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Archive for the ‘Bun B’ Category

The House Next Door: "Music Video Round-Up" Young Jeezy’s "My President" & Relics of Cynicism

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I talk about the Young Jeezy videos “My President” and “Crazy World”, as well as Killer Mike’s “Pressure” video. I’d also like to note that very quietly–a surprise in the hype-everything world of rap–that “My President” director Gabriel Hart has tacked-on a terrible, terrible intro to the video. He’s also re-edited it, and so we get less Bun B about to cry with excitement and just a general fucking-with the rhythm. I wrote my review when the original only existed and rather than re-write or qualify it, I tossed-in a few lines about the re-edit and kept my initial reading:

“In light of Obama’s election and it’s positive implications for our country (made more than ideal by big moments like the impending closure of Guantanamo Bay and minor ones like not totally clowning McDonald’s worker “Julio”), politically-engaged protest art has the odd effect of feeling passe and cynical. Fully aware dissent don’t end when something good happens, the premiere of Young Jeezy’s “Crazy World” video a week or so after Obama won the presidency, felt decadent and irrelevant, a relic of knowing cynicism that we could now look beyond, right? Right? RIGHT?”

Written by Brandon

February 18th, 2009 at 8:30 am

On Bun B in the "My President" Video…

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More than a multi-racial sea of exuberant Obama supporters standing proud (or just as appropriately wilding out), more than John Lewis’ pensive cameo, more than just the existence of this epic victory lap rap from Young Jeezy, it’s the about-to-cry sincerity of Bun B’s face that makes the “My President” video.

Everybody but Bun’s acceptably sincere: Look pensive, nod your heard, jump up and down, cheer. Bun’s response is the one you’ll get a few moments later, the one that’s not cool, after the adrenaline stops, when the history-making, genuinely hopeful feeling for the first time in awhile sense of joy hits you and you tear up because it seems like maybe just maybe something really great’s really gonna happen.

He’s like, on the verge of tears, biting his lip a little, maintaining his cool, not on some “no homo” shit, but just because. That mix of keeping your cool and being totally okay with being a little bleary-eyed in a rap video’s basically what Bun’s been doing his whole career. It’s what he does when he raps on some much dopier Southern rapper’s “remix” and flips the song into some kinda complex political shit, or just plain raps harder, faster, whatever-er than the rest of the dudes. Whatever the rest of the group’s doing, Bun’s going to do that and then some and inject even more reality and honesty into the whole thing.

Neither a wizened “about damn time” stoic (although he’s probably in part, thinking that) or a treating it like a Super Bowl victory ball of enthusiasm, Bun’s modest and private, shooting the camera a few pensive glances with eyes that say more than Jeezy’s raps and simply raising his chain to Pimp C. It’s an insular kind of joy- the kind of joy you feel in those really glorious moments, where you step off to the side, away from everybody because somehow it’s all come together and you need to be alone. I think that’s what Bun B’s going through–or performing effectively enough–in this video: Tears of joy.

Written by Brandon

January 20th, 2009 at 6:44 am

Aural Convergence: Vincent Gallo’s ‘So Sad’ & Hi-Tek’s ‘So Tired’

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-Click here to download ‘So Sad’ by Vincent Gallo off ‘So Sad’ Single
-Click here to download ‘So Tired’ by Hi-Tek featuring Bun B, Devin the Dude, & Pretty Ugly off ‘Hi-Teknology 2′

If you’ve ever made a trip over to the McSweeney’s website or browsed the many books they’ve published over the years, you’ve probably stumbled upon Lawrence Wenschler’s ‘Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences’. A “convergence” is basically, a visual rhyme or connection between two or more images. Wenschler also provides an essay that unpacks the convergence (this one from a reader, not Wenschler, is my personal favorite). The point and to some extent, the liberation of these convergences is that they are supposed to be created or “spotted” by the viewer and are projected onto the images (an intentional visual reference or rhyme is quite different).

Like a lot of stuff on McSweeney’s, “convergence” is better in theory than execution. It’s quickly devolved into a lot of people being very clever but saying very little about their convergences, but the idea is still interesting. Yesterday, while listening to ‘So Sad’ by Vincent Gallo, I stumbled upon a kind of musical- or aural as opposed to visual- convergence. I should add, that in addition to Wenschler’s book bouncing through my head, Joseph’s post B.O.B. Dylan influenced my “spotting” of the convergence between Vincent Gallo’s ‘So Sad’ and Hi-Tek’s ‘So Tired’.

