Read my first feature at Noisey on the new crate diggin’: YouTube samples and MP3 blogs. Insights from Blockhead, Paul White, J-Zone, Small Professor, and Quelle Chris.
I realized this year that a large part of the joy I’ve felt from listening to music was getting my hands on it. Scarcity was good. It made you imagine what a song sounded like when The Source namedropped it in its Fat Tape section. It made it thrilling when you stumbled across a white label at record store from a group you really only knew about word of mouth (and I do mean “word of mouth”, like people talking to you about it with their mouths). Debating on dropping $18 for some shitty soundtrack because it had an ill one-off track from Mobb Deep or Wu-Tang that you couldn’t hear otherwise (see: Hoodlum, 200 Cigarettes, Tales From the Hood, SLAM, and the Shaq movie where he was junkyard Superman). Memorizing release dates. Going to record stores in packs to buy the BIG RELEASES, then debating their merits the next day with all of your friends.
Steve Jobs made my life easier, but it turns out with music, I’m like Pac: I don’t want it if its that easy.
Connections to music are important.No one says “The first time I heard suchandsuch on SPOTIFY!!! SON!!! OH SHIT!!!” Having to work to get a hold of an album or single — that built value in me as a listener. That chase, that pursuit, that lucky break, well… it’s all gone. Everything is always available. Instantly. And my joy for music has dampened.
Everyone likes a chase. Dogs fall asleep looking at rocks; they go insane charging after a squirrel. You don’t always get the squirrel, and that’s ok. We’re not meant to see and hear every single song/band/artist we’re supposed to be up on. But now we dabble and taste and snack and appetize a little bit of everything. We feel full, but we don’t enjoy the meal. We are being stimulated, but we yearn to re-experience it less and less.
I’ll probably never love the music again the way I did in 1997 or even in 2004. I’m older. I’ve heard all the tricks. I have less disposable income. I create music, and that takes up more time. I have a full life outside of music.
So when I hear something that gives me that buzz, that electric blitzkrieg, that tingle…it doesn’t matter how old I am, what device I’m holding, how much money is in my savings, if I stole the song or bought it, what the first week numbers are, how many reblogs on Tumblr there are, if my girl is making meatloaf, what my next song will be about, etc. I’m stuck. I’m frozen. I’m 16 years old at Record Town in the Gallery. I’m 24 years old thumbing through CDs on payday, grabbing every goddamn thing I want. I’m 10 years old with 3 cassette singles for $5 in the basement at Tower Records. I’m 22 loading up weird art house shit on my first iPod. I’m 28 looking over the mountains, earbuds soundtracking my flight to Phoenix.
I’m back to where I want to be: loving music.
Here’s the songs in 2011 that gave me that feeling again:
Nas – “Nasty”
The best rap song of 2011 for all the right reasons: knocking beat, great rhyming, unorthodox rhyme scheme, and tons of shit you will not understand through the first 7 listens.
Raekwon – “Snake Pond”
Going in 2011, Raekwon was the best rapper alive. On Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, Raekwon mastered slang and wordplay and made the most Wu-Tang sounding Wu-Tang album since The W. “Snake Pond” is a manhunt record. Locations changing. Shaking down associates for info. Piecing together past incidents to predict the next move. It’s like playing chess with supreme patience: just wait for the other guy to slip, to expose himself. Red dot him, you got him.
Statik Selektah & Action Bronson – “White Silk”
I hated on dude at first. I’m an asshole
Blu feat Planet Asia & Killa Ben “Doo Whop”
Welcome to the Terror Dome, gold herringbone flow. Planet Asia is the West Coast Raekwon. I’m happy about that. More people need to just rap on soul loops. Fuck drums.
Cappadonna – “Cuban Link Kings”
The YouTube version cuts out the intro skit, which is a minute and a half. It’s the best skit since “Who Would You Fuck” on Supreme Clientele. In 2011, Cappadonna realized that we love NYC goofballs and that Wu can be funny while giving knowledge. Hence him comparing The Wizard of Oz to the Five Percent Nation.
Sir Michael Rocks – “Banco Populair”
I was stuck in Phillies traffic one day for almost 2 hours. I listened to this song about 10 times in a row. And then I went home and wrote “Michael Caine Glasses” for Nights & Weekends.
Danny Brown – “EWNESW”
XXX is not even close to being as good as Hybrid. I love his style but 30 minutes dedicated to eating pussy isn’t for me. So as much as I wanted to love XXX, I pretty much listen to the intro, then skip to “Pac Blood”, then skip about 8 joints until “ESNESW”. It’s good to hear Danny just talk over a simple beat sometimes. Quelle is my man. He should always produce half of Danny’s projects.
Hanni El Khatib – “Loved One”
I read about Hanni a few times. Saw that he was down with Aesop Rock. Thought his artwork and album title was badass. I caught him live on a whim at Johnny Brenda’s on a Sunday night in the summer here in Philly. Fifteen people were in the crowd. And he fucking killed it.
Evidence feat Raekwon & Planet Asia – “The Red Carpet”
Evidence said somewhere that this is his favorite Alchemist beat ever. This joint makes me feel high and I don’t even smoke. Wish the hook was better, but getting Rae and Asia on there make up for it.
Noreaga feat Corey Gunz – “Slimefather”
This is not a gorgeous Alchemist beat. It feels like getting shanked in a British housing project on Mischief Night. Nore is spitting that Indian Style Knees Bents Hands Together Jose Luis Gotcha ’97 shit.
Shabazz Palaces – “Yeah You”
There’s no place in the world for corny people.
Hail Mary Mallon – “Smock”
Between this joint and “Garfield”, Hail Mary Mallon did no wrong. I never liked Rob Sonic before this project. As a decade-long Aesop stan, I would’ve named about 15 rappers he should have been in a duo with before Rob Sonic (Breeze Brewin, El-P, etc). But it’s like assembling a good basketball team – you need to be matched up with guys that make sense together, not just to sell tickets. This year, Aesop became a fun emcee, and Rob and Big Wiz are the perfect wingmen.
Jay-Z & Kanye West feat Mr. Hudson – “Why I Love You”
This is the most mature shit Jay has ever spit. To all of my enemies, former friends and associates, I see and hear everything you do in opposition to me. You blame me for all your woes, as people, as artists, as business entities. You casually sidestep the money I spent on you, the advice I gave you, the benefits you gladly accepted from being my friend. None of it was ever enough. I’m my own man, as you are your own man. And you have broken our friendship. I have lost respect for you. I will never get back the time and money I invested in you. My mother and my wife tell me to get over it, but I can’t. You hurt me. I’ve hurt you, except you’ve gone public with personal and private matters. You’ve become a spectacle and it hinders our past relationship. And with all of that in mind…I still love you.
Common feat Nas – “Ghetto Dreams”
Those drums! And Nas! Yo…..
Cocaine 80s – “Anywhere But Here”
R&B sucks today. Like, straight up assey. It’s devoid of actual emotion. It’s just people thinking of hackneyed ways to talk about banging each other, cutting each other off, and getting back together. There’s no real stories. This project from No ID was like a soul version of Shabazz Palaces — I know the main guy involved and that’s about it. Cocaine 80s and Frank Ocean gave me that feeling when I first heard D’Angelo in ’95. Something’s changing here…
Frank Ocean – “Songs For Women”
No fair, no fair. He cheatin’!
Tom Waits – “Kiss Me”
You never forget that first kiss with the woman you love. You didn’t love her then. She had on a black cocktail dress, not too flashy, not too prudish. You noted how many times she placed her hand on your shoulder when you made her laugh. Her necklace drew your eyes to her neck, her breasts, guessing what color bra she had on, but not staring like a creep. Other girls made you nervous; you wanted their approval. But this girl, it was just…easy. When you went in for that first kiss, time froze. It was still nerve wracking. She was a stranger then. You were a stranger too.
Dangermouse & Daniele Luppi feat Jack White – “Two Against One”
This year I fell in love with Italian music. The Rome album didn’t leave my car for 6 months. Jack White is my favorite rock artist and stuff like this makes me grateful that he stays prolific outside of his comfort zone. An incredible writer with a voice that conveys the right emotion everytime.
