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

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   Monday, March 28, 2005
More on Images of Women in Hip Hop

Cowboyz 'n' Poodles was also at the Images of Women in Hip Hop panel and she makes some nice points. I would have picked up on that earlier but I really only keep up with certain hip hop blogs and business blogs related to ProHipHop.

If you're writing about the topic or related issues and it's freely available online, please let me know. Link above via Lynne d Johnson.




   Sunday, March 27, 2005
Album: Capital D - Insomnia


capital d - insomnia

I like this album. Solid beats and important lyrical statements about revolution and Islam. Capital D makes it clear that he follows neither Farrakhan or Al Qaeda, i.e. he's more like the majority of Muslims in that sense and it says as much about American misperceptions of Islam as it does about Capital D himself.

Unfortunately, many folks will probably find that he has too much to say. Any one of Capital D's tracks presents more than most rappers get out in a whole album. But if that doesn't scare you off and you're interested in politically conscious art that goes deep, you should check it out.

Label:
All Natural Inc.

Media Coverage:
Inner-City Muslim Action Network - Review
Public Wizard, Inc. - Links to multiple items

Available from Amazon:
Capital D - Insomnia.




Stanley Crouch, Adisa Banjoko, Rev. Tillard & Me

Stanley Crouch briefly addresses his absence at the Images of Women in Hip Hop panel that I've been writing about. You know, I think he often overstates his case and appears reactionary but I'm realizing that, at the very least, calling him an aging crank over at ProHipHop is also an overstatement and reactionary from the left hand side. In any case, I will no longer be dismissing him out of hand but will be looking more closely at what he actually says.

Although Stanley Crouch has gotten a lot of attention because of where he writes and his ongoing focus on hip hop, I've been starting to pay more attention to a variety of black writers who criticize hip hop, whether related to women's issues or violence. I'm primarily running into the writing of black men from multiple political perspectives, partly due to the limits of what's freely available online and partly due to the fact that this is still a man's world.

I'm particularly drawn to what I'm hearing from Adisa Banjoko who may also overstate his case at times but whose book Lyrical Swords I'm really enjoying at the moment. Rev. Conrad B. Tillard also sounds like a very interesting man.

I'm also paying more attention to black writers I would consider outright conservatives, because there are issues being discussed that really do cross partisan lines. I want to make it clear that I never hesitate to speak up about any issue that I feel I need to addresss, because I learned long ago that when you're told that you're out of line, that often means you've cut to the heart of things. On the other hand, some of this really gets into issues that the African-American population has to work out and that I can mostly only observe. If it involves hip hop or political change that affects us all, I'll tend to speak up. And, although I believe that black people organizing to address issues in predominantly black communities always has the potential to affect everyone in the States and even abroad, I'm not necessarily going to address those issues from an editorial perspective until I feel that such discussion is appropriate on my part.

Although I am struggling to find the time to review the materials I receive, I will continue to review anything hip hop related. However, I've decided to focus the news and editorial elements of this blog primarily on hip hop politics. On that note, if you know of particularly good resources on hip hop and politics, please send them to me at:
hiphoplogic(at)netweed(dot)com




   Saturday, March 26, 2005
Men Discussing Women Discussing Images of Women

I was glad to see that the two other bloggers that I knew were planning to check out the Images of Women in Hip Hop panel, previously discussed in a couple of posts below, came together in a dialogue shared via Media Chin-Check. Jay Smooth, Hashim Warren and Funkdigital discussed their perceptions of the event revealing more nuances than one generally gets from a typical blog post.

I especially appreciated the fact that they described the audience a bit more. But none of the accounts have clearly communicated to me much beyond the fact that it was a lively group and that it was predominantly, or had a lot of, young women. I'm not sure what they responded to and how. I don't know what they said or if they were allowed to speak. And young women are the ones bearing the brunt of this situation.

It's also interesting to see that, at certain moments in the dialogue, it seems to be almost a big deal for these guys to admit that discussions of such issues primarily involving women are an ok thing. However, I don't want to read too much out of particular statements and part of the concern seemed to be on the need for men to hear this stuff and participate in change. Ultimately, women and men will need to work together on these issues but it won't result in necessary change unless it's led by women. I am glad to note that, unlike some discussions at hiphopmusic.com a year or two back, this is not one in which men are talking to other men about what women should be doing.

Funkdigital also follows up at his blog on the Stanley Crouch issue. Both Hashim and Jay Smooth had different negative takes on the possibility that he would show for the panel, but Funkdigital wanted him there. His comments are interesting:
"Though I'm sure there are few who would agree, I feel the presence of Mr. Crouch would have provided some counterbalance to Remy's assertions that rappers have no responsibility to their community, especially if it means not maintaining their credibility. At the very least, a speaker who could speak more effectively on the topic, like say, Bell Hooks, was needed."

Someone like bell hooks would have totally kicked ass and would have had a lot to say. And it would have been most appropriate for a woman to respond to Remy Ma's acting out, in my opinion. I also don't think it's a moderator's job to "control" a situation. The situation is formed when one chooses an issue and a panel. Choosing Remy Ma was a dumb maneuver but having a male moderator control a discussion about the representation of women would be similar, but not the same, as having a white man controlling a black panel in a discussion about the representation of blackness.

By the way, some people will read this as an attack on Funkdigi or the other guys. That would be a terrible misreading. For change to happen, we have to be able to look at the nuances of what's said and done without taking it as a personal attack, unless it's clearly delivered as such. That's tough to do and I'm definitely better at giving than taking but it's something that has to happen to deepen our understanding.

Funkdigital actually made things clearest to me in an email that he later agreed to let me publish:

"Having heard Stanley Crouch contribute to a number of panels over the years, I'm aware of his tendency to be a lightning rod on a number of issues. However, in this instance, Mr. Crouch was sorely missed by me."

"The panel desperately needed a voice to counter balance Remy's take. I think he would have been that voice. The other panelists did not and would not slam a lot of what was said by Remy. The closest anyone came to doing that was Essence contributor, Akiba Solomon and briefly, Jean Grae. Karen Hunter seemed unwilling to jump into the fray. Quite frankly she looked shell shocked."

"The tone of the event couldn't get much more inflamed than it already was. I think Stanley would have been better able to elaborate about the historical significance of the current climate in hip-hop, comparing it to other musical formats. Regardless, if it wasn't Stanley the panel still needed another panelist to balance what was said and a moderator that could keep the panel on topic."

Although I did raise issues about Funkdigi's use of the word "control" (use of language is a real issue to me, in case you haven't noticed), I agree that a moderator needs to focus discussion and point out when someone's rambling. However, another strong participant could have taken the role of keeping Remy from dominating the proceedings. My general sense is that Crouch would have been a counter balance but I don't think having a panel dominated by two reactionaries is really the way to go. I am a bit surprised about Jean Grae's lack of response but she's in an awkward position in the industry and has good reason not to alienate other crews. She may also be hesitant to attack another black woman in public. The other panelists may have had similar feelings.

But I guess I am most surprised that there wasn't a strong female voice to counter Remy and most disappointed that Remy was invited in the first place, though I can understand the reasoning that led to both inviting Remy and Stanley. I just hope that such events can continue to get coverage and can start going somewhere but, at the moment, it's up to women to leverage male support and create spaces for positive change at a time when a lot of men seem to be listening.




   Friday, March 25, 2005
Women Worth Knowing: Coco Fusco and Angela Davis

Lynne d Johnson recently led a talk with Coco Fusco after a showing of her video A/K/A Mrs. George Gilbert. The video focuses on an FBI agent who was involved with the search for Angela Davis back when she was on the 10 Most Wanted list for charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy for which she was later acquited. Actually, the video apparently uses the agent as a jumping off point for a variety of interesting topics, including media and governmental representation of Davis.

If you're not familiar with Coco Fusco, be sure to check out her website. I'd also recommend her book, English Is Broken Here. She's about as brilliant as a human can stand to be.

Although I respect a lot of things about Angela Davis, her involvement with the CPUSA long after they were relevant always seemed misguided and undermined her own relevance. The major communist parties have always been willing to sell out revolutionary forces to build their power, for example, during the events of May '68. Plus, commies have a long history of killing anarchists once our usefulness is done and we start calling them on their bullshit. Nevertheless, her Autobiography is well worth reading.




From Images of Women to War in the Streets

The recent Images of Women in Hip Hop panel in NYC that I discussed in my previous post is finally receiving more coverage from one hip hop blogger in attendance, Funkdigi. He pretty much confirms the AP report that seems to have been the only mainstream coverage, although there will probably be magazine coverage at a later date.

Funkdigi also offers some video from the event and seems momentarily disappointed that Stanley Crouch didn't show. Given that he described Remy Ma's contribution as "disruptive and a cancer, destroying any real opportunity the direction less format had of hammering out solutions," the effects of Stanley Crouch's presence would have only made things worse. But I'm assuming an "overly charged audience" was part of the problem. I could be wrong, but I think Crouch would have received a lot of heckling. Furthermore, Funkdigi's characterization of the event as a "direction less format" pretty much points to the fact that without focus, the cultural raptors will take charge of any open-ended public discussion.

As I previously stated, dialogue will not result in a satisfying outcome because not all parties will participate in an honest manner. Furthermore, such dialogue will not succeed unless participants are willing to consider and change their personal behavior based on serious discussion of serious issues. The reality is that very few of the people holding forth on such topics are willing to do that. It's pretty easy to find folks that will attack artists and media outlets that make a lot of money but give their pals a pass because "they aren't the problem." Until folks are willing to seriously look at behavior at all levels of society rather than just claiming that prominent figures are the problem, change ain't gonna come.

Unfortunately, my current belief is that the fightback against the near global cultural and social revolutions of the late 50s to early 70s has been largely successful. Popular awareness of that period reduces it to fashion statements and jokes about hippies or sadness that the Black Panthers got decimated. Few seem to be studying the past who aren't simply trying to repeat it and that's certainly not the answer. Current discussions of social issues seem to dismiss the idea that one's personal life has political dimensions and "keeping it real" has become code for not giving a fuck about other people and doing whatever the fuck I feel like. Hate speech disguised as humor currently has free reign and political organizing has been reduced to trying to get people to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Nevertheless, there are signs of hope, including the fact that people involved with hip hop are taking these issues seriously, at whatever level they can. The antiglobalism movement that was most visible in the WTO actions in Seattle a few years back may have been seriously dampened in the States by the events of 9/11, but anarchist inspired political action will continue and have a resurgence in the U.S., mark my words on that. In addition, though a variety of forces are aligned against the emergence of a viable liberatory third party in the U.S., if an alliance could be built between such groups as the Greens and the less organized but vitally energetic music related left/lib types from hip hop to indie rock, the potential is there to change the game.

However, it should be noted that once the streets return to radical action, a lot of people are going to be attacked and, if necessary, killed by entities connected to institutions that will be disrupted by such behavior. Although protestors often talk about bringing the war home as a signal that we should make it difficult here for oppressors to wage war there (Iraq, Iran, etc.), the reality is that the current lot controlling the White House and their Democratic allies will bring the war home if we successfully oppose their regime. Preparing for the response to successful political activity is only one of the many tasks before us if we're not just kidding ourselves about social change.

Hey, how did I get from images of women to war in the streets? It's not so hard. Learning to connect the dots to see the bigger patterns is another of the important tasks of our time. Rejecting that task out of hand will only prove your irrelevance, not mine.




   Thursday, March 24, 2005
Images of Women in Hip Hop

Tuesday night's Images of Women in Hip Hop panel at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology sounds like it was a madhouse of hip hop miscommunication. Honestly, though, there's absolutely no reason to expect hip hop unity at such an event. People aren't going to agree on these issues that are actually much bigger than hip hop and predate its invention. Dialogue cannot go anywhere when some of the participants just don't give a fuck. Organizing one's power base, forming coalitions and agreements wherever possible and forcing change is the only viable option that I can see for anyone interested in either reform or revolution at a deep level.




   Thursday, March 17, 2005
M.I.A. on NPR

NPR has a feature on Sri Lankan/South London hip hop artist M.I.A. that includes 3 full length tracks off her album Arular. This stuff won't be for everybody, but I'm loving it. All I can say is check it out for yourself.

Available from Amazon:
M.I.A. - Arular.





What's Up With Hashim?

While I'm glad to see Hashim Warren going through such a productive period, it's weird to read his current take on Essence Magazine's Take Back The Music campaign, especially in light of his earlier support.

Part of what bothers me is his increasing tendency to take limited evidence as a basis for a reactionary stance, for example, in the above attack on Essence he relies on a blog post that uses stats about teen pregnancy and college attendance to dismiss a wide range of issues of women's oppression that can be related to media depictions of women.

He also defines the hip hop community for his own convenience, stating that the "response within the hip-hop community to the Essense [sic] "Take Back the Music" campaign has been suspicion and ridicule." Given the fact that he reads multiple hip hop bloggers who support the Essence campaign, this statement is disingenuous at best.

I will have to agree that Essence's campaign does seem rather contrived given Urban Snapshots' critique, but her arguments are straight up feminist at a depth of discussion that I've rarely seen from Hashim online. However, I don't say this for the sake of attacking Hashim because I know he could step up to the challenge of his increasing media visiblity in a much deeper way if he so chose. And I believe he could do it without sacrificing his edginess or street cred.

In any case, the odds that my concerns will simply be dismissed as the rantings of another old man who just doesn't see the real issues are a lot higher than the odds of my arguments actually affecting his work in any visible manner. And that's hip hop's loss much more than mine.





   Monday, March 14, 2005
Ill Crew Universal Back in Action

Ill Crew Universal is being revived and seeks writers for their website. They describe themselves as a:

"Worldwide HipHop organization dedicated to the preservation, empowerment and BALANCE of HipHop culture expressed in all of its elements. ICU is a service to the HipHop community. Our goal is to educate and network artists, activists, musicians and thinkers so as to enrich the HipHop community and promote positivity, resourcefulness, interdependence, consciousness and progressive change in society. ICU exists also, as a living means to directly and indirectly pay recognition, respect, appreciation and homage to the originators, pioneers and founders of The HipHop culture. "

It looks like it's been a while since the ICU was active but now they're back with a networking section at Myspace.com. There's also an official website that's still in development but does have an active forum.





More Can't Stop Won't Stop News

It turns out there's a mixtape associated with Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop that is now largely unavailable but you can listen to selected tracks at Campus Progress. If I was writing this over at ProHipHop, I'd have to point out that either folks really underestimated the amount of interest in such a thing or were kind of disorganized.

In the case of this mixtape (I'll leave out the related stuff I've observed), assuming they have the rights to put the thing out, this could be an excellent marketing tool for the book. I think posting it on the Official Site would draw all sorts of traffic that would introduce people to a book that they might otherwise ignore. And that traffic might be sustained long after the current promotional push is over.

But it looks like Campus Progress seized the opportunity with an interview with Jeff focused on political aspects of his narrative and an excerpt from the introduction that focuses on the generational concept, in addition to the posted tracks.

If I hadn't been alerted to this mixtape via Mixtapes Etc., I would have been making a case for more serious distribution of the tape itself for a street buzz approach. But Hashim points out, before listing all the tracks, that the "replay value is low." Given how much is wasted when a product is only played once, taking the online route would be the way to go. And it's not too late to do that.





   Saturday, March 12, 2005
Broken Promises: DVDs from Street Life Films

I wish I could be as positive about the dvds I received from Street Life Films as I was about the iLL List poetry dvd in the previous post. Unfortunately, they're an example of low budget production done poorly combined with deceptive advertising in the case of two of the flicks.

Actually, the most deceptive is the South Beach Live!! dvd which promises multiple stars and sexy women and just doesn't deliver. It's more of a guy with a camera rolling around in his car and talking junk and then harassing women on the street. Ok, it's more than that but that's what stuck with me and I didn't see any of the attactive women from the cover in the film, unless they were hidden somewhere inaccessible. Avoid this title.

A little better but still disappointing is B-Boy Masters which promises the "world's best break dancers" in competition and delivers washed out footage from a single camera at the edge of a gym floor while decent but not all that great break dancers compete. Maybe I cut it short but I checked out a lot of footage and that's all I saw. Possibly interesting to the hardcore who want to check out a particular scene.

Dat Boy Funny featuring Roland Powell plus some other comics is the closest to being worth getting. You do get some different acts plus various scenes with Powell so it might be worth checking out if you dig Roland Powell or just like to see what different comics are up to and can get it cheap.

This was actually going to be my last review before I took a break from Hip Hop Logic but I didn't write it because I just didn't want to close on a negative note. However, South Beach Live!! is the first product I've reviewed that is available at Amazon to which I'm not providing a link.

Available from Amazon:
B-Boy Masters
Roland Powell - Dat Boy Funny.





