Realer Than Thou

Many people who have a distaste for what they call “rap” are unaware that there are examples which do not take for granted that the person the rapper is addressing with his/her lyrics is an opponent. To these peoples’ credit, I think it’s safe to say the complaint that “rap is so angry” often has merit.

“Why are there so many angry young rappers?”

There indeed exists within the world of battle-rapping (where rappers compete to demonstrate their appeal and ability over one another) a tradition of violent language directed at another rapper.

Rapper Mac Lethal battle raps at Scribble Jam

Perhaps more to the complainers’ point, though, the violence and aggression is often directed someplace more in keeping with the personality the rapper portrays (at a “bitch”, at a rival dealer, etc.). They hasten to point out that the examples of this we admire often reflect a very sick and upsetting reality.

Perhaps no rapper better embodies this celebration of the sewer better than 50 Cent. Readers familiar with his track, “You Ain’t No Gangsta” will remember the verse that proclaims,

…you spit it cause you seen it
I spit it cause I did it and I mean it

While this kind of attack on another’s authenticity is found in countless examples throughout rap’s history, you may find it amusing to know that 50 cent himself is one of the few rappers ever to draw attention with his lyrics to the fact that rap of the type he creates is ultimately a form of theater:

These cats always escape reality when they rhyme
That’s why they write about bricks and only dealt wit dimes


Bismillah, Yes

Yesterday I wrote about DJ /Rupture and his contribution to the canon of the amen break. It should be noted that his work goes far beyond that narrow facet of electronic music. You may have noted that Gold Teeth Thief features the instrumental for Oochie Wally by Nas. This, in turn, is made up of samples taken from an album many consider an example of the orientalism inspired by the hippy movement.

Gong – Bambooji

While some artist would be content to allow “Middle Eastern” music of western origin such as this to a inform their aesthetic, a perusal of /Rupture’s output reveals that this is not his MO. If you had listened to his Mudd Up radio show, you would have noticed just how authentic his selections from this part of the world are.

Azeddine – Choufou Zwaj Lgawria

If it wasn’t for DJ /Rupture I would never have heard Chaabi artists like Azeddine and been aware of Moroccan, Algerian, and Berber people’s strange and beautiful love affair with auto-tune.

Here is a forum post that captures the phenomenon far better than I possibly could.

Amens I have Known: Part 4

The third artist I encountered, after kid606 and Lesser, who really “opened the throttle” on amen breaks, was DJ /Rupture. In 2002 I got my hands on a copy of Gold Teeth Thief. The moment at 4:50 when he drops the amen rinse from Badman Time by DJ Scud followed by Barrington Levy‘s inspired vocal stylings, will forever be etched in my mind.

Barrington Levy – Here I Come

DJ /Rupture – Gold Teeth Thief (Check out 4:50)

What is this? Jungle? Breakcore? Without artists like DJ /Rupture, we are beholden to the almighty genre and record label to give context to music we are exposed to. I would argue that until you embrace the idea of the DJ set as a form of artistic expression, it is impossible to fully appreciate electronic dance music and understand the futility of language and business to confine it within limits.

Amens I have Known: Part 3

Discovering breakcore and, contemporaneously, being introduced to Napster’s actual heir in the world of filesharing has an effect I imagine is not unlike graduating from marijuana to cocaine. This is especially true when the quality control of all you have known prior is restricted by the rigid confines of marketability for album sales.

I’ll be damned, though, if I didn’t manage to ride the crest of one of the last honest examples of a brick and mortar record label in its heyday. Just a year after the release of Down with the Scene, 2001 saw the release of a compilation album, the likes of which have not been seen since.

The release that started it all for me (Catalog #: meow012)

While it contains enough inspired material to fill an entire blog with nothing else, a high school kid with a predilection for amen breaks might naturally gravitate toward Lesser‘s contribution, Mensa Dunce Squad (Leg Up Program).

Lesser – Mensa Dunce Squad (Leg Up Program)

As the title suggests, the track consists of a treatment of the amen break in the context of IDM which seeks to lampoon the very concept that “dance music” can be “intelligent”.

Perhaps ironically, the result is what some would consider an intellectual accomplishment. Not only does it work musically, but it manages to cover ground I doubt anyone else has treaded prior or since.

Mind blown.


Amens I have Known: Part 2

A running joke I find some people around me riffing on is that every genre has its “-core” version. This phenomenon finds perhaps its purest expression in the existence of such actual things as mumblecore and normcore.

Purported examples of normcore fashion (nobody seems able to agree on what the term actually means)

In the case of the amen break, the “core” is breakcore. Breakcore artists like Enduser and Venetian Snares sample the amen break even faster and more aggressively than in its native domain of jungle. Consider this jungle track from 1997:

We – Magnesium Flares

With all its verve and springiness, it may seem absurd to describe this as “subdued”. And perhaps that isn’t the correct way of characterizing how it is contrasted with breakcore. Maybe a better way to describe it is to say breakcore is more likely to scare you.

