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December 2003 Archives

December 1, 2003

More of the Just Blaze Interview

Here is the rest of my conversation with Just Blaze. Gotta thank him again for inviting me down, definitely an honor. And of course thanks once again to the man of a thousand faces, (Dr. Jekyll and) DJ Dubb for making this possible. For those who missed it, Part 1 of the interview is here.

Part 2 - The real scoop on Jay-Z's future projects and unreleased material

Part 3 - The making of Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement"

Part 4 - Just Blaze addresses the Black Moon controversy sparked by PSA, and how different producers wind up using the same beat.

Part 5 - Reminiscing about Boot Camp Clik and early 90's hip-hop.

Part 6 - Here is the question I asked, since it is hard to make out on the tape: "On our show we have a lot of discussions about how hip-hop is supposedly dead, hip-hop isn't what it used to be.. I think you have a unique perspective on that, coming up on the same stuff as me but now working within the mainstream, so what do you think about how hip-hop has evolved and where it's at today?"

Part 7 - Last words to the internet thug: "You can call me pussy, I call myself smart.."

December 2, 2003

Hip-Hop Tragedy in Kenya

You can get some background on this artist here. Condolences to his friends, family and fans..

Rapper Shot Dead By Highway Robbers

Rapper Carl William Bongo Juma was shot dead by carjackers on the Nyahururu-Nakuru road last Saturday night. Juma, popularly known as Krupt, was shot at point blank range by the highway robbers on his way to Nakuru for a music show.

The 24-year-old musician was killed in a taxi that was carjacked at Karuga trading centre, some 200 metres from Egerton University's Laikipia campus. Laikipia police boss Daniel Musau said two gangsters boarded the taxi at Nyahururu bus terminus at around 6.30 pm posing as passengers.

At Karuga, one gangster whipped out a Colt revolver and commandeered the vehicle towards Jumatatu village. Panic-stricken passengers were ordered to lie face-down and surrender all their valuables. It was then that Juma was shot on the chest as he reportedly tried to raise his head as the robbers frisked passengers. The gangsters then fled on foot.

The musician was pronounced dead on arrival at the Nyahururu District Hospital, where he had been taken for treatment. Juma, the third popular musician to die this year after E-sir and Wicky Mosh, was to perform at Club Dimples in Nakuru town on the night he was gunned down...

December 3, 2003

Also, P Diddy's label will now be known as "Upstanding Gentleman"

This is old news, I suppose. Irv Gotti sounds awfully put-upon here, almost like one of those neo-cons railing against the "PC Police".

Rap label drops 'Murder' from its name

The company behind the multi-platinum rapper and singer Ashanti announced Wednesday it had changed its name to The Inc., moving away from its previous incarnation as Murder Inc.

"Over the course of the years, it seems as though no one is really looking at the talent ... more so than that damn word 'murder,'" label founder Irv Gotti told a midtown Manhattan news conference.

"All of these big records, and people would still come back and focus on the negative word 'murder.'"

Gotti, flanked by Ja Rule and Ashanti, announced the label's name change at a crowded event attended by hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons and Hip-Hop Summit Action Network head Benjamin Chavis.

Simmons offered a blunter explanation for the label's new banner: "Just to get you all off his ass, he's changed its name..."

For Those in the NY Area

My DJs are doing Pete Rock's listening party/record release party tonight at APT. Here are the details from Emskee:

Bundle up once again because tonight, it's on again at APT (419 w.13th street between 9th ave and washington street) for the usual wednesday night get together in the upstairs lounge.

Tonight we start a little earlier, as "The Together Brothers" in association with BBE/RAPSTER records present a listening party for Pete Rock's new double album release "Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics" featuring I.N.I.'s "Center of Attention" and Deda's "The Original Baby Pa" selections. It goes from 10pm to 11:00pm and there will be posters and stickers given away as well as a very limited amout of cd's and vinyl. GET THERE EARLY (if you're man or woman enough to brave the cold)!! There is no cover to get in upstairs. After 11 of course, Monk One and myself get busy bringing you all types of hip hop, soulfunk, UK beat stuff for your listening pleasure. Hope you can attend.

You can also expect a rare public appearance by Jay Smooth.

Elroy! Elroy Cohen.. Gets the Gasface!

Here's AP with a lengthy profile of Lyor Cohen, and his legal troubles with (the former) Murder Inc.

Lawsuit is glimpse into world of rap mogul

After two decades of survival and success in the cutthroat music business, the world's pre-eminent white rap mogul found himself trapped in a place most horrific:

A witness stand. In a federal courthouse. Under oath.

"It's the nastiest, most negative place I've been in a very long time," said Lyor Cohen, head of the Island Def Jam Music Group, testifying in an ugly legal tussle over the platinum-selling rapper Ja Rule.

It only turned nastier for the 43-year-old music executive. He lost the lawsuit. The judge implied he was "morally reprehensible." And the jury found him personally liable for millions in punitive damages.

Trial evidence also revealed that Island Def Jam owned 50 percent of Ja Rule's record label, Murder Inc. Federal prosecutors are investigating Murder Inc. for alleged money laundering, raising questions about whether IDJ and its publicly owned parent companies, the Universal Music Group and Vivendi, are indirectly in business with one of New York's most infamous drug dealers.

The suit and federal probe are a rare dose of adversity in a mercurial 20-year rise for Cohen...

December 4, 2003

Happy B-Day Hova

Since this site's traffic has doubled in the last month, largely due to Jay-Z related traffic, the least I can do is wish the man a happy birthday. Congrats on the grammy nominations.

But Who Gives a F*** About a Goddamn Grammy?

For whatever it's worth, Hip-Hop dominates this year's grammy nominations more than ever before:

Record Of The Year (Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s), if other than the artist.)

Crazy In Love
Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z
Rich Harrison & Beyoncé Knowles, producers; Jim Caruana & Tony Maserati, engineers/mixers

Where Is The Love
The Black Eyed Peas & Justin Timberlake
Ron Fair & will.i.am, producers; Dylan Dresdow & Tony Maserati, engineers/mixers

Coldplay & Ken Nelson, producers; Coldplay, Ken Nelson & Mark Phythian, engineers/mixers

Lose Yourself
Eminem, producer; Eminem, Steve King & Micheal Strange, Jr., engineers/mixers

Hey Ya!
André 3000, producer; Kevin "KD" Davis, John Frye, Robert Hannon, Pete Novak & Neal Pogue, engineers/mixers

4 out of 5 for record of the year! Let's see who they selected in the actual hip-hop categories:

Best Female Rap Solo Performance (For a solo Rap performance. Singles or Tracks only.)

Got It Poppin'
Da Brat

Work It
Missy Elliott

Came Back For You
Lil' Kim

Ride Wit Me
MC Lyte

Go Head
Queen Latifah

Nice to see Lyte and Latifah get some props (if props from NARAS are worth anything). Missy will win this one though.

Best Male Rap Solo Performance (For a solo Rap performance. Singles or Tracks only.)

