[Village Voice] Byterock's Greatest Hits

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From: Gordon Mohr (gojomo@usa.net)
Date: Wed Aug 23 2000 - 12:53:13 PDT

Spawn of Napster: "home-cooked hybrids called byterock".

> -------------------------------
> The Politics of Napping
> Byterock's Greatest Hits
> by Jane Dark
> http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0034/dark.shtml
> Hey, Napster is the new punk rock. The other day I read it's Marxism and
> source-coder Shawn Fanning is "their Kurt Cobain"-"they" being new-gen
> digital Marxist music fans, apparently. Oh, please.
> First off, this revolutionspeak is going to look a bit silly when Napster,
> its market valuation pummeled by legal setbacks, sells itself to the RIAA
> just in time to make an annual downloading subscription the must-have
> adolescent Xmas present for 2001. Second, the replacement of (a) wanting to
> beeeeee anarchy! with (b) free stuff for computer owners! may in fact not
> qualify as revolutionary. I'll have to check my Little Red Book. Meanwhile,
> Napster's beginning to look a lot like disco.
> Disco created a critical mass of party people armed with turntables and
> artistic temperaments and loaded with wide-grooved vinyl rife with long
> instrumental breaks. Wait a couple years and chikkachikka-scrrratch: Home
> consumer becomes home producer.
> Click ahead one generation and the analogy's almost perfect: The same
> cheap'n'easy digitech that makes Napster possible in the first place also
> allows byting into formerly solid rock, and pulling tracks for kicks. With
> the disco-to-hip-hop model to guide the re-producers, it took only months to
> make the leap to art. Beyond the MP3s of Tori obscurities and that song from
> Coyote Ugly lives the world of home-cooked hybrids called byterock.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> As with the legal battle, the two magic letters at the heart of the matter
> are "vs." Key it as your search term and, depending who's online, you might
> get something as obvious as "Fatboy Slim vs Eminem - My Name Is FatBoy
> Slim": "Hi! My name is . . . the funksoulbrutha!" If the law of politics is
> that people get the leaders they deserve, the law of byterock is that
> artists get the hybrids they deserve. This mix is in full compliance, as
> retarded and obvious as Marshall Mathers and Norman Cook should expect, and
> just as catchy.
> Or you might poll something as crude as "screwing." DJ Screw's shtick is to
> take popular raps (his best work is on Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin' ") and slow them
> down. A lot. It's unclear why this is good exactly, but apparently it is, to
> judge from the cultic online collecting of screwed tracks. One side effect
> is to make certain lyrics more intelligible (again, unclear whether this is
> fundamentally a good thing). Mainly, screwing renders streetside bump into
> hypnotic underwater/outer limits funking, the sound of something happening
> in a strangely amorphous zero-grav. It's the sonic analogue for Napsterspace
> itself.
> At the far end of the complexity spectrum are byterocks like "DMX, Prodigy,
> Ice Cube, Eminem, & Rza - Firestarter (DJ Low Remix)," which doesn't have a
> "vs." but pulls the same shenanigans. Pasting perfectly paced raps onto the
> Liam Howlett instrumental track, it's fully Red Alert-worthy: DJ Low (if
> that is indeed the original hahaha remixer) drags Prodigy back from the
> world of shitheel rock into the land of the loc'd and pushes Cube and RZA,
> who haven't seen an edge in years, toward the precipice. Everybody wins.
> For sheer Frankensteinism, there's always "Big Pun vs TLC vs DMX-Still Not a
> Scrub Dog"; for junglist avant-pop, check out "The Jungle Brothers vs
> Christine Aguilera-JungleInABottle." Kitsch-happy obscurantists might prefer
> "Mr. Oizo vs. Daft Punk - Flat Beat Bootleg Remix." And if you want to leap
> from puppet-electro to cartoon shakedowns, "Britney Spears vs. the Powerpuff
> Girls vs. Adam Sandler" melds incidental dialogue, anime noises, and a
> Brit-hit into a cute ditty punctuated by bad words. Spears: "You drive me
