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Dr. Octagon: Time-traveling killer gynecologist of underground hip-hop returns with ‘Flying Waterbed
03.30.2018
01:39 pm
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WARNING: Extremely catchy earwig ahead.

For the first time since 1996, the trio behind Dr. Octagonecologyst the classic and influential Kool Keith solo album have joined forces again. Dr. Octagon, a three-member group—Dan the Automator (Handsome Boy Modeling School, Deltron 3030, Gorillaz), DJ Qbert (Invisibl Skratch Piklz) and Keith—are back with their first video “Flying Waterbed” from the upcoming album Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripulation which is due out on April 6th via Dan the Automator’s Bulk Recordings. (Stream it now via NPR First Listen.)

“Flying Waterbed” shows that they were ready to pick right up where they left off, offering up an insanely catchy song with all of the silly, surreal wordplay Kool Keith is known for, with Qbert’s nearly superhuman technical skills and Dan Nakamura’s synthy sonics and production chops ably backing him up. The video wasn’t halfway over before I was thinking to myself “This song is going to be playing over and over in my head all weekend.”

The Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripulation album will be released April 6th digitally and on CD and double LP. All physical versions of the album include an exclusive 12th track “Aviator Hype.” The official artist store will be carrying a special limited edition version of the double LP, with only 1,000 copies printed worldwide on blood splattered vinyl and alternate gatefold album art.
 

 
Watch it, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.30.2018
01:39 pm
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‘Behind the Seen’: Chuck D of Public Enemy holds his first solo art exhibition
03.29.2018
08:45 am
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Chuck D of Public Enemy.
 

Music and art and culture is escapism, and escapism sometimes is healthy for people to get away from reality. The problem is when they stay there.

—Chuck D of Public Enemy in 2004.

Today my post celebrates two things I love—art and Public Enemy’s Chuck D. More specifically, it features artwork by Chuck D that features his renderings of hip-hop royalty like Run-DMC and Ice-T.

Born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Queens, New York, Chuck D has been using his voice to express his views on everything from inequality and police brutality to civil rights, and once referred to rap music as “CNN for black people.” I have been a huge fan of PE for the last 30 years, but it somehow slipped past me Chuck D was once an aspiring art student. After high school, he attended Adelphi University in Long Island where he obtained his B.F.A. in Graphic Design and hooked up with another Adelphi student, William Drayton—the future Flavor Flav who he would form Public Enemy with. While he was honing his hip-hop skills, he designed party fliers for another associate of PE, sound innovator Hank Shocklee (The Bomb Squad). Fairly recently, Chuck revisited his love of art while on tour, and the results became a part of his very first solo exhibition Behind the Seen, currently on display at 30 South in Pasadena, California through April 8th.

I’ve posted some of Chuck’s art below, many of which are available for purchase, here.
 

“Lord of the Wheels.”
 

“Whodini, Funky Beat” an homage to Brooklyn, New York-based hip-hop trio Whodini.
 

“Iceberg OG Syndicate.” This piece by Chuck D gives is a nod to the hip-hop collective started by Ice-T, Rhyme Syndicate.
 

A portrait of Hank Shocklee by Chuck D.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.29.2018
08:45 am
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‘Bare-ass naked’: The KLF and the live stage production of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Illuminatus!’


Prunella Gee as Eris in ‘Illuminatus!’ (via Liverpool Confidential)

In 1976, the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool mounted a 12-hour stage production of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was a fateful event in the life of the show’s set designer, Bill Drummond, for reasons he’s detailed in the Guardian: for one thing, it was in connection with Illuminatus! and its director, Ken Campbell, that Drummond first heard about the eternal conflict between the Illuminati, who may secretly control the world, and the Justified Ancients of Mummu, or the JAMs, who may be agents of chaos disrupting the Illuminati’s plans. (Recall that in Illuminatus!, the MC5 record “Kick Out The Jams” at the behest of the Illuminati, as a way of taunting the Justified Ancients—or so John Dillinger says.)

