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May 2003 Archives

May 1, 2003

We're Here, We Peer-to-Peer, Get Used To It (AKA: RIAA, STFU)

Yes, Jon is right.

Once a new idea has been discovered and implemented in the digital world, and the public has seen that it is useful, you cannot use brute force to make the public unlearn what it has learned. The meme cannot be un-memed, so to speak.

Any attempt to do so, in defense of that which has been rendered obsolete by this advancement, will accomplish nothing but further alienating the public from whatever product you represent in your quixotic misadventure.

File-sharing is here to stay. We're here, we peer-to-peer, get used to it.

For every finger RIAA lawyers stick into the P2P dike today (I mean dike as in dam, Beavis), ten new holes will open up tomorrow. If the music industry keeps flushing resources into this desperate attempt to flee from the 21st century, this is the surest path to their extinction.

The industry can only survive by learning to adapt to this new technology and live in harmony with it. Apple's latest attempt at adaptation, the iTunes Music Store, is a baby step in the right direction. But if they think the public is going to abandon Kazaa (or the other ones I won't mention, so as not to give the RIAA any ideas) for a system that charges a dollar per download, Q-Tip must be right about them smoking crack. The only hope I see lies in charging a flat monthly rate for unlimited downloads, and you'd better be offering a selection of files on par with Napster or Audiogalaxy in their prime.

I'm not even sure that would work. But I sincerely hope there is a solution, and wish the industry would take their heads out of the sand and start looking for it. Because in the long term, noone will benefit from anarchy. We need a system that ensures artists will be justly compensated for their work, I would never deny that this is a legitimate concern. The problem is that such a system has never existed, within this industry.

The RIAA's attempt to portray their war on file sharing as a noble defense of the downtrodden artist is the epitome of hypocrisy. They are fighting to defend a system that is obscenely exploitative of artists, designed to keep them rich by keeping the artist in shackles. The RIAA is basically an association of pimps, concerned about getting maximum profit from their hoes.

So although it is usually portrayed as endangering every artist's very existence, the file-sharing revolution may well bring about the liberation of the musician. Whatever system takes music through the 21st century will have to be radically different than the one that preceded it. It's quite possible artists will find themselves in a much more equitable position than they'd ever achieve under the current regime, if musicians (and the audience who values them) seek an active role in shaping the new system.

Because one way or another, a new system soon will be. The meme cannot be un-memed. And for the music industry, this is your final warning: it is time for you to STFU, and WTFUBYGE.

Your judgement day is at hand in the Court of Natural Selection. Your current strategy, pretending you didn't get the subpoena, is not going to save your ass. You must evolve or perish.


*WTFUBYGE=Wake the F*** Up Before You Go Extinct

Speaking of Poetry

The latest issue of Newsweek has opinion piece declaring that poetry is dead:

Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?

It is difficult to imagine a world without movies, plays, novels and music, but a world without poems doesn’t have to be imagined. I find it disturbing that no one I know has cracked open a book of poetry in decades and that I, who once spent countless hours reading contemporary poets like Lowell and Berryman, can no longer even name a living poet.

All this started to bother me when heiress Ruth Lilly made an unprecedented donation of $100 million to Poetry Magazine in November. An article published on the Poetry International Web site said critics and poets agreed that the gift "could change the face of American poetry."

Don’t these critics and poets realize that their art form is dead? Perhaps not. They probably also don’t realize that people like me helped kill it...

Well, I'm glad us hip-hoppers are not the only ones being told that we have gone extinct at least once a month. But this piece is pretty weak to me, for numerous reasons. For one thing I find it strange he devotes an entire piece to measuring poetry's place in the zeitgeist without any mention whatsoever of the spoken word/slam poetry scene, now slickly repackaged as "Def Poetry". Nor does he mention Hip-Hop at all. In fact, it does not appear that anything involving people of color has ever showed up on his radar.

Now, I myself have issues with categorizing hip-hop as a form of poetry (I'd define it as music that often has a poetic element, but not necessarily poetry..I'd probably better make a separate post about that later), and much of the spoken word scene is really more like performance art or stand-up comedy than actual poetry. So if he wanted to argue that Hip-Hop and slam poetry do not meet his poetic standards, that would be one thing. But for him to go through this entire piece without mentioning those movements at all...

May 2, 2003

Improve Your Memory Through Hip-Hop

There are quite a few historical events whose date I always remember by reciting a classic rap lyric:

  • The L.A. Riots: "April 29th was power to the people, and there might just be a sequel.." - Ice Cube (Wicked)

  • The Death of Biggie Smalls: "That s*** was the worst rhyme I ever heard in my life, cuz the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9th" - Canibus (2nd Round Knockout)

  • The Million Man March: "Slangin bean pies and St Ides in the same sentence, shoulda repented on the 16th of October.." - Common (The Bitch in Yoo)

Am I the only person who does this?

Update on the Murder Inc. Investigation

These charges have been around for a while now, as was reported comprehensively by my homey Minya back in January. Other than the accusation about 50 cent, this seems to reiterate what we already knew they were investigating, but with a little more detail:

Affidavit: Drug Money Backed Murder Inc.

Rap industry insiders have told investigators that the successful Murder Inc. music label was bankrolled by a notorious drug dealer who also was involved in a shooting of hip-hop superstar 50 Cent. The allegations were detailed in a newly unsealed affidavit obtained yesterday (May 1). The document was filed under seal in January in a federal money-laundering investigation of Murder Inc. and other rap industry enterprises.

The affidavit, signed by an Internal Revenue Service agent, accuses Kenneth McGriff -- the convicted leader of a murderous drug gang in Queens -- of forming an illicit partnership with Murder Inc. owner and longtime friend Irv Gotti. It alleges McGriff provided drug proceeds as "start-up money" for the label in the late 1990s. Murder Inc. is now home to top-selling recording artists such as Ja Rule and Ashanti.

Neither McGriff nor Gotti have been charged in the money laundering case, which prosecutors have refused to discuss. McGriff's attorney, Robert Simels, called the allegations groundless. "As far as I know, he and 50 Cent had a good relationship," he said...

As noted in Minya's original piece, Ja Rule has bragged openly about Murder Inc's connection with Preme, including one rhyme that boasts: "funds unlimited, backed by my 'preme team crime representatives.."

The Realest Hiker Alive

Hiker amputates arm to free self

Pinned by a boulder for five days and having run out of water, a climber amputated his own arm with a pocket knife, rappelled down a cliff and walked until rescuers found him...

How gangsta is that? This guy is way realer than 50 cent. Somebody needs to get him a record deal immediately.

Ooh, the Dew-Dew Man..

Canada's music mag Exclaim has a decent Prince Paul interview up today:

Prince Paul Battles the Hip-Hop Robots

"Either you’re gonna get it, or you’re not," says Prince Paul of his latest opus, Politics of the Business. "I don’t think the average hip-hop head will understand what I’m doing." Throughout his 19-year career, the visionary producer has consistently stretched the boundaries of hip-hop, from ushering in the Daisy Age with De La Soul’s seminal 1989 debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, to introducing the world to oddball Jewish rapper MC Paul Barman on 2000’s It’s Very Stimulating EP. Left-field projects like the latter, however, have increasingly polarised fans and critics alike, and Politics of the Business is bound to be no exception.

