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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.

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Ajani Jones - Dragonfly Music Album Reviews

The Chicago rapper fills his debut with raps about...making it in rap. It’s rarely endearing or interesting.

The Bandcamp bio of Chicago rapper Ajani Jones mentions that he dropped out of the University of Iowa to pursue his rap career, and you can feel him yearning to legitimize his choice in every bar of his debut. Unfortunately, that’s the empty core of Dragonfly. He raps about being really committed to rapping. It’s rarely endearing or interesting.


Rapping about making it in rap isn’t inherently boring. Rappers as different as A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Sean, and Open Mike Eagle have found fun ways to use their odd career paths as vehicles for storytelling, observations, and color. Ajani Jones doesn’t really tap into that lineage. Dragonfly is filled with half-baked struggle raps that don’t even aspire to smugness or myth-making. His narratives are so devoid of color and purpose that they make J. Cole’s leftover-lasagna come-up stories sound like Hannibal crossing the Alps.

Across the record, his lyrics are so vague they border on nonsensical. There are spells where it is utterly unclear what he is talking about, as on “3D,” where he raps, “It’s fame on the guillotine/And the blood is the love of the industry/Whoa.” It sounds like he’s interpreting a museum painting while stoned. On the song ironically titled “Lucid,” he says, “Feel like Wakandan/I’m just gonna tune in with my niggas/Ain’t got no space for no time limits.” I wish I knew what he meant by that.

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Jones is clearly a student of the TDE school of introspective chill raps, where rapping relaxes the mind and frees it. The beats on Dragonfly largely have low BPMs and dulled percussion, accented by ribbons of synths that calmly flutter over the beats. Jones is comfortable with this airy template, and songs like “Dutchmasters” and “Quicksilver” play to his strengths. He’s whimsical when he’s at ease, and can stumble upon a decent image when he’s not overthinking. “Quicksilver” has a stretch where Jones begins “I could’ve been anything” and then recalls a drive-by shooting he saw as a kid. It’s a cutting sequence, and it illustrates the life he’s trying to escape through rap. Of course, it doesn’t last. Moments later, he is back to vague musings (“Everybody wanna go some place”). It’s disappointing, but also par for the course. Ajani Jones is a dreamer. Unfortunately, a dream is not a personality.


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