Thursday, December 30, 2004


giving a f---

I don't read a ton of industry blogs but is always on my morning reading list given the quality of their coverage and insights. They just posted a story today about how Wal-Mart is being sued for selling an Evanescence CD that contained the word, "fuck" on it.

I know we are currently living in a political climate where practically every media outlet is pissing their pants over the threat of FCC crackdowns - case in point, that ridiculous Saving Private Ryan fiasco. And frankly, when it comes to Wal-Mart's music retail politics, they're straight up evil empire in who they choose to reject (hint hint: think hip-hop) out of "value" concerns.

As Coolfer points out though, this situation puts Wal-Mart into an ironic position of possibly having to defend the contextual use of the word "fuck" (something Bono wasn't able to do, as far as the FCC was concerned) and though they're unlikely to do so, it's satisfying to know that Wal-Mart is taking heat for not being stringent enough in their censorship policies.

Speaking of reading lists - I just saw this 2004 music-in-review over at Matos' blog and I hope to god it's appearing in the Seattle Weekly (which it probably is not) since it's so long, thorough and seemingly slaved over that it seems obscene that it'd just be for a blog. Not like I'm one to talk of course, but still...

Also, just because I'm an uber-geek who reads on the reg, here's something I spotted for all you ladies and especially gentlemen to consider adding to your home supplies: The Lav Nav.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


think about it

The AP has a story on a growing conflict on college campuses betweeen conservative students and liberal/progressive faculty. Apparently, some students are objecting to having, say, the Quran assigned to them, citing that this impinges on their religious beliefs. God - or Allah - forbid that students actually be expected to learn divergent points of view or new bodies of knowledge in college.

I always find it surprising that people react with surprise and horror to know that most professors in America are overwhelmingly liberal or progressive in their politics. It's the same kind of indignation that's directed towards the fact that the majority of journalists in this country hold more progressive views too. Call me crazy but - what would you expect? Academics and journalists are in the business of discovering, conveying and offering information - as truthful as possible - and that pursuit seems fundamentally contrary to many conservative movements who want to control, distort and censor knowledge. Case in point, the "crusade against evolution" that Wired reported on over the summer. The attempts at discrediting Darwin's theories and replacing them with the thoroughly unscientific "intelligent design" approach is mind-boggling in 2004 but then again, it seems to fit into the illogic of the times. Another example, as it relates to politics and education: the spectacular failure and shortcomings of "abstinence-only" high school sex ed.

So yes, college environments (ideally) are supposed to encourage open intellectual environments, where ideas are freely exchanged and debated. Is it any wonder then that people who commit themselves to careers in this atmosphere would find conservative ideologies to be anathema?

P.S. Just as an addendum, I was reading the latest issue of The Week and they report that 55% of Americans "believe evolution is just an unsupported theory, and that God created human beings just as they are today." Amazing, simply amazing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


The magnitude of death and destruction left in the wake of the Indonesia earthquake and tsunamis is at such a level that is almost beyond comprehension, especially here in America where most major disasters seem to cap off in the triple digits, tops. The news stories rolling in are beyond horrific - entire towns disappearing in minutes, bodies stacked like driftwood along beaches, health workers having to photograph the dead for later identification and then processing the bodies into mass graves, etc.

I find it typical - and annoying - that some U.S. media outlets are doing what you might call National Death Rolls - last night, read in several places notes like, "3 Americans confirmed dead." That'd be 3 out of (at the time) 20,000 dead. Is national origin really that important at that point? Sports Illustrated relayed a ridiculous story about "swimsuit model surives tsunami." Seriously, they need to get out of here with that b.s.

I'm not here to soap box however. NPR put together a list of relief agencies where donations can be made.


My first album review for NPR: Queen Latifah: The Dana Owens Album.

Ugh - when I first recorded this in October (yeah, it took a minute for them to actually run it), I thought I sounded fine but on playback, when cadences sound rushed and mis-accented at times. Guess I need to master my NPR voice better. I also have an Eminem review somewhere in the pipeline.


i'm too pretty to sweat deez questions

I know that Sasha doesn't include a comments section for his blog because he probably doesn't want discussions degenerating into pissing contests (as they often do). I respect that - at times, I think I should just follow - but damn, how can guest-poster Josh Clover bust out with these 5 propositions (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and then end with these questions, with nary a space to hear feedback? Clover asks:
    1) Is the use of terms like "bitch" and "ho," and even dalliances with woman-beating, part of rap 2005's social content, or sonic form? Or sometimes one, sometimes the other?

