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Friday, August 01, 2008
AS LONG AS THE PEOPLE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY
New Whirl Odor
Slam Jamz : 2005
IF I GAVE YOU SOUL (WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH IT?)
Beats and Places
Slam Jamz : 2005
LAST MASS OF THE CABALLEROS
There's a Poison Goin' On
Atomic Pop : 1999
RACE AGAINST TIME
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
Def Jam : 1994
HAZY SHADE OF CRIMINAL
Def Jam : 1992
Carlton Douglas Ridenhour is 48 years old today.
Here it isMost of what there is to say, he's already said. But he hasn't said all that he's going to say. Public Enemy's achievement and influence are so massive that it's easy to overlook some of the superb album tracks that are forgotten simply by virtue of not being, say, "Night of the Living Baseheads" or "Can't Truss It." Here are some. Is it fair for Chuck D. to give us presents on his birthday? Is it wrong to think of him as a scholar and activist as well as an artist? What are fair and wrong, anyway? Are there just words or do they refer to actual underlying concepts? That's the thing about Public Enemy: they get you asking questions that you can't answer unless you ask more questions. It borders on the revolutionary. Happy Birthday, Chuck.
What are your favorite uncelebrated PE songs? Respond in comments.
Labels: ben, rap
posted by Ben
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
KOALA SLEEP ON
Caspian Productions : 2007
KOALA LA LA
Koch Records : 2003
RETURN OF THE PANTHER (ft. Mustafa Akbar)
Eighteenth Street Lounge Music : 2006
PANTHERS (Tony Galvin Remix - Instrumental)
from Panthers 12"
ft. Last Poets, Common, Dead Prez
TEG : 2004
PANTHERS (Crosswind Remix by Zamali)
ft. Last Poets, Common, Dead Prez
Found recently online by Tony over at Moistworks' Seattle Bureau:
. . . . . . . . . . . .
This essay was written by an 8th grader in Pittsburgh in the spring of 2004. The assignment was to pick an enangered species, and explain why it's important to save it. The typos and formatting are preserved from the original.
Richard XXXXXXXX Draft 2
I shouldn't do shit. I don't care about them they all could die and it won't affect my life. I know a lot about them but I don't need to think about them. They're just a waste of time koalas are stupid they don't help me with shit so why should I help them. If they all die there will be more room for the panthers and all the other hard animals. Koalas are weak a pit will get rid of their whole fucking family. That's why I don't like koalas.
Koalas have sharp claws but they are weak. They all small and fat and they be climing trees. I hope a storm just come while theyjust chilling up in the tree thinking they is hard and they're will all just fall off. They just break they neck and shit. When they fall they claws are going to fall off and they going to be crying like some little bitches.
Koalas aren't hard they some little bitches. They start climbing up the tree soon as they see a deer from like 50feet away. They stupid as hell they should put their brain in their pouch and put the kid in they ten they're be able to think better. They try to be in the fucking kangaroo family. They weak as hell, talking bout they got a pouch a kangaroo so they their cousins and shit. Kangaroo's have some big ass legs and whot do a koala got? Some little ass legs, they tails is little and weak as fuck kangaroo's got a big ass long tail that can kill a fucking koala.
If a koala goes in the water it won't be able to breathe with its little short ass. It'd fucking drown soon aas it take one step into the water. While they at the river trying to get something to drink a bear could just come to him and snatch its ass up. It doesn't know protection because they don't have
protection. What they little ass going to do? It can't scratch him. The bear will beat his fucking ass.
The important think about koalas is that just don't care about tem and let them die by all the other animals in Australia. They're not important just let nature do what it do and kill them. Koalas do not have a place in this world there's not enough room for all the bitches in this world. So let all the koalas that's in the zoos and shit. Let them go and put them back with their family. If you let them all go they won't nothing except for that's what they was put in this world for.
Now you know why koalas aren't important. They have nothing to do except for sitting around in the trees. It's like they just was like they was sent have to die. Koalas don't do nothing to help anybody. Thre would be just one more relative of the kangaroo that will be six feet under. Now you know why koalas are not important because there are dumb.
Labels: James, rap
posted by James
Monday, January 21, 2008
CHECK THE RHIME
A Tribe Called Quest
The Low End Theory
Jive : 1991
GIMME THE LOOT
The Notorious B.I.G.
Ready to Die
Arista : 1994
Roc-A-Fella : 2007
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Hell Hath No Fury
Re-Up Gang/Star Trak : 2006
The Leak EP
Cash Money Records : 2007
In terms of genre evolution, hip-hop is the hare to rock's tortoise. In its brief tenure - let's call it thirty years, give or take - hip-hop has undergone more fundamental sea-changes than rock has arguably seen in its longer life-span. There are numerous factors at play in hip-hop's rampant mutation: its modular construction and all-inclusive purview lend it a lot of flexibility, and it was born in an age when the very passage of time seemed to be speeding up recklessly. "Golden Age" rappers like A Tribe Called Quest were acutely aware of hip-hop's mercurial nature: much of their music was taken up with deifying old-school masters whose reign, while parsed in fog-shroudedly remote, creation-myth tones, had been put out to pasture just a few years before. This better-days nostalgia seems in retrospect to have been directly predicated against an on-rushing future that, if it wasn't inevitable, feels that way from our current vantage.
Did Tribe intuit that, even as they were on top of the world, they were trembling on the verge of obsolesence? In the early 90s, west coast G-funk, with its sinister yet breezy synths, and east coast crime rap, with its gunshot snares and minimal arrangements, would topple Native Tongues-style Afrocentric jazz-hop from market supremacy. It's tempting to imagine that the narrative of crime rap continues in an unbroken line to the present day, but the truth is that crime rap itself has undergone fundamental changes, which go beyond superficial style and regional sub-genres. There is always a trend in creative movements, once they've been developed enough to be crystallized, for tropes to come unstuck from what they signify - in rock, we might look to "baby"s, "come on"s and "girl"s - ejaculations that need no longer connect to any narrative enacted within a given song, but which, through sheer repetition, have become a sort of musical filler or genre-identifying shorthand. At this stage of development, the conceptual transforms into the purely aesthetic. And when I listen to modern crime rap, I wonder if it's reached this stage in its development, as its relationship to the violence that is fundamental to the genre seems to be verging on the existential - violence not as a mechanism within a greater social framework, but as a state of nature.
