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Prison Song

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Prison Song

Prison Song is a 2001 American film directed by Darnell Martin. A prison film, its plot concerns a boy brought up in group homes who has a gift and passion for art. It also marked the film debut of future Oscar-nominated Mary J. Blige as an actress.

The film picks up years later, and Elijah (Q-Tip) is now a sensitive adult with dreams of becoming an artist with the support of his girlfriend Jolie (Denee Rivera). He is offered a spot at a prestigious art school under scholarship, but it gets taken away and is now unable to afford the tuition. Much to the chagrin of Cee who Elijah still sees through prison visits, Elijah considers a foray into the world of drug dealing. Though he eventually decides against that route, he winds up in jail for accidentally killing one of his foster brothers Big Pete (Fat Joe) by pushing him on to the subway tracks during an altercation. Elijah is then found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years to life.

When he gets to jail, he is reunited with Thomas (Eric McCollum). Having a hard time adapting to prison life, Elijah takes an art class and paints works of art that impresses his fellow prisoners; however, due to funds, the art class is discontinued, much to his dismay. The prisoners are then subjected to hard labor on an abandoned building. Elijah then stages an uprising by setting fire to the building, which puts him in solitary confinement. Life for the prisoners gets worse when the officers take away the water, gym, physical education and classes, which sends Elijah to his breaking and he decides to break out.

Elijah concocts a plan to break out of prison and enlists the help of Thomas, his cellmate Harris (Danny Hoch), KT (Clay Da Raider), Brown (Bobbito Garcia), and Jay (Hassan Johnson), who works as an electrician in the jail. Before the group proceeds with the plan, Harris bails out at the last minute. The group uses a ladder to break through the window and press a button that opens the gate. As the group makes their way to a police car, Jay stabs Thomas multiple times in the back with a screwdriver as revenge. (Earlier in the film, Thomas stole toilet paper from Jay and he tried to stab Thomas, who turned the tables on him and slit his mouth and sent him to protective custody.) Elijah goes back to save Thomas, who ends up dying in his arms. He ends up getting stuck in between a four-wall fence while holding an officer hostage and is then killed by a shotgun blast to the chest.

Sometime later, Elijah's artwork of people he drew during his time in prison ends up at an art gallery, with visitors looking at each one. The camera then zooms in on a painting of Elijah and Thomas as kids as the film ends.

On the basis of his appearances on The Howard Stern Show, Insane Clown Posse member Joseph Bruce was offered a role as a bigoted prison guard. He was described by the producers as "a big white dude with urban slang to his voice."[1] Bruce turned the role down because he did not want to play a racist.[1]

Toxicity was recorded at Cello Studios in Hollywood, California. Over 30 songs were recorded, but the band narrowed the number of songs on the album to 14. The album peaked at number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Canadian Albums Chart, sold 220,000 copies in its first week of release, was certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America by July 2022, and has shipped at least six million copies in the United States. All of Toxicity's singles reached the Billboard Hot 100. The final single, "Aerials", went to number one on both the Mainstream Rock Tracks and the Modern Rock Tracks charts. Toxicity received mainly positive ratings and reviews from critics, among them perfect ratings from AllMusic, Kerrang!, and Many critics praised the album's sound and innovation, and it ranked on multiple year-end lists.[1]

Primarily considered an alternative metal[4][5][6] and nu metal[7][8][9] album, Toxicity has also been described as thrash metal,[10] art metal,[11] hard rock,[12] progressive metal,[13] and heavy metal.[7] Toxicity features elements of multiple genres of music: folk,[14] progressive rock,[14] jazz,[14][3] hip hop,[15] Middle Eastern music,[3] and Greek music.[3] System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian said that he "wanted to add a bit more harmony for" himself "in the songs and that required tastefully mixing in some softer guitars between the really heavy parts".[3] Malakian also cited the Beatles as an influence on Toxicity.[4] Sounds of instruments other than drums, vocals, electric guitar and bass guitar, such as sitar, banjo,[16] keyboards and piano,[17] are also featured on Toxicity. The majority of the album's music was written in the tuning of drop C.[18]

