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April 2004 Archives

April 1, 2004

So uhh..

This is a joke, right? And the NY Times fell for it?

Anil is right BTW, all these jokes are wack. I think I'll just take a day off from surfing, and finish typing up this article I need to do.

(ok some of the low culture posts are actually kinda funny. but still.)

Ghostface Spam Quiz, Now With Prizes!

Thanks to Justin at Cornerstone Promotions, our "Ghostface Killah vs. Random Spam Text" quiz is now a bonafide contest, with prizes and whatnot!

For the next two weeks you can send in your answers to contest@hiphopmusic.com, and on April 15th one of the correct respondents will be selected to receive a Ghostface t-shirt and the 12-inch singles for "Run" and "Tush," from Ghost's upcoming album Pretty Tony which I await with bated breath (does anyone actually know what "bated breath" is?)

Here is the quiz once again, your job is to figure out which lines are actual Ghostface Killah lyrics, and which ones are random text from spam I got in the mail last week:

A) "coconut civilian, 87 lexicon"

B) "alfalfa archer, intense caramel breadwinner"

C) "photographic magic, funeral love"

D) "tyco nightglow, velvet pose"

E) "nice DNA, scroll genetics"

F) "desert athletic, champagne distributor"

(Not an april fool's joke. Send in your entry now, you may already be a winner!!)

April 2, 2004

Oh Boy: The Pink Menace of Hip-Hop

I guess the school board read all those reports of gangsta rappers brandishing hot pink firearms:

School Tells Kids: Don't Think Pink

As a fashion statement, pink is a hot color this spring, but at Merrillville High School in Indiana, it also has become a hot-button issue. District Supt. Tony Lux distributed a letter to students Wednesday in which he "discouraged" them from wearing pink because of concerns that it has gang and rap music overtones.

Although Lux said dressing in pink could be "suspicious behavior," he emphasized the color wasn't banned. The situation erupted Friday when Principal Mark Sperling announced over the loudspeaker that students should think twice before wearing pink clothing.

"It was meant as a gentle reminder that this color has other meanings," said Sperling, who was left somewhat pink-faced as students continued to laugh about it Wednesday at the school south of Gary. His request was misinterpreted as a ban, prompting angry calls from parents asking whether pink prom dresses should be returned.

"We all thought it was stupid, so on Monday, a lot of people wore pink," said sophomore Ashley Washburn, who dressed in a pink golf shirt. Ten boys who showed up decked out in matching pink shirts and pink shoelaces were asked to change, Sperling said.

After discussing with other principals the seemingly odd increase in boys wearing pink, he decided to make the announcement. If a boy wears a pink shirt, "we will ask him to change," Sperling said. "We will not suspend him. We will ask him not to wear it." There was some confusion Wednesday over whether the announcement applied to girls.

Haley Stoica, a sophomore, said her history teacher asked that she put a sweatshirt over her pink long-sleeve shirt earlier this week. "I'm wearing pink tomorrow," she vowed. Merrillville students said pink became fashionable at the school after rapper Cam'ron wore pink in a music video and drove a pink SUV. They said it has nothing to do with gangs.

"It is not like guys in pink are flashing gang signs," Stoica said. "They are making a big deal out of nothing..."

(via the mighty Pandagon)

April 4, 2004

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 hear us online here, or on WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you check out the sounds you also can talk to us live in the chat room.

April 5, 2004

The Weeping Prince Meme

Nice Prince profile in Newsweek, but this "Prince was crying!" moment during the LA encore gets more exaggerated each time I read about it. It was a wonderful moment, Prince taking a minute to stop and let the crowd know how much he appreciated/reciprocated their love, but if you think he was actually weeping and too verklempt to go on, you're greatly underestimating his mastery of the stage. It's called ac-ting! (to be read in jon lovitz voice)

Party Like It's 2004

Prince is back—with new music and a newfound faith. Sure, he's changed, but he's still the man.

A technician is sound-checking the trademark purple guitar, and the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince is growing impatient. The 5-foot-2 singer adjusts the long poet sleeves of his white blouse, strokes his goatee, fidgets with his diamond-encrusted pendant and taps his platform heel on the concrete of this sports arena in Reno, Nev. Finally, he leans over to me and whispers, "I'll give you 20 bucks if you yell 'Freebird.' C'mon," he says with a nudge, "25 if you shout 'Skynyrd, dude!' "

Prince may be joking about his biggest nightmare—playing rock anthems to lighter-brandishing fiftysomethings at county fairs—but he's taking no chances. On his first nationwide arena tour in almost a decade, he'll still be performing his own anthems, such as "Purple Rain" and "Little Red Corvette." But he's using the old Prince—who busted sexual taboos on such albums as "Dirty Mind"—to introduce the new Prince, a Jehovah's Witness whose new album, "Musicology," is an enticing yet odd mix of funk, faith and fantasy. A second coming? With Prince, anything's possible...

