Monday, January 31, 2005

ROUND UP

(by Oliver)



1. The latest Hot 97 update is this: there's been a letter passed around that claims that poor Miss Jones is the victim in all this, blaming the big bad radio producer for "The Tsunami Song." This is such a crock of disingenuous b.s. - no doubt, the producer needs to get canned too, but Miss Jones cannot convince me - or anyone else - that anyone forced her, as the host, to play this outrageous song four days in a row. Nice try but she's still going to be on the unemployment line with the rest of her staff/cast.

2. In a sure sign this whole affair is getting out-of-hand, now they got anti-Hot 97 T-shirts.

3. These stories from the dark side of record digging veer between disgusting and funny. Usually at the same time.

4. New blog alert (well, new to me anyhow): Promo Copy, an anonymous site by someone clearly in the deep belly of the music industry beast. People outside that sphere may not find much of interest here but for those of us who deal with this world day in, day out, this guy/gal speaks what we dare not say most of the time.
(credit: Unicorn's Tear)

5. Trader Joe's stoneground corn chips. So necessary.

6. People thought I was bugging out for big upping Jennifer Lopez's "Get Right." Well, maybe you'd prefer the same Rich Harrison beat but with Usher over it instead?

Friday, January 28, 2005

CRISS-CROSSINGS

(by Oliver)


gotta get outta this place


1. Looks like American radio hosts aren't the only ones in hot water for Tsunami-related "humor." A Pop Life reader sent this in: UK TV commentator gets sacked over tsunami joke.

2. I guess it wasn't the "murder" part of Murder Inc. that was the problem. Irv Gotti arrested on money laundering charges.

3. AG (from Showbiz and AG), once rhymed, "I'm nice with the mic/but I'm nice with my hands too." Looks like The Game has stepped up to claim that title too.

4. The saga of Bloodninja. Not safe for children but funny for everyone else.
(credit: HHH)

5. I can't comment on whether or not Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage's quarterback/MC comparison is accurate...but it is funny.

6. It's a small, 10 pic update, but I finally updated one of my photo blogs.

7. One of my favorite new blogs = Metrodad. Imagine a Korean American Dave Barry. Or something like that.

8. Just a random question but do you think that Eminem's annoyed that 50 Cent managed to put together a much, much tighter crew of MCs that Em ever did? As HHH pointed out - Em still gets paid off of G-Unit's successes but they make D12 look D- by comparison. I'm not even a big fan of Lloyd Banks and I think The Game's success isn't commensurate with his talent but all things considered, G-Unit still takes it over a whole range of other crews, including Dipset (though the Dips don't really need anyone besides Cam to hold it down).

IT'S A 187 ON HOT 97

(by Oliver)

The latest updates on the Hot 97 "Tsunami Song" Controversy.

1. I want to just take a small pause to say: Thank You to J-Smooth at Hiphopmusic.com. While this effort to hold Miss Jones and Hot 97's management accountable has certainly been a group effort - by thousands - Jay was in a unique position. Through the traffic to his site, Jay was able to mobilize attention to this issue with a dizzying quickness that's taken everyone by storm, not the least, Hot 97. Thanks Jay, sincerely.

Actually, that's not even good enough but now that I've read this new update, where Jay converses with Todd Lynn, it's just more proof that Jay is putting the smack hand down with a fierce, unwavering focus. Lynn manages to cram his foot in his mouth so deep, his toes are tickling his kidneys at this point.

His denials here are practically pathological. I'd feel sorry for him - because he clearly seems rather despondant over the entire situation - but how can you feel sorry for someone who showed such a complete lack of judgment and decency? His "we made a mistake but we're not racists" shows how he's still missing the point. Lynn should just admit, "look, we we were stupid, what we said was racist and we feel really, really terrible about it." At least that would should some moral courage and honesty. Trying to explain the whole affair as "a badd [sic] fuckup that we apologized for," is half-assed and doesn't address the anger that people feel out there.

2. It now seems that many of Hot 97's sponsors are pulling out in droves. I didn't think this was possible but there now is an increasingly likelihood that Hot 97 will have no choice but to fire Miss Jones' entire morning crew - hosts, producers, etc.

3. As I just indicated, the internet's potential to mobilize people fast and furiously has much to do with how this situation has played out but in all fairness, we should properly credit the vast, sheer stupidity of Miss Jones and crew for creating and airing "The Tsunami Song" to begin with. I don't think this situation would have garnered the international attention and outrage its earned had it not been for the unfathomable offense that was given by the song. The producer of the show should not only be fired - no sane radio station should ever hire someone who shows such a complete absence of common sense. Miss Jones, I'm sure, will probably bounce back on some podunk show in the boondocks and she might eventually make it back to NYC (look at Star and Buc) but I'm betting now she realizes that she f-ed up something B.A.D.

4. Ideally, I wish these kind of quick, mass movements happened outside the realm of media. Long term social change is structural and getting Miss Jones fired - immensely satisfying as that would be - doesn't address the underlying forces behind why "The Tsunami Song" comes into existence to begin with. It's all for the ratings but the grand irony is that so few media companies own most of the radio stations in the country, in a lot of markets, the urban contemporary stations that "compete" with one another are both owned by the same company.

Frankly, it'd be great if people, more than writing in to protest Miss Jones, turned off the radio and let Hot 97 wither away. But as cynics have suggested, this controversy will blow over and people will go back to listening to the station and life continues until the next debacle. And hell, even if they tuned into a new station, it's probably owned by the same conglomerate anyways, so does it all really matter?

5. The thing to remember here is that social change requires a long-term committment and not a flash-in-the-pan, sign-an-online-petition type action. I don't mean for this to belittle the time people have taken over the Hot 97 issue: the progress that's been made couldn't have been done without that. However, there are obviously far bigger looming issues at play. This actually seems like child's play. It takes tens of thousands to shut down a single morning show but one letter from the Secretary of Education can censor PBS. THAT is real power andthe kidn of power we should all be extremely wary of.

Hot 97 is an important symbolic battle to wage and I do hope we win it but there's so much more to be done, especially during this second Bush administration and its particular brand of social/religious conservatism. If you're looking for where the larger culture war is going to be fought, pay attention to how America's secular freedoms are going to be target #1 for the Christian right's brand of radical, religious fundamentalism. The kind of changes they'd like to make will make the "Tsunami Song" seem like a pleasant little ditty by comparison.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

THE GAY MAFIA?

(by Oliver)

Reading through the comments section of my previous post, it's astounding how many people out there insist on the existance of some kind of powerful queer cabal that, unbeknownest to the rest of the world, is a lobbying force that would make the NRA and oil industry look like amateurs.

Apparently, the gay mafia has infiltrated PBS where they're now using cute cartoon bunnies to - *gasp!* - brainwash young children into believing that it's ok for someone to have two mommies! My god, can ritualistic cannibalistic sacrifice be too far behind?

I'd normally just chalk this up to rabid homophobia but I realize that there is something far more insidious at work here. One of the things that social conservatives and fundamentalists have mastered is the art of rhetoric to play on the paranoia of people who fear being powerless at the hands of institutions they have little knowledge or control over. A recent example: all this hype over the "liberal media." My point a few weeks back is that the media, by nature of its purpose (to pursue and report on Truth) stands in opposition to contemporary, conservative attempts to censor and limit information. Nonetheless, the Right has been exceptionally successful in convincing people that you cannot trust the media (CBS didn't help things much), unless of course, you're the paritsan jingoists over at Fox.

Of late, I've been hearing more mutterings about the "gay lobby" and how they're trying to sneak in more queer programming into mainstream media as a way to convince everyone to drop trou and start fornicating with same sex partners. The sheer level of moral paranoia is beyond rationality but I think it's having its desired effect on enough people - starting with the President, his new Secretary of Education and working its way down.

To those on the fence: please do not believe the hype. These kind of fundamentalist-lead conspiracy theories are designed to prey on weak minds and push forward an agenda that is hell-bent on destroying all civil freedoms associated with a secular society. Heck, even prominent members of the GOP know what's up.

BY THE WAY...

No disrespect to the late Johnny Carson, but these two clips of his comedy schtick from the '70s put a bit of a black eye on his racial humor.
(credit: HHH)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

SURREAL-IZMS

(by Oliver)


first spongebob, now buster.
bugs bunny better watch out

1. The only thing I'm intolerant of is intolerance. The small-mindedness of people is offensive enough but when it gets elevated to national policy, it's time to get seriously concerned.

"Our" (I use that word loosely) new Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, denounced a PBS children's show for implicitly promoting a "lifestyle" that some parents might deem objectionable. The show is PBS' "Postcards From Buster" where a cartoon rabbit (that'd be Buster) visits different places around the country and teaches children about everything from Native American dances to surfing in Florida.

So...on a yet-to-be-aired episode, Buster visits Vermont (people's gaydar should already be beeping) and learns all about maple sugaring. No problem there - BUT, the family that owns the maple trees happens to be headed by a lesbian couple. Mind you - the episode is not about them at all, it's about how to get sugar from maple trees. But the fact that they appear in the episode was enough for Spellings to chastise PBS and "coincidentally" (we're not really buying that), PBS leadership decided to shelve the episode out of concerns that some parents may object.

It's come to this (actually, it came to this a long time ago) but you don't even have to be advocating for queer-ness. You merely have to point out that it exists and that's enough to be offensive. Let's just restate that again:

Simply acknowledging that gay people exist and form families is offensive to certain segments of society.

I'd chastise PBS more but considering that the Dept. of Education dropped about $100,000,000 on funding the larger program that "Buster" falls under, I can appreciate that they're in a bind around this. It's a grand, grim irony that the most open-minded sources of knowledge (such as public television) are often times made to bend to partisan political will yet private media (Fox News anyone?) is just as insidious. It's that proverbial rock and a hard place, you know?

In the meantime though, the Bush administration's extremist conservatism is really not shy about flying their flag. They're not remotely trying to build consensus or promote tolerance. It's either their way or no way.

2. A suicidal 25 year old decides to end his life by parking his truck on railroad tracks. Then, before the train hits, he changes his mind, gets out and then watches two trains collide and derail, killing 10. If this guy wanted to kill himself before, he's really going to wish he did it now.

I don't mean to sound insensitive but how much you want to bet a future Law and Order episode is going to reference this. It's practically tailor-made for one of those "ripped from the headlines" episodes.

3. Ok, finally, something lighter. There's a parody Dipset song by the Dickset, called "The Family", that's floating around. What's really hilarious and brilliant about this song is how it shows that there's a thin line b/t how Cam'ron raps and how this faux-Killa parodies Cam's rhymes. A very thin line. I've played this for a few folks and they asked, "wait, this isn't Cam?"

HOT 97 CONTINUED

(by Oliver)

1) The updates continue to roll in. Hot 97 has now "indefinitely" suspended the Morning Show, Sprint and McDonalds (among other sponsors) have pulled their advertising dollars (in theory), and Jin is getting a song dissing Hot 97...played on Hot 97.

2) This is obviously an act of appeasement on the part of Hot 97 to make their sponsors happy - and hey, we knew that's what it'd take. Media companies usually don't give a damn about public relations as long as their bottomline isn't touched. I'm not being cynical, just realistic.

3) This suspension seems like smoke and mirrors to me. As Jay Smooth raises: we don't know if it's really indefinite or not and we don't know if it's paid or not. In the past, personalities have been suspended with pay which is basically like giving them a paid vacation for a week or so while things cool down. That's not a punitive measure; it's a calculated PR move. If that's what Hot 97 tries to do, it's time to pull back the curtain and expose the fraud. Where's the investigative reporters and forensic accountants when we need 'em?

4) What's becoming more interesting is how people respond to the outrage - not to the original offense itself. As with all social movements, big or small, once they achieve a life of their own, they become the focus for scrutiny and criticism. The swelling comments log over at Hiphopmusic.com attests to the variety of attitudes and emotions out there. Here's a few of the more interesting ones:
    -"u wanna make a difference BOYCOTT every single racist thing that gets said ANYWHERE
    Shit happens..fighting is not going to bring these people back..You guys are wasting time doing all this cuz noone can tell me they have never uttered anything racial against anyone. the hypocrisy in this world kills me"

    -"I have mixed emotions while I like Ms. Jones there is a fine line and she stepped over that line....I think she should be fired...if it had been a white air personality...there would not of been any suspensions they would of been fired on the spot. We have to set an example somewhere that anything will be tolerated that is what is wrong with this society as we know it."

    -"As an African American, I am wary of the "suspension". This incident has drawn so much attention to Hot 97 that we all (Miss Jones, her crew, African American and Asian American listeners) may lose in the end. Miss Jones & crew, as ignorant and misguided as they are, are being played as pawns in this race game- pitting blacks against Asians. How crazy is that?!? The execs/ wealthy station owners may laugh all the way to the bank with this one."

    -"I think that all of you people who are acting so offended by this situation should really take a long hard look at yourselves in the mirror. All this talk of starting a movement against Hot 97 is in my opinion a joke. The same people walking around NYC complaining about Hot 97 are the same ones listening to that bullshit."

    -"Aint nothing revolutionary about posting on a blog and then allowing the same bullshit that you complain about to continue. So when y'all are really ready to go after the Emmis Communications, Viacoms and Clearchannels of the world then let me know, I'll be down front like Ron O-Neal said in "Superfly" with guns blazing, but until that day comes, spare me the theatrics. Y'all Ni@@az iz scared of revolution."



TURN OFF ON THE RADIO

I'm not the first person to say this but is not Rich Harrison killing it right now? The producer behind Beyonce's "Crazy In Love," has not one, but two new tracks that are dropping jaws:
Jennifer Lopez feat. Fabolous: Get Right
Amerie: One Thing

As my man Jazzbo pointed out - Harrison is a sample-hound for real but in a gritty throwback to the sound of Marley Marl rather than a Kanye clone. I do think it's funny however that both Lopez and Amerie do some impressive Beyonce-cloning of their own (add that new Mariah Carey joint to that list). I guess the hottest girl in the game's got a lot of folks trying to steal her chain.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TURNING UP THE HEAT ON HOT 97

(by Oliver)


time to go

The campaign against Hot 97 for their "Tsunami Song" has only been building the last few days. Much credit goes to Jay Smooth at hiphopmusic.com for helping take a lead in drawing attention to the issue. Press has slowly but steadily been picking the story up - Hot 97 would like to think this will all blow over but I think as more people become aware of it, the level of outrage will only increase.

Already, NY politicians are putting pressure on the FCC to start levying fines - a rather Faustian bargain since I'd rather see the FCC ease back on their overzealous enforcement, at least during Michael Powell's soon-to-be-over reign but hell, if they're going after everyone else anyways, might as well direct them at Miss Jones.

I've been encouraging people to spend less time on petitions and more time putting pressure on sponsors. Jay has a list of sponsors you can contact - I wrote one to Sprint already.

Even better though, the Morning Show crew is venturing out into public this Friday:
    Caroline's Comedy Club
    1626 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
    8AM
This is a perfect opportunity for people to roll out and be as disruptive as possible so for all my New Yorkan readers out there: spread the word.


By the way, some have argued that all this is just generating free publicity for Hot 97 and that they best way to deal with it is just to ignore it. I'm sympathetic to where that's coming from - it's very easy to be cynical about the media these days, especially given the lengths they'll go in search for ratings and no doubt, Hot 97 knew exactly what they were getting themselves into with this stunt.

Moreover, as someone who grew up watching the Asian American community try to fight media stereotype after media stereotype, after a while, it not only feels futile, but rather counterproductive because 1) there's bigger battles to be waged than over stereotypes and 2) as films like Harold and Kumar and Better Luck Tomorrow have shown, sometimes, the better route to fighting the media is to join it. This said, I also believe that sometimes, people get sick and tired of how media personalities act without any kind of accountability and the sheer level of insensitivity with "The Tsuanmi Song" (and some of the in-studio conversations that came about from it) cross a line that has to be responded to on some level.