At first listen, Politics of the Business appears to be the very antithesis of a Prince Paul production: no-nonsense beats, standard samples, and occasional hints of hit single material. The only similarity is the sheer number of guest artists involved. "I think God purposely made me not able to rhyme because if He did, it would be a mad house. It’d be really insane," Paul chuckles. The vocal spectrum encompasses everyone from hip-hop stalwarts Chuck D and Guru to underground MCs MF Doom, Planet Asia, and Jean Grae, aka What What. The album also marks Prince Paul’s first collaboration with Canadian artists; Kardinal Offishall lends his slang on "What I Need," while Saukrates will appear on a forthcoming version of the same track.

Still, further listens to Politics of the Business reveal a closer semblance to Prince Paul’s previous solo efforts than the "fast food music" of mainstream rap records. Much like its critically acclaimed but commercially rejected predecessor, 1999’s brilliant hip-hopera, A Prince Among Thieves, Prince Paul’s new LP is a veiled criticism of the hip-hop industry. "It's a well-done spoof, and I wanted to do it without smiling," he explains. "People expect every record that I put out to [somehow] change the world. I’m gonna do what people wouldn’t expect me to do, even though they expect me to do the unexpected."

The Official Documents from the Murder Inc. Case

Smoking Gun has the complete affidavit released by the government in connection to their investigation of Murder Inc.

Normally I wouldn't be giving this much attention to a "Hip-Hop Crime" story, but this one looks like it is going to be pretty serious. These documents are no joke.

May 3, 2003

Ja Rule's Bad Spelling is a Defense Strategy?

In Minya Oh's latest report on the Murder Inc investigation she drops a nice little scoop about Ja Rule's much-ridiculed misspelling of his own crew's name:

Meanwhile, the incredible scrutiny of federal agents seems to have had an effect on Murder Inc.'s music. According to Murder Inc. artist Blackchild, an apparent slip up on Ja Rule's recent anti-50 Cent track "Loose Change" was more calculated than clumsy. Blackchild insisted to MTV News that when Ja raps, "50, you gon' get shot again by the M-U-R-E-D-R Inc.," he misspells the name of his label in order to avoid making a self-incriminating statement.

Incredible. They've come up with an explanation for the stupidest rhyme of the year, and it actually makes the rhyme sound even stupider than it did before. I wouldn't have thought that was possible.

May 4, 2003

Photos: The Anomolies on the Railroad

This week we were blessed with an appearance by four of the Anomolies: Helixx, Big Tara, Pri the Honey Dark, and DJ Kuttin Kandi. They gave a solid live performance that I'll try to post this week.. for now here are a few pictures:

click on a thumbnail for the full-size image:

one - Helixx, Tara, Pri, Kandi
two - Tara, Pri
three - Kandi

May 5, 2003

Pro Gay=Mo' Pay?

It's always hard to tell whether there is really a cause/effect relationship in studies like this, but interesting nonetheless. Maybe we'll finally get a few hip-hoppers to let go of their homophobia, if we can prove there's money in it.

Gay-tolerant societies prosper economically

If you object to homosexuality on moral grounds, as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., recently did in an interview, you may not be swayed by economic arguments. But if you are a fan of entrepreneurship and business growth, you should know the economic price of intolerance.

The key to understanding America's technological and economic vibrancy lies in our openness to new people and ideas. Tolerance of immigrants, gays and other minorities is much more important to sustained economic growth and the high-paying jobs than the tax cut President Bush has in mind.

Research I conducted with Gary Gates, an Urban Institute demographer, shows that the big new-ideas and cutting-edge industries that lead to sustained prosperity are more likely to exist where gay people feel welcome. Most centers of tech-based business growth also have the highest concentrations of gay couples. Conversely, major areas with relatively few gay couples tend to be slow- or no-growth places. Pittsburgh and Buffalo, which have low percentages of gay couples, were two of only three major regions to lose population from 1990 to 2000.

Studies controlling for a wide range of factors also show innovation and economic vitality closely associated with the presence of gays and other indicators of tolerance and diversity, such as the percentage of immigrants and the level of racial and ethnic integration...

Quality Returns to New York Hip-Hop Radio

Anyone who was around to witness it will remember the classic Marley Marl In Control show that aired on WBLS, possibly the hottest ever heard on NY radio, successor to the legendary Mr. Magic's Rapp Attack.

In more recent years, Pete and Marley kept that tradition alive with the Future Flavaz show on Hot 97, but that station's allergy to quality music started acting up and the show got canned. Since then they have kept it going at Future Flavas Online, sending out live streams every weekend along with such other luminaries as Premier and Evil Dee.

And now I'm happy to discover their show has been picked up by NY's other major hip-hop outlet, Power 105. It will air every Friday from Midnight to 2, with a rotating line-up of DJs that consists of: Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Evil Dee, Lord Sear, Premier, and Jazzy Jeff. How's that for an all-star lineup? Maybe this will help me stay up for Cypher Queenz at 4.

Harvard Takes on Tupac

While perusing Mike Barthel's blog I found a report in the Harvard Gazette about an academic symposium devoted to Tupac Shakur. Mike got the link from this blogger, who seems awfully offended that such an event would occur.

As I said to Mr. Barthel, I'm not sure I understand why some people find this so outlandish. I mean, of course whenever academics tackle a pop culture topic some silliness and pretension will ensue, as witnessed in the article below. But that doesn't mean the subject isn't worthwhile.

Why wouldn't Tupac be worthy of scholarly analysis, as a cultural phenomenon? It's not like this symposium was based on the premise that Tupac composed literature worthy of replacing James Joyce in Harvard's English curriculum, or anything like that. As far as I can tell, it focused on his impact as a cultural icon, which has certainly been profound. So why do folks find it so absurd that Harvard might devote a few hours to him? Is it an assumption that all pop culture is irredeemably frivolous? Or is there a more specific bias at play?

Symposium analyzes, celebrates 'thug': Tupac looked at as cultural artifact, force

Few spaces at Harvard are more burdened by symbols of the University's glorious past than the Barker Center's Thompson Room.

While the room itself is not particularly large, everything in it is on a grand scale, from the towering grandfather clock to the walk-in stone fireplace topped by a bust of John Harvard, both prominently inscribed with Veritas shields. Standing portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Percival Lowell, and other Harvard notables hang from the floor-to-ceiling oak paneling, in which names such as Emerson, Longfellow, Bulfinch, and Agassiz have been carved in bas-relief.

But for one day last week (April 17), these dignified totems of authority and rectitude were all but effaced by portraits of a young black man, his head shaved, his muscular arms and torso heavily tattooed, and his heavy-lidded eyes conveying an expression both menacing and soulful. In several photos he brandished a handgun, and in one he wore a large automatic tucked into the waistband of his boxer shorts.

The occasion was an academic symposium titled "All Eyez on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero." It was co-sponsored by the Hiphop Archive, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, the Program of Folklore and Mythology, and IKS University of Oslo, Norway...

...Mark Anthony Neal, an English professor from the State University of New York, Albany, gave a talk titled "Thug Nigga Intellectual: Tupac as Celebrity Gramscian," in which he argued that Shakur could be seen as an example of the "organic intellectual" who expresses the concerns of his group, a concept articulated by Antonio Gramsci, the Marxist political theorist...

