I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

quick “blog post” for individuals of the hip hop persuasion

tn_icecubeOkay, let’s say that hypothetically you went to the Paramount Theater in Seattle last night for the Ice Cube/Snoop Dogg “How The West Was One” tour, and were about ready to jump off a bridge after Ice Cube’s set. And we’ll assume that the reasons for this severe disappointment have to do with Mr. Cube not performing a single song from his classic solo albums ‘Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’ and ‘Death Certificate’, and only two obvious ones from ‘The Predator.’ This after playing a bunch of bullshit songs from his most recent album and then declaring “okay, that’s the new shit, now we’re gonna play the old shit.” To make matters worse he played a Westside Connection song, then said “But there was another group I was in…” and after a big build up performed… a song about N.W.A. Nothing by them.

I can’t imagine who this would be who would be in this hypothetical situation, but I have a remedy for him or her and it’s called waxpoetics #41, May/June 2010, The Hip-Hop Issue.

waxpoetics41I picked this up a little while ago but didn’t get a chance to read any of it until this morning. There’s a bunch of articles in it that look promising, including an interview with Ice-T about the early days (think Breakin’) and a profile of DXT, the DJ who did the scratches for Herbie Hancock’s “Rock-It.” But the important one today is the Ice Cube article, which focuses entirely on his first (and in my opinion best) album Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.

I won’t give it all away, but if you’re interested in that album it’s great background on how this L.A. gangster rapper quit the hottest rap group around, went to New York and recorded his first solo record with the greatest production crew of all time, the Bomb Squad. It’s just full of little details like how Chuck D actually tried to convince him to stay in NWA, why there’s such a shift between ignorant gangster lyrics and attempts to be more conscious (he wrote half of the songs for Eazy E!), that they had a problem with voices in the skits sounding too obviously not-from-L.A., why Mr. Rogers got $20,000 from the album. It’s good shit and at the end of the article you learn that there’s gonna be even more when the article is expanded in the book Check The Technique Vol. 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies.

more info on waxpoetics 41

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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71 Responses to “quick “blog post” for individuals of the hip hop persuasion”

  1. How’d Snoop do?

  2. I saw Cube play a set in an large lecture room at USC when I was in 11th grade. Lupe Fiasco and the great Saul Williams were also there. It was a Black History Month event tied to a larger series of lectures about race and identity. Needless to say Saul KILLED it with his spoken word, but I was equally impressed by Cube. He did about 8 songs, all of which were old school. I remember the bubbling immanence of Today Was a Good Day vividly. Plus, it was doubly cool because USC is like 3 blocks from Watts so it felt authentic. Also, I bullshitted my way into tickets and I got to ditch school early and bring along a really cute girl…it really was a good day.

    Sorry yours was less so. Thanks for reminding me to grab Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.

  3. This brings up a timeless question: Are music stars required to play their goldie oldies, biggest hits? I mean guys like Bob Dylan* and Neil Young are infamous for refusing to play some of their most known songs, which on one hand you can’t blame someone for not doing a tune they particularly don’t want to. Yet you paid to see that person/act do alot of their popular songs.

    Another example, Beastie Boys haven’t performed their biggest, maybe most identifiable hit “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” since the LICENSE TO ILL tour in 1987 because they hated morons taking that song seriously, which was meant as a satire fuck you at such folks. Also Rick Rubin re-mixed it behind their backs apparently. Of course they got other kickass hits to play off so I doubt its missed all that much.

    But back to Ice Cube, I like how he absolutely glossed over his break-up with NWA in that 30:30 doc he directed for ESPN about the L.A. Raiders/NWA connection. No hint once why. Then again, that whole break-up is so screwy. Which member was it that (allegedly) escaped his contract with that label by holding another NWA member at gunpoint with the help of Suge Knight?

    NWA’s demise is absolutely sad really. One classic album, some others that I can’t really say they are “real” records since they all didn’t feature that core awesome line-up which changed not just rap from east coast to West, but effectively the moment when hip-hop kicked Rock’s ass out of the throne of American pop music relevance. And got a spiffy nice threatening letter from the FBI. They could have been the rap Beatles, instead they became the rap Sex Pistols.

    *=Some years back, had a friend go to a Dylan concert, and he performed “London Calling.” I…I can’t imagine that, can you?

  4. Dylan is, on and off, a great writer, but I’ve never thought he was much of a performer. Every video I’ve ever seen he looks bored out of his mind. It’s cool to know he digs on the Clash, but he’s way down on the list of folks I’d want to see cover them.

  5. I’m not particularly familiar with Bob Dylan’s live performance abilities, but (surprisingly) his edition of MTV UNPLUGGED is really good. What’s cool is how he took a number of his classic songs and reworked them for an multipiece acoustic band; the songs all have a wildly different tone, and he makes some major changes to the melodies and vocal performances.

    He’s obviously not a good singer in the technical sense, but I admire the way he wields his unwieldy as an instrument of emotion more than of melody. His voice doesn’t sound nice in the usual sense on that album, but the performance is noteworthy, really imbuing the songs with a lot of feeling and adding in a lot of offbeat inflection and the such.

    I’ve noticed that’s true of a lot of my favorite musicians: they aren’t technically good singers, but they figured out how to write for their own voices and perform accordingly.

  6. Vern, what are your thoughts on Run DMC?

  7. I still say Death Certificate is Cube’s best album. AMW is a Bomb Squad album starring Ice Cube, but DC is Cube all the way through. It doesn’t really get the credit it deserves for helping to define the early 90s West Coast sound.

  8. Dan Prestwich – Rappers generally never get credit for vocal skills because people don’t for one reason or another don’t automatically think rapping is “singing.” I would consider, for example, Eminem to be a terrificly talented vocalist who deploys subtle changes in his tongue to make whatever thematic/theatrical points he wants to make in his songs. Like all good singers.

    Mr. S – You know, a hip-hop grop/artist needs to cover “Magnificent Seven.” Whether it may or may not have been as good as the 1980-era rap going around in NYC at the time it was inspired by, its one of those covers that absolutely could work. And I would say the same for any rock act with “Somebody Got Murdered,” a song that should have been a single which The Clash fucked up by instead issuing “Hitsville UK.” But maybe its for the best, since god knows we would have a goddamn Green Day do it, and instead of putting more heat and anger into it, they’ll pussy-whip it. Shit look what they did to “I Fought the Law.” Clash did an awesome cover done with anti-authority dedication, and Green Day did a whiney cover as if your parents just made you clean your room or something.

  9. WOW! Cube sucked huh? Good to know, I was gearing up to see him and Snoop in SD. I guess I can just seem them both in hot as hell San Berdoo instead. I was at the Rock The Bells show last year and Ice Cube absolutely brought it old school. He ran through not only HIS old shit but through a couple of NWA songs too; my friends and family witnessed me losing my mind that night.
    @RRA London Calling? WTF? I can imagine what is sounds like and none of it sounds good in my head.

  10. RRA,

    No doubt. Really, I think the reason a surprising number of rappers have turned out to be talented actors is because of the nature of their vocal performance, which involves a lot more nuance of emotion and inflection than normal singing typically requires. And since rap lyrics are usually more based around storytelling than, say, abstract emotion or metaphor or whatever, and they often place themselves in the context of those stories, there’s really a heavy element of acting embedded in their art.

  11. I’m fine with rappers “getting their grown man on,” but ever since Cube transitioned to family comedies and writing blogs, etc., I just can’t take him seriously as a gangsta. Half of the gangster rappers probably never were real gangstas (e.g., Dr. Dre), and then there are the ones who actually became gangsters after they had already established themselves as celebrities (2pac went to a special performing arts school). Whether Cube ever was or wasn’t a genuine gangsta, it’s almost like he’s insulting your intelligence by trying to have it both ways: 40-year old guy who does family comedies AND O.G. It’s like that scowl of his never meant anything. Plus, have you seen his new video “I rep that West.” go find that on youtube and tell me that 20 year-old Ice Cube wouldn’t have beat this chump up for making a video like that w/ an L.A. Lakers mariachi hat on.

    I’m 20 year-old Black Dynamite!!!

  12. Good point RRA. I would also say many of them are good actors because much like professional wrestlers many MC’s and rappers have a public persona that is an exaggerated versions of who they really are. They are acting all they time.

    It is to bad that Cube did such a bad show. I saw him do a huge free show here in Austin at Auditorium Shores during SXSW a few years ago and it was great. It really was like a greatest hits set.

  13. Jareth Cutestory

    July 15th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    RRA: The Stray Cats set the template for lame versions of “I Fought the Law” back when the Green Day guys were still in diapers.

    Best hip hop show I ever saw was The Roots just after THINGS FALL APART came out. Close second was the NATION OF MILLIONS tour, which would have benefitted from a better sound system.

    Weirdest Dylan cover version I ever heard was “Nowhere Man.”

  14. I’m not a hip hop guy but Dylan really has been putting on bad performances lately, sadly

  15. >I would also say many of them are good actors because much like professional wrestlers many MC’s and rappers have a public persona that is an exaggerated versions of who they really are. They are acting all they time.>

    The difference is that we all know that wrestling is fake, while many rappers seem to take themselves quite seriously, and many of them do in fact get shot (2pac, Biggie, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre), shoot people (2pac again), pistol whip (Eminem), and go to jail (50, 2pac, T.I., Lil Wayne). If you truly are a gangster and you have actually come from that life, then you can rap about that, though I think it would be better not to glorify it. And if you make the decision to sell out and make movies like “Are We There Yet?,” then that is fine, but then don’t try to dip your foot back into gangsta land unless it’s in another movie, where we all know you’re acting.

    What I actually respect about Eminem is that, despite going through brief gangsta wannabe quasi-phase when he first signed 50 cent, he has mostly been willing to admit: I’m not a gangsta, I wasn’t cool growing up, I got beat up a lot, I had a drug problem and it wasn’t cool, I am friends with Elton John, and I will sample rock songs, use guitars, sing off-key, admit that I’m a premature ejaculator, and generally say whatever is on my mind, even if I look like a dork. Plus, when he does say stuff about killing people it’s almost always so ridiculously cartoonish that he leaves zero doubt that it’s just wordplay or storytelling.

    In contrast, many of these rappers blur the lines and make death threats at each other and then actually do end up getting shot and/or going to jail. Then there are the ones like Cube who posture the same way and then make feel-good football comedies with Fred Durst.

    Not to mention a lot of other cool things Ice Cube has done when he’s not making family comedies, such as implying that Reginald Denny getting beat up with a brick was okay (it’s in the subtext of “Wicked” and “Natural Born Killaz”).

  16. Up in Smoke tour, like almost 10 years ago, was the only really great rap concert event I can recall.  I’ve seen Jay-Z a few times, and he always sounds like garbage live.  Others, too.  In my experience, without studio polish, most rappers just don’t sound good, simple as that.  Their voices are generally not fun to listen to.  

    It’s unfortunate, too, because I love bumping old NWA and all kinds of Snoop in any circumstances, but most rappers’ deliveries & voices are wack when they are onstage for thousands of fans.  

  17. I don’t like hip hop. Except for tupac! And he’s dead. :(

  18. Mickey Avalon is incredibly, unbelievably magnetic on stage. It’s bizarre, but his flow is smoother live, and his aura has a fantastic grimy luminescence.

    Saul Williams will make your soul ache. His hip-hop shows are good, but his spoken word is out and out life changing.

    Mike Patton. I saw him play with Peeping Tom twice (once at a festival show in downtown LA and once opening for Gnarls Barkley, who sucked) and though I would never listen to that album, the live show was exhilarating. Also, his score for Crank 2 was one of my favorite albums of 2009.

    Ice Cube, obviously.

    Blackalicious. Man, Gift of Gab is too cool. He’s every bit as dynamic and spitfire live. He didn’t drop a single syllable.

    Do Girl Talk or Basment Jaxx count? If so; them too.

  19. To be fair, it wasn’t that Ice Cube sucked as a performer, I just thought his choices of songs sucked. Since most of the people there were probly babies and non-existent when Straight Outta Compton came out maybe he was aiming it at them, maybe they like his post-being-a-great-MC period, I don’t know. I was just disappointed that the guy has 4 certified classic albums under his belt and only chose to do 2 songs off the most recent of those, and otherwise did his not-as-good-shit.

    Snoop took the opposite approach though, starting with a dramatic entrance to “Murder Was the Case” and plowing through maybe 5 of his classics before he got into the more recent shit like “Sexual Eruption.” And still ending with “What’s My Name” or whatever his song based on “Atomic Dog” is called. I agree that some rappers sound bad live, but Snoop’s voice sounds great, and he had a bassist and drummer who worked well with the DJ.

  20. Skani,

    Many MC’s and rappers come from an environment of poverty and crime, and if they where not doing dirt themselves, they had friends or family members who did. Especially if they grew up in the Regan years during the crack epidemic. However, not everyone that came from that environment is a thug or drug dealer, and there is a difference between rapping about what you saw in the environment that you grew up in and pretending that you are Scarface. Most rappers are not the outlaws they pretend to be, but are encouraged to create a false and exaggerated persona to help sell records because of the success of artists like NWA, The Ghetto Boys, 2 Pac, and Biggie. Real artistry comes from a place of truth. Most of these so-called gangster rappers are phony industry manufactured carbon copies of artists that did not live what they rhyme about. Hip-hop has been ruined by the music industry. The genre peaked in the first half of the 90’s but has been on the decline since. They corrupted the game and made it about record sales instead of skills. Just like major movie studios the labels do not care about art, they care about making money. They manufacture products, and when they see an artist make money, they want to create a product that resembles that artist so that they can make money as well. That is why hip-hop has been creatively stuck in the rut of “gangster rap” for so long. Not because it is real, but because it has proven to sell. The danger in selling a false truth is that unknowing people buy into it and take it as reality. It glamorizes a false and exaggerated criminal culture to black youth and perpetuates stereotypes to a predominantly white consumer base.

  21. Reading this makes me really glad I saw Cube cover “Fuck tha Police” in his set some 12 odd years ago (Limp Bizkit was his semi-known opening act. Weird). This was before all the kids movies so he was still Doughboy to me.

    Just out of curiosity Vern, you obviously love old school, but what new hip hop do you listen to? I imagine you enjoy some Madlib, or Mr. Lif.

  22. Mouth,

    I saw the Up In Smoke Tour as well back in the day and it was very good. I have to disagree with you about Jay-Z. I have seen him twice but both times he was really good. The first time was when he headlined the Hard Knocks tour with DMX, Red, and Meth, and that was the best show I have ever been to. More recently I saw him on the Blueprint 3 tour with a live band and he was awesome. Maybe you didn’t see him at his best.

  23. Fuck I am such a shitty writer. I need a proof reader.

    Correction:

    “Most of these so-called gangster rappers are phony industry manufactured carbon copies of artists that did not live what they rhyme about.” should read “Most of these so-called gangster rappers are phony industry manufactured carbon copies of artists that DID live what they rhyme about.”

    Sorry

  24. Always good to see you write about Hip Hop Vern. You even read Waxpo? Hah.. Keep up the goodwork.

    http://vimeo.com/13033974 – I’m Bruce Willis

  25. Charles, Vern, etc., I guess I didn’t get the best Jay-Z showings. The whole Sprite Liquid Mix tour stop in Charlotte back in 2002 pissed me off, too. Nappy Roots was a no show and Jigga had like 15 dudes onstage with him doing the whole ‘shout the last word & a half of every other line’ thing.
    I was supposed to see Blackalicious once, and those plans got cancelled, sadly. I’ve just been unlucky with live rap, I guess.

  26. The Clash is the greatest band of all time. I like that Joe Strummer gets brought up every now and then on this site. Maybe Vern will be inspired to watch Westway to the World or The Future is Unwritten soon.

    STRAIGHT OUTTA LOW CASH! CRAZY MOTHERFUCKER NAMED GUSTO!

  27. The Clash is the greatest band of all time. I like that Joe Strummer gets brought up every now and then on this site. Maybe Vern will be inspired to watch Westway to the World or The Future is Unwritten soon.

  28. God dammit I failed the fucking internet and double posted. You can all laugh at me now.

  29. Mac – I must admit I have a prefered fondness for that whole Golden Age of hip-Hop in the 1980s, when this was new dark territory to trailblaze, and it was rather fun seeing all these different groups of different backgrounds and locations kicking ass. Run DMC, NWA, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa, all that. Some here and there subsequently I’ve enjoyed like Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac/Notorious B.I.G., Wu Tang Clan, Snoop, so on.

    But for the most part, the rest of contemporary rap is so dull. Now I know how it must have felt for a rock fanatic to have to suffer through 1970s rock with dull bullshit like the Eagles and Foreigner and Peter Frampton at top of the charts.

    Charles – I would consider Eminem to be the Johnny Cash of rap. Both guys grew up in harsh white poverty (rural Great Depression Arkansas, Reaganomics urban Detroit) which gave them a personal reflective dimension of anguish, anger, self-hatred which people of different ethnicities who lived in poverty could relate to.

    Vern – Off-topic, but did you bother with RELAPSE and RECOVERY? What did you think?

    Mouth – Beastie Boys tend to be pretty good in concert. Of course they can also play their instruments (they started out as a punk rock act) so I suppose that helps them on stage. I remember that set they did for their concert movie AWESOME I FUCKING SHOT THAT! where in the middle of the show, they put away the rapping and rocking, and did several instrumental jazz-influenced tunes. The audience didn’t boo, but fuck they didn’t know what the hell to think. Which I thought was kinda….awesome.

    dieselboy – or RUDE BOY.

  30. It’s a shame that the guy who made a chubby chap (I myself am of the slightly bigger boned persuasion) seem ALMOST credible as tuff guy in XXX2, was good in Trespass, excellent in Boyz In The Hood, etc. and has such a once-illustrious rapping backcatalogue seems more inclined to do crappy family comedies and bland club-friendly rapnowadays…

    On a seperate issue I have always been fascinated by his eyebrows; does anyone else find them quite cartoonish – almost like they were designed by Disney to make him look villainous ?

  31. Jareth Cutestory

    July 16th, 2010 at 6:48 am

    dieselboy: The Clash were awesome, but they were one of the worst live acts I’ve ever seen. It was at the end of the COMBAT ROCK tour, so maybe they had just stopped trying at that point. I saw Strummer solo a few times and he was much better.

  32. Jareth – Strange because I got that LIVE FROM SHEA STADIUM, and yeah only 35 something minutes, but it good. Of course that live recording didn’t take into effect the acoustic sound translation from stage to an arena/stadium as spectators would have had to sit through. It might just be that The Clash just weren’t a stadium band, and well those guys were at each other’s throats by then anyway, especially after the bitter fight in post-production over COMBAT ROCK.

    Did you see them when they were opening for The Who?

    I’ll mention another legendary group that were shit live: The Beatles.

    Tight set, great chemistry, but outside of clubs and TV sets, the bigger the avenues the worst they got. You could argue the technology wasn’t catching up to them, or that the female fans would have given a verbal orgasm regardless of performance quality thus they didn’t try as hard.

    Getting the shit beaten out of ya by the Filipino secret police didn’t help either.

  33. RRA: Hey now, let’s not say anything we might regret. My very first tape was Foreigner’s Greatest Hits (I’m not really that old—My mom gave it to me for my seventh birthday) and I feel that they’ve aged pretty well, their mid-eighties balladry notwithstanding. Granted, I’m of the persuasion that feels that rock never should have “matured” past the “I like fucking and am awesome” stage, but you at least have to admit that “Cold As Ice” is a classic. Hell, M.O.P. even sampled it.

  34. RRA,

    Your comparison is a good one.

    M.O.P. killed it on that “Cold As Ice” sample.

  35. I was surprised that Ice Cube didn’t come up with something else to say for “it’s ironic, the Lakers beat the Supersonics.” Not just because he was in Seattle but because it’s still a sore spot for some people that the team left, and he’s smart enough to anticipate that. But he just said the line and I didn’t even notice a smile or reaction when half the crowd booed.

  36. Wow, he went with that line? Yea, you MAY want to plan ahead….’It’s ironic, the Clay Bennet stole the Supersonics’. I’m not a rapper, that’s not very good, but you get it.

    ‘It’s ironic, the Seattle Supersonics are now the Oklahoma City Thunder I don’t approve, WHO’S WITH MEEEEEEE’

    And the crowd would go nuts! I really should consider BECOMING a rapper.

  37. Oh Vern, seriously….I rarely post here, I should more often cause I always read the site, but I just got put on to Roc Marciano’s first solo album that came out this year, ‘Marcberg’….it’s ALL early 90’s New York shit. I mean, it SOUNDS like it is. It’s absolutely incredible. Easily the best album of the year, maybe the past five years. Roc Marciano has been around for a while but never dropped an album of his own. This is his first and it’s amazing. I have no idea how it was made this year. Clearly it was made in 1992 and he just saved it till now.

    Anyway, I figured I’d tell you about because I was not aware how into hiphop you are. I’m telling you, do yourself a favor and grab it.

  38. Mr. Majestyk – Duly noted, thanks for the advice.

    Fuck Foreigner.

    Besides, Beastie Boys sampled Eagles’ “Her Shoes” for their kickass “High Plains Drifter” on their legendary PAUL’S BOUTIQUE album. Doesn’t mean Eagles suddenly mean worth a shit of salt in my palm.

    Then again, of all those super popular 1970s rock arena acts, the only one that honestly I can sincerely say that I absolutely respect artistically is Queen.

  39. Also, just saw INCEPTION. Will wait for further shit to add until Vern reviews it.

    I’ll just say: Home run.

  40. Seeing it tonight, RRA. Pistols at dawn?

  41. Is that a good or bad thing?

    I tell ya, INCEPTION has the most creative “ticking bomb” motiff I’ve seen in a very long time.

  42. Like I said before, I’m looking forward to it. You’d be proud of me. There were plenty of retarded movies I passed on this summer, but I’m shelling out for this one because it looks legitimately “good.” I’m either evolving or losing my joie de vivre, I can’t tell.

  43. That or you figure at the worst, you got SALT next week.

  44. Dan — from waaaaay back there… I wasn’t hating on Dylan because of his voice. Most of my favorite artists have unusual voices — folks like Neil Young, Curt Kirkwood, Joe Strummer. I’ll take a voice with character any day over someone who sounds pretty. But I’m a punk rocker, man… you gotta put some heat and passion into your live shows if you’re gonna win me over, and Dylan always just looks bored and slightly smug. I do like his unplugged performance, as you mention, but its more fun to listen to than watch. I think of him as more of a songwriter than a performer.

    RRA– a cover of Magnificent Seven… man. That would be weird. I have no idea who could pull it off. It would have to be someone who could rework it musically, I guess, since its not exactly a rap in the way we imagine a rap today. I can’t imagine who out there today could really do it justice. Suggestions? As for Somebody got Murdered… fucking fantastic track. My band covers a few Clash songs but you’re right, we’ve got to learn that one too. One thing I don’t want though is for these fucking hipster Indie bands to get their hands on it and turn it into some safe, precious little love-fest. Although to be fair I actually kind of love Lily Allen and Mick Jones’ cover of “Straight to Hell” (but we all know they’re hardcore. I just don’t want to hear Spoon or something try and pull that shit out).

  45. Vern, as a diehard Sonic fan who is still in morning I am actually glad Cube left the line in. The Sonics live on!

  46. It’s one of those stream of consciousness rants.

    Charles, I think you make some good points. Here’s a news flash: NWA was a phony, manufactured thing. They talked a ton about killing and being bad asses and generally demeaning women. I would like to see a stuttering John type walk up to half of these guys and say, “Mr. Ice Cube, have you ever actually killed anyone?” No, he hasn’t. Dr. Dre, were you in fact a Bee Gees disco suit wearing member of the World Class Wreckin Cru before you became a hard ass gangster? Yes, he was. Eazy E, are you a street tough? No, you are 5’3″ inch shrewd businessman. Are you really out to show whitey who’s boss, or are you managed by an old white guy who is pimping you out? The latter. My point is that these guys didn’t come out saying, “We are just telling stories of the street, and the gangster stuff is just a character each of us plays.” No, they postured very aggressively in interviews in disses at other rappers, in some of their off stage antics to try to create a false persona and market it to white America. As time has gone on, Dr. Dre and others have been a bit more candid in owning up to this, though it is still a mystery to me how he can play this fictional gangster role…how fake gangstas can co-exist with real ones in this crazy carnival of hip hop. What I respect about Eminem is that he is very transparent that he is a storyteller, where as not all other rappers are.

    All that said, I’m a hip hop fan, but I am deeply ambivalent about hip hop artists in general. And hip hop stars are role models, whether they want to be or not. Contrary to what Charles Barkley once implied, you can’t choose to be a public figure and but simply declare yourself a role model. And if you watch fashion or cars or lingo (big word of the day), you cannot deny that hip hop has had and does have a pervasive impact on culture. And I’m not saying that everyone who listens to NWA or Eminem is going to go off and start killing people, but I think a more subtle influence is clearly there. As someone who grew up to the Chronic, I also reject the notion that “this is the same thing that parents said about the Beatles in the 1960s.” I don’t think anything the Beatles ever said or did is even remotely on the same plane of antisocialism as “Hit Em Up,” particularly in light of the fact that both the singer and the subject ended up dead less than 2 years later. That’s what happens when you go to far with the posturing and cross the line and tick off some real gang banger types. Nevertheless, I find hip hop to be the most viscerally appealing form of music out there, and that just seems to be in my DNA. Hence, the ambivalence.

    As for Cube, I am perfectly fine with hip hoppers growing old, provided they do it gracefully. Ice Cube is just sad, and Snoop Dogg has evolved into a clown. Still talented, but just a big drug addled clown, and if you have followed any of his reality TV exploits or just general life, you’ve got a guy pitching products with Lee Iacocoa (sp?) who meanwhile celebrates that fact that he dabbled in working as a pimp 10 years after he had made it as a successful rapper. Sadly, I think Bill O’Reilly actually has a point. We give the hip hop community a free pass. I’m not talking about true, consciousness-raising hip hop (e.g., Public Enemy), I’m talking about people celebrating drug dealing, promiscuity, materialism, gangsterism, and other bullshit. People who are now multi-millionaires and have an opportunity to do something more positive. Some of them actually try to do that, and good for them. By all means, speak about realities of the hood, draw attention to issues, challenge the status quo. And if you truly have been a gangster, tell stories about it to educate us. But don’t glorify it, unless you have the balls to publicly and clearly say, “This is a work of fiction, just like Scarface. Contrary to the fictional anti-hero character I play on these records, I don’t really think it’s cool to shoot people or sell drugs, unless you absolutely have to do that to survive. Please regard this guy Ice Cube that I play as a character. In real life, I have a wife, my kids go to private school, and we live in the suburbs.” We all know this is true, but just man up and admit for the knuckleheads who confuse your songs with some machismo outlaw ideal to which they should be aspiring.

  47. skani,

    NWA where not real gangsters, and they were inspired by Ice T’s “reality” rap of the time, but they were the ghetto CNN. They were drawing attention to the grim conditions in their environment and the sense of hopelessness and anger many young men from their community felt. Also since Cube wrote the bulk of their lyrics in the early days many of their songs had real social commentary in them. They where pioneers and their art came from a place of truth. Most so called gangster rappers now just spew ignorance, hate, and materialism without any social commentary or insight.

    I do think you are being a little hard on Snoop. I think the reason Snoop is so successful and such a cross over cultural icon is because his public persona is who he really is when the cameras are not around. He is a laid back pot head who does not take himself to seriously. I bet Snoop would be super fun to hang out with.

  48. I interviewed Ice-T and Snoop, and they both come off exactly as you would guess from their personae. Ice-T is pragmatic, honest, and quick-witted, and Snoop is laid-back, genial, and ingratiating. They’d make a great odd couple.

  49. Mr. S-I think Vampire Weekend could do an interesting take on Magnificent Seven. They have enough punk rock and world music influences to take the song and re-work it into something really unique.

