Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Cuz I Don't Give A Shat
There are a few seldom occasions where something I completely maligned or avoided turned out, after I dropped my bias, to be pretty great. Sometimes, its just because I don't think it'll be that good or is that important so I don't bother (ex: Muddy Waters, Mecca and The Soul Brother, Ready To Die, A Bizarre Ride II Da Pharcyde, Both Sides of the Brain, The Mouse and The Mask, All Wu-Tang albums, Nigga Please, Ridin Dirty, etc), other times, I just have an overwhelming hate of what it represents, such as me falling back on shitting on the Arcade Fire after giving their full-lengths a download and finding they mouthfucked the same spot in my brain that makes me really like Lifted... by Bright Eyes. But until that moment last month or so, I lumped them in with all the boring, redundant manchild-like kindergarten-ready indie rock being posited as "amazing" and "important" by the ZOG-run blog conspiracy.
Having signed off of all things indie "rock" after 2005, I have yet to find a reason to check up on the new ways that bands like Spoon and Voxtrot can bore me to to tears with 5oth generation retreads of the same goddamn jangly guitar sound or 70's pop rock rip-offs with post-punk disco drums added for 00's authenticity. Ga Ga Ga Ga is the shittiest record I've heard in a while (besides the mountain of disappointing released by bands I like, but more on that later) and its overwhelming acclaim only bolstered my alienation with the bland-ass hipster side of indie as opposed to the crazy rainbow hued, discordant and weird side I love so much (like Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, Dan Deacon, M.I.A., PFFR, Devendra Banhart, etc.).
Anyway, in a weird postponed case, I fell in love with Three Six Mafia's Da Unbreakables sometime in early August. Having spent a lot of time in eight grade (2000-1) hanging out in my annoying homophobic/religious friend James' house watching RapCity on BET and just being really typical 13/14 year-olds. At the time, I remember a lot of southern hip-hop getting rotation on the show, which luckily prepared me for the inevitable rise of the south between 2003 and now. I actually have real fond memories of bullshitting in his house, playing Dreamcast, watching "Jackass" for the first time and him being a racist fuck (always regurgitating "white people are dumb and crazy" stereotypes) , and him playing my the infamous "Suge shot me" misnomer from Makaveli that was supposed to convince me that Pac was prophetic and still alive or some dumb shit.
During all those after-school chill sessions, I got exposed to probably more rap videos than I had ever seen on MTV in my entire life. On the surprisingly heavy rotation of southern videos was the entire Slip-n-Slide crew (Trick Daddy, Trina, etc.), Ludacris, Iconz's "Get Crunked Up" (I found that clip on youtube not too long ago and fell into a quarter-life crisis nostalgia pit), Lil Jon's "Bia Bia", Project Pat's "Chicken Head" and oddly enough Three Six Mafia's "Sippin On Some Sizzurp". Now at this point, I thought James was cool for knowing a lot more rap than me. He used to throw around references and name drop Young Zee, and all this shit I wasn't aware of, but it seemed impressive. He was this weird balance to my obsessive diving into pretty much mostly "white" music at the time that led me through the history of rock and then in high school to punk and metal and indie rock and etc. But all the time, James would recite the hooks to all of these songs and I quickly got into them, too, and if I recall correctly a lot of other kids in my junior high seemed at least aware, if not into those singles.
Fast forward a couple of years, and a commercial comes on TV for Three Six Mafia's Da Unbreakables album. I distinctly remember looking at the cover and scoffing at the obvious reference to the M. Night Shymalan movie (around 10th grade, so I was heavy into punk and goth shit and had goth friends and basically checked on anything MTV2 ever played) and just going about my life, anticipating the "last" Jay-Z album. I guess I figured Jay was more high-concept than "Put Cha D. In Her Mouth". It's also weird that I was so hype about Southern rap, to the point that I wouldn't shut up about David Banner, Lil' Flip and T.I., but I made the distinction to write off Three Six as being shitty without bothering to check the music past my memories of "Sippin On Some Sizzurp". Imagine my surprise two years later when "Stay Fly" comes out as a this beautiful, amazing single, becomes huge and then they proceed to WIN A FUCKING OSCAR.
And still, probably in some bullshit punk rock/indie rock "I found them first, now they're not cool" way, I avoided them for another year and a half, despite my closest friend Christian constantly extolling the virtues of their production and them becoming darlings of both MTV and bloggers/mediawhore review sites. In one of many bored late night jags on iTunes where I bravely check out shit I'm too apathetic to pirate or even bother giving an effort too, I got interested in Mystic Stylez. While on my Dora the Explorer shit, I checked out Da Unbreakables, since iTunes really only has three full-length releases by Three Six Mafia, to be surprised at how good the production was, even better than the clips of Mystic Stylez that had me interested in the first place. I think "Bin Laden" and "Ridin' Spinners" sold me on the trip to mininova.org.
I prefer to listen to music either late night in the dark or in my bathroom, so I can chill and really soak in a whole record with obstruction. I remember after downloading it, having an "Ohhhhhhhhhhh shit!" moment when the sample from Portishead's "Wandering Star" kicked in at that eerie low volume before the second round of samples hit. I enjoyed the track, but still didn't think the record would be that good, until "Testin' My Gangsta" came on and made me a Three Six stan for the moment.
I don't exactly wish to gush about their production, but what I've always loved about southern hip-hop is how its keeps the lo-fi sound and simplicity of late 80's 808-rap (both east and west coast, more the latter), no matter how elaborate or fleshed-out the beats actually get. It's a lot like why I love RZA, the constant juxtaposing of tiny weird-as-fuck fragments of obscure shit to make fucked up sounding beats that are at once beautiful and scary...I've always hated clean, pristine overproduced shit (one reason, besides shitty songs, that I hate The Colour and the Shape and Roc La Familia) and prefer blowed out snares and cheap-sounding 80's kick drums to big Dr. Dre beats. Ghostface seems to get this too, as evidence by the emphasis on Fishscale of sounding like a boombox cassette circa '88 Staten Island, bereft of overwhelming bass and full of grit. Any producer willing to pull a whammy bar-esque key-transposing on a whole sample or synth line is awesome in my book.
Throughout the record, I kept having "Ohhhhhhhhh shit!" moments, which is what I live for, really. More than good songs, I love hearing something new or hearing something done really well, like the horn break in "Dancing Machine" by The Jackson 5. I probably inherited that from my three year tenure in the high school jazz band where the bass player and teacher would play videos by virtuoso musicians or Stevie Wonder and holler when some crazy shit happened that was sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious. I found the record being a rare thing; ear candy where I could enjoy it without even giving a thought to themes or anything remotely lyrical, a lot like when I listen to M.I.A.
My personal belief is that lyrics are just devices to distract from the repetitious nature of pop music, and should, at worst, not distract from the quality of the music and at best be catchy and meaningful (the Queens of the Stone Age rule). This gets a lot trickier with hip-hop, but Southern rap nimbly bypasses this somehow, avoiding the cloying obsession with attempting to be complex that's found in east coast rap. Its, simply, perfect party music, and like Arular and Kala, I can listen to it over and over and still get the same sugary high from it. The WTF!? moment of having Josey Scott from Saliva rapping on the record (arguably better than Paul, J, or Lil' Wyte) is just icing on a diabetes cupcake.
I guess the lesson from this is to always check out a record first before scoffing at something. Who knows, maybe Papoose and Saigon will make classic albums and I'm wrong in my assessment that NY rap sucks.
Or not. Fuck NY.
"I guess you're trying so hard to be like your favorite rapper
That you're even trying to die like you're favorite rapper"- DJ Paul