Welcome to the South Easy
It’s been just over two years since the last time someone asked me if I believe in god. I was at a wedding with a bunch of folk I hadn’t seen in nearly two decades, one of whom had used that time to become a Church Of England minister. I shit you not. I found a site where you can download his sermons. I didn’t know what to say then, but I figured out since what my opinion is on the matter. I’m a militant agnostic, but not just when it comes to religion. I believe we should have no tolerance for anyone with a firm opinion on anything.
Having said that, on balance, I think events in my personal rap world this week make me more open to the idea of a benevolent god. Maybe I should turn myself in for mental reconditioning. First up, I got to see Danny Brown on his first tour of the UK. He was playing in Brighton a day after the London show, I was worried the famed glamour of our nation’s glorious capital may have taken its toll. Thankfully not, Danny seemed on top form pulling all the expected snotty-punk poses with gusto to a slavering audience. This is his time. I think Danny’s talented enough to have a long career ahead of him, and I hope I get to see him play again many times in the future, but I doubt I’ll ever see him give another show on that level. There’s no way you can sustain that kind of energy indefinitely.
I was still recovering two days later when the week’s second (possibly) divine intervention became known as the new Kanye album leaked. Of course, Kanye was a little less modest in drawing attention to the spiritual side of his art on the Yeezus album, and I can see why his attitude might piss a lot of people off. The divine pretensions pissed me off when the music wasn’t to my taste: all the plush MOR of 808s and Dark Twisted Fantasy. But this is a brutal punk album. I don’t mind emo whining so much when it’s all over brutal punk music. If it’s good enough and I’m in the right mood I can even enjoy emo whining, and Yeezus is musically undeniable down to its very last frantic virtusoso jump-cut. This is as good as Kanye is ever going to get. There’s no way he can sustain that kind of energy indefinitely.
So, uhhh, yeah. One of those weeks where it’s been hard to acknowledge any other folk are releasing music, but the evidence is they have been. Quite a bit, actually. Selected highlights below.
• Chief Keef‘s No Reason isn’t his best work, but at the moment he’s untouchable, so: an entertaining enough listen anyway. As long as the superannuated plonkers over at TheSmokingSection hate him enough to give him sniffy write-ups he’s at 180 to the system and three-thousand percent more interesting cos of it. Of this they opine it provides ‘more of that mush-mouth flow the Chicago wastrel is famously known for’. Kanye knows.
• Mainstream US rap beef of the week has been Freddie Gibbs versus Young Jeezy. Or rather, rap beef of next week cos while we’ve been told diss records are in the pipeline nothing much has emerged beyond a couple of interviews where Gibbs brands Jeezy a ‘fraud’ and a ‘fake’. Which is whatever. To my ears it’s no matter how real or fake Jeezy is, but it’s potentially sobering that Gibbs would believe in Jeezy enough to be disillusioned. Or maybe it’s all a marketing gimmick for ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally), Gibbs’ new album (due out on July 9, folks!) Maybe. Maybe they’re still mates, but listening to the ferocious energy in new singles Freddie Soprano and One Eighty Seven you have to doubt it. Something’s got him rattled.
• Capitalism Is Better Than Sex #2: Macca confesses his distressing sexual dysfunction’s in a particularly moving line from Movie Scene. “Been a money chaser from early” he claims, “the queens head gave me my first erection”. Sadly, or perhaps happily, he doesn’t elaborate any further. Perhaps he fears police interest. Is it a crime to fuck with money? Like, literally defacing the currency? Cumming on the queen’s head so bad the ink runs? It seems sort of disrespectful like flag burning, but worse. Then again, it the sort of thing businessmen and MPs would likely do, so it’s probably not illegal. Musically it’s boilerplate old-school grime, A.K.A. ‘casually brilliant’.
• Every time I see a new single from The Manor, I’m freshly amazed that they don’t appear to be on a major label. And I don’t mean that in a negative sense. It’s not that they seem compromised or contrived, just brilliantly commercial and fully realised. The finished article. Witness the new video for old mixtape track Surviving The Splosh. From the same vague genre of lad rap that brought you The Streets (but all three emcees in The Manor can actually rap) and Rizzle Kicks (except The Manor are…uhhh…aimed at a slightly more mature audience, lack the air of vacuous naivete). This feels like finally someone nailed it. Each of the three a distinctive character. Scotty Stacks the businessman in an Only Fools And Horses t-shirt talking about kids who “dreamed of playing gigs, now they’re riding out to Hollowman”. Danny Graft the unapologetic hard working working class lad leering in broad cockney about “playing with her d-cups”. And my personal favourite, the brilliant but lazy Johnny Dutch, blessed with “everything I need but a work ethic” finally finding purpose in life writing home alone at 3AM, or as he qualifies “got a strong drink with me” but “I’m technically alone”. The major labels must really be haemorrhaging money at the moment if they don’t have enough cash to tempt these guys on board.
• On the one hand Dr Dre has earned his money, so it’s hard to begrudge him anything. Frankly, if anyone in the world is going to be obscenely wealthy I’d like it to be the man who gave us Fuck The Police and No Diggity. On the other hand, when a man’s got so much money he can afford to wear a new pair of kicks every day you know something’s wrong. I hope he’s giving the discarded shoes to Oxfam, I hope there’s a lot of folks in LA with the same size feet as Dr Dre, but most of all I hope that one day he’ll rediscover the pleasure of wearing a pair of trainers you’ve had long enough that they’ve moulded themselves to the shape of your feet. That’s comfort. Someone tell Dre he doesn’t have to walk around with blisters on his feet all the time.
• Ringo P