It’s what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it

November 11th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I like rap. I like the way rap feels.

It’s hard to quantify in human terms, but if you enjoy music, you definitely know what I’m talking about. It’s that thing that makes you nod your head to the bass coming out of somebody’s car, because even though you can’t hear it very well, you know exactly what Slim Thug’s “Get That Gwop” sounds like. It’s that thing that makes you dance a jig across your apartment in the dark, because Icona Pop and Charli XCX screaming “I DON’T CARE!” is super-motivational. It’s that thing that makes you feel momentarily brave enough to try to hit those same notes as Lauryn Hill when she goes “That thing, that thing, that thiiiiing,” even though you’ll never manage it, because you’re just feeling yourself so hard listening to that song. It’s why people get so hype for “Bohemian Rhapsody” at karaoke.

I really like the way “Pre,” the first track on Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, feels. It makes me want to be a part of it, to own it. The beat feels slow and dragged out, like it’s been stretched. SK Laflare opens the song with “Baby girl, what you wanna do?/Hop in this ‘Cedes, girl/She like where we goin’ to/ A new life, new world”. It’s basic, but Laflare’s flow is tight, so full of confidence that I can’t help but get into it. Those bars, and a few more couplets down the line in Laflare’s verse, are what I’m talking about here, that je ne sais quoi that makes you grunt and run it back when somebody gets off a hot line.

Around the time of New York Comic Con last month, one lyric from this song kept running through my head. Earl starts his verse with “I’m a problem to niggas,” which is already one of the hardest things I’ve heard all year. But toward the end, Earl delivers these eight bars:

Hard as armed services, y’all might have heard of him
Escobarbarian, best call the lawyers up
Bruh, the broad aryan, know the squad loiterers
Not with the grain and these bitch niggas’ wishes
Dealt with addiction, fell for the bitch with the
Pale butter skin who just packed up and dipped
In the land of the rent-less, stand with my chips
In a stack and a grin, fuck ’em

“Bruh, the broad Aryan” killed me. He’s referring to his girlfriend, who is white, and the scansion of that line matches with the first half of the previous line, “Escobarbarian.”

Something about that combo, Escobarbarian and bruh the broad aryan, has stuck with me. “Bruh, the broad Aryan” has a “cellar door” feel, in that it’s pleasing to say and a pleasure to hear. It’s smooth, despite the hard D in broad and snap of the bruh.

There’s an easygoing glide in there that I enjoy a whole lot. I love rap music as a whole, from the culture on down to the weird samples, but I spend most of my time talking about the content of the lyrics. The truth is, the lyrics are hugely important to me, but so are the beats and how the rhymes shake out, the performance aspect of things, what the rhymes sound like. What everything feels like. Delivery and flow are harder to explain, but they’re so vital.

Saying “My girlfriend’s white” is one thing. “Bruh, the broad Aryan” shows a keen understanding of the fact that language can be pleasing to the ear, musical above and beyond the fact that it’s set to music…rap music, y’all. There’s so much to appreciate, so many songs that have moments of greatness lurking just under the surface.

More on Earl’s Doris (and Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady) here.

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I Got So Much Culture On My Mind 01: Wolves Off the Leash

April 11th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Here’s some stuff I think you should throw money at or read or hear or kiss that I haven’t had a chance to write about in detail just yet but probably will in the future:

Jack Kirby: Here’s a Jack Kirby youtube I liked:

I never thought of the Silver Surfer as a fallen angel before, but that’s good. I like that a lot.

Carbon Grey: The Carbon Grey kickstarter is still going. I wrote about it here, and here’s the direct link. They need 40k, and they’re currently sitting at 32.5. Help out if you can!

