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….
It was the author of Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie, who said it best:
‘There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make.’
As a Scot, I believe this to be often the case, and am pleased, therefore, to report the premiere of a film at SXSW, which tells the story of 2 Scots on the make with their very own Jock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax tells the story of friends Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain, who duped ‘everyone from Sony Music to MTV into believing [they] were LA-born rappers Silibil N’ Brains, tipped for the top in the hip hop industry.’
As blog site Arbroath reports the would-be Hip Hop duo were:
‘Angered at the sneering from London record industry executives searching for the British Eminem, the duo set out to fool the music business into believing that they were brash Californian rappers. The deception began after a disastrous audition in London in 2001. Speaking in the documentary, Dundee-born Mr Bain, 31, aka Brains, describes how “the vibe just changed horribly” the minute they started “talking in a Scottish accent”.
Getting nowhere fast, Mr Boyd, aka Silibil, adopted an American accent as a joke, and the lie began. “Out of spite we decided to develop these characters and that’s when Silibil ‘N’ Brains were really born.” Taking their inspiration from MTV music videos, they prepared for “the biggest role that we’d ever play”. The Great Hip Hop Hoax, which has its world premiere at the South by South West (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, tells the story of their rise and fall. By 2003, the duo were back in London with a spot at a music industry showcase. A management deal followed and they soon had a six-figure recording contract with Sony. Tipped as the “next big thing” by MTV, they played with Eminem’s D12 band at Brixton Academy, and partied with Madonna and Green Day.
Their plan was to make it before coming clean, to show that if you have talent, your nationality shouldn’t matter. But in the world of hip hop, which is all about “keeping it real”, they forgot who they really were. They lived in constant fear of being exposed. “We believed that if we got found out that we’d have to pay all the money back …. We didn’t know if we’d go to jail for fraud,” said Mr Bain. “We completely forgot that we were Scottish ... I was definitely going a little cuckoo.” They were trapped – never releasing a record in case their lies were exposed. “It drove us from being best friends to hating each other,” Mr Boyd recalls. Things came to a head in June 2005, when the pair had a furious fight. The next day Mr Boyd returned to Scotland. There was no big announcement and no outcry, as they had never released a record.
The resultant film The Great Hip Hop Hoax was made in conjunction with the BBC and Creative Scotland and is described as:
Californian hip-hop duo Silibil n’ Brains were going to be massive. What no-one knew was the pair were really students from Scotland, with fake American accents and made up identities.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax (92 minutes) is a film about truth, lies and the legacy of faking everything in the desperate pursuit of fame. The American dream, told by people who’d never even been to America.
First, the good news: The “Harlem Shake” viral video meme is likely winding down pretty soon—at least we hope.
And as the excellent video below shows, lots of Harlem residents emphatically disapprove of the way that thousands have mindlessly helped appropriate the name of a community dance into some dopey shit.
If you’re not familiar with the meme, here’s the rundown. Last spring, Brooklyn producer Harry Rodrigues a.k.a. Baauer released “Harlem Shake,” a hugely catchy downtempo party track that very clearly samples a rapper saying that he does said dance. YouTube comedian Filthy Frank used the tune in a very silly costumed dance video that launched literally thousands of similarly silly copycats, full of mostly costumed people (many, notably, in white-collar office settings) flailing their limbs and humping the air.
Popular culture is infamous for borrowing—and sometimes outright stealing—elements from a subculture and transforming them into something completely stripped of its origins. But it is still surprising to see how the current viral video craze called the Harlem Shake has managed to almost completely supplant a vibrant form of African-American dance that was born and bloomed in Harlem.
On the face of it, there’s absolutely zero wrong with limb-flailing and air-humping. But that’s not what the 30-year-old dance known as the Harlem Shake is about. Like most dance crazes cultivated by (and appropriated from) African-American communities, it requires a modicum of skill and, dare we say, pride.
Harlem itself is pretty unequivocal.
After the jump: want to know what the real Harlem Shake looks like? Check out this “shake cypher” video for some real context…
Deejay, producer and beautiful soul Mark Kamins died yesterday of “a massive coronary” in Guadalajara where he was a teacher at the Fermatta Music Academy.
Mark was a friend of mine and fan of Dangerous Minds. He often sent me links to articles and videos he thought would be of interest to DM. The last I heard from him was on January 11 of this year when he sent me a link to a YouTube video.
I think you will love this
“Whole Lotta Helter Skelter: Beatles-Zeppelin Mashup.”
Mark had a generous spirit. He was always supportive of my music and writing. He went out of his way to send me positive vibes and information he thought might be valuable in whatever project I might be working on. To say he is a loss, is an understatement. Mark was a force of nature that swept you up and carried you along on waves of upbeat energy, propelling you in the direction of your better self.
In the 80s, it was impossible to club hop without being infused with Mark’s aura via the incredible music he would play night after night as he deejayed at NYC’s groundbreaking dance clubs: including Danceteria, The Mudd Club, The Tunnel, Paradise Garage and Area. He discovered Madonna, introduced her to Seymour Stein and produced her first single “Everybody.” He worked as a producer, mixer and collaborator with The Beastie Boys, U2, Bob Marley, David Byrne, Sinead O’Connor and Karen Finley, to name a few. He wasn’t just part of the scene, he conjured the scene, he made it happen. He opened his own venue, The Harem, where he mixed instrumental tracks with live International musicians and dancers.
Mark continued to do what he loved right up until the day he died. He was teaching music students the fundamentals of electronic music and deejaying. The only thing that could stop Mark, did.
Peace brother. I imagine you somewhere, glowing like starlight, spinning the music of the spheres.
“Let the music take control
Find a groove and let yourself go
When the room begins to sway
You know what I’m trying to say.”
An extract from my contribution to Mark Goodall’s brand new book Gathering of the Tribe: Music and Heavy Conscious Creation, a collection of essays on music and the occult, featuring contributions from Mick Farren and David Kerekes among others, and pieces on the Beatles, the Fall, Nick Cave, John Coltrane and many more.
Before it was destroyed in a 1965 bombing, Harlem’s Nation of Islam Mosque No.7 could boast a cluster of striking alumni and associates, suggestive perhaps that powerful — or even sinister — forces were circling it. Louis Farrakhan was once in charge there, and was preceded in the role by none other than Malcolm X, who famously brought Cassius Clay into the Harlem orbit (turning him into Muhammad Ali in the process). Somewhat bringing up the rear is the comparatively little known Clarence 13X, whose eviction from Mosque No.7 and the NOI by Malcolm X led him to found The Nation of Gods and Earths — more colloquially known as the 5 Percenters, an heretical sub-sect of the NOI that would later distinguish itself by providing the slang and mythos behind much of the greatest rap music ever made, including Rakim, DOOM, and the (so to speak) meta-gangster rap of mid-nineties New York, exemplified by acts such as Nas, Mobb Deep and The Wu-Tang Clan.
Cassius Clay, of course, remained “Orthodox” — describing himself as “a fisherman for Elijah Mohammed” (the then-head of the NOI and self-proclaimed savior of Black America). While there is inadequate opportunity to get into the rules and dogma of the NOI, we should note that the hook upon which Clay skewered his bait had much more in common with Freemasonry than it did traditional Islam…
As in any Masonic sect, NOI members are initiated incrementally, and must memorize (and demonstrate some understanding of) tracts of esoteric lore in order to graduate to higher levels. One of the things neophytes must learn is a catechism of symbolism and numerology called “The Lost and Found Muslim Lessons.” These can sound pretty odd to profane ears (for example: “What are the exact square miles of the useful land that is used every day by the total population of the planet Earth?”) but are meant to impart esoteric insight through recitation.
These “Lost and Found Muslim Lessons” are wedded to the NOI’s recognizably Gnostic narrative, in which the traditional Gnostic Demiurge figure (the inept or malevolent creator of the material world in which the soul finds itself imprisoned) is the infamous Yacub, a mad scientist responsible for breeding the defective white race (“Dad”) and endowing it with a significant metaphysical fallacy for good measure — the concept of a “mystery god,” a deity that exists without (rather than within) humanity. Humanity itself is divided up between the ten percent of people aware of such truths but who opt to use them to oppress the ignorant eighty-five percent, and the remaining five percent who are aware of these truths and dedicated to using them to empower and enlighten the masses (good on ‘em).
Unfortunately, membership of the NOI looks a bit of a drag. As well as apparently having to permanently don a bow tie (I think I’d sooner be circumcised), gambling, fornication and intoxication are forbidden. Rectitude is the order of the day… excluding, apparently (and as ever), the sect’s leadership, who in the Sixties were beset with a number of scandals regarding its near pathological philandering, a double standard that must have helped to inspire Clarence 13X – expelled by Malcolm X from Mosque No.7 for like incontinence – to form his 5 Percenters, changing his own name to “Allah” for good measure.
Now here’s where it gets interesting, for Clarence 13X did not found his group in order to implement the top-down rectitude lacking in the NOI, nor to replicate its hypocrisies, but to instead altogether loosen the shackles of piety.
Goodness knows they chafed him enough — Clarence (a handsome fellow, as well as a snappy dresser) enjoyed a drink, smoke, toot, flutter and fuck no less than the average Rolling Stone, and saw little wrong with his fellow 5 Percenters enjoying the same, so long as they were careful to eschew pork — the notorious P.I.G. (he also — and in no little contradistinction to Mick, Keith and the gang — encouraged his followers to steer clear of smack, which he deemed “the swine of substances”).
Of much greater importance to Clarence than conventionally respectable behavior — which he appeared to think either would or wouldn’t assert itself in its own sweet time — was the wider dissemination of the NOI’s metaphysics among the offspring of New York’s African American slums, a rambunctious generation theoretically ripe for NOI conversion but likely to be deterred by the required lifestyle strictures.
Clarence lived out the remainder of his life balancing his role as religious mentor with his penchant for drinking, gambling and womanizing, during which time the 5 Percenters spread impressively, with its founder attracting plenty of negative attention and spending a certain amount of time in New York prisons and mental institutions, eventually being shot dead in ambiguous circumstances.
It was surely Clarence 13X’s teasing apart of morality and metaphysics that later made his creed so viable to the Nineties rap outlaws. Even in his lifetime this masterstroke had its repercussions, with the initial generation of Clarence’s converts causing a tabloid furor, the press misunderstanding the 5 Percenter insignia as merely the shtick of a dangerous new gang — by the time the ‘crack epidemic’ would divide up America’s slums into predators and prey, 5 Percenter theology was well entrenched as the warrior creed of a growing urban soldiery.
One tempting explanation for the ensuing high proportion of significant 5 Percenter emcees is that, by demanding that adolescent initiates begin committing the extensive NOI catechisms to memory, the proselytizers — usually older friends or relatives — incidentally enhanced these young persons’ mnemonic and recitative abilities.
Certainly, by the time the young RZA decided to form his collective, he was able to reap seven superb emcees with a single close sweep of his razorblade. For the initial core of the group, GZA, Method Man, and the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, RZA’s blade hardly had to travel, as all four were related to varying degrees and had been listening to hip hop, studying 5 Percenter theology and playing chess since childhood. These three voices — respectively cerebral, stylish and anarchic — dominate Enter the 36 Chambers...
So, one minute the Wu were playing clubs and house parties in their native Staten Island — there are rather picturesque accounts of ODB tripping on acid and firing his gun into the ceiling mid-gig — and the next they were superstars. RZA would spend the following five years brilliantly consolidating their legacy: producing and directing classic solo albums by the Wu’s five most talented members. Taken together, these solo debuts — Method Man’s Tical, GZA’s Liquid Swords, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ghostface Killah’s Ironman and ODB’s Return to the 36 Chambers, the Dirty Version — surely constitute the richest oeuvre in hip hop.
Besides the career criminal and the cataclysmically unlucky, no one is more instinctively superstitious than the superstar — who fortune has touched with her most conspicuous (albeit volatile) wand. You can only imagine how the members of the Wu, all long since initiated into a form of urban witchcraft that attested to their inner divinity, felt to wake up and find themselves world famous. Whether or not the impoverished and mundane aspects of their former lives ever tested their faith in the mystical worldview of The Nation of Gods and Earths, their subsequent success manifestly compounded it, resulting in their becoming propagandists for Clarence 13X’s small sect and introducing it to tens of millions of listeners around the world.
For ODB, meanwhile, who had betrayed schizophrenic tendencies long before stardom provided ostensible confirmation of this supernatural worldview, success would only push him deeper into psychosis. By all accounts, he was one of the most dedicated 5 Percenters in the Wu, a fact that has usually been met with incredulity by some chroniclers of the group, who are stumped by the challenge of ascribing fervid religiosity to a pop star renowned for his spectacular affection for arrest, anilingus and crack cocaine. Fair enough, though in ODB’s history of womanizing, incarceration, shootings and insanity, we can detect an echo of the life of Clarence 13X himself, and are reminded that the 5 Percenters are an unusually flexible – and, frankly, rock’n’roll – sect.