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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Tha Carter II
Cash Money : 2005
Dear You [enhanced reissue]
Blackball : 2004
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Track/Atlantic : 1968
Silber : 2007
Lil Wayne's got it, Hendrix wanted to stand next to it (yours, to be precise), M83 don't want to be saved from it - popular music is no stranger to fire and its bottomless metaphorical potential. But the true music of fire does not speak its name, does not reduce it to metaphor. The true music of fire is like fire itself, an implacably pulsating abstraction, a continual movement of energy. Last weekend, at a fire festival, I sat in a tent late at night, listening to the competing DJ tents scattered across the grounds, whose emissions blended into one gargantuan throb, which seemed from my enclosed vantage to emanate from a single source, as if Terry Riley were conducting a mad symphony just over the hill. The music of fire is diffused and all-encompassing, as if the air itself had a beating heart, reverberations condensed out of vapor and smoke, energy burning off from some ineffable source. In the presence of fire and the music with which we pay tribute to it, latent potential for transformation becomes manifest, even inevitable. In that tent, I thought of fires I have known, fires which, while retaining the universal quality of all fires, seemed to distinguish themselves for me by their overstated and personal transformative properties.
The house that my family lived in when I was seven and my brother was three had a back yard that was abutted by a largish field of broomstraw, which was the property of a neighbor down the street. One of my favorite activities at this age was to go outside with a magnifying glass, using its lens to focus the sunlight into a tight beam, burning patterns and holes into leaves, twigs, bits of paper - and ok, sometimes ants. I'm surprised I was allowed to do this unsupervised - I suppose it was decided that I'd done it enough to amass some expertise, and that I had the good sense to stay on the concrete driveway when I did it. I can't say, on a particular afternoon, what compelled me into the field of broomstraw with my magnifying glass. I can't recall the sequence of events. I know there must have been a moment, when the broomstraw began to burn, spreading quickly, that I knew things had gotten out of hand. The part I remember clearly is standing beside my brother, back in our yard, dumbly watching the field burn. From my childish perspective, it was an inferno, but I've no idea how serious the fire actually was - it must be amplified in my mind, as a neighbor who was washing his car across the street was able to extinguish it with a garden hose. I don't remember how I felt, besides awed, and maybe that was all I felt - seeing all that fire up close, uncontrolled, and knowing I was responsible for it, perhaps my awe blocked out all my fear, my guilt, my anxiety over getting in trouble. I recall the endless walk down the street to knock on the neighbor who owned the land's ornate, imposing double doors; I don't recall whether they were understanding or angry. But here is what I recall most clearly: my father, rushing out onto the patio with a look of utter panic on his face, rushing down to where my brother and I were standing. From his perspective in the house, when he saw the blaze through the window, my brother was standing behind me - my father couldn't see him, and for a moment, between seeing the fire and rushing outside, he believed my brother had been engulfed. I wonder which of us changed more that day - me, in my newfound power, or my father, suddenly possessed of a trace of dark knowledge.
Sometime around my high school graduation, I attended a small party with my group of closest friends. As usual, we were drinking, gathered around a fire in a rusty barrel in my friend's yard. Although I couldn't have expressed it at the time, there was something elegiac in the air, something tangled about the celebration's energy, a sadness veining the muted revelry. The end of high school is a pivotal time for everyone, in ways that are too common, too trite, and too profound to even get into. We'd weathered some calamities together, and perhaps we all had the latent sense that greater, more confusing, less resolvable ones lurked on the horizon, that we were trembling in some ephemeral interstice between one life and another. At a certain point, as we stood in a motley ring around the barrel fire, one of my friends, as if at some secret cue, picked up a bucket of gasoline (why we had an open bucket of gasoline handy perplexes me to this day). Moving slowly but deliberately, as if hypnotized or underwater, he began walking toward the bucket. I felt a heightened sense of reality in this moment, a strange and dreamlike lucidity - everyone else was chatting aimlessly, and I felt as if only I were witnessing the scene at hand, somehow seeing the whole thing play out simultaneously, somehow entranced and unable to speak the warning that I felt welling up in me. In slow motion, my friend cocked back the bucket of gas and hurled the entire thing into the barrel. Time sped up again as a great pillar of flame erupted from the barrel, causing everyone to leap back, seemingly pushed through the air by the flames like heroes in an action movie. Luckily, no one was burned, and the inferno quickly subsided. We gave the friend who'd thrown the bucket some shit and got back to our aimless chatting for some minutes before someone thought to look up, and discovered that the boughs overhead were aflame.
I thought about all these fires at the fire festival, during the lazy days, as my partner and I sat around singing songs with the guitar, swimming in the lake, reading from my dog-eared copy of Borges' Ficciones. (When I read Borges, my heart would like to burst with love, and yet I have never read Borges - only his translators. This relationship too seems evocative of fire - intense yet somehow deflected, a reaction to an energy coming down some cloaked and remote corridor.) A fire festival is an invitation to transform, and I witnessed the costume I wore all weekend - a full-body tiger-striped unitard, a pair of earlike feathered discs, an improvised tail (fur trim cut off of a puffy coat's hood) - manifest different selves for me. On the first night, I was a housecat, inclined to curl into and around things, staying close to the ground. Or a churchmouse, meek and perceptive - someone asked me if I wanted to try out his poi, and I said to him, "Tonight, I am a creature who watches," realizing as I said it that it was true. I had the distinct sensation of peering out at the world around me - the fire dancers and drum circles, the poi spinners and psychedelic lights - through a crack in the floorboards.
But the next night, the night of the burn (the climactic moment in any fire festival, where some sort of immense effigy is ceremonially set aflame for a great, purgative revel): same costume, different tiger. As the fire dancers circled the effigy in center camp, Ashley and I joined a great outer throng around them, dancing, playing percussion, whooping and exhorting. I beat a guiro until it split in two, then played the shards until they were pulverized. Finally the effigy was set aflame, the improbable heat of the inferno momentarily pushing everyone back a few steps - was it fifty feet high? One hundred? Large fires wreak havoc on your sense of scale. Hundreds of bodies pressed into a circular orbit around the fire, which eventually came to rest, the trippers grooving with their eyes closed, others stunned and mute in the heat. That night, I was a tiger as strong and powerful as I'd been meek and timid the previous night, a playful tiger and a fierce one. Ashley and I took up jingly bells and slinked through the crowd, moving like jungle cats, close to the fire, feeling the full power of our lithe bodies and our status as most wondrous creatures in our costumes, purifying people with bells. And I will tell you now that there is no better feeling in this world than moving through a crowd of strangers, in a ridiculous costume, purifying them with bells, and for the purity of this intention to be conveyed wordlessly and perfectly - to move through a crowd of strangers and see on their faces not wariness or scorn or apathy but a reflection of your own burning spirit, to see face after face light up at your approach, for no other reason than that it is your intention to be wonderful and to transmit this wonder, to hear them gasp and say "Thank you!" for doing something that might get you punched in everyday life (imagine walking through the subway jingling bells around people's faces and bodies) - to incarnate your desire as twinkling bells, at the root of a pillar of flame, and to be those bells, or that tiger, or whatever you want.
Labels: acid rock, brian, hip-hop, indie rock
posted by Brian
Friday, July 18, 2008
SOME PEOPLE ARE CRAZY
Grace & Danger
Polygram : 1980
Available on : At His Finest
Ace : 2004
One Way : 1974
DON'T BE CRAZY
8 TON CRAZY
Andy Fairweather Low
La Booga Rooga
Universal : 1975
RETURN OF THE CRAZY ONE
Warner : 1993
I called someone crazy this week. She deserved it. Objectively speaking, for a little while at least, she was every kind of loon. I wouldn't say flibbertigibbet, because that's sexist. I wouldn't say murderer, because that's inaccurate. I'd say crazy. When I told her about it, she balked. She should have thanked me. A crazy person has hundreds of songs at her disposal to clarify and celebrate her condition. In fact, you can argue that it's one of the five or six most decorated words in the history of pop music. Sounds crazy, I know.
