I had voted in two previous presidential elections before the 2008 campaign, the Bush v. Gore of 2000 and Bush v. Kerry in 2004. In either election, I can't remember the fervor of America's youth growing as evident and palpable as this. It was quite surreal, actually.
During the 2008 election I was living in Baton Rouge, LA, smack in the middle of the conservative south. I distinctly remember one of my very good friends with whom I worked strongly considering a vote for Obama solely based on his promise of universal health care. She had traditionally been a conservative. However, because our place of employment didn't offer a health care option at that time, she felt a "Medicare-for-all" plan was her best shot at getting affordable coverage for her and her daughter.
I don't know what's going to happen this time around. I think more than anything else, the current political climate has succeeded in pushing the public further into disillusion and dissatisfaction with the government's machinery. I do believe the youth will be much more difficult to energize. The Republicans have never really been able to do it. The Democrats have before, but much of the strategy from the political right in the last two years has substantially limited the Dems ability to rally the 18-30 troops. And honestly, I don't know if the liberals have displayed the spine to deserve those votes (except for that one time when Obama shot bin Laden in the face with a bazooka).
I guess they'll be no more dope political music videos with Kanye in them. That's a real shame.
I think my surprise of this video lasted about six seconds after it was over. Truthfully, this is by no means a secret to anyone paying close attention to the global political landscape. The only way to reach the summit of an economic mountain is by climbing over the dirty, misshapen crags at the base. It's called capitalism for a reason.
Who knows? This guy may turn out to be just another crackpot with a theory. But in all honesty, I just think he's being as direct and plain about things as he wants. With the amount of wealth he controls, he doesn't have much to fear.
Since last week's post I must have listened to The Mouse and the Mask three or four times straight through, and I think it's an incredibly fun and refreshing album; energy that appears quite vividly in tracks like "A.T.H.F.", "El Chupa Nibre", and "Vats of Urine". The entire effort is a rich, quirky, and lighthearted feat of hip hop excellence. If you didn't get this album back in 2005, go pick it up now. If you're a fan of Cartoon Network's adult swim, then you should have this one already.
As for Doom's most recent efforts, here's a track with the Metal Face and Ghostface Killah from their alleged upcoming collaboration album Swift and Changeable.
There WILL be more on this tomorrow. Right now, here's a taste.
If this track were simply lightening in a bottle, it would be plenty dope. In relation to the context surrounding it on the album, it's downright incredible and incredibly inventive. I'll be back with details mañana.
I must be slacking. This is my second Formula One post this week. Although, this video is way more impressive than the last one.
I found myself wondering how many times that car broke itself and the driver to pieces trying to slide around that track. Those things REALLY aren't designed for that. I don't know how that guy didn't toss the thing into the wall. That's some brilliant driving!
I wish the folks out on I-95 would learn how to drive like this, and not like a bunch of inattentive weirdos.
Tyler Perry is certainly on my list of topics to cover in the future. I was browsing this and that today and stumbled upon this video of Touré on CNN discussing the influence of Perry's work. I'm usually not a fan of sound bites or thinly-examined 24 hour news clips, but in this case I'm making an exception.
'My bra! My bra! I have to take off my bra!" yells Fiona Shaw, running past me into a changing room. She sounds like Richard III after the battle of Bosworth Field: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" What a top thesp Shaw is: even when she's in a panic about her underwear she sounds Shakespearean, such is her actorly grasp of prosody.
And this is no small matter. Shaw has come to the basement of London University's psychology department to be analysed by cognitive neuroscientists. Today's experiment will find out what – if anything – goes on in actors' brains when they perform a role. "I'm sure there's some sort of muscle," says Shaw. "I'm sure I'm using the wrong word – some sort of muscle in an actor's brain which is extended."
But why does Shaw have to take off her bra? Because it's underwired. Metal plays havoc with the huge magnet used in the machine that is going to scan her brain. There have been accidents involving highly magnetised flying oxygen canisters – not here but in scanning rooms in other parts of the world.
People who aren't actors usually have one question they ask more than any other: how do we memorize all those words? My response has stayed fairly the same for a few years now: we don't memorize the words, but rather the thoughts. Knowing the actual words becomes an inevitable byproduct of understanding the progression of a character's thoughts, needs, and impulses. This video offers an exciting and fascinating scientific view into the actor process. It's absolutely marvelous.
I still can't understand half of what these cats are saying, and it doesn't matter.
There was a girl in my neighborhood named Tonya who had the uncanny ability to hear, understand, and memorize Bone Thugs-n-Harmony lyrics. It was downright spooky, because no one in the neighborhood could come close. It was almost as if we were witnessing someone decode some kind of encryption or linguistic algorithm. I found it particularly frustration because I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what these cats were saying.
Listening to it now, I think I've discovered a bit of why Bone Thugs were so indecipherable. The traditional aesthetic of rap performance relies heavily on dynamic syllabic emphasis. Emcees have historically invested lots of performance energy into playing certain words and syllables for a given effect. However, Bone Thugs moved away from that tradition into a style that dissipated the energy of each word and/or syllable, giving them all almost equal weight or importance while keeping stressed words sparse. Thus, they created a vocal sound that became much more about the melodic and syncopative qualities of the lyrics rather than the intellectual ones. When this song was came out, no one had ever heard anything like it.
I have to admit. Part of the reason MF Doom is this month's emcee is this video right here.
I first came across this video about a year and a half ago. I believe my homie Marcel sent it to me when I told him I'd been underestimating MF Doom's influence in hip hop and requested he point me in the right direction to explore the world of the Metal Face. After watching this, I knew I had to play quite a bit of catch-up.
For me, the most delightful aspect of this video is that fans like us rarely have the opportunity to witness our musical and cultural heroes responding to their peers with this amount of admiration. My friends and I spend what seems like hours throwing song quotes at each other, completely amused by the absurdity, cleverness, or aggression of the music we love. To see that one of hip hop's most successful and acclaimed performers experience this art in the same way confirms that we truly are a community. That's something special.
Youtube surfing is is like combing the history of humanity with a cultural metal detector. It's just the best.
Be sure to visit this video on youtube for the full text.
I often have conversations with friends of mine about movies, music, and artists I've yet to explore. For example, as of now I haven't found a time to see the movies The Godfather or Pulp Fiction. I don't know nearly as much about Marvin Gaye or Al Green as I'd like. And for someone who is completely and utterly enchanted with Shakespeare, I've haven't gotten through nearly as many of his plays as I hoped I would by now. I suppose there's only so much time to spend digesting art and culture.
Charlie Chaplin's work is most certainly on this list. All I've heard of his influence on the aesthetics of cinema and comedy have certainly ignited and sustained my interest and desire to examine him more closely. There are few instances in which artists or public figures are revered in this way who aren't absolute geniuses. For me, this video will be the beginning of my journey through Charlie's career.
Off I go to surf some more. Check ya'll on the flip.
I supposed it wouldn't be long before Kanye got himself involved in something like this, and from what I know of Rhymefest's sense of artistry and musical exploration, it doesn't surprise me he's ideas like this in his head.
We'll see how things turn out. But I know one thing. The theme music is gonna be hot!
Apparently, the pilot for Alligator Boots was to air on Comedy Central way back in 2008, but was never shown.
From Huff Post:
Dear Comedy Central: Why did you never air "Alligator Boots"?!
In this video discovered by The Vine, we take an extensive look behind the scenes at a 2008 pilot for "Alligator Boots," a sketch/puppet show pilot created by rapper Rhymefest in collaboration with Kanye West and Daniel Ellison of Jackhole Productions, who also produced "Crank Yankers."
The show had almost the exact same concept as "The Muppet Show" -- the puppets, which interact with live action celebrities, even were created by Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop -- but with a decidedly hip-hop flavor. For instance, Rhymefest describes a sketch in which a literal pig is touted as the next big thing in rap, but nobody notices that he's just a pig "except for smart people."
Imprinting is real, because I've been singing these to myself all my life (as I've mentioned a bit before here).
If you were born between 1978 and 1983 and your parents paid for cable, it's very likely you were imprinted the same as me. These brilliant Nickelodeon bumpers were the work of tv ad men Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman during their revamp of the Nick brand during the mid to late 1980s. Charged with the mission of rescuing the stalling network's market share, Fred and Alan developed the doo-wop sound to be one of the defining bits of vocabulary for the channel.
When we brought up the notion of a sound identity, Nickelodeon executives, still not fully understanding of where we intended to steer the channel, suggested a consideration of Raffi, then a recent phenomenon as a singer for young children. “He’s very popular; our research confirms it.” Fred/Alan tried a lot of arguments to bring them around to a doo-wop sound, but they fell on deaf ears. “Doo-wop’s 30 years old, no kid has ever heard of it.”
We won the day on two grounds.
Fred played on the executives’ liberal backgrouds. “We love all forms of African-American music, and using doo-wop will be a great way to educate American kids without anyone being the wiser.”
“What kid isn’t going to relate to that right away?” Alan asked.
It's fascinating to read about simple decisions made miles away such a long time ago, and how those decisions shaped our perceptions of the world. I mean, these guys were absolutely right. I hadn't heard doo-wop before I heard these, and I did relate to them immediately. So much so that I've given them enough importance to spend 30 minutes writing and researching them on my blog. They were inventive, artistic, and absolutely charming.
3rd Base feat. Zev Love X (a.k.a. MF Doom) - "The Gas Face" Yes. That last cat to rhyme is, in fact, MF Doom.
So why am I posting a 3rd Base video from 1989? Well for the uninitiated, the emcee we now know as MF Doom started his hip hop career as Zev Love X, a member of early 1990s rap group KMD (Kausing Much Damage). This record with 3rd Base was Doom's recording debut, leading to KMD's first album Mr. Hood.
More than anything else, however, is that I wanted to show MF Doom's face. Since 1997, he has rarely allowed himself to be photographed without his mask. It's true that Doom's reluctance to have his face be seen has led to the interest and mystique surrounding his work. Much of that reluctance seems to be a direct result from the sudden and untimely death of his younger brother and fellow KMD member DJ Subroc. During the period after his brother's death in 1993 and the Operation: Doomsday release in 1999, Doom's transition from Zev Love X to the man with the metal face took place during a self-imposed three-year exile, resurfacing at New York's famed Nuyorican Café open mics in 1997 (performing with stocking over his head). He descirbed his retreat as a period of "recovering from his wounds" and swore revenge "against the industry that so badly deformed him." Therefore, I feel it's both interesting and appropriate to see the man he was before the mask.
I suppose you'll be seeing a lot more things like this from me in the coming months.
Louis CK commenting on the influence of George Carlin
A couple of days ago I found out I'd be taking my first journey into the world of satirical comedic theatre (think "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report"). Not only that, the nature of the show requires that the ensemble rewrites the show's material each week. I'm immensely excited for the opportunity to explore this kind of work, but I would be kidding myself if I didn't acknowledge part of me that is completely terrified.
Comedy writing is a tough art. For someone to really be memorable at being funny, it requires much more than goofy voices and fart jokes. It's absolutely vital that s/he develops a uniquely specific and adaptable perspective of the world. Jon Stewart has described it as the ability to "articulate an intangible", verbally illuminating responses to our society that only exist as sensations for most of us. Equally as important is the challenge of straddling the line between incredibly funny and obscenely offensive, which the great comedic writers and performers are able to do with both daring and sensitivity.
In my research of how comedians build their material I came across this video, which I feel is a wonderful illustration of how really good comedic writing has the power to change ideas and perceptions just like poetry, song, essay, or any other written art form.
But honestly, if I can just get someone to laugh one good time, that'll be enough for me.
In celebration of what I feel is my first truly palpable week as a member of the Philadelphia community, I humbly offer The Roots' 1996 single "What They Do".
It took me a little while to find a version of this with the subtitles. The video doesn't make any sense without them.
Ever since I've moved to Philly, I been slowly introducing myself to the theatre community here. And although my family has been extremely supportive and invited me into the fold, the larger Philadelphia arts scene has been a bit tougher to crack. However, this week has revealed to me a collection of friends with open hands and warm hearts that have recognized my willingness to join them. It's a wonderful feeling.
So I'm feeling really Philly right now. I hope you enjoy.
I saw some really good theatre yesterday, a fortunate occurrence that happens far less often than it should.
The show I saw wasn't perfect; honestly I don't think a perfect show exists. However what made the show fun, entertaining, and inspiring to watch was the extraordinary sense of bravery and humility from the ensemble. Bravery and humility seem to be the more artistically constructive relatives of fear and fearlessness I've explored in this earlier post.
Firstly, the piece was a brand new work of theatre, not something from the pages of an anthology. This meant the show was attempting to comment on the here and now in very immediate and contemporary terms. Additionally, the staging seldom resembled the standard film-envying methods of most modern drama, conventions that often serve as aesthetic crutches for many theatre artists and patrons. Breaking convention and addressing the now are always a scary prospects, and a significant amounts of bravery and humility are absolutely necessary in committing to this kind of work.
It's a difficult balance to navigate.
Nevertheless, it was quite refreshing to watch a group of performers who understand the risks they are taking and approach them with thought, sensation, and engagement. It was a really good time.
I saw some really bad theatre yesterday, an unfortunate occurrence that happens all too often.
From my experience, bad theatre usually stems from one of two things: either an overabundance or extreme absence of fear.
On the one hand, when a company takes reckless and unsupported liberties with a play, their fearlessness and complete abandon produces theatre that is wayward, lacking purpose and direction. The audience leaves feeling confused and attacked, not by the story but rather the presentation of the play.
On the other hand, when a company of actors is afraid of the urgency or immediacy of a play's content and impact, the result is an artistic paralysis that prevents the ensemble from being available to adventurous theatrical exploration. The show becomes half-hearted, flat, and monochromatic.
It's a difficult balance to navigate.
Of the two, I must say I prefer the former. Shows approach with this perspective at least have a level of investment and engagement that keeps them somewhat entertaining. What I saw yesterday more resembled the latter, which is far, FAR more depressing.
I'll have to be honest, I had very little contact with MF Doom's work for a long time. I was always aware of his talent and ability, but for some reason I just hadn't gotten around to checking out his stuff. It simply wasn't on my radar. Nevertheless, one day I consulted my homie Marcel for some Doom suggestions and he recommended I pick up Madvillainy, Doom's 2004 collaboration album with Madlib.
It was as if I had discovered a new set of colors that I didn't even know existed; like getting eardrum upgrades that allowed me to hear things I had never heard before.
MF Doom rhymes with a wonderfully bizarre and eccentric energy that is unmistakably clever and engaging. His dense and multi-colored literary style almost feels as if he builds his verses in reverse, meticulously retracing the steps through thoughts and ideas in the service of his textual discoveries. He uses really odd phrases, and words that are barely uttered in normal speech, let alone rap lyrics. And somehow, he puts it all together.
MF Doom freestyles have been difficult to find, so allow me to present an appropriate substitute.
This blog wasn't up and running when George died back in 2008, so I never really had the chance to join the many conversations surrounding he brilliant career. He had an outlook on politics, culture, and society that was exceedingly advanced and candid in its relevance. I don't doubt he was one of the most important social commentators of the 20th century; so much more than just a comedian.
I've been listening to my collection of George Carlin quite heavily recently in preparation for an upcoming event. Even though I've gone through quite a bit of Carlin material, I can't help but laugh, shout, and clap every single time.
Fast forward to 4:23 if you really want to see something cool.
I'm even a fan of Patrick Stewart's comment after John Barton is done.
There has been a lot of research done on the sound of early modern English since John Barton displayed this in the late 1970s. However, this video still offers us a more authentic idea of how Shakespeare originally sounded. It seemed a lot more interesting to hear back then.
I had a flashback a few weeks ago to an experience with Shakespeare having to do with the usage of certain prescribed sounds of speech that are traditionally, and I feel antiquatedly, associated with the performance of Shakespeare text. I'm currently putting together a post comprised of thoughts and ideas both of my own perspective and the perspective of some of North America's leading experts of voice and speech for the stage. Consider this video a bit of a preview.