Wednesday, May 30, 2007
KRS-One on Can't Stop Won't Stop
Back from being underwater swimming with the honu and hanging with fam far away from all the madness.

Just closing up the loop begun last week on KRS-One and Can't Stop Won't Stop.

Here's an interview published last week where KRS-One outlines his problems with my book generally and particularly with the section I did on "Stop The Violence". I'll leave it to yall to read my argument in the book and KRS's argument and determine what you think.

Most debates are good debates. They reflect people taking this shit seriously, which is the most important thing at the end of the day.

Listen. Lots of folks act like Can't Stop Won't Stop is it. Like, you read it and it's done. Don't need to know nothing else. But that was never my intention.

That's why I've always been insistent on being humble about my own contribution to hip-hop scholarship. People think it's cute or just Asian of me to deflect praise sometimes. It's not an act. I recognize the fact that people sometimes place a burden on this book that I just don't want.

Can't Stop Won't Stop was and is never meant to be the last word on anything. It's meant to be a small contribution to the larger wave of thinking about the hip-hop generation (not just rap music).

If it's the first word for some of yall, that's great--now go on and get you some more. Lots more. One perspective--even if, like mine, it's filtered through hundreds of other people's perspectives--is never enough.

KRS's criticism is on point in one sense: I wasn't able to speak to everyone I wanted to--Grandmaster Caz and the Cold Crush were at the top of the list, as well as many other b-boys, b-girls, graf writers and other pioneers, especially women pioneers.

Should I have waited to do so before releasing the book? In the best of all possible worlds, yes. Could I have waited to do so? For many personal reasons that you will never know...No.

Luckily some of the information that KRS cites is lacking in CSWS (and lots more that is just as crucial) is already out there. Let's big up Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn's Yes Yes Y'All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade and Cristina Veran's essay in Hip Hop Divas as just two of the major undersung contributions to the field, not to mention Steven Hager's Adventures in the Counterculture: From Hip Hop to High Times (originally printed in a now stupidly expensive, out-of-print paperback called Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti).

(BTW that piece he says about H. Rap is on point too--it's all there in CSWS, just not as explicit as he lays it out in the interview. In fact, you can check p. 186 to see how Whipper Whip flipped the script.)

But the bottom line--not to sound redundant, because this is all in the CSWS Prelude, and it undergirds the entire Total Chaos project as well--is that if we all take this as seriously as we should, there ought to be many many other perspectives other than mine under consideration. Period.

If there's gonna be disagreement and arguing about this one is better than that, hey that's human.

I respect KRS's perspective a lot--and he shaped this book and my thinking more than he may ever know, just check the essay I did on BDP for Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide. Nothing more need be said.

I did say I got a strong enough ego to try to step on. And in the end, it ain't about me, it's all about building this...

Holla if you like, KRS.

UPDATE 6/24 :: Another interview with KRS from Robbie Ettelson can be found here. When KRS refers to me working at Def Jam, he's probably meaning I noticed I've been getting another wave of emails about this and a bunch of new commenters coming through. I guess it's because there's been another wave of links to this page. It's a little strange to be hosting a debate on your own book in your personal blog, but hey! That's hip-hop. Step in the cipher. Take your knocks. Move on.

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posted by Zentronix @ 11:47 AM   27 comments links to this post

Monday, May 21, 2007
Save 1520 Sedgwick Avenue

Respect where it all began...

The birthplace of hip-hop is being threatened with gentrification. From David Gonzalez's piece in todays NYT:

“This is where it came from,” said Clive Campbell, pointing to the building’s first-floor community room. “This is it. The culture started here and went around the world. But this is where it came from. Not anyplace else.”

O.K., Mr. Campbell is not just anybody — he is the alpha D.J. of hip-hop. As D.J. Kool Herc, he presided over the turntables at parties in that community room in 1973 that spilled into nearby parks before turning into a global assault. Playing snippets of the choicest beats from James Brown, Jimmy Castor, Babe Ruth and anything else that piqued his considerable musical curiosity, he provided the soundtrack savored by loose-limbed b-boys (a term he takes credit for creating, too).

Mr. Campbell thinks the building should be declared a landmark in recognition of its role in American popular culture. Its residents agree, but for more practical reasons. They want to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places so that it might be protected from any change that would affect its character — in this case, a building for poor and working-class families.

Throughout the city, housing advocates said, buildings like 1520 Sedgwick are becoming harder to find as owners opt out of subsidy programs so they can eventually charge higher rents on the open market.

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posted by Zentronix @ 6:22 AM   6 comments links to this post

Friday, May 18, 2007
Me On Betty Davis

They Said She Was Different...