The most common use of crazy is romantic: Patsy Cline's "Crazy," Billie Holiday's "I've Got a Man, He's Crazy For Me," Chet Baker's "You're Driving Me Crazy (What Did I Do?)," and Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy," to name just a few. In others, it's just a way of expressing energy: Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," or for that matter the Clash's. But then there are the songs that investigate a darker, richer seam of meaning, where crazy means what crazy means: a temporary loss of reason due to a combination of emotional and psychological factors.
That's the case in "Some People Are Crazy," one of the signature songs of the British singer/songwriter John Martyn. I missed Martyn the first time he passed through my life, in college, when a slightly older guy I knew insisted that he was like Eric Clapton but with brains. "But that's not like Eric Clapton at all!" I said, and we both had a hearty laugh, and I went on my way. In the last year or two, I have found my way back to Martyn, or he has found his way back to me, thanks largely to his 1980 album Grace and Danger. The record can sound smooth and jazzy if you don't pay close attention, but beneath the surface it's as raw a dissection of a failing relationship as, say, Shoot Out the Lights. "Some People Are Crazy," the opener, isn't among the most bruising songs; it's cryptic, but still dark and disturbing:
Some people are crazy about himAt first blush, it seems like another "crazy for" song, but as it goes on, it becomes clear that there's a broader brief:
Some people can't stand his face
Some people they smile when they know he's coming
Some people chase him out of the place
Some people are crazyOne of the people who didn't do as he should was Larry Williams. Williams started out as a songwriter and performer at Specialty Records in the mid-fifties, and he was designated as the label's star when Little Richard left rock and roll for the ministry in 1957. Williams had the songs, like "Bonie Moronie" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzie." He had the style. He had the platform. In "Baby's Crazy," though, he may be grasping at straws -- his main piece of evidence against the woman in the song, Marie, is that she doesn't love him like she used to do. Maybe she just came to her senses, or moved on. In real life, Williams' problems were more severe than just missing out on the record hop, thanks largely to his involvement with pimping and dealing. His life in the sixties and seventies was marked by drug and gun trouble, and in 1980 he was found dead of a gunshot wound outside of his Laurel Canyon home in a highly suspicious suicide.
Some people are just plain good
Some people talk wouldness and couldness
Some people don't do as they should,
Guns also figure in Bill Wyman's solo work, though they seem the stuff of blues legend rather than of reality. Monkey Grip, the bassist's 1974 album, was the first solo product from a Rolling Stone, and it opens with "I Wanna Get Me a Gun," which featured an excellent piano solo by Dr. John. "Crazy Woman" is the second song, and it builds its case slowly:
Crazy womanWyman's song highlights the ways in which "crazy" can be used as dismissal, even if it's tinged with admiration. After all, who is more qualified to offer his opinion on a woman's mental fitness than Wyman, who began a relationship with Mandy Smith when he was 47 and she was 13 and who drove her to a nervous breakdown and anorexia?
She caught me with somebody
She caught me with somebody else
She flew into a fury
She said she's gonna get me some
She said I'm gonna get what's coming
Gonna get me with a gun
It has suddenly occurred to me that the woman I called crazy might be coming for me with a gun. Is that sexist? Is it dismissive? Can she even shoot a gun?
I'll end with a plea for sanity from John Lennon -- "Don't Be Crazy," from the Dakota Demos, is Lennon's workup for "(Just Like) Starting Over" -- and a pair of songs that handle craziness from the inside rather than the outside. Andy Fairweather Low is, like John Martyn, a respected and well-connected British guitarist and singer- - he has had professional relationships with Wyman, Clapton, and Roger Waters, among others - - who is more distinctive, if not more well-known, as a solo artist. The loping, beguiling "8 Ton Crazy" may be a love song, but it works more generically as a defense for temporary loss of reason:
Hey mama morning, papa night and dayFinally, of course, there's Digital Underground's "Return of the Crazy One," which makes an strong case that a person's crazy parts are the most attractive, not to mention the most fun to handle. At times, Digital Underground sacrificed its comic genius for standard-issue P-Funk-derived hip-hop, but not as long as Humpty Hump was nearby. Here, Humpty presides over a celebration of alternative and maybe even revolutionary thinking. It seems like a good idea to quote it extensively, because what else can you do with joyful things?
Don't treat me like I've got nothing to say
Please don't tell me that you think it's a shame
When things go wrong and there's no one to blame
'Cause I get 8 ton crazy
I get 8 ton mad
It's the strangest feeling
That I ever had
When you start tap-dancing
It makes me feel bad
Lick lick let me lickAnd so, by way of apology to the crazy ones -- no, not exactly apology, but more a equal mix of admiration, impatience, fellowship, and challenge, all of which are tuned to a pleasant humming at the base of the brain because, well, there's nothing better than liking a person right on through the craziness -- I say, hova glova nivlan blizman glaze niull. And don't forget it.
Smell let me smell the flavor
And taste the behavior
The way you
Been kicking it while the Humpster was lamping
Fishing and camping
Out renting boats in the Hamptons
Eating good, working out, and giving charity
Working on my vocal cord clarity
Hell no, I can't front, I been at the crib G-ing
Slapping poontang trying to be the mack pappy
40-dog and pina colada peeing
Making my rounds to keep the Humpty girls happy
If you missed me I was laying in the cut
Wrecking big butts
Scratching my knees
Cause my homegirl's cat got fleas
That's how it goes
The beat flow-flows
Yo peep the new color of my nose
Representing how we been living
That's how it is
I'm not the Biz
But if I was to pick a booger
It'd be a big fat gooey gold plated loogie
But I was born a yankee so I use my hanky
The way I wear my clothes freaks the hos 'cause I'm lanky
Speaking of hankies, I like hanky panky
Especially when the hanky panky's stanky
Of course ain't gonna be too much stanking
Cause then my duty would be to give the booty a spanking
I like biscuits and grits on the sausage
And so you know it's me, I wrote some nonsense
Hova glova nivlan blizman glaze niull
Labels: ben, hip-hop, rock and roll
posted by Ben
Thursday, June 05, 2008
ROYAL CROWN HAIRDRESSING
Available on: The Specialty Sessions
Specialty : 1989
HOW YOU GONNA GET RESPECT (IF YOU AIN'T CUT YOUR PROCESS YET)
Starday King : 1968
Available on: James Brown's Funky People Pt. 3
Polydor : 2000
Starday King : 1969
Available on: Black Power: Music of a Revolution
Shout Factory : 2004
WEAR YOUR NATURAL, BABY
Towana & The Total Destruction
Romark : 1971
Available on: Soulful Thangs vol. 6
Latin Soul : 2006
FUCK A PERM
Kill My Landlord
Wild Pitch : 1993
Labels: alex, hip-hop, soul
posted by Alex
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
SOUL PRESIDENT #1
John & Ernest
Rainy Wednesday 7" : 1973
[Out of Print]
THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT
Blowfly For President
Pandisc : 1988
IF I WERE PRESIDENT
Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
Delicious Vinyl : 1992
I COULD NEVER BE PRESIDENT
Stax 7" : 1969
Available on: Chronicle
Fantasy : 1977
The difference between Blowfly and Barack Obama is like the difference between Public Enemy & Eminem: Back when Flavor Flav couldn't give a fuck about the Grammys, it was because he couldn't have imagined winning one. When Eminem recycled the reference, a decade down the line, he'd already scored two of them.
