Tag Archives: hip-hop

Taking hip-hop’s greatest record collection out for a spin

3 Sep
Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Insomniac

Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Insomniac

Even on a bad day, freelance journalism is still pretty great. But there are some assignments that really make me feel like I have the coolest job in the world. This was one of those assignments.

Two weeks ago, I flew up to the Bay Area to interview DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, two of the greatest hip-hop minds and turntablists of their generation. At DJ Shadow’s house. Where they were ensconced with 800-odd records they had hand-picked from the collection of Afrika Bambaataa, one of the most influential hip-hop DJs in history. Yeah, I have a pretty cool job.

We chatted for about an hour about their just-launched Renegades of Rhythm tour, on which they’ll be playing out the collection, and about Bambaataa’s influence on hip-hop and dance music. Then I got to sit there and watch slack-jawed for half an hour while they rehearsed for the tour. For any fan of turntablism, it was basically the equivalent of getting to watch Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy jamming through a few Robert Johnson songs over at Clapton’s house. Or David Ortiz and Albert Pujols taking batting practice—in Albert’s backyard batting cage. It was a privilege to be there.

They’re on tour with Bambaataa’s records now through October. Get tickets and go. The word “historic” gets overused, but trust me—this is a historic tour. It’s so historic I almost called it “an historic tour.”

It Takes Two (Insomniac)


Tell me a bedtime story, MC Frontalot

27 Aug

Photo by Deborah Lopez

Question Bedtime, the new album from nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot, features hip-hop tracks based on fairy tales, but it’s not really a children’s album. Although hey, if you want to play your kids a funky song based on a Native American myth explaining why our assholes are wrinkly, knock yourself out, you progressive, hippie parent, you.

We didn’t talk about this, because it was too off-topic, but Frontalot and I are both Wesleyan grads. I’m not always the world’s proudest Wes alumnus, but I’m glad I went to a school that produces smart, successful oddballs like Front with some regularity.

Even though this was also off-topic, we did talk about the fact that the red tuxedo jacket the Muppet version of MC Frontalot wears in the “Stoop Sale” video is the same one my Muppet stand-in wore at my wedding. Because my wife and I (well, my wife, mostly) are huge Muppet nerds. So that was a fun little interview aside that wound up on the cutting room floor.

Mostly, though, like a responsible journalist, we talked about the album, and Front’s bookworm childhood spent poring over dusty volumes of world folk tales.

Behind the fractured folk tales of MC Frontalot’s ‘Question Bedtime’

Giving a lift to the Koreatown Oddity

18 Jun

K-Town Odd1

When Dominique Purdy, the man behind the Koreatown Oddity, asked me if I could give him a ride to a show last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Chances seemed good that anyone who raps in a giant wolf mask might make for an awkward travel companion. But I needn’t have worried. Turns out that Purdy is actually a pretty laid-back guy who just happens to, you know, rap in a giant wolf mask.

Actually, the weirdest thing that happened to me that night took place seconds after I dropped Purdy off at the Metro after his gig. We had been talking earlier about his screenplay, Driving While Black, and how it was actually the phenomenon of “driving while black” that had led Purdy to be temporarily carless. (He had failed to appear in traffic court for some citation or other, and now was in danger of getting ticketed again if any cop ran his plates and pulled up the warrant. And as it turns out, if you’re a young black man in Los Angeles, the cops run your plates all the time.) Right after Purdy got out of my car, a cop car pulled up alongside me and blooped its siren, because I had stopped in a bus lane. Given the conversation we had just been having, I became really aware in that moment of my white privilege; all I had to do was wave apologetically and drive away, whereas Purdy probably would’ve been stopped and cited, or worse.

Anyway, that little story didn’t make it into my LA Weekly article about K-Town Odd, because it was mostly about me and my own self-consciousness around issues of race. Plus, when it comes to the Koreatown Oddity, there are no shortage of interesting things to talk about. Some of them don’t even involve that wolf mask.

The Koreatown Oddity Was Caught Driving While Black