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A monthly assortment of reviews dedicated to art, culture,
and abiding the law to enjoy oneself!



Review: The Roots - Dilla Joints


(released April 4th, 2010)

If you needed any real indication that The Roots were
undoubtedly the hardest working hip-hop band, their
output over this past year should’ve proven that in spades.
Being the official house band for ‘Late Night with Jimmy
Fallon’ hasn’t slowed them down one bit, to the point where
they released FOUR albums. Let that marinate for a second,
and add this to the pot: outside of mixtapes, who else had
that same level of production? Sadly, this album got a few
moments of glory upon its release, overshadowed by the
impending albums by Little Brother and Nas and Damian
Marley’s efforts. It’s all the more astounding when you sit
and break down ‘Dilla Joints’ in its entirety.

The album itself is a tribute to the late great James ‘J Dilla’
Yancey, a close friend and collaborator. From Questlove’s
opening vocals on the first track, ‘Donuts Outro’ you get this
real studio feeling, almost like you’re sitting in on one of those
famous jazz sessions that took place at Atlantic Records. Each
track on this album is, in a word, lush. The instrumentals each
have this richness that envelops you with each note, one song
more notable than the next but all of them blending together
beautifully enough to let you hit play on your iPod and stroll,
jog or whatever else you might want to do in a mellow mood.

‘Hot S**t(I’m Back)’ is a hard-driving funky tune, something
that would’ve stood tall on any Blaxploitation soundtrack if
composed in the 1970’s. The drum work alone is classic Questlove,
supported with light accents of bass guitar. ‘Stereolab’ is arguably
the best track here, no mean feat. The song is both a soothing
mixture of subdued melancholy and reflective hope. It makes
you wonder if this tune came to mind the moment they heard of
Dilla’s passing, especially with the almost Benedictine monk-like
vocals at the end. ‘Make Em NV’ is another standout track, full of
chimes and Detroit style drum beat funk reminiscent of Dilla’s work
with Slum Village. And if you don’t nod your head to the upbeat
rhythm of ‘Hall & Oates’, you may be suffering from pop culture
rap overload. If there is a flaw to be had on this album, ‘Stars’
would be it if only because it seemed a bit too convoluted in
composition in comparison to the other songs. All in all though,
‘Dilla Joints’ is a great ode to a great producer and yet another
feather in the cap of Illadelph’s finest.


Review: Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson

Strong Arm Steady - In Search Of Stoney Jackson

(date of release: January 27, 2010)

With approximately several thousand albums and mixtapes released during the
summer, fall and the oh-so-precious fourth quarter of any given year (most of
which eventually serve as a beer coaster or weed tray the following year), it’s
become much too easy to dismiss or even forget about a disc released shortly
after the New Year’s confetti ends up in the landfill. While the same thing can be

said for films released before Memorial Day, hip-hop albums tend to fall victim to
an already fickle audience whose short-term memory rivals that of Leonard Shelby’s.
Such is the case with Strong Arm Steady’s “In Search Of Stoney Jackson.” It seems
like every journalist and blogger was ready to submit their “Best of 2010” lists as
soon as ‘Ye unleashed his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so perhaps it was an
innocent, unintentional omission - after all, Freeway x Jake One’s “The Stimulus Package
and Roc Marciano’s “Marcberg,” released in March and May 2010 respectively, were
excellent albums that received a few mentions. However, “Stoney Jackson” was
noticeably absent across the board. entered it as #19 on their Top 40
Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2010 and the GOD DJ Premier considered it to be one of the
top 3 albums of the year, but for the most part, no one invited Strong Arm Steady to the
big dance. And that’s an injustice.


If there was a labor union for West Coast MC’s, Phil Da Agony, Krondon, and Mitchy
would be the de facto delegates, the epitome of “no days off.” Madlib, the diabolical
“Beat Konduckta,” is an enigma; he’s as comfortable dabbling with hip-hop and R&B as
he is with dub, jazz, and Brazilian bossa nova, and every composition is a testament to
his eclectic and diverse style. It was fellow Cali representer DJ Babu (of the World Famous
Beat Junkies) who conceived what would become a collaborative effort partnering SAS’s
spit game
with Madlib’s chop-heavy, psychedelic lo-fi distortion.

