Sometimes, there are interesting discussions of artistic choices and presentation such as the recent chit chat surrounding Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” video.
Then there are two-minute YouTube missives explaining the flawed logic of poor artistic choices wrapped in a bow signed “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Today on Jack and Jill, I shot the messenger (but I did not shoot the deputy).
And since it’s Friday…
Pops conceived a play about Mahalia Jackson. I wrote it and directed it. My wife made the songs sound good. The cast of the show made us all look good.
A few stray thoughts.
- Riding along the other day while listening to “Beemer, Benz or Bentley”–a song I like well enough–I discovered the crux of my annoyance with the genre’s most popular music. Historically, the MC’s subject matter is overwhelmingly self-centered; this isn’t a knock so much as an acknowledgment of the facts: MCs discussed themselves a good deal as they discussed some aspect of the world around them. As I rode along, I couldn’t really think of another genre of music that was so clearly focused on self, then I considered country, which is very often about Singer X and what Singer X did or didn’t do. Like hip hop, a lot of the subject matter revolves around the same handful of subjects, so what’s my beef with the former? I think my issue is two-fold. Firstly, the hubris, which has always been a staple in hip hop, has gone to a level which is scary. These guys seem to actually believe the things they talk about in a way that is alarming. The hubris is, rarely, balanced out by something that might be described as humility or vulnerability (though I do recognize here that the stuff being played on the radio is not the purview of the artist). Secondly, I think it’s the problem of boring presentation of limited subject and subject matter. The MCs dilemma–should he or she choose to stick to the classic “I” subject script–deserves some attention here. It’s unfair to merely say people just can’t rap anymore (though there are a lot of people who just can’t rap anymore). I think it should be noted that talking about yourself on a diversity of topics isn’t altogether easy. I currently write about myself once a week and find it isn’t easy to parse through what material seems suitable for display (of course you could argue that MCs need to step out into the world beyond themselves, but that’s another discussion.) Where I like the “Beemer, Benz or Bentley”-s of the world, there’s something of a diminished return for similar material that isn’t presented in a clever way (and for those that wonder why Wayne is popular, he’s a guy that is technically proficient and presents material in a more interesting way than most).
- I snapped about this on Twitter the other day, but I’ll do it again because I haven’t said it enough yet: Usher needs to leave the young boys game to the young boys and come out with an acoustic adult contemporary-ish album. Said album should be produced by someone like Babyface or Raphael Saadiq and would want to feature an array of artists across genres and generations. An album without Robin Thicke or the perhaps the chick form Sugarland would be a mistake. As a dude who was in middle school when “You Make Me Wanna” blew up and has been more or less a fan up through the “Confessions” album, I say this strongly: Nothing like “Daddy’s Home” and/or Plies needs to be anywhere near an Usher album.
- Erykah Badu is not Oscar Grant. She’s an artist who took a risk to make an interesting piece of art. She knew the risks of doing so and was brave enough to do it anyway. I applaud her for making a bold music video. It wasn’t cutting-edge or anything, but it was brave, interesting and thought-provoking. In being brave and interesting, in being a badass, you sometimes get in trouble. She (correctly) didn’t want the permits and such necessary because it would have altered the feel and intent of what she was trying to accomplish. Being that she doesn’t appear to be an idiot, she knew there might be consequence for being butt ass naked on the grassy knoll (which is also why she did the video in one take and broke the hell out when they were finished shooting). Taking a risk for your art doesn’t mean you don’t get into shit; it means you care more about the finished product and getting your message out than you do the temporary consequences that may come with it.
- What happened to hard fouls? Watching UCONN’s Maya Moore drop about 30 on Baylor last night, I kept asking myself when someone was going to make her earn it in the paint. Don’t get me wrong; Moore was working to get position, running the floor, etc, but it didn’t seem like anyone was willing to give up “I’ll make you think twice about coming into the paint” fouls. I’m not an advocate of flagrant fouls meted out with an intent to injure. I am saying a hard foul is kinda like brushing someone off the plate: you’re not trying to hurt them, but you are letting them know a bit of courage is required if you want score in these parts.
