Yep, I earn my share of dot-com dollars, too?no sense in fronting like I'm not a Beck fan. I'd rather be associated with proud, conscious yuppies than with white brats who think despising their whiteness repudiates racism. Last week I got an anonymous e-mail from a reader in the throes of such an identity crisis. He wrote: "Were you serious about MC Paul Barman? He is the poster child for why white people shouldn't MC. My god, it was painful listening to his pale whine." Oy, the agony. No doubt this guy is a big Company Flow fan. "Conscious hiphop" heads admire that group's white MC, El-P, who sounds black while rapping on topics like what a horrible country America is (on the rock-critic-lauded "Patriotism"). Like Beck, the guy knows how to milk his market. Meanwhile, Company Flow's erstwhile MC of color, graf historian Bigg Jus, who harbored reservations about courting that very market, was nudged out of the group (an injustice covered up with some unwitting help from Spin). White hiphop is problematic, true dat.
Bigg Jus is now a solo artist on a new indie label called Sub Verse, which he also reps A&R for and co-owns. The company hasn't released any records yet, but in '99 it put on a few shows at S.O.B.'s, all organized by Fiona Bloom. She's one of Jus' two partners in Sub Verse and apparently the only person in post-Tramps Manhattan who can put on a hiphop show where all the artists on the bill show up, sound good and get paid. The first Sub Verse showcase of 2000 will be Tuesday at the Nuyorican, featuring Atlanta's Micranots, Perth Amboy's Scienz of Life, someone called Yejide the Night Queen and Invincible, the white rapper from the all-female New York crew Anomalies. Catching Beck on Valentine's, then some of the underground's better half the next night, might make for a start toward that ever-just-out-of-reach hiphop goal: resistance without hate. (2/15, 236 E. 3rd St., betw. Aves. B & C, 505-8183, $6.)
Of course the 21st-century version of Public Enemy is about to burst on the scene. It'll be interesting to see how the mainstream music press?who gave Public Enemy a very tough ride during their prime, badly underrated their most recent album, yet loves the group deeply in retrospect?will react to mighty Dead Prez. Their current single, titled simply "Hiphop," is flat-out awesome, the best five bucks I've spent all year, blending that abrasive "You're Gonna Get Yours" buzz with a New York take on down-South rhyme flow, throwing like lyrical Molotovs some of the fieriest liberation rhymes since Poor Righteous Teachers. Early indication of how Dead Prez's album Let's Get Free (scheduled for release March 14 ) will go over: A reviewer writing in the March issue of The Source quoted "Hiphop"'s climactic lines?"Would you rather have a Lexus, or justice?/A dream, or some substance?/A Beemer, a necklace, or freedom?"?without realizing that Dead Prez meant those questions rhetorically.
It's doubly interesting that the militant challenge is resurfacing right now, given that there are new releases this season that actually attack the hiphop arbiters' doctrine of all-consuming materialism from an anti-intellectual stance, too. Queensbridge's Screwball (debut album Y2K out now on Tommy Boy, featuring production by Premier, Pete Rock, Marley Marl and Godfather Don) and Snoop Dogg's new group Eastsidaz (self-titled, out now on TVT) revive "realness" as first espoused by Mobb Deep. That is, they connect their extreme views and extreme sounds (Screwball is extremely raucous, Eastsidaz extremely weeded) to extreme poverty. Both these releases implicitly call the more cynical dollar-stacking of middle-class Dre, Russell Simmons and Puffy into question; it could be, after Wu-Tang, another case of the pawns taking over the game.
Lots of live hiphop this week: De La Soul, Common and Lord Finesse make for a great lineup, Thursday at Roxy, which is a great venue except for its sound, sightlines and security. (2/10, 515 W. 18th St., betw. 10th & 11th Aves., 645-5156, $25.) Prince Paul spins a set Friday at the Cooler?that'll make for a fun evening if the crowd gets loose, which it did not, at all, the last few times the incomparable Prince spun great hiphop sets for rock crowds. (My favorite was last summer's WFMU benefit at Smackmellon, where some chick brought a chair on the dancefloor so that she might repose while moronically staring at the DJ. (2/11, 416 W. 14th St., betw. 9th & 10th Aves., 229-0785, $12.) Reunited Das EFX and Black Sheep are at Wetlands next Wednesday, Feb. 16. That's a perfect example of the kind of absolute toss-up most rap shows are?who knows who'll even show up? (2/16, 161 Hudson St. at Laight St., 386-3600, $15.)
