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January 15, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-01-15

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Monday, January 15, 1990

The Michigan Daily

Public Enemy
Welcome to the Terror Dome
Def Jam
Before we start, let's just deal
with the hot matter of Public Enemy
and anti-semitism. Professor Griff,
9ex-Minister of Information for the
group, made some stupid, obscene
'comments, which more than any-
thing else, highlighted his own ig-
norance and the dubious doctrines of
the Nation of Islam (which is about
as Islamic as Pontius Pilate was
Christian); Griff was not stating the
'opinion of Public Enemy, but be-
-cause Public Enemy is considered
*skaggressive, dangerous and contrary
Black nationalism by the (white)
media, Griff's words are being used
to discredit the group's message and
'music. I don't recall quite as much
'=fuss over Eric Clapton's racist com-
ments in the late '70s or Axl Rose's
xenophobia. One rule for Black, an-
'other for white. "I don't smile in the
line of fire," retorts Chuck D in
"Welcome to the Terror Dome."
* It's unfortunate that today (of all
days) we're going to hear gross sim-
'plifications of Dr. King's philoso-
'phy of Christian love (agape) and
non-violence. Wet liberals living in
cloud cuckoo land will be spouting
all that "One Love" shite, pretending
that we don't live in a world where
'Black people are still getting killed
"because of their skin color
("Nothing's worse than a mother's
pain of a son slain in Bensonhurst,"
rhymes Chuck D) and still believing
that simply being nice will alleviate
racism. King, Kenyatta, Malcolm X,
Stokeley Carmichael, Mandela and
the countless people who combat
racism do so through struggle, not
through benign white people
'"giving" them their basic human
rights. Public Enemy confronts the
realities of American racism head on
and doesn't fudge the issue or iron
out the contradictions of the African
- American experience. "Welcome to
the Terror Dome" is as incendiary a
musical bomb against Babylon one
could hope to hear on entering the
Wah-wah pedals go crazy, police
sirens moan in the background, as
,Chuck D invites us to an inferro
that would have Dante resorting to
the uzi. "I got so much trouble on
my mind/ Refuse to lose/ Here's a
ticket/ Hear the drummer get
wicked." The snare breaks are harder
than ever, the guitar slashes more
lacerating. The prophets of rage,

with a healthy dose of explosive
paranoia, keep on fighting the power
but also pry open the fissures and
cracks in the Black community.
They complain that every brother
ain't a brother, citing the killers of
Malcolm X and Huey Newton: "The
shooting of Huey Newton from the
hand of a nigger who pulled the trig-
ger." CBS has pathetically censored
the first syllable of the word
"Welcome to the Terror Dome" is
relentless gelignite. This is Public
Enemy at its most musical tuffest
and verbally agile since "Rebel
without a Pause." Chuck D draws
upon history and many Black voices;
as a hip hustler of culture, he ex-
claims, "Move in a team/ I never
move alone," echoing the words of
Brother D and the Collective Effort's
"Dib be dib be dize (How we gonna
make the Black nation rise?)":
"Gotta agitate, educate and organize!"
The accompanying "Terrorbeat"
turns up the volume and has the bass
bubbling and spilling out of the
cauldron. You can see faces and hear
traces of so many voices singing and
playing and rapping throughout.
Sly, James, Clinton, Bootsy, Min-
gus, Monk, Marley, Charlie Parker,
Ornette, Ellington, Hendrix, Muddy
Waters. Most of these heroes don't
appear on no stamps. "Riddim fulla
culture," the sampled reggae toast
boasts. Too fucking right.
-Nabeel Zuberi
Quincy Jones
Back on the Block
Warner Bros./Qwest
"Sticks and stones may break
your bones, you ain't never heard the
wrath of Quincy Jones," the pro-
logue goes. It's a maddeningly ab-
surd bit of bravado, but that's what
happens when a seasoned producer
with at least a peripheral eye on the
explosion of hip-hop gets bitten by
the bug. The title track is a stagger-
ingly ambitious piece of fusion that
boasts rappers Ice-T, Melle Mel,
Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane
dropping rhymes over African-styled
percussion, rather pretentious rap-
styled sirens, (sampled from the
Ironside TV show) and Zulu chants.
For all these great ideas coming
from one of R&B's most innovative
producers, one must wonder why it
doesn't work.
In this case, the pieces seem to
overwhelm the whole. The idea isn't
particularly groundbreaking - it's
just that the synth lines that the ever
formidable Greg Phillinganes puts

together are too saccharine sweet to
back lines like Ice-T's opening: "I
hail from South Central L.A./ home
of the body bag - you wanna die?
Wear the wrong color rag." The con-
cept of linking contemporary rap
with its African roots is clever, but
Jones' urgent need to be slick and
contemporary is his downfall. Like-
wise, the commercial hit "I'll Be
Good To You," pairing Ray Charles
with Chaka Khan, also falls into the
radio trend of polyester soul, bol-
stered by a triphammer drum ma-
chine. We miss the raw edge of The
At other times the huge cast of
singers and musicians employed for
this LP comes together with good
results. "Wee B. Dooinit", an a
capella piece led by Bobby McFerrin
and similarly gifted singers Take 6
and Ella Fitzgerald, is a stunning ar-
rangement, if just for the knack
Jones has in filling the spaces. A

reworking of the jazz standard
"Birdland" falls into a satisfactory
niche, justifying its coverage but not
quite excelling. Its prologue, "Jazz
Corner of the World," works where
"Back on the Block" doesn't, with
Big Daddy Kane twisting his
formidable vernacular over a particu-
larly whimsical track of African per-
cussion and introducing solos by
Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy
Gillespie, and other musical giants.
But most would argue that the
LP's swan song is "The Secret Gar-
den," mellow and sensuous in its
grouping of soul Romeos James In-
gram, El Debarge, Al B. Sure! and
Barry White, who easily dominates
the above falsettos with his over-
whelmingly husky growls. "Garden"
just goes to show that Jones should
stick to his guns, regardless of what
the competition has to offer. His
powers are a given.
-Forrest Green III

Page 5
Unsilent Monk
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser
dir. Ch arotte Zwe rin
In Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser the footage of Monk is
almost always black-and-white, while the footage of others is usually
color. Though it can be argued that this is because most of the footage of
him was shot in the '50s and early '60s, when color film was very
expensive, this was probably not the case. After all, he worked actively
until 1972 and died 10 years later, so there must be some color film of
him playing. The reason that we only get to see the black-and-white
footage of Monk is because he is one of those who can only be shown in
Black and white. As one of the founders of bebop and modern
improvisional jazz, he was part of a group which made strides to-bring
down the racial barriers of music and show the world that African
American culture must be recognized as producing valid forms of self-
Most of the film - probably 60 percent - is performance footage
from one of Monk's world tours in the early '60s. As a result, most of
the music we hear consists of Monk's interpretations of his own, often
much older, compositions in the light of what he was doing at that time.
Though of interest to jazz aficionados, this does not give the
inexperienced viewer a sense of what the range of Monk's music was
like; it just delves into a single period.
Another problem with the film is that, while claiming to be a
biography, it presents almost no biographical exposition. Early on there
is a small segment where Monk's early life and musical experience is
explained through a typical photo album montage, but this is about the
only biographical explanation we see. It would have been much better for
the film to try to explain how Monk's life influenced his music and why,
ultimately, his non-musical life encroached on his music so much that,
in 1972, he stopped playing altogether. The film also alludes to his
erratic, possibly schizophrenic behavior. It shows him spinning in place
in various situations (a nervous habit which became a sort-of trademark)
and clowning insanely in an airport. There is also an interview with
Monk's son who says, "It's a startling thing to look your father in the
eye and find that he doesn't know who you are" and who later mentions
Monk's hospitalizations. Unfortunately the film does no more than this
to explain what may be one of the most important reasons for Monk's
brilliance, his mental illness. Instead, it chooses to provide us with a
dozen jazz music videos.
Although it gives a good portrait of the musician's music in the early
'60s music, regrettably this film was not made with clearer intentions
because it would have been an important step in exposing to the'general
public one of the most brilliant and controversial musicians in the
history of jazz. Maybe the fault is executive producer Clint Eastwood's
choice of format. In any case, the film is only a tantalizing tip of an
Arbor 1 & 2.
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Rapper Kool Moe Dee puts in a few words on the title track of Quincy
Jones' all-star album Back on the Block. Also on the record, among
others, are Miles Davis, Ice-T, Ray Charles and Chaka Khan.

The Midwu i apag
Is an affirmative action einployer.





Syracuse University's
Division of International Programs Abroad
Media Drama
in Britain
May 28-June 29
A six-credit program featuring site visits and field
trips to introduce students to British media.
Particular focus is directed at the dramatic fare on
radio, television, film and the stage. Coursework in
television-radio-film and drama available.


Tuesday, Jan. 9 . Tuesday, Jan. 23
Baldwin-wallace College Signature Inn
Kulas Musical Arts Building Corner of McGalliard &
Registration: 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Bethel Roads
COLUMBUS, OHIO: Registration: 1:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 10 BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA:
Ohio State University Wednesday, Jan. 24
Drake Union Indiana University
Registration: 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. Indiana Memorial Union -
DAYTON, OHIO: Solarium
Thursday, Jan. 11 Registration: 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Ramada Inn Airport (North) DECATUR, ILLINOIS:
4079 Little York Road Thursday, Jan. 25
Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. Millikin University
BOWLING GREEN, OHIO: Richards Treat University Center
Friday, Jan. 12 Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Bowling Green State University AKRON, OHIO:
University Union - Ohio Suite Monday, Jan. 29
Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. University of Akron
YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN: Gardner Student Center
Monday, Jan. 15 Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Eastern Michigan University PITTSBURGH, PA.:
McKenny Union Tuesday, Jan. 30
Registration: 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Point Park College
Tuesday, Jan. 16 Registration: 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Central Michigan University KENT, OHIO:
Norvall C. Bovee Wednesday, Jan. 31
University Center Kent State University
Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. Student Center - Third Floor
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN: Registration: 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 17 SANDUSKY, OHIO;
University of Michigan Thursday, Feb. 1
Michigan Union - Cedar Point
Anderson Room Park Attractions Office
Registration: 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. Rehearsal Studios
KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN: Registration: 10 a.m. - 4 p:m.
Thursdav .Jn 1 8 Fnr further infnrmftinn contact:


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