“It’s that confidence in owning the stupidity that makes it work. Those are the special moments: ‘Yeah, this is stupid. And I am not. I will stare you down with this if you want to have staring contest over how stupid this is and try and get me to apologize. But I will not lose. You’re going to give in before I give in.’”—Tom Scharpling, from my GQ interview with him.
“As a character, Pusha only offers so much. He’s Marlo before the fall, a cold, meticulous, and godless student of pushing powder. But Pusha is more knowing, more creative than that. He’s subject, not object; no mere character, he’s, a gifted pulp author with a laser-sharp (and at times questionable) focus and no lasting use for reflection. If anything, Pusha is more Slim Charles, dispensing wisdom as the all-knowing insider, the storyteller who has seen so much he operates at a distance.”—Wrote about that new-ish Pusha T for Hazlitt.
“The loss of perspective is as central to my internal monologue as my ability to solve the world’s problems when I get going. It’s far worse television, to be sure. Yet sometimes I worry that Carrie Mathison exists only to rationalize the topsy-turvy structure of Homeland.”—I wrote about Homeland and myself for GQ.
“Sometimes, narcissism is anything but bombastic. There’s a circularity to Big Star’s story that might be its most comforting feature. They never wanted to be part of the underground, and indeed, Big Star today is hardly esoteric. People commit their songs to memory, live and cry by them, take them on as pop in the most fundamental sense. The music has ended up where they always wanted it to be, but where does that leave the people who made it? Ambition means very little if there’s nobody left to enjoy it.”—In case you missed it, I wrote about Big Star and Death and documentary legacies for Hazlitt.
The New Yorker web item about Jack Kerouac and possible concussions is, on its face, an important melding of sports and literature. Football has always been part of Kerouac’s All-American backdrop. But we’re rarely given any reason to consider the difference between one sport and another, or acknowledge which one he excelled it and what that might mean. This line of inquiry belong to football and football alone. It also has the effect of extending Kerouac’s sports biography as something more than a symbolic echo. It gives it, um, resonance.
It also has the unlikely effect of deepening the divide. Beyond-the-grave CTE check-ups are inexact science but they are science nonetheless. The self-destructive literary genius is at best pop psychology; often it verges on mythology. Here, sports beat up literature and not only took its lunch money, it stripped away a key narrative and reduced it to a doctor’s visit. Body beats mind, reason screws Romance, life becomes a little less magical even in suffering. The most important thing here is a human life, so keeping score like this is kind of tacky. Then again, shouldn’t that be the case whether we’re talking about the nuts and bolts or sports or the inner workings of authors?
On some later date I am going to write a lot about the place of Romanticism in sports, specifically when it comes to injury (what up, long lost book proposal!) I’m not sure, though, if it’s indicative of a shift in the way we view creative heroes or just how resistant concussions have proven to poetry of sports injury.
I’ve been thinking a lot about McGrady, Iverson, Odom, and their particular era of the NBA—you can read some of it here on the GQ website. But aside from the simple chronology of “the last beacons of a messy, charismatic era are falling away, let the New Bawses reign from up on high,” this is also a story about those of us who have been writing about the NBA is various unconventional ways since T-Mac, AI, and Odom truly mattered.
A friend on Twitter asked if the “era” I was referring to was “the FD era.” Any way you want to take that comment, it’s true. Everything I learned how to do with basketball, from a critical and creative standpoint, came out of this problematic, if endlessly fascinating, crop of players. Their basketball issues were also very human issues; their successes and failures could never be reduced to X’s and O’s. It’s worth noting, too, that when we wrote about them, we were also writing about ourselves, even as the athletes themselves existed on a plane we could barely grasp.
As people and performers, these were gods. And yet to dig into their narrative was about as messy and laden with hot entrails as anything in your local therapist’s office. Even when teams were the word, like with the Kings or Suns, there were very strong personalities guiding the way. Webber’s moods are the history of the Kings; between Nash and D’Antoni, the Suns were as much about eccentricities and they were new offensive systems. Hell, the first iteration of that squad was basically an exercise in aimless joie de vivre that happened to win big. If writing about sports always seemed to present itself as not only something bigger than wins and losses, but a theater where athletes could wow us with feats and then lose us in their countenances.