Off of hiphop now, but still on the nostalgic tossup tip: Half Japanese plays Friday at the Knitting Factory. (2/11, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B'way, 219-3055, $8.) The return of those savants reminds me to tell everyone that the evening with Benoit Mandelbrot?aka The Father of Fractal Geometry?scheduled for Friday at Cooper Union has been postponed indefinitely. Perhaps Saturday's performance of microtonal music by Newband, using homemade instruments from the Harry Partch instrumentarium, will do in its stead. (2/12, 8 p.m., at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave. at 2nd St., 969-0250, $15.)
This week's readings include one by Brooklyn novelist Peter Blauner, who offers memorable portraits of New York's tabloid media, hapless educators, immigrant students and would-be Palestinian terrorists in Man of the Hour. The book rings true?Blauner reads from it Wednesday at cozy Rocky Sullivan's bar. (2/9, 8 p.m., 129 Lexington Ave., betw. 28th & 29th Sts., 725-3871, free.) The next evening at Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble, Kathleen Turner, who offered a memorable portrait of a suburban-housewife-as-mass-murderer in John Waters' Serial Mom, demonstrates her vocal prowess as captured on a new audio collection of The Complete Shakespeare Sonnets. Now those ring true (New York Press associate editor and Shakespeare-hater Andrey Slivka wouldn't agree), and just in time for Valentine's Day. (2/10, 7 p.m., 1972 B'way at 66th St., 595-6859, free.)
I wholeheartedly concur, though, with Mr. Slivka's opinion on Valentine's Day itself. Andrey is a man who?no exaggeration?would rather re-reread his favorite Dostoevsky novels than engage in meaningless date-chat, yet, he's right: Feb. 14 brings mostly fights to couples, unwarranted pressure to dating companions and despair to lonely people. But since it's impossible to ignore this fake holiday, here are a couple events associated with it: The "Veggie Singles Dance Party," Saturday night in Tribeca (2/12, 8-midnight at 137 Duane St., #203, betw. B'way & Church St., 718-437-0190, $20 incl. drinks); the 92nd St. Y's "Swing Club"?that's jitterbugging and lindyhopping, not wife-swapping?also Saturday night (2/12, 7-midnight, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 996-1100, $15); and "Carnelitea," a "play party" for women over age 21 and s&m-curious, yet not so s&m-reticent as to preclude showing ID and signing a consent form?both of which are required for admission (2/13, 5-11 p.m.?doors close at 8?at L'Oeil Cache, 147 W. 24th St., 5th fl., betw. 6th & 7th Aves., 718-788-5122, $15.)
I feel weird previewing this next event after that last one. Then again, it's probably not against Torah law for women to spank each other, so here goes: When I heard that 84-year-old Herman Wouk, author of such WWII epics as The Winds of War and The Caine Mutiny, had written a nonfiction book aimed at young and/or secular Jews, I braced myself for a boring lecture from an out-of-touch grandpa. I didn't know that in the late 50s Wouk wrote the classic text on Judaism for American gentiles and assimilationists, This Is My God. I've read it since?it's good but out of date. Wouk's new The Will to Live On: This Is Our Heritage (Cliff Street Books) is the update and sequel?it should be in stores before the month is out. I don't want to make patronizing statements about how sharp Wouk's mind is, how piercing his vision and passionate his commitment. The man is so classy his new hardcover doesn't even have blurbs on the jacket, even though it's likely to become a classic of both Jewish literature and first-person, nonfiction writing in general. Suffice it to say that if I could write one millionth as clearly and convincingly as this pious old grandpa, you'd be on your way to reserve your copy of The Will to Live On right now. As it is, I'm honored to announce that Mr. Herman Wouk will make a rare public appearance, Tuesday at the 92nd St. Y, where he'll speak on "The State of World Jewry 2000." (2/15, 8 p.m., address & phone above, $15.)
Lastly, at the movies this weekend are Matt Seitz and Armond White?the New York Press critics least and most likely to accuse readers of jejuneness?both introducing movies at the American Museum of the Moving Image. (See Listings for details.) Another Seitz pick is Pups (see interview in this section) which opens Friday at the Sony Village East. And New York Press film critic Ed Halter wants you to know about the abstract films by Dutch artist Joost Rekveld showing at the Pratt Institute Wednesday night. Calling Rekveld "a dedicated and truly talented abstract filmmaker like they just don't make in the States," Halter says the young artist's works are "both rigorous theoretical exercises and head-trippy psychoactive excursions." The screening also features Rekveld's kinetic sculptures and the filmmaker will be there in person. So get your player-hating-on-Harmony-Korine asses out to Fort Greene, kids, and see if you can back up your convictions. (2/9, 8:30 p.m. in Pratt's Engineering Bldg, rm. 371, Dekalb Ave., betw. Hall & Classon Sts., Brooklyn, call Astria at 718-636-3422, free.)