That's right, we got that GOOD GOOD / From every street to every borough, and back to every HOOD HOOD
Monday, April 30, 2007
lo and behold
the camp's founding fathers?
I wouldn't call my Camp collection complete but my appreciation is known and news of Ski conditions makes me think 'This is it y'all!' Surfacing via Lifesavas is a good slow-bubble move and I hope Geechi and Cheeba gather 'round the fire of other camps in the ramp up to 'Another Heist.'...Ghostface, where you at?... Kanyeezy, gonna step up front?...
When I grilled 'em backintheday I asked them straight-faced: "Cosby or Poitier?" They looked at me like I was loco.
Hyphy Numpy Treemix quite slumpy How does your remix grow? We got grapes and trees, Beats, cuts, MCs, All repping Filipino
Well, I got a bit closer than Fader folk in deciphering this cipher… Pampanga born Apl De Ap gave the verbal clue with the ‘pumping pinoy bloodlines’ reference. And we should all know how the Flips kinda took over the DJ scene for a minute; many inspired by Ilocono-American DJ Q-Bert. All respect due to the beat by D1 the Knockaholik but if Nump, the gorillapino, gets a remix from Chad Hugo, the superstar pinoy b-boy cipher’s complete.
And then there’s the old M.I.A verse and ad-libs down there in her garden… I guess maybe she could pass for Pinay…? Alright, still a mystery.
T-Pain’s inspired use of discontinuous vocals on the remix to Unk’s ‘Two Step’ has in turn inspired this post. It is the beginning of a collection of favorite moments of affected hesitation… or faux verbal flubs… or just beautiful uses of negative space ('nuff respect due to El-P) that imitates the ‘less assured’ speech patterns of regular talk, not often attributed to the kings and queens of confidence kicking. We want affects!
9. Q-tip on ‘Everything is Fair’ (A Tribe Called Quest) “You don't have to say a word…………. That's all ya heard” Gunshots are often employed to punctuate verses these days but Q-Tip used a particularly dramatic collection of rounds to take a breather in this urban reportage.
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are fans of the ‘ballyhoo’ that was once associated with the movie-going experience. And they are showmen... and pretty savvy ‘salesmen.’ It helps explain why they can repeat answers for the same questions related to the release of ‘Grindhouse’ and, even though I’ve read these answers before, they are still pretty entertaining. I got to hear a few of these ‘riffs’ last Friday when the New York Times TimesTalks series presented a ‘double bill’ with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez bringing the ‘ballyhoo’ for ‘Grindhouse.’ Here are a few things I had not heard or read before.
- It seems that Rodriguez, like most other human beings, was less familiar with the grindhouse genres than Tarantino was. Rodriguez describes his first viewing of ‘Sleepaway Camp’ that, I would confirm, is consistent with everyone’s first viewing. He said most of the movie was totally boring… until the last shot. That last frame is so insanely over-the-top and shocking that it makes the set-up (basically the entire movie) worthwhile. Note: If you jump ahead just for the last shot you will forever know that you didn’t earn the shock.
- In the formulation of ‘Grindhouse’ the duo decided Rodriguez would tackle the ‘horror flick’ and Tarantino would do the ‘terror flick.’ I never heard the term ‘terror flick.’ Horror means “That couldn’t really happen!” ‘Terror’ means “That could actually happen!”
- Quentin describes his directorial take on the necessary elements of genre films, such as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (the heist flick) and ‘Death Proof’ (the slasher flick): “They may not be YOUR version of ‘The Goods’… but they WILL be delivered!!”
- The Weinstein’s want Rodriguez to do 'The Stevie Ray Vaughn Story,' an idea they discussed back in the days of ‘El Mariachi’
- In the recent Esquire Magazine interview Tarantino refers to his connection to the “Black-male thing“ (pause) and during this interview he refers to the ‘From Dusk ‘til Dawn’-inspired tattoos of “3-10 Mafia”
- Before ‘El Mariachi’ Rodriguez earned money as a subject for drug testing. Interviewer Lynn Hirschberg asked him which drugs he tested. The writer/director/camerman/editor/composer/… said there was one drug that was supposed to improve ‘multi-tasking.’ He was straight-faced… but kidding. The truth is almost as crazy. He recalled when he earned two-thousand bucks for a seven day test of a ‘healing serum.’ To test a ‘healing serum’ the scientists, of course, had to ‘wound’ the test subjects. This was accomplished by taking out two chunks of flesh, one from the back of each shoulder. Then they applied the serum to one wound and a placebo to the other. When a wound had healed, they then had to take out the healed chunks of flesh comprising the whole test area. It would be a shame if this doesn’t inspire some horrific scene in one of his future projects.
- ‘Inglorious Bastards,’ the film that Tarantino has discussed before as his ‘next movie,’ WILL actually be his new project. The description of the film seems to be an obvious homage to ‘Dirty Dozen’ / ‘Great Escape’ type films (I’m thinking ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare,’ as well…). In true Tarantino form, he says it will actually be his homage to Spaghetti Westerns… but will use World War II iconography. Recent buzz about a trilogy reinforces the Spaghetti Western idea. You can easily see QT injecting the ‘Django’ and ‘Hero Without a Name’ pacing and brutality onto GI grunts, officers and Nazis. He already envisions the tagline to be “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…”
I actually used to go to the “grindhouses” on San Francisco’s Market Street. Or rather my dad, a big fan of the shoot-em-up, chop-socky, samurai, and blaxsploitation flicks that cut-rate theaters would run, took me to them. They provided as many movies as you wanted to sit through on a Saturday afternoon for like a buck-fifty. After a movie was done you just had to ask yourself, “Do I want to see another one?” The concession stand had Jujubees or Ice Cream Bon-bons or whatever and orange soda and no lines so you could quickly settle back in for another juvenile entertainment. There were plenty of vacant seats so the only thing that would shorten the stay would be the ‘itchiness’ of the whole scene… seriously, I know I got flea bites and my sneakers were stuck to the floor coated with soda and god knows what else. Luckily there was no encounter with roaches or rats.
I recall another shortened stay when the movie selection was ‘The Human Tornado,’ a Dolemite flick that, in classic exploitation-film style, had a poster that made Dolemite look like a super-hero. Of course the film was totally inappropriate for a child of my age and we decided to leave. As my dad argued to get a refund I remember staring up at 'The Human Tornado’ poster trying figure out how the swirl behind Dolemite (actually a blur of his arm) would actually make him fly…
Most of the films that I saw were revivals or on their last legs of their circuit to other grindhouses or drive-ins around the country. I never had any intention of seeing them again even with the recent appreciation for some of them. Apparantly ‘Vanishing Point’ is one of the bigger cult films of our day. All I remember of ‘Vanishing Point’ was the sense of velocity and power that seems to go with movies starring muscle-cars. I also remember being totally confused by the plot, especially the parts that weren’t shots of our hero driving like a maniac across a desert. I saw both ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and have always confused them in my head. Until very recently I would have bet the house that Clint Eastwood was in ‘The Eagle Has Landed.’ ‘Enter the Dragon’ was awesome but when Jim Kelly showed up again in ‘Three the Hard Way’… now that was cool. After that screening I tried to duplicate his kung-fu moves for the rest of the day. I also saw age-appropriate stuff like ‘Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo.’ All of the current romance of the sleazy aspects of the grindhouse days ignores the fact that these theaters would run other things that aren’t considered exploitation films. These were second-run flicks that had run their course as the main feature. Although, I suppose, live-action Disney films could be considered an exploitation of a different sort.
‘Three The Hard Way,’ for example, may not be the best of it’s genre but the thrill of watching it on a big screen is forever tied to my experience of that movie and so it will remain one of my favorites. I have no desire to watch it again on DVD.
I might revisit ‘Vanishing Point’ though… just to keep track of the plot this time.
When I sit in the stadium seating of the multiplex I don’t miss the seediness of The Strand (part of the Grauman theater chain) or The St. Francis or The Embassy… but they hold some good memories just the same.
Today’s trailers are known as previews. They swing from telling you the whole damn plot, including the twist, to the teasers that have one iconic image or sequence that is supposed to generate buzz a year before the movie come out. Great trailers give a sense of the film without giving away the plot. The ‘fake trailers’ might be the most celebrated part of ‘Grindhouse.’ The line up of guest directors is amazing if you happen to like new twists on genre flicks. Robert Rodriguez previews ‘Machete’ starring the incomparable Danny Trejo in a ‘Mexploitation’ flick that may actually get spun out into it’s own film. Edgar Wright's (‘Shaun of the Dead,’ upcoming ‘Hot Fuzz’) contribution has been the most shrouded in mystery. And so I’ll even respect the effort to keep the title of the faux-film on the QT. (But in the meantime you can watch ‘Shaun’ stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost riff a bit more on zombie killing in ‘Danger 50,000 Volts: Zombies’.)
Rob Zombie (‘Devil’s Rejects’) presents ‘Werewolf Women of The SS.’ Zombie notes that his trailer was designed to show all sorts of incongruous elements (Werewolves, Nazis, T&A, Fu Manchu) inspired by low budget directors who would incorporate inexplicable elements into their films simply because they were using sets and props from other movies in production. Eli Roth (‘Cabin Fever’ ‘Hostel’) presents ‘Thanksgiving.’ This was the portion of the film that had the ratings board most up-in-arms. You can watch it here (I assume this is the edited version…?) but since it is technically part of the ‘Grindhouse’ film consider it a ‘spoiler!’ There was also a competition of ‘fake trailers’ at SXSW in an effort to generate some ‘Grindhouse’ buzz. I can appreciate this one… ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’
Battles are crucial to hip-hop. One of the best was the MC battle between Craig G and Supernatural. It was live, improvised, and hilarious. There was a good portion of the battle where the DJ dropped the beat and Craig and Supernat traded chunks of rhymes one after the other… Craig would start his rhyme right on top of the last syllables of Supernat often responding immediately to something that Nat had just said. And vice versa… What was great about this was THE BEAT KEPT GOING! There was no pause at the end of each thirty-second section killing the momentum and crowd energy. There was no gimmick of a host calling out words or subjects to freestyle about. The subject was ‘the enemy’ and how best to dis him. And there was no standing ice grilled pretending that the other dude wasn’t sayin’ nothin. Craig and Supernat stalked the stage with an almost light-footed boxers grace, staying on beat and lunging and retreating so that the battle of words manifest in a simple symbolic swagger-capoeira. Both MCs were fantastically good at the ‘dance’ and the freestyle dissing. Supernatural was the epitome of the freestyle renaissance at the time, mastering the off-the-dome multi-syllable rhyme scheme. But Craig G surprised a lot of people by reminding fans of the effectiveness of clarity and clever punchlines.
I received ‘Hip-Hop Life’ with high hopes. It’s a DVD documentary of a battle between MCs representing Detroit and Houston (with between-battle performances by Rick Ross and Triple Cs, Young Jeezy and Fat Joe). I still love a good old-fashioned MC battle but this promised a new twist because it tapped two of the more interesting regions of contemporary MC styles. Detroit has built its reputation as the most grueling test-ground for battle MCs. The D has a slew of underground heroes that new-jacks must be tested against or at least strive to battle. Houston has produced a generation of MCs also fiercely proud of their local scene which has emboldened them with a swagger that allows them to step to the mic with no desire to imitate another regions 'lyrical' style. This clash of styles had the potential to move battles into a new era. Sadly it may have done just that... but in the wrong way. A few of the contestants emphasized clever punchlines or wordplay in their disses but most confrontations degenerated into tough guys spitting boring homophobic remarks at each other. At best, the attempts at emasculation rhymed. At worst, and more frequently, lazy MCs started to end their segments by screaming ‘Faggot!’ in a last ditch effort to get the crowd hyped up. Many of the MCs’ interactions with the crowd were reduced to threatening a rival’s crew or getting props from their own crew. And when I say props I mean, stacks of money to incorporate into a little show-and-tell about how much street money is being earned. I would say it’s better to ‘tell’ in an MC battle, than to ‘show.’ And of course a few of the contestants utter the last words any fan of real MCing wants to hear: “You can cut the beat… we can do this acapella!” The horror… The energy level, unfortunately, never recovers.
