Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Hip-Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac

About this project

The Hip-Hop Word Count (HHWC) is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day. The database is the heart of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.

The idea to build the Hip-Hop Word Count came out of having hundreds of heated & passionate discussions about Rap music: Who was the best rapper of all time? Which rapper had the smartest songs? Which was the most popular champagne in Hip-Hop during 1999-2003? Which rapper uses the most clever metaphors? Which city's rap songs use the most monosyllabic words? Does living in higher altitudes create a natural proclivity for Gangster Rap?

Tired of having these answers left up to conjecture or whoever had the loudest voice, I decided to build a tool that would help give answers by charting the culture described within Hip-Hop music.

How can analyzing lyrics teach us about our culture?

The Hip-Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop.

The Hip-Hop Word Count then converts this data into explorable visualisations which help us to comprehend this vast set of cultural data.

This data can be used to chart the migration of ideas and builds a geography of language and is the engine for a K-12 teaching curriculum.

Project location: Brooklyn, NY

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The grand 'Taxonomy of Rap Names'

Highly Entertaining. Thanks for sending Deebeezy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“Empire State of Mind” Covered by the Glee Cast

I think this song has gone mainstream...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Guest Blogger: Evan Swittenberg - "The Top 10 Rapper's Right Now"

So, my 16 year old son Evan has a pretty high hip hop IQ. I mean, he's as enamored with today's lame rappers and as any other teenager, but he does have an interest in the broader culture and a healthy respect for old the school MCs who've made rap what it is today. I like his curiosity and his interest in what these guys are saying, how the music gets made, and how it impacts him and his friends.

And quite frankly, he knows a whole lot more about what's going on with today's emerging hip hop scene than I do. I can name a lot of good music that he's introduced me to over the past year or so (of course it helps that he's a teenager with massive amounts of free time on his hands). Overall though, I think he has a good ear, and he definitely has some interesting observations about current events and new music.

In an effort to advance his critical thinking skills and to get him to focus in long enough on one topic to actually write something down, I asked him to create his "Top 10 Rappers Right Now" list to compare and contrast against mine (still in development). The deal was, he couldn't just list them out, but he had to also articulate his reasons for selecting the rappers on his list . Below is his submission . I can certainly take issue with a few of his selections (Rick Ross, seriously?), but in general I found it to be fairly insightful. Enjoy.


Evan's Lists: "The Top 10 Rappers Right Now"

1. Drake - Hip hop’s golden boy. Easily the hottest right now.

2. Eminem - His quick and incredible come back proves that he’s not only one of the hottest right now, but that he could go on the list of the greatest of all time.

3. Lil Wayne - Even from in jail he manages to stay in our headphones and speakers, Plus, he keeps us asking: what will he think of next?

4. Jay-Z - Almost 15 years under his belt and he's still the talk of the town, When he gets on a song with somebody he pretty much embarrasses them.

5. Rick Ross - Teflon Don is a masterpiece.

6. B.o.b - I don’t even really mess with this guy, but he's pretty tough though, wouldn’t you agree?

7. Kanye West - “No one man should have all that power” – enough said.

8. Kid Cudi - The man on the moon has got to be one of the most down to earth rappers, which is why his appeal is so huge. I mean c’mon who doesn’t like Kid Cudi?

9. Wiz Khalifa - Incredible skill and epic mix tapes, and yet he’s so chill.

10. Gucci Mane - Just down right entertaining. He always gets your head bobbin'. If he's on a song with somebody, it's just dope.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Rock the Bells

I'm Amped Up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Rick Ross - Teflon Don

Ross Serves Up Another Luxe, Mostly Pleasing Helping Of R&B Flavored Yacht Music.

We may be living in times of great uncertainty but here's one thing that I know for sure: Rick Ross is very rich. He and his (also very wealthy) friends, including Diddy, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, reinforce this fact incessantly across the 11 sprawling tracks on Teflon Don. I guess I should give Rick credit for sticking to his narrative thread, but enough already, I get it...he's rolling in dough, he has lots of stuff, he's very very well off.

Don't get me wrong, this is a blazing hot record that I am sure many hip hop fans will instantly slot in as their summer 2010 soundtrack. Like his last album, 2009's Deeper Than Rap, the production values here are simply off the charts. Not since Dr. Dre's early 90's G-Funk has anyone so cinematically captured the essence of what sunny, laid back gangsta music is supposed to sounds like.

Teflon Don is a big, opulent and celebratory toast to Rick Ross's apparently hard won success. The luxurious, multi-layered arrangements are handled with care by a team comprised of A-List (Kanye West, No I.D.) and relatively up-and-coming (The Inkredibles, Lex Luger) producers. The music is expertly crafted to offend no ears and disrupt no vibes. It will sound equally good at a house party or a gala art auction. It's remarkable how profane lyrics are able to go down with ease when paired with soulful grooves, especially when the likes of John Legend, Raphael Saadiq and Ne-Yo sing sweet hooks in the background.

This album will also work nicely as a treat for the state-of-the-art audio system in your new Lexus. But most of all, listening to it makes me want to fire up the grill and invite all of my friends over for an elegant backyard soiree (thugs are welcome, as long as they are dressed in all white linen).

Standout tracks include "Tears Of Joy" featuring the gospel tinged vocals of Cee-Lo and "MC Hammer", backed by a hard, relentless beat from Lex Luger. Jay-Z dazzles on "Free Mason", shutting down the conspiracy theorists who think he's some sort of devil worshiper with the line "I said was amazin' / not that I'm a Mason". And if you liked the first two installments of "Maybach Music", then you'll love version 3. This one is sun-kissed and ethereal (picture white curtains blowing softly in an empty room at a beach house). T.I. and Jadakiss offer magnificent verses while Erykah Badu serenades us in the distance.

Yet, despite all of this goodness, I can't help but come away feeling a bit disappointed. My main wish is that Rick would change the subject every once in a while. It's like from his vantage point on his South Beach yacht, he can't see that it's harder than ever out here for a pimp. The recession, soaring unemployment, two wars and that damn oil spill have us all feeling uneasy. In Rick's world however, the party never ends - the view is stunning, the women are beautiful, the sun never sets and the champagne flows endlessly. Pleasantville for hip hop impresarios.

I suppose this all wouldn't be so tiresome if Rick were a more capable emcee. Like his subject matter, his delivery style never changes. He only knows one speed...slow. His plodding, monotonous rhymes are consistently overshadowed by his more inventive collaborators. It's his mediocre skills that make the imagery seem so cliched.

In the end, I have to ask my self "What If?" What if Jadakiss or Drake or Lupe Fiasco or even J. Cole were rapping over all of this wonderful production. And what if they presented a more complete picture of what life is like in the real world circa July 2010? How good could this record have been if that were the case?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son Of Chico Dusty

It's hard not to greet the arrival of a Big Boi solo album with pangs of regret. The project itself serves as a depressing reminder that hip hop supergroup Outkast is still on hiatus, seven years removed from Speakerboxx/The Love Below (yes, I am going to pretend that Idlewild never happened). More than anything, we wish Andre would stop drifting about, dabbling in all manner of artistic pursuits, and get his ass back in the studio.

The silver lining behind Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son Of Chico Dusty however is that Big Boi is given an opportunity to remind us once again that he is the real deal. After his spectacular performance on Speakerboxx, we shouldn't be surprised by this fact, but for some reason we continue not to take him seriously as a soloist.

That may be about to change now. Three years in the making and full of stories about major label drama (collaborations with Andre were blocked from inclusion on the album by Jive Records after Big Boi spilt from the label over creative differences), Sir Lucious Left Foot arrives as an excellent collection of eclectic, well-constructed and deeply satisfying tracks.

Big Boi seems to have never met a musical influence he wasn't compelled to incorporate; from funk to vintage 70's soul to rock, classical and even show tunes. For someone so unassuming, he proves to be fearless and full of imagination when it comes to exploring different sounds. He also proves to be an expert composer, blending all of these competing sounds into funky and intoxicating brew. He presides over the entire affair, featuring 12 different producers and 16 guest appearances, with supreme confidence and a deft ear. Rather than sounding like an experimental mish mash, this record comes off as tight -- all of it anchored by General Patton's nimble flow and his insistence on infusing everything with an unmistakable dirty south crunk music aesthetic.

Impressively, Big Boi manages to get the most out of his standout guest list roster. It must be hard not to get caught up in the stankiness once you enter the world of Daddy Fat Sax (I love that moniker), because there are no gratuitous appearances here and no one mails in a performance. Long-time collaborator Sleepy Brown infuses the album with his usual brand of lush R&B on "Turns Me On", but he is actually outdone by a subdued and infectious chorus offered by Jamie Foxx on "Hustle Blood".

T.I. and Khujo help spice up the proceedings on "Tangerine", a filthy celebration of strippers that bounces over a pulsating drum track reminiscent of Kanye West's "Love Come Down". Andre 3000 does manage to land a production credit. On "You Ain't No DJ" he reinterprets an 80's electro beat, chopping it up and adding effects that might make Afrika Bambaataa jealous. Bangin' doesn't begin to describe it. Even George Clinton himself chimes in, sounding spry alongside Too Short (and apparently still high as hell) on "Fo Yo Sorrows".

I could go on, but you get the point. I like this record a lot. It's admirable how Big Boi has put his head down and gone to work in the absence of his more famous partner and with little in the way of commercial expectations. There is more than enough great material here for him to finally earn his overdue props and to tide us over until the next Outkast album arrives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Drake - Thank Me Later

Heartthrob Holds Back, Sings Too Much, Comes Up Short On Hotly Anticipated Debut

"Thank Me Later" was expected to be the formal unveiling of Drake as rap's newly anointed King. The official passing of the torch to the Millennial Generation's valedictorian. A hip hop golden boy with movie-star good looks, rock star swagger, and pop star accessibility; Drake was groomed on Nickelodeon, nurtured on the internet, doused with street-cred and then launched into super stardom on the strength of a phenomenal mix tape that was simply unstoppable.

But somewhere along the line the coronation veered off course. Despite all the resources in the world, including big name producers and a roster of star-studded cameos, "Thank Me Later" manages to fall short of the mark, possibly weighted down by its own gravitas.

The basic problem is that it's just too commercial and calculated. The whole affair lacks passion, like a big budget action thriller where the leading man mails in his performance, relying instead on the special effects wizards to carry the day. What's worse, rather than rewarding the underground hip hop fans who made him a star, Drake seems to aim this album squarely at his pop audience -- blatantly seeking rotation on Sirius Hits 1. And unlike "So Far Gone", the aforementioned mix tape that ignited his fame, this record lacks any element of surprise. Missing is that feeling of spontaneity you get when an artist is freed of expectation and burden.

Or maybe there's just too much singing involved. On way too many tracks, Drake is content to bang out bland, soulless R&B. Songs like "CeCe's Interlude" and "Karaoke" are so dull that I'm not sure anyone other than my 10 year old niece will bother to listen to them more than once. Even The-Dream and Alicia Keys, who turn up for "Shut It Down" and "Fireworks" respectively, can't manage to generate any sparks.

When Drake does finally get around to rapping, it's obvious that he is a stone cold thoroughbred. Charming, intelligent and disarmingly self-reflective, Drake's verses are crisp, skillful and so of-the-moment that it always seems as if he wrote them this morning. In predicting just how big of a star he is about to become on the lead single, "Over", he sleighs with lines like "'Bout to go Thriller-Mike-Jackson on these n@$%#'s / All I need's a F@$&%#' red jacket with some zippers". Or how about on "The Resistance" where he boasts "It's happening Penny Lane, just like you said / I avoided the Coke game and went with Sprite instead", a deft reference to his recent Sprite endorsement contract.

On the album's best overall track, "Up All Night", Drake and Nicki Minaj flip effortless come-ons over a seductively murky Boi-1da beat. But too often, Drake's slick rhymes are abruptly shut off just when the album starts to gain momentum, derailed by his tendency to burst into song. When he slips back into his crooning pop-star persona, it's like watching a dazzling prize fighter who'd rather hold on to his opponent and lay on the ropes, than unleash a barrage of combinations and uppercuts. In the end, we're left with a feeling of emptiness, like we've been short-changed by our would-be rap icon. It seems for now that our thoroughbred is content to be a stud, rather than sprint to the finish line.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Problem With Luke

Why I Can't Support Including Luther Campbell As A VH1 Hip Hop Honoree

I don't want to offend my fellow hip hop fans down South again, like I've done so many times before, but I'm having a lot of trouble getting behind the honorees for this year's Dirty South edition of VH1's Hip Hop Honors.

For sure, my East Coast bias is well-established. I like my hip hop with a distinctly New York aesthetic; slow, sample driven, gritty, lyrically dominant. But for the most part, I'd like to think that I have an open mind. I love Outkast as much as the next man, and have been loquacious in singing the praises of Scarface. Further, while I've never been a fan of say, Too Short, I can respect that his Freaky Tales were potent, and applauded his induction into the unofficial Hall of Fame at 2008's Hip Hop Honors ceremony.

So as I perused the list of honorees for 2010, I tried to stay positive when thinking about the contributions of the chosen artists. There's nothing not to like about Organized Noise, and J Prince is certainly a a hip hop mogul to be proud of. I could push back a little on Jermaine Dupri, but dude gets a pass just for dating Janet Jackson alone. And Timbaland, come on, a strong case can be made that he is the greatest producer of all time. The fact that VH1 only added him after-the-fact, undermines the show's credibility. In fact, I think they disrespect Timbaland by labeling him as a Dirty South honoree. His impeccable body of work requires no geographic qualifiers.

My real beef however is with the inclusion of Luke Campbell of 2 Live Crew fame. There's no doubt that his impact on the culture was substantial. I included "Me So Horny" as one of the "Most Influential Songs In Hip Hop History" on a Lamont's List post back in 2006. But the inclusion was given for it's relevance in maintaining free speech, not because of its artistic merits. "Me So Horny" (made bearable only because it was rapped over a barely altered sample of Mass Production's 70's classic "Firecracker") was by far the best song the group ever made. The rest of 2 Live Crew's catalog features a dismal collection of tuneless productions, crude samples and rhythmless off-key rapping.

To be honest, I don't really have a problem with the remarkable filthiness of 2 Live Crew's songs. I generally don't take issue with the sometimes unhealthy themes contained in rap music. It's not like I haven't sang along with all sorts of pathological, misogynistic, but nonetheless catchy, songs over the years. My belief is that artists ought to be able to express themselves, even when we don't like the thoughts and sentiments that they are exposing. And as long as the production is lively and the rhymes are fluent, who am I to pass judgement? Great art is supposed to sometimes make us uncomfortable. Rappers have no obligation to teach us life lessons or to keep their language pristine. In the words of Charles Barkley, like athletes, rappers "are not role models".

