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The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994)

July 27, 2021

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Release Date: September 13th, 1994

Song Rating Scale

  1. Intro – N/A
  2. Things Done Changed – 3.75
  3. Gimme the Loot – 4
  4. Machine Gun Funk – 4
  5. Warning – 4
  6. Ready to Die – 4
  7. One More Chance – 4.25
  8. Fuck Me (Interlude) – N/A
  9. The What (feat. Method Man) – 4.5
  10. Juicy – 5
  11. Everyday Struggle – 5
  12. Me & My Bitch – 3
  13. Big Poppa – 5
  14. Respect – 3.5
  15. Friend of Mine – 3.75
  16. Unbelievable – 4
  17. Suicidal Thoughts – 3.75
  18. Who Shot Ya? (Bonus) – 4.5
  19. Just Playing (Dreams) (Bonus) – 4.25
  20. One More Chance (Remix) (Bonus) – 4.5

Spin Rate: heaps
Average Song Rating: 4.1/5
3.5+ Percentage: 93%
Skips: 0.5
Bangers: 10

Thoughts: This album is an all-time classic and the debut project of one of the best rappers to ever pick up a microphone. I have to admit I didn’t appreciate this album when it originally came out – I was 12 years old and my musical preference was transitioning to grunge, alternative and metal at this time and even when I did start to get back into rap music, I was a Tupac fanboy and since I was an ignorant and easily influenced 14 year old, that meant I hated Biggie.

Over the years (and decades) though, Ready to Die has become one of my favorite albums of all-time and the data here supports that claim. With an average song rating of 4.1, Ready to Die now has the highest average song rating of any full length album I’ve posted a review for using this system. No surprise there. “Juicy,” “Everyday Struggle,” and “Big Poppa” are absolutely perfect songs. The only song I even think about skipping on this project is “Me & My Bitch” – it’s not bad, but i don’t think it’s good either. Also, this album has 10 bangers in 15 songs and I wouldn’t blame anyone for suggesting I underrated a few other songs here.

I don’t include bonus tracks as part of my overall rating or in my number of bangers since they aren’t really meant to be part of the album, but it’s worth noting that all three 1994 era Biggie tracks that I tacked on to the end of this album are all fire and would only improve Ready to Die’s already lofty esteem.

I think perhaps the most impressive aspect of this album is that Biggie is not a polished rapper here. When he was recording Ready to Die, Biggie was more of a crack dealer than a hip-hop artist. This was his side gig and it sounds like this? Good grief. This is why people don’t hesitate to list Biggie in their top 10s despite a limited discography due to his murder in March of 1997 – he had more natural ability than basically any rapper that has ever lived and the two albums he did record while he was alive are both legendary. It’s crazy to think what he would have accomplished in music if he was still alive today.

Verdict: 10/10 (Masterpiece)

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$3/$5 NL Live Chat Blog – In the Mind of Madness!

July 3, 2021

People are always asking me about when I’m going to write another poker blog and seem to miss the live blog versions in particular. I have no intentions of starting those up again, but I’m basically always chatting with a group of poker friends as I play my sessions and I thought it might be interesting to transcribe those conversations as they would basically function as a live blog for anyone that wants to read them.

Note: I cut out most of the nonsense and edited out anything that would probably be offensive to people we are talking about or in general really. It’s also worth noting that I have a penchant for massive exaggeration for the sake of being entertaining and/or funny (even in private conversation) so don’t take everything you read here at face value.

TDK: I guess I’m going to play 3/5 like a good little TAG.
Dano: Live blog. One time.
TDK: That’s what I need to help me when I’m out of my comfort zone – a nonstop distraction!
Dano: Just stop doom calling it off and you’ll be fine.
Zinky: Start a vlog already. We want to see the max pain on your face when you lose every time.

TDK: Thwomp puts me to the test for whole stack with marginal top pair first pot I play. QTcc on Q72d5d6.
Zinky: More details.
TDK: Open $20, he flats button; bet $15 he calls; bet $35 he makes it $100 I call; check-call $175 river.
Zinky: I’d fold, but I don’t know Thwomp.
TDK: Definitely capable of blasting off and raising diamonds on the turn. He’s repping sets only really. Maybe 76dd.
Zinky: Maybe check-call turn?
TDK: Honestly not too surprised by his line… when I bet small on flop I was prepared for spaz.
Zinky: lol what did he have?
TDK: He had my foot in his ass.
Zinky: You punted him?
TDK: He didn’t show. I saw an ace. It was red.
Zinky: Nice call.
TDK: But seriously. If I lost that hand I’d be so heated.
Zinky: I think with marginal queens it might be better to check turn.
TDK: Maybe not heated, but demoralized.
Zinky: Did you min buy?
TDK: $500
Zinky: Nice. Show Joker how it’s done.

TDK: Open $20 button K8cc both blinds call; KT4r check around; 6 turn ditone now checks to me $30 SB $85 call; river K check to me… ?
TDK: This is basically a live blog lol.
Zinky: 1/3 bet? Don’t see a king checking river here. He probably had like 64ss lol.
TDK: I bet $50 into $230 planning to snap call a raise.
Zinky: What happened?
TDK: He called with AK lolololol
Zinky: Yikes. Weird hand. He missed so much value. Holy smokes.
TDK: Did he though?
Zinky: Yes.
TDK: If he 3-bet like a normal person he just wins pre, but yeah.
Zinky: He could have bet 175 you call river
TDK: Not anymore.
Zinky: I mean.. if he 3-bets now it’s QQ+ lol. You must have had a stunned look on your face.
TDK: or bluffs? I mean if you’re not 3-betting a button open from an active player with AK wtf are you even doing?
Zinky: He’s a nit.
TDK: I was shocked. Never in my life did I think I was losing when he check-calls 20% pot. Now I’m even again. Goddammit. And now Thwomp is on my direct left.

TDK: Now I’m down $300. Thwomp sits on my left and immediately flops set on me.
TDK: But I took the check-call marginal top pair on turn line this time.
Zinky: That’s good. Save money.

TDK: Limp along Jx9d button. QTX all diamond flop. Thwomp bets $20, MP calls, I call. Kx on turn. $50 call call. Kx river and they both check to me???
Joker: Rip it. What could go wrong?
TDK: Be serious.
Joker: I mean… I was? Bet 175? Fold to 475?
Zinky: Half pot or 66%. Fold to raise.
Joker: So exactly what I said?
Zinky: No one has a flush
Joker: Seems very unlikely. Also we block it. A really good blocker for a limped pot too.
TDK: I bet 33% and both players check-call with flopped flushes lol.
Joker: lol amazing. You saved more money than Zinky and I did. Was your 9 live? That’s what matters.
TDK: Yeah.
Joker: That’s kind of why I hate limping along. I almost never do it. Raise or fold.