Here's a piece I did in today's Chron on the great Betty Davis. (MP3s included at the link!) Hers is an amazing and still mysterious story.

There's more here, here and here, plus here is an interview with my non-alter ego O-Dub, whose brilliant liner notes by rights ought to win him an ASCAP award. Of course, if you haven't seen the latest Wax Poetics, with its cover story by John Ballon, it's great stuff.

Bay Area music producer Greg Errico knows something about artist buzz. He used to drum for a band called Sly and the Family Stone. But he can't believe the hum he's hearing now about an artist he produced decades ago: the mysterious funk queen and rocker Betty Mabry Davis.

"She never had big commercial success. We did this 35 years ago. And she's been a recluse for large parts of that," he says. But at a recent National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences function, he adds, veteran musicians were buzzing about her as if she were a brand-new sensation.

"I've got a half-dozen interview requests," he says. "We've got the Sly and the Family Stone reissues that just came out. But there's about a notch more interest in Betty."

This month, the Afroed beauty, circa '73, graces the cover of hipster music journal Wax Poetics magazine, and today, indie label Light in the Attic Records re-releases lovingly packaged versions of her first two albums, "Betty Davis" and "They Say I'm Different," both cut in San Francisco in the early '70s.

The woman once known mainly for being the former Mrs. Miles Davis is belatedly being acknowledged as one of the most influential artists of the funk era. Carlos Santana, Joi, Talib Kweli and Ice Cube have declared their fandom. Her sway over Macy Gray, Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse is clear.

On the cover of her 1973 debut, she tilts coquettishly and flashes a million-dollar smile. Her thigh-high silver space boots seem to go on forever. But when her music begins -- written and arranged by her during a time when few black women were given such artistic license -- she shreds any idea that she is just another pretty face.

In the course of a single verse, she teases, pouts, snarls, taunts and rages. "It's like she's here in the room with you right now and she's basically caressing you and slapping you," says Chris Estey of Light in the Attic. "She is really confronting you with her womanhood, with her desires, with her complications, with ideas."

"All you lady haters don't be cruel to me," she sings on the opener, "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up." "Oh, don't you crush my velvet, don't you ruffle my feathers neither! Said I'm crazy, I'm wild. I said I'm nasty." ...

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:02 AM   1 comments links to this post

Is KRS-One Dissing You?

I've been getting a steady stream of emails from fam this past week over this new song by KRS and Marley Marl called "I Was There" in which he knocks "so-called objective rap historians". They're concerned KRS-One is dissing me.

Nah, don't worry! Even if he was, I got a strong ego to try to step on anyway.

I really do think that the event at Stanford that gathered hip-hop scholars, journalists, and at least one agitated rapper last year has something to do with him doing this track. (I wasn't there. Had a niece's first birthday to go to back home.)

The beef that opened up there has been squashed so there is no need to go over that again. But apparently Kris is still mad about the ways rap history is being written. Note that he didn't say "hip-hop history" or "hip-hop generation history".

Anyway, given that history, it's amazing that he's teamed up with his former nemesis Marley Marl, and although I don't think "I Was There" is that great, I think "Hip-Hop Lives" could be the best work both have done in years.

Honestly, I'm a little jealous of this video. It's just really well done, and might save you the work of having to read 800+ pages (even though it shouldn't!)

So no fam, it's all love out here in the Yay...

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:01 AM   5 comments links to this post

New Times/VVM Sells East Bay Express
A former employee tipped me to this article:

The change could benefit readers by marginally increasing competition in a Bay Area print marketplace that has seen much recent ownership consolidation. Last year, the Denver-based MediaNews Group purchased the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times from the McClatchy Co., giving the conglomerate control of virtually every Bay Area daily newspaper other than The Chronicle.

Village Voice Media, which was purchased by New Times Media in 2005, owns SF Weekly and controls roughly a quarter of the circulation among the nation's alternative weeklies. Other than using some of the same Village Voice Media movie reviewers and twice using the same cover story, the San Francisco and East Bay corporate siblings generally stuck to their respective sides of the bay.

Now, there will be no ties.

"This is a wonderful thing," said Tracy Rosenberg, interim operations director of Media Alliance, a Bay Area media watchdog organization. "The potential for self-ownership and for journalists to enter ownership is terrific and exciting. It almost never happens."

But, "A lot of questions remain unanswered," said Yumi Wilson, assistant professor of journalism at San Francisco State University. While it is potentially exciting to have independent media ownership, "You want to see what new owners are going to do."