    2) Is the musical inventiveness and pleasure of, say, Timbaland and the Neptunes a sonic formalism or a social content for hip-hop?

    3) Is it useful to think about what's happening in these terms?

    4) What is hip-hop's social content, anyway?

Pop Life opines:

1) The two aren't mutually exclusive, right? I think back to Q-Tip's song, "Sucka Ni**a" on Midnight Marauders where he's saying, "my lips are like an ooh-wop when I start to spray it" - I think that song perfectly captures (resolves?) the question of whether or not language is deployed as content or form. For Tip, a loaded word like "ni**a" is both.

That said, whether you treat it as either doesn't mean you can't problematize language, right? Especially when language doubles as both sonic form and social content - it just means you have to be more nuanced in your critique. It also doesn't mean you have to disavow how language creates pleasure, even when that pleasure is problematic (hell, what kind of pleasure isn't problematic?) Just because I think hip-hop is misogynistic (among other things) doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. And at times, I feel conflicted about that contradiction but acknowledging that I can simultaneously enjoy something I find troubling doesn't negate either the enjoyment or the problem. It only accepts that these two are also not mutually exclusive (some might argue they're inseparable).

2) People who study disco are constantly suggesting that the key to disco's liberatory effects lies specifically in its sonic forms - one scholar I read refers to it as the "empire of the beat," i.e. the ways in which rhythm can be - at times - this force that overtakes us and compels us to move, in unison, with others who have similarly surrendered. The most idealized reads of that moment suggest that when that happens, we've shed our other social conventions - vis a vis race, class, gender, etc. - and simply become one - under the groove. I think those perspectives might be just a little overstated but I understand where they're coming from.

So in this case, I think it's a sonic formalism that contains the potential to impact social content.

3) I think it's useful in some ways, but I also don't know if most people's relationship to music is strictly split along these lines. They can be so blurred - as Josh himself notes - that trying to pull them apart becomes nearly impossible.

4) Wisdom knowledge, culture freedom, power refinement.
Sex and violence.
Money, hoes and clothes.
Peace, love and nappiness.

Take your pick.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


franz vs. kanye?

I've got laser-surgery sharp hindsight but my foresight is terrible. Nonetheless, with the 2004 (or is it '05?) Pazz and Jop poll looming, I wanted to see if wiser prognosticators had their own thoughts and guesses as to what's finishing at the top this year.

For those not familiar with Pazz and Jop, it's the Village Voice's annual poll that collects ballots from over a hundred music critics from across America. As such, Pazz and Jop tends not to resemble other polls you might find from any single publication. In general, P&J doesn't track that populist - they're not anti-commercial per se, but it's rare that you'd look at Soundscan's top 10 for the year and see the P&J reflected there, or vice versa.

There's a fair amount of personal strategy involved in turning in a ballot: you have to decide how heavily you want to weight certain albums, and for some people, they might overstate a preference because they think it needs a boost. Last year's poll ended up like this:
    Rank Artist Album # of votes (# of 1st place votes)

    1 OutKast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 3554(305)
    2 The White Stripes Elephant 2411(212)
    3 Fountains of Wayne Welcome Interstate Managers 1314(117)
    4 Radiohead Hail to the Thief 1244(115)
    5 Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever to Tell 1018(96)
    6 The Shins Chutes Too Narrow 917(91)
    7 New Pornographers Electric Version 881(87)
    8 Basement Jaxx Kish Kash 785(72)
    9 Drive-By Truckers Decoration Day 735(67)
    10 Dizzee Rascal Boy in Da Corner 665(61)

Just to point out how out of step I am with the critical consensus, I hadn't even heard 7 out of the 10 albums on that list.

Anyways, what my question to the musical oracles is: what do you think are going to place high in this upcoming year's P&J? I'm less interested in hearing what people think should be the top LPs and more curious to know what people think will end up topping the P&J. Make sense? Let's begin.

  • Triumph of the College Dropout? I'm fairly certain Kanye West's College Dropout will end up high, almost certainly as the highest ranking rap album...but I'm not as sure if it's going to be #1. Outkast has been #1 in two different years and Lauryn Hill won for her debut, but Kanye doesn't, to me at least, seem to have the crossover appeal these other LPs do. That said, I think this will finish in the Top 3.

  • Is the Grey Album a Dark Horse? I was fascinated to see that EW's David Browne put Danger Mouse's Grey Album at his #1 for the year. I think this will do amazing well for what amounts to an illegal bootleg...I can't see it being #1 or even #5 on P&J but if it made the Top 10, I wouldn't be surprised.

  • What other hip-hop? Last time around, both the The Streets and Dizzee Rascal had strong outings. I'm more certain that The Streets might return to the Top 10 vs. Dizzee. As for the other contenders, I don't anticipate seeing Nas, De La Soul or Ghostface showing up to play. And you can absolutely count on the fact that past favorites like the Beastie Boys, Roots and Eminem are going to be low-ranking. And duh, one reader reminds me: Madvillainy. Don't know how I forgot that (except that I found the CD to be overrated).

  • Yeah? I personally didn't think Usher's Confessions was as good as his singles but you can't deny that Usher had one killer year. Top 10? Sure.

  • Smile! Personally, just because I think P&J has a rockist bent (uh oh, did I just set it off?), I'm expecting Brian Wilson's Smile to be in the top 10 but this album wasn't as well-received as I would have imagined. In comparsion, I definitely expect to see Franz Ferdinand in the top 3, probably duking it out with Kanye for position. I'm curious to see how high U2 polls - they did well last time, but I haven't seen a consensus rolling behind this album.

  • A little bit country, a little rock n' roll: I see Loretta Lynn's collabo with Jack White on Van Lear Rose scoring in the top 10. Gretchen Wilson's too hard for me to call - she's the populist favorite but would critics boost her up the poll?

    Next time: singles!


  • Hashim at Hip Hop Blogs poses this question: "Which hip-hop journalist had the better year? Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Village Voice or Kelefa Sanneh of the NY Times?

    Ain't it crazy that the best hip-hop critisism is NOT in Vibe, XXL, or the Source?"

    I appreciate the spirit of Hashim's question and both K and Ta-Nehisi have had excellent years but I'd have to ask back the following:

    1) When was the last time "the best hip-hop criticism," was in Vibe or The Source? Both magazines saw their best years come in their first five but since then, they've evolved (or in the case of The Source, devolved) away from the kind of incisive criticism and journalism of their early years. For XXL, I actually think they've been doing a great job ever since the Ego Trip crew began to take over. It's still a "glossy," but article for article, that mag has produced some excellent features over the last few years. That said, I'm not sure if the mag's criticism has been as solid as their journalism. In other words, if I had to put their album review section up against the Voice's, I'd likely nod to the latter but that's a difference in editorial style as much as anything.

    2) This comment isn't meant as a reflection on K or Ta's writing abilities - both are exceptional talents in that regard - but if either writer was on staff at a more conventional "rap magazine," would their byline stand out as prominent in our memory? Isn't part of why we pay attention to them, apart from their abilities, because they're writing for leading, culture-defining institutions, and in the case of K, being one of the few people who really speak to our musical/cultural truths and realities within those institutions?

    For example, I don't think Sasha Frere-Jones became a better writer since joining The New Yorker - if you read his older stuff at Slate or The New York Times, you already knew how good he was. You need to flip the relationship around: Sasha made The New Yorker better by finally giving the magazine a pop music credibility that it needed.

    I guess, in that respect, K had a better year because now people actually pick up the Times with some reasonable expectation that there might be some good hip-hop criticism inside. (After all, the Voice has been respectable for about 15 years now on that tip - hello, Joan Morgan? Nelson George? Greg Tate?)

    My question: what were the best pieces of hip-hop journalism/criticism in 2004?


    My man Serg @ Beer and Rap (as well as We Eat So Many Shrimp), drops the precision-bomb hate when he wants to (which is often). This time, he's hating on mixtape DJs whose hip-hop collection doesn't seem to age past 1994 (has he been peaking at my crates? Hmm...). "F*** Your Early '90s HipHop Mix."

    Speaking of hate, Noz @ Cocaine Blunts, hates on random rap fiends jumping on the DJ Ivory train. I feel him on this - I've started to make jokes actually using the word "Pelon," e.g. "yeah, that new Killa mixtape cut is hot but dude, it's not Pelon hot or anything." Yes, very nerded out, I know.

    David @ I'm So Sincurr is filled with hate too, singling out Five albums he finds completely overrated and unworthy. Great reading...and did he just compare Nellie McKay with Lil Jon? Crunktastic!
      David also gets props for directing me to this editorial by Josh Love, an excellent dissection of how Kobe's rape case played out in the hip-hop world.

    Ok, and this isn't exactly hate (or maybe it is), but one of my oldest friends is an attorney on Modesto, CA and on his blog, he argues over why Scott Peterson should not have gotten the death penalty. Elsewhere, Nebur also has a very good list of places to get fat in Las Vegas. He'd know. Believe that.

