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
P.S. Evidence that internet friends can be true pals: the venerable Dr. Cam P looked over my personal statement for me. Isn't that nice? Thanks again Cam.
P.P.S. My dictionary consultation (no shame in prudence--sometimes) tells me that in the Catholic sense, venerable is used as a title for "a deceased person who has attained a certain degree of sanctity but has not been fully beatified or canonized." So, in response to whomever was talking about sainthood last post, if Cam dies without showing off his magical powers, he'd be officially The Venerable Doctor Campbell Patterson.
As one of the many straight camp fans round these parts, I'd like to make this observation...
I don't think camp is big with straight people of Milo's generation because honesty/sincerity was a big issue in regards to Vietnam, Nixon, etc. So when people don't straight talk them, it rankles. So I can understand that.
Camp (and irony) is big with people my age because....
Rockism is essentially a prejudiced attitude to any form of popular music that doesn't conform to the values of rock music (in the most narrow and conventional sense of the term.) The most obvious example of this is the tendency of middle-aged fans of 'classic rock' to describe any music that involves the overt use of electronic instruments as not 'real music'.
Dude, there's a cure!
This all started when you slated me into a "twisted little cult that wastes time fawning over deeply wretched (music)." I agree that your quote might apply to what Steven Cohan calls "mass camp" in his fab book Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and The MGM Musical (Duke UP, 2005). But it doesn't work on a ragingly homosexual male for whom camp is his lifeblood. In short, you wrote off the wrong b!t(h.
Still, that's all slightly beside the point which means I had to jettison a long post schooling your a$$ on camp. Because it boils down to your endorsement of this: "The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful . . . Of course, one can't always say that."
Yeah duh. Not all awful albums are created equal. So if you know that, then why did you get apoplexy when I pumped What's Happening To Our World? You're being willfully bullheaded if you can't parse the difference between Xgau's review of that album and, oh, Metallica's Load. Or, more precisely, if you can't see why his What's Happening To Our World? review would entice you to listen to it while his Load review makes you glad you dodged a very boring bullet.
And lo. Ann Powers asked the man himself what his most memorable dud is. Why, it's Kay Huntington! "I gave it an E for transcendent awfulness." And, of course, he's right. I sit in dumbfounded wonder at how someone came up with music as funny as SCTV's The Ramblers (http://goo.gl/TuWOm) without trying to be funny in the first place.
Same with another E, Kim Fowley. We SHOULD preserve him in a time capsule as a measure of how uniquely godawful music can be (keyword: uniquely). And if I adhered to the Milo Miles edict of ignoring E records, I would've missed pop songs as catchy as "Bubblegum" (an actual title) and, later, "Motorboat," neither requiring any camp justification.
In closing, two remarks on camp.
1. Paraphrasing Cohan, camp coheres around incongruity, theatricality, and humor. And, chica, are you ever missing the latter! Like I seriously think there are rules for rock criticism (and that they're numbered no less)!
2. It's noteworthy how your original rant calls up a camp defense. Here's Cohan again: "Camp allows gay men to undermine social categories of gender and sexuality that marginalize them by exposing the artifice of the social order which categorize them as unnatural." Or "twisted," as you might put it. We're caught fawning (such a queer image) over devalued cultural objects and wasting time, just like the numbers in movie musicals (gee, guess what my specialty is in). So when you say "nobody's wasting my time when they're wasting their time," we know you're trying to uphold your social order as the natural one. Desperately, of course. Mwah!
Robert Christgau is basically the ultimate troll
I don't believe you , you're a liar.
As terse as it is sprawling [nonsense]
as labored as it is vitriolic [comparison terms have no relation]
*Yes, this is part of my who-are-you/real-name campaign.
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.
I mean, by all means, the Chiddy Bang could be a ***, but I think not.
I have no idea what this sentence means, but it fascinates me.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the recipient of the inaugural Istvan Laszlo Memorial Award for Contrary Impertinence........... Alan Baker!!!! At least our original persona non grata stuck around long enough to display a discernible sense of humor and an appreciation of good jazz. Whether or not the latest incarnation will return at a later date in a more sociable frame of mind remains to be seen.
Tell us big fella, does your churlishness just exist in cyberspace or do you play a schmuck in real life, too? If you're amenable, we have an honest-to-goodness physician on board who'd be more than happy to prescribe you some new meds.
Thanks for sharing Irene's good news Nick. I'm guessing you're out celebrating but sign in and toot your horn girl!
Here I am at 1:40 AM dutifully typing away. Hmm, maybe it's me who's the schmuck.........
Carry on night owls, West Coasters and early-rising Europeans; I'm outta here.
I already hear Christgau sighing and yelling N*Sync is better
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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