By Ringo P
Hello and welcome to the inaugural Ringometrics Redux column for Collapse Board. Ringometrics? My name is Ringo. My blog is called Ringometry, which just a pompous way of saying “my way of working stuff out”. Despite the title, I try not to talk about myself too often cos I’m nowhere near as interesting as (most of) the music I listen to but I tend to write in the first person because I think it’s more honest, less tiring to read (and write). The regular Ringometrics column on Ringometry is just a hastily edited series of jottings from my (virtual) notebook. Me taking measure of … anything I’m interested in, really. Rap music, mostly. Hip-hop, grime, pop, R&B. Sometimes even rock. Bookmarked music, ideas highlighted for attention in a future that probably won’t happen, presented in list format cos, again, it feels right. It’s early days with this Redux edition, so I reserve the right to change direction at any point, but right now the intention is to make an attempt at shaping the same material into a regular column. Like what you might read in a newspaper if all the papers in the U.K. weren’t so full of mealy mouthed shit. An attempt to impose some sort of order on the mess of stuff I’ve chosen to consume. Maybe fill in a bit more background here and there. Minus the rock stuff cos there’s too much of that on Collapse Board already. Got it? Good, let’s go.
This week has been fairly typical of recent months with a huge proportion of listening coming from the Dirty South, spiritually at least. For example, much hyped Harlemite A$AP Rocky. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me to get off the fence with the A$AP Mob and new single ‘Goldie‘ isn’t doing much to help matters. On the one hand, I love cultural appropriation. How could I hate it? It’s how cultures evolve. I love Eminem, “y’all act like you never seen a white person before”, ‘Ice Ice Baby‘, Mick Jagger singing ‘Down Home Girl‘. I love it when the synthesis creates something of wonder, but almost as good I love white people making themselves looking like wazzocks trying to get their head round black culture. Cos it’s cute, cos not all great music is virtuoso. And heck, it gives me license to do the same in another medium, right?
But, yeah … back to the A$AP gang. Different kind of appropriation, even if I love the bits in the ‘Purple Swag‘ video where he’s got that attractive white girl mouthing his words. His appropriation isn’t about skin colour, it’s New York aping Houston. As a UGK fan I should be applauding their victory. ‘Goldie’ does make it a little easier cos it’s a banger of sorts, as cum-headed braggadocio goes, pumped up but self-aware enough to make me think Rocky realises that screwed down hook “Everybody play the tough guy ’till shit pop off” applies to him as much as anyone. So what’s holding me back from raving about Rocky? Whim, possibly. Anyone who can roll with a white soul hook as insipid as the one on ‘Peso’ can’t be trusted. Untangle that.
Meanwhile, down in the actual Dirty South, Mystikal continues to test the limits of my brutalist liberalism. In theory I don’t give a damn how ‘evil’ an artist may be when I’m judging their music. In practice I’m not a fan of Big Lurch or Charles Manson. Mystikal hasn’t killed anyone, yet, to my knowledge, but this week it’s been announced he’s following up a six year sentence for terrorising a woman into sucking him off with three extra months for breaking his parole. The violation? Unspecified “domestic violence’” against the mother of his two children. Of course, I don’t know the guy, but that’s not a great character reference. On the other hand, his appearance smack bang in the middle of T-Bo’s ‘Don’t Jump Move‘ is kinetic, even if the lines where he offers to “Shove a dick up your daughter” and threatens “Bitch, I’m a kill you!” are a bit uncomfortable.
I’m willing to accept it may be a stain on my character that I’d rather listen to T-Bo and Mystikal than Hasan Salaam’s ‘Miss America‘. Judging just by what Salaam says, lyrically and in the video, it should be right up my street. It’s a rant against American colonialism, he talks about the US as a disease ridden whore playing to all the anti-American prejudices any moderately intelligent western liberal obsessed with American culture is likely to have. He flashes up cool words on screen like “It is not unpatriotic to be critical of your country, It is unpatriotic not to”, and I’ve always liked that even though the double double negative is a mean way of tricking my brain into action. The problem? It’s not particularly musical and Salaam displays the charisma of a potato. He’s another Immortal Technique, he should be writing books. If I’m only listening to the lyrics out of some (misguided?) sense of ethical or critical duty what’s the point?
My problem with Big K.R.I.T. is sort of similar. I skipped over two links to Fat Trel’s K.R.I.T. produced ‘Swishas & Liquor‘ before taking the bait third time round. I’m glad I did. It would have been a shame if K.R.I.T.’s dullness on the mic blinded me to his greatness as a producer. He’s a better feel for replicating the late Pimp C’s panoramic auras than anyone else I’ve heard lately, on this evidence he’s got a pretty good feel for DJ Paul and Juicy J, too. And I’ve no problem with the lack of originality. No idea’s original, right? That much is obvious.
No, it took me a while to figure out what was missing. I thought maybe it was just he didn’t have much left to say after being comprehensively gripping on K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, but that’s not entirely right. Yeah, he’s repeating himself but that wouldn’t be such a problem except everything since has lacked the same nervous energy. For that one sprint he was a great emcee because he was recording at a time he thought his career was over. His success destroyed the drive that made him excel as a rapper. Fat Trel is a whole other story. A profile in his local paper The Washington Post refers to a difficult upbringing and a bright future as DC’s biggest export since Wale, but he feels like someone whose issues aren’t as easily resolved. I’m downloading his mixtape Nightmare On E Street, optimistically but with trepadition. We’ll see.