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killah priest’s heavy mental at 20: the empire never ended

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Few years back I wrote about Killah Priest's Heavy Mental for Passion of the Weiss. The album turns twenty years old today, and I had a few extra thoughts on its extreme depths. It's easily in my top twenty all-time LPs.

What Priest is doing on Mental is a pan-cosmic mystagogy linking Biblical times and concrete jungles, Exodus and the Middle Passage. Salvation from the 4D holographic galaxy will only come through music.

Why does he say on ‘PriestHood’ “I’m having constant dreams I’m Constantine?” Or on 2007's "The Maccabees," drop a vision of JFK, Jesus and "a vision of Malcolm X/sitting at the Last Supper/Elijah passing the butter/I'm at the end of the table with my gat tucked up" and then "Romans rush in / I start busting." Because the Empire never ended. 

On ‘B.I.B.L.E.,’ he says: "the white image of Christ is really Cesare Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander."  This theory—that our modern image of Jesus comes from a 15th century Italian nobleman's portrait (by da Vinci, no less)—gets kicked around a lot here and there, but doesn't have much historical basis.  Not the point.

In medieval portraiture popes & aristocrats would have themselves inserted into Biblical scenes—here’s me cooling at the Crucifixion, here’s my wife the duchess suckling baby Jesus. Time travel selfie shit in oils. But this wasn’t just artistic license.

Benedict Anderson posits in Imagined Communities that people didn’t have a linear sense of time before newspapers—you were born in your village and shit was the same for your grandfather. It was all one thing. And in Auerbach’s ‘Figura,’ he illustrates all the times one person is a pre-figuration—a jataka tale—of another. Moses is a figura of Jesus. Or in another way, they are all the same. Everything is happening on repeat and at once. Nothing here now but the recordings. 

See, those samples that lace Heavy Mental? Aside from 20 seconds of Judas from The Robe, they’re all from 1954’s The Egyptian.

The Egyptian is about a doctor who gets caught up in Pharoah Akhnaton’s effort to change Egypt’s religion from all those cat- and alligator-head gods into a monotheism around the sun and the ankh—the cross of life. Some say (including Freud) this is a figura of Judaism or Christianity—the movie ends with big letters saying “THESE THINGS HAPPENED THIRTEEN CENTURIES BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST."

And there’s others who think Akhnaton’s portrayal as a long-limbed, egg-shaped head dude means he was an alien. So an alien in 1300 BC was trying to start Christianity or at least its doctrines of pacifism and humanism. That’s some Killah Priest shit for real.

On a literal tip, there's increasing evidence from Einstein onwards that, in fact, time takes place all at once, and we only perceive it to be linear.  It's a long-standing philosophical debate (since at least Taggart's B-theory of time), but in real (or at least theoretical) scientific terms, efforts to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics, like the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, point towards the universe being a 4D block which we only experience as individual slices of 'now.' 

So Priest is saying that it's one long story of bondage leading up to today, until we escape it—because it's all happening at the same time, that each element prefigures another. Where then, is escape from this time/space cube Cell Block 4D?  Outside of time and space.  What is outside of time and space?  Music.

In Philip K Dick’s VALIS, Horselover Fat asks if the soon-to-be-born savior child is Christ returning, "or another one," i.e. a new cosmic redeemer.  He gets the reply that:

"It's him again but not him; another one.  There are many Buddhas, but only one.  The key to understanding it is time...when you play a record a second time, do the musicians play the music a second time?  If you play the music fifty times, do the musicians play the music fifty times?"

Dick spent his entire life probing the noosphere to find out what was behind our reality and how we could get to a better one.  In 1974 he either went nuts or got zapped by a beam of pink light from an alien satellite and/or godhead.  Either way he had a vision of a Golden Doorway and spent the rest of his life trying to get back to it.   But there isn’t any way out of the physical world from the physical world.  "We fall asleep," Priest says on 'Temple of the Mental,' "and they handcuff us in our dreams."

The Golden Doorway is heavy mental and Heavy Mental—and "the only time you could catch jet lag is if your cassette drag."

The problem with an eternal string of prefigured martyr-saviors is that they will always be martyred, right?  As Burroughs says, "nothing here now but the recordings."  So we have to sidestep.  Into the Temple of the Mental.  Stop the tape.  STOP IT.

THESE THINGS HAPPENED TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY.

the overlook hotel autumn writer’s retreat

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This is the part where I write a witty ironic blurb plugging the Overlook Hotel as the perfect writer's retreat, and then I don't because it's not that funny, my tooth hurts and I need a cigarette.  So instead I just run a bunch of links for new joints you should cop.

M.O.A.T. [instrumentaliste division] :: Dday One

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I don't remember when I first came across DDay One's stuff; I used to spend hours and hours scouring rap blogs for new shit and just hoover it all up.  See, I came up in the record store days with no pockets.  I'd agonize over which records I could afford to buy, and dream about being in an endless record store where they had everything and you could listen to anything.  Hey presto, papi: internet.

I got really into instrumental hip-hop a couple of years ago, and it seems like the '00s were definitely their peak period.  Problem has always been separating the great from the meh. Partially, we got eighty gazillion Japanese DJs putting out so many instrumental jazz-hop LPs you could have a whole website built around nothing but.  Led by the late Nujabes and Fat Jon--to get opinionamated now--this shit mostly sounds the same, goes for the noodly-sounding bullshit, and when it does get a groove on ruins it with pathetic flute loops or weak-ass female vocal hooks.  And the beats?  The beats are weak as fuck.  Some of it is good, no doubt, but it's not head-nodding.

