For this week’s ‘Almost Art’ music video column, I wrote about Dean Blunt’s “Mersh,” which is my second favorite video of this year, right after Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin’ Ass Nigga.” I discuss Blunt’s The Redeemer, K-Ci & Jojo, The Replacements, and the expensive sad rap of Drake and French Montana.
I'm a girl who thinks Woody Allen might be innocent and Mia Farrow is a batshit liar hellbent on revenge. Does this make me a bad person or is it wishful thinking because I liked Blue Jasmine so much? HELP!
I also liked Blue Jasmine (review here), man! Um, I don’t know if I should really comment on whether or not you’re a bad person, but it seems like you’re exploring or investigating your feelings about this stuff, which is quite different from all the dweebs just being like, in denial about it as a possibility, even.
My BFF is teaching Intro to Theory and asked me if I knew any novels that he could use, I'm not well versed in comics,all I could really come up with is Persepolis. Was wondering if you had any recommendations?
I assume you mean “graphic novels” here? It is maybe a safe or kinda obvious pick but Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which is a book about how to read comics but is also a poppy though heady semiotics book, really. I also feel like Seth Fisher’s Green Lantern: Willworld would be a good one because it again, is sort of about what comics and heroes and all that means/signify. A few more: Gary Panter’s Cola Madnes, Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld, Tardi’s West Coast Blues, and Herge’s Tintin in America.
Probably Airtight Willie & Me by Iceberg Slim. Honorable mentions: Salinger’s Nine Stories, DFW’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, Amiri Baraka’s Tales of the Out and Gone, and Victor LaValle’s Slapboxing With Jesus.
This week’s ‘Almost Art’ music video column is about the video for “We Alright,” which is kind of a mess, but dives into a The Wolf of Wall Street tribute for Lil Wayne’s verse. I talk about white business fuckheads “acting like rappers,” and connect this video to Lil Wayne’s video for “Got Money” which found Weezy, T-Pain, and Mack Maine robbing a bank to help out victims of Hurricane Katrina.
I wrote about the way that Nicki’s incredible feminist statement of a music video for “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” is being conveniently ignored or misinterpreted by those that are angry about the Malcolm X single art. In my opinion, it’s really about Nicki not being “real hip-hop” or whatever (and a woman, duhhhh) and as a result, she’s not given the benefit of the doubt.
I've seen you write "Stallone is our Brando" several times, but I don't think I've read anything else you've written on Brando. Favorite Brando movies?
Brando rules but he’s one of these inexplicable weirdo actors that everybody said was good and he became a legend when he’s really just a lot of nonsense tics and mugging and if you like watch any of his classic movies you’re like, “How did this guy become like thee actor,” you know? Like Stallone is just as mumbly and weird and awesomely half-assed. Character actors that are hawt enough that they ruled Hollywood for a time. Just total weirdos who are usually off doing his own thing in most movies. Favorite Brando performances:
Hmm, this is a harder question for me to answer than it should be? I feel like there’s a lot of complex emotions that go with owning and caring about a dog and they’re always shifting between like the love and joy and singular kind of friendship you get out of it and these pragmatic parent-like things or worry and concern, etc. and it makes song-association kinda tough. Last year, I did make this DOG MIX, which tried to capture those multiple, conflicting feelings, though.
One that for whatever reason I’ve always associated with my dog is “Surfin’ with the Shah” by the Urinals. There’s something about its like rickety rhythms that make me think of my dog running (he has a weird awkward gate). That song starts that mix. More recently, I associate “Wedding Budz,” the instrumental version of Kurt Vile’s “Air Bud” with my dog.
You're stuck on a desert island, probably with Young Thug. You can bring six TV series--three comedy, three drama. What do you bring?
Not sure what Young Thug is into but hopefully he likes: 30 Rock, Tim & Eric, and The Eric Andre Show, and X-Files, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Downton Abbey. Can I also bring a reality show? Keeping Up with The Kardashians, maybe??
For my ‘Almost Art’ music video column, I wrote about Casino’s new video, which is a homage to Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and also something of a remix or rewrite. Some words from this massive Spring Breakers fan about the questionable and downright offensive racial elements of the movie.
I feel like it's gonna be a big fat no but do you fuck with Pedro Almodovar films?
Yes, I do! Really grasps melodrama and camp in a way that’s so different from say, John Waters or Fassbinder, and takes a lot of narrative and dramatic risks. I like his early stuff and I’ve liked his most recent stuff, especially The Skin I Live In.
perhaps im just digging into a nerd grave but a lotta star trek deep space nine deals with racial tensions/segregation/exploitation in real interesting ways no tv show today even tries to touch, it deals with israel/palestine pretty directly and how many tv shows or movies make a single black parent the main character
Maybe it does, but who can stay up and watch that stuff. So dull. So boring. Sci-fi without the imagination! Who needs that??? Sorry! I’ve really tried, man.
