JOKER movie review


JOKER movie review


So, it’s 2:45 AM & I just got home from a midnight showing of JOKER. The film honestly isn’t that long but afterwards; myself & a few friends just sat in the parking lot and talked about what we just watched.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is an aspiring stand-up who works as a professional clown, performing on street corners and at children’s hospitals. His shifty manner and a verbal tic – a high, cackling laugh he can’t control – have reduced his daily existence to a series of escalating humiliations. Fleck (how easily the noun attaches itself to dirt, or blood) has no friends, or prospects, or talent. He’s prone to tremendous rage and tremendous self-pity; a flammable combination even without his mental health issues and the gun a coworker casually hands him.


Arthur lives with his mother, who once worked for billionaire Thomas Wayne and still believes he’ll lift them out of their sad lives (a scene with young Bruce is all the fan service this film provides). But Wayne is more concerned with his mayoral run, which hinges on a promise to rid Gotham City (a stand-in for New Jersey) of poverty and crime. If an unhinged loner obsessed with a politician running for office sounds like another film you know, well, that’s not the only Taxi Driver reference in Joker. The Gotham of this film, set in 1981, is a hellscape resembling Scorsese’s '70s New York, all garbage and strip bars. Arthur has the same inarticulate anger as Travis Bickle; both find purpose in violent action. But Travis’ violence finds a specific target, whereas Arthur is lashing out against a society that he feels deserves it.


Does the film agree with him? Joker doesn’t seem in control of this crucial detail. Director Todd Phillips would probably argue that his film is a critique of gun control in America, that it demonstrates how even the mentally ill have always been able to easily access firearms. Yet, there’s so much justification provided for Arthur’s rage that when it explodes in a shocking scene on the subway, we’re clearly meant to explode with it, to cheer the transformation of put-on clown into potent Joker. The critique sits uneasily with the catharsis, as we see again when another brutal bout of violence is alleviated by a comic ending.


Phillips is best known as the director of Old School and the Hangover trilogy. Apart from 2016's War Dogs, he’s shown little inclination towards dramatic material till now, which might be why, instead of working out his own aesthetic for this film, he simply borrows Scorsese’s. The Taxi Driver moments feel less like tributes than wholesale lifts, from Arthur’s rants about a filthy, immoral city to his fooling around, gaunt and shirtless, with a loaded gun in his home. Scorsese’s The King of Comedy casts a similarly long shadow, with Arthur obsessed, as Robert De Niro’s aspiring showbiz-hopeful was, with a talk show host. Both films have the central character admit to perpetrating a crime on live TV. And the host in Phillips’ film is played by De Niro.

“I just hope my death makes more sense than my life," Arthur tells a social services employee. Later, he complains: “I don’t think you ever really hear me." You could string together a dozen of his lines and get a suicide note, or something more sinister. “For my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed," he says. “But I do, and people are starting to notice." This is mass-shooter language. It makes me wonder if Phillips remembered while writing this that the Aurora theatre shooter had referred to himself as “The Joker", and whether he ever considered that he might be fashioning another role model.


As the Joker himself would say, ‘we live in a society’ where the mainstream superhero film has become saturated. It’s rare to see something fresh, or with creative liberty that’s a part of the genre. However, Todd Phillips breaks those rules with Joker by prioritizing the making of art rather than product and it’s a terrifying take on the iconic character. However, in particular, what is so refreshing about this is the fact that it feels so unlike anything else we’ve seen in this genre.

As mentioned, Phillips & crew are really on top of things here. Phillip’s direction and screenplay are incredibly immersive in the way they suck you into this world – and with every passing frame, the viewer gets more and more unsettled. Both the fact that all the technical aspects of this are top notch, as well as the fact that the story is so uniquely told allow the viewer to be truly invested throughout the whole film. As Joker descends further into madness, it becomes so dark that it almost feels like a horror film.


No surprise here, but Joker sees Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime here as the Joker a.k.a. Arthur Fleck. His portrayal of the renowned character balances authenticity towards the source material as well as a fresh spin that we haven’t really seen before. As the climax approaches, and he becomes what we know him to be, the audience becomes genuinely petrified.

In the end, Joker is difficult to talk about for two reasons. For one, nearly everything works and explaining each individual aspect would take hours. As well, the film’s emotional impact has left this writer speechless.



