Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Only God Can Judge Me: A Stroll Down Time's Musical Memory Lane To the Sweet, Sweet Sounds of My Own Private Background Music

Even Ignorant Heads Gotz Love for Hip Hop/What I Learned From Weezie/and Strolling Thru Life To the Sweet, Sweet Sounds of My Own Private Background Music

I. Coming Out: Full Musical Preference Disclosure

I was never a hip-hop head, not really. Not hardcore. But in the 90s when some of the most iconic rappers were dropping their best and most legendary music in rap & hip hop that was always the background music in my life. 

However, I had a secret: you see, I was primarily focused on grunge and alt-rock. and pop. This had to remain a secret because this preference was generally considered wack and altogether strange among the black folk who would have dismissed this fetish with one withering judgement: that's so white!

So I was a rocker and emo pop lover in secret. In Junior High I was devoted to Mariah Carey but blessedly recovered from that error in taste by high school. I remember Sinead O'Connor's first album The Lion and the Cobra was bliss -- her signature song Troy is still brilliant demonstrating her extraordinary vocal talent and showing that she was unique then and now. Sinead was nobody's pop tart and 25 years later she's still creating and showing the young ones how is has to be done.  

George Michael: what can I say, no amount of embarrassing tales of his public sex habits will ever cause me to divest myself from his music, not ever. 

Prince, of course lives in a category all his own. I used to insist that Adore   would be the music to serenade me down the aisle to my beloved husband-to-be and every date I've ever gone on I secretly judged whether he could be the One To Be Adored. Was so depressed at the end of each date, in each relationship because it was so clear that this one was so not the one I could adore. I'd add a link for you to hear one of my favorite songs in life but we all know Prince lives in the Dark Ages as it concerns the interwebs *eyeroll* The only thing one can do about this is to shrug and say "Nigga please." If you are of the Paler Nation then you should not say that, so I have used my privilege and said it for you. You're welcome.

(On a sidenote I did finally meet him, the one I adore to whom I dedicate this song.... Yeah, that's all I have to report at present. Since finding him was half the battle, there is still time for further development -- I hope?-- but so far it's looking bleak, truth be told. ...more on that subject some other time perhaps.) 

All the Soul and R&B of the 90s was just perfection but somehow when the calendar turned over into 2000 true Soul and R&B the legacy of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder et al died a cold, lonely death. Back in the day R&B was a genre of artists raised on church music, when R&B vocals and music had to have that quality of soul that could produce chills and seemed to be the sole trait of  only a Black Americans. The 90s gave us Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, and D'Angelo and for me this was the music that connected me to hip-hop and the old school traditions of Soul/R&B. All of these artists are still killing it, still staying true to roots but constantly creatively evolving.  Hell, I could spend all day talking about this but I'm pulling off the top of my head and those artists still to this day are giving that Old School flavor. Rap I was never into so much but the hip-hop music scene I was all over that shit. And some may say that the two can't be separated that they are so interrelated as to be essentially inseparable. They are two sides of the same coin. 

I dabbled in a little of folk here and there: Ani Difranco can do no wrong in my eyes.

I love and revere 80s pop music so hard -- I'm looking at you Duran Duran! And I heard that eye-roll, fuck y'all, only God can judge me!!

Michael Jackson will ever more live in a strata of the musical astral world that is possibly untouchable. I'm spinning Human Nature right now as I type.

College introduced me to trip-hop: Portishead. Tricky. Morcheeba. Roll me a blunt and turn that shit up loud. All my memories from 18-22 are backed up by the sounds of trip-hop.

Michelle N'degeocello is such a badass goddess that I went to her concert in Philadelphia and experienced two hours of such intense sexual confusion and goddammit I crave the opportunity to be so conflicted again. Anytime. Her cover of Love You Down is one of those rare instances of brilliance when a remake is better than the original.

In terms of alt-rock and the short lived grunge era I didn't discover the Pixies untill college but they are now, until the end of time the gods of my music boxes. Smashing Pumpkins. I was addicted to Pearl Jam in my high school Sophomore and Junior years. At 14 my best girlfriend Courtney gave me U2's Rattle and Hum on CD(this was when CDs were new and if you can't remember such a time you are a baby -- I'm talkin to the old-heads right now)  I loved that CD so much I can't even make you understand it; I lived with that CD. Still have it and it's proof that they don't make products the way they used to it because it is scratched and beat down severely from bouncing around in my car, in my Diskman which I still use (fuck technology, the Diskman is all I need, son) and that CD still plays.sly. 

