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 +17Posted on Nov 26th, 2013 | re: Lostprophets Singer Pleads Guilty To Indescribable Sex Crimes (82 comments)

Wow….

I don’t shock easy, but this is one of the most skull-numbingly fucked up things I’ve probably ever read. For the most part, I don’t subscribe to notions of certain people being abjectly “evil”, as I believe pretty much everyone is capable of immense cruelty and barbarism, and “evil” is more a product (of circumstance, of culture, of too much power and too few boundaries) than it is a state of being.

However, stuff like plotting how to get children addicted to meth so you can train them as sex slaves, or filming yourself fucking a baby, crosses a line that I can’t really rationalize. I don’t know what circumstance or mindset you could find yourself in where these things seemed reasonable or justifiable. This is just indulging in depravity because you can, because you’re intoxicated by the idea of subverting fundamental notions of humanity. This is the embrace of “evil” as a fully-consuming state of being.

 +2Posted on Nov 6th, 2013 | re: Mixtape Of The Week: Action Bronson & Party Supplies Blue Chips 2 (18 comments)

In today’s rap scene, a mixtape is largely just a free album.

In the 90s, hip-hop mixtapes were more like actual, traditinal mixtapes, in that you had a DJ creating a mix of current hits, upcoming, unreleased singles by both label and underground artists, and freestyles. This was technically illegal, since they were selling copyrighted music, but labels put up with it since it was effectively free promotion. Mixtapes were the original music blogs, and were the fastest, most effective ways to break new songs and artists.

This changed somewhat in the early 2000s, as you had an influx of single artist/crew mixtapes from collectives like G-Unit and Dipset that were less about the DJ and more akin to slapdash albums playing loose with copyright law. There was an entire era of (largely failed) “mixtape rappers” who had released hundreds of songs and freestyles before ever releasing major label debuts (Joe Budden, Papoose, Saigon, Uncle Murda, etc.). It was actually Budden’s 2006 Mood Muzik 2 that really began the trend of mixtapes featuring mostly if not exclusively original production and fully formed, hook-laden, radio ready songs. Mixtapes became a way for rappers to release music in an era where the label business was imploding, finished albums were sitting on the shelf for years and traditional big budget marketing and promotion only existed for the Jays and Ems of the world.

Mixtapes in the “blog rap” era have just taken that to the extreme. On the whole, major labels don’t fuck with rap anymore, and if you’re a new artist trying to make a name, without a marketing machine behind you, you can’t realistically expect people to come to your Bandcamp page and put down money for a 7 song EP. So, you release that shit free, and if you’re lucky, some blogs pick it up, and you can go on a small tour, and maybe a street clothing brand or a liquor company will want to co-opt your coolness by paying you to make a video, or even sponsor a new mixtape, at which point the cycle begins again. There are a not insignificant number of rappers who’ve never released commercial albums but tour the world just off of succesful mixtapes.

So basically, a modern mixtape is what would’ve been referred to in the past as a demo, except it’s publicly available, and you have to keep making them to stay relevant in the endless churn of the blogosphere. Being a rapper circa-2013 is like being a professional amateur musician.

 +5Posted on Nov 1st, 2013 | re: Premature Evaluation: Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (83 comments)

I very much agree with this.

Also, while nobody would deny that Eminem is one of the all time great rap technicians, I’ve always felt that he gets elevated a bit beyond his accomplishments due to the fact that he’s many older people’s only real exposure to serious, verbose, dexterous rap music. The original MMLP was very much a product of late 90s/early 2000s hip-hop album construction: overlong, brilliant in spots, droning in others, and a prime example of the singles legitimately being the best songs on the album.

I think there are a lot of 30s/40s “rock dad” types for whom Em is still the first and last word on artistry in rap music, and I think you’ll see that reflected in the reviews. Youth music outlets are going to skewer it for being out of touch, tonedeaf dreck, but establishment papers and mags are going to cheer the return of their beloved enfant terrible, the guy who scrubs hip-hop music of all of the groove and dangerous, unhinged sexuality that makes it so threatening, and replaces it with good old-fashioned all-’Merican ultraviolence.

The fact that pre-orders for this have topped the iTunes charts all week, while Danny Brown never even cracked the top 10, makes me deeply sad.

