I listen to Penicillin on Wax, a profoundly ignorant, 22-year-old album about how much Bronx rapper Tim Dog hates Compton, more often than is probably suitable for someone with a wife, an actual dog, proper adult responsibilities, and no real feelings of ill will toward N.W.A., Compton, the West Coast, the Raiders, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Penicillin is ignorant in a punishing, old school sort of way, bereft of wit or cleverness or grace or gimmickry. It’s just one severely aggrieved guy from the Bronx on the wrong side of history, as he yells and growls and stumbles over his own rage-filled words. It’s like the hatred grew so intense that it’s tipped over to glee, as Tim calls N.W.A. a bunch of “PUSSIES!” over their own beat, fantasizes about their sexual abuse, schemes to roll into Compton with a hundred Bronx brothers and the Nation of Islam, guffaws about Eazy-E’s “little ass dick,” calls Dr. Dre out for beating up on women, and mocks their Raider gear “when the Giants won the Super Bowl.” And that’s just the album “Intro.”
There are, officially, four Pharcyde albums. But I'm going to follow in the footsteps of an old college friend of mine who liked to deny the existence of a third Godfather movie ("It would have been terrible — I mean, imagine if Winona Ryder had dropped out, forcing them to cast Sofia Coppola as Pacino's daughter?") and say there are really only two: 1995's Labcabincalifornia and its predecessor, 1992's Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, the group's debut album, released 20 years ago this week. (If you heard it around that time, please take this opportunity to contemplate the alarming speed with which you're hurtling toward the grave. This is going to keep happening. Midnight Marauders and Enter the Wu-Tang both turn 20 next year; our commemoration-mad culture will not let you forget it. Deep breath.)
Bizarre Ride came out within a month of the most epoch-defining L.A. rap album of all time, Dr. Dre's solo debut The Chronic. It's convenient and tempting to view these albums, created in the same riot-torn city around the same time, as two sides of a coin — the hedonistic/nihilistic blockbuster that converted gangsta rap into a pop master-narrative and the goofball-surreal cult record whose self-deprecating sense of humor and no-joke songcraft poked holes in that narrative. The problem with that binary is that Bizarre Ride doesn't really have much to say about gangsta hegemony; when Fatlip, Imani, Bootie Brown, and Slimkid3 take satirical aim at their context, it's usually to mock the self-righteous solemnity of so-called "conscious" rap. Hence the voice insisting "We need some brothers to be, like, droppin' knowledge and writing good stuff" before "Ya Mama," a demented dozens routine ("Ya mama got snakeskin teeth!") complete with four-part barbershop harmony.
Today Forbes unleashed its list of the highest-paid celebrities. The most recent list, which charts cash monies acquired between May 2011 and May 2012, is an amazing list, mainly because it's full of surprises. I CAN'T WAIT TO TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE.
To complete the implicit analogy between this new track from Ross's God Forgives, I Don't and David O. Russell's early classic Three Kings: Jay-Z is obviously George Clooney, Dr. Dre is probably Ice Cube, and so Ross is Mark Wahlberg? And Gunplay can be Spike Jonze?
After tag-teaming Coachella’s first weekend, we here at Grantland managed, for the first time ever, to fight off our FOMO, and left the fest’s second weekend all alone. We didn’t miss much: The lineup from the first weekend was repeated in full down to Hologram Tupac, who was once again called up from the dark nothingness in which he resides. (Despite the insane level of scrutiny Hologram Tupac was facing this week, after that remarkable debut, his performance went off without a hitch. True professional.) But over a long three days, a few new wrinkles did appear. Here are four of them!
It’s been a whole day since Hologram Tupac made his contentious debut performance at Coachella, so of course it’s time for some open-ended speculation. OK, ready for this? According to the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Dre is not content letting Hologram Tupac blow minds and then return to the mute darkness in which he resides — instead, Dre is actually considering bringing him on tour. Says the WSJ, “Representatives for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg plan to discuss logistics for a tour involving the two performers and the virtual Tupac, according to a person familiar with the discussions. One option would be a tour in stadiums, involving other hip-hop stars, including Eminem, 50 Cent, and Wiz Khalifa. Alternately, they could stage a more limited tour, featuring only Dre, Snoop Dogg and the virtual Tupac, in smaller arenas.” Adds Ed Ulbrich of Digital Domain Media Group, the company that birthed Hologram Tupac, “This is just the beginning. Dre has a massive vision for this.”
I haven’t stepped a foot inside Coachella and already I’m being propositioned into minor illegality. While I loiter outside the gate before heading in, a young man named Edgar, who is smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes, approaches, having taken me for a potential fence-hopping accomplice. I insist that I have a valid pass and official business to conduct, but he’s not so convinced. He tells me he’s broken in the last two years, and that while security has intensified this year — at some point he uses the phrase “tighter than a dolphin’s butthole,” or something similarly hilarious — there are always weaknesses, and he’s going to walk the perimeter to unearth some. And it almost sounds badass enough to try. Ultimately, though, I wish him well and head inside the normal way. Hope you made it in, Edgar.
Are you ready for the future?! And by the future, obviously I mean, are you ready for a Nate Dogg hologram?!! Nate, who passed away just over a year ago, is joining Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s Coachella-closing set this Sunday night via Princess Leia. This. Is. Not. A. Joke. According to TMZ, “Dr. Dre didn't want to leave Nate out of his Sunday performance — so he's incorporating his old friend using hologram technology ... the same technology that broadcast Mariah Carey's image across Europe last year ... at 5 simultaneous concerts. We're told an image of Nate will be projected onto the Coachella stage — alongside Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Warren G, and Daz Dillinger — to make it appear as though he's actually performing on stage.” SPIN points out that Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Wiz Khalifa are rumored to be on stage as well, but who in the hell is going to be looking at anything but the Nate Dogg hologram. Only one question: Is a "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope" reference too obvious to be made from the stage, or is it so obvious it must be made from the stage?
Yesterday, Kendrick Lamar — the extravagantly talented L.A. rapper pegged as the next great hope of West Coast hip-hop — dropped his first official single, “The Recipe.” It comes after a string of killer semi-official releases on which Kendrick flashed his potent blend of stripped-down candidness, even-keeled commentary, conflicted party proclivities, and undeniable rap chops. For right now, though, it’s just that last one that concerns us.
RZA, a man with such a long history of accomplishments and occupations that it's almost embarrassing to list them, came through Paris this weekend to launch his latest endeavor — a new pair of headphones in collaboration with WeSC. If one had only seen glimpses of him at the launch party, surrounded by admirers and an entourage, one might be tricked into assuming that he is a standard-issue celebrity who just slapped his name on a semi-decent product and called it a day. In fact, in person, RZA is almost disarmingly down-to-earth and sincere about everything he's doing — no matter how many things that may be. This year, aside from his many music projects, he's also wrapping up his first directorial feature, The Man With the Iron Fists, starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu — which he also cowrote. Between producing, recording, directing, and designing, he found some time to sit down with us and talk about what he's been up to.
I have always been intrigued by the art and/or consumer science of festival flyer design. The festival flyer is not just a one-dimensional announcement simply announcing, “These bands are playing our music festival.” It is an important marketing tool to brand the festival experience and display artistic diversity across the festival lineup. As genres like ‘indie’ and ‘electro’ begin to fractal into chillwave, dubstep, and other made-up words, having a wide range of names that are strategically positioned on a flyer can change the entire consumer perception of a festival. Even if all of the wristbands are going to sell out no matter what.
One day we’ll look back at festival flyers like they are important historical artifacts that represent the intersection of music and culture. Just kidding--old flyers will just be forgotten .jpg files, chilling in internet eternity in the same digital graveyard as MySpace profiles. It is more important to analyze a new flyer when it is released in order to try to understand the current hierarchy of buzz.
One of my low points last year was selling my Coachella tickets because I had finals. Actually, the real low point was watching Kanye West close out Coachella 2011 from my laptop in the fifth-floor stacks of the library. Alone. Yep, definitely much lower. You see, after attending the show in 2010 and having near-religious experiences during the sets of Jay-Z, Muse, Tiësto, Phoenix, and many others, I vowed to make the yearly hajj to Indio, California, to be a part of the love fest.