If it can be said that the freshest of the fresh artistic creations bubble up from "underground," then it should come as no surprise that the vast network of tunnels that comprise the coiled entrails of Paris' infamous catacombs has long served as a place where creative Parisians bent on escaping the trappings of society, hemmed in by signs and signifiers girding the city's surface, retreat to the "freedom" of the damp and hard-cut, cramped lawlessness that thrives beneath the streets, expressing themselves with dim-lit abandon. Veteran graffiti artist Psyckoze has spent more than 25 years traversing, tagging, sculpting and mapping the catacombs beneath Paris, a perilous proclivity that makes the documentary Dead Space infinitely watchable.
The Parisian catacombs have always held a certain fascination, whether it be a fear of the dark-generated late night creepshow vibe (must be because of all those skulls 'n' things down in there) or a more sensationalist ghost-hunters of "reality" television programming feel, the mere mention of the mysterious, bone littered underworld beneath the French capitol always stirs the imagination. In following Psyckoze on several adventures throughout the underground maze, documentary film-makers Marielle Quesney and Jean Labourdette nearly destroy their camera (they claim it was held together by duct tape by the end of shooting) and find themselves lost on more than one occasion while Pyschoze, or Psy, encounters graffiti and scrawls of years (sometimes hundreds of years) gone by, often stopping to update his own tags with the fresh designs of his evolved artistic style, and discovers a myriad of threats and claims laid by various catacomb clans, gangs (like the Rats, who were prominent in the eighties) and wanderers who have at one time or another called the catacombs home. There is even a faction of preservationist catacombers who seek to stop taggers like Psy, arguing that the tunnels should be cleaned and restored to their natural sandstone tones (which is not unreasonable, really, when you consider the quarry origins of the catacombs, which were once used to mine and transport building materials as far back as 1000 years).
Shot on a shoestring budget over the course of two years, Dead Space follows Psy as he conducts a surprisingly cohesive tour of the catacombs below Paris (clad in his habitual rubber boots and mining helmet catacomb gear), stopping here and there to highlight several of the more famous subterranean hang-outs like "the Beach" (a large, sandy chamber with a huge painting of a wave --- styled after Hokusai's famous woodblock print --- where parties often rage underground for days) and revealing Psy's personal secret hideaways, including his "castle" --- a sprawling freehand relief sculpture of breasts, faces, battlements and turrets comprising what has to be Psy's ultimate psychedelic masterpiece, laden with personal significance (example: Psy carved a turret in the castle for every year his good friend and fellow catacomber spent locked up in a Thai jail, nine altogether). However, it is clear that most folks who venture down into the catacombs have something other than artistic creation and personal reflection in mind.
From its early days, hip-hop has been closely interrelated with black history and culture. Hip-hop is really a continuum of many previous black art forms. Rapping or MC'ing, for example, is merely carrying on a tradition of various oratorical forms in black history that include West African griots, talking blues, the sharp verbal flow of 1950's & 1960's hipster-jive talking radio DJs, the spoken word of artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron, and of course, the toasting style in reggae. Additionally, hip-hop music, through both its lyrical content and its endless sampling, is responsible for teaching black history in a non traditional way.
Thanks to hip-hop's ubiquitous sampling of such historical black figures as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (especially in the 80's and 90's), many young people first learned about the philosophies of these black leaders and black history in general. One of the earliest popular hip-hop songs to sample Malcolm X was Keith La Blanc's "Malcolm X - No Sell Out" 1983 single on Tommy Boy that utilized absolutely no rapping, just samples of the black leader speaking. In later years most hip-hop artists sampled bits of Malcolm X to compliment the emcee's message. In 1988 Public Enemy's politically charged album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back opened with a powerful Malcolm X sample.
1) The Grouch & Eligh Go G+E! (Legendary)
2) Rick Ross Deeper Than Rap (Maybach/Poe Boy/Def Jam)
3) Aesher Roth Asleep in the Bread Aisle (SRC/Universal)
4) DOOM Born Like This (Lex)
5) Mr. Lif I Heard It Today (Bloodbot/Traffic Ent)
The Grouch & Eligh, who were number one at the San Francisco store last week, are also holding down the number one slot at Hollywood Amoeba this week with Say G&E!, the sometime hip-hop duo's third collaboration in a series on Legendary Music. And this past Monday (April 27th) they put on a great free in-store show at the San Francisco Amoeba. "It was awesome!," reported Amoeba's Luis from the Haight Street store. "Scarab and Very, aka Afroclassics (who recently released The Classic EP on Legendary Music), got it going when they went on first and performed for about half an hour. Then DJ Fresh (the DJ for the whole show) got busy. And then the Grouch and Eligh came on and wrecked it."
The Living Legends duo, Luis reported, did songs spanning their long respective solo and joint careers, much to the delight of the lucky in-store attendees. Songs off the new album they performed include the title track, "Say G&E!" Also doing well at each three Amoeba stores are the latest from both (MF)DOOM (Born Like This on Lex Records) and the politically charged Boston emcee Mr. Lif (I Heard It Today on Bloodbot through Traffic Entertainment).
Well, let the looting, pilfering and ransacking begin at Metro stations across the ville de Paris.
Today Guimard is considered by many as the most prominent representative of the French Art Nouveau, but during his lifetime his fame and critical appreciation was short lived. By the onset of World War One his reputation and commissions had already started to fall by the wayside. By the time of his death in 1942 in New York, he had been forgotten.
"Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - April 17-19th, 2009 or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Find 30 Reasons To Love a Weekend in the Desert."
- By Scott Butterworth
Day #9 - Artist #9 - Friendly Fires:
Friendly Fires, from St Albans, England, first played together at age 14, under the name First Day Back. They parted ways to attend university and after returning in 2006, formed Friendly Fires. Over the next year they released a trio of EPs: Photobooth, Cross the Line, and The Remix. Their first single "Paris," released at the end of 2007, was named "Single of the Week" by influential English publications The Guardian and NME (New Musical Express), and launched their career with appearances on Channel 4's (England) Transmission Program and (tastemaker English DJ) Zane Lowe's Radio 1.
This led to them supporting Interpol on a tour of the U.K. and numerous performances in the U.S., including opening for Bloc Party here in Los Angeles this past July. Their debut album, Friendly Fires, was released September 1, 2008 and the band just finished promoting the album on the NME Awards Tour 2009 with two of the hottest U.K. bands at the moment, and fellow Coachella 2009 newcomers, White Lies and Glasvegas.