Courtesy Dreamville Records
“Follow your heart. Don’t follow what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do,” Jermaine Lamarr Cole, aka rapper J. Cole, said in an interview. And that’s what he did in this atypical new album.
After his “Revenge Of The Dreamers III” album dropped on July 5, it has remained at the top of the Billboard charts, peaking at the number 1 spot. ROTD3 is the third studio album created by Dreamville, J. Cole’s label which features the rappers Bas, Cozz, Omen, J.I.D, Lute, Earth Gang and J. Cole himself, and singer Ari Lennox all with their own unique sound. In addition to this they invited tons of outside artists and producers including Cleveland rapper Dababy and famous producer Kenny Beats, making it a truly special project.
Because of the uniqueness of each member, each song feels completely unattached from the last. It’s hard to listen to this album as one cohesive project; it’s a much more enjoyable experience if you listen to it as a collection of solo songs rather than an album. Despite this, each song has something different to offer and any fan of hip hop should be able to find a song they enjoy.
The album kicks off with “Under The Sun” which is easily one of my favorite songs from the album. It has a relaxing and melodic beat which uses a gospel sample as the intro. The sample sets the mood for the whole song. On top of that it uses vocals from famous Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar singing, “I woke up for some money” as the chorus. It really brings the whole song together.
J. Cole fittingly takes the first verse of this album, which he made possible through years of his own classic rap albums and slowly assembling the Dreamville team. The lyrics of this first verse are fairly basic and don’t have any particularly deep message. But, he does use some clever word play including at least one double entendre. What he lacks in lyrics he makes up for in every other way—the flow and rhythm of Cole’s verse really brings an upbeat energy and creates an unshakeable anticipation for the rest of the album.
Next is Dreamville rapper Lute who proves his own abilities in this verse. He has a slightly more gritty cadence than Cole, but his fits perfectly with the beat and the overall tone of the song. Even with less experience, he is nearly able to keep up with Cole’s impressive flow. He even drops a couple of really great lyrics, like in the middle of his verse where he raps “I don’t even need a reason, loyalty over treason,” to show his loyalty to Cole and the rest of the label.
The final verse is rapped by North Carolina artist Dababy, a feature no one could have seen coming because of his unique style. It seems like it would be out of place with the Dreamville cast. Despite this, he is able to hold his own against Cole and Lute in this masterpiece.
I am also a big fan of “Self Love” and “Sleep Deprived.” In both these songs there’s a chill beat, and Ari Lenox introduces beautiful vocals with clear RnB and soul influences. It’s incredibly refreshing for a rap album.
“Self Love” has a great message of being confident in yourself and not changing yourself for other people. Ari and the artist Baby Rose take turns singing the hook of the song, “self love is the best love, buy your love is the worst drug…” Ari and Rose have beautifully alternating vocal tones with Ari taking higher notes while Rose focuses on the lower end of the spectrum. Overall it’s a really beautiful song with a beautiful message that even someone who's not a fan of rap could enjoy.
The final gem from this album is a song called “Wells Fargo.” This song has a surprisingly large roster of four rappers, considering the song is only about two minutes. This song is not a lyrical or storytelling masterpiece but its a fun song to listen to and I can’t help but keep coming back to it. Even before the music starts I find myself amused by the intro where the rappers talk in fake wealthy British accents and plan to rob a Wells Fargo bank, saying things like “your grace is that my flame thrower beside you” and “ my lord, my lord, please hand me the bazooka”. Along with the funny undertones of the lyrics, I find the chorus beyond catchy and JID’s flow in the first verse is easily one of the most impressive off the entire album.
Even though I love this album and a lot of the songs on it, like any album there are some songs I don't like at all and I feel like they have no replay ability after the first listen. You may not agree but one of my pet peeves in hip hop is when there’s a beat switch in the middle of a song, instead of one good complete song you end up getting two broken segments of songs with no chemistry whatsoever which makes it nearly impossible for me to listen to more than once.
Because of this I really don’t like the songs “Oh Wow...Swerve” and “Rembrandt...Run It Back.” Ideally these songs would be broken in two separate pieces both of which would be better than them being squished together under the guise of being one song. However if you were to break them in half, both halves would still need significant work to be able to be considered complete songs.
Overall this is a great project and I highly recommend everyone listens to it at least once. Even if you don’t like most of the songs, chances are there will be at least one which you will enjoy. Along with the music, Dreamville uploaded a documentary showing their process in making the album on their YouTube channel. The documentary shows the artists and producers writing and practicing lyrics, creating beats and getting to know each other. In only 10 days the Dreamville team and those they invited created about a hundred songs then narrowed it down to the 18 best ones which appeared on the album.
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Courtesy Playdead
Lots of gamers play first-person shooter games, but what they are missing out on is an experience no FPS can offer better than a game like “Inside." “Inside” is an indie, 2.5D puzzle platformer. The game has some 3D aspects like allowing the player to get behind objects, but the environment is primarily two-dimensional.
Throughout the game, there is lots of action varying from being chased by a pack of wolves to playing as a big blob of limbs trying to escape a lab. You play as a boy and start by sliding down a cliff into the frame. I didn’t mind the absence of the back story because it allows the player an infinite amount of creativity. “Inside” makes up for its lack of story with the chilling but beautiful 2.5D environment. To solve the puzzles, the player interacts with boxes that can be pushed or pulled and walls that need to be climbed using colorful birds. The black and gray color scheme allows for the developers to play with other colors as part of the storytelling.
One might think that since this is an indie adventure game there won’t be challenges, but that is untrue. A simple FPS enemy couldn’t compare to some of the puzzles in this game that require creative thinking more than spamming. The game challenges you the second you slide of the cliff onto land. Rather than just fighting, you’ll have to find ways to avoid dogs that chase you down and snap your neck, mermaids that try to drag you to the bottom of the sea, evil men who are trying to kill you, drones that are trying to track you down and tase you to death, big sonic cannons that blow the flesh off of you and possessed animals trying to kill anything and anyone that crosses their path. The challenges that you face really push the average gamer to think harder.
There may be a lot of enemies, but you have allies. Two little chickens follow you and help you get through parts where you need to get over large obstacles like walls, and there are mindless human bodies — fully intact but empty vessels — that follow you when you gain access to the helmets that control them. The vessels help you jump higher by picking you up and stop you from falling to death by catching you.
The game has different settings and lots of  puzzles and you complete the game after you solve them all and escape the lab. If you are scared of getting lost in the challenges, there are lots of YouTubers that post walk throughs you could refer to for that little bit of help. If you complete all the hidden challenges, help or no help, you will unlock an ending fit for all the work you did with more mystery and questions than the normal ending. “Inside” is a perfect mix of thriller and adventure all fixed into a perfect package. The game will take on average 3-4 hours to complete and will leave you feeling accomplished.
“Inside” is available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, iOS and PC. Find out where to purchase it for your device at https://playdead.com/games/inside/. Rated M (17+) for Blood and Gore and Violence.
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Courtesy IGDB
Over the last few decades, the rise of a new form of athlete has become commonplace. The esports athlete, a professional video game player who competes on the global stage in their game of specialty, has become the career inspiration for kids all over the world. One of the biggest games in the esports scene is “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege,” but this game did not always see this level of success. 

Published and developed by Ubisoft Montreal, “Siege” was released on Dec. 1, 2015 and met with extremely mixed reviews. “Siege” is a first-person shooter built around 5-on-5 tactical team-based gameplay. Players take on counterterrorism operations like rescuing a hostage, taking control of key locations or defusing a bomb. At its release, it quickly became apparent that the game had a number of problems: poor lighting quality, a small roster of characters, known as operators, and several game-breaking bugs and weapons that made the game unenjoyable to play at home and impossible to play in a competitive environment. 

Nonetheless, Ubisoft stuck with it. 

When a game published by a AAA developer tanks, they tend to just let it die and make whatever profit they can from the ashes. Though AAA projects are the games with the highest budgets and expectations, developed by the studios that control the games industry, most developers decide that taking the loss is better than putting more time into a game that’s already been written off.  Despite this, Ubisoft, one of the biggest developers in the world, decided to stick with their project, and continue to develop it into a polished, finished product. 

Through a series of updates over the past three years, “Siege” has slowly patched itself into a beautiful, fully-functional game that supports an open and diverse community, both in the competitive scene and otherwise.  I initially thought it would never be the type of game I would enjoy, but “Siege” has kept me hooked since I first got my hands on it in August 2016.  It was the game that motivated me to buy a PC, the game that motivates me to get better and better, the game that I have sunk countless hours into and play competitively in the hopes that one day,  I, too, may make my mark on the competitive esports scene. 

Currently, the pro scene for “Siege” has two leagues — the Pro League and the Challenger League — run by Electronic Sports League, the world’s biggest esports platform. The Pro League is where the best of the best play and the Challenger League is for the second-tier teams, although every team in the Challenger League still has a roster made up of some the best players in the world.  At the end of the season, relegation matches force the bottom two teams from the Pro League and the top two teams from the Challenger League to play each other to determine who gets to play in the following Pro League season. The Pro League is currently in its tenth season. 

As it currently stands, there are two six-month seasons each year for the Pro and Challenger Leagues. Each season, the top two teams in the regions of North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia/Pacific compete for the title of Pro League Champion.  Additionally, there are two other primary competitions during the year, known as the Major and the Invitational, where 16 of the best teams from all over the world, regardless of region and league fight for the trophy and title of world champions.  There are several other official tournaments and leagues hosted throughout the “Siege” world, including several community-run leagues and tournaments, but these are the most important ones. 

Last month, the second-ever Major was hosted in Raleigh, Texas, where five teams from North America, five teams from Europe, three teams from Asia/Pacific and three teams from Latin America battled to claim the better part of the $500,000 prize pool. The competition was won by Team Empire from Russia. 

The 2019 Invitational and it’s $2 million prize pool were won by the European team G2 Esports, the greatest team to ever play the game, taking home the title of world champions and $800,000. The G2 roster — currently composed of the players Fabian, Pengu, UUNO, Kantoraketti and Goga, along with their coaches Shas and Sua) — has earned the reputation of being the best after winning the Paris Major in 2018, the 2018 and 2019 Invitationals, and 4 out of the 9 Pro League seasonal finals.  Other great teams like Evil Geniuses and Liquid have seen great levels of success, but none to the extreme degree that this titan of the “Siege” esports scene has seen. Over time, “Siege” and its competitive scene have evolved into what it is now: a thriving, lively community of people who all share the same passion, “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege”.
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Courtesy Sony Animation
Did you ever expect to see a comic book moving on the screen? Well, in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the movie brings originality with its animation of the comic book, by bringing speech balloons and emanatas to the screen.
Many Spider-Man movies follow the traditional storyline: a boy named Peter Parker, who works at the Daily Bugle newspaper, gets bitten by a radioactive spider and inherits crazy super powers and uses them to fight crime. But, directors Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman bring something special to this new Spider-Man movie, revealing that Peter Parker is not the only Spider-Man. Better yet, he’s in a world that has more than just one spider person.
This film follows Miles Morales, a high school student who acquires spider powers and doesn’t know how to live his new life. In the movie, there is a secret portal that leads to other dimensions, and this causes the death of the original Spider-Man (Peter Parker) but also brings different counterparts from other dimensions. And with the counterparts’ help, Morales tries to accept his new identity and also tries to close this portal so that everyone can go back to their dimensions.
A word that can describe this movie: original. One of the reasons is that this movie brought the 2014 comic book series “Spider-Verse” onto the big screen, a Spider-Man storyline that has never been shown in theater.
The other reason is that the animation used in the movie is really innovative. The halftone, the hatching and the line work clearly demonstrate that it’s a comic book, but it’s a moving comic book. They make the characters from the comic book come out from the paper and onto the screen, do their actions, and sometimes show talking balloons.
The animators did great work.
This movie exceeded my expectations and also overcame the sad part, which happens in all the Spider-Man’s movies — the death of our hero’s favorite uncle. Even with this tragic event, the scenes and the action were really great, and I could forget about the sad part. I highly recommend people watch this amazing movie and be entertained by Miles Morales’s adventure.
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Artists For Humanity is a nonprofit organization for young creative artists. The minute the elevator doors opened, I was met with the good music and chill vibes. Teens worked on paintings in a well-decorated room, and I was met with diversity from every corner and every form. I see Gary Chen, the recruiter for Artists For Humanity, sitting at his desk surrounded by sketches.
Chen was born right here in Boston in the neighborhood of Roslindale. He began drawing at the age of four. He trained his hand by drawing cartoon characters  designed by other artists. “[Drawing] set the undertone for me to strive to get better as an artist,” he said. Artists like Sneha helped shape Gary when he was a teenager. He wants to give back to the community that raised him but also strives to make projects for the city of Boston in the future.
Gary’s first art piece he was proud of was a solo commission to paint a transportation van. He had to think about what he could paint that represented the organization while also enhancing the community and bringing people together.
“I ended up creating and painting on-demand directly to give us some more life and some more representation to the passengers [at] the event and to give us some more life,” he said. He would like to do a project similar to this one for his community.
Right now Gary is working on a group project in Hyde Park. This was the art project on his desk when I walked in. He showed me the process of creating art for a company. It opened my eyes and showed me that it was a very lengthy process that’s not easy. It requires a lot of sketches and a lot of brainstorming. Interviewing Chen, I noticed that he was very down to earth. I can tell that he loves his job and is a very hardworking person from the projects he has worked on. Chen chose art as a career because he saw how art could unite and change communities and he would like to do the same for his community in Roslindale.
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