TDK: Here’s another cool hand.
TDK: MP opens $20, two calls, I call SB with 88. 822ss checks to button, he bets $25, I call, everyone else folds. Turn Ts, we both check. River 8, we both check. He shows KK. How do I run so bad?
Joker: Nice check-call. You definitely wouldn’t have won ALL the money on the flop.
TDK: Why would I raise? I want all the other ding dongs in and he just flatted pre.
Zinky: How do you not bet river?
TDK: I figure he has a 2 or nothing. Maybe a small pocket pair. I don’t think he’s checking a 2 on river. He might call a small bet with a small pair.
Joker: He’s checking a 2 on the turn?
TDK: Maybe?
Joker: Why would he want a 4th spade?
Joker and TDK simultaneously: I mean…
Joker: lol
TDK: The moral of the story is
Joker: You suck?
TDK: I run super bad
Joker: Oh.
TDK: I suck at hand reading
Joker: Yeah
TDK: And I’m terrible overall
Joker: lol getting warmer
Zinky: Mike’s mental game today is A+
TDK: I think I’m doing okay mentally. Just being honest. Like… I kinda suck. That’s why I stay in 1/3. Where everyone sucks way harder.
Joker: haha, it’s true
TDK: Bright side: I’m getting paid $499.
Joker: ayyy happy July
Zinky: Bonus!

TDK: and I lose $1k flip vs ***** (sorry, no nickname yet, but he needs one) before I even get paid. Hoping to tell some good beat stories tonight.
TDK: Imagine running decent at 3/5
Joker: Welcome to 3/5!
TDK: Make it 50 from BB with AK after like 30 limpers and he’s only caller. 542dd. Check, he bets $100, I jam $500. He tank-calls with 99 and holds.
Joker: obv
TDK: like the line at least?
Joker: well, in general yes, but you have to remember you have ZERO fold equity vs ***** and I get we don’t hate a call here so it’s a funny spot.
TDK: so you bet flop? Or just check-call? or check-fold lol?
Joker: Check-call. He might check back turn. I just check-call and jam if we get there because I know he won’t fold lol. Jam a king. I dunno lol.
TDK: Solid.
Joker: lol
TDK: my strat tonight
TDK: lose the max with the worst hand
TDK: win the min with the best hand
TDK: crushing it so far
TDK: I’m not sure if I’ve made a right decision since my first hand vs Thwomp.

TDK: Dude in s1 just said, “Man, I don’t know if I’m running bad or if I just suck at poker.”
TDK: I’m like, “wow, I’ve literally been sitting here for two hours wondering the same thing about myself.”
Joker: “well, for you it’s obvious.”
TDK: I burst out laughing when he said it. Because it’s 100% true. I really don’t know. I feel like I suck. But never having the best hand when chips go in the pot isn’t helping my confidence.
Joker: I hear that.
TDK: Every time I play this
TDK: dating back for years lol
Joker: Have you tried getting it in good?
TDK: Yeah.

TDK: Just resisted the urge to sqz ATo
TDK: DON’T FUCKING DO IT
Joker: Good choice lol. That was my final punt last night. Dude we were talking about straddles, I am SB with A5ss and make it 35, 3 calls and he makes it 235. I never do this but I make it 535. He jams with AK obv. ez hold. RIP Joker that’s how you finish -$2700. Seemed like a perfect spot. Maniac raising his own straddle. How could I be that far behind?
TDK. Lolz. I don’t know what a good spot looks like. Because I’m never right. ***** trying to tell everyone how much money i’ve taken off him. I’m like, “I’ve literally never won a single pot from you.”
Joker: Didn’t he just take 1k from you?
TDK: $500. 1k pot.
TDK: I’m serious though. I can only think of one time I’ve ever had the best hand at showdown vs him.

TDK: This is so brutal. I’m making the wrong play every single hand.
Joker: Bro. That’s variance still. Balance means being wrong sometimes.
TDK: TAG bets multiway as PRF on Q32r. I have 54 and check-call. It checks through on turn and river. He has 88.
Joker: I mean… maybe he doesn’t give up. You have to barrel turn and maybe he just heroes you off. Is that the right play?
TDK: He’s the biggest nit in the game. I don’t think he has it in him.
Joker: Getting to the river for one small flop bet isn’t the worst result. I suppose once the turn checks it’s probably pretty rare we shouldn’t be betting 5 high, but it depends on the runout I guess?
TDK: I turned a 5.
Joker: lol boooo.. i mean, free showdown isn’t bad there anyways so shrug
TDK: Sure. It’s prob cool to bomb river though. Like 1.5x.
Joker: Get there next time with an A so you can bet and have him fold
Joker: Bombing river is cool, I agree.

TDK: By God, we doubled through *****
TDK: For like $350 lololol
TDK: I had him dead on the flop and he turned ten outs. How does he miss?
Joker: That’s not what dead means?
TDK: Bro
TDK: AJ no heart vs K3hh on J64 all hearts
TDK: Stop your nonsense
Joker: You’re right. Turning a jack is impossible. Turning an A also impossible. Also turning a 4 or a 6. Totally impossible.
TDK: I see what’s happening here.
Joker: I’m on *****’s team?

TDK: We just flopped a set and doubled.
TDK: PRAISE THE FUCKIN POKER GODS
TDK: Dude flatted pre with AA and let me overcall with 44
Dano: He tried to tarp you bra
TDK: Now I’m deep and really don’t know what I’m doing
TDK: You thought I was playing bad before?
Dano: Kind of wish I was there right now. Good times seeing you out of your element. With your nlhe cash game ptsd prone to flair up at any moment.
TDK: It’s so real.
TDK (in reference to Joker saying “have you tried getting it in good?”: This worked surprisingly well.

TDK: Bros
TDK: We somehow won $504.
Joker: Congrats dude. You broke the curse. Here comes the 20k upswing.
Joker: Too bad you didn’t have more than 350 when ***** wanted to double you, but hey.
TDK: I’m always going to sit 500. Until I feel really good about what I’m doing. I had 1500 behind. Shrug.
Joker: Seems fine until you can handle the swings of 200bb buyins
TDK: lol 63 hours of 3/5 NL since 2014
TDK: We have bumped our liftime win rate up to -6 big blinds per hour
TDK: My lifetime NL live cash game win rate is 12 big blinds per hour over 300+ hours.
TDK: Maybe I don’t suck.

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Post-Pandemic Poker

June 21, 2021

I mean… that’s where we are now, right? I started playing again back in late March two weeks after I got my second Pfizer shot and now it’s almost July and things are basically back to normal. They certainly were in Vegas this month. Poker was 9-handed, barricades were gone, and maybe 10-15% of the players were wearing masks. Hell, the whole city was flooded with tourists and maybe 10-15% of all people were wearing masks. Palace made masks optional in mid-June and I hear the plexiglass is coming down on July 1st (it’s June 20th as I’m writing this). Perhaps that means we will be going back to 9-handed poker locally as well. I’d much rather play 7-handed myself, especially since the rake is the same, but it is what it is.

I’ve been back playing for 3 months or so now and haven’t really made any blog posts so I guess I’ll start with my two Vegas trips last month.

I made the trips because they had some mix game tourneys going on but my first live tournament since early February 2020 was a $600 no limit Hold’em at Venetian. I did a good job chipping up early on in this event but my stack was dwindling late and I eventually got back to some old bad habits and started playing absurdly tight the closer we got to the money. I guess I really didn’t want to bubble my first live tourney in 16 months and I put myself in an absolutely laughable position. I basically folded my way to a 2.5 big blind stack three spots off the money. Somehow I cashed it but I busted shortly after the bubble burst. It was nice to book a cash in my first tourney back but it was borderline embarrassing and I gave myself no chance to actually win this event.

