Home > Uncategorized > 2009, A Year In Bad Music Writing: #2 Louis Pattison on indie and rap in The Guardian

2009, A Year In Bad Music Writing: #2 Louis Pattison on indie and rap in The Guardian

 

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We made a secret mandate on ILB a few months back to talk less about The Guardian: partly because a large number of their music-writing staff appear to have Google alerts set up for when a search-spider discovers a new mention of their name, and partly because there’s really only so many ways you can say “Sylvia Patterson is quantifiably a worse human being than, say, Thug Behram.” But it’s the weekend, so we can always go off-message for once.

So let’s give a big round of applause to Louis Pattison (no, not the emu-lookin’ boy from Twilight). He’s written an article in today’s Guardian about how when white people enter into hip-hop culture sometimes come across as  trying too hard, or misappropriating the wrong things, and end up embarrassing themselves. In a stunning fit of irony, the sub-editor then slapped the headline “Homie, don’t do that” on top of it. Presumably “Quit jivin’ me, turkey” didn’t fit onto the page.

It’s not really a surprise that a dude who writes for Plan B would come across so fucking ignorant when it comes to, y’know, how music actually exists in the real world, but Lpattz really goes next level with this. Let’s go through some quotes one-by-one:

Even when done respectfully, with enthusiasm, the sight of whitey “getting crunk” swings a little too close to a modern-day blackface minstrelsy for comfort

What does this mean? “Getting crunk” “respectfully”? Crunk is a now dead genre of hip-hop that existed when a bunch of rappers who preferred KoRn to anything that came out of New York’s rap scene in the late 90s decided to make a bunch of party records with European rave keyboards. How do you get crunk respectfully? It was a mediocre music fad, not a fucking tribal right of passage.

(The Onion nailed it best with their mocked-up supplement bearing the headline We Try Way Too Hard And Come Across As A Little Racist With Our Dawg Lil Wayne)

This wasn’t a parody of whiteboy rappers, hence the fact it doesn’t mention whiteboy rappers in any way shape or form. It’s actually a parody of the kind of dumb patronising writing that appears when white journalists write about rap in broadsheet newspaper weekend supplements. Just to reiterate, this article appeared in the Guardian Guide on a Saturday.

For a generation that can’t recall a world before hip-hop, though, this poses a conundrum: how to participate in the genre without looking like you want to own the show? Perhaps Telepathe have the answer. Two girls from Brooklyn called Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudis, Telepathe cite as influences Tennessee rap group Three 6 Mafia and New York rap station Hot 97

For a generation that can’t recall a world before Myspace, this poses a conundum: you should by now really realise that the list of bands that  artistes put in their “influenced by” section actually bare no real resemblance to the kind of music they intend to sound like. I mean, the fact that bands on Murdoch’s money-hamorraghing anti-cash show list themselves as “zydeco/Singaporean pop/schaffel” on the regular should be a clue in all this.

Once, online music zine Pitchfork – a sort of bible for the serious indie rock connoisseur – sat cosily within its self-proclaimed parameters of guitars, unkempt beards and light irony. A couple of years back, though, hip-hop broke in Pitchforkland, ushering in a new editorial policy where Kanye West sits next to Arcade Fire, Lil Wayne rubs shoulders with Radiohead and fans – and bands – are comfortable walking the join.

Where are you now Mos Def/Cannibal Ox/Prefuse 73, a lowly nation turns its eyes to you… I’m not too sure if Pattison’s point is that “commercial” hip-hop broke through on Pitchfork in 2005, because you have to remember that indie music journalists never laid unnecessary over-the-top praise at the feet of Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, or, fuck it, The Avalanches (they count) pre-2004. Heck, Ryan S even had Lil Wayne in his albums-of-the-year list for 2000/2001 (I forget which), shortly after Simon Reynolds told all his stans there was gold in them there Cash Money hills.

Take Glass Candy, Portland-based Italo-disco luminaries who proved their debt to southern rap with recent single Geto Boys, a tribute to the early-90s Houston hip-hop crew of the same name which sampled their classic My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me

Wait, does this mean that when Ash sampled Dr Dre back in 2001 they were proving their debt to West Coast Gfunk? Or does it mean, ummm, they used a sample? If anyone can draw a line between the rest of Glass Candy’s ethereal faggotrycore and the works of, for instance, South Park Mexican, let us know at the usual address.

Oddest of all, take Salem, a Michigan trio who inhabit a realm somewhere between the cotton-wool bliss of the Cocteau Twins and DJ Screw – the southern hip-hop producer known for slowing down records to sound better when high on codeine syrup. The video to their song Dirt is a waking nightmare of strobes, strippers, dry ice and close-ups of people weeping in cars to be watched through your fingers – except, unlike the clip of Joaquin Phoenix busting out some half-assed rhymes, in a good way.

NOT IN A BAD WAY LIKE YOU THOUGHT. Fantastic way to subvert our expectations at the end there, Lou.

So what you have here is a 600 word article Pattison’s written which starts off by going “white people: I’ve cracked the code for you all here”, and ends up by going “Buy this shitty album from some indie band nobody cares about because they’ve listened to some music by black people and black people are EXCITING AND DANGEROUS.” That’s what we have here. This is the state of hip-hop writing in The Guardian in 2009. Cashmore, have a word.

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  1. Toadfish "Toadie" Rebecchi
    February 8, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Also: because you got dropped from The Guardian for being shite.

  2. February 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    ^^^ real talk

  3. Cashmore
    February 8, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    There’s only so much I can do.

    Why DID the Graun stop using you? I’m genuinely interested because you are patently better than me, El-Producto up there or anyone else they have writing for them. Did you distract Zoe Williams when she was in The Zone, leading to a Christian Bale-style attack of the swears? Tread on Laura Barton’s feet in the lift?

    I think you should restart your thing with Claude Carpentieri, by the way. That shit made my mornings.

    • Dom Passantino
      February 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      Michael Hann didn’t like the date rape gags I put in a review of the Fratellis’ debut album, and then after a piece John Harris wrote where he called Chuck D one of the great political songwriters, I said “Wait, I thought Harris hated blacks not Jews?”

  4. Cashmore
    February 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    And they stopped using you for THAT?

    It’s like you said – the terrorists have won.

    • Dom Passantino
      February 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm

      There’s extended tedium surrounding it, I’ll email you details if a) that’s your real email acct b) I can tear myself away from Palermo’s thrilling attempt to secure a Champions League spot in the 2011/12 Scudetto on FM09.

  5. Cashmore
    February 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Go for it. Email address is genuine.

  6. jordan s
    February 19, 2009 at 4:12 am

    wow this is a fucking achievement. altho i guess based on the uk’s jay-z fever, yall are behind the curve even on horrifying white guilt pieces. good luck etc.

  7. Cashmore
    February 19, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I’m still waiting on extended tedium here.

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