lil mama im sorry i never meant to ball like this
(Source: ysanyaperez, via gurlutrippin)
I INTERVIEWED JEFF MILLS. -
Who’da thunk that a country boy like me would get to talk to guys as important in the history of contemporary music as Jeff Mills? +
Been Hit With A Few Shells But I Don’t Walk With A Limp.
Yesterday was the day they elected a new president. Years ago I met one of the former holders of the position. Mr. Obama. Do you remember him? Slim, dark-skinned and full of promise. Mister Obama. That’s what they made us call him. Mister. We were forbidden from using his first-name - forcibly made to abstract and cloud the buzz of realness that floated above him, asked with no flexibility to view him as a paragon of formality and high status, ensuing in him becoming a man without a name but a possessor of a title -in front of him for whatever reason. That was years back now. Things were better for me then, I think. At least they seem it now.
Call me Curtis. Some time ago I was a somebody. I was somebody who, due to an unsavory lifestyle that was hellish to live but enjoyable to write about, got shot nine times and made money from it. The money, a sum that included profits on an estimated eleven million plus album sales, made up for the wounds to my hip, my legs, my right arm, my chest and my left cheek. The shooting was a drive-by, a by-product of a botched robbery in a bad neighborhood. A car had followed us to our destination, waiting for the inevitable fuckup. It arrived with depressing obviousness and pow pow pow pow pow pow pow pow pow, whoomp there it was. Before I continue, I’d just like to state for the record that being shot in the face was the best thing that ever happened to me, as willingly contrary as that sounds. It’s the truth though: a bullet in the mouth was worth millions in the bank.
The sums I made were vast, nigh-on unimaginable. There was a time when, for a few years, nearly a decade at least, I practically bathed in diamonds and bedded down on crisp hundred dollar bills. I acquired a taste for the finest champagne from the most prestigious vineries and drank France dry, ate the best salmon – fish that had swum in the cleanest, freshest rivers - on this earth, slept with supermodels and countless actresses. I was invincible. I went from peddling crack on street corners as a pre-pubescent to rapping at globally televised award ceremonies. I was on TV screens and in the magazines. For the less observant reader that last sentence was an illusion to work by a former hero of mine. My hero-worshiping days ended when that bullet poked through the thick flesh of my cheeks and filled my mouth with the taste of iron. Someone wrote a book about me but it wasn’t very good. I prefer work by postmodern short story writers or longhaired spectacle wearers who pepper their fiction and fact with lengthy footnotes. College kids sent me detailed analyses of my work, loftily hyping me as a Marlowe for the post-9/11 world and you could see the courage of their convictions fading away sentence by sentence. At concerts female members of the audience threw underwear at me, the majority of which I kept in a vault in my nineteen-room mansion (if you’d allow me the briefest of boasts I’d like to state that I used to have four bathrooms, a swimming pool and a bowling alley), the rest went to thrift stores. By went to, I mean to say I sent an assistant to do it for me. I had assistants to do all sorts: shop for me (I had seven pairs of calf-height white socks and seven pairs of tight Calvin Klein briefs bought for me every week for seven years), cook for me, to tell me where I was meant to be going and what I was meant to be doing when I got there. It was a luxury to live a life removed from life.
I doubt I’ll meet this president. Maybe we’re only meant to meet one in a lifetime. Some people, hell, most people, never meet one. Maybe I should have made more of it at the time. I remember shaking his hand, telling him I admired him and wished him the all best for the future. All I could look at, however, was his neck. His thin, scraggy neck, a neck that was dwarfed by the high-end identifiably Italian shirt he was wearing. How a neck like that managed to withstand the weight of the modern world I never knew. It looked like a decent chain hanging from it would cause severe spinal trauma. This new guy has a proportionate neck, I’ll give him that. Truth be told I don’t know much about him. I should care more, I know, about the acute intricacies of the on-goings in the Oval Office. I should be concerned with legislative bills that protect the employment rights of central-American immigrants, or the quality of water that the citizens of Sacramento should receive, or about the agricultural reforms set to end the income of farmers in deepest, dullest Iowa. I should be attending rallies and marches in a show of support and brotherly unison for the occupants of occupied West African countries. I should be reading relevant journals and periodicals and finding myself agreeing with the thoughts of eminent political writers. But…but that takes time and effort and an engagement with a narrative that wants to seal itself off to the uninformed – a membrane seemingly sewn from prior knowledge, an innate understanding of Washington gossip, and elitism keeps the bad people out. I am now a lazy man as I begin the bone-shrinking, skin-blotching, bladder straining process of ebbing into mid-middle-age. I have the time, too much of it in fact, endless vats of the stuff, but I Don’t Have The Time. I am an indifferent citizen of an indifferent nation living in an age of indifference.
I courted fame and reveled in its results. I wanted the trappings – a misleading word usually used in conjunction with a sneer or pronounced so that the stress is placed on the first syllable so as to stress the alleged inhumanity of being famous. I was an only child with a prostitute for a mother so it doesn’t take an eminent Viennese analyst or an upstate New York therapist wearing fashionably stark glasses to see what I’d use my new found fame for. I craved female attention, completely adored it. To avoid the icky inevitability of a detour into the complex series of unconscious desires and drives that underpin the mother/son relationship I will do just that: avoid them, sidestep them and tease the reader instead with hints of my fame-bought promiscuity. The aforementioned actresses and models were occasionally nothing more than sexualized props, physical manifestations of gratification. I feel a sense of shame for the actions of the younger man I once was; most noticeably for the time a bout of fellatio was truncated as the performer of this erotic humdinger was reasonably, and justifiably, annoyed that I had spent the duration of the act communicating in 140 characters or less on an online social networking site.
