Monday, May 7, 2007

I love this nappy headed ho.

I went to the Amy Winehouse concert on Saturday at the Electric Factory in Philly. If you were there I was one of the tall pretty broads in the front blocking your view. Anyways, as expected she blew our minds with her voice, and satisfied any and everyone who showed up to see a spectacle, teetering drunkenly about the stage, not a note off key.

One opener. Three words. Patrick. Muthafuckin'. Wolf.

This glamonster poured out all over the stage in a homoerotic farm boy outfit, fueled by heroin love, and urging the audience to 'join in togetherness' as we gazed uncomfortably at his crotch area (I could write a whole blog about what was going on in his shorts. The term 'sticky situation' comes to mind.) I have never heard of this fag in my life, but that shit was fantastic. Caterwauling, histrionics, glitter everywhere, i'm officially amped. Then he whispers goodbye to everyone and flutters offstage in a trail of sparkles.

Then, lights dim, instruments tune up, and out trots a pony on spindly legs in denim cutoffs and a wifebeater, tatted up, and drowning in piles and piles of weave. Absolutely magical. She killed it, nervous at first but then she got into it, after some liquor was in her, where it all went, i've no idea. She has to be 48 lbs soaking wet, and with that ridiculous ass hair on. I'm glad I got to see her because at the rate she's going homegirl won't be here for me to love and mock for much longer. Yet and still, I love her ghetto ass.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I feel like slappin somebody today...

The Don Imus-fueled controversy over misogynistic rap lyrics surrounds Ebony magazine’s recent decision to pull rapper Ludacris from the cover of its June issue on "the New Black Fathers" and replace him with actor, Boris Kodjoe, reports Journal-isms. "Something has changed in America in the last few weeks," Bryan Monroe, editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines, told Journal-isms, without disclosing the identity of the rapper. As president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Monroe led the movement to have Imus fired. "I think the media is being called to account in these areas," Monroe said. There is an opportunity to "transfer the conversation around language, race, inclusiveness and diversity," as he said in his NABJ president's column. --[Source]
This isn't exactly current news, but then again I never promised anything like that in this blog, however it's current enough for me to 'feel some type of way' about it. I can see where Ebony is coming from on this (from a business perspective) but the move really doesn't jive with my sense of morality. Luda says alot of innapropriate things but to remove him from the cover in a father figure issue is pretty cold-blooded to me. [soapbox] In my opinion the average new black father was raised on hip hop and would relate more to Ludacris, someone who somehow supposedly personifies everything thats "wrong" with black people these days, then sissy ass Boris Kodjoe. I say ho, Luda says ho. I think i'm a decent person, he's probably a decent father. My logic trumps all, and I demand that those Ebony stop actin like Bill O'Reilly and Oprah give a damn about their raggedy ass magazine and put Luda back on the cover. [/soapbox] Or not, I don't even read that magazine. But the gesture would be nice. I guess I just don't like the idea of criticizing the average black person, black men specifically. Yes, there are problems, but can't they get a break, a pat on the back every now and then? Dag.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Swing, swing

Nostalgia. When I was growing up it always sounded like a strange word for such a vague emotion, like it was better suited for a brand of coffee or a drug company. Needless to say kids are dumb. But that rambling leads me to this hopefully more coherent one about what I find to be one of the most effective nostalgia inducing genre of music aside from Saturday morning cartoon theme songs: New Jack Swing. What’s that you say? Well, it’s basically the urban music that was churned out in the early nineties. It was that period of time when hip hop and R&B started to become more commercial and music became darker and more sexualized, or should I say “freaky”, since every artist during that period had that in the title of one of their songs or at least the chorus. Artists still do that today from time to time but back then, it wasn’t just “freaky” it was “freeaaakaaayyy” I think the difference is evident. There was a fun, almost haunting, almost poppy edginess to the sound of it that I can recall left me feeling uncomfortable, frightened and excited all at once. No wonder it fit so well into the ‘superhero’ films of my childhood. Lest we forget, there’s no Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Batman without New Jack. Basically this is all coming from a specific place, some random circumstances have been reintroducing this music into my life and the way it seems so familiar yet dated is something that makes it enough of an oddity to be my momentary obsession. So while I was looking for some more information on this topic that apparently only I and this Seth Price guy care about, I came across this article. I decided to share. Yay.

