Labels: can't stop won't stop, hip-hop not dead, krs-one
“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.
Labels: gentrification, Kool Herc
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." ...
Labels: betty davis, funk, wax poetics
Labels: beef, hip-hop not dead, krs-one, overstanding history
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."
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. ..
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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."...
Labels: aaron mcgruder, cartoonists with attitude, don imus, Lalo Alcaraz, marvel team-up
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.
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.''
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.
``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.
Labels: france, riots, sarkozy
Labels: nellie smokes cuban, one and done, warriors all day er'day
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."
Labels: Leon Litwack, overstanding history, truth
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.
Labels: immigration rally, police riot, red sux lose to us again
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.
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