Archive for the 'Choice Cuts' Category

200 Or Less: Flight 187

Fifty flirts with fatalism. Forget flirts, fancies futility. While a reluctant Jay-Z downplays conflict and heralds success, 50 Cent openly contests the value of earthly gains. Curtis Jackson has seen the mountaintop; his G4 jet crashes into it. Most compelling about “Flight 187”: video mural depicting a confused but decidedly ironic multi-millionaire. If celebration and champagne are in vogue, macabre meltdowns are 50’s leverage, his levee stemming the tide.

Drake, the reluctant baller, has purred about the pitfalls of progress. 50 hasn’t pretended as much about his need for riches. Here, the first signs of wealth’s drag on his conscience. Not one for window shopping, he’s indulged even the negative parts of fame, namely feuding and vanity. But the yield has been curious.

“Brought you from the hood/Destination, hell or heaven?”

The floating question mark deranges his song nearly as much as its groaning vocal thump. In one “mm,” there’s baby mama drama, death visions, astuteness. Like Biggie before him, 50’s been ready to die from the inception. Specifically, it’s the imminence of his dream. As he nears the symbolic end, life’s hold tightens inexplicably. Black manhood ultimately corrodes vitality, discarding dreamers in the offing.

I’m a rider.



Bring Some Soul For My Robot

The internet connection is squeaking again in fits of malcontent. Videos just don’t play like they used to. Need about 10 minutes to check my digital mailbox, another 15 to scroll through the article links friends posted, 20 more to go through the various feeds to publications. Instant information, or at least the semblance of it, is like daily milk for the suckling neurons. For every sensuous byte, there’s an equal fire sparking within, gluing to genetic circuitry and drawing the flesh ever so close to the machine. What of the modern art galleries that feature video stills and metal sculptures? Do they lose the essence of “art” because the forms change with the era? Music flows dually in the currents of art and information. Video killed the radio star by necessity as technology sectored the world of sound. Wax records swallowed up live musicians who couldn’t cross over to vinyl in time. It’s the stuff of science fiction: the Matrix descending on the airwaves first, then into the brain patterns, and on and on.

Both sides of the digital divide have their place, but only the artists whose voices we hear materially captive, confined to cassettes, compact discs, and videos exist for our grandchildren. All the same, cardiovascular rhythm burns off technology’s bulk, leaving traces of the human soul within the filaments. The music with the best chance of survival inside the techno-sphere, then, is the kind that forces its heart into the robot, filling it with lifeblood to make it distinguishable from just another voicebox. Audio recording methods will forever mold how songs are preserved, but the true measure of timelessness is our ability to operate both inside and outside of wiring. Aretha Franklin, Nas and Jimi Hendrix will outlast any disc where their voices are heard partly because of their extensive catalogs and partly because of their infinitely soulful stance.

Now, as before, there are countless tweaks to enhance the vocal register, including the machine we know simply as Auto-tune, which eponymously indicates just how to “automate” a human sound with a robot’s hand. The current music climate welcomes robotic sounds, the metallic hum of a thousand modems. But it can be hard to differentiate the refuse from the jewels. Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It On the Alcohol” exists in the same crowded room with Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex,” shoving one another for space along the same frequency. Foxx wins. Mavado and Vybz Kartel smooth the edges of gangster dancehall with bleats and beeps, while Drake and Lil Wayne observe looking for clues. Which of these robotic voices makes sense to the human ear over decades? Continue reading ‘Bring Some Soul For My Robot’

I’m A Jamaican in New York

These few weeks have felt like Prelude to An Historic Speech or America Week. The Election bonanza so fittingly dovetailed the Olympics. The Democrats and Republicans put on a show that showed how disparate and simultaneously ethnocentric America can be. It’s difficult to place myself in the middle of the American spectrum. First, I’m black so I have dealt with pressing “otherness” since I learned that blacks in this country were treated differently through a system of historical treatise. Then, uncoerced, Aime Cesaire showed me that the same system effectively suppressed blacks in the West Indies (of America/Britain) and in Africa.




Since I was born in Kingston, Jamaica but raised stateside, I always had an allegiance to a place where most of my memories had long dissolved. I was stumped trying to figure out my Blackness, my Jamaican-ness, and my American-ness in the face of this larger diaspora idea, which in itself implies dissonance. Then, this week, as if to tap me on the shoulder, Lamika Young, educator and friend spoke to me over chat about Barack Obama. She asserted that the idea of him being named “Barack Obama,” and in turn his separateness from Black Americans, made him less threatening to the general population. I was willing to acknowledge that his exotic nature and name sets him apart from any generalized description of Black American. In the same huffy breath, I was dismayed that we were getting into a discussion of what makes someone Black American. Was she telling me that Black America had institutionalized Blacker Than Thou tests? Continue reading ‘I’m A Jamaican in New York’

When I’m Right, I’m Right

Last year around this time, I got involved in an prolonged e-mail debate with two great friends of mine (Kristan Sprague and Shaka King) about LeBron James’s 48-point outburst against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs. I didn’t personally witness the Fourth Quarter, but saw the Sportscenter highlights the next morning around 8 a.m. He had his team’s last 25 points, including 29 of their last 30 in the fourth quarter and overtime, when Greatness is conferred on the knaves and neophytes.

