Thursday, April 29, 2004


Ta-Nahesi Coates, the Village Voice's MVP, breaks down the story behind Rawkus Records. It's no secret, I have a lot of respect for Ta who I think is one of the best journalists on pop music today, but knowing quite a bit about Rawkus, is it just me or is there a lot of stuff missing from this tale? Ya'll who know, know. You know?

Ok, I won't tease so much - here's two popular rumors about Rawkus that deserve to be addressed and considered (and alas, largely are missing in the Voice piece):
1) It's always been unclear to what extent Fox Newscorp, aka Rupert Murdoch, father of one of Rawkus' founders, bankrolled the label. Rawkus management always insisted it was minimal but former employees of the label I've spoken to have suggested otherwise. What's the real deal? And more importantly, how "indie" can you be with one of the largest multinational corporations in the world helping sign your checks?
2) I had heard that Rawkus spent $1,000,000 to sign Kool G Rap (not including the cost of his album). True or false? And if true, what the f*@ were they thinking?

Also in this week's Voice, my man Dave Tompkins on Freddy Fresh and UK's P-Bros. Keep it Zulu Dave! Straight Bronx.


Good friend/colleague Jon Caramanica finds himself dealing with some rock star beef (which I can only hope is more glam than indie rapper beef) over a review he wrote for Maxim about Velvet Revolver. Here's Jon's piece:
    "Say you're the guns behind GUNS N' ROSES and you need a frontman to replace eyebrowless loony tune Axl Rose. Where to turn? Obviously trolling rehab centers and bus stations, Slash and the guys found their man: former STONE TEMPLE PILOT and career fuckup Scott Weiland! What could go wrong? Ignoring the offstage drama and giving 'Contraband' a listen, we have to say ... not a damned thing. Although Rose was all maniac energy and Weiland is more boozy charm, 'Contraband' sounds like these guys have been mainlining 'Appetite for Destruction'. At first Weiland clearly struggles to keep up ('Sucker Train Blues'), but he finds his groove over the brash guitars and brawny drums. On 'Dirty Little Thing', he knowingly sings, 'Get away from the man who's stealing your life/Get away from the drugs you're taking.' He sounds like a man ready to slow down, yet he's as reinvigorated as his new mates. Welcome back to the jungle, guys." (Maxim, March 2004)

Scott Weiland hollas back:
    "In his review of our album 'Contraband', Jon Caramanica of MAXIM knows about as much about me and my legal situation as he does about our music. The article mentions my legal status which states that I will be eligible for release from rehab in July. Sorry to break your heart and take the wind from your sails but I was sprung from rehab on the 22nd of April. Now Jon, Jon, Jon - come on now - my 'boozy' charm? Unless you were born yesterday you would know I was a dope fiend, not a boozer. Let's just get down to it Jon, this album sounds nothing like 'Appetite' and you know nothing about me, so if you're gonna make a record 'Album of the Month' then stop the punk-ass back-handed comments! "Let's meet up face-to-face and see just how 'boozy' I am in person - when I get 'manic' on your ass motherfucker!"

"I was a dope fiend, not a boozer" - classic line. Weiland should put that on a t-shirt and wear it at concerts. As for quibbling what month he got out of rehab (April vs. July), that seems like a minor point to quibble about but hey, I guess career fuck-up, ex-junkies are sensitive like that.


  • Kayne West's new video for "Two Words is cleverly designed off of movie credits, opening and closing, and I can't help but think of '70s cinema at that. There's something gritty about the images, most of them black and white, that evokes Taxi Driver, or Rocky or any number of other films from the '70s that tried to capture America's descent into urban deacy. In "Two Words,", what's depicted are flashes from the City, by which I don't mean Chicago, New York or Philadelphia (all of which are presumably referenced) but Any City U.S.A. It begins with the looming facade of a nameless office building climbing to our eye's zenith, then the montage continues with spartan steel bridges, an elevated subway track, a pigeon alighting atop a traffic light, etc.

    The most powerful shot in the video comes at the end and it's the longest single scene. Kanye puts up the words, "Enjoy the Show" over a scrolling landscape taken from a nameless Chicago locale. If you've ever visited a city outside of Manhattan, L.A. or S.F. (which, each in their own way, are different from most other American cities), the sight of this street should be familiar because it exists in many places. Just from my own experience, I've seen this street before: in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Columbus, etc. It's the marker of urban sprawl that lies between downtown and the 'burbs: long streets stacked with single-story storefronts, billboards, abandoned buildings, and convenience stores. That the image should be reminiscent of the '70s seems appropiate since it's that decade and the deindustrialization that came with it that decimated American cities, creating the environment that someone like Kanye would have seen growing up and ultimately, comments upon in the video.

    What I find compelling with that last image is that I think Kanye finds this decay beautiful in its own right. There is something both sad and soothing in his vision - the video aims for urban authenticity but it does so through a nostalgic eye of a city that's steadily disappearing, if not already gone. Shot on what looks like 16 MM, the video plays like faded snapshots; an adult's memory of his childhood as it recedes into the past.

    Has he done a bad video yet? This, "All Falls Down," "Through the Wire," even "Slow Jamz"?

  • Ha, ha, JOHN STEVENS IS FINALLY GONE. About goddamn time. Thanks for the memories Carrot Top...not!

  • You knew it had to happen: Lil Jon (as done by Dave Chapelle) Sound Board.
    (credit: SF/J)

  • Forget Murder Inc. vs. G-Unit, Irv Gotti and company have bigger gangstas to worry about now: the IRS. The irony is that real-life gangsters go down for tax evasion all the time. Didn't Gotti learn anything from his namesake?

  • Does the world new yet another video remix of "Hey Ya"? These are getting to be like the Black Album remixes...cute but redundant.
    (credit: Intellectual Hip-Hop Commentary)

  • Do Omarosa and William Hung have something on common? This Negrophile entry doesn't make that connection but I think what we're seeing in both cases in how each of these reality show rejects are being cast against a larger backdrop of racial stereotypes.

  • Kalefa Sanneh on the recent Ghostface show in NY. Kayslay got booed off stage? Ha ha ha, it's about time for that pompous loud mouth. Drama King gets drubbed in his hometown. Somewhere, DJ Clue is having a good laugh to himself.

  • Albany is a shithole, at least so says Jessica Hopper who just played there the other night. I love J-Ho's ability to be evocative without overplaying her hand. These lines are magical without trying to be:
      "The ladies room at the Continetal has some of the most explicit graffiti in the stalls ever seen by my eyes -- ie: some tome about having sex with twins, the commanding "Don't suck dick smaller than 7 inches," first hand accounting of impregnation by a club bouncer, a poem about "fingering". The sapphic sexual agency of the women of Buffalo is pretty intimidating."

  • Last but not least, DJ Zen and I will be the opening act (scary!) when the Quannum World Tour hits the Warfield in S.F. on Saturday night. Act like you knew.

    By the way, my long-delayed review of Lyrics Born's Later That Day album finally appeared in the LA Weekly today in order to plug the Quannum Tour's stop at the House of Blues in Hollywood.