The DVD itself doesn’t describe the battle in any clear way. What is this? How did it happen? Who is judging? Of all the DJs in the world how did you pick a blonde British woman to provide the beats? And, uh, you’re actually not going to tell me who won?!?! (You actually get to vote on the website http://www.hiphoplifedvd.com )
Luckily some of the bonus material gives background on the City vs City concept and shows some interesting and entertaining MCs. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that a couple of the best battlers are a couple of white kids undoubtedly inspired by Eminem’s path to glory. Both of them play their nerdiness to maximum effect; expectations are lowered so much that when they actually kick clever freestyles and bold disses the audience can’t help but be shocked… and entertained. Another contestant in the Ohio State vs. Ohio University Battle is black, has dreads and has a funny simple structure and childish glee to his delivery that gets predictable but can still hit home a clever punchline. He stalks the stage in an odd back-and-forth lunge-and-point. I was happy to be reminded, even superficially, of Craig G and Supernatural.
BONUS: Special thanks to bgm722 for sending some youtube footage of the Craig / Supernat battle.
On the eve of Timbaland’s latest ‘solo’ effort we are indeed blessed to recognize the huge catalogue of existing compositions that may comfort us during the ensuing disappointment. The post-JT generation of Timbo fans will likely boost the sales of ‘Shock Value’ enormously and they probably know Timbo’s work even if they didn’t know his name via “Big Pimpin” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” or early Nelly Furtado or Aaliyah’s hits… Well, the dude has been everywhere lately and people still don’t get how important he is to the music dismissing him as Justin’s ‘lame rapper’ (also a slight misjudgment, in my book). A different demographic still enjoys ‘Pony’ and ‘One In A Million.’ And yet another group can pull odd album cuts for days to show off their liner-note skills.
I’m just gonna throw a dozen of tracks that may not be his best or most definitive but some of them are cuts I return to or admire. Maybe they were overlooked or underappreciated. Or maybe the pop R&B stuff needs to be revisited by the rap heads… or the rap stuff needs to be heard by the pop R&B fans. There’s no reason to touch his much heralded (but little bought) work for Bubba Sparxxx or his brilliant tracks for Jay-Z or his watershed classics with Missy and Aaliyah… Some of these tracks are favorites (‘Pony’ ‘Told Y’all’) but many of them are just a testament to Timbo’s skills… Even a throwaway pop cash-in or an odd ad-libbed interlude can hold some of the excitement that Tim can bring to rhythm and/or sound arrangement. And I have a particular fondness for his lower BPM stuff. I’m sure you could find a dozen more tracks that illustrate his talents as well, if not better than, say, a Mad Skillz mixtape joint or a Danity Kane 'classic'… but these tracks are still damn good... and that is the point of this post.
Note: There used to be a dismissal of Timbaland’s beats by folk that had grown tired of hip-hop. They wanted to credit drum&bass beats for Tim’s layering of up- and down-tempo percussion on one track. And to them I would say, “Have you ever heard Doug E. Fresh beatboxing?” As much as beatboxing can be dismissed in most cases as lame (even ‘American Idol’ has it now) Tim’s beats often begin with, or at least pass through, a beat-box phase that includes thump and counter rickytickytempo as complex as any short-lived ‘cutting edge’ derivation of hip-hop that you can play for me. And his beats still contain that elusive element that so much four-on-the-floor dance music lacks: Funk. Timbaland is the true avant-garde of pop rhythm makers. Still. I don’t doubt that Tim listened to and learned from drum&bass but he has also been influenced by Indian music and Trent Reznor and Celtic sounds and Bjork and video games and bluegrass and Elton John and flamenco … And, even when assisted by Missy or Danja or…, all of it comes out sounding like Timbaland gospel.
1. Brandy – Sadiddy : 'Afrodisiac' will be the album pondered over by historians as a missed opportunity. The vocals by Brandy aren’t as charming or lively as they could have been but the layering of vocals, particularly on this song, can send chills up my spine. The number of voices and notes and rhythms often gives the hypnotic feel of a round. The tracks don’t change as much as they should but there great loops all over the album.
2. Kiley Dean – No : A relatively simple light skipping beat gets hit by odd percussive elements here and there but the main feature is the minor key vocals that tumble like a calliope riff in parts and then unexpectedly switches to an odd ad-lib at the end that sounds like a Bollywood sample. The perfect ‘mmm-mmm-mm-mm’ hook is sing-along addictive.
3. Petey Pablo – Told Y’all : One of my go-to party tracks because it sounds like a Daniel Lanois drum circle with a James Brown fan riffing on top of it all. Petey was demonized for some reason after ‘Freak-a-leak’ but his rhythmic declarations fit with Tim’s concept of funk perfectly.
4. Ms. Jade – Interlude : Basically just letting a chilled-out loop run its course, Tim adds his weird Muppet-like falsetto to interact with the sampled voices.
5. Nicole Wray, Missy, Mocha – Make it Hot : Nicole Wray has seemingly been in the right place at the right time twice. Associated with Jay and Dame recently and Missy and Timmy for this track, she has yet to breakout as a soloist but she was lucky to be on this beautiful track. The changes in this song have always fascinated me and it’s kind of amazing how many shifts, additions and edits take up the four-and-a-half minutes.
6. Timbaland – Beep Beep : Just an intro track but the beat patterns are all over the place… and mesmerizing. When the sample of Missy comes in briefly it’s an epiphany and his little collection of ad-libs around 3:35 are better than anything Elton John could play over the same beat.
7. Mad Skillz – Jump Off : Frequent Superfriend collaborator and alledged ghostwriter, Skillz successfully works around an incomplete sounding loop, notable for its lack of a bass line, punctuated with odd techno sounds and keyboard noodling. 8. Ginuwine – Pony : The breakthrough that wasn’t the breakthrough of ‘One In A Million.’ A strange sounding track made of prominent high hat, video bleeps and the classic belching robot vocal. The sung vocals are straight R&B which makes it more, not less, avant-garde for its time. It is trumped by Aaliyah’s single only because the beat itself is relatively normal.
9. Danity Kane – Right Now : I’m not sure what inspired what but the acoustic drumming locked in with the minor-key cooing is a match made in… uh, Diddy’s head. Are the sounds Middle Eastern or Celtic… or just contemporary pop? The adlibbed “Right there..” vocals that end the song end up sounding like Timbo’s squealing sound effects. 10. Aaliyah - Ladies In Da House : Not the watershed ‘One In A Million’ track but on the same album. It is really just one of those filler tracks that usually annoys but in Tim’s hands the play between rhythms is hypnotizing and headnod inducing. That little skipped beat and the unexpected thump-thump-thump-thump are simply incredible. Missy, on point, hits the skips as only she can (“You damn-damn skip-skippy”). 11. Total – Trippin’ : Part of Tim’s first wave bringing futuristic bleepy sounds to black-radio-oriented R&B. The stuttery synths and classic soul harmonizing over the slow beat was a Timbo breakthrough.
12. Playa - Your Dress : One of the most straightforward tracks you are likely to hear... and it works. A nod towards doo-wop but you can almost hear the wheels spinning in Tim's brain that would lead to the hypnotizing flip of vocal sounds on Tweet's classic 'Oops.'