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Archive for the ‘Aziz Ansari’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WALE-Tiny Desk Concert #935/Tiny Desk Fest October 30, 2019 (January 21, 2020).

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Back in October, NPR allowed fans to come watch some Tiny Desk Concerts live.  October 30th was rap night featuring Wale.

Washington D.C. rapper Wale stands as one of the most distinctive figures in hip-hop today. More than 10 years ago, the man born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin created a local buzz in the D.C. area through a host of mixtapes showcasing his skills atop popular instrumentals. What separated him from the hundreds of hopeful MCs trying to make names for themselves online was his ability to fuse go-go music — D.C.’s homegrown spin on funk — with hip-hop.

I’m always amazed when I have never heard of someone who is objectively huge.  So Wale (whose name I didn’t know how to pronounce until he said it) is a hugely popular rapper.

In 2011, Wale joined forces with Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group and had a real breakout with “Lotus Flower Bomb,” the lead single from his sophomore album, Ambition. It went on to earn him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song in 2013.

A native of the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area (or DMV), Wale’s calling card remains the rap ballad, a streak he continued on his 2019 album, Wow… That’s Crazy, which debuted at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top 200. It reveals a man more self-aware than ever, exposing flaws and struggles while keeping his self confidence fully intact.

One of the things I really like about Tiny Desk is hearing rappers performer with a live band.  In this case, the band is

Tre And The Ppl (formerly UCB). Tre is Wale’s right hand on stage and their effortless chemistry has been intact since the beginning.

Tre was founder of the go-go band UCB which almost succeeded in “introducing go-go’s hyper-local rhythms to the rest of the planet.”

Tre sings mostly choruses but some leads to Wale’s rapping.  And Tre sounds just like Aziz Ansari when he sings.  I guess Tom Haverford would have supported UCB back in the day.

What really struck me about Wale was his frankly astonishing ego for someone who is somewhat understated.  Things like

This is a big stage but luckily I’m a giant as well.

and

I’m at an important place in my career … and I got here because of this city.

He is full of love for D.C. (“don’t mute D.C.” he says at the end).  And when he introduces

“Lotus Flower Bomb” he says, “Have you heard of this before?  If you haven’t, you can leave now.”  He’s very funny, making amusing mellow jokes throughout the show.

This song is really pretty with gentle keyboards from Glenn Cobb and some quiet guitar licks from Stanley Thompson.

Wale asks, “Are you all allowed to clap in here? I saw Lizzo got you clappin'”

“LoveHate Thing” has a cool five-string bass line from Daniel Bennet that jumps to a funky middle section.  I love the addition of the percussion from Jerry Venable throughout all the songs.

Wale shouts out to D.C. and says, “I hope the Nationals win tonight.” (They won the world series that evening).

He says he wants to introduce “some of my b sides.”  The song “CC White” [Cocaine White] is “written in metaphor about something that plagued this city since the 80s.”

As the song starts he holds up a little Washington D.C. flag that he wants to “put here for aesthetics.”  The little flag won’t stand up after several tries.  He says, “I knew that wasn’t going to fit … that was a gag by the way.”

He takes a sip of tea and then says “how many of you think that’s tea in there?”

Up next is “Sexy Lady” which is sung by Tre and which Wale says “is one of the classic songs that came out in any genre.”  Tre encourages everyone to “feel free to dance if you want to.  Feel free to get close to each other if you want to.”  People sing along right from the start.  I enjoyed the dirty but not lyric

“I’m gonna pick you up on Saturday, maybe you can give me some whats her name.”

For this show, Wale gets more than three tracks,  He gets six, in fact.  The second to last song is “Sue Me”  which he says “is special to me.  I feel like I’m a next level person when I get to the last verse.”  I was pretty fascinated by his lyrics

Maybe ’cause I was searchin’, I found me the perfect person
But me and her didn’t work out, she buried what she worked for
And I carried the bitterness of a kola nut
Nigerian shit, my parents never showed much
Womanizer, probably could’ve been a feminist
‘Cause I respect ’em, but Lord, I got polygamy problems

But it’s the chorus that is so nice:

Sue me, l’m rootin’ for everybody that’s black

He also says “pro-black isn’t anti-white” which a lot of people forget.

There’s some cool guitar and keyboard soloing in this song some cool soloing.  And I like the open hi-hat sound that Eric Curry uses on this song and some others.

He ends the set by saying, “I got one of the biggest songs in the country right now so let’s get into it.”  Again, I’ve never heard of it, I guess the music world is horribly siloed.  Before the song starts he thanks the audience for their energy:

It’s not like a show live crazy turnt up energy.  It’s more like a I gotta get to work in the morning, I’m not as turnt up as you.  And maybe like some of my superiors are watching me so…  shout out to everybody with a Finsta who can show they here

For “On Chill” he encourages everyone “You ain’t gonna get in trouble for clapping for yourself.”

Wale really won me over by the end of this set.  I went from never having heard of him, to hoping for more success for him.  And I’m not the only older white guy to feel that way.

Wale‘s Seinfeld-inspired The Album About Nothing an extension of his 2008 The Mixtape About Nothing, marks the first time the comedian has featured on a Number One album.   You can hear about the 60-year-old comic’s unlikely friendship with the 30-year-old rapper and what attracted him to the Wale’s music in this NPR interview.

[READ: January 26, 2020] “You Will Never Be Forgotten”

This story starts out in a shocking way: “The rapist is such an inspiraton that he started a newsletter to share his story.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

The rapist chronicles his transformation from a nerdy ducking into the muscular entrepreneur swan he is today.

It turns out this newsletter began “as a motivational tool for his annual charity triathlon” but it is now a meditation on health, tech culture and “of course, pushing through limitations and not understanding the meaning of the word ‘no.'”

Then we see the whole story: “the woman has been following the rapist on social media since the rape, though her accounts don’t officially ‘follow’ the rapist.”

I love that the story  doesn’t let up on calling him what he is.

But I also loved that the story is about more than this.   For the woman works as a content moderator at the world’s most popular search engine, in a room with no windows or ventilation system. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JON BENJAMIN JAZZ DAREDEVIL–Well, I Should Have…* *Learned How To Play Piano (2015).

In 2015, H. Jon Benjamin released a jazz album on which he played piano.  He did this despite not knowing how to play piano.

This album should be a trainwreck.  However, he has employed the talents of Scott Kreitzer (saxophone), David Finck (bass), and Jonathan Peretz (drums) to assist him.  And they are really good.

It’s hard to believe that Benjamin has never played at all before, because while he’s not good by any definition, he certainly knows how to press the keys on the piano in a reasonable way.  Meaning, when he plays a solo he is at least trying to sound like he’s playing a solo.  It’s not like cats on a piano playing utterly random crap.  He’s certainly bad, but he’s bad within the ballpark, which makes this amusing to listen to and not intolerable.

Obviously, part of the joke is that Benjamin hates jazz and this pretty much mocks improv piano.  And yes, his playing sometimes sounds like an improv pianist deliberately plying wrong notes until the right ones come back into focus (although Benjamin’s never do come back in to focus).

The disc is quite short.  It’s under 30 minutes.  It includes a skit at the front called “Deal with the Devil.”  It is a really funny introduction in which H. Jon tries to sell his soul to the devil.  Kristen Schaal as the secretary get a very funny joke or two, but the devil (Aziz Ansari) explains that usually selling your soul is a last resort, not a first step.  There’s a vulgar joke (which I found really funny), but which makes the track unplayable for family gatherings (if you were to do such a thing).

There are four main pieces on the disc “I Can’t Play Piano” Parts 1-4.

“I Can’t Play Piano Part 1” (3:39) starts off with a rollicking sax solo and some bouncing jazz and then Jon’s tinkling at the high end of the piano.  The band even pauses a few times to give him a proper solo or four.  All of the solos are horribly inept and pretty funny.  Midway through the song, bassist David Finck takes a cool upright bass solo and you can hear Jon shout “play it Joe” or something like it.

Part 2 (3:09) has a riff that Jon tries to follow and fails to play spectacularly.  There’s less “soloing” in this one and more “playing with the band.”  At times you almost don’t quite realize that he’s playing with everyone else–something just seems slightly off.  There’s also some nice drum soloing from Jonathan Peretz.

There’s a hilarious skit [not on this record] by Paul F. Tompkins in which he talks about jazz as “a genre of music that is defying you to like it.”  He talks about going to a jazz show (by accident or because you lost a bet) and just at the point when you’re almost asleep, you think the bass player is going to play [blanhr] but instead he plays [blownhr].  And next.. this is the worst thing that jazz guys do.  The other guys on stage start laughing like it was the funniest thing they ever did see.  And you’re sitting in the audience thinking “I don’t get the jazz joke Why is that note so hilarious?  You’ve played many notes this evening, none of them particularly side splitting.”

This album is pretty much a musical rendition of that joke.

“It Had to Be You,” is a pretty conventional cover of the song (at least for the saxophone).  Jon clearly knows how the song goes, he just doesn’t know how to play it or which notes should even be in the song.  The middle of the song is a saxophone solo (no piano) and once again, you are kind of lulled into thinking the song is pretty straightforward, and then Jon comes back for a solo.  It’s a slow solo so at first it doesn’t seem so bad, but once he starts going, you realize how bad he really is.

“Soft Jazzercise” is a skit. Jon talks over a slow piano piece (presumably not by Jon as it is actually melodic).  Jon says that his soft jazzercise is very very very very very very very low impact.  You have to do it slow.  Like a turtle slow, like an opiated panda slow.

Back to the improv with “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3” (4:57).  The song starts as a kind of call and response between the saxophone and the piano (hilariously bad every time).  Jon also gets a solo in the beginning.  He even slides his hand up and down the keys a few times–almost convincingly.  In the middle of the song you can hear Jon really getting into it shouting almost audible encouragement and saying “here we go!” and “dig this!” then the saxophone starts playing a response to what Jon is playing–can he even play that badly?  Jon even says “you can do better” at one point.  The sax almost plays “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” twice before the riffing ends.

The final improv piece “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 4 – (Trill Baby Trill)” (5:25) starts with Jon’s piano and the rest of the band apparently trying to follow or keep up.  Once again it’s not as horrible as you might expect.  It’s not good, but it almost seems like it could be a serious improv.  There’s a lengthy bass solo (no funny notes that I can hear).   Then, after the drum solo when the sax takes the lead again, you kind of forget that Jon is even playing.

The final track is a funky/rap about anal sex.

The five instrumentals would be hilarious to mix into any dinner party to see what people thought or if they even notices.  The other three tracks are definitely NSFW.

[READ: June 1, 2018] Failure is an Option

I love H. Jon Benjamin.  Or, more specifically I love his voice.  He has voiced some of my favorite characters over the years including Archer and Bob Belcher.

But I have found that when I watch things that he has created, I don’t enjoy them quite as much.

So, which way would this ode to failure go?

It’s a mixed bag but overall it’s quite funny.

It has an introduction with this appropriate line:

I am writing this at the dawn of the Trump presidency, particularly apropos of failure being an option.  A very horrible and dangerous option in the case of a entire country’s future.

The opening talks, as many of these memoirs do, about how exhausting it is to write a memoir (“when I was saddled with the task of writing a book”). (more…)

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modernSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Media Club, Vancouver, BC (October 22, 2004).

media clubEvery year, the Rheostatics would perform what they called Green Sprouts Week in Toronto.  In 2004 they did a West Coast version. Five nights in a row at The Media Club.  This recording is from the fourth night.

Once again, the recording quality isn’t great (although it’s better than the previous night’s).  And once again the show is edited down (it’s barely 90 minutes–just long enough for a cassette).

It feels like perhaps Martin’s voice was hurting by this night.  As an introduction he says, “I’m going to try to sing a song called ‘P.I.N.'”  Even though most of the banter has been removed, there is a funny part with Dave talking via the cymbals (being very silly indeed).

They play the first version I’ve heard of “Here Comes the Image” with a very long synth solo.

They cover XTC’s “Radios in Motion” with vocals by local musician Paul Myers.  They also play The Clash’s “London Calling” and while Myers vocals are great, Tim can’t seem to get the notes on the bass right.

Strangely, for an edited show, it accidentally repeats “Aliens” twice and leaves off “Fan Letter.”

The intro to “Stolen Car” gives Dave a chance to throw in an “obligatory Beatles reference” when he starts singing the words to “Norwegian Wood.”  And the end is scorchingly good.

The final song is a fun version of “Legal Age Life.”  It starts with him asking someone to blow into his beer bottle for notes.  The song ends with a twist contest.  And the prize is the new Sting CD, which they love mocking.  They even joke that Sting has a song called “Stolen Car” but it has a parenthetical “(Take Me Dancing)” which makes it an entirely different song.

It’s another great fun night of Rheos music

[READ: July 14, 2015] Modern Romance

I was really excited to see this book in the bookstore.  Although I like to keep up with new books, I had no idea Aziz had a book out.  And since he is hilarious and other recent Parks and Rec folks have had hilarious books out I was prepared for a lot of laughing.

Well, it turns out that this book isn’t exactly funny. I mean it’s funny because Aziz wrote it, but it’s actually a sociological book about modern romance.  Really.  He has enlisted the help of NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and they have compiled and studied all sorts of data.  They have sponsored panels and had discussions and really tried to discover how romance has changed in the last 50 or so years.

It sounds like it might be dry, but again, Aziz throws his snark and wit all over it so just as you get a little tired of statistics, there’s a funny joke about a rapper or some such. I mean any book that opens with “OH Shit!  Thanks for buying my book!” has got to be funny right? (especially if you imagine Aziz saying it). (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:

 

[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.

(more…)

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