Before they were known as the KLF, Drummond and Jimmy Cauty called themselves the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, appropriating the name for the eschaton-immanentizing hip-hop outfit they started in 1987. Over the next few years, they seized the pop charts and filled the airwaves with disorienting, Discordian hits, until a day came when you could flip on the TV and find Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By The JAMs,” or Martin Sheen narrating the KLF’s reenactment of the end of The Wicker Man.
 

Bill Drummond in Big in Japan, live at Eric’s (via @FromEricsToEvol)
 
After the Liverpool run of Illuminatus!, Drummond rebuilt his sets for the London production, but he suddenly bailed on the show, walking out hours before it was to open. I guess he missed the nude cameo appearance Robert Anton Wilson describes in Cosmic Trigger, Volume I:

On November 23, 1976—a sacred Discordian holy day, both because of the 23 and because it is Harpo Marx’s birthday—a most ingenious young Englishman named Ken Campbell premiered a ten-hour adaptation of Illuminatus at the Science-Fiction Theatre of Liverpool. It was something of a success (the Guardian reviewed it three times, each reviewer being wildly enthusiastic) and Campbell and his partner, actor Chris Langham, were invited to present it as the first production of the new Cottesloe extension of the National Theatre, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.

This seemed to me the greatest Discordian joke ever, since Illuminatus, as I may not have mentioned before, is the most overtly anarchistic novel of this century. Shea and I quite seriously defined our purpose, when writing it, as trying to do to the State what Voltaire did to the Church—to reduce it to an object of contempt among all educated people. Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe). The thought of having this totally subversive ritual staged under the patronage of H.M. the Queen, Elizabeth II, was nectar and ambrosia to me.

The National Theatre flew Shea and me over to London for the premiere and I fell in love with the whole cast, especially Prunella Gee, who emphatically has my vote for Sexiest Actress since Marilyn Monroe. Some of us did a lot of drinking and hash-smoking together, and the cast told me a lot of synchronicities connected with the production. Five actors were injured during the Liverpool run, to fulfill the Law of Fives. Hitler had lived in Liverpool for five months when he was 23 years old. The section of Liverpool in which the play opened, indeed the very street, is described in a dream of Carl Jung’s recorded on page 23 of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The theatre in Liverpool opened the day Jung died. There is a yellow submarine in Illuminatus, and the Beatles first sang “Yellow Submarine” in that same Liverpool Theatre. The actor playing Padre Pederastia in the Black Mass scene had met Aleister Crowley on a train once.

The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.

 

Robert Anton Wilson (via John Higgs)
 
In 2017, 23 years after they split up, Drummond and Cauty reunited as the JAMs. Instead of a new chart-burning house record, they released their first novel…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.27.2018
10:08 am
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Big Boi’s charming obsession with Kate Bush
12.13.2017
12:07 pm
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It’s no surprise to hear that a top hip-hop musician has eclectic musical tastes—in many cases it’s part and parcel of what enables such a person to ascend to such heights. And yet some instances of fanboy fandom stick out, such as the nearly obsessive adoration for the music of Kate Bush on the part of Antwan André “Big Boi” Patton of OutKast. He’s been talking about Kate Bush for years.

OutKast’s status as a legendary hip-hop act stems from the release of their third album Stankonia in 2000, which featured “B.O.B.” and “Ms. Jackson.” (The global hit “Hey Ya!” wouldn’t happen until 2003.) It was Stankonia that prompted SPIN to give the act a cover in March 2001. In that story, reported by Sacha Jenkins, Big Boi attested to his love of Kate Bush:
 

Everybody samples, but there’s a lot of not so creative sampling out there. When we sample, we sample for sounds, not for the structure of the whole damn song. It’s about being creative. With us, we listen to everything: Gil Scott-Heron, Minnie Riperton, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Kate Bush—I go deep into her music.

