Wednesday, September 26, 2007
ODB is easily in the top 10 MC's of all time. The fact that people scoff at the very idea of that assertion and feel the need to invoke Canibus or some bullshit golden age progenitor (What had Big Daddy Kane done for me LATELY? Masta Ace>Big Daddy Kane. Real talk.) and make reactionary lists of the greatest MC's of all time (usually its just a matter of whether they put 2Pac's overrated ashes at the top spot or number two), further reinforces that for me. (Peep Nigga Please, and the first Wu-Tang record.)
There's an allhiphop.com thread on the most original MC's ever and it makes me wonder about how many banal rappers are put on a pedestal. How much clamoring for Saigon and Canibus and Papoose goes on when you have guys like Del, Busdriver, Ghostface, and Kool Keith still around. The only happy medium, is Lil' Wayne, whose only selling point his weird ass transformation in the last four years into this immensely likable and strange Codeined out troll.
I repeat, that motherfucker is an orc. He's a walking MC Chris song. (BTW, fuck MC Chris for stealing my rap name).
But essentially, this post is inspired by finding an ODB documentary on youtube:
Haven't watched it yet, since I'm operating in a weird 20-year-old college commuter nexus where I have no fucking idea what I'm doing or how to manage my time, so I neither practiced guitar nor finished two easy papers and have nothing to show for the day. Except two blog posts, so hey, that's something. Point is, ODB is my 10th favorite MC of all time. The other nine will come later, but his life, personality, and career are enough for me, plus about 2:57 into "You Don't Want To Fuck With Me", probably one of the best tracks laid to wax, no irony, honestly. I only find five recent rappers funny: Redman, Cam'Ron, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and ODB.
EDIT: Watched all four parts, insightful in a bittersweet way. Dude was coked out for half of it, a lot like that famous Richard Pryor clip on youtube, and when he wasn't high (just like in the Beanie "Don't Stop" video) he looked sullen as fuck. Gotta add, that the documentary was lazy and just taped shit and inserted Clerks-esuqe bumps to describe the following clips, but the ODB footage itself makes it amazing. I remember thinking it was cruel to even bother having two bars of ODB on "9 Milli Bros."...it felt like a taunt, more than anything. A cruel reminder of what was gone. Maybe if it was four bars rather than two...
I think the third anniversary of his death is in November, so here's a pre-emptive RIP for Ason Unique.
"Ladies don't love shit. Ladies just act like they love. You understand what I'm sayin'? It's an act when it comes to Ol Dirty Bastard. They ACT like they love Ol Dirty - ladies don't love Ol Dirty Bastard because ... Ol Dirty Bastard is busy lovin' them. They might like Ol Dirty Bastard, know what I'm sayin? They might listen to his music or something, but really they don't pay no mind. They pay nothing no mind, nothing is paid a mind to, really, on this earth. It's just living, and dying. The world is a big ball of fire and it's just burning with no feeling."- Dirt McGirt
That line last night signaled the end of yesterday night's metal show at Europa, (Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste, another band I forget), wherein I officially realize I could care less about being in the pit or really doing anything active beyond dancing or crowding the stage. I gave it a shot every now and then, but I get nothing from it and I'm signed off of going to shows by bands whom I think make shitty records or I'm not already really into. The former decision is based off of boredom, the latter financial. But I made a mental note to never return to Europa for any sort of show that involves crowd participation, since the hexagonal upstairs show floor is highly unwieldy for that sort of that. A good 73% of bands sound great live regardless of shitty songs, so I can't really make a judgment until I pirate their discography, but Toxic Holocaust seemed to have really good songs. Then again, this might turn into Stinking Lizavetta all over again, when I'm wowed by something, buy/download a record, and its even worse than a T.I. record. But, my next shows are the Hives, Comedians of Comedy, maybe High On Fire, and definitely Ghostface/Rakim. Then, I'm getting a fucking job. Living is costly, son.
I have a list of things I wanted to cover for post topics, but, thankfully, they won't be quite exhausted as yet, since some real shit is going down. First of all, I, as of 5 minutes ago caught Evo Morales on the Daily Show, and during the awkward Rosetta Stone-process that was his translation (awkward for the fact that the usually annoying as shit Daily Show audience was, for once, rendered completely silent for its duration) he dropped some ill science on the audience (via a Bolivian-English Babelfish) after expressing how he felt cultural and regional differences should be understood and respected, and on his socialist grind, he said,
"I've heard a lot of talk about global warming, climate change; they don't say why, where's it coming from! Why? Where's all this coming from? Perhaps from a western culture, perhaps excesses in relation industry, perhaps excesses in luxury, excesses in consumption....and please don't consider me to be part of the 'Axis of Evil'!"
Its great that on a Viacom-owned channel with reasonably high viewer-ship, someone finally point to the elephant in the room that is industrialized consumption and consumerism, which, along with overpopulation (please, stop having so many goddamn kids), is the main underlying cause of a myriad of social woes.
I'm glad there are a few guys like Morales, despite people's meely-mouthed cocksucking of their own political ideals, whether inherited or learned from the media and feeding into their biases and myopic perspectives, provide some fresh air and at least a small feeling that in the current climate (OMFG POST-9/11 POST-MODERNISM, LOLZ!!) that there's avenues of non-PBS based discourse with people from the world community. At this point, I'd settle for someone who is, I don't know, at least 5% closer to the truth that what CNN, Fox News, and the current political parties and commentators can offer.
Cocksuckers, all of them.
On at the same time, was BET's budget-ass (seriously? I recall production values being less cable-access looking when I used to watch Rap City in junior high) attempt at a debate (although the description as a town hall discussion is a lot more apt). I'm going to scour the internet later for part 1, but part 2 was pretty predictable. Poor moderation, not enough time (two hours on air? And, from what I've seen, they're not repeating it any time soon. WTF, BET?) alloted, uninformed generalizations, people getting constantly cut-off, panel members with nothing to ass, cliches repeated*, etc. I'm not going to completely dissect every issue yet, since all the tired, retread points of order have been touched upon before and I don't have a transcript of the topics they discussed handy to e-shit all over. I do have a few beefs to nitpick about, from this gaping flapper cunt of a network.
*I'd like to take a second to bring up how dumb the myth of "white kids from the 'burbs buy hip-hop albums mostly" is. One, that shows a weird complete unawareness of the majority ethnicity in this country, Euro-Americans, and the fact that there are more than six kinds of music (I've accepted that to the casual pop consumer, they are: Rap, R&B, Rock, Techno, Country, and Metal) that aren't bogged down in race identity. Also, someone should learn statistics, since the stat given is that around 70% or more of the sales of rap albums are from white people, which would be shocking in Johannesburg or Ecuador, but not in a country with at least 200 million white people. The black population in America is outnumbered three to 1 by the majority ethnic cluster (You know...crackers.), so the primary consumers of albums for every genre will end up being white based on numbers and logistics, alone. If every black or mulatto/mixed (::cough::) identifying person in this country bought rap albums, the statistic of about 63-67% wouldn't decrease that much. I just wonder why when you Google "White people hip-hop album myth", you only get one decent response to dispel this.
Anyway, it occurs to me, watching the painfully pathetic "Hip Hop vs. America" special, how much I hate Toure. Every smug, swishy thing that comes out of his mouth and all of his terrible Rolling Stone reviews just rubbed me wrong since day one. Ever since dude was a talking head for VH1, I wished people would stop hiring him. This was emphasized at the end of the special when Toure's beak squawked something like "If you don't talk about hip-hop, YOU killed it". This is the kind of kid in my high school I'd be friends with cuz we would talk about Black On Both Sides being one of the best albums made in history of man, and then he would go on some rant about Spoon or Modest Mouse when I tried defending Three 6 Mafia or UGK. I hated those faux-bourgeoisie bohemian smug assholes. Sadly, that comprised half of my school when I went there. Anyway, what amounted in the broadcast was basically Melyssa Ford continuing to be insightful and professional, and Michael Eric Dyson continuing to, as Star from Star and Bucwild used to say, be a "slick talker".
I've known about him for a while and seen him in action before (mostly from Maher's show), and he's clearly been on another panel, because he knows how to economize the small amounts of time given on these sorts of panels. The man spit a good page of science in two minutes, whereas Nelly, bless his heart, got two salient points out the entire show (Being that people should stop clamoring for the golden age and focusing on making the present better, which is really fucking spot-on, and that the protests about "Tip Drill" prevented him from getting his half-sister her marrow, and is why she died from Leukemia, so some perspective is in order regarding his body of work and beliefs and life). He, and the rest of the panel, might've said more, but the poor editing and short duration leave that up in the air for now. I will say, I used to like Cornel West during my "Kill Whitey" teenage years, but that motherfucker is as batshit crazy as KRS-ONE and reaches more than Dhalsim. Fuck him and Mos Def* (*more on that later).
Sad that in the only section of the two night telecast I say, night two, everyone else was ineffectual. His albums are weedplates, but I love T.I. as a human being. Real talk. Ever since "Be Easy" came out and I read his XXl (or Source...can't remember. As if it really matters. The difference between then is like the difference between the Daily News and NY Post...just one has a slightly higher reading level and less messy layout) interview. But he and Nelly didn't do much but provide people unfamiliar with them as rappers and people with opportunities to go "Wow, he's so well-spoken and aware!". I was slightly hoping something past BET's notorious 7% watchability rate, but, no. Eh. Someone off this albatross of a network and hire me to make a black Telemundo. Shit'd be fly, dun. Outdated slang and all.
The one good thing BET has done of late is giving Kanye maximum exposure. Despite shitty prodcution values and attempts and special effects (Why not a cheesy star wipe to add to your easter hued-haze, BET?) Kanye proves why I feel the need to equate him as the last respite of hip-hop. I repeat, KANYE WEST IS HIPHOP. I feel the need to bring up how great his performances are, and that the only person besides Jay-Z and Eminem I've seen transcend the pattern post-Golden Era lazy-ass muffled performances (You can enunciate and keep pace on record but not on a stage standing still? Fuck outta here.). He has an understanding of gimmick and pacing and flow and what does and doesn't work in a live setting that most bands being forced down the trough of blogs and music sites have no concept of. Although, to expand an earlier point, being great live and on record aren't always correlary.
Good example: World/Inferno Friendship Society. Cute, but not good. Live, though, a great, great band that could probably, and have, play anywhere. Same with Gogol Bordello and Municipal Waste. You aren't (I hope) going to see them for their music, you're going for the experience, and the music is a placeholder, a sort of proxy to amplify the length at which you can enjoy a circle pit and etc. One of many beliefs of mine is that everything has a place, in the grand scheme there's a place and outlet for everything the human mind can create. I rag on a lot of bad, bland music these days, but that the same time, that needs to exist. Its the sort of creation/destruction or life/death thing. In the same way, its more than fine to have bands that exist only as live bands, whose quality of catalog is immaterial to how much they rule when you're 6 inches away from their sweaty Gypsy armpits. After all, the basic idea is that, though I myself fetishize albums as a whole piece of musical artistic or commercial product, music exists to be PERFORMED. Its a bummer to know that most of the albums I love, I might never see the artist live or even in their prime, (its also weird to consider how many people that doesn't bother), but the option is appreciated, especially in NYC where we're spoiled and only scene-ass hardcore kid shows don't stop here.
Basically, Kanye seems, from the three televised performances I've seen, be perfectly able to transition from serious artist (Coldplay) contrivances, to MTV Unplugged-style joking and storytelling, to Jay-Z like surprise guest baiting and confidence, to just being some hipster geek (the interplay between him and A-Trak is, quite honestly, cute. I get the feeling they read Vice and drink 8th Continent soymilk together when not cuddling during "Entourage".). I'm all for what Kanye does because, because of the law of diminishing returns in music, everyone sucks except him and the south. Seriously. Just him and the south, when it comes to people in the limelight for the moment in hip-hop. Therefore, why not cheer for the last vestige of quality? Who cares if he he always sounds like he's struggling to rap? It's endearing, and everything else he does is great, from the live show to his personality to the music itself. Plus, HE MIGHT BE GAY! How awesome would that be for this motherfucker to come out in twenty years? We still have 10 more years to wait for Busta and Jay to open up about their gape, and that's assuming their careers are still sluggish then.
"99% of people listening (to music) ain't planning on killing people, that day"- Kanye, on not rapping about killing people
EDIT: As I watch part 1 on BET.com, it occurs that, it was actually really good. Part 2 was awful, as I mentioned earlier, but so far part 2 addressing all the major issue and hit on a lot of insightful points. I love that Nelly and Michael Eric Dyson managed to make a lot more salient points in this portion and that Nelly called the "White suburban kids buy hiphop" myth out on the statistics game, pointing out that all music genres are consumed by primary white-identifying people, being the mathematical majority. It was also great when TI yelled at Dyson "ITS NOT THAT DEEP" when Dyson did the whole "slave block" cliche correlation to video models and etc. Someone needed to say it. Way to go BET. I guess.
BET.com has all three sections. Pretty interesting.
Also Baltimore Sun had a good blurb that won't get linked for some goddamn reason.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I'm mad late, but fuck it, I just made this blog last week. And since this record has been talked about to death, I'm going to try and bypass anything weighty, which would just suck in comparison to the other analysis's anyway.
Essentially, its much more interesting to dissect hip-hop albums than a lot of other genres or sub-genres, since with those you're limited to rockist virtues of sound, theory, production, whatever lyrics are deemed "good", and its role or importance. Now, I absolutely hate the "rockist" perspective of music, especially the name, and I tend to gravitate towards the pop school of reviewing and criticism, since its not limiting, despite tending to favor hooks and marketability over quality and treading a line into musical gossip. Lucky for other people who detest Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Maximum Rock n Roll, Revolver and Spin magazine for the evils they represent, hip-hop and electronica provide alternative avenues and interpretations of records.
The hip-hop avenue is sort of a like a weird hybrid of the perspectives, minus the ignorant obsessions with somehow equating live instrumentations as being more important than good songs, and plus 80's/90's hip-hop tenets (or elements, if you're KRS-One), the various aspects of turntablism and sampling/sound collage, and an urge to be famous and rich without being viewed as a sellout. It tends to both allow more freedom for interpretation and analysis, yet at once be confining to the purposely alienating and clandestine nature of loving rap. Only metal and rap have those qualities to the cultures and fanbases, which might explain why merging the two more often than not is a horrible idea.
(Hopefully later when I have more time, on I can expound on this idea, but for now a lot is implied.)
This is the default when dealing with rap albums. Figuring out what lines and inflections were ripped from earlier songs, and from what era (80's for Mos Def, 00's for Kanye), possible subliminals, meanings, intents, allusions, disses, interpolations, etc. Its odd for me to do this for every hip-hop record I've ever listened to since a)Lyrics are completely secondary to the music for me and b)This sort of complete dissection of music only gets done for albums with some sort of importance. I've never sat down with a Kings Of Leon record and really gave two thoughts to whatever Caleb Followill was howling about, but I have spent a good year and a half trying to figure out if the first two verses in "Nutmeg" means anything. (It doesn't.)
So I could've cared less about the frothy whorehouse of promotion that was Kanye vs. 50. For one, I completely dismiss the ideas of "hip-hop vs rap" or "real hip-hop". Anyone who has read or seen interviews with 80's cats, especially Rakim, knows they were into the same shit as the guys who made records the last 15 years, its just they didn't think of it, or just couldn't at the time since rap was so much on the same outrageous entertainer trip as everyone else in the 80's. Example: Rakim LOVES G-Unit. People's beacon of Golden Era greatness fiends for generic pop rap. He probably got a tear from those songs with Joe. Rakim and all the other guys who fell off or are on a smaller scale of late love head and slutty women and liquor and weed just as much as everyone else. People forget how grimy the 80's were in cities and that those dudes are arguably tougher than anyone rapping now. They all lived through and saw some hard shit, as evidenced by my favorite part of Fade to Black, when Q-Tip and Jay are reminiscing about the crack game in the 80's and how it was awful then in the streets but things are not that bad now, yet there's a lot more records about it.
All hip-hop is mainstream unless it sells beneath gold status, and even then its pretty damn popular, so the debate is moot and transgressive to me. Its idealistic to separate records based on how similar it is to Native Tongues. That shit is ALTERNATIVE, in the purist sense of the word. That sound wasn't a norm, no matter how relatively popular it got. 50 Cent is more hip-hop than Common. Shit, Tony Yayo is more hip-hop than Common. Therefore, I could give a shit about some supposed meaning behind the battle. Lupe Fiasco will never sell, Little Brother aren't any good, Common sucks, the Roots fell off, Mos Def fell off and is dangerously close to becoming Wyclef Jean, and Talib Kweli can only muster the ability to be decent, at his best. Kanye's win just mean 50 Cent will become more interesting in the coming weeks, that's all. And that's all I want from 50, anyway, to entertain me. It's all I want from Wayne, too, and all that you were supposed to take from ODB (rip).
Also, Kanye was going to win in the annals of critics and fans regardless. Everyone is aware at this point that his records will be good, so the sales battle is more of a Vegas-style distraction.
But on the topic of the record itself, I have to say, this is one of those times where I wrote a record off too soon. I was underwhelmed by the first two singles, so much so that I didn't download the record until the other week when "The Good Life" premiered and I was convinced. Now I absolutely love "Stronger", and I realized that the album, after three listens, grew on me a lot. "Good Morning" starts the album as it should, as both a declaration and song, where there's something so confident in ending every verse with a "Good Morning." Its declarative and reminds me of the "You already know what it is" looks youtube rappers give, except more weary and serious. The thing about Graduation is it feels a lot like College Dropout, which is a plus, since all the flaws in Late Registration discussed on No Trivia I agreed with. That celebratory unabashed Morehouse university sound that permeates most of Kanye's stuff is there (College hip-hop should be a genre), along with the odd adoption on 12 of the tracks of the big synths that got popularized in the last year and a half on the Rich Boy record and by Timbaland.
Now, on that, I've always noticed that since the bread-and-butter of producers and industry songwriters is being able to have quick turn-overs and adapt to new trends. Most people don't acknowledge this, but in composition of songs and melodies, there are clear differences in both halves in ever decade since the 20's. You'll never hear 60's rock basslines or melodies today, both because they're out of vogue and that it'd just come off as simulacrum and not be that good or authentic sounding. This is why since 2002 hip-hop based R&B became a real genre, the incestuous nature of everyone copying a new sound for profit in pop. Same thing with the synths in hip-hop of late. I think its cool, though I'm more surprised that so few people thought to make it such a strong melodic force on records. Now, I'm actually worried its going to get played out too quickly and ruined, since both hipster electronica and rap are relying heavily on the buzz synths since it gives such quick gratification. The very thing happened with soul samples; it became too easy and less and less special. Though I understand this, I'm still shocked that Timbaland has essentially been repackaging done-to-death electronica staples into pop. I love it, because I can finally listen to the radio again, and I can be jarred at by the trance and electro goodness of "Ice Box" and "SexyBack" at a time when fucking DAUGHTRY goes platinum.
On Graduation, its an interesting hybrid of that College Dropout feeling and these synths that either awash melody lines like T.I. (which, by the way, got away with ripping off "Hey Joe" without anyone noticing somehow) or Rich Boy, or serve as Purple-Rain era horn stabs. Sometimes I feel that its way too easy, especially "Stronger", since though it works and thats what matters, the descending synth lines based on the Daft Punk vocal line are too obvious. I could've produced "Stronger"."I Wonder" reminds me of Pharell, because most relaxed Neptunes productions have the exact same ascending melody, whether in the instrumentation or Pharell's voice, especially on the first N.E.R.D. record and these tend to be the Neptunes songs I like most or aged most gracefully. "Drunk and Hot Girls" grew on me quickly, more for Mos' bridge which is gorgeous, and the only track I didn't like was "Homecoming", simply because Chris Martin's voice was totally wrong for the track and that the track just sounded like a Be B-side, anyway.
There was a thread on allhiphop.com where someone basically brought up the rarity of a hip-hop artists (I'd argue ALL artists, but especially rare in rap) making three great albums, lest in a row. Among a small list that includes Ghostface, Boogie Down Productions and a few more, Kanye did that, and it seems like he does it easily. Lyrically, I haven't found much to get into past College Dropout, which was full of great lines that were a bit more sparse on Late Registration and almost absent on here for me, save for "Good Morning", "I Wonder", "Big Brother", and "Everything I Am". Everything else feels like Queens of the Stone Age-style place-holding for great music, which is fine with me but for a rap album, can be a bit of a let down. But the fact that "Flashing Lights" completely wrecks me (Kanye seems to have a tendency to cast hook singers with soulful yet bored voices, which works well when he does it) and that I dig 12 tracks means I'll probably get the record. Oh, and the best line I've heard on any record this year for its ability to pack in so much meaning without being preachy:
"Just last year Chicago had over 600 caskets/Man killing some wack shit/Oh I forgot...except when niggas is rappin'"
So, as of an hour ago, I'm 20. Personally, I've been sort of dreading the shit out of this, and now, after the buffer period of 17-19, I fear crazy pressure and that there's a clock for me to get something accomplished. I'm on a good path as of entering college. My friends throughout High School turned out to be flaky and two-faced and took my ex's side in our breakup two years ago and stopped talking to me, which hurt a lot but turned out to be a blessing. So I had more than enough motivation, and no option, really, but to do my own thing and take the spirit and inspiration being a college freshman gave me. So, that whole year was pretty eventful and exciting. A few parties, new people, a bit of maturity, some embarrassing experiences, depression, substances, a one night stand, etc. The whole cliche.
The plan, from then to now, was to, like George Costanza, do the exact opposite of what I had done until then. I was frustrated by my inaction in life, so I've tried to do as much as possible, taking opportunities and chances and doing a bunch of shit that 17 year old me wouldn't bother with. Its worked out great, but besides some shitty nu-metal band with two late 20's broke man-children with no musical talent, I haven't gotten as much done with guitar as I would've like. I would've hope to have been in and out of 20 bands by now, rather than two. I've waited too long to develop any other talents that would be of worth to me immediately, so its really riding on guitar or me finding some connections and maybe getting some dumb writing gigs. Plus, I just figured out my major this summer, but I'm a junior and will end up probably taking an extra year considering I'm only taking one class this semester because I need a break. Also, I've pretty much felt alone for the last two years. 20, with only one job on my resume, that I had got out of nepotism from my friend, so I continue to feel extra discouraged at my inability to perform during job interviews or get hired based off my resume alone. Its a continuation of something I noticed at 17...nothing feels impossible anymore, but nothing really feels instinctual anymore. its all a toss-up, everything I do.
Of course, this is just how I feel at the moment. The panic I've felt all year has more to do, maybe, with my aging than it actually has to do with me. My personal life is the healthiest its been in years, though I feel heavily isolated from everyone that isn't in my small circle of friends. My only two worries are money and getting in shape and not being malnourished and bereft of a few key nutrients I gave up when I quit milk and red meat/pork. That and a weird compulsion to meet as many new people as possible right now.
I know to not trust how I feel about this, though. Throughout my teens, I missed being a child, and now I miss being a teenager. When I'm in my late 20's, I may miss college. Its also false, its all glamours and mirrors of my mind tricking my into some false nostalgia and distorting my memories from how shitty or great things really were. It just swirls into some feeling-less blob.
I felt some rambling was in order while I was in the mood or time frame, since I probably will feel fine tomorrow. I'm glad for what I have, really. And I look forward to whatever comes.
Except a stabbing. Fuck that shit.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
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
I've acquiesced and forced myself to get a blog, because, like most people online, I love the smell of my own shit and not only do I think I'm right 85% of the time, I'm also the thought police. So rather that limit my trolling, fuckery, and faggotry to allhiphop.com, lastfm, and youtube, I think it'd be best to branch out. Shit, I need to write again (after the unfortunate smelting fiasco) and get my shit back up to at least 11th grade writing level or something.
Shitload of neat youtube vids from my favorites that best represent me. In an inaccurate way.
Shitload of neat youtube vids from my favorites that best represent me. In an inaccurate way.