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Why is Pitchfork obsessed with The Clipse?

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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.

The whole controversy is run down from a Pitchfork-friendly perspective here on Status Ain't Hood. Here's some shit talking about it.

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.

*Interesting discussion about the piece on Okayplayer.com*

King of the Hill & (probably) Futurama to Return

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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.

Fran Leibowitz Resurfaces, Briefly

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The comic essayist Fran Leibowitz has been promising to come out with a new book for the past 20 years or so. In the meantime, we have to make do with her infrequent appearances and once-in-a-blue-moon magazine pieces. It's unfortunate, because she's one of the funniest writers of the past fifty years or so. She refined her bohemian-but-tough New York intellectual Jew model to a sharp point, and rode it to great, well-earned success in the late 70s and early 80s. Her books are very funny even today.

She'll be on City Arts & Lectures this week, a rebroadcast of a live stage presentation. It airs (and streams) on KQED-FM in San Francisco at 8PM pacific, and I believe on the variety of other stations that carry CA&L, including KWWS in Walla Walla and KUSP in Santa Cruz. Well worth seeking out.

Fran Leibowitz on KQED

Tim of Tim & Eric Stabbed (He's OK)

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Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric was stabbed twice, apparently while trying to help a woman in his apartment complex deal with her drug-crazed son. By all reports, he will be just fine. He writes in his blog:

Thanks to everyone who sent nice things or said nice things on the message board. I am being well tended to by my lady and my mom. I tell ya, it was by far the scariest thing that's ever happened to me. I'll give a more detailed post about the events in days to come. love to you. Timbo.

Tim & Eric have been really good to us at The Sound of Young America, helping us out whenever they could. Amazing to think that comedy heroes are real life heroes, too.

We wish the best to Tim.

Artist Marc Horowitz

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I invited artist Marc Horowitz onto The Sound of Young America a few years ago, after I read an article about one of his projects in the San Francisco Chronicle. He had rented a burro, and was traveling around San Francisco, offering to help people with their chores. It was wonderful.

More recently, he's gotten some excellent notices for a piece which involved running a quarter mile of extension cord out his window and into a park, where he made coffee for anyone who wanted some, and another in which he traveled the nation, having dinner at people's houses.

Marc's website is ineedtostopsoon.com, and he's blogging his different projects there. He has some intruiging new ideas, including a short film montage of people in the moment that comes between giving the cashier your credit card, and that card's approval.

What I like about Marc is his commitment to thinking of cool things, then doing them. There's not enough of that in the world.

Marc Horowitz on The Sound of Young America (RealAudio Link)

In case you didn't notice on the right there...

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You can now call The Sound of Young America to give feedback... 206-984-4FUN. Really.

The Straight Dope on the Ice Harvest

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You may or may not get The Straight Dope in your local alternative newspaper, but no matter -- it's still worth a trip to straightdope.com.

On this glorious website, Cecil Adams informs the Teeming Masses of the answer to any number of Highly Important Questions. Like this week... How was ice made and sold in pre-industrial times?

Sound of Young America Fan Art

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Kelly was nice enought to send me this picture she painted from the intro segment of the Python video.

Although it was the Monty Python podcast that inspired me, I was listening to the podcast about the future as I painted. I guess I was thinking in the future everything green would become red. I think I might title it something like "The Grass Isn't Always Greener...."

Thanks, Kelly!

If you have any artwork inspired by the show, send it in!

Even if you've just got a thought to share, please share it. And remember that we've got voicemail, now, too... 206-984-4FUN

We talk real funny 'round here...

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On this week's Sound of Young America, I made a difficult snap decision to let Nick Adams say "the N-word." It's the focus of a full chapter of his book, and having given the audience fair warning, it seemed only reasonable to me.

I let the word through once before on The Sound, and that was when I played Randy Newman's song "Rednecks." I got a call in the studio afterwards, from someone who was quite upset about it. I talked with the guy (who was black, and had tuned in after the warning I'd offered before playing the song) for a few minutes, and helped him understand the satirical thrust of the song, and he reconsidered his stance.

In my book, "Rednecks" is one of the most biting pieces of racial satire in the late 20th century, and maybe the single best to come from a white person. But it does use the n-word, and repeatedly so (see the lyrics at the bottom of the post).

Randy Newman approaches songwriting as a short-story writer would approach a short story -- the authorial voice is by no means direct. In "Rednecks," he writes from the perspective of a salt-of-the-earth Southern racist. He said he wrote the song after he saw Lester Maddox, the infamous segregationist, being ridiculed on a network talk show, and imagine himself in the place of someone who agreed with Maddox, rather than someone who was sympatico with the host & audience.

