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Archive for May, 2011

Spin: “Rap, Rape, and R&B, The Battle of the Sexes.”


I’m sure quite a few of you are sick and tired of reading about this stuff, but I thought a good way to conclude a lot of the things I’ve been trying to parse out here is to partially hand it over to somebody else. So, here’s the first part of a two-part discussion/debate/argument between myself and Latoya Peterson of Racialicious.

To get a distinctly different take on all the talk in this space during the past few weeks about misogyny and sexual violence in rap and R&B, we’ve invited Latoya Peterson, owner and editor of the website Racialicious, “the intersection of race and pop culture,” to join the discussion. Latoya is, well, way better at navigating these issues than I am, and right at the beginning of our exchange, she pointed out two glaring errors on my part: First, when I referred to “R&B” in my previous writing, I actually meant male R&B, and when I discussed misogyny, I never directly addressed the very charged concept of masculinity, a crucial oversight.

Over the course of several days, the two of us e-mailed back and forth, examining my assertion that there’s been a notable shift in the treatment of male-female sexual relationships in the songs of rap (for the better) and R&B (for the worse). Latoya was doubtful, but we soldiered on, and the results of our conversation will appear here over two columns – Round One and Round Two. Unsurprisingly, Kanye West has something or other to do with all of it…

Written by Brandon

May 4th, 2011 at 3:45 am

Posted in Spin, Spin column

April Picks.

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  • Holy Ghost!, Self-Titled: Swaggers like The Warriors OST, bounces like a Larry Levan remix, emotes like a New Order album. This record is basically ten excellent 12-inches. Or try to imagine an LP of only stuff like “Perfect Kiss.” JAM FOR JERRY!
  • DJ Quik, Book Of David: Alternates between grown-up relationship rap, and grown-up vitriol lobbed at all the enemies that anybody who is interesting, serious, and on this planet for 40-plus years tends to pick up. Gorgeous, inspired beats.
  • Ponytail, Do Whatever You Want All The Time: Gives off the same feeling as some monolithic freak-prog classic of the past. Also new musical nooks and crannies: Siegel squawks existential questions. Seeno/Wong explore dub and komische. Their best yet.
  • J Rocc, Some Cold Rock Stuf: Turntablism’s officially dead. Not much beat-juggling or record-cutting cleverness here, just brilliant, woozy, sample-based compositions. And “Party,” a monstrous lost Armand Van Helden-like jam. Perfectly sequenced.
  • DJ Pierre, ThEEEE MiXtApEEEE: Baltimore club boundary-pusher (and M.I.A. and Nguzunguzu remixer) releases a mix his own productions, surrounding frenetic dance with Kraftwerk electronics, fractured pop, and quasi-Witchhouse? A possible game-changer.

Written by Brandon

May 3rd, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Posted in 2011

How Big Is Your World? Cam’ron & Vado – “American Greed”


So, I’m listening to this song. You know, the Cam’ron and Vado song called “American Greed” that has a hook that declares, “you get more dirty when your collar and shirt white” and invokes Bernie Madoff, Kirk Wright, and Lou Pearlman? Yeah that one. And I’m also reading about how a NATO airstrike killed one of Gadhafi’s sons tonight and mostly, it’s just like, that’s pretty “gangsta,” right? We take out this motherfucker’s family, just like we did with Sadaam’s kids. That’s some real enforcer type shit.

And of course, the wonky war parallels keep coming. Another effort that probably has some good intentions behind it (this time humanitarian, last time some loose idea of spreading democracy) but has a lot to do with “oil” too (though not exclusively, get smarter you cynics) and well, some half-insightful goon rap can really punch you in gut if you’re thinking hard enough. It helps that AraabMuzik’s beat is this completely evil, simmering Argento score type thing, that Vado has the singular ability to make his verses sound like hooks and his hooks like verses, and well, Cam’ron’s just being his decadent self, interested in oral sex punchlines and Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon references only.

Awhile back, Bun B started calling himself “Big Dick Cheney,” which yes, was a dick joke, but was also a way of calling our old vice president exactly what he was: a bad-ass criminal. For decades, rappers compared themselves to the real or fictional crooks they looked up to: Tony Montana, Richard Kuklinksi, John Gotti, etc. Those guys though, are all ultimately, pretty inconsequential. Dick Cheney man, now that’s a real villain. And Bernie Madoff too. There’s also that really great line in Jay Electronica’s “Bitches And Drugs” (“If rap was blacks in the sixties/I’m a white cop in riot gear ready to hose down”), which again, adds some real sociopolitical weight to a simple “I’m bad” boast. “American Greed” is the same type of goofy, tangentially political shit talk rap. Fuck “Maybach Music.” We need more Madoff Music.

*I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention something about Bin Laden’s death here, which happened less than a day after I posted this. All I’ll add is that this both undermines my hand-wringing above and kinda proves my point: There’s very real, not-so-pleasant actions and consequences behind all this stuff. Last night, Cam’ron and Vado reminded me of that fact. This evening it was our own president who invoked “the costs of war” in a speech that was like a lot of Obama’s speeches, conventional and rah-rah enough to satisfy people who want that kind of thing, but quietly turned and complex enough for anyone listening harder. It’s a dark, half-hopeful speech if you sit there and really listen. As it should be.

Written by Brandon

May 1st, 2011 at 5:33 am