Champion Sound – Jaylib: Album Review

July 29, 2009

Champion Sound 2

Back in 2003, rising hip hop sound-smiths Madlib and J Dilla hooked up with a simple concept in mind: each producer would contribute 8 instrumental tracks for the other to rap over. The result was Champion Sound, a gritty, roughed up exploration of some of hip hop’s grimier sonic possibilities. It’s an album that disappeared under the radar rather too quickly as both Madlib and J Dilla subsequently went on to higher profile projects, but Champion Sound has built up a cult appreciation of its own over the years. It’s also a record that pointed the way forward for a whole new generation of raw, blunted and experimentally minded hip hop production coming deep from the underground.

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Despot of the Week #1 – Saparmurat Niyazov

July 28, 2009


In a new weekly series, The Grand Inquisitor will profile world history’s most brutal, repugnant and in some cases, downright ridiculous Despots. Emperors, Kings, Military Dictators, Presidents-for-Life – whatever their titles may have been, these were all men who combined severe autocratic rule, wholesale villainy and in most cases, immense physical repulsiveness. Welcome to The Grand Inquisitor’s new regular column, Despot of the Week. First to come under the microscope is Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, a man so ruthless he banned lip syncing at public concerts and renamed the month of April after his mother.

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The World’s Most Sinister Organisations

July 26, 2009


It’s a dangerous world out there. Everywhere across the globe, there are various organisations dedicated to pursuing all manner of sinister agendas. Agendas of political upheaval, religious fanaticism, disruption, terrorism, profit and self interest. Agendas that are pursued with a total disregard for the safety and well being of people like you and me – the little people. Read ahead at your caution: you’ll sleep easier in your bed if you’ve never heard anything about these guys. Ruthless people who will stop at nothing to achieve their mysterious purposes. By no means a definitive list of the organisations that go bump in the night, here is a synopsis of just 13 of the World’s Most Sinister Organisations:

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Failed Adventurism: The Unwinnable Afghan War

July 22, 2009


One of incoming US President Barack Obama’s first foreign policy decisions was to announce plans to scale down the US military presence in Iraq, until all troops had been withdrawn by 2011. It was official recognition, at last, of the previous White House Administration’s failed policy of adventurism in the tormented Middle Eastern nation. But even as US troops began pulling out of the Gulf, plans to scale up the military presence in the other theatre of war were already underway. The number of US troops stationed in Afghanistan has already increased dramatically, from 39,000 to 57,000 since the beginning of 2009. The number is expected to rise to 68,000 later in the year, with some prognosticators claiming an eventual target of 134,000 US troops stationed in the region. The scaling up of the war comes to the backdrop of a deteriorating situation of lawlessness in Afghanistan, with attacks on Coalition forces rising dramatically over the past year. Fifty casualties so far in July make it the deadliest month for the Coalition yet.

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Steal This Album – The Coup: A Lost Hip Hop Classic

July 20, 2009

The Coup Steal This Album

Immensely talented but perennially slept on, The Coup were one of the best hip hop groups to emerge during the nineties. But if there’s ever a band that could never catch a break, it was The Coup. Whenever they managed to get some momentum going, outside circumstances always seemed to get in the way. Most of The Coup’s albums quickly went out of print during unfortunate record label closures, and their 2001 long player, Party Music, was pulled from release at that last minute when the cover art – depicting the band members gleefully detonating an explosion in the Twin Towers – eerily coincided with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, scores of inferior groups – not possessing an ounce of The Coup’s musicality or verbal wit – have ridden the hip hop bandwagon to massive multi platinum success. But Steal This Album is a genuine overlooked gem. It’s The Coup’s most cohesive and consistently inventive musical statement, and deserves recognition as one of the very best hip hop records of the nineties. 

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1001 Arabian Nights: The Thief of Bagdad Review

July 17, 2009

Thief of Bagdad

A sumptuous fantasy epic, The Thief of Bagdad was considered a special effects marvel in its day; a magical slice of pure story book escapism translated to live action film. Although perhaps a little too naïvely saccharine for some modern viewers to swallow, The Thief of Bagdad remains a technological marvel, a visual delight and an entertaining family adventure told in a charmingly vintage style.

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Kubrick’s Final Masterpiece: Eyes Wide Shut Review

July 16, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut Mask

Perhaps the most fervently anticipated “art house” flick in movie history, Eyes Wide Shut was the subject of a monstrous level of tabloid gossip and industry speculation in the months (and years) leading up to its release. Director Stanley Kubrick had become a myth in his own time, a film making genius of intimidating reputation, capable of inspiring awe throughout the movie industry. Kubrick’s status as a media recluse and the whirlwind of hearsay and media speculation that followed in his wake only served to enhance his aura; he was characterised as a mysterious eccentric, an obsessive perfectionist who was somehow capable of defying Hollywood to make a series of iconoclastic movies on nobodies’ terms but his own.

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Iran: Latest Developments

July 15, 2009

Iran Developments

Twists and turns in the fallout from Iran’s disputed election just keep coming thick and fast at the moment. Combined with the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and the continued frostiness of US – Iran relations, there’s no more newsworthy nation on the planet right now. For better or for worse, Iran is a state that will have its voice heard in international affairs. The news summary in brief:

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The Payback – James Brown: Album Review

July 14, 2009

james brown payback

Unquestionably, James Brown was one of the most important and influential figures in the history of popular music. A musical innovator of staggering magnitude and a dynamic performer with a phenomenal stage presence, James Brown became a cultural figurehead for Black America and altered the landscape of rhythm & blues music forever. It’s regrettable then, that his back catalogue is in such a mess. Brown churned out some 80 odd studio albums of widely divergent quality over the course of his career. Many releases consisted of two or three hot lead singles mixed in with studio filler. There’s another 30 odd live albums and well over 100 compilations floating around out there. Attempting to navigate your way through Brown’s discography can be a daunting prospect. But The Payback is the real deal, one of the strongest albums of James Brown’s career, and his last truly great musical statement before he went into terminal decline.

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Desert Storm Detritus: Part 3 / 3

July 13, 2009

Desert Storm Horror

With the commitment to go to war established, the US began the protracted process of obtaining the necessary UN resolutions, as well as rounding up international support. On November 29, 1990, the UN passed Resolution 678, effectively legalising US military action against Iraq, providing Hussein failed to withdraw his troops from Kuwait by a January 15, 1991 deadline. In much of the international community, however, there was an attitude of sceptical reluctance over the issue of US military intervention. It was felt that Iraq’s issues with Kuwait were a Middle Eastern affair, best left to the jurisdiction of the region’s own powers. Why did the US feel compelled to interfere?

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