Edit: Here's a link to a comprehensive New Jack Swing site for all the fans that are interested.

Journalistic Approach to New Jack Swing

Seth Price, 2002

Adapted from an article published in Sound Collector Audio Review, 2003

It’s clear that the wound is still fresh, for, if it were otherwise, the ghouls would have arrived long ago, as they did with Northern Soul, Miami Bass, and “electro.” What a time you chose to be born!

The short-lived musical genre known as New Jack Swing is just old enough to be vaguely embarrassing. It hasn’t attained classic status, and may never do so. Why is it that some styles pass directly into legend, while others remain trapped in an awkward limbo?

It’s important to stress that, like most conservative pop, New Jack Swing depended heavily on producer svengalis. When we talk about the eighties, the specter of production control looms over all hit music, dance music, electronic music, beat music. A good example is the Pointer Sisters’ 1983 album Break Out, in which different working units are responsible for each track, and the achievement is that the product is coherent at all, let alone a classic record.

New Jack Swing emerged in the latter half of the decade, its incipient arrival signaled by Bobby Brown’s 1986 split from New Edition, the hit group created by Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun. The genre reached a high point around 1990 with the international success of Bell Biv Devoe’s single “Poison.” By 1991 it was probably dead of overexposure, as signaled by the release of the film New Jack City, co-scripted by journalist Barry Michael Cooper, a producer of early electro pop under the name “Micronawts”, whom some say coined the term “New Jack Swing” in an article for The Village Voice. The same year saw the release of the Wreckx-n-Effects hit “New Jack Swing,” another possible source of the term. In any case, it seems clear that 1991’s mainstream press frenzy was symptomatic of the genre’s quick slide into irrelevance.

The sound could be described as an admixture of hip hop—at the time roughly produced, which wasn’t surprising, considering that albums were being turned out by nineteen year olds on cheap bedroom sampler kits—and the kind of music on which labels like Motown always depended, popular soul that relied on producers to midwife the product. It was an obvious match, and it still seems surprising that major labels took so long to catch on. In fact, the entire New Jack Swing venture can be seen as a producer’s grab for market share, a way to assimilate an obstreperous but commercially successful youngster into the secure, decades-old structures of popular black music. This sort of music at the time depended on being received as sexy, smooth, Adult. Lacking was anything “edgy,” which was a defining critical term in the 1990s, across media. Adult Urban Contemporary producers decided that, in the interests of survival, they’d better incorporate hip-hop rhythms, samples, and production techniques. If this indeed was some kind of strategy, today’s charts demonstrate its success. Motown itself, through streetwise marketing and production, found new life in the 1990s with prime New Jack Swing acts like Another Bad Creation and Boyz II Men, the latter of which is, according to the RIAA, the most lucrative R&B group in history.

The New Jack style proved tremendously popular, spanning disparate genres and forms. Its influence could be seen in movies like House Party, rap groups like Heavy D or Nice & Smooth, catch-up albums by established stars like Michael Jackson, and fashions such as towering high-top fades, single-suspender overalls, and baseball caps dangling fresh price tags. The style stretched as far as Japan, where artists like Zoo and LL Brother carried the torch. “If you take a band that’s good, you bust it up and sell three times as many records.” This was Devo’s critique of what they saw as rampant in rock ’n’ roll, and New Jack Swing honed the strategy, with popular artists going on to become producers rather than simply solo acts. New Edition gave Michael Bivins experience that he’d use to groom ABC and Boyz II Men: the family seed must be perpetuated. The formula was copied back into hip hop by artists like Dr. Dre and EPMD.

But what is it that makes this music “New Jack Swing”, as opposed to something else, say, “up-tempo R&B”? Distinctions are hard to make, as it’s a style with an as-yet unwritten history. Bell Biv DeVoe suggests a general definition in a liner-note credo describing their own music: “mentally hip hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it.” It’s important to note that this definition presents hip-hop as the heart of the sound. After all, one of the premises of New Jack Swing was its “edge”: New Edition was a saccharine boy band, and Bobby Brown, in leaving, wanted to assert a more mature image. It was a strategy adopted by many other performers, including Janet Jackson, not to mention the remaining members of New Edition. The style was most clearly expressed in the particular sound crafted by producers like Teddy Riley, who is acknowledged as master and originator. While Riley’s breakthrough was Keith Sweat’s 1987 LP Make It Last Forever, he really hit his stride a year later with the trio Guy, one of the most influential bands of the period, and he went on to remix or produce literally hundreds of tracks.

For a supposedly street-wise mode, however, the music itself is fairly tame. This is due partly to fat record contracts, which demanded high production values, which meant increasingly professional electronic studios and a clean, airless sound that made no attempt to conceal its digital origin. As with electrofunk, the goal was the crispest highs and the heaviest bass. While in some music’s samples are chinks in the armor through which grit, poor recording, and vinyl-crackle enter, here they were employed as rhythmic punctuation rather than as loops, and were in any case often generated in the studio rather than appropriated. Tracks were actually composed, often by producers with extensive musical training, and synth sounds came straight out of the box, with little of the knob-twiddling that House and Techno brought to electronic music. It was a voracious, synthetic mode, seeking to fold in hard beats and cuts, breathy vocals, chimes and bells, swelling strings, sexual innuendo and declarations of love. Rapping was kept to a minimum, sometimes contained in bridges and breaks, and overshadowed by harmonizing, crooning, wooing. The term “swing” referred to the rhythm, which often employed a combination of straight 8ths, 16th note shuffles, and 16th-note swing patterns (in Europe, the music was sometimes known as Swingbeat, and this name survives in the Netherlands, which is a stronghold of New Jack Swing fandom, inexplicably).

What are we to make of this movement? It may be that it’s deeply reactionary, but there’s something interesting about the low regard in which it’s now held. You can trace a cyclical pattern: every ten years or so, up rises a dumb, catchy mode that will eventually come to sound like death. “Jungle” or “Drum & Bass” could see its turn come up, for example, although those forms never reached critical levels of popularity, at least in North America. Ultimately, these comparisons are fun but absurd: you might juxtapose white acts like Sudden Impact or New Kids on the Block with the Brothers Gibb, or even with Steely Dan, whose notoriously antiseptic sound has affinities with that of New Jack Swing. If we take a genre that’s even closer to us in time, like Grunge, it’s clear that New Jack Swing’s current shit status doesn’t come simply from the passage of time. Grunge, while quickly co-opted, grew out of an apparently independent community, whereas New Jack Swing was, from the start, large-format, cash-making, eyes-on-the-charts. Giving such control to the technicians yields a sound overly indebted to then-fashionable production tools, whether it was digital reverb in the early eighties, or the auto-tuner today. What is off putting is the pathos of the obsolete product. It made a sacrifice so that we could move on with a clear conscience. Pop cannibalized any useful parts, and ditched the corpse. It seems that music arising from a community dies with some dignity, whereas producers like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have long since moved on to the next sound; surely they haven’t shed a tear for New Jack Swing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Aside from Sammy you're my best black Jew"

