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Review: Mac Miller Reinvents Himself On 'Watching Movies With The Sound Off'

Mac's latest brings dope beats and rhymes, but leaves many questions unanswered

Mac Miller is 21-years-old and he’s already having a mid-life crisis.

Back in 2011, buoyed by years of mixtape buzz and relentless touring, Miller’s official debut LP, Blue Slide Park (Rostrum), topped the Billboard Top 200 chart, breaking a 16-year dry spell on an indie LP holding that position, and subsequently put the industry on alert: Mac’s fan base was very real. But with a heightened profile came the pressures of fame. His shows got bigger and tours got longer. He squabbled with Donald Trump, whose namesake earned him his biggest hit. Rap legend Lord Finesse sued him for $10 million over “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza,” a mixtape cut built on the instrumental to Finesse’s 1996 song “Hip 2 Da Game.” He developed an addiction to syrup, then alcohol. Everything was going so right, yet so wrong. Perhaps needing a change, he packed his shit and moved all the way from gritty Pittsburgh to sunny Los Angeles. There, he built a studio and shot his MTV reality show Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. He also recorded his second album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, a transformative body of work with its sights set on casting Miller in a much more serious light.

The album largely picks up where his 2012 mixtape Macadelic—a trippy ride through hip-hop psychedelia— left off. The results are mixed. Mac’s pre-Macadelic material was enjoyable because it was fun and seemingly light-hearted. Older songs like “Knock Knock” and “Wear My Hat,” among others, while not exactly displays in lyrical mastery, displayed a certain youthful energy that just isn’t present here. Instead we have songs like the Flying Lotus-produced “S.D.S.,” where he taunts his listeners (“Somebody do something!”) over airy synthesizer pads and a lagging drum track. “Objects In The Mirror” finds Mac ditching rap for singing (“I never thought that it would feel this way/ You never taught me how to heal the pain”) over an electric piano progression that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He sings again on the prog rock-tinged “Youforia,” which also suffers from a lack of musical direction.

But Watching Movies With The Sound Off is hardly a bad album. In fact, despite the aforementioned gripes, it’s quite the opposite. To wit, Mac has made his career by invoking the true schoolism of '90s. But this project, more than his others, nails that aesthetic in a way that is much more clever and refined. Where in the past those efforts seemed, well, a bit cheesy, here they’re noticeably less so. Like the Action Bronson-assisted “Red Dot Music,” which finds the two white rap kingpins trading verses over a chunky kick-snare pattern. Then there’s “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes,” featuring an amazing guest verse from Jay Electronica, and the off-kilter “Gee,” with its superb arrangement. And while the LP is certainly short on introspection—this, considering the wealth of personal demons Mac’s fought off recently—there is “REMember,” a touching ode to a fallen friend. “I hope you proud of me, the dude I grew to be/ ingenuity, influenced by your euology,” he confesses over the track’s somber melody.

Typically, when an artist shifts their creative direction so drastically, the outcome is disastrous. But with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Mac Miller makes a strong case that it can be done. It might not be a perfect album, but it’s a strong one. It’s got good production, strong lyrics and overall it’s a good listen. That said, the LP’s biggest drawback, again, is that shift in direction. We get that Mac is feeling, well, a little different now. He’s just not exactly showing us why. —Paul Cantor

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Chuck D Says Public Enemy And Flavor Flav’s Split Was A Hoax

On April’s Fools Day (April 1), Chuck D decided to send the masses for a spin. In March, the Public Enemy frontman claimed the historic group parted ways with Flavor Flav. The news made plenty of headlines and even produced statements from both Chuck D and Flav’s representatives. Now, the former is saying it was all a hoax.

In a statement, Chuck D said the decision was influenced by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds.” He began his explanation by saying the decision was meant to serve as “a wake-up call” and that he was tired of hip-hop only making the news for the bad moments and never for the positive accomplishments. As for Welles’ radio program, Chuck D said it was to show how people follow each another without question.

"I had watched Orson Welles’ ‘War Of The Worlds’ from 1938 when he pulled the wool over the public’s eyes as they put 100% belief in the technology of radio. Most people followed like a Pavlovic dog just like they do now,” he wrote. “Flav doesn’t do benefits and stays away from political events - we been cool and always agreed about that. Enemy Radio was built for that reason, to be a DJ+MC auxiliary unit of Public Enemy, a no-slack homage tossback to DJ+MC roots. It is DJ Lord, myself and Jahi with the S1Ws.”

Initially, Flav’s decision to not perform at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) seemed to have been the catalyst for the current situation. Flav seemingly doubled down on Twitter where he questioned Chuck D’s statements. “@MrChuckD are you kidding me right???,,,over Bernie Sanders??? You wanna destroy something we’ve built over 35 years OVER POLITICS???,,,all because I don’t wanna endorse a candidate.” A reported cease-and-desist letter was sent to the group via Flav's lawyer claiming his likeness was being used by Sanders' campaign.

