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November 2003 Archives

November 3, 2003

You Ain't Hittin in Brunei, Hammer!

Are any of you out there in blogville familiar with these guys? I want to hear their stuff.

Brunei's ‘best rappers' to release debut album

Local hip-hop group, MNC (Magnific Crew) consists of Hasrin Hj.Mahmud (Maxxx), Muhd Nazmi Mahali (Nazmo), Muhammad Fadhil Hj.Abdul Kadir (Skye), Ak.Md Amiridden Pg.Hj Md Daud, Hj. Abd Rahman Hj.Mohd (Nukky), Ak.Ros Iskandar Pg. Sufri (Is), Ak.Azrol Pg.Hj Ahmad (Ajoe) and the female vocalist, Fatin Nadzirah Ahmad Al-Shokry (Fatin). Crowned as 'Best Rappers' in Brunei, MNC has appeared on numerous public performances. The group is currently recording their debut album with a local music company, Phuture Phase.

November 4, 2003

Slick Rick Is Free

It's about damn time. You may remember this judge as one of Clinton's failed nominees for Attorney General back in 1993, part of that whole "illegal nanny" scandal.

Slick Rick Released From Jail

One and a half years after "Slick Rick" Walters was jailed for immigrations violations, the rapper's release was ordered by a U.S. District Court Judge and his deportation was halted.

Judge Kimba Wood reinstated a 1995 waiver that allowed Walters to remain in the country despite having been convicted of a felony (an attempted murder charge from 1991, for which he served more than three years in prison). U.S. law specifies that foreign nationals who commit crimes must be deported, but due to Walters' family, business and career -- all rooted in the U.S. rather than England (where he was born) -- the ruling permitted him to stay. The Bureau of Immigration Affairs tried to overrule that ruling in 1997, a decision which Judge Wood said denied Walters due process.

Walters had been on a Caribbean cruise in the summer of 2002. Upon his return on June 1st of that year, he was arrested for illegally re-entering the country. He made four requests for bail, but INS declared him a flight risk and he spent the next eighteen months in a Bradenton, Florida, jail. Last December, he was to be deported, but Wood intervened.

"I am grateful that the judge stopped my deportation," Walters said just last week. "I totally understand that homeland security is going through changes. But this back and forth with INS is unfair..."

ALBUM REVIEW: Jay-Z's Black Album

As you all surely know Jay-Z's long-awaited Black Album was leaked on MP3 yesterday, sparking the biggest downloading frenzy since the Great "Hail to the Thief" Epidemic of March 30th 2003. Jay (according to okayplayer) is pissed and mystified by the leakage, and planning to move the release date two weeks earlier, to nov. 14th.

My preliminary review? Hard to make a call on this one, because I've really never been able to swallow a Jay-Z album whole. It's like when I was a kid, I once bought 50 caramels from the store and tried to eat all of them at once. At first it seemed like a dream come true, but when I got halfway through they started to taste like peanut butter and I didn't want to see another caramel for a week.

For some reason that's what Jay has always been like for me, tasty in small doses but a whole album tastes like peanut butter. I would never deny he is a brilliant emcee, and I always enjoy hearing him on the radio or in a club, but I never feel the urge to put on one of his albums or go out of my way to hear him.

That being said, I did quite enjoy my first run-through of The Black Album. Much of it is driven by the lush classic-soul loops that Kanye and Just Blaze have made the new standard, plus a few doses of the obligatory Neptunery. Rick Rubin serves up raw guitar and drums (think Raising Hell outtake) for "99 Problems", in line with Jay's original plan for a strictly back-to-basics raw hip-hop album. Timbaland's offering is also spare and kinda retro, perhaps trying to fit that original mold. Most downloaders seem lukewarm on this one so far but I dig it, maybe I'm biased when it comes to Timbo. Okayplayer hero 9th Wonder (of Little Brother) delivers a highlight with "Threat", and giving props to 9th may help Jay quell the underground heads who are angered by the absence of Primo.

DJ Quik has quite a following as a beatmaker but his contribution here, "Justify My Thug", will not bring me into the flock. Yes the chorus is what you are thinking it must be, and it sounds just as corny as you are thinking it must be. On "Moment of Clarity" Eminem drops another of his bland Korg Triton noodlings, which everyone but me seems to like, so who am I to judge? On this track Jay spits a line sure to be quoted in many reviews:

if skills sold, truth be told

i'd probably be, lyrically, talib kweli

truthfully, i want to rhyme like common sense

but i did 5 mil, I ain't been rhyming like common since

Which at first sounds like a mighty cool thing to say, until you listen a few more times and ask yourself "but really why couldn't he be rhyming like Kweli right now?" He's surely sold enough already that he can go the Prince route and do whatever he feels from now on, without fretting over charts and plaques. He doesn't need to keep making pop hits, he is choosing to stay on that path, so although I like hearing him say it this line also rings hollow in my ears. Not to mention how the last line implies that early in his career he did rhyme like Common Sense, which is a phase I must have missed. (Whether Common rhymes like Common Sense anymore is a debate for another day).

But this is nothing new, Jay-Z has always tried to play both sides of the "conscious" fence. He tells us his rhymes about the drug game are only cautionary tales that he spits so his young fans "won't have to go through that", yet he constantly leans on that drug game experience as basis for his credibility, as proof he is more "real" than Nas and other foes, and so on. You can't have it both ways, Jigga, either you're proud of selling rocks or you're not.

Regardless, Hova's revelation of his inner boho is only one of countless quotables on the album, as Jay proves yet again he is among the nicest to ever touch a mic. Actually the line that has lingered most in my mind (for its sheer oddity) is on "What More Can I Say", where he proclaims himself "the martha stewart who's far from jewish". I'm sure the Prime Minister of Malaysia just breathed a sigh of relief..

This has been endlessly hyped as Jay's final album (although I can't imagine anyone actually believes that) and he spends much of it wistfully recounting his life story and pointing out all his virtues that you will truly understand once he's gone. It's like he knows he will never get the adulation Pac and Biggie earned by passing away, so he's getting the next best thing by telling us he too must disappear now, and then writing a eulogy for himself.

Dunno if he succeeds at that, but as faux-farewell albums go you could do far worse. I'm betting he's smart enough to wait at least 2 years before his return, so he can make the "comeback" album seem like a major event.


EDIT: For those who read this far, as a reward I'll let you know there is an exclusive Jay-Z MP3 up on our main page right now, a live performance on our radio show back in 1995.

November 6, 2003

Dazed and Confused

Hold up, you mean Matthew McConaughey was driving that ferry!?

No wonder they crashed, you know he stays weeded.

I am a Soldier, He is a Liar

The authorized biography of Jessica Lynch hits bookstores next week, and is getting lots of press right now for offering medical evidence that she was sexually assaulted by Iraqi soldiers. It is horrifying to hear that this happened to her, and I'm also kinda iffy about the way it's being latched onto by the media, it seems a little exploitative. Like the assault is getting milked by the book's publicists as the cornerstone of their marketing strategy.

Also noteworthy is the end of AP's story, where we find an interesting little bio of the author, former NY Times reporter Rick Bragg:

He resigned from the Times in May after the newspaper suspended him over a story that carried his byline but was reported largely by a freelancer.

For anyone who wondered if this book might bend some truths in the name of propaganda, that little tidbit sure tastes funny.

November 7, 2003

Hip-Hop in the Middle East

USA Today has taken notice of hip-hop's rising influence among youth in Israel. Just like in Cuba, South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere, seems like young people who have something to say are finding hip-hop the perfect medium to make their voice heard. Interestingly this case it is the chosen medium for both the left and the right, it would appear..

Israeli hip-hop takes on Mideast politics

Thousands of teenagers shrieking at the sight of Israel's hottest pop idol packed a soccer field in this Tel Aviv suburb late this summer, two days after twin suicide bombings killed 15 and wounded dozens.

Wearing baggy sweat pants, a baseball cap pushed off-center and a glittering, rhinestone-studded Star of David necklace, Kobi Shimoni (known by the stage name Subliminal) swaggered on stage as if he were the Israeli incarnation of Eminem. With a booming rhythm track and an Israeli flag draped from the DJ stand, the show turned out to be as much a patriotic pep rally as a rapper's delight.

"Who has an Israeli army dog tag, put your hands in the air!" Subliminal called out in a mix of Hebrew and English. Hundreds of hands shot up. "Who is proud to be a Zionist in the state of Israel, put your hands in the air! Hell yeah!"

The patriotic appeal at the concert won chants of support from the rocking crowd, mostly adolescents grappling with weekly terrorist attacks and a crippling economic recession.

With sidekick Yoav Eliasi (aka The Shadow), Subliminal has parlayed nationalist themes into a chart-topping album, transformed the Star of David into a fashion statement and helped integrate the music of urban America into the fold of Israeli pop...

The Scoop on Jay-Z's NEXT Album?

Here, maybe, is the scoop on what Jay-Z will be doing next, posted by a certain Kareem Burkett in response to my Black Album review.

(Also, stay tuned because I will be posting an exclusive Jay-Z MP3 this weekend)

okay..i see you guys are discussing this "fade to black" that jay-z supposedly has dropped to be his final album. i work for the promotions department here at universal records. im not an a&r, or anything special. i am a runner(basically a "gopher"). but in my everyday work, i sometimes get into casual conversations with record label honchos, a&r's, etc...i will not profess to be the biggest jay-z fan..but i thought the following would be interesting to know.."The Black Album" is technically not jay-z's last album...sometime next summer (the word around here is mid-july)..jigga will drop another album that will consist of some his tighter collabos, unreleased material, and 4 to 5 new songs..in the vein of NAS "lost tapes" album. the album is tenatively titled "THE ENCORE: roc-a-fella records presents FEATURE PRESENTATION"..the marketing ploy will be, dame dash releases this without jigga's approval, because he felt the public demanded it. so on and yadda yadda..i was given a tentative tracklist from one of the a&r's in the office. this could be total bullshit for all i know..but it sounds very legit and has actually came from more than 3 reliable sources at the def jam offices in new york and an a&r at the los angeles office.

1."renegade" featuring eminem prod. by eminem

2."4 alarm blaze" feat. m.o.p prod. by dj premier

3."one minute man" feat missy elliott, ludacris produced by timbaland, co produced by big tank

4.*"lobster and scrimp"(rmx) feat. skillz, timbaland
prod. by timbaland

5.*"sneakers and jeans" feat. 50 cent prod. by red spyda

6.*"stop"(rmx) feat. bubba sparxxx prod. by

7."big pimpin" feat. ugk produced by timbaland

8.*"casualties of the hustle" feat. notorious b.i.g
prod. by younglord

9.*"as good as it gets" feat. big l, camron
prod. by dj premier

10.*"stand up" (rmx) feat. ludacris produced by kanye west

11."is that yo bitch" (original version) feat. twista prod. by timbaland

12.*"platform" feat. phonte of little brother
produced by 9th wonder

13."aint no nigga"(rmx) feat. lil kim
produced by ski

14."this cant be life" feat scarface, beanie sigel
prod. by kanye west

15.*"still(auto)matic" feat.daz dillinger produced by scott storch(dr.dre)

16."money aint a thang" feat jd produced by jermaine dupri

17. "change the game" feat. beanie sigel, memphis bleek prod. by rick rock

18.*"hovi baby" (rmx) feat. twista, xzibit prod. by just blaze

19.*"early morning" feat. d'angelo prod. by dj premier

disc 2
20.*"get by"(rmx) feat. talib kweli
prod. by kanye west

21.*"brooklyn's finest"(rmx) feat, notorious b.i.g remix produced by just blaze

22."5 minute freestyle" feat. funkmaster flex
prod. by dj clue & ken "duro" ifill

23.*"fade to black" feat. dr. dre
prod. by dr. dre & focus

24."money, cash, hoes" feat. dmx produced by swizz beats

25.*"that aint it" feat. bonecrusher
produced by 9th wonder

i guess we will see

November 8, 2003

"And Ain't I A Soldier?"

