granted I clearly have genius-complex issues, but it amazes me that even today in progressive liberal avant garde art-genius capital of the world New York City, a talent like Lauryn Hill could be so easily written off as ‘crazy’. does this 10-minute clip of her talking and then doing the song “I gotta find peace of mind” sound crazy? no, it sounds like someone who like so many others in the last decade since this album came out were overexposed and found capitalism to be a heckuva drug. it still remains to be seen if capitalism and family can go hand-in-hand in this country. L-Boogs chose fam, simple as that.
much like the clip, the album is indulgent. a little sloppy. there’s a flub at 2 minutes. the riffs and chorus go on too long from 7-10. but like a live Dylan or Joni Mitchell or Marley this is indulgent in the best possible way. the essence of art. mixing talent, the casual genius of someone organically blessed, and fully aware of it, in with the intimate details and confessions that allow us to convert the genius into something human. something divine but disposable. and maybe even something we can call ‘crazy-talk’.
“Lying is universal—we all do it; we all must do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others’ advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling”—Mark Twain (the decay of the art of lying)
what? it’s not yours? well, silly, that’s only because you haven’t read it yet (or maybe worked on SATC2). dahhling, the review reads like a dirty martini practically spilling over with prankishness (i don’t actually drink those, but sounds apt). i think i lol’d most at this lil pimiento, “It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache.” heh. there’s meaty criticism in there too, dearest.
my small value-add is this pull from the author Lindy West’s twitter, questioning her use of the word “prostitute” for one of the jokes. it’s likely she’s posting tongue-in-tweet there, but it’s still such a ‘writer’ thing: to nail a review — smart, funny, entertaining, concise — and then still hand-wring over a specific word-choice that led to some backlash (in your head or from actual readers). I consider it more testament to living in an era where we can code talent leading to more anxiety over ethics.
some of the details make me think Alex Carnevale’s version of Just Wright just sounds a lot more intriguing than it actually is. i mean if Queen and Common could do a dark Neil Labute style dramedy, then Gary Coleman (RIP) would probably still be alive (and at the movies!) today.
but in general two black women ruthlessly toying with a male victim, with no let-up start-to-finish, is MUST-MAKE cinema. also you could make it two or three times with different race/class backgrounds (two white women would prey differently than two black women than an asian/M.I.A. or white-black, etc.). such ethnocultural details are silly, indulgent or worse in an action-film like Transformers 3. but in the realm of documenting relationships, personal drama, they’re gamechangers. certainly if you’re playing the story for truth/realism.
life is somewhat like a Harry Houdini act. what with the being born in a bag of darkness, or if you prefer, submerged in water, and needing to find and unlock the various chains to free yourself before time runs out…
You might remember Asher Roth’s “Lark on My Go Kart” from last summer. I liked the beat. And the video. It’s a freewheelin’ sorta nonsensical song, but I always thought maybe it could be more coherently nonsensical… if that makes any sense.
So here’s a remix/mixtape version from me. I have dubbed it, “Daydreamin’”. I like to think of it having a silly Tumblr sensibility (shout-out to Prince Paul)
…only problem is i can’t stay awake on account of me being so boring
Of course mobile phones now often contain libraries, or at least access to the biggest library. literacy and education will always be important, but traditionalists need to come around to it not being about books, but the information in them.
nice little chuckle from Adrian Chen there. click-through for the full post and tweet-sources
the various ‘BlackPeople’ hashtags — thingsBlackPeopledo, as an example — almost make me want to play on twitter. it’s like racist tic tacs! 1 1/2 calories! won’t make you fat, or an a-hole or anything.
Been listening to a lot of “Live” albums recently in search of inspiration for a “Live” hip hop mixtape. Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison is pretty awesome (i think this would be the album to give a hip hop head looking squinty-eyed at Cash or country music in general). this is the song “Busted” from that show.
I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard this song in more commercials and ads over the past year or so as part of the ‘Soundtrack to the Recession’.
mulling on why most rappers can’t act, it occurs that the sensibility of Get Rich or Die Trying capitalism may also be why the free-for-all democratized internet seems to break down along familiar socioeconomic lines.
it’s the relation of the ego to authority, vs. the relation of the ego to empathy.
