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Aging Gracefully

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So, Juicy J’s recently released two modest-budget, DV videos with an eye for the details of the streets. Swelling with super-specific hometown pride, “North Memphis Like Me” bubbles over with the character of Juicy’s birthplace–this is hyper-regionality; the kind that can’t be turned into a movement by some A & Rs.

Then there’s “Let’s Get High” (DIRECTED BY JORDAN TOWER), sorta the opposite of “North Memphis Like Me” but not really. Full of the same gritty reality but it’s deeply, disturbingly insular: Juicy wandering around a parking lot smoked-out.

-”Niggaz Ain’t Barin’ Dat”

Above is “Niggaz Ain’t Barin’ Dat” off Underground Vol. 1, a collection of Triple-Six demos or early works or something (it’s subtitled “1991-1994″) that you should go out and find if you’ve not heard it already–it’s fairly easy to find “Used” in your hometown’s record store, if your hometown still has a record store. If it doesn’t, it will be at your mall’s FYE…priced at like, 17.99.

I think Underground Vol. 1 is fairly prevalent in the used bins because a buncha people’ve bought it thinking there would be something like “Sippin’ On Some Syrup” or “Stay Fly” on there and not like, proto-Glitch, fuzzed out electronic weirdness that doesn’t even always have rapping on it.

There’s precedent here for sure (DJ Spanish Fly’s loops, Screw music’s bliss, etc.) and this is surely rap music, but it’s wrestling around in the same sonic arena with weirder, more explicitly strange electronic and sample-based music of the time (Gas, The Orb, Loop) and of right fucking now (Skaters, Tim Hecker, Block Beataz).

It’s more like hearing the earliest, in-the-garage, fuzzed-to-hell demos from Mayhem or Satryricon or something. That “something” being the really obvious influence that I threw out a moment ago: DJ Spanish Fly.

So yeah, it’s rap music too and if you’re listening hard enough, isn’t all that different from “Syrup” or “Stay Fly”. Hidden within there is all the stuff that made those classics. That’s to say, there’s not exactly a way to be “disappointed” by this collection unless you’re a complete dolt. And though Three-Six have certainly dropped the ball here and there, they don’t have a “worthless” release in their discography and the story of how their sound travelled from clunky loops and delicately crumbling synths to still pretty nutty but more digestable beats is one of the most fascinating in hip-hop history. Namely, because it’s organic–or relatively organic, don’t wanna idealize anybody here.

Same way say, the Velvet Underground went from avant-garde to MOR in like five years. It didn’t have too much to do with record sales.

And in a sense, it’s the antithesis of how Jay Z ends up with the sonics of BP3 and it’s the complete opposite of Raekwon’s facsimile of 90s New York rap. Three-Six roll over current trends and pick up tiny pieces (a tinge of auto-tune, a slab of chipmunk soul) and find a proper–or fairly proper–place for it, they don’t “reinvent” themselves and even when they do, they don’t fucking announce it. And because their sound is always moving forward, they can jump back to ‘95 seamlessly, so it doesn’t sound like they’re trying real hard–so hard that, like Rae and company, it leads to an album that sounds like the idea of what 1995 rap sounded to someone who wasn’t there when it happened than how it really did sound.

further reading/viewing:
-Mythologies by Roland Barthes
-DJ Spanish Fly’s MySpace
-”Hypnagogic Pop” by David Keenan from Wire Magazine #147
-Sway visits DJ Paul in the Studio

Written by Brandon

September 7th, 2009 at 4:53 am

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