Only Old Dudes and Indie Rockers Make (critically acceptable) Protest Music
From the NYTimes
"The protest song, rocked-up slightly from its folky 1960's form, has been making a comeback during the Iraq war, from arena bands like Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones and Green Day to indie-rockers like Bright Eyes and blues-rockers like Keb' Mo' and Robert Cray. Bruce Springsteen's latest album is a tribute to the protest-song mentor Pete Seeger, although it features old folk songs rather than Mr. Seeger's topical material."
Here's what Neil Young told the LATimes about his new album, Living With War:
"I was waiting for someone to come along, some young singer 18 to 22 years old, to write these songs and stand up," Young said. "I waited a long time. Then, I decided that maybe the generation that has to do this is still the '60s generation. We're still here."
Yeah, no one has the courage except for you, Neil. Nevermind The Coup, Juvenile, M1, the new Mr. Lif, Immortal Techique, Kanye West, and too many others to mention. I love Neil Young as much as the next guy, but he needs to recognize.
When a politically-pointed hip-hop act comes around, the hip-hop/pop critical establishment (and wannabe hipsters such as Andrew Gaerig) say, 'No one wants to hear that.' But when a rock star like Young releases an album, the rock crit establishment stands up and applauds. I realize that they're two different sets of critics, but still...
The Art of Jacek Sroka
...as interperted by me
Sometimes, life is just too much.
I feel as if I'm personally under seige.
Art and entertainment provide no refuge, and my dreams only add to my confusion and paranoia.
I lash out at those I love.
And in the process, I hurt myself.
But I can at least take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in this misery.
Hip-hop reviews 101
If you're not a music critic, or have no interest in music criticism, turn back now. This will bore you.
When writing a review, or anything for that matter, it's really difficult not to dip into cliche -- both in what you say and how you say it. It's particularly difficult when you only have 150 words and taking certain critical shortkuts seems like the only way to jam your thoughts into a review. (I cringe everytime I write "conscious," but readers know exactly what I'm talking about.) One thing that I do to make sure that I don't lean too heavily on cliches is to imagine the review without specific mention of the artist and album and make sure that I'd still be able to decipher the subject of a review. Example:
For years, ARTIST has been spinning in his own orbit, releasing what seems like fifteen albums a years and becoming increasingly oblivious of (and invisible to) the rest of us. For ALBUM
, ARTIST delivers his usual blend of sci-fi lunacy, triple-X sex rhymes and B-grade braggadocio that alternates between the surrealist and the nonsensical. ARTIST is celebrity obsessed -- though his frame of reference is stuck in the '70s. He hangs out with the Bob Hope and Pope, hands out an autograph to Joe Jackson (correctly identified as "Janet's father"), and comments on a mysterious character who's "coming in from Budapest looking like Burt Lancaster." It's Hollywood Squares as hosted by Ray Bradbury, directed by Russ Meyer and screened at an empty Midnight cinema. It's a mess…but thanks to the beautifully warped and lavishly detailed production of PRODUCER, it's a very listenable mess.
Can guess who this is?
At my new job as hip-hop editor for rhapsody.com, I only have around 60 words (375 characters) to express my thoughts on an album. (they have since upped the word count sligthtly). I don't care how good you are at compaction, there's very little of substance that you can say.
If previous Kelis singles (e.g., "Young, Fresh N' New" and "Milkshake") were the equivalent of post-fem hot pants -- hot and bothering -- then "Bossy" is catty couture, a yellow fog of seduction that rubs its whispered threats and slinky boasts against the track's smartly slight production. "You don't have to like me," Kelis mutters, "but you do have to respect me."
On a good day, I'll do like 20 of these.
Anyway, I'm sure that this intrigues to no one, but that's exactly how many people read this blog...
Has it come to this?
An open letter to Andrew Gaerig re: his Coup Review.
Since Andrew's e-mail addy via Stylus is not functioning, I'll just post this here.
You can read the original review right here.
It's rare that I take the time out to comment on someone else's review, but you were way off base with the Coup album. Here are the reasons why:
X -- As much as I like Lil Wayne and Juvenile, they're not in the same league as Boots when it comes to political raps. I'm not really sure why Wayne even qualifies as "conscious," and Juveniles' worldview (even on the great "Get Your Hustle On") seems to involve selling cocaine. Not saying that cocaine and the revolutoin are mutually exclusive, but Boots is a little more involved than that.
X -- I care about Boot's politics. And a lot of those who aren't caught in this bubble of form-worshipping, post-millennium hipster detachment do still care about politics in music. If nothing else, as an experienced reviewer, you should know not to tell the reader what they do or don't care about.