 
While it was the young Antwan Patton’s grandmother who instilled in the young lad a love of music, it was an uncle who tipped him to Kate Bush. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, “[She] became my favorite artist of all time. Her and Bob Marley would tie for first. I used to listen to ‘The Kick Inside’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘This Woman’s Work’ and just admiring the style of music she was making, from the production side of it to the lyrics,” he said. “It was kind of mind-blowing. I was like OK, I wanted to be like her. My thing was if [the music] was jamming, if it felt good [I liked it].”
 

 
In a 2004 profile of the band in the pages of The Guardian in the U.K., Big Boi was in the middle of a similar spiel when his cellphone sprang to life, revealing Boi’s chosen ringtone to be a well-known Kate Bush single from 1980: “‘I consider me and Dre to be funkateers, man. Growing up, we listened to everything and I think that gives us the ability to make a free-flowing type of music. It doesn’t matter whether it’s country, reggae or rock and roll. Kate Bush is my favourite artist of all time.’ As if on cue, his mobile starts to ring, trilling out a rendition of ‘Babooshka.’”
 
It’s become something of a quest of Big Boi’s to collaborate musically with Bush, as he told British GQ in 2010, but he’s been somewhat stymied by the fact that it’s very difficult to make contact with her: “I’ve been trying for some years now. She’s like a kinda recluse. She lives somewhere in a castle around here and plays some sort of oversized piano like the Phantom of the Opera! You can hear music come out the windows! I’m looking for her, know what I’m saying? That’s my dream collaboration for sure.”

Big Boi also appeared in Running Up That Hill the BBC documentary on Bush that came out in 2015. Earlier this year Big Boi experienced a breakthrough of sorts when he managed to meet with his hero for dinner. On May 11 Boi was in London and taped an appearance on Mistajam’s program on BBC Radio 1. During the program he indicated that he had gotten in touch with Bush and learned that she was still in a bit of a hiatus: “I think her son’s going off to school so she’s taking a little break.” Boi expressed optimism about working with her someday even if it is not his very next project. He used the radio’s airwaves to reach out to Bush, saying, “Kate, if you’re out there baby, I’m in town this Saturday. Let’s go see King Arthur or something together, ya feel me?” You can hear the full plea below:
 


 
Lo and behold, the next day Big Boi’s Twitter feed featured a signed photo of a Before the Dawn, the 2016 “presented by the KT Fellowship”—the album is credited as a Kate Bush release in Discogs—with the text “Just Had Dinner with Kate Bush! mind-blowing”:
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.13.2017
12:07 pm
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Cat scratch fever: Yes, there is a DJ turntable so that cats can ‘scratch’
05.03.2017
11:02 am
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All that scratchin’ is making me itch!

Anyone can become DJ nowadays. All you need is two turntables, a mixer, and a stack of club music singles (or a USB stick). Today it was announced that actor Vin Diesel was working on his career in EDM, so clearly anyone can do it. Even a puddycat.

Thanks to the internet’s love of anthropomorphic puns and a general lacking of musicianship elsewhere in the animal kingdom, now your feline friend can become the next Grandmaster Flash with this cat scratching DJ deck from the fine folks at Suck UK. Modeled after the Technics 1200, the weapon-of-choice among many vinyl DJs, the cardboard kit features a spinning, “scratchable” deck and moveable tone arm. In no time whatsoever, your kitty will be scratching, scrubbing, tearing, and scribbling like your own fuzzy lil’ DJ Jazzy Jeff.
 

 

 
The set is on sale right now for $24 on Amazon. If your cat is more of a bedroom house producer, they also carry a laptop scratch pad with a customizable desktop background.
 

 

Posted by Bennett Kogon
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05.03.2017
11:02 am
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‘How you like me now?’: Charlie Brown & the Peanuts gang quote Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop & more


Peanuts characters ‘Peppermint Patty’ and ‘Charlie Brown’ riffing on lyrics from ‘Protect Ya Neck’ by the Wu-Tang Clan. Painting by artist Mark Drew.
 
I’m a huge fan of artist Mark Drew—especially his “Tape Stack” paintings which can be found on greeting cards. I grab a few whenever I’m lucky enough to come across them.

