British pounds & ninja scrolls

[Click to enlarge]

The UK-based NEO Magazine had leveled several enticing 'come hither' glances at me over the years, but the usually über cutesy anime girl covers and $8.99 price tag always scared me over to Newtype. Fortunately, on a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I manned up and battled back my fears. NEO, much to my satisfied surprise, is worth every pence penny. This cool mag cooks up a smoking hot smorgasbord of Asian cinema, manga, anime, news and music, complete with a FREE downloadable podcast -- courtesy of the Tokyo-based tour agency It Came From Japan. This issue (#104) had scads to offer my skeptical self, including features on the new anime, Tales of Vesperia (cover), and a history of Chinese swordplay films -- to bring readers up to speed on the genre for a quick look at Tsui Hark's super cool wuxia film, Flying Swords. Issue #104 also revisits the anime cult-classics Ninja Scroll and Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (both now available on Blue-ray), and offers interviews with comic book artist Stan Sakai and guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei (Kill Bill). This issue also provides a brief but informative bio on filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo I, II & III), and offers a slew of informative reviews of new music, manga, anime and games, as well as recipes, fan mail, and more cool crap than you can shake a samurai sword at. To get your very own copy of NEO, visit Barnes & Noble, or any preferred magazine stand. In the meantime, enjoy the teaser scans.

Page 20 & 21

"Hear the coolest new tunes and exclusive interviews every month on the FREE podcast from the Tokyo-based tour agency It Came From Japan! Episode #07 is out now on iTunes and www.itcamefromjapan.co.uk; subscribe now, and find more on Twitter and Facebook. The ICFJ podcast is presented by music journalist Daniel Robson, and proudly sponsored by NEO magazine an Manga Entertainment."

Page 26 & 27

Personal note: As I read the profile of filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto (Snake in June) on page 26, I thought: When I'm 52, I wanna be as cool as Shinya T. But then, when I saw the taste bud tempting recipe on the facing page, I amended that thought: When I'm 52, I wanna be as cool as Shinya T., and have a girlfriend half my age who is such a doll that she sneaks off to the kitchen to deep fry us up a batch of cheese and pork tonkatsu, and then comes to sit on my lap so that she can feed it to me... while dressed as the pink Power Ranger.

Don't... judge me.

Page 32 & 33

[Click to enlarge]

"So there are these two guys, one's named Quentin Tarantino, the other Robert Rodriguez," smirks Hotei as he takes a sip from his coffee, allowing that double bombshell of a name drop to set in..."


Mane One asks his friends: Is "Planet Rock" a hip-hop song? Professor XXL blogs his answer

Afrika Bambaataa

"Is 'Planet Rock' a Hip Hop song? I know some might put that song in the genre, Electro, but what do you think? My friend and I have been talking about this for a few weeks now." - DJ Mane One

Note: This post is actually in response to a really good conversation starter posed by DJ Mane One on his Facebook page. The question generated several good replies, many of which match up with my own. Before including my reply there, I figured I'd post it here.
[Placing professorial cap on head]  Ahem.

Mane, I would have to say that "Planet Rock" could be classified as a rap record (meaning hip-hop), but also as a funk/electro-funk record. But I'll try to explain just why I think that a special exception has to be made with this song.

It's mainly because of how the public first heard "Planet Rock."

That may sound kinda wack at first, but this is what I mean. While it may have been otherwise in NY (I kinda doubt it, tho), radio stations, discos, skating rinks, etc. were only playing the b-side of "Planet Rock" when it dropped -- the instrumental version. For upwards of 2-3 years after it was released, the instrumental was all that most people heard.

Thus, outside of maybe radio and club DJs, few knew that there was a vocal/rap version. And most didn't seem to care much for it when they did finally hear it; rap was still in it's infancy in '82, though, and the rap of Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force didn't sound like the rap of Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, and Sequence.

As for me, I think that I first heard the a-side version in early '85, when I bought a copy of "Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats." And, as much as I loved the instrumental (there were two instrumental versions being played in Chicago, one of which was a bootleg remix), I was not a fan of the vocal when I first heard it. But I quickly grew to love it.

Due to how it was most often heard by the public, particularly the listeners of R&B stations, "Planet Rock" was an electro-funk song, like "More Bounce to the Ounce." And funkadelic was clearly as much of an influence as Kraftwerk, and the very first thing that Bam says in the intro of the vocal is "Just taste the funk then hit me."

So, to be really fair, I think it's acceptable to also put "Planet Rock" in an electro-funk sub-category, as it has already been done for various record compilations. Despite my own territorial nature to classify it strictly as hip-hop, it's not. It's funk and rap. Well, rap AND funk.

– Professor XXL (aka St. Paco)

P.S. A Chicago DJ named Mike Macharello produced a bootleg remix of "Planet Rock" for WGCI, one of the city's two R&B stations on the FM dial then. Before his remix, they wouldn't even play "Planet Rock" -- but it was in the rotation for three years afterward. I have a cool memory of me, my sister and our friends dancing to it on the patio in our backyard. It's been uploaded to YKFS for your listening pleasure.

[Press-N-Play®] Planet Rock - Mike Macharello Remix 


Happy New Year!

 Happy Year of the Snake (2013). 

Okay, okay. If you wanna be nerdy about it, the Year of the Dragon doesn't officially end until February, according to the Chinese calendar. But we're always ahead of our time around here, so we got Jackie Chan and Drunken Master Yuen Siu Tien (the father of Yuen Woo-ping) to get our twenty-thirteen "Year of the Snake" party started early. Shout outs to Stormko for rockin' another funky fresh seasonal postcard.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year!)