Monday, February 28, 2005


time to call the butcher

This is a developing story...

"50 Cent Calls Game Disloyal, Kicks Him Out Of G-Unit" (

Now, this is pretty crazy as it is. Apparently, 50 was mad at the Game because he refused to adopt 50's beef with...apparently, everybody. I mean, who ISN'T 50 dissing right now? I think Jay-Z has avoided the hate but Fat Joe, Nas, Jadakiss, Dipset, etc. What's next? The "Piggy Bank" remix where 50 calls out Jean Grae and Aesop Rock?

But this next story just takes crazy to a whole new level:

"50 Cent cohort shot outside Hot 97" (

Haven't we been here before?

Time to speed dial the FOI, get that peace treaty on.

As usual, J-Smooth is up on this.

Question: Seriously, WTF is up with 50 these days? I shouldn't be surprised that the artist who gave us "How To Rob" and made bulletproof vests a couture item is open to beefing with anybody and everybody but unless he's really looking to get A) shot at (oops, too late) or B) alienated from every artist in the industry (G-Unit excepted...oops, too late), it seems that 50's off his rocker right now.

What doesn't help is that his new album - besides having one of the most unintentionally laughable covers in rap music history - is rather mediocre. It's not wack, but for all of 50's purported perfectionism, he seems to just recycle his own ideas for The Massacre, but only with half the charm of his original. I don't hate "Candy Shop" but c'mon, it's a C-rate clone of "Magic Stick," just like "Disco Inferno," is "In Da Club," warmed over. There's a few decent tracks off the new CD but for the most part, 50 sounds like he's treading water.

If 50 needed something to shake up the news and get his name out there, I suppose this was one way to do it but I don't seem this playing out very well. To quote Julio G:
    "You can’t talk shit out here [L.A.]. I’m starting to hear [rappers from outside of Cali] get gangster…it’s funny, it’s cool but half them fools, if they came out here, popping that shit and lived in L.A.? They wouldn’t be round here. N----s take that shit serious, you can’t be running around, talking about, “I’m going to throw my rag up.” What rag is that? From what hood? That’s what they’re going to do. This here is serious gang bang rap. You got to be careful."

(thanks to Kris for keeping me in the loop)


host with the most

Up: "Black" Hollywood. Let's not make too much about this but you had Jamie and Morgan taking the two male acting spots, Chris Rock hosting, P. Diddy presenting, Beyonce singing what sounded like all the nominated songs, plus frequent audience shots of Oprah, Jay-Z and others. It's not like Oscar has achieved racial parity by any means, but if Denzel and Halle's victories from three years ago inspired a long exhalation (i.e. "finally!"), then last night was the casual saunter down the red carpet that says, "we're here and we're not planning on leaving." Now where the Asians at? And no, Sandra Oh sitting next to husband Alexander Payne doesn't count.

By the way, to all the naysayers who said people would be turned off by Chris Rock as host: highest ratings in five years. Later to the haters.

Down: Kanye West. Sure, I put his album as my #1 for 2004 but he's made it far, far too easy for me (and everyone else) to wait for his eventual downfall. This dude's ego is apparently crowding his brain out. The latest is this:
"Kanye West recently announced that he plans to charge for appearing on magazine covers in the future."

Some choice quotes: "If you're putting me on the cover and people are buying your magazine because of me, why shouldn't I get paid to be on that cover? You are going to have to pay me to do magazine covers now!"

Responds Jim Nelson of GQ: "Kanye clearly does not understand the sacred economics of magazines. We're notoriously cheap."

More to the point, last time I checked, Kanye is selling well but he's not doing Eminem or 50 Cent numbers. You think Vibe or XXL is worrying about not being able to do a Kanye cover just because they may not want to pay? It's not like Kanye needs magazines or vice versa - ideally, they help benefit one another, but Kanye's not capable of taking it to the car trunk like J.T. Without mass media, the only platinum he'll be seeing is the chains he has to sell to the pawn broker.


Puffy bucks high fashion and wears a tuxedo t-shirt instead.

Without repeating O-Dub's comments below or the comments to his comments, here are a few of my thoughts on last night's Academy Awards:
  • Billy Bush. Who gave this douchebag a job? I know we live in a country bloated with nepotism under the rule of the Bush dynasty, but I still don't understand how this smarmy, cousin-of-the-president was picked to interview stars on the red carpet.
  • Speaking of Bush: On the red carpet, Chris Connelly told Don Cheadle that Hotel Rwanda is the kind of movie "that can change public policy." The good news is that President Bush saw the movie and is a big fan of Hotel Rwanda. The bad news is that the Prez probably didn't realize that Hotel Rwanda was based on a true story and it never occurred to him that he has the power to stop other forms of genocide in Africa.
  • What's with the men with dark hair and abnormally fake tans? Mike Myers and Orlando Bloom could've convinced me that they were Latino.

  • As a disclaimer, I think it's unfair how much pressure women have to look thin, young, busty, gorgeous, and glamorous, while showing off half their skin -- while men like Ethan Hawke can show up with bed-head and nobody cares. That said, at first glance, I reluctantly admit that I thought Hilary Swank borrowed Apollo Ohno's speed-skating uniform from the Winter Olympics.

  • Is that Prince's old symbol on Johnny Depp's quasi-ascot?
  • I think it's great that Beyonce, while singing the song from "The Chorus," invited all the local movie theater ushers and Panda Express workers to sing with her. (Partial credit to Hank for that observation.)
  • There is no doubt that the Counting Crows is the worst band in the world. I started missing Rob Lowe and Snow White a few bars into that wretched song.
  • I think Chris Rock is the greatest living comedian, but his overall performance was disappointing. The monologue lacked the bite that he brought to the MTV Video Awards a few years back. His best line probably was about Gwyneth breastfeeding an apple, and I question whether he wrote that line. I wish he was a bit more spontaneous.
  • Did you hear Bill Condi and his orchestra butcher "Georgia on my Mind" with their Safeway/dentist muzak version while Jamie Foxx walked to the stage? I haven't heard such a vapid soulless rendition of a soul song since Soul Asylum covered Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." That almost beat out the Counting Crows for worst music of the night.
  • How sad was it when Jamie Foxx talked about black empowerment and only Oprah raised her fist while nobody else responded?
  • I did reasonably well in my predictions, but I didn't pick Cate Blanchett or Clint for director, which cost me.
  • Did anybody catch the Barbara Walters special where she asked Jamie Foxx, "how do you keep it real?" To make matters worse, since some of Ms. Walters' R's sound like W's, I heard, "how do you keep it weal?" Most disturbing of all, Jamie Foxx also talked about his love for bigger, "plump," voluptuous women and Barbara Walters started responding as if he was hitting on her. I need therapy more than ever.
  • Finally, here is the acceptance speech that Morgan Freeman should have given:
Tonight, I don't just deserve a Best Supporting Oscar. I deserve a Lifetime Achievement ... for supporting all you white people in Hollywood. I supported Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. I supported Renee Zellwegger in Nurse Betty . I supported Tim Robbins in Shawshank. I supported Ashley Judd's entire career. I should've been the most important character in Glory and Amistad, but my part took second fiddle to some other white character. I've supported Robin Hood and Dirty Harry while driving that wrinkled colostomy bag, Miss Daisy. My voice is hoarse from having to always narrate all of y'all's stories. From now on, you Caucasoids better start supporting my black ass.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


5:30pm - Opening monta...snooooore. Wait, is that Eminem playing throughout? Damn.

5:35pm - Chris Rock gets a standing (partial) ovation? Word?
Not the raciest monologue he's ever done but hey, he's making 'Pac and Ja Rule jokes. I'm with that.

And who thought we'd ever hear the word Pootie Tang at the Oscars?

(IM from Hua: "I wish this whole show was just him, without the awards")

5:44pm - Finally, the Oscars meet Survivor. "Who'll get voted off the podium?!"

5:47pm - Renee just wants to prove she can lose whatever she gains. Plus, her dress is made from Swiffer material so she's helping dust the stage.

5:50pm - Alright, Morgan! (But what's up with the Star Trek theme?)

5:57pm - I really like Robin Williams but doesn't he do the same schtick every year? I know I've seen this exact same monologue before.

6:01pm - On one hand, they're not on stage. On the other hand, they got stuck at the back of the room. Hmm...

6:03pm - Just when she couldn't get any hotter, as it turns out, Beyonce can sing in French. Jay Z = one lucky bastard.

6:10pm - Chris Rock visiting the Magic Johnson Theaters is so incredibly GENIUS. With a Martin Lawrence cameo to boot (oh yeah, Albert Brooks too).

6:15pm - Edna Mode = awesome. She's got more personality in her left pinkie than the whole cast of Shrek 2.

6:16pm - Sharon points out that these new ways of bringing up the nominees sets up a hierarchy: "They wouldn't do this for Best Actor." True that.

6:21pm - Madsen was robbed (but I can't be mad at Blanchett. She's got so much style).

6:26pm - Of all the past MCs they could get to comment on Johnny, it's Whoopi? Was Billy Crystal busy? Letterman? Hello?!

6:30pm - Spurluck goes down! Still, he's crying all the way to the bank.

6:35pm - Adam Duritz and Sideshow Bob, separated at birth? And I really hope "I Love Scarlett" isn't referring to Johannsen. I don't get her appeal at all (or Kirsten Dunst for that matter). Quips Sharon on Dunst's appearance tonight, "she looks like a drag queen."

6:43pm - Wow, that Sandler/Rock skit was very, very, very painful.

6:44pm - Ah, the only award Sideways is likely to win this evening. Dull acceptance speech though.

6:46pm - Zizi Yang? WTF?

7:27pm - What, no Beyonce? Shame on Carlos and Antonio.

Hua, on Antonio: "I was going to say I didn't know he could sing, but I guess he actually can't."

7:36pm - Ha, the director got shafted because the producer wouldn't shut up. How apt.

7:50pm - Marlon Brando wins the death-applause-o-meter, hands down.

7:55pm - How did P. Diddy get a ticket to the stage? Man, Chris Rock has pull!

7:56pm - B is back...with Josh Groban? I don't get his appeal at all. Is he like the John Mayer for the classical pop set?

Hua: "You know Jigga is just sitting there thinking, 'When I was moving weight state-to-state in a rental, I never thought I'd be sitting here in a tux watching my hot-ass supermodel girlfriend sing some corny-ass showtune with Josh Groban.'"

7:58pm - Prince is short. But young looking. Does he use Pearl Cream?

8:08pm - Can someone please find Sean Penn's sense of humor? What a dour dude.

8:10pm - Listen Hillary - the "I'm just a girl from a trailer park" routine could have worked during your FIRST Oscar, but it's a little melodramatic now, a'ight? You should have gone with the "you really like me!" route.

8:20pm - Kaufman! Funny, Nic Cage doesn't really look like him.

8:26pm - Jamie! And peep out Oprah's black power salute! And check out Melvin Van Peebles, looking all spank.

Jamie is going to be so goddamn huge now. HUGE. I just hope he doesn't pull a Kanye.

8:34pm - Whoa, Clint Eastwood's mom is still living? Like whoa.

8:40pm - Brooklyn in the house!

So... all in all, this was kind of boring. I had a lot more fun watching 3 years back when Halle and Denzel won. That was special but I guess it also makes Jamie and Morgan winning this year less dramatic. Which is progress I suppose.

By the way, memo to ABC - Blind Justice looks T E R R I B L E. Absolutely wack.

Friday, February 25, 2005


If you have a vagina, I command you to obey me!


February 25, 2005

Dear Ladies (and Girls):

Attention! My name is Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.

If you have ever had a late-term abortion, I will soon be obtaining your complete, unredacted medical files in order to criminally prosecute you (and maybe your doctor, too).

This started as a secret fishing expedition, but now the commies at the New York Times have made public the news of my doing God's work.

So you might as well surrender to your nearest police station, in order to help save time and tax dollars.

I have a judge's subpoena in my deep Republican pocket, so resistance is futile.

What's that? You thought you had a right of privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality? No, actually, you don't because I wiped my Topeka cornhole with your constitutional rights.

I am very aggressive about this because I'm still pissed off about last year when I tried to require our state's health workers to tell me about any sexual activity of girls younger than 16. Sadly, a bunch of heathen and hell-bound health workers filed an injunction. (That would've been so hot to hear about, too!)

By the way, next year, if all goes well, I will be installing surveillance cameras in everybody's vagina and anus.

You can contact me here if you have any questions about my reproductive crackdown or my impending vibrators-for-bibles exchange program.

Thank you for your time and prayers.


Phill Kline
Kansas Attorney General
120 SW 10th Ave., 2nd Floor
Topeka, KS 66612-1597
(785) 296-2215
(785) 296-6296 Fax

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Memo to All "Pan-Asian" or "Asian Fusion" or "Asian-Infused" Restaurants:

First of all, just admit it: "Pan-Asian" is your way of charging exorbitant prices and exploiting naive white people who don't feel comfortable venturing into a restaurant run by actual Asian immigrants.

Second, stop skimping on the flavor and spices. Are you interpreting the Greek prefix "Pan" in "Pan-Asian" to mean "not even remotely"? I'm talking to you, Zao Noodle, king of bland.

Third, if you're going to co-opt Asian food, stick to the cuisine of one country. You can't offer watered-down versions of pad thai, adobo, sashimi, and bi bim bop on your menu. You're destroying the ongoing struggle of Asian Americans to convince everybody else that we're not all the same.

Fourth, stop using that damn Oriental font.

Fifth, tell your waitresses to pull the chopsticks out of their hair.

Sixth, if I order sushi and you feed me "art" food, I'm going to send it back to the kitchen with instructions for the chef to shove the butterfly nigiri and the "Stop Drop and Roll" up his wasabi.

Seventh, if I eat at your restaurant, feed me. I need Hungry Man XXL portions, not the teaspoons of low-carb teriyaki trifles designed for your anorexic Atkins customers. And don't insult me by putting the speck of Peking Duck Dung onto a giant plate the size of China.

Eighth, confess that you purchased all your exotic decor from Pier One.

Ninth, no rice dish should ever include peanut butter.

And finally, after your customers hopefully realize that your chefs know nothing about any Asian cuisine, hand them the following fortune cookie:

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Actual Ad

  • The AARP hates the troops and loves sodomy! The Swift Boat Republicans are now trying to mislead Americans into supporting Bush's plan to dismantle social security by arguing that the AARP is anti-military and pro-gay marriage. (See above ad.) Why is the left not making similarly-unsubstantiated, misleading, scare-tactic ads? (Credit: DailyKos)
We need to steal from the playbook of these homophobic fear-mongerers until the Republicans are no longer in control of everything. To demonstrate, I put this ad together that clearly demonstrates that the GOP is anti-puppy and favors drinking wombat-smoothies. Feel free to spread it.

