Monday, March 16, 2009

Beasties Reissue Campaign Continues With Check Your Head

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Last month's 10.0 Paul's Boutique reissue made a lot of sense considering it was the album's 20th anniversary and all. But the upcoming tricked-out revamp of Check Your Head isn't quite as traditionally timely-- it's been, er, 17 years since the Beastie Boys' return-to-instruments funk fest hit Tower Records locations across the country.

This seemingly hasty, multi-tiered release-- expanded digital editions out March 30, expanded CD and vinyl editions out April 7, super duper expanded vinyl edition out soon after that-- continues Capitol/EMI's apparent 2009 business strategy, i.e., re-release everything they ever put out in any and all ways possible (see: all those Radiohead repackagings coming your way). They already redid last year's Coldplay album. I'm shocked they haven't gotten around to a Katy Perry reboot-- what are you guys waiting for?

The death of the compact disc (and, you know, the notion of paying for music in general) is sorta depressing, but it brings us this reissue, which should at least satiate those annoying Check Your Head=Best Beasties Album die-hards for a few months. Check Your Head isn't Paul's Boutique, but it still holds up well-- a vintage "Arsenio Hall Show" performance of "So What'cha Want" currently streaming on the trio's site reiterates a fact current high schoolers may not be aware of: these dudes were mean on the microphone. Very mean. Super mean. Especially Ad-Rock.

Some details on the Check Your Head relaunch: The crown jewel of this campaign is a limited edition quadruple 180 gram LP version with a "fabric-wrapped hardcover coffee table book case," according to a press release. They're calling it the "ultra-deluxe" version and it will cost a lot of money. For those of us not profiting from AIG bonuses, there's the standard double vinyl, digital download and double CD versions, each featuring a host of B-sides. A deluxe digital edition offers videos and video commentary, too.

All of these new products put the Beastie Boys in an odd position between reliving the past and trying to stay present, especially since they're due to release their first (real) album in five years this fall. They'll attempt to strike a balance when they hit Bonnaroo June 12 and headline the Hollywood Bowl for the first time September 24.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Roots to Back Public Enemy Playing Nation of Millions at Philly Festival

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

When Jimmy Fallon announced late last year that the venerable rap band the Roots would serve as the house band for his late night NBC talk show, he set off all sorts of alarm bells. The Roots arguably remain the most dependable live act in rap, and their last album, 2008's Rising Down, was a taught, simmering workout, a great sign that the band would remain adaptable in a changing rap climate. What, exactly, would they have to gain in playing backup for this giggling cheeseball?

Turns out we shouldn't have worried. Fallon's tenure on "Late Night" so far has been a bit awkward, but it's also been more consistently entertaining than anyone could've hoped, and the Roots are a huge part of the reason why. Fallon's found ways to integrate them completely into the fabric of the show, building bits around their limber chops. And when Ludacris stopped by the show, holy shit.

And even if the Roots aren't tearing up the road the way they did for years, it's not like they've put a stop to their regular activities. As we reported last month, they're still holding down a regular residency at New York's Highline Ballroom, bandleader ?uestlove has a regular DJ gig at (Le) Poisson Rouge, and, if ?uesto's Twitter is to be believed, they're also working on a new album called How I Got Over. If that wasn't enough, Billboard has just revealed the lineup of the band's second Roots Picnic festival, and it is no joke.

The Roots Picnic will go down on June 6 at Festival Pier in the band's native Philadelphia. The band will play two sets at the festival, opening and closing the festival. And as Billboard reports, along with Antibalas, they will also back Public Enemy-- another one of the greatest live rap groups ever-- as they do their masterpiece It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in its entirety.

P.E. has done Nation of Millions straight through at a few previous shows, including last year's Pitchfork Music Festival, but they've never done it with the Roots playing behind them. Considering how hard both groups bring it live, it boggles the mind to think about what they'll be able to do together. At the very least, it'll be fun to see the Roots' human beatboxes replicate the Bomb Squad's siren noises.

As Billboard reports, on March 16, Public Enemy will also stop by "Late Night" to perform with the Roots, so we'll get some indication of how that'll sound.

The rest of the Picnic's lineup is also ridiculously strong. TV on the Radio, the Black Keys, and Santigold will all perform on the main stage. And as Billboard reports, so will the Pipes, a new band that apparently features both Lenny Kravitz's daughter Zoe and the great L.A. speed-rapper Busdriver. Should be weird! Two great old-school Philly DJs, Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money, will spin records between bands. There will also be a second stage with Asher Roth, Kid Cudi, Busdriver, Making Time, Back to Basics, and Writtenhouse.

Bun B Talks About the Final UGK Album

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Two years ago, the beloved Texas rap duo UGK released Underground Kingz, their first-ever #1 on the Billboard 200. It was their first album since rapper/producer Pimp C had finished serving a lengthy prison term, and Jive Records, the group's label, had pushed its release back so many times that at many points it felt like it would never come out. So the album's success felt like a vindication, a happy ending.

It didn't last.

Six months after the release of Underground Kingz, Pimp C died in a Los Angeles hotel room, after the cough syrup he'd been drinking reacted badly with his sleep apnea. Bun B, Pimp's partner in UGK, soldiered on after his death, releasing the solo album II Trill last year. And last month, we reported that Bun was putting the finishing touches on a final UGK album. Jive will release that album, 4 Life, on March 31.

We spoke with Bun about the final UGK album, his forthcoming barrage of guest appearances, and the UGK goodbye shows he's planning in a select few cities. He is, as ever, a hell of an interview.

I interviewed you about a year ago, and you'd mentioned that you were going to do this UGK project. That was the first I'd heard of it. What's it been like getting the album together?

Bun B: As far as putting it together, I didn't have to do too much running around and chasing around. A lot of the music-- and all of Pimp C's vocals, naturally-- had been laid prior to his passing away. Some of the songs were fully recorded, like from top to bottom, mixed and mastered. Some of them were done only halfway, maybe a verse from him and a verse from me. Some of them were just the Pimp C structure, and we had to build the rest of the song around it.

Pitchfork: Did he leave behind a lot of unfinished work?

BB: I can't really speak to the number of it because-- I think this is key for me to mention-- I don't control the music. I don't have the Pimp C catalogue. The estate owns, controls, and chooses how to distribute everything that's Pimp C's, that has anything to do with Pimp C. So with this album, most of these songs were supposed to go to UGK anyway. It was just a matter of getting it all there for the UGK situation because there were songs for UGK, there were songs for a solo album, there were features he had done that were outstanding. It was just a matter of getting everybody the right music.

Pitchfork: Was it a concern to make the album fit together cohesively as an album? Every previous UGK album has been planned out with a kind of narrative arc.

BB: Yeah, absolutely. The theme for this album had already been set-- pretty much everything except the title. It was going to be a continuation of the themes and context we were trying to get across from the last double album. It was really about re-shaping the thinking of the way cats is doing what they're doing. Somewhere along the line, the G-Code got twisted, so it was really just about implementing the basic rules of the street back into the game and just being smart about how you move forward. A lot of that is basically what this album is about. For me, UGK has never been the kind to just make two good singles and that's it. We've always relied on the album to sell the group, as opposed to a single. It definitely was a concern for me that if I couldn't make an album... I didn't want to just put 12 songs out, you know what I mean? I had to make an album that was going to sit on the shelf next to the other albums, or I wasn't going to do it.

Yeah, you guys have absolutely never half-assed it in terms of full-lengths. Underground Kingz is an album that I love, but the one thing that was jarringly different about it was the amount of production that didn't come from Pimp and wasn't necessarily of his aesthetic, if that makes sense.

BB: Absolutely. One thing that Pimp used to always talk about was that he felt selfish. And I never understood that because I always felt like I was getting the best beats from the best producer. But Pimp always felt like he was being selfish to the point where, if I kept rapping to Pimp C beats, I would never be able to evolve as an artist. So he would go out of his way to try and incorporate other music to help me branch out more and expand myself more as a lyricist. The whole point of getting the Swizz Beatz track was not my idea. It was Pimp C's idea, because he wanted to hear me on a Swizz Beatz track. He was like, "Man, I just want to buy you a Swizz Beatz track; I know you'll kill that shit." All the dudes that are considered great rappers, they all eventually go in on a Just Blaze or a Swizz Beatz track, making those monumental records. He just wanted to give me the opportunity to make a monumental record.

Pitchfork: Is the new album put together in a similar way, with a bunch of different producers?

BB: Not so much with the different producers. The people who produced this UGK album are all the proteges that Pimp C was working with, his own production collective. A lot of them produced on the last album, so you have Cory Mo, Averexx-- who co-produced with [Pimp] on the last album-- and DJ B-Doe as well: People who he was trying to pass his sound along to to be the next generation of production from our team. It was the best chance I had of trying to keep the UGK sound intact.

Did Pimp do "Da Game Been Good to Me"?

BB: He co-produced it.

Pitchfork: That is a beautiful song. It just sounds so warm and full. I didn't realize until Pimp died and all these articles about him came out, how musically involved he was with every beat he did, to the extent that he would get members of the Meters to play on songs when he didn't like the way the sample turned out.

The thing was, he wanted to do things with the utmost respect. And it got to the point where he was trying to find someone to recreate the sound but he couldn't find anybody he felt was doing it justice. We happened to have people who were connected to people who had a line to the Neville family. So using those connections, we were able to actually reach out and make contact, and [Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli] was actually willing to come-- and not just play on the album, but play his world-famous guitar licks, recreating them for us. It's almost unheard of. That's only a testament to Pimp C's dedication to-- and passion for-- music and knowledge.

People do not give themselves or their intellectual properties over to the younger generation, especially the hip-hop generation. A lot of times they assume a lack of knowledge as to what they're choosing to use. Most kids will just say, "That's a nice keyboard," but it takes a real musician to know that he's using a Hammond B-3 organ. It's the subtle differences like that that musicians respect. If you're going to approach these people, that's the kind of context you need to have, and Pimp was very good at letting people know that he understood their sound and their music, had a great respect for their catalogue, and wasn't trying to rape their catalogue, was trying to create something unique through what they had created. People understood that.

Pitchfork: Just looking at the tracklist of the new album, there are songs on here that I cannot wait to hear. Like the song with E-40, B-Legit, and 8Ball & MJG-- that's a titantic lineup. I hope it's like 12 minutes long.

BB: [laughs] We had to cut it down. I think it tops out at about four or five minutes. Actually, you know what? I think that song might be six minutes. It's not a little song. It's a big boy song. You know, if you've been following UGK for the past 15-17 years, then you're probably fans of E-40, B-Legit, and 8Ball & MJG as well, because we all come from the same era. To me, that's just a little bit extra for you. If you're fans of UGK, you're probably fans of these guys, too. Wouldn't you like to hear us all on one record? This has been a dream. Everyone involved with the record wanted to hear this record. It just all came together.

Pitchfork: Also, to hear Lil Boosie and Webbie on a UGK record, that's also something I'm really excited about. They're proteges of Pimp's...

BB: Oh, absolutely. The only reason I wouldn't say that that they could possibly be UGK is they don't produce. That's the only thing holding them back from being one of the great tandems. But just the same, they're still incredible talents, and they're going to leave with footprints in the hip-hop sand.

Pitchfork: When this album is out there in the world, what's next for you?

BB: The next thing for me is lending my support to the Pimp C solo album, which comes after this. And then once that's done, I'll start recording my next solo album.

Pitchfork: Are you going to tour solo on this album or anything like that?

BB: On the UGK album? Not in the traditional sense. We're going to put together a couple of tribute concerts in the top couple of markets to try and bring a celebration to the people who have been supporting UGK all this time in the very truest sense ... No disrespect to everyone else. It's not like just because ten people bought it in a small town that those ten people don't love us any less than 50,000 people who bought it in Houston. We're going to try and bring it to the biggest selection of people that we can at the same time who support the movement.

Pitchfork: Where are you going to do these shows?

BB: Probably Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and then two more cities picked out of Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, and Cleveland.

Pitchfork: I hope you do one in Chicago.

BB: Chicago's looking pretty good-- I'll be honest. They've always been really strong supporters of UGK.

Pitchfork: When Pimp was imprisoned and you were working by yourself to keep the UGK name alive, you went on this incredible tear of guest appearances that didn't really seem to abate for years. In the past year or so since II Trill came out, you haven't been doing quite as many verses on other people's records. Do you miss that?

BB: No, I really just devoted myself more to [4 Life]. I didn't take too much time giving myself over to other projects. I tried to devote as much of myself to this album as possible; I felt that it deserved my utmost attention and that it should be top priority. The best way for me to keep UGK going in this sense was to make the best UGK album I could possibly put together, whereas in the past, the best way to keep the UGK movement going was to expose myself to as many major markets as possible.

Pitchfork: Is that something you want to get back into?

Bun B: I'll be all over the place in about five minutes. I'm on [Raekwon's] Cuban Linx 2 album, I'm on the Blackout 2 album with Red and Meth, I'm on the X-Clan album, I'm on the new Drake mixtape, I'm on Currency's new mixtape, I did two songs with Uncle Murda, I'm doing something on Reflection Eternal's album, I'm on Shawty Lo's album, I'm on... Fuck, I can't even think of all the shit I'm on.

Pitchfork: You're on the new X-Clan album? How did something like that come together?

BB: I met Brother J when X-Clan opened for Public Enemy on their tour last year. We're both mutual fans of each other. He's an incredible songwriter, always has been. He asked me if I'd be interested and it was my honor.

Pitchfork: Wow. What newer rappers are you liking right now?

BB: That's a good question. There's so many great young talents that I hate to just pick one. I deal with a lot of them. If there's anybody I felt had potential to be a legend right now, I'd pick Killer Mike. I think Killer Mike has the potential to make some of the most impactful music that anybody is going to make in the next couple of years.

