Archive for July, 2008

KRS-One does not perform tonight at the East River Park amphitheater

July 31, 2008

I must have gotten confused, because I was getting excited about going to the free KRS-One concert today in NYC, but it turns out it was last Thursday and I already missed it. (Argh—I just found out that I missed a Bahamadia show in Brooklyn last week too, which I’m much more upset about. I am clearly not on top of my game!)

I know KRS-One‘s a hip hop legend and all, but he wasn’t the real reason I was excited about the show. The real reason was the venue: the East River Park amphitheater.

A couple of years ago, after I purchased the first bicycle of my adult life—an old, rusty “Free Spirit” bike with a wide, comfy seat aptly named “Cheeks”—at Recycle a Bicycle in the East Village, I rode over to the East River Park so I could try it out. As I was savoring my newfound freedom and winding though the park, I came across the amphitheater. There was some very indie band playing there, with very few fans and onlookers. It seemed like such a special, secret venue, and I instantly became enamored.

That’s why, two years later, I was simultaneously glued to the screen and jumping up and down with excitement as I watched a rented DVD of Wild Style on a quiet night by myself. Wild Style is an amazing movie from 1982 about the early days of hip hop in the South Bronx. I would recommend it to anyone who lives in New York City, anyone who has been to New York City, or anyone who has thought about coming to New York City. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever listened to hip hop in their life. I would recommend it to anyone whose eyes have brightened or widened or narrowed at the sight of graffiti art or any kind of art.

Anyway, in the movie, the main character is a talented graffiti artist named Zoro (Lee Quiñones). At the climax of the movie, Zoro gets commissioned to paint the entire East River Park amphitheater with one huge mural. (You should see him paint!) And then there’s this amazing hip hop show there with, like, the very first hip hop stars of the city, and they’re coming out of the South Bronx and just getting famous, and the energy in the crowd is just so fresh. You just have to see it, I think.

The soundtrack is awesome too, especially the “South Bronx Subway Rap” by Grandmaster Caz.

Q-Tip and the internet

July 30, 2008

The August 2008 edition of Spin has a long interview with Q-Tip (formerly of A Tribe Called Quest). On page 90, he comments on the internet age and how it has affected music consumption:

…everyone becomes a critic. You see something at the bottom of everything that says, “What’s your comment?” And everyone has to offer their opinion and comment. Then there is internal warfare between the commentators with their comments. Rollins69 said something about the new Lil Wayne song and who did the beat. Then SarahWoo58 will be like, “No, he didn’t do the beat, this guy did the beat.” To me, that drains the art. All of a sudden, the imagination just passes. Whereas predating the Internet and predating videos, you had an active imagination. You would hear sounds and then get mental pictures of what these sounds felt like to you. It engaged you and made you more invested in it. It made you want to get tickets to the show, buy the album, put the poster on the wall. Now it’s sensory overload.

I agree that videos and extra information are not necessary to enjoy music. In fact, I usually don’t know much about the artists that I listen to; I often don’t even know what they look like.

But I do still think that the internet has done wonders for both artists and listeners in terms of accessibility and democratization.

Playlist: Ladies’ night

July 30, 2008

Let’s face it: every night is ladies’ night for me. But for those of you who like to make a special thing out of it, here’s my suggested playlist!

  1. Santogold – “I’m a Lady” – the original is great, but try this version too
  2. M.I.A. – “M.I.A.”
  3. Mala Rodríguez – “Por La Noche”
  4. Bahamadia – “Commonwealth”
  5. Girlyman – “Young James Dean”
  6. Indigo Girls – “Closer to Fine” – the only Indigo Girls song I like
  7. Lauryn Hill – “Everything Is Everything”
  8. Polyrhythm Addicts – “Big Phat Boom”
  9. Roxanne Shante & UTFO – “The Real Roxanne” – really, really old school
  10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mysteries”
  11. Nickel Creek – “Beauty and the Mess”
  12. The Be Good Tanyas – “Ootishenia”
  13. TLC – “Waterfalls”
  14. La Bruja – “Unstoppable”
  15. Jean Grae – “Not Like Me”
  16. Ivy Queen – “Yo Quiero Bailar”

What am I missing?

Jay Brannan sings the n-word

July 29, 2008

Last week I went to the Jay Brannan show at the Highline Ballroom on 16th Street. It was a fun show, complete with great performances of “Housewife” and “Soda Shop” and Jay’s (mostly endearing) talking-too-much routine.

Toward the end of the show, Jay busted out with a cover of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.” (See the video and Logo’s glowing review here.) Although I was surprised to hear him say the “n-word” twice, unflinchingly, during the song, the cover was nicer than it could have been—it was actually quite a beautiful rendition, and it didn’t really even seem like he was making fun of the song or gangsta culture.

He could have left it at that, and I might not have thought too much about it.

But right after the song ended, he had already started defending himself. “Now, before you all email me to complain,” he started; and went on to explain that he was just covering a cover of the N.W.A. song by Nina Gordon. “If you don’t like the lyrics… I didn’t write them!”

Then he said something like, “Before you say that I’m making fun of black culture…. I think I know some black people who would take issue with you equating black culture to gang violence.” The audience clapped at this, but I was left uncomfortable. It’s an interesting point, but did he really just pull the “I have black friends” card?

I was also left wondering if Jay really would have felt comfortable doing that song if there were many (or any) black people in the audience.

All that aside, I did really enjoy the show. He did a very nice cover of my favorite Joni Mitchell song, “All I Want.” And he was decidedly cute and gay as usual. I think he should tour with Girlyman.