System of a Down recorded over thirty songs during the recording of Toxicity but narrowed the number of songs on the album to fourteen.[19] Several of these recorded songs that didn't make it onto Toxicity were re-recorded for System of a Down's next studio album Steal This Album!, an album released in 2002.[20] Toxicity was recorded at Cello Studios in Hollywood, California, mixed at Enterprise Studios in Burbank, California, and mastered at Oasis Mastering in Studio City, California.[17] According to System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian, the song "Chop Suey!" is "about drug addiction, but [System of a Down took] something really serious and made it a little quacky".[21] System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian compared the song to Guns N' Roses' "Mr. Brownstone".[22] "Prison Song" is about mass incarceration.[21] Serj Tankian said: "It's about the unfairness of mandatory minimum sentences and how there are about 2,000,000 Americans in jail, and a lot of them are in there for marijuana possession and things of that sort. [...] Instead of rehabilitating men who have drug problems, they're throwing them in prison. That's not really solving anything."[23] Tankian said that "Prison Song" also addresses "how drug money is used to rig elections in other countries by the CIA".[23] "Needles" is about "pulling a tapeworm out of your ass."[24] "Bounce" is about group sex.[21] "Psycho" is about groupies.[7][23] "ATWA" (an acronym for "Air, Trees, Water, Animals") is about Charles Manson's beliefs on the environment. Malakian has said that "[Manson is] in jail for the wrong reasons. I think he had an unfair trial".[19][22] "Deer Dance" is about the protests surrounding the 2000 Democratic National Convention.[25][26]

On review aggregator website Metacritic, Toxicity holds a score of 73 out of 100, based on reviews from nine critics, which indicates "generally favourable reviews".[30] AllMusic writer Eduardo Rivadavia called Toxicity "hands down one of 2001's top metal releases" and wrote that the album "may well prove to be a lasting heavy metal classic to boot".[7] Toxicity is one of only 21 albums to achieve a perfect rating from, with writer Don Kaye praising System of a Down in a contemporary review of the album as "one of the few bands that people may still be talking about ten years from now".[32] Drowned in Sound writer Don Kaye praised the band as "probably the most vital band around in the big, wide world of metal right now".[39] Ben Myers of Kerrang! stated that the band had "gone and bettered" their debut album and hailed Toxicity as "metal album of the year, hands down".[33] Q wrote that Toxicity "matches Slipknot for manic intensity while employing a freeform approach to songcraft which invites comparison to the lunatic-fringe rock of the '60s".[36]

All of the album's singles reached the Billboard Hot 100; "Chop Suey!" peaked at number 76, "Toxicity" at number 70, and "Aerials" at number 55. "Aerials" would remain the band's biggest domestic hit until "B.Y.O.B." surpassed it, reaching number 27 in 2005.[49] "Aerials" peaked at number one on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart[50] and number one on the Alternative Songs chart.[51] "Chop Suey!" and "Toxicity" were both top ten hits.[51] In 2005, Toxicity went to number one on the Catalog Albums chart.[52] Added to the 2001 Clear Channel memorandum,[53] "Chop Suey!" was temporarily pulled from playlists of most radio stations after the September 11 attacks in 2001, as it featured some lyrics that Clear Channel deemed inappropriate following the attacks. The song returned to the airwaves when things settled down.[54]

The song that "Mask Off" samples is called "Prison Song." It was written and performed by a playwright named Tommy Butler in 1978 as part of his musical Selma. Retelling the 60s civil rights movement and the life of Martin Luther King, Selma featured a basis of funk, soul, and gospel for its music, collected on an eponymous double soundtrack album. While the musical itself opened to disparaging reviews from the New York Times, the soundtrack managed to live on and seems to have become a minor crate-digging classic for beatmakers. Felt (a supergroup of Minneapolis duo Atmosphere and LA's Murs), Kool G Rap, and Method Man have lived in its grooves. Producing for Felt, Ant flipped "Prison Song" in 2005, 12 years before Future did, although he was also beaten to the punch by Swedish rap group Looptroop, who sampled it in 2000.

The fact that these are pristine, funky recordings on an obscure release are most likely why Selma found a second life among producers, but Meth took note of the pro-black sentiments and recontextualized them for "Uh Huh"'s intro. Felt didn't. When Ant sampled "Prison Song" for Felt's "Woman Tonight," he focused on two sung lines from which the later song derives its title. In true Slug fashion (despite his only rapping half the song) "Woman Tonight" concerns girl problems, and the analog warmth of the sample fits Ant's toolkit, so nothing's too out of the ordinary there. Recognizable samples are unusual for Metro, so the use of a traditionally-leaning (the drums are for modern audiences) hip-hop beat for "Mask Off," especially a break that's been around as much as "Prison Song," can be read as a move towards an older style of authenticity. It couches one of Future's vulnerable moments in the kind of beat that people used to be called "backpackers" over, but also one that any rapper can hear and recognize as demanding of emotional investment on their part even when removed from the original song's heavy topics. 59ce067264


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