UPDATE: What other misgivings I might have about Jin: I got love for him for this. For once, a battle rap with a purpose and done with precision brilliance. "Shout out to Miss Info - keep ya head up. And if all else fails, turn that bullshit off." Word.
ELSEWHERE

  • Nelson George looks back over the the legacy of hip-hop for a story in the UK's Guardian Observer. This makes for an interesting contrast with the much-debated Greg Tate essay insofar as both men are writing on the same topic - the last 25/30 years of hip-hop, its transformation from folk art to commercial culture, what this all means for Black contemporary experiences and communities. Also, both George and Tate are older (40+) pundits who're among the first rap critics to help elevate the level of criticism on the music.

    The difference - in this essay - is that George is notably less cynical about where hip-hop is today. The contrast is quite stark is some places. Tate more or less crowned the recent "Vote or Die" campaign led by P. Diddy; George cites that as proof that hip-hop is on the "cutting edge" of "political activism." Also, though Tate laments hip-hop loss of its own past (i.e. the death of Afrocentricity), George focuses on rap's impact on the longer view of black musical traditions. For example, George writes:
      "The price of success has been a narrow-casting of what black culture means. Just as sampling scavenges older forms of African-American music for its rhythmic and melodic DNA, hip hop has made soul, funk, R&B, go-go, and even jazz seem mere preludes to its appearance. Historical memory, never highly valued in the US, has so completely broken down that for many young people, the world before hip hop is plain irrelevant."

      He later adds:

      "Hip hop courses are one of the biggest growth areas in American academia with English professors ditching Baldwin and Richard Wright to teach Public Enemy and KRS-One."
    (The latter seems like a bit of an overstatement. If anything, I think more courses are teaching KRS alongside Baldwin but I'd like to see any real evidence that there's any kind of movement to take Baldwin, Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Morrison, etc. off the syllabus in other to put in Chuck D, Nas, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Lil Kim, etc. in their stead.)

    For the most part, I think George, like Tate, does an articulate job of summarizing thinking points when it comes to contemplating hip-hop's evolution and legacy. The main thing George needs is something a bit harder hitting by way of a conclusion. He leaves it open-eneded - which is apt given hip-hop's constantly changing and rather unpredictable transformations - but I wanted to hear him say something with more sticking power than:
      "Still, back at the birth of hip hop 25 years ago, it was impossible to predict its takeover. So I wonder whether somewhere out in the vastness of America or the council housing of Brixton or perhaps in some online community I'm too old to be part of, a group of like minded individuals are quietly creating a series of cultural practices for the 21st century. Let's talk in 20 years."
    The most provocative point that he makes is something that I've been thinking about as well: now that hip-hop has taken over, isn't it high-time for a new rebel music to come up (not that rap is all about rebellion, but just as rap took out rock and rock took out pop, you have to wonder what the next shift will be). George writes:
      "Just as rhythm'n'blues replaced jazz as black pop, and hip hop superceded R&B/soul, it feels like it's time for a new voice to emerge. Black culture in the past century was highly cyclical, with new modes of musical expression rising from the underground to articulate blacks' shifting social condition. I once thought that the new music-driven culture would come from Africa or, perhaps, the multinational ghettos of 'the new Europe'. Perhaps it still will, though increasingly I see the hip hop cliches of the States being recycled with foreign accents and new samples."
    (credit: Funkdigital)

  • I didn't think Sideways was the best movie ever but I'm shocked that Paul Giamatti got shafted by the Oscars by being overlooked for an acting nod. At least I can still root for Virginia Madsen.

  • It's been a long time since I saw Fear of a Black Hat and I forgot that, despite an uneven script, there were some moments of comedic genius.
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)

  • Wayne & Wax breaks down the intersection between hip-hop, reggae and transnational Blackness.

  • The UK's TV Cream breaks down The Top 100 Toys of all time. This is a very cool list but there's definitely a lil lost in translation from the UK to the US. #1 and 2 make sense: a bike and a computer. But #4 is "Top Trumps," some kind of "card fighting game" which I've never heard of (Pokemon precursor?)
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • Who would have thought that of all the former rappers to put together a really well-written and interesting blog, it'd be D-Nice? Kudos.

  • Sunday, January 23, 2005

    SHOTS IN THE DARK

    (by Oliver)



  • This is overdue on my part but Lynne D. Johnson drops wisdom on the politics of hip-hop and the blogosphere.

  • ...and Kris Ex rains acid on shook bloggers.

    Put these two entries together and you start to recognize the upside of what blogs have to offer. I've been working on a longer musing but the short story is this: there's much about blogging to complain about. As a medium for writing, it promotes way too much pretentious, narcissitic, aimless, navel-gazing that just wastes bandwidth and other people's time (my site not excepted). But hey, that's the price of a democratic medium and I can live with it since it's our choice what we read and don't.

    However, what I can't stand is how incredibly uncivil the blogging world is. It's not just blogs of course - it's message boards, comments sections, etc. - anywhere the safety of anonymity is perverted into an open license to act like bullies and assholes. The examples are too numerous to mention - we see the vicious, ad hominem spirit manifest everyday. That's why I can't mess with the Okayplayer.com forums despite the intelligent dialogues that can spring forth. It's why I've learned that when people try to bust shots, it's far better to let them to play themselves out rather than firing back. You can't win an argument with people who act with impunity and refuse to accept accountability. And as many have pointed, this lack of basic decency stings harder since people are acting in ways they would never dare in person. That's why I had to laugh aloud when Kris Ex predicted, "One day after the first hip-hop blogger gets punched in his (or her) face, all the slick-n-snide talk will come to a halt."

    This is all why I appreciate both Lynne and Kris' respective postings. Lynne is willing to call people onto the carpet but she doesn't do it in a way that's mean-spirited or a rush to judgment. Likewise, Kris has received a fair amount of hate for what people call an egotistical attitude (and let's face it, I don't think he'd disagree with the description) but he's also been one of the few people I've seen who've simply asked people to account for their words.

    Blogging is such an incredible, unpredictable medium and it's so very young, with a potential that I don't think we've seen even a fraction of yet. I just hope the growing pains aren't going to be strong enough to kill most of interest in the process.

    In any case - here's some more things to read while you're here already:

  • Jon Caramanica on Cam'ron.

  • The updated and frighteningly thorough Kanye West production list.

  • Personally, those NYC "Pigeon" Dunks seem too plain to be commanding $500 and up but if you really need to get your sneaker addiction taken care of: Kicks Finder to the rescue.

  • I didn't quite fit into my high school cliques either but this is a rather extreme way to make up for it, no?

  • They might have two teams in the playoffs but Pennsylvania also has "intelligent design" in their schools. I'm sure tonight creationists are partying like it's 1899.

  • Friday, January 21, 2005

    SPONGEBOB SAYS "YES HOMO"?

    (by Oliver)


    he's so happy, you could call him gay

    (Some) Christians are just straight up crazy. If this wasn't so insidious, politically speaking, it'd be mildly entertaining to see the Religious Right play themselves so foolishly.

    Just to highlight: certain Christian groups are objecting to a "tolerance pledge." Yes, that's right - Christians finds "tolerance" to be unacceptable. I guess that "other cheek" thing wasn't that important after all.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    TURN OFF THE %#*)(@ RADIO!

    (by Oliver)

    Jay Smooth is reporting on this unbelievably racist skit that NY's Hot 97 is playing that mocks tsunami disaster victims as "screaming chinks" and how their orphaned children are being sold off into child slavery.

    I know that commercial radio is basically a cesspool of corporate payola and media monopolies. But seriously, this goes beyond the pale of anything I can imagine. Not only is it remarkably insensitive but I simply cannot fathom how a New York station (9/11, remember that?) can act so callously towards a horrific event for a ratings boost.

    So sincerely...FUCK Hot 97.

