Author Archives: DIE

Initials B.R. – Initials B.R. Single Edits

Initials B.R. - Initials B.R. Single Edits

Initials B.R. – Initials B.R.

’01. INITIALS B.R. we have seen the moment of our greatness flicker
’02. SESAME we never sleep
‘03. STRIKE ON BACK we play with fire
‘04. HEAVYWEIGHT BULLION we buy gold
‘05. THE MUSIC MAN we are open for business
‘06. THE CONFIDENCE MAN we give you our word
‘07. HENRY DARGER we need a moment alone
‘08. WALTER SICKERT we have got to be kidding
‘09. T.R.O.B. we quit

Marconi – Merry Christmas

Marconi - Merry Christmas

Marconi – Minutes to Manifest Destiny

Marconi -Minutes to Manifest Destiny

Fore & Aft: Echoplex II

A few weeks ago, I wrote what might have been an overly academic piece about a musical dialogue between The-Dream and R. Kelly. Soon after, I went in search of tracks on which the two might have collaborated. The most pertinent of what I found is the first track on “The Demo”, from R. Kelly’s 2009 Gangsta Grillz mixtape, which may or may not be the first such mixtape by an R&B artist. The song? None other than “Kelly’s 12 Play Remix”. Perfect.

R. Kelly & The-Dream – Kelly’s 12 Play Remix

The backing track, in typical mixtape fashion, is quiet and lacking in the mastered sparkle of the album version. And R. Kelly’s verses are clearly louder than was intended in the original. Such heavy-handedness characterizes the entire affair. This is not a particularly endearing Kelly. He presents vulgar details with unimaginative lyrics (“screaming like I’ve got two in it” is revolting). But what piques my interest is the wealth of suggestive moments given the context of the song.

Kelly’s first verse is everything I could hope for: a confluence of the sexual act with professional stature. My previous analogy to R&B royalty is immediately apropos as Kelly soon reaches the line “I’ll be King until I die.” He is not giving up the crown without a fight. Moreover, he appears here unsatisfied with his critical success, claiming 12 Play “should have won a Grammy as big as ‘I Believe I Can Fly'”. Rephrasing the old-timer’s “I was doing such and such when you were just a stain in your Daddy’s pants” kind of bare-chested one-upsmanship, Kelly concludes his first verse with the claim “I believe that your Mama and your Daddy, they laid down and they did it to Kelly’s 12 Play.” It’s simple. It’s direct. But it goes a long way. We can’t help but imagine he’s suggesting The-Dream’s very conception was inspired by R. Kelly’s album, which is in fact what’s at stake here, at least metaphorically. The first line of the third verse again sums up the exercise: “I am the best at what I do.” And while we know he’s referring to sexual prowess, the statement reads as a warning when supported with his aim to “get your man fired up in here”. Better believe job security is on the plate in the world of pop music.

In comparison, The-Dream’s original second verse is his “appearance” on the remix (The-Dream clearly did not contribute anything new to this remix). But here it’s sparsely mixed, quiet, and without context, so that the whole section sounds thoroughly “blah”. And when R. Kelly riffs on the bridge’s “oh-oh-ohs”, he tromps all over The-Dream’s performance. It’s clear here who is intended to be the star. And for all that, R. Kelly’s playing the second fiddle here, which is the folly of the mixtape format. So it’s ultimately fitting that while The-Dream dubs himself “Radio Killa” and chimes in with this nickname throughout the whole Love vs Money album, R. Kelly drops a lonely “Killa” in the background leading up to his reappearance in the third verse. (DJ Skee told MTV “He was originally gonna call it The Remix Killa. He has a lot of what he calls his ‘remix killa sh–.’ That’s kinda his mantra.”)

I admit to not having fully researched this subject to get a better idea of the professional relationship R. Kelly might have with The-Dream. But it’s clear that he’s paying attention to his rival and I don’t see how he wouldn’t feel challenged on some level. While R. Kelly was busy with legal troubles, The-Dream was building a new R&B empire. Apparently, the intention in making this mixtape was to take “it all the way back to when I first started; all I had was my demo. It’s a way to start fresh, be humble. It’s like being a new artist. This is my demo tape for my fans.” Sure Kellz, but it’s hard to imagine you’re not also out for the new blood.

– – –

P.S. In case you can’t help but slow down to look at accidents on the side of the road, you might be inclined to listen to this track:

R. Kelly feat. Tyrese, Robin Thicke, & The-Dream – Pregnant

This is what happens when you let singers write their own lyrics. Fortunately The-Dream sets himself apart with more nuance than nonsense. Whoever thought “Knock you up” could be such a catchy hook?

Big Digits – Return to Cocoon Lagoon (Initials B.R. Remix)

Big Digits - Return to Cocoon Lagoon (Initials B.R. Remix)

Radiohead – Nude (Initials B.R. Remix)

Radiohead - Nude (Initials B.R. Remix)

Piles – Radiomir (Initials B.R. Remix)

Piles - Radiomir (Initials B.R. Remix)

On Boo Radley Bruises Badly

Before Initials B.R., there was Boo Radley. Here’s what he had to say about his one and only, Boo Radley Bruises Badly.

