G-Slimm – ‘Live To Be A Man’
This dangerously smooth yet angsty bildungsroman of a song came to my attention via the excellent RMBA article, ‘Remembering the Lost Heroes of New Orleans Rap’ by Torii MacAdams. G-Slimm is one such Lost Hero, a rapper who died young releasing only the one album, Fours Deuces & Trays. ‘Live To Be A Man’ is the final track, the musings of a coming-of-age gangsta who struggles with the anxieties of street life, negligent parents and wanting to be a better man. The emo, me-against-the-world vibes would seem a little overbearing on paper but the defiance in G-Slimm’s vocals feels sincere and genuinely aspirational; “It’s difficult to talk about it / So I stay in pain,” “After all the hard work, I still feel stressed.” It’s packaged with a knocking beat (that sounds more typically West Coast than New Orleans) and a crisp, sung hook that validates G-Slimm’s youthful hope and makes his early passing all the more sad.
Betty Davis – Betty Davis
This week I wanted the funk. Nothing but the best would do, and once the sound had satisfied the hunger I looked a little harder and found embedded in Betty Davis images of an alternate America. In it, scarce resources are grudgingly shared (‘Your Man My Man’) and the consecration of self-sufficiency here comes in the form of a quiet celebration of autoeroticism (‘In the Meantime’). In ‘Steppin’ In Her I. Miller Shoes’ our doomed heroine heads west only to find that her destiny was not so manifest, but the album closes with a powerful revision of the balance of sexual power in ‘I Will Take That Ride.’ Minimal instrumentation creates a soundscape in which it is easy to place the figure of the Lone Ranger, a man who, the woman is led to believe, wants to ‘high-ho [her] silver.’ For a long time I have wondered what that might look like; more significantly, in its unapologetic rendering of the cowboy as a means to an end the song establishes equilibrium, long overdue, between female desire and the implied sexual potency of this once quintessential American figure. This is a victory for those who believe in the immutable validity of the concept of “getting yours.” The listener, surely part of this group, arrives at the end of the album a very satisfied customer.
Photo: Daniel Oh