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So Dope It’s Talmudic.


When it comes to hip hop memorabilia the Beastie Boys are connoisseurs; true understanders of the value of brand and its potential for useless (but collectible and subsequently expensive) offshoots. Even as we speak the brilliant UNIQLO store in Japan is featuring several Beasties derived T’s in its summer range.

But very few acts have their own designer wallpaper. As in real wallpaper you put on Walls, not something for your computer. So collectors, up your game and paper the smallest room in Mike D’s hand printed Brooklyn wallpaper:


Which comes in red or blue. Closer inspection reveals a hand design with several Brooklyn references, of which Biggie (The Notorious) Smalls is the most obvious hip hop affiliated. See if you can spot the Big Man:


Mike D wasn’t promoting his wallpaper when he stopped in at JJJ last week for a chat but he did take time out to give them his “To the Five Boroughs” Playlist as follows:

Manhattan – The Strokes 12:51
Brooklyn - The Notorious B.I.G Juicy
Staten Island - Wu Tang Clan C.R.E.A.M
Bronx – ESG Moody
Queens – Nas New York State Of Mind

Which is a pretty fair selection all in all. Although we might all have our own alternatives, what no Lou Reed? Queens not represented by Quest? and so on ….

Mike also had time to announce that (fresh from some collaborative tracks for the new Cassius project with Cat Power) he was planning to produce the next album by our friends Portugal. The Man. We can announce ourselves excited.

Learn To Learn Yourself Through Rap. Ratking’s So It Goes – A Review.


LISTEN
When anyone asks what I do for a living, I don’t tell them I basically convert government money into black coffee, or at least not right away. I also neglect to tell them I work in a bookshop, or that I’m a freelance writer. Most of the time I say: “I interview bands for a living”, which is mostly a lie, both professionally and financially. But I continue to say this for the same reason anyone else in my ‘position’ says this – because it sounds cool (and is a better conversation starter than the yawning abyss of unemployment that my career has solemnly promised me). There’s always been – especially from a distance – a kind of cool that music confers upon the music writer, something radiated and then captured by sheer proximity. It’s bullshit of course, but that’s beside the point. The point is this: whatever reflected cool can be caught as it bounces off the surface of modern music, it all stops at hip hop. At least it does for music writers who are slightly older, middle class and white. Which is a lot of us. Outside of the ubane alt-country scene, there’s almost nothing that plumbs the depths of uncool like an overeducated, sycophantic white guy dissecting hip hop. Take Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene giving Mobb Deep a perfect 10 recently (much to the groups chagrin) as an example, or Anthony ‘the Internet’s busiest music nerd’ Fantano from the Needle Drop, discharging rabid torrents of praise over Death Grips, A$AP Ferg, School Boy Q or Ratking. At best it’s irritating and irrelevant, at worst, vaguely insulting.

The only true point of difference between me and the guys I mentioned above is that I’m, if anything, even more ignorant. Before I’d even listened to Ratking’s So It Goes, I was assured that it was the most ‘Real New York’ hip-hop album since Nas’ 1994 record Illmatic. Yup, okay. I’m sure this comparison has produced a small amount of nodding and/or chin-stroking amongst those more familiar with the intricacies of golden age hip-hop. It means exactly nothing to me. So instead, I’m just going to offer you a cluster of intentionally uneducated impressions about Ratking’s So It Goes unstrung in strict chronological order. Make of it what you will.

-      So It Goes employs a Kurt Vonnegut quote as the record title. Or more precisely, it employs a Kurt Vonnegut quote that appears no less than 106 times in Vonnegut’s cult classic Slaughterhouse 5 and is used to change the subject after talking about death, dying and questions of mortality. So before the first syllable has been uttered, my mind’s already on death and whatever follows. Is this what Ratking want to be? Disconnected from all previous rap culture, or a symbol of its rebirth, a weed spilling from the soil of a freshly filled grave?

-      The first track, entitled ‘*’ Rewards any curiosity about the album’s title with conversational slurring about how generational differences in rap make generational comparison impossible, drawling: “You ain’t got no point of reference really, you gotta stick with the here and now…so it goes…”

-      ‘Canal’ is pure adrenaline, a howling sample looped underneath Wiki and Hak’s dueling voices, every word creaking with disaffection. With the borrowed phrase ‘New York Rap Album’ spilling like a cloud of dye through my brain, I can’t help but hear the snare as feet slapping cement, or a snow-stricken New York street in their vocal hiss and gale of instrumentation. There is something inescapably New York about gritty hip-hop production coupled with a snarling anti-authoritarianism. But still, I wonder how inevitable these relationships would feel if the seed of Ratking as ‘Quintessential New York Hip-Hop’ wasn’t already pre-sown in my brain. 

-      Archy Marshall from King Krule casts a dolorous East Dulwich gloam over the already darkening New York soundscape in ‘So Sick Stories’. But it’s an inviting kind of grey-blue - wintery, percussive and languorous.

-      The anti-police squall of ‘Remove Ya’ which starts with Wiki spitting “I’m a mutt, you a mutt, yeah we some mutts” finishes with a singular voice singing soft, mournful and tuneless, like something buried at the end of a forgotten Lomax spool.

-      By the time ‘So It Goes’ (the track) drops in, the staggering half sung, half spoken style Wiki and Hak lean into occasionally is opening up, creating tonally satisfying flows, flecked all over with Spanish Harlem. Wavy Spice’s guest vocals on ‘Puerto Rican Judo’ pushes this sound even further forward in the mix.       

-      By the final track I’m still trying to guess at how genuine Ratking are. Are they truly the maladjusted pack of strays they so convincingly sound like? I analyse and re-analyse, trying to triangulate the social conditions which may have produced Ratking by examining their lyrical content, their production quality and the tangible self-awareness of the whole arrangement. Luckily I manage to stop myself. Thisis it. The exactly point where white, privileged music writers most often overstep their critical jurisdiction. I have no idea how genuine Ratking are — how the fuck could I possible know? And from my position as a listener in a Brunswick studio 17,000 kilometers away, it barely matters. What matters is not that they’re genuine, but that they’re genuinely interesting – something which I decided comfortably by the fourth track. Ratking are genuinely interesting. Noise-rap doesn’t cover the breadth of their range, DIY Hip-hop doesn’t account for their dense, complex arrangements. From an outsider’s perspective Ratking seem anomalous in the hip-hop landscape in that they seem to roundly reject the current fascination with excess and abandon. Contemporaries A$AP Mob, Danny Brown, Flatbush Zombies (et al) all seem pretty happy to lurch around mostly paralysed, making loosely rhyming lists of their liquid assets - as well as what they’ve been drinking, what they’re huffing and the ways in which ways they’d like to threaten any female orifice within reach. Ratking, not so. I mean ‘Puerto Rican Judo’ is an actual love song, of the distinctly non-flesh-crawling kind.

So by now you’ve all realized that this ‘review’ has run just the way it was always going to run: where the slightly older, white reviewer — incapable of writing about hip-hop without analyzing his own experience of discomfort while writing about hip-hop — has created a review comprised almost solely of naivety and guilt (in relatively equal parts). But maybe that’s just the point. Writing about music sort of should be self-analysis. After they were awarded a perfect score on Pitchfork, Prodigy from New York rap duo Mobb Deep, in true Hardcore East-Coast Hip-Hop style, tweeted viciously at writer Jayson Greene: “If u don’t come from our blood stream how can u make a proper assessment of our music [sic]?” I’ll be the first to raise my pallid right hand and say: “I can’t”. My windowless house and student loan aren’t really in the same realm of human experience as Mobb Deep, or even Ratking. I understand hip-hop the only way I know how to understand it, as well, me. I’m not really young, and certainly not underprivileged, both of which seem tantamount, most of all in rap culture, to creative vitality. And as I finished listening to So It Goes and switched to looking at Ratking’s two videos ‘So Sick Stories’ and ‘Canal’, this unspoken balance between youth and cultural veracity became all the more apparent.