As my friend pointed out in her journal, Jessica Lynch is not the only female soldier who made the evening news for surviving a violent capture in Iraq. But the other one is getting very different treatment from the media and the government. Gee I wonder why that would be?

Ex-POWs' treatment seems unfair to many

Sunday, NBC will air its made-for-TV movie celebrating Pfc. Jessica Lynch, whose capture and dramatic rescue is the feel-good story of America's war with Iraq.

But some African-Americans don't feel so good about Lynch's story. Instead, they ask: What about Shoshana Johnson?

Johnson, an Army specialist, belonged to the same 507th Maintenance Company as Lynch. Unlike Lynch, Johnson fought to stave off their Iraqi captors. Like Lynch, she sustained serious injuries.

But only Lynch got the headlines, the TV movie, the prime-time television interviews and a biography penned by a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Lynch, in short, got the full American celebrity treatment, while Johnson largely got ignored. Many African-Americans think that's simply because she didn't have the right ``face.''

African-American suspicions of a racial double standard were reinforced last month when it was revealed that Johnson, who was shot in both ankles, will get only 30 percent of her monthly pay in disability benefits. Lynch, who had a head injury and broken bones in her right arm, right leg, thighs and ankle, will get 80 percent disability pay. Lynch's new book, "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,'' says she also was raped by her Iraqi captors.

"Shoshana is getting the shaft, and people are outraged about it,'' said Mary Mason, a Philadelphia talk-radio host whose show was bombarded with callers complaining about the disparity in treatment. ``It's ridiculous, and complete racism...''

I don't think race is the only issue here, but there are a number factors and race is certainly one.

November 9, 2003

Arrest Report

If anyone cares:

Rapper Tray Deee Arrested in California

Rapper Tray Deee, a member of the hip-hop group Tha Eastsidaz, was in custody Saturday after being arrested for allegedly shooting at people outside of a business, police said.

No one was injured and the 37-year-old rapper, whose given name is Tray Muhammad, was arrested at his Fontana home Friday several hours after the alleged shooting, said Officer Jana Blair of the Long Beach Police Department.

He was booked for felony assault with a deadly weapon and was being held in the city jail with bail set at $50,000.

There was little information on the shooting's circumstances, Blair said.

"Someone fired a handgun in the direction of individuals in front of an establishment. Someone identified him as a possible suspect," she said...

November 10, 2003

NEW MP3 AUDIO: Exclusive Jay-Z Freestyle with Natural Elements


Since Jay-Z and his Black Album are the hot topics for this month, I went digging in my crates and found an old episode of my radio show from the summer of 1995, when Shawn Carter himself dropped in for a quick interview, and then sat in on a cypher with Mister Voodoo and L-Swift of Natural Elements (with DJ Qool Marv on the turntables):

That's me talking to Jay at the beginning. I'm only gonna keep this mp3 up for a little while, so grab it while you can. And don't forget you can hear many more classic live performances at our Freestyle Archive.

(note regarding usage of the word "freestyle": I am a member of hip-hop's older generation who does not subscribe to this new-fangled notion that "freestyle" can only mean rhyming off-the-top.. so please don't get your knickers in a twist if sometimes I use the word in reference to a live performance of written rhymes.)

November 11, 2003

Let Jin Go, Son, It's Chinatown

Damn I just walked by this bar yesterday, it's right next to my favorite beef jerky spot, Jung's Dried Beef. I could make some kind of pun here involving the word "beef" but I'll skip it:


A clash between two Asian rappers - up-and-coming star Jin and another rapper linked to a vicious gang - sparked a shooting in Chinatown early yesterday that sent a third man to the hospital, cops said. The incident began at about 2 a.m. in the trendy new Yellow bar at 32 Mulberry St., when the rappers started arguing.

Another man, Christopher Louie, 23, stepped in to defend his pal, the newly popular Asian rap star Jin, who appeared last summer in the drag-racing sequel "2 Fast 2 Furious" with hip-hop star Ludacris.

During the argument, the rapper linked to the gang - whose name was not released - pulled a .40-caliber gun and shot Louie once in the lower back. Jin, whose full name is Jin Au-yeung, was unharmed. The gunman - who fled the scene - is a reputed member of the Ghost Shadows street gang, police said.

Sources said the argument between the rival rappers may have been sparked by the shooter's jealousy of Au-yeung, who spent part of his summer on MTV's "You Hear It First" tour.

Au-yeung, who was born in Elmhurst, Queens, raps about race and being Chinese-American. His debut album was released two weeks ago on Ruff Ryders/Virgin Records. The 21-year-old star has already won rapping competitions where, like white Eminem before him, he has turned taunts about his ethnicity into his own rap disses.

Louie was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where cops there said he is expected to survive.

Wait, Jin's album did not come out, did it? Good old NY Post, always on the ball.

BTW, I notice some other sites have posted this story without crediting the Post as their source. Come on guys, just cuz your source has no journalistic ethics doesn't mean you should have none either!

Jin just posted a video shoutout on his website, that makes a brief reference to the shooting.

There IS NO Councilman Les Winan!

Looks like CNN had some funny business going on at their last debate:

CNN planted question at debate, student says

CNN planted a question about computer preferences at last week's debate of the Democratic presidential candidates at Faneuil Hall in Boston, according to the student who posed the query and wrote about it yesterday in an online forum of the Brown (University) Daily Herald. During the debate, cosponsored by the nonprofit Rock the Vote organization, Alexandra Trustman asked the candidates whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers.

Trustman wrote yesterday that she was called the morning of the debate and given the topic of the question the CNN producers wanted her to ask. She wrote that she was "confused by the question's relevance" and constructed what she thought was a "much more relevant" question.

But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, she wrote, she was "handed a note card" with the question and told she couldn't ask her alternative "because it wasn't lighthearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions."

CNN did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

(jacked from atrios, who also used a Simpsons reference for his title)

November 12, 2003

Paris is Dissing

Rappers are getting political in Paris, and damn near the only rapper getting political in America is named Paris. What does this mean?

French rappers in war of words with government

A rap song which calls on fans to "screw France" and "exterminate" government ministers has so enraged the interior minister that he has threatened to take legal action against the band responsible.
But the group, Sniper, has responded in kind, threatening to sue Nicolas Sarkozy for defamation for calling them racist and anti-semitic.

Critics have denounced their music as anti-women, anti-French, anti-European, anti-semitic and anti-police. The lyrics of La France, a tirade against the inequalities of French society, triggered Mr Sarkozy's anger. The song describes France as a "bitch", and suggests that the only way for disaffected young people with "hatred running in their arteries" to get their voices heard is to go out and start "burning cars".

Another song on the band's latest album Stone Throwers attacks the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and suggests that "carnage" is a logical response to destruction of homes.

Mr Sarkozy said last week that he would launch legal proceedings if the band again performed in public material which he described as "perfectly scandalous... racist and anti-semitic". He added: "Democracy dictates that one respects the rules. Those people who don't will have to answer to the nation's justice system."

This year Mr Sarkozy pushed through a bill which made "offending the dignity of the republic" an imprisonable offence.

The band's four members, El Tunisiano, Aketo, Black Renega and DJ Boudj, all from the northern Parisian suburb of Val d'Oise, said: "We are not anti-semitic, but we are on the side of all Israelis who want peace... You are wrong to think that we are racist.

"We are French like you, but we are beginning to wonder whether you accept us as such."

Raising the possibility that the minister had not listened to their songs, they added: "We would like to believe that you were ill informed and carried away by temporary demagogic hysteria, and we are ready to accept your excuses."

This triggered a fresh salvo from Mr Sarkozy, who said: "To say that 'France is a bitch' and a 'nation of fascists' which one 'should screw' is insulting, to say that one should exterminate the 'ministers' and that police officers are 'arseholes' is insulting."

November 13, 2003

When Fake Rappers Attack, Volume 23

Benzino AKA the Paris Hilton of hip-hop (famous for no reason) is making another desperate bid for attention.. I suppose I shouldn't be enabling him by posting about it, but he's just so much fun to ridicule. Plus we actually have a bit of a personal connection, through David Mays with whom I had a colorful confrontation once. I'll tell that story another time.

Benzino Disses Westside Connection

Ray Benzino was recently on radio station 100.3 the beat in LA promoting his new found ally Ja Rule's album and he had alot on his mind. The rapper/magazine owner went on to attack the usual people he attacks, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Dr Dre. However, he has added a few names to that list which included Westside Connection, D-Block and Fabolous......

He was furious that the Westside Connection was taking shots and making fun of his 'close friend' Ja Rule. He went on to call them a 'bad influence' in hip hop and 'fake gangstas' and also went as far as saying that he regrets allowing them to be on the cover of 'The Source'. Then he moved on to attack Fabolous and D-block for 'being down with 50'!

He went on ranting and raving for about 25 minutes until the DJ, A-One, interrupted him to take phone calls. Unfortunately the calls were not pleasant, which made Benzino even more irritated. He ended up storming out in the middle of the interview.

Evil Dee Comes on, Kicks It

Thaformula.com, a site you can always count on for the best hip-hop interviews around, just posted a new one with our good friend Evil Dee. Here's an excerpt on the evolution of the mixtape:

...ThaFormula.com - Now I got to talk to you about the mixtape problem happening now. You being in New York where all the dopest producers came from, what happened, and why the hell did every DJ start screaming on CD's?

Evil Dee - First I'ma tell you my history with the mixtape thing. I was making mixtapes since '88 or '89. Now my thing uh I'ma tell you why I started talking on my mixtapes. What happened was I used to do parties and I would you know make my tapes at the parties. What happened was I would sell my tapes and I went to the park once and this guy was playing my tape. So you know how you hear your joint and you go "yo who made that?" he was like "I made that," and I sat there and heard like three mixes I did and I'm like "no I made that!" He was like "prove it." I couldn't prove it so I decided that on my tapes I would just be like "Evil Dee is on the mix, come on kick it," and that's how that whole thing started. Now ok with like myself, I did my i.d. on my tape I do it once, I don't shout out nobody who you don't know. Now what happened was, you had S&S, Ron G, Doo Wop, and other cats come out and what they would do is like, S&S took it to another level where instead of being on some "It's S&S in full effect," he was just "YAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAYYAYAYA" So S&S was the first cat I heard yelling on his tapes. S&S was also one of the first cats that I seen take it from skills to exclusives. I used to make my mixtape to show that I was nice as a DJ. f**k an exclusive. Any idiot can make an exclusive mixtape. My mother can make an excusive mixtape. I'm not saying she's an idiot, but you know. The whole thing with the mixtape is it was to show the DJ's skills. What happened was it went from that to exclusives and then DJ Clue was the first person that I seen put it on a CD. So Clue took it to the digital revolution...

November 14, 2003

R.I.P. Tony Thompson

Not only the drummer for Chic and The Power Station, but also on David Bowie's "Let's Dance", Madonna's "Like A Virgin".. he filled a whole lot of dancefloors (and digital samplers) in his lifetime.

