Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The Best Hunter Thompson Tribute Ever
From my homie Chris Kaye, who just gets it on that whole other level. Thank you, Chris.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:57 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
New Yorker review!
I'm fighting a stomach virus, so I'm sorry but you'll have to wait on updates. But this and this is certainly helping!
posted by Zentronix @ 12:39 PM
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Week 2: Wind Me Up!
Me and the Godfather of Go-go Chuck Brown down at WPGC!
All the details on week 2 coming soon...
posted by Zentronix @ 6:22 PM
Rap From The Real Frontlines
A very moving article by the incredible reporter Monica Davey who has been covering the soldier's beat in Iraq and here at home, on rap as the music of the War In Iraq.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:19 AM
Monday, February 14, 2005
Week 1 Is Done
Whew folks, whatta week, and not in expected ways. It was an emotional roller coaster. Two members of my extended family suddenly passed away as I was going out to do the damn thing. I think they shed great light and luck on me, though, because all the dates to date have been spectacularly good.
First things first--in just one week, I've reconnected with so many old friends I'd fallen out of touch with over 10 or more years. Old roommates came from far and wide to hang! I'm talking Minneapolis, Austin, Los Angeles, and Livermore. Folks I really cared about a lot and whom I often wondered if I'd ever see again. Thank God for the internet. Or Al Gore. If the haters shut this tour down tomorrow, it's all good.
But they won't, cause the other thing that's happening is this unbelievable outpouring of support. It's incredibly gratifying to be able to bring some of these stories out into the world and see how they touch and move people. I don't want to attempt to imitate Chuck D's call for 5000 leaders, but I honestly and really do hope that I am able to catalyze other storytellers who can tell their own stories and the many others that desperately need to be told.
2/8, Fat Tuesday kickoff in San Francisco:
The Element Lounge rocked. It's a great venue and definitely worth peeping. Lourdes and Kristina secured great food from Tu Lan for our reception. The extended fam was in the house and extra loud and proud. The sudden reappearence of my college roommates were the night's rock-shocker. I still haven't recovered! Mike and Kristina sold mad t-shirts. The books sold out before 9pm. My friends at Media Alliance got maaaaaad love in the donations dept. And if right-wing terrorists had put a stink bomb in the club, the media would have been much less progressive for a day--hip-hop and celeb journalists from wall-to-wall!
When the crowd's energy waned about 11pm, Lyrics Born declared, "OK, now I got enough alcohol in me" and proceeded to Eddie Cheeba the crowd into a hands-in-the-air frenzy. Luckily he kept his pants on this time. Icewater, Cool Chris, and the extra brilliant Tomas Palermo left me so hyphy that I forgot to do a reading. Yo Lateef, hope them mooncakes were worth it!
2/9, Cody's in Berkeley on Telegraph:
There's no place like home. Mad Changs, Cal-SERVE, Students For Hip-Hop and South Berkeley crew in the house! Really hard questions from a crowd that ranged in age from 16 to 64. The Cody's staff was wonderful, and let us linger for a long time after the event talking Berkeley stuff. The oh-my-god moment of the night: being at the podium upstairs, looking out at a ton of friends who are pretty much the best and brightest in the progressive movement in the Bay Area, and then looking up for a second and seeing large framed pictures of Alice Walker and Angela Davis and folks like that. Given that momentary overwhelming sense of puniness, I think I was able to maintain some composure. Yes, I was far from Kanye Westing it.
2/10, MACLA in San Jose
There's also no place like San Jose. If you didn't know, now you know: S-A-N J-O-S-E is the S-H-I-T! The crew and crowd at MACLA showed enough love for a decade of Valentine's days. Public Allies opened with a b-girl/b-boy routine that got everyone really hyped. More long-lost roommates! We got to show old Bronx video on Tommy's dope makeshift screen. Golden Child straight killed it on the 1s and 2s. Everyone I met I wanted to have hour-long conversations with. We sold all the books and went home with promises to do it again very soon.
2/11, in Los Angeles:
DJ Kool Herc says rain was always a good sign for him. It was storming Friday afternoon at my second alma mater, but we had a great time. Shout out to Tony Silver (Style Wars) and Lee Ballinger and Black Rose (Rock and Rap Confidential) for coming through. Big thank you to Benji Chang, Irene Soriano, Marji Lee and all Asian American Reading Room employees past and present and the APC staff for always going beyond the call. Thanks also to the German A/V guy who interrupted my talk to let me and everyone else in the room know I was about to go over time and that he pretty much wanted to go home.
