I must pass 500 ailanthus trees— commonly known as the humble ghetto palm, which gave this column its name— on the way from my building to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But the ailanthus has barely had a mention in these pages (ok, pixels) since the very first edition. It poked its rude, distinctively shaped leaves into the frame recently though, while I was reading Robert Sullivan’s book Rats. Sullivan describes the alley in lower Manhattan where he spent a year observing unfettered rat-bashment like this:
“As far as living things go, if you look up over the lot then you see the alley’s one non-concrete event, a tree. It is an ailanthus tree. Generally speaking, the ailanthus thrives in places where other trees do not find a way to live. Sometimes it is called “the tree that grows in Brooklyn.” Its scientific name is ailanthus altissima–literally the “tallest of the trees of heaven.” It’s not considered native to New York, it is originally from China. Many people find it ugly but I respect it for its ability to grow in the most adverse-seeming conditions… in the spring, the leaves of the tree of heaven spread out over the rat holes in Edens alley, and although the leaves don’t actually look green, on account of the fluorescent glow of the one streetlight, you are, even at night, reminded of the color green.”
CHLLNGR X De Tropix, “People Dem Shouting” (Green Owl)
Rita Indiana y Los Misterios, “El Blu Del Ping Pong “ (Sony US Latin)
Bunji Garlin, “De African” (T&T Carnival 2011)
Jahdan Blakkamoore, “Quick Money” (DJ Theory)
Download: GP 123: “Green Blend”
Sullivan’s quote is also a pretty good description of the first and last songs in this blend. The first track— featuring my eternal musical crushes De Tropix over a wicked staticky riddim from dubcat CHLLNGR— is new and goodhearted and also happens to be a little polyamorous. So shoot it. I have to thank Rupture for lacing me with the Rita Indiana pingpong joint and Jillionaire, from whom I blatantly trainspotted the Bunji Garlin track. The brilliant “Sabali” version (Amadou & Mariam, Theophilus, Uproot Andy, Distant Relatives—Albarn should just put it out as a riddim run!) is from Jahdan, who has a new album out and a FADER-cosigned release party at Santos Friday, assuming they’re not shut down or anything. Natalie Storm also has a new joint, which also has a release event—and that one’s not shutting down until the speakers blow.