Erykah Badu – Bag Lady
     (*½)  It took almost two years for me to truly warm up to Erykah Badu. Like most crackers, I suspect I was simply unable to get past the omnipresent African head wrap – it’s hard to look cool when five feet of fabric is protruding from the top of your skull. But Baduizm is, despite a few cliché-R+B slow jams, a kickin’ album, and I’m sure I’ll be snatching up Badu’s new album next month. “Bag Lady” isn’t quite the best representation of her neo-Ella sound, but its weeks and weeks of heavy radio airplay have convinced me it’s a catchy tune nonetheless. So I was wondering why I never saw a video turn up – after watching The Box this afternoon, I have my answer. “Bag Lady” is a half-assed clip, low-budget and almost completely without charm. Erykah, dressed in bright red from head wrap to toe, is flanked by four backup singers, all dressed in similar garb, and they wander the town, from that cheap malt shop set to the unconvincing street backdrop to the old-fashioned elevator, which triggers the sooooo-1999 Dance Interlude That Has Nothing To Do With The Song Or Video. Don’t judge this bag or this Badu by its current cover.* –Andrew Hicks
     *And please don’t judge me by that last example of shitty, shitty prose.

Bloodhound Gang – The Inevitable Return of the Great White Dope
     (**)  If you’ve taken Psych 1, you know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is. Give a song a title like this, novelty band that you are, and the results can never be compelling. “Great White Dope” is less one-liner-prone than the Bloodhound Gang’s first two videos of the year, perhaps because the vocals are distorted beyond the point of recognition. This type of distortion, though, is par for the course for any video from the Scary Movie soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong – despite my education, I enjoyed that particular Wayans Brothers opus, but it was about as subtle and one-note as the Bloodhound Gang itself. And that particular note is getting stale. “Great White Dope” sounds like a straightforward Depeche Mode or Pet Shop Boys rip, while the video features the band members, more fashionably male than I’ve yet seen them, frolicking with rented models, driving what looks like the same red SUV from AC/DC’s “Stiff Upper Lip” video and parodying Titanic about – let me check my watch here – two years and fourteen minutes after it stopped being funny to do so. the Scary Movie masked killer also starts stalking them toward the end, but that’s better left unmentioned, I think. –AH

B.O.N. – Boys
     (***)  I’m in the same boat here as I was with that Robbie Williams single a couple weeks back. “Boys” is lame, manufactured pop, but the video itself is mesmerizing, and for so many more reasons than just the singer stripping off his skin and flinging his internal organs at desirable women (sorry, Robbie, don’t mean to trivialize your Art or anything). I don’t know who the hell B.O.N. is, but I have a hunch it’s one of those neo-breeds of boy bands who actually include overdubbed guitar in their sound-alike dance songs. All we see of this band or one-man act or whatever is a naked, clean-cut young man who seems to be stuck in some kind of convent fueled by man-hating nuns and naughty Catholic school girl supermodels who lick lollipops suggestively. The whole thing has a dreamlike quality that is also sinister and almost nightmarish and would have the 700 Club pissed off at least six hundred worth. Lots of nifty little technical effects and blurred nudity, and this may have even been banned from MTV. I should actually do a little research before I say for sure – the cable giant might just not be playing “Boys” because it’s a sucky song from a no-name boy or boy band. –AH

Cold – Just Got Wicked
     (**)  This is one of those band names that instantly invites ridicule, particularly since the singer’s vocals are half-STP, half-Live with a lot of growl-rock posturing tossed in, but I’m not going to drop any bad puns involving temperature or frigidity. Nor will I mention that the song title itself reeks of, “Okay, Mr. Record Company, we got a makeover. Let us at that disenfranchised-youth demographic.” No, I want to focus on the video itself, which involves the band performing in the round, on a soundstage, for a group of model-gorgeous Lenny Kravitz-video motherfuckers, none of whom seem to have clit piercings or are wearing wallet chains. This is not the target audience, and I don’t care how long the green-haired bassist’s rattail goatee is, this is some phony, phony shit… But it still gets the two-star rating because I like that they’re playing from a reflecting pool that just doesn’t belong there. –AH

Everlast – Black Jesus
     (*½)  In retrospect, why the hell did I give the video for “What It’s Like” three stars? I guess I had no idea how obnoxious and talent-devoid Everlast would soon reveal himself to be. One earnest, plucked-out acoustic track is well and good, but around the fourth time we have to hear his identically postured, working-man bullshit, some people just have to start calling foul. What’s his new album called, Eat at Whitey’s? Yeah, that’s about right. Let’s play the race card, Irish-boy: “They call me white sinner, black martyr… jungle brother, redneck cracker, freak of nature, new-world slacker,” he folk-raps, and you wonder how he could ever claim, “I got lyrics, but you ain’t got none,” with a straight face. (And how much mickey-slipped angel dust it took to convince Santana to let this dude tour with him.) As for the video, I didn’t think it was possible for someone with that many dozen tattoos to be so pretentious. Everlast wanders a subway tunnel, a city sidewalk and the stairwell of a sky scraper, encountering panicked freaks of all races and demographics who are straight out of the video for “Black Hole Sun” if it was somehow filtered through the eyes of the Bloodhound Gang. A few interesting camera maneuvers are used to no real effect, and any mystique the video might hope of building is killed by Everlast’s closing Christ-figure pose. –AH

Wyclef Jean f/Mary J. Blige – 911
     (***)  “Yo, what up, this is Wyclef with Mary J.” You know Blige is the closest thing to Lauryn Hill that Wyclef could get for his (I still can’t type the title with a straight face) Ecleftic album, and she helped make “911” one of the few stand-out tracks. So it was inevitable we’d get a video for this before Wyclef starting mining the Kenny Rogers collaboration, that non-sequiturish remake of “Wish You Were Here” and the odes to marijuana and strip clubs for airplay. In this extremely red-looking clip, Wyclef wanders the rain-slick streets of – oh, I don’t know, the Bronx? – with his guitar, which he never seems to play, strapped to his back. He rides the subway, arrives at Blige’s brownstone and serenades her as she emotes from an upstairs window and later comes down to sing with him. And even though the chorus is, “Someone please call 911 / Tell them I’ve just been shot down,” Wyclef never so much as pricks a finger in the video. I want to see blood, man, Haitian blood – that’s what makes for a compelling video. –AH

Nelly – E.I.
Nelly - E.I.
     (**½)  Three or four months ago, I instantly dismissed the “Country Grammar” video as tripe – I’m from St. Louis and all, but come on, sometimes we embarrass ourselves… *ahem* Cardinals *ahem* – without ever imagining the song would creep up my spine like the first rising waves of an acid frenzy. (Apologies to Hunter Thompson on that one.) I was reacting to a cheap, tacky video without even taking that well-produced, catchy-ass song into consideration. And, no, I haven’t laid down any hard-earned tip money for the Nelly album, but I have been borrowing a friend’s copy for, oh, about 60 days now. So that’s enough lead time for me to properly evaluate “E.I.” which is far from the best song on the album (it’s all about Track 7, y’all) yet still nursery-rhyme infectious. The video still doesn’t get it quite right, what with its standard house-party posturing and all, but it offers some of the most indulgent booty shots on the current woman-demeaning hip-hop scene. And for that, I applaud our local talent, even if this video does include a car-cruising sequence and Nelly thrusting into the camera some butt-ugly gold jewelry that bears his name. –AH
Nelly - E.I.