The Notorious B.I.G. was crucial in laying the template for New York crime rap as it would develop over the course of the 90s. Yet he seems fundamentally different than the abstracted crime rappers of today. Biggie reveled in violence, to be sure. But his violent acts were couched in a context that explained them, even if it didn't quite exonerate him. The eruptions of violence in stick-up kid anthem "Gimme the Loot" (which, somewhat ironically, samples Tribe's "Scenario" remix)were strung together with sturdy ligaments of cause and effect. Here's Biggie (taking a schizophrenic two-voice approach that has misled many to believe there's a guest rapper on the track) spelling out very clearly the impetus for his actions:
When it's time to eat a meal, I rob and steal
'Cause mom duke aint giving me shit
So for the bread and butter I leave niggaz in the gutter
Oh shit! The cops! Be cool, fool
They aint gonna roll up, all they want is fucking doughnuts
So why the fuck he keep lookin? I guess to get his life tooken
I just came home, ain't trying to see central booking
Oh shit, now he's looking in my face
You better haul ass 'cause I ain't with no fucking chase
So lace up your boots, 'cause I'm about to shoot
A true motherfucker going out for the loot
So there it is. Despite the fantastical quality of Biggie's violent urges and his unreptenent nihilism ("I wouldn't give a fuck if you're pregnant/ Give me the baby ring and the #1 Mom pendant"), his was an era when it was still necessary to make a case for outlaw-hood, and he makes that case in no uncertain terms: Stealing is a pragmatic solution to hunger and material lack, and cop-killing is a pragmatic solution to wanting to stay the fuck out of jail. There are still plenty of rappers who explore the social and cultural forces around urban violence - off the dome, I'm thinking of Pharoahe Monch, in songs like "When the Gun Draws," and Ghostface, one of our last great storytelling rappers. But more commonly, we see rappers interpreting crime-talk as a genre trope that requires no explanation or justification or even context - rappers no longer kill for a clearly-defined reason, they just kill, as inevitably as rockers pay homage to the most ambiguous babies and guuuuuuurls. Jay-Z, with his usual bulletproof pomposity, addressed this shift from meaning to form in last year's "Ignorant Shit":
This is that ignorant shit you like
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, trick, plus ice
C'mon, I got that ignorant shit you love
Nigga, fuck, shit, maricon, puta, and drugs
C'mon, I got that ignorant shit you need
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, trick plus weed
I'm only trying to give you what you want
Nigga, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, you like it, don't front
Hova's more concerned with groupthink here than with the denaturing of meaning in crime rap - "Ignorant Shit" was born into the age of Young Jeezy, rap's great anarcho-fascist, whose obliterative presence is most saliently summarized in one part of his song "Hypnotize": "Now I command you niggaz to get money," in a bassy, implacable voice-of-god. But he does touch on the idea that crime rap's signifiers have ossified into something static. Compare Biggie's deeply causal crime rap to something more modern, like Clipse, and you'll find a fundamental layer of meaning to be absent from the latter. In "Chinese New Year," there's no context, no backstory, no justification - the killers simply show up at your door, masked and armed, somehow gleeful in the sheer act of violence, which has become a end instead of a means - Biggie was like a desperado, but Clipse more resembles a dark malefic force of nature flitting inexorably about the periphery of a Cormac McCarthy novel.
Lil Wayne might be the greatest rapper at work today because he's most fully understood, perhaps just intuitively, this semiotic shift in rap music, and most fully avails himself of the malleability it entails. He's taken violence, drugs and theft into his vocubulary while fully recognizing them as hollow ciphers that can only be useful as guideposts in a hermetic celebration of self. This allows him recourse to dizzying pop cultural pastiche, transitioning seamlessly from Dwayne Wayne name-drops to belligerent threats, or dropping non-sequiturs like "When I was five, my favorite movie was the Gremlins/ That ain't got shit to do with this, I just thought that I should mention" amid his crime-talk. Of course, Wayne's tacitly acknowledging that the crime-talk itself "ain't got shit to do with this" either - only Wayne and Wayne's greatness truly signify in Wayne's world. His new single "I'm Me" begins with an awe-inspiring ground-clearing:
Lil Wayne's the president
Fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em
Even if they celibate
Notice how the temetic opening sally situates the song in a Wayne-centric world: he's not running for president, he's not saying he *should be* president - he *is* the president, point blank. It really brooks no argument. Notice how "fuck 'em" attaches itself to no specific group and boasts no specific motivation - like Clipse's crime scenario, it's a universal stance that posits the self against all comers, the struggle being enacted not between a corrupt culture and one of its disenfrachised denizens, but the known (the self) against the unknown (the other, i.e. everything).
(If you'll allow me a brief tangent, there's a lot of rad stuff going on in this song that doesn't relate to this post, most notably the abrupt yet organic-feeling shifts in tone that Wayne's free-associative style so often creates. A stupid-funny pop culture jibe ("I know the game is crazy/ It's more crazy than it's ever been/ I'm married to that crazy bitch/ Call me Kevin Federline") leads into a larger-than-life boast: "The ground shall break when they bury him." Yet here, Wayne seems to catch himself off-guard, as if his own line suddenly opened up a yawning awareness of mortality under his feet. "Bury him?" he asks, in a tone of voice that indicates he's startled himself, "I know one day they gotta bury him/ Better lock my casket tight baby so I don't let the devil in," and here the punchliney flow he's favored so far gives way to a malleable, urgent cadence, as if his own acknowledgement of limited time has renewed his hunger.)
