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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

February 26, 2010 at 10:33 AM

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Friday Favorites: J. Stalin, THEESatisfaction, Bassekou Kouyate

Posted by Andrew Matson

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"D-Boy Blues 2010" by J. Stalin


In which Bay Area rapper J. Stalin leaves Oakland's Cypress Village housing projects for a visit to Seattle's Yesler Terrace. The video is clean (thanks to local guys V. Hobbs and Niko P.) and the rap is aggressive/heavy-hearted.

Stalin sing-raps on "D-Boy Blues 2010," emphasizing cadence more than melody in a semi-tuneful uptalk. It's an energizing tic, a rap style that's always pushing forward.

In "D-Boy Blues 2010" (d-boy = dope boy = drug dealer), J. Stalin has a heart, in a hardcore existentialist way. When he raps that he hopes he doesn't end up addicted to crack, it feels like he thinks it's important to remind himself he's not "better" than his customers. He's got (new) cars and (old) guns, but the crackhead fate, tragic though it would be for his life and the rap-listening world, isn't "beneath" him.

For more on J. Stalin, check this post by noted rap scholar David Drake.

Photo by me

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"Pause" by THEESatisfaction

<a href="http://theesatisfaction.bandcamp.com/track/pause">Pause by THEESatisfaction</a>


A while back, I called out KUBE 93 radio host Eddie Francis for saying "pause" on the radio. The call-out and response led to me ending up in the footnotes to the Wikipedia entry for "No Homo."

Don't know "pause" or "no homo"? Listen to Lil' Wayne or spend time in a high school or junior high. It's a gay-fearing sentence suffix that's turned into a culturally complicated conversational cornerstone. A beginner's guide is here.

On their new mixtape "THEESatisfaction Loves Sa-Ra Creative Partners," Seattle psychedelic space-rap/jazz girlfriends Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White parody the "pause" concept. Constructing a song-poem scheme that has one partner sarcastically "pause"-ing whatever the other one says, THEESatisfaction pushes homophobia into the realm of absurdity.

Photo by me

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"Musow - For Our Women" by Bassekou Kouyate (free download here)


In an unconventional move, Seattle label Sub Pop teamed with Jon Kertzer from KEXP and put out an African album earlier this month, "Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba." Normally, we get hip-person's American guitar music from the label. This time it's ngoni jams from an acknowledged Malian master and his family band.

The ngoni is an instrument that sounds an extra-bright banjo/dulcimer. With several fingerpicked continuously throughout "Musow," the effect is rainy pins and needles. Brief wah-wah slashes and a long solo toward the end (I'm assuming from Kouyate) give it a hypno vibe, busy and shimmering. "Musow" owes its memorability to Amy Sacko's vocal hook. Her sandpapery voice floats over the action, punctuated by group-strums.

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