EMAIL PAGE SIXTEEN
COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT, NOVEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
Portside (the left side in nautical parlance) is a
news, discussion and debate service of the Committees
of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It
says it aims to provide varied material of interest to people
on the Left.
Heretofore, we were under the impression that Portside is the Internet's voice of the Left. But it turns out to be the Internet's voice of the fundamentalist Far-Left, which, like all fundamentalist organizations, adheres to an orthodoxy and consequently refuses to post dissident or differing opinions from within the Left---such as HATE YOUR GOVERNMENT BUT LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, available to be read in SECTION ONE of COLUMN SEVENTY. Fundamentalists, like fascists, will not tolerate any disagreements or variations from the fundamentalist orthodoxy.
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HIP HOP IS DEAD! LONG LIVE HIP HOP!
Hip Hop Is Dead; Long Live Hip Hop
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 2002 20:51:51 -0700 (PDT)
From: portsideMod <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: ps <email@example.com>
Hop Is Dead; Long Live Hip Hop
By Evan Endicott
you turn, the secret is being whispered. In the aisles of independent record
stores, where groove lovers congregate among dust-covered slabs of vinyl; in the
neighborhoods of New York and Los Angeles, where Hip Hop has shaped two
generations of youth; on college radio and in cyberspace, the words are heard
Hop is dead.'
can this be? After all, Hip Hop, a 'fad' born in the Bronx two decades ago, has
weathered the media's ceaseless attacks to become the dominant form of pop
music. Rap's mainstream acceptance, enabled by multi-platinum pretenders MC
Hammer and Vanilla Ice, created a cottage industry that comprises not only
albums, but stadium tours, film franchises and fashion imprints.
the secret persists, winding its way through smoky nightclubs and street corner
ciphers. Hip Hop remains alive in name only---a brand like any other. As a voice
of dissent against "Amerikkkan? culture, it has ceased to function. These
days, P. Diddy proclaims, "Don't worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,?
and listeners nod their heads in agreement.
for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Hip Hop's
underground, much maligned after years of in-fighting and self-obsession, is
showing signs of renewed vitality. The first element of this renaissance is
musical. While Eminem recycles Aerosmith tunes and Jay-Z squeezes the last drops
of soul out of Bobby Bland, innovative "undie? producers are employing
vintage vinyl, digital software and live instruments to create new classics.
Fat Jon, a Bay Area producer with a knack for putting everything in its right
place. His new LP, Wave Motion, combines slow-burning Jazz-funk with
ethereal trumpet solos, phased guitars, swirling keyboard licks and haunting
vocal samples. His grooves are neither as complex nor as challenging as DJ
Shadow's (with whom he is often compared), but for listeners craving
head-nodding soul in a melancholy vein, Fat Jon supplies satori through
more ambitious, trippy and downright bizarre instrumental voyage spans the 19
tracks on Angles Without Edges, the debut LP from Yesterday's New
Quintet. Billed as a Jazz-meets-Hip Hop jam session among mysterious players
with names like "Malik Flavors," YNQ is the musical brainchild of L.A.
producer Madlib. Juggling a mind-boggling array of vintage instruments, Madlib
whips up a "70s-flavored m?lange of Jazzy improvisation and inventively
the other end of the spectrum, Atlanta's Prefuse 73 mixes experimental,
glitch-infused computer programming with the 'beats first' aesthetic of Hip Hop
to create completely idiosyncratic instrumentals. On his latest EP, The '92
VS '02 Collection, complex keyboard melodies surf fearlessly over steadily
evolving electro-breaks, while minute vocal samples are woven into intricate
webs of rhythm and sound.
what about the words? When rap first emerged, it was a venue for the voiceless,
the neglected residents of America's inner cities. Seminal artists KRS-One and
Public Enemy rapped about a world most white Americans had never bothered to
notice. They were
rap lyrics resemble a twisted fusion of the Robb Report and hardcore porn,
holding conspicuous consumption and sexual conquest in equally high regard.
Jay-Z drives a Bentley and spends summer "lampin' in the Hamptons," while
Nelly prefers "fuckin' lesbian twins now." Hip Hop is moving backwards,
having traded real life for the phallocentric fantasy Hugh Hefner patented in
York group Company Flow opted out of this charade back in 1997, declaring
themselves "independent as fuck? and deconstructing the American mythos on
venomous tracks such as Patriotism. Though their moment was short-lived,
group member El-P went on to form Definitive Jux, a record label whose artists
are emblematic of the underground's return to socially conscious lyrics.
his debut solo LP, Fantastic Damage, El-P spits razor-sharp rhymes over
bombastic beats built from white noise, distorted synths and unidentifiable
blasts of sonic violence. Incredibly, El-P's flow is as intense as his music-a
dendrite-dense stream of consciousness that sounds senseless at first but is
poetically precise once deciphered.
rhymes as if trying to exorcise his thoughts upon formation, and with good
reason-his thoughts are often terrifying. On Stepfather Factory, he
imagines a company that manufactures abusive android surrogates. Brilliant
allusions swim through his murky sentences: Americans are 'simple headed
vagrants / Trying to chase where Forrest's feather went;? El-P is "Monkey
number one million / Flipping Tempest texts." Accidental genius or no, Fantastic
Damage is the 21st century's first Hip Hop masterpiece.
El-P conjures America's dystopian future, fellow New Yorker J-Live brings the
present into sharp focus on his album All of the Above. A literate,
passionate tirade against the industry pimps and music moguls who have 'turned
Hip Hop to a get-rich-quick scheme," Above skewers thugged-out MCs who
"keep it real? by imitating the movie mobsters in Goodfellas.
underground MCs focus on fixing Hip Hop because they lack the vision to address
the bigger picture. Fortunately, J-Live's eyes are wide open. Above is a
coast away, Blackalicious draw similar conclusions on their major label debut
Blazing Arrow. From the blackest streets to the Whitest House in the land, MC
Blackalicious and J-Live buttress these dark treatises with bouncy, sun-soaked
songs that celebrate life's pleasures---friends, family and Hip Hop itself. Less
optimistic, but no less funky, is Oakland's The Coup, a pair of Marxist
revolutionaries who drop communist theory over rump-shaking instrumentals.
5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO, (from the LP Party Music) MC Boots
Riley sums up America's captains of industry in three brilliant lines: 'they
own sweats shops, pet cops and fields of cola / Murder babies with they molars
on the areola / Control the Pope, Dalai Lama, Holy Rollers and the Ayatollah.'
the next few years, the secret of Hip Hop's demise will reach everybody's ears.
But when consumers move on to the next trend, the underground will still thrive.
If today's crop of artists is any indication, it will be a resurrection well
worth listening to.
Evan Endicott is a freelance music writer in Los Angeles. ##
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