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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

Metal Lungies: Pimp C Beat Drop

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Props to Metal Lungies for getting Bun involved. He gives really thorough answers with a lot of back story and additional information. My beat choices were “Trill Ass Nigga” (Southern Way version, “Feel Like I’m The One Who’s Doin’ Dope’”, “Havin’ Thangs”, the “Outro” from Ridin’ Dirty, and “Underground Kingz”:

” One of the craziest and most disturbing pieces of music ever? Maybe. Kanye West teamed up with the fruit that produced Fiona Apple to make some “crack music”; Pimp C did it without a shit-ton of strings and indicating musical histrionics. It’s just squashed drums, screwed vocals, a synth-line that resonates for miles behind the song’s melody, and a whole lot of open space.”

-Noz has an excellent tribute along with 90 minutes of obscure Pimp C productions. Noz has also been twittering Pimp C words of wisdom all day.

-Here’s my obituary from last year. I remember writing it in about twenty minutes right before I went off to work. It was when I worked nights–8pm-5am–and I made everyone listen to Ridin’ Dirty and wanted to tell every customer how Pimp C was dead.

-Christopher’s entry for the Biographical Dictionary of Rap was written before Pimp died (maybe it needs an update?) but’s still an affecting portrait.

Written by Brandon

December 5th, 2008 at 1:56 am

Posted in Metal Lungies, Pimp C, RIP

Top 10 Non-Album Tracks Pt. 2

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‘Stress’ by Justice off : I love Justice the way I love my Nike Vintage Runners as like an example of hipster douchebag effrontery so extreme it becomes great again. And like those vintage runners,’†’ is great enough that its context or fans or what it may or may not represent just stop mattering. Justice are the great part of the French, the side that realized that Jerry Lewis is really fucking funny and that Poe can’t really write well but his stuff is really interesting and smart in its own way…more Derrida than Foucault, more Barthes than Baudelaire…you know??!!

‘D.A.N.C.E’ is a fun track but like a lot of singles from kinda out-there albums, it’s sort of an anomaly on the record…’Waters of Nazareth’ is a more telling single but was previously released as a stand-alone single, so I’m going with ‘Stress’ which comes before ‘Waters’ and is the point where ‘†’ gets really crazy again. The dentist-drill breakdown, the stiff poor man’s ‘Thriller’ drums, the way the trick of letting the beat like really fucking drop is used a couple of times in the song and is still exhilarating, and this randomly placed shard of static noise throughout, it sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a Romero Mall Zombie dance party or a bunch of Jersey dudes pumping their fists and pouring water on one another in some kinda gross club or my dumb-ass driving to work.

‘Top Drop Dyne Remix’ by UGK off Underground Kingz: This is the version of ‘Top Drop Dyne’ that follows-up disc 1’s closer ‘Trill Niggaz Never Die’, I just put it through Cool Edit and turned it into its own track. It’s representative of how dense and overwhelming ‘Underground Kingz’ can be: When a track like this is relegated to a hidden track at the end of the first disc, you made a fucking solid album. The number of Southern rap tracks that use clean-ish like near-hair metal guitars must be entering triple digits, but it doesn’t really get old and its one of the more non-soul samples that generally succeeds.

I was sort of in denial of it when this album came out, but yeah, overall, Bun B is a little disappointing on ‘Underground Kingz’, especially- unfair as this might be- when you compare it to anything he drops on ‘Ridin’ Dirty’. Maybe it’s my fanboy justification here, but it seems like Bun’s underwhelmingness(?) was on-purpose. With Pimp C getting out of jail and this being the first genuine UGK release in awhile, it was Pimp’s turn to shine. This, of course takes on even greater meaning because of Pimp’s death (it’s still crazy to type that out, that Pimp C is dead). On this track in particular, Pimp’s Southern whine sounds even more extreme and confident and it’s great that he not only addresses his annoyance with East-Coast elitism, but takes time to address the fact that he gets shit for addressing East-Coast elitism. Ending his verse with “get your fingers out your ass, bitch!” is about as unapologetic as you can get.

‘Can’t Say No (featuring Trick Daddy’ by Kanye West (unreleased): The best Kanye West song since the shit from ‘College Dropout’? This song should be the blueprint for how Kanye could continue to do different stuff with his beats but not be out-there in this predictably “out-there” way. The beat mixes chipmunk soul with some total retro dance-party bump that people like M.I.A or A-Trak and stuff are into. But over it, instead of funny rap sloganeering, Kanye gives a totally sincere verse that apes the content of ‘Spaceship’. What exactly is this song? If Trick Daddy’s verse didn’t mention ringtones and gas prices, I’d swear it’s from like 2003 and on one of those pre-’Dropout’ mixtapes.

