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

  Web netweed.com   
   Friday, October 31, 2003

Stupid Beefs Dept. - Benzino vs. Eminem

hiphopmusic.com, my favorite hip hop blog, has posted a nice bit of commentary on recent Benzino claims regarding Eminem. I think the Benzino/Eminem "beef" is a perfect example of the uselessness of beefs. At best, they're cheap entertainment. At worst, they're lethally stupid. The only reason Benzino gets any press is because of his involvement with The Source. I mean, I've never met anybody that claimed to be a fan of Benzino. And, although I'm no fan of Eminem, I take no pleasure in Benzino's attacks which seem designed to boost his own career. Certainly these new revelations, that will supposedly be revealed in The Source, will sell lots of issues.

But if Benzino does have evidence of Eminem making racist comments about blacks, then this whole situation could get interesting. I've always maintained that part of Eminem's credibility comes from the fact that he mostly attacks women and gays who are considered acceptable targets by his audience. If he wrote lyrics about chopping up black kids and driving around in his car with the pieces in the trunk, nobody would be going, "I can't believe he said that." They'd be kicking his ass. Of course, now that everybody's lining up to suck Eminem's dick, they'll be defending whatever he says and explaining it all away. This whole situation will probably be win/win for everyone that I dislike.

   Thursday, October 30, 2003

Kool G Rap - Click of Respect

Kool G Rap has dropped Click of Respect on Blaze the World Records. As usual, I'm not into the constant gun talk and use of the N-word. But if you're into gansta rap that's got old school cred without trying to crossover into pop, then you may dig this record.

Even though G Rap is old school, the album doesn't sound old school, at least it doesn't have that back in the day hip hop vibe of somebody like Little Brother or Jurassic 5. Of course, it could be more like other old school acts with which I'm unfamiliar. But even though it sounds up to date, the beats are kind of lacking. I've been listening to a lot of underground guntalkers and I'll have to say that it's some of the unknowns that are coming with the better beats, two recent examples being compilations:
Nebulous Entertainment's FLOODTAPE and Culture VI's Don't Holla.

Available from Amazon:
Kool G Rap's Click of Respect

New Policy Regarding Links to Amazon.com

In many sections of netweed, including Hip Hop Logic, you'll find links to products sold at Amazon.com. Sales made through these links benefit netweed as an Amazon Associate. However these links have not always been obvious until clicked. In the future, all Amazon links on netweed will be clearly identified.

Since we make miniscule amounts of money from Amazon sales, we'd like to encourage you to click through and spend money, but we don't want you to feel like we're tricking you into anything. One more note, previous weblog entries will not be revised due to time constraints.

   Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Screen Watcher - Movie Blog

In addition to Hip Hop Logic, I'm now writing a daily movie blog called Screen Watcher. It's about all the movies and related stuff I see that's not hip hop related. Any hip hop movies I see I'll review here. But everything else, I'm reviewing at Screen Watcher. So drop by sometime.

Record Labels Continue to Rip Off Artists

From the Oct. 27 edition of Frank Barnako's Internet Daily comes the following observation on how music companies are still ripping off artists as they transition to digital downloads:

"In an analysis of Apple Computer's ITunes music service [which charges 99 cents a tune], The Wall Street Journal reports the record labels take as much as 47 cents. Artists think the amount is improper, because it is calculated using the same formula applied to CD sales, which include charges for 'technology' and broken merchandise, the report said. Apple gets about 34 cents, and the performer may see a dime. 'The companies are treating it like the sale of a record, which doesn't make sense,' said Donald Passman, an entertainment lawyer who has represented several major acts."

   Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Recent "Alternative" Hip Hop News Bits

Kid Koala is in the midst of his current Short Attention Span Theater tour to promote Some of My Best Friends Are DJS. Recent coverage includes:
Calgary Sun
SF Weekly
Akron Beacon Journal

If you're a Cannibal Ox fan, you probably already know that they've broken up. I'm always a little behind so I just found out this weekend. If you've never checked out Cannibal Ox and you think hip hop isn't just dance music, then find a copy of Cold Vein, one of the best hip hop albums of all time and certainly the peak of El-P's artistic career as producer to date.

