Thursday, June 30, 2011


We began spinning out a Marvin Gaye thread over @ the blue light.  Lil B's recent nod gives us pause to look back, perhaps even pick that thread up again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What We're Hearing

Must confess we love the laid back delivery and gangstadrama that leans on the light touch.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011


We were amused by the appeal to comprehensiveness in this ¶ long list by Mark Sanders in his most excellent "African American Folk Roots and Black Poetry."

Material objects included quilts, jewelry, toys, musical instruments, etc.; while cultural practices and linguistic forms included work songs, seculars, field hollers, shouts, spirituals, blues, tall tales, aphorisms, dance songs, children's rhymes, toasts, sermons, gospel music, the blues, jazz, playing the dozens, lies, sounding and signifying, etc.  Arguably the most ubiquitous folk source, music, could include varying mixtures of the following elements: descending pentatonic scale, homophonics (as opposed to heterophonics), blue notes, syncopation (in standard time, accents on 2 and 4 rather than 1 and 3), antiphonal or call-and-response dynamics, and vernacular instrumentation.

Come on in the kitchen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where We Come From

The boozhy version of the crossroads story, but still the same story:

"My mom is a singer, mostly in choirs an stuff like that when I was little and my dad plays the bass, he’s been playing since he was about 5. He had to stop after a while when I was a kid. They encouraged me to be a creative individual but they didn’t really cultivate my growing in a creative way, it was more grade oriented. But my grandmother also did poetry so I wanted wanted to [do something in that] vein. So I started writing little poems and stuff when I was like 8 and it’s been like that ever since. Lots of writing and just pretending… pretending to be a rapper, pretending to be a poet. I accepted that one day I’d probably have to buckle down and be a boring adult. I never really took to the idea of being a [full time] musician, this was just my hobby on the side. But while knowing that I tried to postpone my dreaded destiny as long as possible and in the process I just became an emcee, I became the monster that I am."  Go here for the whole interview.

Long and short:  We all come down to the crossroads.  Are we brave enough to fall down on our knees and become the goblin we are supposed to be?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Hardest Part

In our readings in the book of Langston, we're finding some basic patterns (blue light, red light): the brovah's a multimedia artist, not just a literary figure; his attachment to the modernist narrative is less of his own making and made more of the wishes of his more literary readers who want to habilitate him into a more literary form; his understanding of the visual and musical arts is very much his own, and not one that anticipates our present understandings; and then there's the whole trope of simplicity.

Up 'til now our work has mainly focused on the multimedia artist and his fascinating career-long effort to be a songwriter and a director of musical theatre/opera.  We're gonna keep working this (even while we begin to spread out a little).

But at the center of his work is the remarkable poem cycle, performance script, book as artifact, enactment of the dozens, commentary on music, &c., Ask Your Mama.  We've been running up to this work slowly because it would be so easy to get less out of it than we could (many already do that routinely).

For today, let's just note that he placed at its center the most important of musical references: W. C. Handy's "Hestitation Blues."  We've begun to pull together the versionology of this masterwork and will begin posting appropriately in the near future.  Here let's note scribble up three fast note:

1) There is something about Handy and American modernism that we want to pursue.  He's his own book.  He's a gigantic ancestor.

2) This is one of those songs that has been reworked so many times that it has become a fabric of its own.  We have so much more to learn of these songs.

3) Langston uses the song to compose up a conjuring way in Ask Your Mama that is both obvious and can be studied forever.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Yesterday's Hype Sounds Like Today's Hype

Dr. O-Dub sent us to John Book's long piece on De La Soul's now 20 year old Is Dead.  We cannot take time here on how big the album is, but we did not as we read that the scene seems much like what's going on in the Bay Area/Odd Futures world.

We also recognize Book's prowess.  It's a great piece.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Footnote on Yesterday's Footnote

So as we're woking on a deeper breath about Langston's Randy Weston collabo, Uhuru Afrika, we find this note that only adds to the case we were making in yesterday's shorter observation:  "He also helped to prepare two television shows.  In one case for the CBS series "Look Up and LIve," he narrated a gospel concer with the 120 voice Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir ("In a gospel church, when they ride on th eglory train of song," nobody is ashamed, or afraid of being carried away").  On th elocal ABC program "Expedition New York," he talked about "A Poet's Harlem."

'S just what we were saying.  There's all of these artifacts that the book of Langston is full of more than writing.  We are not up to writing him off as grinding this.  We're always looking for the man's conjuring way, and suspect we'll find it here, too.