Some of the happiest days of my life were the ones where I could just be me. When I could sit on my waterbed flicking through some literary periodical, a moderately-challenging modern classical record composed by an austere Austrian quietly dripping from the speakers, a can of Coke and a ham and coleslaw sandwich resting on the mahogany bedside table. I’d read and make notes on ‘Eduardo de Laurot – Engagement as Prolepsis’ or ‘Speaking the Unspeakable: Great Novelistic Pauses’ and look up the things that interested me on the internet. If it was particularly intriguing I’d sometimes make it up to a whole hour before I succumbed to the earthly delights of hardcore pornography. I found myself amazed by all those orifices, and all those obliging members, all those body defying acts of athleticism! What folly! What exuberance! Of course, as is the fashion, a period of self-loathing would follow the proceeding onanistic flights of fantasy, but before I knew it, Calvin’s round my ankles, tissue on the table, I’d be in an in-exhaustive web of interconnected trivia. Half-days would pass in this cyberspaced-out haze, endless hours of link-hopping and skim-reading. Did you know that Rinorea laurifolia is a species of plant in the Violaceae family? Or that the hamlet of Aunegrenda in Norway has only fifty residents, and most of them work in agriculture? Or that…no, I didn’t particularly care for facts of that nature too much myself either. I like to look back though, to those afternoons, when it was just me and the cooks and the maids and my assistants, those are the moments I treasure.
There were other pleasures too. Women. I liked women, I still like women. I know I just told you that up the page but I wouldn’t be a very good tour guide of my past if I didn’t foreground certain things. Women are my Statue of Liberty, my Unilever House. I met a lot of them when I wasn’t just Curtis. All kinds of them. What’s that Woody Allen line in Play It Again, Sam? “I’ll get broads up here like you wouldn’t believe: swingers, freaks, nymphomaniacs, dental hygienists.” It was just like that. I racked up lovers, occasional partners, ex-girlfriends, city-dependent fucks. Nurses, a female tree surgeon, dancers, waitresses who were going to make it big in Hollywood yes sir they really would and one day you’d see them on the big screen and regret never calling them back they’d be sure of that, marine biologists, strippers. All sorts.
When I watched the election results roll in last night all I could think about was the losing candidate – a man who was too young, too enthusiastic, too gap-toothed too exquisitely bouffant-ed to have ever had a real shot at the title - having the same surname as I girl I met in New York City. She came to my show at Madison Square Garden. I played there several times. Madison Square Garden. My concerts did nothing to buck the common conception of live hip-hop being a money grabbing exercise largely void of the liveliness and inventiveness that the genre’s finest work has on record. I rapped over backing tracks that contained my voice rapping over the original backing tracks so that if I stumbled or slurred (a side effect of the shooting) then the audience would barely be able to tell the difference. I’d have hype men, glorified weed-carriers, on stage with me throwing in the odd garbled interlocution to give proceedings extra weight. Sometimes, for show, I’d shoot fake AK-47s into the air. People seemed to like that bit.
This girl waited for me by the exit. It was summer, the city was as sweltering as any writer you’ve ever read would have you believe, and she stood patiently waiting for hours. My manager, when I needed someone to manage my gloriously hectic life, told me a fan was waiting, that she had a package with her, asked if I felt safe. I had no reason not to, having already been shot nine times. I’m sorry to hark on about it, to waste your time with the simple rhetorical device of repetition, but come on. Nine times. Nine. Someone shot nine bullets into me. Back to the story, and my manager fetched this fan. I hurriedly opened the package she carried and discovered that contained a collection of stories by John Updike, a writer I admired, mainly for his continual, career-spanning investigation of middle-class mores and smalltown sex lives, as well as a Moleskine notepad. This girl, with the same surname as the man who’d forever be known, or more likely half-forgotten, as the man who didn’t become the leader of the free world, a totem of failure in human form, had sad eyes that belied her age. I thanked her for the gift and set about apologising for the litter that lined the floor (cellophane, bread crusts, Evian bottle-tops), the profanity of the music that was pumping from a stereo in the corner (we were unwinding with a few Geto Boys songs), and the amount of fur being worn (my crew, my posse, my boys, my dogs, my brothers, my niggas, wore expensive jackets made from the finest quilted mink pelts). She blushed and mumbled that it was fine. I kissed her firmly on the lips, my hand planted squarely on her right buttock. Being famous meant I could do this without having to receive express permission She consented, or appeared to consent at least, to this kiss. I signalled for my boys to leave. Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and the others left. This girl, who looked like she was a Mindy, or a Petra, or one of those other names that only slight, Nordic brunettes have, smiled down on me.
“I hope you like the gift,” she said.
“Yes, thank you, thank you. How did you know I was a fan of his?”
“I just sort of assumed.”
“You assumed correctly.”
“And,” she began, my hand now resting on her thigh, “I thought you could write lyrics or something in the notebook. Maybe even a song or a story about how you met a fan who gave you a notebook and a collection of short stories.” How wonderfully prescient. Convenient too. I read one of the short stories the morning after whilst she showered. It was about a man who hid in a pharmacy from a woman he’d previously had an affair with. He thought about the colour of her pubic hair.
The bank took possession of the mansion six years ago now. The cars went too. As did the jewellery. They even, and this for whatever reason - though now I am writing events I feel I may have exaggerated my feelings in the hope that when I got to tell this story my delivery of the upcoming line would receive the type of smirk and nod that one gives a pithy observation in a short story - rankled more than anything, took my personalized pearlescent bowling ball. I loved that bowling ball. I lost my money after an investment went wrong but you probably read about it in newspapers so I won’t recount the events again. I would, however, be doing you a slight disservice id I didn’t detail the details of my demise. It was the financial meltdown of 2014 that did it for me. An unprecedented number of global banking institutions imploded with money vanishing in ways that us mere mortals could never quite fathom. I lost all my money, I know that much. Just before the crash I had, on the advice of my financier, invested great dollops of dollars into the art market. Which then proceeded to bottom out. It turned out that when people were struggling to feed their families, they didn’t have a huge desire to buy, or part-buy, late period Frank Stella’s or early-era Wassily Kandinsky paintings.
Things changed after that. Obviously. I left the city of my birth and headed downwind south to Pennsylvania because a cousin of mine, Shawn, had a spare room and a kind heart. I lived with Shawn, his wife and her elderly mother. I spent a great deal of my time moping. I had no money, no prospect of an immediate reality TV show assisted career bounceback and for months after, I was too scared to even go grocery shopping in case people saw me and asked “Hey, didn’t you used to be 50 Cent? The commercially successful and critically acclaimed rapper who combined street smart narratives with business savvy and pop nous? Didn’t you star in major motion pictures as both a semi-fictionalised version of yourself and also as a cancer survivor? And a series of video games that combined conservative interpretations of Islamic mysticism and extreme violence? And didn’t I see you badly caricatured in an episode of The Simpsons once?” before looking at me again, with my week-worn vest and sweat-stained sweatpants, and deciding that, no, no I wasn’t who they thought I was. The man they thought I was had ceased trading. He had closed for business.
Years I ago I asked someone who loved me when I had the Bentleys and the Benjamins and the Balenciaga if they could love me if I had to ride the bus. She just laughed. ‘Baby girl,’ I probably began, probably with a glass of champagne in one hand, probably unhooking her bra with the other, ‘I’m just teasing. There won’t be any busses for the two of us ever again. I’m a somebody. When was the last time you saw a somebody sat on the bus? Does Jay ride the bus? Nas? Fab? Cam? No. And I’m bigger than all of those guys. No busses for us.’ Self-aggrandizement was something I used to be very good at. Not so much these days.
After a while Pennsylvania grew on me. I liked waking up to a siren-less soundscape. I liked taking walks on dewey mornings. I began to be able to differentiate between birdcalls and insect chirrups. Most importantly, for you dear reader at least, I took up writing fiction, reasoning to myself that I’d read enough to know what was good and that I’d been a success with words before. Words were all I had left. I began to craft slight narratives, the type of short stories that students write where not much happens and the endings are inconclusive and that’s okay because they’re short stories so you’re allowed to be vague and illusory. I tried writing a novella about writing a novella about writing a novella but I realised it was never going to work. Sometimes I write about my old life, or what I like to remember my old life being like. Sometimes I like to pretend that I was someone different, someone called Curtis.
An Evening Off
There were seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, a bowling alley, indoor and outdoor pools, a steam room and sauna, at least twenty televisions, a maze in the five hectare garden, representations of Jesus Christ made from glass, mid-period paintings by semi-talented European artists hanging from the walls, a garage big enough for ten cars, and a cinema screen in Robert’s house. A map, primarily for visitors but occasionally used by the homeowner, perched atop a lectern in the hallway, lit from above. This was a house where wants had replaced needs and by this point there wasn’t much left to want for.
The weekend before, Robert Kelly and his team of residential staff worked together to re-stage a 1964 Sam Cooke concert that had originally been held at the Copacabana. For one night only a decent sized chunk of Illinois real estate became a replica of one of the world’s great nightspots. The club was reproduced in accordance with the original blueprints; every effort was made to convince those in attendance that this really was the mid-sixties, that the outside world – with its terrorists and rapists and racists – had vanished. When one had so much money that money ceased having a physical manifestation other than the odd cigar-lighting or g-string-placing hundred dollar bill and became a series of card swipes and data entries, fantasies blended into realities, dreams ceased to be something that occupied the sleeping and instead took on living, breath daytime forms. The Sam Cooke concert reenactment was one of those realized nocturnal narratives. The guests, all 1,000 of them, had to wear era-appropriate attire; zoot suits, vintage dresses, long-stemmed cigarette holders. It was a celebration of love and unity and song and smoking and drinking and soul music and sex and eating and living and R. Kelly and ‘You Send Me’ and ‘Cupid’ and the sublimely non-human beauty of Sam Cooke’s voice and it was an unmitigated success. But that’s another story.
Robert had also taken his primary housekeeper, two personal chefs, a physiotherapist/masseuse and a stack of public relations officers with him to South America that summer for the soccer World Cup. The sport’s organizing body had, for reasons that never became fully clear even when briefcases of money where bundled over, asked him to compose one of the several ‘official tournament anthems’ and to perform at the opening ceremony in front of a televised audience of nearly a billion. On that bright June afternoon, a poor boy from Chicago sang for a sport, a country, a continent, and a planet. The song came in one of the two flavors he normally dished up: this was an everyman, magical-realist empowerment anthem, all talk of sacrifice and redemption and victory. His other best selling flavour, the rum and raisin to his vanilla , was rampantly sexual. This mode was not deemed appropriate by the game’s governing bodies and as such he composed a ditty called ‘Sign of a Victory’ and got to travel round the nation being filmed integrating with township children and the like. All whilst wearing prohibitively expensive western accoutrements. The trip had re-ignited a near-dormant passion for the craft of song and the conveyance of emotion that he thought he was losing. The atonal blurts and blares of traditional instruments had a rejuvenating affect and he told the press how, ‘that love, all of that energy, and the sprit of Africa was being shot into me through the vuvuzelas, like I was a son of Africa.’
So, at the end of the busy summer period – he also had the time to release a new album, Love Letter an alleged paean to the singers, Sam, Marvin, Otis, that were responsible for Robert’s overwhelming, heart-stopping and life-starting love of music - he let the staff, and his wife and kids, have the weekend off. Just to say thank you. They departed early on Friday evening back to small houses in less affluent areas, or got lifts to bus stations and airports. Robert’s immediate family were chauffeured to the home of his mother-in-law at the behest of his wife who’d planned on staying alone with her husband in the house that she’d largely designed. She had been hoping for some R’n’R with R but R protested that he needed some downtime. They shared the briefest of kisses as she got into the car and then the gang were gone. The vehicle’s blacked out windows didn’t allow for father-child waving or horseplay, so as soon as the engine began to purr and puff Robert turned on his heels up the finely graveled driveway. He took a brief swim in the sub-tropical basement level pool with the faux-Palladian columns and sat in the haystack dryer till it was time to get changed.
After the swim he felt hungry. Robert couldn’t remember the last time he’d made food for himself in this kitchen and felt hopeless when he failed to find some garlic mayonnaise for a sandwich he was attempting to assemble. The sandwich had been on his mind all afternoon; he could picture the thick slice of crusty white bread at the bottom slathered in mayo, thin slices of intentionally artificial - quadrilateral, the colour of orange juice- cheese, butterhead lettuce on top of that, substantial hunks of pulled pork, another slice of bread, more cheese, more lettuce, molar-decimatingly crisp bacon, ketchup, a further squirt of mayonnaise, a final coffin-lid of bread. That was what he wanted, that sandwich served with ice cold Coca Cola and a bag of salted, ruffled potato chips, eaten in a chair in front of the television whilst a game of basketball played out inconsequentially somewhere else in the country. It wasn’t going to happen though because he couldn’t find the mayonnaise or the bacon and without those ingredients it seemed pointless. The thought of a compromised eating experience caused him mild consternation and for a second Robert considered ringing the housekeeper to get a number for the cook so he could ask where the missing goods where but it was a Saturday and his housekeeper was probably busy eating dinner with her family and he slipped the phone into his back pocket and scanned the fridge for a snack. Having found and joylessly consumed a flavorless pot of Greek yoghurt and a slice of densely buttered bread, Robert located a family sized bag of Lays in a cupboard that nestled between a tropical fish tank and a glass fronted cabinet full of baseball caps. He decanted the chips into a large bowl, scooted back over to the fridge and poured himself a glass of soda.
Bag of chips in hand, he took the elevator up to the third floor and trundled down the corridor to his office. The office, all mahogany and gold discs, contained little in the way of the ephemera one attaches to a space of this kind; the bookshelves heaved under the weight of limited edition sneakers rather than dog-eared paperbacks, no faulty ballpoints or immaculately cased fountain pens littered the desk, a slim, neat stack of magazines sat where haphazardly arranged paperwork would normally have been. Conducting his business on a day-to-day business hadn’t been a concern for Robert for several years and as a result the office, such as it was, laid mainly dormant. Perched atop a reassuringly expensive Parnian executive desk was a laptop, three Grammy awards, and an unopened bottle of Dom Perignon that Quincy Jones, at least he remembered it being Quincy Jones, had given to him. There was also a framed photo of a now dead female singer whom he had taken under his tutelage and later been married to. The singer had been 15 at the time and the marriage was annulled and never spoken about by either, so the presence of this pictorial placeholder – always proclaimed by Robert to be a mere tool of remembrance, a tribute to a ‘fallen angel’ – troubled his current wife. Younger women had always haunted Robert’s personal life.
He winched open the laptop lid and let the machine gurgle its way through the start up process. Robert hadn’t turned shut the computer down properly the last time he’d used it and Windows wanted him to enter ‘Safe Mode’ but he declined and instead scoped the room out for something to wipe the greased salt from his hands onto but had to settle for the hem of his own jacket. The operating system eventually loaded up and Robert opened an internet browser and skimmed through emails, reading several properly but replying to none. His PR people engaged with the public on his behalf on social networking sites so there was no need to gormlessly trawl through unflattering pictures of people he knew barely and liked even less. On a night like this, he thought to himself, porn was always an option, a viable time-passer. A hurried glance over thumbnails that reduced acts of wanton and depraved sexuality to densely encoded visual signifiers told him that, no, tonight was not a porn night.
He remembered that someone had mentioned that another R’n’B singer, one who had beaten his girlfriend up, had leaked naked photos of himself on the Internet. Robert kind of wanted to look at them, in the same way he kind of wanted to take a peek at the other men in the changing room at the gym. It wasn’t necessarily a gay thing, or at least he didn’t think it was. Natural curiosity was all. Just making comparisons, nothing sexual about it. Finding the pictures was easy, it only took a few clicks and there it was. And, not to put to fine a point on things, there was a lot of it. Robert looked at the image and felt, for the first time in months at least, mild discomfort about his own genitals. There was nothing wrong with his own penis, or at least none of the women who’d slept with multi-millionaire superstar R. Kelly had ever voiced complaints about it, indeed it had been a long standing source of pride to him. But this other guy, this other guy was something else. That really was something to be proud of. He also found himself disconcerted by the singer’s bleach-blond hair. Discomfort crept over him. Sitting alone in a house that had six bathrooms and a bowling alley, wiping chip-residue from his lips, looking intently at the flaccid penis of a man he didn’t know felt every bit as unfulfilling as Robert could have imagined. With a slow shake of the head – deliberately slow, the showman always plays up to an audience if when he’s on his own – he took one last glance at the member in front of him, shut the lid of the laptop and murmured, “Shit son, shit,” to no one in particular and shuffled out of the room.
Later that evening, having spent an hour and half vaguely watching a documentary about comedians telling particularly distasteful and offensive jokes about scatology, incest and vomiting, and another hour listlessly watching rolling news in a hot tub, Robert, whilst laying in bed on a buttress of pillows, casually glancing at the life sized statue of himself that resided in a corner of the master bedroom, thought about ending it. The ‘it’ in this case not being his life, but rather his career. The moment passed as soon as it had begun, because who would really want to give up the wealth and opulence associated with being a multi-multi-millionaire singing-superstar and ambassador for the black community? Money doesn’t necessarily make you happy but it can buy you as many chains, watches and Rolls Royce’s as you like. And anyway, writing songs and singing wasn’t too difficult in the grander scheme of things.
Sometimes, on the rare nights when he wasn’t being crowded by sycophants or journalists or the type of girls that always hover in and around the VIP section of nightclubs, Robert thought about the difficulty he had in locating the demarcation point between ‘himself’ as Mr. Robert Kelly, and himself as ‘R.Kelly.’ If R. Kelly started as a character, an extension of a palpable and tangible sense of self that resided in Robert, a set of exaggerations that allowed for an outward display of confidence and sexual prowess – an apparent prowess that was largely borne of that self-imposed display of a confidence that might not really have been there-, then maybe that character had been subsumed by the ‘real’ Robert, or perhaps it was the other way round and that everything that made Robert Robert had been transmuted into some bolted together composite of the two.
This thought often switched up a gear and became an attempted self-analytical deconstruction of the relationships most important to him: the ones with his wife, his family, and his fans. His wife, whom he’d met just before the release of 12 Play (a record that sold in excess of two million copies, made him a bona fide star, and contained songs like ‘Bump N’ Grind’, ‘Sex Me Pts. 1 & 2’, and ‘I Like the Crotch on You’), seemed to have fallen in love with Robert the family man, the church-goer, the charity-giver, the man who once wept when he found out that Princess Diana had died, not because he was fond of her but because he felt that the whole world was weeping. What if though, and this along with the fear that’d he would awake voiceless once morning, prayed on his mind in these moodily-lit evenings of the soul, what if his wife loved R. Kelly? What if she loved Kells, the pop culture construct? Who was she thinking about whilst he was away jetsetting: Robert or R?
When you meet someone, he thought, there’s always that sense of competitive mild-exaggeration and eagerness to please that conceals reality. Meeting people involves a slight modulation of who you really are that works in accordance with who you’re meeting and if you feel like you have to impress them. Robert first met his wife in a late night diner. She was drinking coffee and he was eating a chilidog. He sang for her. You can imagine the rest. They married a year later on a beach in Hawaii, and then he got more famous than he’d dared to dream and slept with other women and neither of them mentioned it because his career was more important than hers and anyway that was just what men like him did and she couldn’t change that so there was no point trying and even if she didn’t want to accept it she was going to have to learn how to. So she learnt how to ignore the scent of other women on her husband’s silk shirts, or condom wrappers at the bottom of a travel bag. She learned how to be the Other Woman despite being The Wife. Robert knew that she felt a little down sometimes and, graciously he felt, tried to make things right. But the intended acts of kindness became a form of attrition because they came from R. Robert wouldn’t send a few thousand dollars worth of flowers to say sorry. R Kelly would, and did.
His children, a son and a daughter, knew that dad and the man they saw on the TV were different people but they interacted with their father so little, and for such short times, and very, very rarely, alone, that as far as they were concerned the man on screen cavorting mask-clad with half-naked video honeys was their father. Which he, obviously, was. Most children don’t, however, have a dad who sings, in an admittedly marvelously rich voice, series of extended sexual metaphors that can encompass the verdant lushness of rainforests, early 90s action movies, intergalactic travel and the ingredients of an uninteresting weekday lunch. Most youngers don’t grow up in a house with a full lift system in operation, or receiving personalized, but un-touchable for years, cars for Christmas. Or songs written especially for their birthday. Indeed, most children lived a life without Michael Jackson ever attending one of their birthday parties, let alone two. Dad, to them, was a distant figure, occasionally bouncing light at them from one of his rings, and mom didn’t mention him much. Robert knew that he hadn’t been an amazing father, but neither had his own, and well, he’d turned out alright himself so surely the kids would too. He wondered if his wife would leave him, citing the lengthy spells of a total absence, of being there for his children like a real father, Robert, like a real man would be after the kids graduated from high school.
The fans were easier to work out. They loved R Kelly. They never met Robert or even heard from him because he’d decided that it was for the best that they didn’t. There was that whole paedophile thing too, but that had been glossed over and anyway he was found innocent.
Awoken from this wide-awake reverie by a clanging from a down-the-hall room, he stepped out into the darkness in search of the noise-source. His mind hummed with the possibility of it being a toy come to life, set on terrorizing the family home. Then he remembered that this was one of the plot features in a novel by a famous and controversial writer that someone had once told him about. He tracked down the errant audio and found it to simply be a window gently creaking in and out of its brackets in the evening breeze. On returning to his bedroom Robert’s phone rang in his pocket. His wife was calling, presumably to say goodnight. He let the mobile ring off, his own music playing from it. Polyphony faded into silence. He lit a cigar and watched himself smoking in the mirror then slipped into a pair of monogrammed boxer shorts. The evening had filled him with a tangible sense of inertia; being alone was something that other people did, something that the perennially busy selfishly longed for. It turned out that being alone, if all you did was swim and vaguely watch a movie you had no interest in and think about a stranger’s genitals, wasn’t that interesting. Tomorrow, he told himself, he would venture out into Chicago in disguise and become a tourist for the day – perhaps eating ice cream on the Navy Pier or straddling the skydeck at the top of the Sears tower – and when he got home he might do a bit of gardening or invite and old school friend over for a beer and reminiscing package. It wouldn’t be much, but it’d be something for him to note in his diary.
So a few months back Elijah and Skilliam were kind enough to do an interview with me for my other blog (http://ablankcassette.blogspot.com). Now they making waves. Check the website for new rekkids, t shirts and SLIPMATS. Who doesn’t love Butterz?
can’t decide which dude is best
It’s that time of year again people when I regale you with tales of a week spent in Barcelona, primarily at the Primavera Sound festival. Sadly/luckily (delete as appropriate) this time, none of us ended up tearing IV drips out of our arms in hospital or being assaulted by riot police for pissing in a highly ornamental doorway. We did, however, spend the week drinking San Miguel, eating chorizo and using the phrase ‘pum pum dive’ non-stop.
We arrived in Barcelona at some point in the early evening and navigated our way to the Yellow Nest hostel (two quick deviations from our narrative: 1) the BCN Metro system is a dream. A total and utter dream to use. Cheap, fast, air conditioned. 2) Anyone wanting to visit the city should stay at the Nest, the place is a total and utter dream to visit. Cheap, hot showers, PRIMO BABES ON THE RECEPTION DESK). It felt good to be back in the sweltering, lightless dorm rooms, and to head up to the roof terrace surrounded, as it is, by municipal flats, youngsters learning the recorder, and rabid dogs prowling around on terracotta tiles.
After unpacking and generally just fannying around for a bit, we (me, Jess, Hannah, Jake, Emma, Jess, Joe, Gunning) bowled down to the nearest place still selling alcohol, picked up a few litres of Xibeca beer, the mythical Don Simon wine boxes and some actually pretty rank but briefly very popular lemon based lager called Damm Limon. As a group we made our way to Mammas Pizza, a nice lil’ joint a few streets away from the Nest. We proceeded to stay there for about 3 hours, drinking endless bottles of Frexinet cava and discussing rape/gypsy attacks/Damilola Taylor/Michael Jackson. It wasn’t as cringey as that makes it sound, I swear.
Not really sure what happened after that, I think we just drank some Don Simon and then went to bed.
Now, as lovely as last years holiday was, we spent the entirety of it just lying hungover in either the hostel or on the beach. This year we decided to see a bit more of the city so after having marked pretty much every page in our guidebook, we headed down to Montjuic (Jew Mountain). This isn’t just any ordinary mountain though. No way. You have to get on some Space Mountain shit to get up there. Then in a rickety cable car. Once you’re up there, BOOM, you’re soaking in the LITERALLY incredible views of the city, wandering round the castle, eating ice cream, drinking beer, popping into the Olympic stadium for a bit, admiring the mothefucking palace that houses the city’s major art gallery, gown down the mountain on escalators, sitting in fountains. Basically the place is like something from a dream, but a good one, not one when you’re
After the mountain sojourn, we queued up for our wristbands for the festival. Took an absolute age but it was good to see that everyone waiting to go inside the venue looked as if they check Pitchfork daily. After getting our wristbands on we all headed to some grotty but awesome park for the second kebab of the day. The first had been at Pitta Hut on the seafront, this was at Bang Bang Zoom Kebab House or some shit like that on Las Ramblas. The durum de pollo tasted heavenly, literally heavenly. We had a few cans, a little zooty and we were good to go and see Los Campesinos!, a band I hadn’t previously been huge on. It was a combination of the lead singers voice and they way he sings the word ‘gullet’ (one of the worst words in the english language, FACT). But actually, in the cramped, sweaty Apollo, they were really good fun. And no homo but that girl on keyboards is buff as hell. So when they went into the crowd for the encore I took my chance and grinded on her and then worried that I’d just committed light frottage.
After that we tried to meet the Infamous Irish Boys at Club KGB. The only problem with this plan was that Club KGB is no longer open. So we sat on the pavement outside looking into the metal grates, willing them to open for us just so we could listen to D’n’B and breakcore all night. They didn’t though and instead we just watched a near paralytic Jess transform into the world’s happiest woman as she stumbled down side streets shouting about zooty parties. Got back to the hostel, probably drunk some more like the hardmen we are.
Ahhhhh! Primavera day! I think we all went down to BCN beach for a few hours of ray catchin’ and swimming. Well, me, hannah and jake swam, everyone else pussied out for fear of floating AIDS needles or something.
We got to the festival site and me and Jake watched Bis. Yeah, they were fun live. Manda Rin’s looking her ago though, poor girl. Headed to the super mall (pronounced ‘mall, not ‘moll’) for a couple of cheese burgers and super strength lager before running (well, jogging) back to the festival to see The Fall. No one else was up for it which was a relief as I was incredibly worried that Mark E Smith was going to come on stage, piss on the crowd, give himself an enema and get the words wrong to The Classical. Instead he came on, chewing gum frantically throughout, and blew me away. I hate the word but his band were ludicrously ‘tight’.
After The Fall we all reconvened to watch the XX. Initially I wasn’t sure about this choice as I grew tired of the record after a few listens but yeah, it was good. I mean, it sounded exactly like having the album on quite loudly but it worked. Props to the bass player looking like an actual greased up rapist. They could do with a bit more stage presence really, but I guess that having fun would be the antithesis of their all important image.
Broken Social Scene were up next. Yeah, the new record (‘World Sick’ apart) is total unmemorable shit but they were pretttay, prettay good. If a little indulgent. Sorry for the scant report but all I remember is pissing up a hill as 7/4 Shoreline started and running down, piss streaming down my legs probably, to hear it. And lots and lots of very long guitar solos. Oh, and Owen Pallett joined them for a few songs. Which was nice.
Pretty sure we just slammed down more four euro pints until Pavement came on. Ah, Pavement. Not particularly great were they? I mean, yeah, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain is a pretty great slice of summer slacker indie, but nah, not worth the hype. The older portion of the crowd (and Primavera seems to be a festival dominated by the over 30s, which is a genuinely Good Thing) seemed to be loving it. Sort of glad I saw them but mainly just to say that I once saw Pavement.
More alcohol, then bang, we headed down to the Vice stage to catch Moderat do their heads-down-stare-at-laptop-at-all-times-ensure-you-don’t-smile-at-any-point thing. And it was good. A New Error sounded as excellent as you imagine it would by the sea in Barcelona at 4am. Highlight of the set: Jake busting out every dance move in his possession and telling us that a) “I don’t hear music…I see patterns” and b) “fuck the rhythm, I don’t need one”.
Metro home. Bed.
I hate wallowing in a hangover. Hate it. Why would you want to lie in bed all day feeling shit? WHY? So being unable to sleep for more than four hours after a night out, I got up really early, did the food shop, dossed around on the roof terrace and waited for the others to get up. They did, we ate lunch and then I got the Metro down to Parc el Forum to see motherfuckin’ Owen Pallett. It was glorious. Absurdly, incredibly, stupidly brilliant. Except for that creepy dude Owen got to play guitar. His odd, affected, spasmodic style of playing/moving made me feel quite uncomfortable. But other than that it was a 10/10 show. He did all the big hits off Heartland (aka the best record of 2010), some of the best Final Fantasy tracks and a cover of Odessa by Caribou which made the girl in front of me nearly faint with pleasure.
After OP finished I had a few hours to wander round the near empty site. It was a bit depressing really, just damp concrete and the smell of stale San Miguel. And lots of guys with beards and glasses eyeing up expensive band t-shirts. I caught a bit of Harlem, saw the New Pornographers do their only good song and then watched the end of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s set. Wished I seen more because the girls in that band are FINE.
Caught up with everyone and saw Best Coast. Hmmm. She doesn’t really work ‘live’ like most lo-fi fuzzy indie-pop stuff. The lack of sonic hiss pretty much reveals how she’s got one song that she constantly re-writes. Basically No Age but she sings about hanging out with rad boys who like skateboards rather than skateboarding and hanging out with rad girls. oh and she did a cover of So Bored by Wavves. LOL! HOW META! BECUASE GEDDIT, WAVVES HAD A MELTDOWN AT PRIMAVERA LAST YEAR! AND THE WAVVES MAN IS HER BOYFRIEND! She’s pretty fit though.
