That embarrassing moment when, while reading an article on Indian oligarchs, you congratulate yourself on knowing who Mukesh Ambani is, feeling gratified that you have not fallen as far out of touch with current affairs since your debating days as you sometimes fear – and then you realize it’s because you heard his name in a Das Racist song.
We usually listen to pop radio while cooking dinner, because cheese makes everything taste better. *rimshot* The following conversation ensued tonight when Party In The USA started playing:
Me: I still love that Jessie J wrote this. Except I don’t think it makes sense that Miley Cyrus is singing this instead of her.
Alec: Well, for Miley it’s about moving to LA from Nashville.
Me: I know, but still.
(We continue chopping vegetables as the song plays.)
Me: And see, this part about the Jay-Z song doesn’t fit with coming to LA. Jay-Z is East Coast!
Alec: It’s possible you’re overthinking this.
(Just so you don’t leave thinking that was two minutes of your life you’ll never get back, I highly recommend the Saffron Pasta Salad and Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro we made while engaging in this and other similarly profound conversation.)
Mindboggle of the day, via The High Definite: Busta Rhymes’ Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 40th Grammies in ’98, but lost to Will Smith. For Men In Black.
I will spare you my no-shit-Sherlock rant about tenuous connections between Grammies and actual artistic achievement, and just go straight into slapdash tangential raving about this song. That juddering, hypnotic sample! Busta rhyming “silly” with “nine milly” within the line, Busta rhyming “in God we trust” with “we murderous” across lines, Busta just inventing rhymes whenever and wherever he damn well wants![1. “You don’t wanna violate nigga really and truly-o / My main thug nigga named Julio he moodio / Type of nigga that’ll slap you with the toolio”] And of course, that incredible “I’ll-have-whatever-hallucinogen-he’s-having” Coming To America / Remember The Time mashup of a video!
Unsatisfied with being awesome all on its own, this song has also gone on to beget more awesome, like one of the best So You Think You Can Dance group routines of all time[2. Google “Busta Mod” and “Wade Robson” if that link stops working.], one of the most impressive hip-hop karaoke performances I’ve ever seen, and my stumbling onto the rather excellent Hip Hop Isn’t Dead blog simply because I googled Busta Rhymes in the course of writing this post. Don’t say I never give y’all my goodies. Peace out.
These links have been making the rounds on lots of blogs lately, but since I definitely go through long periods of being out of the music loop because I’ve disappeared down some other rabbit hole of obsession (more on this in a future post if I decide I’m not too embarrassed to write it), I figured I’d put them here too in case any of you happen to be like me.
Also, I know my recent posts have been nothing but photos, and although I’m really happy with how my photography’s been going I think I should remind myself that it is also good to write words.
- Pitchfork Reviews Reviews: Where has this blog been all my life?! Here’s the rationale for the blog, and a sample post I particularly enjoyed. I’m sure it has much better posts, but having only discovered it yesterday I have not gone through its entire archives. Yet.
- Kanye West: Project Runaway: The unfortunately-named Noah Callahan-Bever writes about getting invited to Hawaii to spend a week watching Kanye make My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. At the bit where he describes the trip as settling “into a fairly routine pattern, if by ‘fairly routine’ you mean ‘a succession of both magical and mundane moments starring the musicians who defined your adolescence alongside the most exciting artists of today’,” I would suggest you open Microsoft Paint, create a blank canvas and fill it with green. Ta da, you now have a photo of me as I was reading this article.
- Various music journos write about their “comfort albums” at Capital: There’s something about the premise of this that has innate appeal to any music nerd, and where I think the feature especially succeeds is in the breadth of music represented (though I will admit to being not quite metal enough to find Death’s The Sound Of Perseverance comforting).
- Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?: A well-written ongoing series on 90s alt-rock. If the navel-gaziness of Part 1 annoys you, go straight to Part 2 to be entertained by the feuding between Nirvana and GNR. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every part of the series so far even though it takes a while (Parts 4 and 5) to my favourite bands of that genre (Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden). Highly, highly recommended reading if you ever enjoyed any of the music.
Long-suffering is the man who queues up at the long-queue Punggol nasi lemak place on Tanjong Katong Road to ta pao for the sore-footed fiance lazing on the couch in his flat, watches 3 episodes of the X-Files with her while she squeals “AWWWW POOR SCULLLEEEEE…DEAD??! HE CAN’T BE DEAD!…HE’S ALIVE YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!” (studying in England screwed up my X-Files viewing, so I haven’t seen any episodes from the middle of season 8 onwards) intermittently throughout the evening and finally, sits calmly while said fiance gleefully searches out old Salt’N’Pepa videos on Youtube and raps to them because she fucking feels like it.
I bet you’re thinking this is a poor excuse for a post, and so far, you would be right. But you see, although all of the above did happen, I wouldn’t normally bother blogging about it. But then I found this:
I was listening to Lamacq Live (show of November 15th, available here but not for much longer I reckon), where Lady Sovereign was presenting a special report about MCs from the countryside. As they put it, “Can you be street if you live in a lane?” Let me just say that if you’re one of those hataz who can’t take UK hip-hop seriously because of the funny accents, you ain’t heard nuffin (well, nothing quite as funny) until you’ve heard a Scottish MC freestyling to grime.
It was a sweet little program, but a little depressing. There were a lot of exchanges like this:
Lady Sovereign: So wot do you rap about?
Random Cornish/Welsh/Scottish MC: About life and stuff.
Lady Sovereign: Yeah, so, like wot?
Random Cornish/Welsh/Scottish MC: Dunno, really. Not much happens round here.
At least I’ve finally found a watertight argument against Alec ever moving me to the countryside. My future career as a top MC would clearly be jeopardized.
…Gangsta’s Paradise is on the radio, you start rapping along with it in glee (you are studying and very bored), you get to the line “I’m twenny-three now, but will I live to see twenny-fo’?” and you realize that THE LAST TIME YOU RAPPED THAT LINE YOU WERE FIFTEEN AND NOW YOU ARE TWENNY-FO’.
I was also intending to write about Peter Kruder at the Heineken Green Room Sessions yesterday, but we got bored when he got a bit too acid-jazzy for our tastes, and went to Phuture instead, where I informed some tall drunk loser who looked all of 17 that if he wanted to use my bum as a grinding surface, he should probably give me some fucking flattery first.
After moving further into the crowd and getting Dom to take her cap off so that the loser couldn’t find us again, I was ambushed by a sudden and unexpected epiphany about Ludacris’s Southern Hospitality: it is the shit.
I’ve always had a thing for authoritative MCing – Chuck D is the obvious example to trot out here, and is probably the reason for this fetish in the first place, given that Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions is the first rap album I ever bought. Other MCs who float my “authoritative” boat are KRS-One and Roots Manuva, but I never really paid much attention to Ludacris. He’s always just been there, another of those people halfway down my “too much music, too little time” list, but when “Cadillac GRI-LLS, Cadillac MI-LLS, check out the oil my Cadillac SPI-LLS” (look, I didn’t say he was a poet, I just said he sounds authoritative when he raps) blasted out of the club speakers, multiple Michelle rap buttons were pushed.
The other thing that really does it for me in this song is the way the last word in each line is (only just) after the beat instead of right smack on it. I can’t quite describe why it makes such a big difference for me, but rapping with words smack on the beat reminds me of the Beastie Boys (eg. “Don’t! You! ask me to SMILE! I’ll stick around and make it worth your WHILE! etc.”), who I (shock! horror!) quite often find boring.
The last thing that really gets my booty shaking in this song (and quite a lot of others) is its extreme misogyny, but I can’t quite explain that in any rational way. I just derive wild joy from yelling “All my women in the house if you chasing cash, and you got some big titties wit a matching ass.” It probably has something to do with feeling empowered in my female sensuality or whatever.
An open letter to DJ Jazzy Jeff:
This is the second time you’ve done this to me. For the second time, I’ve gone to see you DJ at Zouk and you’ve taunted me cruelly with only the opening of KRS-One’s Sound Of Da Police but none of the verses.
The first time, I tried to tell myself it was the cool way to do DJ sets – drop some obviously famous beats so that the crowd will go wild with recognition, but then switch to something else more obscure fairly fast so you don’t look like you’re just playing a The Best Hip-Hop Album In The World, Evah! compilation. And to a certain extent, this often works for me quite well. I no longer feel the need to “Jump around! Jump around! Jump up jump up and get down! Jump! Jump! Jump! etc.” but I’m still happy enough to dance to the first verse.
The problem, and of course this is totally subjective, is that what applies to Jump Around doesn’t apply to Sound Of Da Police, okay? Hearing the intro is simply not enough. I demand KRS-One’s righteous bellow of “STAND CLEAR! Don man a-talk, you can’t stand where I stand you can’t walk where I walk. WATCH OUT! We run New York, police man come we bust him out of the park!”, I long to be in a club full of people gabbling that meld from “oberseer” to “officer” in the second verse, and as he ends the third verse with “My grandfather had to deal with the cops, my great-grandfather dealt with the cops, and then my great great great great…” hell yeah I want to join in and complete the line by yelling “WHEN IT’S GONNA STOP??!”
[The fact that I am an affluent yellow girl whose only real encounter with the police ever was making a report when I lost my wallet as a teenager, and that they were really rather nice at the time, should not negate my right to profess undying love for this song. Or even to shout along in simulated rage.]
So please, Jazzy. If I ever see you play again, give us the whole song. You already played your part in inflicting Will Smith on the world, thereby depriving mainstream radio for years of any hip-hop worth listening to. Are you willing to shoulder the blame for this further cruelty?
I’ve seen Public Enemy live, muthafuckaaaaas……
Ahem. Sorry, I realize not everyone reading this will regard such experiences as seminal. But let me take this in steps. First, they’re PUBLIC ENEMY, MUTHAFUCKAAAAAAS! Second, back in the days when for me, buying an album, any album, was an investment of staggering financial significance, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back was the first hip-hop album I ever bought. I know the same could be said for countless other wannabe music eclecticists who did….did..did…..did believe the hype, but let me point out that I spent these formative years in Singapore, where most Beastie Boys albums (and Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope, for crying out loud) were banned until recently. Dammit, it took real commitment for a kid like me in Singapore to become an annoying music snob. Third, it became increasingly obvious in later years that my taste in MCs seems to have been indelibly moulded by the stentorian sounds of Chuck D. To this day, there is no MC I find as compelling.
Public Enemy have still got it. By the time Nick, Benny and I had got absolutely knackered from the sheer intensity of their performance, Griff was still doing quintuple kung fu kicks across the stage, Flav was crowd-surfing, and Chuck D was still sprinting everywhere bellowing. Some bits got a little self-indulgent, like Flav promoting his new album, and going on and on and on at the end about how the war was fucked, and how we had to raise our fingers in the peace sign, and then join them to signify togetherness, and then clench our fists to signify the power of togetherness, but I guess that’s something you have to expect from a rap group which are about more than gold chains and ho’s.
Other worthy features of the evening were masterful performances from supporting acts Killa Kela and Kool Keith. Killa Kela’s gotten even better since the last time I saw him. I suppose people in the beatboxing loop would say he’s still got some way to go before he reaches the dizzy heights of Rahzel or Doug E. Fresh, but I ain’t never heard of them beatboxing speed drum’n’bass before, ‘aaaight? Also noteworthy was his rendition of Britney’s I’m A Slave 4 U complete with gasping orgasmic vocals.
So that was another ridiculously worthwhile gig for the list. I’m seeing El-P and Murs next week, and I haven’t even written about the amazingness of Magoo on Saturday. And Calla are playing at the Water Rats in May. And I’m seeing Nick Cave in June. There are many other ways in life of being a sad geek, but all this certainly works well enough for me.