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Rap & Community: A Scene from ‘Trans’ (1998).

One of my favorite scenes in any movie, comes from Julian Goldberger’s ‘Trans’ (1998). The movie is about Ryan Kacinzski, a kid in a juvenile detention center who takes up a chance to escape and well, just sort of wanders around Southern Florida. The movie itself isn’t that great, like many low-budget, “improvisatory” independent movies, it tries to skate by on realistic cinematography and regionalism alone. Nevertheless, the movie has moments of insight, Ryan briefly reuniting with his brother, a strange scene where Ryan tries to get a train ticket for cheap, and this one:
(Sorry about the quality of the video. It wasn’t on Youtube so I was relegated to video-taping it off my television and uploading it…)

The scene comes after a strange montage wherein Ryan wanders through a 24 hour supermarket, doing whippets and talking to some lady about corn. On his way out of the supermarket, he passes by two beer-drinking, parking-lot loser types and steps on a bottle cap. One of the ‘necks taunts him for stepping on “his” bottle cap and proceeds to beat the shit out of him. The movie fades-out, presumably along with Ryan’s consciousness, we get a pretentious arty-image of a Woman in front of a sunset (???) and then it goes back to black, and the voices of some black peers calling Ryan’s name fade-in.

Their appearance in the movie is a relief for Ryan, happy to finally see someone he knows, but it is also a relief for the audience who has felt as isolated and off-balance as Ryan. The early parts of the movie in the juvenile center are sterile and oppressive. When Ryan escapes, Goldberger briefly matches the thrill of escape but slowly winds it down into a rambly, unfocused journey. The thrill of escape quickly farts-out into uncertainty and worry.

You again feel alive when these black kids, presumably acquaintances from high-school, show up. Their acting is significantly more engaging and real than the actor playing Kacinzski, who feels afraid to commit to anything. Their scenes feel actually loose and fun as opposed to artfully rough. The movie should probably just be about these guys but the independent film world is only slightly less negrophobic than Hollywood, so you know…

To me, the scene represents the inclusive nature of hip-hop culture and in certain ways, black culture, which as a whole, is a great deal more inviting and familial to all than the white, middle-class culture from which Ryan comes. He is immediately brought along with them, they recognize his dire situation and it even is suggested that this isn’t the first time Ryan has been found like this.

The kids are generally kind, offering Ryan help, but they also mock him, in part because of the hilarious situation of getting his ass beat and also, because well, I bet he’s the goofy white boy they know that is always getting in trouble. Their looking for girls and their freestyles (or attempts) about weed and pussy are realistic and used to complicate their character. For a rap outsider, the contradictory nature of being so kind and rapping about weed and girls would be hard to resolve but Goldberg wisely moves beyond racial or cultural presentation and just lets all of the character be themselves.

The failed attempts at freestyling are particularly good because often in movies, scenes of battles are often used as shorthand for authenticity or being hip to the culture. Here, it’s more like the freestyle competitions you see in your high school science class or at a party, where it’s just a bunch of people fucking around. No one sitting there thinks they are the next Nassir Jones, they’re just having fun.

The party part of the sequence does the interesting thing of being totally in Ryan’s head. We don’t hear the music they are dancing to but music that reflects Ryan’s state of mind. We get this sort of depressive, rambling, jangle-rock. His inability to fit-in has nothing to do with race which is the way most movies would develop it. They are not presented as black kids and Ryan is not presented as a white; it’s a scene about people getting along and how hospitality isn’t always accepted. Ryan’s inability to fit-in is not because of race but because he sort of doesn’t fit in anywhere. The universal reality of alienation is the focus, not the cultural specific “reality” of racial tension. Ryan’s isolation is chosen, not imposed and still, at the end, one of the kids tries one more time to offer him a place to stay. It’s a very kind and genuine scene.

Written by Brandon

July 20th, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in film, rap humanism

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Some Movies Rappers Should Reference Instead of ‘Scarface’.
SOHH listed a news item about a new Deniro/Pacino movie, inexplicably asking Styles P what he thought about this new, exciting movie. The item smacks of forced marketing; hyping a movie that isn’t overtly rap-related in content, using a rapper for a quote, etc. but nevertheless, Styles P’s comments were pretty interesting.

Styles discusses both actors’ appeal to “young impoverished people in the ghetto” citing their roles as “characters who came from nothing to become something” and suggesting that this shows they “understand the mentality of the poor”. You’re thinking ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Scarface’ (or I was), but instead, Styles cites ‘Taxi Driver’ and a relatively obscure Pacino movie ‘The Panic in Needle Park’. These comments reminded me of my OhWord entry about Prodigy and blaxploitation. In it, I said Prodigy’s invocation of the Fred Williamson vehicle ‘Black Caesar’ makes more sense than the constant references to ‘Scarface,’ a quality but over-the-top cartoon of a movie. Most rap songs are not wish fulfillment but blow-by-blow descriptions, reflecting the minor victories of movies like ‘Superfly’ or ‘Black Caesar’ rather than the million dollars success of Tony Montana.

As a continuation of my post and a complement to Styles P’s comments, here’s a list of movies that rappers should probably start referencing…

Born To Win (1971).

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘Just Tryin Ta Live’ by Devin the Dude.

A former hairdresser now heroin addict named simply “J” putts around New York with his black friend Billy Dynamite, in search of drugs. More a series of scenes than a cohesive plot, ‘Born to Win’ is held together only by J, a hyper-charming piece of shit who always ends up on top. The movie can go from being deadly serious to ‘Benny Hill’ comedy and it all sort of works. At different points you feel like you’re watching different movies. When I first read that Styles P quote, this was the first movie I thought to add to this list. Although it doesn’t star Deniro or Pacino, Deniro has a very small part as an undercover cop. Available in a crappy but affordable discount DVD.

If you liked this try… Christiane F. (1981) – Teenage drug addicts in Berlin run around to David Bowie music!

Mean Streets (1973)

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘Return to 36 Chambers’ by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

You probably know about this one and maybe you even turned it off because you were expecting something closer to ‘Goodfellas’ well…give it another try. Deniro’s Johnny Boy is perhaps his most well-rendered “psycho” character, at least on par with ‘Taxi Driver’ as the acting never grows cartoonish or dependent upon indicating. When you see him blow up a mailbox with firecrackers all the way to the scene where he calls the bookie a “jerkoff”, kind of sealing his fate, there’s nothing like this wild performance. The movie is also full of really funny scenes that counter the menace that underscores it all: One of the neighborhood thugs shows everyone the tiger (?!) he bought and the scene grows even more absurd when the thug kisses the tiger like a puppy. Also the “mook” debate is pretty classic.

If you liked this try…Hi Mom! (1969) – One of the first movies by ‘Scarface’ director Brian DePalma and also starring Deniro.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘What’s On My Mind’ by Dayton Family

Still derided as excessively violent and misogynistic (sound familiar?), Sam Peckinpah’s movie feels as stumbling drunk and fucked-up as the main character. Loser bar owner Benny (Warren Oates) needs money and takes up a reward for the titular head of Alfredo. Much of the movie is Benny driving around, in an increasingly bloodied/dirtied white suit, in shades, talking to the decapitated head of Alfredo and shooting everybody. Completely hopeless and fully aware of it, Benny comes off as a sort of brave, devoted, unfuckwithable loser. Maybe the best movie ever made?

If you liked this try…Cockfighter (1974) – Also starring Warren Oates, this time as a cockfighter who has taken a vow of silence until he wins ‘Cockfighter of the Year’.
Fingers (1978)

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘Resurrection’ by Common

Harvey Keitel plays the son of a pianist mother and a loan shark father (played by the dude who plays Pentangeli in ‘Godfather II’), unsure of which parent to follow. Sex-obsessed and conflicted beyond hope, Keitel’s Jimmy Fingers fucks girls, listens to doo-wop and classical music, auditions for piano recitals, and kicks the asses of deadbeats. Also interesting for quick appearances by a couple of dudes later to be on ‘The Sopranos’ and Jim Brown…rent it if only for the scene where Brown forces two girls to kiss and bangs their heads together!

If you liked this try… Five Easy Pieces (1970) – Another, earlier movie about a rogue male who is good at the piano.

Straight Time (1978)

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed’ by Nice & Smooth.

Based on the book ‘No Beast So Fierce’ written by Edward Bunker (Mr. Blue in ‘Reservoir Dogs’), starring Dustin Hoffman as Max as a guy out of prison trying to go straight. At the mercy of his corrupt, asshole Parole Officer, Max ends up back in jail. When he gets back out, he steals his P.O’s car, handcuffs the P.O to a sign on the side of the road with his pants down (no really, he does!) and goes back to doing what he knows best: robbing jewelry stores.. Shot in realistic L.A locations with a bunch of good characters actors like Harry Dean Stanton and Gary Busey, ‘Straight Time’ glides along scene-by-scene, primarily concerned with detail and psychology over likeability and moral judgment.

If you liked this try…Straw Dogs (1971)– also starring Hoffman and from the same director as ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’; basically a movie about how sometimes violence is necessary.

Thief (1981)

Rap Album Equivalent: ‘Murda Muzik’ by Mobb Deep

The first feature by Michael Mann, who later made ‘Heat’ and ‘Miami Vice’ among others. ‘Thief’ stars James Caan as Frank, a professional thief with vague hopes of going straight. Caan is in full Sonny Corleone acting mode, speaking in contraction-less blurts of anger and just generally seeming awesome. An atmospheric electronic score by Tangerine Dream and a slow pace punctuated by scenes of violence and Caan rants, ‘Thief’ is what ‘Scarface’ should be.

If you liked this try…The Gambler (1974) – from the writer of ‘Fingers’ and also starring James Caan.

Written by Brandon

May 24th, 2007 at 3:32 am

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No Trivia Presents iPOD Week, Part Three: Death Mix.
To download my ‘Death Mix’ as a single mp3 click here.

About a month or so after the death of my friend Mike, Monique gave me a mix she made that, to put it simply, was about Mike’s suicide. It wasn’t a bunch of songs he liked or even really songs that “reminded” us of him; it was more of a narrative or story through songs, the feelings we had in the fall-out of someone shooting themselves and also some musical act of empathy getting into Mike’s brain and just maybe, maybe what he was feeling. It’s hard to explain. It was very affecting. Others write poems about their friends or make paintings or write songs, mix CDs worked as well…it moved me to make one too.

Monique and I discussed presenting what I’ve jokingly called “death mixes” for this iPOD week but a couple of hours ago decided it was not a good idea. She had more reservations than I. For whatever reason, I’m going back on that decision and presenting mine. I don’t think it will be “fun” reading but it’s gotta be at least interesting…

1. Goodie Mob – Serenity Prayer (from ‘Soul Food’)
I thought of this as a sort of ‘preface’ to the mix, just a quick piece of advice and acknowledgment of God or religion or spirituality because I feel that anything addressing death needs to also at least address religious-type things. This I felt, was particularly important on this mix because I am a vehement disbeliever and since the mix is in some way trying to be about (ahem) healing or understanding, me acknowledging religion would be a good idea. I’ve always been moved by the serenity prayer because of its connections to addiction and its sagacious truth. There’s shit you can control and shit you can’t and you better realize that and take care of your shit. Also, I can think of no one better than Goodie Mob and no album better than ‘Soul Food’ to present the mix of anger and empathy that I felt in the wake of Mike shooting himself.

At the funeral, I read a selection from ‘La Morte D’Arthur’ by Sir Thomas Malory, which invokes Jesus and questions of the after-life. I felt it was important to find something that did this instead of picking something super-personal. At the same time, I was reading it I was thinking about how I can only be moved by the writing as an idea not as truth. Two days after Mike’s suicide I was driving with my father discussing all of the events and he admitted to me what I expected for many years…that he too, wasn’t a believer. He told me about how, the night before, my mother had asked where my father thought Mike was; the word my Dad used was “wormfood”.

2. Pharcyde – Splatitorium (from ‘Labcabincalifornia’)
This is the true beginning of the mix. The Goodie Mob was like the scrolling text at the beginning of ‘Star Wars’ or something. The idea for this song was going back, to before Mike shot himself. It was supposed to invoke the strange feeling you often have with friends, having fun, like more fucking fun than you’ve ever had before but there’s something a little off about it and you sort of realize that and part of the fun is because maybe it is too much, maybe it is out of control…Life is nothing if the reality of death and wormfood are not constantly creeping in, to feel any other way is to be in denial. The song is about smoking weed and having a good time and joking around but it has sadness underneath it, particularly through the Vince Guaraldi samples in the beat. Perhaps it’s a bit too perverse but the word “splat” being in the title too seemed appropriate on a mix about a friend who took his own life with a shotgun.

3. Dmitri Shostakovich – Allegro Molto (from ‘String Quarter No. 8 in C Minor’)
This is supposed to be the point where I or even we, my friends, realized what probably happened. See, Mike hadn’t been answering his phone or emails for a few days which was odd because we all saw or talked on a daily basis, so we went up to his apartment to find his car caked with ice (all other cars had been scraped), a Chinese menu sitting in front of his door, and the sound of the DVD menu for ‘Thief’ playing loudly from his television. Repeated knocks were not answered and it was slowly setting in on all of us that something was really wrong. The strings are like a horror movie and that’s really what it was like. So horrible its over-the-top like the strings in this song, like, totally unreal. Mike’s fucking dead? What?

4. UGK – One Day (from ‘Ridin’ Dirty’)
The transition from the chaos of the Shostakovich to the sad, laid-back qualities of ‘One Day’ is a bit like the point where the death sinks-in and you still feel awful but you’ve accepted it…for me, it was leaving Mike’s apartment complex once the police officially told us they found his body and driving back home with my friends, not really saying much. Yep, it’s true one day you’re here and the next day you’re gone.

I cry every time I hear this song, I did before Mike died but now it’s even stronger. I know it’s different because Pimp C and Bun B are discussing the loss of friends often to street violence but their sentiments about death are universal. “I saw him once before he died, wish it was twice man” is exactly how I feel. Also the line, “So shit, I walk around with my mind blown in my fuckin’ zone” describes the feeling after someone dies and exactly the feeling I felt and still feel. When someone dies, especially to suicide, everyone is so fucking afraid of it, it’s annoying. They treat you like you put the shotgun in his mouth. They judge and get freaked-out because it’s a further denial of instability and chaos and insanity and death and all the shit they’d rather not think about.

5. Fabio Frizzi – Sequence 2 (from ‘Zombie OST’)
This is the sound of the couple of days after. Just feeling worn out, almost drugged…this has this great late-70s/early-80s warm synth tone that I love and associate with almost social-realest zombie movies like Fulchi’s ‘Zombie’ (from which this song comes) or ‘Dawn of the Dead’. The end of ‘River’s Edge’ one of Mike and all of my friends’ favorite movies sort of feels like this as well. I also think the synths have a strained quality that sort of sounds like the Shostakovich strings.

6. Lee Hazelwood – We All Make the Flowers Grow (from ‘Trouble Is A Lonesome Town’)
“Wormfood” in song form. This song was intended to interact with or even, counteract the vaguely religious aspects of the Goodie Mob intro. It is also here to counteract a certain melodrama or overwrought-ness that comes from this mix being so serious or even, self-serious. We all end up in the same place and the world keeps going and no one besides the people you know gives a shit. That’s reality.

The song is darkly funny but deadly serious as well, it’s resigned in a way, accepted the fact that there’s no God or order to anything and in that resignation, finds humor and at least, the strength to articulate that resignation and not get lost in it. It’s “just” a folk/country song but through Hazelwood’s voice and really smart lyrics, you can tell that he isn’t trying to shock you with his “wormfood” assertions, it’s the kind of belief he’s earned.

7. Ekkehard Ehlers – John Cassavetes 2 (from ‘Plays’)
I thought of this song as representing the viewing and funeral aspects of going through Mike’s suicide. Like the Shostakovich, it’s string-based and like that song I feel it’s a little over-the-top, a little unreal which is exactly what it’s like to be carrying your best friend’s coffin with your other best friends…and it just keeps going, you lose a sense of how long you’ve been listening to it or when it is going to end. The experience of listening to it is to be constantly in-the-moment, temporal, which is all you can do when something really horrible happens. You’re being led around and anything can trigger bad feelings and you’re in a room or a cemetery brought together because of someone’s death and one moment you’re talking to someone about him, the next you’re giving a hug to someone you barely even know, and the next you’re laughing your ass off telling some story about some hilarious shit he once did.

8. Goodie Mob – I Didn’t Ask To Come (from ‘Soul Food’)

The strings in this beat I thought, sort of continued the strings of Ehlers’ song. I know Goodie Mob are rapping about the impoverished and true victims of an unsympathetic system but there’s an emotionally-honest aspect to them that is perfectly kept in-line with their anger and insight. Cee-Lo’s verse is the obvious connection, as he describes attending a funeral: “As he laid in his final resting place/He has such a peaceful expression on his face” I don’t know if he intended to suggest it but I’ve always read that line as being about surprise and then reassurance in that surprise: Surprised that the corpse of his friend has a peaceful expression. I recall entering the funeral home and seeing, from outside of the room, Mike’s open-casket, a bandage over his eyes because (to be real) the shotgun blast probably ripped them out of his head. He didn’t have a peaceful expression but it was still a surprise to see his face becuase it wasn’t anything how I’d imagined it to look because you can’t really imagine what it will look like. It didn’t matter that he has tons of makeup on and that his forehead had an extra like, two inches on it because they had to sort of glue the top of his head back on, at least I was seeing his face one more time.

9. Talk Talk – New Grass (from ‘Laughing Stock’)

The transition here is mainly through the drums, so it’s like the beat of ‘I Didn’t Ask To Come’ morphs into the soft, near-jazz drumming of this Talk Talk song. I don’t even know what the hell the lyrics are to this song, they are more like a mumble and that allows one to project any kind of pathos one wants to project. The progression of the song, its slow build of piano and guitar and vague electronics felt to me, like the process of adjusting to life without your best friend. The song is never about like, absolution or something, at points it comes back down, like 3:20 in when the piano takes control for a few moments, and that’s like, just when you think you maybe sort of kind of have it figured out, it hits you again: “Fuck…”

10. Love – Be Thankful (For What You Got) (from ‘Real to Reel’)
Sort of an obvious pick, at least in message, but I liked the idea of going back to the didacticism of the intro track. Basically a secular version of the Serenity Prayer.

Written by Brandon

May 18th, 2007 at 5:24 am

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More About Amy Winehouse…

I seriously had no idea people cared so much about Amy Winehouse. Go here and for some reason, here for some sort of interesting ongoing discussion. I felt the need to address her again…

The support of Amy Winehouse, when it isn’t by negrophobes, the musically retarded, or feminists, is by people who romanticize suffering and still believe in concepts like “confessional” art. In an interview in this month’s NYLON magazine, Winehouse says “I say things in songs that I wouldn’t even admit to myself looking in the mirror” (116). What? It is literally impossible to admit something in a song that one has not admitted in the mirror. I assume by “in the mirror” she means to herself, alone, which, unless she just gets on the mic and just wails, she’s writing her songs down. All of her insecurities and neuroses don’t just pour out of her.

She is held up as authentic and therefore a “true” soul musician because many buy into stuff she says or they want to believe in such purity. Her supposed honesty and the praise it receives goes back to racist notions of black musicians (or athletes, even mixed-race presidential candidates) as having a natural or untapped something which makes them great. Winehouse’s troubled persona and “honesty” make her music seem immediate, even primitive. Her producers, black rap producer with credit, Salaam Remi and white, rich boy fuckface Mark Ronson, are presented as something like her handlers, maintaining her pure artistic soul. Of course, this purity does not really exist and never has and even if it had, how is saying everything and anything in a song worthy of praise? Due to the internet in particular, there has been something of a shift in the culture: MySpace, Youtube, this fucking blog, everything is about expression! If everything is about expression (which is fine) then simple expression can no longer be used as an end-run around artistic quality or insight.

The indie rock world, when it isn’t being ironic, is a perfect example of honesty and sincerity being broken-down into a series of easy-to-do gestures through clothing, that whiny “bad” singing, making a Wes Anderson-lite videos, etc. etc.…all of this boundless sincerity is a misguided affront to irony, no different than irony because another series of signs and signifiers are now the norm. Because people are so used to irony and manufactured, distant, emotionless product, stuff like Winehouse which on some level, does attempt to connect to an audience with real feelings, becomes overrated and overvalued. To do what Winehouse and others do but to do it with insight is much harder to do and more poignant. Clement Greenberg, American art critic, has an essay in which he discusses issues of honesty and talent in art. “Honesty” Greenberg says, although “essential”, “does not guarantee anything” and “can never be separated from the procedures of talent” (146). Now, we’ve already agreed that Winehouse is talented in the sense that she has a good voice; it is the issues of honesty or actual honesty that need to be addressed. Greenberg adds that “complete honesty has nothing to do with “purity” or naivety [because] the full truth is unattainable to naivety, and the completely honest artist is not pure in heart.” (146). Words that Winehouse or Bright Eyes, even the Game or Brother Ali would be advised to take.

Good art, real art, stuff that matters, is a hard, messy navigation through emotions of all types; it’s complicated. If all you have is emotional honesty, you’re no better than the artist couched in irony and abstract lyrics. The concept of the difficult artist being abstract and the primitive artist being honest are outdated and as I said before, kinda racist, but when it comes to music, pop music, music manufactured, bought, and sold, the concept that the art you sell is about baring one’s soul is absurd. The best musicians, but especially rappers, have found some kind of interesting balance between giving people what they want and maintaining integrity (Prodigy!) but the concept that on some level, someone who sells a CD only wants to express themselves has always been total bullshit. If it’s only about expression, go back in your room and sing in front of your mirror, don’t bother me with it.

There is a way to address one’s life, exposing very-real truths about one’s self without devolving into self-pity and self-aggrandizing through self-pity. You can talk about your problems and not make yourself a spectacle. This comes from maintaining the emotional integrity of the situaiton without making it quite so apparent or simplistic. When Biggie drops “My mother’s got cancer in her breast/Don’t ask me why I’m motherfuckin’ stressed” it comes in the middle of a song that laments Biggie’s world, without becoming all “woe is me” about it. When he finally goes from the general (how his neighborhood changed) to the specific (exactly what troubles him) the effect is stronger because the entire song is not a song about why his mother has breast cancer. Kanye West, one of rap’s biggest self-mythologizers, can often lose his way but his autobiographical songs are almost always injected with humor, autobiography, and insight. It is this mix of emotions which not only makes for a rewarding experience but is closer to real-life, for even in the worst of situations, some warmth or humor pops through and indeed, something is learned. The supposed immediacy of songs like ‘Rehab’ is nothing but laziness. Lazy with insight and disrespectful to an audience who find this music sincere or believe it to be soul-baring. ‘You Know I’m No Good’ is the song-equivalent of the dude in Burger King who mops the floor, telling you about how messed-up his life is, not so much because he wants emotional connection but because the pathetic tendency to victimize one’s self instead of expressing real, actual feelings is so pervasive and even encouraged. Like Burger King Guy, Winehouse is trying to express herself and indeed, if this is her way of doing it, perhaps she has some problems, but I don’t see why that is given magazine covers and record sales; the same would never be done for scary Burger King Guy.

-Greenberg, Clement. ‘Art and Culture: Critical Essays.’ Beacon Press: Boston, 1961.
-Valdesolo, Fiorella. ‘The Devil In Miss Winehouse.’ NYLON Magazine. April 2007. (114-117).

Written by Brandon

April 8th, 2007 at 7:23 pm

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How To Save Old Rap Music Without Declaring Hip-Hop Dead
In Byron Crawford’s post ‘The Day the Music Died’, about the Notorious B.I.G, Crawford discusses the fact that although he considers ‘Ready to Die’ one of his favorite albums, he “barely listen[s] to it anymore”. He goes on to describe the fact that due to the nature of his job “it’s just plain not [his] m.o to listen to old music” and that when he does, it is rarely a rap album and for “whatever reason” he does not “experience hip-hop the same way [he] experience[s] other genres of music”. Now, I’m troubled by this because the dude writes for ‘XXL’ but I’m also not troubled because it is an incredibly brave thing to say/admit and Crawford also uses this statement to implore his readers to respond. He ends his post with “I wonder why [it] is” that he and others will return to old rock albums but not to old rap albums. Now, I promise, this is not the post where some non-existent blogger goes after a popular blogger, but there’s a lot of shit worth unpacking here.

There are basic factual answers to Crawford’s “I wonder…” like the lack of radio support for old rap while classic rock may be more popular than recent rock. There is also the fact that the world is now run by baby-boomers who have a pathetic obsession with their own youth and so, they fill movies and commercials with the music they like, which is obviously not rap. There is also the fact that it is really only in the late-80s that one can begin to look at rap in terms of “albums” as it was primarily a singles game before then. So, there’s not the same kind of history there. To compare the consistent purchasing of albums from the 60s and 70s with albums that are, at the oldest, from like, 1986, doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Also, there’s availability or lack thereof. Old rap albums, in part because of little support, in part because they are in this weird middle-ground between “sort-of old” and “classic”, are just not available everywhere the way say, ‘Who’s Next’ might be. It may be kind of hard to find ‘Mecca & the Soul Brother’ or even ‘Raising Hell’ in a Best Buy. This may be changing slightly as re-releases of Run DMC or ‘Road to the Riches’ have come out recently and are making those albums slightly more available. The recent induction of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five into the Rock n’Roll Hall of Fame also “proves” some interest in rap history is building. The eventually-to-be-released UGK album features Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap on a song, at least it did the last track listing I saw. The release of a Biggie ‘Greatest Hits’ is another good move because when you first get into old music, you almost inevitably go for the safe choice of a ‘Greatest Hits’; full albums by artists you’re not totally familiar with is a bit scary. Eventually, you grow wiser and realize ‘Greatest Hits’ albums are for housewives and little girls but they do function as excellent primers for introductory listeners. Without them, the process of getting into older music would be a lot more daunting. So, the more compilations, greatest hits packages, and re-releases that come out, the greater interest in older music.

Even if these things are available it doesn’t mean a thing unless people are buying them so there is plenty of blame to be placed on the rap “culture”, particularly the younger generations of fans and artists, but I find that placement of guilt too simplistic and over-discussed. Older rappers show about as much interest and support to the new guys as the new guys do to the older rappers. Think of when Chuck D. went after Kanye West, certainly one of the more “positive” rappers to enter mainstream rap in many years. Even more absurd is the article ‘Respect’ in this month’s XXL in which Nas can only muster up praise for Lupe Fiasco and The Game, two incredibly predictable MCs. When older rappers do praise the new generation, they generally support clones of themselves or rappers that are obsessive in their “respect” of the old school. Rap music is incredibly criticism-free in the sense that no actual debate or discussion ever really goes on; everyone just sort of follows the script.

I know this script is part of the tradition of rap and to bemoan other rappers as not knowing their shit has been going on since the beginning but that just makes “it’s like the game ain’t same”-style complaints meaningless. The Was Good/Is Now Bad division has always existed and always been practiced, so who even knows what to think when a rapper says it one more time. This kind of battling or beefing is fine and good for a little while, but it goes from swagger when the rapper is on top to being just plain sad when that rapper is on the way down. KRS-One is saying the same bullshit about rappers that he said in 1988 so, at this point, it sounds like nothing but a knee-jerk reaction. Meanwhile, Rakim says he fucks with G-Unit and Dipset, Chuck D. hates on Kanye West, Nas holds up The Game as an exemplary rapper…these guys are digging their own graves by being so unreliable. How can they be trusted as sources on rap history?

However, (spoken like a true music writer) you can rarely trust musicians to lead you in the direction of good music outside of their own, so that is hardly a surprise. The most damaging aspect to older rap staying relevant comes from outdated and downright idiotic perceptions as to what rap music is or can be. Rap is either treated as party music or as “the black CNN” and this is by everyone from most casual listener to a hardcore fan. The dance music perception does not lend anyone to think of it as lasting or worth actual consideration, so that is a clear dead-end but the “black CNN” understanding also has its limits. The most limiting effect of seeing rap music as only the window into “ghetto” realities is that it distances listeners from the music. I think it distances white listeners because they feel as though they are able to appreciate rap, understand it, and maybe learn from it, but they cannot really relate to it and often, they do not feel as though they are allowed to comment upon it. For black listeners, the “black CNN” interpretation pushes who is saying what and how they are saying it to the background because what is being sought out is “real” talk about “the streets”. If that’s the perspective, then there’s no need to go back and listen to Biggie or Rakim or Melle Mel because there’s enough “reality” being “exposed” in Young Jeezy’s songs.

Regardless of race, class, or whatever, what makes music lasting is something a listener can connect and relate to on a number of levels. Rap music does not fail in this regard but the way it is discussed and treated makes it seem as though it has failed. I’ve talked about this at least three other times on this stupid blog, so I’m not saying anything I haven’t said already, but it’s sort of my specific, interpretive focus, so bear with me. Music listeners, white and black and everything else, follow the previously mentioned rules about how to listen to and embrace rap music. Even many rappers themselves follow these rules. It’s why Jay-Z feels like he needs to put the guy from Coldplay on a track for it to be emotional or why Kanye hires Jon Brion or why Andre 3000 started dicking around with other genres. They too have bought into the belief that rap music is not the place that actual emotions are expressed even though each of those artists have plenty of emotionally resonant songs that don’t have some white dude playing piano under them. Furthermore, rap is inarguably a primarily black art form but too many black writers, listeners, and musicians, even if they have good reason, are vehement protectors of the music. This protection discourages non-black listeners from feeling like they even have the right to connect to the music on their own terms even though, at the very same time, these same protectors bemoan the fact that rap isn’t more respected within and outside of the rap culture. It’s a pretty fucked-up loop if you think about.

The myth that one cannot relate to rap music or can only relate to rap music if you have experienced exactly what the rappers discuss gives the music nowhere to go. The music needs to breathe and expand beyond its initial release but this will only happen if people can find something about it to embrace. If you’re just dancing to it, it will get old pretty quick and if all there is to it is reporting, then once you have heard the lyrics, the reported information has been presented and the transfer is complete. Rap music is music to dance to and it is music that reveals truths that you may not hear anywhere else but it is also humanistic and it is all those things and a lot more, that is why I really do think it’s the most complicated form of music to exist. There’s so much shit going on in it that you’d think anybody could pull something from it to enjoy and perhaps they could if long-established rules on how to listen to rap music were broken down.

Written by Brandon

March 14th, 2007 at 7:26 am

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Rapper: Cavalier of Brooklyn, NY.

Drew of The Smoking Section sent me in the direction of Cavalier, part of The Dugout. There are better places than here to get press-release type stuff, so follow the links throughout this entry for official-type information…

It is a simple fact that lyric-driven rap music is simply not “in”. While the so-called “underground” is a bit more focused on the lyrical aspects of rap music, I’ve witnessed as many rappers of the Casio/scream-and-shout persuasion performing in small clubs as I have on BET. Hip-hop has been declared dead, be it sincerely, for publicity, or both, but if any of that matters to Brooklyn-based rapper Cavalier, he’s not showing it.

