Monday, November 28th, 2005

How To Make A Successful R & B Record, Pt. 4081

R&B Singer Seeks Rapper For Validation, Occasional Collabos. Inquire Here.

Great piece in yesterday’s NY Times by Jeff Leeds called “Scenes From an Arranged Marriage”.

The piece is about an upcoming R & B singer named Governor, who has delayed his release for years as he’s been shuttled from Dr. Dre’s camp to 50 Cent’s camp to now T.I.’s camp.

I told Jeff that I was jealous he had gotten the story. It’s a great example of the kind of reporting that is not often done in hip-hop journalism (Zino and Mays’ rants in The Source don’t count), and even less so in hip-hop scholarship (with the exception of Norman Kelley’s essential book Rhythm & Business). It’s a rare story that gets behind the shine into the gritty, often exploitative core of the economy of hip-hop.

The context for the piece is the convergence of media consolidation and the professionalization of hip-hop careers. Media consolidation drives bigger demands on the bottom line while raising the price of the music. Fewer artists get huger budgets. Is making pop like making fast food? Although an army of good and bad music critics will tell you otherwise (and sometimes they’ll be right), the economic truth is that IT IS: CDs. Hamburgers. Product.

At the same time, media consolidation has gutted the staffs of big companies. (All the old school Neo-Marxists in the house say: ‘Contradiction’!) So people like Dre, 50, and T.I. are more than just the talent these days. They have supplanted the A & R and management apparatuses in the business. Leeds’ subtext is clear: There’s so much money on the line that Governor cannot afford not to be married to some mob.

Usually we count this as a positive (see: the ascension of Jay-Z). But for someone like Governor, it’s a mixed bag…or worse. Now that headz write the checks, is it time to start talking about Record Industry Rule Number 4081?

Here’s a teaser:

“…record labels in recent years have made a point of introducing new, little-known acts as proteges of established stars. In some cases the two musicians might have grown up on the same block. Or perhaps they had shared the struggle of performing in the same unknown group. Either way, it’s a rich backstory that can be woven into any future marketing effort.

But what if the new singer doesn’t have any long-lost pals who’ve gone platinum?

For an increasingly desperate industry, that is but a minor obstacle. These days, label executives routinely shop their new prospects around from one star to another, trying to convince them to act as a mentor. Then the newcomer is marketed as a devotee, or a card-carrying member of the star’s ‘camp.'”

Click here for the entire Happy Meal…

posted by @ 4:14 pm | 1 Comment

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Feds To Benzino: Show Us The Money

Today, the Boston Herald and reported that Benzino has been charged by the Feds in Massachusetts for failing to pay taxes on $1.5 million in income in 1999 and 2000.

This apparently is part of the decade-long FBI probe into Benzino and his former group, the Almighty RSO. That probe included an extensive search into Benzino’s background, including whether he and his crew were involved in a homicide case.

He said, “They been investigating me for years and all they got me for is not filing taxes.”

You gotta hand it to Zino. He’s always ready with an entertaining quote. Here’s more from his lawyer, a former federal prosecutor named Leonard Sands:

“He’s very likable, very versatile, very outgoing,” Sands said. “He’s a very down-to-earth, soft-spoken guy.”

Benzino took the opportunity of his indictment to tell he has two new dis tracks coming–one aimed at Funkmaster Flex and the other at Eminem.

Thought he and Em had squashed their beef? Well, bills must be paid.

posted by @ 10:10 pm | 0 Comments

Friday, November 25th, 2005

The Voice’s Aina Hunter on The Source

Huge props to Aina for the most thorough piece on The Source’s troubles to date. Among the warning signs–estimates of the magazine’s ad pages have it at less than half the amount booked in 2000, and estimates of its readership have it at half the amount it was just two years ago. Aina’s piece is wonderfully written as well:

“When 50 Cent himself showed up in the Hot 97 studio of Funkmaster Flex on a recent Thursday-evening shift, the pair spent precious airtime stoking the feud. ‘I gotta ask you about this wack rapper Benzino,’ Funkmaster Flex said, referring to The Source co-owner Raymond Scott by his performing name. Hearing it, 50 Cent began to murmur menacingly.

