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

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   Friday, April 30, 2004


Hip Hop in the Newsweeklies and Blogs

Vast Aire's getting more press for Look Mom . . . No Hands.

Battlin' in Colorado.

Cool links from Notes From a Different Kitchen.

Multiple bloggers are pointing to the Kanye West production history

Dan Leroy hates on D12 World.

Hardcopé continue after losing a group member.

Oliver Wang on Lyrics Born and his album Later That Day.

Quannum Project performs in San Francisco with profiles of the project and of DJ D-Sharp.

Available from Amazon:
Vast Aire - Look Mom . . . No Hands
D12 - D12 World
Lyrics Born - Later That Day.




   Thursday, April 29, 2004


Hip Hop News Briefs

The NY Times on Talib Kweli, DJ KaySlay, Rakim and Ghostface Killah at the Roseland Ballroom.

Hip Hop at the Village Voice:
the Rawkus Records story
Rifleman Vs. Ellay Khule
Freddy Fresh and the P Brothers

More on hip hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

I just found out about Blokhedz, the comic starring Blak. It looks pretty cool.

If you had tracks on MP3.com, they are now available from GarageBand who has partnered with Trusonic.

CNet, the company that bought the domain MP3.com, has continued with its music download site for independent musicians with a growing hip hop selection.




   Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Hip Hop Album Review:
An Evening With The Sound Providers

If you like that jazz hop thing, then you'll dig An Evening With The Sound Providers. Since losing their mc, the Sound Providers have continued as the two-man production team of Jason Skills and Soulo with their first full-lenth on Abb Records. Abb is a nice fit, at least from the outside, with the similarly old school act, Little Brother, on board.

Although the lyrics at times border on the lightweight, overall this is a well-done, positive hip hop experience that doesn't forget that rap music is show biz. J-23 does a good job of describing the organization and ambience of the album, which includes Asheru of Unspoken Heard, Maspyke, Phonte and Big Pooh of Little Brother and The Procussions. I thought the mcs were a pretty nice fit although Rollie Pemberton judged them mediocre except for the appearance of Asheru.

At the very least, Phonte and Big Pooh's track does the nice trick of using Billy Ocean to provide both a decent sample and a mildly rude diss and Boudreaux The Love Child found a lot to like on this album. Although I tend to be disappointed by albums with lots of guests, An Evening With The Sound Providers does a nice job of integrating guests through musical continuity.

Other reviews:
Baltimore City Paper
Synthesis

Available from Amazon:
Sound Providers - An Evening With The Sound Providers.




   Monday, April 26, 2004


Native American Hip Hop - Comments and Artist Links

The recent article in the Village Voice discussing Outkast and Native American hip hop has led to a brief surge of interest among hip hop bloggers. Although I appreciate O-Dub's comments and the concerns expressed in the dialogue at hiphopmusic.com, I do have some questions about the issue of appropriation.

O-Dub has a photo of a Litefoot album cover in the above entry that looks like a lot of black rap covers in terms of the artistic style and specific symbols of wealth. O-Dub feels that if Outkast's actions are compared to minstrelsy (black face, etc.) then the issue of appropriation should also be considered. Though I don't think these are inseparable issues, I do believe that, as black artistic styles permeate the culture of the U.S., assuming that appropriation is what's happening is rather problematic. But then I may be making the mistake of assuming that when people say appropriation, they are talking about taking something out of context and using it unfairly.

I would have to hear more to really respond, and O-Dub indicates that his stance is not simplistic by any means, but I have noticed other situations in which black scholars, for example, have assumed that the spread of black (and often latino) dress and speech patterns among youth of other colors is somehow about taking up something that isn't appropriate rather than how things are when cultures mix together in unexpected ways.

Native American Artists

Nomadic - Blackfeet Nation
Litefoot - Cherokee
Lil Dre - Tempe, AZ
Tribal Live - Tempe, AZ

Native American Labels

Night Shield Entertainment - South Dakota
Strictly Native Entertainment - Arizona

Indigenous Canadian Artists

7th Generation - British Columbia
Justify - Alberta
REDDNATION - Alberta
REZOFFICIAL - Alberta/Ontario
Tru Rez Crew - Canada
War Party - Alberta.




   Friday, April 23, 2004


Hip Hop in the Newsweeklies

I like the fact that some of the more interesting hip hop coverage is happening in the newsweeklies and I realize that shared ownership means that articles that run in one paper will also run in another in a different region of the country. But it kind of trips me out to see articles that are a month or two old rerunning in a different paper. You'd think they'd let a new writer write something on spec. In any case, forgive me if I let old news slip through by accident.