Anyway, the chorus of "I'm Me" is perhaps the most honest, endgamey manifesto rap has ever seen, one that seems to perfectly summarize a rap climate where violence is portrayed less as a social condition and more as a natural side-effect of late-capitalism's doctrines of competition, conspicuous consumption, and self-aggrandization. It is a perfect distillation of this trend - the diminishment of meaning, the wax of the hermetic ego - and it goes a little something like this:
Bitch, I'm me, I'm me, I'm me, I'm me
Baby, I'm me, So who you, You're not me, You're not me
And I know that ain't fair, but I don't care
I'm a motherfuckin' Cash Money millionaire
I know that ain't fair, but I don't care
I'm a motherfuckin' Cash Money millionaire
Labels: brian, rap
posted by Brian
Monday, January 07, 2008
Roc-A-Fella : 2007
In November of 2006, I posted about one of my favorite rap micro-genres: the conflicted mentor homage. In that post I focused on The Game's "Doctor's Advocate." In 2007, Kanye West checked in with his own take on the form, "Big Brother." Game's effort was almost unbearably poignant - he sounded like it physically pained him to externalize his insecurities vis-a-vis his mentor Dr. Dre, yet was compelled to do so lest the internal pressure rend him apart. Listening to "Doctor's Advocate" was accompanied by a creeping feeling of anxiety - a voyeuristic sense of watching someone's ego come helplessly unraveled in plain view. But Kanye is a different kind of creature - there's no sense of difficult revelation in "Big Brother," because this kind of emotional showmanship is simply what Kanye does. Nevertheless, Graduation is by far the least torturned of Kanye's three albums - it's his on-top-of-the-world record: he's comfy, rich, unquestionably successful, contentedly sipping expensive champagne and shopping in Italy. And so while "Big Brother" lacks the sense of desperation that undergirds "Doctor's Advocate," it is rife with poignancy. It's as if West has to invent battles he's in danger of losing so he'll be left with something - anything - to win.
One wonders if it's a coincidence that Kanye's troubled mentor song, like Game's, is couched in a prettily elegiac J.R. Rotem beat - regardless, this guy knows his way around musical pathos; his surging synths and weary rock chords here are a perfect match for Kanye's blend of behind-the-music nostalgia and wheedling interpersonal parsing. Most of us feel like figurants in our own lives, and part of Kanye's allure is that he's his own Odysseus - a hero who can see the epic proportions of his own life story. As such, it's appropriate that "Big Brother" is framed as an epic biopic by its chorus:
My big brother was Big's brother
Used to be Dame and Big's brother
Who was hip hop's brother?
Who was No I.D's friend?
No I.D my mentor
Now let the story begin
There's a lot of story packed into these lines: The "big brother" is Jay-Z, who refused to sign Kanye as an artist to Roc-A-Fella for some time, not knowing what to do with this anomalous, extravagently prolix suburban rapper, keeping him as a behind-the-scenes beatsmith. Jay-Z came up with the legendary Notorious B.I.G., arguably the greatest rapper of all time, and "Dame" is Damon Dash, with whom Jay-Z founded the rap titan Roc-A-Fella. Jay and Dame were friends with No I.D., a Chicago-based producer who taught Kanye his trade. But the important thing here isn't the details, it's the lineage - by couching his story in this temporal sequence, Kanye ekes his way into the dynasty he craves, drawing a not-quite-logical line between himself and the late Christopher Wallace. But elbowing your way into a dynasty is not necessarily a shortcut to confidence in your position in it, and Kanye spends the rest of the song alternating lauding Jay-Z's accomplishments (and tacity, slyly, his own) while torturously combing through their personal interactions for slights both real and imagined - like the aftermath of a blind date, where your first instict is to figure out, by this same kind of obscure signal-reading, whether or not the person liked you, before you even begin to consider whether or not you liked them.
Like all good bildungsromans, this one starts small - it's the "Hard Knock Life Tour," Kanye's still one of the million kids at the mall yelling out "Jigga!" He's done some bulletproof beats for Jay but still can't get him to take him seriously as a rapper, doesn't even know how to step to him:
Now he won't even step to his idol to say hi
Standing there like a mime
Let the chance pass by
Back of my mind he could change your life
With all these beats I did at least let him hear it
At least you could brag to your friends back at the gig
But he got me out my mama crib
Then he help me get my mama a crib
The verse closes on a triumphant note, but there's the sense that much has been elided in between; Kanye's outsider feelings have been glossed over but not addressed. In short, this is the airbrushed version. Unsatisfied with the artifice, Kanye loops back in the second verse, pushing toward the reconcilation that comes from the airing of hard truths. "I'd play my song in that old back room / He'd bob his head and say damn, oh, that's you?" Notice how adeptly that second line encapsulates Kanye's predicament - it's not as if Jay-Z flat-out dislikes his music, which would at least offer a resolution. He's just indifferent to it; Kanye can't get him to really listen, and it keeps him floating in some indeterminate median, like that maddening relationship period where nothing's automatic, and everything revolves around a pragmatic decision to stay together or break up. I mean, this is a tough spot for Kanye. How would you feel if you'd given your idol beats that were largely responsible for the success of his album (in this case, The Blueprint), but then, when he's doing a show at Madison Sqaure, not only did you "not get the chance to spit it," but Carleen told you you could "buy two tickets?" Ouch. "I guess big brother was thinking a little different," Kanye understates, "kept little brother at bay, at a distance." Kanye comforts himself with his success - "Big brother saw me at the bottom of the totem / Now I'm at the top and everybody on the scrotum" - but comfort is not resolution.
