Hip-Hop Archives

August 13, 2002

Can't see it coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry

The negro we love to hate, Toure, had a big piece in Sunday's NY times.

So many people bash him I almost feel bad to join in. I think Toure is a really bright guy, and might be a great writer on other topics. But I can't deny his career as a "hip-hop journalist" has yielded some of the worst, most pretentious writing I've ever seen. He really deserves a lot of the hate.

This new piece is actually not too Toure standards. But since someone on okayplayer asked for my opinion...

Here is Toure's article...

And here is my angry rebuttal:

1. First of all I always have questions about a writer who takes a couple of artists that nobody really cares about yet except some critics and industry people (and web nerds like us), lumps them together and tries this hard to hype them up as a "movement", then starts appointing leaders and spokesmen for this "movement" he discovered.

2. Toure is pushing this notion that there is a "movement" to shift from Hip-Hop to Rock, this is obviously the "angle" he used to convince the times the piece was worthwhile. But he does a lousy job of backing up and exploring that premise because none of the people he interviews were ever a part of hip-hop to begin with, and never would have been (except a brief quote from kamaal which did nothing to backup the premise).

He starts out by referencing Mos Def, Goodie Mob and Outkast, why are none of them quoted? If you want to illustrate how and why artists have become alienated from hip-hop, but you only interview artists who never were hip-hop in the first place, this is self-serving and specious.

3. I'm gonna give these artists the benefit of the doubt on the quotes in here, cuz it's quite likely Toure was asking leading questions to elicit quotes that would bolster his premise. BUT, When Toure claims that Rock has more emotional range than Hip-Hop the reasoning he offers to back up is weak as hell.

First he tells us Cody "even mentions that he sometimes cries". Wow, no rapper has ever talked about crying, Right? I can go to OHHLA right now and grab a dozen lyrics to prove this wrong, but I'm sure that's not necessary.

Then he tells us via Martin Luther that "Vulnerability doesn't work at all in hip-hop, You don't want to expose a weakness in that arena." Nobody shows vulnerability in hip-hop? Negro, PLEASE.

Have you ever listened to Will Smith tenderly doting on his child, or Tupac fondly reminiscing about his mother? Heard Puffy or CL or Ice Cube mourning their dead homiez? Heard Ghostface weeping aloud or watched DMX cry onstage in mid-song? Heard Ja Rule asking his girl "what would I be without you"? Heard Eminem admitting all types of emotional problems, just like Bushwick Bill admitted to his suicidal depression ten years before?

I could keep this going all night, without even reaching for any "underground" or "conscious" emcees.

(and I'm not even gonna MENTION anticon.)


The more I think about this piece, the less I like it. He offers a half-baked premise, pads it with quotes that don't really apply, then pulls it all together by peddling antiquated stereotypes. I really dig all the new artists he interviewed here, and it would do them a terrible disservice if the media keeps steering them towards using hip-hop as the reference point for defining themselves and validating their expression.

September 24, 2002

Hip-Hop's reaction to 9/11

Here is an email I wrote that has been forwarded around quite a bit, in response to this nonsense from the ever-annoying Minister Paul Scott.


I'm all for constructive criticism, and Hip-Hop music is as deserving of it as any other art form. But criticism can only be constructive if it is fair, balanced, and well-informed. The essay below does not meet those standards, as it is driven by a mix of stereotypes and straight-up misinformation. For example, the song he quotes in the first paragraph,. "Because I Got High", is in fact not a Hip-Hop record at all, and has no "brotha rapping" on it whatsoever.

Hip-Hop has grown into a global phenomenon of incredible diversity, with countless different sounds and subcultures, and to cite the 5 songs played on MTV as representative of the culture as a whole is simply dishonest, and renders subsequent analysis bankrupt. Furthermore, even the mainstream artists dismissed as only rapping about "bling-bling" often have a good deal more substance and complexity to their lyrics, if you take the time to truly listen. Jay-Z kicks rhymes about Mumia, but these self-serving critics won't tell you that because it doesn't fit into their agenda.

This Paul Scott piece has been deconstructed at length in other venues, so rather than a point-by-point breakdown I will offer some excerpts of how Hip-Hop artists did in fact respond to 9/11. You may find these responses rather different than Minister Scott would have you believe:

"What Would You Do" by Paris:

"Now ask yourself who's the people with the most to gain (Bush)

before 911 motherf***as couldn't stand his name (Bush)

Now even brothas waivin' flags like they lost they mind

Everybody got opinions but don't know the time

'Cause Amerikkka's been took - it's plain to see

The oldest trick in the book is MAKE an enemy

Of phony evil now the government can do its dirt

And take away ya freedom lock and load, beat and search"


"What Goes Around" by Nas

"Never to worry, all the wrong doers got it coming back to 'em a thousand times over

Every dog has its day, and everything flips around

Even the most greatest nation in the world has it comin back to 'em

Everybody reaps what they sews, that's how it goes"


"Makeshift Patriots" by Sage Francis

"Who's going to make that call to increase an unknown death toll?

It's the one we rally behind. He's got a megaphone...and he's promising to make heads roll,

So we cheer him on, but asbestos is affecting our breath control.

The less we know...the more they fabricate...the easier it is to sell souls

An addictive 24 hour candle light vigil in TVs.

Freedom WILL be the cost of civil liberties.

We'll show you which culture to pump your fist at and what foot is right tokiss.

We don't know who the culprit is yet...but he looks like this. "


"Satisfied" by J Live

"By the time Bush is done, you won't know what time it is

If it's war time or jail time, time for promises

And time to figure out where the enemy is

The same devils that you used to love to hate

They got you so gassed and shook now, you scared to debate

The same ones that traded books for guns

Smuggled drugs for funds

And had fun lettin' off forty-one

But now it's all about NYPD caps

And Pentagon bumper stickers

But yo, you still a nigga

It ain't right them cops and them firemen died

The shit is real tragic, but it damn sure ain't magic

It won't make the brutality disappear

It won't pull equality from behind your ear

It won't make a difference in a two-party country

If the president cheats, to win another four years"


"Home of the Brave" by Mr. Lif

"Headline: Bush steals the presidency

He needs the backing of the media what could the remedy be?

The country's headed for recession reminiscent of the Great Depression

Are lives worth a world of power? Easy question

Planes hit the towers and the Pentagon

Killing those the government wasn't dependant on

It's easy to control the scared so they keep us in fear

With their favorite Middle Eastern demon named Bin Laden this year

Bush disguises blood lust as patriotism

Convincing the living to love "Operation Let's Get 'Em"

But when he realized we don't support their attacks

They needed something to distract, hmm, anthrax

This further demonizes Afghanis

So Americans cheer while we kill their innocent families

And what better place to start a war

To build a pipeline to get the oil that they had wanted before

America supported the Taliban

To get Russia out of Afghanistan

That's how they got the arms in

They're in a war against the Northern Alliance

And we can't build a pipeline in hostile environments

Here's what your history books won't show:

You're a dead man for f**king with American dough

They killed several birds with one stone

While you're at home with anti-terrorism up in your dome

But my eyes are wide open and my TV is off

Great, 'cause I save on my electricity cost

And you can wave that piece of s**t flag if you dare

But they killed us because we've been killing them for years

October 31, 2002

The First Time I Heard Run-DMC

Sucker MCs. 1983.

I was ten years old, sitting on the top bunk of my bunk bed, listening to the radio. what station would i have been listening to then, BLS? 92 KTU?

I used to put the sheets over my head like a tent every night, and pull the radio under there, to create a universe where there was nothing but me and the music. A song came on that I had never heard before, and it was entirely different from any other rap I'd hever heard. As if it had been dropped down from another planet.

So bare and minimalist, so gritty, so HARD. It just sounded so much more....serious...than any rap I'd heard before. So serious it made everything else sound like a joke. I sat there huddled in my little tent, mesmerized.

I wasn't able to really comprehend the feeling coming over me, at that time. But looking back now I know it was my first time feeling something that only comes a few times in your life, the music lover's sweetest epiphany. That moment when you hear a song and know instantly that a new horizon has been opened, a new world has been created, and music will never be the same.

I, also, would never be the same, of course. You might say that was the night I discovered who I am.

March 12, 2003

The Federal Bureau of Wack Emcees

I just discovered that the Federal Emergency Mangement Agency, one of the creepiest branches of our government, has their own official rap song! I'm not kidding. Check out the audio here, and read along here. Our tax dollars paid for this.

This is part of their FEMA for kids website, teaching kids about FEMA's programs that help America deal with various types of "disaster". Here is one such plan they developed in the 80s:

On July 5, 1987, the Miami Herald published reports on FEMA's new suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent, or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. Lt. Col. North was the architect. National Security Directive Number 52 issued in August 1982, pertains to the "Use of National Guard Troops to Quell Disturbances."

The crux of the problem is that FEMA has the power to turn the United States into a police state in time of a real crisis or a manufactured crisis. Lt. Col. North virtually established the apparatus for dictatorship. Only the criticism of the Attorney General prevented the plans from being adopted. But intelligence reports indicate that FEMA has a folder with 22 Executive Orders for the President to sign in case of an emergency. It is believed those Executive Orders contain the framework of North's concepts, delayed by criticism but never truly abandoned.

Someone needs to make a parody of this site where the little cartoon characters teach kids about martial law. "Hey boys and girls, have you ever heard mommy and daddy saying naughty things about the president? Call this number and let us know, so we can give them a free trip to our Happy Funtime Internment Camp!"

March 15, 2003

Join us on the radio tonight

You can tune in live to the webcast of our radio show, The Underground Railroad, and talk to us live on the message board while you check out the sounds. The Underground railroad airs every saturday night from midnight to 2 AM on WBAI 99.5 FM in NY.

March 19, 2003

New Battle Scenes from 8 Mile DVD

The new 8 Mile DVD has a nice little segment where some of the extras got a chance to come on stage and get filmed battling Eminem.

Since Em was losing his voice, the director asked him not to rap out loud, so he was just silently miming his response after the other guy went, which was pretty funny looking. But once they got going I guess Em's pride wouldn't let him pretend like that, so he turned his mic on and started battling for real. A nice little bonus, getting a chance to see him really spit off the top agianst a couple of people.

here is an excerpt (this file will only be up temporarily)

Also entertaining is the chance to watch the movie with french or spanish dubbing, although sadly they didn't try to translate the battle scenes. That would have really been a treat.

March 25, 2003


Fabolous arrested, on gun charge.

Before we jump into another rant about how ignorant all these dumbass gangsta rappers are, let's take a good look at what really happened here. Police found a gun in their car, the bodyguard explained it was his and showed a permit, but the permit was only good in another state, not NY. And for this they arrested not only the self-professed owner of the gun but everyone else in the car as well.

In other words, Fabolous didn't actually do anything. But spicy headlines about rap-related crime sell papers, so why let the something silly like the facts hold you back? Right?

New De La Soul Album on Indie Label

The Miami Herald dropped a nice interview with Maseo today. He discusses making Florida his new home, and De La's plans to release the "AOI 3" album on his own independent label, Bear Mountain Entertainment.

Originally the word was Prince Paul would rejoin and contribute to this third album in the AOI trilogy, but now it doesn't look like that is happening. Still, I'm looking forward to hearing what they do with their independence.

March 26, 2003

Jam Master Jay's Scratch Academy

"And in a few years, you will see
a Dr. Jekyll Mr Hyde University
With mixing as a minor and rapping as a major
be on your best behavior (owwww!)"
-Dr. Jekyll (aka Andre Harrell) and Mr Hyde, "AM/PM"

When that song came out in 1984, none of us would have imagined those lyrics could come true. But it has already become a reality, and Jam Master Jay was leading the way into this new frontier with his Scratch Academy, profiled on today's AP wire: DJ School Teaches the Art of Scratching. And I'd bet it won't be long before programs like this aren't even newsworthy, as it becomes commonplace for established schools to include hip-hop in their curriculum. We've come a long way.

"Stephen Webber, a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, believes deejaying is moving toward widespread musical acceptance, much like jazz overcame its rejection as unstructured folk music, and rock its dismissal as amplified noise.

"We have crossed a threshold," Webber said. "It's just starting to make the transition, much like jazz once did, into a legitimate part of the conservatory curriculum."

March 27, 2003

Snoop Dogg Sued Over Voice Mail

If you heard the voice mail message at the end of Snoop's latest album, congratulating him for standing up to Suge Knight, you probably wondered like I did whether it was a real message or just a skit. It turns out that message was real, and now the guy who left it is real scared. Or at least he's claiming to be scared so he can get paid.

I've got to give utmost props to Snoop for openly standing up to Suge, and calling him the punk that he is. Suge Knight is a disgrace to the culture, and the Hip-Hop community should not let itself be scared into silence by his thug bulls***.

March 28, 2003

Big Brother is Watching Your Mother

Our friend Amy Goodman talked to Michael Franti yesterday about the current climate of censorship and intimidation, as the government and media seek to suppress anti-war voices. He told a bizarre story of government agents visiting his bandmate's mother:

Well, what’s happened most recently is that we performed at a rally on March 15th in San Francisco and the next day on the 16th—that, that rally was out here—and on the 16th on the East Coast, a band member of mine who prefers to go unnamed, his mother received a visit from two plain clothes men from the military and this band member of mine has a sibling who is in the Gulf. And they came in and talked to her and said you have a child who’s in the gulf and you have a child who’s in this band Spearhead who’s part of the “resistance” in their words, and they had pictures of us performing the day before at the rally, they had pictures of us performing at some of our annual concerts that we put on that are in support of peace and human rights. They had his flight records for the past several months, they had the names of everybody who works in my office, our management office “Guerilla Management”. They had his checking account records. They asked his mother a lot of questions about where he was, what he was doing in this place, why he was going here. They confiscated his sibling’s CD collection that they had brought over to listen to while they were in the Gulf, and basically were intimidating—told her which members of the press she could talk to and which members of the press she should not speak to.

You can hear the interview in its entirety here

April 2, 2003

New Ras Kass

Ras Kass, who is currently on the run from both the law and his label, just leaked a new track from an undisclosed location.. you can check it out at Interesting that he seems much more concerned with his label difficulties than the actual imprisonment that is most likely in his future.

Ras is the only "conscious" emcee who can start a song by comparing himself to a porn star (Mr. Marcus) and nobody bats an eye. This song is also noteworthy because finally somebody quoted that Amistad "give-s us free" line in a rhyme!

In a G Building...

ODB placed in Mental Institution

I'm not going to make any jokes. I hope the man can get it together. They were supposed to start filming him for a reality show as soon as he was released, a la Anna Nicole/Osbournes, which I found kinda tacky and exploitative. Putting him in this situation where everyone's hoping for him to be as outrageous as possible is not gonna help him get his life back together. Ok, it's probably a longshot either way. But still.

A note about my post title: Most people think that line from Brooklyn Zoo goes "energy building, taking all types of medicine", but it is actually "in a g building", slang for a mental hospital. I believe it is derived from the psychiatric ward of King's County hospital.

April 3, 2003

Teaching Hip-Hop in High School

From Australia comes more coverage of Hip-Hop's increasing acceptance into academia:

So, like, yo dudes, listen up: hip-hop is da bomb, fool, da real dope. Forget all that wack stuff laid down by tragic MCs like T.S. Eliot, the Bronte sisters and that Shakespeare snowflake. Check it: if a US education trend spreads to Australia - and it probably will - the nation's school kids could soon be getting down to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Ice-T, Eminem and Cypress Hill.

I'm not sure what to say about this one. Kind of a scattered and oddly reasoned piece, and yeah his attempt at slanguage is unfortunate. But at the very least it's an interesting peek at how the American Hip-Hop scene is interpreted from afar.

Reviews: Roscoe P ColdChain, Non-Phixion

Let's review two of the new tracks posted on


Roscoe P ColdChain - "Delinquent"

Beat: Nasty. This is a first-rate average Neptunes banger, built around the "South Bronx" horn stab. You know that scrunched-up "got damn this is funky" grimace you make, when you're nodding your head to something serious? Those ugly faces abound in the studio, when 3D plays this on the radio show.

Rhymes/Flow: Not bad, voice reminiscent of Ras Kass, or Vakill with more bass in his voice. Sprays quick blasts of verbiage that land all over the beat, but he makes it work, never crosses that thin line between syncopated and sloppy.

Content: Well, here's the chorus:

"When a nigga is delinquent with cash in hand even if it's just a couple of grams do what the f*** I do nigga pop that motherf***er drop that mother f***er"

Yawn.. what is it they say about the banality of evil?

I guess Roscoe is down with the Clipse, and judging by this track he certainly shares their unwavering (and unwaveringly dull) fixation on guns, drugs and cash. There are some mildly clever lines, like "I done squeezed more guns than Charlton Heston". But after reading his rather thoughtful interview here I was surprised to hear a thug-life infomercial as his debut. And I wonder how Pharrell reconciles this with his own words on "Run to the Sun": "I'm so embarrassed for mankind, they have the nerve to let their weapon shine.. they're so stupid.."

Verdict: Decent, if you can let the trite thuggery float by, and just enjoy the funk.


Non-Phixion - "Caught Between Worlds"

Beat: Cinematic Isaac Hayes-y loop with a sped-up vocal sample, what you might call RZA's signature sound. Nothing mind-blowing but it fits well with the mood of the lyrics.

Flow: Ill Bill starts out sounding a lot like Ghostface, perhaps inspired by the RZA-style beat. Then they revert to the standard Non-Phixion sound, with lots of punchy multisyllables.

Content: Standard "it's tough growing up in the hood" fare, but delivered in a mournful tone far from glamorizing street life.

Verdict: Not bad, worthy of a spot on the playlist.

April 4, 2003

MLK Against War (but first a commercial break)

The latest issue of my favorite magazine Wax Poetics is now on sale, check the website for where you can cop it. This installment has interviews with breakbeat legends like Clyde Stubblefield, Manzel, and Galt Mcdermot, plus graffiti pioneer Tracy 168 and a whole bunch more for the hardcore heads.

And you might say I make my debut as a published photographer, cuz they have a two page spread of my pics from the Jam Master Jay memorial that I posted here a few months ago.


Also, just so this post won't be completely self-serving, here's a bit about Martin Luther Kings's importance as a voice against war, on the 35th anniversary of his death. And here's an excerpt from his landmark speech, "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam", courtesy of my peoples at Democracy Now.

Somebody Alert the Nobel Committee

I had heard about Jay-Z bhangra collabo with Panjabi MC, but didn't know till Lynne mentioned it that he drops some anti-war couplets in there:

Jay-Z Drops War Rhymes On Remix Of International Hit

Jay-Z has broken his silence about the U.S.-led coalition's war with Iraq. In the remix of European artist Panjabi MC's overseas hit "Beware of the Boys," Jay mixes his Brooklyn braggadocio with anti-war sentiments.

"We rebellious, we back home/ Screamin' 'Leave Iraq alone,' " Young Hova rhymes over a sample of the theme from the "Knight Rider" TV show. "For all my soldiers in the field/ I will wish you safe return/ But only love kills war/ When will they learn?"

I'm only posting this because I love the portentous tone of that opening sentence:

"Finally Jay-Z has broken his silence about the U.S.-led coalition's war with Iraq. Ever since he shook up world politics with his bold stance in favor of Che Guevara t-shirts, Jay has become perhaps the most influential statesman on the global stage, and the world has anxiously awaited his judgement on the war in Iraq. Said one U.N. leader: 'We've heard from France, we've heard from Germany, but one question continues to haunt us: where does The R.O.C. stand on this?'

The Bush administration is rumored to be deeply shaken by Jay-Z's searing condemnation of their policies. No word yet on how the stock market has been affected."

April 5, 2003

Reports of our Death...

I guess every 3 months we have to see another one of these:

Is Rap Dead?

Is hip-hop dead? It sure sounds like it if you turn on the radio. What used to be exciting, groundbreaking music seems to have been reduced to a one-note din. The only topics discussed are bling-bling materialism, how many guns you have, and "ho's." Hip-hop poster boy 50 Cent appears on the cover of Rolling Stone with the caption "Mastering The Art of Violence." There's the raunchy Lil' Kim, and of course, top dog and now Oscar-winner Eminem, who has threatened to kill his wife numerous times on his records.

I don't have time for a detailed response, but in short, the answer is of course not! These "is hip-hop dead" pieces always rely on highly selective evidence to back up their generalizations. Sometimes they are selective to the point of being disingenuous, as in the description of Eminem above.. to suggest that quote sums up the range of Em's expression is absurd. About as accurate as designating Jimi Hendrix "the man who sang about killing his wife and fleeing to Mexico..."

Perhaps I will come back to this later. Obviously Hip-Hop is nowhere near what it once was, in its glory days. Surely there is ample room for improvement. But we are a long way from dead, there's lots of creative stuff out there right now.. more than enough for us to fill 2 hours every Saturday.

This is not too bad though, as these pieces go, and a lot of the quotes are sharp..especially Bill Stephney's.

Join Us On the Radio Tonight

Tune in here and catch us live on the air, tonight from 12 to 2 AM EST. I heard a rumor that Jean Grae might be on the show tonite. This has not been confirmed. I repeat, this has not been confirmed.

EDIT: Jean Grae has entered the building.

I just set up a new chat room, to make it easier for y'all to kick it with us during the show. Try it out and let me know how you like it.

Somebody just came to this site by searching in google for hip-hop negro "non-phixion". I like that one.

April 6, 2003

Photos: Jean Grae on the Railroad

A pleasure to have Jean Grae on board last night, one of the smartest, most creative emcees around. She kept us cracking up with her ongoing crusade against big hats, and let us world premiere 2 new songs, including a remake of Jay-Z's "Excuse Me Miss" that was pure hilarity.

I'll post some audio tomorrow, but for now here is photographic evidence. The third pick is Jean and her betrothed (with Democracy Now's office in the background):

April 7, 2003

MTV: "Stop Being So Commercial!"

MTV Cry to Artists: Stop the Shilling

Network tries to cut product placement in its music videos

In her recent music video, rapper Ms. Jade is swerving on a dark city street to the beat of her song "Ching Ching." She's behind the wheel of a sparkling, tank-sized Hummer H2, as is a rival racing alongside.

The Hummers seem to get as much screen time as Ms. Jade.

That bit of product placement cost the Hummer's manufacturer, General Motors Corp., some $300,000 - more than half the expense of the video produced by Interscope Records. It also represented another win for record labels in the catch-me-if-you-can game they're playing with Manhattan-based MTV, which has prohibited advertising in videos.

Major record companies, strapped for cash amid flagging CD sales, have been defying MTV, teaming up with advertisers willing to help finance costly videos in exchange for product visibility.

In the past, MTV screeners - worried the cable channel's savvy teen and young-adult audience would rebel against that kind of selling - have forced labels to blur images of products or logos that found their way into videos. But "Ching Ching" and other clips financed in part by corporate sponsors have sneaked in under the radar.

Faced with the record industry's miserable economics, MTV's gatekeepers now suggest gingerly that they may allow some marketing messages in videos - but only if they decide that a product placement is discreet and fits with a clip's theme or story line. So far, they haven't.

"We're trying to be as sensitive as we can to the labels' financial issues without risking the trust of our audience," said Tom Calderone, MTV's executive vice president of music and talent.

I am amused by MTV's high minded stance, claiming they are simply worried about "maintaining trust with the audience".. I'm sure the fact that they are missing out on money here, and these companies are basically getting to advertise on MTV without paying MTV, does not factor into their concern at all.

Also, this goes to show that the music industry will use their financial woes much like the Bush administration is using the threat of terrorism, to justify all types of shady dealings, and expand their powers as far as they can push them.

April 8, 2003

Kevin Bray, please STFU

PLATINUM TAKES THE WHITE ANGLE: Drama to feature white rapper.

The upcoming UPN series "Platinum" knew they just had to get themselves a white rapper character after what's going down with Eminem an' what not.

Kevin Bray, who produces the show about two brothers who run a hip hop record label in NYC, says the show wants to reflect reality.

"Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people, and we want the show to reflect that. We decided to have a white rapper as the biggest act at the label because that's being truthful to what's going on in hip-hop today."

Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people?

Excuse me? So Hip-Hop was not accessible to middle America until Eminem came out? People of every race and class didn't listen to Run DMC, or NWA, or Will Smith? Lauryn Hill didn't have universal appeal that cut across all boundaries? White kids in the suburbs never listened to Pac or Biggie?

I'm sure Eminem himself would be the first to tell you how insulting your comments are, how disrespectful to the art form that happens to be making you rich.

Seriously, Kevin Bray. Just STFU. Never talk about Hip-Hop again.

Funkmaster Flex settles Steph Lova case

Hip-Hop Disc Jockey Pleads Guilty To Harassing Rival DJ

A disc jockey for a popular hip-hop radio station was ordered to serve 35 hours of community service after pleading guilty to harassing a rival DJ.

Funkmaster Flex, 35, whose real name is Aston Taylor Jr., was arrested on assault charges last September after he allegedly choked and punched a female DJ from a rival radio station.

Taylor pleaded guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday to lesser charges of harassment. He was also issued an order of protection to stay away from Stephanie Saunders, 29, who is known as Big Steph Lova and works for WWPR-FM (105.1).

Taylor, a DJ for WQHT-FM (97.1), was accused of confronting Saunders outside his Greenwich Village radio station on Sept. 20. He was reportedly upset over allegations, made during an on-air interview that Saunders conducted, that he accepted bribes to play certain songs.

Murray Richman, Taylor's lawyer, acknowledged Monday that the two disc jockeys had a "shouting match," but said his client "never touched" Saunders.

To be fair, we should note that he was not found guilty of assaulting her.

But, now, about that payola...

Photos: Gangstarr. Kweli, Floetry and Common

I'm working getting the audio up for our Jean Grae interview, but in the meantime, here are my photos from the concert at Roseland on Sunday:

click on each thumbnail to see the full size picture

April 10, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Exclusive Jean Grae

Here are the new tracks Jean Grae played for us last Saturday. That is me and my co-host Damali talking to Jean before and after the music:

Excuse Me (remake)

Very Bad Things

Let me know what you think. She said one of these songs will be on her new album, "The Official Jean Grae Bootleg Album", and one will be on a mixtape.. or something like that? I'm getting old, the memory is going.

Raleigh man charged with impersonating Slick Rick

How about we just let Rick out of jail, send this other guy back to England, and call it even?

Tried to Disrespect Who? The Grand Wizard?

A 28-year-old man is accused of diverting mail intended for old school rapper Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters and trying to cash his royalty checks.

Walters, whose hits include "La-Di-Da-Di," and "Children's Story," is being held in Bradenton, Fla., by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS is attempting to deport Walters, who is British, over an attempted murder conviction in a 1990 shooting, for which he served six years.

Steven Burke Glenn was arrested April 3 and charged with three counts of forgery, two of obtaining property under false pretenses and one of identity theft, Raleigh police Sgt. Chuck Hurst said Thursday. Additional charges were being considered.

Glenn was still in custody Thursday on $30,000 bond. Hurst did not know what sentences Glenn might face if convicted on any of the charges.

Hurst said Glenn apparently submitted a change of address form to the U.S. Postal Service asking to have mail forwarded from Walters' production company in New York to a Raleigh address.

Within a week or so, staff at the company became suspicious about the lack of mail and contacted postal authorities in New York, who involved Raleigh police in the investigation, Hurst said.

Bill Adler, a spokesman for Walters and his wife, Mandy Aragones, said Glenn forged Walters' name on royalty checks, deposited them into Walters' bank account and then tried to withdraw the money.

"Likewise, he registered a car, received hospital care, sent out express mail packages and answered his own phone under Rick's name," Adler said.

Glenn ultimately got Walters' home telephone number and reached Aragones, identifying himself as Slick Rick and saying he was not in jail but in North Carolina. He apparently didn't realize he was talking to Walters' wife, Adler said.

April 11, 2003

Snoop Dogg Narrowly Avoids Getting Shot

Yuck. No more of this please.

Gunman Opens Fire On Snoop Dogg And His Security Team

An unknown assailant opened fire on Snoop Dogg and his entourage on Thursday night in Los Angeles, injuring one of the rapper's bodyguards.

Police said that at about 9 p.m. on Thursday night, Snoop was in a car traveling south on Fairfax Avenue and was accompanied by five other cars, which an LAPD spokesperson referred to as "security vehicles." A sedan carrying an unspecified number of black males that was traveling in the opposite direction then shot at Snoop's crew. Two of the cars were hit and one of the security guards was grazed by a bullet in his back.

The injury was not life-threatening and no one else was struck, police said. Snoop and the individuals with whom he was traveling were questioned as witnesses. No arrests were made, and there are no suspects and no motive.

The spokesperson for the LAPD did not release the identity of Snoop's injured bodyguard. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that he and several other members of the security team were off-duty police officers who work in the Inglewood school district.

By the way, look at how misleading this other blurb is with its title and intro, covering the same story:

Snoop Dogg questioned in shooting, one injured

Rapper Snoop Dogg was being questioned Thursday night following a car-to-car shooting that left an off-duty police officer wounded...

Snoop is the victim of a crime in which one of his security guards gets injured, and these guys still manage to make it sound like Snoop is the criminal here.

April 12, 2003

The Hip-Hop Scene in Japan

Here's a pretty good one from the Japan Times, picking the brains of hip-hop kids in Shibuya. Maybe our resident Japanese ambassador Kyo can let us know how accurate this is.

Who Copped My Hip-Hop?

On a visit to Tokyo's trendy Shibuya Ward several years ago, I came across a Japanese teenager dressed from head to toe in baggy hip-hop wear, one of the first "B-Boys" I'd ever seen here. Still relatively new to Japan, I was curious about whether this young man represented some growing awareness of black America among Japanese youth, and as an African-American myself, it was an issue close to home.

I couldn't help asking him: "Say, have you ever heard of Malcolm X?" I was referring, of course, to the black political activist memorialized in the Spike Lee movie and easily the most influential figure in modern black America after Martin Luther King, Jr.....

The Scoop on Star: He was benched for bashing AT&T?

I haven't bothered to post about this story yet, because I didn't feel like give Star any more publicity. But yeah, the controversial (read: loathsome) host of Hot 97's morning show here in N.Y. is in trouble once again, and off the air for who knows how long.

In the past Star has been attacked for his alleged anti-semitism and had infamous on-air clashes with Tigger, Prodigy, and Conrad Muhammad (who gave him a hearty thrashing). He was also suspended once before after mocking Aaliyah's death, which endangered Hot's cash flow since it outraged her fiancee Damon Dash. This also inspired Q-Tip to read a letter on the air criticizing Star, which inexplicably led to Q-Tip being banned from Hot 97 by their widely reviled VP Tracy Cloherty (as revealed in our interview here).

Now Star (along with his longtime companion Bucwild) has been off the air again for about a week, and as you can see here Hot's management has been tight-lipped about exactly what he stepped in this time. But I've done some snooping around, and heard from good sources that Star was suspended for comments relating to AT&T, who unfortunately for him is one of Hot's sponsors. It seems the station lost a $50,000 deal due to his corny jokes.

"The reason is not for general consumption - not even something the audience would understand," said Tracy Cloherty, Emmis' programming VP. "The rule he broke was not supposed to be broken," Cloherty told The Post.

So I guess you have some rules that are supposed to be broken? Evidently this translates to: "Disrespect jews, women, our own people? Whatever. But disrespect our advertisers and you've got trouble."

April 14, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Guest DJ Chairman Mao

A new mix posted in our radio show archive

Jeff "Chairman" Mao is well known as a founding member of the Ego Trip crew, and all-around top hip-hop journalist. But you might not know he is also a top-notch DJ and vinyl collector, and spins regularly at one of NY's trendiest spots, APT (where our own DJs Monkone and Emskee hold fort every wednesday night).

The Chairman showed us just how deep his crates are when he stopped by the radio show last month, and dropped a set of insanely rare 12-inches from the mid 80's. I just uploaded his entire set to the mixshow archive, take a listen and see how many songs you can name. I'll be impressed if anyone can identify even 5 of them.

Oh and here are a couple of pics:

one - Chairman Mao on the wheels, as Tomkat and Monkone look on.
two - Jeff and the rest of the Ego Trip clique, Elliot Wilson, Gabe Alvarez, and Sacha Jenkins.

April 15, 2003

PHOTOS: Graffiti in Montreal

I probably won't be posting much this week, as I am getting ready for my trip to Montreal in a few days. This is my second time heading up there, when I went for the first time a few months ago one of the things that impressed me most was thwe quantity and quality of graffiti over there. It seemed like every block I passed by had an alleyway with a breathtaking mural spanning across it. Here are some photos I took while exploring the city:

click on each thumbnail for the full-sized image
graffiti1.jpg graffiti3.jpg graffiti4.jpg graffiti5.jpg
graffitib1.jpg graffitib2.jpg graffitib3.jpg graffitib4.jpg

April 16, 2003

Suge Dropped from Cannibal Rapper Lawsuit

As much as I despise Suge Knight, this time I've got to agree that blaming this murder on his or any record label is just ridiculous. The lawsuit alleges that Big Lurch killed his roommate and ate her lungs because he was encouraged to do this by his label, as a marketing tactic. I find that outlandish, to say the least.

When a man kills his roommate and eats her internal organs, that's not about hip-hop, that's not about the music business, that's about this one man's psychosis, plain and simple.

Tha Row Removed From Wrongful-Death Suit

Tha Row Records has been removed as a defendant in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles, Billboard Bulletin reports.

The complaint was filed by Carolyn Stinson, whose daughter Tynisha Ysais was allegedly killed and partially eaten by aspiring Texas rapper Antron Singleton (aka Big Lurch). Tha Row's removal from the suit follows CEO Marion "Suge" Knight's public claims that his label was never associated with Singleton.

...A spokesperson for Tha Row says, "Every time there are problems on the West Coast, people always try to involve Suge. What's unfortunate about this is that it's difficult to un-ring a bell."

Well, I'm not quite ready to play a violin for poor beleaguered Suge, especially when he puts nonsense like this up on his website. But in this particular case I'd agree he shouldn't be held responsible, even if his label was associated with this guy.

April 17, 2003

Or did he mean Russell Crowe?

Last week I criticized the producer of Platinum, Kevin Bray, for his assertion that "Thanks to Eminem, hip-hop is an art form that's been made accessible to middle America, to every race and class of people". It would appear Mr. Bray came across my comments and posted a reply, as you can see here.

Evidently he didn't mean that to come out the way it sounded, and meant to convey how in the minds of TV execs it was Eminem's success that made this show possible. He also informed us that "as for me and hip hop i go waaay back...look it up or ask russell."

Assuming of course that he meant Russell Wong from that old kung fu show "Vanishing Son", I gave Russell a call. He said he's never heard of this Bray guy. But some googling did turn up this page, with a lengthy list of the videos Kevin has directed.

My search also revealed that when you search for "Kevin Bray" in google now, the third and fourth links that appear are me telling him to STFU. Gotta love the power of the internet!

(my reply to his reply is also there, in the previous post.)

April 18, 2003

Jack White Disses Hip-Hop

As quoted on okayplayer, here are the words of Jack White of the White Stripes, in the latest Rolling Stone:

RS: You're not a hip-hop fan.

JW: Not particularly. I find OutKast and Wu-Tang Clan interesting. But I consider music to be storytelling, melody and rhythm. A lot of hip-hop has broken music down. There are no instruments and no songwriting. So you're left with just storytelling and rhythm. And the storytelling can be so braggadocious, you're just left with rhythm. I don't find much emotion in that.

No wonder I find his music so dull..

Coincidentally, I just discovered that Simon Reynolds has a blog, and his recent post about the Stripes sums up my feelings perfectly. He also thinks to another cool blog that deconstructs their latest album in much greater detail.

EDIT, 8/7/03: I hate to do this, but I'm closing the comments on this post because all you soccer hooligans don't know how to act (on both sides of the argument). Perhaps my flippant approach to the subject (as opposed to my "serious" commentary here) combined with a high ranking in google was a deadly combination..

Mr. Lif Shoots the Gift

Okay, that title is corny. But this is a solid profile of Boston's MVP, from the Chicago Sun Times. Always refreshing when the mainstream press notices a rapper for some reason other than his arrest record:

Beantown rapper gives hip-hop an intellectual lift

Mr. Lif, a huge New England Patriots fan, jokes he recently moved from Boston to California to operate the team's West Coast offices.

He adds he had nothing to do with the signing of former Chicago Bear Roosevelt Colvin. "I understand there may hostilities about that in Chicago, so I'll let Coach Belichick handle those," he says with a chuckle.

Joking aside, Lif has meant more to New England's hip-hop than he ever could to its professional football franchise. He may be the region's most important export since UConn women's basketball and Trader Joe's grocery. He's an MC whose delivery places more emphasis on lyrics than barking; returning the music to a time when rappers relentlessly deconstructed popular culture.

This, he says, comes "from being alive and being a fan of hip-hop during the era of conscious rap, when the predominant image was an intelligent black man whose power was his intellect. It also comes from seeing the struggles of my parents..."

Why Jack White is Wrong

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Jack White of the White Stripes explains his opinion of Hip-hop thusly:

"I find OutKast and Wu-Tang Clan interesting. But I consider music to be storytelling, melody and rhythm. A lot of hip-hop has broken music down. There are no instruments and no songwriting. So you're left with just storytelling and rhythm. And the storytelling can be so braggadocious, you're just left with rhythm. I don't find much emotion in that."

He's certainly entitled to his opinion, and there is no such thing as right or wrong (in any objective sense) when it comes to personal taste, so I'm not mad at him. But I will point out that Jack White is missing at least one basic element of music, one that is particularly important to Hip-Hop. Let me tell you a little story:

For 6 years I was a teacher/counselor for "emotionally disturbed" teens at a group home upstate. One day we went on a field trip and walked by a construction site, and the sound of the drilling rattled our bones. As we went by one of my favorite students, Kelly Miles, turned to me and said "That sound is dope! Somebody needs to sample that and make a beat with it."

I knew exactly what she meant, and what made that drilling sound so dope had nothing to do with rhythm, melody, or storytelling. It was the noise itself that had an irresistibly visceral quality to it. As Public Enemy so wisely observed, that's one of the most important qualities found in any good hip-hop - you have to bring the noise.

If I played you a Premier snare drum and the snare from a Celine Dion song, isolated and removed from its original drum pattern, you could easily tell me which was which, and would probably have a strong preference as to which one sounded hotter. Most anyone who listens to Hip-Hop could easily make that distinction, and its not because of rhythm, melody or storytelling. It's because noise matters.

This is not only true for hip-hop either. The tonal quality and timbre of the sounds is a crucial element in our experience of any music. For example D'Angelo's Voodoo album, and the other Soulquarian releases of that "neo-soul" boom, were such a stark contrast to the other R&B of that time period, but not primarily because of the melody or rhythm or storytelling. What made them stand out, more than anything, was that they just sounded so raw. The vintage analog instrumentation they worked with, and that gritty sound they achieved while recording it and mixing it down. It was quite simply a different type of noise than the polished, plastic synthesizer music that was dominating R&B up until then.

This is one of the biggest reasons Hip-Hop has had such a tremendous influence: we changed the face of popular music with our focus on refining the art of noise. We took that element of music that is so often forgotten, and brought it to the forefront.. reminded everyone that noise matters, and showed the world how to bring it.

Any attempt to judge Hip-Hop will always be off the mark, if it fails to recognize this fundamental aspect of the music. That's why I must beg to differ with Jack White. And he really ought to know better, since he clearly pays close attention to the power of noise in his own music, striving to bring a full, rich sound out of a band with only two instruments.

April 22, 2003

While You're busy Being Al Capone...

I'm back in town. Hope you guys are still out there, I'm really digging all your comments and feedback.

Turns out Montreal is even more beautiful when the weather becomes suitable for humans. Many pictures later.

So anyway. Nina. Wow.

I saw her name go by on the Times Square news ticker as I came back into NY this morning. That's the second time I walked by there and found out a childhood hero had died, the first was Curtis Mayfield.

For me, Nina was one of those very first artists your parents expose you to as a child, who teaches you what music is supposed to be, lays down the foundation for all of your tastes. When you have that kind of connection, it really feels like you lost part of your family, when they die.

I hate to see some obituaries that only highlight her harmless pop songs like I Loves You Porgy and My Baby Just Cares For Me. What really makes her important to me are the ones like Mississippi Goddam, Backlash Blues, Four
Women, To Be Young Gifted and Black, etc.. where she was saying something.

I''ll post my favorite Nina song here, its a big file but worth the download. Nikka Costa did a sweet cover of this on her last tour:

Nina Simone - Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter


April 23, 2003

Dallas Teen Suspended for "Terroristic" Rapping

Very interesting story in the Dallas Morning News today. Needless to say, the kid should have known those rhymes were not appropriate for a classroom setting. But taking them as a "terroristic threat" worthy of removing him from the school? Unless there is some history between them that we don't know about, that seems kinda wacky.

This goes to show how the same words can have very different meanings to different people, depending on their cultural perspective. I'm sure the boy thought to himself "how could anyone think they were supposed to take that rhyme literally?", and the administrators were equally certain of themselves in thinking "how could anyone think you're not supposed to take that rhyme literally?"

Teen put back in school after 'terroristic' rap

Judge orders return after poem called threat got him suspended

Terry Carter might make Dunbar High's senior prom after all.

The 17-year-old student, banished from the school in February after reciting a rap poem deemed a "terroristic threat," was reinstated Tuesday by a federal judge who said the Fort Worth school district had violated his constitutional right to due process.

"I order that Terry Carter be returned to Dunbar High School tomorrow morning and be allowed to participate in all activities," Judge John McBryde ruled from the bench after a daylong hearing.

Attorneys for the school district said they are considering an appeal.

...When the decision was announced, Lee Robinson stormed out of the fourth-floor courtroom. It was his daughter, Allison, to whom Terry had referred in his poem.

"It was already decided before we came here today," Mr. Robinson said afterward. "This was already predetermined."

Allison, 18, appeared shaken but she vowed: "I'll still be valedictorian. If he tries to say anything to me, then we'll be right back where we are today."

The episode began in January when a teacher in Terry and Allison's theater-arts class allowed students a variety of ways to get extra credit. Terry, who was ranked sixth in the 186-member class, chose to do a rap poem.

In one stanza of the 16-verse poem, he said, "Allison #1, but I got myself a gun, ready to pull the trigger, for any gold digger."

Allison, who ranks first in the senior class, told the teacher that she felt threatened. Dunbar officials immediately suspended Terry. Later, at a school district hearing, he was assigned to an alternative school for 90 days, in effect for the remainder of the school term.

After an administrative appeal, Superintendent Thomas Tocco reduced the alternative school sentence to 10 days. But later, after meeting with Allison, her parents, Dunbar school officials and a community leader, Dr. Tocco decided that Terry should be transferred for Allison's "safety." He was eventually reassigned to Trimble Tech High School for the rest of the year.

...The suit said Dr. Tocco acted unfairly because he considered adverse information against Terry without informing the youngster, his family or Ms. Edmonds of the allegations or giving them a chance to respond.

...Dr. Tocco testified that after reducing the suspension to 10 days, Allison's parents asked him to consider harsher punishment. The superintendent said that after listening to them, however, he wasn't convinced.

They asked him to go to Dunbar the next day to talk to teachers and other school officials, and he agreed. While there, Dr. Tocco said, he initially didn't hear anything to make him change his mind until he spoke to two teachers who said they thought Terry might pose a threat to Allison if he was allowed to return to Dunbar.

The judge asked Dr. Tocco whether he informed Terry or Ms. Edmonds that he was considering information that was adverse to the youngster's case. Dr. Tocco said he did not.

Then Judge McBryde asked whether Terry or Ms. Edmonds had been given a chance to rebut the information the superintendent had been given.

"No," Dr. Tocco said, "because all of the information I needed from him I received when ... [Terry] denied that he threatened Ms. Robinson."

At one point, Dr. Tocco said he would have reversed Terry's punishment again and moved it back to 30 days at an alternative school, but he thought that doing so would have been tantamount to "double jeopardy"...

This Dr. Tocco is evidently not the brightest light on the christmas tree.

The judge should have just ordered the girl to do an answer record, and let them battle it out on the next Kay Slay mixtape.

Australia predicts White Rapper Epidemic

A little more of the rather quirky coverage Hip-Hop gets from down under:

Rap's white invasion

On last year's Eminem Show album, the world's most popular rapper rhymed a snide prediction: "A concept that works/20 million other white rappers emerge."

He may be off a bit in his maths, but Eminem's forecast of a white rap invasion seems to be coming true.

Thirteen years after the thawing of Vanilla Ice, and three years after Eminem himself became the most famous rapper in hip-hop history, a new wave of Caucasian emcees is swelling.

True, there have long been isolated pockets of palefaced rappers - from the Beastie Boys and Third Base to Bubba Sparxxx and Haystak. But the next few months will see the largest wave to date, including Stagga Lee, Poverty, K-Mo, DF Dub and the first white female rapper, Sarai (promoted by her label as Feminem)...

The first white female rapper? Don't you guys remember Tairrie B.?

April 24, 2003

Rising Stars of Korean Hip-Hop

A profile in The Korea Herald of their nation's top emcees, Drunken Tiger. I've heard these guys and they are actually decent, maybe I will put up an MP3 later. I'd say this article overplays the discrimination angle somewhat.

Tigers roar, who's listening?

Asian rappers have more than "8 Miles" to go to be successful in the United States and in Korea.
Drunken Tiger, Korea's best selling and most respected Korean-American rap group, would be an automatic candidate for a lifestyle of "bling-blings" (diamonds), Lexus SUVs and a crib in the Hamptons, much like such successful African-American rappers as P. Diddy and Nelly. But the members of Drunken Tiger - DJ Shine, Tiger JK and DJ Jhig - will have to wait, realistically several years, for hip-hop fans to accept a serious Korean rapper.

Hip-hop's ugly side, consisting of racism, stereotypes and prejudice, stands in their way of being played on radio stations across the United States. No other excuse explains it, given the band's credibility with East Coast legend Wu-Tang-Clan, who asked Drunken Tiger perform with them this summer...

Rumors of our Death...

I wrote this a few months ago, in response to a widely forwarded article proclaiming that hip-hop is dead or at least dying. I am reposting it here since j brotherlove, and many others, have wondered aloud whether this may truer that we care to admit.

I meant this to be a part 1, hopefully I will get around to a part 2 sometime.


Regarding the Bennu piece, "A Eulogy to Hip-Hop": there is some truth in what he says, and the issues he raises have caused me much frustration over the years. But to extrapolate from these trends that hip-hop is dead, I see as a gross overreaction.

Hip-Hop will never be what it once was, there's no getting around that. It began as a form of expression that was of us, for us, and by us in many ways that it will never be again. We watched it grow and bloom within our community, then saw it shift into the American mainstream, who now leases it to us with no option to buy (as a friend once put it). For those of us who saw this evolution and experienced both sides of it, Hip-Hop will never again mean to us what it once did.

From its birth in the 70's through much of the 80's, Hip-Hop was basically a self-contained entity within the community that created it. If you were an emcee stepping into the studio to make a record, your target audience was basically your own community.. you were one of us talking to us, and the value of your music came from how it resonated with our own shared experiences. There was no possibility of your song getting regular rotation on any radio station, or your video getting played anywhere but Ralph Mcdaniels' Video Music Box and local public access shows. No chance of your work being acknowledged by any such mainstream outlet, so you had no concern for making music to please those outside ears. All the criteria, all the parameters set for the expression came from within the community that created it. It was a means for us to communicate with ourselves.

But nowadays the playing field is completely different, and we have a completely different relationship with the music, both as producers and consumers. When someone steps into the studio now their success hinges on pleasing MTV, Clear Channel Radio, and the mainstream american consumers that these outlets have made hip-hop's primary audience. This audience is kids from outside of the community the music came from, who do not share the experiences that drive the music. As Mos Def says:

"The difference between '88 and '98 is that most of the people who were fans were also active in the culture in some way. In '88 you'd have kids watching Video Music Box in their living room, working out dance routines. That might seem real trivial, but that is a fan watching these videos to learn these dances created by people in their community, more likely than not, somebody that probably lived on their block. It was interactive. Now the average hip-hop fan is into hip-hop because they like watching somebody else live."

It's become much more of a spectator sport than a participant sport?

"Definitely. I mean, let's be real -- these white kids in the suburbs that buy their first Wu Tang record and lose their damn mind -- they could play an active part in the culture if they wanted to, but that's not why they bought that Wu Tang record. They bought that Wu Tang record to live out their fantasy of themselves as Raekwon or Ghost or Method or whoever. A lot of hip-hop nowadays seems like the primitive prototype for what virtual reality is going to be in the next few years -- live somebody else's life, feel somebody else's pain and frustration."

I don't feel the need to be as judgmental about those suburban white kids as Mos seems here, but the dynamic he describes is undeniably at play. In today's world the ideal hip-hop product is not one that rings true for those who shares the artists' experiences, but one that provides a vivid, cinematic fantasy for those who will never share the experiences conveyed. This has radically changed the creative process, or should I say the manufacturing process of hip-hop, much more than I think even most artists realize. We also touched on these issues in my interview with Q-Tip (click part 6).

So no, hip-hop is not what it once was, and that golden age will never return. And in the last decade that has been damn hard to accept, if you were around when it was still pure. But that being said, I thought the conclusions drawn in the Bennu piece were overblown.


Hopefully i'll get back to this sometime..

April 26, 2003

Jam Master Jay Case Remains Unsolved

This is disappointing but not surprising:

Hunt For Rap Legend's Killer Comes Up Empty

Nearly six months after the execution-style slaying of rap legend Jam Master Jay, the identity of the killer and the motive remain a mystery.

Detectives in Queens _ where the pre-eminent DJ and founding member of Run-DMC was killed on Oct. 30 _ call the case a top priority. The city and music industry notables have offered more than $60,000 in rewards for tips leading to an arrest.

"We're not at a standstill," said Lt. Alfred Murphy, a detective squad commander. "We're still hopeful."

But NYPD sources close to the case concede the investigation has been hampered by dead-end leads and uncooperative witnesses. "No one in that industry wants to be a rat," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity...

They go on to discuss the widespread rumors that the NYPD has a "hip-hop desk", permanently assigned to monitoring the hip-hop world. This program sounds eerily similar fo the FBI's Cointelpro operations, that focused on monitoring/infiltrating/destroying the Black activist movements of the 60's and 70's.

Bling Etymology

Someone should forward this article to the NY Times critic Ann Powers, who hilariously asserted that "bling-bling" was the slang term for shooting a gun:

It's all about the bling-bling

Elizabeth Taylor dripped it, and Liberace flaunted it. Carmela Soprano's a walking advertisement, and P. Diddy's real-life poster boy.

This year's Oscars consciously toned it down, while the "Ab Fab" girls giddily talked it up.

Now the Oxford English Dictionary is about to officially induct it into the lexicon.

"Bling-bling" -- America's latest verbal fling.

Unless you've been vacationing in Tibet, you've probably heard it a lot lately. The hip-hop expression bling-bling, or sometimes just bling, has been popping up everywhere -- television, radio, and newspapers -- spoken and written by folks who are several steps removed from pop culture's cutting edge.

Coined in 1999 in a same-named song by a New Orleans rapper named B.G., bling-bling applies to big showy jewelry -- the kind typified by razzle-dazzle designer Chris Aire that gets Lil' Kim's heart racing, sets off alarms at airports, and goes bling when it collides with other bling (hence the name).

"Bling-bling really became popular with me when Shaq and the Lakers were using the term for their championship rings" in 2001, says Californian Jeffrey "Halfshaq" Marino, who sells lots of bling online at -- one of several Web sites that revel in metallic excess. (Another,, for example, sells custom-made teeth in yellow gold, white gold, and platinum.)

If the sports world was quick to embrace the word, all of television is on a bling bender. CNN Headline News has been using "bling-bling" and other hip-hop terms in its headlines and graphics as part of what the network's general manager has called an aggressive attempt to stay "relevant, smarter and cooler" to a younger audience.

The cooler-than-thou term has clearly exploded into the unhip mainstream -- which is why it's headed for the dictionary.

"We're going to draft an entry, which we'll probably publish soon," says Jesse Sheidlower, principal editor of the OED's North American Editorial Unit, who says it will be added online (as all new entries are) and will probably include several senses of bling-bling as a verb, noun, and adjective. "We decide based on currency. In a case like bling-bling, it's very widespread..."

Although it is usually credited to BG, and he certainly popularized it and established its current meaning, I will point out that the phrase "bling bling" was heard long before his record came out. The first time I remember was Jesse West a.k.a. 3rd Eye, on Supercat's "Dolly My Baby" remix in 1993: "Bling, bling! yo who's that with Supercat..."

Tom Raftery and Michele Mcphee, please STFU

I'm sure you've all heard about the shooting of an obscure rapper known as Freaky Zeeky. Although I hope he recovers and my condolences go out to the family of his friend who died, I didn't really see this story as worth posting about.. it's getting more attention than it needs, to be frank.

However, I must comment on one line in the Daily News' coverage, yet another example of how all journalistic standards seem to evaporate when Hip-Hop is the subject:

Investigators do not believe yesterday's incident stemmed from an ongoing feud among rappers that heated up after last year's murder of rap pioneer Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC.


There has not been any "feud among rappers" that was related in any way to the murder of Jam Master Jay, that is completely fictional. Where the hell did you people get that from?

Is this based on some vague fragment of a memory that JMJ was affiliated with 50 Cent, and 50 Cent also has some sort of beef? None of 50's beef has even the most remote connection to the JMJ shooting, and even the NYPD seems to realize that.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that such a major publication would state as a fact something that has no connection with reality whatsoever. This happens all the time, and not only in hip-hop coverage. But it's still jaw-droppingly ignorant.

Especially considering that four writers are credited for this story: Tom Raftery, Michele Mcphee, Maki Becker, and Edward Barrera. It took four people to come up with this crap? Four people, and you still couldn't manage the most basic fact checking?

So to whichever member of this elite think tank provided that sentence: you really, really need to STFU. And I'm keeping my eye on the rest of y'all.

EDIT: If any of you read this, please don't try to cop out by telling us that technically you did not assert a cause-and-effect relationship between JMJ's death and the current wave of beef, when you said this beef "heated up after" his death. You did not explicitly state it but the implication is unmistakable, and if you did not mean to indicate such a connection your writing skills are severely lacking.

ADDENDUM, 10-1-03: In the interest of fairness I should mention I just got interviewed by Michele Mcphee in reference to the Matthew Hall tragedy, and at the very least she seemed sincere in her desire to report the story fairly and accurately.. Afterwards I remembered posting her name here, and looking at it now I may have been a bit harsh. But just a bit.

April 28, 2003

The Butcher Says This Beef is Not Kosher

My twin brother Jon at hiphop anonymous, posted this story about Kay Slay speaking out against beef, which is rather like Colonel Sanders speaking out against chicken. :

DJ Tells 50 Cent, Ja Rule: One More Dis Record, Then Quit It

When a war of words is becoming too dramatic for the Drama King himself, maybe the situation is getting out of hand.

"If you have some other drama, I ain't gonna front, I'mma hit it," DJ Kay Slay said during his "Double Drama Hour" show on New York's Hot 97. "But this beef in particular with Ja Rule and 50, this is it for me."

The rivalry between Ja Rule and 50 Cent recently elevated on Slay's show, and if the mixtape don has his way, it will end on his show.

Three weeks ago, Slay premiered Ja's freestyle, which the streets have dubbed "Loose Change." In it, Rule comes at the Shady/Aftermath camp, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Mo and manager Chris Lighty. A retaliation came the next week via the Em and 50 freestyle "Hail Mary." Last week the saga continued when Kay played a new Benzino dis record aimed at Shady/Aftermath along with Ja's latest abrasive retort, "Guess Who Shot Ya."

Now Slay is saying enough is enough.

"I'm putting it out there for them, have one [more record apiece] made and take it out that way," Slay suggested. "There's no other way. People are harboring feelings and they need to put everything they got to say and feel on one last record. Get everything out and then just keep it moving. How many more ways can Ja Rule dis 50? How many more things can 50 Cent say about Ja Rule? Most of them records kind of channel through me, and I feel like they need to cut it out now."

This reminds of how Richard Pryor said he knew he hit rock bottom when even his own dealer said he was doing too much coke, and refused to sell him any more.

(BTW, the co-writer of that article is one of my oldest friends in the "hip-hop industry", Minya Oh. We both wrote for The Source wayyyyy back in the day, when it was still respectable.)

NEW AUDIO: Mix from DJ 3D

I just posted a new mix from the mighty 3D in the Radio Show Archive. hope you enjoy!

By the way, that's 3D's picture on the right of our front page.

April 29, 2003

Steve Jobs Releases New Software, Discovers Eminem

Fortune Magazine has a very lengthy article on Steve Jobs' new attempt at an online music service, the "iTunes Music Store". My preliminary verdict: a noble effort, but any attempt to make people to pay for downloads will always end in disappointment.

Interesting stuff though, and there was one segment I especially enjoyed:

His adventures in the music business have led to other changes in Jobs' thinking. During the photo shoot with Sheryl Crow for this article, he acknowledged to the singer that he had never really understood what rap music was all about. But while playing with a prototype of the iTunes Music Store on his Mac at home in recent weeks, he had started downloading some of Eminem's tracks.

"You know, he really is a great poet," Crow said.

To which Steve replied, "Yeah, he's starting to kind of grow on me."

I don't really have anything to say about that quote, but it amuses me.

NY's Hip-Hop Radio War: Are there Winners or Losers?

I'm sure both of the corporate media conglomerates involved in this "battle" are doing just fine, but is the audience getting any benefit from this competition? Honestly I almost never listen to either station, so maybe those of you from NY can tell me, has their been any change in the quality and diversity of their playlists?

Hip-hop turf makes room for a new player

It's been a year since WWPR (105.1 FM) sauntered into town to start a hip-hop turf war with WQHT (97.1 FM) - and both sides say they're winners.
Moreover, they can both be right.

"There isn't just one size pie," explains program director Vinny Brown of WBLS (107.5 FM), which is also a player in hip-hop radio. "When another station comes in, the pie can get bigger."

In the January-March quarter of 2002, WQHT and WBLS between them averaged 10.3% of the city audience. In January-March this year, WQHT, WWPR and WBLS combined to average 12.6%.

Between WQHT and WWPR, which compete directly for the younger hip-hop core while WBLS mixes in more R&B, WQHT (Hot-97) has a clear lead.

Hot-97 is second overall in the city, averaging 5.1% of all listeners. WWPR (Power-105) is seventh, averaging 3.8%. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, Hot-97 is first with 10.2% and Power-105 third at 6.9%.

Last summer, the stations were almost tied. Since then Hot-97 has pulled ahead and while it is down from 6.1% a year ago to its 5.1% today, it has been moving up lately.

"What happened is exactly what I predicted," says Tracy Cloherty, WQHT program director. "They got some early sampling, then they fell back and we stayed right where we were - number one."

Even more gratifying, WQHT is now one of the top 10 stations in the country for ad revenue, suggesting Madison Avenue now sees hip-hop fans as a broad audience, not a bunch of wise-guy kids.

Advertising revenue is a big reason that Michael Saunders, program director of WWPR, says he, too, is a happy man.

"Our ratings are about what we projected," says Saunders. "We have a solid core and we're pleased. But our ad revenue has already exceeded our expectations."

From parent Clear Channel's perspective, Power-105 is an even bigger hit, because its ratings exceed those of WTJM (Jammin'), which it replaced last year.

But just in terms of hip-hop, Saunders says the last year was good for everyone. "It has invigorated the stations," he says. "And when that happens, the listeners win. I also think it shows the whole hip-hop world you can have a strong competition without bloodshed..."

Is Something Wrong With This Picture?

A visitor just brought to my attention that there is a website named, which describes itself as representing "rap's silent majority".

Upon first glance, I'm not sure how i feel about this site. My initial reaction is to find it a little weird and creepy. But is there any concrete reason to be disturbed or offended? What do you guys think? It's evidently not very well-maintained, more than half of the links seem to be broken..but besides that, what's your verdict?

April 30, 2003

Hip-Hop's First References to Poetry

A while ago the esteemed okayplayer drapetomaniac asked me to identify Hip-Hop's earliest allusions to poetry.

Nautrally the BDP classic "Poetry" came to mind immediately, from possibly the greatest hip-hop album ever "Criminal Minded". But surely someone before KRS must have made the obvious connection between emceeing and poetry? I'm almost certain an earlier reference must exist, but so far I haven't been able to remember it or google it.

Around the same time as "Poetry" we heard Rakim declare himself a "melody arranger, poet, etc." on "Check Out My Melody", and soon after that he coined his oft-quoted definition of rap as "rhythm and poetry" on "Follow the Leader". Also in 1987, LL told us he was a "poetry technician" on the less than memorable (yes, I googled this one) "Clap Ya Hands", from his third album "Walking With a Panther". Then there's always Guru's "a poet like Langston Hughes and can't lose" on DWYCK.

And who could forget the late 80's appearance of a rapper named MC Poet, a Juice Crew affiliate who joined in their ongoing feud with Boogie Down Productions by dropping two anti-KRS anthems, "Beat You Down" and "Takin You Out". KRS then effectively derailed MC Poet's career with his brutal response on the Numero Uno remix of "I'm Still Number 1" (which was also notable as one of the first hip-hop records to incorporate a salsa sample, in the form of the Symphony Sid Theme). Poet made a brief comeback in the 90's as part of a group named PHD, then resurfaced once again as a member of Screwball. But much like Frederic Weis will forever be inextricably linked to Vince Carter, Poet will always be best known as guy who got dunked on by KRS.

