� Retarded | Main | Black Googlewhack �

June 07, 2005

Music in Context

Pops dropped by the other day to give me a chocolate cake and hip me to Zocalo. I was too late to get a seat for this cat named Gary Phillips who is a writer and associate of Jervey Tervalon. Tervalon rememebers Los Angeles just like I do. He and Wanda Coleman don't get enough attention when it comes to portraits of LA. Perhaps those days will come to a close. I won't be there to edge the momentum tomorrow night, but clearly the joint is sold out.

What suprised me about Pops this time was that he has gotten into hiphop. Now I don't know why a 70 year old man needs to be listening to Jay-Z for so I had him explain this to me. He does it because it's new. He's looking for context.

We're a lot alike in that respect. We go sometimes on a musical tear and try to absorb some new artist or sub-genre. For us, jazz is second nature. While I had my back to the TV which was tuned to the digital cable jazz channel, I quickly identified Wayne Shorter and a couple others while I mistook somebody for Joe Zawinul. I didn't know that I didn't know Chet Baker, so at the very least I've got one more thing to learn. It's so easy, Pops said, for him to talk jazz and make all kinds of associations. All of the greats are gone and so they're easy to contextualize. Their body of work is complete, finite. Living artists, hiphop artists in particular, are in flux. It's much more mentally challenging to talk about hiphop in context.

So basically, my pop, the New England liberal scholar likes Ice Cube. He has absolutely no patience or use for Snoop Dogg. Outside of that, he likes Common, doesn't like 50 Cent but won't turn him off completely. He likes DMX but not Jay Z. Although I didn't bring it up, he has raved in the past for Eminem so I wouldn't be surprised if that hasn't changed. He and I both think that Tupac is quite overrated. I didn't catch his opinion of Biggie. He hates Ludacris.

We got around to discussing the 'even white kids listen to hiphop' argument. I think the 'even' is superfluous. Picking up on Jimi Izrael's milestone, even though I disagree with his theory, you basically had to drop the 'even' when the Beasties dropped 'Licensed to Ill'. By that late date, all the crossover has been done both ways. And since then every white kid that listens to hiphop is authentic, says me.

Put it this way. Everybody who rejected black music basically made all that achey-brakey happen. Put that at an arbitrary 30% of the white listening audience who go straight for country. The other 30% went down the grunge and goth track to the exclusion of hiphop. That leaves 40% of whitefolks who, basically by the time Janet Jackson broke out in 92, were already there. Jackson's rebirth was the final straw. Now you can say that Janet Jackson isn't *real* hiphop. By that standard 'hiphop' radio stations aren't 'real' hiphop, because there ain't one of 'em that plays strickly conscious, underground stuff, with the possible exception of one or two 500 watt college stations and podcasts.

Pops listens to KIIS 102.7, 92.3 Hot 92, the new KDAY, 100.3 The Beat. They're all 'urban contemporary' and 'hiphop' according to the Radio Locator. KIIS is Top 40, but that means mostly hiphop these days. You don't have to go far to get your hiphop.

Pops had recently been to Seattle during their Drum Festival. He was pleasantly surprised by an African Drum ensemble comprised of a dozen white kids in West African garb, with mad skills. Their mentor was an old brother who had taught them djembe as well as lyrics in original languages. When they played, according to pops, it was serious indeed. For this reason, as well as the trees and an invitation by UW to extend their classrooms into housing projects, Pops is enchanted by Seattle. I said he could borrow my flannel.

On the grunge note, we found that we like the same new rock, which we divided into the 'intelligent rock' and the 'gothic'. On the intelligent side, we both dig Coldplay, Modest Mouse, Radiohead & Stone Temple Pilots. On the harder side I pointed out Korn, Papa Roach, Linkin Park. He anted up Nine Inch Nails, to which I raised him a Rammstein. That took me back to Skinny Puppy and Bauhaus... whoa.

He suggested a project 'Music in Context' because as strange as it sounds for old black men to be discussing this kind of music, much less listening to it, is because we have our reasons. The reasons oftimes, as well as the associations, are more interesting than the collection of songs. I suggested a group blog, he nodded. If we get Dutz and Deet involved, it would be the bomb, because we always have things to say about music. God knows we can't talk politics for long.

We shall see.

Posted by mbowen at June 7, 2005 06:28 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Thanks for the shout out. I enjoyed checking out your blog.

Posted by: Jervey Tervalon at June 13, 2005 02:16 PM