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I’m Ekko. I’ve been blogging since 2001. I started with music, then added some humor and miscellany, and now also write extensively about comic books. These are my lifelong loves.

If you want to submit your music or art for consideration, please e-mail me ekalett@yahoo.com. I read and listen to all submissions, but only review the ones that I really like. I do not review music released on a label that is part of the RIAA. This is an independent site.

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THE TOP TEN INDIE HIP HOP ALBUMS OF 2014

As always, my emphasis is on indie and small labels, and I generally don’t write anything about stuff on Def Jam, Columbia, Sony, etc. Not that there’s not good music to be found there, it’s just that that’s not the spirit of my site.

This is the best indie hip hop I heard in 2014, with a few major label exceptions.

TOO LATE TO LISTEN TO ENOUGH TO LIST BUT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE MADE IT IF I’D HEARD IT EARLIER:
Ghostface Killah-36 Seasons.
The Kid’s still got it.

RUNNER UP:
MIGOS-Rich Nigga Timeline
This is the first time I ever heard a rapper sing as a cow (listen to “Move”). A playful, silly, smart mixtape–too many rappers sound hard, but Migos is clearly having fun. Even when he’s rapping about doing time in prison and selling drugs.

10. YOUR OLD DROOG-Your Old Droog
For some reason, Droog’s sound and style makes me thing of rap-rock but in truth this is pure hip hop. And there’s a section of “Nutty Bars” where he goes off on vanilla wafers that’s truly extraordinary. Great rap from a young, NYC newcomer.

Half the songs on the full length are available on a freEP from Soundcloud. They also happen to mostly be the better half of the album, although the whole thing is pretty great.

9. JETPACK JONES AND BROCK BERRIGAN-Shades of Mary
“Do you wanna roll or what? Let me hold that butt!” Because every top ten list needs a kick-back rap record.

8. NAS-“The Season”
All we get is a single, but it’s the great Nasir over a J Dilla beat, so needless to say it’s amazing.

7. BIG BOI-Mash Up Mondays
The Outkast member and producer throws Kid Cudi in the pool with Stevie Wonder, Bobby Hunter against Pharrell, and, best of all, remixes Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” with monstrously heavy bars from Big K.R.I.T. It may not be an album, it may not even be legal, but damn it’s awesome. If you’ve never liked mash-ups before, you’ll like these.
6. HOMEBOY SANDMAN-Hallways
Queens-born Homeboy Sandman broke in 2008, receiving accolades from several respected New York critics, and landing an emcee gig at NY’s longest running poetry slam. In 2011, he signed with Stones Throw, and this year he released his most interesting album yet. Most of his material continues to straddle the line between gangsta reveries and political polemics, but it does so well and so often (even within the same song), that it can be hard to get the message he’s sending. This is an album you have to stop and listen to, and even then you won’t catch it all. He’s got lyricism, flow, wit, and power. True power.

5. SNOH AALEGRA feat. COMMON-Bad Things
Wow.

4. ACE COSGROVE-Us vs. Robots
Ace Cosgrove’s mixtape, with stellar production from I.V., Black Diamond, and others, is a true showcase. He can do the righteous, black power thing (“Burning Slums”), the bouncy sex joint (“Damn She’s Right”), stoner rap (“High 4”), and fast-talking bullet train money songs (“Getting Loot”). And it all sounds natural and effortless. Awesome.

3. DEJ LOAF-Sell Sole
Crazy, powerful hip hop from a female emcee. There’s definitely not enough of this around these days.

2. AMERIGO GAZEAWAY-Yasiin Gaye (The Departure)
When it’s done right, “Mash Up” is a misnomer. There’s nothing crammed, shoved, or forced-to-fit in producer Amerigo Gazaway’s masterpiece mixtape that blends Marvin Gaye’s vocals and music with the likes of Mos Def (real name: Yasiin Bey, hence the mixtape name) and other talented artists like Teddy Pendergrass, Tammi Terrell, and Talib Kweli (as well as some original in-studio music).
The result is an album that sounds like an original, instead of two great songs crammed into one decent one that rides on the coattails of the originals by giving you just enough familiar hooks to keep you amused.

1. FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB
Grimey rap. If we never ever get the promised collaboration between MF DOOM and Ghostface Killah, we can at least say we got this.

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TOP FIVE #1 COMIC BOOK ISSUES OF 2014

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So the movement in comic publishing is towards lots of #1 issues.  Start a series, end it quick, and relaunch it.  But how good are they?  Most of Marvel’s #1s really introduce story arcs, not characters, so in my view they’re not really “#1 issues.”  They’re just renumberings to sell units.   Not that there’s anything (necessarily) wrong with that.  But a true #1 is an introduction to a concept—it launches something different, something new.  Most of the #1s on this list didn’t make my “best series” list because I was trying to avoid too much duplication.

