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.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Sidewalk KitchenU of M
Roast duck, bbq pork, ma-po

The (#problematic?) theory of Asian restaurants is that the more Asian people you see eating in one, the better the food probably is. Far be it from me to argue with science, but I will say this: Sidewalk Kitchen (why not Sidewok Kitchen??? Missed opportunity), located in that one corner of Stadium Village that's always had 2 or 3 random Chinese places that seem to cater to a large percentage of actual Chinese people, was full of Chinese students the night we went. It was a real 'sore thumb' situation for the two of us at table five. The menu seemed promising, although I worry a bit when a restaurant boats so many Szechuan and Hunan and Korean options. The food was just okay. There was some confusion about my order initially; I ordered the rice plate with duck and pork, and the waiter claimed that the kitchen said they couldn't serve that item, but then after some discussion with a manager and someone else in the kitchen, they decided they could, and when the plate came out, the pork was cold. Like, cold, not even room temperature. And crazy boney. As was the duck, although at least that was hot. Meanwhile, the ma-po (Szechuan dish with tofu and ground pork) had a very particular sadness to it, more of a watery orange color than the expected deep red, and full of freezer-aisle diced carrot cubes and peas. It tasted weird. It was all weird. The whole thing was weird. I still have hope for this place, because most of the stuff that everyone else in the restaurant was eating looked better than ours, so I think maybe we just got the wrong things. Maybe next time. Well, nah, maybe not.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Spoon and StableDowntown Minneaoplis
Duck breast laab

My previous trip to the hottest newest bestest restaurant in the North Loop, Spoon and Stable, happened a year and a half ago on my birthday, when I sat by myself at the bar and ate as much food as I could afford. I went in skeptical but left impressed. But I went no further than 10 feet from the front door to the bar. This time was entirely different; a Sunday morning brunch with some out of town visitors, I saw that the restaurant is a good bit smaller than I first thought it was, and actually has some lovely natural light from the ceiling, and all in all isn't quite as annoying as I might have thought it was. I mean, it's still all white-tile-and-natural-wood-edison-bulb-in-industrial-lighting, leather-apron'd-barkeeps and denim-uniformed-server Pinterest-chic, but it's not that bad. What was bad, regretfully, was my food. The brunch menu was fairly diverse as these things go, and I ordered a duck breast laab salad with crispy wild rice and a duck egg. It just didn't work. The duck was tough, the wild rice was soft, and the whole thing was way, way too salty. Whatever flavors were in there were just overwhelmed by soy sauce or fish sauce or whatever they had in there. Meanwhile, nothing else I tasted between everyone else at my table was much better. And to be honest I don't really remember what those dishes were. The only great takeaway from the entire meal was the small plate of hash browns that they brought the table (every brunch spot should do this!), which were satisfyingly crispy, and were infused with a sort of garlicky oniony oil. They were great. Everything else was a big bummer. So while I still think I stand by Spoon and Stable based on my great birthday dinner, I'll go ahead and recommend you skip brunch.

04.03.2018 - by Steve
Hai HaiNortheast Minneapolis
Balinese chicken, Vietnamese crepes

If anyone has told you that omg Hai Hai is amazing, and you couldn't help but feel that they were conflating their excitement over another new and novel restaurant with actual quality... strike that from your mind. Because omg Hai Hai is amazing.

04.03.2018 - by Steve
Jakeeno'sSouth Minneapolis
Pizza

Jakeeno's might be the most perfect dumb family pizza joint (it's a genre, look it up!) in Minneapolis. There's nothing at all remarkable about it, but it's fully satisfying in every way.