Pump It Up
Joe Budden

Lose Yourself

In Da Club
50 Cent

Stand Up

Get Busy
Sean Paul

Congrats to Just Blaze on the Joe Budden nod. I'd guess Em will edge out his labelmate for this one. Tough call though.

Best Rap Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of VOCAL tracks.)

Under Construction
Missy Elliott

Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
50 Cent

The Blueprint˛ - The Gift & The Curse

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The Roots

That's a nice crop of albums right there, a long way from when they were giving statues to the likes of Young MC (in the middle of hip-hop's golden age no less). gotta figure Outkast takes this.

I'm at my day job right now (only for today), i'll come back with the rest later. Any thoughts on these picks so far?

He's Misstra Know It All

I've been watching the feedback on our Just Blaze interview at various other sites.. a lot of positive vibes, but also a few people still trying to amp up the Just Blaze/Beatminerz "beef". I just went through this thread at SOHH.com and then posted what lies below, but it could apply just as well to some folks at all the other message boards:

"90% of this thread is pure comedy.

All these armchair know-it-alls handing down their judgements, having no firsthand experience with the situation at hand, but puffing their chest out like they are experts based on what they read secondhand at some other websites. Not even showing respect to heads like Jack Tripper (AKA Charlemagne?) who are actually in a position to know something about this game.

And that's not even about me taking sides on this, Just Blaze is cool with me and Evil Dee is one of my oldest friends in the business. And all of y'all have a right to your opinions too...

But a lot of you need to get your ego in check and recognize you are not in a position to know everything about how this business works. Before you get so comfortable in your assumptions, remember there's more to the game than what you can see from the sidelines."

BTW, no disrespect whatsoever to SOHH, one of the true pioneers of hip-hop representation on the web. In fact I should really give thanks to their founder Steven Samuels, for giving me polite encouragement when I showed him my first wack-ass attempt at a website on geocities, back around '96.

December 5, 2003

Suing for the Perfect Beat

I found this item on the entertainment law digest website, but they want me to pay $99 for access to the full story. Does anybody know a more reasonable way to access this type of info? Anyway, best of luck to the Renegades of Funk on this one.

Soul Sonic Force v Warner

US SD New York 03 CV 8127
Ellis Williams, John B. Miller and Robert Durrell Allen, pka Soul Sonic Force, Plaintiffs
Warner Special Products Inc., and Warner Chappell Music, Inc., Defendants

The members of the band Soul Sonic Force have sued Warner Special Products, alleging they have not received their royalty statements or payments for six years and seeking rescission of their recording and songwriting contracts.

December 7, 2003

Eminem "Threatens" the President

One thing you gotta admire about right-wingers is their skill at picking one idea or talking point and getting everyone on their team to drive that one angle home, thus dictating the parameters of debate.

Recently their think tanks decided the newest angle should be something called "Bush Hate". This means that in order to avoid actually engaging Democrats on the issues, they all focus on this notion that the Dems are wild-eyed lunatics, driven purely by an irrational hatred of Bush as a human being.

Needless to say, this is asinine. Of course Democrats and liberals all hate Bush. If one side's guy gets in, the other side hates him, that's how it works. Does the right think anyone has forgotten how fervently they despised both Bill and Hillary?

But right-wingers have become so fond of this angle that now they're even using obscure Eminem lyrics to bolster their case, namely this line from "We As Americans", one of the Straight From the Lab bootlegs currently floating around:

I don't rap for dead presidents/ I'd rather see the president dead..

Golly, how frightening. Not only has the Secret Service been called upon to investigate this horrifying threat, but righty bloggers are trumpeting this as evidence that liberal Bush Hate now threatens the very life of the President.

Makes sense to me. We all know Eminem represents the Hollywood liberal establishment, always hanging at James Carville's house with Al Franken and Aaron Sorkin. Seriously, I'd be surprised if he was even registered to vote, or could name 3 of the Democratic candidates. This line about "the president" probably indicates nothing about Eminem's opinion of this particular Chief Executive, he would have spit it just the same whether Bush, Gore, or Bronson Pinchot was in office.

When I used to teach, one day a couple of boys were trading mother jokes in the hall, and a teacher walking by was aghast. After berating one boy for talking about his friend's mother that way, the boy looked up and explained, in the tone of someone helping a toddler with arithmetic: "I'm not saying anything about his mother. I don't even know his mother. I'm just talking about 'your mother'!"

This Eminem line should not be taken literally as a threat to the President any more than mother jokes should be taken as criticism of the specific woman who is actually your mother. He's not saying anything about this President, he's just kicking a line about "the president".

(right-wing blog link via Oliver Willis)

December 8, 2003

EXCLUSIVE: The Scoop on Tom Cruise's Next Film

Now that Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai was a box office winner this week, looks like they are going through with plans for a sequel. But do you think they might be taking things a little too far this time? Check out the poster:

More Pressing Concerns About Eminem's "We As Americans"

Can we stage some kind of intervention and convince Eminem to stop rhyming over these lifeless, tinny keyboard beats? C'mon dawg, is this the best work you can get out of Dre's ghost producers?

I must say though, if this was a ploy by Eminem to get airplay on conversative talk radio (the only corner of the airwaves he hadn't yet conquered) it is a smashing success. "We As Americans" got played at least 25 times yesterday on WABC alone.

December 9, 2003

Why Vice Magazine Sucks

Vice magazine has always rubbed me the wrong way, but I could never quite articulate why (other than the obvious debts they owe Ego Trip). This post at The Antic Muse, however, may have hit it on the head about Vice and their head honcho Gavin McInnes:

"...McInnes's play for hipster aloofness exemplifies a certain strain of cool "humor" which turns political argument into a rigged game: Say something offensive, wait for folks to react in their silly, earnest way and -- ha ha! -- joke's on them for taking you seriously. The whole thing is designed to reinforce ironic distance as the ultimate reaction; any attempt to engage with culture or politics at any level other than sarcasm is just, you know, square."

Too bad I discover this blog just it goes on hiatus. I found it via Sasha Frere-Jones, who offers no means of contacting him anywhere on his site, unless I missed something?

December 10, 2003

Brian Batten, Please STFU

There have been so many clueless op-ed pieces about hip-hop in my lifetime, it's damn hard for them to really get my dander up anymore. But this one (sent to me by Jeff Chang) really is brutal. If you have any feedback for this guy, or just want to illustrate for him that hip-hop fans don't necessarily speak like the jive-talking grandma from "Airplane", please e-mail him at bebatten@naplesnews.com.

Brent Batten: Why the Hip-Hop Winterfest in Collier went bust

An explanation of Saturday's abortive Hip-Hop Winterfest 2003 at the Collier County Fairgrounds, written for fans of the genre. (As a public service, the English translation is provided.)

Yo, dis here be the fo'-one-one on the show y'all, from the home boy dat was pimpin' it.

(Attention, here is the latest information on the show, as provided by the concert organizer.)

