Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Just Add Water: Notes for an Unwritten Essay About Early-Adult Hip-Hop Fandom

1. Reference should be made to author’s literal-if-not-cultural blackness, to a delayed appreciation of what rap has to offer. Quote a former acquaintance of Caucasian descent who today works as an African-American literature professor at a California university: “You’re the whitest black man I know.”

2. Sly or derisive allusions to Bill Cosby, Don Imus, Bill O’Reilly, Richard Pryor, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton – these are givens.

3. Extensive discussion about Kanye West, who author wishes more rappers would emulate conceptual (nonetheless, author concedes that if this happened hip-hop would be more boring and drab than it already is at the moment).

4. A drawing of paralells between rap and noise music, or rap and extreme metal. (Note to self: might not work because the public at large is less exposed to extreme metal and noise, though if it were, it would reject those genres with the same vociferousness it shuns rap, if for totally different reasons, many of them having to do with race and “otherness”.)

5. Rap enjoyment as largely private ritual; parents and wife generally not down with hip-hop. Youthful anecdote: mother insisted that author play rap at low volume, before 9 p.m., and not own more than a handful of genre albums

6. Author’s first hip-hop record: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, a cassette copy.

7. Flashback: unpacking in a dorm room, autumn 1995, to the beat of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer ep. Hick roommate from Delaware remarks to author: “You know, black people don’t usually listen to Nine Inch Nails.”

8. Evenhanded look at gaping divide between gangsta rap’s values and author’s own, buttered in light sarcasm. Concession that author would feel very uncomfortable with his son growing up to a soundtrack of Clipse, Ghostface, and Lil Wayne records. Digression into awkward take on tired “blackness vs. whiteness” debate; should include admission from author that he never qued up for Cross Colors gear or other urban fashions because, well, because they simply didn’t seem to have anything to do with who he was.

9. Hosannas for the creative, inventive (cinematic? No, overused trope, avoid) nature of some rap lyricism, which helps author and his crit peers get beyond the narcissism, violence, sexism, and glorification of drug hustling that typifies much of its content.

10. Eminem; also, Elvis. Race.

11. Is 50 Cent serious, or is he camping? (Side note: it might be fun to scrap this project and pull off a parody of/homage to Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” about rap, mostly parsing Dipset.)

12. Maybe hustling is just an overarching metaphor for success; everyone wants to be successful; hip-hop dominance circa late 99s/early 00s as achievement life accessory, i.e. coffee, No Doz, rims, etc.

13. Real talk on why progressive, posi-rap doesn’t move units or play into public perception of hip-hop as a whole. Author admits a grudging respect for the sub-genre but isn’t as stoked as he is by, say, Dr. Dre. (Native Tongues alums and Kanye pre-2007 excepted)

14. A corrolary: why can’t contented, sincerely top-of-the-heap rap swing, slam, and command respect? (i.e. Kingdom Come) The argument that hubris, threats, and degradation draw the masses is a familiar one and not without merit, but would Jay-Z’s last record have struck more of a chord if the Def Jam prez spent it rapping about the trials and tribulations of being filthy rich? Bad service at 5-star eateries, a coveted invite to a premiere that arrived a day too late, inept valets, management-office snitches, overly chatty tailors seeking autographs, LAX losing designer luggage full of Louis Vuitton outfits, A-list jewelers and their shoddy workmanship, the sheer indignity of being snubbed by Diddy or Robert De Niro at a Grammy party, and so on?

15. A defining flashback: sophomore year of high school, in sedan being driven around the McDonogh School’s parking lot by Tony Solomon after the author’s school played theirs in water polo. Tony – second or third generation Lebanese, I think – is showing off, because it’s an early fall evening and he is able to pilot the car using only his knees. Blasting from the stereo? Doggystyle.

16. Grumbling about the hoops and hassles associated with acquiring – or attempting to acquire, anyway – major-label rap promos for review, and some insights as to why doing so is considerably more arduous than securing indie-rock promos.

17. Author shouldn’t preach; nor should he cheerlead.

18. What does it mean that Vibe ran a Barack Obama cover story?

19. A detached yet concerned tone should be maintained throughout, if author wants to be taken seriously and not dismissed as a “hater,” “stan,” or “Uncle Tom.”

20. This essay will never be written.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Off-the-wall ideas unpalatable to V. Voice = kill fees + YOU (and only you) reading this nonsense first

Singles Going Steady: “Noise Dudes, Dudettes Love Kim Deal”

By Ray Cummings


"Divine Hammer"
From Clockcleaner/Deerhunter split 7-inch (Hoss)

Philly’s Clockcleaner so heart La Deal that their cover of “Divine Hammer” is twice as long as the Last Splash original. This trio’s gender-flipped take is more sexually charged. Singer John Sharkey could work as a voice double for Calvin Johnson; when he makes it known, all gravelly bass, that “I’m just looking, just looking for a way around/It disappears this year” amidst an avalanche of sputtering sonic M80s and rusted riffs, one is inclined to believe his frustrations are more obliquely carnal than innately religious (which may account for the relatively tantric length).

"Perfect Skin"
From Health (Lovepump United)

In apparent homage to “Breaking the Split-Screen Barrier” – a starch-y vamp from Deal solo album Pacer, cut as The Amps in 1995 – L.A.’s Health scuzz up the works slightly as they ease into that discontinuous, forest of staunch, two-note guitar blasts. Following some quickie high-wire ax orgasming, the trees thin out somewhat and “Skin” ends more or less the way it began – in sharp contrast with “Barrier,” which coalesced into a real rock song at midpoint then ultimately “culminated” with a disconcertingly sustained, tape-skipping voice sample and came equipped with lyrical content one could actually, like, discern, use as senior-page yearbook quotes, etc.

The Magik Markers
From BOSS (Ecstatic Peace!)

Kim: What the fuck, Kurt? You want me to rap this cryptic poem – emotionlessly – over... that?

Kurt: Yeah! It’s, you know, it’s gonna be the obligatory hidden noise track. Krist, Dave, and I were smoking raw opium at the Laundry Room back in ’95, there was a tropical storm raging outside, and I guess some evil spirits took control of our bodies or something, because when we came to we were wearing cochineal facepaint and had this sinister session tape nobody can remember making, even to this day.

Kim: It’s totally swirling-vortex-of-ghouls creepy, The Ring creepy, drunk-on-absinthe creepy. I played it for Kelley when she was coming down yesterday, she freaked out! I dunno – might be too heavy to close an acoustic Nirvana reunion disc, man.

Kurt: Yeah, but –

Kim: “You chew and jaw and then you’re dead”? “Open your arms as you leave the shore”? The bloggersphere will be all “Cobain’s fixin’ to attempt suicide again” –

Kurt: See –

Kim: Irony can’t neutralize or re-contextualize everything, Kurt.

Kurt: Kim, Kim – Lil Wayne’s gonna rap about his conflict diamond-encrusted shotgun over the final mix for a Carter III bonus cut! So it’s cool.

Kim: Oh, word?