MC Frontalot‘s new album Question Bedtime arrived this week, with its twisted folk tales and hilarious sketches in which Front babysits unruly comedians. (“I’ll go to bed on one condition: Make me a Baked Alaska,” Paul F. Tompkins pleads.) It’s good stuff, but also a major departure for the nerdcore rapper, whose usual subject matter consists of videogames, sci-fi and the occasional stoop sale. We wanted to find out more about why he chose make what is, in essence, a children’s album.
While we sometimes do interviews on this blog, it’s more lucrative if we can convince some other website to pay us to do it. In this case, that website was The Daily Dot, a tech and pop culture site heavy on geek-friendly content. Front’s right in their wheelhouse, so they agreed, perhaps not knowing that we’d spend most of our interview talking about Idries Shah’s World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places.
I’m in the Bay Area today interviewing DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist about their upcoming Renegades of Rhythm tour, for which they’ll be playing all vinyl culled from hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa’s 40,000-plus record collection. So I thought it would be a good day to give Bambaataa a little shout-out here on TWBITW. After all, he was in many ways a pretty weird dude.
This 1983 video for “Renegades of Funk” is a nice reminder that, compared to most of the crap on the radio today, early hip-hop could get downright avant-garde. Aside from the Sun Ra/George Clinton Afro-futurist costumes worn by Bambaataa and his Soulsonic Force crew, the track itself is a forward-thinking mix of squiggly synths, stuttering drum machines and Bootsy-style bass. It also name-checks practically every major funk and hip-hop innovator, civil rights activist, and the original gangsta, Sitting Bull. Class is in session!
My DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist interview won’t run here; it’s one of them there paying gigs for another outlet. But we’ll probably link out to it from our Facebook page or something.
Nerdcore hip-hop heartthrob MC Frontalot (c’mon, you know those chunky glasses make your panties drop) has given us all another little taste of Question Bedtime, his not-really-a-children’s-album-exactly LP, which is due out Aug. 26th (we said Aug. 16th earlier, but we were trippin’). “Start Over” tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood—or rather, it tells the story of how we’re always changing up the story of Little Red Riding Hood, much to the consternation of small children who tend to get very, very attached to whichever version they’re most familiar with. It’s a meta-fairy tale, y’all! Remember, even when he’s rapping to children, Front is still nerdcore to the, um, core.
At the moment, you can only hear the track via USA Today’s Pop Candy blog, so take a deep breath and head over there to listen. Don’t worry, it’s way better than that time USA Today tried to make sense of Babymetal. There’s a really good Q&A with Front and everything.
And speaking of Q&As: Stay tuned for an interview I myself recently did with MC Frontalot. It’ll run on another site I freelance for called The Daily Dot but we’ll link to it from here. (Am I mad cuz USA Today scooped me? Nah. I got all sorts of exclusive material out of him. USA Today didn’t even touch on that one time he got really into bookbinding.)
I am not having a good day. Too much government bureaucracy, not enough booze. Fortunately, Crime Killz are here to help. They’re a punk/rap duo from Tucson, Arizona, now based here in L.A., whose label Hit + Run calls their stuff “gameboy punk.” It’s like your old childhood videogames got sent to juvie and picked up some gang tattoos and bad habits. In the middle of the day I’m having, this “FTW” track is providing me a much-needed anger release valve.
There, now don’t you feel better?
For more Crime Killz, check out their website.
It happens to the best of us: We get old, start having babies, rediscover the joys of blanket forts and bedtime stories, and lose our “edge.” Fortunately for MC Frontalot, nerdcore hip-hop was never especially edgy to begin with. So for him to make a children’s album doesn’t sound like a huge stretch.
But wait: He’s not just rapping nursery rhymes. On Question Bedtime, Front reinterprets classic fairy tales with a whole slew of fellow rappers and famous friends, including Kid Koala, MC Chris, Jean Grae, Busdriver and one of the funniest dudes on the planet, comedian Paul F. Tompkins. The album isn’t due out until Aug.
16th 26th, but you can hear a track called “Much Chubbier” right now over at The A.V. Club. Based on the Norwegian folk tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” it co-stars rapper Open Mike Eagle as the troll. It’s fun stuff, even for us grownup types.
Frontalot has a slew of U.S. tour dates coming up following the release of Question Bedtime. And need I mention that he’ll also be appearing at Comic-Con? With a Star Wars-themed burlesque troupe, no less. Cue the nerd stampede! (Tickets for that show are available, probably not for long, here.)
MC Frontalot 2014 tour:
Aug. 19—Rex Theater—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Aug. 20—Tiger Room at CS3—Fort Wayne, Indiana
Aug. 21—Subterranean—Chicago, Illinois
Aug. 25—TBD—Denver, Colorado
Aug. 26—The Stateroom—Salt Lake City, Utah
Sept. 1—El Corazon—Seattle, Washington
Sept. 2—Dante’s—Portland, Oregon
Sept. 4—Brick & Mortar—San Francisco, California
Sept. 7—TBD—Phoenix, Arizona
Sept. 9—Three Links—Dallas, Texas
Sept. 10—TBD—Austin, Texas
Sept. 11—TBD—Houston, Texas
Sept. 12—Northgate Tavern—Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Sept. 13—Beatnik—New Orleans, Louisiana
Sept. 14—Center Stage—Atlanta, Georgia
Sept. 16—TBD—Charlotte, North Carolina
Sept. 17—King’s Barcade—Raleigh, North Carolina
Sept. 18—TBD—Baltimore, Maryland
Sept. 19—North Star Bar—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sept. 20—TBD—New York, New York
So we kinda blew this one, guys. For the past three years, the weirdest hip-hop band on the planet has been Death Grips. And before we could get around to adding them to the Weird List, they broke up. Oops.
It’s not like they were toiling in obscurity. If anything, I think we were inclined to pay less attention to them because they were getting so much goddamned attention. Nothing that hyped, that embraced by the mainstream—signed to Epic Records, downloaded over 124 million times on BitTorrent, named one of the best albums of 2012 by NP fucking R—could possibly be that weird, right?
Wrong. Death Grips were a defiant, aggro, unheralded mix of rap, punk rock, noise and electronic glitch that almost gets more mind-blowing the longer you listen to it. And for their short lifespan, they churned out material at such a breakneck pace that even now that they’ve broken up, they’ve still promised fans one last double LP later this year, to go with three full-length albums, an EP and a mixtape, all released over the course of about two and a half years.
They were also totally uncompromising in the way they managed their career. Yes, they signed to a major label, but when that major label wouldn’t release their second LP, No Love Deep Web, less than a year after their first one, they leaked it themselves via BitTorrent (hence that record-breaking number of downloads), complete with cover art featuring the album title scrawled across a half-erect penis. Not surprisingly, Epic Records dropped them shortly after that little stunt.
Then came their breakup last week, which they announced via a scribbled note on a dinner napkin, posted on their Facebook page. “we are now at our best,” the noted began, “and so Death Grips is over. we have officially stopped.” This just weeks before they were scheduled to embark on a massive North American tour opening for Nine Inch Nails. Most of the 5,000-plus comments on the breakup note are variations on this one: “WHY?????” But Death Grips clearly felt they never needed to explain anything they did to anyone.
So what happens now? The band’s most famous member, freak-of-nature drummer Zach Hill, will probably go back to any number of his other projects, the foremost of which is his experimental math-rock band Hella. Producer/keyboardist Andy “Flatlander” Morin will probably make a synth-pop album. Tattooed frontman MC Ride can probably do anything he damn well pleases now, although it’s hard to imagine him ever coming out with anything that matches Death Grips’ intensity.
For those (probably few) of you who still haven’t experienced Death Grips in all their craziness, we’ll leave you with a couple of videos. The first features one of the glitchier moments on their debut mixtape, Ex Military:
Now here’s “No Love” from No Love Deep Web, which captures their balls-out live show. Kinda sucks that these guys may very well never perform together again, doesn’t it?
Finally, we must end this post with a shout-out to the many readers who tried to convince us to pay attention to Death Grips sooner: Patrick S., KrazyTrilla, Matt S., Frostoriuss and Steffon R. You guys totally called it. Death Grips is dead, long live Death Grips.
Sorry, Juggalos: According to a federal judge, the cops can still classify you as a gang.
