From ‘Cole: Week Seven – The Medium is the Message

I know, I know, I’m taking it back really old-school here, but my desire is always to inform and educate.

You should be aware of this song, but I know you may not have examined it closely. I just want you to examine the urban elements of the song. There is a distinct evolution from what we saw last week.

And a bonus:

On my blog I always make the argument that what I examine isn’t about music, it’s about poetry. How is what Grandmaster Flash doing considered
poetry?

sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under

Advertisements

From Sky: Week Seven – Let Down Week

Hopefully this week will be anything but a Let Down week.

This album came out last year. I didn’t fuck with it much. I still don’t fuck with much of it. Never really saw this kid as “the chosen one”. I do, however, fuck with this.

If you do a little googling you’ll find a pretty dope remix. 😉

I’m still drafting a response to your Danny Brown write up. You’ll get it soon.

Don’t let me, nor Nas, down on this one.

From ‘Cole: A Response to Week Six’s Response

The only thing I want to add is a little background on some of the forerunners of Hip Hop music and culture. Specifically, the tradition of DJing.
And for that you need to know about DJ Kool Herc, and the Herculoids.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Kool_Herc

Kool Herc was a DJ from the Bronx who is credited for a) creating the looped track that would become a staple in rap b) underscoring the break (drum beat) in a song, also a staple and c) his funky-ass parties that would last
for days.

DJ Kool Herc

Well, not really, but almost. See, DJing was and still is a fixture of the club scene. People come to party, the DJ brings the atmosphere. But Herc took this and adapted it to the streets.
Herc made his home in the parks of the Bronx, schoolyard parties and such. Inevitably, people would see the open block party and join in. He would mix beats, create breaks, and merge everything into one giant mixed tape. And eventually, you’d have one song that would last
for days.

So, how he ties in to the Sugar Hill Gang is this: “Rapper’s Delight” is one of the most influential songs of Hip Hop because it is the commercialization of the block party. SHG took a nine-hour event and condensed it into 11 minutes. When you think of it that way, their genius is even more apparent. The song isn’t too long–it’s too short.
But even in its relative brevity, it still manages to hold all of the conventions and tropes of rap music that you were able to pinpoint. Which makes them, even today, relevant and worthy of examination.

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion: Week One – A Look at KMD’s “Mr. Hood”

KMD – Mr. Hood

Zed Love X. Damn. This really is a great album. I do have some issues with it, but I enjoy it more than I dislike it by far. Doom (I guess that’s how I’ll refer to him throughout) really shines with his ability to articulate his lyrics and tell stories. That into track is a great example. The first line into “Mr. Hood at Piocalles Jewelry/Crackpot” really hit me, “This reminds me of the days of dwelling with those / Who killed off the weak for fancy clothes and hoes too”. The story that follows is brilliantly vivd.

“I first met Crackpot in like Head Starts
Since then I knew he wasn’t too head smart
As I scribbled in art he insisted on standing in the sandbox
To collect unknown amounts of pebbles and stones to throw rocks
“It’s in the wrists”, he said when telling me in early physics lessons
“Two atoms can’t occupy the same space at the same time”

Here he is telling the history of a kid who becomes a drug dealer and eventually gets locked up for it, “But a pocket full of pebbles what locked up Crackpot”. Such an innovative way to illustrate growing up in the drug game. It’s lyrics like this that really prove, to me, what an amazing emcee Doom is.

With “Who Me? (With an Answer From Dr. Bert)”, Doom shows he’s more than just a storytelling rapper, but a conscious rapper as well.

Holy smokes! I see it’s a joke
To make a mockery of the original folks
Okay, joke’s over, but still it cloaks over us
He is talking about Little Black Sambo. As well as the line:
Pigment, is this a defect in birth?
Or more an example of the richness on Earth?
Lips and eyes dominant traits of our race
Does not take up 95 percent of one’s face But still I see
In the back two or three
Ignorant punks pointing at me

I think the use of dialogue in this track, as well as the prior track, really aids to the tracks vibe.

Over all, my favorite track has got to be “Figure of Speech”. I feel it’s very throwback. Very common for hip hop of the time: “The motto goes: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll / I prefer: love, hugs and hip hop soul”. It’s very meta in many ways, as he talks about making music when he says:

Place of rest is Doom’s room where we loot the tune
And add a sonic kick Boom
A dash of this then up next, last but not least
Is Zev Love X, this figure of speech..haha

Lyrically, it’s not the best track on the album, as I think that “Mr. Hood at Piocalles Jewelry/Crackpot” takes that title, but it’s catchy and I fuck with it. “808s Man” is also a great display of his lyrically ability. Equating the people in a fight to that of musical instruments and styles is really dope and he absolutely kills that track. Great metaphor in here.

Some of the problems I have with Mr. Hood come mostly with the repetition. After listening to the album in it’s entirety I feel like a lot of it sounds the same. They use dialogue in a majority of their tracks. The beats all sound relatively similar. Granted this was 1991 when this shit dropped, there were still hip hop albums that had come out prior that showed off better production like De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, It Takes a Million to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy and a personal favorite Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. I find this kind of ironic, since Doom eventually became a rapper that is often associated with amazing production, like on The Mouse and the Mask, Madvilliany andOperation Doomsday.

All in all this is a great first album. It shows Doom’s abilities and that he had them from such a young age, being around 19 and 20 when this was recorded. It is a solid freshman, for sure.

-Sky

From Sky: Week Six Response

Rapper’s Delight is everything rap is about.

The Sugar Hill Gang

Since this is widely considered the first hip hop track, we could say that everything grew from the foundation The Sugar Hill Gang pioneered. When I look at “Rapper’s Delight”, I see an entire genre.

First verse:Wonder Mike–hype. This is all Wonder Mike talking up himself and getting people to enjoy themselves. It’s also the intro, and he’d “like to say ‘hello”! But, say hello to who? “To the black, to the white, the red and the brown, the purple and yellow”. Even from the start of hip hop, it was open to everybody. That’s a little digression though, as the majority of the song is pure hype: “But first I gotta bang bang the boogie to the boogie /Say “up jump” the boogie to the bang-bang boogie” (he’s pumpin’ up the beat, yo) and “Let’s rock, you don’t stop / Rock the riddle that will make your body rock”. That’s an interesting thought on “riddles”, but we’ll discuss that another time.

Second verse: Big Bank Hank–bling. If that word is socially acceptable anymore. “I dress to a t / Ya see I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali and I dress so viciously / I got bodyguards, I got two big cars,” is one example of showing off. Think of all the rap tracks today about all the exotic cars they got, or the fashion they wear. My favorite line in the entire verse is: “I got a color TV so I can see / The Knicks play basketball”.

Third verse: Master Gee–fame. Right from the beginning. after Master Gee introduces him self, which is sick, FYI, he spits the first line regarding fame: “Well, my name is known all over the world / By all the foxy ladies and the pretty girls / I’m going down in history / As the baddest rapper there could ever be”. To go down in history, one must be famous for something. In Master Gee’s case it’s for being “the baddest rapper there could ever be.” He continues to spit about his ability to score girls, which is definitely a perk of being famous musician. This might also be what lead to evidential hip hop number one pop hits. But again, for the sake of time we’ll move on.

Fourth verse: Wonder Mike–shoutouts. Today in hip hop, it is common for wrists to should out where they’re from. That is exactly what Wonder Mikes does here. Being patriotic as fuck, “Skiddlee beebop a we rock a scoobie doo / And guess what America we love you / Cause ya rock and ya roll with so much soul / You could rock till you’re a hundred and one years old”. Live long and thrive. ‘Murica. There’s also some meta qualities to this verse, that could be explored as well.

Fifth verse: Big Bank Hank–sex. This is the filthy-nasty verse. I love this verse, my second favorite of the track. After the story about picking up Lois Lane, her quitting her boyfriend Superman, and how now, Hank can properly satisfy her, unlike Superman could do with “his little worm”. I mean come on, “But I can bust you out with my super sperm / I go do it, I go do it, I go do it, do it, do it”, can it get any more sexual?

Sixth verse: Master Gee–party tracks. “It was twelve o’clock one Friday night / I was rocking to the beat and feeling all right / Everybody was dancing on the floor / Doing all the things they never did before”–sounds to me like they’re in the club. Bottles full of bub! Also, the line, “But let me tell ya something there’s still one fact / That to have a party ya got to have a rap”, Master Gee is saying that their music is necessary to party. There’s a lot of this verse devoted to getting’ girls to freak, which if you think about hip hop today and party tracks… I mean SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTSSHOTSSHOTS!

Seventh verse: Wonder Mike–story telling/humor. This is my favorite verse of the track. This is easily one of the most vivid story I’ve ever heard in hip hop. It starts which such a great line, “Have you ever went over a friend’s house to eat / And the food just ain’t no good?” This was a way for the Sugar Hill Gang to show that the music they were making was versatile enough that it could be used to convey stories or shine humor on something. After all, the story is pretty humorous. Think of all the amazing stories told in hip hop. This lead the way.

Eighth verse: Big Bank Hank–disses. So much rap and hip hop is about being better than others. ONE WORD: Control. I think about Boogie Down and their bridge feud. Ether and Takeover. All about being better. “So when the sucker MCs try to chump my style / I let them know that I’m versatile / I got style finesse and a little black book / That’s filled with rhymes and I know you wanna look / But there’s a thing that separates you from me And that’s called originality”. Big Bank Hank ain’t gonna let any other emcee jack his flow. Although there isn’t any actual direct disses, Hank is saying that you can’t fuck with his rhymes and that his are the best. Watch out, sucka emcees.

Ninth verse: Master Gee–personal histories. We would both agree that often hip hop is semi-autobiographical. Man, the prefixes on that word. I say “semi” because we always gotta take it with grain of salt. After all, it was recently outed that Rick Ross used to work as a security guard, and isn’t nearly as hard as the Teflon Don makes himself seem. At the age of seven, Mater Gee had “got right on down to the beat you see / Getting right on down making all the girls / Just take of their clothes to the beat the beat / To the double beat beat that makes you freak”. At the age of seven? Fo reals? He goes all the way up to nine years old. It’s not much, as in, he does’t tell us much about his live, and what he does tell us is… well like I said, a grain of salt.

I condensed this down a bit, as I thought it might be too long for our little correspondence, but I think you get the gist.

From ‘Cole: Week Six Response

Wow. There’s a lot here, but I’m not sure I’m quite there.

This is going to be very stream-of-consciousness because there are a few different things I want to address and I’m not sure they’re all connected (but we know everything is, so maybe you can help me out).
First of all, the name of this track (upon further research) is Side B (Dope Song). Danny Brown is pointing here, I think, to the “other side of the coin” aspect of this song. He’s showing us the other side of the glorification of thug life/drug life. And it’s not pretty.
Like you said, he raps about drugs. But this song, in particular, strikes me as interesting because he says it’s his last one about drugs.

As you pointed out, he plays with chronology (which is sick) by flashing back to the times when he “hit the mall and ball/ hit the club and spend it all.” And of course, his use of different voices is great for that effect. But without his mention of time, the pitch changes would just be treated as another production trick. (“A long time ago/ I don’t do that shit no more.”)

Rap audiences aren’t as gullible about street cred as hip hop would have you believe. I mean, are we going to accept that 50 is as hard now with 20 mil in his pocket, than he was “with some squares to get off”? Or, that Jay-Z’s hustle to the masses gives him just as much street cred as he had hustling on street corners? Danny’s “sick of all these niggas with their ten year old stories.” He’s tired of them slanging those lies, like they happened yesterday.

Maybe this lends more credence to newer artists like K.Dot who, arguably, just came from the streets and, with new success, has not yet fallen into the soft lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Danny Brown

The line that interests me most is the last: “not my last dope song/ but my last dope song.”

