Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

an omnivorous take on music of the beat-based variety and the urban spaces that nurture it

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remix Politix

On the left: DJ Technics, an originator in the bmore club game. On the right: Sany DJ, an originator in the Rio funk game. A similar enough stature in their respective genres, and a remarkably similar recent trend: taking the music places it hasn't been before.

A little over a month ago, Technics alerted the Hollerboard to some golden new remixes -- still available for d/l on his site -- to much acclaim. Mostly recent hip-hop: quick fixes on Beyonce (w/ and w/out Jay-Z), the new Ciara single, Rick Ross gets tweaked another go around, dusts off an old 2Pac track. But one sticks out like a sore thumb.

Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place (DJ Technics Remix)

It's gotten mostly rave reviews, cropping up in mixes all over the place, and Technics himself affirms that it's among his favorites of his recent tracks. But at first glance, it seems like something you'd expect from a dude who spends too much time on music blogs, knows his way around a copy of Reason, and likes the irony of applying an aesthetic from black Baltimore to white indie kid music.

Technics explains in the thread, "i'm trying to breath new air into the style of track making....ya know messin wit shit that folks wouldnt even touch." And in the initial post writes, "I BEEN BUSY TAKING MY SHIP BACK."

The sound definitely is something new -- it's much sparser and more minimal, even a little slower (it's Radiohead after all) than the club music I'm used to hearing -- as is the source material. I certainly can't fault the originator for originating, but it still strikes me as a noteworthy phenomenon. To overtake the upstarts, whose West Baltimore roots don't go quite as deep (and for whom the grab bag of other sounds comes more easily), you've gotta branch out.

Then again, the roots of it have been in the works for awhile, as the Baltimore City Paper reported earlier this year. As far back as 2003, club DJs were invited to play parties in NYC and Hollertronix helped blow it up via live gigs and white labels. So slowly the local crews got a clue. Scottie B: "I didn’t have any idea. We knew they were into it in Philly, in the black crowds, but we didn’t know anything about any white crowds anywhere."

And with a new audience you've gotta appeal to them, right?

Sany DJ rolled through Europe last month. Not the first Rio DJ to do that, but one of the few certainly. I saw him at Favela Chic (a questionable name, but a critical mass of Brazilians work there [including the owner] and they bring in some legit Brasileiros to play from time to time. then again, would I feel comfortable opening a bar called Ghetto Chic abroad?), where he dropped the Madonna "Hung Up" remix I commented on over the summer and posted more recently.

While funk has been celebrated for its blender-like aesthetic, from my experience it's less wide-ranging than we think. A lot of folks were hyped up on hearing The Smiths or The Clash with Portuguese rapping overtop, or the more general formulation "punk rock + new wave samples + little kids screaming + miami bass + outsider music industry = most exciting thing going on right now". Call it the unintended Radiohead remix.

But I've listened to a ton of funk this year, and the punk/new wave sound is definitely in the minority. From what I can tell, it had its hey-day in the late '90s, the era of the Bondes ('crews', roughly, like Bonde do Vinho, who did the "Rock the Casbah" cover). In the present day, however, DJs and MCs are a lot more cognizant of who they're imitating and what they're sampling. "Hip-Hop Radio Traxx" was one of the most popular pirated CDs available in Rio, carrying the most recent commercial rap. Nobody was interested in if I knew who The Strokes were, they were more keen on my knowledge of 50 Cent (or "Cinquenta Centavos"). Indie rock had its place -- A Maldita ["The Damned"] at Casa de Matriz was very much au courant -- but in an environment far removed (culturally) from the baile funk.

So did Sany remix Madonna with an eye toward the world beyond Rio? Probably. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I've highlighted before his new, more avant-garde style, which he can't play at traditional bailes becuase the crowd's not ready for it yet.

I can't speak as knowledgably about Technics & Bmore, even if I do have the Maryland connection that the City Paper vaunts (but don't give me & Roxy -- Columbia, Howard County raised -- too much cred: Naymond and Mike, city kids in The Wire, argue this season whether the KKK exists in HoCo). Sonically, at least, compare the recent cuts to /rupture's archieved piece from '96 and you'll hear the difference. The newer stuff is, I think, more cerebral, especially the killer choice of the 2Pac vox-cum-manifesto. Maybe the new audience is liberating for some creative ideas that were thus far suppressed. Ditto for Sany. The ass gets tired of shaking and the head wants to enjoy it some more. Of course the music's going to evolve -- none of these sounds are or ever were static -- but the question is with an influence from where and toward what?

Am I hinting at a certain disapproval of these styles being plucked out of their "natural habitat" (or "local scene", for a less objectifying terminology), a process that I myself am implicated in (like I said, don't give us suburbanites too much cred -- Bmore club was news to me too)? Maybe just some caution.

"The only people that are concerned about outsiders are the real outsiders," Aaron LaCrate comments in the City Paper piece.

In club, perhaps it's less of a concern. It's not too hard to get a Bmore DJ or MC up to NYC for a show and have him or her return to Charm City with some extra scratch. The long-time players are playing out, selling records, getting press, and obviously don't mind sharing the trade secrets: Fork out for Technics' Club Tools and let's hear your remix. But Mr Catra, the biggest MC in Rio, doesn't think he can get a visa to play in the U.S., so we end up with a Bonde do Role tour instead.

I've avoided the 'a' word -- authenticity -- thus far, but man those kids just don't have it. The sound simply doesn't come natural to art school students from middle-class Curitiba, nowhere near Rio. It's self-aware enough to appeal to Americans and European -- and hey, they're Brazilian, that's enough caché for an unaware audience up North -- but doubtful any bailes in the carioca hills. To bring it full circle: It's the equivalent of me starting a Baltmore club crew.