X -- About half way through, you go from criticizing Boots for letting political philosophies blur his judgment to making a few brief (and incredibly off-base) assumptions regarding liberal guilt.
X -- “Head (of State)" is hilarious. U R crazy.
X -- Throughout this album, and over the course of his entire career, Boots has strove to show the correlations between political and personal upheavals.
Honestly, it sounds as though you're regurgitating the company line regarding political hip-hop. It's easy for a critic-from-privilege to be dismissive of the subgenre, and I won't try to unknot the incredibly tangled cultural, racial and class issues that bring about this attitude, but I will say that I believe you unfairly dismissed one of the best hip-hop albums of this year.
Here's my Rhapsody.com review of the new Coup:
The Coup understand that there are no easy answers in life or politics, so instead of going for the easy route of anti-Bush screeds, the true heirs to Public Enemy's throne of agitprop hip-hop opt for the dicey task negotiating political disillusionment with personal salvation. "I'm a walking contradiction like bullets and love mixin'," is the album's first line, and over the course of Weapon's 17 tracks, frontman Boots declares himself "Kunta Kinte with a Mack 10," reassures his girlfriend that they're "in bed together like Bush and Hussein" and confesses that "I'm here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor/and maybe make the revolution come quicker." The album reaches its zenith on the sultry and apocalyptic "BabyLet'sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethin'Crazy." Good luck finding a better hip-hop album this year.
Okay, fools. I'm back. I have a lot of stuff that I want to get off my chest, and this seems like the perfect spot for it. New Times
How the New Times corp dealt with Doug Simmons was pretty pathetic. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out their "press release" announcing Simmons' departure: http://villagevoice.com/news/0611,news,72525,2.html). I don't care if he did fuck up with Nick's "article," you still have to show the man a degree of professional courtesy and respect. It isn't like he was a witch that deserved to be burnt in the town square. At worst, he was incompetent in face of tremendous stress (and believe me, New Times likes their editors stressed and paranoid -- it's a motivational tactic).
I remember the first week that I began working with New Times (I was the music Editor for the Miami edition, if you don't know). There was a big inner-office controversy that went public and caused a big stink in New Times land. One of my supervisors had insulted her subordinates on a blog entry. She said some very cruel and vicious things…stuff that probably would've gotten most people fired, honestly. But she also had a successful column and had allies within the New Times corp, so she got by with a suspension. Corporate did, however, send an emissary to lecture us about professionalism, common courtesy and the like. Maybe lecture wouldn't be the right word…more like berate us. I had been there a total of five days and was thinking, what the hell have I gotten myself into. Anyway, in light of how they handled Simmons perhaps Lacey and co. could stand to take some of their own advice re: professionalism. I wish that I could say that things got better after that…maybe with time I'll disclose more.
My tenure at New Times wasn't entirely negative, I have to say. My co-workers were generally cordial and friendly, and (aside from the example listed above) my liaisons with the corporate brass were rarely contentious. I will say that there was a certain vision that New Times corporate has for their papers, and specifically the music section. I don't think that I'm revealing anything when I say that there is less emphasis on music criticism and more on humor and very provincial sort of reportage. (This isn't to say that there isn't a lot of great writers and editors in the New Times chain.) I thought that I could adapt to this Blender format without sacrificing the integrity of my section, but it did prove difficult. I might go into more detail later…or maybe not.
In the end, I guess it doesn't matter. The Daily Show
I'm done with it. It makes me sick that this is the primary source of news for my demographic (and at this point, saying "my demographic" feels a lot more accurate than saying "my generation"). I can't decide whether we're so jaded, stunned or (collectively) depressed that we have to view everything through the lens of irony. I decry it, but I guess that I also understand this. After all, I've become increasingly detached from current affairs. The 2004 election was a turning point in how I view my country. HIS re-election left me frustrated, helpless, and repulsed. I was reinvigorated for a minute after Katrina, but ennui is a bitch.
I saw the brave Ward Churchill on Hannity and Colmes last night. I don't think that Churchill's tone is particularly constructive, but last night he was like this shining beacon of truth…no, "shining beacon of truth" isn't the metaphor/ cliché I'm looking for…more like an albatross of honesty that Hannity was doing his best to cut loose with the usual (and shameful) patriotic rhetoric. The mild-mannered Colmes (Hannity's liberal enabler) was inept as usual. The New Ghostface
Oh shit…this is so good. I'll write about this and provide a rap-up of all the music that's come since my last post next time. I promise.