No, the reason I always cringed when I heard a 2 Live Crew song on the radio or saw them on TV was not because of their vulgar, x-rated lyrics, but because the music was so bad that it barely rose to the level of "art". I was certain that they were setting hip hop back a peg or two with each new release, reinforcing stereotypes, objectifying women and generally making us all look like clowns.

So more than 20 years removed from the controversy surrounding "As Nasty As They Wanna Be", it's easy, maybe even fair, to look back at Luke as some sort of boundary-pushing anti-hero who also happened to be a PR genius. But I can't overlook just how awful his music was. Since I am first a foremost a fan of hip hop as an art form, I have to ask the question: is he really somebody we want to be honoring?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Me And My iPad

by Lamont Swittenberg

After Two Weeks Of Living With The iPad In The Real World, The Device Proves To Be Worthy of The Hype

So I’ve been living with my iPad for a little over two weeks now and to quote Justin Timberlake, “I’m lovin’ it”. For a status-seeker like myself, it feels great to be the ultimate early adopter. I haven’t felt this popular in years. The device has been with me everywhere I’ve gone over the time period and I’ve truly soaked up all of the “ooh’s and ahh’s”. Those first few days were particularly gratifying. Every time I took it out, whether on the train to work or in a bar or at my local Starbuck’s, people just wanted to strike up a conversation about it. “Is that the iPad?” they would ask. “How is it? Can I touch it?” I even noticed people out of the corner of my eye, elbowing each other and pointing — “Look hunny, that guy has an iPad”. Even my seven year old son got into the spirit. He loved carrying it around with him while we were running errands that first Saturday, giving out demos and lapping up the attention. When a teenager spotted him playing with it at our local pizza parlor and remarked simply “Sick”, he really started to believe he was a coolest seven year old in town.

Beyond the ego boosting however, I am still having a hard time truly justifying the purchase. As I suspected, it hasn’t replaced any of my other gadgets (too big to trump a smart phone and too limited for word processing). So I can’t seem to shake the nagging guilt that has followed me around since making such a self-indulgent and unnecessary purchase. I also know deep down that my first-mover cred is coming with the additional burden of having paid more for the gadget than my later-adopters will, and that I am working through some of the bugs (crappy wifi, no Flash Player) that those folks won’t have to deal with.

But make no mistake about it. This thing is a joy to behold. All in all, the benefits still outweigh the costs. The screen resolution and user interface are just stunning. It’s a whole different computer experience from anything I’ve ever known. Around the house, I find myself thinking of things to look up, information that I need to know right now, just so I can whoosh away on my iPad screen; breezing through Google, and YouTube and the Weather Channel with the greatest of ease. Want to see the photos from our last ski trip? I hope so because I can’t resist showing you how great they look on the device.

And what a nifty travel companion this thing is. On our recent spring break beach vacation, the iPad proved be a durable and stupendously handy sidekick. At the airport I had all the entertainment I would ever need at my finger tips (and I didn’t even have to remove it from my bag to go through security). No more loading up on reading material, The Journal, USA Today, New York Times and GQ Magazine were all just one tap away. On the flight itself the only problem was that I had promised to loan the device to my son for a couple of hours so that he could watch “Where The Wild Things Are” (in crisp HD I might add) while other passengers craned their necks to sneak a peek. Finally, and I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this, but what has become most apparent is that the iPad is simply the greatest portable gaming device ever. As proof, during that entire vacation trip, my son barely removed his beloved Nintendo DSI from its case. He was too busy fighting me over access to all the many cool, clever, eye-popping apps that I had loaded up on the iPad.

So what drawbacks have I experienced besides guilt? Well, as I mentioned above, the lack of Flash can be a bit of a drag, and I did have all kinds of issues getting the wifi to work as I travelled about to different hot spots. The Flash problem isn’t going away, but the wifi thing seems to be less problematic now that I am back home. Also annoying is having to make do with iPhone apps that have not been optimized for the iPad. They look fuzzy when blown up to fit the device’s massive screen.

And sure, the iBooks application is amazing, I don’t think I will ever be able to fool with a paper back again. But one thing I noticed while trying to enjoy a novel by the pool is that the glare from the sun renders books unreadable. After trying to defeat the sun by cranking up the screen resolution to max brightness, the device actually gave me an “overheated” message, then shut itself off (Meanwhile, my wife’s Kindle was working just fine).

Other than those minor grievances however, my only problem will be trying not to blow too much money on the App Store, which is way too accessible. Maybe I need to put down my iPad for at least a few minutes a day so that those nagging guilty pangs don’t start to get the best of me.

Bookmark and Share

Related posts:

  1. What Matters Now: The ipad Cometh
  2. The iPad took the first round but will Microsoft Courier win the fight?
  3. Our Favorite Little Luxuries: Finally Boat Shoes For Fall

Tags: ,
Posted in Trends & Insights | No Comments »

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 9, 1997: Where Were You The Day Hip Hop Died?

Where were you when you heard that Biggie had passed?

