Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Ok, I know, I know–why is a twenty-five-year-old man so concerned with College Park?

No, it’s not to scope out under-21’s and talk to them. I have OKCupid for that. Nor is it to speak on social media and, in turn, create memes out of my fellow Terps. They do that on their own. Since I live a literal hop, skip, and a jump away from UMD, I find myself in the area more often than I like to admit than not. I also still conduct a teeny bit of business in the area, therefore I’m invested in places where I can (cheaply) talk turkey. So, when I heard that a Denny’s was opening in the area, I was both cautious and enthusiastic. Growing up in Baltimore, the only Denny’s within a twelve-mile radius was this run-down spot near North Point Road that’s now a Sudsville laundromat near an almost deserted K-Mart.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger...but almost exactly the same. Think about it.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger…but almost exactly the same. Think about it. About five minutes from here resides the Gentleman’s Gold Club. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Suffice to say, I’d heard of it, knew what it was, but I’d never had it. But, I always wanted it. Like some slightly below average Holy Grail, I searched high and low for a Denny’s. Whenever I found one, there was always something a bit…better to do/eat. But, recently, I couldn’t avoid my cautious enthusiasm about the place any longer. So, after a long day at work, the family and I drove down Route One, past the Enclave, past the Taco Bell, to a little slice of Americana: the Denny’s of Greater College Park. While I didn’t expect five-star dining, what I got exceeded my lowest expectations in terms of “SMH.”

When we walked in, we were three of (including the staff) maybe twenty people in the restaurant. I chalked it up to finals, but it stuck out in my mind; the place just opened not too long ago. Ke$ha and Bruno Mars played from the sound system, so the idea of this being a slice of modern Americana was kept intact, albeit a bit glittered and puffed up. Our waiter, a young woman in her twenties, was pleasant but forgot the bare necessities (making sure your tables are properly equipped with silverware, keeping your menus accessible, keeping your order pad on your person, checking back on your customers, making sure your customers aren’t ready to torch the place because the service they’ve gotten has been below sub-par, etc). When we finally did get her to stop and get everything in order, she was quite apologetic for everything (that’s a plus to alleviate my negativity) and took our orders. I had the “Red White and Blue” French Toast. The family had kid-sized spaghetti and the Cheesesteak Omelet, respectively.

About forty minutes later (after a slew of “mishaps”), our food arrived. My “red white and blue” was replaced by butter pecan and cinnamon. My eggs were cold and my sausages were more mushy than my cats food. The omelet lacked, well, most of what it was supposed to have (you know, peppers, onions, taste–that sort of thing). And our beverages were…unique. We got flavored lemonades. The “mango lemonade” was some Minute Made that was (supposedly) squeezed fresh with a giant glob of mango syrup at the bottom. I stirred and I stirred, but they just don’t make water wet enough to dissolve the “mango” into the drink in any way. I’d understand if it’s puree; puree isn’t supposed to flat-out dissolve into things. But, it was literally half-a-cup full of syrup.

The only thing that came out remotely like expected was my kid’s spaghetti.

Upon paying my check, the cashier asked me how everything was.

“Uh, it was…cool…kind of different,” I hesitantly said, biting my tongue.

“Well, it wasn’t no Ruth’s Chris, was it,” the cashier cheekily asked me, sensing my disdain.

And in the back of my mind (and the front of it), I answered honestly.

“No. No, it wasn’t,” I retorted as I walked out, head-shaking family in tow.

Did I expect Ruth’s Chris? Heck no. But, I at least expected something better than what I got. Maybe it’s some post-open jitters that they’re still trying to work out. That’s entirely possible, just like Terrapin Turf before it (expect a part three of that series at some point, probably in the fall of ’14 with my old a**). Personally, I probably wouldn’t go back for a while, but if you’re in the mood to wait around and possibly get the wrong food, check it out.

At least the pancake puppies were divine. Even though by the time they brought us syrup, the puppies had gotten a bit cold.

Until next time, this is your (admittedly cynical) critic Speed on the Beat, the one who endures awkwardness and clusters so you don’t have to, signing off.

Greetings and saliva, folks.

Hope your hangovers are recovered and your ready for some real spit (see what I did there?), because it’s time for Speed’s Wishlist for Hip-Hop in the Upcoming Frame of Time.* I used to do these annually on one of my older blogs, but that site was lost in The Great AOL Disintegration of the Mid-2000s. So, without further ado, here are some talking points that, if followed, can only bring peace and awesomeness into the world of hip-hop.

