Thursday, February 24, 2005

En Espanol, Por Favor

Hot on the heels of Sinical's Hip-Hop list comes my addition to the Pam's Europop Picks: Miguel Bose's Velvetina. There are a few video clips but I can't seem to find any MP3 downloads. This could be for one of two reasons:

1. I can't locate the link.
2. The lable is Time Warner and the tracks are locked down.

Still, I love the heavy beats and sweet sound of this stuff. I find it, well, sexy is the word that comes to mind.

Hip-Hop Recommendations...

I'm not sure this is exactly blog material or not... However, for the one or two people on here who actually listen to hip-hop this might actually be interesting. Let me preface this by saying - my brother called last night and asked for music recommendations and I was completely unprepared. Unprepared? My life centers around the dream that somebody asks me for music recommendations, and it never happens. Finally, the dream becomes a reality and I'm unprepared - what kind of shit is that?

1) Murs - 3:16 The Ninth Edition

An absolute favorite from last year, Murs finally comes through with an album that doesn't just show his potential. 9th Wonder of Little Brother fame, representing NC, comes through with his best beats and Murs absolutely kills it with an EP that touches on love & sex, lost friends & revenge, race issues in hip-hop, and a funny story of a local stick-up gone bad. That's a lot to cover in 10 tracks. For those that are unfamiliar with 9th - he looks, acts, and makes beats just like Pete Rock. Upcoming projects for 9th include: his first solo album featuring everybody and their mama, Big Pooh (just released), another Murs, new Little Brother, a Buckshot (of Black Moon) album, and a Jean Grae album (which has already been leaked - supposed to be stellar). There is a reason this producer has become the busiest in the business...

2) Madvillain (MF Doom and Madlib) - Madvillainy

It took me six months to warm up to this album, but I'm on fire now. The best (yes, best) Madlib production ever, and Doom comes with the crazy, hip vocal stylings. If those marbles are ever surgically removed from Doom's mouth, he might have to look for a new career. Many music magazines have picked this as album of the year and while I would like to agree with that assessment, Murs and Masta Ace would disagree. For those that are a fan of Doom, he has a lot of projects coming up including an album with Danger Mouse called Danger Doom, a new KMD album, Lil Sci and MF Doom project, and a rumored Ghostface Killah/Doom project. Madlib has a busy year planned as well - two new mix cds just dropped (one hip-hop and one funk) called Mind Fusion Volumes 1 & 2, the highly anticipated Medaphor (highly anticipated by me anyway) project, and the most talked about project of the year - Percee P's triumphant return on Stones Throw.

3)Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't listened to or bought this album yet... One of the oldest rappers in the game is also one of the most creative - the album is one continuous story. He begins this story as a prequel to his Disposable Arts album from last year, which was also one continuous story. Really nice to see the former Juice Crew emcee dropping quality material. Practically every hip-hop fan I know has this album in the top 3 from last year. Masta Ace is re-releasing Disposable Arts in a couple of months, but after that - he's done. He might do some guest appearances here and there, but this is his curtain call. And unlike Jay-Z, I actually believe this might be the end of a great career.

4)De La Soul - Grind Date

The veterans make a triumphant return, finally. There are still a few cuts that need to be cut and some R&B vocals that are straight wack, but this is still top 10 material for those kids from Long Island (oops, I mean adults). Plus, it's hard to bitch and complain when they put out the song of the year with Rock.Co.Kane Flow (w/Doom). Now, when are we going to get that promised Art Official Intelligence V.3?

5)Lyrics Born - Later That Day

This isn't making anybody's list, but it's making mine... Besides a three or four track lapse in the middle, this album buries everything I've listened to this year. He sings, he raps, he gets funky, and he puts out an album that redefines funk in hip-hop. Quannum continues to release quality and people continue to ignore them... I don't get it. Now can we get another Poets Of Rhythm album from you, because Amy Sue needs something new to dance to...

6)Oh No - Disrupt

Stones Throw misses sometimes (like that unlistenable trash, Jaylib), but it's not often. Madlib's younger brother drops one of the best albums this year... I'm not going to argue that Oh No is the next Nas on the mic, but he has a good flow, better than average lyrics, and the best beats of the year (excluding his brother's Madvillainy project). If you like his production on here - also check the Kazi album and his mix cd The Disrupt Chronicles, which has most (if not all) the songs he has produced for other groups during the last couple of years.

7)Haiku D'Tat - Coup De Theatre

Nobody would argue that this is Acey, Abby, or Mikah's best material, but it's solid and completely different than everything else that is being dropped. To me, this is a more accessible Freestyle Fellowship project - think Temptations, only much better.

8)Roots - The Tipping Point

This is another album that took a couple of months to grow on me. As long as you aren't expecting another Illadelph, Do You Want More, or Things Fall Apart - this will be a welcomed edition to your headphones.

Other stuff that I have been listening to and would recommend:
Danger Mouse & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life (stellar beats/mediocre raps)
DJ Shadow - In Tune And On Time (live album from a date in the UK - fabulous)
Nas - Stillmatic (best album since his return to dominance)
MF Doom - MM...Food (absolutely hypnotic...)
Little Brother - The Listening (if you liked Tribe back in '92, it's hard for me to imagine you disliking this...)
Edan - Primitive Plus (I slept on this for so long - late 80's beats coupled with an updated style of rhyme)

New stuff to keep an eye out for:
Perceptionist - Black Dialogue (Akrobatik is mediocre, but hey, the other emcee is Mr. Lif - automatically dope)
Aesop Rock - Fast Cars, Danger, Fire, And Knives EP (complete 5 album lyric book for the obsessive fan)
Sir Menelik - Cyclops 4000: The Einstein Rosen Bridge (all the old material from his Rawkus days - I've been waiting for this album since '96 when he dropped So Intelligent w/Kool Keith)
Edan - Beauty And The Beat

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


As I write this, I feel the self-conscious and the cliche "liberal" creeping around. I think that there's a lot more to the current political situation than conspiratorial "big-money"manipulating the puppet strings of our political process to advance corporatist agendas. However, the link I read tonite via Brad DeLong's blog was a nice reappraisal of fascism in the 21st century and the miniscule elements lacking to call the right wing "brown shirts." An excerpt:

... [E]ach national variant of fascism draws its legitimacy, as we shall see, not from some universal scripture but from what it considers the most authentic elements of its own community identity. Religion, for example, would certainly play a much larger role in an authentic fascism in the United States than in the first European fascisms, which were pagan for contingent historical reasons.

Anyone able to talk about how the right wing has assembled the disparate elements of Libertarian militiamen and Evangelical Christians into a voting critical mass? The political ideologies seem contradictory.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

So what?

You know what's getting on my nerves lately? I'm gonna tell you. It's this: The flap about the "Bush Tapes." You know what I have to say about the Bush Tapes? Big fucking deal.

So W. might have smoked a little weed. Is this at ALL surprising from a Skull and Bones mediocre frat boy who was already known for doing blow and getting hammered and going for a drive?

So W. made some vaguely disparaging remarks about homosexuals. Once again, like this is a surprise from a guy who wanted to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage?

There's just not enough here to grab on to. Is this because I'm already so outraged about the things that have come out of the "President's" mouth in the present that I don't give one good goddam about what he might have said in the past? I've heard excerpts from the Johnson tapes and the Nixon tapes, now there was some nasty stuff. But anything I've come across from the W. tapes just leaves me apathetic.

The media I'm seeing is really hyping this release of information like it's full of shocking surprises. But as far as I've seen, there's no there there. My inner paranoid freak makes me wonder if this administration isn't a player in this. "We gotta give them something so it looks like there's still a shred of independent reporting out there."

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Death of The Duke and the End of an Era

As you will all no doubt quickly learn, Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide last night. All I can do is express my sorrow. Thompson was a fount of creativity and restless energy as well as a champion of the far left. He was very outspoken and proactive about politics and injustice. Even in you disagreed with his stance on a subject, you had to admit that his methods were extremely effective and his voice was always heard. He was a unique man, but I think he could describe himself better than anyone: "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die." - Raoul Duke watching Dr. Gonzo leave in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

He will be missed.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Naming conventions

So, I missed the autocomplete when I typed in "hardto" & came up with a search result. This one caught my eye, a Rick James tune with the same name, you know, of the blog here.

The name for this blog here, was Drew's idea. When I asked for the reason, he said that he liked the idea of being "hard to get" and it's multiple connotations. Jump in if I'm wrong here, Drew. Not sure what other connotations folks get, if you know what I mean.

Having Rick James in the mix kinda warms my heart. It reminds me of sweaty Forestville nights dancing The Freak to P-Funk, Rick James and the Commodores (think, Brick House). Those were some of the most confusing, murky years of my life, but dancing is the blessing I got from it all. Not being afraid or unable to dance to me is more lifesaving than knowing how to swim, for example.

Ah, Forestville. Drew's been there with me. We even stayed at my childhood home. It felt like I was walking him through one of my paintings... through veiled memories and tangible presence. It's just a government suburb, outside of DC, but no one's childhood is limited by geography these days... take a look at where I grew up, I circled the shool I attended through 6th grade:

I walked over a bridge to get to school, you can see the little path near the bottom left of the circle. Before I went, I think I was four, my brother & I were walking around & playing in the creek. I remember feeling impatient to go to school. There were a few mornings I spent, catching minnows and frogs, near the bridge - while kids ambled across in school clothes, with books in hand. I thought they were so fancy!

In elementary school, we were more likely to dance to Baby Come Back then anything as rowdy as RJ - Hard to get, hmmm?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Under My Thumb

The folks at 43 Folders had a clever idea-Google "rules of thumb" and see what comes up.

They found rules of thumb for flirting, evaluating a pet store, building a church (balconies? not hot) and selling remote controls.

We all have personal rules of thumb, of course. For instance:

-If Ice Cube is in it, I won't be renting it
-Brown clothes in my wardrobe are too much hassle
-Buy the canned tomatoes; the ones in the produce section will just break your heart.

These are fine but they aren't a system, they're just ad hoc ideas. But I know within me, there are rules, rules I follow, some I've developed and some I've borrowed and many of them make systems.

Between the time I started typing this post and now, I went back to the posting at 43 folders. There are many comments from readers including this helpful hint:

If a helicopter is bigger than your thumb held at arm's length, you can bring it down with ground fire.

For any of you who are too distracted by the concept of "the rule of thumb" because you are busy thinking about how the phrase "rule of thumb" refers to an old law requiring men to restrict themselves to beating women with a rod no greater in diameter to their own thumbs, this site claims that story is bogus. The site goes on to say that, per the O.E.D., "rule of thumb" has been used at least 300 years to refer to any method of measurement or technique of estimation derived from experience rather than science.

Y tu?

Dr. Gonzo finds a way to enjoy golf

I would probably be a dues-paying member of the NRA if they marketed themselves a little differently. Depp does a better H. Thompson, but Murray's imitation is satisfying in its own flawed way.

In Northwest news, we seem to be too swamped to go house shopping, plan vacations, exercise, or watch movies. However, we will be going to a birthday party tonite. I'll be playing the harmonium, the German/Indian equivalent of the accordion. Nothing like a good drone to calm the addled mind.

Obligatory music note: currently playing Hubbard/Peterson's version of "All Blues," from Face to Face.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The truth about love

Happy Valentine's day everybody!

I have spent the day putting hearts on all my powerpoints & finding out what folks are doing for their celebrations. We hope to do some decorating. I'm getting stencils of hearts & spray paint. We're bringing cameras.