In 2013 Drew created gallery-sized paintings based on one of his many zines. The zine in question featured images of the gang from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic mashed up with lyrics derived from 80s and 90s hip-hop. So instead of good old Charlie Brown uttering his famous phrase “good grief,” we get finally get to see Chuck slaying his nemesis Lucy with a line from “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre: “Fuck around n’ get caught up in a one-eight-seven.” Which seems about right given the fact that Lucy probably deserves to get a cap in her ass for all those times she denied poor Charlie the pleasure of kicking that goddamned football.

When Drew debuted the paintings at the China Heights gallery in Sydney, Australia he called the show “Deez Nuts” in tribute to the moniker adopted by failed 2016 presidential candidate high school student Brady C. Olson. Images of Charlie Brown and his homies Snoopy, Linus, Peppermint Patty quoting their favorite hip-hop lyrics follow.
 

Peanut’s character and notable meanie Lucy reciting a lyric from Public Enemy’s 1988 jam, “Louder than a Bomb” in a painting by artist Mark Drew.
 

Quote derived from the 1992 song by Dr. Dre, “Let Me Ride.”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.06.2017
08:49 am
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Deconstructing Positive K’s 1992 hip hop anthem ‘I Got a Man’
02.01.2017
10:57 am
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Bronx’s Darryl Gibson (better known as rapper Positive K) made the scene in 1989 with “I’m Not Havin’ It,” a duet with hip-hop’s pioneer feminist MC Lyte. The unique song detailed a man’s attempts to seduce a woman as she fended off his advances with hilarious comebacks. Three years later, Positive K would recreate this magic formula on his debut hit single “I Got a Man.” Due to a change in record labels, MC Lyte was not able to reprise her role on the song, which left Positive K to record the female parts himself by pitch-shifting his voice in the recording studio. This clever studio trick was extremely effective, catchy-as-hell, and the song peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1993 making him one of hip hop’s first one-hit-wonders.
 
Thanks to simple, modern-day editing software, YouTube user Ryan McNeill has created the “De-Chipmunked Remix” of the song. As he puts it, “When the female parts are slowed to 80%, you hear that Positive K is, in fact, macking on himself the entire time.”
 

 
“I wanted to do something in rap that had never been seen before,” Positive K told the Village Voice in 2014, who carefully re-examined the song over 20 years later as a possible “example of street harassment.” After his debut album The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills failed to produce anymore hit singles, Positive re-recorded his song “Carhoppers” for the music video version as yet another duet with himself. While the Emotions sample driven remix was a pleasing and incredibly catchy tale of rejection, it failed to generate any of the attention of its prototypes.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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02.01.2017
10:57 am
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Black Noize: Remembering Proper Grounds’ anguish rap metal (or ‘Madonna discovers rap metal’)
01.11.2017
03:51 pm
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Remember the record industry? It was nuts, man. REO Speedwagon had their own plane. Black Sabbath had a $70,000 cocaine allowance. Jimmy Page had his own fucking castle. Michael Jackson, that guy...well, never mind. The point is, if you sold enough records, you could basically do whatever you wanted.

In 1992, when she was sandwiched between her 80’s pop-hit peak and her 00’s disco-feminist golden age, Madonna was generating so much income that Warner Brothers financed her own media empire. Maverick Entertainment was formed initially to release her Erotica album and the infamous Sex coffee table book (i.e. the one with Madonna’s vagina and Vanilla Ice’s penis), but they also operated as a subsidiary of Warners, signing bands and making movies. There were, naturally, high hopes for a Madonna-led entertainment company. She was known for pushing the envelope and edging mainstream culture away from the center and into weirder, kinkier territories. So who knew what she would unearth with Maverick? Could be anything. Crazy, mind-blowing shit, right? We already had full-frontal Maddy getting her freak on in Sex, what could possibly come next?

