Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'ma rob me a person...

- Illinoise: I bought this Sufjan Steven’s CD “Illinoise” this weekend because I heard “Chicago” on the radio a few times and I fucking love it. This dude kills. Cop that shit.

- Wayne: One Year Down, Eternity to go!: The wonderful blogger Wayne from wayne&wax celebrated his One Year Wedding Anniversary recently, proving himself to be much more than just an interesting nerd a great writer. Congrats, dude. Only eternity to go!

- Reef Review: In a fit of extreme journalistic immorality, my dude Drew Lazor/Trapper Juan wrote a nice review of Reef’s new record, saying nice things about Reef and complimenting my beats. Thanks, dude. Sorry for publicly exposing your lack of journalistic integrity and/or ethics, but somebody’s gotta watch the watch-dog!

- White Tizzle and Bizzle: White T’s and Belts was hella fun. Bo, Dan, and I did our thing (on woodgrain turntables no less) and the place was packed even though it was raining like a muuuug. Thanks to urryone that came out. You can see some early night pics here, but it’s worth reiterating that they were EARLY. Bkellz took these pics before 12:15 and shit didn’t get poppin’ until 12:30 or so. Come next time, you folls!

- Pornography Task Force: Well, the FBI’s newly created Anti-Porn Task Force Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Justice Department has raided the office of notorious male porn-star Max Hardcore. Now, I’m not necessarily pro-disgusting porn, but I am pro-free speech and as long as nobody is being illegally violated and/or directly forced into doing disgusting porn, I don’t see the harm in its existence. I do, however, find a great deal of harm in passing legislation based on “morality” that would limit this type of “expression.” This is straight-up censorship, and it’s not right, and it’s un-American. If (a) an 18-year old girl wants to get sodomized by an old man on camera, who is anybody to say she shouldn’t be able to do that if she wants and/or (b) some folks (of legal viewing age) shouldn’t watch it? We value the wrong things in this country.

- Ed Wade: Speaking of “valuing the wrong things,” Phillies GM for 8 years Ed Wade has FINALLY been canned. Philly’s “Premier Radio Sports Talk Personality” Howard Eskin seems to think that Wade’s firing was in no small part due to something like 1/3 of the season ticket holders writing letters to Dave Montgomery saying that they would not be purchase season tickets next year if Wade returned while countless other non-season ticket purchasers wrote similar letters expressing their disdain. I applaud the fans’ desire to make their voices heard, but why is it that folks are more willing to write a letter to get a GM of a baseball team fired, but would never sit down and write a letter to a congressman about something that might actually AFFECT them. Of course, I’m greatly simplifying the dynamics of what it means to be “human” with this brief rant, but it’s still slightly frustrating. Oh well. Go buy some Eskin fur from the King of Bling.

- Derrida Loves Dipset: On a messageboard recently, I was asked to elaborate when I said “I still think Dipset... is much more political than someone like Talib Kweli will ever be.” Well, here’s my verbose explication in my famous small font that Aaron loves:

    The whole “Dipset is more political than some anonymous conscious rapper” idea I support is based on the simple fact that I don’t think that it’s really all that possible to be political in content anymore and that one can only be successfully “political” in “form” and/or performance. There are several reasons why I feel this way. First of all, I’m not convinced people pay much attention to “content” nor do I think people learn very much from “content.” As far as conscious hip-hop goes, folks like Mos Def and Talib Kweli are relatively effectless (and hence “apolitical”) because their whole existence as “conscious” is based on their content—it’s based on what they rap about, not at all about how they rap. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that in anyway and, to be sure, I actually like quite a bit of each of their stuff. But, that being said, I don’t think anyone who listens to Mos Def and Kweli were really that affected by the “messages” in their song. After all, look at the barrage of “conscious” songs we heard before the last election? Eminem’s “Mosh,” Jada’s “Why,” Sage Francis and his whole catalog of anti-Bush songs, not to mention the Dixie Chicks, Green Day (who’s Anti-Bush album won a motherfucking Grammy for God’s sake), etc, etc. And, what was the sum-total of all this “conscious” stuff? All this “political” art? Bush wins by a larger margin then before.

