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January 2004 Archives

January 1, 2004

News Roundup

Davey D on Sean T - Somehow I didn't know Davey D had a SJ Mercury News column.

Profile of Australian Hip-Hopper Bias B - Has anybody heard this guy?

Legal Troubles for Utah Rap Label - ...Utah? ...rap?

Local Columnist Hands out "Da" Rap Awards - Eminem as producer of the year? Nyet, comrade, nyet.

No Pomo

Am I the last kid on the block to try out the Postmodern Essay Title Generator? Who among you is brave enough to actually write one of these? Go ahead. I dare you:

Lil Jon Transgendering Artifice: "Get Low" and the Homotextuality of Demo(li)tion

Bizmarkie Smuggling Penetration: "The Vapors" and the Identity of Permeability

Blackness in The Kwik-E-Mart: Apu Deconstructing Encoded Periphery

Violating the Queer Essentialism in Bill Keane: Family Circus and Subjectivity

Disenchanting Oppression: Labial Spirit in Jay Smooth's Underground Railroad

January 2, 2004

Blogs Jump Up To Get Beat Down

Some kid just referred to me while offering a rather outlandish defense of that now-infamous Brent Batten column. I'm about to give him way more attention than he deserves:


First let me say thanks for posting that. How nice to to see I helped inspire such an extensive and excellent essay (for me to poop on).

There is no topic or idea that should be off-limits for humor. Whether that humor turns out to be offensive depends on how you approach the subject, on your timing (see Bill Maher, whose only mistake was telling the truth too much too soon), and on the differing connotations that may arise depending on who tells the joke to whom (which is why your interaction with your friends is not a parallel).

The device employed by Brent Batten has indeed been used countless times, and lots of them were very funny, I cited one of these in my original post. The problem with Batten was not just that he chose to use this device, but that he used it so poorly and clumsily in this particular instance.

Regarding your little swipe at us, those who accuse others of having no sense of humor are usually just in denial about the real problem, which is that they themselves are not funny. But that must not apply to you, because your insistence that Brent offered an accurate rendition of hip-hop slang is downright hilarious. If you can't see how funny that looks then I fear trying to explain any of this to you is probably an exercise in futility. But I shall soldier on..

You can translate a paragraph of French into English using Google or Babelfish and you'll get actual English words in the result. But they'll be arranged into sentences that are painfully unnatural, because there's a lot more to language than just knowing what the words mean. That, in a nutshell, is the trap Batten fell into as he copy-pasted phrases from lyric sheets and hip-hop glossaries.

As you, like Batten, cling to the notion that he correctly represented the way hip-hoppers speak, you also expose the fallacy of your other argument, that his column was actually mocking a stereotype "to underscore how ridiculous it is that one blanket statement could be correctly applied to such a large group of people." You directly contradict yourself placing this defense alongside your claim that he was effectively satirizing hip-hoppers by accurately "plagiarizing" their speech. It's either accurate or it's a ridiculous stereotype, but it can't be both. Let us know when you make up your mind.

As for that garbled "N-word" tangent, apparently your grasp of irony is even worse than Alanis Morissette's. And what's funny is you were evidently trying to make some sort of point about ignorance by explaining that the N-word derives directly from "ignorant", but that is not the correct etymology, so your statement itself was a product of ignorance. Now that's ironic. Like ten thousand spoons!

NEW AUDIO: Classic Dance Music Set from DJ Spinna

The good news: DJ Spinna's set from last week's Rare Radio special is now avaliable for your listening pleasure at our radio show's archive page.

The bad news: I am running out of space for these big sound files, and I'll probably have to start removing older mixes soon to make room for new ones. Any ideas on where I could store those older files? (For free?)

January 3, 2004

Wordsworth Represents the Real

No not that Wordsworth, I mean the other one. Did you know he penned a poetic tribute to Toussaint L'Ouverture? A friend just showed it to me:


TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy man of men!
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den;--
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man's unconquerable mind.

Louis Farrakhan on the State of Hip-Hop

Louis Farrakhan was interviewed last night on WBAI (where our show airs), during a program that focused on the state of hip-hop music. I wasn't involved in this show and am not particularly a fan of Minister Farrakhan, but he and the interviewer Bob Law had some interesting things to say, and you probably won't get to hear it anywhere else. So I'm posting it here, just missing the first 5 or 10 seconds:

Bob Law talks to Louis Farrakhan about Hip-Hop, 1/2/04

I may post a few comments later.

January 4, 2004

How Low Can You Go?

I guess I'm just naive, but it truly shocks me that right-wingers are shameless enough (as documented by atrios) to make an issue of the fact that Howard Dean's wife and kids are Jewish.

New Emcee Battle Documentaries

We knew a truckload of these were inevitable after 8 Mile.. Hopefully there will be some degree of authenticity here, since they had enough sense to let Wordsworth choose the NY emcees. Plus enough sense to recognize NY emcees are better than Cali emcees! (just kidding. maybe.)

Rapping Each Other to Shreds

A pair of films gets down and dirty with hip hop's battling emcees

...Many fans got their first peek at such battles by watching Eminem verbally pummel his rivals in "8 Mile," a fictional movie based on the star's own experiences as a rookie rapper in Detroit. Now "The Battle for L.A." - a new documentary available only on DVD - lets viewers see the real thing. ("The Battle for New York" has also been shot and will be released theatrically later this year.)

The L.A. "Battle," filmed guerilla-style on a tiny budget, follows a number of talented emcees as they assault each other with rhymes in L.A.-area venues. "The battles have the excitement of live theater - if the rapper blows a line, there's no retake," says director Darren Doane. "A good battler is a poet, fighter, philosopher, actor and preacher all in one."

A veteran music video director for such bands as the Deftones and Blink 182, Doane became interested in rap battles after seeing "8 Mile." He wondered if he could find an L.A. equivalent. The man who became the movie's co-producer, Dax Reynosa, introduced Doane to what turned out to be a loosely knit, marginalized subculture...

...Doane's camera captured some amazing talent. emcees named Propaganda, IN-Q and Raphi stand out, inspiring the loudest "whoos" and "whoas" from the crowd - two measures of a win. The director says indie labels have been trying to sign some of these talents after seeing his movie. Doane features a diverse range of rappers. Propaganda, IN-Q and Raphi are black, white and Latino, respectively. Among the impressive female emcees Zane and Jamie, an Asian woman...

"...The Battle for New York" has better production values than "The Battle for L.A." Doane shot the West Coast edition fast to make sure nobody beat him to the punch. The New York flick features west coast verbalists battling local rappers, chosen by an emcee called Wordsworth, at the Nuyorican Cafe on E. Third St. Doane believes New York rappers have "a little more personality. They're funnier and they have that confidence that comes from being in the hip-hop mecca..."

January 5, 2004

Time Magazine Slams the Source

Good stuff. Although I thought Benzino's father was Italian? And it's foul how Jon Shecter is being edited out of the Source's history.. more on that later.

A Source of Discomfort

How did it come to pass that the nation's biggest rap magazine is gunning for hip-hop's biggest star?

...On Jan. 12, The Source plans to ship out 800,000 copies of a CD on which a young Eminem clumsily raps, "Black girls are dumb, and white girls are good chicks." This should be a major coup for the magazine — a world-famous white rapper uttering a racist phrase — yet somehow it isn't. Eminem has already issued an apology, explaining that the tape is 10 years old and he made it just after breaking up with an African-American girlfriend. "I reacted like the angry, stupid kid I was," he said. Almost all the hip-hop community has accepted Eminem's contrition as sincere, and outrage has boomeranged on the questionable journalistic judgment of Mays and The Source.

Ever since Mays, as an undergraduate at Harvard, founded the self-proclaimed "magazine of hip-hop music, culture and politics," ethics have been a sore spot. While much of the magazine's early journalism was daring, some of it was also tainted by Mays' friendships with the rappers he covered. One of them was Ray (Benzino) Scott. "I met Ray when I had just got to Harvard and started my rap radio show," says Mays. "He had the hottest group in Boston, and yes, I became their manager, just as he helped me with my dream to start The Source."

Benzino, who is black and Puerto Rican, may have helped The Source, but it wasn't long before his friendship with Mays was also hurting it. In 1994 Benzino and his fledgling rap group, the Almighty RSO, went to editors at The Source, threatening to "put n_____s in body bags" if their album wasn't positively reviewed. (Benzino maintains he was kidding.) The editors knew that their boss was managing the group, and on those grounds, they refused to cover the band at all. But as The Source went to press, Mays inserted a three-page profile of the band into the magazine. When the editors discovered that Mays had not only overruled them but had personally written the profile, many quit in protest.

The Source's credibility took a hit, but Mays persevered, hiring new writers, and at least financially, the magazine recovered and even thrived. Meanwhile, Benzino re-formed the Almighty RSO into Made Men and continued getting favorable coverage from The Source — despite being dropped by several record labels. In 2001 Benzino was added to The Source's masthead as a co-owner, though he admits he has never invested in the magazine...

...A Source staffer says, "It's insane for a rap magazine to antagonize the No. 1 rapper the way we have. I can't believe Dave would be doing this if Benzino wasn't in his ear all the time." Mays says, "We're in a no-win situation with conflict of interest, but what do you want me to do about it? Benzino is like a brother, and I'm not going to stop being with him." The war with Eminem has had real costs. Interscope Records — home of Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre — has pulled its ads from the magazine, and Mays concedes that the past year has been "very tough financially." But The Source's long-term problem is not money but credibility. Unearthing the Eminem "black girls" tape required journalistic initiative, and Eminem's rise has had real consequences for hip-hop. "This is a huge story," says Mays. But David Mays is probably the wrong man to tell it.

January 6, 2004

The Awful Truth About Howard Dean and Ninjas

Recently a rumor spread through blogville (I read it in Pandagon) that presidential candidate Howard Dean had a brief career as an actor, appearing as a police officer in the 1984 b-movie "Ninja III: The Domination".

Apparently IMDB corroborates this claim, but is it really possible that is the same Howard Dean? And who is the loser that actually owns a copy of this movie, and will sit through the whole thing to find out if this is true?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am that loser.

I'm sorry to report that I have now sat through "Ninja III: The Domination" in its entirety (believe me I'm REALLY SORRY to report that), and I did not see Governor Howard Dean. There are probably over 100 police officers in this film, each of whom eventually gets their ass kicked by a ninja, so maybe I just didn't recognize him because a shuriken was embedded in his face. But I'm guessing it's a different Dean.

And just so you can appreciate how much I suffer for my blog peoples, here's a little sample of the dialogue and music I subjected myself to.

(If you're asking why I had ever purchased this tape in the first place: Dude, it stars Lucinda Dickey from "Breakin". And it has ninjas in it. Ninjas... killing cops! How can you expect me to pass that by in the $3.99 bin at Record Explosion?)

