel is reinforced in the respective box office and dollars spent.

My take

Let’s get right into it, Birth of a Nation is an OK movie. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s well done. The first half of the movie is a bit slow for me but the latter half takes off. The film is very effective in showing how shitty slavery is. The film is similar to Braveheart to me – minus the war paint.

The film succeeded in eliciting emotions from me. For instance, the scene when Cherry is “delivered” to Elizabeth Turner was reminiscent to someone getting a new toy. Elizabeth was gleeful to get a new thing. Black people were only a thing, dehumanized. He even the scene at Joseph Randall’s plantation and the little white girl has the black girl on a leash.

Samuel Turner reminded me of how people in a position of power – white people in this film – are supportive of you until you infringe on their interest. For instance, after Cherry was brutally raped Samuel gave written permission to Nat to go tend to her. Written-fucking-permission and he reminded Nat that most owners wouldn’t allow that. Samuel, although in a position of power, was like a lower level white person – hanging and seeking love from his blacks but once the slight inkling that he would be welcomed into “whitelandia” he switched up. He didn’t switch up did he? He reverted to his factory settings.

The battle scene could have been a bit longer but the buildup was slow but solid enough to make it effective. The fall out is similar to what has happened historically. If white people are uncomfortable, then someone else has to pay, examples have to be made. Just today black, still second class citizens, have been replaced by Muslims and Mexicans.

Nat Turner’s hanging was something I nearly turned away from. Like I don’t like the visual of hanging overall – especially when it’s viscerally shot. The walk out to the lynching was interesting. We have all seen the shitty, racist and dumbass white men during the film. As this point, we see how rabid the white women were. It wasn’t a mistake to show numerous instances of white women acting like mad dogs at a public execution. White people only act like this – albeit in film – to public murder. That hanging looked like the set-up for a fourth of July festival. Also, not a mistake. The murder of black men is as American as independence. Are all men created equally?

Conclusion

In summation, Nate Parker isn’t Nat Turner. I think the Oscar buzz was something to say that people in a position of power are “OK” with “revisiting the ugly past but by the way they’re also going to revisit the not so distant past.” The Birth of a Nation is a movie that people need to see – it as flaws like any movie but it made me think. It made me think of my job and intellect (i.e. being literate) got me inside the house, while brothers, hell my own biological brother, and is outside “tending to the field”. It makes me think about how nuanced racism is – racism was based in ignorance and has morphed, in my opinion, to classism. The film helped me revisit these thoughts and feelings that weren’t top of mind but deserve my attention. Birth of a Nation Deserves your attention.

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April 18

Geek Stuff | Gimme The Loot!

In the past year, the concept of loot boxes has risen and fallen only to rear itself once more. Some of us think they’re great while a larger portion of people think they’re the worst possible thing a game company can do to its customers. Before I get into my personal opinion, let’s start at the beginning. I’m sure by now you’ve asked yourself “What the hell is a loot box and why should I care? Is that like Loot Crate, the company that use to put together really cool mystery gift boxes?”

In a way, yes, but instead of getting randomly curated pop culture products, loot boxes are a form of micro transactions. Micro transactions, in the gaming world, are digital items that you pay real world money for. These items range widely depending on the game you are playing but what they all boil down to is paying real money for a randomized item that could be really great or really terrible (like you want an AK-47 for your solider in Call of Duty but you end up with a brown helmet instead). The upside is not all micro transactions cost money, you could grind away at whatever you are playing until you earn enough in-game money to buy a loot box and be done with it. The item you receive might be garbage but who cares cause you didn’t spend anything real. Unfortunately, not all people have the patience for level grinding and would rather pay outright for the chance at a gold level pick-axe. Like all of our societal problems, this one starts and ends with opinionated people who don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions.

Over the course of the last year, companies have come under fire from all walks of life calling loot boxes immoral, a money grab and dishonest among other nastier things. And while most of these people are cry babies who want to complain because they bought way too many loot boxes with real world money (check out the article Kotaku wrote about some dipshit kid who spend over 10K on loot boxes), companies have been bending over backwards to try and accommodate gamers who have problems with game companies making money past the initial 60 dollars you pay for the game. EA originally had micro transactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 until enough people complained and they removed them all together. EA is bringing them back (thank god) but this time around you can only spend in-game money on their brand of loot box. The latest game to introduce loot boxes is Animal Crossing for iOS. Kotaku already had one of their flunkies write an article about how terrible this is, but honestly, is it? Is it wrong that game companies want to continue making money on a property that took them forever to produce and will take even longer to support? Nope! Is it immoral to offer people a hard way and a quick way of doing things? Not at all. Are these companies guilty of creating an addiction machine that is liable to ruin people with gambling problems? Naaaaah! All you have to do is not buy into it, that’s all. Every single game that has been outfitted with loot boxes has the option to buy them with earned in-game money, so stick to the plan and you’ll never go wrong.

If you’re one of the many people who wasted their money because they wanted to try and get ahead of everyone else, you have no one to blame but yourself. You’re well aware of the randomized chances of getting something good and even after getting crap box after crap box you still buy into it because you don’t want to spend honest time working towards that one item that will give you the edge on the competition. Like Verruca Salt, you want it now! And to the parents who think game companies are evil for this practice, how about you take 5 minutes to investigate the game you just bought Little Johnny Good Student because you know damn well they have no concept of money and will drain whatever bank account you thoughtlessly linked to their system.

So yeah, that’s my two cents. You have nobody to blame but yourself for getting caught up in loot box madness and I suggest instead of complaining about EA or Blizzard or Nintendo or Microsoft or Insomniac or Activision or Epic Games or Ubisoft, you take a hard look at yourself and remember, it’s called a grind for a reason.

-DD

 

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April 18

Robservations | The Three Headed Monster

Hey man, Rob Lee and I have something on my mind – it’s the mind. My mind to be more specific. One of my profound and unwavering fears is the loss of the mental gymnastics I’m capable of. I fear getting older because I would lose the one thing that I’m confident in – my mind, my mental quickness. I want to remain sharp for as long as I can. In that pursuit, which I concede is a losing battle – you can’t beat age – I’m always battling depression, anxiety and stress.  A three headed monster. These aren’t good for the mind – at least my mind. I’ll expand on these areas.

Depression

I’m a person who doesn’t use words like this lightly. I feel that, as a people, we generally are hyperbolic in a word choice. When using this word, I mean it. I have those telltale signs – but it’s coupled with self-awareness. Years of therapy have helped me recognize that depression is there. I want to be perfect and I want to control everything that I touch. That’s not doable but I’ve convinced myself that it’s possible. Battling depression takes energy. Energy that could be earmarked for something more productive like a podcast or writing. Depression stunts that.

Anxiety

Anxiety is my nemesis. He’s a strong nemesis. At times I serve my nemesis as I fear the unknown. This filters into other aspects of my person. So in 2012, I lost a high paying job. I liked this job. After losing the job, I had self-inflicted relationship issues – I wasn’t myself – depression made a guest appearance. This was followed by a slightly irrational decision of moving out on my own as I previously lived with my mom. So I had no income and new bills. I quickly managed that then the biggie happened. I was convinced I was going to die for one reason or another. I couldn’t sleep – I wouldn’t eat – I was convinced that I would die alone in my apartment. From there I developed what I later learned to be panic attacks. I didn’t have a job, so minimal insurance. I was losing my shit. During this time, I lost nearly 130 pound! This was unhealthy and chiefly a response to anxiety and it’s tag team partner – stress.

Stress

Stress is a motherfucker. It’s heightened cortisol and those stress inhibitors related to fight & flight. It’s like always feeling like a jungle cat is coming for you or in the case of me, like an alligator is coming to rip off your dick. It affects my body drastically – from digestive to muscle tension. I hits my mood as well – I just seek relief. Stress shows that everything is relief – that’s not true! That relief is a distraction and distractions can be good but they’re short-term and before I could better filter an understand this, they were destructive. I would overindulge or under-indulge in food, drugs, sex and any of the cool shit. I used it as a crutch. It’s not sustainable. Fighting stress is the move and that’s what I’ve been doing.

 

Until next time

 

R

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April 17

Mastermind Team’s Robcast 221 | Super Troopers

In this episode of Mtrthenetwork’s Robcast:
Rob discusses a birthday party
Guy’s Night Out with the Super Troopers
Getting Old
Masturbation goals
Dann has thin thumbs

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April 10

Mastermind Team’s Robcast 220 | City Life vs JCVD

JCVD

The beat goes on in Baltimore, the city that “reads”…

In this episode of Mtrthenetwork’s Robcast:
Dann learns the truth about Shawn Michaels
Rob discusses his love of JCVD
The delicious horror that is gelatin babies
Plus an all new round of New Challenger!
Trump Free Since Always
#CreativeComments

Remember mtrthenetwork is found on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher. Subscribe and share using #mtrthenetwork and #mtrpodcasts

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April 3

It’s Always Gully In British Columbia

What does a man, some pepperoni and three dozen seagulls have in common?

It’s a dreary Tuesday here in Baltimore. I’m sitting at my desk (day jobs suck) reading the news while I wait for a new pile of work to come in when I see the most random title on The Takeout:

If You Read Nothing Else Today, Read How Seagulls and Pepperoni Got A Man Banned From a Hotel

This led me to a CBC link with far more information than Kate Bernot had supplied. Seventeen years ago, a man was staying in British Columbia, at a hotel called The Fairmont Empress for a business meeting. Like all us kindhearted foodies, Nick Burchill brought a suitcase full of Brothers Pepperoni along with him for his friends who don’t get to dine on the cured meat regularly. Thinking that the meats would spoil without refrigeration, Nick placed the pepperoni near an open window in the hopes that the cold air would provide some sort of support. What happened next is like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie ‘The Birds” if it had been directed by Mel Brooks.

Burchill left only to return several hours later to a room full of hungry hungry seagulls, ravaging the Nova Scotian delicacy. The room was destroyed, the gulls were belligerent and at least one member of the cleaning crew went home feeling queasy. Burchill was allowed to stay for the remainder of his trip but his boss received a letter a few days later explaining that his employee would not be allowed to stay at The Empress again.

Now, seventeen years later, after making an in-person apology and a gift of Brothers Pepperoni, the ban has been lifted and Mr. Burchill is allowed to stay at The Empress once more. I imagine the new management made a crack about how many guests he’s allowed to have stay with him.

To read the whole story in all of it’s silly glory, here is the link to the CBC article. What do you think? Personally, I’d rather have gulls in my room than a flock of no good pigeons.

-CCC

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April 3

Mastermind Team’s Robcast 219 | Fat Motherfuckerhood

Fuck it's Robcast with Torin

I like to give Dann just a taste.

In this episode Rob Lee & Dann D discuss:

Rob’s Fat motherfuckerhood
What happens when you stifle a sneeze
Barney Tantric sex
Gators & Babies
Wedgie Fetishes
Retro Porn

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