Yet Sany loves Mariana's vocals and isn't he the best judge? Muito complicado, muito.

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At 12/17/2006 1:05 AM, Anonymous mr mudd said...

are folks really raving about Technics' Radiohead refix? i was quite disappointed. and i like each artist on their own. most notably, the 'remix' didnt chop up the original with baltimore logic instead it was wishy-washy and often out-of-time...

At 12/17/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger alex bkbk said...

great post. Thanks especially for the Technics links, its an eye opener for me. Everything you say rings true for me, especially within London's context - why is bmore and immitation bmore suddenly so popular here amongst the new rave crowd? Bizzare.

I saw Bonde De Role here a while back. Theyre nice enough but it strikes meas so weird how everyone goes for their middle-class brand of b-funk while the sound's originators don't see any international love except via Diplo and even then, who pockets the cash?

I can't help but think of what's happening currently with dubstep, how that's blowing up all over while grime retreats further into itself.

At 12/17/2006 2:46 PM, Blogger scruggs said...


raving might be an overstatement, especially since the hollerboard is known, in my experience, for fawning (esp over anyone who's got serious cred like Technics). although on the balance the radiohead remix definitely got more yays than nays. the one criticism I did read, however, was what you pointed out: too much of the original is intact. (as for out of time, I can't imagine trying to slip hi-hats and hand claps evenly over Thom Yorke's warble).

It was also the opening track of a recent Rub Radio episode and I know I heard it several mixes that I've since deleted (likely c/o Discobelle). can't attest to its live presence, as I've yet to hear bmore anywhere in Paris.

At 12/17/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger scruggs said...


glad you liked it. didn't know about your blog, I like the look & sound. let me know if you wanna trade some mp3s or something.

as to your comment:

I can't fault a good sound for being popular. Baltimore club is viciously addictive party music no matter your skin color.

But it's also a template that can be easily applied. That's why if I had heard the Radiohead remix before knowing it was Technics', I probably would've dismissed it as another lame white guy in his bedroom.

Same goes for funk: I've heard Belle & Sebastien get a "baile funk remix" treatment.

But what's the damage in the decontextualization? Baltimore has probably come out ok, I think Scottie B recently played Sweden or something! Diplo's Maddecent podcasts actually launched with a Bmore-heavy mix that was spliced with interviews. it's a good balance.

but I'm definitely not seeing the same trend with funk. I can tell you why everyone goes for Bonde do Role: To a lot of people, the original appeal of funk was its somewhat novelty status, overblowing the tracks that sampled from American and British indie/new wave stuff (or even simpler, like the Rocky Theme horns, which I admit were quite popular). And Bonde do Role has capitalized on that -- with Diplo's well-trained musical ear they can cut an Alice in Chains-riffed track that will be immensely popular.

While I haven't spoken to Wes personally (when I asked him for information about Rio before heading down there, his response was that he didn't want to say a word), I was told over the summer he tried to work with Mr Catra and it didn't go anywhere. The sense of a "music industry", especially with an eye outside of Brasil, doesn't work the same way down there.

And I'm not saying that's inherently bad: funk is HUGE, doesn't need us Americans or Europeans to keep evolving, be popular, make money for those in the game (although it's a tough life, for an MC especially).

But if the name and some derivation of the sound is going to get popular up North, where there's much more $$ (or ££) to be had, I just wish it were going to the right folks.

At 12/19/2006 7:21 AM, Blogger FaveladodaRocinha said...

Diplo just exploit he have this band "Bonde do Role"
is not funk..only people outside brazil like them. nobody in favela know these kids. If Diplo want to help or get attentions he maybe make a band with funkeiros from the favelas. but he get these kids who nobody in funk from favelas like. I go in one of Diplo shows and I did not like the feel, it was not funk music but like pop with drum beats.

At 12/19/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger alex bkbk said...

cool man
i've been meaning to link your blog on mine. just got round to it now. your good writing is welcome. keep it up.

At 1/08/2007 11:26 PM, Anonymous sizzle said...

yeah interesting post, I've noticed as well a lot of very corny b-more remixes of pop tunes getting played in certain hipster joints and gotten very bored of it very quickly, here in NY.

At 1/10/2007 1:03 PM, Anonymous Chlo said...

Technics is /(are?) going to be at Sonar this Friday. As your boys were announcing it, the crowd of 18-20 somethings couldn't have cared less. And yet everybody still screams "BALTIMORE" when various Taxlo promoters ask "WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF CLUB?" It's so bizarre. That place is so bizarre, I guess.

Oh, I saw a guy wearing an old school Orioles hat in Seattle on New Year's Eve.

At 1/10/2007 3:36 PM, Blogger scruggs said...

taxlo in particular is a weird place since baltimore isn't big enough to have much else. as such it's a catch-all hipster dance party, big enough to have everything pass through: from indie rock stalwarts to tim sweeney playing obscure disco and minimal techno cuts to, well, a real bmore club dj playing real bmore club.

but unfortunately, a bunch of us driving in from reisterstown or columbia, or transplants who end up at MICA, don't always care about the content as much as the aesthetic.

which is why when I play in a couple weeks I'll stick with the electro/disco-house to keep them happy, and then branch out into some african or banlieue hip-hop (hopefully it'll cause a few people to ask me what's up, à la all-funk upon return from rio). but suffice to say, the antillean jazz is getting left as home. as awesome as it is, no one will get it.


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