Russell Simmons, Politics and Yoga

Tight piece, and perfect timing since I'm in the middle of writing another post about hip-hop and politics:

Compa$$ionate Capitali$m

Russell $immons wants to fatten the hip-hop vote—and maybe his wallet, too

...Simmons has spent his life enumerating the ways that hip-hop's energy can be converted into dollars. Now he's trying to convert that energy into a social movement capable of reinvigorating the slumbering black left. A kingmaker in the making, Simmons has given money to all the presidential candidates except John Edwards and Joe Lieberman. While he is a nominal supporter of Al Sharpton, he confesses an affinity for Howard Dean. It's hard to think of a better ally for the governor of ivory-white Vermont than young black America's most formidable potentate. At 45, Simmons is the patriarch of a generation that couldn't pick Julian Bond out of a police lineup.

But for Simmons, the road from Wall Street to K Street has proven to be a slow one-laner fraught with potholes—hard going for a guy who has always lived like a Jaguar speeding down the autobahn. The goals of HSAN are far-reaching and wide-eyed with ambition. The only in-house organizing experience belongs to Chavis, who's as respected for organizing the Million Man March as he is derided for driving the NAACP into debt.

Simmons's value as an activist hasn't yet been proved. After all, hip-hop's idea of social justice seems to begin with the unabridged right to bling. But his approach isn't without merit: If the people care only about Bennifer, then let's bring Bennifer—not Lil Flip's big brother—and hope the people will follow...

January 7, 2004

Politics, Dentistry and Why Hip-Hop Matters

A few comments on the conversation I posted between Bob Law and Louis Farrakhan:

No doubt I am tired of all these emcees reheating the same thug-life leftovers, and I'd love to see more new dishes on the menu. No matter how dire your circumstances you can always strive for more than simply "keeping it real" by taking what you see around you and presenting it at face value. Bob Law illustrated this nicely with his prison art analogy: "If you ever see the paintings that prison inmates do, they never paint jail cells. They paint landscapes, they paint freedom. They paint what can be, what they would like to create."

But my problem with much of this discussion, especially Farrakhan's initial comments, is the assumption that hip-hop's importance derives primarily, or even solely, from its potential to instill political consciousness and initiate social activism. Many of us might see nothing wrong with that, and feel flattered that our elders have found some value in our work. But it is false flattery, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what hip-hop is, and why hip-hop matters.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but hip-hop music is just that, a form of music, that is made by musicians. Hip-hop matters because at its best it is an incredibly innovative and vibrant form of music. Hip-hop artists are important because of their contributions to the world of music.

These words should not appear strange to anyone. But they probably will, because our sense of hip-hop's worth has been so distorted by this overemphasis on its activist potential. If I said that Duke Ellington, James Brown, or the Beatles were important because of their contributions to the world of music, nobody would bat an eye. But when I say the same about hip-hop artists, someone is bound to reply: "No they are much more than just musicians, they are this generation's leaders/teachers/soldiers! Hip-hop is not just music it's a culture/movement/revolution!"

These protests (especially from older speakers like Law and Farrakhan) tend to carry an underlying assumption that hip-hop's musical contributions alone are not enough to make it worthy of respect. And perhaps more importantly, they promote a faulty conception of how effective activism can be realized.

The confusion is understandable. If you don't have an ear for what is going on musically, hip-hop probably just sounds like a bunch of people talking, so it's only natural to conclude that they can only become relevant by choosing relevant things to talk about. Plus, hip-hop became the dominant cultural force in Black America at a time when we had developed a gaping void in Black leadership/activism. The last generation of militant Black activist had faded away, whether due to cointelpro or whatever other factors you want to blame.. at the same time the church's influence continued to wane.. and it was in this setting that hip-hop rose to prominence.

So it may seem proper to assume that hip-hop was sent here to fill the void. It's certainly a convenient interpretation for our elders who were never able or willing to comprehend hip-hop's artistic merit, but still yearn for some way to connect with us and embrace us (or at least for a chance to shift the blame for this leadership void onto someone other than themselves). After all, rappers are the only ones around these days who can capture the attention of our young people, so it must be a rapper's responsibility to educate and politicize them, right?

Wrong. If your family dentist retires and a plumber moves into his office space, would you tell the plumber it's his job to fix your teeth, since he has a bunch of tools and there's no dentist around anymore? That's basically what you're doing when you implore rappers to provide our activist leadership just because they're the ones our kids watch on TV.

As Melanie Campbell said in the Voice piece, "The challenge is that artists are artists and activists are activists." Musicians make music. Activists extensively research the policy and history surrounding today's issues, develop and articulate goals and strategy, then inform, organize and mobilize their community in substantive political engagement. Each one of these is a full-time job, and each one calls for very different skill sets. Expecting anyone to do both simultaneously is a spectacularly bad idea.

Musicians and artists can play a crucial role in assisting and supporting bonafide activists in any social movement. But calling on those artists to "lead the revolution" themselves is not just unrealistic, it's downright ridiculous, and nothing constructive will ever come out of it.

Nobody will ever say that Muddy Waters or Sarah Vaughan or Eric Dolphy or Minnie Riperton failed us because they did not propagate a comprehensive political platform. Judging hip-hop by such criteria is equally foolish, unfair to the artist, and counterproductive for whatever cause you hope to aid by coronating these rappers as leaders.

(this is expanded from an old comment in Lynne's blog)

January 8, 2004

Knick Talk

How fitting that Van Gundy and Ewing will be on hand for tonight's transition from the Ewing era to the Marbury era. The years in between will just be a blank spot on the resume that sparks an awkward silence when job interviewers ask "so uhh, yeah, what were you doing between here and here?" (to be read in "about those TPS Reports" voice)

I'm not quite ready to get excited about this team, so far it seems like we're mortgaging our future to become a slightly better also ran. But if we can swap Van Horn for E-40's arch-enemy Rasheed Wallace, things might get interesting...

DJ Monk One's Best of 2003

I'm not doing any best-of lists, but our illustrious DJ Monk One (also a featured player in Wax Poetics) has been kind enough to pass his favorites along for your perusal. As you can see he's been bringing back many tasty treats from his gigs in the UK. Just don't start rocking one of those Madonna-style faux accents, ok homey?


follow me - d'angelo / red astaire (GAMM)
heard it all before - sunshine anderson + quantic soul orchestra (tru thoughts)
wesley music - RSL (players)
sunny - city people (rainy city)
this journey in - rebirth (kashmere)
the road remix - markus enochson + bugz in the attic (maw)
relax... unwind - mark de clive-lowe (maw)
hey ya! - outkast/andre3000 (arista)
sweetsmoke / it's dancing time - mr. scruff + quantic (ninjatune)
trouble in mind - natalie gardiner (ramjac)
all the way - strange fruit project (kashmere)
song for sharma - soul central (kenlou)
theme for fergus - madlib (kilmarnock/stonesthrow)
just a little lovin - irfane (new born)
cold outside - rob symeonn (redbud)
you bring me vibes - only child/amp fiddler DSL remix (grand central)
tudo bem - sasso (sing sing)
mr. brown - styles of beyond (spytech/ill boogie)
abracadabra - apani (upmedia)

songs + songs:

staunch liason EP (chopped herring)
blind man EP - LA carnival (stonesthrow)
absence of color EP (sound in color)
beat tape personalities EP - ammoncontact (soul jazz)
slim's return EP - madlib (blue note)
we, ourselves and us EP - sol uprizing (swv) - I cannot find any evidence online that this record even exists. I guess Monk has really been digging!
after midnight EP - dj satone (soulspazm)
blood's haul EP - keystones (now again)

songs + songs + songs + songs:

mungos hi-fi meets brother culture LP
spirit in stone LP - lifesavas (quannum)
stampede LP - quantic soul orchestra (tru thoughts)
get over it LP - nextmen (scenario)
upwards LP - ty (big dada)
yoseph LP - luke vibert (warp)
extinguished outtakes LP - prefuse 73 (warp)
mickey & the soul generation LP (caltech)
elements of life LP - louie vega (vega)
vaudeville villian LP - viktor vaughn (soundink)

January 9, 2004

The RIAA is Building a Clone Army

***If you haven't seen "House of Sand and Fog", you may want to skip the minor spoiler below***

This is weird and creepy. And sounds eerily like the scene in House of Sand and Fog where Ron Eldard uses his cop uniform to intimidate Ben Kingsley, hoping he can get over since Ben is an immigrant and might not know what his rights are. Also check out the wacky "hispanic nature" quote, and the EFF's puzzling stance:

Music Industry Puts Troops in the Streets

Quasi-legal squads raid street vendors

Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black "raid" vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read "RIAA" instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

Even as it suffers setbacks in the courtroom, the RIAA has over the last 18 months built up a national staff of ex-cops to crack down on people making and selling illegal CDs in the hood. The result has been a growing number of scenes like the one played out in Silver Lake just before Christmas, during an industry blitz to combat music piracy.

Borrayo attends to a parking lot next to the landmark El 7 Mares fish-taco stand on Sunset Boulevard. To supplement his buck-a-car income, he began, in 2003, selling records and videos from a makeshift stand in front of the lot. In a good week, Borrayo said, he might unload five or 10 albums and a couple DVDs at $5 apiece. Paying a distributor about half that up-front, he thought he’d lucked into a nice side business.

The RIAA saw it differently. Figuring the discs were bootlegs, a four-man RIAA squad descended on his stand a few days before Christmas and persuaded the 4-foot-11 Borrayo to hand over voluntarily a total of 78 discs. It wasn’t a tough sell. "They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they’d take me away in handcuffs," he said through an interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records, with titles like Como Te ExtraŮo Vol. IV — Musica de los 70’s y 80’s, are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point.

The RIAA acknowledges it all — except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. Yes, they may all be ex-P.D. Yes, they wear cop-style clothes and carry official-looking IDs. But if they leave people like Borrayo with the impression that they’re actual law enforcement, that’s a mistake.

"We want to be very clear who we are and what we’re doing," says John Langley, Western regional coordinator for the RIAA Anti-Piracy Unit. "First and foremost, we’re professionals..."

...With all the trappings of a police team, including pink incident reports that, among other things, record a vendor’s height, weight, hair and eye color, the RIAA squad can give those busted the distinct impression they’re tangling with minions of Johnny Law instead of David Geffen. And that raises some potential legal questions. Contacted for this article, the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said it needed more information on the practices to know if specific civil liberties were at risk...

...Langley says the anti-piracy teams have about an 80 percent success rate in persuading vendors to hand over their merchandise voluntarily for destruction.

"We notify them that continued sale would be a violation of civil and criminal codes. If they’d like to voluntarily turn the product over to us, we’ll destroy it, and we agree we won’t sue," he explained. The pink incident sheets and photos that Langley’s teams take of vendors are meant to establish a paper trail, particularly for repeat offenders.

"A large percentage [of the vendors] are of a Hispanic nature," Langley said. "Today he’s Jose Rodriguez, tomorrow he’s Raul something or other, and tomorrow after that he’s something else. These people change their identity all the time.M A picture’s worth a thousand words..."