From the mouth of someone more inclined to synopses of major life episodes, 2003 in a nutshell reads something like this:

“An escalating romance falls disastrously to the wayside when, a year shy of graduation, Luke Kirkland moves across the country with his band, Night Rally to give a music career the old college try instead.”

Unfortunately, brevity has never been my strong point. Instead, I find it’s taken almost three years to sort through what happened that year and 70-something minutes to narrate it. Boo Radley Bruises Badly is a twelve song sculpture of those twelve months, a four course conclusion to a four season psychologue, an album of opposites and obstacles, of assimilation and isolation, and a mess of confusion becoming perfectly certain of what it’s doing.

Perhaps too certain…

I’ve always feared becoming an apologist for Boo Radley Bruises Badly. Perhaps I’m too quick to assume the listener’s surprise upon hearing split personalities duel for the spotlight. “I’m listening to a love song. Now I’m listening to a rap song. Again, love. Rap. Hmmm. I’m confused.” How are we to justify the juxtaposition of such musical styles? It was never my intention to become a musical Dr. Moreau, piecing and pasting spasmodically at whim. On the contrary, Boo Radley was a rap alias confined to a world that had transformed suddenly and dramatically and whose narrative had been and was being sussed out into rock songs. Boo Radley Bruises Badly became a coping mechanism, a project without conditions beyond the consideration of the events of 2003, and ultimately a collection of songs that could only stand apart from one another at the risk of sacrificing the gestalt and misunderstanding the narrative.

But this conflagration is a convenient opportunity for a larger musical discussion. On the one hand, escaping the love song in rock music is impossible. Songwriters incessantly delving into their personal love lives comprises the great majority of rock music’s subjects. The romance of the breakup song or of the unrequited love song remains so appealing to the musical audience largely because of the excitement not of meeting one’s match, but of pursuing one’s match. On the other hand, rap music and the “hip-hop” culture in many ways approaches a celebration of pure escapism. While the content of many songs attempts to elevate or address problems of great import affecting the artists, there is nevertheless a violent opposition to the conditions of earthly life. In fact, the urgency of the sentiment is nearly apocalyptic and/or suicidal in nature and expresses itself as a desperate lashing out at all who might represent and/or fulfill the weaknesses of earthly life. In the end, both are concerned about encountering something else that can be both one’s glory and one’s downfall. For rock, the love song is the yearning for the other. For rap, the battle is the yearning for the other.

Despite the success of artists like DJ Shadow and the “Get Paid” rap industry machinery still supporting producers such as Kanye West, I find it hard to imagine that Boo Radley Bruises Badly could ever be released legitimately. The number of samples I’ve co-opted for my own psychiatric ends could never be fully given their due. Ever since the crime spree that was P. Diddy’s career, the successes of the rap world have relied increasingly on original beats. The sampling hey-day is long gone. No one can afford it anymore. But while I would never insist that a musician be denied his monetary compensation for the use of his recorded material, it is unfortunate that artists can’t be honest about their inspiration. A million hacks with guitars have ripped off other artists’ songs without batting an eyelash and without the Puritanical slap on the wrist of a “Cease And Desist”. Doubtlessly, there is something innately shameful about the sample. The feeling of dependence upon others for inspiration or of incompetence in comparison to those who have influenced will always soil the creative achievement in some manner. But as if this weren’t enough, many go so far as to label those who sample as thieves and condemn the practice as destructive to the spirit of artistry or to the gasping illusion of a rock and roll ethos. Musicians are thieves first and foremost. It just so happens some build beautiful artifices out of the many things that fit into pockets. We should be so lucky as to profess our debt openly without being assaulted by the weapons of those who falsely claim license to cast the first stones, be they rolling or otherwise.

Ironically, the recording’s fate is potentially the same as that of Harper Lee’s hero: its public life will remain a relatively private one. As is the case in To Kill A Mockingbird, I don’t guess that’s such a bad thing. Nevertheless, Boo Radley will push on in his guise, though this guise will, from here on out, enjoy rap’s respite exclusively. Love songs will perhaps find their moments or even their proverbial R&B hooks within the bounds of their rap counterparts. But they will be few and slight impressions on a dreaming recluse whose monogrammed chest will be henceforth embroidered Initials B.R.

Boo Radley – Boo Radley Bruises Badly

Boo Radley - Boo Radley Bruises Badly

1. Overtour In Media Res / Tin Piece
2. Milton Bradley (Alexander The Great Gatsby)
3. Transmissing (Crimebridge Mix)
4. Little Caesar
5. Challenger
6. Man Down (Pigs)
7. Presto Change-O
8. Breathing Room (East Egg)
9. Boots Of Spanish Leather
10. Give Up The Ghost (Hawaii Calls)
11. What If By Land? (Model T)
12. It Ends In The Street