Friday, April 29, 2005

spittin’ through wires

we eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast…

Chairman’s choice Andrea Duncan Mao describes the early Kanye Common Connect in her new XXL piece “All or Nothing.”

… in 1996, an emboldened Kanye threw his glove down publicly, showing up at radio station WHBK while Common was being interviewed and issuing an on-air challenge. Common recalls the memory fondly: “I was nice, I was bubbled out, and he was lit off the energy and was like, ‘Yo!’ And we just started going. It was a good challenge. It was good to be around hungry MCs that wanted to get at me.” He pauses thoughtfully. “I haven’t heard it back to hear who won, though."

Not that I believe he hasn’t heard it but let’s give Com a chance to decide.

The No I.D. vocal effects are something to get used to but hearing the Chi young men friendly sparring is a kick. Although Kanye gets in some nice jabs his self-satisfied/nervous chuckles get in the way of the punchlines. Common, the more experienced MC, focuses more on finding flow than fucking up the freshman but he knocks a little Sense into the Kon Man.

You make the call…

Kanye West vs Common - WHBK Freestyle

Monday, April 25, 2005

the after-'party'

"athens park"

The documentary “Bastards of the Party” is a film that seems to lead you down an inevitable path… towards an interview with a well-known rapper from the LA gang culture speaking on ‘the life.’
But it doesn’t happen that way.
It isn’t that kind of film. It goes on without that rapper, without that moment… and that absence is a powerful thing.
It shows the film-maker’s focus and determination to tell a sober and true story about growing up as an average black kid in that gang culture, a culture he didn’t create, and his search for the origins of that culture. Although the story is told through many voices and many generations, the voice that holds it all together is Cle ‘Bone’ Sloan who grew up as an Athens Park Blood.

The choice to cut the film with a ‘cold opening’ without credits (showing only the title) withholds the fact that Sloan is also the director of the film. His face and story could be familiar to anyone who saw him on Larry King or read his story in FEDS magazine or spotted him in ‘Training Day’ (directed by ‘Bastards’ producer Antoine Fuqua) playing a character named ‘Bone.’ Portions of his Larry King interview are used in the film and it is wonderful to see Sloan’s poise on CNN carry over to HIS interviews with fellow gang members, black activists and author/historian/LA-expert Mike Davis.

One of the first jarring moments in the film occurs when you realize none of the current generation of Athens Park-area gang members knows how ‘the life’ came into existence. Davis’ book ‘City of Quartz’ becomes a jumping off point for Sloan’s research. Sloan initially wanted to go ‘all the way back to the 70s’ to tell the history of LA gangs but then he realized he had to go the 60’s and even to the 50s… even back to 1936… where he learns about black life in LA as documented by The California Eagle newspaper.
The history he discovers and presents to the audience is fascinating. The formation of the Slausons gang was a reaction to the white gang The Spookhunters and soon the Gladiators and the Businessmen became ‘defensive’ black gangs in the area of a white neighborhood called Compton. The transition of black leadership (or lack thereof) is traced clearly from these gangs through their adaptation to Black Panther militancy and/or ‘pro-Africa’ philosophy embodied by the US Organization. Some may be familiar with this story (or recently introduced to it in Jeff Chang’s ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’). But listening to original gang members recall Black Panther ‘Bunchy’ Carter and seeing propaganda cartoons from Hoover’s COINTELPRO, truly embeds these stories in my brain as some of America’s most dramatic and ‘jaw dropping’ events.

Another strong story told here is the role work plays in holding communities together. Sloan eloquently sums up that role when he explains that young black men started gangs as a subculture of their daily lives… but when factory work disappeared and joblessness continued through the Reagan years, gangs became the ONLY culture. Sloan’s transition out of that culture is summed up when he says it wasn’t a ‘lifestyle’ but a “deathstyle.”

Towards the end of the film Sloan ponders a tactic to break the cycle of gang affiliation that symbolizes a new start for the children and the families in these neighborhoods. A homeboy in a hospital bed decides that he will not name his son after his own gang name… but will give him his OWN name. It is a simple, almost naïve decision but one with complex and potentially powerful repercussions. Sloan’s own grappling with the concept of honoring the dead through revenge is clearly shown on camera. After capturing the murder-scene of a close friend’s child on his video camera, Sloan makes a decision regarding the child’s murderer, seemingly before our eyes… and it is a moment more dramatic than most films can ever hope to portray.

Every kid who has ever listened to NWA or ‘The Chronic’ should see this film. Every parent who banned those records from their home should see it as well. But I hope the people from Sloan’s neighborhood have a chance to see ‘themselves’ in this film… and in Sloan… and in the context of American history… and as 'children' that can rediscover the powerful political ideas somehow lost between generations. The lack of ‘rap star power’ on screen allows regular folk to speak. Tragically some of them were dead before the film was complete. Luckily Cle Sloan has captured some of their words, hopefully to raise the next generation.

You have one more chance to see the film this week. Tue, Apr 26 at 5:30pm at the Regal Battery Park 3.

texas... hold up!

ready... aim...

Who got dem Tex?
Here come Oxy Cottontail, hip-hopping down the Bun-B trail… and when the dust clears… you’ll see the semi-automatic Texans known to jam…
Blasting on the windswept roads off of SOHO will be Screwston slinger Rapid Ric with a rapid-fire arsenal of sure shots from the Lone Star state of mind. Typically likking shots into the air on Damage Control, Mattsoreal will be in the cut. You can also catch a bad one (or a dub) when Nick brings the big guns that go Barrrat, Barrrat, Barrrat… shooting from (and for) the hip. As Peter Hahn moves the Money, my ATX lady and I will be throwing our hands in the air… and keeping ‘em there.

thug LIFE?

is he the greatest rapper alive?

It's suspicious when news of Tupac's re-appearance isn't bigger news...
I mean CNN reported it (not!) but Jon Stewart didn't so it's no wonder I didn't hear about it.

(thanks to Julian Bevan for bringing me up to speed!)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

this was a remix... part 3: lo-er learning

same damn lo sweater

My Ipod loves 'Uptown Saturday Night' by Camp-Lo. And so do I.
Ian (over at the Kitchen) was biggin' up the Lo-lifes (and directed us to an O-Dub re-up via Free Motion) so i figured it was as good a time as any to post up an old piece on the Campers.

lo-er learning

Somehow Camp-Lo is considered a one hit wonder because it missed the chance to capitalize on 'Luchini' earnings. What seemed to kill the moment was the Camp's heavy reliance on the retro threads and imagery. Regardless of whether this was their true style (which I beleive it was) it should not have become the focus of their marketing/talking points. Reading the article you'll obviously see my love of their lingo and breadth of reference. The combo of surreal connection and ghetto fab makes me think Ghostface could revive these brothers careers if he let them collabo (c'mon, MF Doom, make it happen!).

Although their light-hearted sound was emphasized via 'Luchini', 'Rockin' it' and the album artwork, their radio play emphasized a 'boho' lean (with Digable Planet Ish on 'Swing' and De La Trugoy on 'B-Side to Hollywood'). I'm posting up their darker side with 'Krystal Karrington', 'Killin' Em Softly' and 'Black Connection'. Two-thirds of the SD50s assisted in a little comeback for the Campers with 'Something For Nothing' and 'All The Same' on 'Stimulated Vol 1'.

Camp Lo - Krystal Karrington
Camp Lo - Killin' Em Softly
Camp Lo - Black Connection
Camp Lo - Something For Nothing

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

that good goodesign

print props

Wifey (aka Diane Shaw) has done well with the buzz around her graphic design studio. She and her design/business partner (aka Kathryn Hammill) make up goodesign. In the last few months, those that bestow the "graphic design seal of approval" have taken notice. Goodesign is featured in 'The STEP Field Guide to Emerging Design Talent 2005' (“The top 25 design personalities you should keep your eye on”) in the Jan/Feb 2005 issue of STEP Inside Design Magazine. They are also currently featured in Print Magazine’s Annual “20 Breakthrough Talents Under 30” in the March/April 2005 issue. Don’t get it twisted, The American Institute of Graphic Arts gave them a “365” Award waaay back in 2001… but 2005 is getting kicked off just lovely… if I can give my objective, totally unbiased opinion.

Monday, April 18, 2005


f yeah!

FADER folk finally flow fans of ‘fresh and fly’ forward by flagging former feature from my forum focusing on ‘fiyaahh’ from fundamentally familiar form… fuck it, for me, a fundamentally foreign form. Go figure!

Further flyness: Focused Frontin’ folk feelin’ flick phrases ‘fresh’, fo’real!

Folio of funny phrases from foragers of facts finding my forum…
(Filed as favorites…forget ‘frequency’)

Ghostface curb enthusiasm
levers and friends
samoan american idol 2005
Aluminum pots and three legged pots
asian hoes in the hood
Brooklyn's in the house
fat boyz chrome plating
Carcetti speech -gil -maurizio -shanghai -nonsense –venal
pootie tang translation
kobe and stringer bell
stingray how to cook
played out fucking polka
meth bucket street recipe
ATL dime piece
roc the brazilian the pirate


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Pulp Fiction 3

Asian dudes in black on the roof with a right arm extended...

'Old Boy' and 'Infernal Affairs' tell us less about Asian cinema than the latest spin of good ol' American pulp. 'Old Boy is the breakthrough of Korean pop-pulp and 'Infernal Affairs' is the blockbuster revival of the Hong Kong policier/gangster flick. Although similarly steeped in stylized genre beats, inevitable violence and ripe sentiment, only one succeeds as a solid genre picture.
'Old Boy' seems to take the most chances as it slides from a surrealistic set-up in a Kafkaesque 'cell' into a Richard Stark style man-on-fire B-line momentum. Lush and dark, grisly and silly... Fincher and Tarantino influence reigns over a current school of filmmaker. And of course that influence is loaded with earlier pulp incarnations. Tarantino's revived the Nouvelle Vague's focus on US genre and championed John Woo's gun-fu pop. Q translated 'spaghetti westerns' into postmodern gangsters but Leone's cowboys were influenced by Yojimbo flicks which were a Japanese homage to American Western heroes.* And even more telling is the fact that Yojimbo was actually an adaptation of Hammett’s ‘Red Harvest’ dealing with, you guessed it, American gangster mythology.
'Old Boy' piles on even more references. His voyeuristic Hitchcock sequences are more successful than the bland framing at the end whch evokeds the gloss and sentiment of Michael Bay's Hollywood 'bangers.' The fight scenes don't have the choreography of Woo or Wu Ping but instead generate nervous laughter via simple brutality with unexpected instruments. All of this fits nicely with the fact that Tarantino guided the Cannes jury in selecting 'Old Boy' as the recipient of the Grand Prize. Unfortunately the attempts to squeeze in complex human drama between the genre elements do not succeed the way Jake Gittes’ snooping revealed layers of evil in 'Chinatown'. 'Old Boy' doesn't convey the tragedy it needs to because we can't sympathize deeply with the simple man on a mission of revenge. That story CAN work, as in the cold hearted 'Point Blank' adaptation of Stark's Parker novels but those stay true to genre and THAT ironically is what ELEVATES them to existential query.
'Infernal Affairs' performs a similar feat. The set-up is explained in a series of quick cuts that take about as long as an extremely high-concept film pitch: Undercover cop, Undercover gangster, Cross paths. The Woo 'brothers-in-conflict' tropes (surprisingly perfected in the Fat-free 'Face Off') are the closest to the ‘Infernal’ combination of the allegiance of ‘Donnie Brasco’ and the Mann-twins in 'Heat'. Luckily both the leads take Deniro's minimalist macho instead of Pacino's puffing and the supporting cast shows a depth of character that is often left out of genre pics. The amount of tension and suspense that is squeezed from the thin wedge of the plot is impressive as well. The simple material is finely honed, carefully avoiding any decorative pretensions, and somehow it becomes an object for meditation. Go figure. It is appropriate and thrilling to learn that Scorsese will return to the grey morals of gangsterism when he does the American adaptation of 'Infernal Affairs.'
And the pulp wheel goes round and round,

*One should note that although 'The Magnificent Seven' was based on 'Seven Samurai,' Kurosawa's posse cut was an homage to the popular excitement generated by American westerns, another pulp staple.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pulp Fiction 2

hard cover

George P. Pelecanos has been one of my favorite writers for years and the acclaim he has receved as part of ‘The Wire’ brain-trust has only increased his ranking. Caught him on the promo-thing for his new hard-cover ‘Drama City’ but he started his presentation with an acceptance of “questions about ‘The Wire’”… after the obligatory ‘read.’ He is not the most dynamic reader which is something of a surprise given the naturalism of the bulk of his dialogue. He admitted that actors, directors and editors often improved his ‘mediocre’ ‘Wire’ scenes.

