Thursday, January 31, 2008
2G2K Circus: Leaders of the New? School, Part 2
Ferentz talks McCain-Hillary vs. McCain-Obama.

McCain-Hillary would be the worst possible outcome for Dems, for some of the reasons Frank Rich laid out last weekend: they lose on 'experience', 'change', and the split of the rhetorical 'right-wing conspiracy'. They probably lose many independent voters who sat out the 90s, angry at the various sordid scandals that were the main point and chief product of the culture wars.

McCain-Obama gets me excited, because it means we just might have the thing fought out on ideas, for once. McCain and Obama agree on some big things--not just on demeanor, posture, and honor, things any Chow Yun-Fat fan would immediately recognize. But they also cross the aisles on issues like campaign finance reform or immigration reform (which deserves several posts all to itself). It might be refreshing to see two presidential candidates try to top each other on clean politics proposals.

I think this contest could potentially raise get a lot of people excited. And it will not turn just on the war--which is what I think you mean when you say ideology?--but absolutely on generation. The lion in winter versus the boy of summer. The shadow of Vietnam versus the bright day on the horizon. It could be epic.

Let's talk Edwards a little. I would have voted for him here next week if the policy agenda alone was the determinant. But I had a lot of doubts about his ability to lead. He seemed unfocused. And though he had very very good reasons, and never made Elizabeth's cancer into a crutch, the distractions showed.

I think he fell into positioning himself as the outsider, but he never attained gravity. Being lazy on the stump didn't help his outsider status. He gave the exact same speech after New Hampshire as he did in Iowa--when all eyes were on him. If you're the outsider, you have to keep pulling up the well of emotion that drives your supporters' passions. Instead, he seemed robotic at the worst possible moments.

But if it comes to a brokered convention, he will play an important role in shaping the platform and choosing the final candidate. And that could be good good thing.

Here are two links that Ned Sublette, who has just written the definitive work on the roots of the music of New Orleans,The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, passed on about Edward's exit:

1) "Through fourteen Republican Debates, no moderator has asked any Republican Presidential candidates a single question about rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast."

2) He started his address about 30 minutes after stopping at an interstate underpass to talk to homeless people at an encampment of about 200 people. "One woman said to me, 'You won't forget us, will you?' Well, I say to her, we will never forget you. We will fight for you, stand up for you," he said.

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posted by Zentronix @ 7:13 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
2G2K Circus :: Turning Mothers (And Sons And Daughters) Out
The topic on the table is whether Dem enthusiasm in the primaries now means a lick. Here's what Ferentz says. My reply::
I agree with you and yours that people just don't feel Hillary like they do Barack, or even Edwards. Quite a few people I know very well get nigh hysterical about the prospect. (That's no doubt part of why my knee has been jerking so hard against Obama this past week--it's the protection reflex at work.)

But I lean towards thinking that will not be a problem for Dem enthusiasm in November.

To take but one demo, young people displayed mad enthusiasm in 2004, came out in huge numbers for Kerry, despite perhaps a general lack of feeling for dude in comparison to, say, Dean. I kinda think whomever the Dem nominee is, that trend will continue. If Hillary is the nominee, there will likely be a groundswell of feminist fundraising and GOTVing as well.

If Romney is the nominee, that might be an electric prod too. McCain and Huckabee generate much more buzz amongst independents and evangelicals respectively, (Reep voters under 30 are a rare breed, and have been rarer still in the primaries...) and their relative authenticity--setting aside their platforms for a second--makes either of them tougher opponents. But Romney seems like the perfect enemy for Dems to rally against: a double-talking, attack-dogging, vote-pandering, inauthentic, officious, 6-foot-2 square-jawed version of W.

Thing is, as of tonight, it looks like McCain may win.

Obama vs. McCain or Hillary vs. McCain. Do those contests sound exciting?

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posted by Zentronix @ 7:22 PM   0 comments links to this post

Activism Right There! At Cal

posted by Zentronix @ 10:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

2G2K Circus: Rudy Can Fail
Ferentz sets it off here. Here's my reply:

So I'm with you and man, I can't tell you how mad I am Rudy is half-stepping through all this. If there's anyone who is sharkbait for folks like us the way Hillary is for the Reeps, it's Rudy. Nobody would get a bloc of militantly skeptical hip-hop non-voters ready to rock like the prospect of nationalizing Giuliani Time for 4 years, after 8 of what we've just been through.

But anyway, put a fork in him.

What's funny about politics is the way it twists a candidate up. As the Times notes today, Rudy is now campaigning as a Reep version of Obama Lite, decrying negativity, trolling for votes in multiculti neighborhoods, and hugging it up with Judith and everyone. (An anti-Romney move, though since Giuliani is so far behind in the polls, it doesn't matter.)

It might be added that since he's started late, his basically bicoastal campaign makes him seem like exactly the kind of stereotypical NY-CA liberal that most of the country loves to hate. So yeah, you're right. He can't have been serious. If he was, he might have used his bank to hire someone who actually had a clue.