30 For 30


30 For 30

I’m officially 30. It’s a big one, and I’ve been wondering these past few weeks why I don’t feel any sense of panic or a need to reevaluate my life and set major goals. That seems like the sort of thing one might do as they turn thirty…

I think the reason I don’t feel the need to shake things up, is that I’m already moving in a direction I’m happy with, one that I’ve put a great deal of thought into. So this “milestone” feels a little anticlimactic. But that’s okay, anticlimactic actually sounds pretty nice.

Instead of sharing my aspirations for my 30s, I thought it might be fun to look back on how far I’ve come.

The last decade was one of massive growth, as the 20s typically are. I spent the first five years destroying my health and the remaining five years building it back up to be stronger than it ever was.

I worked very hard to regain the self-esteem and confidence that I naturally had as a child, before those painful teen years and cultural expectations got in the way. I stopped hiding, stopped worrying about fitting in, and instead began featuring the things that make me unique.

I stopped following the beaten path and learned how to design my own career, support myself financially and I gained a sense that I was doing something meaningful. I challenged a lot of deeply-held beliefs, I experienced and overcame heartbreak and learned how to love even stronger. I told the world who I was, in various forms. I took action on projects, trudged on through criticisms, kept shipping.

Sometimes I forget these lessons and have to remind myself. Sometimes I have to re-learn these lessons altogether.

Some people are depressed about turning thirty. But every year of the last decade has gotten better and better, and I can’t wait to see where things go in the next ten years.


Going Against The Superhero Grain


Going Against The Superhero Grain

At This Moment, it seems as if Warner Bros. may finally be treading on calmer waters with its most ambitious project, the DC Extended Universe. What was intended to be a franchise on an epic scale comparable to that of Marvel’s wildly successful saga has made several major stumbles along the way. Executives and directors have come and gone, reshoots after reshoots have driven up budgets, box office numbers have disappointed, and Ben Affleck has spent a lot of time looking quite sad. Think pieces galore have been written about the problems with the DCEU, and there are many to discuss, but the heart of the problem lies at the top: Who runs the DCEU?

One major area where the DCEU went wrong was in allowing a director and a comic book writer to so heavily define the aesthetic and long-term plan of a multi-billion dollar franchise. Zack Snyder was given an immense amount of freedom to shape what the DCEU looked and felt like, and critics weren’t delighted with the results. The chances are this wasn’t a deliberate move on the part of Warner Bros. Man Of Steel did well, so it may have simply been the best decision to make at the time. Snyder was a celebrated director who had expertise in the realm of adapting comic books to the big screen thanks to his take on Watchmen.

Nobody wants the DCEU to fail. It’s ridiculous to claim that people can only be fans of one thing, be it Marvel, DC, Star Wars or whatever is the hot geek property of the day. Audiences and fans alike benefit greatly from a wide array of choice in pop culture and the DC mythos is just too damn good to write off. It survived Joel Schumacher; it can survive anything. Fortunately, change is on the horizon.

The big problem with the DCEU was that it tried to rush forward with major ambitious ideas without ever giving them room to breathe. They wanted an auteur-esque approach to the genre but didn’t see the downside to letting such a creative force wholly define a multi-billion dollar property that was intended to appeal to the widest audiences possible. They inserted celebrated creators in top roles but didn’t consider the cold hard necessity of a producer who knows how movie making works. They wanted a deeply complex, interconnecting universe of stories, but their true strengths lie in one-offs that allow for a greater variety in style and tone. None of these problems are permanent, nor are they impossible to fix. Indeed, Warner Bros. have made a positive step forward by bringing on board an executive who has experience in dealing with franchises.

A lot is riding on Matt Reeves’ The Batman, which is due to begin shooting in November. Warner Bros’ struggling DC extended universe of superhero movies currently lacks a central pivot, despite decent enough solo outings for Wonder Woman and Aquaman. The studio would love to see Reeves somehow come up with a movie that repositions the caped crusader at the heart of the DC world. And yet it is difficult to see how the main creative thrust behind the successful Planet Of The Apes remake trilogy can carve out his own vision without taking Batman out of the Justice League, and potentially the DCEU itself, altogether. Bruce Wayne surely needs to be given the chance to breathe the foul Gotham City air once again, free of responsibility for fending off attacks from bad CGI alien interlopers or resurrecting Superman due to his own foolish behavior. Everything we’ve heard about Reeves’ plans leads to him restoring the tortured superhero to his roots as a sleuth-some Gotham City vigilante.

