Thursday, October 23, 2014

One Million Pieces of Perfect Pop Culture

I came up with a new theory this morning that there are at least one million pieces of perfect pop culture. If you're saying to yourself "that can't be true," then 1. you shouldn't be talking to yourself while reading a blog and 2. you're probably defining "perfect" in a different way than I am.

The way I'm using "perfect" here is NOT in the dictionary usage. I know you're saying to yourself "but that's the correct way to use words," but at this point, I'm getting a little annoyed with your little internal self-conversation thing and I'm moving on. By perfect, what I mean is that, at the right moment, if you're in the right mood, these things can be perfect. Songs, albums, movies, items of clothing, food, TV episodes, comic books, or other pop culture artifacts. And I'm just talking about things that are in English or can appeal to someone who only speaks English (and isn't a douchebag. Non-douchebag English speakers can appreciate things that aren't in English).

Yes, I truly believe that there are at least a million of them. Whatever it is you like, there is so much more of it out there (and a lot of it is probably better than the things you DO like). I don't at all mean that in a judgmental way, I mean that in a "if you like X, you'll love Y" kind of way. There are millions of people (over the years) who have created millions of awesome things. And most of us don't know about most of them.

So I think I'm going to work on changing that part about most of us not knowing about most of them. Over the next million days or so, I'm going to post a series of those things, some well-known, others so obscure the people who made them don't even remember them. I'll post them here at the pCulture blog with some kind of explanation as to why I think they are perfect. Those explanations will be totally inconsistent and some of them will piss off some people. Who gives a fuck? This is about things that people might like. This is about saying "Hello, cynicism about the world and art and music, you're a douchebag who should go back to the Kappa House and talk about tits or something like that while the rest of us get happy and enjoy life outside of your dumbass mindset." Or something similar that can be said in fewer words. I don't do fewer words. I like words.

If YOU are interested in adding to the list of one million pieces of perfect pop culture, message me on Facebook or at quinnelk@gmail.com and I'll add you to this blog and you can post whatever you like that adds to the list. No filters, no judgment, no censorship (well, unless you're a douchebag, but then I probably won't let you post anyway, so whatevs).
Whattup?

Entries in the series:

Friday, August 22, 2014

"My Name Is My Name," by Pusha T (HHES Album Review)

Here's my review of the Pusha T album "My Name Is My Name," using the Hip Hop Evaluation System (HHES).

"King Push" is a solid song and starts the album off well. The lyrics are really dense and it definitely helps to bust out the Rap Genius annotations here. Pusha's delivery in this song is menacing and always compelling.

"Numbers on the Board" is one of the outstanding tracks on this album and of the year. The production is sparse, purposefully putting the focus on lyrics and delivery. That's a good idea. The beat is good, but the words are superb. The song barely has a hook, but it comes in at just the right time to tie things together and cement what's being said in the rest of the song.

I originally didn't pay much attention to "Street Serenade," mainly because I don't particularly like the hook. But after hearing it live, I really got into Push's verses, particularly the repeated Rick Flair "woo!" in verse 2, which kills live and seems to really stand out upon further listen on the album, too.

"Hold On" is one of the more introspective songs on the album and it benefits from some backing vocals from Kanye and, surprisingly, a Rick Ross verse I don't hate. If Ross was always like this, I might like him.

"Suicide" has another simple but powerful beat and some great wordplay from Push, but guest Ab-Liva just isn't on Push's level, bringing the song down a bit.

"40 Acres" shows that when it comes to lyrics, Push doesn't play and he is kind of light years ahead of most other rappers in the game. More sparse production leaves the power of the song all in the hands of Push (and the hook by The Dream) and he delivers.

"No Regrets" shows the one weakness this album has--vocalists other than Pusha T. Every time Push gets going good on a verse, a subpar hook comes in or a guest (in this case Jeezy) comes in and the contrast is strong enough that you're like "alright, let's get past this so we can get back to Push." This is far from the only song that happens on. In this song, when Push does return, he leads in with a triple metaphor "Presidential I came back," which refers to Obama's re-election, Push's return to recording after the end of his Clipse days, and the fact that he's back on the track after Jeezy's weaker (my word) verse. More of that would be better than more of the guests.

"Let Me Love You" contains the first great sung hook, this one by Kelly Rowland. The song is more upbeat, less gangsta, and more Clipse-like than any other track here. Those are compliments. The rest of the album is so hardcore this is a nice break that helps add weight to the other tracks. Push also varies his flow more here than in other songs and it works very well.

"Who I Am" takes it right back to the hardcore and brings back both Pusha rapping the short hook and the Rick Flair "woo" sound that appears on several earlier songs to very good effect. The 2 Chains comes in and puts me to sleep. He has 14 bars and 4 of them include "I got a bad bitch in my swimming pool." Big Sean is a bit better on his verse, but still doesn't hold rise to the level of Push.

"Nosetalgia" is not only the best song on the album, it's one of the two best songs released in 2013 (along with Schoolboy Q & Kendrick Lamar's "Collard Greens"). Here's why: 1. Push hits harder than anywhere else in his career. 2. Kendrick destroys the guest verse. 3. Awesome KRS-One samples. 4. Vivid storytelling and imagery. 5. Diverse flows. 6. A spare but perfect beat that, as with the rest of the album, gives the vocalists the spotlight and enhances what they do. 7. Probably the best wordplay on the album. If you don't know this song, you aren't listening to the best rap coming out these days.

"Pain" can't possibly follow "Nosetalgia" that well, no song could, but it tries by providing a more interesting and layered beat that might be the best on the album. One of the better (but still not great) sung hooks follows and then Pusha comes in with more top-notch rhyming that both provides some new references we haven't heard yet and ties the song to other tracks on the album.

"S.N.I.T.C.H." features Pharrell, but not at his best. The production is pretty simple for a Pharrell track, in trying to keep with the mood of the rest of the album, but Pharrell just isn't as good at it as Kanye. Pharrell's hook is worse, going down to the level of the album's other hooks by the likes of Future. Push delivers here much like he does on the rest of the album, but seems like he might have run out of things to say by this point.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 10. Pusha has a great flow. He rarely fails to deliver fully.

Lyrics: 9. The lyrics here are a bit heavily focused on the same few subjects, but they are very dense, interesting, and entertaining.

Message: 8. Most of the messages here are personal and historical, but you definitely get a pretty good insight into who Pusha T is or was.

Technical: 8. Pusha doesn't go in for too much speed rapping, but his flows always sound melodic and powerful.

Production: 9. Kanye knocks every track out of the park, the other producers don't suck either.

Versatility: 8. For the most part, Push stays in his lane, but when he ventures outside of it, it works well.

Collaborators: 6. There are a few really great collabs here (Kanye, Kendrick, Kelly) a few that are solid (Ross, Pharrell) and a bunch that are wek.

History: 10. This album is steeped in both gangsta rap history and broader history.

References: 10. You can't fully understand this album without Rap Genius, it's so packed with references.

Originality: 9. It goes down some well-worn content and lyrical paths, but it does it in ways that few others have done, making it a very strong take on an old genre.

Total Score: 87. This is one of the best hip hop albums of 2013 no question. This one made me a full-on Pusha T fan. Seeing him perform these songs live makes them even better.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"My Band Should Be Your Life" (With Footnotes)

Here is the latest in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my albums, EPs, and mixtapes. As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the album "My Band Should Be Your Life." The album is very short and the lyrics aren't super plentiful, so I figured I could take on this whole album in one post. It's 17 songs and 13 minutes long and has several very strong influences. The first and most obvious is the book "Our Band Could Be Your Life," by Michael Azzerad. The book chronicles a variety of underground bands from the late 70s through the early 90s. I was reading the book when the idea for this album came to me (the title of the album is a direct reference). And, in particular several of the profiles in the book inspired what I was doing: Black Flag, Minor Threat, the Minutemen, and Big Black in particular. These influences are seen in three specific ways: 1. The songs are short and don't generally follow typical pop song structures. 2. The sounds are often jarring and harsh, at times purposely offensive to the ear of most listeners. 3. The lyrics are, generally speaking, very straight forward, simple and made to be sung along with. They're meant to inspire emotion in the moment and not necessarily meant to be thought about in-depth. Some other influences seep in, and they are mostly NOT in the lyrics as originally written, but were either part of the process of composing the beats (EDM, Moby) or recording the vocals (hip hop and, in one case, 60s garage rock).

In total, the whole album from idea to lyrics to beats to recording took about six hours. The idea was not to spend too much time on it, but to capture the ideas as quickly as possible and with as little overthinking as possible. Take the words, couple them with a beat and don't mess around with them too much. About half of the songs are first takes and all of them are single takes. Unlike previous songs and albums, on much of this album, the focus isn't just on the lyrics. The specific sounds used have meanings too, which hasn't always been the case with previous songwriting from me. Something else you might notice is that many of these beats are very, very fast, with quite a few of them topping 170 bmp and maybe only one below 100 bpm. The process of creating the album began with me basically thinking of a list of about 20 titles for punk-sounding songs and then picking the best 16 ideas (Downer is a cover that was already recorded). Then I sat and wrote all the lyrics in one day. The composing was split up between two different days, but took about two hours. I lost my microphone during the process and while I recorded two songs in Tallahassee, Florida, the rest were recorded with my laptop's internal mic in Alexandria, Virginia, in one session that took about two hours.