...But it's hard to believe Prince didn't at least miss the mass adoration. On his second tour stop last week, the sold-out 20,000-seat Staples Center in L.A., he got a standing ovation for a surprisingly moving acoustic rendition of "Little Red Corvette"—and he sat down on a stool in the middle of the stage and wept. The audience, a mix of older R&B fans, punk rockers, hip-hop kids and average-looking moms who knew every damn lyric, kept it up until he regained his composure. Even Andre 3000 of Outkast (likely taking mental notes for his next album) got to his feet for the man...

(via anil)

April 6, 2004

A Chatbot Just Tried to Rob Me!

Collision detection posted about Catty, a cool chatbot that tries to have a conversation with you by searching through google for responses to whatever you say.

Naturally upon discovering this page I thought "here's a perfect opportunity for some good old hip-hop call and response!"

jay> now, what you hear is not a test
catty> but from what we hear psycho bunny is not in the arena :>

jay> gone, skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet
catty> the last thing i need is for my parents to read about all of my lovely nightly rendevus with creatures of the night.

jay> Elvis was a hero to most
catty> if you see someone in your mirror and they are getting closer to you dont ride faster?!

jay> Somebody say hoooooooo
catty> you know ive wanted and needed to share this with somebody as long as i can remember but ill understand if you dont want to go any farther :-(

Apparently my attempts to rock the party were hurting her feelings, so I tried to start a normal conversation.

jay> are you a bot?
catty> whats the last thing a redneck says before he dies.

jay> Umm, I'll just take that as a yes. Anyway, do you listen to WBAI?
catty> sometimes when i listen to the villain music i want to touch myself in dirty places

jay> Okay, well let's not tell the FCC about that.
catty> you cannot assume that because you feel something is not worth being suicidal about that the person you are with feels the same way :>

jay> Yikes, can you chill with the gloom and doom and run-on sentences with no punctuation? You're creeping me out now..
catty> we are familiar with the fact that spinning tops keep spinning and can be made to balance on a point whereas non-spinning tops tend rather to fall over :-(

jay> So you're saying sometimes you have to keep moving in order to keep still? You are truly a zen master, I will have to meditate on that one.
catty> you have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of god in order to keep your tradition?

jay>Huh, what tradition is that?
catty> in one of your papers on perennial wisdom it says that the native tradition is nature-focused

jay>Uhh maybe, I don't remember that. Most of my school papers were plagiarized, I was kinda lazy.
catty> most of your sites suck pretty bad cause they got no flayva baby thats why ya got no traffic and nobody wants to do good link trades with yaz

jay> Whoa now, watch who you beef with.. I put holes in beef like White Castle burgers. Don't be the next contestant on the Summer Jam screen.
catty> whitehat arsenal is designed to be the next generation of professional web application security audit software :-(

jay> Aw man that's it, now you're spamming me?? I'm getting outta here before you start telling me how your husband was President of Nigeria. Goodnight!
catty> less than a decade later he was president of the newly democratic czechoslovakia

jay> I'm calling the police.

So there you have it, let this be a warning. Catty's enigmatic allure is undeniable, but she cannot be trusted. Do not under any circumstances tell her how to access your bank account!

April 7, 2004

Does Morris O'Kelly Own a TV or Radio?

EURweb's Morris O'Kelly has blessed us with a remarkably silly bit of anti-rap trolling entitled "Rappers Are Not Musicians." I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but I can't resist highlighting these two gems:

...Just don’t call them musicians. We haven’t had real music as a whole on radio for quite some time. Bring back real music…with real musicians. I’ll take any album of James Brown over an album full of James Brown samples, any day of the week...

Album full of James Brown samples? Did you write this in 1989, and just couldn't find anyone to publish it until now?

Lyrical genius is praiseworthy, but lyrical genius and just a drum beat hasn’t had a hit arguably since Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick’s “The Show” back in the mid 80’s.

Uhh, how about "Grindin"? or Grindin 2.0 aka "Tipsy"? Not to mention "The Show" was totally keyboard-driven, so what the crap are you even yapping about??

Ok I'm done.