I was in an airport. It was a Monday morning March 10, 1997, and I was returning home after having spent a lovely Sunday shopping and enjoying some time off with my wife. It was before the age of knowing everything instantly, so without access to a TV, I was blissfully unaware of what had happened two nights earlier. I had spent that particular Saturday night having dinner with old friends in a beautiful restaurant, laughing, swapping old stories and enjoying life. I was 28 years old with a bright future, life was good.

In preparation for the trip home, I did what I always did before boarding a long flight. I grabbed a Wall Street Journal for serious news and a USA Today for the dumbed down version of things. When I opened the USA Today and saw the headline my heart sank. Disbelief doesn't begin to describe my reaction. I felt like someone had just thrown a brick through the bubble I was living in -- whacking me in the head, shattering my world view and signalling that the age of carefree living had come to an end. Flash backs from six months earlier came into view, as I remembered my cavalier attitude towards Tupac's shooting. I didn't think for a moment that he wouldn't walk out of that Las Vegas hospital, ranting incoherently about Thug Life on his way to the nearest studio to exact verbal revenge on his would-be assassins. But reality had finally set in, Tupac was gone and now so was Biggie. I did a lot of thinking on that plane ride. It is one that I will never forget.

Oh yeah, the airport I was in...LAX. To this day, that place still creeps me out. Where most people only see sunshine and palm trees, I see dark, ominous clouds. I can't help but picture a remorseless killer roaming free, bragging about having just murdered rap's favorite son. Hip Hop as we knew it was dead. Not at the hands of government regulators or dried up consumer interest. Nope, the culture had eaten itself alive, overdosed on violence and stupidity. We all saw it coming and not only did we do nothing about it, we practically encouraged it; fanning the fires of the bi-coastal beef with detached bemusement.

Even though hip hop's demise was predictable and not truly deserving of pity, I nonetheless mourned the loss with gusto. I thought back to my junior high days, memorizing the words to "Rappers' Delight". To the first time I heard Rakim rap "My Melody", to Run-DMC's "Raising Hell" tour, and to whole parties singing along a cappella to Snoop & Dre's "G Thang". I thought about high school free-style sessions, the Native Tongues & De La Soul's "Daisy Age" and heated late-night debates over who was better between KRS One and Big Daddy Kane. Good times, all gone too soon.

Of course hip hop did sputter and lurch forward and eventually recover. Jay-Z assumed the role of King Of NY and Nas came into his own. The two would start their own beef then famously squash it, no doubt spooked by the knowledge that words can indeed kill. Marshall Mathers emerged as Eminem, Diddy became a mogul, the South took off and then took over. A new generation of emcees emerged to carry the torch: Kanye, Weezy, Luda, Lupe, Drake, the beat goes on. But March 9th still haunts us; an indelible reminder that life is fleeting, that evil lurks in the shadows, and that we all have to play a part in protecting and nurturing the things that we love.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm Sick Of Winter

As usual at this time of year, I begin to suffer from the pain of too much winter weather. After a while, it just gets the best of me. It’s so omnipresent, so relentless. Day after day it’s there, waiting to pounce on me every time I leave the house. I can’t take it anymore. I’m crying uncle. I’m sick of snow, especially the dirty, icy snow that lingers forever. I’m sick of coats, scarves, gloves, hats and hat hair. I’m sick of removing layers of clothing every time I enter overly warm office buildings, commuter trains and residences. I’m sick of scraping ice off the windshields of frozen cars. I’m sick of tingly fingers. I'm sick of blowing my runny nose. I’m sick of the loud, ancient, inconsistent radiator heaters in my house. And I’m sick of enduring a blast of arctic air every time I step out of the shower.

Don’t get me wrong; winter has not been all bad. I’ve squeezed every bit of enjoyment out of the Winter Olympics. That Shaun White kid is amazing. Even Lindsay Vonn and Bodie Miller have lived up to the hype. But overall, there’s too much figure skating and not enough speed skating. I want to see dare devil athletes barreling down hill or soaring through mid-air, not prancing around a skating rink.

I’ve also enjoyed rocking the fresh gear that winter requires. I love my Nike ACG duck boots and my Ralph Lauren wool riding jacket with the matching vest. And my K-Way ski jacket was a big hit; even my 20-year-old nephew told me it was cool. But now I’m sick of it all. All the corduroy and suede, and Gortex and fleece and black and grey. And all my sweaters that seemed so cozy in November are now all worn out. They’re now too misshapen and linty and I’m sick of them. Sure, maybe I should invest in better sweaters and stop messing around with these cheap-ass Banana Republic ones. But they'd have worked out fine if winter weren't so damn long.

Sure Christmas was a blast, it was and always will be my favorite day of the year. And there was plenty more winter fun to be had. I’ve skied Beaver Creek, CO, wiped out in Eagle Rock, PA and sledded Flood Hill, South Orange, NJ. I’ve taken Gondola rides up the Vail Mountain and marveled at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. I’ve gone snow tubing and raced snowmobiles and had snow ball fights. I’ve built snowmen and pushed snow blowers. I’ve even triumphed over my 7 year old in our annual backyard Snowbowl.

But enough already. No more snow. No more shoveling. The truth is, I’d trade all of the winter frolicking for one day at Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks or even the friggin’ Jersey Shore. I say March 21st can’t get here soon enough. Bring on March Madness, Easter Sunday and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. And somebody please fire up a grill. I’d give anything for the smell of charcoal right about now. I am looking forward to one fine 80 degree day in mid-June, just before Tiger tees it up again at the US Open, and just after the Cavs beat the Lakers for the NBA championship. I guarantee you on that day, I’ll be a happy guy. I'll be wearing plaid shorts and a Carolina Blue tee (no more boring, cold-weather-appropriate navy). And my iced coffee and spanking white Stan Smith sneakers will represent all that is right in the world.

I’m sick of winter.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

50 Observations About Food

  1. The older I get, the more I prefer Salsa to Catsup.
  2. There is nothing that can be made better, that cannot be made better with a few drops of Texas Pete Hot Sauce.
  3. Please, take it easy with the mayo.
  4. It’s actually comical how much cream cheese bagel shops tend to slather on bagels, even when you only ask for a “smear.” My local shop tends to add enough to feed a family of 4 for a week.
  5. I’ve never tried a tuna melt. It just doesn’t make sense.
  6. Butter. Use sparingly. Margarine. Not at all.
  7. I’ve learned to tolerate wheat bread. But white still makes me happy.
  8. The best ice cream in the world is called Seventh Heaven. It comes from a dairy in Trenton, NJ called Halo Farms. This is not up for debate.
  9. If you’re going to eat a cheeseburger, make it a good one (say Five Guys). And you’ve already crossed the line, so you might as well go ahead and get the fries and Coke along with it.
  10. McDonald’s French fries. Competition is none.
  11. Best fast food sandwich. Chick-fil-A. I wish I had one right now.
  12. Best breakfast sandwich of all time. The Egg McMuffin. A stunning achievement in efficiency, cost effectiveness, convenience and taste.
  13. It’s not dessert if ice cream is not involved.
  14. The prepared foods at Whole Foods are average at best.
  15. The processed foods at Trader Joe’s are world class.
  16. People in Philadelphia take their sandwich making seriously. Walk into any deli anywhere in the city and you can bank on getting a masterfully prepared hoagie.
  17. By the time you are 7, your cereal preferences are set for life. Currently for me it’s Kellogg’s All Bran mixed with Cheerios and a splash of Honey Combs. I don’t know, it just works.
  18. Fruit for lunch. Veggies for dinner.
  19. If she can’t make great scrambled eggs, that’s a bad sign.
  20. The richest man in the world can’t get a better doughnut than Krispy Kreme.
  21. There is nothing more sublime than going to a really nice restaurant -- great ambiance, great wine, great conversation – and ordering a phat juicy cheeseburger.
  22. It’s really hard to screw up pizza. But the good folks at Domino’s give it their best shot.
  23. Fried chicken should be prepared by somebody’s grandmother. She should be from down south and partial to cast iron skillets. If all of these stars don’t line up, lower your expectations.
  24. Tostitos. I hope somebody at Frito Lay received some sort of lifetime achievement award for inventing those things.
  25. You pretty much only need plain, blueberry and cinnamon raisin bagels. All other varieties will end up being picked over in the break room.
  26. Thanksgiving. Don’t worry about counting starches. Yes stuffing is essential. But I also need rice and bread and wouldn’t be mad at potato salad.
  27. Speaking of potato salad. Mustard based only please.
  28. If we’re talking mass-produced cookies, then I gotta say Thin Mints are the best. I respect the Oreo, got love for Nutter Butters, but Thin Mints stand alone.
  29. For the entire 14 years of our marriage, my wife and I have gotten each other a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake for our birthdays. We’ve never missed a year. It’s the little things. That’s what love is.
  30. Sherbet is better than you think it is.
  31. In general, soup is too watery. I like mine thick, more stew than soup really. When I open a can of soup, my first step is to pour out half the broth.
  32. Potato chips are like crack. I can’t have them in the house.
  33. I wish I liked oatmeal.
  34. I’ve never been comfortable using chopsticks. I mean, I can get by, but I can’t help thinking that it would be much easier to just use a fork.
  35. My wife makes the world’s best brussel sprouts; slow roasted, drizzled with expensive olive oil and seasoned to perfection with imported sea salt. I still don’t like them.
  36. Half of a deli sandwich is not enough, but a whole one is too much.
  37. Everyone loves sliders.
  38. Even at the most elegant wedding reception, pigs in a blanket are a welcome sight.
  39. It’s fine to have salmon, grilled asparagus and other fancy fare at your cookout. It’s just not necessary. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken. Done.
  40. Why is Sweet & Low so much sweeter that actual sugar?
  41. Wait, on second thought, don’t answer that.
  42. There is an inverse relationship between things that taste good and things that are good for you.
  43. You can spend hours making a great pasta sauce, or minutes making a damn good one. Here is the easy way: Step 1) Open Jar, Step 2) Pour into pot, Step 3) Heat.
  44. The window for eating bananas is much too small.
  45. Ritz crackers. That’s keeping it real.
  46. Guys, steer clear of white wine. It's hard to look gangsta while sipping Pinot Grigio.
  47. I was 28 years old on the day I had my first cup of coffee. I haven’t missed a day since.
  48. Coke Zero is a modern miracle.
  49. I don’t care if the large is only 25 cents more, I can’t possible eat that much popcorn!
  50. A cold night, a warm blanket, a hot drink, a good book.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Highly Skilled MC's At Work...Jay Electronica "Just Begun" (Live)

