« March 2003 | Main | May 2003 »

April 2003 Archives

April 1, 2003

Leslie Cheung 1956-2003

Popular Hongkong pop superstar and actor jumps to his death

Oh my god. This is a shock.

Most of you have probably never heard of Leslie Cheung, but he is.. was.. one of Asia's biggest superstars as both a singer and actor. Try to imagine if Brad Pitt or Madonna suddenly committed suicide. What terrible news for folks over there, already suffering so much stress from this virus.

Some you will be aware I am an avid follower of Hong Kong cinema, and Leslie Cheung is in many of my favorite films:

John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, One and Two
Tsui Hark's Chinese Ghost Story, One and Two
The Bride With White Hair
Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together

He played a somewhat scandalous gay role in Happy Together, and rumors about his sexuality hounded him throughout his career. I'm sure now that will play into speculation about his apparent suicide.. but whatever the reason, a terrible tragedy.

Photos: Prince Paul at Joe's Pub

Two of my DJs from the radio show, 3D and Avee, took over Joe's Pub last night alongside the legendary Prince Paul and Mr. Len. After my crew warmed up the crowd, Len and Paul started going back and forth on the turntables.

Paul invited his boy Superstar on stage to rhyme at the beginning of his set, but started out by cutting up "Good Times" and Superstar grimaced "what the f*** am i supposed to do over this beat!?" Then Paul started yelling at him "OLD SCHOOL, MAN! OLD SCHOOL!!" with a big devilish grin.

Paul wants you all to go out and buy his new album "Politics of the Business" on May 6th, and I don't think he is too happy about the bootleg version of that album circulating now, which is not the final version of the album. My favorite song title: "Chubb Rock, Please Pay Paul His $2200 You Owe Him".

prince paul 1
prince paul 2
avee, 3d, paul
lord sear, damali
mr len, prince paul

New World Water

U.S. Army Making Iraqis Pay for Water.

...Under the deal, the military will provide water free to locals with access to tanker trucks, who then will be allowed to sell the water for a "reasonable" fee.

"We're permitting them to charge a small fee for water," said Army Col. David Bassert.

"This provides them with an incentive to hustle and to work," said Bassert, an assistant commander with the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade.

He said he could not suggest what constitutes a reasonable fee and did not know what the truckers were charging. He said the tradition here of haggling at markets would help the system work.

...A British military spokesman angrily objected to the water deal. The British control the city of Umm Qasr while the Americans are in charge of the port.

"We're not going to have any charging for water. What kind of an aid plan would that be? These people don't even have shoes," the spokesman said.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke.

April 2, 2003

New Ras Kass

Ras Kass, who is currently on the run from both the law and his label, just leaked a new track from an undisclosed location.. you can check it out at trickology.com. Interesting that he seems much more concerned with his label difficulties than the actual imprisonment that is most likely in his future.

Ras is the only "conscious" emcee who can start a song by comparing himself to a porn star (Mr. Marcus) and nobody bats an eye. This song is also noteworthy because finally somebody quoted that Amistad "give-s us free" line in a rhyme!

In a G Building...

ODB placed in Mental Institution

I'm not going to make any jokes. I hope the man can get it together. They were supposed to start filming him for a reality show as soon as he was released, a la Anna Nicole/Osbournes, which I found kinda tacky and exploitative. Putting him in this situation where everyone's hoping for him to be as outrageous as possible is not gonna help him get his life back together. Ok, it's probably a longshot either way. But still.

A note about my post title: Most people think that line from Brooklyn Zoo goes "energy building, taking all types of medicine", but it is actually "in a g building", slang for a mental hospital. I believe it is derived from the psychiatric ward of King's County hospital.

April 3, 2003

Teaching Hip-Hop in High School

From Australia comes more coverage of Hip-Hop's increasing acceptance into academia:


So, like, yo dudes, listen up: hip-hop is da bomb, fool, da real dope. Forget all that wack stuff laid down by tragic MCs like T.S. Eliot, the Bronte sisters and that Shakespeare snowflake. Check it: if a US education trend spreads to Australia - and it probably will - the nation's school kids could soon be getting down to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Ice-T, Eminem and Cypress Hill.

I'm not sure what to say about this one. Kind of a scattered and oddly reasoned piece, and yeah his attempt at slanguage is unfortunate. But at the very least it's an interesting peek at how the American Hip-Hop scene is interpreted from afar.

Reviews: Roscoe P ColdChain, Non-Phixion

Let's review two of the new tracks posted on trickology.com:


Roscoe P ColdChain - "Delinquent"

Beat: Nasty. This is a first-rate average Neptunes banger, built around the "South Bronx" horn stab. You know that scrunched-up "got damn this is funky" grimace you make, when you're nodding your head to something serious? Those ugly faces abound in the studio, when 3D plays this on the radio show.

Rhymes/Flow: Not bad, voice reminiscent of Ras Kass, or Vakill with more bass in his voice. Sprays quick blasts of verbiage that land all over the beat, but he makes it work, never crosses that thin line between syncopated and sloppy.

Content: Well, here's the chorus:

"When a nigga is delinquent with cash in hand even if it's just a couple of grams do what the f*** I do nigga pop that motherf***er drop that mother f***er"

Yawn.. what is it they say about the banality of evil?

I guess Roscoe is down with the Clipse, and judging by this track he certainly shares their unwavering (and unwaveringly dull) fixation on guns, drugs and cash. There are some mildly clever lines, like "I done squeezed more guns than Charlton Heston". But after reading his rather thoughtful interview here I was surprised to hear a thug-life infomercial as his debut. And I wonder how Pharrell reconciles this with his own words on "Run to the Sun": "I'm so embarrassed for mankind, they have the nerve to let their weapon shine.. they're so stupid.."

Verdict: Decent, if you can let the trite thuggery float by, and just enjoy the funk.


Non-Phixion - "Caught Between Worlds"

Beat: Cinematic Isaac Hayes-y loop with a sped-up vocal sample, what you might call RZA's signature sound. Nothing mind-blowing but it fits well with the mood of the lyrics.

Flow: Ill Bill starts out sounding a lot like Ghostface, perhaps inspired by the RZA-style beat. Then they revert to the standard Non-Phixion sound, with lots of punchy multisyllables.

Content: Standard "it's tough growing up in the hood" fare, but delivered in a mournful tone far from glamorizing street life.

Verdict: Not bad, worthy of a spot on the playlist.

April 4, 2003

MLK Against War (but first a commercial break)

The latest issue of my favorite magazine Wax Poetics is now on sale, check the website for where you can cop it. This installment has interviews with breakbeat legends like Clyde Stubblefield, Manzel, and Galt Mcdermot, plus graffiti pioneer Tracy 168 and a whole bunch more for the hardcore heads.

And you might say I make my debut as a published photographer, cuz they have a two page spread of my pics from the Jam Master Jay memorial that I posted here a few months ago.


Also, just so this post won't be completely self-serving, here's a bit about Martin Luther Kings's importance as a voice against war, on the 35th anniversary of his death. And here's an excerpt from his landmark speech, "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam", courtesy of my peoples at Democracy Now.

Somebody Alert the Nobel Committee

I had heard about Jay-Z bhangra collabo with Panjabi MC, but didn't know till Lynne mentioned it that he drops some anti-war couplets in there:

Jay-Z Drops War Rhymes On Remix Of International Hit

Jay-Z has broken his silence about the U.S.-led coalition's war with Iraq. In the remix of European artist Panjabi MC's overseas hit "Beware of the Boys," Jay mixes his Brooklyn braggadocio with anti-war sentiments.

"We rebellious, we back home/ Screamin' 'Leave Iraq alone,' " Young Hova rhymes over a sample of the theme from the "Knight Rider" TV show. "For all my soldiers in the field/ I will wish you safe return/ But only love kills war/ When will they learn?"

I'm only posting this because I love the portentous tone of that opening sentence:

"Finally Jay-Z has broken his silence about the U.S.-led coalition's war with Iraq. Ever since he shook up world politics with his bold stance in favor of Che Guevara t-shirts, Jay has become perhaps the most influential statesman on the global stage, and the world has anxiously awaited his judgement on the war in Iraq. Said one U.N. leader: 'We've heard from France, we've heard from Germany, but one question continues to haunt us: where does The R.O.C. stand on this?'

The Bush administration is rumored to be deeply shaken by Jay-Z's searing condemnation of their policies. No word yet on how the stock market has been affected."

April 5, 2003

Reports of our Death...

I guess every 3 months we have to see another one of these:

Is Rap Dead?

Is hip-hop dead? It sure sounds like it if you turn on the radio. What used to be exciting, groundbreaking music seems to have been reduced to a one-note din. The only topics discussed are bling-bling materialism, how many guns you have, and "ho's." Hip-hop poster boy 50 Cent appears on the cover of Rolling Stone with the caption "Mastering The Art of Violence." There's the raunchy Lil' Kim, and of course, top dog and now Oscar-winner Eminem, who has threatened to kill his wife numerous times on his records.

I don't have time for a detailed response, but in short, the answer is of course not! These "is hip-hop dead" pieces always rely on highly selective evidence to back up their generalizations. Sometimes they are selective to the point of being disingenuous, as in the description of Eminem above.. to suggest that quote sums up the range of Em's expression is absurd. About as accurate as designating Jimi Hendrix "the man who sang about killing his wife and fleeing to Mexico..."

Perhaps I will come back to this later. Obviously Hip-Hop is nowhere near what it once was, in its glory days. Surely there is ample room for improvement. But we are a long way from dead, there's lots of creative stuff out there right now.. more than enough for us to fill 2 hours every Saturday.

This is not too bad though, as these pieces go, and a lot of the quotes are sharp..especially Bill Stephney's.

Join Us On the Radio Tonight

Tune in here and catch us live on the air, tonight from 12 to 2 AM EST. I heard a rumor that Jean Grae might be on the show tonite. This has not been confirmed. I repeat, this has not been confirmed.

EDIT: Jean Grae has entered the building.

I just set up a new chat room, to make it easier for y'all to kick it with us during the show. Try it out and let me know how you like it.

Somebody just came to this site by searching in google for hip-hop negro "non-phixion". I like that one.

April 6, 2003

New World Water (part 2)

I know mad people have posted this already, but seriously, this is despicable:

Water - For Christians Only

In this dry desert world near Najaf, where the Army V Corps combat support system sprawls across miles of scabrous dust, there's an oasis of sorts: a 500-gallon pool of pristine, cool water.

It belongs to Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston, who sees the water shortage, which has kept thousands of filthy soldiers from bathing for weeks, as an opportunity.

''It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized,'' he said...

Photos: Jean Grae on the Railroad

A pleasure to have Jean Grae on board last night, one of the smartest, most creative emcees around. She kept us cracking up with her ongoing crusade against big hats, and let us world premiere 2 new songs, including a remake of Jay-Z's "Excuse Me Miss" that was pure hilarity.

I'll post some audio tomorrow, but for now here is photographic evidence. The third pick is Jean and her betrothed (with Democracy Now's office in the background):

April 7, 2003

MTV: "Stop Being So Commercial!"

MTV Cry to Artists: Stop the Shilling

Network tries to cut product placement in its music videos

In her recent music video, rapper Ms. Jade is swerving on a dark city street to the beat of her song "Ching Ching." She's behind the wheel of a sparkling, tank-sized Hummer H2, as is a rival racing alongside.

The Hummers seem to get as much screen time as Ms. Jade.

That bit of product placement cost the Hummer's manufacturer, General Motors Corp., some $300,000 - more than half the expense of the video produced by Interscope Records. It also represented another win for record labels in the catch-me-if-you-can game they're playing with Manhattan-based MTV, which has prohibited advertising in videos.

Major record companies, strapped for cash amid flagging CD sales, have been defying MTV, teaming up with advertisers willing to help finance costly videos in exchange for product visibility.

In the past, MTV screeners - worried the cable channel's savvy teen and young-adult audience would rebel against that kind of selling - have forced labels to blur images of products or logos that found their way into videos. But "Ching Ching" and other clips financed in part by corporate sponsors have sneaked in under the radar.

Faced with the record industry's miserable economics, MTV's gatekeepers now suggest gingerly that they may allow some marketing messages in videos - but only if they decide that a product placement is discreet and fits with a clip's theme or story line. So far, they haven't.

"We're trying to be as sensitive as we can to the labels' financial issues without risking the trust of our audience," said Tom Calderone, MTV's executive vice president of music and talent.

I am amused by MTV's high minded stance, claiming they are simply worried about "maintaining trust with the audience".. I'm sure the fact that they are missing out on money here, and these companies are basically getting to advertise on MTV without paying MTV, does not factor into their concern at all.

Also, this goes to show that the music industry will use their financial woes much like the Bush administration is using the threat of terrorism, to justify all types of shady dealings, and expand their powers as far as they can push them.

Boondocks: Banned in NC

This time, Boondocks artist went too far

...What the syndicate sent us for publication a week ago Saturday was the Boondocks strip with a statement plastered over it that read:

"Special Boondocks protest strip! In order to express the outrage and the disappointment at the situation in the Middle East, as well as an upcoming movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr., in which the actor will undoubtedly shame himself and his race, today’s installment of The Boondocks will not be appearing.

"Seriously, folks. Let’s stop the madness. The Bush administration’s hunger for war, and Hollywood’s continued production of movies starring Cuba Gooding Jr., must be stopped. — Aaron McGruder"

McGruder essentially mutilated his own strip for the purpose of forcing his political views on a page where they don’t belong in that context.

The syndicate did send an alternative strip for that day, in effect giving editors the chance to censor the strip.

I am not a proponent of censoring comics. In fact, we ran installments of the Cathy comic strip in The Herald-Sun years ago that were censored by other newspapers in this state when one of the characters in the strip endorsed presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

I said then I would not censor a comic, but would drop it if I thought the author was abusing his or her relationship with our newspaper for personal gratification.

Accordingly, I canceled the Boondocks strip.

It does appear today because our Sunday comics section is pre-printed. We replaced Boondocks in the daily editions with Get Fuzzy, which we have been running just on Sundays.

Whether that tenacious little feline will remain in our lineup remains to be seen. We may sample other strips in the coming weeks to see what our readers like...

Uhh... yeah.

Bill Hawkins is Vice President and Executive Editor of The Herald-Sun. He may be reached at (919) 419-6678 or at bhawkins@heraldsun.com

April 8, 2003

Kevin Bray, please STFU

PLATINUM TAKES THE WHITE ANGLE: Drama to feature white rapper.

The upcoming UPN series "Platinum" knew they just had to get themselves a white rapper character after what's going down with Eminem an' what not.

Kevin Bray, who produces the show about two brothers who run a hip hop record label in NYC, says the show wants to reflect reality.

"Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people, and we want the show to reflect that. We decided to have a white rapper as the biggest act at the label because that's being truthful to what's going on in hip-hop today."

Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people?

Excuse me? So Hip-Hop was not accessible to middle America until Eminem came out? People of every race and class didn't listen to Run DMC, or NWA, or Will Smith? Lauryn Hill didn't have universal appeal that cut across all boundaries? White kids in the suburbs never listened to Pac or Biggie?

I'm sure Eminem himself would be the first to tell you how insulting your comments are, how disrespectful to the art form that happens to be making you rich.

Seriously, Kevin Bray. Just STFU. Never talk about Hip-Hop again.

Funkmaster Flex settles Steph Lova case

Hip-Hop Disc Jockey Pleads Guilty To Harassing Rival DJ

A disc jockey for a popular hip-hop radio station was ordered to serve 35 hours of community service after pleading guilty to harassing a rival DJ.

Funkmaster Flex, 35, whose real name is Aston Taylor Jr., was arrested on assault charges last September after he allegedly choked and punched a female DJ from a rival radio station.

Taylor pleaded guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday to lesser charges of harassment. He was also issued an order of protection to stay away from Stephanie Saunders, 29, who is known as Big Steph Lova and works for WWPR-FM (105.1).

Taylor, a DJ for WQHT-FM (97.1), was accused of confronting Saunders outside his Greenwich Village radio station on Sept. 20. He was reportedly upset over allegations, made during an on-air interview that Saunders conducted, that he accepted bribes to play certain songs.

Murray Richman, Taylor's lawyer, acknowledged Monday that the two disc jockeys had a "shouting match," but said his client "never touched" Saunders.

To be fair, we should note that he was not found guilty of assaulting her.

But, now, about that payola...

Photos: Gangstarr. Kweli, Floetry and Common

I'm working getting the audio up for our Jean Grae interview, but in the meantime, here are my photos from the concert at Roseland on Sunday:

click on each thumbnail to see the full size picture

April 9, 2003

Babatunde Olatunji, 1926-2003

Olatunji dead at 76 in Salinas

His daughter says he died Sunday of complications from diabetes. Olatunji was living at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur.

Olatunji's 1959 album, "Drums of Passion," was the first album of African drumming recorded in stereo in an American studio. It introduced a generation to the power and intricacy of African music.

Our station, WBAI, will be paying tribute to him for much of the day.

April 10, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Exclusive Jean Grae

Here are the new tracks Jean Grae played for us last Saturday. That is me and my co-host Damali talking to Jean before and after the music:

Excuse Me (remake)

Very Bad Things

Let me know what you think. She said one of these songs will be on her new album, "The Official Jean Grae Bootleg Album", and one will be on a mixtape.. or something like that? I'm getting old, the memory is going.

This War is as Wrong Now as it Ever Was.

Don't get it twisted. I was one of millions of Americans who spoke against this war. But just because we did not support this invasion, that doesn't mean we ever doubted Saddam Hussein was a grimy bastard, and that the Iraqi people had every reason to rejoice in his downfall. I felt genuinely happy for the Iraqis we saw celebrating yesterday, and I'm sure most anti-war Americans felt the same.

So any right-wingers who expect us to be "eating crow" today, I'm afraid we will have to disappoint you. Anyone who thinks yesterday's news "proved us wrong" must not have understood what we were saying in the first place. We were never against seeing the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. We were against the means used to bring this about, and we still are.

Yesterday's footage was wonderful to see. All those folks getting their office-chair loot on, it truly warmed the heart. But I also remember images like this one, of 12 year old Ali Ismail Abbas asking if we can put his arms back on. No matter how many times you show us tearing that statue's legs off, it won't make me forget that we also took this little boy's arms off. And that he is only one of thousands. I am just as strongly against that now as I ever was. It didn't need to happen like that.

I'll write more on this later if I have time. But I really don't want to see the left punk out on this, and cave in to all the "i-told-you-so" nonsense.

More Thoughts on Iraq, as the Credits Roll

Here is Atrios on our triumphant victory over the Saddam statue:

One hopes that the widely broadcast scene of cheering Iraqis tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad was both the very real and important symbolic moment it was portrayed to be. However, it’s clear that this was a Pentagon-orchestrated p.r. moment, happily enabled by the media.

Despite the close-up crowd shots and breathless commentary accompanying the event—which portrayed it as a scene of mass jubilation by the citizens of Baghdad—the truth is, as the BBC reports, and other pictures confirm, there were in actuality only dozens of Iraqis present. A more accurate view of size of the celebrating crowds can be seenhere. As our military has yet to adequately separate the naughty from the nice over there, any larger crowd would have placed our forces at risk.

You know what's interesting? In the last month we have seen millions of Americans take to the streets against this war, and the media never once offered this as representing the majority view. But right now we are seeing dozens - or at most hundreds - of Iraqis cheering U.S. soldiers, and almost all coverage seems to assume this represents how the entire country feels. Hmm.

Now, I don't doubt for a second that the vast majority of Iraqis are happy to see Hussein's regime go. But I don't believe everyone is thinking "Hooray for America! What a perfect ending!" either. I believe most Iraqi people are able to rejoice in being free from Saddam and still remain aware of the bigger picture, the consequences of the way this came about, and what may come next.

Even the citizens we saw out in the street yesterday, when they actually got a chance to speak, seemed quite wary of America's role there, even as they celebrated the demise of Hussein's crew. As one man said on MSNBC, greeting a Marine coming down the street:

We wait a long time for you. Now you must end very good. Not like 1991.

In other words, we're happy to see Saddam go, but we're not ready to coronate you guys as heroes yet either. We remember how you abandoned us after you got what you wanted in the last war, so we're gonna see how everything settles out before we judge your role in this.

But the feelings of those Iraqi people 6 months from now, or a year from now, will not be plastered all over the evening news. By then we will have long since cued the music, rolled the credits, and went over to film the sequel in Syria.

Raleigh man charged with impersonating Slick Rick

How about we just let Rick out of jail, send this other guy back to England, and call it even?

Tried to Disrespect Who? The Grand Wizard?

A 28-year-old man is accused of diverting mail intended for old school rapper Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters and trying to cash his royalty checks.

Walters, whose hits include "La-Di-Da-Di," and "Children's Story," is being held in Bradenton, Fla., by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS is attempting to deport Walters, who is British, over an attempted murder conviction in a 1990 shooting, for which he served six years.

Steven Burke Glenn was arrested April 3 and charged with three counts of forgery, two of obtaining property under false pretenses and one of identity theft, Raleigh police Sgt. Chuck Hurst said Thursday. Additional charges were being considered.

Glenn was still in custody Thursday on $30,000 bond. Hurst did not know what sentences Glenn might face if convicted on any of the charges.

Hurst said Glenn apparently submitted a change of address form to the U.S. Postal Service asking to have mail forwarded from Walters' production company in New York to a Raleigh address.

Within a week or so, staff at the company became suspicious about the lack of mail and contacted postal authorities in New York, who involved Raleigh police in the investigation, Hurst said.

Bill Adler, a spokesman for Walters and his wife, Mandy Aragones, said Glenn forged Walters' name on royalty checks, deposited them into Walters' bank account and then tried to withdraw the money.

"Likewise, he registered a car, received hospital care, sent out express mail packages and answered his own phone under Rick's name," Adler said.

Glenn ultimately got Walters' home telephone number and reached Aragones, identifying himself as Slick Rick and saying he was not in jail but in North Carolina. He apparently didn't realize he was talking to Walters' wife, Adler said.

April 11, 2003

Snoop Dogg Narrowly Avoids Getting Shot

Yuck. No more of this please.

Gunman Opens Fire On Snoop Dogg And His Security Team

An unknown assailant opened fire on Snoop Dogg and his entourage on Thursday night in Los Angeles, injuring one of the rapper's bodyguards.

Police said that at about 9 p.m. on Thursday night, Snoop was in a car traveling south on Fairfax Avenue and was accompanied by five other cars, which an LAPD spokesperson referred to as "security vehicles." A sedan carrying an unspecified number of black males that was traveling in the opposite direction then shot at Snoop's crew. Two of the cars were hit and one of the security guards was grazed by a bullet in his back.

The injury was not life-threatening and no one else was struck, police said. Snoop and the individuals with whom he was traveling were questioned as witnesses. No arrests were made, and there are no suspects and no motive.

The spokesperson for the LAPD did not release the identity of Snoop's injured bodyguard. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that he and several other members of the security team were off-duty police officers who work in the Inglewood school district.

By the way, look at how misleading this other blurb is with its title and intro, covering the same story:

Snoop Dogg questioned in shooting, one injured

Rapper Snoop Dogg was being questioned Thursday night following a car-to-car shooting that left an off-duty police officer wounded...

Snoop is the victim of a crime in which one of his security guards gets injured, and these guys still manage to make it sound like Snoop is the criminal here.

Katie Couric, STFU

Can someone tell me what the damn hell Katie Couric meant by this? The tragedy was magnified by her background??

Bias in Today Show's Central Park Jogger Interview?

....the racial aspect of the jogger case was barely mentioned in the hourlong report. The tale of an upper-middle-class white woman attacked by a roving band of black kids played into the modern urban narrative of fear. The guilt of the defendants was taken as fact by the newspapers (sample headline: "Teenage Wolfpack Beats and Rapes Wall Street Exec").

It is, sadly, always a story when poor black men attack a rich white woman - - and not so much a story when rich white men attack a poor black woman. It's even less of a story when a husband attacks a wife, even though some of those batterings result in injuries as severe as those suffered by Trisha Meili.

Indeed, the NBC piece went out of its way to confirm that worldview. White people were shown in contemporary interviews, flatteringly lit, sitting in comfortable chairs. Black people were shown in black-and-white news footage, jostling or yelling or, in one egregious example, confessing to a crime that, it turns out, the confessor did not commit.

Even worse: Katie Couric said the tragedy of the Central Park Jogger was "magnified by her background." Shot of the facade of an Ivy League college, shot of the pricey apartment building where Meili lived.

So successful white woman Katie Couric said that the plight of successful white woman Trisha Meili was "magnified" by her circumstances. Had she been poorer, had she attended a state college in the Midwest or gotten her GED in an adult school, the crime would not have been as great. Had she been black, presumably Couric would have said the crime was "minimized by her background."

Enough rant. You get the point. Shudder.

April 12, 2003

Paul Cashmere, you too must STFU

I might have to change my website's name to "People Who Need To STFU". There are just so many. I mean, look at this guy Paul Cashmere at undercover.com.au:

Warning : Don't Call Grandmaster Flash A Rapper

Grandmaster Flash has considered cancelling his Australia tour all because Undercover called him a rapper.

In an email he writes "The article looks fine but this can cause me to totally CANCEL this tour ... be CLEAR I Grandmaster Flash am NOT a Rapper. I'm a DJ always was always will be. To the journalist who put this together you are causing mass confusion ...I repeat I am NOT a rapper would you please RETRACT and Correct".

The Undercover story of April 4 was actually a glowing statement of his career (we thought). It stated "Australia is about to get the grandmaster rapper of the all Grandmaster Flash. It was exactly 20 years ago when Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released 'The Message', one of the most potent raps of all time. The follow-up a year later 'White Lines' is also now a rap classic". We thought we paid tribute to the man who is credited with being part of the very first rap song to make the Australian chart.

That wasn't good enough though. That "grandmaster rapper" comment, it would appear, was enough to make the 80's DJ throw a grandmaster wobbly.

...Okay, so we are sorry for calling you a rapper Mr Flash but wait … let me quote The Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Rock and Roll (Third Edition). "Disco DJ Grandmaster Flash and his rap group the Furious Five were the premier DJ-rap team of the early 80's". So it appears we aren't alone. Even Rolling Stone equates you with rap.

We did try and point out to the Flashy that Australian culture is quite different to the urban culture of the streets of New York and what are considered various genres in the US are often rolled into one in Australia, but hey, this is getting all too hard.

Here is the e-mail I just sent in response:

TO: paul@undercover.com.au

Granted, Grandmaster Flash was being a bit of a prima donna when he threatened to cancel his tour over your magazine's errant reference to him as a "rapper". But as errors go, that was indeed a doozy, and I'm afraid your attempt at a retraction (if that's even what it was) made you sound even more clueless.

This reference to the Rolling Stone book only serves to compound your folly. The quote you cite does nothing to bolster your case, as it does not call him a rapper. It merely states he was in a rap group, which is correct. Flash was not offended that you "equated him with rap", he would have no problem with that.

In case you still haven't figured this out: Rolling Stone called his group a "rap-dj team" because everyone in a rap group is not a rapper. "Rapper" is what you call the vocalist. The one who raps, get it? Grandmaster Flash was not a rapper, he was a DJ. The DJ is one who spins the records. Still will me? Grandmaster Flash is possibly the most important DJ of all time.

So this is not a matter of confusing obscure sub-genres. Calling Flash a rapper is the equivalent of calling Yo-Yo Ma a tuba player. It's not only disrespectful, it just plain makes you look dumb.

Jay Smooth, WBAI in NY

P.S. - You should really just STFU.

The Hip-Hop Scene in Japan

Here's a pretty good one from the Japan Times, picking the brains of hip-hop kids in Shibuya. Maybe our resident Japanese ambassador Kyo can let us know how accurate this is.

Who Copped My Hip-Hop?

On a visit to Tokyo's trendy Shibuya Ward several years ago, I came across a Japanese teenager dressed from head to toe in baggy hip-hop wear, one of the first "B-Boys" I'd ever seen here. Still relatively new to Japan, I was curious about whether this young man represented some growing awareness of black America among Japanese youth, and as an African-American myself, it was an issue close to home.

I couldn't help asking him: "Say, have you ever heard of Malcolm X?" I was referring, of course, to the black political activist memorialized in the Spike Lee movie and easily the most influential figure in modern black America after Martin Luther King, Jr.....

The Scoop on Star: He was benched for bashing AT&T?

I haven't bothered to post about this story yet, because I didn't feel like give Star any more publicity. But yeah, the controversial (read: loathsome) host of Hot 97's morning show here in N.Y. is in trouble once again, and off the air for who knows how long.

In the past Star has been attacked for his alleged anti-semitism and had infamous on-air clashes with Tigger, Prodigy, and Conrad Muhammad (who gave him a hearty thrashing). He was also suspended once before after mocking Aaliyah's death, which endangered Hot's cash flow since it outraged her fiancee Damon Dash. This also inspired Q-Tip to read a letter on the air criticizing Star, which inexplicably led to Q-Tip being banned from Hot 97 by their widely reviled VP Tracy Cloherty (as revealed in our interview here).

Now Star (along with his longtime companion Bucwild) has been off the air again for about a week, and as you can see here Hot's management has been tight-lipped about exactly what he stepped in this time. But I've done some snooping around, and heard from good sources that Star was suspended for comments relating to AT&T, who unfortunately for him is one of Hot's sponsors. It seems the station lost a $50,000 deal due to his corny jokes.

"The reason is not for general consumption - not even something the audience would understand," said Tracy Cloherty, Emmis' programming VP. "The rule he broke was not supposed to be broken," Cloherty told The Post.

So I guess you have some rules that are supposed to be broken? Evidently this translates to: "Disrespect jews, women, our own people? Whatever. But disrespect our advertisers and you've got trouble."

April 14, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Guest DJ Chairman Mao

A new mix posted in our radio show archive

Jeff "Chairman" Mao is well known as a founding member of the Ego Trip crew, and all-around top hip-hop journalist. But you might not know he is also a top-notch DJ and vinyl collector, and spins regularly at one of NY's trendiest spots, APT (where our own DJs Monkone and Emskee hold fort every wednesday night).

The Chairman showed us just how deep his crates are when he stopped by the radio show last month, and dropped a set of insanely rare 12-inches from the mid 80's. I just uploaded his entire set to the mixshow archive, take a listen and see how many songs you can name. I'll be impressed if anyone can identify even 5 of them.

Oh and here are a couple of pics:

one - Chairman Mao on the wheels, as Tomkat and Monkone look on.
two - Jeff and the rest of the Ego Trip clique, Elliot Wilson, Gabe Alvarez, and Sacha Jenkins.

April 15, 2003

PHOTOS: Graffiti in Montreal

I probably won't be posting much this week, as I am getting ready for my trip to Montreal in a few days. This is my second time heading up there, when I went for the first time a few months ago one of the things that impressed me most was thwe quantity and quality of graffiti over there. It seemed like every block I passed by had an alleyway with a breathtaking mural spanning across it. Here are some photos I took while exploring the city:

click on each thumbnail for the full-sized image
graffiti1.jpg graffiti3.jpg graffiti4.jpg graffiti5.jpg
graffitib1.jpg graffitib2.jpg graffitib3.jpg graffitib4.jpg

April 16, 2003

Suge Dropped from Cannibal Rapper Lawsuit

As much as I despise Suge Knight, this time I've got to agree that blaming this murder on his or any record label is just ridiculous. The lawsuit alleges that Big Lurch killed his roommate and ate her lungs because he was encouraged to do this by his label, as a marketing tactic. I find that outlandish, to say the least.

When a man kills his roommate and eats her internal organs, that's not about hip-hop, that's not about the music business, that's about this one man's psychosis, plain and simple.

Tha Row Removed From Wrongful-Death Suit

Tha Row Records has been removed as a defendant in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles, Billboard Bulletin reports.

The complaint was filed by Carolyn Stinson, whose daughter Tynisha Ysais was allegedly killed and partially eaten by aspiring Texas rapper Antron Singleton (aka Big Lurch). Tha Row's removal from the suit follows CEO Marion "Suge" Knight's public claims that his label was never associated with Singleton.

...A spokesperson for Tha Row says, "Every time there are problems on the West Coast, people always try to involve Suge. What's unfortunate about this is that it's difficult to un-ring a bell."

Well, I'm not quite ready to play a violin for poor beleaguered Suge, especially when he puts nonsense like this up on his website. But in this particular case I'd agree he shouldn't be held responsible, even if his label was associated with this guy.

April 17, 2003

Or did he mean Russell Crowe?

Last week I criticized the producer of Platinum, Kevin Bray, for his assertion that "Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people". It would appear Mr. Bray came across my comments and posted a reply, as you can see here.

Evidently he didn't mean that to come out the way it sounded, and meant to convey how in the minds of TV execs it was Eminem's success that made this show possible. He also informed us that "as for me and hip hop i go waaay back...look it up or ask russell."

Assuming of course that he meant Russell Wong from that old kung fu show "Vanishing Son", I gave Russell a call. He said he's never heard of this Bray guy. But some googling did turn up this page, with a lengthy list of the videos Kevin has directed.

My search also revealed that when you search for "Kevin Bray" in google now, the third and fourth links that appear are me telling him to STFU. Gotta love the power of the internet!

(my reply to his reply is also there, in the previous post.)

April 18, 2003

Jack White Disses Hip-Hop

As quoted on okayplayer, here are the words of Jack White of the White Stripes, in the latest Rolling Stone:

RS: You're not a hip-hop fan.

JW: Not particularly. I find OutKast and Wu-Tang Clan interesting. But I consider music to be storytelling, melody and rhythm. A lot of hip-hop has broken music down. There are no instruments and no songwriting. So you're left with just storytelling and rhythm. And the storytelling can be so braggadocious, you're just left with rhythm. I don't find much emotion in that.

No wonder I find his music so dull..

Coincidentally, I just discovered that Simon Reynolds has a blog, and his recent post about the Stripes sums up my feelings perfectly. He also thinks to another cool blog that deconstructs their latest album in much greater detail.

EDIT, 8/7/03: I hate to do this, but I'm closing the comments on this post because all you soccer hooligans don't know how to act (on both sides of the argument). Perhaps my flippant approach to the subject (as opposed to my "serious" commentary here) combined with a high ranking in google was a deadly combination..

Mr. Lif Shoots the Gift

Okay, that title is corny. But this is a solid profile of Boston's MVP, from the Chicago Sun Times. Always refreshing when the mainstream press notices a rapper for some reason other than his arrest record:

Beantown rapper gives hip-hop an intellectual lift

Mr. Lif, a huge New England Patriots fan, jokes he recently moved from Boston to California to operate the team's West Coast offices.

He adds he had nothing to do with the signing of former Chicago Bear Roosevelt Colvin. "I understand there may hostilities about that in Chicago, so I'll let Coach Belichick handle those," he says with a chuckle.

Joking aside, Lif has meant more to New England's hip-hop than he ever could to its professional football franchise. He may be the region's most important export since UConn women's basketball and Trader Joe's grocery. He's an MC whose delivery places more emphasis on lyrics than barking; returning the music to a time when rappers relentlessly deconstructed popular culture.

This, he says, comes "from being alive and being a fan of hip-hop during the era of conscious rap, when the predominant image was an intelligent black man whose power was his intellect. It also comes from seeing the struggles of my parents..."

Why Jack White is Wrong

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Jack White of the White Stripes explains his opinion of Hip-hop thusly:

"I find OutKast and Wu-Tang Clan interesting. But I consider music to be storytelling, melody and rhythm. A lot of hip-hop has broken music down. There are no instruments and no songwriting. So you're left with just storytelling and rhythm. And the storytelling can be so braggadocious, you're just left with rhythm. I don't find much emotion in that."

He's certainly entitled to his opinion, and there is no such thing as right or wrong (in any objective sense) when it comes to personal taste, so I'm not mad at him. But I will point out that Jack White is missing at least one basic element of music, one that is particularly important to Hip-Hop. Let me tell you a little story:

For 6 years I was a teacher/counselor for "emotionally disturbed" teens at a group home upstate. One day we went on a field trip and walked by a construction site, and the sound of the drilling rattled our bones. As we went by one of my favorite students, Kelly Miles, turned to me and said "That sound is dope! Somebody needs to sample that and make a beat with it."

I knew exactly what she meant, and what made that drilling sound so dope had nothing to do with rhythm, melody, or storytelling. It was the noise itself that had an irresistibly visceral quality to it. As Public Enemy so wisely observed, that's one of the most important qualities found in any good hip-hop - you have to bring the noise.

If I played you a Premier snare drum and the snare from a Celine Dion song, isolated and removed from its original drum pattern, you could easily tell me which was which, and would probably have a strong preference as to which one sounded hotter. Most anyone who listens to Hip-Hop could easily make that distinction, and its not because of rhythm, melody or storytelling. It's because noise matters.

This is not only true for hip-hop either. The tonal quality and timbre of the sounds is a crucial element in our experience of any music. For example D'Angelo's Voodoo album, and the other Soulquarian releases of that "neo-soul" boom, were such a stark contrast to the other R&B of that time period, but not primarily because of the melody or rhythm or storytelling. What made them stand out, more than anything, was that they just sounded so raw. The vintage analog instrumentation they worked with, and that gritty sound they achieved while recording it and mixing it down. It was quite simply a different type of noise than the polished, plastic synthesizer music that was dominating R&B up until then.

This is one of the biggest reasons Hip-Hop has had such a tremendous influence: we changed the face of popular music with our focus on refining the art of noise. We took that element of music that is so often forgotten, and brought it to the forefront.. reminded everyone that noise matters, and showed the world how to bring it.

Any attempt to judge Hip-Hop will always be off the mark, if it fails to recognize this fundamental aspect of the music. That's why I must beg to differ with Jack White. And he really ought to know better, since he clearly pays close attention to the power of noise in his own music, striving to bring a full, rich sound out of a band with only two instruments.

April 22, 2003

While You're busy Being Al Capone...

I'm back in town. Hope you guys are still out there, I'm really digging all your comments and feedback.

Turns out Montreal is even more beautiful when the weather becomes suitable for humans. Many pictures later.

So anyway. Nina. Wow.

I saw her name go by on the Times Square news ticker as I came back into NY this morning. That's the second time I walked by there and found out a childhood hero had died, the first was Curtis Mayfield.

For me, Nina was one of those very first artists your parents expose you to as a child, who teaches you what music is supposed to be, lays down the foundation for all of your tastes. When you have that kind of connection, it really feels like you lost part of your family, when they die.

I hate to see some obituaries that only highlight her harmless pop songs like I Loves You Porgy and My Baby Just Cares For Me. What really makes her important to me are the ones like Mississippi Goddam, Backlash Blues, Four
Women, To Be Young Gifted and Black, etc.. where she was saying something.

I''ll post my favorite Nina song here, its a big file but worth the download. Nikka Costa did a sweet cover of this on her last tour:

Nina Simone - Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter


April 23, 2003

Dallas Teen Suspended for "Terroristic" Rapping

Very interesting story in the Dallas Morning News today. Needless to say, the kid should have known those rhymes were not appropriate for a classroom setting. But taking them as a "terroristic threat" worthy of removing him from the school? Unless there is some history between them that we don't know about, that seems kinda wacky.

This goes to show how the same words can have very different meanings to different people, depending on their cultural perspective. I'm sure the boy thought to himself "how could anyone think they were supposed to take that rhyme literally?", and the administrators were equally certain of themselves in thinking "how could anyone think you're not supposed to take that rhyme literally?"

Teen put back in school after 'terroristic' rap

Judge orders return after poem called threat got him suspended

Terry Carter might make Dunbar High's senior prom after all.

The 17-year-old student, banished from the school in February after reciting a rap poem deemed a "terroristic threat," was reinstated Tuesday by a federal judge who said the Fort Worth school district had violated his constitutional right to due process.

"I order that Terry Carter be returned to Dunbar High School tomorrow morning and be allowed to participate in all activities," Judge John McBryde ruled from the bench after a daylong hearing.

Attorneys for the school district said they are considering an appeal.

...When the decision was announced, Lee Robinson stormed out of the fourth-floor courtroom. It was his daughter, Allison, to whom Terry had referred in his poem.

"It was already decided before we came here today," Mr. Robinson said afterward. "This was already predetermined."

Allison, 18, appeared shaken but she vowed: "I'll still be valedictorian. If he tries to say anything to me, then we'll be right back where we are today."

The episode began in January when a teacher in Terry and Allison's theater-arts class allowed students a variety of ways to get extra credit. Terry, who was ranked sixth in the 186-member class, chose to do a rap poem.

In one stanza of the 16-verse poem, he said, "Allison #1, but I got myself a gun, ready to pull the trigger, for any gold digger."

Allison, who ranks first in the senior class, told the teacher that she felt threatened. Dunbar officials immediately suspended Terry. Later, at a school district hearing, he was assigned to an alternative school for 90 days, in effect for the remainder of the school term.

After an administrative appeal, Superintendent Thomas Tocco reduced the alternative school sentence to 10 days. But later, after meeting with Allison, her parents, Dunbar school officials and a community leader, Dr. Tocco decided that Terry should be transferred for Allison's "safety." He was eventually reassigned to Trimble Tech High School for the rest of the year.

...The suit said Dr. Tocco acted unfairly because he considered adverse information against Terry without informing the youngster, his family or Ms. Edmonds of the allegations or giving them a chance to respond.

...Dr. Tocco testified that after reducing the suspension to 10 days, Allison's parents asked him to consider harsher punishment. The superintendent said that after listening to them, however, he wasn't convinced.

They asked him to go to Dunbar the next day to talk to teachers and other school officials, and he agreed. While there, Dr. Tocco said, he initially didn't hear anything to make him change his mind until he spoke to two teachers who said they thought Terry might pose a threat to Allison if he was allowed to return to Dunbar.

The judge asked Dr. Tocco whether he informed Terry or Ms. Edmonds that he was considering information that was adverse to the youngster's case. Dr. Tocco said he did not.

Then Judge McBryde asked whether Terry or Ms. Edmonds had been given a chance to rebut the information the superintendent had been given.

"No," Dr. Tocco said, "because all of the information I needed from him I received when ... [Terry] denied that he threatened Ms. Robinson."

At one point, Dr. Tocco said he would have reversed Terry's punishment again and moved it back to 30 days at an alternative school, but he thought that doing so would have been tantamount to "double jeopardy"...

This Dr. Tocco is evidently not the brightest light on the christmas tree.

The judge should have just ordered the girl to do an answer record, and let them battle it out on the next Kay Slay mixtape.

Australia predicts White Rapper Epidemic

A little more of the rather quirky coverage Hip-Hop gets from down under:

Rap's white invasion

On last year's Eminem Show album, the world's most popular rapper rhymed a snide prediction: "A concept that works/20 million other white rappers emerge."

He may be off a bit in his maths, but Eminem's forecast of a white rap invasion seems to be coming true.

Thirteen years after the thawing of Vanilla Ice, and three years after Eminem himself became the most famous rapper in hip-hop history, a new wave of Caucasian emcees is swelling.

True, there have long been isolated pockets of palefaced rappers - from the Beastie Boys and Third Base to Bubba Sparxxx and Haystak. But the next few months will see the largest wave to date, including Stagga Lee, Poverty, K-Mo, DF Dub and the first white female rapper, Sarai (promoted by her label as Feminem)...

The first white female rapper? Don't you guys remember Tairrie B.?

April 24, 2003

Rising Stars of Korean Hip-Hop

A profile in The Korea Herald of their nation's top emcees, Drunken Tiger. I've heard these guys and they are actually decent, maybe I will put up an MP3 later. I'd say this article overplays the discrimination angle somewhat.

Tigers roar, who's listening?

Asian rappers have more than "8 Miles" to go to be successful in the United States and in Korea.
Drunken Tiger, Korea's best selling and most respected Korean-American rap group, would be an automatic candidate for a lifestyle of "bling-blings" (diamonds), Lexus SUVs and a crib in the Hamptons, much like such successful African-American rappers as P. Diddy and Nelly. But the members of Drunken Tiger - DJ Shine, Tiger JK and DJ Jhig - will have to wait, realistically several years, for hip-hop fans to accept a serious Korean rapper.

Hip-hop's ugly side, consisting of racism, stereotypes and prejudice, stands in their way of being played on radio stations across the United States. No other excuse explains it, given the band's credibility with East Coast legend Wu-Tang-Clan, who asked Drunken Tiger perform with them this summer...

Rumors of our Death...

I wrote this a few months ago, in response to a widely forwarded article proclaiming that hip-hop is dead or at least dying. I am reposting it here since j brotherlove, and many others, have wondered aloud whether this may truer that we care to admit.

I meant this to be a part 1, hopefully I will get around to a part 2 sometime.


Regarding the Bennu piece, "A Eulogy to Hip-Hop": there is some truth in what he says, and the issues he raises have caused me much frustration over the years. But to extrapolate from these trends that hip-hop is dead, I see as a gross overreaction.

Hip-Hop will never be what it once was, there's no getting around that. It began as a form of expression that was of us, for us, and by us in many ways that it will never be again. We watched it grow and bloom within our community, then saw it shift into the American mainstream, who now leases it to us with no option to buy (as a friend once put it). For those of us who saw this evolution and experienced both sides of it, Hip-Hop will never again mean to us what it once did.

From its birth in the 70's through much of the 80's, Hip-Hop was basically a self-contained entity within the community that created it. If you were an emcee stepping into the studio to make a record, your target audience was basically your own community.. you were one of us talking to us, and the value of your music came from how it resonated with our own shared experiences. There was no possibility of your song getting regular rotation on any radio station, or your video getting played anywhere but Ralph Mcdaniels' Video Music Box and local public access shows. No chance of your work being acknowledged by any such mainstream outlet, so you had no concern for making music to please those outside ears. All the criteria, all the parameters set for the expression came from within the community that created it. It was a means for us to communicate with ourselves.

But nowadays the playing field is completely different, and we have a completely different relationship with the music, both as producers and consumers. When someone steps into the studio now their success hinges on pleasing MTV, Clear Channel Radio, and the mainstream american consumers that these outlets have made hip-hop's primary audience. This audience is kids from outside of the community the music came from, who do not share the experiences that drive the music. As Mos Def says:

"The difference between '88 and '98 is that most of the people who were fans were also active in the culture in some way. In '88 you'd have kids watching Video Music Box in their living room, working out dance routines. That might seem real trivial, but that is a fan watching these videos to learn these dances created by people in their community, more likely than not, somebody that probably lived on their block. It was interactive. Now the average hip-hop fan is into hip-hop because they like watching somebody else live."

It's become much more of a spectator sport than a participant sport?

"Definitely. I mean, let's be real -- these white kids in the suburbs that buy their first Wu Tang record and lose their damn mind -- they could play an active part in the culture if they wanted to, but that's not why they bought that Wu Tang record. They bought that Wu Tang record to live out their fantasy of themselves as Raekwon or Ghost or Method or whoever. A lot of hip-hop nowadays seems like the primitive prototype for what virtual reality is going to be in the next few years -- live somebody else's life, feel somebody else's pain and frustration."

I don't feel the need to be as judgmental about those suburban white kids as Mos seems here, but the dynamic he describes is undeniably at play. In today's world the ideal hip-hop product is not one that rings true for those who shares the artists' experiences, but one that provides a vivid, cinematic fantasy for those who will never share the experiences conveyed. This has radically changed the creative process, or should I say the manufacturing process of hip-hop, much more than I think even most artists realize. We also touched on these issues in my interview with Q-Tip (click part 6).

So no, hip-hop is not what it once was, and that golden age will never return. And in the last decade that has been damn hard to accept, if you were around when it was still pure. But that being said, I thought the conclusions drawn in the Bennu piece were overblown.


Hopefully i'll get back to this sometime..

April 25, 2003

Woman to be Stoned to Death for Adultery

Here is some information forwarded to me by a fellow WBAI producer. I daresay this is worth taking the time to sign a petition, at the very least.

The Nigerian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for Amina Lawal, condemned for the crime of adultery on August 19th 2002, to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death. Her death was postponed so that she could continue to nurse her baby. Execution is now set for June 3rd. If you haven't been following this case, you might like to know that Amina's baby is regarded as the 'evidence' of her adultery. The father denied everything when he realised the trouble he was in. To find out more about sharia law, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/theissues/article/0,6512,777972,00.html

Amina's case is being handled by the Spanish branch of Amnesty International, which is attempting to put together enough signatures to make the Nigerian government rescind the death sentence. A similar campaign saved another Nigerian woman, Safiya, condemned in similar circumstances. By March 4th the petition had amassed over 2,600,000 signatures. It will only take you a few seconds to sign Amnesty's online petition. Go to the web page http://www.amnistiaporsafiya.org

Enter your first name in the space marked "nombre", last name ("apellidos"), county ("provincia"), country, and In the drop down box pick Estados Unidos (USA). Then click on "Seguir" and go to the second page. There you have the option of entering your email address if you wish to receive follow-up information. In any case, be sure to click on "aceptar" to have your name added to the petition list.

April 26, 2003

Jam Master Jay Case Remains Unsolved

This is disappointing but not surprising:

Hunt For Rap Legend's Killer Comes Up Empty

Nearly six months after the execution-style slaying of rap legend Jam Master Jay, the identity of the killer and the motive remain a mystery.

Detectives in Queens _ where the pre-eminent DJ and founding member of Run-DMC was killed on Oct. 30 _ call the case a top priority. The city and music industry notables have offered more than $60,000 in rewards for tips leading to an arrest.

"We're not at a standstill," said Lt. Alfred Murphy, a detective squad commander. "We're still hopeful."

But NYPD sources close to the case concede the investigation has been hampered by dead-end leads and uncooperative witnesses. "No one in that industry wants to be a rat," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity...

They go on to discuss the widespread rumors that the NYPD has a "hip-hop desk", permanently assigned to monitoring the hip-hop world. This program sounds eerily similar fo the FBI's Cointelpro operations, that focused on monitoring/infiltrating/destroying the Black activist movements of the 60's and 70's.

Bling Etymology

Someone should forward this article to the NY Times critic Ann Powers, who hilariously asserted that "bling-bling" was the slang term for shooting a gun:

It's all about the bling-bling

Elizabeth Taylor dripped it, and Liberace flaunted it. Carmela Soprano's a walking advertisement, and P. Diddy's real-life poster boy.

This year's Oscars consciously toned it down, while the "Ab Fab" girls giddily talked it up.

Now the Oxford English Dictionary is about to officially induct it into the lexicon.

"Bling-bling" -- America's latest verbal fling.

Unless you've been vacationing in Tibet, you've probably heard it a lot lately. The hip-hop expression bling-bling, or sometimes just bling, has been popping up everywhere -- television, radio, and newspapers -- spoken and written by folks who are several steps removed from pop culture's cutting edge.

Coined in 1999 in a same-named song by a New Orleans rapper named B.G., bling-bling applies to big showy jewelry -- the kind typified by razzle-dazzle designer Chris Aire that gets Lil' Kim's heart racing, sets off alarms at airports, and goes bling when it collides with other bling (hence the name).

"Bling-bling really became popular with me when Shaq and the Lakers were using the term for their championship rings" in 2001, says Californian Jeffrey "Halfshaq" Marino, who sells lots of bling online at www.pimphats.com -- one of several Web sites that revel in metallic excess. (Another, MrBling.com, for example, sells custom-made teeth in yellow gold, white gold, and platinum.)

If the sports world was quick to embrace the word, all of television is on a bling bender. CNN Headline News has been using "bling-bling" and other hip-hop terms in its headlines and graphics as part of what the network's general manager has called an aggressive attempt to stay "relevant, smarter and cooler" to a younger audience.

The cooler-than-thou term has clearly exploded into the unhip mainstream -- which is why it's headed for the dictionary.

"We're going to draft an entry, which we'll probably publish soon," says Jesse Sheidlower, principal editor of the OED's North American Editorial Unit, who says it will be added online (as all new entries are) and will probably include several senses of bling-bling as a verb, noun, and adjective. "We decide based on currency. In a case like bling-bling, it's very widespread..."

Although it is usually credited to BG, and he certainly popularized it and established its current meaning, I will point out that the phrase "bling bling" was heard long before his record came out. The first time I remember was Jesse West a.k.a. 3rd Eye, on Supercat's "Dolly My Baby" remix in 1993: "Bling, bling! yo who's that with Supercat..."

Tom Raftery and Michele Mcphee, please STFU

I'm sure you've all heard about the shooting of an obscure rapper known as Freaky Zeeky. Although I hope he recovers and my condolences go out to the family of his friend who died, I didn't really see this story as worth posting about.. it's getting more attention than it needs, to be frank.

However, I must comment on one line in the Daily News' coverage, yet another example of how all journalistic standards seem to evaporate when Hip-Hop is the subject:

Investigators do not believe yesterday's incident stemmed from an ongoing feud among rappers that heated up after last year's murder of rap pioneer Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC.


There has not been any "feud among rappers" that was related in any way to the murder of Jam Master Jay, that is completely fictional. Where the hell did you people get that from?

Is this based on some vague fragment of a memory that JMJ was affiliated with 50 Cent, and 50 Cent also has some sort of beef? None of 50's beef has even the most remote connection to the JMJ shooting, and even the NYPD seems to realize that.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that such a major publication would state as a fact something that has no connection with reality whatsoever. This happens all the time, and not only in hip-hop coverage. But it's still jaw-droppingly ignorant.

Especially considering that four writers are credited for this story: Tom Raftery, Michele Mcphee, Maki Becker, and Edward Barrera. It took four people to come up with this crap? Four people, and you still couldn't manage the most basic fact checking?

So to whichever member of this elite think tank provided that sentence: you really, really need to STFU. And I'm keeping my eye on the rest of y'all.

EDIT: If any of you read this, please don't try to cop out by telling us that technically you did not assert a cause-and-effect relationship between JMJ's death and the current wave of beef, when you said this beef "heated up after" his death. You did not explicitly state it but the implication is unmistakable, and if you did not mean to indicate such a connection your writing skills are severely lacking.

ADDENDUM, 10-1-03: In the interest of fairness I should mention I just got interviewed by Michele Mcphee in reference to the Matthew Hall tragedy, and at the very least she seemed sincere in her desire to report the story fairly and accurately.. Afterwards I remembered posting her name here, and looking at it now I may have been a bit harsh. But just a bit.

April 28, 2003

The Butcher Says This Beef is Not Kosher

My twin brother Jon at hiphop anonymous, posted this story about Kay Slay speaking out against beef, which is rather like Colonel Sanders speaking out against chicken. :

DJ Tells 50 Cent, Ja Rule: One More Dis Record, Then Quit It

When a war of words is becoming too dramatic for the Drama King himself, maybe the situation is getting out of hand.

"If you have some other drama, I ain't gonna front, I'mma hit it," DJ Kay Slay said during his "Double Drama Hour" show on New York's Hot 97. "But this beef in particular with Ja Rule and 50, this is it for me."

The rivalry between Ja Rule and 50 Cent recently elevated on Slay's show, and if the mixtape don has his way, it will end on his show.

Three weeks ago, Slay premiered Ja's freestyle, which the streets have dubbed "Loose Change." In it, Rule comes at the Shady/Aftermath camp, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Mo and manager Chris Lighty. A retaliation came the next week via the Em and 50 freestyle "Hail Mary." Last week the saga continued when Kay played a new Benzino dis record aimed at Shady/Aftermath along with Ja's latest abrasive retort, "Guess Who Shot Ya."

Now Slay is saying enough is enough.

"I'm putting it out there for them, have one [more record apiece] made and take it out that way," Slay suggested. "There's no other way. People are harboring feelings and they need to put everything they got to say and feel on one last record. Get everything out and then just keep it moving. How many more ways can Ja Rule dis 50? How many more things can 50 Cent say about Ja Rule? Most of them records kind of channel through me, and I feel like they need to cut it out now."

This reminds of how Richard Pryor said he knew he hit rock bottom when even his own dealer said he was doing too much coke, and refused to sell him any more.

(BTW, the co-writer of that article is one of my oldest friends in the "hip-hop industry", Minya Oh. We both wrote for The Source wayyyyy back in the day, when it was still respectable.)

NEW AUDIO: Mix from DJ 3D

I just posted a new mix from the mighty 3D in the Radio Show Archive. hope you enjoy!

By the way, that's 3D's picture on the right of our front page.

April 29, 2003

Steve Jobs Releases New Software, Discovers Eminem

Fortune Magazine has a very lengthy article on Steve Jobs' new attempt at an online music service, the "iTunes Music Store". My preliminary verdict: a noble effort, but any attempt to make people to pay for downloads will always end in disappointment.

Interesting stuff though, and there was one segment I especially enjoyed:

His adventures in the music business have led to other changes in Jobs' thinking. During the photo shoot with Sheryl Crow for this article, he acknowledged to the singer that he had never really understood what rap music was all about. But while playing with a prototype of the iTunes Music Store on his Mac at home in recent weeks, he had started downloading some of Eminem's tracks.

"You know, he really is a great poet," Crow said.

To which Steve replied, "Yeah, he's starting to kind of grow on me."

I don't really have anything to say about that quote, but it amuses me.

NY's Hip-Hop Radio War: Are there Winners or Losers?

I'm sure both of the corporate media conglomerates involved in this "battle" are doing just fine, but is the audience getting any benefit from this competition? Honestly I almost never listen to either station, so maybe those of you from NY can tell me, has their been any change in the quality and diversity of their playlists?

Hip-hop turf makes room for a new player

It's been a year since WWPR (105.1 FM) sauntered into town to start a hip-hop turf war with WQHT (97.1 FM) - and both sides say they're winners.
Moreover, they can both be right.

"There isn't just one size pie," explains program director Vinny Brown of WBLS (107.5 FM), which is also a player in hip-hop radio. "When another station comes in, the pie can get bigger."

In the January-March quarter of 2002, WQHT and WBLS between them averaged 10.3% of the city audience. In January-March this year, WQHT, WWPR and WBLS combined to average 12.6%.

Between WQHT and WWPR, which compete directly for the younger hip-hop core while WBLS mixes in more R&B, WQHT (Hot-97) has a clear lead.

Hot-97 is second overall in the city, averaging 5.1% of all listeners. WWPR (Power-105) is seventh, averaging 3.8%. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, Hot-97 is first with 10.2% and Power-105 third at 6.9%.

Last summer, the stations were almost tied. Since then Hot-97 has pulled ahead and while it is down from 6.1% a year ago to its 5.1% today, it has been moving up lately.

"What happened is exactly what I predicted," says Tracy Cloherty, WQHT program director. "They got some early sampling, then they fell back and we stayed right where we were - number one."

Even more gratifying, WQHT is now one of the top 10 stations in the country for ad revenue, suggesting Madison Avenue now sees hip-hop fans as a broad audience, not a bunch of wise-guy kids.

Advertising revenue is a big reason that Michael Saunders, program director of WWPR, says he, too, is a happy man.

"Our ratings are about what we projected," says Saunders. "We have a solid core and we're pleased. But our ad revenue has already exceeded our expectations."

From parent Clear Channel's perspective, Power-105 is an even bigger hit, because its ratings exceed those of WTJM (Jammin'), which it replaced last year.

But just in terms of hip-hop, Saunders says the last year was good for everyone. "It has invigorated the stations," he says. "And when that happens, the listeners win. I also think it shows the whole hip-hop world you can have a strong competition without bloodshed..."

Is Something Wrong With This Picture?

A visitor just brought to my attention that there is a website named hiphopcaucasia.com, which describes itself as representing "rap's silent majority".

Upon first glance, I'm not sure how i feel about this site. My initial reaction is to find it a little weird and creepy. But is there any concrete reason to be disturbed or offended? What do you guys think? It's evidently not very well-maintained, more than half of the links seem to be broken..but besides that, what's your verdict?

April 30, 2003

Hip-Hop's First References to Poetry

A while ago the esteemed okayplayer drapetomaniac asked me to identify Hip-Hop's earliest allusions to poetry.

Nautrally the BDP classic "Poetry" came to mind immediately, from possibly the greatest hip-hop album ever "Criminal Minded". But surely someone before KRS must have made the obvious connection between emceeing and poetry? I'm almost certain an earlier reference must exist, but so far I haven't been able to remember it or google it.

Around the same time as "Poetry" we heard Rakim declare himself a "melody arranger, poet, etc." on "Check Out My Melody", and soon after that he coined his oft-quoted definition of rap as "rhythm and poetry" on "Follow the Leader". Also in 1987, LL told us he was a "poetry technician" on the less than memorable (yes, I googled this one) "Clap Ya Hands", from his third album "Walking With a Panther". Then there's always Guru's "a poet like Langston Hughes and can't lose" on DWYCK.

And who could forget the late 80's appearance of a rapper named MC Poet, a Juice Crew affiliate who joined in their ongoing feud with Boogie Down Productions by dropping two anti-KRS anthems, "Beat You Down" and "Takin You Out". KRS then effectively derailed MC Poet's career with his brutal response on the Numero Uno remix of "I'm Still Number 1" (which was also notable as one of the first hip-hop records to incorporate a salsa sample, in the form of the Symphony Sid Theme). Poet made a brief comeback in the 90's as part of a group named PHD, then resurfaced once again as a member of Screwball. But much like Frederic Weis will forever be inextricably linked to Vince Carter, Poet will always be best known as guy who got dunked on by KRS.

But all this just leaves us back where we started, at BDP's "Poetry". Is this possible? There were so many rhymes spit by so many old school crews: Cold Crush, the Crash Crew, The Treacherous 3, the various Fours (Funky and Fearless), the numerous Fives (Furious and Fantastic-Romantic)... surely somewhere in these early days there must be a reference to poetry? But I can't think of it. Maybe somebody can help me out.

About April 2003

This page contains all entries posted to hiphopmusic.com: in April 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2003 is the previous archive.

May 2003 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34