Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Party on Plastic: I gave up buying hip hop years ago when PM Dawn turned into a gospel group and the perfunctory jazz licks behind Digable Planets were as far as any group wanted to push the boundaries. I'm typically convinced that the great days of hip hop are over. Do I have to see one more video of guys in black leather waving their money while improbably siliconed women in rhinestone-studded bikinis scrunch up their faces and gyrate atop, around, and inside various Lexuses and Benzes, as though simulating a persistent, low-grade orgasm?

Any why is it that the great melodies that characterized soul and funk have been boiled down to one lick. Don't get me wrong -- I like a good sampled lick as much as the next guy. But where do you go once you've ripped off the best of George Clinton's opera? PM Dawn was one option, drowned out by more and more punks more interested in attitude than art: strident Straight Outta Compton wannabes and vendetta pirates who want to go out like Biggie or Tupac; pseudo-political militants with watered-down Malcolm X tropes on the brain, but without the discipline and the local focus of Public Enemy (think of it as "911 is a joke" versus "9/11 is a conspiracy"); sloppy, stoned party stylers with the marijuana leaf on their caps, coming from behind the beat, but sounding mechanical by ragging time over a computerized drum, instead of a sympathetic rhythm section; earnestly preachy/thoughtful second-generation suburban activist types rapping about fashionable causes; and miniature multimedia napoleons who change their street names at least as often as a frat kid changes his sheets but put out the same awful record again and again.

So my wife (that's Mrs. Enobarbus) has been raving over the OutKast double record Speakerboxx/The Love Below for a few weeks now, so I gave it a listen. Hmmmmm, not bad. A decent mix of R&B sounds, performed with a generous helping of actual musical instruments; more than one rhythm; more self-effacing humor than self-aggrandizing attitude. I honestly suspected, at times, that I might be listening to a remarkably high-fidelity Ween having more genre-bending fun with rap and Prince-style sounds.

1 comment:

Razor said...

Great post and funny timing given that I was giving PM Dawn's "Jesus Wept" a listen this weekend for a trip down nostalgia's way. That CD is only about half "praise God" and has some great, great samples.

PM Dawn and Outkast are like the Alph and the Omega to me. It's not by accident that Outkast are hotter than the sun right now. You should also run out and get "Stankonia", Outkast's earlier effort. I mean, try to find a bad song. These guys are so damn smart and smooth, that everyone else is just going through the motions. Just fearless stuff.