"Have you ever walked in the shadow of a giant?" Kanye asks at the start of the third verse, where all the cards finally fall face up on the table. There is a frustrated challenge - "New jack city gotta keep my brother / But to be number one, I'ma beat my brother!" - and an accusation: "I told Jay I did a song with Coldplay / Next thing I know he got a song with Coldplay." It's as if his frustration at not being able to connect with Jay, a father-figure despite the sibling rivalry talk, has led him to lash out blindly, and things take a turn for the Oedipal. Kanye doesn't settle his dilemma in this song, he simply palpates it, moving it around to try and organize it into some recognizable pattern. And he ends it with a modified chorus that contains a prescription so obviously self-serving, so desperately needy, that one is astonished he can say it with a straight face. But saying the unsayable without self-consciousness has been Kanye's m.o. from the start:
My big brother was Big's brother
So here's a few words from your kid brother
If you admire somebody you should go ahead and tell 'em
People never get the flowers while they can still smell 'em
A ideal in my eyes, God of the game
Heart of the city, Roc-A-Fella chain
Never be the same, never be another
Number 1 young Hov also my big brother
Labels: brian, rap
posted by Brian
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
UGK feat. Rick Ross
Jive : 2007
Kanye West feat. the Game
Roc-a-Fella : 2005
some damn mixtape
circa 2005 (?)
Def Jam : 2006
Asylum : 2006
Today I was torn as to whether I wanted to follow up on Ben's post about language or James's post about crack; both topics are of high interest to me. I sat at my desk with a copy of Borges's "Library of Babel" at my right hand, Young Jeezy's The Inspiration at my left. A cursory sweep through my iTunes revealed that I have more music directly pertaining to crack than music directly pertaining to linguistic metaphysics, and some MW readers have recently indicated that they prefer our posts that pertain directly to music over our more discursive efforts (if the latter have seemed scarcer lately, it's because I, the greatest offender when it comes to, er, "untraditional mp3 blogging," have been on vacation, opening up a space for Ben's bravura run). So I decided to take the rock (groan) from James instead.
But first, here's a picture of the terminally insane Pete Doherty making his cat smoke crack.
Crack's place in the popular culture is no less prominent now than it was in the scare-mongering '80s (even Kanye West, the surburban child of an academic, wanted a piece of the crack-trend action, troublingly asserting that "This is crack music nigga/ That real black music nigga"). But if crack seems less scary now than it did then, it's because a) crack became such a pervasive topic in mainstream rap and b) mainstream rap has become a pop phenomenon. Crack, in short, has been demystified, and at this point one might reasonably expect a white suburbanite who doesn't know a crack rock from a Fraggle Rock to know that "trap" means a place where one goes to buy or sell drugs and that "white girl" doesn't refer to Natalie Portman. Thanks to documentary-style trap-hop, we're all armchair experts in the terminology and tenets of moving weight (although the experience of *smoking* crack has received a lot less attention than the experience of selling it). This is a far cry from my '80s childhood, when all I knew of crack was that it was ambiguously yet urgently bad, like nuclear war, killer bees, and satanic heavy metal, and that black people were doing it. The implication of the news reports, as I recall them, was that the real danger wasn't to the poor black communities who were using crack, but to the white families they might rob, or entice into deviant sexual practices, who were just trying to go about their business of politely sniffing uncooked cocaine and dancing awkwardly amid banks of flashing lights.
Before crack, there was cocaine (I remember once telling a friend, who asked me what I meant by the term "post-capitalism," to think of crack as "post-cocaine"), on which Bun B provides many informative tidbits in the UGK song of the same name. It's often known as "yayo," and comes from Columbia and Peru. It's been around for hundreds of years, "exploited by the rich," and they used to put it in Coca-Cola. It's a global economy with a rigid chain of production: "Grown by the cartels, protected by guerillas/ Transported by the best, to the ghettos, to straight killers." The sale of cocaine is the most glamorous enterprise, while its use is reviled. "Everything was cool, I was ice cold," Pimp C says earlier in the song, "Until I let that bitch get up in my nose."
The idea that selling crack is glamourous while using crack is reviled is dominant in modern mainstream rap, as is the idea that venting toxins into one's community is justified by the genre's rapacious drive toward amassing wealth. Cocaine rap is so compelling because it embodies the American dream - of individual success at any cost, of being one of the few winners in a field crowded with losers - at its most ruthless logical conclusion. In "Eghck," Clipse turn out many clever puns about trapping - "I pedal (peddle) to the corner like a child on a bigwheel" and "So much shake in the streets they measure my weight in Richter" - but the song most poignantly demonstrates the capitalism-rap mindset when it turns personal. The part goes: "And I'm not proud, in fact, I hate this route / It's the same game got my brother strung out / So I count the ways that it fucked up his life..." And here we hold our breath for some expression of remorse, confliction, or even renunciation. "...so I don't have a problem with upping my price."
Young Jeezy, who according to the lore parlayed a successful crack dealing career into a successful career rapping about crack dealing, takes a similarly ambivalent stance to the consequences of his wealth on "Dreamin'." This is a standard up-from-squalor motivational rap song that only becomes exceptional when Jeezy is seized by a rare bout of introspection:
Mom's smoking rocks
Same shit I'm selling
So who's wrong, her or me?
She addicted to the high
I'm addicted to the cash
I almost put my hands on her
When I caught her in my stash
In both of these examples, crack dealers are personally and viscerally confronted with the destruction they're wreaking, feel troubled, and yet, looking at their fat wallets, decide, "yeah, it's worth it" - that is, they same way an environment-raping corporate CEO or corrupt politician might feel upon surveying the fallout from their various reavings and pillagings. In retrospect, one wonders if there was more than racial hysteria at play when mainstream America was so terrified during crack's '80s vogue: perhaps we caught a glimpse, however subliminal, of the true nature of our doctrines of competition and conspicuous consumption.
Labels: brian, drugs, rap
posted by Brian
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
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
AFRICA (Previously Unreleased)SWIFTNESS (Previously Unreleased)STYLE WARS
Lakim ShabazzThe Ol' School Flava Of Lakim Shabazz:
Rare & Unreleased Old School Hip Hop '89-'90
Tuff City : 2007[Buy LP]SOMETHING MELLOW BUY HYPE
Priority OneTotal Chaos
Tuff City : 1989[Buy LP]
Tuff City Records recently reissued a bunch of lost classics from its vault, including cult favorites from Priority One and Lakim Shabazz. Both rappers had close affiliations with DJ Mark the 45 King and The Flavor Unit, a group that included Queen Latifah, Apache and Chill Rob G.
Shabazz was also a "Five Percenter," a member of the Five Percent Nation aka The Nation of Gods and Earths, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam popular with many edutainers
of the time.
The group was founded in Harlem by a Korean War veteran and martial arts expert named Clarence 13X. Clarence 13X attended Nation of Islam Temple Number Seven, where Brother Malcolm was minister, in the early '60s. I've always thought of the NOI as a sort of poor man's Scientology. It's a crude comparison, but at their heart, both involve the same kind of wacky bargain: we'll clean you up, give you focus, give you self-determination, as long as you just quietly believe the thing about the aliens - the aliens floating either in your blood, or above your head in a UFO called the "Motherplane," depending on your faith. It's a pretty decent trade, especially if you are an ex-con or strung out hooker.
But I guess the Motherplane wasn't wacky enough for Clarence 13X. He had some fundamental disagreements with the NOI - like with that thing where he reckoned he was God
while they didn't - and he was excommunicated.
Rappers began embracing the group's teachings decades later. They were obviously drawn to the movement's black power energy, its Mecca-centric histories, and of course the opportunity to use the word "Supreme"
a lot and wear cheap homemade pharaohwear
So it's somewhat amazing when I'm checking wikipedia, to find that the Five Percenters actually received support from New York's Republican City Hall:The Five Percenters established a headquarters in the Harlem section of Manhattan. The Allah School in Mecca, previously known as Allah's Street Academy, was founded in 1966 through the Urban League with the help of the Republican mayor of New York, John Lindsay. The agreement reached between Clarence and the Urban League was a payment of one dollar a day... The first programs instituted in the school contained 10 to 30 kids, certified teachers, and three street workers. Graduates of the street academy would transfer to an academy of transition and then on to college preparatory school. Clarence disagreed with the program originally instituted at the Urban League, and so the curriculum was later turned over to him to manage, while the daily programs switched to math, English, and self defense.
Another fun factoid:
The rap expression "G" comes originally from Five Percenters, short for "God." Most people think it came from "Gangsta." I, sadly, thought it came from the broadway slang of Damon Runyon.
As far as Five Percent rappers go, Lakim Shabazz is pretty thoughtful. I'm not sure why the track "Africa" was never released. It's easily one of his best, with a beat that chugs and rattles like an old subway train. Shabazz doesn't rhyme on top of it, so much as inside and through it, like a kid hustling between the moving cars.
Labels: 5% rap, James, rap
posted by James
Monday, August 06, 2007
WHAT A JOB
Devin the Dude feat. Snoop and Andre 3000
Waiting to Inhale
Rap A Lot : 2007
Devin the Dude's Waiting to Inhale is one of my very favorite rap albums of the year - it's simply among the best-sounding, with its moist, spacy funk, which is ideally suited to the Houston-based rapper's laid-back, infinitely supple vernacular. It's a summery record. It contains skits that are genuinely funny - Devin calling local music stores posing as a producer with a bunch of rappers in the studio, affecting a hick drawl, and asking if he can come over and rent "the boom." "They need a boom per bar," he says. "I don't think they're gonna leave without it." And Devin's effortless charisma is virtually unmatched in rap - as a persona, he's up there with Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy; the kind of guy who fills up the room. Waiting to Inhale, for all its seamlessness, sounds remarkably casual and vibrant. One gets the impression that Devin behind the microphone and Devin in everyday life are differentiated only by the presence of the mike.
It's also one of the most morally troubling rap albums I've heard this year, although its misogynistic content is no more vile than it is on many other rap records I enjoy with less compunction. The reason why this is gets at the complex moral contract many of us (i.e. people who listen to mainstream rap and take it seriously) enter into when we choose to overlook language and sentiments from rappers that we would castigate indie bands for.
Why do I like Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit," while Ben Folds' version of the same song makes me want to barf? This might not be an ideal example, because there are mitigating factors: I think Ben Folds is kind of terrible, especially on this hokey cover, and I also have a deep-seated disdain for ironic covers, especially when the animating force at work in them is the idea that it's automatically funny for white, suburban performers to cover gangster rap songs - it strikes me as terribly condescending, forcing the songs' original authors into a sort of passive minstrelsy.
When we (i.e. again, people who take mainstream rap seriously as an idiom but don't share its politics) suspend moral judgement vis-a-vis rap, another element at play - and since obviously I have no idea what it's like to be a "black person" who likes mainstream rap while diverging from its ideology, I'm speaking here as a "white person" - another element at play is plain old white guilt. It's the feeling of having no right to pass any sort of judgement on a culture that emerged from the history of black oppression, and to regard this music in a purely anthropological sense. Or, more insidiously, it's the fear of passing judgement on rap, the fear that we'll get ourselves into sticky moral binds and find out things about ourselves we'd rather not know. Better to apologize for conspicuous consumption in rap, which we utterly despise in white people, as the history of black oppression in America sublimated and reborn as an understandable desire for surfeit after a long span of institutionalized deprivation. Better to regard misogyny, homophobia, and sociopathic behavior as genre tropes, no different from post-punk's "angular guitars" or dance-punk's cowbells, than as animate social forces - immutable genre components that can be riffed on and tweaked, hollow of actual significance, atmospherically pervasive. Better to interpret negative social ideals in rap music as reportage, documentary; as dispatches from the thrumming heart of social injustice - something ugly with which one is complicit, and from which one has a responsibility not to flinch.
