Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Hello, July

Home of American Independence, Gallic Boisterousness, and (of course) my birthday.

It is bloody hot in Norwich today. I walked around town before heading up to campus and it felt, dereal-isingly, like being in a foreign city. Down by Cow Tower (pictured) all the crims and fishermen had their tops off: that's when you know it's properly hot in England.
Quick Thoughts:
1 - Slagging off Noel Gallagher is the new hip (but not hop) thing to do, because - to paraphrase Kennedy (not me, or my Dad, or my brother) - 'we are all rappers now'. I can't help but feel the point has been slightly missed here: Jay Z did precisely what Gallagher predicted he would, namely gooning around on stage like a hyperactive six year old while boasting about how tough/ rich/ virile he was. NG is being made out to be some Tebbity throwback who 'doesn't even know what hip-hop is': my feeling is that his sentiment about 'hip-hop not being right for Glastonbury' was shorthand for 'bling-based twat-hop' not being right for Glastonbury. I've read interviews with NG where he espouses the virtues of Public Enemy et al, and anyone who keeps an eye on the music press knows Gallagher is a hell of lot smarter than he's given credit for in the London media. I get the impression that the people who are hailing Jay Z as a genius striking a blow against the hegemony of rock music in this country (like, er, Westwood) are ignoring two crucial facts, namely that a) bad hip-hop and r&b is more or less ubiquitous, and is purchased by many of the same people who buy the worst kind of anodyne guitar rock (Coldplay) and b) Jay Z is a knobhead. If Gallagher had made the same statement about someone who isn't willing to collaborate with any pasty white rock musician who fancies a bit of easily-accessible 'credibility' (ie, Chris Martin) I'd have been a lot more surprised.
2) The media/ blogging response to the Jay Z/ Gallagher spat smacks of gross white-boy/ girl paternalism, not racial equality.
3) Why is it that musicians from the north-west of England (Ian McCulloch, Ian Brown, Noel Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft) are constantly represented as arrogant plebs stepping above their station by music writers? Why is it more critically acceptable to like Ride than it is to like the early Verve records (pre-'A Northern Soul', I mean)?
4) Is this debate (secretly) less about rock v hip-hop than about south v north?


Karl said...

I'm not sure about the North/South debate, but I find it hard to support the idea of Noel Gallagher as advocate for politically engaged hip-hop rather than bling-based sexist-hop of the kind Jay-Z peddles. Although he tries to make this point (most notably in an interview three years ago) he obscures his point by dabbling in unfortunate racial stereotyping - characterising most rappers as 'crackheads' (although he didn't call Jay-Z this). Jay-Z's undoubted business success challenges this stereotyping, and his burying of the hatchet with Nas after enmity grew between them was a positive (and reasonably brave) step in post Biggie and Tupac Black America. I don't think his music is great (Nas is superior), but I do think he's a figure of some substance, and he's got every right to place himself in the pantheon of hip-hop. Or headline Glasto. The Glasto 'controversy' may just have been hype, anyhow, but does raise some interesting questions outside of the binary opposition Noel/Jay-Z choice. All I know is that the slew of no-mark indie on show at Glasto made me want to kick my television in.

Joe said...

I'll admit that I was being knee-jerk about this: I just got really pissed off about the media lionisation of Jay-Z for doing not much more than covering 'Wonderwall'. Maybe they should have got the Mike Flowers Pops and the crowd at Manchester City circa 1996 to join him. I have a residual admiration for Gallagher, in spite of his tendency to purposefully court controversy. While I'm not saying that he was encouraging us to go out and listen to the latest politically-savvy backpack-hop I'm convinced that he isn't doing down all hip-hop in that interview.

I didn't know about the thing with Nas and, in the context, that can only be a good thing. However, I've never felt moved to admire the man's music or the political positions it seems to espouse. I agree, from my vague experience of it, that Nas is better; I think I've actively enjoyed his music in the past.

Maybe what annoyed me was the immediate binarisation that seemed to happen in the papers: if you didn't think Jay Z was the right man for the show, you were a hoary musical conservative. I don't happen to be of the pop-ist school of thought which (more or less automatically, at least since the appearance of the Neptunes) makes out like mainstream hip-hop and r&b is the only vanguard of experimental music now. It also seems that, while hip-hop fans are allowed to indulge in a genre-splitting mise-en-abyme as regards their personal preferences, this situation required mere laymen (ie, me) to either be 'for hip-hop' or 'against' it. I like quite a lot of hip-hop, I hate quite a lot of hip-hop. Likewise, I enjoy about 8 or 9 percent of Noel G's recorded output and think the remainder is pretty atrocious.

I do agree that most contemporary indie is atrocious, and would further add that the 'indiefication' of (British) TV is vomit-inducing: seeing CBBC presenters espousing the virtues of, say, Gang of Four makes me feel uncomfortable, to say the least. Perhaps I find the post-Peel musical landscape (anything goes, anywhere, because of MySpace) a little difficult to negotiate.

Lastly, I'm sure that other factors come into play in Gallagher-related stories. I know that the worst thing he ever said (re: Damon Albarn and Alex James)was pretty much inexcusable, but he's since apologised and he does make useful (if rather grumpily commonsensical) contributions to discussions about mainstream pop culture.

Anyway...you well?


Karl said...

Grand, really. Just plodding along with work and for the most part experiencing life (and Glastonbury) vicariously - through the telly. Not really going anywhere this summmer (apart from the Isle of Man for a wedding). What got me about the Jay-Z performance was that he seemed to be in on the joke - there was a point where he turned the microphone on the crowd, so they could complete the lyric. Cue baffled silence, followed by laughter from the rapper. Ultimately I think it was segment-marketing (who doesn't usually go to Glasto? Urban, hip-hop-pop loving kids - they probably didn't go anyway) in order to sell out tickets to the festival, which had been slow I understand. It should have been Slick Rick headlining, dammit. How are things with you?

Joe said...

Alright - the coffee-induced mad days have begun. I'm just editing/ rewriting everything, but two chapters in particular are giving me jip. I spent a good part of the weekend watching Glastonbury on I-Player and trying to forget about it.

Weirdly, my summer also involves no trips apart from a short sally up to the Pennines for a friend's wedding. Well, not that weird, given that I'm trying to finish my PhD, but weird in the sense that you aren't going anywhere either.

I am starting to wish it would just write itself, though...