June is Pride month and, given that Tyler saying ‘faggot’ got plenty of attention, both on this blog and whilst out talking to real humans, I thought I would do something annoying and facetious to celebrate. Now, we all know that being gay is neither good nor bad, but many famous rappers from the murky, unknown times before Odd Future invented homophobia tended to, surprisingly, use homosexuality as a jigsaw piece that would pretty much immediately imply a bunch of negative connotations. As the title of this post implies, I will be cherrypicking quotes from rap songs and reading them as if the rapper considered homosexuality to immediately imply a bunch of positive connotations.
Versatile, my style switches like a faggot
But not bisexual, I’m an intellectual
Of rap I’m a professional and that’s no question, yo.
Halftime is the best song on Illmatic, Illmatic is Nas’ best album and Nas is a god-tier rapper (to the extent that when he drops new songs, after more than a decade of doing the opposite of what he did on Illmatic, people still get excited), so this is a very high profile place in the context of hip hop history. Nas plays the difference between heterosexual and homosexual relations against each other to show how different he is, and how aggressively versatile. He is “not bisexual” – this perhaps implies that he is an all-or-nothing rapper, never operating in the shades of the spectrum, but always in black and white, concrete ideas that have conventional, understood meaning to a broad sector of society.
I’m that cat by the bar toasting to the good life
Yo that faggot ass nigga trying to pull me back right?
A number one song on the Billboard Hot 100, this is another very high profile example of what we are talking about. In these lines, 50 Cent is celebrating his success, but perhaps to excess. His level-headed homosexual friend pulls him aside and convinces him to calm down and not fall victim to the trappings of success as so many have before him.
Lil Wayne’s rap ‘n’ bullshit is in a homosexual style, underpinned by the fact that he kissed Birdman on the lips once. He warrants comparison to Dennis Rodman, who is not gay but occasionally cross-dresses. Everyone is created equal.
Call me homophobic but I know it and you know it
You’re filthy and funny to the utmost exponent
So never will I do it – disrespect my mommy
So go and hide your salami
This unreleased Tribe song, held back by the record label because of how universally positive it was about gay people, is actually entirely on the subject of homosexuality. Yes, even your favourite ‘sound’ rappers, called “the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990s,” by AllMusic, were on the pro-gay tip.
So next time you’re kicking it to Can I Kick It? and reminiscing about the time you reblogged tumblr posts about Tyler being the devil, think on that.
I love Meek Mill. This is kind of an outlier in terms of new rap music I like, because he’s not ‘subverting’ anything particularly, his flow’s not that weird, and he generally raps about the sort of stuff your friend who likes Common hates to hear people rap about. He’s got one gear. It’s the top gear, and it’s in an expensive car driving around Philadelphia so kids know he’s rich now. I like that though.
In 2008, Mill had several mixtapes out that had blown up within Philadelphia, and T.I. offered him a deal. Then, poetically, he got arrested and did seven months in jail. Despite T.I.’s own penchant for getting sent to jail when he’s supposed to be doing albums, that was the end of that. But, as Gucci says on Heavy, Meek “got a second chance like Meek in Philly” (yeah it was that specific). Mixtapes kept coming and features started to roll in.
Last year he put out Mr. Philadelphia. It’s interesting that Mill was the de facto king of Philadelphia without a deal. But unless you count Freeway and Beanie Siegel, Mill’s the most self-confident, independently popular Philadelphia straight-up rapper since the Golden Age. He had songs, thanks to Jahlil, and he can rap well and in a recognisable way.
Rick Ross noticed and recruited him for Maybach Music Group along with Pill, Teedra Moses and the direct opposite of Meek Mill in terms of street respect vs. label push, Wale. The Maybach album’s got ups and downs (mostly downs), but all the highlights that don’t just consist of Rick Ross saying “huuuph” or “bawse” are Mill, whose also on the two best tracks, almost as if Ross noticed who his best rapper was and decided to give him the best chance to blow up.
Jahlil was ditched and even got into a small twitter beef with Mill, which is sad, but Meek’s a young(ish) rapper who had a very drawn out trajectory to his first proper exposure, which just gave him more time to get better, and he hasn’t fallen off yet. Also I think he and Ross implied that he was the new Tupac, which is something.
