Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Generation BeyHov: Beyoncè's Baby Bump

Remember all the hubbub over Prince William and Kate Middleton? Nah son, if you're music royalty Jay and Beyoncé show you how to do pomp and circumstance in the US. Let us upgrade u. The classy oh-by-the-way announcement that America Jay-Z and Beyoncè are having a baby became the centerpiece of the 2011 MTV VMAs. Word spread about the baby bump at the top of the show but no one started buying shower gifts until Beyoncê stole the show, robbed the cradle, and broke everyone's water with an impressive performance of "Love On Top" (um, perfect song selection: "I want you to feel the love growing inside of me") capped off by her opening up her sequin coat and rubbing her adorable baby bump as the crowd cheered Hola Hovito! Big Daddy Jay beamed like a proud papa, and even Uncle Yeezy and his ego +1 seemed overwhelmed by the heart and soul of the moment, a snapshot of intimate real life captured in the midst of grandiose MTV-style spectacle.

This will be the iconic moment for a generation. With any luck it could be the start of some true Shakespearean Montague-Capulet business when young BeyHov is old enough to want to squash the Pinkett-Smith children down the road. It also allows us to see the family side of Crazy Uncle Kanye (why you always single, Uncle Yeezy?). His Taylor Swift spaz now looks a little more like a family photo gone awry, than a rapper going rogue. This is his family now, of course he’s protective. Shit, for better or worse, this is our family now. Now all that’s left is to wait for him or her to grow up, go to prep school and make the best Andover Rap Video of all time!!!!

See also:
500 Days has a nice open letter/gif party to celebrate
and Smoking Section has Jay-Z's top 5 songs about becoming a dad

NPR's Tell Me More: Talking the VMAs

During Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards, Beyonce announced that she is expecting a baby, and Lady Gaga flipped her script. The event also went without a host and instead concentrated on musical performances. Host Michel Martin discusses the night with music critic and blogger Patrice Evans.

MTV VMAs Break Tradition [NPR]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seven Day Weeknd: Notes on a Mixtape

Earlier this year, the music world was batting its eyes and doing embarrassing pelvic grind moves to the music of the new darlings of R&B. Frank Ocean of Odd Future fame dropped his gem Nostalgia, Ultra in February. A few weeks later, the Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) made everyone peel their panties off with the first installment of his mixtape trilogy House of Balloons. Some were like, "Oooh, don’t look now, y’all, but this might be The Next Generation of R&B." From the primordial ooze of Twitter the term PBR&B (nice one) was coined. Some of the young traditional-minded connoisseurs of the genre were like, "I don’t know about all that hipster R&B, but it’s good music."

But that was the spring and now it’s the fall, where spring things go to die. Frank Ocean shed the cocoon of Odd Future, along with the underground stigma, when he got to spread his wings with royalty. He’s currently swimming good somewhere.

On Friday, The Weeknd, continued his run of sexy music for vampires with Thursday, the second part of his mixtape trilogy. The blogs and twitter were abuzz. I listened to it over the weekend but couldn’t get you these thoughts until right now. Aww XOXO.

Sunday: Labels, Why Again?
It’s been the case a for a while now that anyone hot is hot off that free download. “Respect first, then money — basic shit,” as Jadakiss said. Last week I swear I used to remember why labels existed. But now I think we’re getting close to only needing: Do you make music? Send me your links. Annnd Scene. That’s it. Oh, And PayPal and a secure server. The politics and bureaucracy of the label system are starting to outweigh its benefits. Ocean’s album was buried in a vault, and now after being released as a mixtape, is being reissued. Label fail. The-Dream, tired of red tape, is putting out his 1977 for free. I got $11.99 says that’s label fail (both Def Jam, btw). Lupe Fiasco started an online petition to stymie Atlantic’s label fail. Even the king of the label system, Jay-Z, said he's done. (The best thing he could do is a mixtape right now anyways. Another S. Carter collection would hit the spot.) Artist liberation, combined with pressure from itunes and amazon, has record labels on notice. Give me your money, stay out of my way.

Monday: American Psycho Music for 2011
Entourage used the Weeknd’s “High for This” in a recent trailer, and of course this is the music Entourage wishes it could use for its entire half hour. Coked-out, panties to the side, we all young, hot with money in here. Let’s party like we mean it. And whoever today’s Patrick Bateman from American Psycho is, he probably listens to this urban coke music at high volume when he’s having sex, while he’s working out (which is having more sex), and definitely while he’s tweeting after killing you.


Seven Day High: Notes on The Weeknd [Grantland]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rakim, EPMD, Flex at Central Park: You Going?

So, Rakim and EPMD are having a party in the park. Remember them? It’s a concert with Funkmaster Flex. Here’s the best part: It’s this Sunday in Central Park. Are we thinking the same call-and-response? When I say “FLEX,” y’all say, “SPONTANEOUS SLEEPOVER IN CENTRAL PARK!!!” Ha. Kidding. But real talk... Do you wanna go?

Yeah, me neither. Since neither of us are going, I’ve been wondering who is going to this show? Oh wait, you are going? Cool. Very cool. I’m going to continue to say what I was saying anyways, OK? Is that alright?

So this type of hip hop show is different than the usual Woodstock-with-a-lot-more-baggy-jeans-and-blunts-and-a-lot-less-topless-white-girls Rock the Bells crowd. Bells is more what I would call a “Hiphopapalooza”. But this show with Rakim and EPMD is more “B-boypalooza”. It’s a little more hardcore, smaller-scale, and East Coast. Should you pop in, or just be curious, I think these are the B-boys you’ll see.

1. The post-B-Boy B-boy (too young)
Hip hop has made great advances in academia in the past few years. Books, panels, and seminars have helped elevate hip-hop culture to the level of literature, poetry, etc. This has resulted in two things: A.) Nerds feel more comfortable rapping (Debbie Downer noise), and B.) People who like rap feel more comfortable nerding (applause). So now hip hop has a legit bibliography, and nerd scholars who, in the past might, have gone to something jazzy like a reading of Norman Mailer essays, now get to go to hip-hop shows instead and talk to girls. Lucky them. (Though not really the girls. Sorry, more on that later).

But the culture’s focus on “authenticity” can make it tough for a young kid who thinks himself an old hip-hop soul. The literature is not a handstamp. They weren’t at the Palladium before it was an NYU dorm. They don’t know. The too-young kids will be challenged by those who lived it, or just find them patronizingly disingenuous. “This college dude ain’t into EPMD like that. He doesn’t know what real hip hop is about.”

The key for the wet-behind-the-ears dude is to be given boundaries. We want their interest rewarded, but at the same time restrained. At some point it’s not about an encyclopedic list of songs, but what you have experienced and marinated.

So for the youth it may concern, here’s a basic Rakim and EPMD marinade/primer. Ten songs for each that every young intellectual should know:

Rakim: "Paid in Full," "Eric B is President," "My Melody," "I Know You Got Soul," "Move the Crowd," "Juice (Know the Ledge)," "Microphone Fiend," "What’s on Your Mind," "In the Ghetto," and "Don’t Sweat the Technique"

EPMD: "Strictly Business," "You Gots to Chill," "So Wat Cha Saying," "Please Listen to My Demo," "It's My Thing," "Hardcore," "Rampage," "Who Killed Jane (The Jane Series)," "Crossover," and Head Banger"

That’s it. I feel slightly weird even listing these songs. You should know them. They’re classics of the genre. But do you need to know more than these to prove you’re down? Nah.

continued on Grantland

Field Guide to B-Boys at Central Park [Grantland]

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lauryn Hill, Em, Throne, and other Candidates for Hip Hop President

On July 23, Lauryn Hill had a baby, her sixth. A week later she performed at L.A. Rising Festival. All in a week’s work, y’know. Word to Zion.

Now I’ve been wrong (and hurt) before, so please correct me if this comes off sounding a little Miseducated, but I can’t help wonder if either on a symbolic level (she now has more children than Grammy’s), or just a fiscal level (so many kids to feed), this bodes well for Lauryn making a full-on return to the landscape as an artist, a performer. We all have the same wish, don’t we? The same flashback? It was an August much like this one when we first heard the 1-4-1-1-1-2-1-1 finger-snaps on “Nothing Even Matters,” announcing the undeniable truth: Lauryn Hill was president — nay, EMPRESS — of these here United States. The skies could fall! Your boss could call! But L spitting hot fire, singing lullabies could make the world seem so very small (snap-snap).

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill felt like a genuine Presidential moment, a space where we find not only music and escapism, but bars that explode with inspiration. Lauryn delivered something akin to leadership. Her fireside chats were nostalgic and sentimental: “Today we’re gonna talk about love.” Giggles from the class, but they still listened to the reassuring voice of the best teacher ever. It was a stream of music that was impossible to rally against...

(continued on Grantland)

Assessing the Candidates for Hip Hop President [Grantland]

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Why Did Cee-Lo Make the Same Video Twice?

(On the G)

From his Dungeon Family roots to the time he pimped his children on a MTV Reality Show to the Gnarls Barkley era to this current turn as the idiosyncratic neo-soul Zach Galifianakis rap-sing centaur sent to make perfect-barbecue-weather pop songs every few years, Cee Lo Green has been the most dynamic weirdo on he charts. Since he broke out with “Crazy,” you can count the major summer anthems on two hands: “Rehab,” “Umbrella,” “American Boy,” “Single Ladies,” “Poker Face,” “Fuck You,” and whatever's hot right now. The fact that Cee Lo Green has two of those songs is very … I don't know, I guess it's very Cee Lo Green of him.

So it's weird that his new video for "Cry Baby" is such an obvious retread. Where is the Soul Food maestro’s unique blend of herbs and spices?

(exploring this video we've seen before on Grantland)

Nostalgia Fatigue [Grantland]

Monday, August 08, 2011

Notes on Andover's Rap Video

Over at Grantland:

Last week, the Internet weighed in on "The Andover Song" with chuckles, snark, and furrowed-brow curiosity. The prevailing sentiment seemed to be: Let’s drag every bit of this video around a manicured lawn and play ultimate Frisbee over its carcass. Die, Andover rap video! Die!

But there are lessons to be learned here, ones valuable enough to be taught at a prep school. We can break the issues up into “Not a problem” and “This is a Problem."

1. Not a Problem: Earnest rap

The most immediate cringe-factor with this video is how earnest and cloying it is. But the “genre” of earnest rap (or “educated rap”), in itself, is not a problem. Overstuffed, too-literal rap suffers from a disconnect between teaching and being cool. Sort of like a history teacher putting on skinny jeans, a leather jacket, and aviators to teach you about Freddie Knuckles (that’s Nietzsche, btw). But the teacher is not the problem. It’s the execution.

We should encourage fearlessness when it comes to trying too hard. Earnest failures are the ones that count. If it comes from an authentic place, the execution can be worked on. The dude with the braces and Celtics shirt, well, if you can say “the school molds to everybody like a mattress pad” and not snort on yourself in the process, you’re probably a well-meaning, glass-half-full dude who should be given a chance to lose the braces and develop a sense of style. No less than Jay-Z, Eminem, and Kanye were mediocre emcees when they started. Why? Too earnest. Jay was an overzealous fast-rapper. Em was boring and just overwrought w/rhyme schemes. And Kanye, well, we know the story.


Watch the Diploma: Andover Rap Video [Grantland]
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