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So for some reason I started collecting acoustic covers of hip hop, some amateur and some professional.  Jet from the Overdrone hooked me up with some, and others came from this insightful post over at Cover Laydown.  Then I found the vast trove of Youtube covers.

A lot of people get really pissed off at these; I guess they think they're insulting or mocking.  But it's far too much work to learn to play a song just for a stupid joke.  The literally thousands of covers you can find on YouTube are sincere in their own way; they're not blackface or wiggery, they're covers on the ukelele or $15 Target guitar.  This is not appropriation but, like any good covers, transformation and re-working within the musicians' (sic) genre, instrument and voice.

There are some covers I don't like, like the Ben Folds cover of "Bitches Ain't Shit" or the Obadiah Parker "Hey Ya", and most heavy metal covers.  There's a lack of contrast, or not enough cognitive dissonance, or something, that makes them uninteresting.  Then there's Duran Duran's "911 Is A Joke", which is just...too what-the-fuck.

I know I said last post these are not hip hop, but transforming music into something your own, and feeling it so much you gotta spit it--well, that is hip hop.  Look at the ukelele kid.  Holy shit, that is one un-gangsta motherfucker right there.  I especially love the comments:

Fallenknight155: You Fagget motherfucker why would you disgrace that song it's a rap song not one of your gay club songs. If I ever see you in the streets I'll deck you you in your chin

ChrisWestaway: i am ready to fight you.

But he loves "Bring The Noise" that much...?  That's the power of hip hop.  It makes some cats uncomfortable that kids at North Springfield Middle School know all the words to every song on Liquid Swords, but that didacticism is 20 years out of date and does not dilute hip hop one bit.

I keep thinking about that line in Michael Herr's Dispatches where he says "I saw a platoon [of Marines fighting in Vietnam] done up in Batman fetishes, it gave them a kind of dumb esprit."  There's a dumb gravitas to, say, "Gangsta's Paradise" which becomes a dumb mournful gravitas when it's remade into something off the Liquid Sky soundtrack.  There's a root in the blues in "The Message" which isn't apparent until it's covered as a blues song.  Is there an essential quality to "C.R.E.A.M." that is lost, or retained, when it's covered in the style of John Cougar Mellencamp Unplugged?

Or, you know, not.  I don't know, maybe I've lost my fucking mind.  They are pretty hilarious though.

Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuttin' To Fuck Wit - Joey, In The Dining Nook / Tubas Ain't Nuttin' To Fuck Wit - ThatKidsFine / Acoustic Wu-Medley - Sam The Recordmann / Cash Rules Every Acoustic Melody - Joe Reilly / Bring The Boise - Chris Westaway / Fuck The Police (Karaoke Version) - Joe & Derek / You're Gonna Get Yours - Joel Badeaux / Fight For Your Right (To Party) - S-Word / Gangsta's Paradise - Battery / Straight Outta Compton - Nina Gordon / The Message - Willy Mason / Gin & Juice (Deep Thoughts Mix)


rammellzee :: elegy for a gothic futurist


Beat Bop (1983) - w/K-Rob / Lecture (1987) - w/Shockdell / Equation (1989) - w/Material / Hisstory (1999) - w/Material / His Stories Crockery (2002) - w/New Flesh / My Horizon (2003) - from This Is What You Made Me / Sigma 1 (2004) - from Bi-Conicals of the Rammellzee / Beat Bop, Pt. 2 (2004) - w/Shockdell / Revelations Part 2 (2008) - w/Praxis / Uncommon freestyle (2007) / On Iconic Panzerism

Rammellzee, The RAMM:∑LL:Z∑∑, The Quantum Equation, The Gothic Futurist, Iconic Panzerist, The Master Alphabiter, King of the Garbage Gods, All-Around Crazy-Ass, moved from the material(ist) plane to one of pure graffiti on June 30.

Ramm started out as a graf writer and that informed everything he did.  The late '70s, early '80s--there was nothing we'd call hip-hop.  Just graffiti.  When downtown came uptown he got down with the art scene.  He was in the movie Wild Style and dropped "Beat Bop" with Schockdell and Basquiat.  Over the years he moved between making strange records, making strange artwork, and making very strange costumes--Iron Man by way of the garbage can.

He was one of those autodidact, true original, is-he-genius-or-just-talking-shit types.  Hip-hop's Sun Ra, George Clinton or Lee Scratch Perry, except his shit was too advanced to be as well-known and influential.  Why not more famous?  Well, the Museum of Modern Art owns some of his work, but in hip hop as usual the godfathers are left behind.  He wasn't really that interested in making records, and I think he was too unironic, too ghetto and too out there for the Soho scene to big him up.  I mean, wine and cheese gallery openings don't go well with homemade doll-head-covered Kabukitron outfits.

