Category: Reviews


First impressions are everything and few have greater impact than a hip-hop artist’s debut album. Part of the reason why rap debuts are so revered is because they present the first opportunity to judge an artist’s singular body of work. But there’s also an unspoken pressure here. Historically, so many rap debuts are so damn good, and anyone looking to make their first foray into a career within the genre has a lot to live up to.
Whether it’s Dr. Dre changing the sound of hip-hop production with The Chronic or Clipse ushering in a new era of urgent lyricism on Lord Willin’ two decades later, time has shown that many do, in fact, live up to these pressures. A rapper’s initial offering can often have a massive influence on subsequent releases, and culture in general. Sometimes that first album is the most significant of an artist’s career. If it seems like the scales of appreciation are tipped in favor of debuts, it’s because they are. There’s a reason whyJay-Z calls Reasonable Doubt his “baby.” There’s a reason why Raekwon still can’t escape the shadow of OnlyBuilt 4 Cuban Linx. Rappers essentially have their entire lives to make their first album, and it shows—in some releases more than others. We decided to get to the bottom of the never-ending discussion about rap’s greatest debuts. It was tough, like any list of this scope, but we got it down to 50 surefire classics, from past and present, and we’ve ranked them as well. Is Illmatic No. 1? Which artists who dropped their first LP in the past decade made the cut? Read on to find out all of that, and more. These are The 50 Greatest Debut Albums in Hip-Hop History.


Alicia Keys: Unlocking Alicia (2012 Cover Story)

The first thing you see when the elevator doors open at the Oven recording studios is Alicia Keys’ face, painted floor to ceiling, next to a rendering of the Empire State Building. Her portrait is part of a mural—a kind of musical Mount Rushmore commemorating great New York artists. It’s fitting for a recording studio located on Manhattan’s far west side—not far from the Hell’s Kitchen apartment on 43rd and 10th where Alicia grew up with her mother. To the right are Lennon in his NYC period, Kool Herc, and Jay-Z dressed in his Reasonable Doubt finery. To the left are the O.G.s—Sinatra, Ellington, Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. Alicia will tell you the mural wasn’t her doing, that it was commissioned by her engineer, Ann Mincieli, with whom she rebuilt the studio over the past couple of years. She doesn’t like to seem immodest. These artists are legendary. Then again, so is she. When Alicia made her debut at age 19 she talked about how she would study the greats: Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone. “My dream is to be that good someday,” she said in 2001, and she’s still as focused as ever. “I’m competitive with myself in the sense that I want to get better,” she says now. “It’s not that I’m obsessively dissecting myself, but there’s a critique that happens. I am very driven. I’m not comparing myself to other people. I don’t wanna be like her or him. I want to be my best.” CONTINUE READING…

Open Letter About Nina Simone Doesn’t Mince Words

Aaron Overfield, the website content manager of, delivers a scathing criticism of Cynthia Mort (who’s leading the upcoming Nina Simone biopic),an appeal to the public to put discussions of Zoe Saldana’s“blackness” behind them, and a “talk-to-the-hand” rebuke to anyone who espouses the “don’t judge/wait and see/shut up about it” stance on the casting issue. Says Overfield: The most frustrating people are the ones who imply everyone should just shut up and “wait and see” or “leave them alone.” That kind of attitude and oppression is not in the spirit of Nina Simone whatsoever. Quite the opposite. Nina was vocal, defiant, a warrior, an activist. She would not have simply shut up and sat down. She would’ve shown up at the studio with a shotgun to speak with Ms. Mort and slapped the makeup off Zoe. So let’s get that straight first. We’re going to talk about this and those of us with strong, impassioned opinions are going to express them. He goes on to state that, though the film’s production can’t be stopped, its more problematic notions should continue to be highlighted. Among those is the “straightfacing” of an out gay male, Clifton Henderson, who has been previously reported to be written as Nina’s love interest in Mort’s script: It is also the first instance of Cynthia’s script exploiting a marginalized identity by essentially putting “straightface” on an out gay man. This is rather curious since Mort herself is a lesbian and you’d wonder how she’d feel being rewritten as a heterosexual woman under the guise of someone else’s “artistic license.” Would Cynthia Mort be pleased with someone rewriting her own history to the point where her sexuality becomes a trivialized inconvenience? I guess someone would have to ask her that. I won’t bother.

Read it at Clutch.

‘Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation’ Pushes the PS Vita to its Limits (Review)

ImageThe PS Vita’s hardware is impressive, but tons of gamers are nevertheless still waiting for a must-have game to justify the purchase of Sony’s latest handheld. Today, I must regretfully report that Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation is probably not that game.

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release date: Oct. 30
Price: $39.99

✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✩✩✩ Score: 7/10

I wanted to love it. I really did. I already love the way the PS Vita feels and looks, the way its dual sticks allow for decent controls, and the way its touch mechanics can be subtly integrated with traditional controls. And I love the Assassin’s Creed series—including Assassin’s Creed 3, my review of which is coming later this week. Liberation isn’t a bad game. Aesthetically, it’s superb, for a portable. And it’s got plenty of good ideas. But many of them, like the “personas” system, are marred by major flaws. As a result, it’s just not the best game that it could have been. Continue Reading…


Anti-Black Sentiment Up in US Poll Shows

A new poll conducted by the Associated Press shows that Americans have an increased prejudice against African Americans. Researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago gathered the data, and experts aren’t surprised by the results. “We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history has worked,” Jelani Cobb, professor of history and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, told AP. “When we’ve seen progress, we’ve also seen backlash.”

These findings may negatively impact President Obama’s re-election campaign.

“Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly. In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell. “As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.”

The poll also highlights anti-Hispanic sentiment as well, showing that 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites displayed anti-Hispanic feelings. SOURCE:

Read more at the Associated Press.

Today’s Headlines 10.24.12

Firm didn’t verify steroid was sterile
Massachusetts officials track shipments of prescription drug linked to deadly meningitis outbreak.
( by Sharon Begley , Reuters)
U.S. developing new blueprint for hunting terrorists
THE PERMANENT WAR | Over past two years, Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
( by Greg Miller , The Washington Post)

Bar code security woes with airline boarding passes
Terrorists or smugglers could take advantage of security flaws in airline boarding passes, experts say.
( by James Ball , The Washington Post)
Talking shop with the top Girl Scout
“Sixty-one percent of girls are either ambivalent about leadership or say it’s not important to them.”
( by Tom Fox , The Washington Post)

Guilty plea in CIA leaks case
Former undercover agency operative John C. Kiriakou could spend up to 30 months in prison.
( by Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz , The Washington Post)
More National: Breaking National News & Headlines – Washington Post

I-95 North in Stafford reopened after crash
Left lane still blocked as crews work to clean up a diesel fuel spill following a tractor-trailer crash. Delays expected.
( by Curt Anderson , The Washington Post)

Women earn less than men, even one year out of college
One year after graduation, the Class of 2008’s women were making 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid.
( by Jenna Johnson , The Washington Post)
800 gather to support Md. Dream Act
Minister urges supporters to get on phones and encourage friends and relatives to vote in referendum.
( by Robert Samuels , The Washington Post)

D.C.’s top speed camera slows some drivers, tickets the rest
The city raked in $178.4 million in traffic fines in the last fiscal year, a 32 percent increase from the previous year.
( by Ashley Halsey III , The Washington Post)
Penn St. teacher sues think tank, magazine
A Penn State climate science professor has sued a Washington-based think tank and a national magazine that called his scientific findings fraudulent and compared him to Jerry Sandusky.
( by Keith L. Alexander , The Washington Post)

More Post Local: Washington, DC Area News, Traffic, Weather, Sports & More – The Washington Post

Ryan will hit economic notes in Ohio
In Ohio today, vice presidential candidate Ryan is set to highlight a different side of Romney, casting him as a compassionate conservative.
( by Nia-Malika Henderson , The Washington Post)
Romney woos Colorado Dems, independents
Romney urges Colorado crowd to help him win support of independents and Democrats.
( by Dan Balz and Philip Rucker , The Washington Post)

Strategies for the home stretch
In the campaign’s endgame, Obama will run as an underdog, while Romney will adopt the mantle of front-runner.
( by Philip Rucker and David A. Fahrenthold , The Washington Post)

Are Spanish-language media outlets vital for candidates’ pitches?
President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney are taking different paths to reach Hispanic voters in the swing state of Florida.
( by Jason Horowitz , The Washington Post)
The many motives of a mega-donor
Sheldon Adelson’s giving supports his political and business interests, but also more selfless pursuits.
( by Marc Fisher , The Washington Post)

More Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More – The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Dreading the old object of desire coming to town
The crush is long over, and bad feelings about her actions linger.
(, The Washington Post)
Florida’s Puerto Ricans: Swing voters in a swing state
Their population has increased quickly, creating another wild card in the presidential election.
( by Joel Achenbach , The Washington Post)

Come up to the lab
Guest narrators for “The Rocky Horror Show,” produced by the Washington Savoyards, recall the first time they saw the cult musical.
( by Jessica Goldstein , The Washington Post)
Getting to school is not always easy
Susan Hughes’s ‘Off to Class’ shows how kids around the world get an education even in difficult conditions.
(, The Washington Post)

Tom Sietsema’s First Bite: Shawafel
A Lebanese shop joins the list of late-night eats along H Street NE.
(, The Washington Post)
More Style: Culture, Arts, Ideas & More – The Washington Post

Venture capital investments down
Uncertainty surrounding the presidential election may be making it harder for some VC firms to raise money.
( by Steven Overly , The Washington Post)
New rules for governing debt collectors
Starting Jan. 2, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will regulate 175 debt collection firms that each bring in more than $10 million in annual receipts.
( by Danielle Douglas , The Washington Post)

Can’t fix an error in credit report? Call on the CFPB.
The watchdog agency has begun accepting individual complaints about credit bureaus.
(, The Washington Post)
Senators urge financial industry not to sit on sidelines as ‘fiscal cliff’ nears
Democrat Warner and Republican Chambliss push for engagement in finding a way to avert economic hit.
( by Dina ElBoghdady , The Washington Post)

Apple stock falls after iPad mini launch
Its market share slipping, the tech giant unveils its $329-and-up 7.9-inch tablet.
( by Hayley Tsukayama , The Washington Post)
More Business News, Financial News, Business Headlines & Analysis – The Washington Post

TV and radio listings: October 24
(, The Washington Post)
Madison’s Brooks guts one out
GIRLS’ GOLF | Madison’s Shannon Brooks shakes off some late struggles to birdie the final hole and win VHSL girls’ championship.
( by Brandon Parker , The Washington Post)

Fairfax rallies by Langley
VOLLEYBALL | Rebels overcome loss in first set to run off three consecutive wins to turn back the Saxons.
( by Matt Brooks , The Washington Post)
Zito to start Game 1 for Giants
NOTEBOOK | Two years after being left off the postseason roster, Barry Zito will start Game 1 of the World Series.
( by Barry Svrluga , The Washington Post)

Who will make the Md. playoffs?
We examine which teams are in the Maryland playoffs, which teams are in with a win and which teams are still alive.
( by Greg Schimmel , The Washington Post)

More Sports: Sports News, Scores, Analysis, Schedules & More – The Washington Post

Apple’s new Mac Mini
Apple has updated its smallest Mac, adding new processor, ports.
( by Hayley Tsukayama , The Washington Post)
Apple surprises with 4th-generation iPad, faces backlash
Apple’s surprise iPad announcement may not sit well with users
( by Hayley Tsukayama , The Washington Post)

Apple’s iPad mini: Here are the basic specs
Check out the price, size and the bells and whistles on the tiny tablet.
( by Hayley Tsukayama , The Washington Post)
Microsoft announces details of Xbox SmartGlass app
App extends your entertainment experience across the  screens of the TV, tablet, phone and PC.
( by Dean Takahashi | ,

Apple to stream event; ‘iPad mini’ expected
In a surprise, Apple said it will livestream its announcement Tuesday over its own devices.
( by Hayley Tsukayama , The Washington Post)
More Technology News – The Washington Post

At Afghan shrine, ancient treatment for mental illness
Mental health patients are chained to a cell for 40 days of living on bread, water and black pepper.
( by Kevin Sieff , The Washington Post)
U.S. developing new blueprint for hunting terrorists
THE PERMANENT WAR | Over past two years, Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
( by Greg Miller , The Washington Post)

China’s military prepares for change
Along with next month’s political transition, sweeping turnover is coming to the world’s largest army.
( by Keith B. Richburg , The Washington Post)
Nerves over China’s military spending
The growing spending, worrisome to neighbors, is allowing PLA to embark on sweeping modernization program.
( by Keith Richburg , The Washington Post)

Presidential debate: Middle East pays little attention, while China listens
Many around the world remained more focused on the hefty issues that they will confront no matter who occupies the White House.
( by Michael Birnbaum and Keith B. Richburg , The Washington Post)
More World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting – The Washington Post

What Romney’s moderation conceals
Despite his move to the center, he sits atop a radical GOP.
(, The Washington Post)
Groupthink Live
How conventional wisdom congeals in 2012.
(, The Washington Post)

Bench the Bible verses
Proselytizing has no place at a public high school football game.
(, The Washington Post)  

Remembering George McGovern
(, The Washington Post)

More Opinions: Washington Post Opinion, Editorial, Op Ed, Politics Editorials – The Washington Post

Vintage shopping and small space decorating with Sanity Fair blogger Skyla Freeman | HOME FRONT
Designing children’s rooms with Nancy Twomey | Home Front
(, vForum)

Who won the third debate? Obama or Romney
Associate editor Robert Kaiser live chats with readers to take questions on the presidential debate.
(, vForum)
Eugene Robinson Live
Live chat with Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news.
(, vForum)
ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri
The Compost, written by Alexandra Petri, offers a lighter take on the news and political in(s)anity of the day.
(, vForum)
Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update
Gene Weingarten brings you an update to his monthly Chatological Humor live chat.
(, vForum)