As the song unfolds, Newman invites us to be scornful of his narrator. Indeed, the narrator seems to invite the scorn almost upon himself.

But as the pile of scorn gets higher and higher, it starts to get unmanagable. In the second verse, the harshness is getting broader, and it starts to make the listener uncomfortable. The only saving grace is that chorus -- and specifically, that use of the n-word. In fact, that use of the n-word makes us, particularly if we're white northern sophisticate types, more, and not less comfortable with the song.

In the third and final verse of the song, Newman springs his trap:

Now your northern nigger's a Negro
You see he's got his dignity
Down here we're too ignorant to realize
That the North has set the nigger free

As he tumbles into a list of Northern ghettos, we listeners start to realize that this isn't a satire of dumb racist southerners. Instead, this is a satire of arrogant, intellectual, liberal northerners. And because of the structure of the song, we the listeners are implicated in all of this -- we're the ones he's talking about. All the smugness we felt as we laughed at lines like, "he may be a fool, but he's our fool" is now turned against us.

In that final vamp, it becomes an indictment of the listener, and of one of the great race issues that white people hate to acknowledge... that racism isn't solved by our liberal platitudes, and it isn't everyone else's problem. Racism isn't something that happens "over there," and it isn't caused by "them." We can't get out from under the responsibility that easily.

Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too
Well he may be a fool but he's our fool
If they think they're better than him they're wrong
So I went to the park and I took some paper along
And that's where I made this song

We talk real funny down here
We drink too much and we laugh too loud
We're too dumb to make it in no Northern town
And we're keepin' the niggers down

We got no-necked oilmen from Texas
And good ol' boys from Tennessee
And colleges men from LSU
Went in dumb. Come out dumb too
Hustlin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes
Gettin' drunk every weekend at the barbecues
And they're keepin' the niggers down

CHORUS
We're rednecks, rednecks
And we don't know our ass from a hole in the ground
We're rednecks, we're rednecks
And we're keeping the niggers down

Now your northern nigger's a Negro
You see he's got his dignity
Down here we're too ignorant to realize
That the North has set the nigger free

Yes he's free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he's free to be put in a cage on the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he's free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he's free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he's free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he's free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They're gatherin' 'em up from miles around
Keepin' the niggers down

CHORUS

Andy Kindler rips into South Park

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Over at aspecialthing.com, TSOYA pal Andy Kindler ripped into Trey Parker & Matt Stone...

I can't figure out what's more offensive, Scientology or South Park. I can't believe people still think these guys are geniuses. Remember Baseketball? The greatest thing they ever did was dress up like women for the Oscars? Wow that was original. The Comedy Team of Over and Rated. Laurel and Hacky. Dressing up like women? That's crazy. That's off the hook. And who can sit through South Park? The animation is horrible. I know. It's supposed to be. Great. Their voices are horrible. Every time I try to watch an episode my head hurts from how unfunny it is. I'm not saying they have never been funny, but close. They have made me laugh for a total of 45 seconds. If that interview is indicative of anything, it's how boring and ignorant and personally repulsive they are. Really? Things aren't so bad with George W. Bush. You would have to be a cretin or a right wing ideologue or George W. Bush at this point to believe this. Stop driveling. Maybe he should stop pretending to read about World War II and read a newspaper from today.

And try this one on for size, responding in part to this interview in GQ:

But sometimes things reach a critical mass, and the more you learn about people, the less you can like them. I just reread that interview and got more annoyed. Calling Paris Hilton an ugly stupid whore? They are really edgy. Who are they going to go after next? Michael Jackson? And he just realized that Paris Hilton was a model? And he's concerned about the kids all of a sudden? And then they put down Rob Reiner for taxing cigarettes by saying hey dude, let people have cigarettes. Rob Reiner taxing cigarettes is exactly the opposite of not letting people have cigarettes. He's not saying you can't smoke. He's just saying tax it more. Agree or don't agree, but at least be coherent enough to understand the point you're making. I think all drugs should be legal, and they should also be taxed. See how easy that was? If he's so concerned about people having enough money to buy cigarettes, he should start his own cigarette smoking charity fund for poor smokers. But that would be too "liberal" for him. They claim to be against Reiner because he's a rich guy from Malibu. Where do they live? The Pacific Palisades? And they think they're libertarian because they're cool with "gays." I'm sure the "gays" are thrilled. Holy Moly. I'm sorry, but these guys are just plain ignorant.

Is Andy right, or is he just hating on their game? Your thoughts?

Andy Kindler on The Sound of Young America

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