The Zaucer of Zilk: I haven’t gotten a chance to go and pick up my comics in over a month because of reasons, but I’m really, really looking forward to this. It starts (started?) in 2000 AD prog 1775, but CBR has posted the entire first chapter. It’s everything I expected it to be. Brendan McCarthy is great, and I love how he manages to make the drab psychedelic and the psychedelic into, I dunno, psychedelic plus? Just look at the thumbnails on the CBR page. They build to a fever pitch, like a dam breaking in slow motion except WHOOPS the dam was holding back a rainbow. I like Al Ewing, too. I haven’t read a lot of his work, but he did this nuts Judge Dredd choose your own adventure thing in prog 2012 that took me like three entire days to read, and I appreciate that in a writer. He created Zombo with Henry Flint, too, so he’s definitely got that mean sense of humor I like to see in my comics. My only expectations for Zaucer of Zilk is that it’s gonna be like nothing else in comics. Judging by the preview, I think they’re on the right track.

Actually, I just looked at my pull list or whatever, and I should have progs 1765, 1767, 1768, 1769, 1771, and 1770 (in that order) waiting for me. Who in the world is in charge of shipping those comics? And why are they like a full month behind in the US? Confusing. You may not be able to buy this yet, but if you can, do so. Comics!

-This video for Odd Future’s “Oldie” is fantastic, the most rappity-rapping thing I’ve seen in ages.

There’s something so pure about this video. It’s a bunch of friends having fun, and there’s always gonna be something magical about a gang of rappers spitting directly to the camera without any speedboats or video chicks gyrating. Also Frank Ocean has got that understated cool that works so well for him.

“Bumping oldies on my cellular phone” is so good, and so is Earl’s line about “crunchy black cats in a taxi,” but Tyler kills it with this:

This is for the niggas in the suburbs
And the white kids with nigga friends who say the n-word
And the ones that got called weird, fag, bitch, nerd
’cause you was into jazz, kitty cats, and Steven Spielberg
They say we ain’t actin’ right
Always try to turn our fuckin’ color into black and white
But they’ll never change ’em, never understand ’em
Radical’s my anthem, turn my fucking amps up!
So instead of critiquing and bitchin’, bein’ mad as fuck
Just admit, not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck

The Of Tape Vol. 2, and I’m digging it. Mellowhype’s “50” is the crunkest song since whenever the last Waka Flocka banger dropped, and makes me want that Numbers album even more. Hodgy and Domo are all over the album, and Mike G gets it in, too. Hodgy is still probably my favorite lyricist in the crew, and he shows some nice range. Domo’s Under the Influence mixtape is extra dope, so you should cop that, too. Lotta OFWGKTA bangers out there now. Golf Wang.

Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo: I wrote a thing about Stan Sakai’s lettering for ComicsAlliance and he showed up in the comments to thank me. That was pretty cool.

-Oh yeah, I took a month off from CA because… I don’t know, but I did. I’m writing there again, so y’all can resubscribe. I know you missed me.

Alabaster: Wolves: This comic by Caitlín R Kiernan, Steve Lieber, and Rachelle Rosenberg is pretty dope. I wrote about the dialogue and art for CA. I like it. It’s on Dark Horse digital.

Heart: I don’t think I ever mentioned it except in passing, but I was a big fan of Blair Butler, Kevin Mellon, and Crank!’s Heart. Sports comics are all too rare, and this is a good example of how they should work. The team stuck the landing. I wanted to throw this out there in case I get distracted again. It’ll cost you like eight bucks right now for the digital copies.

Alpha Princess Garou Shoujo: My shoujo broujo Sloane made a comic about a wolfgirl. It’s pretty good. You should read it. “100% tooth & nail comix by sloane.” Magical Girl Wolf Pack Cute Them All, bang bang bang

Esperanza Spalding: I really, really like Esperanza Spalding. Her Radio Music Society is a really good album. Very easy to listen to, catchy, intelligent, and plenty of other adjectives that all basically mean “I like this, you should listen to it.” I liked Chamber Music Society, too, but I think Radio Music Society is legitimately a step forward. Different, but very good. Here’s “Radio Song”:

I Am Not David Bowie, But We Have The Same Initials: I’ve been listening to Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, and Station to Station. I’m pretty sure those three are my favorite (no rank) Bowie records. I’ve been fiending for some Bowie karaoke (Bowieoke?) but I’m hilariously broke so it’ll have to wait.

Sourpuss Blvd: This is cute, and congrats to the winners, but I can’t help but feel some type of way since the artists here are making more money off the back of the Avengers movie than Jack Kirby’s family will ever see. Maybe that’s an obnoxious thing to say and now I’m That Guy, the sophomore who just discovered social injustice or philosophy or something and won’t shut up about it, but whatever. I don’t care. Marvel has screwed a lot of people, and I think that once we’re talking about billion dollar box offices or whatever, it’s worth pointing out that they could do much, much better than they do. “Hey Jack, we’ll dedicate comics to you all day, everyday, but when it comes to actually giving you what you deserve… haha, sorry bro, the lawyers won’t let us. It’s the Mouse. You know how it is. King!”

Anyway. Comics!

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“my swagger is natural flavor, then citric acid” [MellowHype – Blackendwhite]

August 16th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. Here’s the ninth, where I talk out why Hodgy Beats of MellowHype is ill and how he interacts with Left Brain’s beats.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places

I liked Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin, but I think MellowHype’s Blackendwhite is a better album overall. I’ve got a free giveaway code for the entire album, too, so if you want it, leave a comment on this post (using your real email address, obviously) telling me your favorite rap song, favorite rap album, and why for both.

MellowHype is lyricist Hodgy Beats and producer (mostly) Left Brain. It’s not really in the same vein as Tyler’s aggressively transgressive lyrics at all, though Hodgy isn’t afraid to… go dark? Is that the best word for it? But nah, Hodgy puts me in mind of Fabolous, in terms of being lyrical, and AZ or The Lox or Nature, cats with real ill flows and a variety of styles. It’s funny that my brain goes directly to New York when trying to draw a comparison for Hodgy, but I can’t really think of any LA cats who spit similarly. Hodgy feels a little like 1997-2002 NYC to me, you know?

I think it’s because of how he spits. He’s a clever dude, with a strong grasp of wordplay and flow. His voice is real distinct, maybe a little on the high side, which gives his rhymes a certain flavor. Something like “F666 The Police” feels like Los Angeles to me, with that real aggressive Ice Cube “fuck the police” stance, but his flow skips all over the beat, and almost setting the pace for the beat, instead of vice versa. His first verse speeds up, too, and then slips back down a gear when the hi-hats (I think?) drop out. He’s not just killing time over a beat–he’s genuinely part of the song.

(Tyler’s verse on “F666 The Police” is great, too–crude, evil, and hilarious. “Well, that’s not happening, captain/ Not this time nigga, BAP! BAP! BAP! BAP!/ ‘Houston, we have a nigger down/ And the nigger that did it loves them gun sounds'” never fails to slay me.)

It’s that cleverness that really hooked me into Hodgy. I’m not a backpacker any more, but that sorta thing dies hard. You’ve gotta come with a lyrical spherical dirigible because of me your girl is hysterical that’s an empirical miracle at some point to really impress me. Smart dumb rhymes like that, dumb smart rhymes (Young Jeezy: “Big wheels, big straps, you know I like it super-sized/ Passenger’s a red bone, her weave look like some curly fries/ Inside’s fish sticks, outside’s tartar sauce/ Pocket full of celery, imagine what she telling me/ Blowing on asparagus/ the realest shit I ever smoked/ Ridin’ to that Trap or Die/ the realest shit I ever wrote/ They know I got that broccoli, so I keep that glock with me”), just give me something to make me grin and I’m good. And Hodgy does it on his first verse on the entire album:

Uh, it’s a Monday night, I’m comin’ home like it’s Friday
Live everyday high, burnin’ kush on the highway
On my way to Rico to make it final in the mornin’
Forgettin’ to study up for my final in the mornin’, fuck it
It’s only a final and plus it’s borin’, however
Tyler’s back hittin’ spinals when the chords end
Skeleton elephant golden elements bezelin’
We spit because we’re sick and irrelevant to your relevance
I’m comin’ down, but not from my high
I should live in a plane, shit I feel that fly

What I like is how he starts the verse like he’s dragging his way out of bed, and then starts hitting you with layered internal rhymes and rhythms (“Friday day” -> “day high” -> “the highway”), and then keeps stacking with the N sounds in the next few bars, and then doubling down on the whole affair with “skeleton elephant golden elements bezelin'”. And then one more line about how he raps (“sick and irrelevant to [you]”) that matches the flow of the previous bars and then he drops down a gear in complexity and pace.

