Pazz & Jop: The Confounding, Inexplicable Splendor of Rapper Future

Have you heard this song, “Loveeeeeee Song”? Off the new Rihanna record. That’s “Loveeeeeee Song,” seven E’s. Great song. A languid, subaquatic heartbeat propping up a few blippy keyboard chords, like a suicidal coffeemaker seducing a Sega Genesis, with Rihanna in her vastly underrated “lugubrious pillow talk” mode: “When I love you close/You can feel my heart beating through my clothes” and so forth. It’s definitely her second most emotionally lucid performance of the year, after Battleship. But you might forget she’s there at all, might not care one way or another. Future has that effect on people.

To classify Future as a mere rapper is to miss the point; to call him anything else is to belabor it. But he’s really more of a croaker, a bleater, a narcotized moaner, a peacocking digital belcher, an eroticized asthmatic. It sounds as though he’s being perpetually strangled by a rival, inferior rapper. He uses Auto-Tune the way Picasso used nude women, the way Obama uses drones. The Edward to Ke$ha’s Bella. Baffling, polarizing, inhuman, repulsive, delightful. His chorus hook for “Loveeeeeee Song” transcribes uneasily as “Looooooove/Oh, oh, oh, oh”; Pitchfork allowed that the effect “calls to mind a dog vomiting,” which is not inaccurate. Rad dog, though.

For most people, hip-hop in 2012 was primarily a matter of Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and this is just. But you will have 50,000 times more fun with Pluto, Future’s own major-label debut, crowning two years of gloriously wayward, pop-chart-scraping bewilderment. The rising Atlanta kingpin/Klingon-born Nayvadius Wilburn is only getting stranger and vocally gnarlier. And if good kid is The Master, then Pluto is Magic Mike: a charming, luridly engrossing, shockingly affecting romp. It’s largely set in a strip club, yes, and yet suffused with an air of elegant, winsome melancholy. Not to mention way better (and/or smarter) than you expected. (More clues for your “Oscar Bait to Pazz & Jop Contender” decoder ring: R.A.P. Music = Django Unchained; Life Is Good = This is 40; Cruel Summer = Les Misérables. But we digress.)

It’s all digression with this guy; Pluto is the rap-album equivalent of Michael Winslow doing a one-man Shakespeare play, if Shakespeare wrote soliloquies with first lines as awesome as “I live a cowabunga lifestyle.” Fall face-first into the deep end and start with the pulverizing, confounding “Tony Montana,” its horror-movie piano in turn stabbed by Future’s choking, beyond-repetitive anti-hook. It’s the sort of song that leads thirtysomethings to conclude that teenagers are now just fucking with them.

Multitasking, Waka-licious shout-along anthem “Same Damn Time” is just as repetitious but way more adrenalizing; “Magic” is just as adrenalizing and also absolutely miraculous, with a shrewdly knuckleheaded hook (“Voilà! Magic! Voilà! Magic!”) and Future in a rare rappity-rap mood, flicking insouciant double-time spitballs: There is something celestial about the way “Two bad bitches wanna fuck me the greatest/A young G in a brand-new Mercedes” stumbles commandingly out of his mouth. It makes you want to write out the words in Constitution-quality calligraphy, frame it, and mount it over a roaring fireplace.

But it’s Pluto’s arty, emotionally raw core that really throws you. “Truth Gonna Hurt You” triangulates UGK swagger and wah-wah-immersed Portishead despondency to sumptuous effect. The totally convincing “I’m Trippin” could be dropped unaltered into the troubled middle third of Hounds of Love—it sounds way more like a baroque Kate Bush art-rock aria than anything KB superfan Big Boi has yet attempted. And that guy (a major Future influence and mentor, of course, but also lately a bested competitor) just spent an entire (terrible) album attempting them.

“Neva End” and “Turn on the Lights,” meanwhile, are both hypnotic, show-stopping ballads that convey lovelorn studio-rat desperation way better than, say, Tame Impala. The chorus to “Lights” is logistically preposterous—an ungainly torrent of words, Future more or less blubbering as he rhapsodizes his hypothetical dream girl in an all-caps last-call giant-champagne-bottle spray: “I HEARD SHE KEEP HER PROMISES AND NEVER TURN ON YOU/I HEARD SHE AIN’T GON’ CHEAT AND SHE GON’ NEVER MAKE NO MOVE.” Trying that at karaoke is a good way to give yourself an aneurysm. You still assume he’s fucking with you, but you also have to concede he’s awfully sweet about it.

Verily, this is also an album with lines like “I got yo’ attitude in Venus/I got you beggin’ to catch my semen” and “You an honor to me/I got that lumber like a tree,” gleefully sabotaging slick, comparatively staid guest verses from T.I., R. Kelly, Drake, Snoop Dogg, et al, with their host’s coarse, electrifying, superior insanity. Sonically, lyrically, bronchially, it’s gonna be a hoot watching rappers try to out-weird this guy. (Consider the most pleasurable moments of Chief Keef’s new Finally Rich, especially the deranged Future-meets–Soulja Boy space oddity “Laughing to the Bank.” #HUAUAHAUAHAU.)

This is certainly not a mode he invented—God bless you, Weezy, increasingly intolerable as you’ve become—but Future has quickly perfected it, and his true peers anymore are long-deified Pazz & Jop avant-garde balladeers working in slightly different modes and commanding slightly different fan bases. Devotees of Tom Waits’s hacking-cough poet laureate routine, for example, or whatever the hell Scott Walker fans insist Scott Walker is transcendentally doing. And anyone who still claims to enjoy Bob Dylan gassing/rasping on about the Titanic for 14 minutes, look the fuck out. This is your man; this is his flabbergasting R.A.P. music; this is his planet.


Dad Rock: Punks All Grown Up in The Other F Word

Flea almost cries. Twice. There’s your four-word summation of The Other F Word, a half-poignant, half-absurd documentary on punk-rocker dads, self-described as “a coming of middle-age story” that thrills to the sight of, say, Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen, who looks like a tattoo parlor and a Claire’s fell on him simultaneously, sauntering over to a playground with his young son and smiling as every other parent and kid in a two-mile radius flees in terror. F-words from Black Flag, Rise Against, Blink-182, Total Chaos, the Adolescents, and so forth strike similar poses. Electrifying conclusion: “Being there for your kids is the punkest thing of all.”

This is not an inherently ridiculous premise. Punks apparently have uniformly awful childhoods (“My dad hated me” is a popular sentiment), and the plight of Everclear’s Art Alexakis, who has written legitimately moving songs (seriously) about trying to give his own kids the peace and stability denied to him, has genuine weight. (He wishes he’d been his own dad.)

Alas, way too much of F Word’s interminable 100-minute run time is devoted to holding affable Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg’s hand as he (very slowly) realizes that perhaps he should stop doing that thing he doesn’t seem to enjoy doing at all anymore (namely, dying his goatee black so as to more credibly jump onstage and lob wearied f-bombs at impressively devoted Pennywise fans on soul-crushing, months-long tours) and instead stay at home to watch American Idol with his three daughters. Long stretches of Andrea Blaugrund Nevins’s flick (co-executive produced by Morgan Spurlock!) are devoted to praising punk rock, decrying the music industry’s downfall, and complaining about how hard it is to be on tour, the latter self-pitying dirge brutally undercut by a quick shot of one of Lindberg’s daughters saying of her father: “I don’t know where he is sometimes. I don’t know where he is right now.”

Everyone’s kids get plenty of screen time but not enough say. (Wives and/or mothers get almost none of either.) True, most of these dudes seem like reasonable, warmhearted people exuding the same air of bewildered semi-competence as all parents, really, but that’s boring. So you start rooting for the outliers: flatulent, zebra-robed, half-deranged NOFX frontman Fat Mike, for example, or the BMX pro who deposits his baby in a crib with all the delicacy of a gorilla throwing a frozen turkey down an elevator shaft, and later brags that he restrains himself from slapping his daughter by merely pinching her instead. It’s a mercifully rare but still occasionally bruising feeling when the children here seem like little more than accessories, overgrown nose rings who’ve achieved sentience, frequently soil themselves, and eventually yearn to be taken to the father-daughter dance. What a huge relief when Lindberg cuts a tour short to oblige one of his own daughters on that last point, the reunited pair walking off together in the most sensible possible direction, which is away from the camera.


Godspeed You Black Emperor Tickets For Brooklyn Masonic Temple Are Back On Sale

A brief public service announcement: Canadian post-rock juggernaut Godspeed You Black Emperor is here all week, with five sold-out shows that began Monday at Terminal 5, will end Thursday and Friday at the Church of St. John the Apostle, and in between are descending upon what might well be the best venue in New York; their show last night at Brooklyn Masonic Temple was a thing of very, very intense beauty, and tonight’s encore will be more of the same. And while all these gigs have been sold out forever, a small clutch of tickets for tonight have just been put on sale. You ain’t gonna get much more catharsis for $25. So enjoy yourself, and prepare yourself: Here they are at T5, trying to blow the house down.


Live: Godspeed You Black Emperor Lift Us Up And Wear Us Out At Brooklyn Masonic Temple

Godspeed You Black Emperor
Brooklyn Masonic Temple
Tuesday, March 15

“The only band whose show I’ve ever had to walk out of due to physical fear,” notes my ordinarily strong-willed cohort this evening (the vibrations at a long-ago Knitting Factory gig apparently made him sweaty), five minutes into tonight’s 150-minute affair, a lonely violin sawing over a deep, disconcerting bass hum, the house lights down, the gradually accruing band members defiantly unlit, the storm gathering (multiple guitars, multiple drummers, multiple layers of seething feedback), the word “hope” projected on the twin projection screens behind them like a taunt, like something long abandoned. He makes it this time, my friend. We all do (I think). But not by much.

Listen, we can do this the easy way or the hard way: The easy way is a freshly reunited Canadian post-rock juggernaut played 15-minute anarcho-apocalyptic orchestral suites that started out real quiet and GRADUALLY GOT REAL LOUD for like two and a half hours. Which I was not at all mad at, until the last 15 minutes or so, the feedback squalls and ominous riffs and suffocating air of sonic malice finally wearing off, wearing thin, wearing down. This is one of those cinematic/oceanic/panoramic bands, not so much a concert as an alternately too-languid and too-vigorous deep-tissue massage, such ludicrous grandiosity perfect for the loudest-venue-in-town grandeur of Brooklyn Masonic; standing there and absorbing it all, it felt like the 25-pound steak where if you eat it all your meal is free: Man vs. Sound.

The omnipresent guitar maelstrom aside (dudes doing a lot of sitting, a lot of kneeling, a lot of back-to-the-audience deep concentration, all in service of dying-whale Doppler Effect moans and sustained jet-engine fusillades), your band MVP is violinist Sophie Trudeau, who’s calling most of the shots here, setting the tone, giving you a melody to cling to, be it heartbreaking in its fragility or eardrum-piercing in its sawed-off ardor. “World Police and Friendly Fire” sets its repetitive eight-note figure in stone early and waits nearly nine minutes to build up to the teeth-gnashing climax you immediately see coming but still aren’t quite prepared for; the projection-screen visuals (provided by four actual projectors looming behind the soundboard in the back of the house, all the spools of film hanging down from a stand like strands of celluloid spaghetti) helpfully switching from a tiny flame to entire buildings on fire. This is all unsubtle in a commendably painstaking way, devilishly complex delivery systems for very simple ideas.

So yes, it gets to be an endurance contest lo about the second hour, the tension-and-release rhythm fully internalized as it’s applied to desert-rock dirges, demented waltzes, triumphant raised-fist intellectual-superhero theme songs, nowhere else to really go with it now but down and back up, loud and soft again. The projections are nice, but when they start alternating between signs reading “The end is at hand” (yes!) and “24 HRS” (oh no!), you start to miss the absurd visual elements that’ve livened up previous pummeling Brooklyn Masonic affairs: the psycho charisma of Swans’ Michael Gira, the costumed grotesquerie of Sunn O))). The collective sigh of relief when the house lights go up is palpable. Physical fear and physical exhaustion are both pretty tough for bands to evoke. Both are perhaps better appreciated in retrospect.

Critical Bias: I put “Godspeed” into Twitter’s search engine looking for second opinions and mostly got people praying for the Japanese nuclear-power-plant workers.

Overheard: “Rock it! C’mon!” shouts some bro right as the show begins, with a heckler’s insouciance, clearly confused about where he is.

Random Notebook Dump: Titles available at the back-of-the-house makeshift bookstore include The Philosophy of Punk, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, Wobblies and Zapatistas, and Pacifism as Pathology.


Park Slope Anti-Rap-Club Petition Probably A Hoax, Definitely Unhelpful

Kudos to Capital New York for writing the most thorough piece yet on the great Prime 6/Yo! MTV Raps/Park Slope-is-racist controversy. You recall the online petition, circulated by one Jennifer McMillen, suggesting that Prime 6, a soon-to-be-opened club near the Atlantic Yards nexus, consider playing “indie” music instead of hip-hop, so as to become “a vibrant artistic hub instead of another Yo MTV Raps ‘bling-bling’ vip club.” Hilarious. The online mockery began immediately, even as everyone suspected this was performance art. As indeed Capital pretty much confirms it to be: Two weeks later and no one has heard from — heard of, really — any Jennifer McMillen, while Prime 6 proprietor Akiva Ofshtein never really even mentioned hip-hop in the first place. To wit:

But reporters looking for the movement behind the petition were soon frustrated. We could not find “Jennifer McMillen,” or any record of her belonging to any local or neighborhood group, or any prior record of her living in Brooklyn. (Neither could The Wall Street Journal.)

Nor could neighbors remember the name from any neighborhood activities or organizations, or help indentify or locate her. And yet, suddenly, this lawyer from Midwood [that’s Ofshtein], who had never envisioned a “hip hop club,” looked like the victim of rabid and rapidly institutionalizing racism in the swiftly-upward-moving (and increasingly white) area around Flatbush Avenue.