$600 NL starting stack

I max late regged a $150 O8 tourney at the Orleans and ended up final tabling it, but I was the first player gone and it ended up being another mincash. I played five other tourneys but never got any momentum going in anything and ended up with two small cashes in seven tourneys which ultimately resulted in a net loss of about four average buy ins.

I played about 32 hours of cash and my overall results were pretty mediocre (but slightly profitable) thanks to an absolutely disastrous 20/40 mix session that saw me dump $1500 in just over two hours, which ranks as one of my all-time worst (maybe even #1) limit sessions in terms of big bets spewed per hour.

20/40 Mix @ Wynn

All in all, not a great couple of trips to Vegas, but I enjoyed myself. I didn’t miss the plexiglass and I didn’t miss having a mask on my face 100% of the time. We went to Hawaii in the last week of June and had to take Covid tests to fly there. I was nervous about it, even though I’m vaxxed. If the vaccines aren’t super effective, Vegas is a great place to pick up the virus. I tested negative and that makes me feel like the vaccine is doing its job. I’m fine living life like it’s business as usual at this point – although I think overall sanitization awareness and excessive hand washing will be normalized going forward and that’s obviously a good thing.

I have about three months of live cash game stats since I’ve been back to playing. All my non-Vegas hours have been at Palace. I haven’t made a return to Fortune yet. Palace is much closer and my win rate in the 1/3 NL games at Palace is still far greater than I could expect to do in a 20/40 game. I don’t think this level of success is sustainable, but I don’t really see much point in driving 40+ minutes to play somewhere else until it actually starts to level out. Plus, all my studying lately has been focused on NL games. Still, it’s important to keep that limit Hold’em muscle strong, so I’ll venture out to Renton soon enough. Rumor has it the 20/40 players there think I would get killed in that game, so I have extra interest in smacking them around a little bit. (Note: my lifetime win rate in the 20/40 at Fortune is 0.83 big bets per hour over a smallish but not insignificant sample size).

I’m averaging just over 30 hours of live play a week. My volume could definitely be higher. I don’t always get to the casino as early as I want to. I have a tendency to drag ass in the morning and take way too much time getting through my routine. Ideally, I want to be in the gym by 11 AM on my playing days and sometimes I don’t even start lifting until 1:30 PM. I should be in a game by 2 PM if I want to put in a ten hour session, but it usually ends up being closer to 4 PM most days.

I’ve played 306 live cash game hours so far in 2021 and 118 of them (38.6%) have been in 1/3 NL games, which is by far the most of any single level of any variant I’ve played. As anyone that has followed my blogs knows, this is a transition for me. I’ve always played in limit cash games. I’m surprised by the early results. I’m running at +24 big blinds per hour so far. I’m sure that’s unsustainable and my sample size is still really small, but damn, even if that win rate were to get cut in half over time, it is still a clear step up from grinding 8/16 and would rival a good 20/40 hourly. I have had a couple of miserable 3/5 NL sessions and that has caused me to mostly avoid the bigger game when it goes. I’m still getting my feet wet so why play with the few competent players in the building when the money is so easy to get at the 1/3 level? If you add in my 3/5 sessions, my overall NL cash game win rate drops to a much more reasonable, but still very sexy +16 big blinds per hour. I’m definitely happy with the outcome so far and I’ll be looking to dip my toes in the 3/5 waters again soon after spending a good amount of time studying NL cash game strategies on the beaches of Oahu.

I’ve played 128 hours across three different levels of limit Hold’em and my 1.37 Big Bets per hour is pretty in line with my career win rates. I’ve played 35 hours in live mixed games and I’ve somehow run at 1.48 Big Bets per hour despite that total blast off in the 20/40 mix at Wynn.

20/40 limit Hold’em

Overall, it has been great to be back playing and my results so far have been really good. My top goal for July is to increase my volume. I’ve kind of struggled to fall into a routine or schedule that works for both myself and my family, but I think I’m on the verge of figuring it out. Ideally, I’d like to play 40 hours over four sessions in a week with another 5+ hours set aside for studying. That would give me two days completely off from poker and another half day (after Dina gets off work) to focus on family time. Speaking of studying, I also want to be more willing to invest in my poker education. I’ve always been eager to pony up for books, but I’m yet to fully embrace the perks of studying online and with expensive software. I’m mostly going to spend July focusing on implementing all the new NL cash game concepts I’ve been learning, but I’d also like to pop into Fortune at least once for a 20/40 session. I’d also like to travel somewhere I’ve never been, either this month or next month, for a poker series, but I haven’t talked to my wife about it yet or settled on a destination. I’m currently considering Choctaw in Oklahoma, Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, or bestbet in Jacksonville, Florida. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here are some pics from Hawaii!

Luau in Waikiki
happy wife, happy life
what a beauty
View from parents’ hotel room
I’m sure she’ll be pleased I posted this
View from a house in the valley of Honolulu
Look at dad’s final table hat tho
Iggy destroying Jokers just like Uncle
Coming for you fools
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May 2021 Music Ratings

June 16, 2021

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

J. Cole – The Off-Season

Ratings:

10 – Masterpiece
9 – Amazing
8 – Great
7 – Highly Enjoyable
6 – Recommended
5 – Decent
4 – Lackluster

3 – Bad
2 – Horrible
1 – Trash

Top 20 Albums in May

Note: These albums are NOT ranked in order of preference; they are ranked in order of number of songs listened to (scrobbles) over the past month. Previous ranking in brackets. Year of release in parentheses if it’s not 2020 or 2021.

*indicates May 2021 release

  1. *J. Cole – The Off-Season – 8+
  2. *Mach-Hommy – Pray For Haiti – 7+
  3. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06 (2015) – 7+
  4. Westside Boogie – Everythings For Sale (2019) – 8+
  5. *DMX – Exodus – 7+
  6. *Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter (Deluxe) – 8+
  7. *BROCKHAMPTON – ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE – 7+
  8. *Benny the Butcher & 38 Spesh – Trust the Sopranos – 6+
  9. Eminem – Kamikaze (2018) – 6+
  10. Pink Sweat$ – Pink Planet [17] – 6+
  11. Mac Miller – Faces (2014)
  12. *DJ Khaled – Khaled Khaled
  13. JID – The Never Story (2017)
  14. Tash Sultana – Terra Firma – 7+
  15. Yelawolf – Mud Mouth
  16. JID – Dicaprio 2 (2018)
  17. Toby Ganger – Free Machine – 8+
  18. Inverse – So Far (2008) – 7+
  19. Devin the Dude – Soulful Distance – 6+
  20. Guapdad 4000 – 1176
  21. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club [20] – 6+
  22. Mello Music Group – Bushido

Comments: Almost no holdovers from the previous month, as I continued to work older albums into my regular rotation. May belonged to J. Cole though. I listened to his new album so much already that he went from unranked in my top 25 most listened to artists of 2021 to #1 on the list below. I’m a big fan of the album. I think every song is good. I can’t say I had high expectations for a new DMX album since he hasn’t made good music for like 15 years now, but this new album is pretty damn good. Certainly anyone that’s been a loyal fan all this time will enjoy it and even those of us that abandoned ship long ago should give it a listen. The production is substantially better than on any of his most recent releases and while X is far from sounding in prime form, his vocals are improved. Plus he also has some stellar features on the album. Imagine Benny the Butcher going half a year without releasing a new project. I’m officially starting my JID and Vince Staples anticipation phase.

