Sunday, November 26, 2006

John K. Hates Rap...And That's Okay.

I was visiting The Beat blog on Friday, and noticed a link to all kinds of stuff, the weblog of Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. I realized that I hadn't visited his blog in while, so I went n' checked out the entry that The Beat linked to.
John's been posting notes here n' there to educate younger folks as to what made classic 2D animation, well...classic. Some folks, though, have a problem with what could be labeled as his curmudgeonly statements about a living "in an age when knowledge and skill is completely out of fashion". Me, I couldn't be more thankful. No matter what kind of art education you've had, you never stop learning.
I scrolled down to see an entry on Buster Keaton, which I thought was dope, because I've loved Keaton's work since childhood. In that, he stated that only the truly gifted should be
entertainers, not average folk:
Nowadays we have cartoons by people who can't draw (or write), "voice actors" by people who don't have distinct voices or acting ability, "songs" where people talk instead of sing and tell you how great they are without having to prove it to you with skill and talent.

I agree with him to a point. While it'd be great to have more Jackie Chans and Busters, I kinda like being able to see the average schlub do something that makes me laugh or causes my jaw to drop. That's what makes YouTube so great...in moderation, of course. I read further:
Is there anybody alive that couldn't write or draw Family Guy? Anyone looking at that or listening to a rap "song" can easily imagine himself with a couple weeks practice and some luck being able to be a big star.

That caught my attention, and the attention of a few others. To see where his head was at, I thought I'd make a comment:
I highly disagree with your digs at supposed lack of talent in accordance with rappers...to a degree. The majority of what's touted in the mainstream variety of rappers and/or rap groups, well, they suck ass. Putting out less than memorable, filler-saturated albums is no way to get my entertainment dollar. And that goes for the "underground" indie emcees, too.
And I fully understand that rap music (and hip-hop culture as a whole) isn't everyone's cup of tea, either.
I hear you as far as Buster goes. I've been a fan ever since I saw The Railrodder when I was a kid. We could use more folks like him nowadays.
And for the record, I totally appreciate the notes you post here. You can never learn enough.

Someone named the clownninja followed up with:
you can't dismiss a whole musical form that offhandedly...

John shot back with:
If there was any music in it I wouldn't.
Music requires a melody.

That's where I got my dander up. I'm fully alright with someone not liking rap music, but disregarding it as a form of music altogether? Yeah, I've got a problem with that.
So I responded:
"Music requires a melody."
I never saw eye-to-eye with that argument. I can't find melody in a Gene Krupa drum solo, but that's some of the finest music around, to me.

...and his response:
listen before and after the solo. You're supposed to play the whole song.

I thought about what I would say next and came with this:
"listen before and after the solo. You're supposed to play the whole song."
And I have. The drum solo happens to be my favorite part.
I can actually hum the odd rap track, even if it's based on a borrowed/re-recorded/cobbled together melody.
Does your distaste for spoken vocals extend to CW McCall and Phil Harris, or just this genre? Not tryin' to bust your balls, just curious.

I think he got angry after this...
To compare Gene Krupa's superhuman skill, talent, charisma and taste to anyone in rap is beyond arrogance. It's really stupid too.

Krupa, like all instrumentalists of the time knew that they were part of a bigger thing called music. They took their turns soloing amid the beautifully and intelligently arranged and scored melodies and rhythms.

No comparison at all with anything today.

Anita O'Day was Gene's main vocalist btw and could actually carry a tune - unlike rappers.

For a second, I was like, "did he just call me or my argument stupid?"
Gaining my composure, I responded with...
I wasn't comparing Krupa to anyone, really...I just brought him up as an example. And not that I was trying to change your mind (now THAT would be stupid), but I'm sure we can agree to disagree. I'm inspired to listen to The Drum Battle.

And I left it at that.
I don't know why I decided to dwell on this for so long, but I tend to obsess over trivial shit. I guess not seeing eye-to-eye with someone I respect affects me a lil' bit.
At any rate, I gotta say that John K.'s blog is still worth frequent visits. His wealth of knowledge makes it a must for any young animator (or illustrator, for that matter)...despite the crankiness.
Related links:
Bill WrayWilliam Wray (Bill and William are the same dude, but stylistically different) • ASIFA

14 comments:

EcamirG said...

I have my own host of issues with that musical philosophy, as well. My grandfather talks about a Max Roach show he saw where the horn players didn't show up, so Max decided to send the rhythm section home and just play the drums for two hours. And to hear my grandfather tell it, not one person left the club. They were mesmerized. It was, without a doubt, music.

