Tag Archive for 'Nas'

Donald Byrd in Hip Hop

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 Week

The week in review

So, the Raphael drawing I mentioned back in September was sold at Sotheby’s London this week for a whopping £29.7 million, breaking even the astonishing record set by the previous Raphael drawing sold at auction, back in 2009. This is the highest sum ever paid at auction for a work on paper and the second-highest ever paid for an old master.

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.

  • Andrew Nosnitsky on Nas’ classic album Illmatic (which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year) and the forming of an hip hop album canon. Teaser: he regards Nas’ effort as a limited if brilliant one.
  • Very cool interview with visual futurist Syd Mead on his seminal work on Blade Runner.
  • Kailyn Kent on Bart Beaty’s new, exciting book Comics vs. Art, on the comics world and its uneasy relationship with that of fine arts, and on the great cartoonist Saul Steinberg’s equally uneasy positioning within same.
  • Oh, and Dave Brubeck RIP

    The Week

    The week in review

    Not much to report from this angle this week, apart from the fact that the Jewish new year reminds me that I’ve been back in the ole home country for over a year now. Last year’s Rosh Hashannah kind of marked a fresh return to new beginnings here and it’s been a great ride since then, one of the best years I’ve had. Thanks to everybody taking part.


  • I would like to supplement this week’s welcome announcement that Fantagraphics is going to publish Ed Piskor’s online comic The Hip Hop Family Tree with this interview with Piskor, conducted by my man PTA on said piece of edutainment.
  • 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 Journal essay 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.
  • Other (more!) comics-related links: Slavoj Žižek on The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Spurgeon on Dave Sim’s recent, depressing letter of resignation, Chris Ware on display in New York.
  • 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.
  • Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • 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).