But in some cases, particularly with Ms. Marvel, it’s appropriate—I can’t praise that book enough. 

Here were my five favorite debuts of the year….

BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP 5 #1 ISSUES (ONE IS A DEBUT OF A NEW CREATIVE TEAM) OF 2014

5.  Superior Iron Man #1 (Marvel).  

I had zero interest in an Iron Man book that rehashed Dan Slott’s brilliant Doc Ock Spider-Man, but when I saw it would be written by
Tom “Injustice: Gods Among Us” Taylor, I decided to give it a try.  And I was very surprised.  It’s not just “evil Tony.”  (Actually, we already got that in Civil War.)  It’s Tony on steroids.  True, it’s not the most original comic around.  There’s a lot of the tired rich playboy conventions here, but it’s so well-executed that it makes my list.  Plus, in terms of its introduction to a new take on a character it was seamless.  I’m definitely interested in staying with this book. 

4.  Rai #1 (Valiant)

Rai #1

I didn’t know anything about this character going in, and bought this solely based on Matt Kindt being the writer (his creator-owned Mind MGT is a regular “best of the year” entry for me).  I was delighted to find the painted art of Clayton Crain, who I’d never heard of before this.  And even better, Kindt’s writing in superhero books has never thrilled me, but in this odd amalgam ghost story/legend/super tale, he excelled.  A great #1 that introduced a brand new world that felt at once new and exciting and familiar enough to be comfortable.

3.  Superman #32 (DC). 

Unlike many, I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s opening shot across the New 52 bow with his short run on Action Comics.  But like many, I found every other N52 Superman book quite lacking.  Boring, even.  In a super-hyped move, the all-star team of Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr., and Klaus Janson revamped the character and, in a single issue, brought him back into focus and made me eager to read more.  

Maybe the oddest thing about this issue was that in an era of constant reboots and renumberings, DC did not take advantage of a clear opportunity to rebrand their flagship character–even when sales are lagging dramatically.

2.  The Kitchen #1 (Vertigo). 

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2014 may have been a good year for horror but it wasn’t so kind to crime stories.  Ed Brubaker had two books, Fatale and The Fade Out, and both are good but they didn’t feel fresh.  They felt like what we already knew he could write.  Then in mid-November Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle dropped The Kitchen.  The first issue quickly established the premise: Three mobsters go to jail, leaving their wives behind to keep their protection rackets going.  It’s a neat idea, even it if feels vaguely familiar, but what sells it is the location: 1970s Hell’s Kitchen.  It was the neighborhood of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, but this time there’s no avenging angel.  The atmosphere is tough, the dialog and characterization is tight and crisp, and the art is Ming Doyle.  Which means it’s fantastic.

1.  Ms. Marvel #1 (Marvel).  

The first issue of one of the best series of the year.  Hell, best of the decade as far as I’m concerned.

Next: Enough stalling.  My favorite comics of 2014.

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OK, SO OTHER THAN NOLAN’S BATMOVIES, DC MOVIES HAVE PRETTY MUCH SUCKED FOR DECADES. T.V., ON THE OTHER HAND…An Update of Comic Book TV Adaptations

supergirl from the moviesDC has made some more announcements about pending TV shows, and that sounds potentially…Complicated. DC’s comic book movies have generally been less-than stellar. Man of Steel. Green Lantern. Superman Returns. Catwoman. Jonah Hex. Batman and Robin. You have to go all the way back to 1992 to get a decent mainstream DC superhero film (“Batman Returns”). (I’m not counting 2009’s Watchmen because it didn’t feature DCU heroes.) Even Vertigo movies haven’t fared too well. I loved RED and The Losers, but both of those came out in 2010. Other than that, you’ve got RED 2 and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Go back to 2006 and you can shoehorn V for Vendetta on to the list of good ones, but then you have to take the Keanu Reeves Constantine. Ugh.

