A Trip Down Memory Lane

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Yes, it would appear I own this movie.

In a caffeine-induced mass-organization of the apartment. Sorting through a pile of early 21st century detritus that has been laying around for years: CDs and DVDs covered in ash, dust, and long-dried droplets of beer. I have discovered that over the years, through moves, various roommates, and my own abominable movie-returning habits, I have acquired possibly the world’s worst and weirdest DVD collection.

In the “I’d watch it again” category:

Tony Scott’s “The Last Boy Scout” (thanks, Nicole. Sorry I am so bad at ‘borrowing’ stuff.)

Almodovar’s “Volver.” Loved this movie and saw it thrice in 2006, spawning a year-long Almodovar obsession; wonder what I’d think of it now?

David Lynch’s “Mulhullond Drive.” For as much trash as I talk about David Lynch, I should probably remember his movies a little better in order to fully engage with my detractors. I originally saw this movie when it first came out, WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, and no longer remember much of it. And I have no idea why I have a copy of it: is it properly mine? Or, who lent it to me?

PTA’s “There Will Be Blood.” The case of this film has a ‘blockbuster’ sticker on it. Hm. Just saw “The Master” and might be time for a re-viewing of its predecessor; I feel that they share flaws. The organic brilliance and grandiosity of the first hour is eventually overshadowed by PTA’s need to make more brilliant, grandiose, dramatic, doom & kabloom scenes, losing focus and dragging out the end of the movie.

In the WTF category:

“The Mechanic.” A Jason Statham flick full of the requisite vein-popping, head-bashing action, but this time it’s set in the Louisiana Bayou, a place with a regional dialect so mysterious to most Americans that the setting conveniently erases the need to give any real backstory for why Statham’s “American” accent sounds so bizarre. Also, Donald Sutherland is in it. I accrue movies like this because anna + redbox = disaster. Redbox allows for a shameless anonymity that renting at, say, Odd Obsession does not, so it makes me rent all kinds of stupid shit because I think to myself, “Oh, it’s only $1!” Wrong, it’s $25, every time, because I never return redbox rentals.

“The Messenger.” anna + redbox = disaster.

“Harry Brown.” anna + redbox = disaster. This movie was sort of worthwhile. “Harry Brown” is an ostentatious exploitation movie that revisits Michael Caine’s earliest acting persona as a hard knocking gangsta in Hodge’s British classic “Get Carter.” Except this time, he’s a geezer. It is to Caine as “Gran Torino” is an update to Clint Eastwood’s earlier vengeance persona in “Dirty Harry.”

“Doctor Parnassus.” anna + redbox = disaster. Never even watched it.

“Sherlock Holmes.” anna + redbox = disaster. Also didn’t watch this.

“What a Girl Wants.” Perhaps you’ve never heard of this movie. It is a modern princess story about a wily American girl who discovers that her father is a landed British artistocrat (played by Colin Firth). Dad needs daughter to help remove the union jack flagpole from his ass; daughter needs dad because, well, she needs a dad. Lent to me by my Aunt Maggie, who loves Colin Firth as much as I do.

“Definitely, Maybe.” Undoubtedly left in my computer by an ex-boyfriend who was hell-bent on having the most awful and pedestrian taste in movies in order to upend everyone’s expectations of him. It was defending movies like this that really gave him the reputation he sought.

“Hitch.” Ditto from above.

Episode III of Star Wars. This, I believe, once belonged to my 6′ 5″ roommate named Bjorn Delacruz. I wonder if he wants it back.

I could go on (found at least a dozen other horrible movies), but why waste all of our timez. Thanks for coming down memory lane with me before I crash from too much coffee and horrible nostalgia.

Unforgiven: The Worst Samples by the Best Rappers

Haddaway: Inspiration to Rappers in the year 2011

Over the last decade, Kanye popularized pairing rap verses with old school soul samples; T.I. favors rapping over chugging fierce synths and horns; Lil Wayne’s most memorable verses have been sputtered over monstrously huge beats produced by Bangladesh.

But it has come to my attention recently that several hip hop artists have chosen some of the certifiably worst, most played-out and most mocked songs in history to rap over. The first is Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love,” which samples Annie Lennox’s “Love You No More.” Do you know this song? It’s the one that goes “dooby dooby do-do-do, waaah.”

Second offenders are Wayne and Eminem on the track “No Love.” This song features the 90s club hit “What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)” by a man apparently called Haddaway. The song is mostly about haters hatin’ and bitches hatin’ on Wayne and Eminem. The hook interweaves the rappers’ verses with the sample’s lyrics, creating gems like these: “Bitch you get (no love)…./I don’t need you (don’t hurt me)/You (don’t hurt me no more).”