But all this just leaves us back where we started, at BDP's "Poetry". Is this possible? There were so many rhymes spit by so many old school crews: Cold Crush, the Crash Crew, The Treacherous 3, the various Fours (Funky and Fearless), the numerous Fives (Furious and Fantastic-Romantic)... surely somewhere in these early days there must be a reference to poetry? But I can't think of it. Maybe somebody can help me out.

May 1, 2003

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

Yes, Jon is right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Speaking of Poetry

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

Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?

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

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

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

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

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

May 2, 2003

Improve Your Memory Through Hip-Hop

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

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

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

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

Am I the only person who does this?

Update on the Murder Inc. Investigation

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

Affidavit: Drug Money Backed Murder Inc.

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

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

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

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

Ooh, the Dew-Dew Man..

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

Prince Paul Battles the Hip-Hop Robots

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

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

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

The Official Documents from the Murder Inc. Case

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

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

May 3, 2003

Ja Rule's Bad Spelling is a Defense Strategy?

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

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

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

May 4, 2003

Photos: The Anomolies on the Railroad

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

click on a thumbnail for the full-size image:

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

May 5, 2003

Pro Gay=Mo' Pay?

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

Gay-tolerant societies prosper economically

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

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

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

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

Quality Returns to New York Hip-Hop Radio

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

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

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

Harvard Takes on Tupac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 6, 2003

Flash is Fast, Flash is Cool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Court Weighs in on "Back That Azz Up"

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

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

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

Rapper Juvenile bests Jubilee in court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Theory According to Anticon

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

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

Anticonservative Sounds

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

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

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

May 7, 2003

More Hip-Hop Litigation

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

$132M awarded in Ja Rule dispute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2003

50 Cent: Next Face on Mount Rushmore?

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

A real American hero

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

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

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

Suge Knight's Selective Thuggery

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

From: Jay Smooth To: '' Subject: Snoop and Suge Knight

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay Smooth, WBAI

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

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

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

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

Godfather of Gangsta

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Russell Simmons vs. Rockefeller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2003

Fabolous and Freeway Do Their Little Turn on the Catwalk

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

New Thugs on the Block

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

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

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

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

MF Grimm Released from Prison

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

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

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

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

May 12, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Anomolies Live Performance

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

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

May 13, 2003

Outkast vs. Rosa Parks, Round 2

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

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

Rosa Parks Trumps "Rosa Parks"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click on each image to see the full size photo

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

May 14, 2003

Fear and Loathing in the Mosh Pit

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 19, 2003

Malcolm X transcript Discovered by Columbia

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

1963: When Malcolm X Visited the Journalism School

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

Download the complete transcript here.

Platinum Goes Aluminum

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

Platinum Gets Cancelled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2003

Is There Room for Right-Wing Rappers?

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

Ugly Duckling's Politics Are Even Uglier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 21, 2003

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

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

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

May 31, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Rare Funk and Breaks from DJ Oneman

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

June 1, 2003

Check Your Principles at the Door

I've done a little bit of freelance music writing over the years (in Vibe, The Source and XXL), and this column gives some idea why I never did more than a little bit. I think JR Taylor's tone is a little unfair to the subject, who is just being real about the world she works in, but the picture painted here isn't far from the truth. If anything, the reality is even worse than this, in the world of "Hip-Hop journalism" at least.

It doesn’t take much for a professional music journalist to tell the truth. About $65, in fact.

I’ve seen the future of rock ‘n roll, and it is Brooklyn’s Mink Lungs...

Caitlin Cary’s second album makes a perfect soundtrack for the sorts of days evoked on the languid, unhurried "Sleepin’ In on Sunday"...

Mix a half-cup of Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen, two tablespoons Ron Sexsmith and one quart Neutral Milk Hotel. Stir counterclockwise, and you have a serviceable description of Castaways and Cutouts...

Such is the state of modern music journalism. Such is the lack of inspiration and opinion. Even in the service of minor bands, writers desperately churn out meaningless hype, sad cliches and vapid non-opinion toward two goals: pleasing the publicists and allowing the writer to blather on about more useless acts in the future.

Though I offer this statement as fact, you needn’t accept my humble, free opinion. For $65, a successful music journalist named Shirley Halperin was willing to help aspiring hacks at her May 15 MediaBistro seminar, "Almost Famous: Breaking Into Freelance Music Journalism."

What's more, Halperin takes pride in knowing the truth about her profession...

..."Seventy to 80 percent of the time, you’ll be writing about artists you don’t like."

This could actually be construed as good news. Somebody, after all, has to note that N.E.R.D. is getting critical acclaim for ripping off bands like Styx and Slipknot. And why is Aimee Mann only now discovering that moths can get burned by a flame?

Sadly, Halperin doesn’t seem to understand that writers—even those with a "passion for music"—can express negative thoughts. We will find ourselves writing positive things about artists we don’t like, she informs us. For all intents and purposes, Halperin is warning that 70 to 80 percent of the time, we will be expected to tell lies...

..."How many of you," she then asks, "if you hated the band ethically and morally, wouldn’t write about the band?"

Two people raise their hands.

"You have to learn how to temper your reaction," she explains. "They don’t want to hear [deep sigh]. They want to hear ‘Cool!’ ‘Great!’ ‘Awesome!’"

Besides, Halperin adds, you can always express your disdain for the band "after the article’s been edited and published."

Halperin also warns us about all the trouble that comes with having an opinion. She cites Spin’s hard lesson after they put Creed on their cover, accompanied by an article that mainly goofed on the popular band. She wants us to consider the long months spent trying to placate the publicists afterwards: "Half of your year has been spent thinking and analyzing about how to get out of this mess with this band… It just becomes a mess that takes up half your life. So, that’s that."

As noted, Halperin’s seminar does some good. There’s some occasional useful advice, like her suggestion not to ask predictable questions. Halperin even suggests that it’s okay to sometimes print controversial news about a popular band—that is, once you’re sure that the band’s publicist represents so many bands that he or she "has to work with you."

Most importantly, Halperin does an excellent job of representing the banality of modern music journalism. She is the true face of pandering, and is completely honest about how well this serves her. It would take a lot less than three hours for her to convince anyone with integrity to walk away from the business, and I would’ve paid a lot more than $65 to be talked out of this business back when I was younger.

June 2, 2003

Regarding Hip-Hop Blasphemy

A post in this fresh young blog speaks of "Hip-Hop Blasphemy". He throws a bunch of different ideas out there, and I'm not going to touch most of them right now. But I will say that Hip-Hop's fundamentalist sect has been a concern of mine for quite a while. Some of us have been taught to enforce such a rigid orthodoxy that we risk stifling growth in the name of upholding traditions.

The most common example is the Gospel of the Four Elements. Personally I do not subscribe to this, partly because graffiti was a distinct culture of its own before Hip-Hop was born, so I wonder whether it is fair or accurate to classify it as a subset of Hip-Hop. On the other hand, I'm all in favor of celebrating the great contributions that writers and b-boys/girls have made to the culture, and ensuring they are not forgotten just because they couldn't be commodified as effectively as the music. So I suppose this bit of dogma is fairly benign. But it gets a little silly when folks come at you like "thou shalt love and cherish each of these four pillars with equal fervor, or be subject to stoning". If you have a passion for the music you should feel welcome to express that without fear of being chastised cuz you don't know Taki 183's birthday.

Other strains of Hip-Hop's fundamentalism may be more troublesome. My least favorite trend of recent years is how the term "freestyle" has been redefined as referring only to rhyming off-the-top, which has led to a vehement (and IMO irrational) disdain for performing written rhymes in any cypher or live venue. I believe this mindset is entirely misguided, and can be terribly unhealthy for the art form. I'm sure I'll get deeper into that in a future post.

I think this strict constructionism is often a product of insecurity, especially among younger heads who weren't around for Hip-Hop's early days or the Golden Age of '85 to '91 (or thereabouts). Without these credentials they need a concrete list of rules to which they can conform, and thus reassure themselves that they are "real" or "true". Which isn't necessarily a bad thing I suppose. There's nothing wrong with putting together a system that helps you maintain a sense of tradition.

But you've got to keep it in perspective. A system of law should serve to protect your freedom, rather than take it away.

June 3, 2003

Dead Prez Dropped by Columbia

In a solid new interview on, Dead Prez reveal that they've been kicked to the curb by Columbia Records, who will not be releasing their completed sophomore album:

dead prez: Plantation Life

Fans have anxiously awaited an album release from internationally acclaimed rap duo, dead prez, for several, painful months. While it has already garnered stellar reviews sources at Columbia Records have revealed (off the record) that dead prez was no longer on its payroll. The group was allegedly dropped according to unofficial reports as a result of what was deemed “as poor projection of sales.”

The politically charged group's debut Let's Get Free, moved approximately 300,000 copies in the United States. Execs were apparently concerned about the upcoming project, despite already being completed.

In an interview prior to the disappointing, but not surprising news, M-1 likens industry life to plantation life and explains why they "stic" with it. when you and stic first started looking for a deal who did you reach out to and what was your experience?

M-1: We had a few friends that gave us some names and numbers because in the beginning we didn't know all the names and titles of those people at the labels. Then we started calling people and going up in the offices like you need to see us. We approached Russell a few times up in the elevator and his words to us were. ' Y'all need to stop cursing so much.' Cause he knew…he knew we was cursing at the government. He could get with DMX but he couldn't get with us cause he knew our intentions were different. We tried to get with this lady at Columbia but at the time she took a little too long so we went to Steve Rifkin's office at Loud Records. They had a good rep in the streets.

AllHipHop: What was your experience with Loud?

M-1: We were on Loud for 6 years. Four of those years were spent without releasing our first album, Let's Get Free even though it was ready to go. We saw Big Pun come, we saw Wu-Tang come with albums, we saw a lot happen while we was just sittin. Then, Loud started going through a lot of changes with its distributors we were caught in the middle. Every time they switched distributors, our release date was pushed back. Because once the distribution changed, the partners changed and the company began a new relationship in dealing with the money exchange. Those distributors were the beneficiaries who bankrolled what would happen to Loud Records, the backers. How the checks got cut, new deadlines were set, everything would change each time. That's why it took four years until we finally saw Sony.

AllHipHop: What happened when Loud finally folded?

M-1: Once Loud became unable to keep up with Sony's high standard to put out the kind of records that it sells for the 40 million dollar per year entity that it is. I mean you really have to do a lot of platinum to keep up with that and Loud Records was not a powerhouse platinum label like a Def Jam. For the most part their artists had a cult following but they needed that attention paid but they wanted Mariah Careys. Eventually, that worked to the detriment of Loud because eventually their departments became swallowed up as they couldn't produce. Loud itself fell into Sony companies, dissolved it and sold it to different parts. That's how we ended up on Columbia.

AllHipHop: Was that your choice? Did you have any say so?

M-1: Oh hell no. Hell no. I would have been free. We tried to run from the plantation. We saw the plantation was burning down we was trying to escape in the middle of the night. Ol' dude was standing in the corner and snatched us up when we were trying to sneak into the woods and took us to the next plantation.

AllHipHop: same shit different day, huh?

M-1: That's my total analogy. For anybody that can't understand that I don't know how to get it through any clearer than that. We were sold like slaves in the middle of the night...

June 4, 2003

Roc-A-Fella vs. Rockefeller

Russell Simmons organized another rally against New York's atrocious Rockefeller drug laws today, and brought out a bunch of his a-list friends. I've got to give Russell credit where it's due, his forays into the political arena have sometimes struck me as self-serving but this one is certainly for a good cause.

With the powers that be claiming to be sympathetic but mysteriously failing to act upon this sentiment, maybe Russell's media savvy can help tip the scales and make something happen here...especially if we the people make our voices heard and show them this is not just the latest celebrity be-in. On that note, I should give a shoutout to The Kunstler Fund, who were on the front lines of this battle long before Russell brought it into the limelight.

Diddy, Jay-Z, Susan Sarandon Rally Against New York Drug Laws

Russell Simmons and friends such as Susan Sarandon, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Fat Joe, Tim Robbins, Dead Prez and Dame Dash made their voices heard Wednesday (June 4) at City Hall, where they rallied against New York state's strict drug sentencing laws.

"When I was younger, I would see kids get caught with an ounce [of narcotics] and do 10, 15 years," Dash said. "I never understood that. I don't think they deserve 10, 15 years. There's a lot of other things that need to be addressed at that time to make the person a better individual and make them evolve as a better human being, rather than come out [of jail] bitter."

"The laws aren't fair," said Jay-Z as he made his way to the stage. "I personally know a lot of people that's locked up unjustly and unfairly. [The MCs] have got the streets, so we gotta come out here and show our support, our strong voice."

Diddy said rappers should pay especially close attention to the state's Rockefeller drug laws — enacted in 1973 when Nelson Rockefeller was governor — because of the enormous impact they've had on the hip-hop community.

"This law has affected hip-hop, our families, our friends, our future," Diddy said backstage. "Ninety-six percent of the people incarcerated by this law are minorities. It's one of the most unjust laws in history...

June 5, 2003

Maybe they had just rented the Belly DVD

This review of Tuesday's Summer Jam concert has a tasty tidbit at the end:

Some low points during the evening were Nelly and the St. Lunatics being booed during their performance of "Dilemma" and a chorus of boos when Nas performed a verse from his Jay-Z diss record "Ether."

The first part is certainly understandable, but why was Nas booed for doing Ether? Has public opinion swayed back towards Jay Z's corner? Or maybe people are just generally tired of beef?

June 6, 2003

Upcoming Hip-Hop Events in NY

Here are a couple of noteworthy events coming up this weekend..

On monday:

Cuban Hip Hop Groups Join The Roots In A Historic Concert At The Apollo Theater

The Fourth Annual Hip Hop Theater Festival, The International Hip Hop
Exchange, The Apollo Theater Foundation and present:
Monday, June 9th, 2003 @ 8 pm

In its continuing effort to promote cultural exchange, The Hip Hop Theater Festival and The International Hip Hop Exchange will unite Cuba's leading Hip Hop groups, Doble Filo and Obsesion with America's leading politically and socially conscious Hip Hop artists: The Roots, Common, Tony Touch, Soul Live w/J-Live, Kanye West, El Meswy and Tomorrowz Weaponz with other special guests.

and coming up tomorrow:


12 Noon-8PM (DOORS OPEN AT 11:30AM)

490 Riverside Drive
between 120th and 122nd Streets
New York City

Moderated by DAVEY D



TONI BLACKMAN, Emcee, U.S. hiphop ambassador

SWAY CALLOWAY, MTV News reporter/veejay, radio personality

REBECCA FABIANO, Director of After-School in Lincoln Square at
Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Campus

BABA ISRAEL, Beatboxer, emcee, and educator at The Door and with Urban Word

DJ KAYSLAY, Legendary graffiti writer formerly known as "Dez," popuar mixtape deejay, Hot 97 radio personality, SONY recording artist

DJ KUTTIN KANDI, Turntablist, member of DJ team champions the 5th Platoon and all female hiphop group Anomolies, and the first female DJ to make it to the DMC USA Finals (1998)

JORGE "FABEL" PABON, Hiphop pioneer, Senior Vice-President, Rock Steady Crew, and hiphop historian

KEVIN POWELL, Community activist, writer, public speaker, and cofounder of Hiphop Speaks

FATIMA ROBINSON, Award-winning hiphop choreographer

ROKAFELLA, Bgirl, choreographer, cofounder of Full Circle Productions

Plus, a Conversation With The Elders....

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA, A founding father of hiphop, creator of the Universal Zulu Nation, and mastermind behind Hiphop History Month (November)

ERNIE PANICCIOLI, legendary hiphop photographer, historian, author of Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hiphop Photography (Amistad/HarperCollins)

CAMILLE YARBROUGH, Poetess, soul singer, actress/dancer, award-winning author of four children's books

Moderated by THEMBISA MSHAKA, SONY advertising executive, former Gavin Rap Editor, and author of the forthcoming book Handle Your (Music) Business (a resource guide for women in the music industry)

On the 1s and 2s: DJ

Admission is FREE and seating will be on a first-come first-serve basis.

If You Can't Shizzle, You Must Acquizzle

I've discussed in earlier posts how our court system may not understand the inner workings and the particular moral/ethical boundaries of Hip-Hop culture well enough to make a fair judgement in the many lawsuits filed within the industry.

Looks like this British judge had similar concerns, more or less:

Judge fails to unravel rap lyrics

A high court judge did his best to get to grips with the lyrics of a rap song - and came to the conclusion that he really couldn't understand a word of it.
Mr Justice Lewison was faced with the task of deciding whether the composer Andrew Alcee had suffered damage to his honour or reputation through the "derogatory" use of his UK garage No 1 hit Burnin.

Mr Alcee complained under the Copyright Act that Burnin, released as a single by the concept group Ant'ill Mob, had been distorted or mutilated by its use as backing for a rap by Heartless Crew, which contained references to drugs and violence.

The judge said the claim "led to the faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs [himself and the two barristers in the case] examining the meaning of such phrases as 'mish mish man' and 'shizzle my nizzle'."

In any event, the words, although in a form of English, were "for practical purposes a foreign language" and he had no expert evidence as to what they meant...

thanks to Hadiya for the link.

June 7, 2003

Stagolee (Re)Revisited

About a month ago I posted an excerpt from Cecil Brown's new book "Stagolee Shot Billy". Todd Boyd reviews the book in today's NY Times, and he's not too impressed.

I'm pasting in the entire article since the NY Times decided to start making links unavailable for free after 1 week. (Although given recent circumstances it's easier to understand why they want their older material hard to access).

Is Stagolee's Stetson Like a Rapper's Baggy Pants?


Stagolee has been immortalized in song for years by Ma Rainey, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and the Clash. As the legend goes, Stag Lee Shelton shot a man in 1895 named Billy Lyons in a barroom brawl in St. Louis because Lyons touched Stagolee's immaculate Stetson hat.

To Cecil Brown, a novelist who heard the story while growing up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina in the late 1950's, "Stagolee is a metaphor that structures the life of black males from childhood through maturity." The very name, he writes, "is an in-group catchword conveying knowledge of what it means to be a black man."

In "Stagolee Shot Billy," Mr. Brown sets out to trace the Stagolee legend and explain how it still resonates today. In his eyes, Stagolee is the forefather for what in hip-hop is often referred to as an "O.G." or "original gangsta," a direct link for gangsta rappers with their gun-toting, womanizing and utterly nihilistic ways.

Yet if Stagolee is this important, why is it that no one born after the assassination of Malcolm X, much less someone born into the hip-hop generation, has much knowledge of this supposedly transcendent archetype?

Mr. Brown's personal passion for the legend comes through in the pages of his book, and his skills as a novelist shine most brightly when he relates the details of Stagolee's life. But that passion seems to have also clouded his judgment of the Stagolee character's importance, especially its significance to contemporary culture.

Sure, it is easy to say that all of black masculinity owes a debt to Stagolee in the same way that one could argue that contemporary Hollywood movies are really updated Greek tragedies. But Stagolee, a legend of oral culture, is about as relevant in today's mass-media-dominated digital age as a horse-and-carriage on a crowded Los Angeles freeway during rush hour.

It is interesting how both haters and defenders often try to link hip-hop — the prevailing popular-music form of the late 20th and early 21st century — to older black music. The haters make the link to minimize its cultural impact by portraying it as a copy, not an original, the defenders to argue for its acceptability as an updated African-American folklore with beats and rhymes.

Yet if anything, hip-hop is indebted to more recent cultural products. Tony Montana, the Cuban drug lord in the 1983 film "Scarface," in all his excesses, has much more impact on the mind-set of hip-hop gangstas than does a figure like Stagolee. So does Christopher Walken's living embodiment of Norman Mailer's "white Negro" in his portrayal of the character Frank White in the 1990 cult classic "The King of New York." Neither of these characters are African-American, but many hip-hop gangsta figures have been able to appropriate their imagery and make it specific to their own circumstances.

Alas, Mr. Brown's attempts to analyze contemporary culture often come across like Bill Cosby trying to do Chris Rock. This shortcoming is most apparent when Mr. Brown tries to equate Stagolee's life as a pimp with the use of the pimp metaphor in present day hip-hop culture. Relying on the work of the historian Robin D. G. Kelley, Mr. Brown writes, "It is difficult to understand the reason for recent glamorizations of the pimp's image without also looking at the origin of the pimp in the 1890's in cities like St. Louis."

What is missing here, though, is a discussion of the way the culture of pimping offered a certain power to those engaged in the practice. The pimp or mack functions like the Mafia don in Italian-American culture. This character is a cipher that helps critique mainstream capitalism while also affirming it in a most extreme fashion. One need only check out Iceberg Slim's novel "Pimp," the 1973 film "The Mack" or the Hughes brothers masterly documentary "American Pimp" (1999) to find a sustained counterargument to both Mr. Brown's and Mr. Kelley's weak analysis.

Mr. Brown also misunderstands the style of hip-hop, writing, "In the 1890's, the Stetson became a symbol of black male status; in the late 1990's, baggy pants became a signifier of status."

First of all, the baggy pants, or saggin, as it is called, originated with prisoners, who were not given belts, so their pants sagged. In addition, many hip-hop-inspired fashion labels, starting with Cross Colors and Karl Kani and now with Sean John and Rocawear, began making strides in the marketplace and culture by designing jeans cut specifically for blacks. (Other labels designed for whites were often too tight, so people bought them several sizes too big to fit better.) This style was never about status in the way a Stetson hat was or a Gucci hat is now. Instead, it could be read as hip-hop's ability to redefine the culture around it.

Blacks were not being manipulated by the culture, as Mr. Brown suggests, but rather transforming it.

Stagolee and the more mainstream character of Uncle Remus are often part of nostalgia for the kind of Southern existence that can be found in guided tours of former slave plantations, and they have become quite popular. It is this nostalgia that seems to drive Cecil Brown and his attempt to resurrect a long dead icon from a forgotten era. But while the history of Stagolee, both real and imagined, is useful, the application of his aura falls short when trying to ascertain the meaning of someone like 50 Cent and his restoration of the gangsta aesthetic in the present.

June 9, 2003

Cuban Hip-Hop Comes to Harlem

This week we were greatly honored to have two of Cuba's foremost hip-hop groups represented on the radio show, Doble Filo and Obsesion. It was sweet meeting these young guys with such a great energy, representing a hip-Hop subculture that thrives despite the many obstacles in its path, lack of resources, and little chance of fame or fortune. In other words, a place where people live hip-hop for the love of it, like it used to be over here.

I'm on my way to see those guys perform at the Apollo tonite, with the Roots backing them up. I'll make a more complete post with pictures and audio later, but for now you can check out Jon's comments at, since he was also in the house on Saturday.

June 10, 2003

What is Hip-Hop Activism?

Politicians and media folks love to play with our heads by making up new slang. The government will concoct a certain word or phrase and then repeat it again and again, every time they get in front of a microphone. They never really explain where it came from, or what exactly it means, but by sheer power of repetition they get the media to pick it up and join in the chorus, beating it into our heads every time we watch tv or read (surf) the paper. Pretty soon we are all swallowing their slang and regurgitating without a second thought.

Like when America decided Manuel Noriega was no longer a useful partner in crime, we started calling him a "strongman" every night on the news. Pretty soon whenever reporters talked about him he was Panamanian Strongman Manuel Noriega, and it seemed like none of us ever thought to ask "wait, what the hell is a 'strongman' anyway? And how come nobody called him that until 4 months ago?"

They do this because they know that by controlling the language used to discuss an issue they can shape the way that issue is delivered to the public, shape the direction and the boundaries of debate on that issue.

So I always try to pay close attention to language, and I'm always concerned when people start repeating a phrase over and over without establishing a definition for it, and confirming that what it describes is something that actually exists.

Lately I've been seeing the phrase "Hip-Hop Activism" thrown around a quite a bit, but I'm never clear on what exactly it's supposed to mean, and if there really is such a thing. It certainly sounds nice, but I don't want to slack on my critical thinking just cuz the propaganda is coming from our side and I'm sympathetic to the cause.

So when I see pieces like this one below, I always wind up yelling at the screen "But what the hell is Hip-Hop Activism?" ..does this describe any action carried out by the "Hip-Hop Generation"? Does it mean activities led by actual Hip-Hop artists or industry figures? Are there certain Hip-Hop tactics that must be employed for an activity to qualify as Hip-Hop Activism, just as Hip-Hop fashion requires wearing certain clothes, and Hip-Hop music requires certain musical elements? Just what are we talking about exactly?

Hip Hop Activism Buds Beautifully

Harry Belafonte stated to me in an interview that entertainers have the responsibility to speak out on issues concerning the community. He also said that entertainers are so often used to take people's minds off real issues and that entertainers who do not act are part of the problem. In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Mean Street Theater," written by John McWhorter, he called social and political contributions to the community made by rapper's "sideline donations." About the recently slain rap artist Camoflauge, McWhorter writes, "Despite his searingly profane, violent lyrics, [he] was regularly invited to speak at Savannah high schools." This article could have been more appropriately titled, "Mean Muggin' Hip Hop."

There's more. The article went on to run off other artists, i.e. Tupac, Biggie, and Jam Master Jay as products of the genre. Never mind the failings of law enforcement who have yet to find the killers of any of these men. But, they could find any small-time hustlers in the hood and lock them up for years and years for a nonviolent offense, i.e. drug possession.

This brings me to the most appealing part of the piece. While the author gave credit to Russell Simmons' Hip Hop Action Network for setting a goal to register millions of hip hop voters for the 2004 elections, he asked a poignant question. "What does the organization want the hip-hop generation to vote for?" If for nothing else, his article should have been printed for this query.

It is true that Hip Hop has to have a political issue or issues to mobilize around. And we got issues; no doubt about that. Well, Russell Simmons, P Diddy, Jay Z and many other hip hoppers are right on point in their effort to address what should be the number one issue to focus hip hop activism – fighting against the failed war on drugs. These celebrities are doing exactly what Mr. Belafonte says is expected of them.

This is a perfect issue for hip hop activism because the lives affected the greatest are in the same communities that Hip Hop most represents. In addition, the unchecked drug war is now devastating lives in white communities as well. But what makes this an even greater issue for the hip hop generation is the fact that it is The Issue of our time...

...Hip Hop is coming into political maturity and can work to change some of the realities that are reported so vividly in rap lyrics. It is so fascinating how music has always been a part of social action in the black community. During slavery, coded songs were used to take persons to freedom. In the civil rights movement, marchers sang songs like, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round." Now, there is an entire genre that is budding into full political awareness. How beautiful. And, it does not look like a mere "sideline donation" to me.

I'm sympathetic to where this guy's coming from, and all in favor of organizing against America's bonehead drug policies. But I'm not sold on this assumption that there exists a particular entity or tradition we can accurately label Hip-hop Activism. And I'm damn sure not sold on the assumptions drawn about it here, based mostly on the Russell Simmons Celebrity Be-In: "Hip Hop is coming into political maturity" it really? "Now, there is an entire genre that is budding into full political awareness" there? What does that even mean?

Clyde's Hip-Hop Theater Festival

Today's Newsday profiles Clyde Valentin, a cool brother who accompanied the Cuban emcees up to my show on Saturday, and also runs the Hip-Hop Theater Festival, taking place here in New York for the rest of the week. I'm gonna do my best to catch some of it and I encourage y'all to do the same.

Of Hip-Hop, Doo-Rags and Free Expression

"...What we're doing here is reclaiming what is the truest, most ancient form of cultural expression. And that is the inherent magical combination of the audience and the storyteller," said Clyde Valentin, co-founder of the 3-year-old Hip-Hop Theater Festival, whose Manhattan run extends through Saturday at P.S. 122 Theater (First Avenue at Ninth Street) and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E. Third St.). The collection of 30 performances includes instrumentation, rap, song and dance, performance poetry, plays, public dialogue on topical issues, some street theater moved indoors, B-boy choreography from a guy whose movement is based on primal instinct and bits of his more formal training.

Valentin has produced, marketed and, with the others who round out the festival's staff, provided context for the days' events. He is 31 and, on the second day of the festival, had a bandana draped around his head. He was weaned on hip-hop, he said, disavowed drugs when he was real young because his mother and father delivered the finest, up-close examples of why one should never touch the murderous stuff.

He left his native Brooklyn to study literature/rhetoric and sociology at Binghamton University, returning home to spend a few years publishing a magazine devoted to hip-hop thought. Somewhere along the line, his father died from AIDS. "My uncle and half of his friends, too," Valentin said.

That pain informs his work. And the broadest work of hip-hop cannot be constrained by those unfamiliar with what is at hip-hop's core, Valentin intimated. It is more than the gangland, sex-obsessed, name-calling stylings that keep a handful in the record business, raking in more money than they've rightly earned, and brings suburban kids, at the sight of idolized 50 Cent, to tears. He has been shot, stabbed, done some dirty-dealing, too, and bankrolls his rapper's account of that life.

"Rise up!" "Resist!" "Build." Those words are pasted across the poster advertising the current festival. Valentin hesitates to call it an underground endeavor. The lineup of its Unity Concert last night uptown at the Apollo was, after all, to feature The Roots, a politicized crew with enough notoriety to be recognized by one completely unqualified to claim hip-hop membership. One for whom the mere sight of a doo-rag elicits an adverse and visceral reaction, something akin to fear and loathing.

Valentin does not seize the chance to enumerate some in the wealth of wrongs inherent in the strain of hip-hop that so dominates the commercial markets. He will agree that it is, in part, angry and uninspiring, a bottomless rehashing of ghetto tales that never call upon people behaving badly to simply cut it out.

"This is an alternative but it's not a reaction to what exists. It's being proactive," Valentin said. "This space exists. That space exists. It's about creating more spaces like this."

I wouldn't agree that popular emcees with negative messages are getting "more money than they've rightly earned".. if people want to spend money on the art you created, you deserve to get that money. But anyway, I'm glad Clyde and his festival are getting some love.

June 11, 2003

Activists Warn Russell Not to Rush

In my previous posts that gave props to Russell Simmons for his recent protests against the Rockefeller drug laws, I've made a point to acknowledge the other folks who were fighting this fight long before Russell joined in, such as Drop the Rock and the Kunstler Fund. Well it turns out there is some tension between those groups and Russell's people, disagreement over who should speak for this movement and what path it should take, according to the Village Voice:

Movement Hijacked by Hiphop?

...There is a sense that the momentum gained by ties to the hiphop community has eclipsed the activists who were the movement's catalysts. More importantly, activists are worried that lawmakers will just offer the new negotiators the same compromise deals that have been rejected in the past. The assembly has already presented the same legislation offered last year; Gangi called it old wine in a new bottle.

