Switch on your electric light
then we can get down to what is really wrong.
AFTER THE MADNESS: home (outside)
The uncles of America would like you to listen to more Donald Byrd, please.
You’ve heard, loved, and looked out the window wistfully to “I’m a Fool to Want You” and “Cristo Redentor,” and watched me walk down the street to “The Emperor” (DON’T LIE I SAW YOU), so you know that uncles are absolutely justified in their Byrd pushiness. Absolutely. Uncles totally nailed it. It’s just that Byrd played trumpet – and trumpets, like uncles, don’t tend to be very cool. (Exceptions noted, of course.) My first Byrd was Royal Flush from ’61, given to me by my very own pushy uncle when I was 15. He handed it to me with the words LOGAN! It’s got Hancock and Higgins! and a huge smile. I thanked him, then promptly put it in my closet and ignored it for 2 years.
The older cousins of America, on the other hand, have been coolness royalty since the beginning of time, and it’s only when they come along and say you should listen to Byrd that you pay attention. The luckiest among us were started on 1973′s lovely Flight Time, our cousins wanting us to be familiar with it if we ever get to hang with Premier (in the rare occasion he leaves the house; PREMIER LOVES PORN) or anyone with the last name Quik or Shocklee. Byrd’s amazing, it turns out; Uncle James and the cousins were right. Tyme passes, your collection grows. And when one day you realize it’s 2013 and you’re the older cousin now, well damn. Each one better fucking teach one. It’s your responsibility to pass on some Byrd to cousins. Go with A New Perspective, from ’63 – It’s got Hancock and Hank!, my uncle would like to inform you. It’s also got some newer breaks used in songs by Ski Beatz (for DZA) and Party Supplies (for Bronson) – 2 producers who really love Byrd, or just grew up having heard that Shyheim song a bunch of times. (Probably played for them by their older cousins.)
Magnolia’s tiny sad clown Dwayne Carter insisted last summer that you never learned how to love, how to looovvvve. Joke’s on him, though, because Mike from Indiana taught you how to get an A in the class of Love a long time ago! You also have your dragon trained, and you can stunt and rob and Dougie and roll a blunt. You are fun at parties. But there’s still room for improvement, since you ain’t never learned How to Open Your New Copy of the Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack Now On Vinyl, tough guy!
The original came out on CD 20 years ago, and it’s full of some tired old karaoke business (“Hooked On a Feeling”) and Jiffy Lube rock (“Stuck in the Middle with You”). But ’92 radio was all about humpin and jumpin, and people were hungry for weird ’70s one-hit wonders and Steven Wright, deadpan king. (sorry, Guru and Lloyd Banks and Fabolous!) Plus it has “I Gotcha” and that perfect sexy-spooky echodrum in “Little Green Bag” at 00:04. Slam-dunk.
The vinyl format was released for the first time on Record Store Day last week, and each pressing is one of six different character-based colors (pink, orange, some other boring color, something else, blahblah, and the very best and most stunning color: blonde). There was no way to know what color was inside before opening. This was a problem, though not so large a problem that it stopped me from calling in sick to work to go to Amoeba and get one. And now, like a suited-up psychopath who needs to see if cops really do bleed actual human life-juice or if they are just made of bile and donuts, I have to slice this thing open. Here’s how it’s done.
Get a work station – a flat, sturdy surface.
(Optional: put on a real banger of a dress.)
You’ll need a steak knife from Target because you ain’t need fancy record-opening tools! (You were raised country, like me!) You’ll also need your hands, an Amoeba shopping bag containing the Reservoir Dogssoundtrack, and Tejava, because it is the greatest, and maybe they’ll send me a crateful if someone at corporate sees this?
(Real quick braggy sidebar: I also got an original Joy Div pressing and a FUCKING MARVIN GAYE PICTURE DISK, BREH.)
Trying to make some sense of it all; however, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that it makes no sense at all.
I got white. Do I like it? Not sure. It’s not blonde.
I wanted blonde.
Bad breaks, setbacks.
It’s not blonde. It just isn’t. But.
It is the color of polar bears, my Prius, and Target bags.
It’s the color of The Cloud guitar from Purple Rain, Lennox’s mansion in Belly, the frames on those ridiculous glasses that Chief Keef is wearing in that stock photo used by every music site circa spring 2012, and other items of luxury. White is luxury. Does this mean that I am rich? Finally?
Mr. White is the one with the speech about the moral imperative of tipping your server.
He’s the Auguste Compte (“#1 occupation for non-female college graduates”) to Mr. Pink’s Ayn Rand (“Fuck em”), and speaking as a female viewer of a film with ZERO female characters in it (apart from Madonna’s vagina, a GIF of Pam Grier in Nice Guy Eddie’s brain, the girl in the bank who gets shot, and the nameless restaurant server), I appreciate his support. Keitel is that dude. Keitel can really make a girl love her piece of overpriced white round luxury. I also love that I did not get orange (the cop), pink (the bitch), blue (the moustache) or brown (the director, UGH*). Please note that the irony of this rainbow of name colors is that the film itself had skin tones ranging only from “Minnesota hockey player” to “Lawrence Tierney just got back from a long weekend in Tampa.”
Mr. White sticks with Mr. Orange til the end, defending him against accusations that he’s a cop.
He’s crew, White says to the crew.
I’m a cop, Orange later tells White, and then they die as the pigs swoop in, and the lesson is never be loyal to anyone because it’s every man for himself in the bloody warehouse of life. Might as well eat ice cream for dinner, you know? Walk your adorable ass down the street to banging Dutch basslines while you can, baby. xo.
Instagram isn’t just my nickname for Josh who supplies me with that beige!
It is also a photo site that I am newly on.
Jimmy Miller, production god who never really got his propers, made some real walking-down-the-street bangers. “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” immediately comes to mind, a shining example of pure hot-weather-in-a-sundress magic. That song’s 41 years old and still sexual as all hell (especially those first 45 seconds, mmm). “Gimme Shelter,” with the way it builds and builds? I’M SWEATIN. Be a lamb and put an ice cube down my back, would you.
