Results tagged “hiphop”


June 18, 2009

Jay Smooth, "Please stop calling everyone and their mother 'The First Rapper'":

U-Roy may be one of rap's predecessors, and among the influences that laid the foundation for rap, but he did not invent it...any more than Jocko Henderson, Gil Scott Heron, Lord Buckley or the West African Griots invented it. All of them may be forefathers, but none are the inventors. And muddling their places in music history with his sort of specious, sloppy revisionism does hip-hop AND its forefathers a disservice.

Scott Rosenberg talks about The First Blogger, as part of his promotion for his upcoming book "Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters":

It's interesting to contrast these points because all of blogging is hip hop.

Update: If you enjoyed Scott's video, you might enjoy the series of interviews and profiles of pioneers I did for blogging's tenth anniversary, including Dave Winer, Leslie Harpold, Michael Sippey, and Harold Check.

People and Ideas

May 2, 2008

These are the things I saw yesterday that I thought were interesting, entertaining, and inspiring. First, Erika Hall, Copy as Interface. (See more on the Mule blog.)

Mena Trott, Wasted on the Young.

Cheryl Coward, on AfterEllen, profiling Lynne d. Johnson. (See more on Lynne's blog.)

"When I think about black females on the web with technology, Lynne [d. Johnson]'s name easily comes to mind," said Karsh, founder of the Black Weblog Awards and "She has masterfully been able to understand and bridge the gap between online and print media in a major way, from her work with Vibe magazine to her current work at FastCompany."

Aaand that's all for now.

Blogs of the Year: Ill Doctrine

December 10, 2007

Today's Blog of the Year Pick: Ill Doctrine.

Ill Doctrine

Put simply, Jay Smooth's Ill Doctrine is the best video blog on the web. (At least the best one that's in English.) As you'd expect from the founder of, Ill Doc starts from a base of reporting on hip hop music and culture. But from that starting point, Jay branches into ruminations on celebrity, culture, politics, and art with real feeling. I don't think anybody else could make me both roll my eyes at and empathize with Amy Winehouse in the space of just a few minutes, let alone turn "Chocolate Rain" into a non-ironic jam. And for casual viewers, nobody does a better job of breaking down complex topics like the bust of DJ Drama by the RIAA than Ill Doctrine.

The editing's tight, the videos frequently feature original music and interviews, and there's a bracing honesty to much of the conversation that really connected for me.
Pick of the Posts:

If you like this, try: Catching up on Ze Frank's archives for The Show. I wasn't kidding when I said he was our I Love Lucy.

This is one in a series of posts about Blogs of the Year for 2007. They're my subjective picks about blogs that inspired or influenced me this year, and you can check out my introductory post to find more.

Video of the Year

July 26, 2007

My early pick for video of the year? Zach Galifianakis' take on Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing". Absolute genius, and even features a cameo by Bonnie "Prince" Billy

More on the video's origin at The Fader.

They Reminisce, They Reminisce

July 19, 2007

Over at, which Jay Smooth has relaunched as a group blog, Brandon Soderberg offers When They Reminisce Over Mixtapes. The same industry that makes millions from “Now That’s What I Call Cherry-Picking Hit Singles! Vol 42” tries to throw black artists in jail for making mixtapes that were commissioned by the labels themselves. And an artform dies in the crossfire.

See also: Holding a Gun to Dick Clark’s Head.

The Amen Break

March 23, 2007

Nate Harrison's 2004 documentary Can I Get an Amen? on the "Amen Break", uncovers the story behind one of the seminal breaks of the electronica/jungle/drum-n-bass scenes. Though I'd argue that James Brown's "Funky Drummer" break is even more influential, and that the Kraftwerk/Africa Bambaata breaks are equally seminal in other genres, this is a fantastic demonstration of open culture and the profound ways that sampling can have an impact that no one could predict.

See also:

Collecting Samples

March 6, 2007

Do you want links? Because I'll give you some damn links, I'm not afraid of you! I'm not afraid of NOBODY!

Dominant, a UC Berkeley alumnus who actually attended the much-publicized class on Shakur in the late '90s, says that he finds value in hip-hop studies, provided they take the long view. "With hip-hop and all black music, you can't talk about the art separate from a lot of other things," he says. "You can't talk about hip-hop as an art form without talking about the people, the economics, how and why it was made. You have to be pretty thorough."

Finding ways to teach and study hip-hop from within a university setting is not easy. "I worry that scholars like us get so obsessed with trying to justify hip-hop that we end up running in circles," says Berkeley grad student Felicia Viator, a DJ who's finishing up a doctorate in history.

  • Businessweek's Catherine Holahan looks at the unfiltered conversations that have sprung up in light of community changes after USA Today's recent web redesign. I don't know that I'd make a change in the cultural assumptions of a site at the same time as aesthetic/UI changes, because then you don't know which one caused everybody to lose their minds.
  • Ask the Wizard, written by Feedburner CEO Dick Costolo is, flat out, the best new blog of 2007. The thing I love about great writing is it makes the pervasive truths seem self-evident and even obvious. Plus it's actually funny, not another tech exec wearing a goofy tie and claiming to be full of ha-ha.
  • Dear Drew, have you considered changing the font on Fark's homepage?
  • This is the old Top 5% of all Web Sites graphic that used to be used by Point. Which was actually Point Communications, which was actually at, until it sold to Lycos during a period of the web's history 10 years ago that is apparently so old nobody caught the reference. Winning the meaningless award used to be accompanied by an email alerting you to the good news. I suspect Todd Whitney is not still toiling away at Lycos.
  • I spoke at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver a little over a week ago, and there's video of my presentation up on the web, albeit with suboptimal sound. But it kind of gives you a feel for what we were all talking about, if you have the patience to sit through it. (My part starts about five minutes in.)
  • If you've somehow missed them, a few articles on the tech generation gap. Emily Nussbaum's excellent, definitive look at the distinctions between the technological expectations of those born before and after 1977 in regard to privacy seems like the coming-out party for the topics danah has been talking about forever. A simpler, but still compelling, Tim Bajarin piece in PC Magazine complements it nicely. And the WaPo sez colleges have lost track of students because the schools are still trying to use phones and email to talk to kids who only use Facebook and IM. Whoops.
  • Someday, me and Kal Penn in a steel cage match for Most Famous Indian in America. Someday.

Holding a gun to Dick Clark's head

February 20, 2007

There's no shortage of animosity towards the mainstream record industry from its customer base, but the RIAA's thug mentality's become brutally obvious of late. The major labels have relied on DJ mixtapes to scout new talent and promote the most popular artists on their rosters, expending significant resources to fund their efforts. And now they've turned on mixtape DJs, supporting the efforts of Federal authorities to raid prominent studios merely for doing the work the labels paid them to do.

Fifty years ago, the equivalent would have been for the labels to tell the FBI to kick down the doors at American Bandstand, and lead Dick Clark off in shackles for promoting their records.

I'd heard mention of the story a few weeks ago on most of the music news and hip hop sites I follow, but the best explanation was Jay Smooth's video on

Then, this Sunday's New York Times covered the story of DJ Drama's arrest and the raid on Gangsta Grillz in depth:

Drama and Cannon’s studio was not a bootlegging plant; it was a place where successful new hip-hop CDs were regularly produced and distributed. Drama and Cannon are part of a well-regarded D.J. collective called the Aphilliates. Although their business almost certainly violated federal copyright law, as well as a Georgia state law that requires CDs to be labeled with the name and address of the producers, they were not simply stealing from the major labels; they were part of an alternative distribution system that the mainstream record industry uses to promote and market hip-hop artists. Drama and Cannon have in recent years been paid by the same companies that paid Kilgo to help arrest them.

What's happening, in short, is exceptionally underhanded and despicable, even by the standards of the recording industry. Every major label uses underground mixtapes to promote their work -- whether it's the ceaseless parade of MCs dissing each other, new artists getting their big break by dropping a few verses on someone else's track, or major artists testing out new singles and sounds by giving a taste to the mixtape crews first, this is an essential and integral part of contemporary music promotion. And it has, of course, been part of hip hop culture since the very earliest days.

And just like Dick Clark's early popularity in the 50s and 60s, this channel has grown in popularity due to sheer necessity. A vital, evolving musical scene needs a champion who has the credibility of being close to the street while also having the reach and distribution to catch the attention of a wider audience. Major artists like Lil Jon and T.I. have gotten their start or gotten a big push from Gangsta Grillz mixtapes. And now DJ Drama, the driving force behind Grillz, has spent time in jail at the behest of those he was helping.

How bad does it get? Check out this definitive example of shoddy local news reporting -- The Fox affiliate in Atlanta manages to get an R.I.A.A. spokesperson acting typically shady, and a law enforcement officer pointing out that "no drugs or weapons were found this time". (Hint to the Feds: The really huge drug stashes are in the offices of the actual record labels.) To be clear: The R.I.A.A. is implying that their distribution, promotion, and A&R partners are drug dealers with stashes of illegal weapons. Of course, they already think their customers are criminals, but this must mark a new milestone.

The overall cluelessness and lack of literacy about Atlanta's own local music scene in this TV report should be shocking, but sadly, it seems inevitable.

A note to Matthew Kilgo: These people you're calling criminals are fundamental to generating the income that your salary is leeched from. The only positive effect that might come from your efforts is that you might stop feeding the stream of money that lets you keep your job.


