Monday, January 7, 2008
Recently, Roaches have invaded and multiplied in both our kitchen and my bedroom. I was planning on fighting a multiple front battle, complete with traps, cleaning, and assorted poisons, much like the Great Fly Elimination Campaign of Summer 2007, but suddenly I recalled the raspy, confrontational words of a self-appointed roach master, DJ Premier of GangStarr, and reached a moment of clarity.
I can hear you freaking out now: "WHAT?!? When did DJ Premier compare himself to a roach?" or perhaps more accurately, "who's DJ Premier?". Patience, my friends, as these answers reveal themselves through the chopped samples, monotone rhymes, and most importantly, self-righteous skits of Gang Starr. Let's have a look:
The backdrop: Ten years into the game, GangStarr releases their fourth album, 1998's "Moment of Truth". GangStarr is composed of two people: Guru, an MC from Boston, and DJ Premier, a producer from Texas. The group started their career in New York City, and they have constantly pretended as if they were actually from there. Up until the release of "Moment of Truth", they had achieved great critical acclaim and "street cred", but little commercial success. The "street cred" part is key, because during the 1990s, about 847 different rap groups achieved critical acclaim without sales, and 821 of these critically acclaimed groups were actually terrible, but were acclaimed nonetheless because they rapped about 'conscious' issues such as Malcolm X, Malcolm X's lieutenants, Marcus Garvey, Marcus Garvey's lieutenants, and having "mind sex".
The Song: The fourth song on "Moment of Truth" is the single, "Royalty". Instead of describing the song myself, I will theorize as to what one of my music theory professors would've done if they heard this song: After about fifteen seconds, they would start rambling incoherently about the "Spice'd Girls", then disappear from public consciousness. By the way, that's all classical music theory professors do: Compare their music with the Spice Girls, no matter what year it is. It's really kind of sad. they are trying so hard to connect their obsolete craft with young people, but they reveal their hand so blatantly by not being able to recall one single artist of the last twenty years except the most obviously fad-based and fraudulent. Way to take a stand with your art by picking on the easiest of targets. You know what would've hooked me? Showing up in class the first day and shitting on Loveless for fifty straight minutes. I'd be playing fucking Schumann recitals on piano right now.
Oh shit!? You what would've been even better, if my professor showed up the first day and was like "wah wha look at me, I'm an indie rock musician, I don't need that faggy theory" and started playing two chords and singing really horribly, than proceeded to spit on everyone. This would've only amused me, though, as everyone in that intro class was a culturally deficient idiot trying to get their math requirement out of the way. I, however, was THE ONE STUDENT WHO COULD BE SAVED.
Anyway, "Royalty" ends with a monologue by DJ Premier.
The monologue: DJ premier is all fired up or something. Apparently, some "break record" cats have been taking the songs GangStarr samples and pressing them into records to play at clubs. DJ Premier is incensed that these DJs then list GangStarr as the original sampler of the song on the sleeves of these records.
Are you confused? Let's break it down: GangStarr samples songs to make beats, but the beat can't obviously sound like the original song, or else the group will be liable to a lawsuit by the publisher of the original song (a note on this: The original songwriter usually doesn't give a fuck about the sample, just the shithead publishers). DJ Premier employs a technique to subvert these sampling laws: He "chops" or "stabs" the orginal song into an unrecognizable stew. Usually, these "chops" are mere seconds of the original song looped to infinity.
After chopping these songs, GangStarr puts out an album. Meanwhile, the hip-hop world is filled with DJs who are constantly looking for the original songs that groups like GangStarr sample to add to their collection. Why, you ask? Because DJs have to play sets where they need to keep the crowd dancing for a long time, AND have good transition material. Hip-hop artists tend to sample beats from songs that contain long instrumental breaks, so it is in the best interest for the DJ to discover these original samples as a way to add strength to the variety of his/her collection and have long instrumental beats to keep people dancing and aid transitions.
What these DJs do, however, is list GangStarr as the original sampler of the song on these instrumental break records they put out. This is essentially violating a code of honor, as now GangStarr have been "outed" for sampling a song that was previously unrecognizable to the average listener. DJ Premier rants against this violation, then drops this line:
"We'll continue to stay in the underground. We're like roaches: Never dying, always living"
Tomorrow, we reveal the conclusion of the roaches/GangStarr analogy and how it relates infestation at The Tweener head office.