Subscribe: Bring the Noise
http://bringthenoisesimonreynolds.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
album  bring noise  bring  deleted scene  grime  hip hop  hop  much  music  new  noise deleted  noise  rap  scene   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Bring the Noise

Bring the Noise



DELETED SCENES, OUT-TAKES, NEWS, AND OTHER STUFF RELATING TO SIMON REYNOLDS' ANTHOLOGY BRING THE NOISE: 20 YEARS OF WRITING ABOUT HIP ROCK AND HIP HOP



Updated: 2014-10-01T22:58:08.997-07:00

 



0 Comments

2013-11-16T20:59:40.552-08:00

an interview with Maxence Grugier for New Noise magazine, done early in 2013, on the occasion of the publication of the French translation of Bring The Noise1/ You are one of the few who dared to confront the coexistence of black and white music in the vast ecosystem of musical time. It was not supposed to be easy? The subject can lead a lot of false interpretations isn’t it ?Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m one of the few – not in the least. It’s one of the fundamental aspects of the history of rock and pop. As important as the concept of youth culture and teenage rebellion, or the influence of technology on music, from the electric guitar to sampling, or the effect of drugs on music, or the role of class. Lots of people have written about the relationship between black music and white music. Going back to before rock, with writing on jazz and blues. But yes it is a very complex subject, full of mistaken ideas and misunderstandings. I have made a fair number of mistakes myself, which are collected in the book!My argument I suppose, or one of my arguments, is that is the white misunderstandings of black music – the getting it wrong – that have led to mutations and creative evolution. If white musicians had only replicated black music, it would have led to a lot of “sonically correct” but redundant music that didn’t take its inspirations or sources anywhere new. And just as bands like the Rolling Stones or Talking Heads or The Police warped black musics like rhythm-and-blues and discofunk and reggae, so too I think the misunderstandings by white critics of black culture have also been “creative” in a sense. You try to get it right, but you always end up with a distortion of one kind or another. But that is more interesting and productive than successfully understanding something “on its own terms”. That job is for academics to do. Rock writing in a sense is about the creation of fictions and myths about music.2/ In this connection, I thought when I was reading Bring The Noise, that it would be even more difficult now, with the expansion of "politically correct” in all spheres of creation and society. What do you think?Yes, well the truth is that my original intention was to write a book called White On Black, not a collection but a new book that drew on my older writings in various ways.  But the problem I confronted was precisely the politically correct issue. There is so much critical literature and academic work on questions of music and race, I felt I would be obliged to read it all and as a result I would find myself, however much I resisted, becoming more cautious and wary in my statements. A terrible inhibition would creep in, for fear of accidentally saying something wrong or offensive.  I knew that doing such a book would become a chore, all the fun and life in the writing would be leeched out of it. Also I would be committed to come up with some kind of definitive statement on music and race, and I don’t know if such a position could be reached. So many of these issues are ever-shifting and resist resolution. When it’s in a book you have to go out there and defend your conclusions, and by the time the book appears in print you might have already evolved your views! So I became attracted to the idea of actually presenting my 25 years of journalism on the subject, all the shifts in outlook I’ve gone through. Because the pieces were written for immediate purposes, they had a vitality and energy about them. I was not looking to make a definitive and  conclusive statement on the subject with these pieces, they were written quickly and they were addressing the contingency of that particular moment – an artist, an album, a live show, maybe a genre – and it was through that the issue of music and race was refracted. But there is also a sense, with all the pieces gathered together as one book, of some kind of evolution of thinking. 3/ The very good idea in Bring The Noise, are the small "footnotes page" that you add to the original articles. You make your own self-criticism in[...]



FRENCH TRIP FOR THE PUBLICATION OF BRING THE NOISE IN FRANCE

2013-03-17T20:24:05.280-07:00

In the last week of March I’ll be in Paris for the publication of Bring the Noise by Au Diable Vauvert, and will be appearing at the Paris Book Fair and doing events at two bookstores.Then the week after that I'll be appearing at the Faber Social in London (April 2), participating in a night of talk and entertainment themed around Vinyl. I’ll be reading from the new updated/expanded edition of Energy Flashthat Faber is publishing in June. PARIS / BRING THE NOISE: 25 ANS DE ROCK ET DE HIP HOP VERSION AUGMENTEESaturday  March 2316h-18h  - Paris Book Fair (Salon du Livre) - Paris Expo. Porte de Versailles Au Diable Vauvert stand (S65)BooksigningSunday March 2414h-16h - Paris book fair - Au Diable Vauvert stand (S65)BooksigningWednesday March 2719h-21h - Le Thé des écrivains  store16 rue des minimes 75003 ParisLive discussion between me, the bookseller and a journalist (details TK)+ book signing Thursday  March 28 13h-14hPublicisDrugstore - Les Champs-Elysées - 75008 ParisBooksigning                                                     [...]



0 Comments

2011-03-13T21:22:13.779-07:00

a feature package at literary webzine The Nervous Breakdown on me and Bring the Noise, which is out imminently in the US on Soft Skull... elements include excerpts from BtN on the voice in pop music and on crunk, plus an auto-interview about changes in pop criticism during the 25 years since I started doing it and getting paid

(image)



0 Comments

2011-03-01T11:34:42.032-08:00

(image)

The US edition, with some bonus material added, out next month on Soft Skull.



1 Comments

2009-03-10T12:30:25.345-07:00

(image)

The Italian translation of Bring the Noise published by Isbn Edizioni.



0 Comments

2008-12-31T08:20:33.126-08:00

(image)



0 Comments

2008-10-05T13:38:48.819-07:00

The Italian edition of Bring the Noise is published on October 9th under the title HIP-HOP-ROCK: 1985-2008 and translated by Michele Piumini. More information at the publisher ISBN Edizioni's website. Check out (click-to-enlarge) the striking cover, which is styled -- as with ISBN's Rip It Up translation -- around the book's index. Like the forthcoming German and French editions, the Italian version contains extra material from the last couple of years to bring BtN (whose inclusions end in early 2006) up to date.

Italian readers can also check out any day now a profile of me in the first edition of newspaperIL SOLE 24 ORE's new monthly magazine, and a two-part series of excerpts from Hip-Hop-Rock in another Italian newspaper, IL MANIFESTO.



2 Comments

2008-04-26T19:31:34.076-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #74]KANYE WEST Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella)Uncut, autumn 2005by Simon ReynoldsLast year, Kanye West cut through rap’s standard-issue one-dimensional personae with some refreshing complexity. Neither “conscious” nor a bad-boy chasing bling and bitches, he was a little of both: a hungry soul (“Jesus Walks”) trapped in a body prey to venality (“All Falls Down”). Kanye can pull off the occasional highminded lyric without risking sanctimony, because he’s clearly the sort of preacher who gets caught with call-girls. Late Registration’s core of mixed emotion clusters around four songs that deal with themes of worldly wealth versus gold-of-the-spirit. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” starts where College Dropout finished (“Last Call”). It’s another paean to Roc-A-Fella, the label that signed West where other A&Rs scoffed at his deceptively sloppy flow. The giddy ascending chorus “forever ever ever EVER ever” pledges fealty to Jay-Z’s dynasty, which rescued him from the parlous times when “I couldn’t afford/A Ford Escort.” But when West chants “throw your diamonds in the air,” he’s not really showing off his new status symbols so much as his aesthetic riches, the genius-visionary’s “power to make a diamond with his bare hands.” The song lives up to this boast and then some. Nobody deploys vocal samples better than West, and here it’s Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever” that gets shook down for hidden hooks and latent meanings. The glittering production, laced with harpsichords and strings, matches the lines about “Vegas on acid/Seen through Yves St Laurent glasses”. But what about the title’s reference to “Sierra Leone”? That just got tacked on after the fact, to fit the video, an expose of child-slavery in African diamond mines, and has absolutely nowt to do with the lyrics!It would have been cool if “Gold Digger” sampled “Goldfinger”. Instead, a Ray Charles loop powers this gritty groove, while (cute touch) Jamie Foxx kicks it off with a faux-blues whinge about a “triflin’ bitch” who sucks up his money and weed. West wryly observes “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger/But she aint’ messin’ with no broke niggas!” “Addicted” offers a far fresher angle on exploitative heterosex. “Why everything that’s supposed to be bad/Make me feel so good?” ponders West, before launching into a rueful account of a mutually degrading affair that interwines sex and drugs. The admission “and I keep coming over” is shivered with a hiccup of pained ecstasy, hinting at the double meaning of “come”. The song’s exquisite arrangement lends poignancy to this tale of male weakness and shame: a glisten of Amnesiac guitar, filtered hi-hats, a sampled chanteuse crooning “you make me smile with my heart” (a line from “My Funny Valentine”). “Crack Music” disconcertingly equates the analgesic powers of drugs and music, with Kanye and The Game chanting the chorus--“That’s that crack music, nigga/That real black music, nigga”--over an impossibly crisp military beat. If Black Americans traffic in the best pain-killers around, the song implies, it’s because Black America has the most pain to kill.It could be that Kanye West’s “honest confusion” anti-stance will become its own kind of shtick eventually. But judging by the mostly-brilliant Late Registration that won’t be happening for a while yet. He might even make it unscathed to the end of the quintology of conceptually-linked albums of which this album is merely instalment #2.[...]



0 Comments

2008-04-26T19:28:11.959-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #73]

YING YANG TWINS
U.S.A. (United State of Atlanta)
Blender, late summer 2005

by Simon Reynolds


“Wait” is, no contest, 2005’s most striking single. The track’s radically emaciated structure--just that four-note sequence of 808 bass-thud, a few fingersnaps, and a faint rustle of hi-hat--eclipses even previous pinnacles of minimalism like the Neptunes-produced “Grindin’”. Yet many who dig the Ying Yang sound recoil from the words as mere sexual-harassment-with-a-beat. You don’t have to be prudish or PC to flinch at lines like “I’m gonna beat that pussy up”--less a would-be seducer’s come-on murmured into a lady’s delicate shell-like than the boast of a schoolyard bully about to go on a nerd-crushing rampage, surely?

If “Wait” pushes beyond your personal comfort zone, prepare to be outright traumatized by “Pull My Hair”, the stand-out track on the Ying Yang Twins’ fourth album. Built, like the bulk of U.S.A., by the Atlanta duo’s audio-svengali Mr. Collipark, the track is absolutely stunning, from its low growling bassline and spare snare-clicks to the eerie spatial placement of the vocals, whose sculptural vividness verges on psychedelic. What comes out of D-Roc and Kaine’s mouths ain’t pretty, though: “look, bitch/you’ve been talking a whole lotta shit/but wait ‘til you see my dick… your ass is in trouble… fuck you ‘til you crack”. Creepier still, the album implies that domination and degradation is what women “really want” by framing “Wait” and “Pull” with “Sex Therapy” skits, in which female callers tell a radio host how they like to be approached (“step up with swagger… and take control with me”) and what turns them on (“I can’t lie--I likes its rough”). Forming a triple-X trilogy with “Wait” and “Pull”, “Bedroom Boom” is more softcore, all caressing harpsichord ripples and baby-oil vocals from Avant. But clunker lines like “spread your legs like a bald eagle” show the Twins have got some ways to go before they truly master the Keith Sweat mode.

Just as you’re thinking that D-Roc and Kaine should go get lessons in love-making from Al Green, “Long Time” turns up, its gorgeous chorus borrowed from the Reverend’s “Belle.” Gospel-crunk featuring neo-soul singer Anthony Hamilton, the track is U.S.A.’s only song of devotion, but tellingly, the object of adoration here is masculine (the Almighty Lord). “My Brother’s Keeper” likewise reserves its tenderness for man-to-man relationships, wrapping the lyrics (about fraternal loyalty in the face of adversity) in a dreamy swirl of sound that recalls Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”. But U.S.A. does spare a scrap of empathy for Womankind on “Live Again”, an uncharacteristically compassionate portrait of a single mom stripper struggling to escape the clubs. Maroon 5’s Adam Levine (fresh from cameoing on Kanye’s new LP, he’s clearly the new Michael McDonald, the whiteboy rated “soulful” by African-Americans) croons sweet’n’sad about how the girl's existence is as confined as “a little box”. As these gestures toward depth and range suggest, Ying Yang Twins also chafe at the fetters of genre. But soon they’re back toiling at the crunk grindstone, rasping out song after song in praise of ass, thongs, and female compliance. It may not feed the soul, but it clearly pays the bills.



0 Comments

2008-04-26T19:18:26.803-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #72]KANO Home Sweet HomeUncut, late summer 2005by Simon ReynoldsGrime has reached a crossroads. Everyone agrees that this is the year it’s going to blow, but nobody knows for sure how to make that happen. One strategy is for grime to simply be its in-yer-face self. Another involves toning it down just a tad. This is what Kano, one of the scene’s top MCs, does on his long-awaited debut: downplay’s grime’s adrenalin-jolting, abrasively avant-garde aspects in favour of midtempo grooves and listener-friendly gloss. In Kano’s case, though, this shift suits the exquisite poise and panache of his delivery. Unlike the aggy bluster of most grime MCs, it’s easy to imagine him winning over Jay-Z fans with the slick sinuousness of lines like “I’m trying to perfect my flow/So my dough grows loads/Like Pinocchio’s nose.” Kano understands that uncut grime can get wearing over the length of an album. So he and his handlers’ solution is to pull together a well-sequenced smorgasbord of faintly calculated versatility, ranging from turgid metal (“Typical Me”) to the deliciously frivolous “Remember Me”, a samba novelty similar to Roll Deep’s hilarious “Shake A Leg”. Ripping the monster riff and drum rolls from Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and adding scratching and cowbell, “I Don’t Know Why” comes off as an awesome Def Jam tribute, right down to the nasal, Beasties-like tang to Kano’s vocal. “Signs in Life,” meanwhile, offers stirring orchestration and semi-conscious lyrics about maintaining a steady course despite the slings and arrows. Unsurprisingly, the most exciting cuts on the record are the grimiest. The fogeyish (for a 19 year old!) whinge “Nobody Don’t Dance No More” cuts from sexy, swingin’ 2step to bombastic, ungroovy grime to illustrate how kids today nod their heads to the MC’s words rather than shake booty to the DJ’s beats. Equally scene-reflexive, “Reload It” in contrast celebrates the MC’s ascent to supremacy, noting how crowds today demand that DJs rewind a track to hear favorite rhymes, as opposed to the tune's breakdown or intro. Pivoting around a phased riff and live-sounding drums that recall the Experience’s Mitch Mitchell as much as peak-era jungle, “Reload It” is a pure rush of energy and euphoria. Yet the best track on Home turns out to be the most subdued one. “Sometimes” compellingly captures a moment of precariousness and self-doubt in the young MC’s upward arc. “I know I’ve got far/Is it too far to turn back?” he muses over a sad-eyed glide of synth-and-violin. Poised in limbo between the fickle streets and a potentially unswayed mainstream, Kano’s reverie serves as a poignant allegory for grime’s own crossover dilemma. INTERVIEW WITH KANOThe grime cliché is the ravenously hungry MC for whom music is the only escape route from ghetto life. But it seems like you were spoiled for choice, with career opportunities ranging from university to professional football. In “9 to 5” you rap about not letting “my laziness ruin” your MC prospects like it did with soccer. “I used to play for Norwich, the schoolboys team. But it was far away and I was quite young, to be doing all that travel. I wasn’t feeling it. So that faded out. It wasn’t a conscious choice between football and music, though, it was like different stages of my life.”Exemplifed by the classic early single “Boys Love Girls,” a bonus track on the album, your songs have a rather cold-hearted attitude to romance. Even on the rhythm-and-grime track “Brown Eyes,” you’re besotted, but the chorus still insists “I don’t want to fall in love”. “I ain’t really a romantic person. I’ve had experience with girls, but not that much experience with relationships. M[...]



