When are you gonna start recruiting some ladies into the Backburner? Also, who are some female MCs you recommend listening to?
I do feel weird about the Burner’s lack of diversity sometimes, but we don’t really actively recruit. People have been added since ten years ago when we decided that the motley (well, not that motley after all perhaps) group recording in Kilgour’s basement needed a name, but they’ve never been courted. They just wound up in a working relationship with several of us, to an extent that we just acknowledged they were part of the group.
I would love to see this happen with women. We aren’t crossing paths with enough women rappers who are on the same level as us, for some reason - it’s either artists who have completely established their own thing and don’t have much to gain, or artists who are just starting and aren’t ready to stand next to seasoned underground professionals.
I’m not satisfied with that, though. I would really like to ferret out the women holding down underground rap careers and build more with them. I think the scene is hostile, and a lot of women receive far less encouragement and support than equivalently (or lesser) talented guys do when they’re beginning to rap (or create any kind of art).
I haven’t figured out yet what to do about it. I mean for my part, I’m down to collaborate and otherwise build with women (or in any way non-straight-white-guy) artists. For the most part, that has meant veering away from hip-hop, and that’s fun but I’d love to do it WITHIN hip-hop as well.
Any women who participate in underground hip-hop, drop me a line if you read this! Maybe we can play a show together when I’m in your town, or maybe we can work on something, or just… get at me! I don’t get to decide who’s in Backburner, but I do get to decide who gets the Jesse Dangerously seal of approval. Which is pretty great.
As for your second question, I recommend Ladybug (on Digable Planets records), Antoinette, Roxanne Shante, Funky Four + 1 More, Nefertiti, N-Tice, Queen Latifah, Lioness, Penny, Shazzy, Wee Papa Girls, Salt-N-Pepa, Kool Krys, Gangsta Boo (she kills her guest verse on the new Yelawolf album!), Eternia, Jean Grae, Lady of Rage, T-Love (especially Return Of The B-Girl), Michie Mee, Lauryn Hill (especially on the first Fugees album, where she was focused), Angel Haze, Reema Major (hit and miss), Deadly Venoms (supergroup of failed solo acts; basically female Gravediggaz without the concept), um… and many more!
Who from the Burner is most financially successful?
Off of music? I have no idea. We are all - in the immortal words of Kunga219 - “hustlin’ for Cheerios.” All I can tell you for certain is that none of us makes anywhere near what we deserve on sheer artistic merit.
Cypress Hill by Cypress Hill Neva Again by Kam The Predator by Ice Cube Hip-Hopera by Volume 10 It Takes A Thief by Coolio (debatable?)
"Gangsta" rap is pretty nebulous, and after the mid-90s when NYC went Gambino, I don’t really see a meaningful place for the category. But although it was never the most alluring vein of hip-hop from my view, some really great records have been made that undeniably fall under that penumbra. The first Cypress Hill album was my favourite album ever from the time it came out until… their second record came out. Then that was my favourite for maybe three more years.
I don’t like G-funk, so most records in the gangsta vein that I really appreciate are heavily east coast influenced, if not just produced in New York. I mean even more to the point, one of my other favourite records in 1993 and the following years was Masta Ace’s anti-gangsta (or at least anti-black-on-black-crime) opus, Slaughtahouse. So this isn’t the list of an aficionado who can lead you through the whole movement, that’s not my area of expertise.
“Do you understand economics? I mean big-time, prewar, global capitalism. Do you get how it worked? I don’t, and anyone who says they do is full of shit. There are no rules, no scientific absolutes. You win, you lose, it’s a total crapshoot. The only rule that ever made sense to me I learned from a history, not an economics, professor at Wharton. “Fear” he used to say, “fear is the most valuable commodity in the universe.” That blew me away. “Turn on the TV,” he’d say. “What are you seeing? People selling their products? No. People selling the fear of you having to live without their products.” Fuckin’ A, was he right. Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure. Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells.”—Max Brooks, World War Z (via charlottetheharlot)
Ironically, THIS awareness scars the hell out of me.
