SPIN premieres an Old Money track today in anticipation of their mixtape Fire In The Dark. “Doctor Doctor” – best Robitussin-themed song you’ve heard in a decade or your money back. #SYRUP #HEALTHCARE #CREAM.
[Fafi en Mexico by Fafi]
Young deaths, accidental deaths are always the worst. The graffiti above is by artist Fafi, wife of DJ Mehdi, who passed away on Tuesday when, during a party for a friend, the roof of his Paris home collapsed.
Most people in the States know Mehdi from his electro/disco/house, his association with Ed Banger records, the Daft Punk / Justice upswing. But he began in France’s hiphop scene, and that’s where I first discovered him.
In DJ culture, certain songs exceed themselves, turn epic, turn anthem, crystallize a moment so well that whoever created the song becomes one to watch for – they enter in the conversation (often bypassing people who have been doing similar things — without the greater cultural resonance — for years). Because you can hear it, clearly, when music takes on zeitgeist weight, heavy with meaning.
“Tonton du Bled”, produced by Mehdi for Paris rap crew 113 is one such song.
If, like me, when you first heard it you had no idea what they were saying beyond a few snatches of words — it was DJ Mehdi’s beat that brought everything together, that made the whole articulation danceable and audible to us outside of the Afro- Arab- Francophone rap world. It’s a big tune.
“Tonton du Bled” was released in 1999, one year after Rachid Taha’s cover of Dahmane El Harrachi’s “Ya Rayah” became such a hit. “Ya Rayah” is the classic Algerian song of exile, a poetic and bittersweet cautionary tale about leaving your homeland (you’ll always want to come back), the restlessness of the traveler, the migrant worker (and the touring DJ). 113’s lyrics narrate a French-Algerian taking the car-and-ferry back to the ‘bled’ for a few weeks — with none of the Taha/El Harrachi longing. On the contrary, they are smart and hilarious in their reproach — using French slang peppered with Arabic words to playfully discuss the trip to Algeria, referencing Playstations, darboukas, librarian-sexy raï superstar Zahouania, all while gently riffing on urban/country differences without falling into easy dichotomies, not a drop of nostalgia in sight. If “Ya Rayah” invokes the split identity of someone who can’t shake longing for a distant home, 113 and Mehdi use hiphop swagger to express utter identitarian confidence – at ease in multiple languages, countries, Euro cities or African villages – empowered by the ability to travel (hiphop as portable homeland).
So the rap song offers a detailed reply to the raï one, and this black and brown intergenerational conversation is happening in France. It’s a rare and vibrant moment of a call-and-response conversational topic stretching across musical scenes.
And it put Mehdi on my radar. We never met but I’d always wanted to ask him about the transition from making beats for major players in the French rap scene to getting international traction as an electro DJ. It’s a fascinating move, probably a great way to think about changes in the French music scene over the past decade or so, too.
“Tonton du Bled” stayed in my crate for years. I actually became known for playing this track to Francophone audiences. An afterhours party on a Paris boat ended with the Moroccan manager giving me his copy of the 113 record it came on. The LP that was later destroyed when a drunk driver slammed into the tour van of Kid606 and myself outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, smashing the rear windows and sending my record bag onto the highway. But in that crash we were blessed: apart from a little whiplash and my best 80 records completely destroyed, nobody was hurt. We walked out of a totaled tour van alive. It was a hit-and-run. Who knows what that driver has done since.
+ + +
Here’s how I used “Tonton du Bled” in my 2004 mixtape, Bidoun Sessions, sliding in a spacious dancehall riddim underneath:
Less than a week ago Mehdi released a free mix called Tunisian Summer, saying “Last but not least, this mix is, quite humbly, dedicated to the people of my ancestors country, TUNISIA, for obvious reasons.”
To close, here’s a lovely Tunisian song (with a hiphop beat).
Chingo Bling is great. He’s way better at being ‘American’ – entrepreneurial, funny, smart — than the entire U.S. government. Hope to have him on the radio show sometime soon, but until then — enjoy this song from his latest mixtape, Back To The Border. The beat he uses was produced by Diplo for Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now.” On a related note, check out: “Who Runs The World?: On Beyonce, Sampling, Race, and Power .”
Music is excess. Always bigger than itself, spilling over. . . The worlds sketched out by Kool Keith’s acts of negation in “I Don’t Believe You” are hilariously life-affirming. (It’s a rap song equal to at least 1.7 million self-mythologizing tweets.) “Recoupment (Skit)” came right before “I Don’t Believe You” on his 2000 album, Matthew, so I decided to up it here as well.
Above the crowds above the clouds
where the sounds are original
infinite skills create miracles
Above the clouds reigning down
Holdin’ it down
Yes, it’s true – today is my birthday. I think, technically, I became one year older while flying over the unthinkably large Andes early this morning, on route to Santiago de Chile. Where it is cold and raining…
August winters are not my thing.
But even on birthdays the blog/(w)internet economy = free free free, here’s a bass-loaded b-day gift from me to you. Wrong direction, I’ll know… but you’ll take what you can get. And, as always, you are welcome to donate to the webhosting fees of MuddUp!
anyhow, here’s the mixtape:::::
I built this along w/ Matt Shadetek, 14 new jams from JD in anticipation of next month’s Buzzrock Warrior album, also produced by Matt, myself and the Dutty Artz family.
Raquel Rivera’s Reggaetonica has been popping as of late (more bilingual blogs please). This post references recent waves of police violence in Puero Rico, linking to excellent new response songs by Calle 13, Welmo, and Julio Voltio. (I dropped the lyrically stunning Calle 13 one in my radio show last night, approx here.)
if you harbor any doubts about David Banner’s complicated greatness, I suggest you read his Fader interview.
When people come to David Banner they want some pimpin, a little bit of violence, a little bit of God so they won’t feel bad about the pimpin and a little bit of revolution just because they know that that’s me. Past that motherfuckers don’t want shit else from David Banner. I tried to be creative, I tried to change music. Fuck that. We don’t even get the support from our own structures and the shit that we be around. So it’s like, we gotta do safe music, everybody wonder why people in the south do the type of the music they do, because ain’t nobody behind us. We don’t have that support that Eminem has, we don’t have that label support that Outkast has, and then on they last record Outkast didn’t get supported so how can we do something experimental when our label ain’t gonna push it on America? We can’t do what Eminem is doing, like if I had the support that Eminem had…shit I might mix some salsa music with some reggae music and throw some 808s in there, you never know what the fuck a nigga might do. And that’s what movies have done for me. I don’t wanna be David Banner all the fucking time. That’s depressing. With movies I could be somebody else.
[foto by Amanda Marsalis, from Fader 28]
announces Bohagon, a rapper with a name from a sci fi novel.. or something. And, as screwed and chopped by DJ Michael Watts on the Swishahouse Before Kappa 2k6 mixtape, you can kinda believe it. Vibrating spaceships with too many lights & alien observations.
Watts’ sense of restraint as a DJ is phenomenal. It’s harder to not touch a record than to touch it. Harder still to touch it with inertial haiku. Why escape the gravity? Spaceships are here, unearthed. courtesy Quieto.
so in Houston they slow things down. some people come from places where they speed things up. London grimesters Ruff Squad crank up Fantan Mojah’s heartbreakingly beautiful acoustic ballad one-drop ital-liturgical megahit “Hail the King” into…