Archive for the ‘Ice-T’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE PERCEPTIONISTS-Tiny Desk Concert #661 (October 20, 2017).

The Perceptionists are Mr. Lif [Jeffery Haynes] and Akrobatik [Jared Bridgeman] two emcees whose names rock bells among true hip-hop heads. The duo of Boston natives first teamed up as The Perceptionists in the early aughts to release Black Dialogue on El-P’s Def Jux label in 2005. Their side project went into indefinite hiatus soon afterward, but now LLif and Akrobatik are reunited on their new LP, Resolution.

In a world that often appears to be spiraling out of control, their Tiny Desk set provides a much-needed breather.

With sharp, heartfelt lyricism, The Perceptionists critique the current political climate on “Out Of Control.”  There’s some great lyrics in this song.  I especially like

Man, I’m right there with them
Keeping it funky
If I’m African American, tell me which country
Our differences shouldn’t make you wanna hunt me
When in reality every fruit came from one tree

The song has a groovy funky bass from the really animated (H)Ashish Vyas.

On “Lemme Find Out” they rhyme about the symbiotic human relationship with technology.  They say our lives are just so dominated by technology…  Mr Lif wonders “if I am living in the real reality or just a predetermined reality that I’ve been programmed with.”  Akrobatik says, “50 years from know humans are going to have craned necks from [cell phones].”  The track opens with a cool echoing somewhat sinister guitar riff from Van Gordon Martin [“Not known for shit startin’ but his name is Van Martin”]

Once again, I love Akrobatik’s rhymes:

Microchip implanted in my hip
Got me feeling like an alien that landed in a ship
Probed my frontal lobe now I’m standing here equipped
With abilities to flip
But I can’t get a grip on regular shit
I’m about to dodge my competitor’s wit
Hit them with something that they’ll never forget
Deprogram, roll up a hell of a spliff
And smoke Master Kush at the edge of a cliff

I really like the little growls that Mr Lif does at the end of the verses.

The next song is “A Different Light.”  This chorus is great:

Want to crucify me for toughest era in my life?
That’s all right…
Thought the world of you but now I see you in a different light
That’s all right…

The duo’s

conscious ethos is perfectly encapsulated by Ak’s lyrical run.  He raps: “But I’m above all of the melodrama / When they go low / We go high / Michelle Obama.”

Mr. Lif says, “Everyone enters a relationship with different levels of expectations.”  Sometimes we are looking too closely at our expectations and not looking at the other person and being present with the situations right in front of us.   The song is mellow with some gentle synths from “Chop” Lean Thomas. The end of the song has a retro flute sound.  There’s also a mellow guitar line that runs through the song.

The song tells the story of Ak’s near-death experience with a pernicious aortic dissection, as well as the betrayal of a close friend during his convalescence.

About that incident, Acrobatik raps:

I don’t need to call your name out – I ain’t trying to embarrass ya
This is not about revenge, it’s more about your character
Or lack thereof, step back there brov
How can you call someone a friend and then attack their love?

The final song is “Early Morning.”  It’s got some great funky bass and some great funky drums from “Tommy B” Benedetti.  They say they hope this resonates with us all.

As the song ends, there’s some great riffs on the guitar and then Ak says, “we can’t  make a crazy exit… don’t wanna knock shit over.”

[READ: February 13, 2017] Hip Hop Family Tree 3

Book three continues the rise of Hip-Hop and bands who really start selling big.

Interestingly, it starts with Rick Rubin setting the tone for hip hop: “Sorry but girls don’t sound good rapping” (said to Kate Schellenbach of Beastie Boys.  And then getting the Boys all dressed in matching tracksuits (Puma).  Kate gets two rather unflattering drawings of her as the Boys tell her that the three boys will be the first white rap group (with Rubin as DJ).

Two art critics also get involved with tagging and graffiti at this time. Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant take photos of the art but find time and again that “legitimate” businesses want nothing to do with this illegal work.  This also accompanies the rise of break dancing–there’s a funny page in which people think that a group of kids break dancing is actually fighting with each other.

But this book really tracks the rise of Run D.M.C., with the promise by DJ Run that he wouldn’t leave Jay behind.  He was good to his word. (more…)

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hhftSOUNDTRACK: G.L.O.B.E. & WHIZ KID-“Play that Beat Mr DJ” (Double Dee & Steinski Payoff Mix) (1985).

doubledeeThe original of this song (1983) was simply the drums and simple keyboard riff.  The “Payoff Mix” done by Double Dee & Steinski added the incredibly dense layer of samples that really make this song interesting (actually the samples are more interesting than the rap).

The samples included:

  • Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
  • Play It Sam…Play “As Time Goes By” (Avalon/As Time Goes By) by Humphrey Bogart (dialogue spoken from the movie Casablanca)
  • That’s the joint – Funky Four Plus One
  • Take the Country to N.Y. City by Hamilton Bohannon
  • Don’t Make Me Wait (Acapella) by Peech Boys
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love by Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Rockit by Herbie Hancock
  • Situation 12″ by Yazoo
  • Starski Live at the Disco Fever by Lovebug Starski
  • World’s Famous, Hobo Scratch, D’Ya Like Scratchin’ and Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren
  • Apache by Incredible Bongo Band
  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Indeep
  • I’ll Tumble 4 Ya by Culture Club
  • Speech by Fiorello La Guardia from Reading the Comics – July,1945

Double Dee & Steinski went on to make some other great mashups (and these sound amazing since they were done circa 1985).  I particularly like Lesson 3.

Here’s the one that made them famous:

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 2

This volume picks up right where the previous one left off in 1981.

First we meet Doug E. Fresh who, devoid of records, starts the trend of beatboxing.  We also see The Sugarhill Gang doing a rap over the song “Apache” (while dressed like Native Americans).

The book bounces back to California (Oakland this time) where we meet Too Short, a great high school rapper who is interested in making money from his skills.  We also see a young Ice-T doing his gangland thing

Then it jumps back to Rick Rubin whose love of punk and metal (these goings on are happening at the same time as Black Flag is trying out a young Henry Rollins, and Bad Brains are in high gear–and often times the crowds mix amiably) fuses with his love of rap.  he really wants to be able to capture the rawness of the live sounds of both types of music onto a record (enter the Beastie Boys).  And, strangely enough (although perhaps it should be expected), Malcolm McDowell enters the picture.  We also see Fab Five Freddy making “Change the Beat” which includes a since-very-heavily sampled “Freshhhhh” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROCKWELL KNUCKLES-You’re Fucking Out I’m Fucking In (2011).

I downloaded this disc a while ago because I really liked “Silly Human

I listened to it again recently and realized just how much I like the whole disc.  Rockwell Knuckles has a great delivery style—a basso profundo voice—and a great sense of melody both in his delivery and his backing music.  He captures the best of Chuck D and Ice T.  “Bullet Train Army” has such a cool melody line—and the fact that he raps along with it is fantastic.  Apparently the Bullet Train Army is his posse or something, because it appears a lot on the disc.

“Silly Human” is a fantastic song—a wispy futuristic keyboard riff fizzes away behind Rockwell’s super fast delivery and funny (but not really) lyrics.  The chorus is delivered super quickly in a cool descending melody line.  And I love that someone in the background is shouting Yes Yes! YES! as he deliveries his lines.  It reminds me in strange way of The Flaming Lips.  “Play Catch” shows off his diversity of styles with this more gentle song.  I like the way the verses end with a repeated word which seems like it’s going faster because the beasts speed up,  It’s a cool trick.

“Baking Soda” has a guest rapper (I really don’t like guest rappers, I’m here for Rockwell not Tef Poe, who immediately lost my respect by having his first rhyme end with bitch—lazy!).  I don’t really care for the music behind this one either—cheesy sax and horns.   It’s made up for with “Point of No Return.”  This song has a sung chorus with a weird sci-fi-sounding melody and some great lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned the lyrics yet but they stand out here “the early bird catches the worm, but the first sponge catches the germs) and a reference to Sojourner Truth.

The lyrics are even better on “Unstoppable” (which has a cool synthy sound over the chorus): “My competition ‘s delayed I’m rocking digital/
Ive been around the world in a day not in the physical/Artistic freedom in what I say y’all are to literal.”

The simple riff behind “Intergalactic” is also cool.  At first I wasn’t sold on Theresa Payne’s backing vocals but I think it works quite well.  I particularly love the chorus of “Supercalifragilisticexpiala-futuristic”

There’s another great delivery melody on “Motto of Today” with more cool sci-fi backing music.  “You Got It” has the great fast beats and delivery that I love out of Atlanta, even though Rockwell is from St. Louis.  There’s even a cool binary joke in the lyrics (1001001).  Guest rapper Vandalyzm fares better, although there’s more curses than actual lyrics in his verse, I think.

“Nomanisan Island” also features Tef Poe, but I like him better on this track.  But maybe that’s because the chorus is great: “No man is an island and we are never stranded”  I’m not sure though that Tef Poe should be singing the line “black tea party, we’re coming to impeach” with Obama in the white house.

“Controlled” I assume has a sample for a chorus, it slows things down nicely and the sound of the drums is fantastic.  I’m partial to the lines “Stone cold like Medusa” and  “Shows about to start, I don’t know when it will end, son/ Puppet on a string controlled by Jim Henson” (whatever that means, I like it).

“Every Angle” has a groovy chorus that I like despite itself.  Rockwell makes it flow wonderfully.  And the final track, “Natural Born Leader” opens with a simple rocking guitar riff.  When the lyrics kick in, the song soars with 70s keyboards and big guitars.

This album is really fantastic.  And while there are plenty of deserving artists out there, Rockwell Knuckles is amazing and should be huge.  Don’t be put off by the album title or the cover, this album is more about melody than a cursing.

You can download the whole album here for free.

Oh, and the reason I chose this is because of a note I had written in the margins of GR, which I thought had read No Man is an Island, but which didn’t.  Oops.

[READ: Week of February 27] Gravity’s Rainbow 1.13-1.18

I found a few of this week’s sections to be more challenging to get through.  There are a lot of long passages that are meandering–often with an unclear narrator (although the narrator usually becomes apparent by the end).  During these section, it feels like the book is just drifting of into a reverie for a while before snapping out of it and getting back to the business at hand.  And that seem apt given all of the crazy stuff that happens in the book (all of the mental/psychological ideas).

After reading a few of the posts at Infinite Zombies this week, I have new eyes for the book.  When I first read all of the sex in the book, I thought again about Joyce’s Ulysses and all of the sex that he described (shockingly for the time) and how modern writers seem to revel in writing about sex–not pornographically, just “real.”  But now, after reading Christine’s post, I had to rethink this attitude on sex.  I’ve been surprised by Pynchon’s frequent use of the words “cock” and “cunt” as anatomical names.  “Cock” in particular is a word I don’t hear used all that often in fiction and it has (to my ear) a kind of crass/vulgar connotation. And what more needs to be said about “cunt.”  I wondered if this was a Pynchon thing or a 70s thing or an I’m-too-uptight thing, but in Christine’s post she writes: “One of the things I most loathe about the other Pynchon books I’ve read is the latent, creepy, old-man sex fetish” and “the constant phallic status updates (noted in my paperback as I.P.R.s [infantile penis reference]” (which is hilarious, by the way).  This has made me even more aware of all the sex in the book–although to what end I’m not sure yet.

Jeff’s post at Infinite Zombies focuses on Roger and Jessica (I know that wasn’t the point of the post, but the mind takes what it will) and makes me think of Roger as more of a protagonist of the story.  Even more than Pirate (who, coming first, I assumed was the focus).  And  this week’s reading reveals more importance for Roger.

So on to the read: (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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