XXL magazine, the occaisionally good hip-hop rag, has been blogging of late, and they let go a doozy today, an exclusive interview with Rakim. It's pretty interesting, with more on the way. Rakim is one of the only 80s rappers whose style still sounds fresh, though it no longer sounds revolutionary, perhaps because almost every rapper since the early 90s has copped it. This week's show featured two of his classic tracks, "I Ain't No Joke" (an early classic) and "Casualties of War," a classic from the early 90s.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Paris was best known as "The Black Panther of Hip-Hop," a college-educated West Coast version of Public Enemy's Chuck D. He kickstarted some serious controversy when he tried to release an album called "Bush Killa," with a picture of him hiding in the bushes (get it?) of the White House lawn with a big f'ing gun.
In the mid-90s, he retired from the rap game and became (what else?) a capitalist. He made some bank as a stockbroker and real estate investor, then returned to hip-hop with "Sonic Jihad" a couple years ago. That album was really spectacular, with Paris' G-Funk meets Bomb Squad production, heavy on hooks, melody, and big big bass, and his booming voice doing the Chuck D thing with some thought-provoking revolutionary lyrics.
Now personally, I don't think that the President should be killed, or that he planned 9/11 (both of which are among the more... uh... exciting ideas he presents on that album), but I do think that a lot of what Paris was bringing to light in that record was vitally important. And while the inflammatory cover (which featured a jet headed for the White House) may have obscured the music, the music was exceptionally good.
Paris has been working with Public Enemy, Kam, and dead prez on a new record for the label he runs, Guerrilla Funk, called Hard Truth Soldiers. An interesting review below.
Here's a question: to what extent do you feel The Sound of Young America should host artists with strong political messages? I'm not really interested in banning politically-active artists from the show or anything, I'm just worried particularly when they're talking about explicitly political projects. I've generally avoided this in the past, partly because I worry about the inherent bias of my cultural situation and personal political views. I'd love to hear thoughts.
Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford
Official Impression of The New Sincerity
I was coming out of my gym here in Toronto today and downstairs outside the Whole Foods market there's a guy with his French pug talking dog talk with someone. Super cute dog so I go in for a little owner-authorized pet.
The owner? One Jason Bateman.
I introduced myself (he's a super nice guy BTW and his hair is mesmerizing) and we get talking about the site and the show.
Here are the things I remember (and he gave full blessing to post the info as he loves the site and you guys but he's too shy and too cute to post on the boards):
- Mitch loves you guys and it was nice to see people getting the show and enjoying the show especially at times when network directives were "make the show 30% dumber"
- Showtime has picked up the show for 2 years at 12 episodes a year (maybe it was 13) with a third year option
- The ball is in Mitch's court and Jason said Mitch will be making that decision within the next 24-48 hours though I don't know if that means we'll know about it at that time or not
At least things seem to be coming to a head. My fingers are certainly crossed.
Looks like Molly Shannon and Mike White are teaming up...
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It's dog days ahead for Molly Shannon.
The former "Saturday Night Live" player is in final negotiations to star in the comedy "Year of the Dog," which marks the directorial debut of actor/writer Mike White ("School of Rock," "The Good Girl").
Shannon will play Peggy, a happy-go-lucky secretary who lives alone with her beloved dog Pencil. But when Pencil unexpectedly dies, Peggy embarks on a journey of transformation. The project has no scheduled start date yet. It is set up at Paramount's specialty arm.
White wrote the screenplay for "Dog" with Shannon in mind. The two met on the short-lived Fox TV series "Cracking Up," which Shannon starred in and White created.
Shannon is in West Virginia shooting "Evan Almighty," where she is playing a real estate agent opposite Steve Carell. She appears in Sofia Coppola's "Marie-Antoinette," which will premiere at Cannes in May.
White's only misstep in a sterling career so far was Cracking Up, which was quite the stinker. That said, Shannon shares White's tone... hilarious, but disquieting. I have high hopes for this thing.
Greg Daniels is the Executive Producer of The Office on NBC, which is the funniest show on television right now, and in my book, the best sitcom since Seinfeld (really? yeah, I'm pretty sure). There's a very interesting chat with him up on the Washington Post's website.
Greg Daniels: It was hard to adapt this show because the British series is so perfectly executed and tailored to Ricky G, who also co-wrote and co-directed it. The pilot was close to the British series because I adapted it before casting the American actors, and after casting I didn't want to open the whole process up to network notes. Once we got past the pilot though, we came up with new stories and wrote the first six. Then we shot the first six, and after that I edited the first six. It was after they were completed that we learned the most about what was working and how to tailor things more to Steve. By the time the second season started, we had also been blessed by Ricky and Stephen Merchant and the critics and the lovers of the English show, so some of the pressure was off and we could start to play around a little more.
I posted once before about Jonathan Katz doing a faux-call-in show for NPR's Next Big Thing. Transom.org has a really cool behind the scenes look at the making of those segments, which features lots of audio from them. Man, is this stuff great.
There's been quite a bit of invective flying around the blogosphere on the subject of The Clipse (and their ilk) and the Indie Rock Community. Pitchfork Media, the website reviled by every indie elitist for being so absurdly indie elitist, has made some moves towards hip-hop recently, not least of which was picking The Clipse's "We Got It For Cheap: Vol. 2" mixtape as one of the best albums of 2005.
