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

  Web netweed.com   
   Sunday, November 30, 2003

A Thanksgiving Weekend Clyde Rant

Work's starting to pile up with the end of the semester, Thanksgiving break, a netweed redesign in progress, etc. etc. I've got a couple of CDs I need to review from Joe Killa aka Joe Dirty and from Pac Dime aka Pac10. Plus I just saw Ali G's InDaHouse. But I must rant before I start my week.

I just picked up the December issue of URB and, damn, I'm gonna get a subscription. I like this magazine. On page 30 is an article entitled Backpack Beef! about comments from Prefuse 73 regarding Common's appearance in a Coke commercial. He is quoted as saying:
"If he did a Coke commercial recently, I can say 'fuck you' to him, and I will say 'fuck you' to him if he ever asks me to produce a track or anything."
As the article points out, Prefuse 73 aka Scott Herren, recently allowed Footlocker to use his music in an ad. Apparently Herren was not asked about his respone to KRS-One's now ancient Nike spot.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Common or Prefuse 73, though I dig KRS-One a lot of the time. And I generally don't give a fuck about any of these beefs. But here's the problem with taking meaningful stands, once you get big (or bigger than you were), you find yourself doing things that don't fit what you used to stand for. Unless you're really on top of your game, you can wind up looking like an asshole. Nike has a major history of abuse of workers, particularly through their proxies in poor countries. Michael Jordan's weak response to such charges showed him to be a corporate asshole who is willing to be used in a way that undermines his artistry.

I'm not sure what KRS-One had to say about the Nike ad, but you can't righteously support Nike. I don't care how cool they look. And is it any different when P. Diddy is producing his clothing in Guatemalan sweatshops? Part of what concerns me is that as more black men work their way into power, they become part of an establishment that doesn't help black people, but produces a black elite that has more in common with rich white people than with middle class and poor black people.

Remember OJ? Remember how many black people thought it was some kind of victory for them when he got off? OJ's acquital was a victory for rich men. Remember how the LAPD slowly followed his car down the highway while everybody watched on television? This was the same LAPD that regularly killed black and latino males in custody during the Rodney King era. Do you think they were treating OJ like a black man or like a rich man?

OK, I don't do this very often, though if you look at my 2002 posts you'll get more of such rants. Let me close with a few questions. Remember how OJ said he would be searching for the murderers who killed his wife, the mother of his child? And then he was photographed golfing? My big question is, will P. Diddy relentlessly investigate the conditions of the workers that are making him richer, or will he go back to occasionally training for marathons? My guess is, no more marathons and a showy visit to factories with frightened workers dragged in front of the cameras to show how much they love Massa Diddy.

   Friday, November 28, 2003

Jay-Z at Madison Square Gardens

Jay-Z Raps on the Fly
Kelefa Sanneh reviews Jay-Z's Madison Square Garden goodbye.

   Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, DJ Fakts One, C-Rayz Walz

Caught these Def Jux artists in Austin Sunday night and I still haven't caught up on my sleep. It was at Emo's on an outdoor stage, sort of a National Park recreation center feel, lots of young white people.

It was a good show, enthusiastic crowd. Crowded near the stage and I wasn't in a competitive mood so I stayed kind of on the edge. Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif did their set together and they were great showmen as always. My one complaint is that Aesop Rock's flow is speeding up, as one can tell from Labor Days to Bazooka Tooth, and it really takes away from what's special in his voice.

Overall, not the revelation of the first time I saw Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif in concert, but a good show, nonetheless.

Available at Amazon:
Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth
Mr. Lif - Live at the Middle East
C-Rayz Walz - Ravipops.

   Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Hip Hop News from the Village Voice

Caught on Tape
Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses Eminem's tapes revealed by Benzino

Party Hard
Frank Kogan on the YoungBloodZ's Drankin' Patnaz

One Crunk Nation Under a Reggae Ton of Grooves
Carol Cooper on Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz's Part II

   Saturday, November 22, 2003

Wasted Time: Benzino and Eminem

I knew a bunch of folks in Durham, NC, back in the day, who would do weird unannounced theater events, like lining up outside of a laundromat and waiting in line, even though there was no reason to. That event was structured so that people would leave the line from the front, one by one, and the event was over when the last person was finished. But they were a bunch of hippies and got bored and eventually the whole group just walked off. As the main organizer said, "that's why we're called Wasted Time."