When fall comes along, his stuff is employed for colder-weather activities – “Tumblin’ Dice” for walking down the street in jeans (“cold-weather activity” in my city means doing the same thing as during summer, except in jeans because it’s 5 degrees cooler.) Mick’s platform in the song is that women are terrible and sexy and not to be trusted, and playing into that is rather fun, so what better way to be a jezebel than to paint on some stretchy denim that shows off your lady-shape. “Gimme Some Lovin,” a personal favorite because of the holy trifecta of kick drum, tambourine, and copious church-y HEY!s like a pre-pre-pre-cursor to “Power,” is perfect to have on when it’s a frigid 65 degrees out and I’m making some baked chicken. You should see my kitchen moves, guys. I shake it like a combination of the girls in that 2 Chainz video and 2 Chainz.
Mr. Fantasy isn’t in the same category. It’s dreamy and filled with sitars and tambura, too dreamy and slow for a walk. It’s got that classic Miller style, though – driving bass, vocal build-ups and cascades, loud, clear drum punches. “Being a drummer,” he said, “I was very rhythm minded.” Being a Fantasy Football manager for the 2012-13 season, I too am rhythm minded. Everything must flow. The guys on the squad don’t have to be best friends, but they have to respect each other as men and support each other to get the job done. (I know how to wrangle some big personalities, just like Miller had to. He worked with The Rolling Stones, you see). My guys execute driving routes, clear punches; tight and right, balanced, nothing sloppy. The pieces of my offense all fit and complement each other, a powerful machine that runs on VitaCoco and maybe a little HGH. I was rifling through my records and came across Mr. Fantasy; a couple hours later, I had my team for this season, drafted and ready. I’m giving Jimmy Miller co-manager credit this year.
The rules were the same this year as every other: 1. do minimal research on who’s really hot – meaning projected to possibly be hot, provided everyone’s knees and psyches hold up – for the 2012 season. Check Rotoworld and CBS Fantasy ONLY, in other words – not Rotoworld, CBS Fantasy, SBNation, FantasySharks, “Fantasy” by Guy, The xx, and Earth Wind & Fire, or Final Fantasy 4, big big shout to Danny Brown and DeShay that I should just get out of the way right at the beginning of the post. 2. GET RODGERS; failing that, GET STAFFORD. 3. Draft no Raiders, as I cannot have my real life allegiances and my Fantasy allegiances getting crisscrossed and tied into knots. Drafting dudes from the RVIDXR KLVN, however, is acceptable.
Fall is the finest of all the seasons. My apologies for being truly unpleasant to be around between now and December, but LEH’, as my 17-year-old cousin Kevin and all his lame friends said circa summer/fall 2011, GO:
Nickname(s): None to my knowledge, but I like thinking about dudes walking around Michigan with STAF written above the dark blue oval of the Ford logo on their shirts. IT’S DETROIT; they definitely do this.
Pros: • 63% completion last year. • Poised and in control at all times, much like myself. • Thinking of him gets me all revved up to yell “KITTY PRIDE” at the TV 2-3 times this season after a really big Lions play.
Cons: • The Goonies was on the other night. Stafford looks like Chunk from The Goonies, mixed with a little Temple Grandin.
Do-Gooder Twitter Score (1 – 10 scale): 6. Lots of support for the Wounded Warriors Project, but this is offset by boring self-promo (“Check out my exclusive video with SWAG, a new digital magazine”). The rest of his feed is all Republican-sounding notes on golfing with dad, NASCAR, and the on-the-couch-with-a-bag-of-Doritos-NFL-fan-favorite “leading a healthy lifestyle.” Then he demands to see Obama’s birth certificate and lays out his plan to keep troops in Afghanistan for the next 200 years.
Flacco’s ability to throw the ball with accuracy lessens every year; honestly, his appeal as a player is purely emotional for me, because of his rad name, his do-gooder qualities (see below), and the fact that his team’s been in the news alongside the name of THE GOD Chris Kluwe, soldier for equality. Flacco will do for now. I’m just biding my time until Andrew Luck has one awful week and someone in my league drops him because nobody has loyalty.
Do-Gooder Twitter Score: 9. Being a dad, Joe says, is amazing. He also pushes the Special Olympics and something called Boys Hope Girls Hope Baltimore. Get ‘em, Joe.
Nicknames: Dez “Dickerson” Bryant; “Trouble Man*,” “The Modernaire.”
*Invoking the Toddler Clause in his contract, Jerry Jones has decided that, just like my 2-year-old niece, Bryant cannot stay out too late or drink anything bad for him. Dez Bryant is 24 years old.
Desmond had his barrow in the marketplace, and by “barrow” I mean “bands” and by “marketplace” I mean “Magic City.” I fail to see what any of this has to do with him catching a ball and running while avoiding defenders, but the impact Dez’s off-season behavior has on his teammates is just the latest in a whole mess of things that Jerry Jones and I don’t see eye to eye about.
“Pacman Jones might be a rich man today,” a Deadspin commenter noted re: athletes needing to be treated like children, “if there was someone hanging around him all the time trying to keep him out of trouble.” Ridiculous. Incorrect. In the immortal words of Nathan Arizona, “And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass a-hoppin’.” Listen, the physical feats of human males are completely separable from their psychological workings and their feelings about their mothers and whether they like their strippers with tattoos or without. Dez Bryant is a grown-up, as was Pacman Jones when he was a part of the esteemed Cowboys organization. The plot of Get Him to the Greek as a real-life scenario with a professional athlete in the Russell Brand role is just not meant to be, guys.
Pros: • Pimp C being a Cowboys fan decreases some of the symptoms of acid reflux in my trachea due to my searing IRL hatred of the Cowboys. • It’s kind of cool that Dez is now an NFL Cowboy after being a Cowboy at Oklahoma State, which reminds me: that Mike Gundy video never gets old!
Decker? I hardly know her! Now that that’s out of the way:
Drafted on the strength of his head-to-neck-thickness ratio and the fact that he will be catching balls thrown by Peyton W. Manning (goofy white guy!). Decker went to Minnesota, just like Manning’s beloved Tony Dungy. The fuzzy feelings this stirs up in Manning due to this association will no doubt make Decker a favorite target. I mean, I already have fuzzy feelings about all things Minnesotan due to Prince connotations.
Nickname(s): None so far, but if he starts to do real well I’m prepared to introduce the name “Eric Wrecker” to the world.
Pros: • Tall, lanky • Good route runner • Manning.
Cons: • CORNBALL. He and Demaryius Thomas “have been trying to get the nickname ‘Salt & Pepper’ to stick since 2010 when they were rookie roommates.” • Is a Bronco. This is inherently offensive to me, because RAIDERS ALL DAY AND SOME OF THE NIGHT AS WELL; the Chiefs, Chargers, and especially those fucking Broncos can all go to HELL (a Drake concert in Mitt Romney’s backyard) but that doesn’t mean I can’t use them to get points in Fantasy. I want their players to fail; I want their players to kill it. On Sundays, therefore, catch me at the bar/on my couch in apt. 680/on Mom’s couch, practicing some meannnnn cognitive dissonance.
Do-gooder Twitter score: 6. His shoutout to a kid with cancer is offset by relentless pushing of the VitaCoco brand, thanking a dude who said, “Just took you in my Fantasy draft,” and saying, “LEZZZZZGO” in response to somebody yelling for the Golden Gophers to start the season off right.
“I’m never cutting the beard!” – 07/15/12.
“OK everybody I’m CUTTING THE BEARD!!!!” – 08/28/12.
Ha, I kid. This is just a pretend Con. I still need this confirmed, but I heard once that sometimes people say things that shouldn’t be taken literally (?). The beard saga was probably for preseason press, just to get his name out there and distract us from his fragile, glasslike body. Actual Con, however: his public back-and-forth with a grown lady who has chosen to call herself “Mulatto Mami.”
Pros: • 21 years old. His team’s awful but there’s nowhere to go but up. • Trent has no Twitter account. He also plays in the city of Cleveland, where there’s nothing to do – which proves he has an active inner world and a healthy imagination and probably just goes to the gym and the bookstore during training camp, leading to increased strength and focus when he suits up. These are what we refer to as “intangibles” in the sports world.
I apologize in advance once again for being truly insufferable for the next few months. Steve Winwood!: take me out.
Most trained record-scavenging machines out there only need a big fat ATM withdrawal before a Beat Swap Meet. They’ll usually get coffee and a muffin too, time permitting.
This machine, however, is a lady machine, with long, misbehaving hair that needs to be smoothed down. Nails need to have a nice sheen like a pool of motor oil or candy paint; I know this from years of UGK listening. Coming through looking clean is the name of the game (UGK again), so I need to iron my clothes and “bring a pocketbook that matches,” according to my proper southern grandma. Coming through smelling like cupcakes doesn’t hurt either (cocoa butter-vanilla oil combo).
Laundry, an absolute must, is the foundation of my pre-BSM routine. (I’d take it personally if MCs ever stop rapping about the foxiness and Snuggle-fresh clothing of LA women.) I went off to wash clothes the morning of June 10, bringing along an iced coffee and that silly Parade “magazine” that comes in the Sunday paper. Normally I read strictly highbrow fare while I’m at the laundromat (WaxPo, Harper’s, Adario-era Source, Utne). I’m not embarrassed about reading Parade, though; I’m secure in myself. (Only God Can Judge Me, according to Pac, Master P, and Mike Bibby’s calf.) Besides, Parade sometimes provides pretty useful bits of information – like the fact that June 10 was THE GOD Saul Bellow’s birthday. Saul’s a great writer, known for Augie March, a white American male alienation classic, right up there with Nevermind, I suppose, and Labor Days. But Saul should be known for having a perfect name for a shouty preacher (SAUL BELLOW, c’mon), and for once saying, “Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door,” a phrase so lovely that it cannot be improved upon unless you put a squiggly bassline under it. I’m getting it tatted on my calf this weekend.
It turns out, appropriately enough, that June 10, BSM day, new/old record-gettin day, was the god Howlin’ Wolf’s birthday and the g.o.d. The D.O.C.’s, too. (Not mentioned in Parade, though lord knows they should’ve been.) I came up nicely – spent around $80, got 13 records, and didn’t have to travel more than 5 miles round trip from my doorstep. The high in LA was 76°. I smelled good (cupcakes). And I exchanged smiles with so many people, because, you see, unlike the employees of Time Warner*, Beat Swap Meet sellers and buyers – music people – do not find it unusual that a woman enjoys record albums.
* “Whose records are these?” – 3 separate technicians during 3 separate visits, upon entering my apartment.
1. The New Birth, Birth Day (RCA Victor, 1972). $8.
It’s 2012 and everyone knows Queens and Harlem are the rapping-est boroughs. But it’s still fun to summon the spirit of someone jocking Brooklyn super hard in ’94 and exclaim: Biggie! Jeru! (Clark Kent and Premier both used the “You Are What I’m All About” pencil-tapping-the-side-of-a-mason-jar sound!) An automatic purchase because it’s an original pressing as opposed to a ’90s rapstalgia reissue, I saw Birth Day on display when I was walking out. It was the end of the afternoon and the end of my cash supply. The allure of this damn thing made me trot (ha, J/K; I sashay) across the street to the ATM to pull out more cash and come back. John was the seller’s name, I think. Thank you, John. The freshness of your Van Exel jersey was not lost on me.
