Saturday, January 15, 2011

Abstract Index Playlist - January 13/11

photo courtesy of Exclaim

As usual, I played lots of interesting music this week from around the world, past to future. But I want to write about something I didn't play.

For my money Derek from Northcliffe (woo! neighbourhood bwoi!) aka D-Sisive had the track of last week. In a one-take masterpiece, he gets righteous with expertly constructed anger raining down on haters of every description - especially a long rant about body image. This man's internal struggle is far more interesting to me than Kanye's navel gazing, and his music is far more compelling. I'm so wrapped up in his flow that I almost forget that it's Sigur Ros, who are just OK in my book, providing the music.

Of course I could never play something filled with so much profanity on the air, even if the profanity is entirely appropriate and actually adds to the flow (again, unlike Kanye's laziness with profanity). However, I do recall dropping an accidental f-bomb in my first hour. Sorry CRTC...

Having just finished The Big Payback and read about, among many other things, the initial conflicts over profanity in hip hop butting up against mass media made me start thinking about what I don't play rather than what I do. Having a radio show means that when I hear new music I'm usually thinking about whether I'm going to play it the following week. In order to make that decision, music passes through automatic, invisible filters. Does it have twee vocals? Fail. Is the rhythm section inert? Fail. But certainly the most obvious filter for musical selection is the use of profanity. Over the years I think it's made me less interested in playing vocal hip hop - or any music with a lot of swearing. I puzzle over this: I play hip hop instrumentals, dancehall and hip hop in foreign languages (where artists could be cursing up a storm, or worse), but hardly ever do I play conventional North American beats and rhymes. It would appear that I seem more aligned more with those programmers who resisted hip hop because they claimed it was too vulgar or attracted the wrong demographic or just too damned black. It's ironic because I played my part 20+ years ago in helping to establish hip hop programming on CIUT, and the latter point was heatedly argued at the time.

Reading Payback, I realized that I owned almost every record the book talked about from 1982-93. Rapping was such an important part of my life and I don't know when or why I closed myself off to it. It might have been when I became a parent, but I'm not too concerned about my kid hearing a stray cuss word.

I wish with this post I could say my attitude is going to change, but it probably won't. I don't want to spend my time vetting lyrics; anybody who listens to my show knows that it's mostly instrumental anyways. Since hip hop doesn't rely on radio play anymore, there's a lot more casual profanity even in songs that do strike a chord with me (to say nothing of the N-word which I also try to avoid at all costs), so I just leave most rapping alone and save my investigations for stuff recommended to me by friends. This is too bad for everyone, cause I write about and advocate for a lot of music that doesn't get recognition in proportion to its popularity, and hip hop in Canada is surely in that category. I feel like I'm letting the art form down by not paying closer attention. The function of the radio show is dictating my taste.

Maybe that's why when D-Sisive left me a CDR in my mailbox at CIUT 3 years ago I ignored it. It was unfair of me to dismiss it just because it was another local rap disc. Derek, I'm sorry I didn't check it out at the time.

It's uncomfortable to confront one's own limitations - a theme I've dwelt on a bit of late - when one spends so much time finger-wagging about keeping an open musical mind. There's no good takeaway from this post except that I'm going to keep working it through, and most probably something's going to completely blindside me with awesomeness as is so often the case with music. I promise to lighten up soon.


the heatin' system - brother jack mcduff (cadet)
happy house - ornette coleman (columbia)
enta omri (you are my life) - andy haas (resonant)
making babies - gushee (otnorot)
never never - full crate (melting pot)
no clear reason - gang colours (brownswood)
an old escape - illum sphere (fat city)
obafunke - 911 feat zap mama (saturn never sleeps)
fog - nosaj thing rmx by jamie xx (alpha pup)
worldwide - ancient astronauts (switchstance)
cut form three electric kingdom - mophono (cb)
gem - geordie haley (no label)
north winds - christopher campbell (innova)
tape chants 6 - gregg kowalski (kranky)
heat - marcos fernandes (accretions)
floor tom + cymbal + turine - jason kahn (cut)
bright wave - adlr (non projects)
wo yƩ n'gnougobine - ballake sissoko & vincent segal (six degrees)
players balling - ohio players (westbound)
i believe in your love - charles bradley (dunham)
love is a hurting thing - soul children (stax)
hit me with funky music - little beaver (tk)
frontera - dj lengua (unicornio)
reggae feeling - dynamiyq (no label)

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