Friday, March 31, 2006
Two Brothers With Checks: Seattle, Portland
Curse that puny digital camera flash!
Back off the road for a few minutes. Portland, we love you. Despite the steady Twin Peaks-style drizzle, there was so much love, books, music, art, and good food in the city, it never felt cold. Big shout to Chris Riser and the Powell's crew, Connie and the global hip-hop headz, Chris Funk and The Decemberists, John Jay and the W+K crew, Kevin and the Nike crew. In Seattle, calling out to Joann, Jeb and Trev from AR-15, and Drew Wobbly. Like the UCLA Bruins, we're coming back.
And while we're on the topic, here's a great report on why the West will win this weekend, no matter what yall East Coasters say. ACC? Big East? Psssssh. Fall back, and take ya Yankees and Red Sox and Dipset with you. It's all about the Best Coast in '06!
posted by Zentronix @ 5:05 PM
Monday, March 27, 2006
Rapid Fire :: Random Droppings On The Road
The Seattle Public Library turns ya boy into SFJ.
+ Thank you to everyone who came out last night to the UW Bookstore. Toure and I say: we love you Seattle!
+ Spring has barely sprung. But the streets are talking. Millions! Here's Juan Gonzalez on the national walkouts. (And BTW, did anyone peep HBO's Walkout? Some sort of pop-cultural prophecy, loop-of-history thing. Lalo, I know you hate Eddie, but hey, you gotta admit this is kinda cool.)
And while we're at it, Paris is still burning , and it looks more and more like 1968 everyday. No doubt this will intensify the anti-hip-hop campaigns.
Buy this book, or steal it!
Random thoughts in between massive amounts of work while road-tripping (an expanding thread):
+ Prince's new record "3121" isn't great, but it's not bad. The lyrics are trite, certainly less interesting than "Musicology". On the other hand, the songwriting is incredible, but something's wrong with the mix. The textures are there, especially the percussion and his guitar, but they're mixed very airlessly, antiseptically, with not nearly the amount of ecentricity and experimentation the sounds deserve. How good could "Black Sweat" be with Jazze Pha working the knobs? How good could "Love" be with, say, Timbaland behind the boards? Doesn't he need the work right about now anyway?
+ George Mason is what sports is all about. Speaking of which, just began reading Dave Zirin. You must check out What's My Name, Fool? Brilliant. My new favorite sportswriter, next to Scoop Jackson and William Rhoden, and sometimes-sportswriter Will Blythe.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:58 PM
Saturday, March 25, 2006
500,000 Strong In Los Angeles!
Doesn't this say it all?
Photo Credit: SCHA-LA on LA Indymedia
Reports are 500,000 in today's Gran Marcha in Los Angeles to protest the Immigration bill! (LA Times headline is here.
Yes, it's spring. And the youth are getting restless.
Thank you to Sister Rosa for the Indymedia link.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:13 PM
Mike Davis: Who Is Killing New Orleans?
More politics of abandonment. Planned shrinkage continues on the Gulf Coast, with even the Black middle class as targets. Mike Davis in the new issue of The Nation on Who Is Killing New Orleans?:
The paramount beneficiaries of Katrina relief aid have been the giant engineering firms KBR (a Halliburton subsidiary) and the Shaw Group, which enjoy the services of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh (a former FEMA director and Bush's 2000 campaign manager). FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, while unable to explain to Governor Blanco last fall exactly how they were spending money in Louisiana, have tolerated levels of profiteering that would raise eyebrows even on the war-torn Euphrates. (Some of this largesse, of course, is guaranteed to be recycled as GOP campaign contributions.) FEMA, for example, has paid the Shaw Group $175 per square (100 square feet) to install tarps on storm-damaged roofs in New Orleans. Yet the actual installers earn as little as $2 per square, and the tarps are provided by FEMA. Similarly, the Army Corps pays prime contractors about $20 per cubic yard of storm debris removed, yet some bulldozer operators receive only $1. Every level of the contracting food chain, in other words, is grotesquely overfed except the bottom rung, where the actual work is carried out. While the Friends of Bush mine gold from the wreckage of New Orleans, many disappointed recovery workers--often Mexican or Salvadoran immigrants camped out in city parks and derelict shopping centers--can barely make ends meet...
