Monday, March 15, 2004

Kickin' it wit da homies, watching my Dallas maverick pummel the Clippers (big deal), I find myself revisiting the most played "hardcore gangsta" rap album of the last year yet again and finally having to concede Get Rich or Die Tryin' is about as stone cold a monsterpiece of phat gangsta, shot-to-shit-but-still breathin' super dope dank as you're likely to come across in 2003. I'm not any kind of guru mind you, nor do I follow all the scenes and sub-scenes with any knowledge, but I do know that Dre got rich for a reason. Fool gots talent. There's nothing the least bit innovative or fresh about this 50 Cent album, other than it's one man (and a host of collaborators)--one ripped mother fucker human man--being flat-out honest in his opinions of fame, females, da street and Eminem. Does that mean it's in any way pure or artistic? Don't ask me. I do know it's insulting and lame like the best commercial hip-hop/gangsta rap of the last 10-15 years, but it's also absurdly hook-laden and just plain pleasing after however many beers and/or camel lights. And considering how 50 mostly slurs his lyrics anyway, creating his own kind of super-stoned monotone drone pretty much all the way through, it doesn't really matter what he's sayin'. Never more so has the term "style over substance" been so adequately, and perfectly, employed. I probably won't ever buy it (who buys anything in this day and age?), but I'm more than happy to chill with this in the background next time a splizzy makes the round. It all brings me to the current upswing that white music culture's fixation with black music culture has taken. Pretty much since the days of slavery in this country (AMERICA for our non-North American contingent), there has been a fascination and silent envy of the sense of enlightened mystery that comes with old gospel numbers and the sacred blues of our African American brethren. Music that captured an entirety of pain in 3 minutes of string-bending transcendental acoustic wonder and groaned recollection of failed loves and broken lives. Don't get me wrong here, it's my theory that basically all cultures are stuck in a symbiotic relationship with one another in which one is being influenced and/or influencing the other constantly, sometimes in broad, obvious ways, others in the most simple and incidental. It's no secret that much of the greatest, and most striking native music in 19th and 20th century America originated from black musicians, but then any time with one of Harry Smith's amazing Folkways compilations proves the same with white musicians. The blues may have been first, but when you get to the last 100 years, it's jazz baby and nothin' but that owns the innovative mindset of the hipster elite. There was still room for classical of course, and big band and swing and small subsets of avant-garde experimenters working in fields not yet identified in the larger scheme of things, but time would certainly tell. The goldmine of American folk music during the first half of the 20th century was largely unknown by the listening public. If you were a wordily sort interested in American music chances are you were diggin' the jazz. But as we know, by the time the 50s rolled around, white boys were playing amped up versions of black blues songs, and black boys were playing rockabilly tinged bluegrass songs, and pretty much the whole mess became forever entangled in a mass of incestuous influence. And you's a beautiful thing, simply because rock and roll, THEE reason for why I'm here right now typing these words, not to mention breathing these breaths, was born from two seemingly opposed cultures to create one monolithic force of unparalleled aural unity. Forever lost in its collective purple haze, In Hendrix I Trust.

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