0 Comments

2008-04-26T19:15:03.772-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #71]

LETHAL BIZZLE
Against All Oddz
Observer Music Monthly, July 17, 2005

by Simon Reynolds


Lethal Bizzle has the distinction of scoring grime’s two biggest hits. Last Christmas, his solo debut “Pow” peaked just outside the Top 10, but two years earlier Bizzle and his group More Fire did even better with the number eight smash “Oi!”. In between these highs, though, came an ego-crushing career crash: More Fire’s album totally flopped. Bizzle’s response was impressive: he gradually clawed his way back, rebuilding his street rep with implacable determination and hard graft.

Hardly surprising, then, that keynotes of defiance and vindication are sounded repeatedly on this album, over adrenalin-pumping carousel-like grooves modeled on “Pow”, such as the mad-catchy “Uh Oh (I’m Back)!”. You can forgive Bizzle for gloating just a bit, as he does on “Hitman” and “The Truth,” the latter jousting with rival crew Roll Deep, pointing to the poor sales of Wiley’s own solo album and advising Riko that “there’s plenty of nine-to-fives out there”. But by far the best thing here stems from the Bizzle’s long dark night of the soul after More Fire were dropped by their label. Closer to spoken word than rap, the title track has the MC describing feeling like he was “finished, no one” over a haunting mid-tempo synth-strumental (originally titled “Funeral Vibez” and built by guest producer Plasticman).

What’s unsettling about “Against All Oddz” is how Bizzle seems just as
headfucked by his career resurrection, by the phone that won’t stop ringing and the “Beyonce look-alikes” looking to bed him. “When you’re hype everyone cares,” he intones mournfully. “But leave me alone… This world is so strange.”

Ice T once declared “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” On “Against All Oddz” Bizzle almost sees right through the game, apprehending the hollowness of triumph within a system (hip hop, a/k/a capitalism) where winners take all, but most will be losers.



0 Comments

2008-04-28T09:19:58.247-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #70]GRIME: A Primerdirector's cut, The Wire, April 2005by Simon ReynoldsGrime emerged from London’s pirate radio underground. Its immediate precursor was 2step (a/k/a UK garage), which at the turn of the millennium broke into the UK pop mainstream in a massive way. 2step had been shaped by the “feminine pressure” for singalong melodies and wind-your-waist grooviness. Grime arose as a backlash against this crossover sound, a violent swing in the scene’s inner gender-pendulum from yin to yang. Out went 2step’s high-pitched diva vocals, sensual swing, and sexed-up amorousness; in came gruff rapping, stiff electro-influenced beats, and raucous aggression. MCs have been part of the pirate radio tradition for at least fifteen years, going back through garage and jungle to the early days of hardcore rave. By the end of the Nineties, however, the MCs were moving beyond their customary restricted role as party “hosts” and sidekicks to the DJ. Instead of gimmicky vocal licks and praise-the-selector exhortations, they began to rap actual verses: initially, extended takes on traditional boasts about their own mic’ skills, but soon getting into narrative, complicated metaphors and rhyme schemes, vicious dissing of rivals, and even introspective soliloquies. The MC’s rise swiftly eclipsed the DJ, hitherto the most prominent figure on rave flyers or the main designated artist on record releases. 2001 was the turning point, when MCs shunted selectors out of the spotlight. So Solid Crew broke into the pop charts, and the underground seethed with similar collectives modeled on the clan/dynasty structures that prevail in American hip hop and Jamaican dancehall. Emerging from the transitional sound known as “garage rap,” grime really defined itself as a distinct genre when the first tracks appeared that were designed purely as “MC tools”--riddims for rappers to ride. These grimestrumentals were largely sourced in the electro diaspora-- post-“Sleng Teng” ragga, Miami bass, New Orleans bounce, Dirty South crunk, and “street rap” producers like Swizz Beats. Like these genres, grime doesn’t go in much for sampling but prefers synths, typically with cheap ’n’ nasty timbres that vaguely evoke the Eighties and often seem to be influenced by pulp-movie video soundtracks, videogame musik, and even mobile phone ring-tones. But in grime’s textured beats and complex programming you can also hear the imprint of the jungle that most of these late teens/early twenties producers grew up on, alongside folk-memory traces of gabba and techno. Sometimes, listening, you might imagine you can hear uncanny echoes of postpunk-era electro-primitivists such as The Normal, DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, or the calligraphic exquisiteness of Japan, Thomas Leer, and The Residents. Inherited from the period when 2step ruled the Top 10, but also inspired by enviously watching the living-large of American rap superstars, Grime feels a powerful drive to invade the mainstream and get “paid in full.” Pirate radio, a broadcast medium with a potentially vast audience, encourages this grandiosity. One peculiar byproduct of grime’s ambition is the scene’s craze for DVD releases, like Risky Roadz and Lord of the Mic, containing documentary material with live footage. It’s as if the scene is DIY-ing the sort of TV coverage it feels it deserves but isn’t getting. Yet while some of top MCs are being groomed for stardom by major label-owned boutique labels, the day-to-day reality of grime is grafting to get by in a narrowcast culture. Selling 500 copies of a track is considered a good result. The way Grime operates--small-run vinyl-only pressings and CD-R "mix-tapes", often sold directly to specialist stores-[...]



0 Comments

2008-04-26T17:58:48.060-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #69]VARIOUS ARTISTSRisky Roadz: Volume 1--Tha Roadz Are RealVARIOUS ARTISTSRun the Roaddirector's cut Village Voice, April 12th, 2005 By Simon ReynoldsI’ll cut to the chase: if you can’t find anything to like on Run the Road, you might as well give up on grime. Listen to the five best tracks--Terror Danjah’s “Cock Back,” Riko & Target’s “Chosen One,” Jammer’s “Destruction,” Lady Sovereign’s “Cha Ching,” Shystie’s “One Wish”--and if you still feel a bit shruggy, well, strike the genre off your list, ‘cos that’s as good as grime gets. I’d be perplexed and disappointed if you did, admittedly. Surely there’s something for everybody here? You want to feel the same dark rush that “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols gave you? Just listen to the six opening bars of D Double E’s “performance” on “Destruction”--vomitous, a self-exorcism, he sounds barely human. Conversely, if you’re jonesing for nursery rhyme tunefulness, there’s pasty-faced Lady Sovereign’s delicious faux-patois. Grime can do quasi-orchestral grandeur (swoon to Target’s “Chosen One” and Terror Danjah’s “One Wish” remix) as superbly as Anglo-gangsta (check Bruza’s astonishing 27 seconds on “Cock Back,” equal parts Jadakiss and Bob Hoskyns in The Long Good Friday). But what pushes Run into the first-class compilation zone is the second-tier tracks: Durrty Goodz’s double-time and ravenous “Gimmie Dat,” EARS’ plaintive elegy for lost innocence “Happy Days”… Indeed there’s only a couple of outright duds. Grime sometimes gets treated as merely “the latest fad” from the trendhoppy U.K. But the grander movement of which it’s an extension/mutation--London pirate radio culture--has been going on since circa 1991, if not earlier. From hardcore rave to jungle to garage to grime, underlying every phase-shift there’s an abiding infrastructure based around pirate radio stations, dubplates, and white labels sold direct to specialist stores. The core sonic principles are also enduring: beat-science seeking the intersection between “fucked up” and “groovy,” dark bass-pressure, MCs chatting fast, samples and arrangement ideas inspired by pulp soundtracks. The b.p.m. have oscillated wildly, the emphasis on particular elements goes through changes, but in a deep, real sense this is the same music. You could even see it as a conservative culture, except that the underlying article of faith is “keep moving forward.”One of the few recent innovatons in the scene’s means of production & distribution has been the vogue for DVDS (which Americans can mail order from companies like Independance. This syndrome seems symptomatic of grime’s impatience for fame. Tired of waiting for the TV crews to arrive, they decided to do-it-themselves. Typically consisting of promos, live footage, interviews and quasi-documentary material, the production values lean toward cruddy. Nonetheless, these DVDs are fascinating capsules of subculture-in-the-raw. For American grime fans just seeing where their heroes actually live--projects a/k/a council estates in low-rent areas like Peckham and Wood Green--ought to be revelatory. Some of the videos in Risky Roadz are shot on the concrete pedestrian bridges connecting different blocks of flats. Compared to American rap promos, the grime efforts, with their ultra-amateurish camerawork and "choreography", look positively third-world. In Risky Roadz, Dizzee Rascal is interviewed on an actual road--Roman Road, to be precise, a crucial thoroughfare in grime’s topography, home to legendary record store Rhythm Division. Dizzee offers sage advice to aspiring MCs: “Do you. Do you well.” Another intervi[...]



0 Comments

2008-04-26T18:03:50.018-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #68]VARIOUS ARTISTSRun the Roaddirector's cut, Observer Music Monthly, November 14, 2004by Simon ReynoldsGrime is our hip hop, the final coming of a Britrap that’s not merely a pale reflection of the original. Instead it’s a wonky, hall-of-mirrors reflection. To American ears reared on “the real thing”, grime sounds disconcertingly not-right--the halting, blurting MC cadences don’t flow, the gap-toothed, asymmetric grooves seem half-finished and defective. Something of grime’s skewiff quality is captured in the title of this compilation. “Road” is grime-speak for “street”. On “Destruction VIP,” one of the killer tracks here, Kano proclaims “from lamp post to lamp post/We run the road”.The intent is gangsta menace, an assertion of territorial might, but perhaps even to English ears, the quaint phrasing makes the boast fall a little short. American rap fans would most likely crack up on hearing the line. No wonder Grime’s modest fanbase in the United States consists almost entirely of white Anglophile hipsters. If Grime doesn’t have a hope in hell with American’s hip hop heartland, it can console itself with the knowledge that right now it’s got the edge over “the real thing”. The records sound cheap’n’nasty next to US rap’s glossy production values, but Grime’s way with rhythm and sound is far more jaggedly futuristic. More crucially, Grime has a feeling of desperation that American hip hop has largely lost. Individual rappers may still follow rags-to-riches trajectories, but as a collective enterprise, hip hop has won. It dominates pop culture globally. The music oozes a sense of entitlement, something you can also see in that lordly look of blasé disdain that’s de rigeur in rap videos nowadays. In America, rising MCs rhyme about the luxury goods and opulent lifestyle they don’t yet have because it’s also so much more plausible, within reach. The path is well-trodden--not just selling millions of records, but diversifying into movies, starting their own clothing lines, bringing their neighbourhood crew up with them once they’ve made it. As a sound, Grime is still very much an underdog, and so its fantasies of triumph and living large are much more precarious, and affecting. There’s a definite ceiling to how much money can be made on the underground scene. Selling 500 singles is a good result, shifting a thousand is a wild success, and even hawking your white labels direct to London’s specialist stores with a huge mark-up won’t generate that much cash. At the same time, nobody in Grime, not even Dizzee, has really mapped out a crossover career path yet. Indeed, making that transition from pirate radio to Top of the Pops is risky. Take So Solid Crew, who got to #1 with “21 Seconds” a few years back. Their second album flopped and their rep on the street (or should I say "road"?) is now non-existent. You can hear all this in the music, in those pinched, scrawny voices--the sound of energy squeezing itself through the tiniest aperture of opportunity and grabbing for a chance that most likely will prove to be a mirage. All of the guys (plus occasional gal) on Run The Road already feel like legends in their own minds. Standout track “Chosen One” by Riko & Target distils that sense of destiny and destination. Over sampled movie-soundtrack strings that evoke a kind of stunted majesty, Riko imagines himself as a star on satellite TV, then offers counsel that applies equally to other aspiring MCs and to everyday street soldiers dealing with adversity: “Stay calm/Don’t switch/Use composure, blood/Use your head to battle through, ca’ you are the chosen one.” American r[...]



0 Comments

2008-04-26T17:35:15.373-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #67]INFINITE LIVEZBush MeatVillage Voice, July 6th, 2004 by Simon Reynolds For years the pathos of Brit-rap as a pale and slightly off reflection of the Real Thing was summed up in the name Derek B. He was pretty good, actually. But in the gladiatorial realpolitik of rap more than anywhere, "pretty good" don't cut it. All through the '90s, at regular intervals, you'd hear the cry go up: "British hip-hop finally comes good with ____." But to be honest, none of the names that've filled the blank ever got further than Derek-level decency. Which is why you never hear your Mike Skinners and Dizzee Rascals name-dropping Gunshot or Ruthless Rap Assassins or the Brotherhood; no, it's always Nas or Raekwon or Ludacris they cite. And that's not inverted patriotism, not really—-that's just genius responding to genius. In recent years, the most convincing case for British hip-hop (not counting grime, which is really a totally different animal: nowt to do with UKrap, it evolved out of dancehall via rave's shouty MC'ing) has been mounted by London's Big Dada, the sister label to rap-less trip-hop imprint Ninja Tune. The British backpacker scene is even more insufferable and self-stifled-by-cool than its American undie-hop counterpart. But as heard on their excellent 2002 comp Extra Yard, Big Dada's acts (Ty, Gamma, Roots Manuva) injected some real and long-overdue rudeness into the U.K. sound—albeit mostly production-wise, as U.K. MCs on the whole tend to remain low-key. All that changes with Infinite Livez, who dominates his own records in a way few non-grime Brit MCs do. The first thing that distinguishes Livez is his in-yer-face voice (or voices—he has several comic alter egos, some of them quite Monty Python–esque). He saunters through the tracks of his debut album, Bush Meat, with a sort of loutish elegance. One of his trademarks is extending the last syllable of a line into a great bleary smear midway between yawn and yowl, insolently slackjawed and somehow saucy. This man is larger than life; his imagination's equally outsize. Standout track "The Adventures of the Lactating Man" puts a whole new twist on "flow." After squirting his girlfriend in the eye when she's fondling his nipples, Livez visits his doctor. But when the nurse tries to take a specimen (expertly—"she was twiddling my nipple like my radio dial") the man-milk just won't stop gushing. The population has to stay "afloat in boats" as the entire U.K. gets inundated "with fresh milk well pasteurized" (past your eyes, geddit?). Livez's languid lasciviousness as he raps about girls "making me feel all frisky" by "chewing on my tit like it's made of Wrigley," and his delirious moans of "bit more . . . oooooooh . . . little bit more" as the "white gravy" gloops out introduce a Princely polymorphous perversity I've never heard in hip-hop before, apart from maybe OutKast. (Who might be a reference point, or even influence, although former art student Livez's favorite André is actually Breton). Like a rapping Rabelais, or Bataille with a beat, Livez's mind's eye is magnetized by that ripe zone where the appetites (erotic, gastronomic) intersect with animalism and scatology. "White Wee Wee" is a moist miasma of sex-as-food and lovers-as-beasts metaphors ("ejaculate honey for you," "my snout in your wet wound") while the skit-ish interlude "Brown Nosh" features Bouncement Queen demanding a rim job as her fee for appearing on the album. "Worcestershire Sauce" redefines flava in terms of U.K. potato chips (or, to put it proper, crisps, which come in exotic flavors like "ready salted," "cheese & onion," et al.). And "Drilla Ape" tells the story of a man cheating[...]



