Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Astral Plain of the Aquarium: "Better Call Saul" Season 4 Episode one Recap

Writer: Jon Weirman

Staring at a home aquarium can appeal to one's sense of peace, comfort, and a sense of wonder. Feeding the fish and watching just how quickly they swim to the surface to devour their meal is captivating, and brings to mind the savage instincts that it takes to survive in any element of the current global climate. It's not surprising that the aquarium was a key focal point for this first episode of season four, providing a window into loss, injury, and trajectory. After more than a year off, many worldwide tuned in last night to follow the happenings of the bumbling-but-somehow-savvy lawyer who always seems to find himself in a tangle of sorts, and "Smoke" was an episode that tied up many existing questions.  

My closest cohort lamented to me from a crowded rush-hour Pacific Northwestern bus after reading an article about the overlapping timelines between the shows, "Why isn't Kim ever mentioned or shown in 'Breaking Bad?" This episode does not exactly give us any answers here, but rather begins to delve into the events immediately following Chuck's suicide at the end of last season. Dying from the result of kerosene flames at the end of last year's finale, we were shown the madness of a man who lost his identity, even though he somehow came to an abrupt peace with his paranoid fear of electrical current. 

What is arguably the pinnacle moment of this week's episode involves Chuck's boss Howard lamenting to Kim and Jimmy that "Chuck did what he did because of me", referring to his decision to push chuck out of the firm some time ago. Jimmy, who has been in the haze of loss and ruin for the entire episode, suddenly livens up, and we are shown the strange, quizzical, somewhat sociopathic charms of the Jimmy we first met around a decade ago, when he aided the drug-slinging Walter White. Happily getting ready to fix coffee and feed the fish in the aquarium, he says strangely, "Well Howard, I guess that's your cross to bear". 

We are also shown that Hector Salamanca barely survives his parking lot collapse, after Nacho painstakingly swaps out his needed medication. As the ambulance drives away, we sense that Gus may be very keen on the plot, and that everyone surely wishes he were, in fact, deceased. Victor is sent to tail Nacho, and doesn't realize that he drives off with a tracking device attached to the car. This imagery is parallel to the masterful portrayal of the game of cat-and-mouse in the Cohen Brothers' epic "No Country For old Men", and I have always enjoyed the presence of the beeping boxes that are in place to follow those in this wonderfully-lain out show. 

Mike is more than just the ultimate security professional. It is marvelous to watch him steal an employee pass, board a cart that hauls recklessly through a warehouse, with the ultimate goal of letting them know his presence. Mike is beyond calculated, and we once again get to witness his dedication to a child, wonder what thoughts cross his mind in front of a small television at night, and realize that if there is anyone in a current TV series who portrays a weary fearlessness to perfection, you need to look no further. 

Situated in Omaha and shot in Black and White, the beginnings of most "Better Call Saul" episodes show what happens to him as manager of a Cinnabun, where he needs to disappear permanently after the "Breaking Bad" timeline draws to a close. After suffering a dire emergency, he winds up in the hospital, and we are shown a well-spun segment of him not being able to locate his social security number, and the possibility that his entire identity may finally be compromised. A cab driver with an air freshener from New Mexico injects fear of Jimmy's identity already blown wide open to bits regardless, and we have to wait a week or two to see if it was chance, or indeed a long arm of the cartel or vigilante law that has located him hiding out in the Midwest. 

Some have complained that this series just doesn't move quite fast enough for them. It almost gets under the skin of many, while we slowly watched Jimmy and Kim's relationship blossom, only to see what seems like an array of characters that pedal around in circles. But at the core, we are thrown an appetite-wetting sample of the best in modern television writing is. The way things are set up here can tend to make you wait for a climax, then drift sideways into a plot that you may not understand if you are not fully caught up. "Better Call Saul" really spoke to me because it showed us how someone who once worked in a mail room worked his way up, then anything but usual circumstances were thrown at him. Everyone I know is excited to keep following along, and see just how this brash and now wounded fast-talker will manage to "swim to the surface" of his own aquarium.  -J






Sunday, April 1, 2018

Killigan's "Dance on Your Grave" Album Review


Killigans “Dance on Your Grave” Album Review by Jon Weirman

Run down tenements, new and fleeting loves, warm stew after a long journey, and the intense beauty of locations such as Dublin Castle are very fitting subjects for folk songs. When iconic acts like the Pogues belted out cuts like “Dirty Old Town” way back in 1985, an immediate attachment was created to their appreciation for rewards of toil, love of country, and yearning for post-industrial romance. Since 2004, the Killigans have been belting out their own form of reverent hymn, and with their fifth album release this year, they are once again producing their well-versed wares for the masses. No strangers to the road, the demand for their craft has already taken them far from home, and many of the friends they made along the way will be eagerly awaiting this installment of stories.