The Republican hostility to New Orleans, of course, runs deeper and is nastier than mere concern with civic probity (America's most corrupt city, after all, is located on the Potomac, not the Mississippi). Underlying all the circumlocutions are the same antediluvian prejudices and stereotypes that were used to justify the violent overthrow of Reconstruction 130 years ago. Usually it is the poor who are invisible in the aftermath of urban disasters, but in the case of New Orleans it has been the African-American professional middle class and skilled working class. In the confusion and suffering of Katrina--a Rorschach test of the American racial unconscious--most white politicians and media pundits have chosen to see only the demons of their prejudices. The city's complex history and social geography have been reduced to a cartoon of a vast slum inhabited by an alternately criminal or helpless underclass, whose salvation is the kindness of strangers in other, whiter cities. Inconvenient realities like Gentilly's red-brick normalcy--or, for that matter, the pride of homeownership and the exuberance of civic activism in the blue-collar Lower Ninth Ward--have not been allowed to interfere with the belief, embraced by New Democrats as well as old Republicans, that black urban culture is inherently pathological.
posted by Zentronix @ 1:34 PM
Stop Complaining: Whiny Kids Grow Up To Be Conservatives
It's scientifically proven! Of course, the study was done in Berkeley...
posted by Zentronix @ 12:32 PM
News Updates on Dr. Akom Case
+ Interview with Dr. Akom & Coverage of Ethnic Studies College walkout and rally
+ Charges Against Dr. Akom Dropped, Corrigan Blasted For Indifference To Racial Profiling
posted by Zentronix @ 6:13 AM
Thursday, March 23, 2006
US Gets Hyphy
Whoa, E-40 opens at #3 Billboard. I'd wager this is probably the biggest Yay rap debut ever. (Don't think Hammer or Too Short ever started out this high...but I could be wrong.) Am I proud? Yep.
+ Here's O-Dub's take on E-40 and prospects for the hyphy movement.
+ Eric Arnold catches the hype in Emeryville.
+ Peep Joseph Patel's homecoming MTV production of My Block.
posted by Zentronix @ 5:46 AM
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Reggae and Homophobia
Missed this while on tour last month, but this is a great piece
on dancehall and homophobia by Elena Oumano, among the best pieces she's ever written.
Slavery and colonialism are gone, but Jamaica's 1962 independence masked the economic abandonment of an absentee plantation worked past profitability. The queen gifted her former colony, though, bequeathing Jamaica her church, Bible, and buggery laws. That little-old-lady-in-the-Cotswolds mentality is more recent, and therefore, more vivid in the Jamaican consciousness than any dim genetic recollections of pre-colonial Africa. Even the Rastaman who rejects church as part of the Babylonian West is not immune. Folded into his message of black self-reliance (and for some, separatism) and an African utopia is good old-fashioned King Jamesian fire and brimstone for Babylonian abominations like homosexuality. Yet mounting academic research suggests that the West's legacy to Africa is homophobia, not homosexuality.
posted by Zentronix @ 1:19 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006
Charges Against Dr. Akom Dropped; Corrigan Denies Racial Profiling; Walkout Planned For Wednesday
Justice For Dr. Antwi Akom, and an end to racial profiling.
Lots of new developments in the case against Dr. Antwi Akom, the San Francisco State professor who was racially profiled by campus police when he went to campus to get some books for a lecture.
He has since been falsely accused of assaulting police officers, when in fact, he was confronted by police officers who arrested him essentially for being in his own office. More background on the case can be found here.
In a clear victory for Dr. Akom, San Francisco DA Kamala Harris dropped all charges against him last Thursday.
However, in a misguided effort to save face on the larger question of racial profiling on campus, SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan has begun attacking Dr. Akom's integrity. Corrigan insists that no racial profiling has taken place, and that the campus remains "a just and trustworthy community."
This follows a report by former Mayor Willie Brown and former DA Louise Renne, requested by Corrigan, which found that SF State police may have coached six of the seven witnesses--keeping them in the same room with each other, and handing witnesses documents to read from during this process.
Only three of these tainted witnesses agreed to be re-interviewed for the report. There were numerous inconsistencies in the stories of the security guard and the police. Yet Corrigan has characterized the report as stating "no racial profiling took place", a conclusion that the facts of the report do not support.
There is little mention of previous student, faculty, and staff complaints of racist harassment by police, one that they argued added up to a pattern of racial profiling at this institution of higher learning going back years.
The report finds that one 2004 incident at the June Jordan School of Equity was "not directly relevant to Dr. Akom's arrest", and that investigating that matter "would have exceeded the original investigative mandate, prolonged the inquiry and delayed a report on this matter by several months."