Poetry Slam DVD: iLL List, Volume 1

iLL List, Volume 1 is the first dvd in the iLL List Spoken Word DVD Series from WordGroove Studios. Basically it's three rounds of a poetry slam in a nice theater in Modesto, CA in Dec. '03. The poets are excellent and have the full range of approaches and styles at a level of quality that you'd expect from a poetry slam after the first round or two of elimnations or a really hot open mic on the night that none of the bad poets showed.

You've got political stuff mixed with personal insights, some strong sexual poems, extremely funny material and so forth, sometimes all in the same poem. Though it's not a hip hop dvd per se, a lot of issues with which hip hop heads are concerned are represented in the poems, especially the b-words and their use - bitches, bastards, brands and bad sex. The performances range in style from African-American theater to ranting free association. However, the fast talking quick tongued predominate, as in most poetry slams I've witnessed.

If you're curious about the poetry slam phenomenon, are a fan of good poetry, a poetry slam nut or even think poetry's boring cause you haven't seen good spoken word artists, you'll appreciate this well done collection of contemporary performance poets. It does seem to be somewhat of a low budget production but not in a bad way at all. I think they've done a great job with a couple of cameras and simple editing that doesn't detract from the poets but also doesn't just get stuck in one view. Highly recommended.




   Friday, March 11, 2005
Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop


country fried soul - book


Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop by Tamara Palmer might be a really interesting book though I'm really not sure what the release date will be. This piece about 8Ball and MJG being in the book mentions May as a release date and, though the Amazon link below will lead you to a Mar. 10th date, they don't have it yet. Plus, the publisher Backbeat Books doesn't even mention it on their site from what I can see, so it probably has been delayed.

I'm not a huge dirty south fan but I remember first realizing it existed when I saw a Juvenile video a long time ago and was just tripping on the people in the background, his presentation of self including grill and the general vibe. It felt very southern to me in a way that I never experienced but always knew about. That may not make much sense but there was something about the whole thing that seemed very familiar yet very strange at the same time.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to checking out the book. If you have more info, please pass it along to:
hiphoplogic(at)netweed(dot)com

Available from Amazon:
Tamara Palmer - Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop.





   Monday, March 07, 2005
Send Review Copies

I'm reviewing again but I make no promises of any sort. I am still planning on reviewing all material received before I officially stopped, but when that will happen is anybody's guess. Feel free to send stuff on or to contact me as needed. My mailing address is on the Contact and Reviews page.

Email me at:
hiphoplogic(at)netweed(dot)com




   Sunday, March 06, 2005
Hip Hop Albums Updated, Mike Ladd's Negrophilia


negrophilia cd by mike ladd


I've added new albums spanning January to March at Hip Hop Albums. The most interesting looking so far is Mike Ladd's Negrophilia: The Album that came out last month. His list of song titles indicates he's been studying up but he also seems to have a sense of humor:

1. Field Work (The Ethnographer's Daughter)    
2. French Dig Latinos, Too    
3. In Perspective    
4. Shake It    
5. Worldwide Shrinkwrap (Contact Zones)    
6. Back at Ya    
7. Appropriated Metro    
8. Blonde Negress    
9. Sam and Milli Dine Out    
10. Nancy and Carl Go Christmas Shopping    
11. Sleep Patterns of Black Expatriots Circa 1960

I bet there's a DJ Spooky connection somewhere down the line.





D.L. Chandler, Jeff Chang, Nightjohn, Steve Brown

D.L. Chandler writes a weekly post about hip hop with an emphasis on politics and culture. It led me to the following interview with Jeff Chang.

Mark Hatch-Miller interviews Jeff Chang for The Nation with an emphasis on the political aspects of hip hop culture.

The Hiphop Driven Life is a book by Nightjohn aka Arnett Kale Powell and Adebayo Alabi Olorunto about "Self-discovery and Self-mastery from the unique world view of Attuned Hiphoppas and Kultural Specialists." It's also described as a "knowledge of self, self liberation, and strategic plan to mental freedom Hiphop book."

We are all alone together is a brand new blog by Steve Brown with an essay about race in hip hop plus a couple of poems.




   Friday, March 04, 2005
Top 15 Grills

I have to say I was somewhat amazed at Government Names' blog post TOP 15 GRILLS (2005 EDITION). It's so perfect that Hashim Warren gave it the Best Post of the Year! and, though it's barely March, he's probably right. You know, when Hashim and I actually agree on something, there's a good chance it's true.

By the way, Hashim's now a tv star!