“Stories, instead of songs?” anyone with a pint after a long day right here in the Heartland may ask. One thing about the Killigan's instant appeal was always about the characters spun into the soundscape. While some may argue that anyone can plug into a JCM-900, get rowdy, and “proclaim themselves Irish”, these boys have taken their appropriate licks well before they became the most in-demand St Patty's day act in the state. The intricate writing, love for their own large families, and deep Midwestern roots have solidified their prowess for more than a decade, as well as wet the appetites for those who are searching for a bit more depth than the traditional fist-pumping Guinness and Harp Harrier acts. The link to listen and check out the fresh release for yourself on Spotify is right here

No stranger to rough-and-tumble locales myself, the song “Throw it Away” properly evokes the vibe I felt when I saw my first off-the-books bare-knuckle boxing match in Boston. Commanding the listener's attention, the devil is portrayed as a host keeping time, and the heavily-discussed issue of class war is lamented upon. Drawing back the curtain figuratively and literally, its an appropriate anthem regarding the price to be paid for our sheer existence, and what it feels like to watch something burn to the ground. The mix is just what you would expect from this rich group, who have long evolved from 3-chord monte, but the desperation is fitting: many worldwide have lost any patience with the sensation of being crunched under the banking cartel's heel.

“Paducah” begins with a truly Irish sound, and bassist Trevor Nebesniak gets to wander around while being appropriately in synch, and this track really reminds me of world-class and heavily-layered act Gogol Bordello. The accordion here is first-rate, and is the perfect addition of warmth and commanding expertise. Hitting the bottle harder, asking questions of existence and fate, and a seemingly fateful accident paints a picture that is not perfect, but one must remember those bustling streets of Dublin aren't always rosy and prim on a daily basis either.

“Bartender” is a playful number that is asking the local establishment's proprietor to “save us now”, by frequent pouring, and deep understanding of everyday strife. Needing a good friend that won't abandon them, as well as the reassurance that everything will be alright, is painted in a manner that is more than fun: the age-old thirst of the working class will never be fully quenched. Songs like this are what drew many to this band in the very first place: rich instrumentation along with tasteful and mid-rangy guitar solos simply take the cake, or “the keg”, as it may be.

“Burn it Down” is an introspective and rather stripped-down piece that begins with an acoustic guitar and accordion, along with the vision of taking a walk across the land of opportunity. This song really hits home to me what true progression is supposed to sound like: Charlie Johnson at Fuse Recording Studios really clocks a firm win for the books here. One mistake in production of folk, rock, and punk is to heavily lay on the buckets of distortion, and this common error does not take place in the least within this final mix.

Guitar-driven rock can make a lot of mistakes, as Replacement's frontman Paul Westerberg laments about the added effects and “other garbage” music during the 1990's. There is not even a hint of this type of saturated production here, and this song is a solid number about the sensations one would experience remembering a tragic fire in your very own city. In retrospect, this entire album release seems timely: many metro areas as of late have been surely sensing a crackling of kindling underneath them, and heavily present unrest from the inside out. 














Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Replicants, Glossy Hues, and an Entire Population's Desperate Quest for Nirvana: Blade Runner 2049

During  1982, a very important moment took place in science fiction film history, although it was not fully endorsed by many viewers until later. Harrison Ford glanced out wistfully while flying over pyramids of what the modern world made of Los Angeles, and clamored down on his duty of hunting down replicants. The first "Blade Runner" film was a true spectacle of film noir, with light sources coming in from side angles like mad, dystopian themes that had people thinking about the future placidly before it came, and a rather prophetic call to think about our existence. It was irresistible to enjoy yourself during the ride, and cult classic status was gained faster than you could push "pause" on a VHS player.