Hip Hop Album Reviews

Gift of Gab - 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up
Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine - not once
Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine - but twice
Cornel West - Street Knowledge
Wide Hive Remixed
Vast Aire - Look Mom . . . No Hands
Dead Prez - RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta
Ghostface - The Pretty Toney Album
Ill Natural - Well Worth The Wait

Interviews and Features

Pharrell Williams
Four Tet
Johnny D
Quannum Tour
DJ Shadow

Available from Amazon:
Gift of Gab - 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up
Cee-lo Green - Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine
Multiple Artists - Wide Hive Remixed
Vast Aire - Look Mom . . . No Hands
Dead Prez - RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta
Ghostface - The Pretty Toney Album.




   Thursday, April 22, 2004


Hip Hop Politics

Let me be very clear about the fact that, though I criticized the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in yesterday's post, I'd like something good to come out of it. But I don't trust any project in which the structure is unclear and the supporters are not listed. There's nobody listed on the site and that leads to two possibilities - poor organizers or shady organizers. My guess is it's just organizational slackness, but we'll see.

I also would love to see Russell Simmons' political activities go somewhere positive and I'm happy to see that he's going to fuck with the Republicans. Part of the problem is, I just don't trust rich people.

I'm happy to report that the National Labor Committee, which publicized the sweatshop conditions in which Sean John clothing was produced in Honduras has seen a positive change in factory conditions. Although I wonder why I can't find any news items about this topic.

I'm also glad to see that the Outkast debacle at the Grammys is leading to more attention to Native American hip hop.

So I'm happy about some things but, basically, I'm a pissed-off anarchist that doesn't trust people in power and I'm willing to call even the nice people on their bullshit. You can count on that!




   Wednesday, April 21, 2004


National Hip-Hop Political Convention

After reading the Davey D interview I linked to yesterday, I went back and checked out the National Hip-Hop Political Convention site that I'd attacked so mercilessly in a recent post, cause Davey D's down with the Convention. It looks like they've redesigned their site since then and addressed some of the more obvious issues I discussed (but not because of me, I'm sure).

Although I was concerned about what I was seeing on the site, knowing that people like Davey D and Jeff Chang are involved makes me much more hopeful about the potential of the Convention. I wish the site had a list of people and groups involved in or endorsing the Convention. At least, I can't find one on the site.

What I find interesting is that the focus of the Convention is on encouraging electoral involvement by young people. Although I find the "hip hop generation" term a big too vague and marketing oriented, it does play into the youth oriented nature of this project.

I would like to know more about the aims of the Convention, since they seem to be building an electoral machine, at least based on the "Benefits" statement:

"1. Develops database of young people interested in electoral politics via web-site, delegate and local organizing committee process, and organizational affiliations;

2. Develops, prioritizes and popularizes political issues of hip-hop generation; and

3. Develops fundraising apparatus for hip-hop generation candidates running for office in local, state and federal elections."

Since local committees and delegates are able to designate themselves by registering a certain number of voters, I'd like to know what power these committees and delegates will wield. Who has created this structure? How will the "hip-hop generation candidates" be chosen?

I'm just wondering if this is an electoral machine designed to put preordained people into office, to funnel them into the Democratic Party, to create a power bloc to affect the Democratic Party, to create an independent force, etc. Are the delegates pawns in that process or do they take it over once they are there?

If it's truly a democratic organization, in which the membership calls the shots, how is the possibility of this organization being commandeered by fringe groups being countered? Some of the worst left cults are really good at getting voters registered, like the New Alliance Party which is apparently reemerging around the presidential campaign.

A somewhat less fucked up group, but still opportunistic and problematic, is the Workers World Party which has a representative's article on the Convention site. Besides the fact that these folks are hoping you'll become cannon fodder for their vanguardism, the author's fucked up politics let P. Diddy (Rapbucks) off the hook for his sweatshop connections, still uninvestigated as far as I know, even though he promised.

It's important to recognize that the people being registered now are going to be an important group for someone to build a political career around. Grassroots power is a real force to be reckoned with. But most often it's redirected into the pockets of whoever's situated to reap the benefits, whether it's a political organization like the New Alliance Party, the Democratic Party or the Nation of Islam.

I'm going to start following this topic more closely. I don't want to see the Convention become the start of another sellout like the Rainbow Coalition. More on this topic later, but the short version is that the Rainbow Coalition emerged in the 80s in response to Reaganism as a multiracial grassroots organization inspired by Jesse Jackson's run for President. It was an incredible network of people with the potential to become a credible third party. During the second run, Jackson and his cronies illegally rewrote the bylaws to turn it into his electoral machine and then eventually merged it into PUSH. He fucked the movement for personal gain and some of us will never forget that.

Yeah, I'll be back on this topic.




   Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Quick Hits
cause everybody loves a good quickie

Deep interview with Davey D.

New York Times:
Danger Mouse's Playlist
Lil' Flip takes a sip
My favorite line in this article - "Lil' Flip often sounds as if he could go for hours — and one presumes he'll never be interrupted by a coughing fit."
Shyne's record deal

Who the fuck is Eamon?
I don't know anybody that's heard of him but he's selling hella records.

