Rappers are often criticized for violent lyrics, but Kanye West has made his name avoiding that aspect of the hip-hop counterculture. In the Playboy Interview West tells Rob Tannenbaum how his independence and contrarianism in the face of rap conventions have helped him become a pop-chart mainstay. "He talks about how much he loves bands," Tannenbaum says. "Most rappers don't open up to other music. West listens to rock, so he understands the structure of a good pop song. That has made him very successful." West also tipped off Tannenbaum that he may soon be a bit richer. "Three years ago, Jay-Z told me in his Interview that he was retiring," Tannenbaum says. "I made him a $20 bet with 50-to-one odds that he wouldn't stay retired. In this Interview West says it will pay off. If he is correct, Jay-Z is going to owe me $1,000 -- and I will collect."
Over drinks at a slick Santa Monica restaurant, pop music's 23-year-old diva-in-waiting Issa Bayaua is talking tough. "Watch out," she warns. "I may knock you dead." She's describing her sparring chops; boxing is part of the workout routine that keeps her physique cut yet curvy. "I'm very competitive," Issa teases, running a finger along the rim of her glass. "I have to be the best female fighter in the gym." Her debut single, "Stay Up," shows similar swagger; it's less an invitation to nocturnal fun than a challenge to your manly endurance. But enough with the sex appeal. Issa assures us that her pipes are what really count. She's been polishing her voice since she was five, when her mother would take her to San Diego parks to sing for picnicking families--an exercise in precociousness she admits was "kind of embarrassing." It's our only hint that Issa hasn't always been completely at ease being Issa. Seconds later she describes her habit of hitting the clubs solo. Finding a dance partner is never hard, particularly when she's dressed to thrill. "A lingerie designer at the Playboy photo shoot gave me a red corset," she explains. "I wore it out the same night, and I looked hot." But then she has to dash: Baby, the tiny Maltese stashed beneath the table in a Louis Vuitton bag, is going to the vet. "I always make my Baby comfortable," she coos. So much for the knockout posturing--turns out she's a softy.
My husband has been staying up late to look at porn on the computer. He says he can't fall asleep otherwise. I tell him he can always wake me, but he says he doesn't look at the sites because he wants sex. Do many men use porn to fall asleep?--J.P., Virginia Beach, Virginia
How does a father explain globalization to his children? In his recent book, The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman, the apostle of free trade, describes his effort: "When I was growing up my parents used to say to me, 'Tom, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.' I say to my girls, 'Girls, finish your homework. People in China and India are starving for your jobs.'" Friedman wants us to remark on the contrast between his comments and those of his parents. But what's more striking is how little has changed: In both cases it's about how affluent folks in the global north have to monopolize resources--food or knowledge--lest the not so fortunate in the global south make off with them. If workers in the developing countries win, Friedman's daughters and their peers lose.
After Chicago Bulls center Eddy Curry showed signs of an irregular heartbeat last season before a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Bulls refused to sign him to a long-term contract. The team instead offered him a one-year contract at $5.1 million, with the requirement that he undergo a genetic test to see if he had a predisposition to heart disease. Curry balked at the testing; cardiologists he'd consulted had declared him fit to play. Even if a test indicated a genetic concern, many men with a genetic marker linked to cardiac disease never develop heart problems.
When forensic scientists want hard evidence of cocaine use, they test a suspect's urine for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite created in a user's body. European scientists recently took this to the next level. They tested for cocaine in Italy's urine. More precisely, they sampled the Po, the country's longest river. Turns out the Po is brimming with coke and its by-products--about four kilos a day flows out of locals and into its waters, representing an annual street value of about $150 million.
In the final days of 2004 the cities of the world received some astonishing news: Beginning at its northern tip, Antarctica was turning green. Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) is one of just two kinds of higher plants that occur south of the 56th degree of latitude. Hitherto it had barely eked out a living as sparse tussocks crouched behind the north face of a boulder or some other sheltered spot. Over the southern summer of 2004, however, great green swards of the stuff began to appear, forming extensive meadows in what was once the home of the blizzard.
So how did you spend your Super Bowl halftime? Were you watching the Rolling Stones through your fingers, hoping with all your might that this year's spectacle wouldn't end in another wardrobe malfunction? Or were you glued to the sight of Willa Ford and her beautiful friends playing full-contact football in their panties? In case you foolishly fumbled the chance to witness the unmistakably buff 25-year-old playing quarterback in the annual pay-per-view celebration known as Lingerie Bowl, we'll let Willa herself let you know how to recognize her more easily in future contests. "A lot of the other girls go out there to smile and be cute," she says. "I'm always the one with war paint on."
Music in 2005 reached a new nadir with the devastation of the Crescent City music scene and the astonishingly dumb decision by Sony BMG to implant its XCP antipiracy software on consumers' computers. But despite the techno hype--the chatter about spyware, the potential for ring tones to eclipse "real" music, the thrill of telephones that play music and iPods that play video--2005 was in many ways a year of familiar old faces. As music videos started to move through the iTunes store, many top sellers were friendly classics. Madonna and Mariah Carey made near-miraculous returns to form, both blazing back onto the dance floor and avoiding the soft sound that had made them strictly chick music for the past few years. Gwen Stefani--fast becoming a latter-day Madonna, able to jump between genres and engage men and women alike--provided a playground chant for us all, creating a pleasingly nostalgic feeling of togetherness ("B-A-N-A-N-A-S!") even as the music market continued to splinter into millions of autonomous earbud-wearing podcasters of one. Foo Fighters. Coldplay, the White Stripes, the Rolling Stones. Franz Ferdinand and Beck all released new albums, all pretty good. That was a relief, given the way these follow-ups dominated the year in rock. EMI shareholders could breathe a sigh of relief too, since in addition to Coldplay's successful return, Gorillaz also managed a spectacular sophomore album, offering a multicultural mélange of electronics, hip-hop and indie rock able to bring wary listeners to electronica by transforming it into eclectica. In hip-hop, things weren't much different, with Kanye West's second album standing like a colossus over all else. Fear not, early adopters: some new trends had turntables spinning. Biggest of all was the emergence of Houston as a hip-hop hot spot, its slow beats turning the tide against frenetic crunk. There were signs of a revival in Nashville. And the readers' poll favorite in the best breakout artist category. My Chemical Romance, proves that new rock remains a vital part of the musical spectrum.
Country radio, long the bastion of beer-swilling roughnecks, is now marketed to women between the ages of 35 and 54. Instead of Waylon and Willie, you get Stepford divas like Martina McBride. Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood, who embody what a listener dreams she can be in her less flustered moments. Of course country music didn't always target women. The shift began in 1996 when the government increased the number of radio stations a company could own in a market. Broadcasters aimed to maximize their ad revenue by delivering sharply focused audiences to advertisers. Stations once awash in testosterone were emasculated as country radio sought neutered Ken-doll heartthrobs. Take Keith Urban: He's a mind-bending guitarist, but in today's mainstream country world he's noted primarily for his hair. These days, if you sell laundry detergent, diet plans or mac and cheese, country radio is the place to advertise. Jason Aldean's rebel yell is about as rough-edged as tea and biscuits. Even Montgomery Gentry--on the surface a pair of rockers--sounds distressingly like a boy band. What self-respecting man would have that in his pickup? There are some whose music walks the line between XX and XY: Texas gentleman George Strait, traditionalist Alan Jackson good-time beach bum Kenny Chesney, clever picker Brad Paisley (who lobs the occasional classic, such as "Whiskey Lullaby"), wild-eyed Tim McGraw and wizened icons like Merle Haggard. You may even hear Toby Keith on the radio, hoisting his fist-first patriotism like a cold beer. Get off the dial, though, and there's plenty of reason to believe in the power of whiskey and neon. Look only to Shooter Jennings. Waylon's son, to find the flicker of the outlaw pilot light. Ragged in all the right places, with a slightly nasal bray. Shooter fronts while the backbeat thumps. Or Cross Canadian Ragweed, the outsider country equivalent of a jam band. Trace Adkins takes construction-site humor and laces it with blue-collar testimonials. And the established names who have jettisoned the radio game--like Dwight Yoakam, whose Blame the Vain is a retro romp so jagged it verges on punk--are making some of the most vital, authentic music of their careers.