 +27Posted on Oct 10th, 2013 | re: Sky Ferreira Is Topless In NSFW Night Time, My Time Cover (46 comments)

Man…people are kind of dicks about women’s bodies.

It’s not like this is a particularly erotic photograph. Doesn’t it seem strange that a woman can’t display her naked torso without the image being decried as pornography? Doesn’t that embody the unhealthy degree to which we fetishize and claim public ownership over women’s bodies? It’s creepy and patronizing to construe a woman’s decision to present her body as intrinsically exploitative, as though clothing is the only means by which women can maintain agency over their art.

Also, saying “she’s just desperate for attention” ignores the fact that ALL artists are desperate for attention. A desperate need to be validated by others is sort of the default prerequisite for dedicating your life to a creative pursuit. People who are “well adjusted” and satisfied by the love and respect of close friends and family aren’t typically inclined to throw themselves naked and raw to a cruel, disinterested public, to present the bloodiest, most wounded slabs of their person up for consumption.

Why are there so few (any?) black writers working at the major youth music sites/magazines? As this article attests to, there’s probably never been a point in American music history with less overt segregation of consumption than right now, so while it’s both reasonable and positive that formerly indie-dominated media would begin covering traditionally “black” music in earnest, it’s a shame that we haven’t seen a similar sense of diversity creep into the ranks of the people actually writing the coverage.

“What’s not up for debate is that any privileged person who is interested in behaving benevolently needs to focus less on their rights and more on how they affect less-privileged people. That’s a conversation whose terms the less-privileged ought to dictate.”

Good point, but sort of hollow when said people of “less-privilege” aren’t really being invited to join the discussion, let alone dictate it.

That being said, Stereogum and every other site are going to hire writers capable of translating a vast world of diverse music down to a language and sensibility that connects with their readership, a readership that I’m going to guess skews heavily towards the young, white and educated. I get it, but it makes articles like this come across as disingenuous and self-serving, where the point isn’t to dig at a challenging nugget of cultural politics, to get messy and pose hard questions to your audience, but to assuage their conscience and politely brush aside misgivings while waving the neon flag of “poptimism”.

I guess my point is that you can’t have it both ways. Either you make an effort to have an active dialogue with a diverse coterie of writers about a diverse selection of music, or you accept your role as an anthropologist, translating outsider culture for consumption by the insiders.

 0Posted on Sep 4th, 2013 | re: The Weeknd Is Taking Fan Phone Calls Now (4 comments)

It must suck to be an Asian girl.

You’ve got a constant stream of THE creepiest white dudes coming up to you and thinking that you’re the embodiment of their submissive schoolgirl fantasy. Really, I don’t know that any demographic in this country are as overtly, perversely fetishized as women of east Asian descent.

Clever marketing gimmick, though.

 +9Posted on Aug 27th, 2013 | re: Eminem - "Berzerk" (26 comments)

1) This song is horrible.

2) It’s like Em has devolved into a late 90s self-parody of “white rap”. I feel like I should be playing cornhole and getting buzzed off of Natty Light while listening to this.

3) That being said, has Eminem ever released a first single that wasn’t borderline unlistenable? “My Name Is” was sort of a fun novelty record, but everything since has been roughly equivalent to the idiocy of “Berzerk”, so there’s still hope that the rest of the album will be more palatable.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll always contend that Eminem is one of the most technically gifted rappers in history, but has never released a true, honest to god classic album. MMLP sold a lot of copies and introduced large swaths of white America to virtuosic “lyrical” rap, but it’s a bloated mess.

 +7Posted on Aug 6th, 2013 | re: Deconstructing: The O.C. And Indie Rock Gentrification (108 comments)

I’m forever baffled by the notion that music fandom forces you to be IN OPPOSITION TO!!!! something. There’s a lot of music that I don’t listen to, simply because it doesn’t appeal to me, but I don’t then automatically assume that my distaste for it is an indicator of that music being worthless/for morons/made by untalented hacks etc., because I don’t work from the assumption that I’m the arbiter of objective taste.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that everything has hidden levels of complexity. Everything. I’m not saying that you aren’t allowed to have your tastes or predilections, because we all do, but have at least a modicum of perspective that your tastes aren’t born of unbiased, dispassionate analysis. You like the things you like because you are who you are. People who like things different than you do aren’t inherently charlatans or liars or simpletons. They may just not be you.

