Monday, November 29, 2004

"THERE'S GAMES BEYOND THE GAME"


stoop wisdom

I said this last week but it bears repeating, The Wire is so on fire right now. Like nuclear fusion fire. Like solar fire. Like big bang, start of the known universe type fire.

The return of Brother Mouzone? Omar, a hunted man? Omar, a hunting man? Marlowe and Barksdale dropping bodies? The continued miseducation of Dennis (why do I have a very bad feeling he's not going to make the end of the season)? Stringer setting Avon out to get violated or get deaded? Oh man, what are we going to do when this season is over? Sopranos won't be back for a minute, nor Deadwood, nor The Shield. Damn ya'll, all that will remain is going to be Lost. It's a cold, cold winter ahead.


NAS: STREET'S DISCIPLE

I don't have time to post up a full review but here's the short story:

I believe in Nas' potential as the greatest lyricist of our generation (yeah, sorry Eminem, Jay-Z) but this double album perfectly distills why Nas continues to frustrate all his loyal fans after alll these years. This is at least half a hot album but Nas, like other rappers before him, let his ego get in the way, delivering an unnecessary double album that's split between wickedly brilliant songs and tired ass filler. Had Nas been a little more selective and just put this out as a single album, he would have dropped an LP as satisfying as Stillmatic, maybe even as good as God's Son (though emotionally, it's not as deep or rich as GS). I'd still bump this new CD ahead of Nas' wackest albums but goddamn, you wish he'd just practice some restraint. Didn't he learn anything from watching Jay-Z f*ck up with The Blueprint 2, a double album so unlikable that even Jay went back and re-released it as a single CD? Study your enemies, son!

Seriously though, when Nas is hot, he's undeniably hot.
The Illy: the first four cuts ("A Message To the Feds, Sincerely, We the People" through "Coon Picnic"), "Sekou Story" (big up to the Dismasters!), "Street's Disciple," "The Unauthorized Biography of Rakim," even "Remember the Times" (though Nas really didn't need to out his entire sexual history. Sometimes, what happens with Nasir should stay with Nasir), "Bridging the Gap," "War," "Thief's Theme."

Not Rilly: "Live Now," "Rest Of My Life," "No One Else In the Room," "The Makings of a Perfect Bitch," "Me and You" (dude, give Slick Rick back his flow). There's a few more cuts that are being judged but the production alone left me bored on songs like "Reason" (um, De La used this sample for "Much More" already), "Suicide Bounce," "Disciple", etc.

This all said, for Nas fans, there's enough on here to keep you happy. Or at least holding onto the dream that Nas may yet come back, straight up illmatic.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A MUSICIAN'S PERSPECTIVE

Got this via email the other day and received permission to post it. I'm wrapped up in dissertating right now and don't have time to comment but it's worth putting out there. Maybe some of my colleagues would like to offer their .02:

    My name is Geoff Gallegos, and I'm a musician in LA. I saw the dialogue between the various music journalists from different parts of the country, and was very encouraged to see one common thread between all of you...which is the desire to highlight that which is good, as opposed to tearing down something that has not matured yet.

    I don't think journalists should feel obligated to push a local flavor if it isn't ready to pop through the membrane. It's easy to feel dissed when you're being ignored, but I'd much rather be ignored than ripped to shreds. The most helpful criticisms I've received in my career have been done one on one over a drink, as opposed to printed and distributed to several others. This is an area that the artist/critic relationship can take a positive swing.

    Since a critic has the strength of critical thinking, this can be an incredible service to an artist if they are willing to listen. Specific responses to a show or recording shared in person to the artist has the potential of elevating the artist to a plane where the critic can REALLY feel good about getting behind that artist.

    Since critics have to listen to a broad wash of different music, they can serve as an intelligence gathering agency for their local artists. "This is what they're doing in Chicago..." etc...

    As the artist improves, so do your pitches.

    Peace,
    Geoff Gallegos
    Los Angeles

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

WHO SHOT FIRST?


buck buck


It's only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose in Wisconsin. As has already been widely reported, Chai Vang, a 36 year old hunter, has been arrested for shooting six other hunters and wounding two in what seems to be an inexplicable series of events that are, of course, in contention.

What is known, presumably, is that a group of hunters, on their own private property, found Vang in a tree shelter, asked him to leave, and Vang unloaded a semi-auto rifle on the group. The hunters who got shot say that Vang walked off and then popped off without warning. Vang, in a recently released statement, claims that the hunters threw racial slurs at him and then shot at him. Even if that were to be true, that doesn't quite explain how Vang, in "defending" himself managed to shoot eight different people who, according to reports, only had one gun between them. And oh yeah, in case we didn't mention, Vang is a Hmong immigrant from Laos, all the other hunters were white.

Hello, powder keg.

For those not up on their Southeast Asian refugee resettlement patterns, states like Wisconsin and Minneosta have some of the highest percentages of Hmong immigrants, not because the chilly Northern climate reminds them of their tropical homes in Asia but that's how the U.S. gov't decided to disperse them as they arrived throughout the 1970s and '80s. According to the news reports coming out, there's been a history of conflict between white and Hmong hunters though, as State Senator Mee Moua (a Hmong politician in MN) pointed out, just because there's racism being directed towards Hmongs, "that doesn't mean you kill people."

COOL OUT PT 2.


solidarity personified

Haven't read the Intro? Start there.

As noted, the key question I want to address is this: "how does the presence of Asian Americans in hip-hop, this black cultural artform, look any different than that of white folks in Jazz, Blues, and Rock & Roll?"

This is a delicate question to approach, especially since conversations about race can rapidly spin into a hundred other areas. Especially since I was too hasty the last time I tried to explain my own position on the matter, I want to lay out some of my basic postulations and understandings.

A. Hip-hop is a dynamic, syncretic cultural form that draws on a multitude of traditions and influences.

B. It is also, unquestionably, a Black cultural form, not only drawing from a range of African American and Afro-diasporic vernacular, musical and other aesthetic traditions, but its positioning within American society is clearly within a socio-political context of Blackness.

C. Those two statements are not, in any way, contradictory so long as you accept that contemporary cultures are almost always transformed when brought into contact with others and that all cultures are construed, on some level, of hybrid practices. In this understanding, the term "Black" does not presume there is a 100% authentic Blackness out there any more than there is a 100% authentic "Asian American-ness" out there (the latter identity was a construction from its very inception as a term). However, understanding and appreciating hip-hop's hybrid roots doesn't fundamentally change its relationship - especially in the popular imagination - to Blackness. (I'm borrowing from Imani Perry's first chapter of Prophets of the Hood as well as covering ground that Tricia Rose already did a decade back in Black Noise).

D. The exchange of culture in the public sphere is worth celebrating since such a process can (but not always does) enrich those involved so long as the power relations are relatively equal (which they often times are not). The important thing to remember though is that what happens in culture does not always lead to similar transformations within socio-economic relations of power. To put it simpler, just because culture integrates doesn't mean that people do. And just because culture is profitable doesn't mean that communities producing that culture benefit from that profit. No one should be naive to think that the circulation of popular culture forms - such as hip-hop - represents a full social transformation.

Example: the bulk of rap's listening and consuming audience is white but this doesn't mean that Black/White racial relations have improved substantially over the last 30 years (see rising rates of segregation as indicator) or that hip-hop's dominance of American popular culture has put a dent into the sustained institutional inequalities generated from White Supremacy.

Cultural interaction is important but it's not omnipotent and while culture often absorbs and expresses tensions that are not easily resolved through social institutions like the government or economy, that doesn't mean they actually resolve those tensions.

E. In reference to Asian and African American relations in particular, there is a quaint notion that says that people of color can't be racist towards one another because we lack the institutional resources of White Supremacy. While I'm sympathetic to the political grounding of such an idea, it has the unfortunate effect of acting as a smokescreen over very real examples of racially-motivated discrimination and inequalities. Whether or not you want to call that Racism with a capital "R" or "little r" racism is up to you but let's just state this clearly: people of color can be, and often are, racist towards one another in ways that have structural, material consequences. Asian American merchants vs. African American customers in inner city retail stores for example. Or African American residents vs. Southeast Asian refugees in housing projects. Depending on the context, communities have differential access to structures of power and, at times, they will wield that access to advance their needs to the detriment of others'. Just to return to point D) - cultural interaction does not necessarily transform these unequal relations as much as we'd hope they would.

F. Last but not least, this just has to be said: there's certainly no such thing as a monolithic African American community and that goes x-times true for the "Asian American community". Not to get all Intro. to Asian American Studies on ya'll but in case people weren't aware of this: we can talk about Blackness and Whiteness in relative terms but there is absolutely no equivalent Asian-ness out there. The whole concept of an "Asian America" is a construct from its inception: APIs don't usually identity with each other except in cases of extreme political necessity and more to the point, there is very little sharing of material resources between different Asian American ethnic groups. Most significantly, APIs don't divide the world into "us" vs. "not us" since, there's no clear "us." Just look at WWII: anti-Japanese paranoia ran so deep that Chinese and Koreans couldn't act fast enough to say, "I'm not Japanese." In fact, most of what bonds Asian Americans to one another is not a shared racial identity but rather, a reaction to racism (i.e. we have to stick together since people can't tell us apart anyways). Left to our own devices though, it's not at all certain that APIs would or could craft the same kind of all-encompassing identity that Whiteness and Blackness have traditionally entailed.

Therefore, when anyone wants to point at "the Asian American community" you have to be more specific about who you're talking about: the imagined nation? Specific communities (i.e. Korean Americans or Filipino Americans)? Or just all people who look Asian, which is rather reductionist (to say the least) and unable to comprehend or appreciate the vast internal differences in class, immigration history, language, culture, etc. that exist between us. When I deploy the term throughout this (or any piece), I'm basically talking about Asian America as an abstract construction, something held together by gossamer-thin political threads but it's not a community that with much of an internal logic that everyone who's supposed to belong to it understands or agrees upon. This is a topic for a larger discussion, but I'm just going to roll this out anyways: what is the relationship between hip-hop and an Asian America that lacks even a hint of a unified cultural identity? It's worth chewing on but for now...

...let me finally return to the question at hand: "how does the presence of Asian Americans in hip-hop, this black cultural artform, look any different than that of white folks in Jazz, Blues, and Rock & Roll?"


There's at least two ways to approach this question and the first is based in material power and privilege. The White "presence," in my mind, refers to the legacy of exploitation and profiteering of Black culture to fill White coffers. If that's the case, it's hard to see which Asian Americans are profiteering off of hip-hop in an equivalent manner. Whether you're talking record companies, broadcast media companies (i.e. radio/tv), or print publications, I can't think of a single one of those that are Asian American owned or controlled. Collectively speaking, Asian America does not materially profit off of hip-hop. And more to the point, the collective Asian American presence in America, writ large cannot be said to have materially disenfranchised African Americans in remotely the same, systemic way that White Supremacy has.

I'm not trying to split straws here - you can talk about symbolic exploitation (and I address this in the next section) but the symbolism is besides the point if there isn't a material counterpart somewhere. In other words, if African Americans controlled the production, distribution and consumption of their cultural labor, the concerns over "appropriation" become vastly different.

Even with Jin - who is he a threat to exactly? I shouldn't have to point out that Asian Americans are all but absent from the ranks of signed rap artists. The reason why everyone focused on Jin this past fall is because Jin is all there is. That's not to forget Chad Hugo of the Neptunes or Dan the Automator or the contributions of underground artists like Chops and the Mountain Brothers (and no, I'm not forgetting Fresh Kid Ice and Rhythm X either) but for the most part, Asian American artists add up to less than 1% of major label urban artists.

While Jin certainly had a flurry of stories being written about him, the majority of those stories treated him more as a racial curiosity than anything else. No one was, for example, suggesting that he's much more talented than any other young rapper (black or otherwise). It was because he was an Asian American rapper - something most media outlets had never considered before - that Jin earned any attention.

Contrast this with Eminem who, far more than being focused upon as a white rapper, was also uniformly welcomed and lauded as some kind of hip-hop savior. Though I'm sure folks are tired of the comparison, what symbolically links Eminem with Elvis is that both men were praised for taking a Black artform (hip-hop and rock n' roll respectively) and then doing it better than the originators. Those claims are, of course, absolute rubbish, but my point is that I didn't see any press that was trying to validate Jin in the same manner. Especially now that Jin's album more or less sank, it's highly unlikely that we'll ever see the same kind of coverage again for the next big API rapper, unlike the ways in which the music press and execs are willing to get behind any possible Great White Hope in the rap game.

None of this is to say that Asian Americans don't benefit from legacies of racial inequality. One only needs to examine the history behind the Model Minority Myth to appreciate how Asian Americans have long been positioned (vis a vis White Supremacy) into divisive positions relative to other people of color. Asian Americans and African Americans are not the same community - we do not have the same histories, nor the same needs, and at times, our desires and needs can, have and will conflict with one another. BUT, to suggest that Asian Americans enjoy the fruits of White Supremacy as if they were indistinguishable from White? That's profoundly ignorant of history. Even Fred Ho, who calls me out as a counter-revolutionary, agrees with that point and he breaks down the historical problems with Kenyon's argument.

Getting back to hip-hop in particular, one could argue that Asian Americans SYMBOLICALLY (vs. materially) treat hip-hop the same way that White youth have.

Let me start by saying, there are some absolutely abhorrent ways in which different Asian Americans and especially Asians (in Asia) appropriate hip-hop - and more to the point - Blackness, onto themselves. Many of you, I'm sure, have heard of a phenomenon in Japan, among certain hip-hop fans, where Japanese youth literally blacken their skin and redo their hair into "Black" styles like dreadlocks and corn rows. While sociologically, I'm sure there's some very rich, intellectual insights to be gathered from these practices, to most, it just seems like a form of modern minstrelsy. Likewise, there are many "AZN" youth around America who hijack Black style and vernacular onto themselves - calling one another "ni**as" - yet have no social contact - let alone solidarity - with African American communities. Whether or not any of these youth are materially profiteering off their cultural appropriation is besides the point: it's problematic regardless and symbolic of larger legacies of racist love and theft.

