why are you optimistic?

I meant to write about hip-hop this week, but mostly all I want to say is that it’s good and people should listen to more of it (like Blackalicious’s THE CRAFT, should you be wanting a recommendation, just check out this week’s podcast to taste its awesomeosity, yes that is a word) and conversely gather recommendations from you for hip-hop, but I was going to use a lot more words.

But why waste words, when there’s so many to read elsewhere? To wit: the World Question Center is one of the coolest things ever, one that I wish I gave the due it deserved. Each year, they gather the answers to a provocative but open question from lots of different smart people, and post the answers. Of late, they’ve also gathered them in book form, which I’m tempted to invest in because (apropos to the value of free that came up in a recent comments thread) I privilege the tangible and that which I spend money on. Though given the number of DVDs I own that I haven’t watched that privilege is clearly modest at best.


The question this year is What are you optimistic about? This is where I’m supposed to tell you about all the interesting things that people say in it and make some long circuitious connection to the music I’ve been obsessed about this week (for the record: “Innocent When You Dream” by Tom Waits, triggered by an item on Pitchfork about him suing a soundalike; “Ceremony” by New Order, triggered by seeing MARIE ANTOINETTE last month [which uses the song prominently] and being obsessed with this song when I was in 9th grade and then not hearing it for ten years and finally downloading it; “Bleeder” by Hot Water Music, an acoustic cover of an Alkaline Trio song that makes me miss the sensation of being crazy in love, triggered possibly also by the content of the scene in MARIE ANTOINETTE but also by digging out an old zine I did which is a long story in and of itself, but anyway, I was in the middle of a sentence), but the truth is, I just started looking at this year’s entries today and have been superbusy so I barely skimmed it. As it turns out, though, the very first answer informs Kilian’s blog from earlier this week. So it’s all topical. Also, Brian Eno provides an answer.

But anyway, to answer their question, I am optimistic about living in a world where this exists:

(This video is for Shorty’s “Coopie N’ Me”. Shorty is a precursor of US Maple. I have great love for US Maple, but know little about Shorty. I thought they were more straightahead than I now think they are after having seen this. I also never realized how much the singer looks like Bob Odenkirk. I know my answer to the question is tangential and poorly constructed and I will maybe try to answer it better sometime when I haven’t been editing reality tv for some stupidly large number of days in a row, but I have been.)

So, like I was saying, recommend me some of your favorite hip-hop!

21 comments to why are you optimistic?

  • Ramon Medina - LP4

    Brilliant!!! That video only goes to show how much multi-million dollar videos suck ass!

  • Carlos Anaconda

    This is one of the best things i’ve seen/heard on this blog. I’m getting some shorty, right now.

    oh, but what a coinsidence… i sent a hip hop song to the podcast, so take that as my recomendation, though i know nothing about who the artist is.

  • Kilian

    Wow Doug so much to take in.

    That Prof Daniel C Dennett guy has a great take on the current sitsheeayeshun. I’m gonna continue reading that stuff. My eyes hurt already thinking about it. I linked to a Mark Twain short essay in my last post that ties into this view. It’s a great read that I highly recommend. That dude was with it too all those years ago (which aren’t that many as you realize as time moves on).

    I really dig US Maple – I saw them open for Dirty Three and Pavement once and I didn’t want to stay for the other two bands after seeing them. I dig their song “Letter to ZZ Top.” I think their frontman (the guy singing for Shorty is he) comes from the same school of free-form performance art that Donny of Three Day Stubble subscribes to. He calls it “avi” but I couldn’t find anything else about that online. Maybe Clay can inform – he seems to know about that stuff.

    Doug – you know because I already told you that Tricia and I were dancing to Blackalicious’ Powers while I opened Claire’s letter with this week’s podcast listing. That song is contagious. I just put it on a CD for a special four year old (not Ramon’s special four year old because he’s a five year old). Thanks for reminding me that I have to put that cd in the mail.

    Okay I’m no hip hop expert but I’ve been digging this all week – Edan | Beauty & The Beat especially the song “I See Colours.” (2005)

  • Electramummy

    That video is a super gem. Thanks for the Edge.org link too. My Mom will be all over that cerebral hooplah.Here’s a link to one of my favorite magazines, Reason.

    I know I have a cassette tape of really old U.S. Maple songs a friend gave me. I’ll have to go dig it out of the tape trunk. It might be good to listen to today while I do these flower paintings I have been commissioned for. I think I’m ready to do flowers… I just hope they don’t all end up looking like vajajays.

  • Matthew Thurman

    Wow…today’s been a weird one…I just saw a listing for the Coachella Festival, and apparently The Jesus and Mary Chain, Happy Mondays, and Rage Against the Machine are back together? Also, Dio, Iommi, Geezer, and…uh, VINNIE APPICE have a new thing called “Heaven And Hell”. What was I saying…oh, dd…I absolutely hate hip-hop. Still, you might want to check out those Kool Keith records, especially his Dr. Octagon character. I just can’t stand all of that same tired shit that cats rap about, but Dr. Octagon is a complete freak of nature…it’s like Dylan is writing for him. When he goes off on people with duck feet, alligator heads, and surgical procedures on horseback because there’s too much blood, or whatever in the hell he’s saying…it’s just nice. Plus, he does this thing where he raps really freely, without any regard for the rhythm, or phrasing on the beat…it’s more like a complete verbal spill…it’s cool. I also have a soft spot for those old EPMD records…his voice sounds a li’l fuzzy and static-y, plus I’m a sucker for any rapper with balls big enough to sample the Steve Miller Band. Time keeps on slippin’…indeed. Oh, you might also want to seek out the new bootleg mash-up “Almatic”-a li’l mix of Nas, with Al Green.

  • Megatherium


    Any video where a dude fixes his 10 speed is pretty righteous.

    Seeing the kids in the video reminds me of a picture I saw of Julian (John’s son) at the LP4 BBQ show. Holding his ears, with this expression like, “What in the name of Christ is going on here?”

  • Matthew Thurman

    Oh…for a second, I was like “Julian Lennon is hanging out at the Linus Barbeques?”…man, now that is a scene. I’m hip.

  • Justin

    That was my first thought too, but I didn’t remember seeing Julian Lennon there. Though, I did spend most of the time there debating Austin Thomerson about what the Founding Fathers meant by “well regulated militia,” so I could have been a little distracted.

  • rockin the video

    Man i just watched that video baked, and it is killing me with joy. dd, thank you for bringing it into my life. I predict multiple watchings, probably another one right now.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a sucker for old school rap, the stuff from (primarily) the mid-to-late 80s, so that’s where I’m at, and about all I’m good for on recommendations… if anyone wants me to elaborate, I will, but I’m betting I won’t come up with anything others haven’t thought of already…

    However, for newer stuff, I’ll give “mad props” (as the kids say) to one album a lot of people overlooked: “Make the Music 2000” by Rahzel… the man is a MASTER beatboxer, rapper, impressionist, and sound-effects man, and simply must be checked out… the first half of the album is him rapping over beats produced largely by Marley Marl, and the second half is primarily him making entire beat/soundscapes with many many multilayered overdubs of the stuff he does with his mouth, with guest rappers and musicians and singers overtop… there’s one where it’s just him and Branford Marsalis, and they do a great duet with Marsalis on sax and Rahzel doing a vocal trumpet impression, doing a total jazz duet thing that’s kickass… in between songs he has clips from a live performance, one of which has him SIMULTANEOUSLY singing “If Your Mother Only Knew” and doing the beat for it… it’s mindblowing…


  • Clay

    Awwww. Kilian. You steal my thunder. Devin the Dude is the first rap I’ve heard in a long time that I really liked. Bonus enjoyment for ex-Houstonians: hearing him sing a lyric about driving down Chimney Rock and pronouncing it “Chim-a-nee Rock”.

  • Anonymous

    My favorite hip hop song of the day is 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO, by The Coup. My favorite of the 5 million ways: Tell him that boogers be sellin like crack/
    He gon’ put the little baggies in his nose/and suffocate like that.

    Which all leads me to the part of this comment where I suggest a topic for somebody’s future post: Why Does All The Current Protest/Political/Anti-war/Anti-Bush Music (Except for Hip Hop) Suck So Much?



  • Justin

    I think you should write that post.

  • Kilian

    Yeah Brannon – I’d help you out but I’ve filled my politics quota for a while. You can post on my day though and since we only have three regular women posters that would be an added plus to the already anticipated prose de Lexus.

    Sorry Clay. I didn’t want him left out but then I didn’t want to gush, being that I’m a Houston expat. Thanks for coloring my comment (and coming from an Austinite by way of Kansas City your color carries more weight…but I’m not saying Missourians are fat or anything).

  • Ramon Medina - LP4

    Ha Brannon actually I think that there were some decent protests songs recently.

    I totally stand by Steve Earle’s “The Revolution Starts Now” which was a great album even though he went off and sold the title song to Chevrolet which was pretty weird.

    My favorite rabble rouser song was Part Chimps’ “40 Gabillion People” That song is just fucking amazing. Of course Democracy Now would never play it since it’s so knucklescraping caveman like but I guarantee you even clinton Heider would say “Damn that song rocks!!!”

    I’ll need to get a new copy and put it on the podcast.

  • Ramon Medina - LP4

    Hey Electramummy,

    Part Chimp is on E-music. Download “30,000,000,000 People” for this weeks podcast. I used up my 90 downloads for January. : (

    But trust me the song frikkin’ rocks.

  • Glyptotherium

    I would never doubt the quality of a band called “Part Chimps”. Philosophically, it would seem they agree with me even if their politics differ, since my core belief about humanity is that we are basically chimps with credit cards.

    There are probably some chimps who would be pissed off at me for saying that, if they could read.

  • Electramummy

    Chimps have given up on us, and even if they could read, we’d still slaughter them, save for a few handsome ones we could display at the MET.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the offer of a guest post, Kilian. I’d take you up on it if I had any workable theory on why it is that today’s protest music sucks so much. I’m pretty sure my thoughts on the issue are all tied up with my despair over the complete lack of sense of humor on the left (Stewart/Colbert notwithstanding). I haven’t figured out why the hip-hop community has been more resistant to the Earnestly Boring bug – maybe it’s because the left has done a bad job at including the African American community in their dialogue. Or maybe that community is too pissed off to put up with the left’s whining and pandering and hair-splitting. Anyway, if I have more cogent thoughts on the issue, I’ll let you know.

    BTW, NAPcast-maker (Ms. Mummy?) – 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO is also available on e-music. I’m not voting for its inclusion on this week’s issue – I don’t even have a pod, and I know I don’t get a vote – but thought I’d let you know, for the sake of completeness.


  • dd

    Thanks for all the recommendations. I’ve ordered the Edan CD (along with some other things that were recommended through other channels – Clipse, Cage, and The Perceptionists – and some things that were not hip-hop at all, like that Eno/Byrne album, a Susie Ibarra album, the Amon Tobin videogame soundtrack, etc. Rahzel sounds particularly awesome but I just kind of spaced, but he’s on the top of the list for the next order.

    I would like to listen to Devin the Dude but Myspace rarely likes me. I don’t understand why. Maybe I’ll pandora him tho (which is how I sampled Edan before buying).

    Brannon, you don’t need a pod to listen to podcasts, just Itunes. Kind of like how you can listen to a walkman even if yr. sitting down. The Coup are a bit strident for my tastes, but I think I have a sour feeling because of their inability to grasp how their WTC-bombing cover could have possibly been in poor taste.