Spoek Mathambo/Big K.R.I.T.
Think Positive--Or Not
Spoek Mathambo: Father Creeper (Sub Pop)
Although I slotted this Soweto-raised 27-year-old's 2010 Mshini Wam as promising kwaito electro, I never imagined it promised a hip-hop record so dark it reveals his labelmate Shabazz Palaces for the arty pothead we can assume he is. Contra the nervous crits who claim to hear a "palpable feeling of hope" or "summery highlife melodies" (highlife, eh? I've heard of that‑-African, right?), even the sweet opener about the sexual maturation of a guy who was feeling it before his pubes came in ends ominously. After that come evocations of oppression only more brutal because they're sometimes dissociated‑-blood diamonds, why we hate our crap jobs, the deadening surrender of the tricking American hip-hop makes light of. The music suits because it's also dissociated‑-beaty enough to keep your foot tapping and your subconscious involved, but devoid of the escapist joy that is the miracle of so much Afropop produced from equally horrendous daily struggles. A
Big K.R.I.T.: 4Eva N a Day (free download)
He was just Kritikal, but the Mississippi underground had trouble pronouncing that word‑-check out the consonant-averse "1986" intro to understand why‑-so he made it Big K.R.I.T., claimed it stood for King Remembered in Time, and continued a rapping career that imagined high school coaching as a fallback. No hip-hopper has ever been bigger on getting up when you're down and making every minute count. Could get tiresome, but on a no-cameos mixtape Def Jam couldn't clear, his proudly drawled, lucidly conceived preachments go undefeated. Almost every soulful track grew on me, with the clincher "Down & Out," one of his periodic explanations of why sometimes he sips and smokes instead of trying yet again. A MINUS
I don't agree with Christgau as often as a lot of people who post here regularly, but I am loving Father Creeper. After listening to it a second time, I went onto Youtube so I could share "Put Some Red on It" on Facebook. It has 68 likes and 55 dislikes. Sub Pop fans hate it, for some reason.
Clankface didn't like the word "message", evidently.
Milo sprayed his haterade from square one. But hopefully that's all behind us. Milo, you're awesome. I've been reading/loving you for eons and your Sugarhill entry in the Spin Alternative Record Guide influenced a stock phrase of mine ("buckets of money" from your "pots more money").
Well, thanks, that's important to me.
But if you've read enough of me for so long, I'm now more puzzled that you would conclude I was "spraying haterade."
Still, I do understand that internet communication, as I've said many times, is very faulty -- much more so than it might seem. And, what's also important to me is to underscore that I am neither homophobic nor a camp-hater.
You have to know that I knew absolutely nothing about Kay Huntington coming upon a reference to her "E" album other than it was an utter-failure folkie something. Hadn't seen it. Hadn't heard a note.
Didn't anybody notice I mentioned the Shaggs?
There is a whole school of music "fans" of the Irwin Chusid/Incredibly Strange Music type that fawn over bad music, and it has nothing to do with camp. But I've laid into them on more than one occasion.
Bob was trying to be helpful, I think, when he posted "Milo: the bad-is-good sensibility to which you refer is called camp."
Where I dropped the ball is by not immediately replying, "no, no, no it is not." But Bob had heard Kay Huntington and so it made sense to him, but I have not and so this business about camp seemed to come out of nowhere. What does camp have to do with anything? I proceeded to argue that I am well aware of what camp is and I still had no idea how it might apply to Kay Huntington.
Again, more confusion -- there really is a school of pop fans and some writers who seem to believe that celebrating the amateurish and godawful (without any connection to camp) is close to rule one of being seriously attentive to the music. I vehemently disagree.
to achieve that is to not fly off the handle and make assumptions when accounting another view.
I can only suggest that, for all I knew, Kevin John's celebration of Kay Huntington was a manifestation of the Incredibly Strange Music/Shaggs Rule! school of thought. If I even knew John was gay it would have given me pause. But one limitation I have is that I often can't remember much about internet communicators unless I can go back and read what they've posted earlier to get some idea of where they're coming from. And Kevin John has no post history.
If I at least convey how way-out-of-left-field the subject of camp seemed to me, that will be enough for this post.
Is David Lynch campy-but-not-queer? I'm inclined to include him in the plain-camp-as-in-queer-camp camp so much of his work seems sexually subversive and outsidery. Is that queer enough to be queer? I prefer the more sprawling interpretation of the word myself. I've cited two campy entities that happen to legitimately unsettle me despite their corniness--it's like the absurdity and disjunctiveness negate the cheese and compound the creeps. That to me illustrates a purpose of camp: encouraging the audience, if it's critical, to isolate the origin of its apprehension as discomfort with what's called unnatural or perverse. If it's not a critical audience, camp still has the last say when it hilariously disconcerts the close-minded--with glee but also on principle. (The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence come to mind.)
