Confused White People

Class is in Session: Questlove at the Drake Underground 6/29/10

In about four seconds, a teacher will begin to speak.

He said he had two sets: the set for dancing and getting wild, and the set for standing around and watching. The crowd obviously wanted the dancing set. He surveyed the crowd, repositioning the pick in his trademark afro and arching an eyebrow.

“Y’all are getting the fishbowl set,” he said, as the younger members of the crowd groaned their disapproval. “They’re both good sets!” he assured them.

“This is the history of the hip-hop sample according to Questlove.”

And like the bell rang, homeroom started. While my companion might have preferred he went with the dancing set, as a very amateur student of hip-hop, I was enthralled.


My Day With Banksy

Sore feet, but happy.

Anyone who loves street art probably froze for a good fifteen seconds when the headline ‘Banksy Comes to Toronto?‘ hit Torontoist on Sunday afternoon.  It wouldn’t have been the first time people thought they spotted the man’s work on the streets of T-Dot, people around here have been mistaking Fauxreel and Banksy’s work for years, so there was a healthy dose of skepticism.  But the evidence continued to pile up, to the point where the CBC of all places reported that Banksy’s publicist [Banksy has a publicist?!] confirmed that the pieces spotted were legitimate.

And then it seemed everyone in this city lost their damn fool mind for a minute.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Let’s Talk About Love

Is this woman a genius? Tens of millions would say so.

Regular readers [Hi, Glenn] are likely aware of my love for the 33 1/3 series of music guides.  Slight, portable, packed with insight on records from the classic to the cultish, they represent some of the best music criticism you can find on the shelves. But one selection gave me pause: Carl Wilson’s book on Celine Dion’s ‘Let’s Talk About Love.’ How could that piece of garbage warrant any booklength examination? Why was it longer than books on Illmatic or OK Computer? So I did what I imagine most petulant and superior music fans would have done: sucked my teeth and walked away.

But this book refused to go away. It made year-end ‘best of’ lists, intelligent people recommended it online and in print, just last week it got an endorsement on the Slate Culture Gabfest.  So I finally bit the bullet and read the thing this week.  And it is everything they say it is.

Thing is, it’s not about Celine Dion at all.


Sucker MCs Should Call Me Sire

Down With the Kings

“You’re home, aren’t you?” she asked me.

I didn’t even speak, I just nodded as Dalia mixed into LL’s ‘Around the Way Girl’.  Within the next hour we were standing at the front of the stage, watching talented people pay respectful homage to the music they loved.  Some tiny guy delivered Biggie’s ‘Kick in the Door’ with an authority that would have made Big Poppa proud.  A bridal party destroyed Kanye’s ‘Golddigger’ like they owned it.  There was Tribe and Nas and Jay-Z.  It was summer 2008 and I was in heaven.

That was my first night at Hip Hop Karaoke.


Keepin’ the Faith

On and on and three steps ahead

On and on and three steps ahead

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a person’s first art.  Not the first art they create, but that first art they embrace, independent of their parents’ influence.  I’ve mentioned here at least half a dozen times that hip-hop and rap captured my imagination at an early age, but what I’ve been thinking about lately is the type of hip-hop and rap that made me a lifetime enthusiast. If Run-DMC and the Fat Boys brought me in [I fully believe the Fat Boys were just as important as Run-DMC in exposing the suburbs to hip-hop], the Native Tongues were the acts who won my heart.

The Native Tongues were a collective of likeminded rap artists in the late 80s who ushered in what would now probably called ‘conscious rap’.  Anchored by the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, the Native Tongues provided an alternative to the political bombast of Public Enemy and the frustrated rage of NWA.  Put it another way: if PE was Metallica and NWA the Sex Pistols, the Native Tongues were prog-rock.

De La Soul was Pink Floyd. And ‘De La Soul is Dead’ was ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.