"I think that there is a concern," said Gangi, "that out of this momentum could come a 'deal' or 'compromise' that is very limited and that would be worse than no deal at all; that the governor and the legislative leaders will use the cover of Simmons's intervention to come up with a half-baked compromise that doesn't really advance the cause."

Simmons says that he is not alone in the negotiations, and progress is being made: "Deborah Small is doing negotiation. She's been working on this for many years. She's committed to closing. I'm committed to closing. We have a draft of something that we are going to circulate from the governor," said Simmons. "A lot of people are calling it a jailbreak or saying what they want to say about it, and there are other people who are saying that it's too much of a compromise, but I'm a deal maker and I want to make a deal."

But it is just this rush on Simmons's part to make a deal that has activists fearful. "There's a mixed message out there," said Credico. "Someone says that he'll take any deal. He's a deal maker. Well, you got to talk to the people you are making that deal for."

Simmons reacted strongly to the tensions that have arisen since the rally. "I've heard a lot about that. I don't give a f**k about them. All I care is that I appreciate their hard work and they are the true heroes," said Simmons. "I love Randy Credico's work. He's been excellent. But to criticize somebody for coming and adding to your effort, creating awareness of your effort— I'm not saying he's done that, but anybody who does that is missing the point. I don't give a f**k. I want to get people out of jail. That's my only objective. Get people out of jail and make the laws more fair..."

June 23, 2003

The Beatnuts Hit Toronto

This profile from Toronto has a rather annoying headline but gets a little better from there, fleshing out the sordid details of J-Lo's hijack of "Hi-Jack".

People probably think they are joking about that "polish jazz" thing, but DJ Spinna has told me several times about his pursuits of polish jazz, it seems to be a goldmine of undiscovered beatmaking material.


..."The stuff we do ain't for everybody. If you want to hear some socially conscious joints, pick up a record by Dead Prez, Common or the Roots. But if you wanna wild out with some funky beats, then you need to come to us."

The Track Masters writing/production team appears to be making a career of doing just that. Back in 97, when Will Smith's Men In Black theme needed to be funked up, they sampled the same Patrice Rushen jazzy disco tune, Forget Me Nots, that the Beatnuts flipped for their righteously raunchy Give Me Tha Ass, released just a few months before.

A coincidence? Perhaps.

But then came Jenny From The Block. The chart-topper the Track Masters produced for Jennifer Lopez was built around a catchy flute loop and beat structure strangely similar to that used by the Beatnuts for Watch Out Now. Yet the Beatnuts aren't credited as writers or arrangers on Lopez's This Is Me... Then album...

...The sample at the centre of the controversy is taken from the song Hi-Jack, originally recorded by the 70s jazz-rock group Barrabas and popularized by Herbie Mann. So some have argued that since anyone could've grabbed a copy of Herbie Mann's HiJack and chopped it, the Beatnuts have no beef.

Only the Beatnuts didn't use the Herbie Mann version or even the Barrabas take. Psycho Les and JuJu take far too much pride in uncovering obscure breaks to use something as obvious as a Herbie Mann disco joint...

"...People like Q-Tip and some others have been saying we flipped the Herbie Mann track, but that shit we used wasn't Herbie Mann's Hi-Jack; it was some other jazzy Project 3 shit. If you listen to Herbie Mann's version you can barely even hear the flute part. It ain't even close.

"We'll have our lawyers sort this out, believe me..."

guest blogger Kari Orr: On Russell Simmons and Hip-Hop Activism

Note from the founder: Since it is hard for me to keep the site updated as often as I'd like, I've been scouring the earth for worthy guest bloggers who can help keep things flowing. Today I'm honored to introduce our first recruit,'s notorious iconoclast Kari Orr.

-jay smooth


Much has been said about Russell Simmons involvement in the repeal of the Rockefeller laws.

Some have suggested that his involvement borders on negligent leadership. If he doesn't do it right it could wreck the whole movement. He's using money, starpower, and hip hop to take over important activism. (what's really behind his reparations now?)

Others are glad to see that, despite not having a PE/Dead prez/Coup under his label, he's using the profits of drug war stories to combat mandatory sentencing. (I just through that in there, cause it's a claim folks used to use against the Hughes Bros, and Cormega used against Nas in Thun and Kicko)


I'm vex because people are hi-jacking hip hop in order to push their political causes.

To be accurate, Russ ain't really using hip hop, he's just using hip hop's name in vain.

There is this thing called, "hip hop activism". Yet you ask anyone to describe it, let alone describe it, and you find yourself listening to bootleg version of "Stupid White Men".

The politics of hip hop activism
- anti-capitalist
- pro-choice
- pro-education
- anti-war
- pro-labor
- anti prison-industrial complex
- meat is murder
- pro-affirmative action
- pro multi-culturalism
- pro-conspiracy/pseudoscience

et cetera. In essence, if you go to your local university's history and english departments, and look at what issues they are concerned with, you can pretty much be sure that's what "hip hop" activists are concerned with.

I see you getting heated...but lemme ask you dis

What do any of those things have to do with hip hop?

Do any of those platforms reflect the lyrics pumped out for the past 25+ years in hip hop? When you talk about hip hop that people really listen to, most of the time the issues are not addressed, or when addressed they go opposite of what hip hop activists want.

Do many of these ideas run with, or run against the values and beliefs held in the "community"?

What portion of that community? If you think C.Delores Tucker, Dionne Warwick, and Rev. Calvin Butts were right, maybe hip hop activism reflects their views.

I cram to understand where these people get off labeling hip hop this way.

Still, what bothers me more, is do our "activists" really listen to us? Or are they just deciding that they know best what we want, what we need, and what we have asked for?

It's very clear to me, on most issues, hip hop activists are neither N'sync with the art nor the audience.

But let's be clear on these particular facts?

How does hip hop feel about mandatory sentencing?

More specifically, how do NYC rappers, who for some reason which I don't understand represent the community at large, feel about mandatory sentencing in drug cases?

You having a hard time coming up with something?

Me too.

I can think of one cat, but seeing that I don't think he counts cause only NagChampions bang his record, I dare not mention his name.

Plenty of mc's talk about
- catching a case
- dodging a case
- people that snitch and get lighter sentences
- how much time they're facing if they get caught/convicted
- crooked judges and prosecutors
- crooked lawyers

At the end of the day, you can describe the "hustle" raps as either endorsements for that lifestyle or cautionary tales.

But you can't make the argument that NYC Hip Hop wants to end mandatory sentencing.

So I'm just troubled by this whole turn of events.

-k. orr

June 24, 2003

If Wackness Was a Crime..

As this goes to show, the only thing worse than rocking a tired cliche in your rhymes is rocking it and then acting it out too. He must be damn embarrassed that he left such a corny rhyme around to be discovered.. like getting in an accident and while you're in the ambulance you realize you're not wearing clean drawers.


A man accused of shooting a rookie cop at point-blank range after writing a rap lyric about wanting "to shoot a cop" went on trial for attempted murder in Brooklyn yesterday.

Trevor Johnson, 26, fled when police raided his East Flatbush chop shop in April 2002, but returned with a gun and fired seven shots at Officer Michael Kreiman, Assistant DA Edward Boyar told jurors.

One bullet pierced Kreiman's abdomen, but he survived.

After Johnson was nabbed, a search of stolen cars he allegedly was cutting up yielded a notebook containing a rap verse about "popping shots and shooting cops," Boyar said.

Defense lawyer Gregory Watts told jurors that Johnson's prints were not found in the notebook.

If the next line of that rhyme contained "glock", "on the block", and/or "selling rocks", he should get life without parole.

June 26, 2003

KRS-One is Brimming With Anger (and Acronyms)

KRS is always such an entertaining read, there's really nothing for me to add here:

Angry At 'Devious' Record Label, KRS-One Halts Sales Of New LP

"...This is insane, this is insane, this is so egregious, this is so devious," KRS-One fumed on Monday, angry at Koch Records' plan to release an album by him called Kristyles. The Bronx battle king, alleging that the record Koch was putting out not only did a disservice to him as an artist and a businessman, but that it was an affront to hip-hop culture as a whole, won a court injunction on Monday to stop its release.

"They don't have the full album," KRS explained. "They have stuff that I wasn't even putting on the album. I have no idea what's on the album [Koch put together]. I don't know what the artwork looks like, I don't know what the album credits look like, I don't know nothing. What they did was go behind my back and release the album. I got word just in the nick of time last week. I got my legal team together and we slapped them with a court order to cease the distribution and the pressing and manufacturing of this album..."

...KRS-One said he's still working on his album, which he plans on calling The Kristyle, and trying to secure appearances from Dirt McGirt and Wesley Snipes. But ODB and Snipes aren't the only things missing from the version Koch has assembled; the disc also lacks KRS' tribute to Jam Master Jay.

"Do they care about the death of Jam Master Jay?" he continued. "Oh, you mean to tell me that the fake album you're putting out right now, you omitted KRS-One's tribute to Jam Master Jay? Oh no, no, no. That's ridiculous. That's wack. This is a problem. This ain't about no money, this ain't about me not selling a record, this is about principle. We cannot allow these record companies to dictate to us how we are going to present hip-hop to the world."

KRS-One also said he's upset about Koch's naming the disc Kristyles rather than The Kristyle, which he explained is an acronym for "To have everything, keep radiating in spirit through your love everyday..."

July 2, 2003

Herbie Mann, RIP

Herbie Mann, Jazz Musician, Is Dead at 73

erbie Mann, who helped to popularize the flute as a jazz instrument and to introduce the music of other cultures into the mainstream of American jazz, died late Monday at his cabin in Pecos, N.M., near Santa Fe, where he lived. He was 73. .

The cause was prostate cancer, his family announced.

Mr. Mann's first instrument was clarinet, and when he began his career he was primarily a tenor saxophonist. But by the late 1950's he was concentrating on flute, a choice almost unheard of for a jazz musician at the time.

Within a decade, the flute had become far more common in jazz, although then as now it was usually a second or third instrument for saxophonists. Much of the credit for its higher profile belonged to Mr. Mann, who by then had achieved a degree of popularity extending well beyond the confines of the jazz world, largely because of his willingness to look beyond that world for inspiration.

In 1962, he became one of the first American jazz artists to embrace Brazilian music and work with Brazilian musicians, recording an album in Brazil with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes and others. He later incorporated elements of African, Japanese and Middle Eastern music into his repertory.

American blues and soul were also part of the mix. His live recording of "Comin' Home Baby," an up-tempo blues with an infectious dance beat, was a hit in 1962. Later in the decade he expanded his audience with albums like "Memphis Underground," on which his working group was supplemented by Southern session musicians and the repertory had a contemporary rhythm-and-blues flavor.

The critics, for the most part, were not impressed. "To most jazz critics I was basically Kenny G," he said in an interview with United Press International last year. "I was too successful. I made too much money. Alternate fringe audiences liked me too much, so obviously that can't be important."

In the 1970's Mr. Mann put even more distance between himself and the jazz purists with albums whose titles — "Reggae," "Discothèque," "London Underground" — were often self-explanatory. He had two singles in Billboard magazine's Top 40, "Hijack" in 1975 and "Superman" in 1979.

Mr. Mann had recently been devoting more time to playing the Brazilian jazz and bebop that formed the core of his repertory early in his career. But while he acknowledged that he had sometimes been guilty of "accommodating the market," he never entirely disavowed his more commercial work. "I made disco records," he said. "Some of them I liked, some of them I hated."

Born Herbert Jay Solomon on April 16, 1930, in Brooklyn, Mr. Mann had his first clarinet lesson at 9, soon mastered saxophone and flute, and began performing while stationed in Italy with the United States Army in the early 50's. After being discharged in 1953, he worked with the Dutch jazz accordionist Matt Mathews and the arranger Pete Rugolo before going out on his own, first as a freelance soloist and then, in 1959, as the leader of his own group, the Afro-Jazz Sextet.

Mr. Mann toured extensively in the 60's, traveling to Africa under the auspices of the State Department as well as to Japan, Europe and Latin America.

After recording for Savoy, Verve and other labels, he began a long association with Atlantic Records in 1960, and a decade later he undertook a second career as a record producer and executive for the short-lived Atlantic subsidiary Embryo. In the early 1980's, after leaving Atlantic, he started his own label, Herbie Mann Music. He later briefly ran another label, Kokopelli.

Mr. Mann was an astute talent scout. Over the years he hired a number of young musicians who later became stars, among them the pianist Chick Corea and the vibraphonist Roy Ayers.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Janeal Arison; a son, Geoffrey, who played drums in his band, Sona Terra; another son, Paul; two daughters, Claudia Mann-Basler and Laura Mann; his mother, Ruth Solomon; and his sister, Judy Bernstein.

After four decades of multicultural exploration, Mr. Mann finally got around to the music of his own people in 2000 when he recorded "Eastern European Roots," an album of traditional songs and new compositions evoking his Jewish heritage.

"I wanted this to be my musical statement above all the rest," he said last year. "I love `Memphis Underground.' I loved the Brazilian music I played. But this is finally me. For the first time I think it's really me."

July 4, 2003

Barry White R.I.P.

I hope I won't have to post too many of these in a row.

R&B Legend Barry White Dies

Barry White, the legendary R&B singer whose smooth, deep baritone set the standard for romantic crooners for years to come, died Friday after a lengthy battle with numerous health problems. He was 58.

White passed away at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Friday morning, according to a spokesperson for the late singer. White suffered kidney failure last fall and had a stroke in May. He had been waiting for his health to improve in hopes of undergoing a kidney transplant.

"His generous nature, courtly manners and timeless music made him the most giving and sought-after human being I’ve ever known," White's longtime manager, Ned Shankman, said.

White's voice — at once booming and tender — seemed an extension of his imposing presence. The singer's large frame seemed matched only by his charisma and his talent. His career spanned more than three decades, but he is perhaps best known as the velvet voice behind such classics as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."

White's first foray into music came at age 16 when he recorded the song "Little Girl" with the group the Upfronts. He later worked as an A&R rep (with the 5th Dimension and the Bobby Fuller Four) and as a producer (putting together Love Unlimited). Soon White began working on demos of his own, which eventually yielded his first album, 1973's I've Got So Much to Give.

White then joined forces with Love Unlimited, rechristened it the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and began to churn out a string of hits that made him one of the most successful R&B artists of the '70s. Songs like "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me," "You See the Trouble With Me," "I'll Do for You Anything You Want Me To" and "Love Serenade" established White and Love Unlimited as the music of choice for many a romantic evening through the disco era.

The '80s brought a handful of less successful albums and eventually a hiatus for White. However, he re-emerged in the '90s with the albums The Man Is Back, The Right Night & Barry White and Put Me in Your Mix. Despite his early success, White would not win his first Grammy Award until 2000, for his album Staying Power.

White was preparing a "duets" album for release on Def Soul later this year.

White is survived by eight children: La nece, Deniece, Nina, Shehera, Barriana , Barry Jr., Darrell, and his stepson, McKevin. He is also survived by his companion (and the mother of Barriana), Catherine Denton.

July 7, 2003

Getting Schooled on Pop Music Scholarship

One of the reasons it's hard for me to keep this blog updated everyday is that there's very little published music criticism I find worth reading. Nine times out of ten, when someone gets paid to intellectualize about music, it's very hard for me to make it past the first paragraph without my eyes glazing over.

Like this Rolling Stone piece about Eminem by Kelefa Sanneh, I'm sure it's interesting enough but I just can't bring myself to trudge through it, there doesn't seem to be any point.

So I'm always delighted to find a piece like this one from the New Yorker, which was truly a pleasure to read, and never lost me as it jumped through a wide variety of topics. Coincidentally this guy's main focus is pop music scholarship itself, and he captures pretty well why I find most of it irrelevant, while proving by example that all of it need not be so:

ROCK 101: Academia tunes in

Duke Ellington once had to field a barrage of questions from an Icelandic music student who was determined to penetrate to the heart of the genius of jazz. At one point, Ellington was asked whether he ever felt an affinity for the music of Bach, and, before answering, he made a show of unwrapping a pork chop that he had stowed in his pocket. “Bach and myself,” he said, taking a bite from the chop, “both write with individual performers in mind.” Richard O. Boyer captured the moment in a Profile entitled “The Hot Bach,” which appeared in this magazine in 1944. You can sense in that exquisitely timed pork-chop maneuver Ellington’s bemused response to the European notions of genius that were constantly being foisted on him. He said on another occasion, “To attempt to elevate the status of the jazz musician by forcing the level of his best work into comparisons with classical music is to deny him his rightful share of originality.” Jazz was a new language, and the critic would have to respond to it with a new poetry of praise.

Now Ellington is himself a classic, the subject of painstaking analytical studies. He occupies a Bachian position in an emergent popular pantheon, which is certain to look different from the marble-faced, bewigged classical pantheons that preceded it. The very idea of a canon of geniuses may be falling by the wayside; it makes more sense to talk about the flickering brilliance of a group, a place, or a people. In the future, it seems, everyone will be a genius for fifteen minutes. The past decade has seen the rise of pop-music studies, which is dedicated to the idea that Ellington, Hank Williams, and the Velvet Underground were created equal and deserve the same sort of scholarly scrutiny that used to be bestowed only on Bach and sons. Pop-music courses draw crowds of students on college campuses, and academic presses are putting out such portentous titles as “Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience,” “Rock Over the Edge: Transformations in Popular Music Culture,” and “Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music.”

Pop-music professors, especially those who specialize in rock, are caught in an obvious paradox, which their students probably point out to them on the first day of class. Namely, it’s not very rock and roll to intellectualize rock and roll. When Pink Floyd sang, “We don’t need no education,” they could not have foreseen the advent of research projects with titles like “Another Book in the Wall?: A Cultural History of Pink Floyd’s Stage Performance and the Rise of Audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk, 1965-1994.” (That comes from Finland.) Ever since Ellington, Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton struck up the soundtrack to the bawdy, boozy twenties, popular music has been the high-speed vehicle for youth rebellion, sexual liberation, and chemical experimentation, none of which yield willingly to the academic mind. The pop scholar is forever doomed to sounding like the square kid at the cool kids’ party, killing their buzz with sentences like this: “From the start, hip-hop’s samples ran the gamut of genres, defying anyone who would delimit hip-hop’s palette.”

Then again, maybe it’s not a problem that so much pop-music scholarship sounds conspicuously uncool. For decades, jazz rhapsodists and rock poets were so intent on projecting attitude that they never got around to saying much about the music itself. The pioneering rock critics of the sixties, such as Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus, wanted to mimic the music in their prose, and they had enough style to pull it off. Bangs, whose writings have been collected in a new anthology from Anchor Books, lived the life of a rock star, or at least died the death of one. But his writings are a better guide to the mentality of smart people who went to rock shows in the sixties and seventies than they are a reliable record of music and musicians. Discussing the Rolling Stones in 1974, Bangs wrote, “If you think I’m going to review the new ‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll’ album right now, you are crazy. But I am going to swim in it.” Between prose poetry and academic cant there has to be a middle ground, and pop-music studies is searching it out...

July 9, 2003

And What the F*&^ is the 'Internet'??

At some point in the next week, this man will turn to his family and ask "So you mean it's 2003? And people are still listening to that 'rap music??'"

Man wakes after 19 years in coma

Accident victim stuck in 1984; believes Reagan still president

The words began tumbling out — at first just a few nouns and eventually a torrent of phrases. Terry Wallis, who had been in a coma since a 1984 car accident, regained consciousness last month to the surprise of doctors and the delight of his family, including his mother, who heard his first word in 19 years...

July 10, 2003

OED: "Bling" is not official, just yet

In another sign that American journalistic standards are plummeting, the LA Times yesterday cited our site,, as a credible source of hip-hop opinion:

'Bling-bling' in the Oxford dictionary? That's phat

Imagine the lofty air of expectation for the next edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary — an unprecedented revision is underway that, finally, authoritatively, is expected to nail down those vexing questions of lexicology. To wit: What is the etymology of "bling-bling"?

The editors are drafting a possible entry for the hip-hop slang, which usually refers to diamonds or other flashy jewelry that clinks together, said Jesse Sheidlower, principal North American editor of the dictionary.

Sheidlower is exasperated these days by news reports that have jumped the gun, such as's headline saying that "bling-bling" had already made it into the Oxford dictionary, the definitive chronicler of the English language. "I expect that 'bling-bling' will be entered at some point," Sheidlower said...

...In hip-hop circles, such a mainstream nod can be a turnoff. On's online forum, one fan complained that the Oxford English Dictionary would be co-opting "bling-bling" as "... yet another black colloquialism is blanched and neutered to make the white establishment seem 'more relevant, smarter and cooler.' "

Proper credit should go to Nakachi, whose reply to my post was the source of their quote.

Finding Primo

You've gotta love anyone who can find common threads in Gangstarr, Harry Potter and Finding Nemo, and then bundle them all together as ammunition against Bush.

Rapper's tip: World's scary, so teach your children hell

For 14 years, Guru has been one of hip-hop's most respected ''conscious'' rappers, and in the spoken introduction to The Ownerz, the new CD by his group Gang Starr, he expresses the anxieties of many parents -- particularly those caught up in the oh-so-ironic post-9/11 baby boom. He speaks for those of us who had the brilliant idea, ''The world's going to hell in a hand-basket; hey, let's bring some more innocent lives into it!'' and now smack our heads and wonder, ``My God, what have we done?''

How do you raise kids in a world where death and destruction continually preempt their favorite pastime? Where schools value testing over teaching? Where neighbors are not to be trusted and, in fact, should be reported to the nearest FBI hotline? Where in family after family, attention deficit disorder trumps unconditional love?

Easy: Teach your children hell...

July 14, 2003

Suge Knight: from Feared to Forgotten

Oh, this is excellent. I'll never pass up an opportunity to revel in Suge Knight's defeat. Few in this industry are more deserving of failure than Suge. And he's been slouching toward irrelevance for a few years now, I'm surprised it took people this long to notice.

Suge's rebuilding hampered by arrests - Mogul having trouble returning Death Row to glory

California (AP) -- When rap pioneer Marion "Suge" Knight was released from prison two years ago, he vowed to return Death Row Records to the top of the charts.

At the time, he told The Associated Press that it was "time for great records."

It hasn't happened. Aside from two albums of old Tupac Shakur material, Death Row has produced next to nothing. And for the second time this year Knight was behind bars, awaiting a hearing on a suspected parole violation.

Some wonder if Knight -- who helped muscle rap into the mainstream a decade ago with superstars such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and later Shakur -- is still a force in the music industry.

"He has to prove himself all over again," said Erik Parker, music editor of Vibe magazine. "As time slips by, people care less. There's no production, no real hits..."

July 15, 2003

Street Incredulity

An interesting take on sports writers' attempts to judge the "street credibility" of NBA stars:

Learning the nuances of street cred takes time

Whenever a tide of hip-hop terminology begins to flow from the mouths of people who have no connection with the culture, it can either be a blessing or a curse - a blessing in that a certain level of acceptance has been reached and a curse in that the term is now subject to be used out of context.

All of which brings me to the case of the term, "street cred" (credibility).

Personally, I can count the number of times I've ever used this term on one hand, yet for the past two weeks it's been all over the sports media.

I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's beginning to get its fair share of overuse...

July 16, 2003

Rakim Finally Gives Up on Aftermath

And thus Rakim joins the club of high profile Dr. Dre signings (Eve, Last Emperor, King T, who else?) who wound up languishing on the shelf for years, and finally dropped with nothing whatsoever to show for their time.

Disappointing but not surprising, after seeing the project drag on for so long. At least he and Dre actually spent time in the studio and made an attempt, which is more than can be said for some previous casualties. When I went to Gangstarr's listening party at the now defunct D&D studios, Premier mentioned that Rakim was asking him to come over to Cali and help with the album, because Aftermath didn't know how provide the proper sound for him.

Rakim Leaves Aftermath Entertainment

Legendary rapper Rakim has split with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment record label, due to what Rakim's management deemed "creative differences."

"Rakim and Aftermath have mutually decided to part ways," Rakim's manager Zach Katz told "Rakim is presently in talks with three powerhouse record companies."

Recently at the BET Awards, Rakim presented with Baby from Cash Money Records and boasted that his album would be in stores by the end of the summer on Aftermath.

MTV reported last week that Dre and Rakim had finished 16 songs and were working to finish seven more, before picking a single to release.

"He can bring the best out of me, and I want to make sure that I bring the best out of him," Rakim told MTV of Dre. "He goes in the studio from 3 [p.m. and] goes home 6, 7, 8 in the morning, so to me, that's all right. My man wants to work, so let's get it poppin'."

The legendary rapper had been signed to Aftermath for almost three years and fans have been anticipating the release of Oh My God, despite the constant delays.

Ok, now somebody hurry up and get these outtakes on MP3.

July 27, 2003

"B-Boy" is a Verb

pictures from the rock steady crew anniversary

July 29, 2003

It's Like Ten Thousand Spoons

I'm sure most of you saw this already, but it is just too delicious not to savor.. cops offering a formal apology to the author of "f**k Tha Police":

Police sorry after rapper alert

Chicago's police department has apologised to rapper Ice Cube after it said a man suspected of a number of sexual assaults bore a resemblance to the hip-hop star.

Police issued a warning to the public on Sunday as they searched for a man who allegedly attacked three women in the Wicker Park area of the city.

Local television station WBBM-TV then broadcast one of the rapper's videos alongside a report of the story during an evening news programme.

The police alert said the man they were searching for "resembles the popular rap artist Ice Cube".

Cast members working alongside the performer on the film Barbershop 2 saw the news story and video on the channel.

"This is an unfortunate and hurtful situation for Ice Cube," said his spokesman, Matt Labov.

"That his good name ever came up in association with the events currently taking place in Chicago's Wicker Park area is damaging to Ice Cube as a father, husband and artist," he added.

Mr Labov said the TV station had also apologised to the rapper.

A spokeswoman for the channel admitted they had used the video, based on the police alert.

"Our information was taken directly from the Chicago Police Department community alert," said Elizabeth Shapiro.

The warning was later reissued by police with no reference to Ice Cube.

"We took immediate corrective action," said police spokesman David Bayless.

"We apologise to Ice Cube for what was an honest mistake and came with no ill-intent," he said.

NEW AUDIO: C Rayz Walz on the Railroad, 7-26-03

Last week we had a star studded affair on the radio show, with dozens of luminaries passing through, in town for the Rocksteady Crew anniversary festivities.

The All Natural/Family Tree crew dropped some verses and schooled us on the hip-hop scenes in Chicago and Gary Indiana. Then towards the end of the show, a man walked in looking very intense, marched into the studio, ripped his shirt off and started dong pushups in front of the microphones.

I was almost afraid to see what would happen when we turned the mics on, but this mysterious strnager, who turned out to be C Rayz Walz, then delivered one of the sharpest interviews and tightest freestyles we've had on the show this year. Here are some excerpts (the other voice on there is G Man):

C Rayz Interview
C Rayz Freestyle
Photo of C Rayz on the mic

Those of you in NY can catch C Rayz at the Union Square Virgin Megastore tonight at 6PM, and everybody else should seek out his new album, released on Def Jux this week.

Note: when I saw "seek" I don't mean soulseek!

August 5, 2003

Tairrie B's Record Was Better

1. Why isn't Invincible of the Anomolies ever mentioned in these articles?

2. "she actually sounds a bit like one-time Jay-Z protege Amil" ..was that meant to make her sound more credible?

3. Does Princess Superstar mean to suggest, with her comments, that she herself should be considered a serious emcee and not a novelty act?

4. I downloaded Sarai's song this afternoon. It was poor. She might be marginally acceptable given better producers, who didn't burden her with this bubblegum pop sound. But her name ought never be uttered in the same sentence with Mr. Mathers.

Can Sarai become ‘Feminem’?

20-year-old hopes to become 1st white female rap star

Eminem has disproved the notion that white boys can’t rap. White girls, on the other hand, have had almost zero impact on the genre in its 30-year history.

Remember Tairrie B? Probably not. Wait, there’s ... hmmmm. Actually, the most influential white woman in rap history may be punk princess Deborah Harry, whose rhymes in the 1980 hit “Rapture” helped take rap mainstream.

But now a new face, Sarai, is raising hopes that there might be someone new - a Feminem - to go where none have gone before.

"Eminem has definitely opened people’s minds, that there could be a white artist actually mastering the skill," says Sarai (rhymes with "goodbye"), a 20-year-old, blue-eyed blonde from Kingston, N.Y., about two hours north of the city where rap was born...

August 8, 2003

Black August

This Sunday August 10th the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement will hold its 6th annual Black August concert here in NY:

Black August: A celebration of Hip Hop and our Freedom Fighters is a project of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which strives to support the global development of Hip Hop culture by facilitating exchanges between international communities where Hip Hop is a vital part of youth culture, and by promoting awareness about the social and political issues that affect these youth communities. Our goal is to bring culture and politics together and to allow them to naturally evolve into a unique Hip Hop consciousness that informs our collective struggle for a more just, equitable and human world.

Since August of 1998, Black August has had benefit concerts in (1998) New York City at Tramp's, (1999) the Bowery Ballroom, (2000) the New Age Cabaret, (2001 and 2002) Synod Hall, and three shows at Cuba's National Rap Festival and five shows in South Africa, including a show at the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban. All Black August concerts in New York, South Africa and Cuba have been sold out. In New York, Black August has featured artists such as, Common, dead prez, Black Star, Fat Joe, the Roots, Les Nubians and Gil Scott-Heron. In Cuba, Black August artists included Black Star, Common, dead prez and Tony Touch and in South Africa, Black August shows included dead prez, Talib Kweli, Black Thought, Jeru and the Coup. The international shows were electric and, the responses, euphoric. In addition to the shows, MXGM has had political education workshops with the participating artists. The benefit concerts coupled with the political education workshops have made Black August an unforgettable experience for participants, which has increased the political commitment and dedication of Black August artists and activists to radical change.

The 6th Annual Black August Benefit Concert (2003) will be taking on more human rights issues, while continuing to organize cultural activists and artist to bring about global change and solidarity. Black August will highlight political prisoners in the Americas, discussing how activists have been jailed because of their political activities to end racial and economic oppression.

If you tune into WBAI right now, you can hear more info on Black August from Rise Up Radio, our stations weekly program for and by youth activists.

There also may be an artist or two from the concert appearing on our show this week, but one never knows what will happen on a Saturday night.

August 9, 2003

Can We Trust Russell Simmons?

For a while now we've been expressing misgivings about Russell Simmons' efforts to position himself as a leader and political power broker for the black community and the Hip-Hop nation. His assumption of prominent role in the movement to repeal/reform the Rockefeller drug laws has aroused similar concerns for many in the activist community, and Amadi Ajamu's piece at does the best job yet of summing up why:

Russell Simmons: Def Sham?