    Last, but never least, Kris Ex is on fire. Read the latest from the War Scribe and prepare for the coming storm.

  • Saturday, December 25, 2004


    what is kobe wearing? seriously

    Just remember, in a day filled with the opening of presents, smiles on small children, and a general sense of peace and goodwill (but only for today), what truly makes Dec 25th special is a day of grudge matches in the NBA. Kobe vs. Shaq. The Pacers and Pistons come together again (alas, no Artest in the mix). Enjoy the Xmas fireworks.

    Seriously, Pop Life wishes everyone a happy Chrishannaukwanzaa today. Or just enjoy the weekend, whichever.

    Thursday, December 23, 2004


    the face of evil?

    My afternoon excursion out to see Blade: Trinity was a waste of a perfectly good matinee since this vampire film...well...(drum roll please): sucked (cue laugh track). I know some out there will say, "duh, what did you expect," but seriously, the first two films in the series were well-nigh entertaining, featuring fanciful characters, hardnosed dialogue sprinkled liberally with profanity, and surprisingly awesome action choreography. Especially compared to two other recent vampire flicks, Underworld and Van Helsing, the first two Blades look positively genius (and as bad as the third film was, it was still better than those two sorry ass competitors).

    What's wrong with Trinity is basically everything: script, dialogue, character development, action sequences, plot, blah blah blah. They go through all the trouble to resurrect Dracula, who you'd think would make a vaguely interesting villain, and he's shown up by a vampire Pomeranian. Yeah, you heard me: they have vampiric canines in Trinity and the Pom is, by far, the most charismatic of the lot. The lone exception is the movie's most stunning casting choice: Parker Posey who shows up as one of the main baddies.

    This requires a short pause to drink it in: Parker Posey = killer vampiress. If that doesn't quite gel for you, Posey doesn't exactly convince you otherwise. It's not that I didn't like to see her play a laughable character outside of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but every moment you see her, you can't help but think: "oh, that's Parker Posey." All she really needed was some gum to chew on and it would have been perfect.

    I still have Oceans 12 on my list of matinee films. Should I even bother?


    coming soon

    How does one spend one's days after finishing graduate school and then left to his own devices? Lesse:

    1) Checking out the new site for Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop (the book, the blog, et. al.) Contained therein: an interview with Papa Chang, about his book, done by moi. Don't forget, the book comes in February.

    2) Playing many hours straight of Burnout 3: Takedown. I'm not remotely the hardest core of hardcore gamers but on occasion, I enjoy losing myself in a different environment. Racing games aren't even a favorite genre of mine but B3T is so much damn fun, it hardly matters. It's like car-crash-porn, just not this kind of car-crash-porn.

    3) Starting to read Imani Perry's Prophets of the Hood, which has been excellent fodder in some of my continuing thoughts around the issue of race, culture, and appropriation. I know a few folks have been directed to this site by a list serv essay by Kenyon Farrow. I've been preparing a response but it's going to take a few.

    4) Not reading (anymore), The Rule of Four, which was hailed as "this year's Da Vinci Code," which might make sense if they're talking about "this year's overhyped, poorly written, tale of pseudo-mythological intrigue." Actually, at least Da Vinci Code was boilerplate prose and plotting - the two pretentious authors of Rule of Four spend 2/3rds of the book talking about Princeton lore, as if any non-alumni would remotely care. I probably should have read Queen of the South instead, if I was looking for a pulpy novel.

    5) Taking these out of the box, admiring them, and then putting them back in the box. I'm sorry but these shoes are just too pretty to actually, you know, wear.

    6) Enjoy the upcoming album by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Naturally. I have a Soul Sides podcast in the works about this CD but the short version is this: it's really, really good.

    7) Getting ready to enjoy a PhD celebration dinner at Absinthe. I'm a casual foodie and my knowledge of French food is quite limited, but I do know that I love the food here. Especially their cassoulet. Mmmmm...

    8) Writing up catalog entries for 2005 San Francisco Int'l Asian American Film Festival. So far, I've taken peeks at Quentin Lee's Ethan Mao and Steven Mallacor's Slow Jam King.

    9) Starting to comb through 1800 blog updates. Not like I need to, but... Here's some of what's on the reading list:
    • A Tribute to Ignorance doesn't post everyday, but whenever he does, the content is golden. This time around, he chronicles the long-forgotten Lords of the Underground vs. DITC beef. Best line from the Funkyman: "they claim they chief rockas/well, chief rock these nuts, n****s." Damn.

