Artists Of The Year

From escapist entertainment to aesthetic ecstasy: Twenty-nine writers script valentines to twelve months of culture

Le Tigre explode that dichotomy. Their shimmy-shimmy-cocoa-punk manages to fold thigh-licking riot-disco into the tradition of Rough Trade art-pogo--name-dropping Billie Jean King, Mia X, Vaginal Cream Davis, Joan Jett, Gertrude Stein, and the Slits in the process. And just when Sleater-Kinney was sinking into self-parody. Phew! I dig Le Tigre's Diallo rap, which they did on tour this year, and the NYPD rap sheet Hannah and bandmate Johanna Fateman ran down in their remix of Atari Teenage Riot grrrl Hanin Elias's "GSK." But the more dogmatic stuff on Le Tigre doesn't hit me as hard as tracks like "My My Metrocard," which revels in the chant "Oh, fuck Giuliani/He's such a fucking jerk/Shut down all the strip bars/Workfare/Does not work," only as much as it revels in the joys of forward motion, ass-shake, and the democratic discovery of rock 'n' roll fun.

"We are for the large shape/Because it has the impact of the unequivocal," goes a sample from one of Le Tigre's kicky little groove thangs. When the fringes of the culture stop hurling large shapes at the center, when stewing in your own juices means more than changing your world, when punk loses the pop values that turn our collective crank--then the music threatens to disappear completely, imploding in a nova of puritanism and pomp. And that just won't do--not against EMI-Warner, not against Tom Delay. Not for any future I wanna be a part of.

Jon Dolan is reviews editor of Spin.

Trevor Collis


by Robert Christgau


Let's cut to the chase here. On the very first track of The Marshall Mathers LP, the rapper Eminem, who sometimes assumes the sobriquet "Slim Shady," reveals all we need know about his "music" by concluding: "Slim Shady is fed up with your shit, and he's going to kill you." All that remains to be explained is why he wasn't immediately arrested for this clear and present threat to the well-being--nay, the very lives--of the seven million innocents seduced into purchasing his CD by a terminally cynical entertainment-industrial complex.

Red light. Just kidding, folks. What, you couldn't tell? Of course you could (I hope). I'm a critic and I've been to college, and thus belong to a cultural class that's expected to deploy "irony" on occasion. Rappers aren't, and without further reference to the incalculably subtle varieties of rhetorical indirection ingrained in a people who've been down so long it looks like up to them, let me point out that not even Lynne Cheney believes Marshall Mathers/Eminem/Slim Shady means to kill all seven million of his fans. In fact, she doesn't believe he wants to kill her. And one of the many reasons I love Eminem is that in the latter instance she may be wrong. Eminem can't be contained, controlled, or fully comprehended. And that, I thought, is the way good art is supposed to be.

Too often in hip hop, rage, especially against women, is merely a convention. It's unexamined, and thus brutal. When Eminem rhymes about raping his mother or murdering his wife, it's not. Eminem unpacks rage, and the conventionalizing of rage; he's deeply frightening, yet at the same time devastatingly funny, and not only because he could make Lynne Cheney shit chads. Does every one of his seven million understand that he's representing rather than advocating? Of course not--but the number that does is lower by a factor of 100 than the population of pundits who never listen to hip hop yet assume Eminem is destroying America's moral fiber.

None of this would mean much if Eminem didn't rhyme complexly and rap lucidly, meld rhythmic instinct with melodic savvy. It's interesting too that he's white--and that black hip hoppers respect him anyway. But the most compelling thing about him is the clueless moralists he pisses off left and right. The chorus of blame reveals all we need know about America's moral fiber, and what it reveals is a real bummer.

Village Voice senior editor Robert Christgau recently published Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s, as well as paperback reissues of his collections Any Old Way You Choose It and Grown Up All Wrong.


by Matthew Wilder


Grab an actress off the street in New York City and you'll be guaranteed at least one thing: a James Toback Audition Story. But, libel laws being what they are, I can recount no more here than to say that Toback--who once wrote and directed an autobiographical movie called The Pick-Up Artist--seems never to have met a superego that he actually liked. Basing his career on his near-namesake Rojack, the self-destructive princeling at the center of Norman Mailer's An American Dream, Toback thrives on putting himself (and his characters) in no-win situations. And this is precisely what prepped him to deliver the best Hollywood movie of the year 2000: Black and White.

In his amazingly literate voiceover commentary on the Black and White DVD, Toback sums up his masterwork thus: "The movie does what hip-hop does: It takes iconographically charged images and words and characters, spells them differently, exclaims them, splashes them out with bold colors, psychologically and emotionally and linguistically, to the point of having Claudia Schiffer walk into the bathroom to look at the dick of Power of Wu-Tang Clan as he takes a piss--and making that feel like the most casual move anyone could make."

« Previous Page
Next Page »