Thoughts on the late 80's/early 90's boom in black cinema/"hood" movies. Pretty much that period from about "New Jack City" to "Belly".
So great and so important. A shame it’s almost like a lost time period for films. Like, does anyone realize how great of a movie Deep Cover was anymore? Straight Out of Brooklyn might as well not even exist in 2014, right? This is a failing though of intellectuals and critics, who never take pulp or genre stuff seriously, even in this case when it had such profound mainstream-shaking qualities hovering around it because these were black films.
That time period was fascinating too because it raised me and there’s no doubt that the prevalence of black faces, which was just another side of the same coin that gave us the Cosby Show (derived from Good Times the way say New Jack City is derived from blaxploitation), had a profound effect on how I viewed race and issues of race. Not that how this little white kid responded to these movies is the biggest deal in the world, but it’s still telling because now the mainstream is so much whiter in a lot of ways and even less forgiving to black cinema.
Terribly unsubtle pseudo-stylist who has no idea which of his ideas are good and which of them are bad. He wrote Scarface and Year of the Dragon, which shows that his insanity and over-the-top-ness are better left in other filmmakers’ hands. Mostly, he’s just Martin Scorsese without the talent or wit. Talk Radio isn’t bad, but that’s all on Bogosian. W is a strange, quite good movie, though. Watch it with Talladega Nights and you might kind of understand the disaster that was the Bush administration.
OS is cool the way the Adam West Batman series is cool. The animated series is cool on mushrooms. Everything else is unwatchable bullshit for boring nerds. JJ Abrams’ movie is surprisingly smart and fun, though.
Were you in North Carolina while the Justus League was going strong and had underground nerds geekin?
Nah, I lived in North Carolina from 2008-2011, so I was there when it was all sort of over or dissolving, at least. My personal opinion is that by that time, the sense of enthusiasm over that stuff (which really was incredible) had codified and was mostly owned by rap fans in the area who were content to just hold tight to that shit and ignore anything new or different. I do feel like Foreign Exchange kept that Justus spirit alive the most while moving it forward, though.
Justus League’s ongoing appeal speaks to how vibrant they were but it also speaks to how rap fans seem to not only need something to rally around, but something to hold up in opposition to everything else. Justus League provided this whether they intended to or not (I don’t think they intended to). As someone who loved a lot of that stuff when it was popping off, it seems like what should’ve been understood is how it had its moment and then broke apart, like so many utopian things do eventually, and how it’s better to treasure that period when it all came together perfectly than it is to keep blabbing about it long after it lost its way.
Watched 'The Lovers on the Bridge' for the first time last night. Was kinda "eh" at first but can't stop thinking about it. Though it's brief, surprised you've never written about the use of Public Enemy in the Bicentennial scene. So, um, talk about the movie?
Definitely easy to see this movie as totally whatever or slight or even just like some overrated French movie upon first viewing, but yes, it sticks with you. There aren’t a lot of movies that capture what it’s like to be like fuck it and totes in love, which is obviously an overwhelming and insane and ultimately iffy proposition, but I think Lovers on the Bridge and Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night pretty much get it, man. And it uses all of its eccentricities towards expressing that ineffable feeling and that means indulging grimy Pialat-isms as well as 1950s movie musical anti-logic. I mean, the shot where she’s suddenly water skiing? What do you even do with that??? I sort of feel like I could only express something substantive about The Lovers on the Bridge if you gave me like, a year and a lot of adderall.
Yes to the Public Enemy scene, as well! Kind of forgot that happened. Definitely one of those iconic rap-in-non-hip-hop-movies moments.
The Lovers on the Bridge is on Netflix Instant if any of y’all are interested. Can’t recommend it enough.
Ugh, no idea why this guy is a notable filmmaker. Or rather, I know exactly why and that’s depressing. Painfully obvious, ponderous middlebrow junk. Very good at both simplifying heady ideas and making them super boring. What a skill! In a smarter world, Bergman would be the sort of thing any dummy watched when they needed something kinda compelling, The Sopranos or True Detective-style.
CRACKER? Son, WTF. MLK and other activists didnt fight for equality amongst the races so little busters like ur wack ass to through out racist shit. fuck yourself, man
This is a Macklemore fan is mad about this post which has just suddenly gotten another wave of reblogs. Notice the moronic idea that using the word “cracker” is the same or has even any of the same weight as racial epithets aimed at the disenfranchised. And do not sleep on the moronic understanding of Dr. King and others’ goals, which were yes, equality for all races, but I don’t think they for one second imagined that “equality amongst races” would be defined as “did one white guy call another white guy a cracker.” This is a public school, white teacher vision of MLK, for sure. Get the fuck outta here.
Kitty Pryde on 285 Kent; Nicki Minaj bows down to Young Thug; Pearls Negras make mincemeat out of Big K.R.I.T. and French Montana; Starlito talks about Marcus Smart and the post-racial hustle; and Strange U sample that weird-as-hell 1981 Idi Amin exploitation biopic.
Album of the month is Young Thug & Bloody Jay’s Black Portland and “Danny Glover” is kind of sort of the song of the month. Also reviewed: Sicko Mobb, Cities Aviv, Isaiah Rashad, Tink, Fabo, Starlito, Pooh Gutta, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Angel Haze.
I hung out with endlessly fascinating DJ Spooky and sat in on the class he is teaching at the Maryland Institute College of Art for a piece for the Baltimore City Paper. He is also doing a pretty incredible film series at MICA right now, too. So many things that fell out of this piece for clarity and space, like when he told me that nation states are just “operating systems.” Also would’ve been cool to gush about his music a bit more, especially Songs From a Dead Dreamer and Synthetic Fury. It was a honor to talk to the guy and sit in on his class which is full of kids much younger than me and much much smarter me.
I've been trying to articulate this for a while, and maybe you can help; what do you think makes Ott/Shallow Rewards wrong about his central ideas (especially the most recent ones). I use to think he made some solid points with room for discussion (and talked about band's that no one talks about), but now it seems...spitefully? As if there's no middle ground?
Well, Ott is or has become, for some weird sad reason, a pundit. That’s to say, he will do and say anything if it serves his point. So, Liz Pelly’s very awesome The Media is totally bullshit man, but RookieMag is great because it serves him in the 285 Kent video, having been called a misogynist blowhard earlier, to praise something that hey, has a lot of chicks involved with it (both the Media and Rookie are great imo). Or for example, people praising 285 Kent? That’s an elitist act. But an aging white man telling you how all the music that matters to you is crap bro and isn’t the kind of music that’s “important” is somehow not elitist. And I’m just not sure how ding-dongs like me working at notable music publications and getting to smuggle in stuff we seriously fuck with is somehow worse than earlier periods in this music biz where it was much more contrived and restricted to the tastes of a few people. People like Chris Ott.
Also yes, his stuff has taken on a really bizarre vindictiveness. He’s a bully, but not even like a cool bad ass bully, like the dude who becomes a bully because everyone already hated their annoying ass, so why not become a bully. Also, so much of his argument hovers around money, when the reality is that I know very few writers or even bands that are in this for money. So when he you know, even sends some cheap shots at my lack of job security, a bunch of jack-offs even less clued into the industry than him might favorite those tweets, but I’m not in this for job security or anything like that! I am a 29 year-old stoner man who does not want to grow up. Music writing is ideal for me!
He seems to assume none of “us” know what we’re doing or know the system we’re involved in, when we do. But mostly, he’s just an old man yelling at milennials, he just doesn’t realize it. For real, beware of all Gen-X fuckheads who grew up when the economy wasn’t garbage and job stability existed trying to tell you anything about anything. I guess some people think music criticism needs a Glenn Beck type (and I use Glenn Beck advisedly here because like Beck, Ott is losing himself further and further to conspiratorial nonsense that’s like 9% fact-based), but I do not. He’s really lost the map lately.
For example, there’s a moment in his 285 Kent video where he goes on some quick like 45 second tangent comparing a certain critical perspective from the ’80s to what he sees as the problem now. Even a year ago, Ott would’ve made a video that was 10 minutes about that ’80s trend (that he actually has some authority on and knowledge about) and 3 minutes tying it to what’s going on now. Now we get 15 minute just straight up incorrect inside baseball rants that are all over the place that only sound good if you don’t think about them at all.
What it really comes down to with this guy is this: A video awhile ago, from “season 1” of his vids found him explaining how he stopped writing for this publication or that publication because he needed to be able to say, “Fuck you” whenever he wanted. Plenty of people have told me that he was just difficult and not that great of a writer who got lost in his opinions and in that sense couldn’t hack it as a professional, but let’s take him at his word, because he still comes off like a loser even if we do that: That saying “fuck you” is more important to him than maybe playing the game just a little bit and being a useful or positive part of a scene or culture kinda says it all, right?
Read your response to the Woody Allen question, and was wondering cos I've been having trouble with this personally, who do you think the burden of proof should fall on in rape cases in general?
Oh man, I mean, I don’t think I am qualified to answer this question. I feel comfortable discussing how media types digest information and events and poop it back out in the dumbest most privileged way they possibly could, but beyond that, I don’t know.
In short, I’d say that our justice system should work this way: A victim reports a crime done to them. We assume they are telling the truth. The person accused of the crime goes to court and we assume they are not guilty until they are proven to be guilty. I don’t think those two ideas are opposing if the law were fair or even um, reasonable. But it seems to be that when it comes to rape and other issues of consent, women are assumed to be less than truthful, and even before then, there are so many laws and procedures in the country that make it hard for a women to even report a rape that it’s a horrible uphill battle. And that’s just from logistical, economic, and legal standpoint. The Woody Allen case to me, seems like a really “great” example of how someone’s fame and success and relative power (on top of being a dude, which always helps) can make it hard for even the rape of a child to get the proper attention.
I made an effort from probably sixth grade to the end of college, when I really cared about movies to see as much stuff as possible. From 11th grade to graduating from college I worked in a video store. Before that, I had a Netflix account pretty early on. I had access to a car and money at about the time that DVD exploded and suddenly a ton of things were accessible again. I lucked out. I also spent (wasted?) a lot of time trying to be comprehensive.
At the same time, my secret is that I just pursue the shit I care about, so it probably seems like I’ve seen more stuff than I have because I’ve seen a lot of weird or obscure or just bad stuff because it interests me more than “respectable” stuff.
Post-Graduate advice follow-up. Should I move to some big city? Are the NYCs as worthwhile as they might seem from an outsider?
You should move to New York if you have a very specific reason to move to New York. That’s to say, if you got a job, then you should move there to do that job. Or you should move to New York if you are totally into just screwing around and scrapping. Don’t go to New York to “make it” or because of “opportunity.” Don’t be one of those people who moves to NY. Does that make sense? At this point, you can do most things remotely. New York fucking sucks, so unless you can get certain things out of it, I have no idea why you’d live in that garbage city. And at this point, I feel like being absorbed by its corny media grasp makes you part of the problem.
Also, despite Deblasio, it seems to me like the city is headed towards a Escape from New York-levels of horror by way of stop and frisk and rich dickheads owning everything and hipster dickheads like me moving further and further out and dominating more of the city.
Move to a smaller city. Get involved in that scene. There’s cool shit happening in most places, make that cool shit more cool!
i think i remember you saying you use crappy headphones. did you read that recent pitchfork piece about how nicer ones can change the ways you hear a song?
I assume you mean, "Confessions of an Earbud Apologist" by Jamieson Cox? Yes, I read it, and I’m glad he wrote it for the iPod generation and it’s super brave to kinda “admit” to never exploring headphones. I guess it’s all relative, though because while I’m pretty adamantly not a super high-quality guy (don’t care about 180gram vinyl or Blu-Ray, for example), I’ve never liked the sound you get out of earbuds. My real issue with earbuds though is how they just make it so that everybody around you can kinda hear the music you’re listening to and in my opinion, that defeats one of the purposes of headphones (to privately listen to music in public) and it’s just fucking rude. But also, they just sound super-tinny. I use to have a decent pair of 100 dollar or so BOSE Headphones but no joke, they fell off of the table in my old, old, old, old apartment and landed on the CARPET and broke.
Currently, I use a pair of like 10 dollar headphones from Rite-Aid. Before that, I had a slightly fancier pair of headphones that were like monitor-style (fancy enough to come with a few adapters so that you could plug them into say, an amplifier) but those were also from Rite-Aid. These headphones cover my ears, which seems necessary for hearing music properly, but they aren’t noise-cancelling or anything like that. I guess my point on the topic is that seeking out super high-quality headphones is fine, but not necessary, but also going for the crappy earbuds (meaning, all earbuds) that we’ve all been convinced are how to listen to music when you’re “on the go” when you can buy a pair that sounds significantly better for like 6 more dollars just kind of makes sense to do.
Some time ago you tweeted "fellow music critics! read some books plz". While I'm not a critic (still in high school, but hopefully someday I'll be one), I would love to know what No Trivia's Essential Books of Criticism are.
Hey! That’s cool you’re in high school and actively striving to not be a dummy! Wish I could say the same about most of my peers! So yeah, my main point is just we got a lot of people weighing in on complicated and heady topics and often, they completely lack the language or information to weigh in on this topic. In particular, I think a lot of rap writers need to take at least one Women’s Studies course, you know? Not so they can “change” their opinions (it might even strengthen the ones that have), but just so they aren’t weighing in on this shit (or dismissing issues like misogyny) without any of the tools necessary to discuss this shit. Also, art history! Read some art criticism!
I’m not one for any kind of canon and so, I can’t provide a list beyond “the books I really fuck with.” If you’re looking for something more comprehensive or something with pretenses to objectivity, I’d try just like trying to locate the syllabi for some college courses (so many profs put it online now) and using that as a reading list. Anyways, here’s the criticism that means a lot to me, nothing comprehensive here. Just the books I tend to go to for inspiration.
Horror in Architecture by Joshua Comaroff & Ong Ker-Shing
The Artificial White Man by Stanley Crouch
Negative Space by Manny Farber
House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse
Studies in Classic American Literature by DH Lawrence