Hey, Feminist Music Critics

The reason that people don’t like female rappers isn’t because women can’t rap. It’s because most the ones who do fucking suck, and the ones who get successful implode (Lil’ Kim, Rye Rye), disappear (Lauryn Hill) or exchange rapping for sex iconography (Nicky Minaj) or more commercialized pastures (Queen Latifah, Fergie). Of those mentioned, only Lauryn Hill was really anything special, and let’s give credit to Nicky Minaj’s verse on Kanye West’s “Monster”, which is one of the best raps of the best ten years.

So we’re left with two categories:

The buzzed about, hyped up shit shows and the criminally under-appreciated.

The buzzed about, hyped up shit shows include Kreashawn, Chippy Nonstop, Kitty and Sirah. Okay, nobody likes Kreashawn, but let’s agree she had a spotlight moment and probably set back female rappers another ten years with “Gucci Gucci”. For some reason Chippy Nonstop and Kitty are getting accolades and mentions in the alternative, underground circles from which they’re emerging, despite the fact that their flow is astoundingly poor and annoying. None of these rappers have anything interesting to say, and they don’t say it in an interesting way either, which is the saving grace of most rappers anyway.

Proof? Let’s take Kitty, easily the best of this sloppy group, and analyze a quick stanza. In the interest of fairness I have clicked upon a random song of hers and skipped to a couple minutes in, so this way I’m not intentionally picking a line that is known to be her worst or best.

"I’m out on the bal-cony/I can see the o-cean/I’m practicin’ alchemy on ya/Pour a potion/Conjure a spell/Wish you well/I can say I’m jokin’ when I call my city hell"

What? I’m fairly speechless, and not in a good way. This verse exemplifies the issue I have with this crowd of rappers (as well as many male rappers, don’t think they are all peaches too). Female rappers can’t really pull of the “Look at my drugs, money and ho’s” that ignorant men can, though I’d fucking love to hear that, so they’re relegated to either attempting to be honest, clever, subversive or the feminine counterpoint to swag.

I’m not sure which of those this is trying to be. I’m all for random observations of where one is, and using that to create a sort of affect through it’s imagery but that’s not what’s happening here. This isn’t “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”. After saying she can see the Ocean, Kitty jumps to three lines that are… well they aren’t really puns, they are more just blatant references to witchcraft.

Cool.

Yep, witchcraft was a thing. Nothing was really just said, though, and the only reason I can think of for this stanza progressing as it does is that Kitty thinks it’s really cool that balcony and ocean rhyme with alchemy and potion. They also rhyme with Falconry and motion, by the way.

Anyway, then we get to the last two lines, which once again make very little sense to me. Who is she wishing well? The song never references itself as being in dialogue with another person. Why is she wishing them well?

And why is she joking when she calls her city hell? That could actually be an interesting line in a different context, but here it just seems to be another random observation that’s included into this stanza because it rhymes.

From what I can tell, “Florida”, the song which I took this stanza from, is about the thoughts running through Kitty’s head as she is in Florida. And she’s wishing that she could always be in Florida, I guess? She continually says she wants to be “Spirited Away”, which other than being a Miyazaki reference doesn’t really mean shit. Perhaps the song is about desiring to be removed from the corporeal world and the every day pressures inherent in this realm. Well.. that’s not only a saccharine bland sentiment, it’s not communicated clearly or in a clever, inventive way.

"But, Josh!" some will say, "You rap absolute fucking nonsense all the time! Your favorite rappers include Das Racist, Cities Aviv and Action Bronson who also like to say things that seemingly make no sense!”

The difference, and the thing I like about these rappers, and hope to emulate in my own half-assed rap career, is that part of the point is that it IS nonsense. But it’s also not nonsense, and through their seemingly stream of consciousness lines, with each stanza often filled with two or three layers of meaning, Das Racist can communicate more than one could ever do through explicit statements.

For example, check this group of lines by Kool A.D. on the song “SWATE”:

"Chico Marx/The Ego/Zizek’s too sexy/’Right?’ said Fred/He’s Alexi/KFC/Original Recipe/Is demonology/Gucci Boots and Wallabees is modern day pottery/Only crackers win the lottery/Hackers is a quality film shot at Stuyvesant High School/Am I cool?/A young SFJ writing Haikus/Ordering Thai food/Watching Hulu, new Youtube/Smooch a dude who’s with the you do you crew/True true true/Baby guap/Goo goo/Ga Ga/Go Go/Gadget/Cabbage/Half African Erasmus"

Theres a LOT of content in this, even though it seems like absolute nonsense. In the interest of saving time, I won’t go through every single line, but just here we have references to the Marx Brothers, Slavoj Zizek and Lacanian cultural theory, Right Said Fred (disguised as discourse), fellow rapper Lakutis, Fast food and corporations grip upon the masses, Greek status symbols and the 1%, racial inequality both socially and economically, a jab at fellow rapper Heems and his high school, music critic Sasha Frere Jones and Das Racist’s feud with him, a parody of new york hipsters while also making fun of those who make fun of hipsters, a reference to another Das Racist song followed by a Kanye West reference, baby talk, Inspector Gadget and finally positioning himself as a new intellectual, philosophical force who comes from a background alien to the current zeitgeist. All of this ties together into a verse that serves as a scathing cultural critique, a parody of the state of main stream rap, and a reinforcement of art’s ability to communicate great ideas and change the world.

And if you’d like a quick glossing over of my own lyrics, to prove I’m not an asshole who thinks he’s better than Kitty without proving it scroll to the bottom of the page.

The criminally under-appreciated include K.Flay, Jean Grae and Angel Haze (who is slowly rising however). K.Flay can get a little maudlin at time but she’s got skills, her voice suits her style and she is lyrically easily to relate to. I’m particularly a fan of her song Hail Mary in which she makes a fairly interesting and personal post-feminist, existential statement.

"It’s a bogus land/I got no demands/Just a croque madam in my open hand/Evil men gonna bleed me out/Gonna cut me down/Gonna vote vote for them/Fuck a lemon/Yeah I’m sucking on a glowstick"

It’s a bit depressing. Essentially K.Flay says in Hail Mary that she gets fucked up and lives her life in a haze of drugs and debauchery because she’s given up on the likelihood of equality, both sexually and economically, but please don’t think this makes her a bad person, because she’d love to still have the energy to fight the battle. Also I love the reference to a croque madam, a version of a french sandwich called a croque monsieur that adds an egg to the recipe. Breaking down the metaphor is a bit pointless, but essentially men and women are essentially the same except the distinction created due to the presence of differing genitals still exists, despite the fact women may in fact be worth more (the addition of the egg being key in this interpretation) specifically because they are the ones who recognize this distinction. Yet even though she points it out, she doesn’t really care to say anything anymore. Just be aware, and move on.

And Jean Grae. Well. Just listen to this and tell me she doesn’t kick ass.

Maybe Jean Grae and K.Flay don’t get enough credit because they aren’t blatantly sexual or ignorant, and thus not easily marketable. Maybe it’s because, just like most male rap listeners, female rap fans don’t wish to be challenged lyrically and would rather listen to Kitty, Kreashawn and Chippy Nonstop validate their femininity and emotions via stupid iconography. Either way, please don’t claim that the reason there aren’t many successful female rappers is because men think women can’t rap. It’s because most the female rappers out there really can’t rap, and nobody on a mass scale wants to pay attention to the ones that do, regardless of race.

*FOOTNOTE

I’m doing this because I’ve had similar conversations and been told that I couldn’t do what the rapper I claimed was terrible can. I definitely can. Even if I’m not great, I’m better than fucking Kitty.

This is from my song Cigarettes and Ritalin, which I’ve chosen due to the seeming similarity to Florida by Kitty’s intent (to capture a specific feeling at a specific point in time):

Forever Rainbows through a Prism/Warm alabaster prison/Trapped inside my own skin/Cigarettes & Ritalin/Set me free from truth/Our Oppressor/Forget the pressure/On the wound to keep my hurt in/Absolve me of this heavy burden”

The general idea here is pretty basic. I wrote this sitting on a stoop, three years ago, smoking cigarettes on ritalin. Clearly I was depressed as shit, and also I sort of dislike the sentimentality of the song, but I also recognize that it was an honest sentiment and not everyone is against having emotions communicated clearly.

Anyway, the desire is to be not of this world, similar to Kitty’s desire to be spirited away, but the reasoning is actually clear. I’m sick of trying to maintain a straight face, while starkly aware of the fact that what I’m doing is making things worse. Hopefully it’s relatable, and if it’s not whatever, I made this song three years ago. But 19 year old me is still better than Kitty, a rapper with an actual career.

Listen to this. I have apparently made an EP today.

A “song” I made. Radical sound collage is a better descriptor.

Lawless

This is going to be a short review. Anyone who reads this blog should be relieved.

"Lawless", the third collaboration between director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave, is the sort of gangster movie that is both at once positively innocuous, making it a perfect passive afternoon viewing experience, and ribald and scorching, a direct comment on the American dream. It’s also the best work of it’s creative duo to date, surpassing the dark landscape heavy drudgery of "The Road" and "The Proposition". 

image

The Bondurants, in all their scholarly glory.

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The Best Films of 2013

Hey, all! It’s Oscar sunday, and so this means I am releasing my annual list of the best movies to come out in the previous year. I’ve finally had time to see most of the film’s necessary in order for me to make a remotely reliable judgement. Still, there are a couple I have yet to watch, including “Nebraska”, “Inside Llewellyn Davis”, “La Grande Bellezza”, “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Philomena”. However most the other big movies or Oscar contenders I have seen, and if you wonder why some aren’t on the list, it’s because they don’t deserve to be.

10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

With the second Hobbit film, Peter Jackson apparently decided to stop fucking up and actually give us a movie that wasn’t a colossal waste of time. It’s still unclear if he’s learned a lesson I thought he’d already learned: That longer doesn’t mean better. 

There’s an interview where Jackson is asked about his “Directors Cuts” of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, in reference to the extended editions, to which he replies that the theatrical versions were his directors cut and the extended DVD’s were just fan service. Why then did “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” play exactly like a film made by someone with no concept of editing? Luckily, this sequel rectifies the mistake, as despite it’s massive running time the film chugs along efficiently. Never did it feel long, in fact I was upset when it ended, as I wished it would continue. As Roger Ebert once said, a good movie is never long enough.

Anyway, everything technical is done remarkably well here, and story wise it’s entertaining and light. It’s nowhere near the level of the original trilogy, but few films are. Here’s to Peter Jackson completing this trilogy and finally moving on to something else so he can reach his full potential.

9. 12 Years A Slave

If you couldn’t tell, my reaction to the previous entry was a little lukewarm, and “12 Years A Slave” shares the same fate. 2013 was a remarkably weak year for film, and while none of the movies on this list are bad, per se, it’s not until about halfway through the list that there are any movies I’m particularly excited about.

Is “12 Years A Slave” a well made picture? Exceedingly so. Steve McQueen has excellent directorial chops. But is there really anything to this picture beyond the “importance” which the Academy loves to recognize so much when they begin to fellate themselves? Well… sort of.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is masterful, as always, as Solomon Northrup, and proves himself to be one of the best actors currently working. In fact, McQueen coaxes great performances from his entire cast (although the Oscar nomination for hitherto unknown Lupita Nyong’O is fairly confusing to me. I don’t remember her being more spectacular than anyone else).

In everything aesthetic the film is done perfectly, and if one is looking for historical drama and examination of human cruelty, well, you won’t find anything better. But the one thing to me that held “12 Years A Slave” back is the fact that the film is called “12 Years A Slave”. From the outset we know how the film is going to end, with his release. Is it a compelling look at the horror of slavery? Yes, absolutely. Is it a compelling narrative? Not so much.

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This is a song I made.

Surrealism and Film Affect

Updated 3/30/14

Preface:

It should be noted there are lots of movies I’ve never seen. And, as I see more, my cinematic world-view will inevitably expand. Case in point, I recently had yet another transition in my understanding of film, what I like to call, in the simplest term regarding my perspective as a cinematic spectator, an awakening. It’s worth noting that in the interim periods between these awakenings lots of other things happen other than my being constantly strapped to a chair, my eyes held open with some kind of “Clockwork Orange” device, forcing a constant barrage of cinematic works (James Bond films, I hope) to imprint upon me as they will. Life intervenes, and there is an unquantifiable relationship between these moments of recognition critically and other realizations that occur to me on a philosophical or psychological level. Someday it may be interesting to write a biographical piece of film theory, interpolating life events of the spectator with their informed analysis of film, and then have a respected third party analyze the external influences. Anyway, that was a long paragraph that didn’t really go anywhere. Granted this is just a preface to contextualize what follows, but still, I really must digress.

My first awakening came from watching the film “Blade Runner”, which I’ve wrote about many times. Seeing that movie changed my life, and was really the first time I was forced to view what film could achieve in terms of psychological and philosophical impact and how this was achieved in a totally different way.

The point is, I had to go back and watch movies I’d previously seen throughout my childhood, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Thin Red Line”, and re-evaluate them. Films such as these soon replaced movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Serenity” on my constantly evolving internal list of favorite films.

Later awakenings came from viewing (in order): “The Seventh Seal” which opened my mind, not only to foreign cinema but to philosophically driven films that rely on dialogue and allegory as their mode of delivery rather than, or in tandem with, the implication of imagery and action. “Drive”, which (despite the fact that the last time I watched it I couldn’t even finish it) made me more aware of the importance and effectiveness of aesthetic choices like lighting, cinematography and economy of action and dialogue. With “Drive”, silence, sleek simplicity and emptiness reflect the existential material yet it’s still supremely beautiful to look at. And finally “8 1/2”, which was a synthesis of the above concepts, as well as being the first film to which I could apply my recently gleaned understanding of film theory and semiotics. While “8 1/2” features philosophical depth, aesthetic beauty and striking imagery in spades (perhaps more so than any film ever), what it truly showed me was how all these elements are ordered and constructed. How film works on a psychological level in terms of form. This most recent awakening has been thanks to “Blue Velvet”, by David Lynch. Soon an obsession with Lynch developed, and like all these other instances I was forced to revisit many films and view them in a new light. 

With any legitimate discussion of film, the importance of the viewers relationship with film must be understood. There’s no doubt that every person exhibits a highly subjective “taste”, which most artists must cater to. What interests me, as a growing theorist and filmmaker, is the way certain films so affect the viewer psychologically that they can thus subvert taste or ignore it’s presence all together.

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I am a dj. Listen to it.

tuneotheday:

Chain My Name - Poliça

Earlier this year, we asked: “What is it that makes Poliça the hottest underground chillwave/indie electro-pop act around currently? Unlike their contemporaries such as Washed Out and Small Black, the textures and ambiance are much less lush. Poliça has a hard edged sound to them, a bit of an industrial influence.”

That’s an apt descriptor of Poliça’s sonic identity. They take elements that would normally be relaxed and pretty, and they turn them into a grimy, rough hewn jam that sounds like it’s performed in an oil change garage. Everything on “Chain My Name” is a bit over-driven. Compare to the previous song on this list, “The Mother We Share”, and you see the differences magnified. Where most electro-pop is interested in fluffy coatings and light hearted fun, Poliça is obsessed with strife and toil.

The proof is in the pudding, or more accurately the lyrics. Filled with rape allusions, there’s something off about the verses of “Chain My Name”. On the chorus, Channy Leaneagh wails: “So are we made to fight all our lives/Chain my name beside you”. It seems as if she’s resisting not only a sexual encounter but the institution of marriage itself, making the mild rape imagery much more interesting, instead of just playing it for shock value. Finally the truth comes out at the end of the second verse. “Don’t make it easier on me/I can’t be trusted with love”. So perhaps the struggle here isn’t sexual, and it isn’t even emotional resistance to a partner. It’s Leaneagh begging her partner to stop loving her, and free himself from her. The self loathing inherent in such a theme is fairly astonishing, in that it’s handled with such tact.

And knowing what we know about Poliça’s lyrics, the darkness of their sound comes into full view. The brilliance is that it’s all quite hidden in layers of subtext. The song is written as a pop song, but it’s in actuality a fairly gothic one. 

GENRE: Chillwave, Indie Pop, Electronic, Synth Pop, Goth Rock

- Josh Loney

Chain My Name is number 47 in Tune O’ The Day’s 50 Best Songs of the Year countdown.

JOSH LONEY is a(n):
Award Winning Radio Personality, Director, Producer, Critic, Published Cartoonist, Author, Philosopher, Film Theorist, Lover (Not a Fighter), Rapper/Musician and All Around Swell Guy.

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