The 25 Artists I’ve Listened To the Most in 2021

  1. J. Cole [unranked]
  2. DMX [unranked]
  3. The Notorious B.I.G. [1]
  4. Benny the Butcher [5]
  5. Eminem [2]
  6. MF DOOM [4]
  7. MC Eiht [3]
  8. Sa-Roc [14]
  9. Conway the Machine [unranked]
  10. Mac Miller [25]
  11. Tash Sultana [8]
  12. Lana Del Rey [18]
  13. Tyrone’s Jacket [12]
  14. KOTA the Friend [15]
  15. Dua Lipa [13]
  16. Pink Sweat$ [unranked]
  17. Toby Ganger [unranked]
  18. Kali Uchis [23]
  19. Kendrick Lamar [unranked]
  20. Kid Cudi [6]
  21. Courtney Bell [7]
  22. Snoop Dogg [unranked]
  23. Scarface [unranked]
  24. Boldy James [9]
  25. Nyck Caution [10]

Comments: Since I last updated this two months ago, J. Cole released a new album and DMX passed away and then released a posthumous album so they went from outside my top 25 through March to my two most listened to artists of the year. Conway also got a similar bump thanks to yet another new project. I’ve been listening to a lot of TDE lately since all their artists are due to drop this summer. Almost all of them fell shy of my top 25 here, but Kendrick cracked the list and I expect him to keep climbing it, especially if his long overdue follow-up to 2017’s DAMN. finally drops.   

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists
2020 Bangers Playlist
2021 Bangers Playlist

You can click the link above to see my most recent additions to either playlist, but I’m not going to list them here because it’s the middle of June and I don’t which songs I added in May and which ones I’ve added in June, so I’ll just post them all in my next writeup.





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April 2021: Every Review I Wrote

May 8, 2021

Movies – My focus last month was to watch all the Oscar nominated shorts and the Oscar nominated feature films I wasn’t excited about. I did end up watching all the shorts, but after watching Over the Moon on Netflix, I decided I didn’t want to finish my Oscar watchlist. I’ll save that bucket list project for when I’m retired. Hell, I didn’t even win my damn Oscar pool, so what’s the point? I was pretty excited to get back to watching movies I actually want to see after the Oscars aired. I did not get my money’s worth from AMC A-List last month as I saw Godzilla vs. Kong in early April, streamed Mortal Kombat on HBOMax, and then cancelled my tickets to Raya and the Last Dragon multiple times. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the movie theaters don’t have early matinee showings and any movie I watch is going to cost me at least three hours of poker and with Raya streaming for free on Disney+ in June, I just haven’t had the desire to go see it. Another thing that has become pretty clear to me: writing is my absolute last priority. I’ve gone from writing thoughts on every movie I see to only doing so less than 33% of the time last month. Plus, I didn’t post a single album review for any music I listened to. Yikes. I have a hard enough time balancing work, study, mental and physical health, hobbies, and family time. Posting movie reviews just hasn’t fit in my schedule since I’ve been back to playing.

Movies I watched, but didn’t review (ratings out of 10):

  • Shiva Baby (2021, watched twice) – 8
  • Burrow (2020, re-watch) – 6
  • Colette (2020) – 6
  • Concerto is a Conversation, A (2020) – 6
  • Do Not Split (2020) – 6
  • Genius Loci (2020) – 4
  • Hunger Ward (2020) – 5
  • If Anything Happens I Love You (2020, re-watch) – 8
  • The Kid Detective (2020) – 7
  • The Letter Room (2020) – 6
  • Love Song for Latasha, A (2020, re-watch) – 7
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020) – 6
  • Opera (2020) – 8
  • The Present (2020) – 8
  • Two Distant Strangers (2020) – 5
  • Yes-People (2020) – 4
  • Feeling Through (2019) – 7
  • White Eye (2019) – 7
  • The Lost Boys (1987) – 7
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986, re-watch) – 7
  • Clue (1985) – 7
  • Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985, re-watch) – 3

2021 Best Feature Films: My top 25 of 2021 through April
2020 Best Feature Films: My top 25 of 2020 through April
2020 Best Documentaries/Docu-Series: My top documentary style films of the year
Focused Watchlist: A list of 30 movies that are at the top of my watchlist with a breakdown of how I formulate my picks
May 2021 – New to Theaters and Streaming: Ranking new and old movies I want to see coming to streaming or theaters this month

I also went crazy and made a best films of the year list for every year from 2020 to 1982, the year I was born. I ranked 25 films for 2000 and later and 10 films for 1999 to 1982. I started fizzling out on my lists in the early 90s as I just haven’t seen most of the important films from those early years when I was a kid. I have all the lists on my blog here. Enjoy!

T.V. Shows (Ratings out of 5)

  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 1 (2021, Disney+) – 3.5

Currently watching:

  • Schitt’s Creek season 6
  • Invincible season 1
  • The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers season 1

Music

None!

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April 2021 Music Ratings

May 2, 2021

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Conway the Machine – La Maquina


Rating Scale

10 – Masterpiece
9 – Amazing
8 – Great
7 – Highly Enjoyable
6 – Recommended/Good
5 – Decent/Cool
4 – Lackluster
3 – Bad
2 – Horrible
1 – Torture Material

Top 20 Albums in April (all ratings are out of 10)

Note: These albums are NOT ranked in order of preference; they are ranked in order of number of songs listened to (scrobbles) over the past month. Previous ranking in brackets. Year of release in parentheses if it’s not 2020 or 2021. I’ll include a rough rating for each album to make my feelings on each project clearer.  The more I’ve listened to an album, the more accurate my rating is. Any rating that has a + symbol means that I’ve found my floor, but I could rate it higher. I won’t leave a rating for anything I don’t have a good feel for yet.

*indicates April 2021 release

  1. *Conway the Machine – La Maquina – 7+
  2. DMX – It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998) – 8
  3. DMX – …And Then There Was X (1999) – 7
  4. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003) – 8+
  5. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Tha Doggfather (1996)
  6. DMX – The Great Depression (2001) – 4+
  7. Benny the Butcher – The Plugs I Met 2 [3] – 7+
  8. DMX – Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood (1998) – 6
  9. *Kenny Mason – Angelic Hoodrat
  10. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
  11. *Saigon – Pain, Peace & Prosperity
  12. Black Coffee – Subconsciously
  13. Ghostface Killah – Ironman (1996)
  14. *KOTA The Friend – To Kill A Sunrise [14] – 7+
  15. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997) [1] – 9+
  16. Big L – Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous (1995) – 7+
  17. Pink Sweat$ – Pink Planet [9]
  18. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die (1994) [4] – 9+
  19. Tyrone’s Jacket – Tyrone’s Jacket [18] – 8
  20. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club [6] – 7
  21. The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You [7]
  22. The Lox – Money, Power & Respect (1998)

Comments: This is the most I’ve distanced myself from new music since I started doing these monthly posts.  Obviously, I did a lot of reminiscing on DMX’s early discography as his life seemed to be in danger and then he ultimately passed away.  I gave DMX a pretty unfavorable write-up when I went through his whole recording career, but his peak was really strong and looking back at my ratings for his earliest albums, I think I was a bit unfair.  For all his flaws as a lyricist, he was a great songwriter and made very enjoyable music.

