Friday, October 30, 2009

YOU CAN CALL MY PHONE. YOU CAN SWING OVER MY WAY.


The Ring/Ringu movies were just hour and a half long metaphors about AIDS, so in the spirit of foisting infection upon those nearest, I have to post this video. I slept on Ryan Leslie because a cursory iTunes browse didn't really make me see any of the things that made Brandon dig him so much, but Transition might be the record to do it for me, and "You're Not My Girl" is definitely driving me nuts, earwig-style. Recreating Ryan's (who looks like Jay-Z and Drake's market-tested offspring) slightly-sneering and completely cocksure seedy loverman strut over this amazing Stevie Wonder-damaged groove for upwards of 45 minutes in the library stacks of my on-campus employ is the most worthwhile thing I've done maybe all year.

Speaking of which, hopefully I can get enough senior project/thesis work done to actually get regular posting back on schedule, especially since there's about 7 or 8 in the backlog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NYC Pity Committee


Harris Publications owes me fucking $18.

For some reason I didn’t anticipate that this would be a kind of bullshit night. I left campus sometime Saturday afternoon with absolute unawareness that, after being spoiled since I was 16 by live music experiences that were started on time and didn’t offer mirages of gratuity, I was to finally experience the dreaded “rap show in a club”.

The Internal Affairs 10th Anniversary show story starts in the middle of the week. I go to xxlmag.com virtually every day to read Byron Crawford and Ron Mexico’s respective blog drops. To the immediate left was a blurb about a Harris Publications contest to go see the Pharoahe Monch show in Brooklyn (literally like a 20 minute or so walk from my pre-Bed-Stuy-gentrification brownstone) for free. Because of all the Brooklyn Vegan contests I’ve entered in the last year, I’ve grown pretty used to entering this sort of thing, plus the question was easy enough: “Which artist has Pharoahe Monch never been featured on a song with?” All four of the answers except one were pretty obvious, or at least would be if you dug Phaorahe in the least bit, so I emailed them “MF DOOM” from the choices and got an email the next day or so saying I had won.

I’d never seen Pharoahe perform before and had to skip the Organized Konfusion reunion shows and this year’s Rock the Bells out of budgetary constraints/sloth so I thought this was fate. I was meant to see Monche destroy a small, intimate Brooklyn club I’d never heard of playing one of my favorite post-Golden Age rap albums for free.

They asked for my email because, not trusting XXLmag of Harris Publications for shit based on the widespread knowledge of the shadiness and bootlegged lack of professionalism from rap mags (i.e. the lingering taint of the Source and the 5 Mic lottery of the Benzino era) so I gave them my AOL when I initially entered the contest as my college email is actually important and I don’t give my government out to the sort of people who’d give vapid chicks from Drake videos a week-long blog column. Probably a mistake since my college email would’ve inherently given them enough info to’ve put me on the RSVP for the show, which was in jeopardy by the weekend as I realized, after a long day in class away from my computer and checking my email for the first time at 5, that they had yet to send me an email back saying they received the last email and that I was good to go.

“What kind of bullshit business doesn’t respond back to emails after Thursday? There’s another work day, right?”

Cut to Thursday. I picked up a few items from my house to take back to college (Halloween mask, PS2 games, etc.) and checked up on my mom who’s having a rough time health wise. At no point during the weekend had I cleared the enthusiastic haze out of mind and thought of printing out my e-correspondence with XXL just in case they were as unprofessional as I’d reckoned and didn’t put me on the RSVP. Nor did I think to borrow my mom’s unlimited metrocard just in case some bullshit happened and I had to come back to the house to sort it out or for any other reason. It’s this kind of lack of foresight that has me coming out of pocket for a second senior year in college.

I take the A to Schermerhorn, hop to the G, get off at Classon and walk through the neighborhood, which is a part of Brooklyn I’ve never been to since, in all honesty, I don’t really fuck with the boroughs like that. I know Manhattan and west Brooklyn better than relatives’ birthdays yet the Bronx, parts of Queens and the other %75 of Brooklyn I never have to visit could be Philly for all I know. A little sketched out to be in the kind of area where the projects have their own embedded police precinct (you’d think that’d help, but if anything it’s the opposite), I made an L to the venue, this odd Bohemian nest in the middle of a semi-gully remnant of pre-Grizzly Bear Brooklyn called Sputnik. Real neo-soul looking inside, calming earth tones, candles, people that look like ?uestlove. Like walking into the jazz club from “What They Do”, actually.

I had Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bill Maher on DVR, but I watched two episodes of Curb and rushed to the venue because the show was supposed to start at 10pm. Once again, lack of foresight. This wasn’t like any of the metal or hardcore shows I’d gone to or even the Ghostface and Roots shows or Rock the Bells. Those shits started on time. It was organized by professionals and had actual money going into it, presenting an opportunity cost if any post-Forever Wu-Tang bullshit scamming or delays happened. When I got there, we were told that the doors for the show would open at 10:30. From the hundreds of shows I’ve gone to, I knew that meant the show would probably go on at 11:15 at the very earliest. I asked the doorman if I was on the RSVP for contest winner to make sure that the sinking paranoia I was starting to feel was just that.

Nope. Not on the list. For his credit the guy seemed genuinely concerned and not pretending to be distant and superior like most NYC doormen. But at this point I had a choice: either pay the fare and go home to print out the emails or stay there and cough up the $18 door charge. Stupidly, I just lingered around there and, after double-checking with the stampstress downstairs and going to get a $10 from the Chinese spot ATM, just said “Fuck it” and paid the money. I was dejected, especially since I was alone, bored, playing text tag on some interpersonal drama shit with a girl from school and quickly realizing that the show was taking so long that I would not be able to catch the last 1’o clock Metro-North to White Plains or the last 2’something free shuttle back to campus. Meaning I’d be stuck in NYC for the night and likely not get back in time the next day to get any meaningful amount of work or anything done.

Anyway, the actual show was great. The intimacy was the entire reason I was doing this, plus the promise that Monch wouldn’t be playing Desire. I might give that record another chance later but from what I remember it wasn’t great, but rode a wave of well-wishing because you’d have to be a complete asshole to not love the guy. That goodwill is how I convinced myself that I didn’t mind XXL’s inefficient fuck-up that was costing me $18.

“Monch deserves the money, goddamit. I mean, he couldn’t sell Internal Affairs for 10 years over sample issues, Desire did Q-Tip numbers and who knows how much of the Diddy ghostwriting money is still around. If I can support the dude enough that he can cop a Popeye’s 5-piece boneless chicken strip meal and take a cab back home after, so be it”

Although Monch's kind of getting back to "Fudge Pudge" status so clearly he's both caking and eating, figuratively and/or literally.

As evidenced by the video, and the entire thing is on that same Youtube account, the shit was nuts. There are maybe 2 or 3 songs off Internal Affairs that I’ve never really liked or felt, so I was bound to enjoy the shit. Plus, he didn’t stick to the script completely. Throughout the evening (or morning because after the warm-up acts, a guy who did a rap where he just pieced together the names of streets in NYC and a member of the X-Ecutioners crew who did a DJ set that felt like a good hour, it was like 12:45) Monch took requests (some tall white dude that looks like he fucks with Jedi Mind Tricks, Kool G Rap and R.A. the Rugged Man heavy shouted out some Soundbombing track after ever song until Monch finally did it.) and did his verses from “Oh No”, “My Life”, “Desire”, and an Organized Konfusion song, I think “Stray Bullets”. He was helped halfway through the set by two singers who, Unitarian Christ bless, were talented but the kind of budget nondescript singers that you get in NYC. A thick-bordering-on-“BBW” chick with ridiculously immaculate cleavage a dude the size of Buckshot that kind of looked a lot like Gandhi from “Clone High”.

The set list is on the youtube channel, but the M.O.P song, maybe my favorite Internal Affairs track, lacked any M.O.P. Monch apologized, but I don’t think anyone, even me at this point, was surprised. The flyer promised tons of guests, basically everyone who guested on the record, but no one showed up. Jean Grae (looking fine and amused at everything), DJ Scratch and Evil D were in the booth, though, though Jean was spectating and didn’t come down to the stage to spit anything.

The night ended with “Simon Says” of course, this was probably my favorite rap concert moment ever and definitely in my top 5 concert experiences in general. I haven’t yelled that loud and spazzed that hard since the last time I saw Converge live, and save for hopefully getting to see M.O.P. do “Ante Up” live in the future. Plus Monch is just as much of a playful virtuoso with a preacher's prescence and a king's tendency to proclaim. I’ve been hearing about S.O.B’s and their rap shows for a minute but I’ve always been hesitant. Seeing Monch live just convinced me to check their listing and check out live hip-hop more than I have been, especially since I unfortunately missed the Boot Camp Clik show and could prolly catch Sean Price there any time.

The second highlight of the Monch weekend? Running into R.A. the Rugged Man at the Fulton Street 4/5/A/C train station. He asked some dude for directions a few feet away but I didn’t geek out and tell him how much I liked Die, Rugged Man, Die just because I’m terrible at talking to people I recognize, like when I ran up on Jay Smooth this summer at a KRS-ONE free show in the Bronx and kind of made him feel uncomfortable as I struggled to verbalize how much I love his work.

