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

  Web netweed.com   
   Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Midweek Report: Hip Hop Writing Online

A new hip hop blog has appeared, inspired in part by hiphopmusic.com. From the creator of stinkzone.com.

Interesting recent article on the Islamic Influence in hip hop by Marian Liu at BlackElectorate.com.

The Village Voice is a decent source of periodic hip hop coverage in New York. Recent relevant articles include coverage of spoken word artist Tracie Morris, the passing of Ted Joans and hip hop artists and business people mobilizing against unfair drug laws.


   Sunday, May 25, 2003

On Vacation

The Weekly Report will return next week with a review of the upcoming release from Soul Purpose "Breaking Records" and commentary on Cherrywine's "Bright Black."

I'll also do a midweek report with links to some recently published hip hop articles online.

Till soon,

   Sunday, May 18, 2003

Weekly Report: Reviews of Akrobatik
and Coup d'Etat Compilation

I just got a copy of the new release of Akrobatik's Balance on Coup d'Etat. I was kind of excited because I've been a big fan of Mr. Lif and so have encountered Akrobatik from time to time.

I hate to say bad things about the big stars of the underground, but I just wasn't feeling this record. Akrobatik has a lot of meaningful shit to say and it's true that he's finding a way between big words and thuggishness. And he does sound like a clean living brother. But he comes across as a little preachy and with a little too much to say with too few clever, innovative moments, although there are some of those.

Now Akrobatik's not one of those underground mcs who is telling everybody else the right thing to do. He's just speaking his mind and occasionally he does a nice job of pointing out problems while undermining the rhetoric. But somehow the whole thing starts to drag down and the great moments just didn't carry me through.

The song Balance seems to be the track that's being pushed, although I think there are better ones on the record, like Front Steps (mp3 file), which has a nicer flow. Balance also starts off the compilation cd A Blow to the State. I was much happier about getting this one cause it allowed me to check out some folks I've been sleeping on, particularly J-Live and Rasco. Overall it's a nice cd and a good introduction to the fact that you can be a smart mc in a lot of different ways.

J-Live and Rasco were the high points for me. I'd been hearing their names for awhile but just dozed severely.

J-Live is really doing what Akrobatik says he wants to do. He says meaningful things in smart ways with a serious flow. And he's matched up with great producers on the tracks How Real It Is and One For The Griot from the album All of the Above, released last year.

Rasco's a little harder, as close to gangsta as it seems to get at Coup d'Etat. But he's no thug, the beats roll along and the lyrics are worth paying attention to. The track Snakes in the Grass is exclusive to this compilation. We Get Live is from the upcoming release Escape from Alcatraz on Pocketslinted Entertainment.

If I wasn't broke I'd probably order All of the Above right now and preorder Escape from Alcatraz. In the meantime, I'll just play those tracks again.

Soul Purpose is pretty cool and their track Dry Spells (mp3 file) is a funny take on not getting laid. But Take Cover featuring Pumpkinhead doesn't fuck around. Solid colab with interesting lyrics and rocking beats. Look for a release soon.

Fakts One shows up with a couple of tracks. He's a good dj and a lot seems to be determined by who he's working with. Nice ear for interesting samples and styles.

MC Paul Barman can leave now. I only listened to the whole track because I felt it was my duty as a reviewer. I'm puzzled by the attraction to Barman. It's a good example of misused college educations on the part of the artist, fans and reviewers. I tried to go back and pay attention to what Prince Paul was doing with the production but I just couldn't stand to do it. You'll have to hear for yourself.

The cd ends with an extended remix by Embedded that you can check out here.

Overall though, this cd is well worth checking out to get a glimpse of the range of smart artists that out there today. And it definitely shows Coup d'Etat to be one of the foremost labels of today's underground (or whatever you want to call it).

Thanks to Lucy Beer at Elemental Consulting for hooking me up.


   Sunday, May 11, 2003

Weekly Report: Short Takes
Hip Hop Movies, Music, Games, Websites

Snipes, a movie with Nelly, has been out for awhile but when I first saw the video cover I had no idea what it was. After seeing it I realized why it got slept on. It's not a bad movie, good acting with lots of folks I haven't seen before. The focus is on a teenager that puts up posters for a record label, which is where the title comes from. Nelly plays an up and coming rapper who's having trouble putting out his second album and then is suddenly kidnapped. The kid gets wrapped up in all this and drama ensues.

