Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beastie Boy


     The message of Beauty and the Beast is, I believe, that what’s inside counts more than one’s outward appearance. But I think Disney undercut that message by making the Beast so damn sexy. I mean, look at him. He’s all buff, well-dressed, covered in a majestic mane. I’m just saying, if I was, I would. You know?
     In fact, all things considered, the Beast is a catch. He’s smart, caring, rich as fuck. Even if you have a problem with bestiality (c’mon, loosen up! It’s 2008!), you still have to admit that Anna Nicole Smith has married less attractive men. (Too soon?) And to sweeten the deal, he turns into a really handsome guy after… I don’t know, after some curse is removed or something. I haven’t seen the movie in a while.
     But the point is, how high are Belle’s standards? If the Beast had stayed beastly, would she have wanted to remain just friends? “Sure, he’s nice and all, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life coughing up hairballs.”
     Is that too graphic? I’m sorry.
     In the original fairy tale, the Beast is supposed to be really hideous, like Jeff-Goldblum-in-The Fly hideous. Disney even had some original Beast concept drawings that were scrapped for being too scary for little kids. At least, that was the reason given. In reality, the writers decided that having a beautiful woman like Belle fall in love with a physically unattractive guy was just too unrealistic. Then they moved on to the singing-dishware scene.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Church


     In theory, church seems like it should be a really enjoyable experience. I mean, it’s supposed to be a community coming together to share in a celebration of their deepest beliefs. It should be like a big party hosted by God.
     But it ain’t. You just sit on wooden seats and listen to somebody else talk for a while. Then at the end you get a little wheat disc. When I was a little kid I used to bring a book with me and read. The day my mom told me I couldn’t do that anymore was one of the saddest days of my life.
     Think about the origins of church services. Jesus broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper and said, “Do this in memory of me.” Why do we assume that he meant anything besides, “Go out to eat with your friends”? I’d be down for doing that every Sunday.
     My ideal church service would be like a big brunch. Everybody gets together to chat about stuff and eat pancakes. (Still discs, but not as small or wheat-based.) Play some gospel music over the place’s sound system, and maybe at the beginning have the priest propose a toast to the Lord. Have the waitress bring a collection basket instead of the bill.
     Give this some thought, Your Holiness. Taking Latin out of the mass was a step in the right direction. Now we just have to add some maple syrup. I’ll admit, people’s scriptural knowledge might be somewhat reduced. But at least parishioners would stop by on days other than Christmas and Easter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eminem and Kanye: A Comparative Appraisal


Is it wrong that two of my favorite rappers are Eminem and Kanye West?
I only ask because I know that they’re the two most obvious choices for a whiteboy rap listener such as myself. But I like to believe that they appeal to me not because I’m racist and/or a pussy, but rather because they’ve both expanded hip-hop’s potential in ways that few other mainstream rap artists have done since NWA.
Don’t get me wrong, gangsta rap has value. I doubt that there’s any other cultural force that has done as much to raise American awareness of the problems of inner-city youth. But the subgenre quickly became so dominant that it degenerated into empty, formulaic, commercialized posturing. For hip-hop to continue to grow as an art form, it needed fresh perspectives. The great thing about Eminem and Kanye is that they both moved away from the norm, but in two totally opposite directions. Kanye tried to be more positive: “I woke up early this morning with a new state of mind/A creative way to rhyme without using knives and guns.” Eminem went, uh, a little more negative: “I ain’t no fucking G, I’m a cannibal/I ain’t trying to shoot you, I’m trying to chop you into pieces and eat you.”
From there, countless clear contrasts emerge: Eminem was white but poor; Kanye was black but middle-class. Eminem is a lyrical master; Kanye is a master of production. Eminem walked around in a wifebeater; Kanye is the Louis Vuitton don. Eminem wrote “Cleaning Out My Closet;” Kanye wrote “Hey Mama.” Etc.
Being a fan of both artists, and aware of how much material rappers release outside of their own albums, I’ve scoured the internets in search of some sort of collaboration between the two. Sadly, I’ve only been able to find “Stir Crazy,” a 2000 Madd Rapper joint produced by Ye and featuring Em:

Kind of disappointing, right? Slim’s lyrics are pretty damn good, as they always were around that time, but the beat pretty much sounds like every other beat Mr. Mathers was rapping over back then. It’s not surprising, I guess, when you consider that
The College Dropout was four years away; Yeezy hadn’t perfected his skills, and no one really recognized the earth-shaking potential of this pairing.*
However, there’s still hope of hearing Eminem’s flow mesh with a truly great Kanye beat. Although Dr. Dre is supposedly handling most of the production on the upcoming
Relapse, the fact that the album’s release has been pushed back to the spring of ’09 means that rap’s two least likely superstars still have time to reunite.
On the other hand, I’m guessing an Eminem guest spot on
808s & Heartbreak is out of the question.
Whatever. Even if neither of them ever make another good album (and given the average pop music lifespan, that’s entirely possible), they’ve still managed to turn rap from a stereotype into an art form that accomodates an increasingly diverse array of performers, as well as an increasingly diverse array of listeners—including, but not limited to, whiteboys such as myself.

*Two near-misses since “Stir Crazy”: Kanye produced the title track for the album
D12 World, but Eminem doesn’t appear on that song. “Like Toy Soldiers” wasn’t produced by Kanye, but it sounds like it was.