What's your take on rappers like George Watsky, who, though they might well be hip hop fans themselves, seem to make a conscious effort to cultivate a fanbase of "I hate rap, but THIS is good" suburban white kids? To what extent do white rappers have a responsibility to defend the community whose music they're performing against the often kinda repulsive opinions of their own fans? This is something I've definitely experienced firsthand and I feel like you probably have too?
First to address: Watsky! I didn’t recognize his name at first, so I googled it to look like I really have my finger on the pulse, and I see now that we are talking about that “pale kid raps fast” sensation, which I had a lot more patience for when I thought he was like nine years old and pretty good even though he didn’t sound like he had ever listened to any rap except mid-career Eminem.
Looking at his website, georgewatsky.com, I see that I don’t like his haircut, his twitter is dull, and his artist bio (a) is longer than a Rolling Stone feature cover article; (b) says where the kid snagged his B.A. in theatre games; and (c) imposes upon the reader a sentence no less cringe-inducing than, "George has made strides to bring his poetic sensibilities to the theater world."
My heart is in my throat when I read shit like that, terrified I may accidentally be exposed to unendurably bad art at any moment.
Oh shit I found one of his songs on his youtube page, and his haircut doesn’t get any better when it’s sitting on top of the hollow eyes that watch where his uninspired flows are drizzling… OH SHIT HE JUST GAVE MASSIVE PROPS TO, AND I QUOTE, “early Eminem shit.”
I think I’m done paying attention to the kid. Geez what a snot.
So that’s my impromptu take on the exemplar, but the question more generally? I have a pro-hip-hop bias, so although I can’t really say what someone’s responsibility is toward the art of others, I see a lot of poor taste being shown in a lack of reverence. I think even iconoclasm rests on a bed of reverence, or it can’t really mean much.
I think it’s okay to engage in a critical dialectic with a given tradition, even (and perhaps especially) if you’re working within or around idioms that can be traced back through those traditions. I think it’s great for rap to question assumptions about rap. But if you come through like “okay all that until now was bullshit, HERE’S the truth,” then I would virtually guarantee that one of the following two scenarios is in play: (1) you are lying about how you feel for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, and your “truth” is actually steeped in an awareness and understanding of the merits of many things that come before it; or (2) your “truth” is totally unlistenable, boring, self-indulgent crud.
The basic thing is that I have difficulty TRUSTING a rapper who doesn’t seem to like any rap. And a rapper who seems to only like one other rapper is almost the same thing, especially if that rapper is someone with a rock radio pass (i.e. white), but I guess if like the ONLY rapper you liked was like… Red Head Kingpin, or something, then it’s at least weird enough that I probably want to know what you’re doing with it.
I do get a lot of “I don’t usually like rap at all, but I like you!” from totally earnest, ardent and lovely fans, and I do feel a responsibility to be difficult and respond with something like, “That’s very flattering, but I promise you that if you like what I do then there are hundreds of other rappers you would also like. Let’s find them!”
Speak-n-spell slap courtesy of Young L & ID Labs. Raps presented without comment.
Until now the only joint I heard and liked from Mac was “1992” with 1982, but this beat is wild and he holds it down in my opinion. Obviously I’m biased by his shout out to my homeboy’s comic in the first few bars, though!
“Ask ten adults to define a slut and you’ll hear things like: a woman who has sex with lots of men; a woman who sleeps around; a woman who has casual sex; a woman who flaunts her body. They’ll probably also use words like loose, easy, trashy, cheap, and desperate. Someone might say: a woman who has the sexual appetites of a man. No one will say: a mythical creature dreamt up by people who are jealous of or threatened by female sexual expression.”—Emily Maguire- Princesses & Pornstars (via missrockmeup)
This is why I always find suspect the claim that it can be applied indiscriminately across genders, and thus be an unproblematic pejorative; the appeal becomes recursive.
A so-called “male slut” is effectively being called “a man with the sexual appetite of a woman with the sexual appetite of a man.”
The misogyny and sex-negativity of the concept are baked right in!
What's the original source of that "aww yeah" sample in Too Damn Hype by DJJJ&tFP, and also in Inter Alia by this Halifax rap legend you may be aware of? I'm sure I've heard it elsewhere in some 90s rap (but can't remember off the top of my head) and was wondering where it came from in the first place. Also, what do you think of Busta Rhymes?