    Says Jay:
      "As a New Yorker, as a radio person, and as a hip-hop fan I am ashamed and disgusted that Hot 97 is allowing this to broadcast on their airwaves. If you feel the same way you can let them know here:

      HOT 97
      395 Hudson St. 7th Fl.
      New York, NY 10014

      (212) 229-9797

      hot97@hot97.com

      And if you really want to send a message, and make Hot 97 hear it, you can contact their advertisers about this. I may try to put together a list of sponsors, or if anybody else has one please pass it along."
    I expect to see this blow up - badly - in their faces in the next few days. Let's help that process along.

    Spread the word.


    On the positive radio tip, I had the opportunity yesterday to interview one of the biggest legends in rap radio, especially on the West Coast: Julio G. This is a cat who was a KDAY Mix Master at age 17, then hosted Westside Radio for The Beat for most of the '90s, and is now back on the resurrected KDAY in L.A., holding down the 7-11pm slot every week day (along with Beat Junkie Melo D). Not only that, but he can also be found on GTA 3: San Andreas, hosting that game's immensely popular Westside Radio station.

    I grew up on KDAY as a teen in Los Angeles and have nothing but fond memories of how vibrant hip-hop was in Cali at the time: no one cared about coastal allegiances. An artist like D.O.C. or King Tee was just as relevant as Big Daddy Kane or KRS-One and vice versa. Julio G was breaking crazy records back then from every geographic corner.

    I'll have a short interview with him appearing in a late winter issue of XXL but here's one tidbit that didn't make that piece. This is Julio, talking about his days with the other KDAY Mix Masters, Tony G, M-Walk, Jammin' Jim and Joe Cooley:
      "We used to record on reel. Wed go on Wednesdays, wed all go do our hour mix. When we were there, if you f*cked up on tape, we kept the tape going, there was no such thing as editing or splicing things up. If you dont want sh*t to be f*cked up, dont be f*cking up. I appreciate Tony pushing us like that because it made us all want to be good."

    MORE HIP-HOP PUNDITRY

    (by Oliver)



    My colleagues Mark Anthony Neal and Murray Forman were recently on NPR News With Tony Cox to talk about their new book, That's the Joint: A Hip Hop Studies Reader. Their comments won't resolve any of the issues that have been floating around post-Tate's essay but I do think they help introduce some new ideas into the convo.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    IDOLATRY

    (by Oliver)


    abandon all hope, ye who enter

    Pop Life likes American Idol, not the least of which is that we were one of the first blogs to ask, "hey, who is this William Hung dude?" 6,000 hits in a day people, okay? We're not mad at that.

    But truly, we like AI because no other reality show puts America on display in its full rawness. For a national culture that force-feeds its brand of hopefulness down the world's throat, AI pulls the curtain back to reveal that depths of delusion that optimism can foster. Seriously, the sheer level of desperation exhibited on the show numbs the mind. I'd say it'd almost be endearing to know that someone pawned their wedding ring in order to finance their audition but mostly, it's just sad in a small, despairing kind of way. If and when that particular contestant gets booted off the show (and it's going to happen, no doubt about it), you just wonder how far she'll drop before smacking bottom.

    I'm not saying taking a leave of one's mental faculties in pursuit of fame is a unique trait in the U.S. but more than ever, America seems to find comfort in being snowed under by its own fictions (Condi Rice, holla!) and AI helps put this on display with resplendence. I'm especially drawn to how so many people think that God put them on the path to become the next American Idol; do they go to the same church as Dubya?

    This is the show at its best: once they whittle things down to the finalists, it's just another talent contest - one that's getting increasingly boring, especially in the face of the current reality glut.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    WHAT IT'S ABOUT

    (by Oliver)


    Young Exo breaks it down.


    ELSEWHERE

  • In the brilliant "truth follows fiction" dept., this one came to me via RJ Smith: Queens drug crew learns the game by watching The Wire.

  • File this under the "truth is strange than fiction" dept.: The Pentagon spent requested $7.5 million to research a weapon that would compel enemy troops to have sex with each other. Yes folks, a "gay bomb." Truly, utterly amazing.

  • The East Bay Express' Eric Arnold does the Rap '04 Round-up. Includes such tidbits as:
      "Pimp" Goes Mainstream

      The good: The word appears in a New Yorker cartoon, signifying its arrival.

      The bad: Nelly's P.I.M.P. college scholarship program. Twelve-year-old white suburban girls throughout the red states sing When the pimp's in the crib/Drop it like it's hot, thanks to Snoop Dogg. A proposed ballot measure to decriminalize prostitution gets a thumbs-down from Berkeley voters.

      The ugly: Snoop's outfits in Starsky & Hutch.
    (credit: Can't Stop, Won't Stop)

  • Speaking of the Bay - Newsweek sez Hyphy is the new crunk. Yeah, Newsweek.
    (credit: Prohiphop.com)

  • I meant to post this a while back but it's never too late: The Geto Boys' "Minds Playin' Tricks On Me" as performed by Star Wars action figures.
  • This new Mariah Carey song would have sounded next level...three years ago. I don't think it's a bad song but Carey just sounds so...so...'90s. You know?

  • I think Government Names needs to do an expose on Johnny Crack.

  • Kobe might be on the road to redemption but his shoes are still ugly.
    (credit for the trio: Different Kitchen)

  • So far, the score has been Irina: 2, eBay: 0.

  • Saturday, January 15, 2005

    ROUND UP

    (by Oliver)

    I saw this via Sasha's blog but the National Arts Journalism Program has just released a new publication, Reporting the Arts II: News Coverage of Arts and Culture. You can order the pub but the entire thing is available for download (very nice).

    The report is extremely thorough and there's a lot to dig through. Here's a few essays I thought were notable:
      -Lily Tung on Asian American Arts and the Media

      -Robert Christgau on A History of Rock Criticism. (Bob - just so you know, the California Condor is making a comeback. I don't know if the same can be said of the feature essay review).

      -Sasha (in the same downloadable chapter as Bob's essay) on "Firsthand knowledge in criticism."

    All in all, some compelling reading (though reading off of PDF is a guaranteed headache - time to print this out).

  • Speaking of Sasha, I have to agree with him: Foxymoron is a great name for a blog. Oh yeah, Sasha's also looking for an intern which is cool though not quite as cool as when J-Ho was looking for a husband.

  • Remember MASH, aka Mansion, Apartment, Shack, house? Now you can play this summer camp game online.
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)

  • Prince Harry plays Nazi. Pardon my French, but jesus, what a f---in' idiot.
    (credit: HHH)

  • People remark that I write. A lot. But seriously, I can't hold a candle to the intellectual/scribing force that is Mark Anthony Neal (T.N.I.). This guy knocks out what seems like an essay a day and unlike most of what's on the blog world, it's actually, you know, articulate. Here's a recent essay on Bert Williams, Lil Jon and Black minstrelsy.

  • Houstonsoreal is truly an amazing blog - it does what a good blog should do, which is provide content not readily available through another medium. This guy is providing such thorough detail of Southern hip-hop with his extensive interviews and profiles and even if you're not the biggest fan of the music, I'll guarantee that you'll learn something from it.

  • How to hack your own iPod Shuffle. Geeky but funny.
    (credit: Gizmodo)

  • Not getting your freak on.
    (credit: Pnuthouse)

  • D'Angelo's not having one of his better days.
    (credit: Funkdigital)

  • The Mingering Mike WWW Site. 'Bout time!

  • Ego Trip's Race-O-Rama is bizzack.
    (credit: Hiphopmusic.com)

  • Speaking of Hiphopmusic.com, Jay Smooth breaks down the generation gap, all psychologically and stuff.

  • And speaking of breaking things down: Hip-Hop Reviewed is going to try to review every rap and R&B album from the last 10 years. I'd say that was insane except that I bet I would have tried to do the same thing 10 years ago had it occured to me. He's got up about 30 so far, only 2970 to go! (Did we really need all of Mary J. Blige's CDs reviewed? I mean, really? I'm not hating, just asking.)


    Some quick television notes:

    1) Serena getting fired from Law and Order was overdue since she was, by far, the most uninteresting ADA that's ever been on the show...but the whole, "are you firing me because I'm a lesbian" thing was so off-the-wall/from-left-field that I just kind of sat there for a second and wondered what the hell the writers were thinking when they put that in there. I still don't know. By the way, this is overdue but Jerry Orbach, RIP.

