Yugen Blakrok – Iapetus Records

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

I rarely purchase music – but listening to this a couple time I had to cop it.




Well here it is, after two years of part-timing it at LaTrobe university – my honours thesis is complete. Thanks to those of you who supported me along the way, and sklang double thanks to anyone who reads this thesis and gives me feedback. Anything you notice that could be improved, don’t hesitate to let me know- this is a starting point for me, I know there is much that could be improved on, but I’d appreciate any views from the outside. Click the blue text below to check the .pdf yo!

*Sklang sounds* D-Wolf



Posted: April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Came across this MPC producer while trawling soundcloud for beats. Check him out.


The Parochial/The Universal – Questioning the Cipher and the Freestyler

Where is my subject? I have a thesis but no subject? Where are my ciphers? Where are my freestylers? Some have gone to make music? Some write. Some have forgotten hip hop. Some have lost their way? Some have found a new genre to rap inside. Some have gone ‘Pop’. Who? Who has done what? Who are the success stories and why? Who ciphers and is famous? No one. Once you reach a certain level you don’t do improv. Leave the experiments to the amateurs. Fine. This will be a thesis on amateurs. Because the professionals have long since stopped ciphering. But a tiny fraction of the amateurs rapping on the streets and in parties today will perhaps one day ‘go viral’ – they will have 15 minutes of fame or perhaps more.

One thing is for sure: this thesis will mean nothing to rappers/DJs/hip hop heads if I completely neglect to tip my hat to the masters: Flash, Kane, Guru etc.
And there are other progenitors – developers, inventors. Give credit where it is due. TOO MANY NAMES. Well, give credit to the scenes and eras rather than individuals. How do we demarcate – who decides what defines a scene/where one scene begins and another ends? Into all this uncertainty I wade. There are answers. Porco could provide some of the answers. Some guy from Stealth Magazine might provide some of the answers.

Where were the ciphers? There was one at Inkstain’s house today. There was one at Wyldcard’s house. Where Warpa!nt lives. I had a little lunchtime freestyle. I know ciphers have been going down at Flemington Community Centre. Last year I had a great time ciphering out the back of My Aeon. Take a moment to weigh what is actually there in your memory. Has something happened to freestyling your raps OR to spontaneity generally? What problems do we have with spontaneity? What mistakes do freestylers make and why do we forgive them for it? What sins do they commit? Why should we care about some amateur raps on YouTube? WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIP HOP AND RAP? Why is the ego so brutishly expressed (typically)?

What genre has changed the status quo? All have, and all have since been co-opted into the corporation: the global western capitalist culturally colonising machine. What is the status quo in freestyles? The original and loose definition seems to be making a comeback – perhaps indirectly.

Why might we dismiss the freestyle as an art form? Why is subordinated to rap and singing?

My gut is giving me loads of great questions and a few really intriguing potential answers, but I’m making bold statements about ciphers when I don’t have any fully transcribed. Still not sure what is going to be central, included, cited, peripheral and excluded from the scope of this thesis. If ciphers are central then I need a complete cipher. At least one. Preferably 100. Jokes. I need at least 10 ciphers in which each rapper raps twice. I need at least one 5 person cipher. I need at least two different female freestylers. I need to construct a representative freestyle. Is this not bordering on a theatre project?

I need to make sure freestylers shout out their names. I need to make sure the order is not broken. Those are not inviolable rules normally but I’m not really concerned with the dynamic of jumping in. Although cutting in does relate to respect, and a line could be drawn between patterns of showing respect and the identification of possible hierarchical structures.

It is exciting and fucking scary to be thinking of constructing my source material in this way. But the source material are the freestylers themselves. The source material are their vocabularies and rhythm sense, their philosophies and scruples, their egos and performance habits. Their methods.
Now for the fucking scary part: Am I too close to this? Am I breaching some criteria for assessment by having a hand in this. Dare I put my hand on the source material? How might I disassociate myself from these constructed ciphers? I need to resolve this issue NOW.

Well the source material is their existing folios of rhymes. Their texts, so to speak. Their spoken and forgotten and once again recalled literature. The advantage is that I understand ciphers as a participant. I am close to this. I can lead from the heart. The question is will I lead it to a worthwhile place?

How experimental can this get? How do I reference a cipher? Could I be bold and try to break ground here?

Important (universal) idea: how a cipher recontextualises conversation – breathes new life into what is sometimes called the ‘long lost art of conversation’. Performative elements of theatre blend with communicative elements of conversation. Words are shared with the addition of a beat, a set of cultural assumptions and the rest is up to the individual involved.

What am I looking for here? Variety! Novelty! What else do I find? The cheap bravado and mimicry of the mainstream that can be found in so much that bears the hip hop label. Many freestlyers are battle MCs (or have at least entered a battle), others have found their way to the cipher via slam poetry or simply poetry reading. There is a whole category of rappers who avoid sustained freestyles and the all-in throw improv fest of a cipher, rappers who will only deliver rap as a set piece. That is the safer route, the router with more financial options, more productive, enduring options. Better to build something that get notably closer to flawless… that can be tailored to a concept without redundancy or error – something that can be delivered to a microphone to be recorded over and over until it is a satisfactory verse for the studio track.