For those who don't know, the Clipse are a rap duo from Virginia Beach, affiliated with superprodcers The Neptunes. Their big hit, "Grindin'" was typical of their near-total lyrical obsession with cocaine dealing. They are the kind of guys who brag about learning to deal drugs as small children from their grandmother.
Anyway, the charge against the indie hipsters from the hip-hop hipsters goes something like this:
For a long time, the rock intellegentsia was uncomfortable with hip-hop. They were OK with Public Enemy (political lyrics, noisy beats), and some were into the whole Native Tongues thing (presence of jazz, less mean stuff). Then when hip-hop hit the mid-90s P. Diddy era, they checked out.
Indie rock & the rock snobs embraced hip-hop in the late 90s, with the "alternative" hip-hop movement, which decended from the Native Tongues. Folks like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, et al. Later on, folks like Jurassic 5 and Black Eyed Peas took this thread and made it astonishingly corny, but the indie rockers notice for a while -- they didn't actually care about hip-hop any more than they cared about country music when they owned a couple Johnny Cash compilations and that Loretta Lynn CD that Jack White produced.
Of course, eventually, the indie rockers figured out that BEP and J5 weren't "cool." So they dropped them like a hot potato (there are still some J5 holdouts, but whatever). Their quest to find "authentic" hip-hop took them towards white rappers, like Aesop Rock and Sage Francis, who made up for their lack of flow/voice/blackness with complex lyrics and a lot of talk about how hip-hop they were.
At some point, the hipsters figured out that this white rapper stuff was distinctly uncool (this whole time, they were thinking the opposite). So they switched up. All of a sudden, they were advocating for new twists on hyper-traditional street hip-hop, stuff like Camron and the Diplomats, and the Clipse. This was "authentic hip-hop," in their eyes. This allowed them to like Jay-Z (or at least Reasonable Doubt), even though his music was good to dance to, and Beanie Sigel even though it was violet but not revolutionary. And that's where we stand today. End scene.
The argument on the hip-hop side is that this represents some kind of racism on the part of the indie rockers. They're defining blackness or authenticity in association with drug dealing and violence. Then they're living vicariously through this blackness/danger, like everybody's always saying 15-year-old white suburbanites do with 50 Cent records.
My personal inclination is to agree with the hip-hop side, but as a white guy, who hangs out with indie rockers most of the time, I feel like I have a bit of insight into it.
Indie Rock critics are used to tremendously shattered genres. Shoegaze-agro-jazzcore or whatever. They've also developed, over the past thirty five years, a very specific perspective that allows them to glorify pop music as an art (which was tough, especially in the beginning).
One of the things that gets rock critics off is aesthetic purity. Robert Johnson is 1000% Robert Johnson. The Sex Pistols are 1000% the Sex Pistols. Johnny Cash is 1000% Johnny Cash. They reward artists that find their genre niche, their identity niche, and really do the s**t out of it. When this idea moves from Pioneers like the above to the super-sub genres, it means doing the heck out of those super-sub genres... the Strokes got famous for really really being The Strokes, even if what that is is kind of limited. (I don't mean to suggest that derivativeness is part of this, although it can be).
This thinking oftend doesn't translate all that well to hip-hop. Hip-hop records and artists tend to be very self-contradictory -- that's part of their appeal. Thug/lover archetypes popularized by LL and later Tupac, for example. Rapping and singing on the same track ala Ja Rule and 50 Cent. Hip-hop artists also tend to want to appeal to a broad audience. Most of Jay-Z's records have lots of different sounds, and lots of different ideas of what Jay-Z is (gangsta, dealer, lover, party animal, etc).
There are of course artists with very specific and clear identities and aesthetic focuses... and guess what? They're the ones being celebrated these days. The Clipse are the perfect example of this. They have this thing they do -- which is be snide and scary and rap about drugs. They do it GREAT. Camron and the Dipset are the same, plus an added aesthetic distinction -- they have a very unique and interesting style.
Of course, this idea really helped a lot of past rock critics' darlings, too. Kool Keith leaps to mind. The Def Jux-y guys. Jurassic Five even.
I think the main difference now vs. three years ago is that rock critics are getting more comfortable with the idomatics of hip-hop. There was a time that they could only deal with the anger if it was "political." They're getting over that. Most of the critics darlings still have either very hard, agro sounds or softer, native-tonguesy sounds, but that's changing too. And everybody likes Kanye, right?
I guess my thesis here is that there is some racial weirdness in this, but it's less than it once was, not more. This is more of a symptom of a classic problem -- applying rock standards to another genre/culture. But it's a step in the right direction.
Per Variety. Futurama is ironing out a deal now.
More evidence that the future of media is tied to things people like, not things people will tolerate.
"The network had made its peace with 'King' wrapping up," says 20th Century Fox TV prexy Gary Newman.
Then the call came: Fox execs had gone through an 11th-hour change of heart and wanted "King" back after all...
"When you're lucky enough to create a franchise that resonates with audiences, you have to do everything you can to preserve them -- and support their longevity," Newman says.
King of the Hill, by the way, has probably been the most underrated show on television since it's inception.