The 20 Artists I Listened To The Most In April

  1. DMX
  2. Conway the Machine
  3. Ghostface Killah
  4. Kendrick Lamar
  5. Snoop Dogg
  6. The Notorious B.I.G.
  7. Benny the Butcher
  8. 50 Cent
  9. Kenny Mason
  10. J. Cole
  11. Jay Rock
  12. Big L
  13. Kali Uchis
  14. Saigon
  15. Black Coffee
  16. Cordae
  17. Isaiah Rashad
  18. KOTA The Friend
  19. Pink Sweat$
  20. Ab-Soul

Comments: Snoop crept into my top 5 because I was re-listening to Tha Doggfather plus he dropped a new album last month (that didn’t crack my top 20 spins).  I also re-visited some early Ghostface Killah and 50 Cent while Biggie stayed in rotation from the past couple months.  It was recently announced that Top Dawg Entertainment will be breaking a very long dry spell by releasing new music on May 7th.  This is a label whose entire roster is basically years overdue for a new album.  I’m excited for all of them to drop, so I was listening to TDE releases heavy this past week and four of them ended up cracking my top 20 for the month, with Kendrick leading the way.  TDE season is upon us!   

Top 50 Artists All-Time (since August 2020)

Note: last all-time rank in parentheses

  1. Eminem (1)
  2. Benny the Butcher (2)
  3. MC Eiht (6)
  4. Conway the Machine (4)
  5. Lil Wayne (3)
  6. Che Noir (7)
  7. The Roots/Black Thought (5)
  8. Toby Ganger (16)
  9. Nas (10)
  10. Amine (9)
  11. Biggie (unranked)
  12. Sa-Roc (24)
  13. Spillage Village (8)
  14. MF DOOM (unranked)
  15. Recognize Ali/Dueling Experts (15)
  16. Dua Lipa (30)
  17. Jadakiss/The Lox (unranked)
  18. Ty Dolla $ign (12)
  19. Tyrone’s Jacket (44)
  20. Boldy James (29)
  21. Berner (11)
  22. Kid Cudi (46)
  23. Busta Rhymes (13)
  24. DMX (unranked)
  25. Flip Huston (19)
  26. The Weeknd (17)
  27. Lana Del Rey (unranked)
  28. R.A. the Rugged Man (18)
  29. 38 Spesh (14)
  30. Mac Miller (48)
  31. KOTA The Friend (unranked)
  32. Blu & Exile (22)
  33. Logic (21)
  34. Westside Gunn (26)
  35. Big Sean (20)
  36. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin (23)
  37. Jessie Ware (unranked)
  38. Scarface (unranked)
  39. Felt (25)
  40. Brother Ali (42)
  41. Pop Smoke (28)
  42. Freddie Gibbs (unranked)
  43. Nyck Caution (unranked)
  44. T.I. (27)
  45. Ransom (31)
  46. Reason (33)
  47. Kendrick Lamar (unranked)
  48. J. Cole (unranked)
  49. Phoebe Bridgers (32)
  50. Playboi Carti (unranked)

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists
2020 Bangers Playlist
2021 Bangers Playlist

Ghetts (feat. Jaykae & Moonchild Sanelly), “Mozambique”
Pink Sweat$, “Not Alright”

Yep… I was sleeping on adding new bangers last month.





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2021 Oscar Predictions

April 24, 2021

I thought I was going to complete a bucket list project and watch every single film and short that was nominated for an Oscar this year. I basically went an entire year without being able to do my job, so it left me way more time to watch movies than I usually have. I kicked things into high gear starting in December and cranked out like 25-30 movies a month, but by the middle of April, I still had a handful of films I needed to watch and I wasn’t excited about any of them and poker and baseball started to dominate my time. On the eve of Oscar night, there are six films that were nominated that I haven’t seen. I did watch every international feature, documentary, and short though and that’s something I’ve definitely never done before. Below are my rankings and predictions for every category. I didn’t listen to any of the songs, so I left that category out and despite having a family member that works as an editor on big Hollywood movies Film Editing is the category I understand the least, so I left that off too. Enjoy!

Best Picture

  1. Promising Young Woman
  2. Minari
  3. Sound of Metal
  4. Nomadland
  5. The Father
  6. Judas and the Black Messiah
  7. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  8. Mank

Biggest Snub: Considering they can nominate as many as ten films for Best Pic, I think it’s crazy Soul didn’t a nomination. It was my third favorite movie of 2020 and such a feel good film, I can’t believe it’s not here. Also, I think it’s kind of strange that Thomas Vinterberg got a Best Director nomination but his Another Round didn’t get a Best Pic nom.

Prediction: I would be rather shocked if something other than Minari or Nomadland won. I think Nomadland is going to win, but Minari was a more enjoyable movie to me.

Best Actor

  1. Anthony Hopkins, The Father
  2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  3. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
  4. Gary Oldman, Mank
  5. Steven Yeun, Minari

Biggest Snub: Delroy Lindo was so good in Da 5 Bloods that I thought he might have a decent chance at winning and he’s not even nominated. I’d rank him third on that list above.

Prediction: Chadwick Boseman has all the buzz and momentum, but Anthony Hopkins gave the performance of the year in The Father. While a posthumous Oscar would be really cool for Chadwick and his family — and he would be a deserving pick — I still think Sir Anthony gave a better performance.

Best Actress

  1. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
  2. Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
  3. Frances McDormand, Nomadland
  4. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Haven’t seen: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Biggest Snub: There were a lot of really good performances from lead actresses last year, but I think the Academy mostly got it right. I thought Rosamund Pike absolutely made I Care A Lot and Zendaya really leveled up in Malcolm & Marie, but I’m not overly shocked neither of them are here.

Prediction: I believe Viola Davis is the favorite, but I think that’s ludicrous. Her screen time is rather limited and it’s not like she was Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs good. I’m rooting hard for Carey Mulligan here. She deserves it.

Best Director

  1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
  2. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
  3. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
  4. David Fincher, Mank
  5. Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

Biggest Snub: I’ll say Shaka King because his movie got a Best Pic nom while Thomas Vinterberg’s movie did not.

Prediction: It would be a massive upset if anyone other than Chloe Zhao won.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami…
  2. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
  3. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
  5. Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Biggest Snub: It’s probably unfair that Lakeith Stanfield is eligible for this category. He was a lead actor in that movie (and so was Kaluuya probably). So he’s stealing someone’s spot and I’d suggest that someone should be Frank Langella in The Trial of the Chicago 7. He had me laughing that whole damn movie.