Now to get someone to go with me to Vivian Girls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tom Breihan is Fucking Retarded (Or Better Living Through Ad Hominems)

I have to preface this post with the fact that I enjoy Breihan's writing. Before Status Ain't Hood got dropped like Ron Browz, I used to read the archives and check for updates like I do on the regular for Brandon or Joseph, Doc, Byron Crawford, Dallas Penn, Metal Inquisition, and etc. Although I never followed him to his personal blog afterward.

There's a reason for that. Like Robert Christgau, who I'm sure he gets compared to derisively quite often, he's a great writer with a knack for details and makes interesting reading, which is something missing from most music journalism as things get progressively more craven and desperate and bloggers scrounge around for any inkling of a trend or interesting slant to exploit. But also like Robert Christgau, he has shit taste and opinions. A sort of shit taste acceptable for a music writer, not the drab and easily confused popist, Phil Collins dickriding local music hack of Patton Oswalt-ian lore. What's insulting about the rating that ran in Pitchfork this morning for Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry is not that it didn't crack the 8.0 club, which would've been nice but unrealistic. I don't have anything emotionally of financially vested in this record, or really, anyone's album. My main contention is that, to judge by Breihan's score, the new Ghost album is not only the worst Ghostface album, but its pretty much, if going by the trend of only 8.0's and higher getting notice or love, a shit record. Which is far from the case. I've listened to it plenty in the last few weeks and its a legitimately good album.

"A 5.1 ain't gonna feed my kids, B. Fuck outta here with that bullshit"

The majority of the complaints about the record seem to be, as Brandon noted in the comments section of his post last week, about the production and the singers, which seems like a bullshit cop-out way of saying "I don't like radio R&B". Its softball critiquing, like when people chose to attack Dane Cook for stealing jokes because they couldn't express his unfunniness eloquently or convincingly or were intimidated by the sheer wall of resistance from his fanbase. Its disingenuous and kind of ball-less. Rest assured, the production is not cheap sounding post-Roc Dipset tinniness. The R&B features, two or three of them not very well known names at all, all work well on the songs they're on (though Adrienne Bailon was an odd choice and just sort of operate on during her feature). I'm not sure when someone not being a household name was ever a legitimate cause for complaint but its emblematic of detractors pulling things out of their ass while simultaneously trying to convince everyone that Cuban Linx II is much greater than what it is, a very consistent and at times great NY oldhead rap record that gathered momentum solely on the strength of it knowingly being marketed as the sequel to the 2nd or 2rd greatest rap record of all time (depending on whose temple you frequent).

A 7.5 or something similar would even make sense, as this record has decidedly mixed reviews and not everyone digs on the concept of an 11-song (ignoring tacked on label tracks) Power 105-type hip-hop album. It'd be especially fair considering thatSo Far Gone received a 7.4, and even the uninitiated are aware that Drake is a personality-less mixtape rapper whose singing voice and penchant for lukewarm bubble bath x Real World Vegas x Pitchfork class of 2008 beats (as close to new age as you can get in rap and still push units) routinely redeem his almost total lack of lyrical grace or narrative or metaphor or anything that would impress anyone whose ever recited a BIG song verse for verse. Speaking of that review, there was a portion of it that struck me odd when I read it earlier this year, shortly after Drake played his first show at my college (Youtube SUNY Purchase and Drake. Kind of sad. Long story about that.),


See, Drake's not a great rapper. His delivery manages to convey confidence at pretty much all times, but it's still halting and awkward. Half the time, his lines barely even make sense: "I never get attracted to fans/Cuz an eager beaver could be the collapse of a dam"-- huh? And even if the tape is mostly crammed with emo soul-baring, he still comes up with lines like this: "My delivery just got me buzzing like the pizza man." Ugh. In his four appearances on the tape, Lil Wayne just annihilates Drake. This wouldn't be news, except we're talking about circa-2009 syrup-fried Wayne here, and it's rarer and rarer that he gets the better of anyone on a song