- Check my Book of Odds post for the week!
Baby is so devoted to fuckery that he drew a small star-shaped hat on himself to prove as much.
The paths we tread.
After having my mind blown by Star Trek, I flipped over to the American Music Awards in time to see Jennifer Lopez’s comeback attempt performing a song whose name I don’t recall and am not inclined to look up.
While 1999-2000 really seems like just yesterday, the decade has, indeed, come to a close and things are not what they once were, as evidenced by Lopez’s tumble after vaulting off the back of a dancer while wearing five-inch heels. She recovered from the tumble, gathering herself enough to ask the crowd (via lip-synch) “You miss me?” The resounding response seemed to be “Once upon a time.”
Now, I could go in on Jennifer Lopez about the tumble or the singing poorly and such, but I have to admit: When she fell I gasped. I clapped my hand over my mouth and actually felt bad. Seeing any performer stumble is cringe-worthy because it really is like dying a thousand deaths on stage, but this emotion had something more to it.
I imagine anyone who saw it thought to themselves “JLo woulda nailed that. Jennifer Lopez, mother of two out of the limelight for a few years, apparently cannot.” Watching great performers lose a step always kind of hurts a little. Read the rest of this entry »
Somehow, this relates to my Lil’ Wayne post. Somehow.
Given my various smartypants associations, I’m supposed to outraged at much of Lil’ Wayne’s artistry and, to a larger extent, his existence on planet Earth. I’m supposed to feel like he’s wresting hip hop from sacred hands and unceremoniously flushing it down the toilet while inciting utterly putrid and senseless acts among young people.
While I understand such points of view, I just can’t bring myself to denounce Wayne.
Why? Because his punch lines and witticisms make me feel tough in a gloriously make-believe way. In fact, I indulge further into the fantasy because I have hometraining and generally know better.
Let’s call a spade a spade here. While Wayne has certainly seen some actual hardship in his life, he has not sold drugs in the manner that he claims or killed anybody. From what I understand, the only time he got shot was when he shot himself.
Wayne’s great for the same reason Predator is great. It sates the baser part our mammalian qualities without actually having to do the dirty work. Remember that scene in Predator after Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura gets his chest blasted out and all the dude’s run up to the clearing and just start capping off rounds? It’s destructive and terrible and regressive yet also awesome and adrenaline-raising. That’s Wayne.
Predator was fair game in my house because it was made abundantly clear that I was not to speak that way, act out that way or think that I would survive taking a laser shot point-blank to the shoulder (somehow, Arnold did while Carl Weathers got his arm blown clean off. But I digress).
The trouble is not being able to see either for what they are: gross exaggerations of reality meant merely to entertain.
While the subject matter may not seem sophisticated, it does takes a level of guidance and perspective to recognize the material for what it is. When this hyperbole is not recognized, the consequences are often tragic.
Perhaps I listen because it is decidedly not who I am anymore than I’m an elite soldier fighting an intergalactic big game hunter.
Crap, now I feel like a turncoat. Uh…Free Mumia!
Don’t blame it on the sunshine,
Don’t blame it on the moonlight,
Don’t blame it on the good times,
Blame it on the boogie
Not to speak ill of the dead, but…why can’t you blame it on the good times, Michael?
I can sort of understand why you wouldn’t want to blame celestial forces for why you can’t get no lovin’. And that’s no lie. I mean, if you’re woman’s acting up, I don’t see anything wrong with looking to the sun or the moon for answers seeing as that’s how so many goofy dames seem to be governed. But I can also appreciate wanting to dig a little deeper, go past the celestial bodies and explore the realm of boogie. If that with a healthy dose of cocaine is keeping her in the club, you have to address that fact.
But if you can blame it on the boogie, can’t you also blame it on the good times? Assuming the boogie precedes or is the proximate cause for the good time, isn’t the good time an accessory after the fact?