Danny Brown has a way of intoning this where he gets the point across that this isn’t the last song he’s made that’s hot/ill/sick/fantastic/take your pick. But it is the last time he raps about dope. Because he’s beyond that now.

In a way, it’s a combo diss-track-and-dap-track, giving props to those who don’t have ten year old stories so much as ten day old stories. Maybe that’s what he means when he says it’s a dope song–he knows who the real dope rappers are.

From Sky: Week Six – DOPE WEEK! DOPE WEEK!

Yo, yo, we back.

You might be able to tell which track I’m selecting this week, simply by my title.

This album was on numerous top ten lists at the end of the year. I believe you sent me a track of his once before, not for Music Mondays, but just for kicks.

I think it’s clear these days what certain rappers rap about. For instance, Macklemore raps about equality and independence. Yung Lean raps about Arizona Iced Tea. Freddie Gibb raps about gangsta shit. Drake raps about his emotions. Well, this rapper raps about drugs. It’s quite obvious.

The track for this week is my favorite off of his album Old. The mixtape that came before it, XXX, was highly acclaimed, and believed by many to be a drug centric concept album.

I love the use of flashbacks in this track. Explore this.

This week is a banger. For sure. So get turnt up.

From Sky: Week Five Response

Alright, alright. Here we go. *Mario voice*

This week was a lot harder for me. I really have a problem with things I don’t understand. It’s a wonder I am as patient as I am when it comes to be surrounded be people who don’t speak my own language. Many people are ignorant to things that they don’t understand. This is one of the biggest issues with society. Anyhow, let’s get into Dynamic Duo.

I wanna say first off that the production on this is stellar. So solid. The first time I listened to it I found myself bobbing my head as I sat up in bed. Initially I just listened to the song once without reading the lyrics. When I tried to follow along with the lyrics as the music played I hit my first hurdle. I couldn’t do so. I would use the English words for reference, but I struggled. I then decided to only read the lyrics. Okay sure, but that’s not music… if anything that’s just poetry.

Dynamic Duo

Of all the lines I struggled with, the one that was the hardest was, “This isn’t a place where kids can play / Go back to your cradle, why make a rod for your own back?” I read this line so many times and just could not put meaning to it. I posted on reddit’s r/korean. Here is my post if you’re interested.

Reddit Post

I used some of the suggestions on here to help me understand and make meaning out of that line. “why make a rod for your own back?” I just didn’t get it. To be honest, I still don’t fully grasp it… but that’ll be the point I make here in a moment.

I tried to understand the rhyme schemes they used as inspiration, but I couldn’t accurately do so because I don’t understand the language. It’s one thing to read lyrics, but we both know that absolute meaning is often lost in translation. I feel like that is what happened with the “rod for your back line”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always found code switching in foreign language hip hop to be impressive. Often it’s an advantage that foreign language hip hop artists have. They can rhyme words from the own language with English words and it works… at least for people who can comprehend both languages. Now, I know you don’t speak super great Korean. You know much more than I do, but I know you’re far from fluent… yet you still enjoy Dynamic Duo. I totally get this. For a period in high school I went through a massive Nena phase. If you don’t know, this is Nena:

This was off of an album of her’s where she went back and redid prior tracks in her discography. I loved this shit. I still do. I was also big into Wir sind Helden:

Even though I didn’t understand what they were saying, I totally loved both these artists. There are others I really enjoy as well, including Brazilian Nando Reis:

and I absolutely love The Koxx, a Korean indy group:

I’ve thought about this a lot when it comes to foreign films. I hated dubbed films and would much rather read subtitles. While I can enjoy a foreign language film (in fact my favorite film of all time is a Mexican film called Y Tu Mama Tambien, and my favorite director is Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar) I will never truly be able to appreciate all aspects of the art. I can not accurately judge an actor or actress’ acting because I don’t understand the language.