So one thing that'll happen if Obama goes the distance is, a long tradition of African-American songs - rooted in the notion that no black man will ever occupy the office - will grind to a halt. (An old joke, along the same lines: "I firmly believe that, one day, a man in a kippa and prayer shawl will sit in the Oval Office.... Unless, of course, he's Jewish.")
I'm not sure how far back the tradition goes - for all I know, it's as old as the petitions black folks would send to Abraham Lincoln - but whatever the case, here's a small sampling of songs about the job: John & Ernst's Watergate-era mashup; some presidential potty-humor from the afore-mentiomed proto-rapper, Blowfly; a skit by the (currently reunited) Pharcyde; Stax man Johnnie Taylor, with the sine qua non of presidential soul songs...
Below, a tune written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann:
ONLY IN AMERICA
Atlantic : 1963
(Released in 1972)
Available on: A Change Is Gonna Come: The Voice of Black America 1963-1973
Ace/Kent : 2007
ONLY IN AMERICA
Jay & The Americans
UA : 1963
Available on: The Leiber & Stoller Story Vol. 3 1962-1969
Ace : 2007
Here's what my liner notes have to say about it:
Two weeks prior to the Drifters' "On Broadway" reaching its chart peak, the group returned to the studio to record another song by the same four co-writers, but not before it had undergone a revamp. Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the same year in which police dogs were trained on demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama and Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of that state's University in an attempt to block the entrance of the school's first black pupils. [A sidenote, from John McPhee's 1969 book about Arthur Ashe: "Wallace is beautiful. He's doing his own thing. He's actually got a little bit of soul. What I worry about is people who say one thing and do another. Wallace is in his bag, and he enjoys it." - ed.] Sympathetic to the Civil Rights cause, Barry Man and Cyntia Weil wrote for the Drifters a protest song, "Only in America," the lyric of which included the lines "Only in America, land of opportunity, do they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me/Only in America, where they preach the golden rule, do they start to march when my kids try to go to school...." When Mann and Weil played [a draft of the song for Leiber and Stoller], the producers opined that it needed humour, suggesting a rewrite from the opposite viewpoint. Thus, the song was remodelled from a WASP perspective and recorded by the Drifters on the very same day that Martin Luther King was placed in solitary confinement in Alabama. Atlantic's Jerry Wexler felt that whether percieved literally or with irony, the track had little airplay potential and could in fact cause trouble for his company and the group, nixing its release.And so, the Drifters recording was shelved for a decade. The version which did appear, in July of '63, had been recorded by these guys.
It reached #25 on the pop charts.
Labels: alex, hip-hop, pop, soul
posted by Alex
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
XXX YO! INTERNET RAPS XXX
FREAKS OF THE INDUSTRY
Tommy Boy : 1990
We @ Moistworks hold these tracks to be self-evident:
Bitch Better Have My Money
ZYX : 1991
But seriously, the bitch really better had have my money.
TALK LIKE SEX
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
Wanted Dead or Alive
Cold Chillin' : 1990
"I'll leave you like a rape victim." That, from back in the day.
IF YOU BELIEVE IN HAVING SEX
2 Live Crew
As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Lil' Joe : 1989
A girl back there who, asked if she *liked* sex said, "Of course/Doesn't everyone?" She was interested in overpopulation. But ask yourselves, people - do *you* people believe in having sex?
Erik B. & Rakim
Let The Rhythm Hit'Em
MCA : 1990
Al Green = Love.
FOOL GET A CLUE
Radikal : 1996
And now, with a lot less love:
Interscope : 1999
And a whole lotta lovelessness:
AIN'T NO FUN
Priority : 1993
I know the pussy's mineFREAKY PUMPS
So I'ma fuck a couple more times
Then I'm through with it
There's nothing else to do with it
Pass it to my homie, now you get it
'Cause she ain't nothing but a bitch to me
And y'all know that bitches ain't shit to me...
The Loneliest Punk
The Lab : 2005
That, from from the original sex rap post.... And if that don't slap the fuzzle from your muzzles, here's a few more xxx internet raps xxx :
SIDE TO SIDE
Anti : 2005
TALK LIKE SEX PT. II
Priority : 2001
WORK THAT POLE
Landspeed : 2002
The Beatnuts, in general, are genuinely unpleasant: Where's their medal?
FUCK THE PAIN AWAY
The Teaches of Peaches
[For [all the bearded] ladies.]
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
RCA : 1995
Someday, the words "I Love you like I love my dick size" will be inscribed on some Staten Island tombstone....
XXX YO! INTERNET RAPS XXX
Labels: alex, hip-hop, sex
posted by Alex
Monday, November 12, 2007
GET YOUR MOTHER OFF THE CRACK
I Don't Care (The Album)
Atlantic : 1990
GIMME NO CRACK
Elektra : 1988
BEEN THIS WAY BEFORE (RAP)
Reprise : 1987
J.R. Records : 1991
Kwederology, Vol. 1
Touch & Go Records : 1986
Greens from the Garden
Alligator Records : 1999
Anticon : 2002
Def Jam : 2006
RAP GAME / CRACK GAME
In My Lifetime, Vol. 1
Roc-a-Fella : 1997
I AM CRACK
What the Game's Been Missing!
Def Jam : 2005
I Believe You Are A Star
Flying Nun : 2001
If you are of the certain age and the certain whiteness that I am, then you can't think of the 80s without thinking of crack. Crack was huge in the 80s. Juat like that, Styx was no longer the country's favorite white rock. It was pretty impressive - for this little upstart drug to become, in a few short years, a modern American plague. I like to imagine those first Shuttle astronauts looking down from space and seeing our nation's crack pipes ablaze, like a thousand points of light. Crack had a very candid resume: it was cheap, available, and promised instant returns. Even so, the boom it enjoyed was amazing. In a blink, the crack habit became an emblem for all habits, its mechanism the mechanism for all addictions. There was no wiggle room with crack, no recreational crack smoking, no loud, bohemian couple at your dinner party offering the crack pipe around, no lifestyle that included crack smoking except the crack smoker's lifestyle. The crack boom brought a parallel boom in new, sinister compound nouns: crackheads, crackmoms, and crackbabys - a whole new citizenry overnight.
Crack devastated America's black urban communities. But for white America, crack was a great phantom. For the white community, crack's grip was mostly on the imagination, but that didn't make it any less potent or twitchy. The way a white person thought about crack said much about the way they thought about race, and money and the city. It was something of a prism to be looked through, or maybe a more accurate, if equally lazy, metaphor would be a kaleidoscope, whose optics caught each tiny personal flaw and projected them into a uniquely, fantastically colorful spectacle of predjudice.
Crack became one of our great racial bogeymen. The history of race in America is stocked with racial bogeymen, but in the 80s, conditions seemed uniquely moist for the seeds of rapid fear.
The national tone was conservative and cocky. For the typical Reaganite, black America may as well have been a foreign country. The Establishment had never done or seen crack, or had any friends or friends-of-friends who had done or seen crack, or ever shown any previous interest in the welfare of America's inner cities. Yet the Establishment was obsessed with crack.
Politicians, economists, urban planners, the people in charge, were all exactly unqualified to handle the crisis. But they all took a furiously inexpert shot, like the crack epidemic was a Rubik's cube they had been handed for the fist time. I'm pretty sure at some point someone declared war on crack. Scientists gave crack to animals and announced importantly that the animals chose the crack over food. (I'm not sure what the benefit of these studies was --as we all know, one of the great evolutionary bonuses of being human is the ability to choose drugs AND food.)
Meantime, news from the crack front was being delivered to us by a new, accelerating media. A faster, noisier, sleazier, more voyeuristic, more entertaining media. A small-picture media obsessed with trend-spotting and tabloid magazine shows hosted by loud Australian men. This media loved crack. Do you remember, at the end of the 80s, when crack's ability to shock was on the wane, how the media didn't want to let it go? I remember a desperate spate of stories about new, more deadly drugs that were about to sweep into the suburbs and turn your Honor Roll daughter into a cheap hooker. Rolling Stone ran a big cover story on a drug called "Ice" that was supposedly going to make crack look like Flintstone's chewables. Ice was cheaper, more addictive, more deadly. I think some gangs in Hawaii were making it. Of course it was the Hawaiian gangs. That's an old Rolling Stone trick, because they know nobody fact checks the Hawaiian stuff.
The changing media reflected a change in media consumers. The audiences were younger. For white suburban kids, there was suddenly a new familiarity with black style and black music. White teens were dressing black, talking black, listening to black radio, admiring black athletes. They were even venturing into the city on weekends, where they mingled with black kids on the racial frontiers, swapping cultural chips, like the early stages of a game of Othello. Ahh, Othello, the 80s chess! But it was mingling, not mixing. We walked the same blocks, but passed each other on opposites sides of the street. For white kids, this new intimacy brought into relief very real divisions in a way we had never quite considered. Joseph Conrad, in a famous book he wrote about a crackhead called Mister Kurtz, described a phenomenon whereby the "glow brings out a haze." For kids like me growing up in DC, this bright new fog created a queasy kind of segregation anxiety. We laughed at our parents for being so ignorant, for getting it wrong when it came to all things black, but at the same time, we didn't know specifically in what ways they were getting it wrong. We couldn't debunk their myths with any evidence based on actual experience, we just did so on faith. The everyday invisibility of black people in our lives was embarrassing to us, and so we over-compensated, nurturing our own counter-fantasies about what real black people were all about, and we did foolish things like go to Kid 'n Play concerts.
I guess I don't really have anything in the way of a conclusion. What got me thinking about our old friend crack, was a link someone sent me a few days ago. It's a nasty link, nasty in so many ways, absolutely unsafe for work, and in fact, best left unclicked.
Here it is.
Instead of clicking that link, why not hop on the comments board, anonymously if you like, and give us some good personal crack stories. I know you got em. If I'm sure about one thing, it's that moistwork readers love to hit the pipe.
SOME CRACK LINKS:
CRACK IS WHACK
VINTAGE RACIST CRACK P.S.A.
VINTAGE CRACK P.S.A.
VINTAGE CRONKITE CRACK P.S.A.
PEE WEE HERMAN CRACK P.S.A.
CRACKHEADS GONE WILD
CRACK SMOKERS IN HELLS KITCHEN
THE IRON SHIEK SMOKES CRACK
I GOT COCAINE RUNNING AROUND MY BRAIN
THE MYTH OF THE CRACK BABY
Labels: drugs, hip-hop, James, rap
posted by James
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Sex is Law
Mca : 1993
KNOCKIN' BOOTS (12")
Ain't No Shame In My Game
Epic : 1990
Out of Print
GETTING IT ON
Big City Funk -- Original Old School Breaks & Heavy Guitar Soul
Vampi Soul : 2006
GET IT ON
The Delta Rhythm Section
Old School Classics
Vinylizor Productions LTD
Atmosphere : 2002
A foreplay fourplay
Remember the New Jack Swing movement? It was a fumbling, forgettable time when rap got into bed with the flyweight sound of R&B, and it was possibly the last time rappers danced in public. Maybe you even remember Father MC, who modestly changed his name to just "Father" for 1993's Sex is Law. He was popular with the white boys and the girls with daddy issues. "69" is New Jack at its punchy best: vigorous, cheesy, unsubtle, with more energy than finesse. Slick music for un-slick people, seduction music for personal trainers.
Perhaps the worst rap song to ever crack top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. This song was a crossover hit in the sense of crossing over from white boys to their younger, whiter brothers. It features some of hip hop's most embarrassing boasts: swilling Asti Spumante, taking a groupie called "Norma" back to a Holiday Inn, making her pay for the room.
Getting It On:
Deep, scorching funk from a 70s funk guitar hero who had the last name of 'Coffey', played with Parliament, Edwin Starr, Freda Payne, and Wilson Pickett, released an album with this cover, and who was still, somehow, a white boy.
Get It On:
A nice example of a little genre we at moistworks like to call "Elephunk" - inappropriate music for elevators, from the mysterious acid jazz collective Vinylizor Productions.
Labels: funk, hip-hop, James, rap
posted by James
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
A SADNESS FOR THINGS
Available on : The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2: 1968-1971
Stax : 1993
WHAT A SAD FEELING
Available on : Soul Perfection Plus
Westside UK : 1998
SAD OLD WORLD
Fast Man Raider Man
Back Porch : 2006
I CAN'T GO TO SLEEP
Sony : 2000
WAVES OF FEAR
The Blue Mask
RCA : 1982
When I was in college, I had a habit of walking out of parties minutes after walking into them. The reason was simple: I didn't like the sadness. I'd come into the room, and it was like I was walking into a sliding glass door of shame, embarrassment, and self-hatred--and not just my own. I'm not saying people didn't have fun at parties. People had fun. But the fun was created, to some degree, by the sadness. It was the negative space carved out of the unfun. I didn't like it, and when it started creeping up my spine, I left. Later on I learned some strategies for blocking out the sadness I was absorbing from the room, most of which involved poor eye contact and a steady stream of jokes. We do what we can with the tools we have.
Recently, I was taking a trip, and at some point along the way I sat in O'Hare in Chicago and watched the people pass by, their brows furrowed with one worry or another--maybe the mortgage was late or the insurance on the second car was too expensive or the husband was putting on weight in a way that seemed to indicate depression or the stepson was developing violent tendencies or the boss wasn't showing enough respect or the lover wasn't loving back the way she used to or the mother needed surgery. Every expression, every gesture, seemed to broadcast sadness. I put my headphones in to block it all out and went to get something to eat. In one of the restaurants, I got a sandwich, and while I was sitting there and eating it, I saw a woman sitting by herself, also eating. It was an airport. People eat alone all the time. There was no reason to make too much of it. And yet, the more I watched her, the more I was sure that she was sad, and not sad in a transitional or instrumental way, but deeply, foundationally, irreversibly sad. She was in her mid-thirties, attractive but tired-looking, reading a business report filled with black-and-white charts. At one point, she took out her cell phone, started to make a call, and thought better of it. The hand holding the phone sunk down until it was in her lap. I had taken my headphones out. I put them back in.
A few days after that, I was talking to a friend, and I mentioned this woman, and my other friend got angry at me. My problem, she said, wasn't that I was assuming that these other people's lives were sad--she agreed that they were, for the most part--but that I thought somehow that my life was better than theirs. "Well," I said. I didn't know what I was going to say after that. Luckily, she went on. She said that the reason I felt conflicted was that my feelings took the form of pity (which felt presumptuous to me) rather than straightforward sadness. If I allowed myself to simply feel sad for people, it might lead to sympathy rather than some dumb combination of pain and superiority. We were all in the same boat, so we might as well acknowledge our powerlessness before that fact. "Well," I said again. She had to go, she said. She went.
