Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

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16 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Kanye is more offputting to me at my age now than he was in my mid-30’s. Tame your id! We might not agree on which superego is the best superego to tame it but, dang, “good enough” might have to be the goal when it comes to id-taming instead of “best”.

    The use of samples as foundation flipping to melody flipping to foundation is something that Moby, at his best, wielded like a virtuoso.

    Moby’s able to take a voice sample from (one heck of a song from) 1960 and turn it from vocals to percussion to vocals again still blows me away today.

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      Kanye’s early work was refreshingly (for hip hop) introspective and vulnerable. Then he got really, really famous, and it became less so. Though I still think MBDTF is a great album, and Yeezus is a very good one.

      Thanks in no small part to Kanye’s influence, introspection is ubiquitous these days. Consider the Earl of Sweatshirt (this is NSFW!!!!!! Lots of n-words, drug references, etc.):


  2. Glyph says:

    Awesome post. Random thoughts:

    1.) When Kanye’s disappointment with the woman reaches its climax This is just a style note, but I’d prefer to think of it as “the narrator’s” rather than “Kanye’s”. Let’s face it, the behavior being described here (wishing that a mistress would have kept their relationship secret, and accusing her of gold-digging) is pretty reprehensible, and it’s my hope that there’s some separation between the artist and the character in the song (maybe there’s not, but “Welcome to Heartbreak” at least hints at the self-awareness of someone who can recognize that the obsessive pursuit of material success is costing them personally). One of the big knocks against a lot of hip-hop is lyrical misogyny; on the rock side, think of a comparable album like Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen, which likewise trades in some of the darker corners of the male psyche when it comes to relationships, yet always does so in a way that it’s clear (to me) that we are meant to be understanding the lyrics novelistically, rather than autobiographically (and it’s that distance that paradoxically helps it hit home, as you realize that at times, you’ve had dark thoughts similar to the narrator’s).

    2.) And here you have hip hop distilled: a popular song (featuring a hip hop legend in Snoop), with a line frequently referenced, is interpolated in another song (TNGHT’s) that is sampled in yet a third song (Kanye’s), resulting in another reference to the well-known line from the first song.

    Samples on samples with layered references

    Given the way hip-hop works, what the heck are they going to do now that the “Blurred Lines”/Gaye estate legal precedent has been set? Do you see a danger or slippery slope there? The Gaye estate won their judgement on a (to me) much less-direct line of influence, than the direct sort shown here.

    3.) I may have mentioned before that I didn’t really “get” most hip-hop at all (aside from a few big radio hits) until I got to college and had a friend who was a big ‘head, who turned me on to a lot of what was good up through then. I’ve bemoaned not having him around to do that for me now (I also don’t speak to my trusted “metal” friend as much as I used to, with the same result – I often don’t really know what is worth checking out).

    Coincidentally, I spoke to him the other night for the first time in many years, and asked him who I should be checking out today. And he gave me the standard line: it’s all garbage now!

    Now, he’s married and has kids, so that could be part of it; but at his workplace he hears a lot of modern hip-hop and he says that to him, it’s all materialistic, misogynistic lyrics, and he can’t stand it. Not sure if he’s just aged out of it, or if he’s only hearing the lowest-common-denominator stuff, or what. But it was disappointing to hear that he’s mostly just given up on new music in that arena.Report

    • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      Hehe… I scheduled this post, so that no one would worry about a Wednesday post this week, then forgot about it until this morning.

      1.) You’re right, it’s not Kanye, it’s a character he’s playing. Granted, Kanye’s characters are always Kanye, but they’re not always real Kanye, they’re just sort of Kanye putting himself in a situation.

      2.) Ugh, I have no idea how this is going to work. I hope hip hop artists, at least, show mutual respect with this sort of thing, recognizing the role that samples and references play in the music and culture, but all you need is for one guy to be broke and… (Action Bronson got sued just this week!)

      3.) I think this is a third hip hop golden age (1st being the late 80s, the second in the mid-90s). There is an unbelievable amount of good stuff out there, both from older artists (Nas, Talib Kweli, Common, a bunch of Wu-Tang artists) and brand new ones. Now, there’s a bunch of awful stuff out there, and it gets a lot of radio play, but that’s the way it’s always been. If you judge a musical genre by the awful stuff on the radio, it’s likely more a sign that you’ve lost touch with what’s going on in the genre than that you’ve got it pegged.

      If I were suggesting some artists to listen to, I’d go with:

      Kendrick Lamar (duh)
      Chance the Rapper
      Childish Gambino
      Earl Sweatshirt
      Vince Staples
      Dilated Peoples
      Solillaquists of Sound
      Big K.R.I.T.
      A$OP Rocky
      Action Bronson
      Tyler, the Creator
      ScHoolboy Q

      And more, but that’s a good start.Report

  3. aarondavid says:

    A couple thoughts:
    1: thank you for putting this together and as a white guy over 40 I probably do need a door into the world, whether I like the world or not (it really is just not my thing, but I do want to know what is what.)
    2: my new favorite way to find music is to get on Youtube and look at the Amoeba Records What’s in your bag series, and look at vids of artists I either like or have heard of and get recommendations that way. Donald Glover was one I watched, which brought me to the Menahan Street Band, as he was referencing for samples. Now that is in heavy rotation. What works for me is often digging down to the sample music and rolling with that.
    3: I had a post put together on a new album I have been very into, but you juked my spot! No worries, I will put it up for Friday (more is better!)Report

    • Chris in reply to aarondavid says:

      Oh man, I definitely didn’t mean to juke your spot. I scheduled this last Tuesday, and didn’t see anything at the time, but I was probably in a hurry (busy few weeks).

      Also, Donald Glover (who goes by Childish Gambino as a rapper, though apparently that may change) is great. A lot of his music is basically playing on hip hop tropes, making them look even more absurd than they might otherwise (which is already quite absurd, sometimes).Report

  4. Glyph says:

    This is totally unrelated, but has anyone else seen Dr. Pepper’s Prince-parodying ads? They kill me. I wonder if His Purpleness has sicced the lawyers on them yet: