Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1st Review of Wild Thing by Willa Cmiel !

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here We Go!: "Wild Thing"

T.Shirt is a rapper from Queens.   He's got younger twin brothers, Christopher and Andrew, and his mother is lovely.  In his spare time he paints with chocolate on top of the crema of mocha lattes; his steamed milk is phenomenal.  His real name is…nah I'm kidding.  T.Shirt is a very ill rapper.  And he has a recently released album of remixes, Wild Thing.  Here we go!   Woo!

"Mother-fuckin' Tim Dog!"  

Those who work with the frenetic hip-hopper will understand this characteristic outburst at the intro, but for those who don't: it isn't supposed to be user-friendly. 

On the one hand, Wild Thing plays as a collection of personal essays, or vignettes. The two most affecting remixes are "Something about Us"(Daft Punk) and "My Friends"(Unknown).  During these songs, the original music and the artist's added verses coexist most triumphantly.  It helps, of course, that the original songs contain significantly less lyrics than the perhaps more exciting, but far less thematically stable,  "Electric Feel"(MGMT) and "Golden Age"(TV on the Radio). Because adding lyrics to someone else's song is tricky.  And, if only for the sake of artistic continuity, original intent should be considered (not to mention, for courtesy's sake, credit given).  In this respect, T.Shirt's songs sometimes fall short. 

"Electric Feel," MGMT's transcendent, metaphoric anthem, is vague and ephemeral, and naturally timeless.  Shirt leads his part with "Hey, put the phone down" and in an instant launches his listeners from ethereal images of MGMT's Amazonian goddess "with the voltage running through her skin," into modern-era big city life, which takes a much different, and ever less romantic, electric charge to function.  Later, "on a night full of stars," the fitting question "Is it really you or is it a mirage?" is marred by a reference to electric cars.  With the addition of T.Shirt's verses, a larger meaning is pushed aside and listeners forget those surreal charges of excitement don't come solely from love, lust, and sexual attraction, but also from music, art, strange encounters, the natural world, or, even, the vastness and mystery of New York City.  The song should stir anything that charges and motivates in sublime, unexplainable ways.  In the end, Shirt's lyrics don't add to it the sweeping magic of "Electric Feel," they pigeonhole it.

"Golden Age" follows a similar pattern, perhaps even more tragically.  To be brief, TV on the Radio's optimistic paean to an approaching epoch, superior in all ways to whatever it is we've got now, is not about sex.  And even more, it's not about taking advantage of the moment to have sex ("like a one-day sale"...really, T?).  In fact, it's not about taking advantage of the moment at all, no matter how you might choose to spend it, but it's about the approaching moment.  And it's a glorious sentiment.  And this, I imagine, is Wild Thing's biggest hang-upthe artist's inability to incorporate his lyrics into the songs he uses to frame them.  Passionate and well-written, with an impressive sense of the fleeting, his words are clever and intelligent without appearing too overly thought-out.  But songs used for remixes should be firmly viewed as foundation—something to stand upon— and not a means with which to propel yourself into outer space.

And in many ways, Shirt does this in a truly ill fashion.  With "Something About Us," Daft Punk's love song circa 2005, T.Shirt's lyrics are sincere and startlingly proficient as they weave seamlessly between the beats of DP's epic electronica.  T.Shirt raps personally and specifically, but all-encompassingly, in a way the listener, any listener, could relate.   Similarly, "My Friends" is about that choice to live that Artist's Life (you know the one).  Obligingly, this is where the rapper's art shines.  For this unsigned rapper, it's the importance of friends that carries him through his fierce desire to succeed artistically (and in true hip-hop fashion, monetarily): "People don't get it / me and all my friends / took the road less traveled / to ball out in the end."  Once again, Shirt's lyrics are nimble and despite his specificity—this is the song with perhaps the greatest volume of personal shout-outs—the listener relates to a greater picture.  "My Friends" is sincere, passionate, questioning, complexly simple.

And so it is: the success of Wild Thing stems, ultimately, from the artist's sweeping lyricism.  Ironically, this is also where his problems lie.  If approached as a collection of personal essays ambitiously woven throughout original works, Shirt's songs become a practice in interpretation and careful rendering (where his songs are thrashing, elsewhere they succeed, and vice versa)—they are a translation of sorts between genres—and that makes them original.  Considering, even, that Rolling Stone called 2008 the Year of the Collaboration, it seems inconsequential that T.Shirt's artists were not personally involved, and the fact that Wild Thing functions as an amalgamation of guerilla "collabos" makes the album title appreciably apt (not that, for those who know him, the artist's intractability is in particular want of verification).   The point is that popular music, and popular art in general, is getting more interesting, and the crossing of boundaries much more culturally acceptable.  And with remixes of Coldplay, MGMT, TV on the Radio, and Nelly Furtado, among others, Wild Thing consciously avoids its own genre.  As long as he doesn't stray too far, who cares if T.Shirt's collabos are bootlegged?  "Fuck it," he says, "we gonna ride?  Let's get 'em from the inside." 

Download Wild Thing here, for free.

T.Shirt's website:

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