Percussion can be music. To state otherwise would be to completely discount entire cultures of music - west African hand-drumming, for example, or even a large portion of Asian folk musics... a listener of Indonesian gamelan music, while it has pitches, would be hard-pressed to find anything that might be referred to as a "melody." And while it's easy for people with European heritage to base everything off of music hall standards and common practice conservatory pieces, it is an extremely myopic viewpoint, in my opinion.

That said, like you, I don't have to like the man's stance on rap - or on anything else - to appreciate his work.

EcamirG said...

Just to add a quick postscript... the rap culture of today reminds me a great deal of the emerging jazz culture prior. Before the white artists took the music and put it on the radio and in the dance halls, it was a highly-disparaged genre. Considered melody-less by most "cultured" music listeners.

But it continued to progress and, by the 40s, was among the most widely-enjoyed musical forms in existence. It went from a "symptom" of a downtrodden group of people to being a national "flavor." It went from the bayous of Louisiana to the Top 40 charts of New York.

I'm not saying that rap will achieve that sort of widespread acceptance. I think that the culture itself tries to, at least in some cases, push away the more mainstream audiences. But it is a widely-disparaged artform, almost unique to minority cultures. It is an expression of angst. It is born of poverty. Middle-class white America looks down their noses at it. And in these ways, it reminds me of that emerging jazz culture.

People's minds change in a hurry. but some folks hang on to an opinion for dear life; clutching to it as though it's some sort of flotsam preventing them from drowning in an ocean of change.

Allan L. said...

I hear you totally, and I appreciate your comments.
To me, rap is in a seriously destructive drug phase, just like a ton of jazz musicians were heroin junkies. Only this time, instead of using, they're rhyming about it.

Ester said...

I like that you posted the whole thing here, and your side of the debate was so tactful. It's kind of amazing to me how often people can be so close minded, especially coming from any art-related background (which I would think requires a bit of fresh open mindedness for new adventures).

Makes me shutter to think of ever becoming like that: categorizing everything and shutting entire avenues down as "wrong" or "not valid". Cranky Indeed!

Allan L. said...

Thanks, Ester! Yeah, I felt it wouldn't be fair (or interesting, for that matter) if I had just posted my side. I hope I don't get like that either. :D
He may get Hanna-Barbera background painter to post some tips on his weblog, so I'm lookin' forward to that.

Mark said...

fascinating. I agree with your side of the argument, Al.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is... while John K can write words (just as skillfully as any notable MC) - he can't fucking sing. (He can do a great Kermit the Frog impersonation though) End of arguement.

(brendon)

Anonymous said...

I take that back... I was thinking of a different John K. - - - Wait a minute... no I don't He does sound like Kermit the Frog. (Maybe that's what the K stands for)

B

Doomspell said...

John K is full of shit, a trailblazing animator who's based his own life and work on emulating old classic cartoons (which is notnecessarily bad but limited and totally unoriginal).

Rap is a valid from of musical expression, fuck him and his high horse, I'm sick and tired of these 'curmudgeons' with diarrhea of the mouth, that act is getting old. I was OK with the rant until he called you and anyone who listens to rap, stupid, he's nothing but a narrowminded has-been idiot, who no one of any value respects anymore, except a bunch of blind fanboys.

-A

Process Junkie said...

By the way, that last comment was mine, (Alberto Ruiz) I published it without noticing that Megan was signed on.
My bad.

-A

Allan L. said...

Mark: Thanks, dude.
Brendon: Heh...I was wondering if anyone would confuse this John K. with John K. Samson (whom I'm a fan of) when I posted the link at MySpace. Personally, I kinda like Samson's voice.
Alberto: Dude, I'm glad you came by! I kinda like that he adheres to the "old school" ethics of animation, because someone should be passionate about it. Thanks to his passion, I've been able to find out about guys like Art Lozzi and Dick Bickenbach, names I've come across in credits but knew very little about.
I've just decided to ignore the stuff I don't agree with and get to the good shit. :D

Process Junkie said...

You're a good man!

To me, a comment like that says a lot about the person, it paints him as ignorant and narrow-minded, offensive even. No one denies his talent, passion and place in the history of animation, the old Ren & Stimpy show and the early Spumco stuff are great artistic examples, but these types of comments are totally fucked up and out of line, bright man but I thing his mouth always gets the best of him. I personally don't care for the repetitive stuff he does today. Unlike his tirade, mine is not a personal attack just an observation.

-A

Anonymous said...

i'm no rap fan by any stretch of the imagination (gene kruppa, however, is a genius!), but to dismiss it entirely as "not music" is just ignorant.

it says a lot about you, al, that you can still speak respectfully of the man and his work, despite his narrowmindedness and overall snotty attitude. you're a good egg. ;)

Allan L. said...

Thanks, guys!