Prediction: This category is loaded, but Daniel Kaluuya has been sweeping awards season. Lock it up.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
  2. Amanda Seyfried, Mank
  3. Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  4. Olivia Colman, The Father

Haven’t seen: Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Biggest Snub: No one really stands out, but Dominque Fishback in Judas and the Black Messiah is probably the best performance that didn’t get nominated.

Prediction: This category is loaded too. I wouldn’t be mad if any of the top four won, but my favorite performance of the bunch was definitely Yuh-Jung Youn. Anyone that can make you laugh consistently while speaking a language you don’t understand is doing something special. I think she has stolen the momentum away from Seyfried, whom I used to think was a lock.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Promising Young Woman
  2. Minari
  3. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Judas and the Black Messiah
  5. Sound of Metal

Biggest Snub: Considering how wildly imaginative Soul was, it is crazy that it got snubbed.

Prediction: Sorkin is probably going to win for Chicago 7, but I think Emerald Fennell and Promising Young Woman are drawing live.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Father
  2. Nomadland
  3. One Night in Miami…
  4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  5. The White Tiger

Biggest Snub: Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things was complete insanity. I’m not sure I liked the movie, but he unquestionably writes on a level that mere mortals are not capable of.

Prediction: Anthony Hopkins is legendary in The Father but Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton gave him plenty to work with in a brilliant script. I don’t think the script is the best aspect of Nomadland but I actually think it might be the favorite in this category as well.

Best Animated Feature

  1. Soul
  2. Wolfwalkers
  3. Onward
  4. Over The Moon

Haven’t seen: A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Biggest Snub: I’ve actually only seen the nominated films. I loved the first Croods movie so I’m a little surprised that its sequel got beat out by Over The Moon and Shaun The Sheep.

Prediction: Wolfwalkers was great, but Soul should have been a Best Pic nom and will win here easily.

Best Documentary Feature

  1. My Octopus Teacher
  2. Time
  3. Collective
  4. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
  5. The Mole Agent

Biggest Snubs: Dick Johnson is Dead and Boys State feel like massive snubs. They’d both crack my top 5 easily.

Prediction: My Octopus Teacher blew my mind because its subject is so amazing and I think it’s unbelievably cool that they were able to catch that relationship between man and sea creature on film but… Collective and Time are far more poignant — one of those two are almost certainly going to win and I’ll say Time takes home the Oscar.

Best International Feature

  1. Another Round
  2. Quo Vadis, Aida?
  3. Collective
  4. Better Days
  5. The Man Who Sold His Skin

Biggest Snub: There’s a Korean thriller I saw on Netflix named The Call. I loved it, but it has gotten basically zero attention anywhere that I’ve seen.

Prediction: Another Round feels like a lock, especially with that Best Director nomination, but Quo Vadis, Aida? was a great movie and should give the Danish submission a run for its money.

Best Cinematography

  1. Nomadland
  2. Mank
  3. Judas and the Black Messiah
  4. News of the World
  5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Biggest Snub: I don’t think I really liked Tenet much, but it was cool to look at, that’s for sure. Same with I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Prediction: Nomadland is a virtual lock.

Best Production Design

  1. Mank
  2. News of the World
  3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  4. Tenet
  5. The Father

Biggest Snub: First Cow probably deserved an Oscar nomination for something and it’s production design was definitely great.

Prediction: Mank feels pretty safe here.

Best Costume Design

  1. Emma
  2. Mank
  3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  4. Mulan

Haven’t seen: Pinocchio

Biggest Snub: Probably something I haven’t seen, but the guys in One Night in Miami… were looking pretty sharp.

Prediction: Wide open between the top 3, so I’ll go with my #1 in Emma.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  2. Emma.
  3. Mank

Haven’t Seen: Hillbilly Elegy, Pinocchio

Biggest Snub: I can’t say I was a fan of Birds of Prey, but this is something it definitely did well.

Prediction: Well, I didn’t watch 40% of the nominees, but Ma Rainey seems to be a big favoite here.

Best Visual Effects

  1. Tenet
  2. The Midnight Sky
  3. Love and Monsters
  4. Mulan

Haven’t seen: The One and Only Ivan

Prediction: I was pretty mixed on Tenet but the visual effects were A+. This should be an easy win.

Best Original Score

  1. Soul
  2. Mank
  3. Minari
  4. News of the World
  5. Da 5 Bloods

Biggest Snub: I liked the score for Nomadland enough to add the soundtrack to my library on Apple Music and use it for background noise while I meditate… so… I definitely thought it would crack Oscar’s top 5.

Prediction: Soul

Best Sound

  1. Sound of Metal
  2. Soul
  3. News of the World
  4. Mank

Haven’t seen: Greyhound

Biggest Snub: Definitely NOT Tenet.

Prediction: Sound of Metal not winning this category would be insanity.

Best Live Action Short

  1. The Present
  2. White Eye
  3. Feeling Through
  4. The Letter Room
  5. Two Distant Strangers

Biggest Snub: Only saw these five.

Prediction: Before watching these, I thought The Letter Room probably had the best chance simply because Oscar Isaac was the star and it had some buzz, but as you can see above, it was far from my favorite of the noms. I think they were all pretty good and as much as I’d like to see Joey Bada$$ be part of an Oscar win (for Two Distant Strangers), The Present and White Eye are a notch above the competition here.

Best Documentary Short

  1. A Love Song for Latasha
  2. A Concerto is a Conversation
  3. Colette
  4. Do Not Split
  5. Hunger Ward

Biggest Snub: I only saw one other documentary short and I’m fine with its lack of inclusion.

Prediction: This is the first time I’ve seen all five nominees in a shorts category and, honestly, I still have no clue. The only one of these I didn’t thoroughly enjoy was Hunger Ward (and it’s not like that didn’t cover heartbreaking ground). Prior to watching these, I was under the impression that A Concerto was the favorite, but I’ll be rooting for Latasha.

Best Animated Short

  1. If Anything Happens I Love You
  2. Opera
  3. Burrow
  4. Genius Loci
  5. Yes-People

Prediction: I didn’t even enjoy the bottom two on the list and Burrow is at least one full notch below the top two. The visual of Opera was absolutely epic, but If Anything Happens I Love You is the most touching of this lot by a wide margin, plus it’s animation and music are high quality as well. Probably an easy win.

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March 2021: Every Review I Wrote

April 4, 2021

Movies – I got back to “normal” life during the last week of March, re-activating my AMC A-list membership and returning to the movie theaters. I also got back to doing my day job: playing poker. I still watched an absurd amount of movies in March, but with getting back to the poker grind last week and doing all my fantasy baseball drafts (five of them!) the week before that, I didn’t review most of the movies I watched. I’m guess that’s how it will be going forward. I’ll probably still watch 2-4 movies a week, but I won’t have much time to write about them. If I wind up reviewing a movie that I haven’t yet, I’ll just post the link in next month’s post like this. I’ll say this much: Anthony Hopkins in The Father is my favorite performance of 2020.

