teaching mark s a *LESSON* response two: DE LA SOUL

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De La Soul/Transmitting Live from Mars

proposed by gygax!

Spike Lee?s Do the Right Thing, subject and style, was the peak of 1989 as year of black rage: in the opening credits, Rosie Perez amazondances to Public Enemy?s Fight the Power, distillate of the entire film, ragged nerve-flare of (semi)informed and (quasi)politicised anger, at the tipping point between fully justified expression of stress and the slurch off into full loss of perspective. (What would YOU do?)

By significant (and demonstrably saleable) contrast: De La Soul?s made name that same year was quietness and quirkiness, other chosen ways to live out black American life on-screen. The distinction held them down in the end got trapped in stupid media-emptied words (such as "surreal" or "hippie")... There were others, though.

Almost always in rap, you?re listening to the rapper as an character in the drama s/he or they just wrote ? and part of the fun is the tension between what?s acting and what?s acting out. The soft French voice in ?Transmitting Live from Mars? asks "Quelle heure est-il?" ? is the knowledge what time it is the ur-hiphop gift? ? but a lot more present than the sense of listening *to* De La Soul as a rap act is the sense of listening, and listening with them, to the constituent parts of this song (the male and female voices on a French language tape, the gentle little string smear copped off a Turtles record). One minute forty of classico-pop art abstraction: hugely filling the speakers with its depthless reticence.

Give or take street language that can?t be everywhere comprehensible (it wd lose its cachet if it were) and all this often delivered in extremes of compactness, rap is upfront and in-yr-face about it concerns. Which means a rapsong *without* a rap is at the very least a kind of riddle (even if you?d prefer not to hear that it?s a metophor or an allegory, or any invocation of similar ticket-to-upscale-museum status).

So why "live" and what?s Martian about it? Who the aliens here, who the threatened? Which is home, and which is far? Yes, it might just that the ordered calm of a European language lesson is a universe away from black American life. But it might also be that the idea of black Americans finding value and pleasure in this same lesson is a universe away from the stereotypes ruling American life, or European life, or __________ Am I listening to De La Soul listening to a Transmission from Mars, or is Mars the sound of De La Soul listening? Science fiction, from War of the Worlds to Marvel Comics to Star Trek to whatever, is the prism that binds, the perfect cultural representative of a shared humanity, even as it straight away goes on to raises questions about distinctly unshared identification: who were the hunters here, who the display?

Thinking about 25th hour, which I saw last sunday with my sister, I wondered if there isn't something Spike Lee is really good at that doesn't get talked about - or maybe I just wasn't listening in the right places. In his films that I so far saw (which isn't all of them), there are often these moments ? never emphasised, just moved into then out of ? of vivid grace and tenderness, where people in their own space are for a time NOT required either to conform to or battle the pervasive cartoons structuring the world elsewhere, including its many self-appointed discontents. Lee does these moments superbly well, actually: but part of what's so powerful about them, in their unassuming way, is that they're surcease from all the stuff he seems so overknown for: "THIS IS A PICTURE OF US - GET USED TO IT!" That picture is often immense, in its urgent flamewarred way, but isn?t even the only thing he?s about, after all.

"THIS IS A PICTURE OF *YOU* - DIDN?T YOU KNOW THAT YET?" The Martians are ALWAYS us, whoever we are, however we behave. There is no "world away": it?s all here.

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 15:32 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

(transmitting live from mars is off three feet high and rising btw)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 15:35 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

mark I kiss you

James Blount (James Blount), Saturday, 31 May 2003 15:36 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

There's only one word that perfectly describes a Spike Lee film, and that is... didacticism. Oddly enough, the only film of his that I thoroughly enjoyed was "Girl 6."

maria b (maria b), Saturday, 31 May 2003 16:14 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

(i never saw that, maria) (25th hour is not didactic, actually)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 16:31 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I think Ernest Dickerson, Spike's long-time cinematographer, has shot some of the most sumptuous, color-saturated crane shots ever conceived. The opening of Do The Right Thing, where the camera slowly meanders to Samuel Jackson as the DJ.... incredible stuff. I guess I feel a little put off by the preachiness of his ideas sometimes.

maria b (maria b), Sunday, 1 June 2003 16:31 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

And, I haven't seen 25th Hour yet. So, maybe he's improved.

maria b (maria b), Sunday, 1 June 2003 16:32 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

mark s language can’t be everywhere comprehensible (it wd lose its cachet if it were).

OTM observation re: Spike.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 2 June 2003 18:06 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

interesting that you chose to contrast public enemy with de la soul as both at the time were the most popular acts making an effort to rebel against hip-hop charicatures (albeit unsuccessfully, turn on mtv). public enemy's graphic logo was a silhouette of a b-boy between the cross hairs and de la soul's "me, myself and i video" parodied the kangoled b-boys in gold ropes. public enemy (and early nwa) chose wearing clocks around their necks rather than chains and ropes. flava flav's perpetually unanswered "do you know what time it is?" held a certain weight that the beastie boys' answer "it's time to get ill" didn't.

"transmitting live (from mars)" is an extension of that mood/era. in context, i think the "message" was of the zeitgeist (albeit subtle/vague), but musically, it is not attached to any time period, sounding simultaneously old and new even today.

gygax! (gygax!), Tuesday, 10 June 2003 18:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

where is response one?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 10 June 2003 18:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

It was about Zappa, The Pinefox - if you search for a thread with Zappa in the title I'm sure you'll find it.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Tuesday, 10 June 2003 20:58 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

where is response three?

zebedee (zebedee), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 15:48 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

three? ain't seen it yet. could be in the making(?)

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 15:52 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

on its way

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 16:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

is it da real one?

James Blount (James Blount), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 16:16 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

no

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 16:25 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

racist!

James Blount (James Blount), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 16:26 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

haha

James Blount (James Blount), Wednesday, 11 June 2003 16:26 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

five years pass...

ok leave rap alone dude

fenriz jr (wanko ergo sum), Tuesday, 6 January 2009 15:55 (eight years ago) Permalink

ILMisDeAd!!!

Test Tube Teens from the Year 1754 (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 15 January 2009 13:36 (eight years ago) Permalink

ILMisDeAd!!!

Test Tube Teens from the Year 1754 (Drugs A. Money), Friday, 16 January 2009 04:37 (eight years ago) Permalink


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