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Message to the Messengers

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Earlier today, one of my favorite hip-hop blogs, Oh Word, linked to this post I wrote appreciating The Coup's classic "Me & Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Grenada Last Night." The self-same post included a link to a very interesting piece on Big Daddy Kane's use of lyrical irony, and that reminded me that I once wrote a piece that argued for Boots as a Gramscian "organic intellectual," as well as a self-aware pracitioner of the griot tradition. It also related Boots to two folks who had come up in the class, Nikki Giovanni and Gil Scott-Heron.

Anyway, I thought some folks who read this blog might enjoy it. Keep in mind I wrote it when I was 19, and I still don't have any advanced degrees or anything, so... you know... be gentle. Also, like everything I wrote when I was 19 (and shoot, even today), I'm pretty sure I only made one draft :). I must admit that I was too chicken to re-read it all these years later.

Heeding the Message to the Messengers: Boots Riley & the Griot Tradition

The Coup - "Me & Jesus the Pimp"

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There's beauty in the cracks of the cement
When I was five I hopped over them wherever we went to prevent
whatever it was that could break my momma's back
Little did I know that it would roll up in a Cadillac

Why didn't I know that TSOYA listener / king of the rap nerds Noz started a new hip-hop video blog? It's as good as his long-running MP3 blog Cocaine Blunts & Hip-Hop Tapes, which is pretty much the place to be to hear some Hobo Junction single from 1992 and read some trenchant commentary about the little kid who's inexplicably rapping on it.

Anyway, one of the first videos that caught my eye in the collection was for The Coup's "Me & Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Grenada Last Night." I'm pretty sure I think this is the most emotionally powerful hip-hop track ever recorded. The first time I heard it, I cried.

The song, built around a live band and a sample from live Funkadelic 45, is a tragic one. A young man goes for a ride with his father -- a pimp who was recently released from prison. As they ride, the young man considers the values he learned from his father's prison letters, and re-evaluates where he stands in the world.

If you're familiar with the song, check out the video above. If you're not, and you're not experienced enough in the hip-hop world to follow lyrics closely, maybe you should hit play, and open the lyrics of the song in a new window (usually it's right click on the link - then "open in new window") so you can follow along.

The first few times I heard the song, I thought of it as a stirring personal story. The more I thought about it, though, the more I was convinced that Boots intended it as a socialist/feminist allegory -- a commentary on how capitalism mistreats women, and how men are so often complicit in that mistreatment. You might consider that the second or third time through.

Boots' gift as an MC isn't so much his politics, or his somewhat pedestrian Too Short meets Ice Cube flow. Instead, it's the masterful way he can wrap his Big Ideas in relatable terms. His rhetoric is touching... inspiring... even funny. Most "political rappers" traffic in big talk, The Coup traffic in little touches.

PS: if you run into the Coup, let Boots know their Marxist asses still owe KZSC $500. Long story.

PPS: Here's a paper I wrote about the Coup in college. It was quite some time ago, and I was 19, please be gentle.

Paging Mr. Herman

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Man, Pee-Wee Herman on the Letterman show in 1984. I really don't think there has been any entertainer who has been more important in my life than old P.W. Herman. Used to watch "Playhouse" every Saturday morning with my mom, absolutely without fail. When it was cancelled, I was heartbroken. Fuckers.

"Sasquatch" weighs in on Studio 60

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I've been thinking about posting something about how dissapointed I was with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip's second episode. Themes I was thinking of including were: "why so much camera-swooping?" and "what's with the music? is this Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and "why no fun?"

Then Aspecialthing.com's beloved pater familias, In Search of Sasquatch (known in the real world as podcast producer Matt Belknap of AST Radio and Never Not Funny), said it better than I ever could have. Like me, he was a big Sorkin fan (love that Sportsnight) and defended the first episode, but like me, he's gone sour on the whole proposition.

Here's what Matt had to say:

"I don't think Aaron Sorkin would know good sketch comedy if it shit in his mouth. We've seen what he thinks is funny (snobby historical references, obvious social, religious and political jabs), so why would he want real comedy writers coming in to muck up his genius?

I will hang in there until the bitter end with this show, but it's fast approaching indefensible. You can't write about comedy if you don't know what makes good comedy. Sorkin could probably take on anything else in the world and make it work, but this is his Achilles heel. His humor only works when the characters aren't meant to be funny for a living -- CJ Craig is funny for a press secretary, but if she were running a network comedy show it would be a disaster (well, it would be Studio 60).

Also, these characters are incredibly pompous and self-absorbed, which would be fine (and realistic) except Sorkin's presenting them as people we're meant to like, admire and respect. Again, I don't mind high-minded and principled characters on a show about the White House, because I want our leaders to be high-minded and principled -- Bartlet being a proud intellectual was a reaction to Bush, and it made sense. But in the TV business, it's ludicrous. These characters have no perspective on what they do for a living, and act like they're saving the world by producing empirically bad sketch comedy. If the comedy they were doing was good, the rest might be permissible. If they acknowledged what they were doing was bad (or at least unimportant), it might be tolerable. If any aspect of the world Sorkin & Co. are creating rang true, maybe the show would work. So far, though, they're moving further away from all that with every new episode."

"Hear hear!" says I.

Contest Winners!

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First of all, thanks to everyone who told a friend about The Sound of Young America in order to enter the contest, and all who have done it over the past few years because... well... they like the show. My "marketing budget" is some stickers and your help. Thanks!

Now... the winners...

Ryan wins DVDs of At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set!
Aaron wins Season Two of Arrested Development!
Joe C. wins Season One of The Bill Cosby Show!
Lauren wins The Best of The Awful Truth and The Sinners Guide to the Evangelical Right!

I'll email you all to get your addresses. There weren't any super-creative entries, so no super-creative prize, but don't worry friends, there are plenty more contests in your future. IT PAYS TO PLAY.

Sound of Young America Banners

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If you'd like to help spread the word about The Sound of Young America, you can use one of these great banners... we have a variety of sizes for you to choose from.

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Trains
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Just link them to http://www.maximumfun.org (if you need help or HTML code, just let me know), I'm happy to help.

Marc Maron Treasure Trove

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Marc Maron's second run on Air America Radio, with "The Marc Maron Show," recently ended. We're sad to see Marc off the air, but amazed at the online treasure trove of interviews that are his show's legacy.

This amazing stash includes interviews with lots of great comics, including Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Todd Barry, Sarah Silverman, Stephen Colbert, Chris Elliott, Harry Shearer, Mort Sahl and a million others.

Here's a download list, thanks to Mason Proulx of AST. Another AST user was nice enough to create this RSS feed for a podcast of the files: http://odeo.com/channel/131082/rss. You can subscribe to that in iTunes -- just copy the URL, then open iTunes, choose the "Advanced" menu, and "Subscribe to Podcast." Paste the URL in the box and click OK.

All of these are courtesty of The Snot-Green Sea, which has an astonishing archive of Maron broadcasts.

If you're a fan of Maron's, you might enjoy this TSOYA broadcast from 2005, which featured an interview with the man himself.

Numberwang

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From "That Mitchell & Webb Look," it's the new game show sensation that's sweeping the world.

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