Although I fear becoming a cliche so soon in my foray into this shit I feel the need to express how much I'm digging this Amy Winehouse broad. One journalist described her as "a dark beauty with a slightly equine face" another described her as a "street version of Joss Stone." I can't help but feel that the second doesn't know what the fuck she's talking about, but then again I don't know that much about what Joss Stone besides that she's getting her swirl on with Raphael Saadiq and has a red afro, perhaps an homage to Chakha or Ronald McDonald. In any case can I pause to tip my hat to that first guy? He said she looks like a horse... a pretty horse. I love it.
Well I'm aware she's already creating quite a buzz for herself so if she needs introduction go to the wikipedia page and sample some of the tracks I've lovingly made available or peep the video that's been playing all over apparently (my location only provides basic cable, not cocaine cable). Like so many others I was minding my business and listening to More Fish a la Ghostface when I hear this track 'You Know I'm No Good'. This singer had a distinct voice, that matched Ghost's
style while he rambled on over the beat in typical exotic ass Toney fashion, that reminded me of Cherchez LaGhost. So I decided to look her up and *cough* located her latest album back when it wasn't available in the US. Yes its a send up of 60's R&B but the style in which she's singing isn't where her appeal lies. She can sing over samples of 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' or 'Made U Look'. Obviously an added bonus to this girl for me is that she's a hip hop chick and digs Nas (her song Me and Mr. Jones is about trying to get to a Nas concert).
What I'm hoping is the appeal about her to everyone is that she's got an honesty to her that makes her refreshing. When you have plastic soulless debutante Beyonce to represent the state of R&B you jump on any alternative that's less polished and captures the broke down beauty of that kind of music. I think that the tide is trying to move away from cookie cutter (wishful thinking?) with their almost unexpected embracing of ghetto ass Jennifer Hudson (who I also love).
I'm not usually a modern R&B chick just because its generally all too pretty and pop-ish, all of which is fine and definitely has its place, but I just can't relate to it. Amy I can relate to, because she's fucking crazy. All of her songs are basically about the same damn guy and she has a general sense of being rambunctious to scandalous to brash and collapsing that makes me think she hangs out with a lot of black people (Side: Yes, I am that ignorant...yet probably accurate.) In any case the girl goes through it and she lets you hear it and see it. I don't know that much about her public persona besides that she beats bitches up and stay drankin but when she talks about her music theres a sincerity that's simple but refreshing. I don't know how much longevity she has... shes one of those people who I'm trying to see in concert soon because there's a distinct possibility that her body will be found in a hotel bathroom somewhere one of these days... and she also has the limitation that shes young and most of her subject matter is about her affair with a married? man, but as a flavor of the moment she speaks directly to the vulgar sinner woman in me and I like it.

Bonus: Know You Now (Live from the Astoria)

Back to Black lyrics

Friday, March 16, 2007

a view to the kill

He's sweet tongued and sensual, sensible and he wants me.
Heavy melody drifting down resting on my lips, eyelids, denser than air.
The timbre makes me swoon, its all honey bass and bass guitar and classical piano.
His charm is laced with this vulnerability, it's potent and it's the kind of openhearted sincerity that brazenly begs annihilation, borders on self-destruction.
I think I'm in trouble.
His desire makes me tremble in my armor as I realize my sirens and war drums are useless now that he has a taste for it, all of it, fruit, body, mind, soul, life, nectar, skin, and seeds.
He will devour me until I break, until I learn to harmonize.
Saccharine nothings are light and harmless, carried away by wayward breezes.
But these wine soaked riffs, these rhythms reverberate down in the deep.
So thick, you can still smell some of the notes on your hair long after the song is over.
It's not lovers rock and chocolate candy anymore, its soul metal creme de cacao mixed with gin, hard liquor.
We take shots. We take shots.
Intoxicated off the rhythm and bliss..revel in fcking wasted, and we only pause to blaze.
In any case I figured including the piece that gave this abomination its title would be fitting. Later on I think i'll play Lit. major and break my own work down line for line like a dramatic cunt. Muahz.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Its difficult to decide what direction to go with, in anything that ends with the option 'Publish' glaring beneath it. But since I have already opted to have one of these things I suppose that makes me one of those blogging douchebags and any pretense of humility should have left me whilst I began to set this page up. In any case i'm writing this as though to myself (which is the case anyway i'm sure) and i'll start from there somewhere along the lines I'll pick up some kind of muse and devote a consistent portion of this to that.