pink stallone - hydroplanes
Why did the MC/DJ model of musicmaking, embodied by, let's say, Eric B. and Rakim, fall out of fashion in hip-hop? There are several possible causes. One is the rise of the superstar producer, like Dr. Dre or Timbaland, who begins in his larger-than-life multitalentedness to overstep the artistic dividing line between MC and DJ. Another is the increased high-speed commercialization of the genre: as a result, hardly any two individuals make an entire record together anymore. A rap record today has a cherry-picked selection of beats from multiple producers and features numerous cameos.
The MC/DJ model in hip-hop was the product of a certain era. Late 80s rap can be understood by a particular level of sophistication, both on the level of technology and on the level of profit-making. It was when hip-hop was still fairly nascent that you had duos - ok you make beats, I'll rap. As of late, that model has resurfaced again, now when young white kids figured out that all you need for a group is a microphone and a sample pad - it's the High Places model.
You'll find a similar relation between singer and producer in Pink Stallone, a group from New Jersey bent on digging up and transforming the rawer sounds of classic Chicago house. The key to their current incarnation is the presence of Joey Washington, a Strictly Rhythm-era garage house singer. Seeing PS perform last night in Bushwick with Washington, I was reminded of other club genres like reggae and dancehall, where in order to keep up with the endless pulsations of rhythm, the vocalist lets loose an undulating, repetitive stream of melodic phrases, rather than reciting a fully-composed song.
The trend towards the dirty end of Chicago house parallels the resurgence of electro at the beginning of the 00s: similar tonal palette, similar cross-section of brutal beats and sexy club vibes. The house renaissance, however, goes much broader and deeper, and the dirty sound that Pink Stallone practices is only the end of a spectrum of classicist-tinged house productions that flourished in 2009.
Following the show I exchanged emails with the band, who acknowledged the insufficiency of the venue's stereo - it had in fact been quite blown-out and distorted. Not to worry, I said, it had worked in their favor: the hardware-crafted 808 beats and winding, crunchy basslines, together with Washington's fantastic soulful singing, all pushed through overdriven speakers, made it sound something like Throbbing Gristle covering Donna Summer. Also there was a fog machine and lasers. It was an exciting and relieving sight, to see electronic music with such hair on its balls, and to see three Jersey kids with synths unafraid to rock straight house beats.
Pink Stallone and Black Meteoric Star make it official - if you are an experimental stoner with some weird equipment and a psychedelic sensibility, you are no longer limited to explorations in abstract tones: you can also straight bring the fire. Pink Stallone's debut self-released 12" is out soon, click the link to learn more and stream the track.