  • Bush Smokes Pot! Dear Mr. Conservative Republican: If you were morally outraged that Bill Clinton (i) smoked pot, (ii) had shady financial business dealings with Whitewater, and (iii) lied about a blowjob, then why are you not similarly upset that George W. Bush (i) snorted cocaine, (ii) had shady financial business dealings with Halliburton, (iii) lied about our need to go to war against Iraq, (iv) gave White House insider press coverage to a pimp and porn peddler, and now, (v) covered up the fact that he smoked pot. (An aside: I love the fact that the name of the guy who secretly taped the conversation with George W. Bush is "Mr. Wead.")

  • Youth Support Less Speech! I know we stopped enforcing the Constitution, but when did we stop teaching it? Apparently, only half of all American high school students today believe that newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval. One in three thinks the First Amendment goes too far! I believe the children are our future, but we need to teach them better before we let them lead the way.

  • Note to all current and future American Idol contestants: stay away from Stevie Wonder songs. For your own benefit, don't attempt it. Please. You're making Songs in the Key of Life sound like Songs in the Key of Death. (And not that I care, but after watching two episodes, I would send my vote to Scott Savol.)

  • Can anybody beat Party Ben in terms of his portfolio of brilliant mashups?

  • And finally, in the "you've gotta be kidding me" department, this is what Whoopie Goldberg said about the Academy's decision to have Chris Rock host this year's Oscars:

"He's probably the best idea they've had since me."

Monday, February 21, 2005


On February 21, 1965, exactly four decades ago, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem, New York.

Here is one of his thousands of statements that still resonates today:
If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
- delivered November 10, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan. Complete text here.

More than forty years later, why have we yet to fill the shoes of Malcolm, Martin, and the other charismatic spokespersons of the 1960s who stood up against domestic racism and global imperialism to establish a global, third-world solidarity?

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Not Photoshopped

Is it me, or is there a grip of birth-related miracles in the news?

No doubt, this story takes the birth-day cake: Egyptian doctors successfully remove a second head from a 10-month-old girl in Egypt.

The adorable Manar Maged was born with a rare birth defect known as craniopagus parasiticus, which relates to conjoined twins linked at the skull.

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around these details: apparently, the baby girl had been joined at the cranium to a "parasitic twin" that consisted of a head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and neck, but no body. According to doctors, the removed second head was capable of smiling and blinking, but not independent life.

My better half (referring to my fiancee, not a second head of mine) and I spent the better half of our weekend thinking about what it would be like to have a second parasitic twin head, which is probably what you're pondering this second. It would be cool, after all, to be able to sing a duet in two-part harmony all by yourself, as well as to always have someone watch your back.

On the downside, you would have a parasitic twin.

But seriously, it would be a tough moral decision for me as to whether to make like Lorena Bobbitt and cut off the second head. This gets into the messy issue of what constitutes a "life." Using my sophomoric logic, if the second head is capable of smiling and blinking, it's capable of having a separate personality. And if it's capable of having a separate personality, it should count as a second "person." No?

Also, if you are religious, would you wonder whether God was trying to send you a message? Perhaps, "this is what you get for being two-faced." Or, alternatively, "this is what you get for light-heartedly blogging about parasitic twins and, by the way, enjoy your eternity in hell."

Ultimately, I would've made the same decision as the parents. But not before thinking about cashing in on some book deals and endorsement opportunities to help pay for the medical bills. ("I've got a heads-ache this big, and it says Excedrin all over them.")

Regardless, I'm glad we have the modern technology to keep a formerly-two-headed baby alive.

* * *

To pay penance for any puns at Ms. Maged's expense, I've donated money in honor of her to the March of Dimes, which works to save babies' lives and eliminate birth defects. I swear I don't mean to be insensitive.

Friday, February 18, 2005




Now on it's 4th year, this is the (not so) little party that just keeps on bumpin'! This month is no exception as we welcome DJ O-DUB, who, in our humble opinion, is one of the best Hip Hop DJs in the Bay Area..Come help us celebrate Chinese New Year with one of the neighborhood‚s best. Also in the mix will be your trusty residents DJs Asti Spumanti and Vinnie Esparza spinning the usual assortment of hip hop, funk, reggae and dance beats.

AT MILK, 1840 HAIGHT STREET (across from Amoeba), SF, 9:30 pm -2am, 21+, $10.


Indecency Alert: Depraved by the Bell!

With the current crackdown on indecency in network and basic cable television, it's hard to find the gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, and obscene language that I refer to as "good TV."

Indeed, the only reason I purchased TiVo was to utilize their "Search Using a WishList" function, in order to find shows whose summaries include my favorite key search terms like: 'chocolate starfish,' 'Lucky Pierre,' 'grundle-chug,' or 'Blanche DeVereaux.'

But with so many channels and misleading titles like "Wife Swap" or "Two and a Half Men," I have a hard time locating the graphic gratuity that truly tests the stamina of my remote control's pause button.

Thankfully, there's now an organization and a website to compile the nastiness for me: the Parents Television Council (PTC).

This organization is apparently comprised of sex-positive, free-thinking, anything-goes parents who seek to make life better for corrupted degenerates like myself (and O-Dub).

The PTC has a Family TV Guide, which, among other things, tells me which shows are more likely to offer me the sex, language, violence, and glimpses of David Caruso's backside that I seek in a quality television show.

For example, the hip parents at the PTC recommend I watch Desperate Housewives because if I tune in, I'm likely to peep a married woman doing the Humpty Dance with her teenage gardener. The PTC's numerous "red light" ratings for that show practically guarantee that I'll be titillated before the first commercial break.

Likewise, the PTC's Guide saves me from wasting time fast forwarding through 7th Heaven to see if Simon will ever get to 7th base, because I will only find "responsible themes and traditional values."

But the PTC offers more than just a handy roadmap to the best fuel for one's sinful imagination.

The PTC actually hosts some T-N-A! (See bottom right corner of above photo.)

The thorough researchers at the PTC have rigorously combed through every show on TV to isolate the clips that contain the most graphic content ... and then they post them for immediate public viewing and downloading on this page! Wow! Easy! Free! Hot!

With these clips a click away, why waste time sitting through CBS' "Without A Trace" when you can instantly view the infamous "teen orgy party" clip here in all its unedited glory? Boob tube, indeed!

I want a job at the PTC! I'd love to get paid to pursue my prurient interests and help the public interest, at the same time. I imagine, however, that it would be hard to isolate just one nasty scene a week for their "Clips Gallery."

Needless to say, the Parents Television Council is Pretty F-ing Cool. Or should I say, the PTC is P.F.C.!

Thanks, Parents, for simplifyng my life by publishing this carnal directory for me.

* * *

Wait ... this just in ... The L.A. Times reports that "Once-Conservative Adelphia Adds Hard-Core Porn to Cable" in SoCal. Never mind. I don't need you anymore, PTC.

Credit: Defamer, Wonkette, TDS.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


sage rages

Yeah, it's me (O.W.), delurking from daddyhood for a moment - call it parental decompression. Thanks to Junichi, who's been making Pop Life - dare I say? - better than I ever managed to do in any consistent way. I loved his email observation to me:

"You got some sharp readers, but definitely a few haters. I can't help but think that most of any negativity stems from (90%) jealousy of you and (10%) the fact that you're Asian American. Seriously. Just a thought."

O-Dub has haters? Say it ain't so, J! My favorites are the ones who can't tell Junichi and I apart. Maybe all Asians are alike?

Anyways, before I jump back to priming the Diaper Champ, a few stories we've been tracking here at home.

