Big Baby Gandhi
Smart Dumb Kid's Progress
Big Baby Gandhi: Big Fucking Baby (free download)
Like his patron Heems, this Bangladeshi-American is from the part of Flushing "where the smart kids act dumb and the dumb kids act dumb." He just acts dumb in a smart way. You could say his lo-fi debut favors degraded rhythm samples and soprano voices, only from the boat-rocking "Been Around Ya Girl" to the deep-soul "Summertime Thing" to the Indian-children's-song-plus-keyboard(???)-loop "Woof Woof" you'd be missing a lot. The flow seems effortlessly idiomatic, only not South Asian idiomatic, whatever that would sound like besides Heems. The rhymes bespeak a brainy slacker with an analysis underway, only he's watched so much porn and heard so much hip-hop that he's dumber than need be about sex. Here he's all "she's chokin' just hopin' to provoke a nut," there he's telling her he was only kidding about that handjob. Figure by now he's here and there both. He is a kind of famous rapper, after all. A MINUS
Big Baby Gandhi: No1 2 Look Up 2 (free Greedhead mixtape)
"Terrorist with no turban/Lyricist with no sermon," he admits he'll be proud to graduate from college and with the help of two resourceful young beatmakers I never heard of cleans up his production like he's ready to go pro. But for all his "Get $$$," he hasn't quite managed it yet. He's still a kid getting his thoughts together one surprise rhyme at a time, weeding out enough sex and dope to make room for a holy Bollywood "Long Ass Intro," a law-abiding uncle who kept him out of the army, a joke he jacked from Fall Out Boy, and other evidence of grown manhood. A MINUS
Now some necessary new notes on camp.
First, here's the whole Sontag essay:
Really good things about it I had forgotten:
It notes that the camp sensibility is by nature slippery to define, and this remains true almost 50 years later.
some camp art merits the most serious (i.e., academic) scrutiny
"one which employs flamboyant mannerisms susceptible of a double interpretation; gestures full of duplicity, with a witty meaning for cognoscenti and another, more impersonal, for outsiders." -- this is key: the essential, conscious double meaning.
Very astute assessment of William Blake (not camp).
Believe-it-or-not stunts are not camp
"The reason a movie like On the Beach, books like Winesburg, Ohio and For Whom the Bell Tolls are bad to the point of being laughable, but not bad to the point of being enjoyable, is that they are too dogged and pretentious. They lack fantasy." And this is part of why Kay Huntington is not Bette Midler.
Time effects camp a great deal. Then Sontag unconsciously provides a prime example" "Many people who listen with delight to the style of Rudy Vallee revived by the English pop group, The Temperance Seven, would have been driven up the wall by Rudy Vallee in his heyday." Temperance who?
Genet's ideas are camp, but his books are not. Wilde was an intriguing transition between dandy and camp.
Things that seem off-base:
"the Camp sensibility is disengaged, depoliticized -- or at least apolitical."
Wait, wait, wait -- these things don't belong on he same list -- Tiffany lamps, Aubrey Beardsley drawings, the Cuban pop singer La Lupe, the old Flash Gordon comics.
classical and jazz are serious, pop is poop (to a modern, uh, sensibility, it seems freaky she appears to have no awareness jazz was the popular music just 25 years earlier)
Art Nouveau Is Camp still feels willful to me -- now, much of Graceland sure is camp, though -- and I think her re-chewing of the subject hints that she herself has doubts.
"One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp ("camping") is usually less satisfying." This is exactly backwards, I think, and now seems to relate more to the misperception that jazz is serious, pop is poop.
The Jew/homosexual parallels/contrast read more glib than I remembered
Her finale is also mine, we are saying the same thing:
"The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful . . . Of course, one can't always say that."
"ripping a certain somebody a much-deserved new one,"
If you mean me, get some guts and just say so. But rants about how I'm rude and obnoxious are a waste of time. Rip me a new one to tell me how I'm wrong.
First just a reminder that people who have moderate, reasonable, nice-person responses to art issues usually don't become critics.
But come on - is it so off-putting that I'd want to hear (and proselytize for) an album our host once awarded an E MINUS/A PLUS? It's not like I was pumping Aorta. Remember the first rule of rock criticism: better godawful than bland.
