Wednesday, March 31, 2004
The great Vince Beiser on the 10th anniversary of Three Strikes.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:02 AM
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Sorry I left ya.
I was in L.A. with the crew doing work for the National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Got to meet Mark Marcelo at the Designs on Democracy conference. Then my computer crashed. (Thanks Ikuko for the fix!)
AI...goodbye John Stevens. Latoya was cool but not blazing. Jasmine, Fantasia, and George ripped it. Amy is over her head. I get Diane now and I know why I'm not digging her--she's maaad corny. I'm still pulling hard for Camille and Jennifer. Even my own house ain't feeling me on this but I think they are the two originals in this crew. Anyway they're bonafide longshots now, nuff reason for me to champion the cause.
Which reminds me: Down with Doook, the Vitale of Final 4 teams--loud, overrated, obnoxious.
PLUG THREE LOVES BUDDY
I'll be up at UConn (Go Huskies--men's & women's!) on the night after the Championship (April 6th for you non-hoopers) for a Hip-Hop Roundtable Discussion with:
Jeffrey Ogbonna Ogbar, UConn Professor of History
Elizabeth Mendez Berry, writer for the Village Voice and Vibe
Joseph Schloss, Musicology Professor at Tufts and author of the forthcoming Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
If you're in the area code, holla...
posted by Zentronix @ 9:33 PM
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Yeah! Matt Cibula does haikus
for American Idol.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:51 PM
Monday, March 22, 2004
Aight yall. Another night of book-editing then I'm filing and disappearing for the rest of the week.
In LA to hang with my man Brian Cross, whose movie "Keepintime" is now out on DVD--not just a must-see, but a must-own--and to do some work on the National Hip-Hop Political Convention. More on the hypeness of both these projects down the line, I promise.
In the meantime, if you're in the Yay this weekend, don't forget that we'll be putting it down at the Designs on Democracy conference this weekend. And please run come show ya luv for Aya De Leon on her closing weekend at the Oakland Box.
More word the heard next week...In the meantime, come round and enjoy the people and content to the left. Always to the left, yall...
posted by Zentronix @ 6:18 PM
Friday, March 19, 2004
Thanks to mad editing at a furious pace I've set for myself, I'm very late on this fascinating post from Jay Smooth, Hip-Hop Blogs: Blind to Gender Issues? picking up from Lizelle at Paper Thin Philosophies. Wish my brain weren't so fried right now that I could add a penny or two. Lots of good stuff...
posted by Zentronix @ 3:06 PM
MAKE SOME NOISE
My old boss Bob Wing on Bush's lying lies. If you don't have a book to turn in on Monday, try to get out in the streets this weekend.
*Next week I'll be facilitating a workshop on Hip-Hop Culture in Activist Design at the Designs on Democracy conference in Berkeley. The conference runs from March 26-28. All you free-thinking artists, aerosolists, graphic designers, and visual art-loving folks please come on out to meet, cipher, and build!
*I'm mad humbled to have been asked to be a part of this star-studded AZN panel, Music Journalism 101 - The Asiatic Remix on April 1 in San Jose. The twisted hip-hop wit of the South Bay (who nonetheless gets crushed in the March Madness brackets every year), Todd Inoue, will be moderating, and the crew includes: Oliver Wang, Marian Liu, and Yoshi Kato.
Farewell Billy Donovan. Roll, Heels, roll. More a soon come. Back to the edit...
posted by Zentronix @ 8:52 AM
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
SFJ defends Timbaland from the bloggerati. Includes a pretty good description of dancehall --> Timbaland --> dancehall debts. Although the reference shouldn't be to Lenky, an original, but maybe Corleon instead. I also gotta say that this piece has made me embarrassed at this fact: what Tim is to SFJ, SFJ's criticism has become to this blog. I cried when I wrote this post, sue me.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:27 AM
Apologies for the slow updating. Caught in the midst of final-final drafts, National Hip-Hop Political Convention bizness, getting ready for March Madness, and enjoying the best episode of American Idol ever. My cup runneth over, I don't know what to do.
Let me talk about American Idol. This last thing is the kind of pop event that get music crits like us excited. I imagine there will actually be some buzz amongst our cooler-than-thou bloggerati before this is all over.
