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The Madhouse: Week of 4/17 - Quarantining with Wu-Tang affiliates, twin-stick shooters

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This is an NBA blog.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard Performs at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic

This quarantine/lockdown/stay-at-home-order/shelter-in-place whatever it’s called, is not going well.

Truthfully, outside of Vegas Golden Knights games and the monthly or so brunch, my day-to-day has not changed all that significantly.

But I think it’s the idea that I cannot go to certain places, or shouldn’t go to certain places that creates the biggest mental hurdle.

Do I want to swing by my local sporting apparel retailer to see if any of the Phoenix Suns hats have been marked down to five dollars? No. But I want to if I want to.

But I can’t. Which is fine I guess, because I wear a 7 5/8 and haven’t had a haircut since January 28th so it probably wouldn’t fit anyway.

Here’s how I’m filling the time:

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO

Once upon a time, before fans of rap music were forced to choose between Jay Z and Nas, but after fans were forced to choose between 2Pac and Biggie, there was a much less heralded rivalry that existed. If only briefly.

No Limit vs. Wu-Tang.

Did you forget that sliver of time in music’s history? I understand. It’s forgettable. Like the Miami Dolphins / Buffalo Bills rivalry.

Furthermore, I’ll concede that perhaps that only existed in my corner of southwestern Indiana. And maybe it was only a thing because I could only afford to buy one CD at a time. And that’s with my discount as a Circuit City customer service associate.

At their respective peaks if feels like these factions were cranking out an album every week. And there were clowns who bought those albums. All of them. Didn’t have to hear a single word off the album or read a single review. You’d buy them on Tuesday afternoon after school. As routine as balancing your checkbook.

So I looked it up. It wasn’t weekly, but it was a lot. Here’s what No Limit Records released in 1998:

Young Bleed - My Balls & My Word

Silkk the Shocker - Charge It 2 da Game

C-Murder - Life or Death

Various Artists - I Got the Hook Up

Sons of Funk - The Game of Funk

Fiend - There’s One in Every Family

Soulja Slim - Give It 2 ‘Em Raw

Master P - MP Da Last Don

Kane & Abel - Am I My Brother’s Keeper

Mac - Shell Shocked

Snoop Dogg - Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told

Big Ed - The Assassin

Skull Duggery - These Wicked Streets

Magic - Sky’s the Limit

Various Artists - Mean Green

Prime Suspects - Guilty ‘til Proven Innocent

Gambino Family - Ghetto Organized

Mia X - Mama Drama

Ghetto Commission - Wise Guys

Steady Mobb’n - Black Mafia

Full Blooded - Memorial Day

Various Artists - We Can’t Be Stopped

Mystikal - Ghetto Fabulous

And because this is what quarantined NBA blogging looks like, I reviewed the Wu-Tang releases:

Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Tang Forever

Killarmy - Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars

GP Wu - Don’t Go Against the Grain

Killah Priest - Heavy Mental

Cappadonna - The Pillage

Sunz of Man - The Last Shall Be First

Wu-Tang Clan - The Swarm

Killarmy - Dirty Weaponry

Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day

RZA - Bobby Digital in Stereo

Wu-Tang Clan - Wu-Chronicles

Wu-Syndicate - Wu-Syndicate (album)

RZA - The RZA Hits

GZA - Beneath the Surface

Ol’ Dirty Bastard - N**** Please

Method Man & Redman - Blackout!

Inspectah Deck - Uncontrolled Substance

U-God - Golden Arms Redemption

Raekwon - Immobilarity

Now, it’s important to note, and pay attention otherwise you won’t be able to follow the narrative, I’ve included some releases from 1997 and 1999 on the Wu-Tang list.

Yes friends, I was the guy that bought every single Wu-Tang album, regardless of how flimsy the artists’ relationship with Wu-Tang Clan proper may have been.

So if you found yourself in Evansville, Indiana circa 1998 and passed a 1987 red Nissan Stanza with three MTX Blue Thunder subwoofers in the back and heard the unmistakable stylings of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, that may have been your (future) favorite Phoenix Suns blogger.

My only regret is that I spent hundreds (thousands?) of dollars when we were knocking on the door of really figuring out how to steal music.

So our current global health crisis has provided me the opportunity to dig deep in my archives and revisit some music. Not Wu-Tang Clan albums, or solo albums from those guys, but the work of ‘affiliate’ members. However that’s defined.

Some of it holds up. Some of it doesn’t. Here are a few highlights:

Killarmy - Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars

See, kids, albums used to have “themes.” Wikipedia says:

Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars is the debut from Wu-Tang affiliate Killarmy released on August 5, 1997 on Wu-Tang/Priority Records. The group consists of six MCs: Killa Sin, Beretta 9, Islord, 9th Prince, P.R. Terrorist (now Dom Pachino), and ShoGun Assasson; and one producer, 4th Disciple, who produced the majority of the album. Like Black Lung’s album of the same name, the title was taken from a document that came to light in the mid-1980s detailing an alleged New-World Order plan for world domination; a topic that was explored in Milton William Cooper’s infamous book Behold a Pale Horse.

Silent Weapons initially received mixed reviews from critics, who saw the group as a low-rent version of the Wu-Tang Clan because of similarities in the group’s street-oriented Five-Percenter rhymes and dark production. The album was well received by Wu-Tang and underground hip hop fans—acclaimed for its unique combat themes and stellar production work.

The album was entirely produced by 4th Disciple, except for two tracks that were produced by Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA. Guest appearances include Clan member Masta Killa as well as Clan affiliates Streetlife, Hell Razah and Prodigal Sunn (both of whom are members of Sunz of Man). The album features the singles “Swinging Swords,” “Camouflage Ninjas” b/w “Wake Up,” and “Wu-Renegades” b/w “Clash of the Titans.”

Look, if you want to dig deep and really think about this stuff, you’re provided the opportunity. If not, the album is about war. This what some music sounded like in 1997, and you’re unlikely to find it in 2020.

If you listen to one track listen to the RZA produced Wake Up.

Sunz of Man - The Last Shall Be First

This is more thoughtful stuff that you could argue tries too hard.

Sunz of Man is a Wu-Tang Clan affiliated group that currently consists of Prodigal Sunn, Hell Razah, 60 Second Assassin, Shabazz the Disciple and Killah Priest. The group’s first incarnation also included 7th Ambassador and Supreme. It is one of the earliest and most successful of Wu affiliates along with Killarmy, basing much of its lyrical content on biblical stories, social issues, conspiracy theories, and a dose of Five Percenter teachings.

Man. Maybe the No Limit fans were right. This stuff gets dark in places.

There’s plenty of conspiracy talk, that’s for sure. Perhaps that has its place in 2020. If you listen to one track listen to Shining Star which features ODB.

Cappadonna - The Pillage

This is good. Very good. From a guy that many people think shouldn’t even be considered an ‘affiliate’ member of the Wu-Tang Clan, rather, a full-fledged member.

In fact, he likely would have been part of the Wu, had it not been for a prison stint that paved the way for Method Man to join the group. As it is, many consider him the 10th member of the Clan.

I enjoyed listening to this again. Not as much as I enjoy the solo efforts from artists like GZA, Raekwon, and Ghostface, but it definitely holds up.

I did not re-listen to his sophomore album The Yin and the Yang. And I did not listen to his third album, a greatest hits album, because you probably don’t need a greatest hits album, if you have only released two albums.

If you check out one track make it, Run.

WHAT I’M PLAYING

Twin-stick shooters.

But before I tell you which twin-stick shooters in particular, I have three beefs I need to get off my chest.

  1. These games are too hard to find. How much time do these video game people think I have? Fine, fine. Enough time to play the games, and then blog about playing the game, I’ll grant you that. But not enough time to dig and dig and dig to find the gems.

Here’s the problem. Whether it’s Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox, you’re likely to only find the genre ‘shooter.’

That means anything from this:

To this:

THESE ARE NOT THE SAME.

2. Believe it or not, ‘shoot ‘em ups’ often feature adult themes. And adult imagery. Like it’s basically anime porn on either side of the actual playing screen. And while I’m not saying that has to go away, can we make PG versions of these games so that I can get some shmupping in while my daughter is watching Daniel Tiger on the Ipad?

3. There aren’t enough companies making horizontal shooters, vertical shooters, twin-stick shooters, basically anything that’s not first or third person. It is a dying genre. And it makes me sad.

Ok here’s what I’ve been getting into in this new world:

The Binding of Isaac

If you’ve heard of this before, you probably own it. If you haven’t, you’re getting in at the right time. This game is superb. Beyond superb. Arguably the best video game I’ve played as an adult.

I own multiple versions of it on multiple consoles. It is simple, fun, and extremely addictive. I’m unsure of how many expansion packs and such they are up to right now, but the gameplay is limitless.

If you are unsure of what you want to play, or perhaps want to try something new while there’s not s*** to do, check this one out. It was released forever ago so it’s on sale all the time.

Nex Machina

So this one is great. And you know what? You’re unlikely to see something like this again.

Why? The company that blessed us with spectacular work, Housemarque, said this in August of ‘17:

Lackluster sales of Nex Machina have led us to the thinking that it is time to bring our longstanding commitment to the arcade genre to an end. While this genre will always hold a special place in our hearts, the industry is moving more toward multiplayer experiences with strong, robust communities, and it’s time for Housemarque to move forward with the industry. Hence Nex Machina and Matterfall will be the last of their kind coming out of our studio. Our purpose as a company remains the same, however – to create enjoyable and memorable gaming experiences for players while simultaneously creating a great workplace that allows people to flourish both professionally and personally.

What’s that means? It means Housemarque gave up on games like Nex Machina because YOU said YOU liked Fortnite more.

Animals.

This one raked in the awards, with good reason. Play it. If you’re familiar with the twin-stick genre you should get through it the first time without too much trouble. Then the difficulty spikes and you’re in for a real challenge.

This one is on sale all the time too.

Resogun

More Housemarque here, but I’ll save you from another rant about how you played a role in crushing the dreams of truly great arcade game makers because I already did that.

This is a $5 game. A PS4 exclusive, Nex Machina too, I should have said that. And is probably the most accessible on this list.

Learning curve is nothing, it is truly simple to learn. There’s a story. I think. Who cares? Not me. Neither should you. Games with stories are overrated. Lets blow s*** up.

I play this one with a joystick. If you have the means, I really recommend. It’s as good of a gaming experience as you’re going to get.

Lastly

My fourth wedding anniversary was on Thursday. My wife is building me garden beds as a gift. So the gardening thing is happening. Stay tuned.