Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Clef Notes: The Forgetting Where You Came From Edition

Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine


His pinky ring is worth more than what you will make this year.

He Just Ate A Croissant Filled With Champagne: Jay-Z is a lot of things: one of the best rappers ever, a savvy businessman, and quite possibly the greatest Brooklynite to have taken breath. Since the release of Reasonable Doubt back in 1996, Jay has clawed his way up from the Marcy Projects, to obscenely big private planes and co-hosting a presidential fundraiser with his incredible pop star wife Beyonce. On some levels it’s pretty easy to understand how the man who now co-owns the Brooklyn Nets has lost touch with the streets he used to roam and the struggles he once rapped about, but just because we understand something doesn’t mean it's acceptable.

In a recent New York Times Magazine interview, wherein he is essentially portrayed as the opulent Godfather of hip-hop, Mr. Carter ruminates on a myriad of topics affecting our world today. He discusses the future of the rap game, kids today, language’s role in rap music, and unfortunately, even Occupy Wall Street (I bet you haven’t heard about that in a while). It was with that last topic where he happened to put his custom shoe in his mouth.

While eating his chicky-chicky-parm-parm at a Mulberry Street restaurant, and talking with British novelist Zadie Smith, the topic of Zuccotti Park was brought up and according to Smith, Jay “became a little agitated” and shared these thoughts: “What’s the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for?” He says he told Russell Simmons, the rap mogul, the same: “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?” In an effort to clarify his statements, Jay continued: “I think all those things need to really declare themselves a bit more clearly. Because when you just say that ‘the 1 percent is that,’ that’s not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that’s robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that’s criminal, that’s bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on.”

Holla at ya boyz!

Now, I don’t want to twist the man’s words, but in a nutshell it seems that Jay is saying the Occupy movement is aimless and is possibly suggesting that its spirit is un-American (or at least contradictory to what “America is built on”). This point of view is disheartening to say the least (especially from someone who started their life where Jay did), and reflects an unfortunately common mindset among Americans who become nouveau riche. There is little doubt that the up-and-coming Jay of twenty years ago would have rallied against corporate greed, Stop & Frisk, and the various other socioeconomic issues which Occupy Wall Street stands against, but the fundraiser-hosting Jay... well, he needs to ensure he can continue his conspicuous consumption (remember that plane I alluded to earlier), and boasting about his Maybachs or whatever.

As you would expect, Jay’s comments have resonated in all sorts of corners of this rapidly shrinking world and numerous opinions have been shared concerning his statements (with most of them expressing a similarly disappointed viewpoint), but most of those opinions have come from fans and members of the media, not obscenely-rich rap moguls... except the one who Jay named dropped in his quotes.

No caption necessary.

Not long after the Times article was published, Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons wrote an Op-Ed piece in response to Jay’s comments titled, "Jay-Z Is Right 99 Times, But This Ain’t One” (very clever!). Simmons, another candidate worthy of the "Godfather of Hip-Hop" title, is both a notable Occupy supporter, and a SUPER-rich person. In his piece for Global Grind, Simmons tries to elucidate the Occupy Movement for Jay, as he describes its structure, accomplishments and even his own experiences at Zuccotti Park, which he claims to have visited nearly every day for several months. “I listened to the young people talk about their 99 problems. The 99 percent. Healthcare reform. Prison industrial complex. The war machine. Bad schools. Lack of access to affordable higher education. Genetically modified food. Gay rights. Immigration reform. Crumbling housing projects. Climate change. Every day, there was a new protester with a new sign, fighting for the rights of the under-served. There was never an official agenda or media-friendly talking points. Zuccotti Park and the Occupy camps that sprung up around the country were places for any and every person to come and share ideas about how to better perfect our union. Our democracy.” As you can see, Mr. Simmons is a very eloquent man- and he totally owns Jay-Z here.

There is a whole lot more to Simmons’ piece, and it is definitely worth a read, but the thing is the person who really needs to read it is Jay himself. In fairness, he surely has by now, and probably doesn’t care all that much about what any of us have to say, which is his right. As far as a response from the Occupy Movement is concerned, the only branch to issue one thus far is the Guitarmy, who plan to conduct a teach-in on September 28th outside of Jay-Z’s concert at the Barclays Center (the new Brooklyn arena for the Nets basketball franchise). The teach-in is scheduled for 6pm and will reportedly offer a “sincere answer to Jay’s question.” Only time will tell if Jay will hear, listen to, and sympathize with the answer to his question. In the meantime, I guess he can count the profits from those “Occupy All Streets” t-shirts he sold last year, as he was being an “entrepreneur.”

I'm pretty sure everyone is ready for this to be over.

FIX IT!: During a recent regional meeting with the United Russia party, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for the three incarcerated members of the Russian feminist punk group, Pussy Riot, to be freed from prison. The three women are currently serving a two-year sentence, following a five-month detainment period after an absurd conviction for “hooliganism driven by religious hatred”, but my guess is you knew that already.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Medvedev said: "The term is very strong. I would even say a terrible burden. I don't want to replace the judge... but the time they have already served is, in essence, more than enough to make them think about what happened, whether it was from their own stupidity or for other reasons." It is not clear  whether or not Medvedev’s statements will be enough to free the detained political prisoners, but it is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, Pussy Riot announced the release of an e-book this week which is meant to help raise money for the group’s legal defense fund. The book is said to include letters from jail, translated courtroom statements, and tributes written by various musicians, including Clef Notes regular Yoko Ono.

Lastly, below is a popular video clip of members of Pussy Riot thanking those who have supported them during their legal battle. BTW, I’m sure Jay-Z is going to figure out a way to monetize this issue for his own personal gain, without actually supporting it.


Love This Giant - David Byrne & St.Vincent

Ultimately Love This Giant falls short in just about every category, and should not be considered the portent of future great collaborations to come. There was a great deal of potential in this pairing, but as a wise man once said “plans they either come to naught, or half a page of scribbled lines.”...[Full Review]

Sun - Cat Power

Sun may alienate some of Power’s late adopters who have been waiting for the next batch of songs to drink and cry to - but those people don’t really matter. The truth is, Sun is a very bold direction for Power to be headed in, and one that I hope she explores to its farthest reaches... [Full Review]

16th Notes:

Why can't the Russians find a reason to imprison this dude?

Chris Brown recently found a way to make women hate him even more- getting a tattoo of what appears to be a battered female on his neck (right)! I have said it before, and I will again: fuck Chris Brown....An American federal court has reinstated the $222,000 in damages a Minnesota woman was ordered to pay the RIAA for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa approximately six years ago. At roughly $9,250 per song, I would like you to take a moment to calculate how much money you would owe the RIAA. Pretty scary, huh?... Nicki Minaj took to Twitter this week in order to clear up the mess surrounding her recent “Romney endorsement” in a guest verse on the latest Lil’ Wayne mixtape. In her tweet Minaj sent much love and support to Barack Obama, explained the Romney line was essentially delivered by a “character”, and put this long national nightmare to an end... Prince has recently announced a Chicago residency at the United Center beginning on September 24th. You kids today aren’t too cool for Prince, right?... An early demo of The Sex Pistols’ Belsen Was A Gas has been unearthed, and can now be heard on Youtube. You should definitely check it out, but don’t expect anything amazing, people; we're talking about a poorly recorded demo from 1977...The company behind this summer’s much discussed 2Pac hologram filed for bankruptcy this week. I guess there wasn’t a market for science-based blasphemy after all...

Top Ten List:

If you ever encounter a Portuguese person in your everyday life, I guarantee you it’ll only be a matter of time before they start rattling off a list of all the Portuguese people in show business (they’re a very proud people). Somewhere between Katy Perry and Steve Perry (he was the lead singer of Journey, kids) they will invariably drop Joe Perry, who is probably the greatest Portuguese guitarist of all-time (don’t hold me to that), and is in one of Rock N’ Roll's greatest bands, Aerosmith.

For about seven hundred billion years Aerosmith has been what many consider to be America’s greatest Rock N’ Roll band, and over the course of their legendary career the boys from Beantown have released some classic and beloved tunes. Joe Perry’s contributions to the band can never truly be measured, but rest assured they have been vast and integral, and in honor of his recent birthday I give you the ten best Aerosmith songs of all-time.

10) Living On The Edge
9) Dudes Looks Like A Lady
8) Love In An Elevator
7) Back In The Saddle
6) Rag Doll
5) Mama Kin
4) Janie’s Got A Gun
3) Sweet Emotion
2) Walk This Way
1) Dream On

Clip Of The Week:

Animal Collective has been making a bunch of appearances over the last couple of weeks in support of Centipede Hz, and they’ve been playing some live and unreleased music in the process. Below is a clip from KCRW’s Morning Becomes Electric, where they debuted Crimson, an outtake from their latest record. Finally, here is a link to KEXP’s Soundcloud, which contains a fantastic acoustic version of Wide Eyed and Pulleys, as well as an electric version of Honeycomb, and even an interview. You’re all welcome.

Track Of The Week:

@Deathgripz - Death Grips: Much to my dismay, there are some people out there who look forward to the fall season. At this very moment insane individuals are shopping for jackets on Amazon, looking up numerous pumpkin-related recipes, and desperately awaiting the chance to set their clocks back an hour. As you can probably tell... I don’t appreciate those people.

Fortunately, there are still brave souls out there who refuse to give into peer pressure, and even though week 2 of the NFL is upon us, they understand that it is still technically summer until September 21st. Chief among those souls (at least for the purpose of this narrative) are the good people of Williams St., who continue to provide us with free music via their Adult Swim website. This week’s track comes from the uniquely apocalyptic Death Grips, whose latest single @deathgripz shares a title with their Twitter feed, and is a slightly less-chaotic take on their usual brand of cacophony. You should give it a listen before you purchase that turtleneck from L.L. Bean.

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