Variety! Novelty! The potential of rap came to me in varied and novel forms. I personally had a vague dislike of rap from no particular reason. I heard it contained a lot of swearing and I thought Kriss Kross looked kinda stupid. Salt n Pepa seemed aimed at girls and Coolio seemed to take himself too seriously. I never heard Young MC when I was younger. I never heard GMFlash or Kool Moe Dee. Australia was still awash in Rock and rock offshoots.

I heard more about personas than the raps that those personas created. However I still remember when I was converted to rap. Warren G’s Reguate, Wu-Tang, Ghetto Boyz, Ice-T, NWA all these and more came from one camp. But at the same time I was already getting wind of Anticon, Sage Francis, Def Jux, Canibal Ox, Jedi Mind Tricks and locally, TZU, Curse ov Dialect, Organic Intellect, Music vs. Physics, True Live Vibe, Illzilla, Elf and Wasabi, Combat Wombat…

And on top of that came a gradual understanding of some of the progenitors. What a variety. I was bombarded by a great variety of genres within hip hop itself. Different genres of rap. I think hip hop can be employed as some kind of umbrella term that links the indefinitely large variety of rap genres. It designates a roughly yet commonly held set of assumptions – a marketplace/battleground of ideas.

Against this battleground: are freestyles not less varied? Are they not limited by their very nature? I’m not sure if that is a problem I can address. Within the umbrella term hip hop the
definition of the words freestyle and rap could be contested, but in practice the artists who use these terms seldom have any need to contest them. They might instead contest the right of an Australian MC to rap in an American accent. Or to make references to things that are exclusively American phenomenons, or slang typically associated with Americans and specifically black Americans. Culture tend to get contested, not so much terminology. And yet I could touch upon the vagueness that besets the development of freestyles – the web of associations (some might tie it to battles, others to a revolutionaries poem, or a child dancing on the street).

At what point is someone in or out of the cipher? What about someone who only records it, or spectates? At what point does someone stop rapping and start talking? Chanting, singing, instructing, self-consciously imitating, pantomiming – how many layers can we delve into here?

“You are going to love this [fantasy media](series)! Trust me.

When the recommendations dry up or turn sour it’s time to turn to the multifarious multiforums:

Several hundred days back I found Tarol “Thunt” Hunt’s Goblins. If he was my mate I’d be well impressed, in fact I am impressed – I have recommended it to other fantasy heads. And yet I don’t get the AD&D references in there – I just pick up what I can as I go. It appeals in the most geekish way possible (and that doesn’t mean that the dialogue sucks): characters talk about their stats at moments that are ironic without trying to be too clever – just nerdy. The central characters are goblins, and regardless of tireless work and improvement on Thunt’s part, their kind of squishy. All the personalities are styled the same way:  marshmellow curves and lolly-bright colours. I can imagine it all animated by Disney … except for the bloody and celebrated violence.

             With so much popular fiction aimed at blokes (and whoever else that may get sucked in): violence is okay but nudity isn’t. Goblins appears to carry an enthusiasm for Fantasy RPG into an unpretentious epic which all on the internet are invited to share and enjoy, and that’s nothing but a cool and positive thing (sklang!)  

     But if Thunt thought that the unmutilated body has its own story, or at least its own narrative/thematic power – it doesn’t bear out in Goblins. I feel foolish even taking it so seriously, but it is such a frustrating asymmetry that makes for generic YCMF* fantasy. grisly wounds and gory deaths contrast with all the male goblins/orcs/humans running around bare chested but with the female characters they are clearly very conscious  of covering their cartoony breasts. Why goblins and snake women even have breasts is a mystery to me – are they indeed mammals? Why would they care about such things – are they influenced by human culture so much? 

      It all gets a bit much. The rule is maintained – violence is okay, nudity and candid sexuality is not. Fantasy typically offers a heavy dose of medievalisms – but its the 19th century puritanism I can’t stand. Back in the day everyone went out to watch a public execution, but  modesty was supposedly held in high esteem by all and sundry. And that’s a general point, the specific difference can be imagined in a theatre in a feudal state, a theatre in a renaissance state (reaching for the modern), and a theatre in a puritan state (what theatre? we burned all the actors in this town – pray for salvation sinner!).  

Comics are like a frozen theatre – they can confront the reader or tip-toe around anything that might offend the sensibilities of modern day puritans. And sure, violence seldom offends – the blood of the gawking crowds at Tyburn gallows, of gamblers at cock fights, of spectators at the Colosseum flows through my veins and probably yours too.

But we can question barbarity anywhere – our collective diet of blood on the screen. We can confront that nonsensical imbalance – where it’s okay for characters to have a sex-life without it being considered obscene or ‘gross’. A character hacked up with an axe is an atrocity, but if atrocities are the norm then a naked body (or for that matter a swear word) provides an interesting counter to that. What is the more sinful act? I find the concept of sin problematic at all times, but read between the lines of conventional action and fantasy stories and it is only made more so. Maybe we need to rethink what is righteous, what is cathartic and what is gratuitous. And in so doing the life of a fictional comix character can be more than the sum of its frames, where a killing has more significance than simply a removal from the plot.       