There’s also a highly technical and possibly uninteresting way for me to look at this era. My writing-about-sports career was launched by these players; as they started to fall away, I lost of lot of my heart and soul in the writing. There were notable exceptions, like with Russell Westbrook. But there was a marked shift away from soul-searching and on toward the theorizing and jargon-forming that, in particular, marked the work Tom Ziller and I did together.
Not to say that this stuff was leaden or humorless (probably applies more to my attempts at parsing the mysteries of human nature via T-Mac). I can safely say, though, that with these players the NBA was something it isn’t anymore. The local color is gone; long live the ideological formations.
“Some might see Jennings as a bust or a tease; I prefer to think of him as, in true southpaw fashion, perplexing, imperfect, and at his fleeting best, an original. That’s the curse of the NBA lefty: They’re outsiders whose very presence sows chaos but who rarely rise to the level of self-definition. That same madness they can inflict upon others also infects their game. Yet there’s no angst to it. Jennings is a ghost who hasn’t quite figured out the meaning of death.”—Celebrating the New Look Pistons and left-handed NBA players for GQ.
“This goes back to Maura’s point about the conversation being centered around that oh-so-marketable 18-35 privileged white male demo: Those dudes’ free reign on the Internet and in life has made them feel empowered, and a lot of them tend to speak from a position of authority when they don’t yet know what they’re talking about — not just about feminism, but about rap music, politics, you name it. As for being gentler, I firmly believe it’s the role of the ally to learn all they can on their own before trying to speak for and even with the people they’re allying themselves with.”—Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, from a SPIN roundtable on male feminism. More importantly, it explains why my demographic is so often utterly useless when writing about music, film, television, or sports these days.
As I wait breathlessly to watch the final Bill Hader episode of SNL, here’s an old draft I wrote in 2010 about Stefon and meta-comedy that never ended up going anywhere.
I watch Saturday Night Live because it’s there, and so am I. It’s kind of like that person you always ended up going home with because it was 2AM and you were too drunk to go home alone … except this is also a story about marriage, adulthood, relative sobriety, and life in a city that makes a bad job out of “quality of life”.
When I laugh, it’s usually because the show is silly, not funny. When SNL does better than that, I get extremely possessive about it. I guess you could even say I’m proud of it. Will Ferrell’s idiot-pure version of “Goodnight Saigon” tried, through mockery, to wring real emotion out of overwrought pap. It turned senseless cameos and a mismatched imaginary big band into something resembling community — and from there, on to loss and redemption. It did all the work the Billy Joel original could never do today, and did so, at bottom, by making fun of the troops. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to organize my thoughts on it. Jenny Slate’s ethnic doorbell lady was just as good, and I wouldn’t dare ruin it by trying to play critic with it.
I’m pretty sure that, when Bill Hader’s Stefon first appeared on “Weekend Update” last April, I didn’t think much of it the next morning. Stefon, the overgrown club kid with psychedelic long sleeves creeping out from under a tight green t-shirt with a dragon on it, was a lisp with a grocery list of non sequiturs. In his segment, Stefon hips Seth Meyers to a series of New York clubs sure to appeal to anyone visiting from of town. The basic joke — the contrast between Meyers’ plea for wholesome travel advice and the degenerate Stefon — went stale before it started. The real meat of the character, if it makes sense to call it that, were his descriptions of the clubs. At once prudish and knowing, all of them involved some combination of sitcom figures, physical abnormalities, abjection, and various queer sub-categories.
Hader is poised, and all about selling this character, up through the “high-waisted midgets” and “Teddy Graham people”. Then, when asked to explain “human fire hydrants”, Hader just loses it. He starts to crack up, turns away from the camera, and sets off wild applause. Luckily, one of Stefon’s mannerisms is to place his hand over his mouth, and by the end, Hader is relying on it for cover. That’s when you wonder: what if the whole point of this gesture is to provide Hader with a safety valve?
As funny as Stefon has been—and let’s face it, the repetition (and repetitiveness) really only strengthens the gag—this moment is the highlight. Whether or not you think Saturday Night Live, or this sketch in particular, is funny, it’s heartening to be reminded that the performers do. A movie like Funny People, or to some degree, Louie, explores not only the intersection of comedy and reality, but also the fascination we have with comedians as people—and comedians as essentially engaged by their own jokes. It’s affirmation that we are laughing at the right things. And we aren’t laughing, well, it makes us happy to get that kind of authentic glimpse into the emotions behind the delivery system.
