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Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Wax-beat word buffet

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2000 at 12:00 AM

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 can’t go wrong with local listening.

By demographics and genre, it’s not a foregone conclusion that URB would feature Slum Village over ghetto tech. But on the verge of reschooling hip-hop ears nationwide, what’s surprising is that Slum Village’s T3 repeats the "less-is-more" mantra that explained techno’s 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 can’t 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. URB’s 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 you’ll be labeled wack." It’s 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 aren’t excessive, although neither one satisfies the odd fascination which makes Mills such a star. Scott Sterling’s article in URB looks juicier, but covers old territory, as a kind of beginner’s 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. XLR8R’s Beverly May gets half as many words as Sterling, but far more of them speak with Mills’ peculiar, paradox-manipulating voice.

In the end, it’s hard enough to know what’s going on with scenes, genres and influences under normal conditions. That’s why we have music magazines in the first place, right? But when two seemingly different magazines converge so strongly, you’d think there’s some big shift happening that makes music-as-normal impossible. Don’t settle for just one road map this time.

Marc Christensen writes about books and music for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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