Phife Dawg – Flawless
     (**)  Who the hell is Phife Dawg, you ask? Four words for you – A Tribe Called Quest. He was the other guy in the group, a kick-ass lyricist and ever the quietly confrontational sort, and when Q-Tip emerged with his commercial-ass solo career (I mean, you can’t be trotted out as the replacement boyfriend to cuckold Dr. Dre in a Toni Braxton video and not be accused of Selling Out All The Way), I started to wonder what the hell happened to Phife, everyone’s favorite five-foot assassin. As it turns out, he’s back with some kind of sour-ass revenge album filled with disses on Q-Tip. The clip for “Flawless,” a word which now, unfortunately, brings to mind a mediocre Joel Schumacher drag-queen movie, premiered yesterday on MTV’s “DFX” show. And, if not for a few well-placed close-ups, I would never have known it was Phife. It doesn’t sound like his voice, it’s definitely not up to Tribe Called Quest production standards, and it has none of the subtle humor. Basically, “Flawless” is your average nondescript hip-hop party video, with Phife performing at a block party and driving around town in his ride. Oh, and standing atop a pink RV with the words “Glamour Do’s and Don’ts” written on the side. Hmmm, is that targeted toward a certain ex-partner of Phife’s who has suddenly become quite the watered-down, fashionable male? God, y’all, this entire sordid affair is definitely going to have me scrambling for the comforts of The Low-End Theory and Midnight Marauders. –AH

T-Boz – My Getaway
     (**)  I confess the kind of odd fondness for Mya and Blackstreet’s “Take Me There” – from the soundtrack to Rugrats: The Movie – that could only come from an era in history where you can download and burn songs on CDs for free. (I have odd fondnesses for quite a few recent pop songs that I wouldn’t have if I’d been forced to acquire them through honest means.) But here we are again, with the undeserved release of Rugrats in Paris and an accompanying R+B-lite video from a marginal TRL star. This time, it’s T-Boz of TLC, leading a magical parade through a neighborhood that seems to be populated entirely by little kids. As cartoon clips roll, T-Boz flanks an inflatable cartoon balloon, making me wonder if she’s even capable of embarrassment – then again, think of the shit she used to wear in the early ‘90s. The entire video would be worthless if not for a pair of engaging images, one of which is an oversized T-Boz pulling the camera left and right via strands of bubble gum stuck to the screen (don’t ask) and the other some kind of lushly colored, giant-mushroom fantasy world where kids frolic in merriment. Just call her T-Boz Wonka. –AH
Gay Video of the Week

Deniece Williams – Let’s Hear It For the Boy (1984)
     (zero)  I’ve seen literally thousands of music videos, ranging from mind-blowing to primitive, and I believe this is one of the ten most odious in my oeuvre. It’s certainly gay enough to qualify for inclusion under this heading, a track from a Christian singer turned Johnny Mathis protégé turned secular chart-climber turned swing-shift manager at McDonald’s. You know the song, “Let’s hear it for the boy / Let’s hear it for my baby” (from the Footloose soundtrack, of all places), and you might know it was remade to be, “Let’s hear it for the Lord / Let’s hear it for my savior,” shortly thereafter. But unless you’ve seen the video, you don’t know the horror of Deniece Williams. LHIFTB opens in an empty, all-white classroom, where a shuffling little kid wears a dunce cap and lets his mouth drop open at the sight of Deniece sauntering in to meet him. She pulls the cap off his head, his outfit magically becomes a tux, and they flash enormous, painful smiles. Cut to an indeterminate number of years later, when Deniece’s “baby” is all grown up and looks like a certified accountant. But all she has to do is put this record on, and the glasses come off, the light-pink suit jacket comes on and he boogies atop his grand piano. Ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-ight. Then, inexplicably, the scene shifts to a fake-ass football-field set, where two players square off and a jump-suited Deniece leads everyone in a few very simple steps. And the little kid attempts to break dance in front of God and the world. Fuck, this sucks. –AH

