No Trivia’s Friday Five: An Artisanal Tribute to DJ Screw
And other rap-related things worth caring about this week
1. Simon Reinhardt’s At the DJ Screw Museum: Based on the Donald Barthelme short story “At the Tolstoy Museum,” cartoonist Simon Reinhardt (who also runs the rap Tumblr, BASIC FACTS U SHOULD ALREADY KNOW) presents a screenprinted hip-hop dork fantasy that imagines an epic Screw museum with glass floors and giant war propaganda-sized images of the DJ and his pals. Meanwhile, Trae freestyles in the lobby, and syrup-sloshed attendees are whisked away by security. Reinhardt even finds room for some curt rap criticism: “I was listening to the ‘Wanna Be a Baller’ flow from Southside Still Holdin’, the Fat Pat R.I.P. tape…Screw briefly mixed ’25 Lighters’ into the Original Lil’ Troy beat. I was in awe of the song and its menace and mystery”; “Some people found his style annoying or boring…but to me it was vivid and mournful. A vision of another world.” Buy At the DJ Screw Museum here.
2. Record Store Day 4/20/13: Some rap (or rap-enough in my mind) specialties to look out for tomorrow: Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession: V.2. TR-909, a nerdy tribute book to the legendary drum machine with two records full of 909 sounds and Schoolly D?; Black Milk’s Synth or Soul, which throws electro-leaning production on Side A and sturdy soul tweaks on Side B; a convenient reissue of Gil Scott Heron & Brian Jackson’s “The Bottle”; the GZA Liquid Swords chess box set, which comes with a chess set and all that cute stuff, but is crucial for the disc of RZA instrumentals; the Hold Steady’s “Criminal Fingers” 7-inch because they are the Raekwon to the Mountain Goats’ Ghostface in the world of hyper-lyrical bleating white boys; the severely ignored 2009 album Georgiavania from Goodie Mob’s Khujo Goodie and Jneiro Jarel as Willie Isz, put back into the world; Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory on vinyl because shut up, Linkin Park are awesome; a fresh and clean reissue of Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die to replace your scuffed up and dusty almost-twenty year old copy; Van Dyke Park’s Song Cycle on vinyl because it has always reminded me of J. Dilla’s Donuts; and finally, the 20th Anniversary Edition of the compilation No Alternative, which you could probably find on CD for a quarter but well, it gets afforded some context here, highlighting that weird moment when the Beastie Boys (and by way of them, A Tribe Called Quest and the Pharcyde) were getting spins on corporate college-rock stations.
3. DJ Baglady’s LOGO Mix: Like so many futuristic club producers, DJ Baglady is permanently camped-out on Soundcloud, a kind of Wild West for remixers. Everybody’s on the same level there, just waiting to be discovered via the right keywords. And Soundcloud’s clever copyright-infringement bots, which pull remixes within moments of them being posted, has actually enabled its users to get even more ambitious. Part of the game, it seems, is to rip hit songs into barely recognizable pieces, eluding copyright takedowns while blowing the minds of listeners. This mix features bubblin’ remixes of Ricky Rozay, faster-than-fast, AraabMuzik-ized dubstep drops, a noir-ish refix of “Fuckin’ Problem,” and plenty of moments where Baglady dives so far into a storm of static, stutters, and bass smacks that you don’t think he can mix his way out of the chaos. And then he does! There’s a lot of talk about maximalism right now, though what’s described as such really tends to just be loud and dumb. Baglady here is really embracing the unlimited possibilities of mixing in the post-everything Soundcloud era.
4. Jay-Z’s Involvement in The Great Gatsby: Mr. Carter likes to justify his hitting a new plateau of selling out every few years as some kind of “I do this for the culture” move. It’s getting pretty old. Still, there’s room within this Baz Lurhmann jazz-time, hippity-hoppity mess to get excited. Namely, Jay-Z pretty much is Gatsby so choosing him to curate the soundtrack is a good look for hip-hop. Jay’s “Sittin’ next to Hilary, smellin’ like dank” line from the “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” has a kind of insider-outsider James Gats, um, vibe to it, no? Too bad there’s barely any rap music on the soundtrack. But that’s Jay-Z in 2013 for you, and that’s just fine. We should expect nothing more from the guy. It just seems like a waste of time to be disappointed or upset. At least it’s Jay-Z curating the music and not, say, Bono? Plus, Tom Scharpling’s tweet, “I remember reading The Great Gatsby in school and feeling like it would be better in 3-D with late-period Jay-Z songs playing throughout,” pretty much kills your zingers dead.
5. Big K.R.I.T.’s King Remembered In Time: Live From the Underground afforded K.R.I.T.’s country-rap tunes a more expensive and widescreen appeal. It only kind of worked. So, he returns to the mixtape grind with King Remembered in Time, which dropped last week. Before it’s dismissed as boring or more of the same, it really can’t be stated enough times that in any other era of rap, K.R.I.T.’s career would be staggering. Here is a guy who has pretty much made five great albums in three years. But like so many things with this guy, he’s working from a decades-old template and, as a result, it really isn’t enough to do one thing very well and very frequently. You need to branch out. So, there’s a Future spot here and it feels a little cloying. But, surprisingly knotty nostalgist 9th Wonder (assisted by BJ the Chicago Kid) provides a smoky, speeding-up-and-slowing-down production that ranks among his best and trips K.R.I.T. up in all the right ways. It’s easy to sleep on King Remembered in Time, but please don’t.