Now it's time to take a specific look at each song.

"Fuck Yeah"

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fuck yeah
Time to blow up, fuck yeah
Shut this shit down, fuck yeah
Go home no way, fuck yeah
Rock me rock you, fuck yeah
Rock everywhere, fuck yeah
Fast times fast days, fuck yeah
Come on come on, fuck yeah
Now now now now, fuck yeah
Live fast die old, fuck yeah
Fuck that stay bold, fuck yeah
Don't sleep not dead, fuck yeah
Win win win win, fuck yeah
Go go go go, fuck yeah
Never grow up, fuck yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fuck yeah

So a lot of the punk songs that influenced this album are very straight forward lyrically. They aren't exactly simplistic, but they aren't deep thoughts either. They're more meant to be chanted along with and danced to. That's what I was going for here. "Fuck yeah" is a kind of universal underground positive exclamation and I thought it worked well as an exclamation point at the end of each line in the song.

"Executive Action"

We're gonna rock the world
We're gonna rock the world
Executive action, executive action
Gonna take what we want
Gonna take what we want
Executive action, executive action
Get the fuck out our way
Get the fuck out our way
Executive action, executive action
Gonna change the world
Gonna change the world
Executive action, executive action
Gonna fuck shit up
Gonna fuck shit up
Executive action, executive action
You can't stop us now
You can't stop us now
Executive action, executive action
We can't be denied
We can't be denied
Executive action, executive action
Gonna rock the world
Gonna rock the world
Executive action, executive action

"Executive Action" was also meant to evoke a punk song. There is this strain of punk songs that have random ass titles that you sing along with and they don't exactly make that much sense independently and this was an allusion to that type of song. Executive action has no real meaning here, but it sounded really good with this beat.

"Didactic"

You can call me didactic
My style high spastic
My lyrics fly caustic
Punk rap shit I cracked it
While you slept I acted
Sound gets you ecstatic
This music be frantic
I came and I rocked it
You'd better not jack it
My heroes intergalactic
Never quit my antics
Words that will be classic
Ideas keep you captive
The changes will be drastic
Leave your life of plastic
Or your doom will be tragic

So a year or so ago, someone told me they didn't like reading my writing because I was too "didactic." To be honest, I didn't even know what the word meant and had to look it up. I came up with "intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive" and I was like "fuck yeah I do that on purpose." I was a professor for 11 years and the whole reason I write, both music and nonmusic, is to pass along information and moral instruction. So while she meant it in a negative light, I took it as a badge of honor. That led to the first line of the song and I wanted to make the song a little more complex than the rest of the album and I tried to include as many multisyllable and multi-word rhymes that fit the initial rhyme scheme. They don't all fit that pattern, but a lot do.

"Bombs Over Gaza"

The dead kid lying in the rubble
Covered in blood
No more school
No more laughter
No more birthdays
No more songs
His family, if they survived, which is far from certain, never to see him again
That dead kid, he doesn't care that you blew him up because you thought his uncle was a terrorist
Even if he was a terrorist
That kid doesn't care about your re-election campaign
He doesn't care about AIPAC
He doesn't care how Fox News is going to spin his death
He doesn't care how much you can fundraise off of his death
He doesn't care about any thing
Any more

I've been really torn on the latest conflict in the Middle East. I respect the right to exist of both Israel and of Palestine and other disputed territories. And I recognize that there are good and bad people on both sides of the conflict and some, on both sides, have done horrible things for what they think are good reasons. This song was meant as a specific rant against collateral damage and the idea that war is always a bad thing, no matter how honorable or correct your reasons for it are. And it was a direct attack on right-wing reactions to the conflict, all of which are basically immoral. The sound on this one is particularly unique for me. The samples used for the song are all bomb sounds. When I recorded the vocal, I didn't want it to sound like my straight up voice, so I hit the "vocoder" effect button, but it accidentally transformed both the vocals and the instrumental and the new sound was so awesome that I decided to leave it that way. The instrumental goes on well beyond the vocal, unlike the rest of the album, and that was on purpose to express that people still keep dying even after Americans quit talking about the topic. The sounds here were also purposefully jarring and meant to annoy the listener's ear, because dead kids should cause you some discomfort. I will note that my roommate's dog found the sound so offensive it barked and growled at the song when I played it. That is a perfect reaction.

"PMRC"

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck
Jizz, jizz, jizz, jizz
Clit, clit, clit, clit
Cum, cum, cum, cum
Twat, twat, twat, twat
Cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt
Piss, piss, piss, piss
Prick, prick, prick, prick
Tits, tits, tits, tits
Dick, dick, dick, dick
Cock, cock, cock, cock
Nuts, nuts, nuts, nuts
Shit, shit, shit, shit
Ass, ass, ass, ass
Balls, balls, balls, balls
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

Punk and rap music both share a fascination with profanity and this touches on that. But the title is PMRC, or the Parents Music Resource Council, with this being a specific rejection of that group's ridiculous worries about bad words as opposed to real problems. This isn't an original concept for a song, as performers as varied as Jello Biafra and Warrant have approached it on albums before, but it's still a problem that people get punished for words like "fuck" and not for things like fucking over entire demographic groups.

"Taxachusetts"

The things you say are dumb
You don't know shit
You lie, lie, lie
And others die, die, die
Your motives are suspect
Your life is a train wreck
Your ideas defective
You will be rejected
You can't win with truth
You brainwash the youth
You lie, lie, lie
And mothers cry, cry, cry
You select your own facts
Your values are cracked
You are fucking whack
You need to get smacked
Your theories are stupid
You don't act human
You lie, lie, lie
Our rights say bye, bye, bye
It sucks when we do it
It's okay when you do it
You suck and you know it
You suck and we know it
The postmodern man
You need to be banned
You lie, lie, lie
And kids fry, fry, fry
You don't wanna help us
You're so fucking selfish
Damn your whole clan
Fuck your game plan
Lie, lie, lie
Lie, lie, lie
Lie, lie, lie
Bye, bye, bye

The first step in this song was the title, which is a common political phrase used by right-wing trolls. It's nonsensical in several ways (including the simple fact that Massachusetts doesn't have particularly high taxes and that it's one of the more successful states in terms of serving its citizens). In effect, it's a lie used by right wingers, but a simple "catchy" lie that is easy to remember and repeat. Then it became a simple matter of calling out the people who use the lie. The other interesting aspect of this one is that while it has no chorus, there is a hook that comes in the triple rhymes in the second couplet of each 8-bar verse, which I really liked conceptually.

"Madame President"

Don't want no corporate shill
Of that shit I've had my fill
Don't want another white man
Don't want a Limbaugh fan
Tired of the same old same old
Want someone brash, someone bold
Time for a new approach
With values above reproach
I want my leader to have no cock
To come from a different stock
We can have men again some day
After we've tried another way
A woman's place is in the White House
Don't report on the color of her blouse
Let's talk some substance
Not about her fucking pants
It's time to say goodbye
We don't see eye to eye
With you we have discontent
It's time for Madame President

This may be the most straightforward rap song and Professor Rex track on the album. No real metaphor or deeper message, straight to the point. The lyrics are a bit challenging, but mild for my political songs.

"God Hates Flags"

Love
Marriage
Rights
Nights
Parades
Sex
Fashion
Passion
Family
Art
Needs
Freedom
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
Conformity
Fake unity
Jingoism
Xenophobia
The poor
A war
Bombs
Guns
Death
Hatred
Death
Corpses
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
We like fags, we hate flags
God hates flags!

This one has maybe the punkiest chorus in terms of both lyrics and delivery. A lot of punk songs use challenging words, often with irony or subtext that many listeners don't get. I wanted to do that here with the use of the word "fag" in a celebratory sense. There is the obvious reference to the Fred Phelps clan which protests funerals and other things with signs that say "God hates fags." The first verse is a series of things that are popularly associated with gay people, while the second verse is things associated with nationalism and imperialism. The message is simple, gay people are good, nationalism and imperialism are bad.

"Who You Wanna"

Who you wanna be
Who you wanna fuck
Where you wanna go
What you wanna know

Quite a few punk songs have very sparse lyrics that are repeated and don't have particularly deep meanings, despite being profound in their simplicity. That was what I was going for here. The triple-layered vocals were meant to make it more of a crowd-led chant feel and one of the takes had a few mistakes in it and I left those in on purpose to give it variety and a little bit of humor.

"Losing My Head"

Don't know what I'm gonna do
Don't know what I'm supposed to say
Don't know what I'm gonna do
Don't know what to do today
Walls are closing in on me
Doors are always closed to me
Migraines are crushing me
Society is failing me
Why won't someone help me
Why can't I meet my needs
Why am I such a creep
Why am I so fucking weak
I'm losing my head
I'm losing my head
I'm losing my head
I'm losing my head

Self-loathing and anger at society are frequently topics for punk songs, so that was the idea here. There is also a direct reference to Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" in the delivery of the hook. There is some truth to the lyrics here, even if they're a bit melodramatic.

