No Trivia



Hey guys, I sold out! No Trivia is now on SPIN’s website. I will be blogging daily for them and doing the kind of bullshit I used to do on this blog a few years ago. It’s going to be lots of fun. Eventually, will forward you over to the SPIN blog, so subscribe to the new No Trivia, and follow me on Tumblr for other writing. My first post at SPIN is an introduction:

Some of you are probably familiar with my semi-frequent column over the past year, and December’s “Hip-Hop Issue,” which I was fortunate enough to help put together. A few of you may even remember No Trivia as my once-fruitful personal rap blog, before it turned into pretty much nothing but a repository for links to writings for SPIN, Pitchfork, Village Voice, and other publications.

My relationship with rap began when I bought Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day.” — on cassingle. The next purchase was Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.” I was eight years old. I mention my first music-buying forays because I know a lot of kids who like to boast, ten years after the fact, at the height of their indie-rock infatuation, that their first CD was Weezer’s Blue Album or Flaming Lips’ Transmission from the Satellite Heart — as if some latent hipster gene existed in their unformed 10-year-old frames. When you ask, “Well what was your second CD?” it’s always something embarrassing. Who knows what was appealing to my elementary-school-attending ass about “It Was A Good Day” and “Two Princes,” other than the fact that they were catchy and on MTV a whole bunch…

Written by Brandon

February 27th, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Spin

Pitchfork: Various Artists – 808 Mafia


Reviewed that 808 Mafia tape. It’s pretty good? Hard to tell if it’s because it’s Lex and Southside’s buddies or if Lex and Southside’s awesome beats would get kinda tedious without rappers as well…

The Lex Luger beat– an ugly tangle of glitching rhythms, hissing hi-hats, and booming low-end– currently dominates urban radio. Its ubiquity isn’t a surprise. Rap is forever falling in love with a production style and then shamelessly squeezing all the life out of it. But at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, something is different this time around. It’s all a bit more numbing than usual. Thanks to computer technology, which makes spot-on mimicry quite easy, and facilitated by the industry’s embrace of ruthlessly utilitarian music (see also: dubstep, four-on-the-floor euro-pop), there’s no demand to gently tweak the Lex Luger formula…

Written by Brandon

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Pitchfork

eMusic: Dustin Wong – Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads


Reviewed the new Dustin Wong album, compared it to Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 and the score to My Neighbor Totoro. Go read about it here.

Written by Brandon

February 22nd, 2012 at 4:16 am

Posted in eMusic

The Comics Journal: Nick Maandag – Streakers


I am now contributing to The Comics Journal! My first review is for Nick Maandag’s really funny surprisingly touching, often downright depressing comic Streakers.

“Real streaking should involve higher social and political ideals. It should be about going where people are taking themselves too seriously and taking them down a peg, reminding everyone that we’re animals.” That’s Xavier, streaking demagogue (and manager of a burger joint), holding court at the weekly Streakers Association of Summit City meeting, attended by his two friends, Doug and Tim, there to slurp down beer and ponder the politics of taking it all off in public. Doug, who gets in the paper for exposing himself to women around town, is perhaps, more accurately defined as “flasher” than “streaker” good and proper, and Tim, an aging-out idealist with a entry-level dishwasher job going on eight years, hasn’t yet drummed up the confidence to strip down, which makes him only “a streaker at heart.” They are a rag-tag trio…”

Written by Brandon

February 16th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

City Paper: “Rapper DDm is out of the closet. Got a problem with that?”


photo by Michael Northrup

Oh man, very happy I got to do this one. DDm, formerly known as Midas, has been a favorite on this blog for a few years now and he’s one of my favorite Baltimore rappers, and last year he came out of the closet in Baltimore’s Gay Life newspaper. We sat down for about two hours, ate sushi and chocolate chip pancakes, and talked about his career, his coming out, and lots of other stuff. He has a new project out called Winter and the Tinman’s Heart, which in a quote that I couldn’t fit into the piece, DDm explained is “modeled around the mid-seventies Queen albums, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Steely Dan’s Aja, Dark Side of the Moon.” You can download the album over at DatPiff.

“My shit has to be stellar, especially because it’s me,” DDm declares over lunch at a Mount Vernon café on a wet Sunday in mid-January, the Ravens vs. Patriots playoff game buzzing in the background. “I have to create cinema with this one.” He isn’t simply gassing me up about his latest project, a rap/club concept album called Winter and the Tinman’s Heart. He’s acknowledging that as Baltimore’s “gay rapper,” there’s just way more stacked up against him.

Cynics in the city have framed his coming out as a gimmick, which is, of course, total bullshit. He’s been a well-established and respected MC in Baltimore since the mid-2000s, first as Midas, a vicious, hilarious battle rapper, and, until recently, as Dappa!!! Dan Midas, a member of Mania Music Group. But he’s patient with rappers who now keep their distance. “Post-coming out, rappers respect me, but they’ll never say it, and I understand why,” he says matter-of-factly.

Written by Brandon

February 15th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Posted in City Paper, Midas

Them’s The Vagaries Podcast: Heems’ Nehru Jackets


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I was on Sean’s podcast again! This could become semi-frequent. We talked about Heems’ amazing mixtape Nehru Jackets. I connect it to Nietzsche, Kanye West, Common, and Martin Luther King, because I am ridiculous.

Written by Brandon

February 10th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Podcast

Jackie Chain ft. Zilla – “Ladies In The House”


Jackie Chain’s After Hours is an album in which David Guetta, Avicii, etc. are jump-kicked off of their platonic, all-partying, consequence-free bottle service throne by Bama’s Polo rocking, long hair flowing trance-rap enthusiast. There’s “Moving,” which, with the help of Nick Catchdubs’ curation, Jackie tackles Aviici’s “Le7els” and Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” with a freestyle over Pretty Lights’ 2006 Etta James-sampling slow burner “Finally Moving.” Somewhere, there is a dude pissed off at Flo Rida for “stealing” Aviicii’s song, and elsewhere there is a Pretty Lights fan who guffawed when “Le7els” arrived, and Etta James fans presumably find the whole thing kinda tasteless, and well, “Moving” is a song that they can all be collectively disgusted over! See how that works?

“Ladies In The House” throws Scatman John’s “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)” into a whirling wheezing trance-party, and on a primal digging through pop-culture detritus level, that’s just really hilarious. Plus, Jackie Chain was born to transcend cheesy samples and turn them into awesome club rap. Keeping with After Hours‘ concept, though, “Ladies In The House” also confronts modern day EDM with its own dirty little history: This shit was, not too long ago the goofiest fucking music on the planet. A place where an outsider artist, borderline autistic eccentric like Scatman John went to make a buck. So think of that Mr. Guetta, next time you pose messiah-like on the Tomorrowland stage. If only there were also a freestyle over Jordy’s “Dur Dur D’etre Un Bebe” on this thing! After Hours‘ syrup-drunk, boner-popping, condom-eschewing take on fistpumping pop is kinda doing the same thing as the Weeknd’s trilogy of releases. And Jackie Chain, an impervious hedonist who doesn’t seem to have human emotions, and is fueled by blunts, blowjobs, and booze, is a far more successful strip club Virgil than Abel Tesfaye. Bonus: Huntsville’s Zilla guests on this one, impatiently shit-talking the girl he’s trying to take home.

Written by Brandon

February 9th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Gucci Mane ft. 2 Chainz – “Get It Back”

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Though 2 Chainz is the next exciting thing in trap-rap weirdo personalities–more knowing than Future, three times the personality of Meek Mill, and a total maniac–he’s still no Gucci Mane and “Get It Back” proves it. There’s probably more lines for you to quote to your GChat buddies when 2 Chainz pops-up (“Get your baby mama, take her then make her/You date her, then fuck her, I fuck her then date her/Everything is on the up, like an elevator”), but Gucci sounds alive and unconcerned, doing his head-down, straight rapping, stumbling upon a catchy phrase and not a big obvious hook From Zone 6 To Duval thing like it’s 2009 again. Producer Mike Will Made It takes the theme from Tetris and adds a boom of low-end every few bars, tosses in a few chintzy keyboard bloops and some Mannie Fresh synth-organs, making a potentially shticky production way more dynamic than it needs to be. Notice how this whole mixtape just kinda pretends the Lex Luger-ization of rap never happened. Even Lex’s “Blessing” isn’t by-the-numbers, stop-start glitching corner kid stomp. Drumma Boy remains the model here. And observe how closed-circuit and word-focused Gucci’s rapping is. He’s a lyricist, guys! A nerdy MC only worried about piling syllables on top of beats. I get the impression that the people around Gucci just hoard his good music, all made in his moments of clarity, so it’s hard to tell if “me and Slim Dunk in the clubs throwin’ racks” is simply there because this was written before Dunkin’s death, or if it’s a tight-lipped reminisce. I’d like to think it’s the latter, and either way, it’s very touching.

Written by Brandon

February 9th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Pop. 1280 – “Nature Boy”

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Everything is so chillwaved the fuck out right now that Pop. 1280, feedback fetishists from New York with entry-level taste in gritty noir (Jim Thompson, really? Let’s rename this band The Burnt Orange Heresy and be a little less predictable) and some good songs are passed off as menacing? If these fellas arrived a decade earlier, with this exact sound, then they’d be mentioned in a profile piece on the return of New York garage rock. In 1998, I bought Pussy Galore’s Live In The Red at a Best Buy in suburban Baltimore, and even then, at age 14, I was weary of Jon Spencer’s bachelor’s from Brown. And I can’t be the only one who is put off by every impeccably designed Sacred Bones release, right? All this is really just a way of saying, “wowzers, independent white people music sure has changed in the past 10 or so years!” I’ve changed too though, so it all sounds pretty awesome, especially “Nature Boy.” While so many others are content to make moody gloomy noise rock comfort food, Pop. 1280 have distilled the gnarly skronk of their pigfuck forebearers into a concentrated dose of the cheap strong stuff. When vocalist Chris Bug gargles, “hips to the right, and hips to the left” it’s pure Swans-like violent, ritualizing. And oh yeah, the guitars scrape and crunch and buzz just right, and the drums snap and rattle like a slinky the size of a Dune spiceworm tumbling down a flight of stairs. It helps that Bug sounds very Bob Mould–like a nice enough guy putting on a menacing mask to get through the day without getting fucked with too much.

Written by Brandon

February 8th, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Labtekwon – “Economy Of Tricknology”

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The dude Michael Byrne wrote about Labtekwon’s “Economy Of Tricknology” over at the City Paper but oh man, lemme add some more words of praise to this one. Here, the Baltimore hip-hop legend delivers a breathless, ridiculously on-beat, sometimes totally off-the-rails, 11-minute bugged-out rap that dips and dives around the history of money and rambling illuminati talk, convincing you that there’s no difference between cold hard facts and nutty conspiracy theorizing: “Now you had the government borrowing money to pay private corporate contracts/ Sound familiar? America does that/ You see, the bail-out scam was invented way back/This ain’t conspiracy theory, it’s conspiracy fact.”

“Economy Of Tricknology” makes the case that we’re not battling a decade or so of deregulation, a Republican party gone retarded thanks to Reagnomics, and a few generations of politicians in the pockets of someone else, but a web of centuries-old DaVinci Code type shit. The song’s rickety soul beat molts into another rickety soul beat a few times, but it’s cleverly bookended by the same, lumbering, steampunked sample of MFSB’s “Something For Nothing,” perhaps best known as the source for Jay-Z’s “What More Can I Say.” Labtekwon earns the right to steal that rhetorical from Jay here, though. There really isn’t much else to say when this one ends. An urban legend is going around that says if you can memorize this whole song and deliver it in the mirror three times in a row, Mitt Romney will actually burst into flames.

Written by Brandon

February 8th, 2012 at 6:15 am