50 Cent (and most rappers) sell authority. they know what the f is up. if you question it you might get your chest caved in. Or worse. And most rappers learned this by watching you, America.
you make money here by projecting command, control, and not showing weakness or flaws. if i properly capitalize all my sentences I will project more writerly authority and subsequently be able to sell you my book with more confidence.
Same with magazines, now blogs/webzines. Think about the purpose of that objective omniscient editorial voice: project authority, sell ads against it. This is why journalists and rappers are in the same boat. G-Unit Records and Gawker Media are the same concept with different tools. They’re both trying to 50 Cent the game. They already have mostly.
Oprah might be our most singular human example of Nietzsche’s will to power in action. This is virtue of not only her self-evident power monopoly, crossing lines of economics, culture, and media/information; a perfect storm of three “isms”: capitalism, racism, narcissism.
But Freud once said that Nietzsche “had a more penetrating knowledge of himself than anyone who ever lived, or was likely to live.” Freud didn’t know the non-married, childless Winfrey whose show “repurposes everything — up to and including the Holocaust — as an individual struggle”.
The review of the Oprah biography closes with quotes on her production company, “My intent always is to own myself and every part of myself I can. Owning myself is a way to be myself”. Ecce Oprah, indeed!
Prince Paul, basically hip hop’s first satirist, dropped his first solo album/project in the mid 90s called Psychoanalysis: What is It?. This song “Beautiful Night”, a darkly comic ode to date rape and homicide, is essentially a hip hop version of Brett Easton Ellis “American Psycho”: An average negro-joe is blithely confessing his recent crimes to his psychiatrist over a beat; all of a sudden you’re laughing at stuff you’re not supposed to be laughing at.
Hip Hop has largely missed the ‘black comedy' boat because for most of its history the socio-political-cultual obligations made making the kind of fun that cuts deep difficult. Black people had a tough enough time trying to catch up in America without the potential karmic backlash via songs that coo about it being “a beautiful night for a date rape, a beautiful night for a kill.”
It’s one thing to kill for survival, or to sell drugs to feed your kids. It’s another to make jokes about it all. That sensibility can only come about once you’re no longer fighting for survival, and you’ve reached a certain comfort level… I suspect I was able to appreciate/indulge this sort of art in part because I was off in my bougie insular prep/boarding school environment. Prince Paul and De La were hip hop comedy gold for the slacker hip hop heads in prep school.
Eminem was able to get away with this sort of thing (think ‘97 Bonnie and Clyde) in part because he inhabited that crazy-white-boy space. But maybe now, post-Obama, crazy-black-boys will be able to get their rocks off too.
Lykke Li’s cover of Tribe’s “Can I Kick It” is a good moment in assimilated hip hop history. The riff around 2:50 reminds me of hip hop infused breakdowns I’ve heard recently from, for example, Dirty Projectors (temecula sunrise) and Grizzly Bear (all we ask). A lot of indie-rock-pop has that 12-16 bars that a quality emcee could hammer out the park, and in the process give a little more heft, bone structure to some of those indie songs that fall on the side of too-twee.
I see someone turning up all the cushions on a couch. They’re looking under pieces of paper, opening folded umbrellas, inside pockets and the battery hatch of your remote controls. is it in the bathroom? the basement? have you checked your sneakers? WHERE IS THE CONSCIOUSNESS, INTELLIGENCE IN HIP HOP? is this it? [points to Mos Def] looks familiar, is it going in the bag?
someone points to a huge block of KRS-One that was somehow looming outside of peripheral vision. HOLY SHIT! that’s friggin’ heavy.
yeah, also in one of the back rooms there’s a whole ton of Jay-Z, kanye, eminem, and like miles of shit. some of it is mildly sorted, but i don’t know, there’s a lot of work to be done …
the quote and article is about composers, but the way we process information dna these days — whatever your passion you can consume the human history of it fairly quickly — i don’t see how any artform escapes. Writers, moviemakers, journalists, anyone. piano-notes themselves are under attack.
seems we are separating humans from machines. the writers, creatives who operated as machines are being replaced by machines. much of the current art-economics turmoil is about popping the inscrutability-bubble that allowed smart people to mark-up shit a computer (or an idiot) could do for free, or at least much less. but ‘smart’, turns out, is just another computer script-program.
those who are in touch with their human condition, their individual genius, are generally being herded to grassroots social network technology. if you do it for the love, for the people, then be with them. they will love you if you are pure. if you’re not a fake rapper. otherwise you’re just waiting to be scooped by a machine. they produce money and product. with some luck, maybe you can survive the mulch process.
this notion of Coded Creativity, computers producing art brings to mind Terminator Man-vs-Machine scenarios. but maybe that’s too fatalistic, maybe Computer Creatives will just go Kanye at award shows. that would actually be pretty cool…
Remember the day remember the play remember the way we used to say dee dee dee da di dee dee dee dee da di dayyy
It must be amazing to look at the world from the perspective of KRS-One:
This was a man who was homeless, living in shelters in the late 70s. Living hand-to-mouth and self-educating as a black man in the South Bronx.
In the 80s he would meet Scott ‘LaRock’ Sterling and start building a discography that now easily dwarfs any artist in the history of the genre. Also to this ‘music’ he was the primary intellectual consciousness for two schools of the artform, gangsta rap and so-called conscious rap. Essentially the ‘style/sensibility’ godfather to both Jay-Z, Biggie, 50 Cent, Snoop AND Common, Mos Def, The Roots, Lupe etc. When Obama was brushing his shoulders off on the way to becoming President, KRS-One was tagged on the side of the podium in a fat marker—”We Will Be Here Forever”
In the 90s as a former self-educated south bronx black dude, he would begin teaching and lecturing at Ivy League universities. This was also his most commercially successful period. By the late 90s he was, essentially, an Ivy League iniversity professor doing songs with Puffy and Angie Martinez. Step Into a World can get a party started in your office right now.
[a serious, skilled rapper now giving lectures at Yale would be like what? a stripper being married to the president? i think its easy to underestimate how singularly ridiculous this accomplishment is with how we view rappers today]
Hip hop is now arguably the most influential cultural movement of the last fifty years (just to throw out a number). Artists and bloggers can debate this, but how many have them will have created a school and charter ultimately sanctioned by the United Nations to advance their argument. (Also at this time: still recording, and actively destroying then-popular artists (cf. Nelly) who were sneering at him while chained to a system he was trying to help free them from.)
Last week was Hip Hop Appreciation week, which I didn’t see getting much play. But maybe I was looking in the wrong spots. Still, I think the point holds: it must be amazing to look at the world from his perspective. A guy still grinding, fighting for publicity and people’s attention despite a historically unprecedented resume. Maybe that’s the whole rub of it all. How would you celebrate someone who’s part Dylan, part Joseph Campbell, part Ice-T.
Last year KRS put out a bible, it got a little press. But it’s a legitimate crack at a religion that one-ups Christianity, Islam, Judaism. Call him a wacky Black L Ron Hubbard if you must, but he wrote the book after already imbuing the culture with the spirit of hip hop. Writing his “Dianetics” is just another bullet point on the resume. It would fall near the bottom of a top 10 list of his accomplishments. The ones we can actually see now.
Whether he gets it or not this is hip hop’s first Nobel Prize winner. And of course, as anyone who’s encountered him or seen him live knows — it’s all legit, he’s a force of nature. And here he walks around and people would rather talk to Paris Hilton. Or to be less snarky or 2005 about it, Lady Gaga. I love Gaga’s intellectual/conceptual pretense. But Bible, United Nations charter, 20-ish album longevity, from homelessness in the 70s south bronx? He’s only 44. I want a KRS sex tape and i want it now!
KRS should roll off the tongue like Oprah or Jay-Z, easy. He’s a correction in the market waiting to happen. Want a cultural stock tip?: Buy KRS1.