"True American"

1, 2, 3, 4. JFK! FDR!
So it's 50% drinking game, 50% life size Candy Land
By the way, the floor is molten lava
These are the pawns, they're the soldiers of the Secret Order
Remember everything that you hear in True American is a lie
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
All trash belongs...in the junk yard!
Howard Dean scream! Yea
When in the course of human events, you must surrender your shirt
Your butt just violated the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act
Welcome to Ellis Island folks
My name is Eli Whitney and I created the cotton gin
King of the Castle, baby
He's got the plague, scatter!

This one is one I really like. So it takes really hardcore-sounding, grating sounds and couples them with silly lines from an imaginary game from an often somewhat surreal sitcom, "New Girl" and it throws in a devil laugh. It should literally make no sense on the surface. But beneath that, it's a commentary on popular culture that is meant to be a bit muddled. I leave the deeper meaning to the listener to figure out.

"Can't Get Into Heaven"

I thought I'd died
And gone to Heaven
Not early, fucking late
Walked up to the Pearly Gates
What the fuck
A gated community
What the fuck
You trying to do to me
Can't get in your heaven
They don't want me there
And I don't care
And I don't care
Who are you trying
To keep out
If we're all dying
Got my fucking doubts
Your false paradise
What is it worth
Same fucking shit
As your Earth
Can't get in your heaven
They don't want me there
And I don't care
And I don't care
Take your exclusive
Life after death
Keep your sermons
Save your breath
I'd rather be
With common people
Than at your church
Or at your steeple
Can't get in your heaven
They don't want me there
And I don't care
And I don't care

Religion and religious dogma are often topics of punk songs and that's what this alludes to. This one has the most references in it, starting with the title and hook, which are a direct reference to the Opiate for the Masses song "Heaven." The first couplet in the song is an ironic reference to Bryan Adams "Thought I'd Died And Gone to Heaven," which is a sappy pop ballad that I try to turn on its head here. Next the "gated community" reference is an allusion to Jim Gaffigan's stand-up album "Beyond the Pale" where he asks: "Am I the only one that finds it odd heaven has gates? What kind of neighborhood is heaven in?" There's also a Pulp reference ("common people") towards the end. I love the hook on this one and it grew directly out of the beat, although I'm still not fully happy with the verses, which are a little choppier than I'd like.

"You Are Not What You Wear"

You are not your ironic t-shirt
You are not your facial hair
You are not your expensive shoes
You are not your 3-piece suit
You are not your hipster glasses
You are not your lapel flag pin
You are not your trucker hat
You are not your fucking wool cap
You are not your 6-inch heels
You are not your puffy down vest
You are not your barbwire tattoo
You are not your shirt from J Crew
You are not your rubber wrist band
You are not your skinny jeans
You are not the celebrity trend
You are not some fucking dead end
You are not some fucking dead end
You are not some fucking dead end
You are not some fucking dead end
You are not some fucking dead end

This song has one of my favorite beats on the album. If I heard these sounds come on in a club, I would rush to the dance floor, even if it's not a supremely danceable beat. I love to hear this sound over a loud speaker. It makes me happy. This was also one of my favorite ones to write and perform. I long wanted to do a song along the lines of "Take It Off" by De La Soul, but I didn't want it to be just a copy with different fashion choices. This one is different in that it's got a much harder edge and none of the De La Soul playfulness, despite being a silly subject. I like that contrast, particularly with the aggressive sounds in the background.

"Spin Cycle"

We're born
We grow
We learn
We know
We think
We eat
We drink
We meet
We wonder
We talk
We ponder
We walk
We go
We quit
We grow
We shit
We fight
We sleep
We spite
We reap
We need
We want
We bleed
We flaunt
We give
We take
We live
We hate
We laugh
We cry
We live
We die

My other favorite beat on the album, this one has a menacing aliveness to it, like an insect. But not a regular insect--a giant, scary, scaly insect with many legs. That the lyrics are about the "circle of life" ties into that sound in a really interesting contrast and connection for me.

"No"

No no no no

The idea here was to just do a call and response where the only words in the song were "no." Then I had the idea to expand that to various combinations of how I said "no," which were ad-libbed, some from memory (such as the initial one, which is derivative of "Nobody But Me," by the Human Beinz. I was in Tallahassee with the kids and had the idea to have them do the response. I had to record each of them separately and I decided to leave mistakes in, to make it more like it was a live show where drunken audience members wouldn't get them all correct.

"No Means No"

No means no
If she doesn't wanna go
No means no
That's all you need to know
No means no
It's not a TV show
No means no
American status quo
No means no
She's not your fucking hoe
No means no
Not a quid pro quo
No means no
What's your problem, I don't know
No means no
You're juvenile, gotta grow
No means no
Misogyny must go
No means no
You've gotta let it go
No means no
There is nothing you are owed
No means no
You seem kind of slow
No means no
You gotta go, go, go
No means no
Meet my taekwondo
No means no
We hate you head to toe
No means no
If she doesn't wanna go

The first idea here was that I wanted the track listing of the album to include a song called "No," later followed by a song that reiterated the point with "No Means No." I like to add more subtle messages like that to things I do. The specific track is dealing with an issue that is harsh, so I started with a nice sounding drum track and threw a discordant bass over it that overwhelmed what the original track was trying to say. That sonic metaphor works on two levels. The first is on the individual level, with the drum being the woman saying "no" and the bass being the rapist drowning out what she is saying. Then, on a higher level, the drum is the voices of women (and men) who have been raped and the bass is the societal chorus that drowns out the voices of women who have been assaulted and their allies. The vocal is supposed to sound more and more frantic over the course of the short song to alternately represent fear and/or frustration with the inadequacy of the common responses to someone reporting that they have been raped.

"Downer"

Portray sincerity act out of loyalty
Defend your free country wish away pain
Hand out lobotomys to save little familys
Surrealistic fantasy bland boring plain
Holy now in restitution
Living out our date with fusion
In our whole fleece, shun in bastard
Don't feel guilty master writing
Somebody says that their not much like I am
I know I can
Make up the words as you go along
I sing then some
Sickening pesimist hypocrite master
Conservative Communist apocalyptic bastard
Thank you dear God for putting me on this Earth
I feel very priviledged in debt for my thirst

While this beat is mine, the lyrics are Kurt Cobain. The lyrics are transcribed in the form they appeared in his diary. The idea to do the song as a chant came spontaneously, as did the decision to use all of the percussion beats on one note per bar and only ride the bass line for the rest of the song. I loved the way that sounded and I think it fits very well with the chant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On the Importance of Robin Williams

I could write a book about how Robin Williams influenced me. I was an obsessive fan from the Mork & Mindy days--it was my first favorite television show that I can remember--and his stand-up comedy. My "A Night at the Met" cassette got so many plays that I could probably do the whole thing from memory. I could easily go movie-by-movie and bit-by-bit explaining how each thing influenced my thinking. I won't do that, though, because I'm likely the only one that would find it particularly interesting. I will instead focus on a few of the most important things he did that affected me and talk about the overall connection I had with him, NOT including "The Survivors," which to this day remains the only movie I know of where a character shares my last name.

"Good Morning, Vietnam" wasn't the first of Robin's movies I saw, but it was the first one to change my life (but not the last). I didn't know you could make movies like this. I didn't know you could make movies that made you nearly piss yourself with laughter (and it's impossible to not think about Robert Wuhl and Forrest Whittaker, very talented and funny men, who were in the movie, laughing along like audience members). I had seen Robin do stand-up by this point, so I knew what he did here could be done, I just didn't have a clue he could create so many historical stand-up comedy bits. This is what he would've sounded like if he had been a comic during the Vietnam War. This movie made me want to entertain people. It made me want to make people laugh. It also made me want to make them think and cry, too. I wanted to be the one to make people feel that range of emotions. It was also a big influence on my politics, particularly when it came to war and foreign policy. I grew up in a time when playing with toy guns and pretending to be soldiers was not only widely acceptable, it was encouraged. And this movie, in very stark terms that I hadn't seen at that age, made it clear that war was not only hell, that it meant that people, and kids, died. Frequently for no good reason. Or worse, for bad reasons. When I protested the Iraq War in 2003, I can trace that opposition to this movie.

"Dead Poets Society" was an even bigger influence. It would take an entire separate essay to talk about everything in this movie that influenced me. I will say that I was part of a group of young boys at the time who were very, very similar to the boys in the movie. To the point where we watched it over and over and we adopted "carpe diem" as a life motto and whoever was our leader at the time got a group "O Captain, My Captain." The rebelliousness, questioning of authority and dogma, fascination with language and its power, and the basic premise that even though fighting misplaced authority might be a quixotic battle, it's a battle that has to be fought because, dammit, it's the right thing to do. Even if it kills us.

I could go on and on about the movie, but instead I'll just throw in a few quotes here that have been part of my personal philosophy since the first time I saw the movie. These things are still part of my life. Every day.

  • No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
  • That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
  • There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.
  • Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
  • I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.
  • I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.

Or, my favorite then (and probably now):

"Dead Poets Society" made me want to be a teacher. And I became one. And I taught students how to use words just as much as I taught them politics. And while I never told them to rip out the pages of their textbooks (no buyback, I didn't want to steal their money), I absolutely told them never to bring those dusty tomes to class, we weren't going to need them. We weren't going to be reading, we were going to be thinking.

There are few movies and characters I've ever identified with more than Robin's portrayal of Parry in Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King." Like the previous two movies, it made me laugh, think, and cry every time I watched it. It still does. The way to talk about this one is to show it:

That scene is so powerful to me, not only in the context of the movie, but even by itself. Don't we all know what it's like to love someone not despite their weirdness and eccentricities, but because of them? Don't we all know what it's like to want to do anything to impress that one person that we think will make us happy just by knowing them and getting to talk to them and spend time with them? Don't we all have times where we made fools of ourselves for love? That scene is so packed with a full range of human emotion it's the most romantic scene I've ever scene and it still punches me in the gut every time I see it. When Robin begins to sing at the end, I always lose it. No one but one of our greatest actors ever could have pulled that scene off. And, of course, the movie is directly related to Williams' passing. It's almost as if the mental illness and vulnerability and desire for happiness that defines the character of Parry was continued in Robin's real life as if Williams was Parry and while the movie ended at a happy point, the demons that haunted Parry came back and won in the end.

As alluded to above, I have many of the same types of mental struggles that Robin had, the struggles that no one seems to understand. One of the most common reactions was "he's rich and famous and has a great family, how could he kill himself." I didn't ask that question. I know the answer. People despair that if someone as universally loved as Robin couldn't find happiness, there's nothing that could lead to happiness for the depressed, since none of us will ever accomplish what Robin did. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what happened. If Robin Williams hadn't been "Robin Williams," he would have been dead a long time ago, instead of at 63 after a long and distinguished career. Depression isn't a single battle that can be won. It's a series of small battles that can be daily or hourly or weeks can go by between incidents. And winning each of those battles is hard as fuck. It's hard to describe to people who haven't dealt with it. You can go from being completely happy to being suicidal in minutes or seconds, based on the tiniest of things. And while success and the adoration of fans and critics and wealth can help you win some of those battles, what happens when they start to go away? What happens when you no longer get the plum movie roles? What happens when you have to take jobs that you hate and that compromise your artistic integrity because no one else will hire you? What happens when money problems start to rise up as your bank account dips? What happens when your kids grow up and leave the home? What happens when the fans leave you for younger and fresher stars?

As much is everybody is talking about how much they love Robin Williams in the past few days, how much were we talking about him in the days, weeks, months, years before that? And while the previous adoration and success and money he earned might last many people a lifetime, that's not how the depressed mind works. There's a telling moment in this interview with Marc Maron from 2010, where Williams describes his Oscar victory for "Good Will Hunting." If you saw him win the Oscar, it's pretty clear that it was one of the happiest moments of his life. He told Maron that the elation of winning the award lasted about 10 minutes. Then it was back to the battle.

And I'm not just speculating from my own personal experience and observation about what happened to Robin. It was something that he talked about a lot.

And I didn't even begin to go into so many other of his movies that either heavily entertained me or heavily affected me emotionally. From critically acclaimed stuff like "Good Will Hunting," "The World According to Garp," "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," "The Birdcage," "Awakenings," and "One Hour Photo," to popular family movies of high quality like "Hook," "Aladdin," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Jumanji," "Robots," and "Night at the Museum," to the string of movies that critics hated, but I, and many other fans watched over and over, like "Popeye," "Moscow on the Hudson," "The Best of Times," "Cadillac Man," "Toys," "What Dreams May Come," "Bicentennial Man," "Jakob the Liar," "Death to Smoochy," "Patch Adams," and "Man of the Year." Not to mention the many other things he did, hilarious stand-up, Comic Relief and other hosting duties, and his well-deserved status as best talk show guest ever. Man, I got so many hours of entertainment and thinking and laughing and crying out of these movies (and others).

So the only thing I can say at this point is that I totally understand, Robin. I get it and I wish there were more people around you that got it and could've given you the love and acceptance you needed. I know there were some and this is not disrespect aimed at them in any way, this is just to say that when you suffer like Robin did, you can never get too much support, too much love, too much acceptance. It's a need that rivals sleep and water and air.

I lied, I'll say one more thing: Thanks, Robin. You might not have made it to the finish line, but a lot of us are still running because of you. We'll do what we can to make our lives worthy of what you gave to us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Knock That Shit Down" (With Footnotes)

Here is the first in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my latest mixtape, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The 41-Year-Old Version."

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Knock That Shit Down." This song didn't really have an overall theme beyond being a typical "I'm a good rapper, you're a bad rapper" type of thing. My approach with these songs is to try to do them in ways that bring in references that aren't usually in such songs AND to avoid actual appeals to violence.

Drivin through the mall like I'ma Blues Brother

I frequently do exercises where I pick a theme and write a set number of metaphors/similies/rhymes related to that theme. This one came from such an exercise about my favorite movies. One of the best scenes in "The Blues Brothers" involves the titular characters driving inside a mall.

I'ma drop a hit for your brother and your mother
Grab the mic and become your sister's lover
Not doing that shit for revenge

These lines were specifically set up to flip around a common rap trope, "I'll take your woman," suggesting that my music alone can make women fall in love with me, BUT in a different vein than these references usually take, I wasn't doing it as a way to get back at the theoretical opponent in the song, but because I was interested in the woman. The lines inherently contradict each other, which was done on purpose, leading into...

Stackin up blocks like I was Stonehenge

This line, which has nothing to do with anything. It would be a good metaphor if "stacking up blocks" had any meaning outside of the literal. It sounds like it should, but it doesn't as far as I know. The idea was to continue the nonsense of the previous line, leading into...

I know that shit doesn't make sense
What you think I'm the fuckin Fresh Prince?

This part establishes that I'm different from a clean, straight-forward rapper like Fresh Prince. I love his work, but I don't write like he does.

This shit ain't literal, you ain't literate

From that it was natural to combine "literal" and "literate" and bring it to the main thrust of the song, the attack on the fictional whack rapper.

The crowd is indifferent, you are ignorant
In you I got no interest, like recipes on Pinterest

I really liked the repetition of the initial "I" sound here. Pinterest is a visual social network and people share a lot of recipes on the site, which is dominated by women. I like it for other reasons, but I have no interest, whatsoever, in recipes.

Can I get a witness, I got lyrical fitness
You ain't nothing but lyrically witless

The first line is a Marvin Gaye shout-out followed by a rhyme I really like "lyrical fitness" with "lyrically witless."

You wanna-be AK strappers, Paduan rappers

Followed by one of my favorite rhymes ever. I'm really clearly separating myself here as a nerdcore rapper who doesn't like the guns and violence of gangsta rap. Paduans are the apprentice jedis from Star Wars and I'm saying here that if all a rapper can talk about is guns and violence, they're not that advanced.

Little big men, weak old lady slappers

Another condemnation of violence and the fact that the guys who revel in it think they are big men, when, in reality, they're more likely to be filled with enough weakness they might even strike a relatively defenseless person.

You are not a rapper, more like a present wrapper
You ain't lookin dapper, your career's in the crapper (shitty)

There are two things I really like in this couplet. The contrast of "rapper" and "present wrapper," and the SHITTY that comes in after I say "crapper." The recording isn't altered, I was just able to do a really deep voice there and it worked on the first take.

Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, take that shit down
Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, knock that shit down

The hook came quickly and easily and was the first part I wrote to this song. It instantly gave me the title, too.

Never had a crowd not love me on stage

A little bit of exaggeration, but not a lot. Of all the times I've done original songs on stage, people have been really into them except for one or two. Even those two times were more indifferent than dislike.

Out of my book you need to take a page
Have something to say, say it well
Conjure an image, cast a spell

My theory on that crowd response phenomenon is that my lyrics are much more interesting than many performers, so I'm suggesting that others could do the same if they wrote better lyrics, with a message of some sort (ironic since this song doesn't have a message) and came up with better imagery.

Who only gets just one shot?
If I flop, you know I won't stop

This is an Eminem reference, to the song "Lose Yourself" and the movie "8 Mile." It's not at all a diss, though, it's just a rejection of the concept that someone with talent only gets one shot. I don't think it mattered how many times Eminem failed, he was still going to succeed. I'm suggesting I have the same future (of success despite failure, NOT of being as successful or as good at rap as Eminem).

There's a lyrical technician who came to flex
Number one b-boy, Professor Rex

I loved this line when I wrote it long before this song. I used to cover LL Cool J's "My Rhyme Ain't Done," but there were a couple of lines I felt I had to change when I did it live. This one was because I didn't want to call myself LL on stage. The original lines went: "There's a lyrical technician who came to play/Number one b-boy LL Cool J." "Flex" and "Rex" fit very well.

Man outta time, man outta place
Feel like I'm from fuckin outer space

There are two references here. The first is from "Edison's Medicine," by Tesla. I can't remember the second one, but there is a song, rap I think, where the artist talks about feeling like he's from outer space.

Crab rappers don't feel the words I'm sayin
They can't understand the jams I'm playin

Crab rapper was always my favorite old-school hip hop insult.

Y'all can't break me, you cant fake me
Y'all motherfuckers can't take me
Y'all better thank me, you better bank me
Y'all motherfuckers better rank me (number one)

This is one of my favorite passages in the song, I love this type of rapid-fire spitting.

Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, take that shit down
Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, knock that shit down

The hook comes back.

I come in like a lion
Go out like a bigger lion

The second I wrote this I was super happy about it. "I come in like a lion" came to me and then I took the standard rap construction "in like a bad thing, out like a bigger badder thing," and asked myself what's bigger and badder than a lion? A bigger lion.

You come across my path, I'ma leave your girl crying
I'ma leave your mama crying, gonna leave your kids crying

All of whom will be crying from embarrassment, NOT violence.

Sneakin in my lab and you're always spyin
The stuff of your dreams, you know I'm supplyin
You keep tryin and tryin, and dyin and dyin
Your universal lameness, is the fact underlyin

This one is a shout-out to rappers who have really strong references to their success on their FIRST song or album. It's a optimistic concept and I've always liked it, so I used it here and elsewhere.

Faster than a pussycat, kill, kill

A reference to the Russ Meyer film, the title of which I always loved, by way of a shoutout to the B-52's song "Funplex."

Don't touch my drink, no spill, spill
Stormin the club like it's the Bastille

This one only works if I mispronounce the word Bastille, which I do on purpose. Another ironic comment about bad rappers who have no worldly knowledge.

Invading the stage like Bunker Hill

A reference to the Revolutionary War battle. Not sure if that technically counts as an "invasion," but I liked the image.

You're a mouse, I can walk out my door
Protest the White House

This is true. My work office is a block or two away from the White House and I have walked out of my office to join in protests over there, most recently after Sandy Hook, making it a subtle call back to the anti-violence portion at the beginning of the song.

I make shit happen, my name was on wikipedia before you started rapping

This is also another true reference. I've been writing online since 1998, and early on I was cited in several articles. Since then, several jobs I've had and activities I've engaged in have gotten me minor references on the online encyclopedia.

I was the shit before you started crapping (oh no!!!)

The shit/crap reference worked so well in verse one, I brought it back, with an additional immaturity reference. That works on two levels since making shit references is ironic as an immaturity reference.

Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, take that shit down
Shut the fuck up, get the fuck out
Turn that shit off, knock that shit down

One more hook for the road.

Upsetter (With Footnotes)

Here is the last in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my debut mixtape, "Core Nerd!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Upsetter."

The last song on my first mixtape was also the last one written. I was listening to a Lee "Scratch" Perry compilation one day, and an instrumental dub of "War in Babylon" by Max Romeo & the Upsetters came on. I loved the beat with a passion. I had been thinking that it was pretty common for rappers to compose songs to existing beats and put them on mixtapes or online releases. I had been wanting to do something like that, since all my previous songs had been using original beats that I made. So I decided to try this one.

Because this beat was a reggae beat, I decided to make a song that was in the spirit of that music, with themes of empowerment, unity, and revolution. Since it was a cross-genre song, I also wanted it to embrace that, and get to the heart of the idea that there are more of us than there are the people in power and that together, united, we can defeat them.

(War ina) Yes Yes
(War ina) People get ready
Feel the pressure drop
Make your body pop
(War ina) Yes Yes
(War ina) People get ready
Feel the pressure drop
Make your body pop

I love the snippets of dialog that made it into the dub from the original and I decided to work with them on these lyrics. There were also the specific references to other reggae songs here in the hook, "One Love/People Get Ready," from Bob Marley & the Wailers, and "Pressure Drop," by Toots & the Maytals. Make your body pop was a reference to the danceworthiness of most reggae and the obvious rhyme.

There's a war on the streets
A war for these beats
A war for some food
A war for some crude
The powers that be
Try to divide us
But they won't stop us
They can't deny us

The war theme here came out of two things, "War in Babylon" and the snippets from the original song, and the overall theme of this song about how we have to unify in the face of those who are trying to divide us.

Get up off your couch
And just do something
The power is within you
You'll be stopped by nothing
Do it yourself
DIY
Then we get together
And we're all gonna fly

It's very common for people to get discouraged in the face of big challenges and obstacles, the idea here was to turn that around and tell the individual that if they get up and do something, particularly if they team up with like-minded others, a lot can be accomplished.

No matter how hard they try
They can't stop us now
There's too many of us
They can't make us all bow
The harder they come
The harder they'll fall
A storm is coming
It's much bigger than a squall

Nothing particularly complicated in continuing the empowerment metaphors here. A lot of the revolutionary reggae I've heard had very simple empowering lyrics, so I went with that.

The thunder is coming
And so is the rain
Keep oppressing us
We're gonna bring the pain
We're gonna stand up
And shout out our names
The time has ended
For playing your games

Much of that revolutionary reggae also has simple metaphors, like those about thunder and rain and storms. There's also a Public Enemy "Bring the Pain" reference here. Lots and lots of PE references in my songs.

(Welcome)
I wanna welcome all the people
From all around the world
From the old men and women
To the little boys and girls
We're gonna have a party
And it's never gonna stop
We're gonna rise up
And we're never gonna drop

This verse owes its inspiration to Bob Marley and to the PE again, specifically the title of the song "Party for Your Right to Fight" and the concept that we need to celebrate and have fun, not just fight, or we'll lose our determination.

Spreading knowledge and facts
While having a good time
This time is yours
This time is mine
From street to street
And block to block
Punk, reggae, indie
And hip hop

I've long been convinced that spreading knowledge is one of the most important revolutionary acts one can engage in. I also think that the root impulses of punk, reggae, indie rock, and hip hop are all revolutionary and opposed to a system that oppresses people.

They control the TV
And the radio
Tell us what to think
Tell us what to know
Tell us who to love
Tell us who to hate
But we won't listen
Tearin down that gate

This section simply enumerates the forms of control the system tries to use on us.

I hate you for your dollars
You hate me for my color
I hate you for your splendor
You hate me for my gender
I hate you for your country
You hate me cuz you're hungry
I hate where you're from
You hate that we're numb
I hate that you're unbridled
You hate that I'm entitled
I hate who you love
You hate all of the above
We're gonna stop this hate
Before it gets too late

And this one lays out the specific things they use to divide us.

Rump barump barumpbabump
Rump barump barumpbabump
(It's sipple out deh) Be careful
(We slide out deh) Get a grip
(Oh yeah)

This section was in the original song and I like the idea of me copying the nonsensical sound and tying into the hook of the original. "Sipple" is Jamaican slang for slippery or slimy, so with that and the language about sliding, I thought that warning to be careful and get a grip would work well here.

When come pride
Then cometh shame
Honour shall uphold
The humble in name

This is the one passage that is from the Max Romeo version of the song. It fit well with the rest of the ideas I had been working with here and I wanted to give a shout-out to Romeo's lyrics, so I grabbed these four bars.

It's not about me
It's not about you
Lift us all up
Is what we gotta do

An explicit call for unity.

I'll never get tired
Of fighting your lies
We won't quit
Till we grasp the prize
Day after day
I spread the word
My speech is always clear
And never slurred

This section is about leading by example. I'm not just telling you what you should do, I'm telling you that I'm in the fight, too, and I won't ever get tired of fighting it.

(War ina) Yes Yes
(War ina) People get ready
Feel the pressure drop
Make your body pop

The hook returns.

There's a war on the streets
A war for these beats
A war for some food
A war for some crude
The powers that be
Try to divide us
But they won't stop us
They can't deny us
(A, oh yeah)
No matter how hard they try
They can't stop us now
There's too many of us
They can't make us all bow
The harder they come
The harder they'll fall
A storm is coming
It's much bigger than a squall
The thunder is coming
And so is the rain
Keep oppressing us
We're gonna bring the pain
We're gonna stand up
And shout out our names
The time has ended
For playing your games
I wanna welcome all the people
From all around the world
From the old men and women
To the little boys and girls
We're gonna have a party
And it's never gonna stop
We're gonna rise up
And we're never gonna drop
Spreading knowledge and facts
While having a good time
This time is yours
This time is mine
From street to street
And block to block
Punk, reggae, indie
And hip hop

This was a tactic I haven't used in other songs, the repetition of already sung verses. A lot of songs throughout history have used it and since the beat was so long compared to my usual songs, I decided this was the way to go.

Rump barump barumpbabump
Rump barump barumpbabump
(It's sipple out deh) Be careful
(We slide out deh) Get a grip
(Oh yeah)
Rump barump barumpbabump
Rump barump barumpbabump
(It's sipple out deh) Be careful
(We slide out deh) Get a grip
(Oh yeah)

I still love the snippets of the original dialog that made it into this beat.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I Hated the Final Episode of How I Met Your Mother (All the Spoilers Contained Within)

So I watched the finale of "How I Met Your Mother" today. And while I love the show, and count it among my favorite sitcoms of all time, I'm going to explain why I think it's the worst finale of a show that I've ever seen. I'm not usually one to go in for the typical "finale hate" that you see from so many people and much-maligned series finales that others hate, I liked and think were true to the spirit of the show (such as "Seinfeld," "Lost," and "The Sopranos," all of the final episodes of which I personally thought were great). Not so with "How I Met Your Mother."

To set this up, I'll say that I actually liked all of the rest of season 9, it's only the last episode that I hate. And, to be clear, I haven't read any of the other criticism of the finale. Literally none of it. This is all based solely on my own viewing of the series and the last episode.

So the basic reason I hated it was that I think that the last episode betrayed basically everything that the show had built up to that point. Here, in detail, is how I think they did that.

Ted

As the show's lead, Ted is who the show is really about. In the end, he loses the love of his life, skipped out on the job of his life, and any growth he had experienced during the show's nine years is eliminated when he goes back to being the same person he was at the end. The show is supposed to be a comedy, but for Ted is one long series of tragedies that, in the end, don't lead him to something better, other than to hold it and have it taken away.

Robin

Robin shows no growth, either, and is not portrayed as particularly rewarded for her life choices. By the end, while her career worked out great, she was shown as not being able to handle a marriage when a guy who fit with her perfectly fine, giving up on that after three years, and she's left with the final choice of becoming the old woman with all the pets, or get back together with a guy who she's not particularly compatible with, who she tried relationships with more than once and they didn't work out, and who, it's obvious isn't much different than the guy she turned down in the beginning of the series and more than once after that. Despite being a beautiful, intelligent, and successful woman, the only man she can attract at the end of the series is her old boyfriend. And she's happy about it, despite knowing that she'll never be the love of Ted's life. He's already had that and she'll never be able to live up to Ted's memory of his deceased wife, who he very clearly loved more than anyone he ever dated. The show is saying that her best option is to be with the guy with whom she'll always be second best. Or maybe even third best, if his children are included. Nothing about this ending is good for Robin or says anything positive about women in general (particularly combined with the Barney betrayal).

Ted & Robin as a couple

There's little to no chance their relationship will last very long. If Robin couldn't make it with Barney, a guy perfectly suited for her and who changed his person to become a better man to make her happy, how's she going to make it with Ted, whom she has little in common with and with whom, after a while, she grows more annoyed with based on his inherent personality (and who already had the love of his life, to whom she can never live up to). They were great as friends, but they lacked the spark to go beyond that. How is it going to now appear after she married and divorced his best friend and he lost the love of his life. They haven't changed, really much at all, since they previously dated, except that both are a little more unhappy and dissatisfied with life. It's hard to see how they work things out in the long run.

Barney

Barney is another character whose growth over the years, which was one of the key subplots of the series, is erased. In his case, after he can't make a marriage work with the one woman he loved enough, and he searched high and low to find, to change his very being for, he reverts back to being as bad or worse than he was before, hoping to capitalize on young women's "daddy issues" because he now is as old as their daddies. Supposedly he changes again because of his daughter, but is that really a sign of growth, or is that him just trying to possess and control yet another woman? Has he grown or has he just transferred his feelings that women are only props for him from his dates to his daughter. The kicker is when he slut-shames two young women in a bar for dressing the way the women he exploited for years dressed. Women aren't people to him, they're only valid if they live up to his standards of what a woman should be. Barney, in fact, regresses in the finale. Notably, we don't learn who the mother of Barney's daughter is, because she means nothing to Barney.

Robin & Barney as a couple

After investing the viewer in this couple, which shouldn't have happened, for years, the show throws them away in mere seconds over what appears to be no significant issue. For years, we are made to believe they should be together, and we eventually sign on and we're happy to see their wedding day finally come. Then we are given no real reason why they end up apart and given no real time to understand or mourn their relationship, which the entire last season was about in one way or another. They told us that this couple grew in recent years so they could be a mature couple that can love each other, and then it's all gone in a meaningless poof.

Barney & Ted's friendship & the Bro Code

We're taught to like Barney early on, despite his misogyny, by being shown that he is a good guy at heart and by knowing that he'll never go too far because he lives his life by a strict "moral code," the Bro Code. But most assuredly, one of the key components of any bro code is "don't date your bro's ex-girlfriend." Barney breaks this one in a big, dishonest way. But we're taught by the show that it's okay, and Ted learns to accept it, because Barney has grown up and because he and Robin are made for each other in a way that Ted and Robin weren't. It's the only way that such a code violation could possibly be okay. But Barney and Robin end their marriage after three years over minor problems, and they never try again, effectively meaning that Barney screwed Ted over for no particular reason. And in the later parts of the episode, in the future, it is clear that Barney and Ted drift apart and don't really talk much. If don't date your friend's ex-girlfriend is part of the Bro Code, which it has to be, don't date your friend's ex-wife has to be an even bigger rule. And Ted jumps right back in there, either not caring about Barney or with an intention of getting back at Barney for Barney's violation of the code.

Lily and Marshall

The one couple that is sane and healthy and grows into happiness is kind of tossed aside towards the end of the episode, which suggests that the show wasn't about them much at all, it was about the love triangle. Lily and Marshall, despite being integral to the series, aren't integral to its finale.

The mother

Rarely has a show's titular character been given such short shrift. She doesn't even appear for the vast bulk of the series, so we're left wondering about her for years. Then they finally introduce us to her and she actually lives up to the 8 years of hype. She is Ted's perfect woman. And she's realistic. She's not a stereotype. And then she's dead, before we even really get to know her. And it turns out that she's nothing more than a prop for the male lead. She's his Holy Grail for 9 years, he gets her and she's all that he wants, then she's haphazardly tossed aside and Ted goes back to his ex-girlfriend who never really made sense for him anyway. At best, they're saying "she allowed Ted to grow enough that he could finally be right for Robin," making her a prop. At worst, they're saying she's meaningless.

Basic story structure

The show was very explicitly, for years, structurally focused on the end point being, you know, "How I Met Your Mother." From the flashback story structure with the future narration, to the final season spacing out how each character met the mother, the inevitable conclusion, structure-wise, would be to end the show on the meeting of Ted and the mother. And they did that. And tacked on another ending that undercut that previous structure. This is not a good story structure and it diffuses whatever you're trying to do with the narrative. Beyond that, the show is clearly an absurdist fantasy comedy. Such a show demands a happy ending. That's why we watch such shows. We got that happy ending, and then it was casually erased.

The idea of human growth

To sum up, the show is about the growth of the three main characters for nine seasons, then all that growth is erased in the last half hour. And the only couple shown to actually grow is tossed aside to focus on the people whose growth is erased.

Happiness

Barney and Robin have it, but they throw it away. Ted has it, but it's taken from him. Lily and Marshall have it, but they are incidental in the end. Happiness isn't allowed in the finale.

Bob Saget

For years, Bob Saget did the future narration with no screen time. And it turns out to be the best, most respectable work he's ever done. In the one chance he would have to show his face on the screen, they show Josh Radnour in make-up. If they were going to do that, why have Saget do the voice-over in the first place. Saget loses a shot to be a real person in the HIMYM universe, despite deserving the screen time.

Hope and perseverance

If there were two themes that were inherent to the show and to Ted's life, they were hope and perseverance. Ted goes through a lot of trials and tribulations in his search for love. And he loses. A lot. But we're kept interested because we're promised that the search will eventually pay off. It's right there in the title, he will meet the mother and so he should remain hopeful and persevere. And so should we, because the viewers are Ted. Our lives, even if they don't have the insane number of bumps that Ted's do, will be okay. Eventually, if we keep at it, we will win, so we should never give up hope. The finale says "screw that, life sucks, and Ted loses and you probably will, too."

Me, personally

And I take that last one personally. I started watching the show during a period when those kind of roadbumps had pushed me to the edge and I was on the verge of giving up. But I quickly realized that Ted was me (in some way, each of the characters represented a part of me or a phase I went through), and the show helped me regain hope that I could grow into a more mature person and I would find the person who I could find happiness with. If Ted could do it, with all the obstacles he faced, so could I. And what the finale says is that Ted might get a glimpse of that happiness, but it's going to be taken away because he can't have it (or doesn't deserve it) and there is a pretty good chance the same is true for me, the surrogate Ted. Sure, the writers weren't writing specifically to me, but they were writing to the many Teds in the world, and this ending says, that hope and perseverance are myths and we should just probably settle for something less than we want or deserve, because we can't have it. That's not why us Teds of the world watch shows like HIMYM.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Rebels" (With Footnotes)

Here is the second in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my second mixtape, "Core Nerd II!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Rebels." This song has a very specific origin, it's a response song to the tune "Accidental Racist," by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J. While I get what they were trying to do, and I applaud the goal, I think they failed. Oversimplifying racism and slavery (and its aftereffects) and equating slavery with hip hop style is not exactly a valid approach and it probably does more harm than help. So this was my response song, written the day I first heard of the original song. The beat decided the way the song sounded, even though I wrote the words first. In the original creation, it was a much slower song, but once I started recording, it got faster and I loved the new sound.

Accidental racist? Man kiss my ass

I start off explicitly rejecting Paisley's concept of "accidental" racism. It's a bullshit concept. Wearing a Confederate flag or putting in on your vehicle or something like that is an active decision to endorse racism. It's impossible to grow up in the South and not have people complain about it, so if you ignore those complaints, you aren't engaging in an accident, you've made a decision.

The bell ain't ringing and you get no hall pass
Rex is gonna take you to class
Let's talk a little bit about the past

Switching over to an intro that sets my credentials as a Professor by throwing out a few academic metaphors that are largely literal with me, as a former college professor who taught American history. The idea was to use the song as a jumping off point to address the lies and distortions used by Southerners. Beyond the basic premise, I wasn't really going after LL or Paisley, but the people who fly that evil, evil flag.

The rebel flag was a sign of treason

Starting with a very clear premise here that is 100% backed up by the historical record. The U.S. was the country that all of these racists were citizens of, then they engaged in treason against it in order to keep owning black people. None of this is debatable.

The reason you fly it doesn't matter

Some people give other reasons for why they fly the flag like "I'm not racist, it's about Southern history" and other such bullshit. But that doesn't matter, it's still a flag that represents treason and racism. I can't grab a Swastika and say that I'm wearing it to represent my paganism, it represents Nazis. Period. And the rebel flag represents the Confederacy, which was 100% a pro-slavery, anti-American institution.

Let me shatter that thought process
Your nonsense notions, let me address
It wasn't about slavery?
Man you must be joking
That flag's not racist?
Man what are you smoking?
It's all about Southern pride?
Man you must be toking
Fighting for a noble cause?
You gotta be joking

This section is all about actual quotes that I've had people tell me many times over the years. And not just from conservatives. Actual moderate, and even some liberal, white people believe these nonsensical lies that were made up after the fact to justify the evil of the Confederacy.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus takes on the idea that Confederate sympathizers think of themselves as being against tyranny, when, in reality, they are siding with the tyrants.

States rights is just a code
Opening the door for Jim Crow
States rights to own slaves
To put millions in their graves
States rights to breed hate
To treat people like real estate

The second verse gets into some of the specific history, particularly the states' rights argument. But while many now talk about states rights in generic term, as if a piece of land can have a right, the reality is that states rights is dogwhistle language created to signal racism (amongst other evil things) without some people catching on. I'm not one of those who doesn't catch on. I know what you're doing and I'm going to call you out on it. During the Civil War, the only state right that was being fought for was the state's right to keep slavery legal.

Your state has no right
In this fight might wasn't right

I'm a firm believer that "might makes right" is not only invalid, it's immoral. And it's particularly immoral in connection with slavery.

This didn't all happen in the past
Southern racism was built to last
Here today and here tomorrow

Another massive misconception that white people toss out is the idea that all this racism stuff is in the distant past. It's nonsensical for many reasons, most notably that many racists are still running around out there saying racist things. Check YouTube comments, Twitter, Facebook, WorldNetDaily, any Southern local Republican Party, the Tea Party, etc.

Trail of tears, trail of sorrow

Here, I'm tying in slavery to the same kind of mindset that led to violence against Native Americans, another key factor in Southern history.

You think it ended in 1865?
That it didn't happen while you were alive
Wrong again, you need to know
This shit is now, not a long time ago

Summing up the basic argument that racism persists, which I expand upon in the next verse.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus again.

Slavery ended but not so you'd notice
Bogus ferocious laws focused on the perpetuation
Of bondage and destitution, new institutions
Like peonage, sharecropping, the prison-lease system
Segregation, lynching, kept a race in their place
As defined by white men, it didn't end
Cycle of poverty, separate but equal
Slavery was part one, but there were many sequels

Basic history lesson of post-slavery racial domination by the white (male) majority. I'm tracing the throughline from slavery to the present, with the last two concepts, the cycle of poverty and separate but equal being things we still deal with in the present. "Separate but equal" here is absolutely NOT limited to old school segregation, even though that's where it started. Segregation is still widespread now, it's just done through different channels, many of them still legal.

Your history is a history of hate
You can't reform your past, it's too late

This is a shot at revisionist historians, starting with the post-Civil War era Southern historians who are the source of much of the revisionism that is still used today, all the way down the years to people in the present who have never studied history and try to say that it is whatever makes them look better and helps them get away with perpetuating hate.

Drop those old ideas and thoughts
Veneration of evil has got to stop

Tradition is often lauded as a good thing. Most of the time it isn't. Most of the time the "old ways" involved racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and those things are never valid. Any tradition that venerates such ideas is wrong and should be eliminated, no matter how much people love it.

You lost, get over it
You were wrong and you know it

The first part of this is a bumper sticker I've seen a few times that has the Confederate flag crossed out like Ghostbusters. The idea being that those Southern Confederate ideas were tried out, people rejected them, it's time to move on. And the idea that, deep down, these people, on some level, have to know that they're wrong to be racist.

White power and white pride
Your cause has already died

Progress marches on, regardless of what conservatives think. This is a battle they can't win. Racism is widely recognized as an evil and we'll never move significantly back in that direction.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus again.

Alexander Stephens was a traitor
Braxton Bragg was a traitor
Pierre Beauregard was a traitor
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a traitor
Stonewall Jackson was a traitor
Jefferson Davis was a traitor
Robert E. Lee was a traitor
All Confederates were traitors

This segment was specifically to call out the biggest and most well-known members of the Confederate Army, all of whom are still venerated in the South, through statues, building names, school names, etc. I wanted to go directly at the racists and call out their heroes by name, tossing one of the biggest insults in the right-wing lexicon: traitor.

The stars and bars were a sign of treason
The Blood Stained Banner was a sign of treason
The Bonnie Blue flag was a sign of treason
The Stainless Banner was a sign of treason

Similarly, you still see the stars and bars in the South all the time, including over some state capitols and incorporated into some state flags. This means that we have state governments in the South still endorsing treason and racism. Explicitly.

And they still are, they still are

It was important to reiterate that the racism of these people and symbols doesn't go away with time, it's just as strong now as it ever was.

Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race

This one was to make sure that I wasn't beating around the bush, to make sure listeners knew just how strongly I felt on the topic and to pound it into their heads. And, to me, there's absolutely no doubt that the South were traitors who engaged in treason so they could own black people. No debate is allowed on that topic, the historical record is so strong.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

10 Best Devo Songs in Honor of Bob Casale

Founding Devo member Bob Casale passed away yesterday. The band is criminally under-rated, with most people thinking of them as a one-hit (or few-hit) wonder. That's just ridiculous and a great reason why judging a band based on their "hits" is nonsense. Here are my 10 favorite songs by the band, noticeably leaving out hits "Whip It" and "Girl U Want."

10. Please Baby Please: They were still making good music in recent years

9. Head Like A Hole: They had a lot of good covers, but none better than this one

8. Peek-A-Boo: A perfect example of the band's instrumental and vocal experimentation

7. Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA: A perfect example of the band's lyrical experimentalism

6. Beautiful World: The band were also masters of irony, particularly on this song and video, which could also be taken straightforward if you weren't paying attention

5. The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise: Even when a song of theirs hints at something darker, like this one, it can still be a beautiful song

4. Come Back Jonee: Devo's version of a "death rock" song from the 50s/60s is brilliant music on multiple levels

3. Jocko Homo: One of Devo's most quotable songs is also one of its harshest criticisms of the failures of people and society

The acoustic live version is surprisingly soulful

2. Freedom of Choice: Is a powerful political song, with it's closing switch of "freedom from choice is what you want." I saw the band mention this live that even this many years later, people still misunderstand this song and don't catch the irony

1. Gates of Steel: Is a bit surreal, but is one of my all-time favorite songs by any artist. It's even better live than on record

Bonus: I just learned that "Turnaround," which I knew from Nirvana's "Incesticide" was actually a Devo B-side. Wow.

Double Bonus: Dr. Detroit wasn't a great movie, but the directly-connected theme song by Devo was. I have very fond memories of both the movie and the song as key parts of my youth

Friday, February 14, 2014

"3 Feet High and Rising" by De La Soul (HHES Review)

Here's my review of "3 Feet High and Rising" by De La Soul using the Hip Hop Evaluation System (HHES).

The album that is credited with inventing the hip hop skit is also one of the best ever. Starting with the "Intro" and it's absurdist game show set-up, the skits all fit and work together in a humorous and entertaining way.

"The Magic Number" is one of my all time favorite songs, with it's mash-up of Johnny Cash, Schoolhouse Rock, and alternative rap. The song just totally encapsulates my state of mind in a way that few other songs ever do.

"Change in Speak" has one of the better beats on an album filled with perfect beats. You HAVE to dance when this comes on.

"Cool Breeze on the Rocks" is one of the more mainstream sonic experiments on the album, with its throwback to Grandmaster Flash "Wheels of Steel"-type of construction.

"Can U Keep a Secret" is maybe the funniest dis track ever, with its whispered vocals, its inside jokes that make outsiders laugh, and its creative use of words like "scrub" that me and my friends used to no end when we had this album on in constant rotation in 89-90.

"Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)" has the most compulsively danceable beat on the album, thrown in with adolescent sexual exploration, chopsticks and more of the amazing humor and eclecticism that dominates this album.

"Ghetto Thang" shows that De La can be serious, too, and take a look at social ills in a way that still makes you bob your head.

"Transmitting Live from Mars" was a revelation for me. The idea that you could take the Turtles and an old French instructional album and mash them together on a hip hop album changed the way I looked at the world.

"Eye Know" is one of the most danceable and original love songs ever. It's also one of the few times I haven't hated anything that had a Steely Dan connection.

"Take It Off" is another one of my all-time dis tracks, listing a series of cultural don'ts in a humorous and poetic structure that still makes me laugh 25 years later.

"A Little Bit of Soap" was another revelatory track for me. The basic topic was little more than a continuation of the previous track, criticizing people for less than perfect hygeine, but they did it to a Jarmels track that was always one of my favorite oldies and in a way that made me laugh endlessly.

"Tread Water" and "Potholes in My Lawn" are two companion songs, it seems, that really give you a look into the radically different way that De La looks at the world. Talking animals, "problems" that most people don't think about, and words that nobody else had used in that way at the time make these two unique pop culture elements, with one of them even being an MTV hit.