Serengeti – “Goddammit”
This is like an indie version of LL Cool J’s “Big Ole Butt” or a modern Slick Rick love story: a devious asshole does maniuplative, despicable things to women. You really should be repulsed by his behavior. You end up empathizing with him. “Yeah man, it is fucked up that you have two wives who are unaware of each other, one even thinking you’re 5 years younger because you’ve been plotting on her since she was seventeen years old. Christmas MUST be a bitch!” Seregenti and Yoni Wolf even made the 808s knock like an E-40 record. A great old school rap idea executed perfectly by guys who shop at thrift stores with Anticon money.
Arch Druids feat Roc Marciano & Planet Asia – “Scorched Earth Policy”
I’m going to be quoting Roc Marci lyrics when I’m 60 years old. That’s just how it’s going to be.
I struggle with instant access to every single whim that pops into my cabbage. With the iPhone aka the Pants Computer, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, forums, Hulkshare links, promo MP3’s, etc the world is beginning to run out of mystery — everything we miss or forget can be found instantly. I love ingesting music, memorizing where the horn stabs hit on a record, knowing who produced track #9 on a given rap LP without looking for liner notes on Wikipedia, remembering where exactly I was when I heard a song for the first time.
Technology, will progressing rapidly to make our lives easier, erases actual emotional connections. Convenience breeds more consumption. Standards are lowered. Quality is compromised for more more more more more content. All to feed that machine that eviscerates our attention span while keeping us constantly engaged and entertained. If you have internet access in 2011, you can literally spend 18 hours a day never having to face the quiet plague of boredom.
I say all of this because three releases this week play to or against the new music consuming culture. Has-Lo’s new LP In Case I Don’t Make It is available for paid digital download on Bandcamp, iTunes, etc but they are not the right mediums to relish the album. The key word here is “album” ; we don’t have patience anymore to follow one artist through 30+ minutes in a row. This recent article in Slate titled “Wall of Sound: The iPod has changed the way we listen to music. And how we respond to it” backs that up painfully.
As Jeff Weiss pointed out, In Case I Don’t Make It isn’t built for Shuffle mode: it’s a “suffocating walloping listen, like baking in a sauna or waiting in the car with the windows rolled up in in August. Rap to make dogs die.” In other words, you can’t soundtrack your P90X workout to the album–you need to sit, relax, and walk through Has’ mind. You can’t multitask with it. And downloading the album then trashing the 3-4 records that don’t strike a chord within the first 10 seconds of the beat dropping erases important pieces to the story.
As my Shadowboxer partner Douglas Martin once articulated, albums are like books — you don’t go ripping pages out of books because the first 3 paragraphs aren’t as good as the last page. In Case I Don’t Make It is a heady listen like how The Wire was an unsettling visual — anit-comfort food for your anti-boredom state. Nurishment doesn’t taste like Yoo-Hoo.
Peep “Utero” off the LP then “The Quiet Things” off Has’ last EP Small Metal Objects:
A middleground to the Shuffle Age (2004-present) and the Old Days of Listening to Full Songs (1863-2003) is Nex Millen’s latest podcast I Love Hip Hop Vol. 3. Nex is a master of the groove before Serato made Pauly D a screenwatching “deejay”. Nex is a slave to the rhythm, not the soundwave BPM reader. His ear for pockets in the wax, whether live on-stage or rocking a filthy basement party or in his JLab Studios making beats, is masterful. His podcasts combine the recent jamdowns with the unseen crack slippers, like new Pharaohe Monch with Connie Price and the Keystones. His responsibility to the hyper hip hip consumer of today is the same as any great cassette mixtape impresario of the early 90’s — putting you up on the shit you like, the shit you’re not sure if you like, and the shit you just never heard in your life. In 2011, this would be a Concentrated Shuffle, a purposeful blend, the common room sitdown of artists with different voices, styles, and beats, consolidated by someone who understands the almighty Skip button and the undetectable power grip of the Neck Snap.