On a different topic, The Times and some commenters here have noted that there's a huge enthusiasm gap with the Reep race this year. Nevada alone turned out over 10x as many Dems to the caucuses this year as they did in 2004, and 3x as many as Reeps. How do you think this translates to the general election?

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posted by Zentronix @ 7:22 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 28, 2008
2G2K Circus :: Holding On To Things That Are Bad For Us
The convo continues with Ferentz's latest post here.

So we were in ATL Saturday night after finishing a video shoot for this movie at a great record store called Wax-N-Facts, including an epic digging session there, and having stuffed ourselves afterwards with some really big chili-bison burgers.

We're sprawled out on the couches about to fall into a long coma when Hillary comes on for about 10 seconds. From Nashville. With nothing to say. And a bunch of bored, sad looking people sitting behind her, as if they were attending a mandatory school assembly.

Thankfully CNN cut it short, and we popped in the Trapped In The Closet, chapters 13-248, the one that ends where (spoiler alert) everyone ends up with the package, the paa-aa--aaa--ckage.

Give us credit, when we do things, we go BIG. I wasn't just wrong, I was spectacularly wrong. Truth is, I am a wholly a child of the mid-80s to mid-90s. When Billary went into attack-dog mode, I panicked and got culture war flashbacks. Lost my religion, probably.

Look. Some of us who went through Reagan-Bush I and Clinton I have a tendency to get apocalyptic. We don't do even qualified happy endings, like "Juno". Feel me? In our movies, things start going bad then everyone dies and the kids get orphaned. We're only happy when it rains and shit. Like Alicia Keys would be better for us. But we love us our Kells.

Anyway, the fact that Hillary only registered a little blip between bison burger coma and Sylvester's draaa-ma was kinda telling. Everyone, from SC's Dem electorate to CNN's producing team, seems ready to move on. (Suzanne Malveaux even did like a 15-minute interview with Obama that ran all yesterday.)

So...onward to 2/5 and to hope! As my man Danny Hoch might say, thank you blue America or whatever.

The other thing I learned Saturday night is that even Southerners think Edwards is great on paper, but that he is actually, as a person, very full of shit. (But maybe not so full that he'd emerge as a cult fave among older hip-hop gens now that Kucinich is going home.)

Last thing is this: I loved your point about closing the debate on race. The one thing I was personally mad at Obama about this past week is that he had a huge opportunity to lay out a racial justice agenda, and he got sidelined into Clintolitics.

I don't think SC has to be the last entry point for people of color in this election, but the whole race-gender frame was, as Lisa Duggan might say, just a ruse to hide the real debate--about education, criminal justice, the wealth gap, the true impact of the housing crisis, etc.

So Ferentz, we'll have lots of time to talk Cali and Barackary later this week. Let's talk Republicans. Goodbye Rudy!

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:17 AM   4 comments links to this post

Saturday, January 26, 2008
Boy, was I wrong. Sorry. Well, at least I got it out of my system.

OK! You may now pile on.

posted by Zentronix @ 5:18 PM   7 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
2G2K Circus :: Bill The Mosquito + Is Obama Shook?
The question Monday night to Hillary was whether she felt Bill overshadowed her. Pssh. She's got him under her thumb. Bill's main role these past few weeks has been to be Hillary's mosquito, all up in people's ears--spreading half-truths and full lies, and generally keeping annoying fools.

It's worked. Billary has gotten under Obama's skin, and because of it, he's lost composure and grace these past couple of days.

Today, the campaign announced "truth squads", no doubt in part modeled after McCain's strong grassroots attempts this year to tamp down the BS emanating from rival camps and general haters. Of course, he won last weekend.

But Obama's "truth squads" look like McCain in South Carolina circa 2000. Indeed, Bill's relentless hum is straight outta that dirty playbook. The problem for Obama is that they make him look desperate. His appeal has come from his ability to be above the scrum.

Reuters reports late today that Obama leads Clinton by double-digits. But...a huge caveat: it was a "rolling poll", meaning most of the polling was done before the debate. Edwards picked up some points after the debate. Pollsters couldn't confirm if the debate had hurt Clinton or Obama more.

Is Obama's camp underplaying their candidate's frontrunner status in South Carolina the way they overplayed his frontrunner status in New Hampshire? Or does Obama's campaign know something about Monday night's effects that they won't let on? Are they shook?

I'm standing by my prediction: that Obama will lose SC. But knowing how I feel about Billary, I will be very happy to be wrong.

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posted by Zentronix @ 5:05 PM   1 comments links to this post

Two Guys, Two Keyboards, And A Circus :: The Democratic Debate
My homie Ferentz Lafargue, author of Songs in the Key of My Life: A Memoir, and I have been having these intense discussion about the elections so we thought we'd start sharing the stuff online. Welcome to Two Guys, Two Keyboards, And A Circus.

Here's my first response to his first post on the MLK Day Democratic Debate:

You're so on point.

Obama is an inexperienced, inconsistent, sometimes straight lousy campaigner. But more to the point: he has had his lousiest debate appearances before African American crowds. Remember Hillary's call to arms around AIDS and black women last year?

