Jay-Z Decodes 18 Things

September 6th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Sometime in 2010, Jay-Z published a memoir/manifesto/song explainer, Decoded.

Decoded by Jay-Z

Soon to be released as a blog post, here are 18 original Authwhore tracks sampled from the book:

1. Childhood Kicks: “It was the seventies and heroin was still heavy in the hood, so we would dare one another to push a leaning nodder off a bench the way kids on farms tip sleeping cows.”

2. Adolescent Fortitude: “When Dee Dee was murdered, it was like something out of a mob movie. They cut his balls off and stuffed them in his mouth and shot him in the back of the head, execution style. You would think that would be enough to keep two fifteen-year-olds off the turnpike with a pocketful of white tops. But you’d be wrong.”

3. Form: “I still loved rhyming for the sake of rhyming, purely for the aesthetics of the rhyme itself – the challenge of moving around couplets and triplets, stacking double entendres, speed rapping.”

4. Thoroughness: “To tell the story of the kid with the gun without telling the story of why he has it is to tell a kind of lie.”

5. History: “I was part of a generation of kids who saw something special about what it means to be human – something bloody and dramatic and scandalous that happened right here in America – and hip-hop was our way of reporting that story, telling it to ourselves and to the world…We came out of the generation of black people who finally got the point: No one’s going to help us.”

6. Hip-hop: “Hip-hop is the only art that I know that’s built on direct confrontation…There are very few beta rappers – it’s alphas all the way…It’s a recurring story in hip-hop, the tension between art and commerce.”

{Isn’t hip-hop a funny word when written? It seems a character from Watership Down.}

7. Boxing: “Boxing is a glorious sport to watch and boxers are incredible, heroic athletes, but it’s also, to be honest, a stupid game to play. Even the winners can end up with crippling brain damage.”

8. Cristal Champagne: “It was symbolic of our whole game – it was the next shit. It told people that we were elevating our game, not by throwing on a bigger chain, but by showing more refined, and even slightly obscure, taste.”

9. Failure: “I don’t accept that falling is inevitable – I think there’s a way to avoid it, a way to win, to get success and its spoils, and get away with it without losing your soul or your life or both.”

10. Physics: “There’s an equal and opposite relationship between balling and falling.”

11. Seeing Yourself on TV for the First Time: “After my first record got on the radio and on BET, it was wild being at home, feeding my fish, and suddenly seeing myself on TV.”

12. Duality: “I think it’s worth it to try to find that balance. It’s like life – sometimes you just want to dumb out in the club; other times you want to get real and go deep.”

13. Poverty: “One of the reasons inequality gets so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That’s the American ideal. Poor people don’t like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank, they don’t like to think of themselves as poor. It’s embarrassing.”

14. Charity: “To some degree charity is a racket in a capitalist system, a way of making our obligations to one another optional, and of keeping poor people feeling a sense of indebtedness to the rich, even if the rich spend every other day exploiting those same people.”

15. 80s Hair Bands: “Rock started to change. Style started trumping substance, which culminated in the rise of the big hair bands. There were probably some great hair bands – I wouldn’t really know – but I do know that most of them were terrible; even they’ll admit that now. And what’s worse is that the thing that made rock great, its rawness, whether it was Little Richard screaming at the top of his lungs or the Clash smashing their guitars, disappeared in all that hairspray. It was pure decadence. It crippled rock for a long time. I wasn’t mad, because rap was more than ready to step in.”

16. Preferences: “More than anything, I love sharp people; men or women, nothing makes me like someone more than intelligence. Big was shy, but when he said something it was usually witty. I’m talkative when I get to know you, but before that I can be pretty economical with words. I’m more of a listener.”

17. Religion: “I don’t believe in the fire-and-brimstone shit, the idea that God will punish people for eternity in a burning hell. I believe in one God.”

18. Poetry: “…a set structure forced sonnet writers to find every nook and cranny in the subject and challenged them to invent new language for saying old things. It’s the same with braggadocio in rap…If you can say how dope you are in a completely original, clever, powerful way, the rhyme itself becomes proof of the boast’s truth.”

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

July 17th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

As a recovering Band Nerd, I assumed that this book, subtitled “Listening to The Twentieth Century,” would be an enjoyable companion to my amateur musical education. I have had the privilege of performing hundreds of renowned musical compositions, from Gershwin to Hindemith, and even conducted several hundred marching musicians playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Attending grade school in Connecticut, I can even remember a relative of Charles Ives visiting our music class and telling us disinterested ankle-biters about her famous composer-relative.

But alas, The Rest is Noise is a book about classical music.

A book. About classical music.

It’s a bit like macramé about kite flying. That is, an obscure, archaic, and largely ignored medium conveying a rather dismissed subject. A quilt about baking contests? Stained glass about some dead dude on a cross? An election to decide world leaders?

Ross does acknowledge that, “Classical music is widely mocked as a stuck-up, sissified, intrinsically un-American pursuit.”

Though critically acclaimed, well enough written, and well researched (the result of 15 years of being a music critic), I found The Rest Is Noise to be rather dull, a bit boring, and overall, a lot of work to read. It’s 543 pages of, “…for example, in The Anaemic Rag chains of thirds unwind over an open-fifth ostinato.” And that’s an example, which is supposed to be an instance serving illustration, but I had no idea what an ostinato was and Word spell check wants ostinato to be “obstinate,” even though ostinato is simply a constantly recurring melodic fragment.

Ross absolutely excels at bringing the music he is talking about to life with evocative and stirring descriptions, but I found myself pleading to just listen to the music itself. I can only hope that they will publish an edition with a supplementary CD so a reader can pause and listen to samples of this music that seems to matter so much. Does the audio edition already have some of the music playing with it? I can only imagine that such an endeavor would be a lawyer’s nightmare with the endless rights and clearances and royalties. (The same problem is why The Wonder Years is not on DVD. All that damn music.)

While the historical context portrayed by The Rest is Noise is enlightening and the composer’s lives that are detailed therein are only mildly interesting, it is the music and the music alone that emerges as worthwhile. So in that, Alex Ross, as a critic, has achieved something great with this book. It makes me want to actually listen to some of this music he talks so damn much about.

Though classical music seems to have been quite full of homosexuals and drugs. Take that Rock and Roll!


May 7th, 2008 at 4:27 pm

So there’s this new movie coming out from the hard working people at Pixar called Wall-E. Perhaps you’ve heard of the hard working people at Pixar? They’re renowned for making “good” movies like Ratatouille, Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc, A Bug’s Life, and the Toys Story.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Wall-E. It comes out June 27, 2008.

I liked Wall-E the first time when it was called Short Circuit.

Wall-E poster

Short Circuit poster

And the second time when it was called Short Circuit 2.

What was wrong with Short Circuit? Sure, Toy Story was a cute movie, but does it star Steve Guttenberg? Maybe they should have called it Shorty-C…

But if the hard working people at Pixar are so brilliant, why does Wall-E look like Johnny Five?

Wall-EShort Circuit

Sony’s going to sue somebody!

And there is no possible way that Wall-E will be able to compete with Short Circuit. It has one of the finest lines in the history of cinema:

“Hey, laser lips, your mother was a snow blower!”

Radiohead’s Pot of Gold

October 2nd, 2007 at 7:08 pm

The author of hundreds and hundreds if not thousands and thousands of brilliant fucking songs and clearly the Best Rock Band Ever, Radiohead, recently announced that fans will be able to choose whatever price they want to pay for their new album, In Rainbows.

The news crashed the band’s website.

And evidently, most people are opting for the hefty, full retail price to get the discbox and not being petty and downloading the album for only a penny.

That’s something that only American Idol fans would do.

Whining For Amy

August 29th, 2007 at 3:56 pm

The father-in-law of the author of a handful of hit songs is pleading with his daughter’s fans to boycott Amy Winehouse’s music in an attempt to pry her from the desperate clutches of drugs.


Parents. Fucking narcs.

Sure, you’ll have your daughter back alive and well, but once she cleans up, her music will suffer and certainly become mediocre, and that us fans will have to suffer through. No thanks.

Amy, you musicians come from a long, distinguished and storied line of users and abusers. But your music always kicks ass! Work through it. You’ll figure it out. I have faith. But tread carefully, heroin has killed many brilliant musicians. How wonderful would this world be if we still had Blind Melon and Sublime? There probably wouldn’t be any War. Only Peace. Certainly No Rain.

And is it me, or is Amy Winehouse the lesbian-love-progeny of Tallulah Bankhead and Sarah Silverman?

My Current New-Favorite Book-Related Band

August 10th, 2007 at 3:16 pm

The Books

The Books are:

clearly into “Found sounds” and collages of sounds.
the polar opposite of Britney Spears.
having nothing to do with books.
having everything to do with books.
the kind of music you would only really enjoy while high and on the verge of sleep.
better than elevator music, worse than The Rolling Stones.
blissfully oblivious to the concepts of ‘the hook,’ verse, chorus, and the three chord progression.
clearly only popular among a sub-group of hipster elites who only like them because they will clearly be the only ones liking them.
keen on barely clever-cute titles like “Explanation Mark,” and “Thought For Food.”

Author Dolly Parton’s Dollywood to Get New Kick-Ass Ride

August 2nd, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Author Dolly Parton’s Dollywood has announced the start of construction on “River Battle,” a $5 million water ride that involves guns, targets, and innocent bystanders.

Take that Grand Theft Auto.

According to Dollywood.com, “As the rafts navigate the waters, the battle
begins as passengers, each armed with a soaker gun, take aim at each
other and more than 100 targets along the way, including large-scale
“talking animals”—beavers, skunks, otters, bears and more. Some of the
targets shoot back while others display a variety of special effects,
creating surprises at every turn and ensuring that no two rides are
ever exactly the same. River Battle also engages park guests along the
ride’s banks. While rafters are soaking each other in raft-to-raft
sparring, they also can “shoot” observers along the way in
“raft-to-shore” fun.”

And in case the irony of ‘guns’ ‘shooting’ ‘water’ on ‘beavers’ at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is lost on anyone, the homepage of the site features an image of Dolly and a quote of hers expressing that, “My one wish for you during your visit to Dollywood is that the wonder of the Great Smoky Mountains will touch your heart.”

Mountains indeed.