 +10Posted on Aug 6th, 2013 | re: Deconstructing: The O.C. And Indie Rock Gentrification (108 comments)

I don’t think people ever stop to really think about how young the canon of Western “pop music” really is. We’re talking about 50/60 years worth of music here, and during a timespan that’s seen radical technological changes that forever altered the way music is made, the way it sounds, the way it’s sold, the way it’s distributed etc. Articles like this always work from the assumption that there was an immovable, sharply defined foundation of “authentic” or “hip” music deeply lodged into the zeitgeist, and any changes to that perception were inevitably the result of drastic, tectonic shifts in the crust of pop culture.

Really, I don’t think that rock music is dead by any means, but I do think kids making music today, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, are dramatically less fascinated by Bob Dylan and The Beatles and The Stones than kids who grew up in the 60s and 70s were, which is entirely logical. The “pop music” that those 60s/70s babies made sounded like the radio music they grew up listening to, so it’s only logical that kids who grew up on Michael Jackson and Madonna and Tupac and R Kelly are going to make music that reflects that. What’s weird isn’t that kids who grew up on Janet Jackson love Beyonce, but that a lot of music critics assumed that said kids would just automatically adopt the same aesthetics and notions of “authenticity” as people 20 years their senior.

I’m of the opinion that baby boomers came very close to ruining music, due to their creating this notion of there being an immortal, sacrosanct canon of pop music royalty that all must pay homage to and that none can ever surpass. The downturn in rock’s popularity amongst the youth-music intelligentsia is simply a reaction to that, a need to cleanse the palette and break away from the suffocating grip of the Rock Gods!!! In 10 or 20 years, once the boomers are dead and kids want nothing more than to eradicate the omnipresent synth pop their parents listen to, they’ll pick guitars back up and start doing weird, fun things with the genre to give it brand new life.

 0Posted on Jul 10th, 2013 | re: Premature Evaluation: Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail (58 comments)

I would agree. The album has actually grown on me substantially since I first listened to it on Thursday (to note: I was listening while nursing a brutal hangover and playing Animal Crossing, so it had less than my full attention).

It actually reminds me to some degree of Reasonable Doubt. It’s nowhere near RD quality, quite obviously, but it shuffles along at an unhurried gait, content in its own being, in a way that Jay-Z of the Def Jam and beyond era was never really comfortable with. Outside of that insta-skip Beyonce duet, nothing on the album feels particularly “single”-y. Even “Holy Grail” is too long and too awkwardly structured to really fit comfortably into the “hook – verse – hook – verse – hook” structure of rap radio. “La Familia” is probably the breeziest, least hurried Jay-Z song since “Feelin’ It” or “Cashmere Thoughts”.

And I was ready, EAGER to hate this album. I’m infatuated with Yeezus, and I was EAGER to hoist up MCHG as comparatively bankrupt, artistically, musically, intellectually. But I can’t. It’s not an album that asks much of anything from me, or that thrills me, or that’s home to many if any songs that will find their way to the career-spanning greatest hits retrospective, but it’s an expensive sounding, beautifully mastered album that knocks incredibly hard when it wants to, helmed by a guy who’s past his prime but still one hell of a rapper. Look past the gross Samsung affiliation and it’s hard to hate if you genuinely enjoy meat and potatoes hip-hop music.

Also, as a side note, it really bothers me that so many critics are having bitch fits about his commodification of the “high art” world. As somebody with a dusty studio art BFA sitting on his proverbial shelf, I feel at least moderately qualified to say that vacuos image and shameless commodification have long been a part of the modern art scene. Jay-Z cheapens the art world in the same way that NWA created the word “nigger”, or how Snoop Doggy Dog was the inventor of referring to women as “bitches”.

The lesson to be learned by the backlash to MCHG is that you can spend 16 years bragging about selling drugs to your community and be a critical darling, but start appropriating fine art imagery and OH MY GOD THAT MONSTER NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!!! Priorities, people, priorities.