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Archive for June, 2009

Metal Lungies: Organized Noize Beat Drop

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Surprised there weren’t more contributors to this one? Bloggers are dropping the ball, whether it’s because you’re lazy, too cool for anything that isn’t your own dotcom, or that “I don’t write for free” bull a lot of you guys are on as of late, Outkast and ONP are something we should all be celebrating. Whatever though–it’s one of the most fascinating and rarefied Beat Drops as a result, which sorta fits the whole Dungeon Fam aesthetic anyways. My picks were “Git Up Git Out (Outkast), “I Didn’t Ask To Come” (Goodie Mob), “Dez Only 1″ (Witchdoctor), “Low Low” (Lil Will), and “Dress Up” (Sleepy Brown):

“Let’s begin by pointing out that “Dress Up” has two saxophone solos. And that said sax solos are played by Sleepy’s pops — Jimmy Brown from Brick. Throw in some comely “Boogie On Reggae Woman” drums and anchor the whole thing around a blaxploitation vibe and you’ve got the ballsy, incongruous, kitchen-sink weirdo production genius of ONP in a nutshell. Steeped in tradition, obsessed with aping their musical heroes but somehow internalizing those influences well enough to spit them back up as something wholly original.”

Written by Brandon

June 10th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Village Voice, Sound of the City: "Jay-Z’s "D.O.A" and the Five Auto-Tuned Songs (Among Many) That Prove Him Wrong"

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“Released late Friday, Jay-Z’s new single, “D.O.A (Death of Auto-Tune),” from the now thoroughly-announced The Blueprint 3, is less a Martin Luther-like cry for hip-hop reformation than an awkward slab of concept rap. The concept: That a new Jay-Z song about rap’s current “lack of aggression” and tight jeans, over a jagged No I.D. beat of choked clarinet and wailing guitar, simply by existing, represents the death of auto-tune.

That’s the idea anyway. Really, the song is just a new way to say “this is that real street shit”–e.g., this is that death of auto-tune shit. It’s a gimmicky song that sets out to destroy Rap & B’s latest gimmick. The stunt is reminiscent of Hip-Hop Is Dead, the rap-killing album by Jay-Z’s good buddy Nas, and Jay’s own American Gangster, which found businessman Jay-Z painted into a corner in which the only way to return to reliable gun-talk was to wrap it around a movie tie-in conceit.

In the two days or so since the song was released, “D.O.A.” hasn’t yet killed the vocal manipulation trend–and it probably won’t, ever. As VIBE’s Sean Fennessey pointed out, HOT97–where the track debuted to the ritual flurry of Funkmaster Flex sound effects–was playing auto-tuned Ron Browz productions within a half hour of letting “D.O.A” out into the world. Can you kill something that parodied itself from its inception? When T-Pain’s collaborating with joke-rappers Lonely Island and um, Death Cab For Cutie have half-jokingly spoken out, you’re late to the game. At this point, the only thing more obnoxious than auto-tune is being categorically opposed to the trend…”

Written by Brandon

June 8th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Thoughts On Jay Stay Paid.

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-First…Douglas Martin of Fresh Cherries from Yakima is doing a “Jay Stay Paid Day” all uh, day today posting links and comments and responses to the album and it’s a lot of fun. Below is my contribution, a quick write-up of my favorite Jay Stay Paid song (at least for right now) “In the Night/While You Slept (I Crept)”:

“In the Night/While You Slept (I Crept)”s a merger of Dilla’s later experiments with avant-electronic music and his “Terminator shit” of the late 90s/early 2000s–the wonky John Carpenter (or okay: Brad Fiedel) thump of say, “Go Hard” from Q-Tip’s Amplified working it out in the trees with the twinkling weirdness of say, “Lightworks”. The mix of the two though, embodies the particularly blissed-out, 70s Zombie movie synth sound (think Fabio Frizzi or Goblin) all over Jay Stay Paid. That’s not a sound I think I’ve heard that much of from Dilla, as he usually grabbed for some dusty, knicked and crackling soul side when he needed that hazy glow sound–as he does on “Coming Back”, a missing “Donut” if I’ve ever heard one (down to the kinda spiritual, resurrection-suggesting song title).”

-While the inclusion of Blu and some dudes I’ve never heard of (Danny Brown, Diz Gabran, Cue D) sort of tows a certain problematic line as to where Dilla’s music should be categorized, some verses from dudes like Lil Fame, Havoc, and Raekwon mix it up and save Dilla from the groovy, chill, alt-bro crew a bit and remind listeners of how porous the borders between “street” and “underground” and “conscious” rap once were.