See, da brotha had some phat new school playaz lined up. Cris was in da house but 5-0 came down hard, wit Macs an' dogs sniffin fo' bud so da peeps all bailed.

(The promoter had assembled an impressive lineup of popular hip-hop artists, featuring headline act Ludacris, but a heavy police presence, complete with guns and drug-sniffing dogs, deterred many would-be attendees.)

Home slice was gettin' Cris at his crib when he gets a dime sayin' there's a sitch at the show. 'Fo he gets back to the areous, all the boyz and shorties rolled. So he's like, "This is wack."

(A representative of concert promoter Mojo Entertainment, who declined to give his name, said he went to the hotel where Ludacris was staying to bring him to the fairgrounds. While there, he received a phone call indicating there was a problem. He declined to go into specifics, but said by the time he got back, the concert had been shut down and everyone had left. "We've done shows in many cities and never encountered a situation like this," the nameless spokesman said.)

And it goes on and on from there.. ugh.

About Last Samurai

A little addendum, since someone suggested it is foolish to be offended by The Last Samurai because the story it tells is "historically accurate":

I haven't seen the film and thus have no opinion on its offensiveness or lack thereof.. but whether it is historically accurate is not necessarily the issue. There can be many factors at play, some more subtle than others.

For example, one could be telling a true story and still exhibit bias in which stories they choose to tell, and which are left untold. Particularly if there is an ongoing pattern of telling one particular type of story, to the exclusion of others.

The Internet is Occasionally Useful

This site is harrowing, and very necessary:

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

The hundreds of images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public -- in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World...

(via metafilter)

December 11, 2003


Another classic from thaformula.com, this time it's Brother J in the spotlight:

Tha Grand Verbalizer Has Returned

...THAFORMULA.COM - Now let's talk about Sugar Shaft. What was his contribution to X-Clan and what exactly happened to Shaft?

Brother J – Well if it hadn’t been for him none of this would have happened because he was basically the bridge. He was basically the one that would come and take me out and see the clubs and take me to see Cash Money to DJ and DJ Scratch when they were first coming in the game. He’d take me to Union Square and all these other clubs and stuff like that just to open my eyes to the other side. See I’m from Brooklyn man, I’m a block party MC. I wasn’t worried about clubs in Manhattan and the Bronx and so on. That wasn’t my cup of tea. Shaft introduced me to that side and Architect did too, so Shaft was basically the reason why the group got to the next level. Us battling in different little community centers and basements and stuff like that on the mic, you know how block parties are, everybody gathers around the turntables and you get down and you hold your own and you get your name out. He helped me step from that level to a place where I can go to present myself in front of a manager and take myself to get a demo. I did my demo at Ultramagnetic’s house up in the Bronx when they were first coming out with their music and shit. I look at how history is now, it’s so deep. Everybody is now like a pioneer in the game and everybody was just at a regular stage grinding and trying to make it at the time. Shaft was my best of people and I miss him to this day and especially when I’m recording like now. His sense of production and spirit added on so much. But uh, he had complications with the AIDS virus so he passed from that and that was like 1996 and it’s been a while. It’s a heavy thing man. It touches all of us in one way or another. I mean this is genocide man. None of us are safe...

...THAFORMULA.COM - You know I look at a group like Dead Prez and think “man they must get a lot of activist groups or whatever hitting them up for shows even though they don’t have the money?” Did you guys face a lot of that?

Brother J - All the time bro, and it’s a thing where we had to offer people solutions, at least to say “we’ll take care of our hotel rooms and take care of our air fare, and we’ll take a small amount of money, we will make sure we pack your gymnasium, we will make sure we will go to the park and speak at your demonstration rally and stuff, but give us something.” I tell that to community centers all the time. Don’t always play people because you know you got this cause and everybody is supposed to care and all these other things man. But still, my art is something that cost me time and money. I have to feed my family from my artwork. If I meet 20 people like you in a month, I’m not gonna be around to continue my music. So when I die out who wins? The gangster music wins, the thuggery wins. Everybody else wins but the conscious artists because we are caring about certain problems that they don’t. You walk up to Snoop Dogg and talk about “give me a free show,” man please! These cats are getting paid ridiculous amounts of money. I mean they will come out every once in a while because they have enough chips now, but when they first achieved that number one status man, you talk about calling them talkin’ about "uh Snoop, could you come by and say what's up to the kids? Just do it for free?" Man you wouldn’t do that with them.

THAFORMULA.COM - No doubt ‘cause they will laugh in your face.

Brother J - But as soon as you hear somebody that says, “you know we care about the community, we care about the kids.” They say “rush them,” you know, “check them on that and if they don’t give us no love then were gonna blast them.” Don’t blast us, blast the people that got your kids wearing Mini-skirts and shaking their ass all funky like they are strippers. Don’t blast us...

Glad He Didn't Reach For His Wallet

"Odd News" from the LA Times:

I guess some people just don't appreciate fine music. The police log of the Los Alamitos News-Enterprise said that "several people reported a man was walking around, talking to himself and making funny hand gestures." Police investigated and determined that "the young man was just practicing rap."

A Letter to Ralph Nader

Ralph, listen. I'm not mad at you. You were never my ideal candidate but you were much closer than the other two guys, and I voted for you in 2000, here in NY where Gore was a shoo-in. If I lived in Florida I would likely have made a different choice, but I won't judge anyone who did vote for you down there. A citizen has every right to save their vote for someone who truly represents their beliefs, regardless of how it pans out from a cynical, strategic standpoint. And I've always been a little offended by this idea that Nader "stole votes" from Gore, as if the left's votes belong to him by some divine right, even though it was Gore and his DLC crew who led the Dems in fleeing from the left and abandoning whatever progressive principles they had represented. If we keep acting like the Democrats own our vote instead of showing them they need to earn it, there's no incentive for them to stop treating us like dirt.

So I'm not mad at you Ralph. But listen man, you gotta know when to hold'em and when to fold'em, and in this election you should really think about sticking to the sidelines. I know this is probably hard to accept, but you are just not a popular guy right now. Justified or not, a lot of people bear a lot of resentment for your "spoiler" role in 2000. The desire to inject new ideas into the debate is always worthwhile, but whatever message you brought to the table right now could be obscured beyond recognition by having you as the messenger. Basically, as they used to say on okayplayer, NGCCOT.*

I just heard you on Democracy Now, responding to a supporter who implored you not to run this time.. and pardon my Kerry-mouth, but you sounded like an asshole. Suggesting that anyone who says you shouldn't run is attempting to curtail your freedom of speech is a cheap, disingenuous tactic. I'm used to getting the "criticism=censorship" dodge from conservatives, but it's very disappointing to hear it coming from you. I'd think you are smarter than that, and I'd hope you know we are too.

Nobody is questioning whether you have a right to run, the question is whether this campaign, at this moment, would be in the best interests of the constituencies you seek to represent. You say you will be holding meetings and such to determine whether running this year is the wisest move, and I hope cooler heads prevail in that process. Cuz I don't like what I'm hearing so far.


Report on Just Blaze's Label Deal

Look who's in the news.. apparently Nassa Cammato had no comment at this time:

Memphis Bleek And Just Blaze Plan Label Deal

Memphis Bleek and producer Just Blaze are planning to join forces and release a compilation album that features each’s respective artists that they been grooming on the side.

The duo is each looking to build their own empire similar to that of the Roc, however they do not want to be under the auspices of the powerhouse label...

December 13, 2003

Live Music Marathon All Weekend on WBAI

The bad news is our show is pre-empted this week. The good news is our station is having quite a special fundraising event, well worth checking out and supporting:

Fri., Dec. 12th - Sun., Dec. 14th: WBAI's FIRST ANNUAL "RADIO-THON" From Fri. at 7 pm to Sun (going into Mon.) at midnight. Featuring community-based and internationally acclaimed musicians, poets and writers.

WBAI producers and guest hosts will ask listeners to call in at 212-209-2950 or donate online at https://www.wbai.org/cart/ in appreciation for live performance radio.

Kick-off on Friday at 7 pm: Veteran radio host, Imhotep Gary Byrd featuring Ashford and Simpson, Camille Yarbrough's Ancestor's House and after midnight, the reggae band, "Reggaelution" will showcase the island rhythms of Jamaica.

Saturday is a day devoted to music, the written word , standby for comedy, a poetry fest and live jazz.

On Sunday afternoon, featured performers include the Afro-Columbian group "La Cumbiamba" and Afro-Peruvian singer-guitarist Carlos Hayre.

There will also be a special performance of "For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff."

Artists slated to appear include: Iggy Pop, Camille Yarbrough, Coffin Daggers, James "Blood" Ulmer, Garland Jeffries, Karen Taylor, Jeffrey Gaines, Jesse Malin, Ashford and Simpson, Danny Goldberg, Lisa Loeb, Pete Seeger, Dan Ingram, Judy Gorman, Antibalas, Michael Franti, Nora York, Trends, Stephen Smith, Randy Credico, Louis Reyes Rivera, The Gotham City Players, David Wright, Ras Moshe, Greg Tate, Peter Guralnick, Kali Hawk , Heritage OP and many, many more.

Open house at station during thon - share refreshments, bring donations. Come to 120 Wall St. (2,3,4,5 trains to Wall St. - walk down the hill past Water St.), 10th fl.; bring ID.

December 14, 2003

Lauryn Hill Gets Her Sinead On


Lauryn Hill stuns Vatican Xmas concert

U.S. Hip Hop singer Lauryn Hill, from a stage used by the Pope, has shocked Catholic officials at a concert by telling them to "repent" and alluding to sexual abuse of children by U.S. priests.

The broadside came during the recording on Saturday night of a Christmas concert attended by top Vatican cardinals, bishops and many elite of Italian society, witnesses said. Hill made her comments when taking the microphone to sing at the concert, held in the same huge hall and stage Pope John Paul uses for his weekly general audiences and other events. The Pope was not present.

"I did not come here to celebrate the birth of Christ with you but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death inside this place," she said according to a transcript of her statement run by the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. A spokesman for Prime Time Productions, the concert's organisers, said the newspaper's quotes were accurate.

"God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, of the exploitation and abuses ... by the clergy," she said. This was an apparent reference to the scandal in the United States last year over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Hill told the crowd to seek blessings "from God not men" and said she did "not believe in representatives of God on earth." A few feet away in the front row sat five cardinals, including Edmund Szoka, American governor of Vatican City.

Hill, 28, did not sing the song listed on the programme but instead sang a song about social injustice. Organisers said Hill's outburst and performance would most probably be cut from the show when it is aired on Christmas Eve...

Brent Batten Still Doesn't Get It

Follow-up courtesy of Dick Prince.

Naples Columnist Defends His Hip-Hop Column

Naples Daily News columnist Brent Batten rejects criticism of the column he attempted in "hip-hop" language, saying, among other things, that the piece was not racist because "the hip-hop audience is black, white and Hispanic. If I am insulting the hip-hop fans, I'm insulting a multiracial, diverse group."

In his Dec. 2 column in the Florida paper, Batten wrote about a failed concert that, his paper reported, drew only about 700 people when 7,000 to 10,000 were expected.

In a statement Tuesday night, the National of Black Journalists called the column "patently offensive, intellectually condescending and journalistically unfocused."

Returning a telephone call from Journal-isms, Batten, 44, called the language he used "an obvious exaggeration," and he said he had researched hip-hop speak before writing the piece. He said he was familiar with "Eminem, Tupac [Shakur], Snoop [Dogg] -- the ones that are kind of mainstreamed a little bit."

Batten, who has been at the paper 18 years, seven as a columnist, said he had not seen the NABJ statement but was elaborating on a letter he had written in response to other criticism on the Jim Romenesko Web site at the Poynter Institute. He said he'd received "tons" of e-mails, mostly critical.

The Scripps Howard paper, located in an affluent area with a concentration of retirees, reported having 1.2 percent people of color on its news staff for the annual census of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Batten said he had been told this was due to a lack of competitive pay at the paper and because "minority journalists were really in demand" elsewhere.

The paper did have an African American features editor who sat on the editorial board, but that journalist, Jenise Morgan, left in November 1999, he recalled.

Morgan, who is now senior editor of a book distribution company outside of Atlanta, told Journal-isms today she had been chairman of the paper's Diversity Task Force. She said she thought the column an isolated example, but that had she still been on the editorial board, "I probably would have expressed my concern had I seen something like that coming up."

The paper made outreach efforts during her time at the paper, Morgan said, but "Naples isn't one of those cities" with nightlife and other big-city attractions. A Naples native, she said she left because "I just wanted something different."

The newspaper today ran the NABJ statement, by Bryan Monroe, NABJ vice president/print, as a "guest commentary."

December 15, 2003

Today's Quote

Responsible, mature musical commentators have often expressed the view that the role of an artist is to keep in the front of man's mind the clear vision of the ideal world, of the world as it should and could be. But when mankind is dangerously close to passing the point of no return as he has been for at least the last several decades, then the duty of the responsible artist is to hold a mirror up to humanity in which the naked truth is so sharply reflected that there is no mistaking the dire consequences that are certain to follow if he does not change his ways. When the realities of life are harsh and forbidding, sweetly sonorous and placid art (for example, the jazz style associated with the years preceding the outbreak of the Second World War) is an anachronism. It lacks meaning and relevance for the times...

-from here

December 16, 2003

Brent Batten Finally Gets It.. Sort Of..

That columnist down in Florida, who caused an uproar last week with his muddled attempt to poke fun at hip-hop slang, now realizes he made a bonehead move. He still doesn't quite grasp the situation, I'll give him props anyway for a sincere apology:

Brent Batten: An apology for attempt at humor that failed

I never thought I'd miss the days when most of my e-mail was spam.

