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Archive for June, 2011

Fandor: “Top Ten Films About Filmmaking, From Altman to Vertov.”


Fandor is now streaming Jim McBride’s excellent David Holzmann’s Diary and so, they polled the site’s contributors and put up a list of the best movies about movies. I wrote the entry on Fassbinder’s Beware Of A Holy Whore. Also, click here and scroll down for my entire ballot.

Fassbinder’s tenth film (in two years!) meanders around a movie set, depicting the cast and crew’s worst impulses as they manipulate and seduce each other and never quite come together to engage in the communal act of creating great art. Inspired by the sexual tension-filled production of his previous film, a polymorphously perverse Sirk-like Spaghetti Western called Whity, Fassbinder used the movie-about-a-movie conceit to illustrate the inevitable failure of utopian ideals. That a masterpiece was made about how hard and horrible it is to make such a masterpiece is oddly appropriate…

Written by Brandon

June 18th, 2011 at 6:22 am

Posted in Fandor, movies

Spin: “Lil B: The Human Meme.”


My Lil B story that’s in the upcoming “Success Issue” of Spin is now online. Think of it as the third part in my “internet hype” trilogy I teased yesterday (read: pt. 1 and pt. 2). And yes, that Rutgers university bathroom stall with the Lil B and Rebecca Black graffiti is real.

“He can’t rap for shit,” scoffs a white girl seemingly dressed head to toe in Urban Outfitters, standing in front of Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts.

A performance inside by rapper Lil B is well underway, but outside there’s an active, opportunistic scene. Members of a local rap crew wander around with cameras, passing out T-shirts and CDs. Another Urban Outfitted girl dispenses flyers for an “after-party” down the block. A dreadlocked dude later informs the exiting masses that Lil B will attend the after-party. This turns out to be untrue.

Everybody here wants something from Lil B, now one of hip-hop’s best-known figures, thanks almost entirely to the Internet. I want an interview (via Twitter direct messages and phone calls, I’ve been promised one “after the show”). Others hope to generate content they can tag “Lil B” and increase their blogs’ page views. His fans expect autographs and face time. They will tweet during the concert in hopes that he’ll anoint them with a retweet…

Written by Brandon

June 15th, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Lil B, Spin

City Paper: “The Next, Next Big Thing.”

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Here’s a thing about moombahton, a dance genre’s that’s been building buzz over the past year or so. There’s now a Mad Decent compilation, Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moobahton that’s well worth your time and even, money. Nada does a really great job of sequencing the thing as if it were a mix, letting tracks bump into each other so the momentum’s never lost, but allowing each song to still stand alone. You can pretty much just put it on and bliss out to the slow-fast grooves. Munchi’s “Hope,” is song-of-the-year maybe. If only it weren’t originally released last year.

The piece however, is also the second part in a kind of unofficial “trilogy” of pieces I’ve been working out that are about Internet hype. This was part 1, here is part 1.5, and next month’s Spin, out really soon, will have a nice long piece on the topic. Hype is something that needs to be addressed and worked through, I think, especially in the current climate. In this moombahton piece, I wanted to make a really good case for Nada’s creation, while also suggesting that there’s some questionable aspects to its dissemination.

Moombahton immediately leached out to blogs closely connected to Nada. Within days of the EP’s release, DJ Ayres—whose label, T&A, put out the EP—interviewed Nada for The Fader’s blog, repeating the skipping story and instigating buzz. Brooklyn label Fool’s Gold called moombahton “the latest obsession of [their] pal Dave Nada” and put up a mix. “The internet was crucial for its growth and it still is,” Nada says. “‘Born in D.C., bred worldwide’ is the tagline.”

That Nada’s creation even has a tagline is, in part, why it took off. Moombahton arrived fully-formed, the product of a talented, savvy, well-connected DJ. The domino effect of blog coverage immediately took hold of the genre, and once one site declared it important, all the others followed—if they didn’t, they risked appearing out of touch. It helped too that D.C. had a new thing to call its own. Less than a year after the Moombahton EP, the cover of Washington City Paper announced “Our Year in Moombahton.” A bunch of people told a bunch of other people that a new, regional subgenre with a fun origin story and a cool global sound was, like, the thing…

Written by Brandon

June 15th, 2011 at 3:09 am

Posted in City Paper

So Wat Cha Sayin: The Hopscotch Compilation

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So Wat Cha Sayin is a hip-hop compilation connected to Hopscotch, the fall music festival in Raleigh. The website for the compilation went live today. I’m involved as a judge along with my dude Eric Tullis, and big guns like Grayson Currin, Mark Anthony Neal, and others. Spread it around and if you know of any NC emcees tell them about it, and if you are an NC emcee, well submit something!

