I heard that Taylor Swift dropped a science fiction kung-fu extravaganza of a music video and needed to see it right away. A remix of of Bad Blood, from her gigantic album 1989, the song prominently features everyone’s current favorite rapper, Kendrick Lamar, as well as a posse of women from across the entertainment spectrum.
The cameos all burst onto the screen with code-name titles in a futuristic take on Kill Bill‘s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and each one appears to reference a different sci-fi movie. Being a giant nerd, I decided to catalog the ones I recognized. List is below; tell me what I missed!
Yesterday I crashed my bike. A kid skateboarding with headphones swerved in front of me. Hooked on a railroad track, I flipped and hit my head, destroying my glasses and shredding my hand. It was kind of terrible.
I woke today with my entire body aching, needing something gentle on the ears to go with my pain pills and coffee. I remembered a friend telling me that Annabel (lee) sounded “like a cross between trip-hop, smokey old-time jazz/Billie Holiday, and a bit of Matana Roberts.” He was right on the money. Thanks to Bandcamp, you can listen for yourself; the entire album is streaming below.
Because I was an idiot without a helmet on, I’m now writing as a measure to track my faculties, in addition to the fact that I am quickly falling in love with this music.
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
And I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
This line became my reluctant personal anthem when it first sank in, over ten years ago. I was always hesitant, cautious to a fault, and shy. So terribly shy.
I’m good at meeting people, saying the right things, being a kind and welcome presence for strangers and friends. But I was always terrible at letting my real self out, being emotionally open, and putting my hopes and fears on display. I’ve been terrible at sharing my personal art, my true expression, with anyone. Anyone. It’s so hard to let go.
I’m a bad. ass. motherfuckin dee jay / this is why I walk and talk this way
There comes a point in certain young lives when music evolves from a form of social currency to something so be enjoyed on a deeper personal level. It’s a headlong dive into a world most people use as wallpaper, geeking out over the sounds, hardware, history, and meaning of it all.
I was always rather independent in my music choices, but growing up in the midwest before broadband internet meant that my horizons were limited. The advent of file sharing programs like Morpheus, Kazaa, and Soulseek was a supernova moment for teenagers like me, desperately seeking new sounds. On the rare midnight-show occasion when something on the radio piqued my interest, I’d get on the computer to look them up, downloading a song or two in 30 minutes.
Before the internet, certain genres never had a chance to touch my ears. Once I’d taken the plunge, I started devouring every fresh thing I could. One was my favorite radio discovery ever, an album I’ve called my “desert island” record. It harkened back to something I’d heard in my youngest days, The Beastie Boys sampling landmark Paul’s Boutique. It boldly recycled sounds and tropes from across the musical spectrum into something vibrant and dangerous. It was entirely new to me.
Witness the most cosmic act in hip-hop, Shabazz Palaces, unleashing a hyperdrive tapestry live in the KEXP studio.
The whirlwind performance shuffles tracks from the best album of 2014, Lese Majesty, unfolding fresh aspects of their sound. There’s also a fine interview, discussing the recording process and what it feels to be making music that sounds like absolutely nothing else on earth.
These guys do not fuck around.
I dug this video from my drafts after listening to the groundbreaking album, Blowout Comb, from vocalist Ishmael Butler’s previous group, Digable Planets. In one of the most improbable second acts in music history, an early 90s underground rap hero emerged over a decade later with a new (at first mysteriously anonymous) project, breaking the few remaining rules of hip-hop like some young start up. With the group’s second album, they transcended all genre definitions, creating a sound as pure as it is unique.
Shabazz Palaces have officially joined weird, pioneering heroes like Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, Aphex Twin, and John Coltrane in truly rarefied space.
Inspired by a friend’s reminder, I cued up one of my favorite albums of all time: Blowout Comb, the underrated second and final release from Digable Planets. For those who aren’t familiar, they are jazz-inspired contemporaries of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul… but far, far better.
This album is the real deal. Here’s the second to last song, a kind of manifesto:
68 inches above sea level / 93 million miles above these devils
With the recent release of Kendrick Lamar‘s colossal album To Pimp A Butterfly, there’s been a lot of talk about jazz roots flourishing in the world of hip-hop again. Folks mention Three Feet High And Rising and The Low End Theory repeatedly, and if Digable Planets are mentioned at all, it’s about their sole big radio hit, Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat). Since my hip-hop tastes at age 13 centered on Beastie Boys and Coolio, I didn’t have a chance of knowing this album when it was new. It seems most of the world didn’t, either.
I don’t really have anything clever or interesting to say about this song, other than this: it hits me right in the feels.
Robyn is one of the best, most emotional dance pop artists I’ve ever heard, and this is one of her best songs. I might be partial to None Of Dem for its pure ass-shaking precision, but this song always catches in my throat, jagged and real.
Maybe we could make it all right
We could make it better sometime
Maybe we could make it happen, baby
We could keep trying but things will never change
So I don’t look back
Still I’m dying with every step I take
But I don’t look back
Just a little, little bit better
Good enough to waste some time
Tell me, would it make you happy, baby
I think I should start posting more Robyn. I should share more of the music that touches me on a gut-check emotional level. It’s harder to write about that stuff, but I’m learning.