A Complimentary Chuck D Post

Chuck D (today on Air America) discusses Kool Moe Dee's book There's a God on the Mic: "Everyone always puts me in the top 10 greatest emcees, I find it embarrassing because I don't think I should be in the top 25. But I guess I'll take it." A nice little moment of humility from one of our elder statesmen.

That's one thing I've always appreciated about Chuck, he's maintained a firm grasp of what his strengths are on the mic as well as his limitations, and figured out how to work with what he's got. He'll never be the most nimble tongue-twisting emcee with the most intricate rhyme structures, or kick any of the illest punchlines, but he uses that booming voice to make important ideas sound important, and has a knack for finding simple ways to switch up the structure or cadence of his rhymes and make the flow sound fresh (like ending his lines on the 4 instead of the 3 on tracks like Don't Believe the Hype, or that triplet note "radio stations I question your blackness" flow from "Bring the Noise", two simple innovations than half the emcees out there were copying 6 months later).

From what I've heard he's showing those same good instincts so far on Air America, stepping up front to interview folks like Spike Lee and Adisa Banjoko, playing the back when Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow are getting all wonky with folks like Josh Marshall.

I was planning to give more feedback on Air America but I'll have to come back to this later.

April 8, 2004

Media Drop Interviews Me, Part 2

themediadrop.com just posted the second half of their interview with yours truly, in which you can learn far more about me than you ever wanted to know. Jokes aside I enjoyed the conversation quite a lot, especially towards the end.

I will quote one passage here, because the theory I put forth has since been illustrated perfectly by one Morris O'Kelly:

TMD: On the note of JB - your site has had some pretty well noted visitors - anyone else reading the site regularly that people would find novel?

JS: There are a couple of hip-hop names people would know that come by often and post under slightly disguised names, but I don't want to blow them up.. there is Richard Pryor's wife of course, who just sent me some lovely emails lol.. What I'm finding is that celebrities, especially minor ones like Mrs. Pryor, are quite fond of Googling themselves, so if I put their name in the header of a post there's a pretty good chance they'll react to it eventually.. sort of my blogging "Field of Dreams" theory, lol.. "if I blog them they will come"...

Condi Rice Prediction

I am expecting Condi Rice to do relatively well in her testimony tomorrow.. she will be steadily spewing BS, to be sure, but I think she'll do a fairly good job of it, and the actual testimony will be anticlimactic after all the maneuvering that led up to it.

It's kinda like when Bush came into the 2000 debates, after all the hype about how dumb he was compared to Gore, he just had to string a few complete sentences together and he came out looking like a winner cuz he exceeded the super-low expectations.

At this point there's been so much emphasis on how badly Condi didn't want to testify, she can spend the 2 hours filibustering and pounding home her talking points, and anything other than total disaster will be judged by mainstream pundits as a victory.

I hope I'm wrong though. Either way, I ain't waking up that early.. for those of you who do, maybe you can try out Wonkette's Condi Rice drinking game. (But uhh, maybe do it with herbal tea or something, cuz getting plastered at 9AM is not fresh. Unless your name is Tash or J-Ro)

April 10, 2004

The New Dead Prez Video

I've always respected Dead Prez and thought it was good for hip-hop to have them around, even if I found some of their analysis short-sighted (such as their "f*** they schools" stance later adopted by Kanye). We've had them on the radio show and they impressed me as deeply, sincerely committed to making a difference for their community. Plus their music is funky.

But their new song and video "Hell Yeah?" Umm, I don't think I like it.

I'm all in favor of encouraging kids who think they are gangstas to show and prove by "banging on the system" instead of each other. But you need to know the difference between riding against the system and riding off a cliff with all the other lemmings.

Violent robberies of pizza delivery people, carjacking a family simply because they are white and drove into a black neighborhood, these are not revolutionary acts. They do not make you a freedom fighter. Far from pimping the system, this is doing exactly what the system wants you to do. This is obediently following the path laid out for you, straight into the bowels of the system until you are too deep to ever escape.

I'd like to think their intent is to draw in kids who are caught up in that cycle, so they can expose those kids to a broader vision and help them to elevate. But where is that broader vision expressed in the song?

I'd like to think the last ten seconds of the video are meant to indicate we shouldn't take the rest of it literally, that they're not actually condoning all the actions they describe and it's really meant as a cautionary tale, or something. But if that was their intention then they're basically saying their own song is BS, because on the record itself nobody gets arrested and nobody wakes up from a dream.

Can somebody dissuade me on this? Cuz right now "Hell Yeah" strikes me as Bill O'Reilly's wet dream.

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 hear us online here, or on WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you check out the sounds you also can talk to us live in the chat room.