Raptivism Records is set to release No More Prisons 2, a compilation album attacking the prison industry. According to AllHipHop.com, artists include David Banner & Kamikaze, Mystic, The Coup, dead prez, Saigon, Zion I, Self Scientific, Krumbsnatcha, Grandmaster Caz, Akbar, Chubb Rock and Shabaam Sahdeeq. Proceeds will help support the Prison Moratorium Project.

   Monday, October 27, 2003

Project Blowed Presents the Good Brothers

Project Blowed Presents The Good Brothers is a lengthy album full of rich goodness from the West Coast underground. Or, more specifically, the Project Blowed open mic at Leimert Park, a South Central phenomenon unto itself. And even though this album is wide ranging, it mostly has a coherence throughout, perhaps in part due to the presence and oversight of Aceyalone whose Love & Hate dropped back in June.

The Good Brothers seems like more of a network of like minded artists than a specific crew or family. That's not for me to say but the artists involved seem to connect multiple crews and families in an underground all-star exhibition format. There are so many of them on this record that it would be easy to miss a few, but involved in one way or another are the following:

Aceyalone, Cypher 7, Riddlore, Jah Orah, Raaka Iriscience of Dilated Peoples, PSC and Grouch of Living Legends, Pep Love from Hieroglyphics, Ahmad, Phoenix Orion, Self Jupiter, Awol One and Tray of CVE, Abstract Rude, Bus Driver, 2Mex, St. Mark 9:23, Xholo Lanxinxo, RJD2, Fat Jack, Hines, Boss Beats, PMG and Imperator.

Actually there seems to be more, but my head's kind of swimming just sorting them out. So you should probably check out the Project Blowed website. It looks like it will be an interesting place to hang online as it develops. Aceyalone is also featured at Okayplayer. While it may not yet be true that, as one track states, "the age of the ignorant rapper is done," certainly this album gets us a lot closer to that longed for day.

   Saturday, October 25, 2003

9th Wonder/Raw Talent DX

HipHopDX.com is becoming one of my favorite sources for keeping up with developments in hip hop. For example, they have an interesting short interview with dj 9th Wonder of Little Brother on the experience of working with Jay-Z. By the way, I saw Little Brother recently but 9th Wonder didn't make the show, so I still haven't had the 9th Wonder experience. That sucks cause the bigger they get, the less likely I am to see them. I hate crowds.

Raw Talent DX is a related project that seems to have been going on for awhile but I just found out about it. It's focused on getting exposure for independent artists. And they're looking for more unsigned talent so send demos to:

Attention: Demo Dept.
RawTalentDX / Axxis Business
347 West 36th St Fl. 1

How do I know these things? Aw shucks, I jus' get tha newsletter!

   Friday, October 24, 2003

Ta-Nehisi Coates Reviews Aesop Rock Concert

Aesop Rock's starting his promotional tour for Bazooka Tooth. And, just like on the album, El-P is adding useless vocal content.

   Thursday, October 23, 2003

Hip Hop Lit?

I haven't checked out any of this violent, sexist, thug-ridden fiction described in the SF Gate. I understand why it's referred to as ghetto lit or even urban lit but I wish it wasn't being called hip hop lit. It's not about hip hop, even though some hip hop artists or rappers, as some folks I know would say is more accurate, are all about violence, pimpin' and hos. And guns, don't forget their gun fetish.

   Wednesday, October 22, 2003

More Malibu Minstrels

I just found this reprint of a Newsweek article at Guerilla Funk about the movie Malibu's Most Wanted. Some interesting points and the whole issue of minstrel shows is definitely worth considering these days. As usual, I have my own issues on the discussion.

The quote I find most questionable is as follows:
“Let’s be honest,” says hip-hop historian Kevin Powell, “all this fascination with hip-hop is just a cultural safari for white people.”
I think that's kind of fucked up in a way because white people are a part of hip hop now, whether you like it or not.

But here's something to consider, if you look at the history of rock music, it was black musicians who invented rock and roll. Now it's a mostly white thing. Part of what happens is that as people of color create new artistic approaches, it's marketed to white people by creating a form that's typically a little less intimidating and performed by a white artist. You can see this in the field of dance with tap dancing being taken over by people like Fred Astaire and Latin and African American social dances being "cleaned up" and spread through white America by Irene and Vernon Castle.

