hell is other people, but heaven is, too

January 9th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I tripped over a reference to the video for El-P’s “Time Won’t Tell” off his Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3, directed by Shan Nicholson, by accident the other day and thought to myself, “Oh, it’s my favorite video from last year.” I don’t know when I decided that, or if I’d ever been consciously aware of that fact before now, but it’s true. I watch a lot of music videos, and this is the one this year that grabbed me the most.

Part of it is El-P’s production. El is easily the best at making sinister sounding tracks. A lot of classic songs sound like impending violence, like somebody’s about to get his whole head bust outside of the club. El-P makes joints that sound like the beginning of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia or the cityscapes from Blade Runner or Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira look. They sound like impending doom on a level far beyond DMX barking in your ear about how you didn’t ride, so you must wanna die arf arf arf.

It’s the way the bass pulses and buzzes under the track, and just how dirty and dusty everything sounds. It sounds processed, but like it was fed through a meat grinder, not Pro Tools. The drums are messy, there’s a throbbing horn infesting the middle part of the track, and a wail that hints at something horrible. And then, at 2:10, the track takes a breath and comes back majestic.

Nicholson’s direction clinches the deal, though. The beginning is a tour, as we follow this kid around town and check out foreclosed homes, decrepit section 8 homes, the presence of authority figures as something to fear, and generally just life in the projects. It feels lonely, because this kid never interacts with anyone and looks uncomfortable around the people he does run into. The long shots of him walking alone push that loneliness even further, begging you to extrapolate a little.

He walks past four kids who then follow him around town and the suspense kicks up. The first thought to come to mind was one of danger, of kids who goose step over innocence. He grabs the mattress, the kids follow, and you know something bad is going to happen. And then it doesn’t, it’s just some kids playing together and having a good time. The first kid has something dope and the other kids appreciate it.

And jeez, man, I can relate. Boy, can I relate. We’re trained to think of other humans as possible threats. You stand real close to the ATM, you ignore strangers in public, you don’t wear short skirts, you practice defensive driving, you don’t make eye contact in the street, you get told to stay away from that white girl, you wonder if that guy is really talking about monkeys or if he’s just dog-whistling, you push forward on the sidewalk with your head down and dare people to not get out of your way, you sign a pre-nup when you get married, and your heart skips a beat when you hear footsteps behind you on a dark night, all because “what if something happened???”

I know what it’s like to be a lonely, skinny black kid. I went to two elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools. The longest time I spent in one house after elementary school was my last two years of high school. I’ve been the new guy, the guy who doesn’t get to hang because he wasn’t there when the group formed. I’ve been the guy who didn’t want the new guy in the crew.

But sometimes you connect to other people off the back of stupid things like comic books or music or jumping on a mattress out where the factories used to be and just vibe and things are wonderful. I remember as a kid, there was this big mound of red clay that the neighborhood boys would use as a bike ramp. I never did it–the thought of going in the air on my bike terrified me, and I’d had a bad bike wreck shortly after moving in–but we would hang out and that would be our sun. I have other memories–the woods between our school and our hood or the filthy creek near the dumpster where we found a gang of playboys or the youth center on base–where the “we” involved is different every time.

It’s nice when people actually connect with each other, no matter the catalyst. This video is as good a depiction of what it looks and feels and sounds like to let other people in as you’ll ever see.

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Friday Fun Linkblogging

April 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The Boondocks returns on Sunday 🙂 I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch it live, but please believe I’m excited. On to the links!

Paul DeBenedetto and Marc-Oliver Frisch take me to task for my Death to Canon post the other day. They raise some good points. I do want to say, as a meager defense, that I don’t hate the idea of the narrative, I just hate that perfectly good tales don’t get read because they aren’t important. That’s silly to me. I think we should treat all stories with the same level of importance. That was the point of the Spider-Man Noir vs Amazing Spider-Man comparison. I should have expressed that better. You should definitely read their posts, though. They say a lot of good things.

Tucker Stone talks about comics, ads, and audiences.

Nina Stone serves up a good review of American Vampire, a series I have been enjoying much, much more than I expected to. I’m hoping Vertigo’s got another hit on its hands, because I want to see this one continue. That’s a good review there, you can see exactly what she likes about it.

-Kate Dacey’s Manga Critic turned one! Kate’s great.

-Look at this lady talking like an idiot in public! Let Obama define himself, stay up out of his business.

-Music video!

Lupe Fiasco – I’m Beaming

Pac Div’s new mixtape is heat rocks. It’s free music. Go on ahead and get that.

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Yo! 4thletter! Raps! 01

March 26th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Being a quick roundup, with commentary, of my favorite music videos of the week. A weekly feature, barring a week where no one with talent releases a music video worth watching. This first week is playing catchup a little, so you might’ve seen some of these before. Videos subject to go down for copyright violations, so browse wisely.

Big Boi – Fo Yo Sorrows feat. Too Short, George Clinton, SamChris
Let’s be honest: I grew up on OutKast, and they are definitely the greatest rap group of all time. Andre 3000 built a rep as the poet and Big Boi as the pimp, but over the past few years, Big Boi has shown that both halves of the duo are both skilled on the mic and eccentric on the beats. This video features Too $hort, who is way older than I expected but still the same old G on his four bars, and “Just to let you know that everything is straight/I say stank you very much ’cause we appreciate the hate/Now go get yourself a handgun, you fuckin wit a great/ Put it your mouth and squeeze it like your morning toothpaste.”

And, most importantly, it’s a music video with an extended break, something that probably hasn’t happened since the last time OutKast dropped.

Pac Div – Shut Up f. The Cool Kids
This beat is tremendous– it’s the kind of sparse speaker music that really knocks. Something to ride to with the volume all the way turned up. The way the beat spins down between verses… I’m a fan. “Don’t talk to me about fashion, dog, you be wildin/You still think Coogi stylin, who’s the stylist?”

Below the cut: Reflection Eternal, Joell Ortiz, Bobby Ray, and more Reflection Eternal.
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