Part 1

Anyone who understands me as a person and a fan knows that I am devoted to seeing LeBron James succeed. I feared the hype machine might topple the Man-Monster he is well before he achieved his “Youngest Player To” Awards. I wanted for Jordan karma to cleanse the Cleveland Cavalier franchise in the form of a savior. Continue reading ‘When I’m Right, I’m Right’

Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)

via SmokingSection

Credit: Gotty, P, fam

Def Jam wanted a talented artist like Joe Budden to stay loyally in the fold, but wouldn’t give him the support he needs to remain relevant in the mainstream. Although top-billing acts like Nas, Redman and LL Cool J might deserve their due for past accomplishments, none of them hold the same promise as Joe Budden. Nevertheless, his career failed to launch after the success of breakaway hit “Pump It Up.” His torment seems to have fueled his Mood Muzik trilogy – a catalog of downtrodden songs describing the suspension act of a rapper on a foundering label. Besides dealing with unusual, career-threatening health concerns, Joey also had to wait in the proverbial wing while the snap-crunk-Dream movement unalterably defined the genre for young fans.

One senses his discomfiture not only in the telling lyrics bounding from Mood Muzik, but also in the raspy drawl of his responses. For someone so overwhelmingly analytical, he finds little hope in the shift rap has taken from flattened gangsterism to noir everyman verbosity. Lil Wayne’s free-form metaphors and Kanye’s picayune observations about dropout insecurities are the way of the day, a welcome mat for Joe Budden’s negative rants about the solitude of near stardom. Then again, his name has existed in the cloud of internet renown. Give or take some trials, that forum has certainly aided his cause as he enlists ground-level tactics to draw similarly cerebral folks into his reach. Inflated expectations have been his hurdle as well as the core of his haunting moody refrains. He’s taken matters into his own hands, securing a deal to release his next album on Amalgam Digital.

On the cusp of the NBA All-Star game, with starters having been announced, the other side of the discussion will include the great players not invited to play. Joe Budden has been noted as the excluded star so many times in his career that he’s come to terms with not meeting the measure of vacillating public perception, likening himself to one of basketball’s underrated athletes.

Joe Budden!

Words By Drew RickettsGraphics By P.

Joe Budden: Hello?

TSS: Yo wassup Joe.

JB: Andrew how you feelin’?

TSS: I’m feeling good. Definitely been looking forward to speaking to you.

JB: Oh okay. That’s what’s up.

TSS: One of the first freestyles I heard of yours was the one you did over the old NBA theme and I’m a real basketball fanatic. I’m into knowing, beyond the stars, all the players on all levels. I remember you mentioned Dirk in Dallas before he was a big name. When I talked to Cormega, he made a powerful comparison between himself and Rod Strickland, in terms of his career path. Who would you compare yourself to?

JB: Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy as of right now.

TSS: Brandon Roy? Why’s that? Continue reading ‘Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)’

French Rap’s Cred Takes Hit

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s newly elected conservative, has some dark secrets…darker than anyone on the political stage would ever embrace. His son Mosey is a hip-hop producer. France has a storied filial relationship with hip hop music. Like American teenagers, French kids were always apt to admire the style of hip hop artists and the verbal wizardry within the music. Moreover, the tension between North African emigres living in the depressed urban centers of France and the government’s xenophobic, anti-immigrant sentiments. Sarkozy represents the latter. He has been famously racist, conservative, chauvinist about defending his perceived ideas of French nationalism. And even though hip-hop is part of the national fabric, Sarkozy would prefer to ignore it. Too late for that, it seems.

Poison is a group from France’s banlieues (ghetto) whose anti-Sarko raps blare loudly across those locales. Mosey penned a song for Poison during Sarkozy’s election run which decries his bias, and extols youth to reject him at all costs. Talk about close to home.

And in case you weren’t sure about the power of hip-hop’s influence on French 20-somethings, peep Tony Parker’s YouTube rap video. TP is a recognized rap star near the level of his basketball fame. Not to get all profound about it, but there’s some meaty cultural implications there.

New Blood Pt. 2

Soulja Boy, as I discussed in this post has ideas about digital popularity that are germane to his age set. His song, for what it lacks in permanence, pops in other ways. Screaming, ringtone-obsessed teens can relate to it for a few months so the world, momentarily, pays him attention. But what of the newer rappers with exposure on smaller levels who are oppressed by their older counterparts. Lupe says he wants to quit after his next work, which is hardly credulous but who could blame him? Saigon has also expressed frustration at being wholly ignored by his label: the old heads shunning new talent once more. Joe Budden (along with LL Cool J, Redman, and Method Man) has specifically taken issue with Jay-Z hogging the limelight while his material and that of other newer artists has been neglected.

Joey in particular, who has chosen to release his Mood Muzik 3 mixtape with Amalgam Digital, is letting it be known that fresh faces would help more than harm. He uses the Jay/Jordan analogy against his boss just as he did it in the “Pump It Up” wars of 2003 saying that all the kids remember about Jordan is him getting crossed by Iverson. Telling indeed. The song expresses some of the unease among younger artists about the stagnation in the game.

Talk To Me

Which brings me to The Project…New York’s finest up-and-coming trio to give post-millennial rap some fresh prospects, challenge the pecking order. I know the members of The Project personally but, they have easily some of the best rap on the rise in years. Along with Brooklyn emcee Cavalier, The Project has renewed my sense of metropolitan pride. A few weeks ago, they performed in a star-studded bill with Little Brother and Evidence. I had seen Little Brother in October with Brother Ali, and thought them thoroughly upstaged by the Minnesota albino. This time, in a more intimate venue, they shined and proselytized appropriately with soulful tunes and Phonte’s irrepressible comedy act. The Project opened for Little Brother respectably with tunes to keep the crowd dancing like their soon-to-be hit “Soul Banger.” I had an epiphany about soul rap at that Southpaw show, wondering aloud if boom-bap had lost its soul, preferring to concede to the predictable head nod of whiteboy college fans. Continue reading ‘New Blood Pt. 2’