DJ Earworm offers up his latest year-end mashup retrospective, putting together the top 25 songs of 2009. For me, despite how remarkably well it all hangs together, this doesn’t quite have the magic of last year’s collage, but it’s still a great way — much as I would prefer to never hear those BEP songs again — to relive the year in pop. Most of these songs were drilled into my head, and probably yours too, though I have to note that I missed a few of these given that my pop fix comes from Jamn94.5 here in Boston, rather than say Kiss108, so I (gratefully) skipped some of the non-hip-hoppy anthems making the rounds this year.
The most striking bit to me is the part we first hear&see at 0:22 to 0:32 (and gotta love the video mashing to accompany the audio — I mean, these tracks exist and circulate as much videos as they do as songs). It’s a string of people singing “DOWN,” and it made me realize how frequent that word was in underpinning and running through so much pop/rap/dance this past year. There’s something appropriate and deeply zeitgeisty about that, and not just because of the so-called Great Recession we’ve been in. Obviously, “down” is a multivalent term — something that Lil Wayne exploits in the simile I borrowed for the title of this post — but there’s a way that downness really nails not just the mood of the year (which was manic-depressive, if anything) but, for me anyway, the mood of the decade. I blame a lot of that on eight friggin years of George W. Bush, and as much as Obama has disappointed with his pragmatic centrism, I can only HOPE that the next year and the next decade will offer an UPswing of sorts. As usual, pop will be a barometer.
First, I’ll be making another radio appearance — this time far briefer — via Benjamen Walker’s new show on WFMU, Too Much Information. Friends and longtime readers know that I’ve been a fan of Ben Walker’s programs for some time now. For those who aren’t familiar, Benjamen has been making some of the raddest radio around for years (e.g., Your Radio Nightlight and Theory of Everything, both of which deserve better archiving).
Benjamen took something of a hiatus in recent years to work on otherthings, so I’m psyched to hear him back on the air with a weekly program. Even better, TMI airs on FMU from 6-7pm, directly preceding /Rupture’s Mudd Up!, so you can lock into WFMU every Monday evening for a couple solid hours of aural provocation.
For tonight’s show, I spoke with Benjamen about the “most popular post” on wayneandwax.com this year. (Technically speaking, I should note that we limited the search to posts created in 2009; the most popular singular post at W&W remains 2007’s “Zunguzung Meme.”) Although it took me a little while to make sense of the various SiteMeters and Analytics available to me, it turned out that the most read — or at least arrived at — post on W&W in 2009 was “Dem Nuh Ramp,” which considered the legal troubles swirling around Vybz&Spice’s “Rampin Shop.” (Incidentally, my posts on “Dreadlocked Aliens” and “Treble Culture” were in hot pursuit of the #1; and I’ve gotta say that I’m heartened by the fact that some posts with actual substance — as opposed to zeitgeisty key words or potentially salacious images — are the ones that prove popular.)
Here’s how Ben puts my appearance on his show into context:
So, sorry about the spoilers re: my own site, but do tune in to hear the full/rest!
Speaking of FB, which I’ve still managed to avoid joining despite that such stubbornness continues to produce a certain social invisibility and increasingly serious barriers to my research, have you heard about the Italian art project that facilitates a dignified and artful way to commit “virtual suicide”? Check out seppukoo.com before the ZuckerBorg shuts it down with spurious legal challenges. And mark my words:
2010 is the year for MASS FACEBOOK SUICIDE!
either that or finally giving in.
Finally, the other part of tonight’s BIG NIGHT is happening here in Cambridge at BEAT RESEARCH. Joining me and Flack behind the bricks, are none other than TWO of our favorite erstwhile hometown heroes, DJ Yamin (now via Nawlins) and BR co-founder DJ C (now based in Chitown). It’s sure to be a good time, perhaps even more “party” than “experimental.” Come shake off those Christmas calories!
tis the season for donning hats & maybe getting clobbered by a classmate
Last Wednesday night I was the guest of Emily Corwin, host of The Neighborhood, a weekly radio show broadcast from Cambridge/MIT on WMBR. As she billed it —
With trusty laptop in tow, Wayne wears all his hats at once –– musician, academic, DJ, and critic –– for one groovy and thought-provoking hour.
— and I think I did a decent job living up to that tall order. It was a somewhat freewheeling, realtime conversation, so we never got into nu-world matters as promised, but we did talk a lot about how I got into hip-hop, became a rapper, found my way in Kingston and produced a rather unconventional audio accompaniment to my dissertation. In the process, we talk race, place, bass, and battymen, among other topics, and I play some of my own productions and remixes and do a wee bit of clumsy juggling on the dog-goneDiwali. If that sounds like your bag, give a listen:
[I haven't made another Xmas mix since this first attempt four years ago, and I'm not quite sure why. Despite my nostalgia for the sounds of the season, I think I quickly reach saturation. Anyway, I repost this for those of you who haven't heard this before and are not yet feeling oversaturated. For those who're seeking similarly woozy collections of nonstandard Christmas fare, do check out Gavin's latest and Boomnoise's 2nd volume of egg-noggin' beats. This was originally posted on December 22, 2005.]
believe me, i’m sick of christmas carols, too. indeed, i was mildly horrified, but not so surprised, to hear them being played in the supermarket even before thanksgiving this year. usually, i can at least endure such schlock throughout the month of december, allowing the familiar strains to trigger my nostalgia reflex and paying more attention to wacky, 50s-era arrangements than invocations of baby messiahs.
despite their inextricable connections to crazy christians and consumerism-gone-wild, many of these songs still hold a special place in my grinchy little heart, so i’ve been wanting to put together a little remix/mix of them for a while now. of course, the inherent irreverence of messing with this stuff helps me to get over some of the piety, the schmaltz, and the kitsch. (actually, i like the kitsch – and i can even dig the piety, long as it’s nat king cole on the mic.)
thus, i offer what i hope is at least a more interesting, and fun, way to listen to these songs yet again. (and i realize i should have put this up far before people’s endurance approached the critical limits of this week. oh well.)
the songs collected here are by no means an exhaustive sampling of the christmas carol oeuvre. rather, they reflect my own (and my family’s) idiosyncratic faves, from novelty numbers to true standards of the genre. above all, there’s plenty of nat king cole, who is my absolute favorite when it comes to interpreting this repertory. alongside nat king, you’ll find such commonly compiled christmas crooners as frank sinatra, johnny mathis, burl ives, dean martin, judy garland, bing crosby, and gene autry. you’ll also find some jazzy versions courtesy of vince guaraldi (of peanuts fame), duke ellington, and the ray brown trio. and it just wouldn’t be a w&w mix without such additions as an adapted favorite by samplee-of-the-year ini kamoze (all i really want for christmas / is to be a little bit more conscious), a jingle-bell-evoking beat by latter-day de la soul, and the christmas calypso classic, “drink a rum.”
beyond the simple but significant point of tune selection, you’ll note a number of other organizational principles at work here. for one, as usual, i’m playing a lot with tempo and pitch in order to make various songs work with each other and in the context of a mix. i’m also doing a lot of looping, finding some true 2-bar gems amidst all the string-section and peculiar-percussion wankery. my muse here is hip-hop, especially such loop-finders as prince paul, dan the automator, and madlib (whose 6 variations on in the rain is definitely a touchstone for the multiple loops/edits i attempt to wring from the various songs here). another point of reference might be the avalanches, whose deft recycling and repackaging of pop detritus is a model to which we could all aspire. there are also, without a doubt, a number of nods here to loop-master rza, in particular the creation of “harmonies” (which are really quite dissonant) that result from laying various string samples over other string samples, sped and slowed voices, etc. finally, the constant use of classic breakbeats to underpin all of this is also inspired by rza and “true-school” producers more generally.
at times the songs may sound a bit woozy, for i’m really messing with their warp-points, especially in cases where the performances are more rubato than regular. i also alternate between playing what are essentially whole tracks (with little more than a breakbeat on top), playing shorter loop-based portions, and playing segments of songs simultaneously. and of course, there is a heavy bit of echo/delay running throughout the entire mix, providing a bit more propulsion, polyrhythm, and psychedelia.
if you can bring yourself to listen to this sort of stuff voluntarily, i hope you dig.
a happy holiday and season’s greetings to all – and to all a good break.
[Sticking to the seasonal, here's another musical maneuver I pulled on some well-worn Christmas fare. Given the recent resurgence of talk about homophobia in reggae -- not to mention what must be some serious shadenfreude over Buju Banton's arrest -- I have to admit that, sharing Rizzla's frustration, I'm a little ambivalent about adding, um, flames to the fire. But a lot of my thoughts below still hold, and I still find it unsettling that I can't hear "Little Drummer Boy" without thinking "Fire Mek We Bun Dem!" This was originally published on Dec 14, 2005.]
as a sort of musical reflection/intervention on the murder of steve harvey, i offer a mashup that i’ve been thinking about putting together for a while.
as with “boom bye bye” – that ever-so-catchy ode to killing gays by buju banton (who has recently been on trial for allegedly beating, with some help from his friends, six gay men back in June) – TOK’s “chi chi man” always struck me as similarly pernicious in its pleasures. by giving such sensual form to such violent thoughts, making it easy for hateful sentiments to roll around in our minds and on our tongues, these artists abuse some special powers. and though i’m not one to call for censorship, i do believe in the value of self-censorship and of community censure. at times, TOK and buju clearly suffer from too little of both.
i’ve always heard the chorus melody of “chi chi man” as an unmistakable riff on the christmas classic, “do you hear what i hear?” (one of my favorite renditions of which is the johnny mathis version used here). i’ve heard others claim, however, that TOK borrow the melody from a jamaican folk song. (can anyone confirm that? and, if so, which song?) regardless, i, and probably many other listeners, always hear it referencing the christmas carol. and although one doesn’t hear “chi chi man” too frequently ’round these parts – my brother called me one day from hartford, completely shocked that they were playing it on the radio – at this time of year, one does hear “do you hear?” and guess what it makes yours truly think of?
yup – TOK have colonized my musical imagination in this case, so i find myself dubbing “blaze di fire, mek we bun dem!” over the refrain to the song. it’s a little absurd, really. annoying, sure, but so’s the original by itself. it’s the cognitive dissonance that i find most striking: as this very (new testament) christian song overlays with the very (old testament) christian sentiment of smiting abominations, i find myself thinking about all sorts of amazing contradictions.
this mashup calls attention to the ridiculousness of TOK’s assertions. although the group boyband would likely claim to speak from a communal voice, when we hear the lyrics put in the mouths of shepherd boys, mighty kings, and people everywhere – never mind night winds and little lambs – the utter smallness of espousing such hatred is more than evident. its very christianity, of course, also comes into question. (but whose doesn’t these days?)
at any rate, i present it here in the hope that it might provoke more thought about the issue of homophobia in general and about music’s role in reflecting/informing people’s values (and, crucially, actions) around it. i agree with robert carr that “If the dialogue is going to be effective, it has to be clear that it is an internal dialogue, not something imposed from outside influences with different agendas.” but i’m not exactly sure where we draw the lines of internal/external. these lines are blurry. i hear TOK’s as well as more “homegrown” anti-gay sentiments here in cambridge, MA, and jamaican citizens (a large number of whom live outside of JA, let’s remember) encounter various perspectives, in public and private, with regards to sexual orientation. there are no discrete communities or cultures in the world. they all intersect and overlap.
[This is the first in a series of several reblogged posts from the now defunct Riddim Meth0d blog. I figured I'd start with some seasonally appropriate fare, so look for a couple more X-mas related things to follow. This post was originally published on Dec 21, 2005.]
not to be a humbug, but it occurred to me that screwing (or is it unwinding?) one of the chipmunks’ christmas tunes would be a funny way both to reverse-engineer the song and to tap into the ’05 zeitgeist.
despite its novelty, ross bagdasarian’s one-man band has proved an enduring cultural phenomenon, and the ‘munks christmas songs (and x-mas special) are as unavoidable as any other seasonal pap. somehow, at least for the first few encounters, i still find the chipmunks’ routine, especially on this song in particular, to be rather delightful. the way alvin pines for a hula hoop always makes me laugh, and the tight (extra tight when sped-up) barbershop harmonies never fail to strike a chord – even when dave claims that alvin is flat.
on this screw (but, sorry, no chop), the chipmunks’ “real” voices are revealed, though dave’s adult register, never sped-up to begin with, slurs along like houston’s finest. and don’t those horn blasts at the beginning sound sweet? chop-worthy to be sure, though working in 3/4 time would be a challenge for even the swishest of screwdrivers.
Sadly, our ol’ group blog, Riddim Meth0d (actually, named after the article), has fallen into disuse and disrepair, w/ 400,000 unmoderated comments and countless foreign phishing outposts that have long slipped past the outmoded filters — not to mention, no new posts for almost 2 years now. I myself last posted there back in May 2007. I suppose I stopped in part because of a certain lack of collective drive, but also because I had enough — any and all, really — that I wanted to say here. (It was always hard to decide what should go there, as opposed to and/or cross-posted here.)
music speaks volumes about who we are and where we’re at.
we speak with music as well as words.
we are beat-matching, beat-mashing, and beat-fashioning people.
we dub history, version worlds, retrace tributaries, spin stories.
we see music as performance, riddim as method.
we are media restructurists.
we like to share.
-the riddim methodists
Mostly, I was posting what we might think of as “pedagogical mashups” — juxtapositions of tracks that seemed to signify on each other in interesting, even instructive, ways. I think many of them have held up over the years, and so, while we wait for Riddim Meth0d to receive the museum treatment (probably relocating, embalmed & phishy-free, to one of our own sites), in the meantime, just for my own records (and perhaps for some who missed the posts the first time around), I’m going to be reposting a bunch of my favorite contributions to the site right here at W&W. Just a headsup–
An ethno-colleague, who shall remain anonymous, had her students listen to the Afropop program on World Music 2.0. She was kind enough to send me a hilarious response. I’m rather floored by the ways it mixes a (kneejerk?) resistance to exoticism and an insistence on indigenous originality. I wonder how many other listeners/readers either A) miss the point and/or B) are unable to hear what’s interesting in the music we’re talking about —
The music of the “World Music 2.0″ genre doesn’t seem to really hold up on its own. Listening to it is extremely boring due to its repetitive nature and lack of any interesting musical forms. The only purpose it seems to have is to provide a dance beat at clubs or parties.
Can this music even be considered world music anymore? It sounds so western that I cannot differentiate it from club music created in America and Europe. We established earlier that just because a song is made in a non-western country, doesn’t necessarily mean it can be considered world music. If a song is created in a western style by a non western artist, then it is not world music.
Are there a lot of issues with copyright and originality that arise due to the internet based nature of world music 2.0? It seems as though a lot of songs result from various mixes and beats created by non-professionals that are then changed as they spread across the internet.
For all the confusion here, that last sentence really hits the nail on the head!
I enjoyed this so thoroughly yesterday that I need to post it here. Thanks to Frank Roberts for the tip. Becca called this 15 minute film “pitch perfect,” and I think she’s right. Hope you dig this as much as we. Someone needs to give Mykwain Gainey the resources to produce a series or something, preferably along these lines (and IMO with basically these same production values — so simple, so brilliant, so affective).