Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, The Finale: Jay-Z And Kanye West Fiddle While The Underground Gets Wasted
This concludes Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, a conversation about pop music in 2011 between Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph. Read it all again.
Smell that money burning.
Thanks for the handoff, Nick, and thanks to Katherine, Tom and especially Maura for the great conversation over the past few days. I'll try and wrap this thing up with the rigor and candor you all have displayed so far. Quickly, to Tom's question about Skrillex: he is a big deal, and we should be talking more about him. I was just having a conversation about the fact that, yet again, hi-NRG dance music is making important inroads into American dance culturefor the first time since the "electronica" moment of the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, then the Big Beat microsecond of Fatboy Slim and Moby, which we quickly learned worked best on this side of the Atlantic in car commercials and movie trailers.
Skrillex's (and Canadian contemporary Deadmau5) most immediate predecessorin terms of function, not formis clearly Girl Talk, who taught American college and high school kids that it's okay to wild the fuck out now and again. Yet whereas Greg Gillis seems like an accidental hero who started making music off Limewire downloads after getting home from work, Skrillex strikes me as much more of a musician's musicianan ex-emo kid who saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up. As some of my smart esteemed colleagues (including Tomhi Tom!) were discussing on Twitter yesterday, critics need to pay attention to this new wave of party-starters. It's very likely to be a passing fad holding us over until Rock Comes To Reclaim The Fist-Pumping Throne, but maybejust maybeit'll trigger the rise of an entirely guitar-free musical culture for the next decade.
Speaking of things that have to do with raves, let's talk about drugs for a minute. Nick mentioned "High for This" at the start of his last post, and while Abel Tesfaye knows more than many how to properly tune a dank, sleazy party with the correct intoxicants, musical and otherwise, he's got nothing on the crop of compelling new under-and overground rappers from 2011 when it comes to getting (dangerously) fucked up. Some of the year's best rap from what Spin called the New Underground has brought back blunts and booze with a venegeance not seen since the early 1990s. The way these dudes rap so seriouslyso lovinglyabout getting fucked up is most certainly irresponsible, but at least it means I don't have to talk about straightedge fashion entrepreneur and enfant terrible Tyler, the Creator. He only inhales for his asthma, you see, and his roaches are, like, real roaches.
A$AP Rocky, "Kissin' Pink"
In 1943, Fats Waller introduced "The Reefer Song" by shouting out Harlem, before going on for a few minutes about how much he loved getting really, really high on weed. Nearly 70 years later, on his debut LIVELOVEA$AP, Harlem-bred A$AP Rocky brings Houston ride music uptown, and for a bit less than an hour extols the pleasures of weed, fucking, drinking Colt 45, weed, and of course, that screw juice. While most critics focused on the great early single "Peso" this year, my mind continually goes back to the equally trippy "Kissin' Pink" (slang for drinking codeine mixed with Sprite, which will fucking kill you if you're not really careful, so don't do it, kids!). Rocky ends his first verse by dreamily affirming the pleasures of something as simple as "styrofoam cups with Jolly Ranchers at the bottom," as the track giddily spirals heavenward. It's the best pure bit of dippy psychedelia I heard this year.
Danny Brown, "Blunt After Blunt"
A$AP directed Danny Brown's "Blunt After Blunt" video, in which the hipster-coiffed ex-Detroit crack dealer and cunnilingus aficianado (who with Kendrick Lamar has the most raw talent of the 2011 upstarts) defends smoking suitcases full of purple weed like frat dudes do shitty beer. Then there are what feel like the weed-rap veterans: Pittsburgh exhaler and football-jingle writer Wiz Khalifa sold upwards of 600,000 copies of this year's Rolling Papers, and Curren$ymy favorite of them allwho topped last year's stellar Pilot Talk diptych with the quietly remarkable and wonderfully pun-tastic Weekend at Burnies. The year's best single ode to ridiculous irresponsibility with intoxicants is easily Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire's "Huzzah (Remix)," however. The "drunk drivin' on a Wednesday" chorus, the introduction of Georgi vodka to a generation of Stereogum readers, and particularly great verses by Brown and especially El-P (which, read along!).