Posted tagged ‘nostalgia’

Re: The Myth of the “Golden Era”

May 10, 2010

Like this, but in Rap form.

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now, what I’m with isn’t it, and what is it seems weird and scary to me.” – Abraham Simpson

“How many Hip-Hop fans does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Three. One to screw it in, and two to argue about how much better lightbulbs were made back in ’94.” – Sage Francis

Recently, my fellow blogger, homie and GetOnDaMic partner Adam Bernard published a piece on the “Myth” of the golden age in rap music. In it, he states that the idea of a “Golden Age” in rap, or anything, is the product of wishful wistfulness. Whether it be the rose colored glasses of people not remembering how many awful songs were out at the time of the great ones or late-comers nostalgic for an age that never existed, Adam goes on to state the further implications this mindstate has, leading to a depleted creative pool with a redundant output. It ends with SPOILER ALERT a reminder that there’s plenty of good rap artists still out there and one need only look to realize the genre is just as good as ever. It’s a good article and while I agree a lot with what Adam writes, I think there is a case to be made when determining a Hip-Hop “Golden Age.”

Premier laced her with serious heat.

For one thing, “golden ages” are often idealized because of what could be done in them that could never happen today. The planets aligned, the chips fell, lightning struck and left just as soon as it arrived. Look at the “Golden Age” of film where a movie like Metropolis* can have hundreds-upon-thousands of extras in a single shot within an elaborate constructed set not remotely feasible by today’s standards. The Hip-Hop equivalent would be sample laws. The production on everything from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Paul’s Boutique to Critical Beatdown would be a licensing nightmare. Will hodgepodge albums like that every be made with such regularity again? Probably not. While I do love what innovations there are in today’s regional rap climates around the country, it’s unfortunate that even post-Mashup craze there’s been little leeway is sample license legislation.

Scene from 'Krush Groove' (1985)

As for the other “Golden Agers,” I have a theory. If magic is all we’ve ever known, then it’s easy to forget what really goes on. But I’ve seen miracles every day, and I’ve seen miracles in every way. I believe that everyone’s all time favorite music, no matter what, will always be the music they played the most their senior year of high school. While it’s easy for many to just look back and think “Well yeah, that’s because I was a senior during THE GOLDEN AGE,” that might just be the problem. It’s a time when your high school career is basically over, the wheels are in motion to already determine where your next year will be and you have one last span of a few months to really devote to a carefree music indulgence. You were able to immerse yourself in your personal soundscape and really believed, out of everything out there, those songs were the best. It’s also a time of countless firsts and lifelong memories which, even subconsciously, these songs will always be linked to. “Golden Ager” listeners will then spend the rest of their lives with an invested interest in these artists that festers into either actively following them or the occasional curious Google. “Golden Ager” artists, on the other hand, spend their entire careers attempting to remake their favorite songs to recreate that feeling in listeners despite the fact that what made it matter to them so much in the first place was how new and different it was.

These discussions are only going to intensify as we’re currently sifting through Hip-Hop’s first generation gap. Today’s young rappers grew up with both parents listening to the genre as what was once a cutting edge counter-culture is now THE institution. As a teacher I can tell you first had how kids in Harlem use the likes of Disturbed and other hard rock outfits as their “too deep and dangerous for my parents” music. Even from a traditionalist standpoint, rap is the by-product of the Hip-Hop YOUTH culture. If anything, the division between the “this is the Golden Age” camps shows how the genre is alive and well. Let’s not forget Melle Mel hated KRS-ONE, Common dissed NWA** and Tupac compared New York to Nazi Germany. There’s a reason why Bambaataa didn’t make a funk record when he made “Renegades of Funk” and that’s because he was a renegade. That’s why everyone’s “Golden Ages” exist because today all that glitters is what’s found in the (inhaling deeply) gold-dust.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*I mean the actual movie, not whatever Janelle Monet likes to pretend she saw.

**Let’s not pretend this “wasn’t a dis.” It’s the same boom-bap dinosaur conscious posturing that’s going on today. Dietcokegapterminator:salvation.


What is Circuit City, but the People? (J.I.L.S.)

March 17, 2010

The Circuit City of Angels.

Editor’s Note – As part of our ongoing Journeys in Liquidation Sales series here at Popular Opinions, it only seemed right to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Circuit City’s demise where much of JILS‘s inventory came from. This piece originally appeared somewhere else but I decide to have it remixed and digitally remastered with pictures, spun-back cusswords and the most nostalgic and absurd Circuit City clips the internet had to offer, including the in-store only complete Circuit City rap seen below.

“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim.” ~ Christopher Morley, Where the Blue Begins

“I have a CD in stores, just in time for people to not give a kcuf about CD stores anymore.” ~ Mitch Hedberg

In three more days Circuit City, once the second largest electronic retailer in the United States, will close its doors forever. The latest mega-conglomerate to collapse, its slow burial beneath six feet of unsold Hancock and The Dark Knight DVDs has been met with an almost ‘told-you-so’ indifference and bitter obscenities due to, at a time when the store hasn’t received any new product for a month and has its entire inventory marked to 80% off, Johnny McBargainBin’s anger that he can’t find any of today’s hottest hits. The “Everything Must Go” signs adorn the walls like funeral wreaths, as EuroJungleHouseTrance echos an ominously repetitive requiem.

It’s March, 2009. Every industry, save tent manufacturers and repo men, is struggling. With the entertainment industry continuing to have problems, this latest loss is almost eclipsed by the announcement last week that Virgin will be closing all of its stores by June and Best Buy, while not closing, will be shutting down almost two-hundred locations within the next month. It’s hard to believe that just nine years after the industry (as well as downloading) hit an absolute pinnacle, the game shows no real hope for any commercially available physical media.

Circuit Breaker Heartbreaker

As much as I love the 29 CDs and 4 DVDs that I got for a combined total of under $100.00 during this retail trail of tears, it deeply saddens me that (without hyperbole) the physical music business is truly coming to an end. It’s over. Done. Ghost like Swayze. Outie 5000. And it all went so fast, too. I remember the summer of 2000 when the Mall of America had 5 different flourishing music stores inside of its gigantic singular complex. When I returned two years ago, all that remained was an single FYE that had bought out the last Sam Goody in the entire state and was having a “going out of business” sale. I felt a similar shock when I realized that since moving to New York City four years ago, 15 local music stores closed down. Come June, that number increases to 20 with Manhattan solely relying on FatBeats as its only non-electronics based music outlet. Otherwise we have J&R (who are probably not going anywhere as in 1971 they flatout bought the property for their location) and Best Buy (who are also doing-away with their music section but will be gone soon too) and that’s it.

But instead of placing blame, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the great things Circuit City did. When Tower Records, the last strictly-music chain (Tower Video was always a separate entity) fell in 2006, music fans with a taste for more than “today’s hottest hits” were forced to find a new source for our more obscure cravings. While it never came close to Tower’s cornucopia of regional-rap, Circuit City did stand out for its emphasis on 1) selection and 2) catalog titles. New York does have its hip-hop stops, but with the East Coast bias nobody will admit to, and even Minnesota’s own hesitance on getting it’s hands dirty with some of the filthier parts of the south, Circuit City allowed a nationwide accessibility for everything from Eightball & MJG’s debut to Turf Talk and Lil Boosie mixtapes to every single project Cappadonna attached his name to.

They also were the only chain to reach out to the larger indie and overlooked major-label artists for nationwide promotions. The Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury was given a ridiculously discounted price, drop taken as a hit to the store, its first week of release and thus moved the bulk of its units there. It’s also the only store major OR mom-and-pop I know of that offered free t-shirts from the like of T.I., Scarface AND Tech N9ne if you purchased their albums the week of release. And unlike Best Buy, “The City” (As it’s unfortunately titled pedestrian-friendly 2007 makeover redubbed it) kept its prices low, even after it had buried its competition. To its dying day*, new releases were $11.99, recent hits were $12.99 and extended catalog titles were $9.88. Did this policy drop help or hurt it? Who knows? The bells have been tolling since the industry eliminate the maxi-single in 2001 and the dominos have been falling ever since.

So, what can be done now? I’d suggest we ride the wave back to the shore. It’s labor day weekend, and we have a long autumn ahead of us. All CDs/DVDs are 80% off and there’s some quality stuff you might have your last chance ever to get in there. You may never have another opportunity to get Tech N9ne, Project Pat, UGK and BG’s entire discography for under $50.00 combined. So g’head. Remember as a kid when you saw the Nickelodeon Toy-Run Sweepstakes? Now’s your only chance to live it. TOO LATE! SEE YOU IN HELL! FROM HEAVEN!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*Or at least until it was put on Death Row.

Who Flopped It Better? – “Go, Go Power Rangers!”

March 10, 2010

Rappers heard that guitar solo and said 'DADDY, BUY ME THAT!'

Oh man, do I love the internet. Among the many wonderful things the computer-telephone hybrid known as the information super-highway can give us are the exciting and always-engaging echo-chambers known as Blogs. One of my favorites for years has been Soul Sides, written and directed by Dr. Oliver Wang. In late 2007, he ran a ridiculously fascinating series called “Who Flipped It Better?” where he posted an original composition and two rap songs that sampled it, asking his readers “who flipped it better?”

Wang grew up on classic soul and has the same passion for it that I have for pop culture. Therefore, I thought I’d sample* his idea for my own entirely original series – ‘Who Flopped it Better?’ Today we’re looking at a song near and dear to my heart, the theme from the Emmy and Nobel Peace Prize winning television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

The Mighty RAW (Ron Wasserman) – “Go Go Power Rangers” (1993)

Composed by Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy (who handled the bulk of the music for Saban Entertainment’s programming), the catchy anthem was just infectious enough to spearhead Morphin-Mania to the moon and be heard ad-nauseum throughout the show and outside of it, so no matter where you went, the Power Rangers would be “Go-Going” with you. The song itself is the audio equivalent of what the next decade of children’s entertainment was going to become. The repetitive urgent bass subliminally gave the show’s start an importance. The wonderfully obnoxious guitar solo sounds almost like a caricature of dated early-90s rock, appealing to the young audience as an overabundant pseudo-gateway into their older peers’ world. Finally the call-and-response chorus of “GO GO POWER RANGERS!” giving kids all the fun of the sing-a-longs they’ve outgrown, allowing them to have a rallying cry and instant bonding point with the whole neighborhood. There’s a science to sampling, and with nostalgia being more powerful this decade than ever it was only a matter of time before this immortal piece of music was sampled.

Juvenile – “I Got That Fire” (2000, Produced by Mannie Fresh)

1993 AD, the year “Go Go Power Rangers” hit the airwaves, was also the same year New Orleans rapper Juvenile released his debut single “Powder Bag.” While it would still take another five years for him to break nationally with “Ha,” it was his 2000 single “I Got That Fire” that finally brought the two worlds together. Cash Money Records in-house producer Mannie Fresh interpolated several elements of the original orchestration throughout the beat, but Juvenile’s overabundant charisma made the channeling almost unnoticeable. The fact that Juvenile doesn’t acknowledge the beat’s source material at all aids how well the song has aged. It’s not kitschy or gimmicky, just a case of a producer using a melody to help create something new.

Young Dro – “House on Me” (2008, Produced by Young Sears)

Not unlike the child who doesn’t eat the crust of his pizza, Young Sears just took the part of “Go Go Power Rangers” we love the most (the opening guitars) and made an entire beat out of it. The oddly melodic Dro hook works and acts as a great balance for Grand Hustle’s best rapper** to kick meticulously complex and satisfyingly re-playable verses. Dro’s flow is fantastic, his writing is on point and by also not making a gimmick out of the beat allows the song to have an incredible shelf-life.

OK kids, WHO FLOPPED IT BETTA? Mannie Fresh or Young Sears? Juvenile or Young Dro? Kimberly or Trini? SO WAT’CHA WANT?!?!?!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*and by “sample” I mean steal.

**You heard me.

This post is dedicated in loving memory of ‘Ag3nt M.O.E.’ Moses Malloy. 1986-2009 RIP homie.

SEPTEMBER – Month Review

September 23, 2009

If you’re like me, you’re the type of person that follows the Gregorian Solar Calendar to plan events and monitor your own decay. It seems every year we, as humans, are treated to the same twelve months over and over. For whatever reason, the blogosphere and even terrestrial journalism has put these twelve annual overseers on a pedestal that’s somehow above criticism. In the interest of fairness, I’m going to venture into uncharted territory and begin reviewing months of the year and I’m starting with the month that’s been on everybody’s lips – September.

September originated sometime after August 31st. It has a long and storied history of being one of the more polarizing months, as well as representing great change in the environment and television schedules. Different cultures have designated it both a time for clear thinking and a time for reflection. But it’s these differing perspectives and the month’s own penchant for ups and downs that render it painfully average.

For Patriotic Americans like myself, the first thing that springs to mind when the topic comes up is, of course, Labor Day. Growing up a product of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton years, the first Monday of the month was always designated the dreaded dreadful final day of summer. With school starting bright and early on Tuesday, you had to cram those final lazy afternoon and evening hours with enough sunscreen and tom-foolery to last you until Christmas break when you could once again soak in the beautiful marsh of apathy and atrophy. Sure, you could make the argument that this allowed you to see all your schoolyard chums again, but if you’ve ever taken the time to talk to anyone between the ages of 3rd and 8th grade, you’ll find that they’re among the most overrated mean-spirited wretches alive. However, things were not a total waste as the following day promised an entirely new afternoon cartoon lineup to look forward to. In the 90s, we didn’t have the luxury of a 24-hour cartoon network on the internet to give us a constant source of pretty colors, violence, and loud noises. With Nickelodeon’s afternoon lineup largely consisting of British (re: boring) dramas that nobody cared about or wacky (re: boring) sports shows that nobody cared about, you had to choose between the soft batch Disney Afternoon or the brass knuckle brutality of the Fox Kids line-up. When you’re young, these are the decisions you make and they affect you the rest of your life.

Growing up, September becomes a month of migration. Young adults return to college, the rich return to their west coast offices and carnies return to the boardwalk. This can be a time of either spiritual rebirth and a fresh start, or tremendous stress and frustration as moving is unquestionably the single absolute worst ordeal that we voluntarily choose to undertake. Whether dorming, subletting, pulling items out of storage or having to maneuver around others moving in or out of your environment, it’s often a time of great deception and malice. This cavalcade of lies can be traced back to the name of the month itself. Septum the Latin word that “September” is drawn from, means “Seven.” Yet, it’s the ninth month of the year. There’s also SEVEN deadly sins, SEVEN things the Lord hates, and SEVEN players needed for Ultimate Frisbee. COINCIDENCE? Of course, there’s also the Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Sacraments and the always refreshing 7-Up. Once again, September breaks even.

As a journalist, it would be irresponsible to not mention how September has now permeated modern American society through the events of September 11th. It was here a few years back that rappers 50 Cent and Kanye West released albums on the same day. Our nation banded together to choose sides in a feud that was ultimately won by Kanye’s album “Graduation” having higher first week sales. This happened exactly one year after my friend Neil and I couldn’t get tickets to an event at Madison Square Garden and shared a awful plate of nachos at Chevy’s on what became known as “the worst 9/11 ever.” Never forget.

Despite those tragedies, or perhaps in light of them, September has become a month of constant inspiration for the arts. Woody Allen’s intentionally unfunny drama September ironically takes place in September, as does Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” and the American pop standard “September Song” by Kurt Weill. My personal favorite of these is James Brown’s rendition of the Weill song on his under appreciated 1970 orchestral-backed album “Soul on Top.” It’s a cover just good enough to swing the month back into a favorable light. Behold:

Still, the fact that the best thing you could say about a month is a cover song is further evidence that it suffers from being stuck in the past. It’s home to Japan’s “Respect for the Aged Day,” Germany and South Africa’s “Heritage Day,” and even America’s “Grandparents’ Day.” For a month that’s supposed to signal a new start, it’s painfully derivative. Even the month’s flowers are Forget-Me-Nots, but at this redundant rate, who could? But while the month is a repetitive one-trick pony, that one trick remains a welcome familiarity.

We give September a 3 Out of 5

Until next time, Let’s Agree to Agree!