Our favorite things this week include Luke Cage's soundtrack, new Macklemore, and the new HBO western sci-fi series.
Want your life to feel a little more like Luke Cage’s minus the whole people shooting at you in Harlem thing? A little grittier? More urban? You could start with the music that inspired his soundtrack including the soundtracks to The Mack and Foxy Brown by the great Willie Hutch, and to Truck Turner and Tough Guys by Isaac Hayes. Or, you could stream the Luke Cage soundtrack, focusing on the tracks by Adrian Younge, whose productions often owe a debt to ‘70s soundtracks, whether softcore porn or soul cinema. You could go on to Younge’s 2014 Original Score to the Motion Picture: Black Dynamite or 2015’s excellent Adrian Younge Presents: Twelve Reasons to Die II, featuring Wu-Tang members RZA, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon (though I prefer the instrumentals).
Or, you could go to Nightmares On Wax, where they’ve made eight mixtapes available for free. The mixtapes vary in sound quality since some were initially recorded straight to cassettes by the NOW crew, and much of the music sounds like hip-hop beats in search of a rapper. Still, they’re based in the first generation of hip-hop’s musical sweet spot in the early ‘70s, and the grooves are strong and soul-based. Drive on a rainy night with one of the mixes as the soundtrack and your existential dread will go through the roof. (Alex Rawls)
Macklemore’s newest music video is so important. “Drug Dealer” dropped on October 25 and has since gone viral in the recovery community and is helping more people understand the true nature of addiction as a disease. The Seattle-based rapper has always been open about being a recovering addict and his sobriety journey, but his latest music video is Macklemore’s rawest and most vulnerable yet. It presents the excruciating reality of substance withdrawal and big pharma’s role in addiction. Macklemore drops heavy lines while naked, withdrawing on the bathroom floor: “These billionaires, they kicked up / Paying out Congress so we take their drugs / Murderers, who will never face the judge / And we’re dancing to a song about our face going numb / But I’ve seen homies turn grey, noses draining blood / I could’ve been gone, out 30s, faded in that tub.”
The song features Ariana DeBoo who in the video is slowly getting suffocated by prescription pills singing, “My drug dealer was a doctor / Had the plug from Big Pharma / He said that he would heal me / But he only gave me problems.” Earlier this month, Macklemore and President Obama released a new MTV documentary about the current opioid addiction epidemic. Macklemore’s strength to share his experiences so candidly not only helps dispense the stigma and shame surrounding addiction, but also provides hope for those within his community to get help or stay clean. (Emily Tonn)
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Four episodes into the new HBO series Westworld, I’m still not sure what to make of it. Loosely based on the 1973 movie of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton, the show takes the concept of a futuristic western theme park with robot “hosts” and runs away with it. Whereas the movie is simply a sci-fi thriller, the show takes a more nuanced approach. The hosts are programmed to forget after each repair, so the they won’t be forced to remember the awful things the human “visitors” have done to them, but when they get an update that allows them to have “reveries” (small traces of memory), their mechanisms of forgetting begin to malfunction, and they begin to catch glimpses of the atrocities to which they have been subjected.
The show has a lot to recommend: an all-star cast featuring Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, and Anthony Hopkins, gorgeous cinematography, seamless special effects, and a fascinating concept. That being said, it's still a hyper-stylized sci-fi period piece, and there are some dangers that come with that territory. The dialogue, for instance, is stilted, pretentious, and often flat-out terrible, which is hard to get past. The concept has limitless potential for dramatic and suspenseful scenarios, but it also presents drawbacks. Since it is so disorienting, it requires an enormous suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer at almost every turn, and it also lends itself to ridiculous melodrama, which the show has already flirted with dangerously. Still, if the writers can steer clear of the pitfalls of unexplained pseudopsychology and saccharine romance, Westworld has all the ingredients to become an excellent series. (Raphael Helfand)