I would like to think that in both of these instances, the rappers have decided to employ these soft 90s hits in order to radically retool our conceptions of the original songs; maybe it’s post-modern pastiche; or maybe it’s a clever homage to a much-maligned genre, like the yacht-rock stylings of Gayngs, or something.

But sadly, it is almost certainly bad taste that has guided these choices. Minaj’s first studio album is an incredible disappointment; artistically atrocious and lacking any of the fire or schizophrenia of her guest verses, the album comes off as her label’s attempts to downscale her freak image and remold her into a traditional top 40 r&b/hip hop star. The most frightening thing about “Your Love,” which was also her album’s first single, is it’s bleeding sincerity. It’s a love song, and Nicki’s eccentricity has been harnessed and tamed: she raps sentimental over the new age beat, noting “Shorty, imma only tell you this once, you da illest/and for that imma die hard like Bruce Willis.” Ordinarily, I would welcome a Bruce Willis reference from Minaj, but here, it just comes off as so tired and so one-dimensional. Whatever happened to the lady with the pink wig, thick ass who would give us whiplash?!?!? Whatever happened to the MOTHERFUCKIN MONSTER?!!??!

As for Wayne, dude is not known for his good taste. Which is fine and charming in its own right, but makes it frustrating to be a fan. His Drought mixtapes showcase an ear for hot tracks, even if said are sometimes obvious (BK & Jigga’s “Upgrade You,” for instance, and NaS’ “Black Republican” are two stand-out tracks remixed by Wayne on Drought 3). But then he had his electric guitar era. But now this??!? I exhaled in true resignation the first time I heard “No Love,” thinking I’d have no more love for Wayne. But then fortunately Bangladesh re-emerged from the ashes of “A Milli” and made the song “Six Foot, Seven Foot.

There’s always hope for Wayne, as one of rap’s most notable personages. He’s been allowed to reinvent himself with mixed results, and we forgive him, because he’s eccentric, he’s an oddball, and that’s what we love about him. But I’m afraid the record industry has already derailed Nicki Minaj by robbing her of her many identities and replacing her with this startling new image. She’s plastic. She’s girly. She’s a doll whose arms are twisted and bound by the whims of (ironically) Wayne’s Young Money imprint on the Motown label.  Women in big money biznesses aren’t allowed agency to be weird or subversive. And Minaj will die hard just like Bruce Willis before she’s allowed to reinvent herself again.

Horseman of Hip Hop Apocalypse: DRAKE

I'm "thinking"

Gosh, I’ve started about four posts I still haven’t completed, about legit topics such as WKW’s finest films and a movie I saw last weekend called “Un Prophete.”

But what I want to talk to you about now is how much I hate Drake. I take it for granted that everyone hates him, but then I realize that this is not entirely true. But, I mean, for serious, what’s not to despise? That slyly arrogant expression permanently plastered on his face? His meaning-devoid, self-aggrandizing ‘rhymes’? His middle-school-poetry-reading flow? His monotonous drone, which, after a few verses, bores into your skull like a dull knife–that is, slowly, ineffectually, and yet painfully?!?!?!

I have seen Drake described as “deft” and “affable” by Sasha Frere Jones. I mean, seriously, wtf. Have you heard the song FOREVER, Sasha?

Pfork’s review of Drake’s first mixtape was POSITIVE. But it also contained this thought about his rise to prominence:

Blame Kanye. Drake isn’t just a post-Kanye artist; he’s a post-808s and Heartbreak artist, possibly the first. On that album, Kanye drifted lazily from rapping to singing over a bed of rippling lush-but-sparse electro…When [Drake] swings from rapping to buttery teen-idol singing, it feels organic and effortless, like he’s just doing whatever makes the most sense at any given moment.

This strikes me as an extremely prescient observation about the moment in commercial hip-hop, but not really as an endorsement of Drake. Let me explain.

You see, Drake is spawned from the crass, disgusting materialism of the Lil Wayne Young Money posse. Lil Wayne, by himself, is a gifted spitter of nonsense; he’s the Joyce of hip-hop, a master conjurer of imagery via a totally psychedelic stream of consciousness; the big difference, of course, is that Joyce can sustain centuries of lit students doing close readings, and Wayne probably couldn’t explain what two of his words strung together were ever supposed to mean.

But Wayne is not remarkable, it should be noted, for the company he keeps. As Wayne has told us on many occasions, he is an “alien,” and all the more for it when compared to his associates (ie Drake, Juelz Santana, et al).