Pitchfork: Wow. Are you going to do some work with him anytime soon?

BB: Oh, yeah-- I'm on that album, too.

Pitchfork: I wanted to ask you about appearing in the video for "My President Is Black". That's obviously a huge song, and my friend pointed out your moment in that video, the way you look at the camera. I hope you don't mind if I ask this, but were you close to tears when you filmed that? Because it kind of looks that way.

BB: You're probably the first person to have noticed that. Your friend actually is, I guess. That's very acute. Yes, it was emotional. You have to understand, Jeezy and I have a very long friendship. And just being very real about everything with him, the complications between himself and Pimp, it caused friction in our relationship as well, by due process. Not that I had issues with him or he had issues with me, but it was obvious that something was in the middle. He's made a very sincere effort to try to... I don't want to say reconcile, because we didn't have a problem, but he's made a very real effort to reach out and show that he's never any different about me, regardless of what has happened. I hate to even bring it up, because it's really a dead issue, but it's the reality of it, and there's no sense in acting like it didn't happen.

What happened between him and Pimp happened, but the situation was being squashed between them when [Pimp passed away]. There's no bad blood; there's no grudges. Pimp would always say he never had anything personal against Jeezy; it was just something that he felt about something. Pimp was known for sometimes saying very honest, very outlandish shit in the moment; he'd normally have to come back and apologize for it. This was another one of those instances. Because of the people involved and the level of intensity, it just seemed like a really big issue. At the end of the day, we're all grown men. None of us are small; none of us are petty. Prior to his passing, Pimp was talking about making peace and moved on. Jeezy was talking about making peace and moved on. It's all good, and for us to make a video and stand together and acknowledge Pimp was a beautiful thing for people to see. I really do consider Jeezy one of my close friends. I'm really happy for everything that's happened for him and all his success.

Pitchfork: So the emotion of that moment was more about Jeezy's acknowledgment of Pimp on that song than it was about Obama?

BB: People don't understand that that's very real, what he's talking about when he says, "It's all love, Bun / I'm forgiving you, Pimp C." It's very real. People know what he's saying and know what it's attributed to, but they don't understand how real that is. Very few people nowadays, especially in the urban community... Very seldom do you see people forgive people and leave it like that. It's usually protocol to try and hold a grudge forever. He was a very big man for trying to acknowledge that he wasn't. Because he didn't have to, especially on a song like that which was bound to be a major song. But that shows the effort he wanted to make to show everyone it wasn't an issue. God bless him for it.

VIDEO (WTF): Rappin' For Regulatin' Genes

(Reuters) Mar. 12 - Combine two biologists with mad love for rap and you get "Regulatin' Genes" - a parody of Jay-Z's "Money Ain't a Thing" with a highly specific explanation as to how we evolved.

Tom McFadden, an instructor in the human biology department at Stanford University and Derrick David, a junior, strut around the campus replete with poses while wearing baggy khakis, hoodies, baseball hats and sunglasses while singing about how a fertilized egg develops into a complex organism.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

VIDEO: Big Zach In The Lab

You can check Zach @ Last of the Record Buyers on 3/19 at the Dinkytowner.

More can be found here.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival Starting Lineup!

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Last week, we announced that the fourth annual Pitchfork Music Festival would jump off at Chicago's lovely Union Park July 17-19. If the mere fact that our festival is happening again wasn't enough to convince you to save the date and book any necessary flights, this should. We can now announce a few of the bands who will play this year's fest, as well as a truly badass new feature.

First, the schedule:

Friday, July 17

Built to Spill
The Jesus Lizard
Yo La Tengo

Saturday, July 18

The National
Pharoahe Monch
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
+ many more!

Sunday, July 19

Grizzly Bear

The Walkmen
Vivian Girls
+ many more!

OK. Now. In past years, we've booked our Friday night lineups by teaming up with All Tomorrow's Parties and their "Don't Look Back" series, presenting bands playing classic albums all the way through. Last year, Public Enemy performed It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and Sonic Youth performed Daydream Nation in 2007.

This year, we're doing something different.

Starting on Friday night, we're kicking off a new series called "Write the Night: Set Lists by Request." You, the audience, vote on which songs all four bands-- Built to Spill, the Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise-- will play. It'll work like this: When you buy your ticket, you'll get a confirmation email. That confirmation email will include a link to a page where you can vote on which songs from each band you want to hear. The bands will tailor their set lists accordingly. Oh, and did we mention this is the Jesus Lizard's first American show in a decade? Righteous, yes?

Tickets go on sale March 13, and voting starts the same day. Voting ends June 12.

Of course, we'll announce a ton more bands in the coming months.