The tweet later prompted a response from the group's members, noting they didn’t part ways with Flav over his political beliefs. They claimed, since 2016, that Flav “has been on suspension” and that “he had previously missed numerous live gigs” around the world.


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EXCLUSIVE: #ChuckD (@mrchuckd_pe) and #PublicEnemy (@publicenemyftp) have issued a statement regarding #FlavorFlav...

A post shared by VibeMagazine (@vibemagazine) on Mar 2, 2020 at 4:29pm PST

"Hearing the confused mush of political talk while under the bowels of Trumpotus made me use a presidential stage as my platform," Chuck D continued to write. "Out of this storm came a plan between Flav and me to remind people that what’s important should have as much, if not more, value than just what’s popular. Thus came the HOAX, our ‘War Of The Worlds.’ Believe half of what you hear and NONE of what you see."

In an interview with Talib Kweli's Uproxx podcast "People's Party" Chuck D said he let certain people know what was on the horizon for April 1 and reassured those people that him “and Flav have been better than ever.” Additionally, Enemy Radio released an album titled Loud Is Not Enough, with its first single being titled "Food as a Machine Gun." Chuck D noted that at the end of the day, the entire situation's "original intention was to get your attention."

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Vanessa Laine Bryant (L) and Kobe Bryant attend the 2018 Baby2Baby Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 10, 2018 in Culver City, California.
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Vanessa Bryant Reveals Latest Installment Of Kobe Bryant’s ‘Wizenard’ Book Series

The latest installment in Kobe Bryant's bestselling Wizenard book series has officially arrived. The late NBA legend's widow, Vanessa Bryant, took to Instagram on Tuesday (March 31) to announce the release of The Wizenard Series: Season One.

“Welcome back to Dren! We hope you are all ready to catch up with the West Bottom Badgers for another magical basketball season. 'The #Wizenard Series: Season One' is OUT NOW,” reads a message on Vanessa's Instagram account.

The announcement was also posted to Kobe’s Instagram, marking the first post since the 40-year-old athlete, his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi Bryant, and seven others, passed away in a helicopter crash two months ago.

Created by Kobe, and written by Wesley King, The Wizenard Series follows a young athlete named, Reggie, who has big basketball dreams but serves as a bench warmer for the worst team in the league. Although Reggie is committed to putting in the work to make his dreams come true, he must first “survive the extraordinary ordeals of practice.”

The book is a followup to Kobe’s #1 New York Times bestseller, The Wizenard Series: Training Camp.


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Welcome back to Dren! We hope you are all ready to catch up with the West Bottom Badgers for another magical basketball season. The #Wizenard Series: Season One is OUT NOW.🧡🧡🧡🧡🧡🧡#KobeBryant #GranityStudios #Kobeinc

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:57am PDT

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Lauren London Marks 1-Year Anniversary Of Nipsey Hussle's Death

As Lauren London continues to grieve over the death of her longtime love, it seems that writing has become a form of therapeutic release for the  mother and actress. London shared an emotional message on Instagram on Tuesday (March 31) in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Nipsey Hussle’s death.

“Time is deceptive,” London wrote. “It’s been a year since you transitioned. The pain is as heavy today as it was a year ago. God knows I would give anything to see you again. I didn’t think I was going to survive a second of any of this. Prayers have kept me together. The kids keep me going and [God's] Grace and Mercy have carried me this far.”

London noted that she now stands strong, thanks to Hussle. “Because I know you wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I recall every late night conversation we had about resilience and fear. Because you were my greatest teacher and because you are still with us, in spirit.”

In closing, London vowed to continue to honor her late partner, with whom she shares a son, Kross. “I carry this pain with a purpose. I promise I will make you proud. I promise to apply everything you taught me. In life and in death, Ermias Asghedom, there will never be another. Until we are together again....I love you beyond human understanding ( but you know that already).”

The 33-year-old rapper, activist and entrepreneur was shot to death in front of his Marathon clothing store on March 31, 2019. Hussle’s accused killer, Eric Holder, is expected to go to trial next month.

Read London’s full post below.


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Time is deceptive It’s been a year since you transitioned The pain is as heavy today as it was a year ago God knows I would give anything to see you again I didn’t think I was going to survive a second of any of this Prayers have kept me together The kids keep me going and Gods Grace and Mercy have carried me this far As today makes a year I stand strong because of you Because I know you wouldn’t have it any other way Because I recall every late night conversation we had about resilience and fear Because you were my greatest teacher and because you are still with us, in spirit With every breath i take I honor you I carry this pain with purpose I promise I will make you proud I promise to apply everything you taught me In life and in death Ermias Asghedom There will never be another Until we are together again.... I love you beyond human understanding ( but you know that already)🏁

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on Mar 31, 2020 at 7:12pm PDT

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