Interview with Author & Critic Jeff Weiss
If you love music and know how to read, you read Jeff Weiss. Maybe not intentionally, as he writes for Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, Wax Poetics, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Billboard, Knife Collector, Entertainment Weekly, Dance Teacher Magazine, Resident Adviser, NME, to name just a few. He saves all his good stuff, however, for his own blog, Passion of the Weiss, which recently named Cartoons and Cereal the best hip-hop song of 2012.
What’s your favorite taco?
This is a very sad story about a taco. I was unaware that you could develop an emotional relationship with a taco, but in hindsight, I loved the soft chicken tacos at El Nopal more than any of my second cousins. Three months ago, a callous philistine of a new owner transmogrified the once juicy but never greasy tacos, into brittle and withered husks. El Nopal remains open on Motor and National, but the tacos now taste like spicy Frisbees.
This leaves the only sensible answer: Ricky’s Fish Tacos, a little stand that operates on Virgil and Sunset. It is the perfect taco: mix a little salsa verde, crispy lettuce, crema, fresh tomatoes, a steaming corn tortilla, with a buttery flakey fillet of white fish. It was the taco equivalent of Rickey Henderson in his prime. And just this week, Ricky announced that they are shutting down operations indefinitely. I’m crestfallen.
Where are you from? What brought you to (or kept you in) LA? What makes you want to leave?
I’m LA bored and raised, third-generation. My grandfather on my dad’s side moved here from New York for the weather, the women, and the weed, beating Biggie by a solid 40 years.
What makes me want to leave is rush hour traffic and when you’re just trying to inhale caffeine at your local coffee shop and you’re bombarded by an impromptu lecture from a well-meaning beardo about the proper composition of a cappuccino. So, obviously, I live in Silver Lake.
Favorite off-the-beaten-path bar/restaurant?
Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon. The water is double reverse osmosis filtered and the quartz in the gift shop costs $300, but it is the only place I know that offers dining by a creek and the option to pretend like you’re living in 1974. Beards without shame, vegan ducks, good people.
You’ve been publishing your blog for more than 7 years now. How has it changed over time and what do you consider the mission of the site to be? What’s next for the site?
My site hasn’t changed much, other than to increase the scope from a solitary man alone in his apartment with a cat named after a Jazz Age author to 14 staff members being frequently harangued to write more. The Internet itself has changed. Whereas blogs were once the province of lone gunmen who wrote once a day to share something thoughtful, funny, or rare, they’re now content mills churning out 20 posts a day. You can’t even read an interview without clicking through a slideshow. The mission of my site is to provide an alternative: to only post what I believe is excellent and to never take itself seriously. What’s next for the site is all 3D, all the time and a YouTube channel featuring cats doing the Harlem Shake.
You’re very prolific, write for a wide range of publications, and run your own site and host a Podcast. What is a typical day like?
It’s pretty much like Snoop Dogg’s version of “Lodi Dodi.” Except with a little more yoga.
Who is your audience? Do you tailor your writing depending on who you perceive that audience to be? What do you think is the role of a journalist/reviewer in the greater musical landscape?
My audience is the narcotically inclined and those who love them. I occasionally tailor my writing to the audience of a particular publication, but I refuse to go so low as to tailor it to the Taylor gang audience—which is harder than you’d think for someone who views Curren$y as one of the great role models of our time. The purpose the journalist/reviewer is to be as honest as they can, so long as you remember what Oscar Wilde said: if you tell the truth, be funny, or else they’ll want to kill you.
Have you ever had a review or interview just go horribly wrong (at the time, or in retrospect)?
Once I interviewed Butch Cassidy, Nate Dogg’s cousin about Nate’s comatose state. He is tremendously large and scary-looking and was smoking a blunt which he did not offer to me and when I asked him if Nate Dogg had health care, he shot me back a glare that was more menacing than any scene from “Regulate.” I think that was a “No.”
RIP Nate Dogg.
Can you break up hip hop in to defined eras? How many have there been so far? What do you think are the peaks and valleys of the 30 year history of the movement?
It’s usually called “periodization” and it’s something I’m wary of, especially considering hip-hop has been fractionalized since the late 80s. However, if I had to break it down, I’d say that transformative artists usher in new eras.
There was the old school from the days of park jams until RUN-DMC brought the new school in 85. Rakim triggered the first “Golden Era” of 88. In 92-93 Death Row and G-Funk won the West and Nas and Wu-Tang owned the East. 97 brought in Jigga and the Jiggy era. The early 2000s belonged to the underground and to the super-producer (Timbaland, Kanye, Neptunes, Dre). The middle part of the last decade was probably the lowest point for rap. Call it the “Hip Hop Is Dead” era. People actually tried to convince others that Papoose was our new lyrical savior and wrote essays defending the genius of Soulja Boy. I think we’re in a new time right now and it’s probably my favorite since the heyday of 91-96 rap. Kendrick set the bar higher than anyone had since Kanye. We’ll see if he inspires others or merely spawns inferior imitators.
What are the trends in hip hop you wish would go away, and what are the trends you wish would become more prominent?
I will direct this question to A$AP Rocky.
How much music do you listen to daily? How/where do you listen?
At the gym I listen to aggressive rap, which makes me want to rip the Beats by Dre headphones off every steroidal tanktop in the place. The rest of the time, I listen to Enya from a speaker concealed in my incense burner.
Who are your favorite up-and-coming producers and MCs in LA right now? Is there a track that you think epitomizes LA hip hop of this current wave?
Black Hippy, Hellfyre Club, DJ Mustard, anything Alchemist does, Zeroh, Jonwayne, Captain Murphy, Freddie Gibbs, and Odd Future, when they care more about writing clever raps than cats. When I’m in a good mood, the track that best epitomizes it is “Werner Herzog” by Busdriver, Nocando and Open Mike Eagle. When I’m being pessimistic, it’s “Bitch Suck Dick.”
Do you have a lucky number?
3. 24. 44.
Hopefully, no one reading this finds my combination locker.
Jeff Weiss can be found at PassionWeiss.com