The Final Status Ain't Hood

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Grant Siedlecki on the Photoshop assist

So this is it: goodbye, for real this time. To everyone who wasted valuable work time reading this thing: Thank you. And I'll be back.

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The Quarterly Report: Status Ain't Hood's Favorite New Singles

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You can't really tell, but that's me and Juicy J

At around 1:30 this afternoon, I ran into Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia as he was walking into the pizza place across from the Voice offices, and I sort of dorked out. Even though it's pretty hot outside today, he was wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt that said I love having sex on the front and But I'd rather get some head on the back. I got all nervous even though I've interviewed the guy twice. He didn't really say anything, but he was patient enough to wait around while I fumbled around with my iPhone trying to get a picture. (That above picture is the best of the three I took, which should tell you how shitty a cell-phone photographer I am.) I figure that has to be a good omen for my departure, right? Juicy J?

I didn't tell Juicy that "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)" did not come anywhere near my quarterly singles list. (I did, however, tell him that the new album bangs, which it basically does.) I didn't realize until I started putting this list together, but the past three months have been just as rich for singles as they've been for albums, and there's been a ton of great rap singles in particular. A lot of songs I loved didn't make the final cut, so if anyone wants to know, make noise and I'll list 11 through 20 in the comments section.

1. Young Jeezy: "Put On [feat. Kanye West]"

A monster of a song, with a moving undercurrent that goes beyond the adrenaline-rush. As a Jeezy banger, it's the most epic thing we've heard since "Hypnotize." Drumma Boy's track is absurd furious world-swallowing gothic melodrama: drums titanic, synth-glimmers beautiful. Jeezy just attacks this thing with a blood-and-thunder ferocity I haven't heard from him before. His lyrics here might not go beyond his usual bigger-than-life I-am-the-trap stuff, but he gets those sentiments across with more wit and style than he's ever attempted before. I love that Super 8/super plate/super cake/super freight bit in the first verse and the extended food metaphors in the second. But while Jeezy is all chest-thumping triumph here, Kanye comes along all autotuned-out and sounding inconsolable, ranting paranoiac depressive shit about how he can't trust anyone now that he's famous and how the success he's worked so hard to achieve isn't bringing him anywhere closer to actual happiness. And somehow Jeezy's big talk and Kanye's pathos mesh both with the track and with each other perfectly. I can't imagine it was conceived this way, but the track works as a shockingly multifaceted meditation on success, on both the exhilaration and the stress that come along with it. It's dark as hell, but nothing sounds better in my car on a sunny day. That's a near-impossible balance to pull off.


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The Quarterly Report: Status Ain't Hood's Favorite New Albums

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Dead blog posting

Hey, we're not going on strike! So that means you get a couple more days of me posting like a lameass after all the goodbye festivities. For real, though, I can't even begin to say how much I'm loving all this attention. Hated-on has been my default setting for years running now, and the idea that people are actually consistently reading and liking what I've done here is a no-joke mind-blower. So onto my favorite running feature, the one where I rank my favorites from the (in this case, particularly fertile) past three months. The top three here could've come in pretty much any order depending on my mood; every one is, I think, a total masterwork. Apologies to Prodigy, Torche, AZ, M83, Dark Meat, Santogold, Three 6 Mafia, Nine Inch Nails, Scarlett Johansson, Spiritualized, Wale, and Bun B.

1. The Hold Steady: Stay Positive

Ranking this one is a bit tricky, since it only really half came out during the three months we're working with here: digital release was a couple of weeks back, physical retail will be a couple of weeks from now. And that means I'm writing this one up without access to a lyric sheet, which is always what puts these things over the top for me: seeing Craig Finn's splenetic rants laid out on paper in all their forceful elegance. The Hold Steady has been slowly beefing up an already-huge sound over four albums now, and this one just bursts: harpsichords and guitar solos and saxophones and pounded pianos. It's also the one where an indie-rock band playing classic bar-rock gets self-consciously weird, which paradoxically has the effect of moving them closer to classic-rock than to standard-issue indie; suffice to say Wolf Parade isn't trying anything like the talkbox solo on "Joke About Jamaica." At this point, we basically know what we're getting with Hold Steady albums: spastically yammered stories about debauched fuckups over titanic, triumphant bar-rock. Boys and Girls in America, the last one, was dominated by these moments of total exhilaration and freedom that come with being a drunk punk kid in a mid-sized city, crewing up and losing your mind and finding a place in the world. Stay Positive has a few moments like that, but it's more about what happens when you lurk around that scene for too long, when you become the creepy older guy and you watch your own life, along with the lives of everyone else who's stuck around, fall to pieces. Except the band's swaggery chug, which gets more epic with every album, turns that general sense of unease and dread into something grand and near-transcendent. My favorite moment, the one that resonates the most and encapsulates the album most completely, comes near the end of "Lord, I'm Discouraged," this album's most sweeping tears-in-beer power-ballad, the one about knowing you can't help this girl but knowing just as well that you're powerless to let her go. On the breakdown: "This guy from the North Side comes down to visit / His visits, they only take five or six minutes." Cue blazing guitar solo. There's magic in that moment, but there's also a bottomless well of pain, and it knocks me dead every time.


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Status Ain't Hood Says Goodbye

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Bone gristle popping from continuous grinding

This could be my last day at the Village Voice. I've been working at this newspaper for just shy of three years now, and I've made it through countless staff purges and five different editors-in-chief. (It's six if you count Eric Wemple, but I never laid eyes on the guy, so I don't.) I've written 749 posts, probably millions of words. As far as I know, I've been blogging professionally about music longer than anyone on the planet, and I've certainly stayed in one place longer than anyone else. Something like half the staff here has either been fired or left since I started, and it's pretty incredible that nobody's seen fit to axe me. But nothing lasts forever. I'm leaving the paper this week, going to work for another spot. And I'm still not fired. My new gig is for a new online thing that's launching this fall, and I wish I could tell you guys more about it right now.


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Status Ain't Hood's Greatest Hits

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It won't be much longer now, so let's take a look back, one per month. Indulge me.

British Rappers Pretending to be Rappers. The very first Status Ain't Hood ever: a review of three shows I saw during one incredibly hectic weekend. Jesus Christ, I was younger then. This was back during the weird little moment when grime actually seemed like it might be a thing, but I can still safely say that that Kano set was among the best I've seen since I landed on these shores. I actually wrote a few of my favorite posts during that first month, August 05, like the Scream Tour review and the David Banner thing.

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Live: Liz Phair Returns to Guyville

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And watch how fast I run to the sea

Liz Phair
Hiro Ballroom
June 25, 2008

This is the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, which means it's also probably the fourteenth anniversary of Liz Phair distancing herself from Exile in Guyville. A few years back, when she was working with Avril Lavigne song-doctors the Matrix, Phair was claiming in interviews that she'd never given a damn about that whole indie/underground willfully-obscure aesthetic, that she'd always wanted to make widescreen pop music. That's a claim I'd be inclined to believe from anyone else, but Exile in Guyville is too perfect a realization of that whole indie aesthetic. In fact, for me, it's possibly the most perfect realization, the one that goes a million miles toward at least explaining the existence of every godawful Pavement-clone still sending ironic noodles out into the world. Guyville had classic-rock slither and serious hooks, but it also had every last tenet of that aesthetic: muffled and pillowy production, flatly conversational vocals, lyrics that artfully but directly depicted very specific tangled-up feelings, jangly riffs, the vague sense that the singer was having a laugh at the listener's expense at least part of the time. For somebody who never gave a fuck about indie, Phair sure knew how to bring the pseudo-genre to its absolute platonic ideal. But she's still keeping up that contrarian streak even now; in the new Entertainment Weekly, she names Third Eye Blind's self-titled album her favorite lazy-Sunday LP, a choice guaranteed to piss off people who still care about such things even if she really genuinely does love Third Eye Blind. (And, I mean, she probably does; plenty of people do.)


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The BET Awards: A Running Diary

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Millions and millions of Obama references, right here

So: an awards show where everyone gets to do full versions of their songs, where the camera doesn't jerk around spasmodically, where the lifetime honoree types get like a half-hour of screen-time, and where everybody in the crowd seems ecstatic to be there. Learn, MTV! (Best audience member, throughout the show: Ne-Yo. No contest.)

8:00: Usher gets the big epic opening slot, emerging from a lit-up dry-ice chamber like he was Han Solo coming out of carbonite or something. He's got the Michael Jackson-looking black vinyl clothes, and he's dancing on an extremely slow-moving conveyor belt singing "Love in This Club," lip-syncing so blatantly that he lets the track speed all up. Usher is such a weird dancer; every move is so crisp and defined, like he's an incredibly well-designed animatronic mannequin. It's sort of breathtaking whenever he shows up on live TV; like, he's really doing all this stuff. No Jeezy. I love that heartbeat-dance thing near the end of the song. I have no idea how anybody's supposed to follow this.


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Girl Talk's Pop-Music Car-Wreck

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I really hope this is his parents' house

People actually dance at Girl Talk shows. I'm not quite sure how this happens, but it does. On record and in person, the Pittsburgh laptop DJ Greg Gillis specializes in a sort of everything-at-once geyser of instantly recognizable reference-points: rappers rapping over old rock songs, old rock singers singing over rap beats, no single piece of music allowed to play for more than a few seconds before being violently disrupted by some other piece of music. It's the mash-up, that unbearable futuristic trend of six years ago, pushed way past its natural endpoint. For me, the absolute high-water mark of the whole mash-up silliness was Hollertronix's Never Scared mixtape, an omnivorous dance assault that pulled from sources spread haphazardly across genre but mostly keeping within a very specific idea of cool; Missy Elliott slashed with the Clash, say. Diplo and Low Budget actually managed to forge an aesthetic out of that blenderized idea of cool. The unfortunate byproducts of that aesthetic are currently making unbearable noise all over blog-house blogs, but I never had any trouble seeing how people could dance at Hollertronix DJ gigs. Girl Talk shows are another story. Gillis goes way more trash-culture with his song-choices, mostly swinging way away from anyone's idea of cool unless someone's idea of cool involves "Criminal Minded" careening into Paula Cole's "I Don't Wanna Wait." Gillis is totally uninterested in holding a beat for more than a second or two, which you'd think would make dancing hard. I sure as hell can't dance to the stuff. But at a Mercury Lounge show a couple of years ago, I watched a crowd bug the fuck out. Maybe whoo-ing and pogoing and spilling drinks on my shoes don't quite count as dancing, but they're something. And at the Pitchfork festival last year, things got even weirder: as Gillis hunched over his laptop on the festival's fenced-in third-stage, a massive crowd converged: climbing trees, hanging off chain-link fences, whooping from across the street. For music so based in catching references as they fly by, Girl Talk sure seems to inspire a lot of dumbing out.


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50 Cent vs. Young Buck: Worst Rap Beef Ever

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I don't like the way he do it

There's a moment in this latest taped missive where 50 Cent looks meaningfully into the camera and says, "This is what money does." Well, yeah. The entire issue between 50 Cent and Young Buck appears to stem from some money that 50 Cent lent Young Buck to pay his taxes. It's that boring. During the extended fifteen-minute version of the taped conversation between 50 and Buck, that's nearly all of what they're talking about: that tax money that Buck owes 50. Buck keeps talking about how he's trying to get a tour together so he can make enough money to pay 50 back. 50 gets pissy with Buck for not paying him that money and for talking shit in interviews about unpaid royalties. And somewhere in there, Buck cries. And now, the whole sad and sordid story behind that unpaid debt is all over the internet. Money has broken up plenty of groups before, but I can't think of any other situation in which we, the public, have been allowed to hear every last dispiriting step of those escalating problems. 50's right; owing somebody money fucks you up and makes you say and do dumb things. Buck freaked out in some interview and said that 50 actually owed him money, which understandably pissed 50 off, and so 50 eventually kicked Buck out of his group. That's basically the extent of the story. But Buck cried, and that's all anybody's going to remember.


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Ranking the "A Milli" Freestyles

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Goon to a goblin

I probably hear Bangladesh's hammering mantralike "A Milli" beat twenty times a day lately. "A Milli" has cruised to song-of-the-summer status in something like record time. In New York, it's inescapable, booming out of every car that has its radio up loud enough for me to hear it. And now it's supplanted "Roc Boys" as the song everyone raps over on mixtapes. Except I can't remember any song inspiring quite this many remixes; any rapper who hasn't done a verse over it is probably working on one. Wale even has a line on his new "Mr. Carter" freestyle about how he didn't want to rap over "A Milli" because it's become cliche. More importantly, these freestyles are turning out to be a real dividing line for a whole lot of rappers. Some of them sound totally grunty and out of it over this track, and others sound totally invigorated, ready to just annihilate the thing. And it's impossible to predict who's going to respond how. I really love Wayne's version, with its garbled free-associative nonsense and its demonic self-possession. But a few rappers come close to equalling Wayne's version, and one absolutely surpasses it. These freestyles are becoming like crack to me. Lately, I can't seem to make it through, like, the new Deerhunter album without stopping it and putting on some "A Milli" freestyle instead. So I thought I'd take a look at some of the more prominent freestyles and grade them in relation to Wayne's version. I'd been planning on writing this entry for a while, and today, Jozen Cummings at Vibe has an article where Bangladesh himself talks about all the different versions. But fuck it, I'm doing it anyway. (A freestyle I like exactly as much as Wayne's version would be 1.0 Wayne; one I like just slightly less is 0.9. I determine these things with total scientific rigor.)

Jay-Z. Just masterful. Jay sounds more alive on this than he's sounded since the fake retirement, more charged-up and delighted. (And he's done great work since that fake retirement, but he's done it while sounding bored.) He's all over this beat, bringing back the intermittent quicktongue thing he used to use on Timbaland beats. He keeps mentioning a billion, like it's a magic number, the number he dreams about now that he makes such ridiculous money that money is pretty much a theoretical thing anyway. (For the record, I'm guessing Jay is nowhere near billionaire status.) There's also a whole lot of twisty and vague political stuff: "Sean Carter, Sean Bell / What's the difference? Do tell / Fifty shots or fifty mil / Ain't no difference, go to hell." Obviously there's a few pretty substantial differences between fifty bullets and fifty million dollars. But Jay's idea here seems to be something like this: There's still massive racism and oppression in the world, problems that me being really really rich won't solve – but I am really rich. He follows that line up with this: "So brra, lick a shot for Barack Obama / Change gon' come or I'ma buy the whole hood llamas on me." And then there's this: "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back / But when your boy reach a billion it's a wrap / Off of rap? Yeah!" I love that yeah; he sounds like a little kid. 1.3 Wayne


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