linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


the riddim method

i just put up my first post over at our new group blog, the riddim method.

spurred rather than spurned by the appearance of the musico-critical superblog house is a feeling (no not that beat research), a bunch of us boston-linked beat-researchers--several of us already ensconced in the blogosphere--decided to form like voltron ourselves and turn our collective attention to the music and media we already share with each other, hoping that we can find some interesting ways of sharing these sights and sounds--and our thoughts about them--with anyone who cares to stop by.

in order to create something of a different voice over there, i am conceiving of my riddim-method posts as, primarily, "musically expressed ideas about music." this is something, of course, that i've already been doing here. and this is something that i think my compatriots have long been doing themselves as DJs, producers, and practitioners--and thoughtful ones at that.

my first post deals with a musical concept i've been thinking about and working on for a little while now: mashups of cover songs. i try to speak briefly about the potentials of this sort of approach, and i offer up two examples of my own. check it out.

and be sure to check the method for further riddimic incursions. we hope to get this thing up-and-rolling, with steam, before too long. look for some mixes, mashups, mad exclusives, and much musical mischief.


it's a mad mad world


cambridge carnival was blessed with a relatively sunny day, and people were exuberant despite a new and not so intuitive route for the roadmarch. click here for a lil' slideshow. (see the static pics here.)

people were representin' to the fullest, in living color.

and standing up tall.

when they weren't getting down.

the way the city displays its caribbean side on such occasions is always a fine reminder of how rich boston's cultural landscape really is.

i'll be mining some musical connections along these lines tonight at the enormous room, doing some diss-related beat research. should be mad mad. (not to mention wicked wicked.) hope to have a mix version up at the riddim method before long.


dosa buena


permanent press

a nice piece on me in today's phoenix. really great to see more affirmation of what i'm up to. some juicy quotes, too. most near-and-dear to me: i get a chance to give props to hip-hop for conditioning my listening practices. word. big up primo, ali shaheed, marley marl, bomb squad, prince paul, pete rock, jay dee, DITC, BCC, muggs, dre, dan the automator, shadow, timbo, and all other loop-based trailblazers. y'all changed my ears, my brain, my life.

tonight is "wicked wicked thursday" for those who don't know (see play). see you at the gods.

and monday we take a mad mad journey at beat research.

we riddim methodists. didntchaknow?


re-orientalizing the garbage man

it's hard to believe that it was 4 years ago that i spent the summer picking up trash for the cambridge park department. (that's pronounced "pahk depahtment," fyi.) back in '01, i spent 9 weeks as a temp doing all sorts of odd jobs, most of which consisted of some type of waste management. i spent the majority of my time riding on the back of a big orange dump truck (like the one pictured here--actually, the one pictured here).

working for the park department, i was spared the horrors of what some co-workers called "household rubbish." unlike the often vile stuff people put in front of their homes each week, the barrels i emptied into the maw of the truck were filled with relatively innocuous materials--mainly empty beer cans and little bags of dogshit.

having spent the preceding months mainly in my head, i enjoyed the sheer physicality of the work. it was an odd sort of delight to learn how many tons of trash i had lifted each week when we went to weigh it and dump it. you benchin' 250? shit, i'm pulling 2.5 tons a week, dude. i've never been in better shape, before or since.

as i settled into my body, i also settled into my old accent, easily dropping my r's in the company of my co-workers. it was more subconscious than conscious, though i must confess that i tacitly hid my higher education from my fellows. not that i was ashamed of it, but 'harvard' connotes all kinds of things in cambridge (as elsewhere)--not all positive--and i thought it was more important, and somehow more true, to represent myself as the cambridge native that i am, the publicly-schooled kid with working class roots and an authentic accent to prove it. (of course, an accent that i lost, more or less deliberately, shortly after moving my things into harvard yard.)

wayne&wax, "waste management 1: job description"

although i thought of (and still think of) harvard as an exceedingly conservative place--despite pockets of progressivism and even radicalism--it seemed that most city-workers thought of the place as the bastion of liberalism. when i decided to dye my hair orange, it was mainly inspired by a desire to match the brilliant orange color of the trucks, a familiar hue that i had found charming and distinctive all my life. sounds kinda, um, queer, doesn't it? well, it seemed that way to the guys in the park department, too.

i remember walking from the truck to the shed one day shortly after going orange. as i approached a group of foremen and laborers, one of the foreman said to me,

"what are you funny or something?"

"not that kind of funny," i shot back.

back to other connotations, though. around the same time i ran into my uncle, a longtime cambridge cop, who was with his partner, filling their car at the city pumps. glimpsing the orange hair for the first time he turned to his partner and said,

"see what hahvid did to him?"

whattaya kiddin' me, dude?

it was a funny connection to make--and not one that i would have made myself. for one thing, i had never dyed my hair before that spring and this was long after i left harvard. and again, i didn't associate any such unorthodox behavior with harvard. oddly enough, a co-worker had a similar impression. when i asked the driver of the truck on which i was working what he thought the other guys thought about the hair, he said,

"they probly think you're some kinda hahvid radical."

"heh"--i half-smiled, uncomfortably, wondering whether i should tell him the truth.

wayne&wax, "waste management 2: job security"

i decided not to, though. in fact, the only co-worker i confided in was a guy from st.lucia with whom i worked for a couple weeks wacking weeds. and only then because he asked me one day, in a straightforward way, about my education. i had never lied about it. i had simply left it out of the conversation. he suspected as much (as, most likely, did many of my co-workers.) he just shrugged and continued to regale me with tales about his various girlfriends and the group of st.lucian guys plotting to kill him. before i finished my stint as a temp, he gave me CD-Rs of bob marley and peter tosh albums (and this is before i turned jamaicanist), though he himself was more partial to cyndi lauper.

it was weird to feel as if i could no longer claim the working class status that made my socialist leanings seem more in line with who i was. although i had no more money than any of my fellows--many of whom were living check to check--i couldn't shake the feeling that i had a certain kind of capital that set me apart. despite my open antagonism toward elites, there was no denying that i had transcended the class status of my birth largely through my ivy league education. there was no way to erase that, though. no turning back. not that i was complaining or anything. nor was i out to romanticize all that there is about working class life--not by any means. but the tension produced an odd feeling of alienation in me. i could talk the talk and walk the walk, but then, at other times, i'd find myself wondering how to navigate certain situations in which i thought my co-workers, despite many of them being "good guys," were acting--let's just say it--pretty ignant.

being the young gramscian that i was, though, i always sought to struggle with my fellows at the level of common sense--to speak in language that they would understand and thus to challenge them to think outside their often narrow boxes. i knew that laying a silver-tongued diss on them would never be persuasive. a snowball of an argument? fugedaboutit. big words would you get nowhere here, buddy. whattayu? some kinda wiseass? and, yes, this in a realm of discourse where smahten up! constitutes a serious smackdown. of course, it's not in reference to intellectual smarts. indeed, the phrase is often accompanied by something along the lines of, don't you have any common sense?

wayne&wax, "dahk-skinned portuguese mahkie"

i found myself most frequently tested in instances dealing with sexuality and race, of course, though religion and politics (qua politics) were tough too.

perhaps more than anything else--more than picking up trash, mowing grass, cutting down trees, or painting lines on fields--city workers spend their time ogling women. i'd say a good 60-70% of our time was spent driving around looking at female pedestrians. now, being a red-blooded male myself, i can't say that i absolutely condemn the practice. sure, i avoid objectification as much as the next feminist dude, but i can't help looking. and in the company of enthusiastic, macho-macho men, there's no avoiding participating, even if only through tacit complicity.

sometimes the collective people-watching would lead to some interesting conversations. riding through central square one day, one of my co-workers exclaimed,

"look at all these beautiful women! i don't understand how anyone could ever choose to be gay."

"i don't think it works that way," i said, and there ensued a rather long conversation, ending with a not too contentious discussion of evolution.

not all pahk depahtment workers were so able to discuss such matters, though.

"god made adam and eve--not adam and steve!" a curmudgeonly co-worker barked at me one day.

"you can't believe everything you read," i replied.

"you can't say that about the bible! that makes you an athiest! or a communist!"

