Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Alexander Klein on “Ten Crack Commandments”


2007 Remaster of “Ten Crack Commandments” *

This is entry #14 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Alexander Klein (Cal State Long Beach)

Artwork: Notorious B. I. G., “Ten Crack Commandments,” from Life After Death [1997]. Voice, Sampler, Drum Machine.

Words: Ornette Coleman’s Something Else! starts a thread in jazz that winds throughCharles Mingus’ Live at Antibes and ties itself in a knot with Eric Dolphy’s 1964 Out to Lunch. The horns sound like a hyperactive sibling trying to yank the hair out of the rhythm section’s head. Biggie creates a slow-moving version of this tension—chaos pushing against an unswerving framework. The beats run like clocks, and Biggie bends rhymes all around them. The effect is a stumbling swagger that fits his stories of keeping ahead of unpredictable violence, and makes his sometimes odious lyrics that much more menacing.

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