> crazy." Sandler: "Piece of shit." Song slows to halt. One of the 'Puffs:
> "This isn't working, guys!" Sandler: "Oh yeah, ya think so?" Bring that beat
> back, and so on. It's good to know that seven-year-olds have mastered
> CoolEdit. Really, it's like having your own printing press, and making your
> own Garbage Pail Kids.
> But for every novelty song out there, there's a track rolling harder, like
> the flawless, brilliant, deep-Jeep funk of "DJ Sckizo vs. Christina
> Aguilera, Mos Def, Eminem, Britney Spears (Radio Edit)." Oh, really? What
> radio is that? You will notice, however, that DJ Sckizo isn't sticking you
> up for 11 cents, not even for spelling lessons. He's just rocking some party
> in the middle of nowhere, and you're invited.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> Once you follow into the dreamland where Britney and Eminem are floating in
> space like binary idols, there's no turning back. The two are clearly the
> obsession of byterockers everywhere, with only Christine Aguilera putting in
> a barely comparable number of appearances. "Britney Spears vs Eminem - My
> Name is Crazy (DjHibass Remix)" is a simple yet crafty graft, as interesting
> as either source single.
> Through the looking glass, as if we weren't already, is the dazzlingly great
> and more to-the-minute "Eminem vs. Britney Spears - Oops! The Real Slim
> Shady Did It Again." Throwing Eminem's ventriloquacious vocal over Ms.
> Spears's Swedish synth-thump knocks the White Riot off his wise-ass drawl
> and gives him an urgency he never quite manages himself. Meanwhile, the
> anonymous byterocker takes the deadzone-cum-skit that mars Britney's "Oops!
> . . . " and shuts it down to a few seconds, in which Em points out there's a
> Slim Shady lurking in all of us. But obviously part of the thrill is how,
> for five minutes, there's a Slim Shady lurking in Britney Spears and vice
> versa, right down to the perfectobeat outro, with the powerpop Frankenstein
> demanding, "Please stand up-I'm not that innocent . . . please stand up,
> please stand up, please stand up-hit me baby one more time."
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> In Inside.com's July note on Slim Spears hybrids, they index the phenomenon
> without making much of a point besides how the songs are "ironic" and
> "meta." Another person hitting the Alanis bong. The pseudo-critical term
> they wanted was "self-reflexive"; recombined and rearranged, the songs often
> seem to be talking about themselves and their stars, commenting on the
> vertiginous whorl of pop culture from the inside, where, for example,
> Marshall Mathers, Eminem, and Slim Shady all exist at the same level-digits
> that we can push around.
> There's something going on here, and it's not just about smirky chuckles.
> Giving the game away is the sweetly awkward "Nsync vs Britney Spears -Oops
> It's Gonna Be Me -Remix," in which our auteur home-cooks a herky-jerky he
> said/she said. This is merely a dorky game unless you, like any good ET
> watcher, know that Ms. Spears and 'N Sync stud Justin Timberlake are rumored
> to be engaged. The hybrid isn't much of a new song; instead, it's a
> celebrity sex fantasy made from found materials. Creepy? Kinda sweet,
> actually. And, finally, Britney et al.'s demented game of sexual come-ons
> and plausible deniability collapses into the joke it is.
> If Sckizo and DJ Low are delivering tracks as fresh as any hip-hop from the
> no-samples-cleared era-like, making art-the other end of byterock is up to
> something just as substantial: converting the stars of Jive and Interscope
> into rock'n'roll Ken dolls, and Barbies too. Music that spends millions
> treating you like a toy is suddenly itself the field of play. And even if
> that's hilarious, it's no joke-returning not free stuff but free play to the
> pop audience might in the end be Napster's greatest hit. Maybe even a
> revoltin' development
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

- Gordon

Information doesn't just want to be free.
Information wants to be promiscuous.

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