    • The reports that Kanye may have had "help" writing "Jesus Walks," (and we're not talking about God's son).

    • This is a few weeks old but I haven't seen too many folks (besides Angry Asian Man) reporting: MTV is getting ready to launch MTV Desi, alongside two other Asian American themed channels (China and Korea). I find that extraordinary on several levels, starting with the fact that MTV Desi is coming first: a reflection perhaps of how visible South Asian subculture is in NYC and other cities. I'm curious to see what programming is going to look like, especially MTV China which, if aimed at American-born/raised Chinos like myself, begs the question of just what they'd program that's supposed to appeal to my cultural sensibilities. If it's just going to be a bunch of HK and Taipei pop ("MTV Brings You...Andy Lau, Live in Las Vegas!!!"), I'll pass, thanks.

    • One word: Yuta.
      (credit: Catchdubs)

    • Oh snap, I forget...if NBA season is back, that means, so is Chauncey Billups.

    • Uh, didn't Danger Mouse already do this a year ago? The Beastles (yes, the Beastie Boys + the Beatles). It's not like the tracks are wack but conceptually, it's a little played. Now, if they had mashed up the Beasties and the Rutles on the other hand...
      (credit: Nate Patrin's new Cool Out)

    • How did J-Ho find this blog? Oh wait, she explains here.

      Damn, this barely scratches the surface but Blade: Trinity calls. Don't laugh. (Well,ok, go ahead and laugh).

    Monday, December 20, 2004


    call me dr. dub

    No cultural criticism this time - just some self-reflection.

    I filed my dissertation today and was promptly rewarded with a form letter certifying this (complete with an embossed gold seal, nice!) as well as...a See's Caffe Latte Lollipop.

    Yes, a lollipop.

    I can't tell if they're trying to be funny or ironic but suffice to say, I never thought ending my 8.5 years in graduate school would be quite so anti-climactic. I'm not complaining, mind you, I am very happy and relieved to finally be done with my diss and done with this phase of my life. It's just that, after so much time invested, I feel not-very-different at all.

    8.5 years - as my friends and especially family have noted - is a long time. Pardon my French, but actually, it's a long fucking time. Not as long as say, waiting for the Sox to win another World Series, but I've spent a little more than a quarter of my life in grad school and if I add up the total time I've spent at Berkeley in terms of undergrad and grad, that equals just under 40% of my life. That's real.

    In that time, I've moved four times, presented papers at 10+ different conferences, taught over a dozen classes to over 500 students, acquired around 6,000 records (give or take a 1,000), written over 150 articles or reviews (give or take 30), traveled to Asia four times, Kauai twice, England and Puerto Rico once, interviewed over 60 people, edited/co-wrote one book, published one academic article, made a dozen or so mixtapes, done college radio for every year except for 2004, lost my two remaining grandparents, lost two girlfriends, gained a few new pounds, lost part of my hairline, been ripped off by Eastern European swindlers, bought five cameras, three laptops, two video game systems, and a hybrid car. And so forth.

    The thing is: as much as I can follow all these changes intellectually, 1996 doesn't feel that long ago. More to the point, I'm not sure how much I've actually changed in that time. It's strange to realize that in the time I've been in grad school, I completed both junior high and high school...or high school and college or 1st grade through 8th grade, etc. etc. The amount of personal transformation I've underwent in those other eras was immense and sure, when you're younger, changes happen more frequently but even accepting that, it's unsettling to look back to 8.5 years ago and be unsure about what's actually changed within me in that time.

    This is all some philosophical mumbling better left to café chatter or therapy, I'm sure, but appreciate that after such a long journey to get to where I am today - with a piece of paper and a lollipop to prove it - I'm not sure where the destination is. Or if it's even that far from where I started.

    So what's next?

    In the immediate future, I'll be teaching at UC Berkeley in the spring - see, even when you leave, you don't leave. It's a course on Asian American Film/Video that I've taught many times before and hands-down, my favorite class to lead. I'm also planning on putting together at least one or two book proposals - long overdue really - so I'll have some long-term projects to focus on. (Actually, I have one long-term project starting in about six weeks but more on that later). I have at least 3-4 mixtapes that I've put off for the last year or so because of my diss.

    Professionally, I'm applying for a post-doc and I'll be testing the job waters soon. Seriously, if folks know of teaching/academic gigs for a wayward sociologist who studies popular culture, in the Bay Area, drop me a line.

