söndag, juli 18, 2004

the pedestrian

Meticulous. the pedestrian. Brilliant.

So, I could try to avoid asking the most obvious question, but I think that would be kind of stupid. When Sole was here a couple of weeks ago, my friend asked him this question. Sole’s response was; “everyone I talk to usually makes small talk for ten minutes only to finally ask the same question; ‘so…when’s the pedestrian album dropping?’” So. When is the pedestrian album dropping? 
January is the grand plan.  I'm done but for the last song, which is called "anticon." and is about the relationships that comprise the thing.  
I had wanted to release it on Buy Nothing Day, but apparently the last week of November and the whole of December are taboo for distributors, at least indie ones.
Are you still listening to all those rap tapes that you are so known for trading?  
I have minor renaissances with those tapes every so often, though less and less frequently as the years slide by.  For the past two years, I've been thoroughly obsessed with pre-WWII (North) American folk and gospel stuff.  On the most basic aesthetic level, I get much of the same thing from this music as I get from rap in general: in front of a relatively simple, repetitive musical backdrop, a song either flies or fails almost solely on the basis of how artfully the vocalist transmits personality, conviction, and thoughtfulness.

Do you feel that there are any contemporary hip hop that can compete with the artists on those tapes? (Blowed, Log Cabin and so on.)
I think contemporary hip-hop is bulging with talent, but to be honest I haven't heard anyone with the kind of  brilliant adventurousness of a Freestyle Fellowship or a Circus since the early-mid '90's. 

In a 2003 interview at urbansmarts.com you talk about the fact that your album still is not released. “I don't think I've ever been thoroughly convinced of the worth of having one's music come out. It's very difficult to conceive of myself as a 'musician' whose basic function is to create a 'product' which will be named, printed, laid with barcodes, and sent through its own little off-stream of industry. What exactly is the object of all of that? The gathering of money? The satisfying of an audience? 'Self-expression,' whatever that is? None of these three ideas appeal to me too deeply, and I guess their respective opposites would be closer to the truth: an impoverished self-satisfaction, out of which a very particular kind of music might emerge.” I find this to be pretty fascinating, mainly because I do not understand it. What made you start writing? Was there never an urge to present your work to other people?   
I began rapping at 18 or 19 because I had been aimlessly writing raps since I was 15.  I wrote raps because that was essentially the only poetic form I was exposed to until I was in my early twenties.  I only started rapping because, having dropped out of high school and avoided college for some years, the idea of scrawling down words so that they might rot on paper seemed frivolous, even absurd.  Vocalizing was, for me, an extension of the impulse to write, rapping the only conceivable life for writing. 
Do you still feel this way?
I've only grown more extravagently skeptical of the whole process of releasing music and its attendant constellation of compromises since the above quote was registered. 
Record stores are fucking boneyards.  The formaldehyde sticks in your nostrils as you make a trail from genre to genre, glance at engraved release dates, and stuff what you can under your arm before leaving.
Releasing music is the first step in assuring that a piece of music is contained and readied to be quickly forgotten. Promotional obits are written up in magazines and on websites.  If you're halfway lucky as an artist, you get to travel around and routinely re-live your album's finer moments.
The alternative isn't necessarily to not release music, or to only do it in hand-numbered editions of 100, but to radically re-evaluate the context in which your music meets the world.  Any productive artist in a consumer society, and especially musicians, whose form is more easily and passively digested than most others, needs to consciously and persistently intervene in the ways in which art is bought, sold, and used to sell other shit. This is the very process by which art is devitalized, desacralized, depoliticized, or in other words isolated from life as its truly lived.
Do you consider what you accomplish under the name the pedestrian to be art? Is it important for you to have this kind of ambition? 
Sure, in the same way that a dope verse by Freeway or an epiphany-producing blur of words by Mikah 9 is art.  Whether it's as sophisticated as those two examples is another question altogether. 
A song that you wish you had written. 
If I could write or read music I'd be working on new masterpieces of the phone ring or the clothes dryer buzzer.  
You seem to be extremely self-critical. Is there a specific lyric of yours that you are especially pleased with? Why? 
Me being self-critical is one-part antidote to typical emcee self-assurance and one-part symptom of what doing art has always been for me: an experience from which I want to learn as much as possible.  I think I like "The Toss & Turn" the best, even though I've written better poems, for the way it's legitimately a number of things at once.   
It must be kind of liberating that Anticon nowadays have reached a position where you don’t constantly have to explain “what you are about” anymore. At least this is the case in Europe. You have created your own platform, if you will. Do you agree with this?
I haven't been to Europe, so I'm not sure.  In the U.S.,  opinion on anticon is wildly disparate.  I think because the U.S. is such a profoundly racist country, and culture here is thoroughly haunted with the specter of authenticity, anticon becomes a stage on which critics make fantastical claims, either about how anticon is the perfect counterpoint to Jay-Z (it's not) or is hip-hop betrayal made by grad-school poets (it's neither/nor for a number of reasons).
To quote Sam Chenault from a pitchforkmedia.com review of Themselves:
"Perhaps Dose One would benefit from being reminded that hip-hop is derived from the spoken word traditions of the Last Poets and not the modernist obscurity of Ezra Pound or H. Doolittle”
I won't get into whether Dose is influenced by modernist poets like Pound or H.D. (he's not), as it's beside the point, but notice the way he holds Themselves to hip-hop criteria Themselves never signed on to. In the process, look at how he re-invents hip-hop to fit the measure of his exclusion. Hip-hop doesn't come from the goddamned Last Poets, the Watts Prophets, or Gil-Scott Heron, no matter the black nationalist requirements of critics who demand their rap as unwhite as it gets; it comes out of sound systems, disco breaks, and the needs of parties and park jams.
Elsewhere in the review he reveals that hip-hop is necessarily "street-level" and made of "simple loops, lyrics, and beats," and that "shit," surprise surprise, "must be kept real." Well, there's nothing simple about rap and the old equation between blackness and realness is a distinctly American sickness.  Finally, Chenault commits the unpardonable critical failure of holding a piece of art to a reductive generic formula that has little to do with the music itself.  It's something like criticizing a Tortoise album for how it's not a Ghostface album.  "There's not even any rhyming on it!," they squeal.
You can see a similar thing at play in the recent Village Voice review of the Passage album, which is a positive review that nonetheless can't help shrieking "white white white" in an absurd refrain.
What do you hate the most about hip hop?
Oh, I love rap.