Some thoughts on love:

My father-in-law loaned us a book on Shackleton, early in our relationship - along with the admonishment that "marriage is hard"...

Here's from Rumi:

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be a respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That's how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

Here's a Neruda thing:
The Table

"...The World
is a table
engulfed in honey and smoke,
smothered by apples and blood.
The table is already set,
and we know the truth
as soon as we are called:
whether we're called to war or to dinner
we will have to choose sides,
have to know
how we'll dress
to sit at the long table,
whether we'll wear the pants of hate
or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.
It's time to decide.
they're calling:
boys and girls,
let's eat!"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jimmy Smith, R.I.P. 1928-2005

When one thinks of an organist, it's generally either their favorite blue hair from church or it's Jimmy Smith. I don't have enough comprehensive knowledge of the Hammond to know if he was the best, but he definitely was the icon for those into tone-heavy hard bop. If you're in that morbid "I shoulda bought more when he was alive, but I'll settle for buying some now" state, I recommend Root Down or a live Tokyo session called The Master (with Kenny Burrell). The latter has some terrific vocalizings underneath a few of the tracks that really add to the grit without losing the butter. The Cat and The Preacher are pretty good releases too.

If you have been thinking about how organ forms the foundation of what we call American Soul, I recommend checking out Jimmy McGriff with Les McCann, Ray Charles' Genius+Soul=Jazz, Dr. Lonnie Smith live anywhere you can (his studio albums don't do him justice and are generally turban-free), Booker T's work on Green Onions and backing up O. Redding and Bill Withers. If you wanna wander off into that nether region of Jamaican-American condiment Drew posted on earlier, check out the late Jackie Mittoo, a tremendous Reggae Hammond player from the 70s heyday. He does some straight-ahead soul organ work, along with some wonderfully dubby updates of 70s chestnuts like "Summer Breeze." Outsider jazz artist John Medeski typically does his best work on the Clavinet, but has worked with John Zorn on the Hammond in a few projects (including a terrific Electric Masada ensemble).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

How's Your News?

Journalists spend a lot of time worrying about the decline of print journalism. What this really means, of course, is that print is evolving, not dying. In a world where the act of knitting can become hot, hot, hot, it seems premature to declare the death of journalism that you read yourself rather than having someone else read it to you.

One piece of the evolution is the end of objectivity. Chris Anderson describes objectivity as a product of scarcity. If a community has very few sources of information (a paper, a few television channels, a radio station or two) then those sources are obliged to be objective, if only from a business standpoint. In contrast to the U.S., English newspapers have always been national, not local. Papers distinguish themselves by taking sides.

Since news is now a commodity, Anderson suggests that aggregators differentiate themselves in the marketplace not just via opinion and partisanship but through sensibility and worldview. He breaks down the difference like this..."sensibility" would be The New Yorker, Maxim and MTV-if you are this kind of person, you'll like this kind of information. "Worldview" is more like a lens for viewing the world, often expressed as an "-ism"...enviromentalism, libertarianism, etc.

This seems intuitively correct. A mass media produces "Happy Days" while narrowcasting can produce "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy"; why should news be any different? Make a liberal FOX News, an enviromental Rush Limbaugh, etc.

This is a long-ass post but I have one other idea to pass along. Cass Sunstein thinks that all this fragmentation is a bad idea. "For democracy to work, people must be exposed to topics and ideas they would not have chosen in advance." says Sunstein.

The essay is, like everything he writes, sharp and well-reasoned. He ends it with this sentence:

The task for the future is to find ways to ensure that the Internet reduces, and does not increase, the risk of social fragmentation.

Fragmentation: hot or not?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

That book meme

From Thought Dreams:

That Book Meme

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

"Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering sort of business; and that when actively engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements." - Moby Dick by Herman Melville [yes, I'm currently reading the whale's tale right now]

Obligatory music note - currently playing: Hard Times (Stephen Foster) as sung by Mirah

The Cabinet National Library

I love this. I can't stop looking at it. I really can't.