Welcome to No Trivia, SPIN’s New Hip-Hop Blog
Ice Cube cassingles, rap snobs, hip-hop pedantry, more!
Some of you are probably familiar with my semi-frequent column over the past year, and December’s “Hip-Hop Issue,” which I was fortunate enough to help put together. A few of you may even remember No Trivia as my once-fruitful personal rap blog, before it turned into pretty much nothing but a repository for links to writings for SPIN, Pitchfork, Village Voice, and other publications.
My relationship with rap began when I bought Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day.” — on cassingle. The next purchase was Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.” I was eight years old. I mention my first music-buying forays because I know a lot of kids who like to boast, ten years after the fact, at the height of their indie-rock infatuation, that their first CD was Weezer’s Blue Album or Flaming Lips’ Transmission from the Satellite Heart — as if some latent hipster gene existed in their unformed 10-year-old frames. When you ask, “Well what was your second CD?” it’s always something embarrassing. Who knows what was appealing to my elementary-school-attending ass about “It Was A Good Day” and “Two Princes,” other than the fact that they were catchy and on MTV a whole bunch.
The first rap album I bought was Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, and even in third grade, something about its goofy humor and nerdy honesty grabbed me. I got it as much as I could at that age. Also, just think of how crazy it was that a group like the Pharcyde were able to wander into my worldview! It was just a weird time when no one really knew what to do with hip-hop yet, so major labels were at the mercy of rap’s oddball creators. The same sort of thing is happening right now again with this New Underground stuff, though, isn’t it?
SPIN entered my life in the mid-1990s and it taught me to think hard about music, especially hip-hop. The “Singles” column by Charles Aaron, which bounced all over the place in terms of genre, felt like how I absorbed music. The magazine continued to be important for me into the early 2000s, though digging through Creed and Green Day features got a little tedious. I do have a very distinct memory of being in my dad’s car, immersed in the March 2001 OutKast issue, and just being, like, “Big Boi is into Kate Bush?! These guys are talking about ecstasy?! Whuutttt?”
A different kind of hip-hop epiphany: Going to a small liberal-arts college and being confronted for the first time with the rap snob. I had avoided the guy who couldn’t conceive of genuinely appreciating Three Six Mafia for many years, and now, here he was in my backseat on the way to some, like, Deerhoof show or something. Another music-snob bummer: An awkward date during which I went to a record store and my companion totally chortled at my purchases. They were Giorgio Moroder’s From Here To Eternity and Gigolo Tony’s Cold As Ice.
When I began blogging in 2007, I became, by virtue of being an extremely annoying presence in comments frays, and by posting screeds on my blogspot, part of a group of rap dorks who were railing against the rock-rag obsession with backpack rap, and seriously arguing for the importance of “ignorant” Southern hip-hop. In those rants, I was banging on some brash, canon-deconstructing drum, but I think I was mostly just working through the two incredibly minor embarrassments described above.
Quickly, some good rap memories: Seeing Kanye West open for Usher in Baltimore in 2004 with my sister and my girlfriend. Cutting short the high-school English class I was teaching so I could avoid rush-hour traffic and get to a CD store to buy Young Jeezy’s The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102. Devouring every post on Tom Breihan’s Status Ain’t Hood. Meeting G-Side in Greensboro, North Carolina not long after Starshipz & Rocketz dropped and watching them play to like, 20 tripping-balls college kids and putting on a show as furious as the ones they do now. Being very drunk with my friend Shaun two summers ago in his hot-as-fuck garage and listening to Jimmy Spicer’s “Money.”
No Trivia, of course, comes from the Wu-Tang Clan song, “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin,” in which U-God, by far the least cool member of the Wu, boasts, “Raw, I’m-a give it to ya, with no trivia/ Like cocaine, straight from Bolivia.” So, “no trivia” is just another way of saying “no bullshit.” Giving that title to my blog felt like a rejection of rap bloggers’ preference for tiny meaningless details over the bigger picture.
And “No bullshit” remains the goal for this SPIN-endorsed version of No Trivia. For better or worse, it’s gonna look a lot like my personal rap blog, though I’m gonna try really hard not to burrow into my own little corner and stay there. It’s very easy to do that right now, isn’t it?