First, can we stop trying to sound like Chief Keef, Future/Rich Homie Quan and/or Migos? I mean, come on! I get that music is one of those things that goes by the philosophy of more is better and “if it worked for them, it’ll damn sure work for me because I’m better and more real than them.” But, if I’ve got to sit through one more faux-sung, over-AutoTuned track about trapping, thots/t.h.o.t. (a word/acronym that must be sent to pasture–and soon), and the lot with that “Karate Chop” flow, I swear that I’m going to start throwing chairs. And we all know what happens when people throw chairs (Ed. Note: link contains a use of “the n-word”). Now, I can’t lie. If I’m in the club, and I’ve had a couple…ummm…sips of Sprite, I don’t want to hear Immortal Technique, Nas, or Lupe. Heck, I don’t even want to hear my music when I’m partying, so everything has its place. But, get out their lane, random up-and-coming rapper 217291.

Secondly, I’d love to hear a female rapper (sorry Jean Grae, there is still a socioeconomic need to differentiate between male and female rappers–even if I don’t necessarily agree with it) to drop bars without referring to their sex or referring to themselves as female dogs (keeping it PG here). I know that people try to “reclaim” words and re-purpose them as strong, pro-cause terms, but I still can’t see much too “awesome” about being a dog. Maybe I’m missing something.

Ya...don't say, Speed?

Eh…nah. (Had to bring this one into ’14)

Third, can we stop the Drake jokes? No, this one has nothing to do with some upcoming news I’ve got for everyone the fact that I’m also writing for Boi-1da.net now. It’s more so that the jokes are repetitive and dated. It’s like watching an episode of Two and a Half Men. On repeat. For a year. You can see how that may make a person go all Robot Chicken (Ed. Note: Viewer’s discretion is advised as this video is from the show Robot Chicken). Better yet, if we’re gonna do Drake jokes, it’s like watching Degrassi: The Next Generation for a year and only getting to watch the episode where Jimmy gets shot. Yes, I watch(ed) Degrassi. In high school, and oddly in college, it got me into some…great situations. Now, some people, like Big GhostFASE and the like, they made their name off calling out some of the more…ahem…emotive rappers out there, and that’s awesome. But, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to/can do it as effectively.

This. Must. Stop.

This. Must. Stop.

Fourth, can conscious rappers get off their high horses? If there’s one thing that gets my goat more than anything, it’s that sort of you-know-what. I mean, seriously! It’s bad enough when Fake Deep Twitter talks about stuff they don’t fully comprehend. It’s even worse when you’ve gotta listen to entire albums of that gobbledygook, which brings me to my next point.

DOUBLE SEGUE!

DOUBLE SEGUE!

Fifth, can rappers get back to, oh I don’t know, rapping?! Between Joe Budden giving out relationship advice, Lupe tweeting books, Kanye “ranting” but kind of making sense, and so on, I had a headache. We get it. You’re bored and have down time like regular people, so you want to do something random. That’s cool. That’s great, actually, if it’ll keep you out of jail. But I want more music, guys and girls. Get to that, then we can talk about your extracurriculars.

Sixth, and this one is kind of local. DMV artists, let’s try to make history by having a year where we all get along and don’t start beefing over “he said, she said” tomfoolery. Because honestly, almost no one outside the DMV knows who any of us are. Heck, people have found out more about Wale through who he’s wanted to punch in the mouth at Complex than his music. Let’s not even get started on the Baltimore hip-hop scene (and yes, there is one. And no, it doesn’t just have Baltimore Club Music heads in it). If we, as an area (and don’t give me that “I’m bigger than DMV” shtick when people in the DMV the block where you stay have no idea who you are), can actually put our heads together, get off our self-imposed ego trips and actually make, oh I don’t know, music…we’d get somewhere. Beef’s are a real part of life and not everyone will love everyone else, regardless of how much easier it’d make things. But, for the love of apple pie, at least try.

*changed from “year” on request of those that are in the “it’s just a year” camp. Even though, you’ve gotta admit: focusing on just one year is a bit corny.

As some of you may know, I graduated from Baltimore City College High School. (City Forever!) While at City, I met a lot of people. Some of whom are making or have made some pretty big waves in their fields. One of these individuals, Trae Harris, recently starred in the film Newlyweeds, which has gotten a lot of indie and mainstream buzz in the past few months. Less Half-Baked and more Eternal Sunshine in its approach to relationships and the like, the film, in its honesty, has gotten rave reviews from international critics. I had a chance to catch up with Trae recently and got to ask her about her role, her thoughts on some of the films out there, and a bevy of other topics.

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Image courtesy of traeharris.com

Speed on the Beat: Trae, I’ll be honest. Growing up with you at City, this was a side of you that I thought existed but never knew for certain. Where did the desire to go into acting come from?

Trae Harris: Well, I began acting in junior high school. I started writing plays and performing them as one woman shows. The first play I wrote was about Ruby Bridges and the Desegregation of New Orleans schools. I won a young playwright completion, and from that moment, I knew I wanted to perform in that capacity more often! I joined the Arena Players youth theater and was able to incorporate my dance background, vocal training and a musical theater element. In high school, I took IB Theater and had the opportunity to direct, act, write and really grow as a theatrical performer. (Interviewer’s Note: If I’m not mistaken, Trae also makes a brief appearance in season four of The Wire, alongside fellow Arena Players—and City College alumni—Rashad Orange, his sister Rakiya and others.) I knew that I wanted to go to college and continue pursuing that path, and I did. I went to New School in Manhattan and studied theater there. So, to be honest this is not a new part of myself, it’s just that I am now getting recognition from others who don’t know me or my path personally and it’s awesome!

SOTB: I notice you also do photography. Did the photography lead to your film work or are they mutually exclusive?

TH: Actually, I’m not a photographer and never have been. You’re not the first person to think that, but I have no idea why. (Laughs) I have been shot by numerous photographers from all over the world, but I myself am not a photographer. I do not even own a camera! (Interviewer’s Note: While Trae does not do photography, she has made music, some of which is available for your listening pleasure on her homepage.)

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Image courtesy of traeharris.com

SOTB: Well, at least I’m not the only one. I feel a bit less silly for asking. (Laughs) Now, for those that don’t know, Newlyweeds was shown at Sundance in early 2013. How’d it feel for your first film entry to be mentioned in the same breath as, for instance, Fruitvale Station?

TH: Well, it wasn’t really being mentioned in the same breath as Fruitvale. That was the honor for me. But, rather just that, my first feature film that I had a starring role in was being received so well and that people really loved our story!

SOTB: Did you get to meet Michael B. Jordan? Sorry, I have to ask. I’ve been following that kid since his “Wallace” days on The Wire (Laughs).

TH: (Laughs) No.

SOTB: Darn it.

TH: But, I met the screenwriter and producers from Fruitvale and they were amazing!

SOTB: But, back to Newlyweeds. I’ve read some of Shaka King’s interviews, specifically the one he did with Gawker. What was it about this film that made you pretty much jump up and say “hey, this is a project I want to be attached to?”

TH: I was excited to see a New York story being told in an honest, truthful way. I want to associate myself with work that is meaningful and honest. Newlyweeds is that on so many levels!!

SOTB: Would you say that there is a political element to the movie? I’m rehashing the Gawker question to Shaka to get your own take on it.

TH: Political? Hmmm, not really in my opinion. But, I’m sure that some folks can pull out certain social commentary about class and coming of age in an urban environment.

SOTB: What’s your take about the “uproar” concerning Miley Cyrus and “white” people “stealing” what’s perceived as black culture?

TH: Well, “blackness” as a cultural identity and “black art” as a legitimate art form historically, have always been appropriated and that obvious. Miley is only following her roots; her southern roots are deep and her family is very big in the country music world. Country music historically—just as jazz, classical, and various other musical genres—have very blatantly done the work to suppress and outright “steal” songs, musical styling and nuances that were created by black people whom were never credited. Now, with that said, Miley is not reinventing the wheel, nor is she doing anything that her family and friends in the industry have not done! This whole appropriation of blackness is not new, it’s always fashionable. I’m just not sure why now it’s a national discussion. No one is saying the same things about Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke. Why have those white males been given the “appropriation card?” (Interviewer’s Note: This will be discussed in a future post to a degree)

SOTB: What’s your opinion on the upcoming 12 Years a Slave versus last year’s Django Unchained? While both movies are completely different in tone, they have similar topics—to a degree. (Interviewer’s Note: Trae’s Newlyweeds costar, Amari Cheatom, appears in Django)

TH: I have not seen 12 Years a Slave yet, so I do not have much to offer, but Django was an action film and a bit of a comedy. 12 Years is a drama so slavery is being addressed in very different ways!! I do believe or hope that 12 Years will finally bring a sense of humanity to enslaved people and their experience, as opposed to simply sensationalizing it.

