We’re cheating a little with this week’s “band,” weirdlings. Meow the Jewels isn’t a band per se; it’s more of a remix project, created hardcore hip-hop duo El-P and Killer Mike, aka Run the Jewels. The weird part? All of the remixes are composed primarily out of cat sounds. Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?
After recruiting such big-name guest rappers and producers for the project as Prince Paul, Just Blaze, Dan the Automator and even Snoop Dogg (who really should’ve been billed as Snoop Catt — missed opportunity, guys), El-P headed down to the animal shelter to enlist some cats to provide sound effects. Then it was off to the studio to flip such Run the Jewels tracks as “Jeopardy” and “All Due Respect” into “Meowpurrdy” and “Paw Due Respect.” The result is perhaps the greatest hip-hop album of all time, cat-themed or otherwise.
That’s neat and all but — I hear you ask — do they have videos? Well, since the Internet is roughly 80% cat memes (the other 20% is equal parts porn and right-wing conspiracy theories), you bet your sweet ass they do. This first one was directed by Jason Goldwatch for Mass Appeal, and somehow manages to cram most of the Internet’s finest cat memes into 3 minutes and 14 seconds.
Then, as if all that weren’t awesome enough, last week Meow the Jewels released a new video for “Meowpurrdy” directed by none other than our favorite digital animation madman, Cyriak. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drop acid in one of those Japanese cat cafés, this is probably your answer.
We haven’t been posting as much lately, I know. What can I say? Life shit. But when our old Ohio hip-hop pal Mission Man tweeted us his latest video, we just had to share it with you folks out there in Readerland. (By the way, don’t panic: Mission Man did not die in 2012. That’s just a copyright date range in the above graphic. He’s alive and well and still rockin’ the mic.)
MM’s vid for “Love, Funk and Soul” makes us happy, and not just because it features more cowbell. Mainly, it gives us a case of the warm fuzzies because it proves what we’ve long suspected, but seen precious little evidence of: Mission Man has fans. In the clip, they can be seen taking selfies with him, partying with him, throwing snowballs at him, and, at around the 1:08 mark, getting up onstage and dancing with him. Dude’s grind is definitely starting to pay off. Let this be an inspiration to us all.
Polish hip-hop duo Donatan and Cleo went back down to the farm for their latest single/video, “BRAĆ,” and you know what that means: More high-sterical combinations of Polish rural life and hip-hop video clichés. Sexy vixens washing an old tractor like it’s a Bentley? Check! Old Polish dudes doing vodka shots like they’re sipping Cristal in the club? Check! Roosters wandering around for no reason? Checkity-check-check, baby. Slavschool in full effect!
The new video also features a new collaborator: A Polish/Ukrainian band called Enej, who bring the requisite Slavic folk flavor to the proceedings by way of a little gypsy-punk accordion and horns. Here’s what they usually sound like, so we gotta say, Donatan does a good job recasting them in a hip-hop context.
MC Frontalot‘s new album Question Bedtime mostly features fairy tales unfamiliar to us folks raised on Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm. On those few occasions when the good MC does take on a more well-worn story, he always flips the script on it. Case in point: “Gold Locks,” which imagines what the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears would sound like as a bedtime story told to young bears. Needless to say, from the bears’ perspective, Goldilocks (played by rapper Jean Grae) is a horrible monster who, if you’re not good, will sneak into your house and eat all your food. And you, if you’re not careful.
For now, the video is an Entertainment Weekly exclusive, so you’ll have to cruise over to EW.com to watch it there. It’s OK, boo, you’re allowed to see other websites.
In other Frontalot news: Having just conquered America, he’s off to Europe next. Here are those dates:
9/24 in Southampton, EN @ Talking Heads
9/25 in Newton Abbot, EN @ The Jolly Farmer
9/26 in Perranporth, EN @ Watering Hole
9/28 in Bristol, EN @ Thekla
9/29 in Swansea, Wales @ Sin City
9/30 in Stourbridge, EN @ The River Rooms
10/1 in St. Albans, EN @ The Horn
10/2 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire @ Bucks Student Union
10/3 in Bedford, EN @ Esquires Beford
10/4 in Hatfield, EN @ Forum Hertfordshire
10/8 in Cork, IR @ Cyprus Avenue
10/9 in Dublin, IR @ Café En Sein
10/10 in Newry, UK @ Magnet Young Adult Center
10/11 in Sligo, IR @ 5th on Teeling
10/13 in Holyhead, EN @ Canolfan Ucheldre Centre
10/14 in Liverpool, EN @ East Village Arts Club
10/15 in Manchester, EN @ Manchester Academy
10/16 in Wakefield, EN @ Warehouse 23
10/17 in Cleethorpes, EN @ The Beachcomber
10/18 in Newcastle upon Tyne @ Think Tank in Riverside
10/19 in Glasgow, Scotland @ O2 ABC 2
10/20 in Blackburn, Lancashire @ King Georges Hall
10/21 in Stoke on Trent @ The Sugarmill
10/22 in Guilford, EN @ Boileroom
10/23 in Southend On Sea, EN @ Chinnery’s
10/24 in London, EN @ The Garage
10/25 in Milton Keynes @ The Craufurd Arms
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.