Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

The great Vince Beiser on the 10th anniversary of Three Strikes.

posted by @ 8:02 am | 0 Comments

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Sorry I left ya.

I was in L.A. with the crew doing work for the National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Got to meet Mark Marcelo at the Designs on Democracy conference. Then my computer crashed. (Thanks Ikuko for the fix!)

AI…goodbye John Stevens. Latoya was cool but not blazing. Jasmine, Fantasia, and George ripped it. Amy is over her head. I get Diane now and I know why I’m not digging her–she’s maaad corny. I’m still pulling hard for Camille and Jennifer. Even my own house ain’t feeling me on this but I think they are the two originals in this crew. Anyway they’re bonafide longshots now, nuff reason for me to champion the cause.

Which reminds me: Down with Doook, the Vitale of Final 4 teams–loud, overrated, obnoxious.


I’ll be up at UConn (Go Huskies–men’s & women’s!) on the night after the Championship (April 6th for you non-hoopers) for a Hip-Hop Roundtable Discussion with:

Jeffrey Ogbonna Ogbar, UConn Professor of History

Elizabeth Mendez Berry, writer for the Village Voice and Vibe

Joseph Schloss, Musicology Professor at Tufts and author of the forthcoming Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop

If you’re in the area code, holla…

posted by @ 9:33 pm | 0 Comments

Saturday, March 27th, 2004

Yeah! Matt Cibula does haikus

for American Idol.

posted by @ 2:51 pm | 0 Comments

Monday, March 22nd, 2004

Aight yall. Another night of book-editing then I’m filing and disappearing for the rest of the week.

In LA to hang with my man Brian Cross, whose movie “Keepintime” is now out on DVD–not just a must-see, but a must-own–and to do some work on the National Hip-Hop Political Convention. More on the hypeness of both these projects down the line, I promise.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Yay this weekend, don’t forget that we’ll be putting it down at the Designs on Democracy conference this weekend. And please run come show ya luv for Aya De Leon on her closing weekend at the Oakland Box.

More word the heard next week…In the meantime, come round and enjoy the people and content to the left. Always to the left, yall…

posted by @ 6:18 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, March 19th, 2004

Thanks to mad editing at a furious pace I’ve set for myself, I’m very late on this fascinating post from Jay Smooth, Hip-Hop Blogs: Blind to Gender Issues? picking up from Lizelle at Paper Thin Philosophies. Wish my brain weren’t so fried right now that I could add a penny or two. Lots of good stuff…

posted by @ 3:06 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, March 19th, 2004


My old boss Bob Wing on Bush’s lying lies. If you don’t have a book to turn in on Monday, try to get out in the streets this weekend.


*Next week I’ll be facilitating a workshop on Hip-Hop Culture in Activist Design at the Designs on Democracy conference in Berkeley. The conference runs from March 26-28. All you free-thinking artists, aerosolists, graphic designers, and visual art-loving folks please come on out to meet, cipher, and build!

*I’m mad humbled to have been asked to be a part of this star-studded AZN panel, Music Journalism 101 – The Asiatic Remix on April 1 in San Jose. The twisted hip-hop wit of the South Bay (who nonetheless gets crushed in the March Madness brackets every year), Todd Inoue, will be moderating, and the crew includes: Oliver Wang, Marian Liu, and Yoshi Kato.

Farewell Billy Donovan. Roll, Heels, roll. More a soon come. Back to the edit…

posted by @ 8:52 am | 0 Comments

Wednesday, March 17th, 2004

SFJ defends Timbaland from the bloggerati. Includes a pretty good description of dancehall –> Timbaland –> dancehall debts. Although the reference shouldn’t be to Lenky, an original, but maybe Corleon instead. I also gotta say that this piece has made me embarrassed at this fact: what Tim is to SFJ, SFJ’s criticism has become to this blog. I cried when I wrote this post, sue me.

posted by @ 10:27 am | 0 Comments

Wednesday, March 17th, 2004

Apologies for the slow updating. Caught in the midst of final-final drafts, National Hip-Hop Political Convention bizness, getting ready for March Madness, and enjoying the best episode of American Idol ever. My cup runneth over, I don’t know what to do.

Let me talk about American Idol. This last thing is the kind of pop event that get music crits like us excited. I imagine there will actually be some buzz amongst our cooler-than-thou bloggerati before this is all over.

There’s a depth to this year’s class that is intriguing. Execs must be licking their chops because contracts here can easily go 4-5 deep beyond the winner. The talent is that rich. Randy and Paula are already running out of platitudes.

The episode also gave me a new appreciation for Simon Cowell. I disagreed again with his “oversinging” critique–how do you “restrain” yourself on an Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan number? More to the point, I haven’t heard the useless Aguilerian melismatics of last year’s class. When someone like Jennifer Hudson runs a phrase, she’s running a phrase and you better fuckin pay attention.

He made that comment in the middle of the show at Jennifer Hudson’s expense–a pattern, dude really doesn’t like her, which I suspect goes back to his body-image issues. And it was wrong to make that comment after hearing Latoya and Fantasia belting out their numbers as well.

But Cowell has a logic–a contrarian logic that wants to turn the attention to separating the field. These are all great singers, Simon was saying, now how do we distinguish between who’s really good and who is just good? Again, a critic’s ear. Can’t be mad at that.

So John Stevens, the 16 year-old going on 64, comes up and does a sappy rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately”, sub-sub-Norah Jones, effortless but emotionless. Now I really hate this dude’s aesthetic–this kid is to Stevie Wonder what Elvis was to Chuck D. But you gotta hand it to him, the kid has come to the competition with an aesthetic. Simon, to be consistent, calls him “an artist”. Hyperbole once again, but at least Simon is defending his position.

Here’s hoping John Stevens, Fantasia, and Jennifer will force the rest of the field to develop their own aesthetic, which would be a great thing for Cowell and us critics: Let’s not just talk about who is good or who has the potential to be good, let’s start talking about what is good.

My take:

*Fantasia’s idiosyncratic take on Stevie Wonder was brilliant. Her voice is so interesting I wouldn’t mind seeing her sing the theme from Barney the Dinosaur.

*Jennifer Hudson, not Fantasia, is the “new Aretha”–power, control, phrasing, narrative. Thankfully she’ll never take Cowell’s “oversinging” critique too seriously, because she knows what she has. Unlike any singer who has ever appeared on American Idol, Jennifer approaches a song with the careful method and the calculation of a true jazz singer, and she has the talent to sing circles around most of the top-selling professionals right now. Someone please get her together with Andy Bey so we can see the sparks fly.

*LaToya London and Jasmine Trias can sang and have that X factor, and being that they rep Oakland and Mililani respectively (plus LaToya’s a mom and Jasmine long-boards!) I’m rooting hard for them. But we still haven’t seen who they really are yet. Luckily they’ll be in for the long run.

*George Huff is far too happy for me, but Simon is right–he’s clueless to how good he is. In fact, his stage presence was absolutely Otis Redding, and he’s got an early Marvin Gaye charm. But he has shown no edge whatsoever (something his back-story hints at). He wants so much to please the crowd that the thing he hasn’t copped to yet is his own grittiness. Like Marvin, he might become an incredible recording star with the right music and a lot of drama. But you’d never want to see him on tour, because he’d speed up all the slow jams so he could dance around to them in silk shirts.

*Jon Peter Lewis has no idea who he wants to sing like yet–he changes styles sometimes three times in the same verse. He’s the one Simon should be accusing of “oversinging”. His performances have no flow or consistency. But he’s also an original, completely at home in his skin. That’s probably what distinguishes this class–previous groups wanted to please the judges, and played it safe–these folks are unafraid to do themselves.

*That’s why Leah and Camile are hurting right now. In a field of folks that are already halfway to becoming full-blown artists, they’ve got to step up and show some confidence and personality on-stage. Leah’s got a moving backstory but hasn’t found anything approaching her voice yet. She’s become very stiff at the mic.