SOTB: What’s next on the horizon for you?

TH: More work, writing, and performing. I just want to release more poetry and share my work on a global scale. I have new projects coming up and I am very excited!!

SOTB: Should we expect a sequel? (Laughs) Silly question I know, considering how the film ends and what it deals with. But, I mean, we know how Hollywood gets when they find a good property, independent or not.

TH: (Laughs) Not to my knowledge!

SOTB: Would you be open to working more “mainstream” films or is independent where your heart’s at?

TH: I just want to do progressive work. I don’t really care what the medium is. Do I long to be an indie artist without mainstream success? NO! But I am not willing to comprise my integrity for the industry.

For those even more interested, here’s the trailer for Newlyweeds. Be sure to check it out when it comes to your city.

Trae can be reached through the following social media sites:

www.traeharris.com

www.gypsybruja.tumblr.com

@gypsybruja

Facebook: Search “Trae Harris” or gypsybruja

Instagram: gypsybruja


This week in music has kind of been like this. And I’m a huge Daniel Bryan mark. Better things will come, I hope.

It’s me, it’s me. It’s the guy you probably love to dislike to a certain degree, Speed on the Beat back with another exciting (perhaps) entry on This Week in Music. It’s a doozy of Chris Brown-Pinky proportions (link features some Pinky twerking and stuff)–if that’s your sort of thing. Pinky’s body goes from halfway skinny to hyper-thick to losing control (in either direction) randomly. Here’s one of the only safe-for-work photos I could find. It (obviously) doesn’t show the body.

Anyway–before Arteest revokes my contributor status for rambling about pornstars (I’ve always been more of an Aurora Jolie fan myself)–Paris Hilton has released the CDQ version of her surefire Grammy hit Kim Zolziac-esque “Good Time” featuring Weezy F. CoochieMonster (and the F is for “no one really effin’ cares anymore”). The song sounds like what you’d expect, so pretty much the same song we heard in 2011–Top 40 EDM-influenced pop–but now with a Tunechi Tunechi Tuna Fish verse that refers to having sex in a myriad of ways. Just like their other collaborations. At least we get to see Paris in a bikini. That’s still a thing, right?


Anyone? No? Ok, then. Moving on.

The “Cousin Terio” meme seems to not be going away, at least if HipHopDX-featured song “Ooh Kill ‘Em” by J-Doe has anything to say about it.  As much as I probably shouldn’t like this song–y’know, because I blog about music, therefore I must be some sort of music snob–it’s goofy as hell, brain-rotting, but infectious. I think it works better in a “why so serious?” way versus Meek’s use of the meme.

MA$€ (I assume that the Euro is to show that he’s international and trendy–or something) seems to be pissed (potentially rightfully so) over this track. I don’t know what’s worse–the bastardization of the legacy of Biggie and Pac, or this convoluted mess of a song? Personally, I’ve got to say that the song itself is worse. For starters, you’ve got Swizz Beatz and Diddy ad-libbing through the whole damn thing like this is something from 1999. The beat knocks, drums-wise, but it sounds like your typical MMG beat.

For all the “backpackers,” Papoose decided to hop on that song that’ll make Lorde rich, but she’ll probably denounce when she’s 25 as some sort of label BS and go all Miley Cyrus on people, “Royals.” The song won’t go away, nor will Papoose. Thanks Kendrick, for making him relavant enough to post on DX again. No, that’s not “shade.” I’m serious. Believe it or not, I rock with some of Papoose’s stuff.

Aside from that Nipsey Hussle tape, we have new album/mixtape releases from Danny Brown (shoutout to The Diamondback for the review, so I wouldn’t have to. #Terping), Killa Cam, and Game. So, there’s something for everyone.

And finally, in our indie/not exactly mainstream spotlight of the week, we’ve got Baltimore Club (sorry, I’m from B’more originally. Club music will almost be referred to by me as “Baltimore Club,” even if it’s Jersey Club. No disrespect intended; it’s just a force of habit) producer DJ KMillz. Listen to his “All Me” Jersey Club and his “I Be on It” Jersey Club mixes, especially.

Here’s hoping next week goes like this, I mean the Stone Cold aspect of it…: