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Now Playing: Deserter’s Songs – Mercury Rev (1998)

Currently listening to Mercury Rev‘s classic album Deserter’s Songs, the neo-psychedelia acts fourth record.

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Now Playing: Objekt – Flatland (2014)

Currently playing Objekt‘s 2014 album Flatland, an impressive debut record which features a massive variety of genres, sounds, and moods.The Berlin based DJ is perhaps most well known for his dubstep and UK bass singles, however on Flatland, TJ Hertz mixes IDM experimentation with off-kilter techno and a healthy dose of bass-weight to create an LP which is polished, danceable, diverse, and keeps the listener entertained right to the very end. Objekt will be performing at Leeds’ Inner City Electronic festival, an all-day, multi-venue event which occurs in Leeds city centre this summer, and I hope to catch him there!

Gang Starr’s iconic album Moment of Truth turns 20 today!

Hip hop duo Gang Starr‘s classic album Moment of Truth was released twenty years ago today. Featuring the incredible production and beats from DJ Premier (a monumentally influential figure who is often regarded as one of the greatest producers in hip hop), and the monotone diction of Guru, Moment of Truth is Gang Starr’s greatest achievement, and is one of the greatest albums in rap music history.

Now Playing: St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)

Currently spinning St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album. I’ve bought tickets to see her live this Summer, so just brushing up and revisiting her catalogue.

Now Playing: Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995)

You’re Living All Over Me in Four Minutes

Here’s Pitchfork’s brief rundown of one of my favourite albums of all-time; Dinosaur Jr.‘s You’re Living All Over Me.

New Material Coming Soon!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, I’m in the midst of a new piece which requires a LOT of listening and research. Stay tuned, it should be here within a week or two. Here’s a hint of what I could be writing about…

 

Classics Vol 7: Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030 (2000)

The year is 3030. The galaxy is controlled by a tyrannical government institution. The New World Order is being fought against by opposing civilian forces. Art, literature and culture are gradually being extinguished and regulated by the powers that be. There’s an interstellar war, and only one person can save the day; our protagonist Deltron Zero arises, promising to topple the intergalactic empire with military grade technology, computer viruses and his skills as an MC…

Dizzying in sound as it is in concept, Deltron 3030 revels in sci-fi atmospheres, imaginatively vivid lyricism, unconventional electronica and flairs of old-school hip hop. Joining Deltron Zero (Del the Funky Homosapien) on his quest are his sidekicks The Cantankerous Captain Aptos (producer Dan the Automator) and Skiznod the Boy Wonder (virtuoso turntablist Kid Koala), whose beats provide the instrumental canvas for Del to topple the tyrannical government by spitting bars of insight to dismantle the doublethink and deter the Thought Police.

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Following Damon Albarn’s ‘State of the Nation’ announcement regarding the return of the corporate omnipresence, Del wastes no time in constructing the themes and temperament of the hip hopera in ‘3030’, introducing the post-apocalyptic universe with diction that rises and falls alongside the cinematic, orchestral instrumental. The concept is proposed in vivid detail, with illuminations of an underclass, the universe’s topography [1], cultural suppression, telepathy, and a police state (run by callous androids) materialising, whilst references to video games, dystopian premise and sci-fi novels are projected vividly in the lyrical landscape.  Released shortly after the Y2K scare, Deltron 3030 transpired to be an incredibly timely project; capturing post-millennium tensions of humankind’s necessity for technology and its shortcomings, such as a worldwide collapse through just one minor error. ‘Virus’ asserts Del’s plan to overthrow the government forces by causing mass technological fallout, reverting humanity to a state of archaic bliss, with the ensuing track ‘Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)’ foretelling that humanity must start exercising their brain functions once more in the wake of the upshot. Deltron 3030 opportunely captured the public’s attention, underlining the uncertainties surrounding new technology at a time when Internet usage was becoming the norm.

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Deltron’s greatest achievement was presenting the dystopian paranoia of 3030 as existential social commentary. Del employs 3030 as a sinister metaphorical narrative of the exacerbation of black struggles, comparing the failures of the American prison system [2] and the whitewashing of history and education [3] to the autocratic tendencies of 3030’s elite. 3030 reflects a climate of turmoil where the arts and hip hop are censored and controlled, not entirely dissimilar from topics witnessed in Orwellian texts [4], the supressed underclass of Metropolis [5], the book burnings featured in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or the snuffing of individuality in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Deltron 3030 exposed the parallel between the media’s portrayal of black youth movements and the repression tactics witnessed in dystopian literature, a practice which is still exemplified in the present day as major news broadcasters are spouting drivel such as “hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism.” [6]

Deltron 3030 was the logical step forward in black music’s curiosity for interplanetary concepts and philosophies. It furthered the Afrofuturistic values of Sun Ra, Afrika Bambaataa, and the work of Parliament/Funkadelic’s George Clinton, and enhanced the lineage of the bizarre astronomical conceptual works of OutKast (ATLiens), MF DOOM (numerous aliases including the time travelling Viktor Vaughn and the Godzilla inspired King Geedorah), and Dr. Octagon [7]. The incredibly forward-thinking trio created an album which outshines all their individual best works by fusing trailblazing hip hop with Philip K. Dick and Orwellian style dystopia and the ambitious sci-fi scope of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its embracing of both nerd culture and an underground ethos allowed hip hop’s imagination to stretch to boundless accomplishments; 3030 serves as both an audio delight and an incredible achievement of storytelling, and it’s arguably the greatest hip hop concept album ever created.