Does this signal that New Times/VVM is interested in downsizing by selling off properties? Or is this a way for them to better compete in the Bay Area by minimizing their costs and focusing on the more lucrative SF Weekly? Will independent journalism benefit from a three-way competition in the Bay Area? It's too early to tell.

One thing that's almost certain--alt-journalist wages aren't going up any time soon.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:00 AM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Thank You Warriors
It was a great run. And nuff respect to D-Fish, you'll always have love from the Town.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:29 PM   0 comments links to this post

Eric Arnold On Why S.F. Rap Still Hasn't Blown Up
The second great article in a few days on the Bay scene from a Bay writer. Yes, we still produce a lot of the best hip-hop journalists in the country--thoughtful, passionate, skilled to the teeth.

Here's Eric Arnold's piece on Messy Marv and why SF rap is still struggling:

while Oakland, Vallejo and Richmond have produced nationally known rappers like Too , E-40 and Master P, San Francisco's track record has been marred by tragedy, violence and legal problems.

Known as Sucka Free City in the rap world, San Francisco has no shortage of rappers or independent labels. However, its artists' close ties to the inner city -- and, by extension, the tribulations of the ghetto -- may be one reason it has produced a scant number of big-name acts.

"It's so much pressure on somebody out here to blow up on a national scale," says filmmaker Kevin Epps, director of "Rap Dreams" (2006), a documentary about rappers trying to break into the industry. "The city has had a sense of modest success in the bay, but when you think of national (success), it hasn't really had that."

It seems every time a San Francisco rapper is ready to break out of the regional niche, something bad happens. ..

Read the whole thang

posted by Zentronix @ 8:31 AM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, May 12, 2007
Air Baron

You got Kirilenkoed!

posted by Zentronix @ 8:54 AM   0 comments links to this post

Marian Liu :: Is Hyphy Over?

The Sunday Mercury News will be carrying Marian Liu's article on the state of hyphy. Why didn't it blow like it should have? Lots of Bay Area players weigh in. More multimedia and additional articles on the topic here.

Numerous interviews with industry insiders and the artists themselves have revealed strong agreement as to why the scene may soon be left for dead: bad business decisions.

When dealing with major record labels, artists missed important meetings, asked for too much money and were too entangled in previous independent deals to consider new opportunities...

One big problem, she explained, was that local artists were locked into messy independent deals that became a problem when the major labels came knocking.

There was one artist who signed up with three separate companies, Day says. "Majors were looking at him for different deals, but people kept surfacing and stopping the deal," she says. This happens in other parts of the country too, she says, but the difference is the ability to strike a deal so that both sides profit. "Here," she says, the smaller labels "are more interested in blocking than profiting."...

posted by Zentronix @ 8:52 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 10, 2007
La Cucaracha & The Boondocks Vs. Don Imus!

This is like Marvel Team-Up!

Our boy Lalo Alcaraz is also a huge fan of Aaron McGruder. Enter The Beandocks!

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:43 AM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Jeff Yang on Angry Asian Men
My fellow journalistic Jeff _ang goes deep on the subject of Angry Asian Men. If Imus turned the table onto Black masculinity, Cho has turned the table onto Asian American masculinity. In this instance, pop culture and racial profiling and free speech issues are coming together in a much different way. Big props to Mr. Yang for exploring the subject in such a great way. A must-read. Here's a taster:

One might say that it's been an annus horribilis for the Asian American man. From the racist rantings of Kenneth Eng, to the conviction of Hmong American Chai Vang in the shooting of six fellow hunters, to last month's horrific murder spree at Virginia Tech, events seem to have conspired to swing perceptions of Asian males to the point where any sign of aberration is being transformed into evidence that we represent a simmering danger, a repressed wellspring of vitriol and violence waiting only for the right trigger to burst forth.

Actual aberration, or imaginary: One of the truly strange signatures of the media analysis around the Virginia Tech tragedy is how blurred the line became between reality and creativity. In the wake of the murders, pundits provided line-by-line critiques of a handful of plays that killer Seung-Hui Cho wrote, trying to find within them harbingers of the horror he would unleash. They compared movie stills to poses Cho struck in his video testament, hoping to identify cinematic inspiration for his violence, and reported breathlessly on Cho's love of computer games, even suggesting that he used them for "training" purposes.

The art-as-evidence phenomenon quickly extended beyond Cho: In Cary, Ill., on April 23, high school student Allen Lee was arrested for "disorderly conduct" and removed from school after submitting an essay that his teacher said contained disturbingly violent content -- despite telling students that the assignment was to write a creative work depicting strong emotions, on which there would be "no judgment and no censorship."

Around the same time, in Fort Bend, Texas, another Chinese American student was arrested and expelled from Clements High School after parents of classmates informed authorities that he'd created gaming maps based on the school for the tactical combat game Counterstrike. A search of his bedroom revealed five decorative swords and a hammer, which was enough for the police to declare him a "level 3 terrorist threat."

The hammer may have been what sent the police over the edge. After all, such a tool featured prominently in one of the most widely seen images from Cho's video "manifesto," a self-portrait in which he's grimacing at the camera and holding a standard claw hammer over one shoulder.

But the height of absurdity was reached with the controversy around the April 22 episode of HBO's mafia epic, "The Sopranos," featuring Ken Leung as Carter Chong, a mentally unbalanced Asian American youth who erupts in a spasm of violence. Comparing it to the Virginia Tech massacre, pundits called it an "eerie," "astoundingly awful coincidence." Media blurbalists wrinkled their brows and tsked at the "torn from the headlines" parallels.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:15 AM   2 comments links to this post

Hip-Hop Generation Protests Sarkozy Election in France
At massive demonstrations by hip-hop generationers turned loose water cannons and fired tear gas yesterday. Sarkozy, you might remember, was the government official whom many African and Arab immigrants blame for creating a hostile environment for youth of color. This anger erupted into the riots of late 2005 when two project youths died in police custody.

CRS riot police charged several hundred anti-Sarkozy protesters on the Place de la Bastille where some had daubed ``Sarkozy 2007 = Hitler 1933'' on the column in the center of the square. Police tear-gassed protests in the southern cities of Marseille and Toulouse, and there were incidents in Lyon, Lille, Rennes, Bordeaux and Nancy, National Police spokesman Patrick Hamon said by telephone.

...Politicians including Azouz Begag, one of two Muslims in the French government until he quit last month, blamed Sarkozy for raising tensions by referring to youths who stoned his car as ``rabble'' shortly before the 2005 riots.

Earlier, Sarkozy said he'd clean out neighborhoods with a ``Karcher,'' a brand of high-pressure hose. Those comments followed policy decisions such as the abolition of community police forces and reinforcement of baton-wielding riot police.

``The worst thing he did was to get rid of community police,'' Guy-Serge Pungumbu, 24, a brother of Yves Pungumbo, said. ``It means our only contact with police is identity checks or riot police.''

Suburbs Quiet

At the Grande Borne, a housing project south of Paris where police were fired on during the 2005 riots, groups of youth gathered on the streets while vans filled with riot police slowly did their rounds.

Malik Amadu, 20, a semi-professional soccer player drove by, playing a hip hop song about how the suburbs will erupt with Sarkozy as president.

``With Sarkozy it means even more controls, more repression,'' he said. ``We'll never be left alone. I hope it will be calm tonight but I can't guarantee it.''

On Feb. 27, Segolene Royal, the Socialist whom Sarkozy defeated in the second and final round of voting yesterday, laid a wreath to the two boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore, in their home town of Clichy-sous-Bois and met with AC Le Feu, a community group formed after the riots.

Sarkozy, who crisscrossed France in his quest to be president, never campaigned in any of the suburbs that are largely populated with immigrants from North and sub- Saharan Africa. Rivals such as Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou mocked him for never going.

`Violence, Brutality'

``My responsibility today is to launch an alert about the risks of this candidacy and the violence and brutalities that will start in the country, everyone knows it but nobody says anything,'' Royal told RTL radio May 4.

Sarkozy ``ran a campaign based on the denigration of others,'' said Mohamed Chirani, president of Votez Banlieue, a voter-registration drive founded after the riots, in a telephone interview.

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posted by Zentronix @ 8:00 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 03, 2007
To Play In The Town You Gotta Have Heart

Sorry Dirk, Cuban, and the Mavs. You just can't compete with underdog love.

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posted by Zentronix @ 10:24 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wisdom From Dr. Leon Litwack
The great Cal history professor Leon Litwack retires this week. With his retirement and that of the magnificent Ling-Chi Wang last year, some might say we've reached the end of an era.

Characteristically, neither chose to go quietly. Here's Professor Litwack and his students in today's Chron on the "messiness of history", which he and Professor Wang taught us is always pouring over into the ugliness of the now:

Timothy Simmons said he attended a college alumni event in Maryland where all the guests were white and all the hired help was black. "No, I can't be seeing this," he recalled, "but I was."

This is what Litwack means when he says history is messy. "At some point," he said, "students have to confront the fact that we're founded by slave-owning champions of liberty. We're not the land of the free and the home of the brave."

He believes the regression on race he has noticed since the 1970s can be explained by the theory that the impulse to integrate has been more economic than social. In his view, gains such an integrated Army and integrated schools in the 1950s were the result of post-war prudence.