Their cover of Womack’s “I Can Understand It” opens the album. Lovely. The New Birth version lacks the crucial “yeah-uh” that kills me every time in the original (01:11), but when a DJ at the swap meet played “Across 110th St.” while my weak arms were struggling with the weight of record bags during my exit walk to the car, it was a clear sign that I had to get something Womackian before I left. I was raised by leftist heathens in a weed den, but even I have to give in when God and all the angels send a message directly to me (“Womack, Logan. WOMACK”). And there was John, suddenly, with his clean copy of Birth Day to sell me. “You Are What I’m All About” (Biggie and Jeru) and “Got to Get a Knutt” (De La, PE, Doom!) are the rap-break superstars, but there’s so much material on this record to be mined. More use should be made out of “Buck and the Preacher,” for example. Current producers are scared to compete with G Rap and Large Pro, obviously, and this is why none of them have tried to chop and loop it. What an air-tight theory. Except that nobody but me and the Ego Trip guys and you currently reading this blog post even think about G Rap or Large Pro or anyone else in AARP anymore, unless there’s a lawsuit involved and we’re forced to care out of loyalty to the old dogs and our mutual hatred of Mac Miller. Twitter stuntery and ass injections are mostly the move in the industry now, with the scary, cold eyes of Riff Raff overseeing it all. Everybody get ready for my “Cashin Out” freestyle, which the world definitely needs.
Birth Day‘s other standout is “Easy, Evil.” (Sorry; no link.) It’s a better song title than actual song, a feat last accomplished by The Dirty Projectors’ “Gun Has No Trigger,” but it’s got this weird, sexy line “Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doin’ ’til I’m done,” which would be perfect as a UGK hook. It doesn’t matter that Chad isn’t around! He’s still around, kinda! He resurfaces every couple of years like a new Batman movie! (It does matter that K.R.I.T. is way more interesting when he produces than when he raps. What am I to do about this? Somebody, please.)
Person on this record around whom I’d probably feel most comfortable: Harvey Fuqua, New Birth’s producer and the uncle of Training Day director Antoine. Harvey’s got lots of music industry tales I’d love to hear, details about Berry Gordy making out-of-wedlock babies. And he co-wrote and -produced Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles,” road trip playlist heaven. Plus I might be able to get him to call his nephew so I can find out whatever happened to Alonzo’s stunning black Monte Carlo. I still send that thing love letters and naked pics of myself.
Suitable for bonding with: Clark Kent, Premier. And Daniel Dumile, provided that I can compose myself in his presence and not shake like a naked Chihuaha. (Unlikely.)
Free line for the taking: “Beatin down Joey Bada$$es/Cracks in stacks and masses,” my take on that one part from “Player’s Anthem.” It’ll turn up on a fake-diss track that Joey’s A&R suggests to Action Bronson’s people, to reignite the Queens v Brooklyn flame, with the end result of course being promo and profit. Remember where you heard it first! I’m also working on a post-iPad-world version of “My mind’s my nine, my pen’s my Mac-10,” a line that’s so old-timey, Big might as well be talking about his quill and inkwell.
Feminist points: Minimal. The New Birth had a strong female contingency, but the men were the ones in control of the writing, production, and marketing. And when it comes to The New Birth breaks-usage, there’s little to be thrilled about in terms of feminist deconstruction. Jeru’s voice is legendary; that authoritative tone really does it for me. Maybe I have a thing about being dominated, but maybe I just admire his ability to flow beautifully while looking bored with his own genius. Jeru’s judgment about the way ladies choose to dress themselves, however, is awful. “Skin-tight jeans, everything all exposed”; then the hook kicks in, blah blah, preach, not in my house, young lady. Groan. Dad raps are the absolute worst, even when there’s a Premier beat involved. The ladies of the ’90s apparently needed to be reprimanded for letting their asses show. Good thing it’s 2012 and I’m grown. Settle down with the slut lectures, J.
2. El Chicano, Viva Tirado (Kapp, 1970). $7.
Bullfighting, in the words of Chicago fetus Chief Keef, is that shit we ladies DON’T LIKE. For the record, we do not care for those Subway commercials with adults talking like little kids, being cold, Mitt Romney, Drake, or people coming at us crazy (which includes Mitt and Drake, politically- and musically-speaking) either. “Viva Tirado” is about a bullfighter. Cringe. I don’t like. However, it is a scientific fact that women love drums in general, and women with exceptional hips love congas. So when the god Andre Baéza enters the picture, bullfighting somehow becomes tolerable. Women with exceptional hips and great taste in music genuinely love the musical productions of Scoop DeVille – the son of the man whose hit song is based on “Viva Tirado” (there’s baby Scoop at 00:31 and throughout!). Tony G, an LA institution like Fred Roggin and dads at the mall in Kobe jerseys, produced “La Raza” and “Mentirosa” which means that, like me, he was cool with Mexicans and Cubans.
Feminist points?: I can’t think of anything overtly feminist about this album. Tangentially, however, I could point out that the liner notes mention that it was recorded at at 3840 Crenshaw. Formerly a restaurant, the address is now home to a Social Security office – which, in providing benefits that act as a safety net for thousands of LA women and their families, is a place with feminist/humanist connnotations.
Suitable for Bonding With: Houston Los Angeles old heads.
Person around whom I’d feel most comfortable: Baéza, the conga player. Drummers just understand me.
3. Pharoah Sanders, Thembi (Impulse!, 1971). $14.
Listen, the jazz cat knows women. “This album is dedicated to and named after Thembi Sanders,” it says in the upper-right corner of the inside (gatefold!) cover. This is a classic “I love you, wife” dedication and I am powerless against its charms. While nothing tops the Tess, Tess, Tess, Tess, Tess dedication from bookwriting cat Raymond Chandler, the jazz cat knows women. Create something, name it after us: become immortal in our hearts.
$14 is normally outside of my price range but I absolutely had to have this record. Thembi‘s got a KMD break and Lonnie Liston Smith, two things that occupy the “obsessions” part of my brain. It also boasts old-timey names like Cecil McBee and Clifford Jarvis on the credits (bass and “bird noises,” and percussion, respectively), both of whom sound like they were either quarterbacks for the ’52 Packers or members of the ’71 Globetrotters.
