Torii MacAdams will mute you if you even mention Yeezy Season 3.
The Outfit, TX ft. Ricky Fontaine – Burning Trees
“Burning Trees,” the outro from The Outfit, TX’s recent album Down By The Trinity, is an instrumental track featuring Ricky Fontaine, guitarist of iNDEEDFACE and frequent DJ Burn One collaborator. It’s a tone-perfect end to the album, albeit an unlikely candidate for a music video. Instead, The Outfit elected to use it as the score for a short film. It’s a decision so smart—so piquant—that, after watching, in a moment of North Texas pride ‘n’ elation, I would’ve strapped on a Dallas Cowboys helmet and dived head-first through a pyramid of Dr. Pepper cans had I those items nearby.
Because “Burning Trees” is without both lyrics and dialog, interpreting the short film is a risky proposition, particularly given the subject matter, my skin color (quite white), and the contemporary social climate. Still, it would be cowardly to praise the film and simultaneously refuse to discuss the themes.
The film opens with Mel, ass in the air, in the vaginal embraces of a white woman splayed out on a Confederate Flag blanket. The same woman is then shown smoking weed and popping pills with JayHawk, and arguing over a text message from an unseen “Todd” with Dorian, who appears to backhand slap her. At the midway point, the viewer is to presume that by fucking, drugging, and assaulting the woman, The Outfit are exacting revenge on white people, a common trope in Blaxploitation films. As Mel is laid prostrate on the Confederate Flag; as JayHawk’s drug-induced stupor has rendered him essentially lifeless; as Dorian believes her to be the dozing little spoon in his tattooed clutches; she rifles through the group’s possessions, taking their cash. She’s last seen standing outside a U-Haul van, sunglasses on, smoking a cigarette. The lesson of this parable seem to be that, even amidst the trappings of success–sex, drugs, comfort–black people remain robbed and undermined by systemic racism.
It’s not a perfect analogy: The use of the Jezebel archetype to embody society’s ills is ostensibly anti-woman, although I think, given the length of the film (five-and-a-half minutes), it’s more a function of economic and representational storytelling than an intentionally gendered viewpoint. The woman’s shamelessness isn’t inherent to her womanhood, but inherent to the unrestraint she represents.
“Burning Trees,” were it the creation of media darlings, would be widely lauded. It’s an ambitious and commendable undertaking by a group whose artistic growth seems perpetually matched by cultural gatekeepers’ baffling indifference. Had The Outfit, TX sported dreadlocks, an Atlanta address, or a Kanye West saprophyte manager, maybe they’d get some fuckin’ love.
Playboi Carti & Uno (2900) – What
Speaking of which:
There’s wonderment in seeing artists succeed on their own terms, emerging from circumscribed existences and paradigms. A DIY ethos can be, in turns, noble and foolhardy–perhaps both at the same time. It should be a means to end, though, not the end itself. The warm reception of Father, Playboi Carti, and the Awful Records posse (Archibald Slim excepted) has its foundations in qualities related to the means of production rather than material produced. These are stars created in the trough between waves by a dry-mouthed public thirsty for next next next. Their music–ersatz, post-Chief Keef mumblings–doesn’t deeply offend my sensibilities, nor do I fault them for capitalizing on their moment. I don’t support it, either.
Ghostface Killah – Ghostface Killah KILLS Martin Shkreli (Verbally, Politically, and Emotionally)
I mean, fuck. Like, shit. This is such a demoralizing, brutally embarrassing situation. Martin Shkreli is, as is well-established!, a parasitic swirly victim who spent two million dollars on a Cilvaringz project which Method Man publicly dismissed with a flippant “Fuck that album.” He’s a white collar criminal who’s actively bad at white collar crime, an amoral malefactor who would’ve been a claim jumper, usurer, or snake oil salesman were he born in another century. He’s a comic book villain, and true to type, he’s dragged Ghostface Killah into a war of words. The Wu-Tang member, one of the greatest rappers to ever live, has made himself look like a bit of a putz.
“Ghostface Killah KILLS Martin Shkreli (Verbally, Politically, & Emotionally)” is the vastly inferior B-Side to “GHOSTFACE KILLAH AIR [sic] OUT ACTION BRONSON.” Instead of the latter—a brutal berating, punctuated with stabs of a remote control—Ghost’s anti-Shkreli rant is a sales pitch shrouded in emotional earnesty. In the beginning, Ghost calls him “the man with a 12-year old body” and claims that “the way you say ‘goon’–it’s not even official.” It’s halfway through the supposed killing that the video takes a turn: Ghost brings out his sister, mother, and another, unidentified (and seemingly unhinged) woman to berate Shkreli for his malfeasance.
These women have a fair point–Shkreli is a greedy pile of nuclear waste perhaps best left in the overgrowth outside Chernobyl. What irks is that Ghostface’s sister uses her undoubtedly severe pain related to the removal of a brain tumor to shill for Wu Goo CBD Oil, a THC-free cannabinoid extract with promising, if still under-researched, medicinal benefits. There’s something unsavory about using the unwarranted price hike of Daraprim (an anti-parasitic drug for the HIV-positive) to stimulate the sales of a substance which the FDA has yet to evaluate. If Wu Goo’s CBD Oil has worked for Ghost’s sister, that’s a mitzvah, but a mitzvah better reserved for specific testimonials without faint whiffs of exploitation. Resorting to these tactics, and even acknowledging Shkreli’s existence, is the latest instance of Ghostface’s transformation into a misfiring rap fogey hell bent on erasing the surfeit of warm feeling toward his career. This shit is a fuckin’ bummer.
Peryon J Kee – Grab
Peryon J Kee’s “Grab” was produced by duo Stunt N Dozier, possibly rap’s most underappreciated beatmakers. The Dallas natives are extremely well-versed in rap’s motifs; “Grab” samples the pastel neon instrumentation of Juicy’s “Sugar Free” and the enjoyably hollow percussion of Kleeer’s “Intimate Connection.” Compared to the intergalactic Soviet transmissions in Alchemist’s vinyl tranche, or the Zambian-Brazilian-Korean fuzz guitar in Madlib’s library, these are relatively obvious selections. But there’s comfort–and winking familiarity–in flipping the samples of rap standards.
ScHoolboy Q – Hoover Street (Original Version)
[Ed. Note—This version has been hastily deleted from Soundcloud, so enjoy the first version.]
The version of “Hoover Street” which made the final cut for ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron is good. The original version, produced by the aforementioned Alchemist, is great. The sample(s? I can barely begin to guess this beat’s provenance–live prog rock recordings, maybe?) is richer, more robust; guitar pluckings, an all-the-way-pitched-up vocal sample, a woodwind eddying in the mix.
With the original “Hoover Street” in mind, I went back and listened to Oxymoron. The clearest, semi-decent reason I can think of for the exclusion of Alchemist’s beat is that its abstraction didn’t fit in with the sequencing. But then why include a similar, patently inferior one by Digi+Phonics, TDE’s in-house team? Label politics? Sample clearance issues? The people need answers.