5 min read

Island wilding [émúmé àgwà ètítí]

Classic Japanese rap on Long Island, Colorado in mushroom festivals, poetry competitions & history podcasts. The usual new music and all sorts.
Island wilding [émúmé àgwà ètítí]
A lackadaisical lark on the Atlantic
Uh, suttarakankan kankankankan Takagi Kan
Beat ni noseta kashi kore ichiban—So…
toshi gin-yu shijin groove
Meguri megutte konomachi de furu
Toyota ni Honda nippon mo iroiro
Sony chiba chiba, sonota moromoro
Dashicha irukedo rap no rokuon
Marena koto daga ima rock on

—Kan Takagi via De La Soul - Long Island Wildin’

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

—William Shakespeare - Caliban in The Tempest, III.2

I think an early clue my then girlfriend, now wife had of my ludicrous, whimical sense around Hip-Hop was when De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate came out, a truly superlative album, but she noted how often I'd re-play, and rap along with, one very strange track on it, fully in Japanese. Till this day I still don't know what 70% of those lyrics mean, but I can pretty much give the entire thing off-head. Delighting in something cool yet completely bewildering has always been a profound part of my makeup, and is in fact a key theme in my book Nchefu Road. I love being lost, because it means there's someat out there to find. Traveling to non-English-speaking countries, I don't want  to spend much time in the tourist traps where everyone has been trained to speak English. I want to go outside the central zones on the public transport, and see just how far my 3-4 week crash-course in that language has managed to get me. The speech and signs all around from which I can make out not much more than glimmers, while walking with a stride that suggests I was born there. That to me is traveling.

After Major Force, Kan Takagi, threw down the quoted verse, the Japanese rap trio Scha Dara Parr (SDP) took over. I gather they're all talking about their experiences hanging out on Strong Island, taking in Hip-Hop culture. Long Island has always had an interesting role in Hip-Hop history. Not one of the 5 boroughs of NYC, it got put on the rap map with the JVC Force classic "Strong Island", which is still instantly recognizable from the ragged horns that carpet its sonic landscape.

JVC Force - Strong Island (Youtube video)

The chorus is a sample of Chuck D of Public Enemy rapping “Strong Island where I got em wildin’”. Chuck D is himself from Long Island, one of many rappers from there, but maybe not directly associated in the public's minds: Biz Markie, Rakim, EPMD, Busta Rhymes, Keith Murray, Freddie Foxxx, and contemporary golden-age holdout Roc Marciano. Even MF Doom and the KMD crew, though the Dumille brothers were born in London. De La Soul were a bit more explicitly from the Island—nobody from the inner city boroughs would have thought of potholes on a lawn as a metaphor for sucker MCs. Long Islander Prince Paul was Stetsasonic's DJ, and De La's conduit, until they decided to kick him down the stoop for Stakes is High, in a quest to seem more worldly.

I was a bit sad to learn that "Long Island Wildin’" has been omitted from the forthcoming LP reissue of Buhloone Mindstate, for space reasons. I'd hate to think a generation refers to the great De La without awareness of that classic reminder that Hip-Hop in its Essence is Regional (meant in a fully autantonymic sense, yes).

Colorado and beyond

If you happen to jot down bits of verse yourself, you might be up for trying your luck with a national prize on offer from the Telluride Institute. The Fischer prize has been around for many years, and is administered by the wonderful Art Goodtimes. The Cantor prize is an attachment to the Fischer, but for Colorado poets.

Fischer and Cantor Poetry prizes (poster)

Speaking of Art Goodtimes and Telluride, The former is grand Master of Ceremonies and poet laureate of the latter's Mushroom Festival, just wrapping up this week. We had briefly discussed my coming to perform my First Nations Salutations poem, but it became clear I can't stretch that far into the mountains right at the moment, with my own mountains of business and personal obligations. Next year, I hope. I skirted its edges about a decade ago, and it looks like a proper wild time in one of my favorite spots on earth.

Telluride Mushroom Festival, photo by Telluride Institute

On a furthr topic chain from southwest Colorado, A friend of a friend is launching an interesting new podcast, The Magic City of the Southwest, looking at the local history of the iconic town of Durango "through the lens of race and class". My friend commissioned a signed copy of Ndewo, Colorado, for which I wrote the following lines.

For Jamie Wanzek & crew, re The Magic City of the Southwest

The history that breathes truth
Where TV westerns fall away in fright
Cannot be suffocated, nor by mounds of years.

There comes a time when a tireless spade
Worries old, invisible stories from the soil,
And flesh of fresh witness embraces cold bones.

❧ Uche Ogbuji, 17 August 2023

Music holla-outs

I was listening to Kaidi Tatham's new album, The Only Way, and my son, walking by, remarked that it reminded him a bit of Mahavishnu Orchestra. I think that's pretty apt. Tatham is known for his broken beat innovations, but this album is a bit more straight-ahead progressive funk.

Kaidi Tatham - The Only Way (Spotify audio)

South African, but German based singer Joy Denalane is a common feature in my sets. If you hadn't heard her before, her latest track, "Hideaway", makes it quite clear why—the sugary voice and brilliant writing (her earlier work was mostly in German, but she's been writing songs in English a lot lately, including a Christmas album last year).

Joy Denalane - Hideaway (Youtube music video)

There always seems to be a dead rapper in my Hip-Hop mentions. The genre buries far too many of its young. Sean Price was always a favorite of mine (and many), never mainstream, but always a Hip-Hop true head's hero, going back to the Heltah Skeltah days. Talib Kweli tells interesting stories of how Price and crew stomped the Brownsville streets before they were stomping stages. DJ Invasion, another fan, put together a killer blend tape of Price lyrics over beats by Stu Bangas. The few times Price and Bangas had a sanctioned collab, it always sounded rock hard (or I should say Ruck hard), and this after-market blend trips the taste buds lovely.

DJ Invasion x Sean Price & Stu Bangas - The Price of Death blends

Same old same old yadah yadah yadah it's been looney busy with the startup, a relatively short post this time, and we'll see if I need to skip another fortnight. In October I have trips to Ohio (to lead poetry writing workshops for young people), and to Dubai (to school peeps on intricate Python programming language concepts), so those might come with dispatches from differing patches. Meanwhile, keep it island wild, consider sharing this newsletter with others, and subscribing, if you haven't (button in the lower right). Ever new sounds for the listening, new plays on the field of words, fresh takes for tech's sake, with the side sauce of odd juxtapositions. Dá àlụ́-nu!

❧ Égwú 🪘 Ókwú ✍🏿 Ígwè 📡 Ńdụ̀ ❣️