 

Footnotes:

[1]  Del raps “While half the world’s a desert/Cannibals eat human brains for dessert/Buried under deep dirt, mobility inert”, shedding light on the landscape of certain sectors of the universe, which are seemingly comprised of Mad Max-like dwellings of savagery and unruliness. Mobility inert refers to their inability to relocate, possibly a metaphorical referemce to issues surrounding class social mobility and ghettoization.

Deltron also mentions a race of underground people, a common trope of dystopian and post-apocalyptic tales, “Underground chillin’ with the mole man and his whole fam.”

[2] Deltron Zero avows “I’m feeling like a ghost in a shell/I wrote this in jail playing host to a cell/For the pure verbal, they said my sentence was equivalent to murder.” Del wrote the track after being imprisoned for his lyrics which enlighten and educate the public, and thus received a similar prison sentence to a murderer. The modern American prison system is often critiqued for discriminatorily incarcerating disproportionate amounts of African Americans and exploiting them for labour profit, a topic notably explored in the acclaimed 2016 documentary 13th.

[3] On ‘Memory Loss’, Del urges the listener to “Look in the past/You might have to go farther than the book in your class”, condemning the whitewashing of history and its suppression and regulation of historical teachings and culture.

[4] On ‘3030’, Del raps “Living in a post-apocalyptic world morbid and horrid/The secrets of the past they hoarded”, suggesting the regime attempts to eradicate history and culture, a common practise utilised by tyrannical dictators. Those in control direct public perception of history and culture; significant cultural monuments are destroyed, books are burnt and theorist’s judgements are stifled. This alludes to the dystopian themes grasped by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

[5] Metropolis is a 1927 science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The plot involves an underclass forced to serve the ruling classes by constructing and fuelling their empire. A working-class prophet emerges, promising to topple the tyrannical overlords. The film is regarded as a critique of capitalism.

Deltron criticises wealth inequalities and class systems numerous times in 3030, “It’s an eternal evil concerned with thievery/Medieval prehistoric rhetoric, well we ahead of that.” The Medieval period saw extreme wealth disparities, as the poor worked for Monarchies and lived under appalling conditions whilst the rich indulged in luxury, built empires and exploited slave labour. In ‘Memory Loss’, Del compares the minimum wage to slavery, “Plantations is man-labor for 5 bucks for hourly intervals.” He deliberates on the themes of class inequality which African American’s disproportionately suffer from.

[6] Fox News presenter Geraldo Rivera generated a huge amount of controversy for these out-of-touch comments he made in 2015 regarding a performance of ‘Alright’ by Kendrick Lamar at the BET Awards. Kendrick later sampled the quote on the smash-hit ‘DNA.’ from 2017’s DAMN..

Additionally, in the track ‘New Coke’, an elderly narrator declares that “All that bass is gonna break your ears.” The skit parodies the ill-informed views surrounding hip hop and black music; the cynical narrator longs for his youth, but in reality, he can’t adapt to change. Lampooning the uninformed opinions of hip hop naysayers, the sketch highlights the issues of singling out black culture and restricting the arts in the same manner as the autocrats of 3030.

[7] Themes of Afrofuturism and space travel endure in today’s hip hop and R&B climate. Examples include: Ras G, Clipping. (Splendor & Misery), Flying Lotus, Janelle Monáe (The ArchAndroid), Shabazz Palaces (Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines), and Death Grips (Niggas on the Moon).

Special thanks to Genius for helping me to get to grips with the concept and lyrical content in more depth.

 

Now Playing: Mary Anne Hobbs – Dubstep Warz

Dubstep Warz is an essential broadcast which marked the tipping point when dubstep went from an underground phenomenon to one of the most popular subgenres of electronic music of recent memory. Mary Anne Hobbs presents the show which features the talents of dubstep’s pioneers and proponents of its early sound. There are too many highlights to name, but I really enjoyed the sections from Mala CokiLoefah, and Skream. Additionally, I’ve been introduced to Vex’d thanks to this show.

You get a real sense of the excitement and passion from Mary Anne and the featured musicians here, and it’s testament to how thrilling British underground club culture can be.

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