Friday, June 24, 2005


The Rules: I have taken a random interview from the internet in its completion (this specific one is an interview from with pop singer, Annie).I have kept the interviewer's questions faithful to the original but I have changed all the answers. You can interpret the following as you will. Nevertheless, please enjoy.

Pitchfork: I have a bone to pick with you. The album version of "Heartbeat", before you go into the verse, there's an extra empty bar, and on the first beat the drums drop out. And then I bought the single, and you took away that bar. That empty bar was the best part of the whole song.

Annie: Wait...who are you?

Pitchfork: You've said before you wanted Anniemal to be a "happy album."

Annie: I still don't know who you are.

Pitchfork: Do you think you succeeded?

Annie: Yawn. Are we done with this yet? Do you know I'm just a pop musician? You're like all serious and s***.

Pitchfork: "Chewing Gum" is very mean.

Annie: So are you. HA!

Pitchfork: Who do you think is listening to your music? Teenagers? Old people? Internet types? I think it's internet types.

Annie: "Internet types"? Can you tell me what that means? It sounds like a nice way of saying "geeks". Are you a geek? Oops..I mean, an "internet type"? How many blogs do you have, you geek? Uh, I mean, you internet type!

Pitchfork: Are you bummed that you didn't do so well on the UK charts?

Annie: What do you think? No. I'm thrilled. When I released an album, I thought, I hope it does badly. I hope this album fails miserably. I put so much work into something and I did it only so I could watch the whole project completely fall flat on the UK charts. That was probably the dumbest question I have ever been asked.

Pitchfork: Röyksopp seemed to do well eventually.

Annie: You're not even trying here, are you? I think it's time for me to break into my signature non-sequitor mode.

Pitchfork: You've been pretty open about wanting to do well commercially.

Annie: Ummm...well, I would love a nice tuna sandwich. On whole wheat, please.

Pitchfork: What's with the band you're playing with? Who are they?

Annie: What are your feelings on genocide?

Pitchfork: What songs do you have prepared with the band?

Annie: You know...songs.

Pitchfork: From what I can tell though, Norway loves you.

Annie: Have you spoken to Norway? How do you know this? Do you even speak Norweigan? You are all lies. A truck full of lies on its way to the lies store which sells to people who buy lies. You are the lies king of lies land. You are King Lies. That is your name--now go by it!

Pitchfork: Tell me about being a musician in Bergen.

Annie: Generally, as a musician in Bergen, you buy an instrument and play it. You can borrow it from a friend or sibling though. But if they don't have one, you should buy one. Don't steal it. Then you either write something new or cover something that has already been written. You play songs which sometimes are recorded onto something called an album. Although, nowadays, we use CDs mostly. But some people think that CDs are being phased out due to the proliferation of digital music. Oh, and you drink a lot and do occasional drugs. Whatever you can get your hands on for cheap. And you, hopefully, "rock."

Pitchfork: Is writing your own songs important to you? Do you think it's important to your fans?

Annie: To the "internet types"? Nah. They're too busy blogging about their meta-existence and linking every website in the world to their own website. I do stay up at night thinking about the Iraqi/American conflict. I think that's kind of important.

Pitchfork: Have you had time to write new material for the next record?

Annie:I still don't know who you are.

Pitchfork: Juan Maclean?

Annie: Okay, Juan. I'm done here. Bye.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Billy Swanson is anxious again. His band Pela has just finished playing an ambitious, blistering set at the Delancey, a lower East Side venue, and the amiable lead singer wants to know why “it” hasn’t happened yet. As he drinks his beer heartedly, Swanson wonders aloud whether Pela will finally have its big break or not.
I remind him that his band has been playing shows for less than a year.
Swanson smirks, pretending to take comfort in my response.
“A year’s a long time, you know,” he finally says back.

Pela is unlike most local bands for a number of reasons. For one, their sound challenges the confines of a club venue. The Brooklyn quartet performs with exclamation points and fists, nonplussed by the smallness that comes along with patronizing the club circuit. Pela strives like they’re entertaining an arena, projecting epic waves and resounding vibrations into the limited airspace. You can walk out of a Pela show inspired (if you catch them on a good night. Pela, like all upstarts, can still sometimes sound sloppy) knowing that you witnessed true potential, a band you can store away in your I-saw-them-when mental cabinet.