"um," i said.

wayne&wax, "waste management 3: same shit, different day"

not every instance resulted in truck-confined conversation, though. sometimes the ogling crossed the line into (verbal) harassment, and that's where i would draw the line, or at least attempt to.

the most egregious examples that i witnessed, including the one that gave me the best shot at someone's common sense all summer, were uttered by the driver of the garbage truck i worked on for several weeks. as partners for some time, we got to know each other fairly well. enough to have the kind of rapport that allows two grown men to timidly sing a karaoke duet to the unplugged version of stone temple pilots' "plush." (and, believe me, that's no small bond.) he was a cambridge native himself. and a port-a-gee [that's a hard 'g'] at that, as my father--a port-a-gee himself--would say. (east cambridge, a longtime site of portuguese immigration, has had the strange fortune of remaining a portuguese place, as brazilians have slowly replaced the folks from the old world.) sharing some sort of ethnic/national ancestry gave us some affinity and gave me just the license i would need to test his sense of difference.

the driver, let's call him mike, had a bad habit (or two). he would frequently yell--or more frequently, moan--out the window at some woman walking down the street. the moan was rather funny, as it sounded rather un-macho and almost vulnerable in a bizarre way. definitely not a sexy sound, at any rate. not sure what he was going for with that one. worst of all though, was that in the case that the woman was perceptibly (or imaginably) east asian, the moan or yell would be accompanied by such colorful phrases as "oriental slut!"

most often, he would just sing "konitchiwa" from the driver's-seat window of our big orange truck--the one with "THE cambridge department of public WORKS" emblazoned on the side. public works, indeed.

i attempted at first to undermine his blanket stereotypes by mentioning that not all east asian women would necessarily understand japanese. i told him that he might try "ni hao ma" from time to time since only japanese women would understand "konitchiwa." he asked me a few times to remind him how to say it, but in the end he clearly missed the point.

a short time later, though, i scored a decisive victory, though i can't say i know whether it has had any lasting effect on dude's consciousness and/or actions in the world.

we were driving through harvard square, right where garden street crosses mass ave and pedestrians abound. an attractive young asian woman walked past our truck as she crossed the street. when we passed her, my co-worker let loose his trademark moan followed by the phrase, "exotic whore!"

he yelled it loud enough for her to hear. i was disgusted. embarrassed. angry.

"do you think that's what they said about your portuguese grandmother?" i asked him.

he turned to me and grinned. it was the kind of smile that said, i'm not going to hit you for seemingly insulting my grandmother because, y'know, you really fucking got me on that one. i felt that i had proven my point and communicated it in his terms (and, let's face it, in mine too). i could have tried to snowball him by quoting edward said and talking about the legacies of colonialism, the politics of representation, the social construction of race, the racialization of gender, etc., etc.

but then i would have sounded like "some hahvid radical" and he would have dismissed my protest with ease.


i am talking about "re-orientalizing the garbage man" because i found back in the summer of '01 that the most effective way to undermine what i found to be retrograde, rearguard, and often unexamined ideas about sameness and difference was to remind my fellows that their perspective and their identity was not as stable and centered as they thought it was. i couldn't let them off the hook. sure, as (inherently emasculated?) public laborers they were exercising a relative degree of power, which may be understandable, but that doesn't absolve them. the irish, and portuguese, may have become white, but we--and that's all of us--have a collective responsibility to make sure that they do not stay so. (just as the opposite of whiteness is not blackness but, as adam mansbach might say, the dismantling of white privilege, the opposite of "stay black" is, if you will, "don't stay white.") and the answer is not that we need to become irish and portuguese again. we need to get past ethnocentrism and nationalism altogether. as fanon writes in wretched of the earth:

if nationalism...is not made enriched and deepened by a very rapid transformation into a consciousness of social and political needs, in other words into humanism, it leads up a blind alley. (p.165)

ah, but this is highfalutin talk for a garbage man. let's keep it plain and simple. i'm not that kind of funny. but trust me, dude: give me an opening, and i'll crack your ass up.

