Odds and Ends 015
As Always, the Question Remains: What Underground, Exactly?
Lyrics Born: As U Were (Decon)
"When I was younger I/Used to wonder why/People in the public eye/Always lose their fuckin' minds/Now I'm coming up on 35/They didn't teach this shit in Berkeley High" ("Pillz," "Oh, Baby!") ***
Nas: Life Is Good (Def Jam)
Reflections of a bigshot who, as he mentions several times, is damn big ("Daughters," "Accident Murderers") ***
Big K.R.I.T.: K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (Green Streets Entertainment download)
Endless pride, solid beats, a key credo, and a few hooks ("Gumpshun," "They Got Us," "Children of the World") ***
Bang On!: [Sic] (Big Dada)
"Grime" my arse‑-musically accented, class-conscious, Liverpudlian, kitchen-sink Brit-rap ("Suttin Like That," "Teeth") **
Radioinactive: The Akashic Record (Flying Carpet Studios download)
Egyptian-American rapper remembers where he came from but has too evolved a sense of humor to just stick it in your face ("Gypsy Shoe," "Antibiotics") **
Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)
Conscious-going-on-political gangsta's laments and celebrations are more tough-minded than his threats, boasts, and analyses ("Willie Burke Sherwood," "Anywhere but Here," "R.A.P. Music") **
Azealia Banks: Fantasea (free download)
Irreverent lip and talent-show talent there, musical follow-through not so much ("Fuck Up the Fun," "Jimanji") **
Big K.R.I.T.: Live From the Underground (Def Jam)
Major-label debut asks the musical question, Who's pimping who ("If I Fall," "Hydroplaning," "Praying Man") *
Only 24, I can hardly claim to know much about, well, anything but I most stand up for my generation, Fantasea is more than two tracks and 3/4s of a line worthy of praise just for its sheer diversity. If you can't laugh your **** off at L8R and Aquababe while appreciating the latter's production, I'm feeling like you didn't understand what she was saying. Some of her lyrics are transcendent at moments, rare moments; but still, Gaga not withstanding, we rarely get that from celebrity these days. And, jazz. In a million years, I'm sure you won't but, here's my fledging write-up: . It's only slightly longer than yours. Still always enjoy what you write. Sincerely, Patrick Mullins
That's why I deliberately mentioned the flipside -- pop as a way to connect to a national, even an international, set of fans. The classic is Elvis: while you're not the academic sucking on a mint and pondering the metaphorical meaning of spandex and glitter and you're not the avid imitator who goes ahead and wears the actual stuff himself, as an Elvis fan you are connected to both of them.
And to be fair to Mr. Marcus, he's always included his share of flat-out pop material and performers in his lists.
Well, we're not going to get anywhere with this discussion because that just doesn't correspond with my reality. "LBJ, LBJ How Many Kids Did You Kill Today!!" doesn't strike me as a pop-star cheer. I would argue that Reagan is much more mindlessly praised now that he isn't around to make a mockery of it than he was for five minutes in office. I know gripes about Ike were muted, but that was the exceptional era -- gripes about the US Government in general were considered almost treasonous. And man, you don't think there were hordes who hated FDR ... ?
"You'd be able to argue that people should be paying for music instead of downloading it free a helluva lot more easily if you were arguing among people who understood that you pay the price for union labor instead of getting the cheapest s*** from the most exploited slaves and the worst environmental degradation."
I don't see how this is "my" problem then. Esp. on Labor Day here, I agree that far too many consumers have been conditioned to think race-to-the-bottom. And that it's a corrosive, tragic situation. But why that means I should change any of my arguments is beyond me. Unless two wrongs somehow make a right. (And, honestly, "I can't afford to buy music" is still not the most common excuse offered for free downloading -- and the whole process began years and years before the current economic downturn. Unless you're again talking about the parallel universe where politicians are adored.)
There is nothing unique about the situation of musicians.
I'm so childish.
(though if we delete the Dateamillionaire posts we'll still probably need another 10 more to hit true 200.
Yeah, I remember those days when politicians were adored like pop stars. I was -- uh, er -- humm -- what number universe did you say you were from? (Now, if you wanna argue that we're in a period when certain blowhards like Chris Christie try to pass themselves off as a type of pop star, I'm with ya on that.)
On top of that, you're going to have to explain why, despite more scandals than ever, passion for sports stars hasn't dropped off at all.
"Among the people for whom music was and remains a fungible object the mp3 has made the transaction easier. As you both might remember, few young people bought 45's in the seventies and eighties; now all my college students buy mp3's. "
Well, when we get into the glories and wonder of MP3s, that's pretty much the end of the conversation with me. The hand-held transistor radio of today.
'Sfunny -- I've decided I preferred the era of boomboxes that annoyed the crap out of everybody for a block around to the current armies of zombies (all ages) with earbuds, jogging the path or waiting for the subway.
On this site we all love music and we may regret the lack of passion that many of the people we know have about music and musicians right now, but there is no reason to assume that this is either new or unique; to the extent anything was unusual, it was the extreme cultural prestige of recorded music for a generation or two.
Not much more, I don't think. Just read an essay by Nora Ephron in which she neatly summed up what destroyed "going to the movies" during her lifetime. It had lost its social function both as whole-family entertainment and art-buff sanctuary and as a plain, holdout movie fan, it got harder and harder to enjoy a film shown in a cramped, charmless box while neither staff nor management gave two hoots if you had a good time or not.
Music was once a choice way to hitch up with a secret society of your peers or connect with the wild, wide world out there. Nowadays, music is simply everywhere and nowhere.
Also, I like the last two Black Keys albums. What's not to like?
*wait, it turns out their last 2 albums both got honorable mentions!
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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