It's off putting to me. A very long-standing pet peeve. Bob can sure correct me if I'm wrong, but my interpretation of the A+/E- parallel was that it was simply a fine rhetorical flourish, not a suggestion that A+s and E-s are somehow matter/anti-matter treasures. I'd be a lot more interested if somebody said, "damn, I find I have this affection for Aorta," even if they were struggling to articulate it, than indulging in the usual "ironic" appreciation of something everybody agrees is utter dreck.
And that may be the first rule of kevin john rock criticism, but it ain't any rule of mine. Nobody has ever offered me a decent reason to waste an unnecessary moment on either the bland or the godawful. In part I was glad to not be a film critic -- or a pop music critic for a daily -- because I was not compelled to squander eons of brain and soul energy on blockbuster or even cult junk.
Over the years, many entreaties to "aw, man, lighten up, get with the program" have only convinced me that my attitude toward "ironic" kitsch adoration is the more unconventional and therefore the more necessary. You don't refuse to hop into a crowd only when it makes you look cool.
But hey, nobody's wasting my time when they're wasting their time. Just don't expect me to join in or approve.
Thanks for the advice all. I decided not to use the site. The album is F*cked Music by PM Dawn, which (I believe) was commercially available for about a month in 2000 direct from the band, but was pulled for sample clearance. I've had a few of the songs on a compilation I made of unreleased PM Dawn material (which I think I might post here), but wanted to hear the full album. I did find it on Soulseek, but at a lower than ideal bitrate (160). Better than nothing. And not as good as the compilation I made.
Great post, Kevin. (You are more in touch with your 19-year-old self than me, unless you believe Nils Lofgren, like I do, that 60 is the new 18.)
All those links were choice too.
I'd missed the actual original CG write-up for the Kay Huntington where Xgau can't decide whether it's an A+ for being "a hilarious takeoff on sensitive circa-1964 folk music" or an E-minus for being "(more likely, unbelievable as it seems) one of the most atrocious records ever made." (Later settling on an E, an upgrade from E-, evidently for that iota of a chance of it being the former and maybe for the song
Pick: the apparently unsarcastic "Right to Poverty."No need to digitize your vinyl though, at least for me. I can stream it on MOG. I imagine it's also on the other streaming services too.
As for Kay Huntington, I wouldn't say I'm a fan per se (!). But come on - is it so off-putting that I'd want to hear (and proselytize for) an album our host once awarded an E MINUS/A PLUS? It's not like I was pumping Aorta. Remember the first rule of rock criticism: better godawful than bland.
But it kicked off a nifty book discussion and so I'd like to share some of my favorite book lists, two silly, two serious.
Most Unusual Books Ever Published
Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year
Best American Novels, 1950-1999 (unorthodox, largely avant list from film theorist Steven Shaviro; includes Valley of the Dolls)
And more in line with the spirit of EW, Best Pop Music Fiction, Selected by Greil Marcus, stuffed with obscure, fascinating stuff like Keith Abbott's "Spanish Castle," a novelization of The Harder They Come (wha??) and David Helton's King Jude which I've been dying to read for eons.
Best (damn near only) fiction I've read recently: Mildred Pierce; Valley of the Dolls
Apropos of nothing: Showgirls is one of the greatest films of all time.
In it, Lethem mentions that he felt he needed an excuse to start writing to Berger and so he came up with the ploy that he was working on a biographical sketch about "the now-forgotten writer Bernard Wolfe," a friend of Berger's.
Wait a sec -- why does that name, far from forgotten or unknown, ring such a bell for me? I checked around and sure enough, Wolfe was the guy who had co-written Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues (1946), a book that had blown my little mind when I read it in the early '70s and had been a huge influence on the Beat generation. Just as important, Wolfe was celebrated in serious sci-fi circles for Limbo, a 1952 dystopian book considered the equal of any and something I've been meaning to read for decades. Also noted as a groundbreaking use of cybernetics in sci-fi. It has been reissued and is on it's way to me. I recall the other Wolfe book that intrigued me way back when was The Magic of Their Singing (1961), but I can't seem to find out anything more about it.
Anyway, interesting coincidence with the EW discussion last night.
I have a downloading question:
I'm wanting to download a non-commercial album, and I've only found it on a site free-mp3.ca. Anyone know anything about that site? Is it a safe one? Thanks in advance for any input.
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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