But it's strange what time does to music, I listened to it recently and felt a bit underwhelmed. I dont know if I was having a bad day or if the sound that was old school U2 is just way too syrupy to be taken seriously.  Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun is divinity transformed into sound and Chris Cornell just turned 50 years old and still looks like a Greek god. Nirvana's first album was major but I never thought they were worth the hype, not really. 

So I was into just about everything but hip hop and rap. 

My point is that even though every morning on the drive to school me and my carpool were all nodding heads and bouncing in sync to Snoop Doggy Dog (remember when he was Doggy Dog, not just Dog or his newest incarnation as Snoop Lion...whatever) and Dr Dre introducing us to the apparent elixir properties of Gin and Juice. Nevertheless my musical preferences were decidedly a little bit rock, and a little bit pop. But the beautiful lesson I've learned is that there are so many roads to hip-hop; you may start out as far from it as you please and one day you find yourself felled by something creatively ingenious even against your will. 

My mentor teaches a course at Fordham University called from Rock and Roll to Hip Hop which he began teaching nearly fifteen years ago - the year after I graduated. Ain't that some shit. I don't know much but I'm still learning, no shame in that.

II. Finding Rap Nirvana

I was messing around on Youtube one day during that summer when Adele had just dropped Rolling in the Deep I was surfing all the artists who covered the song -- because  I was, still am obsessed by that song --and there were many, many covers. Adele hit everyone in the heart by creating a piece of art all the bitterness and trauma that you suffer from a damaging love; she encompassed all those things you wanted to say to an ex yet never could have  expressed in the same manner of beauty and emotion and eloquence that Adele achieves. 

John Legend's cover sucked completely and I hate it hard, but in fairness I'm not all that impressed by John Legend anyway. Linkin Park's cover was quite interesting, a very stripped down acapella that is surprisingly lovely. Chester Bennington's clear tenor adds a masculine pathos to the song that demonstrates once again what LP does best in their style of mixing the hardcore elements of rock and rap to somehow produce music that is emotional without sacrificing the nasty-ass grit that is required for both rock and rap -- and they earn their respect. In other words, they manage to make hella tasty ear candy that has all the genuine elements of talent creatively, musically and lyrically for an earned declaration to all that you-can't-fuck-with-us. (Full disclosure: I love the shit outta LP. Don't judge, don't even come for me, bruh.)

Okay so here I am surfing secretly to satisfy my obsession with Adele's song -- the lyrics!! Even more than the music itself and her vocals the lyrics just kill me, it's one of those millions of things in the world that I did not write and wish to God in his Heaven that I had done myself. 

Surf surf surf and what do I come across in the search for Rolling in the Deep covers but Lil Wayne! And methinks: WTF?! I couldn't resist taking a listen...

.... and thusly encountered one of the most extraordinary listening 
experiences of my life.

First of all, Weezie isn't covering the tune, he samples the baseline and as soon as the first beats open the song you realize that he was extremely clever to choose this as a sample. In the video when you see the drummer under the staircase just busting shit up with the foot treadle and his snares so that upstairs on the second floor the glasses of water are rippling along with the rhythm. So Weezie was wise in his choice:  that drum beat is straight luscious. And the first three or four seconds as his version opens alerts you that you are in for a truly unique experience.

 My first listen through I was so deeply appalled that I slipped into clinical shock and certain to sustain lasting trauma. 

Ain't Nobody fucking with me
First degree murder, you can get your degree
And you ain't gotta wonder 'bout me wonder woman
Tune gonna ball, money tall, Paul Bunyan
Real nigga shit, pussy niggas gon hate
Pound of the Kush call that bitch pound cake
I hit it from the back
And make that bitch about face
And then I gotta split
I'm sorry baby, sour grapes
She wine, baby don't leave
I duck that bullshit, bob and weave
Everybody tripping, but I ain't never tripping
Leave your ass flatter than my new television---
My first impression was clear, definite and certain: Sorry for the Wait by Lil Wayne is the vilest,
most profane piece of rap I have ever heard. I was frozen through by how utterly nasty this song was. And to use Adele's masterpiece in such a cavalier fashion---!! It was sinful.
I had to listen to it again. After my third and fourth listen-throughs I sent it to one of my best friends who is a die-hard rap and hip hop fan -- "fan" doesn't even really capture his devotion but we'll go with that term anyway -- I sent it to his Facebook "Can you believe this song? OMG it's sooo obscene!! Like seriously this is beyond-the-beyond in terms of vulgarity. It''s...just raunchy filth!!" sez I. 

And then I went and listened to it some more.

After a week of uninterrupted listening to Weezie I was aware of a strange change occurring to me. I had found a lyrics video on youtube so that I could read the lyrics in order to demonstrate to others how profane, how vulgar, how nasty this song was. 

Even though I had to admit (silently, only to myself of course) that there was something approaching brilliance to his imagery. And there are a lot of lyrics, how he remembers them all I can't imagine. 

But he succeeds in making some extraordinary illustrations. Clever doesn't capture how damn talented he is. I am not a monster, I was prepared to give credit where it was due and there was no denying that he was due high and heavy props.

'Im talking about money and the power
Power and the money
This shit is magic Stan Van Gundy
Ima run this shit till I'm the last man runnin
Mack light that shit, then pass that to me
Young Money motherfucker yeah
We the shit, yeah Weezy go hard like Cialis
Don't love that bitch, I fucked that ho
She pop X I smoke O's tic-tac-toe
And I stink cause I got alot of shit on my mind
They say numbers don't lie, is that a 6 or a 9?
I stand infront of the clock
Cause I'm ahead of the time
Knock your pussy ass off
And send your head to your mom
First time I heard this I could feel my eyes widening in alarm, my heart racing in disbelief at what I was hearing. And, so, shivering with outrage I put Sorry for the Wait on repeat. At this stage perhaps it was denial that shielded me from realizing that a pattern was forming. Soon I had to listen to the song every morning as a wake-me-up. Whenever I was sad Sorry for the Wait helped get my head straight. I never ever have been able to listen to it just one time and move on; no, I would listen to it six or seven time in a row.

Soon I had to write my friend and make a serious confession: Weezie is the shit and Sorry for the Wait is by far the most joyful selection of the rapper's art that I have ever known. Weezie's skill as a lyricist is perhaps beyond compare. Weezie's creation had become the single most respected piece of rapping delight to me. The vulgarity, the skilled playfulness, the surprising metaphors and similes that he juggles so deftly -- all of it -- Lil Wayne's Sorry for the Wait is quite simply the shit

Lyrically speaking, you cannot fuck with this creation. It is pure fancy, dirty as you wanna be and full of ideas that link to one another and create something new and seamless.
I ain't playing with niggas, no sir not me
And they can't blindfold what my third eye see
Yeah I was locked up, but like a bird I'm free
And the coupe transform, no Tyrese
Hello Goodbye, where are you Wayne?
I'm somewhere inbetween joy and pain
And I reach for the stars, got stuck in the clouds
Got high as a bitch and left my love on the ground
No, sir I kid you not -- Lil Wayne won me over and over and over - just the way I play the song everytime I listen. At this point I can recite with near perfection along with him and I have to be careful when I put on my headphones in case anybody walks in while I'm up in the floor in the midst of my performance. Others may   not understand you see, so I am writing this for future reference. Nothing gives me greater happiness than to listen to Weezie spitting his game hard as shit. I feel joy even unto the six or seventh listen through. There have been hard, sad, scary things I've needed courage to endure and Sorry for the Wait has a power over me that is almost magical and I am ever grateful to Weezie for this charm of strength.

Vile and nasty as the lyrics seemed in the first hundred listens or so, it has become the one thing that can make me laugh and smile under any circumstance. I am no scholar of rap, and pretty much any person age 6 and up probably knows more than I. You may wish to challenge my passion for this song by pointing out that indeed other rappers have created much nastier, far more vulgar and meaningful pieces of art. I care not about your challenges. 

I give you this much, those of you who would challenge my assertions: I find it difficult to look at Weezie. It just-- I'm saying, it's just-- he's like--- I mean, you know what I'm sayin??

But there is only one Weezie and this is his masterpiece. I would let him teach an English class on
how to form metaphors. Yes, I said it!! I said it!! What?! 

I genuflect to his brilliance.

Straight up this is an example of a rapper at the top of his game, snatching wigs, killing without 
remorse. I'm talkin bout rap genius. 


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