This week we welcome the EOW crew once again, for a special live performance with members of Dujeous and Real Live Show from midnight to 1. Then our cleanup hitter DJ 3D takes over till 2.

April 12, 2004

Ghostface is for the Children

Two reasons I'm not posting as much right now: 1) Need to focus on getting a full-time job. 2) Got a copy of Ghostface Killah's Pretty Tony album.

So while I'm otherwise occupied, here's an excerpt from Ghostface's interview in the latest Vibe, to keep you on the righteous path:

What would it take to start a movement to change hip hop?

Ghostface: If we all vouched to do it for the babies. If you’re not willing to put down the burner for your babies, that means you don’t give a f**k about your seeds or my seeds. Then f**k you! It’s niggas like you I still gotta keep holding my toast for. If niggas all agreed to leave the gangsta s**t alone for a couple years, that might be the sprout of a revolution.

I don’t think too many people would want to change what makes them successful.

Ghostface: No, they won’t. Because niggas ain’t creative enough to just rhyme to rhyme. Tell stories man! What happened to “Can I Kick It?” Let’s have fun again. Everything is too serious. F**k talking about guns. The nigga that’s amped off your s**t is the one that’ll blast you in the street. And you wonder why he blasted you! That’s the seed you planted muthaf**ka! We got a gift, man. We got a tool, and that tool is the f**kin’ radio. We ain’t here just to be here.

So what is your purpose?

Ghost: To serve the Father. I’m here to do what makes Him happy. I did a lot of bad shit in my life-punchin’ niggas in they mouths, robbin’ ‘em, shootin’ niggas for bulls**t. But, I did a lot of good, too-my scale is balanced out. Pardon me for whatever I did on this planet, but I was a product of my environment. And I just bent with the times here and there, but no disrespect, I still gave what I had to give to You.

You almost sound like a minister.

Ghostface: I am a minister in my own way. I know this world right here is hectic. It’s a battle going on between God and the Devil. And I’m just standing for righteousness. God made right before He made left, so that’s my path.

While we're on the topic, you've still got a couple of days to enter our Ghostface vs. Spam Text contest.

April 13, 2004

South African Hip-Hop: Skwatta Camp in Slate

A few months ago our radio show had a visitor all the way from South Africa, a top dog from one of their biggest record labels, Gallo Music Group. He told us about one of their recent signings, a rap group he said is one of the hottest acts out down there, and he played one of their tracks for us.

Although he seemed quite trustworthy, I had no way of knowing at the time whether he was just blowing smoke about how big his group was.. but judging by the profile that group, Skwatta Camp, just got in Slate, I guess he spoke the truth.

Soweto Hip-Hop

Shugasmakx and Sliquor strutted into the cafe, baggy jeans hanging low on their hips, their pants bunched up above new pairs of Adidas sneakers. With their hat brims pulled low over their eyes, they looked like kids I might run into on a college campus in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

"Hey, what's up, sistah?" Shugasmakx greeted me with a complicated handshake and coolly plopped down at the table.

Shugasmakx and Sliquor, two of the seven members of the hip-hop group Skwatta Camp, are among South Africa's brightest stars. Their latest CD, Mkhukhu Funkshen, released last year by Gallo Music Group, was the first rap album to go gold in South Africa...

...My two guests have faint memories of apartheid; they were still children when Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994, and they represent the first black South African generation to grow up in a post-apartheid nation.

"We've aligned our music strongly with the economic struggle, with what people are going through," 21-year-old Shugsmakx told me as he sipped on a fruit shake, which he pushed out of frame before I took his photograph, so that he'd look tough. "We are the youth. We have a voice and need to speak. … We talk about things that happen around us, we just reflect the world..."

...Although Skwatta Camp may look and sound American, they are distinctly South African. Their lyrics express disillusionment with the revered ANC of the liberation struggle and caustically criticize the government for leaving "the people" behind in its scramble to the top...

(Note to the author: The proper abbreviation of microphone is "mic," not "mike." No matter what K Solo tells you.)

While we're on this topic I should shout out another cool brother who once visited us from Cape Town, Shaheen of the legendary Bushradio crew, who's been representing conscious hip-hop radio down there for over ten years now.

I'd love to hear their perspective on Skwatta Camp's anti-ANC stance, which I am not equipped to judge. Hopefully someone who lives there will swing by this post and offer their thoughts.

(via quarterwit)


Has someone already pointed out that Dominick "Nottz" Lamb is the up-and-coming producer to watch for 2004-2005, or can I be the first?