Remember when illbient and trip-hop were actually a thing?  That made it easier, I guess, because the line's really blurred between 'electronic' and 'instrumental hip-hop.'  If I'm on the fence, I listen closely to the beats.  Do they go dit-dit-dit-dit-dit?  Electronic, get the fuck outta here with that.  Do they go boom-bop-bop-boom-bop-bop-boom?  Hip-hop.

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M.O.A.T. [indie MC division] :: C-Rayz Walz

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So in Greek mythology, you had the Titans who ruled over the Golden Age.  Cronos was the king Titan, but because he heard this prophecy his kids would overthrow him, he'd eat them as soon as they were born.  This one time his wife gives him a rock instead and raises the kid in secret.  When Zeus grows up he cuts his pop's stomach open and frees his siblings, who all grew up in there with only that baby-Zeus-sized rock to play with.  (That must've pretty much sucked.)  They establish the Olympic pantheon of the Greeks, Romans and all those paintings and sculptures of swan rape and flying sandal wearing naked muhfuckas from your high school art history class.

Where was I going with this?  Uh...shit.  Oh, right: if we cast El-P as the Zeus of the millenial indie-rap pantheon, the best and most overlooked MC from there is C-Rayz Walz.  He's like the Hephaestus of that click, the blacksmith god: he stays underground steady pounding iron and steel.

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the overlook hotel’s famous breakfast buffet

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A roundup of recent(ish) bangers.

I can't embed other players up in here, so deal with it.  Not gonna break the list into cute categories like 'eggs to order' or 'bacon tray' because that's stupid.  Also not gonna put 'em up in one big zip file because I keep it legals.

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libyan technique :: ibn thabit

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What we're seeing across North Africa and the Middle East is a youth revolution, driven by disenfranchisement and a lack of opportunities.  Hip hop has always been the original soundtrack for that.  It started in the city Ford told to drop dead, and since "The Message" it's been the theme music for angry young people whose rage is against poverty, ghettos and repression--political, racial and economic.  Public Enemy made politics and fist-up rebellion their sound, and the torch's been carried by a handful since then.

Hip hop's been international for years, go get a late pass.  I remember reading about Polish MCs in crumbling Soviet-era projects saying they couldn't understand the words of hip-hop, but the beats and the message still spoke to them.  There are ghettos all over the world, and hip hop is there.  OK, sure, it gets watered down here and over there as party music, gangsta posturing and fake rebellion in fitteds and sagging shorts, but on the real it's what Chuck D (in his Hannah Arendt moment) called 'the CNN of the ghetto,' now more than ever.

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more towels for room 237!

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Some shit what's been lighting up my earholes lately.  (Yeah, Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang is dope, but you knew that, right?) Read the rest of this entry »

live at the overlook :: blueprint

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Blueprint is one of those wickedly talented, underrated and undercelebrated cats, just as nice on the mic as on the boards, which is rare indeed.  (RZA, I'm looking in your direction: Please. Stop. Rapping.)  Coming hard off the Greenhouse joints, he's dropped a free sampler for y'all:

In preparation for the release of the new Blueprint Who EP that I will be dropping next week, the upcoming tour w/ Atmosphere, and my upcoming full-length album Adventures in Counter-Culture scheduled for release on Rhymesayers Entertainment later this year, I created this free “Best of Blueprint” mix.  I hope it will serve as a refresher for those who are already familiar with my music, and a good introduction to those who are new to my music. [props to Bloggerhouse]

Get it here.

You can grab a couple more free DLs and breathe deep:

Now you see what I'm talking about?  Get over to Weightless and cop some CDs.

the overlook hotel :: ‘a’ is for…beats?

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There's a lot of bitching going on about the internets and music...aside from the business/pirating side, cats complain that the ease of putting stuff out there electronically makes for too much material to sort through. Bitch, please. You want record labels to decide what we should listen to? Radio stations? Bloggers? What what?

Sure, you could spend your whole life listening exclusively to Japanese instrumental hip-hop, or digging through Bandcamp, but that's a whole lot better than being force-fed Rick Ross like a goddamn foie gras goose, ain't it?  Yeah, there’s more out there than anyone could physically listen to, and a lot of it’s garbage, but it gives a voice to anyone who wants to make themselves heard.  And the bigger the digital crates, the more the hidden gems.  As the warrior-poet Ice Cube once said, the bigger the cap, the bigger the peelin'.  So here's some beatmakers who begin with 'A' as a taste.

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prince paul vs. the world

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When people rate their '90s producers, I never understood why Pete Rock came close second to Premier and Prince Paul way down the list.  (Not to be confused with this Prince Paul, or this one or this one, though it's typical wacky PP stylee that they all share the same name.)  I mean, Pete Rock's done some great joints, no doubt, but he kinda defined a sound in the way Nathan's defined hot dogs.  It's just a type of frankfurter.

Prince Paul produced a steady string of some of the most creative and groundbreaking LPs before going for the gusto and cutting loose with the best (and only successful) concept records in all hip-hop, and some of the most innovative.  And the funniest.  Not too many actually funny cats in hip hop.  And I mean check the man's credits--Stetsasonic, 3 Feet High & Rising, Gravediggaz, Chubb Rock, Big Daddy Kane, Latifah, 3rd Bass, B.D.P., remixes galore.

Anyways, two of his unreleased LPs have seen the light and coming from his best era, they're slammin':

Resident Alien - It Takes A Nation Of Suckers To Let Us In (1990) [via Bloggerhouse]

Horror City (1995) [via T.R.O.Y.]

And if you don't have Prince Among Thieves, Psychoanalysis or Gold Dust, you should go buy them.  No money?  Paper route, motherfucker, paper route.