06-14-2022
Kendrick Lamar
Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers

I've made the comment about Kendrick's previous albums that I will almost never go back to listen to them; they're simply so good, so heavy, so profound, that it's too much of an investment to sit and take them in. Like a good novel.

Likewise, I will probably not go back to listen to Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers more than a couple times this year. But this time it's just because it's kinda a sloppy mess that I have no interest in trudging through again.

09-19-2017
Kendrick Lamar
Damn

I was wrong about Damn. I heard the singles and wrote it off. "It sounds like he's given up and reaching for radio hits," I grumbled. "It doesn't hold a candle to has last two unimpeachable classics" I groused. "It's everything wrong with the current state of popular music," I whinged. Oh but then I listened to the damn thing. I already said I was wrong, what more do you want from me?


(1)
03-27-2016
Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered

There’s this whole contingent of music writers who refuse to accept Kendrick Lamar as our lord and savior. I understand them, but I don’t understand them. And it’s not an uninformed bunch. It’s hip hop dudes (albeit, probably like, white academic hip hop dudes who listened to Wu Tang growing up and wrote their doctorate theses on “Violence and Jewish Identity in Mobb Deep’s The Infamous”). They seemingly know their stuff? And yet there’s this uncomfortable unwillingness to give Kendrick Lamar his due. I almost feel like they want to fight off dudes like, well, me, who come in as outsiders who don’t really follow their world much, don’t care which mixtape Young Thug just released, have no idea who Lil Boosie is, and suddenly proclaim Kendrick (oh, sorry… “K Dot”) the contemporary master of the art form. I get it. We’re annoying. Kind of how I felt back when the Arcade Fire became a Thing. I had to be like, “Okay, calm down everybody” and then check out for a couple album cycles. But still—what’s their problem? The dude is great. He has things to say. He has a multitude of ways to say those things. His voice is a multi-instrument ensemble. He’s extraordinarily thoughtful, but still funny and surprising. His taste in collaborators and beats and arrangements is impeccable. What’s not to like? He’s the best. And this untitled unmastered proves it; it’s a collection of “unfinished” recordings not good enough to make his last album, and it’s possibly the best hip hop album of the year. I’m sorry hip hop music writer dudes. It’s real.

04-01-2015
Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly

Speaking of geniuses: Kendrick Lamar. This guy is the best rapper currently rapping. His lyrics are sharp and thoughtful and gut-punching. His delivery is dramatic and honest and musical. His choice in producers and collaborators is impeccable, and their work is seamless and progressive. To Pimp a Butterfly (as well as M.a.a.d. City) is an host-to-god work of capital-A Art. It should be playing on repeat in a museum somewhere. It's incredible. And it's no fun at all.

11-28-2012
Kendrick Lamar
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Either I've been totally brainwashed by the tsunami of critical acclaim this Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City record has been getting, or else I'm fully convinced that it is seriously work of capital-a Art. I can't decide. But for now I'm going with Art. The lyrics, the delivery, the production, even the between-song skits (!) all come together in a way that is rare in the rap world and form something that is way bigger than the sum of its parts. There are no singles, no real hooks, nothing to play at a party. But it has this energy and narrative to it that's like reading a good book, or watching a great movie. And a legitimately emotionally jarring ending! When's the last time you've been moved by the ending of a rap album? Pretty amazing. Now I just need to get over the fact that he aped his style from Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, and I'm totally on board.

06-11-2022
Mariscos El SubmarinoQueens
Ceviche

Who knew that I loved ceviche? Raw fish dowsed in citrus and seasoning, I don't know, doesn't sound like my thing. But after an eye opening experience at Caleta 111 a while back, and now my local NYT-approved "hidden gem" of a Mexican ceviche place Mariscos El Submarino, I think I'm on board with this whole endeavor. And when I say NYT-approved, I really mean that Submarino has been appearing on every Best Of list in a bunch of different publications this year. You'd usually assume that means it's some sort of cool new hotspot, but there's truly nothing cool about this place. And not even in a "cruddy little hole in the wall" way. Their logo is a clip art cartoon of a yellow submarine with a (probably offensive but not really?) stereotypical Mexican mustache on it. I mean I guess there is a certain string of Bushwickian thinking that would lead that to be cool, but just trust me that it is not that. The walls are covered in other fish cartoons, and the entire place is inhumanely lit with bright white fluorescent lights.

But the ceviche! Wow! I mean, I guess wow, because I thought it was delicious, and seemingly does every food writer in New York. But like I said, I truly have only had ceviche like 3 times in my life now, so hell if I have any idea what makes it good or bad. But just on pure enjoyment alone, hell yeah, I'd say this is some excellent damn ceviche.

06-11-2022
98k HamburgerQueens
Chicken sandwich

So I'm trying this new burger-slash-chicken place in my neighborhood (well rather, the adjacent and heavily Chinese and Taiwanese neighborhood of Elmhurst), 98k Hamburger. It's fairly new, I'd seen it before and thought that I'd give it a shot some day. It's mostly unremarkable from the outside, other than they have an odd logo that almost looks something like a gun scope? Who knows.

But as I'm waiting for my order inside, I see that there's some sort of crossed-rifle military or paramilitary crossed-gun insignia stenciled on all of their seats. Very odd, definitely not an accident, but suddenly their gun scope logo makes some sort of sense. I don't really understand the design decision, maybe they just got the chairs from some surplus outlet that made them for a different client?

But then I go around the corner from the register after ordering, and in the hall leading to the bathroom there are these giant vinyl wall graphics, both high contrast, like comic-book style black and white. One is a woman in a military hat holding a small machine gun. One is a guy with a stocking cap pointing a handgun towards the camera. WTF? So aggressive! But weirdly familiar?

Then I look further down the hall into the open door of the bathroom, and when I see the vinyl design on the bathroom wall suddenly it all makes sense; my god, this is a PUBG themed restaurant.

A quick google of "98k PUBG" showed me that the Kar 98, aka the 98k, is a very popular sniper rifle in the game. And that the crossed rifles of the military insignia on the seats were indeed the silhouette of the 98k. I further noticed the phrase "Winner winner chicken dinner" vinyled on another wall, which initially made sense for it being a chicken restaurant, but suddenly made way more sense in the context of a fucking PUBG themed burger and chicken place randomly on the streets of Queens.

It's so weird! The oddest part being how they don't like really go for it, y'know? If you don't notice the rifle insignias, or go back to the bathroom and see the PUBG logo behind the toilet, you wouldn't really guess what's happening. Because otherwise the restaurant is a very average, plain, independent fast food counter, playing some adult-contemporary Chinese pop music on the radio and the weather channel looping on a TV in the corner.

And yes the chicken sandwich was a winner.

05-26-2022
Chun YangQueens
Toffee cheese foam cocoa latte

Best toffee cheese foam cocoa latte I've ever had.

05-22-2022
PARTEAQueens
Taiwanese pork chop sandwich

This place Partea (formerly Play Date, I don't know if the rebranding is a step up or down), is right in the heart of Flushing, and is basically an arcade that only contains claw machine games. I'm sure if you're into that thing it's probably pretty fun. But up front, they also serve bubble tea, and an assortment of fried chickeny things, and fries, and maybe some simple dumplings. I never thought much of this place walking by it, until one day they were advertising this new Taiwanese pork chop sandwich. Now, I'm sucker for a fried pork loin sandwich, which basically are impossible to find here, and I did once have a Tawainese pork chop (also in Flushing), and thought it was delicious. So yes, I was immediately interested. A few weeks later I was finally in the right place at the right time, so here we go!

You might notice above that I posted a picture of the advertisement, rather than the actual sandwich. This is because the actual sandwich I was served looked perfect. Exactly like the professional photo. It was remarkable really. And it tasted nearly as ideal. Subtle, not some extreme taste explosion, but just a really nicely marinated and seasoned pork, some five-spice flavor vibes, fried just about perfectly, topped with some cole slaw and that was it. Honestly, it was good enough that a restaurant could basically use it as the cornerstone product of the entire menu. Like "Omg you have to go to this new Taiwanese pork chop sandwich place!" The fact that it was just a new menu item at this place that sells boba tea and hosts claw machine parties is pretty wild.