The passing of the great trumpetist Donald Byrd last week brought me back to his music, but also to the music that taught me about him. The great jazz-inflected wave of hip hop music during those magical years in the early nineties, before sampling laws changed the direction of the art, relied in no small measure on his music. Here’s my time machine. Continue reading ‘Donald Byrd in Hip Hop’
The prices of art are a nebulous issue, and this is clearly an incredible sum, but we are dealing with a masterwork of the highest order by one of the greatest artists of the Western tradition. In other words: if a drawing had to fetch this price, it could be a worse one. As I wrote in September, this drawing, preparatory for one of his greatest and most iconic works, the late Transfiguration (finished 1520), shows the master at his peak for this type of highly rendered study. To me is clearly of higher quality than the Head of a Muse sold in 2009.
There’s plenty of speculation online as to who bought it, with the famous Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich apparently being the main candidate. That Raphael should join Fernando Torres in Abramovich’s trophy room I find a little sad, especially considering that the drawing was previously available to the public at Chatsworth where it was part of the Devonshire collection. This is to great a treasure to have disappear from public view, but one can at least hope that whoever acquired it will be generous toward loan requests.
I can only kick myself for not having been able to get down and see it when it was on display in the Late Raphael show in the Prado this summer. I saw the exhibition in its current incarnation at the Louvre the week before last, and there they had unfortunately not been able to retain the section devoted to the Transfiguration. It is still a fantastic show however, that I urge you to go and see.
Also in comics, the Hooded Utilitarian’s five-year Anniversary of Hate! has brought some good criticism to the table. I liked in particular Steven Grant’s essay on bad comics and why the field still makes sense as a vocation. Plus! HU has reprinted Ng Suat Tong’s notorious Comics Journalessay from 2003 on why the EC New Trend comics are among the most overrated in the canon, supplemented by a back-and-forth on the issue with R. Fiore.
Meanwhile in hip hop, I really enjoyed what El-P had to say about Nas’ classic debut album Illmatic (1993) in this otherwise rather dumb list of best albums of the nineties, and I totally dug this video of a young Kanye West rapping with his mom.
Music! So as I wrote, good to be back. And there’s a bunch of new, homegrown music out. Up there’s my man Ras Money’s first stab at deejaying on wax. He’s no Sizzla, but he represents his neighborhood Nordvest 2400 fresh as can be. Cop the 7″. The big event, of course, is the retun of local heroes Malk de Koijn with their first album in nine years. It’s a little conservative for my taste, but they still sound like nobody else, and the opening track “Nalk” goes hard.
One of my last shows in New York was Nas performing at Rock the Bells on Governor’s Island. A mostly triumphant return to form, if one steeped in nostalgia. One of the most talented if also erratic MCs of all time, it is rewarding to revisit his back catalogue via Complex Magazine’s “100 Best Nas Songs” feature. Ludicrous premise, but great and extremely thorough showcase with plenty of obscure gems featured, and some good writing to boot. (Old link, I know, but good).