August 18, 2010

Music -- Rap1

I have been back from Colombia for several weeks now and I have some writing to share with you. I have written quite a lot this summer, but little of it is appropriate for this space, so what you will see here will be a selection. I began to write a longer and more scholarly piece about the nature of money: economists's understanding of money (with a particular focus on the French school of economic thought in pre-revolution France and its focus on the value of agriculture), my early musings on money conceived in the framework of Newtonian physics, commentary about how the debt based currency system that we have now makes my previous views obsolete, and a brief look at the consequences of our modern, and thoroughly broken, system. I began to write it three times and I still have parts of the third edition, with some citations. But I have decided not to post it now. My focus has shifted for the time being and I may or may not come back to that piece. If I do, I will post it here.

A coworker of mine asked me several months ago what type of music I liked. Another asked me last week. Both of them followed their initial question by asking me if I like Metallica or not. Of course, considering the persons asking the question here, it is a loaded question which can only be answered in the affirmative. Some of Metallica's music is very nice but much of it, in my opinion is not. Their album done with the San Fransisco Symphony Orquestra was particularly nice. Here are two songs from that concert (No Leaf Clover and One):

Metallica is not my favorite band, but they deserve respect. The first man who asked me the question also asked if I liked rap and I fell into his trap and answered honestly. He commented that he had forgotten that I am only twelve (I am olde than twelve, really I am). I can understand why he would say this though. Rap and hip hop have become Soulja Boy, Little Wayne, Jazy-Z and the hundreds of other instantly forgettable, no talent celebrities who pretend to rap and sell millions of copies of their songs because of the power of marketing. Thousands of songs are now produced that repeat the same three or four lines through the entire track and which invariably tell the same simplistic story of drinking, clubbing and, making music and crude sexual inuendo. When I say I like rap, I do not mean this. I will share with you some rap songs that do not fit the template of what most people know as rap now. The songs are dark though and they contain explicit and violent subject matter as well as foul language. Be forewarned, this is not PG13 rated material in this post.

The first I will mention is Jedi Mind Tricks and their album Violent By Design in particular. It is dark, violent, and lyrically smooth for English rap. Their imagery is viceral, sometimes crude and other times suggestive of something more. It lacks the depth of Roughman, Immortal Technique, Nach, or even Cartel de Santa, but it is a good introduction to the genre. Here are three songs from that album to start with.

Switching continents now, the next rapper is a transplant from Somalia to Canada but he raps about Somalia. His name is K'naan. He brings an African sound to his rapping, just as Immortal Technique, though a New Yorker rapping in English, brings his Peruvian background and Spanish into his rapping. K'naan has two songs that I will feature here. The first describes his hometown of Mogadishu and seems to be a form of one-upmanship with American gangsta rappers who rap about gore and violence (because he has seen the worst of what the world has to show). The second is a sadly hopeful song about Africa.

Returning to American rappers, Rugged Man, a rapper who colaborates with Immortal Technique and Jedi Mind Tricks and whose work appears with them has produced a haunting rap about the American War in Vietnam based on his father's experience. This song is extremely tight and fast and the lyrics, rhythm, and flow is the best I have ever heard in English rap (some Mexican and some Spanish rap can challenge him for flow). This song touches me. It is difficult to catch all the subtle detail the first time through and it takes a few more times to just appreciate how he rhymes and flows. Enjoy, Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story:

Immortal Technique has powerful spoken word tracks (with a song in the background) that aren't raps as well as some that I won't post here because of their content. His noteable albums include Revolutionary Vol. 1 and Revolutionary Vol. 2 with 1 being the better of the two. He is political and he seems to see himself as a liberation minded musician/philosopher. Some of his songs are weaker in lyrical quality or flow, but this is usually when he is reaching politically. Immortal Technique is linked with the group Jedi Mind Tricks (raps with them and on his own). The two songs here are examples of his political rapping while the third is more personal. For a glimpse into his darker work, search for the song titled "Dance with the Devil"--I won't post it here, but you have been warned.

Next up: quality rap in Spanish (i.e. NOT Daddy Yankee). Noteable examples: Cartel de Santa, Nach, Cuervo Rolo.

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