Posts Tagged ‘arrest the president’

Arrest the President 4: A Conversation with Fat Tony on Hood Party

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

I got a chance to interview the sure-footed Fat Tony about Hood Party, one of the singles off of his new album Smart Ass Black Boy. I am dropping this interview under our Arrest the President column because the song Hood Party is a comment on gentrification, a sociopolitical issue which occurs when poorer residents are displaced and supplanted by an influx of Louis Tully lookin’ Vans Original Classic Authentic wearin’ Newgrass fans. As you know, Arrest the President is a column here at T.R.O.Y., started by Thun, which looks at Hip Hop, past and present, from a sociopolitical perspective. In the song Hood Party, Fat Tony, and featured artists Kool A.D. and Despot, cleverly poke fun at some of the effects gentrification has individually on locals and “gentrifiers” and collectively on affected communities.

In this interview, Fat Tony and I briefly discuss his new album, conduct a line by line analysis of his verse on Hood Party, chat about the positive and negative effects of gentrification on established communities, I share my experience of hearing Hood Party for the first time in the courtyard of a highly ranked undergraduate university, and we even tackle the question of whether or not Hip Hop is being gentrified. Towards the end of this great conversation, Fat Tony, with his command and knowledge of Hip Hop, along with his clear and deductive thought process, really helped me understand and come to terms with some of my insecurities with Hip Hop right now.

I suggest you listen to the interview here, where you’ll be able hear Fat Tony read the lines of Hood Party with his soft yet sandy voice, over a piano which was quietly played in the background throughout the entire interview. It’s quite pleasant, especially if you enjoy the song.


Arrest The President 3: Loaded Lux vs Calicoe

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

In his August 2012 URL/Smack battle with veteran Loaded Lux,  the upstart Calicoe rationalizes his tacit refusal to engage in a competition of poetic guile by contrasting the “real rap” of “gun bars” against the supposed effeminacy and whimsy of “metaphors.” Calicoe further implies that his authenticity and superiority is cemented by his incarcerated father’s known association with the Black Mafia Family criminal organization. The confrontation between the youthful challenger and the elder statesman is a battle rap archetype. Calicoe’s atavistic nihilism, however, is a new and different form of rhetoric that militates against any aesthetic judgement as it desperately mines glorified outlaw cliches.

In the mid-’80s the new jacks theorized their ambitions as progressive artistic missions. ((I am not suggesting that these artists did not also view their attempts to unseat those before them as competitive business moves. On the contrary, we can read these beefs as being informed by a desire to compete in a very limited market; if such a desire truly conflicts with a notion of communal uplift, these artists did not seem to mind the contradiction.))  KRS-One’s annoyance that MC Shan’s airwave dominance was engineered by reigning deejay Mr. Magic ignited the Boogie Down Productions/Juice crew inter-boro rivalry, encapsulated in the scathing “The Bridge Is Over.” ((In retrospect, “The Bridge Is Over” is a somewhat juvenile and intentionally misleading attack on MC Shan. Shan wasn’t just some hack rapper, even if his popularity was due in part to his associations. However, KRS-One’s displeasure with Shan’s undisputed reign is derived in part from a spirit of verbal competition, hence his use of a Jamaican patois-inspired “toasting” style on much of “The Bridge Is Over.”))  On “Ego Trippin'” ((One reason “Ego Trippin'” sounds so powerful and forward thinking is that it showcases pioneering production styles made possible by Ced Gee’s collaboration with the late Paul C, in addition to introducing the world to Kool Keith’s unorthodox, innovative rhyme style.))  Ultramagnetic MCs, taking their cue from KRS-One’s lyrical dismissal of laurel-sitting “kings,” mocked RUN DMC’s catchy cadences as lowest common denominator pandering. ((Interestingly, Calicoe’s attempt to paint Loaded Lux as an out of touch egghead includes a claim that Loaded Lux’s “wordplay” sounds like “nursery rhymes,” implying that they are too fanciful to be “real,” while Kool Keith’s attack on Run-DMC’s actual incorporation of nursery rhymes was a dismissal of poetic simplicity.)) Even rivalries that appeared to center on personality clashes were understood to be contests of skilled performance.


Arrest The President 2: Open Mike Eagle’s American Nightmares

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Note: Arrest The President is a weekly TROY Blog column that looks at rap, past and present, from a socio-political perspective.

