My friend Lucy did one of these recently and it made me feel sick looking at it, but I have so much on at the moment that the only way I can remember it all is by repeating it over and over.
1 – going to Newcastle to visit my old high school Ancient History teacher
2 – going to a picnic on Shark Island
4 – going to Pete’s
6 – maybe trivia?
7 – boozy dinner with work lady folks
12 – possibly going to a gig…
14 – Cloud Control at Oxford Arts Factory
22 – Christopher Hitchens at Sydney Town Hall
28 – Boris at the Sydney Opera House
2 – Laurie Anderson at the Sydney Opera House [and possibly Melt Banana]
12 – possible wedding shoot
Add to that an insane amount of weekend work shifts and the year’s practically half over.
I feel excited that all I have to do tonight is go home, wash my hair and eat capers, tuna and anchovies.
I made a bold statement recently on Twitter, proclaiming that I believed that I could prove anyone who didn’t like hop hop wrong.
Am I correct? Probably not, but I do believe that a lot of people may not be aware of exactly how diverse hip hop really is, and while they don’t enjoy some sub-genres of hip hop, they probably will others.
I was challenged to post a blog, explaining my bold statement, with lots of explanation and videos.
I decided early on that this project could get ridiculously large, especially given my penchant to deviate from the story, so I set myself some boundaries.
First, I’m not going to give the history of hip hop, I am vastly under-qualified to do so, instead, I am going to give my history with hip hop. Secondly, there is a ridiculous amount of hip hop out there, so I am going to limit myself mostly to my absolute favourites, and as a result, will almost exclusively be discussing artists from two record labels: the behemoth that is the independent label Rhymesayers Entertainment, and the more experimental collective label, anticon. records. As we shall see, these two labels share some interesting links. In a lot of cases, the artists I will be discussing from these labels also share links. I will try and keep it as simple as possible, while showing how all of this came together for me.
Lastly, I’m going to be linking a lot to Wiki pages and the like, because the history of each band is readily available elsewhere for anyone interested, it’d make this entry 85 years long if I try and re-write it all.
I think I’ve pretty much always liked hip hop. The first albums/singles I really got into had hip hop elements [Hello Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and Prince’s ‘Cream’], and I also really liked Blondie from a young age [I have heard numerous times over the years that ‘Rapture’ was the first song featuring rapping to reach number one in the United States]. However, my seriously love of hip hop started in late high school, when Everlast released Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, which was known for the singles ‘What it’s Like’ and ‘Ends’. Although I like his hip hop/country songs the most, the rest of the album was also good, lots of old school hip hop influences.
Unfortunately, Everlast’s solo albums got progressively less interesting, and last year’s Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford was bland and disapppointing, even taking into account that his style of hip hop isn’t really what I listen to anymore anyway.
Then when I went to uni, I lived in Bathurst and there was a really cool record store, Stop’n’Rock and I was friends with a few of the dudes who worked there, and they were really good about ordering stuff in and if it sounded interesting, pumping you for info on the bands so they could stock the stuff it it sounded cool. I was heavily into Le Tigre and owned all their albums and wanted something similar, and somehow, a link was made and I got really into an all female hip hop group called Northern State. They have lots of literary and feminist references and are like old school Beastie Boys. Party music for smart ladies!
To explain how I got to where I am now, we need to discuss a little band called cLOUDDEAD, because it is from here, that almost all the links to the music I listen to today come from, which, to slap a genre on it, is progressive, or experimental hip hop.
cLOUDDEAD had three members: Doseone, Why? and Odd Nosdam. Doseone is Adam Drucker, a hip hopper, artist and poet. He is also in a band called Subtle, and another called Themselves. More on that later. When discussing cLOUDDEAD, Why? refers to Yoni Wolf, but later, the name Why? came to refer to the band, of which Yoni is a member. Confusing much? Odd Nosdam, Dave Madson, provided the music for cLOUDDEAD and has since worked on stuff including Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom project [which also featured Doseone]. He is also referenced in a Why? song, ‘A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under’, in the line ‘Rain goes perfect with a Nosdam mix tape’, which I got all arty with here.
