READING

Has it really been 20 years since Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseño and Solano were acquitted, LA burned, Perry Farrell masturbated multiple times and then everybody declared war on rap and announced that everything with an f-word was “gangsta”? It led to ‘Get the Fist’ — not a pro-fisting anthem, but a charity record that’s better than Live Aid II and III’s reminder that 1989 and 2004 were dark musical times, but not as good as Springsteen and Run-DMC condemning Sun City. I remember footage of Positive K, Biz and MC Serch’s albums being sent beneath the steamroller during the storm over that crappy ‘Cop Killer’ song too.

Still, it was nice to feel like you weren’t meant to be listening to the music — authorities, parents and even the artists goading me and calling me a cracker made the experience fun. Now it wants to be your friend — it retweets you and collaborates with Katy Perry, then saunters off and reworks an Aston Martin. Hip-hop practically strokes your balls and asks how your day at work was. Things done changed. I still can’t resist the lure of the rap autobiography – DMX, Ice-T, 50 Cent, Jay-Z (a decent read beyond the lyrical deconstructions), Common and J-Zone’s efforts were decent in their own ways, but Prodigy set the standard with ‘My Infamous Life’ by talking smack as if he was never going to be released and not letting too much truth get in the way of a good yarn. That seems to have instigated some impending tomes — Lil’ Kim’s ‘The Price of Loyalty’ drops in June, ‘Bizzy By Choice, Bone By Blood’ by Bizzy Bone, ‘The Dynasty: Sex, Drugs, Murder and Hip Hop’ by Ray Benzino arrive in July, Boots Riley has one set for December and Q-Tip’s ‘Industry Rules: the World According to Q-Tip, From Linden Blvd. to El Sugundo and Beyond’ is a long way off (25th March 2014 according to Amazon). Somewhere among all those releases, RA the Rugged Man’s book might appear too.

Given his notorious inability to hold his tongue, Benzino’s book appeals to me – I want more information on the whole ‘The Source’ deal, the early Boston rap days, label issues as a result of the aforementioned ‘Cop Killer’ fallout, the CGI magic carpets and that strange documentary that was on WSHH recently, which featured an inexplicable Jay Electronica appearance banging on about Satan and the illuminati, years before he took to blasting the shit out of pheasants with Zac Goldsmith of an evening. I imagine it will probably indicate that Made Men made classic albums too, but I’m willing to overlook all that. Every rapper used to have a book, film and beverage in the offing, but many failed to materialise. I never believed ‘Zino’s book would appear, but now there’s even a cover shot as proof of life. On a biographical note, HarperCollins are reported to have obtained UK rights to Mike Tyson’s memoir and it’s apparently set for an October 2013 release — very good news indeed. Getting overeager about these things can prove humiliating though – a lot of us have been waiting for ‘Bowie: Object’ (which sounds like an even fancier version of ‘My Rugged 211’ or that Hiroshi Fujiwara ‘Personal Effects’ book, but this time, it’s a tome showcasing some of Bowie’s favourite archive artefacts), but Bowie Myths showcased a “leak” that looked questionable. It was evidently written by somebody that understands Bowie, yet predictably, it turned out to be fake and even the man himself took to Facebook (“Blinkin’ garden gnomes! Really”) to dismiss it. Between that and a hastily doctored pair of Jordan Is with the Nike SB logo on the tongue (as I understand it, that Jordan I SB for the Bones Brigade film isn’t happening), fast news travel and a hunger for information are optimum conditions for pranks.

Every meeting I’ve gone to lately seems to have talk of “a print project” thrown around in the same way they were banging on about an “online magazine” a year or so ago. Unless you’ve got an oligarch backer the high gloss approach will crash and burn and just trying to be ‘Monocle’s fashion section distilled down like weak Ribena – a sickly pink when it should be a purple, isn’t enough. I can’t say I’ve been awed by a magazine lately (though there’s been some strong content) on visuals alone in the same way that ‘Relax’ used to blow my mind frequently. Sure, it got to a point where on grabbing it from Magma, it was all plants, pastels and Mike Mills again and again (the visual angle was important, because I couldn’t understand a bloody word of that Japanese text) and then it was cancelled in 2006, but before that, it was a perfect, progressive example of magazine design — inserts, posters, stickers and those covers…inspirational in a way that ‘The Face’ once was and very little has been since…at least nothing that would leave you with change from a tenner. The adidas and Dogtown issues were tremendous and there’s still room in my life for something just as powerful. The Being Hunted crew always seemed to worship this magazine too (I’m looking forward to seeing Being Hunted 7.0), because Jorg and co know their stuff. Salutes to the LMCA archive for maintaining the covers and the YouWorkForThem squad for keeping their magazine and book visuals stored, even after they stopped selling them. Why isn’t there a ‘Relax’ retrospective book? I still believe print can change lives, but `also I believe that it’s a format that only a select few can truly succeed in.

Page images taken from YouWorkForThem

If it’s quirky, it’s cult now. I’ve been trying to work out when cult ceased to be an appealing tag – perhaps it was the post Quentin slew of chatty, smart-Alec mob flicks that jarred each and every time. Maybe it was Rob Zombie and co’s attempts to reproduce a moment in time that was originally simply a victim of no means and a lack of professional crew. Either way, the best stuff from back in the day had an earnestness about it and a sense of strange that wasn’t synthesised. All the talk of ninjas last week had me thinking of David Carradine’s work and I still maintain that 1989’s ‘Sonny Boy’ is underrated. Alongside ‘Santa Sangre’ it offers something uncomfortable but intoxicating in a totally unrestrained approach to bloodletting and Carradine’s commitment to the film, from his cross-dressing performance to the work on the soundtrack is admirable. Cheap and memorable is a fair summary (like 1990’s unnerving ‘Luther the Geek’), but that doesn’t necessarily make it a film for all tastes — come to think of it, many will just find ‘Sonny Boy’ deeply offensive, but I guarantee you’ve not seen much like this one before. Brad Dourif has spent much of his career stumbling into curiosities like this and I’m assuming distribution issues mean it won’t ever get a proper DVD release again.