Monday, April 28, 2008

In the club with dirty foot bitches

Finally, there's a video for this masterpiece. There's a new muxtape up as well. The end of the semester is here, and I was drained, so it was hard to choose a broad selection. Sue me. Also, I couldn't upload the "Drivin' Down the Block (Remix)," which really upset me. Our last show is on Wednesday, and we'll be reading the greatest interview ever along with playing some classic joints. Be sure to tune in.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe

The beginning of 1994, Rudolph Giuliani took office as the mayor of New York City. Running of the position that incumbent mayor Dave Dinkins was soft on crime in a city that was increasingly lawless (which was actually untrue), Giuliani was elected mayor with 49.25 percent of the vote. After taking office, Rudy worked with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to decrease crime. They focused on a Broken Windows approach to eliminate crime, cracking down on what I'd call "quality of life issues:" graffiti, those guys asking to squeegee your windshield, etc. The two also instituted CompStat, which watchers of The Wire may know and have their own opinions on. Giuliani also was responsible for getting the reducing the number of homeless people in NYC... by simply moving them somewhere else. As you might imagine, some of these people would end up in jail due to breaking these "quality of life" laws. He also displaced a lot of people because of his approach to urban reconstruction to reshape Times Square and even boycotted the opening of Arthur Ashe Stadium, and more generally the U.S. Open. To be succinct, Rudy Giuliani was a bit of a douchebag.

You may be reading this and think, "what the hell does this have to do with anything?" Giuliani's presidential run was a joke, and he's been out of office for almost six and a half years. Well, I just downloaded M.O.P.'s First Family 4 Life and it struck me that the guy was pretty hated by rappers, for good reason. And rappers tried to communicate why the guy sucked so much to their listeners, proving once again that these guys are smarter than Bill O'Reilly or whoever would have you believe. So I want to thank the former mayor for making rap music just a bit more insightful during his two terms.

One of these songs is on the muxtape I posted a couple days ago, the Extra P remix of Organized Konfusion's "Stress." Pharoahe and Prince Po were pretty aware guys on their first album, and Stress kept that theme going, but the things they said can sometimes feel like general complaints. Well, pair those complaints with an explicit reference to the new mayor of NYC and things start to make some sense. Pharoahe's pretty quick with the reference: " Yo it's the verbal assult weapon with words uncanny/ You can fool me but I cannot fuck with Rudy Giuliani." That may not mean much on its own, but paired with Large Professor's image of old high school friends homeless or Prince Po questioning NYPD's harassing him because he's young and black, that line sums up inner-city life in New York under Giuliani. The poor and minorities were of no use/dangerous, especially young people, and they needed to be kept in check any way possible. Of course, the easy solution is strong police force, breeding resentment amongst some pretty smart rappers.

Another good example came out, like the "Stress (Extra P Remix)," the same year Giuliani took office, Nas' "The World is Yours (Q-Tip Remix)." I've always wondered how much OK and Esco hung out during the early days before writing for Diddy or "Oochie Wally," because it seems like they do similar topics in different ways. OK does "Stray Bullet," Nas does "I Gave You Power." Organized does "Invetro," Nas has "Fetus" on The Lost Tapes. It's tempting to say Nas is a biter, but he's doing a different take on the same concept (rapping as a gun, not a bullet) and telling a different, though no less interesting tale. Anyway, I'm digressing a lot. Nas is pretty clear how he feels about the new mayor in the second verse of the remix: "Change the flow speed, I'm getting vexed, Giuliani is six six six." What amazes me when I hear the song is how the "six six six" line is offbeat, which is rare for Nas, especially around the time Illmatic came out. It's tempting to say he felt the message was important enough to say regardless of rhythm, but I won't make that leap. What is awesome, is how brash both he and Pharoahe are in their vocal disapproval of a mayor who has been in office no more than five to six months, when these singles were released.

The most surprising reference to me is by the Firing Squad (cla-clack! salute) on "4 Alarm Blaze," posted above. Songs like this make me so happy because they complicate the "hardcore gangsta rap/soft serve ice cream rap" dichotomy. Talking softly does not make you a smart rapper, you need some flash of insight. And bust-your-shit-open energy. This song came out during the start of Giuliani's second term, March of '98, and Fizzy Womack gives it to you as only M.O.P. could: "In the history of crime and rap we some the baddest/ Word to the mommy, any fool try me/ Get hit wit the lami, FUCK Giuliani!!!!" Can I get a witness?!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hooray for the internet

Since I will soon be away from a radio booth, I need to figure out a way to share music with people semi-regularly, because it is just so much fun. Seeing as we here at Trenton Takes always try to stay ahead of the curve, I present to you a muxtape. I have no idea how often I'll update it. I'll do the best I can, but don't expect anything like our show. Although, there will be one song that's a bit... unnecessary.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Put up your bootsees man and pull out your buckets

