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Clyde Smith on Hip Hop Culture & Politics
now at: www.hiphoplogic.com

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   Thursday, September 25, 2003


Scarface Contradictions

If you read this blog very often you'll realize that I have issues about guns in hip hop. Especially if it's a graphic of a gun pointing at me. I understand people needing guns for self defense, in fact, I'm checking out the flick Deacons for Defense very soon. But most people killed by guns know the person killing them, etc. etc.

So I have gun issues. Yet I love gangster movies. Not gangsta movies, although that can be cool too. But Casino, The Godfather and, of course, Scarface. I'm talking about Scarface for many reasons, including another contradiction. I get a certain amount of promotional email and generally ignore contests and don't give free publicity to big companies. If you send me something hip hop related, I'll review it. But if you have big cash behind a project and want me to put up a free banner ad without paying for advertising, you can fuck off.

Nevertheless the promos for Scarface reeled me in, especially this Tony Montana style Scarface Site Translator. I find it works best on more formal sites, like the homepage of the NY Times. Type "www.nytimes.com" into the little box and the "Dalai Lama" becomes the "motherfuckin' Dalai Lama!"

The other reason for writing about it here is that the release of the Scarface Anniversary Edition DVD includes a 30 minute Def Jam documentary, Scarface: A Hip Hop Classic. What's particularly interesting to me is P. Diddy's statement that Scarface taught him about rising to power, particularly when he just got 100 mil invested in Sean John. And, speaking of the NY Times, they had a nice piece covering the background of Scarface with some discussion of the hip hop connection.

Christmas shopping early? There's a very special Scarface Deluxe Gift Set! Oooooh!

Later.




   Sunday, September 21, 2003


White Boyz in the Hood

If you're interested in comic movies about white wannabe rappers, as opposed to actual white hip hop artists, then skip Malibu's Most Wanted and check out Whiteboyz. Malibu's Most Wanted was recently released on dvd/video and it is a real piece of shit. I knew I shouldn't have rented it but I just felt this obligation to you, my readership, plus nothing else really caught my eye. It was stupid and I turned it off after 5 minutes. I couldn't take any more!

I saw Whiteboyz quite a while back. It's been out on video since forever. It also portrays white boy wannabes but it's actually pretty funny and gets somewhat meaningful at the end without overdoing it too much. But Danny Hoch's portrayal of a white farm boy who believes he's really black on the inside is much funnier in so many ways than Jamie Kennedy's weak ass buffoonery that has very little payoff, at least in the 5 minutes I saw. However, as a professional cultural critic, I believe I can safely say, fuck the rest. Put your money into Whiteboyz or even 8 Mile, Eminem's dramatic feature which was much better than I expected, as I noted in my review of that flick.

Actually if you want to see some tripped out white boy hip hop action, check out the early Beastie Boys music video compilation released in the late 80s after the album, Licensed to Ill, dropped. I think it's just called The Beastie Boys and it probably embarasses them now because it's as fucked up as it is funny. It's a Jewish Frat Boyz from Crooklyn on Rap kind of thing.

Tavis Smiley/Makin' It

About a month ago Tavis Smiley interviewed Edward Dejesus, the author of Makin' It: The Hip-Hop Guide to True Survival, on National Public Radio's The Tavis Smiley Show. The audio of the interview is available but I haven't checked it out. Apparently the book is a meaningful source of advice for teens produced by the Youth Development and Research Fund.

Just a quick reminder that Hip Hop Logic is all about meaningful.




   Wednesday, September 17, 2003


FLOODTAPE - Nebulous Entertainment at beatvault.com

I recently received a compilation cd from Nebulous Entertainment called FLOODTAPE. It's kind of a trip because these guys are located in my hometown, Raleigh, NC. People that mostly know me from NC Hip Hop Online often think I'm still in North Carolina. Actually I've been living in Austin, TX for a couple of years but I'm still reppin' NC.

I put this cd on not expecting too much. Not that I assumed it would be bad but, generally, the most I hope for from up and coming labels is a decent effort with a lot of potential. But these guys are the real thing and they show a side of NC rap that just hasn't gotten that visible to folks that know the state from hearing Petey Pablo or Little Brother. Nebulous Entertainment artists bring a harder, ghetto-conscious sound that's much more like early Wu Tang than like Fabulous. Actually, not all of these cats are from NC, for example, ResConnec is from New Rochelle, NY. A lot of people don't know this but, particularly in the black community, there's always been a presence of folks from the NYC and other urban areas. It's a black diaspora kind of thing so I'm not talking about outsiders by any means.

The standout artist on the cd is Seven7, in part because he has the most tracks, but also because he represents both the best and the worst elements of Floodtape. Yes, as almost always, I have issues and my issues with Seven7 are that he uses a lot of homophobic slurs to make his points and, like other artists on this cd, he seems to dig guns in a way that's just not healthy. In the world of hip hop, too many artists have reaped what they've sown and I would feel like a liar if I talked about this release without making that point.

Actually I didn't intend to feature those issues, because I think this is a compelling cd and I really wanted to focus on that and on tracks by CAB Life, ResConnec, DINK, Swerve, Tye Banks and Prittz as well as Seven7. In particular, "Ghetto Life" by Prittz stood out as a favorite. Overall the beats were really solid, a couple of misses here and there, but that's true of almost any album I hear so the overall product is impressive. Lyrically, these artists tend to be both streetwise and verbally gifted. And I don't mean they throw in a little pun here and there. This shit is smart.

Nevertheless I guess I'm going to fixate on the guns and homophobia cause I'm just like that but also for another reason. Seven7 is the one who can't seem to drop a track without using homophobic slurs. Many of the other tracks are guncentric and, not knowing these guys, I'll take it at face value that guns are a part of their daily life, that they have guns (which are the first thing stolen in a break-in, by the way) and that they've lost people they care about to gunfire. So, I'm approaching this cd in the same way that I did with early Wu Tang, not to push that comparison too far but to say that the tracks all have a certain realness and, even when they overstate their case, it's in keeping with battle culture and other traditions of rap music.

It's just that currently, on the homepage of Nebulous Entertainment, Seven7 is quoted as saying the following in an interview in an earlier online issue of BLAZZIN:

“Imagine,” Seven continues, “if Jay Z did a politically conscious album right now. Do you realize how much that would shake the world up? If Jay Z did one, then Nelly did one, then 50 Cent did one, and Eminem did one, all of these guys who are moving all these records. If all of them put one or two conscious songs on their album that would change everything.”

You know, while those guys may show up for a rally with Russell Simmons, they generally aren't political because they can't make megabucks that way or they just don't have it in them, particularly that homophobic redneck asshole Eminem. But does that mean that Seven7's new album "The Wait is Over" has some political tracks to compensate for the homophobic gunslinger tracks? And would it matter in the context of the other tracks he's putting down?

I've probably said more than I need to but I've always written politically in this blog and the issues of violence and homophobia come up repeatedly because they are some of the major unresolved issues of hip hop more generally. If these guys were untalented losers it wouldn't both me so much, but they're really talented and worth listening to. You can check the Nebulous site for some samples, you can buy FLOODTAPE, Seven7's "The Wait is Over" and Forensics "Political Science" in the store and you can also rep yourself or connect with other folks on the site. And, even though I've got issues (some would say "as always"), I recommend you check these folks out for yourself. There's a good chance you'll be glad you did.

BLAZZIN

I may have mentioned BLAZZIN before but, since I mentioned the Seven7 interview, let me suggest you check out BLAZZIN as well. It's an online magazine originally focused on the Triangle area of NC, that's Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill for y'all foreigners. Nice mix of hip hop and related topics with a widening North Carolina emphasis. I couldn't find the Seven7 interview but I've talked with the folks at BLAZZIN in the past and they're planning on getting up some archives. It looks better with every issue and I just hope they can keep doing it. Well done projects are a lot of work.

Aight, I'm out.

No, it's a PS:

Just as I was going to post this via Blogger, I peeped their list of interesting blogs and found gangstories, a blog about guns, gangs and drugs on the West Coast. I think that's fitting considering the first section of this entry.

Peace. I mean it.




   Monday, September 15, 2003


Hip Hop News

Just wanted to let you know that Hip Hop News has added New and Upcoming Hip Hop Album Releases plus a listing of Hip Hop Blogs in addition to the current hip hop news headlines and website links. Check it!

Plus - yeah, this is supposed to be a weekly report and it's not. I've got stuff to write about but school's kicking my ass and it's nowhere near as nice as when my girlfriend spanks it, especially now that I'm single! More soon, I promise.




   Tuesday, September 09, 2003


Defari and Rasco/Cali Agent #1

Back in the summer Defari dropped Odds and Evens on High Times Records. It's not an odd album but it's definitely uneven. Overall fairly hard edged, it does have an upbeat irreverent appeal but I found the track "Slumpy" rather difficult to take, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. It just seems disrepectful to women without being funny although I can imagine the guys that would think it's funny. But he's still not going the DMX route of invoking evil while pondering being a preacher.

I certainly agree with Defari when he states that the "underground is going to surface into a bigger market." And he's probably right in following that prerelease interview comment with the belief that he'll get a part of it. Defari's getting good responses even though people have mixed feelings about the album. But you should check out some samples for yourself, he's worth listening to, plus the constant punctuation of bong smoking sounds is rather funny.

Even better, much better, is Rasco's just released cd Escape From Alcatraz. This release by Cali Agent #1 on Coup d'Etat features appearances by the other half of Cali Agent, Planet Asia, as well as Chali2na, Reks, Casual and Da Beatminerz, among others.

Invoking the Cali Agent name brings up the breakthrough collab with Planet Asia, the Cali Agent's How the West Was One. Together and apart these two have been an important part of Bay Area hip hop history, though Asia has moved to LA, as have many others. Nevertheless they've managed to earn a spot on the somewhat odd site gnod's statistics.

But this is more of a solo album with lots of collaborators. Rasco disses his former label owner on "Snakes in the Grass," gets very live on "We Get Live" and manages to unintentionally upstage Chali2na on "The Sweet Science." That last bit got me by surprise but Chali2na's really best at holding down the bass vocals for Jurassic 5. Nevertheless, thinking about how strong Chali2na is live makes me really want to check out Rasco live, I'm sure this guy totally rocks in concert. Rasco isn't afraid to tell people what he thinks and he's definitely broken out of prior disappointments with this release. It makes me sorry I ever left San Francisco.




   Monday, September 01, 2003


Cradle 2 The Grave starring Jet Li and DMX

I have a lot of cds to review, but since many folks come to Hip Hop Logic for movie reviews, I wanted to let you know about the dvd/video release of Cradle 2 The Grave starring Jet Li and DMX. It's in your local video store as we speak and it's worth watching as a decent martial arts flick with a hip hop soundtrack including Eminem, Fat Joe, 50 Cent and, of course, DMX. But really it's a Jet Li movie, though Jet Li doesn't say much, due to the martial arts scenes and the lack of nudity and sexuality. Though Gabrielle Union is quite attractive, displays much cleavage and does a partial strip tease, that's about as sexual as it gets. And the profanity level is quite low. So you can say this is much cleaner and less violent than a DMX album. More like Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah and the same director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, than like Hype Williams's Belly featuring DMX in a more fitting role with NAS among others.

Yet DMX is central to the movie and the plot focuses on his character's issues and concerns. You can check out the plot for yourself but I'd like to focus on a few details that stuck out for me. DMX is not yet an actor in the way that Ice Cube has gradually become. But his character is fairly believable and he has a nice chase scene that occurs simultaneously with a Jet Li fight scene. Interestingly, Jet Li's best scenes happen in the first part of the movie in separate encounters where he battles other characters without showing much strain, in one scene keeping one hand in his pocket. What impressed me was that it's staged in a totally believable manner and the reality is that Jet Li is a martial artist first and an actor second. He really can do a lot of what his characters do, except for the wire tricks. Nevertheless, Jet Li has yet to find the director that will show what he's truly capable of. Maybe he never will.

Overall a solid cast of black actors who may have achieved greater visibility by appearing in a Jet Li movie. Tom Arnold also shows up as a white guy/asshole. It fits but it's only so funny. Anthony Anderson is more comic without being a throwaway character. If you're a big fan of either Jet Li or DMX you will probably appreciate this movie although I think they're both better in other flicks. However I'd like to see both of them work with better directors. Jet Li was at his best in Kiss of the Dragon appearing with Bridget Fonda who's a fine actress and not just a pretty face. I'd really like to see DMX working with a director that could bring out the complex, powerful and often fucked up character that appears in his albums. That's assuming he can get his personal life in order, unfortunately a big if.

As promised, I will soon be reviewing all sorts of cds from interesting artists. Although I can only promise a weekly report, I will try to get in some midweek reports as well in order to catch up. Till then.