Swanson, who has a self-proclaimed “construction worker’s body,” splits his vocal duties between a ferocious howl and a haunting falsetto. Regardless of the weather, the singer wears a sweater vest on stage--a fashion choice definitively not made out of trend. Guitarist Nate Martinez is short and scrawny, almost a non-threatening, smaller version of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. His guitar heroes must either be in Radiohead or U2--despite Martinez’s size, he is primarily responsible for the band’s bulky reverberation. The bespectacled bassist Eric Sanderson flails back and forth as if the floor was too hot for him to stand in one place and Tom Zovich sits behind the drums unassuming and disciplined. Paradoxically, every time I see Zovich after a show, he’s smiling and charming a new girl, offering to buy her a drink.
There is a definitive Pela sound and it's neither rocket-science nor derivative. Their repertoire, garnering comparisons to classic-U2, the Walkmen, and the Psychedelic Furs, is a homage to the past twenty years, albeit the non-new-wave aspect of those two decades. It's a retroness you can't resent because its the sound of your childhood when you first discovered music cooler than what you were just hearing on the radio.

Their first release, an EP entitled All in Time (Brassland) does not properly convey the rawness of their live show. The five songs feel polished and controlled like the product of upstarts overcompensating for the shortcomings of inexperience. Hopelessly self-aware (who can blame them?), All in Time is only a taste of what this promising group is capable of. The opening song "Latitudes" is an exhilarating track reminiscient of the breezy feel found in "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "Clocks" (and despite the indie disdain for U2 and Coldplay, these are two songs that a lot of people feel very passionately about). Tellingly, this EP was also recorded nearly two years ago but the material that Pela has just finished recording for a full length will assuredly deliver.

I sat down with Nate and Billy in the Magician, an unpretentious, regularly empty bar on the Lower East Side. Both were gracious and appreciative that someone cared enough to sit with them and discuss their music. But throughout our conversation, I again sensed the anxiety. After establishing a devoted local fanbase and scoring some envious opening slots (like Sleater Kinney, The National, Feist), the band feels that there should have already been a tangible next stage.
"I've got nothing else," Swanson says. "This band is the only thing I really want. I'm not gonna find a full-time job and make a career now."
Martinez nods along in approval as Swanson finishes his beer.
If passion is a meter of success, then Pela has nothing to worry about it. The anxiety will subside in due time and Pela will have its day.

For more on PELA, please go to their website.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Click here to see my first comic ever.

WHEN I was eight years old, my father bought me my first comic book, World's Finest Comics with Superman and Batman on the DC Comics imprint. The comic, which I've since misplaced and have finally rediscovered on eBay, featured the incredible union of the two most revered superheroes of all time. It was an absolute thrill for an eight-year-old to hold a comic of such myth-making potential. It was almost too heavy and fantastic for my little ever-absorbing mind to comprehend. I couldn't wait to get home and read it.

This specific issue, No. 293 from July 1983, was the beginning of my fascination with Batman. After devouring this specific perilous episode pitting Batman and Superman against the evil Null and Void, the Caped Crusader suddenly took on a weighty depth. He was no longer a hokey character from an unfortunately acted 60's television show. Batman was a mere mortal with a venomous anger, a conflicted soul grappling with a moral ambiguity. While I could have easily fallen for Superman, tagging him as my favorite hero and role model, I found it hard to relate to him. The Kryptonaut was actually an alien, sent from a doomed planet to ours. His super-strength and god-like powers were nothing I could ever achieve. I was a weak sixth grader with glasses that were large enough to cover half my face. I would never be a Superman, regardless of the exercise and weight-lifting I could do. On the other hand, Batman, a man, fought side-by-side with this incredible alien. Need I remind you that Batman wasn't bullet-proof, he couldn't fly. Batman couldn't see through walls. Yet his shortcomings were never obstacles. The Dark Knight rose above it all to become the most feared and revered hero among heroes. Batman was real to me. And what's more, Batman was always an inspiration.
My father had introduced us to each other. Batman, he said, meet my son Arye. Arye, meet Batman.