When I first heard cLOUDDEAD, they were by far the most progressive hip hop I’d ever experienced. I find their timing patterns interesting. More traditional hip hop beats are fairly standard. From the getgo, you can bob your head to it, or throw your set in the air [which for years, I thought meant boobs, but that is a whole different story], but with cLOUDDEAD, the beats are unpredictable. The lyrics are very surreal, something I particularly enjoy, yet often there’s one or two lines that perfectly encapsulate something poignant in an everyday event and when you hear it, it’s quite mindblowing how well they describe a particular feeling. I think Yoni Wolf is a lyrical genius and perfected this in later years in Why?
The following song is ‘pop song’, from cLOUDDEAD’s 2003 album, ten. I think it gives a pretty far indication of the many layers which characterised cLOUDDEAD in general.
So I had heard cLOUDDEAD, and I liked them very much, but then I took a detour, when I discovered a band called Atmosphere. Atmosphere are much more traditional hip hop. Atmosphere are made up of Slug, the emcee, and Ant, who does the sweet beats.
Atmosphere were the first band in a very long time which I liked enough to actively seek out as much of the back catalogue as I could. I even bought on CD the Atmosphere albums that I had also been able to download for free from the Rhymesayers website, but I’m happy I did, CDs rule.
Atmosphere are very much old school beats. It’s totally party music, but the lyrics are really interesting, Slug is a storyteller, mostly about the downtrodden, which seems to get them labelled as being emo. I know a lot of women who dig Atmosphere because the lyrics about women are definitely more of the appreciative kind, rather than the ‘All 800 million of you bitches, shake yo’ ass!’ variety. I will go out on a limb and say that each of their albums is pretty much all killer, no filler.
The link, you ask? There is indeed a link. Atmosphere are in tight with the anticon peeps, I have various tracks from different side projects, including Themselves, which I am getting to, which feature both Slug and Doseone, and both, along with several other emcees, were part of Deep Puddle Dynamics.
This first song is from their most recent album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, and the track is called ‘You’. It was such a long time ago and so many Atmosphere songs later, but I think this track was the first one I really dug. Look, I’m just going to say it, Slug is also very easy on the eye. It’s an aural and visual party here folks!
The second Atmosphere track is from an earlier album, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, and is called ‘Smart Went Crazy’, which contains one of my favourite Atmosphere lyrics, ‘Smart went nuts and rode a unicorn through the storm’.
After getting into Atmosphere and collecting everything I could, I decided to have a look around and see what else was on Rhymesayers, because I figured, if I liked them, I’d put some worth into someone they might be label mates with, or really appreciate.
I’m glad I did, because through Atmosphere and Rhymesayers, I discovered Stefon Alexander, or P.O.S.
P.O.S has a serious background in punk, and the way he incorporates that influence into hip hop is absolutely amazing, his most recent album, Never Better, really blew me away. It’s a live percussion sound with melodies and harmonies. It’s really unlike any other hip hop I’ve heard. The first track here is the title track, ‘Never Better’:
This next track is from the same album, and is called ‘Let it Rattle’. I think these are probably my favourite tracks from the album, but Never Better as a whole, really is incredibly tight and challenging.
So whilst I had discovered, and appreciated cLOUDDEAD, I thought of them more as an apparition. A one-of-a-kind band alone in the genre of prog hip hop. I had spent a great deal of time listening to Atmosphere, and thus much more traditional hip hop. Then one summer, a couple of years ago, two songs came along and very seriously blew my mind – one, from a group called Subtle, featuring Doseone, and another from Yoni Wolf’s band, which were now using the monkier Why?