Divine Forces Radio
Fidel, Ruben, Icey Ice, Counter Stryke (with a Y), and everyone from the KPFK crew got it going on, folks. Big shout also to Aziatic Rhythms and Denizen Kane. Fidel had Luis Rodriguez on to speak about the fact that his classic autobiography/gang peace inspirational, Always Running, has been banned from schools in Santa Barbara. In my outrage and star-struckedness, I gave Luis my personal reading copy by accident.
It was fundraising week, so I threw down 100 bones and we got three matching donations. The thing is, I would have loved to raise a lot more for them. Fidel is one of the most politically sharp, engaging radio personalities anywere in the country. In light of the way the ongoing Hot 97 fallout continues to deteriorate into reductionistic Asian v. Black v. Asian thinking (see comments in the entry below), despite my best efforts to try to turn the discussion in a different direction, I appreciate folks like Fidel, Weyland, Anita, and Davey so much more.
2/12, LA Release Party:
So I went back the next day to Luis's cafe cultural Tia Chucha's to exchange books, met Victor and talked about doing something there in March, peeped all the great programs they were running, and came out with a stack of great road reading.
Then I got up to Imix, run by Fidel's partner, Sol. Along with Tia Chucha's, this has got to be one of the best bookstores I've ever been to--Sol has a knack for getting exactly the kinds of titles--whether hip-hop, political, cultural, art--that make you tremble when you hold them in your hands. I'd never seen or heard of half the books in there, and I thought I knew my books, so I had to hide my wallet from myself before I spent my entire food budget there.
Jennifer brought yummy food for everyone. Many long-lost friends came through, my cousin Ryan rolled through thick with his UCSD street gang, Kyle and L.A. mean-mugged me from the corner, Arash brought by sick Bush-Major Threat and Prince Jammy shirts, Ruben captured it all on DV, Ben Higa declined to state, Kristina and Mike represented with the 0rigin/Can't Stop shirts and brought the Bay vibe down. Erica brought down the great Ariel Fernandez Diaz from Cuba (folks, he's at Thirty Three And A Third, talking about the Cuban Hip-Hop Movement on Saturday). I heard that lots of folks left because it was too crowded. I'm really sorry about that--I promise I'll come back down to Imix soon.
Egon had to leave before spinning because we ran really late and he had to get to his next gig. But B+ got about 3 records in and chilled really hard, Mike Nardone rocked about 10 or so (after missing my great tribute to him), and out of nowhere, a bearded J-Rocc swooped in with his needles and a crate of goodies to bring the house down. When he left, he took his needles with him and we wound down.
Oh, so I did the reading thing too a little bit before that, and at the end of that, an older white gentleman in a blue blazer and red v-neck sweater stood up in the middle of the crowd to say that he really enjoyed the book and thought it was quite scholarly, but that he was disappointed there wasn't more about the west coast. I thanked him and apologized. I told him that there were actually at least 3 chapters on the west coast, including a whole chapter on Straight Outta Compton and a whole chapter on Death Certificate. I then told him what I really think: I never intended this to be a definitive history--I could never write a definitive history, and that he had a good point. He nodded his head and began to wax poetic about the comparative gangsta aesthetics of Public Enemy and NWA. By this point, everyone in the room was bugging out and wondering who he was. "Oh, by the way", he said, "my name is Jerry Heller."
Week 2 begins in 12 hours. Hooooweee.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:49 PM
Monday, February 07, 2005
How To Cop The Quannum/CSWS Mixtape
Alright funk fans, you've been hearing about it for weeks. Some of yall have heard it on Bay Area hip-hop radio and been bugging out. Some of yall have even been sprung on the Realplayer snippets.
You've been patient. The wait is finally over.
Tomorrow when the Can't Stop For Nothing Tour begins, you can finally cop your very own Quannum/Can't Stop Won't Stop Mixtape. It's called Can't Stop Won't Stop: The Next Lesson and it's produced by me, mixed by DJ D-Sharp and DJ Icewater, features the voices of the pioneers, readings by the Quannum fam, rare records (Ghetto Brothers, nuff said), and some previews.
You've never heard a mixtape like this. Here's how you can get it.
1) Holla: Come on out to a Can't Stop For Nothing Tour date and either purchase or bring your purchased copy to your boy. I'll personally break you off with a smile.
If you're not able to make those dates, here are two other ways:
2) Keep your ear to the ground: Wait for word from Quannum.com or SoleSides.com on how you might be able to score a copy.
3) Support the indies: Our good friends at The Giant Peach and Turntable Lab are offering special packages of the book or even the book and a (hush, cause we're not even ready to blow this up yet) limited 0rigin/Can't Stop t-shirt and throwing in the Mixtape. They may even be offering a few on the side, who knows?
For The Next Lesson, we're going back to the way we did this little cassette we called Radio Sole one time long ago, and well, like the brother says, the rest is history.
UPDATE: Fresh news: As part of a three-day focus on Can't Stop Won't Stop next week, Hard Knock Radio will be featuring a whole day on the Mixtape. They'll be playing large excerpts of it on the last day of the series, February 18. For all the specifics, including webcast info, check the Dates page!
posted by Zentronix @ 8:28 PM
Hot 97: Why Asian Americans Are Pissed And What We Should Do About It
We have so little room in American society for intelligent discussions about racism, difference, and what a better world could look like. Sometimes you get so angry at the way things are that a catalytic moment comes along and allows you to pour it all out. Half-formed discussions are forced to the surface, with caustic intensity.
The tsunami song was moronically, even horrifically bad. But I think even more rankling to many Asian Americans was an exchange that followed the airing of the song one morning two weeks ago when morning show personality Minya "Miss Info" Oh voiced an objection. The host Miss Jones retorted: "You feel superior, probably because you're Asian." Co-host Todd Lynn added that he would start shooting Asians.
Asian Americans first have to recognize that some African Americans see some truth in Miss Jones' comeback. The station has received many calls of support for Miss Jones. And often we maintain what UC Irvine Professor Jared Sexton calls "racial innocence", a disinterest in recognizing and addressing the fact that real and material differences do exist between African Americans and Asian Americans.
To be real, though, it's not always the case that Asians are "above" Blacks; the differences are complicated, often localized, historic in nature, and deserving of very careful, nuanced thought. It's the peculiarly pernicious strength of white racism that it always seems to find ways to turn such differences into points of conflict. We need to be real about these differences, recognize and respect them, and join to bridge them, otherwise they tend to gather and explode. This is the lesson that many of us who remember the 1992 Los Angeles riots learned.
Back then, Asian American thinkers like Mari Matsuda and Sumi Cho were warning us that "racist love" for a perceived model minority was making it possible that Asians could become a "racial bourgeoisie", that we might in fact become a source of reversal to the movement for racial justice. (Michelle Malkin and Dinesh D'Souza, report for duty.) At the same time, some African American so-called community leaders unfairly and irresponsibly painted us as scavengers and brutes. The tragic result was an all-too real body count in inner cities across the U.S.—African Americans, usually customers, on one side, and Korean and Southeast Asian American, usually storekeepers, on the other—lives taken because of moronic, horrific ideas.
Things have thankfully changed for the better in many places. In particular, Asian American community organizations such as CAAAV in the Bronx and KIWA in Los Angeles have worked hard to fight issues of police brutality and worker exploitation, and to institute interracial community and labor organizing strategies that win rights for Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. But the Hot 97 incident makes many of us worry that we've gone backwards. Miss Jones' acting "superior" accusation and Todd Lynn's "killing Asians" reaction were absolutely no joke.
Still, although Miss Jones is misled, she is not the criminal. Although Todd Lynn is a creep, he is not the criminal. Point the finger where it belongs.
As the Bush II-Cheney war-and-tax-cuts economy displaces millions of poor folk and people of color, racial tensions are sadly back on the rise, just as they were during the 80s under Reagan-Bush I. These conflicts divert us from dealing with the real problem: a racist, imperialist agenda to redistribute the wealth of the world to America's richest, and create more insecurity for everyone else. Our media contributes to the problem by shutting down voices that illuminate and propping up voices that denigrate. Outgoing FCC chair Michael Powell pushed for media deregulation that further narrowed the diversity of voices available to us.
Unfortunately, people who are supposedly on our side are also part of the problem. New York City Councilman John Liu has proposed forcing Hot 97's parent Emmis Communications to donate $10 million to tsunami relief, instead of the $1 million they have promised. (NOTE: THIS IS A CORRECTION. IN AN EARLIER ARTICLE I INCORRECTLY STATED THAT ASIAN MEDIA WATCH HAD MADE THIS DEMAND AND THAT LIU HEADED THE ORGANIZATION. ASIAN MEDIA WATCH IS SUPPORTIVE OF THE CALL BUT IS NOT RUN BY LIU.) But while more money to aid victims of the tsunami is certainly a good idea, the strategy does nothing to address the real problems of the media. Worse, it opens up some very real dangers for Asian Americans.
Asian Americans have constantly been misused and exploited by right-wingers, most notably in the efforts to shut down affirmative action and in the closing of real debate over urban policy before and after the riots. Liu's call for an increased penalty falls a little too neatly in line with the post-Nipplegate cultural conservative agenda to more heavily police the media and limit voices to those that fit their far-right politics. Given an opening, cult-cons would be all too happy to exploit Asian American concerns to destroy what's left of hip-hop, progressive, and community radio.
More to the point, calling for Emmis to donate more money is something like a Howard Stern solution—you don't like what I do, go ahead and fine me! Just as removing producers or personalities rarely changes the way a station sounds, penalties also clearly fail to force any substantive programming changes.
The real deal is that media monopolies have destroyed diversity of voice and diversity of programming, shutting down community affairs shows, firing beloved personalities, and dumbing down what we get on the airwaves. Urban radio is an extreme example of these trends—we get it worse than other communities because media monopolies believe we deserve less.
So forget the Stern solution. We don't need more money. We need to demand diversity and balance and intelligence. We want media justice.
Asian Americans must join with African Americans, Latinos, and hip-hop generation heads who are pushing for a moral and just stand—one which calls for both full representation of the diversity of our voices and full responsibility to serve our communities.
The stakes are high. Numerically, if we come together, we form a progressive majority. This was the promise of the Rainbow Coalition and the New York City mayoral candidacy of David Dinkins in the late 80s. Dinkins was indeed elected, but as Claire Jean Kim has noted, his progressive majority was knocked sideways by the long Flatbush boycott that divided Blacks and Asians, and it never recovered. The hip-hop generation cannot afford to make the same mistakes.
That's my rant.
DJ Kuttin Kandi, Afrika Bambaataa and Universal Zulu Nation, and a number of other prominent hip-hop activists have begun coming together to organize a Hip-Hop Coalition to push for media justice. For more information, contact DJ Kuttin Kandi at email@example.com.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:19 AM
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Goodies, Previews, and A Tribute To Billy Jam
This piece in the San Jose Mercury News is not only too kind, it's got sound clips of the interview with Billy Jam at KALX (showing why I'll never make it as a professional radio dude, unlike our boy, the proud new pappy O-Dub whose NPR-meets-Shaft voice makes ladies and babies swoon), plus short clips from the CSWS mixtape and even the Ghetto Brothers! Thank you, Nerissa.
Some minor thangs:
+ I met the crew at KDVS, not KALX where I also played reggae, African, jazz and Naked Raygun.
+ Bob Wing was my boss at ColorLines. So I wasn't the founding editor, just one of them. Nerissa corrected it! Wish all journalists were this good.
+ It was a bad-hair day. Well, every day is a bad-hair day. Sorry Gary!
+ Our boy Sasha is still a boy! Nerissa corrected it! Sasha has his manhood back.
(On an unrelated note, finally got that Sticker Shock post up that I've been promising for 2 months. Hey at least it wasn't four years.)
This show actually meant a whole lot to me, so it was beautiful to have Nerissa there to cover it. It was the first radio interview I did for the book. But also it was really real because I actually got my start in radio 20 years ago doing the cultural affairs show with KALX's Third World Department. So to be able to come back and do the thang with one of my oldest friends, Billy, was just off the meter.
Can I tell you about Billy? (I know Danyel could.) Back in the 80s, this dude was probably the first white guy I heard playing hip-hop on the radio, or maybe I should say the first white guy who was clearly white--Billy's got a wonderful Irish brogue to his voice that suits his devil-may-care attitude perfectly.
And the way he did it, boy. He had a show where he'd play Too Short uncensored, and all the underground groups you'd get at Leopold's on cassette with their little cartoons on them (think Snoop Dogg's "Doggystyle" cover) and he called everyone--his in-studio guests, his posse, the callers, the station management--biaaatches, usually but not always as a compliment.
The highlight of his show was always "Call-In Raps". He'd throw on a beat and then the phones would light up. Fools would call from all over the Bay to try to get on and rap their own schoolboy rhymes, usually but not always on beat with the record.
Sometimes fools would be so juiced to be on the air they wouldn't wait to be introduced, they'd just start spitting as soon as they were on the air. Hours of pure chaos over the airwaves. At some point he started calling his show "Hip-Hop Scud Attack". The Berkeley longhairs were not happy.
At some point they conspired to get him off the air. If I'm not mistaken, it was when he stuck a middle finger at the FCC and played Public Enemy's Fear of A Black Planet uncensored all the way through. This happened a few more times at a few more radio stations in almost exactly the same way. I remember Billy once said he'd been kicked out of almost every radio station in the Bay Area. Their loss.
