Upcycle This!

By Mel

Since it’s launch it January 2011, Project Repat founders Sean Hewens and Ross Lohr have been constantly evolving the Boston-based, socially conscious company.   The current mission of Project Repat is to keep textiles out of landfills and create fair wage jobs in the USA.

In the past two months alone, Project Repat customers have prevented 2,400 T-shirts from ending up in landfills. How’s that for sustainable, eco-friendly, socially responsible shopping?  While these are great reasons to make a purchase from Project Repat, the best reason is the unique, high-quality finished products you’ll receive.

The team at Repat works with individuals, universities, and brands to turn unused T-shirts into functional clothing accessories.  Offerings now include tote bags, circle scarves, ties, and underwear.  Project Repat will take all those concert shirts you have lying around and turn them into a one-of-a-kind, machine washable, 100% usable, blanket.  They make a variety of sizes depending on the number of shirts you would like to include and provide instructions for just how many you need on their website http://www.projectrepat.org/.

The only downside to purchasing from Project Repat, in this want it yesterday society, is the wait for your order. I received one of my items and a personal email from the President of the company letting me know when the remainder of my order will be shipped.  You can feel good about spending your hard earned cash with Project Repat and get great customer service too.

Follow Project Repat on Twitter @ProjectRepat as well as the company’s President, Nathan Rothstein @nrothstein, and be on the lookout for coupon codes to make the deal even sweeter.

http://vimeo.com/31608875

Say Word

Cadence is defined as a modulation or inflection of the voice.  That inflection comes from the structure of the words in the verse and the voice delivering them.  Busta Rhymes, DMX, Chali 2na, Sticky Fingaz…instantly recognizable the minute they spit.  Add Minnesota’s Illab to that list.

Illab wields his baritone like a weapon.  Add verbal dexterity to that deadly voice and the result is pure fire.  He’s a battle rapper at heart and that ferocity is what makes It’s All Been Said Before, his new EP, so contagious.  He raps with an intensity akin to KRS-One.  Never content to bomb you line after line with corny metaphors and silly punchlines, Illab enunciates like a professor.  But these lectures have nothing to do with theory or method.  The EP’s seven tracks are laced with reality and served up with excellent production from Dimitry Killstorm, Mike Frey and Wisdom.

Minnesota hip hop resonates with me because it lacks that familiar mainstream tepidness.  The final product is proof positive of the skills.  Those skills shine brighter than any of the swaggering and bravado plaguing the genre today.  The game simply speaks for itself.  Minnesota’s hip hop scene is on fire and Illab is carrying the torch.  Check out the EP at www.illab1.bandcamp.com Contribute if you can.

Perfecting Imperfection: The Reality of The Dark Knight Rises

flicksandbits.com

By Mr. T

Perfection – it’s a lot to ask for, even from Batman, and the man who reinvented him. But that’s what we all expected the instant that first teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises hit the web a year ago.

I say “we” in all honesty, because at 11:59 PM on Thursday, July 19th, I was sitting in the third row of a sold out theater in Newburgh, NY, impatiently waiting for the start of an epic, flawless summer blockbuster. Just under three hours later, I exited the theater fully understanding that what I had just witnessed was indeed epic… but nowhere close to perfect.

When Christopher Nolan released The Dark Knight in 2008, he didn’t just reinvigorate a fledgling franchise, he revolutionized an entire genre. He somehow made a movie about a superhero without making a “superhero movie.” Nolan stripped away the comic book camp and stylized unreality that have become status quo for comic book adaptations and replaced them with the grittiness and despair of life in contemporary urban America.

The end result was a tense, taught, psychological thriller centered on arguably the most recognizable and relatable hero in comic book history. It was as close to perfect as a film can get. It also created a trio of incredibly difficult tasks for a director: improve upon near-perfection, satisfy a notoriously nit-picky fan base and match, if not surpass, one of the most iconic performances in recent film history (Heath Ledger’s brilliant depiction of The Joker.) Luckily, the director in question happens to be Christopher Nolan, and in this film he does what he does best: he captivates.