Heard at Notes From a Different Kitchen:
Chicago hip hop gets press in Chicago

Hip hop in the business press (including some older articles):
Russell Simmons addresses wireless telecom industry
Inc. magazine digs Russell Simmons
Hip hop entrepreneurs.




   Monday, April 19, 2004


Hip Hop Album Review:
Swiggady - Welcome Home

Greenville, North Carolina isn't known as a cultural center, although it is if you're from eastern NC. Best known for Petey Pablo, Greenville, aka G-Vegas, has also produced lesser known underground artist Supastition and now, Swiggady. I'm listening to his album Welcome Home for the third time as I write this and I'm still impressed. It's Swigg's third independent release, this one produced by E-Smitty for Smitty Productions with guest J-Black.

It's a surprisingly solid album for someone who's pretty much unknown. It's a very mature project and it makes me want to hear what would happen if these guys had money behind them without too much oversight. There are very few obvious flaws, the occasional sung phrase that falls flat or beat that's a bit repetitive, but overall this cd has a big feel and a strong sense of self-assurance that's more than just bravado.

I think part of what makes this album so strong is the consistency that comes from two people working together without a bunch of guest artists. The tendency for underground artists trying to break through with albums that have a million motherfuckers on them is understandable but often works against the overall album. Although J-Black is also on here (I'm lacking some details but could guess), this album is about the Swiggady/Smitty combination and, assuming that continues, suggests a great future for these artists.

I'm moving back to NC this summer and Swiggady is one of the cats I'll be looking out for. You can check out downloads on the site. If you dig those you might contact Swigg about ordering a copy cause this isn't one of those albums where the singles are hot and the rest drops off.




   Friday, April 16, 2004


Multifaceted Hip Hop News

Now that I'm trying to keep up more with other hip hop blogs my weekly Hip Hop in the Newsweeklies roundup ain't just that no mo'. And that's fine. Especially since alternative newsweeklies don't cover hip hop consistently. But they love that rock music. I had other comments but I'm trying to stay out of trouble for a couple of days. And, since I haven't really blended the links, I'll start out with newsweekly headlines followed by the blog talk that I actually wrote first.

Hip Hop in the Newsweeklies - Quick Links

Nice profile of Rasco and Planet Asia.

Review of cLOUDDEAD's album Ten.

Introducing Coral Springs' label Da Luv Circuit.

Profile of Cleveland producer Heiku.

Talking with Dilated People's about Neighborhood Watch.

Sam Chennault on Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition

And one comment on news from elsewhere. I haven't been keeping up with Andre's statements but it's sounding like the end of Outkast.

Keeping Up With The Hip Hop Blogs

I mentioned yesterday that Notes from a Different Kitchen is cosponsoring a Hip Hop Box CD giveaway contest and, as it turns out, so is hiphopmusic.com.

Hiphopmusic.com also has a brief entry with decent links on
hip hop producer Nottz. Plus, today's entries included a link to this NY Times article on Columbian underground hip hop that has some great pictures and an audio slide show. By the way, I only post permanent links to NY Times articles but the slide show requires registration to view. Normally I don't link to anything that requires registration though sometimes they may require it at a later date. So read me daily!

If I'd gone to I'm so sincerr first, he would have gotten the cred for the NY Times articles, but he's still worth a look for this post on T.I. the Rubber Band Man. I love that line, "wild like the Taliban."

Different Kitchen has an extensive entry including quick takes on the N.E.R.D. and Black Eyed Peas NY concert and some album and mixtape news.

Lynne D. Johnson has a response to a listening party for some new Roots ish. She wasn't in love but it got me to check out okayplayer where I discovered that they've got a blog going on the home page. Now it does focus on artists associated with okayplayer but, partly because of the interesting range of artists they work with and Labelle (the writer's) style, it doesn't really feel like a promotional blog. Great, now I'll have to add it to my list of blogs to follow. You know, the better things get, the more work I have to do. Which is kind of like mo' money, mo' problems, without the money part.

Available from Amazon:
cLOUDDEAD - Ten
Dilated Peoples - Neighborhood Watch
Murs/9th Wonder - Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition.




   Thursday, April 15, 2004


Hip Hop News, Websites, Blogs

Here's a nice little interview with the RZA featuring his involvement with the Kill Bill flicks.

It's been 20 years since I even looked at a copy of The New Yorker and now they're getting all relevant to hip hop with this profile of Boondocks' creator Aaron McGruder. It must be tough to be young and important cause the man sounds severely conflicted. Hang in there, Aaron! We need you to stay intact.

I linked to it before but The New Yorker also recently ran a piece on Madvillain. However, I don't think I've linked to this Madvillain review at I'm so sincerr.

The Hip Hop as a Movement Conference is happening this weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I hate to beef (evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) but where are the archives of the prior conferences? And I don't mean a bunch of photos without captions from last year. These are academics, or students in an academic setting, and they should understand the value of the archive.