Also, Ava DuVernay will be helming a New Gods movie for the studio, it looks like those rumors were true because New Gods will be unlike anything the DCEU has attempted before. The New Gods are a part of what’s widely known as the Fourth World, first introduced in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby.

Not only is it radical that Ava will be the first African American director to helm a DC movie–after Rick Famuyiwa left The Flash–but it’s also an intriguing story choice as it hints at a big move away from what’s come to be known as the DCEU “Snyderverse.” The main critiques of the current DC movies have focused on their grim aesthetics, real-world settings, and often depressing tone of the shared universe. The announcement of Ava DuVernay helming New Gods is a statement of intent from DC and WB, letting viewers know that going forward things will never be the same. But what does that actually mean for the DCEU? For a while it seemed like Flashpoint would be the place where DC would turn the page on the DCEU, but for now that film is still in development hell. With June 14, 2019, and Feb 14, 2020 cemented as release dates for unconfirmed DC movies, it’s possible we’ll see New Gods fill that slot before we see Flashpoint come to life.

The end of Justice League teased the second of the New Gods worlds, New Genesis, a lush utopian planet which was created alongside its dark counterpart Apokolips after the destruction of the world of the Old Gods. If Flashpoint does go ahead, it will likely introduce the idea of multiple timelines, which would be the perfect chance to introduce the New Gods. The story of Apokolips and New Genesis would be a great way to reinvigorate the DCEU’s lineup with a fantastic array of characters like Big Barda’s husband Scott Free a.k.a. Mister Miracle, Metron, Orion, and of course DC’s ultimate big bad, Darkseid!

There are a few routes the DCEU could take. I would like to see stories from the Black Label to be explored and bought to life. The DCEU, in my opinion; has a fighting chance for success. Even though I would love to see Batman, Wonder Woman, & Superman together. It would be best to transition into something we’ve never seen adapted before on screen. An entire world of not-so-perfect superheroes and terrifying villains.


A Marvelous Moment | The Ending Of Infinity War


A Marvelous Moment | The Ending Of Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War has one of the best endings ever seen in a movie. Thanos set out to wipe half of the universe's population out of existence and ended the movie "totally satisfied" with himself. The movie put Thanos at the forefront of its story, making him the main character internally, and resulted in him achieving his goal with the snap of his fingers.


After six years of buildup, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had to deliver on the promise of Thanos. Marvel Studios teased him for years and across multiple films, so the pressure was on for Josh Brolin to deliver a memorable performance. His interest in rebalancing the universe comes after seeing his homeworld of Titan destroyed due to overpopulation and him not being allowed to stop it. By the time Infinity War comes around, he's gathering the Infinity Stones so he can do it himself and prove his theory right. He was ultimately victorious, devastating MCU heroes and fans alike in the process, which is why Thanos is smiling in Infinity War's final shot.


This is confimed through Thanos' smirk in Infinity War. At this point, the damaged Thanos is ready to sit back and look upon the new universe he has made. After balancing the population of individual planets in the past, It's similar to the ending of the Infinity Gauntlet, the comic book series where the "Avengers: Infinity War" was based on; in which Thanos exiles himself to work as a farmer to reflect on his loss.

You see by the end, Thanos walks out of what appears to be a small hut to watch the sunset. Just beyond him are terraced rice paddies that look like giant stairways on the slopes of a mountain. If that sounds familiar to you, it's probably because it had been confirmed to be the Philippines' famous Banaue Rice Terraces.  A location that I’m desperate to visit.


I started to wonder if Josh Brolin got to fly to this location. Unfortunately he didn’t. Marvel Studios used footage of the Banaue Rice Terraces acquired with the help of Indochina Productions, a production studio based in Thailand, and applied visual effects to create it. This remains as my favorite scene in the MCU period. I hope to visit this location someday.



The Thing: Theories To An Unfair Conclusion


The Thing: Theories To An Unfair Conclusion

‘The Thing (1982)’ is a film that has been on either ends of the wide spectrum amid much discussion and deliberation, and has still left room for some more of the same. As of now, it’s been quite some time since the film was released, and a tour down the lane recounting the tumultuous journey of this film from what was termed to be the most hated film of all time to a cult classic and one of the best horror films ever made would seem all but necessary.