The inevitable questions about his taste in music (you can check his website but he’s waaay into Lalo Schiffrin right now), muscle cars (he admits to sneaking them into his text) and what he enjoys reading (the only surprise was ‘Middlesex’) were given answers not much different from previous appearances. At least there was a new inquiry into his love of basketball which allowed him to mention his screenplay about an old ABA team. He admitted that Cutty from ‘The Wire’ grew out of his ‘Drama City’ work. He wanted to insert into The Wire ‘gloom’ a character that, although straight from prison, would have a positive influence on a child from the hood… even if that influence was tiny by society’s standards. He gladly stated that the DC crime rate was falling and he credited the school system... hinting at ‘Wire’ season 4 (which he will not be producing, only writing). He also said that although he couldn't knock DC gentrification bringing in the corporate chains (including the bookstore he was standing in) that generate jobs. He knew that crime inevitably followed the poorest people displaced.

He gently fired back at a customer who revealed the ending of one of his books which dealt with the death of a recurring character. He was quite candid when he revealed that he wrote two endings for that book anticipating his editor choosing the more marketable ending where the character lives. But he was pleased that the darker ending was chosen. He implied that the death was more 'truthful' to him but was clearly the result of trying to show consequences of violence and pride.
He worked on the script to a portion of a Spielberg / Hanks 'Band of Brothers' type series dealing with the Navy in the Pacific; a subject he was personally drawn to because of his own father's experience. But the most exciting news for fans may have been the update on one of his best books 'Right as Rain' which is being developed into a movie to be directed by Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys, 8Mile) and written for the screen by David Benioff (25th Hour).

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pulp Fiction 1

no joke...

No seriously, the buzz about Mickey Rourke as Marv in the cinematic Sin City is deserved. The comparisons of the flick to Pulp Fiction are not. Sure there’s a trio of main stories (with interstitial implications of others ) and both flicks embrace pulp sources but Q’s joint extrapolated the Elmore-like gab, filtered it through Woo and Leone and tinted it with Blaxploitation. Rodriguez translates Frank Miller’s words and imagery much too slavishly. No dig, the imagery is, for the most part, astounding in it’s accuracy but, too often, sadly static . Comic geeks know that the dynamism implied by frames get filled in by the reader… cinema should be showing that implied movement and rhythm. It’s as if Rodriguez stayed with the given framing so that we can 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the accuracy but I would rather be overwhelmed with cuts, odd angles and, oh hell yeah, camera movement… I would have loved to have seen the brilliant Miller frames linked to each other within ONE camera shot. Homage but interpretation.

The dialogue is a bit too artificial as well. I know, I know… It’s meta-hyper-stylized… the remix of the remix… of tough-guy-fiction interior-monologue and setting dames straight (with the predictable slap as punctuation). Mostly leaden, awkward, repetitive phrasing does not work if you’re smirking like Bruce Willis. (Note for contrast, Tarantino’s use of Willis’ smirk to excellent effect with Butch’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ lines). Following Miller’s text does a disservice to the story’s ‘subterranean’ tone by taking me out of the scene. Written dialogue is often altered on set when actors have to say the lines comfortably if not, I’ll concede, naturally. Cartoonish artifice can work, however, if an actor can deliver it sincerely. Rourke’s performance ably demonstrates his commitment to ‘Marv’ and the tone of the source book. His performance actually INCREASES the comedy of the pill-popping psycho especially when paired with the dead-pan voice-over. The initial escape scene becomes laughably extreme when seen on screen and the calm narration only ups the ridiculousness. In the comic-book, I could never tell if Marv was smiling or grimacing and I couldn’t match his expression with the things he was saying… but Rourke brings it to life… his smile expressing his new found freedom of purpose and not just the glee of punishment. If I were to compare Pulp Fiction to Sin City I would hope that John Travolta’s career resuscitation in the earlier film has similar repercussions for Rourke. 'Sin City' could be his Goldie.