Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shut up.

- Where’s the Logic?: Ok, peep this portion from the pitchfork review of Buckshot and 9th Wonder’s new album called “Chemistry”:

    Albums like Chemistry are written off by a lot of people who don't get down with its retro leanings-- and it certainly doesn't help that 9th Wonder is only a serviceable replacement for those with whom he's compared. His sample selection is tasteful, but someone needs to buy my man some drums. It's a simple question of technique. His predecessors-- Pete Rock, Primo, Large Professor via Paul C (Google "Dave Tompkins Paul C"), and even Boot Camp's own Da Beatminerz--all chopped sampled drums, and the results were full, thick slabs of marbled beats. 9th programs his own, and they are hollow and processed. But, that's how it goes when a snare can be traced and tapped for royalty payments.

What the fuck is this guy talking about? Now, I don’t particularly like 9th Wonder’s drums. In fact, I too think they suck (though I haven’t heard the album in question). But, does this guy really think that (a) 9th isn’t sampling drums and re-programming them the same way Primo and the Beatminerz did and (b) that 9th is choosing to do drums like this because it’s strictly an issue of sample-clearance? Dude, come on! First of all, why the fuck would 9th be worried about the sound of a snare drum but isn’t worried about sampling old soul songs? That just makes no sense what so ever… especially considering that US copyright law only protects melody (I think there are some exceptions to this where if you rock a really identifiable break like “Funky Drummer” you’d have to clear it, but you certainly don’t have to clear random snare hits!) Second of all, I don’t think 9th is sitting in his room constructing snares from scratch on some weird little computer program--I’m quite sure he samples drums just like the rest of us. So, it’s not a matter of 9th either (a) not sampling drums or (b) choosing not to sample drums because of sample clearance issues. It’s just a matter of 9th having a shitty ear for drums (much like Ant). I know this really isn’t that big of a deal and I’m kind of nit-picking this poor guy’s review, but what the fuck?

- Silver Jews: Might as well shout-out something good on pitchfork since I do rather like the place even though it’s really popular to hate it. This Silver Jews interview is quite good. David Berman rules me. I’ve only got American Water but it kicks my butt and I fucking love this record front to back… even the silly instrumental jams.

- Frappuccinos are Big Macs in a Plastic Cup: Jesus fucking Christ. I had one of these at lunch today and it annihilated me. Perhaps that’s because it has more calories than a mother fucking Big Mac. Got damn. The girl I’m seeing (hi!) advised me that there like 600 calories in that bitch but I thought she was exaggerating.

- NERD ALERT: The Skeleton Key: I had no interest in watching this shitty movie (“Wholly devoid of suspense or chills, The Skeleton Key simply bides its time until its big final plot twist, but the filmmakers don't seem to realize that a second-rate twist can't redeem a third-rate fright flick”) until I read this (“I think [The Skeleton Key] provides an answer to the question Steven Shaviro posed a while back in an excellent post on commodity fetishism.”) I probably still won’t watch it because horror movies scare me and I’d imagine K-punk’s reading of the movie is way more interesting than the movie itself but whatever. If you like horror movies and have something to say about commodity fetishism, go watch that shit and holler at me.

- Fuck Saigon: My homeboy Trapper Juan rather likes Saigon but I tend to think he’s a bit overrated. Perhaps it’s not precise to say he’s overrated because I really don’t know how highly he’s even rated. I do know that he’s the first rapper Just Blaze signed to his label and so perhaps I should rephrase my sentiment and just say this: Just Blaze overrates Saigon. I don’t have any huge problem with Saigon as a rapper. He’s simply unspectacular. Or perhaps that’s still unfair. He’s simply unspectacular when standing next to (i.e. rapping on top of) the spectacular beats by Just Blaze. This still isn’t entirely true because I haven’t heard any tracks that Blaze gave Saigon that are really that remarkable. So, perhaps I should only say that Saigon is unspectacular when compared with the work Just Blaze is capable of. But, fuck it I’m rambling about something I don’t really care about. Whatever the case, and whatever my feelings about the man’s music might be, I think we can all agree that he is no position to be dissing rappers like Jadakiss for not being “authentic,” something he does in this interview. My dude Dame over at Cult-Status has the short version with some commentary that I wholly agree with (Let’s be happy Dame is posting regularly in his own blog instead of posting so many thoughts in other blogs’ comments section).

This whole “reality” non-sense in hip-hop is some of the most over-played non-sense ever. To be sure, rappers can benefit from a certain sense of authenticity. After all, as my man faux_rillz is quick to point out, part of what makes rappers like Young Jeezy so interesting as a rapper is his back-story. It’d be foolish to deny that. But, even still, the value of “authenticity” in rap is greatly overstated by folks like Saigon. Tupac is, to this day, by far one of the most respected rappers in the game and yet you could say everything that Saigon is saying about Jadakiss about Tupac. Does that make Tupac’s music any less effective? Does that mean kids can’t relate to it? Does that mean Tupac can’t notice things about this “thug” life and express them in an interesting, provocative, and important manner? If you’ve never sold drugs, are you absolutely incapable of performing the “reality” of selling drugs?