Over the past week, I've received well over 100 electronic critiques of my Dec. 2 column on the unsuccessful hip hop concert in Collier County. Most of them have been negative, some scathingly so.

The concept of the article was to relate the story of the concert and its aftermath in the colorful slang of the hip hop culture. It is obvious that in some circles, my attempt at humor failed worse than the concert.

The harshest of the critics accuse me of being a racist, of reaching back to the days of blackface minstrel shows and Amos and Andy routines to find language belittling the black community.

This was not the case.

The language used in the column was demonstrably drawn from the lyrics of Ludacris, the scheduled main act of Hip Hop Winterfest and from glossaries of hip hop slang readily available online.

So while I reject the notion that racism formed the basis of the column, I can't deny that the piece brought offense to a large number of people.

That was not the intent.

It is my job to have my finger on the pulse of the community.

In this case, my finger was asleep.

Issues of race remain a sore subject in this country. I should have looked beyond the obvious and seen that while hip hop artists and their diverse fan base have a singular means of communicating, it too closely parallels the racist vernacular of previous times to lend itself to harmless parody.

My insensitivity to this fact has brought distress to good people and for that I am sorry.

It has also brought negative notoriety to the Naples Daily News and Scripps newspapers, two organizations of which I am proud to be a member. Bringing them into disrepute is the last thing I would want to do.

I will endeavor to do better.

Cuban Link vs. Fat Joe: Fact or Fiction?

Has Cuban Link's camp been taking lessons from DJ Dubb? This story sounds kinda sketchy:

Fat Joe Denies Fight With Cuban Link

Contrary to published reports, Fat Joe denies being involved in a scuffle with Cuban Link in a Miami nightclub on Saturday night.

In fact, the Bronx rapper said he is currently out of the country with his family for the holidays.

"This incident the websites are reporting on never occurred," Fat Joe said in a statement released to AllHipHop.com. "This is a publicity stunt from Cuban Link. If Cuban would spend more time marketing his current product he'd have less time to make up false accusations...oh I forgot he's never had an album out to market."

Though Joe called the report a promotional ploy, Cuban Link's manager stated the report is true. He also clarified it did not occur at a nightclub.

Dren Starr of CLK Management said the two rappers went toe-to-toe in front of the hotel where he, Cuban Link, and their entourage were staying.

"It was around 5:30 in the morning, the strip was crazy empty and Joe rolled up in his range," Starr told AllHipHop.com.

Starr said Fat Joe stepped out of the car and started yelling at Cuban Link, refuting the claims that he set up his former protégé.

Before Joe could reach Cuban, however, Starr said the Cuban rushed the Terror Squad leader.

Police quickly subdued the situation within a matter of minutes, according to Starr. He said police, club owners, and everyone in general area knew that the feuding rappers were both in town at the same time.

Fat Joe reportedly attended at party Ja Rule threw at Bermuda Bar, while Cuban Link was at Club Zno after a show with a local Miami rapper, Starr stated. Joe declined further comment....

But where were Marques Houston and Meghan Goode??

Best Times Article Ever

Anyone who has worked in the corporate world will appreciate this, especially the last paragraph.

Powerpoint Makes You Dumb

By Clive Thompson

In August, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board at NASA released Volume 1 of its report on why the space shuttle crashed. As expected, the ship's foam insulation was the main cause of the disaster. But the board also fingered another unusual culprit: PowerPoint, Microsoft's well-known ''slideware'' program.

NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint slide -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted.

PowerPoint is the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without it. But what if PowerPoint is actually making us stupider?

This year, Edward Tufte -- the famous theorist of information presentation -- made precisely that argument in a blistering screed called The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. In his slim 28-page pamphlet, Tufte claimed that Microsoft's ubiquitous software forces people to mutilate data beyond comprehension. For example, the low resolution of a PowerPoint slide means that it usually contains only about 40 words, or barely eight seconds of reading. PowerPoint also encourages users to rely on bulleted lists, a ''faux analytical'' technique, Tufte wrote, that dodges the speaker's responsibility to tie his information together. And perhaps worst of all is how PowerPoint renders charts. Charts in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal contain up to 120 elements on average, allowing readers to compare large groupings of data. But, as Tufte found, PowerPoint users typically produce charts with only 12 elements. Ultimately, Tufte concluded, PowerPoint is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.''

Microsoft officials, of course, beg to differ. Simon Marks, the product manager for PowerPoint, counters that Tufte is a fan of ''information density,'' shoving tons of data at an audience. You could do that with PowerPoint, he says, but it's a matter of choice. ''If people were told they were going to have to sit through an incredibly dense presentation,'' he adds, ''they wouldn't want it.'' And PowerPoint still has fans in the highest corridors of power: Colin Powell used a slideware presentation in February when he made his case to the United Nations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, given that the weapons still haven't been found, maybe Tufte is onto something. Perhaps PowerPoint is uniquely suited to our modern age of obfuscation -- where manipulating facts is as important as presenting them clearly. If you have nothing to say, maybe you need just the right tool to help you not say it.

(via metafilter)

December 17, 2003

Today's Quote

This very essence of a man, his soul, which the artist puts into his work and which is represented by it, is found again in the work by the enjoyer, just as the believer finds his soul in religion or in God, with whom he feels himself to be one. It is on this identity of the spiritual, which underlies the concept of collective religion, and not on a psychological identification with the artist, that the pleasurable effect of the work of art ultimately depends, and the effect is, in this sense, one of deliverance....But both [artist and enjoyer], in the simultaneous dissolution of their individuality in a greater whole, enjoy, as a high pleasure, the personal enrichment of that individuality through this feeling of oneness. They have yielded up their mortal ego for a moment, fearlessly and even joyfully, to receive it back in the next, the richer for this universal feeling.

- Otto Rank

Today's Random Press Release

Khadafi speaks out on Saddam's capture. No, the other one.

Queensbridge Rap Legend Tragedy Khadafi Has Questions On News of Saddam Hussein Capture

New York, NY- December 16, 2003 - Queensbridge rap legend Tragedy Khadafi,
considered the "father" of the Queensbridge legacy of platinum and gold
selling rappers from Nas and Mobb Deep to Capone N Noreaga, whom he
discovered and launched through his company, 25 To Life, for their debut
gold selling album "The War Report", is no stranger to controversy and
dialogue about injustice and political issues.

"I have mixed feelings. I can't remember exactly when the agenda from
trying to capture Osama bin Laden shifted to Saddam Hussein. What
happened to our anguish about 911 and Osama bin Laden? I don't have the
answers but I sure do have a lot of questions, and its important that we
always ask questions", says Tragedy Khadafi.

Tragedy's new album release, "Still Reportin", released October 21, 2003
through 25 To Life Records (www.25toliferecords.com) /Solid Records and
Caroline Distribution, touches on these themes of struggle, confusion and
today's issues, particularly the pensive thought provoking song "Walk Wit
Me (911)" on the album, which has received excellent reviews from The
Source Magazine, XXL, and others...