Here’s the tracklisting for I Love Hip Hop Vol. 3
Kill Bill- Epidemik
Different Now- Odisee f. Twan
Classic- MED f. Talib Kweli
Songs- Kaimbr and Kev Brown
Clap(One Day) Pharoahe Monch f. Showtyme
Palookas- Talib Kweli
Disturbed- Blame One f. Sean Price
Thought About It- yU
International Hustler- Connie Price & The Keystones f. Percee P
Motor Music- Finale f. Black Milk
Grown Folks Music- NXPW f. Cee Knowledge
The last leg on the barstool is Rock the Dub’s 5 year anniversary compilation FiF. Khal, the site’s resident runner and internetian pipe bomb planter, gives his readers unlimited options to stock their smartphones and Nanos every day. And like those of us now completely enraptured in the Age of the Shuffle, he does not subscribe to one genre or musical identity. Hip hop, dubstep, drum n bass, R&B, and other subgenres I could probably just make up (Oatmeal Wave, ThunderStep, SwagMopHop) all pop up on Rock the Dub without any comprehension or agenda.
Khal boils things down to the interest of the modern online music consumer: this sounds good and I want it right now. He’s put out projects from just about every phylum of hip hop-related offshoots the past five joints. Life in the Shuffle Mode has no apprehensions, no limits, no concern for running time. Take what you want, love it, then come back for the re-up. And Khal’s new compilation FiF is that Marlo Stanfield cut.
01-Heist ft. Zilla Rocca – I Need Killers (and Thieves Like You Wouldn’t Believe)
02-Che Grand ft. Elucid vs. Artificial Intelligence – Deaf Ray Dub (Disc Jockey Nappy Refix)
03-P.L.O. ft. Ralph Rip Shit – Hold That
04-AWKWORD ft. Y-Love – Mr. President (The Wisconsin Song) (prod. by The White Shadow)
05-Cyclops – You Don’t Understand (prod. by Razorsharpe)
06-Brown Bag AllStars – In His Shoes (DJBrace Remix)
07-J NiCS – Slumber (Numonics rockthedub Remix)
08-Pugs Atomz & DJ Vadim ft. Stahhr Tha F.E.M.C.E.E. & Jabee – Shoot’em Down
09-Rickie Jacobs ft. Artic – Malcolm X (prod. by Clay Hilman)
10-Jefferson Price – Hip Flask (prod. by Tranzformer)
11-Elucid – My Blank Verse (prod. by Small Pro)
12-The Two. Fifteens – Cloudy. Got Em’
13-Scripts & Screwz – Highway
14-Whygee – What Love Is (prod. by Nofrendo)
15-K. Vincent – Ain’t A Thang Change (prod. by Nabs, add. prod. by Alex Cruz & Black Lion Beats)
16-Mario Dones – Mars Attacks (prod. by Buscrates 16 bit Ensemble)
17-Assorted Anonymous – Roll By My Lonely (prod. by NVious)
18-Elucid – Heavy Metal (prod. by Screwz)
19-Do Ear – Soul Dealers
20-Shawty Lo ft. Rick Ross & Jim Jones vs. The Two. Fifteens – Foolish (Disc Jockey Nappy THUGSTEP Refix)
21-Curly Castro – Down With Batista (prod. by Happ G)
The time for talking is over….
I didn’t mean for this to come out publicly but when the world hands me lemons, I pretend they’re a pair of Winchesters and squeeze hard and fast. What started as an email amongst friends became some posts from the good folks at Rock The Dub and Bloggerhouse, so I might as well give the people what they’ve been jonesing for.
Here’s 35 beats from yours truly. Most of these tracks were for projects that never dropped. Some are mixed beautifully and arranged as full songs. Others are just demo loops. Either way, you can’t go wrong hearing the best of what I’ve been quietly cooking up on the production tip since 2005.
Here’s a few choice cuts off Big Stupid Bangers:
“Head Like Lead”
“Guns and Gas”
“Main Street Money”
“It’s Got to Be That Dope”
And here’s a never-heard-before treat
Aesop Rock & El-P “We’re Famous (Zilla Rocca Remix)”
More joints that aren’t on the beat tape over at my new Soundcloud page
It’s really strange when one of your friends becomes semi-famous from their craft. The good thing is that you get a front row seat as they walk up the ladder of succes. Sometimes they climb it escalator-style. Sometimes they toil for years until some contact or lucky break comes through and gets them the well-deserved opportunity. Either way, unless they become a total asshole, you end up rooting for them, following them like a minor league prospect you took a shine to from some inconspicuous home run they hit in Triple A San Bernadino or a tough triple they legged out during a meaningless game and now they’re on the big club, getting pinch hits, wearing jersey number 67, hanging around until one of the regulars go down and they get their SHOT.