    2) Alias had its high point in Season 2 when Lena Olin was kicking major ass every week. Now it's almost like a parody of itself. The show is nearly unwatchable these days because there's practically nothing compelling about it anymore. The lone exception: Jack Bristow (Victor Garber). He is, by far, the best thing on the show right now. Maybe the only good thing. ABC should have ponied up to rehire Lena (and by the way, who among the show's watchers actually thinks her character is really dead? Sorry, until someone gets popped on screen, no one on this show is ever really dead).

    3) Sharon's really into Project Runway which means, by extension, I end up watching it too. I'm not mad at the show, especially since there's at least three or four people guaranteed to cry on it every week but I can't say the show puts a very flattering face on fashion designers. They all come off as either A) insane queens, B) emotional children or C) both. I also have to say this: can Austin be any prettier?

    4) I like Lost but it's getting taxing to watch with each new week. People like to compare it with the X-Files but at least X-Files had single-episode narratives that help keep viewers interest when the damn mythology got to be too much. After a while, Lost needs to cough up some of its secrets. This whole "eternal cliffhanger" method is already being squeezed to death by 24.

  • Thursday, January 13, 2005

    COOL OUT: HIP-HOP AND RACE REVISITED (PT. 1)

    (by Oliver)


    build, not destroy

    1. I'll be on KPFA's weekly radio show, APEX Express tonight (Thurs.), @ 7pm. One of the reasons they wanted to invite me on was to talk about the on-going dialogue/debate that I've managed to get embroiled into on the topic of African and Asian American relations in the field of culture.

    2. The problem with blogging (as if there were only one) is that my postings are often off-the-cuff, informal, and as a general rule, not vetted or self-edited well. Most blogs are merely streams of consciousness translated into HTML and as such, entries are often intellectually lazy/sloppy - mine are no exception. However, since they are in a public forum, other people take these comments seriously and that's where people like me get in trouble. Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to excuse my responsibility for meaning what I write and writing what I mean...it's just embarrassing when people take these mental piddlings seriously when I probably wrote them half-asleep and half-thinking. Ok, time to try to be a little more full-thinking.

    3. In November, I was invited to Philadelphia to speak on two panels regarding Asian Americans and hip-hop. At one panel, a New York-based writer and activist, Kenyon Farrow attended and asked the panel the following question (this is based on Kenyon's own writing, not my paraphrase): "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?"

    4. Kenyon's question (and at the time, I didn't know his name or who he was) frustrated me because I saw it as being unreasonably antagonistic and defensive rather than an attempt to build understanding or solidarity. In a moment of haste, I wrote a response on Pop Life. This is what I mean by half-thinking - I did not critically plot out my response with a
    clear head and instead, wrote out of annoyance and that does not make for particularly intelligent commentary. Frankly, I deserved to have people criticize me for it and they did: someone forwarded a link to my blog entry back to Kenyon who penned a response: "We Real Cool: On Hip-Hop, Asian-Americans, Black Folks, and Appropriation."

    5. I've responded to some of the points in his essay here, but mostly to address specific concerns that people had over my (bad) choice of metaphor. I've avoided a point-by-point response to Kenyon's essay because his argument has so many problems, I don't even know where to begin. There's just no efficient way I can correct all his inaccuracies and misrepresentations of what I said, what he said, what this all is supposed to mean. Obviously, he's entitled his own opinion and perceptions, but at various times, Kenyon distorts my comments and stances in order to create a convenient strawman to tear down.

    I didn't help matters with my poor blog entry, but Kenyon tries to wield an all-points attack on me, my opinions, and my political positions, and manages to get almost all of them wrong. However, rather than create a list of points to refute, I instead would suggest that people read Kenyon's essay and come to your own conclusions as to the salience of his conclusions. Personally, for anyone familiar with my body of work - as a writer and scholar - I think you'll recognize that in some points, I'm actually in full agreement with Kenyon. Our political stances are hardly as antagonistic or divergent as he thinks. (Note 1).

    6. I'd like to focus on a few key issues in hopes of developing some ideas for public consumption. I'm not trying to advance open-and-shut theories - these are constantly evolving thoughts. Culture is not static; it doesn't stay the same, unchanging, through time our understanding and appreciation for it should also be malleable too. All this said, I want to return to Kenyon's key question: "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?" I never adequately addressed this the first time around and it still seems to be at the heart of much of the disagreement and tension here.

    Just so I don't have a 3,000 word essay hanging off my index page, I hacked a solution, creating a separate entry with my full response.

    Click here to continue reading.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    DOUBLE SHOT

    (by Oliver)


    why doesn't anyone like my cd?

    1) My review of Eminem's Encore ran on NPR's Morning Edition today.

    2) My piece of hip-hop's changing politics ran in today's SF Bay Guardian.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    ICE CUBE GETS FRESH

    (by Oliver)


    from nwa to npr


    Fresh Air's Terry Gross interviews Ice Cube today.

    In other news, Josh Kun on the new Chicano movement.

    Sunday, January 09, 2005

    ASK A FREELANCER PT. 2

    (by Oliver)

    From Daniel L.:
    1. Why do people need content exactly? Simply off the fact that
    freelancers' turnover rate is high, or is the demand for material
    high?
    2. You mention ASKING to write for magazines. Working in sales, I know
    the concept of asking and pitching to a point. Who exactly would I
    contact at a magazine? The editor? Also, what would I be asking of
    this particular person?
    3. I currently write on my xanga blog for fun. How efficient you think
    blogging is? There is definitely craze in it, and I see the potential
    for growth in this. Any blogging sites/software you recommend? Xanga
    is fun, but not exactly something I can use to show as my portfolio.
    4. Any websites you would recommend that I look up if I'm serious
    about freelance writing? Any other avenues I might look up other than
    the traditional magazine route?


    Daniel,

    1) Both. It depends on the publication of course. Some have a set staff and don't use a big freelancing pool (for example, I've heard that Rolling Stone is getting to be like that). Other publications use almost an entirely freelance pool for their content, especially many internet-based media.

    Believe me, it's rare that you'l be in a situation where you can't find anyplace to pitch a specific assignment. Of course, bow well you're paid is enitrely another story...

    2) Again, it depends on the publication. The bigger the pub, the more editorial layers you'll have to navigate. In general, as a beginning writer, you'll want to find an associate or assistant editor who's tagged to the section you'd want to write for. For example, if you're interested in music reviews, bigger mags with have a reviews editor to talk to. If you're interested in writing for the "front of the book" (usually small featurettes, news + notes, etc.) they'll be a separate editor for that. Mastheads can be informative but often times, they won't break things down as cleanly as you'd like them to but if you contact the wrong editor, they're usually pretty good about forwarding you to whoever would be more suitable.

    As for what you'd ask, I think it'd help to have a specific kind of assignment in mind, if not a specific story. At the most general, you could say, "I'm interested in writing reviews for your publication." But you can also approach a publication and say, "there's this new album by [name here] coming out that I think would be worth reviewing and I'd like to handle it." There's benefits and liabilities to both approaches but usually, a responsible editor will tell you if you're being too general or too specific with your pitch.

    3) As far as blogging software goes, I think blogger.com's system is the best overall in terms of ease of use and design flexability. I know a lot of folks who like Movable Type/Typepad.com and it looks very professional. It's also worth paying a little extra and buying your own domain name and some web hosting space if you're really serious about creating a presence for yourself online and using that to bolster an entry into print.

    As for how efficient blogging is - this is a conversation piece for a longer dialogue. Personally, I don't think blogging encourages very good writing; I know my blogging writing is usually a lot lazier - and thus, less polished - than my print writing but on the other hand, blogging taps into my emotional core at a closer range, so in a sense, it's more candid about how I think/feel about something and that's not a bad thing for your writing to convey.

    However, whether or not blogging is an asset to a new writer, trying to break into print, I'm not really sure. Personally, if someone approached me and blogging was their sole example of writing history, I'd be a little skeptical just because, as I just noted, I don't think blogging always engenders very good writing, especially in terms of training people to think about word count, economical writing, etc. That said, there are some blog-only writers I've seen out there who I think can make the transition to print easily. It just depends on what you do with your blog.

    4) Alas, the irony is that most of the WWW sites I read are blogs these days. Pitchfork has one of the better reputations for the internet equivalent to a mainstream music mag but really, I don't read very many internet-based publications. Old man as I man, I'm pretty much a print guy still.

    Good luck and if you have more questions, hit me.

    O.W.

    P.S. As always, I encourage all my colleagues to chime in if they have better/different advice.

    CYNICAL BEATDOWN

    (by Oliver)

    In a recent, I mentioned how much I enjoyed reading Greg Tate's recent Village Voice essay, Hip Hop Turns 30. However, some of my colleagues were not quite so taken by it. Hashim @ HipHop-Blogs.com in particular had some vociferous criticisms of the essay, going as far to level an ageism charge at Tate (i.e. "Greg Tate is an Old Man"). Much as I respect Hashim and have been in agreement with him in the past, I think his view here is off-base.

    I have to say, I'm genuinely surprised at the rancor that Tate's essay has engendered since, to me, he wasn't saying anything particularly controversial. Of course, maybe that's because I agree with much of his sentiment. I think Jeff nails it on the head in his comment when he asks if there might not be a generation gap at work here. Tate's probably at least five years older than me, as is the good Mr. Chang, but I consider myself part of their generation of rap fans. And for us, I think Tate's essays speaks very loudly to our concerns over hip-hop's evolution over the last 15-20 years since when we first began listening ourselves.

    It's not as if we've lost our love for hip-hop but many of us became enthralled with rap music precisely because of how it tapped into social outrage and passions, as well as being some great music to move to. That last point is important because some people assume you either like hip-hop for its social content or its sonic force and that's a false binary. If anything, hip-hop's ability to literally move people with its rhythms is precisely how it's able to speak truth to power. Being pro-rap-relevance does not mean being anti-rhythm.

    In any case, Tate's essay provides a balanced approach to both celebrating hip-hop's achivements while also being candid about its shortcomings. However, if folks in the older generation can identify with both sides of that argument, I think there is a younger generation who finds that complaining about hip-hop's lack of social relevance is just something old fuddy-duddies whine about because we can't stand the fact that no one rocks kente cloth and Africa medallions anymore. (Just for the record, I never owned either but I did have a Cross Colours' t-shirt).

    Frankly, I have a hard time understand this kind of knee-jerk dismissal of the issues that Tate speaks too and certainly, he's not the only one who's been criticized for sounding "old" and "bitter" (neither of which I think are true). But to me, it makes sense that there is a different sensibility at work out there, one that finds critical assessments of hip-hop's relationship to society to be tiresome and besides the point. I don't know if this is so much an "older" vs. "younger" dynamic since I think the two camps have overlap in terms of age, but especially with the rise of the blogosphere, I think we're seeing a countervailing critical voice emerging that is less interested in pondering hip-hop's social dynamics and would rather get back to the business of talking about the basics - beats, rhymes, etc. I hold nothing against that view - I like talking about hip-hop as, you know, music too - but I also think it's equally valid to talk about hip-hop as a cultural form and all the attendent complexities that come with that frame of mind.

    ***

    I just have to say this but comparing Tate with Crouch is a gross overstatement. Crouch has never professed a particular love for hip-hop in any form. Crouch doesn't wax nostalgic for Rakim and BDP - he waxes nostalgic for Ellington and Coltrane, okay? To Crouch, rap music is a perversion of African American musical traditions and as someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates has pointed out, Crouch's anti-rap posturing is ironic, if not downright hypocritical. Tate shares nothing in common with Crouch's fervant anti-rap crusading. Read his essays in Flyboy In the Buttermilk and it's clear that Tate has a profound relationship to hip-hop in a way that Crouch would never, ever profess to have.

    I also think people are off the mark in claiming that Tate's essay essentially = "hip-hop is dead." When he writes, "But from the moment "Rapper's Delight" went platinum, hiphop the folk culture became hiphop the American entertainment-industry sideshow," that's a statement of cultural fact and any good history of hip-hop with reflect as much. It is not, however, an inherent lamentation. Tate is not complaining, "aw shucks, remember when hip-hop was good? When we used to go to the park jams and see Flash and Herc battle?" What he's suggesting is that hip-hop transformed the moment "Rapper's Delight" showed that a local street culture could be transnationally profitable. That moment is partly what's helped hip-hop become such an awesome force around the world but it's also what brought hip-hop into the belly of the beast and that tension has forever remained an important dynamic of rap music's power and challenges. Tate writes, "This is why mainstream hiphop as a capitalist tool, as a market force isn't easily discounted: The dialogue it has already set in motion between Long Beach and Cape Town is a crucial one, whether Long Beach acknowledges it or not."

    Clearly, Tate is NOT suggesting that hip-hop is dead, nor is he decrying hip-hop's collusion with capitalism without also recognizing what that relationship has enabled it to do. This is a nuanced argument he's putting forward here.

    Likewise, people need to read this essay with his Nas review - published in the same issue - alongside each other because his arguments about hip-hop and politics get their full development in tandem. Tate is not arguing that hip-hop should get more political; he says this in the Nas essay: "Not that one shouldn't be chirpy chipmunk happy to hear any commercially viable MC produce angry, alert, unabashedly political tracks like "Message to the Feds," "Sincerely We the People," and "American Way" in these acquiescent, acquisitive times. Only that the absence of such strong sentiments in current Black political life makes the studio version seem flat and manufactured." His critique is really of the failings of Black public politics (a complaint that has been on-going from all sectors for 20+ years now) rather than forcing hip-hop to shoulder that burden.

    I think the point of what Tate is arguing however is that hip-hop has unquestionably transformed Black public life in the last 30 years but he wants to know, besides making a select few people rich off of it (but probably not wealthy in the Chris Rock "rich vs. wealthy" dichotomy), what hip-hop has done to actual improve the community from whence it came. Again, not a new argument, but one that I think needs to be continually asked since as hip-hop has become so lucrative - especially as an identifiably Black cultural form - it seems to me to be a valid question to ask where those resources are being channeled especially since it seems that many Black communities are worse off now than they were 20-30 years ago in terms of: access to health care, quality education, social justice, economic parity, housing equality, etc.

    ***

    Getting back to the generation gap, and I really don't mean to pick on Hashim here but this statement really stood out to me on his blog: "I want my comedies to make me laugh, my music to make me dance. That's it. Don't put the weight on someone else."

    My jaw kind of drops at that statement since it seems incongruous that it'd come from someone who created a site called "hiphop-blogs.com," whose very existance suggests that music inspires people to actually think about it rather than just shake their tushy to it (again, see above comment that the two are not mutually exclusive). Seriously, is that what people think? That hip-hop is only good for the ass but no longer relevant for the mind?

    To treat hip-hop as entertainment only seems to divorce the music from its very social roots. I'd like to think, idealistic as this may sound, that hip-hop (like jazz, the blues, etc.) was always about incredible creative expression but not solely for the sake of entertaining people. It wasn't like those musics were designed to be replace politics or social mobilization; instead, they helped speak to the cultural context in which these other things were happening. Hence, think about the relationship of "Strange Fruit," to the social tensions of the 1930s and 40s or James Brown's embrace of Black Power in the late 1960s or the relationship between reggae and British race relations in the 1980s, and so forth. Again, it's not that we replace politics with music or that we cease to treat music as entertainment...but you have to recognize that cultural forms are incredibly powerful forces. Certainly, the State treats many expressive practices as things that need to be censored, controlled or eliminated - is that because they fear entertainment or fear what that "entertainment" helps inspire in people?

    Anyways, I know this conversation is bound to continue and I look forward to what's said next. All respect due.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    NOT BAD MEANING BAD BUT PIMP MEANING GOOD

    (by Oliver)


    one of the good guys?

    I know people tend to scoff at war over words but this recent ruling by the 9th Circuit of Appeals is worth a moment of thought. They ruled that the word "pimp" should not be considered a defamatory term if the context suggests that the term is being used in a complimentary manner.

    Now, no one can deny that the term "pimp," within popular culture, has become a mark of praise but I find it troubling that pimpdom has evolved to represent something favorable. Don't get me wrong - I've read Iceberg Slim poems, watched the Hughes Bros. American Pimp, blah blah blah. Yeah, sure, the pimp has played an important role in American urban lore and as a figure of masculinity he represents a certain outlaw ideal, blah blah blah.

    Just to get back to basics though: pimps = men who exploit women for their sexual labor. And nowhere in the term's "rehabilitation" does that meaning ever fade. When you say, "damn man, you're such a pimp," you're implying that someone is charismatic and powerful enough compel women to do their bidding, which, in this case, means whoring themselves. Being a pimp, figuratively speaking, still carries with it that suggestion of sexual power and importantly, inequality.

    Unlike other words, "pimp" has not been recouped by those who have been minimized through it and here, I'm referring not to men but women. That makes it different from a term like "queer" or "bitch" (I'll get to the n-word in a second), which, in their transformation, were taken up by the very people once degraded through it. While there are women who call themselves pimp, it's not as if the term has suddenly become a mark of empowerment for women writ large. Instead, it serves to praise men for attaining a hypermasculine ideal - powerful, charismatic, and more than a little ruthless. Frankly, if Evel Knievel doesn't want to be associated with all the loaded set of meanings that come with pimp, I think he's got a legitimate case here.

    What I'm troubled by with the 9th Circuit's decision is that it reminds me of a case from 2004 where a white student was found not guilty of using "nigga" as a racial slur because the defense argued that if you spell the word with an "a," it's meant as a compliment. Yes, you heard that right. If a white person calls a black person a "nigger" but spells it with an "a," it's alright.

    As you can imagine, the defense rolled out rap song after rap song to make their point.

    I'm all for the evolution of language and I think it's fascinating how vocabulary shifts social meaning over time. However, when the legal process is brought in to validate certain forms of language, I think we tread into murky water. For example, I'm all for hate speech legislation because it understands the politics of language and how language can be disempowering and hurtful. In this case, the legislature is acting to protect people from the dangers of certain language. However, these two cases suggest that now, courts are ceasing to treat dangerous words as dangerous, and instead,they seek to create legal justification for validating those terms.

    I want to be very clear here: it's not that I think language shouldn't be allowed to evolve, it's that I prefer to leave that process to culture to negotiate rather than the courts. If people want to rehabilitate certain words by transforming negative intent into positive, then let's do it through everyday practice but don't make a court ruling certifying it. Especially with the latter case, it seems absurd to me that the courts would decide that a single letter can transform "nigger/nigga" from hate speech to salutation. Even aside from the politics of it, it also just doesn't jibe with reality. In most places I know, if a white guy sneers at a black person by flinging the n-word at them, they're liable to get their ass kicked for being a stupid cracker. Excuse me, I meant to say, "cracka."


    Elsewhere, A Tribute To Ignorance has been straight killing it of late. Good interview with DJ Ivory and more recently, Part 2 of his Forgotten Beefs series: Choice vs. NWA, the Geto Boys and Too $hort.

    And act now before it's too late: your very own Beer and Rap 'zine.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE

    (by Oliver)


    gun yoga style

    Kris Ex For President.

    Not only has he stormed all over the blog game like he started it, but this interview he does with Government Names is golden. Here's some nuggets:
      "My plan was simple: I was gonna do this music journalism bullshit for two years and earn enough money and cachet to write the Great American Novel. Life was so much easier when I knew everything."

      " Chairman Mao remains one of the most economical writers doing it. He's surgical in his analysis. I hope I'm not getting on some stereotypical bullshit, but every time I think of Mao writing, I see him meditating before pulling out his samurai sword and writing a review using as few strokes as possible. Then he sheaths his sword and goes about his day."

      "... there's not really any cross-generational dialogue happening. There's always been one-on-one mentoring, but no process to pass on what's been learned has ever existed. I think that's because the game is evolving so fast and everyone's still trying to get their footing -- even old dinosaurs such as myself. The greatest problem that results form this is that new writers have no sense of history and think that they're making new observations when they're really not."

      "I'd say magazine writing is so tame for the same reason blogs are tame, TV is lame and a lot of music is wack: there's just a lot of corny motherfuckers in the world. It's not really that deep."

      "... a lot of these writers really don't know who they are. You have to keep in mind that for the most part we're dealing with 20-something year olds that are still figuring out who they want to be. We're not Tom Wolfe or Dan Rather here. We're all still very much figuring out who we are."

      "...if there is a pattern to my work, it's pure laziness. I really try to do this shit with as little effort as possible."

      "...there's no money in hip-hop writing. It's all about the fringe benefits. Sure, a few lucky ones break through to make the mega-bucks, but for every one that makes it, there's a few hundred guys selling off promo CDs to pay the rent."

      ...and the coup de grace:

      I love this whole blog world. It's changing so much of what I do and how I do it. I love the opportunities to kick up dust and start trouble, and I'm grateful for the ability to connect with so many people and just shoot the shit. There's so much potential here. I haven't even begun to piss people off yet."

    This is what you waited all year for/the hardcore, that's what Kris Ex is here for.

    In other reading material, Greg Tate hits you with a double-tap in this week's Village Voice. He's absolutely brilliant on both counts: the first being an essay on hip-hop's 30th anniversary and what it means for Black public culture and politics. The other is a review of Nas' new album, which actually ends up touching on many of the same issues as the other essay. I don't feel ashamed to say this but his Nas review shreds mine into confetti.

    ROUND UP

    (by Oliver)

  • So far, Japan, the EU and Australia have all kicked in at least $500,000,000 or more in tsunami aid (actually Australia is putting in 3/4th of a billion). The U.S. is still at $350,000,000 though apparently, private donations add in another $200 mil on top of that. I know this isn't supposed to be a competition but at this level of international public relations, you have to wonder outloud if the U.S. is going to come back and up their amount of aid, just so we don't look cheap. As many have already pointed out, $350 mil is less than what the U.S. spends in Iraq in two days. If you think about it - if the U.S. is really invested in spreading good will across the world, they could do worse than open their gov't checkbook and make their presence felt even greater in the region. Not like I'm sniffling at $350 mil but when Australia is outspending you by double, the new world order seems a tad out of whack.

    Also, just when things can't get worse, Indonesian officials are worried that child traffickers are taking advantage of the chaos to kidnap orphaned children (there's over 35,000 in Indonesia alone). After reading this, I'm glad we donated to UNICEF.

    Speaking of donations, Bush donated $13,000 of his own money. $13,000? Sandra Bullock dropped a million. Michael Schumaker donated TEN MILLION - the best Bush can do is $13,000? Where's all that Haliburton kick-back cash, Dubya? No more Texas Rangers cash? Not only does our country seem like cheapskates but our own President comes off as crazy miserly too.

  • Essence begins their "Take Back the Music" campaign. I'm very interested to see how this plays out and I don't mean that cynically at all. I'm just wondering if Essence is also aiming for any kind of financial jugular besides trying to appeal to people's moral character.

  • The Court of Appeals has ruled that the U.S. can strip convicted criminals of their naturalized citizenship.

  • There's a minor storm brewing in Georgia when a newly elected sheriff fired 27 employees and then positioned snipers on the roof as they left. Did we mention the sheriff was black and most of who were fired were white? Expect this one to become a lightning rod.

  • Surprise, surprise - availability of "morning after" emergency contraception didn't increase the number of people engaging in risky sex.

  • On the health tip: "Constipation Myths Debunked". That's great but I didn't realize constipation even had its own mythology.

  • Wataru Misaka - O.G. J.A. in the N.B.A..
    (credit: Sharon)

  • Krispy Kreme = yummy donuts but lousy accounting.