December 18, 2003

Michael Jackson Joining Nation of Islam?

Everybody's gonna laugh, but this seems like a perfect marriage to me. If Mike is sincere about this he could benefit greatly from the focus and discipline the Nation has given so many men over the years. And for the NOI, Michael provides living proof of their theory that white people can be created in a laboratory (but they won't turn out quite right).

Michael Jackson Finds Islam

Michael Jackson last night became a member of the Nation of Islam - and sources told The Post his religious changeover comes along with a shake-up of his personal staff.

High-ranking members of the Nation of Islam have been working to bring Jackson into Rev. Louis Farrakhan's flock - and Jackson's conversion is now well-known in the NOI community.

Exactly why Jackson converted wasn't clear to The Post's sources.

But Fox News's Web site reported yesterday that Jackson's brother Jermaine, who converted to Islam in 1989, has been seeking to win favor with his more famous sibling, and has brought Farrakhan's chief of staff, Leonard F. Muhammad, into Jacko's inner circle as a "bodyguard."

That's just one of many changes under way in Jackson's inner circle, sources said...

Keep in mind this is from the NY Post, so there's only a %50 chance it really happened.

Latest News From TimexSocialClub.com

A very fishy (albeit very humorous) story up on Rapnewsdirect today, about The Source releasing an interview with Eminem's gay lover. They credit the story to worldwideconnected.com, who in turn credits it to Detroitnews.com.. but I don't see the story anywhere on that site.

I hope hip-hop news sites we are not just making things up out of thin air now? Just cuz we are online doesn't mean we are in an ethics-free zone.. and Benzino produces enough fiction on his own, he really doesn't need our help.

Rare Radio Special This Saturday

This Saturday night is the latest installment of Rare Radio, which means 5 hours of classic dance, disco and house music from our radio show's all-star DJ squad: 3D, Monkone, Emskee, Spinna, Qool Marv, Randy and Tomkat.

This is always a special event, and gets a little crazier every time, so if you dig this kinda music you should make sure to tune in. And if you're not hip to it these guys just might turn you around.. I was never into this sound growing up (too geeky to hit the clubs) but the passion this crew brings to the music is so contagious, I've gained a lot of respect for the genre from watching them work it.

Check it out on Saturday night from 12 to 5AM EST, on 99.5 FM or online here.

Peace to Kool DJ Red Alert who was slated to join the team this time around, but got sidelined by an injury. Hope to see you next time..

Raekwon Brings New Chefs Into the Kitchen

Tight Raekwon interview at hiphopdx.com, where among other things he explains RZA's absence from the new album:

...How did you pick your beats?

I had a lot of beats from friends that I had that I met throughout the game. Like EZ-Elpee, a good friend of mine, Megahertz, Emil, which is a new producer. All these dudes been around me and studied my stuff. And I happen to like what they gave me. I have a couple of new dudes also. You got to keep your ear to the streets. If you don't you gonna miss out. We have to keep allowing hip-hop to play out the way it's supposed to. Everything doesn't consist of the so-called mega-producers that everybody knows. It's always somebody we don't know that could be iller than all of them.

Should we expect Ghostface collabos and production from RZA?

People are always going to expect them type of things. I got Ghost on the album. I got a couple of Clan members on the album. RZA didn't make the album production-wise because he had given me three beats and two of them was sample clearances that I had problems with that they was really ready to sue me and shelf me if I put them out. The other track he couldn't find the reel. So RZA's slot fell right out the window. But it ain't nothing. It's nothing derogatory toward RZA because he's still one of my favorite producers and at the same time, I had to keep carrying on and get an album done...

December 19, 2003

Help Talk Some Sense Into Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader's website is asking for our advice on whether he should run next year. If anybody agrees with what I was saying before, let's head over there and let him know.

Considering that the site does not show us the results of the poll, and he has a disclaimer on the front page about ignoring "orchestrated campaigns", he may well be planning to follow his ego no matter what we tell him. But it's worth a shot.

EDIT: In the interest of fairness, here is a Wall Street Journal interview posted by Daily KOS, where Nader seems to indicate he will not run if Dean gets the nod:

For all the gloominess Democrats may harbor about Howard Dean's chances in the general election, here's a bit of good news: Ralph Nader, whose third-party candidacy cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000, seems unlikely to mount a run against the former Vermont governor.

Mr. Nader says he will decide in the next few weeks whether to run. But in the meantime, his praise of Mr. Dean undercuts any rationale for another independent candidacy.

"Reading his position papers sounds eerily similar to what we've been saying," the longtime consumer advocate notes in an interview with the Online Journal this week. "He speaks clearly ... not in Senate-ese ... and projects vigor. We need a macho Democrat." The front-running Democratic candidate, Mr. Nader says, has an impressive "rope-a-dope ability."

There are caveats. "Dean's record as governor is nothing to shout about," Mr. Nader says, noting that his preference would be Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

But Mr. Nader waxes on about how preferable Mr. Dean is to President Bush. In 2000 the consumer advocate suggested there was little difference between candidates Al Gore and Mr. Bush.

"Unlike most of the other candidates," Mr. Nader says, the Vermont governor "is not compromised by votes for the Patriot Act or for the Iraqi war resolution."

December 20, 2003

Rare Radio Reminder

Here's a reminder about our 5 hour classic dance marathon tonight, courtesy of DJ Emskee. Those of you outside the NY area can tune in here, and I'll probably be checking in to the chatroom while we rock.

"All right y'all. You've been informed and you've been informed again. Tonight on WBAI 99.5fm here in new york city, the RARE RADIO SHOW #15 will be taking control of recievers for 5 hours of commercial free feel good music from midnight to 5am that you won't be able to turn off once you have it on. Myself, Dj Monk One, Dj 3D, Dj Spinna, and Dj's Randy and Tomcat are your selectors. Peace, love and the ultimate respect to KOOL DJ RED ALERT who was supposed to spin but is recovering from and unfortunate injury and WILL BE ON THE NEXT RARE RADIO in february.

Please make sure you record the show if you can because ALOT of the music that we play is not easy to find and YOU WILL find yourself asking around for it. Enjoy the show everybody!! :)"

Return of the King, and Respect for the Drum

I met up with Madison of Diesel Nation and went to see Return of the King. Quite simply a wonderful film, and as I said to the Japanese news crew outside the theater, this entire trilogy has turned out to be a phenomenal achievement. What a miracle that the studio trusted Peter "Dead Alive" Jackson of all people with such a gargantuan project, and gambled so much of their money and resources on giving the freedom to pursue his vision. What an even greater miracle that Jackson pulled it off in such grand fashion. I really do believe this will be remembered as a landmark event in the history of cinema.. and not only because Sam and Frodo set a new standard for latent homoeroticism.

That being said, I do have a bone to pick. Am I the only person who has noticed that whenever humans in middle earth are making music it's always something purely melodic, like singing or blowing a horn, but the monsters are always banging on a drum? What's up with that!!?

Ok, I'm mostly joking. The implication that drums are favored only by lesser, more primitive species does conjure unsavory connotations, especially when traces of cultural bias are already hard to deny in these films as a whole. But that may have been unavoidable given the source material, and I wasn't nearly as troubled by it as some other folk.

Still, as a lifelong representative of hip-hop, I really am bothered whenever the drum gets treated like melody's stepchild. My major beef is that when this anti-drum bigotry rears its ugly head (though this doesn't seem to be the case with ROTK) it usually stems from an assumption that melody is the prime determinant of musicality, the core element of music to which rhythm is always secondary. And it's largely due to this perception of rhythm as subordinate to melody that hip-hop has so often faced an uphill battle to earn respect as a legitimate musical form.

I'm sure you can all recite the hater's anthem by heart: "How is that music? It's all just drum beats and talking, they don't even sing!" And this bias infects heads inside the culture too, as reflected by the often overblown praise for emcees like Cee-lo or Dre who shift towards singing, as if it were inherently more "artistic" or "musical" than emceeing. The musical=melodic equation is just never healthy for hip-hop.

You'd think the errant nature of such assumptions would be obvious to anyone familiar with the dominant role drums play in so much of African music*, and the African roots that feed so much of American music. But somehow it persists..

And that's why I always get touchy when people don't show proper respect for the drum. Never should the drum be treated as a second class citizen, whether in America or Middle Earth!

Great movie though.

*I should note that African drums could often be used to convey melody as well as rhythm, not to mention the communicative role of the talking drum, etc.

December 21, 2003

Hey Now

How come nobody told me we were in the newspaper yesterday?

'Rare' sound: Real deejays

A guest on WQHT (97.1 FM) was talking this week about how real mixers and deejays are getting scarce these days.
That won't be the case tonight on WBAI (99.5 FM), when DJ Emskee from the "Underground Railroad" show welcomes a parade of fine deejays for the 15th edition of his other program, "The Rare Radio Show."

"Rare" is dedicated to "obscure and vintage dance and house music from the '70s to the present, with original disco breakbeats."

Spinning from midnight to 5 a.m. will be Emskee, DJ Monk One, DJ 3D, DJ Spinna, Kool DJ Red Alert, Qool DJ Marev and DJ Tomcat.

Aspiring Rappers Find Themselves Homeless

The other side of the game:

Duo chronicling homelessness in rap

As they walked along 13th Street toward Broadway, the two smelly, scruffy young men needed showers, a change of clothing, food and jobs.

In early December, Imani Christian, 21, and Cori Mullins, 32, aspiring rappers and songwriters, were drifters and homeless. But not hopeless.

For weeks, they had slept in a car -- or a homeless shelter if there was a bed. During the days -- after using a bathroom at the Greyhound Bus Station on San Pablo Avenue and getting some breakfast cereal at the nearby St. Vincent De Paul's -- they aimlessly walked downtown and neighborhood streets looking for odd jobs.

However, as they witnessed or experienced the abuses, pain and humiliation of homelessness, they took notes, which they plan to use to craft lyrics for a CD...

...Both are from Los Angeles and happened to meet in Denver last year. They decided Oakland was the place to jump-start their music careers. Mullins had a single called "How Love Goes." Christian had a white 1991 Camero.

They headed to the Bay Area but fell on hard times in the past year, losing jobs and housing. Christian broke up with a girlfriend and had to leave their apartment in Mountain View. Mullins was looking for a record deal, but he too was homeless.

Although destitute, they have stuck together and used street smarts to survive. Both have cell phones, but little else. Their clothes are in the Camero.

"You see a lot of pain and suffering out here (on the streets)," said Christian...

December 22, 2003

Hip-Hop as Torture

I have no comment on this, all the jokes are too easy. But what's with the jazz hateration?

US troops 'tortured' man with rap music

Lebanese Mohammed Jaber said he went to Iraq on a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites, he ended up being "tortured" with loud rap music by US troops suspicious he might be a foreign fighter against Americans.

Jaber said an Iraqi taxi driver handed him and three friends over to US troops for $100 each in April apiece as fighters for ousted president Saddam Hussain.

"They asked us why we were there and if we came to fight them. But we said we came only to visit the holy sites in Karbala," he said. "They didn't torture us physically but they did psychologically by raising the volume of rap music all day until it became unbearable and by withholding food," he said.

But Jaber said he kept one secret from his captors, fearing the treatment could get worse. "I mean I like rap, just imagine them playing jazz."

US-led forces in Iraq freed Jaber and sent him and seven other Arab detainees home on Saturday.

The International Co-mmittee of the Red Cross said three of them were seriously injured while in US custody. Jaber said they had stepped on land mines while clearing up rubbish in a field for US soldiers.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has said it has heard complaints of torture and degrading treatment including prolonged sle-ep deprivation from detainees held by the American troops.

Jaber said he and his friends were first held for six days handcuffed and hooded. They were not given food or allowed to sleep.

Early Christmas Present

Praise Jeebus! The Knicks have finally been liberated from the brutally incompetent rule of their General Manager Scott "Bin" Layden. After months of hiding out from season-ticket holders he was found inside a hole he had dug under Madison Square Garden, and will now be brought to trial for his many crimes against the sport of basketball.

I'm not at all convinced that Isiah can turn this franchise around, especially with James "Dopey" Dolan as his boss and all those bloated salaries tying him down. If anything picking Isiah seems like a ploy to mollify angry fans by bringing in a big name celebrity. And as Spike Lee just reminded us on WFAN, Layden was only the latest in a long stretch of GM disasters, and it may just be impossible to make this ship float until it is under new ownership (Jay-Z and Puffy take note).

But I'll worry about that later. There may be much work to do tomorrow, but today is a day to celebrate! Anyone who listens to the radio show knows G-Man and I have been campaigning for years to get both Layden and Dolan out.

December 24, 2003

Happy Birthday to Grandmaster Flash

And happy holidays to all of y'all.

December 26, 2003

The Rapping Chairman Mao is Blowing Up

The marriage of rapping and advertising has been a steady source of hilarity and/or nausea ever since Barney Rubble's pioneering Fruity Pebbles freestyle.. and funniest/scariest of all is when rap is the chosen medium for government propaganda.

A few months ago we showed you these government-funded rhymes on behalf of FEMA, and now it appears China is following America's lead:

Chairman Mao still adored in rhyme

At least one record company is hoping that China's youth will soon be rapping to the Chairman Mao beat after the release of a new album of songs to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the People's Republic of China today.

More than 30,000 recorded tapes and CDs of "Mao Zedong and Us" have been sold since its launch by the China Record Company early this month.

"Orders for the new album are increasing," said Zeng Jianxiong, a company supervisor and director.

The new album includes 27 songs containing content from Mao's theories on the status and building of the Chinese Communist Party, anti-corruption speeches and poems. The 26th song, "The Two Musts," is sung to a rap beat to satisfy the youth market. There is no word yet on plans to make a video for MTV...