My point is this. I may be able to enjoy foreign music, but I do not understand the lyricism behind it. I am unable to make an educated post about the lyricism for this reason. Don’t get me wrong, this Dynamic Duo shit sounds amazing! I listened to a couple other’s from the same album and throughly enjoyed those as well. I can see why you dig these guys. However, when it comes to lyrical content, that is not my place. I think about Koreans who love American music, they like it mostly because they like the way it sounds, not because they understand the lyrics. We can never fully understand something if it is in a language we don’t speak.

That’s my piece. It’s not a cop out. It’s not talking the easy way out of this week, it’s simply how I feel.

From Sky: A Response to Week Five’s Response

RiFF! RiFF!

So, yes, I am going to draft a response to this before I write up Dynamic Duo. Whatchagonnadoboutit?

You’re half right. Half there, rather. You’re spot on when you say that it’s all his story. You connection between marijuana and brussels sprouts is great. The buds. The lack of stems. Spot on. When you say that none of it feels conscious, well, this here, you could be on to something.

I decided to check out ole’ RapGenius to see what those chumps had to say about it. The FAScinating thing about what RG proposes and you barely missed was freestyling. On the website it says, as a meaning for the hook: “Riff Raff references his ability to freestyle without end — a trademark of Southern (Texas) Hip Hop artists including but no limited to Lil Flip and Z-Ro.” Now I believe I’ve sent you a RiFF RAFF freestyle before, you remember, the 101 bars one in Amsterdam where he breaks his chain at the end. Plot twist: I however, don’t think this is what RiFF is getting at. I don’t think it’s all about freestyling.

Irony. That was what I was thinking about when it comes to “I Can Tell Stories”. Does the Versace Cowboy actually tell any stories in this track? Nah. Not one. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. Thanks screenwriting class. RiFF RAFF is merely starting facts. “I can NBC, like that girl Connie” (Chung), is there a story here? Nope. Just him again, in other words, saying that he can tell stories. “Used to have a girl who worked at Taco Bell”. This, in my opinion of course, is the closest thing to a story in the whole track. He doesn’t tell us anything about her though. This is like me saying, I have a friend from Dallas. Is that a story? No. He uses a lot of past tense verbs in this track. He “could” he “might”. All of these indicate possibility. Has he done this stuff? Well I’m about 98% sure he didn’t actually write this flow on the back of the Mona Lisa. It’s all ironic. He can tell stories, he could tell stories, but he doesn’t tell stories.

RiFF RAFF

You wrote something that I really love, you said, “telling his geniune story to an audience that is willing to listen to him speak.” Willing to listen. I’d say the most controvertial thing about RiFF RAFF is that people constantly question his genuineness. Is he really this iced out, wannabe black, wigger rapper? How much of RiFF RAFF is genuine? We don’t question Pusha when he says he used to sell coke. We don’t question Danny Brown we he tells us all the drugs he’s done. We don’t question Freddie Gibbs when he tells us about murderin’ mutherfuckas. Why? Because we believe they’re genuine. This could be a race thing, being that, as Bronsolino brought up, it is a black man’s sport. Society automatically accepts that when black rappers tell these stories they are probably true or at least based on reality. RiFF RAFF takes this belief to the absurd. “Fifty grand below, poppin’ pills in the North Pole”, did he actually do that? No. “I done graduated from Versace Junior College”. Did he do that? No. Though I would enroll if I could. This applies to the Mona Lisa line as well. It’s all absurd. RiFF RAFF is absurd.

But there’s one more level that makes this a little harder to get around, and that is: RiFF RAFF is genuine as fuck. He is real. This is not just some character he is playing–this is him. Irony. RiFF RAFF is being absurd, spitting this completely absurd lyrics, wearing absurd amounts of ice while talking and acting absurd WHILE being completely genuine. “I Can Tell Stories” is all irony. He doesn’t actually tell any stories, despite saying he has too much to tell. He’s being absurd while being completely genuine. He is making us question everything that is RiFF RAFF, despite telling us straight up, no foolin’, who he really is.

-S