A few days later, on, Scott upped the ante, asserting that Flex ‘talks a lot of trash [on the air] and when he leaves, he has a group of security guards, but one day he is going to slip, and when we do collide you are going to hear about it.’

People really do get hurt for less beef than this, especially around Hot 97, where broadcast taunts have preceded flying bullets, and especially around The Source, which has picked countless fights since its birth in 1988. But given the number of hits they’re taking–tens of millions in credit claims and lawsuits, arrests, even murder charges against key staffers–it’s amazing that Scott, fellow co-owner David Mays, and rookie editor Dasun Allah can put out a magazine at all. Just keeping track of the major court cases advancing this month is a task.”

Click here for the rest…

posted by @ 3:10 pm | 2 Comments

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Davey D & Snoop Dogg On Tookie

Snoop Dogg & The Dogg Pound :: Real Soon (Davey D’s Rally Mix)

This MP3 comes from Davey D who says about Tookie Williams:

“Last weekend at the Save Tookie Rally, DJ T-Kash who does the Friday Night Vibe asked for all of us in media to try and find ways to keep the situation surrounding Tookie Williams in front of people… He suggested we be creative and use the same tools we use to let folks know about Nikes and parties to keep people informed about Tookie..

In case you aren’t aware, Clear Channel has launched a ‘Kill Tookie Williams’ Hour on its number one rated station here in LA. They are going all out by making racist comments, dissing not just Tookie, but Black people in general etc etc.. This isn’t shock radio. its regular talk radio where millions tune in to get news and information..

In any case here’s a small contribution to hopefully combat that… It’s an extended version of Snoop and the Dogg Pound’s song with Snoop’s remarks from last week’s rally attached at the end… I think he sums things up nicely…”

posted by @ 5:15 pm | 1 Comment

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

I’m A Little Rootkit / Google World Order

Sidney Verba: Lonely librarian seeking hot books? Or the new face of Google World Order?!

Don’t you love it when corporations get all Big Brother on you? Maybe Sony-BMG and Google should just merge.

Now just to clear this up–because we all know intellectual property law is the ongoing legal equivalent of a tule-fog 20-car pile-up (in which the victims are always the artists), and also because I’ve had my own recent episode in, uh, code appropriation–the two situations aren’t exactly the same.

Google wants to index every book in existence. I actually think the concept of public knowledge is a pretty good idea in principle. What some authors and publishers have a problem with is the idea that Google will retain a copy of all of the books. And their soaring stock price is a clue that they’re not exactly a public-interest entity.

Sony wants to–or at least wanted to–index every buyer of Sony CDs in existence, which is just not that good an idea.

For a hometeam take on the Rootkit debacle, visit the good fighters at Downhill Battle.

For a good description of the Plan-Formerly-Known-As-Google-Print debacle, check this NY Times piece on poor old Harvard librarian Sidney Verba.

For an interesting, if not unflawed, alternative to Google World Order, check this piece which introduces you to Mr. Enthusiasm, Brewster Kahle.

Now, search Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Go head! I won’t sue you!

posted by @ 12:12 pm | 6 Comments

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Still Recovering From Hurricane Meters

“That felt good yall! Come on, guys, just 1 more song!”

Now this is the kind of hurricane you love to have.

The Meters played about 3 hours on Friday night and I’m still recovering. In fact, they were having such a good time on stage that Art didn’t want to leave. He coaxed two encores more after two blistering 75 minute sets by just sitting at his keyboard and playing stuff–“All On A Mardi Gras Day” or “Big Chief” until the other guys—-all of them about a decade his junior–came back.

At the end, when even the house folks were urging him out of his keyboard seat, he sat and did the “Sesame Street” theme. Then he smiled and got on his cane and was escorted out, but not before he got a ton of love from the audience.