I thought about what she had said, and it seemed true for a few minutes. Most of what she says does, as a result of her incredible smartness. But then parts of it started to shimmer, like a mirage, and I wasn't as certain anymore. The part about connecting to the common humanity in us all had a certain appeal, but the part about doing away with the dumb mix of pain and superiority bothered me. Isn't that what much artwork is about? You feel the pain, it starts to drive you to your knees, you bring yourself back up (thanks to a narcissistic impulse), you move forward on this cushion of temporary superiority and use the energy generated by this process to create something. In fact, after a few times, you come to value the sadness, to receive it with a kind of joy, because you know that it will, in time, bring you to creative work.
Songs about sadness, of course, are highly common. There's the sad-eyed lady and the sad mood, there's fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, there's "Sadly Beautiful" and "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)." But songs about the fact that the world is sad are rarer. Calvin Scott, a blind pianist and singer, was born in 1938 in Alabama and performed in a duo with the also-blind Clarence Carter before splitting up in 1966. (How they split up is noteworthy: the band was coming home from a performance and got into a car wreck. Scott was badly injured and then had a legal feud with Carter as a result of the medical bills.) Carter, of course, went on to have huge hits with "Slip Away" and "Strokin'"; Scott became a minor soul performer for Atlantic and then Stax who released a few singles and an album called "I'm Not Blind, I Just Can't See." This song, the leadoff track, moves through an almost comically inclusive litany of sad things ("Intelligent parents that are sometimes completely confused...Street dogs and lost kittens and people that cry"). Betty Harris, a New Orleans soul singer best known for her cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me," covers some of the same ground--in fact, both she and Scott use dining alone as an archetypal scene of sadness. Maybe they were at O'Hare, too. (Harris also employs one of my favorite soul-music tricks: singing about loneliness while a trio of backup singers echoes the sentiment.) The Frank Black song has a more minimalist sensibility but also explains how we're wounded by busted love and illness:
I know something about sicknessOf course, all this poetry can obscure the fact that sometimes it's impossible to process the world's pain into beautiful sadness. Sometimes, existence leaves you raw, at which point sadness (for others) turns to fear (for yourself and your survival), which in turn leads to rage and self-loathing and self-medication and sleeplessness and Ghostface and Lou Reed.
I know something about that now
There's nothing you can do except witness
No there's nothing you can do
And when the petals on the flower start to curl
Well you better hang on, now,
You better hang on
'cause its a sad old world
'cause its a sad old world
'cause its a sad old world
Don't try to tell me it's gonna be alright
Labels: ben, hip-hop, soul
posted by Ben
Friday, July 06, 2007
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington
The Complete Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington Sessions
Blue Note : 1961
CAREFUL (CLICK, CLICK)
Sony : 2000
BLACK STARLINER MUST COME
Two Sevens Clash
Shanachie : 1977
In recent posts, I've been writing about friendship, trust, faith, belief, hope, disappointment, communication, sexual possessiveness, and sexual permissiveness. This week, for Independence Day, I'm going to temporarily leave off with all that. Regular programming will resume next week.
Every year, around the Fourth of July, I spend whatever spare time I have listening to Louis Armstrong, who was supposedly born on July 4, 1900. That's legend -- in fact, he was born a year and a month later -- but it's an appropriate legend for the man who went on to become the greatest American artist of the century. And evey year, when I'm thinking of Louis Armstrong, I try to listen to different music. Anyone can go through the Hot Fives and Sevens or the W.C. Handy album for the hundredth time, and everyone should, but there are dozens of other records I wouldn't get to if it wasn't for set-asides. This year, I ended upon on the Armstrong-Ellington sessions, specifically "Azalea." Ellington wrote the song a few decades earlier, recorded it with Al Hibbler in 1951, and finally had a chance to record this definitive version with Armstrong in 1961. It's one of the slower songs from the Great Summit sessions, but whereas the rest of the record is autumnally slow, two lions not yet in winter, this is literally a spring song. It's also about New Orleans, obviously, and got a little bit of a boost after Katrina, but it should stand on its own as a love song.
Also worth noting this week: today is the birthday of the RZA, and tomorrow, of course, is the day when the three sevens clash.
Labels: ben, hip-hop, jazz, reggae
posted by Ben
Monday, June 25, 2007
BLESS OUR HIPPY HOME
Fenton : 1967
Available on: Scream Loud : The Fenton Story
Wayback Records : 2006
Monday is Brian Howe day in this, the summer of our new Moistworks lineup. But Brian sent a mssg. to the MW superfriends last night: Doom and gloom, deadlines loom, anyone want to play DH?
Everyone's getting married this summer, and I've got a few songs that, for one reason or another, never quite made it onto a wedding mix I made for my friend Z. (I owed her one, anyway.) Above one of the stragglers (Z.'s not much of a hippy), and below, one which sailed through every cut (Z is, however, very lovable):
CAN'T NOBODY LOVE YOU
Atlantic : 1966
Available on: Home in Your Heart
Atlantic : 1992
Al was in from out of town, and he, James, BJ, & I saw Glenn Mercer, and 4/5ths of the Feelies the other night at Maxwell's. We were, for once not even remotely close to being the oldest folks in the audience. It was like going to church.
YOU'VE GOT TO MOVE
Two Gospel Keys
Available on: Goodbye, Babylon
Dust-to-Digital : 2003
In mostly unrelated news, the new hotness from Kanye West:
GOOD : 2007
Sounds a wee bit like the old hotness from Kanye West:
Roc-a-Fella : 2005
Hotter beat; weaker lyric, right down to "I'd do anything for a blond dyke" (?!?), and the repeating verse about Prince & OJ, which doesn't benefit all that much from the repetition, and brings us right back to Burke:
Atlantic : 1966
Available on: Home in Your Heart
Atlantic : 1992
Labels: alex, garage rock, gospel, hip-hop, soul
posted by Alex
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
GOOD Music/Geffen : 2007
Common feat. Erykah Badu & Bilal
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Geffen : 2007
HIP HOP IS DEAD
Hip Hop is Dead
Def Jam : 2006
Last December, I traveled to Chicago to have lunch with Common for an article in Paste Magazine. To celebrate the impending release of Common's new album, Finding Forever (the first single from which is available above), I'm posting the entire interview transcript, including all the parts that I didn't use in the article, below.
You have a new album coming out, Finding Forever.
It should come out in the spring, I would say late April. (Note: Album is currently slated for July release.)
Can you tell me about the title?
It's just really talking about making timeless music and timeless art, and how we exist through this music forever if we just find this place where it's pure.
What happens if you don't find that place?
Then it becomes the moment's hit and they play it on the radio and it's like a hundred million audience, but it just passes away. There's certain songs you can hear that were big hits in 2004, where you hear it now you don't have a feeling about it. It doesn't even take you back to that time. Where as I can hear Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and it takes me to a place in my life, an emotional place, because the music has that emotion. When you find forever music and you make timeless art, it's got to have an emotion to it. NWA takes me to a certain emotion and place in my life, and I feel that music should do that. Art should do that.
So timelessness is very important to you.
I want my music to be able to last, man. I was riding with my daughter the other day and playing some old soul music, and her and her friends covered up their ears like no, we don't like this. I was like, this is good music, soulful music. She don't want to hear anything made before she was born. She's nine. But the point is that these Isley Brothers, James Brown, and John Coltrane songs that I listen to, my daughter is going to hear them, because it's timeless music. There's movies I check out like Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or On the Waterfront that I wasn't aware of up until three years ago. I watch them now and I'm still like, damn, that's an incredible movie. That's one of the ways I'm going to leave a mark on the earth. I feel like we all have a purpose in life, and through music and art I want to be able to have people become enlightened and enjoy and be entertained and encouraged, because I feel like I want people from all walks of life to get that energy from the work that I do. And that's how you do it, you gotta put your heart and soul into it. But it also takes you having certain experiences in life to be able to offer that, and you being in tune with what's going on, like Marvin Gaye - he was in tune with the people. One thing I always emphasize is that when you're doing music, you want people to enjoy it at the end of the day, whether they're learning something or not. It's enjoyment, too, and it's an escape. You gotta make it pleasurable. When we order this meal, I definitely want to get something that's good, but I want something that's healthy too. I got friends that wont get tofu, they're like, it don't taste good. You got to make it taste good.
