Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fuck the Vote

It's not a popular opinion but I'm sharing it anyway.  In 2016 I raced to the polls to register & stand in line until the polls closed only to vote for "None of the Above" for president, as my candidate was not on the ballot in my state.   But I did it because I was desperate to make it known that neither of the 2-party options was suitable.  The whole 2016 election felt like a circus.  A sham... a lowering of the bar to embarrassing levels beneath where even Palin's airheaded idiocy had taken us in 2012.  

Palin: A dry run for Trump?

That's also the case this year despite moving to another state--my candidate is not on my ballot & neither "mainstream" option is acceptable to me.  Biden is in fact slightly worse than Clinton.  And Trump is the most evil neo-fascist moron since Hitler.  After extensive research into alternative "backup" options to Howie Hawkins (Socialist Party, Bread & Roses Party, etc), I've discovered none of those are on my ballot either (and can't be written in).  To make matters worse, mail-in voting is not an option here without first having your ballot notarized in person, exposing you to the virus & thus nullifying the purpose of mail-in voting.  So I've decided to abstain from voting for president this year.  

You read that right.  

Despite the 24/7 push on social media, television, radio & elsewhere to VOTE like your life depends on it, I'm bailing.  Judge me if you want but it's my decision.  It's not one I make lightly.  If you live in a firmly red or blue state like I do, your vote does not count.  READ AND COMPREHEND THAT.  Understand the Electoral College system & how swing states work.  1 person does not = 1 vote.  There are countless other reasons but this brilliant Medium article articulates them better than I ever could.  Here's a snippet:

"Democrats love to wag a finger at people who don’t vote, instead of looking in the mirror at why people who are marginalized but able to vote (are not incarcerated, can afford an I.D, have an address to send a ballot to, have a polling place near them, are able to take time off, etc.) still decide that choosing not to vote is better than supporting them."

Mmm-hmmm.  In addition to all that, it makes no sense to risk your literal life to vote in person for a party/candidate that you don't truly support or believe in with coronavirus surging.  If ever there was a year to not settle for a "lesser evil," it's 2020.  After a fiery summer of police brutality protests & what's shaping up to be a dark winter of COVID death, voting feels like pissing in the wind.  At least until we get some more viable candidates to vote for, which will never happen as long as we keep settling for this endless cycle of right wing (Democrat) and far-right wing (Republican) figureheads.  

By all means, if you feel strongly about Biden or Trump get your ass out and vote for them.  And if you can vote 3rd party in your state, do it.  It will help get the party to the 5% needed to get federal funding & secure much-needed ads, debate time & exposure next election.  But stop telling other people how to exercise their rights in this regard.  There are many reasons people don't (and can't) vote as noted in the Medium article linked above (seriously, read it).  Voting is a deeply personal matter; you don't get a fucking say in how--or whether--I go about it.  That's a vital part of democracy, remember?  Some of you apparently want a fascist dictatorship in which people are forced at gunpoint (literally or metaphorically through bullying & shaming) to vote for the 2-headed corporate hydra every 4 years.  Because let's face it, you're not intending for people to vote 3rd party when you're flashing those "Vote, Dammit!" ads or wagging those fingers in our faces.      

Frack off, Biden.

At this point we should be focusing our energy on general strikes, unionizing, rent strikes & other real forms of class solidarity in the midst of this pandemic & economic crisis.  The fact that all anyone wants is to go "back to normal" and vote for more of the same 2-party bullshit that got us here means we haven't grasped the gravity of our situation yet.  Things will continue getting worse--much, much worse--for the average working class person before they get better.  Normal was killing us.  Not just "us" Americans but every person & living thing on the planet.  COVID is small potatoes compared to the threat of climate change and its attendant issues:  climate refugees, species extinction, famine, drought, rising sea levels, wildfires, insect plagues (increases in ticks, locusts & mosquitoes) & other problems we can't even fathom yet.  New diseases that make COVID look like the sniffles.  And our so-called "liberal" politicians are still supporting fracking and dissing the Green New Deal.  Let that sink in before lecturing me about the lesser evil.  

In other words, fuck the vote.  Get your shit together & realize the sun doesn't rise & set on the Democrat & Republican parties of the USA.  Whoever is elected, the world will still be spinning on November 4th, 2020.  You need a plan for holding politicians accountable once they're in office instead of making excuses like "we can't afford to criticize Biden this close to midterms" or whatever.  If Trump wins, the same goes for him.   Both sides make excuses for their "guy" instead of holding them accountable.  You should be MORE critical if the person you voted for wins.  Your vote is your highest endorsement, after all.  They wouldn't be in that position without you.  They owe you.  They owe ALL of us.  Stop putting politicians on pedestals.  They're not role models or Hollywood stars.  They're public servants.  