Feminist points:Lillian Douma, a LADY, was a co-engineer on this record, making her the Syd tha Kid of the ’70s jazz world! (This is how I explain it to my 13-year-old cousin, to try to get him interested in ’70s jazz). For extra credit, there were female pharaohs in ancient Egypt, so Sanders gets feminist points just by association.
LOL: “Production and engineering by Bill Szymczyk,” a man whose name’ll get you 500 points on Words with Friends. He produced people like The James Gang and Bill Walsh, and then right in the middle of his discography is this Pharoah Sanders record. Love it.
Suitable for bonding with: Weird old jazz guys who close their eyes when they’re talking to you and trying to remember details about that show at The Lighthouse in ’61. And Dante Ross, on account of the KMD factor – though Dante would not allow any bonding to take place because that would interrupt his constant name-droppery.
Person around whom I’d feel most comfortable: Lonnie Liston Smith, astronaut and boss – bosstronaut – whose credits on Thembi include “Fender Rhodes” and “shouts.” Delightful. There’s also an appearance by Chief Bey on this album. He is Mos Def’s uncle, maybe.
4. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, 3 Blind Mice (Blue Note, 1962). $4.
I recommend Tom Cat for true Blakey percussive loveliness, but 3 Blind Mice‘s personnel includes THE GOD Wayne Shorter, plus THE GOD Billy Collins wrote a poem about it, plus it’s got face sweat on the cover along with Art looking heavenward. I had to get this. The Muslim held most dear in apt. 680 is Ghosty. (He’s a Sunni.) But the Muslim with the best album-cover face sweat is Art Blakey.
The nursery rhyme about the mice has a truly horrific story of origin (a Catholic queen murdering Protestant dissenters), which just serves to make it more entertaining and tragic. This is simply the power of melody – it’ll make you forgive a horrible story that angers you, or just make it go down a little easier, in what feminists such as myself know as the He’s Not Talking About Me Theory (ho raps, violence-against-hoes raps, side-chick raps – they are pleasing and fun, because the MC is never talking about me). Today I’m referring to it as The Wham! Theory. “Everything She Wants” is a song about a greedy whore whom a poor, defenseless man marries. He’s captain-save-em. The man takes 4 whole minutes to whine and cry about it, the material is so morally repugnant, there’s really no point to the song at all, and it just fucking bangs so hard, with fun chord progressions and that great synth-y bass from what I’m told is the Linn LM-1? (Dave Tompkins with the future information-confirmation assist here. Thanks in advance, Dave!). I’m trying to think of a way I can draw parallels between Art’s hard bop (jazz influenced by R&B, with more hip-friendly, bluesy rhythms than bebop) and Wham!’s shiny, electronic, we’re-not-gay-we’re-just-British pop of the ’80s. Who says you need an profound reason for an “Everything She Wants” interlude, though? And how come George Michael never gets credit for his production skills?
Suitable for bonding with: Cornel West, Pete Rock, Madlib, Mark Gonzales, David Byrne, skate shop employees in Portland and SF.
Person around whom I’d feel most comfortable: Wayne Shorter, superboss and the Jazz Messengers’ musical director, who once said, “If all you have in life is music, then you haven’t got music.” I feel comfortable around music people who are secure enough in their musical-ness to say things like this.
5. The Sons (Capitol, 1969). $9.
This one’s got a break used by charming pornographic goofballs The Beatnuts, who’ll remind you that rappening is, in fact, what’s happening. Or at least it was back when Relativity Records was poppin. To get that simple, clean melody for “Straight Jacket,” the boys slowed down The Sons’ “Boomp Boomp Chomp” – a song with the satisfying one-two punch of a Dilla-esque title and a quick, sustained hi-hat that makes me file it in the same place in my head as the intro of “Boogie Nights” and that k-Os song, based on a “Hot Music.” Marsalis!
After forming the Sons of Champlin, then disbanding it, Bill Champlin became a member of Chicago. It was pre-”I’m a Man” and -“Street Player” Chicago, though, so that fact is a bit of a throwaway. He did cowrite EWF’s “After the Love is Gone,” which proves that just because a man looks like a cross between Huey Lewis and Ian McKellen you shouldn’t assume he can’t write a floaty ’70s makeup sex jam. Bill Champlin also convinced an entire band to call themselves his sons, a feat that I dare you not to respect. Champlin sonned his bandmates, then ordered them to do this song, best one on the album.
Suitable for bonding with: JuJu, Les, C-Rayz Walz. I don’t know how often I’ll listen to The Sons. If I clamor for white men who bleed funk, I’m listening to The Talking Heads or AWB or The Mothers. But it was a great find – a rare original pressing, including the lyrics booklet with pictures of unshowered Americans of European descent just like the ones who live next door and breathe up all my air at Trader Joe’s.
6. Gene Chandler & Jerry Butler, one & one (Mercury, 1971). $4.
Do you speak fluent Yancey? You are basically telling the world that you do if you bought this after 2005.
Gene and Jerry didn’t really dominate any hearts or ears with one & one, probably because it was 1971. Marvin and Sly and Funkadelic were doing it absolutely to death at the time. It’s hard to compete with Maggot Brain, you feel me. But Gene, the voice, had THE voice. Akon’s got Gene’s picture in his wallet like a prayer card. He stares at it before he goes into the booth to try to reach that upper-register sweet spot, solid and high (Barrington Levy; Frankie Lymon; the guy from Supertramp). Jerry, the songwriter, is from Chicago and has always insisted on putting his own voice on recordings despite its limitations, instead of letting his gifts as songwriter/arranger simply send his messages to the world. Jerry Butler’s the Kanye of Cabrini-Green.
one & one lacks any true bangers, but good lord: Dilla Dilla Dilla. It’s comforting to think that his beats continue to inspire the diggingest of diggers and the J Dilla Foundation continues to get donations because of this man’s beloved status – even if me buying a 40-year-old record on a lovely June Sunday results in no funds actually ending up at the organization. (I am also comforted to think that Nate Dogg’s family is maybe getting some extra money from the licensing of “Till I Collapse” from the Savages trailer that shows every 12 minutes on my television. The music industry is fair and nobody ever gets fucked over. Rainbows, kittens!)