“The music thing is an aberration. That was never ever a concern of any of our neighbors,” said [Park Slope resident] Steve Ettlinger. “It’s a complete distraction. It’s a free-for-all and an indictment of the web.”

This was pretty much borne out by a community meeting we attended last week, where Prime 6 was pointedly discussed, but neither McMillen nor hip-hop in general came up much at all. At its core this is a loud-bar-in-the-neighborhood thing, exacerbated by Atlantic Yards-based ill will, where both sides have justifiable issues that viral Internet sensations won’t much help settle. So indicted, the Internet will now slink away to address other, more pressing issues. You’ve seen “Friday,” right?


Please Welcome Maura Johnston, Your New Village Voice Music Editor

Good day. It is with great regret that I inform you that this will be my last week at the Voice — I am moving to San Francisco to take a job as managing editor of Rhapsody and raise a child in a slightly larger apartment with (hopefully) in-unit laundry facilities. It is with great pleasure, however, that I announce the indomitable Maura Johnston as the new Voice music editor.

I suspect Maura needs no introduction around here, but just in case, she’s written extensively for Idolator, Popdust, the Awl, and the Voice itself, presiding over our annual F2K shooting gallery with the also-indomitable Christopher R. Weingarten. Her interests include expert Billboard chart analysis, debunking bullshit Internet myths, and Greg Dulli. She’s gonna do fantastic here, as indeed she already has.

As for me, well. This has been a dream job, and though it’s time to move on, it’s awfully hard to leave, and I’m grateful to you all for reading, writing, re-Tweeting, detracting, and however else you chose to react. Special thanks to Voice EIC Tony Ortega, all the stupendously talented writers I’ve worked with lo these last five years, and especially my SOTC cohorts, Camille Dodero and Zach Baron. I’ll be taking my leave on Friday, and Maura will join up shortly thereafter.


Exclusive: Download Blaqstarr’s Cosmic-Aerobics Workout “Ride”

Delightfully cracked Baltimore-club stalwart Blaqstarr recently explained his creative process to our own Puja Patel with an extended spiel that might best be summarized as “It was just, like, cosmically absorbed through the universe.” Hot on the heels of his new Divine EP (a bit of an experimental-r&b detour for the guy, honestly), he now proudly offers “Ride,” a blaring, aggressive, pleasantly bizarre radical reworking of his own “Rider Girl,” though perhaps that’s only clear to Blaqstarr himself and whatever cosmic universal entity he’s absorbing these days. Download it here (update: no longer), and please find the “Rider Girl” clip below for comparison purposes. You see the similarity, right?


Malice From The Clipse Will Be Signing His New Book In Bushwick Friday

“I knew this was something I had to do, so I went ahead and did it.” Thus did Malice, the currently non-Kanye-affiliated half of SOTC-beloved rap duo Clipse, explain his decision to write Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked, a somber autobiography tracing the coke-rap kingpin’s highs, lows, and newfound embrace of Christianity. (Read our own J. Pablo’s full interview with him here.) This is all profoundly abnormal as far as rapper-penned memoirs go, as Malice will be glad to explain to you in person, at an “official book signing” event scheduled Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m. at Vinnies Styles in Bushwick. DJ Boof and Mo’ Brown will also be in attendance, if those names mean anything to you. You can buy the book online right here.


Northside Festival Announces Initial Lineup, Starring Beirut, Deer Tick, Twin Sister, And Delicate Steve

The L Magazine‘s Northside Festival is perhaps the city’s finest home-grown music festival, now in its third year of ramming as many bands/artists/filmmakers as possible into the Greenpoint/Williamsburg nexus: “Elaborate and somewhat intimidating” is the way we’ve described it in the past. They announced this year’s details at a Borough Hall fete this morning: It all goes goes down June 16-19 and features Beirut, Twin Sister, Deer Tick, Allo Darlin’, Javelin, Ava Luna, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, Gabriel and the Hounds, and someone named Delicate Steve. (That’s just for starters: Last year featured Titus Andronicus, Fucked Up, and Liars, so expect some bigger shots to join the roster soon.) Tix are on sale this Friday; the flier and addition info is below.


Adele Is Selling A Crapload Of Records

2011 finally has its first legitimate chart superstar: Say hello to Adele, certain to engage in yet more anti-diva-like behavior now that her new record, 21, has been certified gold after just two weeks out, selling 168,000 copies to easily take the #1 Billboard spot for the second straight week. The rest of the Top 10 is also slightly less offensive than usual!

Well, there’s some new blood, at least. #2 is Marsha Ambrosius, she of Floetry. Better still, at $6, please welcome the Dropkick Murphys, sneaking in with their first-ever Top 10 album, the now ironically named Going Out of Style; kudos to those boys also for outselling the dude from Staind in Country Mode. We know of at least one guy who will be very pleased to hear of this.