Similar to the opening track on ‘Graduation’, Kanye’s sloppy rapping and embrace of his normal speaking voice, gives one a feeling of like, slowly moving into something shitty or at least, not so fun. When he says “Wake up, new day, same shit” his voice feels like he really is waking up to deal with some bullshit. The stuff about not only wanting to quit but come back and “go postal” and the whole idea of “tak[ing] shit too far” nods toward the very real frustration turned self-destruction you feel working some annoying job. Cynics can say Kanye’s day isn’t like that anymore and maybe never really was, but his ability to articulate those feelings in a way that is ultimately, inspiring, matters more than whenever was the last time he worked at the GAP or something; he clearly remembers those feelings well.

Written by Brandon

December 28th, 2007 at 12:09 am

Favorite Album Tracks Pt. I & The Changing Nature of the Single

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So, this year, my sorta kinda notable presence on the internet and my few reviews for the Baltimore City Paper got me involved in contributing to some notable Top 10 lists, (Links will be up when they are published). Like everyone, I totally get-off on list-making and it’s really cool to be asked to contribute, especially when one sees your vote have something of an impact. On the City Paper’s list, my putting ‘Underground Kingz’ at #1 certainly aided its appearance on the Top 10 and I could also smugly sit around all cool-like because of just how many of my albums didn’t make it.

The weirder lists were ones for Idolator and Pazz & Jop which asked for a Top 10 Singles List. It was hard to remember singles and exactly when they came out and in the past, people just listed good songs from that given year, so it was a little confusing and overwhelming and I’m pissed that I forgot about Baby Boy Da Prince’s ‘The Way We Live and a little upset I didn’t even consider Thicke’s ‘Lost Without U’ but just pouring over the list as I did, was good because it got me thinking about what is and isn’t a single in this weird internet age that is both amazingly democratic and hermetically-sealed.

Obviously, anything with a music video or on the radio is a single. But then, what about Satellite Radio, which I listen to more than regular ol’ radio these days? Was ‘Circles’ by Crime Mob a single? I was on the satellite rap stations this summer and it got a video like two months ago, but I don’t think it got any play on FM rap stations. Did it become a single because internet nerds were ranting about its greatness? I know we internet types like to imagine our impact on everything is greater than it is, but there’s something to it in certain cases. When a tastemaker like Noz posts something about the greatness of ‘I’m a J’ – and that song truly is great- does that in effect, become a single? When a song is posted on Nahright or XXL’s Bangers section, do those become singles? It becomes weirder because although those are internet websites/blogs, they are both closely tied to the industry and in that way, function like the radio dropping a new single. Can you consider ‘Glitter’ and ‘Just Us’ by Cam’ron singles? Those songs felt like it to me and I heard them a lot more than legit singles. Baltimore literally has no conventional “hits” stations and my SIRIUS radio continually bounces between Howard Stern and SHADE45, so the only time I ever heard Britney Spears’ single was when I actively sought it out. ‘Gimme More’s really good too, in case you’re wondering. The beat is awesome and kinda gross and dirty and uncomfortable, just like Britney Spears!

So yeah…what’s a single these days? My rule, outside of the conventional understanding of the single was anything that was used to promote an album…which made stuff like ‘Just Us’ by Cam’ron count. Plus that song’s too good not to appear on any list of songs or singles or iTunes downloads or whatever the fuck. I avoided a lot of 2007 wrap-up due to working way more than I usually do, and also because others do it better than me and my list would be more of the same shit. So, here’s a list of my favorite non-single tracks- “honorary singles”- or, songs that got as much play on my computer, iPOD, etc. as proper singles…‘Weightless & Horizontal’ by Jesu off Conqueror: The first track on this album, also called ‘Conqueror’- feels like it would be the single, if albums like this had singles, so it’s an easy choice and instead, I went with this track, ‘Weightless and Horizontal’. This track’s the centerpiece of the album, the perfect mix of near-heaviness, My Bloody Valentine-ish glory, and whiny vocals that totally work. ‘Weightless and Horizontal’ is also the point where ‘Conqueror’ moves into being the oppressive, cut-your-wrists-blow-your-head-off sound it seems like Broadrick intended. Before this point, the album is good and moody but it reminds me of like the over-emotional-ness related to like driving to party held by some chick you want to bang or something, not the “wrist-slashing experience” type of emotions it hopes to invoke.

I like the way-too-honest and sorta bad lyrics here because well, they are really sincere and I’m into that sort of thing. Especially good the way they lyrics bounce between total nihilism (“I’m way past trying”) and over-emotive blame and frustration: “You’re always leaving.” Mix truly emo shit like that with bad-ass riffs and a great quiet-loud dynamic and you got one of the best songs of the year.

‘Go To War (featuring Lil’ Scrappy and Pimp C)’ by Crime Mob off Hated On Mostly: ‘Hated On Mostly’ might be the best album title of the year and for straight-up party fight rap, this album wins hands-down. I figured it would keep me sated until the new Three-Six album, but with that perpetually delayed- ‘Da Last 2 Walk’ is now scheduled for fucking March- ‘Hated On Mostly’ maintains its relevance. ‘Circles’ is the “single” to vote for while ‘Rock Yo Hips’ was good, it’s by far the most digestable track- otherwise, ‘Hated On Mostly’ is a pretty sick album.

Production-wise, it’s all in-debt to Crunk and proto-Crunk and all, but it sounds individual enough to still stand-out. The beats are often rooted in really weird, atonal sounds that sound like they were loaded into a drum machine or sampler and then pounded-on for four minutes. There’s some poor man’s Lil Jon “Yeah!” keyboard sounds but there’s also this theremin-ish whir and some supertight, like totally electronic near-Kraftwerkian metallic pulses and bleeps. The severely underrated Crime Mob girls actually sort of suck on this, sounding out-of-breath and bleating out their verses, but dearly departed Pimp C owns the track; “Fuck how you feel” was my mantra for 2007.‘My Rain’ by Boris with Michio Kurihara off Rainbow: So, you guys know that Boris aren’t that good, right? Their first three albums are pretty great, but they’ve slowly done the same thing many of my favorite rappers have done in terms of pandering to their indie-rock cool guy audience. Their more conventional heavy-rock albums are pretty silly but kewl kids like em…I grabbed ‘Rainbow’ up because it was a collaboration with the dude from Ghost (yes, Boris featuring Patrick Swayze) and it’s pretty good. Still, derivative but it does it for me every once in awhile. The best tracks are the blissed-out, on-painkillers near-jams because they don’t have much of a precedent while say, opener ‘Rafflesia’ sounds like Candlemass and just makes me want to go get my copy of ‘Epicus Doomus Metallicus’ and beat-up Boris and especially their fans who would make fun of me for liking Candlemass.

This is the American version of ‘Rainbow’ and replaces the ending stoned-out track ‘…And I Want’ with ‘No Sleep ‘Till I Become Hollow’ which totally changes the albums’ feeling; oh well, there’s still ‘My Rain’ which is my favorite Boris track in years. I like that it sounds like ‘Stay’ by Lisa Loeb or something (that’s a good thing) and it’s just perfectly fragile, not twee or cute, just sad and resigned.

I’ll finish this up over the next few days. I’ll end with ‘Bet On It’ from ‘High School the Musical 2′ because this song is great; better than any of those Justin Timberlake songs the kids are talking about so damned much:

Written by Brandon

December 26th, 2007 at 6:22 am

Posted in Boris, Crime Mob, Jesu, Lists, Pimp C

Pimp C (1973-2007)

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“One day you’re here, and the next day you’re gone…”; 2007 is fucked the fuck up. On the personal tip, the year started with the suicide of a best friend and the year sorta kinda ending on the death of Pimp C is uh, a little devastating. I woke up about an hour ago to see a few e-mails from friends (and some readers!) about Pimp’s death and then saw it plastered all over the rap-focused feeds on my iGoogle page. I mention this because this info-age way of learning of the news- not even from a television- did nothing to lessen the weird feelings and shock that fucking Pimp C from UGK is dead.

I recall in high school when Dee Dee Ramone died and how it was when MTV sorta showed videos so they interrupted with ‘MTV News’ to tell their listeners and that death too, really got to me. Never was this super-Ramones fan (the group’s way better in theory), but Dee Dee seemed so great and his crapped-out bridge on ‘53rd & 3rd’ (“then I took out my razor blade…”) and him playing in the shower in that one scene in ‘Rock N’ Roll High School’ both came to mind upon hearing of his death and now, it’s the same with Pimp C, only as an artist, he means a lot more to me…That first verse on the first song of the first disc of ‘Underground Kingz’ with Pimp C coming in, his Southern accent upped to cartoonish extremes: “I got candy in my cup/Candy on my car…”, and it’s him wearing a Nirvana shirt in the ‘Use Me Up’ video, when his voice lowers and he says “I really miss Robert Davis” on ‘Chrome Plated Woman’, and just about everything he does on ‘Ridin’ Dirty’, and his voice wheezing out “Fuck how ya’ feel” on a number of recent songs and it’s him on that UGK Bonus DVD speaking with absolute conviction as if he’s making sure he’s using the right words to make his real-life, lesson-learned points with this hard, prison stare but Pimp himself is only focused on the future because, for all Pimp’s disses and beefs, it was all reactionary, standing up for what he saw necessary; one gets the impression he would’ve rather not had to tell everyone to “quit hatin’ on the South” and done his thing, and given everybody a hug or a pat on the back.