1 Comments

2008-04-26T17:25:25.578-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #66]CRUNKBlissblog, March 22, 2004 / March 30, 2004by Simon Reynoldspleased to meat ya… Re. Crunk's deep-bass growl... it's funny how when Ja Rule does it's like a thug rap update of Barry White the Walrus of Love, but w/ Crunk it's just pure leering menace, zero slowjamz potential. (Did I hallucinate this or is there actually a line in "Get Low" that goes "until the sweat runs down my balls?"). [Anthony Miccio’s] shouting-at-strippers thing is spot on, cos as Barthes said in Mythologies, striptease isn't about eroticism, it's about fear. When I hear that bleary baleful rasp of unison baritone voices on Crunk records, it always makes me think of bad breath--you can almost smell this barking reek of chicken, beer, and stale weedsmoke hitting you in the face. Chicken.... hmmm... that's the thing about Crunk, it's carnivorous. It's all about surrendering to your basest appetities, being a predator. That's what makes it so vital... yet its vitality is intrinsically bound up with a kind of death-force, a monstrous will to make the world dead. Having mentioned Mythologies, I'm going to up the over-interpretation stakes and bring The Sadeian Woman into it, if only to get off on having a sentence that contains the names Angela Carter and Lil Jon in it. But in that book--whose subtitle if I recall is something like 'the pornographic imagination'-- Carter makes play of the fact that the German word for flesh-- fleisch--is the same as the word for meat. She writes that every time she sees the word she shudders. She then goes on to discuss how a certain objectifying form of (male, natch) sexuality turns everything into meat, devitalized and dead. Now, ur-Crunk text "What's Your Fantasy" I always thought had a hint of the Sadeian about, the scurrying ominousness of the music making the parade of sexual configurations Ludacris enumerates seem strangely joyless. At any rate as per Carter's fleisch thing you could pretty much summarise the lyrical universe of Crunk in two words: BEEF and RUMP. Men: I'll turn you into carcass. Women: you're just meat to me. (Interesting too that as per recent New York Times piece Lil Jon has moved into the beating-yr-meat market and actually gotten into cross-synergy with the porn industry, etc)dogg breath pt 2/the spiritual godfathers of crunk?Picking up on that crunk-as-carnivore-music theme, it suddenly struck me that all that metal on their teeth must be a bit like braces--really bad for meat-shred retention. (Are rappers good about flossing? [Boom-boom!!!])Also started wondering where I’d heard those halitosis-rasp baritones before--and then it hit me: The Stranglers! Aren’t they kinda like the godfathers of crunk? There was that infamous open-air concert in Battersea or someplace like that, where they had strippers onstage. And think of all those songs of sexual malice like the leering "Peaches" and the truly twisted “School M’Am” and the ho'-sanna “Princess of the Streets” (“she’s no lad-eee… she’s a sweet piece of meat”). “London Lady” slags off a skeez (except what she--a well-known punk scenester/journalist--is gold-digging for ain’t cash, it’s cred). And let’s not forget that char-ming B-side track “Crabs”.The Stranglers-as-protocrunk ur-text though is “Bring On The Nubiles”--compare the title/chorus with Lil Jon’s ”all these females”: the idea is, this song is the opposite of a song for and about a special Lady, it’s aimed at a faceless plurality of fuckable fleisch, a banquet of ass and gash. "Nubiles" also has the strange malicious-witholding-of-satisfaction lyric "and when the fever reaches you/I'll hide[...]



2 Comments

2008-04-16T17:52:24.262-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #65]HIP HOP VERSUS THE ELECTRONICA INVASIONBlissblog, March 17, 2004by Simon Reynolds... On ILM I said rather metaphysically that dance isn’t generating anthems cos a culture in retreat isn’t going to have much call for rallying cries. The real explanation, though, is more prosaic. The kind of music being made now is made by and made for people who have been in this for a while; they’ve grown with the music, they don’t want to hear crass riffs and obvious hooks. Microhouse, especially, strikes me as music for seasoned sensibilities, sophisticates. But new recruits get pulled in by the most accessible hooky stuff. I just can’t see it as a music that is going to pull in that many new people. It’s not fierce or full-on enough. Some of the riff-patterns in Michael Mayer’s set at Volume last week verged on the imperceptible to be frank, minute fluctuations of texture. Well they don’t call it ‘micro’ for nothing. I think you can see this de-cheesing tendency across the genrescape. And of course that becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, the neophytes arrive in steadily diminishing numbers, leaving the connoisseurs in an ever increasing majority. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ A culture in retreat. Well, I promised a fanciful and involved theory last week, so here goes. You know how certain rock bands get “destroyed” by their failure to conquer America--it’s their last chance to really make some money, to pay off their record company debts. A certain Liverpool band had to break America to pay for its cocaine requirements and made a fatally compromised album that lost them their fanbase. Another Liverpool band tried repeatedly to break America and broke up over 1 million pounds in debt, despite selling millions of copies elsewhere in the world over the years. Anyway, pondering the meaning of the word ‘retreat’, it occurred to me that Electronica’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to conquer America was a bit like the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union--a fatal act of hubris. In some weird way I think that was the beginning of the collapse. The Nazis did real well at first, drove deep into Russia (this would be Prodigy, the Chemicals, Underworld in '97). But the supply lines got too long, there was a punishing winter, and then Stalingrad--in this schema, the failed campaign for Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way Baby. I would single out Spike Jonz and his fucking terrible video for “Praise You” as the turning point. (Get Joy on this subject and you will hear a rant, she loves that song, and Jonz just made a joke out of what could have been a glorious redemptive anthem, a ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ or ‘Beautiful Day’ if done right). Oh Fatboy did alright what with the songs in movies and on TV commercials, but in the deepest and realest sense he lost: he never became a household name or star, not even on the Moby level. Astralwerks now is like some Wehrmacht division stranded and surrounded in the Ukraine: you can only stave off the inevitable for so long. The last gasp for Anglo-Euro-tronica, that would be Daft Punk. The Battle of the Bulge, in my schemata. D Day had happened, but the Germans unexpectly pushed back and looked like they might drive the Allies back to Normandy and another Dunkirk. They’d never win the war but they could dream of fighting on, forever. If the WW2 film I dimly recall from boyhood corresponds to historical reality at all, then the Wehrmatcht were so short of fuel their first goal was to capture the Allied gas depots, while all along their advance back into French territory they had to siphon fuel from the ta[...]