The emergence of Hip Hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons as an establishment-endorsed political leader of the new generation of Blacks gives me pause. Being a member of this new generation, I think this should be put on the table for discussion.

Why have mainstream media's political pundits given Russell Simmons an open mic? He's a guest on Charlie Rose; he's become a constant feature in the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine and many other newspapers and magazine across the country. Hailed as among the one hundred most influential African Americans by Crain Magazine, can helicopter to Albany for private meetings with New York Governor George Pataki on the Rockefeller drug laws. He has organized fundraisers for senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, works closely with former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, teams up with democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton to register new voters, and dines with Shimon Peres, Israel's former Prime Minister discussing a possible Middle East youth summit.

Either the king makers have peeped Simmons' ability to use his influence over urban youth as leverage in his business and political ventures and they want to control him, or the severity of the US economic recession deems it time to send in the clowns...

I thought this bit was particularly interesting:

...Simmons also launched a special "reparations" sneaker brand in his clothing line. Advertisements for it have proclaimed that a percentage of the proceeds from the sneakers would be donated to the reparations efforts. When a youth organization working on reparations issues contacted sales executives at Phat Farm about donations, they were told that a larger percentage of the proceeds were applied to advertising the sneakers so that the idea of reparations is being exposed. This maneuver is the extent of company's contribution to the struggle for slavery reparations...

August 11, 2003

Not Quite Short Enough?

This year's nominees for the Shortlist Music Prize have been announced, and you can see the complete list here, along with which hipster luminary selected each nominee.

Most of these picks are mighty hip indeed, but there are a few headscratchers in there too. Like, what's up with Source Editor-in-Chief Kim Osorio choosing the Dip Set's emphatically nondescript "Diplomatic Immunity" album? I respect her efforts to buck the more-indie-than-thou vibe of these awards, but surely she could have picked a more interesting record from Hot 97's playlist to foment this rebellion. Although I suppose we should just be glad she didn't throw Benzino in there.

But the real shocker here is ?uestlove's selection of the already much hyped and widely reviled Northern State record. ?uestlove had invited the regulars at his website,, to help him pick his selections for this year, and got over 500 responses (only one of which suggested Northern State, and did so sarcastically).
Not surprisingly, those regulars are now unanimously aghast at this choice.

Personally I don't hate these Beastie Girls as much as most heads seem to. If it wasn't for the noxious hoopla that surrounds them I might enjoy this gang as harmless lighthearted fun, which is all they probably aspire to. They don't seem to take themselves too seriously as far as I've seen, don't pretend to be anything they're not.

Unfortunately their hype machine is asking us to take them much more seriously than they take themselves, and is presenting them as many things they're not. So although I don't hate the Northern State girls themselves, I am quickly growing to hate the Northern State Phenomenon. And that's why I'm puzzled that ?uestlove would take this award, meant to shed light on groundbreaking artists who haven't yet received the attention and acclaim they deserve, and use it to trumpet such a lightweight act that's already getting far more hype than they need (for their own sake).

I recommend keeping an eye on okayplayer, things should get interesting when ?uestlove surfaces to confront this angry mob.

August 12, 2003

They Also Tried to Copyright "Ignorance is Strength"

Fox News has decided to sue Al Franken, claiming they have exclusive rights to the phrase "Fair and Balanced". I am unable to muster a sufficiently sarcastic remark to accompany that first sentence. It may not be possible in the English language.

But I will join in with Atrios and the many others who are changing their blog's title in honor of this dumbassery.

August 25, 2003

Don't Call it a Comeback

Greetings Earth people. I have recently returned from an splendid vacation in Vancouver, hence the lack of bloggery here. I suppose I should have posted some notice about that beforehand, huh? My bad. But we will get things rolling again shortly.

And speaking of comebacks, you'll never guess who i ran into on the street this weekend: A Butta of NY's legendary underground crew Natural Elements (who got their start on our radio show, back when founding member Mr. Voodoo was our intern). He told me Voodoo (who now goes by his real name Agu), L Swift and himself are each working on solo material these days, as well as working on new tracks together. Hopefully we'll be getting our hands on this stuff soon.. you'll be the first to know.

And speaking of speaking of comebacks, Kim Jong Il just started posting in his blog again!

August 28, 2003

Mississauga's Most Wanted

Speaking of Vancouver, here's a profile of an up-and-coming emcee who originates from there, now based in Toronto. Can any of you Canadian folk give us the scoop on this young lady? I guess if she's down with Eternia she can't be too bad.

Not your usual rapper chick

Masia-One gives western 'burbs a voice

"You know, you're the first reporter who didn't ask `what's it like to be Asian and female' as the first question," says Toronto-based Masia-One. "Because really, I've already got that answer down pat." She should, considering she's been both for the past 24 years, but when you're likely the only small, female Asian rapper freestyling with the boys on one of the many mic nights around town, it's pretty easy to draw attention.

But the independent artist is strictly business and she's ready for her close-up. Her independent debut album, Mississauga, has started to make the rounds of local record shops and she's ferociously gigging, last weekend in Ottawa, at T.O.'s Dundas Square as part of Style In Progress last Thursday and on Saturday night at a female showcase at Clinton's. This Thursday she's the headliner at Reillys, where's she's holding her CD release party.

Although she's really a British Columbia native (née Masia Lim), she decided to name her album after the west 905 suburb because that's where the majority of her collaborators — producers and musicians — were located.

"I think it needs a better transit system, because that's how I was getting around up there," she laughs. But she wants to help shed a light on the several sick beat makers that live in the 'burbs. "With hip-hop kids always wanting to represent their area — so with Scarborough, 'cause it's more hardcore and gangster — but there's so many amazing musicians and producers coming out of Mississauga that have their own home studios and get no recognition because everyone associates some suburbs with nerdy, white picket fences. But a lot of brilliant music is coming out of there."

She has moved from Vancouver to study architecture at University of Toronto, and has been listening to the music since she was 9. She started writing in her teens but kept it to herself. Two and half years ago, she performed at a showcase called I Used To Love H.E.R. (after the Common track) that was put on by her then-roommate (and now co-manager) when someone dropped out. She took the spot to conquer her stage fright. From that single performance she snagged a commercial for MuchVibe and from there she's been rolling...

Northern State and the Schwarzenegger Syndrome

?uestlove has finally resurfaced to explain his baffling nomination of Northern State for the Shortlist Awards.

It seems this was a mixup between Questo and the awards people, and he hadn't intended for the terminally overhyped lite-rap trio to be his final pick, but he never got to send in his real choices because his computer got hit by the virus that was going around a few weeks ago. Fair enough. my faith in the order of the universe is restored.

And I'm still trying really hard not to hate Northen State. I swear if I had never read any of their interviews or seen any of their press coverage I would enjoy their stuff for the harmless fun that it is. It's only how seriously they are being taken that makes me want to throw dead animals at them.

It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was marginally tolerable as a grade b movie actor, but being asked to take him seriously as a candidate for governor renders him insufferable.

September 8, 2003

So, How's the Family?

Our friend Peter Scholtes at just published an excellent oral history of Minneapolis' legendary First Avenue club, with quotes from Jimmy Jam, ?uestlove, Slug, and many others. A must-read for all us Prince fans, and good reading for non-believers as well:

The legendary bands. The terrifying toilets.

An oral history that goes so far behind the music it will leave you at a gun range beneath the stage.

If there's a spiritual equivalent to lust--and Prince knows there must be--I've felt it for First Avenue ever since I first set foot there. That was 1990, so my feelings don't have much to do with Purple Rain, the Minneapolis nightclub's only real claim on the national imagination. But look at the crowd shots in that 1984 movie and you'll see a social mixture that really did exist at First Avenue. The movie mythologized something true about the Minneapolis that Prince helped create. But it didn't tell an even better story: how a bunch of ambitious black teenagers and crazed punk rockers saved live music here, and helped reinvent rock 'n' roll worldwide.

Prince and the new wave were no further from each other than First Avenue and its adjoining room, the 7th St. Entry. The dance nights and live music in both venues reflected the uniquely cosmopolitan vision of the club's longtime manager, Steve McClellan.

Now, as First Avenue struggles amid club competition and real estate development, it seems like a good time to tell this story again--and let those who were there put things in their own words. The history of First Avenue is the story of segregation in downtown Minneapolis, of sex, cocaine, mud wrestlers, businessmen, gangsters, and idealists. It's your story, too, if you are among the millions of people who have passed through the venue's doors since it opened in 1970 as a hippie rock and soul club called the Depot, in the old Greyhound bus station...

September 11, 2003

Surfing This Site Will Boost your Career

David Rees (creator of Get Your War On) has a new book coming out, and in this essay he explains how it was largely inspired by his fascination with Hip-hop:

Behind the Scenes of "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable."

...Temp jobs are the ideal creative environment for me: I usually have few serious responsibilities, but enough busy work so that any time spent making comics on the sly feels like a great feat of creative rebellion. All the means of artistic production -- computer, internet clip art, laser printer, photocopier -- are within reach. I have to work quickly, printing comics as soon as I make them, in case someone else has to use the laser printer. The more limited the tools and resources, the more I have to strain my imagination to create amusing situations, and usually, the funnier the final product is.

At the temp job where I made "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable," I spent a lot of time perusing rap music websites. The limitless amount of new singles by new rappers is exhilarating. One of my favorite things about rap music is that many performers take on new identities while they're on the mic. Rappers rarely perform under their given name. Seeing a long list of new songs by new rappers is like seeing a long cast of characters for an exciting new play, without actually having to sit through the play. I spent more time reading rap reviews than listening to the songs.

Kool Keith is a great rapper. He has released albums under many different personalities. In cataloging esoterica about his multiple personalities, Kool Keith reminds me of the days in elementary school when my friend and I would fill sheets of paper with data about scores of imaginary characters: names, pictures of their faces, and major characteristics. We never went beyond these massive lists of characters. We never made up stories about them.

This is the data for one of Kool Keith's personalities:

"Mr. Gerbick; Age: 208; Birthplace: Jupiter; Likes: fishing, swimming; Dislikes: wolfmen, flossing; Quote: 'Skin like an alligator, carrying a dead walrus.'"

Another element of rap music that comes across in my book is the obsession with fighting, and the importance of technique. Most freestyle battle rhymes are explicitly about language. Growing up I loved hearing so many people rapping about rapping -- making songs about, while exhibiting, cleverness with language. Why is this genre so fascinating to me? It's almost like I don't want language to get beyond itself and actually talk about anything in the world -- I like keeping it wrapped up in itself. I think this is why I studied philosophy in college and got really into Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Staten Island's Wu-Tang Clan is a musical collective that appropriates the language and sound effects of martial arts movies into their lyrics and their beats. They exploit the analogy between fighting technique and lyrical technique very effectively. Some astute readers have picked up the Wu-Tang's influence on my book.

The greatest single influence on "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable," however, is Davey D's 1998 "KRS-One Will End Your Career", an analysis of then up-and-coming rapper Canibus's chances against the fabled Chris Parker, aka KRS-One. Canibus had made a name for himself as an excellent battle rhymer, one who took on popular favorite LL Cool J in one of the truly high-profile MC feuds to play big on commercial radio. Davey D's essay is filled with words of caution for the upstart Canibus, and confirms KRS-One's reputation as one of the greatest battle rhymers of all time:

"(KRS-One) pointed out that he was like a martial arts master and that he is always prepared. He noted that when he released "The Return of the Boom Bap' album in '94 that he put all rappers on notice. He said that anyone who came out after '94 were subject to having their careers end at any given moment. KRS claimed that when he hears a new artist come on the scene that he immediately writes a rhyme that will totally dismantle him and his career. He keeps those rhymes in the back of his head just in case he has to take some kid out..."

I think the character of Karate Snoopy in "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable" is based in part on KRS-One. Karate Snoopy seems capable of ending careers of other fighters "at any given moment." He seems very sure of himself, as do most good rappers.

Well it certainly bodes well for me if surfing hip-hop websites all day at your job is the path to stardom.

September 12, 2003

In Other News, 2+2 is Reported to Equal 4

I'm glad to see somebody has some sense around here:

Artists Blast Record Companies Over Lawsuits Against Downloaders

Recording artists across the board think the music industry should find a way to work with the Internet instead of suing people who have downloaded music.

"They're protecting an archaic industry," said the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir. "They should turn their attention to new models."

"This is not rocket science," said David Draiman of Disturbed, a hard-rock band with a platinum debut album on the charts. "Instead of spending all this money litigating against kids who are the people they're trying to sell things to in the first place, they have to learn how to effectively use the Internet."

After three consecutive years of double-digit sales losses, and having lost a court battle against file-sharing Web sites such as Kazaa and Morpheus, the Recording Industry Association of America -- the industry's lobbying arm -- trained its sights on ordinary fans who have downloaded music. On Monday, the RIAA filed suits against 261 civilians with more than 1,000 music files each on their computers, accusing them of copyright violations. The industry hopes the suits, which seek as much as $150,000 per violation, will deter computer users from engaging in what the record industry considers illegal file-swapping.

This unprecedented move brings home the industry's battle against Web downloads, which the record business blames for billion-dollar losses since the 1999 emergence of Napster, the South Bay startup the RIAA sued out of existence. The suits are expected to settle for as little as $3,000 each, but the news was greeted with derision by the very people the RIAA said they moved to protect, the musicians themselves.

"Lawsuits on 12-year-old kids for downloading music, duping a mother into paying a $2,000 settlement for her kid?" said rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy. "Those scare tactics are pure Gestapo."

"File sharing is a reality, and it would seem that the labels would do well to learn how to incorporate it into their business models somehow," said genre-busting DJ Moby in a post on his Web site . "Record companies suing 12-year-old girls for file sharing is kind of like horse-and-buggy operators suing Henry Ford..."

Umm, Okay..

What a splendid coincidence that this was published in USC's paper, the Daily Trojan:

Condom innovator incorporates hip-hop culture into designs

...Jimmie Hatz is the world's first line of condoms designed specifically to attract black and other minority youths by launching a product with a hip-hop theme.

The name Jimmie Hatz is a play on urban culture's slang for condoms. Rapper and hip-hop pioneer KRS-One popularized the term "jimmy hat," after releasing a song called "Jimmy" in 1988...

...Blacks accounted for 12 percent of the U.S. population in 2001 but represented more than half of all reported HIV cases that year, stated the 2001 national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report...

...By integrating hip-hop with safe sex, Common Ground USA said its mission is to mold condom use into part of urban culture and ultimately bring the statistics down.

Jimmie Hatz, the self-proclaimed "official condom of the hip-hop kulture," strives to make condom use cool again, Terrell said.

The condoms come in three basic styles: Rotweiller (the standard size), Mix Breed (with ridges and contours) and the Great Dane (an extra-large condom).

Wrappers are adorned with graffiti-style labeling and a fearless bulldog dressed in a beanie and hoop earring. His "ice" is a dangling gold condom...

You can check out this company's official website here, where we are informed that their flavored condoms are "tasty like a now and later."

Bad News for Tragedy

When I read about this case elsewhere it was reported that these arrests were for marijuana possession, that detail seems to have been omitted here. But I am posting this mainly to point out that these folks accompanied their article with a picture of Tragedy taken by yours truly, which they took from here on my site without permission and used without credit. It's not polite to bite, people!

(This not to make light of the incident described, which was indeed unjust if the story is accurate)

Tragedy Khadafi Detained Following Arrest With Noreaga

Throughout his career, and for his upcoming fourth solo album titled Still be released 10-21-03 on 25 to Life Records/Solid Records/Caroline, rapper Tragedy Khadafi's message has always been about the plight of the underclass and its struggle against indifference. From "Arrest the President" in 1990 to his discovery and development of Capone N Norega for their debut gold selling album, The War Report, Tragedy Khadafi's underlying theme of struggle informs his work. Yet, last Wednesday evening on September 3, in a horrific and terrifying display of police abuse, Tragedy Khadafi's public message of struggle has become, once again, very personal.

On September 3, Tragedy Khadafi, along with Noreaga,and several other persons, were forcibly stopped, searched, and arrested by approximately 30 to 35 New York City Police Officers at gunpoint in downtown New York City, for simply driving a vehicle lawfully.

Tragedy Khadafi, along with others, were forced to stop the vehicle, threatened at gunpoint by numerous officers while still in the vehicle, forced to exit and shoved to the ground while approximately 30 to 35 guns were pointed at their heads amidst a barrage of threats by the officers.

The "pretext" for this horrific display of police power, was their alleged belief that the vehicle, or one of its passengers, had a gun, which of course, was not true. According to his attorney, Renata Lowenbraun, Tragedy Khadafi is evaluating whether a civil rights action will be filed on his behalf.

September 16, 2003

Osama Warns U.S.: "We Shall Have You Singing Thoia Thoing"

I thought nothing could ever top the time OJ Simpson compared himself to Moses and Jesus, but R Kelly has blessed us with an even loopier quote:


...In a recent interview with a US magazine, Kelly took the opportunity to claim he's been the subject of the sort of vilification normally reserved for the Globe's most hated individual.

He told Blender magazine: "People can say whatever they want about you without knowing the facts. They can criticize you without even knowing you and hate you when they don't even know you.

"All of a sudden, you're like the bin Laden of America. Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going through..."

Yeah man, that poor Osama, why are people always judging him?

September 19, 2003

NEW AUDIO: 40 minute mix from DJ 3D

I just (finally) posted some new audio in the radio archive, 3D's latest set from last week's show. New music of the highest quality.

September 26, 2003

R.I.P. Matthew Hall, a.k.a. Optimus Rhyme

NY's hip-hop and youth activist communities are mourning today for the loss of Matthew Hall, shot in the back as he left a Zulu Nation meeting in Harlem. Though only 18 Matthew had already made a mark with his activism at Hunter College, and also emceeing under the name Optimus Rhyme, at local venues including End of the Weak. Here are further details from some who knew him:

For those who have not heard or seen today's Daily News, Matthew Hall, a student at Hunter College, brother, activist, member of the Universal Zulu Nation, was shot in the back Wednesday at 9pm, and passed away yesterday at 4:30pm at Harlem Hospital. Many may not know him by his legal name, but when you see the front cover of the daily news you will know that face, Matthew was involved in so many things, he was at every major rally, protest, always at meetings, and last year had put together an event at Hunter College, to expose students to the political nature of hip hop culture, Immortal Technique, the Welfare Poets and I were part of that event, it was such a success that he was going to continue to do more events at Hunter and was evolving into an amazing young revolutionary and activist. Matthew was also part of the Nu-Sense Collective a youth collective that has its roots at WBAI. I had the pleasure of seeing and chilling with Matthew last thursday night at Hunter College for one of the ACLU College Freedom tour stops. He was excited that we had chosen Hunter, and I said to him, it was his doing, in choosing colleges for the tour, Hunter was the natural choose as so many great activists come from their, and as usual he was there supporting, and seeing what more he could do.

In the last two years we have lost two great brothers in our generation, Rohan Wedderburn and now Matthew Hall, both shot violently. Let us not forget them or their contributions to our people.

***Hunter College Students are holding a vigil sometime next week.

-Rosa Clemente


yo... some sad shitty news...

word is that our homeboy Optimus Rhyme aka Matt was shot and has just passed away...

the man is our brother in struggle for justice and equality such as fighting against the war, right to palestnian state and against police brutality just to name a few...

Matt also kept it real for hiphop... hes down with the Guerrilla Words cause, EOW and Cajo.. Matt organized the Immortal Technique, Oktobre, LIFE Long and Welfare Poet show a couple of months ago in his school Hunter College..

i still can't believe homeboy is gone.. i was just asking him bout a j-live song yesterday and now word that hes gone... i was even bugging him to get a friendster account...

just shows us how we gotta cherish every moment..

we gotta continue the struggle for matt and all of our peoples that held the truth...

- Jose of Guerilla Words

And here is some press coverage of the tragedy, most of which thankfully avoids the typical "rap-related violence!" sensationalism:

NY Daily News

NY Times

New York Post - even the post is somewhat respectful, other than their vaguely paranoid assessment of the Zulu Nation.

We will pay tribute to Matthew tomorrow on our radio show, which will feature the EOW crew.

NEW AUDIO: Immortal Technique Live with EOW

This week we are once again welcoming the EOW crew to the Underground Railroad, with a radio version of their already legendary open mic night. I'm putting up this MP3 as a taste of what you can expect from EOW tomorrow night, it's an exceypt from their last appearance when they brought along one of this year's most talked-about emcees, Immortal Technique.
Immortal Technique on the Underground Railroad, August 2003

September 29, 2003

Dead Prez Arrested

According to an e-mail we received from activist and fellow WBAI producer Rosa Clemente, "Members of the hip hop group dead prez were assaulted and arrested by NYPD in Brooklyn today, Saturday September 27th, at approximately 3:30pm, while conducting a photo shoot in Crown heights." They were scheduled to be arraigned yesterday, we will post any further information we can find.

More on Matthew Hall

Here is a letter forwarded to us from a friend of Matthew Hall, the young emcee and activist who died tragically here in NY last week. The letter addresses the media's increasingly negative take on his ties with hip-hop and the Zulu Nation in particular.

The death of Matthew Hall has been widely publicized lately by the media circuits here in New York and there have been numerous despicable assertions, which are trying tarnish his legacy. He was a good friend to me so please read this first if you will write a news article about him. If you are not planning to write one, I encourage you to because the media has been portraying Hiphop, the followers of Hiphop, and progressive elements (particularly the Zulu Nation) as negative influences to society in this incident.

Matthew Hall is known as Optimus Rhyme in the underground Hiphop scene here in New York. As you may probably have heard, he was a member of the Zulu Nation founded by Afrika Bambaata. He was also a member of the amazing break dancing crew Motion Sickness. Although he performed poetry numerous times, he was more known in the New York open mic scene for his freestyles. As a matter of fact, he was 2nd runner-up on the freestyle competition at the first ever Hiphop Summit of Russell Simmons when it was held at Riverside Church, Manhattan.

Recently, the NYPD has been implicating his Zulu brethrens as his shooter. The Zulu Nation is a movement that promotes peace, equality, spirituality and justice and in no way did advocate violence or racism which the media has been implying. I have talked with his Zulu brothers and they have informed me about the disgusting strategies the NYPD has been imposing on them such as coercing them to give false testimonies. His Zulu brothers are greatly devastated and are mentally and emotionally tortured because aside from Matt’s departure, they have now become suspects (because they would not oblige to the demands of NYPD like lying). Although I am not a Zulu, I can personally attest that it was not a Zulu who was behind Matt’s death—Matt was even wearing an “I LOVE ZULU” shirt when he was shot. The NY Post particularly has been spreading atrocious lies suggesting that Matt provoked a physical altercation that led to the shooting. But anybody and I mean ANYBODY THAT KNEW MATT knows that he would not instigate such incident. In my years of knowing him, I have never even seen him close to getting mad even during the time when he was harassed by security personnel at Hunter College when he organized a free show.

Matt was also politically active. He was involved with the political organizations Refuse and Resist ( and Not in Our Name ( He was a strong advocate for the liberation of Palestine and the elimination of the oppressive social system. Matt played critical roles on the October 6, 2002 rally in Central Park (which was attended by 30,000 people), November 20, 2002 student walk out converging at Union Square and the February 15, 2003 rally in New York City where conservative estimates was at 500,000 but perhaps had 2 million people. He lived what he preached. In my recent visit to his building after he passed away, a worker in his building showed me a book by Gore Vidal Matt gave him to clarify the worker’s disillusioned thoughts on American politics.

Events have been organized to commemorate his legacy. On Tuesday, September 30, students of Hunter College are having a memorial (6pm @ Room 105 Thomas Hunter Bldg.). October 7, Guerilla Words (a monthly open mic which Optimus used to help promote, 213 2nd Ave corner 13th St.-8pm) will dedicate the October open mic to Optimus Rhyme. Cajo Communications is organizing a October 29th show with numerous artists (Immortal Technique, C-Rayz Walz, L.I.F.E. Long, Oktober and dead prez to name a few) at Lion’s Den (214 Sullivan St.) for him. Act Your Rage, a defunct monthly open mic Optimus hosted twice (he hosted the last one), will be revived to be held outdoors but specific information are not yet available. 99.5 Pacifica Radio and End of the Weak’s radio show gave tribute to Optimus.

Once again, the NYPD has shown incompetence and impatience to the point that they are ruining the lives of Matthew’s friends. Once again, corporate media’s thirst for profit (by writing burlesque articles to draw readers and viewers) is damaging an innocent man’s name.

To describe Matt is beyond adjectives so I guess when people ask me to describe him; I always have a hard time to. To name a few descriptions fitting to him, he was definitely smart (reflected by his GPA) he was definitely caring (proven by his works) and he was definitely responsible (balancing his studies and school activities, work, healthy social life and political involvement). I am not just saying this because he passed away; I am saying this because it is the truth.

On behalf of the mourners of Matt who wish the truth to be known, thank you for reading this letter.

- jose

October 1, 2003

Chuck vs. LL, on Capitol Hill

Another conservative stance from LL, who made a public endorsement of republican George Pataki for governor over democrat Carl McCall (who if elected would have been NY's first Black governor).

If the RIAA ever wants to get public support for their agenda they might want to consider putting smaller, struggling artists out there as their representatives, instead of the big names they've brought forth so far. This endless parade of millionaires claiming to be economically oppressed by college students just looks absurd.

Dueling Rappers Debate Downloading Music

Rapper LL Cool J Tells Congress He Backs Moves Against Music Downloaders; Chuck D Disagrees

Rapper LL Cool J joined entertainment executives Tuesday in defending the music industry's lawsuits against hundreds of Internet users who illegally distribute music online.

"My question is, if a contractor builds a building, should people be allowed to move into the building for free?" the rapper, dressed in a black suit with an earring glistening in his right lobe, asked senators. "That's how I feel if I record a song or make a movie, and it zooms around the world for free."

Another rapper, Chuck D, founder of Public Enemy, testified at the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing that people ought to be able to distribute the songs they want to hear on peer-to-peer Internet services, known as P2P.

"P2P to me means power to the people," said Chuck D. "I trust the consumer more than I trust the people at the helm of these (record) companies."

"LL's a staunch American," Chuck D added in a brief interview. "He's my man and all, man, but when you solely have an American state of mind, you're increasingly becoming a smaller part of the world."

The music industry's trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America, has filed 261 lawsuits against people it accuses of illegally distributing music online. The RIAA blames lagging CD sales on the downloading of music.

The subcommittee chairman, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, called the hearing to look into whether the recording industry's tactics were too heavy-handed.

"As a former prosecutor, I am troubled by a strategy that uses the law to threaten people into submission," said Coleman, a former roadie for the '60s rock group Ten Years After. Coleman referred to the rappers as "Mr. Cool J" and "Mr. D..."

October 7, 2003

Another Angry Rant from Grandpa Simpson

I started writing this as a reply in an earlier post, but it's gotten long enough to require a space of its own. In response to a rather, uhh, colorful denouncement of the anticon scene, 1200th Hobo wrote:

The simple fact that you said "art-fag shit" shows simple-mindedness and the sad state of this bullshit hip hop culture. As long as Nelly is selling albums to third grade girls, hip hop is dead. EL-P is only underground because he saw the direction the movement was taking. He could easily be signed with Rawkus and making a video on an mtv special.

How can any of you deny the talent of anticon? Sage francis anybody? Buck65, Sixtoo? Anyone of average intelligence can see the rhyming skill of these artists, and beatsmiths like Nosdam, Jel, and controller7 know how to complement the styles. So all of you shut your loudass internet mouths.

Although I don't support "art-fag" epithets, I must say the noxious elitism emanating from above is exactly what has alienated so many people from anticon and the subculture they have come to represent.

"As long as Nelly is selling albums to third grade girls, hip hop is dead..."

"Anyone of average intelligence can see the rhyming skill of these artists..."

The only thing that should be obvious to "anyone of average intelligence" is that musical taste is entirely subjective, and by definition nobody's taste can be more or less intelligent than anyone else's. A preference for Anticon doesn't make you any smarter than a preference for Nelly.

Personally I am not a big fan of either, and I'd say each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Anticon places much more emphasis on lyrical exploration, to be sure, but to my ears Nelly is more rhythmically and musically compelling (though compared to lots of other hip-hop he may be sub-par on these levels as well). I find most anticon material lacking in musicality and richness of rhythm, missing the vibrant sonic texture that is usually hip-hop's greatest strength. It generally appeals to me more if I think of it as "spoken word" rather than Hip-Hop.

But that is just my opinion. No more or less valid than anyone else's. I don't believe I am right about this music and other people are wrong. The only time anyone can be wrong about their musical taste is in the belief that they are right, in any objective sense.

Just to be clear, I'm certainly not saying that everyone associated with anticon exhibits these traits, nor do all or even most of their fans. That scene has no monopoly on this brand of delusional arrogance, you can find it in every corner of the Hip-Hop nation. And this vibe always saddens me, because I can remember when the lite comedy rap of the Fat Boys, the smooth R&B rap of Whodini, and the straight-up hardcore sound of Run-DMC could all share the same stage and rock the same crowd without anybody worrying about which style was "true" or "real". We were proud of this incredible music we had created, in all its forms, and celebrated its diversity instead of being frightened by it.

Since then Hip-Hop has grown so much, and expanded to embrace so many different styles and sounds, and this is a beautiful thing. But instead of taking pride in this growth we react with fear and segregate ourselves, retreating into separate camps and proclaiming that only those in our little tent represent "real hip-hop", and anyone else is a traitor helping to kill the culture. Perhaps this is an inevitable consequence of Hip-Hop's (d)evolution into a billion dollar industry, and its incorporation into the American mainstream. But it really depresses me.

October 9, 2003

Insert Phoenix-related Wordplay Here

Our friend(ster) Jean Grae has risen again, bearing a brand new CD. Thou shalt purchase it. It hath been decreed. Here is a review:

The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP

Jean Grae will smack the average rapper with a lyrical two-piece and a biscuit (that’s slang for a smack down for all you squares reading this). The femme fatale has the rhyme chops to hang with the big boys like Jay and Nas. Word. Her debut full length, Attack of the Attacking Things was heralded by pencil pushing, keyboard tapping music critics and underground rap fans. Her new effort, The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP, (what is it with these double word titles?) is more of the same thought provoking and technically precise lyricism with even stronger beats. Thank you Jean.

Before Jean was out of her teens she was a member of the heralded but now defunct underground group Natural Resource. No disrespect to the other members, Meat Pie and Ocean, but Jean, then known as What? What?, was the star of the trifecta. The same way Lauryn Hill initially stood out from her Fugees partners, Jean was the lyricist heads were checking for. On top of her skills with words, her production credits (as producer alias Run Run Shaw) were top shelf beat spirits as well.

