If your intellect is piqued when two magazines that normally cover different territory suddenly converge on several related stories simultaneously, start here especially if you also like having your ego stroked by having the focus of attention in your own backyard.
This summer, the hip-hop-flavored abstract message of URB collides with the indie West Coast turf of XLR8R on several Detroit features. Both magazines offer feature stories on Jeff Mills, and while URB trips to Slum Village, XLR8R aims its ear at the now-established ghetto tech scene. Reading both in a single sitting will convince you that whether you aim your antennae to the East Side or the West Side, you cant go wrong with local listening.
By demographics and genre, its not a foregone conclusion that URB would feature Slum Village over ghetto tech. But on the verge of reschooling hip-hop ears nationwide, whats surprising is that Slum Villages T3 repeats the "less-is-more" mantra that explained technos emergence from Detroit a generation ago. He praises the relative quietude of the hip-hop scene here: You go to someplace like New York and certain spots is just hip hop all day. I cant think with 100 guys rapping in my ear.
The Slum Village article is a great place to explore the interconnected territory at large, as SV addresses the ghetto tech and booty scene that XLR8R actually covers. URBs reporter notes that "SV has also found that being silly (or even multidimensional) in a world of meticulously crafted hip-hop personas means that sometimes youll be labeled wack." Its hard, then, not to think of near-local Green Velvet better known as Cajmere who is also covered in both these magazines.
Even two articles on Mills arent excessive, although neither one satisfies the odd fascination which makes Mills such a star. Scott Sterlings article in URB looks juicier, but covers old territory, as a kind of beginners guide to Mills history. But it fumbles the ball by accepting at face value that Mills gets no respect in Detroit because advance ticket sales for Mills cancelled gig last Thanksgiving were slow. XLR8Rs Beverly May gets half as many words as Sterling, but far more of them speak with Mills peculiar, paradox-manipulating voice.
In the end, its hard enough to know whats going on with scenes, genres and influences under normal conditions. Thats why we have music magazines in the first place, right? But when two seemingly different magazines converge so strongly, youd think theres some big shift happening that makes music-as-normal impossible. Dont settle for just one road map this time.
Marc Christensen writes about books and music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].