No Trivia

Archive for September, 2010

What’s a Goon to a Goblin Sample?


When the Swizz Beatz-produced “Gucci Time” showed up on Gucci Mane’s most recent mixtape Jewelry Selection, the big disappointment was that it had nothing to do with Schooly D. Thing is, “Gucci Time” is far more interesting than a reference to Schooly D’s “Gucci Time,” it’s a flickering, A.D.D beat wrapped around an incessant sample of Justice’s “Phantom Pt. 2.” And now, there’s a Chris Robinson-directed video and it’s more than just a mixtape track, it’s the first single from The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted. That means this is the second time in less than a year that Swizz Beatz dipped into Justice’s for a rap beat (previously: Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” which sampled “D.A.N.C.E”). It’s also the third time Swizzy’s sampled something from a French house crew, having used parts of Daft Punk’s “Technologic” for Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It.”

As far as first singles go, “Gucci Time” is better than “Spotlight,” but it isn’t great either. Maybe this was some major label attempt to remake the skittering, brilliantly annoying “Lemonade”–a un-hedged Gucci song that also had pop appeal—but there’s not really anything for Gucci to lock-in on and really rap; it’s just annoying, there’s no brilliant part. Also, Swizz Beatz’s production here’s projecting a sense of menace that never been part of Gucci’s rap persona. That’s not to say Gucci isn’t threatening or doesn’t rap threatening things, but his worldview is one that’s full of laughing into the void sadness mixed with street-kid pragmatism, so even his violent lyrics just roll-out like inevitabilities. A simple loop, with no break or pause just doesn’t work for Gucci, he needs more to tiptoe his rhymes around. Notice how the first verse is classic Gucci because he’s just ignoring the sample and following the drums.

Really though, “Gucci Time” just pales in comparison to “On To The Next One.” Swizz Beatz’s take on “D.A.N.C.E” was brilliant: the kind of obsessive, sample-tweaking and slicing that results in a broken shards of a song bumping into one another and making some totally new. It was one of those samples that you may not even hear at first, and less because it’s a relatively “out there” sample source and more because Swizz did such a great job destroying it and rearranging all the pieces. For “Gucci Time,” Swizz is just flat-out looping a piece of a Justice song–a piece that’s already a looped sample (Goblin’s “Tenebre”).

Sonically, Goblin sit somewhere between the go-for-broke propulsive energy of Giorgio Moroder and the chintzy dread-filled atmosphere of John Carpenter, so their best work is bold and silly and strangely danceable and um, therefore tailor-made for dance music and hip-hop, right? But Justice pretty much slowed the original down and digital glitched it all out, and Swizzy unfortunately, continues in that safe direction. The only defense is that Swizz is about as creative with his Justice sample as Justice were with their Goblin sample, which is to say, not very and moving into into crappy DJ edit territory.

The only thing about this whole endeavor that matches Goblin’ skin-crawl, absurd level of awesome is the beginning of the “Gucci Time” video. This kinda makes sense as Goblin’s best work, like “Tenebre,” was made to accompany visuals. Above is a clip from Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982) which uses the song sampled by Justice, who were then sampled by Swizz Beatz. The clip’s all tension and then, reckless release, but there’s a lurching choreography between Argento’s roving camera and Goblin’s stunted, disco-opera score–and director Chris Robinson grabs onto just a tiny bit of that “Gucci Time.”

The beginning of the “Gucci Time” video shows Gucci casually walking down the street and stopping to check his watch while two 90s rap video gigantic explosions whirl around him. As the explosions begins to dissipate and the “Gucci Time” title appears, Goblin’s identifiable, skronky, vocoded demon moans kick-in and for a moment there, it’s got the same visual/sound interplay of an Argento flick. That same sense of the mundane (a random street corner) and the outrageous (a giant fucking explosion) meeting, anchored by the slinking, scary sounds of Goblin.