As the years passed, my father took me to the comic book store every Friday before Shabbat so I would have something to read in the long quiet afternoons (before I learned to appreciate a nap). Despite my ever-changing taste in comic book series and characters, Batman had always remained my favorite. Dad brought me to store on Wood Avenue and ran errands while I walked up and down the aisles of countless, fresh copies, which all smelled wonderful to me--like ink, and bubble gum and adventure and wonder. I salivated while piling comics in my hand as I paced the store. I needed this one, and this one, and-OH!-this one is finally out. The trip to the comic book store every Friday was a ritual I waited all week for. Its also one Dad and I took together until I got a driver's license and started making the trip on my own (which, I'm sure, disappointed my dad because he missed out on the post-comic splurge at Carvel (strawberry milkshake for me, thank you)).

In 1989, when the first Batman movie came out, I could not have been any more excited unless Batman himself had come to my Bar Mitzvah (who, incidentally, I did invite). The day that Batman, directed by Tim Burton, was released, I walked to the movie theater and watched it alone. Don't feel bad--it was intentional. No one else I knew was worthy to share this experience with me. I was a High Priest entering the Holy of Holies. I had to face this event by myself. Needless to say, it was a most euphoric two hours. My first childhood hero was respectfully brought to life and all was great in the world. Incidentally, I would go on to watch the movie twenty-seven times in the years to come and, over the span of the next year, transform my room into what my friend would don "the Batcave" (which I accepted as an honor). All the while, my father supported my fandom, even defending it ("at least he's reading"), paying for my weekly shipment of hero-worship, surprising me with a Batman collectible (like an eraser, or folder, or poster), and even cutting out Batman comic strips from the paper and sending them to me when I was away in summer camp.

As the years passed, I grew up (only physically) and Batman was growing with me. Amazingly, the Dark Knight became progressively darker as if he was also learning to deal with a more complex world. As the rating of the movie I was legally able to attend raised, the more Batman became conflicted and complicated. Adults would laugh and friends would mock, but (and I'm aware of the ridiculous nature of this statement) Batman was gladly a prominent presence in my life, thanks to Dad.

My father, the man who ensured that my soul would remain young forever, passed away a little over two years ago. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him. Although, I may not write about him or make verbal references to his love and greatness, Dad is in everything I do. Yesterday, Father's Day, was unique because Dad was (and also, literally, wasn't) every where. My day actively passed just as any other Sunday, running errands, going out for coffee, doing stuff in the apartment, but all the while, others were calling their fathers or having brunch with them. I tried my best to ignore the nature of the day--in fact, I didn 't even bring it up with my own family--but it was obvious. Today was Father's Day, which now had as much relevence to me as Christmas did.

Later that night, I went to see a late night showing of Batman Begins, a sensational film that I highly recommend even if you don't have the history that I do (inevitably, I will see it again). While I watched Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) transform from a confused orphan into a matchless super hero, I experienced a twang of time travel. Suddenly, I was fourteen again, thrilled and overjoyed, sitting in a crowded theater, watching my childhood hero come to life. I gripped the handle bar for all two hours. As the film continued, I also felt like the boy coming home from the comic book store every Friday who couldn't get out of the car fast enough to start reading his new Batman comics. I was the child that relied on his father's ride for his one-way ticket to fantasy, vicariously swinging from the skyscrapers of Gotham City. I was eight-years-old standing in a 7-11, holding a World's Finest Comics #293, bewildered and excited, hearing a distant voice asking, "Do you want me to get that for you?"
On that very day, my imagination was invented. My creativity was planted and watered. I would see the world in vibrant colors and glorious waves.
Now years later, I sat there watching this movie, thinking this is one of the more appropriate things I could do on Father's Day.

And after work today, I am heading to the comic book store. Only this time, I'm taking the subway by myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Nothing is more profitable than the comeback.
If there's a lesson to learn from 2005, it's that there's money in nostalgia. When a reunited band rolls into town, you suddenly realize that you totally need to see them. But it's too late because tickets are already sold out--apparently, everyone else missed them too. Take the Pixies, for example, who sold out nine nights in New York City. Or Slint who triumphed three consecutive nights at Irving Plaza (strange when considering that during their first phase, they only played one night in New York. Ever). Or how about Gang of Four, that's recording a new album of all new material based on the realization that reclaiming your territory beats working an office job?