1 Comments

2008-03-30T18:04:56.479-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #64]GARAGE RAP compilationsVillage Voice, February 3rd, 2003plus footnotes from Blissblog, February 05, 2003by Simon ReynoldsSo everybody knows about the Streets now, but only as an isolated case: that unprecedented phenomenon, the U.K. rapper who's both excellent and authentically English-sounding. Skinner actually comes from a context, though. It's not that perennial lame duck Brit-rap, but a new genre that some have dubbed "garage rap": basically, 2step fronted by MCs. Nowhere to be found in the American house tradition, the MC has been an important figure in U.K. rave culture from the start. All manner of Brit B-boys and dancehall chatters got swept up in the late '80s acid house explosion, and for a while there was even hybrid rave-rap, with performers like Rebel MC, Ragga Twins, and Demon Boyz. For most of the '90s, though, the rave MC knew his place: a strictly supporting role, exalting the DJ and hyping the crowd. Through jungle and early U.K. garage, there were star MCs, but they weren't nearly as well paid as the top DJs, and even when they appeared on records their careers were largely based around a few trademark catchphrases or signature vocal licks, like MC Creed's funky bullfrog stutter. Gradually, MCs started to write actual verses, and then, two years ago, came the putsch: They refused second-billing status (DJ/Producer X featuring MC Y). Suddenly the scene was swarming with MC collectives—So Solid Crew, K2 Family, Pay As U Go Kartel, GK Allstars, Dem Lott, Horra Squad, Nasty Crew—as if only by ganging up for sheer strength of numbers could they shove the DJ out of the spotlight. American rap's clan-as-corporation structure was also an influence, with collectives like So Solid modeling themselves on such entrepreneurial dynasties as Wu Tang and Roc-A-Fella. If the trend continues, the DJ in U.K. garage could become a vestigial figure, just like in mainstream American rap. This power struggle has musical implications. Listening to U.K. garage these days, the most striking thing is its torrential wordiness. Rave music was always about the nonverbal sublime. But in garage rap, verbose and swollen egos trample all over the loss-of-self that was originally house culture's promise and premise. With its raucousness and Englishness and sometimes sheer malevolence, garage rap is comparable to another music of the embattled ego: punk. The Englishness comes through in the delivery: Mic chat has always been fast in Black British sound system culture, but there's also a tightness-in-the-throat, a dainty crispness of diction, that is distinctly un-American. As for the nastiness, you only have to look at garage's current lexicon of superlatives —"gutter," "stinking," "disgusting," "thugsy" —to see where it's coming from. There's even a character called MC Vicious! Sometimes it's closer to the original '60s garage punk: lots of sexual malice and second-person hostility. But when MCs drop lines like "there's a lot of anger that's been building up inside," there's a sense of pre-political rage and social frustration that feels very 1977. As it happens, the state of the nation in 2002 uncannily mirrors the mid-'70s U.K. context that fueled punk's ire: a fatally compromised Labour government, recession, public service workers on strike, and resurging racial tension reflected in both electoral success for far-right political parties and a revived Anti-Nazi League. As far as U.K. garage's underclass audience is concerned, though, collective struggle is a sentimental, distant memory, strictly for suckers. And so it bypasses the fail[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-26T10:11:35.403-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #63]THE MOST OVER-RATED SCENES/GENRES OF ALL TIME PART 2: THE MOD/SOULBOY CONTINUUMfrom Unfaves 2001, Blissoutby Simon Reynolds Thoughts prompted by three near-simultaneous irritations: seeing the video for Style Council's "My Ever Changing Moods" on VH1 Classic (Weller and Talbot as Tour De France cyclists); reading Kirk De Giorgio's Invisible Jukebox in the Wire; perusing the suspiciously dapper and small-faced Paul Gorman's In their Own Write, with its excessive number of quotes from Paolo "Cappucino Kid" Hewitt. I'm using "mod" here to signify not so much a specific period in the Sixties, or even its revivals and explicit echoes, so much as a UK youth cultural continuum, a perennial space in the sociocultural field of possibilities. And it's something whose appeal almost entirely bypasses me; it consistently non-resonates. And obviously in this respect I'm just as much trapped in my own class identity (middle middle class, as opposed to lower middle class). What irks? Mod's non-Dionysian, neat-freak retentiveness? Its refusal of both "revolution" (mod is essentially about resignation: youth as brief burst of energy and hope before capitulation to the humdrum) and "bohemia" (which as someone wise said, basically replaces politics with art as solution to/salve for the contradictions of late capitalist society)? The mod/soul-boy continuum occupies a thin strip of sociological terrain--basically suburban upper working class/lower middle class--and is defined on one side through its disdain for the "studenty" (that bedrock of all things "progressive", Floyd to Radiohead) and on the other through its recoiling from the base pleasures of the un-sussed plebs (your proper proletariat). Caught between these two equally unattractive prospects and with the dire fate of suburban mediocrity staring it in the face, Mod escapes England through a massive projection towards Black America (never, crucially, rock'n'roll America) and through its flirtations with European-ness. As per Style Council's Our Favorite Shop, what's imagined is a utopia of perfect consumption: transcendence achieved through the details of a lapel, the iconicity of a label. At the core of the mod self-conception is the idea of being one of a select few white boys who truly understand black passion and black style, simply through strenuous self-education in all its crucial details. The original mods were at least dealing with contemporary Black American music, but by the Seventies, with Northern Soul, the mod continuum became increasingly and paradoxically opposed to Black Modernity--it was equally horrified by white misappropriations of black music and by black musician's own deviations from the true path. For Energy Flash, I was interviewed by Robert Elms on his GLR show, and during a desultory interrogation, with one eye kept on the Test Match playing on a little TV above the studio console, the former doyen of the style bibles opined that as far as he was concerned, house and techno had been the death of the British working class's love affair with black dance music. Like everybody else from a certain mid-Eighties moment in style culture/London clubland, Elms seemed to have imagined that rare groove/"the jazz revival"/go-go should have just have extended itself in perpetuity: a Thousand Year Reich of refinement and righteousness. Elms's inability to accept house and techno as "proper black music" (let alone all the things that followed like jungle and 2step), then gets weirdly echoed by your Terry Farley types who went a bit further than Elms, fal[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-19T12:43:25.686-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #62]CANNIBAL OX Village Voice, October 9th 2001 by Simon ReynoldsRap's a funny business, really. People pay good money to experience as "entertainment" what in real life they'd run a mile from. Bug-eyed sociopaths threatening cruel and unusual deaths, nouveau riche bores droning on about how much they make and the expensive shit they wear... And (let's not forget the underground) paranoid poets who've never met a conspiracy theory they didn't like, crackpot autodidacts who glimpsed the secret of the cosmos in a cloud of weedsmoke and they just have to tell you---the sort of I-be-the-prophet spiel you can endure for free if you hang out on the subway long enough. The cipherpunks of undie hip hop can be a real chore for ear and brain: barely scanning stanzas overcrammed with too many words per bar (at its worst, indie-rap rivals opera for its anti-musical subordination of sonix to textuality), as imagistically over-ripe and knotted with riddles as a late period Costello lyric. Your typical undie MC sounds like he chomped down a dictionary for breakfast and it keeps repeating on him. The prolix code-flow and hermetic, baffle-them-with-thy bullshit shtick is just the bookworm counterpart to gangsta machismo---often just a more convoluted and encrypted battery of boasts and threats. Jesus, with all the wordy machismo and heated who's-really-real debates, it's a bit like rock criticism with a beat! Actually, the consciousness informing underground hip hop reminds me more specifically of nothing so much as prime period Forced Exposure, the legendary post-hardcore noisezine: the recondite reference points and in-jokes, the cultivated trash aesthetic, the ultra-condensed and jaggedly stylized writing style. As Sasha Frere-Jones quipped in these pages a while ago, El-P--lynchpin of late lamented undie-rap gods Company Flow and producer of Cannibal Ox--is something like the Steve Albini of hip hop: fanatically opposed to the major label rap industry, addicted to noise. Extending the analogy a bit, you could imagine a few years down the line the emergence of a rap equivalent to grunge ("grime", maybe): underground in style and sound, but hooky and forceful enough to storm the barricades of Hot 97 and BET, and end the entire bling-bling era (hip hop's equivalent to hair metal). And a few years after that, El-P will be drafted into uglify and render radio-unfriendly the post-breakthrough album In Wu-Tero by spearhead grime-rappers Gnosis.... El-P's the anti-Bling king, with an approach to sound that equates "independent" with "fucked". (His forthcoming solo album's titled Fantastic Damage). Cold Vein is actually steeped in some of the same Eighties electro and Nineties technorave synth-sounds you can hear in Hot 97-style rap, but the chrome futurism is rust-speckled, worm-holed with the metallic equivalent of cancer. El-P's sound--electronic-but-dirty, grooves that are borderline dysfunktional--has a lot in common with IDM groups like Autechre and the whole glitch approach to using software malfunctions and digital distortion. Something of a convergence is taking place between underground rap and left-field electronica, signalled by the recent Chocolate Industries compilation Rapid Transit with its mix of MCs and IDM artists, or figures like Prefuse 73's Scott Heren who has a foot in both backpacker and nerdtronica camps. Indeed, the response to Cannibal Ox has been warmer outside rap than within: cover stars of The Wire, rave reviews everywhere from Urb to NME to CMJ, but so far snubbed b[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-15T10:35:37.456-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #61]JAY-Z, The BlueprintUncut, autumn 2001by Simon ReynoldsThis is supposed to be Jay-Z's big comeback. Which is odd 'cos he's been "away" a year, and the last album sold a couple of million. Then again, the one before sold more, and the album before that shifted five mill. So the perception was that Jay-Z had fallen off significantly (and bar the Neptunes-produced monstergroove "I Just Wanna Love U," the last record did show signs of burn-out) while the hype is "Jay-Z reclaims the throne"--a coup almost unprecedented in the merciless, high-turnover world of rap supastardom. Clearly the embattled star felt he had much to prove, because it's all nonstop Jay-Z: no verses farmed out to proteges from his Roc-A-Fella camp, and the only celebrity guest is Eminem, whose flow on "Renegade" is so dense and twisting it damn near sprains your brain. The CD booklet shouts out "To This Whole Fake Bulls**t Industry, Thanx 4 being so Fake and Keeping me on my Toes!!!," and the lyrics stomp down various upstarts who'd been sniping that Jay was slippin'. "Takeover" absolutely DESTROYS Nas, ridiculing his output ("that's a one hot album in every ten years average") and boasting alpha-male style of fucking his girl ("you know who/did you know what/with you know who"). The track is based on The Doors's "Five To One" (Morrison hoarsely hollering "gonna win, yeah/we takin' over") and there's more inspired pop intertexuality when the chorus from Bowie's "Fame" is transformed into a series of deathblow disses: "that's why you're... LAAAAAME!!!". If The Blueprint is a triumph, it's one of form over content: Jay-Z's got nothing new to say, but loads of fresh twists on the same-old same-old. Plus he's always been able to cherrypick the hottest tracks from the most inventive trackmasters, and the sonics here are relentlessly ear-catching. Almost every tune sounds like a hit: Kanye West's insanely catchy Jackson 5-based "Izzo," the swampy reggaematic fonk of Timbaland's "Hola Hovito", the drum 'n'bassy tympani thunder of Bink's "All I Need," Just Blaze's "U Don't Know" with its sped-up diva histrionics like parakeets on amyl, the crunchy-yet-wet percussion and snakecharmer melodics of Poke & Tone's "Jigga That N***a" . Apart from Jay's mic' hogging, the most striking thing about The Blueprint is how deeply steeped it is in 70s soul. Ignoring the fact that this music's melt-your-hard-heart tenderness was originally radically opposed to big-pimpin' niggativity, Jay-Z deploys the timeless sweetness of Al Green, Bobby Blue Bland, and David Ruffin to sugarcoat his own ultra-cynical worldview. The plea for social redemption in "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" gets flipped around into Jay-Z complaining about resentful haters: "where's the love?," he asks, as if it never occurred to him that rubbing your success in people's faces will rub 'em up the wrong way. Jay-Z's OG shtick involves the fact that he was wealthy through drug dealing before he became a rap star, and that "the rap game" is just a phase before even greater glories. "Put me anywhere on God's green earth/I triple my worth... I'm a hustler, baby/I sell water to a well". The sole chink in these delusions of invincibility comes with "Song Cry", an almost-apology to the girl he lost through fucking around. The title's clever concept is that the music (more symphonic soul) sheds the tears Jay-Z's too tough to weep. Rap's mystery is that people pay to be entertained by what they'd normally flee: vivid death-threats, bores braggi[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-11T12:02:57.438-07:00

