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February 05, 2004 - Image 17

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-02-05

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12B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, February 5, 2004
ool J brings the pain on Mama

The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazii
Little League gets big notice

By Evan McGarvey
Daily Arts Writer
Slandering LL Cool J has become
especially easy over the past decade. His
rap career, prolific in
length, has become
overshadowed by a
short-lived sitcom
and less than inspir-
ing feature film
c h o i c e s
("Rollerba 1").
However, he was
chosen for such mass-market ventures
precisely because every movie and tele-
vision producer knew that the man other-
wise known as James Todd Smith comes
with a massive pre-installed audience.
Since his first record, Radio, came out

in 1985 (when LL was the tender age of
17), he's been a colossus of not just rap,
but American pop music. Radio, one of
Def Jam's most memorable early
records, features
sparse production,
impetuous rhymes
From " from LL and a true
teenage sense of
~ Vault invincibility.
In the years that
followed, LL
released some less
inspired, but still very commercially suc-
cessful albums. He had begun his evolu-
tion from New York rapping prodigy to a
towering, bruising rapper who relied on
presence (and steroids).
As his records racked up momentous

sales, the same people who championed
his debut began to cry "sell-out." In fact,
one of LL Cool J's major accomplish-
ments was to become of one the first rap-
pers to face major backlash for commer-
cial victories. Haters labeled the albums
following Radio as not just sub-par, but
as blasphemous. Once the white kids in
the suburbs starting bumping Walking
with a Panther, the homeboys in Queens
to start the chants of "soft" and "faded."
To craft his venomous comeback, LL
Cool J went back to Queens to obtain the
most potent weapon available. Producer
Marley Marl, who had worked with pio-
neers like Kool G Rap, agreed to help
mold the album that would re-elevate LL
Cool J to the zenith of rap. Marl's pro-
duction, much like Rick Rubin's on

Radio, favored heavy arrangements with
tinny drums and well-placed samples.
Marley Marl put enough bass on Mama
Said Knock You Out to drown out the
critics evan if LL's rhymes couldn't
silence them.
The title track from Mama Said Knock
You Out became the first single - a hail-
storm attack on those who decried both
his rapping ability and his fame. He
blitzes his enemies with lines like, "I'm
blastin,' outlastin'/ Kinda like Shaft, so u
could say l'm shaftin'/ Old English filled
my mind/ And I came up with a funky
rhyme." The ever-elegant rhymes (haters
call them simple), the squealing melody
and the thunderclap percussion make the
track ballistic.
The rest of the album is filled with
cuts ranging from the car-ready thump of
"The Boomin' System", to the naughty
"Six Minutes of Pleasure." The second
major single off the album, "Around the
Way Girl," is revered for its sped-up soul
hook (a technique that no doubt inspired
chic modern producer Kanye West), but
its unique lyrics are oft-ignored. Paying
tribute to his neighborhood girls for their
independence, their singular fashion

sense, and above all, their loyalty, LL
fills the verses with genuine affection.
It's the boilerplate song that every mod-
ern "thug in love" piece of drivel
attempts to emulate. "Illegal Search" has
LL rapping about racist cops pouring
over his glistening new car. It's a piece of
politics worthy of Public Enemy. "Milky
Cereal" uses a wicked extended
metaphor (cereal brand names/sex acts)
to wrap a scandalous jam in a radio-
friendly container.
That synthesis of radio-ready rap,
fuming street anthems, and rich, smooth
songs granted the album a wider scope
and large listener base. The album ended
up being his most popular to date and
cemented his status as the most identifi-
able rapper in America. What made his
decline in to the realm of "Deep Blue
Sea" so horrific was that everyone who
had ever listened to him knew what
heights of art he was capable of doing. A
chiseled voice, roaring arrangements and
a universal appeal leave Mama Said
Knock You Out as the ultimate elegy to
LL Cool J's rap career. It's at least as
good as his performance in "Any Given
Sunday."