This is good stuff, and “Primo” is a real weird song to begin an album on. It’s actually sort of like Bone Thugs’s “Mr. Ouija” in my head, but without the clear introduction that comes before it on Creepin on Ah Come Up. “Primo” (like “Mr. Ouija”) should theoretically be the song that sets the tone for the album. Sort of a “This is what you’re going to hear.”

But nah. It’s just something to ease you into tracks like “Gunsounds,” which is a hard hitter. Left Brain’s beat is all impact, with no softness or singsongy messing around. Hodgy rides the beat with hard breaks between most of his bars and then he pulls back from that and kicks another thick cloud raps before easing back again to the wide open bars.

I’m a big believer in the “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” team-up. TI and Toomp, Common and NoID, Nas and Premo, David Banner and TI, Mannie Fresh and Juvie, The Clipse & the Neptunes, all of these cats work real well together. The beats match the rhymes, but are just off enough to pull out something great. The rapper has to work a little, and he shines. Left Brain and Hodgy Beats work together real well, and Hodgy gets to kick a number of different flows over the course of the album.

I’m a fan, man. At 11 tracks and a shade over half an hour, this is a lean album. I don’t want to skip any of the joints, but “Gunsounds,” “F666 the Police,” “64,” and “Deaddeputy” are songs that definitely stand out. If I’m just listening while I write (like I am right now) I might play them a few times in a row, but if I’m bumping the album as a whole, they give me something extra special to look forward to. And I can’t even front, I forgot about “Igotagun” every single time and get caught by surprised by that double time flow and then halting flow in verse two (“swag-me-the-fuck-out”)

Something cool: I copped the MP3s ages ago, bought the MP3 album this year, and then bought the vinyl because I like it that much. Turns out the vinyl pressing is transparent. I’ve got a white album (Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Leftfoot

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The Cipher 04/13/11: “Golf Wang”

April 13th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

this is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep

created: I haven’t been sleeping well. My throat hurts, so every time I swallow, I wince. Apparently, every time I swallow in my sleep, I wake up. That’s right: I’m the guy who wakes up an hour after taking sleeping pills. It’s had the odd effect of increasing my productivity, though. I’ve been dashing out stuff at work and at home like mad. I’m this close to getting out in front of every deadline I have control over. Crazy.

-Got a lot of irons in the fire (two, in fact, with another probably coming tonight), but all that’s up now is a little bit about Stan Sakai

-and ten Marvel books for June

go to school with this

consumed: But forreal though WHY DOES MY THROAT STILL HURT!!!!!

-Have I linked this Charlie Huston piece at Mulholland Books yet? I like this cat a whole lot, and the conclusion he comes to is interesting. I like his commentary on the piece over here, too.

-You know what’s nice about comics? There’s so many good ones that I can be well-versed in the greats and have a fantastic library without having to give Will Eisner any props for The Spirit and Ebony White. “It was just the times! Ha ha! Not racist!” Nah son, that looks pretty racist, especially for 1972, but I guess ’cause Ebony was an Upstanding Honorable Guy Who Gets The Job Done it’s okay that he’s drawn like a pickaninny. Doing a smug strip like this is dumb, too. Why should I give you the time of day? Sheer skill only goes so far, man. Spotted at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.

-While I’m on the subject I guess:

Jonathan Hickman is the guest on the new Word Balloon podcast. Skip ahead to 1:13:00, when Hickman answers a question and goes into things he wouldn’t feel comfortable writing.

-I can respect Hickman’s point (glibly paraphrased: “I’m not completely comfortable writing black guys because I feel like a faker, and that’s not the kind of writer I want to be”), but at the same time… at a certain point, you gotta man up, man. I (inelegantly) talked about this a while back, but you can’t let the possible reception throw you off your game.