Are you a vegetarian?
I just eat seafood. I was vegan for about three years. It's hard, but it's worth it. It takes a certain amount of discipline.
Back to what you were saying a moment ago - do you think it's important for people to be aware of themselves, of their own bodies and their place in the world, in order to do good in the world?
You just said it, man. You made me think of what it's all about. When you take care of your body, you pay more attention to the world and take care of others too.
If you aren't taking your own life seriously…
Then how you going to take anyone else's life seriously?
One exciting rumor I've heard about the new album is that you'll be working some with Dre.
Aw, man, I would love that but that's not… I'm not going to say that's not happening, because you never know what could happen, but right now this album is largely produced by Kanye West. J Dilla, who passed, has a track with D'angelo and I. I love it. Also, will.i.am and I are creating some music together. But Kanye and me is like the foundation. I met him here (in Chicago), through No I.D., who produced my first three albums. Kanye was younger, but friends with No I.D., and he would come around while we were making music. He was always hungry, always confident, always shit talking. He had potential, but potential with a purpose is what made him who he is today.
Do you have some good guests on the album?
Yeah, but at this point, for me, it's about making albums that sound good and let people know who I am. The guests who I have most of the time are vocalists singing something I cant sing, but as an MC, unless it's a song where I hear somebody on it… that's how I make music, if I get a beat and it makes me think of someone else, then I'll go get them.
So you don't go in for the cameo loading?
Even that's dying down, they know now that it don't sell records.
Is the album almost done?
We're in the third quarter. It's definitely different from Be, but you can also hear a continuity, meaning a certain boom-bap element. Me and Kanye got a certain chemistry that's going to feel familiar, but you still hear new sounds like, man, something's new about this, Common is talking about everyday life, but it's something new.
Do you approach your albums on a song-by-song basis or as concepts?
I do it on the song-by-song and then let the album have a theme. Certain songs stick together and give it a contrast, another color. I don't necessarily say, okay, Finding Forever, so all these songs need to sound like this, even though I do have a direction, something that's progressive. But I want all my songs to be wide open, so I might say, something progressive but with the boom-bap in it. I can figure out something like that as a choice and it ends up coming to a whole greater level than I thought.
Do you rhyme differently with different producers?
I respond to what they do. One thing I notice about producers with me is that they cook beats up with me mostly live, or they may have something in mind for me and let me hear it. They know I like a certain soul in my music, that's the stuff they usually give me, whether its seventies- or eighties-sounding or just straight hard.
You were close with J Dilla. Can you talk about his legacy to hip hop?
Dilla to me is like one of the greatest producers ever, not just in hip hop, but producers, period. That's my brother, man. He's a good, good person, he meant a lot to me as a homey. We were roommates in L.A. I think we're still discovering new things about what he meant to hip hop. I was on the set of Smokin' Aces and the director was playing Welcome to Detroit, and he didn't even know that I knew JD. So his music is going to reach certain people that we have yet to even know. But when I was at his funeral, I felt like, seeing the other artists there, this dude is like a Charlie Parker or Coltrane or Miles, one of our greats.
Do you ever consider your and Kanye's mediatory position in pop music, being neither gangsters nor underground ideologues?
It's hard for you to totally see what you are in the world and the music business, the way you serve, but you just kind of know your purpose and what you want and create the music you feel is pure and sincere, and you let the people decide who you are at that point. If you're like, I'm going to be this voice for this, and you just live your life knowing you want to create stuff you know people are going to rock to, knowing that you want to rock shows and for little kids to be able to sing something that's positive, have sexy girls dancing to it…I always felt like I wanted to be important in hip hop, to have a mark and have my voice be heard and be able to help people. But within the industry, you don't stop and look too much. You have your purpose and go for it. You don't stop and celebrate like, yo, this is who I am in this game, you gotta know who you are as a person.
You've been in hip hop long enough to weather it through several sea changes. How has the industry changed?
The whole business itself has changed. There's no more Tower Records. That used to be the place where, when I released albums, we would do the in-store performance. It was not long ago when I could go up to a radio station and if the DJ liked my song, he could play it. But it's at the point where it's has to be on the playlist, and the record label has to approve it, and now what's revealing itself to me is that radio doesn't control people's success as much any more. There are people whose records get played a lot, people singing it, but that don't mean they're going to go buy your album.
A good time to get into acting, then!
Even that, you got to do it with passion, man. You gotta do it from the heart, because you love it. Anything that has to do with art, you got to approach it from a place of love. All the other things that come along with it, yeah, they can be on the agenda, but the initial thing has to be the love for what you doing. Whether it's journalism or whatever that has to do with creativity and art. Even if you're working a job, man, you gotta love your job. Society is rough as far as having jobs for folks, but if you can find something you like to do, I say you should do it.
You have roles in two upcoming films, Smokin' Aces and American Gangster. Tell me about the making the transition from music to film.
I've been told that any character you play has some quality of you in him, whether you have that quality within yourself or not. What I do is try to bring a person to the character. I'm a person, you're a person, that lady that just walked by is a person - certain differences we going to have, certain things we going to connect on. We people. So I just try to bring the human elements of a person to each character. They gotta be different, they're not going to be me, that's the fun part about it. I get to be someone else, explore sides of me that I don't express.
Like gangster roles?
That was such a fun experience, and encouraging and enlightening too. I was discovering all these things about myself and learning about the process of making a movie, things I never knew. It's just good to be part of a project that's quality and innovative, in and of itself.
So you like the movies, you'd see them even if you weren't in them?
Yeah, I'd definitely go see Smokin' Aces and American Gangster. I am a moviegoer, man. I've seen The Departed like five times. It's incredible. I went to acting classes before I started auditioning for roles, to see if I wanted to make that transition, how I felt about it. I had to feel like it was something that I could do and be good at, and also I wanted to feel like it was something I would love to do, so that I could get in there and want to work and do it. Acting class is so fun for me, I look forward to acting class when I go. It's something I plan other things around.
What attracted you to these two roles?
Sir Ivy in Smokin' Aces, I love that he's a dark character that's sensitive. He is one of the sharpest killers in the movie, but he's very intelligent and warrior-like. By the same token, he has a heart. You see the heart come through.
And your American Gangster character?
First, the script was really good, and Denzel Washington Russell Crowe were in it. Denzel himself. I was like, oh man, I got to be a part of this. He's one of my favorites. Working with Denzel was an overwhelming experience, like being among royalty and people who are masters of what they do. He's a master. I was able to learn, also, about being a responsible man and a good leader. I play Turner Lucas. The story is based on Frank Lucas, this guy from Greensboro, NC. He moves to Harlem and works for this big-time hustler, this kingpin named Bumpy Johnson. Bumpy dies (Frank was his driver, very enterprising and intelligent), and during the late sixties, instead of being the middleman he decided to go over to Vietnam. He had a cousin who was over there, and they started bringing in heroin from Vietnam in government planes, in the caskets of troops. The story deals with him becoming one of the biggest hustlers at the time, but also a family man, a loving guy, and the conflict between him and Russell Crowe's character, a detective who's trying to put him away. He has his own personal problems, but as a policeman he's working hard to bring down the guys he feels are doing wrong. It's just kind of contrasting these two people - one guy bringing in heroin in caskets, but he's going to church and taking care of his family. Then the other guy's family life is fucked up, he has problems with womanizing, but he's doing right by the system. I play one of Frank Lucas's five brothers. We come up from NC and set up shop with him, bring our families up. Frank Lucas was there while we were shooting, it was crazy - kind of strange, sometimes.