The Associated Press released a story today confirming that Detroit federal Judge Robert Cleland tossed Insane Clown Posse‘s lawsuit against the FBI in which they sought to nullify a 2011 report listing ICP fans as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” According to the AP, Judge Cleland deemed that the report can’t be retracted because “the government isn’t responsible for acts by local police agencies that use the 2011 report.” Which presumably means that ICP’s only move now would be to literally sue every state and local police department in the country that has any history of targeting Juggalos. Which is probably, unfortunately, most of them.
In response to the judge’s decision, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope issued the following statement via their Facebook page:
Juggalos, our legal team and our partners at the ACLU of Michigan are appealing this completely wack decision to dismiss our case. THIS IS NOT OVER! AT ALL! Rest assured that we’re still fighting for YOU and our entire Juggalo family. Read this press release from the ACLU and you’ll see that we still have a very strong case … and we ain’t stoppin’ SHIT! STAY STRONG, FAMILY! We ain’t goin’ down! WHOOP WHOOP!
The ACLU press release they reference is way less fun to quote, but says, in effect, that they’ll appeal the judge’s dismissal of the case.
As we’ve said before and will say again: Regardless of your personal feelings about Juggalos, this is clearly an important case for civil liberties and First Amendment rights. By claiming that the criminal actions of a few Juggalos make the entire fan base guilty by association, the FBI opened the door for any law enforcement agency to arbitrarily classify any social group as a criminal gang based on the actions of just a few of its members. It’s not a great leap to imagine that if this case goes unresolved, some dipshit state or local police department could cite it as precedent for targeting ravers next. Or metalheads. Or freakin’ Bronies. It’s just a slippery slope into Crazytown to assume that a tattoo of your favorite band’s logo is the equivalent of, say, an Aryan Brotherhood swastika.
So stay strong, Juggalos! Justice is on your side.
Let’s roll a fatty and watch Insane Clown Posse’s infomercial for the 2014 Gathering of the Juggalos
How have we not reported anything yet about the 2014 edition of Insane Clown Posse‘s annual Gathering of the Juggalos? What the fuck is wrong with us? You’d think we’ve been high for the last six months or something. Oh, wait…
Anyway, the 15th annual GOTJ has a brand-new location this year: the awesomely named Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio. Tickets are still on sale and it all goes down July 23-27, so you people still have a month to buy us a pair. C’mon, please? After all we’ve done for you? Fine, we’ll just follow the whole thing on Twitter again.
I could bore you all with a bunch of words about how it’s gonna be interesting as fuck, what with all the awesome rappers and bands playing and all the hot Juggalettes who might sit on your head if you pass out. But reading? Fuck that. Let’s watch a 23-minute infomercial instead.
I don’t know about, but I need to relax after all that excitement. So let’s play this post out with a soothing death ballad from Psychopathic Records artist and GOTJ performer Boondox. Pour one out!
A reader called J.W. Paycheck turned over a weird rock in North Carolina for us the other day, and among the many critters that scurried out from under it was a duo called Surgical Vacations. Googling “Surgical Vacations” gives you lots of search results about places in Mexico and Brazil where you can go to get a boob job, so we don’t know much about these guys, except that they apparently call themselves Buggy Baby James and Flavor Downey Jr. and they’re also in another, equally under-the-radar band called Crystal Innz. Their Bandcamp page tags their music as “comedy rap,” but I think it’s an inside joke. Unless the joke is just that they’re making fun of the ominous production techniques of horrorcore hip-hop.
Hey, Brits: You know that cello player who busks in the pedestrian underpass near your work every day? The one you tossed like 50p to the first time you saw him and haven’t given him shit since? What if one day you went down there, and he was wearing a death mask and accompanying three rappers in black hoodies? You’d give him all your fuckin’ money then, wouldn’t you?
But don’t worry, Ceiling Demons aren’t as scary as they look. They’re actually quite nice, introspective lads, as this video for their new track “Amputated Spirit” shows. The masks are just so the other rappers won’t fuck with them on account of them being so nice and all.
“Amputated Spirit” will be released as a single this Friday, June 13th. To celebrate, Ceiling Demons will make their album Dual Sides available as a free download via Bandcamp for a limited time. See? I told you they were nice.