A lot of us thought there would never be a sequel. This was one movie that stood so far out on its own ledge, that its defining moments were never thought to be duplicated. Everyone in the loop wondered if there could ever be a sequel, reboot, or anything that even resembled the original. Where do you begin? storyboards upon storyboards, deleted scenes that don't quite work, and the incessant tugging on you as the filmmaker to present to the audience something even close to what Ridley Scott presented more than two decades ago.

I put all of my judgments aside, and walked into a theater today. I had a few spoilers sent my way, and paid them a bit of attention, but patiently waited. The first thing you notice about this film is that it really succeeded in being visually perfect. Perfection is tough, especially in a time when drone footage, slick editing, and massive CGI can swoop down and take over. We are shown more. It's a simple premise at heart, but the city of LA, and the outer boundaries that this movie involves completely won me over. They won me over so easily, that every gray cloud, multiple-ship arrangement while flying, and shot interwoven with the musical score had me thinking about the films' next pulse obsessively.

Ryan Gosling showed many during pictures such as "Drive" and "Place Beyond the Pines" that he is a very multi-faceted master of the screen. If he is angry, you might not know it. If he is beginning to get stressed, you may just see an inkling. Most importantly, he truly was made into a young version of Harrison Ford for this new film. He eventually channels the character from the first film completely, with his thick raincoat, sordid attitude, and tired existence while taking part in a "robotic" relationship of his own. During moments where this relationship becomes more complex, we are completely sold on the art of film. Elements of Hitchcock, Michael Mann, and directors such as Marty S enjoy throwbacks here.

What I want all of my readers to understand is how carefully woven the gumshoe tale has been attended to. There really is a case to solve at hand in the making, and during times of modern lore, many stray to the hastily-done plot. A movie that is this visual is hard to simmer down. You are manipulated from the beginning, as you become more and more curious about bleak landscapes, brutal assaults, robots being "retired", and the reasons why you'd want to be a futuristic private investigator in the first place. There is so much to enjoy here, and so many opportunities to sit back and do do.

Robin Wright shines as the dominant boss who needs answers, and honestly, everyone in this film gets to. I loved watching her as Kevin Spacey's wife in "House Of  Cards", where she really has the opportunity to show her stake in a partnership. "Blade Runner 2049" is astoundingly about loss. We are not just lured into a ride for no reason, and every single element of detail has been taken care of. We are shown that the people in charge of the planet will tarnish it, that we will become owned if we don't front a corporation, and that during the entire ride down, there are moments of tech-enslavement and desperate intimacy that are dazzling and unforgettable. This is a journey well worth buying the ticket for, and one that will "implant its image on your SD card" for many days to come.     -J

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Portraying The Under the Rug Regimen of Child Labor: Tj Templeton's "Waxing Candidly"

Years ago in 1984, I spent time in the nation of Bangladesh, which still had scars from its liberation from Pakistan, a very malnourished population, and a very obviously large number of children who were working under fairly barbaric conditions. On this rainy day in Lincoln in mid-November, I went with my editor to a private showing of Lincoln artist TJ Templeton's latest display at the Spatium Gallery on O Street downtown. In the main room of the display, he has very painstakingly and dutifully captured some of the faces that were components of the American child labor force, and inspired by photographs from Lewis Hine. Children were then used to provide many companies cheap and long hours of labor, and sardine shops were one of the usual culprits who profited from these exploitations.

In current times, TJ recognizes that this effort has been largely outsourced, with companies in nations such as the Phillippines and India taking on the brunt of the business. This display that continues the entire month of November in the gallery has the sardine cans as the main attraction, but delves uniquely into the realm of bridges, his collection of Cold War style propaganda posters he created ten years ago, and some captivating works of visions from the studio. It took him quite some time to perfect the task of placing the images and the wax into the empty sardine cans, and you quickly realize this when gazing at the wall of haunting black and white portraits.

In the times we live in, the race to build things cheaper and at the path of least resistance from labor laws and regulation will continue to be intense. When Tj decided to put much energy into another facet of his art on display here this month, it was his own disdain for the neocon agenda. He redesigned WWII and New Deal era looking propaganda style posters into his own breed of graphic art that placidly evoked his own opinions, and his opinions were shared by so many that they were even featured in textbooks. and found their way on to t shirts, magnets, tote bags, and even onto national TV outlets such as "The Daily Show". Scared outright by the elements that he felt were going to gain control of the nation, he really poured his heart into these images that were used in an online news portal.