I actually think he had a plan going in--to neutralize all the criticisms he's been getting from Billary. Makes sense on paper and it would have been fine if he had stopped--but he wasted so much energy on the side battle (and give Hillary credit for stuff like the Rezko bomb) that he ceded big picture stuff to Edwards. And Edwards absolutely killed it in there.

Then, during the sitdown session, Hillary was able to slide some lofty sounding rhetoric in there during the sitdown session as well. So all of Obama's thunder was stolen.

It might be time for the Obama camp to concede that, as great as their candidate performs in Reaganesque set pieces (like that didn't-you-see-it Ebenezer speech earlier that day), he's as useless a debater as George W. Bush.

Guess we all blew it with the b-ball and jazz and freestyle metaphors.

Check Ferentz's reply here. Here's my reply to his reply:

Re: Kucinich, I too subscribe to the polar theory of politics, which essentially holds that as long as there is a radical in the race, the whole field shifts left. But the relevant pole after February 5th is, sad to say, not we progressive anti-racist pointyhead types, but the fairly undifferentiated mass of voters "out there" that the punditocracy/pollstocracy says is concerned about Obama's alleged "lack of experience", Frank Rich notwithstanding.

In other words, assuming Obama is there in Denver, and let me clear my throat here and make a shocking prediction:


If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But I doubt it.

Back to the point I was gonna make, if Obama's there in Denver, he's not sliding left on his VP pick. Not Edwards. Not Kucinich. He's selecting a hoary old white male party mainliner. All you fam who are floating away on his beautiful prose like I often do, I'm sorry to have popped your balloon. Mine popped Monday night.

So I think you'd agree that the worst thing right now would be for Edwards to drop out. (Which he won't, I'm sure because if he plays close he might play broker in Denver.) I think Obama needs Edwards to keep him honest on health care and poverty, the same way Hillary needs the other two to make her gender pitch sound good to progressive feminists.

BTW when will Obama's campaign hire you as speechwriter? They need some brilliance up in there to match their candidate...and hell, a little color wouldn't hurt either!

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posted by Zentronix @ 7:42 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 18, 2008
LBTV :: The SoleSides Story
Your Machoness thought he broke his foot this past week. In fact, it was just a sprain. So while he recoverates by elevating his foot and taking his anti-inflammatorianizors, here's some throwback stuff to keep you happy because you love to hear the story again and again. Yes, The SoleSides Story, as told by Your Stubborn Assedness.

BTW keep an eye out for LB's new album this spring. It's frickin' amazing.

Enjoy...and if you live in Nevada, go caucus tomorrow!

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posted by Zentronix @ 12:11 PM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Hip-Hop Word Count
This is very funny.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:22 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Yellows Against Obama :: 80-20's "Defeat Obama" Campaign
Whoooeeee. Don't you love that musty smell of bourgeois Asian American nationalism in the morning?

The knees are jerking over at the 80-20 Initiative, a group of crusty old Asian Am politicos trying to forge a Yellow Power voting bloc, over Obama's apparent refusal to answer a simple six-question. (For the history, go here.)

Now don't get me wrong. Heck, I'm certifiably pro-Yellow Power! I even wear Mao t-shirts sometimes (though mostly so people will think I'm Jeff Mao). And I think Obama's--overwhelmingly white, it must be said--top professional staff has been particularly dumb when dealing with Asian Americans.

Here's a particularly egregious screwup--one that btw didn't happen to affect Americans of East Asian descent, and so apparently passed completely unnoticed by the 80-20ers.

Folks, this incident was so bad that it led to the flight of notable amounts of money and support from Americans of South Asian descent to Hillary, and Obama himself had to apologize publicly and distance himself from his staff.

But 80-20...well, let's just reprint let Bob Wing's letter to 80-20. It says it all:

I applaud your efforts to press Mr. Obama and the other presidential candidates on issues related to Asian Americans. But I think your Defeat Obama campaign is divisive and not related to your stated mission of uniting Asian Americans. Worse, I think it plays to the racism that is unfortunately so prevalent in our society, including among some Asian Americans.

As Asian Americans we ought to know that one of the principal forms of racism is the often unfair claim, usually by some whites, that we and other people of color are not qualified to hold important positions. To say that Mr. Obama is not qualified to be president is not only incorrect, it also plays to that racism.

Moreover, it inflames the racial fires currently impacting upon the Democratic campaign in response to Mr. Obama's success in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

I have no problem with criticizing Mr. Obama or any other candidate if they refuse to support legitimate Asian American rights. I also would have no problem with your deciding to throw your support behind a particular candidate and saying why. Those are positive actions.

But to mount a campaign claiming that Mr. Obama is unqualified to be president is harshly negative and divisive.

Whatever critique you may have of Mr. Obama, he is surely as qualified as many if not most of the people who have ever run for or even held the presidency. To decide that one candidate is more qualified than the others is what every voter must decide. To claim that a candidate with impressive credentials and massive backing such as Mr. Obama is not qualified at all is a harsh claim that smacks of partisan hype.

I hope you reconsider this ill conceived campaign and refocus on proactive efforts for Asian American equality and political unity.