How does the film world differ from the music world?
It's definitely run a little more by the book, more organized, schedules are different. You have less power in being an actor. I kind of like that, I feel good about being in a group, like everything's not on my shoulders, every interview not coming personally to me. I like being part of a team, I played sports. When you're making music, the producers are your team, but everything falls on your shoulders.
Did you catch any flack for being in those Gap ads? Do you think being known as a “socially conscious” artist creates extra responsibilities for you?
It definitely creates a responsibility. Any individual in the public eye has a responsibility to say something, mean something, do something that's helping the world, helping your people. So yeah, being a conscious artist I feel that I definitely have a certain responsibility. I think people are growing out of that, oh, he does conscious music so he can't be seen among this crowd thing. He can't be seen doing commercials. People are maturing, they're like, do what you do. You're not doing anything out of your character as an artist… most people are very happy for me, like, that's a blessing. I almost feel like it put me in another stratosphere. People will come up to me like, that's the dude from the Gap ads.
My mom knows about you now.
That's a blessing, man. I had a fight with myself one time about whether I would do a Coca Cola commercial. At that time, I made a decision that unless it was something I'm totally against, I'm going to use that platform to get out my message.
Are there film roles you would reject on principle?
That's a different thing, it's creating a character. When I do an advertisement for a company, I'm saying I, Common, endorse this. It's who I am. When I'm a character, I'm another person. You're telling that person's story for whatever reasons you find it purposeful. Like in Smokin' Aces, I'm killing people in the movie. I don't get to do that in real life. You get that feeling of wanting to release some anger, it's better to do it in a movie.
Or on some cargo pants?
That wasn't even releasing anger, that was just celebrating.
Nas's new album is called Hip Hop is Dead - what do you think he means by that?
First of all, Nas is one of the greatest ever, so what he's trying to say is the form of hip hop we grew up with doesn't exist as much any more. There's still some artists that have it, but as a whole, if you look at hip hop, you don't feel that love for art, that purity in the music, and I think that's what he's saying is dead. It definitely has become the new dope game. Drugs became not as profitable, I guess. Because most cats don't even want to be selling drugs, some people figure, this is my way to survive, but most people I know don't want to sell drugs. Rap has become people's outlet to make money, which is one reason why it doesn't have the impact that it had before.
How do you draw the line between paying heed to disenfranchised voices and blocking out socially toxic ones?
Anybody who has a voice, you got to let them tell their story. That doesn't mean I'm going to sit and listen to every story. I like John Coltrane, D'angelo, Lauryn Hill, Prince, Nas, Kanye, Mos, Jay-Z sometimes. I listen to other stuff, but you're going to like what you like. We come to the restaurant, you're going to order what you like I'm going to order what I like. I like Nas's music. I like Kanye's music. It's no knock to anybody else, but you got a certain preference. I said what I had to say about the industry in “I Used to Love H.E.R”. I do feel like an artist should allow themselves to be a voice, but they should also recognize that there's certain individual characteristics that they have, that they gotta give out. Meaning, if you aren't really looking at your voice and truly being you… I think the only problem with a lot of the things you hear, drug rap or party songs, is that you don't get to hear the other side of black culture, or just people. Black people are diverse people like a lot of other nationalities or races, we do have a set of people that deal with the pain and struggles of being in a drug-infested, gang-infested world, but at the same time there's black people that work hard every day, and take care of their families, working for the CTA, or doing construction work, or picking up trays, creating new inventions for Apple, black people that paint, black people that are artists. We have a diverse culture, but hip hop is pretty much just showing one side of it, which is why someone like Nas would say hip hop is dead. We know at one point that hip hop was NWA and KRS-One…this culture is obviously strong, affecting the way people dress and talk. This is a powerful voice, a young black voice of America. I would never be one to say you can't express that you sold drugs, but a lot of drug dealers I know aren't proud of it. It ain't the life they want to live. I think that side should be told too. That's the one thing that people aren't expressing, that we're human. You feel hurt sometimes, you cry sometimes, sometimes you lie, sometimes you want to punch people, sometimes, you feel pleasure, you feel cocky. We're people.
Labels: brian, hip-hop, interview
posted by Brian
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
GRIP DA MIC TIGHT
Prod. by Clark Kent
Atlantic : 1992
[Out of Print]
ALL SHE WANTED
Prod. by EPMD
Eastwest : 1993
[Out of Print]
SHOOTIN' THE GIFT (REMIX)
Prod. by Marley Marl
Atlantic : 1989
Original version available on The Kingpin
Out of Print
Old school magic from a trio of super producers.
I think I plucked these off a bootleg called Still Got The Props Vol. 2 I found hiding out in one of the interweb's fresher corners.
Labels: hip-hop, James
posted by James
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I swear to God, Moistworks is more profesional than Blogger. Shit doesn't work half the time, it's down or you sit there like a stoned monkey hitting "Try Again" buttons for 20 minutes straight. Maybe I am a monkey, spending my time typing stuff like this:
dp/B000069CLP/ref=sr_11_1/103-5076181-6798221?ie=UTF8" target="new")[Buy It](/a>
But it's not me. It's Blogger's the monkey here.
Brian wrote this great post and couldn't get in - this was all day - and I didn't read the post, either. But I'm sure it's great and it's Wednesday night already, but Blogger's back for now. Lots of college kids spent their book money on iPods this year. MW has a job to do.
FAT CATS, BIGGA FISH
Genocide and Juice
Capitol : 1994
The beat, flow, smart & subtle narrative, are so on here. The microphone level are so off, at 3: 26 or so. But it's kind of brilliant. There's a nice sketch on the Coup's first album, "Kill My Landlord": A reporter calls and asks to speak to Boots from the Coup. (W/he prounounces "coop"), and he wants to get Boots' reaction to the riots outside. "It's not a riot, it's a revolt," Boots says, and spends the rest of the day spitting dialectical analysis:
Kill My Landlord
Wild Pitch : 1993
[Out of Print]
Here are a few Coup songs that have nothing to do with dialectical analyses except insofar as our lives are controlled by forces which are so far beyond our grasp or, frankly, understanding that we never will control them:
Kill My Landlord
Wild Pitch : 1993
[Out of Print]
Kill My Landlord
Wild Pitch : 1993
[Out of Print]
ME AND JESUS THE PIMP IN A '79 GRANADA LAST NIGHT
Steal This Double Album
Foad : 2002
A new Coup album came out this year. Cocaine Blunts dude interviewed Boots Riley [Here], and Amazon has this to say:
Oakland duo the Coup (Boots and DJ Pam, the funkstress) rank in the top three as far as underrated rap groups of the '90s go. That said, because lead MC Boots has no problem suggesting that big corporations are colluding with Satan and that corrupt cops disgust him ("Pork and Beef" implores listeners to "throw a Molotov at the pigs"), this release won't sit well with the apolitical crowd. In fact, the original cover artwork for Party Music depicted the duo detonating the World Trade Center. It was immediately pulled following the events of September 11, 2001. Boots' revolution will obviously not be sanitized, and on the opening track "Everything" he lays down his manifesto: "Every cop is a corrupt one without no cash up in the trust fund.... Every tried man is innocent.... Every boss better run and hide." The list of witty, counterculture songs is long, from "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO"--a crude expose of corporate "politricks"--to the poignant [ed. - omg, "poignant"?] "Get Up," where they team up with everybody's other fave raptivists, Dead Prez. Raging against machines and offering solutions to problems that plague low-income communities has never come in a funkier package--the sonic backdrop is mostly live funk instrumentation--and the sheer breadth of topics covered here makes the joints of most top-selling rappers seem inane and unsubstantial. Fans of Mos Def, KRS-One, and Public Enemy will get a rise out of this one.
