Saturday, January 12, 2008

That's my boy right there!

Ever wonder about the story behind how Doc Pop became a professional yo-yoer? Ever wonder what the fuck a pro yo-yoer actually does?

All these questions (and so many more) are answered in the following vid.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What’s That Sound?

There’s an old joke about a devout Catholic limo driver who is tasked with delivering the Pope from the airport to his hotel on one of his many trips to the US. After picking up His Holiness, the chauffer is so overcome by the experience that he faints. Concerned for the man’s well-being, the Pope places the unconscious driver in the back of the limo to rest and sets about trying to drive himself to his lodging. Along the way the Pope gets lost, accidentally runs a red light and is pulled over by a state trooper. The cop radios in to let the station know he’s pulled over a limo, and then, seconds later, radios back in to tell them he did not write a ticket. When asked why chose to let the driver slide he simply replies that the limo held a very important person. When pushed as to who this celebrity is the cop finally exclaim, “Look, I don’t know, but the fuckin’ Pope is his driver!”

The moral, of course, is that you are often judged by the company you keep. I’ve reflected on this simple truth myself recently, and, though I choose to see many of my own minor connections to some pretty impressive people as mere happenstance, there really is an air of legitimacy to the proposition.

In that regard, all you really need to know about Whore Moans' recent release Episode II: Attack of the Moans is that it features beloved nerdcore icon MC Frontalot. All other facts and suppositions are pretty much unnecessary. And yet that won’t stop me from stating them in my own indubitable fashion.
  1. “Opening Salvo”: Apparently I’m not the only one who dislikes weak intro tracks. Whore Moans starts the album off with a bang, dropping his hyper-literate rhymes over a minimalist beat. His brazen demand for other rappers to innovate may come off as idle braggadocio, but even in the span of this two-minute track he proves his lyrical mettle.
  2. “Don’t Feel a Thing”: Moans easily secures his nerd cred by rhyming over a glitchy beat based on the Yoko Kanno penned “Rain.” (Yes, I do own a Cowboy Bebop OST. You can stop looking so surprised now.) Steve Conte’s pained vocal delivery plays nicely against Whore Moans’ flow, which manages to sound deliberate and measured even when he occasionally stumbles over an extra syllable. He also displays his unique gift for slipping in the slightest hints of political commentary at the least obvious of times. My only real complaint about this song is the chorus; don’t get me wrong, it continues Moans’ already established motif of lyrical sarcasm, but it comes off a little thin and kind of uninspired.
  3. “Critical Damage (feat. Jonathan Toth from Hoth)”: This one marries another round of non-traditional instrumental backing with some genuinely creative hip-hop, but seems to falter a bit on the early bridge. Whore Moans somehow manages to keep his annunciation crystal clear, even when his flow shifts into hyperdrive. This is another super-short track that charms without overstaying its welcome.
  4. “Be Impressed”: Four tracks in, Whore Moans really hits his stride with “Be Impressed.” With a beat and accompanying lyrics so saturated in echo as to make Black Sabbath blush, Moans calls out friends and family who have totally missed the boat on the nature of his smart and playful rhymes. Taking the piss out of mainstream rap by enumerating its shortcomings is neither a new concept within the bounds of nerdy hip-hop nor a particularly difficult feat, but Whore Moans manages to do it beautifully with the help of the sing-along chorus that you’ve been looking for this whole time.
  5. “Miss Midwest”: “Miss Midwest” marks a drastic, not to mention dangerous, change in tone from the preceding tracks. It’s almost as if Whore Moans decided to intentionally throw us a curve after five songs of good-natured ribbing and subtle self-reflection. This track describes that girl we all know: the one who’s been emotionally beat down by a few dozen too many bad experiences with heartless men. While the beat is genius and the chorus well constructed (if a little distracting), the real beauty of this track is Moans’ delicate storytelling.
  6. “F(r)iend”: Short and anything but sweet, Whore Moans explores the rigors of drug abuse in a one-sided dialog with a friend who’s gone too far. Lyrically, it’s not his tightest joint, but it’s so emotionally resonant that anyone who’s been involved in a similar situation will come away a little surprised by his lyrical honesty.
  7. “Where I Stand on One Night Stands”: This track is almost tailor-made for people who enjoyed Gym Class Heroes’ “Sloppy Love Jingle.” Less rap than wildstyle poetry, it eschews musical hooks for Whore Moans’ own simple recitation. It works.
  8. “Catchy Chorus”: Boasting another guitar-based beat and a groove that damn-near forces you to move, “Catchy Chorus” only falters on – wait for it – the chorus. While not bad, per se, it fails to live up to the power of a song like “Be Impressed.” Still, there’s enough going on to keep you from skipping it, including another jibe at the bloated American Right.
  9. “Mecha Mechanics (feat. MC Frontalot)”: Fun, quotable, and ridiculously geeky, “Mecha Mechanics” is a jam for hardcore anime fans as well as those of us who used to play Voltron at recess blissfully unaware of its nation of origin. More avant-garde backing and a killer verse from Front are sure to please, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend Whore Moans on a chorus that’s both poppy and memorable. The musical change-up at the 2:25 mark was a risky production move, but the gamble paid off as it really enhances the track.
  10. “Pizza Pie Drive By (feat. B-Smooth)”: Much like lyrical indictments of the state of rap, songs about how work sucks are a dime a dozen; this one, however, is well worth your time. The verses are a snarky warning to anyone who’s ever gypped the Domino’s guy, and the chorus is borderline Wesley Willis. B-Smooth adds an interesting secondary texture to the vocals. If this song was food, I would devour it.
  11. “Heart”: Otherwise known as “Whore Moans Raps the Broken-Hearted Blues.” A meditation on infatuation that lyrically slips occasionally, but any missteps are more than made up for by an amazing flow that never fizzles.
  12. “What’s That Sound (Feat. Less & Essince)”: A fierce beat and a pair of contributors who truly hold up their end of the track makes “What’s That Sound” the perfect canvas on which Whore Moans paints his tribute to the Midwest underground. A song that is unapologetically hip-hop from top to bottom despite the album’s tendency to mix the genre’s chocolate with the peanut butter of everything from J-pop to straight-ahead rock, this one was made to remind folks just where Moans is coming from. Geographically and otherwise.
  13. “Silence”: Musically haunting and lyrically poignant, this one caps the album in a most unexpected way. While most MCs would end on a club banger, Whore Moans elaborates on themes that he’s thus far only hinted at – those of loss and loneliness – in a manner that’s both personal and universal. Yet, after two minutes the track ends, and I have to say it left me wanting. Thankfully, after a near interminable couple of minutes of… um… actual silence, Moans comes back with what is either a semi-conceptual continuation or a hidden track. Either way, it slakes the thirst. Bringing back the sardonic style that the album has so expertly established, this one seems a bit off-the-cuff, which suits the track perfectly. Ambient background sounds and Whore Moans patented motor-mouthery form a striking contrast that takes Episode II home.
Why it’s easy to think of rap as a beast wholly its own, it is, like all music, part of a greater evolutionary whole. With strong roots in Jamaican toasting, which, in turn, is an outgrowth of the verbal tradition of the classic griot, the lit nerd in me will always see rap as an amazingly compelling part of mankind’s predilection for poesy.

Yes. Rappers are poets.

While many would argue that the type of contemporary rap with which we are presented daily (by the likes of MTV and Top 40 radio) has lost sight of this aspect, I’m not deluded enough to think that I can bring anything more to that conversation. So let me just say that, in a world where hip-hop lyricism is sometimes only as important as a soundbite for a ringtone, Whore Moans is unafraid to embrace his inner poet.

Stylistically somewhere between the surreal slant of Busdriver and the slice-of-life musings of Travis McCoy, Moans is literate without always being literal. It’s an interesting combination that may not work for everyone, but, at least with regard to nerdy heads, it surely hits more often than it misses.

His flow, though practiced, is by no means perfect, and his lyrics, while interesting and relatable, do occasionally seem forced, but his vocal contributions are superlative overall. There are also some issues on the production end, mostly due to the wholly independent nature of album, but these minor flaws help to reinforce a lo-fi aesthetic and DIY ethic that makes Episode II: Attack of the Moans stand out.

If you’ve ever geeked out to Sage Francis, explored the far reaches of sci-fi space with Kool Keith, or wished Beefy had never quit working at Papa Murphy’s, then this is an album for you.

“In your head like a CAT scan.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nerd News in Brief

Ah, the Crate Digger Death-match. Even now, I look back at you with a quiet fondness.

Even now, when I should well be spending my time dissecting the delicious albums you fostered with a team of gentlemen far more qualified to make such judgments than I am. A team that includes a bona fide experimental music god, geeky hip-hop’s premiere source of quality beats and catchy hooks, and my own favorite podcaster.

And me.

Because every band needs a Michael Anthony.

Let me dwell no longer upon your glorious majesty, oh Crate Digger Death-match, but before I return to my judging duties, allow me slip in a little Nerd News in Brief.

  • My shiny metal ass: The beer brewing Bender that Church hipped us to back in August is finally complete and fully functional. And it is a thing of beauty. Congratulations, New Zealander Simon Jansen, you win the Internet.
  • Okay, one more reference to the CDD: Don’t’ forget to make your way over to Doc’s Drown Radio site to cast your vote for best single in round 1 of the Crate Digger Death-match. At present, Bomarr is in the lead, but D-Form and Snake Eyes are building steam. If I say "Rock the Vote" will it seem too trite?
  • I can haz tribute song?: Last week I neglected to mention that the good Doctor had released a brand new nerdcore track. This one is dedicated to the noble lolcat, and it’s not to be missed. You cans dowanlode it naow.
  • Sweet merciful fuck!: It would appear that Doc’s song came a bit too late. Lolcats, it seems, are out. And so begins the age of the lolmutant.
  • For all you Cheap Ass Gamers out there: My pal BrĂ¼x directed me to this TIGsource BBS post concerning the greatest freeware games of 2007. These games are great. They are also free. I can’t imagine you need anymore information than that.
  • Even more deluxe than originally anticipated: Super Deluxe so loved Beefy’s cover of “Be Aggressive” from his new release The Adventures of Beef Thompson: Private Dick, that they posted an unflattering picture of him. I’m just glad to know that someone under the age of 30 can tie a necktie.
  • Join the Nerd movement: His Beefyness just so happens to be splitting a bill with game rockers Press Start to Rock and fellow nerdcore artist MC Gigahertz next Wednesday at Seattle’s Jewel Box Theater. It’s 5 bones at the door, and cheap at twice the price!
  • ATM is the greatest: YTCracker has a new video up on YouTube. He says of this groundbreaking track, “[I’ve] been trying to emulate a lot more mainstream rap so this is like my crossover track. [I] think my lyrics are on point.” It’s hard to argue with that.
  • Finally, the condoms make sense: My brother funky49 just turned me on to an up-and-coming Internet musical phenomenon known as Raymond Loves Jen. “Play with my Wii Remote” is destined to become the nerd sex jam of 2008.
  • Luke Skywalker, terrorist: Church has also alerted me to a recent blog post from Sweden’s (or Ireland’s, depending on how you look at it) _Paddy K_ outlining the terror tactics of the Rebel Alliance. And with that, the Axis of Evil goes multi-galaxy.
  • The finer points of Wrock: Matt would like to direct your attention to the brand-spanking new Wizard Rock FAQ created by those delightful ladies at the WizRocklopedia. It’s a primer for newcomers to the scene as well as new bands looking to garner a little Wrock clout. Take notes ; I will likely spring a pop quiz on you later.
  • C is for cover song: Today we’ll end on another jewel that Church dredged up on one of his daily YouTube raids. I have long suspected that Chris Barnes is, in fact, the Cookie Monster, and now I know for sure.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The mother of invention

As previously announced here at Hipster, please! (and at a number of other, more reputable sites), last Saturday marked round 1 of the music competition/scavenger hunt that is the Crate Digger Death-match. I reckon there are a number of questions on the mind of the casual observer, the most obvious being: Well, how the hell did it go?