    I don’t say that without having a deep understanding of their music either. I have the London Calling album cover(Joe smashing a guitar) tattoo’d on my right forearm.Even though it’s not my personal favorite album of theirs the image perfectly symbolizes punk rock music to me.I have felt a rather unique connection to Joe Strummer and The Clash since I first heard his ragged voice. His music and personality just resonate with me in a way that’s un-explainable. It never ceases to amaze me how many people ask me “Who’s The Clash?” when they see my tat. I can’t help but feel sorry for their ignorance.

    Anyway here’s a funny hip-hop related joke to keep this relevant.

    Whats black and rhymes with Snoop?

    Dr. Dre

  50. Much as I am turned off by their rich-kid-playing-with-world-culture demeanor, I have to admit that a Vampire Weekend cover of Magnificent Seven would definitely be worth a listen. Excellent call. I’d also have accepted a gothic-roots-punk cover by Strawfoot (slower and mournful, with the fiddle handling the bass hook).

    Completely with you on the Clash. Have you seen Julian Schabel’s Strummer doc, THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN? It’s definitely worth a look for any Clash fan.

    PS:Actually that’s Paul Simonon smashing his bass on the cover of London Calling. Hope the tatoo guy didnt get too detailed on the face!

  51. dieselboy – There were alot of great punk acts from that era like your sex Pistols and Ramones (the other stars I suppose), and if one wants to you could include proto-punk like the Stooges, but yeah I must admit The Clash are the ones who hold something endearing for me for two reasons:

    (1) But I believe it was Mr. Subtlety who said it best: They were one of the few major pop music acts who were cavalier, daring fuck the consequences in their exploration of the musical canvas. Like the Beatles, except more wreckless and probably not as successful in their trials. They weren’t the first punk act, and in fact they got together to cash in on the gold mine the Pistols struck. But from there they got openly intrigued by country, rockabilly, hip-hop, reggae, gospel, latin, dubbing, funk, disco, dance hall ballads, you name it. People called them sell-outs with SANDINISTA!, I call them visionaries who made the mistake of being just a tad too far ahead of the time curve. You can even blame them for helping ushering in New Wave. They’re sorry.

    The fact that SANDINISTA! is sorta obscure even with Clash fans is quite fucking sad. Its the Punk White Album, but without pretentious avant garde bullshit like “Revolution #9.” Just several dubbings and a kids cover of “Career Opportunities” which may or may not annoy you.

    (2) Image is everything, but those guys seemed rather genuinely down to Earth, at least among rock stars. You might call it “punk,” I think its slightly more than that label. Allowing audiences to enter backstage after the show, sometimes giving some folks money for taxi if they’re broke, always reasonable discounts on merchandise, LONDON CALLING two LPs sold for one, SANDINISTA! 3 LPs sold at a very generous, royalties-destroying price, etc.

    And of course I would consider one of the greatest stories in rock n rolldom, the Bonds Casino saga in New York City. Overbooked in 1980 by a shamelessly greedy mother fucking promoter, The Clash honored every single bought ticket by performing several shows. All 19 of them.

    Too bad they had to go all rock star and break up over some silly shit like ego and creative control. Would have been fascinating to see how they would have gone forward through the 1980s since they went kaput just after scoring their first Top 10 hit in America, and COMBAT ROCK album was a best-seller. Would they have continued their creative crusade or would they have hold themselves back in the pursuit of that elusive #1*?

    *=Sorry Marxists, but we can thank Levi Jeans for being responsible for their first belated #1.

  52. actually I knew that was Paul just a momentary lapse in intelligent thought. It’s actually all black as well because Paul was covered in shadow in the picture. And yeah The Future is Unwritten is one of my all time favorite documentaries along with Man on Wire and No End in Sight. It gets a little dusty in the room when it gets to the scene of his friends reminiscing about Joe around the fire. Julians Sex Pistols doc The Filth and the Fury is also pretty insightful, although I’m nowhere near a big a Pistols fan. They just didn’t have the time to grow like The Clash. Who knows what else they had in them. Even though they really only released one album,what a fucking game-changer.

  53. skani – We go through those stages, but you know you just get through them. In the end, what does matter, the people or the music? Classic example: John Lennon wrote “Imagine,” but the fucker lived in a million-dollar penthouse and was quite a condescending asshole to the very fans who afforded the self-professed “phoney radical” his comfortable live style.

    You could get over that and remember the guy also did “In My Life,” or you could go all Mark David Chapman. which aint cool in my book. also it doesn’t help that I didn’t care for CATCHER IN THE RYE. Why do crazy assassins like that novel?

    And I previously mentioned The Clash….hell JOE STRUMMER came from a upper-middle class British family. His dad was a British diplomat, and Joe went to those infamous posh boarding schools. The rather damn good documentary FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN is rather honest about that particular guy’s background, his good virtues and his dickish ways from intentionally ignoring his old hippie squatting friends once he became a rock star or not exactly being there for his kids.

    I’m reminded when Strummer died, and yeah the Grammys are complete bullshit I was rather touched by their special tribute to him. Guys like Springsteen and Elvis Costello and others taking the time and effort to perform “London Calling”, they necessarily didn’t do it for Joe’s flawed humanity, but for his wonderful contribution to music. I wonder if Mick Jones will get such a thing too when he goes out.

    Vern I think went off on a triffle about James Brown and Michael Jackson, right?

    Charles- I think Ice-T is seriously a pretty good actor. Him and Snipes are what make NEW JACK CITY work. Snoop is able to become a mainstream cross-over success because alot of people grew up on GIN & JUICE and his prime creative days. What once was risque and dangerous, but then again so were the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath at one point too long ago. Also Snoop keeps doing his random appearances in movies. My favorite though might be the otherwise forgettable MALIBU’S MOST WANTED. What smoker thought up Snoop to voice Jiminy Cricket-esque rap rat?

    Also I must admit, I appreciated Snoop making fun of his role in the infamous SOUL PLANE by appearing on BOONDOCKS. The guy is a rich-ass pot heat now selling his brand-name hotdogs (kids, who want a snoop in their mouth?!?) but yeah he is likeable.

  54. RRA- I often wonder “what if” when it comes to them as well. In Westway to the World it’s pretty clear that both Mick and Joe definitely had some major regrets when it came to the demise of The Clash. Topper as well. I don’t think they asked Paul. Topper thinks, and is likely right, that his heroin addiction was the beginning of the end. Kicking him out of the band removed one of the key ingredients that had made the Clash so special. Alot of the stuff on Sandista and Combat Rock was shit Topper came up with on his own, playing all the instruments. Rock the Casbah being one of his.

    But ya gotta wonder if Mick would have gone off his own way and done the Big Audi Dynamite stuff or kept coming up with some of the greatest riffs ever heard with Joe. I can’t really see Joe getting down with that Big Audio sound too much,but I could be wrong. Joe had layers like that. He even went through a hippy phase.(yuck).

    In any case I love the stuff Joe made with The Mescalleros. I seriously think Johnny Appleseed is one of the greatest songs ever written and Joe’s voice really shines on that track.

    RIP Joe

  55. RRA,

    I agree with you about Ice-T, and NEW JACK CITY is one of my favorite movies of all time. I had a bootleg VHS of it that a friend of mine gave me growing up and I wore that thing out from watching it to much. I always liked it more then BOYZ N’ THE HOOD or MENACE II SOCIETY.

    Mr. Majestyk,

    I think you are on to something. Ice-T and Snoop would make for a great buddy cop movie duo. As a side note they were both very funny in the Comedy Central roast of Flavor Flav.

  56. Vern,

    When I saw Cube at the Showbox a couple of years ago, he did change up the line, something to the effect of, “I wish Seattle still had the SuperSonics.” The crowd went apeshit, and I thought it was a cool thing to do. Can’t believe he would go back to the old line. I thought that particular Cube show was decent – he had WC with him, and they did a lot of classic stuff.

  57. Mr Majestyk’s excellence on display:

    “Granted, I’m of the persuasion that feels that rock never should have “matured” past the “I like fucking and am awesome” stage.”

    So true. And I think explains a huge part of the appeal of the more juvenile and crass examples of cinema of the the sort discussed upon this site. Often I feel the last thing I need in life is more exposure to nuanced artistic analyses of the complexities and emotional and moral vagaries of existence. I am well aware that life is complicated and upsetting. I do not need fucking REVOLUTIONARY ROAD or some such to punch me in the face with it.

    So while PREDATORS and KICKASS were far from transcendent (they coulda been, but they weren’t) they’ve sure improved my summer.

    And on the music tip, I don’t even know where my Tool and Flaming Lips CDs are.

    But I sure know where my Foreigner LP is: on the damn turntable.

    Cuz I’m a Dirty White Boy.

    By the by: are all the longest comments on this website about the Clash? Someone less lazy than I should check.

  58. I’m pretty sure Mr. S’s epic dissertations on the Star Wars prequels are still the champs. I didn’t know the internet could fit so many words in it.

  59. Alfonse G. – *sigh* I guess better Foreigner than Eagles. Because man I fucking hate the Eagles.

  60. My earlier rant was just that, and I don’t claim it was totally consistent or that I had any one point to make. The thing with Cube trying to still do I’m a West Coast mean muggin, gangsta…it’s just not credible. It stands in blatant contrast to him doing kiddie movies. If he had stayed in gangsta rap and not done movies, or if he’d only done tough guy movies, that would be one thing. But I think it not only makes his continuing rap career a joke but it undercuts his earlier stuff. Plus, I’m just saying, you gotta watch this video and tell me it’s not a complete travesty. http://videos.onsmash.com/v/rissk4mLJzHpfwVa

  61. NWA:

    All do respect, I think that’s a half-baked bullshit Media Studies 101 interpretation, and you are giving NWA tons more credit than they deserve…reminds me of those English lit classes when the prof would push us to make increasingly overreaching interpretations that I was certain the author would never have endorsed. They were dudes who liked to make music and wanted to make money, and 2 Live Crew had already proved that white suburban kids would pay good money for the forbidden fruit of listening to what was then atypically shocking and offensive music that broke the monotony of suburban or rural white American teenage life. NWA, and especially Eazy E and Jerry Heller, exploited this as a business opportunity. I do grant that NWA did draw some attention to “the ghetto,” but I think the LA Riots did that as well as anything else.

    Also, I’m sure Snoop is an awesome guy to hang out with if you are a college student or a stoner, but if you’re somebody who aspires to be a constructive citizen and good husband and father, I think the lifestyle that he lives and promotes is pretty reprehensible, and his fame is very much about promoting that lifestyle, and it is disturbing to me how mainstream he has gotten and that there is this collective complacency or white guilt or whatever it is that has us saying, yeah, this is cool. Watch Old School, and there’s an interesting subtext. The point of that movie (if there is one), is that there is this common male urge to recapture your autonomy and engage in some debauchery, but ultimately, most of us find a more meaningful life through families and friendships and, you know, accepting that high school and college are short-term phases of life that ultimately give way to mature, constructive citizenship. The irony is that Snoop is like a cooler, blacker version of Old School, only he has never moved on. Plus, like I said, the guy has a reputation for cheating on his wife, being a pimp and a stoner. Although I have heard that he has done some good things in his community by starting a football league and coaching a team or whatever. So, you know, I’ll give him a couple of notches in the good guy ledger.

  62. P.S. Yeah, I know Snoop was in Old School, and that’s part of what I mean. He’s the same age as these guys, and he’s jut as much in denial that he’s aging and pretty much shirking the responsibility that comes with that. But he lacks either the will or the self-awareness to grow up.

  63. skani,

    You can debate the motives of why NWA did what they did, but they does not change the impact they made on our culture. I do find it funny that you would trivialize the cultural significance of NWA, and then talk about a meaningful subtext in OLD SCHOOL.

    You and I will have to agree to disagree about Snoop. Your view of things is a little to black and white for my tastes. Not in a racial sense, but in a “no room for gray area” sense. The world is just not that simple, and I am pretty sure there are plenty of “constructive citizens” that are worse parents then Snoop. I am a good husband and very close to my family and Snoop’s choices in no way threaten that.

  64. I did not intend to trivialize the cultural significance of NWA. Clearly, they along with Ice-T and Geto Boys stand out as pioneers of gangsta rap. And I believe that rap has played a positive role in actually breaking down some racial barriers. But I think it is a mistake to hold them up as civil rights warriors, when I think the movie CB4 is probably a fairly plausible scenario as to who they were before they became gangstas. Their persona is phony, and although their cultural impact is significant, I’m not sure whether it was a net plus. No doubt, Dre and Snoop and Cube have tremendous musical talent, but they haven’t had anything new to say in years. Dre has really never had anything to say, he’s just been playing a role.

    I’m fairly sure there are worse parents than Snoop, and you’re not exactly setting the bar very high there. Nor am I now or have I ever implied that Snoop Dogg is the single greatest threat to our culture or is responsible for all of society’s ills (though I am lobbying aggressively for congress to hold special hearings on Snoop Dogg and consider banning curse words in music and requiring that Pat Boone be the official state music). I’m just saying that a lot of these guys are degenerates and hypocrites and we turn a blind eye to that.

    I’m not saying it’s black and white. It’s a mixed bag. I just believe in holding people accountable for their actions, expecting consistency and artistic integrity (plus, actual integrity is a plus–Public Enemy has mostly maintained that), and I do think that these guys are role models for many kids, whether they want to own up to that or not.

    It’s not black and white. I’d like to see some of these guys say something new and grow up, and I’d like to see a little less romanticizing of NWA as if they were some great visionaries as opposed to people who seized on a great gimmick when the time was ripe.

    P.S. Inspectah Deck is the most underrated Wu-Tang member: check out Uncontrolled Substance and the Movement.

  65. Also, I was not holding up Old School as one of the great cultural touchstones of our time (though it was pretty funny). I’m just saying that Snoop Dogg is essentially the hood version of Frank the Tank, only it’s not a phase for this guy. He’s in a perpetual state of adolescence. Plus, like I said, it’s kind of funny that Snoop was actually in that movie.

  66. Skani — I would argue that while Snoop doesn’t necessarily embody the greatest paragon of becoming empowered and enlightened, popular figures necessarily represent extremes which we can be drawn to without necessarily completely becoming. Price embodies total sexualization, Ice Cube embodied antisocial anger, Snoop embodies juvinille irresponsibility. Who knows what these guys are really like, it hardly matters since the only way we’ll ever know them is through their popular representation. But the point is that they all represent extremes of human possibility, and as such are both tremendously bad role models and tremendously helpful for people to use as a means of exploring the extremities of human desire through cultural narrative.

    Think of them like cultural archetypes, no different from Beowulf or Romeo and Juliet or the characters Charles Bronson or Steven Seagal portray. We’re drawn to the intensity of their experience and use it both to sublimate our own extreme desires and to understand both the appeal and the price of such intensity. Strange as it may sound to say about non-fictional “real people,” their only real relevance to us is in the way their cultivated images play into our cultural narrative, and hence they fit snugly into the same tradition of storytelling as the fictional characters I mention above. And as such, part of the point is to evaluate and judge and find worth and flaws. But I think we need to make those evaluations using a sort of cultural identity model, rather than imagining it as a completely internalized constructive identy. Hence, asking whether Mr. Dogg is personally a good person or role model seems to me to be asking the wrong question — not only is it unanswerable, but I believe it mischaracterizes the relationship between Mr. Dogg and the cultural landscape he inhabits. Not that we have to condone what he represents or how he comports himself, but interpreting it in a slightly different context may help explain why Snoop seems to get a pass from people who you might imagine would have a more critical stance.

    Mr M — I’m honored that you would tout my humble contribution to the literature; for what it’s worth, I estimate that for roughly every single page I generate in consideration of the series’ merits, the rest of the internet generates 500,000 pages detailing its failings in exquisite detail. I’m actually seriously considering just writing a full book-length examination of the interesting themes I find, just to get it off my chest and so I can defer any future discussion there. It’s funny, because it’s not like I’m particularly passionate about them or anything — I just think there’s some interesting stuff going on and I get sick of the constant hyperbolic bitching out there, so I guess I feel like it’s de facto my responsibility to try to show people some positive things about the series in a general commitment to excellence.

  67. this is funny, you should watch it

    any movie theater goers worst nightmare…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVKX21YHWJM&feature=player_embedded#!

  68. Maybe you can still get tickets for the 11th Gathering of the Juggalos. I mean, there will be the Juggalette you all know and love, ILL E. GAL, whoever that is, and you’ll be able to buy the BIG MONEY RUSTLAS DVD!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0xewi_Gdc8

  69. Ten Hip Hop Records that represent the essence of this Site

    01 Old Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers (Blaxploitation)
    02 Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (listen to Shakey Dog!)
    03 Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (all the John Woo Skits)
    04 Genius/GZA – Liquid Swords (Shogun Assassin)
    05 Dr. Dre – The Chronic / Soop Dogg – Doggystyle
    06 The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die / – Life After Death
    07 Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (De Palma)
    08 Scarface – Mr. Scarface Is Back
    09 OutKast – Aquemini
    10 Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

  70. …. ehh sorry Snoop!

  71. SurfiNerd – Good to see the Boys getting mentioned there. Is BOUTIQUE truely their best record? I know its the chic answer, and I can’t personally blame anyone for picking it.

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