The week in review
On Christmas eve, 18-year old Joshua Davis was shot dead in the West Englewood section of Chicago. He was an aspiring rapper, going under the name Jayloud. He was killed in an altercation, allegedly because he was wearing a hoodie bearing the name of his close friend, the rapper Lil Jojo, himself shot to death in October. Another couple of statistics, I suppose, in a country suffering thousands of murders, the majority by guns, every year. Another couple of footnotes, I suppose, in the ongoing self-destruction wrought by poor inner city youth on themselves. But tragedy, first and last.
The only reason I know about these deaths is because of the hip hop connection. The power of hip hop, in large part, has always been the voice it gives to subaltern parts of the world, primarily the United States. This is its lifeblood and its discontent. In the present case, hip hop music played an integral part in the gang feud leading to the killings, and secured for it much broader exposure than other such — from a news perspective — sadly routine events tend to get. Hip hop can be a beautiful thing, it carries a promise of emancipation, but gnawing at its core is a despairing nihilism reflective of its brain trust. It’s enough to make you wanna holler.
The New York Times has a section up remembering notable people who died in the course of the year. I found this one on legendary graffiti writer Stay High 149 poignant, this one on Adam “MCA” Yauch incisive, and this radio clip with the great Maurice Sendak is very moving.
Keiji Nakazawa, creator of the blunt, shocking memoir of surviving Hiroshima, Hadashi no Gen (1973-1985, Barefoot Gen) also passed away this week. For those who read Danish, I wrote an obituary at Nummer9. Read a scanlation of his first work to engage the aftermath of the atom bomb, Kuroi Ame ni Utarete (‘Struck by Black Rain, 1972) here.
Last but not least, Marva Whitney, arguably the rawest vocalist to have worked with James Brown, died just before Christmas. He gruff, rousing voice lives on in legendary recording such as “Unwind Yourself” and “It’s My Thing.”
The week in review
The drive for new Caravaggios continues unabated, it seems, with the hard to believe recent attribution of about a 100 drawings and ten oil paintings from the Castello Sforza in Milan that once belonged to Caravaggio’s master Simone Peterzano. They were just published on the web by Art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli as having been executed by the baroque master. Needless to say, this would be sensational of true — no drawings by Caravaggio are known.
However, Caravaggio is rivaled perhaps only by Leonardo among artists who attract frivolous claims of sensational discovery, which come at a clip of about one a year or so. This, however, is unusually aspirational. Although Caravaggio is described in the sources as an artist who didn’t draw, working exclusively “after nature,” he is likely to have drawn at least a little, but it is still hard to believe that so many of his youthful drawings should have been in the possession of his master and have been hiding in plain sight for the better part of a century.
As Stefano Boeri from the Milan Culture Center says in this clip, the collection has been known to scholars since the collection was acquired by the municipality in 1924. Although there have been speculation about certain individual pieces, no one before has given this large a section to the master.
I haven’t studied this collection, but merely from looking at the few drawings filmed in the clip and in the promotional video at the site launched in support of the claim, it strikes me as highly unlikely that even those are by the same hand and none of the eclectic selection shown looks remotely to be of the quality of the early paintings used for comparison.
I suppose every proposal deserves a hearing, but this looks aspirational to say the least.
Remembering KMG. Excellent short appreciation by Brandon Soderbergh of the recently deceased Above The Law MCs writing, delivery and role in the group.
“Le manga en France.” Xavier Guilbert delivers another of his exemplary comics market analyses. Must-read for anything with this particular interest.
“I Used to Love Her, But I Had to Flee Her: On Leaving New York.” A little too clever in its writing for its own good perhaps, but this essay by Cord Jefferson on living in New York is still pretty spot on about certain aspects of the experience.
Dream Hampton on Frank Ocean coming out. This has been linked everywhere, but on the off-chance that you haven’t seen it, it’s a good if somewhat overblown piece of writing on this potential landmark event in hip hop culture.