Peoplez was wondering last year if hip hop was dead (while others disagreed). Yet it is near consensus that Raekwon’s “Time Machine Back to 1995” album was the best thing to come out in 2009. Others pointed to unsigned, (technically DROPPED from Interscope), Gary-born old school gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs as the best rapper to come on the radar in a while. These two facts, among others, make it seem like the best recent hip hop has not been innovative, but rather has fallen back on identity tropes (gangsta/balla/king/etc) and well-worn genres. Even Jay-Z rues the fact that he’s still on top of the game, and when kings, unconstrained by things like constitutions and term limits, are complaining about unrivaled sovereignty, you know you gots a problem. Hip hop no longer informs pop music; it looks internally, or worse, it looks to pop music.

Yes, Drake is tha billboard chartzz finest example of the hybrid indie/hip hop/r&b artist. While artists who R&B and rap at the same time are not the newest phenomenon (fuck, even Ghostface made an album like that last year), these folks’ unprecedented radio presence is new, along with their mopey, somewhat dreamy aesthetic (courtesy of 808s).

And Drake ain’t alone in this. There’s that guy Theophilus London. TL’s mixtape from last year was called This Charming Mixtape and the cover was a redux of Elvis Costello’s 1978 album This Year’s Model. He freely uses Smiths lyrics (“HumDrum Town”), he sings, and honestly he raps a bit like Lupe Fiasco. I wouldn’t mind if Theophilus got real famous, he seems so pleasant.

Then, of course, there’s Kid Cudi. Drake and Kid Cudi have a lot in common: so much so that one has appeared in the other’s video. They both have worked with indie acts (drake with lykke li, kid cudi with ratatat, etc), they both sort of sing, and they both don’t have anything interesting to say. (Kid Cudi uses his tear-soaked journal for lyrical inspiration [hence: “tell me what you know about night terrors: nothin’/you don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow”], while Drake just keeps reminding us that he got here by pulling himself up by boot-straps and that he never plans to leave us alone [hence: “Forever”]. In other words, they are pissing their young masculinity, and all the implied egomania, over the unwitting listener.) Most importantly, their identities wouldn’t make any sense were it not for the tight-jeans-wearin & genre-hopping sensibilities of Kanye.

All that the world hates about Kanye–his wily vulnerability, his never-ending masculinity-in-crisis mode, his lack of loyalty to a particular hip hop genre, and his mainstreamin–has been distilled by these young lads to its dumbest form. And it looks like it’s here to stay, for at least the next year or so.

Is Ke$ha just secretly Uffie?

Okay, I just have to get this off my chest. When I first heard “TiK ToK” I almost fainted, because it was so annoying. But it was totally annoying in a very distinctive way, in a very familiar way… in a very Uffie way.

If you don’t know who Uffie is, well, thank your lucky stars. She was featured on the song “Thhee Ppaaarrttyy” on the Justice album .

Not only is the nasal, bratty, totally affected “raps” of both these gals uncannily similar, but the songs “TiK ToK” and “Thhee Ppaaarrttyy” are both about the exact same thing: partying rowdy, girl style.

Notice, they both say really stupid things when they are rousing their girlfriends to party:

Ke$ha says: “I’m talkin’ ’bout errrbody gettin’ crunk/boys are tryin to touch my junk.”

Uffie says: “Let’s get this party started right/Let’s get drunk and freaky fly (ey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey-eyyyy).”

First off, what is freaky fly? Uffie has been out of the United States so long that no one told her how dumb that sounds. Ke$ha, who is not an expat like Uffie, is just trying to place her partying within the tradition of Southern rap. But being featured on a Flo-Rida track does not a southern rapper make.

While “Thhee Ppaaarrttyy” is barely listenable due to Uffie’s offensive phrasing and nonexistent flow, I find myself strangely drawn to “TiK ToK.” At first I was repulsed, but in the end, it was the Miley Cyrus-esque, vocoder-slick, inorganic wall of keyboard in the chorus that won me over. It’s so stupid that ir’s kind of good.

In Paul Lester’s Guardian column, “New Band of the Day,” he characterized Ke$ha’s music like so: “Her music is like an über US version of “chav pop” – trailer trashy to the max – only it’s so full-on it’s almost like some postmodern arthouse joke.” Word.

Lester is a little nicer to Uffie, and courteously points out all her cool fashion and electro cred before noting, “There’s an air of hip insouciance about her every utterance.” If by hip insouciance he means reckless disregard for how vocals should sound, I would agree.