Visually, The Dark Knight Rises is stunning. Nolan and his trusted cinematographer Wally Pfister (the director of photography on seven of Nolan’s eight directorial efforts) create a Gotham City that is both beautiful and bleak. From the estates and hotels where its socialites commiserate and cavort, to the slums of Oldtown where the downtrodden scrape out livings, the film’s setting is a stark and sobering mirror image of a contemporary America wrestling itself out of the claws of debilitating recession. Nolan’s Gotham could be any major American city, which is not the lone nor the least obvious piece of social commentary weaved into the complex web that is TDKR.

As it was with The Dark Knight, it is the characters that really shine in the grand finale. The characters are fleshed out so carefully amidst the developing drama of the story that not one single member of the ensemble feels static or one dimensional – a stark contrast to a film like The Avengers, where one or two characters got the lion’s share of depth and substance while other’s faded into the scenery as little more than an afterthought.

Christian Bale, who is as close to a sure-fire lock as a leading man as there is in Hollywood today, shows us a Bruce Wayne we have yet to see: one in a state of declining mental and physical health, unsure of his place in a world where Batman is not needed. He plays the part to a tee, driving home the anguish of a man conflicted – unwilling to do what he knows he should, and unable to do what he knows he must. What is most impressive about Bale’s performance is the level of restraint he displays.

The Dark Knight was essentially a two-man waltz between Bale and Ledger. In this film, there are so many characters with critical roles, that Bale is content to play out his role within the parameters of the character while the story unfolds around him. Bruce Wayne gets way more screen time than Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and there are lengthy stints where neither one is on camera at all.

Screen veterans Michael Caine and Gary Oldman perform a great deal of emotional heavy lifting as Alfred J. Pennyworth and Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, two men burdened with secrets that are not only destroying them, but threatening to destroy the people they care about. Caine particularly resonates as we watch the relationship between Alfred and Wayne become more and more strained.

Joseph Gordon Levitt does a nice job as Detective John Blake, a hot-headed young police officer who still believes in what Batman stands for. Levitt takes a character that could easily have been nothing more than an empty moral compass and gives him teeth – there’s a bit of a dark side to Blake. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox, and Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies, Inception) joins in as Miranda Tate, a member of Wayne Enterprises’ board of directors and potential suitorette for Wayne.

The real scene stealers in this film are the villains. Anne Hathaway seamlessly balances sex appeal, dry wit and super villain sarcasm as master thief Selina Kyle (thankfully never once referred to as “Cat Woman” on screen.) Hathaway plays the friend/foe to perfection, while making us understand and even sympathize with her plight.

Tom Hardy’s presence as Bane pervades this entire film. His physical presence is imposing, his calculated detachment terrifying. Bane is a different sort of villain than the Joker, demanding a different sort of performance. Hardy’s face is covered by a mask and he conveys the intricacies of Bane’s character mostly through his eyes and body language. There is a subtlety to Bane’s character that Hardy captures masterfully – a shred of humanity so faint that it could easily go undetected. Through the stoicism of a prolonged stare, or the slight tilt of a head, Hardy humanizes Bane, making him accessible, if not sympathetic. His performance won’t be called iconic, and it won’t win him an Academy Award, but it will stick in your memory after you’ve left the theater.

There are plot holes in The Dark Knight Rises. There are a few campy moments, and instances that feel more like a superhero movie than anything that happened in The Dark Knight. There are plot twists which feel predictable and trite. The film is as imperfect as the characters it portrays, and imperfection, as we all know, is reality.

Show Some Gratitude

fader.com

I used to spend summers at my Grandma’s house in Glastonbury, Connecticut. I hung out at a playground with one bent rim and a torn net.  Talking shit with my summer friends.   We’d play tapes.  Play one on one.  Argue over who was better, Rage Against the Machine or Cypress Hill.  Smoke Newports.  Flirt with girls.  I was alive and nothing else mattered. Certain sounds instantly take me back.  Connecticut’s Northern Lights have been on HEAVY rotation since I got my hands on FallenUp a few weeks ago.

Imagine The Pharcyde passing a laced blunt during a rooftop cypher, spacey but strangely grounded.  Well versed like they studied 3 Feet High and Rising by blasting it from a giant box that stretched across three laps on a sweaty subway car.  This is rhythm, tempo, style and substance.  This is entirely fresh.  Entirely hip hop.

Today’s most exciting music is being made away from the giant budgets and legendary studios.  Masterpieces from tiny corners of our world.  Art for arts sake, and that’s when it’s pure.  That’s what makes it real. Northern Lights heartbeat comes from that place of honesty.  When I put my headphones on and quietly nod along for 45 minutes, it’s because I feel it.  I close my eyes and I’m falling up.

Tell them you like it @New9Gs @DonGot @RodFuego.

www.northernlightsspark.bandcamp.com/album/fallenup

It Was Written: The Gaslight Anthem 7/23/12

Courtesy of my iPhone, which apparently takes lousy pictures.

It’s been a blast watching The Gaslight Anthem slowly build their brand.  From playing basements in New Jersey to sharing the stage with Springsteen in London, they’ve come a long way.  They took the stage last night at the Upstate Concert Hall (formerly Northern Lights) on the eve of the release of Handwritten, their forth studio record and tore the room apart.

I intentionally dodged the leaks and “stumble upon” previews for the new record in hopes of hearing some of it for the first time live.  Brian Fallon and Co. didn’t disappoint, as they launched into their new single “45” two songs into the set.  They blended a few new ones into the mix as the night went on.  “Handwritten”, “Mulholland Drive” and “Biloxi Parish” punctuated a show full of hits from The ’59 Sound and American Slang.

The Gaslight Anthem is a rock band that is yet to write and record their masterpiece, even though fans will argue that The ’59 Sound is the bands mightiest work.  There’s undeniable talent spilling from Fallon’s pen.  He’s dialed into his sound which is heavily rooted in the hard-luck working man aesthetic of his Jersey heroes, specifically Bruce and Bon Jovi.

That’s not to say Fallon is a one-trick writer, considering the sonic change that came with 2010’s American Slang.  That record took listeners further from the riffing and toyed with sounds and influences ranging from Tom Petty to Tom Waits.  With Handwritten Fallon has promised a more focused record returning Gaslight to their louder, heavier side.

Sound problems aside, which is par for the course at a venue that’s been re-constructed, expanded and tinkered with in every way possible, the set was fantastic.  The band was powerful and playful, Fallon telling stories and doing his spot on Springsteen impression between monster rockers that shook the crowd.  The room was packed from front to back.   Smiling faces sang along, danced and cheered for an encore that ended with a raucous “’59 Sound”.  Fallon is a masterful leader, a young man with an old soul.  And his band is finally starting to catch up.

It was a fitting show for the night before Handwritten hits stores, a record that will certainly establish The Gaslight Anthem as one of the best young rock and roll bands in America.

JUMZ: Standing Tall

Courtesy of JUMZ

Love it or leave it, hip hop has always been and will always be a product of the greatest city in the world.  New York is home to more culture, style and flair than anywhere else on the planet.  Hip hop music was born in the streets, parks and clubs throughout the five boroughs.  While the music has stretched from coast to coast, touching down and carving out unique regional personalities from Atlanta to California, for my money New York wears the crown.

There is no shortage of MC’s in the city.  There’s talent everywhere you look.  What’s happening in music right now is proof positive that hip hop isn’t content to rest on the notions and sounds that came before.  Hip hop is forging ahead with a new crop of talent ready to not only carry tradition, but to blaze new paths in the sound scape and culture of the music.

One of those new voices is JUMZ, a NY lyricist with a gritty, honest east coast pedigree.   His versatility enables him to create songs that appeal to New Yorkers as well as listeners all over the world.  He’s a man on a mission.  JUMZ took time from his busy grind to explain just why he’s here making music, and why we should all pay attention.