Starkey is one of grime/dubstep’s fiercest talents. I’ve watched him shed skins from singer/songwriter in a full-formed indie band (The Can Am Connection) to the impressario behind a trip hop/electronic/ambient group (Aunt Jessica) to the renegade beatmaker in my old group Crooked Soul to working and touring with today’s finest left field knob twiddlers via his outstanding work with Planet Mu Records. Through it all, he’s been the same guy: devoted husband, Crystal Lite enthusiast, defender of Tim Burton’s Batman as the greatest film of all time. And now he’s on the big club. And as a friend and fan from afar, checking his appearances and following his progress and success like a little known fourth outfielder who turns into an All-Star, I couldn’t be more proud of him because he’s put in WORK. For years. And his music has always blown me away. And I never hang out with or endorse folks who bust out ho-hum sounds for a second — like Common said, “some wack dudes be cool, with them I stay cordial” but that’s about it.
Tonight Starkey is playing Fluid with his label/crew Seclusiasis for their monthly Who Run It? event.
Here’s my favorite cut “Numb” featuring UK’s P Money off Starkey’s new album Ear Drums and Black Holes:
Here’s the single for “Stars” featuring Anneka
See you guys tonight!
“The only thing worse than writing is not writing”–Richard Price
It’s a different world out there.
I apologize for the severe lack of activity here at the blog. Some contributing factors to the cobwebs collecting in the chimney:
-Many of my favorite blogs are no longer around. It’s hard to want to contribute to the daily online dialogue when your heroes and homies have closed up shop. Much respect to my buddies at The Passion of the Weiss, Bloggerhouse, Straight Bangin, 33jones.com and a select few others — I’d be lost like Snoop Dogg during his No Limit run if those guys weren’t banging out hits like Rod Carew.
-Twitter has changed our lives– fully formed ideas are rarely marinated anymore, instead just coughed up instantly like Pez candy in tiny tablets. I’m guilty of this myself. Plus, this site has never had a ton of comments, so it’s fun to exchange in instant dialogue with folks new and old with the stroke of an “@” about LeBron, comic books, new records, and other minutiae.
-I’ve started and ended some important relationships. It’s hard to write about Breaking Bad and buying used CD’s on here when plates are shifting and quaking all around you.
-Pushing myself out of hip hop comfort zone, I’m collaborating now with cats in dubstep, drum n’ bass, live funk and whatever else passes the dutchie pon the left hand side. It’s taxing to say the least. I take extreme care when writing lyrics, and going from 90bpm to 179bpm in a different genre all together splits my skull at times. The challenge is amazing though — I think you will all be intrigued and hopefully enjoy the output whenever these records drop. I’ve always treated listeners like my favorite writers, artists, and directors have treated me: with respect to my intelligence and a trust that no matter how weird or layered things appear at first glance, there is always a payoff coming. I’ve played it straight for too long. It’s time to stir things up.
-I’ve discovered Tumblr. In case you haven’t glanced at it, the Shadowboxers Tumblr page is my new toy. I’ve always been into imagery, from comic books to Matthew Barney mindfucks, and sometimes it’s easier to channel my daily impulses via through a still of the Sandman. Also, like Twitter, Tumblr is a new toy that I haven’t burned out yet like that year my parents got me a Talkboy for Christmas, but it’ll run its course eventually. That’s what all this stuff is: new collectables for our online desires. Myspace, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp. We are hooked at first, then a newer version comes along with an adjustable kung fu grip and we leave the old toys behind. Isn’t it weird when you get random inbox reminders from MySpace? Tha Kid Yung $antana has posted a comment on your wall. It’s like a reminder to get a VHS head cleaner. Who gives a good goddman?