I'm bringing this up cause I'm getting ready to waste more time on Benzino and Eminem. As usual, Jay Smooth has some of the more interesting commentary including the observation that Benzino was not actually a cofounder of the Source and the allegation that Benzino encouraged Bawston Strangla to use the N-word on the song Shamrocks and Glocks. And, yes, the Strangla is a white guy, representing the "true irish culture of hip-hop."

The most interesting development to me is that the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has made supporting statements, a move that I think puts Benzino on the defense and gives Eminem the higher ground.

The Source has posted the track and related material on their site. However the links are in a popup box so you may need to disable your popup blocker to check it out.

VIBE claims to have an Online Exclusive that basically just reports on the press conference that all the interested press went to and that MTV did a better job of reporting.

If you have more time to waste, try searching Google news.

   Friday, November 21, 2003

Hip Hop: More Mainstream Moves

I'm sure you've heard that Sears is ready to cash in on hip hop, Jay-Z wants to buy the Nets and Atmosphere is getting props from MTV, as has Mr. Lif.

As hip hop permeates the culture, the underground starts to become the mainstream.

   Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Procussions - As Iron Sharpens Iron

I just listenened to a new release from the Procussions entitled "As Iron Sharpens Iron" and it caught me by surprise in multiple ways. First, it sounds like a great underground hip hop album, a little bit of backpacker, some old school flow but obviously contemporary, intelligent lyrics, really great beats with varied dynamics. Then, I catch some references to books of the Bible and I'm thrown at the fact that I'm digging a Christian hip hop album. Finally, I accept the inevitable, these cats are really talented.

I've only gotten one other Christian hip hop album to review and that was Mr. D-Note's "Dramatized". I wasn't that into the album but I appreciated what he was doing. That album seemed fair to label Christian hip hop. "As Iron Sharpens Iron" is interesting because you are periodically given Christian references but the beliefs are mostly woven into the music in a way that doesn't feel limiting or oppressive.

In fact, the Procussions use terms like spiritually minded and life-affirming in their biography section and their music is that. It's also great underground hip hop and they've toured with a lot of bands that are important to me and to a lot of folks these days who are praying for a major shift in the game. Their site will fill you in, show you pictures, give you things to listen to and great reviews to read.

The Procussions are Stro the 89th key, Mr. J. Medeiros and Resonant. They honed their skills in Denver for quite a while before moving to LA. It'll be interesting to see what they do cause they're really a strong act. I'm not sure if they want to be called Christian hip hop or not, and that may be about getting people to open up (those sneaky artists!), but I'm definitely open and have to say that they're the first act I would describe as Christian or religious hip hop that I would make a point of going to see. And if you knew me like my friends know me, you'd know that's high praise.

   Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Big Pun Live

Big Pun Live is a documentary about Big Punisher, the massively successful Puerto Rican rapper taken by a heart attack in 2000. Given early support by Fat Joe at a time when others were sleeping, Big Pun went beyond Fat Joe's accomplishments, bigger in every way.

The documentary is very low budget with inconsistent camera work and a reliance on live footage that may have been filmed by others who were also on a low budget. Nevertheless it has a lot of heart and the place of Big Pun in the lives of his relatives and associates is quite clear.

Although I dug the couple of hits I heard back when he was around, especially the video with J-Lo, Big Pun and Fat Joe, I wasn't that familiar with his work. So it was cool to see footage of concerts and to hear stories about his approach. I was impressed by his process, constantly reading and writing, always prepared when he hit the studio, rockin' the streets and the suburbs. And I was woken up to the fact that I need to check out his albums. They sound even more interesting than his hits.