I like to spend my time wasted on the deeply wretched categorizing the many varieties of deeply wretched. Coming around more on lists every day, people.
'I have no idea what this sentence means, but it fascinates me.'LOL, Partick, I meant a high HM.
Thanks, Irene, you made me snort my cereal through my nose! LOL, seriously, best cry-laugh in ages! :) :p
Mannn Cam you brought up a sore spot for me. My gang's* chief watering hole was a crusty part-lesbian, part liquorice allsorts bar called Yellow Brick Road. The clientele was roughly as crusty as the facility, generally pleasant, sometimes troubling-but-entertaining. YBR had an old (probably 80s?) jukebox filled with all sorts of delights stereotypically beloved by lesbians and a handful of other mostly good things. We fed the machine many dollars. Repeated selections included "Maggie May," "Jolene," "Walkin' After Midnight," "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and any Beyoncé single or Immaculate Collection track.
BUT THEN WITHOUT WARNING! the old jukebox vanished! replaced by a futuristic flashing plastic hulk with a touchscreen. It had scores more song selections but it lacked charm and cost more. The speakers must have been upgraded simultaneously because from that point the bar was intolerably loud inside, with an emphasis on Daughtry etc, unlikeable contemporary country and the occasional Gaga song. I arbitrarily blame the pool and darts playing crowd.
Pros of the techno-jukebox:
- The guarantee that you'd get to hear the extended version of "Kiss" any given night we were there (not a selection on the old one).
- Perfect speaker calibration for listening through an open door on the back patio, from which you could witness a drunk 40-something woman with racist conspiracy theories piss herself, fall down, cuss you or embrace you.
- The ability to interrupt a buttrock marathon in favor of your pick for only a dollar more!
* Gang comprised one girly lesbian, five adventurous girls on the straight--->bicurious--->wishy-washy spectrum, one genderqueer-cum-stone-butch, members of the high IQ fey gay literati, a mid-twenties-but-aging-quick virginal straight guy, two pretty and heteroflexible boys, a très beau French gay film professor, a vain misanthropic genius of a gay man, two sad open-minded straight silent types.
I have been stuffing Rice Krispies Treats in my face and pondering my description of this for far too long. :-/
Mitch, some would say there's no such thing as camp that isn't queer. Cohan talks about mass camp as a heterorified camp often inextricable from cheese and trash. But I just showed a Black Widow episode of Batman to my students and if that's mass camp, it's massively queer mass camp.
I always thought Snoop Dogg ft. Lil Jon & Trina's extraordinary "Step Your Game Up" might be a way to start reflecting on hetero camp. Lil Jon's shout-rap sounds so out of proportion against the slinky beat that its dogged wrongness recalls tons of camp-like dislocations. Or maybe I'm just being warped by the Lazy Town mashup: http://goo.gl/XKuAO
Lesbian camp = Indigo Girls: Swamp Ophelia?
I think Deee-Lite and Madonna are plenty camp. But if they don't work for you, Miss Prada: "Voodoo Pu$$y," the greatest single of 2012, works: http://goo.gl/uGDLg Remember the second rule of rock criticism: all music should just be bit(h tracks and vogue house.
Michael, Batman is testament to a massified awareness of camp in the 1960s. So the portrait of the times as sincerity all the way isn't entirely accurate. Warhol, bubblegum, The Sound of Music (maybe), etc. are other insincere 1960s avenues to ponder.
Greg Morton, how do we not uphold our own sense of the (a?) social order as the natural one? If that's what you're asking, then I think one way to achieve that is to not fly off the handle and make assumptions when accounting another view. As Irene made so clear (and gawd thank you sooo much for that! I tried to Facebook friend you but it took me a full embarrassing minute to realize your name is not Irene), there was no outset at which I could have said "you're misunderstanding where I'm coming from" because Milo sprayed his haterade from square one. But hopefully that's all behind us. Milo, you're awesome. I've been reading/loving you for eons and your Sugarhill entry in the Spin Alternative Record Guide influenced a stock phrase of mine ("buckets of money" from your "pots more money").
Irene, is Mars Attacks! camp? Sure, why not? Although I prefer Hoberman's take: "Personal and anarchic where ID4 was corporate and patriarchal."
Jason, love what you said about camp or mass camp or w/e being easy. It's what prevents the snickerati from seeing Showgirls and Mommie Dearest for the stone cold masterpieces that they are.
2. Hair metal -- I haven't wanted to ask out of fear of derision, but anybody know anything about the Broadway play known as "Rock of Ages"? My wife and I bought a friend's tickets for later on in the year. I'm nervous but game.
Best jukebox ever.
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.