Thursday, August 24, 2006

Coke Rap and The Wire

With such egregious declarations as "I don't think there's anything inherently evil or harmful about coke-rap or the movies that coke-rappers make..." I'm hard pressed to say that I always agree with Tom Breihan, writer of The Village Voice's Status Ain't Hood, but he does offer some much needed press for The Wire, one of the most intelligent shows on television in recent memory. Snakes on a Plane aside, I'm not big on cinema endorsement, but I do believe that a purchase of The Wire would do wonders for any DVD collection. Check it:

When I was walking from the subway to work this morning, I passed Andre Royo on the street. Royo plays Bubbles, the goodhearted police informer/heroin addict on The Wire, one of my favorite characters on probably my favorite TV show of all time. Seeing him walk past was weird; I don't know if I've ever felt such a sudden, overwhelming feeling of love for such a complete stranger, and it was even weirder because he was wearing a rainbow-striped sport coat and douchebaggy actor sunglasses and talking on a cell phone. I froze, but the construction worker standing next to me yelled out, "Hey ... The Wire!" Royo turned around and waved, and everyone standing on that street corner waved back, which made for a deeply strange and sort of life-affirming moment, like we were all unexpectedly united in recognizing a guy from a TV show that not many people watch.

I've been immersing myself in The Wire lately to the point where I wouldn't feel right writing about anything else today. Season four is due to start in a couple of weeks, and season three just came out on DVD, and I've been watching old episodes on On Demand and reading The Corner and making it all the way through this long-ass David Simon interview. The show has never gotten good ratings, and season four almost didn't happen, so it's sort of a miracle that it continues to exist at all; I can't tell you how amped I am to start seeing new episodes. But this is a music blog, and you'd have to stretch pretty far to say that The Wire has anything to do with music, so that's exactly what I'm about to do. When music does appear on the show, it's usually part of the background ambient noise, coming from a car radio or whatever, though every season ends with a long montage set to a song. The show has used musicians as actors: Method Man (Cheese), Fredo Starr (Bird), Big G from the Backyard Band (Slim Charles). A ton of the actors from the show have appeared in rap and R&B videos; Al Shipley listed damn near all of them recently. The show takes place in Baltimore, of course, and it gets a lot of local details absolutely right; there's a great scene in season two where Stringer Bell tells a hitman from DC that he can't stand go-go, which is how most people from Baltimore feel about DC's big indigenous genre. As for Baltimore's indigenous genre, the show used Baltimore club music long before the music started getting national press. I'd argue that the show also had something of a catalytic effect on the Baltimore rap scene, which has grown by leaps and bounds since the show started in 2002. Before the show gave the city some national visibility, Baltimore wasn't a big rap town at all; now local rappers get play on local radio and guys like Bossman are landing major-label contracts. Simon says here that they're planning on using a lot of local Baltimore music in season four, which is great, but I can't imagine it's all that interesting if you're not from Baltimore. It makes more sense to question whether the show has had any effect on rap in general and whether it should.

Continue reading here

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain this "coke-rap" terminology?

BTW I concur that The Wire is simply brilliant. It is a damn shame that it hasn't even gotten one damn Emmy.

The show is constantly evolving, taking its viewers through a series of arcs and their impact on the urban environment...From the conflict between the dealers and the cops, the politicians and the death of the working class, and this upcoming seasons main arc, the education system. This is definitely a smart and extremely well written show!!!


I wish that it were pulling more weight in the ratings but for all of you in the know, The Wire is definitely TV's best kept secret. I must admit, that feeling I get when I recognize an actor from the wire, hear a reference in a song, or find out that someone I know is also a fan of the show...simply priceless. It can only be matched by that similar feeling I get when I hear a reference to the movie Scarface.

Anonymous said...

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DJ Phinesse said...

Hello. Looking to get some press from blogs that cover Baltimore club music. Please give my tracks and mixes a listen!

http://phinesse.blogspot.com (tracks)
http://www.djphinesse.com/media.htm (mixes)

Thanks.

DJ Phinesse