Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Please Let This Be The Song Of The Summer

So, today a coworker sent over "LOL," a new Trey Songz/Gucci Mane/Soulja Boy collaboration about... well, I don't know really. I guess it's about Twitpic and sexting? Either way, I kind of can't stop listening to the stream over at The Fader blog. Kind of stupid and totally awesome is the only way I can think of to describe lyrics like "Shorty just text me, say she wanna sex me/ LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face/Shorty sent a a twitpic saying come and get this/ LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face." Also in bonkers hip hop today, this ode to a combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell.

Trey Songz f. Gucci Mane & Soulja Boy, "LOL" [the fader]
Das Racist, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Wallpaper. Remix)" [the burning ear]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Can't Think of Ten Great Ones Either

You guys know how I like to complain about hip hop all the time, right? How no one makes decent LPs, no one cares about their live show, no one gives a fuck? Well, it really warmed my heart this weekend to see this piece by Free Darko blogger Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief (seriously) on the Straight Bangin blog. It's at once thoughtful and off-the-wall bonkers--in the good way.

Basically, Dr. LIC was asked to make a list of his top ten hip hop records since 2000, and he could only think of about six, so he penned this condemnation of the genre instead. It contains nuggets like:

That black male figurehead has been replaced by a white woman. Jim Jones would rather have Cory Kennedy on his jock than Chuck D at this point. Not exactly sure why this is (is it simple economics that white girls drive the market-->get white dudes to buy stuff/white people = 80% of America = buying public?), but it is. This whole steez has led to pointless Feist-sampling/MIA-jocking/Lady GaGa-collab’ing/KANYE STATING THAT HE KNOWS WHO PETER BJORN AND JOHN AND ANIMAL COLLECTIVE IS SO THAT HIPSTERS ARE LIKE WOW THAT IS SO SURPRISING and other nonsense that has generally resulted in music that sounds like the opposite of The Infamous or Livin’ Proof. Aside from the Lykke Li/Drake collab, which I really dug, rappers’ pursuit of validation of white women has created this super-faux “Pitchfork Media got Pharoahe Monch to play so it’s like the Roxy with Talking Heads and Afrika Bambattaa and Debbie Harry” in one room. Except it isn’t. It fucking sucks.

That's what I'm talking about! He also actually says something negative about Dilla and then backs it up with so much evidence, you can't even get mad, just kind of disappointed in yourself for never realizing it. I'm gonna make you clickthrough for that line, though. And I'm not gonna repeat what he has to say about ?uestlove, but suffice it to say it chilled me to my core. And:

Here’s an interesting experiment: Pull out your Ice Cube and Paris albums from the Bush I presidency and listen to their anti-prez raps. Shit makes waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more sense and is oddly far more topical than any political rap produced in the past ten years. Putting the strange new Obama-era aside for a moment, let’s focus on Bush II era political rap, one of the greatest creative letdowns of our time. I remember reading some article in URB magazine right after 9/11 about how the fuckedupedness of the time would spur a renaissance in political rap. Never happened. Instead groups like dead prez et al. made the hip-hop equivalent of Farenheit 9-11, conspiratorial, jumbled oversimplification with an easily digestible “Fuck Bush” tagline.

Yeah! And he's looking at you too, Jigga:
Jay and Nas became de facto kingz after Biggie died for no real reason other than there was a throne to fill. This was also during the point in their careers that they both started snoozing hard. [...] These days we can’t accept an empty throne, so we have been stepping over each for the past few years trying to give the “crown” to people like Cam’ron, the Game, and Weezy. And seriously, I love Lil’ Wayne, but I once tried to tally the number of instances on The Carter III where dude makes an “I’m the shit”/actual pooping pun, and I lost track. The guy is great, Top 30 all time, sure. But, like I said, let’s have some standards.

Alright I guess I'm just reprinting the post at this point, but you get the idea, there's much more to it and if you care at all about the quality of popular music (hip hop, indie or otherwise) these days, get over there and take a look.