The report states that the SFSU Police Chief Wible herself acknowledged five incidents over the last five years, but that investigations--conducted by other police--exonerated the officers who were involved in them.
The pattern is plain as day and Corrigan's efforts to deny racial profiling at a campus like SF State are a strained effort to recast reality, an effort that SF DA Kamala Harris evidently refuses to dignify.
But the reality is that racial profiling is a reality on even the most liberal, multiracial, and allegedly tolerant campuses in the country. It is an issue that no amount of soft-shoeing and lie-telling can mask over.
If you are in the Bay Area this Wednesday, join the College of Ethnic Studies in walking out on Wednesday.
And please visit the Justice For Akom website now, to send a letter to President Corrigan and the CSU Board of Trustees to let them know: The only way you get rid of racial profiling is to deal with it, not deny it.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:39 AM
The Story of X-Clan
Brian Coleman, author of Rakim Told Me, tells The Story of X-Clan's classic first album. Rest In Power, Professor X. Davey D and Wendy Day's tributes are here.
One side note: In recent months, Brother J has reformed X-Clan and been on the road with Damian Marley. Brother J is now based in Los Angeles, as is the group. Although Brother J and Professor X stayed in touch over the years, Professor X was not part of the new group.
UPDATE: Here's the official X-Clan statement on Professor X's passing...
On March 17, 2006 hip-hop culture lost a pioneer and a front line general. Lumumba Carson, aka Professor X of the X-Clan/ founder of the Blackwatch Movement, passed away from spinal meningitis in Brooklyn, NY. For those not in the know, X-Clan’s mission was always to spread and influence pride in Black culture by fusing the freedom fighter mentality of the Black Nationalist Movement with the power of hip-hop. And while X-Clan – consisting of rapper Brother J, DJ Sugar Shaft and producers/elders Professor X and Grand Architect Paradise – released only two albums, both To The East, Blackwards (1990) and Xodus (1992) are considered hip-hop classics.
With the passing of Professor X, Grand Verbalizer Funkinlesson "Brother J" and X-Clan, consisting of Ultraman Ra Hanna, ACL, DJ FatJack, Kumu M. Haynes, Master China and Grand Arkutect Paradise, will carry forward the message into the next generation of X-Clan.
“With regret, Professor X’s appearance was not previously recorded to include his energy on the project, but the blueprint to resurrect the efforts of the Blackwatch Movement of this millennium will be carried out,” emphasized Brother J. “We of the X- Clan sincerely hope that the efforts of Professor X will not be overlooked as the history of the original X-Clan has been.”
Professor X’s history in hip-hop reaches back further than the X-Clan messenger group. PX has been responsible for show promotion and management for many groups in Hip Hop’s golden era, including Whodini. His Blackwatch Movement was and is a powerful influence to many of the musicians, poets and producers that use hip-hop and the freedom of speech wisely. The signature phrase of Professor X is truly legendary in hip-hop history; “Vanglorious! this is protected by the Red, the Black and the Green with a key sissiieeeeeeeee!”
Our prayers go out to Lumumba’s family; he has done much work for the upliftment of oppressed people worldwide. We salute the life of our Brother Eternally.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:04 AM
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Quote of The Year, Entry 1
"If you go to the newsstand today, you see 1,000 magazines, and there's hardly an idea in them. They've been invaded by advertising. I had a poem in Good Housekeeping a few years ago. I looked through and I couldn't find it. I finally called them and asked, 'Where's my damn poem?' It was on Page 150, opposite the Clorox ad."
Plus, some really smart words from ?uestlove, who belongs in the Hip-Hop Interview Hall of Fame. If you can't get enough of talking about minstrelsy, check the comments on Oliver's Matisyahu post. I'll just say Matisyahu sucks and leave it at that.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:09 PM
Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming
George Mason? Bradley? Wichita State? This has got to be the strangest Sweet 16 ever. My brackets are shot to hell, but I'm still in a state of bliss.
The Shield Finale, Cuba vs. Japan, the Sweet 16 and a trip to New York City to talk with the man called Toure all in one week. That's way too much fun for one dude...
posted by Zentronix @ 6:54 PM
Thursday, March 16, 2006
A Good Day In Sports
Any day that Gerry McNamara and US Baseball get eliminated, it's a wonderful day in sports. Japan moves on like they deserved to, the same ump that screwed up the call on Sunday screwed up again--where do they find these guys?--and this time the US paid for it. Justice is restored to the baseball world. And all that insanity about G-Mac for player of the year is done. (Now if fools would just shut up about JJ and Adam, but first things first.) My brackets are hurting, but I have a smile on my face.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:41 PM
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
On São Paolo Graf and Writing About Hip-Hop
The Real-Time Buff: Alexandre Orion goes meta with his pichação.