But what happens when a band never goes away? What happens when there is no anticipated return, no trumpeted reunion (Don't call it a comeback. They've been here for years)? When an aging, influential musician makes a new record, does anyone care? After all, new fledgling bands rarely cite current output as an influence. No one embraces New Order's or the Cure's latest two records as immensely important to their sound.

Way back in '93, Teenage Fanclub was hyped as the next big thing. They even played the once-coveted Saturday Night Live slot. But then came Nirvana, established their own teenage fanclub and made Bandwagonesque the best album you never heard that year. Ever since, the three supremely talented songwriters, Gerard Love, Norman Blake, and Raymond McGinley, have continued to produce fine and consistent documents of power pop, rife with a Big Star largeness and a memorable and hookable sensibility. As time continued, Teenage Fanclub’s presence was exponentially downsized, even with Nick Hornby’s regular support. And with Man-Made, that's unlikely to change. The album, produced by Tortoise frontman John McEntire, commendably seeks out the big re-invention, muddying up the once-crisp pop sheen and incorporating infrequent sound effects but ultimately, the effort falls flat, feeling dull and bland. The Man-Made experience sounds effortless but not in a good way. As the title suggests, this is indeed a humble effort; just a bunch songs made by men who kinda like making music. But a band with a legacy like Teenage Fanclub should sound like they’re aiming a bit higher than that.

Another band with the cursed history of critical acclaim and meager record sales are The Go-Betweens. Robert Forester and Grant McClennan, the only two permanent members of this 'literary" band (which I could have sworn meant they both know how to read) give us Oceans Apart, the third record in the second phase of their career (they took a 12-year hiatus). Unlike Teenage Fanclub, though, The Go-Betweens examine their successful roots and attempt to revive their late-80's aesthetic by utilizing the same producer--Mark Wallis--who took the helm for their classic, 16 Lovers Lane. Splitting the vocal duties down the middle, both McClennan and Forester take the center stage singing dramatic songs of distinctly English pop. Personally, I’m partial to McClennan's tuneful vocals while Forester’s speak-singing, akin to David Byrne’s quirky delivery, plainly irritates me. Oceans Apart rates as a hokey and aged album sprinkled with awkward synth and outdated sentiments. The vibe throughout is retro like the "ba-da-ba's" in the chorus of "This Night's For You," which sound too fey in these cynical times. Ocean Apart sounds like collected dust on a well-written book.

The award for most jarring transformation goes to Bob Mould, the lead singer of both-defunct Husker Du and Sugar. As all Mould solo-efforts, Body of Song, opens with a feverish rocker, the venting of a spurned lover. "Circles," an angsty song that goes places Mould's vocals shouldn't, pushes his beefy and bitter voice to strained heights. But the initial introduction to Body will never prepare you for "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," a song that sounds like a Cher outtake. Legit. Using the same vocal manipulation found on the hit "Believe," Mould records a club-rock hybrid that repeats the unfortunate mantra of "shine your light love hope." Not very punk, if you ask me. Maybe Bob has taken Out Magazine's Hottest Returning Gay Rock Icon Award a bit too seriously. Even more disturbingly, he repeatedly uses the vocoder throughout the record like a child with a new toy. As his press release states, "Mould spent time further cultivating his newfound love of club music..." and that's when I stop reading. I commend Mould for stretching the confines of his sound but when he teases the listener with straight-forward rockers like "Best Thing" and "Missing You," the experiments feel like a mid-life crisis. Sometimes, piercing an ear is subtler.

And finally, in order of disappointment, the most self-imposed obscurity of the bunch is Linda Perry who is famous for two things: one, for embedding the annoyingly annoying song "What's Going On?" into your brain circa '92 (as lead singer of 4 Non Blondes) and two, for writing hits for Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Liz Phair. Perry has otherwise kept her songs for others to interpret, a wise decision after hearing her first album in almost ten years entitled In Flight. Sounding like a more masculine Alanis Morrisette, the twelve songs on her latest feel like out-takes from her 4 Non Blondes recording sessions. How could someone who has been so closely involved with today's pop acts create an album so backward-sounding? Just about every instrument, every "ache," the production, the execution, the delivery, feels so ten years ago. Truthfully, I was genuinely excited about In Flight, more so than any of the other albums featured in this review which makes this album even more disappointing. Recently, Perry has proven herself to be a consistent and compelling songwriter but after listening to her sing in her signature husky Cher-like voice (is she buds with Mould?) about Jesus ("Freeway" just hurts), I realize that this was one re-invention I could have done without. Sadly, In Flight performs like something they would sell exclusively in a Starbucks. Not that I was expecting challenging art that bit with every note but after finishing In Flight, I want to put on a Christina Aguilera record. And no, that's not a compliment to Aguilera.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I'm Talking to the Man in the Juror!

Jackson to Prosecution; Beat It!

The Verdict Is Mine, Says Jackson.

Who Says I'm The One? Jackson Asks the Public. That Kid Was Not My Fun.

King of Pop, Now King of Seriously Damaged Career

Jackson, Innocent But Still "Off The Wall"

Prosecution Announces Civil Suit; We Won't Stop Until We Get Enough

Jury Decides That Jackson Is Not "Bad"

Jackson Is Neither Criminal Nor Smooth

Jackson Not Guilty For Sleeping With P.Y.T.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


"Yeah, I wear a bib. Do you have a problem with that?"
Originally uploaded by Arye.

Avraham: Knock, knock.
Me: Who's there?
Avraham: Me, Avraham.

Avraham: You have a surprise in your eyes! [giggle, giggle]
Me: Oh no!
Avraham: Ha ha ha ha.

Avraham: You can't eat people.
Me: Yes, I know.
Avraham: Yay. Ha ha ha ha.

Avraham: I'm in my house.
Me: What are you doing now?
Avraham: Okay. Bye bye.
[Hangs up]
Me: Hello?

Avraham: I have a cupcake.
Me: Is it yummy?
Avraham: Yummy. Yummy. Yummy.
Me: What kind of cupcake is it?
Avraham: A cupcake cupcake. [Giggle, giggle]
[Avraham calls back ten minutes later]
Avraham: It's chocolate.
Me: What is?
Avraham: Bye bye.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


If you bought COLDPLAY's X&Y:

You like romantic comedies. You cry during long distance commercials. You cry even harder when said long distance commercials have a baby, a puppy or Catherine Zeta Jones. Why? Because you think she is so beautiful, you're mind cannot begin to comprehend that level of beauty. You do not know that you are wrong and in reality, Catherine Zeta Jones is just eh. You voted for Kerry because he seemed like the type of guy who would play "Clocks" over the loudspeaker before adressing the public. You're like totally bummed that tickets to the upcoming show at MSG cost you $50 because you were hoping to start taking yoga more frequently and you don't have enough money for both because, well, you like to save. Your favorite food is sushi and Jamba Juice shakes (low-fat ones, mind you!). You think, holy cow, The Da Vinci Code was so great. And you hate snobs like me that make fun of you for buying an album based on the fact that The O.C. used it in a recent episode. You say something like, Oh you're such a snob. I bet you think you're better than me because you know so much about music. I say back, Yes, I do. Sometimes.

If you bought THE WHITE STRIPES' Get Behind Me Satan:

You still use the term "Alternative Rock." You respect Jack and Meg White for dressing exclusively in red and white because it's making some kind of a statement. You're just not sure what that statement is and you also truly don't have the time to think about this statement because if you actually thought about it and finally came to the conclusion that the statement was dumb, you would be so disappointed. You really like Johnny Cash and you can't wait until his next album comes out. You just found out that Johnny Cash is dead and now you too are bummed. You think two people in a band doesn't seem like enough to qualify them as a band per se and there should at least--at the very, very least--be a bassist. You also use the term "per se" a bunch. You think the blues is the truest form of music but yet it all sounds the same to you. You think Meg is kinda hot in a this unusual way. You can't exactly put your finger on it but when you see a picture of her, you think, Yeah, I could totally date her. When a friend finally asks you what you see in her, you say, I don't know. She just does it for me. Oh, and you're a sophomore in college.