...and if I hear ONE MORE person appropriate the term "harm reduction" from its original legitimate use in the substance abuse/addiction community & apply it to voting for these evil fucks, I'm gonna puke.  Stop that shit.  Voting is not harm reduction.  A car wreck at 70 mph isn't materially better than a wreck at 90 mph, especially if the EMT's and other rescue crew are out to brunch when the 70 mph wreck happens because "their guy" is in charge & they can't be arsed to respond to the call.  

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Greatest Rap Group of All Time: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

I know "greatest" is subjective & a lot of y'all will disagree, that's fine.  But follow me here.  I have REASONS.  Their style may not be for everyone but the Bone boys have been around for so long in a fickle industry where tastes change every other year which is a testament to their talent.  Despite their unique style, nothing about Bone Thugs is a gimmick or trend; each member is like one of the 4 elements, bringing something unique & irreplaceable to the table.  But despite their individual strengths they're undoubtedly stronger as a unit.  This is why they're the greatest rap GROUP of all time.  

Bone has influenced everyone from A$AP Rocky to Machine Gun Kelly to Kid Cudi and other currently hot rappers as well as spawning a whooooole bunch of clones & haters back in their heyday (see:  Crucial Conflict, Do Or Die, early Three Six Mafia).  At the time of their debut, nobody had heard anything like their rapid-fire staccato rhymes and smooth harmonies.  Everybody from Mariah Carey to Biggie, 2Pac & Big Pun lined up to collaborate with them before the '90s were even over.  

But what's truly amazing is that all 5 original members are still living and performing music.  Together much of the time.  From their first underground tape in 1992 until the time of this writing in 2020, that's a long time.  So many other rap & R&B groups have broken up permanently, lost members to prison or death or met other untimely ends.  Bone's mentor Eazy-E died himself at age 31.  

Today it's common for bands to be assembled via auditions like Lou Pearlman did with N*Sync or Puffy did with Da Band, meaning they're not authentic & only exist for the purpose of creating a "Super Group".  Bone came together organically in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio way back in 1991 (probably earlier than that) when they recorded their first locally-distributed album Faces of Death.  They were actual friends who struggled together before making it, which only adds to their appeal.  They're not the only rap group to form this way; others include Wu-Tang Clan, The Pharcyde, Fugees & Public Enemy.  But they're among a vanishingly small handful of groups to remain successful over the decades & stay together as a band (more or less) through it all.  

Thug Soldier Profiles (Individual)

Layzie Bone ("L-Burna")
Born September 23, 1974.  Sign: Libra

We'll start with Layzie Bone, aka Steve Howse.  Layzie is often considered the "nucleus" of the group as he acts as the go-between during conflicts & serves as the de facto spokesman in the media.  I didn't realize what a peacemaker he was until I watched the "Flesh-n-Bone Is Home" documentary on Youtube.  Wow.  Here's the clip in question.  Layzie has what I call a "middle-high" voice as well as a medium-light skin tone.  He's the 2nd youngest member after Bizzy.  (This is how I distinguished the guys from each other when I was a kid without MTV and only an album cover to look at while listening to the music.  Combined with fan sites like Angelfire & Tripod which gave little snippets of info on them, I learned to tell who was who.  More on that later).  Layzie was a founding member of Mo Thug Records, which spawned a lot of good music in the late '90s.  He is married to Mo' Thug artist Felecia and runs Harmony Howse Entertainment.  Layzie is also a member of duo Bone Brothers with fellow Thug Bizzy.  They've put out 4 studio albums under that name.  

Bizzy Bone ("Lil' Ripsta")
Born September 12, 1976.  Sign: Virgo

Next is Bizzy Bone, aka Bryon McCane.  Bizzy has the highest voice and lightest skin tone.  He's also the youngest.  (See where this is going?).  Bizzy was the first to release a solo album & has been pegged as the "wild card" due to his manic energy & unpredictable nature but is often considered a fan favorite for this very reason.  He's been kicked out of the group several times for substance abuse & conflict but has managed to remain friends with his bandmates, more or less.  His life has been marked by incredible tragedies & triumphs including being kidnapped, the death of most of the artists on his now-defunct 7th Sign record label & some very public meltdowns while presumably under the influence.  Here's an interesting article from one of his lowest points shortly after the infamous speaking-in-tongues radio show appearance in 2005.  He's now happily married & working on a vlog called Jam TV as well as other projects.  He has upwards of 10 children, some of whom are rappers themselves.  Like most addicts, Bizzy seems to do best when not on the road or working in high-pressure situations with the group.  His last two solo albums Carbon Monoxide & The Mantra achieved great success through independent promotion by Bizzy & his team, primarily online.  We'll continue rooting for him.  

