Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"What are kids supposed to do when they can't shop?"

"The Role of Youth" -- short video by Jon Savage and Matt Wolf, from the New York Times, Dec. 6, 2011. They trace the history of the emergence of the teenager, and the recent involvement of young people in the Occupy movements, the riots in the UK, the Arab Spring. "These movements share a common goal: to re-imagine the future." Read their brief description here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Simon Reynolds on Xenomania: How Nothing is Foreign in an Internet Age

Great piece from MTV Iggy.

I hope this is true: "Recently there’s been a smatter of hipster chatter about the Egyptian dance music that gets played at Cairo street weddings." This needs to blow up. See my posts on this scene, here and here.

Viva DJs Islam Chipsy and Omar Haha and Figo.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In defence of pop, and perhaps, narcissism

Nitsuh Abebe, writing in New York, defends contempo pop music against the moral panic over youth narcissism. And he makes sense of the trajectory of popular music on the charts since the '80s.

If I could choose, in retrospect, which set of music-based pathologies to spend my teenage years absorbing—the dogged outsider mumbling I picked up from indie-rock records or the brave thrusting entitlement and self-regard that allegedly speak through today’s pop—there’s a decent chance I’d take the pop.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Frankie Beverly and Maze in Brooklyn

A friend of hawgblawg sent in this account of a concert in Brooklyn on Monday, July 11.

“Golden Time of Day”

On Monday night, as the sun set, and a moonlight spread over Brooklyn, a humid evening was made cool and bearable by the voice of an R&B legend. Thousands turned out for the first show of the Martin Luther King concert series that has taken place in Brooklyn’s Wingate field for the past 29
years. The first concert showcased the veteran singer, Frankie Beverly and Maze, a group that has been around “oh, only 45 years,” as Beverly told the audience. Beverly opened the evening with “Southern Girl.” Dressed in white and sporting a white beret, his powerful, soulful voice resonated across the field -- and all of Flatbush it seemed. Middle-aged women danced along as he sang his hit singles, songs from their youth “We Are One,” “Can’t Get Over You,” “Running Away,” and “Happy Feelings.” Whether he was singing his smooth classics -- slow jams played on the “Quiet Storm” on WBLS (the radio station sponsoring the MLK concert series), or jamming on the keyboard, or hooping like a preacher, or jumping up and down with band members -- Beverly displayed an astonishing energy throughout the two-hour show. As he wiped sweat off his forehead with a towel, he bantered with the audience, “I’m sixty-five years old - I got a three-pack, or maybe a can, or something!”

Beverly’s group was formed in Philadelphia in 1970 – and was initially called Raw Soul. Beverly moved the group to the Bay Area in 1972, and there they were given the name Maze, by none other than Marvin Gaye. “We’re from Philadelphia, grew up with Patti Labelle and Harold Melville. We moved to Cali in 1972 because of Sly and the Family Stone,” explained the vocalist. “One night we were playing in a rinky dink club and Marvin Gaye was there.” Gaye booked Maze on his 1976 concert tour and helped them secure their first album deal with Capitol Records. “Marv took us in, gave us the name Maze. We’re inspired by Marv – he took our feet out off clay and put them on solid ground.” Over the last forty years, Beverly has had nine top ten hits and eight gold records – but no Grammy, a point the singer joked about on stage. “I get mad sometimes, but then I’ve learned that you can either have re-wards or a-wards. Some of you have been with us for over thirty five years, that is the biggest reward, our following.”

The band, also decked out in casual white outfits, was pitch-perfect. Vance Taylor on keyboards, Calvin Napper on drums, and Jubu Smith, on guitar who, as per usual, delivered a beautiful solo on “Golden Time of

Beverly closed the evening with a pulsating rendition of “Before I Let Go.”

Another magical night in Brooklyn.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Queer rappers

An article in Resonance (issue 53, 2007) discusses the 2006 documentary about queer hip-hop, Pick Up the Mic, by Alex Hinton. Unfortunately, it's not available on the web.

The article discusses the following artists: Scream Club, QBoy, Miss Money, and Johnny Dangerous.

For the moment, this is just a resource.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flash Mobs

...were invented by a senior editor of Harper's Magazine. Read about it here. Juicy excerpts follow.

As first defined by Festinger, Pepitone, and Newcomb (1952), deindividuation is “a state of affairs in a group where members do not pay attention to other individuals qua individuals”...

Consider the generational cohort that has come to be called the hipsters–i.e., those hundreds of thousands of educated young urbanites with strikingly similar tastes. Have so many self-alleged aesthetes ever been more (in the formulation of Festinger et al.) “submerged in the group”? The hipsters make no pretense to divisions on principle, to forming intellectual or artistic camps; at any given moment, it is the same books, records, films that are judged au courant by all, leading to the curious spectacle of an “alternative” culture more unanimous than the mainstream it ostensibly opposes. What critical impulse does exist among their number merely causes a favorite to be more readily abandoned, as abandoned...it inevitably will be...

Over those who would sell to the hipsters, then, hangs the promise of instant adoption but also the specter of wholesale and irrevocable desertion...With a rising generation so mercurial, one wonders whether even the notion of “branding,” i.e., the building of long-term reputations, which has remained the watchword among our corporations for more than a decade, will itself come to lose its luster...the corporation will be content merely to hitch itself to a succession of their whims.

...Not only was the flash mob a vacuous fad; it was, in its very form (pointless aggregation and then dispersal), intended as a metaphor for the hollow hipster culture that spawned it.

I know this because I happen to have been the flash mob’s inventor...

What the project harnessed was the
joining urge, a drive toward deindividuation easily discernible in the New York hipster population.

The basic hypothesis behind the Mob Project was as follows: seeing how all culture in New York was demonstrably commingled with
scenesterism, the appeal of concerts and plays and readings and gallery shows deriving less from the work itself than from the social opportunities the work might engender, it should theoretically be possible to create an art project consisting of pure scene...

The mob was all about the herd instinct, I reasoned, about the desire not to be left out of the latest fad...

What the
Times did, in fascinating fashion, was not just to run the backlash story (which I had been expecting in three to five more weeks) but to do so preemptively–i.e., before the backlash actually had materialized...

Nothing is more defining of hipsterism than semi-ironic coronation of its own

I was pointing out that hipsters, our supposed cultural avant-garde, are in fact a transcontinental society of cultural
receptors, straining to perceive which shifts to follow. I must hasten to add that this is not entirely their fault: the Internet can propagate any flashy notion, whether it be a style of eyewear or a presidential candidacy, with such instantaneity that a convergence on the “hip” tends now to happen unself-consciously, as a simple matter of course.

But hipsters, after becoming aware of this very dynamic, have responded in a curious and counterintuitive way. Even as they might decry this drive toward unanimity, they continually embrace it and re-embrace it in an enthusiastic, almost ecstatic fashion. No phenomenon of recent years illustrated this point as clearly as the aforementioned Strokes, who for most of 2002 held the top-band spot in hipsterdom. This was a band that, albeit enjoyable and skilled, had been clearly manufactured precisely for hipster delectation. Moreover, the hipsters were well aware of this fact, and they complained about it incessantly even as they cued up the record at parties and danced with special abandon...The Strokes made a natural object of this unanimity because their sound–derivative candy, 1970s punk simplicity dressed up with some 1990s indie-rock aloofness–was an easy common denominator...They were, moreover, easily discarded...

The most significant literary movement the hipsters have produced is
McSweeney’s, which itself had essentially the characteristics of a pop-music fad...

Like the Strokes,
McSweeney’s promised a cultural watershed for hipsters while making no demands on them...In its pages literature appeared as a sort of pot-luck barbecue where the young litterateur, merely by whipping up some absurdist trifle or other, could throw the Frisbee with established authors who were publishing their castoffs there...

Inevitably, even as
McSweeney’s has matured and gained more seriousness of purpose, it has receded in hipster esteem, just as did trucker hats, Hush Puppies, the mullet. Like starlings on a trash-strewn field the hipsters alight together, peck intently for a time, and at some indiscernible signal take wing again at once. If they are the American avant-garde it is true, I think, in only this aspect–the unending churn of their tastes, this adult faddishness in the adolescent style...

In the media coverage of flash mobs, the most curious undercurrent was the notion, almost a wish, that they would someday become something serious....

The idea seemed to be that flash mobs could be made to convey a message, but for a number of reasons this dream was destined to run aground. First, as outlined above, flash mobs were gatherings of
insiders, and as such could hardly communicate to those who did not already belong...Second, flash mobs were by definition transitory, ten minutes or less, and thereby not exactly suited to standing their ground and testifying. Third, in terms of physical space, flash mobs relied on constraints to create an illusion of superior strength...

just like flash mobs, the Dean campaign was also pure scene...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

'Cash Rules Everything Around Wu'

Great piece on the Wu-Tang Clan from Jeff Weiss and Tal Rosenberg.

The music [on Wu-Tang Forever] was even more dense and abstract than Enter the Wu-Tang. In his review for SPIN, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote that “Wu-Tang Clan are basically selling avant-garde music as pop to the world. “The first single off the album, a $1 million video directed by Brett Ratner, had no discernible chorus, and featured some of the most complex, intricate rhyming by the Clan members. It is also nearly six minutes long, the “Like a Rolling Stone” of the hip-hop era.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

8 Openly Queer Rappers

Via Color Lines, a list of five, from the inimitable Detroit rapper Invincible. Miz Korona, Mz Jonz, Thee Satisfaction, Las Krudas, and Skim. From Juba Kalamka, three more: Collin Clay, Wheelchair Sports Camp, and Big Freedia. Be sure to read about them.

And for more queer rappers, check out this earlier post on Yo Majesty.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on Ari Up & The Slits: NPR's Post-Punk Female Mix

I love this mix of women in post-punk from NPR's Anthony Fantano. Inspired by Ari Up (who passed away in October), it includes 56 tracks (!), which serve to give a sense of the imporant role played by women artists in this key musical moment. Lizzie Mercier Descloux, The Raincoats...Terrific. Please check it out.

photo: Abbey Braden