  • NPR heralds the 25th anniveresary of "Rapper's Delight"K
    (credit: Prohiphop.com)

  • Jazzbo passed this along: Jason Gross' compiled list of the best (and worst) music-writing of the year. It's an interesting list, opens one up to many stories you might have not have seen otherwise, though - as always with these kinds of lists - there are some omissions (and no, I'm not talking about me). I'm just wondering how the hell Jason and his crew found the time to compile this. It's also interesting that Devon Powers managed to make both the best and worst lists.

  • Re: the Groupie Confessions article I wrote about last time - I really think this could be the start of something interesting. As this story grows, it's only going to encourage more people to step forward with their own testimonies of celebrity sex, putting even more embarassing details out there and frankly, I'm not mad at that idea. Not just for the entertainment value (though you have to admit - it's well-nigh high) but after rappers have been talking shit about groupies for YEARS, you have to think turnabout is fair play. Maybe next time an MC thinks about penning yet another ode to their sexual prowess, they'll think twice and decide that maybe it's smarter to STFU and not invite a former lover to set the record straight. Frankly, after hearing Nas' "Remember the Times," I want to see what Nasir's exes have to say about it.

  • iPod? Meet iBod.

  • On the tech tip (and just to be self-congratulatory), blog readership is up 57% for 2004, with roughly 32,000,000+ readers nationally. What's an even more amazing statistic to me is that 8,000,000 people have created a blog. Just sit with that for a second.

  • I felt bad for how Cal lost their big game against Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl but after watching last night's Orange Bowl, it put it all in perspective. I mean, sucks to be the Bears, but we didn't remotely look as bad as the Sooners did.

  • Last but not least, me on Nas' Street's Disciple in the Seattle Weekly.

  • Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    TATTLE TALES

    (by Oliver)


    his confessions pale by comparsion

    Not like we're ones to gossip (ha ha, yeah, right) but this new Groupie Confessions feature in the new issue of Ozone Magazine (not affiliated with us, of course) is one of the most entertaining reads we've enjoyed in a long time. Take XXL's long-running first-person narratives on sex and then compare and contrast with what claims to be the real truth about rappers and their, um, bedroom manners. (Big up to Mr. Cheeks but 'Kiss apparently isn't the champ everywhere).

    There are some incredibly notable quotables all up in this piece but for the sake of the children, we're not going to reprint any.

    Ok, just one: "I think most rappers basically try to f**k b****s who are smart and try to keep them around so they can learn s***.".

    They'll show how to do this, son.


    PAZZ AND JOP REVISITED

    Ok, since everyone else is doing it:
    "Your Pazz & Jop albums ballot was submitted as follows:

    1. Kanye West - College Dropout - Roc-A-Fella (15 points)
    2. DJ Danger Mouse - The Grey Album - bootleg (15 points)
    3. Ghostface - The Pretty Toney Album - Def Jam (10 points)
    4. De La Soul - The Grind Date - Sanctuary (10 points)
    5. Nas - Street's Disciple - Sony (10 points)
    6. Cam'ron - Purple Haze Bootleg - bootleg (5 points)

    Your Pazz & Jop singles ballot has been recorded as follows:

    1. Young Gunz - "Friday Night" - Roc-A-Fella
    2. Fabulous - "Breathe" - Atlantic
    3. Jadakiss - "Why?" - Ruff Ryders
    4. Pitbull - "Culo" - TVT
    5. Federation - "Hyphy" - Virgin
    6. Cam'ron - "Get 'Em Girls" - Roc-a-Fella
    7. Common - "The Food" - bootleg
    8. Snoop Dogg - "Drop It Like It's Hot" - Doggstyle
    9. DJ Day - "What Planet, What Station" - Milk Crate
    10. Slim Thug - "Still Tippin" - Swishahouse


    Alas, that singles list has a few titles that I would have swapped in or out in a heartbeat. But fellas!
    "99 Problems" and "Run" came out in 2003, technically speaking. Just saying!

    I'd post up my submitted comments but hey, we should have some suspense, yes?


    By the way, just to show that I didn't forget - Pop Life still thinks the BCS is a terrible system (just ask Auburn later this week) but we have to give credit to both Texas and Texas Tech for their impressive wins this last week. As for Cal? Rodgers is off to the draft, Tedford's coming back and we basically embarassed ourselves on national television. As my friend joked, "well, I'll just go back to rooting for Berkeley as an academic institution."

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    "Clinton is the Prez but I Voted For Shirley Chisholm"

    (by Oliver)


    Two of America's most notable lawmakers of color passed away yesterday.
    Shirley Chisholm, age 80.
    Robert Matsui, age 63.

    Saturday, January 01, 2005

    WHAT TO READ

    (by Oliver)

    THE OZONE

  • MSN Filter - Music
    my "day" job blog new!
  • soul sides
    world famous audioblog (or so I say)
  • notes on the run
    my writing portfolio
  • pick a camera
    my amateur photo portfolio
  • ella's page
    we made this
  • the ozone
    back to homepage


    BLOG FAM

  • Sharon Mizota's Yello Kitty
    my better (and smarter) half
  • Jeff Chang's Zentronix
    the godfather of Asian American writer/DJ/scholars (all three of us)
  • Hua Hsu's to here knows where
    without a doubt, the coolest grad student at Harvard, ever
  • Jon Caramamanica's Broken Language
    the tologist without the derma
  • Sasha Frere-Jones' S/FJ
    he makes the rest of us feel unworthy
  • Nebur's World
    don't hate him because he's an attorney
  • Julianne Shepherd's Cowboyz 'n' Poodles
    taking NYC by storm
  • Junichi Semitsu's The Pnut House
    wacky or witty? both!
  • Audrey Le's Damn
    DJ, artist, maker of hip-hop wallets, 'nuff said
  • J.H. Tompkins' Extreme Measures
    to the extreme, he rocks a blog like a vandal
  • Mizcat's The Kitty Litter
    the cat's meow
  • Jay Smooth's Hiphopmusic.com
    smooth is rugged like slave man boots
  • Danyel Smith's Naked Cartwheels
    one of the godmothers of contemporary hip-hop journalism
  • Mark Anthony Neal's New Black Man
    t.n.i. for life
  • Joseph Schloss' Soul Imperialist
    universal magnetic b-boy intellectual


    POP PURRI

  • Nick Barat's Catchdubs
    hollertronix ya'll
  • Ian Steaman's Different Kitchen
    chopping it up like a master chef
  • 1115.com
    politic ditto
  • Filmbrain
    international film junkie
  • Kris' Contagious? Outrageous!
    life, music and everything in between
  • Michaelangelo Matos' Schmusic
    music obsessive, the sequel
  • 15 Minutes to Live
    still royal
  • Chris Ryan's Chauncey Billups
    young chris' basketball blog
  • Uncle Grambo's Whatevs.org
    gossip whore extraordinaire



    RAP PAGES

  • David Drake's so sinsurr
    never insecurr with his opinions
  • Funkdigital.com
    getting digi with it
  • Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage
    recyclable wisdom
  • Hip Hop Blogs
    pretty much what the title says
  • SOHH Blogs
    the mash out posse
  • Clyde Smith's Prohiphop.com
    the rap business
  • Rawj's Pacific Standard
    rap news and issues from the yay and beyond
  • Robbie Ettelson's Tribute to Ignorance
    hip-hop interivews, features, and more

    MEDIA FOR THE MASSES
  • angryasianman.com
    like the brother I never had
  • The Blueprint
    media-junkie
  • Margaret Cho
    doesn't she have a day job?
  • Google News
    good place as any to start
  • Hyphen's Blog
    No AZN speak here
  • Philip Sherburne
    I always want to call him Sherbert 'cause he's got so much flavor
  • Pickin' Boogers
    more links than a gold chain
  • Gizmodo
    for tech geeks like me
  • Engadget
    ditto


    STARTING TO READ

  • Andrea Chiu's Foxymoron
    at the very least, I just like the name
  • Adisa Banjoko's Holla at a Scholar
    lyrical swords swing
  • Promocopy
    more about the world of music PR then you'd ever really want to know