From the proceeds of his marketing genius for this "Project for the Old American Century", he ran as a very progressive liberal for a state representative in Iowa during 2008. During this he experienced intense retaliation, death threats and other forms of scorn for his free thinking and very anti-globalist sentiment. There are many who dream of some form of social change, and imagine doing just about anything to accomplish it. When you really get down to business and start cranking out material that others will deem offensive, you find out firsthand the ways in which some people don't want change, and the lengths that they will go to keep things towards their version of what they want to the world to be.

One of the reasons why this exhibit is so important is that it really exposes many talents: the time and effort alone spent on the sardine tins, the elaborate portraits of bridges that TJ spent years of teenage angst walking on, and his own full-scale leveraged attempt at getting folks to see a bigger picture of what was happening to the nation of America. The bridge in question is a legendary Kansas City Icon: the A.S.B. bridge. There were only 3 bridges ever to have this type of construction: cars and pedestrians gained passage on the top, and railways on the bottom. The extreme underside can be raised to let boats pass underneath without disrupting the traffic on the top.

These bridge works are incredibly detailed. We have seen many others similar to this with industrial smokestacks in the distance and an extra wide view that depicts every etched nook and cranny; but TJ's work here is intricately defined, and brings to mind how much knowledge anyone would have to acquire to be a structural engineer. Beyond the structural layers, the well-portrayed hues of blue in the background and reflectionary details on the water are of the upper end of all the art I had seen over the last three years, even after spending time in one of the ten biggest cities in the nation. This thought provoking and technically proficient display will be at the Spatium until the end of the month; but unfortunately, the many social and economic problems that TJ chooses to tackle with his work may be around for decades to come, providing no shortage of inspiration.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pondering the Pit With The Push of a Button: Beaver Damage's “Spread Eagle”

The notion of thrash, metal, punk and grindcore always conjure up images of unfathomed revelry, late nights around out of control fires, gasoline and sweat smelling rooms, and the thunk of palm muted guitar riffs. When DRI released The Dirty Rotten LP in 1983, a new way of perceiving headbanging and speed drumming was born, and the well calloused club of lightening fast percussionists and completely out of control shows was born. Suicidal Tendencies, Stormtroopers of Death, and punk greats The Dead Kennedys all shared one thing in common: they seemed more than a little unhappy with the system, had a middle finger extended towards society in general, and were always pleased to pierce the air with amps turned up so loud you were gonna feel like you lost a fist fight with three people the next day.

I settled in to listen to Beaver Damage's “Spread Eagle” album with a bit of a vision in my head of what greats Slayer and Pantera had become: not just bands, but an entity out of control, that hundreds of thousands of people now worship for their precision, volume, and unfiltered power. At first listen of the track “You'll Never Make It” the drums caught my attention right away: very precise, crisply miked up, and well earned prestige on the double bass. The guitar riff wanders a bit like The Dead Kennedys' “Holiday In Cambodia”, then the vocals remind me of the anger and junk yard scorch of heavyweight grind core contenders HateBreed. An obviously jaded number about someone who was once told they were worthless, it scoffs defiantly through with quite the unmodified diesel formula: complete stops, good breakdowns, and plenty of sinister snarling.

The next track on the list was “Cowboys and Lycans”, and it began with a much more calculated approach: palm muted lead, soaring barre chords on rhythm, and came out of the assembly line sounding much like what Prong or Valient Thorr has on tap: palm muted dribbling of the ball that easily graduates out of beginner's class with the syncopation. A few well placed pinch harmonics, the same angry voice and the middle breakdown had me thinking about another one of the most underrated thrash bands of all time: The Accused. This track reminded me a bit of the heavy jumping around and boisterous air of an album that any true thrash fan should check out: “Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told”. Just an all out assault and mind blowing display of skill, it still carries much weight in the thrash community.

The third track “Cro-Magnon Man” immediately had me drawing parallels to one of the greatest moments I had experienced over the last two years: seeing Clutch at Riott Fest. The delivery of this song, the way the vocals switch it up to an almost playful sneer, and the simple notion of a primitive being and straightforward chorus with the drum sound I appreciated in the beginning still rang true, and it was my favorite track from them yet. Last on the list for my sampling was “Derailed”, and even though the timing and writing leans towards the mathematical, I was reminded of pioneers Motorhead, just due to the sheer haul ass factor and swagger. At 53 seconds there is a sweeping guitar solo that fits the tune perfectly, with some nice hanging notes and a few harmonics, minus the unnecessary waltz through some flashy sweep picking that scores of metal solos fall prey to. This 12 song album will be available from Beaver Damage during their next live show with shock thrash kings Gwar, and will surely stoke more than one patron where the notion of thrash itself begins: into the circling pit.



An Early Summer's Punk Rock Summons: Skid Tard at The Spigot

Joey Ramone himself said: “To me, punk is about being an individual and going against the grain and standing up and saying: this is who I am”. Going over classic vinyl covers like Black Flag's “My War”, The Circle Jerks' “Wild in the Streets” and other greats like JFA have been inducing a full blown walk down memory lane for me lately. When I walked into the Spigot to see my comrade Brook Taylor on guitar take the stage with Skid Tard, I knew that visions of California pipelines, trespassing to skate backyard pools, and anarchy patches on the backs of leather jackets in the 80's would leave me grinning ear to ear. Phil Burcher of The Bay and Precision skates takes over vocal duties, While Mark Anderson provides the bass. He was locking with the drummer well and noisily like my sludgy favorites “The Jesus Lizard” who blew me away many times and on many stages in years past.
Drummer Bruce Stephens and Lincoln punk icon Bill Jones also on guitar seemed elated to perform, for a crowd that was very excited to delve into something a bit rowdy and raw. People that may think Lincoln doesn't have much of a punk history are wildly misguided; seeing SNFU on the “And No One Else Wanted to Play” tour at the Malone Center had me not sleeping for weeks in anticipation. While we were waiting for the show to begin, I talked to longtime native Daniel Kelley about the drought of '91 when the East O St. Ditch was dry, and we would carve in trains ten to twelve deep on skateboards as the heat pelted the earth; at the time we all felt that our visions of Venice, La Jolla and the Hills of SF were just that much closer.
Burcher's presence on vocals had me drawing comparison to bands like “OFF!”, the Black Flag rebirth and abrasive punk rock element that still sweeps the nation. Hunter S. Thompson writes in “Fear and Loathing” about seeing a movement at it's peak right before the tide goes out and washes the true bastions of style away with it; reminiscing that San Fran would never be the same after mass development and certain attitudes were lost in time. Sneering aloofness, capturing the playful essence that punk was born on from the beginning, and a few questions for authority of his own were the proper finishing touches for Skid Tard's set. “Plastic Girlfriend”, “Keep what you feel”, “Government shutdown”, “Penguin Necktie”, and “Bandito” were some of the selections that Skid Tard belted out with well practiced bravado.
Hearing the group's set that Wednesday night as the summer humidity set in and Lincoln residents edged by on the sidewalks with bikes and high spirits, I was reminded of something that was begun way before smart phone apps could find you a place to eat or find a “plastic girlfriend” of your own. Parties where amps were turned up in hopes of getting a few last songs out before the cops came, water pipes bursting in dingy basements while mosh pits circled, and other Lincoln outfits of yesteryear like “Speedwobble” came to mind. Out there to cultivate years of friendship, not take anything too seriously, and stoke up your own memories of hopping a fence to skate a backyard pool, Skid Tard is an example of people who actually BUILT the local scene still belting out tunes and spreading the sometimes PBR-fueled good word.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dre Future; The Hip Hop Superhero

Questions for Dre Future:




Dre Future is a performer and model currently living in Denver and getting ready to make very large waves in 2014. When I got a minute to catch up with him we talked about where he came up from, influences, and his clothing company. We touched on the state of internet marketing, the importance of a handshake, and the appeal of live shows. With a goal of spreading positivity and leaning away from the usual image of guns and drugs, his plans this coming year are to perform as much as possible, and gain huge momentum from the Rocky Mountain Region. While the nation itself is desperate to move into an era without bloodshed and turmoil, there are truly only a few individuals steering the ship in the correct direction; and captivating people from the stage at the same time. His tunes are available at:


Were you rapping way before you attended Columbia in Chicago or is that where you really starting getting into it?