For Billy's loyal fans, like me, we'd wait to see where he resurfaced--on pirate radio, on the web, on videos, on CDs. Along with Davey D, he was one of the first hip-hop journalists to emerge from the West Coast. These days, he's a one-man creative factory, churning out more incredible underground music and videos than anyone can imagine. And he is back at KALX, doing the Cultural Affairs show.
For me, he's sealed his place in the Legends of Bay Area Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:49 AM
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Bush, Faith, Gangs, And The Hip-Hop Generation
As reported on SOHH.com, President Bush used his State of the Union address to propose a faith-based anti-gang initiative that over three years will give hip-hop generation youths "better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail" and "will show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence."
He is not talking about anything new.
Gang peace work has always been an act of faith, of belief in a higher purpose. The peace that began in Watts in 1992 and took hold across Los Angeles after the riots led to an outpouring of peace movements across the country, and eventually set the conditions in place for Minister Farrakhan's epochal Million Man March. In Los Angeles, community-based organizations like the Community Self-Determination Institute and Homies Unidos have been translating faith into miracles for over a decade. But they have often encountered resistance rather than respect from police and politicians.
What is interesting about this initiative, if he and the First Lady are serious about it, is that it could mark a shift in generational politics.
The hip-hop generation has been victim first of the politics of abandonment, then of the politics of containment. Here is an attempt at assimilation. They're saying, we'll address the hip-hop generation by appealing to their spiritual selves.
If the progressive left was smart, they'd be shaking in their boots. Hip-hop is the next Kansas. Can you imagine a hip-hop/Republican rapprochement based on moral grounds? Clearly the smartest minds in the baby boomer right-wing are thinking two steps ahead of the baby boomer left.
But here's the essential bankruptcy in the Bush plan: Faith is necessary but not sufficient, especially faith dispensed from on high. For hip-hop generation youths caught in the cycle of violence, positive messages alone won't solve the problem. As Bush's tax cuts and war economics continue to make many youths of color expendable, the level of violence and desperation has been creeping back up in many inner cities. The hip-hop generation needs real jobs and resources in the neighborhoods, community-centered problem-solving, and a long-term commitment to their emotional, mental, and physical health. Anything less is bad faith.
In the meantime, someone kick some of these sleeping lefties in the head and tell them to stop playing their own politics of abandonment and containment with the hip-hop generation.
posted by Zentronix @ 3:08 PM
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
It Was A Good Day
Thank you Eric, thank you Kim, and thank you Todd. Wow, this is all kind of flabbergasting. IMHO, today was a good day for Bay Area alt-weeklies. Topping it all: in his cover story, Eric explains The Frontline and the New Bay shit. Happy reading!
posted by Zentronix @ 4:15 PM
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
...by the Peter Moon Band is playing on the iPod. It's the first day of this book's life, and wow, what a way to be born. Tonight, there will be a mention during MTV's Direct Effect of the book along with Martha Cooper and Akim Walta's superb Hip-Hop Files. It's a pretty heady, and humbling thing.
Speaking of humbling, did a great interview roundtable today with Farai Chideya, DJ Kool Herc, Traci Bartlow and William Randolph of the Black Resurgents. Farai wanted to do something and it seemed natural to focus on the links between the Bronx and Oakland street culture in the 70s.
The story of the Black Resurgents is one that falls into the "half that have never been told". Traci is an amazing dancer, master teacher, and choreographer from East Oakland, and through her mighty efforts at the Eastside Arts Alliance, she has been schooling and introducing kids in the neighborhood to the links between hip-hop and the Afrodiasporic dances from West Africa to the Harlem Renaissance to the "boogaloo" style of East Oakland. I saw a preview of her video where the Black Resurgents were performing in 1972, and it's a blueprint for all the pop-locking and strutting styles that come out of the west coast a decade later.
William talked about how the Black Resurgents started in the streets of East Oakland in 1971, and would perform at Black Panther rallies, school dances, and parties around the way. They were as big a draw as the funk bands that played there. To see the video, you would know exactly why. These days, he's a preacher and a contractor and he's still out there showing new generations how it's done.
Here are the kinds of stories that get me fired up. So much of my book is about the generation gap, but the fact is that there are continuities that people like William and DJ Kool Herc bridge. And that bridge goes all the way back past the Middle Passage. As people growing up in America, we focus a lot on the end product--what gets on CD, on TV, in the magazines or in the movies--but the real deal is happening at the local level, everyday. It kills any premature cynicism, any blank negativism you're bound to acquire in the course of a mediated life.
Props to Farai for shining the light, and much love to Traci, William and Herc.
posted by Zentronix @ 5:10 PM
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