Da Capo Presss annual Best Music Writing collection hits shelves on October 22. This time around, the guest editor was god-of-rock-critics Robert Christgau, fresh from being unceremoniously drop-kicked out of the music editor post he held for over thirty years at the Village Voice by New Times Media after their takeover last year. Probably its his presence that made
this edition particularly awesome. (As the only full-time rock critic, experienced music editor, or for that matter professional journalist ever to assemble one of these books, I had something to prove, he said.)
Maybe due to that weather event from two years ago, New Orleans got more than a nod in the 2007 edition. John Swensons account of how bands slowly trickled back onstage in NOLA got in, and former Gambit music editor Alex Rawls got listed in the Other Notable Essays section. But my favorite examination of New Orleans music therein didnt even come from a local writer. It was Kelefa Sanneh, writing for the New York Times, who wondered, in his essay NEW ORLEANS HIP-HOP IS THE HOME OF GANGSTA GUMBO, why so much attention post-K got paid to our Jazz Fest giants of funk and R&B and so little to our homegrown artists who are actually up there pimp-slapping the pop and R&B charts with club anthems.
Without getting into too many comparisons, Ill just say that Sanneh gave a quick and clean history of Cash Money, No Limit, the triggerman beat and the fact that if you read most local music media, youd think there was only one rapper out of the N.O. and his name is Juvenile. (Or lately, Lil Wayne.) Ellis Marsalis famously said that in New Orleans music bubbles up from the streets. And if you went to a block party in town, you wouldnt hear any Nevilles or for that matter, Marsalises; itd be tracks like 5th Ward Weebies F**k Katrina, or Juves Get Ya Hustle On songs that arent from the Dew Drop Inn of the '50s or the Gaturs and Meters groove of the '70s, but from right now. Sanneh doesnt say and I dont think that we should drop our preservationist instinct and throw all our energy into celebrating hip-hops raw vitality. But shouldnt there be room for both narratives to get proper play? Like Sanneh says, A quarter-century from now, when the social problems that Juvenile and others so discomfitingly rap about have become one more strand of the citys official history, they may find themselves honored in just the kinds of musical tributes and cultural museums that currently shut them out Perhaps, like so many other pop-music traditions, gangsta gumbo is a dish best preserved cold.
If you want to see the New Orleans hip-hop community in action, swing by the Hangar this evening after 7. DJ Wild Wayne from Q93.3 FM and Sess 4-5, the rapper and proprietor of Nuthin But Fire Records , will be in the house for Industry Influence a monster media expo for local rappers, producers, DJs, promoters, graphic designers, videographers and anyone else in the game to network and throw down with some live performances.