None of this resolves into an easy answer or comfortable moral position. To the extent that we must pay heed to disenfranchised voices, we must also be wary of the corporate appropriation of these voices, of the record industry's funneling of toxic material into a neverending revenue stream. What does it mean to speak truth about the failures of American societal structure when speaking that truth has become immensely profitable? At what point are we no longer listening to genuine voices, instead engaging in a commercial construct where negative black stereotypes are perpetuated for profit? As always, the imposition of commerce on what is essentially a folk idiom presents unsolveable ontological dilemmas. For myself, I find mainstream rap to be on of the most sonically vibrant genres unfolding today, and I'm predisposed toward moral constructs that keep me off-balance - I'm content to keep listening as new vectors of understanding emerge and ramify.
But despite all my mystification as to my contract with mainstream rap, I have a better understanding of why, sometimes, a rap record that expresses sentiments no more or less vile than many others will pierce through this metaphysical veil and trouble me (and many of my peers, apparently) in a less passive, more convulsive manner. It has everything to do with the rapper's persona. The last song I remember achieving this feat - breaking through many rap fans' complacent relationship with the genre and producing genuine, widespread ire, despite the fact that the song's content was fairly typical - was the Yin Yang Twins' "The Whisper Song." In this case, it was a matter of delivery. While plenty of rap songs contain sexual innuendoes that border on threats, the whispers in which the Twins delivered theirs made all the difference. You could practically feel the hot breath on your ear, and a variety of prominent female critics (and a healthy portion of males) lashed out at the song's predatorial nature. It was an issue of proximity - "Bitches Ain't Shit" is a cultural relic, a snapshot from the near-past, but "The Whisper Song" was an atmosphere that settled all around you. Its space-invading prosody made its vileness impossible to ignore. Of course, it was also a huge hit, and many of the people who called it out for misogyny admitted that it was a really dope, innovative song. Here the ongoing clash between aesthetics and morality comes into play, but this post is already getting pretty bloated, so we'll save that for another day.
In Devin's case, the misogynistic songs (of which there are many on Waiting to Inhale) were, once again, made to seem more vile, more unforgivable, because of their context. Look at it this way - Young Jeezy is not a person. He's an imago, a superhero, a golem, a construct. A rapper who, as the story goes, made a fortune selling crack (but never using, and disdainful of users at that), then funneled his money and his experiences into a blockbusting rap career that repeatedly assures us that it is not art, not fantasy, but another hustle, another way to make money. He is the seamy underbelly of the American dream - the rags to riches story, the take-no-prisoners, survival of the fittest ideology - come to its darkest, most terrifying fruition. Jeezy emobodies American ideals in the same way that corrupt politicians and CEOs do, and as such, he seems beyond rebuke - more cautionary parable and heavy-handed metaphor than man.
But Devin is different - his whole persona revolves around being utterly human, utterly ordinary. A fun-loving guy who's fun to be around, a nice guy who doesn't paint himself as a superhero, who sometimes loses the girl, who expresses sentimentality, who is clever and funny and a bit goofy. Jeezy, in short, is a concept; Devin is, like he says, just a dude. And so when he writes a song about a fat girl who used to be fly, or a terrible synth ballad/murder fantasy like Eminem's "Stan" without the sensitivity, or generally treats all women like prostitutes, it stings us - we feel a bit betrayed. Because this guy is like us - an everyman with money problems, who doesn't shoot people or pretend to shoot people or sell drugs or seem to emanate in any way from an experience that is drastically foreign from our own. But I keep listening, sometimes gritting my teeth or skipping certain songs altogether, because it sounds so damn good. "I like Devin the Dude," Bill Callahan (nee Smog), another guy whose music often saddles the line between sonic vibrancy and moral complication, told me in a recent interview. "There's a vitality to his music. That's all I'd ask of anyone."
The song I've posted today, however, is one of Devin's best, as he turns his attention away from whatever bitch he's skeeting on at the moment for a working man's doggedly celebratory lament. In doing so, he paints himself in a much more sympathetic light, letting all his love of music and likeability shine through. Here's a guy talking about the travails of his everyday life as a recording artist, exasperated and in love with the process at once, and the resultant song displays every inch of this embattled passion. Snoop, bless his heart, even sounds good here, his almost parodically generic lyrics sounding fresh in context, and galvanized by the spirit of bonhomie that suffuses the track. And Outkast's Andre shows up just in time to drop one of his best verses in ages, perhaps the finest rap verse of the year, both for its ridiculously assured phrasing, astonishing gnomic control, and its continutaion of Devin's meta-rap first verse, all of which makes for a song that's deeply humane, intimate, personal - life-sized, no more or less. The underlying message of the song is that "we don't do it for the money," a sentiment familiar to undie rap, where there is little money to be had at any rate, but almost alien to the modern mainstream, with its unquestioned capitalist collaboration. And the assurance that Devin doesn't do it for the money, in turn, makes his morally bankrupt assertions on other songs all the more disturbing - if this record really stems from such conviction, then we have to assume that Devin's misogyny isn't a construct or unquestioned received wisdom, but what he truly believes. And that's hard to swallow. But let's end on a positive note, with a verbatim transcript of Andre's stunning verse:
We work nights, we some vampires
Niggas gather round the beat like a campfire
Singin' folk songs, but not no Kumbaya my Lord
You download it for free, we get charged back for it
I know you're saying, they won't know they won't miss it
Besides, I ain't a thief, they won't pay me a visit
So if I come to your job, take your corn on the cob
And take a couple kernels off it that would be alright with you
Hell no! Yeah, exactamundo
But we just keep recording and it ain't to get no condo
And Candy Bentley fanny with no panties in Miami
And that cute lil' chick named Tammy
that you took to the Grammys
See we do it for that boy that graduated
That looked you in your eyes real tough and said 'preciate it
And that he wouldn'ta made it
if it wasn't for your CD number 9
And he's standing with his baby momma Kiki and she cryin' talking 'bout
That they used to get high to me in high school
And they used to make love to me in college
Then they told me 'bout they first date, listenin' to my tunes
And how he, like to finger nail polish
I say hate to cut you off but I gotta go
I wish you could tell me more but I'm off to the studio, gotta write tonight
"Hey, can you put us in your raps?" I don't see why not
Devin it's the Dude, you gon' probably hear him talking 'bout
Labels: brian, rap
posted by Brian
Monday, July 02, 2007
WELCOME TO THE TERRORDOME
Universal : 2007
Pharaohe Monch has a new record. Critics love Pharaohe, maybe because he isn't terrible, and not being terrible counts for alot in rap these days. Moistwork's own hard rimer Brian Howe liked the new record - check out his write-up at fearofawhiteplanet.com.
