"Haven't you heard? Don't you know that space is the place?" - Spaceboys, Space is the Place (Rewind 3)Thirteen. Way too disturbing for me to finish. It's like high quality child pornography. Still making it kiddie porn. I'm not watching R. Kelly's stank ass on video so why am I watching this? Yeah, we're turning it off at the point when the two 13 year olds are making out with the 21/22 year old together and attempting to run their hands up his shorts. Really decent filmmaking and storytelling but I'm not about it. Let's write a fictional short story not make a movie with real kids having to do this shit.
Equilibrium. Why did I put this on my netflix? Christian Bale weirds me out and it's about a world with no feelings yet Taye Diggs is smirking through-out? Yeah, I was asleep in 15 minutes.
Musical Youth. Why don't I own both of their albums (circa 1982 and 1983)? The Lovely Miss Anna Baby has The Youth of Today on vinyl. I'm going to have to find CD versions of both somewhere. Can I spend more money at itunes this month? I don't know.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. I'm not into it. I have to say I've never been able to get into the Final Fantasy Games. I like my RPGs turn-based, I think. Gladius, even with it's far less robust story, had me hooked yet I can't even get into the first aspects of this Final Fantasy world. Which leads me to...
Beyond Good and Evil. French games kind of rock and this one is beautiful with really good gameplay, simple controls, great dialogue and a very intriguing story. That's my new gamecube fun while I ponder my next game for the xbox. Maybe Arx Fatalis?
Stereolab - Margerine Eclipse. How can you go wrong with lounge-y brit-pop from the masters of it? You can't. Another fine music purchase for 2004. It's been a very good year so far. Try Kanye West when you wake up and Stereolab when you're winding down. Nice bookends to the energy of the day. At least my days anyway.
I want to say that The College Dropout reminds me of those Fresh Prince albums when Jeff was still the DJ, and Will was the rapper but I don't want people to get caught up in that. The point I want to make is that Kanye West fills that same void. He represents that persona that we rarely see in American pop culture. He's the middle class black kid. He's more The Wood than Boyz 'N The Hood. The difference between Kanye and Will, though, is that the Fresh Prince was a celebration of being that kid. That kid as cool. Kanye West's rhymes are for that kid who, in 2004, knows that in our current pop culture it's the thug that's sexy, the thug with the cars and the girls, and definitely not the kid with the backpack. He knows that and imitates it and is mad at himself for being a poseur but not having the desire or will to get hood rich nor the self-worth necessary to shake his feelings of inadequacy. He's a kind of Bizarro Dwayne Wayne with all the insecurity and little of the focus, determination and book smarts. It's an admirable concept for an album. If only Kanye was a better rapper.
His rhymes are ragged. He has a tendency to rhyme the exact same word (ending two successive lines with "club" or "felt") and rarely taking the opportunity to play off the different meanings one word might have. He absolutely floors me with what could be a decent turn of phrase by getting Cree Summer's name wrong, even going so far as to spell both her first and last name wrong in the liner notes. Most of the time he's trying to catch up to the beat and on every song he's outclassed by his vibrant hooks or by the guest rappers and many times, by both. Kanye is witty. The themes in every track are smart, often funny, and very timely. It's just unfortunate that he didn't spend as much time writing in his notebook as he did behind the boards.
The song production is luscious. Each track is a full-bodied funky head-nodder. He distills the power of Lauryn Hill's best track on her disjointed unplugged album on All Falls Down and twists an old Marvin Gaye track on I'll Fly Away into a song that, without Kanye's lyrics, would sound just as at home on Donnie's The Colored Section from last year. I could actually see Jesus Walks making it's way to radio. It's awfully urban playlist friendly even with the heady material and the sincerity. There are a few too many skits but every actual song is just really adept hip hop. It's nice to hear such grand sounding music after spending the last two years with a lot of minimalist and electronic beats. There's nothing wrong with that but, damn, I'm on the west coast...sometimes I need a real funk record.
The standout song is Get 'Em High. It's a simple enough concept with Kanye explaining his lack of skill with the ladies, particularly dealing with a girl he met on blackplanet.com. It's one of the few times on the album when his rhyming is up to par. He's flowing well, he's on pace with the beat, and it's hot. He has to because Talib Kweli and Common are on the track and they drop some of their illest raps in a while. Common's is particularly strong and suggests that he's returned from the Electric Circus and is back to "real nigga quotes." His verse is just ridiculous and sits atop this hard driving bass line. The track is particularly of note because all three artists seem to be rapping outside their normal boxes. The conscious rappers on a track about hooking up, the lazy rapper actually putting in the effort to come correct.
I'm not sure if the sum of this album is greater than it's parts or if all the outstanding individual parts make up for the lack of great rapping by Kanye. It's a true head-nod masterpiece, I just wish that he was a better wordsmith. It's a definite shift in hip hop, though. It's most noticeable on the track that Jay-Z guests on. Jay is an amazing rapper whose subject matter has always been a three-trick pony (money, cash, hoes). On this album, Jay-Z's posturing felt really tired for the first time. I wanted to hear him talk about something else.
If anything, Kanye West's The College Dropout proves that you can.
I meant to post this at the end of January but life death got in the way.
My January 2004 faves...as one CD. 74 MBs. 1.2 hours long. (February is going to be a pain in the ass as I keep adding and doing very little cutting)
Too Young - Phoenix
Somebody - Deee-Lite
Sugar Honey Iced Tea - Kelis
Encore (featuring John Legend, Don Crawley, Leonard Harris & Kanye West) - Jay-Z
Nothing - Don Cello & Jaguar Wright
If I Ain't Got You - Alicia Keys
Hello, It's Me - Todd Rundgren
Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far) - The Thrills
Breathe - Open Door
What's Your Name - Leon Ware
Slow Jamz (Featuring Kanye West & Jamie Foxx) - Twista
adrian brody does not = adam brody no matter how many times my brain can't get it right.
black people that think the idea of gay people being "a little less equal" is just fine are on my damn nerves. No. That doesn't do it justice. Claiming the bible doesn't want it is bullshit. The bible also doesn't think slaves should rise up against their masters. Call me when you've got something real. Until then, I don't want to hear it brothers and sisters. I'm calling Bullshit.
San Francisco gives me hope for my state and this nation. Maybe we're on a better track than I thought.
For a brilliant producer, Kanye West is a pretty mediocre rapper. Nice tracks on The College Dropout (particularly All Falls Down and Spaceship) but I don't think the producer can get rhymer legitimacy with this outing. More on this later.
Maps by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs is my favorite song right now.
Don't tell anyone but Britney Spears' Toxic is kind of growing on me.
Everyone should read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" if only to remind ourselves that we don't really know shit about the world in which we live and what we do know, we just barely know it.
There's so many rappers in love on the radio.
I couldn't get into NFL Street.
There's so many fake ass thugs...on the radio.
I'm not really sad that Angel is being cancelled.
Chris Rock's Black Ambition Tour is the funniest 3 hours you could possibly have.
Chris Rock's Black Ambition Tour has me missing the old n_gr_ pl__s_ hangman.
Celebrity basketball games at the great western forum, despite performances by Outkast, Murphy Lee, David Banner, and Kanye West and appearances by B2K (sans Omarion), Snoop Dogg, Free, Shemar Moore, Kim Whitley, Bow Wow, and others, are mad niggerish. And Kobe's daddy's goofy ass loves dancing to hip hop. And why could they only get 5000 people for a charity basketball game of this magnitude during All-Star Weekend?
We really need to retire the throwback jerseys.
Niggerish is one of my new favorite words. Hate nigger. Love niggerish.
I really hope Carrie ends up alone on Sex and the City.
If you haven't seen the last two episodes of Chappelle's Show, you're leading a sad existence.
For real this time.
I want to redo the whole site. I'm kind of spent on the "diary" side of this and haven't had the time to really be about some pop culture reviews & criticism or to sink my teeth in some new fiction (gosh when was the last time I wrote fiction here? The Lonely Little Wonton? damn).
So, later for negroplease.com and later for you. The Blog Body Shop and I are going to really rebuild this joint from scratch. It might take a hot minute (like maybe a month) but I'll be on the comeback at some point.
I was going to just go dark and close down but I'm too erratic for that. I reserve the right to post nonsense in this space while I claim I'm on hiatus.
Now go get AIR's Talkie Walkie and Norah Jones' Feels Like Home. Universal Traveler is the standout track on AIR's joint and all of Norah's is pretty strong but I'm partial to the Dolly Parton duet, the Duke Ellington cover and the track Humble Me..
And check out the archives. I've written a ton of shit.
Later for you.
"And it burns, burns, burns..." - This Kid Named Miles, Ring of Fire (Rewind! 3)
Why I want to listen to songs about murder when I'm sad about death, I don't know. Maybe it's because Johnny Cash distills the fragility of life and the remorse after it's gone so well that it's soothing. Mixing that with his love ballads and you've got a strong cocktail of joy and sadness for your melancholy gray days. I gloss over the "god" tracks, for some reason. I don't really dislike them. They just aren't feeding my emotional drunkenness like the rest. It might be cultural. While Cash can connect with me on many areas, his spiritual sensibilities don't hit my core like Lizz Wright's Salt (see below).
And then, when it's time to sober up and really deal, I turn to American IV. Stark, powerful, beautiful. It all sounds pretty amazing but this week, I've really enjoyed the duet with Fiona Apple - Tear-Stained Letter.
Cash was for Monday. By Tuesday, I wanted to be angry, righteous and rebellious. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros' Streetcore and The Clash: The Singles was my protest music. Joe Strummer's raspy voice over vibrant live instruments with lyrics that encourage one to fight the good fight and think and listen and speak and react pushed me back into my life. Joe Strummer doesn't let you wallow in your sorrow. Get up and do something about it he commands with his true punk rock. And you do. You work through the pain. You get the job done. You keep living.
Then there's time for reflection. Looking at what has come to pass and envisioning what lies ahead requires a settled spirit. Jazz is the soundtrack. Kem's Kemistry and Lizz Wright's Salt resonate in ways that they didn't last year. I enjoyed the albums when they came out but they weren't "special" at the time. They are special today. Lizz Wright's weaving of gospel into her traditional jazz album has me thinking about church and why, at times, there's a hunger for those black congregations and their superstar choirs. Along with the two Verve Unmixed albums, they've allowed me to notice today is a beautiful day while still remembering the gray ones that came before.
Added bonus, for when you must take a break from death, there's room for the groove. Zero 7's Simple Things Remixes, Koop's Alternative Takes, and Ubiquity's compilation Rewind! 3 are what the doctor ordered. Because life is always about reinvention.
Everyday until your last is a new remix. And then, even in death, those who honor you will reinvent you to fit their needs.
When you remember me, remember the horns and the bassline and forget the chorus. Sample my verses or the bridge. Find the parts of my song that nobody else caught but that you know is really the fire.
When you remix me, make it hot.
"This is the Ramshackle Day Parade for all those lost and born in our name." - Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, Ramshackle Day Parade (Streetcore)
So, I guess I should explain why I've been on a freak out the last week. One of my bosses succumbed to breast cancer last week just 3 days after one of the women I've worked closely with died from ovarian cancer.
These aren't my friends. They aren't my family. They are, however, people I've seen more often than my friends and family for the last 5 years. I've talked to them daily, argued and battled with them, learned from them. A good portion of what I know about the look and feel and style of television I learned from Bonnie. Much of what I know about thinking outside of my limitations and working hard to get the best of what I do, I've learned while cursing MEB for being crazy and demanding.
So coming to this building since Friday has been an exercise in frustration and sadness. I'm working on memorial ads for them. They stare back at me from my computer screen in grayscale silence. I'm honored that I get the opportunity to represent them in this way but thinking about their absence kind of gets to me.
Their presence creeps up on me. In the credits to our shows; in a not-so-old email; in graphics projects I've worked on with them; in memos about ratings success and company policy.
I was Bonnie's Secret Santa a few years ago; I helped MEB with her home computers and helped search for her lost dog. We never found him.
I've gone through this long, hard road to death thing a few times in the past couple years. I'm the optimist. I'm never ready for it. I imagine, however, that no matter your outlook on life every time it's taken, it's a shock.
And while my back is feeling much better, I've found myself with a cold and because I'm an idiot, I had soup yesterday to battle the cold and, of course, burned the roof of my mouth.
How do you fix that?
How do you fix all of it?
"The horse he kept running, the rider was dead. I hung my head." - Johnny Cash, Hung My Head (American IV: The Man Comes Around)
...and, if you've got a dollar or ten or a hundred or a thousand to spare, donate to one of the following:
American Cancer SocietyNational Breast Cancer Coalition Fund
1101 17th St. NW, Suite 1300
Washington DC 20036
or support the music that's helping me deal with a little too much loss and bullshit in the past 7 days...
Thanks a bunch.