Notes from an annoyed feminist: Women love the voice, according to Q-Tip, who is from Queens but is not Action Bronson, Nore, Simon, Garfunkel, or Monch, so I’m not all that familiar with his work. Brothers dig the lyrics. How silly! What a limiting thing to say! Linden Boulevard, you lost me with that one. Disrupting Q-Tip’s entire theory, I adore the talents of Gene (voice) and Jerry (lyrics) equally, even though I am a lady. My male buddies feel the same way about Gene and Jerry, enjoying each man’s contributions irrespective of anatomy. We all need to taste life, enjoying it fluidly, unbound by gender roles or societal constraints. Let’s be swingers, ok? But just when it comes to DatPiff and our record collections. Voice, lyrics: love it all. Kittens, rainbows.
7. Lou Donaldson, Mr. Shing-A-Ling (Blue Note, 1967). $11.
HOLY HELL IDRIS MUHAMMAD ON DRUMS, back when he was Leo Morris, went the shout of the outspoken lady who lives inside my head when I saw the unmistakable pink and green on the cover. The real-life me, however, said nothing, due to being raised right (taught not to scream like an idiot in public). I just clutched this one to my lovely bosom and asked how much. Original pressing; I thought it would be at least $20. Nope – just above $10! And all I had to do was trade sexual favors! FEMINISM, YALL.
“Ode to Billie Joe” is the reason for this purchase, with Idris’ Leo’s shuffly drums making me feel like I’m in the marching band if the marching band were made of Bond girls in bikinis who are librarians in their spare time, think about Wham! songs at work, and happen to love coke raps. Snare snare, shuffle shuffle shuffle, til it gets to that liquid center around 02:40, the hot magma. That’s when the bass kicks in and I realize I’m not meant to be in a marching band; what was I thinking. I’m meant to take Stage 2 at Magic City. Throb throb, bassbass throb.
Ignore the fact that the woman who wrote the song was not actually named Bobbie Gentry and probably didn’t have any working-class southern roots. Her father was definitely a senator, Republican of course, and she went to prep school and once kissed a black guy so she felt like she could write songs about struggle and heartache. She made millions. That’s just how the music industry works, sweetie. Even in 1968. Wake up. Bobbie was a semi-cold piece of work, however, with all that big black hair. Plus she wrote her own material and lived my fantasy life of lounging in some tight pants with nothing but her daydreams and a hi-fi to keep her company, and for this I must respect her.
Suitable for bonding with: Kutmasta Kurt. (“Ode to Billie Joe” begat “Sex Style”). Feminist points: KEITH THORNTON. Bisexuals on stage eating Fruit Loops, pornographic thespians, the ladyboys of Thailand: Kool Keith is accepting of all types of femininity, and he’s one of the top 10 most feminist MCs ever*. Raps by guys like Keith and El-P and Danny Brown will always be more inherently feminist than those by Drake, because they don’t pander to us.
* Just relax, think, let it marinate. I’ll do a full explanatory blog post in the future if you guys beg for it.
8. Cold Blood, Thriller! (Reprise, 1973). $5.
I clearly got a bad copy of this, because I see ZERO songs produced by Quincy Jones, hey-oooo. You’ve been a great audience! GOODNIGHT.
Impossible: The first 10 seconds of “Kissing My Love” has allegedly only been looped once or twice on major-label rap songs (??). IMPOSSIBLE. Im possible. Internet, you a goddamn liar.
I am not allowing my hips to reach their full potential because: I have yet to walk down the street to this. Too busy walking down the street to this. (The entire melodic structure and overall hotness of “Loco-Motive” makes up for the previous release from that new Nas album, the Rawse-tainted “Accident Murderers.” That’s the one with Nas’ line about dudes who “rubbed each other wrong like a bad massage,” which is terrible and should be relegated to that inevitable Bieber collab.)
Hustlenomics professor: ME. Finding Thriller! at all is rare; finding Thriller! for $5 in the middle of a major city, surrounded by record dorks who want it so bad, is the result of such a tight hustle that people assume I am tricking or have a record shop connection. I have neither; it’s just the patience hustle, sprinkled with a little dumb-luck hustle. Best hustle of all, though, is the one belonging to Cold Blood’s singer Lydia Pense. She got the band to name their 1974 album Lydia. TIGHT WORK, doll. This would be like Curren$y getting the 504 Boyz to name one of their albums Shante Franklin.
Suitable for Bonding With: Dudes who love everything embodied by Cold Blood – breakbeats, the Bay Area, songs about getting down, and yellow-haired ladies who show their midriffs. So, Danny Brown.
I’d also like to thank Berry for my girls The Honey Cone and Parliament’s Osmium - two things that directly resulted from the Great Holland-Dozier-Holland Middle-Finger-to-Hitsville Peace-Out of 1968. You have to assume that some of the Chairmen’s songs, exceedingly Motown-ish in melodic structure, sprang from the house of Gordy, though. “Men Are Getting Scarce” has one of those tense, panicky openings at which H-D-H-at-Motown excelled (“Bernadette,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love”).