The first song is called ‘Midas Gutz’ and comes from Subtle’s album, For Hero: For Fool. I find it hard to explain why I found this song so intriguing. I think Doseone’s delivery is really unique, and I enjoy it a lot. Lyrically the song is very strange, which is probably what attracts me to most of Dose’s projects. The imagery is quite dark, and I’m not sure even after hundred of listens, that I’m really sure what it’s about. There’s no clip for the song, but the track was on YouTube. Please enjoy.
The second song is ‘Vowels pt. 2’ by Why? I was in a car when I first heard this and I think within seconds, my response was ‘Oh my god. Who is this?!’ From the sample of a chain dropping to the absolutely heartbreaking lyrics set to music that makes me think of summer, ‘Vowels pt. 2’ pretty much sums up why Why? fast became my favourite band. More on that later, however…
I really hope you enjoy ‘Vowels’ because it certainly made me rethink hip hop.
Because I was so ridiculously obsessed with ‘Midas Gutz’ and ‘Vowels pt. 2’, I didn’t actually hear any other music from either band for months afterwards. I’m sure if I had a last.fm account it would have looked something like:
Why? – ‘Vowels pt. 2’: 1,000,000 plays
Subtle – ‘Midas Gutz’: 950,000 plays
Then a little group called Themselves came along with a mix-tape, TheFREEhoudini. Mix-tapes are quite common in hip hop, they are released for a variety of reasons, to showcase a bunch of artists on a label, or, in this case, to give the audience a little sweetener before an album drops.
Here’s where you need to hold your hats because all the links? They’re about to collide and get a whole lotta confusing.
Ok, so…Themselves is Doseone and a producer, Jel. TheFREEhoudini features, amongst others, Slug, from our good friends Atmosphere, and a whole bunch of others including Busdriver, Buck 65, Sole and Aesop Rock. But on one particular track, wait for it, wait for it … the guests are …Yoni Wolf aka Why? and Odd Nosdam. As we have learnt today, Doseone + Why? + Odd Nosdam = cLOUDDEAD!
And it all comes together!
Basically, TheFREEhoudini mix-tape is very important, because I finally broke from listening to the same two songs over and over and in the case of Yoni, became very obsessed with hearing everything he’d done.
The first track we have here is ‘rapping4money’ which is the one featuring Yoni Wolf and Odd Nosdam. It’s my favourite track and it’s super duper catchy and quirky.
This next track is my second favourite, and it’s all nasty and features Aesop Rock and one of my favourite hip hop lines: ‘There ain’t enough water in the world/You can buy it, I’ll hunt mine’. Just you wait ’til you hear Doseone deliver his part of that line, it gives me goosebumps!
So where did this all lead me? It led me to Why? and Why? are now one of my all time favourite acts. I never really got The Beatles. People talk about the melody and the lyrics and it just didn’t ever reason resonate with me [and thus I became a music leper, because damn, you kids love you some Beatles], but I think I found that feeling with Why?
I think Yoni Wolf is without a doubt the best lyricist of any band, of any genre, of anything, that I have ever heard. He has this uncanny knack for seeing universal, yet everyday events and describing them in the strangest, yet most perfect way.
We’ve already heard ‘The Vowels pt. 2’, so I thought I’d share two more songs.
The, ‘A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under’ first is less hip hop and very beautiful. The clip is also amazing, it’s one shot and all kinds of bizarre:
The second track ‘Rubber Traits’ is one of my favourite Why? tracks, it has the most amazing lines leading into the chorus. Also, the clip contains man-mouthed dogs. Yes.
One thing I like about the hip hop collective, is that when they’re not making shout outs to men in submarines, they’re usually making shout outs to other artists. It’s nice to see such a supportive community, but it’s also awesome for finding new hip hop you might also like. Like even in making this, I was on the Rhymesayers YouTube channel looking for songs to include and I came across a really sweet, upbeat tune by Grieves & Budo:
And so in conclusion, hip hop isn’t about the same old boring beats and lyrics about Bacardi, it’s a very dynamic and interesting genre of music, which incorporates everything from punk to out-and-out weirdness.
</Julia’s Introduction to Hip Hop for Non-Believers>
In that time I have have done many things. I have gone to the zoo; to Luna Park; I have had high tea. I have been on many a photography expedition; worked at three different companies; suffered insomnia pretty much the whole time and lived in three different units, all within a two block radius of one another. I have taken up, then given up yoga; I came here with no friends and now know many amazing people; I bought a cat, which was the best money I’ve ever spent; I have finally learnt what buses go to my younger sister’s; I have seen a man who only walks backwards; sat near Bob Ellis; had dinner at State Parliament and eaten almost nothing but chicken cashew stir fry at any of the many Sydney Thai restaurants I have been to.
On the other hand, there are two things I have never done.
I have not, in the entire time I have lived in Sydney, through many a sweltering summer, swum at a Sydney beach.
I have also never attended a Sydney Writers’ Festival event. The city puts on an event to promote the people who create my most favourite thing in the world, and I have never attended. This is for a variety of reasons, some of which are no longer worthy of thinking about, some which I am trying hard to change [I became a couch potato, no getting around it].
I got the guide today and flicked through. Either I wasn’t interested, or the events that caught my eye were on during work hours [Paul Keating and David Wessel discussing the financial climate of the world? Gah! It’s on a Friday arvo].
Then I came to page 12 and there he was. The man whose half-naked frame adorns my fridge, the closest I have come so far to him. That’s right, The Hitch.
Christopher Hitchens is undoubtedly divisive. Do I agree with his stance on everything? No. Have I seen him in all his arrogant glory? To be sure. Do I think that despite that, he is one of the most intelligent and articulate writers I have come across? Yes I do. I admire him much like I admire Martin Amis. Both were fortunate enough to have been educated in the days when subjects like literature and philosophy weren’t considered little more than subjects taken on a whim, which would ultimately prove useless to those taking them [useless in the sense that universities these days seem intent on pushing through students as quickly as possible to get them out in the workforce and paying taxes].
In the words of Gore Vidal:
I moved on to Paris, where I stayed at the Pont Royal Hotel. Sartre and de Beauvoir held court in the downstairs bar: Tourists had driven them down from Café Flore. Now, at centuries end, I find it hard to believe I once lived in a time where writers were world figures because of what they wrote, and that their ideas were known even to the vast perennial majority that never reads – Palimpsest: a memoir, 1996, p. 169.
I get great pleasure from listening to people from any field, who are both experts and articulate, discuss their work, whether or not I understand it or have previously been interested in it. That’s why I like The Hitch. Because he’s ballsy and unapologetic about holding some unpopular views […and I thought it was funny when he addressed Mos Def as Mr Most Definitely, ok?], but most of all, because he is, without question, a deeply intelligent person.
I got out my diaries today, to fill in gigs for late May and June [Boris and Laurie Anderson, respectively] and realised I’m already double booked for the June long weekend. Lessons learnt: Colour A Month Moleskines look awesome, but lead to easy double booking. Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but 2010 seems to me to be going by even faster than 2009.
This week was mostly work and hardly any play. My interview with Byron Stroud [Strapping Young Lad/Fear Factory] went up on the yourGigs website, though in a very condensed form, and I liked the interview a lot, so I may post it here in full at a later date.
I found Byron pleasant, happy to chat and he gave really good, thoughtful answers. He was promoting his new band, City of Fire, whose self-titled album came out on April 9th. The band also has Burton C Bell in it, on vocals </pimp>.
The most exciting part of all work, no play, was when Ms Meesh, of Black Boots fame, appeared at my desk, with very exciting looking parcels in her arms from the US of A. In said parcels were a variety of Lensbaby lenses and optics which we talked each other into buying [and please check out Meesh’s website, she is one of my all time fave live music photographers]. I got the Lensbaby Muse lens, with a single plastic optic, and a single glass optic to play around with.