If you bought BLACK EYED PEAS' Monkey Business:

You tell everyone that you work out to the Black Eyes Peas because, you know, they're fun. You can only name two people in the band; that guy named and Fergie because you are waaaaay into her (I mean, how can you not be? She's so much better looking than Meg White) but the other two...hmph. Not sure about them. Besides, they don't add that much to the group. They're like just random dudes that shout out some random words. You love summer blockbusters and cannot wait for the Dukes of Hazard movie because it looks HYSTERICAL! You were disappointed by the Britney/Kevin reality show because it was kinda boring, wasn't it? You feel bad for JC Chasez because you don't think he got the chance he deserved. You ask people, Where is the love? You then giggle because you think of Justin Timberlake in your head. You also hate snobs that pick on you for your taste in music, bad or not. Whatev, snob! You read Vibe because sometimes you feel a little bit street. You can't tell the difference between Nelly and Ludacris. Wait, which one has the Band-Aid on his face? You were told it was some sort of gangsta thing but that doesn't seem true because why would a Band-Aid make you look tougher? You don't get it. You like 7-11 and even better--when that 7-11 is next door to a mall. Hot Topic is not your style but Express has some pretty fresh looks nowadays. Even though you love the Black Eyed Peas, you will not pay for tickets to their concert because you're "concerned" (you use the word "concerned") what kind of audience they will attract. You love salad but don't realize the dressing is so incredibly high in fat. You're from Staten Island. And you shout out "Let's get it started" at the most inappropriate moments like on first dates.

If you bought KELLY OSBOURNE's Sleeping In The Nothing:

Well, you are Sharon Osbourne.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Part 2 of the Open Letter to Jane Pratt Series

Hey Jane.

How the heck are ya'? So, I just got back from H&M and well, good times. Having that store right across the street from me is like uber-dangerous. I walk in there and they have these button down, slim-cut dress shirts that fit me like a Thinsulate glove. And they were only nine dollars. I'll say it again--nine dollars! It's as if Mr. H&M said, Arye, welcome to my store. Please take these dress shirts as a token of my gratitude for your just being alive. Thank you for existing and I am repaying you by giving [e.g., selling] you these wonderful yet cheaply made shirts.
Never to turn a warm gesture down, I bought seven. I know, I know-whoa, Arye. Easy there. But here's my thought-process. You can always use a nice button down; it goes well with a suit, a pair of jeans, you can wear it on interviews (hint, hint) or a night out on the town. [Editor's note: only specific towns though. Please contact me for a detailed list of those worthy towns]. I got a few white, two blues, and a couple of pinks because I'm told I can pull them off which seems to me like a compliment or a subtle challenge to my sexuality. Hey, it's all good. But additionally, Mom loves them and so does the g-friend. Lord knows I could always use some points for both those ladies.

Oh, before I forget; I did indeed send you my samples and resume like you asked (see comment here) but I never heard back from you. Frowning icon to the infinity! Jane, where you at? I realize you gots a magazine to runizzle (love whipping out my Snoop Dogg) but don't forget me. 'kay? Don't let this brutha down.

Someone just walked into my office and Mandy Moore was playing on my iTunes. So embarassing. I quickly clicked to the next song but even worse...! It's Sammy Hagar's Van Halen ("Right Now" still rules as a song and you know it). I could just disappear.
Speaking of which, do you ever get in the mood for sushi? i think that's what I'll have for dinner. I fancy myself a spicy salmon roll with avocado. I also fancy myself the term "fancy myself." And someone just used "moxie" before and I had forgotten how much I loved that word. Totally need to use it.

i think I've bored you enough and besides, I have to run along now.

Speak soon?

Friday, June 03, 2005


- When I want people to know I mean business, I simply have to pull the hood from my sweatshirt over my head.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


XXL Magazine presents their first Jail Issue; I pour out some of my forty in sadness.

"Jail is cool, kids!"

In perhaps one of the most irresponsible decisions of all time, XXL Magazine has devoted its current issue to the prisoners affiliated, in any capacity, with hip-hop. Forget rap's mistreatment of women and its unrealistic focus on unaffordable material goods, this cover is the biggest mistake ever made in the history of hip-hop.

The unintentional message of this foolish stab (pun intended) at street cred tells the reader that prison time is the highest level of credibility. Without doing some form of jumpsuit modeling (or if you've at least been shot at), you're not a contender.

