How old school is this 1985 LL Cool J performance? Well, aside from the fact that this was shot a good five months before his debut album Radio came out, he felt the need to explain to his young audience what they were about to witness:
“What you’re about to see right now is called rapping and scratching. How many of you saw this before?”
Shot on June 21, 1985 at the Wadsworth Gymnasium at Colby College in Maine. There’s an interesting context: this was part of an event to cheer kids up after several recent student suicides in the area and LL Cool J was thought to be a positive role model.
People make so much of the terrible Star Wars prequel trilogy ruining their childhood. I just don’t buy it! First of all, you always have the option I took, which is to never speak of them again... except for now, which I only do as a public service.
Second, George Lucas has been making terrible decisions with the Star Wars brand since forever! Check out this intro video for the Star Tours space flight simulator attraction, with C-3PO rapping. Incidentally, if you still want to go on Star Tours today, you gotta get to Eurodisney. I pray they haven’t updated the intro!
According to reports, American Sign Language interpreter Holly stole the show at last weekend’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. She was assigned to interpret for the Wu-Tang Clan and R. Kelly. And guess what? She put her all into it! Just watch.
West Coast and East Coast hip hop artists achieved international notoriety in the ‘90s and early 2000’s, thanks to well publicized rivalries and deaths. At the same time that Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were blaring from headlines and thumping from heavily customized car stereos, a thriving hip hop underground was taking place in Houston, Texas under the aegis of Robert Earl Davis, Jr., the legendary DJ Screw. Sadly it was a peculiar local drink that led to early deaths of DJ Screw and other young southern rappers.
Nicknamed “The Originator,” DJ Screw was a gifted musician and wily entrepreneur and marketer. His slowed-down, mellower style of “chopped and screwed” hip hop differed from the predominant, faster form of the time. His effects included skipping beats, stop-time, using the same record on dual turntables, and scratching. He released his mixtapes, called “Screwtapes,” selling them out of his house to friends and fans and later out of his independent record store, Screwed Up Records and Tapes, on the southeast side of Houston. The growth of his popularity through the mixtape network is exactly how Metallica first disseminated their music as a new band.
It’s been claimed that the infamous cocktail called “lean” or “Purple Drank” was a source of inspiration for DJ Screw’s chopped and screwed subgenre because of its trippy, slowing effect on the brain. He was a consumer and popularizer of the infamous “lean” concoction of cough syrup (prescription-only brands containing the antihistamine promethazine and codeine), soda and—for color—Jolly Rancher hard candy. This mixture was also called “sizzurp,” “Dirty Sprite” and “Texas tea.” Lean dates back to late 1960s/early 1970s Houston and experienced a surge in demand among rappers in the area in the 1990s.
DJ Screw, “Drank Up in My Cup”
Cough syrups containing codeine only are available over the counter in some states, but cough syrups with promethazine alone or with codeine have almost always been prescription-only all over the country. The abuse potential of promethazine has made it more of a concern than codeine. The popularity of the strongest promethazine-codeine cough syrups led to their widespread theft from pharmacies and the subsequent restriction of their sales. Over the counter brands containing dextromethorphan are also abused.
Indo G, “Purple Drank”
Three 6 Mafia, “Sippin’ On Some Syrup”
The health consequences from drinking lean, including obesity, heart problems, and dental issues, quickly damaged the lives of its users. Sadly DJ Screw overdosed in 2000 on a combination of lean made with prescription-strength codeine cough syrup, alcohol, PCP, and Valium. DJ Screw protégé Big Moe, who was addicted to lean and used it as the subject of many of his songs, overdosed in 2007. (Both Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber have been associated with sizzurp.)
It wasn’t until 2004-05 that the scene and artists associated with and inspired by DJ Screw, the so-called Screwed Up Click, gained national attention. DJ Screw’s 2005 album 3 ‘n the Mornin’ (Part Two) was named #13 on alternative newsweekly The Houston Press’s list of best Houston rap albums of all time.
Republican Texas governor Rick Perry has officially named DJ Screw a Texas Music Pioneer. In 2007 Vice produced a five-part documentary about the Houston hip-hop scene (and the use of purple drank), Screwed in Houston.
Although a huge admirer of Tricky in his considerable pomp, I would be the first to concede that his powers have steadily waned since the mighty Maxinquaye, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get ‘round to giving his latest long-player, False Idols, a listen.
Fuck me! It sounds wonderful! (The man himself has been calling it a superior record to his debut: he may even turn out to have an improbable point.) Not the least of its joys is “Somebody’s Sins,” a sublime re-fashioning (to be honest, “cover” doesn’t really cut it) of Patti Smith’s opening verse-and-a-bit to “Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)”...
The obvious, but wholly worthy, point of reference is Maxinquaye’s unforgettable take on Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.” Again, a female vocal (Francesca Belmonte) takes the lead and fleshes out some of the most poetic lines ever to grace popular music—and in such a way it’s as if you are hearing them for the first time.
Crazy music video directed by Francis Cutter for French rapper Julien Vuidard aka Flynt. The song is called “Mon pote.”
What in the hell was the budget for this video?! I can’t imagine any of the movie studios gave permission for this.
A Clockwork Orange, Clerks,The Big Lebowski, Full Metal Jacket, Fight Club, Men in Black, Pulp Fiction, Dumb and Dumber and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are just some of the classic films featured in the video.
There is some boobie action in one scene making it slightly NSFW.
Have you heard about the supposedly racist Mountain Dew commercial directed by Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator? The one that’s been pulled after a campaign was started by a vocal critic who called it arguably the “most racist commercial in history”?
But is it? Really?
Syracuse Professor Boyce Watkins, who claims credit for starting the fuss writes:
Mountain Dew has set a new low for corporate racism. Their decision to lean on well-known racial stereotypes is beyond disgusting. This doesn’t even include the fact that the company has put black men on par with animals. The holocaust of mass incarceration and the glorification of violent prison culture has taken a tremendous toll on the black community. Corporations are making it cool for black men to murder one another, while gun manufacturers ensure that the streets are flooded with the weapons necessary for us to complete our own genocide.
It was never Tylers intention to offend however offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended. Out of respect to those that were offended the ad was taken down. For those who know and respect Tyler he is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru humor. This is someone who grew up on David Chappelle.
Context may or not help those who are offended and I wholly respect that but for those who are interested I can offer the following and leave the rest to Tyler. 1. This spot was part of an overall admittedly absurd storyline about a crazy goat who becomes obsessed with Mountain Dew 2. The lady in front of the lineup is the waitress from the first spot. 3. The lineup consists of Tylers friends and odd future members who were available that day. (LBoy, Leftbrain, Garret from Trash Talk and Errol) 4. He absolutely never intended to spark a controversy about race. it was simply an again admittedly absurd story that was never meant to be taken seriously.
Pepsi has pulled the spot from the Mountain Dew website and Tyler, The Creator has done the same.
I can kinda see what Professor Watkins sees thru his eyes when he watches the ad, but from where I’m sitting, what I’m seeing is a pretty ridiculous sketch comedy spot about a goat (voiced by Tyler) who goes a little crazy on a Mountain Dew bender and runs afoul of the law (this is but one in a series of artist directed spots with this goat character).
What if this spot had been directed by, say, Vince Neil, and all of the guys in the police line-up were the “badass” dudes from Mötley Crüe and Vince was the voice of the goat?
Animated version of a 1985 interview the Beastie Boys did with Rocci Fisch for ABC News Radio in Washington, D.C. Topics include touring as Madonna’s opening act, nearly being arrested for saying “motherfucker” and “being stupid” in general.
Couple of years back I reviewed Yale’s commendable The Anthology of Rap. I was mostly nice about it (it was a decent selection), but the truth was that it wasn’t much fun to sit and read rap lyrics. Which is not to say that rap lyrics ain’t good (sometimes they’re phenomenal), or that they don’t deserve greater scrutiny and appreciation than they typically receive. It was just that isolating them on paper was not a very suitable approach—delivery being just too large a part of the art form to do away with.
Anyhow, I’ve been rummaging through rap acapellas online for the last couple of days, and have found it a far more rewarding pursuit—this may well be the best way of honing in on hip hop as a genre of live literature. If you haven’t listened to many acapellas yourself, and are a hip hop fan, you might well enjoy the following vintage selection.
We’ll start with Biggie’s “Hypnotize” This really lays bare Biggie’s unusually sensuous ear: as an acapella, his very delicate sound patterns are much more overt (a definite synaesthete, Biggie, I’d say):
Next, a batch of the available acapellas from Nas’s immortal Illmatic: “One Love,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and “Life’s a Bitch” (with AZ). Great in a thousand-odd ways, obviously:
It’s impossible to resist including a Tupac acapella (“Tupacapella”?) in such canonical nineties company—“Thug Style.” Thus exposed, the rhyme scheme, although less artful and sensuous than Biggie or Nas’s, in fact proves surprisingly dense (I’m not usually a big Tupac listener):
Finally, a couple of the more celebrated scientists of rhyme, Big Punisher and Kool G Rap: the former’s “Dream Shatterer” and the latter’s “Fast Life” (which also enable us to hear more from the young Nas).
I’m unsure if MF DOOM is still stranded in London (he was apparently refused re-entry to the US last year, on account of visa troubles), but I’d like to think that he is. It’s good for the old town to have the world’s finest living rhymester in residence. And though last year’s Keys to the Kuffs may have been a relatively shoddy offering, DOOM sounded a million miles happier than the cranky recluse that penned (the admittedly vastly superior) Born Like This.
Conceivably, DOOM’s physical proximity may also be helping some of his London listeners unriddle his writing, as if he were some Buddha emitting great waves of lucidity wherever he lowers his ample posterior. Personally, I find myself on such a critical roll that I’ve even been turning my attention to some of his more aggressively enigmatic couplets, and with some degree of satisfaction and even (arguably) success.
Take, for example, the following little monster from Madvillainy’s renowned “Figaro”:
“Everything that glitter ain’t fishscale/
Lemme think, don’t let her faint get Ishmael”
A lovely sounding line, to be sure, and one that initially impresses with its near-perfect symmetry – the first line is nine syllables, the second is ten, but we remove the eighth syllable of the latter (get) we are left with a sublimely pat example of syllable-for-syllable rhyming.
It was this parallelism, in fact, that led me to consider the first three syllables of the second line – Lemme think – as a kind of joke. As many emcees stress, all rhyme writing is improvised to a degree, it’s just that it’s done pen-in-hand rather than mic, and in an altogether more leisurely fashion.
Lemme think, then, seems to be an open rumination on the part of the emcee as to how he might rhyme the next six or seven syllables… only it’s disingenuous, a feint (as opposed to a faint), since Lem-me-think covertly corresponds with Eve-ry-thing. Dig? The faux-spontaneity belies design.
And in this instance, that Lemme think aspires to be doubly misleading, since it not only obscures rhyme, it also obscures sense…
Let’s go back to the first line. As any good hip hop fan knows, “fishscale” denotes pure uncut cocaine. But while DOOM’s substitution of it for Shakespeare’s “gold” artistically evokes the glisten of fish skin, we are seemingly left with little more than an updated cliché bobbing meaninglessly on the surface of the verse.
The second line, however, seems to describe a precise occurrence – don’t let her faint. Could there be a connection, here, with that cocaine of questionable purity? It may very well not be proverbial, after all. Seduced by the allure of intoxication, a woman hoovers up a line and abruptly discovers herself in dire straits, a la Mia Wallace. Lemme think, then, becomes a rumination as to what to do about it – in this case, get Ishmael.
Who, though, is Ishmael? Well, there are two that come to mind. There’s Ishmael of Moby Dick (an allusion arguably validated through its rhyme with “fishscale”), then there’s Ishmael from The Bible, Abraham’s son. Both are united through a native element – water: the latter Ishmael thoughtfully preserved from death by the angel Gabriel, who tapped the Zamzam well to slake his thirst.
Mia Wallace, of course, required an injection – or a shot – to return to the land of the living. An average glass of water could easily seem inadequate to the task. Holy water, though (as one would expect Gabriel to provide), would be a different matter.
And what kind of liquid might the famously tipsy DOOM deem “holy” – a whole different kind of shot….