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This Isn’t About Kanye West

Let’s get right to the awkward introduction: Hi, my name is Thomas Golianopoulos and I’m the new features editor at XXL. Over the past decade, I’ve written for tons of great magazines, some dreadful ones and, unfortunately, a few that are no longer with us. Most importantly though, I was a Contributing Writer for XXL and am now a full-time member of the team.

I really should write about Kanye West today. His new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is supposed to be pretty incredible. It’s the biggest album of the fall. Twitter is going nuts over it. Everyone. Must. Have. An. Opinion. Too bad I haven’t heard it. For the past 10 days, I’ve been on holiday in Europe and without a reliable Internet connection.

I’m writing this from a McDonald’s in Charles de Gaulle International Airport. I’m tired. I feel gross. I really need a haircut. And I’m distraught that McDonald’s discontinued the Royale with Cheese. It’s now called a Double Cheese. Doesn’t have the same ring to it. Don’t worry, I’ll have an interesting take on Kanye later in the week, but today, I’m going to talk about something that happened during my vacation.

This blog entry isn’t about how hip-hop is popular overseas. (Hip hop is global? Really!?! And Republicans don’t have new ideas besides cutting taxes for rich people? Really!?!) This blog entry is about the rap music I heard last Saturday night at a bar/club in Paris called Favela Chic. You know the spot: Groups of guys can’t get in. The drinks are overpriced and watered down. And the entire joint reeks of sweat and watered down booze. It was totally worth it.

First off, the women were incredible. (In that department: Paris > New York > London. It’s not even close.) But this post is about music. Music. From what I remember, the DJ mixed up hip-hop with classic rock, some 1950’s music, a few Beatles records and French pop. What rap records? Q-Tip, “Let’s Ride,” Nas, “Get Down,” Game, “One Blood,” Dr. Dre, “The Next Episode,” during which, my friend’s friend, an Italian now living in Paris hummed “Tick, tock, tick tock tock, tick tock tock, tick tock tock tock,” Nas, “Revolutionary Warfare,” and the record that got the biggest response of the night, Game’s “Hate It or Love It.”

That’s right: No Jay-Z. No Lil Wayne. No Eminem. No Drake. No Biggie. No 2Pac. No Black Eyed Peas. (Thank God). No Flo Rida (Ditto). There wasn’t even any Yeezy in the Serato. Shocking, right? I was also probably the only person that noticed. I think that’s because here in the States we’re a little programmed, ruined by years of exposure to corporate radio and uninspired club DJ’s.

I was wondering, have any of you guys went to a new club—not just overseas, but even out of town—and been surprised by the DJ’s play list? Do you expect to hear certain records? How important is a good DJ?

But Favela Chic wasn’t my weirdest exposure to hip-hop in Paris. Last Wednesday night, I attended the BNP Paribas Masters—that’s a fairly important tennis tournament. After the great Roger Federer disposed of Richard Gasquet, there was a brief intermission before the next match. And of course, music was pumped over the Public Address system. The record: David McCallum’s “The Edge.” The song Dre sampled for “The Next Episode.” Tick, tock, tick tock tock, tick tock tock, tick tock tock tock…. —Thomas Golianopoulos

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