Spinning vinyl ipod app from Theodore Watson on Vimeo.
Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown, recently released her book "The Hip Hop Wars," a study of the question "Is hip hop dead?" In an interview with Time Magazine Tricia Rose was asked what makes some artists more marketable than others, and responded:
There's a long history of a particular pleasure in consuming the ideas of black-ghetto-excess dysfunction. It used to not be ghettoized in setting because black people weren't always urban people, but the same images can be found in American history for centuries. So this idea that a certain kind of sexual deviance or violent behavior defines black culture has had a huge market in commercial mainstream culture for at least 200 years. Also, sexist images, which hip-hop has a lot of, seem to do very well across the cultural spectrum. So sexuality and sexual domination sell. Racial stereotypes sell. The market is more consolidated, which makes it easier for those images to perpetuate themselves.
Central to this discussion is Rose's final point, "the market is more consolidating, which makes it easier for those images to perpetuate themselves." As most critics and artists discuss the viability of hip hop music considering the dilution of politics, family, "hood culture," and the main elements of hip hop, it's easy to conclude that this is largely attributed to the overwhelming emphasis on dance and consumer hip hop.
So let's talk alcohol consumption and hip hop--I'm just tired of hearing about "got my patron" on the radio. There have always been references to bling, alcohol, violence, sex, and a emphasis on dancing in hip hop; rather, as rapper I Self Divine said to me once, "That all used to be a slice of the pie, now people think hip hop, and think that's the whole pie." Honestly, I might post something that chronicles the numerical growth of hip hop business through the references of alcohol, from 40s to Courvoisier and Patron.
So I did some googling, and some digging, and came up with a few things.
1. Did you know Cassidy was trying to get endorsed for his Patron references in his song, "My Drink 'N My Two Step"
2. NPR did a segment which discussed the correlation of alcohol, violence, and listeners of hip hop, which you can find here.
3. KRS-One, the stubborn rap guru, argued that companies like Nike and Smirnoff are helping keep the "true" hip hop by subsidizing classic artists to collaborate.
4. Pete Coors has clearly failed to establish himself at a Patron level.
Imagine the rock star: gleaming in sweat, yet irresistibly sexy and rebellious, vainly involved in their music, but sonically connected to their screaming fans. Calling someone a rock star is a generalization, yet connotes the aura of a certain swagger and musical grace or lack there of. Glasvegas on their first US tour have been opening their performances in the US with female bands like Von Iva or Ida Maria—issuing a comparison of female and male rock bands. On this Thursday night at the Great American Music Hall (GAMH) Von Iva and Glasvegas both performed like rock stars, each unfazed by their lacking superstar status, grabbing the crowd with sex appeal, attitude and good old rock n’ roll.
Von Iva, a three piece female band, is captivatingly brash and undoubtedly sexy. The band is led by vocalist Jillian Iva, whose voice is as penetratingly clear as it is melodically bluesy and strong. She is backed by equal talent with keyboardist Lay Lay and drummer Bex. The hipster friendly trio churn out 80s retro punk-fused rock, driven by hard hitting drum beats, that are melodically soothed by the keyboard and Jillian’s voice.
As I walked into the GAMH Jillian says, “Fuck this,” and steps down into the crowd wearing a black skin tight dress, as she looked for a dance partner. As she returned to the stage, thick with sarcastic arrogance she says, “Was it good for you?” and takes a sip of her whiskey shot. Jillian exudes confidence, a key characteristic of a star, as she struts across the stage and sits on top of the large side speaker, flirtatiously crosses her legs, and belts into the microphone.
Jillian garners most of the attention, but Bex and Lay Lay are by no means upstaged. As Bex head bangs her platinum blond hair to the thrashing rhythm of her pounding sticks, Lay Lay coyly inserts guitar riffs on the keyboard, providing a softer balance to the in your face style of the group. Bex was so absorbed in slamming her drums it seems she thought she was parading down the street in her own marching band. Yet, Von Iva sounds like a singer with a band, rather than a band with a singer. While Lay Lay and Bex are talented musicians, the musical composition seems bare without a guitar or bass.
Wasting no time, Glasvegas began their set with their hit, “Geraldine.” With piercing chords and a strong backbone rhythm, vocalist James Allan sung with long notes aching for his Geraldine. Like punk rock heart throbs, the whole band is dressed in black, with Allan wearing a black leather jacket and oh so popular black Ray Bans. In my opinion, only stars have a cool pass to wear sunglasses in doors.
The band has been lauded as one of the most promising rock bands in 2008 by NME, yet tonight Glasvegas seems like a band with a singer. Allan sounds great on the band’s self-titled debut CD, but tonight, while his vocals melody resonate, his thick accent and muffled projection makes his lyrics incoherent. Where Allan is lacking, guitarist Rab Allan and bassist Paul Donoghue pick up the slack as they slash at the strings, combing out tantalizing riffs over thick bass lines, while being strongly rooted in Caroline McKay’s consistent drumming.
