Archive for the ‘De La Soul’ Category

alcaterlSOUNDTRACK: SA-ROC-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #30 (June 4, 2020).

sarocI have never heard of Sa-Roc, but I was blown away by her lyrics and delivery.  I really enjoyed that her delivery was intense and serious, even angry, but her delivery was so thoughtful.

If you want protest music for the uprising of the American consciousness, then look no further. Sa-Roc (born Assata Perkins) is an emcee from southeast Washington, D.C.

Sa-Roc bears her heart and soul here, weaving together influential threads from her upbringing; Pan-Africanism, the hardship of her father’s experience as a sharecropper in Virginia and her own childhood in Congress Heights, D.C., an area ravaged by violence and the crack epidemic in the 1980s.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she debuted two exclusives, “Deliverance” is about reassessing where you are in making a commitment to change things. I love the beats and the lyrics.  She references Posdnous and De la Soul and then has this moment where she says this is the world’s tiniest violin and a violin sample plays.

After the song, she lights some sage to clear the energy.  She wants her space to experience joy and to be a stress-free peaceful environments.

“Hand of God” is her latest single about staying true to yourself.  It has a sung chorus and Sa-Roc has a pretty singing voice along with her flow.  In the second verse she raps with a sped up version of herself which is pretty neat.

“r(E)volution,” is from her upcoming album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, which is produced by her partner in life and DJ, Sol Messiah.  It starts with a pretty guitar and a great bass line

On “r(E)volution” she spits bars: “Embedded in the home of the brave, the darkest of interiors. / Saw street scholars and soldiers defect cuz they post-traumatic stressed from the American experience.”

“Forever” is for little girls who ever felt like they were held to impossible societal standards; and if the world told them they weren’t good enough, weren’t valuable enough, weren’t worthy enough, weren’t dope enough to take up space or use their voice; they didn’t come from the right area or the right class or education; didn’t have the right skin tone or complexion; anything that made them feel less than.  This is about how dope you really are with all of your perfect imperfections.

I love that after a quiet clapping moment the song soars with guitars and bass.

[READ: May 8, 2020] Kitten Clone

In the Douglas Coupland collection Shopping in Jail, there was an essay called “All Governments Seem to Be Winging it Except for China.”  The essay said that it came from this book: Kitten Clone.

I wasn’t sure how interested I really was in reading about the history of Alcatel-Lucent, but I should have known that Coupland would do his thing and find an interesting and unique way to write about something that should be dull.

The only weird thing is that Coupland implies that he is alone on this excursion, but the photographs are not his (which is surprising since he loves art) the pictures are by Olivia Arthur.

This book is part of a series called Writers in Residence created by Alain de Botton, with the slogan: “There are many places in the modern world that we do not understand because we cannot get inside them.”  Coupland’s book is the third in the series.  The other two are Geoff Dyer: Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and Liaquat Ahamed: Money and Tough Love: On Tour with the IMF.

This book looks into the past, present and future of Alcatel-Lucent and the cover of the book sets the stage: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORILLAZ-Plastic Beach (2010).

I have been a huge supporter of Gorillaz since the drew their way onto the music scene all those years ago.  It’s true that part of my love for the band was the art of Jamie Hewlitt, who I assume doesn’t really have any input anymore.  I also love Del the Funky Homosapien (who is also missing).  But I’m almost slavishly devoted to Damon Albarn, so I was pretty psyched when I heard they had a new album coming out and that it was getting rave reviews.

I was severely disappointed when I heard the record. 

“Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” features Snoop Dog who is phoning it in from a vacationland far far away.  He was more exciting on his cameo for The Lonely Island.  Even musically, it’s not very interesting.  “White Flag” is more promising, with the cool flute and string intro, but the rap by Bashy (which I wanted to like because of his accent) is just bland.  And Gorillaz must agree as the rap is less than a third of the song. 

“Stylo” has a cool bass line but the track overall is surprisingly discoey.  The Mos Def bit is interesting but I guess I’m not a fan of Bobby Womack, as I don’t care for his part of the song at all.  “Sweepstakes” has some interesting parts but the intermittent yelling of “Sweepstakes” kind of ruins it for me.  “Plastic Beach” features Mick Jones and Paul Simonon but you’d never know it.  And I actually don’t enjoy the manipulated voice much here, it sounds uncomfortably like early 80s technology.  “Cloud of Unknowing” is barely there at all (sorry Bobby Womack, I’m, not convinced)

It’s probably unsurprising that my favorite song with guests is “Superfast Jellyfish.”  I love De La Soul (although their “dopey” sounding rap is a bit much).  But I like that they play up the cartoon feel of the song (and the band).  I also didn’t even realize that the main singer was Gruff Rhys until a few listens in.  And since I love him, it all plays out nicely.  I also like “Glitter Freeze” because fun with keyboards can be interesting. I didn’t realize it was Mark E. Smith until recently.  I’m not really sure if that makes any difference since he just says a few words, but things are always more interesting when he’s around.  Of course, this song could have been 2 minutes instead of 4.  “Some Kind of Nature” features Lou Reed.  Reed has been hit or miss lately and this is more miss than hit.  “Empire Ants” features Little Dragon (unknown to me).  It is very slow to get to the interesting part, but when it does, the song is pretty cool.  The other song with Little Dragon, “To Binge” is wonderful.  It reminds me of a track from A Clockwork Orange and it also features some great lyrics. 

The few songs that I like on the album are ones that are credited to just Gorillaz.  “Rhinestone Eyes” is a bit lazy for my tastes, although the second part of the song really showcases the first decent melody on the disc, and the introduction of Damon’s voice is like a salve.  “On Melancholy Hill” has the best wispy keyboard intro this side of early 80s Madonna–a wonderful counterpoint to the title and lyrics.  “Broken” is actually a little too mellow for me, but again, the melody is a nice one.  “Pirate Jet” is a simple, dopey song that ends the album in a kind of limbo state.

I’m confused by all the rave reviews, especially the one that says the album is chock full of singles.  I mean, “Dare” now that’s a single.  I guess I just miss Del (and Russel) way too much.  And frankly, even the artwork is pretty lame on this one.

[READ: January 10, 2012] “Center of the Universe”

Simon Rich never fails to make me laugh. Sometimes his ideas are completely original.  Other times he takes a fairly common observation and runs with it into a land of lunacy.  And sometime he takes an idea that seems like it’s been done before but he puts a fun twist on it and makes it entirely his own.  Such is the case with this.

The very simple premise is that while God is busy creating the earth, his girlfriend is not only complaining that he never spends time with her, but she also feels slighted that he doesn’t seem to care how hard her job is.

A wonderful part of this scenario is that God has not yet finished making the earth–He’s only on the sixth day–but His girlfriend, Kate, is hanging out in Chelsea reading a magazine impatiently waiting for Him to show up.  (more…)

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rapperSOUNDTRACK: SCHOOLLY D-Smoke Some Kill (1988).

schoolySince this disc is featured so prominently in Signifying Rappers (and the book is named after the best track on this disc) I thought I’d dust it off and listen to it again.  I got this disc probably in 1989 at the suggestion of my friend Al.  He recommended “No More Rock N’ Roll,” I think.

I haven’t listened to the disc in years, probably a decade.  The last time I listened, I think I wasn’t all that impressed by it, which is why it’s funny to me how much significance the book gives this disc/track.  In listening again, I felt more or less the way I did last time, although interestingly, after reading the book, I agreed that some of the tracks are pretty good.

“Signifying Rapper” in particular, seemed better after DFW’s analysis of it (he discusses it in the tradition of the trickster narrator, and I agree it’s a good one).  Although, at one point in the book DFW decries the misogyny in a lot of rap, but he doesn’t mention the homophobia.  And, despite the trickster style in this song, the homophobia is pretty outrageous (even if, in a surprising twist, the “faggot” kicks the “pimp’s” ass).  But really, the thing that upsets the pimp so much, that he went off to fight the faggot about is this rather absurdly childish set of insults:  your dad’s a faggot, your mom’s a whore, your granny’s a dyke and your brother’s a faggot too.  Now, homophobia aside, would these insults really get anyone so angry?   Hard to say.   But regardless of the whole thing, the song is set to the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” so, that’s pretty fun.

The rest of the disc is a mix of kind of lame tracks and a few good ones.  “Here We Go Again” has some great scratching on it (in fact the scratching throughout the disc is quite good), and there’s some really good background samples on “Gangster Boogie II.”  Although I think the best tracks come near the end: “Treacherous” (which samples or reinterprets Gil Scot-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Televised”) and “Black Man” which features the cool shout-out “What’s the Word?  Johannesburg!).

A few tracks are kind of flat.  “Mr Big Dick,” is, at best, silly and even the title track “Smoke Some Kill” is sort of uninspired.  What’s interesting about somewhat flat style is that this disc has come out after Public Enemy’s wall of sound changed the face of rap.  But Schoolly is sticking with the very sparse Run D.M.C. style.  The difference is that with Run, you had two vocalists, but Schoolly is by himself.  It’s just not quite as exciting.

And, then there’s the aforementioned “No More Rock N’ Roll” which is a companion to “We Don’t Rock, We Rap”.  The whole anti-rock trope rings hollow especially since he samples from it so freely.

It was still early days, but rap has progressed pretty far from this CD.  It also turns out that this disc is really hard to find.  It’s discontinued and lists on Amazon for $50.  How lucky for me!

[READ: October 2, 2009] Signifying Rappers

I wasn’t planning on reading this book this soon.  (I’m  not turning into a DFW addict, I swear).  But this showed up all because of the whims of the interlibrary loan system.  I put holds on books for people all the time, and usually it’s for new, popular books, so it’s often several weeks, sometimes months before the books come in.  I tend to forget that a 19 year old book that nobody is clamoring to read will show up in about 3 days.

So, those of you thinking about reading this book because you want to complete the DFW ouvre were probably wondering if this co-authored book should really count.  And, like, how would you know what he wrote?  Well, I didn’t immediately figure out the patently obvious system that they used in the book: When Mark Costello writes a section it is introduced with a large M.  When DFW gets a section it starts with a large D (see, obvious).   You can also tell because DFW’s section are laden with footnotes and very large words (no, really?)

I think for all readers, the main question is what are these two white, educated, twentysomethings doing writing about rap.  And, they both answer in their own way that, well, they like rap.  A lot.  In fact, DFW goes on to say that rap circa 1989 is the only musical genre that is interesting after some five years of commercial pap (and he’s pretty accurate with that, actually).  He also notes that as of their writing of the book there had been no real in-depth treatises written on rap.  Oh, and lastly, in the spirit of rap itself, they did it because they wanted to do it. (more…)

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