"We would not be the leader of the free world" and maintain a segregated America,he said. "That had to end for the first time. The reason we had some advances is, for the first time race became a matter of national security."

Litwack was asked how Don Imus' comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team fits into America's racial narrative.

"It was kind of an offhand remark," he said. "Is it more racist than people who talk about their belief in black equality but whose actions or indifference suggest something else? There's a great deal of hypocrisy in how we dealt with Imus.

"We react with such fury about what he said about the Rutgers basketball team and yet we absolutely seem to be indifferent to the decay of our public schools -- the fact that every day blacks, and whites as well, are cheated of a decent education in this country," he said. "That to me is obscene. That's racist and obscene both."

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posted by Zentronix @ 7:24 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
May Day On The Frontline (2007 Mix)
Daniel Hernandez delivers a first-person account of yesterday's police riot in May Day L.A.:

Until Tuesday, the immigrant-rights movement had been defined by its bouyant, almost jubilant nature. Immigrants and their supporters had marched peacefully by the millions for more than a year in cities and towns across America. All that changed on May Day in L.A.'s MacArthur Park. In one evening of baton-swinging, camera-crushing good old-fashioned police work, the LAPD trampled upon the rosy optimism of countless L.A. families asserting their rights and dignity in the heart of the city's Central American community. And the department immediately drew rebuke for its brutish, seemingly injudicious show of force. Again...

Read the whole thing.

Thanks to Ken Burns Hates Mexicans--but we heart you too Jim!

In other news, I guess I shouldn't have called Dirk a loser. I'll wait 'til tomorrow night.

But I can call Papelbon a loser. We pasted that fool. Buck you Red Sux! That's 5 straight, not that I'm counting.

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posted by Zentronix @ 3:04 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Mark Anthony Neal :: "What's the Real Reason for the Sudden Attack on Hip Hop?"
Mark Anthony Neal turns in a classic on This slams as hard as Baron Davis on Dirk No-game-ski:

In the context of these questions, we can also ask why the attacks on hip hop - and why now? That some people hoped to enact political retribution for the so-called victory of Don Imus's firing, goes without saying. But I'd like to suggest that, more significantly, the current critique of hip hop is aimed at undermining the culture's potential to politicize the generations of constituents that might claim hip hop as their social movement. After high profile voter registration campaigns in 2004 that were fronted by Russell Simmons, Sean Combs and others, much was made of the lack of impact that hip hop generation voters had on the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. The hip hop generation, in fact, embraced the franchise in unprecedented numbers, but those numbers were obscured by the unprecedented turnout of religious fundamentalists who were galvanized by issues like same-sex marriage and threats of anti-American terrorism. With no candidate on the Right likely to galvanize religious fundamentalists, the hip hop nation - which has continued to organize since 2004 - represents a legitimate political bloc. With this political bloc comes demands for social justice, particularly within the realms of the prison industrial complex, the labor force, US foreign policy, law enforcement, the electoral process, mainstream corporate media, the economy, public education and a range of other concerns.

While there has long been criticism of hip hop culture from the standpoint of social conservatives, pro-hip hop feminists, religious groups, anti-homophobia activists and hip hop heads themselves, what marks this moment as different are the attempts to force mainstream black political leadership and Democratic Presidential candidates to repudiate hip hop culture (reminiscent of the pressures placed on Reverend Jesse Jackson to distance himself from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in 1984).

Emblematic of these pressures is a recent Chicago Tribune editorial, which asked,

"Will Obama scold David Geffen, the entertainment mogul who is one of
his most prominent contributors and who owns Snoop Dogg's record label? Will
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton admonish rap impresario Timbaland, who recently
threw a benefit for her at his Miami home that raised $800,000?"

Asking figures like Reverend Al Sharpton, Senators Clinton and Obama, and Russell Simmons to publicly distance themselves from hip hop is a transparent attempt drive a wedge between them and a constituency that has both the energy and the creativity to galvanize a youth-based electorate in the 2008 election season.

The sexism, misogyny, violence, anti-intellectualism and homophobia that rap music traffics in is real - but it is also reflective of where American society is at this moment. Remove offensive and vulgar lyrics from rap music, and we are still faced with a society that is largely sexist, misogynistic, violent, anti-intellectual and homophobic. The real story here, is that as the hip hop generation(s) have come to maturity and begun to realize their civic, social and political responsibility, that there are many in the larger society who are disconcerted - and they should be.

Such is the reality of social change.


posted by Zentronix @ 6:27 PM   0 comments links to this post


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