the ghost robot -

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
  turntables, laptop, sampler, cables

Nowhere Front: May 2006 Mix

While I am certainly proud this mix, my DJing is a workin progress. My commentary will hopefully show both what I have accomplished so far as well as where I’m still developing as DJ.

WARNING: the audio is spotty in a couple of spots, so be warned.

Untitled-Afrika Bambatta
and the Soul Sonic Force

This little chant comes from one of the godfathers of modern music, hip-hop in particular and electronic music in general. Since most of the mix aims to showcase exciting developments in hip-hop in the era of instant internet globalization, the refrain “we are the world of rap” works as my informal thesis statement. Granted, it does not work very hard, but I still thought it was a good way to punch in the clock

Most DJs use bits of found sound, often culled from film soundtracks, as sonic punctuation. Here, I used my sampler to play a kung fu flip sound effect and a quick laser noise.

Japón- Residente Calle 13
Fusing elements of salsa with hip-hop and its Jamacian
cousin dancehall, Reaggeton is an emerging genre of Latino music, commercial
force and a case study in how cross-pollination of musical influences can lead
to rapid artistic evolution. The strings and title evoke the unknown Orient, a
good place to start our trip. Residente Calle 13 is not the genre’s most well
known artist, but he’s a charismatic and sophisticated emcee, calling to mind
the witty drawl of the best Houston rapper’s today.

Social Commentary (Galore Riddim)- Dr. Evil
Leftside and Esco are one the hottest production teams in
Jamaica (think Pharrell and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes for a U.S. parallel).
Leftside recently started rapping over his own beats, and has adopted the vocal
characteristics of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers film series. Yes, that’s bizarre, but dancehall has a healthy appetite for novelty in its pop music. This plea for peace samples last summer’s reggae crossover hit “Welcome to Jamrock,” voiced by Damien Marley (Bob’s son). Intertextuality like what what what. Dr. Evil’s racist punch lines are distasteful, but quite world conscious (unconscious?)

Dans Le Club- TTC
I tired to do some scratching on this transition, hoping to
reduce turbulence on the leap from dancehall to French electro-crunk. TTC have
adopted all of the stylistic obsessions of American hip-hop, and I imagine the
lyrics are pretty similar to 50 Cent’s “In da Club.” While these French
gangsters may wear spotless sneakers and over-sized fits hats like their
counterparts across the sea, they have very different musical influences Most
American rap draws from the musical traditions of soul and funk, while TTC
culls more from the electronic off-shoots of disco: Chicago house, Detroit
techno, and sleazy continental dance pop.

Boliyann- Punjabi MC
Bhangra is Indian dance music that uses traditional
instruments and singers, but emulates the loop-based production style of
hip-hop. Bhangra also often interpolates popular hits. This song employs the
bass line of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Ya Money,” a huge popular production from
the Neptunes. Again, this was a pretty rough transition between widly different records. I tried to use a couple of ‘spinbacks’ [flicking a record quickly so it spins backwards rapidly] to center things, along with a bit of choice dialogue from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

No Hay Igual- Nelly Furtado
The former VH1 songbird has sought out a harder, more club-friendly sound for her new album. On the last track, the East stole a bit from the West, and here the U.S. returns the favor, as Pharrell and Chad create a vaguely tribal rhythm. The world’s top musicians are constantly stealing from one another. Deal with it.

Holiday (Dub)- Madonna
Pass That Dutch (Acapella)- Missy Elliott
The Neptunes drums disappear, and a dub edit of Maddona’s eighties hit emerges. I failed to match the tempos the incoming and outgoing songs here, and consequently, Ms. Furtado sounds a bit uncomfortable on Ms. Cicconne’s beat, but I’ve done worse. The world’s top deejays have long created longer, simpler versions of hit songs for the dance floor, and this long dub of Holiday is a great example. With most of the original vocals gone and some room to work with, I’ve added a couple of Missy Elliott’s verses from ‘Pass That Dutch.’ This on-the-fly mash-up [or original remix] works pretty well. The introductory transition bridged r’n’b tracks separated by more than twenty years, and the acapella/instrumental combination puts some of pop music’s most creative women side by side. Success. Time for something different.

U Nah Have A Phone (Hello Moto Riddim)- Vybz Kartel
One of the best transitions on the mix, if I don’t say so myself, and I just did. Just as ‘Holiday’ starts to drag, I threw in another spinback and start a huge dancehall track about the importance of cell phones in today’s dating environment.

Short Dick Cuzi- Yelle
Another French song heavily influenced by house and techno, this is a vicious attack rap dis on Cuiziner, a member of TTC. This track is good antidote to Vybz Kartel’s relentless bravado, and a little interlude between dancehall tracks. Doesn’t French sound particularly suited to rhyming couplets? Again, I flubbed the transition a bit. Yelle and Vybz step over one another’s lines, like a less sophisticated Robert Altman film. The audio is suspect in spots, and I blame
the equipment.

Applause Riddim Instrumental
Bucky Done Gun (Acapella)- M.I.A.
Warning: Audio drop outs continue around 19:50, which is frustrating.

The Applause Riddim is the basis for Sean Paul’s “Temperature,” a multi-platinum hit this spring. M.I.A. makes music that has strong ties to dancehall, hip-hop, and the new British brand of syncopated urban music called grime. In many ways, she IS globalized hip-hop, and her lyrics will tell you so much. She made one of the best albums of 2005, and her bootleg mixtape with Diplo was my favorite bit of recorded music in 2004. M.I.A. has had the final say on the world of rap, so I’m leaving hip-hop and its direct relations for a bit.

Gold Lion (Diplo Remix)- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Diplo is one of the most experimental, exuberant and forward thinking DJs working right now. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have an equally strong claim to those three characteristics, but they prefer to be filed under ‘rock band.’

Pressure Zone- Beck
Classic rock, weirdo electronics, major-key harmonies, feedback noises, sampled spray cans and junk yard angle lyrics. Beck comes to your house, turns on your TV, your radio and your hi-fi, and says it just works best that way.

The Avenue- Roll Deep
Returning to grime, a distinctly British interpretation of hip-hop, commonly characterized by its bleak, minimal beats and exceedingly harsh accents. That’s doesn’t really sound like what you just heard. Oh wait! That’s because scene-pioneers Roll Deep Crew decided it was more fun to rap about heartbreak over cheesy new wave ballads.

E Minha-Deise Tigrona
Loud Brazilian tambour drums, stolen samples, home computer production, screaming kid MCs, and Portuguese sex raps. This is baile funk, an incredibly thrilling and vital music from the slums around Rio de Janiero. Diplo is primarily responsible for exposing this genre to an international

La Ritournelle (Metronomy Mix)- Sebastian Tellier
A little bit of twisted French house that just seemed right

Hot in Here- Tiga
Closer-Nine Inch Nails/ In da Club- 50 Cent
Tiga DJs in the European dance style, and here he voices a cover of Nelly’s “Hot in Here” in a self consciously ‘white’ way. Then I play a mash-up that pairs 50 Cent’s breakthrough single about da hip-hop club with Trent Reznor’s ode to animalistic lust. This might be a meditation on racially coded responses to universal physical desires, a statement about the universality of certain human emotions and the artificiality of musical genre. It’s not. These are jamz, plain and simple.

The Lovecats- the Cure
One Mic (acapella)- Nas
This is my closer. The shift in tone and mood is drastic, but I’m trying to get your attention. The Cure’s bass line continues the cultural confusion of the last two songs, and just enough rhythmic backing to Nas’s plea for self-expression.
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