Bring the Noise deleted scene #60]AALIYAH, Aaliyahunpublished* review, Village Voice, August 2001by Simon ReynoldsI was going to call myself an Aaliyah fan--after all, she's made two of myall time favorite singles, "One In A Million" and "Are You That Somebody?"--but somehow the idea of an "Aaliyah fan" seems faintly absurd. There's dozens of websites devoted to the singer whose name is Swahili for "most exalted one", but beyond her obvious beauty and vocal skill, what are these folk latching onto? The sites are uniformly thin on biographical content or back story. Of all the premier league R&B goddesses, Aaliyah seems the most blank: she doesn't even have a persona as such, let alone exhibit actual this-is-me personality. This is a young woman who's been involved in the music industry for most of her 22 years, working her way up the rungs from the age of nine. In a recent Billboard interview, droning fluent bizspeak about the importance of "versatility" and the need to pace your career, unfurling cliches about creative "chemistry" and thriving on "pressure", Aaliyah comes over as a dour professional and a workaholic strategist who's cannily diversified into movies like Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned.More than just impersonal, there's something almost immaterial about Aaliyah(it's hard to imagine her flossing her teeth, or wiping her bottom). Aaliyah might be best understood, and enjoyed, then as a figment--a phantom of cathode-ray dazzle and studio-processed breath--concocted by an ensemble of stylists, choreographers, make-up artists, personal trainers, lighting technicians, video directors, song-doctors (like her main writer, Static from Playa), and, not least, trackmasters like Timbaland, her primary production foil until now. Timbaland has said he uses Aaliyah as "a probe" (itself an oddly depersonalized phrase), a vehicle for testing his most far-out ideas in the "urban" marketplace. That metaphor fits "One In A Million", the 1996 smash whose stutterfunk kick drums created the rhythmic template for the last five years of R&B and rap, and it works for 1998's "Are You That Somebody?",which took the stop-start groove thing to the brink of rhythmic arrest. But the sole novelty of last year's "Try Again," its acid-house Roland 303 bassline, was fresh only in context (urban radio), while this year's "We Need A Resolution" continues the decline in daring, showcasing no new moves whatsoever. Everything in the song is decidedly deja for Tim-watchers, from the snake-charmer flute motifs ("Big Pimpin'") and tabla-like percussion ("Get UR Freak On") to the sinister slither of the reversed-sounding techno riffs ("Snoopy Trak," off Jay-Z's Vol. 3). With his two other cuts on Aaliyah's new album being the catchy but unstartling "More Than A Woman" and "I Care 4 U", a five year old, Missy-penned out-take from the One In A Million album sessions, there's a suspicion that Timbaland shot his wad on So Addictive and is all innovated out for the time being.The other producers involved in Aaliyah--Keybeats, Inc (a/k/a Rapture & E-Seats), Bud' Da, and J-Dub a/k/a Rockstar-- aren't probing any outer limits either. The result is an album that is unspectacular, but very listenable. From the ungainly title/chorus down, "We Need A Resolution" wasn't exactly singular as a single, but its midtempo understatedness works just fine as an album opener. The same applies to most everything here: Aaliyah's all album tracks and no obvious hits, but it's expertly paced and programme[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-11T11:40:23.428-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #59]DESTINY’S CHILD, SurvivorMISSY ELLIOTT, Miss (E) ...So Addictive Uncut, 2001by Simon ReynoldsNME, The Face, Vibe, and Rolling Stone all put Destiny's Child on the front cover this year. Mainstream pundits like The New York Times seriously assess Beyonce Knowles's credentials as postfeminist icon. Give or take a few stubborn hold-outs, just about everybody--lapsed indie types, electronica fiends, non-aligned pop fans-agree that nu-skool R&B is the bomb. Confronted with this nearly unbroken consensus, the impulse to offer a dissenting opinion is irresistible. Is R&B all it’s cracked up to be? And is the current boom, which started about five years ago with Aaliyah’s Timbaland-produced smash “One In A Million” , finally running out of steam?“Million” was one of the first R&B tunes where the beat was a lead voice, duetting with and often distracting attention from the singer. And it debuted Timbaland’s trademark sound: kick drums hyper-syncopated into triple or quintuple time spasms, stop-start grooves full of disconcerting yet tensely funky hesitations. Trademark infringers spread the Timbaland riddim-virus across the R&B/rap soundscape: most creative of these clones was She’kspere, architect of the big hits from Destiny’s previous album The Writing’s On the Wall. And for the longest while, the nu-R&B’s “dope beats” were so muthafunkin’ dope that it was easy to overlook the genre’s downsides: chronic oversinging, two-dimensional diva personae, suspect values, borderline tacky “glamour”. But if R&B really is just showbiz with a better beat (and slightly more risque sex-talk), those riddim-boys have gotta keep delivering the shock of the new. Trouble is, thanks partly to superstars like Janet and Jennifer diluting the already-weak brew, that Timbaland falter-funk beat has gotten kinda stale. With She’kspere absent from Survivor, assorted lesser-known producers have been drafted to tweak the rhythm blueprint. “Independent Women Part 1” has a nice loping groove, refreshingly laid-back compared with the tense’n’twitchy norm. But the song’s not much cop, and where the debut communicated it ladies-first sass through story-songs and real-seeming scenarios ("Bills Bills Bills," "Bugaboo", "Say My Name"), now Destiny’s quasi-feminist stance is baldy declared. The stiff, harsh beats of "Independent Women Part 2" (not a sequel but a remake/remodel) bring out the true coldness of Destiny's take on modern love: after making the bootie call and having her itch scratched, Beyonce dismisses the spent stud with "when it's all over/Please get up and leave... Got a lot to do/ I am my number one priority/No falling in love, no commitment for me." Likewise, the bombastic arrangement on "Survivor" matches the histrionic lyrics. The album credits salute those who've made it through "bad relationships, health issues, discrimination, being abused, death of a loved one, loss of a friend, not being popular, low self-esteem...". Beyonce, by contrast, appears to have "survived" a coup d'etat in her favor instigated by her manager/father (and involving the downsizing of two of Destiny's original four members) and.... fame/money/adulation beyond her fans’ wildest dreams. Tough life, eh?Vibe magazine’s own Destiny's cover had the trio dressed as the Supremes. But the Motown-style separation of singer/songwriter/producer roles that worked so brilliantly on Writing is junked: Survi[...]



0 Comments

2008-03-11T11:40:09.115-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #58]
CEX, live
Village Voice, May 2 - 8, 2001

by Simon Reynolds


Cex, a/k/a 19-year-old Baltimore-based Rjyan Kidwell, is an infamous figure in the world of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). A recent IDM digest contained an open e-mail to Kidwell and mentor kid606: "Do not bowdlerize our subculture just so you can finally get your goofy looking nerd asses laid." Their crime? Bringing too much showmanship to live performance, which left-field electronica purists believe should be faceless and abstract. The trouble with the purist line is that IDM, because it's not dance oriented, can't count on involving the audience through physical participation; in the absence of visual stimulation, it runs the risk of lapsing into background ambience.

On April 23, a kid606-and-friends night at Tonic showcased various strategies for avoiding the laptop musician's nightmare scenario: that "all is lost" switch point when the audience chatter gets louder than the music. kid606 held the listener rapt through sheer density of sonic events per second (and was helped not a little by Kurt Ralske's ravishing improvised video projections). Matmos usually incorporate an eye-catching performance-art element in their sets, but tonight they simply played tunes from their new plastic-surgery-themed album (A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure) against a backdrop of discomfiting close-up footage: ear canals, eyes, hair follicles, and the like.

Opening the night, Kidwell took the most radical approach. Instead of playing what he puts out on record (plaintive, melodious electronica perfectly suited to the IDM palate), he's got a totally different live set based around the premise of Cex as "#1 Entertainer in the Game." Naked save for his fashion briefs, he looks like an emaciated computer programmer but sounds uncannily like Eminem, his rhymes oscillating wildly from professions of alpha-male omnipotence ("I know you're stressed/cos there's only one Cex/and your girlfriend's pissed/cos it's not you") to touching admissions of terminal dorkhood. Often he's rapping over purloined grooves (like the Neptunes-produced instrumental track from Jay-Z's "I Just Want to Love U"), and like a rap CD, he does between-song skits—like his hilarious fantasy about going to the MTV Awards "the year minimal techno blew up."

"Representin' for fun" versus art-techno solemnity, Cex reminded the audience, "You got booties, let's use 'em," and then vowed to "take your maturity/eat it up, spit it out" (this accompanied by cartoon-raptor gestures of devouring/regurgitation). Surprisingly, the audience lapped up Cex's wiggatronica shtick, avidly participating in call-and-response and throwing hands in the air on cue. As an in-joke/polemic within the cloistered IDM context, Cex's Apple Mack Daddy persona is inspired, although you do wonder how a real rap audience would respond to his not-exactly-fluent freestyles. Then again, only the sternest purist (techno or hip-hop) could fail to chuckle at Cex's adapted-for-PC booty song, which starts by exhorting "Ladeez in the house, get the fellaz in the house, to take their balls out," then extends its equal-opportunity agenda to the inanimate: "Objects in the house, get the people in the house, to take their balls out."



0 Comments

2008-05-02T07:12:09.879-07:00

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #57]VARIOUS ARTISTS, The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2000ELEPHANT MAN, Comin' 4 You! Uncut, March 2001by Simon ReynoldsFrom early Nineties jungle to 2-step garage, dancehall is the vibe-it-up spice, the pungent flava added by producers for that extra tang of rudeness. Beyond this subordinate role as a pantry full of patois vocal licks ripe for sampling, though, dancehall has its own forceful claims as Electronic Music. Just check the madcap creativity of Beenie Man's "Moses Cry" on this Greensleeves double-CD Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2000 for sounds as futuristic and aberrant-sounding as any avant-techno coming out of, say, Cologne. Produced by Ward 21 & Prince Jammy, its assymetrical groove is built from palpitating kick drums, garbled rave-style synth-stabs, and an eerie bassline that sounds like a human groan digitally mangled and looped. Or check the quirktronica pulsescape underpinning Beenie on "Badder Than the Rest", or Elephant Man's amazing "2000 Began," which is basically acid techno a la Plastikman. It's easy to overlook dancehall's sonic strangeness, though, because the performers' personae are so domineering. The mix seems lopsided, in-yer-face voices battling with the beat to control the soundscape, and crushing the rest of the music (strangulated samples, perky videogame-style blip-melodies) into a skinny strip of no-man's land in between. The ragga voice, jagged and croaky, is a form of sonic extremism in itself. Dancehall's got to be the only form of modern pop where the typical range for male vocals is baritone to basso profundo. Obviously related to the culture's premium on testosterone and disdain for effeminacy, ragga's ultramasculinist bombast sounds simultaneously absurd and intimidating. From some DJs, like Buccaneer, you'll even hear a Pavarotti-esque warble, hilariously poised between portentous and preposterous. Elephant Man's own voice is a pit-of-belly boom that opens up like an abyss of menace, enhanced by a sinister, serpentile lisp. Combine this sort of gravelly machismo with typical lyrics about exit wounds and tonight being the opposite of your birthday (ie. your "deathnight") and you've got some seriously chilling Staggerlee business. "Replacement Killer," a series of boasts about how coldblooded Elephant is, actually utilises death-rattle gasps as functioning elements of the beat. No surprise, then, that there's a mutual trade pact between dancehall and gangsta rap. "One More" is based on DMX's "One More Road To Cross," "E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T" rips a Dre/Snoop chorus, and the album's fiercest cut "Somebody" rides the clanking rampage of the Yardbounce riddim, a fusion of dancehall with the New Orleans bounce style popularized by Cash Money Records. With six appearances on Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2000 Capleton reaffirms his supremacy over the dancehall already established by 2000's awesome More Fire LP. Like Malcolm X, he belongs to the syndrome of the self-reformed Staggerlee; like Buju Banton, he's a raggamuffin who turned Rasta. But Capleton's sanctimony doesn't sabotage his records because instead of soothing roots reggae visions of "one love", he concentrates on Old Testament-style wrath and armageddon: Jah as the ultimate Enforcer, the Don of dons, smiting the corrupt and ungodly. The gloating relish with which he wields the brimstone imagery of divine retribution i[...]