So why go through all of this? Well, the truth is I value every single person who visits Clap Cowards every day, whether you came aboard after my Beat Generation columns at Passion of the Weiss or you searched “Eva Mendas Ass” and bookmarked me by accident (you wouldn’t believe how generous my review of The Spirit has been to the hit count of this site via Google searches from horny boys). I know what’s it like to keep visiting a blog that doesn’t update itself at least 2-3 times a week…what GIVES man? I don’t want to give the impression that my blog is becoming an abandoned mini-mall like so many others. I have to figure out what is worth writing about now because frankly there’s too many outlets with people writing and sharing things much better than I can. I’m open to any suggestions in the comment box. It’s fun to riff on the awesomeness of Raekwon or the glory that was NHL ’96 for Sega Genesis and I hope to get the bug to bang out more posts like that, because that’s what this blog was all about — writing about whatever the hell tickled my conciousness. So maybe this will morph into something brand new when all the social networking/arthouse apps clear out and we’re back to the business of wiping out print media again.
Either way, I applaud you as always for giving me your time. Here’s my thanks to you because yesterday I realized line for line, bar for bar, style upon style, this is the greatest rap posse cut of all time in terms of being an actual “song”, not remix nor “breakout moment for Rapper X”:
I decided to take a lil’ break from all the music related posts and just let my brain go. This is what happens when you get inspiration from Facebook and the Ghostface track “Child’s Play”. For all immediate Shadowboxers dope, check out the Tumblr page. In the meantime, enjoy this little story.
I always liked this girl, and by “like” I mean “unromantically tolerated”. She lived 2 blocks from me. Sometimes when I walked home from school, I’d walk by her front door and wonder if she beat me on the path, or if she was still behind at the corner store with her friends, buying candy and gabbing away about whatever it is we gabbed on about as 12 year olds in South Philly.
Because of where we lived in the diocese, our Catholic school had only 44 kids total in my graduating class, and only 17 were boys. By default, she was friends with every girl I liked. And yet the idea of ever liking her never crossed my mind. I doubt she ever had a crush on me. She and I were always just cool.
As we got older, we saw each other much less. I always remembered her calm and polite demeanor, an interesting trait considering she was an Italian girl in the throes of South Philadelphia, a faux-traditionalist sect where subtly is outlawed. She didn’t smile much, but she didn’t frown much either.
I bring her up because I just saw her photo on Facebook and realized it’s been fifteen years since we graduated grade school together. She went to the customary all-girls catholic high school in South Philly. I went to the highly respected, and somewhat controversial (being that it wasn’t in South Philly) all-boys catholic high school in the heart of Center City. We would bump into each other occasionally during high school on random blocks, maybe grabbing water ice or mailing envelopes, but it was just a “Hey, how’s it going? I just bumped into such-and-such”. Then we would bid adieu and totally forgot about each other’s existence.
She’s grown up now, but looks exactly the same. Thinner even. It’s weird when that happens. According to her Facebook likes and interests, she’s into all the pop culture and Philly-centric things I hate, like that hooker Snooki or Rudi’s Formal Wear, the mecca of South Philly prom dresses and tuxedoes. I question if she REALLY is committed to the cause of “Those Crunchy Chocolate Things Between the Layers of an Ice Cream Cake!”
I realized after all these years that she and I never knew anything about each other at all. We existed in this vacuum for quite some time together but made no lasting impact on each other in any way. Went to school everyday for 8 years straight. Were in spitting distance of each other’s front doors as well. Shared the same social circle, sports and romance included. No matter how successful I ever become musically, it will never occur to her, nor will she ever become a strident attendee of my future shows and tours because of parochial school ties.
It’s quite liberating to realize that our relationship is the same now as it was in 1995 and we’re both obviously comfortable with that.
I bring all this up because every time I drive by her house for the past 15 years, hers just one row home off of the corner property, some pottery/ceramic shindig that is amazingly still in business, I peek through the front windows, then the glass door, in hopes of spotting her. Every single time. For fifteen years. I have no idea why I do this. Sometimes I’d see her parents or her older sister, mutual ghosts all the same. But I would never see her, nor did I particularly care that I didn’t. But I looked anyway, every single time down that street, for fifteen years.
I wonder if she did the same thing while walking by my old house.