Friday, January 20, 2006

It's The Remix

Just another trick of the trade

The Professionals - "Theme From 'The Godfather'" (mp3)
(purchase here)

As a storm brews, headz prep for the oncoming torrents of biting...

Seems Cam finally caught wind of Jay's Jackin' For Rhymes cut and conveniently 'reissued' it. Not to diminish the time and effort put into creating this humorous track -- whose point that Jay-Z is, in fact, a biter not a writer becomes illustrated in one of the most literal cut'n paste jobs I have heard -- but it is precisely the sort of tool used to stoke an argumentative fire: "Look! He is saying the same lines another rapper said! That's bad!" Well, that is also something musicians do: take from another. In case you don't remember, music is a discourse. Consider music based around oral traditions, such as Appalachian folk or even the work of griots, wherein songs and stories are passed down generations by allowing each performer to retell, essentially, the same song or story. Consider it the first remix, an intentional nod. So, when Jay spits that line from "Big Poppa," the idea is to connect himself with Biggie. For anyone who doesn't know and interprets that line as an invitation to open their womb to Mr. Carter, well, that's an issue of a listener in need of Hip Hop 101, ya heard?

Today's conversation isn't about lines that reference another rapper's lines. Rather, the idea of copying, which seems to me a sacrilegious act in this country. Imitation as a form of flattery is applicable only for the pre-pre-school set, a 'phase' in childhood that is quickly outgrown and left in favor of the marvelous world of unique and profound thoughts and actions. That explains why we have such grossly fascinating conversations on the daily, right? I suppose the hang-up makes sense when capitalism is taken to its logical conclusion -- from a business standpoint, you should want to be the sole person providing such and such good/service and take out all the competition. Killa! However, I feel I have watched the best minds of my generation waste their time holding the pencil in one hand, thrusting their other arm and torso around and closing the box with their head. The worry is always: defense against cheating, the threat of a foreign attack. Yet never is there a discussion of personal motivation, responsibility, nor a collective sense of trust. Then again, I suppose these are not entirely capitalist tenets, eh?

Perhaps a better way to approach this discussion is to point out the negative connotation copying has attained in today's society. Here's something to think about: situations (be they mundane or enlightening is of no matter) that can be considered both innovative and copy-cat, depending on your humble opinion. For example: Lindsay Lohan's rise to success. She can be considered a tabloid completionist, having appropriated every celeb headline: massive weight-loss, car accidents, substance abuse, emotional instability, broken relationship with sig o, broken relationship with daddy o... However, perhaps part of her appeal is precisely because she has hit each nerve at precisely the right moment, so as to expedite her rise to fame in a wholly unique fashion. The point is to see how subjectivity has tainted our collective use of the word "copying" and how that affects our ability to critically assess situations around us. Cam isn't mad at Jay because of his writing, or lack thereof. This is a business, after all.

Which brings me to today's installment, a cut from the fantastic Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up compilation. Although centered on the output of one label, C.E.S., during the '60s and '70s, the wide range of tracks demonstrates the tiny nation's ability to soak up influences from the Caribbeans, Central America and North America. The Professionals lead the CD's pack in diversity, covering anything from Cuban guajiras to the O'Jays. As a testament to a true musician's creative spirit, the group remakes each song with a firm understanding of purpose and loose sense of propriety. In other words, they perform each song as only they could. Funny then that they earned a reputation for "promptness and reliability" (a quality vaguely reminiscent of my new favorite blogger's penchance for "well-researched" designs; nod to Oli for the spot), because on paper they could come off as COPYCATS, right? Well, listen to their take on Puzo's theme and then discuss...

One Last Anecdote:
The child of one of my dad's friends who is an avid gamer once said, "The Japanese are not creative people. All they do is copy." My father responded that Japan cannot be beat in terms of service. Being Number One Son, I will explain father dearest's comment. In the 20th century Japan demonstrated how to successfully rebuild a nation. WWII bombed the country back to the stone age. However, with the help of Western resources, it turned a city of fire like Tokyo into a center of commerce in roughly twenty years. Twenty years. Now, it is one of the world's centers of commerce, tourism and residence. The point is that the Japanese used support in an innovative fashion to rise to the top. Take the example of Sony and how the company took Texas Instruments' junk transistors and created a ground-breaking transistor radio. Yes, a little bit of copying was involved. Call it sampling, call it The Remix. The end result remains the same.


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