Stefon was back in May. This time, the audience isn’t exactly jolted when he finally has to take a step back and quell his laughter. In fact, from the beginning, Hader has trouble holding it together. In October, not only did Stefon get some of funniest lines yet— I particularly like “a Russian guy talking on a pre-paid cell phone” and “Is that Mick Jagger? No, it’s a fat kid on a Slip ‘N Slide.”—he also gave in and let his shakiness become part of the humor. That’s the tenor of the exchange; we’re laughing at his inability to do his job, but also with him. Hader himself laughs not only at the material, but also the meta-gag of comedy too potent for the comedian to handle. There’s no joke without the performer; if the performer succumbs to his own tricks, is that the ultimate success or an amateur-ish failture? It depends, again, on how much you value professionalism. Or if it’s sometimes reassuring, even sublime, to be reminded of the craft and the subject behind it. Meyers, the straight man whose job it is to anchor Hader, providing a foil and a steadying influence if need, erupts off-camera. Everything is falling apart, and what began as an vehicle for wacked-out imagery has turned into a bit of pomo theater that revels in its own dysfunction.
We got our latest look at Stefon on Saturday, and now, the bit itself has evolved into a vehicle for the controlled chaos of October. The lines have grown more spare, as if to give him less to choke on, or slow down the goofball momentum that makes it so hard to keep a straight face. Hader is also very clearly reading from cards, and now has Stefon periodically covering his whole face. The goal is to prevent a total meltdown, or perhaps the intent is to keep the unrest to a minimum, reaping its comedic advantage without risking collapse. Either way, it backfires.
The new rhythms are almost like an admission of defeat, and the way Hader reacts to the lines as he reads them makes you wonder if he’s ever seen them before. When Stefon appears, the audience not only anticipates Hader and Meyers breaking character; they approach the whole thing as if it were a challenge to the performers, one that, when they fail, will allow them all to share a good laugh. It may not be as spontaneous, or fresh, and the sudden unity has been replaced by a more contrived collaboration. Yet the audience seizes on Hader’s every missed beat, as if anticipating the crack-up. They seem to understand that the sketch becomes truly participatory, an inside joke from the beginning by virtue of their expectations (and those suggested by the new safeguards in place). What results is biggest mess of all the Stefon appearances, and despite the paucity of language, probably the most rewarding.
“I live with his decisions because he has a pure heart." The terrible thing about losing is that it makes you sentimental. Winning makes you sentimental, too, but mostly because it fills you with an exaggerated love for the people who helped you along the way. Losing makes you want to defend the people you love who’ve disappointed you. But you can’t say that stuff, because to the people who don’t feel the loss the way you feel it, you’ll sound like a moron, or worse, a mystic. When you lose, I thought as I joined the crawl toward the on-ramp, and you want to hold on to the past that you’re afraid is about to slip away from you, you have to say the opposite of what you mean. What Brooks should have told the media was not "Kevin Durant is pure of heart"; it was "sports is the worst and it sucks and I hate it.”—I want to be Brian Phillips.
“Any sane basketball fan should be mourning for the Thunder and for themselves. Not because they look shaky without Westbrook; what team doesn’t lose a bona fide superstar and then experience some aches and pains? Instead, we should allow ourselves to admit that Durant/Harden/Westbrook was a glorious thing and miss it profoundly.”—Back on the block at GQ to get all emotional about the post-James Harden Thunder.
“What if a perennial All-Star had come out? It would be about a quasi-celebrity, not a working stiff. The effect would be more localized and nearly impossible to react honestly to. Collins is a Basketball Everyman. The reaction to him is indicative of how players feel about each other and it would seem, how they would view a gay teammate.”—I weigh in on Jason Collins for Salon.
Steve Marsh wrote a fantastic piece for GQ about fashion in the NBA these days. Rather than deal solely with the surface (meme-worthy press conferences and vanity glasses), Marsh gets into both the heavy specifics (who styles who; who goes to what fashion shows and why) and the roots of the movement. It’s the latter that makes the most provocative claim: that the dress code, rather than stifle identity politics in the NBA, instead laid the groundwork for a new era of image. Hip-hop wasn’t left in the dust; rather, basketball players undertook the same shift in paradigm that’s come to define Jay-Z or Kanye. Style of dress is shorthand for the way they make their way in the world, both professionally and personally.
Dressing like Iverson was a salute to the “real”; all too often, it was also indicative of an inability to adapt to the demands of the NBA life. The dress code, on paper, was to be the worst kind of assimilation. Instead, it forced players to confront maturity on their own terms. Stern wanted suits? Players discovered couture and the rekindled the grand tradition of looking fly. Stern wanted accountability and respectability? Today, players are more self-aware and serious than ever about their roles as businessmen and power brokers. It’s not just about fighting for the right to wear XXXXXXL. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. Ironically, the dress code may, in the long run, have made NBA players even more troublesome. It was the last stand of one era and, in the message it sent, a clear sign that players needed to start working on a stronger, savvier alternative to what they stood for.
I am going to change everything for you right here and to such a degree that I don’t even NEED to put this up on Facebook.
After tirelessly exposing my 1.5 year-old to music that I want to listen to and seeing what seemed to amuse, soothe, or subdue her, I have come up with the magic formula for a band intended for babies but strong enough for music snob parents. Here goes:
-Vocals high and waily. Mariah, disco, Roky Erickson as references.
-Guitar and bass fuzzed out, stomping, moronic riffs. Troggs, Rust Never Sleeps, Earth
-Drums robotic or skittering. Krautrock, trap muzik
Please someone make this dream come true and make everyone’s life a better place. I bet my brains this project will achieve its stated ends.
1. Ikea’s Expedit is the standard, affordable option for record storage.
2. Most places I’ve ever lived in either have floorboards or are slightly off-center, meaning the Expedit doesn’t line up flush with the wall.
3. This creates a gap between the wall and the edge of each “chamber.” If a record is pushed too far by accident, it can ding the corner of the jacket.
4. This could easily be solved by mounting a large piece of plywood, preferably painted to match the Expedit unit, upon purchase. However, that requires nails.
5. I have zero aversion to horribly rounded or missing corners but once-dinged corners are terrifying to me. Everybody loves imperfection but that’s different than liking NO LONGER PERFECT.
6. I now have a near-toddler, who sometimes pushes against a chunk of records and sends them all the way back.
7. Here is the easy solution.
8. Take record mailers of various sizes. Fold out the larger flaps away from the inside until they form a u-shaped bracket.
9. Insert the mailer into a “chamber,” with the insider of the mailer (flaps closed over some cardboard) facing the wall. The larger flaps secure the mailer; the other side serves as a buffer with some give to it.
10. Put a chunk of records in and carefully push back. Check to make sure there isn’t still a gap. If so, use a bigger mailer. If they records are hanging over the front, use a smaller one.
11. Everyone will now be safe until the end of time.
12. Alternatively, just keep bangin’ until the wall-facing corner has been rounded down and breathe a sigh of relief. That sort of erosion can take a while, though.
“And that was just it: Instead of the internet working against our real lives in provocative ways, it became an extension of them. The looking glass was now a mirror; instead of reinventing us, the web simply provided more of us to the world, and more ways to take advantage of the world around us. We speak of Yelping and checking in on 4Square as if these were activities, when they are simply the day-to-day cataloguing of our lives—or, even worse, a grimly detached version of modern life in which we aspire to be ourselves. Mediation presents itself as a friendly tool when in fact it creates distance between us and the ordinary.”—Me writing at The Awl on “Web Disorders: Chronic Self-Disclosure.”
"Came out" was always so generic, a ritual as potentially objectifying as the hunt for the Gay Rapper. What Frank Ocean did was more nuanced, personal, and altogether harder to parse. It resisted generalizations even as its language remained, for the most part, vague. The presentation, tone and even the medium of delivery (Tumblr) were tailored to not only Ocean’s (in descending order of ugh-ness) aesthetic, image, or brand. The structure of black pop hath not been split in two by a symbolic figure. Rather, a highly-respected and extremely idiosyncratic artist has told us something about himself. It just happened to be a bombshell, submerged and possibly anchored by context.
Are we gently reeling? Or is this relief? This discovery, if we want to make audience into the protagonist, is fully a function of who we already know Frank Ocean to be. In the same way that it’s relatively easy for rappers to espouse support for gay marriage, only a total ass would go on the warpath against this kind of post-activist announcement.
"How we feel about each other" is an impossible topic to chew on, and when introduced in those terms, invariably leads to either gun-shy platitudes or blind, thoughtless generalizations. Feelings about categories are feelings about the people who make up those categories, and without first-hand experience of said people, it’s a meaningless line of questioning. That’s the irony of the "black friend" cliche. The only way to have any remotely valid stake in this dynamic is to forge relationships, however ambivalent, with people not like yourself. Of course these relationships can’t serve as cover, and yet they remain the basic unit of progress here. And the sub-unit of a relationship is a person. You’ve got to give a fuck about another human being before it matters that your interaction is of some sociological importance.
I’m straight, white, and fairly disconnected from hip-hop at this point. It says a lot, though, that Frank Ocean’s statement strikes me as both emotionally riveting and important. In 2011, I did a piece on homophobia in hip-hop for XXL; I walked away from it feeling that the biggest stumbling block wasn’t a moralized resistance or a fear of casual contact with gays. There wasn’t even an element of denial involved, which is nuts considering how taboo prison life remains. It was a blanket anxiety about what this mythical Gay Rapper would do to hip-hop. Structurally, what happens to the art form, the culture, if such a figure were to inhabit this space? It’s the most ordinary and garbled form of concern—”what does this sea change mean for me?”. No “I” fits so seamlessly into these categories so as participate in them at the level of abstraction. Nor does the, ahem, change agent arrive ready-made to predictably disrupt the order of things.
Frank Ocean has made it harder and easier by raising the issue on his own terms. His words are distinctly, defiantly his; this is a template all his own. Anderson Cooper, for whom the stakes were far lower and the announcement a mere formality, also crafted a statement that could not have been offered by just anyone. At the level of style and substance, these were stories about two dudes many of us quite liked already. We still don’t know these people as anything more than celebrities. But both have made sure that, as they add this detail to their public profile, they do so in a way that belongs to them and them alone. It’s the personal touch elevated to a form of defiance: You might as well know this about me. It’s another part of the picture.
“Through the decades, consternation over Porgy and Bess has inevitably reflected its own era’s black class anxieties as well as white misconceptions about black life—for black audiences desiring characters like themselves to identify with, the question hasn’t always been one of representation so much as the much trickier one of surrogacy. In its own day, even those critical of the opera’s racial modus operandi credited it with at least giving a flock of talented, conservatory-trained opera singers a foot in the door. But Porgy and Bess achieved far more than that.”—My friend and mentor Francis Davis, in a Capital New York essay on Porgy and Bess that you should read even if you don’t care about Porgy and Bess.
For me, the pivotal Beastie Boys moment wasn’t when I first saw the video for “Fight for Your Right to Party” on a giant screen at a local Chuck-E-Cheese knock-off, or when I saved up enough change to make Licensed to Ill my first-ever cassette purchase. The video terrified me, less for what it sounded like and more for its wanton, idiotic cruelty. I may even have cried. But I also wanted to be it. The tape, copped at K-Mart with piggybank change, was played endlessly because I didn’t know what else to do with it.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Beastie Boys changed my life. But I’m pretty sure that this only really happened was when I realized that Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, who passed away this week at the age of 47, was the best rapper in the group.
When their place in the genre’s history gets discussed, the Beasties are frequently referred to as a “gateway” act; my relationship with them, in a sense, a generational trope. The screwball collages of Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head’s skate-punk soul jazz are considerably more original and highly-regarded; The Beastie Boys made the greatest impact with their first album, a novelty record whose cultural pastiche was more memorable than its musical accomplishments, then spent almost two decades proving they were more than obnoxious rip-off artists.
Except Licensed to Ill wouldn’t have worked if it had simply lead so many of us to rap music. Licensed to Ill didn’t just put the idea of hip-hop in our heads, it taught us the basics of how to listen to it.
The Beastie Boys played their delinquent scourge to the hilt, and the bratty, smash-and-grab ethos that shaped their image may have suggested that they were subjecting pop music to random acts of violence. That wasn’t it; they were riding the coattails of a new musical language. Their ceaseless trolling, Oprah-baiting and parent-frightening belonged to a time-honored tradition of commodified rebellion. The music, though, was a primer for a new language. What’s more, it was a surprisingly effective introduction to “the real” of artists like Run-DMC, Slick Rick, and Rakim, not to mention the groundwork that allowed Public Enemy and N.W.A. to have an even more marked effect on many of us a few years down the road. The Beasties didn’t teach me to yell over samples, they lead me straight to the Panthers.
