Thursday, September 27, 2007
Join The Jena 6 National Walkout On Monday

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, National Hip-Hop Political Convention, Change The Game, and Sankofa Community Empowerment are being joined by Mos Def, Talib Kweli, M-1, Immortal Technique and student leaders from over 50 campuses to call for a National Student Walk-Out to rally and show support for the Jena 6. Wear black.

Here are their demands:

Judge J.P. Mauffray and District Attorney Reed Walters have engaged in a string of egregious actions, the most recent of which was the denial of bail for Mychal Bell on Friday. We call for:

+ All charges against the Jena 6 be dropped.

+ The immediate release of Mychal Bell.

+ The United States Department of Justice to convene an immediate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and prosecutions of the Jena 6.

+ Judge Mauffray to be recused from presiding over Bell 's juvenile court hearings or other proceedings.

+ The Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel to investigate Reed Walters for unethical and possibly illegal conduct.

+ The Louisiana Judiciary Commission investigate Judge Mauffray for unethical conduct.

+ The Jena School District superintendent to be removed from office.

If you want to organize and add your school to the list, click here for more info.

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:49 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Hip-Hop Hearings Part 2 (2007 Version) :: Lisa Fager's Testimony Shuts Em Down
Here we go again. It's part 2 of The Hip-Hop Hearings, this round led by another Chicagoland congressperson, Bobby Rush. This time, the chair took great pains to say that the hearings weren't meant to be "anti-hip-hop. I am a fan of hip-hop." And he brought in a number of label execs to face the fire.

As usual, Davey D was in the house and on point speaking about how label execs responded :

It was comical watching them scurry around all the questions and downplay the important role rap music plays in making them rich. In fact at one point Morris who heads up Universal which includes Interscope and Def Jam made the outlandish statement that rap is only a 'small part' of what they sell.

At another point Morris claimed that he doesn't censor his artists and they can put out what they want. That statement was later contradicted by David Banner who is on Universal. Too bad no one in Congress knew enough to ask Morris why Young Buck wasn't allowed to put out his anti-police song.

What Broffman and Morris wound up doing was trying to flip the script and lobby for more protection from piracy on the Internet. They started crying about how all their music is being stolen. I guess they were hoping that somehow we would blame the Internet for any questionable material they release. Luckily the Congressman Weiner from New York stepped in and shut that argument down.

He seemed annoyed that Morris wasn't following all the hearings Congress has had on Internet piracy. He pointed them out and looked at the label executives as if he wanted to say "Damn we held these hearings to help y'all dumb asses out-why don't you know about them?' He even told Morris if you wanna have a discussion about the Internet and whether or not music is really being stolen he can come back next week for a whole other hearing.

I guess when you're the CEO of a big record label it's hard to keep up on the political happenings that your record label spends lots of money lobbying Congress to do.

Davey also has the audio of testimony from the execs and from Michael Eric Dyson, David Banner and Master P. (Part 2, the interrogation, is here.) Huge props to Banner for as profound a defense I've ever heard of art, period, let alone hip-hop:

"Change the situation in my neighborhood and maybe I'll get better. If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities. Drugs, violence, sexism and the criminal element were around long before hip-hop existed...Hip-hop is sick because America is sick."

But perhaps most important was the presence of the brilliant Lisa Fager of Industry Ears. Lisa broke down the science behind Banner's "Play" record, and basically put the industry on blast while reaffirming her love for hip-hop.

Davey has posted the powerful testimony that Lisa submitted to the Congressional Record. She didn't actually present this (imagine if she had), but it reflects her larger thinking.

Here are large heaping excerpts of that brilliant piece. It's a must-read, really a classic of hip-hop activism. I can only wonder that if Lisa had been on the stand instead of C. Delores Tucker back in 1994, history might have taken a whole 'nother turn:

The now-infamous "Imus Incident" is intriguing in that it has created strange bedfellows: it has unified both conservative and liberal media in invoking Hip Hop music as the veritable poster child of all that is wrong with society. That is, a popular argument made in the throes of Imus' oft-repeated "nappy-headed hoes " comment is that such language pales in comparison to the content of most commercialized Hip Hop music. The idea is that if radio stations and Viacom music channels can play the "bitch, ho, nigga" content of gangsta rappers, then what is so bad about Imus' comment? If the Black community apparently accepts such language from its own, then why get upset when Don Imus says it?

It is easy for me to understand why Black folk would be in an uproar over a White man referring to young Black women as "nappy headed hoes" on a nationally syndicated radio show, as a Black woman, that part should be intuitive. However, what appears to be more difficult to understand - especially to our friends in the news media - is that there exists a large cadre of individuals and organizations that represent communities of color that also are in an uproar when media permits content that is degrading to women and people of color to be broadcast. Note that, unlike the conservative and liberal media hypes, our concern is not simplistically directed at the artists who produce such material; our concern is also directed towards the record labels, radio stations, and music video channels (i.e., the corporations) that are profiting from allowing such material to air.

This is the fact that often gets overlooked in the mainstream media. Not all Black people and not all lovers of Hip Hop endorse the materialism, violence, and misogyny that characterize commercial rap music. Organizations and campaigns such as Industry Ears, Enough is Enough, Social Action Coalition, Youth Media Council, Third World Majority, Woman's Coalition for Decency and Dignity, REACHip Hop, Free Mix Radio and many individuals have been challenging such content for years, but their visibility has been blocked by the mainstream media.

For example, during the week in which Imus was suspended and subsequently fired by CBS, I was called by three national news outlets to speak about the hip hop music issue. However, each outlet only wanted me to defend the commercialized Hip Hop industry; no one was interested in the fact that I also agreed that "bad" content applies across the board and should also be dealt with. The message is clear: If you do not fit the "role" media has created for ratings you lose your opportunity to be heard.

It is time to wake up and see the real issue - that media conglomerates are the gatekeepers of content and in essence control what opinions receive airtime. The deletion of the Fairness Doctrine and passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act helped to create incredibly powerful, big media corporations by eliminating the requirement that balanced viewpoints be presented, and by relaxing rules placing limits on how much media a single corporation could own.

Further, by repealing the tax certificate program, which successfully - if temporarily - increased ownership of media outlets by people of color, we have ensured that these big media corporations do not represent the diversity of society. Then, with control of so much media concentrated in the hands of the very few, we are at the mercy of big media and rely on companies to serve in the best interest of the public while also serving their bottom line.

As might seem obvious, what best serves the public, and what best serves the bottom line are not always the same...

All over the country you have identical playlists from station to station no matter what the radio format and it's no coincidence. Payola is no longer the local DJ receiving a couple dollars for airplay; it is now an organized corporate crime that supports the lack of balanced content and demeaning imagery with no consequences. Broadcaster claims that this is what listeners want to hear is not honest. Radio stations only research the songs that are currently being played on the radio (i.e. songs that are paid for). New artists with new songs do not get tested. This explains the identical playlists and the exclusion of local and regional artist airplay on radio stations.

Stereotypes and degrading images in both radio and television disproportionately impact the African American community.

...It is important to note, that African American children listen and watch more radio and television than any other demographic. Although Top 40 and Hip Hop radio stations claim to target the 18-34 demographic their largest audience share are the 12-17 year old segment. Recording companies, radio stations and Viacom networks are aware of their audience but have chosen to put the bottom line above the welfare of their audiences.

Bravo, Lisa.

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posted by Zentronix @ 8:24 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 21, 2007
Lost And Found :: Jena 6, Juncture, Keith Knight, The Well

"And so I threw another log on the fire. Let it burn...":
This tree in Jena has been chopped down.

Lots of running around lately so it's catchup time in these parts.

Jena 6

First off, big ups to everyone supporting the Jena 6. Yesterday's rally was a huge testament to the power of grassroots organizing in the hip-hop generation. Even though CNN gave a lot of the shine to the old school (Sharpton, Jackson, Maxine Waters, and others), it was the new school that shepherded the case into one of the most powerful anti-racist demonstrations in years.

Props to the parents, Friends of Justice, Color of Change, and the hip-hop netroots who started the ball rolling. Props also to the radio folks, like Michael Baisden, the Hard Knock crew, and others, who have kept the case in the spotlight. Shouts too to the National Hip-Hop Political Convention heads who came out in force.

Finally, I got to talk today about what the Jena 6 case means and about Color of Change's petition and their other efforts today on Farai's show with Sean Gonsalves and Ernie Suggs. Click here to hear it.

Get Juncture!

Recently editor and writer Lara Stapleton sent this sprawlingly great (just like the town it comes from--Brooklyn) anthology called Juncture, to me. It features some of my old faves (including Mike Ladd, Jonathan Lethem, Pagan Kennedy, and Carl Hancock Rux) and a host of new ones, including Gina Apostol, whom Lara wrote to let me know had her hilarious story "Imeldific" featured on KQED, with music by our world-traveling home DJ Spooky. (Extra plus: the book is published by Soft Skull, one of the great underground presses.) Download or stream the reading now, and then click here to buy it already. It's all about the shoes!

Keith Knight :: Big Baller

This is why he's hot

One of our favoritest cartoonists Keith Knight has won the big old Harvey Award! Woo hoo! I understand through representatives of his publicity machine that he has promised not to forget the little people.

Way Down In The Well

Stop by for a convo with me and my new friends down in The Well this week if you get a chance. We're talking total chaos, hip-hop aesthetics and breaking injuries. Peace.

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posted by Zentronix @ 1:21 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Hey Maybe Hip-Hop Isn't Dead? :: Kanye Nearly Platinum, Beats 50 By 266K!
Well, I guess Jay Smooth's boycott call didn't work out so well.

Kanye did 957,000 copies in 6 days. 50 did 691,000. The top 4 albums--including Kenny Chesney and High School Musical 2--did 2.2 mil copies. Industry execs are officially off suicide watch. It's, like, their best week ever!

The biggest winners: cocaine dealers in Midtown Manhattan.

From this breaking story in Billboard, "Kanye Crushes 50 Cent In Huge Album Sales Week":

The total for West's "Graduation" is the largest by any album since 50 Cent's "The Massacre" opened with 1.1 million copies in March 2005. West's own August 2005 album, "Late Registration," was the last album to surpass 800,000 copies when it began with 860,000...

The double punch provided by "Graduation" and "Curtis" also marks just the second time in that era that two albums have bowed in the same week with totals surpassing 600,000 copies.

The last such occasion was in September 1991, when Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion II" led The Billboard 200 with 770,000 copies in the same week that the band's companion album "Use Your Illusion I" bowed at No. 2 with 685,000, a pair of numbers now beaten by West and 50's totals.

Jay-Z put it right, tho: "This is certainly a one-off. This is not going to happen every day."

Now we can start taking bets on how bad sales this week will be.

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posted by Zentronix @ 6:56 PM   3 comments links to this post

Monday, September 17, 2007
Kanye With The Lead
Who's surprised? MTV News' Shaheem Reid reports that Ye had done almost 800K by Friday, almost a quarter more than 50's 600K. Reports from the UK have Ye over 50.

In the meantime, 50 seems to be rehearsing his reaction to the final sales tallies here, due Wednesday. He cancelled his European shows, is complaining that Jay-Z's appearance with Ye on 106+Park upstaged him, and is claiming Def Jam rigged sales. (The back story by LAT's Chris Lee is here.)

This could be a fun week.

posted by Zentronix @ 4:52 PM   2 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Maryland Legislator :: Whites Should Boycott Sexist Hip-Hop
But wait! It's not what you think.

Here's a provocative essay by The Honorable Justin D. Ross, Maryland Delegate (D-Prince Georges Cty.) and--surprise!--hip-hop parent:

In the current debate over whether hip-hop has become degrading to women and harmful to race relations, I've heard quite a bit from black activists, some of whom have fought for years against the sort of lyrics I'm writing about, and I've gotten several earfuls from black rap artists.

But I haven't heard a peep from the white fans who essentially underwrite the industry by purchasing more than 70 percent of the rap music in this country, according to Mediamark Research Inc.

I don't presume to tell any artist, studio executive or record label what to record or not record. But I will presume to ask young white customers: Why are we buying this stuff?

Now it's still very debatable whether hip-hop is actually purchased in such proportions by whites. (Read Bakari Kitwana's Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes, And the New Reality of Race in America first, then check this discussion and this discussion. I've done a bit of research on this and can say definitively there is no definitive study, there's still only gut feel.

But no one else has yet said what the Delegate from Maryland has said...

posted by Zentronix @ 12:55 PM   4 comments links to this post

Showdown Tuesday's Here
Will 'Ye shut 'em down? Will 50 be underwater? In the immortal words of Cee-Lo: But who cares?

(For more thorough, often hilarious coverage, check Miss Info's blog...)

posted by Zentronix @ 10:39 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, September 10, 2007
The Funniest Piece Yet On YeCent/50West
From our man Jay to the Smooth...

What will you do tomorrow?

posted by Zentronix @ 8:45 AM   3 comments links to this post


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Coming Soon!
Notes On The Eve Of Day One
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Farai Chideya's News And Notes on NPR Has Been Can...
I Am Nixon
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2G2K Is Back! :: On Hillary, Again, And Foreign Po...
The Impact of The Hip-Hop Vote
UCLA Education In Action Keynote Speech
A Great Day In Baseball History

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