It need not be reported to the folks who follow the ‘media narrative’, or maybe it does, but the Gawker Media brand exists as a truth to power. Nothing’s popular if it has no good in it. Whether it’s your kind of good or not. But hateful websites, for example, don’t get popular no matter how well they’re written, or how much money you throw into them. A million dollars and a crack blog team is not going to overcome a site that launches with the name FuckYouEvilNiggaCuntFag.org. Even if you put a NSFW graphic at the top.
This is to highlight that anything popular has something life-affirming going for it that people are connecting with en masse. The talent connection. In Gawker’s case, it’s their position as a quasi-Big Brother-of-cynicism. They were born as a necessary response to manipulative media artifice. A media-cultural landscape so full of shit the detection of it can be a growth industry.
Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Wes Montgomery. Has to be one of the best named songs in the history of the universe. I’ve been on a Wes Montgomery kick of late; he’s a popular go-to for hip hop samples old and new (research), and it’s also just good music (recreation).
I prefer this smooth instrumental weekend-chill recording, but Sinatra’s lyrical version helps one hold hands with the sweet-quirk essence of the title, “there were questions but my heart knew all the answers, and perhaps a few things more”….
Psycholinguist Jessica Love, phenomenally waxes profound on pronominal information. Yes, she does. Quite lovely.
I also like her vat-of-fish metaphor for the information in your brain; we’re going to be seeing a lot of writers using metaphors that render the information in your brain as individually specialize units of [whatever the metaphor is]. my crutch term is DNA. but fish is effective, and surprisingly fresh here.
F to the would have had platinum potential as a dark-emo emcee. His profile projects the reserved effeminate-existential style of a Kid Cudi. But Kafka would have brought more technical skills to the table. He’d be Eminem with less snark and more humility. A Def Jux crew member in spirit, their smarty-arty tones with more pop and accessibility.
This may be a stretch. The Franz has nuance and sophistication that may very well be inaccessible in 4/4 measures. But then I remember, he didn’t actually put out any of his records. He just had his diaries. His octavos. His rhyme book. As one of those commenters on that linked page says, “strange little ditties, just stray melodies and such”.
Oh yeah, Kafka in 2000-america would definitely scribble some hot 16s. If only to throw some cracks in that frozen sea while the axe is being sharpened.
"Nerd Girl", off the Chester French mixtape from a couple years ago, was when my Janelle Monae fever really started to set in. (A fever that seems to be spreading, and not too fast too furiously enough in my opinion). It’s just a cameo, but one that gives this would-be cutesy song some integrity. They’re a little too nerdy with the singing at the start, but then she comes in on the second verse, takes the dude’s glasses off, and inhabits the “Nerd Girl” vision in a very cool way.
What's Missing from "How To Make It In America": Skills
I’m on the fence with all the “Lifestyle Porn” programming. (y’know, Sex & The City was like “Blondes”, Entourage was like “Babes” or “Celebrities”, How to Make it in America is “Interracial”) Like porn, there’s a whiff of something cheap and pungent about it. Then again, it’s porn. Anyone you interact with has probably just finished using some within the last 48 hours (too soon?).
Like porn, these shows offer an aesthetic of something we all want, know, love. And like porn, the shows lack depth. Specifically the psychology of sex that attracts us to porn in the first place. Sex is intoxicating for five minutes to a half hour *cough*, but the best version of it is between two people less enamored with the “porn” of sex, but the “sex” of sex. By that I mean the discipline of sex. Two people who want to go at going at it. Sex feels good, sure, but that’s easy, most of us want, even more, to be good at sex. To build skills.
I recently caught up with How To Make It In America (henceforth: HTMIIA), and the sex was cool. But I found the conversation after to be a little lacking. It felt like I was drunk the previous night and I met HTMIIA out and was all, “oooh, you’re so nyc sophisticated and multiculti. What’s that? Oh, you design t-shirts? oooh … cool. I’m a writer. books and raps. let’s get drunk and fuck! creatively!
Y’know, I’m not all about the bible in any way shape or form.But it does have a lot of ideas and words and intent. And if you gave me a some generic blog post, or a shitty book and claimed it was almost like the bible. I’d be pissed. Like, wtf.