    And oh yes - blogging, lots of catch-up blogging. You can see I have my priorities straight. To be really candid, I don't think I would have blogged as much as I have this past year if it was not for my dissertation. Sometimes, working on such a huge, long-term project turns you into a junkie for distraction and blogging has been one of the ways I've gotten my fix. That and Tivo.

    What else? Lots of DVDs to catch-up on, music to listen to, video games to play (hint: Burnout 3 = awesome). And I have another long term project to get under way in late January, but more on that another time.

    *sigh* It's a "brave new world" time (just minus all the creepy, one-world totalitarianism that Huxley meant). As the year winds down, I hope everyone out there has good things to look forward to in the new year.

    Hope you get your lolly too.


    no more bang bang

    The Wire, Season Four can't come soon enough but at least Season 3 went out beautifully. I've been talking up the show's charms for weeks now but as it has evolved, I have to say, if there's been a better show on cable or t.v. in the last two years, I don't know what it is. I'm a big fan of The Sopranos but the last two seasons have been listless and while I have high hopes for Deadwood, it's too early to call. You look at the ensemble cast for The Wire, the quality of the writing, how patient its storylines unfold, and there's just nothing that touches this.

    That said, what we're looking forward to in '05: Alias, Season 4 (a show on the decline but I'll still give it a shot) and The Shield, Season 4.

    This just in (thanks to Hayden): The Wire may not actually make it to Season 4. HBO - don't be no punks.

    Thursday, December 16, 2004


    Pop Life is still in dissertation/end-of-semester-paper-grading hell. We file (we hope) on Tuesday. Woo woo.

    In the meantime, may we suggest you roll with our good friend Junichi Semitsu who not only has a new domain name under (like the purple haze motif dude, very Killa Cam), but has been killing it on the blog front of late. Burning topics for discussion over there include:

  • Also, it's been Guest Fever over at SF/J lately, with J. Clover jumping into the fray with a series of very provocative propositions on pop muzik (hippity hop in particular). Begin here and read upwards. I'll have to wrap my head around all this and comment myself. After Tuesday.

  • In the meanwhile, if you're dying for O-Dub content (and who isn't?) don't f'get about Soul Sides which has some very nice music in rotation, including a couple of Memphis-related joints, a visit with 24 Carat Black, and a tribute to KDAY.

  • This Sunday, The Wire season 3 finale. Stringer's dead. Omar and the Bowtie have teamed up. How much better can they get? Guess we'll find out.

  • Ralfi Pagan's "Make It With You." Just because.

  • Lastly, two words: Katamari Damashii. Don't know it? Get to know it. We plan to.

    After Tuesday.

  • Monday, December 13, 2004


    rated x by an all-white jury

    From: J**** ******
    Subject: Blocked!


    What up? Love reading your blog (and occasionally poppin in the couple CDs I got off you a while ago). So imagine my surprise when I tried to read your site from a local wireless cafe (Panera Bread) and got denied! ) Pornography, even!

    I didn't search too hard but this post seems to have some info on this bogus web filter:

    Good luck getting off their list of prohibited sites. I don't know how widespread this particular net nanny is but I thought you'd want to know that even on the web, The Man is tryin to hold you down.

    Fight the power!


    Sonic Wall,
    ya'll ain't ready for war,
    Pop Life too strong for ya'll


    I was going to post up something pithy about Cam'ron's new album but realized that anything I might possibly say would be instantly dwarfed by Exo's review of Purple Haze which says everything I might have - and more. This is part of a small but significant attempt by Exo and others to stop blindly celebrating misanthropy just because it's stylish and actually pose the question of whether or not we, as listeners, should take the issue of social responsibility seriously (answer: yes)?

    This is, of course, one of those debates that will never reach a consensus, never have anything less than opposing sides passionately warring over the outcome, and no doubt will get resurrected again after everyone's forgotten the current argument (which doesn't just include Killa, but certainly includes Snoop "Smack A Hoe" Dogg, too, among others). However, just because resolution is rarely, if ever, going to be at hand doesn't mean that we should stop asking these questions and challenging artists about how they've made nihilism seem ghetto glam.

    This actually goes directly back to my previous posts where I was talking about the issues of racial authenticity. I'm going to make this very small point which taps into a far, far larger debate, but when we accuse non-Black artists of distorting Blackness to advance their own careers, we shouldn't forget that Blackness is also perverted from within. That doesn't absolve transgressors of their own sins but it points out that the lines between who's "right" and "wrong" are far blurrier than most would like to admit.