Written by Brandon

June 14th, 2011 at 9:23 pm

MIX: Hold Tight.

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Hold Tight Mix

Earlier today, someone asked me on Tumblr, “do you think yo can find a better song than this?” and then linked to Change’s “Hold Tight.” I wasn’t sure if I could, but I thought that the least I could do was provide a list of similarly awesome songs. And then, tonight I put together a mix of those songs and I added a few others to stretch it out to a nice hour or so. Enjoy!

  • Change, “Hold Tight”
  • Slave, “Dreamin”
  • Shalamar, “I Can Make You Feel Good”
  • George Duke, “Straight From The Heart”
  • Loose Ends, “Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating)”
  • Kashif, “Stone Love”
  • Michael Wycoff, “Looking Up To You”
  • Cameo, “Sparkle”
  • The Gap Band, “I Can’t Get Over You”
  • Maze, “Joy And Pain”
  • Junior, “Mama Used To Say (Extended Version)”
  • One Way, “Dynomite”

Written by Brandon

June 12th, 2011 at 2:01 am

Posted in mix CD

Something About Kreayshawn.


Kreayshawn, V-Nasty, and company are mostly supported by people who, unlike Willy Staley here, aren’t willing to roll around in the mud with White Girl Mob’s inextricable racial and cultural problems. And that’s because rap’s completely mainstream and even Internet scenes break through to a significant audience, and so, white rap fans who’d rather not wrestle with outsider status get something out of all this authenticity stuff being ripped apart for good.

Context’s being ignored and context always matters. That means Kreayshawn goes from mildly entertaining and interesting when she’s this weirdo on the Internet chopping-and-screwing Spice Girls songs and releasing goofy rap, to problematic when she’s being pimped as Ke$ha with street cred by a record label. As it should be. The same way that say, a white girl like V-Nasty can maybe say “nigga” in front of the people she hangs out with, but wouldn’t and shouldn’t be able to when that girl is put into a larger spotlight. Even World Star Hip-Hop. Her context changes. The–in her eyes at least–innocuous use of “nigga” carries more weight now.

This is the gangsta rap debate of the early 90s, the Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson argument of the mid-90s, and the crack rap conundrum of the mid-2000s all over again: What do we do with arguably loathsome popular music? There is one huge difference though. There’s no end to Kreayshawn and her White Girl Mob’s means. There’s no reason, other than turning it into profit, for a large chunk of society to accept or like, even have to deal with this stuff. And if it’s worthy because it’s you know fun, well it’s fun at the expensive of other people.

Notice how even your average street rapper provides some context for their persona (see: hip-hop trope, “I’m from a place where…”). It seems as though the same’s not demanded of artists outside of rap’s expected racial and cultural circles. The best “outsider” (mind the quotes) rappers of course, do this well because they want to, not because it was demanded of them. Das Racist strike a balance between pondering racial concerns and just saying “fuck it,” and rapping. Yelawolf’s genius is that he’s from a place with some level of “street cred,” but he doesn’t use that as an excuse, and instead he investigates his milieu in a sensitive, serious, fun way. Hell, I think even Uffie made it abundantly clear of her privilege and commented upon it.

What’s happening is this kind of nutty inside-out approach to authenticity, wherein, White Girl Mob because they’re from Oakland, are assumed to be hood and therefore, more worthy of saying “nigga” than white girls from let’s just say, Beverly Hills. As a construct, that doesn’t work because we accept that all black people can say “nigga” without informing you of where they’re from beforehand. To repeat something I said about witch-house group Salem (who practice their own kind of lower middle class black appropriation): It’s never been about authenticity.

V-Nasty is only slightly more problematic than say, Tyler, the Creator because well, he’s just another fairly well-off kid (he grew up in “black Beverly Hills”) manipulating lunkheaded racial assumptions and subtly invoking authenticity to say some really loathsome things. The worst aspect of Tyler is his referencing of “white America” which, in the rhetorical sense that he intends, would most certainly include Tyler himself, a skateboarding, child of a single mother, who grew up in a pretty nice area and had friends whose parents let them record in the backyard, who was attending community college and had the luxury to drop out and fart around at grandma’s without finding a job or anything.

The use and abuse of privilege is the actual problem here. And that is also why for me, the most loathsome rap lyric of last year was Drake, a black, Jewish child star from Toronto telling listeners, “niggas with no money act like money isn’t everything.” Just because gauging authenticity is always a dicey proposition, that doesn’t justify Kreayshawn’s hipster opportunism, V-Nasty’s “nigga” raps, or really, anybody doing and saying whatever they hell they want.

Written by Brandon

June 11th, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Posted in white rapper show

Spin: “The Death and Resurrection of Conscious Rap, Pt. 3.”

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Part three is up (here’s pt. 1 and pt. 2) and it doesn’t give you another history lesson or anything, it just focuses on the two guys worthy of the title “conscious rapper,” while updating and complicating the term in really interesting ways.

Two rappers who I think represent the vanguard of conscious hip-hop are Big K.R.I.T., a painfully sincere MC/producer, and Kristmas, an earthy lyricist and cell-phone salesman (and friend to buzzing Alabama rappers G-Side). Both are products of the Internet, but not the obnoxious, of-the-moment, blog sector; they exist in a world where it’s simply possible to build a name and fanbase without the luxury of conventional promotion…

Written by Brandon

June 10th, 2011 at 5:10 am

Posted in Spin, Spin column

How Big Is Your World? Trina – “Long Heels, Red Bottoms”

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This is a song about Louboutins that mentions them only once by name and so, you gotta at least kinda know something to realize Trina’s referencing a specific type of heel here. And that’s a welcome change from all those superficially hip-to-fashion raps lately. See: Jim Jones on “Believe In Magic” calling them “Lou Boutons” (pronounced like it’s the name of a third baseman from the 1970s or something). “Long Heels, Red Bottoms” is also as an antidote to Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci,” in that it’s like a populist feminist “fuck you” to that million dollar idiot’s privileged (oh but she grew up in Oakland!) hipster screed against rocking nice things. And the beat from Mr. Collipark (also known as bass legend DJ Smurf) is just awesomely throwback, skittering and shuffling along with a big dumb catchy hook that reminds this Baltimorean of “What Chew Know About Down The Hill.” Trina and Collipark could’ve easily made a shiny, product-referencing attempt at a viral hit but instead, there’s well, this, which is so raw and simple that it makes “Pull Over” sound decadent.

Written by Brandon

June 6th, 2011 at 2:40 am

Spin: “The Death and Resurrection Of Conscious Rap, Pt. 2.”

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The second part (here’s part one) focuses on conscious rap going kinda corporate, Lauryn Hill and to a lesser extent Dave Chappelle’s “failures,” Outkast and the Southern rap explosion, why Little Brother are slept-on anti-industry innovators, and why everything interesting in rap right now is because of Kanye West.

Lauryn Hill’s superstar rise certainly made all the hip-hop doomsday predictions look pretty silly, but her fame was also a reminder that conscious rap hitting the charts was problematic. Even before The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill arrived, the industry was pulling Hill in many directions. “To Zion,” a celebration of her first son, chronicles the industry types and friends who advised her to abort her child for the sake of her career. With the album’s release and the success of “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill was expected to generate lots of money and become some sort of voice of the people — and that’s pretty horrifying…

Written by Brandon

June 3rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Spin, Spin column

May Picks.

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  • Cities Aviv, Digital Lows: Memphis weirdo who makes jokes about white girls who like Mr. Bungle could lean heavily on one of the many sounds he merges here (hypnagogic Flylo weirdness, blog rap from like 2008, post-OF devil rap, broken 90s hip-hop) and get accolades but well, that’s not how you make a great rap album, now is it?
  • Dope Body, Nupping: If that new Battles record is a big giant boner kill for you (and it most certainly is, just admit it) try out these angry, noisy, arty, precise Baltimore punks. Tempted to even type the phrase “rip hard” when describing this and you know what man? Fuck it. These guys rip hard. What else out right now sounds like this?
  • Spaceghostpurrp, Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 (1991): “Three 6 Mafia-chanting, woozy Wu-Tang loops, DJ Screw wheeze, and Mortal Kombat and Godzilla sound effects, all paired with an off-the-dome rapping style that’s equal parts Lil Wayne and Lil B. It’s as if James Ferraro Lawnmower Man-ed his way into a rap rarity message board.”
  • The Sea And Cake, The Moonlight Butterfly: Chicago nerds do this content, melancholy jangle thing really well, and it never ever gets old. Here, they shift that perfect formula enough (the title track is some Raymond Scott-meets-Moroder ish, “Inn Keeping” is a 10 minute epic) to make this EP’s brevity at least well, acceptable.
  • Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2: Most Beastie albums are spotty, making this squonking funk freak-out their third best, after Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. And it’s fun! Remember fun? Yeah, I don’t either but when I listen to this I pretend I do. And then you realize they made something this fun while Yauch had cancer. Damn.
  • ***BONUS REISSUE PICK*** Orange Goblin, 5 CD Box Set: Mid-90s UK stoner metal legends that get left out of the grimy sludgy doomy history books because most dolts prefer stuff that works too hard to be genuinely heavy. The Big Black is perfect. The rest of them ain’t too shabby either. Awesomely unnecessary. Thank you Metal Blade.

Written by Brandon

June 3rd, 2011 at 2:06 am

Posted in 2011