I won't bother re-covering Brian's tracks. Brian drops crit in ways I am not able or willing. Like Brian, I admire Monch's "durable, booming vernacular" and "showy clusters of tongue-twisting homophones." And like Brian, I'm into the ambitious song Trilogy, which sounds a little like if Outkast travelled back through time to make a neo-soul concept musical about Marvin Gaye. But I gotta disagree big time when it comes to Monch's cover of PE's Welcome To The Terrordome. Brian calls it a "dud" but I can't stop listening to the damn thing. I'll agree that covering Public Enemy is pretty much a pointless exercise. (The only act to take a swing at a PE song and make contact was Tricky, who hit it right out of the park on Black Steel.) And vocally, Monch invokes Jay-Z much more than he does Chuck D - whom he stalks more effectively on the song What It Is. The new Terrordome even employs the kind of sampling that makes Jay-Z so consistently disappointing: horn crescendos looped with a barefaced repeat that wears out any and all original bombast. But for whatever reason, next time I'm driving through the Valley of the Jeep Beats, I'll be bumping this update over the PE original, which was always one of my least favorite tracks on my most favorite albums.
Labels: James, rap
posted by James
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
POPPIN' THEM THANGS
Beg For Mercy
Interscope : 2003
Autobiography of Mistachuck
Polygram : 1996
I AM I BE
De La Soul
Rhino : 1993
Nature of a Sista
Tommy Boy : 1991
I was shuffling some rap tunes on the iPod yesterday and Chuck D's 'The Pride,' from his under-rated 1996 solo album, came up. It contains one of my favorite rap lyrics ever:
The Panther Party, before 'La-Di-Da-Di'Immediately afterward, G-Unit's 'Poppin' Them Thangs' - with its irresistible Dr. Dre beat - kicked in. It contains some of my favorite, laugh-out-loud-bad, rap lyrics ever:
Put pride inside, plus taught karate
Read the paper, look at the newsThey are not bad in the clunker kind of way that, say, Queen Latifah's sloppy lines from 'Fly Girl' are:
We on the front page
Yeah we in the Bahamas with AK's on the stage
The ice and the Jacob watch make a broke nigga take somethin'
So I gotta keep the four fifth with no safety button
G-Unit gettin' money
I know some artists is starvin'
But play the game like they rich to me this shit funny
I know you see me comin'
Cuz on the front of the Maybach
It say payback
for those who hated on me
But I'm not the type of girl that you think I amOr Mase's 'Can't Nobody Hold Me Down':
I don't jump into the arms of every man
(But I'm paid) I don't need your money
(I love you) you must be mad
Easy lover is something that I ain't
Besides, I don't know you from a can of paint
You name it, I could claim itRather, their cocksure and aggressive swag just seems so over the top that I am dumb struck by the supreme silliness of it all.
Young, black, and famous, with money hanging out the anus
It made me think, if rap is a lyrical game, where are all the great lyricists? Or even the good ones? I'm hardly an authority on this, so happily correct me. And there are a handful a solid writers in the recent mainstream. Kanye West, Mos Def, The Roots and Eminem are the first that come to mind. But those guys are already AARP by rap standards.
But where are the Chuck D's, the Rakims?
Who writes a verse as fluid as De La Soul's 'I Am I Be'?
Product of a North Carolina catand
who scratched the back of a pretty woman named Hattie
Who departed life just a little too soon
and didn't see me grab the Plug Tune fame
As we go a little somethin' like this
look ma, no protection
Now I got a daughter named Ayana Monay
And I can play the cowboy to rustle in the dough
so the scenery is healthy where her eyes lay
I am an early bird but the feathers are black
so the apples that I catch are usually all worms
I bring the element H with the 2I'll tell you who doesn't: Three 6 Mafia. Or Lil Flip. Or anyone called 'Young' or 'Lil' anything.
so ya owe me what's coming when I'm raining on your new parade
Some of the choice lines from Lil Flip's agonizing new tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, via his MySpace page:
So we pray for each one of y'all who lost a childSo hop on the comments board and tell us:
And for that brave man who escaped the Holocaust
Then later on they lettin' classmates talk about him
But his screenplays should have let you know he had a problem
Even with my album out, i can take the time to grieve
Cuz if i had a tragedy i hope you'd so the same for me
The best and worst rap lyrics of all time.
Any all you young kids, if you're serious about becoming an MC, please do your self a favor and pick up your Flocabulary course now!
A reminder: if you find yourself in the loins of NYC this evening, pick up your tuxedo and head to the KGB Bar at 7pm for a moistworks reading. Details here.
Labels: James, rap
posted by James
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Atlantic : 1993
I AIN'T THE NIGGA
Kill My Landlord
Capitol : 1993
[Out of Print]
Priority : 1991
Labels: alex, rap
posted by Alex
Friday, April 06, 2007
LET IT ALL HANG OUT (Pete Rock Remix)
Atlantic : 1992
Prod. by Pete Rock
Elektra : 1995
Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics
SLOW DOWN (Pete Rock Newromix)
Elektra : 1991
The Very Best Of Brand Nubian
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
Rare Tracks, Remixes [IMPORT]
I have had something of an obsession with the life and times of Patrick Swayze ever since I built a short story around the following, spectacular, true quote:
"I smile to one side. I got my father's smile. I've been workin' not to smile like that. I'm always exercising the other side of my face when I'm drivin' my car, so I don't get too lopsided. That's the only level of narcissism I allow myself."