However, the part cannot be presumed to represent the whole in this case. Most Asian Americans who actively participate in hip-hop - as performers and artists - do not, in my experience, approach hip-hop as a can of body paint they can just brush on themselves without any kind of political and identity positioning. In my experience, the majority of people interested in engaging with hip-hop, especially as performers, are extremely mindful to the culture's racial dynamics and more to the point, their involvement in hip-hop is an attempt - however tenuous or poorly executed - to build solidarity with the Black community.

Again, before people start raising a chorus of objections: I'm not saying that just because Asian Americans want to forge those coalitions means that they go about it the right way. Good intentions are laudable but that doesn't mean they don't lead down the wrong paths at times either. However, I think the intent here is significance. There's a reason why so many youth around the world are attracted to hip-hop and that's because the culture has come to represent a form of alterity that marginalized groups can identify with. Especially because hip-hop, as a practice, is so vocal and communicative, it becomes very attractive to other youth who feel that their voice isn't being heard within society.

I'm not claiming that every single person who picks up hip-hop is trying to rage against the machine. But I do think, when you talk about hip-hop within the Asian American community, you're largely talking about an attempt - however flawed or imperfect - to build a connection across racial lines, to establish a constructive relationship between the two communities.

I'm sure there are many white youth who seek the same kind of connection but the key difference is that Asian Americans are positioned as a marginalized, racialized minority community and I think that creates a fundamentally different kind of desire for solidarity than might exist for someone coming from the majority culture.

DISCLAIMER: I feel like a broken record but just to make sure people are hearing: this doesn't mean that inequality and discrimination doesn't exist b/t Asian and African American communities. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't problematize the ways in which Asian Americans are developing a cultural voice through the adoption of another community's cultural practices. However, my point has been to say that if you're going to problematize Asian America's relationship to hip-hop, you can't do it by applying the same critiques that get leveled at White America. I can appreciate why some people would choose to divide the world in Black vs. non-Black but I find that kind of binary to be as flattening as dividing the world between White vs. non-White. You have to have some appreciation for the differences between Black, White and Asian American. Otherwise, you're operating from a reductionist racial logic that serves no one.

Now, if you want to talk about the problems that exist when Asian Americans become involved in hip-hop, by all means, let's talk about those.

The single biggest concern, in my mind, is precisely what I address above: that cultural outreach doesn't translate into community outreach and that just because you have a generation of Asian Americans who have grown up on hip-hop doesn't mean that there have been fundamental improvements in relations between the two communities. I think that gulf is perpetuated on both sides of the race line, but as far as Asian America is concerned, I think there certainly could be more done to try to build genuine solidarity. There's obviously a lot of divisive politics that prevent that - our two communities are frequently thrown into conflict with one another (and yes, White Supremacy is to blame for much of that, but we've also proven to be fairly adept at it on our own, without The Man to blame). Given these state of affairs, I can appreciate why some African Americans would look upon Asian American hip-hop participants with some skepticism - it's like Black culture is good enough for Asian Americans to become involved in, but when it comes down to choosing sides in a fight, each side retreats to its mutual corner.

I don't have some grand, sweeping conclusion to make here, only that I'd like to think that hip-hop can still be a positive starting point (not end) to where African and Asian America can meet, exchange ideas, build cooperative relations. Forgive my idealistic zeal, but as many differences exist between these two communities, there are also many points of similarity that can be used as building blocks for solidarity - not the least of which is battling against the ways in which White racism reduces both our communities in order to further its own. That doesn't mean we turn a blind eye to the divisions between us, only that it would be to both our advantages to find ways of working through them. I don't think hip-hop is the key to that - it's just one small piece in a larger, more complex process. But I think hip-hop provides a space in which some initial level of identification, cooperation and coordination can occur. It's just not a panacea. Hip-hop won't save us from ourselves.


Notes
1. This all said, I can't help but have to address two small details in his essay that have irritated me to no small end. First of all, during my talk at the Asian Arts Initiative, I spoke of how Joe Bataan claims to have recorded the first rap song, before "Rapper's Delight." Kenyon seems to think that I'm invoking Bataan in order to revise rap history and deny due credit to African American pioneers. That accusation is patent nonense.

First of all, my point wasn't to revise rap history, it was to revise Asian American rap history, to offer up a historical example of an Asian American (Bataan was half-Filipino/half-Black) who was recording rap songs all the way back in 1979. Bataan doesn't tear down the canonized history of hip-hop as we know it - he doesn't challenge the contention that hip-hop developed out of Black and Puerto Rican street culture in the Bronx in the 1970s. In anything, Joe Bataan, confirms the roots of hip-hop within that social context since he himself was a huge Latin music icon in New York, someone who certainly had his ear to the proverbial street since he had spent so much time creating music within that space. The fact that anyone would call Bataan "obscure" only serves to highlight their own ignorance - Bataan was as "obscure" a figure in the New York music scene as Joe Cuba, Tito Puente or the Palmieri brothers. Bataan didn't create hip-hop but he was part of a larger musical and cultural scene that fed into rap's emergence. Crediting him for simply being there is not an act of historical revisionism.

By the way, and this is a side point, but it also is problematic that Kenyon tries to gently sweep Puerto Ricans into the general category of "Black youth" since while it is true that PRs have been racialized as "Black" at various times, it's not as if African Americans - especially as it relates to hip-hop - have been quick to embrace them as their own. This is a point that both Juan Flores and Raquel Rivera make in their respective works on New York Puerto Ricans and hip-hop's racial roots - to acknowledge Puerto Ricans as part of the youth culture that created hip-hop disturbs the neat, nationalist construction of hip-hop as strictly Black (notably, the "Puerto Rican question" is something that folks like Rose and Perry slide around in their works). I wonder if people's negative response to appreciating Bataan's role in New York musical culture is related, even though, as half-Black, he can just as easily be claimed by the African American community along the lines of the "one drop rule." Again, a topic for further rumination another time.

Second, Kenyon fundamentally misundertands me over this quote : "Wang said, 'hip-hop is the most democratic music because it doesnít take the same skill as playing classical music.'" I didn't say "same skill," I said, "same skills," which is a very different term. Of course hip-hop takes skill - name a rap song that doesn't feature someone rapping about their abilities and talents. However, skills = sets of skill and I don't think anyone can reasonably claim that the same sets of skill that will assist you in climbing up the classical music hierarchy are going to serve you in hip-hop and vice versa. Specifically, classical music is structured within a far more rigid - and dare I say, elitist - institutional process than hip-hop. The
beauty of hip-hop cultural practices is that you don't need lessons or tutoring to get started. No one attends a conservatory to learn how to b-boy or make a beat. Your family doesn't have to mortgage a house to buy you the kind of equipment needed to learn how to rap or become a graf writer. I certainly wasn't saying that classical music artists are more talented than rap artists.

Monday, November 22, 2004

HE'S YOUR CHINAMAN


jin, jin everywhere


It's been nothing but Asian American hip-hop of late. I just returned from Philadelphia after doing two panels on the topic - big up to Chris & Co. at Arts Sanctuary, big up to Dennis & Co. at the Asian Arts Initiative. Alas, Jin flaked on both panels, presumably because rumors have it that he's joining the Jay-Z tour. Where Jin has been omnipresent is in print media with two pieces appearing over the weekend.

The first is Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece in the NY Times Magazine. The other is Kevin Kim's piece in Colorlines Magazine. I know both writers and have a good deal of respect for both Ta and Kevin and their writing instincts and abilities. In the interests of full-disclosure, I am quoted in Kevin's piece.

With Ta-Nehisi's article, I felt like it while it did a competent job as a profile, I wanted to see it do more in tackling some of the most pertinent issues that Jin's career has raised, especially race. Let's be very clear here: the "Jin story" boils down to this: he's an Asian rapper in a Black world. Period. That is the only reason that publications have taken interest in him to the level that he has. I'm not knocking his talent but most debut rappers are not profiled by the NY Times Magazine and NPR in addition to XXL and Vibe, etc. etc. Jin gets attention because everyone is focused on the issue of race and how Jin, as an Asian American, comes into contact and potential conflict with the dominant notions of Blackness that exist within hip-hop today.

It's not as if Ta avoids a discussion of race, indeed, race is all over the piece, but I guess I wanted to see it dealt with more directly and critically. For example, there's one intriguing set of paragraphes where he talks about anti-Asian sentiments held by blacks in Baltimore, but after quoting Hua Hsu about how Asians, "may feel a spiritual kinship with blacks and Latinos, but there's no real feeling back the other way," Ta moves on to talk about the challenges that Jin faces as a battle rapper rather than stay on the discussion of race.

What the piece does do well, however, is paint Jin as just another American kid (race regardless) who's just in love with hip-hop and while the article doesn't announce its intentions in doing so, the way it opens and closes seems to be making that subtle point. After all, race shouldn't be the issue when it comes to how people evaluate Jin's talents and potential as a rapper. It is, of course, inevitable that race be discussed but Ta-Nehisi seems to be trying to portray Jin as an interesting person rather than as an interesting Chinese American person.

That said, a friend of mine made the following critique:
    "I resent the description in the conclusion that Jin comes off as "a hip-hop nerd." I mean c'mon, it's hard not to find anyone trying to come up in hip-hop who can't rattle off their production trivia like it's the fucking Da Vinci Code -- so why is *Jin* more a nerd more than anyone else?"
The point here is provocative...I know of other white rappers who are described as nerds - Edan for example - but I can't think of too many black rappers described as nerds. Even MCs like Beans and Priest (from Antipop Consortium) tend to be described as "Afro-futurist" or "superscientifical" but not necessarily as nerds. The point being: it's easy enough to sell the idea of an Asian rapper as a nerd because we're so used to thinking of Asians as nerds but would we go so quick to assign that label to an African American rapper who exhibited the same tendencies as Jin did? Just putting it out there.

With Kevin Kim's piece, I say this with no exaggeration: it is not only the best piece I've seen written on Jin yet, it's also probably one of the best pieces I've ever seen written on Asian Americans and hip-hop. Not only does he deal with Jin's career particularities but he also efficiently summarizes the larger issues surrounding how Asian American artists have had to deal with the specter of racial authenticity. If anyone has ever needed a primer: not merely on Jin but on the larger issues surrounding Asian Americans within hip-hop, this is it. It's not a history but it does condense the major tensions and challenges at play.

For example, during the panel discussion in Philadelphia at the Asian Arts Initiative, one of the audience members, an African American man in his 30s, asked something along the lines of: "In talking about Asian Americans in hip-hop, don't we potentially threated to deracinate hip-hop from its roots in the African American tradition? After all, if you look at the history of black music, we've seen the blues, jazz, rock, etc. coopted and exploited by others outside our community, often times to the cultural and economic detriment of the Black community. Is it possible that Asian Americans are contributing to that process with hip-hop?"

I'm constantly frustrated by these kinds of defensive attitudes around cultural ownership though I am quite aware of how they arise. The gentleman in this case was correct in noting that African American culture has suffered through a long history of being exploited to the gains of others and there is great concern that hip-hop is simply next on the list. This is a far bigger topic that I really want to get into here, but I want to make a point and then return to Kevin's piece since he addresses this too.

My point: Communities may think they "own" a culture but that's not how culture works. It's not an object you can chain up. Culture doesn't care about borders - it spreads as fast and as far as the people who consume it will take it. I agree, yes, culture can also be misappropriated and exploited. But if people are really worrying about hip-hop becoming the latest example of Black culture being emptied of content and turned into a deracinated commodity, the problem doesn't lie with Asian American youth. Or Latino youth. Or even white youth really.

The color line here is painted in green. You want to talk about cooptation? Talk about corporations - the ones that market hip-hop, who hold the power to define what is hip-hop and who is a "real" rapper to the mass public simply based on who they choose to support and promote. And believe me, Asian Americans aren't the ones profiteering off that. In fact, seems to me that many of those executives are African American, as well as White. Jin isn't a threat to hip-hop's future unless Universal decides to only sign and promote Asian American rappers from now on. And we all know that ain't happening.

Kevin's point: he brings in historian Robin Kelley (pretty much one of the smartest people I've ever met, author of Race Rebels, Yo Mama's Disfunktional! and other books) to comment on the issue of cultural ownership along race lines and as always, Kelley shines a light of brilliance into the darkness. I quote from Kevin's piece: "Black artists have always appropriated Asian-American, Chicano, heavy metal youth culturesóbut it doesnít get talked about that way. When non-black artists enter hip-hop, people look for the appropriation, assuming the core culture is African-American without realizing even if it is, itís always been a synthesis."

The only thing about Kevin's piece that I thought was a liability is that Kevin critiques Jin's music, hard, but filed this story back in July, long before he was able to hear the finished album. Had he been able to, I think he would have been a little less harsh in suggesting that Jin's invocation of ethnicity/race is purely self-serving, self-exploitative. Songs like "Love Song" and "Same Cry" would have gone a long way to show that Jin's "Learn Chinese" wasn't a template for the album. It's not that I disagree with most of Kevin's opinions but I think his tone is far more damning than it needs to be considering what Jin's full album is actually like. Oh well, that's early deadlines for you.

In any case, read both articles. Rub the Jin potion like Body Shop lotion. Or not.



GET WIRED

all smiles

Just because I need to say this: The Wire is so on fire right now. This season started off slow but it's gotten so incredibly baaaaadasssss, like Artest/O'Neal gangsta large, ym? Count it off:
  • Barksdale vs. Marlowe vs. Omar
  • The Redemption of Cutty/Dennis
  • Avon.
  • Stringer's power moves.
  • The illest chickenhead role since Macy Gray in Training Day
  • City Hall politricks
  • Hamsterdam
If you don't know, start knowing.

Big up too to Blake Leyh, the show's Music Supervisor, a Soul Sides fan. Loved the "Big Payback" in last week's eppy.

Friday, November 19, 2004

THE THROWDOWN


The Vibe Awards fiasco? That afternoon tea party ain't got naan on the Pacers players and Detroit's fans.

Forget Young Buck. Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal were putting a hurting on what seemed to be half of the Palace.

And no matter how many rational voices will point out that these were isolated, extraordinary events...knee-jerk opportunist pundits (start with GOP leaders and Bill O'Reilly and work down) will blame this on hip hop (believe me, it's already starting). All said, it's been a terrible week for the public image of black men. As my man Kevin Kim pointed out, this could be the NBA equivalnet of Janet's Nipplegate. Let the scapegoating begin!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

CHECK THE TEKNIQUE


kickin' it

Busted laptops can't stop me, ya'll.
I blog in my white tees.
I blog off my Sidekick 2.

Some things to read given a week's worth of crazy events:

  • Jon Caramanica on the Vibe Awards fiasco
  • Junichi Semitsu on Ol Dirty Bastard
  • And just because I'm in Philly right now, here's what Terrell Owens' been up to

  • AN ORIGINAL AT GENO'S


    cheese whiz? really?

    Pop Life is on the move this weekend. For all my Philly heads, find me here and here on Friday. It's practically raining Asian American hip-hop! Or something like that.

    Laptop's in the shop (again. Hello fried logic board!) so posts will be sporadic, though I am figuring out how to blog from this (yeah, I know. I need help). Real quick: Caught Nas live at the Fillmore on Tuesday (shout out to Eric. S @ the Fillmore and J.T. @ Mouther.com). It was a decent, one hour set: opened well with Nas killing it on an all-Illmatic set but after he came back for an encore, it all fell apart. I don't know if dude was tired, hella high, or both but he started to forget his lyrics. Not once but about five songs in a row, culminating in a really bad look when he started lip-synching to "Doo Rags." And even then, he only remembered every fifth word. "Lost" Tapes indeed. Step your stage game up, son!

    Quick thoughts: 1) "Live at the BBQ" - always timeless. 2) Salaam Remi really did do a fantastic job with producing "Made You Look." I've never heard that song so loud before and it is amazing. 3) When did "Hate Me Now" become a Nas' anthem? I thought fans HATED that jawn? 4) Nas did an ODB tribute with a few songs. Short, not very well planned, but a cool gesture regardless. 5) What to wait for on Street's Disciple: "Coon Picnic" - a song dedicated to "all those fake ass heroes". I didn't catch all the names who got served, but Kobe was up there. 6) When did folks stop putting up lighters and putting up cell phones instead? 7) Nas isn't exactly short but he's a lot more slight than I thought he'd be. Mostly though, he lacks a commanding presence on stage...he's energetic and performative but compare him with KRS One, who just takes over an entire club's space and owns it. 8) Almost the whole show ran off a digital file (DAT, CD or otherwise). At one point, it sounded like the DJ was backspinning the vinyl but from where I was sitting, I could see that he was just faking it. The turntable wasn't even moving forward, let alone being backspun. Ah, the beauty of illusion.

    Lastly, for those not keeping up with my exploits over on Soul Sides (shame on you), I've started pseudo-podcasting. The latest installment is on MF Doom's new MM...Food.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    TOP RANKIN' (PLUS A LIL RUFUS WAINWRIGHT)


    #1, you suckas

    Just got around to reading this past week's Entertainment Weekly which ranks the "25 best rap albums of all time". Shout outs to Neil Drumming and Michael Endelmen for putting in work on this entire section. I've said this before and I'll say it again: EW is, by far, the best mainstream entertainment magazine out there. I don't treat it like gospel but there's no one better in their field of publications.

    On to the list:
      1. Eric B & Rakim Paid In Full (1987)
      2. De La Soul 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
      3. The Notorious B.I.G. Ready To Die (1994)
      4. Public Enemy Fear Of A Black Planet (1990)
      5. RUN-DMC Raising Hell (1986)
      6. Dr. Dre The Chronic (1992)
      7. Wu-Tang Clan Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
      8. Nas Illmatic (1994)
      9. A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory (1991)
      10. Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique (1989)
      11. Outkast Aquemini (1998)
      12. Cypress Hill Cypress Hill (1991)
      13. Gang Starr Daily Operation (1992)
      14. Ice Cube Death Certificate (1991)
      15. Jay-Z The Blueprint (2001)
      16. LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
      17. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
      18. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)
      19. The Pharcyde Bizarre Ride ll The Pharcyde (1992)
      20. Mos Def Black On Both Sides (1999)
      21. Boogie Down Productions By All Means Necessary (1988)
      22. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five The Message (1982)
      23. Missy Elliott Miss E...So Addictive (2001)
      24. Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)
      25. Aceyalone A Book Of Human Language (1998)

    I'm not going to quibble with ranking - I always find that to be sort of the least interesting aspect of canon-making exercises since they're so remarkably subjective and can change depending on the day. After all, what's the point is arguing over whether or not Outkast's Aquemini should be #11 or if Cypress Hill's eponymous debut deserved that spot instead?

    Instead, let's talk about inclusion since that's what's really at stake here.
    • Album that has no business being here: Mos Def's Black On Both Sides; Missy Elliott's Miss E...So Addictive. I admit, I included it in my book but that was out of 70+ albums. Top 25? Sorry but I'm a big Mos Def fan and really, no way this album is in the top quarter. This is a diplomatic nod on EW's part but there could have been better choices: Common's Resurrection for instance.

      As for Missy, I'm all for giving Timbaland his due but the problem is: he makes awesome singles, not quite as good in the album dept. If you are really about giving some shine to producers than where is Pete Rock and CL Smooth's Mecca and the Soul Brother? That's far more influential in terms of all the young'uns trying to cop Rock's style. Or how about Main Source's Breaking Atoms?

    • So I lied about not quibbling with rankings: Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet. I don't know whether to credit EW with flying in the face of convention but most other lists would have put P.E.'s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back up here instead. And probably higher than #4. Personally, it would have been my #1: no other hip-hop album is as consistent, explosive and symbolic of rap's breakout moment into mass media than Nations. That's no disrespect to Rakim or De La or Biggie, but Nation is far more powerful than any of those albums in its impact, both sonically and socially.

    • Trying too hard for indie cred: Aceyalone's Book of Human Language. A great album to be sure but nowhere near as influential as the Freestyle Fellowship's first two albums, either of which would have been the more compelling choice to offer up instead. To a lesser extent, I'd argue that including Dr. Octogon is another "trying too hard" nod but hell, if you're going to include a token indie LP, it might as well be this one.

    • Nitpicks: Gang Starr's Daily Operation. I've never liked this album and frankly, don't know what the big deal is about its production. To me, Step In the Arena had more enjoyable beats and Hard to Earn was a far better predictor of Premier's evolving production style.

      I'd also put Reasonable Doubt on here instead of Blueprint but I'm not really that mad. Blueprint is a lot fresher in people's minds I suppose.

    • Right On: Outkast's Aquemini. Everybody jocks Stankoniia but truly, Aquemini is 'Kast at their finest.

    • So where is?: Ok, this is what it's all about. Where is Slick Rick's Adventures of Slick Rick? Easily a top 25 entry, especially when you think about its influence on story-telling narrative rapping.

      Where is NWA's Straight Outta Compton? It's only the most important gangsta rap album ever in terms of how completely it changed hip-hop's paradigm. The Chronic was incredibly influenetial in many ways but NWA destroyed and rebuilt hip-hop with this album.

      Where is Too Short? Just saying - can the Bay not eat?

      Where is 2Pac? See above.

      Where is the South? Not surprising that outside of Outkast, the South is invisible. Call it hip hop geopolitics but the South just gets voided on any list that uses NYC and LA as the main frames of reference. But seriously, can the Geto Boys or Scarface not get some love on here?

      Where is Dem Franchise Boyz? I make lists in my white tees.

    RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: WANT TWO

    I was excited to get this since I loved Want One but I have to say, it's the sleepiest Rufus CD I've ever heard. S and I took it up with us to Fort Bragg and give it full listens, on the way up and back. We were both left feeling more than a little bored with it; too many dull moments (the opening track, "Agnus Dei," especially). The album hits a good stride at the end, especially with songs like, "Gay Messiah" and "Waiting For a Dream," but for an album supposedly recorded at the same time as Want One, it's easy to feel paranoid that all the best songs ended up on the first volume and this is basically just scraps. To its credit, the album did sound better the second time but it's not going to magically catapult in quality with every new listen. At least the bonus DVD, shot live at the Fillmore, help rounds out the package.

    Sunday, November 14, 2004

    ON THE BOX

    This is a blog meme in motion. The folks at We Eat So Many Shrimp came up with their own tracklisting for Universal's Hip Hop Box and I liked the exercise so much, I developed my own, with some additional input from H.H..

    Disc 1 (1979-1985):

    01. Sugarhill Gang - "Rappr's Delight"
    02. Sequence - "Funk You Up"
    03. Spoonie Gee - "Spoonin' Rap"
    04. Tanya Winley - "Vicious Rap'
    05. Grandmaster Flash: The Adventures...
    06. Afrika Bambaataa - "Jazzy Sensation"
    07. Grandmaster Flash - "The Message"
    08. Fearless Four - "Rockin' It"
    09. Run DMC - "Sucker MCs"
    10. Dimples D - "Sucker DJs"
    11. U.T.F.O. - "Roxanne, Roxanne"
    12. T La Rock - "It's Yours"
    13. Doug E. Fresh: "The Show"
    14. LL Cool J: "Rock the Bells"

    Disc 2 (1986-1989):

    01. Eric B and Rakim - "Eric B is President"
    02. BDP - "South Bronx"
    03. Run DMC - "Peter Piper"
    04. Beastie Boys - "Brass Monkey"
    05. Big Daddy Kane - "Raw"
    06. Public Enemy - "Bring the Noise"
    07. Raw Dope Posse - "Listen To My Turbo"
    08. NWA - "Dope Man"
    09. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock - "It Takes Two"
    10. Marley Marl - "Symphony"
    11. Public Enemy - "Don't Believe the Hype"
    12. MC Lyte - "10% Dis"
    13. EPMD - "So Whatcha Sayin"
    14. Too Short - "Freaky Tales"
    15. De La Soul - "Buddy"
    16. The D.O.C. - "It's Funky Enough"

    Disc 3 (1990 - 1995):

    01. Main Source: - "Looking At the Front Door"
    02. Digital Underground: - "Humpty Dance"
    03. Public Enemy - "Welcome to the Terrordome"
    04. Cypress Hill - "How I Could Just Kill a Man"
    05. Geto Boys - "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"
    06. Ed O.G. - "I Got To Have It"
    07. Black Sheep - "The Choice Is Yours Remix"
    08. Pete Rock and CL Smooth - "T.R.O.Y."
    09. A Tribe Called Quset - "Scenario"
    10. Dr. Dre - "Nuthin' But a G Thing
    11. Wu-Tang Clan - "Protect Ya Neck"
    12. Jeru - "Come Clean"
    13. Biggie - "Unbelievable"
    14. DJ Shadow - "Entropy"
    15. OutKast - "Crumblin' Herb"
    16. Luniz - "I Got Five on It Remix"
    17. J-Live - "Braggin Writes"
    18. Mobb Deep - "Shook Ones, Pt. II"

    Disc 4 (1996 - 2004):

    01. 2Pac w/ Dr. Dre: "California Love"
    02. Jay-Z - "D'Evils"
    03. Missy Elliott - "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"
    04. Triple 6 Maifa - "Sipping On Some Syrup"
    05. Puff Daddy - "It's All About the Benjamins"
    06. Lauryn Hill - "Doo Wop"
    07. Juvenile: - "Ha"
    08. Mos Def - "If You Can Huh"
    09. Nelly: - "Country Grammar"
    10. Eminem: - "Stan"
    11. M.O.P. - "Ante Up"
    12. Ludacris: - "Southern Hospitality"
    13. The Clipse f/ Pharell - "Grindin'"
    14. Cam'ron: - "Oh Boy"
    15. 50 Cent - "In Da Club"
    16. Jay-Z: - "Public Service Announcement"
    17. Kanye West - "Jesus Walks"
    18. Jadakiss - "Why"

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    EM AGAIN


    I think very deeply

    Eminem's new album, Encore, was leaked onto the internet in ealy November so record label Interscope decided to officially release the CD five days ahead of schedule. As it turns out, they needn't have fretted. As Em's large fan base will soon discover, Encore, like the title suggests, is more of what you've already heard before from Slim Shady.

    This isn't an inherently bad thing. Whatever one might think of Em's behavior on or off record, he has never failed to surprise or provoke the listener through his now four albums. Encore is especially striking, not the least of which is due to "Mosh," the politically motivated song that finds Em gathering street mobs and turning them into voting blocs. He is unexpectedly more mature and reflective on Encore; "Yellow Brick Road," finds him apologizing for racist comments he once recorded in anger at an ex-girlfriend. He comments on his battles with Benzino and others on "Little Toy Soldoers" but instead of firing off another salvo, he reflects on how dangerous and meaningless these beefs are.

    Lest you think Em has gone all elder statesmen, his very next song is "Puke," a dedication to his ex-wife Kim so overflowing with venom it makes Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear (his fuck-you, divorce settlement album to ex Anna Gordy) sound affectionate. There's also the typical toilet humor of "Big Weenie" and "Just Lose It" plus an assortment of odds and ends like the paen to derriers "Ass Like That" and posse cut "Spend Some Time" (with Obie Trice, Stat Quo and 50 Cent).

    Placed alongside any of his other alnums, Encore fits right in, perhaps too well. The biggest problem with Em's last album and this one is that the music is exceedingly formulaic and monotonous - this applies to the songs both Dr. Dre and Eminem produce. It's as if the two discovered a minor key chord progression they liked and then decided to make every other song using that same sound. While it can create a solid stomp for Em to flow to, the slow rhythm and recycled elements can be unbearably plodding. It's a dead horse both Dre and Em can't seem to stop flogging.

    It's a pity too because Eminem is just starting to get more interesting as an artist. Few have ever questioned his lyrical competency, but he's expanding his subject matter beyond biting broadsides and tongue-in-cheek party tunes to spill deeper insights about himself and what's around him.

    I've slowly come around as a fan of his material - I still found some of his earlier songs unforgivably misogynisitic and homophobic but he's growing out of that phase. However, if he keeps putting out music that sounds like it's only repeating itself, Interscope may not have to worry about internet leaks in the future: no one's going to care.


    BY THE WAY

    Pop Life readers are coming up with all kinds of interesting links:

    1) Kalefa on Eminem in the NY Times

    2) This LA Times story on rap in China is interesting but from what I know of the scene, it's perhaps a little inaccurate and of course, only skims the surface.

    3) Not Eminem-related but awesome otherwise, even if it's too late to really make an electoral difference: Bush campaign doctored photos of soldiers for TV ad.
    (credit: Wayne & Wax)

    4) Again, this comes too late but is still a pretty impressive blend of animation and politics: What Barry Says.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    THIS IS AMERICA

    Or somewhere around half of it.


    (seen at: Wayne And Wax)

    THE PLAYLIST


    Year end lists are still forthcoming but I needed an excuse (badly) to filter through a pile of singles and albums cluttering my desks.

    Albums:
      Alchemist: 1st Infantry (ALC/Koch). I don't think Alchemist is as consistent as other comparable producers (Premier, Kanye West, Just Blaze) but I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of his new CD. Its aesthetics are very much flavor-of-the-month influenced but very well executed, especially the current single "Hold You Down" which bears a close resemblance to Killa Cam's "Oh Boy" but improves on the formula.

      De La Soul: The Grind Date (Sanctuary). An unqualifiably good album by De La. It's so reassuring to know that at a time when practically all their peers from the late '80s are struggling, De La sound like they're still enjoying themselves after 15 years-plus. The album could ease a little bit off the "respect us, we're pioneers!" tip but otherwise, this is just a blast to listen to.

      Edan the Dee-Jay: Sound of the Funky Drummer (Humble). Edan starts with James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and then follows that with over 20 songs that sample "Funky Drummer." You'd think this was monotonous but far from it - Edan throws down some seriously heat (I need that "Sir-Vere" joint, for real). But hey, where's George Michael's "Waiting For That Day"? That song was dope! I'm serious!

      Al Green: The Immortal Al Green (EMI). Anthology of the year. I'm prepping a much, much longer exploration of this 4-CD set but seriously - if you're wondering what kind of music to buy for the holidays (or ask for) this should make your short list.

      Haiku D E'Tat: Coup De Teatre (Project Blowed). It's been a minute since Aceyalone, Mikah 9 and Abstract Rude have combined forces but their chemistry sounds untouched by time. Heady lyricism to be sure but so brilliantly executed and intriguing that you'll embrace your inner nerd anyways. Check "Mike, Aaron and Eddie" for a blow-your-dome experience.


    Songs:
      Consequence's "And You Say" (Sure Shot). Kanye + Consequence remaking Grand Puba's "I Like It"? We can dig it.

      D.O.D.'s "Higher" (The Legion). Imagine Twista but cloned into twins and with Kanye still producing heat behind it. The video is butt but the song is nice.

      Fabulous' "Breathe." I'm just as surprised to see this up here as you are. Just Bleezy does it again.

      Giant Panda's "With It" (Tres). This sounds lke the best Ugly Ducking song they never made but just to note: Ugly Ducking, Giant Panda...the animal connection? Regardless, this isn't just a feel-good song; it's feel-great.

      GM Grimm's "My Love" (F5). Wait, Metal Face Grimm is not Gingerbread Man Grimm? Uh ok, whatever you want. Just so long as every track you drop is as good as this MF Doom produced cut, you can call yourself Little Mermaid Grimm for all we care.

      DJ Day's "What Planet What Station" b/w "It Still Ain't Hard To Tell". Both sides excel - side A is a funky club banger that's more than just a remix of the Jungle Brothers - it's its own song...the JBs are just hitching a ride. Flipside is great remix of Nas' "It Ain't Hard To Tell" - spacey, spooky, completely awesome.

      Nas' "Bridging the Gap." I first thought this was a case of better concept than execution but I take it all back. The song is hot, hot, hot, the most energetic single Nas has released since "Made You Look." I'm dying to hear this in a club.

      Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot." Hate all you want, the Neptunes finally blip back onto the radar and do it in impressive fashion with one of their most intriguing beats since Timbaland hooked up Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody." Pharrell just needs to stop pluggin' his ugly ass Ice Cream Reeboks.

      Sound Providers' "Who Said What" (ABB). I have yet to hear a single by these guys that I don't like. San Diego represent!


    Starting to listen to...
      Ray Charles: The Complete Swing Time and Down Beat Records, 1949-1952 (Night Train). Call it "The Genius in Waiting."

      Foreign Exchange: Connected (BBE). Apparently, folks are raving about this collaboration between Phonte (Little Brother) and producer Nicolay. It's pleasant enough and I can see its appeal for previous fans of Little Brother and Slum Village. The vibe is super chilled out; no club jams but great driving music.

      M.F. Doom: MM...Food (Rhymesayers). Even though I was one of the few recovering backpackers who didn't think Madvillain was The Truth this year, I'm still a Doom fan and he's going to make heads happy with this follow-up to Operation: Doomsday. More bugged rhymes. More bugged beats. (J-Zone and Doom need to collabo together - just a suggestion).

      SA-RA Creative Partners' "Double Dutch" (Ubqiuity). I haven't heard so much buzz around new producers since Jay-Dee. I'm not sure if that's auspicious or not but loved what these guys did with Jurassic 5's "Hey".

      V/A: Rewind 4 (Ubiquity). The latest installment in their series of custom remixes, Rewind 4 might be their best yet but alas, it's not out until January. I'll write more on this again, when the time is right.



    BUH BYE!

    don't come back
    now, ya hear?


    Normally, I'd crack a smile to know that John Ashcroft has resigned as Attorney General except that I wonder if Bush is going to appoint someone even more radically Right than John-John. In resigning, Ashcroft said, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," which is an outrageous claim as it is, only made worse by the way he did it: ramming the Patriot Act down everyone's throats (thanks Congress! Don't think we forgot about your complicity.)

    Why do I have the sudden sinking feeling that if and when Bush nominates his first Supreme Court justice, Ashcroft might be on the short list?

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    BACK DRAFT

    President Bush repeatedly promised that he wouldn't bring back the draft but that hasn't stopped the Pentagon from calling up every possible reserve member it can, including some folks who haven't been on active military duty in over a dozen years.

    The case of David Miyasato, a Gulf War veteran, may potentially challenge the military's new "stop loss" program which as close to a pseudo-draft as they can get. This case has personal ramifications as Miyasato just happens to be the cousin of Jeff Chang, no stranger to fighitng the good fight. Stay tuned to this one: if Miyasato wins his case in federal court, it will create some serious problems for Bush and Rummy's Iraq policy especially at a time where it seems like the U.S. military is desperate for anyone they can drag back into uniform?

    Will "no draft" prove to be Dubya's equivalent of "read my lips, no new taxes"?



    MESSAGE TO YOUR SPONSOR

    Petty haters need to quit playing themselves by filling my email box with nonsense. Straight up, I'm just trashing any and everything sent my way that hints at uncivility. If folks disagree with me, learn how to comment or better yet get your own blog and shout as loud as you want.


    AND BY THE WAY

    Cal (#4 BCS, #5 AP, #6 USA Today, holla!) needs a new place-kicker. Badly. Apparently, they're having open tryouts later this week. Couldn't be too soon.

    Sunday, November 07, 2004

    THIS AIN'T AMERICA

    I was forwarded this image and I suspect it will be making the online rounds quite shortly (if it hasn't already). It's potentially shaping up to be 2004's version of the "Bush vs. Gore/IQ Chart". Meaning: it seems to make "instant sense" and seemingly creates a historical lineage between past and present.

    The problem is that while this map is visually striking for its similar patterns, its lack of historical grounding makes it little more than just an intriguing coincidence. After all, just go here and you'll see that "slave states" have voted Democratic in every election from the late 1800s until 1964. As for "free states," they voted solidly Republican between 1972 to 1988, with the exception of Carter in '76.

    Just goes to show: you can't believe everything you see...even if you want to.

    TO CLARIFY: (Read the comments for some good analysis by the readership) It's not that I don't buy a correlation between historical trends and the recent election but it's not just enough to post two similar maps and go voila! Southerners may not have the same track record of general liberal politics as the Northeast but depending on the candidate, there have been times where the South has backed a liberal candidate (Carter or Clinton) and when New England has voted GOP (Reagan, Nixon).

    My main point, which I didn't make clear enough, is that it seems grossly reductionist to attribute Bush's victory to the legacy of the South's slavery roots. Does it play some role? Sure but that's not enough to explain how an inferior candidate (that's Bush in case you're wondering) has managed to eke out two elections in a row. If the Dems - or anyone else - are going to take out the GOP over the course of the next few election cycles, they need to strategize as cleverly and insightfully as their opponents have.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    SPIN CYCLES


    what happened to the coalition of the willing?

    1) As Newsday put it: "Did they or didn't they". Apparently, there is considerable debate as to whether or not the youth vote increased or not, or made any kind of difference or not. Keep in mind - part of the problem here is that the only real "evidence" we have to go on are exit polls, most of which are notoriously rife with errors (like the CNN poll that said Kerry would win Ohio. Oops).

    As David has been passionately arguing in the previous post's comments, it does seem that the overall number of youth did indeed increase. At the same time, others are still arguing that percentage of youth compared to the rest of the voting public was still the same. Our head hurts.

    In scouring the news reports, we're now inclined to nod back to David's assessment, especially after reading what the Boston Globe had to say on the issue.

    18-34 who voted: Pop Life apologizes for our French. Except to those youth who voted Bush. You still get the middle (what middle?), the finger.

    2) Another controversy is pitting Left against Left. Did fears over gay marriage help Bush win, especially in conservative leaning swing states like Ohio? This S.F. Chronicle article sums up the differing views.

    Personally, I disagree with Feinstein if she's implying that, had there not been a push for gay marriage, Bush might have lost. Even without the controversy, the GOP could have found another wedge issue to lure out ignorant, fundamentalist, extremist bigots - otherwise known as the Christian Right - to vote Bush back into office. On the other hand, considering that Ohio apparently just made it illegal to even utter the word "gay" in their state (I overstate, but not by much), one does wonder if the gay marriage ban had not been on the ballot, would that have reduced the number of conservatives coming out to the polls and presumably voting for Bush in the process? We have no way of really knowing but it doesn't seem too coincidental that the GOP was able to exploit this to their gain: it's right up Rove Alley.

    The scariest potential irony is that if homophobic fears, spurred by the wave of gay marriages in S.F. and Massachusetts, did help Bush to a margin of victory, it also means that he'll be the one to appoint judges - especially on the Supreme Court - who will ideologically share his views on the matter. After all, you can surely expect all of these state amendments to come under legal attack and barring a U.S. Constitutional Amendment, it's likely going to be the federal judicial system that will ultimately determine the legality of these state laws or not. With Bush in power, claiming that Anthony Scalia is his model justice, the situation looks especially bleak.

    Let me be clear: I am not in favor of this logic that pushing to recognize gay marriages was "too much, too soon." From my perspective, homophobia is one of the few forms of mass bigotry that is still state-sanctioned. Just as anti-miscegenation laws finally fell in the 1960s (the 1960s people, that's not that long ago), I think we'll see the same happen with gay marriage bans (eventually). You have to start somewhere: the Civil Rights Movement didn't desegregate the South the moment people started to run sit-ins at lunch counters. And I am sure there were many, back then, who argued that it was "too much, too soon." However, what was true then and now is that what is morally and ethically right is not always what's in step with political reality or even possibility.

    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    MIDNIGHT IN AMERICA


    four fear more years
    (credit: pnuthouse)


    All there is to do now is wait for the 1,001 pundits to roll out their theories on "what happened?" I'm not belittling the post-analysis, I want to know too. Apologies to Obama (congrats though for the win) but from where I sit, we do live in two Americas - I don't care if you call 'em red or blue states but I couldn't be more ideologically and politically opposed to what the Bush administration and that brilliant Rasputi...I mean Rove stands for and now I get to sit back and watch the GOP try to turn back the clock on everything from abortion to gay marriage to civil rights to social services, etc. It almost makes one nostalgic for Reagan and the Cold War.

    Anyways, some food for thought today:
      1) From the NY Times:


      Discuss.

      2) So much for the youth vote. I don't blame them for Bush's win. Not completely. But sincerely? All you 18-34 year olds who didn't vote: fuck you. Take it personal.

      3) Bush: The Second Half. Salon.com's bleak assessment. My queer as folk, folk: don't start that registry yet. Women: ready your coat hangers. Darwin: fall back.

      4) It wasn't all bad news...oh no, wait. Yeah, I guess it was. 11 states pass legislation barring gay marriage, including an Ohio amendment that might even ban domestic partnerships. It's amazing that such blatant bigotry is thriving in 2004 and this is just a harbinger for what to come. ACLU better get those lawsuits ready quick fast before Bush creates a Supreme Court of all Thomases and Scalias.

      4) A lot of folks are joking about moving to Canada and while I'm a fan of our socialist nation to the north, now, more than ever, it's important for the hurt, upset and angry to stay around. I'm not as cynical as I sound (or feel). America will ride this out but good god are the next four years going to be one ugly fight and we're going to need every advocate on the street to stay right hurr and gear the fuck up. Capitulation is not an option.

      5) Obama in '08!

    T-SHIRT WISDOM


    yeah man, we feel you