...But the guy who blew everyone away was the keynote speaker Michael Eric Dyson, Avalon Professor in the Humanities and African American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur"(BasicCivitas Books, 2001). Speaking in an intense, cadenced, crescendoing style that clearly derived from black preaching, Dyson combined the vocabulary of post-structuralist theory with the language of the streets while quoting liberally from Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dog, Nas, and Mos Def.

Dyson, who has written books on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as issues in contemporary culture and race relations, said that when colleagues heard he was writing a book on Tupac Shakur, they asked "Why would you waste time and energy writing about this thug?"

Dyson's answer was that "Tupac spoke to me with brilliance and insight as someone who bears witness to the pain of those who would never have his platform. He told the truth, even as he struggled with the fragments of his identity..."

Walter Sisulu, 1912-2003

R.I.P. to one of the greatest heroes of the Anti-Apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela's right hand man for 50 years. As Hip-Hop representative I will note he was name-dropped by Chubb Rock on The One: "Long live the ANC, Walter Sisulu from South Africa, Mr. Mandela you're the real one"

Walter Sisulu, Mandela Mentor and Comrade, Dies at 90

Walter Sisulu, one of Nelson Mandela's earliest political mentors and his closest collaborator for half a century in the campaign against South Africa's racist political order, died yesterday in Johannesburg. He was 90.

Mr. Sisulu's political career was less celebrated than Mr. Mandela's but not much less remarkable. Alongside Mr. Mandela he rejuvenated and led the African National Congress, twice stood trial on capital charges for his activities, served 26 years in prison and still emerged deeply devoted to reconciliation...

...While Mr. Mandela was the public face of the African National Congress, by his own account he rarely acted without first consulting Mr. Sisulu...

...Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu was born into a peasant family in 1912 — the year the African National Congress was founded — in the Transkei, a former British protectorate in the south that was also Mr. Mandela's family home. Like many Africans of his generation, he was not sure of his birth date, although last year his 90th birthday was celebrated publicly on May 18.

He was of mixed race, but in his youth he identified fiercely with the Xhosa, and like Mr. Mandela he was for a time a devoted black nationalist. He studied at an Anglican missionary institute, but quit at age 15 and went to work in a Johannesburg dairy to help support his family. Over the years he labored as a gold miner, a domestic servant, a baker and a factory worker.

After being fired by several employers for trying to organize workers, he opened a real estate office in Johannesburg, helping blacks buy and sell property in the years before they lost that right under apartheid, the laws of strict racial segregation.

More important, he became the regional leader of the African National Congress in Johannesburg and the surrounding black townships. When Mr. Mandela arrived in Johannesburg in 1941, he was referred to Mr. Sisulu, described as a person of connections...

..."I had no hesitation, the moment I met him, that this is the man I need," Mr. Sisulu said in an interview shortly after the elections. Needed for what? "For leading the African people."

Mr. Sisulu's house in the Orlando section in Soweto was the social and political crossroads of the budding liberation struggle. He helped Mr. Mandela through law school, introduced him to his first wife (a Sisulu cousin) and brought him into the African National Congress.

Impatient with the seeming impotence of the liberation movement, Mr. Mandela and Mr. Sisulu joined with Oliver Tambo to create a youth league as a more militant wing of the organization.

Five years after organizing the youth league, the young rebels engineered a coup and took charge of the African National Congress. In the ensuing decades, they would be the congress's governing triumvirate — Mr. Mandela the articulate symbol of the struggle, Mr. Tambo (who died in 1993) the leader who kept the organization together in exile and Mr. Sisulu the behind-the-scenes counselor...

...When the congress set up a military wing to harass the apartheid state, Mr. Sisulu was part of its three-man high command.

With Mr. Mandela and 154 others, Mr. Sisulu stood trial for treason. The defendants were acquitted in 1961, but the top leaders of the resistance were arrested again in 1963 at a farm hideout in Rivonia, near Johannesburg, and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the state. Although the government demanded the death penalty, the men were sentenced to life in prison.

Mr. Sisulu was set free in October 1989, a precursor to Mr. Mandela's release four months later...

...Mr. Sisulu emerged from prison as lacking in vengefulness as Mr. Mandela, and filled with optimism. He said the nonracial philosophy of the African National Congress had trained them not to demonize their enemies.

"Bitterness does not do your cause any good," Mr. Sisulu said. "That doesn't mean you don't get angry. But you don't let it get in the way of your policy."

(I'm putting in such a long excerpt because the NY Times has a crappy new policy of making all their pages inaccessible after a week or so.)

May 6, 2003

Racism: The Real Matrix?

Like Morpheus said: "It is all around us. Even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window. Or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to Church. When you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."

Matrix actor felt racist 'vibe'

Matrix star Laurence Fishburne said he felt racism while living in Australia, describing the "vibe" similar to America in the 1950s.

The African-American actor and Oscar nominee said he loved Australia and considered himself a Sydneysider after spending long periods in the city shooting The Matrix sci-fi film in 1997-98 and the two Matrix sequels in 2001-02.

But during his first stay in Sydney Fishburne felt "a little bit isolated".

"There were some experiences that I had and more so than experiences there's a vibe, there's a vibration, there's a feeling," Fishburne told a group of international journalists during a press day in Los Angeles to promote the first of the sequels, The Matrix: Reloaded.

Asked if he felt racism in Sydney, the actor replied: "Yeah".

The actor was not verbally attacked but said he and three African-American members of his staff - a make-up artist, security person and assistant - who accompanied him to Australia for the original Matrix shoot had the same experience.

"There's a vibe. There's no malice," he said.

"The only way for you to really get (understand) this is you need to go to a country where there is nothing but black people and you need to be there for a month-and-a-half or two months and you need to be in a room one day when you are the only white person in a room and then you'll get it.

"But you won't get it by me telling you 'Oh, this happened or that happened' because nothing awful happened and nobody called me a bad name or any of that shit.

"What I'm talking about is something that cannot be described, it can only be experienced..."

Flash is Fast, Flash is Cool

Props were given to Grandmaster Flash in this weekend's Daily News. I'm glad to see that unlike Paul Cashmere, David Hinckley knows the difference between a DJ and a rapper.

Hip hop's frontier scout: Grandmaster Flash is still out there on the trail

Since most hip-hop careers don't last much longer than the pair of sneakers you wear when you sign the contract, perhaps the best tribute to Grandmaster Flash is that 30 years after he helped start the hip-hop game, he's still out there playing it.
Flash is working the clubs, touring Europe, spinning on Sirius satellite radio - doing the things deejays like Grandmaster Flowers and Pete Jones started doing in the parks and basements of the Bronx in the early '70s, when this new dance-and-party sound barely reached beyond the five boroughs.

Flash, born Joseph Saddler on New Year's Day 1958 in Barbados, was a teenage electronics wizard who soaked it all up and pushed it forward, exploring new possibilities for the turntables and the music.

It would be nice to say he lived happily ever after, too, but sometimes it's not all good. Flash battled with record companies and drugs. There were career dips.

"I've had some rough times," he says. "But I'm not bitter. I'm not angry. About 10 years ago, when things weren't working out, I went back to the basics, back to my turntables. I reinvented myself by using the same formula I did when I was first deejaying. I refused to be a myth, to be folklore. If I played someplace, I didn't want to tear up a room on sympathy. I wanted to tear it up with music.

"Remember, when I started, 'Apache' was a new record. There was no door open then. I had to kick it down."

Flash and the Furious Five graduated from block parties to records in the late '70s with tracks like "Freedom" and "Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel." They exploded in 1982 with "The Message," a stark warning in the style of Marvin Gaye, the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, with a hip-hop beat.

"Don't push me," it went, "'Cause I'm close to the edge."

By then, national magazines were picking up on Flash and his rappers, including Melle Mel. "Flash is fast," sang Deborah Harry. "Flash is cool."

But hit songs weren't a ticket to the American Dream...

Federal Court Weighs in on "Back That Azz Up"

It's funny to see the criteria used when our legal system wants to determine whether one rapper is biting another.

Jubilee's expert witness asserted that both songs have the same hook, similar tempo and arrangement, while Juvenile's counter-expert pointed out that among other things "Jubilee's is in the key of A-flat, a major key, while Juvenile's is in D minor".

Although I haven't heard Jubilee's song, going by Hip-Hop aesthetics I'd think if you took the hook then you are probably biting, regardless of what key you are in. But the court's standards are obviously based on very different musical sensibilities.

Rapper Juvenile bests Jubilee in court

The question facing a federal jury was: Exactly which rapper was the first to "Back That Azz Up"?

Was it Jerome Temple, the West Jefferson High School special education teacher who, as his alter ego DJ Jubilee, is a favorite at local block parties and dances? Or was it Terius "Juvenile" Gray, whose version of the song made him a star and introduced the New Orleans "bounce" sound to a nationwide audience?

At stake were millions of dollars. The success of Juvenile's version helped sell millions of copies of his 1998 album "400 Degreez," establishing the local Cash Money Records as a major player on the national rap scene.

Jubilee and his local record label, Positive Black Talk Inc., doing business as Take Fo' Records, claimed in a federal lawsuit that Juvenile, Cash Money Records and Cash Money's national corporate partner, Universal Records, violated federal copyright laws by using the Jubilee song "Back That Ass Up" without permission.

But a federal court jury ruled Monday in Juvenile's favor, deciding that the song was his creation and was not cribbed from Jubilee's song. The verdict capped a five-day trial at which both rappers testified. Ultimately, the jury of five men and one woman came down heavily for Juvenile.

Attorney David Patron, representing Juvenile and Cash Money, said the lawsuit had cast his clients as "thieves," but that the jury's verdict vindicated them as "independent, creative artists."

No word yet on how Rick Santorum feels about Backing That Azz Up.

Race Theory According to Anticon

Although their music does not suit my personal taste, I've always respected Anticon's efforts to innovate and pursue their own musical vision. I sometimes have less respect for how they represent themselves outside of the studio, where they (and some of their fans) have been prone to gut-wrenching spasms of arrogance and elitism. Sometimes they seem to show a profound lack of respect for the musical form they are largely drawing from, and the people who created it.

I could write at great length about this, and perhaps I should, since the topic strikes a nerve for both fans and detractors. But for now here's a recent Anticon article I just came by, in what seems to be a student newspaper from Scotland. It's an interview with the member known as "Why?", and there are several passages I found rather troublesome. I'm especially disturbed by his attempt to discount the relevance of race in 21st century America, in the second excerpt.

Anticonservative Sounds

Revolutionising the outmoded concept of hip-hop, Anticon are taking on the world with their unique brand of 'independent-as-f**k' beats and rhymes.

"I THINK as much about hip hop these days as I do about Shania Twain, Clint Black and Limp Dickstick..." From the outset, Yoni Wolf, a.k.a. Why? of Anticon, the West Coast-based music label, makes no bones about his feelings towards a homogenised, corporate-led music culture. "I think it has become an irrelevant teeny-bopper/ wanna-have-all-the-decadent-shit-rich-people-have-even-though-I-can't-afford-to-eat phenomenon... The phrase 'hip-hop' doesn't mean anything worth meaning anymore – if it ever even did..."

...Anticon releases music which could loosely be tagged as underground white West Coast American hip-hop but, as Yoni suggests, the act of description is often one which delimits musical potential. Anticon have received a bad rap, if you'll pardon the pun, from much of the hip-hop community for producing music not perceived as being true hip-hop. "I think as time goes on we grow increasingly more accepted by the music/art community and increasingly distinct from other movements at the same time," he says. "The more confident we become in our own individual artistic skins, the less pretentious we seem, and the more people are willing to accept what we do. As far as being white and male goes, I don't think it's a negative or a positive. Although we have all had very different upbringings in all different parts of the country, we do all have the white male rap kid thing in common. As time goes on though, I tend to think less and less in terms of race and more in terms of culture and class. So let's not say 'white' and 'black', 'cause I think those words are too abstract and the lines are too blurred – I think more of the separation and fear between people in this country can be attributed to class and culture than to the colour of people's skin. It just so happens that because of a shitload of blemishes in this country's development and current state, a whole lot of people of African, Asian, Latin American, and Native American descent are quite poor; and in turn a number of people of European descent have a great deal of wealth and power. There are also a great deal of poor people of European descent in this nation. I think there is just as much disconnection between poor whites and privileged whites as there is between privileged whites and poor blacks, or wealthy blacks and poor blacks, and so on. Those who have the power and wealth want to keep the power and wealth and only share it with others who are powerful and wealthy. So eight lower middle class kids of European and Middle Eastern descent happened upon each other's music and felt related? Is that a bad thing? I don't think so..."

May 7, 2003

Right Wingaz Wit Attitude (An N-Word Double Feature)

The N word (which I will henceforth refer to as "Ninja", in the tradition of Sacha Jenkins) is a hot news item today. First I saw this strange tale of a Florida radio host who thinks calling Black people "Ninjas" is no different than calling Republicans "right wingers":

Using n-word endangers talk host's diversity role

A national debate over use of the ''n-word'' has barreled into Broward County, and threatens to knock a local radio personality out of his appointed spot on the School Board's Diversity Committee.

Several leaders are calling for conservative radio talk show host Steve Kane to be removed from the committee, following a debate last week on affirmative action at Deerfield Beach High School. Before dozens of students, Kane used the racial slur several times, even after he was asked to refrain.

Doing little to douse the controversy, Kane has defended his use of the word. He argues that he was attempting to demystify the term because arbiters of political correctness have made its mention taboo. He compared calling someone by that name to labeling a person with a conservative viewpoint a "right winger.''

''I didn't use it as an epithet,'' Kane said. "I used it as an example of a pejorative word. There was nothing wrong with my use of it, though I concede it's politically incorrect to use it in any context. But quite frankly, I'm not politically correct...''

Politically correct? As I said to a friend's journal, I've always hated that phrase, and the feat of "ignorance is strength" rhetorical alchemy it is used to achieve. How it lets every type of bigot pose self-righteously like they are the true victims of intolerance, and pointing out their bigotry makes us the real bigots. Or as my friend quoted in another post:

"We have now reached the point where every goon with a grievance, every bitter bigot, merely has to place the prefix, 'I know this is not politically correct, but...' in front of the usual string of insults in order to be not just safe from criticism, but actually a card, a lad, even a hero. Conversely, to talk about poverty and inequality, to draw attention to the reality that discrimination and injustice are still facts of life, is to commit the sin of political correctness. Anti-PC has become the latest cover for creeps. It is a godsend for every curmudgeon and crank, from fascists to the merely smug." ---Finian O`Toole, The Irish Times, 5 May 1994

Anyway soon after reading that piece I made another Ninja sighting in the campus paper of California State University Chico:

'America's most loaded word' finds its way to class

Tupac used it. Chris Rock uses it. But what about Chico students? Is it ever OK to say [ninja]?

In his four years at Chico State University, there is one night De'Aunta Richmond will never forget. It was a Saturday night. It was the night he got chased down an alley.

It was the night he was first called a [ninja].

Richmond grew up about 10 minutes outside of Berkeley and moved to Chico in August 1999. Two nights before classes started, Richmond went to visit his cousin in his apartment on West Fourth Avenue.

He started walking back to his Mechoopda Hall dorm room around 11 p.m. On his way, he passed by a young woman stumbling through the street. She was white and obviously drunk.

Richmond put his arm around her waist and helped her to the side of the road. When they reached the safety of the sidewalk, they were standing directly under a street light.

Four white men watched from the porch of a nearby house. "Do you see that [ninja] with that white girl?" one of them yelled. Richmond couldn't believe they'd be talking about him.

"The first time you're called that you have to step back and think about it," Richmond said. "I didn't have time to think because I knew they were coming for me."

The men jumped off the porch and chased Richmond down a side road for more than two blocks. He arrived back in his room out of breath, in tears and desperately wanting to leave Chico.

It was the first time he'd ever been called a [ninja], but it wouldn't be the last...

More Hip-Hop Litigation

A court has decided that Def Jam owes $132,000,000.00 to TVT, the label where Ja Rule made his debut on a Mic Geronimo single, and later got signed along with his group the Cash Money Click. $108 million seems like a lot of damn money for punitive damages, I wouldn't be surprised if that changes on appeal:

$132M awarded in Ja Rule dispute

A small independent record company won a $132 million US verdict against industry heavyweight Island Def Jam Music Group and its top executive on Tuesday in a dispute over an unreleased record by rapper Ja Rule.

The verdict in the penalty phase of the trial provides roughly $24 million in compensatory damages and $108 million in punitive damages to New York-based TVT Records. Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, started his career with TVT in 1993 and moved to Island Def Jam with president Steve Gottlieb's blessing five years later, TVT lawyer Peter Haviland said.

In spring 2001, Ja Rule and two friends tried to make an album for TVT that included early Ja Rule recordings, but Def Jam's parent record company Universal Music Group blocked its completion, the lawyer said.

Haviland said Gottlieb was "left in ruins" when he could not release the album he was counting on...

And Dr. Dre also took a loss in this case involving the sample used for "Let's Get High". My question here is how much of that $1.5 million will ever make its way to the actual members of Fatback? I hope the answer is not zero, but I have a funny feeling..

U.K. Label May Get $1.5M From Dr. Dre

A federal jury has recommended a $1.5 million award to a British record company that sued rapper-producer Dr. Dre for song plagiarism, attorneys for both sides said.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall has yet to sign the judgment, Dre's attorney Howard King said Tuesday. A recorded telephone message left after business hours for King to elaborate on the award wasn't returned.

London-based Minder Music Ltd., sued Dre in 2000, claiming his 1999 song, "Let's Get High," used the bass line of Minder Music group Fatback's 1980 song, "Backstrokin," said Minder Music attorney Alan Dowling.

That second link also has info on the lawsuit filed against 50 Cent by the surgeon who treated him after his shooting. As many times as 50 refers to the shooting in his rhymes and press appearances, that surgeon should be getting a percentage of his sales.

May 8, 2003

Rappers vs. Rockefeller

It is truly amazing, and appalling, that the Rockefeller drug laws are still on the books. This is certainly a more worthy cause to rally behind than whether Ludacris gets to be in a Pepsi commercial:

Coalition Wants New York Drug Law Repealed

Politicians, civil rights groups and rappers on Thursday demanded the repeal of laws in New York that impose mandatory stiff prison terms for possession or sales of small amounts of illegal drugs.

'It makes no sense to keep drug offenders behind bars when the state has an $11 billion deficit,' former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the drug laws.

Cuomo, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in the last election, said it costs taxpayers $610 million a year to hold some 22,000 non-violent drug offenders in prison.

Known as the 'Rockefeller' drug laws, they were enacted in 1973 when Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, was governor. In general, the laws require judges to impose a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for anyone convicted of selling two ounces, or possessing four ounces, of an illegal narcotic such as cocaine or heroin.

Critics of the laws say many of those convicted would be better off in rehabilitation facilities -- an option they say is cheaper and more productive than prison.

'We want to create an awareness campaign so that people know that the law has to be repealed,' said Russell Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network...

EDIT: Here is a report with more details on the hip-hop angle.

May 9, 2003

50 Cent: Next Face on Mount Rushmore?

This op-ed piece from a local paper in Oregon places 50 Cent alongside America's Founding Fathers:

A real American hero

It's a good bet that moralizing cultural arbiter William J. Bennett wouldn't agree, but you could argue that rapper 50 Cent is a classic American hero.

Perhaps this seems an odd description for the hip-hop newcomer, whose instantly mythic celebrity persona is based not so much on his rhyming skills as on his tough-guy physique and a rough past of drug dealing and violence. Despite being the most powerful nation in the history of the world, America retains an enduring fascination with triumphant underdogs; after all, even the most lovingly institutionalized heroes, the bedrock figures of our social and political establishment, were rebels: the Founding Fathers broke King George's laws in order to make their own rules. Those boys kicked it really old school, straight outta the Continental Congress. Talk about your Original Gangstas.

But because the vast posse that T. Jefferson and his crew eventually attracted included so many underdogs -- too many poor, huddled masses to all triumph by socially proper means -- we also came to love those who go down scratching and clawing and causing trouble along the way. We love winners, but we love bad guys, too...

Suge Knight's Selective Thuggery

Here is a letter I sent in response to this piece in today's Orange County Register:

From: Jay Smooth To: 'bwener@ocregister.com' Subject: Snoop and Suge Knight

I enjoyed your piece today about the Biggie and Tupac documentary. But how could you say that Snoop is "terrified" of Suge Knight? He has been by far the most courageous member of the hip-hop community in publicly standing up to Suge and calling him out for the disgrace that he is. Take these lyrics from "Pimp Slapp'd", the track devoted to Suge on his latest album:

>Your only gain is to try to get me to fall down to your level
>Man you worser than them devils
>A lotta niggas should've said it, f**k em
>But I'ma say it for em, stop it, pop it, rewind and play it for em
>This nigga's a bitch like his wife
>Suge Knight's a bitch, and that's on my life
>And I'ma let the whole world see
>Cos you f**ked up the industry, and that's on me

These hardly strike me as the words of a terrified man. I liked your piece otherwise, but I think Snoop deserves more credit than you gave him.

Especially since he's far more likely to face retribution than Nick Broomfield. Suge has usually shown an awareness that he's more likely to get away with his thuggery if he keeps it within the Hip-Hop community. As documented in Ronin Ro's book "Have Gun Will Travel", when conflict started in Death Row's offices, the intended victim would often try to escape by fleeing to "the white section" of Interscope's office, where Suge's crew was reluctant to get their thug on.

One of the few times they did cross that line was their assault on Steven Cantrock, of the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand. Cantrock and his associates then showed Death Row the difference between chess and checkers, when they went to federal agents with details of Suge's financial dealings, and helped bring about his downfall.

-Jay Smooth, WBAI

Stagger Lee, the O.G.'s O.G.

Here's a lengthy feature in the Guardian breaking down the history of Black folk (anti)hero Stagger lee. It's written by Cecil Brown, who wrote the cult classic novel "The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger", and just released a non-fiction work named "Stagolee Shot Billy", from which this essay is drawn.

Brown was immortalized on Richard Pryor's concert album "Bicentennial Nigger", when Richard pointed Cecil out in the audience and talked about how much he liked "Jiveass Nigger", plus how jealous he was that Brown came to the show with Rosalind Cash.

I think he may be reaching a bit with some of the connections drawn between Stagolee and Hip-Hop, such as when he points out that they both make use of cliche.. similarities don't always indicate influences. But this is still a nice offering, highly informative. I recommend reading the whole thing but I will paste some of the section that deals with Hip-Hop:

Godfather of Gangsta

In the red-light district of St Louis in 1895, a pimp shot a man dead in an argument over a hat. The ballad telling the story has been recorded by hundreds of bluesmen and jazzers - and even the Clash. It also helped create modern-day rap. Cecil Brown tells the remarkable tale of Stagolee...

...In the development of rap music and hip-hop culture, Stagolee's influence is very clear. It persists in rap in the use of the first-person narrator, the performers' adoption of nicknames, the social drama, the humour, and participation in the commodity culture. From the 1930s to the 1950s, most reciters of Stagolee told the story in the third person. After the rise of the toast tradition in the 1960s, most reciters told the story in the first person. The audience sees through the eyes of the character the rapper creates. The "I" is the bridge between the "I" of the rapper and the "I" of the character.

A reciter of Stagolee associates himself with the hero, but he also makes clear that he is not Stagolee. He can effectively change himself in the eyes of his spectators and listeners. In gangsta rap, the performers are acting out the lives of the criminals in an effort to dispel the criminal from their midst, as a way to get rid of the negative energy.

Stagolee is also present in rap music in the use of cliche: Stagolee is composed of cliche lines that are easy to remember. In rap music, performers found it necessary to use such cliches to keep the rap going.

The final influence that Stagolee has on rap was participation in commodity culture. In the 1890s, the Stetson became a symbol of black male status; in the late 1990s, baggy pants became a signifier of status. As in ear lier generations, ghetto blacks fight against a white appropriation through weird dress. To be able to purchase these commodities, young people in the ghettos resort to hustling, as their parents and grandparents did. They can't afford to believe that a nine-to-five job would solve their problems, because they could never get those jobs.

So gangsta rappers use the lifestyle commodities - cars, clothes, girls - as signifiers of success and wealth. They scrap the old cliche of the ghetto hustler with a slick suit and a truckload of hot goods for the new archetype of the rapper. The term and the concept of the modern-day "mack" are a retrieval of the old cliche of the St Louis mack that Lee Shelton once embodied. And it is not just the mack who is revived, but the women who will do anything for him, including sell their bodies. The girls rappers talk about are whores, or "ho's", just as they were back in the pre-industrial ballads of Stagolee...

More on Russell Simmons vs. Rockefeller

Our friends at Democracy Now have the audio of Russell Simmons' speech calling for a repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, you can listen to it right here.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws Turn 30, Activists Vow to Overturn Them

This week is the 30th anniversary of the Rockefeller drug laws. In 1973, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller pushed through State legislature the first laws in the nation that require minimum sentences for first-time drug users.

The Rockefeller drug laws mandate a minimum of 15 years for first-time, nonviolent drug users who are caught with small amounts of drugs.

Dozens of other states and the federal government rushed to adopt their own versions of the Rockefeller drug laws when New York State set the precedent.

But people like Barbara and Jenna Bush don't need to be too afraid. Most the people imprisoned by these laws are poor, and most of them are people of color.

Yesterday in New York, a coalition of politicians, celebrities, and mothers of prisoners rallied outside Governor George Pataki's office to demand the repeal of the drug laws. Hip-hop promoter and producer Russell Simmons, former New York Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, Actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and New York Reverend Al Sharpton were among those who spoke.

Also, check out this site that Becca pointed out to us with more good info.

May 10, 2003

Fabolous and Freeway Do Their Little Turn on the Catwalk

When I started on Christian Hoard's review of Fabolous and Freeway, I was afraid I might get a headache from struggling to parse his hipster gibberish, as often occurs when I read the Village Voice. But this one turned out to be kinda funny, and perceptive at times:

New Thugs on the Block

Next-Big-Thing Rappers Arrive With Wheeze, Breeze, and Cheese

Even though 8 Mile turned it into a heroic, Rocky-style archetype of urban odds-beating, battle rhyming (and the raw talent it assumes) is an oft overvalued part of rap-game success, especially among heads. Despite the attractiveness of summing up skillz so succinctly, it's easy to forget that most next-big-thing rappers arrive in your stereo with equal measures good luck and assistance from well-established backers, and also that first-rate rhymes often make for third-rate records. And whatever the case, most new thugs on the block will at least get a second shot, if only to ensure their label gets a return on its investment.

All of which is fairly obvious, I suppose, but which is thrown into sharp relief by Freeway and Fabolous, two comparably blessed rhymers whose newish records (Free's first, Fab's second) nonetheless end up miles apart. Freeway, an Amish-bearded Sunni Muslim with the obligatory dope-slinging background, signed with Roc-a-Fella after his old Philly buddy Beanie Sigel introduced him to a soon besmitten Jay-Z. (Hova was so confident in the upstart MC's flow that he wagered cold cash on Hot 97 that no one could match Freeway in battle. To date, no one's taken up the challenge.) Fabolous, who debuted two years ago with a terrific, loose-tongued single (the Nate Dogg-assisted "I Can't Deny It"), is a 23-year-old Brooklynite with fashion model good looks and a honeyed, Mase-slow flow. On both of their cameo-stuffed records, their distinct voices are subsumed in production as bouncy and r&b as it is pricey. But where Free's album works its way up to a lively, beat-wise sleekness, Fab's jiggles like week-old Jell-O while the platinum kid gets drunk on his own hype. (Speaking of production, really the deciding factor with both albums, I find the recent r&b-electro-synthy turn among big-name—especially East Coast—beatmakers a little disturbing. Realized most vividly on current albums by Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Snoop Dog, this boombapless music is sleekness for its own sake: a bling-bling equivalent of '80s studio slickness and unfeeling art-rock. Never mind that undie producers like El-P treat fun[k] like a big pile of anthrax; that's a trend that has yet to bubble up aboveground. But from the big boys, I do ask for a little meat and potatoes to go with all the caviar and Cristal. Maybe even some new James Brown samples...)

Wait a minute. Did he just say Fabolous has "fashion model good looks"?? I retract my earlier statement about the headache.

MF Grimm Released from Prison

All the Hip-Hop message boards were buzzing today with rumors about it, and it is now confirmed that MF Grimm is once again a free man, after nearly 3 years in prison.

I used to spend a lot of time at Stretch and Bobbito's show in the early 90's, and remember him well from back then, when he was still known as Grim Reaper (and before a horrific shooting incident left him paralyzed). He always had new rhymes ready whenever he came around, and would eagerly gather people around to hear his latest compositions, and check out the new angles he was exploring. He delivered each rhyme with such intensity, and always struck me as fiercely devoted to his art.

That strength and commitment has shown itself in his incredible ability to overcome the hardships life has placed in his path since then, finding himself confined to a wheelchair and then confined to a jail cell, but never losing the drive to make his voice heard. It is truly wonderful news to hear he is free, and I hope this is only the beginning of of many good things to come for MF Grimm.

Grimm has a new album slated to come out sometime this summer, under the auspices of Day By Day Entertainment.

May 12, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Anomolies Live Performance

I just posted two excerpts from The Anomolies' appearance on our show last week, in the Freestyle Archive.

We may soon be running out of space for our soundfiles, so if any one has webspace they could donate for the cause, or can recommend a reliable host that gives a lot of space for a low price, please let me know. i'm hoping I won't have to take down any of the older files to make room for new ones.

May 13, 2003

Outkast vs. Rosa Parks, Round 2

A new development in Rosa Parks' old lawsuit against Outkast. This seems to be another case where our legal system is assessing a work of art it is poorly equipped to judge.

I'd think it would be clear to most who read this that Outkast was not hoping to trick anyone into thinking this was a product affiliated with Rosa Parks, to capitalize on her "brand" or anything like that. Just as it should have been obvious in 1989 that Luther Campbell was not trying to pretend his booty records were affiliated with the Star Wars franchise, when he named himself Luke Skywalker. But the courts, made up of folks with different cultural sensibilities (and beholden to legal technicalities that can override common sense), had a different interpretation.

Rosa Parks Trumps "Rosa Parks"

A federal appeals court on Monday cast out a ruling in favor of OutKast and reinstated the civil-rights pioneer's lawsuit accusing the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo of profiting off her moniker by appropriating it for the title of their tune "Rosa Parks" and falsely suggesting the song was about her or endorsed by her.

In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Detroit sided with the 90-year-old Parks and declared that while OutKast is protected by the First Amendment, the Atlanta-based rap outfit still must demonstrate to the court why they decided to name their song after the Detroit resident when the lyrics barely mention her.

"The fact that Defendants cry 'artist' and 'symbol' as reasons for appropriating Rosa Parks' name for a song title does not absolve them from potential liability for, in the words of Shakespeare, filching Rosa Parks' good name," the judges said in their ruling.

The heart of Parks' case is that OutKast used her iconic name for commercial gain without her permission...

..."Rosa Parks" was one of the more popular tracks off OutKast's multiplatinum-selling 1998 Arista release Aquemini, but contains no references to Parks in the song aside from the title and the line, "everybody move to the back of the bus."

OutKast's lawyer, Joe Beck, argued that the rap duo's use of her name and the back-of-the-bus lyric did not constitute false advertising nor infringe on Parks' right to publicity as Parks' attorneys previously claimed. Rather, Beck said that while Parks' act of defiance inspired the line, it was really a symbolic slam to rival rappers looking to surpass OutKast's success...

I must say that choice of title always was a little mysterious to me, as was Bombs Over Baghdad. I often wished, during the recent war, that the latter's lyrics actually related to the title in some way, it could have been put to such great use.

But you might say there's a tradition in Hip-Hop of seemingly topical song titles that have no relation to the actual subject matter: A Tribe Called Quest's "Steve Biko"; LL Cool J's "Def Jam in the Motherland"; and "Free Mumia by KRS with Channel Live, which did a nice bait and switch by mentioning Mumia in the chorus but then devoting the song to a well deserved assault on C. Delores Tucker and her self-serving ilk. Are there any other examples you guys can think of?

NEW PHOTOS: Black Moon at Joe's Pub, 5/12/03

I stopped by Joe's Pub last night, where Evil Dee and Buckshot rocked along with Starang, Ruste Juxx, and Ruck AKA Sean Price.

The show started with a projection of the new Style Wars dvd running on stage as the crew set up for the show. Then Mums (Poet from Oz) introduced a pretty good short film named "What's for Breakfast" starring Andre Royo, who was also in attendance. He plays Bubbles the crackhead on The Wire, and also stars in one of those really annoying beer commercials where some guy expounds on his philosophy of life.

Then Evil Dee came out with Sean Price, who got off to a slow start, and seemed to be throwing off the Joe's Pub audience (which contained more females that the average hip-hop show) a bit with his ho/bitch/ho-centric verses.

But after a while he picked up some momentum, and once Buckshot came out things really got rolling.. Buck still has great stage presence, and he and Evil Dee adapted well when both the 1200's and CDJ1000's started skipping. With help from Ruck, Starang Wondah and a few other BCCers they rolled through most of their classics and a few songs from a possible new album, that sounded pretty solid.

The set ended with everyone on their feet for "How Many MCs" and "Who Got the Props", and getting folks out of their seats is no mean feat in such a pomo-afro-boho-bougie establishment. Pretty cool show. Here are a few pictures I took:

click on each image to see the full size photo

bcc.jpg buck1.jpg buck2.jpg evil_ruck_backstage.jpg
evilruck3.jpg ruck1.jpg ruckbuck1.jpg starang_buck.jpg

May 14, 2003

Fear and Loathing in the Mosh Pit

As mentioned on Okayplayer, indie-rap icon Sage Francis recently signed with the Punk label Epitaph records, and this news has started a fierce debate on Epitaph's website. Some fans are lamenting Epitaph's attempt to "sellout" or "go commercial" by signing the "OG Rapper" Sage, which has to get a chuckle from anyone familiar his work:

"oh my god..this is the demise of this label. Whats next Brett? you gonna sign 4 cute boys to dance and sing like the backstreet boys?"

"there should be some type of cleanliness left on our labels, and not the infiltration of bad music such as rap."

Yes, because as everybody knows, Punk is all about cleanliness.

Who woulda thunk the Punk world could be populated by such narrow-minded sheep, who embody everything Punk (as i understand it) was meant to rebel against? But to be fair, the majority of replies are more sensible:

"I am thoroughly glad about this. Punk doesnt have a sound, but a feeling. Sage has seen the problems of our society and expresses them. That IS Punk. The most Punk song ever is 1920's The Jazz song "Strange Fruit" By Billie Holiday. It speaks of taboos and she fought to perform it wherever she went. The racism spoken of in that song still exists. Bravo Epitaph."

May 15, 2003

MOVIE REVIEW: Matrix Reloaded


Wow, what a sensory overload.. I need some time to digest that.

Lincoln Square, 10PM. The crowd was far less geeky than at Star Wars or LOTR.. a surprising number of people who look like they might possibly not be virgins. We got there at 8PM, at which point the line already stretched from Broadway to Columbus.

They let us in about 8:45 and the mad dash for seats began. Two opposing camps of dorky middle-aged guys got into a heated battle over one row.. one guy said "listen, I'm an attorney, and I can assure you the theater's policy would not allow this.." and the other guy triumphantly cut him off with "Well I'm an attorney too!" It was a sad spectacle.

After everyone settled down, finally the curtain rose up..and we watched about 5 commercials, which were heartily booed. Then the trailers.. Charlie's Angels 2 (looked alright), Jason vs. Freddy (the crowd went nuts), T3 (actually looked good in these clips), and some Tom Cruise samurai movie that got clowned.

Then, finally, the movie. As mentioned in most of the negative reviews, they explain the workings of the Matrix in much more detail than the first. This entails a lot of portentous yapping and philosophizing, which sometimes slows the pace to a crawl.

Lawrence Fishburne somehow manages to make Morpheus even more pompous than before, and his speech to the people of Zion is especially comical. I kept expecting him to break into Cyrus' speech from The Warriors (Can you dig it? Caaan youuu diiiig iiiit?). The rave/sex-scene montage that follows is a complete waste of time, and I'm pretty sure it was pieced together with unused footage from the Britney Spears "Slave" video.

But none of this was surprising, actually I expected worse after reading the reviews. The flaws were obvious but easily tolerable, because I came to see phenomenal action and visuals, and on that level this movie delivered like a motherf***er.

The freeway chase scene was ridiculous. The much hyped "burly brawl" was mind-blowing.. yeah the CGI was pretty obvious at times but it didn't detract from it, for me. The movie is packed with so many gorgeously crafted scenes, it was impossible to absorb it all in one sitting. I wanted to rewind every scene and watch it again in slow motion.

The cast was pretty solid.. Keanu was his lovably dopey self once again, Hugo Weaving kicks even more ass than last time as Agent Smith, and Harold Perrineau is a great addition to the crew. Jada is cool but it seems like they are saving her good stuff for the third chapter, along with several other cool characters that are introduced briefly. Once again there are an astonishing number of people of color, for a sci-fi movie. This had more Black characters than most films that are marketed as "Black movies".

All in all, that was easily the most fun I've had at the movies this year. I'm still coming down from the adrenaline rush, seeing it on opening night with the hardcore heads definitely adds a lot to the experience. But I'm pretty sure you'll have a good time no matter when or where you catch it.

Be warned about two things: 1) It ends very abruptly, with no resolution whatsoever. 2) Yes, there is a short trailer for the third movie, after the credits end. Surprisingly, the next installment seems to involve a lot of people floating around in slow motion while shooting and/or kicking each other.

May 19, 2003

Malcolm X transcript Discovered by Columbia

A friend who graduated from Columbia's Journalism School alerted me to this recent discovery there:

1963: When Malcolm X Visited the Journalism School

On November 20, 1963 -- two days before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- Malcolm X visited the Journalism School to speak to Professor Mel Mencher's class. Their remarkable dialogue can now be read on-line for the first time.

Download the complete transcript here.

Platinum Goes Aluminum

UPN's much hyped "Hip-Hop Drama" Platinum, which sparked a lively discussion here last month, seems to have met its demise.

Platinum Gets Cancelled

The hip-hop drama "Platinum" has not been renewed for the fall season, representatives for UPN confirmed with AllHipHop.com. After starting with near record-breaking ratings, the show’s Nielson status plummeted.

“Its not coming back next year,” a rep for UPN said, "The ratings were the same as 'Haunted' was when we cancelled it last year."

"Platinum" was a hip-hop family saga based on two brothers, Jackson and Grady Ellis (Jason George and rapper Sticky Fingaz of Onyx), who ran an independent record company.

The Sophia Coppola-produced show was a huge success initially, garnering it extremely high reviews and generated significant controversy for its content. Even mogul Russell Simmons spoke out in support of the realism of the plot.

The show delved primarily into the seedy underbelly of the music industry, something that Naji [sic] Ali of Project Islamic H.O.P.E. said was the curse of the show.

"If they were true to making a real hip-hop show, they wouldn’t have focused on the negative," Ali told AllHipHop.com. “We are vindicated.” When the show debuted Ali and his organization proposed a boycott of the show if the creators didn’t attempt to change the content...

This show didn't spark enough interest for me to keep watching after the first two episodes, but I'm not happy to see it disappear so quickly, and I'm skeptical about Najee Ali's claim that his protests are vindicated by this result. As far as I can remember, commercial television has never gotten comfortable with any Black oriented show that wasn't a straight-up sitcom, from Frank's Place on down to City of Angels.

May 20, 2003

Is There Room for Right-Wing Rappers?

Our DJ 3D (who is going out on tour this week with Prince Paul) played a nice little instrumental on the last show, by a group named Ugly Duckling. I hadn't heard of them before, so I did some googling to see what they are all about. The answers I found were not very pretty:

Ugly Duckling's Politics Are Even Uglier

Where I'm from—that'd be the German port town of Hamburg—Long Beach's Ugly Duckling are one of America's more noteworthy exports. Their videos are all over TV. Music magazines compare them to the likes of De La Soul, Black Eyed Peas, Jurassic 5 and Black Star...

...Ugly Duckling has toured most of the U.S. and hit 20 other countries. Here, Andy Cooper, one of the band's two MCs, joined Young Einstein and me in the abandoned garage beside the house. Taking note of the derelict surroundings, I asked if they've ever thought about leaving.

"Never!" Einstein said. California is home, and that seems a natural enough reason to stay, along with family, friends and the sun.

But why not move to Europe, where the band's fame might bring them big euros?

This is where my conversation with Ugly Duckling, a band I've admired from another continent, went suddenly south—or rather rightward. It turns out Ugly Duckling are standard-bearers for conservatism.

"I don't want to pay 50 percent of my income to the government. I don't want to be controlled by the state!" Cooper said.

I was taken aback. I paused. I looked around. My English isn't perfect, and I wanted to diplomatically point out that the band doesn't have much to show for its reliance on the American marketplace.

Wouldn't it make sense, I asked, to pay more taxes for a better social welfare net and an innovative health-care system?

"No, it wouldn't!" Cooper said. Innovative health care? When Americans are sick, they go to "the doctor and pay him cash!" Social welfare? "Why should the government give unemployed people an apartment and some money to stay alive?" Cooper asked. "It just makes the people unproductive! They should get out and find a job."

Well, I offered in halting English, maybe it's harder for people to find a job once they're homeless. Ugly Duckling didn't want to hear it. "You can just write down the address of your homeless shelter on the job application," they offered...

Are any of you guys familiar with this group? Hopefully somebody can tell me this is some sort of Onion-style joke.

But if this is really what they are about, do these guys have any chance of being accepted with these politics? Should they be accepted? Would it be wrong for them to get reverse dixie-chicked by hip-hoppers because of their politics, if the music itself is on point? Or do they deserve to get dissed?

May 21, 2003

PHOTOS: Bobbito's farewell show, 10/17/02

A few months ago I was honored to be in the house for Bobbito's last night on WKCR. It was like a great big family reunion, a trip back in time for one night, to a time when there was a real sense of community in the NY Hip-Hop scene. Here are a few of the photos I took:

Annabella, Pete Rock
Annabella, Pete Rock, Damali, Wordsworth
Percee P, Kool DJ Red Alert
Lord Sear, Pete Rock
J Love, Bobbito, Lord Sear, Pete Rock
DJ Mighty Mi, Wordsworth
Pumpkinhead, Wordsworth
Mr. Len
The crew back together one more time: Bob, Stretch and Lord Sear

May 26, 2003

Hello from Sunny Florida

Hope y'all are doing well out there.. We're on a brief hiatus here as I vacation in Tampa for another few days, but we should be blogging at full speed again by the end of the week. In the meantime you should check out the many cool sites and blogs listed on the right side of this page. There's a lot of good reading out there.

May 31, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Rare Funk and Breaks from DJ Oneman

Don't call it a comeback! I'm back in NY and ready to get this train rolling again, starting with a 50 minute addition to the radio show archive, from our good friend Oneman.

About May 2003

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

April 2003 is the previous archive.

June 2003 is the next archive.

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

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