Interesting piece on São Paolo graf writer Alexandre Orion in today's SF Chronicle. He has a show up at 111 Minna here in the city.
While it's very well written, what is frustrating about the piece is its utter inability to contextualize Orion's artistry. The piece focuses on the kinds of things anyone trained in capital-W Western capital-A capital-H Art History would recognize--the post-modernist artist-viewing-the-artist stuff, the surrealist visual puns, for example.
This is partly why we're working so hard on Total Chaos. With the (possible) exception of rap, so much current writing on hip-hop and hip-hop-inspired arts, especially in mainstream media, is written from outside the culture, that even pretty good pieces like this one end up separating the art and the artist from the culture it emerges from.
To be fair, I don't suspect it was conscious in this particular case, but the result is the same. The reader is left believing that this artist is an exception, and the rest of what he represents is "bad art". The marginalized culture is left on the margins.
Nowhere in the piece is there any context on São Paolo's unique graf style, a wholly indigenous visual language called pichação.
When I first got wind of this movement, the pictures blew my wig back, and it's because what I think is happening on the buildings and in the streets of this Brazilian city constitute a massive break from graf history, maybe the first in two or three decades, and the signal of something brand new. In these days of Scion and Sony PSP colonizing graf writers in the First World, that's not something small at all. I've been yapping about how the next popular cultural explosion isn't coming from the US. This is the kind of stuff that gives me palpitations.
If you want to know why I'm so sprung, check out this cat Caleb Neelon's website, and a book he's taken pictures for and written in. It's co-written by Tristen Manco and Lost Art and it's called Graffiti Brasil. The book is a revelation.
Anyway, back to the point: in a sense, Orion is like a Basquiat or Futura of pichação. That is to say, he's interested in advancing abstractions and changing the codes of the style. This makes him more easily available to Capital W Western Capital A Art critics, but it negates the fact that he comes out of a particular tradition.
So much of arts writing seeks to separate artist from context; it's the long-standing myth of the artist as auteur. Artists themselves tend to advance this narrative--most artists want their work to be seen as unique, not as lumped together into some homogenized "folk arts" category. And to be clear, the closer one's history is to someone like, oh let's say, Jeff Koons, the less of a danger one faces in being categorized as "folk" or "outsider" artist.
(To me, one of the most interesting themes of the massive Basquiat exhibition last year was his pushback against the mainstream art world's efforts to box him, his own ambivalence about being crowned "the exception".)
But the problem with this approach is it never allows the arts of marginalized people their proper space in the discussion, and ironically, it never allows the great artists, like Orion, to really be given their proper due.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:50 AM
Monday, March 13, 2006
Here's your boy talking regional hip-hop--hyphy, snap, trap--and all the rest on a podcast from Sound Opinions with Chicago's music duo, Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis. Aired last Saturday...
posted by Zentronix @ 5:31 PM
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Back on the road, so let me leave you with some of my should-be-working-but-the-Internet-is-just-there type stuff. This will be an expanding thread.
+ Barry Bonds now has to deal with The Shadows, an apparently definitive account of his steroid use by the two San Francisco Chronicle writers who broke the story last year.
+ Dream Hampton on Octavia Butler. How great is this? Both writers seriously undersung and misunderstood in their fields.
+ Why Dook sucks. Just picked up Blythe's book and can't wait to break it open. 3/8 UPDATE: Broke it open and it's just as good as the article. Fantastic book.
+ Me and Brian Coleman have a psuedo-intellectual menage a trois with Carly Carioli of the Boston Phoenix. Warning: hip-hop journalism geek porn.
posted by Zentronix @ 4:55 PM
Monday, March 06, 2006
Why "Crash" Sucks
OK, so since I'm in the middle of the tour, we get rehashed hits. Here's Sylvia (BTW congrats you guys!) and me holding forth on why "Crash" sucked. Maybe the next entry will be why Dook sucks, since it's March. Anyway, enjoy, and please check the post below for Dr. Antwi Akom's case--a harder dose of race reality than "Crash" could ever pretend to be. If you are so moved, please go to the Justice For Akom website to send letters to the D.A., the SFSU President, and the CSU Board of Trustees.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:09 AM
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