Friday, 29 August 2008

Detroit Grand Pubahs/Rza Bobby Digital

another few reviews if you be arsed.

Detroit Grand Pubahs ' Nuttin Butt Funk (Det.Ele.Funk)

Somewhere along the way techno lost da funk. I don't really know when this happened having lost interest in Detroit's 'hi-tech jazz' somewhere in the mid-90s. Bleep I could live with and whilst I admired the Cornish tech miners (Aphex, Vibert) and the likes of Autechre, Paradinas, Jenkinson, their brand of 'drill n' bass' operated somewhere on the outer reaches of intergalactic funk. Meanwhile whilst appreciating Hawtin's minimalist genius, his techwank left me cold. Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, UR all passed me by to be honest.

So, I've been attempting to re-educate myself over the past four years or so. What confuses me is all the hybrids; tech-house, intelligent glitchkore, tech-dub, booty-step, deep-click etc. But what it all boils down really is da funk. Modern funk, mutant funk, funk not as a 70s pimpsploitation cliche but as an evolving technological artform.

When the UK and Germany replaced Detroit as the centres for techno's commercial and some would say artistic centre, the circle seemed complete; Kraftwerk's Teutonic synth-funk influences black American musicians and DJs who produce their own takes on this sound and export back to the Fatherland. Yet what the music lost in this process was the essential funk of the grooves.

Nuttin Butt Funk reasserts the essence of Detroit Techno, not that it ever went away but serves as a timely reminder that for all the recent hype surrounding the likes of Villalobos et al, back in the ghettoes that spawned techno, the emphasis is still on the visceral thump thump head noddin' qualities of the music.

Beginning with the cosmic opener (costech?) track 'Skydive From Venus' with its tinkling piano and muffled bass, this LP takes in pounding tits out stompers like 'Message From Overkill' and 'Crystal', the best p-funk tune Clinton never made, 'Rollin' Paper & Bush,' the squelchy electro of 'Earth Hoes', deep tech flow of '50,000 Legions', the insane whump whump hardcore of 'ChiTown Shuffle' and several deeply silly 'skits.'

There is a seriousness to some tracks especially the Funkadelic style Rollin' Paper & Bush which takes a swipe at the cultural appropriation of black art forms, although this is balanced with the humourous (yet deeply sexist) 'Earth Hoes' and 'Butt Market.' The Grand Pubahs are not sonic crusaders like UR or Mills, they offer GettoTech that is accessible to even non-techno disciples such as myelf. Nuttin Butt Funk indeed.

Rza as Bobby Digital - Digi Snacks (Bodog)

Rappers, like squaddies exist in a state of perpetual adolescence. They appear to have rejected the usual trajectory of adulthood - responsibilities and all that boring straight shit - to indulge in a blunts n' hoes Utopia of sex n' weed on tap. OK, so most people in the music biz act in a similar way but rappers, even supposedly intelligent ones like Rza, appear to wallow in this shallow pool of decadent sensuality for far longer than most. Having a dig at Robert Diggs is hip hop heresy but here goes;

Let's begin with the artwork. The illustrated front cover sees our masked hero on a throne, surrounded by six concubines of varying ethnic origin. The usual Wu quasi-Samurai/Kung Fu adornments accompany this Digital despot and he stares coldly, dispassionately at us, like some terrible sultan about to pass sentence of death by a thousand cuts. The inside comic artwork attempts to convey some kind of dark urban narrative to the LP, as if it's a 'concept' maaan. Yet what we get is just the same old, same old. Guns n' sex n' quack science n' third rate philosophy. And it's not bad, some of it the epic 'You Can't Stop Me Now' and the superb 'Don't Be Afraid' are equal to any other Rza or solo Wu effort, it's expect MORE from Rza.

The Wu are thru! They've had their moment in the sun and for a while they were as important and vital in re-shaping hip hop for a new decade, a new generation as had been Public Enemy or De La Soul. Their problem was stretching the Rza sonic template far too wide. The initial lo-fi thrill of 36 Chambers was replaced by formula beats, familiar tricks, leaden, lazy raps. Too much of Digi Snacks is just Rza by numbers, it leads nowhere, it's a sonic, aesthetic and commercial dead end. Hip hop has always evolved to sustain itself but it seems that Rza and the entire Wu collective have simply ran out of steam. There are younger, hungier rappers and producers out there and perhaps, Bobby Digital should take a look around and y'know grow up a bit.

No comments: