Let the Beat Build #9: August 2013
Spotify Playlist: Let the Beat Build #9: August 2013
Diversions: LTBB #9 Diversions
1. “Eggman” - The Beastie Boys. JW: It was suggested that the theme of this month’s playlist be “Guns”. I considered that. I considered it deeply as you’ll see from the beginning of the Diversions list. But I didn’t think at the end of the day, a full list of gun songs was really what I wanted. Even if they were good. So then I thought, “What if I find a song, and then pick the song next to it?” But that’s just crazy. “That’s exactly what they want me to do!” I thought. This all happened while I was listening to Paul’s Boutique. I was so into this song when I first heard it. We were egging at that time, as a matter of fact. I set up a whole photo shoot to replicate the feeling of misguided badassery that this song gave me. And that’s when it hit me, this list is about feeling like a bad ass.
2. “Deceptacon (DFA Remix)” - Le Tigre with Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy. KW: This totally isn’t the song I was looking for. I was blown away. It’s like I was looking down the barrel of a gun, and then I woke up and saw egg dripping from the ceiling. Family, punk rock, Adam + Kathleen. With a little bit of James Murphy, which is my new salt.
3. “Ghost Song” - The Doors with Jim Morrison. JW: You know that scene where Travolta wants to “Strut”? Yeah, that shit’s charlie brown. Jim Morrison knows how to do post-psychadelic alt-disco ego-maniacal self-indulgence... like a boss. It’s trippy, it’s scary, it’s sexualized. I’m kind of worried Patricia Keneally is going to cut me. But there’s something kind of disco it in, right? It would be great to see a mind map of 18 months worth of peripheral music recordings, color coded and fanned out radially to see how influence, competing sounds and chart popularity make up the ecosystem of singular song zeitgeist. What primordial ooze lives between Smoke on the Water and Fire Woman? Between How Many More Times and Fool In The Rain? Let’s investigate this.
4. “Sister Midnight” - Iggy Pop. KW: Maybe I’m getting lazy. Is it possible that “Sister Midnight” has not been on one of these yet? I’m definitely too lazy to check. Besides being my fucking jam forever, “Sister Midnight” sits right next to “Nightclubbing,” which is this awesome total weirdo dude standing in the corner at the disco, thinking out loud in your face when you walk by. “We’re an ice machine.” Great line. No fucking idea what that guy is talking about. Speaking of adjacency, I’d like to note that Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison are adjacent. If someone told me that Iggy Pop snorted Jim Morrison’s ashes I would believe it. That totally happened. I read about it in Interview, Andy Warhol’s magazine. I know, right?
5. “Horizon” - Fischerspooner. JW: I’ve always said how lazy you are. I can’t believe Fischerspooner didn’t make it onto last month’s list. At least the Diversions List. I think you perfectly described the type of club goon who disco-lurks. Electroclash was a perfect music trend, because it left before (or just as) it was getting tired. It pulled great energy from nearly every previous type of club scene, while still leaving space to express itself through women who look like Adam Ant, men who dreamt of recreating the dance scene from Rad with their fixies. So this one goes out to you, sweaty, throbbing, pre-beard-Brooklyn, Pat Benatar, Sprockets, associate photo editor for E. Williamsburg indie mag., Grace Jones simulacrite. “Yo, I hear they’re bringing Rheingold back!”
6. “Time” - Pink Floyd. KW: That repetitive synth line led me to “On the Run.” Adjacent is “Time,” one of the Pink Floyd’s best songs. It also has some amazing synth stuff, including that tick tock from what I’m guessing is a modular synth. Kicking it old school. My long lost friend Steven from England told me a story about listening to this on headphones while riding a dirtbike somewhere on the coast of Africa, while he was in the Royal Air Force or something. It’s basically the perfect music video.
7. “At Death, A Proclamation” - Phosphorescent. JW: That’s a great picture. I imagine Lawrence of Arabia, Into the Wild, Fear and Loathing and, maybe Gerry. Originally I was thinking of the Ghostface/Toto mashup as that might be what I’d listen to on a drive like that. And I’ve been wanting to get Ghostface in the mix. However, Run and Beat the Clock didn’t feel quite right after the experience that is Time. Phosphorescent has some good stories too, and appears no stranger to a road trip. I can’t seem to find it written, but when this song was introduced to me, I was told that he was sitting inside his car, with some sort of mic, maybe a tape recorder, recording a high school marching band practice. I rekindled my love for good marching bands recently. You can see some in the LTBB #5 Diversions list. These past three songs have really been mesmerizers. Makes me want to brew a hippy highball and clean the house.
8. “Ice Cream” - Battles with Matias Aguayo. KW: John Stanier was a big influence on me back in my metal drumming days. Dude is a legend. I remember reading in a drum magazine about how he trained with the Florida Wave drum corps, doing 45 minute snare drum rolls and stuff and junk. Fast forward a decade and he’s in this band Battles, and he’s still crazy badass, but a hell of a lot funkier than his days in Helmet. Next to the big Battles jam (“Atlas”) is this wickedness.
9. “Ice Water” - Raekwon. JW: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, undisputed top-10 rap album. From 1995, the hot zone of the best rap ever. Do you remember when Enter the Wu Tang (1993), Tical(1994), Liquid Swordz (1995), Return to the 36 Chambers (1995) and Ironman (1996) were all around you? I do, because I didn’t really listen to them deeply until 1996. If Wu Tang is Voltron, and RZA is the head, Raekwon is the pulmonary artery. Maybe that’s a little dramatic. But what about the Wonder Woman bracelet? That eagle screams BADASS.
10. “Reality Check” - J Dilla with Black Thought. KW: A lot of music goes right past me while it’s crazy popular. I have this problem where I go deep into a particular artist or genre, ignoring the hell out of whatever else is going on for a year or two at a time. I first heard Wu-Tang in 1996, though I had heard of them probably as early as 1994 in some form. I remember when they came to Houston, the TV news covered the concert because people were going crazy. Come to think of it, I may have actually heard Ol’ Dirty first, in 1996 or so. That’s a tangent. Anyway, J Dilla is another one I totally missed, though there were tracks he did that I loved but didn’t know he was behind (“Stakes Is High,” an undisputed top ten hip hop track, with possibly the greatest verse in rap history). I found a track next to one of my favorite J Dilla tracks. I feel like the Roots, from day one (the “What They Do” video), have had as their lyrical M.O. “we are not going to play that gangster shit.” Meaning they attempt to accurately represent their experience instead of a cartoon version of life. No disrespect to the Wu-Tang, but someone has to talk about the rest of reality. Also, the Roots is a group I have not really caught up with. I need to get on that.
11. “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” - The Roots. JW: For some reason I once listened to this song on YouTube. I was struck by the discussions in the comments thread. There were the typical trolls, fools and superfans. There was the typical comment detritus: idiots, trolls and superfans. But there was also a discussion of the extensive use of the N-word. The simplest one was that it’s not rhyming to use the same word at the end of each line. The other was about some users‘ objections to it.
im from the land of them straight razor face beard niggas
with hammers on their waist, yeah, waste weird niggas
and erase scared niggas, them snake head niggas
that take care of niggas who don't break bread with us
"beard" rhymes with "weird". "head" rhymes with "bread". what the fuck are u talking about? dont try and say that black thought hasn't got skills because he's the most skillful mc of all time. learn something before u start talking complete fucking bollocks on the internet.
· 8 in reply to Jon Heights (Show the comment)
*It should be noted that Jon Heights’ original comment was removed.
i think this went over peoples heads...he says nig that many times purposely for a reason..pay attention to the2nd half of the song
*The original comment for this response was removed as well.
Those two problems got answered (or self-corrected) by the community and I think it is important. Important that a community can actually respond to itself in a way that is legitimate and meaningful. And that it can do so amongst and in spite of the predictable noise. The number of people who had questions answered and new perspectives effectively embraced is uncountable. But it’s not enough to praise The Roots or Black Thought for his ability. It is noteworthy that his lyrical abilities have layers, barbs, authentic reference points and most of all, meaning. Had he simply called out Rick Ross for putting base, pop filth into the world, it would have become a battle rap at best. And if it was an indictment of the music industry or popular culture that supports unrighteous or wack-ass rap then it would be expendable as just that. But everything about this song is strong. Here are the lyrics with RapGenius annotation.
But as comments spaces and forums maintain their moderate connectivity to ideas, sites like Rap Genius deepen that education by parsing out phrases and collaboratively discussing their meaning. I find this to be even most successful, when the artist chimes in to correct or clarify his own words, as Black Thought does in the link above.
12. “Mr. Bojangles” - Jerry Jeff Walker. KW: And we’re back to Mr. Walker, if that is his real name. My first thought was to head toward “I Wanna Be Black” by Lou Reed, but I couldn’t find anything near that track that was serendipitous. I think that’s what we’re chasing this month. Anyway, I read something someone wrote about how “I Wanna Be Black” might have been successful if Reed hadn’t indulged in exploiting those stereotypes elsewhere. I don’t know if I agree with that--maybe it wouldn’t have been successful because it’s just not that good, or maybe it wouldn’t have been successful because it requires incredible grace to talk tongue-in-cheek about race in the United States. And I don’t know that you can really accuse Reed of trucking with those stereotypes in “Walk on the Wild Side” either. Anyway, you called me out (only slightly) the last time I put Jerry Jeff on one of these mixes, because, presumably, he’s a bit too cracker for polite listening. By presumably, I mean:
GARY P. NUNN Jerry Jeff showed up for a gig one night in a bathing suit, a vest, a cowboy hat, and maybe a bandanna. He’d been drinking Brandy Alexanders all day. We get him onstage, but he couldn’t remember any lyrics. After about three songs, some girl hollered, “Get off the stage, you drunk son of a bitch.” He responds, “F— you, f— you,” and then finally, “You ain’t got no beer. You ain’t got no cocaine. You ain’t got no pussy. You ain’t got anything I want.” Then he fell into the drum kit. The whole band walked out the front door, but he ended up playing by himself until one o’clock. That was the deal: he’d do the craziest things, but it’d always be funny when the story was told. [link]
But I’m also reminded of something I heard Walker say in a concert: “somebody said if I could write a song as good as ‘Bojangles’ I'm not really all that much of an asshole.” So consider the song ”Mr. Bojangles” to sit, in my mind, right between those two stories about Walker.
13. “I Woke Up In A Strange Place” - Jeff Buckley. JW: Wow. I just really don’t know what to say. First of all, those stories are great. Second of all, you Jerry-Jeffed me again! It’s like you just iced me in my ears. Third of all, I’ve never liked this song, even the Nina Simone version. Something about it makes me feel not quite right. But this version of it is sort of beautiful. And from Jerry Jeff Walker? The man who brought you “Cowboy Boots and Bathin’ Suits”? It’s like Nick Drake reading me Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Well, you did it Ward, you stopped me dead in my tracks. I don’t think I can wax poetic about the connections between Bojangles and the Mystery White Boy Tour. I’ll just say that “I Woke Up…” is my favorite song on an album of many great songs. “Listen now, you keep your aim steady… as your temple turns to kiss the pistol…”
14. “A Pirate Looks at Forty” - Jimmy Buffett. KW: This is easily my favorite Buffett song. Consider it adjacent to Jerry Jeff Walker in the tape collection on some Florida retiree’s houseboat. This song is about someone else who woke up dead, washed ashore. The couplet “I have been drunk now for over two weeks / I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks” echoes through my head pretty much any time I think of ten years ago. Not that I was ever drunk for two weeks at a time, but I definitely did a lot of passing out and rallying, and waking up in strange places.
15. “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop” - Dead Prez. JW: Yellow card. You keep talkin’ one thing and playin’ another. In my left ear I’m hearin’ JAYLIB. In my right I’m seeing Coconut Pete. Playing with Buffett is like playing with my emotions.
Interlude, from the chat robot disco:
KW: Does Buffett really bother you that much?
JW: In life, yes. In playlist, no.
KW: I'm catching yellow cards. Let's make it official.
[THROWS CHAIR ONTO FIELD]
LET'S MAKE IT OFFICIAL
JW: I had a traumatic experience once. I sat down to take a shit at a steak house at the beginning of Margaritaville.
Oh, don't get all hooligan on me.
KW: That's a good fucking song.
JW: How can we be lovers if we can't be friends.
KW: Overplayed as Katy/Tyler Perry, but a good fucking song.
Steven Tyler Perry.
JW: It felt like I was young Alex forced to listen to the old Ludwig Van. 2 pounds of cow in me and no place to run.
OH MY GOD. Halloween costume. Katy Tyler Perry.
I don’t care who’s wrong or right. I don’t really wanna fight no more. But once again, you got me on the layers. The story there is pretty nice. I’ll admit, when I first heard “I Can Get Off On You” I wasn’t prepared. But it has turned into one of my favorite songs of the year. Perhaps this pirate will grow on me too. Like a barnacle. Or cyst. I felt like Bojangles was a Wild/Draw 4. So I guess I’ll play a Reverse, Skip, Reverse and Draw 2. UNO! Muthafuckaaaaaaaa! Oh, and when you listen to Dead Prez, play it loud. It sounds totally different.
16. “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” - The Mountain Goats. KW: Lately when I hear gun talk in hip hop it rings hollow. John Darnielle singing about shooting a man in the face (in the song “Against Pollution”) came to mind while listening to Dead Prez lament the fake ass gun talk in fake ass hip hop these days. And then I recalled how, at one Mountain Goats show I was at, they closed with a one-two punch of “Against Pollution” followed by “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” Which, like “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop,” says you have to do what you have to do, you have to speak the truth, and if you do people will know it’s real. Hearing thousands of people singing “Hail Satan!” at the top of their lungs at that show was one of my favorite concert moments of all time. “Hail Satan!” to all of us that night was a candle held up in the darkness, a little bit of the light of humanity. Who hasn’t had a dream, and had to keep its tiny flame alive? Hail hail.
17. “Sky’s The Limit” - The Notorious B.I.G. JW: “Who hasn’t had a dream, and had to keep its tiny flame alive?” The narrative, from the “mom” blessing through Biggie’s bootstraps street fairy tale, is historical fiction. It may not all have happened that way, to him. But we’re to believe it’s close. The song’s marrow is about making something of yourself. Having enough to provide for your family, make your mother proud, live a good life. Though the song’s skin is crusted with diamond bezzies. That too is kind of meta. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? BIG representing success through ostentatious materialism? Or high roller flossing influencing BIG? Or BIG influencing BIG? At one point, rollin’ in an MPV was ballin’. Now you have to cut the top out of your Maybach to reinvent the lighting of cigars with flaming hundys. So anyway, my point about flossing, and its influence on culture, and the kids and so forth comes back to the genius music video. As the story goes, it was actually Sophia Coppola’s idea. She gave it to Spike Jonze (her then boyfriend) as an homage to Bugsy Malone. But the only way to play it was to basically recreate ALL of the prototypical, rap video, Hype Williams tropes. Mansions, Benz’s, hot tubs, champagne, fisheye lens, mirrored sets, green tunnel driving scene, Versace glasses, VIP at the club, and all the predictable cameos. With immaculately cast mini-me versions of all of Biggie’s network. A Puffy who dances like a clown like Puffy. A saucy Li’l Kim. A Busta Rhymes, 112, The Lox, Faith, Craig Mack, Ma$e, etc. Is he tainting the kids? Are the kids illin’? Has he always wanted to flex like a gangster since he was little? Will someone PLEASE think of the children?
18. “Trap Door” - Jake One and MF Doom. KW: Will someone please think of the villain? I was going to drop “Rock Co.Kane Flow” by De La Soul and MF Doom, because not too far away from Brooklyn (Long Island) you can find more legendary rappers breathing in R&B and breathing out killer jams. That track has all the goods when it comes to L.I. But then I dug around and found the track adjacent to that one, which is Jake One (producer of “Rock Co.Kane Flow”) and MF Doom doing “Trap Door.” Doom is the man when it comes to hip hop fiction--I doubt anyone else has ever done the self aware hip hop fiction better. Certainly not Kanye, with his scripted, hollow attempts to play the self aware rap icon. And I had never heard “Trap Door” before today, so it has that going for it too.
19. “Weapon World” - Prince Paul. JW: Doom IS the man when it comes to fiction. If you haven’t spent any time with DangerDoom: The Mouse And The Mask, I suggest you stop and do that right now. I picked this song for Kool Keith. Kool Keith, like Bootsy, is from outer space. It is often hard to believe Kool Keith is not just saying words. But there is some noisy genius in that head. And a fair amount of poetry. But let’s go back to Prince Paul. Producer of the seminal De La album 3 Feet High And Rising, Prince Paul made this concept album featuring many of the strongest MC’s who were not in the spotlight in 1998. But stellar appearances from Sadat X, Xzibit, and even Everlast took a good idea and made it an amazing album. The story is fresh. The characters are archetypal yet dynamic. It was a rock opera with rap. And it beat the shit out of MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera. That shit was corny.
20. “Traditional Blues Song” - Chris Crofton. KW: Kool Keith’s total abstractions got me thinking about “Snakeskin Snake” by Chris Crofton and the Alcohol Stuntband (“I got a snakeskin snake / I got a leather rattlesnake / I got a Harley-Davidson / I got a pierced Harley-Davidson”), but: a) they don’t have it, because they don’t know, and b) this song is adjacent to that, sort of, because they don’t have what I want and this is all they have. So imagine you go into this Love’s truck stop in Shreveport, Louisiana, and all you need to make it the next 15 hours is Dr. Octagonecologyst but all they have is Chris Crofton, the Alcohol Stuntman. That’s what is going down right now. Your car will never be the same. No carwash will be good enough.
21. “Who Do You Love?” - George Thorogood and the Destroyers. JW: I’ve been to that Love’s, or was it a Flying J? And every time I need Wild and Crazy, I only get to choose between Loggins/Messina and Pavarotti. But if you dig deep enough, past the sixth copy of A George Strait Christmas (feat. Lance Bass and the gang from Peanuts) you’ll be fucking stoked to find George Thorogood. The one with the three songs you know. And you will rock out! Rock out, kick something with your boot, spit your cigarette at something, drink warm beer and then your jeans will tighten. Try to erase the memory of all the commercials that bought this song and just let the dusty wind lick your face.
22. “Jungle Love” - J Dilla with MED and Guilty Simpson. KW: Bo Diddley doesn’t get enough credit. I jumped over to “Love” (J Dilla and Pharaohe Monch, Dilla twice in one playlist, this is me getting lazy) and looked around for something nearby. I think Diddley would love the line “If I was any hotter, I’d drink straight vodka and spit out flames and piss lava.” Cobra snake for a necktie, lava for piss. It works.
23. “Player’s Anthem” - Junior M.A.F.I.A. JW: Well, I do love hip hop. So I expect I’ll do what the gentleman says.
24. “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” - Broken Social Scene. KW: Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me. Everybody telling me what to do in their anthems. You tell me do things.
25. “Edge of Seventeen” - Stevie Nicks. JW: I think we once talked about having a mystery song in your head, for years. I had heard this song on Classic Rock KZPS, for years. I thought it was badass. I thought she sounded tough, troubled, negotiating adult decisions in a dark world. And the only words I could ever distinguish were “just like a white winged dove… sings the song, sounds like she singin”. You can imagine how, half a generation younger than teenagers listening to Stevie Nicks, with no internet, it was nearly impossible to figure out what that song was. Finally, one day I figured it out. It sounded like Stevie Nicks because I’d figured out what Fleetwood Mac sounded like. Then I forgot. Then I searched the words I knew and found it again. I felt like a white winged dove.
26. “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” - Warren Zevon. KW: Waddy Wachtel on guitar. Played with James Taylor too. I dislike James Taylor, unless he’s singing backup and playing banjo on Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” I like this story though:
Then, one day when he was riding in the back seat of a car with Taylor, Wachtel watched as a female tollbooth clerk asked Taylor for an autograph. Looking groggy, Taylor scribbled something on a piece of paper, said, "Hi, darling, here you go," and handed it to her. Wachtel glanced over and saw what Taylor had scrawled: "You bitch, I'll kill you" – signed, sardonically, "James Taylor."
I also really, really like Warren Zevon. When he was on fire, no one could touch him. The guitar on this track is amazing. You can almost hear Hunter Thompson’s typewriter clicking along.
27. “White Rabbit” - Jefferson Airplane. JW: Raoul Duke: My attorney had never been able to accept the notion, often espoused by former drug abusers, that you can get a lot higher without drugs than with them, and neither have I for that matter.
28. “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” - John Cale. KW: While Flea was licking LSD off of Hunter Thompson’s sleeve in a San Francisco bathroom in the late sixties, the Velvet Underground was house band of every drugged out dungeon party in New York City, or maybe anywhere. When John Cale split from VU, he went on to burn a hole through the middle of the seventies. “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” could have easily been written about Hunter Thompson.
29. “My Body Is A Cage” - Arcade Fire. HW: A wise sage once said, “Fear causes hesitation. And hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” Hunter Thompson only feared two things: The demons inside of him and the nebulous tyranny and oppression of evil motives. All things in between were obstacles to maneuver around. Fear is power. And fear is power that gets used against us. Some fear is imposed on us. Some fear we enable. Some fear is fabricated to buffer us from the unknown. I don’t say “protect us from the unknown” because that is what we hope it will do and that is what keeps us comfortable. But that comfort limits us from seeking out growth and improvement. I think it’s important to perceive fear and the world around us as both small and vast, a scale shifting organism in a constant state of flux. Much like the lobby of the Mint Casino, you can’t subvert the whole thing all at once. You must compartmentalize and persistently tackle the nuances in digestible bites all the while working toward the sea change you want to realize. It would be empty to say that all of that fear blockage is on you. But some of it is, and those are the Tribbles that you defy first. “I'm standing on the stage
Of fear and self-doubt it's a hollow place
But they'll clap anyways”