Abelcain – Nox Hymnos

Panacea – Stormbringer

Angerfist – Street Fighter (Bong-Ra Remix)

Amens I Have Known: Part 1

It was 2001. I was in high school and had exhausted every resource I knew that would supply me with amen breaks. I may not even have had the vocabulary for them yet, but I knew they were my drug of choice.

To give some context, here is the unedited break section from the original 45 the amen break comes from, released in 1969.

The Winstons – Amen Brother (the break starts at 1:26 and goes until 1:33)

Anyways, the channels I knew for expanding my amen palette had dried up after I had collected every Squarepusher release I could get my hands on (no fewer than 9 CD’s if you don’t count his Pre-Squarepusher release as Chaos A.D.) at Ozone Records and Music Millenium, along with Luke Vibert’s Plug material.

Squarepusher – Full Rinse

So, when a chance encounter with a copy of kid606’s Down with the Scene at Every Day Music on Sandy exposed me to tracks like “kidrush” and “Luke Vibert Can Kiss My Indie-Punk Whiteboy Ass” it pretty much blew the top off my dome piece.

Hrvatski – Our Turn

Keeping it Unreal

My previous post contains a track by a Panamanian artist who has named himself a word that has its origin in a deep-seated legacy of oppression and is understood very differently outside the artist’s cultural context. While this is unfortunate, depending on your viewpoint, it may also be hilarious.

Nigga holds up his Latin Grammy. He’s was 26 at the time of his hit single’s release.

While it’s all well and good to sample the imagery, language, and music of cultures you don’t understand and use it for source material in your own projects, an educated artist is wary of the potential to embarrass him- or herself. Consider the following example:

Timbaland – Indian Flute

Despite Timbaland‘s undeniable mastery of production, he never really took off as the star performing over his beats. In addition to subjecting us to the indignity of having his nonsense syllables passed off to us as something more than the most basic, uninspiring form of creativity, the above track contains another, more subtle insult to the listener’s intelligence.

What’s the insult, you ask? The flute isn’t Indian. It actually comes from a track by Colombian folk singer, Totó La Momposina.

Totó La Momposina – Curura

Beenie Man demonstrates the proper use of the n-word in his track, Girls Dem Sugar (prod. The Neptunes):

For those of you outside the United States who don’t understand how offensive the word is to some people, check out the radio edit (“nigga” has been edited out of it):

Just for fun, here’s a version with some pretty decent rhymes over the top of it by Young Dizzle and Ripset:

And since you can’t get enough Nigga, here’s a version of his hit with Thiaguinho singing on it with him in Portuguese:

Arab vs Nigga vs ???

Six years ago, while living next to the rainforests of Guatemala’s altiplano, I discovered a reggaetonero who calls himself Nigga and who makes what I can only describe as Latin club music’s answer to Natalie Imbruglia (minus the brooding introspection). Observe:

Nigga – Te Quiero

Natalie Imbruglia – Torn

For some unfathomable reason, this sort of borrowing of racial identity is nowhere near as uncommon in the sordid world of untalented singing and rapping as it is in other spheres. An amusing example of some of North America’s more misguided attempts at this kind of appropriation can be found in Busta Rhymes’ “Arab Money”:

Busta Rhymes – Arab Money

It is in this puzzling undercurrent within United States hip hop that we find Nigga’s closest potential analog in choice of name. I’m referring, of course, to the inimitable Arab, henchman to the rapper who brought you such unforgettable favorites as “Crank That” and “Kiss Me Thru The Phone“.

Arab – 31st Floor

To make the trifecta complete, we need a Chaabi artist to adopt a name that pays tribute to some ethnic group from Latin America.

Here’s the video to Te Quiero:

And and for your enjoyment, Arab’s latest release:

IBQT at Future Arts Festival

I was not prepared for the erotic experience that was IBQT at Future Arts Festival. I wasn’t turned on, but you could be forgiven if you had been. While it was evident that they were having fun with it, I was sincerely impressed with the cleverness of the lyrical noodling and wordplay.

Jonny and Cole share a bite
Jonny and Cole share a bite

IBQT – Spliffs (420 Version)

Their performance occupied that awkward space between amusing and genuinely catchy. And the effect is all the more when you consider that they’re dressed in matching satin bathrobes and have flawless delivery.

IBQT’s performance was a part of the ongoing Future Arts Festival at PSU

Future Arts Festival, June 20-22, 2014
Future Arts Festival, June 20-22, 2014

Here’s some more stuff for if sexy is what you’re looking for:

Volumes of Bass sometimes features content of a vulgar, violent, or sexually explicit nature. Please be warned if you are offended by this kind of subject matter.