This from their website [my comments appear in brackets]:
"The list of incarcerated MCs just keeps getting longer. So XXL goes inside to get an in-depth look at life behind bars.  Real I.D. numbers. Real photos. Real stories. No joke [I love the way you say "in-depth." Sounds like a term your new boyfriend will use once you're alone in the showers. That's hot!
Contrary to the readers of XXL, life behind bars is not a necessary ingredient for the transformation of mere mortal into rapstar. Devoting a whole issue to these "real I.D. numbers" just delivers a message contrary to that.]

To the delight of hip-hop’s opponents, and the consternation of its defenders, rap music has a long history with the penal system. The influence is undeniable: from slang and song content to album covers and the ever-popular cell-block video setting, hip-hop has been tattooed with the markings of prison culture. Beyond the fascination with the outlaw aesthetic that’s long been prominent in many forms of popular entertainment, there’s a troubling truth to be found in the relationship between the artistry and the incarceration. Now, more than ever, rappers are being put behind bars. [Well, that's because of all the attention given to the misplaced glory of a jail sentence. A story and cover like the July 2005 issue will just perpetuate the problems and the stereotypes. This is not a journalistic, objective report seriously pondering over the aforementioned problem of the extended list of African American prisoners; this is a celebration. "Journalistic integrity" and "XXL Magazine" is not a common word association. Whether XXL wants to say it or not (which they essentially do with their use of the credible word, "real"), this is the equivalent of telling adolescents that they give out record contracts in the slammer. I'm pretty sure that the contracts given out are the ones on your life.]

Legal tribulations are so commonplace in the rap world that arrests have become a source of cynicism; we chuckle that well-timed criminal charges are now as vital to album promotion as in-store autograph signings. Videos are frequently stitched together from past footage of artists finishing bids, and “Free ____” T-shirts are as much a part of hip-hop style as Adidas sweat suits. But it’s not all marketing. Careers are interrupted (if not destroyed), families lose breadwinners, and opportunities for artistic expression are needlessly squandered. Rappers lose their freedom, and we lose their music. [Once again, this is not the sort of coverage that stops the cycle. Stupidity and irresponsibilty meet bottom dollar. Nice to meet you, bottom dollar. Make yourself at home in XXL Magazine.
Honestly, my disappointment is mixed with a slight hint of admiration. Granted the cover is a controversial one and a non-commercial subject matter but nevertheless, it will still probably be a very high selling issue.
And while there is a semi-acknowledgement to the downside of being thrown in jail, it comes across as an insincere aside; When you devote a whole entire issue to Tony Yayo (have you even heard any of his "secret" tracks?) and fellons like him, you inevitably lose any noble message hidden within.
Sadness ensues.]

Is this an unavoidable operating cost in an industry that regards street authenticity and a bullet-riddled backstory as the alchemic ingredients for gold and platinum sales? Or do the rappers themselves feel obligated to make good on the threats or boasts so sincerely broadcast in their rhymes? The media casts blame on executives and artists alike, but the startling number of imprisoned rappers is ultimately a product of a nation that funnels a third of its Black males ages 20–29 through jail, the penitentiary, parole or probation. From Bed-Stuy to Bankhead to Compton, the communities most ravaged by poverty, drug addiction and high rates of incarceration are consistently the same ones shouted out on wax. This is not a hip-hop tragedy, but an American one. [Whoa. Justifying the coverage of Lil' Kim's scantily clad court apprearance by making this into an editorial.]

Lil’ Kim recently joined Mystikal, Shyne and Beanie Sigel (who were all unavailable to comment for this article) among the increasingly large ranks of currently convicted rap stars. Over the next few pages, 13 others share firsthand accounts of their experiences in the penal system. From weapons charges to drug dealing to murder, their offenses are no different from those filling many a local police blotter. The difference, though, is that these inmates are men we’ve seen on television and heard on the radio—men who had seemingly beat the system. Their reflections on exchanging fame, fortune and freedom for a prison sentence are both poignant and cautionary. Hold your head. " [As cautionary as these "reflections" may read, the message is clear. It's called the Jail Issue for good reason just as there's a Swimsuit Issue, as there is a New Music Issue, as there is a Humor issue. The feature subject is selectd because it's popular and will inevitably sell issues. Despite XXL's half-assed reprimanding, the ultimate message is clear. Rappers go to jail. Without doing a little time, you're just a poseur.]