While we've discussed Ian McShane, Corey Feldman and Milla Jovovich, this series on vanity projects has so far not addressed any album responsible for a major cultural scandal, academic controversy or employment change. This time, though, we're talking about Sketches of My Culture, the first album by legendary academic and all-around super-genius Cornel West. Released in 2001, it became one of the major points of contention in a dispute between West and then-Harvard President Larry Summers that eventually grew so heated West left the university for Princeton. As a concept, the album is appealing: maybe we should make pop music that also educates people about socialist perspectives [...]
Bootsy Collins has one of the most impressive resumes in popular music, beginning his career as a bassist with the one-two punch of James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. More than 40 years after being plucked from obscurity to back up the Godfather of Soul, his new album, The Funk Capitol of the World, seeks to put his life and funk in a historical perspective. Among other things, the death of his brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins compelled him to craft a “musical biography” that would preserve the memory of the people who were most influential to Bootsy: everyone from Catfish to Al Sharpton to Jimi Hendrix and, of course, George [...]
"In essence it is a fawning celebrity profile — one in which reporter and superstar have somehow fused into a single first-person voice."
Scott McLemee is unimpressed with Cornel West's new memoir: "If sketchy in other regards, Brother West is never anything but expansive on how Cornel West feels about Cornel West. He is deeply committed to his committed-ness, and passionately passionate about being full of passion. Various works of art, literature, music, and philosophy remind West of himself. He finds Augustinian humility to be deeply meaningful. This is mentioned in one sentence. His taste for three-piece suits is full of subtle implications that require a couple of substantial paragraphs to elucidate."