Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fluent Form review

My review of Fluent Form's "Chapters of Substance" is up now on RapReviews here.

It's ten tracks of dark, moody, East Coast sounding Aussie hip hop. Worth checking out.
When are Aussie MC's going to blow up stateside?

Friday, September 26, 2008


ESG were an all-female group out of the South Bronx who were active in the early eighties, and reformed in the nineties and earlier this decade. They played post-punky, funky, discoey awesomeness, and heavily influenced groups like the Rapture, Luscious Jackson, and Le Tigre. I had heard about them for a while, but I just downloaded disc one of “A South Bronx Story” off Emusic this week, and I love it. It’s funky, it’s happy, it’s amazing. The thing I like most about ESG is that it is dance music made with real instruments, so it is much warmer and more human than your typical Roland 808 beat. I’m a fan. So are rappers. ESG was sampled by a lot of artists, including the Wu Tang and the Beasties. In the 90s, the ladies spent some time collecting what was owed to them by the various artists that had sampled them.

Moody is my favorite track on the album, so here it is.

Moody - ESG

Scissors For Lefty

I've been going to a gym lately, which means I'm catching up on my hip hop, pop, and R&B. This morning they played the video above. At first I didn't know who it was, and I was thinking "hey, this is super catchy and cool! Who is this great band?" And then it turns out to be Scissors For Lefty, my friend James's band. Scissors For Lefty are an SF by way of San Luis Obispo band who do a sort of Britpop/indie thing. They are a lot of fun live and on record. It was cool seeing them on the gym's music video channel alongside Duran Duran, Nas, and Tiesto. They aren't quite to the limos and supermodel stage of their careers yet, but they did have a song in Cloverfield.

Anyways, it was the first time I had heard Scissors For Lefty outside of the context of them being my friend's band, and they totally stood up. They have a good sound and a great energy, and I think they deserve to be huge.

You should check out their website here, and then go buy ten copies of their two albums. Pitchfork gave their last one a 5.8, which is pretty high by P-Fork standards. They hate everything that isn't relentlessly obscure. Rock on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sankofa - Bowl of Politics Review

Sankofa offers the third EP in a row for free on his website, obeseamerica.

It's called "The Bowl of Politics EP," and my review is up at RapReviews.

It is chock full of smart, angry political songs. I'm into it. Go download it.

C.R.A.C. Knuckles Review

My review of C.R.A.C. Knuckle's The Piece Talks is up on RapReviews.com, right a'cheer. For some reason their attitude rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe you are less sensitive than me, and won't care. I did like Ta'Raach's beats, and overall, it's pretty good.

Respect - Blu

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fleet Foxes at the Independent 9/19/08

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the Fleet Foxes at the Independent last night. The secret is buying tickets the day they go on sale, and not waiting until a week before the show. Just so you know.

We got there just in time for Sleepy Sun, a San Francisco group who channel sixties psychadelica. www.myspace.com/sleepysun. It was a little awkward, because they were totally feeling it, like rocking out, and the crowd was pretty indifferent. So here they are having a musical orgasm, and the crowd is like, meh.

After that, this guy with brill creamed hair came out. His name is Frank Fairfield, and he played a bunch of old bluegrass and blues. He was basically a Folkways album in person. It was pretty cool, but after a few songs the crowd got kind of over it, and started talking over him.


Finally, the Fleet Foxes went on. They are some longhaired bastards. They sounded amazing. The only downside was that they had to tune between each track, so there was a lot of loading time. Their whole deal is so seventies that I sort of wanted to go get some fondue in my geodesic dome afterwards. I think it's sincere, though, and not affected. They really are a bunch of longhairs who like vocal harmonizing.

It was a crazy night for shows - My Morning Jacket was at the Greek, and Miss Kittin and the Hacker was at the Mezzanine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free Black Milk Download

Detroit rapper/producer Black Milk posted a free download on his myspace page.


It is an instrumental album made of beats by The Artist called “Music from the Color Purple.” Listening to it is a little like partying like it’s 1999.

PURPLE TRACK 3 - Black Milk

Monday, September 15, 2008

Other People's Property

(Ok, so I just submitted this to Rapreviews, only to realize that Adam Bernard had reviewed it a while back. I also didn't realize that it came out in 07. I'm kind of dumb sometimes).

“Other People’s Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America,” by Jason Tanz, Bloomsbury USA

Reviewed by Patrick Taylor

The hip hop generation is hardly the first to look to African American culture for cool. The jazzheads of the twenties did the same thing on their trips to Harlem to see musicians who weren’t even allowed into white clubs; the Beats’ kinetic writing was fueled by bebop, and their hipster slang borrowed heavily from African American slang; white rock n’ rollers blatantly stole the art form from the African Americans, and in the sixties British rockers like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones revisited classic blues as a font for authenticity. Clearly, white hip hop fans are only the most recent in a long line of white folks diving into the pool of African American art and music.

“Other People’s Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America” is an attempt by Jason Tanz to explore the complicated relationship between white kids and hip hop. Tanz, a journalist who writes for “Fortune Small Business,” grew up in a white and middle class suburb in Washington. For Tanz, hip hop was an escape from his parents’ love of sixties counterculture, as well as a way to try to better understand African American culture and overcome the racism that has marred US history since Columbus first set eyes on the New World. He got a rude awakening at how African American fans felt about his love of their culture when he was mocked for wearing a Malcom X hat, and called a white devil by the Digable Planets at a concert.

Early in the book, Tanz takes a tour of the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop. His tour guide is Rahiem, part of the Furious Five, and among his fellow tourists is DJ Gummo, a white kid from Orange County who is desperate to connect with the culture he has adopted. Gummo tries to impress Rahiem with his knowledge of hip hop history, but ultimately, he is a tourist like everyone else on the bus, visitors to an exotic place that they will never be a part of.

Gummo is what Tanz calls a “Wegroe” a term he uses for white hip hop fans who hope that rap music will help them to overcome their whiteness, and bridge the gap between white and black. Wegroes include people like MC Serch and the Young Black Teenagers: well-meaning whites who desperately want to be part of a African American culture. Tanz is sympathetic towards the Wegroes, but clearly sees their quest to rise above their white privilege as ultimately hopeless.

Then there are the wiggers, a truly hateful term for whites who dress and act gangsta. Tanz interviews Johnny Crack, a twerpy white kid whose ultraviolent, ultra-offensive gangsta rap is total fantasy. Crack, like most wiggers, is derided by blacks as wanna-be’s, and derided by whites for affecting the dress and mannerism of a culture that isn’t theirs. (Implicit in the term “wigger,” as in “white nigger,” is the disapproval of aping a culture that is seen as being inferior to white. Make no mistake, wigger is a racist term.) Tanz’s main problem with wiggers, other than the fact that they are utterly ridiculous, is that their appropriation of black culture doesn’t involve any real respect or admiration. It’s all about borrowing the machismo and swagger of hip hop without having any real love for the culture.

While his analysis of wegroes and wiggers is interesting, Tanz loses the plot a little when he talks about nerdcore. The term is used to describe rappers like MC Frontalot or mc chris (sic), white rappers who rap about geek culture for a predominately white audience. I wish Tanz would have spent less time with such a marginal group within hip hop, and more time on people like El-P or Aesop rock, white rappers who have actually been successful in creating hip hop that is true to the spirit of the culture. I also wish Tanz had spent some time discussing other genres of hip hop that attract predominantly white audiences, and what effect that has on African-American artists. He could have also had a chapter on how mainstream (white) music journalists view hip hop, and what effect their perception of what hip hop is and should be has on the music.

My biggest issue with “Other People’s Property” is that Tanz never explains what he think whites’ role in hip hop should be. Should we sag our jeans and call each other “dawg?” Or should we just feel guilty? There has to be some solution that allows whites to participate in the culture without pretending to be something they are not, and without totallyaltering the art form to fit our tastes. At its core, hip hop is a better reflection of the multi-ethnic world than all-white genres like rock. It is popular with white suburban kids not just because they want to gleam some of the coolness and swagger from it, but because artists like Kanye West or Lil Wayne seem more relevant than Nickleback or the Beatles.

"Other People's Property" is an ambitious attempt to analyze how white people fit into hip hop. Tanz deserves credit for tackling such a loaded and multi-layered issue. White hip hop fan should at least give the book a scan, although some readers might be turned off by the grad school prose. Tanz ultimately leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and the book could have been a lot longer than its meager two hundred pages. In the end, "Other People's Property" works best as a starting-off point for what deserves to be a much larger discussion of what it means to be a white rap enthusiast.

Content: 7.5 of 10 Readability: 7 of 10 Total: 7 of 10

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why White People Like Hip Hop

The other day I was at a party and the fact that I wrote about hip hop came up. I got totally clowned. "You listen to rap?" they asked incredulously. "But you're so white!"

Yes, it's true. I'm white. I'm not just white, I'm totally fuckin' white. I listen to NPR. I go to farmer's markets. I compost. My and my DP (domestic partner) are starting a mid-century modern furniture collection. I do yoga. I vacation in Italy. I'm fucking WHITE. There is nothing about me that is the least bit edgy, urban, or ethnic, unless you include European in your definition of ethnicity. Also, I'm not exactly the most masculine or imposing man on earth.

So my relationship with hip hop is a little confusing. Why do I spend so much time listening to music that doesn't reflect my experience or fit my demographic? Well, thanks for asking. Allow me to explain.

1. I like beats. I grew up playing the drums. Hip hop is all about drums. I like beats, and hip hop gots em.

2. Hip hop is doing a lot of interesting things musically. Especially compared to rock, which has gotten increasingly stagnant. Producers like Madlib, the Neptunes, and Timbaland are really pushing the envelope musically.

3. I've listened to punk and indie music for the past thirty years, and I'm fuckin' BORED of it. My capacity to listen to white dudes whine is very small these days, and I find a lot of alt-country and/or singer songwritery music boring and self-indulgent. Blecch.

4. Hip hop is the ultimate music snob music. It is impenetrable, multi-layered, post-modern, self-referential, and you can always discover artists that no one has ever heard of. It also embodies the punk rock DIY spirit,

4. Hip hop better reflects the world I live in. I still love white people music like Elliot Smith and Wilco, but it seems to exclude a large portion of the population. It makes me feel lonely and isolated when I listen to it. I may be white as fuck, but my community, my friends, my coworkers, my sisters-in-law aren't, and hip hop seems to be more inclusive of non-whites than indie folk. Not that listening to music made by people of color makes me more down with their experiences and struggles of course. I'm sure black people could give a fuck what I listen to, and rightfully so. Still, the best hip hop creates this feeling that we are all at the table, and gives me hope that we can all find common ground. (That said, I don't think I will ever connect to a hip hop track in the same way that I connect with a Minor Threat or Jawbreaker song.)

So that's why I love hip hop. Of course, I make a concerted effort to not confuse listening to music made by badasses with being a badass, so if you ever catch me borrowing some of hip hop's swagger, please call me on it. Now I'm gonna go listen to some good old boom-bap.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher

That means “These Boots Are Made for Walking” in French, and is the title of a supercool song by Eileen on Sunnyside’s “Pop A Paris: Rock N’ Roll and Mini-skirts” compilation. It combines two things I love: swinging sixties music and French. Makes me wish I was zipping around the streets of gay Paree on a Vespa on my way to make a New Wave movie.

Also on the comp is a version of Deep Purple’s “Hush” by Johnny Halliday, a French version of “Paint It Black,” and a great track by the slightly tone-deaf, animal loving anti-semite Bridgette Bardot.

Listening to this gives me fond memories of the “Bardot-a-go-go” parties that used to happen in SF (and maybe still do). The would play all mod French music, and it was a total blast.
Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher - Eileen - Various Artists - Sunnyside Records

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Storyville Review

My review of Philly MC/Producer Storyville’s debut “Escape Plan” is up at Rapreviews here.

Hopefully I wasn’t too harsh in my review – he gets a lot right, but there was some room for improvement that I pointed out. It’s unfortunately easier to be critical of stuff that I like as opposed to stuff I really don’t care about.

One thing I didn’t mention in my review is that he is pretty damn good as both a rapper and a producer, which is a feat that few producers pull off.

Alos, visit his blog, www.storyvilleemcee.com.

Atmosphere Review

My review of Atmosphere's "Strictly Leakage" is up at Rapreviews here.

You can download it for free at Rhymsayer's site, which is here.

It's a free download, but it's still one of my favorite releases so far this year, and "The Things That Hate Us" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

So there.

The Things That Hate Us - Atmosphere

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Basement Jaxx are awesome

Just a quick post - the Basement Jaxx have a new song on their myspace page
called "My Turn" featuring the guy from Lightspeed Champion.

It's awesome - a little wistful indie folk, a little gay house music, with that dash of Basement Jaxx sleaze that makes them so awesome.

God Bless the Basement Jaxx.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Milk Crate Breaks

I love blogs that post old soul and funk jams, and one of my new favs is Milk Crate Breaks.

I just downloaded a whole mess of stuff by Bernie "Pretty" Purdie, a drummer I first encountered on Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." I've always loved the drums, and Purdie is one of the best. Now the only question is, when will I have time to listen to it all.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott-Heron

Monday, September 01, 2008

GRITS Review

This week on Rap Reviews I reviewed GRITS' Reiterate. GRITS are a Christian rap duo from Nashville who spell their name in caps, evidently. They do polished pop-hip hop with Christian-friendly lyrics. I'm not a fan of Christian music, or pop-hip hop, so imagine how I felt about this. I was complimentary to them in my review because they are good at what they do, but gave them a lowish score because I just couldn't get into it. To quote myself:

The pop R&B and club elements might excite more casual listeners, but they won't convince hardcore hip hop heads. The songs are well-produced and technically sound, but there is a overly-polished feel to the album that I wasn't into. Part of this has to do with the pointedly clean and positive bent of the lyrics. The chaste love jams and and sober, sexless party anthems have an anemic quality to them, and the album ends up feeling like a virgin margarita, containing some of the flavor of hip hop but lacking its kick. Christian hip hop fans will definitely want to cop "Reiterate," but more secular listeners might find this too sanitized.

If you like Christian rap, or are into more pop/R&B infused hip hop, add two points to my 6.5.

My review is here.

Living Dreams - Grits feat Jade

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