Thursday, 27 September 2007

"The Dantons of history are always defeated by the Robespierres..."


If you like your European history painted in lush meta-narratives without all the scholarly pedantry, E.J. Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 should suffice.

Friday, 21 September 2007

That's Aight

At the moment, I am forced to litter this page with unfinished thoughts and superficial ramblings. Of course the reason for this is that if one were to personify the actual time it takes me to produce a piece it would most assuredly resemble the weathered face of George Bernard Shaw.

On Music
  • Blu and Exile's Beneath the Heavens is a refreshing bit of hip-hop. Exile devours 9th Wonder with his soul-sample patchwork and thundering drums while Blu spits with the wisdom of an old-soul that makes the commonplace seem sensational.
  • Talib Kweli's Eardrum is not as mediocre as The Beautiful Struggle especially with Madlib, Kanye and Pete Rock providing the beats. My issues with it are much more fundamental as I'll attempt to describe in a later review.
  • Aesop Rock's None Shall Pass is of high quality. Thank you Blockhead.
  • Liars Liars is noisy.
  • Black Lips Good Bad Not Evil, as much as I hate to admit it, is pretty good, though it is an almost exact replica of its influences.

Who's Wack

  • (please stop killing our favorite rappers)
  • Deerhunter (please shut up; narcissism without substance is unbecoming)

Friday, 14 September 2007

Feasting and Lounging...A Fatman's Guide to a Healthy English Lifestyle

Join Franklin Fisher in the coming days as he demonstrates his innovative and counterintuitive exercise programme...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007



Finding Forever

Rating - 6 / 10
The beauty of hip-hop springs from want, its enduring soul from need. A need that to an eighteen year-old bound in the urban South– South Bronx, Southwest Atlanta, South Central L.A. and the Southside of Chicago serving as telling metaphors of abjection – is unquenchable. I first stumbled upon the abstraction of hunger on Main Source’s seminal 1991 LP Breaking Atoms. The track “Live at the Barbeque” captured the carnivorous ferocity of a young Nasty Nas “trapped in a cage and let out by Main Source.” I then concretely grasped the concept of hunger with the No I.D. produced joint, ‘Hungry’, on Lonnie Lynn’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the track all nails and granite, sharp horn stabs and cracked guitars the locus for Common’s intro stanza “I walk the night in rhymin’ armor / Bomb a nigga like a winter coat/ Have him on Death Row searching for an Interscope / Yet I sparkle like Irene Cara / Symbolize dope like sirens do terror” – an intro that may only be second in rap history to Inspectah Deck’s atomic bombing on “Triumph.” If only I would have known how fleeting this urgency is in rap music I would have held on to all those dollar cassettes, finding refuge in the metonymic relics of authenticity. I can still see KRS-One peering out the window like Malcom with the joint on By All Means Necessary, Mr. Parker a prescient Edward Gibbon looking down upon the history of the decline and fall of hip-hop.

The point here, though, is not to claim that we should reminisce over hip-hop’s passing but to note the Manichean relationship between hunger and contentment. Hip-hop is bound by ledges, its heights Olympian, its chasms infinite. Despite my own attempts to ignore the oft-disappointing obelisk, I am always drawn to it to see who will be the next icon to fall off. And they always fall off.

Common is one individual that seems to personify this dualism. He began in the chasm, all hunger and not much else on Can I Borrow a Dollar?, an endearing yet broke collection of battle raps and boom-bap. He then emerged as one of the filthiest since Nas on Resurrection, a sonic and lyrical masterpiece. His descent was slower than most, his stomach growing plump on sugary singles like “Retrospect for Life”, “The Light” and “Come Close.” Yet each subsequent album revealed that Common was not completely satiated as “Hungry” and “6th Sense” allowed the Chicagoan to bear his rather defanged teeth. Then he reminded us of his imminence on his masterwork, Be, producer Kanye West returning us to Leon’s Barbeque, with Common in line impatiently waiting to devour the rib tips, hot sauce and fries inside.

Finding Forever is an attempt to revisit the Southside so viscerally imagined on Be. But the Chicago depicted here is much more Potemkin than authentic. With references to Midnight Marauders littered throughout, Common attempts to remind us that he is the same Lonnie Lynn from Chi-City. Yet his is a city much more Super Bowl than Scribble Jam, the streets replaced with stadium-like fast food stalls destroying any vestiges of the old Leon’s. Compared to its predecessor, Finding Forever misfires from the start. Whereas James Poyser assisted ‘Be’ was Donnie Hathaway cold breath on a Chicago night, ‘Intro’ is more Grover Washington, Jr. tepidity. ‘Start the Show’ almost undoes the new age futility of the previous track with Pretty Purdie snares and Common directing us to “feel the passion of this b-boy rationale.” His attempts to personify a modern Gil Scott-Heron are almost believable on “The People” while Kanye absolutely kills the beat with fluttering synths and stuttering bass. Yet Finding Forever’s ultimate weakness is paradoxically manifest in its penultimate track, as Dwele provides a wholly unnecessary, unimaginative hook. In fact, the syrupy pop throughout is thick as molasses, reaching its fulsome pinnacle on the assisted ‘I Want You.’ As much as we try to avoid the obvious, is nothing short of wack. He’s especially lost on an album intended as an ode to the late J-Dilla; where the latter exuded soul, the former can only attempt to replicate it in a pop format, his attempts about as well-executed as Lenny Kravitz covering ‘Purple Rain.’

Burners ‘Southside’ and ‘The Game’ do provide momentary cover from the smooth, Soulquarian-lite deluge of the record. Kanye re-imagines his impeccable performance from ‘The Food’ on ‘Southside,’ mimicking, “Your fly is open mid-fly, the crowd is open I think I know why / I’m back from the future seen it with my own eyes / And yep I’m still the future of the Chi.” Though Common produces occasional signs of life on these two tracks, he disappears into neo-soul banality throughout the second-half of the album; the low-point most assuredly the obvious, soulless rendering of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.’ While any attempt to transmit the melancholic uplift of Ms. Simone’s live performances, as even Antony will admit, is unwieldy, ‘Misunderstood’ undoubtedly personifies Common’s attempt to replicate the refocused hunger he found on Be. Unfortunately, he is more the bloated LL on Mr. Smith then the starving James Smith on Radio. And while on ‘The People’ Common claims to have found the new Preemo in Kayne, it seems we have found the new Guru in Common, a rather apathetic pop-rapper that may have finally fallen off once and for all.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


A year ago I was consumed by humidity, languishing in artistic torpitude as sluggish as any mid-summer Atlanta afternoon. It was a combination of a procession of dreams deferred and, to butcher Hannah Arendt's phrase, the evil of banality. A year later I am reveling in inspiration, an inspiration that comes at the dawn of autumn where I can see every word spoken in the cold induced outline of my warm breath. I have never so desired to devour life and I want to thank those who have abetted my hunger.

Shanna Sang (I could never express in words my debt to you)
John Gullick (A lovely man full of grace and humility)
Frankie Fisher (Although you attempt a cynical character your love of life is infectious)
Lee Tesche (My musical partner and the most interesting, inspired person I know)
Mom (Anything I might say would be trite in comparison to your love)

Madame Rieux

To continue the rather morose mood today,

I cannot bear to see you like this.
If possible I would spend every moment with you in wordless comfort devising a revisionist history.
We would shrug off cancerous men and our own insecurities, not with the normal world weary sigh but with a confident exaltation.
I would devour my lies, imbibing the poison I have so often grown beneath our home.
I would speak to you over breakfast and collect your tears until your eyes dry up.
We would ignore the trifles that constitute living and get drunk off a utopia constructed from an ever decomposing world.
Death would only be physical and we'd trample our fears beneath our new limbs.
Nothing would hold us prostrate, no kings, no thieves and no liars.
The liars would be saints and we would realize they never meant any harm.
We would kiss their cheeks and tell them we knew all along.
God would be exactly who you thought he would be and he'd forgive me for denying him.
And there would be no leaving ever again.

...or the Death Knell of Democracy

11 Fructidor 2007

There are several whom are far more qualified to engage with such a complex set of issues which today's date conjures. For those interested in transcending the static conversations yearly reproduced without much thought or real sentiment Slavoj Zizek's Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Jean Baudrillard's The Spirit of Terrorism and even Michael Mann's The Dark Side of Democracy should be interesting starting points. What is the relationship between all those supposed democrats who issued the British Mandate of Palestine on this date in 1922 or those who overthrew Salvador Allende on this date in 1973? Or even those most virtuous of democrats as Maximilien Robespierre or John Brown? While mourning is most appropriate, the spring of the victim did not dawn on September 11, 2001.