Movies I watched, but didn’t review (ratings out of 10):

  • Nobody (2021) – 7/10
  • The White Tiger (Netflix, 2021) – Nominated for Best Original Screenplay – 7/10
  • What Would Sophia Loren Do? (Netflix, 2021) – On shortlist for Best Documentary Short Subject – 6/10
  • Better Days (2020) – Nominated for Best International Feature – 7/10
  • A Love Song for Latasha (Netflix, 2020) – Nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject – 6/10
  • If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix, 2020) – Nominated for Best Animated Short – 8/10
  • News of the World (2020) – Nominated for 4 Oscars – 6/10
  • Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020) – Nominated for Best International Feature – 8/10
  • The Father (2020) – Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay – 8/10
  • The Midnight Sky (Netflix, 2020) – Nominated for Best Visual Effects – 5/10
  • To: Gerard (Peacock, 2020) – On the shortlist for Best Animated Short – 6/10
  • Just Mercy (2019) – 8/10
  • Phantasm 2 (1988) – 6/10
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) – 6/10
  • Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) – 5/10
  • Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) – 6/10
  • Friday the 13th (1980) – 7/10

2021 Best Feature Films: My top 25 of 2021 through March
2020 Best Feature Films: My top 25 of 2020 through March
2020 Best Documentaries/Docu-Series: My top documentary style films of the year
2020/2021 Oscar Watch: My list of favorites for the major Oscar categories
Focused Watchlist: A list of 30 movies that are at the top of my watchlist with a breakdown of how I formulate my picks
April 2021 – New to Theaters and Streaming: Ranking new and old movies I want to see coming to streaming or theaters this month

I also went crazy and made a best films of the year list for every year from 2020 to 1982, the year I was born. I ranked 25 films for 2000 and later and 10 films for 1999 to 1982. I started fizzling out on my lists in the early 90s as I just haven’t seen most of the important films from those early years when I was a kid. I have all the lists on my blog here. Enjoy!

T.V. Shows (Ratings out of 5)

  • WandaVision – Season 1 (2021) – Disney+ – 2.5
  • Schitt’s Creek – Season 2 (2016) – Netflix – 4.5
  • Schitt’s Creek – Season 3 (2017) – Netflix – 4
  • Schitt’s Creek – Season 4 (2018) – Netflix – 4.5
  • Schitt’s Creek – Season 5 (2019) – Netflix – 4.5

Music

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March 2021 Music Ratings

April 1, 2021

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2


Rating Scale

10 – Masterpiece
9 – Amazing
8 – Great
7 – Highly Enjoyable
6 – Recommended/Good
5 – Decent/Cool
4 – Lackluster
3 – Bad
2 – Horrible
1 – Torture Material

Top 20 Albums in March (all ratings are out of 10)

Note: These albums are NOT ranked in order of preference; they are ranked in order of number of songs listened to (scrobbles) over the past month. Previous ranking in brackets. Year of release in parentheses if it’s not 2020 or 2021. I’ll include a rough rating for each album to make my feelings on each project clearer.  The more I’ve listened to an album, the more accurate my rating is. Any rating that has a + symbol means that I’ve found my floor, but I could rate it higher. I won’t leave a rating for anything I don’t have a good feel for yet.

*indicates February 2021 release

  1. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997) – 9+ [unranked]
  2. Jadakiss – Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (2001) – 6+ [unranked]
  3. *Benny the Butcher – The Plugs I Met 2 – 7+
  4. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994) – 9+ [unranked]
  5. *Ghetts – Conflict of Interest – 6+
  6. *Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club – 6+
  7. The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You – 6+ [unranked]
  8. Mos Def – Black On Both Sides (1999) – 8+ [unranked]
  9. *Pink Sweat$ – Pink Planet – 6+
  10. Marlon Craft – How We Intended – 6+ [6]
  11. *Rod Wave – SoulFly
  12. Toby Ganger – Free Machine (Unreleased) – 8+ [20]
  13. JAY-Z – 4:44 (2017) – 8+ [unranked]
  14. *KOTA The Friend – To Kill A Sunrise
  15. Madison Beer – Life Support [11]
  16. *Robin Thicke – On Earth, and in Heaven
  17. Tash Sultana – Terra Firma – 7+ [1]
  18. Tyrone’s Jacket – Tyrone’s Jacket – 8+ [unranked]
  19. Courtney Bell – Poverty Stricken – 7+ [4]
  20. Sheek Louch – Beast Mode, Vol. 4 [unranked]
  21. *slowthai – TYRON

The 25 Artists I’ve Listened To The Most In 2021

Notes: Last month I listened to a ton of Biggie. I haven’t been posting many album reviews, but I got them coming for both of Biggie’s albums. I have also been a long time Jadakiss nonbeliever and I’ll probably be giving him some extra attention in the near future because I either wanna prove myself right or start loving someone I’ve never given enough credit to. I pretty much have his first album reviewed – I just need to post it. I started playing live poker again this past week and that is going to drastically increase the amount of time I spend listening to music. Yesterday I listened to Scarface my whole session and that was good enough to almost get him into my top 10 for the year.

  1. The Notorious B.I.G. [unranked]
  2. Eminem [2]
  3. MC Eiht [1]
  4. MF DOOM [3]
  5. Benny the Butcher [unranked]
  6. Kid Cudi [4]
  7. Courtney Bell [6]
  8. Tash Sultana [13]
  9. Boldy James [5]
  10. Nyck Caution [11]
  11. Scarface [unranked]
  12. Tyrone’s Jacket [17]
  13. Dua Lipa [7]
  14. Sa-Roc [16]
  15. KOTA The Friend [unranked]
  16. Jadakiss [unranked]
  17. Toby Ganger [unranked]
  18. Lana Del Rey [unranked]
  19. Pharoahe Monch [19]
  20. Chris Stapleton [unranked]
  21. Marlon Craft [unranked]
  22. SZA [9]
  23. Kali Uchis [unranked]
  24. Freddie Gibbs [unranked]
  25. Mac Miller [14]

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists
2020 Bangers Playlist
2021 Bangers Playlist

38 Spesh (feat. Benny the Butcher), “Stash Box”
Benny the Butcher (feat. 2 Chainz), “Plug Talk”
Courtney Bell, “Celebrate”
Elcamino (feat. Benny the Butcher), “Immunity”
Gukie, “Make It a Double”
KOTA the Friend, “Wolves”
Lil Tjay & 6LACK, “Calling My Phone”
Lucky Daye (feat. Mahalia), “My Window”
Masego (feat. JID & Rapsody), “Somethin’ Ain’t Right”
Nyck Caution (feat. KOTA the Friend & Erick the Architect), “Product Of My Environment”
Nyck Caution (feat. Joey Bada$$), “How You Live It”



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The Dark Knight Returns: a 2021 Poker Blog!

March 31, 2021

My poker blog was kind of on its way out anyways, but the Covid pandemic officially killed it. I was still playing regularly during the first two weeks of March, but the day that the NBA decided to suspend their season indefinitely is the same day that I decided it was time for me to take this thing seriously as well. I quit my session early and I didn’t go back again until late August. I did make a two day trip to La Center in southern Washington in late January where I had a couple of dream sessions and booked a +$9k trip and that was pretty much the extent of my poker success in 2020. Even when I was back to playing in the fall, we were in a tent, I was wearing gloves 100% of the time, and it just never felt like I was really back. I couldn’t get into it. When Covid started spreading around the local casinos in late October, I decided that I wasn’t going to play again until I got vaccinated.

