Wednesday, March 30, 2005
DJ Kool Herc on NPR!!!
The Terry Gross Fresh Air interview with DJ Kool Herc finally aired today. The audio will be here. You can probably still catch it on your local NPR affiliate later today. They did the interview about a month ago and we'd been waiting for notice on when it might be aired. The producers just decided last night. Check it out!
posted by Zentronix @ 10:29 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Must be spring because hot music and hot music writing is breaking out all over. Here's a deep, extensive piece by our girl Raquel Cepeda on the sound of this coming summer, Reggaetón.
Need a Reggaetón 101? Pick up DJ Warrior, Big Dee, and DJ Strong's El Reggaeton and El Reggaeton 2 mixCDs here. Check out reggaetonline.net for more.
Kinda related, kinda not: Giant Peach has two awesome, super rare Mighty Crown roots style mixtapes Crown Jugglaz Warriors Attack G9 and The Good Ol Days 2, both worth every penny. Plus an amazing dancehall photo book, Maverick Lensman. Move now!
posted by Zentronix @ 2:51 PM
Monday, March 28, 2005
Your Boy Is Back In Town...
So cue the Thin Lizzy! Topics for ya.
+ New Bay Buzz
More New Bay buzz, this time courtesy Marian Liu.
Still wondering what all the fuss is about? Check out this mixtape by DJ Hyphy, it's kind of a "New Bay 101" type thang.
Some music tips: the new Zion I album "True & Livin'" is phenomenal. Out April 19.
My boy LB's Same Shit, Different Day is also in heavy heavy rotates. Out April 26.
Check out New Bay MC/westcoast mixtape king Balance's website. He ain't makin all that noise in the press for nothing. Mad Mp3s and stuff there.
All this is, of course, all a lead-in to tomorrow night's event at the Commonwealth Club. A last minute note: Chief Xcel has been sidelined due to mad time restrictions as Blackalicious finishes their latest masterpiece. In his place, Balance and Quannum's Lydia Popovich will be on the panel. If you're in the Bay, definitely fall through.
+ RIP Harold Cruse
Harold Cruse has passed. His The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual will endure as a classic because of the profound critical eye Cruse brought to both aesthetics and politics in calling for self-determination and independence. If you need a primer, start with W. Jelani Cobb's The Essential Harold Cruse. The breadth of his work is awe-inducing.
+ I Love LA
Much love to ex-Bay head Tommy Tompkins, B+, Luke and Eric, and to everyone at Tia Chucha's, Eso Won, Imix, and KPFK. It was beautiful, sniff! All LA heads--Stinkzone where you at?--thank you and check this event with 2Mex & LMNO this coming weekend!
+ What Happened To The Tour Stuff?
Sorry. It's coming. For real.
posted by Zentronix @ 3:39 PM
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Love From Hawai'i
Wow, big love to Gary Chun for this feature in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Probably the best one, the most personal one yet. This one means a lot. Gary was a huge influence on me when I was young and impressionable island boy, showing me that one could really write about his passions and even make a life of it.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:39 AM
Monday, March 21, 2005
Musique Nonstop :: March Madness Edition (a growing entry)
You get out of practice. Then everyone else nabs the assignment before you can get to it. So...here's some current heavy rotates:
Konono N°1 :: Congotronics
Lubuaku was the appetizer, but Congotronics is the killing joke. And Lubuaku was one of my favorite records last year. Recorded by Belgian producer and sometime Laswell collaborator Vincent Kenis, Konono's percussion burns while their distinctive likembe lines loop and surge like a river in winter-melt. Sometimes, an almost second-line style trap drum surfaces with a driving martial beat. The whole thing blasts forward at "Planet Rock" tempo.
But most of all, Konono's Congotronics kicks mad bass pressure. The effect is not far from say, the b-boy throb of "It's Just Begun". When on "Masikulu", the bassline drops out, you take a deep breath, because you know it's coming back. It's like ducking a big wave on the inside while you're paddling furiously back out to lineup and you know the big sets are still rolling in. Huge rollers of blissful noise. If Lubuaku was raw power, Congotronics is high drama. You won't be able to remain motionless.
Expect mad reviews on Konono by the end of the spring, and the promised Congotronics 2 to start a global metropolitan craze. Just remember you heard it hear second or third--after the homie, the burb killa Christopher Porter.
Keith Hudson :: The Hudson Affair
Trojan 2-disc anthology expands on Steve Barrows' loving and essential Studio Kinda Cloudy comp into 2+ hours of pure Dub Dentist bliss. This is why he's one of my favorite reggae producers of all time--groove, space, and an unshakable intensity.
This comp captures the first half of his career, mainly through 1974. He introduced the world to lights like Ken Boothe, Big Youth, Dennis Alcapone, and U Roy. They all left him for bigger success. He dropped one of the classic dub albums of all time, Pick A Dub, and the existentialist manifesto, Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood. Then, he retreated and mainly recorded himself. For many, that's when he went off the deep end.
His post-74 output is less consistent, for sure, but as the music deepens its sense of alienation, he's also quite often brilliant. If you understand the second half of his career as an exile's reaction to the Kingston scene, as an outsiders' sound, it makes more sense. Hudson is almost the anti-Bunny Lee, even the anti-Scratch. He's deliberately obscure and anti-pop.
Keith Hudson rarely fits into the grand narratives of reggae history these days because of these idiosyncrasies--yes, and you thought Scratch was weird--and because by the late 70s, he is floating between London and New York while fixing teeth on the side and experimenting with disco and funk. But there's no denying the vision of Rasta Communication, the clarity and rhythmic drive of Brand (apparently out of print once again), or the emotional pull of Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood.
In any case, this anthology is the exuberant Hudson ("Old Fashion Way/Dynamic Fashion Way"), the ready-to-conquer-the-world Hudson ("S.90 Skank"), the-more-haunted-than-Burning-Spear Hudson ("Melody Maker"/"Don't Think About Me (I'm Alright)"), and also, inevitably, the brilliantly iconoclastic Hudson (yes, the infamous "Theme From Satan Side"). That last one, yo, it's one of the best songs ever recorded.
More reviews here as I feel the spirit.
Down with Dook!
posted by Zentronix @ 9:41 PM
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
The Quannum Story
...pic to be posted here soon...
Sam Chennault has done a great job at capturing the story that began as SoleSides and continues to reach new heights as Quannum. Thanks, Sam. It's deeply appreciated.
Now since I do know a little something about the topic, I did want to gently and respectfully offer some footnotes and corrections.
1) Lydia's last name is Popovich. Not Popozitch or Popozen. The dashing Isaac "Quick Hide The Sake" Bess deserves every bit of inky praise (and much much more), but I think Lydia's contributions to Quannum haven't received enough recognition--she's not only one of the hardest working people in the music industry I've ever met, she is the main link thousands of people have directly to Quannum. She has coordinated much of the promotions and marketing, in addition to zillions of other duties. Much much love for our girl.
2) The Lyrics Born (back then he was called Asia Born) side of SS001 was called "Send Them", which we often called "Send Them Come" from the original dancehall sample, but never called "Send Them, Tom" or "Tom, You Send Me" or "We Sent Them Tom And They Sent Him Back" or "Send Zen To Office Depot For More Toner".
3) I actually don't ever recall Pete Rock wearing an African medallion. I thought he wore a dookey rope on Mecca And The Soul Brother. Am I wrong about this?
4) This next one's a matter of interpretation...and it's possible I'm looking back at this through my own lens. I was definitely the most ideological in the crew about the importance of being indie--part of my politically-minded steez, no doubt. But when the majors came calling, I don't think I was that insistent, much less Stalinist, that we remain so. But again, I'll say that this may be a matter of my changing memory. Truthfully, there's a lot more of the story yet to be told on this, but now is probably still not the time. One day...
5) While I'm on the topic, I will say that at the time, I was--and still can be--a stubborn kind of fellow, and I never would have said that we needed to end SoleSides. Thankfully, the crew made the decision for me. The world didn't need another mediocre hip-hop indie label business manager. (Tho maybe it didn't need another hip-hop journalist either! Time will tell.)
But, looking back, I agree with Shadow that SoleSides would not have remained a sustainable model. I'd add that much of the reason was that the industry had begun to change around us. Indie distribution had narrowed considerably from the time we started to the time SoleSides ended. At one point, the largest independent distributor in the country, called INDI/Alliance, declared bankruptcy--leaving us locked out thousands of dollars in receivables and product.
After that, regional one-stops were shutting down left and right. To take care of cash flow issues, we had moved into an independent pressing and distribution deal with a local company that itself was quickly on its way to going under, and that left lots of West Coast labels high and dry. Overall, it was like the tap shut off and I think, more than anything else--glut of bad indie records, mainstream records getting better, whatever else you want to point to--the narrowing of distribution mechanisms is what ended that particular era of indie hip-hop from the West Coast.
By the end of the 90s, indies had either built up enough clout and branding to be able to survive, or were about to get smashed by the fallout of the growing monopolization of the industry. In retrospect, the transition to Quannum--that is, toward a hybrid model rather than a strict indie--happened at exactly the right time.
6) The center of operations was already in the Bay when SoleSides ended. We had been running the biz out of an office on Haste and Ellsworth in Berkeley during our last year or so. There were a gang of interns from UC Berkeley--many of whom have become famous in their own right: DJ Icewater, prominent music attorney Gene Kim-Whitney, Inventos Hip-Hop Cubano filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fauntauzzi, and a host of other folks whom we all have much love for. (And lots of whom unexpectedly showed up to holla at me on tour--I see ya!)
7) It's sad that the piece didn't get to include the huge fam that supported all of us in Davis and in the Bay Area, especially Benjamin Davis, aka Mack B. Dogg, a rapper, homie, a KPFA DJ ("Late Night Hype" after the CMW song), and Lyrics Born's best friend, who passed away suddenly a few years ago and whom we all deeply miss.
8) 2005 is going to be a banner year for Quannum not just because of all the projects coming from the principals, but for the star-studded gang of artists who have joined the fam. To me, Quannum has shown again why it remains ahead of the pack--each of the acts is not just incredibly innovative and amazing, they represent a new global-minded breed of hip-hop artistry: Curumin, Apsci, General Electrics, Honeycut, and Pigeon John. With LB's album setting it off in a month, you'll be hearing much more for the months to come.
If it sounds like I'm still a fan, hell yeah, I remain so. In this life, it's been an honor to be associated with these folks.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:43 PM
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
I was on Michael Krasny's show Forum on KQED this morning. What a long strange trip it's been. (Didn't 50 say that?)
Michael--yeah we're on a first name basis now--is about the nicest host I've ever met. He makes you feel like the studio is his living room and you're just chilling. He sets up a stack of notes, copious notes, on his little easel and talks quietly to you to get you warm. Then the on-air light goes on and he's another guy entirely. Pitch goes up, volume goes up, and you're sidin'.
I mean, the questions came fast and furious. In between, uh, novel uses of hip-hop slang. But for real, it was like intellectual kickboxing--exhausting and sometimes painful. You can hear on the audio (click on "The History and Future of Hip-Hop") how I'm mentally breathless--running to catch up on previous thoughts.
Then they opened up the phonelines and the email and it got deeper. More running to catch up.
There were two comments in particular--they weren't questions--that were interesting. The first was an email from a guy who said that Forum featuring the topic of hip-hop at all proved that NPR was continuing its mission to dumb down and destroy itself. I think he used the word "garbage".
Then Dr. Cecil Brown called in. He's the author of a widely acclaimed book, Stagolee Shot Billy, which Bill Adler highly recommended to me last year. I haven't read it yet, and now I honestly might not for a while. Dr. Cecil Brown hated my book and apparently he hated me too. You'll hear the specifics about 35-40 minutes into the audio. It's too bad because I agree with his larger point, or at least the point that I think I thought he was making. Whatever. Can't stop won't stop.
Learned later that I'm not the only one on his shitlist. (His targets did respond, strongly, here and here.) Gotdam I'm happy I didn't stay in grad school! Peace Dr. Brown, best of luck.
To my patient crew and fam, bear with me, tour stuff coming up in time. Sly Stone time. Keepin' ya waiting like MIA.
Thank god, The Shield is back!
posted by Zentronix @ 8:23 PM
R&B Singer Lyn Collins Dies
Sad news. The most sampled woman in history has passed. What's worse is that she passed due to cardiac arrhythmia, a condition I'm all too familiar with.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:00 PM
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Still Fiending For The Mixtape?
Alright yall, so I went out on tour with like hundreds of mixtapes, came back with just 1 copy and I'm keeping that one. If you're still fiending for the mixtape, you have five options:
1) Check with the brothas at West Coast Mixtapes.
2) Check with the sistas at The Giant Peach.
3) Walk, don't run to Turntable Lab in NYC.
4) Catch DJ D-Sharp on tour with Flipsyde or Quannum and beg him to sell you one.
5) Make friends with the folks at Quannum or Solesides.com. If you're real nice, they might lace you.
That's it! Good luck. I'm putting mine in the safe deposit box.
NEW NEWS: Click to Campus Progress, our favorite new website, for some downloads from the mixtape!
And OK, while we're at it--here's some other places online you can partly take care of your mixtape jones:
-NPR News & Notes with Ed Gordon and Farai Chideya
-MPR :: 89.3 The Current
-Hard Knock Radio (Scroll down to 2/18/05...
There it is funk fans.
posted by Zentronix @ 4:52 PM
And tired as heck! Gimme a day to catch up on sleep then expect the whole 9. In the meantime, more on Hot 97, this time in in The Village Voice.here and here.
By the way, if you're around SF State on Thursday, come holla at The Depot. Can anyone hook me up with Gang of 4 tix? Or bring Konono No. 1 to Berkeley?
posted by Zentronix @ 11:06 AM
Friday, March 04, 2005
Tour Diary? What Tour Diary?
Here I am about 4 days from getting home to my own bed. It's time to be real! OK, so the truth is, that even when I recovered from the damn stomach flu, I still couldn't keep a tour diary. I really meant to, but the tour has been going amazing--and that means I've been unable to steal away time every day to write about the damn thing. So I'll be back in the cave next week, and will post lots of stuff, including mad pix, of this crazy crazy road trip.
In the meantime,
+ if you're in the Twins this weekend--and why not? it'll only be like 5 degrees or something--come heckle your boy!
+ also...sending much love to Jay Smooth, Leanne and Hashim for having me come through WBAI and get grilled for this interview.
Don't forget the rally today. For some excellent background and commentary on the events of this past week, check out Davey D's site right now.
And I'm sure Jay will have updates from the rally by tomorrow morning.
posted by Zentronix @ 6:09 AM
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
High Court Ends Death Penalty for Youths
posted by Zentronix @ 10:27 AM
Of 50 and More Hot 97 BS
The 50 fiasco at Hot 97 is simply more proof that it's all about ratings--whether inciting interracial tensions or intensifying street beef.
In the old days and still today in hip-hop, community structures are in place to deal with beef. I was at a b-girl battle this weekend at Ken Swift's joint where some beef threatened to break out in between the competitive rounds and folks stepped in to regulate right away. Everyone peaced it up at once, and everyone left the club feeling great about the whole evening. These days, we don't control everything, so when battling--which is central to hip-hop and which you can't ever take away, not as long as you want the culture to grow and evolve--becomes something else, like beefing, there isn't anyone that can reel folks back in. It becomes about money--the media takes the beef and turns it into a profit-making center, and shit spins out of control. Haven't we learned from Pac and Biggie?
The good news is that I can't even keep up with how fast the hip-hop media justice movement is rolling now, but you can get the latest from the brilliant Jay Smooth and context and perspective from the indispensable Davey D.
As I've said all along, it's not about censorship or tryiing to extract fines--that's mosquito bite stuff to these corporations. It's about the larger issue of media justice--getting balance, diversity, community, and progressive views back on the air. That's the best antidote for dumbing-down and beef-instigating.
Make your voices heard this weekend.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:06 AM
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