1) For a long time, I've been trying to figure out why it is that 95% of so-called "underground" hip-hop (a blurry term these days but for good reason) leaves me bored to the point of despair. Kalefah captures part of my moribund enthusiasm in his scathing review of Sage Francis' recent show in New York. As he opens, "Why is it so hard to be an underground hip-hop hero? Perhaps because the mainstream hip-hop heroes have already claimed so much of the best turf for themselves," and from there he basically lays into Sage for being so anti-everything, that he rarely finds any compelling to say for himself that's not in reaction to some perceived shortcoming in mainstream hip-hop.

Now personally, I think K sort of misses the larger reason why Sage has such an impressive core audience - the emo-rap angle, as tired as it may sound, is still an essential element to why white rappers like Sage, Atmosphere (yeah, I know, he's only half-white but bear with me), Buck 65, Aesop Rock, etc. have such loyal followings. However, he's pretty much on point with this simple observation: "it's still no fun to listen to," which nicely sums up the limitations of so much underground hip-hop these days. It's self-importantly portentious and neglects the basic pleasure principle that's powered pop music the last 100 or so years.

This isn't to say that fans of Sage or his peers don't find pleasure in their music, but rather, the production of pleasure may not be the foremost item on these artists' agendas. This can, no doubt, launch us all into a lengthy debate over whether or not pop sensibilities have become the new rockism or what have you, but putting aside all that heady intellectualizing for a moment...I just wish I could find a way to be more emotionally satisfied with more of today's underground artists. The fact that I'm not has likely to do more with me than them but given that I've had this same conversation with many others who nod in empathetic assenet, maybe it's really not me, but them.

Time to light up the comments!
(credit: J-Smooth)

2) Then again, just to prove that my uber-nerd ticket is still punched, I had a giddy good time watching the new video for Quasimoto's "Rapcats". It's the visual equivalent of an Edan song, with dozens of clips borrowed from different rap videos and publicity stills. Geeked out goodness, for real.
(credit: HHH)

3) Back to controversy. This cut n' paste montage of Jay-Z lyrics insinuates that Hova is "not a writer/but a biter." The DJ plays a series of rap lyrics by other artists (Biggie figures prominently) and then plays the near-identical version of Jay-Z reciting the same lyrics.

On one hand, this is nothing new - rappers quote from one another all the time and it's seen as a mark of respect - but considering how staggeringly long this clip runs, you do have to start wondering if there's not something to the implied criticism being made here. After all, if Jay-Z's supposed to be one of the nicest to ever grab the mic, wouldn't hip-hop's authenticity ideal demand that most of his best lines actually be, you know, his? And not something he twisted up from Biggie, or Big L, or Ice T? As others have noted, Jay-Z's one of rap's most prolific artists, so maybe it's not fair to condemn him on the basis of counting up the number of times he's "borrowed" lyrics but I don't think that defense is enough to put the debate to rest.

I'm not knocking Jay, mind you...[some might argue that] his reputation has been based less on his lyrical imagination and more on his flow (even 60 Minutes wreckonized), but given hip-hop's particular obsession with originality (no biting allowed!), how does one reconcile Jay-Z's recyclings of notable quotables with the respect afforded to him as one of rap's finest?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


I Don't See Nothing Wrong With A Little Mumper Grind

It's happening.

Ohio State Senator Larry Mumper (pictured above) has sponsored an "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education" that would prohibit all college professors -- at both public and private schools -- from presenting any information that did not convey complete "neutrality" with respect to their teachings. The bill also cracks down on "controversial matters" in the classroom.

Which is to say, Ohio Senate Bill 24, if passed, would outlaw ideas.

It would discourage professors from approaching any areas -- especially in the areas of history, political science, and cultural studies -- that might be deemed too "political" or "ideological" or "religious."

And worst of all, Senator Larry Mumper -- who is not a car salesman -- seeks to create a system where the government, via the legislature or courts, would be responsible for monitoring all content of everything taught in the classroom.

Don't be suckered. Proponents of the bill have tried to sell this as an attempt to ensure intellectual pluralism (which I support).

But in reality, this is an attempt to silence "liberal" professors and replace them with conservative ones. While this may be prompted by the Ward Churchill controversy, the bill is also aimed at every professor who has ever questioned any public policy or any history that isn't consistent with the approved textbook of conservative America.

The bias behind the law is especially clear once you discover who is funding this book burning. The bill is based on the principles of the "Students for Academic Freedom." Sounds like a good organization, right? In fact, it's an organization -- opposed to key tenets of academic freedom -- founded by conservative activist David Horowitz.

David Horowitz, as you may recall, is most famous for posting an 'ad' in numerous college newspapers entitled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks - and Racist, Too!"

Among other things, Horowitz argued that African Americans today have not been adversely affected by slavery, and that, in any event, reparations have already been paid in the form of "welfare benefits" and "racial preferences."

Most odiously, Horowitz asked, "What About The Debt Blacks Owe To America?", suggesting that instead of whites owing blacks, the truth is vice versa.

(If you must, you can view the Horowitz ad here. You can also view a response to it here.)

Most likely, this bill stems from the fact that Horowitz is pissed off at being booed, protested, and discredited at so many college campuses.

I don't know enough to conclude whether the Ohio legislation has any chance of passing. Last year, similar bills were introduced in California and Colorado, and they failed.

But the Georgia Senate passed a similar non-binding resolution. Most notably, the other bills that failed had preceded the Ward Churchill controversy.

This is not just an Ohio issue, as there is a nearly identical bill before the Indiana legislature. And most personally threatening, a similar bill has been reintroduced in California targeting our public colleges and universities.

My complete opposition to this bill isn't based on any "liberal" viewpoint of mine, but rather, my firm belief in free speech and academic freedom. Again, even if I were a conservative instructor, I would still oppose any attempt to restrict the free flow of ideas at a university.

I'm not the first to say this, nor the last: Welcome to the 21st century witch hunt.

Don't make yourselves at home.

More news at 11.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Jack White = love-child of Michael Jackson and Johnny Depp
Loretta Lynn = winner at the county fair

Usually, the Grammys are four torturous hours of cringe-worthy nominations, undeserving winners, insomnia-curing acceptance speeches, and performances that compare in pleasure to toasting my scrota in a waffle-maker. But I agree with Bono: last night's awards show was "the best Grammys I've ever seen." Granted, the bar is extremely low.

Some comments:

* The opening quasi-mashup medley with the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani & Eve, Franz Ferdinand, Maroon 5, and Los Lonely Boys was brilliantly executed, given the material the producer had to work with. For starters, it's hard to do much interesting with Maroon 5 (the new Counting Crows) and Los Lonely Boys (the new Los Contando Cuervos). And it would take a meth and ecstasy cocktail for me to get excited about hearing, for the 34,928th time, the song formerly known as "Let's Get Retarded," which has already been killed thanks to the Democratic National Convention, the NBA, the Urbs, the sorority parties, and your mother, who thinks she's hip because she owns a "hip hop" album. But all in all, it was a solid intro.

* Memo to Gwen Stefani: if you're going to reduce Japanese girls to your fashion accessories, at least give some fetish love to Japanese boys, as well. I'm looking for a new job, you know?

* I love Ray Charles and would happily shower him with Grammys until he had golden gramophones sticking out the distal orifice of his alimentary canal. But Genius Loves Company, the best-selling album of his career thanks to Starbucks' inclusion of it in its "The Only Four CDs You Will Buy This Year Because You Are Lame and You Buy Your Music at Starbucks" series, did not deserve Best Album. Nor did his entirely forgettable duet with Snorah Jones deserve Record of the Year.

* The big hype prior to the evening was that J. Lo and her latest husband, Mark Anthony, were to "publicly perform for the first time," which sounds more appropriate for amateur night at a Tijuana strip joint. Little did I realize that their duet would be a re-enactment of a climactic scene from last season's Telemundo Novela "Pasion de Gavilanes." Mark Anthony looked quite passionate when crooning about his insecurities from failing to attract paparazzi like Ben Affleck and P. Diddy. But J. Lo looked bored as hell, exuding less electricity than an Amish blackout.

* At least Lynyrd Skynrd didn't use their typically-ubiquitous confederate flag.

How many times were you robbed last night, Kanye?

* Normally, Kanye West has the stage presence of a spelling bee announcer. But last night, Kanye (and his church dancers) deserved an award for that exhilarating performance. He probably was wired with adrenaline after praying on national television to win the Best New Artist award, only to demonstrate his complete disappointment when he lost. (Apparently, Jesus walks with hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers, and even Maroon 5.) Yes, Kanye was robbed. But on second thought, I like Kanye and don't want him to end up in the same class as Hootie & The Blowfish, Milli Vanilli, and the Starland Vocal Band.

* What can overshadow any Grammy win? James Brown bestowing you the "Godson of Soul." Isn't it enough, God, that Usher has a washboard stomach, Michael Jackson's dance moves, a member of TLC in his list of ex-girlfriends, and he's cute and cuddly like Monchichi? Please tell me that "Confessions, Pt. III" will be about his battles with chlamydia.

* I don't have time to research this, but I'm quite confident that John Mayer's "Song of the Year" for his cheesy ballad, "Daughters," should be revoked because he stole the lyrics from a Hallmark card.

* Memo to E!: Fire Kathy Griffin. Please. She is the only person in the world who can actually make me miss Joan Rivers.

* Bill Clinton won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album. Who knew a commander in chief could slam?

* Grammys I'm most happy about:
    • Best Dance Recording: "Toxic" - Britney Spears
    • Best Electronic/Dance Recording: "Kish Kash" - Basement Jaxx
    • Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album: "Street Signs" - Ozomatli
* Grammy I'm least happy about:

    • Producer of the Year: John Shanks. I agree that John Shanks deserves an award -- after all, he fullly utilized all the latest advanced technology to create an entire album around Ashlee Simpson. But can anybody even hum "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson or "Fly" by Hilary Duff?

Friday, February 11, 2005


Been There, Done Tang

I'm upset because I just got tricked (again) into bouncing my head to an MC's tight rhymes over a sick beat on the radio, only to realize later that it was a soda commercial.

I miss the days when rappers shied away from product placement and endorsements.

I hesitate to show my age, but when I was in high school, it seemed like the only MCs doing commercials were "soft" "crossover" rappers like MC Hammer (who plugged Taco Bell and Pepsi, among others). And at least Hammer never gave shout-outs to products in his own songs, nor did he hurt 'em.

It's hard to pinpoint the precise point that hip hop merged with corporate marketing, but ain't no doubt that in 2005 it's the norm for rappers to collaborate with corporate product pushers.

To name a few: the Roots plug Coke, Rakim hawks Hennessy, De La Soul wear LUGZ, Jurassic 5 promote MasterCard, KRS-One spits (or spat) rhymes for Nike, Dr. Dre prefers Coors Light, Talib Kweli rocks Ecko, Lyrics Born provides the new jingle for coke, and everyone from Tribe to Missy hypes Sprite. (Is there anyone today who raps about refusing to being a billboard?)

And then there are those who shell out actual hit songs that shill goods. I think Lil' Kim alone has name-dropped every brand on Madison Avenue. Mentioning "Cristal" has pratically become a fifth element of hip hop.

If anything, the only divide today is between artists hawking others' goods and those promoting their own line of products (e.g., Jay-Z's "Rocawear," Nelly's "Pimp Juice" energy drink).

When did we get to this point where few seem to care that hip hop's hit songs are indistinguishable from commercials? "Pass the Courvoisier," anyone? (Not that it matters, but there seems to be some dispute over whether Puffy and Busta were paid, retroactively or otherwise, by the Courvoisier company.)

I realize that the relationship between hip hop, product placement, and commercial endorsements goes back to the mid-1980s when Run D.M.C. got paid over a million dollars to endorse Adidas and Kurtis Blow was doing Sprite commercials. But I submit that these were the exceptions to the rule.

I also recognize that this is, arguably, a predictable consequence of the global appeal of hip hop, elevating its stars on the same plane as other musicians, athletes, actors/actresses, and hotel heiresses who "accidentally" do porn.

And most of all, I understand that a lot of these MCs aren't getting paid (or didn't get paid) what they deserve. I know ... everyone's gotta put food on the table.

Nonetheless, I miss the days when street cred was at odds with Wall Street cred. I long for the era when Public Enemy pressured their peers not to touch a liquor ad with a ten foot clock.

So, in resigned homage to our current state of hip hop product placement, I've put together the following ideas to help artists and companies finalize the sell out process.

    • Terror Squad & Fat Joe: Sizzlean Back

    • Naughty By Nature: Hip Hop HooRay-Bans

    • N.W.A.: Straight Outta Comp USA

    • Public Enemy: Black Sharpies In The Hour of Chaos

    • Eminem: The Real Slim-Fast Shady

    • Eric B & Rakim: George B. is President

    • Notorious B.I.G.: Mo Money, Mo Prada

    • 2Pac: Brenda's Got A Baby Gap

    • Busta Rhymes: Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Chex Mix

    • DMX: Ex-Lax Gon Give It To Ya

    • Mary J. Blige: No More Dramamine

    • Nas: The World is Coors

    • Chingy: Balla Baby Wipes

    • LL Cool J: I Can't Believe It's Not Big Ole Butter

    • Jay-Z: Preparation H to tha Izzo

    • Erykah Badu: Love of My Lifesavers

    • Jurassic 5: What's Golden Grahams?

    • Wu-Tang: Da Mystery of Minute Maid Juiceboxin

    • Fugees: Fu-Gee-La Salsa

    • Dr. Dre & Snoop: Nothin' But A G's Tang

    • Kanye West: Jesus Woks

    • Salt 'n Pepa: Let's Talk About Kotex

    • P. Diddy: PE 2000 Flushes

    • Hieroglyphics: Third Eye Visine

    • Cypress Hill: How I Could Just Kill A Hungry-Man
To the windoooow! To the Wal-Mart!


Lizz Mendez Berry's Vibe story on how hip-hop silences the issue of domestic violence is an important, important piece - one of the few examples of real investigative, issue-oriented reporting you'll find in today's urban culture mags.

Alas, what I think will be the ultimate fall-out is a much public hand-wringing but business as usual otherwise. As Lizz points out: that's not on hip-hop alone, but it's fascinating to see how fast people circle up the wagons to defend a batterer. If you're talking the talk, i.e. "kick in the door/wavin' the 44/all you heard was 'Poppa don't hit me no more'" at least be man enough to own up to it.

UPDATE: As you can imagine, the s*** has hit the fan now that the story is out. You have your usual chorus of misogynyists claiming that "it's the woman's fault," rappers are getting heated, the article's author has been catching hate from various industry types, and Vibe's reportedly been losing advertising - though if that means one less cliche ad selling poorly designed urban wear, that might be a good thing. All this for speaking Truth to Power.

T. Havas mentions in the comments that NPR's Talk of the Nation had a show on Thursday about misogyny in hip-hop that included Todd Boyd (USC professor), Akiba Solomon (Essence) and Jay Jackson (Ruff Ryders). I'm not sure why the Ruff Ryders' A&R is up in the mix? And where's my girl Lizz?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Not a chickenhead

Found elsewhere:
  • The Can't Stop for Nothing Tour begins tonight in Berkeley (and may come to a metropolis near you)

  • Is Popeye smoking weed?

  • Orlando Bloom chooses Johnny Depp and Pirates over Kate Bosworth and a wedding.

  • And finally, another testament to the power of bloggers? Check out this story:

    Jeff Gannon (although that may not be his real name) is a conservative, family-values White House-credentialed "reporter" for a news agency called The website has published anti-gay articles promoting "ex-gays" and supporting the ban on gay marriage. Gannon himself also authored a piece defending Rick Santorum's comparison to homosexuality with "man on child, man on dog" sex.

    According to the Washington Post, Gannon was the only one given access to an internal CIA memo that named Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA agent. Gannon subsequently has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into the Plame outing.

    Well, after bloggers dug a bit deeper, they've exposed his hypocrisy to discover that he is apparently a male prostitute or pimp. This anti-gay rights advocate is also the owner of Bedrock Corp., which also owns the rights to websites like

    And now, he's quit. The only question that remains is whether the Bush Administration knew about his "second job" when they gave him an insider pass to the White House briefing room.

    Credit: Americablog


You been throwin wack rhymes at me

In the Poetry for the People ("P4P") program I direct at Berkeley, we include hip hop lyrics in our study of poetry.

This year's reader includes Aceyalone's "The Balance," Talib Kweli's "The Proud," and 2Pac's "Dear Mama," which reflects the choices of numerous student teacher poets in the P4P program.

But as for myself, I've yet to conclude which artists' entire lyrical oeuvre, on paper, best stands out as a collection of "poems."

In your opinion, which MCs' writing consistently distinguishes them as "poets," best evidenced by their careful and thoughtful choice of words? Indeed, is there any rapper worth putting along side the Nikki Giovannis, Martin Espadas, and Naomi Shihab Nyes of the world?

Keep in mind that in asking this question, I'm asking you to ignore any artist's (a) voice, (b) flow, (c) beats, (d) production, (e) dance moves, (f) videos, (g) style, (h) attitude, (i) street credibility, (j) wheels, etc.

For example, consider Notorious B.I.G. I love Biggie. I appreciate his baritone voice, his flow and command of breath, his stage presence, and his personality contrasted with Puffy's radio-friendly production. But in my opinion, rarely has Big Poppa ever written lyrics that stand out on their own as poetry.

I probably wouldn't put this in my course reader:
When the la-la hits ya
Lyrics just split ya head so hard
That ya hat can't fit ya
Either I'm witcha or against ya
Format venture
Back through that maze I sent ya
Talkin to the rap inventor

Langston Hughes, he ain't.

Now, don't get me wrong: there's a grip of reasons to study and pay homage to what Biggie does. But I'm not sure that his words work as well on paper as do others' lyrics.

Ultimately, I would defend all MCs as poets.

But some are just better writers/lyricists than others. That, then, begs the question: which MC do you consider the greatest poet?


Translizzle Some Text

New search engine: Gizoogle.

Stupid, but damn amusing.

Credit: Dwong

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


This Ain't Winston

Bush II Press Secretary Ari Fleischer once famously stated during a White House press briefing:
"All Americans.. need to watch what they say, watch what they do."

He made this statement two weeks after 9/11, in which the atmosphere in this country was so intolerant of dissent that it was practically treason to say anything that didn't end with "home of the free" or "from sea to shining sea."

Over the last few years, I thought the censorship noose has loosened a tad, as it became more common to hear people speak out against the President, our military, our foreign policies, or whatever indefensible wars we're fighting.

Instead, since the wardrobe malfunction incident a year ago, the decency police seem to have focused their crosshairs more on the purveyors of sex and sexuality. Judging from the Super Bowl's sanitized commercials (give or take a Cialis ad) to the Terrell Owens / Desperate Housewives "scandalous" promo to the ludicrous suggestion that the kids' cartoons "Postcards from Buster" and SpongeBob are promoting a "gay lifestyle," we Americans are currently wading through a cultural swimming pool where a 2-piece bathing suit might be indecent.

But Ward Churchill proves that political censorship is very much alive today.

For those who haven't heard, Mr. Churchill (a.k.a. Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is a Native American activist and Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado. He is the author of the new book, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality," which chronicles American military interventions and violations of international law. The book didn't attract much attention when it was released in November 2003, although it won honorable mention for the Gustavus Myer Human Rights Award.

But all hell broke loose when his recent invitation to speak at Hamilton College was rescinded because of "security concerns." It's not clear to me how the controversy started, but someone obviously took offense to Churchill's essay in the book in which he equated the "technocrats of empire" working in the World Trade Center with "little Eichmanns" -- a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide. His point, as I understand it, is that the 9/11 attacks were an inevitable consequence of unlawful U.S. foreign policies.

In a recent statement, Professor Churchill stated:

"[t]he bottom line of my argument is that the best and perhaps only way to prevent 9-1-1-style attacks on the U.S. is for American citizens to compel their government to comply with the rule of law. The lesson of Nuremberg is that this
is not only our right, but our obligation. To the extent we shirk this responsibility, we, like the 'Good Germans' of the 1930s and '40s, are complicit
in its actions and have no legitimate basis for complaint when we suffer the

It's no surprise, however, that in our wicked national game of "grapevine" or "telephone," his views have been twisted and reduced to: Ward Churchill says that Americans deserved to die on 9/11 because they were Nazis.

The mainstream media spread, like wildfire, the false allegation that he labeled all Americans 'Nazis.' An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, for example, wrongly referred to Churchill as "the pro-fascist University of Colorado professor of 'ethnic studies' who cheered on the Sept. 11 attacks." (As you can see, that editorial also seems to dismiss the legitimacy of an 'ethnic studies' department.)

This controversy doesn't just end with people taking offense. If only. Here's a sampling of the aftermath, thus far:

  • The University of Colorado ordered a 30-day review of Professor Churchill's speeches and writings to determine whether the tenured professor overstepped his boundaries of academic freedom and should be fired.

  • Fox News and Bill O'Reilly and his minions are on a constant campaign to shut down all of his speaking appearances, labeling him an "American-hater."

  • Colorado Gov. Bill Owens called on Churchill to resign his faculty position, saying taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize his "outrageous and insupportable" views that defy the facts of history.

  • Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald also said he should resign from CU, saying he was compromising the school's reputation.

  • Republican members of the House also introduced a nonbinding resolution expressing sympathy for the September 11 victims and criticizing Churchill's comments.

  • His latest speaking engagement at Colorado University were cancelled for "security reasons."

  • There is a growing movement -- especially in conservative talk radio circles -- who are calling for him to be executed for treason.

Honestly, this public crucifixion scares the bowels out of me -- not just as an academic, but as a blogger, an aspiring essayist, a poet, and an American citizen.

There but for the grace of God go I.

For starters, I find merit in Professor Churchill's argument that the United States must follow international law because, otherwise, "[i]f we respond with callous disregard to the deaths of others, we can only expect equal callousness to American deaths." If anything, this sounds like common sense.

I haven't read Ward Churchill's book, but I know enough to disagree with some of his perspectives, many of which seem alienating or sensational.

But that's the thing: they're his perspectives. His opinions.

Professor Churchill isn't advocating or encouraging violence against anyone. He isn't spreading lies or slandering any person. He isn't falsifying research. He did not defend any attacks on our country.

Yet, he is on the verge of termination. And remember: Professor Churchill has tenure.

As I am not even tenure-track, this controversy has a huge chilling effect on my willingness to publicly air my views.

So especially to all the bloggers and writers and poets and rappers and scholars out there, I humbly suggest that we need to support Ward Churchill's First Amendment right to speak.

I would defend Ward Churchill's right to speak even if he was on the conservative end of the spectrum. I know that my right to free speech will be meaningless unless I defend the rights of those with the least popular views.

Unfortunately, we already live in a country where all Americans need to watch what they say and watch what they do.

But we don't have to devolve into a nation where the consequences of our choices in words or scholarship lead to academic termination, silencing, or God forbid, imprisonment.

We have the right not to remain silent.

If we don't speak up for Ward Churchill, one of us is going to be next.

* * *

P.S. How do I reconcile this perspective with my belief that Miss Jones on Hot 97 should have been fired?

For starters, Hot 97 is a private company; University of Colorado is a public university (I think). Constitutionally speaking, Miss Jones doesn't have the same First Amendment rights on broadcast radio as a professor has to conduct academic scholarship. (She does, of course, have the right to perform or sell the song in numerous other settings.) Miss Jones is an entertainer; Ward Churchill is a scholar. Radio DJs don't have tenure; Ward Churchill has tenure. Miss Jones was broadcasting racial epithets, without apology; Ward Churchill was articulating an analytical perspective on foreign policy. And finally, if the First Amendment has any historic meaning, it's to protect political dissent, as opposed to the idea-less, racist fighting words that Miss Jones chose to repeatedly broadcast.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Another Game, Another Malfunction

In case you haven't read the post below or suffer from short term memory loss, Pop Life is temporarily under new management.

What happened to O-Dub? He's spending time with his family, and by "Family," I don't mean the evangelical sex cult profiled in today's Chronicle.

Rather, he's spending time with his new family. In case you haven't heard, Oliver is now the father to a beautiful baby girl.

What does this mean? Yes ... it's true: Oliver Wang is no longer a virgin.

But it also means that he'll be gone for awhile, adjusting to fatherhood. As such, he's unwisely handed over the reins to me so that I can destroy his Pop Life empire by posting gratuitous areolas, literally and metaphorically, thereby shrinking readership and igniting FCC investigations. So until O-Dub cuts off this umbilical cord, I'm guest-blogging for him.

I've known O-Dub -- or, as I've always called him, Daddy -- since the mid-1990s when we were both undergraduates at UC Berkeley, listening to Oaktown's 3.5.7 and sporting bike pants. We both lived in the same residence hall: Haste-Channing, now known as Cleary Hall, where we'd stay up late making mixtapes while avoiding the regular delivery of swirlies, noogies, and wedgies by dorm bullies.

I remember when Oliver earned his nickname "O-Dub" because he was always busy dubbing bootleg performances of O-Town, before they blew up and became a third-rate *NSync.

I hesitate to further enlarge O-Dub's already voluminous head, but I must admit that I consider him one of my few role models. We both teach classes at UC Berkeley now, but he's always 347.58% more productive than me and, perhaps, everybody else. Lucky for us, now he'll be spending most of his days changing diapers and remedying butt rashes, as well as attending to his new-born daughter.

So I hope to use this time to catch up to Mr. Wang. Perhaps one day, he will be the Wang to my Chung. But more likely, we'll just live the rest of our lives being the William to his Hung. Or the Jan Brady to his Tom Brady.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


a lil crazy, but dapper

Since I'm off learning the wonders of parenthood (and sleep deprivation), I've asked a good friend and colleague to sub for me during the next few weeks.

If ever I was going to turn Pop Life over to someone, Junichi Semitsu is it. His Pnuthouse blog is essential reading around here and Junichi's blend of personal quirk, sense of humor and political/intellectual insights pursues the same ideals I try to bring to PL. I'll let him introduce himself but in the meantime, I wish everyone well and hope to resurface as soon as I regain some semblance of coherency (that should be in about 18 years I think).

As to the question on everyone's mind (well, ok, maybe not everyone): will I be daddy-blogging now? A: Probably, but not on Pop Life. We're all about compartmentalizing. In any case, see you in a couple of weeks. --O.W.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


1. Not that it's all over yet but here's the Hot 97 tally so far: Todd Lynn + producer Rick Delgado = fired. Emmis Broadcasting is donating $1,000,000 to tsunami relief. Miss Jones = suspended for two weeks, presumably coming back.

Assuming this is how this affair ends, here's some positive and negative outlooks. On the upside, $1,000,000 is not for nothing and in the grand scheme of things, goes a long way (we hope) to providing needed aid to tsunami victims. You could cynically say this is just a powerful media corporation buying their way out of trouble...and you'd probably be right but you think orphaned kids in African and Asia care about Todd Lynn's career? No.

As far as blood-letting goes, Emmis should have canned Miss Jones too and let's just be real about this: she survived because she brings in rating to Hot 97. No one is going to miss Lynn and certainly not Delgado but Jones is a financial asset to the station so she gets to keep her job after a slap on the wrists. I guess it's too bad Jones wasn't making jokes about shooting Asians.

Anyways, the easiest thing angry people can do now is simply to turn Hot 97 off. Don't fulfill everyone's pessimism by going back to the station as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, we'll see if the sponsors press on to boycott until Jones is dusted too.

2. Just Blaze lives up to his name.

3. Fifteen and a half million dollars can buy you some good cups of coffee.

4. This story sounds too bizarre to be real but it probably is.

5. Davey D runs down the 2004 awards for

6. Ian @ Diff Kitchen asks, "is the golden age of hip-hop blogging over?" in response to Eric's musings that he might quit the blog game (E - don't pull a Toure, man).

Wait, there was a golden age of blogging? When was that, second quarter 2004? I'm not clowning but previous to late 2003, I'd say 90% of the hip-hop blogging community hadn't even gotten onboard yet so it's a little strange to think that "our" moment has already passed. We're still in the stone age, relatively speaking.

Ian writes, "Blogs were supposed to be the media format that would tear down the barriers and break all the rules as far as democratising to process of getting new voices heard in the media and even redefining what constitutes journalism, being a journalist or the media."

I agree that blogs have had an impact on professional journalism (just ask the CBS News staff) but personally, I thought blogs were supposed to provide an avenue for self-publishing for anyone who thought they had something to say, no matter how random or parochial. Look at the Xanga-verse or similar kinds of blogs that are basically online diaries. At a very simple level, blogs exist because people want to be heard and going online is how you can cast the widest net for a potential audience.

I'm not saying that's an inherently good thing and it's beyond any easy management. There's supposed to be, what? 1.5 million blogs out there? It's no wonder that people's blog rolls start to look like phone books - the sheer amount of content is beyond comprehension. And as Ian and Eric suggest, yeah, a lot of it is either redundant or random, contributing to this growing white noise that seems to be a complete waste of bandwidth. Do many of us end up writing about the same albums? Or posting up the same MP3s? Or rave about the same shoes? Probably. But I'm not sure how that necessarily diminishes the medium itself. Two thoughts:

  • I'd rather see 1,000 wack blogs get started if that means a handful of good ones come into existence too. Case in point - I just saw today that Danyel Smith has a blog - this is probably the first music writer I ever learned the byline for and she's been a big inspiration to me over the years as a woman of color, as a pioneering rap writer, etc. And now I get a small window into what she's thinking about. In this case, I don't need her blog to be the first one to tell me that Snoop got sued for sexual assault or that there's a new G-Unit tape on the streets. Instead, I appreciate knowing what she has to say about women in rap videos or what she thinks about Kobe.

    Not everyone is going to give a damn but that's the upside to having 1,500,000 blogs out there to read - you can pick and choose what kind of content you want and there's likely going to be something to fill that.

  • As for the hip-hop blogging community, let's be real about this - is there even a dozen of "us" out there? At least, from my observation, we're a relatively small circle of folks who read and comment on each other's sites and while that is - as many have pointed out - a bit insular, I prefer to look at the positive: never before have dialogues been created and pursued as quickly as via blogs. Look at the so-called "Tate Gate": pre internet, how would people have responded to quickly to an essay like that? Maybe around a water cooler but there's no log of those conversations, no documents that capture these moments in time.

    Blogs are forms of self-publishing but they're also inherently communication tools. The whole existence of hypertext - the ability to link to another site - means that we're often connected to one another rather than shouting into a void. That's a striking, new way to think aloud and debate issues and topics - whether it's Bush's foreign policy or how ugly Pharrell's sneakers are.

    Does any of this "mean" anything? Are we doing anything important? That's not for me to say but I didn't get into blogging for any real lofty aspiration - it was for the same reason why I got into writing a dozen years ago: to share some thoughts, to work out some stuff in my head, to try to advocate at times, pop shit at others, and find a space to converse with like-minded souls. To that degree, I think blogging has proven itself quite successful. Whether or not it's going to kick start the revolution...well, check back in a few years (once we get into the Bronze Age at least) and let's take stock.

  • Tuesday, February 01, 2005


    The Greatest Book Ever Written.

    Well, on hip-hop anyways.

    It's finally out. That's what matters.


    (this post also mirrored at Soul Sides)

    Edan feat. Percee P: Torture Chamber
    From Beauty and the Beat (Lewis, March 2005)

    Lyrics Born: I'm Just Raw
    From Same !@#$, Different Day (Quannum, March 2005)

    M.I.A.: Bucky Done Gone
    From Arular (XL, Feb 2005)

    Prefuse 73 feat. Masta Killa and GZA: Just The Thought
    From Surrounded By Silence (Warp, March 2005)

    2005 is about to jump off, fast and furious. The Game's had an easy January - his CD's been the only major release so far and 50's not due until late March. Between now and then however, there's a rush of noteworthy releases due up. I snippet-ized a sampling from a quartet of albums I'm personally looking forward to, let's see what discussions spark from here on out...

    1. I've been sitting with Edan's new CD for a few weeks and have been loving every moment. Maybe it's an nostalgic impulse on my part - after all, Edan lionizes the '88 fast rap era that I'm a fan of too and his aesthetic mastery - lyrically and musically - of that time is masterful, to the point of obsessiveness. Do people find him a little backpackerish? Probably but this new album breaks out of that throwback mode with an exciting, aggressive assortment of psyche-inspired tracks. The mood on Beauty and Beat is decidedly dark and a touch sinister: think Kool G Rap rather than Kwame. I pulled a track feat. Percee P, the fast rap legend whose career has most decidedly entered into its second (or is it third?) act. There's supposedly a Cut Chemist remix of this somewhere out there that's habanero hot.

    2. What I appreciate about Lyrics Born is how he just goes ahead and does whatever he wants to artistically, no matter how unconventional it may seem. To me, he's one of the last few iconoclasts left in hip-hop who still has enough talent to stay relevent. For example, he decided to make this remix album on a whim but once he was committed, he went the full-length: bringing in a host of different producers, including the Lifesavas' Jumbo to Germany's Poets of Rhythm to the Bay Area's very own Dan the Automator. Dan handles the track on "I'm Just Raw," one of four completely new songs offered on Same !@#$ - it's a straight braggadocio cut in the tradition of another Dan/LB pairing from a few years back: "Always Fine Tunin." (The CD also brings back DJ Spinna's excellent "I Changed My Mind Remix," from 2000 as well.) Bottomline: I respect LB's hustle - he really does the Bay proud.

    3. I was probably the only pop music blogger who didn't put "Galang" on their top 10 list...not because I didn't like it, but I was slow to get around to listening to it. Candidly, so far, I find M.I.A.'s back story to be the main draw, which is no disrespect to her music, but c'mon - a Sri Lankan child refugee who lands in England, sports a Cockney accent and sings/raps over apocalyptic, electro-destructo beats? And dates Diplo? Not to sound all grrrl power but I'd love to go to a show headlining her, Dizzee Rascal and The Streets and watch her wipe the floor with the whole lot. Frankly, I'm not next level enough of a music critic to know to call this grime, neo-electro, or whatever - I'm just enjoying the sheer bombasticness of it all.

    4. On that note, it sounds like M.I.A.'s been cribbing notes off of Prefuse 73's smash-distintegrate-rebuild-smash production style. I'm sure Jacques Attali must have had some prescient vision of Prefuse when he wrote Noise since 73's music toes that razor line towards a distortion to static but subliminates a range of rhythms underneath everything he does. In all fairness, it's not like I live and die for his sound - gimme a straight drum break loop any ol' day (see below) - but I do appreciate how he's steadily evolving his sound through each new release. Surrounded By Silence is his most ambitious to date in terms of working with other artists. At last count, he had at least 13 guests on the album, including a track with both Ghostface and El-P, plus "Just The Thought," a Wu-Tang affair featuring Masta Killa and the GZA. The pairing makes a lot of sense if you think about the ways in which the RZA has played with distorted, dusted out sonics himself.


    Common feat. Kanye West: Corners
    From Be (Interscope, Spring 2005)

    This song's already making the blog rounds (read the comments on that post for more hilarity) but at the risk of being redundant let me state the following:

    1) I was apparently the only person who actually thought Electric Circus was an enjoyable, imaginative album. Best thing Common ever made? Hell no. But as boring or mark-missing as something like The New Danger or Beautiful Struggle? Uh uh.

    This song, along with "The Food" from '04, pushes Be to the very top of my most-anticipated release list, including over Kanye's Late Registration.

    2) Speaking of West, I've mostly found him - despite his steadily overbearing god complex - to be a refreshing presence in the rap game but in general, his productions are starting to thin out, probably from being over taxed. Two years ago, did Kanye have any wack beats? I can't think of too many off the dome but in the last few months, he seems to be phoning in a few of his efforts (The Game's "Dreams" comes to mind and let's please not talk about that b.s. he did for Jin).

    This said - Kanye comes back diamond hard with "Corners." When's the last time you can remember a West production that kicks off with a drum break, let alone something as flinty as this one? Was he offended when Just Blaze said on "Church For Thugs:" "no more hand claps, please?" Did he decide to go back to the lab and pull out this grungy, stripped down, nails-in-a-baseball-bat of a beat? It's not hungry - it's damn near starving to be heard, to be pumped out of trunks from Cabrini Greens to Red Hook.

    Aside: me and Hua were wondering aloud if Just Blaze and Kanye West had beef, who'd walk away as the last man standing. Provided, West rocks Jesus piece ice these days but Blaze managed to make Fab sound talented on "Breathe." I think the latter qualifies as the more impressive feat.

    3) Just because Common wouldn't be Common without a little touch of corniness, the song also features Umar Bin Hassan from the Last Poets. I'm not as annoyed by his presence as others are...he's not nearly as grating as Olu Dara on "Bridging the Gap," and I still have fondness for Hassan's cameo on Ed O.G.'s slept-on, "Love Come and Goes."