The origins of the otherworldly entity may be traced back to close to a hundred thousand years, when the space vessel shown in the beginning of the film may have crash landed on the Antarctic continent with the purpose of assimilating an intelligent population, and as is revealed later, take over the world through steady growth. The vessel is discovered by a Norwegian scout group in the Antarctic where they encounter the Thing and meet an ill-fated end. The Thing makes its way from the Norwegian camp to a US research station by assuming the identity of a husky dog, infiltrating the station and beginning his reign of terror on the men there. What ensues is a gory struggle to contain the Thing from propagating itself and taking other hostages, and genuine paranoid fear as the comrades begin turning on each other when pressure mounts and some tough decisions are made.


Theory I:

They say that ignorance is bliss, but here it may also be the answer. Several of the viewers I know contended with the first and most obvious theory, complying with what was shown for the ending in the most direct form. Director John Carpenter intended the finale of the film to be completely open ended, open to interpretation. The most common one it turns out would be that after destroying the research station in an effort to eliminate the Thing, MacReady sits by in silence drinking from his bottle, as he is shortly joined by Childs, who claims that he went off into the storm looking for Blair, but lost him. What would be evident then according to this theory is that The Thing has apparently been eliminated, and with the camp destroyed and the ongoing storm worsening outside, the two men accept that they won’t be able to last long when the fires go out.

Tired, weary, and with nowhere to go with no means, MacReady and Childs accept their fate and share a drink, as the film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note. If it’s the other way around, and if the Thing did survive the explosion, the possibility of which I examine in the following two theories, nothing much about the ending really changes. Even if the Thing has acquired the form of either of the two men, MacReady suggests that they wait to see what happens, since the one out of the two who is still human, still not infected would want the Thing to stay where it is and not escape, accepting certain death on their own part.  It is then a resignation to fate by either of the two men who knows they are still human. “If we’ve got any surprises for each other, I don’t think either one of us is in much shape to do anything about it”, MacReady says..


Theory II:

As stated in the second possibility of Theory I, wherein the Thing survives, it is very probable to assume that the only way it could have done so would be to imitate either of the two final survivors, MacReady or Childs. Now whether that happened right before the events of the ending, or somewhere between that and the blood-wire testing is highly uncertain, since it was revealed that even individual pools of blood of the Thing were enough to act independently and infect a host. Coming to the second theory that came to fore after fans pointed out certain facts, this one stems from the second possibility of Theory I itself, stating that Childs was indeed infected by the Thing, and the entity appearing in the end was infact a perfect imitation of Childs. The corroboration for this comes from the keen observation that while MacReady is continuously shivering and has his breath freezing as soon as he speaks, Childs seems to be remarkably and eerily free from that.

The second proof of the same claim, a more feeble theory, states that MacReady held out the bottle of alcohol as a test for Childs, to prove whether he was an alien or not. The men are earlier shown setting fire to the research station using dynamite sticks and Molotov cocktails. In that, it wouldn’t be completely implausible for MacReady to hold out the Molotov for Childs to drink under the guise of actual alcohol. Childs thereby drinking liquid gasoline would indeed go on to prove that he was in fact, the Thing. Ofcourse, contrary claims to rebuff the observation do exist as well, but this one observation does give one something to think about. Plus, it is as Childs put it himself, “Nothing human could have made it back in this weather without a guide line”. Nothing human, indeed.


Final Word:

For the most part, I remained terrified and disgusted throughout the film, and have no doubt in admitting that the violence and body horror, having viewed a fair share of films with it myself, was indeed a bit excessive and off putting. While I still prefer the supernatural kind of horror compared to the kind of gut sickening, body horror presented here, I have to admit that the type of otherworldly dangers presented here showed a different kind of cosmic horror, one that I wasn’t ready for. In that, as recounted in the previous section, most of the horror in the film is mined from either anticipation or the kind of dread that is induced from paranoia.


However, when ‘The Thing’ emerges on screen, it takes a different kind of breed of human altogether to not look away; it is that spiteful. Much of the work in that department, and as such the credits for the same, must go to Rob Bottin and his team who used chemicals, food products, rubber, mechanical parts, and practical puppets to bring the faceless Thing to life and making even the briefest of looks at the terrifying monster alien.

As for the final conclusion on the film itself, given my critical reassessment from a updated view altogether, ‘The Thing’ would still remain the last film I would recommend to somebody, and also the last thing I would dare revisit, among the ones that I have watched recently. Then again, the film’s success is to be measured along a different yardstick probably. What if that was exactly what the film set out to do? Something to think about I guess.