Wish Bone ("Straight Jacket")
Born February 21, 1974.  Sign: Pisces

Then we have Wish Bone, aka Charles Scruggs.  Wish has a middle-low voice & medium-dark skin tone (and a noticeable Southern drawl).  Wish is perhaps the most mysterious of all the members, as he's the only one to not release a solo project in all these years.  In fact his only solo song is "Get 'Cha Thug On" from The Art of War.  Wish adds more to the "harmony" side of the group as his raps tend to be repetitive & slower than the other members.  While he came out just as strong as the other 3 members on the first 2 albums, his contributions seemed to wane over time, though he was integral in holding the band together during their 'Strength & Loyalty' era when Bizzy & Flesh were not present.  Wish seems to have the strongest creative bond with Krayzie, as the two have collaborated on several Mo Thug projects & Krayzie's solo albums.  He is the cousin of Layzie & Flesh. Wish got married in 2018 with his Bone brothers at his side.  It's safe to say fans would like to hear more from this Thugsta.  

Krayzie Bone ("Leathaface")
Born June 17, 1973.  Sign: Gemini

Rounding out the Core Four is Krayzie Bone, aka Anthony Henderson.  Krayzie has the lowest voice & darkest skin tone.  He's the oldest member of the group and a genius hook writer with arguably the most commercial success.  His first solo album Thug Mentality 1999 is considered a classic by hip hop heads.  Kray is the owner of The Life Apparel and former head of ThugLine Records.  Krayzie is a Jehovah's Witness & has very strong devotion to his faith which forbids celebrating "pagan" holidays or accepting blood donations.  Like Bizzy, he has somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 children.  He now battles sarcoidosis, the same lung disease that killed Bernie Mac.  Krayzie has collaborated with artists including the Marley Brothers, E-40, Big Pun, Naughty By Nature, Chamillionaire & Snoop Dogg among others on his solo projects.  He signed a deal with a digital media company in 2018 & hosts a conspiracy theory podcast called #TruthTalks as of 2019.  Krayzie's deep, smoky singing voice & rap skills are considered criminally underrated in the rap game by fans.  

Flesh-n-Bone ("5th Dawg")
Born June 10, 1973.  Sign: Gemini

Last but not least we have Flesh-n-Bone, aka Stanley Howse.  Flesh is not an "official" member of the group, as Eazy-E didn't sign him to Ruthless from the beginning, hence his nickname "5th Dawg".  But he makes frequent appearances on albums & often stands in for other members who are MIA for various reasons.  For this reason I don't include him in my "voice/skin tone" association as he wasn't on most of E. 1999 or Creepin' on ah Come Up.  But he's Layzie's older brother and is considered by both the group & fans to be integral to the Bone family.  In 2000, Flesh was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon & probation violation.  He attributes this to his PCP use at the time.  He's said to be the most mentally unstable of the group despite Bizzy's public image as the crazy one, which makes one wonder what's going on with him in psychological terms.  Flesh has appeared on multiple Mo Thug records & released 4 solo albums, most recently Do You in 2020.  

Thug Stories (Tha Group)

Collectively, Bone's story is even more interesting than their individual stories.  Krayzie tells many previously unheard tales from their formative years in the vid below.  They were discovered by basically promoting themselves aggressively, stalking Eazy-E via phone calls & finally tracking him down in Cali & meeting up back in Cleveland where he was performing a concert.  They took a one-way Greyhound ticket to Cali & the rest is history.  It was Flesh-n-Bone who financed the trip so a great debt is owed to him.  

But everyone knows that story already.  What would be more interesting is a book or movie covering the years leading up that period during their high school/drug dealing years in Cleveland.  What were their home lives like?  At sentencing, Flesh's judge said his childhood was "the worst she'd ever heard of," which makes me even more curious what he went through that perhaps Layzie didn't (or did he?).  I suspect a lot of bad memories have been blotted out with weed, booze & other substances which might be for the best in some cases.  Bizzy does a great job recounting short stories from the band's past in his Youtube videos but you're left with the feeling they could fill a novel with the details.  