There's a depth to this year's class that is intriguing. Execs must be licking their chops because contracts here can easily go 4-5 deep beyond the winner. The talent is that rich. Randy and Paula are already running out of platitudes.
The episode also gave me a new appreciation for Simon Cowell. I disagreed again with his "oversinging" critique--how do you "restrain" yourself on an Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan number? More to the point, I haven't heard the useless Aguilerian melismatics of last year's class. When someone like Jennifer Hudson runs a phrase, she's running a phrase and you better fuckin pay attention.
He made that comment in the middle of the show at Jennifer Hudson's expense--a pattern, dude really doesn't like her, which I suspect goes back to his body-image issues. And it was wrong to make that comment after hearing Latoya and Fantasia belting out their numbers as well.
But Cowell has a logic--a contrarian logic that wants to turn the attention to separating the field. These are all great singers, Simon was saying, now how do we distinguish between who's really good and who is just good? Again, a critic's ear. Can't be mad at that.
So John Stevens, the 16 year-old going on 64, comes up and does a sappy rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Lately", sub-sub-Norah Jones, effortless but emotionless. Now I really hate this dude's aesthetic--this kid is to Stevie Wonder what Elvis was to Chuck D. But you gotta hand it to him, the kid has come to the competition with an aesthetic. Simon, to be consistent, calls him "an artist". Hyperbole once again, but at least Simon is defending his position.
Here's hoping John Stevens, Fantasia, and Jennifer will force the rest of the field to develop their own aesthetic, which would be a great thing for Cowell and us critics: Let's not just talk about who is good or who has the potential to be good, let's start talking about what is good.
*Fantasia's idiosyncratic take on Stevie Wonder was brilliant. Her voice is so interesting I wouldn't mind seeing her sing the theme from Barney the Dinosaur.
*Jennifer Hudson, not Fantasia, is the "new Aretha"--power, control, phrasing, narrative. Thankfully she'll never take Cowell's "oversinging" critique too seriously, because she knows what she has. Unlike any singer who has ever appeared on American Idol, Jennifer approaches a song with the careful method and the calculation of a true jazz singer, and she has the talent to sing circles around most of the top-selling professionals right now. Someone please get her together with Andy Bey so we can see the sparks fly.
*LaToya London and Jasmine Trias can sang and have that X factor, and being that they rep Oakland and Mililani respectively (plus LaToya's a mom and Jasmine long-boards!) I'm rooting hard for them. But we still haven't seen who they really are yet. Luckily they'll be in for the long run.
*George Huff is far too happy for me, but Simon is right--he's clueless to how good he is. In fact, his stage presence was absolutely Otis Redding, and he's got an early Marvin Gaye charm. But he has shown no edge whatsoever (something his back-story hints at). He wants so much to please the crowd that the thing he hasn't copped to yet is his own grittiness. Like Marvin, he might become an incredible recording star with the right music and a lot of drama. But you'd never want to see him on tour, because he'd speed up all the slow jams so he could dance around to them in silk shirts.
*Jon Peter Lewis has no idea who he wants to sing like yet--he changes styles sometimes three times in the same verse. He's the one Simon should be accusing of "oversinging". His performances have no flow or consistency. But he's also an original, completely at home in his skin. That's probably what distinguishes this class--previous groups wanted to please the judges, and played it safe--these folks are unafraid to do themselves.
*That's why Leah and Camile are hurting right now. In a field of folks that are already halfway to becoming full-blown artists, they've got to step up and show some confidence and personality on-stage. Leah's got a moving backstory but hasn't found anything approaching her voice yet. She's become very stiff at the mic.
*Neither has our household's personal favorite, Camile, who is suffering from Haiku-to-Hollywood shell-shock. Camille, we know the feeling girl. We love you. Hold your head and deliver that Lauryn Hill funk like we all want you to. Maybe do some Marley or Bruddah Iz or something. Go for it.
*Amy would be cool to have lunch with, but you wouldn't want to have her drive you home and have to listen to all those sappy ballads on her "quiet storm" station.
*Matt would be great to have a beer with, but you'd want to leave the karaoke bar early before the whole team got really drunk.