-What’s more, black people aren’t so different from other people. You know what black people hate? Taxes and nagging moms. You know what black people love? …if you do, let me know, ’cause I’m real uncomfortable with the concept the concept of love.

-But seriously, if you can write space aliens, secret histories of the world, and time travel, I’m pretty sure you can write a believable black guy. Just go for it, man. Do some reading. Take a look at some magazines. Flip through a history book. Research it like you would anything else. Run it by a friend. Some people will not like it, others will, so just soak up the feedback (“Oh, so I was a little wrong when I did ______”) and keep it moving. You’ll get better.

-Also, please add some more colored folks to SHIELD. The world’s a big place. Thanks in advance.

-Ellen Page is pretty interesting. I liked her AV Club interview, particularly the stuff on how she chooses to go about her career, and all of these sketches of her by dope artists is pretty cool. As far as Inception goes, her and Joseph Gordon-Levitt shared the only real moment of humanity in the entire movie (the stolen kiss) so I’m pro-Page.

-This is mind-boggling:

-If I tried to pull this as a kid (“Oh, that was a lie. I didn’t mean it, I just wanted to say something.”) my mom would’ve beaten me in the street and I would’ve deserved it. Jon Kyl is either a hero or scum. The country we live in, man. We keep electing creeps.

-Colbert cracks up during this bit, and I really can’t blame him:

-That’s really, really funny stuff, and it gets even funnier because of Colbert breaking character.

-Did anybody see Norm Macdonald’s new show last night? I missed it.

-Norm wasn’t funny to me at all when I was a kid, but he’s legendary these days. Me Doing Stand-Up was funny, and so is stuff like this:

-I pay three bucks a month for Yen Press’s Yen Plus. It’s pretty okay, but the highlight by far is still Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!. Funniest comic, man. I liked this bit from the new chapter. Read it right to left.

-So much of Yotsuba&!‘s humor revolves around being mean to Fuuka.

-Tyler, the Creator’s Bastard came up this morning while it was raining. It triggered a funny thought. I latched onto Jay-Z in a big way once he started talking about his experiences as the child of a single mother. “Where Have You Been?” was incredible to me. I was what, 16? 17? Whenever that Dynasty joint dropped. I was putting that on mix CDs like it was going out of style and at all appropriate to give to a girl you liked. I was that high on it.


Do you even remember the tender boy you turned into a cold young man?
with one goal and one plan: get mommy out of some jam
She was always in one
Always short with the income, always late with the rent
You said that you was comin through
I would stay in the hallway (waitin), always playin the bench (waitin)
And that day came and went
Fuck You! very much you showed me the worst kind of pain
but I’m stronger, and trust me I will never hurt again

-So tell me if this exceprt from Tyler’s Bastard” is all that different from “Where Have You Been?”:

My mother raised me a single parent so it’s apparent
That I got love for my mother, none of you other fuckers
Are much important, I’m getting angrier while recording
I’m feeling like the Bulls, I’ve got a Gang of Wolves
Odd Future is children that’s fucked up on they mental
Simple but probably not, fuck ’em

-Being able to relate to music in some way is vital for me, whether through the pleasure of living someone else’s life or affirming some aspect of my own, and Tyler’s rapping about the same stuff I’ve been struggling with for years. I think I would’ve been an Odd Future fan in high school.

-The beat on “Yonkers” is so hard. I bought it off iTunes a while back, just because.

-Video ain’t safe for work, I guess.

-Wolf Gang.

losers can never win me, you can never offend me

David: Uncanny X-Force 7
Esther: Yes: Batgirl 20 Maybe: Batman and Robin 22, Red Robin 22, Superboy 6 (would have been a yes, but ugh, crossover) New Artist and a Story About Huntress and Catman? Oh, HELL Yes: Birds of Prey 11
Gavin: Batman And Robin 22, Booster Gold 43, Justice League Generation Lost 23, Captain America Fighting Avenger 1, Carnage 4, Deadpool 35, Incredible Hulks 626, Iron Man 2.0 3, New Avengers 11, Punisher MAX 12, Secret Warriors 26, Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates 3, Uncanny X-Force 7

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