Editors at Forbes magazine have named rappers A$Ap Rocky, J.cole and Meek Mill among the Hip-Hop Cash Princes of 2014. The inaugural list was compiled by rapper and entrepreneur Bryan 'Birdman' Williams and Fab 5 Freddy and features artists who are up and comers in the genre.
Only artists under the age of 30 are eligible for the list.
Rounding out this year's countdown are Azealia Banks, Big Sean, Chance the Rapper, French Montana, Travis Scott, Tyga, Methodology and Wale.
Rockers Fall Out Boy warmed up for their forthcoming joint tour with Paramore by inviting frontwoman Hayley Williams to join them onstage during a special show in New York on Wednesday (29Jan14). The Dance, Dance hitmakers recently announced plans to hit the road with Paramore on the Monumentour this summer (14), but they decided to give fans a preview of what to expect by joining forces with Williams at a VH1 pre-Super Bowl gig at Brooklyn Bowl to perform 2005 track Sugar, We're Goin Down.
Taking to her Twitter.com page after the surprise appearance, Williams wrote, "Well that was fun!! Thx (thanks) @falloutboy for letting me crash their set tonight w/ (with) @VH1Music .. Even more psyched for #MONUMENTOUR now."
The VH1 Blitz event, part of a week-long series of concerts in the lead up to the big American football game on Sunday (02Feb14), was televised live in the U.S.
Rapper J. Cole and R&B star Janelle Monae kicked off the series earlier this week (begs27Jan14), while TLC will play the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on Thursday night (30Jan14).
Rapper J. Cole landed an extra special birthday gift from his label bosses at Interscope Records on Tuesday (28Jan14) - they chose the date to announce a new partnership with him and his own Dreamville label. The news was followed by the release of a mixtape, The Revenge of the Dreamers, featuring label artists KQuick, Bas and Omen.
Rap mogul Jay Z made a surprise appearance at J. Cole's birthday gig in New York City on Tuesday (28Jan14). Cole performed at the Big Apple's Theater At Madison Square Garden on the night he turned 29, and he was treated to an appearance by Jay Z.
At the end of Cole's show, the Big Pimpin' hitmaker thrilled the crowd by joining him on stage, performing a number of tracks and then handing his hip-hop protege a special birthday present.
Jay Z presented him with a Roc-A-Fella chain and Cole appeared overwhelmed by the gift, according to the New York Post.
He later expressed his thoughts on the event in a one-word post on his Twitter.com page, writing, "Unreal".
Cole was joined by another special guest at the gig, his friend Kendrick Lamar, who also performed a number of tracks with the birthday boy.
Universal via Everett Collection
Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
This was, without a doubt, an excellent year for Hip-Hop music. Jay Z, Kanye West, and Timbaland (as a producer) all returned to a certain glory with their new projects. Artists like Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and A$AP Rocky became key players in the game. And lots of new artists generated positive buzz. Lots of magazines like Rolling Stone are counting down the best Hip-Hop albums of the year, but we're going to keep it simple with 5 definitive hip-hop tracks of 2013. Obviously, tons of great songs came out, but if we had to put 5 singles into a time capsule, these would be it!
Black Skinhead, Kanye West
People can hate on this guy all they want, but the lyrics, production, and impact of this song were amazing. And once it found its way to the trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street (perfectly appropriate, in part because of the line "I'm aware I'm a wolf/Soon as the moon hit"), it became that much more epic.
Started From The Bottom, Drake
To say that this song was "everywhere" would be the understatement of the year. Even Chris Brown -- who still has beef with Drake -- was spotted losing his mind to this in the club. Now whether or not Drake himself "started from the bottom" is debatable (well, okay, it's not true at all), but we'll let the whole thing slide if only so we can enjoy the song.
Feds Watching, 2 Chainz feat. Pharrell
Like it or not, 2 Chainz is one of the defining artists in hip-hop right now. And for people who had been supporting him since he was still Tity Boi (and one half of the group Playaz Circle) his latest album represented a return to his original style. "Feds Watching" had a dope beat and was (thankfully) lacking in some of the silliness that people had come to associate with Chainz. It was a good look for him.
Picasso Baby, Jay Z
When Jigga merged Hip-Hop with performance art (with the help of Marina Abramović), he showed that Hip-Hop already was performance art. "Picasso Baby" as a song, video, and short film became a movement that ultimately proved hip-hop is already in the realm of high art.
Control, Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica
Although the entire world stopped spinning (seriously) as practically every, single rapper in existence responded to Kendrick Lamar's now-iconic, unforgettable verse (which was not, in fact, an actual diss), Big Sean and Jay Electronica both went in on this one. This was, quite easily, the most discussed song of the year, and with good reason. Next year, we'll have to see if Kendrick Lamar will remain King of the game.
Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story.
Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action.
But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more.
Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way.
Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth.
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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Touring rap festival Rock The Bells is set to return in 2014 after poor sales forced officials to scrap its remaining two dates in Washington, D.C. and New Jersey earlier this year (13). The shows had kicked off in September (13) with two events in California featuring Wu-Tang Clan, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi.