Thursday, August 20, 2009

"When I Say 'Big Dick Style' I'm Talking Bout My Dick, Not Yours, B"

I hope more of this interview comes out and it was just some piddling 3 minute exercise in pussy-footing around a subject because Angela Yee seems to have wasted a great moment to get some sort of debate going there or at least some discussion between Raekwon who's on some "chicks is cool but I can't stand homos, B" bullshit (disappointing that so far Ghost and Rae's transgressive beliefs have been pretty cliche. At the very least I'd like to see them go to one extreme or the other, maybe get some Westboro Bapist talking point out there) and Snoop from the Wire who might be the most loved and respected dyke in the black community (outside of allegedly Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Alicia Keys, Oprah, etc.) I don't know why I expected Snoop to not be blunted and ineffectual regarding defending or even offering an opinion on gay men, but it would've been interesting since it'd would be a conversation of equal footing as opposed to the uphill battle some kid who just took a queer studies course would have on that show.

If Angela Yee is going to keep having Wu members say some wild shit on the air, the least she could do is have a little more backbone and not offer these overly careful responses about women's rights/sexuality and gay men.

And "My mouth is too small to suck a dick" is not a clever retort or a funny one-liner. Its just suspect.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dave Matthews of This Africa Shit (Charlize Theron Song)

Anthony is a lot of things. Funny, Italian, studious, hard-working, genuine, my former RA and current closest (heterosexual) male friend, and as of going to Mozambique, skinny as shit. Anthony is also, unbeknownst to him until he gets my reply to his latest email, guest-blogging today as he dropped some gems/sacred treasures this morning on Akon, cultural imperialism/exportation through corporate hip-hop and its effect on third world peoples without access to the Passion of the Weiss, and more.

Right now I am listening to the only constant thing in my life, Akon, as the people who live next to me have the Mozambican habit of playing music again and again and again. Next to James Blunt and Orlando Bloom, I think Akon is someone I would like to wipe off this planet. Nothing would make me happier to see his face melted and the rest of his body just crumple to the ground. While that sounds pretty intense, I literally hear the same 5 tracks THE ENTIRE DAY from Akon. Mozambique has an interesting culture in which yes, they listen to singles, but they often have this mix cd's with songs that were never released or just album fodder and they listen to those songs INTENSELY. It's pretty amazing. It's like a country of B-Sides, something in which the irony hasn't escaped me. The more I am here the more I realize how purely African Akon is. Now I'm not lumping all African cultures together in any way shape or form as Senegal and Mozambique vary on many different levels. But in regards to third world (or "Developing Countries", which by the way isn't often true if you haven't noticed) is that the attitudes by men, in this case misogynistic and controlling, exist. This of course is one of the reasons why these countries fail in the first place as men typically have a sense of entitlement that makes it very hard for them to admit mistakes or acknowledge change is needed. Akon is a complete symbol of this as his music can be broken down into two categories:
1. Him talking to a girl, lyrics sounding like him trying to sweet talk
or hit on her
2. Him talking about guns and how tough he is

More than in America, where we are just inundated with bad boast-rap and R&B, the options are more limited here, which means the Akon's and Fifty Cents of the world are more closely scrutinized and observed as people scramble to translate the lyrics and then apply them to their own lives. You have no idea how badly the teenagers, especially the teenage males here, want to be a hip-hop star. Their style of dress makes them look like a white guy trying to impersonate Jamie Kennedy doing an impersonation of a back up crew member in a rap video and the way they treat women is akin to that of how people treat a new toy at Christmas, they want it want it want it, they get it, they play with it, they see a new toy, etc. While that attitude prevails across the world, as I said earlier it's magnified here because America means success, success means you must copy those actions of the successful, which means acting like and doing the things they do in their videos. it doesn't help that the people here have such little access to the outside world that they really believe, once again more intensely than Americans, that everything a rapper says is real. And why shouldn't they? Who will tell them no (other than me and other foreigners)? To them Yes, Fifty Cent really will shoot you if you cross him, Akon really has been involved in more gangland activities than the A&E Biography channel, and Ja-Rule is, well, still popular. The mixture of cultural values injected with modern materialism along with the lack of expediency of trying to climb out of poverty makes it hard enough here, but rappers really don't realize how much they are hurting the developing world. A big statement yes, but very real. Jay-Z and Fifty can set up 1,000 organizations and scholarships for black kids in the inner city, but it will never hold up if they continue what they do.

Ed. Note-The notion of personal responsibility in what sales-minded rap cliche-pushing artists put out seems like a tired point, but it might only be tired in terms of an American context. Anyone who has taken any from of Intro to Globalization or the like can tell you that with a separate cultural history and set of norms comes a unique tendency to be more negatively influenced by things that get checked in the US by the remnants of 60's liberalism. There's no feminist or gay establishment to buffer the bolstering or pre-existing male attitudes in the third world from images and lyrics that, sure a kid like me from bed-Stuy was always able to differentiate from, but someone in a besieged and pillaged continent still in efforts to rebuild following hundreds of years of being carved up, its social order razed and machinated to better represent European ideals, and a lingering destitution and dearth of education in some areas that would make it difficult to convince a kid that Jay-Z isn't secretly pushing kilos. There's an idea, and I saw this a little in Colombia, in the youth that you can just up and become Scarface and then retire lavishly or that emulation held no consequences. It's a dangerous sort of stubbornness and refusal to budge from norms that aren't necessarily conservative but are usually in opposition to stereotypical liberal, baby-eating/"fag enabling" leftism. Jay-Z can go fetch water, yeah, but as Dallas Penn posted last week, it doesn't quite make up for what he does, represents, and has purportedly done in the past and benefitted/benefits from to this day

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Top 60 Rap Albums of the Aughts

"INTERNETS!" -Dallas Penn

A temporary week-long break from half-thought essay posts and me trying to figure out what I'm doing in terms of writing as a hobby, this blog (the almost two year old manifestation of my efforts to improve my non-academic writing), and a few other things. In the meantime, I'm combining my two loves as a blogger, ripping off my blogroll favorites and being reactionary to rapblog-centric events, and taking cue from Joseph in posting my completely personal and subjective top 60 rap albums. And like all my lists, the ranking ain't mean shit 'til like 15-1.*

Also, since I forgot to do my yearly end-of-year shoutouts, I send mostly non-sexual internet feelings towards Dallas Penn, Combat Jack, Ron Mexico, Brandon Soderberg, Jospeh Oheghyi (hope I spelled that right), B.J. "DocZeus" Steiner, Jay Smooth, Metal Inquisition, and Frank Leon Roberts who are not only all my favorite bloggers/writers/intangible ghost-like internet personalities, but people whose writing, worldviews, and dedication or lack thereof are not only inspirations but antagonizing roadblocks to my success. I don't actually interact with half of those names listed, but fuck it, well-wishes travel.

1. Fishscale
2. Supreme Clientele
3. Graduation
4. Be
5. Donuts
6. The Marshall Mathers LP
7. Temporary Forever
8. The College Dropout
9. Late Registration
10. Da Unbreakables
11. Waitin’ To Inhale
12. The Renaissance
13. The Weather
14. Cosmic Cleavage
15. Fear Of A Black Tangent
16. Food & Liquor
17. The Pretty Toney Album
18. Original Pirate Material
19. No Said Date
20. Made In Brooklyn
21. Deltron 3030
22. Underground Kingz
23. None Shall Pass
24. Hell Hath No Fury
25. Disposable Arts
26. Phrenology
27. The Dynasty: Roc La Familia
28. Dedication 2
29. The Blueprint
30. Madvillainy
31. Take Me To Your Leader
32. The Big Doe Rehab
33. The Cool
34. Back For the First Time
35. American Gangster
36. She’s Mature
37. Liberation (Talib Kweli/Madlib)
38. Johnson&Jonson
39. The Ghost Sessions
40. To Tha X-Treme
41. The Black Album
42. A Long Hot Summer
43. The Eminem Show
44. Jesus Price Supastar
45. The New Danger
46. Blazing Arrow
47. Nigga Please
48. The W
49. Warriorz
50. Grandmasters
51. Lets Get Free
52. Word of Mouf
53. Die, Rugged Man, Die
54. Back To The Traphouse
55. YoYoYoYoYo
56. Violent By Design
57. The Mouse & The Mask
58. Speakerboxxx
59. Under Construction
60. 8 Diagrams

*It should be noted that its hard enough to compare things you actually enjoy, buy like my end of the year list, 60 through 30 are albums that are good but not all the way through. 29 through 1 is based upon a completely subjective blanket assessment of how much I enjoy the albums relative to each other as of the two and a half hours it took to make this list. By tomorrow afternoon, I'll probably feel entirely different about my top 30 which was really difficult to compile in a short time without listening to every record in full.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wisdom Body 101: The Tao of Dennis Coles

Men marryin’ men/Ill…- "Mighty Healthy"
Fuck what they say/Cuz we against the abortions –“Beat The Clock”
Do business with the Jews?/Never that!- "After The Smoke Is Clear"

The idea that you should hold a woman equal to a man is really fucking basic (no homo). No bleeding heart eyeroll-inducing feminist lectures, its just human courtesy. Sure there is a lot of typical macho bro shit that comes out the mouth of Wu members but these are 70’s babies, 90’s rap survivors and still a bunch of dudes from the projects of Staten Island and Brooklyn. What’s surprising is how backwards what the fuck came out his mouth was. You’d have to be terribly PC and sheltered to think that there aren’t women like that described in “Wildflower” and that being a male somehow neuters you from expressing derision or disappointment or out and out shitting on a woman with reason. If you accept the premise that people should be treated equally until shown otherwise then that goes without saying and makes invoking the "m" word a lot trickier and more up for discussion. The weird thing is that, you don’t have to be at all "feminist", “liberal” or “sex-positive” to draw ire with the Angela Yee interview comments.

I was half expecting him to go in on some practical reasoning or maybe even bring up how when he got diabetes he thought it was AIDS because he recklessly went raw with a lot of girls during Wu's heydey and wants to avoid another scare. But not some ole' style male supremacy shit. On general principle, that’s some 1950’s bullshit he’s saying, that, though perfectly in line with the Wu and, really, a classically royal/Victorian/pre liberation male notion of the Madonna/Whore complex and the worth of a virtuous woman versus one who is loose(d) (And creepily suggest that a lot of the WU kind of just want to find a girl just like their mom, who is consistently the highest revered figure in their depictions of women in song). Most reasonable people, like myself, are willing to allow a shitload of wiggle room in Ghost’s logic because A)We love him and B)It seems typical of what we’d expect to hear from a lot of people, rappers or not. The thing that’s jarring in his whole “I’m not going to wife up a chick I perceive to be a slore” steez is how low his number was. His base car loan pitch of “1 guy a month being too much” is pretty fucking ridiculous, if not insane. (And Nahright takes another L for cosigning that shit) It's reminiscent of Clerks and Chasing Amy, when Kevin Smith (“36 dicks!?”) effectively distilled male insecurity and hypocrisy about women.

There's cognitive distance between enjoying an acceptable level of shooting and drug selling and womanizing on record up until a certain point, illustrated by the interview. Wu always had a lot more going on in the songs, and usually the difference between typically negative content that bored intellectual essay-writing rap writers aim to defend to moralists (and really people who tend to not care about art in the first place) and what we tend to eschew comes down to that extra amount of detail or soul or insight or recontextualizing. The same was really dumb attempts at art from kids at my college would be torn-apart for being one-dimensional and obvious is why “C.R.E.A.M.” is transcendent and some LCD rapper breaking the fourth wall and hollering “I ROB NIGGAS/I ROB NIGGAS (HAAAAAAAAAAH!)” like a bad Wild n’ Out is equally shat on. No matter how fucked up some of the things Ghostface has said on wax, and there’s been a few, there was always this belief, at least in my head, that my view of him as an artist was thankfully unmarred by who he might actually be as a person.

Most of his interviews with mainstream (i.e. traditionally white) press outlets have had him seem wizened, a little ornery and pretty guarded while his interviews with hip-hop outlets always find him a bit more energetic and willing to delve into questions that he seems to always skirt and falsify when it’s the Onion or something. As someone both conscious and admittedly extremely liberal, I’ve found myself trying to doublethink the ongoing and bothersome clich├ęs of rappers being heterosexist and (though there’s a lot more to hip-hop’s various takes on women than 1-hour VH1 rap docs would relay) misogynist. The truth is that most seemingly negative lyrics about women rarely bother me, not being a woman and rarely hearing a rapper suggest women are inferior and shouldn’t have rights, when they offer at least one reason for the song’s ire or criticism or dressing down. But I have frequently tried to justify all the “faggot” talk from rappers I admire, like Q-Tip, the assorted Native Tongues satellites (Talib, Mos, Common, etc). and others because when you enjoy an artist’s music, there’s still this lingering childlike notion that you want to like them as people also. I’ve maintained for years that I could give fuck all who a musician molested or peed on or raped or filmed peeing or shat on in a crowd or accidentally killed in a drunken car crash or forcefully annexed into German territory in the late 30’s.

Busta Rhymes is a piece of shit as a human being but he’s still got some classic material, which is and should be all that matters. It’s not even the banal “fuck faggots” steez a lot of guys still parrot. It’s the really vitriolic learned hatred of gays that I still see pop up on rap message boards and, as opposed to classical pre-90’s racism, doesn’t seem to be dying down with newer generations. Trick Tricks’s “ra-ra” Hutu-esque "cut the tall trees" call to arms last year was made more disturbing by the fact that so many people were agreeing with him. Luckily most instances of the utterance of "faggot" are in the normative "feminized male"/"bitchass nigga" sense and not actually addressing anyone who actually identifies as gay. But the feminine implication is still troublesome, and pretty inaccurate considering I could hop on the L to Canarsie right now and find chicks harder than most of the dudes I've ever met.

In general most of the guys who've said some reckless transgressive shit in interviews have been either smart enough or cajoled enough into keeping it out of their music to avoid hurting sales or drawing unnecessary Marshall Mathers LP-like negative attention to themselves. And as someone who grew up with such a morally complex art form to deal with and discuss you're so used to assorted coonery and general ignorance from mainstream rappers that it makes you almost proud to look at your favorite MC and not have to shake your head or cringe at some shit he said on a song. This Ghostface interview is sad not only because he said some questionable shit when I would've, as a fan, preferred him to've been mum or at least hold a more acceptably backwards view on the topic, but because its genuinely disheartening to know there's a 39-year-old grown man who believes this shit.

Ghost holds onto this outmoded "women v. hoes" taxonomy that, realistically, is probably more reasonable than most other American male's, but its still a denigration of one sort of female and honoring of one based on a rubric that probably doesn't allow any wiggle room to convince him that a woman can fuck 12 or more guys a year and not be any less valuable. Ghost lyrically treasures smart, strong, and faithful women, but falters on her sexual freedom. Although, considering the era in which the WU grew up, where they grew up, and the archaic lyrical inspirations of their music (Egypt/Kemet, Islam, Christianity), it makes sense that he wouldn't extol Sontag-isms. Especially Islam, which despite revisionist attempts is pretty fucking conservative. Just a shame that his "futuristic"-ness ends at his lyrics and fashion.

Remember when I long-dicked you and broke your ovary? Remember when I said you weren't equal because my questionable splinter religion said I was the embodiment of God and you're naturally subservient? Good times.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Doo-Dah-Doo Dahm. Doo-Dah-Doo-Dah-Doo-Dah-Dahm*

"Put anthrax on a Tampax and slap you 'til you can't stand"- Eminem, "Superman", The Eminem Show

"Mariah Carey's kinda scary (looking)"- The Notorious B.I.G., "Dreams"

Combat Jack pretty much succinctly detailed the very real TMZ/Perez Hilton nature of this completely embarassing trainwreck of a beef when he maintained that Nick Cannon's in an amazing position right now where he could beat the shit out of Eminem, who, weight loss and sobriety be damned, is a 6-years-past-his-prime zombified husk of a rapper coasting on an indefatigably acute and nimble flow from the Pharoahe Monch/Kool G Rap/AZ school of rapping. As evidenced by Combat Jack and Brandon trying to bring this up in the presence of a surprisingly large number of emotionally invested Eminem stans (in 2009? really) and the ensuing response, a lot of people are either too attached to their childhoods and/or fond nostalgic memories of ye olde Cage-baiting, verse-slaying, laugh-inducing Eminem or are really convcinced that Encore and Relapse aren't boring formulaic retreads lacking any sort of new or interesting content or anything resembling a good beat. Considering how many people are walking around right now in shutter shades, Affliction t-shirts and Ed Hardy jeans, the latter isn't surprising. Shitty taste is usually universal. Aside from that vocal butthurt minority, very few people would really find contention with Nick Cannon (avoiding Wild 'n Out joke) taking CJ's suggestion and knucklefucking Em's dessicated 38-year-old face. Like Wayne Brady on Chapelle's Show, it would do nothing but good for the kid's image, especially in light of the fact that the kid is almost 30 and everyone feels comfortable referring to him as "the kid".

But beyond a potentially hilarious domestic situation and week of gossip blog headlines, what really strikes me about "The Warning" is that its the best thing I've heard from Eminem since I was in 10th grade. Besides being rote as fuck and uninspired, a huge issue I've have with Eminem post-The Eminem Show was the permanent adoption of the grating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog impression he used on "Ass Like That", the depressingly limp and aimless attempt at a club/stripper song from Encore that came out around the time actual club/scrippa rap was completely Southern and completely awesome. To this day I thank Black Christ for creating ringtone rap to give me something shuck to at college parties. Fuck knows I can't get silly or do the Spider-man to Styles P records.

Chubby Checker is rolling in Richie Valens' grave. He should cut that shit out.

But that voice was all over "3a.m.", which a lot of people (sadly including one or two bloggers whose taste I kinda respect) got all hyped over even though not only was the concept stale and the execution annoying, but it seems like he had devolved into the Insane Clown Posse. Its that fucking awful, or as DocZeus put it "...the musical equivalent of 'Saw VI.'"

Part of the problem is aging gracefully. The only people I've seen to it well in rap are prolly Masta Ace and Ghostface. Most other rappers who've aged gracefully, like a KRS-ONE, have only done so by not changing what they've been doing at all. They're enough of an entity where you don't expect to see Rakim hulked out on 'roids and making gun threats while posturing on 50 Cent tracks. You can either mature what you do and stay interesting or have enough belief that the formula is strong and your identity and/or gimmicks are strong enough to remain the same. Jay's tried to do both and has so far had mixed results, but that's the price of being that huge in a pop sense. Kingdom Come suffered because the beats were awful and Jay's notion of adulthood is painfully boring (as rich people, when they're not participating in cabals and blood orgies, tend to be). American Gangster succeeded because though like everything he's done since The Blueprint 2, the actual detail surrounding it were questionable and smelled of bullshit, it actually managed to sound like what Jay has always done but with a current sensibility, which is the key. You never want to look like you're trying too hard to keep up or stay ahead of the curve and eschew what makes you you to keep that Ciroc flowing. But around the time 50 got signed/co-signed to Aftermath, that's exactly what happened.

Parts of The Eminem Show were amazing because he became more overtly political than he was on his previous album. It could be partially chalked up to shock value, but there's a ton of reckless shit said on that album considering it was released in early 2002, years before it was safely remark against the Bush administration. Making fun of the VP's heart condition in your first single just a few months after 9/11 is admirable. But then the motherfucker turned 32, hooked up with a goon (who himself would fall the fuck off within the year) and lost the plot. Fart jokes. The word "pee-pee". Making fun of Michael Jackson in 2004. Now considering the vast swath of artists who have/are troubled and made great music despite or because of it, Em's painstakingly reiterated and documented issues are hardly an excused for his terrible output. With his, it seems its a lack of issue, really. His first album was informed by years of abuse, whether real or exaggerated, and I guess what you could call with a straight-face "suffering". It made him funny, it made him "horror-core", it made him shit on Cage, giving him the best pre-Shia Labeouf/Def Jux exposure he ever had. The second LP was defensive and railed against his critics, mother, and his pseudo-wife/ex. The third album was railing against the Bush administration, other rappers (for a change after taking an album off to pick off pop stars), and seemingly women in general.

But I remember listening to that album for the first time 7 years ago, getting to the end and thinking "I guess this must be the end". Can't possibly see where he'd go after The Eminem Show. And clearly, neither did he. Without anything to complain about or defend himself against, and with his subject matter both cliche and being mined by Slug, Cage, and EL-P to the delight of white-ass undie fans worldwide, there wasn't much motivation. Some people have formulas because it comes out naturally, but some people have formulas because its all they can do. Threats of retirement, Andre 3000/Jay-Z-esque claims of being bored with rap and a pathetic tear-filled TRL appearance when he released the video for "Mockingbird" (in which he said he cried because it was so personal and didn't think he should've even made it despite no one asking him to write a song about his real-life daughters in the first place) were all signs of someone seemingly becoming aware of their own obsolescence. Even now, every TV appearance he does is sad and it seems like he's lost whatever sense of humor and charisma he had had in reserve.

Eminem is a pop star that constantly appears to be hurting. He looks dead-eyed and being pushed out his wheelchair in full wigger gear by Interscope isn't helping. That hurt is what made the random and completely untimely Mariah dis on Relapse that prompted a pretty biting response from Mariah Carey (and a pretty lame and seemingly partially-ignorant one from Nick Cannon) in the form of "Obsessed" which she had the balls to make her first single and make a pretty obvious video for. The woman's music has kind of always been terrible and her cliche Ebony-by-way-of-Oprah-magazine "Diva-honey-sista-girl" attitude has never been endearing, nor is Wild n' Out (except when they do Wildstyle. that's my shit), but that was impeccably executed in terms of beefing.

Executed enough that Eminem found his special purpose. I downloaded "The Warning" as a curiosity but fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. The track is the definition of "reckless". And bonus points for losing the Triumph voice. No hyperbole, this is of "Hit 'Em Up"/"Superugly" stature and maybe this is just what we need from him at this point. Immaterial tabloid bullshit as it all is, clearly what needs to be done is to have Em's handlers and inner circle feed him every sideways comment or remark made by whoever's been all over Perez Hilton the last year and half and lock him up with Dre to make Relapse 2 an album of reckless shittalking and personal insults on a bunch of pop stars and actors who can't defend themselves through rapping.

Its either that, or learn to not be self-absorbed.

*"...Cuz you'll always be my baby".