Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Whatever Happened To The Avant-Garde, Part II: Beyond Rockism vs. Pop-ism

So I’m sure this is the one everyone’s gonna be talking about this week. It’s long overdue, and you couldn’t have wished for anyone else except this dude to have come through to clarify the situation.

Even better, here’s Eric Weisbard’s unbelievably timed review of Elijah Wald’s brilliant book on Robert Johnson and Ned Sublette’s book on Cuba-as-the-mother-of-all-pop-rhythm that suggest deep alternatives to both rockist writing and traditional scholarly approaches to pop. Read the review then run out and get the books.

But the point of this short rant–I can go on, but I don’t have time right now–is to suggest that the rockism vs. pop-ism debate is mad played out. As even my man suggests in his closing lines, “We deserve some new prejudices, too”–no doubt so that he can elegantly skewer them as well, but anyway.

Here’s my mini-statement of purpose. If there’s a hiphopcentric approach to all this, it certainly ought to oppose rockism, but also establish some standards, prejudices, whatever you want to call them–aesthetics. It ought to run the gauntlet between the critical theory line that most pop is bad (the rockists’ debt to Adorno) and the cult-stud line that most pop is good (the antidj-rockists’ debt to the Brits). It ought to make a virtues of both showing-and-proving in front of a community and leading that community somewhere else. Audience affirmation should lead forward not backward.

My own criticism has been moving in two not-yet-contradictory directions. One is towards the global–a stab against what I once called musical unilateralism in some stupid essay long ago (for the record, this year’s model brought tears to many of our eyes, I’m not kidding). Let’s admit, for instance, that the worldviews of rockists and popists often seem utterly ridiculous from other shores. Proof? Start with the brilliant DJ Nuts.

The other is toward a return of the avant-garde. Remember that? Before the post-isms and the bloggerati levelled everything?

I don’t mean only unlistenable stuff you have to study in class. Jazz at Minton’s was avant-garde. Sly Stone and Funkadelic was avant-garde. Hip-hop when it came downtown and went global was avant-garde. They shared a comfort in knowing the ledge.

I’m down for pop that wants to be avant-garde (or like this or this or this) and avant-garde that wants to be pop (or like this or this or this or this).

Rockists are correct to celebrate rebellion and Big Statements, Pop-ists are correct to celebrate pleasure and mass appeal. Pop avantists or Avant-popists, whatever, a new avant-gardism, should want an aesthetics of progressiveness, of standing outside (whether one wants in or not), of risk, of of desiring and creating a better world.

Alright yall, gotta run, mad issues to deal with today…let the convo begin…

And yo, go vote. Your enemies already did.

posted by @ 10:30 am | 22 Comments

Friday, October 29th, 2004

The Hip-Hop Vote

Hey yall, back from down south. Lots to tell but too much to catch up on right now. So here’s a kind of a summary of what I was talking about out there in an article I did on the hip-hop vote. Bonus beats: gettin’ hyphy with the Federation.

More sites on the hip-hop vote:

+ Arianna on “Will Bush Spark A Seismic Youthquake?”

+ The ever-great Pop and Politics and Davey D.

+ The most comprehensive list of pop musician’s GOTV efforts is at Air Traffic Control.

+ The most comprehensive list of hip-hopcentric voter’s guides is at The League of Pissed-Off/Independent/Hip-Hop Voters.

If you’re feeling these sites, support em with your loot. Change ain’t free, yall.

Bonus site: A pro anti-Bush site for conservative anti-conservative bloggers.


+ Ta-Nehisi Coates is now in Jacksonville, Florida to cover what used to be euphemistically called “voting irregularities in communities of color” and is now called “basic Republican playbook shit”. Check his blog here.

+ DJ Shadow has released an election-season limited-edition something. Can’t divulge any more details. Just go here now.


For everyone doing GOTV work, here’s to November 3rd. You’re almost there!

And for the second presidential election in a row, I’ll be in Florida the day after. This time, it’s Gainesville, hosted by the Asian Student Union at the University of Florida for their Kaleidoscope month. I’ll be bleary-eyed but energized and primed, so fall through. Here’s the details:

November 3

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

Reitz Union Grand Ballroom (campus map here.)

7pm til I collapse!


posted by @ 8:04 am | 6 Comments

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Down South Trip: Final Details

For all yall in the Southland, here ya go.

+ Monday October 25

UC Santa Barbara Multicultural Center, 7pm-9pm

(map is here)

“Activote!” Panel with the brilliant Malia Lazu and the great Hatem Bazian.

+ Tuesday October 26

UCLA, Student Activities Center basement, 5pm-7pm

(map is here)

“Elections and the Hip-Hop Generation” panel with the genius Saul Williams.

See yall there…

posted by @ 1:37 pm | 3 Comments

Sunday, October 24th, 2004


One reason my blog is so political is cause I just straight don’t get out much anymore these days. Friday night was an exception.

Went to meet Jin at his record release party, at 330 Ritch, an 18-over crowd. Whoa! Kids these days! It was mad fun to see how far the Asian Am scene has come from the days we couldn’t play Eric B. and Rakim without getting bottled, just straight Cover Girls, Expose, Jaya, Debbie Deb, New Order…yeah I’m fucking old.

Jin didn’t have as much of a show as he had a house party, but he controls that mic and everyone left more than happy. Bro’s got a future. He stayed late signing posters, trucker caps (!), and lots of young girls’ body parts, and invaded the DJ booth to warble drunken renditions of “My Boo”. Shouts to Wilson Meng at Exit and Jeff and Mikey from Climax Entertainment for making an elder feel right at home.

So then I get this announcement for the launch of, an urbnAZN-oriented webzine from Janet Tzou, the writer behind one of the best Roots stories ever written (in URB earlier this year) and jeweler to the stars. It’s a great magazine, peep it.

And oh shit, but I’m in Hyphen Magazine this month, thanks to Todd Inoue, Charisse Domingo, and the wonderful Hyphen staff. Thank you, I am not worthy.

Fam’s in town, teriyaki salmon and brown rice, it’s like a yellow weekend.

posted by @ 1:17 pm | 5 Comments

Friday, October 22nd, 2004

You Can Run But…You Can Keep On Running

Maybe there is something to the Osama-in-China story first reported in El Mundo after all? Here’s a report from today’s page one of The Statesman.

Have a laugh: Rob Corddry on fire. Click on Jon Stewart’s Indecision 2004: Let It Fly. More laughs here. Belly guffaws here.

And now, back to your real world, the one where post-WTO police crowd tactics are far from nonviolent, and Bushwar is the best cover for good old American moneymaking.

posted by @ 7:07 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

The Watchers

After Tommy Tompkins passionately held forth on Israel and Palestine in his blog, he got death threats for it. Keep your head up, Tommy. This is the same kind of Bushcroft-era McCarthyism visited on Hatem Bazian earlier this year. That folks would be so busy watching dissenters–to the point of videotaping anti-war rallies or scouring arts blogs for vaguely oppositional remarks–is just bananas. Back in the 80s we used to have two words for this: political correctness.

posted by @ 5:06 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

Pluggin: So Cal Appearances

I’m headed south to talk elections and the hip-hop generation in Southern Cal next week:

+ Monday October 25–UC Santa Barbara Multicultural Center, 7pm, “Activote!” Panel with brilliant Malia Lazu and the great Hatem Bazian (see above).

+ Tuesday October 26–UCLA, 5pm, location tba, with the genius Saul Williams.

Fall through if you’re nearby!

One more plug while I can: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop website will be launching within the next couple of weeks. Big shout to 226 Design and

posted by @ 4:56 am | 0 Comments

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Britney Spears Is Not In This Blog

And A-Fraud is still not in the World Series!

Steinbrenner’s stupid ass must be realizing that $180 million can’t buy Heart. Props to the Bosux for battling back with dignity and pride. But the Tankees didn’t just collapse, they deserved their throttling. That great sucking sound from the middle of the dugout was A-Fraud vacuuming up all Tankees’ competitive spirit.

Forget The Curse, call it The Mistake. As long as A-Fraud–A is for Albatross–is in the majors, he’ll never be playing on a World Series team. Talent is not guts or leadership. I feel sorry for Joe Torre.

So watch the doubting and second-guessing begin tomorrow in the press. May the Tankees go the route of the Lakers, Kobe, and the Dodo Bird.

And fuck the trillion-dollar contracts and the check card commercials. Fuck making the rest of the league your farm system. Fuck Bloomberg and Giuliani and 7th inning “America’s Team” political grandstanding. And while we’re at it, fuck $15 for beer and hot dogs. I heart New York, but I hate George Steinbrenner and the Tankees’ embarassment is a victory for real baseball and the real world. Sit and spin on that! Muhuhuhuhahaha.

But hey, let’s be fair–the Bosux were also willing to mortgage their future for the same kind of foolishness. They’re no down-on-their-luck whatevers, and they owe everything good in this series that isn’t named Schilling or Ortiz to the A’s–Francona, Damon, Foulke, even Bellhorn. May they go down in 4 to the NLCS champ, who whether Cards or Astros, will be the real underdog in the World Series.

I’ve been accused of hating. Well, that’s where our love always goes, the underdog.

posted by @ 8:06 pm | 3 Comments

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

The Jin Piece

Here’s my Jin piece, up at the SF Bay Guardian. Vetted by editors and yes, I approved this message. But just to clarify–I have nothing to do with the BG’s sense of color and style.

Ta-Nehisi’s apparently didn’t go up this week. I’ll find out what’s going on.

To catch up on the discussion you may have missed so far, check this post and the hot commentary. Thanks for listening.

posted by @ 7:05 pm | 0 Comments

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

Benzino, The Source, and Michael Jackson?

Wow. This shit is amazing. Who will even remember the TLC cover controversy after this one?

posted by @ 1:03 pm | 0 Comments

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