I don’t know about you guys, but I thought the 2010 mixtape, I Am Not A Human Being, was totally awesome. The thing about Lil Wayne is that he’s kind of a joke and yet Tha Carter IV, from two years ago, was the biggest selling hip-hop album of the year. His notoriety’s come, gone and come back again with various guest spots, videos, stunts, tour antics and moments in the news. Naturally, you’ve heard all about his check-in at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for seizures. Mad people speculated that it was too much sizzurp (you know, that cough syrup/codeine/juice shit), but naturally, he and his people say he’s just been working too hard. Well, mere hours after making headlines, his newest piece of work is ready for consumption; download it on DatPiff or stream it on Spotify.
Now, let’s get down to the real question – Is it any good? As the mixtape nearly comes to an end, the garbage track “Hello” is a bit of a red herring. This record isn’t full of poorly-conceived genre mashups. The guests spots are pretty austere and none of the tracks where guests show up are entirely based on their feature spot (the way it often happens). Thing is, Lil Wayne’s not reinventing the wheel or himself here. None of these tracks are exceptionally surprising or leaps forward toward elevated artistry. In fact, it kind of reduces him to a little bit of a one-trick pony. However, that one trick is just so much damn fun.
How many songs can you take that are entirely based on sex and swagger? MANY if they’re good. It’s hilarious to hear song after song about beating up a pussy with your big fat dick. And yet that’s what he does simply with variety and humor. He’s gotta know the joke’s on him, or at least, he clearly knows that he should probably stick to what he knows best; rapping about pussy, weed and “pussy-ass n*ggas.” I use those quotes because it doesn’t look okay when I write it but it’s a phrase he uses probably 25 times in this collection of tracks. Who are these “pussy-ass n*ggas” that he’s so concerned with? Or, not necessarily concerned with, but, feels the need to separate himself from.
Some of the most absurd moments come from raps on “Days and Days” (”She swallow so many nuts / You fuckin’ round find a squirrel in her throat / I go tapeworm in that ho / Let my snake squirm in that ho”), “Beat The Shit” and the stunning Trina-guested “Wowzerz” (”My tongue is a oozy / My dick is a AK / My tongue brrrrrrrr / My dick go bah! / Bitch, lay on that bed / Open that twat / I french kiss that pussy / Like mwah / Sit on my face / M U A H / Before I eat that pussy / I say my grace”).
Lil Wayne enjoys the idea of him being an alien: a huge dick-having, pussy-eating expert, dank weed-consuming and tough as nails real-ass n*gga (in direct opposition to a pussy-ass n*gga). And he just may be from a different world, but his talents in the hip-hop arena lie mainly in pushing the envelope on how ridiculous raps about heterosexual desire can be before we stop taking you seriously.
UPDATE: Pitchfork reviewed it today and gave it a 3.9.
When “212″ started taking off and everyone was going HAM on her and talking about her like she was the shit and she was gonna revolutionize hip-hop, I wasn’t mad. I was into it. I bought that damn EP on the iTunes. Then that mixtape, Fantasea, came out and I was leveled. Dead. It was in my ears everyday for a minute there. She’s exciting because she’s a sickeningly fierce young black girl from Harlem and she’s just that to a T.
But then the dark stuff started happening. She’s put back the release date (or drama with the label or whatever it is) multiple times for Broke With Expensive Taste. She’s got mad videos, yes, and they are vicious. Then she started getting obnoxious about Twitter and calling all this weird attention to her because she’s used the gay f-bomb and thinks she can use it however she wants because of the depth and gravity of the concept of the word fagg*t. She’s beefed with Angel Haze (who might be more professional) and Perez Hilton publicly and in Tweetlish (I just made that up) and it’s just ugly. Oh, and talked shit on Baauer as a whole “Harlem Shake” thing went down.
The other day she posted this creepy cover (above and here) art for her forthcoming single (March 26th), presumably one of the songs on her forthcoming record. And picked another fight with the Stone Roses – look at this gem:
“Fuck those old saggy white niggas stone roses. I wish them nothing but excrement and death. Wow! I must really fucking be a superstar… You’ve got an established band trying to sabotage my lil rap bitch shine. Wow a bunch of old white men trying to bully a young black girl…. What the fuck else is new in this world ???”
STOP. Or rap and perform professionally like all the other bad bitches we love are capable of doing.
When Emily and Javas said they had a big secret star lined up for their big Sunday Teamwerq on St. Patrick’s Day, I didn’t think it was going to be this awesome. Sundays, here and there, Emily Doofnoggle and Javas Ganguly (also of Cuntafit Currency fame) have been throwing a party upstairs at Woody’s. Javas goes by DJ J++ and has been picking up steam lately with a regular git at Josh Schonewolf’s regular Wednesday night at Tabu called Ratchet. He spins a pretty regularly excellent collection of jams from the late ’90s and early 2000s that’re exclusively R&B and hip-hop flavored. New music’s great and we love that at the club every once in a while, but now that it’s 2013 and ‘Throwback’ means 10-15 years ago, these throwback moments are worth living for. Aaliyah’s Javas’ Queen and she informs all; her sultry playfulness, evidenced by the dichotomy between a track like “Rock the Boat” versus a slower, sexier number like “4 Page Letter” or “If Your Girl Only Knew,” is at the essence of J++’s set. Their party’s one of my favorites at the moment and it’s mostly because of the music that gets spun. There’s nothing more fun to dance to than old-school hip-hop and R&B.
So St. Patrick’s Day just happens to fall on a Teamwerq night and Em and Javas are going buck in the big room upstairs and throwing a cover-admission event. But you’ll happily dish out $7 because tonight you get to see Rye Rye in the FLESH. YES! The Baltimore lil’ rapper and dancefloor monster’s agreed to visit our gayborhood. I cannot wait to see her shake that shit to the ground (and bring it back up). Her big official major label debut, Go! Pop! Bang! was one of the best of its kind in 2012. The M.I.A.-mentored and sponsored B girl has quick and fast flow and her famous friend got her teamed up with all the right producers for bangin’ tracks like “Sunshine,” “Boom Boom” and “DNA.”
Double Duchess was one of the last amazing performances that I captured upstairs and by surprise. But I don’t even know what to think about how Rye Rye’ll turn it out. What will she wear? What songs will she do? How she gonna dance!? It’s too much! See you there.
On Monday morning, another big announcement happened with a Michael Nutter photo op: Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe are combining efforts, solidifying a headquarters, expanding their scope, renovating a new space, and as Emily Guendelsberger put it, thankfully, shortening their combined names into FringeArts. This is big news. Not only is the nature of Philly Fringe and Live Arts morphing before our eyes into something bigger and better, they’re carving out a space for themselves across from the beautiful new Race Street Pier underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge. It’s going to be a massive space with multi-functioning spaces and a BAR. Oh, and public restrooms that’ll be open to the public all-year-round.
Take it from the horse’s mouth via their press release:
“Our future home is located across the street from Race Street Pier at the corner of Race Street and Columbus Boulevard. The 1903 historic former pumping station will be transformed into a year-round center for contemporary performing and visual arts; the 10,000-square-foot building will feature:
+ 240-seat Theater
+ Restaurant and Bar
+ Outdoor Plaza
+ Permanent Festival Hub
Programming under the new FringeArts banner will expand to include not only the annual 16-day Festival but also a year-round series of high-quality contemporary dance, theater and music performances both local and international; commissioned public art installations; and a residency program that continues to expand and grow as a state-of-the-art incubator for artists.”
As noted in Emily’s post, there might be a teeny, tiny problem – train and car traffic and the resulting noise. She said that even with a mic, when a NJ Transit train passed by, it’s all you could hear. But that’s outside. Even though an outdoor performance space sounds cool, you’ve gotta be crafty about what you do and when you do it. The theater sounds totally rad, though. We won’t say no to these kinds of things filling up our city.
With Morgan’s Pier, that damned beautiful Pier and Sugar House and all that, it looks like the city’s actually trying really hard to make that waterfront a thing. And while there’s plenty of room for improvement, they’re getting there. Like, can we do something with that monstrous Dave and Busters? Can we connect Old City more seamlessly with these new waterfront attractions? We gotta try.
With Third Ward and the looming reno and reuse of The Dolphin, it really feels like this city’s on the cusp of an explosion of art. With Union Transfer, we’re becoming a city with a world-class diversity of spaces. It’s happening, you guys!
There’s one other thing. Does Philly have enough actual art and artists to keep these enterprises humming? Maybe all this means that talent, voices, thoughts and art’ll be looking at our city with a keener eye; Philly has the resources and the spaces to facilitate every kind of show that can be dreamed up.
There’s a YouTube clip of Erykah Badu’s 1997 Unplugged performance (below). In it she opens with “Rimshot,” walking onto stage with a vase of flowers draped in African-flavored fabrics, including a headdress that falls down her back. She’s got on lots of jewelry: bangles, cuffs, rings, armbands. She features the ankh, she’s spiritual and worldly in a decidedly un-Christian manner. And “Rimshot” is an appropriate opener, being the opening track to her stunning debut in the same year, Baduizm, which she’ll perform (seemingly in its entirety) at the Electric Factory Saturday night.
You know what’s exciting, too? The record has some light and tight Philly connections to it. You know Badu and The Roots are thick. Well they had a few hands in the production pot on Baduizm, and bits of it were recorded here in Philadelphia at Sigma Studios. It earned her a Grammy, one of her 19 nominations and four wins. Two she won for her debut: Best R&B Album and for the game-changing single, “On and On.”
In its video she’s some kind of weird nanny/housekeeper/slave/cinderella. She picks up the house, braids hair, rangles livestock and falls in shitty mud (”Damn, y’all feel that?”). It’s the kind of thing she’s at home with, she’s comfortable with – confronting the public with the unavoidable glare of the truth. Generations have been messed with, years of struggle have gone down, women are treated like garbage still and racism is real. But it’s not all pain and strife. It’s also so much about love. And about thought. Everyone remembers “Most intellects they don’t believe in God / But they fear us just the same,” right? In the Unplugged clip she slightly alters the chorus with: “They fear me just the same” and “They fear you just the same.” A woman like her was a welcome breath of fresh air almost two decades ago – a jazzy, strong-willed black woman who’s climbing charts with lyrics about intellectualism, feminism, mysticism and skepticism about the American way? Yes yes yes yes.
“Next Lifetime” is a bittersweet and devastatingly relatable experience of a woman who’s friend and confidant wants to devote himself to her; he’s in love. She’s spoken for and yet can’t deny that there’s an attraction, a chemistry that could be so much more than a friendship. The soul in this track is deep and with songs like these, she firmly planted herself alongside a couple of the best records of an emerging genre: neo-soul had a new queen with D’Angelo (Brown Sugar was 1995) and Maxwell (Urban Hang Suite was 1996) in her court.
“Appletree” is another jazz-funky number that prominently displays her jazz-schooled, scat-capable and controlled vocals. It also features a groove that’d fit nicely on a Guru track, a Roots record or a Mos Def jawn. Here’s where you can really see the comparisons to Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone. She’s like a jazz siren who’s voice sounds like it oscillates between chaotic, emotionally-channeled wails and breath-controlled, hiccupy syncopation.
Baduizm’s almost 15 years old. Great records from her came after, of course, as did other outstanding collaborations. She slayed it, clearly, on The Roots’ landmark Things Fall Apart single “You Got Me,” for which she earned another Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. And when she dated Common, their “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)” won Best R&B song in 2003. Then, out of nowhere, she dropped two New Amerykah records in 2008 and 2010 that were mind-blowing testaments to her lifelong devotion to neo-soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop and R&B and all their weird and mystic connections.
But on this night in Philadelphia, in addition to, hopefully, a few little surprises sprinkled in, she’ll do Baduizm all the way. No doubt with a full-ass band: at least 10 pieces – backup singers, brass, strings, pianist, percussion. Gotta have a “rimshot.” She’s moved beyond headdresses and ankhs, but her new incarnation of image is an afro and she’ll almost definitely sport one for some time and snatch it off her head at an opportune moment. Maybe during the daring “Window Seat,” the filming of said single’s video saw her stripping naked on the mall where JFK was shot and actually getting cited for indecency as a result. She’s the real deal. She’s got an old, musically-transcendent heart and a firm, solid grasp on what makes soul music that’s stirring, funky, modern and soothing. She’s the closest thing we’ve got to a priestess of R&B – the wise godmother of Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky.
A legend of hip-hop touches down in Philly – this time at the Blockley in West Philly. It wasn’t long ago that a reunioned Wu-Tang hit the stage at the Trocadero, but the Chef’s obviously a thoroughly accomplished artist in his own right. His 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, is now considered a classic. Rae is Cory Woods, a 43-year-old NYC-born emcee whose tightness with Tony Stark, AKA Ghostface Killer, has yielded some of the most brilliant hip-hop sounds of all time.
It’s hard to believe, but Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang’s debut, is almost twenty years old. Their stunning statement from Staten Island basically laid the blueprint for hardcore and mafioso hip-hop for the next two decades. And then two years later, Raekwon’s Only Built cemented fans’ of Wu-Tang’s hopes in main members like the Chef himself, Ghostface, RZA, GZA and Method Man as the future of hip-hop.
It feels kind of like Wu and Rae took things from a much more party, celebratory and dance-oriented nascence in the Bronx, an art form that favored breakdancing, graffiti, phat jewelry and fly kicks, and turned it into the serious storytelling genre we see reflect struggles in cities and hardship as a poor minority. Check out what the Miami New Times said about Raekwon’s ghetto epics: “Straightforward yet linguistically rich universes not unlike a gangsta Iliad.” While Run-D.M.C. and Eric B & Rakim were undoubtedly steeped in an awareness of the struggle and rapped about politics and injustice, we could argue that until then, no emcees had so thoroughly and sophisticatedly portrayed hood life, the rise from poverty to wealth, the drug trade, the hustle and crime. N.W.A., Cypress Hill and Ice Cube may’ve touched the tip of this iceberg, but hip-hop, at the time, was also dominated by the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and Boogie Down Productions.
Then, in 1992, The Chronic happened. A year later Wu-Tang came out and so did Doggystyle. In ‘94, Illmatic came out and so did Ready to Die. Out of all of that Raekwon made it through as a primary player in the emerging hugely-powerful moment in rap music. There’s something more relentless, more hard-hitting and harder about the Chef’s records; something that Nas and Biggie, for instance, didn’t have.
Fans begged for a follow-up to Cuban Linx and they got it in 2009 with an acclaimed sequel that was executive produced by Busta Rhymes, plus spots helmed by Dre and RZA. It topped a bunch of Album of the Year lists. It was a serious accomplishment, a return to the game and a revisiting of the moment that his ‘95 debut captured, that galvanized his reputation as one of the most heralded men in his field. Immobilarity (1999) and The Lex Diamond Story (2003) aren’t to be forgotten, but the story of Raekwon as a solo artist is perfectly told via his two Cuban Linx ghetto epics.
Rae’s often known as the Chef, for cookin’ up tasty treats to get your mouth watering. There’ll definitely be some hefty appetites brought to the Blockley on Thursday night – should be a heady mix of herbal ingredients and the drink will flow. With four openers and a show that starts at 9pm and will potentially end right before 2am, we recommend you plan your night accordingly. Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 at the door.
It feels really weird writing about things that are everywhere but you’re not sure if people have actually seen it or heard it. And if you’re a person on the internet once in a while, you’ve probably seen the dozens of videos inspired by Baauer’s “The Harlem Shake.” Now, to be clear, the song is not what the dance really is. The actual harlem shake is a dance that started, pretty much, back in 1981 in the South Bronx. It’s an old-school hip-hop dance move and it could even go further back, if you’ll go, to Ehtiopia and a traditional dance they do called “Eskista.” You can check out a demonstraion of the more modern, club and chorgrapher-friendly version here.
The way it comes back to Philly was tipped off to me by a one Mr. DJ Apt One or, one half of Philadelphyinz. The man’s got a good ear, and when he started to hear Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” literally everywhere, and noticed its position at #2 on the iTunes, he took notice. Oh, that’s a sample I used on a moombathon remix. And furthermore, there’s a sample in Baauer’s track that samples Plastic Little’s “Miller Time.” Jayson Musson AKA Hennessy Youngman is credited for using a reference to dancing the harlem shake after knocking a sucka out in “Miller Time” and Musson recently Instragrammed confirmation from Baauer himself that his shake is in the mix.
Baauer used to be called Cap’nHarry and was a Philly-friendly DJ and producer who threw parties in Philadelphia. These days he’s in Brooklyn and blowing shit up worldwide. Fun how these kinds of things come back to Philly, isn’t it?
This one’s my favorite (cuz guess why):