Negative Normies


Negative Normies

When the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid was announced, it was met with positive surprise & even a much nastier out pour. Fans who want to see greater diversity on screen have come to expect disappointment when it comes to casting in major Hollywood films. The casting of a black woman in a historically white role signaled an important moment in the ongoing push for greater representation.

However, the optimism was quickly dampened. Anyone who has spent time online is aware of the cycle of outrage that comes after such announcements. For years now, casting announcements which skew from tradition have almost always been met with a messy push-back; think back to all woman Ghostbusters, Jodie Whitaker announced as Dr. Who, Zendaya as MJ in Spider-Man, and the slew of hate-filled tweets, think-pieces and videos that followed their casting. 

But with the The Little Mermaid news, it seemed like some people that supported Bailey’s casting were preempting the cycle and searching for any negative tweets they could find about the news. Quickly tweets with minimal likes, or accounts with small follower counts, were retweeted and quote-tweeted numerous times, giving large public platforms to statements that would have usually disappeared into Twitter’s echo-chamber.

But people who go looking for any adverse opinion, just so they can dunk on it for numbers, are causing problems. This isn’t a case of holding someone with public influence to account or punching up. Its only benefit is to show that you’re engaged in the cultural conversion, and to get likes. But it has negatives, too: trolls are given the attention that they crave.

This need to find wrongness then leads to fake tweets. There was even one account that switched its appearance to look like a Little Mermaid fan account, then tweeted that they would be throwing away a copy of the film due to Bailey’s casting.

It should have been more obvious to anyone with digital literacy that the tweet was suspicious. Iit reads like a stereotype of viral anger; the threat to destroy merchandise is now a troupe of stan twitter, the mention of race so early on in the tweet makes it feel geared for controversy. A quick scroll through the account’s photos revealed it as a fake – although it was worrying how few people were willing to spend the minimal time required to do that. 

Fake tweets, reviews, and even accounts are becoming worryingly common in pop culture. Last year a group of Lady GaGa fans used fake midwestern mom accounts to tweet suspiciously similar negative reviews of Venom, the week both that and Gaga’s A Star Is Born hit theatres. When Marvel’s Black Panther (An ok entry into the MCU catalog) and Captain Marvel (a complete shit show) were released, both were the targets of fake negative reviews in an effort to bring their rotten tomatoes score down.

The issue here isn’t necessarily that some people find the idea of multiculturalism in cinema repulsive, or are prepared to make lengthy arguments about how Hans Christen Anderson’s Danish roots mean that a fictional mermaid should always have white skin (although there certainly are people who have those opinions, and they often share them online). The question is why is there such a compelling need to shine a spotlight on such opinions – which in reality may be voiced by a fairly small number of people – that it starts actively fueling misinformation. Let’s never forget Alexandre Dumas, a black author; responsible for The Three Musketeers. Hollywood has taken this awesome tale and stripped its black roots time and time again. It’s also a slap in the face that pop culture and literarians want to claim this man was white.

The urge to show righteousness and be praised for it is now so common that bad actors are jumping on it and using it for their benefit. We thrive so much on quick Twitter put-downs that its fueling fires that never should have burned; frankly why should there be a day-long Twitter fight with anonymous accounts about the casting in a children’s film? Directing your anger to the source of the misinformation by informing yourself before you tweet is a far more productive way to deal with both fake accounts and bigoted opinions.

You can give your opinion on the news without signal boosting trolls, or by taking a minute to look at the account putting out an opinion and check its origins. This is coming from yours truly, a certified internet troll.. Pop culture is not free of polarization and should be approached in the same way we approach any news, with a cautious eye. We all need to be careful, after all; because what we do online matters, and our choices of who, and what, to share can have powerful repercussions.


FOMO: Social Media's Disease


FOMO: Social Media's Disease

I am a product of the FOMO generation. The generation whose fear of missing out is so great, that we spend most of our waking moments staring at the screen on our phones; instead of staring at the faces of the people in front of us. The generation that can’t even sit through a movie without checking Facebook. The generation that documents everything on Snapchat because we live with the mentality that if we can’t prove it with pictures, it didn’t really happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is a wonderful thing and in no way do I want it to disappear. I just think that when we have the ability to see every move people make through their Instagram accounts it’s hard not to get jealous when it looks like they’ve achieved something we think we deserve. We begin to define ourselves based on the way someone else’s life looks through the pictures they post and develop an “I want more” attitude to try to compensate for what we think we’ve been denied.

The problem is by spending so much time fixating on other people’s dream vacations or #relationshipgoals we’re unknowingly giving our peers permission to live the life we want while we sit on the sidelines and watch. The constant comparison of our lives, to the lives of strangers on the Internet causes us so much anxiety that we can’t be proud of our every day lives; because they just don’t seem exciting enough. The funny thing is that we never think it through; no one’s every day life is exciting.

When I post a picture online, I make sure it’s a picture of something exciting that is going to get me a lot of likes. I would never post a picture of my long day at work or of an essay I wrote about “Of Mice & Men” because those things are looked at as boring. I’m pretty sure if you asked anyone my age they would all admit to having the same screening process for posting on social media. Even though this is a process we go through on a regular basis we still forget that everything we see on social media is the portrayal of someone’s life at a peaking moment causing us to compare our boring everyday life to that one exciting trip someone else took around the world. I’ve always been taught that comparing yourself to others will only disappoint you, so why do we insist on making ourselves miserable?

I don’t want to be part of a generation of people that is okay with allowing themselves to feel less significant than someone else just because their Instagram isn’t filled with pictures of thrilling moments. I don’t want to be part of a generation that is too complacent on their cell phones that they let a stranger live the life they’re secretly dreaming of instead of making things happen for themselves. I don’t want to be part of a generation that uses technology to slow them down. I’m sick of it.

I do want to be part of a generation that uses our fear of missing out as motivation to accomplish something amazing. A generation that doesn’t compare their worst to someone else’s best. A generation that motivates, moves and changes the world.

I am a product of the FOMO generation, and I think it’s time things changed.


The Memory Lane: XV's "Popular Culture" (My Favorite Mixtape Ever)


The Memory Lane: XV's "Popular Culture" (My Favorite Mixtape Ever)

I want to take a look back into one of my favorite mixtapes EVER. It’s been almost 7 years (6/15/2012) since its release. Time flies definitely but I play this mixtape every other week.

A year and change after his highly-praised mixtape Zero Heroes¸ Kansas rapper XV is back with his newest release, Popular Culture. If it’s not the witty lines delivered by the emcee that will have you replaying the songs over and over again, the culturally universal samples used throughout the tape will definitely reel you in. Just as the title suggests, XV creatively samples quotes, theme songs, and clips from many well-known TV series and movies and incorporates them into a compilation that does not disappoint. With any luck, & it still bothers me this dude has yet to gain the attention since. XV begins flipping through the channels of pop culture (literally and figuratively) from the very beginning of the tape in the ‘Intro.’ From there, he travels throughout the decades of television history including specials such as Full House (‘Mary Kate & Ashley’), Aaahh! Real Monsters (‘Aaahh! Real Monsters’), Star Wars (‘Jedi Night’), Zombieland (‘Zombieland Rule 32’), and many more. Although many of the entertainment mentions are hidden between the lines of XV’s rhymes, one obvious reference is from one of the rapper’s favorite movies, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, in the song ‘Wonkavator.’ Other samples on the tape include ‘Someone Out Of Town’ by Malaysian singer Yuna, on the track, ‘Her Favorite Song,’ along with ‘The Walker’ by band GAYNGS on the third song on the tape, ‘Breaking Bad.’

Though sample-filled and incredibly creative, XV does not forget who he is and where he came from during the course of the tape. On ‘The Kick’, possibly the realest and oldest track on Popular Culture, the Wichita artist uses an Inception-themed beat to discuss his life and how he strives for more than just his 15 minutes of fame. To show his appreciation to all of his fans that have been there with him from the very beginning, XV uses ‘Be There, Be Square’ as a dedication and theme song for his fellow Squarians.  Along with keeping it real with his audience, XV recruits some top of the line features for his tape, including Emilio Rojas, Slim The Mobster, Schoolboy Q, B.o.B., and many more artists. This is also the first time many people get to hear upcoming singer Raja, who sings the hook for three of the tracks on the tape.

While many artists attempt to have an overall theme for their projects and fail miserably (no shots at David Banner), XV’s latest proves that it is still possible to do so. His appropriate use of popular culture, clever rhymes, and excellent production (all thanks to producer Awesome Sound), combine to successfully create a more than exceptional sequel to Zero Heroes. If XV’s improvement continues to show as it did on this mixtape, all of his Squarians, new and old, will have something to look forward to with his future releases. I still think this is one of the greatest concepts from a project I’ve witnessed, and that’s saying alot.

My favorite song: Zombieland Rule 32 (Feat. Irv Da Phenom)