Dre: 
-         I first started rapping and making music in 2008 towards the end of my senior year of High School with a couple of really good friends of mine in a group we use to call Cool R Us. My first love was still basketball at the time, but when that didn’t work out as planned I started focusing more on music and transferred to Columbia College Chicago to improve my skills and give myself a better opportunity to succeed.

      What are some of the most influential albums you have ever listened to?

      Dre:
-          Some of the most influential albums for me are the first two Lupe Fiasco albums(“Food & Liquor” and “The Cool”)  Common’s “Be”, Kanye West’s “Late Registration”, Nas “Illmatic”, A Tribe Called Quest “Midnight Marauders”. 

       Do you think live music and shows are still hurting and people just have to try and hustle money on merchandise, or do you think that ticket sales have turned the corner into the positive?

      Dre:

-          I truly believe that giving people a live show is the best way to engage fans and even help sell merchandise. When you put on a great performance as an artist and give people a unique experience then ticket, merchandise, and album sales will increase because then the fans have such a good time that they want something to take home with them to remember how much fun they had and to support the artist that provided them with that experience.

      
      What is Denver like compared to Ohio in terms of crowds and support? Is it more laid back?
     
      Dre:
-          Well I’ve actually done a lot more shows in Denver and Chicago than I have in Cincinnati so far in my career mainly because I haven’t really been living there since I graduated high school. But Denver crowds have definitely given me the most love and support during my live performances.
    
      Do you have a favorite superhero theme, or is that persona more about what you think kids should be thinking about and ending the violent cycle we see today?
     
      Dre:

-          The superhero based theme for my style of music(Superhero Hip Hop) and clothing brand(Future Man) is definitely more centered around helping today’s youth to think in a more positive creative light. Most rappers talk about guns, drugs, money and violence which creates a false image for kids to follow and starts the that negative cycle. I look to provide a fun, unique and exciting way to inspire people to want to be more positive and help others. I hope to inspire kids to look within themselves to become the ultimate person that they want to be no matter where you come from. Why just be a hero when you can become a SUPERHERO!
     
      Did it take a long time for you to craft lyrics, or did it come naturally? Is it fearful, or just second nature?

      Dre:

-          The way that put together my music it usually takes me a long time to craft my lyrics. That’s mainly because I take the time to think about every lyric I write to make it very meaningful and shape it intricately to the beat so that I can change my flow up at any time and offer a larger dynamic of enjoyment for the listeners. Writing lyrics is slowly becoming second nature to me, but I do still experience writers block occasionally when I have a powerful message I want to covey to the listeners, but struggle with finding a unique way to do so that will capture their attention and not be so complex that it’s hard to follow.

 
      What were the first items that inspired you in the realm of fashion and design? merchandising is now truly one of the keys to success. 
     
      Dre:

-          What first really inspired me in the realm of fashion was when I moved to Chicago. I started getting in the modeling world meeting a lot of designers and photographers and developed a strong interest. Columbia College Chicago is an arts school so I started taking fashion design and art classes to gather all the knowledge I could about the business and developed my own clothing company(F.S.W) with two other really good friends of mine Daryl Wright a photographer from Jamaica and Michael Amaning an actor from London, England. We took our individual passions and put them all together in the fashion realm to form styles unique and different that appeals to most demographics.  

      Do you see the role of social media like Twitter as more important than ever, or is beating the pavement with flyers and real prowess better? There sure are opinions on both side of the debate. 

      Dre:

-          Personally I feel that hitting the streets with CD’s and fliers and actually being face to face with people makes more of an impact. Anybody can make a post online and tag people in it and most of the time it’s getting ignored anyway. A smile, a hand shake and a short conversation can go long way with the right people and it makes a more lasting impact because they have the opportunity to look you right in the eyes and see your true passion for what you’re presenting to them.

   What are some of your favorite artists now, and beyond?
     
    Dre:

-          Some of my favorite artist right now and beyond are Kendrick Lamar, Ab- Soul, J.Cole, Big K.R.I.T, Lupe Fiasco, Dizzy Wright, Tech n9ne, Rittz, B.O.B, Asher Roth, Common, The Cool Kids, Pac Div, Dr. Dre, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Most Def, Tupac and Biggie Smalls. I’m sure there’s more but that’s all I can think of right now...