Tuesday, January 25, 2005


time to go

The campaign against Hot 97 for their "Tsunami Song" has only been building the last few days. Much credit goes to Jay Smooth at hiphopmusic.com for helping take a lead in drawing attention to the issue. Press has slowly but steadily been picking the story up - Hot 97 would like to think this will all blow over but I think as more people become aware of it, the level of outrage will only increase.

Already, NY politicians are putting pressure on the FCC to start levying fines - a rather Faustian bargain since I'd rather see the FCC ease back on their overzealous enforcement, at least during Michael Powell's soon-to-be-over reign but hell, if they're going after everyone else anyways, might as well direct them at Miss Jones.

I've been encouraging people to spend less time on petitions and more time putting pressure on sponsors. Jay has a list of sponsors you can contact - I wrote one to Sprint already.

Even better though, the Morning Show crew is venturing out into public this Friday:
    Caroline's Comedy Club
    1626 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
This is a perfect opportunity for people to roll out and be as disruptive as possible so for all my New Yorkan readers out there: spread the word.

By the way, some have argued that all this is just generating free publicity for Hot 97 and that they best way to deal with it is just to ignore it. I'm sympathetic to where that's coming from - it's very easy to be cynical about the media these days, especially given the lengths they'll go in search for ratings and no doubt, Hot 97 knew exactly what they were getting themselves into with this stunt.

Moreover, as someone who grew up watching the Asian American community try to fight media stereotype after media stereotype, after a while, it not only feels futile, but rather counterproductive because 1) there's bigger battles to be waged than over stereotypes and 2) as films like Harold and Kumar and Better Luck Tomorrow have shown, sometimes, the better route to fighting the media is to join it. This said, I also believe that sometimes, people get sick and tired of how media personalities act without any kind of accountability and the sheer level of insensitivity with "The Tsuanmi Song" (and some of the in-studio conversations that came about from it) cross a line that has to be responded to on some level.

UPDATE: What other misgivings I might have about Jin: I got love for him for this. For once, a battle rap with a purpose and done with precision brilliance. "Shout out to Miss Info - keep ya head up. And if all else fails, turn that bullshit off." Word.

  • Nelson George looks back over the the legacy of hip-hop for a story in the UK's Guardian Observer. This makes for an interesting contrast with the much-debated Greg Tate essay insofar as both men are writing on the same topic - the last 25/30 years of hip-hop, its transformation from folk art to commercial culture, what this all means for Black contemporary experiences and communities. Also, both George and Tate are older (40+) pundits who're among the first rap critics to help elevate the level of criticism on the music.

    The difference - in this essay - is that George is notably less cynical about where hip-hop is today. The contrast is quite stark is some places. Tate more or less crowned the recent "Vote or Die" campaign led by P. Diddy; George cites that as proof that hip-hop is on the "cutting edge" of "political activism." Also, though Tate laments hip-hop loss of its own past (i.e. the death of Afrocentricity), George focuses on rap's impact on the longer view of black musical traditions. For example, George writes:
      "The price of success has been a narrow-casting of what black culture means. Just as sampling scavenges older forms of African-American music for its rhythmic and melodic DNA, hip hop has made soul, funk, R&B, go-go, and even jazz seem mere preludes to its appearance. Historical memory, never highly valued in the US, has so completely broken down that for many young people, the world before hip hop is plain irrelevant."

      He later adds:

      "Hip hop courses are one of the biggest growth areas in American academia with English professors ditching Baldwin and Richard Wright to teach Public Enemy and KRS-One."
    (The latter seems like a bit of an overstatement. If anything, I think more courses are teaching KRS alongside Baldwin but I'd like to see any real evidence that there's any kind of movement to take Baldwin, Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Morrison, etc. off the syllabus in other to put in Chuck D, Nas, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Lil Kim, etc. in their stead.)

    For the most part, I think George, like Tate, does an articulate job of summarizing thinking points when it comes to contemplating hip-hop's evolution and legacy. The main thing George needs is something a bit harder hitting by way of a conclusion. He leaves it open-eneded - which is apt given hip-hop's constantly changing and rather unpredictable transformations - but I wanted to hear him say something with more sticking power than:
      "Still, back at the birth of hip hop 25 years ago, it was impossible to predict its takeover. So I wonder whether somewhere out in the vastness of America or the council housing of Brixton or perhaps in some online community I'm too old to be part of, a group of like minded individuals are quietly creating a series of cultural practices for the 21st century. Let's talk in 20 years."
    The most provocative point that he makes is something that I've been thinking about as well: now that hip-hop has taken over, isn't it high-time for a new rebel music to come up (not that rap is all about rebellion, but just as rap took out rock and rock took out pop, you have to wonder what the next shift will be). George writes:
      "Just as rhythm'n'blues replaced jazz as black pop, and hip hop superceded R&B/soul, it feels like it's time for a new voice to emerge. Black culture in the past century was highly cyclical, with new modes of musical expression rising from the underground to articulate blacks' shifting social condition. I once thought that the new music-driven culture would come from Africa or, perhaps, the multinational ghettos of 'the new Europe'. Perhaps it still will, though increasingly I see the hip hop cliches of the States being recycled with foreign accents and new samples."
    (credit: Funkdigital)

  • I didn't think Sideways was the best movie ever but I'm shocked that Paul Giamatti got shafted by the Oscars by being overlooked for an acting nod. At least I can still root for Virginia Madsen.

  • It's been a long time since I saw Fear of a Black Hat and I forgot that, despite an uneven script, there were some moments of comedic genius.
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)

  • Wayne & Wax breaks down the intersection between hip-hop, reggae and transnational Blackness.

  • The UK's TV Cream breaks down The Top 100 Toys of all time. This is a very cool list but there's definitely a lil lost in translation from the UK to the US. #1 and 2 make sense: a bike and a computer. But #4 is "Top Trumps," some kind of "card fighting game" which I've never heard of (Pokemon precursor?)
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • Who would have thought that of all the former rappers to put together a really well-written and interesting blog, it'd be D-Nice? Kudos.