Inside sources (hmm who could i mean by that?) report that Nottz' contributions to Dre's aborted Detox project were the nastiest beats anyone has done in years, and will hopefully be used on Stat Quo's debut now that Detox is shelved.

April 14, 2004

Can We Googlebomb "Rapper?"

Recently somebody noticed that when you searched for "jew" in google, the first result that came up was a site devoted to antisemitic propaganda. So a campaign spread throughout blogville to googlebomb the word jew, by constantly posting jew as a link to the word's definition on wikipedia.org, which can eventually "trick" google into making wikipedia's entry the #1 result.

As noted by mediadrop, the good "jew" and the evil "jew" are now running neck-and-neck for the top spot, and depending on how you access google, wikipedia may already be come in first.

Quite impressive, the success of this geek activism (geektivism?). And it reminded me that when I put the word "rapper" in google a while ago, the first page was full of results either didn't relate to hip-hop at all, or made a mockery of it. So I checked again tonight, and here's what i got:

Result #1 champions a traditional English dance known as the "rapper sword dance." Result #2 belongs to a dentist named Rapper Dentist Daddy, whose site explains: "Gold crowns can be made as part of your permanent smile, or in some cases a removable appliance can be made to cover your natural teeth when you want that "Hip Hop" look."

The next few entries are satirical offerings from Ali G and MC Steven Hawking, who are both pretty damn funny, I will admit (f**k the creationists!). But still, I'm saying..

If you search for "hip-hop," all ten first-page results are genuine representations of hip-hop culture. So why can't we have just one top result for "rapper" that belongs to an actual rapper?

Needless to say, I don't mean to belittle the issue of anti-semitism by suggesting this cause is of equal importance. But for real. I want to see if we can get this done. Somebody just needs to pick out a page for us to use.. Any ideas?

(An alternative solution: We could have the greatest rapper of all time right up top, if we convinced Rakim to stop doing promos for goldteethusa.com and become Rapper Dentist Daddy's spokesperson instead.)

April 15, 2004

Smoking Gun Source Scoop

Thanks to funkdigital for this one:

Creditors Rap Deadbeat Source Mag

The Source magazine might want to consider calling off its feud with Eminem and asking the rap star if he could float them a loan. Because the supposed "hip hop Bible" has recently been hit with four lawsuits claiming that the monthly has not paid its bills. The complaints, filed over the last six weeks in New York State Supreme Court, seek a total of $1.35 million, with the majority of that tab--$1.1 million--owed to a New York paper merchant. A Manhattan lithographer has sued for $30,000. A Fifth Avenue jeweler wants $36,000, claiming that a pricey pair of earrings went missing after a 2003 photo shoot. And The Source's travel agent wants $142,000. In its complaint, an excerpt of which you'll find below, Tzell Travel claims The Source's owners, David Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott, never paid for hundreds of airline tickets purchased since last August. Included in the lawsuit is a detailed printout of those tickets, showing that The Source paid travel costs for rap producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo as well as executives with Murder Inc., the controversial rap label. And then there's the first-class fares for Mays's parents and tickets for Scott's relatives.

Click the link to see the court documents..

Peter Merholz Told Me To

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

(I'm gonna cheat a little by adding his found sentence before mine. I like how they go together, although the tenses don't match.)

Significant Others by Craig B. Stanford

We descend the Bodingo peninsula, an elevated ridge of land south of the park's border that runs down into Likouala aux Herbes swamps. But as field data accumulated it became clear that the brutal side of chimpanzees is quite real.

Hip-Hop Box Giveaway

I'll be announcing the winner of our "Ghostface vs. Spam Text" today or tomorrow, but in the meantime I've got another present for you. Well, for one of you.

Next week Hip-O Records releases "The Hip Hop Box," a 4-CD box covering twenty years of hip-hop history from "Rappers Delight" to Common's "The Light." Thanks to Cornerstone once again, I've got one complete set to giveaway to one of my beloved readers/posters. So here's what I need you to do:

1. Post here with your favorite line from one of the songs featured in the box set (track list below), and tell us what song is missing from the set that most deserved to be on there.

2. After you do that, email me at contest@hiphopmusic.com to put your name in the hat.

Here's more info from Hip-O, and the track listing:

Continue reading "Hip-Hop Box Giveaway" »

April 18, 2004

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 hear us online here, or on WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you check out the sounds you also can talk to us live in the chat room.

April 19, 2004

"Nah, F**k That! 'Prairie Home Companion!' Just Started!"