By Janet Yang
For the Daily
The League Underground is best
known for its Junior Bacon
Cheeseburgers and Iced
Cappuccinos, popular items off the
Wendy's and Tim Horton's menus,
but come around 8 o'clock at night
and there's more to experience than
just comfortable dining.
The programs sponsored by the
League Underground have expand-
ed in the last few years and now
there are evening events at least
once a week, largely produced for
and by the University's student
body. Individual students and stu-
dent groups have the opportunity to
showcase their talent as well as
watch others at the League
Underground's Open Mic nights,
Thursday Spotlights, Friday Night
Live and Saturday Broadway shows.
Benita Murrel, the program coor-
dinator at the League, explains:
"One thing (that is) nice about the
League Underground is its relaxed
and casual atmosphere. Although it
is not your typical 'performance'
venue, students like to perform in
the Underground because it's not
intimidating due to its informal
ambience ... there's a lot of talents
out there and we are here to pro-
mote and support them."
Wednesday nights are home to the
Six String Coffee House, which
includes an open mic for people to
share their folk-acoustic songs.
Everyone and anyone is invited to
perform. The Six String Coffee
House is held once or twice a month
for two hours each, starting at 8:30
p.m.
Although these Wednesday nights
do not usually have a theme, the
Feb. 11 Open Mic is sponsored by
the Vagina Monologues in anticipa-
tion of V-day. This is the first time
the Vagina Monologues is sponsor-
ing the event and they hope to have
some artists perform pieces cele-
brating women or relating to

women's struggles. The Six String
Coffee House will also be offered
on March 10, March 31 and lastly
on April 7 with a "Best of the best
of the Open Mic" theme, showcas-
ing the most talented speakers and
musicians of the semester.
The Thursday Spotlight features
fun a capella, comedy skits and eth-
nic music, featuring various per-
forming groups on campus. The co-
ed a cappella group Dicks and Janes
will be performing with another a
capella ensemble, Gimble, Feb. 5 at
8-:30 p.m. Although both groups
have their own more formal shows,
this night aims to be a more relaxed
and easygoing performance with
free admission and refreshments.
Mid-month, the improv comedy
group Com-co will take the stage at
the League Underground. Com-co
has been at the University for more
than 25 years, and for this perform-
ance its 12 members will bring out
some of their familiar improv games
as well as some new ones, such as
"Murder Relay," "Brian F's with us"
and "Use a Stick to Find out Which
one of us is Actually a Pinata." To
find out what this actually means,
check out the show on Feb. 12 at
8:30 pm. Admission is free.
Friday nights alternate between
Friday Nig>t Live and Friday
Dancing. Although the "Salsa and
Merengue" themed lesson has
passed, there's still "Disco Hustle"
on March 5 from 9 p.m. to midnight
for $3.
If you need something to do on
Friday nights before then, there's
Friday Night Live featuring modern
music by local bands, including hip-
hop, rock, ska and even techno
music. Local band Red Edison will
play at a free show featuring classic
alternative rock on Feb. 13 at 9 p.m.
There are still more bands to be
scheduled for the rest of the semes-
ter, so check the League
Underground website at
http: //www. umich. edu/~league/pro-
gram.html for updates.

I

JORDAN STECKLOFF/Daily
While the League does not offer events every night of the week, students flock to
this central location to eat food, socialize and watch a little football. The League
is also a great place to study, noticeable in the "cow" booths that line the outer

wall of the underground.

So there you have it, a list of at
least 10 new things to try this
semester, whether it's reliving the
disco era with a dance lesson,
courageously sharing your poetry at
the Open Mic, making a fool of

yourself at the Com-co improv
show, or just being part of an appre-
ciative audience.
For more information and a
schedule of events, go to the League
Underground's website.

a",{

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That's a microphone in his hand.

PRODUCTIONS
Continued from Page 16B
downtown area to watch the show.
While we were excited when a date
opened up at the Michigan Theater
this year, we had a lengthy debate
about the only date available -
Valentines Day: Would enough peo-
ple want to watch a show or would
people opt to go to Gratzi instead? In
the end, any venue - even on an
inopportune day - in Ann Arbor won
over,a. les ,cpptroversial date. in ai

venue outside the city.
Debates such as these are numer-
ous in the process of organizing a
show of this magnitude. Ticket sales,
board members' roles and after party
proposals all deserve and retain hours
of negotiations and discussion. Ivali-
date my intense energy because
through the process, the mission
statements come together, the hours
of work somehow make sense and the
experience culminates in a show that
will leave a lasting impression on
hundreds in attendance.

Say it loud.

There are rn
you; only a

wRoses $85*
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