Breihan's opinions have traditionally been derided by actual hip-hop journalists/bloggers/hangers-on with way too many Saigon mixtapes in their Acura for things like this. Tom Breihan, along with whoever wrote the Pitchfork review for Da Drought 3 became embarrassingly fanboy-ish shills for all things Lil' Wayne between 2005 and 2008, to the point that Breihan's mid-2008 decision to turnaround and decide to no longer worship every half-baked badly (not or ghost)written simile Dwayne Carter would "not spit" but "vomit" was probably made with trace amounts of Wayne's pre-come stubbornly encased in his beard. For two years Breihan not only embodied the "trying-too-hard-white-hipster-hip-hop-critic" in his purposefully contrary pieces on Pitbull being better than Nas and the like, but also the strangely over-enthused blogger tastemaker set that decided they were over Ghostface, DOOM, Cam'Ron and the Clipse and that Lil'Wayne was going to be their next object of unquestionable and incredible uncritical fawning. Blowjob metaphors would seem gratuitous if it wasn't for the tone of the pieces themselves. One could chalk this up to the subjectivity of art and other assorted excuses but you'd think someone who writes for a living would recognize bad writing, which Lil' Wayne's career about half contains at this point, sometimes in the context of a solitary verse. A later review of Da Drought 4, which was genuinely a shit mixtape, came off like the measured lament of someone who had a personal investment in Lil' Wayne (this coming from someone currently riding for Nicki Minaj, by the way):


When I heard that, I wrote that Wayne might need to slow down, that his appetites and his volume of output were finally starting to bring down the quality of his work. Wayne pulled it together for Tha Carter III, and a handful of post-album guest-appearances (Drake's "Ransom", Keri Hilson's "Turnin' Me On") show that he's still a monster when he wants to be. But when he stops wanting it, we get bullshit like Dedication 3

Tom Breihan famously couldn't muster the objectivity to type "nigga" when quoting rap lyrics, which would seem to belie the seriousness of his writing (bowdlerizing one's attempts at art criticism tend to do that) and betray a feeling of awkwardness or perceiving himself as being out of place when writing mostly about rap. And he probably was. Part of the fun of Status Ain't Hood posts of Breihan at Summerjam and etc. was that it read as half-informed, half utterly-clueless-spectator. Its like watching the development of whichever Trey/Tray it is that everyone finds annoying (I forget) as he comments on what seems to be every rap blog in existence. Or to be more straight to the point, Breihan has always been the Rudy to Noz's Steve Buscemi in Ghost World in terms of white rap writers having subtle issues handling their whiteness in a public forum. The ethering from Combat Jack years ago, though hilarious, if somewhat too easy, didn't help any at all.

People with good taste are often shit writers, quick examples being many of my early (and arguably later) posts on here. This is why Breihan and Christgau and half the 2000-2007 era Pitchfork staff get a pass, because the quality of writing is paramount so egregious ballyhooing of questionable bullshit gets a slide. But the Ghost review is just fucking lazy. Anyone familiar with Pitchfork is aware that for the most part getting below a 7 means that to most people, your album sucks . Technically its getting below a 7.8-8, but there's wiggle room. First, The Wizard of Poetry is by no means bad. Its arguable one of the better thing's he's done since Fishscale. Second, if you would take a numerical shit on the record, it'd be nice to actually offer some insight into the derision.

He invokes "All That I Got Is You" and "Holla" as preferred means of achieving a Ghostface R&B record, completely forgetting that a record of "Holla"'s was already made. Its called The Pretty Toney Album. Also, "All That I Got Is You" is a mid-90's R&B radio cash-in, despite its high-quality. Breihan seems to forget that in his claim that the approach is different, which it isn't at all. Yes, most of the songs on the record aren't nearly as stirring, but I don't get the feeling that being on the Def Jam graveyard allows him to cop a Keyshia Cole feature as readily as The Game can (Considering Chrisette Michelle closed the last Ghostface album, Cole is probably one of the few current R&B singers he hasn't worked with). The rest of the scant 6-paragraph review lacks any specific examples of or expounding upon what makes the record so "half-assed". He essentially bullshits to the reviews conclusion on the idea that most of the record's moments are "dispensable".

Problem is, his oversight is canonical. When the average person goes to Pitchfork and sees this review, especially in an era where Pitchfork has markedly less histrionic/college writing 101 bullshit reviews going up and more diverse tastes and opinions (allowing an argument to buttress detractions from the "Fuck the hipster hegemony" crowd which I was admittedly a part of two years ago), it's taken as "the new Ghostface, you know that guy you casually cared about three years ago in between spins of the Knife and the Fiery Furnaces, is a piece of shit. Apparently its even worse than those last few Electric Six albums, and those records were fucking awful". Even the last Clipse mixtape/album x clothingline promotional device got a 7.6, in spite of it being as unremarkable and in some stretches, boring and annoying, as the hastily released Re-Up Gang record (which was almost 1997-today Wu-Tang in its level of half-assed shady bullshit) It's one thing to underrate a record. That's eligible for contention. But to fall asleep at the wheel while being pretty fucking wrong from a position of media privilege is just retarded.

And apparently, Tom Breihan is fucking retarded.