Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cut & Paste

Before I had a book to sell, I shrugged off Myspace as little more than a refuge for horny teens and the grown-ass men who Mark Foley them. And it definitely is that. Being on the site for a minute has broadened my perspective considerably, however. I long ago Betty Forded myself past the addiction phase that kicks in almost immediately upon setting up an account, but I continue to marvel at the myriad agendas and communities that criss-cross the place. It’s far too dynamic and multi-tiered to be summarily dismissed. I have to admit, it’s a sugar-pill ego boost to check in and see new friend requests, even if a lot of folks are clearly just trying to up their “friend” count. Still, I love looking at my friends list and seeing militant black nationalists next to gay porn stars next to hornily hetero gangsta rappers next to wholesome, fledgling pop singers next to struggling filmmakers next to some ordinary Joe businessman who’s just along for the communal ride. Shameless self-promotion and product hawking (Blood Beats Vol. 1: Demos Remixes & Extended Versions… available now) exist alongside folks just trying to make a connection with people they once knew, or beyond those they already know. I’ve corresponded with folks in London, Milan, Toronto, Berlin and all across the U.S. of A. A few even claim to have bought my book as a result of my Myspace page. This particular blog entry was inspired by a Myspacer who sent me a message asking what I’m currently listening to. And because I am lazy but really needed to update this blog, I decided I’d reprint my answer here:

1) A burned CD of unmastered new music from Kim Hill, formerly “the (black) girl” in the Black Eyed Peas, as research for a piece I’m doing on her for the LA Weekly. I like her and her music a lot and am really digging her songs “Barbie” and the jazz-inflected, autobiographical “Disney.” Sample lyrics from the latter:

“Look at my hands they’re shaking and my heart is pacing / Executives at the table, now I feel unstable / My manager is on my right, but I am not sure on whose side / Wanna be cool and show respect, but today might be my test / They say I talk too much / They say I put up a fuss / Why do you love hip-hop? / Kim Hill, you should do pop… / I should have known they wouldn’t understand / They thought I was like my former band / At any cost sell your soul / Just go for the gold, truth be told / They say my nose too big, they say I got little tits / Pocahontas on a horse ride / Best thing since the electric slide / Careful, don’t be too black…”

2) I pulled up Angie Stone’s first two CDs and have been listening to select tracks from them all week. They’re both solid r&b efforts that, combined and then pruned, would make an amazing single disc: “Bone 2 Pick With U,” “Everyday,” “No More Rain (In This Cloud),” “Easier Said Than Done,” “Snowflakes,” “Wish I Didn’t Miss You So Much,” “Makings of You (Interlude).” When I saw Angie perform a short while ago at the Hollywood Bowl, opening for James Brown (weak, disappointing shows from both of them) I marveled anew at the fact that she’s the rare female musical artist whose unvarnished sexual quirks and unsanctioned fetishes are put so squarely, if unconsciously, on the table. And no, Madonna’s mirthless exploitation of her sexuality doesn’t count. Men walk around with their shit hanging out all the time; women, even those with ‘ho images, don’t really let their subterranean come to light. Stone is different. Her rumor-mill mythology circles back to her being D’Angelo’s baby-mama, to her reportedly being shunted aside by the singer (who apparently actually likes thick women) at the behest of handlers who thought her too old and too well fed to be appropriate arm candy, even as her influence (to put it mildly) is all over Brown Sugar. But what really makes Stone fascinating is that she’s a female hawk with love for the young thugs, and she makes no bones about it. There’s D’Angelo; her ill-fated professional (according to him) and more personal (according to her) relationship with the fine but thoroughly useless Calvin Richardson; that young dude she was engaged to for a minute, post-Calvin. She likes the young ‘uns with six-packs and hoodlum outlines. You cannot be mad at her. For her show at the Bowl, she had three male back-up singers, two of whom fit her “type” to a T(hug) but none of whom seemed like they’d have even the faintest interest in a woman. Yeah, giggles.
Angie Stone

3) Jeff Buckley’s “Grace.” I always liked this album a great deal but didn’t genuflect before it like a lot of my fellow music critics. Then last year I saw a Norwegian film in which Buckley’s sublime, career-making (and anthem-stealing) version of “Hallelujah” was used to underscore the emotional anguish of a young, brown Muslim immigrant living unhappily in Norway. (I think it was Norway: White people and ice…That’s all I got on recall.) The boy’s story ends tragically, and “Hallelujah” was so masterfully deployed on the soundtrack to accompany emotionally wrenching scenes that I teared up hoyrd when viewing the film.

4) Some old Prince... Dirty Mind / Soft & Wet / Controversy. For all the accolades and gushing acclaim he’s received, I still don’t think he’s gotten props as deep as he deserves for that era of his career. The image, the fusion of rock, New Wave, soul... the image. Black-boy gender fuck and flirting with sexual ambiguity. That shit could not happen now – at least not with any Negro male wanting to be a pop star. (Thank you, hip-hop!) And for all his calculated eccentricities and oddness, Prince wanted to be a pop star. He had arena aspirations and wasn’t avanting his shit just to rent space on the margins. For all the clones he spawned (“Oh, Sheila”) that narrow space he crow-barred open – a space for black men to be hugely and unapologetically sexual but not idiotic or menacing Mandingos, to be powerful but defiantly and revolutionarily fey (we see you, Little Richard), to be both dandy and hardcore, fluid yet unwaveringly hetero (Okay... bye, Little Richard), brilliant aesthete and peerless craftsman – has been crazy-glued shut, though his influence is paradoxically everywhere. Seriously, nobody is fucking with that era Prince. Nobody.

5) I used to really love Sophie B. Hawkins’ single, “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Stumbled across it in my collection the other day and smiled. Put it on. The smile quickly faded on a, “What the hell was I thinking?” tip.

My Myspace page is right cheah


soulpeeps said...

But I had always heard it through the "gayvine" that D'A was on the DL, running with sistas J. Legend & R. Saadiq. What choo know 'bout dat?

EH said...

The Gayvine, a.k.a. "Fantasy Island." Anything is possible, of course, but I think waaaaay too many folks confuse the pornos in their minds with reality.