Think Like A Stan: The Four Stages Of Meeting Fellow Music Snobs

threadless

***Hello, everyone. This is your Champ here, and I’d like to welcome my homie Nat Lavender to the VSB pulpit. It’s her first time and shit so give her a hand***

Music has always been one of the easiest forms of social capital to exchange. And by that, I mean you can’t walk two blocks down the road without tripping over some asshole who wants to stop you and share their half-baked argument about how Kanye making an entire album of Kim Kardashian’s fart sounds is really a self-effacing tribute to the darkskinned White woman.

As a music lover, I sometimes find it difficult to connect with others who have both reasonable taste in and good ideas about music. That’s why I’ve written this handy-dandy not-really-a-guide-but-I’m-the-DJ-here-so-it-is-today about the process of bonding with fellow music lovers.

Meeting People

The most common dilemma with meeting kindred music aficionados is weeding out the bad ones. This will be the most infuriating and hilarious part of the process and is something you’re most likely doing at all times anyway. This stage will be marked by gems like “I don’t listen to rap because it’s too violent” (maybe from a country fan who enjoys listening to songs about women revenge-killing their boyfriends).

This is where you might meet the chick confidently telling you that Jay-Z isn’t in the Illuminati because she’s the president thereof, and if you want she can send you pamphlets, and since they’re responsible for the molly trend in hip hop she can send you free samples if you want, and isn’t this conversation GREAT (the correct responses are no thank you, yes please, and PLEASE don’t stab me, in that order).

Screening Phase

Once you’re done surfing through red flags and lust-fueled denial about the direction of LL Cool J’s career, you have a smaller pool of people who’ve managed to convince you that their taste in music could probably make them more qualified to manage artists than Diddy. But since that’s true of just about anyone, you still have some work to do. This is the point where you very politely don’t slap the White dude who tries to (wrongly) correct your pronunciation of Spottieottiedopaliscious and give him his strutting papers. You might also not-so-politely tell him that long ‘o’s are for wack niggas, except when they aren’t.

During this phase, people will give you the safest of their opinions—liking ‘classic’ rappers, hating easy-to-hate artists, building love shrines to overrated dead people.

They’ll probably tell you that they like Dilla, even though your mama, your auntie, your neighbor’s dog, and the confused kid down the street who gained 100 lbs. working at Krispy Kreme will probably say the same. The point is, there isn’t anything flawed about these opinions, but you legitimately will not learn a single thing about them as a person. You’ll be doing a lot of acting like you give a damn about mediocre albums, too.

Note: This is also where you’ll meet a lot of people who “thought I was the only one!!!” to listen to world-famous musicians, because something about hipsters and special snowflakes and intellectual autofellatio. AVOID THESE PEOPLE AT ALL COSTS.

Third Date

Finally, after noticing a suspicious correlation between J. Cole fans and people who only eat vanilla ice cream and moving past the psychic death of someone telling you Wiz Khalifa has the best flow in hip hop, you find people who really have something to offer in their collections. This is when the relationship starts getting fruitful and you can really start sharing. Maybe they heard an amazing Hiatus Kaiyote remix that you never would have looked at because… let’s be honest, you’re probably not looking for remixes to anything White people made, even if they’re talented. This is like the person who tells you about the pho at the Thai spot that you never would have found/ordered because real niggas don’t mess with that ‘Asian fusion’ stuff. His mama named him Clay, I’ma order pad thai. Or something like that. You beautiful ‘alternative’ people, you.

Trouble in Paradise

Finding a like-minded music lover has its downfalls. For one, you’re bound to run into irreconcilable differences—Houston rap vs. Tennessee rap, A$AP Rocky’s mouf vs. Waka Flocka’s mouf, Miguel vs. women who lack spinal injuries—but this isn’t the real danger. There is no greater spawning ground for unadulterated assholery than a meeting of two self-proclaimed music lovers.

Posturing over music tastes alone is one thing—you can easily find yourself outgunned by a gaggle of rabid Lil B stans who refuse to admit that he does sonically sloppy shit because ‘OMG BUT HE’S BEING SO SUBVERSIVE.’ But with your newfound soundmate, you can posture together, and everyone knows being a douchenozzle with support is the best way. Soon, you’ll find yourself loudtalking no one in particular about how “OMG KEITH SHE’S NEVER HEARD DAFT PUNK MAYBE WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO THEM!” Look, this I’m-totally-being-ironic-even-though-I’m-definitely-not moment will not go over well. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself sinking into a pit of Portishead and Chance the Rapper and White people who wear keffiyehs and losing all your friends and you’ll never know where you went wrong. But OH MY GOD did you hear this amazing new Kid Cudi it’s like he’s trying to make bad music now and we’re so countercultural and edgy and shit.

Real friends let other friends know when they’re being distasteful music snobs. And knowing is half of pretending you know everything.

***Nat is a Cleveland native and longtime reader who spends most of her time reading psychology articles and attempting to confuse White people. She thinks she’s a paradox, but suspects she’s just really lightskinneded. You can find her @PurpleLikeRawr***

Rappers Do Dumb-Ass Things, And Say Dumb-Ass Sh*t. Why Is This News Now?

1365454852_ll-cool-j-brad-praisley-467

On the strength of his Ether-related “comeback,” there are few albums I anticipated more than Nas’s Stillmatic. (Honestly, Wu-Forever and MBDTF are the only other albums I waited for with that type of anxiety.) He didn’t disappoint, either, as tracks such as Second Childhood and Rewind exhibited the type of ambitiously—even painfully—detailed creativity long-time Nas fans had been expecting from him.

The album climaxes with One Mic, a track that somehow managed to pull all of Nas’s best qualities together to create a song that some critics called “the best song of the decade.”

Perhaps the most memorable and rewindable part of that song combines Jesus, bullets, and a bit of tricky math to create a four bar stretch that I considered to be one of the best, most creative, and most clever collection of lyrics I’d ever heard.

Jesus died at age 33, there’s 33 shots

From twin Glocks there’s sixteen apiece, that’s 32

Which means one of my guns was holding 17

27 hit your crew. 6 went into you

I listened to this song again the other day. And, while the track and those lines still sound as hot as ever, something dawned on me. A question. Three, actually.

“Wait, what the f*ck is he talking about? How the f*ck do you go from Jesus to shooting random n*ggas in a 13 word stretch? And, what’s the connection between Jesus’s age and the number of bullets you needed to murder this anonymous crew?”

Now, I’m not saying this to pick on Nas. He remains one of my favorite rappers. But, songs like One Mic and my reaction to it remind me of one of the first things I learned about rap:

Rappers are prone to say shit that sounds smart and clever and intellectual and witty but makes no f*cking sense. You could even argue that a very, very, very high percentage (I’d guess somewhere between 40 and 60) of the most clever, rewindable, and “higher-level” sounding bars are created because…

A) It sounded good

B) He figured out that “euphemism” and “new religion” kinda rhyme with each other, and thought it would be cool to find a way to put that in a song

Mind you, I’m not saying that all rap is like this. Most of the best rappers put a decent amount of thought and effort into constructing their lyrics, and even the nonsense is somewhat intentional. But, when an art form is based on braggadocio and hyperbole—and prominently features (relatively) uneducated street dudes—sounding “cool” and “clever” is going to take precedent over “making sense.”

I’m not making any new revelations here. People who follow rap are generally aware that what I’m saying is true. But, while the concept and the awareness of this concept aren’t new, the pushback they’re beginning to receive is. Yes, rappers have always come under fire for their lyrics, but between Rick Ross’s date rape anthem, LL Cool J’s bizarre forgiveness of slavery, Lil Wayne’s reference to Emmett Till, and Nicki Minaj calling herself as a Republican, there have been at least four instances in the last six months where a throwaway lyric from a popular rapper became headline news.

Making this pushback even more unique is that it isn’t really coming from people like Dolores Tucker or Tipper Gore but actual fans of rap music.

At the moment, I’m somewhat ambivalent about this trend. While a part of me is encouraged to finally see rappers asked to answer for their lyrics, this criticism seems a little disingenuous, and raises more questions than it answers. For instance, why now? We’ve all heard worse and more socially irresponsible lyrics than the ones being criticized now, so where is this pushback coming from?

Also, when does it stop? If we took a fine-toothed comb and went through the catalogs of each and every one of the 100 or so most popular rappers—even “conscious” and (generally) socially palatable ones like Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, and Common–with the goal of boycotting the ones with questionable lyrics and content, rap would be left with exactly zero rappers.

Lemme put it this way: Rappers like Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj are easy targets anyone with a blog and a petition board could hit with a blindfold; low-hanging, resume-building fruit. Taking shots at them will give you quick praise and easy co-signs among most educated Blacks and non-Blacks. But, if we’re going to do that, why not also go after Jay-Z for making half a billion dollars off of selling crack, writing music about selling crack, and writing more music about how he got rich from writing songs about selling crack? Or the Obamas for inviting him to the White House? If you’re going to boycott Lil Wayne, will you also delete every Wu, Biggie, Nas, Tupac, Snoop, and Kanye song from your iPod? Does Nicki Minaj really talk more shit than Lauryn Hill did?

Even everyone’s favorite rap band has a song with a couple lines that, if taken literally…

And when I’m breaking it off
Its no denying the fact it’s wrong
‘Cause you got a man who’s probably playing his part
You probably breaking his heart

“You want it gripped up, flipped, and thrown
And get stripped and shown, the way to get in the zone”

…would play out pretty much exactly like the oft-criticized rape scene in Temptation. 

Again though, I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing that rappers are facing some heat now. Whether it’s music, words, or just energy, we all should be responsible and accountable for what we put out to the world, and artists are no different. But, a part of me looks at the type of rappers being called out—and the people doing most of the calling out (college educated writers and bloggers)—and can’t help but wonder if there’s some intellectual class bias going on here. Basically, “smart” rappers—or, more specifically, rappers “smart” people like—are generally immune, while rappers we’re not supposed to like or support seem to be the targets.

As Nas would say…

Jesus was born in a barn

“Blog” starts with the letter B

so does bitch, Bane, and HBCU

Y’all need to listen to me!!!

Nasspeak translation: I have a tendency to include some pretty racist and misogynistic nonsense in my raps. But, as long as it sounds “smart”—and as long as I make the occasional song about my daughter—it’s all good.

-–Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Save The Date: Re:Mix Live – Motown – Thursday, March 21, 2013 – Liv Nightclub – DC

For the hip-hop lover in you, come to Liv Nightclub on March 21st and check out the DJ and producer showcase as it Motown songs and classics are remixed live on stage and taken from classic to brand new renditions! VSB’s Panama is one of the hosts and is helping bring the event to you. $10 if you’re 21+ and $15 if you’re under 21. Peep the promo video!

Lil Wayne Spoke, Stevie Wonder Listened, And A Dandelion Died

I ain't got no worries.

I ain’t got no worries.

For the vast majority of us, no matter what we try to do, Lil Wayne manages to be there for all of it. When I graduated from college, Lil Wayne was there. When Obama was inaugurated? Lil Wayne was somewhere doing Lil Wayne things. But the point is, he was there. He’s managed to insert himself into various conversations and become a part of the pop culture landscape.

His ghostwriters have all gone the way of the doo doo bird so he’s almost a terrible rapper now, but somehow, he’s relevant. In fact, he’s managed to be SO relevant, that what would normally be a cast off line in a song that nobody will give two f*cks about gets a motherloving message from the family of Emmett Till. Yes, in the song “Karate Chop” by the world’s greatest rap-sanger, Future, Lil Wayne drops the line, “beat the p*ussy up like Emmett Till”.

Yes. It’s extremely inappropriate. Yes. Rappers do need to think about what they say before they say it and it is actually nice to hear somebody being called to the carpet for their lyrics. But…le sigh…as inappropriate as that line is, it’s not even the most ignorant and ridiculous thing Lil Wayne has said. Why then is his Emmett Till lyric an issue now?

Well that’s simple. For the first time, somebody ASKED a person directly impacted by the line what their opinion was. The family, or at least a member of his family, drops the hottest eloquent 16 regarding a stupid rap lyric and all of a sudden its national rap news. Surprise, the family doesn’t like a line in a song and then the company pulls the song. Then Stevie Wonder weighs in? What the hell just happened here people?

Le sigh.

I’m one of those people who laments the current state of hip-hop while finding odd fascination and enjoyment with artists like Trinidad James. I know it sucks. But I’m entertained so like the debate about Scandal, I’m a hypocrite and I’m okay with it. Period. However, I acknowledge the sheer ignorance involved in much of what I hear in the club the few times I venture that way. And its terrible. Simply terrible. The misogyny isn’t even sugarcoated with euphemisms and metaphors anymore. Naw….now, it’s straight up “My B*tches Love Me”. While I know that calling women b*tches on record isn’t anything new, it does seem like the ease and aplomb with which it happens now is at unprecedented levels. The only time it was worse was with N.W.A. in my opinion. That’s some of the most indefensible music in hip-hop history…no matter how well produced it is. My guess is 2 Live Crew and Poison Clan would have something to say about that, but whatevs.

My point is, I find it odd that a line about Emmett Till is the point where its gone too far when its been “gone too far” for years. The self-esteem of women is not the responsibility of men or hip-hop, but you aren’t supposed to attempt to take all of somebody’s esteem at the same time either. Plus…we already KNOW Lil Wayne is and idiot…why the f*ck is THIS so deplorable coming from him.

Which brings us to his now extra stupid rant from All-Star Weekend where he claimed that he was banned from NBA games and festivities (a claim the NBA has denied) because of the Miami Heat.

Oh Lil Wayne, how I hate thee.

Not only do you claim to be the new ‘Pac, you THEN unnecessarily tell the world that you boned Chris Bosh’s wife. Why? What did that add to the world? For the sake of argument, let’s say you probably did bone Adrienne. That’s not hard to believe. It’s sad, but not hard to believe.

Sidenote: I think it’s fair to judge women who have slept with Lil Wayne. Why? I don’t know. I have no answer for you. But it is fair. Hell, I think its okay to ask women you meet if they boned him off break. I’ve got no logical or sensical reason for this. At all. Somehow though, I doubt anybody would disagree with this. Lauren London, I’m looking at you. You disappointed me. I haz the sads.

It’s highly likely that Lil Wayne did smang Bosh’s wife…before they got married which happened sometime last year. So whoopty damn do. Why in Sam Hill would you lob that out there, knowing that it would snag headlines when its one of the biggest non-story stories ever. What kind of sourgrapes is Lil Wayne on. Quick, somebody put him back on drugs so his music and decisions can be better.

Oh, and ‘Pac. You are not. I don’t even know what correlation you were making but it’s wrong. Inaccurate. Sh*t aint right. Stop smoking that boat.

I’ve lost my point. The Bosh thing is stupid and Lil Wayne is both messy and probably a little butthurt at what he perceived to be a slighting by the NBA….though he has managed to (fairly or unfairly) get himself removed from several NBA games last year. But to go in on a team…c’mon son. I’ll be there’s no Lil Wayne or YMCMB playing in the Heat locker room before games.

Anyway, back to the more interesting part…am I trippin’ or does it seem a bit extra that all of a sudden a Lil Wayne lyric is catching the ire of the Black community when nearly all of his lyrics are as much if not more reprehensible? Or is this just more proof that we don’t care about women? We only care about what people say when it offends our race but that’s about all that matters?

Talk to me. Petey.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka EH aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Why Nas’ “Daughters” Is 100% Right And 100% Wrong At The Same Time

Full disclosure: I’m a “Nas guy.” 

What this basically means is that even though I recognize the fact that Jay-Z has had a (much) better career, better albums, and generally seems like he’d be a better person to be around, I’m more of a fan of what Nas represents. Now, what the hell does Nas represent? I have no f*cking clue. But, whatever it is that he represents, I’m more of a fan of that than I am of what Jay-Z “represents.”

If this makes no sense to you, good. It makes no sense to me either, but it helps explain why I still feel in my heart that “Ether” was a better song than “Takeover” even though I know in my brain that “Takeover” was better.

I’m bringing this up because, “Daughters” — Nas’ recent ode to fatherhood and raising a daughter — is not a good song, and it truly pains me to admit this. It’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and just overall freaking annoying. Yes. Annoying. This is an annoying song. This song annoys me.

Thing is, although this song annoys the hell out of me, I appreciate it. I appreciate what Nas was attempting to do here. I appreciate his effort. This — the effort — is probably what it is about what Nas “represents” that connects with me in a way that doesn’t with Jay-Z. Basically, Jigga’s a chess player, a person who doesn’t seem to do or say anything without processing the dozen or so moves that will come afterwards. While this has definitely helped him craft the best career any rapper has ever had and become a true “business, man,” there’s a certain tinge of inauthenticity that permeates much of what he says and does. Jay-Z may in fact be a “realer” person than Nas, but Nas’ penchant for artistic implusivity makes him feel realer.

And, despite the fact that it’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and f*cking annoying, “Daughters” is a real song. It seems to come from a man genuinely concerned about the type of example he’s set for his child, and genuinely concerned about his daughter’s well-being.

Now, you can make the argument that this concern may be self-serving. Perhaps he cares so much because he’s aware of how a daughter’s (mis)behavior reflects on the father, and he wishes to spare himself the embarrassment of hearing rumors that his daughter is becoming the type of woman attracted to men who treat women the way he has. Even if this is true, though, this feeling comes from a genuine place, a real place, and it’s understandable and laudable.

Nas’ implusivity gives him huge blind spots though, and none are bigger than the fact that “Daughters” — a song Nas made to protect his daughter and profess his love for her — shits on his own daughter!  He leads both of the song’s first two verses with information putting his daughter’s business and, ultimately, her reputation on full blast.

From verse two:

This morning I got a call, nearly split my wig
This social network said “Nas go and get ya kid”
She’s on Twitter, I know she ain’t gon post no pic
Of herself underdressed, no inappropriate shit, right
Her mother cried when she answered
Said she don’t know what got inside this child’s mind, she planted
A box of condoms on her dresser then she Instagrammed it

Forget about cutting off your nose to spite your face, “Daughters” cuts off his face to spite his face. Mind you, his daughter isn’t a seven year old who won’t quite grasp what her dad is rapping about or a grown-ass 27 year old who could deal with it, but a 17 year old girl — a person at the age where something like this has the best chance of having a negative impact on her life. Oh, and how do I know she’s a 17 year old girl? He leads the video with her f*cking birthday!

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the cognitive dissonance Nas’ exhibited when creating this song and the accompanying video. It’s typical Nas (shit, it’s typical “rapper”) and, with all this being said, I do definitely appreciate the idea, effort, and (presumed) intent behind “Daughters.” As far as “rappers rapping about their kids” goes, it’s not in the same league as “Retrospect for Life,” but I do think it has a bit of a chance to eventually become (slightly) less annoying with repeated listens.

But, while I forgave Nas for “Braveheart Party,” “Nastradamus,” and “You Owe Me,” I don’t know if I can forgive him doing the ultimate disservice — making me agree with Carmen Bryan. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, we’ve got another edition of REMINSCE at Liv Nightclub coming up! Except this time, we’re gonna be celebrating Panama’s birthday! Please come out and hang the VSB team. Plus, it’s free before 11pm w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) and $10 after. AND there’s an open bar from 930-10:30 WITH NO DRESS CODE. You can come in shorts because it gets HOT in there.