I was surprised that Nelly didn't contribute any music to this movie and overall the soundtrack lacked that edge that Nelly's voice delivers. The ending is disappointing. I'll just say a young man learns the wrong lesson about following your dreams, but maybe the right lesson about being a volunteer for thuggish enterprises.

If you're a Nelly fanatic who loves computer games you might appreciate this article on hip hop and gaming. Coverage includes NBA Street Vol 2 which has Nelly as a player. Also discussed is Def Jam Vendetta, aka Russell Simmons digs wrestling?!? Perhaps fitting as we know that the connection between hip hop and martial arts movies is already strong.

The Transporter, although not a hip hop movie, is a great action flick with a mostly hip hop soundtrack that includes Missy Elliott, Fat Joe, Nate Dogg, Benzino and Tweet. But if you're thinking about getting the cd, peep the Amazon reviews and go buy the UK version. Directed by Corey Yuen, who did the fight choreography for Kiss of the Dragon, The Transporter is the tale of a professional delivery person who gets paid a large amount of money for making sure things get where they're going. The star is Jason Statham, who appeared in Snatch, and it turns out he has serious real life martial arts training and is really solid in this role.

The one downside is the way this and other martial arts movies are being shot and edited. The focus on closeups allows you to see that something's happened but you really miss out on the beauty of the technical execution. That really sucks because martial arts choreography has a lot of great artists in the game right now and Corey Yuen is one of the very best. Special props for including the most unique method for obtaining oxygen while underwater with a dead man.

An interesting element in this flick is the inherent multicultural makeup of the participants. One of the producers and cowriter is French (Luc Besson), the director is Chinese, the star is English, the beautiful costar is Chinese (Shu Qi), the bad guy is American and the good cop is French. And none of them really stick out as cliches (at least not painfully).

On that note, hip hop itself has become a deeply multicultural enterprise. The most recent issue of ai - performance for the planet is available online with an article on Algerian rap plus a report from a hip hop conference called Planet Hip Hop.

Till soon,

   Sunday, May 04, 2003

Yes Yes Y'all, Universal Zulu Nation, HIPHOP-DIRECTORY.COM

I've been reading Yes Yes Y'all, an Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade, and it's really incredible. I've picked up bits and pieces in the past, for example, Russell Simmon's selective memories in Life and Def which I've written about before. But this book lays out stuff I had no idea about, like armed djs in the South Bronx guarding their gear and other realities of underground club culture in a rough town.

The many examples of how poor, creative people take the technology they have and get their needs met in unique ways is a big theme. And there are some great examples of how people made shit happen before they had the technology that's available to today's turntablists.

For example, what do you do if you don't have mixers and faders? Two djs with separate sound systems signal each other with a flashlight to pass the word that one record's almost over and you better be ready to bring yours into the mix. Or the practice of taping part of a song on a cassette, hitting pause, then taping the same section over again and again that way. Stuff like that caused one guy to think that's what Grandmaster Flash was doing during early shows when basic cutting techniques were being introduced.

Lots of great interviews with both famous and totally unknown individuals. Lots of great old photos of bboy style, graffiti, breakdancers, club action and many, many djs. In fact, this book gives you the feeling that it was really the djs that created hip hop.

One of the more interesting sections involves accounts of the blackout of 1977. The upshot is that, after the looting, there were a lot more djs in the South Bronx!

Yes Yes Y'all is a great book well worth buying or borrowing from the library (like I did). Reading is fundamental but you can just look at the pictures in this really well designed book. I learned a lot, including the fact that I've been mispelling y'all for years and nobody told me. I kept putting the apostrophe after the a for some reason, ya'll. I guess that's how I hear it.

Speaking of old school, I recently checked out the website of the Universal Zulu Nation founded by Afrika Bambaataa and his early crew. Interesting stuff, especially the cosmic funk element. Actually it made me start thinking about Sun Ra again more than George Clinton.

If you're looking for great hip hop websites, be sure to check out HIPHOP-DIRECTORY.COM, a solid connecting point to the world of hip hop.

And I'm out.