But turn to TV and the story changes. Historically, DC started making solid TV shows with Lois and Clark (1993-1997), followed by Smallville and the underrated Birds of Prey. Today’s crop is good as well. Constantine ain’t bad. Flash is damn good. Gotham borders on being good enough to be a“real” cop drama—instead of a super-hero story. And everyone (except me) loves The Arrow. So it’s no wonder DC is diving in heavy to the world of TV. Here’s a round-up of a few planned projects that seem more than likely to reach fruition:

  • Supergirl. Early indications were this would stand alone, but now they’re talking about crossing this CBS show over with Flash and Arrow.
  • Static Shock. Details are sketchy, and this one really might not be a go—it might only be a series of shorts.
  • Young Justice. Another one where there’s not a lot of info, but it may be coming to the CW.
  • Krypton. David S. Goyer, who worked on the afore-mentioned Nolan Batman flicks, is developing a SyFy series about, get this, Superman’s granddaddy.
  • Titans. Geoff Johns has stated a pilot for a show featuring Nightwing, Raven and Starfire will shoot in 2015 for, of all places, TNT. Has anything worth watching ever appeared on TNT?
  • Hourman and Dr. Fate.  There’ve been rumors about more of DC’s “dark” or “magic” characters getting series—and Dr. Fate’s helmet appeared in Constantine, but with that show being on the bubble for cancellation the 8-ball says signs point to “no” for future development.

They’re also moving forward with many Vertigo properties:

izombie tv show

  • iZombie. This is a lock for a midseason series.
  • Preacher. AMC has ordered a pilot from Seth Rogen’s production company.
  • DMZ. Also for SyFy.
  • Lucifer. A “Sandman” spin-off, for FOX.
  • Ronin.  Not technically a Vertigo book, this was the book that proved there could even be a Vertigo-type publication.  Frank Miller’s Samurai cyberpunk story has been in development for decades, but as of April it looked like Syfy was moving forward with it. 
  • Global Frequency. Based on the brilliant Warren Ellis Wildstorm comic about a tactical team fighting threats around the world—for FOX. This has already been in development before, so it may never happen.
  • Scalped. For WGN America. Of all these, this to me is the most easily adaptable to serialized TV.

Looking at the roster above, and the array of networks involved, I can’t help but think of scattershot. Marvel has been very protective of its properties—having learned the hard way that other studios can make crap films from their source material. It may be time for DC to learn the same lesson.

Speaking of Marvel, it’s Agents of SHIELD has been trying its best to impress in 2014, but for me it still is falling short.  It’s just too…I dunno.  Serious?  Heavy?  DC’s Cinematic Universe is known for being bleak and dark—Marvel usually has more charm and wit.  But the table seems to be turned for Marvel TV.  What’s in the hopper for 2015 and beyond?

peggy carter dum dum dugan naked

  • Netflix.  We all know about the planned connected Netflix Unverse of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil, which will come together in a Defenders series.  Marvel recenlty announced that Jessica Jones, the hero of Brian Michael Bendis’ groundbreaking “Alias” series and the wife of Luke Cage, will be played by Krysten “Jessie’s girlfriend in Breaking Bad” Ritter.  Great choice.
  • Peggy Carter: Agent of SHIELD.  As the tepid Agents of SHIELD goes on hiatus, a “miniseries” period piece about that chick who helped Steve Rogers out in Captain America: First Avenger will air—and it promises to give a lot of backstory about the SHIELD agency.  I find myself really not caring.  I’ll watch it, I just don’t think I’ll care much.

Of course, the best live comic book show of all time isn’t Marvel or DC.  It’s Image, and it’s on AMC.  The Walking Dead is getting a spin-off in 2014, so we’ll get less downtime between feedings.  The second show will not tie in with the flagship—it will be about completely different characters.

As for the rest of indie TV, there’s tons of rumors and “probably won’t ever happen” stuff, but you can probably expect to actually see these:

  • The Strain.  A second season of gross-out silliness that for some reason I keep watching even though it’s pretty bad.
  • Powers.  Technically this is at least partially a Marvel show (it’s published by Icon, which is Marvel’s equivalent of DC’s Vertigo), but the book has also been published by Image Comics and Marvel Studios has nothing to do with it.  The good news is, Brian Michael Bendis’ comic about cops investigating superhero homicides is tailor made for episodic TV.  The bad news?  It’s going to be on Playstation Network, so no one will see it.
  • Archie.  A “Riverdale” series is being developed for FOX.  Too bad it’s not based on After Life With Archie, the terrific and dark zombie comic.  (Why not tie this in with Walking Dead—two comic shows for the price of one!)
  • Outcast.  Robert “Walking Dead” Kirkman’s book about an exorcist is one of my picks for the best comics of 2014, and Cinemax has already ordered a pilot episode.
  • Clone.  This Image Comics book is a wild ride—a nonstop action book where everyone looks alike.  Think about Matrix 2, where Neo is fighting all the clone agents, and you kind of get the idea.  It’s being developed, but this one is probably a long reach.
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