WHatever. But here's that GET UP song, which makes this post a palindrome, and here's to Blogger, Brian, and you.
(ps: is it ok to put kate moss in blackface if half the proceeds go to fight aids in africa? ooh, also, i saw the last king of scotland this week and guess what? it's the most racist movie since black hawk down. guess what else?? that's like, the least of its problems. if i didn't have my plate full this semester i'd write something serious, for a serious place, but also, i'm kinda happy to sit this one out.)
Labels: alex, hip-hop
posted by Alex
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
GIVE IT UP
Muss Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
Def Jam : 1994
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
Atco : 1967
HE GOT GAME
He Got Game, Soundtrack
Def Jam : 1998
One, surprising about the Public Enemy single which kicks off this post is the two-note riff that kicks in after a minute or so - the one nicked from Buffalo Springfield's two-chord insta-anthem, "For What It's Worth." It's a strange callback, given that "Give it Up" was PE's least political single to date. But there's that riff again, four years later, on the last PE single to be listed in my copy of Joel Witburn's Top R&B Singles 1942-1999, which is also PE's contribution to the soundtrack of Spike Lee's ho-hum b-ball flick, He Got Game. This time, Stephen Stills himself puts in an appearance, but sounds like a latter-day Harmonica Frank Floyd. And, alas, Chuck D is atypically off his game:
Nonsense perseveresIndeed. Still, the production's nice, and the collaboration's right up there with Bob Dylan & Kurtis Blow's. Incidentally, in the course of assembling this post, I stumbled across an Otis Redding recording which, I convinced myself, was the original source of that self-same riff:
Prayers laced wit fear
2 triple 0 is near
POUNDS AND HUNDREDS (LBS AND 100s)
Available on The Definitive Otis Redding
WEA : 1993
There would have been a nice symmetry about it - Stills stealing a Steve Cropper riff which, three decades later, ends up back on the R&B charts. But no, "Pounds and Hundreds" wasn't issued until 1992; if anything, it seems that Cropper's copping from Stills, and not the other way around. It's like Greil Marcus said, in a slightly different context: "What does Huck owe Jim, especially when Jim is really Huck in blackface and everyone smells loot?"
Or, actually, as is so often the case, it's not like that at all.
Labels: alex, hip-hop
posted by Alex
Monday, January 30, 2006
The Loneliest Punk
The Lab : 2005
Reel To Reel
Elektra : 1992
ONE MORE CHANCE
The Notorious Biggie Smalls
Ready To Die
Bad Boy : 1994
WHY YOU WANNA GET FUNKY WITH ME?
Del The Funky Homosapien
Hieroglyphics : 1998
Writing about music is like talking about fucking.
It's no secret that pretty much the best thing two or more people can do with each other is fuck. And, judging by the sounds that sometimes come out of the alley just outside of MW's Astoria Bureau's offices, there's been quite a bit of fucking going on in, among other places, public.
Now, Americans are a fairly voyueristic lot but, to be honest, we at MW don't especially enjoy listening to our neighbors fuck. Other people's moans and groans lose their appeal by six in the morning or so, and there's something, well, gauche about letting the block know you're about to come, that you are coming, that you're still coming, and that you finally fucking came. Invite us over, mate. Or shut the fuck up.
But songs about fucking? Go figure, 'cause they get our hearty support. After all, if getting up on the stage is a fancy way of saying "LOOK AT ME," why shouldn't America's entertainers go the extra inch and say "LOOK AT MY DICK"? It's a moot point, since looking at dick is more or less what America's listeners have been doing since 1952, when Bull Moose Jackson recorded his "Big Ten Inch Record":
Got me the strangest woman
Believe me, this trick's no cinch
But I really get her going
When I whip out my big, 10-inch
Record of a band that plays the blues
Well a band that plays its blues
She just love my big, 10-inch
Record of her favorite blues*
(Those so inclined might take this moment to seek out Bessie Smith's "I Want Some Sugar In My Bowl," which Nina Simone cleaned up considerably just as the sexual revolution was nearing its peak, or Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong's duet on "Sweet Hunk of Trash," in which Louis stays out so late, it sure makes Billie ma.........d to wait. On a related note, here's what Little Richard will never forget about Buddy Holly:
Buddy and I were real good friends. He was a nice guy and he used to idolize my music. He'd go out and do my songs before I came on. He would sit there and watch my stage act. Every show that I would do. And when I got ready to have an orgy, Buddy would come up too. He was huge! I'd never seen anyone that big in my life!
Buddy liked Angel. He was a wild boy for the women. One time we were playing at the Paramount Theater and Buddy came to my dressing room while I was jacking off with Angel sucking my titty. Angel had the fastest tongue in the West. Well, she was doing that to me and Buddy took out his thing. He was ready, so she opened up her legs and he put it in her. He was having sex with Angel, I was jacking off, and Angel was sucking me, when they introduced his name on stage! He was trying to finish and went to the stage still fastening himself up. I'll never forget that.
And what John Lennon really thought of Hunter Davies' "authorized" Beatles bio:
Well, it was really bullshit.... And I wanted a real book to come out, but we all had wives and didn't want to hurt their feelings.... You know, I mean the Beatles' tours were like Fellini's Satyricon.... Such a heavy scene it was. They didn't call them groupies then, they called it something else. But if we couldn't have groupies we'd have whores and everything, whatever. Whatever was going.)
In any case, the songs you'll find above aren't the best of this, the first of the other, or overly representative of anything in particular - just tunes we might play whislt feeling especially fuckish. Songs like the ones you'll find on Fat Lip's solo debut, which hit a high point with the Humpty-Hump/Shock-G collab. "Freaky Pumps," and signaled an improvement, of sorts, over the standard sex rap's misogynistic tendencies:
Whatcha do with them?
Hit'em and quit'em,
'Less they got a brain up in them
In which case I charge them with felony freaking....
and then I quit'em.
"360 Degrees" isn't as sexy, but does feature some swordsmanship on Puba's part. And the Notorious B.I.G.'s "One More Chance" isn't a record so much as a Homeric ode to the male member - it's the sine qua non of sex raps:
When it comes to sex, I'm similar to the thriller
Honeys call me Bigger the condom filler
Genius rapper Del The Funky Homosapien's "Why You Want To Get Funky With Me" concerns a social disease which might finally get some public attention, now that it's hit the Ivy Leagues. It's not a sex rap, either, but not for lack of trying on the artist's part.** (Del's cousin, Ice Cube, is far more confident, and fares somewhat better in the bedroom, on "You Can Do It," which features "dick for days," and "ass for weeks.") Let's not even get into 2 Live Crew, Method Man's star turn on Raekwon's "Ice Cream Man," or the many lady rappers who can more than hold their own, in and out of the bedroom. Instead, let's all admit that writing about music is a bit like talking about fucking, but that, depending on the circumstances, talking about fucking is almost as good as the act itself.
* Obsessive googlers might note that the quote-unquote first rock-and-roll song - Ike Turner & Jackie Brenston's 1951 single, "Rocket 88" - was followed, a few months later, by Todd Rhoad's "Rocket 69."
** Incidentally, She shook me off/Like a moth is an especially agile, startling image: Is she shaking him off as if he were a moth? Or is she shaking - fluttering - like a moth herself?
Labels: alex, hip-hop, sex
posted by Alex