The brief Gallo song sort of stumbles along, with clunky percussion and strummed guitar, as Gallo bemoans his ability to make everything “so sad”. He’s got this humble, almost-embarrassing croon and the lyrics are so upfront and beyond any sense of lyricism that it feels like a little bit of a joke (Gallo’s personality and the cover for the single seen above don’t help the questionable sincerity either). In the last twenty seconds of the 2 minute and 16 second song, ‘So Sad’ sounds like it’s going to pick up with a warm solo to punctuate the verse-chorus-verse structure but the solo doesn’t act as a bridge or a conventional culmination of the song, it too ends up puttering along, never really going anywhere, and then just ending. For whatever reason, I immediately connected the song, a song I’ve heard maybe a hundred times, with a detail from another song I’ve heard a great deal, ‘So Tired’ by Hi-Tek.

‘So Tired’ ends with nearly a minute of near-blues guitar noodling atop Hi-Tek’s rather clunky drums and that solo too, just sort of punctuates the feelings of the song, it doesn’t send it somewhere else, and while Gallo’s solo basically farts out and stops, Hi-Tek fades-out his solo, so it never really comes to an end. When the songs are put next to one another, they have a great deal in common much more obvious than a purposefully depressive guitar solo (those clunky drums, each have the emphatic “So” in their title, similar content), but this convergence for me, was all about the guitar.

What is interesting is how both songs use the guitar “solo” as a musical convention- to sort of solidify or add to the overall feeling of the song- but avoid the transcendence usually associated with solo-ing. Even a solo in a depressed rock or blues song usually kinda busts-out and tries to move above (or dive totally into) the sadness by wailing (think George Clinton to Eddie Hazel on ‘Maggot Brain’: “Play like your mother just died”), but these ‘So’-song solos just kind of wrap-up the shitty resignation that the rest of the song is already talking about.

Gallo’s solo lacks the structure that a good, affecting solo usually has and it just ends, like Gallo got bored with it. There’s something kind of brilliant about it. The solo matches what the song’s already been saying, but it also makes it physical or at least, a little more visceral. The solo comes, sort of builds, and then just stops, the final chords echoing out and the song ends. You don’t leave “wanting more” or anything, you just sort of leave the song confused and unsure of why it ended there. There’s also the sense of it being such an intimate and even embarrassing song and if- at least for the moment- you take ‘So Sad’ as sincere, then it’s almost as if Gallo just gives up, too depressed to properly finish his song. At the same time, there’s this sense of insincerity to the song that I suggested earlier. I own ‘So Sad’ as a record and I think I dropped like $8.99 on it whenever it came out and the only song on the single being really short and kind of anti-climactic could feel like a bit of a “fuck you” but if it’s a fuck you, well then, it’s the song itself exemplifying what Gallo so sadly and honestly sings about: His ability to make everything “so sad”. It’s easy to leave the song ‘So Sad’ being sort of annoyed.

The most apparent contrast between ‘So Sad’ and ‘So Tired’ is how although both are expressing a similar feeling of “I know what’s wrong with me but I’m too fucked to do anything about it”, Gallo still subscribes to conventional rock and folk intimacy signifiers, while ‘So Tired’, even at its most lethargic, still kinda bangs. That it is mixed so loud, exemplifies the confidence that rap music always employs even when delving deep into emotions. Hi-Tek’s decision to fade-out the guitar however, brings it back down a few notches and has it slowly falling away rather than abruptly cutting-off like Gallo’s solo. If this loudly-mixed solo, however pensive it feels, just suddenly stopped, it wouldn’t sound right. Hi-Tek and the rappers are sort of expressing their concern of deterioration and so, the guitar kind of deteriorates through the fade-out.

Fading-out a guitar solo has always seemed like a bullshit move in my opinion. Go listen to Neil Young’s ‘Cortez the Killer’, one of the best and wanky-in-a-good-way solos I know of and then think about how awful it is that it fucking fades-out. Maybe it was to fit it on the side of the LP or whatever, but it’s awful because it feels cheaply anti-climactic and even lazy. The fade-out on ‘So Tired’ isn’t a cop-out, it’s the only place for the song to go. The same could be said of Gallo’s anti-solo on ‘So Sad’. All that would happen after that solo is for it to go on a little longer, and then another chorus and two more verses and then it would end. There would be a confidence to the song’s structure that would make it one more sad-bastard song and not this weirdly, conceptual lament.

Written by Brandon

April 24th, 2008 at 7:02 pm