Wednesday, December 31st, 2003

Last quote of the year, unearthed from a 1986 Voice book review by Robert Christgau of Steven Hager’s Hip Hop, Nelson George, Sally Banes, etc. Fresh, and David Toop’s Rap Attack. (This one is not on his website.) Again, from 1986…!

“…to fuss about the exploitation of hip hop is quite often to take sides against the hip hoppers themselves–even though in the end that exploitation is certain to prove a juggernaut that the hip hoppers (and even the exploiters) can’t control. To counsel purity isn’t impermissible, but it’s certainly complicated, with ramifications that stretch far beyond the scope of this review, or indeed of any piece of writing of any length on any similar subject that has ever come to my attention.”

That, friends, 18 years down the line, remains what the lit-critters like to call a “rupture in the text”, what b-boys and b-girls call “the break”, what salseros call “montuno”, and what we hip-hop journalists have to recognize as the central recurring theme/paradox of our day-jobs (uh, such as they are and allthat)…

Happy New Year yall.

posted by @ 12:57 pm | 0 Comments

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003


Hey it’s almost 2004. Time for some action. So I’ve revamped the left bar, with all new hotlinks for activism.

Two that I really want to highlight–and will keep coming back to in the oh-quad–are the League of Independent Voters, a project launched by Billy Upski Wimsatt of Bomb The Suburbs and No More Prisons fame, and the National Hip Hop Political Convention, spearheaded by a number of leading hip-hop activists.

Both are grass-roots efforts to get the hip-hop generation up into it and involved in the 2004 elections and beyond. Check them out and see you all on the frontlines next year…

posted by @ 7:13 am | 0 Comments

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003

John Nichols on Joe Strummer. Has Strummer become the punk Dylan? Guess I’m not really mad at that.

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Monday, December 29th, 2003

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Reading List, Part 2


Below, the long-promised, unduly withheld, non-canonical, strictly zentronix-style list of stuff I’ve read and dug, L-Z.

Here’s the reading list A-K.

McDonnell, Evelyn and Powers, Ann, ed. Rock She Wrote

Of all the so-called “Best of” anthologies, this one rings the truest. McDonnell and Powers began their project in the Bay Area while they were still working for the pre-New Times version of the SF Weekly as a labor of love. Nearly 70 women get their writing on from the early 70s to the early 90s. Endlessly enjoyable.

Morales, Ed. The Latin Beat

Brand new book by longtime Voice contributor that smartly examines the influence of Latin music on American and global pop. If you dig this, you should also hunt down the groundbreaking study by John Storm Roberts, The Latin Tinge.

Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces

When the other most influential critic alive painted his masterpiece, it read like this. His Mystery Train and Invisible Republic are also often great, but his obsessions with Dylan and Elvis often seem to demand parody. This one, though, is such a cult classic, it became an Off-Broadway play.

Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues

Never mind Martin Scorsese. This is the one you want. One of the all-time best.

Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy

A critic who tirelessly classifies and names the entropic genre proliferation of electronic music like a fizzy botanist somehow also manages to be one of the most provocative. This book has set off a million arguments, but the prose is pure blissed out fandom. Great discography. His blog is here.

Savage, Jonathan. England’s Dreaming

An epic history of the emergence of British punk that spans the personal and the political, covering all the perspectives—from fan in the crowd to fly on the wall to philosopher in dog collar. Nearly 600 pages, but so edifying, you’ll still want more.

Shapiro, Peter, ed. Modulations

Anthology largely including folks from The Wire—writers like Shapiro, Rob Young, Simon Reynolds, Mike Rubin, David Toop, Kurt Reighley, and Kodwo Eshun—that present an overview of electronic music from Stockhausen to Autechre. Nice to look at too.

Tate, Greg. Flyboy In The Buttermilk

A collection of groundbreaking, iconoclastic essays mostly from the Village Voice during its late 80s-early 90s peak. Includes definitive essays on Public Enemy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Miles Davis, as well as eye-openers on William Gibson, Don DeLillo, and Rammellzee. I’ll get in trouble for saying this but to me he’s way better than Bangs. Certainly has been to hip-hop journalism what Bangs was to rock journalism.

Toop, David. The Rap Attack

The other book in the Old Testament of hip-hop journalism. Unlike Exotica and Ocean of Sound, it’s concrete, musicological, and incisive. The first editions’ essay format is vastly superior to the later versions’ chronological catch-up, but that’s just me quibbling. The discographies have set off many a digger’s journey.

Tosches, Nick. Unsung Heroes of Rock’n’Roll

Only covers 1945 to 1955, and only chooses to focus on the bizarre, weird, and fabulous. One of The Wire editor Peter Shapiro’s favorite books, “for largely inventing wise-ass music journalism”.

Wang, Oliver, ed. Classic Material

Another brand new book. Attempts to create a canon of hip-hop records with some of the hottest young hip-hop journalists (and warmed-over post-young me). Kinda like Stranded for the hip-hop era, but much better, IMHO! All shameless plugs aside, raises the interesting question of what hip-hop journalism needs to conquer next, now that it’s begun to canonize its music (and next year with Raquel Cepeda’s book, canonize itself). How does hip-hop journalism recover its progressive spirit when it’s entering its downward arc?

