Posts Tagged ‘hip-hop’
“Whatever is a reality today… is going to be, like the reality of yesterday, an illusion tomorrow”*…
Artists, like neuroscientists, are masters of visual systems. Through experimentation and observation, artists have developed innovative methods for fooling the eye, enabling flat canvases to appear three-dimensional, for instance. Neuroscience—and more recently the subfield of neuroaesthetics—can help to explain the biology behind these visual tricks, many of which were first discovered by artists. “I often go to art to figure out questions to ask about science,” says Margaret Livingstone, Takeda Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “Artists may not study the neuroscience per se, but they’re experimentalists.”
During the 1960s, Op Art—short for “Optical art”—combined the two disciplines by challenging the role of illusion in art. While earlier painters had created the illusion of depth where there was none, Op artists developed visual effects that called attention to the distortions at play. Abstract and geometric, their works relied upon the mechanics of the spectator’s eye to warp their compositions into shimmering and shifting displays of line and color. The Museum of Modern Art announced this international artistic trend in 1965 in a seminal exhibition titled “The Responsive Eye.” Since then, neuroscientists have continued to probe the mechanisms by which the human eye responds to these mind-bending works…
* Luigi Pirandello
As we cross our eyes, we might spare a thought for Leon Botha; he died on this date in 2011, at the age of 26. An important South African painter and DJ, Botha was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria.
Flyting is a stylized battle of insults and wits that was practiced most actively between the fifth and 16th centuries in England and Scotland. Participants employed the timeless tools of provocation and perversion as well as satire, rhetoric, and early bathroom humor to publicly trounce opponents. The term “flyting” comes from Old English and Old Norse words for “quarrel” and “provocation.” [Indeed, the image above is of Norse god Loki trading insults with his divine brother, Bragi.] ‘Tis a form of highly poetic abuse, or highly abusive poetry—a very early precursor to MTV’s Yo Mama and Eminem’s 8 Mile…
More of the history of insult as a form of battle– and a discussion of the actual ancestry of rap-as-we-know-it– at “Flyting was medieval England’s version of an insult-trading rap battle.”
Rap has been a path between cultures in the best tradition of popular music.
* Snoop Dog
As we yoyo “yo mamas,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & the Comets became the first rock and roll album to enter the chart. The single had become the first rock single to top the pop charts six months earlier.
* Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
As we ponder our playlists, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that “The Loco-Motion” hit #1 on the pop charts in the U.S. Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the tune for Dee Dee Sharp (who then had a monster hit with “Mashed Potatoes”), but Sharp demurred. Goffin and King then turned to their babysitter, Eva Boyd, who took the stage name “Little Eva.”
The song appeared in the American Top 5 three times – each time in a different decade, performed by artists from three different cultures: originally African American pop singer Little Eva in 1962 (U.S. No. 1); then American band Grand Funk Railroad in 1974 (U.S. No. 1); and finally Australian singer Kylie Minogue in 1988 (U.S. No. 3). It was the second song to reach No. 1 by two different musical acts; the first, “Go Away Little Girl,” was also written by Goffin and King.
Highlighting an invisible conversation between hip hop and art before the 16th century…
* Chuck D
As we scratch ’em and sniff, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that Robert Matthew Van Winkle— better known as Vanilla Ice, whose “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts– married Laura Giaritta. Ice, who’s both a Juggalo and a vegetarian, has recently concentrated on his home renovation reality show on the DIY Channel, but still occasionally performs… though in September, 2013, he rapped at the halftime show of a Houston Texans game; Houston went on to lose the remaining fourteen games of the season, leading some players to blame Ice for the losing streak.
Banksy has lamented (in Wall and Piece) that…
Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions, and buy records by the billions. ‘We the people’ affect the making and quality of most of our culture, but not our art…. The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires…
Fly Art is taking Art back:
More marvelous mash-ups at Fly Art.
[TotH to @mattiekahn]
* Paul Valery
As we hum along, we might recall that it was on this date in 1687 that (not yet Sir) Isaac Newton published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (AKA “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, AKA the Principia). In three volumes Newton laid out his laws of motion (his foundation of classical mechanics), his theory of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion (which Kepler had obtained empirically).
Viewed retrospectively, no work was more seminal in the development of modern physics and astronomy than Newton’s Principia… no one could deny that [out of the Principia] a science had emerged that, at least in certain respects, so far exceeded anything that had ever gone before that it stood alone as the ultimate exemplar of science generally.
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true…”*
It is not just an artist’s work, but their personalities — inadvertent, performative, implied, affected, whatever — by which an overall narrative, or “personal brand,” of the artist is measured, which invariably informs how the art is perceived. Do likeable people make likeable art, and vice versa? Is it better to be an arrogant genius than a modest one? At what point is arrogance reasonable? One hates to reduce art-making to the two binaries presented, but this seems to be the case: What you think of yourself, and what others think of you… this is all grossly subjective and was distractedly assembled while this contributor was at work, in a cast (broken hand, bike accident), with low blood sugar due to manorexic tendencies (no breakfast, salad for lunch), and I know there’s not enough women and minorities represented, and that this is all rather mainstream, so if you point that out, I’ll know that you didn’t finish reading this ¶. Cheers, to the people who touch us.
* John Steinbeck
As we take our geniuses as we find them, we might send a birthday reminder that “just because one’s paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t after you” to Philip Kindred Dick; he was born on this date in 1928. The author of 44 novels and over 120 short stories, PKD, as his now-legion fans know him, won every major award available to the science fiction writer during his lifetime, but barely scratched together a living. It was only after his death in 1982 that his work was picked up by Hollywood; ten popular films based on his works have been produced (so far), including Blade Runner, Total Recall (twice), A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2007, he became the first sc-fi writer to be included in the Library of America series.
PKD’s influence on literary and cinematic science fiction, and on popular culture in general, has been monumental. But he has admirers within the ranks of philosophy as well, among them, Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Laurence Rickels, and Slavoj Žižek. Writing of Dick’s evocation of postmodernity, Baudrillard observed…
It is hyperreal. It is a universe of simulation, which is something altogether different. And this is so not because Dick speaks specifically of simulacra. SF has always done so, but it has always played upon the double, on artificial replication or imaginary duplication, whereas here the double has disappeared. There is no more double; one is always already in the other world, an other world which is not another, without mirrors or projection or utopias as means for reflection. The simulation is impassable, unsurpassable, checkmated, without exteriority. We can no longer move “through the mirror” to the other side, as we could during the golden age of transcendence.
As our friends at Rap Genius observe,
Rap’s history has been traced many ways — through books, documentaries, official compilations, DJ mixes, university archives, even parties. But until now you haven’t been able to look at the development of the genre through its building blocks: the actual words used by emcees.
Like Google’s Ngram viewer (only with a more pronounced beat), RG’s Rap Stats lets users plot the frequency of words appearing in rap songs from 1988 through the present day; one can, as they suggest “figure out the migratory patterns of drug dealers, when hip-hop became big business, and whether money really is over bitches”… and a host of other fascinating things. For example,
The word first pops up in 1993-4. This makes sense, as DJ Jubilee’s “Do The Jubilee All,” generally acknowledged as the first recorded rap use of the term, was released in ’93. Jubilee was a bounce artist, and one of the many great things about early bounce music was that it functioned as a conversation between the artists. It wasn’t too long before Jubilee’s call to “Twerk, baby” was answered by Cheeky Blakk’s 1995 classic “Twerk Something!”, and a slew of other N.O. artists followed her lead.
The word lived quietly as a regional trend, losing steam in the late 90s, until pop culture finally discovered the dance, and, as we all know now, launched “twerk” into a Miley-fueled rocket ship ride, with no end in sight.
(Of course, Will Smith fans might have said the same thing about “jiggy” in 1998, and we can see how that turned out…)
One can develop one’s own rap on rap at Rap Stats.
As we bust a rhyme, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington recorded his first big hit, “Mood Indigo.” Ellington was fond of saying, “Well, I wrote that in 15 minutes while I was waiting for my mother to finish cooking dinner.” With lyrics added by Mitchell Parish in 1931 (but credited to Ellington’s manager Irving Mills), “Mood Indigo” became a vocal as well as an instrumental standard, recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone among many, many others.