Available at Amazon.com:
Big Pun Live

   Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Big Pun, Hip Hop Blogs

I've been watching Big Pun Live and it's making me really appreciate the guy. But I'll talk about that more in the next couple of days when I get a chance to watch the rest of it.

If you want to check out more hip hop blogs, besides following the links to the left, you will find an extensive list at hiphopanonymous.net.

   Monday, November 17, 2003

Hip Hop Bits

More on Tupac: Resurrection
Black Jesuz by Laura Sinagra

Tracks from Jay-Z, 9th Wonder, El-P
it's just trickology - soundcheck

From the Taipei Times
Mozart gets the hip-hop treatment

   Saturday, November 15, 2003

   Thursday, November 13, 2003

Hip Hop Musical

Revenge of the One-Hit Wonders, Hip-Hop Division
Review of the hip hop musical Diss Diss and Diss Dat, in da New Yawk Times.

   Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Bird Up - The Charlie Parker Remix Project

Bird Up from Savoy Jazz is an interesting new release. Various artists take tracks by Charlie Parker, the jazz giant also known as Bird, and do their remix thing. Many of the artists are djs, including RZA, El-P and Dan the Automator. But it's not only hip hop, other artists include Me'shell NdegeOcello, with a nice funky track, and Serj Tankian of System of a Down, who sings on his cut.

These works often involve substantial additions to the original tracks with multiple contemporary artists working on tracks that originally featured, not just Charlie Parker, but artists like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach. Seemingly unintimidated, folks like Red Hawk, Choco and The RZA, Donk, Dan the Automator and El-P craft strong pieces that integrate their visions with that of Bird's. The more successful works for me were done by djs, mostly from the world of hip hop.

Unfortunately Rob Swift revealed just how irrelevant turntablism has become. Yet, the album as a whole points to new possibilities for hip hop relating to jazz in a more sophisticated way than, say, Jurassic 5's gratuitous nod to swing at the end of Quality Control. But I respect Jurassic 5 for their showmanship and general good temper. Bird Up is interesting for other reasons, particularly the fact that jazz tracks from the 40s can seem so contemporary when treated with respect. Beyond that, I'd have to say that Bird Up is wide ranging enough to interest a lot of folks who care about jazz and keep up with the smarter artists in currently popular forms of music.

Related Links:
Sample Tracks and Reviews are Available at Savoy Jazz
Bird Up: The Charlie Parker Remix Project and Bird Up: The Originals are both available at Amazon.com

   Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Jay-Z From 1995

Out of the goodness of his heart, Jay Smooth is offering a free MP3 of a Jay-Z freestyle with Natural Elements from his radio show in 1995 at hiphopmusic.com.

Hip Hop Reviews in the Village Voice

Along Again, Naturally
Ying Yang Twins - Me & My Brother

RZA - Birth of a Prince

Ugly Details Not Omitted
Atmosphere - Seven's Travels

Available from Amazon.com:
Ying Yang Twins - Me & My Brother
RZA - Birth of a Prince
Atmosphere - Seven's Travels

   Monday, November 10, 2003

Hip Hop in The New York Times

Tupac Shakur: Dead Man Talking
Lola Ogunnaike on Resurrection and the life of Tupac Shakur.

Questions for Ice Cube: That's a (W)rap!
Ice Cube interviewed by Monica Corcoran.

Available from Amazon.com:
Resurrection (Soundtrack) - Tupac Shakur
Tupac: Resurrection (book)
Barbershop Starring Ice Cube

   Saturday, November 08, 2003

Hip Hop News: Multicultural, International

Center Offering Hip-Hop History Rap
Puerto Ricans in hip hop and the state of hip hop today, from NY Newsday.

It's a Hip-Hop World
Article from Newsweek on multicultural and international influences in art related to hip hop exhibited in shows in Harlem and Munich.

Hip hop steps into the spotlight
The BBC on hip hop theater in England.

Israeli hip-hop takes on Mideast politics
USA Today feature on a right wing Israeli rapper and brief comments regarding an Israeli Arab hip hop artist.

Accra reclaims hip-hop
The BBC on hip hop in Ghana.

Available from Amazon.com:
New York Ricans From the Hip Hop Zone
Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA
Hip Hop America

   Friday, November 07, 2003

The Indie Bible

If you're trying to make it as an independent artist, The Indie Bible is the kind of thing you should be familiar with. It's an extensive publication focused on places to promote your music plus useful music biz articles. You can find out more about what they do by getting their regular email newsletter, The Indie Contact Newsletter that gives you a useful list of resources each issue. And if you are promoting music, doing projects like Hip Hop Logic, putting out a zine or whatever, you can get listed for free. The Indie Bible includes many styles of music, so it's a good place to start expanding your knowledge of making things happen beyond what's known in the hip hop scene.

Available at Amazon.com:
The Indie Bible, Fifth Edition

   Thursday, November 06, 2003

Review of Jay-Z's The Black Album

In the wake of widespread downloading, Jay Smooth reviews Jay-Z's Black Album and he's at his best with this entry.
Available at Amazon.com: The Black Album

   Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Feenom Circle Drops The Pawn Shop

With their 6-song EP The Pawn Shop, the Bay Area's Feenom Circle show that they've got a sense of humor, poetic, lyrical skills and artful beats. The Pawn Shop is pretty mellow, even mellower than their last release, Souled Separately, that I discussed in further detail when it dropped. Actually Souled Separately is less mellow than it sounds in my description, listening to it now there are more upbeat tunes, certainly more than The Pawn Shop. Between the two, if you haven't checked them out, go for Souled Separately. If you like Souled Separately, you'll probably like The Pawn Shop as well, mellow or not.

One of the smart things about The Feenom Circle's website is that they reprint the reviews and articles (I assume with permission). Archiving this stuff means it will be available long after it disappears from the original websites. And if they keep the links to this material on their site live, then they'll be ahead of the game. Plus, no bullshit flash introductions.

Related Links:
Souled Separately at Amazon

   Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Marijuana Business

I know hip hop and marijuana have very little to do with each other, but I thought this entirely unrelated article in Forbes Magazine describing the marijuana business as currently practiced by Canadians might be of interest. Let's just call it a pleasant change of pace from all the politics I've been talking lately. Be sure to check the related links in the sidebar.

   Monday, November 03, 2003

Sean John Sweatshops and Hip Hop Politics

I think the P. Diddy sweatshop situation will be interesting to watch play out. I hope it's not a whitewash like Michael Jordan's response to concerns about Nike's sweatshops in other nations. I remember he held a press conference where he said that Nike's management had explained everything to him and he was comfortable with that. Well, the rich usually know who's paying their bills.

A recent article at EURWEB.com focused on the response of Honduran factory owners that included claims of antipatriotic behavior on the part of protesters. This is pretty typical rhetoric for Latin American right wingers and often precedes more violent assaults on union workers and other activists. Hopefully media pressure will keep that from happening but if you keep up with this kind of thing, you'll recognize that the end of the story is often rather grim for the workers.

The National Labor Committee is responsible for bringing this heat on the Sean Paul operation and you can download their report and related documents.

This comes at an interesting time with the ongoing maneuvers of various forces to capitalize on the growing power of hip hop. Bakari Kitwana, formerly with The Source, teaches at Kent State and writes about shifts in hip hop from a cultural movement to a political movement. His book The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture is available at Amazon.

   Saturday, November 01, 2003

Beef Mediation/Farrakhan/Malcolm X

This mediation by Minister Louis Farrakhan in the Ja Rule and 50 Cent beef is an interesting turn of events. The politics of hip hop are starting to get heavy in a way they've never been as major players become involved. You know, if there had been some appropriate mediation back in the days of Malcolm X, maybe we'd have a real leader for a real revolution. As it is, I'm all for whatever peace we can get. I could say more but I'd rather you go check out these Malcolm X sites:

Biography at Africana.com

Google Search: Malcolm X

Don't see the connection I'm making? Read about Malcolm X, read his speeches, study the beefs various individuals and organizations had with him and the present will become much clearer, I promise.