Belly

July 15, 2011

The subterranean vessel that hurtles me to the place that pays my rent is bursting at its soldered seams. The air is dead; breathing is counterproductive. The drab colors that splatter the interior of the car are an odious reminder that you are, in fact, inside something…something that has been ingested, regurgitated then stepped in. The lights flicker, falter and ultimately fade. A relief. At each stop, a few dour individuals muster the gall to exit the train and make their plaintive climb to…to…to whatever it was they climbed towards yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

And for a moment, there is space. That is, until more bodies squeeze their way into the train’s already distended belly. The disembodied conductor issues an unintelligible command through bands of rust and static and we brace ourselves as the train lurches once again to resume its crash course with punctuality. Next stop could be oblivion for all we know. As long as we get there on time. Toes are stepped on, elbows knock. We sway like kelp as the train caroms around turns. Frustration is seething yet no one is breathing.

We screech to a halt. The doors groan and we are released, like fish from a net, into one of the city’s major chambers. Confusion and commotion abound on the platforms and in the tunnels. Anxious faces see other anxious faces jostling and they begin jostling too, but they are not quite sure for what or in which direction they should be jostling. This only makes them more anxious. Teeth clenched, I break through. I reach a set of steps that will lead to the surface: a jagged labyrinth of concrete and glass that unfolds in ferocious majesty as if dropped haphazardly from above. I begin climbing to…to…to whatever it is I climbed towards yesterday and the day before and the day before that…

Vibes and Stuff

July 15, 2011

The first rap tape I ever owned was G Funk Era by Warren G. I dubbed it from a friend and was hooked from the jump. The drums, the kicks, the loops, the samples, the funk, the rhythm, the bass. Not to mention the rhymes. And I had to listen to it discreetly because my parents had read in the paper that “Gangsta Rap” was poisoning the ears of our nation’s youth. Needless to say, that fueled my obsession even further. (To be honest, until I heard G Funk, the only curse word I had heard on an album was when Eddie Vedder said “fuck” on “Jeremy”). Soon I was spending almost every cent of my weekly allowance on rap records: Doggystyle, Me Against the World, Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, ATLiens, Strictly Business, Stakes is High…. and Beats, Rhymes and Life.

Fast forward almost fifteen years to last Friday night. The adolescent in me was geeking the fuck out when I went to see Michael Rapaport’s new film about A Tribe Called Quest. It’s a loving tribute to one of the most influential groups in the genre’s history and a celebratory portrait of an era in music the likes of which we may never see again. Sure, Tribe had their troubles as a group, but that shouldn’t diminish the impact they had on everyone from Pharrell to the Roots. A lot of people bitch and moan about the state of hip hop today and don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to throw a parade for the next Waka Flocka record. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy all of the gems that hip hop has given us throughout the years. If nothing else, go see Beats, Rhymes and Life because it’s a poignant reminder of what hip hop is supposed to be: creative and fun. Then go listen to Low End Theory again and pretend it’s the first time. Boomin in ya, boomin in ya, boomin in ya jeep…