wayne&wax, "waste management 0: wayne&wax recycles"

now that's what i call waste management


endless summer

finally back in cambridge after a sumptuous couple of weeks down the cape. toward the end of our vacation, summer started to feel a little endless--which was a glorious thing in itself. we rose and fell with the sun, chasing it around on bikes and beaches all day and drinking cool cocktails as it set each evening. i figured that fennesz's endless summer would provide an appropriate soundtrack, so i grabbed the CD from home before i returned from my brief beat-research excursion.

and in many ways it was the perfect accompaniment to our sundry summery activities. there's a definite warmth that emerges from fennesz's studied digital tinkering. of course, the cover art and the ghosted beach-boy timbres help too. at the same time, though, the music is no walk on the beach. there's enough glitch and switch in the mix to make the uninitiated listener wonder if there isn't a little sand screwing with the car stereo.

and screwing is an appropriate term of sorts. i mean, glitch is/was the new/old screwed, innit? in many cases at least, so-called glitch music results from similar processes to those that create screwed music: fuck with--i'm sorry, screw with--the playback equipment (or the media itself) and record the results; if you like, chop and paste said results. presto: new music from old music! sure, screwed music relies on a relationship to recognizable sounds more heavily than glitch music (despite those who may actually hear the aphex twin in systemisch), but there is a fundamental sameness in the approach and a shared sensibility for altering sound sources via playback equipment and for relishing the sounds of the machines themselves, not to mention the sounds of the machines and the media messed/ing up.

not all of fennesz's compositions are glitchy in the same way: some seem to degrade into a granular mush, some erupt irregularly in sharp buzzing sounds, and others skip along like a water-worn rock tossed from the shore at low tide.

a rock's-eye view

my dear girl, becca, got in the car one day last week and encountered a track with this kind of skippy glitchiness, "before i leave" (as excerpted here by amazon--a fine research tool, i'll have you know). upon hearing the staccato, clipped, repetitive sounds, she said to herself (as she later reported), is this skipping or is this music? i love that question. it says right away that she knew that, at least for someone, this could be music. she just wanted to make sure that that someone was not just her. (having attended most of my electronic music lectures and suffered through many an oval listening session, she knew better than to dismiss it summarily.) she didn't want to surrender to the skipping as i would have done, welcoming new listening experiences regardless of how random, bizarre, or (to an extent) abrasive. she wanted to make sure it was music in the mind of the creator, and not just in her own. i appreciate her distinction between the two. she skipped to the next track to discover it playing just fine, decided that the previous track was indeed "music," and yet proceeded to listen to the CD right where it was--on a less skippy track.

for me, i told her, it is music regardless of what the creator thought. and i've felt this way for a long time. this is why, for example, i've been cherishing a slurred version of booker t and the MGs' time is tight for so long. and although it was mainly heavy-moleculed tetrahydrocannibols, and not DJ screw, that encouraged me to listen to incidentally-screwed music with open ears, it was definitely markus popp who helped me to hear a skipping CD as music where becca would hear skipping.

i remember one day several years ago when i was entranced by eric dolphy's out to lunch in a way that i had never been before. i found myself listening to individual flute attacks (and to breaths and half-breaths), to the amazing timbres that resulted from a vertical instant of bass/vibes/flute/cymbals, to the incidental beauty that emerged from a beautiful CD skipping beautifully. i was disappointed to learn that my cherished CD had been ruined, but the result was of no little consolation. in fact, the uniquely scratched CD was suddenly even more valuable than the pristine one. i could always get a new copy (and prolly even more digitally remastered or something) but i couldn't get another copy to do this:

eric dolphy, "out to glunch" (wayne&wax re-glitch) (10 min / 9 MB)

no doubt the glitched-out track sounds especially good because it is such an especially good track to begin with. jazz doesn't get more simultaneously in and out than this. these cats follow compositions and each other very closely, and yet sound completely unhinged, unorthodox, unconcerned with convention. as listeners in a digital age, we could stand to be as unconcerned ourselves when it comes to new musical approaches, new ways of playing as well as listening.

the sounds on the cape--breaking waves and chirping crickets mostly--had a similar music to them, one that was at least as in-and-out, as glitchy and warm, as any fennesz recording or eric dolphy malfunction. i like that listening to glitchy music affects the way i listen to the world, and vice versa. we could do worse than to hear each minute as music, whether or not it's "musical" in the traditional sense. best meditation that there is, if you ask me.

of course, i worship most frequently, if at all, at the throne of nature, which offers up no end of miracles. cheesy church calendars aside, god may as well be the sun coming through the clouds.

and christ would mean more to man if he were seen as no more miracle than the grass and the rain, but that's the transcendentalist in me talking.

can't help feeling this way when i get out into nature, though. constructed a category as it may be, nature provides a palpably different physical and spiritual environment than the city. being in it truly feels like communion of the highest sort, complete with passages to new worlds, such as the portal-like entry to the dunes at provincetown.

after passing through, this is the hill you climb to get a look, over the dunes, at the sea.

and here's a sliver of sea, seen from the dunes.

i told you i'd take better pictures this year:

i could do this forever. fortunately, there's flickr to help me (and spare you). [this whole tag phenomenon is frighteningly fascinating, e?] and there's cambridge to occupy me with all sorts of pursuits and projects, which, would you believe, actually seem to stand still when you're not watching over them.

at any rate, allow me one last, lovely sunset.

why don't they look this way in the city?

(ok--next post will be much less capecodian and much more cantabridgian. i promise.)


summer as a verb

did i say "see you next week"? oops. i meant next next week.

nothing like an extended vacation--pulling on time like salt-water taffy.

i made it back into town on a couple occasions, though i beat a fast retreat to the cape each time. on the way back to boston one passes signs like these, which are probably only funny to jamaicanists.

monday night i returned to check ghislain poirier's appearance at beat research.

ghislain was dropping some serious beats. his trademark mix of world urban music got a whole lotta asses shaking for a monday night in mid-august in cambridge. (if you haven't heard his lemon-red mix yet, you need to give that a listen.)

ghis is fond of what he calls "huge asshole bass"--which seems like a proper modifier to me. in fine fashion, he connected grime to crunk to soca to his own leftfield beats. a boon for a light traveler who seeks effortless movement across borders, man can work the play button like few i've seen. big up ya dirtier-than-clean chest, g.

meanwhile, winding our way back to the beach...

nature continues to beguile, swapping a cloud's silver lining for pink.

as you can see, i remain a total sucker for sunsets. (pale as photos of them may be.) i'll leave you with a few of my favorites.

as usual, more here.

i'm gonna enjoy these last few days of august bliss. but thanks for checking in, y'all. be back with more-prose-than-photos in a hot minute.


sunset, some rocks, a dog, scrabble, sunset

enjoying the cape immensely. it's cooler out here than in the city, and we've had many utterly perfect days.

some unbelievable sunsets, too.

unlike most places on the east coast, out in truro, you can see the sun set over the water (i.e., cape cod bay):

that's the p-town tower in the distance:

we've been spending nuff time at the beach. i like to walk along the surf's edge and spy the washed-over rocks in all their semi-translucent splendor:

you can try to pick them up,

but they soon lose their luster, unless one keeps them wet:

they look even more enchanting when, under water, the light hits them just right:

nature does some magical things, like weaving seaweed into pseudo-glyphs:

our pal, sam the dog, appears to have as much fun as we do at the beach:

but beware, he's excitable and has trouble with inanimate objects that act animate. here he's barking at a rock i picked up and was holding in my hand:

when it comes down to it, though, he's a gentle pup:

so i think we'll refrain from boiling him for dinner, unlike less lucky creatures:

talk about lucky creatures, i actually beat bec at scrabble the other day, which is a rare occurence. she may look patient here, but she's quite vicious:

the cape's terrain is rather distinctive. here's a shot from the province lands, where sand dunes and knotty pines abound:

i recklessly snapped pics from my bike while curving downhill through some sandy patches. i paid for it with a nasty crash and a big bruise on the knee. this is a shot, mostly of the sky, that i took on my way down. nice sky, though:

i'll leave you with a few more quintessentially cape cod shots, then it's back to the beach with me. you can look for more socio-musical analysis next week. thanks for coming by, though.

more soon. more here.