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 10th, 2010 at 8:24 am

How Big Is Your World? Mike-Mike – “Bmore Better Be Afraid”


Mike-Mike – “Bmore Better Be Afraid”

Word to Metal Lungies for linking the Z.O.M.E song from the other day. Here’s Mike-Mike of Z.O.M.E putting some new rhymes over top Eminem’s “Not Afraid” and making something far more inspiring and exciting than the original. Namely, Mike-Mike leaves Eminem’s signature self-loathing behind (dude doesn’t sound like anybody owes him anything) and maintains a level-head, even when he’s in battle mode: “He say, he’s the best/Well, I feel the same!” That’s a pretty unimpeachable response to “best rapper alive” boasts, you know? Every rapper thinks they’re the best, so let’s just keep it moving or prove that shit! That kind of propriety is also what allows Mike-Mike to really go after Baltimore’s rather calcified rap scene and come off more like a frustrated fan, than a guy just stirring up beef: “Majority of Bmore sounds like the south yo/And everyone down south know!/So quit it./We’re stealing the south’s flow/Even the niggas ain’t got money, rap about dough.” Rapping-wise, Mike-Mike’s attuned to every production trick and beat change-up in Boi1Da’s instrumental (hints of ), strolling along with those soap opera pianos at the beginning of verse three (“I have been chillin’ for a minute”) and taking advantage of those moments where he can toss out some confident chuckle or stretch his voice out and get weird with his raps.

Also–you missed the dude’s birthday:

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 7th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

“Monster” vs. “Runaway Love”


Whether it was putting Jay-Z and Talib Kweli on the same song (back when that was as weird as Raekwon and Justin Bieber), celebrating his contradictions (“first nigga with a Benz and a backpack”), calling out the president on live television, or idiotically racing up to the stage to explain why Beyonce’s better than Taylor Swift, Kanye West’s pop provocateur tendencies have always been as important as the music itself. He’s just become more of a dick about it.

Or rather, he was more of a dick about it. West’s recent works—as in really recent–have been music events first and pop cultural moments second, and that’s a good thing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t conceptual edges to what he’s doing, he just isn’t footnoting the shit out of it to make sure audiences know it’s a big, thumping statement. So, he drops the video for “Power,” an attempt at art with a capital “A” and one that wrestles with age-old themes of vulnerability and hubris, right after an episode of Jersey Shore but doesn’t harp on that part of it at all really.

And now, he constructs a funhouse mirror version of a DJ Khaled posse cut called “Monster” wherein every aspect of the song is funneled into making Nicki Minaj sound as exhilarating as possible. Then, a few days later, he pairs Raekwon with Justin Bieber on a remix of Bieber’s “Runaway Love.” Both songs are very good and full of musical and lyrical details to obsess over, but they also don’t topple over from the conceptual context West stuck on top them–and at this point in West’s career, that’s pretty novel.

“Monster” works, first and foremost, as a posse cut–at least as its understood in 2010—but one that slowly unravels itself until it exists strictly as a platform for the oft-debated (is she great or is she terrible?) Nicki Minaj to really rap her ass off. Kanye’s a genius at this juggling of disparate guests, and it isn’t just that he put Minaj next to Rick Ross and Jay-Z, but that Minaj gets the final third of the song to do her thing, so that she simply can’t be ignored or laughed off.

Then there’s this “Runaway Love” remix, which sounds like a joke song uploaded to the blogs on April Fool’s day (Justin Bieber – “Runaway Love Remix” featuring Kanye West and Raekwon) but is indeed, very, very real. Part of the joy of this song is indeed, that it exists, but that fun would wear off in only a few moments. Kanye’s brilliance here is that he made a song out of joke he made on Twitter, remixing Bieber’s “Runaway Love” the way a rap producer in the 90s would’ve remixed it–by turning it into a new song–and then finding some strange balance between a hard-edged hip-hop track and um, a hard-edged hip-hop track that has a good and proper place for Justin Bieber’s teenage yelp.

It helps that Bieber’s actually a talent. He’s got a really interesting, specific voice that genuinely sounds great, and it’s just fit for remixing (ask Baltimore’s ). On “Runaway Love” Kanye employs the kid’s plaintive chirp the way on one of those numerous classic house remixes: as a strangely isolated thing of perfection in an otherwise jagged soundscape. Also, by surrounding the shards of the original with edgy, straight-rapping, it feels like Biggie on the “Real Love” remix or something: a jarring, odd but effortless fusion of sounds that shouldn’t have much to do with one another but hey, kinda work!

The best thing about “Monster” and “Runaway Love Remix” though, has to do with the fact that neither of these songs have an intended audience. They’re both the “little bit of everything for everybody,” market-researched singles as of late, reduced to absurdity. Every element of “Monster” moves towards Minaj, which will excite a certain fanbase, but utterly baffle a far more significant group of listeners. And really, who is the Bieber remix “for”? Kanye and Raekwon share some fans sure, and West and Bieber wander around on the same increasingly desiccated pop landscape, but the song seems designed to confound listeners from both the Raekwon and Bieber camp and perhaps ideally, expose fans of one to the other, and move every listener out of their comfort zone.

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 6th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

How Big Is Your World? Z.O.M.E – “I’m Ready”


Z.O.M.E, “I’m Ready” (produced by Murder Mark)

“We got too much swag./That word is kinda overused so no–we can’t say that…” Some rather elegant, strangely elaborate, swag/not-swag rap from Baltimore club producer Murder Mark and his Z.O.M.E (Zoo On Mars Entertainment) crew, K.S, Mike-Mike, and Rell. Though Z.O.M.E’s music aims for the “Pretty Boy Swag”, hyper-minimalism taking over rap’s youth scene(s) right now, Murder Mark production here is pure headphone music. A wobbling synthesizer jumps into the mix for Mike-Mike’s hook and then slips away, replaced by those kinda classy keys once it’s time for rapping again. The space between the purposefully plodding beat gets filled with vaporous electronics and on the outro, Murder Mark even employs that underwater-sounding trick that sneaks into everything dance-ready from unimpeachable Detroit techno classics to the music video version of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Mike-Mike is the real highlight here though, as he’s both a spirited club vocalist and the most interesting rapper. Talking shit and halfway laughing through his verse and just generally bringing something unhinged to the song’s hook.

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 6th, 2010 at 4:13 am

Independent Weekly: “Valient Thorr’s hard rock cosmology comes down to earth”

one comment

A few things’ll be changing around here soon, all for the better (which means less lame links to freelance stuff and more actual content), but for right now, let me direct you to a couple of things. First, my brief teaser for Little Brother’s probably last show in their home state. For real–Phonte and Pooh should teach classes on breaking-up all classy-like and in a sense, giving their fans what their fans want, whether those fans even know it or not.

Also, did this piece on Chapel Hill, NC’s Valient Thorr, who are the kind of band it’s easy to dismiss or laugh-off but are in fact one of the weirdest, most determined, out-there, kinda metal groups around. Quick rant: As the interest in metal from supposedly hipper more “indie” type places grows, it’s avant-garde qualities are pretty much all that anybody talks about: How black metal is like noise. How doom is like drone. How hard rock is like punk. The result is a kind of washing away of all these super-influential, no bullshit bands that work or worked within a typical metal song construct (Fu Manchu, Sleep (other than Jerusalem), Electric Wizard, Masters of Reality, etc.) and indeed, are why bands can now so casually and easily send noise through their amps for hours on end and people stand and watch it. Look, it’s cool and all, but if one more hipster metal or “genuine” metalhead makes fun of post-rock or laptop shows and then tells me how awesome that Boris show was, I’ll cry. The point is, plenty of people see these bands or care about them, but they sorta fall off the edge of “indie” credibility and interest and they surely don’t give a fuck, but metal N00bs please know your history. Anyways, Valient Thorr are very much in this vein. They don’t need to add bagpipes or synthesizers or stretch their songs out to forty minutes to get the job done. They do weird, off-kilter stuff with simple garage rock effects and the urgency of lead singer Valient Himself sends it over the top and they wrap all their basic, heavy influences around a really vibrant, bizarro “We’re from space” concept that allows them to scream about politics and the state of the nation and not come off like dicks. Read my piece here:

In a jean vest with no shirt and bright red wrestling shoes, Valient Himself—the fearless, bearded and wild-eyed leader of Chapel Hill-via-Venus hard rock maniacs Valient Thorr—races to the supermarket on an emergency beer run. His main concern is the legion of parched, patient friends and fans (called “Thorriors”) who’ve come out to a Chapel Hill farmhouse on a Thursday afternoon. The band is making its video for “Double Crossed,” the first single from its fifth and latest album, Stranger.

“Double Crossed” is Valient Thorr—guitarists Eidan and Sadat Thorr, bassist Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees, drummer Lucian Thorr and, of course, Valient Himself—very much in their element. A punky but metal-proficient political manifesto chant-along, “Double Crossed” takes aim at the crooked money men and scheisty investors responsible for our economic ruins. The complaint, though, comes in fun, spy movie-treasonous terms.

The video is “a tribute to a lot of old music videos,” meaning the on-the-fly, goofball videos of MTV in its youthful, sincere days. On the way back to the shoot, cases of beer rattling in the backseat, Himself explains that the video is meant to invoke the silly anarchy of Twisted Sister and a rather obscure 1984 movie, The Wild Life. “It’s a fuckin’ terrible movie, but it’s got a really awesome scene where they break down a wall.” For this prattling, philosophizing frontman, the fuckin’ terrible part matters much more than the really awesome part…

Written by Brandon

September 2nd, 2010 at 5:13 pm