The Beastie Boys, on the other hand, are mistakenly credited with making a rock-influenced album as if they had anticipated rap-metal. Yet Rick Rubin’s guitar-heavy production, including Zeppelin samples and an appearance by Slayer’s Kerry King, was part part of the sound he had already established with Run-DMC on King of Rock. To make their case to the mainstream, Run-DMC had to had to make a “Walk This Way” video in which walls were forcibly removed and Aerosmith joined forces with them in seeming violation of some musical natural law (note: Joe Perry has said that he intended the original song to be a Meters-style groove, which suggests that rap had the ability to reinforce racial barriers even where none had existed in the first place). The Beastie Boys, on the other hand, had tracks that were very much a product of rap’s avant-garde impulses. This was new, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it wasn’t also convincing.
Part of understanding hip-hop meant learning the difference between dope and wack, or whatever we said back then. Rubin provided the credibility but when it came to the actual rhyming, the Beasties walked a fine line between aspirants and outright parodists. That is, except for MCA. The reason why, for me, Yauch was always the most important Beastie Boy is that he made me realize that there were standards in rap; when I listened to him, I heard something that wasn’t there with Ad Rock and Mike D. It was part of the education; you might even say he was the first MC I ever heard who made me understand the importance of flow, breath control, riding the beat, and all those other things we expect of credible rappers.
Ad Rock seemed to relish sounding ridiculous, and Mike D could be wan and shaky, so the format probably. It was MCA’s booming voice that saved those composite, rapid-fire verses. The first voice you hear on Licensed to Ill is Ad Rock’s adrenal whine, stretching syllables in an unpleasant yammer: “Because mutiny on the bounty’s what we’re all about.” Then comes MCA, simpler, more composed, and vigorous: “I’m gonna board your ship and turn it on out.” In its wake, Mike D’s “No soft sucker with a parrot on his shoulder” barely registers. At some point in 1986, I could hear that. MCA was the one who seemed to actually get this hip-hop thing and in the process, allowed so much of us to figure it out with him. He wasn’t battle-tested or battled-ready, but it didn’t really matter. He was the hook. He was what got us in for life; we all carried some of MCA with us down through the years.
As the first international player to really have an impact on the NBA, Drazen Petrovic helped set the stage for the international influx of the late 1990s and aughts. However, he remains best known for his tragically, unfortunate premature death. In 1993, at age 29 and just four year into his…
Um, this is verbatim a chapter from the second FreeDarko book. Nice post, though.
The customary song-stuck-in-head is rarely a mystery. It’s either present in its entirety, or at least some self-evident chunk like the chorus or a key bit of lyric. When we only have a snatch of melody, it falls into another category. Unidentifiable, incomplete, and caught between irksome and haunting, these fragments have no value in themselves. They are signposts toward a whole—unsatisfying riffs, wordless melodies that defy Google—and can cause you to itch out your skull for entirely different reasons. Lately, though, I’ve hit on a third, and altogether less torturous, variation on this: the phantom sample.
I can’t really claim any intimate knowledge of samples. I’ve listened to hip-hop since elementary school, and plenty of soul and jazz after, but never much got into staking out or cataloguing source material. I’ve had very little first-hand experience with making beats, even as a spectator, and never felt the need to stock up on awesome breaks or totally flip-able joints. Yet just from having hip-hop on around me for so long, my brain has, on some level, wired itself to work like a sampler. I can’t help but catch myself thinking “that would totally work,” and over the last couple years, finding myself with prospective samples stuck in my head—stripped, however, of all context or identifying markers.
I know where they come from: Somewhere in the stack of records (these days mostly funk-less 70’s and early 80’s soul) that I listened to the day before. Once or twice, before I had an infant around, I’ve gone back and tried to track them down. Most of the time, I’m content to let them cycle, usually while I’m out on a walk with a stroller. I’ve got no use for them, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to home in on them. I’m most interested in the way that my brain seems capable of segmenting, even packaging, musical information in a way that doesn’t scream out for the whole. It’s as if I’ve become so accustomed to the sample that it’s now an acceptable unit of meaning in my brain. Or, to get even more aggressive about it, these loops rise to the surface, keeping out the distracting “what song is that” queries or the debilitating song-in-the-head (the violence of that metaphor is both apt and a little shocking).
Certainly, no one making these records was thinking in terms of atomization, and the best sample-based music is never as simple as one single loop. And I don’t think I’ve developed any great ear for samples. On some cognitive level, though, it’s become an ingrained part of how I make sense of whatever musical information is sloshing around in my head. I like to think of it as part-cultural symptom, part-coping mechanism.