...On its face, the move looks like a shift toward even more in-your-face enforcement. But don’t expect all RIAA critics to rally to the side of Borrayo and other sellers.

"The process of confiscating bootleg CDs from street vendors is exactly what the RIAA should be doing," said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the San Francisco–based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The EFF has frequently crossed swords with the record industry over its strategy of suing ISPs and individual listeners accused of downloading tunes from the Internet. A champion of copyright "fair use," the EFF says Buckles could bring a more balanced approach to the RIAA’s anti-piracy efforts. The more time the association spends rousting vendors, the thinking goes, the less it will spend subpoenaing KaZaa and BearShare aficionados...

(currently being discussed at ILM, but I saw it first from R0chey at okayplayer)

January 11, 2004

Your "Best Of" List is a Lie

Rambling ruminations from Matt Zoller Seitz on "best ofs" and the nature of criticism:

The Eye of the Critic

...Critics really hate admitting this because it damages our fantasies of oracular wisdom, but the continual evaluation of quality and importance that goes on in our columns is a fancy-pants smokescreen–a ritual that lets us prattle about movies we either responded to or didn’t, often for reasons that have less to do with technical, esthetic or political merit than with our own personalities (and personal baggage).

A critic declares a movie The Year’s Best Film (as I did recently with Tim Burton’s Big Fish) not because he really thinks it’s the year’s best film but because he really, really, really liked it, usually for personal reasons he can’t or won’t explain, and desperately wants to get word-of-mouth going and make the movie a hit...

...It’s all part of the same transparent game: We’re trying to wrap our personal, in some ways inexplicable response with an outer layer of importance. The essence of every piece of criticism is the same: You might not like this, but I sure as hell did. Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound as grand or compelling or near-omniscient as "the film of the year" or "one of the most moving dramas of recent times" or "a litmus test for serious moviegoers."

I’ve been a professional critic and journalist for 13 years now. During that time, I’ve probably watched thousands of contemporary theatrical films and thousands more on tv or home video. I’ve learned a lot about different filmmaking styles and historical trends, and I’ve read and thought a lot about how politics and money affect films (and filmmakers). I’ve gotten into who knows how many arguments about the merits of particular directors, writers, actors and processes. (Spielberg vs. Kubrick is a fun one; so is ‘Scope versus flat.) I’ve read god knows how many books on film history and theory. I’ve also made features, an experience that has required me to learn a variety of technical skills–from lighting and shooting to sound recording and editing–that I did not have before. I wish I could say this combination of experience and enrichment brought me closer to understanding what makes a movie great as opposed to good, or enabled me to more effectively persuade readers of a certain movie’s merits, or improved my ability to predict which current releases will still be watched and discussed after I’m dead and buried. (That’s what all those yearly critics’ awards are: a charming attempt to jump-start historical consensus.)

But the truth is, I’m no closer to those goals than I was 13 years ago. And I’m beginning to think that the goals themselves are illusions that critics and wannabe-critics have been conditioned to believe in... Criticism is such an inexact science, more like a cleverly disguised form of confession than a sincere or quantifiable attempt to separate wheat from chaff. (That’s why my yearly 10 Best list is titled 10 Favorites.)

I’ve gotten to the point where I now read critics not because I trust their opinions, but because I feel that I’ve gotten to know them well enough to be able to split the difference between their opinions and mine, and make a decision on whether to see a particular movie (or watch it again). When a critic steers me wrong, or fixates on particular details for reasons that strike me as counterproductive, I don’t feel mad or betrayed. I remind myself that everybody is different and every day and every week is different, and that if that critic had written the review in a different frame of mind or experienced a different upbringing, his verdict might not have been the same. (If you think critics don’t occasionally pan movies because they saw them after having a nasty fight with their significant other or writing a big check to the IRS, you are naive indeed.)

In the marvelous interview book Moviemakers Master Class, John Boorman, director of such films as Deliverance and Excalibur, admits: When I made Hope and Glory, which is about my childhood memories, it wasn’t until I saw it finished that I realized that my obsession with the Arthurian legends could be explained by the fact that my father’s best friend was in love with my mother. Like filmmaking, criticism is an art, and all art is autobiographical. Whether a critic intends to or not, each time he writes a column, he’s writing a diary entry that happens to be published. He is systematically revealing his prejudices, preferences and fears. He is, in some sense, an actor playing a part, and like any actor, the act of performance renders him simultaneously concealed and exposed. Human thought and action are part of an ongoing mystery, one that only gets solved years after the fact, if ever.

I think the weed was really starting to kick in when he wrote that last paragraph.

January 12, 2004

The Future of Rap (Foretold by National Review)

National Review offers this baffling paragraph in their review of the year in music:

As the social wheel spins, so goes music. Trends come and go. Today, emotional intensity appears to be the most important thing, but even so, some waves are receding as audiences show a preference for more positive emotions. Rap, once all but ubiquitous, seems to be waning, slowly but surely; the broader category of hip-hop, though, with its rather more positive social aura, is still going strong.

Questions abound. What led them to the conclusion that what they call rap is falling and what they call hip-hop is rising? The biggest selling album this year was 50 Cent, and it's hard for me to imagine them IDing that as hip-hop rather than rap.. certainly if "positive social aura" is their litmus test.

And how in the world do they differentiate between "rap" and "hip-hop" in the first place? Are they applying the same bizarro-world logic used by MTV when they make separate awards for Best Rap and Best Hip-Hop, and then give the latter to people like Sisqo? I am intrigued.

Richard Pryor, The Simpsons, and the Bow Wow Formerly Known as Lil

Watching TV has become a rare event for me, since I turned my cable off about 10 months ago. Some notes from hanging at mom's house last night:

1. The Simpsons needs to get cancelled. It has become a pale shadow of its former self, and every week it continues to air is a disgrace to what was once the greatest achievement in the history of television. I will come back to this later.. I'm not even kidding, it makes me angry.

2. One of the few people perched higher in my cultural pantheon than The Simpsons is Richard Pryor, so when we turned to Comedy Central's tribute "I Ain't Dead Yet", I was afraid it'd be another disservice to one of my heroes. It started off on the wrong foot with Richard's wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, injecting far too much of herself into the mix, and I'd rather see more natural conversation instead of the VH1-style barrage of jump cuts between 35 different talking heads.

But even in that format an abundance of love was shining through from everyone they interviewed (fun to see Mos Def and Dave Chappelle hangin out), and between that and clips of the man himself, this turned out to be a halfway decent tribute.

One glaring omission: why did they talk to every comic except the one who knows Richard best, his right-hand man Paul Mooney? They even took a clip of Robert Townsend imitating Mooney, quoting his "I say nigger 100 times a day to keeps my teeth white" routine, but mixed it into a montage of Richard Pryor quotes and made it look like he was quoting Richard instead of Paul. Does Richard's wife (who was executive producer of the show) have some kind of beef with paul?

3. As I was watching Still Rather Petite Bow Wow's segment on Punk'd, my mom walked in and asked "Is that Todd Bridges?!?" I'd say he looks more like Ronnie Devoe.

January 13, 2004

Jason from the EFF Sets the Record Straight

Jason Schultz of the EFF, whose words were the subject of scrutiny here a few days ago, has stopped by our humble abode to offer an explanation:

Hi. This is Jason Schultz from the EFF, who was MISquoted in the article. I saw your post here and wanted to make sure I clarified what happened. When I talked to the reporter, I had no idea that the article was going to be about the RIAA holding quasi-legal, racist raids. I thought it was merely another article about the RIAA sending out its investigators to collect info on CD bootleggers and then turn it over to the real police to do an investigation. I was shocked, just like many of you, when I saw the article and learned the real story. Make no mistake, the EFF is entirely committed to preserving all our civil liberties and would never endorse the kind of vigilante tactics the RIAA is using in its street raids.

If you're interested in reading more of my take on this mishap, I have posted a longer reaction on my blog here if you want to read it. Please feel free to share this response and my blogged response with any others who might be concerned.


Okay, that makes a little more sense. *whew*

PHOTOS: Hip-Hop at the GQ Awards

A while ago I was on my way to the radio station and discovered they were taping the Spike TV/GQ Awards down the block, so I decided to hang out for a while and get my papparazzi on:

click each thumbnail for the full size photo


And a few extras:

Charlize Theron
Jon Stewart -recruiting young girls into Satan's army
Anna Kournikova - I've always hated on her but I must admit she was one of the nicest about coming over to meet the fans.

January 14, 2004

Dean vs. Gephardt on Eminem

Although his love for Wyclef is well documented, it turns out current presidential candidate Howard Dean is not a fan of future presidential candidate Marshall Mathers. Funny you'd think Em would be right up Dean's alley since he, as has been widely reported, is The Angry Candidate.

Dean not enraptured by Eminem; Gephardt digs him

Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean disagree on a lot of things, and here's another: rapper Eminem.

The Missouri congressman, close to Dean in Iowa polls, has played Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" on the campaign trail and said he liked the rapper's semi-autobiographical movie "8 Mile."

"I didn't know much about him," Gephardt said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "I saw the movie and I like the movie, you know, the story of them growing up poor and so on."

Dean, the former Vermont governor, however, is less of a fan. "My kids like him, but I don't," Dean said in a recent Rolling Stone interview.

Knick Talk

Cheney out, Fratello in.

At the very least, Isiah sure is making things interesting. I was assuming he'd take that job for himself next year, but scoring a big name like Fratello makes me wonder.

Whatever let's just get that Rasheed Wallace deal done (and no thanks on Darius Miles).

EDIT: Chaney out, Fratello out before he got in, Wilkens in. Knicks still suck.

Run Jigga Run!

Actually, nevermind what I just said about Eminem running for president.

I'm not sure if the esteemed Jessica Hopper is clowning me or what with this "correct-a-con300 bot" business (you got blog beef, bring it!!), and I'm not sure what it means to be metaphorically honkey.. but she is dead-on as usual in pegging Jay-Z as totally Clintonian with his "aw shucks" humble demeanor, and perfect for a presidential run.

I heard Jay on Howard Stern last year, and Clinton is exactly who I thought of as he employed advanced rhetorical Tai-Chi maneuvers to deflect every question. And who could possibly say no to the Beyonce healthcare plan?

Speaking of President Carter, the NY Post claims he's trying to form his own company, and ascribes this move to the age-old rumors of a falling out with Damon Dash. The chances of a Post article being accurate are mighty low.. but we'll see. (maybe JB can give us the real deal)

NYC Event: We've Come Undone

My peoples at Rise Up Radio would like you to know about this event next week:

Kayhan Irani in We've Come Undone

WHEN: Tuesday, January 20th, 2004 at 7:00 PM
WHERE: 525 West 120th Street (take the 1/9 to 116th or 125th)
Milbank Chapel @ Teachers College, Columbia University
COST: $5

Join us on January 20th at 7pm for We've Come Undone, a series of
monologues created and performed by NYC artivist Kayhan Irani.
We've Come Undone is an often humorous, sometimes touching - but
always provocative - look at the impact of recent legislation on
Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities within the U.S. Using
research and personal interviews, the monologues portray women and
girls struggling to make sense of life in an America caught in the
grip of distrust.

In the second half of We've Come Undone, the audience will discuss
the issues raised in the monologues. Volunteers will be invited to
engage in interactive theater.

Kayhan Irani created We've Come Undone out of a sincere desire to
open communication "post 9/11" - a term so overused it has perhaps
been rendered meaningless. Precisely because there are so few
channels to facilitate the exploration of these doubts and fears
communally, Kayhan finds joy in creating a safe space for open
dialogue and interaction among various communities and individuals,
and provide more than the one-dimensional, narrow depictions
offered up by our mass media.

For event info, contact Leanne at lms75@columbia.edu. For more
info about Kayhan: http://www.thehousethatwebuilt.com/kayhan.htm.

This event is sponsored by the TC Cultural Studies Department and
Students Promoting Empowerment and Knowledge (SPEaK) at Columbia

Photos: The Last Days of D&D

In a few weeks we will hit the one-year anniversary of a sad day in hip-hop, the closing of the legendary D&D studios. I was lucky enough to visit D&D just before it closed, and got a few pictures for the scrapbook.

I'd gotten an invite to a listening session for Gangstarr's new album, and expected the usual routine with label execs playing a CD for a bunch of industry heads, with the artist possibly stopping by and sitting on the side. Instead I walked in to find nothing but Guru and a couple of his friends sitting on a couch, watching TV. Guru looked up and said "Watsup, glad you could make it! There's some food in back if you want." Way more intimate vibe than I expected! It was like I got invited to Gangstarr's house for a sleepover.

Walking towards the kitchen, it felt like every inch of this place was suffused with hip-hop history. The room with the couches and TV was lined with platinum plaques from Illmatic and just about every other classic album of the last 15 years. Each wall in the next room was plastered with classic album covers, surrounding a worn-out pool table that you just knew all your heroes had played on. Across from the soda machine was a photo gallery with candid shots from inside the studio (like the one of KRS and Primo below), dating back to the early 80s when they catered mostly to reggae artists like Dennis Brown.

We came back to the couches (I was with fellow WBAI host Andrea Clarke) and watched videos with Guru, while a few heads from Power 105 filtered in. I'd heard horror stories about Guru but he was totally chill and friendly with us (the horror stories involved him being drunk off his proverbial ass, which word is he doesn't do anymore), and told lots of cute stories about his kid, who loves to rap along to Nas' "I Can", then pauses and says "Hey daddy... WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT BOY!?" (#1 Stunna style)

Eventually Premier came in and gave everybody a pound, and we all crowded into a tiny studio where Primo started pulling DATs out of a Duane Reade shopping bag, each of which contained a song from the new album. He made a little speech before each song, describing how each track was made and then veering off into musings on hip-hop philosophy. Some of the tracks were so new that Guru hasn't heard the finished product yet, and he nodded excitedly "I like how that one came out!"

Just to recap, at this moment I AM SITTING INSIDE D&D, AND DJ PREMIER IS SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, PLAYING HIS NEW SHIT FOR ME!!!! This was one of those times when it is incredibly cool to have a radio show.

Primo's friends were wandering in and out as it went on, and at one point we were sharing the space with Primo, Guru, Tony Touch, Craig G, Marley Marl, and Edwin "Rapper Dapper Snapper" Birdsong. The amount of hip-hop history cramped into this little room at that point was just insane.

I hate to sound like a Wonder Years voiceover, but sitting there with all these legends, listening to Primo speak of the traditions and "hip-hop codes" he strives to uphold, all the while knowing these hallowed halls were about to be closed down forever, it was hard not to feel like we were getting one final glimpse at hip-hop's golden age, before it faded into the sunset.

Anyway here are few pics:

click each thumbnail for the full size photo

January 15, 2004

Russell Simmons vs. Antisemitism

Okay so they thought Russell was a rapper, they are in Tel Aviv so we can cut them some slack. And actually he did rap once (5 points to anybody who can name the record).

Rapper calls on blacks to combat anti-Semitism

Music producer Russell Simmons, considered a founding father of rap and hip-hop culture, is now entreating the African-American community "to join forces with the Jews in a common struggle against expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe and America."

Simmons wrote these words together with his friend Orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier, in an article that is to appear this weekend, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day, which is observed next Monday. The article will be published in newspapers that reach Jewish and black readers across the U.S...

Vinyl Imaginings

This right here is fascinating.

My Wax Poetics brethren, please work your magic and track down this Mingering Mike fellow.

6 Years for Mystikal

I'm not gonna make any jokes about this one:

Rapper sentenced to six years for sexual battery

Michael Tyler, better known as the Grammy-nominated rapper Mystikal, was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison for sexual battery for forcing his hair stylist to perform what the judge called "continuous sex acts."

The 33-year-old rapper originally faced up to 10 years, but received six in a plea agreement. He was taken from court in handcuffs to begin serving his time...

Down With The King

In honor of Martin Luther King's birthday today, see what you can make out of this essay linking Hip-Hop with MLK's legacy:

Dr. King: The Remix

While much of the world will pay homage to Martin Luther King's 75th birthday on January 15, the eyes in many hip-hop heads will again glaze over the revival of grainy black-and-white footage from 1963. Is it any wonder that the most commercialized, mass-marketed and misunderstood figure of the Civil Rights Movement offers little more than surface appeal to the hip-hop nation? The paradox of overexposure of a particular image of Dr. King is his resultant inaccessibility to young people.

While we love to hear the story, again and again, well-intentioned teachers and less-benevolent revisionists have hidden from us much of the good stuff about the good Reverend Doctor. His legacy has been reduced by many interpreters to a still portrait of a pacific dreamer in a contextual vacuum. We have been conditioned to think that everything we need to know about King we learned in kindergarten. While we remember that he was born in Atlanta and became a timeless orator, nonviolent dreamer and national martyr, many in the hip-hop nation have yet to be introduced to the radical Martin Luther King, Jr.

Call in P. Diddy, or whoever invented the remix. The revolutionary King has been lost on the B-side for much of the last four decades, while the facts of this year in our nation's history accentuate the significance of understanding the true King legacy. Dr. King's "triple evils" of racism, poverty and war have emerged in all-too-familiar form: the Bush II government abandons American children to kill in Iraq and to perish in prison here at home, cuts off unemployment benefits and closes welfare centers, locks up innocent immigrants, and rewards the rich for their patronage of these policies.

Reinterpretation is often a struggle, and like most spaces in hip-hop, the memory of King has long been a battleground. The national celebration of his birthday is itself a product of a committed fight, not only in the dirty South but in places like New Hampshire and "by the time I get to" Arizona. There is a role for the hip-hop generation – ever primed for battle since creating one of the few post-Civil Rights forums for honest communication about race and class in American society – in reclaiming the legacy of King...

In Yet Another Sign of the Apocalypse

Somebody just ended their shift on Hot 97 by quoting Hunter S. Thompson:

"The music business is a cruel & shallow trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves & pimps run free, & good men lie like dogs. There is also a negative side."

If I'm not mistaken it was DJ Cipha Sounds, who I must admit was surprisingly un-irritating on the mic, filling in for Flex. His voice is kinda similar to Flex's, and I kept thinking "wow Flex is less annoying than usual tonight!"

January 16, 2004

Superfly, R.I.P.

The man of the hour had an air of great power...

"Superfly" film star Ron O'Neal dies at 66

Ron O'Neal, whose role as cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest in the 1972 film "Superfly" epitomized the so-called "blaxploitation" film genre of that era, has died. He was 66.

O'Neal died Wednesday evening at Cedars Sinai Medical Center after a long bout with cancer, according to his wife, Audrey Pool O'Neal.

Born in Utica, N.Y., O'Neal was raised in Cleveland, where he became involved in Karamu House, an experimental interracial theatrical troupe.

He headed to New York in 1966 and became involved in theater, teaching school in Harlem to support himself. The payoff for the young actor came with a 1970 Obie Award for his performance in Joseph Papp's Public Theatre production of "No Place To Be Somebody."

His performance in the play brought O'Neal to the attention of the producers of "Superfly," who fell in love with his street-smart, rugged interpretation of an ultra-violent cocaine dealer who wants out of the business after one last big score...

I-20 of Disturbing Tha Peace on Hot 97

He seems like a nice guy, but his voice is so deep it just doesn't sound right. He's like the Rick Astley of hip-hop.

Hip-Hop and Politics, Volume 2,861

Jeff Chang links to a meaty discussion between Davey D and Cedric Muhammad of blackelectorate.com. It's a good read, and some of Cedric's thoughts are a nice complement to my earlier ramblings on the subject.

Cedric Muhammad and Davey D on "How Hip-Hop's Political Movement Gets Compromised"

Cedric: ...the problem with the Hip Hop political movement is that many of the activists donít have good relationships with the artists. I know that there are a few that do, but on a whole I think we become what we condemned. A lot of us have become very preachy and we donít network. A lot of us donít like the music and we spend a lot of time condemning it as opposed to building relationships and doing business so we can get close to the artists so we can eventually influence them. Many of the Ďgreat thinkersí within Hip Hop could not get a hearing with some of these artists...

...I think thereís a major disconnect behind the scenes between many of us who have all these great ideas and are from a political grassroots network and the artists. Lets be honest, the young people like the artists. They donít care too much about too much news or what intellectuals within Hip Hop are saying. They wanna know whatís going on with Jay-Z or whatís up 50 Cent or whatís happening with the G-Unit. They wanna know about Westside Connection and the whole nine. I think some of us on the intellectual side resent that. We resent that influence that these artists have on the basis of superficiality. Rather then embracing this and synthesizing this with some of the ideas that we have. Once this happens things will change...

...Whenever you are looking for some of your out front people to be political leaders, present the ideas and do the thinking, you are going to always be in trouble. I think you need that coach, that GM and that strategist who are behind the scenes who can help that person who has the limelight and popularity...

January 17, 2004

Join Us On the Radio Tonight

Once again we hit the airwaves tonight at Midnight, EST. You can tune in here, or at WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you are checking out the sounds you can join us live in the chat room.

Also don't forget WBAI's membership drive starts on Monday, and one week from tonight (the 24th) is our fundraising special! As usual we've put some classic Railroad rarities on CD, to deposit your mailbox if you pledge during our show.. come back next week for details.

January 19, 2004

Blogs Worth Reading

Sorry for the lack of blogging this weekend, I've been in the studio recording a dis record about jessica hopper, named "I Know Why the Unicorn Cries." Here are some other worthy blogs to quench your thirst while I go slip this DAT to Kay Slay.

sleep not work is doing some deep thinking on hip-hop and consumerism.. highly recommended (and not only cuz he cites me).

anil dash laments how chance encounters may no longer be part of our social interaction, in the internet age. A great read as usual. (anyone who links to prince.org gets mad props over here)

o-dub's got the scoop on that remix of Jay-Z's "Black Album" by Dangermouse, done entirely with samples from the Beatles' "White Album".

different kitchen and aeki tuesday are getting prolific with the linkage.

And of course shoutouts to the blog fam stinkzone, diesel nation, lingosphere, and everyone else over there to your right.

Citing Vast Surplus, U.S. Begins Exporting Tupac Rhymes to Korea

Is there any way we can use Tupac's voice to power an automobile? Cuz at this point it's obvious the earth's fossil fuels will run out long before his unused vocals do. Let's just make sure nobody puts Pac's voice on a Bubble Sisters record.

Korean Pop Group To Collaborate With J-Lo, Tupac

The new album by local female pop group Baby Vox will have vocals by singer Jennifer Lopez and the late rapper Tupac Shakur.

Lopez will be rapping and singing the chorus for "Play", one of the songs on the album, due out in early March, Daily Sports reported. Lopez will be recording her part in a studio in the United States. The song will then be completed by Baby Vox (short for Baby Voice of Expression) in South Korea.

The album will also have the five-member group perform a duet with Shakur, Yonhap News Agency reported. The song will have Baby Vox sing over a rap recorded by Shakur, who was one of rap's biggest names before his murder in 1996...

January 20, 2004

Limited Time Special Offer (Offer Now Expired)

Since I'm still lagging on the postification, here's a little present for my blog peoples courtesy of Kon the Louis Vuitton Don:

Grab this now, cuz it will disappear when I wake up in the morning.. ok, I probably won't wake up in the morning per se, but you knowhutimsayin.

Sorry, too late!

Kelis' Milkshake Remix

I like Kelis, and still rock "Young Fresh and New" on the regular, but asking her to rap on the remix of Milkshake was a bad idea. When her verse came on I thought "why are The Clipse ghostwriting for JJ Fad now?"

Indian Emcee Sameer Daadaa: Original Goonda

If nothing else, this guy has clearly mastered the standard the gangsta-rap defense tactics, as seen in the last paragraph:

Now, be ready for a 'goonda rap'

If you expect the son of country's leading beautician to be a chocolate-faced boy, your expectations will go awry. The stockily-built, bearded man, who sports his own SD brand of hairstyle, is a toughie. He is all set to release "country's first gangster rap" music album " Salaam " soon. "In Indian context, you can say it is a goonda rap album," he says.

Meet Sameer Husain alias Sameer Daadaa (SD), son of world famous beautician Shahnaz Husain. SD says his music album has some "vulgar, offending" lyrics. Incidentally, the lyrics have been penned by SD himself. His album carries the message "Parental Advisory Body. Explicit content".

"In US, this message is carried in music albums which should not be listened by those who oppose freedom of speech," he says and adds, "When a car owner hits a rickshaw-puller, he abuses the poor man with expletives related to Maa and Bahan. But the same car owner would not like to listen songs laced with expletives. Isn't it double standards?" he asks.

He opposes the remix albums and claims that his album is original, innovative one. "The album uses expletives, but it carries some message for the society," he claims. Does the rapper favour freedom of speech for the gangsters? SD says: "Everybody should have freedom of speech."

But he clarifies: "If certain film is based on gangsters' lives, nobody raises eyebrows. Then why you do think that I am glorifying gangsters in my album. I have presented what I have experienced in my life..."

The Real History of The Source - Part One

In the latest issue of The Source they finally deliver their (surprisingly dull) wall-to-wall assault on Eminem, complete with bonus CD. In her editor's note Kim Osorio proclaims that "Eminem and his people wanted to stop the truth from reaching the public," and assures the reader that "our intentions have always been to present you, the reader, with the truth, and to give you the information you need to draw your own conclusion."

But all this righteous talk rings hollow, for numerous reasons. For one thing, The Source is lying to readers about its own history in every single issue, by listing Raymond "Benzino" Scott as a co-founder of the magazine alongside David Mays.

Regular readers will know that this crap drives me up the wall. What bothers me most is the injustice of seeing all the real co-founders besides David Mays being written out of history. So I've taken some time to try and compile the real story of how The Source magazine got started as best I can, and post it here so people will have a reference. Much of this post is drawn from material gathered by Irina Slutsky for a research project at the Columbia School of Journalism. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from Irina's previously unpublished interviews.

If anyone has additions or corrections let me know. I'd love to get a little more detail on Ed Young.. he seems to be the enigmatic, Jarobi-esque member of the founding four, nobody says much about what he was doing. But this should provide a more complete and accurate accounting of The Source's origins than was available online up until now.


The Real History of The Source (Part One)

The story of The Source begins in 1988, when Harvard's radio station added a hip-hop show to its lineup for the first time. The show was entitled "Street Beat", and was put together by two sophomores: Jon Shecter, a Philadelphia native, and David Mays, whose nickname "Go-Go Dave" paid tribute to his D.C. roots. Both had been hip-hop fans from the first time they heard "Rapper's Delight", and they jumped at the chance to show their love on Harvard's WHBR 95.3 FM, a 3000-watt station that reached most of Boston.

The show quickly struck a chord, and as their growing audience lit up the phones with questions about the new music they heard, the ever-enterprising Mays had an idea to further capitalize on this interest. He started taking down the addresses of everyone who called in, and soon found himself with over 1,000 people on his mailing list. In the summer of 1988 he hit those 1,000 mailboxes with the premiere issue of "The Source: Boston's First and Only Rap Music Newsletter".

Mays sent it out for free, paying for printing and postage by selling ad space to local record stores. Named after a line from BDP's classic "Ya Slippin" ("you wanna hear a fresh rhyme you come to the source!"), this original Source was not in magazine form, simply a one-page newsletter listing new releases and upcoming concerts in the area. But when Jon Shecter came back from summer vacation in the fall of '88, Jon and David decided to become partners and make a business out of this, and The Source as we know it today was born.

Throughout their junior year at Harvard, Mays and Shecter produced The Source out of their dorm room, now selling each issue for a dollar. Shecter was in charge of editorial duties, while Mays handled the business end. They started out doing everything themselves, writing all the articles, typing everything up and xeroxing it themselves, then mailing everything out. Not surprisingly it became hard for them to stay focused on their classes, and at that point Shecter says "we majored in The Source and minored in academics".

But their hard work was paying off, and by the end of their junior year The Source was being read as far away as San Francisco, where a Harvard law student named James Bernard picked up a copy during his summer vacation in 1989. As soon as he walked into Leopold's records and saw LL Cool J's smiling face on the cover (The Source's first color cover) Bernard was fascinated, and he spent his entire 4th of July weekend reading The Source over and over. "I just couldn't believe there was an intelligent hip-hop magazine," remembers Bernard.

Bernard noted that the magazine came out of Boston, and upon his return to Harvard he sought out the founders and invited them to dinner at the newly opened Boston Chicken (which later evolved into the Boston Market chain). Soon after this meeting Bernard officially entered the fold as The Source's third staff member.

"I kind of fell in with Jon, he and I got along better" recalls Bernard, and he joined Shecter in writing and editing the magazine while Mays continued running the business end. Bernard's presence intensified the political consciousness that the Source would become known for, and one of their first issues after he arrived featured Malcolm X on the cover. Both and Mays and Shecter were committed to making this more than just another gossip rag like Black Beat or Right on. At the helm of hip-hop's first authentic magazine of its own, Bernard and Shecter aspired to set a standard for representing the culture with intelligent discussion and serious analysis.

They were always acutely aware of this responsibility, even in the finer details of punctuation. "We had a long argument about the punctuation in N.W.A," remembers Bernard. On the album there was no period after the 'A', which is technically incorrect, but after much deliberatation Bernard and Shecter decided not to add another period in their articles. "Now I see that in the New York Times," says Bernard with pride, "and we helped to set that. We were all about that kind of stuff. We cared about that."

While Bernard and Shecter were establishing traditions on the editorial side, another Harvard undergrad named Ed Young joined David Mays in overseeing business matters, and became the Source's fourth staff member. This was the team that oversaw The Source until Mays and Shecter graduated in 1990, and kept it rolling from then on. A year later The Source had grown so rapidly that even the Wall Street Journal had to take heed, in a story on September 25th, 1991 that noted:

Source Magazine, started in a Harvard University dormitory three years ago by David Mays and Jon Shecter, reflects the personal passion of its two white founders for black-oriented rap music; the magazine is sold mostly in record stores; it has a circulation of less than 40,000, but advertising pages rose 25% in the past year. Revenue this year will reach $900,000, up from last years $340,000."

With David Mays and Ed Young working tirelessly to expand its readership and draw new advertisers, alongside Jon Shecter and James Bernard shaping its content and editorial voice, The Source had firmly established itself as hip-hop culture's paper of record. Though it may be hard to believe now, by the time they moved their offices to New York in 1991 fans across the globe were calling The Source their "bible of hip-hop", and doing so without a trace of sarcasm.

These are the four founders of The Source: David Mays, Jon Shecter, James Bernard and Ed Young. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying to you. When they falsely cite David Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott as their co-founders in the front of every issue, those who currently run The Source are guilty of the latter. They champion themselves as crusaders for truth, even as they refuse to tell you the truth about their own history.


You will notice that Raymond Scott AKA Ray Dogg AKA Benzino's name did not appear anywhere in this post. That's because he played no part whatsoever in starting the magazine. His role in this drama will be the focus of Part 2, which I hope to post up soon. It will probably be juicy.

January 21, 2004

My Favorite Part of Bush's Speech

Last year President Bush went on at great length about how Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But this year, in a splendid creative flourish, he tells us instead that Iraq had "weapons of mass-destruction-related program activities." What a magnificent jumble of words that is!

January 22, 2004

Eminem's Latest Salvo

Umm, is it just me or are Eminem's dis records getting boring? You can download his newest anti-source rant here and judge for yourself:

Eminem Freestyle - from the new "Green Lantern Invasion Part 3"

There was a time when I would have been excited to hear this, but he has done so many of these tracks now (with similar beats/flows/jokes) that this one doesn't make much of an impression on me.

How Kanye West Can Save Howard Dean

Okay, sure, Dean's Iowa speech was rather comical. But are people seriously going to change their vote because the guy looks geeky on TV once in a while? That clip tells us nothing whatsoever about his ability to serve.

Besides, Dean is just like any other emcee, his only problem is he needs the right beat behind him. That speech is already spawning more remixes than Jay-Z's Black Album, but I think this one gets it just right:

Howard Dean "Through The Io-wire" - Soulkhansenses remix

See? Just put a little Kanye behind him and Dean's Dukakis-Tank-Helmet moment becomes the hip-hop anthem of the year!

