King of Nothing Has Something to Be Proud of

Photos by Samantha Westmore
Two weeks after trying to kill himself, Daren Napier went to training camp.

He had recently graduated from St. John's School, a prestigious, mostly white Houston private school nestled in River Oaks. He was going to play football for Columbia University. But before he was set to leave for college and summer training in New York, he took a month's supply of his ADHD medication -- 2700 mg.

"I went [to school] straight out of the psych ward," Napier says. "The first time I talked to my coach was fresh out of the hospital."

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Mixed Emotions: When CD Compilations Create "Feelings"

Photo by Ed and Eddie/Flickr Commons
I recently received an e-mail from my nephew, Orlando, inviting me to join something called the "Mix of the Month" club. The correspondence detailed how 12 members of this group would each have an assigned month to create a mix CD to send to the others. Original, creative cover art was encouraged. I was assigned January 2014.

Before I finished reading the instructions, a memory rush sat me flat-assed in my recliner. I saw my young, nappy-headed self walking home from Dick Dowling Junior High, directly to the mailbox to see if the latest records from Columbia House had arrived.

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The 5 Worst Trends Started By the Class of '99

Categories: Mix Bag

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Photo by Jason Wolter
Brian Setzer strikes up the band. Er, orchestra.
Chris Gray's write-up of the Brian Setzer Orchestra's "Christmas Rocks" show at the Arena Theatre a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. These days, the swing maestro seems to be comfortably settled into his own little niche in the music industry, playing swingin' Christmas carols to grown folks. But back in 1999, he was ridin' high on the pop charts. The Swing Revival was of the year's biggest trends, and Setzer was right on the cutting edge of a hot new look and sound.

Now, to put it kindly, he ain't. The Swing Revival was one among many odd little musical fads that took hold of the mainstream in the late '90s. In fact, identifying and exploiting new fads was the dominant business model of the record industry at the time, and it was successful as hell. Record companies had never sold so many copies of hit albums before, and they certainly haven't since.

The king of swing seems to be doing all right for himself, at least. But catching up with Setzer got me curious about what the other survivors of 1999's Year of the Fad are up to these days. Who was buying all of those Jessica Simpson and Coal Chamber CDs, and why can't those artists still move tens of millions of units?

Hey, the holidays are all about reminiscing. Let's revisit the Top 5 musical trends of 1999 and poke around for some answers, shall we?

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5 New Rules For Your Party Playlist

image by Pen Waggener
No, not *that* kind of party mix. Be serious.
The keg is on ice, and the snacks are in the party bowls slowly going stale. The streamers are hung and the party hats are sitting on the kitchen table, perhaps ironically, perhaps not. The neighbors have been bribed with invitations or money, and the local police are on full alert. The drug dealers are slowly circling the block waiting for your friends to show up, and the zoo is missing several exotic animals. It's nearly party time.

But wait! What about the music? For God's sake, you didn't just throw a bunch of your MP3's together willy-nilly, did you? Or worse yet, you didn't just plug in your iPod, hit "shuffle," and let the cards fall where they may, did you? Oh, you poor simple fool. A party mix isn't something you throw together at the last minute. It takes care and craft. There are rules.

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You Better Run: 10 Other Great Pat Benatar Songs

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Photo by Groovehouse
Pat Benatar is one of the greatest vocalists of all-time, the woman behind numerous memorable hits such as "Heartbreaker," "You Better Run" and the ever-popular "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." However, she has had many other great songs throughout her career, from albums such as In the Heat of the Night, Crimes of Passion, and Tropico.

Since Benatar and husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo will be coming to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Friday with Journey and Loverboy, I thought it would be a great idea to show some of the lesser-known tracks of her career.

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Hey Ladies! The 10 Most She-Tastic Artists of All Time

Have you ever noticed this: Men and women have different musical tastes. At times, they do.

Why? Because men and women have different interests, for the most part. Think about it, boys: while you may want to play some Metallica, your girlfriend (or mom) may want listen to Sheryl Crow or Madonna.

As a counterpoint to our recent testosterone-mad countdown of the most "bro-tastic" bands of all time, Rocks Off now presents ten artists ladies love.

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Top 7 Promotional Music Gimmicks -- Both Used & Unused

Categories: Lists, Mix Bag

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One of the most interesting things in the music business is how managers and record companies promote and market their artists. Sometimes they do a great job, and other times they fail.

When they do fail, they're like that hickey you got three weeks ago -- still there. But, like a hickey, people eventually forget about it. Here are some of the most memorable gimmicks that have already been done:

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Ch-ch-ch-changes: Gets A New Look

Categories: Mix Bag

If you've gone to recently, you may have found yourself confused. Yes, you're on the right website. No, you eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Yes, we've undergone a bit of a facelift on our home page.

Don't freak out. Change is scary, yes, but we strongly feel that this change is for the better. Look at all those pretty pictures. Look at all the white space. Below is your guide to what's new on

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Dead Prez Taps "Richmond Revolutionary" Lee-Coc To Open

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Photos by Kris Sears
M1 of Dead Prez at the Houston Palestine Film Festival

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Lee-Coc at the HPFF
The Houston Palestine Film Festival (HPFF), which features a wide range of films that highlight the unique strength and struggle of the Palestinian people featured the legendary M1 from Dead Prez on Saturday, but he could only think of one hip-hop artist in Houston to open up for him and that was Richmond's own, Lee-Coc.

You'll remember Lee-Coc, the Richmond Revolutionary, as the artist in our first Rocks Off Hot Seat Simply put, he is dedicated to social change, uplifting disenfranchised communities, exposing conspiracy theories and if you dig deeper, he loves to call out as many rappers as he can on their music's subject matter, which he feels hurts his community rather than helps it.

"M said to me 'I couldn't think of anyone else to open up for us but you; your music is so powerful,'" Lee-Coc says of his invite to the event. "There were 60, 70-year-old Palestinians with their fists and middle fingers in the air. It was great as a Mexicano to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine against Imperialism. I took a moment to talk about what was happening in Arizona. It was an honor because we share the same struggle."

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Mayalino's F*** These WetWacks: A Mixtape Must-Have

Rocks Off drowns ourselves in mixtapes, and we've come to one conclusion: It's hard to find a good one. But like a domestic violence-prone girlfriend, we keep going back to the mixtape circuit because we think, "he'll change."

Mixtapes feel cheap, full of thrown-together bastard-stepchild lyrics that didn't make the real album. You can cherry-pick one to four good songs, but ole' boy at the flea market took all my dollars. He didn't cherry-pick the crisp, pretty dollars we gave him. No, ladies and gentlemen, he took even the wrinkled ones.

The problem we described is the reason we keep the same mixtapes in our six-CD changer, Tango Blast (Ikeman and Lil Bing), NAWF II (Lucky Luciano, Stunta and Coast) and I Swear To God (Aztek Escobar). Two of the remaining three spots are compilations of alternative music and the last is Preemo's Concrete Dreams.

But one of those CDs - probably one of the alternative compilations - is about to get knocked into the dozens of unmarked burned-CDs in our trunk and get replaced with Mayalino's F@#k These WetWacks mixtape with DJ So Hood.

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