I have to say this whole thing could have been a lot worse for my poker career. Just because I can’t work anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t have to pay bills and when you can’t pad your bankroll, well, it can only disappear. I was probably two months into the pandemic before it dawned on me that I should look into filing for unemployment. As a professional poker player, it just didn’t occur to me that that could be a thing for me. On the other hand, I pay my taxes and these were unusual circumstances. I was surprised how easy it was for me to get paid after hearing so many horror stories of people having trouble and how impossible it was to talk to anybody about it. Within a week, they paid me, and not just for that week, but all the weeks dating back to the middle of March. I stopped filing when I started playing again, but after deciding it wasn’t worth the risk, I got a doctor’s note (because I’m a Type I Diabetic) and started collecting unemployment again. Needless to say, there’s no way I would have been able to continue playing for a living if I wasn’t able to file for unemployment so that was an extremely pleasant surprise. I’d like to say it wasn’t as good as playing would have been, but uh, not like I was really crushing in 2019 or last year when I did play.

There is a bright side to this whole thing for me. I got way better at studying poker. I started using solvers, looking at GTO charts, and going over hand histories with accomplished online players. It’s not like I could do much of anything else. Also, I’ve been so reluctant to make the transition from limit games to spread and no limit games, but almost all of my studying during the past year has been focused on no limit strategies so there’s no excuse for me to hold off on it any longer. I will be playing plenty of no limit cash going forward and my tournament schedules will include a lot more no limit Hold’em events. I’ve always felt like I’ve been able to mostly hold my own in NLHE, but I think I’ve leveled up big time and I’m excited to see what kind of results I can produce.

It’s good timing because since I’ve been away, Palace has started spreading no limit cash games. On any given day, there are probably two 1/3 NL games going and I’ve even seen 3/5 games going a few times on the weekend. This was not a thing a year ago and that only contributed to me not really feeling like I needed to focus on strengthening that muscle. I’m still not entirely sure that I can make a better hourly playing 1/3 than 8/16 limit, but I do know that my skill edge comes into play more and I can utilize exploits way more effectively. I won’t go as far as to say that limit Hold’em is Bingo, but you’re usually going to have to show down the best hand and my biggest edges in those games are patience and not tilting because I’ve lost a couple pots. If I can make ten big blinds per hour in 1/3 though, I should definitely be playing that over 8/16. I don’t know if that’s a reasonable win rate, but it seems like it could be doable.

I started my first day back in 4/8 limit and finished a small loser in about an hour before heading to a 1/3 game around 6 PM. I was pretty disappointed with the game when I sat down in it. Everyone was playing pretty tight and passive and the average pot was really small. I was definitely thinking I’d be better off in 8/16. But there was only one game and the list was super long and the floor didn’t seem keen on starting a second one. So I stuck it out.

In my first couple hour or so, I was startled by the passivity in my game. Here’s a list of things that shocked me:

-My first big pot I straddled the button with 73o, some players called and we saw a J43 flop. It checked to me and I decided to bet on the larger side and got one caller from middle position. The turn gave me two pair and he check-called another chunky bet. The river was a king and I was thinking I was going to put him all-in, but he donked into for about half his stack and I just didn’t see any value in raising so I called and he showed me… JJ? Imagine seeing a $6 button straddle, followed by both blinds calling, looking down at JJ and being like, “I guess I’ll just call.”

-A different player ended up showing AQo in a pot I straddled on the button with no other preflop raising.

-A different player open-limped the cutoff and called my button raise and ended up showing… QQ.

-The same player that had AQ earlier called my MP open to $10 with AQ again, despite only having $40 behind.

-A different player flatted my MP open of $10 with less than $100 and ended up showing AK.

All of those hands are insane to me. It reminds me of when I used to prop 3/6 games where no one raises anything preflop. It’s just weird. It can be really easy to value town yourself when people are playing huge hands so passively.

Fortunately the game got really good as the night progressed. By midnight I saw someone opening to $30 and probably not even looking at his hand. I saw that same player open huge and then call off a $200 shove with 43o.

Which brings me to an interesting hand. I already know this guy is a certifiable maniac. Not a maniac with any rhyme or reason, but a total punter. So he opens to $20 and it folds to me in the big blind and I defend with 66. The flop is T32 rainbow. I check to him and he bets $50 into $33. I actually hate all of my options. This is a dude that I am not entirely sure wouldn’t punt-shove it all in here with KJ and it’s not like I want to get $280 in on the flop, so raising seems extremely high variance. Calling seems like a good play, but I don’t expect this dude to slow down and I think he’s usually going to be triple barrel all-in on the river, so if I call flop, I think I have to know I’m calling down for stacks and I can’t imagine many runouts where I’d talk myself into a fold vs. this player. So fold now? Seems absurd, but I just think I can find a better spot to stack this guy. The only issue is that he might punt to someone else first. I decided to wait and find a better spot and, sure enough, he blasted off $500 to me over the next 30 minutes.

I had some good connections that probably never should have happened. The guy that had a set of jacks against my 73 earlier straddled to $9 on his button and I made it $32 from the big blind with my own pair of jacks. He was my only caller and we saw a J83 flop. I down bet $15 and he called. The turn paired the 8 and I down bet again to $30. I figured he might attack that sizing if he had a draw or air, but he wasn’t going to fold anything good and he was going to raise trips anyway. He did make it $90 and I just called. The river was a blank and I check-jammed on him and got called by 87o, a hand that should have clearly folded pre.

Later, there were a couple limpers and the cutoff made it $13 and I had KQo on the button. I’d 3-bet here a lot of the time, but I hadn’t seen this guy do much raising, so I just took a flop in position and four of us saw a JT3 flop. One of the blinds led out for $10, a limper called, and the PFR made it $30. I’m not going anywhere against this action so I call and so do the other two players. The turn is a blank and the PFR bets $60 when it checks to him. Another simple just call and one other calls. The river is an ace and the PFR bets almost half his stack. As soon as I start thinking, he tells me how much he has behind like he can’t wait to put the rest of it in. So I oblige him. The other player folds and he says, “aces are good, ” before calling and flipping over his set of jacks. KQ wasn’t even on his radar and when he saw it, he pretty much blew a gasket. “How could you call with that? I guess I should have just gone all-in preflop.” I confirmed I would have folded if he did that. His reaction to my hand is hilarious and makes me really excited to be playing no limit with the local player pool.

I started off my night kind of rough. I was $800 within the first couple hours, but by the end of the night I had $2000 in front of me and ended up booking a $1200 win on my first day back.

I’ve now played three 1/3 sessions at Palace (I played twice in the fall) and I’ve won over $1000 all three times. Obviously, that’s not a realistic expectation going forward, but it’s certainly a nice start in my transition to big bet games.

I haven’t really ironed out my poker goals for 2021, but my current schedule has me playing about 34 hours a week and I’ll probably be playing mostly 1/3 with some 8/16 and 20/40 sprinkled in.