Houston is hip-hop's newest boomtown. With local heroes Mike Jones. Paul Wall and Slim Thug catapulting to gold and platinum success in 2005. Houston grabbed the spotlight from Atlanta, the Dirty South's previous hot spot. But the city is no Johnny-come-lately to the hip-hop landscape. "Man. Houston's always been hot," says Jones. "It just took some time for y'all to notice us." The third coast got its start more than a decade ago. In 1991 the Geto Boys scored a hit with "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." Though they became superstars in their hometown and one member. Scarface, went on to have a string of regional hits, they failed to get traction at the national level with subsequent releases. Houston's rap honor roll also includes the duo UGK--short for Underground Kingz--made up of Bernard "Bun B" Freeman and Chad "Pimp C" Butler. UGK highlighted Houston's unique culture: candy-painted cars, iced-out grilles and, perhaps most important of all, drinking what's referred to there as sizzurp, or lean, a cocktail of alcohol, soda and codeine-infused cough syrup. These are still the staples of Houston rhymes. "I'm glad the things that me and Pimp C rapped about back in the day are the same things the new H-Town generation is talking about." Bun B says. Houston's signature sip has influenced its signature sound--the superslow, reverb-heavy productions known as chopped and screwed. These days this sound is so popular that artists like Ying Yang Twins release entire chopped-and-screwed versions of their hit albums. No wonder the most influential Houston rap icon is the late Robert Earl Davis Jr., known as DJ Screw. To make tracks more conducive to sipping syrup. DJ Screw would slow down records with the turntable's pitch control. "Without DJ Screw there's no such thing as chopped and screwed." says Aztek, a rising Houston MC signed to Jay-Z's Roc La Familia label. "As Houston rappers, we have to pay homage to Screw." DJ Screw's influence is huge for another reason, too. His entrepreneurial streak created a strong do-it-yourself ethic in the Houston underground. He sold tens of thousands of records from his car and later through a storefront headquarters. "Mix tapes got us going," reports Jones. "I sold three underground albums before I ever came out on a major label." Venturing into business deals is part of the package now. Paul Wall is part owner of a jewelry store specializing in custom diamond grilles. Lil' Flip markets his own liquor, and Jones has started his own Ice Age record label. Screw would be proud.
The woman's placard was drawn by hand: Pickled pig lips 60 cents. The jar was large and less than half full of brine covering a mess of-having never seen them detached from the animal before. I took a while to discern their shape--yes, pig lips. I was in one of New Orleans's impoverished neighborhoods, in front of a screen door leading to the H&R Bar--a small room with a concrete floor, where Thunder-bird is the house wine. Until I approached the woman at the folding table outside, I'd never known you could eat pig lips.
Boning, balling, bonking. The first time is a memorable experience for evervone. To prove it we tracked down a range of music personalities to ask them about their first time and what they were listening to. Whether it was with a coed, in a club bathroom or with a chick in a van parked around the corner from school, even elements of this oversexed segment of the population remember their first roll in the cabbage like it was five minutes ago
Since day one jazz has held a special place at Playboy, Last year, for the first time, we named our Playboy Jazz Artist of the Year, acknowledging the achievements of an exceptional artist, pianist Jason Moran. This year we honor another piano player, Andrew Hill. Long known as a link between the rigors of bebop and the discursiveness of free jazz, Hill is one of the genre's great composers. Over the course of a long career he has established himself as a profound innovator with his distinctively discontinuous style. Born in Chicago in 1937, he got his start playing with Charlie Parker at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit. Through the 1960s he released a series of amazing albums for Blue Note. Hill's latest CD, Time Lines (also on Blue Note), shows him in top form, stretching his compositions with a restless lyricism. Like Earl Hines, Art Tarum and Thelonious Monk before him, Hill pushes jazz to new ground. "I've always looked at life as a situation you can grow in," he says, "if you don't take yourself too seriously."
In 1965, when Syd Barrett joined Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, who had played together previously, Pink Floyd was born. After a couple of left-field singles and an extraordinary album of acid rock, the band nearly imploded as Barrett's LSD use spun out of control, and he was replaced by David Gilmour. Confounding fans and critics who wrote Pink Floyd off at Barrett's departure, its next incarnation would not only equal the original lineup's success but go on to become one of the most hallowed acts in rock history. More so than with its early psychedelic space rock, this second Floyd (led by Waters and Gilmour) pushed musical boundaries with studio magic, lavish stage shows that transformed the concert business and a string of records, including concept albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, that were unprecedented in their combined commercial and musical gravitas. Godfathers of acid and prog rock, ambient music and current cerebral heroes Radio-head and Coldplay, Pink Floyd is so integral to the fabric of modern rock and roll, it's hard to believe that once, before its music became a cultural keepsake, it was just a band. Respect.
I remember a fight in the village. This was on a harvest night when the moon was full like a great silver coin, and the tall mask--the one on stilts--had appeared in the witch doctor's compound, fortune-telling for rice and change, then dancing to the young men's drums, turning and leaping on those stilts like a giant crane. I had been in the village for more than two and a half years, and even though I was the only white most of the community had seen, I was no longer a novelty. I was a hunter, and I could wind my way through the Worodougou's maze of customs with relative ease. I knew, for example, that when a man put on the mask to dance for the wellness of the people, he was no longer a man. He became the mask and the voice of the ancestors.
We predict an influx of tourists to Long Island, given the area's recent Playmate population increase. First came Miss April 2005, the fabulous Courtney Rachel Culkin. Now her longtime friend and sometime roommate Monica Leigh is showing us how they help keep New York beautiful.
He has the kind of fame usually reserved for beautiful heiresses caught in flagrante delicto or for young men in second-rate boy bands who marry pop goddesses and feel greatly conflicted about it. Still, he refers to himself as a brand, as in "Being a brand benefits me and my sponsors." He has two agents, who see him as a brand as well, although two different brands, as if they too are conflicted or at cross-purposes. He also has a publicist.
When you turn on your TV, you see them. When the lights go out in the theater and the movie begins, there they are again. You see them on your computer screen when you're online and on the inside of your eyelids when you dream. We're talking about Angelina, Paris, Halle, Scarlett--the glorious female specimens who are the toast of pop culture. And for good reason. Physical beauty is skin-deep, but the kind of sexiness these women exude comes from somewhere else. It's a confidence, a talent, a curiosity. The secret to their success lies in part in their ability to move both men and women viscerally, to stir us. These eight pages celebrate our picks for the sexiest female celebrities. You'll find many of the usual suspects looking their hottest, plus a few surprises. At the top of the list: the lovely Jessica Alba. She was young enough to qualify as Lolita-esque when we first got to know her in 2000, on the hit series Dark Angel. But her performances in last year's Sin City and Into the Blue made it all too clear: This little angel is all grown up.
Below is a list of retailers and manufacturers you can contact for information on where to find this month's merchandise. To buy the apparel and equipment shown on pages 30, 33--36, 96--99, 106--111 and 154--155, check the listings below to find the stores nearest you.
Weevil, we spend so much of our time downloading porn off of the internet, we never visit our friendly neighborhood newstand anymore. Maybe that's because most of the news these days is worse than any thing you can find on a porno site.
When Roland Sands says he was born into motorcycles, he means it literally. "My dad brought me home from the hospital on a Harley," he says. But motorcycles were more than just transportation in the Sands family. His father, Perry, helped pioneer the aftermarket motorcycle-parts industry with his company, Performance Machine; when Roland dropped out of college, he went to work for Perry and started racing bikes. In short order he won 10 American Motorcyclist Association nationals, but by 2002 a bruised lung, a lacerated liver and 32 broken bones had convinced him he wasn't having fun anymore. He began designing concept bikes, creating a startlingly unique series of choppers that have won top design awards (see the bikes at rolandsands.com). Handcrafted one-offs as they are, Sands's creations are not for sale. Neither are they museum pieces. "I thrash 'em till they fall apart," he says. "I need to be sure that whatever I build is going to last." What's next? "I love Frank Lloyd Wright. I want to apply the philosophy of custom bike building--tune and flow, form and function--to a building. You could make it absolutely sick."
On one level this tangle of stainless steel called Octacube is a work of art. On another it's a feat of mathematical derring-do. On still a third, it's a window into the fourth dimension. Confused yet? Its designer, Adrian Ocneanu, explains: An octacube is a four-dimensional regular solid with 96 sides. Just as your shadow is a two-dimensional outline of your three-dimensional form, this sculpture is a three-dimensional outline of a theoretical four-dimensional form. Four-dimensional objects are hard to visualize, but thanks to a process called radial stereographic projection we can see what their three-dimensional outlines would look like. Ocneanu has spent 20 years researching the mathematics of symmetry, which is related to quantum field theory. Octacube lets him show people a little bit of what he thinks about at work. Note, however, that the piece is not actual size. "The legs are cut off halfway toward infinity," he says. "We had only a finite amount of metal."
Playboy (ISSN 0032-1478), March 2006, volume 53, number 3. Published monthly by Playboy in national and regional editions, Playboy, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, Illinois and at additional mailing offices. Canada Post Canadian Publications Mail Sales Product Agreement No. 40035534. Subscriptions: in the U.S., $29.97 for 12 issues. Postmaster: Send address change to Playboy, P.O. Box 2007, Harlan, Iowa 51537-4007. For subscription-related questions, call 800-999-4438, or e-mail email@example.com.
Science Vs. Religion--from school boards to congress, the battle of our lifetime is being waged between faith and reason. A symposium of modern humanists, Kurt Vonnegut and Lewis Black among them, ponders the danger of reactionary thought.