E-40's always been a bit strange to me, though I am nowhere near being familiar with all his work. It's not like he takes himself so seriously that it's easy to dismiss him for being terrible, and it's not as though he's some lyrical genius either. There's also his voice, which depending on my mood is terrible or an incredible device. Though never let it be said that the man does not have a sense of style. From "my fedi's on the injure list" to "Mustard & Mayonnaise," the man can sell the stupidest phrase and make you want to say, "Hey, where's my yay-per?" That's partially what was initially so surprising about "Ham Sammiches:" why are Gipp and Daddy Fatsacks hanging out with this dude? But he oozes charisma... and he used to have a Lord Jesus Perm. For further proof, here are some of his aliases: TKA (Tycoon Known As) Charlie Hustle, E-Bonics, 40 Fonzarelli, The Ambassador of the Bay, The Ballatician, 40 Belafonte, E-Pheezy, Fortywata (40water), E-4-0, Mr. Flamboyant and Earl Poppin’ His Collar Stevens, and I am sure there are others. Of course, for all that mustard and mayo, there's at least one "Gimme Head." If Noz is to be believed, Charlie Hustlini has an album coming out this year called The Ball Street Journal. While I don't know if I would listen to one of his albums in full, as his style is a lot to handle at times, I imagine there will be something to blast in your scraper, you smell me?

You also have to appreciate his homage to a Seattle classic.

I was lurking aroung Metal Lungies, and apparently Masta Killa is a vegetarian. Let that sit for a little bit.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I never slip, I never fall

So last year, in the wake of Polow Da Don's takeover of pop radio last year, Noz did a quick post on Polow's previous group... Jim Crow. Just let that sit for a while. I remember in high school seeing one video by them, "Holla at a Playa," and I must admit that I kind of liked it. In some ways, I thought the name choice was clever. Just to be clear with anyone who is not familiar with rap, these guys are very clever and want to make an impression so that you continue to follow their musical output. Why else use a "K" in "OutKast," add an "e" to "Pharoahe" or name yourself after Mussolini or Manuel Noriega? These guys are marketing themselves all the time. While you may say, "the music should speak for them," when people have similar styles or are biting your style, you have to stand out in some way. That said, you could make the argument that a Southern rap group called Jim Crow, made of three young black men, is just trying to get by on the provocative nature of their name. That's a fair point, but then why did that one song get stuck in my head? If they're cruising on history, I should just recall every so often that a few dudes from Atlanta had the nerve to name themselves after legalized segregation and oppression. Instead, I have a much more complicated situation: I actually enjoy some of these songs.

There's another issue going on with their name. As we all know, rappers (and really all musical performers) love to perform in character. With a name like Jim Crow, these guys allow themselves to say what could easily be the most offensive, stereotypical, ignorant comments and lyrics that have ever been released for public consumption. Or they could remake songs from "Dumbo." But, as these guys are loosely affiliated with one of the great rap crews ever, the Dungeon Family, what you get instead are just some guys rapping about life in Atlanta. Let me just be clear and say they are nowhere near the level of the Dungeon Family, though they have their moments. Sure, they've made songs with Too $hort about baby mama drama and the nonsense they get into last night, but think about more serious rap groups and their attempts to be lighthearted. Flavor Flav, "Mind Sex," or "Sunshine." All three of these artists are revered by critics for the depth they show on albums while ignoring the aforementioned examples of crap. I think there is something to be said for remaining consistently ignorant for an entire hour. At least when they try to get "DEEP," you find this closer look at the artist engaging as opposed to a cash-in attempt to score women in headwraps.

So what is a rap fan to do? I'm not inclined to reject these guys outright as I don't support censorship and I genuinely find some songs enjoyable (though "Hot Wheels" is a reach). However, simply being a black person who isn't ignorant of the past, oh, (at least, I'm shaky sometimes) 400 years of history, it's really hard to openly admit that I own an album by a group called Jim Crow. Of course, Dick Gregory wrote a book called "Nigger," though I have yet to read. I still get the feeling he tried to get some point across, while Mr. Mo, Polow and Cutty Cartel sound like a Southern Souls of Mischief/Goodie Mob mashup but without the lyrical finesse of each. Basically, I have to keep my enjoyment of their songs to myself... which I just failed to do. At least I'm not in the position Patrick could find himself in if he said to me in public, "Did you hear that new Jim Crow?!!"

Anyway, I somehow found their first album, Crow's Nest from 1999 online and like I said, if you can get past their name (a big "if," I know) it's a pretty good album. The production is pretty tight, though the lone Organized Noize contribution, "Crow 5," is the weakest cut on here in my mind. Odd, since this was a year after Aquemini and right before Stankonia. Obviously, Antwan and Andre get first dibs. Thankfully, they don't try to justify their name choice, as they would have failed miserably at that. Instead, they put together pretty competent raps. They're all jokesters, and Polow's verse on "Throw Some D's" actually borrows from the song "Can We Do This." It's a pretty smooth album, all truth be told, though when thinking about what was coming out of ATL at the time, they sound just ahead of the 2000-2003 DTP/Youngbloodz sound. Had they come out after "Southern Hospitality," maybe they would have blown up. Of course, they also have the name Jim Crow, with a logo to boot.

I know I've managed to offend someone with this post, probably someone I'm related to/knew growing up/Patrick. I also really hope I don't read this later and say "I defended Jim Crow." Well, Noz did it and he's white, so what could be worse?