Pimping the system, Naomi Campbell style:

Stic.man Of Dead Prez Arrested For Flight Disturbance

Stic.man of Dead Prez was arrested Sunday for simple assault after allegedly causing a disturbance on a United Airlines flight.

The group was leaving O'Hare Airport in route to New York City on the 1:50 PM flight.

A flight attendant said they refused to turn off their radios. Harris DeJesus aka "D-Don" and the group's DJ, Umi Bem Niilampti were also arrested and charged with the same offense...

April 20, 2004

NEW AUDIO: Quick Live Performance from Dujeous

Last week we had an interesting mix of guests on the radio show, with Infamous Mobb and Dujeous representing their respective corners of the NY underground. Here's a little live representation from Dujeous' portion, with Emskee on beat box:

Dujeous on the Underground Railroad - 4/17/04

Dujeous has been one of NY's best live hip-hop acts for 10 years now, glad to see they finally have an album out, and one that does them justice.

April 21, 2004

Hip-Hop and Native Americans

Cristina Verán (how come she doesn't have a blog?) on hip-hop and American Indians:

Rap, Rage, REDvolution

Conjuring up the charge of cavalries and natives on some futuristic-western warpath, OutKast stormed the 2004 Grammys in February with the brazenness of the former, while bedecked as the latter. Resplendent in neon green Halloween-Hiawatha approximations of Native American regalia—fringe, headbands, and feathers—Andre and Big Boi rose before smoking teepees, prancing proudly through their chart-slaying "Hey Ya!," the chorus of which is itself evocative of powwow singing. Was it some kind of tribute, or did the winners of the Album of the Year Grammy unwittingly channel Al Jolson's "Mammy"?

It's a question many Native Americans have considered, responding promptly to launch boycotts and Web petitions voicing their collective displeasure. CBS's brief, lukewarm apology—"if anyone was offended"—brought zero resolution, particularly since OutKast themselves refused even to comment. Two months later, people are still waiting; during an April 1 protest outside the network's Minneapolis affiliate, one person was arrested.

"Janet Jackson's right breast was exposed for three-quarters of a second and both the House and Senate convened hearings immediately, [yet] vulgarisms about Native Americans are prime-time fare . . . and no one does anything," notes Suzan Shown Harjo (Hodulgee Muscogee/ Cheyenne), executive director of the Morningstar Institute, in her "Open Letter to Michael Powell, Andre 3000 and Big Boi," first published in Indian Country Today.

Hip-hop, meanwhile, is speaking to the issue as well. "[It's] currently the most popular music on the reservations," explains Don Kelly, executive director of the Native American Music Awards. Litefoot (Cherokee), NAMA's Male Artist of the Year for 2003, takes up the fight with his new single "What's It Gonna Take": "We only good with feathers on/Don't exist when they're off/I punch the remote/feeling like my whole race is a joke..."

I'm surprised that in her list of hip-hop's iffy Indian references she left out Slick Rick's "Indian Girl." But maybe it is a wise choice to pretend that one never happened.

Regarding Outkast's silence on the issue, I did get Sleepy Brown to talk briefly about the Grammy thing, in an interview you'll hopefully be able to read soon.

April 22, 2004

1979: When the Culture Became a Commodity

Renee Graham in the Boston Globe notes the 25th anniversary of Rapper's Delight. The piece is unusually kind to Sylvia Robinson, who is often portrayed as a shady character. I remember she sued Blaze magazine after they noted her reputation for jerking Sugar Hill artists out of their money (immortalized by Naughty by Nature, who were signed to Sugar Hill briefly, in their line "I'm more feared than a Sugar Hill contract").

Hip + hop = one big bang

..."When 'Rapper's Delight' came out, people were caught off guard," says Ahearn, coauthor of "Yes, Yes Y'all." "People like Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Caz, who were creative elements of the hip-hop scene in the Bronx, didn't see this coming at all, either because they didn't believe you could make money from it or they didn't have the vision to do something like that."

Music business veteran Sylvia Robinson had the vision. She had her own hits, "Love Is Strange" as half of the 1950s duo Mickey & Sylvia and, in the 1970s, the breathy "Pillow Talk" as a solo artist. With her husband, Joe, she also co-owned All-Platinum Records, a small label in New Jersey. After hearing rappers in New York's late, great club Harlem World, Robinson put together a trio and recorded and released "Rapper's Delight" on her renamed Sugar Hill Records, rap's first important label.

"I think Sylvia Robinson should be given credit for having the will and the insight in making a commercial recording of hip-hop," Ahearn says. "She wasn't someone from the Bronx, she wasn't someone who really knew the players, but I don't think anyone should discredit her for what she did. She was the one who went into a studio and made something that obviously hit the nerve of everybody who listened to it..."

