Complicated and Underrated
Serengeti: Noticeably Negro (Audio 8 '06)
In which Chicago alt-rapper David Cohn, a red diaper baby on his African side, explores the conundrums of race and the hidden injuries of class. His woozy flow gathers a musicality that combines Biz Markie and Posdnuous‑-half wigged-out clown, half unassuming postcollegiate, neither of which Serengeti is or pretends to be. This kind of confusion is intrinsic to how he conceives hip-hop. A song called "Negro Whimsy" is speckled with gunshots; a song called "T.R.I.U.M.P.H." celebrates cabernet and Lucille's rack of lamb. Occasionally, he stumbles into the gentility he parodies. More often he blurs goofy and brilliant so organically that he's both at once. A MINUS
Serengeti: Family & Friends (Anticon)
Where other rappers claim mere personas are "characters" (sometimes inhabiting more than one on the very same album!), Serengeti writes playlets with something like dramatis personae‑-not just a few slightly confused rappers, although he has several of those, but white working-class superfan Kenny, black garbage man Lee, hip-hop dilettante Derek. Over beats supplied by Yoni of Anticon rap-rockers Why?, who must envy his lyrics, and Advance Base, formerly known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, he raps as or about 11 different losers possibly including himself on 11 songs that last barely half an hour. These include a son shooting up with his formerly absentee dad, a bigamist who couldn't resist that 17-year-old, a privileged jerk who lost his job and started a blog, and an ultimate fighter who blows his knee out. Sure the tone is often depressive or satirical. But it's also often kind, pained, silly, unhinged, and other things. On Noticeably Negro, Serengeti asked: "Serengeti's very ill very understated/Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?" The answer is that the world is complicated and he damn well knows it. A MINUS
install Adblock Plus!Wow -- works great! Yay! I'm a big fan of all things Firefox. Including that they don't push a bunch of products on you. But I'm glad I heard about this.
Into the Unknown is about the only recording I can think of offhand that richly deserves a guilt-free download or bootleg purchase. Keeping it out of circulation is exactly the sort of self-serving, posterior-protecting gesture Bad Religion would denounce in a different context. So screw 'em. I've always thought a bit less of them because of it -- Ohmigawd, we did something outside the sacred dictates of hardcore! Repent! Repent!
Finally, one aspect to consider when doing business with a shady operation like the Russian site is that, while some of what they do might be merely in legal limbo, it's quite likely that they are engaged in outright criminal activities behind the scenes or in other guises. About a dozen years ago, a not-dissimilar, pre-digital-age operation in Eastern Europe did serious damage to the legitimate music business I was working for at the time. Like I say, just something to think about.
'Oh, I see—one "improvement" is that you're forced to watch a little advertisement (or at least be aware it's going on), when you switch modes now. Pricks.'Depending on how tech-savvy you are, download Firefox, and install Adblock Plus! Job done! *Cleans hands. (This includes all adds—Youtube and such.)
'(Insert one of Alex's smileys here.)'
'...but I'm wondering if maybe we could get a dozen or so people together to fork over, say, fifty bucks each to buy Cam that 40-disc Todo Caetano box?'I'm up for that!
(More music-related posts shortly, I apologise! Speaking of which, super excited about Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV, as I know we all are! Aren't we?! )
Say, did that Serengeti-on-LSD album ever drop?
but you should be aware that it's unlikely any of the money you spend there goes to the copyright holders.You know Jeff, I figured that. I went to the website to find stuff not easily obtained or grossly overpriced and got seduced into purchasing the current stuff. Why I don't feel as guilty ripping stuff into iTunes that I get free from the public library I'm not sure. As a music junkie I must get 5 or 6 new titles a week, and I would say that half of these I pay the going rate for. Maybe that's my justification. Besides in the case of Into the Unknown by Bad Religion, I would have purchased it legally years ago had the band in question not disowned it and refused to release it on cd.
Do me a favor though, if this is worth it to you, send a few bucks on behalf of the victims in Oslo.Guys, the compassion for the victims and families of Norway is admiral, but it's not your money they need right now. Norway is one of the most democratic and wealthy (per capita GDP) welfare states on earth. As dreadful as recent events are, it's but a blip compared to the famine unraveling in the Horn of Africa as we speak. Well upwards of 10 million at risk. If your feeling generous: Mercy Corps, Oxfam, UNICEF -- take your pick. I really don't mean to belittle the Norwegian tragedy, but that's exactly what it is -- a tragedy, not a crises.
I wonder if the other Amazon seller (the $1475 one: Joseseis) is Joe Six-Pack (of slipcue.com).
that 40-disc Todo Caetano box
If you'd like I can burn you some Caetano.
Happy to say my daily playlist will now include Zaire Choc! - Thanks Cam
Haven't picked up the Serengeti cds yet but plan to soon.
An online search for The Three Johns' World By Storm led me to the Soundbox.com website which was offering cds the download for between 1 or 2 bucks, or 14 cents a song. It sounded too good to be true but I gave them 25 bucks and come away with some good to great lost classics or simply stuff I didn't have on cd. Here are a few, World By Storm, Moby Grape, T-Bone Burnett's Proof Through the Night, George Adams & Don Pullen's Breakthrough, Bad Religion's Into the Unknown, as well as some Elton and Marley that I only have on vinyl. Not only that I picked up the recently reviewed here cds by The Battles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gold Panda, and the Garland Jeffery's comp Wild in the Streets. All that and more for 25 bucks, still seems too good to be true, but sound quality seems fine to these ears. Anyone else gotten music this way, I'm curious? Thanks again Cam.
Sky Full of Holes: Heard the singles, heard the songs at the show, resisted the download but had to do the stream. One listen in, it kills from the heart. Signs of maturity from a band that was mature enough on arrival. Chris is clearly writing more, which is good because his tongue is always less in his cheek and his chord changes less saturated in homage. Don’t get me wrong: Traffic and Weather was as terrific a manifesto as we could hope from American jewel Adam Schlesinger, but the absence of that novelty feel it took on when you weren’t quite in the mood is welcomed by these ears as an encouraging development from a band that just keeps improving. I like Michael’s imagined scenario of them not having taken over the world and being bummed about it, but think they’re too modest to have ever been much more ambitious than just making the living they probably aren’t; since most of this country isn’t either, I figure they’re simply tapping into the people’s pain. I wonder if Christgau won’t take to the slight retreat from clarity, but predict a DL spot either way.
The belt-tightened production is perfect for the material, too. Still, it sounds like it demands (& deserves) serious growing time. I cannot wait to spend money on it.
I'll gladly search out a relief for Norway fund and contribute. Spiting Glenn Beck in the process? Bonus!
Thanks for the heads-up, Richard. I've really been looking forward to it.
EDIT: Just finished listening to it. Wow.
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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