The obvious place to take them for a trial, was Luna Park, and so to there, on Saturday, we went. Let me just say this: I will forever be devastated that I didn’t get a shot of the man with the heavily tattooed face and neck, holding up a very small baby girl, dressed head[band] to toe in pink and frills. I thought about it and then he gave me a look that said ‘What part of the word KILL* emblazoned on my cheek do you not understand?’, to which I tipped my hat and say ‘And fair enough’.
This is a small selection of my shots from Luna Park. More can be found on my Flickr. As for details of the shots, mostly I was using the single glass optic, with various apertures. Except for the first half hour where I was accidentally shooting with no apertures at all. Which is actually how I got the first picture below, so it wasn’t all fail:
After Luna Park, I dashed off to meet Drew, my bro-in-law, for my belated Christmas present. See what I mean about 2010? I knew about this gift in December, yet no time could be found until now to do it. Drew and Mary’s present to me was a beer appreciation course at Redoak, a boutique beer cafe. I didn’t know what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised to find that each “class” contains about 40 people, but basically, it’s just like going out to an amazing restaurant, with a set menu, which a person on a microphone talks you through, while plying you with exceptional beer.
For the foodies, Drew and I did a Mediterranean course, which looked a little like this:
Torn baby bocconcini, roma tomato and herb oil, Oatmeal Stout, dill and eschalot marinated octopus and Baltic Porter and shiitake mushroom moussakka
w/ Irish Red Ale.
Pino’s prosciutto chargrilled pear, beetroot leaf and shaved black wax parmesan salad with agro dolce
w/ Honey Ale.
White Pyrenees lamb rump, marinated in lemon, garlic and oregano, served with kale, vegetable casserole, smoked eggplant relish and Oatmeal Stout reduction
w/ Aussie Ale [which had hints of lemon myrtle and a Tasmanian wild pepper].
Redoak’s Birramisu with raspberry coulis and wee Heavy Ale and chocolate icecream
w/ Readoak’s BIG Stout.
We followed this up with a sample of Redoak’s Special Strong Bitter and, in my case, a Blackberry Hefeweizen.
We also had a beer before the course started, so after seven beers, the Lensbaby did a good job of illustrating how I felt … warm and fuzzy:
If you ever get a chance, take the course, it’s really fun and there’s no pressure to get all chummy with your fellow beer scholars, unless you feel the urge [we had a very lovely Stout fan sitting next to us]. I will be going again, fo’ sure.
* may or may not have said ‘KILL’, I was too busy trying to look like I didn’t want to take his photo to be able to read it.
When you left us, I was about to be mouth attacked by Poor Stevie, seen here in The Importance of Being Stevie:
For those of you who don’t want to imagine what it would have been like for me to almost be mouth attacked by Poor Stevie, distract yourself with this funny graffiti I found in Cammeray:
Thankfully no-one got mouth attacked, because we reached water, Willoughby Harbour to be exact.
Isn’t it delightfully stereotypical?
There we made a friend, Rusty. Seriously, there’s probably not much better in the world than a smiling dog.
After we took in the water view and such, I said ‘Poor Stevie, this trek almost killed me. I need to eat Thai for lunch on this here Easter Sunday’. So we went to Stir Crazy in Neutral Bay. I had a chicken cashew nut stir fry because I always have a chicken cashew nut stir fry.
Poor Stevie: I think I’ll have the fish cakes salad again next time, it was delicious!
Me: See! That’s why I always have the same thing, because you never find something better
Poor Stevie: Actually, I’d never had fish cake salad before.
Me: Oh. Still…I do love a good chicken cashew nut stir fry.
Afterwards we walked back to Cammeray, across one of my favourite bridges. I love the shape of this bridge.
On the bridge I saw Bob Dylan. It was weird.
Hello Bob Dylan.
Oh wait, that’s not Bob Dylan, it’s Poor Stevie. I’ve often wondered why her teen modelling career never took off. She has natural grace and poise.
If this was primary school show and tell, I would tell you that on the way home, we saw:
All of these things we did see.
Once safely back in Cammeray, far from the mean streets of Neutral Bay, we watched (500) Days of Summer. Now, I’d not seen it before and many of my friends felt quite divided by it. I thought it did what it set out to do nicely. I would say at a pinch that it has the same kind of vibe 200 Cigarettesdoes: indy as done by MTV et al. Essentially the plot just reversed the main characters of a million other young love flicks, but still, very enjoyable.
Then I previewed the first cut of the video for the upcoming Cloud Control single and drooled over a stack of pre-release copies of their upcoming album. Stay tuned, I am going to pimp the socks off this band. For now? New album: all killer, no filler.
Sadly, I then had to go, back over the bridge to Marrickvillio.
My Feaster weekend was rounded out by a visit from Mooma, who brought fresh flowers, homemade slices, a throw, a scarf, an awesome lamp and Feaster eggs. In return I showed her how to use an iPod and iTunes as she’s getting a bit interested in having one for audio books. Then we watched two short films she’d made, one from Poor Stevie’s wedding and another she made with her class this year for an assembly. Hoogs to Mooma!
Ah Feaster. It really snuck up on me this year. As have most things. So come April 3, I decided to buy a 2010 calendar. Thumbs up. Then I got home and realised it lists dates, but not days of the week. Thumbs down.
This week has been a week of bed. Seriously, is it not sad that come 8:00pm Saturday night of the Easter loooong weekend, and the most perfect thing I could think to do was head to bed and see if I could try for 12 hours sleep? I dedicate this post to my bed.
I am Yoda. No doubt.
Above is my bedroom companion. His name is Seamour Sheep, of the web comic…Seamour Sheep. I came to own Seamour when I quit a job which was really grinding me down, and so I thought, as an adult, what is the perfect gift to myself to celebrate leaving said job in a much more restrained manner than I really felt like putting on for said employers? A sheep, is what.
I like to keep Seamour around because it’s comforting to know one of us will survive nuclear attack.
In my bed, there were many cute things over Easter, as is fitting, as Feaster is the season for cuteness. Cute bunnies, cute chicky-chick-chickens, cute wombats, cute bilbies etc. None of said cute things resided in my bed. But I did have cute cat, who somehow knew it was a long weekend and let me sleep in. She also got cornered by Poor Stevie and attacked. Though, seriously, an “attack” makes it sound threatening and it’s petty much impossible to feel threatened by an idiot with no face. No, not Poor Stevie, The Wuz, The Wuz is an idiot with no face. An adorable, sweet idiot with no face.
Even cuter than The WuzOf equal cuteness to The Wuz, was Vincent, Vincentio, V, The Profussor. He snoozed it up in my bed too. This kid is going to have serious issues as an adult. Even when he was screaming in my ear, I was all ‘Daw! Ashhh! Look at your face!’ And when he wakes up and is all squirmy and laughing? The cuteness volume gets turned up to Ridunkulous.
I’m pretty sure that there above is actually an illegal amount of cute.
Besides all the cute in my bed, Feaster was also awesome because Sydney, albeit briefly, turned on my kind of weather. I’ve been discussing weather a lot with my friends James and Fiona. James is seriously the biggest cold weather buff I know. Seriously. Want to know where the dude studies for uni? In a freaking cold room. I’m not even making this up. Anyways, Sydney got its cold on, and its rain on, and it was wonderful.
While I hung out my window, terrorising the neighbourhood with my zoom lens, Poor Stevie was coming up with Feaster Sunday plans, as I thought I might have to spend it alone, now that my parents have successfully married off two of their daughters. For those interested, you get one daughter and a steer. Though in my case, they might make it one daughter and two steers.
Steve announced that she’d discovered that Cammeray actually has harbour, and that Feaster Sunday would involve finding said harbour and looking at it. I thought, with Sydney’s recent glorious weather, that this was a good walking to find harbour outfit:
I was sadly mistaken. The weather really decided to heat up and the chance to further break in my 14 hole Dr Martens looked like it would be the death of me.
Just as Steve prepared to give me mouth-to-mouth [a little too eagerly, I thought] …