"...It's not like they slickened it up and made something pat and commercial," Ahearn says. "It's ridiculous that anyone would do that in a studio and think anyone would play it - but they did. DJs didn't know what it was or where it came from, but they were definitely swinging with it."

Still, the success of "Rapper's Delight" was not without controversy. Some of its verses were "borrowed," as Fricke put it, from New York rappers Raheim and Grandmaster Caz, who have been largely consigned to hip-hop's shadows. Others were upset that some patched-together crew from New Jersey - not the Bronx or Harlem - was getting the credit for creating hip-hop. As the Sugarhill Gang began touring and appearing on TV, some rap pioneers were left behind.

"They were perceived to be carpetbaggers," Fricke said about the Sugarhill Gang. "One of the things that's striking and depressing about the popular music world is that in just about every genre you go into, the pioneers don't get paid, and there are entrepreneurs who develop the independent record labels that break the music, and those people end up making more money than the artists. It's often the newcomers to the scene who make the money. That's just the way it is - it doesn't make it right, but it's a fact of life..."

There's no doubt Sylvia Robinson changed the course of hip-hop, and its funny to think the path that brought us to sit here having this conversation was paved by an outsider who wormed her way into the culture trying to figure out where the money was.

I wonder how hip-hop would have evolved if she hadn't introduced the formula for packaging it as a mass-produced commercial product, in bite-sized, individually wrapped portions? Would it have remained limited mostly to NY all this time, as a local tradition like Go-Go in DC, or would the world have discovered it sooner or later? Would we have seen the tremendous artistic innovation of the last 20 years if Sylvia hadn't pushed it towards shifting from a strictly live tradition to what is now primarily a studio art, driven by recorded works?

April 25, 2004

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 hear us online here, or on WBAI 99.5 FM if you live in the tri-state area. And while you check out the sounds you also can talk to us live in the chat room.

April 26, 2004

She Got Next

who it's all for

I'll be posting my pics from DC as soon as I wake up tomorrow. Anybody else make it out there?

PHOTOS: March for Women's Lives, Washington DC 4/25/04

mydrawers.jpg keepyourlaws.jpg grandmaanddana.jpg baby1.jpg
toughenough.jpg womenofcolor.jpg crowd2.jpg feministlookslike.jpg
carolmoseleybraun.jpg anaisnin.jpg mybody.jpg hulahoop.jpg
crowd1.jpg sisterhood.jpg pantieswomyn.jpg nader.jpg
lipstickrespect.pg.jpg wandasykes.jpg crowd3.jpg headinghome.jpg

click each thumbnail for full-size photo

April 27, 2004

Cows That Are Milked Inappropriately: Slick Rick on File Sharing

From a new interview in MIT's school paper:

TT: What is your position on Internet file sharing, and do you think this is something that helps or hurts the music industry?

SR: Music is one of the last beauties left in the world, that is pretty much being spoiled now. ... The music industry, for a long period of time, has been cruelly manipulated and robbed. Like, a person could be born with a talent. He’s happy, he’s energetic, he goes and gives his talent to the world, and then when it comes time for him to get his paycheck, he’s totally robbed.

TT: By the industry?

SR: By the industry, exactly. They’re spitting their heart out to the world. The fans don’t know this. They want to see him a star. They’re admiring, they relate to you. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, these no-talent bums is robbing you and taking all your money, and making you put up a front like you’re wealthier than you really are, because you don’t want to let your people down. ... These stars, these god-given stars have been manipulated and robbed since the system became started. So when Internet sharing came, it was almost like God came and said, “Listen to me,” and he says “Look, you stole, you tried to gain and steal and profit off of everything you’ve given the world. This is a payback. You can’t control it. You can’t control Internet sharing.”

TT: So you think it’s affecting the industry more than it’s affecting the artists?

SR: We as artists, we was never getting a dime, regardless. We’re happy if we get, like Prince says. ... if Prince was to go and sell his own little records, even if he can sell a hundred-thousand records, he’s rich. If he sells it himself. In these industries, they tell you four million, five million, you’re not seeing the same money you would make if you sold your own records. Like if you sold 50,000 records, you’d be rich ... well, somewhat well-off. But if you let the industry, which is supposed to take their cut and give you your cut, do it, and they sell millions, they’re not giving you your fair share. They just keep on manipulating you. It’s like having a bunch of cows that are milked inappropriately. They lose their spirit to create. And the next thing, they’re just a dried-up cow, which means that you as a manager, industry, you have just manipulated, and brought despair upon your cows. Now they can’t create milk. ... I think Internet sharing is a blessing to humans. I think Internet sharing is a blessing to the average man. ... I think [Internet sharing] is a blessing in disguise.

April 28, 2004

Prince's Olympic Quintuplecast

Tonight at 9PM the fearsome Viacom empire will air a 30 minute Prince concert on 5 of its channels: MTV, VH1, BET, MTV2 and VH1 Classic. Each channel will show the same concert footage buth apparently each will have their own different interview clips. The concert was taped last week at NY's Webster Hall nightclub, in front of a small studio audience that included myself.

He started out with Musicology, the same as he's been doing it, followed by Mr. Man. Then he did a great solo acoustic set, all different songs than he did on the LA simulcast. Started with Cream, never my favorite but he had a lot of fun with it here. The crowd was doing a call and response with all the backup vocal parts, and he really seemed to enjoy performing for fans who know his stuff like that. Then he did "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man," and afterwards asked "remember that from high school? ..well here's what I remember from high school" and started playing "Sweet Thing." He let us handle most of the vocals which was cool with me cuz it let us enjoy his guitar work, especially the way he played the chords for the chorus.

Then the full band came out again, and mashup of "Hot Pants" and "Life of the Party," and then Kiss. I'm thinking this segment will be cut from the telecast? Something has to go, cuz he played for more than a half hour.

Afterwards we all stayed around for the star-studded celebrity party, where Mike Piazza and Stevie Wonder could be found bumping elbows with Dead Prez and DJ Kuttin Kandi. Actually it was a funny scene because all the "regular folks" were having a great time dancing and partying on the main floor, while the industry people were huddled in one corner having no fun at all, stressing out and arguing with the ornery bouncers who wouldnt let them go upstairs to the VIP area. In other words, everyone was so caught up in the industry status game they had to spend half the night fighting to get upstairs, just so they could do the same thing they could already be doing downstairs, except upstairs they get the validation of doing it with other Important People.

April 30, 2004

C. Delores Tucker Gets the Gasface

C. Delores Tucker, master of moral outrage as promotional tool and supporter of Rev. Sun Myung Moon (click atrios' "host committee" link), just took a loss in yet another absurd lawsuit, in which she sued local newspapers for failing to properly capture the absurdity of her previous lawsuits:

Court Dismisses Libel Suit by Rap Critic

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a libel lawsuit by a critic of violent rap lyrics who said two newspapers had mischaracterized her dispute with the estate of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and others.

C. DeLores Tucker, who led a national campaign against rap music with violent lyrics in the 1990s, had sued over lyrics in which Shakur rhymed her name with an obscenity. Her 1997 lawsuit alleged, among other things, that her husband, William Tucker, had suffered loss of "consortium."

The Philadelphia Daily News and The Legal Intelligencer, a daily newspaper covering legal affairs in Philadelphia, were among the news organizations that reported on the lawsuit and interpreted loss of consortium to mean harm to the Tuckers' sex life. Tucker said the claim had nothing to do with sex, but with "advice, society, companionship, i.e., defendants' effect upon the `family union.'"

Thursday's ruling said the Tuckers can plead their case again only if they assert that the newspapers had been told unequivocally that the loss of consortium claim was not about sex...

How does she manage to go through these proceedings with a straight face?

Esthero: Ten Percent Dis

Whoa (or should I say whoa, Nelly?), Esthero has returned with deadly venom for the biters.

"you're just waiting for me to drown so noone knows that you stole my whole sound and yet you're grinning when I come around you fake ass b**ch"

Glad to hear she's back, but I hope this won't some kind of cross-canadian beef (the beef tastes kinda funny up there).

(via Madwriter on Okayplayer (special shoutout to kinetic94761180))

5/4/04 UPDATE: Esthero herself has (apparently?) popped up on Okayplayer, logged in as "dukesup" to deny that the song is about Nelly Furtado..

A Proper Ghostface Review

At loosie.com, with quite a disheartening intro:

For the Def Jam marketing minds, Ghostface Killah presents a mystery wrapped inside an enigma nestled inside a Gucci bathrobe. This isn’t conjecture – about six months ago I spoke to a high-ranking individual from the label that asked in bewilderment, “what do people like about him, anyway?” After admitting an affinity for the “song about the roaches in the cereal”, the Universal soldier complained that Tony Starks’ gargantuan medallion and bronzed arm-eagle were “so new money.” “Why can’t he be Sean Carter?” the label representative sighed...

About April 2004

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

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