On ‘Dionne’, my personal favorite and the song with an accompanying video, Cavalier’s poetic but not too poetic style, is backed by warm, blissed-out production. As you listen, the feeling you’re getting is the early-90s but it is simply a feeling instead of an overt statement. That is to say, Cavalier recalls the exciting aspects of earlier rap, without sounding like an anachronism. Cavalier enters the song, full of sincere rather than performative passion: “Let me take you away to a place/Where I keep these devils from out of my face…” Oh, how wonderful it is to hear a rap song that doesn’t begin with the chorus! Instead, the beat bubbles under for a few moments and then Cavalier just begins rapping and we’ve hit the ground running and won’t stop until the cathartic chorus: “Roll that shit up…” The sing-songy chorus is so simple but incredibly catchy and acts, not as a contrast to Cavalier’s rapping but instead, all of the intensity, joy, and anger of the verse explodes into a legitimately powerful and affecting chorus about “smok[ing] them troubles away”. So many rappers, out of elitism or simple lack of skill, act as if they are too-good to make something singable or catchy, while ‘Dionne’ as well as ‘Ink’ and other songs by Cavalier, uses the chorus as a way to lodge the song in my brain but also to up the emotional level.

Currently, the great divide in rap is between, what I think of as Rap Minimalism and Rap Maximalism. Rap Minimalism, perhaps exemplified by so-called “coke rap”, is rooted in the repetition of words or content to the extent that the listener grows used to hearing the same thing. This allows the minimalist rapper to suddenly drop a single line of insight or emotion that immediately stands out in contrast with the numerous lines of cliché that preceded it, giving it additional power through that contrast. Rap Maximalism would be the opposite; as much information and insight is dropped in a single song as possible and the listener is left to pick up the pieces of what has been said. Cavalier is of the Rap Maximalist side and this side needs all the help it can get. He weaves conventional rap concerns about labels and haters to some hard-to-explain imagery that relates writing to smoking, to connections between girls, his mom, and then drops a line that exposes, in the simplest of words, a brutal reality of the world (“Most people don’t give a shit”) and in saying so, implicitly tells listeners that he, Cavalier does give a shit. And he really does give a shit. Everything Cavalier and the Dugout release appears to be made with care and enthusiasm. This dude has his shit together: excellent production, excellent rapping, a cool logo (see above), and an amazing music video. These things do matter and not because “nowadays image is important” but because it shows that these guys are willing to work to match their talent with hard work and integrity.

Written by Brandon

February 22nd, 2007 at 8:05 am

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Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me 12’ Single

I wrote this early last week, before my friend Mike killed himself. The last thing I talked about with him was making a video for this metal song he was working on and the ‘Mac 10 Handle’ video. We both related to it. Sometime after that, between Monday night and Tuesday night, he pushed his couch against his apartment door, watched the movie ‘Thief’ (or just put it on), and put a shotgun in his mouth. That is all I know right now. I love you Mike.

I found the greatest thing ever this weekend: An original ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Single! (See above images of the ‘No Trivia’ “staff” posing with it…). Obviously, the song is great, one of the rap songs that could be considered “perfect” but what really puts this over the edge is the design of the sleeve. A cheap-looking font outlined in black, the name of the group at the top, song title at the bottom, and in between, the boys in front of an ambulance looking awesome but definitely not “cool” and not even particularly “gangsta”. Their clothes in particular, are worth noting: Scarface wears a lime dress-shirt without a tie with the top button buttoned, Bushwick is in hospital scrubs, sitting in a lawn chair, gripping a mobile phone, with an almost-regal look on his face and Willie D. is rocking this really incredible empire-collar jean-jacket with the arms and front shredded. It’s the same stuff they are wearing on the cover of ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’ and the whole design is just a variation on that design but without the shock-value of that album cover. This single does not expose Bushwick’s missing eye, it is tastefully covered, so you just get Scarface, Willie D., and Bushwick not looking tough, not even necessarily sad, just kind of worn-out. It’s like, day-after the tragedy.

Over and over, rappers reference ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ when they create a particularly honest or confessional song or album. Think of Biggie’s ‘One More Chance’, essentially a song of sexual conquest, interrupted for a few moments by the very-real paranoia most of ‘Ready To Die’s other songs are obsessed with: “Is my mind playin’ tricks? Like Scarface and Bushwick/Willie D havin’ nightmares of girls killin’ me.” Although that’s the only explicit reference (I think), the influence of Geto Boys permeates ‘Ready to Die’. Recently, there’s Clipse album-closer ‘Nightmares’ with Pusha-T’s verse beginning with a direct quotation from Willie D: “I make big money, I drive big cars/Everybody knows me, it’s like I’m a movie star”. And very recently, there’s ‘Mac 10 Handle’ by Prodigy which begins “I sit alone in my dirty-ass room/Staring at candles, high on drugs” but my favorite ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ intertextual reference is Beanie Sigel’s ‘Feel It In the Air’ from 2005’s ‘The B.Coming’.

‘Feel It In the Air’ is the only ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’-referencing song that even comes close to having the emotional weight of the original. It’s pretty much impossible to explain something without ruining it (which I think I do with this entry) but I’ll try. Let’s start with the beat, which I always forget is produced by Heavy D. It’s pretty much a conventional “sad” beat (slow tempo, mournful sax) but the “I can feel it in the air” singing adds something strange to it and Sigel’s rapping fits perfectly. Beanie’s slow-rapping is not to indicate that the song is “poignant” (ala’ “introspective” Jay-Z) it’s because he’s just sort of resigned to feeling shitty. Sigel alters the Scarface line, changing it to: “I sit alone in my four cornered room starin’ at hammers/Ready to go bananas” changing the lyrics in a way that makes them even more disturbing and adding a kinda-corny line like “ready to go bananas” that actually works better than thinking of something clever. It’s like those that hating-on Prodigy’s ‘Mac 10 Handle’ because arguably, it is not “lyrically” up to par with the best Mobb Deep tracks. Sometimes, being clever or articulate isn’t necessary and I’ll certainly take honesty over “lyricism” if it makes me actually feel something. Following up his Scarface-quoting, Beans makes the Scarface connection explicit in the next line when he says: “Two vests on me, two techs, extra clips on me/I know my mind ain’t playin’ tricks on me.” The reality/paranoid-hallucination division is broken, his voice in the song is so out-of-it he’s adamant that his hallucinations are real and maybe they are? Those lines also remind listeners that the rhyming words with the same word has been a Beanie trick since ‘The Truth’ so don’t blame that shit on Dipset! Beanie however, uses the rhyming the same word trick for maximum effect, as his rhyme scheme deteriorates the same way that his mind seems to be going away. The song does a good job of reflecting Beanie’s state of mind, he goes from conventional rapping, to same-word rapping, and finally allows his verse to devolve into non-rhyming lines: “Read they body language/85% communication non-verbal, 85% swear they know you/10% you know they soft, man, the other five…time to show you, just know you.” When he trails off at the end, it’s hard to even know what the hell he is talking about. The song stops being about paranoia and mental instability because the song really does, temporarily, not make sense, it actually becomes unstable.

Like many other rappers, Sigel returns to the original lament ‘My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me’ to illustrate his feelings of self-destruction. These feelings of self-destruction that remind me of unstable relatives, friends of friends that offed themselves, or my own problems and so, the songs do work on some level that is closer to being “universal” or humanistic, not specific to the plight of the crack-dealer or gang-banger. I think that’s significant because the fundamental flaw in discussing rap music seriously comes from the moronic perspective that it is only worth discussing from the “black CNN” perspective and not the same way in which one may listen to a sad rock or a elegiac jazz composition. If I’m feeling “emo”, I’d be as likely to listen to certain dark or depressing rap songs as I would Joy Division or Charlie Parker.

Brandon’s Ten Sad Rap Songs

1. Da Summa – Triple Six Mafia (from ‘Mystic Stylez’)
2. Mind Playing Tricks On Me – Geto Boys (from ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’)
3. Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (from ‘E. Eternal 1999’)
4. Reunion – Slum Village featuring J. Dilla – (from ‘Detroit Deli’)
5. C.R.E.A.M – Wu Tang Clan (from ‘Enter the Wu Tang’)
6. Runnin’ – Pharcyde (from ‘Labcabincalifornia’)
7. Feel It In The Air – Beanie Sigel – (from ‘The B.Coming’)
8. T.R.O.Y – Pete Rock & C.L Smooth – (from ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother’)
9. All That I Got Is You – Ghostface Killah (from ‘Ironman’)
10. Family Business – Kanye West – (from ‘College Dropout’)


-Beanie Sigel – ‘Feel It In the Air’ Video.

-Bushwick Bill – ‘Ever So Clear’:The song that describes in amazing clarity and sanity, how Bushwick lost his eye. No “cry for me” bullshit in this one, no melodrama, just how it happened. From his underrated ‘Little Big Man’ solo album.

‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Video:Probably the best rap video ever made.

-‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Star Wars Video: Someone made a really amazing remake of the video with Star Wars figures. It’s ridiculously well-done and it manages to be really funny without being ironic or mocking the song or video.

By the way, I found that single here, ‘The True Vine’; this really great record store that just got-in a shitload of 80s and 90s rap singles. If you’re in Baltimore it’s worth going over there.

Written by Brandon

February 7th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

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Why I Love Dipset.

So, Dipset are at it again. If you haven’t read, according to Nah Right, someone Dipset-ized Tru Life’s Myspace. Among the changes, the main image is (was) a reversal of that lame Tru Life mixtape cover and the top four friends are (were) listed as Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, J.R Writer, and Duke Da God. The most hilarious change is Tru Life’s ‘About Me’ section. I copied the text from the screenshots on Nahright, so all weird grammar, spelling, punctuation etc. is kept intact.

“I want to apologize for disrespecting The Whole Dipset especially Jim “capo” Jones. I’m just a tad upset with my situation at rocafella, Jay Z spends all his money on beyonce, and doesn’t leave much for any of his broke Rocafella artist Like me Young Gunners, Memphis Bleek and Peedi Crakk; especially for his dust smoking habits.. I’m driving around the lower eastside in my 96 Windstar Caravan with my broke friends not really doing much. I don’t know when my album gonna drop, I’m still living off Jewelry I stole from Mobb deep and I’m down to my last dollars. I really want to say thank you to Geno, end of the day I know he is my muscle, and the only reason niggas aint swerve on me yet”

96 Windstar Caravan? Spends all his money on Beyonce? This is why I love these guys! This whole hacking thing is presumably a response to the Tru Life mixtape that shows Jones’ head photo-shopped onto Borat-in-a-wrestling-singlet and Cam’ron photo-shopped onto a woman’s body. While we’re at it, the woman’s body with Cam’ron’s head looks disturbingly close to Jamie Foxx’s Wanda character from ‘In Living Color’…anyways, this whole Dipset/Jay-Z beef was absurd from the beginning and as many others have said, it’s only become more ridiculous because Jay-Z has given it the time of day and worse, seems to be taking it seriously.

What makes Dipset so great is how they will do the most juvenile shit ever, fully aware that it makes them look stupider than it does the intended target and not give a shit at all. The entire career of Dipset has been about actually not giving a fuck. Just start with their clothing, their complete embrace of fur and pink and purple is an affront, a challenge to laugh at them. I’d also argue that for fans like me, it’s almost a challenge to take them seriously. I really have to work hard to find what I consider some really interesting realities that they address. Although I love their over-the-top production, many have a problem with it and I can’t really argue. Those nutso strings and cackling sped-up little kid voices on ‘S.A.N.T.A.N.A’ entertain me but I can see why a lot of people have trouble taking the Dips seriously. This bombastic production, coupled with their apparent ability to rap on anything from super-obvious samples (‘Push It’, ‘Roxanne’, Zapp, Cindy Lauper, ‘Between the Sheets’) to television themes (‘Monday Night Football’, ‘Magnum P.I’, ‘Hillstreet Blues’) to fucking Rick Wakeman samples makes them bona fide weirdos. Even their actual threats are filtered through some weird, genius form of Dipset comedy wherein they are the butt of their own jokes, as when Jim Jones threatens some guy with a wedgie. And yeah, I really mean genius here, these guys are funny in this weird subtle comedy way that’s only seen on like, early Albert Brooks films or ‘The Larry Sanders Show’. Those “Mizzle” skits on Cam’ron’s ‘Purple Haze’ are legitimately clever: “Get some weight on you like that fat bitch Della Reese-Yo, I still don’t know what that means.” A pitch-perfect parody of a Woon, the hanger-on, repeating what his favorite rappers say, without any understanding. Or the genius of ‘Chicken Head’:

Chicken Head: I’m a chicken, so I’m a act like a chicken, quack quack!
Cam: That’s a DUCK.

The extra-weird thing about that skit is by the end of it, Cam has clearly lost the argument. As much as the Dips are about pumping themselves up, they spend a lot of time making themselves look like jerkoffs. The much-hated ‘Killa Season’ is the best movie that came out last year. No joke. It is Cassavetes-like in its improvisatory style and what people used-to Hollywood movies call “the worst acting ever” is actually so realistic that it makes you uncomfortable, so you call it “bad”. I have a feeling that when people actually freak-out because their niece has been shot they look a little embarrassing too. A musician hasn’t made a vanity project that makes them look this real since ‘Gimme Shelter’.

Now that Dipset are huge because of ‘We Fly High’, one might think they’d tone it down, but as this hacking escapade proves they couldn’t care less. When ‘We Fly High’ was first released it seemed like typical Dipset hilarity: Jim Jones doing push-ups with a video chick on his back, that hilariously bad on-purpose bluescreen effect with Jones, Cam, and Juelz doing choreographed dancing. Then, Ballin!-mania hit and the inevitable remix was released and the video is even goofier. Jones ups the retardation level by now, bench-pressing a video chick. The video really is a parody of the baller-ific Puffy era. The video takes place on white floors, in front of white walls, leaving the only thing to focus upon to be the rappers, girls, and cars. Rap video cliches are reduced even further. Money is handled in a way that suggests contempt, they objectify woman and money; Diddy poorly juggling wads of $1 bills, Jones drops-back like a QB and throws a wad of bills like a football, Juelz wears the bills in his bandana like an Indian feather, and Birdman angrily punts a stack of cash. When Juelz brags “money ain’t a thing” I sort of believe him. And, let’s not forget the part where the to-be-bench-pressed video girl climbs out of the hood of one of the cars, exposing the car as, literally, a prop…and Juelz has some weird little piece of shit dog on his lap. Is that cool by anyone’s standards?

At the same time, Cam drops a shaky video of him riding mountain bikes with his friends through Harlem. I think there’s some truth in all of their actions. The fun and even stupidity of Dipset is there to be entertaining but it’s also there for us to cut-through to get to the substance. They couch their big ideas and their emotions in jokes. They, like the best artists of any medium, in any era, have a compulsive need to tell the truth. Take a song like ‘Harlem Streets’ from ‘Purple Haze’, a very affecting song, that contains the line “I told my mother I hustle and she said ‘Be Careful” which pretty much defines, in the sparest of words, a mother’s unconditional love for her son. Of course, ‘Harlem Streets’ is backed by a TV theme sample which arguably, downplays the song’s seriousness, as does a line like “…climb behind vagina/then I hymen grind her”. This precarious balance of emotional lyrics, goofy production, and rampant misogyny, contains itself because all of it sort-of fits together in a real-world-is-contradictory way. Jim Jones’ ‘Summer Wit’ Miami’ (wasn’t this the real beginning of the beef with Jay? Everyone seems to have forgotten this…) does not contain a single quality line but the overall feeling of the song is a lot like what it feels like to reflect back on summer. If you actually listen to it, it’s hardly a party song, more of a morning-after-the-party song. Those ‘Purple Haze’ skits are funny but they are also incredibly well-done and realistic. They didn’t have to be recorded so shittily, as to reflect a bad phone-line, the Jamaican on ‘Rude Boy’ could have a slightly less impenetrable accent, and as I said, Cam doesn’t have to get totally schooled in his argument with his girlfriend. The world of Dipset is incredibly well-observed and well-wrought, but there’s also room for wedgie jokes and bad CGI.

Written by Brandon

January 15th, 2007 at 4:44 am

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Boring Best of 06′ Continues…
2. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury – I like how my last post began with complaining about the predictability of these lists and this list completely tows the Best Albums of 2006 party-line. Oh well. A lot has been said about ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ and for good reason, its really, really good. I’ll try to focus on some aspects of the album that I feel are under-discussed or “misinterpreted.”

The reality is Clipse (it’s Clipse, right? Like Talking Heads?) are above-average rappers but nothing amazing. However, they are really smart, really clever, and very insightful and have an emotional side that gives listeners the feeling that their music may last. For example, I can’t really get behind all of this Weezymania because Wayne can just spit and yeah, an extended ‘Mortal Kombat’ metaphor is impressive but not much more than that. Wayne and a lot of other guys are getting a bit too much credit when they briefly veer off-track and discuss emotion or consequences, while ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ is permeated by real emotional confusion and conflict. It is slowly becoming the next cliché of coke-rap that you discuss the dark-side of it all and that’s probably a good thing, but it just becomes another cliché. This summer, there was an interview with Ice Cube in ‘The Source’ where he gave this amazingly rational response to rap: “Some people that was political back then was bullshit, some people were real. You always gonna have that element. I don’t mind it as much as people probably think I would” (qtd. in Ford 82). Basically, everything devolves into a cliché and sometimes even those followers are good, but what, to me, separates Wayne from Clipse is insight. Wayne has followed the formula for being a hot rapper, and that isn’t easy to do, but he thinks going on-and-on and coming up with sick metaphors makes him a great rapper. It doesn’t. It makes him a good or an interesting rapper. Now all of this is subjective, so maybe I just don’t find very much to feel or relate to with Wayne, although he can impress me. Clipse to me, are legitimate, not in some “keepin’ it real” way but just in that they really understand how things work and can articulate their thoughts, whether they actually sold crack or made everything up. To me, the best moment on ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ is on ‘Dirty Money’ when Pusha T says “staying up til’ 2 am just to watch ‘Cheaters”. That small detail is so honest and real and it’s the sort of thing girls in black-framed glasses would fawn over if it was some “quirky”, indie singer-songwriter’s line. It’s a concise presentation of what is good about being with another person, some stupid little thing where you stay up late to watch some goofy reality show together. Of course, it’s in the same song as Malice’s “you ain’t gotta love me, just be convincing” verse, which makes all of this a lot more complicated; and complicated is good. Not Wayne throwing ‘Georgia Bush’ to the end of his mixtape complicated or Lupe Fiasco’s love/hate of Too $hort complicated ,but something…smarter. I can’t really articulate the difference and there probably isn’t one other than my own subjective interpretation, but I just feel too much satisfaction with himself when I hear Wayne and nothing but condescension when I listen to Lupe. Clipse are modest and their album is modest too. Like ‘Donuts’ where Dilla doesn’t let his production wizardry or the samples overstay their welcome, Clipse jump in and out. ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ is effortless to listen to; it’s like this understated, depressing, crime movie like Straight Time where, before you know it, Bilal is singing “I’m havin’ nightmares…” and its like the credits at the end of the movie and you know you didn’t catch everything you should have but you know that what you just experienced was great.

-Ford, Ryan. “G’Ology”. The Source. June 2006. (78-85).

Written by Brandon

December 23rd, 2006 at 7:59 pm

Posted in 2006, Clipse, rap humanism