Jay Electronica, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. This makes me want to push myself to go out and see more live hip hop.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Friday, January 08, 2010

What’s More Annoying Than A Name Dropper? A Place Dropper

The Annoying Use Of “Dropping” As A Self-Branding Technique

Let’s face it, nobody likes a name dropper. These people have been around since the beginning of time and they’ve always been a nuisance. The good news is that most of us are quick to spot name droppers and to call them out on it. Sometimes we do it to their faces: “Do you have to mention how you and Steve Jobs go way back every time someone pulls out an iphone?” And even if we are too polite to embarrass them in public, we never forfeit an opportunity to ridicule these idiots behind their backs.

However, I’m struck by the fact that we too often let other “Droppers” off the hook. These individuals can be just as grating, but for some reason we put up with their blatant attempts to impress us. Like Name Droppers, these folks are opportunistic, and none-too-subtle in seeking opportunities to remind us of the places they’ve gone, the things they’ve seen, the degrees they’ve attained, and so on.

In fairness, Dropping is just another form of self-branding, a practice that is thriving these days. It used to be that only celebrities were interested in cultivating their personal brand by creating just the right image for themselves in the minds of consumers. The goal was to become more admired and revered for their unique talents and thus more attractive to advertisers, movie producers, record executives and the buying public.

But these days, everyone from CEO’s to college students are in the business of self-branding. Whether the objective is to enhance one’s corporate reputation or land the next job interview, business is booming. Armies of Image Consultants and Executive Coaches have emerged to inform us that an impressive Linkedin profile and clever tweets are now of critical importance in this brand building exercise. Other critical factors range from the jeans you wear to your hair style to even the smart phone you carry. It all matters. And Dropping is viewed as just another handy tool for reminding people that you are worthy, based on where you’ve been, what you consume and even where you work out.

Despite its many justifications, the practice of Dropping still annoys me. It lacks genuineness and forces us all into a sorry game of one-ups-man-ship that ruins social interactions. In order to put a stop to this growing phenomenon immediately, I have compiled a list of offenders described below. My hope is that from now on, these Droppers will be flogged every time they cross-the-line. I urge you to join me in ending this plague, in cleaning up our Facebook News Feeds, and in making conversation civil again.

The Lamont’s List Of Offensive Droppers

Place Droppers – These jetsetters never pass up a chance to remind us of all the places they’ve visited. Mention rice and they’ll say that you’ve reminded them of “that time when they were in Hong Kong”. If it’s a tad chili outside, they’ll tell you that’s nothing compared to that winter they spent in Moscow. Joberg has the best clubs, Japan the best Denim, London the tastiest Indian food, etc, etc, There is nothing you can mention that won’t be met with a story about a trip to an exotic destination. Stop it.

School Droppers – Have you ever met anyone who went to a “small liberal arts school outside of Boston?” Aren’t they fun to hang out with? At least the Harvard guys try to be subtle about it. My wife is lovely, but she is kind of a blatant school dropper. Within 10 minutes of meeting her she somehow manages to work in the fact that she went to Wharton. If she’s not in the mood for waiting for an opening, she’ll randomly bring up cheese steaks, just to bring the conversation around to Philadelphia and ultimately to, you guessed it…Wharton.

Festival Droppers – Why does attending a sweaty rock music festival make people feel so good about themselves that they have to constantly rub it in your face? The next time some skinny jeans wearing moron interrupts my enjoyment of a song to point out that “these dudes totally killed it at South By South West,” he’s gonna get decked. Related to:
  • Obscure Band Name Droppers – I swear these guys make up band names when I ask them who they are listening to, just to make me feel out of touch.
  • Obscure Underground Mix Tape Droppers – No as a matter of fact, I haven’t heard Lil Wayne’s “The Block Is Hot Volume 99”. Yes, I am aware that it’s been out for 2 whole days on What can I say; I’m a sad excuse for a hip hop fan.
Previous Employer Droppers – I’ve been told that I’m guilty of this offense myself (maybe I’ve mentioned once or twice that I was a brand manager at Coke) so I will go easy on this group. You know the types however, who used to work for cool companies or important brands. They rely heavily on this ancient experience to build their credibility in new work environments. It goes a little something like this: “Well, when I was at Coke/Nike/P&G/Target/NASA/etc., this is how we did things.” Related to:
  • Previous Agency Droppers – Exclusive to the advertising industry, these individuals, who for whatever reason now work at less glamorous agencies, feel compelled to let us know that they used to work at Crispin.
  • Previous Client Droppers – Along the same lines, these madmen who now work on lame accounts (say Dr. Scholl’s Foot Powder), feel compelled to drone on about those edgy campaigns they use to do for Nike.
Book Droppers – There is a long history of pretentiousness with this bunch. Seriously, there must be at least 1 movie that is better than the book right? And yes, it’s impressive, but don’t you have to have a bit too much time on your hands to be able to consume every important work of fiction and every business book on the NY Times Best Sellers list? And finally, stop hating on Dan Brown and John Grisham. Not all pop novels suck (The Firm is a classic). Not all of us can pretend to love Tolstoy. Related to:
  • Newspaper/Magazine/Blog Droppers – These are the showoffs who make us feel bad by constantly referencing high brow publications such as “The Economist” and “The Harvard Business Review”. They also inhale all major news sources by 8AM everyday so that they can quote from them condescendingly in meetings with our bosses while shaking their heads in disgust at us for being clueless slackers.
Green Droppers – These are the crunchy types who gloat about how much money they are saving on gas in their hybrid cars. It’s one thing to frown upon SUV’s, but it’s wholly unacceptable to give me dirty looks for drinking bottled water and wearing leather shoes. Step off. Related to:
  • Gym/Workout Droppers – These guys always seem to mention their 5AM Boot Camp class just as I am about to bite into a cheeseburger.
Neighborhood Droppers – Whether Tribeca, Cobble Hill or Montclair, NJ, these references by yuppies with too much money are always nauseating. It’s not enough for your neighborhood to be expensive; it also has to be super hip. Related to:
  • Vacation Home Droppers – The Hamptons, the Vineyard and The Cape are ok, but the International locales take it to another level
  • Club Droppers – These party-goers frequent fab night spots we’ve never heard of and pay $25 for drinks just so they can complain about it to us the next day.
  • Restaurant Droppers – These foodies love to bang on about how Chef So And So’s New-American-Asian-Fusion dishes have become more innovative since moving to restaurant bla bla bla. Whatever. I don’t care.
  • Kid’s Private School Droppers – Good for your boy that he made the fencing squad at Super Rich Prep. But that’s not really relevant to the discussion we are having right now is it?
  • Golf Course Droppers – No man who has ever played Pebble Beach or Beth Page Black or any other PGA course can resist the temptation to let us know about this uninteresting fact.
Twitter Droppers – I don’t even know why anyone would think people would be impressed by this. But people who are on Twitter just love to talk about the crap they talk about on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

Mos Def's History Music Video

Real Hip Hop.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Google Nexus One Phone Speculation Hits Critical Mass

-->--> --> -->Is this the week Google (NSDQ:GOOG) drops Nexus One, its supposedly game-changing Android mobile device? If all goes according to plan -- and by "plan," we mean endless, unconfirmed speculation -- Google will introduce Nexus One at a press conference in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday.

Google hasn't confirmed as much but has told various media outlets, including, to expect a "significant announcement." Most expect that to be the official arrival of the Nexus One, which since the rumor mill began to heat up two months ago has been touted as Google's Apple iPhone killer.

The device, though manufactured by HTC, will be branded as a Google phone and run version 2.1 of Google Android. From there the actual details of the Nexus One get dicey.

A number of tech news sites, including Engadget and Gizmodo, posted what appear to be leaked pictures of the Nexus One. According to those and previously leaked specifics, the phone has a 3.7-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera, an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, a light sensor, Wi-Fi radio with Bluetooth, an FM speaker, open GL ES 2.0 capable graphics, and a Snapdragon processor.

Gizmodo, with the help of leaked documents it says it obtained, further reported that the phone will cost about $530 unlocked or $180 with a two-year lock-in with T-Mobile. Engadget went so far as to post

T-Mobile was first mentioned as the carrier of choice for Nexus One as early as mid-December, following a Federal Communications Commission document that confirmed HTC had tested the Nexus One for T-Mobile's 3G network. Further reports later cited that two versions of the phone -- the T-Mobile version and an unlocked version sold directly to consumers by Google -- would both be made available.

The Nexus One represents a continued push by Google into the smartphone marketplace, following the continued success of its Android operating system and the excitement created around the Motorola (NYSE:MOT) Droid and the rest of last fall's hot new Android phones.

A number of phones on Google's platform, in fact, were among Everything Channel's 10 Coolest Smartphones of 2009.

Thanks to all the Nexus One buzz and speculation, Google has also effectively stolen a page from the Apple playbook: building breathless anticipation in advance of a mysterious product launch. Google also stands to steal a bit of the thunder from this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which kicks off Thursday in Las Vegas.

Anybody want to buy my Droid?

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek – The RE:Union Mixtape

Get yours while it's hot!

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Jay-Z "On to the Next One" Video.

"MJ at Summer Jam / Obama on the text / Yall should be afraid of what I'm gon' do next."

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous