photo & text by nacrowe
after the career-defining twin cultural HIP HOP milestones that were THE SLIM SHADY LP (INTERSCOPE, 1999) and THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP (INTERSCOPE, 2000), DETROIT rapper EMINEM settled in and released THE EMINEM SHOW (INTERSCOPE, 2002). by the time he recorded his third album, he'd gone through the ringer publicly after resolving a CONCEALED WEAPONS CHARGE, being SUED BY HIS OWN MOTHER for defamation, as well as a lengthy DIVORCE with a related CONTESTED CUSTODY BATTLE for his young daughter. for EMINEM, his life very much felt like a WARPED spectacle that was fodder and entertainment for the masses, so why not just give them all an actual show on his third album.
the first two records were mostly produced / co-produced by DR DRE with EMINEM gaining confidence along the way. THE EMINEM SHOW is SIGNIFICANT in his catalogue as the majority of tracks are produced by EMINEM, showcasing a FIERCE new SKILLSET he developed under the watchful tutelage of DR DRE. such being the case, the piano-derived single-note MELODY LINES share a DNA link with the N.W.A. legend, as made evident on tracks like "BUSINESS," "WHITE AMERICA," "SQUARE DANCE," "WITHOUT ME" and especially "CLEANIN' OUT MY CLOSET."
i was aware of EMINEM throughout high school, as THE SLIM SHADY LP came out my freshman year and THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP my sophomore year, but i didnt initially take to his music because his stuff was popular with the jocks. and by that i mean the hockey players that TERRORIZED and BRUTALLY HAZED me and my friends as an underclassman. i was at a boarding school so there was literally no escape from those ASSHOLES and their ABUSE. by the time THE EMINEM SHOW came out, i was near the end of high school and a lot had changed. i was no longer in boarding school, having spent my junior year with my parents in KUWAIT and then senior year with a relative in SACRAMENTO after 9/11 happened that year. the company my dad worked for had a policy that his family could fly out twice a year, airfare fully paid, so it was on a five-and-a-half hour solo journey FRANKFURT-KUWAIT CITY flight that i first really dug into a copy of THE EMINEM SHOW i got at the airport and finally came to appreciate its appeal.
as with all great MCs, EMINEM is a GIFTED POET. not just technically-speaking, as the dude can INTERNAL RHYME SCHEME and CADENCE his way with DEXTERITY with the best of them, but in term of his ability to emote a wide dynamic range of mental states through his PERSONAS. he can be COY and HUMOROUS to ireedemably CAUSTIC in zero seconds flat. targets include his family, his WHITE AUDIENCE, the BUSH ADMINISTRATION, former girlfriend MARIAH CAREY, the MUSIC INDUSTRY and those who seek to censor him. besides his lyrical acrobatics, the songs work because of the sonic bedrock he's established to fortify and buttress the complex architecture that is his SOPHISTICATED RHYME SCHEMES, WORDPLAY and CULTURAL REFERENCES. it is a style that is definitely old school with prominent structural elements that give the listener an innate sense of METER and PITCH of which he is bouncing ideas off of. today's MODERN, more ABSTRACT cloud rappers don't mess with this type of beat as it limits their choices, which makes EMINEM's achievements that more SPECUTACULAR in comparison.
personally i love THE EMINEM SHOW and feel it is required listening, but in terms of his catalogue the first two albums really are where one needs to begin their journey. everything else is a variation on a THEME, including the standout THE EMINEM SHOW. definitely worth checking out.
photo & text by nacrowe
by the time of his untimely passing in 2006 at the young age of thirty-two from cardiac arrest related to his ongoing battle with LUPUS, LEGENDARY DETROIT HIP HOP producer J DILLA was an INNOVATIVE, highly sought after COLLABORATOR and BEAT-MAKER of the first order whose INSPIRED COMPOSITIONS were appreciated and utilized by the likes of A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, DE LA SOUL, RAEKWON, THE PHARCYDE, D'ANGELO, ERYKAH BADU and COMMON to BUSTA RHYMES, THE ROOTS, EMINEM, MF DOOM, BILAL, REDMAN, MADLIB and TALIB KWELI among many others before and after his passing. his UNIQUE sense of RHYTHM, which he performed by hand on his AKAI MPC3000 sequencer-sampler, made use of disengaging the quantize setting (which when engaged essentially sets everything to a grid).
let's take a moment to make one thing absolutely clear.
J DILLA did not live on the grid. he was his own METRONOME and basically humanized HIP HOP production making the RIGID TECHNOLOGY ebb and flow organically almost like a JAZZ MUSICIAN. he referred to such RHYTHMIC EXPERIMENTATIONS as "drunk funk." his touch is something that has influenced countless producers in his wake, but obviously has not been replicated. DONUTS (STONES THROW, 2006) proved to be his final recording and was created as his DIMINISHED and ENFEEBLED physical limitations rendered him wheelchair-bound as he was losing his battle with LUPUS. the album showcases a SINGULAR composer and BEAT-MAKER at the top of his game (and the profession) as his SOUNDSCAPES and COLLAGES seamlessly transition from one EVOCATIVE aural landscape to the next. it proves that in spite of his physical debilitation, his CREATIVE SPARK and COGNITIVE ABILITIES were as on point as ever right to the end. such can be heard on STANDOUT tracks such as "GEEK DOWN," "TWO CAN WIN," "DON'T CRY," "WORKINONIT," "U-LOVE," "GOBSTOPPER" and "LAST DONUT OF THE NIGHT." my suggestion however is to listen to DONUTS in its entirety as one extended sonic MEDITATION.
it does not disappoint and is a fitting EXCLAMATION POINT on a career and talent cut down way too soon. his legacy is continued by those who take INSPIRATION from his SOUND including current PIONEERING producers and musicians like FLYING LOTUS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS, THUNDERCAT, DANGER MOUSE and TERRACE MARTIN among others. its interesting to consider that in retrospect many critics have considered him to be more of a JAZZ musician than a HIP HOP producer which only further proves his SUBTLE TOUCH and DEFT MUSICALITY that seemingly knew no limitations. his ART very much seemed to be a flawlessly composed, direct EMOTIONAL expression in and of the current moment a la JOHN COLTRANE, MAX ROACH or THELONIOUS MONK.
RIP JAY DEE
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the influential MUSIC PRODUCTION career of the legendary RICK RUBIN!
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parody by nacrowe
since returning stateside roughly three years ago after teaching and living overseas for over eight years i was unceremoniously introduced to the new generation of HIP HOP which left me largely underwhelmed. gone where the clever lyricism and focus on the community that seemed emblematic of the 80S & 90s artists i grew up on (A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, TUPAC, PUBLIC ENEMY, DE LA SOUL, N.W.A.). in its place was a new class more driven by the politics of hype, branding, self-aggrandizement and the goal of personal financial security.
one bright spot was discovering idiosyncratic videographer COLE BENNETT and his LYRICAL LEMONADE channel on YOUTUBE that showcased (mostly) upcoming talent of note with his inspired, conked-out visuals.
i invite you to check out his channel and dive into his clever visual aesthetic.