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posted by Zentronix @ 2:29 PM   10 comments links to this post

1520 Sedgwick :: The Battle Continues

This morning, DJ Kool Herc, Senator Charles Schumer, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, and tenants from 1520 Sedgwick had a press conference to announce the Save 1520 Coalition's demand the right of tenants to purchase the building that is the birthplace of hip-hop. This right is granted to residents of city-subsidized protected housing.

As the Times is reporting, this all comes about as a real estate developer known for flipping the famous Bank of America pyramid building in San Francisco has been revealed to be among the buyers.

Why is Mark Karasick interested in buying a 100-unit apartment building for working-class residents in the Bronx where rents average $1000?

One of the organizers, Dina Levy, says she believes he may be flipping the building to foreign buyers--whether for the building's historical value or its strategic location for gentrification of the West Bronx is unclear. More than 40,000 units of similar city-subsidized affordable housing have been lost in New York City in recent years.

The tenants are now in negotiation with Karasick and others, but Karasick is asking for a price almost 3 times the expected value of the building.

To support the tenants' fight with a donation, please visit to

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posted by Zentronix @ 10:10 AM   2 comments links to this post

I'm Teaching A Writers Workshop
Hey CSWS/TC fam, I just wanted to call your attention to the fact that I'm part of this amazing 5th Annual Intergenerational Writers Lab being offered by Intersection For The Arts and the Kearny Street Workshop in San Francisco. I'll be teaching a couple/few weekends in May.

It's 3 months of intensive Saturday literarianizing with a team of kick-ass literarianizers: playwright Ricardo Bracho, poet Truong Tran, SF poet laureate devorah major, journalist/author Annalee Newitz and essayist/poet Bushra Rehman. There are readings and much fun. Program begins in March and ends in May.

If you want to get down, your application needs to be in by February 1st. I'm told that the demand for the 12 slots has gotten nuts in recent years, so come correct or don't come at all! The info and app is here, and we'll announce the public reading series soon. Hope to see you in May...

posted by Zentronix @ 8:31 AM   1 comments links to this post

Monday, January 14, 2008
Rebecca Walker :: The Last Word On Clinton, Obama, and Steinem
Rebecca Walker cuts to the heart of this past week's "It's gender, no it's race, no it's class" repeat of the 80s and 90s culture war debates. It's about all of the above, but it's really about generation.

Here's an excerpt, and check the original for the knockout punchline:

Hillary, no matter how symbolically potent, runs the risk of being seen as a Second Wave candidate. She's one of the first women to gain power and access, and may be one of the first with power and access to ignore the criticisms of women of color, progressive men, and many young women, all of whom have been sending clear messages to Second Wave feminist leadership for well over a decade.

Messages like:

Women are not only victims, but active participants in the shaping of their lives. It's not Hillary's gender that may keep her from winning this election, it's her lack of preparation. If she had an inter-generational, multi-racial, digitally savvy, globally inclined machine behind her, crafting electrifying rhetoric like The Audacity of Hope and The Power of Now, she'd be swept into the White House by a landslide. Hillary wasn't forced into the number two position in Iowa, she made decisions that put her there. New Hampshire is a case in point; she made different decisions and got different results.

Racism and classism are as definitive as sexism. Did Steinem insinuate that Barack's gender, and not his talent, put him in the top spot? I thought black men were capable of performing at his level without an irrationally granted advantage. And the idea that black men always reach the Promised Land before white women? Forty per cent of black men don't finish high school in America, and one in four are incarcerated. Hillary, and her feminist supporters, are not going to win this election by glossing over the realities of African-American men...

The rest is here.

BTW, I'm told that HuffPo's post-NH primary coverage brought record numbers to the site. That's a helluva lot of interest in the elections.

And all this discussion about identity issues this past week supports the idea that these elections will be about the ways that emerging post-Boomers want to redefine the national discourse.

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posted by Zentronix @ 12:43 PM   1 comments links to this post

Rappers On 'Roids
What does 50 have in common with Roger Clemens & Barry Bonds? This story is just beginning to break. By week's end it could be the fodder for an entire new season of Def Comedy Jam (uh, Tyler Perry?!), or the catalyst for some soul-searching. Or both. Or neither. What do you think?

Entertainers including the singer Mary J. Blige and the rapper 50 Cent are among thousands of people whose names are turning up in an investigation into obtaining steroids or human growth hormones, an Albany newspaper reported on Sunday.

The Times Union reported that the investigation, being conducted by the Albany County district attorney, P. David Soares, also found evidence that in addition to Ms. Blige and 50 Cent, other possible recipients included two other musicians, Wyclef Jean and Timbaland, and Tyler Perry, an author, actor and producer in theater, film and television.

The newspaper cited records it had gotten and information from witnesses on Long Island who were cooperating with the investigation. A spokeswoman for Mr. Soares declined to comment on the report on Sunday.


None of the celebrities was accused of violating the law. Instead, the investigation has focused on stopping the flow of the drugs by cracking down on doctors who illegally prescribe them without seeing patients, and on the so-called anti-aging clinics, pharmacies and other distributors that supply the drugs.

UPDATE 1/15 :: Your boy in Ben Sisario's reax piece for the NY Times.

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posted by Zentronix @ 12:34 PM   2 comments links to this post

Friday, January 11, 2008
Best Music of 2007

Feel Mysterious Today?

The theme of my year: learn to act up, not down. Doesn't mean I can't crank it with the youngest of them. And I ain't mad at your Members Only. But I did that in 8th grade.

When I was a teenager, I used to read Rolling Stone and Pazz & Jop religiously, and buy, tape or somehow cop all the top-rated stuff (then hate half of it). The first time Xgau sent me an invite to Pazz and Jop in 1992, I hung it on my wall.

But when the whole critics poll thing imploded last year, with the Idolator Jackin' Pop splitting from the P+J, I began to stop caring. At one point, seeing a hip-hop act atop the critics' charts was really important to me, but now it's clear that searching for pop consensus—and trying to move that consensus—is not the best use of the time I have left.

So I submit this list to you more out of a sense of obligation than evangelical fervor, just to let you know—if you care—what I dug, in the hopes of possibly turning you on to something that will move you the way it did me. I really think you really don't care what was on my iPod last year. But supposing you do, here it is what it was...

As always in no particular order. And now, in no particular format either, because the album as we've known it is dead or at least dying and privileging album-lengths no longer makes much sense. Format inserted only so that you can be a happy consumer, if you wish. Somewhat helpful notes included sometimes.


"Night" :: Benga + Coki
Afrofuturist carnival dubsteppa whose soca beat and bell-ringing Latin breakdown allusions to Todd Terry's classic "A Day In The Life of...Black Riot" had me falling out of my rocker. Rewind of the year, if not the century.

Kala :: M.I.A.
Maya Arulpragasam, why don't you love me? Just kidding. You've heard me on this album before, but I'll say it again. Respectfully breaking from many of my peers who, like the homie O-Dub (see, we are different people) have called MIA's record "politically uneven", I repeat that artistry and policy are not the same thing.

Lefty musicrits have talked this trash since Bob Dylan's 1965 electric parting of the pop seas. (Note the lefties back then were on the 'folk' side of the folk/rock split.) And it's a charge that they only make against so-called "political" artists like Bob Dylan, the Clash, Public Enemy, and Rage Against The Machine. If I ever hear a musicrit accusing Ted Nugent or Toby Keith of being politically uneven, I will eat his copy of Atlas Shrugged without ketchup.

Really, do we want MIA to set the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to a dirty house beat on her next album? I thought not. Next...

Hamsterdam, Volume 2: Stash To Da Strip :: Darkroom Productions
The rap mixtape I listened to the most this year. Featuring a true cross-section of Bmore's best, Darkroom takes gangsta back to the days when it was scary, not merely stylish, and blew absolutely everything on the majors and, uh, Koch, right off the page. Tyree Colion's relentless, ambivalent, shocking "Projects" was the best rap song of 2007. Period. Quote me.

Inna Di Road :: Chezidek
True Reflections…A New Beginning :: Jah Cure
Since I Wayne's 2004 breakthrough "Can't Satisfy Her", one-drop fans have been pushing back towards more gentle falsettos, which partly explains the swelling of support for Jah Cure, who literally built his fanbase from behind bars, and Chezidek, a consummate stylist whose previous albums never drew much attention. Of these two great records, Chezidek's is the more consistent, Jah Cure's has the higher heights. If Cure can survive freedom, he might become one of the all-time greats. Chezidek is already on his way.

Untrue :: Burial
After Burial's ethereal first LP, one might have expected his sophomore effort to float away. Instead, it become slightly more melodic and groove-oriented, a little more defined. Untrue is a less demanding pleasure, yet one whose meanings remain elusive and mysterious. Dubstep at its most auterist, and that's not a bad thing yet.

…I Scream Bars For The Children :: Bambu
My favorite mixtape this year didn't come from a dude named Wayne, but this brother from Los Angeles (and the Yay) from Native Guns. (LATE CORRECTION (1/23) :: it's actually his second LP...) Bambu easily accomplishes the very thing that De La Soul used to do so well: humanize the day-to-day struggle. But this is hardly by-the-numbers neoclassical hip-hop in a '89 vein. There's no wasted nostalgia. Instead Bambu has idiosyncratic humor and sly insight that come from actually having lived something real. …I Scream… is an effortless evocation of west coast streetwise polyculturalism, an understated classic bound to grow in the hip-hop imagination.

"Hunting For Witches" :: Bloc Party
A burning number about the hypocrisy of the politics of terror and Lou Dobbs-style anti-immigrant pseudo-populism, sung hard by the UK son of Africans. Bloc Party took critical hits this year for supposedly going topical and obtuse, but this one song had more balls than that entire album by those wack Talking Heads wannabees Spoon. Rrrrrrahhh!

African Underground Volume 2 : Depths of Dakar :: Various Artists
A bicoastal project—from New York City to Dakar—that not only demonstrated the ridiculous talent of Senegal's port city but played a role in voter protection in this year's landmark elections. The music ranges from skittery hi-tempo beats that sound like grime-on-meth to Senegalese reggae to downtempo urban potboilers. Slept-on, but essential.

"Nothing Better Than" :: Joss Stone
I like my corn. Yes I do.

Gutterfly :: Lifesavas
The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams :: Me'shell Ndgeocello
The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust :: Saul Williams + Trent Reznor
Ok, ignore what I said about the album format. Here are three records that—like Return To Cookie Mountain did last year—loudly and quietly make the counterargument—that the form is not just relevant, but necessary, in order to tell a layered narrative, and to present difficult, interconnected ideas that can somehow substantiate all those critical claims of genius.

"Morning Child" :: 4 Hero
If strollers were outfitted with subwoofers, this would have been the Saturday AM bump on Seventh Avenue in the Slope this year.

"2D" :: Skream
And this kid is still only, like, 21. Praise di yute dem!

"Shadowcasting" :: Martyn
"Grimey Princes" :: Joker
Two more dubstep tracks leading toward the field out of its half-step pogo toward an encounter with the strange perspective-warping spatialistics of 80s Detroit techno.

Betty Davis
They Say I'm Different :: Betty Davis
Monumental reissues by the fantastic Seattle label Light In The Attic—lovingly remastered, blissfully annotated by O-Dub—of an unjustly forgotten, incredibly important figure in the funk.

Live Convention 77-79 :: Kenny Wilson
The record's provenance is still indeterminate, but the grooves are glorious. A true evocation of old-school Bronx-style hip-hop, featuring the voices of Lisa Lee, Kool Kyle, Melle Mel, Cowboy, Smiley, and more.

Mad Decent Worldwide Radio Podcasts :: Diplo
Hate him because he's got red-carpet treatment at airports around the world. Even hate his music. But admit that the second year of podcasts has often been revelatory, including a killer cumbia set, a ridiculous mix that reduced the BBC's Pete Tong to on-air confusion (OK, so that's not too difficult), and a guest spot by Radio Clit spinning blazing African rumba rockers. Plus, dude posted Arkade Funk on his website (only about two years after me). Face it, Diplo has great taste and you don't.

We're About The Business :: Chuck Brown
Chuck links with Chucky Thompson and sets a new standard for go-go. Long live The Godfather!

Forever Version Deluxe Edition:: Dennis Alcapone
Roots Man Dub :: The Revolutionaries
Heartbeat's reggae reissue series steps up with two of the greatest Jamaican records. Alcapone's 1971 record shows him in fine form over all the classic Studio One riddims, an important early DJ record, and adds 6 new tracks. The 1979 Roots Man record is a classic dub album from Alvin Ranglin's vaults, with an entire previously unreleased CD's worth of dubs.


Back East :: Joshua Redman Trio
"Back Home" :: Blue Scholars
Back to Black :: Amy Winehouse
The Big Doe Rehab :: Ghostface Killah
The Cool :: Lupe Fiasco
"Crown Royal" :: Jill Scott
"Culture United" :: X Clan & Damian Marley
Dawn :: Build An Ark
"Dreaming" :: Mavado
Dubstep All-Stars Vol. 5 :: N-Type
"Emergency Bass" :: Dr. Das
"Hustlin'" :: Calibre
In Rainbows :: Radiohead
Keep Reachin' Up :: Nicole Willis & The Investigators
Live At The 2006 New Orleans Jazz Fest :: Hot 8 Brass Band
La Radiolina :: Manu Chao
"Nostalgia" :: Marco Polo feat. Masta Ace
Maths & English :: Dizzee Rascal
SiNo :: Café Tacuba
Sound of Silver :: LCD Soundsystem
"Take Back The Scene" :: Durrty Goods
Two Sevens Clash Deluxe Edition :: Culture
Underground Kingz :: UGK
United We Swing :: Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Visions :: Dennis Brown
West Coast Vaccine (The Cure) :: Turf Talk
"What You Need" :: Lyrics Born with Galactic

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posted by Zentronix @ 4:39 PM   1 comments links to this post

Danny Hoch Takes Over Berkeley

Bay Area heads are blessed with another premiere of world-class cutting edge hip-hop theatre when Danny Hoch's new piece "Taking Over" opens tonight for previews at the Berkeley Rep. Opening night next Wednesday is sold out, but Danny will be doing talk-backs through the month. Check the calendar for those special shows.

"Taking Over" is a classic Hoch maneuver: a raw, wickedly humorous multi-character play looking at thorny urban issues, in this case, the role of hip-hop heads, hipsters, young artists and cultural workers in the gentrification of the global city. Here's a taste of some of Danny's flavors:

This group ‘Artists Against Gentrification.’ You know how funny that is to me? You could make a sitcom. The artists are the advanced ground troops. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. That’s like the US Army Rangers deciding they’re against the occupation of Iraq.”

“I’m thinkin’, where did all these people appear from that’s waiting on line and made reservations for brunch? I been here 37 years, and there wasn’t no BRUNCH happenin’ in this neighborhood…People were eatin’ Ding Dongs for DINNER if they was lucky.”

The hotness happens here in the B-Town 'til February 10th. Then it's coming to another gentrifying city near you.

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posted by Zentronix @ 10:51 AM   0 comments links to this post

Poll Dance

posted by Zentronix @ 10:45 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, January 10, 2008
Obama :: Go West?

Albert Bierstadt :: Yosemite 1868

Obama's speeches have been a marvel to behold, an emotional, sublime climax to long nights spent waiting through fill-in blowhards like Wolf Blitzer and Bill Bennett, and Edwards' one and only speech (it was pretty good the first time).

Obama has begun weaving a new self-mythology, and the prospect of looking west to Nevada and California had him sounding positively poetic the other night in New Hampshire.

We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

He is remaking the American story into his own, with liberal borrowings from Cesar Chavez's UFW campaign ("Si se puede!"), and Bobby and John Kennedy.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

But these speeches also sound a cautionary note for anyone who thinks he's the same fire-breathing young revolutionary fresh off the campus, Malcolm X books on the shelf, calling out power to the people. (If he ever was.)

Any history major will recognize Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis at the heart of Obama's New Hampshire speech. Turner, possibly the most influential American historian, crafted in the fronter thesis the intellectual analog to Manifest Destiny--the doctrine championed by Jackson Democrats to justify the forced taking of Indian lands in the mid-to late 19th century. The frontier was the point at which savagery turned to civilization, hope manifested in democracy.

(JFK's "New Frontier", with the moon-shot as its symbol, consciously meant to recapture Turner's triumphalism.)

Of course, many indigenous people recall that period of history differently than Turner--an era of broken treaties, brutal displacement, and horrific bloodshed. Manifest Destiny ushered in the final Indian Wars of the West, and the conquering of a good chunk of Mexico. (As some immigrant rights activists like to say, "We never crossed a border, the border crossed us.") The optimism of the westward-facing settler, the lone man on the mountaintop, is predicated on the blood of the native.

Turner's thesis virtually erased that history from the American record, and the American imagination filled with new images. The emergence of uniquely American painting came with the great landscape painters of the west, who depicted the land's Edenic grace as unpolluted by any inconvenient Indian or inchoate settler. Later, Hollywood enshrined the heroic settler narrative in the western, the foundation of American film. So these remain powerful American myths. No wonder Obama feels compelled to draw upon their power.

But for those who theorize native/non-native relations in 21st century interracial societies like my home Hawai'i (or even say, Black-Latino relations in Watts, with its myriad twists of history), Obama's speechifying conflation of the hope of immigrants with that of white settlers has to be a little, well, unsettling:

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

Is it ever possible to forge a truly new national narrative, a different way of understanding "the unlikely story that is America"?

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posted by Zentronix @ 8:02 PM   3 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 09, 2008
The Old Dogs Learn New Tricks :: What the Clintons Learned From Iowa

Hey young people! Hey women! Thanks for coming!!

Xposted at The Huffington Post

Don't call it a comeback. Hillary was always going to win, polls (especially polls of African American candidates) and media (always itching for any reason to throw dirt on a Clinton coffin) be damned.

But New Hampshire marks the moment that generational change is becoming major factor in the Democratic primary race.

The Clintons have history here. After young people—the supposedly politically dodgy "Generation X"—turned out in huge numbers to sweep Clinton to the presidency in 1992, the Dems consistently ignored them and their issues for the next 3 elections, calling them "apathetic" and "cynical".

It's true that we proved them right for the next few elections. But there were more than a few good reasons to stay home on election day: Bill's strategic demonizing of young African Americans, the welfare deform that tossed hundreds of thousands of poor young people out on the street, the rapid deterioration of college access, and the tough-on-crime "centrist" politics that put more young people of color behind bars than any previous American generation.

(I was stunned this morning to see a new level of unseemly Boomer crowing, as if a Clinton victory is a much-needed beatdown of post-Boomers and the MSM who allegedly love them. It's a demonstration of how closely many Boomer Dems identify with the Clintons. It bears noting, though, that the drop in the youth vote after 1992 played no small role in the rise of Newt Gingrich and the politics of the impeachment.)

So thus it has been since 1992. Every election season, there are a few lines about increasing student loans—Just what we need! More debt!—and some token lines about the wonder of idealism (thank you, Bill Bradley), but other than that it's usually been, "Boy, get me some coffee." Then came 2004, the hip-hop generation's all-but-ignored breakthrough moment, and Iowa 2008, with Obama's armies of the quad.

Even as the media was writing off the Clintons as tired, confused and done, they were rapidly assimilating new knowledge. They knew that young voters would make up a much smaller proportion of Dem voters in New Hampshire than in Iowa. Hillary's grassroots operation was in place, her people were motivated by a life-and-death kind of adrenalin, and she learned some key lessons from Iowa.

1) Take back the women's vote. A lot of attention last night--in an explicitly sexist way--focused on "The Tears Of The Ice Queen" story. (How uncomfortable were CNN's Donna Brazile and Campbell Brown with line of rhetoric? Very. How many male commentators would ask Rudy Giuliani to cry? None.)