    I tend to think that most people that gravitate towards conscious rappers aren’t compelled to do so in some way nor are they particularly convinced by their messages; they are simply listening to stuff they agree with, and patting themselves on the back for agreeing with this shit. Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but if the point of conscious rap is “revolution” or “social change,” then I think folks like Mos Def and Kweli need to re-evaluate their approach if they want to make some sort of lasting change.

    The thing about the Dips is that they truly are “a movement.” Of course, they don’t appear to be rapping about anything especially provocative and even voice some pretty reprehensible homophobic and misogynistic notions, but they’ve really found a way to attract a large listenership through being unequivocally likable. I think Cam’ron and Juelz Santana are really the two reasons people like the Dips (Jim Jones and Freeky and even JR Writer are just side-acts that happen to compliment King-Cam and Prince-Santana pretty well, but I don’t think anybody would be paying much attention to the rest of the Dips if they didn’t come with the approval of Cam and Juelz) and, while people probably like them for a variety of different reasons, I think there are certain things they do in their music that we can all agree are extremely likable and effective.

    For all intents and purposes, Cam basically invented that rhyming a word with the same word shit that is all but overdone at this point. That rhyming a word with the same word/homonym thing is basically why I came up with the “Derrida loves Dipset” shirt. I really have no idea if Derrida would actually like Dipset (somehow however, I doubt it), but I do think that some of the things that Cam and Juelz do with language perform some Derridean notions by drawing attention to the complicated and “free interplay” of signifiers and signifieds (what better way to call attention to the arbitrary nature and structure-less structure of language than to use the same words over and over again to mean vastly different things? i.e. JR Writer’s “I ran with coppers/You ran with the coppers/ Platinum, while your ass ran with the copper”). Of course, I don’t honestly think that most of Harlem likes Cam because he’s a clever performance of Derridean concepts nor do I think Cam is aware of Derrida’s existence (while I wouldn’t be surprised if he was), but the fact remains that there’s something sort’ve exciting and fun about hearing these dudes spit this somewhat ridiculous, clever word-play shit with such a confident swagger (and that excitement and fun itself performs Derrida’s faith in the deconstructive spirit. While lots of people criticized deconstruction and the poststructuralists [and, in turn, postmodernity] as something that tragically de-centered everything, leaving it baseless, folks like Derrida and Jameson give you a feeling of excitement about the possibilities and potentialities of this baseless, groundless, and fundamentally structure-less world). Anyway, I’m getting a bit off track here, but the point is that the Dips are exciting, fun, and creative music and I think they’re single-handedly responsible for showing a lot of people (me included) that mainstream rap isn’t as simple and shitty as us underground dorks thought.

    The Dips successfully introduced a new way of looking at mainstream rap music. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the blogosphere recently went Dipset crazy. I think there was something undeniably likable about the Dipset swagger and performance that attracted a lot of folks that were previously pretty anti-mainstream rap. But, Dipset’s greatest achievement was introducing a whole new set of aesthetic standards to people that weren’t aware of these standards. It was like “Holy shit! I like this! Maybe I [i]shouldn’t[/u], but fuck it! I do!” and with that realization came some basic questions and some re-evaluating. There was something in the Dip swagger and performance that really changed the way a lot of (probably mostly white) people looked at rap music and what’s so remarkable about it is that the Dips did it on their own terms, without comprising themselves, but by bringing the listener over to their side.

    I remember reading a review quote on the back of Don DeLillo’s “Underworld” where the writer of the review was praising the book. He said something along the lines of the following: “This book is a great book, and all great books teach you how to read them as you are reading it.” This is how I feel about Dipset. They didn’t have to get Jon Brion to play on their albums, nor did they have to rap about “conscious” stuff to get white people to listen—they simply rapped and did so in such a provocative, fun, and interesting way that it simultaneously taught their listener that what they were doing was good.