Vibe Hip Hop Divas

Much much better than the title suggests. Edited by Rob Kenner, it’s largely a collection of definitive stories that originally appeared in the magazine. But also includes a timeline, boxes on emerging artists, and Cristina Veran’s indispensable essay on the female old-school pioneers.

The Vibe History of Hip Hop

As history it tastes great, but is ultimately less filling. As a collection of the best hip-hop journalists writing at the top of their game, though, it’s incomparable. Danyel Smith’s intro and Ben Higa’s early LA rap essay are my favorites, though Sacha Jenkins, Rob Marriott, and Chairman Mao and many others rep lovely as well. Unfortunately, most of these folks probably won’t be appearing in “Da Capo’s Best Music Writing [Year X]” anytime soon.

posted by @ 10:59 am | 0 Comments

Monday, December 29th, 2003

FYI…here’s a story in the Chronicle about the transformation of the Vietnamese American community in San Jose over a police shooting of an immigrant woman.

posted by @ 10:44 am | 0 Comments

Sunday, December 28th, 2003


Steve Oney’s pain is your pleasure: 17 Reasons Why It Took Me 17 Years To Write My Book. Best wishes for 2004, yall.

posted by @ 3:29 pm | 0 Comments

Sunday, December 28th, 2003

Wow, Complaining Works


The virtues of Internet time. A month ago I was a ranter, now I’m officially in da club. I’ve won the quickest sell-out sweepstakes. What am I blathering about?

Here’s the email address to send your nominations for Da Capo’s best music writing of 2004:

You can send as links, Word or Acrobat Reader documents. Step up and rep dunnie. We’ll see what we get 12 months from now.

BTW here’s Jason Gross’s Favourite Scribings for 2003. Again, leans a little rockist and mainstream (no Murder Dog or Wax Poe nominees), but you don’t have to.

My final, done-on-ample-sleep, carefully considered, vetted, and lovingly edited but no less artery-busting rant will be out in the SF Bay Guardian soon come. Thank you SFJ for talking sense into a mad cow.

The NY Times critics best of 2003 lists hit today, and there’s also an entertaining convo on the music that sucked. Altho LB wasn’t listed–a big stunna, but I guess that’s just me and my navel prolly–the lists were worldly (as they usually are) and K even repped the diggers with a shout tothe Hollertronix mix cd.

BTW always feel free to holla if you’re an alienated (or even comfortably adjusted) working music journalist writing about non-rock, non-hip-hop, non-electronic genres, you know, bhangra, salsa, merengue, African, Latin, Arab, Cantopop, etc. Let’s make the link…

Undying Underdog Love to Cal and Hawai’i ballers for making me money this past week. (Timmy) Chang Power in 2004!

posted by @ 1:02 pm | 0 Comments

Monday, December 15th, 2003


There is no joy in Miggy-ville tonight. We don’t need Foulke and Lilly. We’ll miss T Long and Ramon. Good riddance to Jason and Johnny. But you’ll never be not be an A, Miggy. Awwwww fuck.

posted by @ 8:14 pm | 0 Comments

Monday, December 15th, 2003


Like Saddam, I spent most of my year in a hole in the ground. But you still get music down there. Here’s a first stab at fave tracks of the year. Not ranked, because I’m egalitarian.

Antibalas-“Che Che Cole”

Beenie Man-“Row Like A Boat”

Beyonce-“Crazy In Love”

Beyonce and Mary J. Blige vs. 50 Cent-“In Da Club” Mp3 remix

DJ Frane-“In The Garden”

Elephant Man-“Pon Di River Pon Di Bank”

Elephant Man-“The Genie Dance”

Jay Z-“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”


Alicia Keys-“You Don’t Know My Name”

Alicia Keys with Rakim and Nas-“Streets of New York”

Lil Jon-“Get Low (Merengue Mix)”

Lil Kim-“The Jump Off”

Lifesavas-“What If It’s True”

Ludacris-“Stand Up”

Lyrics Born-“Calling Out”

Lyrics Born-“Do That There”

Missy-“Pass That Dutch”


Vybz Kartel-“Sweet To The Belly”

Worst song of the year I still have to listen to everyday: Lumidee-“Uh Oh”. I object to this because the loop of Diwali cares nothing for dynamics, Lumidee is mad pitchy (can’t afford a vocal synthesizer?), and she says Puerto Ricans invented the riddim. In Brooklyn, those are fighting words. Just like America it sucks but I love it.

posted by @ 3:00 pm | 0 Comments

Saturday, December 13th, 2003


Shameless self-aggrandizement part 47. Here’s the first meaty beaty big and bouncy review I’ve done in months. It’s on Missy in the Village Voice. More lunacy-pure lunacy-a soon come. And I guess early 90s JA dances named after Caribbean revolutionaries aren’t listed in the dictionary. People, that has to change.

posted by @ 11:05 pm | 0 Comments

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