Chic's Tony Thompson Dies

Tony Thompson, one of the premier session drummers of the past twenty-five years, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles of renal cell cancer at age forty-eight. The former member of Seventies disco funk band Chic, Thompson had worked with everyone from David Bowie to Madonna to Diana Ross.
Born in New York on November 15, 1954, Thompson came to prominence on the late-Seventies disco scene, thanks to his funky, rock influenced big-beat style. After sitting in with LaBelle, Thompson met Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, with whom he formed Chic in 1976. The band's 1977 debut featured the hit "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," but they became disco legends with 1978's C'est Chic, which contained the number one classic "Le Freak," as well as the rollerboogie anthem "Good Times."

"The thing that was most apparent about Tony as a drummer was his sense of inventiveness and cleverness," says Rodgers. "All three of us had roots in jazz, fusion and rock, which is why he would never think of the typical R&B drum fill . . . He just cherished those brilliant moments to sparkle."

Chic disbanded in 1983, and Thompson became an in-demand session musician, working with Debbie Harry, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, David Bowie and Madonna.

In 1985, he joined Duran Duran members Andy and John Taylor and the late Robert Palmer in the supergroup Power Station, whose hit singles "Some Like It Hot" and the T. Rex cover "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" were driven by Thompson's propulsive drumming.

A longtime rock fan, Thompson got the gig of a lifetime in 1985 when he was asked to sit in with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin when they played at the Live Aid benefit concert at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium. Thompson then joined the Zeppelin trio for some secret recording sessions in 1986. Rumors of a reunion were quashed, however, when Thompson was involved in a serious car accident later that year.

He remained a prolific session drummer throughout the late Eighties, working with Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart and Jody Watley, though he was less active in the Nineties...

November 16, 2003

Boots Wants the Truth

Some righteous audio courtesy of our friends at Democracy Now:

Tell Us The Truth: Billy Bragg and Hip-Hop Artist Boots Riley On Music, War and the Media

Democracy Now! interviews British singer-songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg and Boots Riley, rapper with the Oakland hip-hop group the Coup. They joined other musicians to kick off the Tell Us The Truth Tour at the opening session of the National Conference on Media Reform last Friday.

November 18, 2003

"Racist" Eminem Tapes Proven Authentic, Still Sound Better Than Benzino's Album

Back when word of this tape first arose, I told my friend Irina that Eminem will ultimately go with the disgraced congressman's defense, writing it off as a youthful indiscretion.

Em will surely take a hit in the short term, and he'll have to put in a lot of work cleaning this one up. But in the long run I'm sure he can work past this. Though I would never trivialize his usage of the N word or disparaging Black women, this really does sound like a frustrated, ignorant little kid who is in a very different place mentally than Em is today. Although he often seems immature nowadays, I'm inclined to doubt that these lyrics reflect the mindset of Eminem in 2003.

The Source Digs Up Tape Of Eminem Using Racial Slurs

Eminem found himself on the defensive Tuesday (November 18) after The Source magazine owners Ray Benzino and Dave Mays held a press conference to play a recording of the MC delivering racial slurs.

On the first of two tracks purportedly recorded in 1993, an audibly young Slim Shady raps, "All the girls I like to bone have big butts/ No they don't, 'cause I don't like that n----- sh--/ I'm just here to make a bigger hit."

The second track featured Eminem rapping about a black girlfriend he broke up with. "Blacks and whites, they sometimes mix/ But black girls only want your money, 'cause they're dumb chicks," he rhymes. Later in the freestyle Em raps, "Never date a black girl, because blacks only want your money/ And that sh-- ain't funny."

The first track was only a few lines long, but the second track went on for several minutes with Em — seemingly rhyming off the top of his head — repeatedly saying he did not like black girls and that they were only out to get money. Both tracks sounded amateurish.

"Don't make this right now a double standard," Benzino said at the press conference. "We gotta treat this the same way you treat Mike Tyson, like you treat Kobe Bryant, like you treat R. Kelly, like you treat O.J. Simpson."

Eminem responded by insisting he isn't racist and explaining that the recording was made when he was young, foolish and angry.

"Ray Benzino, Dave Mays and The Source have had a vendetta against me, Shady Records and our artists for a long time," Eminem said in a statement. "The tape they played today was something I made out of anger, stupidity and frustration when I was a teenager. I'd just broken up with my girlfriend, who was African-American, and I reacted like the angry, stupid kid I was. I hope people will take it for the foolishness that it was, not for what somebody is trying to make it into today..."

Benzino's rant about about Tyson, Kobe, R Kelly and OJ is silly for numerous reasons. All those guys were accused of criminal acts against women, in incidents that occured at the height of their fame, very different from uncovering some offensive remarks made long before one's career began. A better comparison, though not dug up from his past, might be Jesse Jackson's Hymietown interview.

Not to mention that except for Mike Tyson, so far all those guys have more or less come out on top (we'll have to wait and see about Kobe). And just like those guys (and Jesse), I think Eminem will outlast this scandal. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out though.

November 19, 2003

Shamrocks and Glocks: Benzino's Dirty Little Secret?

As you all know by now, Benzino (who is NOT a co-founder of the Source, as is often reported) has released tapes of a much younger Eminem using the N word and bad-mouthing Black women in a rambling, amateurish freestyle.

But what Benzino's not telling you is that he himself was once affiliated with a white emcee, and that white emcee used the N word on the track they made together. In fact, it appears that Benzino told his white emcee to use the N word.

The emcee in question is named Bawston Strangla, and his connection to Benzino is detailed on his web page here, where you can also download the song he and Benzino worked on together in 2000, "Shamrocks and Glocks". About 35 seconds into the song you will hear Strangla drop the proverbial "N" bomb, in a passage that sounds very random and out of place alongside his other lyrics.