It was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I mean the singing was loose, the jams went on, and the cues weren’t air-tight, but the joy of them playing together again really came through. Whoever gets to see them this week in NYC I’m sure will get a show.

Too many highlights to recount. Each of the songs became an extended jam–and the old songs especially got some wild new changes added in. The goosebump moment was their refashioning of “Africa” into a new version where the chorus became “Take me back–to New Orleans!”

It was Zig’s night. All the bandmembers were generous in giving him the spotlight, and he gave an amazing performance. Spoke briefly to Zig the next day–a few hours before the Saturday show sound check and all he could say was, “Man, I’m tired!”

Here’s Joel Selvin’s review and my best recollection of the set list:

Set 1:

Little Old Moneymaker
Cissy Strut
He Bite Me (The Dragon)
Fiyo On The Bayou
Doodle Oop (The World Is A Bit Under The Weather)
You’ve Got To Change (You’ve Got To Reform)
–dedication to soldiers and New Orleans–
Keep On Marching (Art adds in Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’)
People Say

Set 2:

Medley: Funky Miracle/Cardova/Get Out Of My Life Woman/Look-Ka Py-Py/Hand Clapping Song
Africa (New Orleans) featuring monster Zig solo
Funky cover tune I didn’t recognize Folks call this one “Chug-A-Lug”
It Ain’t No Use

Encore 1:
Medley: All On A Mardi Gras Day/Hey Pocky A-Way

Encore 2:
Medley: Big Chief/Go See The Mardi Gras
Sesame Street

posted by @ 10:16 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

1959 Was Their 1989: West Oakland’s R & B Scene In The 50s

The great Bay Area/Irish expat Billy Jam is now on the loose in Queens full time, but he recently returned to interview Buck, a West Oakland native, who discusses how 1959 was a crucial year for rhythm and blues, and why the destruction of West Oakland killed the scene.

You can hear Buck’s amazing story here on Billy’s new show on WFMU.

This is exactly the kind of local history–local knowledge for all you anthropologists–we all need in our lives. In other words, everything you need to know can be heard in the song, and the story about that song.

For photos, you can go here.

posted by @ 11:49 am | 2 Comments

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

"Young voters led surge in 2004 election"…Uh, Duh

It only took the media one year to discover this: “Young voters led surge in 2004 election”.

Just as important, but completely missed in the mass-media rush to blame young people last year for Kerry’s loss (take a bow, NPR, for your idiotic, factless November 3rd, 2004 reporting–) was this inconvenient fact:

Hip-hop voters led the youth surge.

Here are the reports from the Center For Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement–which anyone who has heard me ranting about this have heard me cite over and over, and which the media will discover probably sometime around the winter of next year.

+ Electoral Engagement Among Minority Youth (pdf download)

+ Quick Facts About Young Voters, 2004 (pdf download)

On the other hand, if Rove and his comrades are not worried about other things right now, expect a big push in 2006 from hip-hop Republicans.

And that’s…no joke.

posted by @ 11:21 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Garrett Caples on Mac Dre’s Death and Life

Bay Area hip-hop journalist Garrett Caples does a great cover story on Mac Dre’s death and life in the Crest. Fine reporting and a much needed revision of last year’s press accounts of his murder.

For those not knowing,this sidebar will catch you up on what’s going down in the Nation of Thizzlam.

You can download the entire Thizz discography at eMusic.

posted by @ 11:03 am | 1 Comment

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Photo Benefit For NOLA Musicians

My Big Chief got a golden crown!

From the best photo editor in the world, the incredible Monica Hernandez, comes this:

Scott Chernis is ColorLines’ cover photographer who has also photographed jazz and blues musicians in New Orleans and the Bay for the last 10 years. He’s selling prints of his photos to benefit the Hurricane Katrina Relief effort for displaced musicians and their families. Only $30! (Ed. note: WHAT?!!!) That makes a great gift. Go to Scott Chernis Photography to check them out.

posted by @ 4:19 pm | 0 Comments

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