There's also a NY Times piece today that provides more context. Somebody please get the mp3.

December 28, 2003

Hip-Hop and Kung Fu Movies

While checking up on which new DVDs to look for in chinatown I came by an excellent breakdown of the relationship between Hip-Hop and martial arts movies:

Challenge of the B-Boy Master: The Impact of Kung Fu Movies on Breakdancing

Back in the mid-to-late 1970s, the earliest power moves of Breaking were created by B-Boy masters living in New York City. One of the biggest influences on the creation of moves like the "headspin" and the "windmill" was the Hong Kong kung fu movie. B-boys watched the amazing physical abilities of their favorite kung fu actors in films by Shaw Brothers, Seasonal Films, and Golden Harvest Studios. They imitated and expanded upon the ritualized combat they saw in these films, adding new moves to their dance.

These films were seen in the US, but only in a limited number of theaters in major cities. In the book Kung Fu: Cinema of Vengeance (1974), Verina Glaser said, “The basis for the success of the kung fu films in the States was the same ghetto audience that carried the wave of ‘black’ Hollywood action films a year or so previously.” In New York City, the two places to see kung fu movies were 42nd Street and Chinatown. Kung fu movies placed the majority of importance on the action, and less time on character development and production values seen in Hollywood films.

There was a big parallel between Hong Kong and NYC. Hong Kong and New York were both densely populated, with a large divide between the rich and the poor. Both cities had high crime rates and tough ghettos. These films were made as escapist fantasies for the people of Hong Kong, and they ended up serving the same purpose for the inner city youth in the United States. Ken Swift said “Every kung fu movie was like styles, people got they ass whipped, and they went back and got revenge, and it was cool, and that was like something maybe we saw this as kids in the hood, as something we dealt with every day in our lives, you know what I’m saying, dealing with the way we had to live, in school and at home.”

The year was 1971 and America got its first taste of the exciting and dance-like choreography of Hong Kong martial arts films with the Shaw Brothers production King Boxer (AKA Five Fingers of Death) starring Lo Lieh. At this time, Hip-Hop as we know it did not exist. Street gangs like the Black Spades and the Savage Skulls fought each other in the streets of the Bronx for control of turf. Eventually, the pre-rumble dance of these gangs would be incorporated into the Hip-Hop dance known as Up-Rocking. Trac 2 of Starchild la Rock, a legendary b-boy crew from the seventies, related a story about the gang origins of Up-Rocking. He said that the night before a rumble, the gang leaders had a dance off with each other, one on one. This let everyone in the area know who was going to be involved in the real deal the next day, and anyone else should stay out of the way...

December 29, 2003

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes at Rare Radio

Here are some pics from our Rare Radio dance music special last week, hope some of you got a chance to tune in. I'll be posting DJ Spinna's set soon.

click each thumbnail for the full size photo

One - DJ Emskee rocked the mic
Two and Three - DJ Spinna rocked the crowd
Four - G Man rocked the Adebisi hat
Five - Monk One held it down while Qool Marv, Spinna and 3D inspected his technique
Six - Many friends came from far and wide

Come to My Birthday Party!

Me and my fellow WBAI all-star Jeannie Hopper of the Liquid Sound Lounge both share the same birthday, which happens to be tomorrow, Tuesday December 30th.

So tomorrow night we'll be taking over the downstairs lounge at the Coffee Shop (16th street and union square west) from 9PM to 2AM, with our very own DJ Emskee on the wheels and all our friends and fam on hand to celebrate.

There's no cover charge, you just have to push your way past all the wannabe models to get downstairs. So I want to see all of you there!

Audio from the Rapping Chairman Mao

Check it out.

(courtesy of my friend who built the proudly patriotic site right here.)

December 30, 2003

Anita Mui, 1963 - 2003

Wow, I just found out one of the biggest Hong Kong music/movie stars passed away, Anita Mui Yim-Fong. She starred in a whole bunch of my favorite movies:

  • "Heroic Trio" with Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung

  • "My Father is a Hero" with Jet Li

  • "Drunken Master 2" with Jackie Chan

  • "A Better Tomorrow 3" with Chow Yun-Fat

  • "Saviour of the Soul" with Andy Lau

She also won a bunch of awards for her performance in the drama "Rouge", one of my favorite non-action HK films. A major loss, and so soon after Leslie Cheung was lost just as suddenly.

Hong Kong pop queen Anita Mui dies

Hong Kong pop star and actress Anita Mui, well known in Chinese communities the world over, died early on Tuesday less than four months after revealing that she had cervical cancer. She was 40.

She died at Hong Kong's Sanitorium Hospital at 2.50am (1850 GMT), according to her friends, including action film legend Jackie Chan and fellow singer Alan Tam, who were keeping vigil at the hospital.

Earlier reports said that she had been admitted to hospital after slipping into a coma. Other reports said Mui died of lung failure due to the side effects of the drugs she was taking to fight the cancer.

Jackie Chan said Mui died when family members and many celebrity friends were at the hospital Tuesday morning.

"She passed away peacefully and beautifully. She hoped everyone will let her go peacefully and not cry," commented Chan.

This has been a very unlucky year for entertainment, even in the last moment of the year, added Chan...

Hip-Hop and Jazz

A lively discussion on okayplayer today about the relationship between Hip-Hop and Jazz. I will quickly consolidate a few of my thoughts below. In short, I'd say their similarities are often overstimated.. there are some connections to be sure, but also many fundamental differences.

Much is made of the usage of improvisation in both forms, but the role that improvisation plays in jazz is very different and far more prominent/integral than that played by "freestyling" in hip-hop. Rhyming off the top has become common in live performances and battles, but as I've said before its importanceto hip-hop as a whole has come to be absurdly overestimated by younger heads, and it is very rarely used in the studio when it's time to make a record. 99% of the hip-hop albums that came out this year were made up of written rhymes, programmed beats, and little if any improvised material of any kind.* The vast majority of modern jazz (by which I mean from Bird and Dizzy on, for the sake of focus, but we could go back further too) albums, on the other hand, contain improvisation as a core element.

And hip-hop is much less collaborative by nature than modern jazz. The vast majority of modern jazz records feature a truly collaborative effort from an ensemble of musicians, in which each of them is spontaneously reacting to what each other is doing in that moment.

Hip-hop music is very rarely recorded this way. Most of hip-hop's recorded collaboration between emcees consists of each one taking their turn to recite a verse that they composed on their own beforehand. Some tracks like Biggie and Meth's "The What" will feature scripted interplay, but even this is uncommon, and not nearly the same degree of collaboration found in jazz.

*Please do not reply with the tired old myth that Jay-Z records his albums off the top. As I understand it, he composes the rhymes in his head and spits them from memory without writing down, which is totally different from rhyming off the top (though equally impressive if not more). JB please correct me if I am wrong on this.

About December 2003

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

November 2003 is the previous archive.

January 2004 is the next archive.

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

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