The album is kicked off by its lead single, the incendiary “Haters Anthem” where she spits one liners like, “I’m more necessary than violence on the Amistad,” over an intense four-note key loop that has it’s tension released by the chorus’ refrain, “You f**k, you f**k, you f**k!” On “Chapter One: Destiny” she molds her lyrical clay is into a vivid Bonnie minus the Clyde tale that would make Ghostface. Meanwhile, relationships and friendships are expounded on over airy vocal snippets and sharp snares on “My Crew.” Nice collaborative assists are accepted from Cannibal Ox on “Swing Blade” and from Block McCloud and Pumpkinhead on “Code Red.”

The problem with this disc is that being an EP, and only six songs deep at that, you can’t help but asking, “That’s it, that’s all?” Grae tries to make amends by tagging a “megamix” of freestyles and older material at the end of the album. Beginning the bonus cuts with a blistering freestyle over Jay-Z’s own hidden gem “Breathe Easy” is a nice touch. She hold her own over a few Jigga instrumentals including the “You Don’t Know Remix” where she sums up the reason for her relative obscurity: “Not a thug, not a drug seller, not a gun shooter, not a stripper sex symbol…or anything your used ta/Marketing nightmare, I don’t fit into categories/I just rap, make beats and shit and sleep a;; these stories/All I want is the voice, all the people need is a choice, if there’s no competition, then what is the f**king point?!” Two tracks from her neophyte emcee days with Natural Resource, “Negro League Baseball” and “Bum Deal,” will make rap historians grin.

Maybe it’s the general public’s snail pace in checking for her that has frustrated Grae; and perhaps that frustration is why her lyrics are so venomous. It’s just a theory but if it makes her keep making superior hip-hop music (no need to addendum her being a chick, please refer to KRS, “A dope emcee is a emcee.”), then let’s hope she can keep finding shit to piss her off. Though, more overdue recognition will be welcomed and is sure to come.

October 11, 2003

NEW AUDIO: Highlights of EOW on the Underground Railroad

For those who don't know End of the Weak is a collective of emcees who also run New York's hottest and longest running open mic. We've been working with them to bring their breeding ground for local talent to the radio, and tonight we will have them on again with another hour of live emceeing at it's finest. Here are some highlights fom their last appearance:

  • Clip One - The EOW crew rocks the mic.

  • Clip Two - The radio debut of Chocolate Thai, winner of EOW's emcee challenge, and star of Showtime's upcoming hip-hop series "The Next Episode".

  • Clip Three - Underground vet and Stronghold representative Poison Pen returns to the Railroad. Check out his last appearance back in 1998 at the Freestyle Archive.

October 16, 2003

NY Faces a British DJ Invasion

DJ Qool Marv (Underground Railroad Alumnus) has put together a really cool event here in NY, here is the info he passed along about it. Marv will also be on our radio show this Saturday at midnight, with a few of these Manchester luminaries.

Qool DJ Marv with DJ Misbehaviour & Madison present: Bring It V.1 - The Manchester Invasion

October 20th - 11pm
@ Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette Street
No Cover

Featuring artists from Mark Rae's Grand Central Records:

Fingathing LIVE (Turntablist Peter Parker, Double Bass Player Sneaky, with interactive visuals by Chris Drury)

and DJ sets from Grand Central artists Funky Fresh Few, Only Child, & Jon Kennedy

Plus DJ sets from Fat City Records Darren Laws & Matt Triggs

And DJ sets from Twisted Nerve (Badly Drawn Boy) label head Andy Votel, Martin Brew (1/2 of East/West recording artists
J-Walk), and Subtub Players Records label head Tim Gilles (whose label featured one of the UK's biggest feel good tunes of
the summer "Wesley Music" which was featured on Giles Peterson's latest Worldwide compilation.

Even more details and information can be found at these websites

October 18, 2003

FUNDRAISING SPECIAL: Exclusive Hip-Hop Rarities On Sale This Saturday

Much to our surprise, we have discovered that we will be doing our fundraising special this Saturday night from 12-to-2 AM on WBAI 99.5 FM in NY, and also heard around the world right here. That's right, for those who like to hear a grown man beg, this is the show for you!

Regular listeners will know I always have some special giveaways for those who pledge $75 or more, and this one is no exception. I've been digging into my vaults and found a tape with some incredible highlights from 1995, including Jay-Z's appearance on our show back then, in which he rhymed with Natural Elements(!!), and extended freestyles from AZ, the Cella Dwellaz, and Madd Skillz with Lonnie B. Ive put this all together on a CD for anyone who makes a $75 pledge, and also thrown in an exclusive Emskee mix as a bonus CD.

Of course it's not about the giveaways, it's about keeping this alternative media outlet alive, which is more precious now than ever as the Clear Channel types gobble up more and more of the airwaves. But yeah, you will be getting something nice, in addition to doing something nice.

So please tune in, and give if you can! $50 will get you regular one-year membership and $25 gets a low-income membership, for students or other broke people.

We will also be having DJ Qool Marv and some special guests from overseas, as mentioned below.

October 20, 2003

Dead Prez Take the Cops to Court

Here is a press release that just came to the inbox:


dead prez files civil suit in response to unlawful physical assault and arrest by police officers.

Hip Hop artist Stic of the acclaimed group dead prez and members of A-Alikes are filing suit against the City of New York as a result of the New York Police Department’s unlawful assault, arrest and detainment of the artists on September 27th, 2003.

While asserting their right to congregate in a public place, dead prez and members of the A-Alikes were taking pictures when approached by two police officers and asked for identification. Refusing to provide a coherent reason when asked by the artists why id was necessary, witnesses say the officers requested back-up and upon it’s arrival, physically attacked the men in broad daylight.

“I was harassed and attacked by the police in my neighborhood,” says Stic of Dead Prez. “There were no complaints and I wasn’t violating any laws,” he explained.

To date, there are no state or federal laws that deem it unlawful for one to question or deny the demand for identification by a law enforcement officer. Attorney Kamau Karl Franklin who will represent the artists in the suit states that “Even if we walk away with monetary compensation…which we’re almost guaranteed given the illegal detention, it’s important to be an example to other victims of police brutality, be they recording artists or everyday people.”

dead prez, along with A-Alikes, the People’s Army and other fellow Hip Hop artists is organizing a call for action amongst New York attorneys, community leaders, political activists, musicians and supporters to help them fight back. “We can’t allow the daily occupation and brutality by the police against our community to go unchecked,” says dead prez artist M1.

On October 29, 2003 at 9:00 am, dead prez will hold a press conference before entering court that day to address the case.

October 29, 2003

Benzino Still Yapping, Some People Inexplicably Still Listening

Coming from a paragon of journalistic integrity like Benzino, i'm sure this "evidence" will be totally unimpeachable.. Eminem must be shaking in his Air Force Ones.

Benzino's Evidence Says Eminem's A Racist

Source Magazine's president and Rapper, Ray Benzino stunned the media by releasing this statement last night.

Benzino said that he has damning evidence against his nemesis Eminem that will seal his fate in hiphop, he acquired an original cassette recording of a Detroit basement tape which features a series of raps by the Slim Shady himself that contain blatant racist and derogatory statements about black women and black people in general.

The songs from that tape are dated back from 1995, the alleged tape will be revealed in the January issue of The Source magazine, which hits the newstand in December.

(note: original article had many spelling errors I could not bear to reproduce here)

October 30, 2003

P Diddy Is A Stalker*

Labor activist Charles Kernaghan, who proudly lists "making Kathie Lee cry" on his resume, has uncovered evidence that noted marathon runner Sean Combs' clothing line is yet another product of sweatshoppery:

P Diddy in sweatshop row

The US rap performer, P Diddy, has promised to investigate claims his clothing company uses a sweatshop factory in Honduras.

P Diddy, otherwise known as Sean Combs, said he was "shocked" at the allegation by an American organisation campaigning for workers' rights, which said conditions at the factory were wholly unacceptable.

The National Labor Committee (NLC) claimed workers were paid less than a dollar an hour, forced to work overtime, subjected to body searches and dismissed if they got pregnant.

But Combs said at a news conference there would be a "zero tolerance" investigation by his company, Sean John.

He said he grew up among working people and empathised with their struggle.

Combs told journalists: "I'm as pro-worker as they get.

"We are shocked at this information. We are launching an investigation into this matter, and if there is any proof of wrongdoing, we will terminate our relationship with this factory immediately."

Combs said his company, Sean John, had employed a compliance officer to make five inspections of the plant this year...

November 3, 2003

You Ain't Hittin in Brunei, Hammer!

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

Brunei's ‘best rappers' to release debut album

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

November 4, 2003

Slick Rick Is Free

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

Slick Rick Released From Jail

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

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

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

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

ALBUM REVIEW: Jay-Z's Black Album

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

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

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

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

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

if skills sold, truth be told

i'd probably be, lyrically, talib kweli

truthfully, i want to rhyme like common sense

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

November 7, 2003

Hip-Hop in the Middle East

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

Israeli hip-hop takes on Mideast politics

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

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

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

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

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

The Scoop on Jay-Z's NEXT Album?

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

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

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

1."renegade" featuring eminem prod. by eminem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i guess we will see

November 9, 2003

Arrest Report

If anyone cares:

Rapper Tray Deee Arrested in California

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2003

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


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

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

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

November 11, 2003

Let Jin Go, Son, It's Chinatown

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 12, 2003

Paris is Dissing

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

French rappers in war of words with government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 13, 2003

When Fake Rappers Attack, Volume 23

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

Benzino Disses Westside Connection

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

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

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

Evil Dee Comes on, Kicks It, a site you can always count on for the best hip-hop interviews around, just posted a new one with our good friend Evil Dee. Here's an excerpt on the evolution of the mixtape: - Now I got to talk to you about the mixtape problem happening now. You being in New York where all the dopest producers came from, what happened, and why the hell did every DJ start screaming on CD's?

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

November 14, 2003

R.I.P. Tony Thompson

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

Chic's Tony Thompson Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16, 2003

Boots Wants the Truth

Some righteous audio courtesy of our friends at Democracy Now:

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

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

November 18, 2003

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

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

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

The Source Digs Up Tape Of Eminem Using Racial Slurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2003

Shamrocks and Glocks: Benzino's Dirty Little Secret?

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

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

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

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

Benzino told him to use the N word.

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

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

Update on Rumors of New Jay-Z Material

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

November 20, 2003

All Praise Is Due

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


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

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

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

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

My Only Thought on Michael Jackson

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

November 21, 2003

Is anybody watching the Vibe Awards?

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

November 22, 2003

Kelefa Got This One Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts on that, citizens of blogville?

November 23, 2003

Eff A Pop Critic?

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

Almost famous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting piece tho, nitpicking aside.

November 27, 2003

Just Blaze or not Just Blaze: The Final Chapter

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

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

The interview (part 1)
The photographic evidence

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

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

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

November 30, 2003

Cherchez La Ghost

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

Cops skeptical of ex-gangster & his club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2003

More of the Just Blaze Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2, 2003

Hip-Hop Tragedy in Kenya

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

Rapper Shot Dead By Highway Robbers

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

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

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

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

December 3, 2003

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

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

Rap label drops 'Murder' from its name

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

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

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

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

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

For Those in the NY Area

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

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

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

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

Elroy! Elroy Cohen.. Gets the Gasface!

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

Lawsuit is glimpse into world of rap mogul

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 4, 2003

Happy B-Day Hova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got It Poppin'
Da Brat

Work It
Missy Elliott

Came Back For You
Lil' Kim

Ride Wit Me
MC Lyte

Go Head
Queen Latifah

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

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

Pump It Up
Joe Budden

Lose Yourself

In Da Club
50 Cent

Stand Up

Get Busy
Sean Paul

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

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

Under Construction
Missy Elliott

Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
50 Cent

The Blueprint² - The Gift & The Curse

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The Roots

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

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

He's Misstra Know It All

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

"90% of this thread is pure comedy.

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2003

Suing for the Perfect Beat

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

Soul Sonic Force v Warner

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

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

December 7, 2003

Eminem "Threatens" the President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(right-wing blog link via Oliver Willis)

December 8, 2003

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

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

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

December 10, 2003

Brian Batten, Please STFU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Last Samurai

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

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

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

The Internet is Occasionally Useful

This site is harrowing, and very necessary:

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

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

(via metafilter)

December 11, 2003


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

Tha Grand Verbalizer Has Returned

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glad He Didn't Reach For His Wallet

"Odd News" from the LA Times:

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

Report on Just Blaze's Label Deal

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

Memphis Bleek And Just Blaze Plan Label Deal

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

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

December 14, 2003

Lauryn Hill Gets Her Sinead On


Lauryn Hill stuns Vatican Xmas concert

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Batten Still Doesn't Get It

Follow-up courtesy of Dick Prince.

Naples Columnist Defends His Hip-Hop Column

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2003

Today's Quote

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

-from here

December 16, 2003

Brent Batten Finally Gets It.. Sort Of..

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

Brent Batten: An apology for attempt at humor that failed

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

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

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

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

This was not the case.

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

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

That was not the intent.

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

In this case, my finger was asleep.

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

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

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

I will endeavor to do better.

Cuban Link vs. Fat Joe: Fact or Fiction?

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

Fat Joe Denies Fight With Cuban Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But where were Marques Houston and Meghan Goode??

December 17, 2003

Today's Random Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

December 18, 2003

Latest News From

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

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

Rare Radio Special This Saturday

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

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

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

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

Raekwon Brings New Chefs Into the Kitchen

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

...How did you pick your beats?

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

Should we expect Ghostface collabos and production from RZA?

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

December 20, 2003

Rare Radio Reminder

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

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

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

Return of the King, and Respect for the Drum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great movie though.

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

December 21, 2003

Hey Now

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

'Rare' sound: Real deejays

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

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

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

Aspiring Rappers Find Themselves Homeless

The other side of the game:

Duo chronicling homelessness in rap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2003

Hip-Hop as Torture

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

US troops 'tortured' man with rap music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Christmas Present

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

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

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

December 24, 2003

Happy Birthday to Grandmaster Flash

And happy holidays to all of y'all.

December 26, 2003

The Rapping Chairman Mao is Blowing Up

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

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

Chairman Mao still adored in rhyme

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2003

Hip-Hop and Kung Fu Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 29, 2003

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes at Rare Radio

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

click each thumbnail for the full size photo

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

Come to My Birthday Party!

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

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

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

Audio from the Rapping Chairman Mao

Check it out.

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

December 30, 2003

Hip-Hop and Jazz

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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 Extraño 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 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.

January 13, 2004

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.

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)

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

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 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 don’t 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 don’t network. A lot of us don’t 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 ‘great thinkers’ within Hip Hop could not get a hearing with some of these artists...

...I think there’s 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 don’t care too much about too much news or what intellectuals within Hip Hop are saying. They wanna know what’s going on with Jay-Z or what’s up 50 Cent or what’s 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

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 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.

January 23, 2004

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.

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


Wow, looks like, 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?

?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. : 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

I’m most probably going to get a phone call both from my label and publicist about writing this, but honestly, I’m just tired of mincing my words and being nice about shit. I haven’t really written a lot on allhiphop in a second, mostly because I’m too damn frustrated with everything to write as a hobby. I’m angry, I’m 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 I’m sick of being a part of that cycle. I’m tired of fighting harder than everyone else to even just get a little bit. I don’t even know why I f**king put my heart into doing this when it’s obvious that so many people who don’t, 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 that’s 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 wouldn’t have pursued this career. I’m older than most people already established in this business and I’m 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?

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).

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.

February 2, 2004

We're Famous!

I was just grumbling to myself, "how come Gothamist gets to be in one of those free newspapers and we don't?" Then lo and behold, we turned up in this week's NY Press:

Music On the Web

...New York City, though, is not dead in the water just yet. Two shows on the listener-driven WBAI still provide an outlet for creative and more adventurous musicians’ records to be played. The first, Liquid Sound Lounge, hosted by Jeannie Hopper, explores dance music in all its forms ( or The second, The Underground Railroad, hosted by Jay Smooth, focuses on the underground hiphop ignored by Hot 97 and Power 105.1. Many notable DJs have gotten their start there, including, in my stupid opinion, one of the most talented: DJ Spinna...

Odd that in a piece entitled "music on the web" they didn't mention that we have a website. But hey, I'm not complaining! They even spelled my name the way I like to spell it.

Mingering Mike Finally Hits the Big Time

A few weeks ago we mentioned the saga of Mingering Mike, whose legend began with a post on, and soon spread like wildfire thanks to links from metafilter (and o-dub).

Well the story has now been picked up by the NY Times in an excellent story by Neil Strauss, that recounts how these two beatdiggers discovered Mike's peculiar treasures, and set out to find the man behind them:

A Well-Imagined Star

The term diggers applies to those obsessed souls who dig through cardboard boxes and milk crates at flea markets and thrift stores in search of rare record albums. And according to the unwritten bylaws of diggers, the location at which any vinyl treasure is discovered is strictly confidential. This is a way of protecting one's turf, even if that turf is just a dust-covered wasteland of hand-me-downs.

So it shall be that the location of one of the greatest digger discoveries of our time must remain a secret.

The diggers were Dori Hadar, 29, and Frank Beylotte, 32, friends from Washington who met a year ago at a Salvation Army store while mining for funk and soul gold.

"I went to a flea market, and there was a huge record collection there, at least 20 boxes," Mr. Hadar said, recalling the morning of the discovery. "I was going through that very happily when I came across this box full of strange hand-painted album covers. I realized they were fake and was about to put them back, but then I looked at them more closely."

Pulling the records out of the sleeves, he was surprised to find that they were made not of vinyl but of cardboard. Each had been cut in the shape of a record, with grooves and a hand-lettered label painted on. Nearly all the albums were credited to an unknown black musician named Mingering Mike, and dated from 1968 to 1976.

The front covers were intricately painted to look like classic funk albums; on the spines were titles and fake catalog numbers; the backs had everything from liner notes to copyright information to original logos; the inner sleeve was often a shopping bag meticulously taped together to hold a record; and some actually opened to reveal beautiful gatefold sleeves. A few albums had even been covered in shrink-wrap and bore price stickers and labels with apocryphal promotional quotes.

What Mr. Hadar found was a cache of seemingly nonexistent music: soundtracks to imaginary films, instrumental albums, a benefit album for sickle cell anemia, a tribute to Bruce Lee, a triple-record work titled "Life in Paris," songs protesting the Vietnam War and promoting racial unity, and records of Christmas, Easter and American bicentennial music. He had discovered, perhaps, an outsider artist.

"There are quite a few folk art collectors that are salivating to get their hands on this collection," said Brian DiGenti, the editor of Wax Poetics, a leading journal for record collectors. "I think without a doubt that when all this settles down, this collection will be in a permanent gallery, and it will probably be one of the more important folk art collections there..."

50 Cent Wanted, or Not?

Good old NY Post. Yesterday they reported that 50 Cent was wanted for questioning, evidently for trying to start a game of Cowboys and Indians. According to the post, 50 mimicked a gun with his hand and made a shooting gesture at some local Queens rappers who were shooting a video. No word on whether he made the customary "powwww! powwww!" noise.

I abstained from posting this cuz it was just a little too nebulous for my tastes, especially coming from the Post. And now allhiphop says the story was bogus, as least as far as the arrest warrant goes:

Update: No Arrest Warrant Issued For 50 Cent

Police said they were not seeking multi-platinum rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, after an alleged incident in Queens, New York.

It was reported that 50 threatened gun play at a video shoot Saturday (January 31).

GF Records was shooting a video on Guy Brewer Boulevard in St. Albans, Queens, when Jackson allegedly drove up, got out of his vehicle and allegedly said "What up? You ready for this?"

Jackson then extended his arm as if he were firing a gun, before driving off. Representatives for Jackson were not unavailable as of press time.

Police said they were not even seeking the rapper for questioning.

I dunno about you, but I'll take allhiphop's word over the Post's anyday..

EDIT: MTV confirms MTV confirms that there was no arrest warrant:

Reports that 50 Cent had an arrest warrant issued for him on Saturday in New York are false, according to a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department. 50 was involved in an incident in the St. Albans section of Queens in which the rapper drove up to the set of a local hip-hop video shoot, got out of his car and feigned the firing of a gun. Police say the matter was investigated but quickly closed.

February 4, 2004

Phoenix Ready to Rise

Our friend(ster) Jean Grae reacts to the feedback generated by her last allhiphop column:

Jean Grae: Responds & Freshens Up

I go through the feeling of being at the end of my rope with this career path much more than I would have publicly admitted before. My usual way out, being the music, just wasn’t cutting it that day. So I vented. Not for sympathy, not for the sake of bitching, just for me to get it out.

It was like suppressing a scream for years and finally allowing myself to be loud. A couple of times since it’s been up and reading responses, I started questioning whether or not this was a reeeeaaally bad choice. Really bad. I couldn’t go to bed tonight without it on my head, so I’m doing what I usually do, write about it. It still has two sides to it for me, but ultimately I’m glad I got it out. If it wasn’t in a column, it would have been in a song. So either way I would have made it a public vulnerability I couldn’t avoid.

Funny that, the responses were what made me realize how lucky I am to have this job. To have the luxury of being able to say what I’m feeling to a public audience and have it open for criticism is an incredible opportunity. Yeah, sometimes it’s crazy to just have an opinion of your day, or your experiences and have strangers either relate or be adverse to your words. In either case it is still an extremely powerful media that is unparallel in freedom.

The importance of language and technology being used as a means to spark thought is especially becoming more apparent to me with every day I spend pursuing this game. I was thinking no one was listening, or no one really cared to even try and step out of his or her train of thought to hear something else for a second. But y’all proved me wrong. There wasn’t music behind it, there was no packaging on it, but it made a little ripple. That really shook me. No, no, not “shook ones” shook me...”I will still stab your brain with your nose bone...” Naw, not that.

It made me snap out of the anger and keep sh*t moving. If words can have that kind of effect, then it’s worth talking. It’s worth fighting for, it’s worth getting bruised up and falling down and getting back on again...

February 6, 2004

Questions for Dizzee Rascal? (CANCELLED)

Suppose, theoretically, I was gonna talk to Dizzee Rascal. What would you guys want me to ask him? Theoretically.

EDIT: NEVERMIND! They cancelled on me (no reason given). This is why I kept saying "theoretically", cuz no matter how definite industry people say something is, it's always tentative. Harrumph.

Rescheduling in March was mentioned, we'll see.

DJ Monk One's UK Gigs

Even though the UK has now reneged on their half of the cultural exchange, our DJ Monk One (whose Pete Rock interview in the new Wax Poetics is already the stuff of legend) will still be spinning overseas this week, and sends along details:

here's the scoop:

friday 6 feb:
London at The Embassy on Essex Rd in Islington (Angel tube) from 8-1

saturday 7 feb
at The Roadhouse in Manchester with J-Rocc & Madlib!! from 9-3

sunday 8 feb
London at The Lock Tavern in Camden with Mark Rae and DJ Kestral Special
Afternoon Show from 3-10

i am greatly looking forward to spreading some hot buttery sounds of soul so
i hope your appetites are up!

a few of the fatter platters i'll scatter:
curls - mad villian, oglenon - lafayette afro rock band, do you like my
music - horace andy, into the jungle - cajmere, organ/swing - dj duke,
dancing on the floor - third world, small time hustler - the dismasters, the
all new ummph! - likwid biscuit, pet legs - inverse cinematics, cloud nine -
marvin gaye, the world is a ghetto - george shearing and amigos, new morning
- kitty winter, miss e loves jass - igloo, spanish grease - willie bobo,
ain't it time - queen yahna, bug in the bassbin - innerzone orchestra, in
the mood to party - grooove and the gang, genuine - sharon jones, sunny -
city people, vera cruz - a bossa electrica, black moses - asheru, ing -
brother culture, big blow - manu dibango, i was born this way - carl bean,
spread the word - capoeira twins, i gotta have it - ed o.g., lowdown popcorn
- the jb's, 100 pound of collie weed - carlton livingston, the girl is mine
- redfox & naturalee, slide - jeff thompson + jill scott, freedom - julius
brockington, mr. telephone man - new edition, tito's bossa - tito puente,
screaming target - big youth, what's up now muthaf**ka? - artifacts,
lambsbread - glen brown, dr. j dub - VU, groovy lady - meters, valentine's
day - outkast, having your fun - focus, mt. airy groove - pieces of a dream,
goggle - tanya stephens, mi ritmo te llama - ray baretto, levy jive - the
collectables, make way for the originals - IZIT, far out - crown heights
affair, percussion jam - konk, i know you got soul - bobby byrd, para buenos
bailarenas - walfredo reyes, sunday kind of love - bobby rodriguez y su
compaña, spread love - take 6, love will bring us back together - roy

Cold Mountain Controversy

The mighty Greg Tate weighs in on Cold Mountain. The biggest bombshell here may be Tate's admission that he "treasures" both The English Patient and Talented Mr. Ripley!

Blacked Out

Speaking of slavery, Cold Mountain doesn't. Its pale version of history is a whitewash.

We African Americans lead strange and conflicted lives at the movies. For this reason, the Internet was recently abuzz with calls by actor and self-described semiotician Erik Todd Dellums to boycott Cold Mountain, a Civil War film noticeably lacking in melanin content. Charles Frazier's novel hardly avoids African Americans as concertedly as the Anthony Minghella film starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. The versions share some key erasures, though—the opening scene, a re-creation of the legendary Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, Virginia, is perhaps the most egregious. On that July 1864 morning, Union soldiers exploded the ground underneath a drowsy Confederate regiment. Novel and film fail to mention how specially trained African American troops had been poised to attack the Crater (now a historical tour site) and the Southerners it swallowed. Historians claim that the African Americans were withdrawn due to fears of Northern political fallout if they were used as cannon fodder. Whatever, dude. Methinks the sight of armed African Americans freely picking off shocked and awed white Southern troops was too avant-garde for 1864. In any event, the upshot of the switch was that untrained white Unionists didn't flank the Crater as the brothers were trained to, but rushed in and got shot up like fish in a barrel. At which point all the bloods got thrown in as cannon fodder anyhow. The Confederates, already peeved at being sneak-attacked, lost it when they saw armed and uniformed men of African descent. One need only imagine the language they used. A military adviser on the film recalls Minghella shooting a scene in which a crazed Confederate soldier slaughters a wounded African American. The adviser believes the scene got cut because it was "too over-the-top" and "too painful." Minghella has similarly explained away the film's eschewing the immorality of slavery. Since that would entail having Nicole Kidman's snow-pure love object reflect on being a slave owner, one can see why. Once again liberal guilt goes belly-up in the guts sweepstakes...

Also of note: M. Matos on Kylie Minogue

February 8, 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 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.

How to Become a Grammy Voter

People tend to think of the voters for big awards shows as an elite society of industry bigwigs, but it's actually surprisingly easy to become a Grammy voter. There are probably quite a few people frequenting this site who would qualify. Here, as listed on their website, are the requirements to become a voting member of NARAS:

Voting Members are professionals with creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks (or their equivalent). These may include vocalists, conductors, songwriters, composers, engineers, producers, instrumentalists, arrangers, art directors, album notes writers, narrators and music video artists and technicians.

Note it doesn't say anything about your releases being on any sort of major label. This means there are probably tons of independent artists and producers who could qualify in the hip-hop community alone, enough to possibly have an impact on some votes.

You can bet the major labels are fully aware of how easy it is to get a vote, and they make sure as many of their employees as possible are signed up so they can vote for that label's artists. We need to get on the ball and start using our power to provide a balance, we might be able to sneak some new voices past the gatekeepers.

Hate on the grammys all you want, but they can bring a major boost in exposure for independent or lesser-known artists who don't have the means for a big promotional push.

I believe there is a fee to join, but uhh, look at all the cool stuff you get! (scroll to the "Academy All Access" part)

NOTE: For those who decide not to boycott, I will be keeping an open post as I watch the Grammys tonight, and probably adding my snarky comments after each commercial break. Come back and join me if you're around.

Ongoing Grammy Post

I'm gonna keep this post open in my browser while I watch the Grammys tonight, and most likely add snarky remarks after each commercial break.

The delay they're supposedly putting on the telecast is a bit of a buzzkill, I must say. Half the excitement of these shows is hoping for another Soy-Bomb or ODB Moment, but if it happens this year we may not get to see it at all.

I'm thinking somebody will probably strike a blow for Miss Jackson by ripping off their top to reveal a bra that says "We Support Janet" or something along those lines. Of course if the protest is carried out by Aretha, the message will read "We, the undersigned, fully and wholeheartedly support Janet Jackson in her current troubles, for each of the following reasons..." (sorry, cheap joke).

Two things I'm praying WON'T happen tonight: Prince's instrumental record losing to a freaking Kenny G Christmas Album, and Rod Stewart winning for that abominable collection of "standards". Please, jebus.

7:15 PM - One comment on the pre-show so far: In all seriousness, Joan Rivers' face is horrifying. That our culture has come to find this path more attractive than a natural aging process scares me more than a thousand armored nipples. And with that image in mind I'm off to eat dinner, be back at 8.

7:45 PM More pre-show questions: Who was Bill Maher's date?? An older Black woman decked out all regal and what not, very impressive. And why is the light skinneded Black Eyed Pea dressed up like a Prince impersonator? Is he hoping Beyonce might talk to him by accident?

8:15 I'm such a hardcore lifelong Prince fan, it's hard for me to judge this objectively. Started off well, harmonizing with Yonce on Purple Rain was sweet (yeah i was crying at that point, though this song is usually the cue for bathroom break at concerts, for me and my prince fanatic friends).. baby i'm a star was a bit Vegas-y for my tastes. A little rushed overall? i'd rather they just did 2 songs and really got into the groove. guess it was cool tho.

Quentin is so goofy.

Whoa, Yonce almost forgot to mention God!

Holy Sh** Pharrell on drums instead of singing! master stroke. I'm watching with my mom and stepdad who is a top jazz drummer, and he gave it a thumbs up. Can't match the power of last year's "london calling" though.

8:35 - C. Aguilera always oversings, live. she really has a voice, would be so much more powerful if she stayed in the pocket.

Matthew Perry is crazy wack.

?uestlove is right, the Stripes should have a bassist when they do 7 Naton Army, it doesnt quite work without it. Also, Pharrell truns out to be a far better drummer than Meg White. But that's ok, like most emcees rhyming over a timbaland beat, her job is just don't distract us from the real talent, and she's pretty good at that. I can't front, they kidna ripped that second song, best performance so far.

Was Andre 3000 in the bathroom or what? note he kept his hand in his pocket while greeting aerosmith, but took it out to hug BB King. Shortest speech ever.. that's what's cooler than cool.

8:50 - Somebody tell MArg Helgenberger "uncomparable" is not a word.

Our household was bored by Martina McBride, sorry.. if we don't like it we don't like it that don't mean that we hatin. Mom said "uhh with blond hair this is pretty much faith hill huh?" Stepdad says "i would not advise her to go on amateur night at the apollo"

Carole King shoulda got a tribute.

Even though I'm mad at Justin for punking out and not saying anything for Janet, I was really happy to see him get this award.. for real I've been championing him to everybody i know for yeeears, since before the N'Sync Celebrity album, and i've gone receiving an endless barrage of incredulous laughs to gradually getting a "man you were right" from every single one. So in a weird way I was feeling like a proud papa, and almost getting choked up with him while he made his speech. i'm sorry man, i still can't hate him.

9:05 - whoo.. a tear drops my eye. like probably most anyone who grew up in a black family, and many who didn't i'm sure, luther's music was a big part of my life growing up, brings back alot of memories..i'm kinda verklempt right now, seeing him hit those few notes for us kinda put it over the edge. Alicia wasa little shaky in the lower register sometimes but solid, she should coach Chrisitna on that staying in the pocket stuff i was talking about. hate all you want but celine is a top notch vocalist and consummate professional (heads are gonna roll for that intro!). excellent performance.

9:15 - Never thought 15 years ago I'd be saying Madonna epitomizes poise, but there you have it. Serviceable rendition of Roxanne, I guess.. Sean Paul didn't add much. I'm happy for Christina, well deserved. My picks are pretty solid so far.

9:32 Don't front, Justin ripped it. DON'T FRONT! THe "i don't have to dance, i will sit behind the piano cuz im a serious musician" angle came off well. not sure the "it's your thing" part really meshed.

Damn Yoko made me get a little wet around the eye at the end, what is that 3 times I cried tonite? What can i say, i'm a sentimental guy. yoko's another one everybody hates but i think is mad cool. She was once our record librarian at the radio station.

9:46 - BEP, decent, I suppose. The female member is looking very Beyonce, guess she was hoping Prince would talk to her by accident? Methinks the ruse will not work, for she lacketh The Jelly. They got away with calling the CIA terrorists on the grammys, I guess that is laudable.

10:01 - Lifetime achievement for artie shaw.. my stepdad notes he did a lot to integrate the music, was one of the first big white bandleaders to hire billie holiday.

Evanescence for best new artist, first one i got wrong so far. Lame choice. I'm really not mad at them, minus the Durst-sounding dude, but still 50 was the clear choice here. His mini-ODB move was totally justified. Props to what's-her-name for handling it with aplomb. Is that how you spell that? I actually find her kinda appealing, considering she represents christian goth or whatever it is they do.

10:20 - I forgot to mention Beyonce, performance of the night so far, easily. She's gonna be on top for a looong time, kids. No falling off in her future.

Sam Jackson perfect choice for the funk segment.. EWF are legends, no doubt, but let's face it "Shining Star" is funk lite. Nice to see Maurice White up there with the rest of the gang though. Outkast was aiite. Robert Randolph was cool but far from matching Sly as was hyped to me (this was the first i'd seen of him).

Then George and his army came on with their P-Funk train wreck, sloppy as hell which I suppose is how it ought to be. They got me amped at first thinking they would really do "Alice In My Fantasies", but it was just a tease. If you've ever been to a p-funk concert you know they need a good hour before they really get into the groove. I guess George shares my dismay at the omission of "Get Low" from the nominees.

10:36 - Foo fighters and Chick Corea.. ehh. That's just a boring song to me. My stepdad said of Chick struggling to be heard over the guitars "Shit, Cecil Taylor couldn't come over all that shit!"

Coldplay for record of the year, boo. I was afraid of that. Fear of a Rap Planet strikes again, Hey Ya and Crazy In Love were obviously the records of 2003. But as one critic said, when there are 4 oranges in a category, bet on the apple, and they were the only non-hip-hop choice in the line-up. Still a corny choice NARAS letting their age and (pale) true colors show once again. Thanks for the Kerry plug though, Chris.

10:59 - Nice tribute to Zevon, glad he got one of the major awards. I was afraid he was too much of a "thinking man's artist", not enough of a po phenomenon for the voters to recognize.

This show has had some solid performances, and none that really stood out as duds, but it's been too stale and sterile, lacking personality without a host and nothing very interesting from the presenters. Most of the collaborations have added up to less than the sum of their parts. Only suspense left, does Outkast get jerked on album of the year? I will be FURIOUS.

11:15 Luther for Song of the Year, glad i got that one right, he really deserved it. Glad the GOAT Carole King was on hand to deliver it. (Yes, this made four times for me)

Time for the obligatory fund schools and don't download speech.. at least he used positive reinforcement instead of demonizing the consumers, they are starting to get a little more savvy. The PSA was lame of course. "Oh no, her i-mac just siphoned all the power from our early-90's Taylor Dayne video shoot!" or whatever that was supposed to be.

Ok, they ar edoing Hey-Ya right before the award is given out, good sign for them winning. I hope! I will raze the earth with my anger!!!!

11:31 Outkast album of the year, praise Jeebus. I guess I can put this molotov cocktail back in the fridge, I'll save it in case Return of the King doesn't get any oscars. Great show as always from Andre 3000, he's just one of those magnetic and magically freaky personalities, like uhh say Bjork or Michael Jackson, that will always captivate, and it almost doesn't matter what is going on with the music as long as they're in the spotlight.

Whew. Gotta say I enjoyed that show, tame though it may have been.

Stank you for reading, and you are very smellcome.

February 10, 2004

Step 1: Secure Rights to the "Hammerman" Cartoon

Chuck, who famously designated hip-hop as "the Black CNN", now backs a more literal interpretation of that metaphor, along with a CNN co-founder.

Chuck D Backs New Hip-Hop Network

A new cable channel devoted to hip-hop culture has secured sponsorship from rap legend Chuck D, as well as CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld and former Viacom executive David Houle. Aimed at the 18-34 demographic that advertisers covet, the Real Hip-Hop Network is expected to launch this year with a major cable operator through a deal signed with OlympuSat, which packages independent networks for distribution.

RHN is the brainchild of hip-hop concert promoter Atonn Muhammad, president and CEO of SSM Media Group. He believes that MTV and BET are overlooking much of what constitutes the hip-hop world. "America only gets to see a fraction of what true hip-hop represents," he said. "We want to offer a grittier, more real representation..."

This could be good, and it could be really really bad.

February 11, 2004

New N.E.R.D. Song

What do we think about it?

This and That From Sneakers to Hats

A glaring omission from my Grammy play-by-play: Andre's dubious choice to rock a Native American theme for his performance, which is now coming under scrutiny.


Whoa, Suicide Girls added a pretty snazzy news section, and has our site atop their list of "news links" (lower right). I better get on the job around here.


The Village Voice's Annual Pazz and Jop poll hit the web tonite, but you can probably skip right to O-Dub's breakdown of it and get everything you need. The most painful quote he singled out:

The most interesting figures in hip-hop for me over the past two years have been the Streets, Northern State, Dizzee Rascal, Bubba Sparxxx, and Slug. Not an African-American among them. Can it be that each artist's otherness relative to hip-hop proper is bringing new styles, new impulses, and new concerns to a genre that's 25 years old?-CHRIS HERRINGTON

Um, actually that probably tells us a lot more about you than it does about hip-hop, Chris.. and I'll just leave it at that.


I hope I have time to finish S/FJ's magnum opus on the Neptunes and Timbaland before the NY Times makes it pay-only content.


They are making an Oceans Twelve?


Looks like his fellow Republicans are abandoning Bush in droves.. first National Review trashes his performance on "Meet the Press" (via Calpundit, also doing the best coverage anywhere on the Bush AWOL story), and now Bill O'Reilly apologizes for telling viewers to believe Bush's WMD stories (via americanblack). Seriously, people, we can beat this guy.


Why is the (deservedly) revered Crooked Timber blog ripping off posts that I made six weeks ago? Oh well, the more props Toussaint L'Ouverture gets, the better.


L.A. Reid takes over at Def Jam. Was Outkast's oath of fealty to him at the Grammys a hint that they may ultimately follow him there? More importantly, could this mean a comeback for the Highland Place Mobsters?


Bay Area Brethren: Prince is playing The Fillmore in San Francisco on
Saturday, February 14th, according to his website.


And finally, the mighty mighty Ego Trip Crew with the scoop on their upcoming VH1 show, TV Race Riot.

(My thoughts are with the people of Haiti)

February 13, 2004

So That's Why My Ears Were Buzzing

O-Dub points me to a post from Clyde at Hip-Hop Logic (who sends me a lot of hits from netweed, you will note in the referrer list below), wishing me and O had given more coverage to the Andre/Native American flap.. I'll reply here:

I was out of the room (finishing latest addition to the blog play-by-play) for the beginning of Dre's performance, which was evidently the most flagrant part.. once I got back to the tv I cringed at the indian outfits and tepee but forgot to include that in my notes on the performance, which is the nature of live blogging, some things will slip by when I'm running over to add my thoughts during the commercial break.

After a discussion on okayplayer reminded me, I linked to a story about it in a later post, calling it a "glaring omission" cuz I had meant to mention it that night.. I didn't offer a rant of my own cuz if the community in question has spoken on its own behalf I don't always feel it necessary to editorialize, and especially since I didn't see the performance in its entirety I thought it better to let the link speak for itself.

I certainly appreciate the high expectations. I wish I could be 100% comprehensive but I don't think it will ever be possible for one man with a blog. There are always a bunch of issues I want to touch on but don't get around to, like I still haven't acknowledged the rooftop shooting here in NY.. also neglected the anniversary of Big Pun's passing and Bob Marley's birthday.. the passing of jazz legend Malachi Favors..

Plus I'm unemployed right now.. for folks like O-Dub who actually have a life it must be really daunting.

And I think that's the beauty of our blog community, none of us individually will be able to cover everything, but collectively we cover an incredible amount of ground by each adding our two cents and building on each other's thoughts. So I'd say if you think a particular story is not getting the light it needs, that's your cue to jump on it!

February 14, 2004

The Lonely Road of the Taiwanese G

Damn, a gangsta rapper in Taiwan just can't get no respect:

Hanging tough?

Gangsta rap has come to Taiwan, but fear not-- they're firing blanks

We've been here before. Some shifty looking young males loitering on a street corner in East LA amid all the tried-and-true symbols of the ghetto -- the stray 50-gallon drum, the freeway overpasses, the graffiti, the cracked sidewalks and even a bucket of a ghetto ride that lurches to the curb with a boarded-up building in the background. It's a scene that's been played out a zillion times since N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton.

And that's the whole point. We're supposed to immediately recognize the symbolism in the opening shots of Iron Bamboo's (ÅK¦Ë°ó) video and draw the conclusion that this rap group is only one hair's width away from spraying the entire city. That's how gangsta these guys are. They're just like Tupac or 50 Cent.

But come on; Taiwanese gangsta rappers playing it tough on the mean streets of LA? The credibility meter registers in the negative zone on that one.

Intrigued though, I tracked the band down through their label Alfa Music to arrange an interview and like rock stars, they stalled and delayed several times before a meeting could finally be arranged. Some apprehension set in that the interview might take place in a sketchy crack den or gangster lair, until their manager called to inform me to meet them at a downtown Rose English Tea House -- the type with the frilly curtains and genteel clientele. That didn't sound very gangster at all...

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.

February 16, 2004

Put It On

I don't really give a crap about these presidents, so I will set aside this day to remember Big L. New Yorkers will want to catch his DITC family at SOB's on thursday.


The Department of Homeland Security evidently enjoys shopping for anti-Bush t-shirts. (via counterspin)


I hadn't bothered cheking out that pro al-qaeda rapper, didn't think it would be worth the effort, but I gotta say if you put aside the content this record is actually kinda hot! Homeland Security agents, please note i said "if you put aside the content".


Quentin Tarantino will be jury president at this years Cannes film festival, I'm sure we can count on him for some interesting picks.


In Knick news, it now becomes clear that Isiah Thomas' formula for success can be summed up in one simple phrase: get rid of all the white guys.

February 19, 2004

Oops, I Did It Again?

New Yorkers: The Ego Trip crew will be on Hot 97's morning show today, plugging their VH1 show, which airs this Sunday. Apparently VH1 punked out and made them scrap the original title, TV Race Riot.


The NY Times noticed that Dave Chappelle is the sh*t.

CNN noticed that Friends is not.

(via Gothamist and Fimoculous)


Fimoculous also hipped me to these posters of celebrities with books, but I have a question: why are Alec Baldwin and Britney Spears both placing the book strategically over their no-no spot? Did something go on at this photo shoot they don't want us to know about?


Here's yet another Dangermouse collectible, from his sessions with Prince Po.


And in the wishful thinking department: Somebody came to our site yesterday by searching for "Beyonce AND all-star game AND (breast OR boob)" Sorry dawg, lightning didn't strike twice this time.

February 20, 2004

Sign Your Name Across My Van

Cool idea, but do we really need Chingy?

Members of the hip-hop community, get out your Sharpies.

Jam Master Jay's family is collecting autographs on a van they're calling the J-Whip to raise money for the recently launched Jam Master Jay Foundation for Youth. Once the ride is covered in hip-hop artists' signatures, the J-Whip will be auctioned on eBay.

"We were buying the van, and I started thinking about what to do with the van," Jay's brother, Marvin Thompson, said Tuesday. "I'm like, 'Yo, why don't we get all the hip-hoppers from Afrika Bambaataa to Chingy to sign the van, wrap it with [pictures of] Jay, move it around the country for a little while, let it be seen, then put it on eBay and see what it's gonna do.' "

The Jam Master Jay Foundation for Youth wants to raise $2 million to be divided into scholarships for 1,000 high school students who aspire to attend college...

...Mos Def and KRS-One were the first two MCs to sign the van's interior, and since then Slick Rick, Dana Dane, Whodini, Chubb Rock, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Russell Simmons and Kurtis Blow have also lent their John Hancocks and heartfelt messages...

6 Hour "Rare Radio" Special Tomorrow

This Saturday night from midnight to 6 AM our squad of all-star DJs will be throwing down a marathon of dance classics, along with some very special guests. Here's the lineup:

DJ Emskee
DJ Monkone
DJ Spinna
DJ Tomkat AKA Tommy John the Bionic Arm
Randy the Bondy's Musicologist

and last but not least,
Kool DJ Red Alert!

This is one you don't want to miss, my friends. Also, the week after that on Feb. 28th, our guest DJ will be none other that the legendary Easy Moe Bee.

February 21, 2004

Join Us on the Radio Tonight: 6 Hour Rare Radio Special

Once again we hit the airwaves tonight at Midnight EST, with our radio show The Underground Railroad, and this week we are dropping another Rare Radio special, rare dance and house classics from midnight to 6 AM. In case you haven't heard, here's the DJ lineup:

Tomkat AKA Tommy John the Bionic Arm
Randy the Bondy's Musicologist
Kool DJ Red Alert

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.

February 24, 2004

I'll Try to Carry Off a Little Darkness On My Back

In case you don't know, here's why we are showing a touch of grey today.

Dangermouse's label sent a press release tonight, with thoughts from the man himself:

"It’s flattering," says Danger Mouse. "I did this project because I love the Beatles and Jay-Z. I knew when I produced the Grey Album that there might be questions and issues that this project would bring up, but I really don't know the answers to many of them. It was not meant to be anything but an artistic expression, and I still hope that that is the way it's perceived".

According to, the protest aims to draw attention to "how the major record labels stifle creativity and try to manipulate the public’s access to music, and it’s the perfect way to explain to non-experts why the copyright system needs to be reformed."

"For better or for worse, ‘Grey Tuesday’ is a watershed moment," says Waxploitation CEO Jeff Antebi, the manager for Danger Mouse. “We are seeing the rapid speed of peer-to-peer come head-to-head with a rabid, worldwide consumer demand for forbidden fruit. The internet makes it almost impossible to hold things back from the marketplace."

Also, check out the nifty cease-and-desist letter EMI has sent out to participating sites who are offering the album for download today. Here are some of the more humorous passages:

...We accordingly demand you:

1. cease and desist from the actual or intended distribution, reproduction, public performance or other exploitation of The Grey Album and any other unauthorized uses of the Capitol Recordings or any other sound recordings owned and/or controlled by Capitol;

2. identify the names and addresses of any third parties who have supplied you with physical or digital copies of The Grey Album or who are otherwise involved in The Grey Album's unauthorized distribution, reproduction, public performance, or other exploitation;

3. provide Capitol with an accounting of all units of The Grey Album that have been distributed via your website, either physically or digitally, and of all instances of public performance of The Grey Album rendered via your website; and

4. preserve any and all documents and records relating to this matter, including but not limited to electronic data and other information which may be relevant/discoverable in the event of litigation.

In addition, to the extent that you have already commenced distribution of The Grey Album, you must make payment to Capitol in an amount to be discussed. We demand that you contact us immediately...

Well if you really must know, I got my copy from John Ashcroft. Hurry, go kick down his door and throw the cuffs on him! empatically rebuts the letter here.

----------------------------------------------------- dj 3d spins on the rare radio special

February 27, 2004

Detox: Deactivated

In case you didn't see, our man on in the inside JB just brought some bad news about Dr. Dre's long-awaited next album:

Detox album.... cancelled indefinitely =(


February 28, 2004

Join Us On The Radio Tonight, With Easy Mo Bee

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.

Tonight we are honored to have guest dj Easy Mo Bee manning the turntables, and of course we'll be talking to the man about his experiences working with Biggie, Miles Davis, etc. Let me know if you've got any questions for him..

March 2, 2004

Arthur Russell and Disco Segregation

S/FJ has infiltrated the hallowed halls of the New Yorker with a profile of Arthur Russell, cult hero of the NY dance music scene and mastermind of the best record with the worst vocals ever, "Is It All Over My Face" by Loose Joints (another of the classics from Mel Cheren's West End label that blessed us with Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat"). Russell is starting to be rediscovered kinda like Shuggie Otis was a while back, thanks to a recent compilation of his work "World of Arthur Russell", and another collection of unreleased material "Calling out of Context".

Russell was also the co-founder of Sleeping Bag Records which later became home to many hip-hoppers including Mantronix, Nice and Smooth, Just Ice, EPMD, and their dancer Stezo whose Sleeping Bag album is now among the era's most treasured rarities.

My DJs and I (I mostly stood back and listened) spent a long time hanging out with Easy Mo Bee after the show on Saturday, mostly talking about that NY dance scene, Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage and so on, and lamenting how hip-hop and disco/dance music have become so segregated now. So many younger heads wouldn't be caught dead listening to house, and would never credit disco with anything besides inspiring hip-hop as a backlash to its supposed lameness. But that wasn't always the way, and that dance music and the djs who pioneered it are an essential part of hip-hop's family tree. Almost all of hip-hop's great minds that I've known, from Red Alert to Easy Mo Bee to Spinna to Just Blaze, have been devoted students of the dance/disco/club/house tradition.


P.S. - Is it just me or did fellow dance legend David Mancuso look a lot like Eric from Stinkzone, back in the day?

P.P.S. I've gotten to meet Cheren, Nicky Siano, and many other legends of this scene by hanging out at Jeannie Hopper's show, the Liquid Sound Lounge. Anyone who digs this kinda stuff should dig into her show.

P.P.P.S. Thanks to Sasha for correction on my mix-up of Cheren and Mancuso.

March 3, 2004

NEW AUDIO: Easy Mo Bee on the Wheels


A week after welcoming Kool DJ Red Alert to our studios we were once again in the presence of a legend last Saturday, when Easy Mo Bee came through to grace the turntables. We did a nice little interview that I'll get up soon, but for now here are 50 minutes of Mo Bee's favorite breaks:

And don't forget there are dozens of other mixes on our Radio Show page. They are lonely and want your company.

March 4, 2004

You Can't Stop Nothing Over Here, Akk!

No time to post today cuz I'm doing some freelance work for my old job (how do regularly employed people blog??). So I will share with you my favorite mp3 out of the 2,794 on this PC. It's a tape of Beanie Sigel calling Power 99 in Philly a few years ago, for a demented shouting match with another local emcee named Gilly the Kid.

I have no idea what they're arguing about but I never get tired of hearing it. Does anybody know what this was all about?

March 5, 2004

A Conversation with Easy Mo Bee

As promised here is the interview we did with Easy Mo Bee, after he finished dropping a history lesson on the 1200s. I think he's more comfortable on the turntables than on the mic but he was kind enough to indulge us for a good 15 minutes, with quite a few choice tidbits dropped here and there. Joining in on the discussion were Emskee, Monkone, and our extended family Uncle Steve, noted collector and nephew of Jabo Starks.

March 7, 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 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.

March 8, 2004

The REAL History of Hip-Hop and Porn

Man the NY Times really dropped the ball on this one. In their report on the blooming relationship between hip-hop and porn, the so-called paper of record erroneously reports that no rapper has yet "performed" as the star of an adult film. How dare you disrespect the true pioneers of hip-hop porn?

Admittedly Snoop's Doggystyle tape doesn't count since he adopts a Rod Serling role, introducing the escapades without joining in. But do you mean to tell me nobody at the Times ever saw Treach's Naturally Naughty Porno Movie?? Or the groundbreaking work of Cypress Hill affiliate Son Doobie in Son Doobie, Porn King way back in 1995, later cited by Eminem in "Guilty Conscience"? Talk about cultural illiteracy! did a far better job reporting on this trend last year (you know you're slipping when you get out-reported by BET!), and they reminded me that the true godfather of hip-hop porn is NWA's DJ Yella, who has been working in the porn industry since 1994 as Tha Kidd. Interestingly their piece also quotes Shecky Green, the producer Game's Hip-Hop Honeys, without mentioning that "Shecky" is actually Source co-founder Jon Shecter.

(NYT link via coolfer)

Khia and Necro Banned in Australia

Quite an unlikely pairing, Khia and Necro (Warning: Necro's site is extremely NSFW).

From reading the headline I expected Em and 50, or perhaps Lil Jon, but I guess the Aussies are looking for a bit more indie cred with their censorship.

Explicit Rappers Banned

THE music of two American rappers has been banned from sale to Australian children under new censorship rules.
The Australian Record Industry Association has banned MC Khia's single My Neck, My Back and album Thug Misses and Necro's album Brutality Part One.

MC Khia's single explicitly describes oral sex, and the album includes the track F--- Dem Other Hoes.

Necro's album has lyrics describing how to get rid of a body.

The ARIA introduced three-level censorship guidelines in 2001.

The first two levels warn of explicit content.

This is the first time the "level three" warning - preventing sale to persons under 18 because of "gratuitous violence and sex" - has been enforced.

The "Exceeding Level Three" category - a total ban - is yet to be enforced in Australia.

March 9, 2004

Why I'm Up at 6:15

Big thanks to Mr. Matos, for the headache he gave me by linking to this torture chamber of hackneyed music writing at Slate.

"'Windowlicker' is a few years old, but it's still far more innovative than just about anything being produced today. Where most electronic music, hip-hop included, is comprised of thoughtlessly simple beat patterns and painfully formulaic song structure, Aphex Twin employs true, detailed, musical composition..."

"Latyrx is the definition of what hip-hop should be. There's no shtick, no braggadocio attitude, and none of the millionaire posturing that's so popular these days..."

Yes, cuz goodness knows braggadocio has never had a place in hip-hop.

I don't want to be too hard on this guy since according to the bottom of the page he's not even supposed to be writing: "Josh Payton is Slate's interactive designer." Well then for pete's sake, Slate, stop cutting corners and hire a writer for that column, so this poor guy can get back to photoshop where he belongs!

My Brush With Biggie Smalls

March 9th, as you all should know, is Biggie Smalls Memorial Day, this year marking the 7th anniversary of Christopher Wallace's passing. I will now commemorate the day with a somewhat random and namedroppy story.

In the mid-nineties I used to spend every Saturday night at WNWK 105.9 FM, which was home to hip-hop's very first radio shows in its earlier incarnation as WHBI, and housed classic rap shows on Saturday nights throughout the 90s including The Dirty Dozen, the infamous DNA/Hank love show, Red Bandit's Nighthawks show, and the legendary Awesome Two (who will be our guests this week on WBAI).

I would do my show earlier that night, then come down to WNWK's studio on Canal Street to hang with my radio brethren and play chess with Stan the engineer. After the Dirty Dozen finished their show we'd usually go out for a late-night meal, and whichever artist was in the house that week often came along.

One of the artists who came along regularly was Shinehead, who was well past his commercial prime at that point but still keeping himself in the game, and always big fun to be around, gregarious and full of jokes. That night while we walked up to Round the Clock on 8th street, Shinehead was in the middle of telling a story had everyone's rapt attention when a voice came booming from inside a car with tinted windows parked outside the restaurant: "YO! IS THAT SHINEHEAD!?? YO C'MERE MAN!!"

We all turned to around to see a big black hand beckoning us over to the car, and followed behind as Shinehead walked over to greet the fan, and as I stepped up for a closer look I thought "damn is that Biggie Smalls??" And that's just who it was, excitedly giving Shinehead a pound and going on about how he loved his record back in the day. That'll always be how I remember Biggie, as a fan who was totally geeked to be meeting Shinehead, and gave him utmost respect even though he himself was already a much bigger star by that time.

I told that story to Mister Cee soon afterwards, and he said that sounded just like Biggie, that he was always a devoted hip-hop fan and music lover at heart, and no matter how much he talked about being in the rap game for the money it was always his love for the music that really drove him.

March 10, 2004

NYPD: Teaching the World How to Spy on Rappers

The Crunkster helps MTV follow up on the Herald's breakdown of how Miami police are secretly spying on hip-hop artists. The Herald also confirms that New York's cops, who pioneered this field, are training other cities in this hip-hop spy game, and letting them study the NYPD's extensive hip-hop surveillance files.. you know, the ones they told us do not exist.

Newspaper: NYPD Training Other Cities How To Spy On Rappers

Despite denials from New York Police Department officials that a "hip-hop division" exists to maintain tabs on rap stars, a report in The Miami Herald on Tuesday suggests that the department does indeed run such an operation — and is sharing its data with other police departments around the country.

The Herald exposes the Miami Police Department's tactics of spying on hip-hop celebrities and their entourages when they descend onto South Beach to live, vacation or party. Officers admitted in the report that they regularly photograph rappers as they arrive at Miami International Airport, tap hotel and club workers for information on the celebs' comings and goings, and stake out hotspots and video shoots.

"A lot [of], if not most, rappers belong to some sort of gang. We keep track of their arrests and associates," Miami police Sergeant Rafael Tapanes is quoted as saying.

Information obtained on the rappers is apparently kept in a binder developed by the NYPD. It was shared at a specially arranged "hip-hop training session" last May that included officers from Los Angeles and Atlanta. The training session allegedly outlined the information kept in the binder and trained officers on what radio stations to monitor for information on new rivalries and what to look for in rap lyrics.

Artists profiled in the binder include 50 Cent, Eminem, P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Ja Rule. When called by MTV News, neither the NYPD nor the Miami Beach Police Department wanted to comment...

MTV's earlier report on the NYPD's "Hip-Hop division" is here.

Talib Kweli vs. ImRickJamesB***h

Recently someone who goes by the name of "ImRickJamesBitch" posted links to a demo version of Talib Kweli's unfinished album. After a warning from ?uestlove that Kweli had heard about this and was fuming, Kweli himself appeared with a message for all those he immortalized on Kanye's album as "Okayplayer Haters":

You know what, I’m a fan of hip-hop too. If I had a chance to get a hold of one of my favorite artists CD’s early, I would jump at it. So if some asshole from a recording studio leaks my unfinished, unmixed and uneven album, consider it a personal triumph. Play it for your friends, and if you like it, buy the version I want you to have. If you are a fan of my music, allow me to live off it so I can continue to bring it to you. But once you put it on a website and encourage people to download it, you become the bigger asshole. You are not respecting my artistic process and worse, you are taking food out of my children’s mouth. The shit is depressing really because I work so hard and I deserve the right to determine how I want my music presented. If you are truly a fan of my music, please do not support people who do this, no matter what the temptation might be. This music is what I have to live on. You also disrespect the other artists by spreading rough vocals and rough mixes. You really don’t give a f**k about nobody but yourself. It’s sad.

ImRickJamesBitch, are you that much of a loser that you gotta live off another man’s work? Put your own f**kin’ album on your website. Get you some pro tools, pay producers and studio time, get guest artists to come be on your shit. Then maybe you won’t be tempted to just disrespect somebody’s craft. Kanye shipped 800,000 records. How many records do you think I will ship? But yet you couldn’t resist to expose MY album? That shit is not fly. I will find out who you are and you will be dealt with accordingly. This is no threat. To everyone else, I am blessed that there is so much anticipation for what I hope will be a great album. I have never gone gold or platinum. If you think I should be by now please don’t support or do shit like ImRickJamesBitch; that shit does not help. I have a mixtape coming next week. Download that. Please help my cause, don’t hurt it, and I will always be the best artist I can be.

Talib Kweli

ImRickJamesBitch quickly reappeared with this reply:

I appreciate your announcement and definitely see some of your points. But I think your anger should be directed toward the nigga who stole your shit out the studio.

And everything was cool up until the "I will find out who you are and you will be dealt with accordingly" shit. Be a man about yours and don't speak in ambiguous phrases. Will YOU deal with me accordingly? If that is the case, you don't have to find out who I am. I can send you my info and you can come see me "accordingly". I'm not trying to be a tough guy, but you don't really pose a physical threat to me. So you might just want to abandon that option.

I'll be staying tuned to okayplayer to catch the next chapter of this drama... Hopefully Charlie Murphy will be involved somehow. Kweli got into something similar a couple of years ago on the site, going ballistic on a kid named DJ 3rd Rail, for reasons that escape me now.

March 11, 2004

Shady Hip-Hop News Sites

Joseph Patel tells how one of his stories got straight jacked by

I did an exclusive interview with P. Diddy, where he revealed this point, among many (but clearly the one to peg the story on). Well, the clever blokes at EUR Web, the english-based celebrity gossip wire (more prolific than cam'ron at the powder factory), picked up my story, made it their own and then sent it out on their wire to a worldwide media syndicate.

Nevermind that they don't credit the source (the mothership), but they straight up invented their own quote: "Not that it will affect the rap community in the way that Jay-Z's retirement did. But I'll be shedding a tear the last time I walk off that stage."

the f**k?!

I went to eurweb hoping to find the article in question, but their obnoxious flash ads and spyware pop-ups crashed my browser.

March 12, 2004

Grab Bag

Our original guests for tomorrow's radio show (The Awesome Two) have gotten pushed back a week. But we have another friend in town who will be stopping by to do a set if he has time, namely the UK's finest, Will Quantic.. should be another classic if he makes it through. Yes, I know I use the word classic too much.