Perhaps one side of my argument can be effectively countered by saying that in this made up world adventurers live with the reality of sudden horrible deaths awaiting them and their fellows (for example one protagonist is named ‘Dies Horribly’). Indeed this consistently occurs: the events, dialogue and humour of Goblins demonstrates just how deliberately this has been done. The death of characters represents the death of RPG player-characters, with the reader having a view from the game table so to speak.

But Goblins is not an RPG, it is a webcomic. And Thunt does bring all kinds of ethical issues into his world. A highlight being when a snake woman, Kin, is rescued from a ‘hero’ who had enslaved and repeatedly raped her. She won’t be touched by anyone at first, but trust develops between Kin and the good hearted (but stupid) Minmax who stood up for her when she was a voiceless prisoner.    

         We don’t see what happened to Kin, we don’t have to. But the same could be said for ethical, consensual sex – we don’t have to see it, we can imagine it. The same could be said for murder and slaughter. So Thunt doesn’t do a flashback rape scene – understandably that’s too confronting. Adventurers kill lots of stuff so it’s not confronting, quite the opposite, it’s expected and anticipated. It is necessary. No need for sex it’s not necessary. And yet the subplot between Minmax and Kin hinges upon the act of rape. 

We can have rape but no sex – we can have hideous wounds but no bodies, only patches of skin, patches of clothes/armour. That doesn’t count as a body – it only counts as the suggestion of a body – a body apparent. But a body is not so loud a thing as rape or murder – cover it up and it is only crudely imagined. Its vulnerability is glossed over. 

       Showing a body entire reveals more of its vulnerability in a single moment than any number of scars and wounds (which immediately become aesthetic). Of course the pornographic extreme reduces bodies to mere shapes in the same way as excessive hack and slash does. Less is more, but ‘everything in moderation’. A comic inspired by a game that encourages diverse roles, diverse play, should be nothing less than open about such things.

        I do have a soft-spot for Goblins, which is why I took the time to critique it. But I won’t deny that I’m guilty about enjoying it – it hasn’t gotten us out of our 19th century prudishness. Thunt can appreciate sensitivity and restraint, and so the strange prudery stands out even more – clever traps and cool monsters but ham fists that punch out the sexual (as if it were always a monstrous rapist) and punch in the bloody murder and violence.



*Young Christian Male Friendly

Jan 25th 2012

Today I have been reading a book called Beast and Man in India by J.L. Kipling.
The subtitle ‘A popular sketch of Indian Animals in their Relations with the People’. It’s a fascinating step back to British India while at the same time a valuable collection of folklore – with every page I’m learning something new.

In Chapter 3 – ‘Of Monkeys’ – for instance, Kipling writes

A notion exists among Hindus that the English may be his [Hanuman’s] descendants through a
servant of the demon king, who had charge of Sita in captivity, and who treated the prisoner so well that Rama blessed her, prophesying that she should become the mother of a race that would possess the land, and whom Hanuman took to wife.

Well! Kind of like Manifest Destiny for the British is it not?

Vision’s Quest

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

       Seven turns of the Earth ago Vision frosted onto the eddies of night warmth – the glassy particles of celebration – craning and panning, projecting and receiving the bubbles of chatter and the happy photons free of dust. Vision remembered that his source had a light skull, compressed feet and muscles that vetoed all but the prostrate posture, a curled doze before necessity drew the body into orbit. Vision looked up at the self in the sky, or perhaps it was a dark cavernous enclosure, finite infinite aching eyelids kept the source weary regardless of napping and waking. The Vision remained pressed and trapped looked up at the next Vision, and the next and the layers grew ever finer and closer and more distinct – imprisoning perches for dirty whiffs of inspiration.

                  Sleeping, waking, dragging the body reluctantly to be entertained by a collaboration unique and sensitive, richly engaging and certain to be overlooked and taken for granted by all but one. Think of the festival today as a series of raffles – ten times ten times ten times ten people have a fat quibbler who murmurs “Good… but not great” while the happy lucky fresh folk can be counted on the fingers and toes. 

             Vision’s atoms were spheres of unstable eye membrane fashioned into hands which replicated, coagulated and devoured themselves in frightening yet sustainable bursts and beams – a transmission of information back to the sensorium-rex so efficient that search never described what Vision always did. Vision located the apocalyptic and the passe and struggled to account for either with systematic analogy. 

              The point is a black ball wreathed in corona radiations – a hot morning is suddenly cold and dark, husband holds wife and then: the height of an eclipse is sunken into the spirit denting depths of consumer spectacle culture. As if it were something scheduled, bought and paid for, a banal celebrity – idiots slowclapped a moon capped sun.

            What left the source of vision speechless? That strange consumption of an eclipse? Vision crafts a million foreheads creasing as if they had thought behind them. Memory fails.

            Eclipse is to sun as pillow is to …                        

That’s right, you know the answer. Analogise it.