Doc's album coverWhile my perspective on the events that transpired is probably a little skewed – as I wasn’t down there “in the trenches” – I’m gonna go ahead and say that the experiment was a success. Sadly, only seven of our dozen Crate Diggers were able to complete the monumental task within the time allowed, but, like life itself, this wasn’t all about the destination; it was also about the journey.

We had, for example, a disproportionate number of contestants from California’s Bay Area, which on the days leading up to the competition was damn-near underwater. Still, these Crate Diggers crossed their fingers, and, on the day of the competition, found that they had not only survived the inclement weather with their sanity intact but also their electricity.

To celebrate this good fortune, Doc Popular took some great pictures of himself and TradeMark G. foraging for supplies at their local Community Thrift. TradeMark even went so far as to audio blog his findings when he returned home to the lab.

TradeMark went on to complete and deliver his submission, while, unfortunately, the good Doctor was KO'ed by eleventh hour hardware failure. But the Crate Digger Death-match, despite its gruesome title, is a friendly competition; TM, Tanner, and the other competitors all but demanded that, despite the fact that his album wouldn’t be eligible for the judging portion of the competition, Doc still share his efforts with the rest of the class. Just this morning, Doc Pop unleashed Drown Radio’s codfresh upon the world. You owe it to yourself to take a listen. It’s a thrift shop masterpiece.

Another competitor who failed to make the deadline but no less favored us with some A class material is producer and sound engineer Larry Legend. Though Larry’s logged studio time with some hip-hop heavy hitters, he was thrilled at the opportunity to get his hands dirty in the CDD and really push himself to explore the world outside of the “musical and technical boxes” in which he normally confines himself. Larry’s story is perhaps my favorite of the contest, as he admitted that he was so caught up in harvesting samples and exploring the wonderful world of circuit bending that he failed to adequately budget his time.
Snake Eyes' finds
Read that again folks: he was having so much fun that he literally got sidetracked by his own work. If there’s any indicator that the goal of the CDD – to inspire artists to create outside their comfort zone and (hopefully) genuinely learn a little something – was met, then that’s it right there.

Larry did submit one song for our enjoyment. (Though, again, it can’t be part of the actual contest.) This is what a dude who’s genuinely having fun with his music sounds like.

But enough about the contest itself, let’s talk about the finalists.

On Saturday, our Crate Diggers awoke to find a friendly email from your truly stating that, in addition to the already restrictive cash, time, and technological constraints, they were also obliged to include within their projects three artistic motifs. They were as follows:
  • Motif #1: "Made in the 80's."
    A minimum of one thrift store item that you purchase with your allotted $12 must have been created in the 1980's. Unlike albums, things like electronic devices may not have an easily discernable release date. In this situation, use your best judgment.
  • Motif #2: "Bent over backwards."
    At least one song on your album must include either A) a prominent musical element, movement, or sample that is played backwards or B) a prominent musical sound or element that is generated by a circuit bent or otherwise altered electronic device.
  • Motif #3: "Country House."
    Each album must include either a country song or a dance track. Again, I leave what does and does not qualify as "country" or "dance" up to your own judgment.
These seven gentlemen managed to make the most of their meager thrift store finds, maintain a strict timetable for proper completion, include the three aforementioned and wholly arbitrary elements, and cope with a wealth of individual hardships and setbacks to complete the first round of the Crate Digger Death-match.While our honorable judges (and I) scrutinize the finished albums and our crack technical crew prepares their single submissions for open online voting, why not check out the artists on the roster? One of them will shortly be named the King of the Crate Diggers... and if you ask nicely maybe they’ll even let you score a copy of their submission albums!

Hails from: Bedford, TX
Album title: Old Toys and Broken Tapes

Hails from: Oakland, CA
Album title: Crate Digger Death-match

Hails from: Torrance, CA
Album Title: Up or Down

Evolution Control Committee
Hails from: San Francisco, CA
Album title: A Dozen Bucks a Dozen Hours Cut-and-Paste Super Powers

Snake Eyes
Hails from: Toronto, ON
Album Title: True Tales

Hails from: Fort Worth, TX
Album Title: God Bless You and Best Wishes! (Love, Shelly Knapp)

Hails from: Huntsville,AL
Album title: ndzyeht