January 23, 2004

Audio From The Days of Slavery

The Library of Congress just debuted an incredible online archive of interviews with former slaves. Likely to be the best mp3s you download all year:

Voices From The Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories provides the opportunity to listen to former slaves describe their lives. These interviews, conducted between 1932 and 1975, capture the recollections of twenty-three identifiable people born between 1823 and the early 1860s and known to have been former slaves. Several of the people interviewed were centenarians, the oldest being 130 at the time of the interview. The almost seven hours of recordings were made in nine Southern states and provide an important glimpse of what life was like for slaves and freedmen. The former slaves discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, how slaves were coerced, their families, and, of course, freedom. It is important to keep in mind, however, that all of those interviewed spoke sixty or more years after the end of their enslavement, and it is their full lives, rather than their lives during slavery, that are reflected in their words. They have much to say about living as African Americans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond. As part of their testimony, several of the ex-slaves sing songs, many of which were learned during the time of their enslavement.

Speaking of Ingenious Mixtures

Am I late on the "Hey Ya Charlie Brown" meme?

Hip-Hop Culture Shock

It's amazing to see the permutations of hip-hop that arise outside of the US. Here, from Kenya, comes a white emcee who goes by the name "Pigmy" and raps in Swahili:

The Mzungu with a Mean Swahili Rap

Wherever he goes, upcoming rapper Pigmy (Miles Macdonald), who is of Caucasian origin, mesmerises all and sundry with his ability to rap in Swahili.
The 17-year-old, who is Kenyan birth, has been wowing audiences with his classy rendition of a rap song, Zaliwa Kenya, his introduction to the local hiphop scene. The song, with Kiswahili and English lyrics, delves into various facets of life in Kenya.

Despite his having being born and bred in Kenya, many people find it hard to believe that a Mzungu (white person) can rap in flawless Swahili. So wherever he performs, he leaves many open-mouthed.

"Whenever I step on the stage for the first time, people normally freeze in silence, not knowing what to expect. But when I start rapping, my mastery of Swahili always sends them wild," he says with an air of confidence.

At times people follow him back-stage to ask him whether he is being real or just faking it. But Pigmy always has a ready answer. "I am Kenyan and all Kenyans should know Swahili. And I can sing about life in Kenya just like anybody else," he says.

Indeed, Pigmy’s debut single, Zaliwa Kenya, plumbs the daily lives of youthful Kenyans in a way that rings true with many young music fans. His other song, Shake Till Your Legs Break is a party anthem for young party-goers, who will also relate easily to his latest release, Tusker In My Fridge...

January 24, 2004

A (Sad) New Chapter in Blog History

Last week I jokingly acted like I wanted beef with another blog across town, namely Tiny Lucky Genius AKA the Unicorn's Tear hosted by Chicago's own Jessica Hopper. I was totally totally kidding, she seems mad cool and probably able to have me killed.

But I've always thought it would be fun if us bloggers had "blog beef", and made blog dis records about each other like all the cool rap stars do. The problem, of course, is where would we find a loser with enough free time on his hands to actually write and record a song about somebody else's blog?

As you have probably guessed by now, I am that loser. And since last week's tomfoolery gave me inspiration, I now present to you the world's first blog dis record, "I Know Why The Unicorn Cries."

Download the MP3 here, then read along below!


I Know Why the Unicorn Cries
(beat courtesy of Vast Aire's "Look Mom No Hands", additional samples added by Jay Smooth in Cool Edit Pro)



first things first, Ms. Hopper: ha ha, you're funny
amusing - but your emo ego is due for bruising tonight
cuz we're never losing a fight
we keep it tight, featured site up at movable type
I fill suckaz all over the blogosphere with dread
walk mean streets these geeks fear to tread
but every now and then I hear footsteps behind me
another small timer like yourself getting grimy
tiny.abstract about to catch a clapback
next time you post about me, watch your trackback
cuz I'm about to ping you with the real
when a unicorn cries tell me how does it feel?


punk unicorn!
from your eye drops a tear!
sucka unicorn!
from your eye drops a tear!



you think your tiny sucky blog makin me feel fear?
I get more hits in a week than you get all year
you cry a tear cuz you're jealous about my fame
talk a good one but never call me out by name
it's just a shame, I dunno why you think that you could reckon with me
I represent New York, you're in the second city
small time dropping small thoughts for small minds
up against THE GREATEST HIP-HOP BLOG OF ALL TIME!? (portentous echo)
you better call time like chris webber
cuz it only gets better when this veteran gets clever and spits
i'm severin arteries mercy has never been part of me
so if you ask me to i'll enjoy thrashing you heartily in every post I make
roasting fakes you and your team are artificial
like the cream in the middle of hostess cakes
and that makes a tasty meal
so when i eat a unicorn tell me how does it feel?



Just to reiterate, in case the inherent absurdity is not obvious, I did this strictly for the sake of being silly and I have no quarrel whatsoever with tinyluckygenius (please don't hurt me). But, if any of you want beef, y'all know where to find me! There's plenty more where this came from.

January 25, 2004

Thanks for Your Support (Gift Enclosed)

Big thanks to everyone who called in and pledged their support during our fundraising special on the radio show last night, and brought us to the respectable tally of $2,510. Now you just gotta make sure you send in those pledges!

Among those checking in were Madison of Diesel Nation, Pexdiggy, Wiseguy and Gaston of the "Words" event at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and a legend of NY radio, DJ Silva Sirfa.

As a token of my gratitude (FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY), here is a mind-blowing Stevie Wonder concert MP3.

January 26, 2004

Elroy! Elroy Cohen!

Another sign that Redman is right about Def Jam "losing their soul"?*

Warner Music Is Said to Pick Head of Unit

Lyor Cohen, the music impresario who has fostered the careers of artists like Public Enemy and Bon Jovi, is expected to join Warner Music as the head of its North American operations, two people briefed on the negotiations said on Friday.

Executives are still working out the details of Mr. Cohen's contract, but an announcement could come as early as Sunday, these people said. Mr. Cohen was offered as much as $50 million for five years to stay at the Island Def Jam Music Group, a division of the Universal Music Group, where he is chief executive and has spent much of his career, according to one of these people. His deal at Warner is expected to be even richer, this person said, and could include a stake in Warner Music.

Last November, Time Warner sold its music division for $2.6 billion to an investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., the Seagram heir, and the investor Thomas H. Lee. Mr. Bronfman has known Mr. Cohen since he and his partners sold their stake in Def Jam Records for about $130 million to Seagram in 1999, which then owned Universal and was later acquired by Vivendi.

But Mr. Cohen will be facing a task at Warner very different from the one he had at Island Def Jam. Doug Morris, chief executive of Universal Music Group, often protected his top lieutenants from the pressure -- financial or otherwise -- of corporate bosses, which at one point included Mr. Bronfman. Warner Music is now in the hands of private equity investors, including Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners, which will be looking for steep returns and unlikely to tolerate any profligate spending...

extra note from more recent report:

While Mr. Cohen's career has always seemed to follow an upward trajectory, the last year has proved to be more difficult than most. TVT Records was awarded $132 million in a contract dispute with Mr. Cohen and the Island Def Jam Music Group over the release of an album featuring Ja Rule, who is a Def Jam artist. A federal judge later lowered the amount to $53 million; a representative for Mr. Cohen said he was appealing the decision. And his recent effort to reinvigorate Mariah Carey's career was a limited success at best.

*Audio of Redman's comment on Def Jam courtesy of Dif Kitch.

One Person I Might Not Want to Beef With

Damn, this guy in the NY Press is really sticking it to George Will:

What the Hector? George F Will is in the house.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up in a panic. My t-shirt is drenched in sweat, my hands trembling. And somewhere I hear a voice whispering:

George Will is using the word "hectoring" again!

...I generally stay away from Will. Unfortunately, I frequently come upon him by accident. And almost every time that happens, I find the same thing: the word "hectoring" staring me in the face.

That’s what happened this week. I was running a Lexis-Nexis search to see how many different journalists just this week had used the words "George McGovern" and "Howard Dean" in the same article. Your basic survey of the horse racing trend. The answer, as of this writing, was 119.

Number three on the list was by George Will. Entitled "Dukakis Plus 4.4. Percent?" it was a classic of the Will genre. Reading Will makes one admire the run-of-the-mill horse racer campaign journalist for the unpretentious, just-following-orders way he goes about robbing the meaning from our political process.

Because it’s one thing to reduce a meaningful election into an idiotic horse race, but another thing entirely to do so on the backs of Proust, Chaucer, Goethe, Grantland Rice, Casey Stengel, Erica Jong and thousands of other disparate and defenseless persons whose speechifying styles you have herded into the death camp of your career, to be ground into bone meal and lampshades. I apologize for this metaphor, but the ambition of Hitler is really the only way to address the scale of Will’s pomposity...

Spigg Nice Goes Out Like Steady B

I guess he really took Ras Kass' career advice to heart:

Lost Boyz Member "Spigg Nice" Sentenced To 37 Years In Prison

Ronald "Spigg Nice" Blackwell, a member of popular Queens, New York rap group The Lost Boys, was sentenced to 37 years for a bank robbery spree.

The sentencing took place last Friday (January 16), with Blackwell being the last of four defendants to be sentenced.

U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie labeled the string of robberies one of the most violent in recent New Jersey history.

A jury found that between December 2000 and April 16, 2002, the four defendants committed 10 bank robberies throughout Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, and Monmouth Counties...

Worth Reading

?uestlove's feedback on my Source piece, here (my original post is here ).

He describes being in The Source's office when staff first discovered the infamous RSO article of November 1994 (the story I will cover in part 2), and drops a perfect analogy for all the Source staff who are marching along as Benzino leads them off a cliff:

"this feels like that episode of "twilight zone" where the family kisses the kid's ass for the fear that he will turn them into stone or worse..."

Big thanks for all the Source History feedback, btw. Since it was received so well I'm going to take a little more time on part 2, try to make it as comprehensive as possible.. hopefully get it up in a few weeks.

January 27, 2004

I Know I'm Late On This..

..but I can't let it pass by without acknowledgement:

Papal blessing for break-dancers.

In an unusual spectacle at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II presided over a performance of break-dancers who leaped, flipped and spun their bodies to beats from a tinny boom box.

The 83-year-old pontiff seemed to approve, waving his hand after each dancer completed a move, then applauding for the entire group. He watched the performance from a raised throne.

"For this creative hard work I bless you from my heart," he said.

During Sunday's show, one dancer -- part of a Polish group that helps poor and marginalized youths -- planted his head on the inlaid marble floor of the Vatican hall and spun to loud applause from his group and from Vatican officials.

Another performer flung his body around in a series of spins and handstands.

"Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it," John Paul said...

Anil found the best picture of it so far, here.

Dropping Bombs on the Bomber

My friend Jeremy Scahill (well, i met him once) over at Democracy Now ran a Frank Pembleton caliber interrogation on Wesley Clark yesterday:

DEMOCRACY NOW! Confronts Wesley Clark Over His Bombing Of Civilians, Use Of Cluster Bombs And Depleted Uranium And The Bombing Of Serb Television

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, General Wesley Clark responds for the first time to in-depth questions about his targeting of civilian infrastructure in Yugoslavia, his bombing of Radio Television Serbia, the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium, the speeding-up of the cockpit video of a bombing of a passenger train to make it appear as though it was an accident and other decisions he made and orders he gave as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander...