From the moment the LP begins with the sublime “Best of Times,” the influence of the
Jaylib sessions (Madlib and the late, great J Dilla) is evident, with Madlib reworking the
same sample Dilla flipped for Common’s “Love Is …” Phil Da Agony’s free-association,
almost conversational flow sets off the track, while Krondon’s urgent search for peace of
mind sounds right at home, allowing Phontè (of Little Brother) to preach the gospel via
hook and verse. ‘Lib uses the same formula on “Chittlins & Pepsi,” tweaking the sample
Dilla utilized on “Airworks” to let Phil and frequent SAS collaborator Planet Asia promote
the virtues of healthy living via nutrition. “Stoney Jackson” covers a range of topics, from
upward mobility, true love, and even dental hygiene. The album is a family affair, with guests
including Fashawn, Evidence, Talib Kweli, Guilty Simpson, and Madlib’s Stones Throw
labelmates Oh No and Roc C, among others.

There’s not a second of dead air on the whole disc; each track segues into the next as
seamlessly as one would expect a Madlib collage to do. Of course, there is some filler
- tracks like “Ambassadors” are a slight drag, and some interludes require steady nerves
and may deafen most iPod users - but overall, the CD bangs. “True Champs” featuring
Montage One, Evidence, Oh No & Roc C, lives up to its name as each MC goes for broke
like its the October pennant season. “Needle In The Haystack” doesn’t even have any
members of SAS, instead allowing Roscoe and Guilty Simpson to handle the job, which
they do admirably.

“In Search of Stoney Jackson” may be too unique or subterranean for casual listeners,
but it definitely deserved greater consideration as one of 2010’s finest offerings. Very
rare is an album that allows one to hit play and let it ride sans the fast forward button.
As cool as the brothers of Strong Arm Steady seem to be, I’m almost positive that they
would actually appreciate having some Cali medicinal crushed up on their jewel case;
just pay homage to dopeness, pop the CD in the deck and bump that while twistin’ up.


Strong Arm Steady w/Phonte - Best of Times

String Arm Steady feat. Planet Asia - Chitlins and Pepsi

Strong Arm Steady feat. Slick Jacken and Mitchy Slick - Pressure


Video: Carlitta Durand 'Lost Love' w/Jabee

Carlitta Durand - Lost love feat. Jabee from BECAUSEUS on Vimeo.


Get familiar with Carlitta Durand ‘cause she’s going to
be real big. Soon.

This is off the ‘Doug and Patty’ EP that came out earlier
this year featuring Ms.Durand and this song is so smooth
yet bittersweet that you kind of wish this was in the back
for your last awkward love moment. Well, not really but
you know what I mean. The video was directed by

Napoleon Wright III.


Song: Tekitha - "Ridin'" 

As summer winds its way towards the fall, we here at Manifesto
want to hip you to a couple of tracks this month that might not
have been on your playlist these past months but should have
been. One of them actually dropped earlier this year from the
premier Wu-Tang songstress herself, Tekitha.

‘Ridin’ is absolutely PERFECT for those lazy drives under a
blazing sun or if you’re out on your front step with nothing to
do. Or fire escape, whatever. The best thing about this track is
that each element blends so well with Tekitha’s voice and the
song illustrates her capacity to handle any genre. If you’re hip,
make sure this gets on your playlist for that next August outing.



Film: Hit!(1973)

The 1970’s saw the rise of the Blaxploitation genre of film,
which fit right in with the rise of a grittier element to all
movies then from comedies to crime dramas. One film
that has been overlooked for quite some time and may
need a revival is Sidney J. Furies’ Hit!, which arrived to
the screens in 1973. Relegated to the occassional viewing
on late night television, this movie has a magnetic appeal
all its own.

The infinitely cool Billy Dee Williams stars here as a
federal agent who has lost his daughter to heroin usage.
Enraged, he makes a bold plan to go after the dealers at
the very top of the chain and assembles an unlikely team
to accomplish the job. The team also includes Richard
Pryor as a demolitions expert. What has to be appreciated
here is the fact that you have two prominent Black stars
anchoring this film in roles that take them out of the
comfort zone you’re used to seeing them in. Billy Dee
plays an agent who works with a seething rage under a
cool exterior. In some moments you find yourself shocked
at this; one particular scene he manipulates a prostitute
with a drug addiction so smoothly that he goes against
his normal casanova role. As for Richard Pryor, you see
the beginnings of the dramatic acting few felt he had
and that he was able to display in later roles in the decade.
The movie is lengthy, and has a few slow moments
especially when dealing with the set-up in the French
locales, but the deliberate pacing and the collection of
perfomances should place Hit! on your movie queue list
along with Soderbergh’s Traffic and other crime noir


Bar/Lounge: Policy

1904 14th Street NW
Washington, DC


Any place that gets jam packed before 11 PM on a Saturday night
usually carries the hallmark of greatness. Policy, a new addition to
the U Street Corridor scene fits the bill. The restaurant and lounge
has its own separate dance floor upstairs, which saw a steady
stream of people from the time our review party arrived until we
left. The decor is a mix between uptown opulence with ornate
chandeliers and downtown hipster with red leather booths and
opaque black walls. As we overheard one person say, 'This place
could've been in 'American Psycho' as a set.' Policy does have a
funky, trendy feel to it without being too over the top.

