Category: Chris Lee

Die Antwoord interviewed: On 'Zef style,' Harmony Korine and a movie featuring a drug dealer named 'The Elf'

Owing to space constraints in The Times’ print product, not all the weirdness and wonderment of Die Antwoord could fit into an article about the group that appears in Monday’s Calendar section. This online version offers a longer take of that article.

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Since February, the question has become so linked with South African “rave-rap” trio Die Antwoord  that you’d be forgiven for thinking the cuss-word-laden query is actually part of the group’s name.

“Die Antwoord? What the … ?!”

The trio’s name translates as “the answer” in Afrikaans. But that emphatic question has been posed all over the “interwebs” (the group’s misnomer for cyberspace) thanks to Die Antwoord’s hauntingly enigmatic homemade videos “Enter the Ninja” and “Zef Side,” which have become viral supernovas this year, racking up a combined 11 million YouTube views. Puzzlement with the group also reverberated through the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, where the trio confounded and dazzled festival-goers over the course of a riotous 20-minute set.

According to hard-rhyming, helium-voiced frontwoman Yo-Landi Vi$$er, Die Antwoord is growing increasingly comfortable with causing confusion. “It’s alien, all right?” she said. “It’s not really our problem. And not everyone’s confused.”

Chalk up the head-scratching to the Cape Town trio’s singular synthesis of throw-away cultural effluvia: its bawdy sex rhymes, naked celebration of a uniquely South African white trashiness called “Zef,” its employ of imagery equally inspired by children and the criminally insane as well as the sense of cultivated mystery that has shrouded Die Antwoord for the last nine months.

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Kanye West's 'taking offense' with Pop & Hiss writer 'Kriss Lee'

 Kanye2

On Monday, at a Hollywood screening of his short film “Runaway,” Kanye West mused in characteristically magniloquent terms about his creative output. He and pop diva Rihanna are “blue bloods,” West said from the stage, explaining that their “ideas turn red when they hit the air.”

But less than 24 hours later, the firebrand rapper-producer was apparently seeing red after reading an appraisal of “Runaway” written by your humble correspondent.

West took to his well-trafficked Twitter account to vent about a Times reporter’s blog post error concerning his new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”  Specifically, it was my omission, since corrected, of the word “Beautiful” from that title in two out of three citations on the post that seemed to yank his chain.

Judging from West’s tweet output, though, he took the omission as a deliberate and personal attack.

The performer’s Twitter postings -– with their seemingly deliberate misspelling of this author’s name -- follow in their entirety after the jump:

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Kanye West at his movie premiere: 'I contemplated suicide' [Updated]

Kanye pic Monday night’s Hollywood screening of “Runaway,” an expressionistic 40-minute movie written, directed by and starring Kanye West, gave a preview peek at the rapper-producer’s buzzy debut film project -– a visual “accompaniment” to his November album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” that will be broadcast simultaneously on MTV and BET on Saturday.

But then, coming on the heels of recent premieres in New York, Paris and London, this latest “Runaway” screening also functioned as a forum for the hip-hop superstar’s grandiose sense of self as well as West’s latest assertion of the increasing insignificance that mainstream media holds in his promotion process.

Describing himself as a “philanthropist of culture,” a “soldier” and a “cultural icon” in remarks after the screening, West admitted there were times he considered taking his own life, presumably at points after his mother’s accidental death in 2007.

“I contemplated suicide,” West told an audience consisting of friends, creative collaborators, radio programmers and media types.

He added: “I will not give up on life,” explaining he takes creative initiative from “people who will never have their voices heard.”

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Karen O dumbs down and goes country for the 'Jackass 3D' soundtrack

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Thanks to the song’s use in the opening credits of “Jackass,” the jangly four-note guitar intro to the Minutemen’s 1984 “Corona” has become inextricably linked in the public imagination
with joke stunts, toilet humor and dangerous tomfoolery.

But fans and completists of “Jackass” -- which marks its 10th anniversary with the release of the movie “Jackass 3D” on Friday -- know the song that truly encapsulates the franchise’s blithe, never-say-die je ne sais quoi is actually Roger Allan Wade’s “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb.”

Wade, who is chief donkey Johnny Knoxville’s cousin, wrote and performs the song that was first heard in connection with “Jackass” over the end credits of 2002’s “Jackass: The Movie.” Offering a homespun view of loserdom and a heartfelt philosophical acceptance of idiocy and failure, the country tune details how its singer “lit [his] brain on rot-gut whiskey” and “took advice no fool would take,” en route to learning “how to swallow pride.”

Wade’s worldview is laid particularly bare in the song’s chorus:

If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough
When you get knocked down, you gotta get back up
I ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but I know enough
-- to know
If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough

In 2006, the Redondo Beach quartet the Smut Peddlers updated “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb” as a blistering punk cri de Coeur. And now, with the release of a third movie, producer Spike Jonze enlisted his ex-girlfriend, Karen O, the yowling frontwoman for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,  to reboot the song again.

“I wanted it to be in the end credits because I love the feeling of it,” Jonze said last week. “We were thinking, ‘Who would do it who could bring different emotion and sentiment to it?’ And then instantly, we though Karen would be amazing.”

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Eminem finds five words that rhyme with 'orange' on '60 Minutes'

Eminem phot 

As hard-hitting as its investigative reports can often be, “60 Minutes” hasn’t exactly been cutting edge in the pop music department. Pop watchers may remember, for instance, how earlier this year Andy Rooney went off on a “never heard of 'em” tirade after reading the Billboard 200. “The singers I know have been replaced by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Usher. I mean, who?!” Rooney sputtered.

But the news magazine delivered a revealing interview with Eminem on Sunday night that even longtime fans and Eminem completists may find illuminating.

Accompanied by “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper, the reclusive rhyme-spitter returned to the rough and tumble Detroit neighborhood where he grew up for a literal trip down memory lane -- one that included recalling a drug overdose in a bathroom at his home that nearly killed him. Also in the segment, Eminem provided new details about his creative process and addressed issues of race and other controversies that have dogged him throughout his career.

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David Bowie's new book 'Bowie: Object' rocks the Frankfurt Book Fair

Bowie car

One of the hottest properties making the rounds at that annual festival of literary wheeling and dealing, the Frankfurt Book Fair, isn’t some tome by the hot young author du jour. It’s a hard-to-classify work of nonfiction by a veteran rock star. Call it a book oddity.

To hear it from reports coming out of Frankfurt over the last four days, David Bowie’s mysterious secret project, “Bowie: Object,” has been generating a hive of buzz. Word of the book first leaked on the Publishers Weekly website last week, forcing the Thin White Duke to address its existence on davidbowie.com.

“We still don’t want to give too much away just yet, suffice to say that David Bowie has been working on a book called ‘Bowie: Object,’ ” a post on the site reads.

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Feeling like a champion: Hip-hop's chemical romance with Ecstasy [UPDATE]

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When Hotlanta rapper-turned-movie star T.I. was arrested on drug possession charges earlier this month, there was a feeling of “haven’t we all been here before?” But also genuine surprise.

From ODB to DMX, Kanye to 'Pac, hip-hop performers have a chronic habit of getting busted for stupid stuff. Identity theft. Cruelty to animals. Wearing a bulletproof vest after being convicted of a felony. Rappers behaving badly have become one of popular culture’s most numbing constants. After all, T.I. was already on probation when L.A. County sheriff’s deputies stopped his $600,000 Mercedes Maybach on the Sunset Strip for what they said was an illegal U-turn and then detected what they said was “a strong odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle”; earlier this year, he served a seven-month prison sentence for attempting to buy a cache of automatic weapons and silencers.

But celeb watchers began scratching their heads after deputies reported that Clifford “T.I.” Tip Harris and his new wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, were also in possession of “a small amount of Ecstasy” (in addition to weed and testing positive for codeine).

Since when do gangsta rappers dabble in designer drugs?

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A refresher course for T.I. from the Hip-Hop Guide to Being on Probation

 

TI

 

Dear T.I.,

Like many of your fans, I was saddened to hear that you had been booked on drug possession charges Wednesday night. Not least because you had just finished serving seven months in prison (and three in a halfway house) for having attempted to buy a cache of machine guns and silencers in 2007. And any parole violation -- let alone alleged drug possession -- would probably send you away again, potentially for a long time.

Although getting pinched is seldom “convenient” for anyone, your arrest couldn’t come at a more high-stakes moment in your career. It arrives on the heels of your heist movie “Takers” grabbing the top spot at the box office last weekend and in the lead-up to the release of your frequently pushed-back (and inopportunely named) new album, “King Uncaged.”

But considering the circumstances of your arrest, it occurs to me that you may have screwed up in more ways than one: You seemingly violated much of rap’s received wisdom regarding hip-hop superstars on probation.

If we have learned anything from DMX’s last several cycles through the penal system, it’s that there are certain rules governing the behavior of people like you -- performers whose wealth, personal charisma and high profile make them bigger-than-usual targets for police scrutiny. Put another way: WWSDD (What Would Snoop Dogg Do)? The guy smokes more trees than any other three rappers combined, but he certainly would not have been “caught slippin’ ” (as they say on the street), as sheriff's deputies say you were.

In that light, it is perhaps worth refreshing certain rules of the unofficial Hip-Hop Guide to Being on Probation:

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Traveling hip-hop fest Rock the Bells downsizes, experiences growing pains

LAURYN_HILL_AP_300_ Chang Weisberg is aware that the natural thing to do in this situation is count his blessings.

Rock the Bells, the traveling hip-hop festival he founded, is recognized as the most consistently successful tour of its kind: a beacon to fans of indie-leaning and old school rap with a track record of safety and high sound quality that stands virtually alone among hip-hop arena tours. As the annual fest enters its seventh year – at a time when the concert industry has been rocked by declining revenues, cancelled tours and widespread hand-wringing – ticket sales have already exceeded expectations with more than 20,000 tickets pre-sold in each of the major markets Rock the Bells will reach (including San Bernadino’s NOS Event Center, where the tour kicks off on Aug. 21).

But Weisberg, founder and head honcho of the Pomona-based concert promotions and marketing firm Guerilla Union, hasn’t been able to ignore the broadsides from fans outraged by his decision to significantly downsize the tour for 2010.

“We have a lot of fans upset at Rock the Bells this year,” the promoter acknowledged. “Last year we were in eight markets and this year, we’re in four.”

Previous years have seen the festival book as many as three times more dates and travel to smaller cities including Honolulu, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach, SC and Columbia, MD.  In addition to the NOS Event Center engagement, Rock the Bells 2010 will reach San Francisco’s Shoreline Amphitheater, Governor’s Island in New York and Washington, DC’s Merriweather Post Pavillion.

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Live Nation posts a second quarter loss on sagging ticket sales

Live Nation chief Irving Azoff may have taken to Twitter earlier this week to air his grievances with “jerk” journalists, wax philosophical on what the music industry “needs” (um, Mark Cuban? Really?) and get in the proverbial last word.

But Azoff’s online antics weren’t enough to distract from his company’s financial predicament, with Live Nation on Thursday reporting a substantial second quarter loss caused by the Great Summer Concert Ticket Sales Slump of 2010.

Live Nation’s net loss in the three months leading up to Jun. 30 swelled to $36.4 million from the same period a year earlier. But the bad news didn’t end there. The number of concerts staged by the company in the second quarter fell by 2.7% to 5,553 from a year ago, with total attendance down 5.7%. As well, the company’s revenue -- including the yield from Ticketmaster operations -- was down $135.6 million.

On the bright side, the concert-promoting-artist-managing colossus said that it met its own financial targets and that it is staying on track to achieve $40 million in cost synergies this year. And it said that despite a $40-million drop in adjusted operating income announced last month, Live Nation’s revenues grew to $1.27 billion from $1.05 billion (if you exclude the Ticketmaster results, that is).

Speaking of last words, Azoff tried to put a smiley spin on the quarterly report in a statement.

“Key artist tours anticipated during the summer and balance of the year for our artist management business include the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Kid Rock, Kings of Leon and the Scorpions, just to name a few, and it is their success that will help fuel our company’s growth,” Azoff said. “As we look to the future, we are more confident than ever in our belief that Live Nation Entertainment has a unique business model to service artists and fans.”

-- Chris Lee


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