Pop Life

Friday, December 26, 2003


who shot ya?

By the way, if you've never known, I have a section of my WWW site dedicated to photography which I just updated with some new Nikon and Yashica photos. I also bought a new digital camera recently so you know the flood is about to come.
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you don't want to even ask

Happy holidays, all. Since 2003 is about outta here, I decided to jock myself and run down a list of my favorite pieces of the year...that I wrote. (It's my blog and I can preen if I want to).

  • Drunken Masters - an early, January column on the St. Ides rap radio commercials.
  • Pushing Buttons - an interview with director Eric Byler (Charlotte Sometimes)
  • Musing on why Al Green's I'm Still In Love With You is my one essential album.
  • Return of the Prodigal Son - a column on Nas' God's Son
  • Tales of the Tape - a feature story for the Village Voice on the new dominance of hip-hop mixtapes
  • Last Call - Contemplating Jay-Z's The Black Album
  • Crazy In Love - Rediscovering my love for pop in 2003
  • Classic Material - it's my book - cop it!
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  • Wednesday, December 24, 2003


    orcs wit attitude?

    J-Swift over at the blog, hiphopmusic.com writes about race, rhythm and Return of the King, raising the issue that Tolkein's world is colored in troubling shades of racism, a theme that the UK's Guardian picks up in more detail. Over at Opendemocracy.Net is an even longer exposition about framing the Lord of the Ring cinematic enterprise against the backdrop of current global politics and a return to empire. This, in turn, is replied to here. The debate rages like the Battle of Pellinor Fields! Or something like that. (thanks to sharon who dug up the latter two links and happens to be a big LoTR fan, even if she does get indignant over the changes Jackson made relative to Tolkien's text)
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    I promised a few weeks back to include some examples of music criticism I DO like. Here's a short list of stuff from 2003 that's been standout to me:

  • Ta-Nahesi's oft-mentioned Voice piece on 50 Cent and gangsta rap in a post-crack era

  • Josh Kun on Eminem, Tupac and Race in America

  • Ernest Hardy's re-review of Meshell's new CD, providing great insights into not just the artist but Hardy's own process as a critic.

  • Elizabeth Mendez Berry's look at Jay-Z and The Black Album

  • Hua Hsu's essay on Nas from my book Classic Material - yeah, you gotta cop that book.

    Also, two things folks might want to check out.

    1) "Censorship by Word Count" by Kyle Gann - an articulate explanation of the phenom I was bemoaning before: declining word counts at most publications and why this is bad, bad, bad for music criticism.

    2) "Favourite Scribings of 2003" by Jason Gloss - a fairly lengthy breakdown of notable music criticism from the past year including a "worst of" list (I love "worst of" lists!)

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    Back to Jin for a moment: thanks to everyone who's emailed me responses to my earlier blog entry about Jin. What's strange though is that, in two of the cases, people complained that it seemed petty of me to complain about the sexual imagery in Jin's video considering that such hackneyed displays of flesh and cleavage are practically mandated in the BET Handbook for Video Production. That to me, isn't much of an excuse, let alone explanation. My point and maybe I didn't state this plainly enough, is that Jin's attempt an instigating some kind of fundamental shift in racial perception is done partially at the expense of women.

    This of course, is not new. I point it out in Jin's video because the hypocrisy is so fucking apparent, I think it'd be wack NOT to point out that Jin wants to kill off the Chinese take-out boy stereotype but he's still pimping out women as nothing more than tits and ass? Color me contrary but contradictions like that are too glaring to ignore.

    In any case, that was the smallest criticism I had in the whole piece and I find it interesting that people commented on that and had nothing at all to say about the rest of my post, namely about how Jin's attempt to thuggitize Chinatown needs to be problematized.

    And in case it's not clear (and it's not), I do do hope Jin blows up. His success is theorized to be the rising tide that'd lift all the other boats of Asian American rappers out there trying to get a foot in the door. But shit, as an Asian dood myself, it's sort of hard NOT to want to comment on Jin. If you can't respect that your whole perspective is wack.

    By the way, the voice behind Dieselnation pointed out that I failed to actually give an opinion about the song itself though really, I think that's a little besides the point. "Learn Chinese" could be dumb wack (which it isn't) and the video could still be fascinating. Likewise, the song could be off-the-meter hot (which it isn't) and that still doesn't make a huge difference in how I'd approach talking about the Jin-man. For the record, Jin was right: he's not Eminem, he's not Jigga-man, especially when it comes to flow and lyrical complexity. I'm not mad at 'Clef's beat, though in this day and age, do we really need to hear yet another use of James Brown's "Blind Man Can See It"? I mean, Lord Finesse and Das Efx already killed that sample ten years back...
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    Is this for real? According to news wires, an Israeli company is forcing male Chinese foreign workers to sign contracts that they will abstain from having sex with any Israeli women. This story is breaking this morning though I do find it a little odd that no one has bothered to name said company. That said, if this is true, wow - what a throwback to the anti-miscegenation laws that the U.S. imposed against Asian, Latino and African American men in the first half of the 20th century.
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