One More Meme I'm Late On

Just in case anyone missed it, here is President Bush's tribute to Chris Rock's classic "can I get one rib?" routine (real White House press release, not a joke):

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool

Nothin' Fancy Cafe
Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President...

The Source Dissed By Their Source?

A scoop delivered by Joseph Patel, who was recently assimilated into the blogosphere.

Eminem A Racist? Source's Source Chaos Kid Says No Way

The friend of Eminem who helped The Source corroborate its claim that Eminem is a racist has purportedly written a letter to the magazine saying he was taken out of context and that he believes Marshall Mathers is not a racist.

The letter was written by Chaos Kid to Kim Osorio, the editor-in-chief of The Source, and was found posted on various online newsgroups...

...In his letter, Chaos Kid says his words were manipulated and facts contorted to fit The Source's motives. He writes to Osorio, "I am forced at this point to recognize that there are obviously some ulterior motives/personal hang-ups/political/racial agendas going on behind the scenes at The Source and this is making it impossible for you to present the issue of these tapes in a true light that would give a full spectrum of perspective."

Chaos explains that the freestyles were called "Suckerin' Rhymes," and that they were intentionally misguided. He says their purpose was to be as "goofy/stupid/ignorant/wack as possible." He accuses The Source of making some factual errors in its reporting and failing to give his quotes proper context...

January 28, 2004

It's a C-o-n-spiracy

Damn, first my conversation with ?uestlove disappears before I get a chance to save it (check your temp. internet files, maybe one of y'all can salvage it for me?), then our humble abode here crashes and is down for most of the evening.

The Railroad should now be resuming normal service, but if anybody sent me mail between 10PM and 2AM it's probably lost in the ether.

Enjoy your snow day, kids!


Wow, looks like hiphopinfinity.com, known as the mecca of the anti-con/emo-rap demographic (though to be fair many of their regulars didn't fit that description) is shutting their doors for good. Sorry to see you go, guys..

Wonder where all the denizens of their message boards will relocate to?

Insert Mike Piazza Joke Here

Aw c'mon, get off this kid's back. We forgave Shaq for Ka'zaam, how could this possibly be worse than that?

Indians Minor Leaguer: Gay Porn Role A "Mistake"

Indians minor leaguer Kazuhito Tadano is asking for forgiveness for what he called a one-time mistake -- his appearance in a gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act. Tadano took part in the video three years ago when he was a college student. Sitting in the Cleveland clubhouse Tuesday, the pitcher said he hoped to put his actions in the past.

"All of us have made mistakes in our lives," Tadano said, reading a statement in English. "Hopefully, you learn from them and move on." Shunned by Japanese baseball teams, the 23-year-old Tadano signed with the Indians last March. They think he can make their club this spring...

...Through an interpreter, Tadano added: "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that fact up right now..."

Seriously, who cares? What really makes this wack is that it's not really the porn that makes this a scandal, it's the gay. If the headline just read "porn role a mistake" it would get a totally different reaction, at least here in America.

The fact that we are living in the year 2004, and not one homosexual in any of the major sports feels safe to be open about who they are, is as shameful as it is bizarre. But of course, the same could be said for hip-hop. And many other corners of our world.

?uestlove's Thoughts on The Source, Recovered

Thanks to the miraculous efforts of okayplayer Kosyne, I have been able to retrieve most of my conversation with ?uestlove about The Source, inspired by my earlier post here. It's only missing the last of his three comments, which I had taken notes on and can reproduce pretty close to verbatim.. I will paste below:

?uestlove: i was there the day it died

did i already share the story about how i lost sleep over how many mics DYWM?!?! was gonna get?
so they let me come up to the office to see a fresh copy of the mag---and i was all happy and shit 4 mics!!!!! whoo hoooo.

this was the redman 94 cover. the "official" last source cover after the staff walked out.

what happened next was something out of a horror book. unbeknownst to the staff---while looking for my record review i forget who i think---it was jon--who saw the RSO story in that issue (jon and the staff accused mays of adding a 4 page story of the then unknown RSO group without their knowledge (cover story redman got a 3 page story and other artists got shorter stories)---

my publicist and i were outta there like a bat outta hell.

well.....i guess y'all know what happend next.

staff left (half of them started XXL---then.....)

weirdness is, jon and dave were on my plane today (i am in france at a music conference) and neither knew the other was on the flight.

first the fat boys break up now this...

Jay Smooth: HAHA! You were there? That's crazy!

?uestlove: oh god

next day my publicist who was so damn protective of me (back then in 94 they cared about "conflict of interest" stuff) swore me to 100 bibles that i would not tell a soul what i saw. kinda like "you saw/know too much ahmir, how many of the staff saw you ahmir?!?!?!?" i thought it would blow over.....but blamo! she told me the james benard would go into hysterics and blamo---quit!
i wonder what woulda happened if the original staff was here.

i think the original staff woulda gave tfa @@@@1/2.

i think original staff woulda gave fantastic vol 1and2 @@@@ or a @@@@1/2.

i think lootpack woulda AT LEAST made @@@1/2.

im just saddened cause i use to always use their standards for what i thought a dope record was. cause james and reggie and jon and selwyn and chris and even YN (elliot) had great love for detail. i would read the "amerikkka's most wanted" reviews and the "de la soul is dead" reviews and apply that to my work. they lived for great segues awesome interludes, crisp clean engineering and dirty ones too (wu got a @@@@1/2) first album)

thing is---

i am cool with some of the staff there (kim is one of em)---but.....

surely they see the conflict and fear this is causing.....

i mean---this feels like that episode of "twilight zone" where the family kisses the kid's ass for the fear that he will turn them into stone or worse.

this is what it feels like.

Jay Smooth: twilight zone analogy: PERFECT, and..

I know just what you mean, I have mutual friends with Kim and I've always had the impression she was cool, so I can't figure how they are getting her and everyone else there to drink the kool aid?

I mean Mays I can understand, he's been kneeling for so long it must seem like standing by now, but how do the others rationalize it?

[note: I am reproducing this last comment from notes I had taken]

?uestlove: i really think

there is some black sopranos shit going on.

you know what and who happened to paul pierce.

and let's not forget the ruff ryders situation backstage hard knock life in boston.

i've just got a hunch that in his heart of hearts, dave mays never wanted things to end up this way.

NEW AUDIO: DJ Monk One's MLK Day Mix, and UK Tour Dates

Just added Monk One's most recent set from the radio show, streamable or downloadable here.

You should also make sure to check out Mr. Monk's interview with Pete Rock in the latest Wax Poetics.. and for those of you in the UK, Monk's latest visit is coming up right here:

Quantic, Madlib, J Rocc and Monk One at Friends and Family!

Friends and Family returns to action in Manchester this weekend with the
fantastic Quantic paying us a visit. Details below, as they are for the
visit of Madlib, J Rocc and Monk One next weekend. Check the club section
of the fat city website for details of the coming month's line up's
including the F&F Special - Fat City 'Hip Hop love Soul' LP launch with
Slum Village's Wahjeed and Massive Attack's Daddy G!

Quantic (DJ Set)
City: Manchester
Venue: The Roadhouse
Date: 31/01/2004
Times: 10-3am
Ticket price 6 (online)
: 5 (online members)

After taking January off we return to The Roadhouse by inviting Quantic up
from Brighton. Will "Quantic" Holland has made a name for himself as one of the UK's hottest young producers, whether it be his studio based 'Quantic' project
or his live funk outfit 'Quantic soul Orchestra'. Check out one of his
great DJ sets!

Monk One
City: London
Venue: The Embassy
Date: 06/02/2004
Times: 8-1am
Ticket price 4 (after 9pm)

Monk One is easily one of the best visiting dj's we've had at F&F, so much
so that we've asked him to take on a bi-monthly residency at The Roadhouse.
Monk will be winging in from New York for the weekend just to play at F&F.
Expect a musical lesson and some great dancefloor entertainment - this guy
is genius! check the Monk One - Breaking Rocks mix cd - out soon, only in fat city. The Embassy is on Essex Rd in Islington which makes the nearest tube Angel.

Sorry, you can't buy tickets for this event online. This does not mean that
the event is sold out. You should be able to get tickets from the venue or
authorised ticket agents.

Madlib & J Rocc (DJ sets), Monk One (Wax poetics)
City: Manchester
Venue: The Roadhouse
Date: 07/02/2004
Times: 9-3am
Ticket price 9 (online)

Madlib and J Rocc are in the UK just for the weekend. We've persuaded them
to come and do a last minute, exclusive, low key DJ Set at The Roadhouse!
They'll be doing a couple of hours followed by our new bi-monthly resident,
the incredible Monk One, writer for Wax Poetics magazine.
A night not to miss!
Please note Madlib and J Rocc will be DJ'ing for a couple of hours between
10.30ish and 12.30ish, followed by Monk One.
The only other place to buy tickets (£10 each) is from the fat city shop.

http://www.fatcity.co.uk/fatcity/shop/event_detail.asp?itemid=2548 : to buy

January 29, 2004

Jean Grae is Not Happy

As is the case with every other problem in hip-hop today, I will assume this is Oliver Wang's fault:

Jean Grae: Airs It Out

Iím most probably going to get a phone call both from my label and publicist about writing this, but honestly, Iím just tired of mincing my words and being nice about shit. I havenít really written a lot on allhiphop in a second, mostly because Iím too damn frustrated with everything to write as a hobby. Iím angry, Iím tired and close to spazing out about a lot of shit.

I hate this industry. I hate the music business because it has shit to do with music. I grew up in a family of independent struggling musicians and Iím sick of being a part of that cycle. Iím tired of fighting harder than everyone else to even just get a little bit. I donít even know why I f**king put my heart into doing this when itís obvious that so many people who donít, get what they want out of it. The financial unstability of this is driving me crazy. Why do I have to keep turning out entire albums or releases full of music when some cat can spit on a mixtape once, or give someone a pound and then get on immediately? Why try to do something thatís apparently so f**king different and impossible, that I have to defend it to myself everyday?

I hate myself for dumping my all into this. If I was smarter I wouldnít have pursued this career. Iím older than most people already established in this business and Iím not thinking of the money coming out of it for balling out purposes. I want to be a mom soon, I want to have some sort of steadiness in my life, but with this job that is close to a damn impossibility right now...

In all seriousness, I've always been a big fan of Jean and it sucks to see her facing such frustration.

Hip-Hop Movie Casting

I was told Beyonce will be playing Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman movie (!!), and Mos Def will play Ford Prefect in a film adaptation of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (!!!????). Can anyone confirm or deny?

Questions For My Esteemed Neighors in Blogville:

1. Is Dean Over?

2. Can Kerry win against G-Dub?

What do y'all think? I'm a little worried myself. Dean shaking up his campaign staff has the feel of desperation, and choosing the guy from Gore 2000 as his new head guy doesn't seem too promising. It's obvious the Democrat establishment is vehemently opposed to a Dean nomination, so he can't afford many more missteps if he's gonna come back. Seems like a longshot no matter what.

But I don't get why people think Kerry is so much more electable. He always looks really stiff and sour to me, I'm afraid he'd be the latest in a long run of Democrat nominees (except Clinton) who were just not ready for prime-time, and never had a shot. I don't get how anyone compares this dude to Kennedy.

Judging strictly on charisma and likability, here's who I think would play best, in order:

1. Edwards
2. Clark
3. Dean
4. Kerry

But that is the exact reverse order of who is most likely to get the nod.

Can somebody cheer me up?

Mos Def as Ford Prefect

I guess it's true:

Cast Set For Hitchhiker

Martin Freeman (The Office), Zooey Deschanel and Mos Def top the cast of Spyglass Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures' feature version of Douglas Adams' beloved SF satire The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Variety reported. Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith (aka Hammer & Tongs) will direct the movie, which starts shooting April 19 in London, the trade paper reported.

Adams, who adapted his own book prior to his death in 2001, will have a posthumous producing credit, the trade paper reported.

The story centers on Arthur Dent (Freeman), who is whisked off the planet by Ford Prefect (Def), an undercover alien researching The Hitchhiker's Guide just before Earth is destroyed to create a new hyperspace freeway. Deschanel will play Trillian, girlfriend of Zaphod Beeblebrox, a two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and current president of the galaxy. That role has still to be cast, the trade paper reported.

But What of 2 Bigg MC?

Uh oh. This could be a dilemma for Eminem, who already used up his "you're too old to rap" jokes on you-know-who.

Hammer Comes Back "Full Blast"

MC Hammer is back and he’s hitting the airwaves once again with his own style of rap music. His new CD, Full Blast is scheduled for release in 2004. Leading the way to the new CD is the video for the title single, “Full Blast.” The video will be released prior to the CD according to Hammer. In his song “Full Blast” Hammer effectively blasts other rappers, notably Busta Rhymes and Eminem. He raps about his return to the scene saying he never really left but was standing on the sidelines watching other artists call themselves rappers. His lyrics say he is the ultimate rapper because he has accomplished much more and he’s about rapping and dancing...

January 30, 2004

Foreshadowings of Future Asswhoopery

Apple just put up a trailer for my most anticipated flick of 2004, Takeshi Kitano's remake of "Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman". Admittedly the cheesy honkey voiceover detracts from the coolness here.. the trailer for the original Japanese release was better.

I hope Miramax doesn't let this one on languish on the shelf for an eternity, as they've done with "Shaolin Soccer" and "Hero". It's slated for June 4th right now but I don't have much faith in that.

Capsule Review: Chops "Comin From the Lower Level"

"Comin From The Lower Level'
Chops feat. Phil The Agony, Ras Kass, Talib Kweli

Chops of the Mountain Bros. assembles a tight, bouncy beat, with a Scott Storchy mix of faux-classical synth runs and tympani. Nice cuts in the chorus, and especially at the end when he scratches up each emcee's name. Provides a perfect springboard for the bicoastal all-star lineup, who each comport themselves well, except maybe Phil Da Agony who gets off some good lines but sounds like he can barely keep up with the beat.

There are ways to rhyme "off-beat" that enrich your relationship with the track and make your flow feel even more propulsive (see Kurupt), and ways that just make you sound like ass (see Master P). Phil is veering towards the wrong side of that line here, though he never quite crosses over. Ras Kass, as always, brings a flow beyond reproach, and punchlines that make me chuckle even when (or maybe because) they sound foolish: "I f*** with hoes from videos, not india arie.."

Kweli used to swerve into that Master P lane on occasion himself, but he has tightened up his game substantially over the years, and rounds things out nicely here. He does lose 0.5 super-rap-geek points for the "stack papers like Isis" line, which was used ten years ago by KA of Natural Elements. Probably a bit more timely when KA dropped it (for all you youngbucks, it's a reference to "The Isis Papers" by Frances Cress Welsing).

Fear of a Black Prefect

Reaction on slashdot to the casting of Mos Def in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy":

A black Ford Prefect??? Are we ready for this? - BiggsTheCat

Mos Def is actually one of the few rappers who has a brain. - Shant3030

Can't we have ONE f***ing movie without a rapper?? Just make (for lack of a better word) music, you a**holes! Leave the acting to REAL actors! Especially when the movie in question is a screen adaptation of a beloved novel-- did they try to slip Ja Rule or another one of those generic, mush-mouth f***tards into LotR? NO! [ed. note: I guess he missed Bushwick Bill's cameo in the Prancing Pony scene]
- An Anonymous Coward

Mos Def actually came from the theater community before he was a rapper... I agree that the "stick a rapper in every movie" trend is getting old - imagine if that were popular during the '80s hair metal days. But Mos Def doesn't qualify. No punishing him just because his music career fared better than Nimoy's. - AvantLegion

Im not racist but what the hell?? [ed. note: anyone who says that is guaranteed to be racist] I thought the whole character was based on an english school boy? Is this another American plot to add in a token black (american) guy, but alas he wont get killed in this? As a proud and English Douglas Adams fan I think he would be turning in his grave. Hey dare I say it but even Hugh Grant would have been a much better choice or they could have chosen a talented English actor. - femmefatale27

If I remember the books properly, Ford is basically uber-cool, slick, a total bad motherf***er but kind of loopy and obnoxious at the same time. I can definitely see Mos Def in that part. - the_gnat

(thanks to Chr0me Kitten)

Morning Radio Shakeup

They canned Dre but kept Ed? That's rough. But quite possibly temporary, it would appear. I wouldn't usually trust the Post, but I had already heard about this earlier so I know it's legit:

Hip-Hop Heave Ho

Popular hip-hop DJ Doctor Dre was abruptly fired yesterday by his radio station, Power 105.

Dre, who was told after his morning-drive show that his contract wasn't being renewed, won't be given a chance to say goodbye to his listeners. Yesterday was his final show, he was told.

"We greatly appreciate Doctor Dre's efforts over the past two years helping us launch Power 105 [WWPR]," said Clear Channel executive Andrew Rosen, who declined to explain why Dre is history.

"We wish him well."

The heavyset hip-hop DJ honcho and his longtime partner, Ed Lover, were major players on rival Hot 97 (WQHT) during most of the 1990s.

Lover will continue on Power 105 doing its wake-up show with sidekick Monie Love.

Dre, whose real name is Andre Brown, and Lover broke up once before, reunited in L.A., and then returned to New York when Power 105 debuted two years ago.

Dre, a former DJ at Adelphi University's radio station, recently vowed that he and Lover would never fly solo again. "That's my dog and that's how it's going to be until the end of the earth," Dre told Chronic magazine. "We can do anything we want to do, but it's going to always come back to Ed Lover and Doctor Dre," said Dre, who couldn't be reached yesterday.

Hot 97 execs wouldn't comment on speculation that Dre, with or without Lover, might return there and replace Sway — whose morning ratings haven't matched those of Star, his recently deposed predecessor.

It's also possible that Star, currently working in Hartford with partner Buc Wild, could return to New York and join — or replace — Lover at Power...

...Doctor Dre, the DJ, is not Dr. Dre, the powerhouse rapper who has mentored hip-hop heavyweights like Eminem and Snoop Dogg.

Y'all forgot to mention Dre's tenure with Original Concept.. they made some classic records.

Shabba Doo Weeps

Is it really possible that the NY Times critic Dave Kehr never heard of breaking before, and thinks this movie is documenting a recent "development"?

A Hip-Hop Dance Team Duels Some Menacing White Boys

"May the dopest crew win!" proclaims the hip-hop star Lil' Kim somewhere near the welcome end of "You Got Served," which opens today nationwide. She is not referring to sailors on steroids, but to dueling hip-hop dance teams, one led by African-American teenagers from an unspecified Los Angeles neighborhood and the other by sinister-looking white boys from Orange County, who face off in an MTV dance contest at the climax of this modest programmer directed by Christopher B. Stokes.

The natural heir of 1960's dance-craze films like "Twist Around the Clock" (memorably parodied by John Waters in "Hairspray"), "You Got Served" showcases the latest development in street dance, which, much like rap music itself, seems to be a predominantly masculine affair.

With neighborhood crews battling one another for audience approval (and a hat full of money) in a hall that looks more like a boxing ring than a ballroom, "You Got Served" frequently recalls the muscular ballet style pioneered by Gene Kelly and Jerome Robbins — except that the pirouettes in this film are more likely to be performed by dancers spinning on their heads than on their toes.

Apart from a few token women in the chorus, the boys dominate the performances with cutting, slashing, robotic moves that evoke both Chinese martial arts films and Michael Jackson's undying moonwalk. The presentation is aggressive and confrontational, and the dancers perform without ever breaking their scowling, angry street faces...

Cmon dawg, even the pope knows what time it is!

And the "Longest Answer to a Yes or No Question" Award Goes To

You've probably heard about the various controversies surrounding Mel Gibson's new joint, "Passion of the Christ". One issue is that Mel's father is a religious leader of sorts, who among other things is known for allegedly denying that the holocaust took place, ar at least claiming that the numbers are greatly exaggerated.

So in her interview with Mel for Reader's Digest, right-wing speechwriter Peggy Noonan (the one who coined "thousand points of light", i believe) tries to set the record straight: "You're going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?"

I'm not sure that Mel's response quite puts me at ease:

Gibson: "I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."

Well, I guess that was sort of a "yes", kind of? He is agreeing that there is evidence of holocaust-related program activities? I dunno, kinda sketchy.

January 31, 2004

Unfortunate Headline


Korn on the ’Kok

Considered the pioneers of the “nu metal” sound from America, the five members of Korn are expected to blow the minds of Thai heavy rock disciples, who have waited for a long time to see their heroes play live in Thailand. And they are counting: in just six days – this Saturday – the much publicised concert “Korn Live in Bangkok” will come to Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

“Korn’s our favourite band. We never dared believe they would play in Bangkok,” says an excited and sweat-soaked axeman, Thanachai “Yod” Tantrakul of new Thai band Teething. “I once played 30 Korn numbers,” he adds.

Thanachai is not the only one who is trembling with emotion. So are the other members of Teething, an independent rock group, and hardcore fans of the hardcore Americans. To be fair, it isn’t just pent-up excitement that is causing the wet shirts and soggy locks: Teething has just completed an amazing, fast-paced set at the “Korn Live in Bangkok” press conference, to the cheers of the media and other contributing artists, including Big Ass, Zeal and Labanoon...

Join Us On The Radio Tonight

Once again we hit the airwaves tonight at Midnight EST, with our radio show The Underground Railroad. You can tune in here, or at WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you are checking out the sounds you also can talk to us live in the chat room.

About January 2004

This page contains all entries posted to hiphopmusic.com: in January 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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