Through some rudimentary googling I got in contact with a representative of the Bawston Strangla today. He indicated that Strangla is no longer associated with Benzino, and explained that while recording Shamrocks and Glocks, "during the session benzino told him to use the N word in the song".

Benzino told him to use the N word.

This does nothing to minimize the offensiveness of Eminem's newly unearthed lyrics, but it certainly places Benzino's righteous indignation in a different light. Just in case anyone was starting to take him seriously.

Edit: Dru Garrity of Commonwealth Rcords hit me off with a little more info on what Bawston Strangla is up to now: "Bawston Strangla is finishing up his next LP "BEDLHAM IN BOSTON 1998-2004" which will feature the Benzino track as well as tracks produced by D-Tension, Dickie Skinz, RayBoy, Irish Devil.. We also just shot a video for the lead single "Got To Do"..

Update on Rumors of New Jay-Z Material

Super-producer and frequent Jay-Z collaborator Just Blaze got in touch with me last week (I'm about 95% sure it was really him), and wanted to clarify that all the rumors swirling around about Jay-Z's future projects are fictional, especially the supposed new tracks mentioned by "DJ Dubb" in the replies to my earlier post. If you look around in there you will notice Just Blaze himself also commented in the thread a couple of times..

November 20, 2003

All Praise Is Due

While we're all so busy digging up 15 year old tapes, might as well take a fresh look at "Paid In Full":


In this journey, you're the journal, I'm the journalist / Am I eternal, or an eternalist?
— Rakim Allah, "Follow the Leader"

That's from Rakim's "Follow the Leader", though it could be Roland Barthes convincing us that authors are the creations of texts and that texts are the recreation of closed cultures and close readers . . . the crisis thrown up in Rakim's rhyme-the poet pondering whether he's a modernist or a postmodernist, a creative God or a revised body of texts-is rendered moot in the next line: "I'm about to flow, long as I can possibly go / Keep ya movin' 'cause the crowd said so. Dance!" Here Rakim locates his immortality in African culture's call-and-response continuum.
— Greg Tate, "Diary of a Bug", The Village Voice (1988)

When Greg Tate published his groundbreaking essay "Diary of a Bug" in 1988 it was an event -- 17 fragments, a literary mix-tape from the seminal Afro-Pomo-Boho of his generation -- the birth of Black Popular Post-Structuralism. And when he finished name-dropping the sources of his inspiration -- F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante -- and finally got down to critical business at hand, the first "text" he took up was none other than Rakim Allah, the Poet Laureate of the Hip-Hop Nation. Indeed there's never been a hip-hop artist (with apologies to my man Mike Dyson and his muse Tupac Shakur) who deserved top-shelf scholarly love from the camp of the Blackademe Niggeratti more than Rakim.

Four lines from the b-side of that first 12-inch single -- "I take seven MCs put 'em in a line / And add seven more brothers who think they can rhyme / Well It'll take seven more before I go for mine / And that's 21 MCs ate up at the same time" -- and the lyrical gauntlet was forever thrown down, forever reified, as every up-and-coming ghetto wordsmith (Big Daddy Kane, Nas, Rass Kass, Treach, Canibus) is introduced as "the next . . ." and 17 years later we can only say "still . . ." The recently released Paid in Full: Deluxe Edition captures those initial lyrical moments, in the career of hip-hop's greatest MC...

My Only Thought on Michael Jackson

This is the best thing that could have possibly happened to Eminem, cuz the front page only has room for one scandal at a time. Somewhere in Boston, Benzino is weeping.. "This was supposed to be my shining moment! Damn you, MJ!! Damn you and your freaky ways!!"

November 21, 2003

Thom Yorke to Bush: We Hope That You Choke (Again)

London can't get the stink out.. Dubya's been hangin round for days:

Radiohead Frontman Protests Bush Visit To London

Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke is at the forefront of protests surrounding President George Bush's visit to London this week, with Yorke calling Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "liars," according to NME.com. The singer emailed NME after learning that London police were planning to create a three-mile "exclusion zone" to keep protesters away from Bush, because of concerns over alleged threats of terror attacks against the American leader.

When asked why he chose to speak out, Yorke said, "To make Blair squirm over his decision to take us into a illegitimate war (in Iraq) and follow this religious lunatic (Bush) toward a dangerous future for the whole planet...both of these men are liars. We have the right to call them such, they are putting our children's future in jeopardy. They are not controlling the terrorist threat, they are escalating it."

Yorke said he was enraged that authorities were using "the threat of terrorism to suppress whatever they choose, intimidate and arrest whoever they wish..."

Is anybody watching the Vibe Awards?

Why was Margaret Cho talking like that?? Has she been watching a whole bunch of old Amos and Andy tapes?

November 22, 2003

Kelefa Got This One Right

Since we frowned upon Kelefa Sanneh in an earlier post, I should acknowledge that his coverage of the eminem tapes is pretty sharp. He puts the allegations in their proper context, and knows enough not to take Benzino's fictional "co-founder" title seriously:

...In all of this, the main complicating factor is that The Source is far from a neutral observer. The dominating presence at the news conference was that of Benzino Scott, a less-than-successful rapper who is listed on the magazine's masthead as "Co-Founder and Chief Brand Executive." Mr. Scott has been embroiled in a feud with Eminem, and the dispute has spilled into the pages of the magazine.

The February 2003 issue included an illustration of Mr. Scott holding Eminem's severed head. The March issue kept up the attack, calling Eminem an "infiltrator" who has continued the sad legacy of the much-derided white rapper Vanilla Ice. In a roundtable in the same issue, Mr. Scott blamed MTV: "I believe MTV was like a male basically takin' hip-hop, havin' sex with her, pushin' her off, pimpin' her and after that havin' the baby by her. We all know who the baby is: Eminem."

Eminem himself would probably agree with this last criticism. He has admitted in songs and interviews that his race has a lot to do with his huge success. "Do the math, if I was black, I would have sold half," he once rhymed. But while he acknowledges the power of racism, he doesn't make apologies for having figured out a way to work the system.

In his own verses, Mr. Scott tends to express his views of Eminem (born Marshall Mathers) less delicately. In "Die Another Day," he rhymes, "You dyed your hair blond, I'm a make it red/ How you gon' sell records, Marshall, when you're dead?" Later, after casting aspersions about Eminem's sexuality, he adds, "I'm a king, you a little punk/ You the rap David Duke, the rap Hitler/ The culture-stealer." In the context of lyrics like these, the revelation of Eminem's race-baiting recordings seems less like high-minded journalism and more like the continuation of yet another hip-hop feud.

Still, the tapes exist, and Eminem has acknowledged recording at least one of the tracks; if people with more credibility than Mr. Scott start speaking up against him, he may be forced to issue a more substantive apology. In the meantime, though, the magazine vows to press on: Mr. Scott said he planned to distribute the newly unearthed recordings with the February issue.

This other section of the piece is fertile ground for debate:

Although much has been made of Eminem's hip-hop credibility, the truth is that for the past few years a number of hip-hop fans — especially black hip-hop fans — seem to have been losing interest in the rapper, who never seemed comfortable in any community, not even the hip-hop community. His music still hews closely to hip-hop's beats-and-rhymes blueprint, but his persona comes straight out of rock 'n' roll: the sullen loner, the paranoid rebel.

Any thoughts on that, citizens of blogville?

November 23, 2003

Eff A Pop Critic?

I wonder what Jeff Chang thinks of this piece, especially the props given to Da Capo's Best Music Writing (AKA Best Music White-ing).

Almost famous

Rock critics with big book deals and TV face time are becoming stars on their own. But are they saying anything?

In the 1980s, a college student in Atlanta had a weekly jones for The Village Voice. In the pages of New York's alternative tabloid, Touré found writing like he had never seen before. Greg Tate, Nelson George, Harry Allen and others were talking about hip-hop in a way that was almost as inspiring as the music itself.

''There was this murderers row of writers who had voice, opinion, gravity, intelligence and style,'' says Touré, who goes by his first name only. ``The Voice not encouraged but demanded a voice from writers. To think of joining that group was like joining a successful sports team. If you really wanted to show your chops to the community, then you wrote something in the Voice.''

Touré moved to New York, where he wrote for the Voice, The New York Times and The New Yorker. He's now a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of the short story collection The Portable Promised Land. But these days, you're as likely to see his talking head on TV, where he may be commenting on Michael Jackson for CNN or on Whitney Houston for Nightline, as you are to catch his byline. That's because, as he and many other writers say, pop criticism isn't what it used to be.

''I have no sense now that it matters in the same way, that people are paying attention,'' says Touré...

Speaking of not paying attention, I have a new policy of never acknowledging the existence of Touré, as it is bad for my blood pressure. So, no comment on this section.

When rock, punk and hip-hop were new, there was a push-and-pull relationship between creators and chroniclers, who compelled, repelled and propelled each other. Bangs and Lou Reed locked horns. Chuck D. and Tate had it out. Nowadays, J.Lo worries about paparazzi, not pundits...

Yeah but J Lo is hardly the same type of artist as Lou or Chuck, not really a fair comparison.. in Bangs or Tate's heyday there were plenty of bubble-gum acts who could care less what they wrote. And one could argue that for every J Lo today there are still plenty of artists like Liz Phair, who cares about critics to a degree that borders on frightening.

Interesting piece tho, nitpicking aside.

J Edgar's Ghost Still Walks the Earth

I don't wanna throw the word Cointelpro around too loosely, but here is something to keep an eye on:

FBI scrutinizing anti-war protesters

The FBI has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used "training camps" to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money, and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities such as recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities such as using fake documentation to get into a secured site.

FBI officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters...

...Civil rights advocates have complained for months that federal officials have surreptitiously sought to suppress the First Amendment rights of antiwar demonstrators.

Critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, for instance, have sued the government to learn how their names ended up on a "no fly" list used to stop suspected terrorists from boarding planes. And the New York Police Department this year questioned many of those arrested at demonstrations about their political affiliations, before halting the practice and expunging the data in the face of public criticism.

The FBI memorandum, however, appears to offer the first corroboration of a coordinated nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding demonstrations...

...The memorandum also discussed "innovative strategies" used by demonstrators, like the videotaping of arrests as a means of "intimidation" against the police. And it noted that protesters "often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations..."

Umm, videotaping as a means of "intimidation"? That's quite a spin.

November 25, 2003

Michael Jackson Evidence Hidden on Simpsons DVD?

One of the bonus "easter egg" features on the Simpsons Season 3 DVDs is a hidden extra commentary track for the episode about a 300 pound white man in an insane asylum who thinks he is Michael Jackson. The voice for that character, of course, was provided by the real Michael Jackson.

The commentary, from writer/producer Mike Reiss, describes Michael as a very cooperative and helpful guest star, who even contributed several key story ideas. But I bet I'm not the only one who did a double-take when Reiss described this contribution: "Michael said 'make sure you have a scene where I stay up all night with Bart', so we did it."

Uhh, yeah. In case you think I'm making that up, here is the audio. Doesn't really mean anything, I'm sure it was totally innocent at the time, but it sure sounds creepy now.

This Ain't Funny So Don't You Dare Laugh

Just another post about the wrong path:

Participant at KKK Initiation Wounded After Shots Are Fired Into Sky

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - A bullet fired in the air during a Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony came down and struck a participant in the head, critically injuring him, authorities said.
Gregory Allen Freeman, 45, was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in the Saturday night incident that wounded Jeffery S. Murr, 24.

About 10 people, including two children, had gathered for the ceremony. The man who was being initiated was blindfolded, tied with a noose to a tree and shot with paintball guns as Freeman fired a pistol in the air to provide the sound of real gunfire, Sheriff Fred Phillips said.

A bullet struck Murr on the top of the head and exited at the bottom of his skull, authorities said.

Freeman fled the ceremony but was arrested near his home, authorities said. He was released on $7,500 bail.

(via atrios)

November 27, 2003

Just Blaze or not Just Blaze: The Final Chapter

Em vs. Benzino? Michael Jackson vs. his little friend? These petty squabbles pale in comparison to the epic battle that was waged here on this website between Just Blaze (world famous hip-hop producer) and DJ Dubb (who claims the Just Blaze posting here is an impostor). The drama started here, then it escalated here, and I decided I better put a stop to this or one day Oliver Stone would be making a movie about it, with Kevin Costner playing DJ Dubb on the trail of the great Just Blaze conspiracy.

So after some investigation, tonight I found myself on the way to Battery Sound Studios in Chelsea, thinking to myself "either I'm on my way to meet Just Blaze, or Benzino saw how I've been clowning him and set me up to get Suge-Knighted." Here are the results of my expedition:

The interview (part 1)
The photographic evidence

Basically, either this was the real Just Blaze, or somebody spent an shitload of money on that John Woo Face-Off surgery.

After clearing that up we kept the tape rolling for another half hour and touched on a wide variety of topics, including Jay-Z's real plans for his next release, and the recent controversy over his "PSA" beat that uses the same sample as Black Moon's "Stay Real". I'll be posting the rest of the interview real soon.

So thanks again to DJ Dubb for making this interview possible, and like I told Just there are mad other people I want to meet, so maybe next week you can post about how you met Salma Hayek at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles or something, and we can get her up in here.

November 30, 2003

It's Cool to Buy Nothing, But You Need to Do Something

Buy Nothing Day is undoubtedly more worthwhile than the Misgivings Day that precedes it. It's a clever angle, sure to get some press in the slow holiday news week. But like most "culture jamming", it strikes me as more clever than constructive.

I've never been a big fan of Kalle Lasn and his adbusters/culture jamming "movement". Their stunts are always witty and ironic, but they offer no depth of analysis, and no tangible goal besides encouraging distrust of advertising and mass media. That's cool as a means to an end. But as an end in itself it is flimsy. Culture jamming rightfully urges us to reject the ideas that drive our consumer culture, but it offers no ideas of its own in their place, so it is ultimately empty.

Basically it's like:

"Hey everybody, don't listen to their message, listen to our message!"
Okay, what's your message?
"Our message is... don't buy into their message!"

But that's really not a message at all, and with no constructive agenda of its own your movement is not a movement at all.

It is based entirely on reacting to the mainstream, and that means you'll never be able to destroy or replace the mainstream, because you have made yourself a slave to it. The most you'll ever be is an activist version of Weird Al Yankovic, a moon that reflects the pop-culture sun but produces no light of its own.

I call it Fast Food Activism. It is ready-made for young folks who want that immediate satisfaction of feeling cool and rebellious, getting a moment in the spotlight and sticking it to the man in a quick bold stroke. But real social movements rarely achieve their goals with quick bold strokes. They usually involve a lifetime of study and struggle, with precious few opportunities to look cool or bask in the spotlight. And most importantly, real social movements are usually driven by an actual cause of some sort. Without that, it's basically just masturbation.

Cherchez La Ghost

The Daily News has some background on the club where Jin got into some beef, and its connections with Chinatown's legendary Ghost Shadows gang:

Cops skeptical of ex-gangster & his club

When bullets rang out this month in his Chinatown nightclub, Richie Ceng immediately hit the floor - a razor-sharp reflex from a lifetime of violence.
The crack of a .40-caliber gun and the flash of a muzzle were familiar to Ceng, as familiar as murder and robbery and his own nickname - Airplane - from a youth spent running a crew for a notorious Chinatown gang, the Ghost Shadows.

"That is in the past for me now," insisted Ceng, 29, who runs Yello, a Mulberry St. hot spot for Asian celebrities and jet-setters.

"Those are the old days. It feels good to be straight now."

But NYPD Asian gang experts - including detectives who have watched Ceng's rap sheet grow to more than a dozen arrests since he was 14 - are still keeping a close eye on him.

"The idea that Airplane is now running a club as a silent partner is frightening," said one NYPD gang expert. "This is a guy who did time for murder, an organized crime leader."

Cops have been flooding Yello looking for the shooter who opened fire in the club Nov. 9. A confrontation between hip hop star Jin and aspiring rapper Raymond Yu ended with a bullet in Jin's friend Christopher Louie, 23, who survived the attack...

...Yello opened after Ceng was released from federal prison in 2001, having served five years for setting up the 1996 robbery of a Chinatown man who was trafficking in illegal food stamps. The job went horribly wrong when the target's 17-year-old son put up a fight and was shot dead...

This Honey You Gave Me Has Turned To Tears

Keith Clinkscales, who came to visit us at the show when he was with Vibe, had to shut down his company this week, and three well-known Black magazines are going down with it:

Vanguarde troubles cost 80 their jobs

The morning newspapers lay at the entrance to Vanguarde Media yesterday in an unread stack - a grim reminder that the staffers won't return.
The 80 journalists and salespeople faced a cold Thanksgiving after being cut loose on Tuesday, when Vanguarde said it would file for bankruptcy.

Its three black-oriented magazines - heart & soul, Honey and Savoy - were shut down, the victims of a tight ad market and tighter investor dollars.

Keith Clinkscales, the former Vibe executive who founded Vanguarde in 1999, slumped in a conference room as he expressed his disappointment...

FOOTNOTE: That header was a quote from the poem "Asali" by Henry Dumas.

About November 2003

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

October 2003 is the previous archive.

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