Thug Stories by Krayzie Bone (2020)

Bone's first 4 proper albums--Creepin' on ah Come Up, E. 1999 Eternal, The Art of War & BTNH Resurrection--are absolute classics in which the whole group functions as a cohesive unit & benefits from production that's fitting to their sound.  After that, it's obvious that cracks were starting to show.  Styles in the music industry started to change for the worse, with early-2000's hip hop taking over & dragging down every artist that attempted to remain relevant.  (Remember when Ja Rule and Ashanti were on the radio every 5 minutes?  The "Shake Your Laffy Taffy" song?  Soulja Boy?).  Plus, the guys were growing up & growing apart, focusing more on their own families as people are wont to do.  Totally normal.  

I lost interest in Bone around 2006 when they dropped their Akon collab "I Tried" as this was a bridge too far into pop territory.  No disrespect to them:  it was a successful record & considered a comeback for the group whose members were now into their 30s & 40s (elderly by hip hop standards).  Just not my style.  But they've put out some interesting solo projects since then, thankfully.  Most hardcore fans prefer their E. 1999 Eternal sound, as this is when they were considered to be at their peak of creativity & uniqueness.  But it was a moment in time that can't be duplicated as it's impossible to go back.  Luckily for us they perform all their greatest hits in concert frequently.  Still hoping to catch them live one day.  


Aside from the tired "fast rap, harmonizing" editorial that's been repeated ad nauseam, there's so much to be said about this group.  They were ahead of their time in countless ways.  Go back & watch the "Change The World" video--it's eerily relevant to today's situation as our nation teeters on the brink of civil war.  (As are the lyrics to the unreleased Michael Jackson sampler "Look What We've Done" from 2011 talking about the need for green energy & our plundering of other nations for natural resources).  The things they predicted would happen at the onset of the millennium have happened about 20 years later, but their predictions were spot-on nonetheless.  Bizzy was on some #MeToo shit way back in 1998, opening up about his molestation in an industry that was NOT cool having those conversations with women, let alone (Black) men.  Hostile even.  But he was a lone voice in the dark for kids & abuse victims everywhere.

Bone did as much to put weed on the map as Cypress Hill or Snoop but get 1/2 the credit.  Their weed songs are classic.  The only time they slowed it down enough for fans to really sing along on E. 1999 Eternal was on the weed song "Buddah Lovaz".  This intrigued me.  What could put these high-strung guys in a euphoric headspace like that?  I credit this song with sparking my interest in trying marijuana as a teen.  I'm sure every fan has their own personal story like that.  But I digress.  Bone did the country-rap thing with "Ghetto Cowboy" way back in '98 long before Lil' Nas X, and they put out a white rapper on Mo Thug Records (Powder P) that same year before Eminem blew up in '99.  

And as for putting the Midwest on the map?  Yeah, there may have been others to do it (Twista, Kanye) but Bone reached more people before anyone else.  Their concerts are still a hodgepodge of ages & races from all over the globe.  They came with a whole other style, sporting army fatigues and elaborate hairdos, talking about spiritual warfare in an era of gangster rap dominated by the East and West Coast where outsiders had a very hard time breaking in (see:  the crowd's reaction to OutKast at the 1995 Source Awards for reference).  This is why it's so noteworthy that both Biggie & 2Pac--mortal enemies at the time--were beating down the door to work with them.  And Bone did so without getting drawn into the beef.  Just a testament to their maturity as human beings and artists.  

Bone's music paints vivid visual images of angels, demons, chariots, bombed out wastelands, dark alleyways, machetes dipped in rum & other intricate scenes that go way beyond the standard fare of guns, girls and cars that make up most rappers' subject matter.  (That's another thing I always appreciated in their early music--the lack of misogyny & graphic sex songs).  There's no racism or homophobia present either, at least not to the degree of other artists of the '90s & early 2000's.  Yet they somehow managed to keep it "real".  Take note, rappers.  You can be grimy and hardcore without being a dick and punching down.  

Another thing they brought to the table was the the spooky factor.  Bone took elements from horror movies (Faces of Death, Leatherface) and incorporated them with their real life experiences to create a whole mood on their first 2 albums before moving in a different direction on The Art of War.  Combined with their Ouija board chants & demonic intros, this made for a creepy atmosphere that was totally fresh to the rap game.  Today this sound is labeled "Horrorcore" and of course, Bone is considered one of its pioneers.  Just one more way they're trailblazers in an often stagnant industry.  

Mentor Eazy-E was envious of the group's tight bond which he said he wished NWA had.  It's hard not to get choked up when thinking of Eazy's premature death, as he missed the group's peak & long career.  Would they have eventually soured on his management like they did Tomica's, or would they have gone even further had Ruthless remained under E's control?  Impossible to know.  The best we can do is appreciate them while they're still here.  While not perfect as individuals, Bone Thugs have given so much through their music that they deserve to live like rockstars at this stage in their careers.  There's no question that their work ethic is second to none even after all this time.  

Got a Bone Thugs story or memory to share?  An argument against them as 'best rap group of all time?'  Sound off in the comments below!  

~Editor's Picks~

Top Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Albums of All Time:  E. 1999 Eternal, Creepin' on ah Come Up, The Art of War, BTNH Resurrection, The Collection Vol. 1

Top Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Songs of All Time:  Crossroad (Original Mix); Days of Our Livez; Notorious Thugs; Crept & We Came; Body Rott, No Surrender

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Attention Spammers:

Please stop leaving bullshit spam links & comments on this here blog, k?  They will just be marked as spam & deleted.  You're not achieving anything subversive.  Nobody's visiting your site or buying what you're selling.  This isn't the place to hawk your supplements, illegal drugs or whatever else.  This is a review site; I don't sell anything & am not going to buy any of the crap you're selling... at least not when you leave endless spam links in the comment section like a tech illiterate bot.

If you're a legit, serious vendor of legal highs or supplements & would like me to sample & review your product, DM me on Twitter @BannedintheUSSA or leave a non-spammy comment under this article with your email attached & I'll get back to you when I see it.  Otherwise, bugger off.   


The Management

Saturday, October 3, 2020

That Time I Tried: LSD

It was scorching hot--May in Nevada--I was with some friends I didn't really like much at an event that was already overwhelming & decided this would be the best time to try that acid I'd been saving.  Yeah.  Not brilliant.  I got it from an online friend who was very nice but I never spoke to him again after our single hours-long chat.  Nonetheless, it was legit quality LSD & I was glad for the chance to try it, more out of curiosity than as a highly coveted drug.  

Psychedelics don't tend to agree with my biochemistry & I knew that going in but wanted to be able to say I'd tried it, sort of like how I tried meth just to compare it to other stimulants.  By now I'd tried a ton of weird psychedelic research chemicals & plants, from San Pedro cactus & shrooms to 4-HO-MET, 4-AcO-DMT & 6-Apb.  So it seemed like a logical progression to try one of the classics.    

LSD blotter paper

I dosed in the late morning & went on a walk through the festival grounds.  Within 45 minutes I was feeling that wavy weirdness that lets you know the psychedelia is setting in.  It was so strong I had to go sit down in the shade at our camp where I spent the entire day.  Most of the trip I actually spent in our dusty tent which was WAY too hot but I couldn't bear being around human beings at that point.  Loud, drunk humans at that.  My usual social discomfort was turned up to 11 as was my low mood.  The dusty heat didn't help.

For hours I lay there contemplating "the point" of social interaction & life in general while spritzing my body with a bottle of hot water.  Misery.  My mind swirled with overly analytical thoughts of my place in the world & other depressing topics as I lay in the fetal position wishing it would wear off.  I may have taken an etizolam at some point to hasten the comedown but it didn't really work.  I was in the midst of my etiz abuse during this period which was the absolute low point of my adult life.  (Until etizolam withdrawal the following year, that is).  

LSD microdots, a less common form

By about 4 p.m. I got a serious craving for junk food so I downed a bunch of greasy potato chips & sour candy which is not out of the norm for me.  A few hours later as the trip was mercifully wearing off, the bowel cramping started.  I was hit with diarrhea & nausea that eclipsed the worst IBS flareup imaginable, causing me to make about 8 desperate runs across the playa to the Port-O-Potties until a friend gave me an Imodium.  Is acid known for triggering diarrhea?  The food had not had time to make it to my lower intestine, that's for sure.  Awful.  Shitty end to a shitty day.  Pun definitely intended.

The afterglow was nice.  We watched fireworks & I counted my lucky stars that the shitshow was over.  That was my last psychedelic trip to this day--2012.  At no point did I feel panicked or anxious:  just depressed & bummed out.  And physically miserable.  This is how all my psychedelic trips go so at some point I decided to stop trying to cram a square peg into a round hole & leave that class of drugs be.  I might microdose on shrooms or something again in the future but there will be no more LSD or desert tripping.  

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That Time I Tried: 4-HO-MET

I first tried 4-HO-MET around 2012 during the absolute pinnacle of the research chemical Golden Era (2010-2015).  It was the 2nd psychedelic...