*Neither has our household’s personal favorite, Camile, who is suffering from Haiku-to-Hollywood shell-shock. Camille, we know the feeling girl. We love you. Hold your head and deliver that Lauryn Hill funk like we all want you to. Maybe do some Marley or Bruddah Iz or something. Go for it.

*Amy would be cool to have lunch with, but you wouldn’t want to have her drive you home and have to listen to all those sappy ballads on her “quiet storm” station.

*Matt would be great to have a beer with, but you’d want to leave the karaoke bar early before the whole team got really drunk.

*Diana DiGarmo I just don’t get yet.

Ok my 10-minute blogging period is up for today…

posted by @ 8:13 am | 0 Comments

Monday, March 15th, 2004


Inspiration comes in the form of the irrepressibly brilliant Billy UPSKI Wimsatt who next week, as part of his latest League of Pissed-Off Voters campaign will unleash a ticking election-year timebomb: How To Get Stupid White Men Out Of Office. Can’t hardly wait!

Today also brought news that the publication of the book has enraged the legal beagles at Harper-Collins.

Remember them? They’re the spineless folks who threatened to pulp Michael Moore’s book, Stupid White Men after 9/11, enraging Moore himself, who then organized librarians to force H-C to release the book. Whereupon the damn thing became a bestseller, selling over a million copies and influencing young activists! (Moral of the story: never fuck with librarians.)

So H-C turns around and clocks Billy and his crew with a cease-and-desist order–NOTE: see Willie, they are not cool! Moore now remarks, “It is kind of strange that a publisher that first tried to squash my book is now trying to defend their economic interest now that it is a best seller. And they apparently doing it by trying to squash another book.”

May How To Get Stupid White Men Out of Office sell a gazillion copies. Do your part next week by buying 2 copies and giving one to a homie.

posted by @ 8:52 pm | 0 Comments

Monday, March 15th, 2004


[updated 3/16/04]

The Monkey doesn’t like liars in power.

In Spain, young and alienated voters pushed voter turnout to 77%, and they voted overwhelmingly for the Socialists.

More on Spain’s stunning turn (i.e, what the NY Times, Fox, or your shitty local corporate newspaper won’t tell you):

**“Our Dead, Your War”

**New Spanish Leader Lashes Out At Bush and Blair Over Iraq War

**“The Spark That Set The Prairie Afire” (In Spanish…you can translate here.)

Meanwhile, the US counterspin is in full swing–note this piece from, yup, USA Today, in which “homeland security consultant” (what a ridiculous title) Randall Larsen comments, “”This event rivals 9/11 in terms of a victory for al-Qaeda.”

(For balance, the writer also offers a quote from the supposedly liberal Brookings Institution.)

But the stupidity of this argument is patently clear.

90% of Spaniards have barely tolerated Aznar and the Popular Party’s pro-Bush, pro-war stance from the beginning. But they may not have turned against the Popular Party so dramatically if the PP did not leap to blame the ETA. In other words, by playing politics with the blame game, they made the war on terrorism the last minute campaign issue, as opposed to the terrorism itself. Spanish voters punished the PP government for lying to them twice.

It was a campaign blunder of colossal proportions, with consequences that utterly shake the Bush and Blair administrations from the bottom up.

Instead of drawing Europeans closer into the war on terrorism as they had hoped, the Popular Party’s blunder draws more attention to the uncertainty and instability that terrorism creates, rather than the stability that the war on it supposedly fosters. It has the ironic effect of empowering truth-telling doves, not agenda-hammering hawks.

Surely the Bushites and Blairites are deeply upset about all this–and we can expect that their counterspin, as in the above article, will be in full-court press mode for this whole week. By the end of the week, expect some counter-counterspin from the rest of Europe.

ADDENDUM: As for the timing of the bombing, there is one line of inquiry that believes it may have had nothing to do with the elections at all. Message boards have been buzzing with the numerological significance of 3/11/04, coming 911 days after 9/11/01.

posted by @ 7:12 am | 0 Comments

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