Leon's Ghetto-Ass Video of the Week

Sparkle –It’s A Fact
     (**)  The first time I heard Sparkle was on “Be Careful,” a duet she did with R. Kelly. It was a Tell Yo No-Good-Ass Man/No-Good-Ass Heffa Off video. And, of course, Sparkle disappeared shortly after. But now she comes back with a creative but still ghetto-as-hell video, in which she plays herself. Sparkle is looking down at her boyfriend sleeping in the bed, a match is lit up, and she sets the muthafucka on fire. Naturally, she is then arrested and accused of murder, but one thing that makes this video ghetto is that she has the nerve to do a parody of the infamous Basic Instinct interrogation scene, white dress, crossed legs and all. And she interrupts the video with a spoken word interlude (“Hey! You can’t smoke in here!” bellows the fat cop. “What can you do? Arrest me for smoking”) before ol’ Sparky puffs it up again. That’s ten points off for lack of subtlety. And at the end, after being hounded by the media, she climbs in her car, and someone blows that muthafucka up! But then, we see Sparky on the beach, laid back. Remind me not to make this heffa mad... Leon Bracey

Last Wordz

So this is the first actual closing column, as promised, to distill notes about the site, review corrections and random comments. I promise to bring no agenda to this feature other than the type of disconnected remarks Larry King pulls out of his ass for his USA Today column.
     And our first nugget of reader feedback comes from a reader named Sophie, who offers the following advice: “Don’t spell ‘words’ with a Z.” I’d love to oblige you and the English language both, Sophie, really I would, but my column title is a homage to the three-way gangsta rap collaboration of 2Pac, Ice Cube and Ice-T from the album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. And if the plural Z is good enough for 2Pac and the double Ices, it’s good enough for my Caucasian ass.
     Which leads us to a question from Pat, who asks, “Hey, what hate crime were you accused of? Are you going to write about it? Have you already written about it?” The answer there is, I’ll explain this all in due time, but it does involve my drunken use of one of the words from 2Pac’s album title, and it is all a bullshit misunderstanding. Yes, I have written about it, and yes, I am subsidizing a local lawyer on the matter.
     Another reader wants further exposition on a line from my review of Orgy’s “Fiction (Dreams In Digital)”: “You said the ending was a rip off of a video game. Was that just in general, or did you have something in mind, ‘cause I can't think of a game like it.” I included that comment in my review because my brother immediately picked up on it and tossed out the video game’s name. It’s something in his collection, but my poor research ends there, and he’s at work right now, so I can’t ask him. But thanks for playing.
     And, finally, multiple readers have written in to let me know that, contrary to the ill-informed shit I spouted in my review of Frank Sinatra and Bono’s duet “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” our Gay Video of the Week for October 6, the two pop icons did indeed meet. As reader Station 82 explains it, “The original concept was to have Frank and Bono sitting at the bar in a rusty old tavern drinking shots while singing the song. The shoot for this concept was scheduled and upon the initial day of shooting, Bono and Frank rode together to the shoot in a limo with a camera crew. So at the shoot, they're doing the scenes and everything is going fine until a whole lot of people (press, record company execs, etc.) show up to watch. This startles Frank and soon pisses him off, and he storms off the set. Bono and the director are in shock... what the hell just happened? So anyway, they eventually (since Frank won't re-schedule the shoot) just use old and new footage of Frank and Bono, respectively, taking turns singing the song, and throw in the footage of Bono and Frank in the back of the limo to show viewers that yes, the two actually did meet. You are right about the recording of the song though, Bono didn't record his bit with Frank, a separate tape was done for the U2 frontman.” Frank Sinatra a dirty, confused drunk? Who knew?
     Next week I plan to somehow dig up that new Backstreet Boys video that debuted at the beginning of the month and hasn’t left the realm of TRL since. I’m also hoping to happen upon a pair of new clips from Black Eyed Peas and De La Soul – I know they’re out there, and I know BET will indulge me if I stick around long enough. I may be seeing both acts open for Wyclef next Friday, if I can get someone to work for me. Keep your fingers crossed… this may be prove as exciting as seeing Weird Al Yankovic last month!



Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks