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September 02, 2003 - Image 53

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2003 - 9D
B Joseph Litman 'X
Daily Arts Writer M 1

Courtesy of OkayPlayer

Drum machine.

THE ROOTS' THOUGHTFUL ?UESTLOVE

By Joseph Litman
Daily Arts Writer

Central to Sunday's Roots' con-
cert was drummer and creative
force Ahmir "?uestlove" Thomp-
son. Although he's an accom-
plished producer, DJ and
businessman, Thompson is usually
recognized by his distinct afro.
However, those who only know the
man's hair are unfortunately
neglecting Thompson's charisma,
intelligence and Vitruvian nature.
Before the concert, Thompson
spoke with The Michigan Daily
about the Roots' latest masterpiece,
Phrenology.
The Michigan Daily: Phrenolo-
gy was a departure from the other
music we've heard from the Roots.
What was the discussion like when
you were coming up with the con-
cept of this record?
Ahmir Thompson: (To) earn our
renegade stripes. All the time it's like
[mockingly], 'You guys are so inno-
vative, you guys are so great, you
guys are so great' - but, the "great"
people that I know of, or that I call
great, part of their careers has been
about exploring uncharted territory.
I just never want to be called pre-
dictable, or 'that's a typical Roots
sound.' I got a lot of that in 2001.
[Mockingly] 'Yo man, the Roots'
sound is in, the Roots' sound is in.'
I'm like what is 'the Roots' sound is
in?' Is the Roots' sound "Mellow My
Man," or is the Roots' sound
"Clones?" The Roots' sound could
be pretty much anything if you look
at our production spectrum.
TMD: On what did you draw for
this record?
AT: I've always been a Bomb
Squad fan. Lyrically, Tariq (Black
Thought) has been a Juice Crew fan,
so any Big Daddy Kane, Kool G
Rap, Biz, Roxanne, Masta Ace,
Craig G and Marly Marl, that's who
he idolized. With me, it was the
Bomb Squad. Anythingto do with,
Public Enemy or any of the groups
that Public Enemy produced
between '87 and '92, that's what I
was obsessed with.
So, I got in Spike (Lee)'s ear about.
redoing "Burn Hollywood Burn"
(for "Bamboozled") and I used it as
a litmus test to see how it would
work, and if I felt pleased with the
results, we would try to make our

album that radical. At the end of the
day, we just decided not to do the
whole album as radical as that song.
So pretty much, I wanted to do
something PE-like on the new
album, but I didn't want it to stick
out like a sore thumb. (That led to)
"Thought at Work" and ... we had to
go for the gusto.
TMD: That piano beat that the
song was first over ...
AT: Yeah, yeah "Hey Bulldog."
We were down, mixing it. Our engi-
neer walks in and is like 'Hey, the
Beatles!' I was like, 'Nah, that ain't
no Beatles' and he's like [high
pitched] 'No, man, it's the Beatles.' I
found out that it's a Lennon-McCart-
ney composition, and that means that
Michael Jackson owns it and right
now, he's in a major battle with Sony
over who owns the Beatles' stuff, so
they're basically not clearing any-
thing. Trust me, I tried. I emailed the
shit out of Sean Lennon and all that
stuff, but in a way, it kind of freed
me. It kind of liberated us. That freed
me to just, fuck it, do the PE version,
do the "Bring the Noise" tribute.
TMD: It was nice to hear that
Incredible Bongo Band sample
on there.
AT: That, to me, is like a b-
boy tribute.
TMD: How did you guys hook up
with Cody ChestnuTT (on the track
" The Seed (2.0)")?
AT: Actually, I first discovered
Cody in the "D." A good friend of
mine who's a writer from Detroit,
Dream Hampton, had his demo, but
she didn't want to give it to me, you
know, because it was so sacred to
her, but that shit wasn't ever gonna
stop my ass. So, I put an APB out on
him and luckily, he had sent his
demo to every major label including
(mine) and it wound up in the throw
away pile. It just so happens that one
of the interns remembered the name
Cody ChestnuTT, and as a result, I
found him and insisted that we meet
and talk about working.
TMD: What is going on with
Malik B these days? I think that
everyone has heard "Water," and
they're kind of curious.
AT: To be honest, I have not
really spoken to Malik since the
album came out. Right now, I
think that he's just living his life
and pretty much just dealing with
his life, so it's cool.

