God's Son

We hope Nas is plotting his escape from Def Jam.

Some of us who have followed Nas' career since he got signed in '94 are a little worried about the Queensbridge MC. It's good that he's finally stopped beefing publicly with Jay-Z, after their longstanding feud over women and who should be crowned the king of New York grew old. But we've got some questions about Nas' allowing Hova to be his boss. The two had a soap-opera-style war for years after the death of rapper Notorious B.I.G., with hip-hop fans waiting to see who would step up and take his place. At the time, circa 1997, both Nas and Jay-Z were the only real contenders, and the two traded insults and jabs of epic proportions on every release they've put out since B.I.G.'s death. Nas' "Ether" and Jay's "Takeover" set a new standard for battle rap, and their pissing match even included Nas' baby mama, Carmen Bryan, whose fling with Jay-Z became the subject of some fairly damaging lyrics.

But all that was in the past, right? Now that Nas is signed to Def Jam, where Jay-Z is president, we're supposed to believe that all is forgiven. But Def Jam barely did any promotion for Nas' latest album, Hip-hop Is Dead — no video, no photo shoots, no radio singles — and some people wonder if Hova wasn't purposely undermining Nas and continuing their war in more subtle ways. It's not inconceivable, but with all of this drama, it's easy to forget that Nas is one of the most gifted MCs of all time. He doesn't tour often, so Outtakes couldn't help but come up with the five best reasons for local music lovers to support Nas' upcoming show in Fort Lauderdale:

1. His live concerts are an experience — lackluster studio albums don't do him justice.

2. The suspense. You never know which Nas you're going to get. Between his gangster Escobar persona, Afro-centric Nastradamus side, and his Nasty Nas playboy alter ego, it's hard to predict which of these styles we'll get to see when he hits town.

3. It's fun to watch Nas continue to perform dis records of Jay-Z.

4. His wife, Kelis, was arrested several weeks ago in Miami for harassing the police, and hopefully she'll be on hand to do it again.

5. It's flipping Nas! — Jonathan Cunningham

Nas performs Sunday, April 8, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $32.50; show starts at 8 p.m. Call 954-727-0950, or visit

They're Here

Conviction and tenacity aren't terms you'd commonly equate with the corporate douchebags that currently pass for pop-punk bands. Then again, a band like the Queers, which has both qualities, isn't part of that scene and never has been. They're holdovers from a time when the genre was equally pop and punk, when money was the last thing being thrown at any band that sounded like a poppier version of the Ramones. On the DVD The Queers Are Here (Music Video Distributors), it's obvious that Queers frontman Joe King was cut from a very different cloth than the spineless saps who seemingly follow in his Converse-clad footsteps.

Though the Queers originally formed a good quarter-century ago (and broke up a couple of years later), it wasn't until their 1990 re-formation that the band came into its own as one of the most influential pop-punk groups of the past 15 years, even if the band has had more lineup changes than the average police station. (Note: The band's name is tongue-in-cheek, not literal, as many of King's girl-obsessed lyrics make clear.)

The Queers Are Here features footage from 1993 to 2005, interspersing clips from various shows during each song as well as a few music videos ("Don't Back Down," "Tamara Is a Punk"). While there are no vintage '80s home movies of a young King playing in his mom's garage, there is footage from a more recent show in Italy, where the band's original vocalist, Wimpy, makes a guest appearance to do some of the Queers' golden oldies from the first two EPs ("We'd Have a Riot Doing Heroin," "Terminal Rut," etc.). And, of course, the disc offers plenty of King's bitter assessment of the Warped Tour generation: "When shitty fuckin' bands like Fall Out fuckin' Boy are popular in this world or fuckin' — what is it, Taking Back Sunday? — or all that emo fuckin' bullshit, then punk, the whole scene that's loosely affiliated, it's gone."

Indeed, it's hard to imagine that sweaty jock in the Verizon Wireless/Fall Out Boy commercial saying, "I just got the new Queers on my V Cast phone, and it gets me pumped!"

Overall, The Queers Are Here does a good job of documenting King and his various backing bands through the years, from their initial rise to the top of the pop-punk ladder and subsequent refusal to join the world of corporate rock.

So yes, the Queers are here, and they'll be here with or without a spot on the Warped Tour... or props from some meathead weightlifter in a V Cast commercial. — Jason Budjinski

Southern Soul

Not so long ago, record labels had an identity, an approach so distinctive that other labels and their producers would try their damnedest to emulate it — think Sun Records (early recordings by Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.) and Phil Spector's wall-of-sound-meets-the-Copacabana elegance of Motown. Then there was mighty Stax Records, the South's counterpart (circa early 1960s to mid-'70s) to Berry Gordy's Motor City machine. The crucial difference between the two labels was that songs on Stax often exuded the gospel-rooted aspects of African-American R&B that Gordy frequently smoothed out, seeking a wider audience. And while Motown signed some of the biggest names in R&B history (Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Jackson 5, to name a few), Stax wasn't that far behind, and it was unparalleled in its ability to find Southern talent and expose it to the world.

To mark Stax's 50th anniversary (and successful reactivation), the powers that be — specifically, the Concord Music Group, which acquired the Stax catalog when it purchased Fantasy Records — have released a handsome, double-disc box. Celebration covers all the bases, from rural church sounds to the sweetest love pleas of their legendary artists. Take the Staple Singers' anthem "Respect Yourself" — it's hard to believe something so drenched in gospel and inclusive righteousness was a major '70s hit, but Stax made it happen. Isaac Hayes was signed to Stax as well, and several of his classic tunes, such as "Walk on By" and "Theme from Shaft," are included. Otis Redding's last smash "[Sittin' on] The Dock of the Bay" is featured here as well, and his melodic voice is reason enough to purchase this compilation. The Dramatics' sublime "In the Rain" distills the sultry, reflective melancholy of one of the best vocal groups ever. Jean Knight's strutting "Mr. Big Stuff" shows a sister asserting herself, telling off a would-be player. In the early '70s, Stax even branched out to rock 'n' roll — not much in the way of commercial success, but its subsidiary Ardent released the first two albums by power-pop icons Big Star, and they're included here. The cool guy's dream theme "Peter Gunn" has a funky counterpart, used to great effect in the movie Get Shorty, and it's here: "Green Onions," by Booker T & the MG's. You get the everlasting hits ("Hold On, I'm Comin," "Knock on Wood") and choice obscurities/rarities by Linda Lyndell and Mabel John. Fifty tracks total — all killer, no filler. Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration is not only educational; it's essential. — Mark Keresman

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