Spoiler alert: In 1995, they released Jagged Little Pill, one of the biggest selling records of all time. Which is great for Madonna and for Alanis Morrissette, but it wasn’t exactly a cutting-edge release. And most of the Maverick-y stuff that came before it was even more underwhelming. Remember Canadian Bacon, John Candy’s last film, the only non-documentary that Michael Moore ever made? That was Madonna’s thing. So were soft-grunge cretins Candlebox. Maverick would eventually be the home of cuddly mainstream enterprises like Britney Spears, Michelle Branch, and the Twilight twinkling vampire movies. The Brink’s truck continued making regular deliveries to Madonna’s house, but any dreams of the company living up to the name were pretty much dashed when they signed the Backstreet Boys.

But there were actually a couple of early glimmers (rays?) of light suggesting that, hey, maybe Madonna knew what was up all along. For one thing, she signed DC hardcore heroes Bad Brains and released their reggae-heavy ‘95 album God of Love. Unfortunately Brains’ mainman HR was on a real tear that year and assaulted a bunch of people, including the group’s own manager, hastening the band’s (brief, but career-tanking) demise. And she also discovered LA rap-metal pioneers Proper Grounds.

Many would cite Rage Against the Machine as the first significant band to tread this thorny path. Rage are not a metal band and they don’t have a rapper, but okay, sure. Ice-T would point you to his incendiary thrash metal outfit Body Count. But that was a just a rapper playing metal.There were one-offs like the Public Enemy/Anthrax mash-up “Bring the Noize”; the lesser-known Sir Mix-a-lot/Metal Church head-spinner “Iron Man” in ‘88, and if we stretch even farther back, the mysterious hooded rapper The Lone Rager, who spat out a brief history of the genre back in ‘84’s ridiculous “Metal Rap” (“And Metallica? Spectaculah!”). 24-7 Spyz offered up funk-metal that edged into hip-hop territory, and Schoolly D, in his bid to wipe out rock n’ roll once and for all, merged metal riffs with hilariously angry lyrics on his 1988 album Smoke Some Kill (“Fuck Cinderella, fuck Bon Jovi, and motherfuck Prince, man.”). All that shit existed, sure. But none of them merged the gritty realities of life on the street with the intensity and velocity of heavy metal in the same way that Proper Grounds did.
 

 
Proper Grounds were, essentially, a panicky Grandmaster Flash with grungy guitars. Or maybe Stone Temple Pilots with scratching. Formed by frontman The Sandman and bass player/producer Danny Saber, they had a deep-rooted social consciousness that neatly subverted the mindless violence and material worship that engulfed rap in the 90’s and their take on metal, was elastic and acrobatic, avoided the genre’s chest-thumping excess. They called their particular brand of noise “anguish rap metal” and that pretty much says it all. Songs like “I’m Drowning,” “Backwards Mass,” and “Money in the Depths of a Plagueless Man” were so dark they were practically gothic. Their sole album, 1993’s Downtown Circus Gang, was a stark snapshot of life on the streets of LA in the wake of the ‘92 riots, bitter and hard and raw and real. Perfect for the 90’s, really.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Ken McIntyre
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01.11.2017
03:51 pm
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Before ‘Atlanta’ there was Donald Glover’s ‘Clapping for the Wrong Reasons’
01.09.2017
06:00 pm
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Last night Donald Glover and Atlanta won well-deserved Golden Globes for “Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy” and “Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy” for the show’s creator, writer and star. Despite these awards—and a slew of others Atlanta and Glover have won or been nominated for—I’d wager that much of America has still to catch up with the FX network’s breakout new hit. If you fall into that category, you need to change that status, stat, jack.

Several friends of mine were raving about Atlanta after it premiered in September, but I was too preoccupied with hate-watching a reality show called “Election 2016” to take much notice at first. By the time I finally sat down to watch Atlanta, five episodes had already piled up and I greedily watched all five one right after the other. Had there been more I’d have watched the entire series then and there. I loved Atlanta. My wife loved it as much as I did. There is so much great television on today that to designate just one show as the very “best” is a difficult task, but even still, Atlanta is what comes immediately to mind when I ponder what that one best current TV show would be. With Rotten Tomatoes giving Atlanta a 100% approval rating and Metacritic bestowing upon it a 90 out of 100 score, clearly many other people feel the same.