November 9, 2006

Erin McKean, frock star and lexicographer, offers some wisdom:

You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

Synaesthesia makes for the best web conversations, even on Ask MetaFilter:

My calendar is a bit like a teardrop-shaped clock going counterclockwise. If you took a clock with a rubbery outer rim, grabbed it with a hook at one o'clock and pulled it a little bit up and to the right, you'd have my calendar. The rounded point of the teardrop is January 1, with the months running counter clockwise from there, although somehow 12 o'clock is only mid-January. June starts around 8 o'clock, and the summer takes up the whole bottom, with 4 o'clock being about mid-September. My birthday, in late July, is at six o'clock. Christmas is around 2 o'clock. I experience January and February as cold, dull months which drag on far too long, but this doesn't seem to be reflected spacially in my calendar.

What happens when a gaming site pauses from fawning over the latest lame sequel and does some actual journalism? Game Revolution:

First off, I have absolute proof that video games are not the cause of this epidemic of youth violence in America. No, really, I do. Ready?

There is no epidemic of youth violence in America.

Lonnae O'Neal Parker, genuine b-girl:

When those of us who grew up with rap saw signs that it was turning ugly, we turned away. We premised our denial on a sort of good-black-girl exceptionalism: They came for the skeezers but I didn't speak up because I'm no skeezer, they came for the freaks, but I said nothing because I'm not a freak. They came for the bitches and the hos and the tricks. And by the time we realized they were talking about bitches from 8 to 80, our daughters and our mommas and their own damn mommas, rap music had earned the imprimatur of MTV and Martha Stewart and even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Kingsley Jegan Joseph:

In an effort to help further the stereotyped humor popular in these modern times, I have compiled a web 2.0 compliant, clustered stereotype tag soup for India:

  1. Call center, outsourcing, BPO, fake accents, difficult accents, cheat, incompetent, insincere, fake names
  2. Hindu, animal worship, vegetarian, unpronounceable name, orthodox, culturally backwards, caste, social oppression, bride burning, mama’s boys
  3. Muslim, terrorist, violent
  4. Sissy, Apu, 7-11, K-mart

Writing For Linking

May 19, 2006

These days, I think people in traditional media outlets are writing stories just so they'll get linked on particular blogs.

John Cook trumping up a fuss in Slate about Sasha and Jessica's analysis of Merritt-ocracy seems like it was written just so Jay would maybe write a post about it.

The Times' A.O. Scott seems to have written his lengthy, amusing slam of The Da Vinci Code just so Matthew could cover it in the Bad Review Revue.

And three thousand eight hundred words about Michael Jackson's finances? In the Times Business section? Clearly that's written just so I would link to it.


October 31, 2002

I wasn't going to write about it, but I can't seem to stop thinking about it, so maybe writing it out will get it out of my head... I'm surprised just how affected I am by Jam Master Jay's passing. You probably already know, if you didn't before, that he was the DJ For Run-DMC. Jason Mizell was also a husband and father of three children.

The thing I can't get past is that, from his hands, to my ears, there was a sound that changed how I saw music. I was never a huge fan of Run-DMC. Growing up in the suburbs in an area that pretty shamelessly disparaged hip-hop, I didn't really get turned on to it until Public Enemy. But I knew the songs; We all did. And, in an era when "DJ" refers to aesthetes who want to be known as turntablists, it's easy to forget how percussive, how ass-kicking those first few Run-DMC tracks were. Galvanizing, even to suburban kids who first heard them in a context that put them up against later efforts by the Beastie Boys or BDP.

This wasn't subtle beat-matching, intricate interjections of a few measures of an underground classic intended as a nod to the hipsters in the audience. This was rock-the-crowd, hands-in-the-air scratching. That's still the sound that stays with me. It was so bad, so wrong, it fucked with my head so bad when I heard it, that it seemed like it was almost breaking a law when I finally heard scratching on the radio on my local stations a few years later when Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" crossed over.

I don't want to slide into hagiography; There are those who know the music and the scene far better than me. There are those who were much more invested in Run-DMC as a part of their lives. I'm a dabbler, I never even had any of the 12" singles until a trip to L.A. a few months ago. But you can't ignore how much the sound of hip-hop's first mainstream act wasn't just defined by the rhymes and attitude of the guys out front, but by the skills and creativity of the DJ in the back. Hell, these guys even made Krush Groove seem credible.

You can't miss the music. Check out the current Top 5 on the Billboard charts, you'll find Missy Elliot's "Work It". The last minute of the song is a straight lift from Run-DMC's "Peter Piper". The incredible breakdown to Bob James' Mardi Gras, which Jay cut up for the song, is still so purely grooving and ass-moving that it can top the charts a decade and a half later. Chuck D said it best years ago in one of his rhymes, "Run-DMC first said a DJ could be a band." The "band" behind Run-DMC is still echoing out of people's rides in Queens today. There's no better legacy.