Blog Watch Edition Five: Narrow Categorization

You know what it is. Details after the jump as always.

A Quiet Reminder of Why I Love Rap Music – I agree with Joey that Pete Rock’s remix of “Jump Around” both improves upon the original and makes great use of its main sample, effectively “demonstrating the genre’s power to repackage other music … but also itself.” Joey is a gifted writer but I take issue with his notion of a linear model of the genre’s evolution: ” ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ is just a Chic loop. We’ve moved on since then, and just as rhyming has become more complex, so has beat making. The most basic samples, those that are unembarrassed to serve as royalty checks, don’t amaze people anymore.”  Well, “Rapper’s Delight” is a band-played  interpolation of the main rhythm of “Good Times” and that makes it fundamentally different from say, looping “Impeach The President”;  the enormous cultural implications of this difference have been extensively documented in the canonical tomes on hip hop history.

More importantly, I think it is simply untrue that either beats or rhymes have become progressively complex, at least not in the manner that Joey suggests; if we look back at the history of hip hop production we are likely to find numerous deviations from this neat narrative. His distinction between “rip-offs” and “the great sample-driven beats” is enormously problematic, as is his insistence that instantly recognizable or minimally manipulated samples necessarily result in inherently artless, inauthentic pop songs. There are far too many factors at play governing how sampled songs are received and assessed, and too many exceptions to the rules he posits.

Is O.C.’s “Time’s Up” an inherently inferior “rip-off” because Buckwild even left the loop’s original drums intact? Is it a less powerful or meaningful song than the “Jump Around” remix? If “no one ever felt that Will Smith was making great music when he was repackaging Patrice Rushen,” how do we account for so many aficionados and producers holding K-Def’s production on Intelligent Hoodlum’s “Grand Groove” remix in such high regard? There are a galaxy of other factors that need to be considered; the pattern that is proposed falls apart under scrutiny.

Not a bad piece, and I can’t fault someone for reflecting on their personal taste, but I think these arguments rest on a weak foundation.

Why You Should Listen To The Rap Group Odd Future, Even Though It’s Hard – Frannie Kelley’s piece on Odd Future adds literally nothing new to the ongoing discussion of the collective. It borrows this discussion’s most annoyingly persistent false binaries, condescending alarmist screed, and insipid SEO sloganeering (“The music makes a lot of people uncomfortable and thrills others. They’re funny. They’re loud. They’re lewd, nihilistic and disrespectful. The group raps about rape frequently.”) while seeking legitimacy by quoting Noz’s copious analysis at length, seemingly oblivious to how many of Noz’s statements dismantle Kelley’s uninformed assumptions, almost to the point  of ridicule.

Worse yet — but hilariously so — Kelley suggests that Tyler’s references to rape represent a knowing historical consciousness (“He knows whose buttons to push and how far. He knows which of our national repressed memories sting the most”) but demonstrates a profound amnesia of her own, relating that “Odd Future is more wolf pack than outlaw gang,” as if she forgot or had no idea about the mainstream media’s invocation of “wolf pack” in reference to the alleged (now cleared) Central Park Jogger case defendants. Granted, Kelly is probably correct in her hunch that Tyler borrows from a long rap tradition of subtly ad confusingly subverting derogatory words and imagery, ((Word to Omar Epps and his rap group Wolfpack.)) but how are you going to make allude to the power and history behind such terms and then  drop “wolf pack”  to mean a figurative “treehouse, complete with a ‘No Girls Allowed’ sign on the door.” Is Kelley even remotely cognizant of the role that terms like “wolf pack” have played in the demonization of minority male youths?

I won’t even bother picking apart the attempts to actually comment on Odd Future’s musical content, because this was was already accomplished in the comments section of the post.

Bonus: The oblivious circle jerk surrounding half-hearted uninformed Odd Future apologies has become so insulated from rational discourse that even critiques of the reductionism such as that found in Kelley’s article  are burdened by oversimplification and poor reasoning. See Okay Guys, That’s Enough With The Odd Future Think Pieces Already, or actually, don’t bother.  — Thun

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