Kool Keith, K-The-I???, DJ Spooky, Killah Priest, Sir Menelik, Buck 65, Company Flow, Cannibal Ox, Super Chron Flight Brothers, Madlib, Lil B, Lil Wayne, all Anticon and Def Jux artists, and anyone who ever rapped about outer space, extreme/supreme mathematics, alien autopsies, Egyptian mythology, or any other kind of weird insane cryptic type shit, or rapped in highly coded messages of fractured language, all these people owe Rammellzee ten million dollars.  Because he invented that shit in Nine. Teen. Eighty. Three.

MF Doom wears a mask?  Rammellzee invented that shit.  RZA stands for Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah?  Rammellzee stands for RAM plus M for Magnitude, Sigma (Σ) the first summation operator, first L - longitude, second L - latitude, Z - z-bar, Σ, Σ - summation. I say it stands for: Rap's Ascended Master Mad Eloquent Lectures Landing Zone Earth Elevated. He legally changed his name to Rammellzee, for Christ's sake.  Top that, P. Diddly Oodly.  And Wacka Wocka Flame my ass.

Open Mike Eagle just dropped a nice LP called "Unapologetic Art Rap."  R:L:Z invented unapologetic art rap in 1983.  Open Mike Eagle owes him ten dollars.

The obits keep saying he 'influenced the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill,' by which they mean Ram's 'Gangsta Duck' nasal rhyming style made it OK for B-Real and Ad-Rock to be all nasal.  The Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill do not owe Ram ten dollars.  Maybe five dollars.

When you first saw The Matrix and got your mind blown in 1999, Rammellzee just shrugged and said: 'Told you.'

While today's no-talent rappers cozy up to cognac executives, Rammellzee invented some 2083 shit.  You best catch up.

This concise XLR8R review of his Bi-Conicals LP sums him up well:

Sometimes the album art says it all: some growling homeboy in a Beijing Opera mask, rainbow ski boots, with what appears to be a travel version of Connect Four dangling from his belt and, in the mirror, his opposite reflection. I don't know quite how it's happened, but Bi-Conicals sounds exactly like iconic hip-hopper Rammellzee looks--not quite insane, not quite clown. This album is full of gothic videogame hip-hop tunnel-scavengers that aren't quite demented enough to be truly fun, yet crazy enough as to be totally confusing to listen to.

Giovanni Marks sez: The dude was so far ahead of his time, no one even knew what it looked like when we all caught up to it.

Will Luckman sez: In a culture born of a desire for fame, RAMM∑LLZ∑∑ put on a mask and forced his way outside—transforming himself into a true god, an unseen force manipulating the world he dominated as he looked down from above, laughing.

He was one of those cats who dabbled in lots of media because the artform he specialized in hasn't been invented yet: a combo of graffitti, hip hop, sculpture, costumes, lectures, writing:

Q: Music or art? Which inspires you the most?


A lot of the time rappers who act crazy and talk shit, it's just an act.  There's no thinking behind it.  This is why I got tired of Kool Keith a few records ago and, like I said earlier, get frustrated with DOOM.  Rammellzee thought so much about grafitti and what it could mean, he sounded nuts, but he drops mad science if you listen.  He keeps going until ends up at pure mathematics.  It's hard to unpack it.  The Iconic Treatise is as dense and insane and brilliant as P.K. Dick's Exegesis.  The ideas about how language uses us, language's independence and domination, the need to free it from its own boundaries to reach enlightenment...these are all Burroughsian-like concepts in a wild style frame.

Q: You initially made your reputation in graffiti?

A: No, I was involved in gothic futurism and gothic text. Graffiti is a word that society placed on people it did not possibly understand. Before we could grow up and make our own determination of what technique or iconic statement we were doing, they decided - instead of saying we were abstract and have a whole society built on non complete information and these guys are about to scare the shit out of us with the biggest culture since futurism 10000 strong - to call us scribble, scrabble artists which is a contradiction right there. They called us something that eventually wiped us out.

So how does an all-city bomber end up in a handmade robot soundsystem suit making wildstyle Voltron skateboard sculptures?  Graffiti emerged from the dead zone, the war zone of '70s New York.  It was the disenfranchised taking back the trains.  You take the trains, you take the city.  They took the trains with their names, with letters.  The alphabet became the weapon.  The trains were the tanks.  The terminology was already there--bombing, burning.  So trains are 'rolling pages'--blank of writing, public transit papyrus.

My inspiration was my curiosity of why people wanted to write on trains, the biggest distribution gallery for any art form known to man...JESTER did what we should call now, the "signoverture." a letter with a harpoon on it. I based most of my style on that. I often wondered why JESTER armored the "letter" with a barbed arrow...

The letter music notes and weather notes that were done down there reached a point where you didn't need to kill a person. The piece itself became a weapon: the letter itself. So fame was the most interesting to take out. How do you know George Washington? You know him through a name. You shoot the letter on the train at the other name and it takes out that name. So therefore homeboy has no identity. Why should I kill him? He'll just be dead anyway because nobody will know who he is.

My style did not break away from any traditional art form of the illuminations. I just went further, did what people wouldn't. We all painted three dimensional letters. I just finished mines by building them. Those rolling pages in those wind tunnels showed everyone what to do. Those who chose to complete "that" competition of the five boroughs of New York City, had their reasons to finish or not their studies. Even if their studies were rolling at the speed of 35 miles per hour.

Wild style.  Three-dimensional letters--illegible unless you're initiated.  Coded language.  Electricity straight down the third rail.  These are also armored letters--protected from interpretation and exploitation.  "The letter is armed to stop all the phony formations, lies, and tricknowlegies placed upon its structure..." as Ram put it, "...how a letter aerodynamically changes into a tank."

Rammellzee is a military function formation… I am ramming the knowledge to an elevation and I am understanding the knowledge behind the Zee. Since we are dealing with Roman letters, we have to go back to the day when the Romans were using the ram to break down doors. Our situation today is to break down a door of knowledge hidden behind society. We're going to work our way around it instead of breaking it straight up. Whereas before you'd be trying to break through and you would be on the bottom of the pile. We're talking about where graffiti originated, where hardcore war went down, with markers against markers and letters against letters. You think war is always shooting and beating everybody up, but no, we had the letters fight for us.

From there it gets even more obtuse.  He started thinking about the connection between graf and illuminated manuscripts (gothic script).  And he decided he was continuing the work of medieval monks whose illuminations were banned by the Catholic Church.  Then he got into the idea that language is mathematics, and electromagnetic forces, and all this is preventing us from moving out into space...into Burroughs territory but also into Time Cube territory.  But there was always a coded Afrofuturist agenda there, his Five Percenter past keeping it relevant.

In 2001 R:L:Z said:

We failed what could have been "our" culture. I went to the Puck Building (Guernsey's Auction) in June of the year 2000 and offered my services. Everyone who was anyone in this "subculture" had works for sale. No one sold, except for a few. I felt that the "culture" died right there. There was too much "mannerism" not enough "burner"!!! Our futurism! We should have only stuck to doing the "letter" and joined together to fight the light dwellers. but, we will always be Kings From the Dark Continent. The veins of this Gotham! Remember this the next level, as you said, is the third dimension. I hope.

Born in Far Rock, Away.  He took the A train.

Source Codes:

the overlook hotel :: mixtape edition


It's the Overlook Hotel, because you slept there.  Also, blood coming out of the elevator.  I gotta get the maintenance guy to look at that.

Here's a roundup of some sweet mixes I've been bumping lately.  All of 'em are free and legal, so stay off my dick, DMCA cops.  Click the titles to download.

Read the rest of this entry »

DJ Pain Makes The Earth Stand Still

There's a new breed of DJ emerging in the subterranean.  In the mainstream, you have these cats making their name off of mixtapes of the latest shitty, ringtone gangstaism nonsense, where they yell their stupid name every 3 seconds with some dumb-ass sound effect.  (Hey, mixtape DJs: you know who thinks the sound of whooshing fighter jets is really cool?  Six year old boys. And what's with the air raid siren? Is that like the only other sound effect you have? Are you reppin' the Blitz? What's the story?)

But underground there's a new breed emerging.  Like C.H.U.D.s with Technics.  Technichuds?  Whatever, these cats are killing it.  They're creating whole soundscapes out of other people's tunes, ones which are thoughtful, engaging, rocking, playful, explorative, fascinating, and just plain dope as fuck.  What they're doing is long-wave sampling.

Originally DJs took just the best breaks to make records.  Then you had a limitation on the early samplers of 8 seconds or something, so samples got shorter.  Innovators like the Bomb Squad started taking minute slices and making songs with them; RZA took this to another level by using isolated shards of funk.  By legal necessity samples got shook, shrunk, sliced and diced.

These cats do it galaxy-size.  They make cohesive hour-long songs out of other people's breaks, songs, movies, what have you.  They're not constrained by genre or style or legality.  If it's dope, if it fits, it goes in.  Just as old school DJs soaked the labels off their vinyl so no one could jack their breaks, these DJs mix it and lump it and don't show off their tracklistings.  Just like when DJs use a sample or a break you recognize but can't quite put your finger on right away, these cats do it with songs.

They're jumping off from the mixes Steinski, Coldcut and Cut Chemist did, but using a wider variety of stuff, and using the newer, iller sounds that are around--the illbient, sneakergazer, dubstep, all that other unclassifiable shit.

They ain't doing compilations and this ain't your Spring Break Party Mix or your Mixtape For Girl I Want To Screw.  This is DJ art in album-length.  I will never be as good as these cats.  I will study them.  I will try to do what they do.  I will ape them.  I will fail.

I'm gonna talk about Dday One's new approach to jazz/hip-hop and Gaslamp Killer's fusion of hip-hop, eclecticism and serial killer stylee another time.  But today it's DJ Pain.


Pain brings down a serious vibe, not as heavy as Gaslamp Killer but there's a definite hardness and weight to his beats. All of his shit appears to be free, so there's no excuse not to check 'em out. His scratching is Grade Fuckin' A. His mixing is seamless--you just can't hear quite where one song goes into another. He drops some seriously ill samples, mostly movies but just enough hip-hop signifying that you don't go, 'wait, this is a bunch of arty Ninja Tunes type of electronic crap.' I think he's dropping beats in there, too, because the beats are superb and hard-ass, and if he's actually crate-digging that much ill, moody stuff with such ill beats, well, I want those crates.

The Day The Earth Stood Still samples a bunch from the original flick, not the dumbass Keanu remake, on top of sick beats.  It's almost exhausting, it brings you through so many moods. This is maybe the absolute strongest. Get it here.

The Road To Oblivion brings the nuclear heat, with samples from Wargames, Miracle Mile, The Day After, Bay of Pigs interviews, and other shit.  Let me put it like this: He drops in samples from those Bush State of the Union remixes I ran earlier over what sounds like a Prefuse73 or Four Tet beat, then drops the beat for a Meryl Streep in Adaptation sample.  Get it here.

Hermanos Del Pulpo (which means brüder der krake or 章鱼的兄弟, for my Chinese brethren) with DJ Chaps One. This one is the weakest, I think, much more eclectic in bringing in rock and more straight electronic type stuff. Enough good shit on there to curse the lack of a tracklist though...  Get it here.

The Odd Side of the Sun is a megamix of Odd Nosdam beats.  If you like Odd Nosdam, this is like fucking manna.  If you hate Odd Nosdam, well, it's probably like sticking a dentist's drill in your ear for an hour.  I have to say a lot of it I didn't recognize, which might be the weaker ON tracks I've ditched, but he does do some good mixing with it and brings in that large, distorted fuzz-beat sound. Maybe not the strongest outing though. Get it here.

You know what, there's not all that much I can say about these except drop a bunch of adjectives, 'cuz he doesn't do tracklistings and I can only pick out a few breaks here and there.  If you like that weird, heavy instrumental shit with proper hip-hop flavor, check it.

In a lot of ways these DJs are hipsters of a kind, on the underground, totally eclectic and crate diggin', but there's something egoless and humbling about being a DJ: you can only be so egotistical when you only speak with your hands, only be so pretentious in crafting a good mix.

Pain in the Myspace

DJ Pain.com

Pain on Sun Dialect Records site

K-The-I??? Just Got Hit In The Head With A Brick

DSC00579.jpg You know I'm all about that willfully obscure, fucking bizarre crazy shit. K-The-I??? is basically Saul Williams if Saul Williams could actually flow and didn't take himself so goddamn seriously. K's beats are insane. The rhyming is flowing on some stream-of-collective-unconsciousness tip, and often totally off the beat in ways that makes the songs ride the line between beautiful noise and that's-just-irritating-cacaphony.  He raps like someone just hit him in the head with a brick. You have to learn how to listen to it.  It was the same with early P.E.--the first time I dropped the needle on the Bring the Noise 12", I was flipping the speed between 33 1/3 and 45 because it sounded so ill.  36 Chambers was like that too--you have to work for it to find the beauty in the beat. We're beyond that 'I'ma rhyme about UFOs and the pyramids because it makes me sound deep' territory now. This is avant-garde hip hop. This is fucking art right here. If Cannibal Ox was hip hop's answer to Miles & Coltrane, K-The-I??? is hip hop's Charles Mingus.  And Dalek is Ornette Coleman with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. To put it another way, if Edan is Backpacker World's Eminem (talented whiteboy overly concerned with farts and drugs), K-The-I??? would be its Biggie. I'll be running a few of his songs in the '09, but peep this cat out. K-The-Myspace??? with some tracks. Teletron 1 - early track Angry Space (V8, K-The-I??? & Shortrock) - Free EP Anyone who's got some of his pre-Broken Love Letter shit, hit me up, I can't find it nowhere nohow. Or the Youth:Kill 7". Hit the button down there for 'Sabbath Faster'.

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