Call it skill, call it game, call it whatever, but be
sure to call Talib Kweli's talent something that
denotes its exceptional abundance. A gifted word-
smith who seems to never waste a bar, the New York
MC is one of rap music's finest and most intellectual-
ly provocative rhymers, and his lyrical prowess has
earned him a devoted following and placed him
among hip-hop's "socially conscious" luminaries.
Sharing that distinction with Kweli are a handful
of elite acts, like Common, and both men will be fea-
tured attractions tomorrow night at Detroit's State
Theater. Gang Starr will also be performing at a
show certain to please real hip-hop fans. Kweli, who
spoke to The Michigan Daily last week, is clearly
excited about the performance.
"(The show) is just some real hip-hop shit. It's a
pretty long show, so people should be prepared for
that. However, it's not long and boring; it's long and
good," he said. "I try to' throw a party with my show"
The party atmosphere created results from Talib's
remarkable ability to engage fans with his music.
"I try not to make music for the audience; I try to
make music for myself. The only way that you can be
true to yourself as an artist is if you make music for
yourself and then let the audience relate to that. If
you make music for specific audiences, they're usual-
ly sophisticated enough to see through that."
Measuring the sophistication of the hip-hop audi-
ence is a difficult task. As hip-hop has permeated
society, the culture's growth has raised a plethora of
issues that require complicated responses. One such
topic is the direction in which the music is headed.
"I see hip-hop going wherever the people are,
whatever the people demand," Kweli said. "Right
now, whatever Nelly is putting out is something that
the people are demanding. He came out with a song
that was a hit and it just became a phenomenon. And
since (he and Universal Records) have been able to
capitalize on the phenomenon. He touched a nerve
and hip-hop is going to be wherever the people are."
Those people are, at times, not with Kweli, who
has not enjoyed the same commercial success as a
Nelly. Compounding that problem, even loyal fans
have at times been disappointed with Kweli, like this
summer when they disapproved of a new song, "Gun
Music," before fully understanding its meaning.
"There are people in the so-called 'conscious
music' that are just as close-minded as people who
listen to 'commercial music,' said Kweli. "In the
summer it was a little tough because people automat-
ically assume that I'm not allowed to use the word
'gun,' that I'm so positive that I can't even say some-
thing that might have a negative connotation."
The rush to judgment that proved to be hasty is

Practice? We're sittin' here talkin' about practice?l
symptomatic of a mass U.S. audience that often lacks
patience. Subjecting Kweli to such unfortunate
behavior has especially threatening consequences,
though, because anything that might encourage the
MC's silence - though he'd likely be undeterred -
would deprive hip-hop of a much-needed candid and
honest voice.
Demonstrating how he's garnered his reputation
for intelligence and thoughtfulness, Kweli discussed
the meaning behind his latest single, "Get By."
"I specifically choose to address the black condi-
tion around the world in my music, because there is
not enough of that in the mainstream, and it needs to
be dealt with because it is a serious issue. But when I
say 'we' in that sense (of coping with life's stresses), I
am talking about all people. Getting by is a constant
struggle, something that everybody, regardless of
race, deals with."
Kweli's unabashed opinions also cover ongoing
topics of conversation ranging from his responsibility
as a role model given his profession - "I think that
there is a responsibility, but I wouldn't put that on
everybody" - to Eminem's potential role in the co-
optation of hip-hop.
"Honestly, of course (Eminem is a vehicle for co-
optation), to a certain extent, but I don't think any-
body realizes that more than Eminem, and I think it's

kind of irrelevant to discuss that because that's so far
away from the real issues in our culture. Part of the
reason that he sells millions of records is obviously
because he's white, and obviously because white kids
who buy hip-hop music relate to him, and that's why
you see him on the award shows and everything. He
realizes that and he wouldn't be where he is if he
weren't one of the best MCs to ever do it, and he also
realizes that."
Speaking further about the issue's nuances,
Kweli coninued, "You could make the argument
that Vanilla Ice was good for the culture because
he brought hip-hop to a whole bunch of people
who didn't give a fuck about it before. It's about
where someone's heart (rests), and you take every-
thing as it is. If Eminem can rhyme, that's all we
should be dealing with."
Through his Nkiru bookstore and community cen-
ter, Talib has also tried to reach more people and
develop a context in which they can understand and
enjoy hip-hop and black culture.
Some of that culture's finest music and its most
ardent supporter will be on display tomorrow night.
From the classic style of Gang Starr to the boundary-
pushing growth of Common, there will be something
for all hip-hop heads. As for Kweli? Obviously, he
speaks for himself.

I

kings they were.
When formed, Pavement was
shrouded in mystical, cryptic antics.
The band's members resided in
throughout the country corners; the
founders went so far as to give them-
selves epithets (S.M. and Spiral
Stairs). When Pavement granted inter-
views, which they rarely did - they
were mercurial and temperamental.
Pavement's leader and chief songwriter,
Stephen Malkmus served to continue
the mystery surrounding the band with
off-kilter, off-topic and sometimes off-
key vocals becoming Pavement trade-
marks stolen with a smirk from Sonic
Youth and The Pixies.
Pavement's 10-year anniversary

Courtesy of Matador
The boys "o Pavement dressed for success but success it never came.

Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Music REVIEW *
With Nirvana being championed
as the saviors of rock and torch car-
rying kings of a now very irrelevant
Seattle 'scene' Pavement carved out
a niche of their own on college radio.

Disregarding commercial music's
reverence for Beatles-y hooks in
favor of stripped down low-fi junk-
rock Pavement's Slanted and
Enchanted had an influence reaching
far beyond the Seattle scene's proge-
ny. As a result, one of America's
greatest '90s bands gets a reissue
befitting of the slacker-poet noise

album features a
remastering of the
original 14 album
tracks followed by
extra songs from
the Enchanted
sessions. The
wonderful Watery,
Domestic EP

Pavement
Slanted and
Enchanted:
Luxe and
Reduxe
Matador Records

catches Pavement mid-crawl sand-
wiched between their two best albums
at a time when even their EP cast-offs
and b-sides ebbed genius. Luxe &
Reduxe sports almost 50% never
before heard material, including a
concert from 1992 December concert,
and previously unheard John Peel ses-
sions. The 48-track collection focuses
on Pavement's fetal period, years
before the summer babes made the
major leagues.

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