I’ll leave you with a quote from an MMG interview that Noz linked to a while ago:
What is the goal for MMG?
Meek: Being rich forever.
Pill: Affecting the culture man.
I suppose we’d better do something to mark the occasion, right? Let’s read some Tyler casually.
So Goblin starts with an almost seven-minute-long, partly spoken word track that takes the form of a dialogue between Tyler, the Creator and his therapist, who we’ve already encountered on Bastard. The last track on Bastard, Inglorious, ends with the line “D-lo where’s the trigger, I’ll let this bullet play hero”. It’s ambiguous, but, presuming we can play God and pick which parts of Tyler’s lyrics are ‘play’ and which are canon narrative, we can take it that the Last Time On Odd Future 30 second round-up before Goblin starts features Tyler shooting someone, or himself. Enter therapist.
You wouldn’t do that Tyler, kill yourself, or anyone. You don’t even have the balls to begin with. What you need is… me. I just want to talk to you. It’s been a while since your last session. So…tell me what’s been going
So it didn’t happen. But also, what’s this? The therapist that was once the platonic ideal of a school-prescribed therapist for Tyler to bounce off has become awfully familiar. He still wants some confessions though. Tyler obviously obliges, as it’s his album and he needs to start rapping sometime. Square brackets for the therapist.
I’m not a fucking role model
[I know this]
I’m a 19 year old fucking emotional coaster with pipe dreams
Tyler noticed what you noticed from those 10,000 thinkpieces. People give a shit what he says, and it’s weird.
So Kanye tweeted telling people he’s bumping all of my shit
These motherfuckers think I’m supposed to live up to something?
Shit, I’m still jacking off and proceeding my life careless
And getting more pussy cos I tell bitches I’m Wood Harris (as you should)
LA to Paris, I’m getting these weird stares, from skate parks and airports It’s all in the air, it’s weird
Oh great, a rap album about being famous. Wait, hold on, that’s what every rap album is about (excluding ones about how weird it is that there’s a pyramid with an eye on the dollar bill). Wood Harris played Avon Barksdale in edgy, underground cop procedural The Wire. They do look similar. There is no sexual violence in it, so you can probably watch it without having to commit to writing an essay-length thinkpiece about whether or not David Simon is a threat to mankind.
Yonkers dropped and left their craniums mind-fucked.
It did. Nearly 8.5 million views on YouTube, plus OF went from something for skater kids and nerdy rap bloggers to something for the front cover of the Irish Times and 40% of all Tumblr bandwidth indefinitely. Intergalactic punk rock hip hop. Also, Goblin is the first song on the album, Yonkers is next. So you’ve just been meta-mindfucked.
Now competition missing like that nigga my mom fucked.
He still hasn’t called me yet
[It's not your fault]
That’s a whole fucking different argument
Shit, I got over it
Inglorious, that last track on Bastard, is entirely, confessionally and almost hammily about succeeding without a father. These lines are part of the framework for Goblin – he’s not Bastard Tyler any more.
And a couple bucks in my pocket
So now I could go buy a couple Hot Pockets
So grandma can stop cooking those nasty ass collard greens
Tyler is making enough money to buy microwaveable meat-and-cheese pasties instead of eating the vegetables his granny cooks, which is a pretty “children who’s fucked up in they mental” way to frame the by now near-formal ‘I give my ma money’ stuff.
Pressures on me like this top hat
Bastard intro, how the fuck I’m gonna top that?
Bastard, from Bastard, is also an eponymous intro and a dialogue between Tyler and his therapist. It’s piano – actual piano played by Tyler, not samples – and him talking. It introduces not only Bastard as a concept album (“Fuck a deal, I just want my father’s email/So I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail”) but also, as the first song on the first actual Tyler album, introduces Tyler, the Creator as a persona, with the pretty deadly and (calling it) NOW LEGENDARY opening line “This is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep.” Oh, by the way, the therapist introduces himself as Dr. TC. Which is important.
Okay you guys caught me
I’m not a fucking rapist, or a serial killer, I lied
[You know, you just wanted attention]
I tried too hard huh?
Made a couple thou and I just don’t know what to buy yet
Supreme shit is free and I don’t drink so fuck a wine set
Nigga fuck a mindset, my brain is an obscenity
I’m fucked in the head, I lost my mind with my virginity
Tyler’s mental, he mightn’t have made that clear yet.
Oh, that’s a triple 3-6, isn’t he a devil worshipper?
Cos I’m too fucking ignorant to do some research
The “do some research” line is something Tyler tends to resort to when people in interviews trying to find roundabout ways to ask him if he is pro-rape and anti-gay. If the Drone interview isn’t enough for you in that regard, I wish I could find a non-condescending way of suggesting that there are loads of other rap groups or even non-rap musical outfits that you might enjoy spending your time with. It is fully your right to be uncomfortable with the lyrical content if you want to be, but you’re unlikely to convert me at this point.
I’m the star of the a group, so no one else gets the respect they deserve cos of you
No-one even told Mike G where Earl was before the Complex story even though they knew. Proportional to effort (sup Taco) he is the most slept-on member. But yeah it must be weird to get way more famous than your friends and have your own Adult Swim serial killer/rapist fantasies projected onto their weed raps. I wonder if Domo Genesis has ever had an interviewer ask him if he’s horrorcore?
[Bastard was good though]
What you think I recorded for?
To have a bunch of critics call my shit a bunch of horrorcore?
Like I didn’t make Parade or Inglorious cos I’m too fuckin’ scared to tell my friends the way I really fucking feel?
Bastard was good. On Red Flame, Lil B says that if you don’t have Blue Flame, “get that to understand this”. He’s full of shit because there is absolutely no reason why you would need to have Blue Flame to understand Red Flame other than getting that the joke songs are jokes, but if you’re trying to unpack Goblin at any intellectual level at all you’re going to want to have listened to some previous album tracks so you realise there’s more to Tyler than Wolf Haley saying disgusting shit.
Of course they only listen to lyrics about me pissing off
In the tombs of Lara Croft
I’m getting pissed off
“Go ahead admit it faggot, this shit is tighter than butt rape/That involve ballpark franks and silver duct tape.” Understandable, maybe, that people talk about the weirder shit more than the more normal stuff, even if both are good.
Messageboards are on my dick, I need a pissing waiver
Lemme bust one in they mouth, i know they feel the flavor
Get off his dick, he needs to piss, dude.
Can’t they just be happy for me, like, a kid with nothing living out his dreams
Why they gotta fucking hate?
“Lebron ain’t make it to the NBA from hating/He made it from dedication, ambition and motivation.” Meek Mill. Take fucking note, hatin’ ass cowards. Although fuck the concept of ‘haters’ as a shield against criticism. Sorry Ty.
I don’t even skate anymore, I’m too fucking busy
I can barely kick flip now
When Tyler refers to people ‘from Odd Future’ who are very clearly never anywhere near the studio, he’s talking about the skaters. Here’s some of them plus Tyler at the Berrics doing tricks. Takes him most of the video to do anything, but he does eventually do a not particularly steezy switch 50-50 right at the end, so keep watching.
[Why's that? No free time?]
The fuck you mean I’m not talented?
You see the shit I’ve been doing?
[I have. You're a great person.]
I mean I’m not that good of a rapper but, on the whole I’m pretty… cool, right?
This is spoken word. Shakespeare tells the truth when he rhymes, Tyler tells the truth when he doesn’t. Or maybe. Well, no. But it sounds more self-doubty when he does it like this.
People excited think this shit is so tight
Getting co-signs from rappers i dont even like
POSSIBLE P DIDDY DISS???????
What the fuck you want me to do?
Start to gobble his Mike
Start Jackson em off, till his cap blasting off
Sleek Michael Jackson reference.
These niggas aint fuckin with me
Cos I dont listen to the Immortal Tech of the nique
And all this underground bullshit that’s never gone peak
On the Billboard Top 20 and Jam of the Week
Immortal Technique is a dusty loop New York conscious rapper that of the type that tends to take themselves and social issues very seriously and do third person rappers about unnamed male protagonists who get tired of life on the streets, and call themselves things like Immortal Technique. Real Hip Hop, is what Dead Prez would call it, I think. And it won’t stop until we get the po-po off the block.
I’d rather listen to Badu and Pusha the T
and Waka Flocka Flame instead of that real hip hop that’s full of the shit
Tyler lists three dissimilar artists he enjoys more than Real Hip Hop. Pusha T, who rapped over Neptunes beats with the Clipse and now carries Kanye’s pussy and religion, is an obvious influence and part of his much-tweeted ‘top five’. Erykah Badu is the sexiest shit ever, and Waka Flocka Flame is the least sexy shit and possibly the least conscious rap ever to exist.
But they wanna critique
Everything that we, Wolf Gang, has ever released
But they don’t get it
[They don't. It's not made for them.]
Cos it’s not made for them
The nigga that’s in the mirror rapping, it’s made for him
But they do not have the mindset that is same as him
I’m not weird, you’re just a faggot, shame on him
It’s nice to get a picture of what the artist considers the Ideal Reader. A lame dude rapping in the mirror, not critics or anyone who likes Immortal Technique. Obviously releasing music, especially if its stated ambition is to reach the Billboard Top 20, entails people other than the person in your mind listening to it, but knowing who you’re supposed to be when you put in headphones is another part of the text, and kind of fun.
[It is, but Tyler, you're going to have to cut down on that faggot word, that's very... that's a bad...]
[Right, well, since the last time, you've...]
What the fuck is a good performance?
I get on stage and have as much fun as I can
[You seem like you do. Your Twitter posts are just... I mean it's really random. And it's AD...]
Who doesn’t have ADD?
So Odd Future still do most (if not all, I haven’t been to any and youtubing every single one would be too much effort) of their shows with the vocals still on the backing track and they sacrifice quality in terms of eyes-closed-in-a-vacuum live show for stage-diving and gang chants. Tyler watched Kanye at Coachella and got momentarily introspective about how he’s not doing a proper concert, but resolved not to care. And he’s got ADD! If we can’t agree on anything else, I think we, and everyone who has ever written an article of note on Odd Future, can agree that Tyler has ADD.
Well… I don’t.
Some day in the future when Odd Future’s on the Leaving Cert course people are going to give due respect to the depth of the persona Tyler has created. People I’ve talked to about it are divided on whether or not stuff outside the albums count as ‘text’ when it comes to figuring out what the fuck is going on with Tyler, but I think it does. The Twitter, the skit videos, certain interviews, everything. It’s not just that he’s playing a character in specific songs, which has been one of the defenses for the rape-references – and he does play characters in specific songs – but the whole thing is a meta-character too. The only Tyler interview from before Odd Future became a thing is the piece on the performance school for teenagers who don’t succeed in normal schools where the teachers say he is on another level and the next Andre 3000. I can’t find it right now, but it does exist. The character, as I see it, is fluid – he slips in and out, or is ‘in character’ varying amounts at various times – but very little of what OF does isn’t calculated by Tyler in at least a general vibe sort of way.
I wish Thebe was here.
So it’s pronounced Thuh-bay. Also FREE EARL THAT’S THE FUCKING SHIT AND IF YOU DISAGREE SUCK A COUPLE PIMPLE COVERED DICKS.
Therapy’s been saying that niggas getting offended
They don’t wanna fuck with me cos i do not fuck with religion
But see that’s my decision
You fuckers don’t have to listen and hear
Put this middle finger in your ear
[I'd rather not.]
You might like JUSTIN BIEBER.
Someone gets blamed
Cos some white kid [white?] had aimed his AK47 at 47 kids
And I don’t wanna see my name mentioned
[I don't think anyone's gonna mention... I don't think anyone takes you serious enough to believe you.]
But they totally do, which is weird. Arguably not seriously enough to shoot up a school, but definitely seriously enough to get Marilyn Manson’d. Saying the Columbine shooters seemed like cool guys on Twitter on the anniversary of the Columbine shootings will presumably not help when they’re looking for someone to blame for the next one. Also having different songs on both of your albums with the chorus “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” is going to lead to some awkward dock-time and might need Blind Boy Boat Club brought in to explain the difference between denotative and connotative language to an even broader audience.
College wasnt working
And I wasn’t working
So I sat at home jerking off until my dick was hurting
But I was determined to be great
So this classes can wait
Cos those 4 days i went, I wasn’t learnin shit
Now I’m living dreams I’ve wanted since 8th
And I can afford to get my mother something on her birthday
[You've explained to me that you were in school but... I mean... I...]
The college thing’s vexed. He used to claim he was in film school, followed by claiming he used to be in film school, followed by claiming he was never in film school and just said that so he seemed more impressive. The early articles used to say things like “film school dropout Tyler”, but obviously that’s given way to just “Tyler” as that became enough. Also, in more uninteresting biography, Tyler apparently used to work for Fed-Ex but lost his job for some reason. Dedicated his life to masturbation and becoming a great artist, in what must be inspirational to bold dole soldiers the country over.
They claim the shit I say is just wrong
Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone
I’m just a teenager, who admits he’s suicide prone
My life is doing pretty good
So that date postponed for now
This is the flip of the aggressive Tyler-as-a-character angle I’ve been pushing as regards interpreting his stuff. Angsty teenager shit for angsty teenagers is definitely an aspect of it, but maybe I overlook that a little because it’s not what appeals to me about the music. There’s definitely some cheerleading for the disaffected youth on Goblin the album (especially Radicals which basically outright says ‘you JUST MIGHT be one of us too!’). But beware believing anything.
But wow, life’s a cute bitch full of oestrogen
And when she gives you lemons, nigga, throw em at pedestrians
[So what are you saying? Take advantage? You've been doing pretty good.]
That’s just some cool shit.
I still live in my grandma’s house
Sell out a fucking show in London just to end up on couches
I hate my fucking life, but when I make that announcement
My hero calls my phone, just to put that in doubt then
The perennial difficulty inherent in hating your life when you have a fucking amazing life. The hero on the phone, at a guess? Pharrell.
And then I am confused if I want in or just out
My friends really think I’m playing when I say I need counselling
I sit in grandmother’s living room and just pout and shout loud inside
Sometimes i just wanna die
[No you don't]
Alea iacta est.
Odd Future came from the bottom and It’s gonna take a couple armed armies tryna stop em
All you fucking lames don’t have to like me
The devil doesn’t wear Prada, I’m clearly in a fucking white tee.
And there we have it. Anti-hero/anti-christ.
There was no real overarching point to this other than to maybe show absolute beginners that there’s more to Tyler than rape jokes and to do something long-form to commemorate the release of the album I’ve been most looking forward to since Radiohead released Hail To The Thief and I brought my discman up to HMV Blanchardstown so I could listen to it straight away. Goblin is great. There’s awkward moments, but it’s a step up from Bastard and it’s a step up to the plate.
6.48 of the intro track, you’re thinking “that kind of clarifies a lot”. And then Yonkers.
This is from Blueprint’s solo mixtape Adventures In Counter Culture. With slow, deliberate delivery and polysyllabics and enunciation that land somewhere between West Coast backpack and Doom, he covers some pretty sincere conceptual shit over the course of the tape without ever ending up in “vernacular original miraculous spectacular flow” territory (shouts out to KRS-One’s new album for being mad boring). A few lines I liked from this track:
I’mma tear rap down and rebuild the shit
With total disregard of if the pieces even fit
Reintroduce it to you with an unfamiliar twist
Make it feel different like you fucking a different bitch
My favourite beats are the gloopy, post-Dilla ones, done with soft synths instead of crate digging. The whole thing is a niche of hip hop I haven’t really been into yet, so it’s sounding pretty fresh and inviting at the moment. Although obviously it does sound a little stupid when KRS already made a album called Blueprint first.
This is Charles Hamilton, who Went Mental And Fell Off before anyone even got a chance to call him the greatest rapper alive in youtube comments, and now endures his mates trying to explain to him that existence costs money. It’s not new (it’s from 2008) but it’s still a jam. Brief potted summary of Charles’ trajectory: made mixtapes, signed to Interscope, got punched by a girl, claimed the ghost of J Dilla was his executive producer, was no longer signed to Interscope. There’s a homemade compilation and a better explanation on George Bush Money.
In other news, Earl is in Samoa. If you don’t already know that, the level of attention you are paying to Odd Future constitutes criminal neglect. Those OF members who aren’t 17 and in military school got up with Lil B at Coachella too.
Also, Lil B told Coachella that he’s doing an album called I’m Gay, but he listed about five different mixtape titles on Red Flame that never came out, so Lil B saying he’s going to do something doesn’t necessarily indicate that he’s going to do something. Still, if anyone didn’t get what he was trying to get at with all that ‘pretty bitch’ stuff, he’s spelling it out (note: Lil B is ostensibly not actually gay).
Lil B’s retweets of his fans supporting/admonishing him were really interesting. There were those, like this guy, who just don’t like it and aren’t behind it (no homo) due to old school, straight up homophobia. Others, like this girl, defended it on the grounds that the word gay doesn’t necessarily mean homosexual, which requires cognitive dissonance denser than a rainforest. Other people just approve of anything Lil B does. My favourite argument, however, was one that popped up a couple of times amongst the rest – that words themselves have no meaning. Fascinating anthropological experiment, really.
My take, based on a couple of interviews and the kind of stuff he says on Tumblr occasionally, is that he got a good reaction from fans to the ‘pretty bitch’ stuff. He calls himself a pretty bitch, but he still makes good music – this in itself is kind of a challenge to people within the hip hop community, and it’s part of a normalising process for gayness that also includes Kanye West’s entourage looking mental and Just Blaze and 50 Cent telling their twitter followers not to say ‘no homo’ any more. He just stripped down a couple of the layers to make it simpler for people. Lil B has a Christ complex.
Also, I’m writing at length about it at 3.30am and presumably lots of people around the world are thinking about it too. If he knows how to do anything (apart from miming eating), it’s how to go viral.
It’s Monday, which means it’s time for hip hop. Next Saturday, there’s a Gucci Mane-themed night on in the Bernard Shaw. I was going to do a Gucci-themed piece, because Gucci is mental and often deadly, but it seemed better to just ask the guy putting the night on to do it. So here’s an out of season guest post, by Orlando.
When he told me about the night, I asked him if anyone in Dublin cared about Gucci Mane. “They will,” he replied. Evangelism.
“Dear Friends of Karl’s Blog,
My name is Orlando. I really like all sorts of music, but hip-hop music specifically has been a big interest of mine for a considerable amount of time. I would be mostly interested in Golden age stuff, but recently mostly due to the fact I have been spending some time in America (where it is bigger than pop music) I have been developing an interest in new rap artists like Rick Ross and Mannie Fresh.
The appreciation I have for this style of music is not comparable to how I feel about hip-hop music in general. The feeling that these “rap” artists give me as they arrogantly drawl over the sub kick drums, and pitch shifting snare rolls is far more superficial than anything I have ever gotten from the talented rappers I have held in such high esteem for the past years. But, at the same time I enjoy the way this music makes me feel. I can identify that the feeling I am getting from this music is hardly down to the lyrical content of the artist or the talent of the producer making the track, it is more down to the attitude, image and tone of the track.
So, keeping this is mind, Gucci Mane is with out a doubt my favorite of all these rappers. He has a complicated and interesting persona as an artist and I can honestly say that he enthralls me. I want to celebrate him as person, not just his music.
This Saturday in the Bernard Shaw, will probably be the best possible low budget salute to Gucci Mane imaginable. Gucci Mane Vs. The World is going to not only have every second track as Gucci Mane, but the rest of the music will be made up of some of the best new and gangsta rap tracks you have ever heard. My great friend Kathi is going to be painting ice-creams onto peoples faces. On top of that we will be showing the Gucci Mane Raw Report and there will be a contest to win a 1017 Brick Squad T-shirt. So, hopefully I will see you there to enjoy some mind numbingly stupid lyrics and erratic hi-hat patterns.
I would also love it if the people coming would tip their cap to the man, by donning “street threads”, anything from a new era cap to a grill for the boys to fake nails and weaves for the chicks.
The line-up for the Trinity Ball was ‘announced’ last night by the unusual method of someone finding the YouTube teaser video of it a day ahead of time. In my capacity as co-editor of the Ball Guide, which Trinity News makes every year, I’ve known it a while. And I’ve been silently giddy about it for a while, too. In fact, astute social network watching even led someone to guess the headliner, because when I’m giddy, I cannot avoid typing lyrics to stuff WITH CAPS LOCK ON and posting videos and waxing nostalgic about stuff I really liked when I was a younger scut.
There’s loads of British hip hop, which is nice.
I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure Original Pirate Material was, if not the first, then one of the first non-minirocker-acceptable albums I ever properly loved. It was definitely the first hip hop album I bought, having wallbounced to NOFX while my peers drew hash leaves on their pencil cases and listened to 2001.
If you’re rolling around your school with your Junior uniform augmented with a dog chain and really poorly manufactured Pennywise t-shirt as an extra layer, it’s not likely that you’re going to be able to open your mind enough to relate to first person stories about fucking bad bitches and still being Dr. Dre. Mike Skinner’s easy, non-aggressive flow, full of this new but vaguely familiar English slang, was instantly accessible. The first album was all pluck and aspiration, with songs about being late to meet your girlfriend to balance the ones about owing someone money ‘subbing scunny’. The second one, A Grand Don’t Come For Free, is softer around the edges, less rappy, and it got a broader audience, but it does feature probably the best Streets song, a ridiculously affecting, almost conversational walkthrough of taking pills while his friend kisses his girlfriend. You can hear the thought process change from glum and worried to ‘on pills’ through the verses. It’s serious stuff.
The fifth album, Computers and Blues, rap-wise, is the best since Original Pirate Material, successfully managing to regain the unique perspective and expression he had on that first record but gradually lost when fame changed his lifestyle and he descended a little into self-parody. This is my favourite track, not least because of the line “weed makes me not wanna be in new places… fight it”. Which can be a problem for people, I hear.
As well as The Streets, there are three of the rappers from Tinchy Stryder’s ‘hey look at UK rap’ anthem Game Over – Professor Green, Devlin and Chipmunk. Here’s Game Over again, because it’s still great. Professor Green’s is the second verse, and it’s my favourite. “I could tear apart MCs but I’d rather read a book on childcare by Kerry Katona.” Devlin’s is fourth, the ridiculously aggressive, metrically loose one. It has a curious line about making someone “turn on his own team like an Irish defender”, which is either a reference to Roy Keane (who is obviously not a defender), a really obscure reference, or some kind of attempt to imply that Irish people are incredibly stupid/treacherous. Headscratcher. Chipmunk’s last of the guests. He is soft as butter at rapping, and in the video he wears a body-warmer with a hood. He is for teenage girls to listen to on their phone on the bus. Devlin’s also kind of dodgy. Green’s good though.
Finally, meriting an honorary mention by vaguely being British urban music, is Katy B, whose Benga-produced Katy On A Mission from last summer is a serious ripper. Obvious highlight of this video is 2.50 when the DJs do synchronised body snap things at the last drop. Dope ass shit.
Other people playing: Simian Mobile Disco, Rubberbandits, Fight Like Apes, Alex Metric, Jessie J, more. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, but if you are not a Trinity student or alumnus, you are going to need a time machine, a friend or some ingenuity. “Private party” and all that. I’ll post the Ball Guide when it’s done, it should look nice and fancy. Apologies for Trinity-centric post, but that’s where 80% of my energies are directed on a daily basis, so doing this the once seems defensible.
It’s Super Bowl week. In case you are only casually acquainted with the NFL, I will explain why this is significant. It is significant because it is the best. 2010′s best teams play each other, famous people do boring stuff for TV purposes, exciting things happen and someone wins a world championship. This year, the teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Here are some rap songs I like with football references.
This is Wiz Khalifa, whose thing used to be that he smoked a lot of weed but whose thing is now shifting towards being very popular and rapping over flipped euro-dance. Wiz is from Pittsburgh, where all of the major sports teams wear black and yellow. He put this song out in September and it was a hit, but now the Steelers are in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh now listens to Black and Yellow exclusively. The following is a list of Black and Yellow spin-offs in which other rappers rap the colours of their favourite teams over the beat to Black and Yellow.
Fabulous – White and Navy (New York Yankees, baseball)
Paypa – Black and Red (Chicago Bulls, basketball)
Bailey – Black and Orange (San Francisco Giants, baseball)
Marquee T – Black and Purple (TCU Horned Frogs, college football)
Snoop Dogg, The Game and YG – Purp and Yellow (LA Lakers, basketball)
Pizzle and Prophetic – Green and Yellow (Green Bay Packers, football)
Irv Da Phenom – Red and Yellow (Kansas City Chiefs, football)
B Double E – Red and Blue (Kansas Jayhawks, college basketball)
P.L. – Blue and Yellow (Michigan Wolverines, college football)
Marcus Manchild – Red and Yellow (Houston Rockets, basketball)
DC – Gold and Garnet (Florida State Seminoles, football)
Kazer and 2 Clean – Black and Silver (San Antonio Spurs, basketball)
Vinny from Jersey Shore – Black and Guido (Guidos and black girls, sex)
Latin Kings – Black and Gold (Latin Kings, gang)
Demize – Blue and Orange (Chicago Bears, football)
D-Pryde – Blue and Purple (Toronto Blue Jays, baseball, Toronto Maple Leafs, hockey)
There are more. Those are some of the ones that YouTube rappers were smart enough to edit into the Wikipedia entry for Black and Yellow. For fairness, here’s Green Bay’s version. It’s less good, but there are less than 1,500 African-Americans in Green Bay, Wisconsin according to the last census, so if precedent is anything to go by, their scene can’t be that strong.
Wu Tang slam tracks like quarterback sacks from LT (Laurence Taylor, a Hall of Famer New York Giants linebacker who is now on the sex offenders register. Wu Tang would not have known that this was going to happen.)
Danny Brown blows on kush the colour of a Minnesota Viking. Which is purple.
Yelawolf wears Alabama Crimson Tide sweat pants to bed, presumably because he is a fan of ‘Bama football. Yes, Crimson Tide.
NWA were into the Raiders, who moved out of LA in the 80s. They want you to bow down to Raiders hats.
Nicki Minaj calls plays, metaphorically, causing bitches to call her “Manning, Eli”, quarterback of the New York Giants. His brother Peyton Manning is broadly considered the superior quarterback, but that doesn’t work when you turn it backwards to force a rhyme.
One of the reasons they call Roc-a-fella “Gang Green” is because they stop your run. The New York Jets, also called Gang Green, do a reasonably good job of stopping the run, statistically third best in 2010′s regular season. Jay-Z also compares his multitasking rapper/exec skills to those of athletic former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart.
Eminem gets “as rowdy as Roethlisberger in a bathroom stall” – Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and has made a habit of getting sexual assault allegations levelled against him.
If you told me three months ago I’d be posting Tinchy Stryder, I would have been a dickhead about it, but here I am. I was pointed to this by Rhino Magic. It’s got a Kanye-esque assemblage of UK rappers – Giggs, Professor Green, Tinie Tempah, Devlin and Example, to be specific, some of whom I was vaguely familiar with and others whose pop culture salute within the career of the salutee I was more impressed by than even bands named after Simpsons references.
Anyway, the major point with this is that, in the YouTube comments, one of the genre luddites who live under cyber-bridges on YouTube and say annoying stuff popped up to say “What happened to grime?” He got some likes, but not half as many as the responder, who said “Grime is dead. This is UK hip hop.” And it is. This is could be an American hip hop beat without shame, but it’s not, and the emcees aren’t just flexing pointlessly any more. It is UK hip hop.
This is the only other UK rap I listen to with any regularity, obviously at the other end of the English spectrum being unashamedly Jamaican in its influence (and provenance). My favourite bit in this song is Roots trying to explain to his neighbours that they should leave him alone when he’s making music because “dis vocal is de penis, de riddim is the vaj.”
And this is one of the greatest songs ever written. I mean that with no exaggeration and regret the exagerration I employ on a daily basis now because of how much it devalues that statement when it’s true. Sickly cryptic spitting the code.
This isn’t British and it’s not even particularly hip hop, but it’s Irish, it’s good and it seems to be a pretty workable example of boxing the indie rock and hip hop cards without being particularly ironic about it. Which is a problem. More here.
I'm Karl. I write this blog and write for Totally Dublin. In a past life I got way too personal with my criticism of Sean McTiernan's predilection for Kendrick Lamar and dulcimer music made by psychotic men in forests on the legendary Them's The Vagaries podcast. Available to sell out in almost any way for money.
m c d o n a k j @ t c d . i e is my e-mail address. I don't really attempt to break new music here or anything, but every few months when I'm bored I pick random shit out of my inbox and free associate with it, so send me your Bjork remix or whatever.