A grey bearded old man writes.
Being a self-confessed musical purist (aka snob), I’ve always classified rap and hop-hop as belonging purely to its originators in the world of African American music. In my mind the transition from Gil Scot Heron, Afrika Bambata, Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy created and solidified ownership to the genre in much the same way as Robert Johnson owned the blues and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Miles Davis towered above jazz.
These firm convictions were on shaky ground when I first heard hip hop being used as a voice to vent rage against the discord and mistreatment of the young Africans and Arabs of the banlieu in Paris. Sadly whilst artists like MC Solaar, Haroun and Assassin were defending the oppressed and the impoverished of France, in the USA, artists led by Black owned labels took this vital form of defending the poorest in society and turned it into self-aggrandising mince about ‘gangsters’, ‘hoes’ and ‘bling’.
The onset of white ghetto kids adopting Black culture reminds me of August Darnell of ‘Kid Creole and the Coconuts’, who at the height of his global fame in the 1980’s (and probably with an eye on a headline) opined, that such was the imbalance between the races, that if resurrected, he’d ‘rather come back as a white woman than a black man’. It was through that prism that I disdainfully view just about every white kid sporting one of those special baseball caps that only fit on the side of the head…
Sure there are articulate powerful white hip hop artists like Aesop Rock, Die Antwoord, Chris Palko, The Streets, the white albino Brother Ali and the fun-tastic House of Pain, that I defy even the most static of us to not jump around to, but like I say white Hip hop didn’t really speak to me or my generation of the new fogeys.
So safe behind my clamped lugs and closed mind I simply ignored white hip hop.
Well, that is, until a couple of years ago, when I heard a tune on the CD that ‘Dad rock’ magazine The Word used to give away to entice former hipsters into believing they still had ‘it’.
It was a song rapped in a Scottish accent about a young man planning to save the world from all its ills, if only he could be arsed getting out of bed… he couldn’t. I loved it, it was funny, clever and spoke of the slacker generation who have all the answers but would rather someone else made the effort. I stuck it in the car and occasionally it would pop up for three minutes of head nodding and a knowing appreciation.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago and an invite to the Wickerman festival. Not particularly fussed with the well-past-their-sell-by-date headliners Texas, I wandered up into the tents, noticed a name I had a passing familiarity with, almost imagining that this Stanley Odd feller was a crumbly old bloke churning out crusty sea shanties in a style not too dissimilar to the late Ivor Cutler model. So, in I wandered. Boom, a mass of jumping folk, men, women, kids, young, old, thin, fat, hairy and bald. All of them waving their hands in the air, as if indeed, they just did not care.
I made my way up front, whipped out the video camera and began recording the fervour. Totally converted to the wit of their lyric and the tight musicianship that kept the band powerful and energetic, I left the festival a happy bunny, got home and blogged about them straight away, particularly one song Winter of Discontent.
As songs go, this is a cry of frustration at the state of play between Scotland and Westminster, common media mistruths and the reality. To abuse the cliché, it fair blew my mind. Here was a young band articulating what the collective of pro-Independence minded Scots grind their teeth about every night after watching Newsnicht.
A few weeks later and what lands with a thud in my inbox? Their second album Reject. It’s laced with puns, play on words and phonetic combinations rarely found outside the Broons annual, alliterations, onomatopoeia and double entendre lyrics that’ll leave you snorting with laughter. There’s also the too clever by half, acrostic opening for the first song ‘This Is Stanley Odd.’ However, it does set the tone for an incredibly literate and clever album.
This album is a testament to inquiry. If you’re undecided on Independence and can’t seem to get your head around the pro or anti viewpoints, listen to this and hear Veronika Electronika and MC Solareye articulate the path we’re heading down.
The chances are that political junkies will scroll straight to Antiheroics and Marriage Counselling for their ideological fix, a couple of plays later with the lyric firmly embedded, I humbly suggest that they listen to the rest of the album with the same attention to detail. There are songs about wannabe gangsters, early morning love, an homage to club life and the beauty of the rejected.
For the politically hungry here is the lyric to Marriage Counselling. It’s a dialogue between Caledonia and Britannia done via an exchange of feelings, facts, conceits and deceit.
Things aren’t right and we have to face it.
I don’t appreciate the procrastination.
I’m just saying, It’s not like you’re pure amazing
I’m fed up feeling like the poor relation.
And I don’t appreciate yir passive aggression.