It was a few episodes in—the one where Earn wants to sell his sword to raise some quick money—when I put my finger on exactly what I believe makes Atlanta feel so fresh and special—and just that much of a cut above anything else—in a sea of admittedly ultra great competitors. Dig the shot where they walk into the pawn shop. Watch the choreography of how the camera moves, watch what the actors do, notice the color palate going on. “Clearly the director [Hiro Murai] has watched every single Godard film” I remarked to my wife, but that’s what it was: Atlanta is shot like a European arthouse film that is bogged down by exactly zero of the standard tropes of American sitcoms. It’s one of the most cinematic things ever produced for TV that is, essentially still a situation comedy. Compare and contrast it with, say, Seinfeld. There are a lot of things you could find that the two shows had in common, but stylistically speaking, there are just about none.
 

 
With the sharpest writing around, a cast of some of the most charismatic young actors working today and the insanely brilliant comedic timing of Ivy League-trained thespian Brian Tyree Henry as “Paper Boi” there’s already a level of excellence afoot here, but again, it’s the attention to detail that gives the impression that we’re looking at a finely cut diamond. Another key element of Atlanta‘s success is the incorporation of casually oddball events that call attention to themselves just for a moment before the characters move on. Who doesn’t have quirky encounters on a daily basis? Atlanta is great at capturing how mundanely surreal life can be—not something that’s easy to accomplish—and does so better than anything else currently on television

Which brings me to Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, a short film that Glover wrote and starred in (playing himself to a certain extent) and Murai directed. Clapping for the Wrong Reasons was produced to promote Glover’s second Childish Gambino album Because the Internet in 2013. Filled with the same sort of attention to small details as Atlanta, Clapping for the Wrong Reasons—which takes place high in the Hollywood Hills under much different socio-economic circumstances—plays slower but has some wonderful (and wonderfully strange) moments. I don’t want to imply that it was a dry run for Atlanta—because I do not think that was the case—but if you’re hankering for something more produced by the same creative team, it’s the next best thing.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.09.2017
06:00 pm
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‘Kool Thing’: Kim Gordon’s 1989 interview with LL Cool J that inspired the Sonic Youth song
01.04.2017
09:14 am
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In the September 1989 issue of SPIN magazine, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon interviewed LL Cool J to get a feminist perspective on the male-dominated world of hip-hop. The result was an awkward and unintentionally hilarious conversation that served as the inspiration for the 1990 song “Kool Thing” (which was Sonic Youth’s first major label single). At the time, LL was promoting his third studio album, Walking with a Panther, the cover which depicted the rapper posing alongside a cuddly and adorable black panther sporting gold chains.

“I had a thing for male Black Panthers, I also loved LL Cool J’s first record, Radio, which was produced by Rick Rubin.” Kim recounts in her memoir Girl in a Band. She had said publicly that Radio was one of the albums that turned her on to rap music, and that “Going Back to Cali” was one of her favorite music videos because as someone who grew up in L.A. she appreciated “the humorous way it made fun of the 1960s archetypal Southern California sexy white-girl aesthetic.” LL’s publicist couldn’t believe that anyone in Sonic Youth knew about LL Cool J and happily granted an interview which took place during a rehearsal break for an upcoming tour. “I’ve never interviewed a pop star before, and having just seen LL on The Arsenio Hall Show I’m nervous.” Kim prefaced in the SPIN magazine interview titled “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.”

“When I — the Lower East Side scum-rocker, feeling really, really uncool — arrive at the rehearsal studio, the dancers are taking a break. They’re real friendly; we talk about my shoes for a second. They are three girls — one of whom, Rosie Perez, is in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing — and a young boy. A bunch of other people are just hanging out. LL is preoccupied talking to some stylists, gesturing about clothes. Occasionally he shoots a look my way; I have no idea if he’s expecting me or he’s just looking at my out-of-place bleached blonde hair. LL slowly approaches, checking me out but stopping to talk to friends. I jump up, walk over, grab his hand, introduce myself and say, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ He’s aloof. I marvel how boys who’re tough or cool to cover up their sensitivity keep attracting girls and fooling themselves.” Kim and LL sat down at a nearby empty studio and she began the interview by asking him to sign her Radio CD. She then gave him a copy of Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album (a pseudonymous side project of Sonic Youth and Minutemen/Firehose member Mike Watt). When she told LL Cool J that The Whitey Album sampled beats off his records he laughed out loud and said, “I got a CD in a couple of my cars, I’ll play it.”

They began discussing sports cars and LL’s newly purchased home he called “Wonderland,” as LL flipped through The Whitey Album CD packaging. He pulled out and unfolded an insert which featured a photograph of a young girl with dozens of black & white flyers for hardcore shows plastered all over her bedroom wall. “Who’s this girl? It must have been a long time ago for it to say The Negroes.” LL mistook a flyer he noticed for Necros (a punk band from the Detroit music scene.) “That’s the Necros, an early hardcore band. Are you familiar with the early hardcore scene?” “Uh-uh, what is that, like heavy metal?” “No, not at all! It was basically kids talking to other kids. The Beastie Boys were part of that. I remember when they were a hardcore band.” LL processes the information and then quips, “The Young and the Useless?” (referring to an early 1980s punk band that included future Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock, and so, cool points for LL Cool J). “That was another band. The Beastie Boys had their same name when they were a hardcore band. Hardcore was so fast that if your ears weren’t attuned to it you couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t meant for anyone outside the scene. Like rap music, some of it is so fast, unless you’re familiar with the slang you can’t get it. That’s why so many people who were into hardcore listen to rap. It’s something that excludes white mainstream culture.” Gordon explained. “That’s interesting, I never really knew anything about that.” Cool J said.
 

Photo from Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album CD insert fold-out
 
While Kim Gordon’s connecting the dots between hip hop and the early hardcore music scene made for a great start to the interview, things then took a dive when she asked him about the females fans who admire him. “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?” “It’s not my problem,” LL responded. “The guy has to have control over his woman.” Gordon plays along without confronting LL Cool J about his misogynist comments. “Are there any female sex symbols that you relate to?” Kim asks, “Oh yeah, every day on the way to work.”

“It was totally ridiculous for me to assume that we had anything in common” Gordon later admitted in a 1991 telephone interview with the Phoenix New Times. “That’s why I tried to make the article show how elite and small the downtown scene that I come out of is. I was trying to make fun of myself. I don’t know if that came across.” Six months after the interview was published, Sonic Youth recorded the song “Kool Thing” at Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios in New York City. Although LL Cool J’s name is never mentioned, the song’s lyrics contain several references to the rapper’s music. Kim Gordon sings “Kool Thing let me play it with your radio” (a reference to LL Cool J’s single “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”). The lyrics “Kool thing walkin’ like a panther” are a reference to the LL Cool J album Walking With a Panther. She repeats the line “I don’t think so” over and over again which is also a repeating line in the LL Cool J hit “Going Back to Cali.”

Elissa Schappell, author of the short-story collection Blueprints for Building Better Girls, perfectly summarizes the clash between Gordon and Cool J in an essay she wrote for the anthology book Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives:

“Kim was able to take the disastrous interview and elegantly turn it into something much larger than its parts. Working at SPY I was used to putting myself into the path of trouble, and when it found me I took notes. Kim had taken notes and then transformed the experience into a sharp and witty social critique of gender, race and power that you could dance to. ‘Kool Thing’ is more than Kim’s assault on LL Cool J’s ego, but a self-mocking jibe at her own liberal politics. The sarcasm in her voice when she addresses ‘Kool Thing’ (Public Enemy’s Chuck D) in the breakdown is self-mocking — the female voice inflated by privilege and naïveté. (‘I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you going to liberate us girls from the white male corporate oppression?’)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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01.04.2017
09:14 am
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