*Diana DiGarmo I just don't get yet.
Ok my 10-minute blogging period is up for today...
posted by Zentronix @ 8:13 AM
Monday, March 15, 2004
HOW TO PISS OFF STUPID WHITE PUBLISHERS
Inspiration comes in the form of the irrepressibly brilliant Billy UPSKI Wimsatt who next week, as part of his latest League of Pissed-Off Voters campaign will unleash a ticking election-year timebomb: How To Get Stupid White Men Out Of Office. Can't hardly wait!
Today also brought news that the publication of the book has enraged the legal beagles at Harper-Collins.
Remember them? They're the spineless folks who threatened to pulp Michael Moore's book, Stupid White Men after 9/11, enraging Moore himself, who then organized librarians to force H-C to release the book. Whereupon the damn thing became a bestseller, selling over a million copies and influencing young activists! (Moral of the story: never fuck with librarians.)
So H-C turns around and clocks Billy and his crew with a cease-and-desist order--NOTE: see Willie, they are not cool! Moore now remarks, "It is kind of strange that a publisher that first tried to squash my book is now trying to defend their economic interest now that it is a best seller. And they apparently doing it by trying to squash another book."
May How To Get Stupid White Men Out of Office sell a gazillion copies. Do your part next week by buying 2 copies and giving one to a homie.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:52 PM
YEAR OF THE MONKEY, PART XX
The Monkey doesn't like liars in power.
In Spain, young and alienated voters pushed voter turnout to 77%, and they voted overwhelmingly for the Socialists.
More on Spain's stunning turn (i.e, what the NY Times, Fox, or your shitty local corporate newspaper won't tell you):
**"Our Dead, Your War"
**New Spanish Leader Lashes Out At Bush and Blair Over Iraq War
**"The Spark That Set The Prairie Afire" (In Spanish...you can translate here.)
Meanwhile, the US counterspin is in full swing--note this piece from, yup, USA Today, in which "homeland security consultant" (what a ridiculous title) Randall Larsen comments, ""This event rivals 9/11 in terms of a victory for al-Qaeda."
(For balance, the writer also offers a quote from the supposedly liberal Brookings Institution.)
But the stupidity of this argument is patently clear.
90% of Spaniards have barely tolerated Aznar and the Popular Party's pro-Bush, pro-war stance from the beginning. But they may not have turned against the Popular Party so dramatically if the PP did not leap to blame the ETA. In other words, by playing politics with the blame game, they made the war on terrorism the last minute campaign issue, as opposed to the terrorism itself. Spanish voters punished the PP government for lying to them twice.
It was a campaign blunder of colossal proportions, with consequences that utterly shake the Bush and Blair administrations from the bottom up.
Instead of drawing Europeans closer into the war on terrorism as they had hoped, the Popular Party's blunder draws more attention to the uncertainty and instability that terrorism creates, rather than the stability that the war on it supposedly fosters. It has the ironic effect of empowering truth-telling doves, not agenda-hammering hawks.
Surely the Bushites and Blairites are deeply upset about all this--and we can expect that their counterspin, as in the above article, will be in full-court press mode for this whole week. By the end of the week, expect some counter-counterspin from the rest of Europe.
ADDENDUM: As for the timing of the bombing, there is one line of inquiry that believes it may have had nothing to do with the elections at all. Message boards have been buzzing with the numerological significance of 3/11/04, coming 911 days after 9/11/01.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:12 AM
Friday, March 12, 2004
DADDY TURN IT OFF!
A really touching post from Simon Reynolds describing his son's inability to stand M/A/R/R/S or house. Needless to say, I can totally relate to this--what happens when the stuff you love becomes a parental/generational tool of torture?
Probably Simon would agree with me that the kids not only listen differently, they listen harder than we ever did. I mean, I not only tolerated Pablo Cruise and England Dan and John Ford Coley when I was 7, I loved 'em. Yup, hip-hop saved me in more ways than I can ever say.
My boys demand their favorite song be played over and over every day on the way to and from school, whether it be "Milkshake" or "Callin' Out". Their current big tunes: Serge Gainsbourg's "Des Laids Des Laids" and Parliament's "Give Up The Funk". And no, I don't know how...!
posted by Zentronix @ 7:49 AM
Thursday, March 11, 2004
WILLIE HUNG, GANGSTA
Whoa! No sooner do we give up the love for whom-we-thought-was-our-boy William Hung, then BLAMMO homie sends his pencil-neck lawyer goons with cease-and-desist orders. So much for feeling the underdog love tonight, huh, Lil' Hungster? Just don't have Mr. Boalt Law Degree, Esq. racking up too many hours poring over your 2-page $25,000 contract. He'll be taking more than you'll ever be making and you'll be back to singing "Like A Virgin" in the J-Town bars. Rrrrrrrrr-ah!
posted by Zentronix @ 7:52 AM
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?
Ladies love cool William Hung. And so do we.
Thanks to Angry Asian Man--who I must point out to some of you is not Oliver or me, but his own bad self!--for the link.
And while you're at it, put some money in my fam's pockets by buying a limited-edition No Regrets T-shirt! That's right. We'll sell anything.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:32 AM
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Evelyn McDonnell & Nicole White expose Miami and Miami Beach police department efforts to profile rappers.
Here's a taste:
"Officers say they have photographed rappers as they arrived at Miami International Airport. They stake out hotels, nightclubs and video shoots. They consult a six-inch-thick black binder of every rapper and member of his or her group with an arrest record in the state of New York. The binder begins with a photo and rap sheet of Grammy-nominated rapper 50 Cent. It ends with Ja Rule. "
Also, today is the anniversary of Biggie's passing. My man Cheo Hodari Coker has penned what will probably be the final word on Biggie's life and death, and it hits the stands today.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:57 PM
Monday, March 08, 2004
THE CASE FOR THE SHIELD
Oh, so much easier than Nader. First, here's Oliver's, uh, right-on-the-money take.
I'm a fan of police procedurals, probably owing to the fact that I grew up around detectives and the HPD, and I don't know of any TV show that's captured the politics of policing quite like The Shield has.
Oliver's spoken about the acting and the characters a bit--to which I'd only add that the show's take on masculinity is as nuanced as anything since, say, Scorcese's "Raging Bull" and "Good Fellas".
No Lethal Weapon/Law and Order hey-buddy stuff here. Aside from Mackey, whose complexity alone should set off a flotilla of cultural-studies readings, there's Shane's father-adoration of Mackey, Dutch's desperate loneliness and self-loathing, Aceveda's sense of destiny and entitlement, and Julien's complicated black gay male denial. In itself, this makes The Shield one of the most eye-opening shows ever to hit a network.
The series also has a lot to say about 21st century policing. When it debuted, the model for the Strike Team (which remains the driving narrative force of the show) was clearly Rampart Divisions's sick corrupt CRASH unit. Farmington is clearly a composite of the Pico-Union/Westlake 'hood around Macarthur Park.
Aceveda, a Chicano, has city-council ambitions--after all, his district has become largely Latino in the last decade--so he must deal directly with the tides of pressures exerted from above. This may take the form of an independent audit, pressure to add a person of color to the Strike Team, and most importantly, Mackey and Aceveda's show-to-show haggling over what the new price of corruption will be.
The upshot is that Aceveda leaves Mackey largely autonomous if he can deliver high-profile or high-quantity busts. Mackey works the interstices of official policy, between the statistical reports that the politicians demand and the constantly changing, always profitable forms of criminal (often ethnic) enterprise being developed on the street. Honorable, ethical cops like Claudette Wyms are marginalized in this kind of a system.
This is exactly what police reform opponents have been talking about for years. No one will deny that police are often outgunned and outflanked. The potential for corruption erupts at every corner. But the solution to corruption is to reform a culture that continually rewards the gamers. Time and again, it's been shown that the ultimate result of that style of command is the gangsterization of policing itself.
In any case, answers are not simple. Here is where The Shield becomes timeless. Since the rise of television, LAPD has been the epitome of the complexities and contradictions of modern policing, and indeed its representations--from Dragnet on through--reflect the changing generational consensus about such policing.
(An aside: it would be interesting to see someone develop a show based on the New Orleans police department...)