Is it too much to ask that you’d answer ma questions?
So I’m writing this metaphor, I’ve said it before.
I put more into us than you give me credit for.
We’re needing some help. What makes you think I can’t speak for myself?
And as for the division of wealth
I’m a 1000-year-old country
Surely, I’m old enough to look after my own money.
As for that nonsense about me being destitute,
Hen, I’ve got the same damn group of friends as you.
So stop implying that if you were to get shot of me
France, Germany and Spain wouldn’t talk to me.
I feel like I’m banging ma head off a brick wall.
PS. Do you think of me at all?
This grief is something that I wouldn’t miss.
I’m tired of having to keep you in food and drink.
Since Culloden, it’s been like a constant battle.
With you causing me nothing but hassle.
And you’ve been hellish short-tempered lately.
I thought we’d agreed to forgive and forget the ‘80s.
I’ve told you before how I actually felt.
I just don’t think you can be trusted to look after yourself.
I know sometimes I don’t give you enough attention
But I’ve got a lot on ma plate with the current recession.
As for being mature enough to handle your financial payments
Look at Greece she’s even older than you and they called in the bailiffs
You show nothing but poor judgment. Why should I trust it?
Your tram fiasco? Way over budget.
Parliament building? Way over budget.
And you wonder why I don’t want to discuss this?
Stop meddling, you’re being childish and petulant.
And you wouldn’t fare well in a divorce settlement.
Accept it. I know better. I don’t need this added pressure.
PS. Weren’t we always good together?
I don’t appreciate yir tone. Wind yir neck in.
Don’t even get me started on the years of oppression.
Every time I need money for spending
I shouldn’t need to come begging for you to give it your blessin’.
I’m not a lap dog, a pet or a petulant wean.
I’m an equal and I expect to get treated that way.
I’m setting is straight. This is hardly blissful matrimony.
I’ve got resources so I shouldn’t have to ask for money.
I support ma self so don’t even mention alimony.
And I don’t need you to fight ma battles for me.
So tell yir mates in Faslane they need a new address
I see the truth with my new clear head.
Ma pal Alex says that you’re blind to the facts
And that it’s time for me to stand and draw a line in the sand
Everybody’s got an opinion and I’m sick of it
I getting pulled in all directions with this constant bickering
It’s like a smokescreen I’m struggling to see through
PS. Half of me doesn’t want to leave you
Bitch bitch moan moan. Give me a break,
All you ever seem do it complain.
Maybe it’s all that booze in your brain
Or your woozy again from the smack running through your veins
You’re nothing but a drain on me and it’s plain to see
You’ve developed more unhealthy habits that I need to pay to keep.
Basically you need stop your foolish ways
Stop pulling away and start pulling your weight.
Pulling ma weight? Who do you think yir talking tae?
This is exactly what’s making me want to walk away.
I’m tired of stating all ma reservations.
I think we should maybe try a trial separation.
You’re blatantly economic with the facts.
Arrogant, self-centred, living in the past.
Reliving your former glory most days now.
Back when you were the biggest bully in the playground.
A shadow of your former self and it’s plain to see.
You’re falling apart and trying to put the blame on me.
I used to make things, inventions, you curbed my creativity.
You held me back, injured me by ending ma industry.
All I’m saying is the balance in the relationship isn’t right.
Either change or I’m leaving, it’s decision time.
Decisions? You don’t have the power to make those
And you’re not going anywhere unless I say so
You’re useless, who else would want you but me?
All the plans you make end in constant defeat.
You think we’re really through?
All that’s left of you is disease and booze. And you can’t see the truth.
Obsessed with green and blue. After all we’ve been through
I’d be doing you a favour keeping you.
Pipe down and stop being so mouthy.
The truth is you’d be nothing without me.
An alcoholic, sectarian, illiterate lout.
I’m providing the medicine and you’re spitting it out.
Without me you won’t last two minutes.
In fact I don’t even care if we’re finished.
It’s a bold, brave move to see a Scottish band leave themselves wide open to criticism from the usual suspects for the crime of questioning the status quo of this overtly politicised nation. All of us, and by that I mean the ayes, naws and dinnae kens should embrace this band for having the balls to put their mouth where there mic is, let off steam and throw the questions around the Independence referendum straight back at us.
Visit Stanley Odd’s website to purchase the new album or tickets for their upcoming gigs.
Political and Cultural Blogger
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