    As always, this must all seem like a jumble (I need to stop blogging at 2;30am but between finalizing the diss and grading student papers, this is what I have) but a colleague from Philly sent me a thought via email which I think is worth considering:
      " Wouldn't it be nice if hip hop could more than feral black men who whirlwind through cities? On those grounds I'm wondering if it wouldn't ultimately be liberating if there was some deracination of hip hop.

      Not that I want it to be disconnected from all that coalesced into hip hop and all that the African diaspora has contributed to that. It's that I think that whoever is pulling the strings has a vested interest in hip hop remaining white America's 800
      pound gorilla. At it's most popular level, it seems to be produced to reinforce stereotypes, or act as a handy scapegoat or emblem of our yielding to base instincts. Not enough people see that it's a vital, diverse culture.

      I gave up hating a ways back - too many targets. And sometimes when it's got a hot chorus and a beat you can dance to you get crunk and ignore the lack of ambition or the less-than-positive subject matter. Or the fact that it all sounds the same. What I want is to feel the way I felt in the golden era. More than anything, you had to be innovative to stand out. Realness was an expansive concept and not something that was as much of a rule bound thing. Now, this false image (pretty certainly perpetuated by the record companies) means nearly everyone, especially among lower and mid-level artists ends up trying to
      fit in the same hole. If someone comes along who changes that, the race/gender/sexual orientation/national origin is secondary.

      I'm not holding my breath for the change or anything, but it would be nice to see some progress again."

    Amen to that.

    Just to contradict all this positivism can I just join the chorus by saying (back to Killa) that "Get 'Em Girls," is ridiculously hot even taking into account how regressive its politics are? Exo quoted this part too but it still gets me everytime I hear it: "I style up in my gear/Stallion of the year/Medallions in my ear /Whips on my fist/ Houses on my wrist/ Your budget on my neck/ Your spouse on my dick."

    Doh! This must be why I'm getting filtered out.


    Broken record time. The Wire's closing run is breathtaking. Not only does the penultimate episode open with Brother Mouzon and Omar facing off in an alley, admiring each other's choice in firearms, but Avon actually sons Stringer, reversing an entire season's power relationship. Dennis' fundraising pitch was a thing of beauty. And of course, most intriguing, is how Avon and Stringer are put on a collision course against each other - we all saw it coming, but not like this. Brilliant, brilliant television. This has been a terrible year for movies, not that hot for music, but TV in '04 has been incredible and right now, Deadwood and The Wire are leading the pack.

    Friday, December 10, 2004


    already learned chinese

  • Speaking of race, identity, appropriation and hip-hop (see my last post), Prof. Deborah Wong at UC Riverside sent me this link to The Notorious MSG, a three-man "rap group" that does songs like "Straight Out of Canton." You simply have to watch the video for that song (it's under "Media", under "Video"). I'm not sure if the video is offensively brilliant or brilliantly offensive or neither but basically, you have Asian guys, playing FOBs (that's Fresh Off the Boat for the uninitiated), playing gangstas. The layers of racial masking run deep when you have a parody of a parody working on this level. What is really nuts is how much time these guys put into this project - check out their "American MSG Idol" skits too. Crazy.

  • Everyone's been hearing about how 5 Pacers and 5 Detroit fans are being indicted but not every news outlet opened with this provocative title: Elaborate PowerPoint presentation culminated extensive brawl probe. One should never, ever have "PowerPoint" in your lead title.

  • iPod Flash? Like wow but I'm waiting for the iPod Neural Implant to come out. Should be any day now.

  • Big ups to DJ Trainwreck: creator of the worst mixtape ever. Seriously, this has to be one of the funniest dedications I've ever read to a musical object. Essential reading and listening.

  • This one initially sounded like the old "cell phones might cause brain cancer" rumor floating around but it seems that medical professionals are now suggesting that, laptops may cause infertility in men. I find this completely ironic for entirely personal reasons.

  • I should have posted this up a while back but take the quiz: Are You A Rap Nerd?. I actually thought I'd pass with flying colors, but as it turned out, I was pitifully low. Who knew?

  • Just when the world (didn't) need another Jay-Z, Black Album remix, it's: The Classical Album - Jay-Z acapellas over classical music. Just read the song titles alone: "Enbernsteincore," "Moments of Hindemithity", "Mahlerlude."


    I filed my final dissertation draft the other day for review - the proverbial make-it-or-get-broken time. I'd like to say it feels good to be done but considering that I still need to copy edit all 200+ pages before I can actually file this s.o.b., the light at the end of the tunnel isn't quite as bright as I'd like it to be. However, I've managed to get my head above academic water for a few days, which means I spent the early part of the evening watching this.

    It doesn't bother me that I haven't been blogging everyday (believe me) but I always feel like I'm missing out on larger dialogues floating around. Thankfully, I have folks like Jeff C. to handle business and spark off all the ideas that I should be thinking about but just haven't had time to. He has a recent post that tackles a wide set of issues, everything from "how to be an interviewer" (newbie writers, take notice), to "how to kill time while waiting for your book to be published" (provided - not a problem everyone really has) to a great section at the end about the "Asian Americans in hip-hop question," that he, me and everyone other yeller person has been getting asked the last few months.

    As usual, Jeff manages to sum up his ideas more cogently and articulately than most (myself included). This is his last word which is as good as any to contemplate upon:

      "All my study of hip-hop has only led me into deeper into Afrodiasporic roots and rhythms and cultures and Black nationalist politics. And, at the same time, my study of hip-hop has only led me deeper into rejecting most fundamentalist notions about hip-hop culture as a whole. The deeper you study, the more questions you have to ask, the less certainty you have about anything, except for the beauty and survival of African cultures, the way they continue to transform and expand upon contact with non-African cultures, and the openings and transformations they create for those other cultures that come into contact with it."

    (By the way, also seen at Jeff's blog: a great interview with Raquel Rivera about the Puerto Rican connection to hip-hop. Jeff himself gets interviewed over at Newswatch.

    Just something to leave ya'll with - in regards to this topic - a recent email convo with a colleague made me think of something I had read in George Lipsitz' Dangerous Crossroads that has a bearing on all this recent talk about race, appropriation, identity, and culture: "To think of identities are interchangeable or infinitely open does violence to the historical and social constraints imposed on us by structures of exploitation and privilege. But to posit innate and immobile identities for ourselves or others confuses history with nature, and denies the possiblity of change." The trick, as always, is finding that narrow path between. I had a longer post that tried to confront that challenge but ultimately, as Jeff suggests, I'm only left with more questions rather than answers. Clearly, this is a topic that we'll have to revisit in the future but as unresolvable as it may seem: these questions still need to be asked.


    Considering that I'm within 5 minutes of an Amoeba Records, whether at home or school, it's surprising I only shop there once every two months. Why? Because confronting the sheer volume of hip hop there is brain-numbing. Seriously, I used to be on top of new releases, partly for a living, partly out of hobby, but I seem to remember that back in the mid-90s, the task was far more manageable. These days, it feels like there's at least a dozen new 12"s a day, plus another 10 cds a week.

    Was it always like this? Can it be it was all so simple?

    Seriously - I know many of you try to stay on top of this hip-hop madness through your blogs and businesses. How the hell do you manage it? Is it a matter of specialization? Or just spending a. Lot. Of. Time. Listening to hip-hop, non-stop?

    I'd love if someone can break down any of these releases (i.e. good or bad):
  • Aceyalone's All Balls Don't Bounce Revisited. Is this a remix album? Or just a re-release with new songs?
  • Trek Life: "Hard Work" 12"? I'm skeptical of most indie hip-hop but Babu produces this and I've really been into his production of late.
  • Gang Starr: You Know My Steez remix 12". It's coming out now? WTF?

  • Monday, December 06, 2004


    this says it all

    Seriously, BCS gets the gas face. Every year, a bunch of teams get screwed over by the bizarre equations that factor the BCS rankings and while it's ironic that one of last year's victims (Texas) is the recipient of this year's benefit, Cal got jacked something terrible.

    The Holiday Bowl? Seriously? Is that some kind of stupid joke? Meanwhile, Texas, a team that doesn't deserve to be within the same time zone as Pasadena is playing for the roses. Hell, Auburn has a legit beef too but at least they didn't get relegated to some weaksauce 2nd tier bowl game.

    Forget college football, I'm going to go watch some hockey inste- Oh, never mind.

    Friday, December 03, 2004


    I know it probably hasn't been really apparent but for the last month (through the next two weeks), I'm in academic fully-focused-mang-mode so my posts are sporadic and I'm not keeping up on the ish that needs to be kept up with.

    Numero uno: Read this, and this for starters. There's so much to unpack here but I simply don't have time - thankfully, J-Shep and Lynne do. So necessary.

    Dos: I can't even begin to unspool this except to say that Exo is not one to be f-ed with. Wreckonize.

    Tres: If you need some mental soothing from the chaos out there, this is as good a place to start as any.

    My people - hold on.