The Shield captures the good, and the mostly bad and ugly, without blinking sentimentality, what we want and need these days. Forget Starsky and Hutch. It's all about Wyms and Mackey this spring. Check it out tomorrow.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:31 AM
THE CASE FOR RALPH
So great is the urgency to burn Bush, that a new coalition of the pissed-off has begun: Nader haters. In Brooklyn, Ian asks, "Why?" Uptown, Hertzberg begs, "Leave".
But let's be real. If the left is to have any chance of flipping Kerry's flops, there has to be a credible candidate pulling him towards all the Edwards populists, Deaniac warriors, and Kucinich peaceniks. I don't think Nader will be any better on race than he's been in the past. In every other instance, Nader may at least help keep Kerry honest, even if nothing is going to challenge the DLC's "moderate" grip on the party any time soon. So bring Nader on, please.
Meanwhile, I'm sort of warming to cold cold Kerry. More this week.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:05 AM
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Proof again that great music inspires lots of great writing: Johnny Ray Huston on Arthur Russell.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:21 AM
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
LOCAL GIRLS ROCK, PART 2
A great year for Pinay divas from Hawai'i, yeah? Ho brah, my heart beats with pride. Give it up for Maryknoll girl, Jasmine Trias. Also glad to hear our favorite, Jennifer Hudson, will be back next week in the Wild Card competition.
So yeah I know an election went on yesterday. But who really cares about Kerry? As opposed to beating Bush? Give me a week to get over my cynicism.
If you're in Urbana/Champaign this weekend, holla.
Next week: More Idol, and the return of The Shield.
One of these days, much less TV and much more editing.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:20 PM
READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Special issue of Boldtype! , an email newsletter on books, featuring music stuff---including Philip Sherburne on Love Saves The Day, my ever-Blazin' Julianne Shepherd on my man, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, Melissa Maerz, Ira Robbins, other great books and great critics, and your boy on Michael Thelwell's The Harder They Come.
posted by Zentronix @ 1:53 PM
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
A good piece by James Best on Andre 3000 and Jay-Z, in, of all places, the East Bay Express, the New Times rag that pays Matt King far too much money and all its other staffers far too little. (Rrrrrrrrrr-ah!) James Best did the great piece last year on John Walker Lindh's move from hip-hop to the Taliban.
posted by Zentronix @ 6:05 PM
Sorry about taking down the excerpt from the Jamaica chapter yall but I get back (hopefully) final edits from SMP today and I was feeling all self-conscious and shit. Plus, nobody wants to read long posts that aren't off-the-chain rants anyway.
More importantly, it's Super Tuesday. Vote early and vote Kucinich yall, the only candidate who has taken young people of color seriously.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:18 AM
Where do I send my check for the SFJ fan club? Here he is on Arthur Russell in The New Yorker. What? The New Yorker. (Thanks to Matos W.K for the link.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:10 AM
Monday, March 01, 2004
Blog post of the week!
posted by Zentronix @ 9:21 PM
LIKE, VOTING ROCKS
It's so nice to know that Harvard baby boomers, like, really care about us, dude.
posted by Zentronix @ 5:57 PM
THE CASE OF JAMAICA IN THE 70s
So here's an excerpt from Chapter 2, "Sipple Out Deh: Jamaica's Roots Generation and the Cultural Turn". It talks about how what I call the experience of Jamaica's "roots generation" was prophetic in many ways of the hip-hop generation.
Anyway the point of comparison with Haiti of last week: Aid and loans are the carrot the U.S. uses to keep the Caribbean in line, embargos and destabilization--usually through street thuggery--are the stick. The results are all too predictable. Instability is the rule, not the exception.
Read it today! I may have to take this down soon!
[snip...sorry it's gone!]
posted by Zentronix @ 9:28 AM
micah holmquist with a wealth of links on the foreign policies of the "Aristide of the U.S." (!!!) and Haiti's past. I'm thinking I may post short parts of my book chapter on Jamaica. U.S. foreign policy in the Caribbean has been surprisingly consistent--consistently horrible, that is--over the last century. Roots, dub, and dancehall have offered street-level proof at every turn...
posted by Zentronix @ 7:58 AM
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