Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gung Hay Fat Choy (Part 3)

other dudes

"China's Youth Look to Seoul for Inspiration” written by Norimitsu Onishi for the NY Times (from January 2, 2006) had some lines that were pretty interesting regarding the Korean influence in Chinese hip-hop….
BEIJING - At Korea City, on the top floor of the Xidan Shopping Center, a warren of tiny shops sell hip-hop clothes, movies, music, cosmetics and other offerings in the South Korean style…
… Politics also seems to underlie the Chinese preference for South Korean-filtered American hip-hop culture. Messages about rebelliousness, teenage angst and freedom appear more palatable to Chinese in their Koreanized versions.
Kwon Ki Joon, 22, a South Korean who attends Beijing University and graduated from a Chinese high school here, said his male Chinese friends were fans of South Korea hip-hop bands, like H.O.T., and its song "We Are the Future." A sample of the song's lyrics translate roughly as: "We are still under the shadows of adults/Still not Free/To go through the day with all sorts of interferences is tiring."
To Mr. Kwon, there is no mystery about the band's appeal. "It's about wanting a more open world, about rebelliousness," he said. "Korean hip-hop is basically trying to adapt American hip-hop.

So direct American hip-hop influence is getting taken out of the Chinese formula for their hip-hop? Interesting since the capitalist mind-set is quickly spreading from China’s ‘urban’ centers.

The folks at ToyQube in Flushing, Queens gave me a mixtape last year that was put together as an in-store promotion for the store ‘Juice’ in Hong Kong. ‘Juice’ is part of the Edison Chen empire… oh you didn’t know? This dude aka Chen Kwoon Hei is a movie star (Infernal Affairs 2, Initial D) a singer, a rapper and all-around synergistic entrepreneur. The guy has aliases for just about every country in Asia… oh, and he has a blog.
His fans (not up on mixtapes last year!) were a bit offended by some of the tough-guy posturing… but on the other hand, dude DID get into a fistfight of some sort a couple years ago… at the mall. And he is clearly taking over the world. He’s more ‘King of All Media’ than Howard Stern can claim right now and Ed seems to trump the Hillary Duff / Lindsay Lohan pretenders to the throne of Ubiquitous Teen-pop Uber-idol. His shift from pure pop to a harder hip-hop thing is expected but he gets help from MC Yan (aka Syan?) of the now defunct Canto-rap group LMF (Lazy Mutha Fuckaz) and DJ Tommy. Yan, also hitting ‘multi-media’, worked on Edisons 2004 album “Please Steal This Album" (released in 2004). LMF hopped on traditional Canto-pop stuff despite (or, nowadays, maybe because of) their rebellious voicing of class issues. I can see if the lyrics are ‘socialist’ in nature but otherwise… how would they get away with any critique of the ‘system’? Until someone starts translating lyrics for me, I’ll never know.

Yes, the mixtape has little bits of English and American slang but for the most part the Mandarin and Cantonese lyrical content is a mystery. But that doesn’t cut down on enjoying the sound of it all which, I must say, is really really good. Start downloading the 35-minute mix NOW and follow along with the approximate time cues for songs included with the track names and a few comments…

Note 1: If anybody can let me know which MCs are which on the tracks, please do!
Note 2:This mixtape is from the year-of-the-rooster so if you’ve got a new one…where my dogs at?

Edison Chen - 廚房仔 Chef’s Mixtape (非賣品)
(Released: August, 2005)

0:00 - 01. Intro Suck My D!@k To Die
With intros from ‘your boy EDC’ I can see someone working the “I’m so fly!” line into a Three-6 Mafia break.
0:50 - 02. How We Do feat. MC Yan, Hanjin (‘How We Do’ Beat)
Love the almost nerdy monotone delivery of the line“This is how we do.” I think it’s MC Yan with the Mandarin second verse but whoever it is works all them shur-shur sounds and syllables perfectly… letting the verse build and then bringing it back down. The chorus has a nice slangy tone… “Waddup!”
4:40 - Paul Wall Drop
“You need to get familiar with Juice and Platinum Corporation”
4:50 - 03. 起跌 feat. DTT (‘Hate It or Love It’ Beat)
7:55 - 04. DJ Tommy Blends
Nice handclaps added around here and a whispery verse from the DJ. Dig that Swizzy-loop.
8:50 05. 戰爭 (Remix) Edison feat. MC Yan, Hanjin , Chef , Paisley
A little pitch down of the beat as the chant “2005! Who gonna die!” comes in. Nice and cheesy Canto-Pop female vocal hook and then a killer vocal (Yan again?) singing and shouting at Ghostface levels of passion. The third verse by Chef(?) starts with some great “ching chong” alliteration and I’m NOT being racist there… check it out! Gully sounding whisper growl on the fourth verse.
13:26 - 06. 血路 (‘Still Tippin’ Beat)
Homey is riding this one and caps it with a so-solid “Motherfucker…”
14:27 - 07. 越含越襜 feat. Edison, MC Yan, Fama , Lunggoh
Sort of a drunken sounding style here with sighs (“Ha-ah!”) in the background and a “Gucci Time”-like drum machine break. Love the cracked vocal of the Scooby-doo-ish declaration “I don’t love them hoes!”
18:30 - 08. Housewife feat. Fama (‘Housewife’ Beat)
22:10 - 09. 大難不死 feat. MC Yan
The hydraulics on the rhythm bring the “2005!” declarations (from earlier in the tape) into context.
25:30 - 10. 你地玩X完
“Rocksteady” stabs bring in the context for the “I’m so fly…” lines from the Intro
28:06 - 11. Respect For Da Chopstick Hip Hop (Remix) K-One, MC Yan , Meta Joosue feat. Chef
What is this beat!?!? Nice Primo-type chopping blips and beats. Yan(?) brings great energy again but the deep voiced MC (Meta Joosue?) brings a fresh flow and tone to the tune.
32:45 - 12. 上岸 Interlude
Mutterings over flutes brings us to…
33:06 - 13. 香港地 (Remix) Edison feat. MC Yan, Hanjin, Chef
More cheesy –pop love-rap to wind down the tape with a heavy 50-Cent influence on the second MC delivery. There’s a line about the ‘police’ and the government but I can’t figure out what it is… It would seem impossible to have a blatant government dis but it seems just as odd to have a shout out on a love song to institutions of power… ah, the complexities of Chinese rap!

Gung Hay Fat Choy (Part 2)

chops, motherfuckers

Although Jin held down Asian-American MCs’ ‘Eminem’-moment (dis-deflating, self deprecating battle raps) as well as anyone could, AAMCs haven’t yet reached their ‘Paul Wall’ moment (ethnicity is nearly a non-issue in their ‘persona’). Asian American hip-hop producers have much less of a problem making their ethnicity or culture transparent, at least when dealing with their art. The Automator and Chad Hugo are prime examples of lower key personas preferring to play the background. But super-producer CHOPS comes with a ever-so-slightly more audacious persona. It’s a swagger that is necessary for the mixtape game and it most likely stems from his experience as an MC with The Mountain Brothers. Check his intro on a remix of Jeezy’s ‘And Then What’ originally backed by a Mannie Fresh track…

What it do, motherfuckers? This is CHOPS. Usually when I do a remix I’ll take the producer name right out the song… This is Mannie Fresh… so I ain’t doin’ shit! This right here is the CHOPS version though.

CHOPS does his distinct drop in his typical blunt phrasing. I missed his ‘Mountain Brothers’ era which may have been more explicit in ‘ethnic signifiers’ and I have probably heard his production in commercials or soundtracks but his mixtape reworks for all the great southern MCs has allowed him to reinvent himself as one of the essential ‘Southern Mixtape’ producers of the moment. He has Texas roots but his Philly-based productions skills transcend any regional restrictions. His tracks, at least on the ‘What’s Going Down’ series of tapes, show no ‘Asian stereotype’ in sound or source. For his own work, he favors building tracks from his own instrumentation rather than sampling. (Sampling, by the way, has allowed African-American producers to immediately and, in the case of Timbaland, successfully produce ‘Asian sounding’ tracks.)
CHOPS worked with Bun B vocals last year and produced some of the most surprising and addictive remixes I’ve ever heard. On many tracks from “It’s Going Down 3: Special Dark Edition” he does what he does best (and what other producers should strive for when remixing): CHOPS makes the song sound different! Duh!
For example his ‘Kryptonite’ track makes the brilliantly frantic tune sound laid back, unhurried and rather chill. There are plenty of sonic elements but instead of layering they sit sparsely around a simple three note riff matching the beat. Only Big Boi’s verse maintains its hyper tone in rhythm and breath control. His rework of ‘Stay Fly’ also follows the halftime of the original. The finesse of his mix is the extra ‘transformer-click’ on the ‘fly-y-y-y’ hook which matches his semi-submerged keyboard-bell riff and shadowed synth-strings that run through the whole song.
Finally, it is worth noting that CHOPS tapes are successful in one very important way… He lets the songs play through without interrupting TOO much with drops or bombs or echoes or whatever. This alone should put CHOPS at the top of any mixtape producer list this year… 4703 in case you forgot.

Three 6 Mafia - Stay Fly (CHOPS mix)
Purple Ribbon All Stars - Kryptonite (CHOPS mix)

Gung Hay Fat Choy (Part 1)

I always thought The Colonel looked Asian!

“Gung Hay Fat Choy” translates as something like "May you become prosperous" but it’s basically the “Happy New Year Greeting” that we learned as kids in the Cantonese-heavy San Francisco of my youth. The Lunar New Year 4703 (BKA “Chinese New Year”) begins Sunday January 29th of 2006. If your age is evenly divisible by 12… you are a dog!

Coincidentally a few mixtapes arrived in my mailbox via IAP and they inspired, of all things, a three part “Gung Hay Fat Choy” wish

To be quite honest, today’s tracks are pretty superficial references to Chinese culture but at least they don’t reference the rapper-classic ‘chinky eyes’ in descrbing the heavy lidded. Willie The Kid (down with the Aphilliates) compares the strongest love in the hood to the affection his peoples have with Chinese slippers, Chinese weave shops, Chinese food spots, Chinese “letters” in tattoos and Chinese nail shops (which are probably actually Korean nail shops… not to perpetuate stereotypes but…). He even refers to Jin’s career in the last line. OK… so it’s not exactly on the level of Wu-Tang science but it’s better than that Fugees skit and more substantive than a “Chinese Arithmetic” lesson from Eric B & Rakim.
The Clipse once again get away with a cold violent lyric twisted into a clever simile. On their chorus they let Pharrell do the vocal hook ‘sounding like Chinese Year’. Newsflash: No references to ‘China white’!!

Both tracks from DJ Sense - The Trendsetter Vol One

Willie The Kid – Chopsticks (produced by Detroit Red)
Clipse, Pharrell, Roscoe, P. Coldchain – Chinese New Year

Friday, January 20, 2006

look how they hatin’, mayne!

it ain't got no license plate, ain't no insurance on it,
it ain't got no rims, it ain't got no paint, but it still look good. don't it?

If Cam had used a beat like this I might be more interested in the top (pause) of the first inning (pause) of the Killa / Jigga subway-series (pause). You know Jay has some throwaway beat that will at least get him to second base (pause) at the bottom (pause) of the first (no homer!!!).

Note to aspiring hip-hop superstars: make your name readily Google-able.
I know 6 Tre G is from Alabama (I’m one of dem ‘Bama boys)… and dat about it. He claims to be “the Dirty South Kanye” and I’m hoping that means he produced and rapped the track (with hit written all over it) and not that he pops a pink polo collar. The subject matter stays in safe territory with boppers, big blades and wide-screens with a bit of self deprecation in the first verse. I think the joint is from last summer but the Timbaland-like b-buh-bump-clap can get me through a winter weekend (at least).

6 Tre G - They Hatin Mane

Thursday, January 12, 2006

the godfather, 'the king' and Prince

Julian Bevan once again directing me to a crazy video that made my day... and will make yours...
James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince on stage 'together'!!!
(Thanks to wendell on YouTube!)