You know who else is obsessed with Swayze? Rappers. His name has been popping up in Hip-Hop tunes for years. Don't get me wrong, Red Dawn is a powerful piece of work, and I can see its appeal if you are a young black inner-city revolutionary. But I've always assumed this Swayze phenomenon was just lazy lyricism: I mean you can only rhyme so many things with 'crazy' before PatSway's name gonna come up.
As it turns out, the tradition has its roots in rhyming slang of the cockney variety: "Swayze" in its Hip-Hop use, means to bail, to 'disappear' like a 'Ghost' and was popularized by EPMD in the early 90s:
But now I'm Swayze, ghost,
The rap host
Who rip shows,
From coast to coast
Get on down
It's going down
-EPMD: 'It's Going Down'
That's why I bust back, it don't phase me
When he drop, take his glock, and I'm Swayze
Celebrate my escape, sold the glock, bought some weight
Laid back, I got some money to make, motherfucker
-2Pac:'Runnin' (Dying To Live)'
This doesn't mean there haven't been many, many, not so clever examples of Patrick's full and proper name being deployed as a cheap rhyme:
Take a track from Jay-Z
And flip back like crazy
Claimin you God
But look more like Patrick Swayze
-L.G.: 'Wise Da Weight Is Over'
That's a diss, I'm strivin not Drivin, Miss Daisy
and Patrick Swayze don't amaze me or faze me
Me look up to these stupid clowns - you're crazy!
-Chubb Rock: 'Organizer'
Wrap it up in the club, ya I'm so crazy
These other rappers actors like Patrick Swayze
I try to tell them but these niggas aint hear me
Mossberg pump, i'm riding shotgun literally
-Young Jeezy: 'And Then What'
Me and Attitude creeped like snakes
Grabbed the tapes and the Louie and break
The whole swap meet went crazy
I'm sockin' more fools than Patrick Swayze
-Sir Mix-A-Lot: 'Swap Meet'
Rock act Train deserves some credit, at least, for moving the Swayze rap in a new, perhaps desperate, direction:
Like a Sunday afternoon
My dad used to tell me I was lazy
I got dance moves like Patrick Swayze
I'm the left over turkey for the world's mayonnaisey
-Train: 'All American Girl'
You would think that all the songs posted today would have Swayze references, but only one does. They are connected, however, in that they are all decent Hip-Hop tunes that employ the downbeat, jazzy remix skills of Pete Rock. The A.D.O.R. and I.N.I. tracks are both underground classics. Especially 'Fakin' Jax' which was part of I.N.I.'s 1995 Pete Rock-produced album that was pulled at the very last second by Elektra, and was finally released a few years ago as part of Lost & Found: Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics
Labels: James, rap
posted by James
Friday, February 23, 2007
IF THE PAPES COME
A Tribe Called Quest
Mi Vida Loca (Soundtrack)
Mercury : 1994
GLAMOUR AND GLITZ
A Tribe Called Quest
The Show (Soundtrack)
Def Jam : 1995
PEACE, PROSPERITY AND PAPER
A Tribe Called Quest
High School High (Soundtrack)
Atlantic : 1996
SAME OL THING
A Tribe Called Quest
The Jam EP
Jive : 1997
Q-Tip ft. Common
KC The Funkaholic Presents Bassline Laidback Sound Sensation
Rhythm Distribution : 1998
Growing up in DC I was exposed to a lot of rap's early sounds. Grandmaster Flash, Whodini, Doug E Fresh were sibling staples. When I was shipped off to college in Australia, I was suddenly on my own in terms of nurturing my hip-hop tastes. My peers listened to big rock sounds from the UK and US, or preferred the local indie bands to my "jungle music." Occasionally alternative radio would play some gangsta rap just to prove they had the stones. (JJJ national radio got flak once from the suits for playing "Fuck Tha Police" uncut, and in protest, programmed NWA's "Express Yourself" on a loop for 12 straight hours.) I snatched up anything I could afford from the local record store. I recall buying 3 Feet High And Rising based entirely on the album art. It was very hit and miss: Booyah Tribe, Sex Packets, MC Brains (that was a miss.) Anything and everything Public Enemy.
I spent my first 2 years at University studying towards a degree in genetics, but began to get existential chills when I looked around at my lab partners: social cripples, the lot. I started taking humanities courses, beginning with an Intro to Feminist Studies. I pulled consecutive all-nighters completing my first essay, on Simone De Beauvoir. I got through it by playing It Takes a Nation of Millions... over and over and over again. With Millett, Gilligan, Dworkin on the prowl, it felt good to have the S1Ws in the room, watching my back. But it was also the first time I had harnessed music purely for energy. The Bomb Squad powered me like a combustion engine. On the downside: I would commit the frequent freshman sin of incorporating rap lyrics into my essays. I think I may have worked a Tribe Called Quest verse into a paper on Pan-Syrianism.
I got into TCQ via the "Native Tongues" fraternity of De La Soul, Jungle Bros, Queen Latifah, Monie Love. I loved their first record, though mostly on the strength of the great old material it looped in long greedy lengths. The Low End Theory, on the other hand, was a brand new sound. This post-gangsta jazz rap was so proudly bare, like a bonsai tree. White people LOVED this record. White college girls loved this record. All you white girls out there who were in college in the early 90s, was this the first hip-hop record you ever bought? Sure you danced to Cheeba Cheeba and Bust a Move like you were Kate Beckinsdale in The Last Days of Disco, but first album? Ladies, let us know your first rap CD in the comments box.
Labels: James, rap
posted by James