Charlize Theron finally got to meet Nelson Mandela, and was appropriately verklempt. (courtesy of Gwen)


Jin has a new collabo with Kanye West, which he is promoting on his Xanga homepage. Gotta love a rapper with a Xanga page! that's almost as cool as Anomolies emcee Pri the Honey Dark's Blackplanet page. (peace to Girlsareweird)


ha-HA! This time I will be first on the block to link up S/FJ's latest gem.

March 13, 2004

The "N Word" in Hong Kong Pop Music

Last night at one of my DVD shopping spots in Chinatown they were playing some surprisingly funky cantonese pop.. not really funky by American standards but you could tell they were trying their best to work it, and had landed in a mysterious realm halfway between Timbaland and Air Supply.

I appreciated the effort, and was nodding my head approvingly the singer started making a little speech in english.. I didn't catch everything he said, but I was damn sure bewildered when he ended his rap with a triumphant "..and you better recognize! Niggaaaaas!!"

Then they launched into the chorus: "This is the outroooo... For all you chickens and hoes..... This is the outroooo.. for all you chickens and hoooes.."

I inquired at the counter and found out this was a young man named Edison Chen, who I'm familiar with from two of Hong Kong's biggest recent movies, "The Twins Effect" and "Infernal Affairs." Like most HK stars he's famous both as an actor and a pop singer, and this track was from his latest release entitled "Please Steal This Album."

I hope his album title will be a lesson to all you American rappers: just because you're a bad boy and a rebel doesn't mean you have to be impolite about it!

EDIT: Further research seems to indicate the rap was not done by Edison himself, but by a guest rapper named MC Yan, from a now defunct HK rap group named LMF, short for Lazy Mothaf**kaz.

Do any of you know much about Edison Chen and LMF, or the general hip-hop scene in Hong Kong? Is it common for artists there to slang the "N" rock?

March 14, 2004

Prince All Over the News

Prince is getting a lot of love in today's newspapers, as he prepares to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow, with a new album and tour following close behind.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer serves a tasty entree with some cool anecdotes from Mavis Staples, Sheila E. and others.

Glenn Gamboa gives a solid overview of his career in Newsday.

But these pale in comparison to the special section (a 10-page spread in the print version) devoted to Mr. Nelson in his hometown Minneapolis Star: Prince: An Oral History. Registration required but well worth the effort.

And by the way, tickets are still on sale at ticketbastard for his concert here in NY tomorrow night, jumping off at a new club named Black on 56th street, after he finishes the Hall of Fame ceremony. Any time you can see the man in a nightclub setting like this that's an opportunity you don't want to squander.. and this one should be extra special, as he celebrates such a big day in his life, and has so many potential guest performers in town for the Hall of Fame thing..

Maybe this will be the night I've been waiting for, when Prince finally gets Sly Stone to rise again (a man can dream!)

March 15, 2004

Horror Abounds

Okay, somebody just came to this site by searching in Google for "Bobbito Porn." I'm not going to ask what they had in mind, and if you know, please don't tell me.

Other searches that brought people here tonight:

"pimp cup designers in CT"
"hip-hop postmodernity"
"piano negro hip hop"


In other news, Ms. Magazine has a blog now, and their latest entry looks deeper into an issue we wondered about earlier, the scapegoating of Martha Stewart.


I foresee horrific tragedy for the creatures of Middle Earth. Horrific indeed.


And speaking of horrific, somebody please tell me this clip of Rakim doing an promo for is some kind of hoax. Please? (via many places but I'll credit it to this blog)


EDIT: Continuing with the horror theme, looks like Donald Rumsfeld skipped class when they covered "How Not to Look Like a Soulless Demon on Television" in Public Relations 101":

Asked on CNN's "Late Edition" if the war was worth the lives of the 564 U.S. soldiers killed, Rumsfeld said, "Oh, my goodness, yes. There's just no question..."

I'd think when you're about to justify the deaths of 564 young americans, you might want to consider prefacing the justification with some expression of remorse, and delivering it in a tone that wouldn't be best described as "giddily enthusiastic." (via submeat)

March 17, 2004

James Lipton Presents: Inside the Blogger's Studio

Pardon the dead air around here, I'm still recovering from the Prince concert. I'll post a review shortly, but in the meantime here's the first half of an interview I did tonite for My first time doing an interview via IM, more challenging than I expected.

Also check out our friend's surprisingly controversial chat with Gothamist.

Insert Joke Containing "Gimme The Light" and "Menorah" Here

Here, unearthed by a top israeli blog, is a cool name for Adam Sandler to drop when he inevitably does yet another version of that Chanukah Song:

It's A Happy Chanukah for...

Sean Paul, 30, who just got two Grammy nominations — best new artist and best reggae album. Talk about an exotic background! His full name is Sean Paul Henriques. His father’s family is Sephardim of Portuguese origin who came to Jamaica in the mid-1600s. The Henriques have always been one of the most prominent Jewish families on the island.

Sean attended, among other schools, Jamaica’s Hillel Academy, a non-denominational school sponsored by the Jewish community. His mother is of Chinese Jamaican background. That’s about all that has come out about his Jewish background — except one of his big hits, ”Get Busy,” has been the subject of buzz on Jewish music sites because the rhythm of the tune (but not the words!) is very much like a Haftarah chant.

Sean rose to prominence as a dance-hall DJ in Jamaica. He broke huge this last year, when “Get Busy” rose to No. 1 on the U.S. charts and his CD “Dutty Rock” hit the Top 10. Jamaica’s Jews, by the way, have always been well integrated into the life of the island, and the community has produced many important business, cultural and government figures.

Hip-Hop Blogs: Blind to Gender Issues?

Lizelle of Paper Thin Philosophies writes:

"When all women and men engaged in feminist struggle understand the interlocking nature of systems of domination, of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, feminist movement will regain its revolutionary progressive momentum." - bell hooks

It's damn hard, so damn hard when men do not even take the initiative to engage in the dialog. For example, on all these hip hop blogs I go to and read, where is the discourse on gender, patriarchy, sexism, etc? Step up dammit!

So, what of it, people? Before I slant things by putting my two cents in I'd like to get your thoughts on this, since a lot of the best hip-hop bloggers come through here, and the most astute blog readers as well. Certainly these issues deserve more attention, and this is as good a place as any to start.

March 18, 2004

Gay Hip-Hop: Can the Subaltern Spit?

Terry Sawyer with a must-read on hip-hop and homosexuality:

Queering the Mic

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House"
– Audre Lorde

"My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge
That'll stab you in the head
Whether you're a fag or lez"
– Eminem

The Lorde quote has always haunted me for both the way it sears open an entire realm of truth to power and the ways in which it's clearly too pat; particularly when the master's tools are the only things lying around. In hip-hop, this quote seems to run on a loop in my head as I watch video after video of consumer gluttony gone bling with women just one more thing to accumulate.

Don't get me wrong, I love hip-hop. For someone enamored with language the way I am, there's nothing like the pleasure of listening to a genre where words are minted by the minute and meaning gets telegraphed to your booty through lexical stunts of brilliant rhythm. But I got issues. Even the margins of hip-hop are plagued with Promise Keeper views of women and tedious dependence on the crutch of homophobia. (e.g., Not two minutes into the latest MC Jean Grae, we're treated to diss all of the "faggots" who don't tremble in her path.) It's worse listening to the mangling explanations which come forth, that usually end by illuminating the fact that they're not just really calling someone a homosexual, but doing so with a back handed gesture of sexism. I guess this means that the categories of gay and lesbian has become a toxic waste dump for leftover bigotries that can no longer be expressed in polite company.

The energies of prejudice can be impacted into gays because there are still several socially acceptable rationalizations for the hatred. Still debating our existential validity, just recently given legal permission (at least partially) to be who we are, queer folk still operate as frighteners in public debates where religious psychotics still reign over a major political party and forge their selves and sense of mission from the number of freedom pyres under their belts.

Talking to gay artists about their sexuality and art can be a tricky task. Every time I do it, I'm confronted with the low-grade hostility that emanates from a human who feels caged and constrained by a label. Nobody wants to drag around such an oppression nametag as a point of entry for recognition. It's the same burden African-American artists struggled with and, in many cases, have largely overcome through ubiquity. Saying "gay" rapper, comes with an undercurrent of stooping as if to say "Oh, look dear" or "My, my, what a surprise."

Having wound my way through the house of a thousand caveats, I still set out to find out whether or not Lorde's axiom holds true for queers, and whether or not GLBT people could make countercurrent inroads in a genre deeply invested in keeping them as a place holder on the bottom of the totem – just below "yo mamma" slams...

Ozomatli Show Gets Maced

Strange happenings at SXSW. What the heck was this all about?


...For their final song, Ozomatli started a procession out of the doors and into the street, each member playing their instrument acoustically, playing drums and guitar and whatever and singing as they made their way through the crowd, which consisted primarily of happy, laughing, dancing people.

Which is when the cops started beating some guy up and (literally) randomly Macing the rest of us, for no apparent goddamn reason at all.

I don't know what happened. One minute I'm watching a really happy, positive musical vibe, the next minute I'm smelling Mace and people are stampeding away from me. Abe had his bike and almost got knocked over. One cop pointed his Mace at me and I screamed "What the f**k do you think you're gonna do with that? What the f**k is wrong with you?"

They ended up in a circle -- some of them with batons, beating up some hippie looking guy, the rest standing in a circle looking like they were ready to start shooting at the rest of us, who started to get outraged (especially the middle-aged yuppie types who were just there for the show).

So Abe and I whipped out our cell phone camera and started snapping shots -- or in my case, pretending to, since my battery was too low to take pictures. We started yelling at them. "Go ahead, motherf**ker, spray down the f**king tourists, motherf**ker. Let's go national with this s**t..."

(via the ab)

March 21, 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 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.

More Google Fun

Google searches that brought people to this site yesterday:

"modern rock sucks"
"negro black porn"
"rare muslim kung fu styles" - well worth researching, now that I take a look.

and the most disquieting:

"hear Sasha kill the b*tch" (?!??)

After consulting with the most prominent Sasha available, I figured out they were just looking for an old dancehall record. Whew.

March 22, 2004

Is Hip-Hop Poetry? Am I Supposed to Care?

I wasn't going to post about this Salon thing on hip-hop and spoken word vs. traditional poetry, because it's the type of article that annoys me without seeming worth the energy to rebut (which makes it annoy me that much more). But since I got roped into discussing it briefly at a friend's journal I will paste what I wrote there.


I saw that article and thought it was very poor for various reasons.. I found Saul's emcee vs. spoken word take shaky also, cuz there is a great deal of introspective hip-hop, just check out DMX's records, for one example people might find unlikely.

Whether hip-hop is poetry has never struck me as a question worth asking. I see no value in seeking validation from that establishment.. Plus, hip-hop is music first and foremost, and too many people miss the point by focusing entirely on the lyrical content.. so many reviews of hip-hop albums give no indication that it is a work of music they are judging, as they only critique the topics discussed, ideas expressed etc., which are all secondary to the musicality, for the hip-hop ear. So attempting to judge hip-hop by the literary world's traditional poetic standards is not likely to bring anyone a better understanding of the form..

FBI Picks Up 6-Year-Old Lead in Biggie Case

The LA Times Chuck Philips, who was highly respected before dropping his dubious theory that Biggie had Tupac killed (we'll be polite and pretend that never happened), reports the FBI is finally following up on the long-rumored involvement of the LAPD in Biggie's death:

Former officer investigated in rapper's death

FBI case probes claims he helped plan '97 ambush

Seven years after the killing of rap star Notorious B.I.G., the FBI is investigating allegations that a rogue Los Angeles police officer orchestrated the slaying with rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, according to court documents and law enforcement sources.

The FBI is pursuing a 6-year-old theory that then-officer David A. Mack, acting at Knight's request, arranged for Amir Muhammad, Mack's friend and college roommate, to ambush the rapper outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Over the years, the Los Angeles Police Department has offered conflicting assessments of the theory, which police at one point took seriously. Documents show that LAPD detectives are now focusing on an alternative theory that centers on a Houston rap entrepreneur.

Mack, Knight and Muhammad, a Southern California mortgage broker, have long denied any involvement in the 1997 killing. "I have stated from the outset that I have nothing whatsoever to do with any of this," Muhammad, who also uses the name Harry Billups, said Thursday from his attorney's office. "I've done nothing wrong. I don't have anything to hide."

Knight, founder of Death Row Records, also rejected the allegations. "I don't know David Mack or Amir Muhammad. I've never met them," he said from Mule Creek State Prison, where he is serving time for a probation violation...

March 23, 2004

Okay Party People, When I Say Product, You Say Placement!

Funny little story from SxSW, courtesy of the Creative Commons blog.

Call and Response

My most vivid memory from South by Southwest:

Thursday night in Austin, TX, USA, MSN threw a party across the street from the convention center. It was in a spare warehouse space, like a rave or fly-by-night underground party, but the fancy lighting, free drinks, and imported-looking crowd (L.A.) all said Big Bucks. The women checking the guest list looked as if they might moonlight on The Price is Right. The event was planned, from what I could gather, as a buzz-builder for MSN's big move into the iTunes-style content business.

When I came in, the crowd -- around two hundred, I'd guess -- had gathered around the stage where legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash was in the middle of a set...

...after a compelling tweak of the bassline in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Grandmaster Flash cut the music and prepared the crowd for some call-and-response. It was old-school audience participation time. He'd play a hook, then cut the music, and the crowd would shout an answer in time with the song.

The call?

The chorus of "Good Times," a 1979 disco classic whose bassline Grandmaster's labelmates, the Sugarhill Gang, lifted for their single "Rapper's Delight" -- probably one of the top few most famous hip-hop songs ever, and one of the very first.

The response?

When I do this, said Grandmaster Flash, playing the vocal "Good Times," then dropping the volume, everyone yell "MSN."

People in the audience looked at each other.

Got it? he said into the microphone, Good times -- MSN! Good times -- MSN! Got it? Here we go.

A few people booed. The DJ played a few rounds of the vocal, then cut the volume.

Grandmaster Flash, and about a dozen audience members, shouted "MSN!"

A few scattered boos followed. Flash tried to rally the crowd. He played the call again: Good Times . . . Good Times . . . And the music cut out again -- the audience's turn.

This time they responded. But they didn't say "MSN."

What did they say? I asked the couple in front of me.

They said, 'Bulls--t,' the couple said, laughing. I asked my friends. They heard the same thing.

After a couple more such calls and responses, Grandmaster Flash went back to the regular show, and right away the crowd threw its hands in the air and danced again as if none of it had ever happened.

I don't really blame Grandmaster Flash. Or MSN for that matter. It's all just business.

Whether it's smart business is another story. And whether the stunt's layer upon layer of irony was intended or accidental is simply a mystery.


Also notable while we're on their page, CC's new music sharing license.

Raqiyah Mays Fired from Power 105, for Discussing Interracial Relationships

For anyone wondering if the neo-puritan climate would affect political speech as well as the sexual, Clear Channel's hip-hop station in NY has removed all doubt. I may disagree with her take on the issue, but firing her for discussing it is crazy.

DJ Fired for Race Remark

Weekend jock Raqiyah Mays was fired yesterday by WWPR (105.1 FM) after criticizing interracial dating during her weekend show. Power-105 officials said in a statement that the station "decided to release her based upon inappropriate remarks she made to listeners during her broadcast on Saturday.

"The station received many E-mails, phone calls and messages from listeners who were displeased and felt alienated as a result of her actions."

Mays' comments on interracial dating came while she was running a station contest in which listeners could win tickets to an Usher concert by making a confession. "Confession" is the title of Usher's latest record, which has sparked heavy buzz in radio.

"I made a confession of my own," Mays said yesterday. "I said I was concerned about interracial relationships when the African-American community has our own inner work and healing to do. If I see a white woman dating an African-American man, I feel, as do many African-American women, that there is one less black man available to us."

The host of a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift on Saturdays, Mays said she was shocked by getting the boot from the Clear Channel station.

She claimed she was the victim of a "climate of pins and needles" stemming from the firestorm over indecency following the Janet Jackson and Howard Stern controversies.

"I wasn't speaking against anybody," Mays said. "I was just being honest. Unfortunately, the industry is under FCC scrutiny and the climate is ripe for reactionary measures."

EDIT, 3/26/04: Since I made this post, a transcript has come out of her original comments on the radio show, and they turn out to go much further than she would have us believe in her explanation I'd posted above:

"I'm a racist. I really am. I have a problem with white people. Not all white people, but a lot of white people. ... I can't tell if they are being real with me or not. And then I hate when the black guy is walking down the street with the white girl. I hate both of them. C'mon, there's a man shortage, why you got to go ... "

As I said in the replies below, seeing these actual quotes makes her explanation that she was merely "expressing concerns" about a need for "healing" seem a little disingenuous, and make it a tougher call whether she should have gotten fired. I'd want to hear the program in its entirety before I judged that, hear the tone of the overall conversation, what came before and after, whether it was part of a discussion where her views could be balanced out by others..

Going by this transcript, I'm still inclined to say firing her was excessive, but it's not as clear-cut as it originally appeared.. hard for me to say that some type of disciplinary action wasn't appropriate.

And for the record, personally I don't see how asking two people who are in love to reject that love because one of them is the wrong color will ever do any good for anybody, or bring about healing of any sort.

NY's Black Talk Radio Bumped for New "Liberal" Network

For radio people like me this is big news. WLIB 1190 AM has been Black radio icon since before I was born, one of the two biggest Black-owned stations in the city, along with their FM sister station WBLS (originally WLIB FM, I believe).

WLIB has been best known for its politically oriented talk shows, and their owners Inner City Broadcasting have always promoted the station as a voice for the local Black community, much like my station WBAI provides an outlet for those shut out of the mainstream media.

Their most famous host was Gary Byrd, who collaborated with Stevie Wonder on "Black Man" and "Village Ghetto Land", plus his own Wonder-produced mid-80s rap record "The Crown." Byrd was seen hosting his WLIB show in Spike Lee's Bamboozled (since then he has moved over to WBAI).

As you can see on their (cheesily Flash-heavy) website most of their airtime goes to Carribean music nowadays. But switching it to a mostly white talk network is still a major shake-up.

Also note: In the NY Times insanely long profile of Al Franken, who headlines the new network, they mentioned that Chuck D would be co-hosting one of their shows alongside Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead, but now it appears he is backing out.

Air America Will Displace Black Talk On WLIB

New York's radio station WLIB-1190 AM has been loyally "serving New York's Black community" - as its logo states - for decades now. In the early '90s WLIB was lauded as a resource for "Afrocentric" programming and became known for featuring Imhotep Gary Byrd's "Global Black Experience" show.

The station was in many ways a Black activist outlet.

But by the end of this month, WLIB will be taking on a different hue, as it joins the launch of Progress Media's "Air America Radio," the new, predominately White, liberal talk-radio network. Air America has reportedly partnered with Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which owns WLIB.

"We are excited about the diverse and important voices Air America Radio is bringing to the airwaves, both on our own WLIB signal and others," said ICBC Chairman Pierre Sutton. "This strategic partnership allows both companies to combine our resources and deliver relevant messages to a broad and diverse audience..."

..."I don't get it. I mean, I do not get it," local activist Elombe Brath said about Air America Radio's takeover at WLIB. Reports are that WLIB's 40th floor station has been remodeled for Air America, and that the 30th and 39th floors are also being re-built to suit the needs of the new network.

Brath, who hosts and produces the show "Afrikaleidoscope" on WBAI-FM, and who played a part in the Afrocentric reorganization of WLIB's programming back in the early 1980s, complained that if listenership was down at WLIB, the station should have restructured from within as it did in the 1980s.

"All of the talk should be organic, from within the Black community," Brath insisted. "How can they think about coming into New York with a package program like this? We have people here already who know radio, who can do shows. And they want to come in with a program from other people trying to talk to Black people in New York City? [WLIB] is just a station that has been stripped of what it's supposed to be!"

March 26, 2004

Google Advisory Label

Mr favorite Google referral tonight:

"asian gang the ghost shadows nigga"

Okay, they want info on the Ghost Shadows gang, I get that. But how does the "nigga" fit into it? My guess is they were addressing Google as if it were a person: "Ayo google, go get me the scoop on the ghost shadows, nigga!"

And speaking of thinking there are people inside Google, they really need to put this warning under the search button:

If you put a celebrity's name into our search engine, and go to the first web page that comes up, this generally does not mean you are talking directly to that celebrity. Posting your phone number so the celebrity can call you back is particularly not advisable.

EDIT: Numerous visitors also think they are talking to Russell Simmons here.

Oh My God, Andre 3000's Got a Gun!

This is, bar none, the single most outlandish attempt to make a rapper sound scandalous that I've ever seen. It is a work of genius:

Outkast member brandishing gunGun-toting Outkast rapper featured at Democrat event

Member of soul duo pictured brandishing firearm part of fund-raiser with ex-presidents, candidates

Though the Democratic Party is known for its aversion to weapons and has pushed legislation limiting firearm rights, ex-Presidents Carter and Clinton joined a star-studded fund-raiser last night featuring the rap duo Outkast, which promotes itself with an image of one member of the group brandishing a handgun...

...On Outkast's website,, one member of the group, Dre (aka Andre Benjamin), is seen prominently brandishing a smoking gun in his right hand. (After going to site, click on the right-hand image labeled "The Love Below.")

I can't come up with a comment snide enough to do this justice. I tip my hat to you, gentlemen. You have bested me.

Ghostface Killah vs. Random Spam Text

Have you ever noticed the random text that comes in spam nowadays looks just like the lyric sheet for a Ghostface Killah record? Seriously, look at these lines and try to guess which ones are Ghostface rhymes, and which are taken from spam I got tonite (with commas added):

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"

4-2-04 EDIT: This quiz has now become and actual contest, like with prizes and stuff. Go here for details.

March 27, 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.

March 29, 2004

John McWhorter and the Hip-Hop/Gender Meme

It's been amazing to see how far the discussion has spread since I posted Lizelle's question about hip-hop and gender (I'll be posting my thoughts on the subject soon, since I haven't joined in the discussion since I threw it out there). One corner of blogville touched by the meme was this blog that deals with education and learning disabilities, topics close to my heart since I worked for 6 years as a teacher/counselor for "emotionally disturbed" teens.

Liz Ditz drew on a variety of web sources for perspectives on hip-hop, including John McWhorter's essay from last year that will bring a grimace to many faces around here. I got into a groove writing a reply there, so I will paste my ramble here as well:

I found some of McWhorter's analysis rather dubious, grounded in lots of shaky assumptions and broad generalizations.. that piece was amply dissected at the time it came out, wish I had saved some of those discussions now.

His assessment of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," for example, is wildly off the mark. That song, with its refrain "don't push me cuz I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head" simply expresses frustration at the hard times we live in, and does so quite eloquently, much like Marvin Gaye "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." McWhorter's attempt to paint it as some sinister threat of violence is downright bizarre.

Suggesting that Sean "Puffy/P-Diddy" Combs portrays himself as a "gangsta" is also laughable to anyone remotely familiar with the public image Combs has cultivated for himself.

McWhorter's notion that hip-hop encourages its listeners to be anti-social and reject authority strikes me as outdated, if anything I can only wish that were still the case. Far from encouraging rebellion, much of the most popular hip-hop nowadays (see P-Diddy) encourages its listeners to do little more than obediently assume their assigned role in this society as passive, uncritical and voracious brand-name consumers.

Also, it should go without saying that mainstream commercial hip-hop is far more diverse in its content than critics like McWhorter would have you believe, and of course the few artists allowed into the mainstream only represent one small corner of hip-hop's vast landscape.

Turning "gangsta tribalism to healthy ends" is in large part how hip-hop culture was born, as founding father Afrika Bambaataa used it to steer NY's gang members towards a peaceful and positive path, using hip-hop to bring them together and provide outlets for their creativity in his organization known as the Zulu Nation (he had been leader of the Black Spades gang).

The National Hip-Hop Political Convention

The Newark Star-Ledger previews this Summer's event out in Jersey:

At this hip-hop convention, politicians will get an earful

Leaning against a light pole on Broad Street in Newark, a few feet from piles of hip-hop mixtapes and speakers blasting the latest hit from his mobile sales cart, Fuquan Brown, 28, nodded his head to the music.

"They said hip-hop was just a fad, but it's not a fad. It's a culture and it's not going away," he said. When two Rutgers University students approached Brown about registering to vote and becoming part of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention, he signed on the dotted line.

Music has power, he said.

Thousands of hip-hop music lovers from across the nation are expected to converge in Newark from June 16-19 to create a hip-hop political agenda that they want candidates to address.

Hip-hop music, which is used to sell everything from cell phones to couture, is a common bond for a multi-ethnic generation between the ages 18 and 35. Organizers are betting the hip-hop generation is ready to begin organizing, raising money and making candidates address their concerns.

"Rather than let someone else create what we should care about, let us decide what our priorities are and what's relevant," said Charles Hill, 29, the New Jersey coordinator for the convention, a project of the National Black United Fund...

Chuck D vs. Kanye, Satchmo vs. Dizzy

MTV says Chuck D took a few jabs at Kanye West recently, wondering why "somebody gets top-notch producer credits for speeding up old records" and assessing Kanye's mic skills thusly: "I think his lyrics are decent but 85 [percent] of cats rhymin' have the same voice with little difference in cadence. That's like the NBA having 200 six-foot point guards."

Whatevs and probably many others have taken delight in these remarks, and that's understandable.. Kanye's album has gotten so much hype his own mother must be sick of it, and his ego could certainly stand to get taken down a few notches. Plus, that whole sped-up vocal sample thing is due to jump the shark any day now (and I'd guess Kanye is well aware of that).

But for me, the first thing Chuck's comments brought to mind was Louis Armstrong's almost identical rant about the younger generation of be-bop pioneers like Bird and Dizzy. Louis wondered why they were getting so much acclaim for just taking a few of his old riffs, as he saw it, and throwing them together to make a bunch of "slop" with "no melody."

Obviously, although Armstrong's influence is all over Be-Bop, there was also much more to it than what Louis was letting himself hear. Likewise, there's more to Kanye's body of work than just "speeding up old records," even if you ignore his tracks like Dead Prez "(Bigger Than) Hip-Hop" that don't fit the stereotype at all.

Chuck of all people should know better than to make such snap judgements, since so many Public Enemy tracks could be just as easily dismissed as straight James Brown loops. Heck, they even had the nerve to loop the same JB record twice for two different singles, "Rebel Without a Pause" and "Night of the Living Baseheads," and then use it again on the same album, looped backwards for "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic." How is that any different from what Kanye's doing, except that Chuck's crew didn't even bother to speed anything up?

Does this mean those PE records were not creative, that they didn't bring anything new to the table? Of course not.. that (at least in part) is the genius of those Bomb Squad tracks, that they took these bits of sound without altering them very much at all, but by isolating them in a different context made you hear them in a totally different way, and created a sound that hit our ears as nothing less than revolutionary.

I'd never claim that Kanye's work is on that level, but what he does is not so different, taking these old soul samples and making them sound fresh in a new context. Doing this effectively is much harder than Chuck makes it sound, and the way Kanye makes it seem so easy is a testament to his skill on the boards.

Is this just a pattern we can never break, each generation turning a deaf ear to the next one's artistry, dismissing it offhand like a bunch of crotchety old Abe Simpsons? Dizzy Gillespie looked at Armstrong's attitude like this:

Entrenched artists, or the entrenched society, always attack anything that's new coming in, in religion, in social upheavals, in any field. It has something to do with living and dying and the fear among the old of being replaced by the new. Louis Armstrong never played our music, but that shouldn’t have kept him from feeling or understanding it. Pops thought that it was his duty to attack! The leader always attacks first: so as the leader of the old school, Pops felt that it was his duty to attack us. At least he could gain some publicity, even if he were overwhelmed musically.

I doubt that Chuck feels "overwhelmed musically" by Kanye, but I do wonder if it's just inevitable for each generation to get caught up in this cycle..


P.S. - needless to say, I'm not equating Kanye with Bird and Dizzy, or Chuck with Louis Armstrong for that matter

P.P.S. - All of this is assuming Chuck was not misquoted, always a very real possibility. MTV credits it to a post on his website, but I didn't see it around anywhere.

P.P.S. - latchkeykid showed me where Chuck's original quote was, at, a brief passage in a long post where he seems to be thinking out loud on whatever comes to mind. Since then he put up an equally lengthy (but worth reading) response to MTV's coverage of the quote, here.

Chuck now says he considers Kanye a "superb lyricist," and says "the knock wasnt exactly on Kanye outside of the fact of the perceived slap at education."

Well I'm glad you cleared that up, Chuck, and I agree with most of what you're saying here. But you didn't say any of that in your original quote, so you can't be mad at MTV for quoting what you actually said instead of reading your mind. Your charge that "I bring up a point of critical analysis, and they cant even cover that sht right." is unfair, cuz you can't accuse someone of taking your words out of context if you never provided any context for them in the first place.

Why am I pretending to talk directly to Chuck? I need to get away from the computer for a while.

March 31, 2004

Chuck D's UC Football Team Joke?(or Kobe Bryant Joke?)

I almost hate to even mention this, but Mosaic at okayplayer pointed out a line on Chuck D's website that concerns me a hell of a lot more than the Kanye thing. Check out this last line:

Ok , im getting ready to speak this night at UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER ,,..and im gonna avoid big blond chicks at all costs.

Is there some other way I should be interpreting that, besides as a tasteless Kobe Bryant joke? If so, please let me know. Please.

Without even speculating on whether Kobe is innocent or guilty, this case revolves around the possibility that a female human being may have been raped, and reducing that to "har de har har Kobe got in trouble for messing with those white women," as so many have done since the story broke, strikes me as all types of wack.

EDIT: Jeremy points out he could be talking about the rape cases involving University of Colorado's football team, rather than Kobe. Unfortunately I don't think that would make it any better.

John Kerry Hip-Hop Ho Hum

Blah blah, John Kerry says he is fascinated by hip-hop.. maybe I'm just too jaded and curmudgeonly, but why are these proclamations from candidates even considered newsworthy anymore? He's just saying what he's supposed to say, how else would you expect him to answer that?

I'm not saying that Kerry's words were insincere, necessarily.. but Kerry is like the average guy who's on a first date, and his date says she wants to show him some of her poetry. Of course he's gonna say yes, and tell her afterwards that he was "fascinated" by it, what else is he gonna do? Maybe he really did like it, maybe not, but either way his agenda at that point in the relationship is saying whatever he can to score points.. and that's just where Kerry is at in his relationship with us.

I guess it is noteworthy that the hip-hop generation, however that is defined, has come to be recognized as a constituency powerful enough to be worth scoring points with. We'll see if events like the upcoming Hip-Hop Political Convention can work towards capitalizing on that.

The real question is why do I let myself get caught up in pointless conversations like this one?

April 1, 2004

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, 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 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 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"...

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, 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 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 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.