Nursery Crimes/The Envelope, Please/Ticketmaster's Shady Past | Music Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Nursery Crimes/The Envelope, Please/Ticketmaster's Shady Past 

Warren G/The sound of kids playing with guns

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Nursery Crimes

Warren G's Regulate...G Funk Era is the final part of an unholy trinity of releases--beginning with Dr. Dre's The Chronic and continuing with Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle--that has turned rap upside down. Each of them marries the grooviest, smoothest sounds available in rock 'n' roll today to a particular form of lyrical outrage: in the first two cases Dre's nasty, almost cretinous sociopathology and Dogg's astonishing, bottomless self-absorption. In the case of Warren G, an elementary-school pal of Snoop's and half brother to Dre, the most distinguishing characteristics are a received toughness, snottiness, and violence: he's the first in what's sure to be a wave of second-generation gangsta rappers who can only dream of their predecessors' criminality. Where the notorious N.W.A. was led and funded by a confessed drug dealer and Dre has proved his manhood beating up both men and women who disagree with him, all Warren G can tell us is that he had a few brushes with gang-banging. His creation fantasy, "Do You See," is a bleat for inclusion. "You don't see what I see / Everyday with Warren G / You don't hear what I hear / 'Cause it's so hard to live through these years," he sings. What a whiner.

The record's title combines the music's robbers 'n' robbers mentality and Warren G's fantasy of leading a musical revolution as potent as the one Dre crafted with The Chronic. He deserves credit for producing his own record (instead of having his brother do it), but all he's done is taken Dre's languid beats and slowed them down further, which renders the lyrics all the more sophomoric. The record's title track is based on a sample of "I Keep Forgettin'" by Michael McDonald (the smoky-voiced, latter-day Doobie); "Super Soul Sis" is a classic grown-up soul turn; and "This Is the Shack" is a summery, VH-1 reggae ballad. Working against the record's success is G's pubescent voice: a flat, singsongy instrument, its limitations are made more glaring by his penchant for forced rhymes. His references are equally immature: slipping in this homage to Marvin Gaye or that one to Dre, he'll also lapse into nursery rhymes like "This Old Man" or even weird stuff from 70s children's TV. (Remember "Conjunction Junction"? So does Warren G.) Gangsta rap--the sound of kids playing with guns--has never sounded so infantile.

The Envelope, Please

A gold-plated Quincy goes out to Newsweek columnist Joe Klein. Regular readers of this column know that the jowly statuette of Jack Klugman memorializes the infamous punk-rock episode of Quincy and recognizes people who say stupid things about rock music. Klein's undoing? His June 27 "Public Lives" column, in which he describes Public Enemy as "virulently anti-Semitic." One member of the group, Professor Griff, spouted some revolting Farrakhan-isms in an interview some years ago, and after probably too much solidarity-minded seesawing, PE leader Chuck D cashiered him--all of which hardly qualifies the band as "virulently anti-Semitic." Klein says he's a fan of rap music and Public Enemy, but in the short conversation I had with him he displayed complete ignorance of anything having to do with rap, the band, or l'affaire Griff. The remark, he said, was based on the band's being part of "that whole kind of bullshit black-nationalist militaristic anti-Semitic thing" and "actual statements [Chuck D] made" in public forums, but he couldn't remember any. To paraphrase A.J. Liebling on Colonel McCormick, Klein apparently doesn't have to cite authority, being it. Both Klein and the magazine's letters department say they haven't heard from the band; the letters person I spoke to said inquiries are made only after the magazine receives a written complaint about something--meaning my phone inquiry didn't count. Hitsville's sympathetic to the logistics of large-scale newsmagazining, but also doubts Newsweek will be hearing from Public Enemy, who probably figure the remark is par for the course from the racist white media. It's just that perception that the magazine should perhaps take a proactive view toward correcting.

Ticketmaster's Shady Past

In the July 9 edition of Billboard, reporter Eric Boehlert vividly recounts the history of Ticketmaster. A key twist in the company's rise, according to Boehlert's story, was a devilish battle with then-rival Ticketron for a contract with the Rosemont Horizon in the mid-80s. Ticketmaster, Boehlert says sources told him, eventually won the contract after then-owner Jay Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire, personally visited the mayor of Rosemont and contributed $2.2 million to the town's general fund. (Spokespeople for both the town and Pritzker deny it.) Elsewhere, Boehlert confirms reports that the company channels ticket-service fees back to arenas: one estimate is that Boston promoter Don Law gets a half-million dollars a year from such an arrangement. An accompanying story features Aerosmith manager Tim Collins recounting what happened when he went to ask Ticketmaster capo Ned Rosen about lowering service charges for Aerosmith's last tour. "[Rosen] said, 'I'll tell you what I'll do. Let's raise the service charge a dollar, and I'll split it with you.'...I'm going to sell, literally, 2 million tickets through the Ticketmaster system this year....Here he was at this meeting, trying to fuck fans out of another dollar!" The articles are essential reading. With the kind permission of Billboard, Hitsville will be happy to send a copy to anyone who sends in an SASE.

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