That's not to say there weren't drawbacks, however minor they
were. One was the overcrowding caused by the opening of the
second floor. People spilled into an already crowded aisle next to
our booth which made it difficult for servers and patrons alike
to move freely. And the DJ that night was in a word, horrible.
His reckless, mismatched play threw people off and made us
scratch our heads at times. The saving grace was Policy's staff,
courteous and efficient even in stressful circumstances. And
their menu boasts a selection of small plates by Chef Brian
Murphy that go well with an extensive drink menu. All in all,
Policy is a nice place to go to experience the trendy side of
DC nightlife.


Restaurant: Merchants East

1125 1st Ave
(between 61st St & 62nd St)
New York, NY 10021
(212) 832-1551

Once in a while(if you're like us here at Manifesto)you
get the urge to go to a restaurant that has an elegant
feel but still retains a mellow vibe once you walk in
the door. Merchants has that combination down pat.
This is the East Side location; the outdoor seating
gives you a pristine view of the 59th Street Bridge.
The sister restaurant is right down in Chelsea. The
prime appeal of Merchants is the fact that it is one
of the few licensed cigar bars left in New York City,
located downstairs. And when you walk in, it is as
if you've entered a drawing room straight out of
'The Great Gatsby'. The staff are extremely friendly,
the menu boasts good fare such as pan roasted
monkfish and rack of lamb. They provide a good
selection of spirits(on our last visit we enjoyed a
nice glass of Macallan 12 year) and on certain nights,
you can enjoy live music. If you want a place to
slip out of the hustle and bustle of NYC, Merchants
East is the way to go.



Bar/Lounge: Lotus Lounge

Lotus Lounge
1420 K Street
Washington, DC 20005

Tucked away in the middle of the block steps away from McPherson
Square lies Lotus Lounge, fast becoming a new hotpsot for the
after-work crowd. The club itself is cozy but extremely inviting. The
Far Eastern theme works well with its lower level location, and if
you get there early enough, you find yourself becoming extremely
relaxed. The bartenders are easy to talk to and are all about you
having a good time, even hooking you up from time to time with
drink specials. The happy hour here is a major draw. Cool and
alluring with a lack of pretension, Lotus Lounge is a nice place to
lay back among the polished sophistication that is K Street.




Music: Marvin Gaye - Trouble Man

Marvin Gaye called this one of the most honest recordings he had
ever made. And with each play of this 1972 soundtrack to the
blaxploitation movie of the same name, you believe it more and
more. The movie plot was essentially about Mr.T(Robert Hooks)
who was a jack of all trades in South Central Los Angeles, including
being a private eye, being framed in a war between a drug lord,
a crooked police captain and two small-time hustlers. The music
on this soundtrack is seductive soul that is chock full of honesty
and power. Gaye was arguably at his best here, making the album
a must have for any music lover. The title track as well as 'T Plays
It Cool' are standouts here, but overall it is a good album to put
on and mellow out to in those moments when you're not on the

Marvin Gaye - T Plays It Cool, 'Trouble Man' Soundtrack(1972)


Restaurant: Miracle Grill

Miracle Grill
222 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

For those who miss the old Miracle Grill in Greenwich
Village, take comfort in the fact that this location is still
open and does grand business. The dining area opens out
onto the main vein of Park Slope, 7th Avenue and gives
you the feeling of being out somewhere in Phoenix, or
El Paso for that matter. Their menu boasts both
traditional and more innovative dishes, such as Blue
Corn Fried Chicken Tacos and Scrambled Eggs Fajitas.
On our last visit, we had a chance to sample the
Chicken Tortilla Pie and were enamored with the tasty
contrast between the red and green chile sauces
and the savory chicken all covered in Monterey Jack
cheese. The drink selection boasts caipirinhas as well
as fresh fruit margaritas and a neat little concoction
called ‘Blueberry Lemonade’. Miracle Grill also boasts
great happy hour specials and is a hotspot for brunches.
On your next sojourn through Park Slope, stop in and
smell the Southwest.