“Real” has totally devolved into another hip-hop cliche but it really does describe Pimp C, and not because he went to jail or gets high a lot, or beats-up his girlfriend or whatever, it’s because he really didn’t give much of a shit what people thought of him; he was sincere. Sincere when he subtly bemoaned the loss of DJ Screw or when he told whole regions to take their fingers out of their bootyhole and even if you’re the type who thought he could have conveyed his message in better ways…dude was pretty much right about everything- and when he rapped, the stuff was tied-up with everything else he was observing so his verses, half-rapped, half-yelled, not always totally rhyming, could bounce from pissed-off observations to emotionally honest stuff and back again. And those beats, don’t forget those beats…instrument-based country rap tunes, palpably funk and soul-based that really were the basis for UGK’s near-two decade significance. We’ll soon see shirts with “R.I.P Pimp C” and they’ll replace those “Free Pimp C” shirts and in-song shout-outs. R.I.P Pimp C.

And, whether or not it turns out Pimp’s death is drug-related, seriously, be careful with that purple stuff kids.“My world’s a trip, you can ask Bun B bitch, I ain’t no liar
My man Bobo just lost his baby in a house fire
And when I got on my knees that night to pray
I ask God why you let these killers live
And take my homeboy’s son away?
Man, if you got kids show ‘em you love ‘em
‘Cuz God might just call ‘em home
‘Cuz one day they here and baby, the next day they gone”

Written by Brandon

December 4th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Pimp C, UGK, the South

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In Defense of Pimp C
There’s a point on the UGK Bonus DVD where Rick Ross praises UGK, talking about “Bun B’s flow” and then he stumbles for a second before praising Pimp C, finally committing to “Pimp C’s charisma” and the way Pimp well, sounds like a pimp. Ross stumbles because what makes Pimp C great is a lot less tangible than Bun B’s articulate drawl or ridiculous ability to stay on beat.

By any conventional standard, Pimp is a poor rapper and while praising him for his “charisma” is apt, it is the kind of half-bullshit argument guys like me make to defend Young Jeezy and well, Pimp C brings a little more to the table than the Snowman. Pimp is unbridled in his flow and rhyming, which can lead to some cringe-inducing clunkers, but he’s equally unbridled with his content, making him more honest than just about any rapper out there. He sincerely asks, “I wonder if there’s a Heaven up there for real Gs” and also angrily threatens to put “dick up in your daughter”. Pimp can talk more shit and drop more tear-jerking lines; there’s no filter or rather, he gives the illusion that there isn’t a filter so on, ‘Swishas and Doshas’ he rhymes “sparkling” and “chocolate” but he also drops the very-honest line about how he “ain’t got no friends since [he] got out the pen”. That honesty, to me, is more significant than being technically good or even adequate.

I can’t help but think of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who although technically better, has a similarly polarzing way of navigating emotional extremes. In a poetry class I took, the ODB was brought up jokingly by the professor causing a dread-locked, militant, light-skinned (surprise, surprise) girl to roll her eyes and go on a rant about what the ODB “represents”. Of course, he represented everything that is wrong with black people and blah blah blah. The professor calmly replied with an anecdote his mother told him as a child; that “some people’s farts smell worse than others but no one’s smell like roses”. It was profound and scatological, like the ODB; it applies to Pimp C as well.

Why do people crave consistency? Pimp’s flow and attitude is an embrace of chaos that most people like to believe doesn’t exist. Whether they believe in radical politics or some Platonic sense of “good rapping” it’s all complacency employed to keep the real and horrible out. I used to understand critiques of Pimp’s flow and still laugh about it, but after hearing ‘Underground Kingz’ at least 50 times in the past week, all I hear is real. Not some “soul-bearing”-bullshit-need-to-express-himself real, but honesty rooted in experience and an understanding of just how fucked up shit can get. You see it too, on that aforementioned Bonus DVD when Pimp, talks of how the people in prison aren’t all bad but have caught a bad break or made a mistake or can’t hack it once they get in there…and this comes from the guy whose catchphrase as of late is “Fuck how you feel”.

Written by Brandon

August 15th, 2007 at 4:15 am

Posted in ODB, Pimp C, UGK, the South