But putting that aside and putting aside the fact that they use frames, which remains a cardinal sin of useful and accesible web design, why does a conference that's focused on raising awareness and fostering social justice have a guy pointing his hands like guns at the viewer as a homepage icon? If they were taking a militant stance for armed struggle, that would be one thing. But they're not. Hey, maybe they're getting ready to hold up the pizza guy so they can feed conference attendees! Now I get it. Dead Prez must be going!

Hip Hop Blogs is a new group weblog by hip hop bloggers already well known in the scene. Most hip hop bloggers don't just write about hip hop and that's their perogative. But I'm hoping this project will stay true to its name, in which case it could be really great.

I haven't actually checked out the videos but Yo! DreamChimney RAPS has got 1980's hip hop videos online. The list is short but quality and they're new so check it out and check back.

Notes from a Different Kitchen is cosponsoring a Hip Hop Box CD giveaway contest.

Some of the links above were found at some of the blogs below. Unfortunately, I lost track of which was which, but you get the idea. Respec! [No, not a mispelling but an Ali G. reference.]
Diesel Nation
zentronix
Notes from a Different Kitchen

Available from Amazon:
Soundtrack - Kill Bill: Volume 1
Soundtrack - Kill Bill: Volume 2
Aaron McGruder - A Right to be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury
Madvillain - Madvillainy
Multiple Artists - Hip Hop Box.




   Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Hip Hop Album Review:
Chops - Virtuosity

During SXSW, ages ago, I ran into Chops giving out demos of his new cd Virtuosity on Vocab Records. He's a very friendly guy and when I told him about my weblog, he immediately gave me a full length copy to review. No questions about traffic or unique visitors or any of that stuff.

I hadn't heard Chops before and his work with the Mountain Brothers is a big gap in my knowledge of hip hop. So I don't know how long he's been working with digitized orchestral sounds and keyboards but if this album is any indication, and it should be, they're a major trademark of what he's doing. Maybe this is the next big thing cause 9th Wonder does somewhat similar work on this Memphis Bleek single. I'm by no means saying anybody's biting cause they're clearly different, just that it's interesting to hear all these strings on underground producers who are challenging the mainstream. And actually there's a variety of sounds from brass to standup bass to harpsichord on Virtuosity that have a really nice quality.

Chops is producing tracks that I could see having mainstream appeal. And I'm loving the fact that hip hop is being pushed forward right now by producers. I think it's an especially good sign that it's getting harder to tell what's mainstream and what's underground as producers shift the aural space of rap and hip hop.

Virtuosity has a lot of mcs on it including Raekwon, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Bahamadia and Planet Asia. There are other djs, the Mountain Brothers and a massive number of tracks. What was weird is that I found myself more drawn to some of the tracks with singers, something I generally avoid.

Since I have a review cd, i.e. with no info, and the label's site is fairly useless in that regard, I'm relying on this track listing at Hip Hop Game which has a brief yet enthusiastic review of each track.

I enjoy hearing Raekwon boosting the Butcher (Chops) but it's the track with L Dorado "Trouble," that really draws me in. You know this track could be a jazz/pop fusion song from the 70s or 80s and I was totally suckered into loving it.

Other tracks interest me cause of the beats and Bahamadia sounds good but it's the stand up bass sounds for "Still Life" with CMNR that really attracts me. And then another RnB track takes advantage of me, "No Pressure" with Mystic. More tracks follow with quite a range but it's the beats that make me pay attention. Although mistaking Planet Asia for Slick Rick was kind of a trip.

Overall Chops is impressive and his production combines percussion, orchestral sounds and scratches in ways that make it all seem quite natural. I could easily be convinced that I was often listening to a studio band rather than a producer. Though predictions are for suckers, Chops really strikes me as an underground pop superstar that I expect to be hearing on the radio and on movie soundtracks. Seeing him getting from Virtuosity to there will be a lot of fun.

Peep positive reviews by Chi Tung and J-23 and by tadah who's appreciative but finds the sounds too artificial. Actually, upon first hearing I had similar feelings during the opening tracks but, even though this cd is more pop than I tend to like, I'm impressed by what I'm hearing. And, anyway, it's all digital by the time it gets to me.

Available from Amazon:
Chops - Virtuosity.




   Tuesday, April 13, 2004


I Was Sleepblogging

And missed some items like this piece about race and underground hip hop which looks like it's about Murs but actually is about the writer's experiences at SXSW in tracking down some of the indie rappers in attendance. Or I should say it's about tracking down folks like Murs, Slug, 2Mex, Busdriver and Encore and talking about hip hop and racial politics.

