Tuesday, February 28, 2006

my lips is like the oowop as i start to spray it...

at the end of a piece by joey from straight bangin, another controversial occurrence of the n-word:
there was one notable crowd event: during the house DJ's set that was spun before the performers came on, said DJ threw on "return of the crooklyn dodgers," a song that, like many others, contains multiple invocations of the n-word. like every other hip-hop show ever, the crowd was rapping along to its favorite songs, "return" being one of them. as chubb rock spit his verse, a white guy standing next to me used the n-word while rapping along, just like most everyone else there. a black guy and his two friends who were standing next to this white guy took offense, and the black man said to the white man "what did you just say?!" the white guy got all nervous and apologetic and said "look, i was rapping along to the song. i didn't mean to offend anyone and I am not looking for a problem."

the situation was defused fairly quickly (although the black guys kept joking about the white guy among themselves for the rest of the night), but it got me thinking: should non-blacks be using the n-word when reciting rap lyrics? it's a complicated question.

this reminded me of the furore and subsequent, highly illuminating discussion around the MLK n-word episode of US cartoon series the boondocks. martin luther king comes back from the dead and ends up referring to a particularly stereotypical group of underclass blacks as 'ignorant n*****s'. the following uneasy denials, affirmations and soul-searchings from a variety of black thinkers, with as great a variety of positions on the word and its use, only served to underscore how culturally axiomatic the n-word is, and how many isues of ownership, appropriation, difference and prejudice are unpacked when it comes into such public focus.

for me, the asterisks in the above quote probably serve to show my own views. like the guy from joey's gig anecdote, i'm a white man who loves hip hop - one of the many whom hip hop itself is often in such denial about - but unlike him i'd really be thinking twice about articulating the word in public. at home, on my own, my lips will make like q-tip's and i *will* rap along no matter the language - and who's there to complain? but ultimately, in terms of public space, it's not my word to use - and i'd be keen not to reduce the complexity of my reasoning on that, keen *not* to make it a 'simple question'. the white guy from the story felt hellish uncomfortable, no doubt. but so he should have. the fact that the next time he might not use it, that he might even think about the political and historical implications of him saying it, will do some justice to the contradictions of race, language and history that the word represents.

two more points. there's a different n-word where i live. in glasgow, scotland, the underclass is white - very white, we're talking about a city covered by a perpetual raincloud - and wear lots of sportswear and burberry. they hang out in similarly clad groups on street corners, wind people up, drink tonic wine, smoke hash. they are the uneducated, unrespectable working-class youth - the 'neds' - the n****** of scotland. people who are not neds love the word 'ned'. they use it to laugh at these kids, to despair at their pointless lives, to articulate their fear of them. they don't notice their energy, their style, the way they're reinventing the english language. they don't pay attention to the cultural and economic conditions which have created them.


oh, 'neds' don't refer to themselves as 'neds' - yet. see the parallel? in their honour, and in anticipation of the day they take the word for themselves, for me they are now n***.

final thing. where do women fit into this? no matter where you stand on either n-word - n***** or n** - you would probably stop short of using it to describe a woman. in glasgow, the clumsy term 'nedette' has emerged. i have also heard this suffix used on n*****. aside from that, black women are faced with the ever-predictable b-word or h-word... what kind of a choice is that? tell me ... but before you do, consider this. language has always excluded and silenced women more fundamentally, more comprehensively than any other grouping. whether your n-word is for a black person, white person or whatever colour, whatever class, think of the way the 'person' is assumed to be male and wonder, uncomfortably, like the white guy from the story, how many more silences and asterisks might have to creep into your discourse before you've thunk it through properly.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

the last word in dilla tribute mixes?

oh, definitely not. in fact, given the amount of unreleased dilla material, any idea of somehow summarising his life's work to date in an hour or two is a futile (if joyful, necessary-for-the-moment) enterprise:
j dilla leaves behind a body of work which will be loved and rediscovered for years to come. his most recent album "donuts" on february 7th, the day of his 32nd birthday. two other projects, "the shining" and "jay love japan" are completed. other production work has been completed for artists madlib, busta rhymes, ghostface killah, A.G., visionaries, truth hurts, phat kat, MF doom, skillz, and frank n dank.
link - stones throw
however, apart from my little tribute in the previous post, the number of in-depth and high quality mixtape reminiscences made for dilla in the past week serve as a mark of the respect in which he was held (see here for links to many of them). in the uk, last thursday night's deviation tribute by benji b will probably stand as one of the deepest explorations of the dilla ouevre-to-date, put together so lovingly by a DJ who genuinely rates jay dee as the greatest producer ever - and, as a result, has more than a few choice rarities to sneak in. it won't be up forever, so get it while you can.

meantime, i hear of the passing yesterday of ray barretto, the legendary latin percussionist responsible for ridiculous break-heavy dancefloor workouts like 'hard hands' and 'soul drummer' in the late 60s. then, more tragically because of his age - 31 - british soul singer lynden david hall also died this week, after a two-year battle with cancer.

fuck. mortality.

bring on spring.

Monday, February 13, 2006

jay dee tribute mix

it was two things: listening - all thoughts-of-mortality, tanning red wine - to semtex's tribute mix on 1xtra and thinking about what i'd've played instead; and checking the discography which emerged soon after he passed, and realising how much of his music i owned without knowing it. so i thought i'd lace something together, as a celebration of the diversity of his creative output, and as a reminder of how sorely his beats will be missed. madlib, edan, c-swing, harry love, all the hip hop producers right now who are pushing the tradition like jay did, watch your health and watch it when you're crossing the road, because we can't afford to lose any more of you.

left click on the podcast logo to stream in a new window, or right click to download. contains swearies and other objectionable lyrics, in case you are sensitive or inna sensitive environment (i.e. work!).

1. de la soul - much more
2. de la soul - stakes is high
3. a tribe called quest - find a way
4. common - come close (remix)
5. j-88 - the look of love pt 1
6. slum village - i don't know
7. slum village - 2u4u
8. t-love - when you're older
9. pharcyde - drop (inst)
10. pharcyde - runnin' (remix)
11. the roots - dynamite
12. busta rhymes - woo-hah (jay-dee other shit remix)
13. steve spacek - dollar
14. dabrye ft jaydee & phat kat - game over
15. jaylib ft quasimoto - react
16. jaylib - raw addict
17. oh no ft j dilla & roc c - move pt 2
18. four tet - as serious as your life (jay dee rmx ft guilty simpson)
19. slum village - fall'n'love

Saturday, February 11, 2006

j-dilla RIP

a shock to the system, the passing of a man who's shocked my sound system more times than i can recall.

a loss to music, not just to hip hop.

t3's tributes