-”Blood Sport” is a malfunctioning synth whine and some drums of death beat that features Lil Fame and well, he’s the kind of dude that need(ed) to be rapping over Dilla beats. There’s something cool about dishing out so many of his beats to local knuckleheads and friends and that to me, is always preferable too many “conscious” rappers but here’s a reminder of what could be done with a Dilla beat.

-In contrast is “Reality TV” featuring Black Thought, which might even make my list of “Smart” Rappers Schooling Themselves. There’s really no way track based around Reality TV references would work, but it seems especially terrible and even offensive on a Dilla tribute mix.

-Pete Rock mixed this and DJ Premier had something or other to do with it, but you’d barely realize that listening–which is how it should be.

-Dilla, as one of the hearts of the “Neo-Soul” movement gets a lot of credit for that odd awesome era in the late 90s when hip-hop and R & B got kind of psychedelic and rambly and daringly experimental and he also gets blamed for developing a sub-genre that “ruined” groups like Tribe or Pharcyde and devolved into a bunch of boring, hippie (instead of psychedelic) grooves and “love is all you need” cliches, but a lot of the beats on Jay Stay Paid show the lasting, ongoing influence of “Neo-Soul”: electronic-tinged Rap & B. Yes yes yes, what’s going on in rap right now owes both arms and both legs to Timbaland, but don’t forget about Amplified’s wicky-wicky weirdness. Listening to stuff like “CaDILLAc” or “9th Caller”, you’re reminded of how Neo-Soul, despite its certain conservativism, was key in bringing a new kind of avant-garde and experimentalism to radio-popular black music. There’s a straight line from what Dilla was doing in the late 90s (snippets and chunks of which are heard on Jay Stay Paid) to the Rave-House synth skitters that dominate Hot100’s playlist right now.

-At points, Jay Stay Paid sounds more like “In the Dilla Style” type tapes that producers release, all of which, outside of Cyrus Tha Great’s A Kite to Dilla are pretty much worthless. There’s plenty of great stuff here, don’t get me wrong, but there’s also a sense that we’re hitting the bottom of the barrel in terms of unreleased Dilla shit. Tracks like “Kaklow (Jump On It” or “Mythsysizer” are just kinda whatever.

-That said, realize that nearly all these tracks are ones that are totally “unreleased”. Not just tracks that haven’t been officially released but tracks from any of those four or five Dilla “beat-tapes” that’ve been bouncing around on the internet for years don’t show up on here either.

-Funny how there’s a real sense of different artistic periods with Dilla and they seem to have everything to do with artistic whims and new influences surging through than shifting music industry expectations or hit-grabbing flips on old tricks. A track like “Coming Back” (as I said earlier) could’ve and maybe should’ve been on Donuts, as it’s got that dusty sadness inside of it and a title that invokes death and legacy and even resurrection. There’s a lot of early-to-mid 2000s Electronic Music experiments from Dilla on here too–basically his style pre-Donuts–and then a few of his 90s soul-beats back when he gave a shit or felt like he had to give a shit about making hits or semi-hits. These styles certainly overlap and he’ll go back to an earlier style, but I think there’s a sense that like a visual artist, especially a painter, someone who’s really studied Dilla could parse his work out into fairly defined “periods”.

-Because his Electronic period was tied into his late-90s stuff on Q-Tip’s Amplified and the stuff when he was with MCA (Pay Jay, Frank-N-Dank’s 48 Hours), there seems to be the least of this stuff previously released or heard and it’s great that most of this tape consists of these squeaking, trippy, electronic beats.

Written by Brandon

June 2nd, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Village Voice, Sound of the City: "In Defense of Nathan Williams"

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“So, you’re Nathan Williams of Wavves. You just played a pretty disastrous show that Pitchfork, in full TMZ mode, called “a meltdown”. What do you do? Well, you cancel your next bunch of shows, and then the next day, post an apology on your personal blog…before deleting it a few hours later. Very 2009, and more like a quasi-controversy fit for Kanye’s blog than for a bratty, no-fi musician who makes sad sack surf music aimed at a tiny percentage of the population, but here we are–at least Williams’ mea culpa isn’t all caps.

Really though, Williams’ apology is a surprisingly humble, no-bullshit explanation and it was, presumably, only the too-sincere laundry list of exactly what drugs he took (“ecstasy valium and xanax”) and Williams’ acknowledgment of a drinking problem that got his Fat Possum wranglers or even just good friends to tell him to take the thing off Blogger. Let’s hope the note, despite its deletion, lives on in people’s Google Readers and now, on a bunch of blogs (and at the top of this post) and reduces the schadenfreude coursing through comments sections and the Twitterverse and lets in some sympathy.”

Written by Brandon

June 1st, 2009 at 3:49 pm