All That Glitters Ain't Shit [straight bangin]
(Thanks for the heads up, Jonathan)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don't Feel Right: The Roots Picnic, Festival Pier, Philadelphia, 6.6.09

So, remember when Isabelle interviewed ?uestlove for the Weekly Dig in January and asked him about the status of a then-unannounced 2nd annual Roots Picnic in Philly? We posted the interview here on the site, too. ?uesto told Isabelle that this year was going to be a two-day affair, among other tentative plans:

ID: Are you guys going to do another Roots Picnic this summer? I went to the first one.
?: Yes, we are. And this time I promise it's gonna be an actual picnic. We're new at this festival-throwing thing, so we forgot to figure in fatigue of the audience and how to protect them from the sun.
Well, a few months later the official announcement came: the second Picnic was going to be a one day festival again (fine by me, as I day tripped from NYC) featuring a lineup that was as amazing as ?uest alluded to. Antibalas, TV on the Radio, Black Keys, Santigold and the centerpiece of the lineup, Public Enemy playing the entirety of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, backed by not only the Roots but Antibalas as well.

Before I tell you how the performances were, I have a bone to pick. Festival Pier is a terrible, terrible venue. It's more of a concrete parking lot than a pier. The drinks are overpriced and the food is terrible. I will admit that all of this so far is par for the course when it comes to outdoor shows. Sad but true. That, I can get over. But you're gonna put thousands of people in the hot sun all day with no water fountain or cooler or anything? Last year, the weather was way worse--95 degrees and no cloud cover, as I recall. Maybe that's why they set up water coolers for everyone to stay hydrated. This year was much cooler and partly cloudy, so maybe we just didn't deserve complimentary water? Maybe I'm old fashioned or naive, but I believe that if you have a ten hour music festival you need to look after the crowd, especially when most of them paid upwards of $60 to attend. Adding insult to injury, security made me dump out my water on the way in ("For all we know, you have vodka in that bottle") and told me I could fill it up at the water fountain inside. The nonexistent water fountain. It must be the one that appears once you start hallucinating from lack of fluids. This was beyond an inconvenience; it was a risk to everyone's health, and basically felt like a huge 'fuck you' from the venue and the promoters. Of course, water was for sale at $3.50 a bottle, if you could afford it. Judging from the number of people I saw pass out (I counted five in my immediate vicinity) not everybody could swing that. People were dropping like flies all due to the negligence of those in charge. I'm not sure whose fault this was--Live Nation, Penn's Landing, the Roots, Okayplayer, or some other party all of whom I'm sure would just blame the other for the problems and call it a day--but it was severely disappointing. In my decade long career of concert going, I have never felt so abused and mistreated, which is saying quite a lot, since this is an industry that generally tries to do just that to its customers whenever possible. Perhaps worst of all, it made ?uestlove's words on this very blog feel fake.

So how was the music? It was phenomenal. The Roots always bring their A-game, and Antibalas' set was one of the most dynamic, sonically satisfying sets of my concert going career. Black Keys were a welcome break, bringing their stripped down blues licks to a crowd that seemed mostly disinterested. Their loss. Santigold, who bailed on the first Roots Picnic at the last minute, played a passable set marred by terrible sound (bass and voice turned to 11, drums buried in the mix) but hey, her backup dancers were pretty cool. Too bad she didn't show up last year, when I still cared. Busdriver played a great set, but as one of the only traditional emcee-and-a-DJ hip hop sets of the day didn't really stand up to a lot of the live instrumentation that was going on. Fun to watch for sure, though. TV on the Radio's set was hot like fire, with the Antibalas horns backing them up. It seemed like TVOTR were sort of the symbol of the day--a band encompassing rock, hip hop, soul, blues, and world music all in one place. You know, like Santigold thinks she does, only successful. The last act of the night was the Roots, who of course rocked the house (25 minute version of "You Got Me," anyone?), although I would have liked to see them play a longer, more wide-ranging set like they did at the 2008 Picnic. To be fair, the show was supposed to be over by the time they took the stage, so maybe they were pressed for time.

As expected, the highlight of the day was the Public Enemy/Roots/Antibalas set. It Takes a Nation... is one of the most dark, dense, difficult albums in the history of hip hop and watching these musicians breathe all of this life into the work was nothing short of a revelation. This performance actually exceeded my greatest expectation for it. The Second Annual Roots Picnic was a fantastic day of music, marred by conditions that had me fantasizing on a Woodstock '99 style uprising.

Please guys, next year, can we do this somewhere else?