Saturday, June 30, 2007

I was accepted as a reviewer for, and I've turned in my first review, which may get posted next week. It was of a self-produced album by the New Life Ryders, a crew out of Wichita Kansas who do the kind of low-budget, ultra-dramatic and cliched street rap that i am really not into. I'm currently working on a right up of Troy Hudson (#16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves) rap record, which has pretty remarkable beats.

It's fun actually getting new discs in the mail, and having to put a little more care into my write-ups than i do here. It does mean that i will be listening to a lot of mediocre shit, but then i get to hear some genius stuff i would have never come across, so it works out.

i'm not sure how often i'll update this site, since most of my writing time is gonna be deveoted to rapreviews...but we'll see.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Summer of Love

It's the 4oth anniversary of the summer of love, and there it is getting a lot of press here in San Francisco (most tragically, the fact that the only date they could get for a summer of love concert in Golden Gate Park is the same weekend as Burning Man. Bummer...). I wasn't around for the summer of love, and i'm pretty sure the whole thing would have annoyed the shit out of me, being that i'm not the biggest fan of hippies, hallucinogenics, or jam rock. It dawned on me the other day that my generations version of that era is probably the days here in SF. For those not blessed enough to be around, in the late 90s SF was full of young rich kids throwing expensive parties, doing expensive drugs, and basically running wild. Everyone was a dj, everyone was on e, and every weekend there was at least one or two massive parties to celebrate the IPO of a website that didn't actually have a business model or way of generating income. I'm pretty sure the whole excitement about the dotcoms was perpetuated by the fact that all the investors were on e and coke, making it really easy for them to get excited about anything.

My mom was in SF in the sixties, and played her own small part in those days. I don't feel especially blessed or proud that I was around for the dotcom days. Mostly i'm just glad that they are no more, and that i survived them without losing too many braincells, or becoming too pickled in bitterness. Just as the optimism of the sixties turned into the excess and nihilism of the seventies, the e-fueled good times of the late 90s were wiped out with the falling stock market and post 9/11 big brotherness.

God, now i've depressed myself.

Friday, June 22, 2007

True Magic

Mos Def, along with Talib Kweli and Rawkus, were meant to save hip-hop about ten years ago from the commercial elements that were ruining it. Fuck bling and hype Williams videos – Mos was keeping it real, taking hip hop back to its roots, and infusing it with artistry and talent.

He released a Black Star album with Talib that critics drooled over, but i was underwhelmed by, then his 199 solo debut, Black on Both Sides, which is pretty damn righteous. He came back a few years later with the rock-infused “A New Danger”, which unveiled his boogie man character and bad rap-rock loving Jack Johnson character. The albums moments of glory were buried under a lot of uneven bullshit, and found the man who was supposed to be saving hip-hop playing part of its worst elements in “The Rape Over”, which was a shitty remake of a Jay-Z track that didn’t hold a candle to the original, and blamed “faggots” for ruining the rap game.

Ten years after he first made a splash, he puts out “True Magic”, which on the surface seems like one of the more half-assed albums in recent memory, from its lack of cover to its mumbled lyrics and lazy rhymes, to it’s multiple (uncredited) remakes. I’m pretty sure that Mos was having beef with his label, so the record may have been his way of inviting them to have sex with themselves.

Here’s the shit of it, though – as half-assed as this record is, it’s still better than most of the other records that have been released this year. Mos manages to perfectly blend soul, r&b and hip hop, something not a lot of other rappers do. The disc also has a nice warm sound to it, in contrast to the icy, synthed out, uber-produced hip-hop that has become common.

My favorite track is “Undeniable”, which has an irresistible old soul sample over which Mos boasts. He doesn’t drop any genius lines, but he doesn’t embarrass the listener either, so it works out. “Sun, Moon, Stars” and “Fake Bonanza” also use old soul samples, and are both damn decent.

As I mentioned, there are two remakes on this album, “Crime and Medicine’s” reworking of an old GZA track, and “Katrina Clap”, which reimagines Juvenile’s “Nolia Clap” as a post-Katrina protest song. Mos Def delvers his lines with a laid-back flow, in stark contrast to the anger seething in the lyrics.

“You better off on crack
Dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq
And they got -illions and killions to waste on the war
And make you question what the taxes is for
Or the cost to reinforce the broke levee wall
Tell the boss, he shouldn't be the boss anymore”.

His subdued delivery makes it even more powerful when he finally erupts towards the end of the track, growling “Quit being cheap nigga freedom ain’t free!”

True Magic is not the brilliant album that Mos Def could make and should make, but it is not horrible either. I’m hoping with a new label he’ll put out a new, more thought-out and fully realized disc, but this will do for now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Punk Planet is No More

Yet another indie mag goes under, as Punk Planet announced today that it’s next issue will be it’s last, after 80 issues and 13 years. An email sent to subscribers listed decreasing ad revenues, decreasing subscriber base, and a shitty distribution deal.

I am really saddened by this news, but not surprised. The magazine has been very public about its financial drama over the past two years, and they aren’t the only indie mag to go under recently. Part of it has to do with declining interest in indie records, who were the mags biggest advertisers. People aren’t buying records, so they don’t advertise them, so the magazines that write about them can’t exist. Maybe this is just an example of natural selection – print media doesn’t make as much economic or environmental sense any more, so like the dinosaurs it is going extinct. Even Maxim has taken a hit in recent years.

Their website/forum will stay up (, and I think they will still be publishing books, which is good. I truly hope that the people writing for them find other gigs (or start another zine). PP had some really great writing, and their focus was much wider than just punk music. They wrote about politics, design, art, and indy media. It wasn’t just ranting, or interviews, or glorified pr pieces of friends’ bands. They also were a little more grounded politically than some punk zines, so they weren’t just off on “FUK Big Brother – Bush is a dick!” diatribes.

It sucks, though. I guess there is still the interweb, but you can’t read blogs while you are eating breakfast or on the john.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hammer Goes Hyphy

MC Hammer released a new album last year, and it is a full on hyphy album. The album, Look Look Look, features such tracks as “YAY”, “Hyphy, Dumb, Buck, Krump”, and “Doin’ Da Thizz”. The album is out on FullBlast Digital Music, and is available on itunes. Oddly enough, I’ve done numerous searches for it, and I haven’t found very much mention of it online at all, with the exception of “holy shit, this is so fucking ridiculous” –type forum postings, and Hammer’s own blog (

I’ve listened to a few tracks on itunes, and it pretty much sounds like most of the hyphy stuff out there, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. I’d like to think that Look 3x is not just a craven attempt by Hammer to cash in on the latest bay area trend, although I do wonder if he really is super connected to the hyphy movement. It’s totally possible, but I don’t know to what extent he has been embraced by the E-40/Mac Dre set.

Hammer’s album also points to one of the issues with hyphy – it basically degenerates into people shouting out slang terms over bouncy beats. “get stupid! Ghostride the whip! Ride the yellow bus!!!” It’s fun for a track or two, but you can’t base a genre on vernacular, can you? I have a few hyphy mixtapes, and that’s about all I need.

I’m not gonna sa y a bunch of nasty things about Hammer getting on the hyphy bandwagon. It’s entirely possible that he is just caught up in the excitement and energy that the movement has created. From the tone of his blog, he seems to realize that there are a lot of haters out there, and doesn’t need another. No doubt he has high hopes riding on this album. Alls I can say is, don’t go buying any thoroughbreds on credit just yet, Mr. H.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Arcade Fire Live

The Greek Theater
Berkeley, CA

I got tickets for this show months ago. Through the magic of the internet, I was able to get tickets and convince my friends to get tickets moments after I found out about the show. I don't listen to the Arcade Fire all that much, but I respect what they do, and I knew they'd make an amazing live act.

They went on a little before ten, after opening act Electralane. Their set started with monitors on stage showing a female preacher going on breathlessly about the spirit, before saying "you gotta get rid of your heels, lady, there's no time for heels. You need to get your combat boots on!" That got a thunderous applaud, and then the Arcade Fire, all ten of them, took the stage.

They were dolled up in suspenders and similarly retro outfits, like post-apocolyptic indie rock Amish. All of them took turns playing different instruments (Regine even took drums on a couple of tracks, which makes me respect her that much more). And they were all totally into it. The violinists bounced up and down throughout the tracks, Regine danced awkwardly and wonderfully, and Will Butler banged his head like animal and beat on shit. They were energized, enthusiastic, and seemed to be having a hell of a time.

I don't go to tons of shows, and the last few I've been to have mostly been DJ sets, so it was amazing to see a band create such a big sound live on stage. I had been hearing a lot about the anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and I couldn't help hearing some of the Beatles innovative studio techniques referenced every time the violins came in or someone jumped on the organ. I love electronic music, I love computer-generated sounds and beats, but there is something truly inspiring about hearing all the instruments come together in person.

As we were leaving, I heard some snotty hipster say to a friend "It was a great show…too bad the crowd sucked." I have to disagree. One of the coolest things about the show was being able to be around so many people sharing the experience. The Arcade Fire are a band that require commitment and devotion. They are a band that helps you through break ups and deaths and bad days. It was amazing to see the crowd responding to hearing their favorite songs played live. I spend so much of my life here in the City surrounded by people but never connecting with them on any human level, so having a shared experience with thousands was no small event.

It's true, however, that we were not the most kinetic audience ever: Most of the seated audience stayed seated, although there were a few rebels in my row who bravely stood up and rocked the fuck out. I was not among them.

In the end, it was great show by a great band at a great venue, and it made me regret not going to more live shows, and vow to correct that in the future.

Friday, June 01, 2007


One track I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. I have a version where Pharaoh Monch spits a verse whence he complains about anorexic stars like Lindsey Lohan cluttering up the place, and the dearth of hydro. Yes, Pharaoh, you cannot smoke weed in rehab.

The song is an uptempo number with the wall of sound and rumbling drums that could be straight out of motor city circa 1963. Winehouse complains that her dad is trying to send her off to rehab, and she doesn’t want to go. Forty-five years ago, the song would have been about how her baby was going to leave her. Now she’s singing about how she’s getting chucked into rehab for drinking away the blues caused by her baby leaving her.

It coincides with a lot of press in recent years about stars going in to rehab, coming out of rehab, and then smashing up their cars while fucked up on multiple illegal substances. Watching young train wrecks in action seems to have become a national pastime, and we all are riveted every time someone snaps a pic of Britney puking on herself. Ms. Lohan has been on the cover of the SF Examiner three days in a row for smashing up her car while drunk, passing out while drunk, and entering rehab to avoid getting drunk.

I’m really glad I’m not a celebrity, and I’m even more thankful that my wild years were not well documented by picture phones and blogs. Almost every one of us has done some stupid shit in our time, and if our drunken escapades were plastered all over, we might seem just as depraved as some of the celebs who we eagerly read about. I am a pretty restrained, cautious, and conservative person in general, and I still have my horribly embarrassing stories of drunken idiocy. To the extent that I don’t want to put them here.


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