The problem is a lot of the discussion doesn't seem plausible. I don't believe the indie rap audience shifted from black and Latino to mostly white over the past few years, although it may have for 2Mex, who supposedly made that claim. I guess it depends on who you look at and where they were performing but I've mostly seen white audiences for underground hip hop except for black acts in black clubs and neighborhoods (haven't been around the Latino scene unfortunately). But I certainly believe that the record industry is hunting for more white hip hop artists, at least the white execs. I also can't tell if the artists really said certain things or if the writer spun it, for example interpreting the white audiences of Talib Kweli and Common as "color-blind." I don't really believe that anybody's color blind but, if they claim to be, I know there's a lot they're not seeing in themselves and in their society.

I need to get busy and find out more about Miri Ben-Ari the violinist who's worked on Kanye West's College Dropout and other hip hop projects. I'm really interested in seeing hip hop expand, not so much by genre mixing as by mixing new things into hip hop.

This more recent piece in the Village Voice about cops trying to comprehend hip hop culture is actually pretty good, despite some bloggers stated lack of interest.

But Then I Woke Up

To find that CNet, the company that bought MP3.com, is reestablishing the free service for musicians at music.download.com. Although the service isn't live yet, musicians can register and get started now.

I also recently got turned on to MobileUnderground, a new underground hip hop mail order biz based in LA. They're taking music on consignment and focusing on some unique and distinctive artists. I found out about it because Lucy Beer of Elemental Consulting is involved and she's one of my main connects for interesting review cds.

Lynne D. Johnson reviews P. Diddy's acting and the Ladies First Tour and had a great time at the concert but was unimpressed by P. Diddy's poorly prepared performance. Personally I think his ego's too big for him to ever learn to act in a deep way.

You know, Oliver Wang's really good to other bloggers and his attempt to share html nuggets is especially kind. But since I gots the html on lock, I really appreciate the fact that he's turned me on to a lot of great blogs, one of which, funkdigital.com, linked me to a Memphis Bleek track produced by 9th Wonder. I'm not a Memphis Bleek fan but I am digging watching 9th Wonder's climb to superstardom. If you've been sleeping, 9th Wonder is the dj for Little Brother and I happen to have a page of 9th Wonder and Little Brother links right here.




   Monday, April 12, 2004


Hip Hop Single and Movie Reviews:
Eminem/D12, Up In Smoke, Street Prophetz

I just want to drop some quick reactions to various hip hop related projects I've encountered. Two of them involve Eminem, which I'm not overly happy about because I dislike a lot of things about this guy. Nevertheless, he's becoming more interesting and almost showing some maturity at times and I'm finding more to like in some of his work including the movie 8 Mile, which surprised and impressed me.

On that note, I have to admit I'm digging this Eminem/D12 single that's out. I've been hearing it on the radio but I haven't heard it's name, what album it's on and whether or not it's D12 or Eminem with D12. It's probably called "My Band" and I'm sure you know more about it than I do. I find it pretty funny and a smart way to play off the typical things that happen when somebody blows up and the rest of the crew comes along but doesn't do quite as well. The little bit where he goes acapella is particularly spot on and his voice even sounds good there. Actually I'm kind of glad I like it cause this guy's not going away and the more decent work he drops the less I have to be annoyed.

I also recently saw the dvd of the Up In Smoke Tour. I was pretty disappointed but possibly for reasons that won't matter to most people. Obviously it's been out for awhile but I found myself not feeling very interested in the artists or the music and not just because it's not a new release. I still dig NWA's Straight Outta Compton, as fucked up as some of it is, and Dr. Dre's The Chronic, which is less fucked up and much more playable.

So I figured a concert video with Dr. Dre, Snoop, Ice Cube, Eminem, Nate Dogg, Warren G. plus more, would be worth watching. I was disappointed for a number of reasons. One things is, I don't go to big concerts cause I don't like large crowds. And I can appreciate the effort that went into the stage set and accept that it would be good in that setting but it just felt a little too Vegas for me. The filming itself was kind of weird because large chunks of it showed the performers at stage level, not much audience (except for a couple of songs focusing on women in the crowd) and not much of the set except at the beginning and end. It gave a kind of dead, constricting vibe to the performances rather than the intimacy that I think they were going for.

But what really bugged me was the dampened down crowd noise. If you've seen older concert films, you'll recognize that current sound tech has come a long ways. But it felt really unnatural to have the performers always louder than the crowd. You'd notice a roar from the crowd that normally would drown out the vocals and it would be like having a highway a few blocks away, kind of low and steady. I appreciate the fact that I could hear all the vocals but I think some kind of balance could have been found that would have made it less artificial and bring the crowd in to raise the adrenaline level, which was generally absent for me.

I'm talking about Street Prophetz last to close on a good note, though I seem to always have some kind of "constructive" criticism even when I like something. Speaking of constructive criticism, Image Entertainment, the company that released the dvd, won't let you link directly to the tiny bit of information about Street Prophetz on their site. The fuckheads make you search the site every fucking time. More web stupidity. And apparently their publicity is for shit because IMDB doesn't have anything on it and other sites don't have enough to bother linking. I feel sorry for the filmmakers and artists cause they've obviously gotten shafted.

That said, Street Prophetz is a documentary connecting hip hop culture and skateboarding that was recently released on dvd. It was interesting to me because I've mainly known skatepunks, particularly back in the 80s. So finding out that the current connections between hip hop and skating are so strong was pretty cool.

A lot of underground hip hop artists are in the film including DJ Rob Swift, Domino, Planet Asia, Pep Love, Architect, San Quinn, Dave Mayhew, Mear 1, ?uestlove, Mathias Ringstrom, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Brandon Turner, Little Brother, Zephyr, Afu-Ra + Perverted Monks, Bahamadia and the Zoo York Crew, among many others. The downside of the film is that, though there are some great music cuts in between things, it's mostly a talking heads documentary which is kind of weird since skating is the unique angle. The skating clips are very brief and it seems like the opportunity to present the definitive documentary on hip hop skating was lost. It's too bad because I found the bold statement that skating should now be considered one of the elements of hip hop almost believable because everybody interviewed was very articulate and pretty smart, a rarity in hip hop documentaries.

I'm not saying that most interviewees are dumb, but usually there's more of range from street thug to intellectual and having hip hop artists, skaters and business people all come across as pretty sharp was kind of nice. But a lot of what they said could have been in any hip hop documentary, so it's only partially about the skating connection. Nevertheless I do recommend Street Prophetz, whether you're into skating or underground hip hop, because those connections are only getting stronger and are part of what may be the next major shift in the market as underground and commercial interests finally intersect to dethrone the bling kings.

Available from Amazon:
Up In Smoke Tour
Street Prophetz.




   Sunday, April 11, 2004


And While I'm On A Rampage

You know, I wish I could be like Jay Smooth when he critiques the political value of the new Dead Prez video. All reasonable and fair. But that's just not me. Although I'm a lot calmer than I used to be, I'm still mostly an enraged anarchist bent on revealing the hypocrisy and short sightedness of those I encounter. And I'm all about airing the dirty laundry of any community of which I'm a part. Yet I really want to support people in their attempts to make the world a better place.

So believe me when I say I that I hope something good can come out of projects like the National Hip Hop Political Convention. But what the fuck is up with those pictures of Jay-Z, B.I.G. and DMX? Those guys may occasionally say something true but that goes for a lot of folks. They have very little relevance to any kind of positive social change. I'm not buying that one bit, even if I appreciate their music. Hustlers, gangsters and homophobes! For fuck's sake, put them in nice suits and you've got the current administration!

Right now there are also a couple of pictures of Martin Luther King on the home page. It makes me ill to see him somehow equated with the artists I've mentioned.

And check the back to back entries on Tuesday, March 23rd. One of them attacks people for using the term bitch. The other uses the term Ho as if it was a valid critical term. Look, I recognize that it's impossible to live without contradictions and I'm opposed to political correctness, at least in terms of what it meant before the conservatives twisted the term, but when this nonsense is supposed to be the future of hip hop politics, I have very little hope for anything other than the installation of a new regime of thugs and businessmen backed up by a chorus of compromised members of the intelligentsia.






When Hip Hop Bloggers Attack

I wasn't going to say anything about the following issue but I'm trying to stop censoring myself every time I feel a rampage coming on. So let me share some recent observations.

I was checking out different blogs and ran into this post about Hip-hop Slip Ups which was a response to another post with a similar name that was incredibly mean spirited in its attack on weak lyrics. I mean, yeah, there are a lot of bad lyrics around but both these posts are responding to lyrics that include a variety of word play that's about fucking with the rules as well as fucking the rules.

Much smarter black artists than the ones these posts refer to have been into mistakes as a creative activity, including Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk as well as the visual artist David Hammons, at least in his statements about his artmaking. It's telling that the Diesel Nation post fixates on three phrases that are considered mistakes:

"5 seasons"
Try doing a Google search on that phrase and you'll find a lot of places with 5 seasons in their title. In the States the fifth season is the poorly named Indian summer. Although Capone is unlikely to be familiar with traditional Chinese medicine, they also have a concept of 5 seasons.

"manicured toes"
That's just creative license and manicured sounds better than pedicured in that line, even if Nelly didn't know.

"52 states"
Try doing another Google search, this time on 52 states, and you'll find a variety of uses of this term to include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Although sometimes they'll say 52 states and territories or something similar. The Centers for Disease Control apparently uses 52 states straight up. Besides, O.D.B. is kind of a crazed lunatic so why shouldn't he add as many states as he wants?

Part of why this bugs me is that we all make mistakes and capping on people for this kind of stuff opens you up to things like having people point out your spelling errors and misquoted lyrics. But, more importantly, language changes through misuse and we can spend our time complaining about mistakes or approach it as a creative process.

I just did a Google search for manicured toes and then looked up manicured at dictionary.com. Even though dictionary.com specifies fingernails, lots of people use the phrase manicured toes, not just Nelly. And, ultimately, dictionaries are rewritten to respond to use.

Speaking of Nelly, for real Google fun try looking up "nelly queen." For example, at Family Pride Canada one finds the following:
nelly/nelly queen: older gay slang for effeminate "limp-wristed" gay man.




   Saturday, April 10, 2004


Catching Up On Hip Hop News

I'm really glad to hear that Chuck D's one of the mcs at Air America Radio, the liberal talk radio network put together by Al Franken. This is the first time I've looked at the site and I'm tripping on the whites only lineup (except for Chuck D) currently on the homepage. So I'm glad he's there, especially since I've always enjoyed hearing what Chuck D has to say much more than the other people that attempt to speak for hip hop.

When I first heard that Run Simmons wants to be the poet laureate of Queens I wasn't sure what to think but, on second thought, why not. Generally I think of poet laureates as doing other kinds of poetry than song lyrics. Song lyrics are poetry but they tend not to stand up so well on their own. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see him in that position.

The DJ Spooky vs. Twilight Circus Riddim Clash album sounds pretty interesting. It makes me regret my lack of interest in becoming a serious music critic. If I was, and I'd made the A-list, then I'd have already heard this album.

I know the new N.E.R.D. album is not hip hop but it is part of Pharrell's rather amazing career.

Somehow I totally missed the fact that Dilated People has a new album out called Neighborhood Watch. You know, I like their album titles. They're not flashy but they always evoke something meaningful.

It would be really great to see more extended features like this multipage profile of the Trak Starz, the up and coming production team of Sham Daugherty and Alonzo Lee Jr.

As a North Carolina native who's heading home soon, I was interested in hearing that Durham rapper Twip was signed by Iced Records. But when I went to Twip's website, I was confronted by a log-in page that required my name, general location and email address to go into the site. No privacy policy posted. That's some real nonsense and really unfortunate because, once I signed up as f*ck you from f*ckingf*ck, you with an email address f*ck@you.com (childish but fun), I liked what I heard.

Ok, I liked the sample of Got This produced by Megahertz, described as a "battle track" and really hot. It represents for NC even more strongly than Petey Pablo's "Raise Up." The other three tracks were decent, including one with Lil Flip, and I can tell I probably won't get the album, but I also think Twip's got rap star written all over him. However, this business of signing up to get anything, just so you can spam motherfuckers, is weak. That's not smart promotion. Plus, where is Iced Records' website? I couldn't find it on Google which means they don't have one or it's got a Flash intro and they haven't figured out that, unless you set it up a certain way, it blocks search engine spiders. Duh.

Hey, it looks like you can avoid registration by going directly to www.twipmusic.com/download.html or www.twipmusic.com/bio.html.

The acts associated with DJ Shadow's Quannum Projects are currently on tour, including Gift of Gab, Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and DJ D-Sharp. They're coming to Austin and I've got to make myself go cause I'll kick myself later if I don't. Plus, Gift of Gab's album, Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, is dropping in May, maybe.

So Outkast gets an NAACP award while still being the target of protests by Native Americans. The thing is, both of these events can be viewed as appropriate, even as they coexist. Oppressed groups don't always support each other and don't always connect their struggles. This is particularly sad given the deep history of early cooperation between enslaved Africans and dispossessed Native Americans. But perhaps indicative of the fact that, at the same time, some Native Americans would hunt down escaped slaves while some African Americans helped subdue Natives.

KRS-One and NASA? I think I've run out of things to say.

Available from Amazon:
DJ Spooky vs. Twilight Circus - Riddim Clash
N.E.R.D. - Fly or Die
Dilated Peoples - Neighborhood Watch
Gift of Gab - 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.




   Friday, April 09, 2004


Reviews of Planet Asia's Grand Opening
and some newly discovered text theft

I'm going to post as much as I can over the next few days so I can feel caught up. Recently I did a review of Planet Asia's Grand Opening. It's a good example of why I don't think I'm a great reviewer. I think I always have something worth saying but only occasionally have something really strong to say. I've tried focusing more on Internet response to things I've gotten so I wanted to share some other links related to Planet Asia's new album.

One place I check more for these days is Epinions.com which often has multiple reviews and responses by regular people. They also have certain people who act more or less as moderators and provide in-depth reviews like madtheory does for Grand Opening. He gives some background and agreed with me that it was a little disappointing after that other Cali Agent, Rasco, dropped Escape From Alcatraz.

While looking for reviews I thought I'd found a pretty good one at FlowDoctors.com by their admin. But you'll see if you check it out and then scroll down that someone asks the guy if he actually wrote it and he cops to lifting it from RapReviews.com without providing a link or naming the author. Or maybe he got it from somewhere else because I can't find it on that site.

