Saturday, 28 May 2011

I'm new here.

The legendary Gil Scott Heron has died, aged 62. The details of his death are still unclear, but apparently he picked up an illness whilst visiting Europe, and was unable to recover.

Heron was often described as the "Godfather of Rap", and with good reason. During the 1970s he, along with university friend Brian Jackson, pioneered a minimalist sound of percussion underlying a poetic vocal sound. He, however, rejected this notion; "If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating 'hooks', which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion."

His music was heavily political, his musical style lending itself to his deep interest in the civil rights movement, and he became one of the first singer songwriters to personally attack the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Throughout his life he struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, leading to a spell in jail, but this only furthered his music impetus; "When you wake up every day and you're in the joint, not only do you have a problem but you have a problem with admitting you have a problem."

Heron's final release was the acclaimed album I'm New Here, released in 2010. RIP Gil Scott Heron, 1949-2011, your influence will be remembered for a long time yet.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Folkin' Hip-Hop.

Today I have been thinking of a most interesting question. Is hip-hop folk?

Ok, that seems an odd hypothesis, but let me elaborate. First off, when I speak of folk I don't speak of the modern day Mumford & Sons et al (not that they I don't like them, just not that they're not folk). I mean the English folk tradition; songs passed down through the generations.

When I speak of hip-hop, I don't mean the modern day money-grabbers like Soulja Boy and 50 Cent. I mean the original innovaters on the streets of New York.

I make the connection for several reasons. Foremost amongst them is simply wealth. Originally folk and hip-hop were not the realm of the rich man. Both value their ability to make music with little equipment, or even skill. Many folk singers wouldn't be counted as great singers, and the same can be said of many of the most prevalent MCs. A musician could pick up a guitar, learn to play a folk classic, and sing it in any way he could. An aspiring MC could do the same, rapping over the beat of a record, or even making a simple beat of whatever is around.

In this sense they are DIY genres. Anyone can do it, at any time. Many folk songs and hip-hop tracks are even acapellas, requiring no instrumentation what-so-ever.

The next great connection is lyricism. The fast majority of pop songs these days are concerned with just two things: love and fame, maybe with the exception of Friday, which is about... erm, Friday. This is not to say that songs about these things can't be valid, or even good, but come on songwriters, have a little imagination.

Folk and hip-hop to differ in one regard, however, in that hip-hop talks about what's real to the rappers, where as an intrinsic part of folk is telling traditional stories through the music in a bardic sense. Saying that, both are trying to tell a story. Hip-hop was a revolution in American black music, and would only have been possible in that society. America stands out as a leading first-world power that continues to repress its ethnic minorities. This is not to say that racism is not evident in the rest of the world, but the rich/poor divide in America is colossal, and the vast majority of the poor population are black and hispanic. Hip-hop was thus a political expression and movement, directly relating to its community and its problems, and indeed became their only form of communicating their woes to a largely uncaring upper echelon.

I feel it's sad that the genre has lot a large part of this. Nowadays rappers mainly concern themselves with money and fame. But then hip-hop was part of a moment in time, a brief spark that ignited a new culture, and for that its effects can still be felt.

Folk, in some sense, seeks to preserve this. It's an ever-present part of traditional British music. Certain songs have been sung for generations in traditional styles and locales. They tell stories, which are often missed by the casual listener, such as 'Scarborough Fair', where a forlorn suitor is forced into a series of impossible tasks to win his/her love. Folk tells the tales of a persistent generation, hip-hop tells the story of a single but prevalent one.

I guess you can say most songs tell a story, but whilst love songs may reach an audience in some rhetorical or memorable sense, the lyrics will always contain an element of a deeply personal relation, only partly accessible to the listeners. The beauty of truly story-telling music is its ability to reach past boundaries of personal, ethnic or social nature, and thus bear relevance on any one us, and I think this is where the true comparison between the two lies.

So, in answer the question, hip-hop isn't folk, per se. Saying that though, they do have deep connections in the context of their origins and their aims. Both now have pretenders to their name, and this in itself is testament to their success. It may seem like I am simply bashing modern music. This couldn't be farther from the truth. To understand anything present, we must understand the past.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Milk and football,

Milk is great. I used to have a glass of juice with my breakfast, but now I just have milk, even if I'm eating cereal. But I digress.

The football season has thundered to a close with a dramatic finale. Blackpool and Birmingham are relegated on the last day, and both in forlorn fashion. I have to say I'm sorry to see both of these clubs go down. Birmingham as whilst it's not my favourite club (HTWL), it is my current place of residence, and I can't help but think if Scott Dann didn't get injured in January it wouldn't have happened. Blackpool because, well, who doesn't love Blackpool?

Good thing about this whole debacle is that they will both be playing Europe next season. Out. Of. Control.

In other football news, Newcastle seem to be actually making good signings this summer (if you can believe the sources), Mario was to bring his dog Lucky on the Man City tour bus with him, and then consequently failed to turn up, and Ryan Giggs cheated on his wife...

Wait, am I allowed to say that?

Anyway, here's ManUre's line-up for Saturday:

Van Der Sar
Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
Nani, Scholes, Carrick, an unnamed professional footballer
Hernandez, Rooney.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011


With this hiatus comes a gap in bloggability. Therefore rather than back-track and post old news in new posts, I thought I'd do a brief catch-up on all the interesting stuff that's happened recently, and has thus far gone un-blogged.

I'm talking about the Tories getting into power and ensueing riots. I'm talking about disasters and nuclear power failures in the far east. I'm talking about a motherfucking Royal wedding. (Congratz). Saying that, this blog is more concerned with pretentious culture and needless anecdotes. So...

There's a lot of things that have gone on in our little bubble. Like who the hell produced Sicko Cell? (OK, it's Joy Orbison, but we were wondering for a while). And when will Far Nearer, GR Etiquette, and Getting Me Down get a god-damn release?

There was also the emergence of Jacques Greene and Kingdom, proving the UK sound has now permanently taken residence in the ears of our estranged cousins across the pond.

Saying that, the UK has been stepping up its game. The Boiler Room is reaching an all time high where its online viewers are concerned. There was that Fabriclive from Ramadanman/Pearson Sound, that banger from Julio Bashmore, and the emergence of that Scottish fella, Koreless (one of my personal faves).

Oh, and there was this annoyingly talented chap's album.

In other news: Danger Mouse has released a new album with a bunch of friends, GZA played at my local pub, and Newcastle haven't been relegated! Yet. Talking of football, just what is going on with this Mario Balotelli chap? First he's lauded as the best striker (ever) in the Premier League, then he's getting sent off left, right and centre. Finally, he's been surprising us all by giving money to tramps and stopping school bullies. Wild.

Basically, I missed lots, including doing reviews of Game of Thrones, an HBO adaptation of my favourite series of books by GRR Martin (I'll start from episode five, don't worry). So, I'll have to work hard to get this blog back in shape. Below are a few of my favourite bits and bobs from the past couple of months. Enjoy.

Everything Everything - What's My Name.

Kahn - Like We Used To.

Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Jamie XX Shuffle).

And a couple of vids:

Funny Americans.

Funny answer.

Funny Brian Cox.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Not so ephemeral afterall.

I know, it's been a while. After some well-earned pushes from a puissant proxy close to my heart, I've decided to resurrect this blog. Sorry Mr. Blog, I promise this time I'll take care of you.

Back soon!