It’s not their fault, but Chairmen of the Board get feminist points deducted because “Give Me Just a Little More Time” is used on that goddamn mop commercial about a lady whose life is passing her by because she cannot stand living with a dirty floor. That fucking floor rules her entire world. Even when she gets the new, quick-use mop, allowing her lots of free time, she chooses to spend this time sitting on her front porch with a cold drink because the housechore goblins have stripped her of all life-force. Blaming Berry Gordy for this whole charade just feels right, so let’s go with that. Anyway, the lady should be using her free time having a super-hot love affair and then going through some heartache, with the closing move of walking away from her man in slow motion, looking at him over her shoulder while “Bittersweet” plays. Please erase any Kanye associationsfrom your brain and only acknowledge this, the one true version, complete with heavenly tempo change right around the 2-minute mark, hands in the air if you ever been in love of the hurtin’ kind, C’MON:
E.L.O.’s got evil cachet but it’s that crazy-old-person concept of evil (Satanic backmasking). It’s a clownish, silly kind of evil. So it makes total sense that El-P, supergrouch and master deconstructor of concepts, uses “Fire on High” for a break in a song about the way life wears a man down to the point that he keeps razors and angel dust on his person, I mean the whole song’s so serious that it does a loop-back and somehow becomes clownish and surreal, two of El-P’s fave things, next to cigarettes, the word fuck, his cat, and Cipro.
E.L.O.’s also got the ’70s prog hair, and Jeff Lynne produced some pretty good Tom Petty stuff (though Lynne is no Iovine or Rubin when it comes to Tom Petty production). This is an impressive list of facts about E.L.O. Impressive indeed. It’s just that this doesn’t solve the case of my missing enjoyment. I own 3 or 4 of their records because I’m open-minded and willing to give anyone a chance. But they are terrible. I mean, in the words of headband aficionado and current global analysis object Frank Ocean, Sweet baby Jesus, E.L.O. is a terrible, boring band.
“Evil Woman” sucks, apart from that banging piano intro. On the feminist front, I cannot legitimately complain about the “Evil Woman” lyrics, because they are too stupid to entertain. “Ha ha, woman – what you gonna do/You destroyed all the virtues that the lord gave you,” goes this terrible piece of music written by professional songwriters with Romney-sized buckets of money, “It’s so good that you’re feeling pain/But you better get your face on board the very next train.” Just my face, E.L.O.? Or the rest of me too? I’m awarding “Evil Woman” Most Feminist Song of my record haul, just to annoy the band because this is the opposite intention with which “Evil Woman” was written. Ha ha, E.L.O. Women have all kinds of tricks up inside of us. You’re just scratching the surface, dummies.
I would not have purchased this record were it not for:
Also suitable for bonding with Curren$y. It says “Copyright Jet Music” on the credits, which is a 1975 nod to the empire Curren$y would build 3 decades later. Here’s hoping this post gets seen by one or both of these men, because I’d love a Curren$y x El-P something, and I am not referring to a song in which one of them gets a “featuring” credit by simply chanting the hook. I am comfortable and cozy around music people, but THE WORD “FEATURING” USED INCORRECTLY is lowdown and dirty. Until you can convince Premier to go back and re-title it “Mass Appeal (feat. Da Youngstas),”the Hook Chant shall cease to merit a “featuring” credit. Good day.
Suitable for bonding with:Josh in apt. 694, who works at the dispensary. Josh, like me, prefers live instrumentation to digi-riddims but Josh, like me, cannot resist the digi-seductions of “Hello Tosh.”
Jeopardy! fact that somehow I was unaware of before this post: “Sensimilla” comes from the Spanish words for “without” (sin) and “seed” (similla). “Coke” comes from the Spanish word for “knucklehead.”
12. The Verve, Urban Hymns (Virgin, 1997). Price classified, like that Sade record I bought a few months ago.
Contrary to what track 4 says, everybody knows that the drugs actually do work. They work nicely. Urban Hymns‘s strings make it fancy, the lyrics make it Caucasian-mopey, and there are just enough drug songs to satisfy. That song “The Rolling People” is about me and my slutty cousin Natalie hanging out with Juicy J and some yellow pokeballs backstage.
“Lucky Man” is the best song on here, prime material for an R&B god to do a version of that makes me cry and want to take my clothes off, but I’d be a fool to ignore the epic influence of walking-down-the-street banger “Bittersweet Symphony.” Rocky rapped over it; I don’t remember a single bar but I’m sure there was something about purple stuff and his stunning beauty. Though successful, this whole Pretty thing remains a tiresome branding technique. Anyway, thinking of Rocky in combination with hearing Naughty By Nature’s “Craziest”on KDAY yesterday has really crystallized my discomfort regarding the lack of a Treach-like flow in 2012. We have Texas flows from New Yorkers and ’90s flows from 17-year-olds, so seems appropriate that we should have a new, baby Treach on the come-up. Let’s go, random baby-voiced teenage girls in Florida with laptop cameras. Rap game’s yours for the taking.
Suitable for bonding with: the same jazz guys I bonded with over Pharoah Sanders and Art Blakey, plus Madlib, because they all think I mean Verve Records when really I’m talking about THEEE Verve. Sigh. It’s hard to talk to space cadets.
Also suitable for bonding with people who enjoy making fun of diminutive professional rapper Big Sean, who is like 5’8″, maybe 5’9″ at the most. Replace every one of his “swerve”s with “VERVE” and you can magically turn “Mercy” into one hell of a song.
Yawn: The boring courtroom-bitchery history of “Bittersweet Symphony.” The Verve v. The Stones is no Prince Paul v. The Turtles, trust me.
Person around whom I’d feel most comfortable: Ashcroft, the band’s chief songwriter. He doesn’t play bass or drums so I will not be having sex with him. We’ll just hang out and talk about Leonard Cohen.
13. Black Science Orchestra, “New Jersey Deep” 12″ [Junior Boy's Own, 2003 (originally '94, though)]. 99¢.
If this purchase needed justification, that justification would go in this space.
Suitable for bonding with: Other carbon-based life forms who have ears and a soul and are constantly dodging the wolves of insignificance.
My guiding philosophy of the day at the BSM could’ve easily been “I like nice shit and I know how to get it/Hustle, dumbass. It’s not rocket science or Quantum Physics.” Nobody likes a dude who brings 2 Chainz or Wiz along, but aside from that, Curren$y’s got that slurry charisma and he’s fantastic, my personal motivational speaker, a tiny Tony Robbins from the bayou who loves a classic Chevelle. His motivational speeches were in my car speakers during the drive to the venue; “Nice shit” refers to records available for purchase; “hustle” might mean Girl I would suggest you bring your hips, but because I am a feminist and I was raised right plus I’m just really shy, this is a corny as hell negotiation technique that I never employ. During the BSM, it was Bellow’s words that turned out to have more staying power in my brain, though. Do your best, wolves; new memories tied to these records are pending, as we speak. Music persons of Los Angeles and parts nearby: see you guys at the next one!
The story goes that swans are silent their entire lives, then cry out once, only when they are dying.
It’s not a true story, mind you—swans are loud and make grating honk noises—but it’s pretty and sad, and that’s why we hold onto it. In 1974, Led Zeppelin named their sparkling new post-Atlantic label Swan Song in tribute to the (untrue) swan-death myth. The label’s logo, a winged, brolic angel crying in pain, is taken from a painting done in tribute to the swan-death myth. The actual myth is Greek, and says that in ancient times, just before Apollo’s birth, a flock of swans circled overhead exactly seven times, singing. Apollo was the god of music; his birth was a glorious event and swans announcing it seems just right. But at some point the story got flipped. A “swan song” is now a death cry—a wrong, ironic meaning that’s now forever part of the Zeppelin story. D’Angelo emerged a couple weeks ago in Tennessee and covered Zeppelin, a glorious event. Somethingsomething Jesus, resurrection, the people rejoicing. The part in D’Angelo’s story where the irony comes in is when he put out an album in 2000 with songs about hair pulling and ass smacking (track 3), and something about wetness and thighs (you know the track). The label that released it: Virgin.
D’Angelo’s set at Bonnaroo contained nothing from Voodoo except for a snippet of “Chicken Grease.” But because it’s D’Angelo, earnest and sober (I think?) and in front of some keys, the audio from the show is still on daily rotation in my headphones thanks to the download link that’s not too hard to find (GO NOW, if you haven’t already GO GO GET IT GO). The setlist contains nothing surprising—Mayfield, The Time, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Parliament of course. The Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” fits in especially nicely, with its weird words and that great drum break after each bar. But it’s his version of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” that lifts the set into next-levels territory. The track bangs, yes, satisfying my heart’s need for grown-man emo and my lower body’s need for bass. But it also satisfies my hungry nerd brain, because its back story makes it such a logical choice for him to cover.
A D’Angelo-Zeppelin meetup was probably bound to happen. Voodoo was recorded at Electric Lady studios; most of Zeppelin’s albums were mixed there. Jimmy Page and D’Angelo are both Rhodes guys, calm and bosslike on the instrument. Robert Plant and D’Angelo each had unpleasant periods involving car crashes and general coke mayhem. And “What Is…,” a dreamy little number at its beginning, settles into that mid-tempo BPM that D’Angelo always slays so easily. “Devil’s Pie” has a BPM of 90; “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine” is 87. “Lady” is 85, and so is the Zeppelin song. “Do do, bop bop a do-oh,” wails Plant at the end of it. The part could be lifted from a Soulquarians vamp session and you wouldn’t know the difference. “My my my my, my-my yeahhh.” You wouldn’t know the difference. D’Angelo and Robert Plant are men who are both fluent in Rural Southern–even though the commonwealth of Virginia is a little too close to Yankee territory for it to be taken seriously as a bluesy place, and Plant is from a town in the English midlands famous for its carpets.
D’Angelo is uncomfortable with his burden of sexiness. I know this from reading Questlove interviews. His public persona is almost swaggerless when it comes to sex (almost). Plant is much more comfortable with his aura of steam and lust – he wrote “What Is…” during his Tolkien-obsession phase and somehow managed to inject unsexy hobbit mythology into Sonny Boy Williamson-esque heavy-riffed gut punchers that he’d sing to willing, sexy girls in the third row. Plant became obsessed with Welsh culture in the late ’60s, druids and the like, mysticism, paganism. (Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when pagans have historically witnessed the sunrise at places like Stonehendge, marking the event with ceremonies celebrating fertility. So, this post could’ve just as easily been about D’Angelo and Spinal Tap.) The thing in the song that “was” but that “should never be,” according to rumor and speculation and this is as good as the gospel to music dorks, is, hold up now: Plant’s relationship with his wife’s sister. Well goddamn. The theme of forbidden desires could therefore link Zeppelin’s “What Is…” with every D’Angelo-tagged post on MediaTakeout (D’Angelo’s own forbidden desires being, of course, narcotics, fatty food and mouthsex). But this is too easy, too shallow. It’s more interesting to consider that Tolkien, like D’Angelo, grew tired of the fans who loved his dumbed-down work. He saw himself primarily as a scholar, not a fairy-tale writer, and he hated that The Lord of the Rings was his biggest success. He would not have cared for Robert Plant’s great fondness for Mordor.
Written in a Tolkien haze, the thing that makes “What Is and What Should Never Be” so satisfying as a song covered by D’Angelo of all people is the very specific type of alienation shared by the two men. They are both people whose messages get distorted when they try to talk to us. “Everybody I know seems to know me well,” goes the closing verse, with the punchline being that nobody who bought their books/albums actually does. For D’Angelo it was his abs, for Tolkien it was his fantasy writings; they both felt a deep resentment for being praised for what they felt were their least important achievements. Tokien’s Hobbit and LOTR were his attempt to construct what he referred to as a “body of myth” – which happens to be exactly the same phrase used by ladies in describing D’Angelo’s form in the “Untitled” video, much to his dismay.
I am neither a pagan nor a Pentecostal at this point. Things are still cloudy for me, belief-wise. Though if God actually exists he will obviously one day fulfill my dream of hearing D’Angelo do the Ohhhh, oh-oh-ohh-ohh-OHHHH to open “D’yer Mak’er.” Its BPM is 90. He’d kill it.