Jeff Chang preaches hardcore hip hop gospel. You might call me a d-rider for such language, but i don’t think Moses or The Disciples should be classified as d-riders for following god or jesus. Hip hop helps attach action to theory. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is a hip hop bible (also an American Book Award winner). If you’re a smarty-arty blogger, writer, whathaveyou and you haven’t read this book then you need to stop reading this post. don’t email anyone. put down the twitter. wait. don’t do all that yet. but do order the book asap so we can talk.
Some people see rapping like this [holds fingers to indicate tiny]; but it’s really like this [looks up at the sky]. I’m happy to be in the position to show people the sky, but in some respect it feels like, oh, …nice timing in this life.
Now when I turned on the computer in 2005 and got assimilated into gawker/new media circles, I never fully understood the Old vs. New media banter. Much like a hip hop head might bewilder folks with intimate analysis of the aesthetic fallout from LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee. Or Juice Crew vs Boogie Down Productions. But these were cultural epoch-level events for those who choose to identify with the jersey labeled “Hip Hop” instead of the one labeled, uh, “X” or, uh, “Y”.
From a distance these hip hop beefs (the artist moral-conflicts, not the physical brawls that would break out) could look like a couple negroes — or in the case of eminem, a negro and a scrappy-crazy white dude — just rasslin’ and bangin pots and pans and causing a ruckus. That was the mainstream perception until hip hop became serious business, and then people wanted to sell tickets.
I was like, yo, I wanna do that. I wanna spit some smart hot fire.
So I wrote one!
It’s about some recent news events I saw at the Village Voice: a newly deputized blogger named Foster Kamer who lost a big bag of money, and his boss Sheriff EIC Tony Ortega shooting at the outlaws on their tail. It’s also about how old and young people create culture the same way across different industries. Also I mention George the Animal Steele eating a turnbuckle.
It’s an essay. Prepare your attention spans! I want some of that liberal smarty-arty internet love. And I want it now, goddammit!
Anyhov… this part is just an intro, not the essay. You should forget you read this 5 seconds after finishing the next line. It was only to get you pumped for this “Essay” that’s about to rock your life. If it doesn’t rock your life come back to this intro and glare at it and be like yousoldmefalsegoodswithyourfrigginhyperactivevoiceandexclamationpoints. iwasexpectingthisessaytorockmylifeforreally. wtfrudoinnow? ruhigh? Haven’t you read Death of a Salesman, bitch! This doesn’t win in the long run!!!!!!!!!!!!
What’s funny is back when hip hop was more small-minded, Dr. Seuss would sometimes be referenced as an example of a simple or bad emcee. This is back when the evolution of lyricism in hip hop was simple +1 math. More rhymes, more syllables, more and more in the bars. You wouldn’t want to be the clown kicking those Dr. Seuss rhymes…
But it’s becoming more apparent that such an approach eventually maxes itself out, and you have to regress. And subsequently rationalize your regression. It’s not regression, it’s addition by subtraction. It’s moving out of the old rhyme box. When hip hop was small-minded there was no room for “Children’s Hip Hop” vs. “Adult hip hop”. Now we can ask, why not? Look at Dr. Seuss, he’s a genius.
We know Dr. Teddy G had rhyme schemes for days. So the only question with him would be who’s a good producer match for him. I think you need someone with a bit of a twee sensibility, but still has some edge. No Dilla, no Primo, no Dre, no Just Blaze. But Kanye might work. And I feel like Danger Mouse would be a good fit. If only for the one-off album:
A child 5, 6, 7, years of age, just entering the job market via the realm of chores and domestic internships, learns economics in a very clean simple way. They do something, and they are rewarded for their effort. Ideally financially. Now it may behoove a toddler to know their parents are slaughtering parakeets to pay that child’s allowance. But would he really care? Should he? Through this kid we learn The Dollar is just another conceit. Another metaphor for power/freedom. Don’t kill parakeets to pay off your children’s allowance. He would accept the generic frosted flakes if he knew the full cost of the name brand.