A massive drinking session/kebab with a bloke who probably was a rapist followed. Luckily the East 17 Rapist buggered off when we excluded him from our circle and was soon replaced by a wolf. Not just any wolf though. No, Jambi was an albino wolf who belonged to a drug dealing squat dweller. Jambi’s sole purpose in life was to protect his owner (though ‘owner’ is a term he would probably refute, as after all, ownership is theft) from rampaging neo-nazis. We were put in charge of him whilst the squatter went off to buy Jake a ‘superpill’. We chilled with that wolf, a pissed wolf, a wolf who had been drinking 60 cent wine, like we were the coolest fuckers in BCN. We probably were. The squatter came back and he and Jambi walked out of our lives forever. We swapped him for Les Savy Fav. LSF are a band way better live than on record and you know what you’re gonna get from them. in a good way.
I saw Shellac next, the others saw Cold Cave. Fuck Cold Cave, I wanted to see Steve and the boys hammer out some stupidly taught mathrockwhateverthefuckitis stuff for half an hour to a crowd that seemed to scared to move. They started with Prayer to God, the rest is a blur.
It was crunch time after this. A few of our group had been jizzing themselves over the prospect of seeing Major Lazer, a group I’ve long dismissed as ironic ragga for middle class art students (Oh, I am SO edgy!). They clashed with The Pixies. I don’t really like the Pixies because I’m stuck in that stage where I refuse to listen to canonical bands but I thought I’d go and see them for a laugh. Instead I heard one song from inside a toilet and ran down to the front of the Pitchfork stage to meet the others. I made the right choice. Aging, balding rockers playing the same songs they’ve been doing for twenty years or two hours of grinding, pum pum diving, batty-whinin’, Jess posting on the FUCKING STAGE on her Blackberry, non-stop dancing, some bloke with a blonde mohican shouting WE PARTY EVERY DAY! WE PARTY EVERY DAY!? Yeah, that’s right, it’s obvious isn’t it.
Joker followed. I’d been pumped for this since he was announced a few weeks back as I’ve been a fan for a year or so now. I’ve got fond memories of him destroying the Goldsmiths student union with his bass heavy multicolour synth ejaculations so the thought of seeing him do his thing in front of a few thousand people was almost too much. He came on, looking dapper in a tweed jacket and crisp white shirt (as opposed to his normal XXXXXXL tee/purple cap) and did his usual purple wow thing - you know the drill: liquid melodies snaking round obese basslines, the odd vocal weaving in and out of the mix etc. He had the, if I’m being honest, fucking pointless MC Nomad with him which detracted somewhat. He played for a bit too long, but it was nice to hear Digidesign at least twice.
Joker bounced off stage, I went for a beer and when I came back Diplo was playing the Cirlce of Life from the Lion King. For the next two hours he played all sorts of rad stuff but the highlight was hearing Sunchyme by Dario G. Now, I’m not entirely sure if he actually played this, but in my head he did and in my head it was the most joyful moment of the decade so far. Think we made it to about half five before getting the Metro back.
I’ve actually got no recollection of what we did in the daytime. I remember we went to the mall for a nice sit down dinner at Pasta City. Ugh. Never order the cannelloni from Pasta City. The garlic bread with mozzarella was delightful though, so I musn’t grumble. This was at about eight o’clock, so I’m not sure how we didn’t see a single band before midnight. Oh. Now I remember: we hit the caffeine pills. Real drugs are for losers, who needs MDMA when you can do 500mg of caffeine instead? The side effects include uncontrollable spams that result in kicking over bottles of cava, the constant fear of shitting yourself, and numb legs. But other than that I’d recommend it.
Me, Jake and Jess saw Sunny Day Real Estate which was good. Chugging 90s emo performed by sad looking middle-aged men is always going to be a winner. I think it was after SDRE that I fell down a mountain of piss and ended up smelling like a tramp all night.
NEXT UP OMG IT WAS THE FUCKING PET SHOP BOYS!!!!!! Literally the best thing I’ve ever seen, so I can’t really sum it up in words (it was my second epiphany of the holiday; both involved me realizing that, sometimes, language cannot convey feeling. It is inadequate). But basically they played all the hits, did an incredible cover of Viva la Vida by Coldplay (which the crowd spunked themselves over), wore rad costumes, had fantastic dancers, and, for a few songs at least, essentially made me rethink my atheist standpoint.
Nothing was going to top them, so I got a hot dog and listened to a bit of Orbital’s set, which seemed to consist of the fattest kick drum of all time and Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle.
Jess and Hannah bailed like total wimps, which left me, emma and jake to soak up the last of Primavera Sound 2010. This involved standing at the front for Fake Bloods never ending, pretty boring electro/dubstep set, buzzing on caffeine pills and drinking up all our remaining beer tokens.
The set ended. The sun was coming up. The ground was covered, literally covered, in empty beer cups. People sat on the floor, not wanting to return to the real world, wishing they could be cocooned in Primavera’s otherworldly embrace forever. But we had to leave, had to get on the metro, had to get back to the hostel, had to sleep.
I have literally no recollection of what we did this day apart from seeing the magic fountain and watching jess cry because it was too emotional.
Montjuic again. The olympic swimming pool. A sauna. A steam room. Endless swinging dicks. A ramble down the hill. Mammas pizza. A zooty party. Bed.
Rather than seeing the rest of the city, we lied in a dark, stinking room watching The Mummy and the Mummy Returns before getting the plane back to Gatwick and a taxi back to New Cross.
So yeah. The best week of my life. Even if I said that last year.