By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“Aw man, if I’d known dinner was on the label, I’d have ordered something to eat,” he says. “On second thought, probably not.”
“So,” the bigtime rappers ask him, “are you a whore or a slut?” A whore does music for money. A slut does it for love.
“I guess I’m a slut,” Dateh responds.
“That chamillionaire thing, with the ho’s and the drugs and the bling? That’s not hip-hop to me,” Dateh says, “that’s the commercial market bombarding us with material objects. That’s only one side of hip-hop, and, personally, I don’t enjoy it. I’m sick of it. To me, hip-hop can be so much more. Real hip-hop is a blend of jazz, soul, funk, Latin. I like the stuff that’s on the underground scene. Brother Ali, Master Ace, Atmosphere, People Under the Stairs. Those guys are underground because the companies and powers that be decide they’re not marketable. I don’t want to offend anybody, and I hope you get that I love everybody, but so much of mainstream hip-hop is boring. Jazz and classical are much more complex harmonically, and some of these people in the spotlight are not really ... musicians?” His voice trails off into a question.
One or two professional musicians are doing the same thing he does, like Miri Ben-Ari, who has trademarked the phrase “The Hip-Hop Violinist,” a bit of legal trickery that implies that she, at least, may fear what they are both doing is not the beginnings of a new genre but a novelty act only one may corner. So when Yahoo features a video of Dateh playing hip-hop violin, he is surprised to receive e-mails from people who are trying out experimental music on traditional instruments: violin, flute, bass, cello, viola. A guy e-mails him a video clip of himself playing hip-hop violin on the street in Detroit, doing a cover of Dateh doing a cover of Gnarls Barkley, which pleases Dateh to no end. (The guy even learned Dateh’s exact fingering.) Twelve-year-old aspiring violinists write to him, and he writes them back: “Don’t forget, it’s your instrument. Play it the way you want.”
Dateh, at last happily ensconced at his new place in Little Tokyo, away from Walnut’s cows, gets word out of the blue from his parents, who announce that they are moving in with him.
“And you’re bringing the dog?” he asks. “Why? Why?”
There will be more arguing about the trajectory of Dateh’s life, yet another frustration to overcome in closing the gap between the life he wants and the life he has.
“Though how lucky am I that this is the worst thing that could happen to me?” he asks, grinning.
It’s a good thing he does music, he decides. It teaches you how to improvise.