But no one in the MSM picked up on Gloria Steinem's call to action in the Times yesterday, part of an all-out effort to tell the white women of New Hampshire: this race ain't about race, it's about gender.

(For more stuff on the Steinem piece, check Julianne's blog here and here, and a guest post by Jennifer Fang on Carmen's blog.)

2) Split the kids. On Sunday, Bill Clinton told MTV News, "I think historically young people have not voted in the Iowa caucus because they are from other states...This time we had a lot of students who did come back and I think, frankly, thousands and and thousands of them were from Illinois and wanted to support Senator Obama, and they had a very aggressive outreach. And ... we haven't made that mistake here; we've reached out to young people here just as much as he has, and I think we just have to keep trying." Aside from the carpet-bagger diss—get used to it, Bubba, because it is what it is—it was a telling shift. The campaign retooled itself to attract young white women.

The most notable image last night was Hillary's imitation of Obama's perfect Iowa victory speech: the candidate bathed in morning light, surrounded by bright hopeful diverse (well, as diverse as you can get in Iowa) crowds in rapt attention, ready to explode in joy. Last night, Hillary's handlers perfectly duplicated Obama's set--right down to placing all the under-24 white women they could find (plus an Asian Indian woman for a little color and a Chinese dude for a little diversity) behind her. "Ready to Lead" became the inspirational "Ready for Change". She even inserted a couple of applause lines about predatory student lenders.

All this was in sharp contrast to her Iowa speech in which she gave a boiler-plate stump that even she didn't seem invested in, looked uncomfortable standing next to Bill, and was surrounded in poor lighting by Madeline Albright and shady-looking union operatives.

So the old dogs can learn new tricks. Hillary moves on to South Carolina ready to sound more liberal and more concerned with racial justice than she ever may again this election season. And you can bet that a lot of dedicated young activists in the Clinton and Obama campaigns are about to be tapped by their higher-ups for the ride of their lives.

Because of the hard work of what might now be seen as a vanguard group of activists at the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and other college campuses in the Hawkeye, Democrats are more interested than they've ever been in what young people are going to be doing on the day their little election comes to your state. So if you're a left-leaning college student, know that for the next several weeks, you will be the most courted youth in the history of American politics.

The ball is now in your court. What do you really want?

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posted by Zentronix @ 9:54 AM   5 comments links to this post

Monday, January 07, 2008
Tmw Is The Day

Yes, not just for the New Hampshire primaries, but for the Wire soundtracks. Feel free to criticize me for my single-mindedness (it wouldn't be the 7,643th time) but I'm hella gratified and proud to be a small part of this amazing project.

Plus the truth is I'm still getting up to speed on my thang for 2007, let alone 2008, so all the unfinished biz from '07 will be handled in due time. Yes king! Yes queen!

In the meantime, run don't walk to cop both brilliant sets: The Wire: And All the Pieces Matter - Five Years of Music from the Wire and The Wire: Beyond Hamsterdam: Baltimore, the Bmore rap set. Then come check back here for all the rest over the next few days.

Just a small last word on tomorrow's vote: the media has been rubbing Clinton's face in it--over Obama's increasing lead in New Hampshire and more. Don't believe the hype til the returns come in tomorrow night. Much as everyone wants to believe, the media has a much better story if Clinton is portrayed as besieged right now. The bigger the lie, the more they believe.

posted by Zentronix @ 3:13 PM   0 comments links to this post

Bill Clinton :: Hillary Lost Iowa Because Of The Youth Vote
MTV News reported yesterday that Bill Clinton is blaming Hillary's loss in Iowa on underestimating the youth vote.

Psssh. Par for the course for the old Dems. After young people--so-called Generation X--swept Clinton to the presidency in 1992, the Dems consistently ignored them and their issues for the next 3 elections, calling them "apathetic" and "cynical". The drop in the youth vote after 1992 was a fact that played no small role in the rise of Newt Gingrich and the politics of the impeachment.

Here's Bill's quote. Amazing how he can still find ways to rationalize a youth vote away:

"I think historically young people have not voted in the Iowa caucus because they are from other states," the former president told MTV News on Saturday night. "This time we had a lot of students who did come back and I think, frankly, thousands and and thousands of them were from Illinois and wanted to support Senator Obama, and they had a very aggressive outreach. And ... we haven't made that mistake here; we've reached out to young people here just as much as he has, and I think we just have to keep trying."

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

Thursday, January 03, 2008
Sweeping Out The Dust

Hey fam, welcome to the New Year and best wishes for all of you!

I'm already way behind on my list of posts to do in this blog including:

+ Best Records of 2007
+ What Obama's Win In Iowa Means (short version: something, but not much)
+ And the imminent return of "The Wire".

Let me get the last one out of the way and just let this blog do the talking. More previews here.

In the meantime, patience! Hotness takes time...

posted by Zentronix @ 6:53 PM   0 comments links to this post


Previous posts
Coming Soon!
Notes On The Eve Of Day One
Students Occupy The New School
Farai Chideya's News And Notes on NPR Has Been Can...
I Am Nixon
Shouldna Lef Ya...
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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