weapons of mass creation

I’m honestly delighted (no sarcasm intended) to have received three responses to the first couple of posts. Given the sheer number of blogs and ‘regular’ web sites, I wasn’t expecting any response for months, frankly. Responding to the first post I received from Felix, I agree with quite a lot of what you have to say. Yeah, Moby’s early rave tracks were great, and his ascendance into ‘rock star’ fame was perhaps nearly inevitable. But I don’t think the “tables have turned” despite wealthy hip-moguls (P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, etc.). Eric Clapton is, admittedly, not the worst offender in the contemporary music world, but the question remains: What drives the long-running fascination with Black music on the part of white ‘kids’.

What I’m trying to comprehend is the fear/fantasy, love/hate relationships between white people and certain kinds of Black music. Sure, the majority of hip-hop aficianados, at least in the US, are white. But I feel that this has a lot to do, historically, with a notion that Black transgression and/or aggressivity contains a special appeal for those who can’t express those same desires. The irony is that many Black hip-hop artists may well be middle-class folks whose ‘transgression’ is actually a living-out of the same fantasy/desire. I won’t prattle on for days about this, but I feel that though certain things have changed, most have not. As James Brown once remarked, “Racism is like Henry Ford’s cars, there’s a new model every year.”.

It’s Tuesday, oh wait, Wednesday, so why not list a few records that have been rotating in my apartment recently.

V/A-Trojan Sixties Box Set 3CD set: Since being acquired by the Sanctuary label, Trojan has released more box sets than you’ve had hot dinners, and this is more than a little frustrating. Nevertheless, I don’t think there have been any overlaps-a testament to the sheer number of singles made in Kingston in any given week since the mid 1960s. This Sixties collection broke me down like a shotgun. Not a dry eye in the house, with lovers & roots covers of “The Mighty Quinn”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” by artists such as Ken Boothe, Noel Brown, Pat Kelly, The Paragons and a lot more. I’ll never know why Jamaican vocalists covered ‘60s and ‘70s ‘AM Gold’ songs as well as Motown and Stax standards, but the genius of Caribbean technology (to borrow a phrase from Mad Professor) allows Hopeton Lewis, Henry Buckley, & Dienne with the Gaylettes to perform “The Mighty Quinn” and transform it into the most danceable song about love and its ruination I’ve heard.

V/A-Lif Up Yuh Leg An Trample LP (Honest Jon’s): I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty ignorant about soca and other Trinidadian music, but
this collection of ‘new school’ soca from Port of Spain makes Lord Kitchener sound like Leo Sayer, winfluences from rave-era jungle, dancehall, and even early Detroit electronics. Laventille Rhythm Section, Dawg E Slaughter (not the kind of name one tends to associate with soca), and Maximus Dan fire lightning bolts from the tips of their fingers. And yet, the music here is, unmistakably, soca. Kudos to the Honest Jon’s folks for making available this startling collection. It’s existence demonstrates, once again, that in an age of global capital-which keeps the Caribbean in poverty-musical influences from throughout the African diaspora still evolve, change, turn inside out, in effect retaining their specific, local character while absorbing a tremendous range of influences that might, at first, seem completely incompatible.

The Marxmen-Here Today, Gone Tomorrow 12” (Traffic)
Without question, this M.O.P. ‘side project’, is the most painful, expertly arranged, disturbing, elephantine hip-hop single I’ve heard since The Skinny Boys’ “Rip The Cut”. The sound of the gun chamber reloading is the center of the dry, hyper-minimalist percussion. The drum patterns are almost unnecessary, and Lil’ Flame’s rhymes express an outrage that is less about gangsta braggadocio than a profound sense of loss & sorrow. This skeletal track is punctuated by the mournful vocal sample, after which the single is named. (I think its either the Ohio Players or Mandrill, but I welcome corrections or ‘identifications’ because the male singer’s voice is spine-tingling). Three quarters of the way through the track is, literally, a moment of silence. Everything drops out. This Marxmen single (taken from the recent album ‘M.O.P. Presents Marxmen Cinema’) might well be discredited as just another instance of ultra-violent, nihilistic gangstsa music, but this is a towering achievement.

Geoff Reacher & p7, I’m going to write something fairly lengthy about screwed & chopped music in the next couple of days. It occupies an odd position right now inasmuch as a lot of people are aware of it, yet it still suffers from terrible distribution in the US, let alone the rest world! And that has got to change. Be back soon.


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