In any case, it's weak enough to take a whole article off another site, and that goes for you hip hop bloggers as well, but it's outright theft and illegal to not give an attribution at the very least. Personally I think you should quote no more than a paragraph, give credit to the author and a link back to the original. Let's leave the thieving to the record companies, artist management and club owners.

Here are some brief album reviews from the Philadelphia Weekly that include both Grand Opening and Chops' Virtuosity which will be my next album review.




   Thursday, April 08, 2004


Hip Hop Blog Roundup

Recent wide ranging posts at A Different Kitchen worth checking out:
Kanye on Leno | New Non Phixion DVD | More (yawn) on on the Hip Hop Police | Kon & Amir & more....

Pretty Toney is comin' | Fat Joe & Remy Mar bring it back | Jokes on the The Source Power 30 List | FAM's the Click

Is Shells trying to be the next Hov? | Jack Nicholson as Steve Rifkind (or is it Lyor Cohen or Jimmy Iovine?) on screen | Soft Drinks remixed hip hop style

Jay Smooth shares his hilarious chat with a bot and thoughts on some recent Chuck D statements.

Oliver Wang linked to a nice piece in the New Yorker about Madvillain by Sasha Frere-Jones and a Kanye West resume at The Ill Community that details his production history.

Personal Notes

I just had a big assignment to turn in and now I've got some free time and I'm having an allergy attack. Never really had them like this before Austin. Apparently people move here and develop bad allergies to certain things that are in crazy abundance down in these parts. But I'll probably be leaving Austin soon and heading back to NC for awhile. A lot of the shows here that I'm most interested in also go through there, plus I have a lot of connects. But it shouldn't affect the weblog too much except when I actually move.

I've got a bunch of albums to review. I waited just long enough to develop a new backlog. So I'll be on that starting tomorrow (I mean it this time).




   Monday, April 05, 2004


Hip Hop/Politics Documentary

I forgot to include this month old link to an article about an online BBC documentary on hip hop and politics which I guess is audio but I don't know how long it is cause it doesn't say and I haven't had a chance to listen. It's one of a number of interesting BBC documentaries mostly on black music and culture.






Links Copped from Pop Life
Plus Famous Musician News

Sadly my neglect of this weblog will continue indefinitely with further absences in the next day or so. But I did lift a couple of links from Pop Life for those of you that don't check it out on the regular.

O-Dub provides advanced notice of a scholarly book called Making Beats about sampling in hip hop as an art form. I guess some people are still on the "it's not music" tip but after Marcel Duchamp and John Cage I'm like, what the fuck? when people still make head up ass comments like that. In any case, I'm guessing this will be a much more popular read in graduate English programs than among grad students in music departments.

O-Dub also posted a link to this article about N.E.R.D. and their new album, I forget the name. Apparently lots of critics are dissing it but the mighty O feels like it's unfair to say they've fallen off. You know, artists have ups and downs and the prolific ones have to put out bad product sometimes. As an artist, you do what you have to do and you can't always tell what it is while you're making it. The Neptunes have done ok for themselves so a bad album is excusable. As long as it's not followed by another failure.

In famous musician news:
You've all heard by now about Nelly's bone marrow drive cancellation after protests at Spelman College. That's definitely an interesting turn of events, especially since the response came from black college students. But I have to admit I'm much more fascinated by all the love Michael Jackson still gets.




   Saturday, April 03, 2004


Hip Hop in the Newsweeklies:
Madvillains, Azeem, C-Rayz Walz, Hangar 18

The release of Madvillain's Madvillainy is getting some press and reviews in the Village Voice, the SF Weekly and the East Bay Express (with notes on The Best of KMD). Madvillain is the combined force of MF Doom and Madlib. I'm very curious about MF Doom and missed him at SXSW. In fact, I may start going by AWSG aka Always Missing Something Good.

The East Bay Express has pieces on Azeem and Variable Unit, who recently collaborated with Azeem on Mayhem Mystics.

Def Jux artists C-Rayz Walz and Hangar 18 are profiled in The Pitch, out of Kansas City, MO.

Available from Amazon:
Madvillain - Madvillainy
KMD - The Best of KMD
Azeem and Variable Unit - Mayhem Mystics
C-Rayz Walz - Ravipops.




   Friday, April 02, 2004


Hip Hop Blogs Tear It Up
While the LA Weekly Keeps Napping

I've been sleeping on hip hop weblogs recently, due to my incredibly overwhelming work schedule, and missed this fun Ghostface Killah vs. Random Spam Text post at hiphopmusic.com that has become a contest. A lot happens in a week!

Speaking of hip hop bloggers, Oliver Wang's back and making up for lost time and Joey Pinkney continues to kick out the jams.

I check out alternative newsweeklies a lot and the thing I'm most baffled by is the fact that the LA Weekly can go for weeks without mentioning the existence of hip hop. What's up with that?

I'll be back soon with a bunch of hip hop news links plus a review of Chops' Virtuosity. Really. I mean it.