Shiny Glass Houses: Thanks for taking the time to talk.  I read your bio, it seems like music was your safety net coming up.  At what point did you realize that writing raps, making music was your way of channeling your energy and emotion?

JUMZ: When my father passed I didn’t have much emotion, I don’t even remember crying much about it.  My dad always prepared me for death in general, to him death was a part of life.  Being raised by him made me a bit cold when it came to feelings and sharing them and I learned to keep everything I felt, good or bad inside.  I turned to art.  I used to draw or make graffiti cartoons and bubble letters in notebooks, and then I turned to writing short stories, comic strips and poetry.   I didn’t realize those were outlets that got my mind off the emotions I suppressed and then eventually music is what finally let out the beast.

SGH: NYC is battle tested.  It’s the birthplace of hip hop.  How did you get your feet wet in music business?

JUMZ: I started in the business by street-teaming.  Myself and another kid from the neighborhood would hand out flyers for major labels and get invited to special events. This was during the whole Mase/DMX era of hip hop.  To me it was fun wearing promotional shirts and hanging out with label execs.  Of course I had no idea I was being exploited but at the time I didn’t care.  In my mind it was a privilege to be apart of the business at such an early age and have people of importance actually give a fuck about what some kid thinks when it comes to music.

SGH: Did you feel intimidated or pressured to measure up to that stigma of being New York City MC?

JUMZ: Once I finally decided to take on music as a career I did feel pressure to make sure I sounded and portrayed what people thought a NY rapper should sound like. If you find any of my old stuff online you can tell I listened to a lot of Nas.  It’s to the point where a lot of people said I sounded like him. I mirrored my whole style to what he used to do. It’s real funny when I think of it now, it doesn’t make any sense to rap a certain way because of the region you’re from. Just make music you want to hear, just be you.

That’s the only issue I have with my city. There’s so many close-minded folks in charge of the music scene here who don’t give artists that don’t remind them of the 90’s era a chance.   Bloggers are so stuck on this “golden-era” of hip hop.  It’s the reason NYC doesn’t have more mainstream acts poppin’ off.   Hopefully guys like myself, or French Montana, and A$AP will help New York blaze a new trail in hip hop once again.

SGH: You mentioned artists like A$AP, yourself and French Montana blazing a new trail for NYC hip hop.  Where is the sound headed? How much impact does your city have on your sound?

JUMZ:  I can’t help but to look up to the people from my city that make it in this day and age. We’re underdogs now, we have to captivate people in other states to get recognized.  Now we have to work harder and step our swags up, which is fine cuz I’m open to the challenges.

The new sound of the city is just a melting pot of the hip hop culture, so today not only do we have to be original in what we do but we also have to cater to the audience that buys records. That’s just business.  I’m not going to make a whole album about how hard my life was and expect some young lady in Alabama to want to play my shit everyday. The album as a whole has to have an element of fun, passion, and then reality.

SGH: How much does hip hop influence today’s culture?

JUMZ: Everything in today’s culture is influenced by hip hop. You don’t see many ads that don’t include an element of hip hop these days. Hip hop is in our speech, in the way we dress, and it affects how we view one another. It’s not as taboo as it was in the early 90’s when the culture was considered “intimidating”.  Now it’s accepted all over the world and it is probably the only genre of music that can blend with anything.

SGH: Clearly there’s a direct influence on kids.  What do you want them to take away from your music.

JUMZ:  I don’t really think kids should listen to all of my music…maybe some songs here and there. I speak on harsh realities that parents should speak to their kids about before they tune in to one of my mp3’s.   I’m not here to be held responsible for your child’s actions.   I’m rated R, if you’re a parent don’t let them watch this movie.

If children happen to be curious and tune in to what I’m doing, I’d let them know that I speak from my own point of view and if there are negative aspects of my life you can relate to, understand that I’m not doing those things anymore or I’m not living that kind of lifestyle.   I talk about it for those who don’t have a voice or feel trapped within a system.

SGH: You have solid insight and a very real confidence about you.  Being nominated by the Underground Music Awards must have been a great feeling, to be recognized as an independent who’s grinding and make a name for himself.

JUMZ:   It was an honor to be nominated but it felt even more special to be nominated in my city.  Unlike many artists where I’m from, the underground acts don’t travel as much. I was in a different city every other week performing. I didn’t realize that New York was paying attention. So when I heard about the nomination it felt pretty good, I can’t lie.  Especially in the city where in every building it feels like there’s 10 rappers. To be considered above so many acts is pretty overwhelming.

SGH: JUMZ is a real unique name.  Is there a story behind it?

JUMZ:  JUMZ is what they use to call crack back in the day or Jumbles.   The older guys would make fun cuz I was always a pretty lanky kid on the basketball courts.  They compared me to a vile.  I didn’t think it was funny back then but I started to use the name as a tag for when I would draw or write poetry.  It just stuck with me since then.

SGH:  I’ve listened to Independents Day front to back a few times now, and I have to say, it feels like a record.  It plays like a fully realized project.   Did you approach that tape with the idea of making an album?

JUMZ:  I’ve only dropped one mixtape my whole career and it was before the web era was popular.  My last two projects sound like albums because it’s too easy to give people lyrics over industry beats, to me you aren’t really selling who you are.

I’ve never really been into the conventional way of doing things, so I feel if I give my fans and potential supporters a completely original free project that they would appreciate the time I spent putting it together.

Independents Day took the longest time to be released, almost 2 years, and it almost never got released.  There was a time where I got caught up in listening to mixtapes from all these majors that I got intimidated into releasing Big White Tee Music as it was originally suppose to be called.  Then I realized that the music I made was the music that spoke to me and I embraced how different my project was from a Rick Ross or a French Montana or maybe a Kendrick Lamar, who in actuality inspired songs for my project through their individuality.

For example, I have a track called “Maybackin” and that’s definitely influenced by Rozay.  My intro is a direct influence from the type of samples French would use for his tapes. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fan of what the other guys are doing, I’m just doing it my way.

SGH: Is there a full length in the works?

JUMZ:  There is an EP on the way called Built 4 My City.  This will be my first project distributed to major markets and some secondary markets under HoodLife Music/Asquad records.  Right now I have two tracks that I’m confident about and I’m looking for strong production to compliment the rest of the EP.

SGH:  If you could co-headline a show with any artist, from any time period, who would it be?

JUMZ: I’m still new, so I would try to build off one of my idols fan bases.  Definitely Nas.

SGH:  Last question. What’s your drink of choice?

JUMZ: I always drink something smooth, like Bacardi Peach Red straight up with ice or with peach juice. I know it sounds like a girls drink but it’s what I like (laughs).  At least until Ciroc cuts a check or shoots one of my videos…

Independents Day is a career defining moment for JUMZ.  He may be under the radar, but not for long.  Sleep if you want to, but you’ve been warned.  Be sure to follow JUMZ on Twitter at @JUMZ_FOREVER.  Download the new tape, Independents Day at www.thatcrack.com/mixtapes/jumz-independents-day/

Paint Me A Picture

iguessimfloating.net

It’s been over 90 degrees for the past few days. That sort of heat brings on a drag in your step. It’s too hot to eat. Too hot to ride bikes. Too hot for life. 90 degrees makes you want to find some shade and lay in the grass.  Maybe you bring your favorite bottle, or light your favorite smoke?  Any way you choose, there’s nothing better than kicking your feet up and wasting away a summer day.

Louisville’s Murals are the soundtrack for my lazy Wednesday in the sun.  Their smokey, trippy take on folk-pop has me grinning from ear to ear.  It’s always nice when the right mood and the right sound click into place.  Murals have a touch of the wispy cuteness of The Shins but remind me The Coral, an oddball outfit from England.  

The vocals are distant and seemed delivered from a payphone, while the drums are brushed ever so slightly to keep things moving. It has a dreamy quality perfect for that space between nodding off and knowing you left the TV on. Ideal music for drifting away in the July sun.

Their new record On A Passing Cloud is streaming below.  If you like it, buy it.  You cheapskates.