Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 1/11/11

Tons of new stuff in the pipeline: Winter Jazzfest, gypsy music downtown and a great album by an Iraqi freedom fighter. In the meantime, as we do every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s is #749:

Immortal Technique – Revolutionary Vol. 2

Pretty much what you would expect from a lyrical genius with an awareness of the world around him. Immortal Technique gets universal props for his style, but nobody casts as wide a net and brings in so much knowledge. This is his 2003 response to 9/11 and the terror of the Bush regime. The Cause of Death is the most spot-on critique issued by any musician since that time, Freedom of Speech re-emphasizes the CIA-Bin Laden connection and Bush’s crackdown on human rights that followed, and Leaving the Past drives the point home yet again: “Humanity’s gone in a gravity bong done by a Democrat/Republican Cheech and Chong.” “Immortal Technique is poison to the Patriot Act,” he snarls on The Point of No Return, a crystal-clear portrait of a world gone forever. Peruvian Cocaine sympathetically explores the world of the terrorized peasants who make the stuff (Tech has no sympathy for the drug lords). The Message and the Money and Industrial Revolution are two of the funniest and most apt critiques of the music industry ever written; Crossing the Boundary equates cultural imperialism on the part of American multinationals with the corporate hijacking of rap. The 4th Branch is a slam at the corporate media; Harlem Streets and Internally Bleeding paint a surreal picture of the everyday horrorshow in impoverished America. Mumia Abu-Jamal also guests eloquently on a couple of tracks including Homeland and Hip-Hop: “Do you think duct tape and color codes will make you safer?” Is this the greatest rap album ever made? One of them, anyway. Here’s a random torrent.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/3/11

Tons of new stuff in the pipeline here including a new NYC live music calendar for this month and February coming out later on today. In the meantime, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Monday’s is #757:

The Coup – Steal This Album

Although the Coup are a west coast hip-hop outfit (frontman/lyricist Boots Riley has been a community activist in Oakland for years), they have more of an east coast flavor: in fact, Riley is as good a candidate as anyone else for the title of greatest rap wordsmith ever. Where corporate rap glorifies guns and status objects, the Coup have always stuck up for the empoverished and the disenfranchised. As superb as their other albums are – everything they’ve ever done is worth owning – this 1998 release blends the funny with the poignant and the ferocious more than anything else they’ve done. The confrontational Piss on Your Grave is brutally amusing, as is The Repo Man Sings for You. 20,000 Gun Salute, The Shipment and Busterismology are revolutionary hip-hop at its most enlightening; Cars and Shoes, Me & Jesus the Pimp in a ’79 Granada Last Night and Breathing Apparatus speak to the struggling majority of us, as does the highlight of the album, Underdogs, arguably the most poetically apt depiction of the urban poverty trap ever recorded. By contrast, Sneakin’ In is a gleeful update on Public Enemy’s Yo Bum Rush the Show. Most recently, Riley has collaborated with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello in the rap-metal project Confrontation Camp. Here’s a random torrent.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/23/10

The weeklong “let’s finish the year with a bang” project is underway and would be further along if an impromptu indoor cookout fortified with lots of B&B hadn’t interrupted us: even here in the wilderness, where we’ll be for the next few days, everybody wants to party. No complaints: it’s nice to feel wanted. To get the day started, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues as it does every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #768:

Spearhead – Chocolate Supa Highway

Smartly aware, low-key stoner funk from 1997. Brilliant lyricist that he is, Michael Franti can be maddeningly erratic, but this one’s solid pretty much all the way through, as cynically insightful as his cult-classic Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy project from five years earlier. The title track isn’t just a stoner jam: “I can’t stand the pain outside my window/Why you think so many smoking indo?” It’s a feeling echoed on much of the rest of the album: Madness in tha Hood (Free Ride) and Food for tha Masses (“Geronimo Pratt done as many years as Mandela”) hit just as hard now as they did in the last century, along with the workingman/woman’s anthem Tha Payroll. The acoustic Americana trip-hop of Wayfaring Stranger (with a surprisingly effective Joan Osborne cameo) and Water Pistol Man are more surreal; Rebel Music interpolates hits by Bob Marley and Jacob Miller; Gas Gauge assesses the future after peak oil. Keep Me Lifted and Ganja Babe are more lighthearted without losing sight of the grimness through the haze of blunt smoke. The only miss here, predictably, is the love song. Most of this is streaming at grooveshark; here’s a random torrent.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert, rap music, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Album of the Day 12/14/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #777:

The Goats – Tricks of the Shade

Long out of print, this golden-age 1993 hip hop classic is a mix of songs and politically charged skits that remain as relevant now as they were in the age of Bush I’s first gulf war. Frontman Oatie Kato and his cohorts Madd (a.k.a. “the M-A-the-double-D”, a.k.a. Maxx), and Swayzack wander through a twisted, surreal carnival featuring attractions like Columbus’ Boat Ride, Noriega’s Coke Stand, Indian activist Leonard Peltier in a cage, Rovie Wade the Sword Swallower (“Hey Rovie, that’s not a sword, that’s a coat hanger”), the Drive By Bumper Cars and at the end, the ominous Uncle Scam’s Shooting Gallery. Along the way, they skewer Reaganomics and Fox TV (the viciously satirical TV Cops), smoke a lot of herb (the big hit Got Kinda High), and then dig in against the fascists with Not Not Bad and then Burn the Flag. Their follow-up album, No Goats No Glory, had another sizeable hit, Wake and Bake, plenty of pot references, but no more politics. And that was that. But we still have this classic. Here’s a random torrent.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/15/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #806:

Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star

Like an album by John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, this is a meeting between two giants of their field early in their careers. Mos Def and Talib Kweli were already stars of the hip-hop underground when they put out this rich and surprisingly subtle lyrical masterpiece in 1998. Released just at the point where major-label rap was getting the substance corporatized out of it, the rhymes here are self-aware without being mawkish, socially aware without being politically correct. It’s got the deep-space, pro-black metaphors of Astronomy (8th Light); Definition, an anti-violence shout-out to Biggie and 2Pac, and many ingenious levels of meaning on Children’s Story. Brown Skin Lady ominously samples Gil Scott-Heron’s nuclear apocalypse narrative We Almost Lost Detroit; Hater Players sends a casually fervent shout-out to their fellow underground MCs. There’s also the in-your-face K.O.S. (Determination) and the eerie, hypnotic Twice inna Lifetime. The centerpiece here is Thieves in the Night, a brilliantly insightful reminder that truth only reveals itself after the brainwashing is erased: “We live the truest lie, wonder why we fight the war of the bluest eye…while we find the beauty in the hideous.” The reverberating, electric piano-drenched samples are surprisingly psychedelic and interesting. Here’s a random torrent.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/8/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #143:

The Coup – Underdogs

No other song as succinctly and accurately captures the raw desperation of inner city poverty as well as this Clinton-era classic from the Oakland hip-hop crew’s 1999 cd Steal This Album. “I’d tear this shit up if I really loved you – and so would you.”

March 8, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Chang Jui-Chuan – Exodus: Retrospective and Prospective 1999-2009

Global hip-hop doesn’t get much better than this. Rapper/college professor Chang Jui-Chuan is a bonafide star of the hip-hop underground in his native Taiwan, and this collection – largely culled from a 2006 release – has him poised to cross over to an English-speaking audience. A gifted, frequently ferocious bilingual lyricist in his native language, Hokkien and also English, he delivers his English raps in a menacing, slurred Taiwanese-accented drawl. This is conscious hip-hop raised to a power: people have been executed for tackling the topics he addresses. He has little use for globalization:

You say free trade gets us out of poverty and hunger

Free trade saves my family from pistol triggers

Free trade assures good drugs for my son’s cancer

Then tell me why we’re dying faster than ever…

Exploitation disguised as freedom and democracy

Global corporations feed Third World Dictators

Paying less than one dollar per month for child workers…

He fearlessly takes the stand for dissidents who risk their lives around the globe, especially those who dare stand up to the mainland Chinese regime:

…when I’m placing an order on this free-speech website

It’s taken over by the interface in Chinese Simplified

Propaganda’s never simplified, can only be vandalized

I orchestrate lyrical drive-bys

The most potent lyric here is in Hokkien, titled Hey Kid, a scathing account of Chang Kai-shek’s invasion of Taiwan, the February 27, 1947 massacre of Taiwanese nationalist freedom fighters, and the subsequent terror that lasted decades and left tens of thousands of innocent civilians dead. He also addresses spiritual concerns without coming across as doctrinaire (he’s a Christian) and the need to preserve indigenous cultures in the face of western cultural imperialism. The backing tracks here deserve mention too because they’re excellent, ranging from spacy psychedelic funk, to roots reggae (Chang sings respectably well), to ominous, chromatically-charged funk-metal played by a live band rather than sampled. Fans of the best conscious American hip-hop acts: Immortal Technique, the Coup and Dead Prez are in for a treat here. Or maybe this guy can hook up with the Hsu-nami and we can get a real Taiwanese-American crossover.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments