Vox Hunt: A Favorite Song from ’06

Audio:  Share one of your favorite songs from 2006.

Pitchfork: There was a track written about on Pitchfork recently, "Something Isn't Right", the first track on Scale,
and the writer, Mark Pytlik, said that you could tell in a few moments
it was a Herbert track. And I think that's true; despite how different
your records sound from each other, there is something there, a thread
through them. I know that at various times you've talked about music as
a way of getting away from ego, but I do feel like there is something
you can't get away from. I'm not sure exactly what it is; to me it
seems like a rhythmic sensibility that informs your work, a swing that
sound like Herbert. Are you aware that a part of yourself is in there,
regardless of the materials you're working with?


MH: I'm not. I'm really not. I know I have patterns and I've always
tried hard to avoid them. There are definitely certain things in my
music, if I'm looking back, "Well, that was a period where I was
experimenting with a certain kind of chord structure or a certain kind
of sound." I've tried really hard, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you
what that sound, what that tangible sound of "me" is. I think rhythm
is, when you talk about rhythmic sensibility, quite perceptive in that
I like to have at least one thing that is at least common or familiar
to the audience. Other than rhythm, the only thing I could say is that
I take a great deal of pride in every single sound I use. I'm always
making sure that I'm not using a pre-set or something that everyone
else has done. I try to be original in every piece of music I do, and
of course I probably fail every time.

Pitchfork: Let me ask you– that moment in "Something Isn't
Right" where he sings, "Do you re-mem-ber?" First time I heard that it
reminded me of "September" by Earth Wind & Fire. I was sitting with
my wife and I asked her, Do you think that's a direct reference to that
song, or is it just a few notes that sound similar?

MH: There is a very slight reference there. It's a reference to the
11th of September because that's what the Earth Wind & Fire tune
was called. I almost had it "Do you remember? The 11th of September?"
But there was no way I could possibly put that in.

Pitchfork: So that's the kind of reference you're talking about, where you embed those kinds of things in the music.


MH:
Exactly. And the record's full of them in different places. It's
kind of like, trying to use every weapon in your arsenal to point
people in a certain direction.

Practicing and performing the mnemonic rituals of a kinetic orality

[…] In The Games Black Girls Play, Gaunt argues that cheers —
songs and seemingly nonsensical chants performed in conjunction with
handclaps and foot stomps — offer entertainment for black girls across
the country, but they also play a more important role. They teach young
girls aspects of "musical blackness," placing them socially in step
with black tradition. The book examines black girls' forays into
popular culture — whether unconscious or deliberate — and what their
invisibility says about hip hop, musicality in the black community, and
when and where girls enter the annals of music history.

At first
it seems like a stretch to claim that the way girls play has influenced
a commercial behemoth like hip hop. But have you heard Nelly's "Country
Grammar"? Its sing-song chorus was sampled from black girls' games, and
Gaunt suggests that the song gained popularity in part because it was
immediately recognizable to black audiences. Gaunt emphasizes that male
rappers like Nelly use such games as material, but female rappers do
not — an assessment that's blurry and not as convincing as her other
arguments; it doesn't help that the aspiring female rappers Gaunt
interviews about why this might be don't offer illuminating
explanations.

And lest anyone think girls have been passive
creators of sampling fodder for boys, over time girls have appropriated
snippets of New Edition's "Candy Girl" and the Jackson 5's version of
"Rockin' Robin" for their own rhythmic use in games, which underscores
the reciprocal and often unexamined relationship between black girls
and popular music. When Gaunt traces the origins of traditional games
like "Miss Mary Mack" by fusing academic prose with vividly rendered
memories, her journey is refreshing, if sometimes daunting in its
technicality. […]

That's the middle of "Playing for Keeps," a Joshunda Saunders review that C. shot my way a day or two after I saw this Yahoo Buzz Log post last week.