Unfazed by the acoustics, the crowd sung along while bobbing their heads to the groove. With the beginning of “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,” the strobe lights flashed on the bands’ faces, adding an intensity of light to sounds, making their performance also a visual spectacle. At this point the audience’s excitement infectiously resonated through the venue as Allan stopped between songs to say “You guys are fucking gorgeous,”--and then handed a lucky fan his beer.
Rock stars make you forget the drudgery of daily life, and bring you into the overly gaudy, ruckus life of a star. Their shows entrance listeners into dancing, chanting lyrics, and forgetting their anxieties. With intense drumming, and Jillian’s seductive and contagious presence, Von Iva made listeners forget they were openers, playing like headliners. Following in equal fashion, Glasvegas continued to push the energy with pumping rhythms accompanied by catchy guitar riffs. From their first song, there was no looking back, and just accepting the “Go Square Go,” when Allan shouted “Here we, here we / Here we fuckin’ go!”—and here we fucking go!
It’s She & Him on “Rave On,” but technically it’s just him, M. Ward. Zoeey Deschanel sings the hook to this Buddy Holly cover, which true M. Ward’s fashion is more than just a cover of an old song, it feel likes an old song. Refusing to give up his $50 guitar he purchased 10 years ago at a pawn shop, M. Ward, aka Matt Ward, plays a soft rock that is harmoniously soothing and familiar. “Rave on,” feels fitting for a ride to a spring picnic with melding acoustic and electric guitar, Deschanel’s soft background chanting, and the occasional church bells. Oh, oh rave on M. Ward, keeps us preoccupied somewhere soft, light, and safe, away from this dismal economy.
With Walking On A Dream, the debut album by the Australian band Empire of the Sun, comes an intriguing venture into an outer space disco rock. With indie-rock-cooing over psychedelic-electro dance rhythms, the band’s lavish style with overindulging makeup and glitter seems for a lack of a better word--fitting. The duo comprised of vocalist Luke Steele formerly from The Sleepy Jackson and dance producer extraordinaire Nick Littlemore from Pnau, are lost in a world they’ve created.
The best song, and the first single, “Walking On A Dream,” is a bubbling dance hit with pulsating rhythm that drives Steele’s achy vocals. The single sounds like an 80’s ballad saturated in easily digestible lyrics like “thought I’d never see / the love you found in me.” Like the entire album, the band sounds familiarly Daft Punk circa “Aerodynamic” grounded in a contemporary throwback disco-rock characteristic of Phoenix or at best MGMT.
The band seems promising, yet underneath the makeup is a group finding chemistry. While their song “Half Mast” grooves smoothly with its love crying hook “Oh, oh / Honey I need you”, the song ends with a piano solo that’s comparable to local pub’s 80s cover band. “Swordfish Hot Kiss Nite,” bumps like a club track with a rolling funk, yet it sounds cheesy and overdone by repeating hooks over pumping siren and “woos.” While “Walking On A Dream” is playlist worthy, the other tracks either lack catchy hooks, or sound like day dreamy beats.
The talented duo has created a roller skating disco party with a smattering of psychedelic kinks and emotional undertone. Both artists are clearly talented, but on most tracks they don’t compliment each other. Walking On A Dream is more a state of limbo, with an unsatisfying yearning for more substance.
Below are other CD Reviews:
Vieux Farka Toure Fondo
Hip hop in essence is the recycling and recreation of music, including African rhythms, jazz, blues, rock, funk, and soul. Now, El Michels is the recreation of hip hop. With his new album, to be released on April 21st, El Michels takes the classic Enter The Wu-Tang: (36th Chambers) by Wu Tang, and remasters it into a soulful and jazzy instrumental album entitled Enter The 37th Chamber. The album speaks for itself, taking the instrumentals from the original album, and remastering them into a live band format. Simply amazing, oh did I mention--who knew a white band could churn out something so funky, as SFCritic, I'm here to share:
If you liked this check out:
Wale ft. Lady Gaga: "Chillin'"
Chip Tha Ripper
Tomorrow is officially Record Store Day . Celebrated by record stores around the US, their are free shows, and give a ways. Here in SF at Amoeba Records at 5PM Aesop Rock will be performing for free. HOLLA!
The LA based Pharcyde group, best known for their track "Runnin'", brought West Coast lyricism and story telling. A friend suggested to SFCritic to post Pharcyde's "She Says," because of it's smoothness. Reminiscent of 90s rap, lacking auto-tune, and with a simple musical structure with a Boyz II Men-esque singing hook, the track wins me at 1:25 when the midget comes running out on the beach. Also, I've attached my favorite Fatlip (one of the rappers in Pharcyde)songs called "What's Up Fatlip?" Enjoy:
"What's Up Fatlip?"
(Not the best quality, but this isn't easy to come by)
U2- "Get On Your Boot" (Justice Remix)
Glasvegas' debut album was released on 8th September to huge critical acclaim seemingly only shortly after initial interest from their MySpace Demos and Alan McGee's blogs about the band. The self-titled album was co-produced by James Allan & Rich Costey (also worked with Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, Muse) and recorded in New York.
The winners of the 2008 NME 'Philip Hall Radar Award' for most promising new band, they've released two hit singles from the album in Geraldine and Daddy's Gone and were a must-see band at this year's Glastonbury, T In The Park, Latitude, Underage and Reading/Leeds.
Normally as the SFCritic I stay away from childish celebrity gossip--HA! Not today. Recently, Britney left a Vancouver performance prematurely because members of the crowd were smoking pot. Clearly, Spears was jealous that her shit didn't smell as good.
Since losing her child, money, reputation, dignity, and all around positive celebrity status to her backup dancer/rap failure K-Fed--Spears has been in need of a big fat joint. Her tumultuous career has culminated in an amazing song "If You Seek Amy" (Sounds kind of like, "F. U. C. K. Me"--strange huh?).
Unfortunately Spears probably doesn't smoke pot, and instead plans hit jobs on K Fed.
Here is the SOTD I did for Betterpropaganda.com.
DJs spend hours of the day digging in crates just to find a gem like Peter King's "Shango." Ushered in by the flute, the tambourines follow, signaling the beginning of King’s afrobeat-funk, “Shango!” and here we go! There is a gentle playfulness with this song that is simple and inviting. This song is thick with horns going wild over looping guitar riffs. Peter King was a big player in the 1970s, combining afrobeat with a James Brown-like funk. While Fela Kuti or Tony Allen are more recognizable names, Peter King should not be overlooked.
Everything has a context and sometimes it's more important than others. Located in the gentrifying Western Addition neighborhood, which was decades ago home to San Francisco’s jazz district, is Yoshi’s Jazz Club. On this Wednesday evening I saw Alice Russell, a British funk singer with a style comparable to her female contemporaries Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. Imagining hearing Allen at a jazz club might seem strange, but might be fitting for Winehouse if the place were dark and seedy enough--but hearing Alice Russell at Yoshi's was surprisingly more fitting than expected.
Yoshi's, with its modern elegance and ten dollar cocktails attracts a maturer crowd who drink martinis over bottled beers. The club is filled with round tables, with groups of at least three huddled around them drinking their one drink minimums. Russell walks onto the stage wearing a black sequin dress, with a red flower in her hair--an appearance reminiscent of a 1960s jazz singer. For most of the night listeners sit, while Russell and her band play, with those dancing moving to exit rows along the side walls. A feeling of rigidity seems to loom over the crowd, as though this were an opera or a Wynton Marsalis show. The feeling is contagious as the band members sway side to side as though this were their first public recital.
Typically, Alice Russell puts on an energized performance, however this show began in a tentative manner. During the first half of the show the band moves stiffly, and a need for formality seemed to preoccupy them as Russell introduced each song. While their music is animated, they seem lost in front of the crowd. Russell stood firmly in front, rapping her feet almost anxiously, but tentative to move around the stage. By the third song Russell had had enough, “You guys need to move your body, otherwise we get shy,” she exclaimed. She then played “Hold On Tight” a song written during her stint with Quantic Orchestra. The fast rhythm and funky guitar rifts spread across the audience, invigorating what seemed to be a dying crowd. As Russell sang, a gripping aura like the feeling that makes you turn twice for a second glance, surrounded her.
In written context, it seems understandable, if not expected, that a show might begin slowly and build; however, this assumption would disregard a unique aspect of this show. The initial stuffiness and formality of the show might be understood as parallel to the unease by which Yoshi’s has contributed in gentrifying a poor and downtrodden neighborhood that once was a thriving black community for jazz. Couple this fact with Alice Russell--a white, British singer playing a style of music made famous by artists like James Brown and Parliament, and the performance might understood within the context of a historical and contemporary conundrum of black culture being resold and packaged. This is important to note because like a venue differing in size, which would result in a different emotional connection between performer and audience, the space for this show directly affected how the show was heard and interpreted.
Praise must then be awarded to Alice Russell and her band to supersede this unusual stuffiness. In particular, the band's cover of “Seven Nation Army,” a song originally by the White Stripes, hit a chord of familiarity with the crowd, and at the end of the cover the band member raised one arm in unity followed by a roaring applause. From this point on the energy in the room changed, as more members of audiences' moved towards the exit isles to dance. As though both the audience and band released a big sigh, Russell began dancing in circles with her band bobbing their heads like a gesture of encouragement. The show became more playful as one of the band members, a tall and broad man, began strumming away on a ukulele, and singing in a high pitch voice. With each song it seemed a different musician took center stage, and as the pianist took his turn he wasted no time exciting the crowd with his vocal box rendition of a Seasame Street song. If at first Russell's performance fit the context of the changing environment, by the end of the show, her performance more accurately reflected the fun and excitement of funk music. It's easy to describe the social barriers that separate us, but it's harder to imagine the power of music that breaks them. As the audience forgot their surroundings it was Russell's music who consumed them.