LOOK
The visual accompaniment to Ratking fills in a lot of gaps except, (importantly) Wiki’s triumphantly broken smile, which is missing about three teeth. These kids are young, which whether by accident or design, acts as the engine that drives their creative vitality, and by extension, their appeal. But before I go any further, I just wanna be clear: I’m definitely not saying Ratking’s success is hinged from their image, these guys are, even to my thoroughly untrained ears, very fucking good. However, what they are is certainly playing a very active role in the success of what they do. The ‘So Sick Stories’ video shows members of Ratking and King Krule with their bodies slackened against concrete dividers and miles of chain link fence, huffing smoke and wandering the streets of seemingly abandoned industry. And here’s where I found at least some of Ratking’s cool. Especially in King Krule’s Archy Marshall and Ratking’s Wiki, both of whom are conspicuously young, there is the distinct impression of willfully lost kids. Coupled with the thoroughly dystopic backdrop of abandoned industry, an almost Lord of the Flies atmosphere is evoked. To see kids, (the vessels wherein parents hoard their hope and unspent love) wandering the streets of failed industry alone and hopeless is pure horror for the old; simultaneously the symbol of a world without promise or hope, and a mumbled accusation: “You made this”. And therein lies the allure. The sublime opportunity for the young to say: “Fuck you. I ain’t your hope, I ain’t your future. You created this. Deal with it”


Ratking’s ‘So It Goes’ gets 4 out of 5 Boroughs.


For Cool Accidents

Memory Lane – 20 Years of illmatic


illmatic is the reason I like rap. And I like rap.

My pre-teen years were filled with the strains of 36 Chambers creeping out of my brother’s bedroom, matched in intensity only by my dad’s demands for it to be turned down/off. While I got that Wu-Tang was something to be respected, that Tupac made you cool at school and that Run DMC had made shoes important, I was frontin’ in the truest sense of the term.

It wasn’t until Pete Rock, Large Professor and DJ Premier laced raw east coast beats with brilliant jazz samples and Nasty Nas caused mass hysteria in my area that I understood why hip-hop was running amok in Sydney’s suburbs, headlining admonishing letters to parents from concerned Principals.

That tipping point led me to the back corner of countless record stores, hours of internet trawling and half-cut backyard battles, trying to recapture that first moment that I “got it”. Mos Def, Kweli, Common, J5, Kendrick, College Dropout era Yeezy, Schoolboy Q, Chance – many have come close, but it is still illmatic, 20 years on.

-Chris P



[Further reading/viewing - checkout Fuse’s 3 part special about the record’s legacy]

The Only Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram for Rap Beefs You Will Ever Need

via Grantland


Before this starts, know this: We — we as in HUMANS — are on the cusp of a moment. A moment that, should it occur, should even a glancing version of it occur, will produce a reverb that will demolish the lithosphere into, oh, I don’t know, about 10 billion pieces, if I had to guess.

Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Aubrey “Drake” Graham, the two most visible rappers on planet Earth, have almost inexplicably and without (at least publicly knowable) reason ended up on the precipice of an interstellar rap battle.

Drake, horns-of-fire eyebrows and all, called Jay-Z’s art-reference rap “corny” in an interview. Jay-Z, especially offended and surprisingly charged by the accusation, swooped down from the ionosphere on the back of his sun dragon and, eager to smite, fired exploding chain saws at Drake in a verse on a song called “We Made It.” Here they are:

Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk
Silly me rappin’ ’bout shit that I really bought

And so now the world waits.

Waits for Drake’s response.

Waits for Jay’s response to Drake’s response.

Waits for Drake’s response to Jay’s response to Drake’s response.

We wait and wait and wait.

We’re still waiting.

Because we are on the cusp of a moment.

♦♦♦

Every year for the last decade during the days between November 11 and December 20, I have attempted to teach middle school ESL students about all of the whole of the everything of the entirety of outer space, from its birth to its (hypothetical) end. This, as one would expect, is a bit of a task.

Sometimes it’s for reasons you expect (because that shit is hard, bro). But sometimes it’s for reasons you do not. The best: One particularly enjoyable student asserted that, given that our understanding of the cosmos beyond Mars is almost entirely theoretical, it was irresponsible of me to completely disregard the plot of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a movie on Netflix about aliens who look like Earth clowns and wrap people up in cotton candy and then suck their blood. “If nobody knows what’s out there, how can you say with certainty that there isn’t a planet dense with a population of clowns that want to murder me?” is a polished version of her position. “Well … it’s just … I mean … I don’t know, man” was my exact rebuttal. (I watched Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It’s terribly creepy. Don’t watch it.)

Still, during that segment of the curriculum, the one thing we go over that every kid learns is something called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Here is the exact one I have for them in class:

hr-diagram-hp


A general explanation: The H-R diagram plots stars based on brightness vs. heat. There are four main groups: the supergiants, which are the biggest and, on average, the brightest stars; the giants, which are a little smaller though still impressive; the main sequence stars, which are regular, ordinary-size stars; and the white dwarfs, which are just remnants of stars and not real actual stars anymore.

Now, in class this particular discussion would be followed by an activity in which the students are given characteristics of stars found in the known universe and then asked to place them where they belong on the chart. But since this is not class — this is Grantland — I present a variation.

It’s the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram for Rap Beefs:

8611010


It’s the same as the normal one, except it’s different.

Instead of the brightness on the y-axis, we measure how interesting each rap beef is. And instead of the temperature/color on the x-axis, we measure how real-life dangerous each rap beef is.

Important: The beefs listed here are not all the beefs that have ever existed in rap, same as the H-R diagram doesn’t plot all the stars that have ever existed. The charts are used as reference, a guide for you to refer to when considering the parameters of, say, 2007’s Gillie Da Kid vs. Lil Wayne debacle and how it measures next to, say, 1992’s P.M. Dawn vs. KRS-One shenanigans.

The numbers scattered in the H-RDFRB correspond with the faces underneath it, and the faces represent the winning side of whichever beef it was that he or she was involved in. Explanations:

1. Drake vs. His Feelings: Top tier. Probably the most interesting rap battle of our generation, which, depending on how you process the world, is something you will consider very advanced or very disappointing.

2. Lil’ Kim vs. Foxy Brown: Lil’ Kim wins this one because I actually had to Google “is Foxy Brown alive” while researching this. (She’s alive, FYI.)

3. Kanye West vs. 50 Cent: The two released albums the same week in 2007 and so they were arguing over who was going to sell more. 50 was like, “If Kanye outsells me, I’ll retire.” Kanye outsold him by more than 200,000 units. 50 was like, “LOL I’m just kidding I’m not retiring.”

4. Nas vs. Jay-Z: (1) Yes. Jay-Z won. Shut up. (2) I will never not use the hyphen in “Jay-Z.” His mama named him “Jay-Z,” I’mma call him “Jay-Z.”

5. Ice Cube vs. N.W.A: They argued over money. Ice Cube recorded “No Vaseline.”

6. Eminem vs. Benzino (and The Source): This one almost certainly would’ve fallen into the the supergiants category in 2002. But Eminem the brand has swelled to such an alarming size that his moves are barely even interesting anymore and Benzino is Benzino, so this one plummets down into the cellar.

7. Nelly vs. Chingy: Mostly because I just wanted you to have a good baseline for what a very, very, very bottom-level white-dwarf rap beef looks like. (Note: In 2004, this beef was definitely a main priority for me. I’m saying, do you even know how many times I watched the “Batter Up” video, bro?)

8. This is when Ludacris went at it with T.I.: Ludacris won that one. This is not when Ludacris went at Drake and Big Sean. Nobody won that one. Not one single person.

9. Nicki Minaj vs. Gucci Mane: This one rates this high on interest because Gucci was on Twitter telling everyone he had sex with Nicki Minaj and that he had proof of it and for just a few moments somehow it kind of seemed like he was telling the truth. Know this: If Gucci Mane ever in any capacity proves that you had sex with him, he wins. That’s the most vicious blow. One time, one of my sons uppercut his twin brother in the wiener. This would’ve been worse than that. If he would’ve actually somehow produced a video or even a picture of him and Nicki Minaj engaging in intercourse, we would’ve had to put her in a rocket ship and shoot her toward a corner of outer space.

10. 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule: What many consider to be the greatest takedown of the modern era. It was definitely in the supergiants category while it was happening, but it falls out here because 50 is probably, like, only the 40th most popular rapper right now.