To answer these questions, we have to be honest about the peformative aspect of hip-hop and accept that, no matter what anybody says, it is always and at all times a performance. It’s become a rap cliché to say “I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler” or something like that, but the obvious ridiculousness of that statement is embedded in the statement itself. And, that’s what’s so great about the Clipse and other hustlers turned rappers who claim that they “aren’t rappers” and that “rap is just an extension of their hustle.” Of course, people are quick to miss the significant “signifyin(g)” moment in that statement, completely ignoring the fact that that statement necessarily doubles as an authenticating device as well as a braggadocios statement: “I’m so good at rapping that I don’t even consider myself a rapper. It’s not what concerns me. It’s just something I do to make money because that’s all I’m about… but shit, I’m pretty darn good at doing something I’m not concerned with, huh? What, you don’t think so? Well why’re you listening to my shit?” In other words, part of what makes the “performance” so effective is insisting that it’s NOT a “performance,” but it’s silly to take this insistence as much more than a clever and useful rhetorical technique. The “street”/”gangsta”/”real” rappers that are most successful realize this (Jay, Beanie, Jeezy, Jadakiss, Snoop, etc) and use this to their advantage: they perform their characters with an aura of authenticity and that aura almost always outweighs the “reality” of that authenticity.

Saigon’s criticisms of Jada are just plain silly and immature and while it’s not uncommon to hear kids in the hood saying “I like so&so because he’s real,” their enjoyment of him has a lot more to do with the perceived “authenticity” in the performance than it does with the actual “authenticity” in the biography—whether these kids are willing to admit that or not doesn’t even matter because there is evidence enough to know that even these kids who insist that a rapper must be “real” know that, at some level, “realness” ain’t enough: a wack rapper is a wack rapper no matter how many people he’s killed, no matter how many pounds of coke he’s moved, and no matter how many times he’s gone to jail. It’s really all about the “performance of reality” (or perhaps even the fantasy of reality) and I think the best “gangsta” rappers are well aware of this. In other words, shut the fuck up, Saigon.



At 7:42 AM, Blogger SergDun said...

didn't 9th wonder start out using fruity loops? If I remember he used fruity loops for that whole first little brother album. I doubt he uses those shitty fruity loop drums but yeah it's probably that shit that makes his drums so weak. He probably stepped up his equipment since then though.

I think that shit has more to do with 9th having a ear for the boring than any fucking sample clearance issues.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Drew said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Drew said...

I've read that same Saigon interview before, and I agree that he says some really bizarre things. Being from Harford County, MD, I am obviously not one to harp on street authenticity, but I never really understood the debate myself. In most Saigon interviews he's on some self-righteous conspiracy theory type shit.

He's angry that dudes are disengenously claiming they lead a so-called "hustler's" lifestyle when in real life he's heard the exact opposite (but who really knows, foreal?). I think the reason he's getting so personal with it is that he feels attacked by the shit since he maintains that he was a genuine thug from an early age (he was in jail for a long time, he stabbed some guy in the lung, etc). I'm thinking he's just mad that people are rapping about the same issues he is and gaining the same type of credibility without actually living the shit.

I understand what Saigon is saying but I feel like he could have expressed this sentiment on a generalized level instead of in the form of personal attacks/hate on a number of different artists. The authenticity question in rap is an interesting one, but in this interview Saigon just portrays himself as a full-blown hater instead of the insightful dude he can often be.

I blame this in part (but by no means entirely) on the interviewer; it seemed like he egged dude on the entire time by asking him to talk shit about artists by name. Just seems a bit unprofessional is all (although I'm sure this dude would chide me for not being "raw" enough or something).

Honestly though, I just really like dude's raps.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger emynd said...


I think we're agreeing. Fruity Loops doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with drum sounds though, right? I mean, you sample drums on that shit, right? I'm sure it comes with some pre-set sounds and shit, but I highly doubt 9th is rocking those things. I think he just has a bad ear for drums (like Ant). But, it's pretty apparent that that's the sound he's going for because his drums sound consistently similar... It's just a sound I think is wack.


Double post again and I'll stab you in the lungs. Miss another "White T's and White Belts" and I'll hire some "genuine thugs" to murk you. Anyway, I agree with you, except for the liking Saigon thing. I think he's OK, but nothing special. He just doesn't have enough charisma or something.


At 1:44 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

nice remarks re: reality.

i too have seen 9th wonder talk about FL, though in recent interviews he doesn't mention it. of course, one can put any kind of drum sample one wants into FL so that shouldn't make a difference (unless someone is using those shitty pre-sets).

regarding copyright, it is true that the law in the US generally recognizes melody and not rhythm in determining authorship. but that's only one half of the law, which covers both compositional rights (i.e., the music as an idea) and mechanical rights (i.e., the music as a recording). so snare-drum or soul-loop, if you're sampling, you're in danger of litigation.

last year's ruling on the "three notes" NWA sample has extended these "protections" to the smallest portions possible, which is, for us musicians and heads and such, complete bullshit--totally missing the way creativity operates in musical production of the digital age. i can't wait for "hip-hop judges" to come along and set the record straight.

more here:

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous blizzy! said...

"i'm a hustla not a rappa, it's just rap is my hustle."

i agree with you cuz... but one note on the definition of 'hustle'. this word has basically replaced the word 'gig'. it's been like that for a minute too- you work at checkers, you hustle burgers.

rappers use it this way, along with the way you are describing.

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous blizzy! said...

this album is probably extremely boring. what's with that 2 year old underground trend of pairing random producers and random rappers for an entire album?

since when was this more interesting than a rapper picking his beats from a vastly greater pool of them? the potential blends of artistry logically should be better, no?

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous blizzy! said...

so yeah, this now gives their statements a TRIPLE meaning. a 'meeting of four perhaps?'


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