    I don’t doubt that some of this is a time & place sort’ve thing where this type of aesthetic transformation/acceptance was bound to happen sooner or later (i.e. if it weren’t the Dips, eventually someone like Young Jeezy would’ve come along and done something similar), but, as you will undoubtedly read in any biography of any great revolutionary figure that they too were only as successful as their time & place allowed them to be.

    Anyway, I’m kinda rambling now, but the point is, I think Dipset is great because they transformed a whole lot of folks aesthetic standards instead of transforming their own in order to market themselves to a larger audience or something. The Dips did what they do in an uncompromising, unapologetic manner and wound up teaching a whole lot of white folks out there the main lesson of rap music: that the “how” (form/style/performance) is greater than the “what” (content/intent/message). That’s way more political than Mos Def and Talib Kweli and the like have ever been… and likely will ever be.



At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is it so important that "white folks" learn about hip hop? i mean do you think it's important politically for "black folks" to learn about country music? im not disagreeing.. im just sayin.
on the politics tip: do you really think that makes dipset more political?

At 4:50 PM, Blogger emynd said...

It's not at all "important" that "white folks" learn about hip-hop really. I was just clarifying my position as to why I think they are more political than the conscious rappers who claim to be "political." Anyway, let's not forget that most conscious rap fans are themselves white folks that think they know something about what hip-hop is and/or "should be."

As for whether or not it makes dipset "more political," my answer is "yes" but I suppose it all depends on what your definition of "political" is. I'm really not convinced that art is particularly capable of being "political" in the revolutionary sense that many of us want it to be (i.e. making people value and care about things they previously didn't--especially enough to change those "bad" things). I do think art is capable of being "political" in the sense that it can help people see the world around them differently and help encourage people to challenge themselves, but I don't think art--at this particular historical moment where art is nothing but commerce--is capable of inspiring rampant social change. Using this definition of "political," I think folks like Dipset have been markedly more succesful at being "political" than someone like Kweli has.

Lastly, I didn't really want to talk about Dipset's political impact on "black folks" because I don't really think I'm qualified to do so.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Mr. Babylon said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response, dog.

I agree completely that anonymous conscious rapper rapping about Geronimo Pratt and making bad puns isn't really that political at all, but don't know if I see the leap that Dipset revolutionizing (or at least redefining) form and aesthetics is political. I also think you give them a little more credit than they might deserve for that change, but that's not really important.

What I do see for sure is the way they stay getting paid, getting hipster love, and on the verge of mainstream hugeness by being the only crew in New York consistently doing anything exciting on a street-level is kinda subversive.

Anyway, please keep thinking and writng about this type stuff, it's important and thought-provoking, and I learn a ton every time.

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the author: you should check out what that fool Slug said about the situation in the new URB (I know, I know). Some borderline questionable shit about equating Dipset with savages and pulling the race thing in but in a very suburban-framed way. I don't know just my take; could add to your ongoing discussion

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Even though I like some of his music, Slug's a retard. Whines too much. Thanks for the link look, even though that review sucked. Written very sloppy. I submitted a revised copy but I'm sure the OKP people are laughing at me right now for being an anal perfectionist or something.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger David said...

haha emil you never get to accuse me of overanalysis again! ;)

I think yr giving dipset a bit too much credit though. I mean, there are plenty of not-corny not-'conscious' rappers out there who are actually rather political. And I don't mean aesthetically subversive (per se) but culturally/politically too. I mean Tupac remains the blueprint for 80% of rappers and his music was explicitly political. Better believe that has an effect.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger David said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger emynd said...

To anonymous:

Yeah, I saw the Slug quote. It's pretty ridiculous. I can't front though, I'll still listen to some Atmosphere, but I don't think he's in any real position to be proclaiming what is "savage" and what isn't in rap music.


Part of my point is that I feel like the only way to be truly political these days is to be stylistically "subversive" (whatever the hell that means) or at least stylistically engaging. So, I don't think I'm giving Dipset THAT much credit. I'm just saying they don't rap about much and don't care to, and do so in a manner that's engaging. Likewise, I basically say that they are a time and place phenomenon, but a phenomenon nonetheless.

And as far as Tupac: people forget that NYC (and thus most of the rap world) HATED tupac before he died. Tupac was crowned king after and, at least partially, because of his death. I remember the day after 'Pac died Hot '97 played Pac joints all day... but they absolutely never played him before that! So, what the fuck? Tupac is perhaps "the blueprint" in retrospect or something , but he's an over-celebrated martyr who, I would arge, became "political" as well as extremely popular (and then canonized) more through his death than his actual music... which isn't a value judgment on his music, just a reality of the timeline, and makes bringing him hear somewhat beside the point. Dipset is "political" because of their "apolitical" aesthetic focus while Tupac became "political" because he died.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Holy shit. I think I realize my problem:

I've been reading way too much freedarko.

Blame them for posts like this.


At 5:11 PM, Blogger David said...

I think Pac was pretty political, just in terms of content, before he died. And I do think it resonated, prior to his death. I don't know that it 'affected change' or shifted the course of the country but it was certainly culturally resonant. I mean, plenty of rappers stand for certain values today that are inherently political and i think there is a value in that. I'm also sort of tired of talking about dipset.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger emynd said...

Dude, believe it or not, I'm tired of talking about dipset, too. I'm tired of listening to them a bit, too. Not to mention that these new Juelz singles (that horrid whistle song and "Clockwork") are boring as fuck. I think his album is gonna suck. Dudes should stick to making mixtapes and stop trying to make albums for "lindsay n'dem"*.


* faux_rillz's phrase

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Kenny ken said...

Yeah Talib = non-political but equals political chronicler. Not a bad position really, a lot like a cultural critic but a bit on the tiredness when it comes to what he's saying. Just from the standpoint of someone who loves poetry, though, that rhyming same words shit has to go. I'll accept feminine rhymes throughout whole lines but I can't deal with shit that ends up bein' "I wanna soda man
cuz I'm a rolla' man" etc. etc. That aside, I think a good way to think of why dipset would be more political than Talib (which I'll assume I agree with) is to express what they do as 'comedy,' in the classical sense (o.k. now is the time to tell everyone I've never really listened to Dipset so I'm gonna reframe the reference as about Redman, Eek-A-Mouse, and DJ Assault, and others like that vs. the sophists). Most of what anyone puts out in any medium is drama (big D but as a nonspecific category). It has a structure that is something like a bell curve (but with a sharper decline on the right side than incline on the left). Comedy can be envisioned as a bunch of humans stomping all around that jack and jill hill that the trajectory of drama created in literature and other similar forms of narrative. Comedy doesn't just go up one hill side and down the other in a straight line (or in the case of sysiphus, up and down the same side); Comedy bounces all around the thing, playing king of the hill, getting drunk on the west side of the hill and waiting for sunset, etc. blah blah blah. Comedy doesn't accept that hills are meant to be traversed (fuck I'm getting stuck in frivolous metaphor) but just plays on them, sometimes not ever going down those fourth and fifth acts to the bottom of the other side, sometimes declining to climb any part of that narrative bunch of shit. Talib isn't comedy, he isn't heteroglossic; he's linear and just walks up and down the hill. He believes in the hill. it's there; it's been there so long that people that subscribe think it's always been there and people have always been walking up and down it. But people were around way before drama was, and Redman/superman lover is people. Ass and Titties is people, Aristophanes is people, and crazy ass screaming in the dancehall and making fun of the stage is people.Derridean or not, these kind of performances do acknowledge play. The play of signs, the play of rhythm, the play of authorship and the play of language in general. And you're right max Emil ian, people have to accept play on it's own terms, which you say white folks have for the dips, because there are still rules, they're just super subject to change.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger kc said...

congratulations on those reef songs. i didnt even know you made beats. my underground rap iq is at retard status, but even my ignorant ass has heard good things about reef. nice.


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