11. Papoose vs. hahaha psych just kidding Papoose never won anything LOL.

12. Gucci Mane vs. Face Tattoos: To crib a line from a 2004 Demetri Martin comedy special: This is a good example of how you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.

13. Common vs. Drake: “You a bitch because you cling like a bitch that’s 18 / Can’t say my name but rap about a n—-’s wife / You so black and white, trying to live a n—-’s life / I’m taking too long with this amateur guy / You ain’t wet nobody, n—-, you Canada Dry.” —Common

14. Kendrick Lamar vs. All the Guys He Mentioned on “Control,” But Mostly Drake Because Drake Was the Only One With a Higher Perch: Oh, man. Rap nerds had hella boners when this song came out.

15. Tupac vs. Biggie: Dang.

:(

♦♦♦

Five New(ish) Beefs That Belong on the Diagram

8611013


Snoop Dogg vs. Bob Marley’s Ghost (supergiant):
Snoop’s gotta stop. Someone please tell him.

Lil Wayne vs. Metaphors (main sequence): If Tha Carter IV has fewer than 200 of those stupid “I got presidential concentration / Call that a Ford Focus”–style lines, then that’s a win for Wayne.

J. Cole vs. J. Cole’s Face (white dwarf): He’s losing.

Nas vs. Evolution (giant): Has any rapper ever gripped more desperately to a time period, to what he or she at one point represented, than Nas? Nas is a total bore now. His fight against evolution is history’s longest war.

Wale vs. Everybody on Earth, I Guess (white dwarf): I just don’t get it. Wale seems like a decent (albeit tightly wound) person. Why does everyone hate him? I interviewed him at a concert once. He was nice. T-Pain was there. I talked to him, too. T-Pain is way more of a dick than Wale.



-Shea Serrano

Shea is a writer based in Houston. He has written for MTV, XXL, Vice, Complex, Myspace, and other outlets. He recently published his first book, Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book.

The Out Sound From Way In


Django Django continue to prove they’ve got the best taste in music when it comes to bands. This time around they’ve gotten all hip hop on us, be advised it’s not not your played out 2013 hip hop stuffs, instead they’ve taken it back and delivered a nostalgic selection of perfection dropping tracks from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Tha Alkaholiks, De La Soul, Nas, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, Outkast and plenty more.

School’s in session… and If you don’t know, now you know suckers!


THE OUT SOUND FROM WAY IN // SPRING 2013  by Django Django on Mixcloud

Jay Shells Drops Rap Quotes


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via ANIMAL NY


After schooling New Yorkers on etiquette via numerous unsanctioned interventions, artist Jay Shells channeled his love of hip hop music and his uncanny sign-making skills towards a brand new project: “Rap Quotes.”

For this ongoing project, Shells created official-looking street signs quoting famous rap lyrics that shout out specific street corners and locations. He then installed them at those specific street corners and locations.

Shells went all city and posted over 30 signs quoting the likes of Jeru tha Damaja, Mos Def, Nas, Kanye West, CL Smooth, GZA, and RA the Rugged Man. ANIMAL followed. Ride along with our video below. Follow @TheRapQuotes for more.

 

Who Is Nardwuar?


In short, he’s an eccentric, middle aged Canadian who interviews zeitgeisty musicians (though sometimes hall-of-famers). His interviews are usually pretty astoundingly researched with Narwuar often pulling out gifts for his interviewees that reveal details about their taste, history, influences or habits that are usually ridiculously obscure. I think he’s one of those phenomenon that really needs to be seen rather than explained so without further adieu, here are a few poignant Nardwuar interviews:

NARDWUAR vs ODD FUTURE



NARDWUAR vs ED SHEERAN



NARDWUAR vs A$AP ROCKY


 

NARDWUAR vs HENRY ROLLINS



Then though, there are other less cooperative interviewees…



NARDWUAR vs BLUR


NARDWUAR vs NAS


Head over to Nardwuar’s YouTube channel for more hilarious interviews



Doot Doola Doot Doo… Doot Doo!

Django Django’s Unorthodox Jukebox

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Scottish quartet Django Django recently took over the 6 Mix on BBC for two hours and played a crazy eclectic mix of music including jams by Cat Stevens, The Clash, Major Lazer, Paul McCartney, Daft Punk, Nas, Grace Jones and many many more (42 to be exact)

It’s always refreshing when a band has great taste in music and based on this selection as well as the tracks the guys always put up on their Facebook page as part of their ‘album of the day series’ they have it in spades.

Check out the YouTube playlist we put together featuring the bulk of the tracks complete with videos where possible below


Stream the audio of the whole affair below via the player below or better yet download it for keeps HERE!

Spotlight On Chronic ¥outh Tokyo

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We recently caught up with artist/graphic designer/all round nice guy Mark Drew to chat with him about his new clothing label Chronic ¥outh which drops in a few select Australian boutique stores this week. We asked Mark to tell us a bit of the back story and to choose three tracks that helped inspire and shape the label. This is what he had to say! -

I’ve been based in Tokyo for 3 years now. After doing China Heights in Sydney for so long, I wanted to step back and focus on my own work. I’m still involved in the gallery and regularly participate in group exhibitions here and back home, and over time realised that there wasn’t much difference in the artwork I was making for those shows, and tshirt graphics. If I’m not working on a job, or hanging out, I am thinking about what personal project to do next, so this was going to happen sooner or later. Same story as everyone who does an independent tshirt label, just felt like I wanted to make the kind of things that me and my friends would wear, and if other people liked it too, then that’s great, and will allow the label to grow. Half of my income is from graphic design (the other half from artwork), and with client jobs there is always a bit of back and forth, so doing this on my own means I can make things exactly how I want. Almost everything I have produced in the last six or seven years (paintings, zines, screenprints, graphics for other companies etc) has had music based references, which is where the name CHRONIC ¥OUTH comes from - and that’s basically the concept of the brand. Referencing the music and associated culture that I love. This first drop is just for Australia, having arrived in stores THIS WEEK! Australian stockists are Spares in Melbourne, Halfsleeve in Sydney, and 1Up in Perth. The official webstore and Japanese retail are planned for 2013.


As for the music, I still listen to probably 70% of the same stuff from when I was in high school, when the albums were dropping for the first time. Those crates are pretty deep, so let me choose 3 quick gems for you!



Nas ft. AZ - Lifes A Bitch (Arsenal Remix)

I love Illmatic as an album, and it gets regular play. For a long time I had forgotten about this version, and lately it came up at a club night I was at here in Tokyo. Not just the new pace of the remix, but having AZ’s verse come in pretty much the second it starts gives it such a “get to work” feel. Motivational stuff!



The Pharcyde- Soul Flower (Remix)

Can’t pass this one by… I saw Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre and J-Sw!ft perform the entire “Bizarre Ride” album live last weekend (twice!). I don’t think a month has gone by in 20 years that I haven’t listened to it. Maybe during my psy-trance stage in ‘97? Anyway, you can’t have a bad day when you listen to Soul Flower.



Tha Dogg Pound - ” Puffin On Blunts And Drankin’ Tanqueray”

No matter how much I remember myself as an East Coast guy, its actually a pretty even split. And that’s the theme of one of the C¥TYO prints - EAST and WEST. This West Coast gem was hidden for a long time and bumps hard. It may have a repetitive feel to some people, but personally, I have it ON repeat.



Shouts to CHINA HEIGHTS, THE SERPS, and FOR THE HOMIES. One what? One love!



-Mark Drew

Making Ends

Chronic ¥outh

How Hip Hop Changed The World…

This UK doco put together by Jamie Oliver’s production company and presented by actor, DJ, MC and lifelong hip hop fan Idris Elba (The Wire) debuted on UK TV last year. Featuring stars from both sides of the Atlantic (Snoop Dogg, Mark Ronson, Nas, Rakim, Debbie Harry, Jessie J, Chipmunk, Tinchy Stryder and N Dubz, to name just a few), How Hip Hop Changed the World counts down the defining moments of a culture that exploded out of the wastelands of 1970s New York and went on to become one of the most dominant global economic, political and social forces of our time.

From the birth of turntabalism to the UK grime artists who are now conquering the world, this two-hour special reveals everything you need to know about hip hop.

Check out the special in three installments below.