Open Mike Eagle’s “Nightmares” opens with its hook, which states that “… every word that comes through me/ It was born in a nightmare.” These lines appear to echo the Romantic notion that nightmares inspire sublime poetic expression by provoking  terror and pleasure all at once. It is not clear whether this part of the hook can be attributed to Open Mike Eagle’s narrator or to the anthropomorphic alarm clock ((Fellow LA rapper Aceyalone pioneered this trope on “Grandfather Clock.”)) that lulls him to sleep. The song’s hypnotic pace evokes a nocturnal world where reality is warped, where imaginative flights may turn bizarre or even macabre.OME doesn’t let his listeners stray too far into blissful contentedness. The music and vocals are sparse and soothing but leave sufficient literal and figurative space for a stoked imagination to run amok.  Uncanny melancholy lurks between suggestive lines like “I met some old friends recently / They on a whole new frequency.” Who are these friends? Have they been brainwashed by some invincible institutional force? Addicted to some widely distributed chemical or multimedia distraction? Are they alive or ghostly? Still friendly or conniving and hostile?  (more…)

Arrest The President 1: Junot Diaz And The Purple Tape

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Note: Arrest The President is a new weekly TROY Blog column that will look at rap, past and present, from a socio-political perspective. Enjoy.

I grew up on the northern edge of a mid-sized New Jersey industrial/port city, in an apartment complex that slouched at an intersection with seven other buildings whose occupants kept shifting. Cross-Town’s kaleidoscopic nature was a local secret unless you scrunched your clammy earlobes to the concrete. Then you’d find that this vaguely pretty ‘hood —-nestled smugly between Westminster’s micro-mansions, a series of cemetaries, and the state’s biggest airport —- demanded that its residents code-shift with verve.

My early training (‘85-’90) in merging local dialects —- boricua/quisequeya spanglish, Jamaican and Haitian patois, street talk —- taught me to flow with the shockwaves of change. Elders served up tawdry, unverifiable just-so stories about the inherent flaws of other ethnic groups or social classes. This pressure did not stop us from mingling but paranoia, fueled by the crack wars, colored our curiosity. Even in elementary school we pursued friendships cautiously. On television and radio, journalists, academics, and politicians performed a non-stop smear campaign against urban youth, painting us all as nascent criminal predators. We believed it, lived it, loved it a little too.

Middle School meant getting bussed across town. Court-ordered integration overlapped with turf rivalries; crews that used to blend nicely forgot how to  act. The incompatibly layered housing stock loops that flickered across my scratchy school bus window for the whole length of Broad Street seemed to ache with upheaval. Architectural styles signaled toxic, superlocal, alien ways of life that seemed liable to leak out and fuck with you. Your personal enemy list was rearranged as quickly as the grapes, sevens, and bars on A.C. slots.

Any herb walking the streets thinking he could start shit with the Polo-clad Trinis from the semi-detached houses near Jefferson Park was asking for trouble. Doubly so if he tried to post high like the Northside garden apartment goose-down boosting boricuas or sleep soundly while the Guess-obsessed midtown morenos from the co-ops plotted his demise. By high school the rowdiest crews, now fully committed to the drug trade, recruited crimeys from all backgrounds. Those of us who were not thugged out beyond self-defense had to move warily.

Without unaplogetically thoughtful music and literature, the ghetto nerd universe might have imploded from stress. Mercifully, ‘95 saw two bundles of high explosives in the form of rapper Raekwon’s solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Dominican-American author Junot Diaz’s first published book Drown. Fucked our heads up, to say the least. Both works commanded us to imagine our environs as a locus classicus, not just of street dreams gone sour, but also of poignant, flavorful works of art.

Fans of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx are struck by the breadth and depth of the “Shaolin” world depicted within; I was doubly struck when I learned of the actual physical smallness of these north shore Staten Island neighborhoods. Raekwon’s Shaolin is not the same emblematic “everyghetto” inflated to austere celestial proportions in classic old school rap like Eric B. and Rakim’s “In The Ghetto.” The place is drawn instead to encompass the spectrum of social ills commonly associated with NYC’s poorest neighborhoods but it is imbued by Raekwon and his collaborators with its own particular cosmopolitan “exoticness,” aurally and verbally sketched.

In the imagination of Raekwon and his fellow rappers, Shaolin’s placement just a stone’s throw away from more affluent locales and the famous ferry transforms it from a blighted outpost on the wrong end of de facto segregation and the illegal drug trade to a way station that spirals out into worlds of intrigue, vice, and opulence. In Drown, Diaz’s rendering of the London Terrace apartments on the very end of Jersey facing Staten Island is approached differently: the slums and the lives of its inhabitants, many wind-swept from Latin America, are drawn plainly and perhaps pathetically, but with respect to their magical idiosyncrasies.

Both works put me and my crew on the map. Our somewheres, defeated by de-industrialization, mattered. The proof was in and about us, in the surreal twisted words and phrases, garish gear and home furnishings, convoluted visions of uplift, duels between solidarity and selfishness, and even in our misguided, resourceful pursuit of food, drink, weed, and women. All of this could be put through the filter of the mind and shot out to a waiting world of hidden slums and backwaters. I read and lent out that little paperback until the adhesive dried and pages flaked off, and bumped that purple cassette until the shit popped. — Thun