Check In w/ the Blue Mirror


"What a f*cking family picture"

When we say dubscience, the science we talk to is a conjuring way. It steals the lost from where they were, brings them back transformed. We have nothing to write today about the greatness of the island dub, though ('xcept indirectly we will, because how can we avoid it really -- that's the power that takes over and fills our fingertips with someone else's words). Instead we write about William Attaway, who rises again through the juju of Lil Wayne.

:: lights cigar ::
:: mixes vodka w/ a spritzer ::

William Attaway wandered his life up into a story that has been ignored by biographers. Literary types think of him as a two novel footnote. Brovah gains no mention, for instance, in the 8 volume Cambridge History of American Literature. No matter how infrequently we say his name, there is an accumulation of wisdom in what he left behind when he walked off this earth in 1986.

His second novel, Blood on the Forge, is built on the rock foundation of the blues, and is most famous for being misremembered by Ralph Ellison for its failings, when its strengths are partly in its single-minded failing to rise up with more than the world offers to those who are displaced. In BotF, you wake at four, you piss on a rock, you hate your boss, you lose your woman, you lose your land, you lose your strength, you lose your sight, you lose the will to sing, and you find yourself going away with no place in mind in the company of blind men who are hearing things. Ain't no transendence to a greater humanity.

On his journey, Attaway collected calypsos and children songs. He wrote for early tv. And he gave Harry Belafonte the words the words of the dawn, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song.)"

Harry Belafonte is another misremembered one, because of our problems w/ authenticity. Today's ear places him far from the street. That's a mistake. Like Attaway, he's a rover and holds the gift of crossover, a power much admired by the loa. The one who brings him back needs to remember much, including his genius for funding the early civil rights movement.

We forget that Calypso, a creole masterpiece, was as big as Michael Jackson in the early days of the ellpee. It's centerpiece, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is tossed into the crates w/ the novelty songs, samples for sports chants and other negligibles. We should hear it the way we do, of course. But we should be wondering it's constantly returning power, like the smell of honey. And we should think of the juju that created that power.

"Dayo" is a work song. Tally my bananas, Mr. Tallyman, I want to go home. You'll hear that song over and over again when you thumb the pages of BotF. And you sing it yourself at quittingtime, whether you want know it or not. But Attaway and Belafonte whip up a homegoing that is about more than just the end of the day. Like all of the great sorrow songs, this one is about leaving the world and going back across the water to find the old family, the one lost when we were displaced. It is the full tragic joy of the song, a melody and lyrics we wish we could remember more from, because then we'd be home once and for all.

So when we spin Lil Wayne's "Six Foot Seven Foot" and we hear the track dubconjure up a groove out of "Day-O," we hear all of Weezy's juju in full effect. On the one hand, it's the standard self assertion at the heart of the blues. "Tell them b*tches I say put my name on the wall./I speak the truth, but I guess that's a foreign language to y'all." Wayne is always capable of taking the form up higher, though, crossing over "like a subject and a predicate."

But then watch how he do:

You don't want start Weezy, 'cause F is for finisher.
Mo misunderstood, but what's a world without an enigma?
Two b*tches at the same time, snchronized swimmers.
Got the girl twisted 'cause she open when I twist her.
Never met the b*tch, but I fuck her like I missed her.
Life is b*tch, and death is her sister.
Sleep is her cousin, what a f*ckin' family picture.

Now he's working the other hand. This is more than the stuff of workingstiff battlerap. Weezy's f*cking w/ the two most powerful women, life and death, synchronized swimmers of the large sea. By the end, all the Guédé are around him and he's in the center. And he's crossing back and forth in a fully breathed exercise of death and fertility that brings Attaway's work back across the water in new form. Work it, bruh bruh.

Daylight's coming.

It can't stop. And it won't stop.

That's what we mean when we say 'til the breakadawn. Ya dig?

Here's the bullets for this clip.


Ain't No Telling

:: lights cigar ::
:: pours a little liquor on the ground ::

We blew the dust off some John Hurt songs this morning, and were struck over and over by the way Hurt's soft spoken approach to the blues mixes up w/ the gangsta sh*t he sings about.

By the end of "Got the Blues (Can't Be Satisfied)," he's done some damage:

I said, "Baby, what makes you act this a way?"
I said, "Baby, why did you act this a way?"
Says I won't miss a thing she gives away.

Took my gun and I broke the barrel down.
Took my gun and broke the barrel down.
Put my baby six feet in the ground.

I cut that joker so long deep and wide.
Cut that joker so long deep and wide.
Yet got the blues and I can't be satisfied.

When we think dissatisfied, we think the full-throated "I feel like snapping a pistol in your face" hollered by Muddy Waters. John Hurt's soft droning on the guitar and sweet, near whisper make an understated haunt, not the usual volume that cuts a a backdoor man deep and wide. You can make up a catalog of this quiet violence when you dig through the Hurt stacks.

He delivers it the same way he delivers the much more matter of fact.

The way I'm sleepin,' my back and shoulder's tired.
The way I'm sleepin,' Babe, my back and shoulder's tired.
The way I'm sleepin,' my back and shoulder's tired.
Gonna turn over try it on the other side.

Hurt mixes the sweet and everyday in his menace. It sticks in our mind because we can't reconcile it. It's like killing someone because he took your hat. It's also not the voice of someone whose seen trouble all his days. It's the voice of someone who puts trouble after trouble behind, as easy as you can flirt w/a mermaid. But the more we listen, the more we think that's the all about it. It leaves us uneasy in an at ease way. Are you feeling it? Turning around is about the turning, not the next new direction you strike. All directions carry you to your grave. Turning around is the move of the most powerful loa. It's John Hurt's move.

It's in this sense that we understand "Spike Driver Blues."

With that in mind, we turn back and restudy John Hurt. With each turn we find ourselves satisfied. So we're loading the clip with some John Hurt bullets:
  • "Got the Blues (Can't Be Satisfied)," 1928.
  • "Big Leg Blues," 1928. Rambling because he's tired of a leg over his in the morning.
  • "Candy Man," 1928. In anticipation of the candy shop, where you can get a lollipop f/ 50¢. "It don't melt away. It just gets better, so the ladies say."
  • "Blue Harvest Blues," 1928. Dread when there should be none.
  • "Spike Driver Blues," 1928. Turns John Henry into a reason to quit altogether. "Take my hammer and give it to the captain." Jyeah.
Gonna make it to my shanty 'fore day.