I’m glad you know that sample from “Too Damn Hype!” That’s almost definitely the first place I ever heard it - I used to organize my scout troop into sections to sing that while I beatboxed when I was eleven years old. Hearing it throughout the years made me think of it as the perfect sample to anchor the opening of my new record that was supposed to show my roots in real hip-hop (as opposed to the weirdo feelings rap I had wound up doing in between).
It’s from a live recording of a 1983 Run DMC routine called “Here We Go” that was put out on 12” in 1985. Jam Master Jay breaks “Big Beat” by Billy Squier and the guys do their “Here we kitty come come” routine. It starts with some speech to the crowd, where Run says “How y’all feel out there?” and then when they make noise, “Aw yeah!”
Here’s the original:
So I asked Jorun if he would cut it for me, because I KNEW he had the record, and he was only too pleased. He came up with all the other things to put between it, like Greg Nice off the Beatnuts record, etc.
So that’s that one!
And Busta… I mean… I will give you a list of my thoughts on Busta Rhymes.
I love Leaders of the New School;
he’s one of the most talented and creative stylists in the history of rap music, in terms of unconventional rhythms and chopping;
he’s an instrumental figure in bringing dancehall patterns to complex hip-hop delivery;
he has more charisma and flavour in his pinky than I do in both arms and legs;
for twenty years he has been dominating posse cuts and remixes, stealing the show no matter WHO else is on the cut and just forcing his way onto joints that you didn’t even know needed him but it turns out they do;
he is an unapologetic and spiteful homophobe;
he is a violent misogynist who has been frequently charged with physically attacking women, and who has made it go away with money.
So I can’t really enjoy listening to him. I’m not the kind of fan who can separate easily between the artist and the person. I mean I can tell when a rapper like Kanye, Buck 65 or Serengeti is writing fiction or autobiography, but no matter how much an artist’s work appeals to me, it makes me feel sick to think about them if there are things going on in their personal lives that really harm people.
Busta Rhymes and Mystikal are the two artists I want to love but can’t feel good about anymore.
This is old news (and also kind of NOT news, which I love about it), but I just saw the headline today and it instantly became maybe my favourite headline I’ve ever seen.
Like NO SHIT, huh? The POPE saw something blasphemous in a sculpture of a crucified frog? Boy, that guy needs to get off the Internet! HEY THE POPE: GET A FUCKING JOB.
The story is just marvelous. It seems that the president of the Alto Aldige region of the city of Bolzano, Italy, was so offended when a local museum put the piece on display that he went on hunger strike so long that he was hospitalized. He said, “Surely this is not a work of art but a blasphemy and a disgusting piece of trash that upsets many people,” giving some evidence to support a possible argument that he has never heard of what art is.
But really if you are the president of something and your response to a little ceramic statue is to go on hunger strike? You are not qualified for your job.
And the Pope? Shut up about things! Yeah it’s blasphemous, you idiot; gold star!
“Either Speed-Spooning (it’s exactly like speed-dating, but you spoon the person), or Deathmatch, a singles night for suicidal people (this idea is based on the notion that people kill themselves because they are very alone).”—Sherwin Tija, in response to the question, “If you could throw any event in Toronto—your craziest, most fantastical idea—what would it be?”
I remember being on holiday in Prince Edward Island, woken up in what seemed like the middle of the night; me and my best friend Nicky eleven years old and still not certain if the new LL Cool J or the new Fresh Prince was going to change our lives more.
In the cottage’s dark bedroom, one of my parents told me that our cat, the eponymous Kitty, had given birth to a litter of two.
A grey and a black tiny baby kitten awaited us when we returned from our week in the sun.
The grey and fluffy one my folks let me name, and to their minor chagrin I named her “Klunk” after the kitten in the TMNT Michaelangelo saves xmas one-off from 1985. My mother has tried to subtly revise history ever since, pretending to only remember ever calling that cat “Charlotte.”
I could tell you stories about Charlotte’s brief stay with us, but I won’t right now. She disappeared without warning or a trace one day before she was grown.
The sleek and black one was named by older, younger sister, Maggie. She named him Tim. There is some dispute as to whether this was after the protagonist “Tim Catchamouse” of the first Puddle Lane book in 1985, but although our Timmy is not known to ever have caught a mouse per se, we might have thought of him by that full name when a full name was required upon formal occasions.
Perhaps due to my early alignment with Klunk, I never really felt like Tim was MY cat. We had a relationship that could have been described as aloof or mutually indifferent at times, but we shared a home for ten years and we both are warm-bodied and we would find ourselves in common cat/family situations often enough. He would curl up on or near me and I would pet or scratch him and I filled his bowl more than one hundred thousand times and I let him in and out and he might rub up or headbutt me or do what it is that cats do for whatever reasons they do those things.
Sometimes we would be sitting on my parents’ couch, and I would be scratching behind his ears and he would be purring in the rich baritone of a healthy young adult cat and I would think you know, Timmy is really a pretty alright cat. He keeps his nose clean, he doesn’t scratch or bite unless you wantonly and deliberately torment him like Dad does. He’ll just about do, I think.
When I started making lattes and cappuccinos for a living, I couldn’t do much on the art tip. And a year and a bit later, I still can’t! I find that I just do a little wiggle when I’m pouring the last bit of the milk in, and then pull through, and it will produce either some variety of fauna (a leaf or laurel or in rare cases, a flower) or a wonky valentine heart.*
I would arbitrarily make one or the other, and then hand out the drink, and usually since I was so new, that was when I would get my first look at who had ordered it because I was concentrating on doing an okay job up to that point.
This is the point where my version of this story diverges from what a new guy said to me today! See, he related pretty much the same first part as above (only less eloquently or charmingly because I am fucking the best at words), and then said, “…and I always seem to give out the heart to some DUDE!” with a note of wrinkled nose in his voice like GROSS like CAN YOU IMAGINE like IT MAKES ME SEEM GAY.
And I had been with him right up to that point, because he told my story to me (strumming, as it were, my pain, as it were, with his proverbial fingers, as it were). We were both chastely focusing on our craft, and then presenting a loaded symbol to a world primed for hasty and awkward interpretations.
But I always ended my story more like, “…and I always seem to give out the heart to the most homophobic looking dude" and go on to emphasize HIS reaction, how he seems weirded out by it or behaves strangely toward me. As time has worn on, I realize that that was just my self-consciousness most of the time and whatever weird vibe I got is because people with real jobs are often fucking rude to minimum wage earners for no reason.
But I felt a wind whistle through me for a minute when the stories were so similar and, to me, so different.
I guess what’s supposed to be funny about my story is that the insecurity of the homophobic customer causes him to project intentions onto me, and what’s supposed to be funny about the same story when my coworker tells it is the hapless misfortune of giving the humiliating impression that he could be gay.
I guess neither story is really HILARIOUS anyway, ha.
*Sometimes in a macchiato I’ll make a peach, which looks kind of like a bum. That’s like finding a four-leaf clover.**
**I can’t do a four-leaf clover design***, although lots of people can.
***I did once accidentally just make a huge, thick penis-shape. When I gave it to the guy, he knew exactly what it looked like, and so did I. We looked at one another, and kind of both shrugged, and he took it away and poured it down his throat.
Hey guys! November’s creeping up, so I am putting out the call - if you’d like to have a custom bit of artwork for yourself or as a gift, I’m taking orders!
I’ll be doing these straight through November and a bit of December, just so everything can get mailed out on time.
Prices as follows:
Peep Mike’s tumblr for his recent series of “Mikenesses,” self portraits in styles lovingly appropriated from his heroes and influences in the field of comics and illustration. That should give you some idea of how versatile the kid is, and what you could be commissioning from him.
“We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission
And deception is the only felony
So never fuck nobody without telling me
Sunglasses and Advil, last night was mad real
Sun coming up, 5 a.m., I wonder if they got cabs still?
Thinking ‘bout the girl in all leopard
Who was rubbing the wood like Kiki Shepherd
Two tattoos one read ‘No Apologies’
The other said ‘Love is Cursed by Monogamy’”—Kanye West, No Church In The Wild (via lyngay)