"Say No Go" shows that you can take something really out of what you would consider the norm for hip hop, a Hall & Oates sample, and make a amazingly compelling and entertaining song.

"Do as De La Does" is another interesting interlude, recreating the feel of a live De La soul with it's oddball call-and-response and the hilarious end rant by Popmaster Hight.

Even now, I'm not totally sure what "Plug Tunin' (Last Chance to Comprehend)" is talking about, but I know that the song still grabs at my heartstrings in a way I can't explain. It has a bluesy feel that you can't deny. The alternatve version that ends the album is one of the rare times that a different mix works well on an album and not as a bonus track, as it seems to close out the album on a note of completion and not just fading out.

"De La Orgee" is silly but once again is a track that you wouldn't expect on any album, much less this one, which keeps the surprisingness of the album going.

"Buddy" is an interesting enough take on De La's mythology, as it comes to women, but most importantly it has one of the few songs with outside vocalists on it, which works out great, since it's the Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip, who make just about any song better.

"Description" takes one of the common ideas in hip hop, the posse intro track, and does it with a style that fits this album, but probably doesn't fit anywhere else.

"Me Myself and I" has some of the best scratching and use of the backing track on any hip hop song ever and is a perfect introduction to the band (it was on the radio quite a bit).

"This Is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)" and "I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)" are a pretty good summary of the De La outlook on life. And they explain it in a unique way that still makes you want to dance.

"D.A.I.S.Y. Age" seems to continue the big description of the De La outlook on the world in the previous songs, although, it's hard to tell, since the lyrics are a little dense. Even Rap Genius doesn't have much to say about what the Plugs are talking about here. Either way, it sounds great.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 10. De La Soul's members have some of the most original and creative flows ever, and this is the album where they used them their best. They got enough negative feedback from some in the hip hop community that they changed things on later albums.

Lyrics: 10. While some of these lyrics are difficult to comprehend, they are totally unique, even amongst De La albums. There just aren't other lyrics like this anywhere, in any form of music or literature.

Message: 10. There are few more coherent messages in any form of music, much less hip hop. De La Soul presents their view of the world in such an entertaining and eclectic way they had no choice but to go in a different direction on their next album.

Technical: 10. I defy you to try to even understand most of the lyrics on this album, much less try to perform them aloud. Difficult stuff abounds.

Production: 10. Few albums have ever been more adventurous or original than this one, and the production, which always makes you want to dance, is a big part of that.

Versatility: 8. I could see how people who don't love this sound could find it a little repetitive, but even they would have a hard time denying the greatness within.

Collaborators: 10. Q-Tip. Prince Paul. The Jungle Brothers. That's all you need for a great album. And there's more.

History: 10. De La Soul knows more about music history than you do.

References: 10. De La Soul knows more about pop culture than you do.

Originality: 10. I'd be hard pressed to say that this album didn't invent originality.

Total Score: 98. This is, hands down, my all-time favorite hip hop album and maybe my favorite album ever. It changed the way I look at music, art, and the world. And I'm better off for it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So I Think I Invented A New Kind of Music

So, I think I invented a new kind of music. It's called lyrical collage. First a bit on how I came up with it, then a description, then the first two songs that I've created in the genre.

My favorite form of visual art is collage. My apartment is a collage. I've done a ton of collage work in an old, repurposed atlas I have.

When I was working on songs for my second mixtape, I had an idea to do a song that would pay tribute to my 40 favorite hip hop artists, by taking a couplet from each one of them and mash them up into a new song, that would be a coherent whole and would not at all sound like the originals (although it would be true to their spirit), but would instead be in my style. The song was called "Top 40," and it really worked out well. I liked it a lot and I got good feedback on it.

A while later, I had the idea to do an entire mixtape of those type songs, each one based on a different genre of music. I started working on some of those songs and the first one I completed was called "Oi" and was based on punk rock. It turned out way better than I thought and, again, got good feedback. The song was coherent and had a great sound that I didn't even expect when I put the lyrics together. It made me love the style and committed me to doing more of the same. I'll still do original songs, but I'll continue doing these lyrical collages as tributes to the original artists/songs and as an example of the mash-up, remix culture that so dominates the Internet age.

Here are the two songs. (Follow the link to see the list of bands that make up each song).

"Oi," which is based on punk songs and has a political theme.

"Top 40," which is based on hip hop songs.

I have tons of other ideas related to this concept and while they aren't easy, they take significant research and rehearsal in order to get the sound right, they match up well with my skill set, so be on the lookout for a lot more. And, they also gave me ideas for my first two music videos, which will be based on these two songs.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Oi" (With Footnotes)

Here is the first in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my forthcoming mixtape, "Lyrical Collage!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Oi." This song is the second of my tracks that fits the concept of "lyrical collage" and the first recording for the mixtape of that same name. The idea behind a lyrical collage is to take the original lyrics of a variety of different songs and fit them into a coherent rap song with a new sound and feel. In this case, the theme is double, all the songs are punk or ska songs and the lyrics are political/social commentary. There isn't much more to add, other than to give you the citations for each of the lyrics...

I know I'm artificial, But don't put the blame on me
I was reared with appliances, In a consumer society

X-Ray Spex, "Art-I-Ficial"

Go to work, it's such a drag
Face the boss, he's such a nag

The Ramones, "The Job That Ate My Brain"

All my life has been the same
I've learned to live by hate and pain

The Jam, "The Modern World"

I need sex, I need love, I need drink
I need drugs, I need food, I need cash
I need you to love me back

Buzzcocks, "I Need"

Now pass the blame and don't blame me
Just close your eyes and count to three

Madness, "Shut Up"

I see my place in american waste
Faced with choices I can't take

Black Flag, "American Waste"

Some people are bad and they don't give a damn
what they do or who they hurt
They go through their lives and don't apologize
for the shit that they've disturbed

The Vandals, "People That Are Going to Hell"

I got something to say and I’ll say it again
I got something to sing and I’ll sing it again
I got something to scream and I’ll scream it again

Anti-Flag, "Resist"

Screechin' useless martyrs hangin naked upon the cross
They would have you believe the lie they shriek that all is lost

MC5, "Future Now"

Can it be true? They got nothing else to say
Do you think? They want it that way

Johnny Thunders, "Short Lives"

the benevolent and wise are being thwarted, ostracized, what a bummer
the world keeps getting dumber

NOFX, "Idiots Are Taking Over"

I can still see people dying, now who takes the blame?
the numbers are different, the crime is still the same

The Specials, "War Crimes"

And they're planning while I sleep
And even as we speak To strike when I am weak

Reel Big Fish, "Everyone Else Is An Asshole"

All the power's in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the street
Too chicken to even try it

The Clash, "White Riot"

Illegal to dance forbidden to cry
You do what you're told and never ask why

The Damned, "I Just Can't Be Happy Today"

I got something to say and I’ll say it again
I got something to sing and I’ll sing it again
I got something to scream and I’ll scream it again

The chorus again.

These are all reasons why I'll be exploding tonight
and why this chip on my shoulder feels like a mile wide

Less Than Jake, "Short Fuse Burning"

It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here

Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia"

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind

Velvet Underground, "I'll Be Your Mirror"

Rebels with a cause came out of the sun
And spoke the only language they'd been given

Generation X, "Running With the Boss Sound"

And the people have the power, To redeem the work of fools
From the meek the graces shower, It's decreed the people rule

Patti Smith, "People Have the Power"

still you defend the system that perpetuates your hate
your institutions are corrupt, your way of thinking sucks, we've had enough

Against All Authority, "Louder Than Words"

Why can't I ask any questions of what you say is true
Am I supposed to believe anything or just everything said by you?

Suicidal Tendencies, "Pledge Your Allegiance"

I ain't equipment, I ain't automatic
You won't find me just staying static

Sex Pistols, "Problems"

I got something to say and I’ll say it again
I got something to sing and I’ll sing it again
I got something to scream and I’ll scream it again

The chorus again

Not as much but with such intensity
I'd like to be what they would not want me to be

Bad Brains, "I"

To the tension of a world on the wane
I shuffle around on wooden boards Now no longer afraid

Gang of Four, "I Will Be A Good Boy"

and i will not sit on broken glass,
not for you or anyone i will not cut my ass

The Misfits, "Spinal Remains"

I'll be a pharaoh soon, Rule from some golden tomb
Things will be different then, The sun will rise from here
Then I'll be ten feet tall, And you'll be nothing at all

Dead Boys, "Sonic Reducer"

I'm a lexicon devil with a battered brain
And I'm searchin' for a future-the world's my aim

The Germs, "Lexicon Devil"

I'm stubborn as a mule
And nobody breaks my rules

Iggy Pop, "New Values"

And if I'm acting like a king
Well, that's cause I'm a human being

New York Dolls, "Human Being"

I got something to say and I’ll say it again
I got something to sing and I’ll sing it again
I got something to scream and I’ll scream it again

The chorus again.

H-Y-P I'm hypnotised
H-Y-P I'm hypnotised

The Undertones, "Hypnotised"

For you there's just no hope
Get a rope, get a rope

Cock Sparrer, "Get A Rope"

Bikini girls with machine guns
Bikini girls with machine guns

The Cramps, "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns"

Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again

Since Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who I love, don't do any original songs, I had to include a cover for them and it was "Leaving On A Jet Plane."