But hip hop's interesting cause white kids have been buying a lot of albums by black artists. They didn't need to wait for a white version. Now they're making rap cause it's what they listen to. Just like if some black kid had been listening to classical records and decided to play violin. Or similar anyway. Hip hop will be stronger as a multicultural thing, although many people will disagree. However the momentum in that direction is unstoppable.

On the minstrel tip, if you haven't checked out Bamboozled, you might consider it. Besides featuring the greatest tap dancer of our time, Savion Glover, it's a decent Spike Lee flick, i.e. part art, part political protest, part lecture on what you should be thinking.

Peace, I mean it.

   Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Culture VI

Recently got a copy of the "Don't Holla" Mixtape from Culture VI. Bunch of hard guys on here, great beats, lyrics that just aren't my kind of thing these days. But lots of people will love these tracks cause guns and harsh attitudes are as American as slavery and Republicans. And the beats are nice.

   Monday, October 20, 2003

Minoa and Unknown

I recently received a cd from Minoa and Unknown called Winds of Change. It's on Miniya Records, they're new independent record label. Like a lot of hip hop sites, I'm not sure where these people are located, though there are a lot of New York references on the site. But their site is nice, one of the few that doesn't throw a lot of shit at you as you're trying to get to whatever you came for. The art has a mellow vibe but I wouldn't call it weak and that's kind of how I'm feeling the album.

This is a very mellow album with thoughtful verbals. The beats are almost dreamy and it made me think of something that'd be nice to listen to driving around in the car. I was thinking about that and how different this album is from the kind of stuff you get for driving in L.A. And then I found that Unknown has put out some instrumentals for driving. In any case, there is something organic and interconnected about this project that just kind of flows. Samples are available on the site, so check it out.

Changes at Hip Hop Logic

I'm going to be trying a move back to shorter pieces posted more regularly. Periodically I'll write something longer if the mood strikes, but I'm not feeling the role of reviewer. I want to share information. So if you send me something I'll talk about it and let people know what's up but it won't be an indepth investigation. I'll also be passing along bits of news, personal observations and other hip hop related insights.

   Saturday, October 18, 2003

Encore, Little Brother, Hieroglyphics

I recently saw the Full Circle Tour in Austin, truly a great show, especially since I hadn't had the opportunity to see any of the acts before. The overall tour was inspired by Hieroglyphics new album Full Circle and it opened with Encore a solid act, solo with a dj. I wasn't familiar with him but definitely some of the crowd knew him.

I've been keeping up with Little Brother for awhile and have some related links at NC Hip Hop Online. They give a really great show. Both of the mcs are heavy set and dance, make jokes, even sing occasionally. Their album, The Listening, seems to be doing well.

Hieroglyphics was a trip, partly because they're so damn many of them. The high points for me were the numbers by Del the Funkee Homosapien. I wasn't a big fan of the Gorillaz project, though when they did the big hit from that, the crowd sang along. But Del is just fun to watch, has a unique flow and when other cats are center stage he supports them in a very solid way.

One of the interesting things about shows here is that underground hip hop is largely supported by white college students. My guess is that that's a pretty widespread thing but I haven't really checked it out. It is one of the reasons I expect underground hip hop to break through somewhat like grunge did in the late 80s early 90s. In a recent interview Little Brother talked about a bad review they got from a website that was supposedly run by mostly white people. Whatever the deal there, they said that some folks were really upset and felt it was racist for white folks to tell them what hip hop should sound like.

Now I'm the first person to tell you not to trust reviewers, but I wonder what it means when you're getting predominantly white audiences for underground/alternative/postlabeling black acts at a time when hip hop is becoming increasingly multicultural. The acts that survive are the acts that get paid. So the people that pay are the ones who decide what's seen on a national level. How this current phase plays out will indeed be interesting.

Till soon.

   Monday, October 13, 2003

jsmooth on Jean Grae

jsmooth of hiphopmusic.com recently praised Jean Grae's "Bootleg of the Bootleg EP".

   Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif

I'm not going to say much about Aesop Rock's Bazooka Tooth except that it's an interesting album but somewhat of a disappointment after the illumination of Labor Days. Actually it reminds me of my disappointment upon hearing Mr. Lif's I Phantom after the thinking man's battle classic Enters The Colossus. Both vocalists seem lost in the mix, which really sucks because they are two of the most important artists on the scene and part of the argument for Definitive Jux being a key player in the future of hip hop. You can check out videos from Aesop Rock's Bazooka Tooth and Mr. Lif's I Phantom at HipHopDx.com | Media.

   Monday, October 06, 2003

Jean Grae and Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra

Someone who understands the connections of which I speak in discussing Deacons for Defense is Jean Grae, a black woman and an mc, whose cd The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP on Babygrande Records drops tomorrow. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy and it's a really strong album. Grae covers a spectrum from hard ass to militant to someone who can laugh at herself, sometimes all in the same cut. Her lyrics are unique with surprising but accessible references. She's a poet but she's not obscure. The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP is a solid work that shouldn't be underestimated by any means. If I was a better reviewer I'd go through song by song and, believe me, I'd have something to talk about every step of the way. But that's generally not what I do.

You can check out Jean Grae's Hater's Anthem, a single from the album and you might want to keep an eye out for her current tour with Cannibal Ox, who appear on The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP. I'm there already and it's a month away for Austin!

I've also received a double cd from Kufala Recordings of a live show from Dakah, a 58 piece LA-based Hip Hop Orchestra. Composed and conducted by Geoffrey "Double G" Gallegos, this work mixes multiple genres and includes tributes to Gang Starr and The Roots. It's really interesting and strong and does a great job of drawing together musical forms that could easily clash. If I had heard it without seeing the press release, I would have called it a jazz orchestra with hip hop elements, in part, because jazz has always embraced a wide sonic territory. Then again, hip hop has always sampled widely. In any case, Dakah intends to expand ideas of what hip hop encompasses and this extremely successful project offers a unique take on where hip hop can go in the 21st century.

Hey, feel free to keep me busy and send me your hip hop album, dvd, t-shirt, sticker, zine and/or book. So far I've reviewed everything received and will continue to do so as long as is humanly possible.

Till soon,

Deacons for Defense

I've got a lot to catch up on. In addition to this week's report, which I'm breaking up into two parts, I need to write something about the recent Encore, Little Brother, Hieroglyphics show in Austin, which was awesome. I also need to talk about a mixtape cd from Culture VI and a cd from Minoa and Unknown. I just got Aesop Rock's new album for my birthday. Plus, today I received Project Blowed Presents The Good Brothers. So I'm staying busy. Which is good as long as I'm up to the challenge!

A recent theme in Hip Hop Logic has been the place of guns in hip hop and in the lives of people in hip hop. I generally don't like guns and I've generally been giving people a hard time about graphics and lyrics focused on guns. At the same time, I've also made it clear that I love movies with guns, especially American gangster flicks and Asian yakuza pics. The third aspect of my conflicting, complex perspective on the subject was raised by viewing Deacons for Defense which addresses the issue of arming for self defense. While I think guns don't always make people as safe as they think, I do recognize that they are necessary in certain situations.

Deacons for the Defense is a made-for-cable movie starring Forest Whitaker and a bunch of black actors that's out in video stores though it's not released for retail till next month. Basically it's about a small Southern town during the Civil Rights period in which a group of black men arm themselves to protect their families and themselves from cops and the Klan in their struggle for Civil Rights. Apparently based on a true story, it's a decent flick about a little known element of Southern history. In addition to the groups mentioned in the movie, I talked with a black poet back in the late 80s who had grown up in the South and lived at the end of a little country road in a rural black neighborhood. He said that they were well armed and that when the Klan or whatever group of rednecks decided to go driving around and shooting up black people's houses, a lot of them got shot driving down that little road.

What has that got to do with hip hop you ask? If you don't understand the connection between hip hop and black people arming themselves in self defense against racist scum, then you need to study a little more history. Even as hip hop becomes a multicultural, international art form, it's base is still grounded in the African diaspora and the ongoing struggles of black people, especially as revealed in the Bronx and surrounding boroughs. There's lots written on this, interviews done, documentaries made. And that history will always be relevant to hip hop as long as the term hip hop is relevant.