By Resident Alien
You know when you’re watching some really extra crime on the news, and you have that split-second hope that it’s not a black guy?
Well, all too often for the last couple years, DJ A-See and I will be nodding along to a dope new lyricist and find ourselves hoping it is a black guy.
Somebody’s got to say it: white rappers are really bringing their A-game, and black rappers… well, I’m not saying we’re pulling a Custer, but we need to get our weight up. (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of History Channel lately.)
Over half the new rappers that make me lean forward and say, “that’s kinda nice” are white dudes now. There are still incredible black rappers, but they get shouted over by locust swarms of video-lifestyle rappers. How many ways can you talk about partying, drinking and making paper? Fuck it, it’s BORING.
Vanilla Ice. To The Extreme is the soundtrack of their nightmares. Vanilla’s pale, dreadlocked face wakes them up in the middle of the night, driving them to the pen and pad. It’s a legacy of whackness that has been motivating white rappers to do better for the last 20 years. As successful as he was, no one wants to be the next Vanilla Ice.
Among black rappers, on the other hand, about a jillion wannabes are praying through gold grills to be the next Waka. They don’t care about the effect all this bad music is having on hip hop culture, because they don’t care about the culture as a whole. They just care about peddling the most inane, unchallenging, hookiest trash lyrics to as many people as possible.
So the ghost of Vanilla Ice is fueling a lifeline of good hip hop: independent, creative and insightful, that may keep us going until we make it to the next Golden Era. Unless—God Forbid—we’re already there
Far from Krypton: Would You Look Up to Yourself As a Kid?
“Contrast Bohemia to my workplace” – Busdriver
A long time ago, when we were in our late 20s, me and my potna Neil were on one of our many walking excursions around town. He mentioned that he was not living up to his own expectations. I asked him what he meant. He told me that when he was a kid, he knew he would be a superhero by now, and he just did not see THAT happening any time in the near future.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? Being the adult that the child we use to be wanted us to be?
Maybe this is why I spend so much time thinking about my younger years. Back then, I was Playdoh slowly taking the shape of who I am via the experiences I chose to live. Now that I sit behind a computer in some nameless corporate office eight hours a day, I think I owe it to myself to reminisce from time to time.
Back in college, I use to hang around the hip hoppers. Humans have a way of grouping themselves. Like-minded people tend to create enemies of people who think differently. Many times this brings about group cohesion. But as the group grows, splinter groups form. So even amongst the hip hoppers, there were subgroups. I found myself hanging with the bummy, nerdy, argumentative, artsy fartsy subgroup. We would debate for the sake of the debate. We would poke fun at the pretty boy hip hoppers (as I am sure they made fun of us). Our hip hop standards were extremely high. We tolerated no bs music in any form.
So one day, the homie Cosmo got a shipment of tapes from one of his homies on the West Coast. I remember seeing the trademark Eligh rendition of the Eye of Horus, HAND DRAWN (!!) on one of those tapes. But the tape that made the most noise in my subgroup was coMURShal.
The quality was horrible, but it was still dubbed and redubbed to the point where the hiss and static were louder than the beats and lyrics on some parts. Eligh and Scarub had the style, MURS had the content. We even found time to argue about different aspects of the songs we liked so much.
Then, the homie Thomas got a hold of an online tape catalog (http://www.truehiphop.com/atak/) advertising a new MURS tape. He promptly ordered it and soon after, F’REAL came in the mail. The quality was still terrible, but it was the original terrible. Plus, we got the liner notes, which had been hand-cut at Kinko’s, and the blue cassette alluding to a certain gang affiliation. The name of the work rang true on so many levels.
Thomas gave it a listen in his dorm room. He then gave it to me to listen to one fateful weekend in my apartment. I was all too familiar with the sophomore slump, so I did not really take it seriously. I put it in the cassette player and let it be the ambient music for hanging out with the first woman I ever loved that weekend.
As the sun peeked through the blinds of the large, energy wasting, plexiglass windows of my apartment, F’REAL was still playing as we woke up. As fate would have it, we both actually started listening to his words when “The Jerry Maguire Song” came on. Our eyes widened as the lyrics of that first verse sunk in. Our first words of that day had something to do with rewinding that song.
“Now most of us could waste a whole lifetime doin shit we don’t believe in/
So I’m retrievin words of gold to expose my soul/
On the sheets, combined with the beat, a song, complete, to compete/
Nah, cause most of y’all won’t understand it/
Takin this existence for granted/
Never goin after what you really want cause you ain’t got the heart/
So your life never starts to have meaning/
Fiending for somethin to fill that void, annoyed/
With the surroundings you picked ‘cause they don’t seem to fit your person/
Rehearsin what they said would make you happy/
Until you realized one day, ‘Damn they trapped me’/
But who are they anyway? To tell you how to live/
A college degree, then a career, the only decent way to raise kids/
But I disagree, see I wasn’t put here to make a living/
My living makes me, so even if it takes me a lifetime/
I’ma write rhymes that I feel/
Some shit for when I’m fired, that shit for when I’m chilled/
And even if I never make that ticket to a meal/
I’ll still be a success cause my purpose will have been filled.”
Moments like that leave an impact. Songs like that leave an impact. Even as I sit in my nameless corporate office, feeling the Playdoh I am composed of harden into the shape of something far from a super hero…
MURS – The Jerry Macguire Song
Finally RIAA is growing up–not acting like complete and utter jerks that hinder the growth and innovation of music distribution–and working with music services to get people the music they want to hear when and how they want to hear it, without having to resort to, ahem, other methods.
Here are three music services that you should be checking out that are legal and free:
How It Works:
This online music service has been around for awhile. You plug in a musician or a song that you like and, through some scientific computer algorithm hocus pocus, the service finds similar music and sets up a playlist, called a station. You can “thumbs up” the music you like so that the results are even more refined to your tastes, or give it a “thumbs down” and never hear that song again. You can (theoretically) set up an infinite number of stations, for all your music moods.
Why Use It:
It’s a great way to discover new music and you don’t have to worry about queuing up songs. It can just play with no interaction from you.
How It Works:
You enter a room (think chat rooms, like back in the day) which usually has a theme and either listen or step up and DJ. There are up to 5 DJs per room. You can upload your own music or grab stuff to stream from the library. As a listener you can “awesome” music which gives the current DJ points and access to more goodies. You can also “lame” music, and if enough people lame a song, it’s skipped. If a DJ gets too many skips, they’re booted off the stage.
Why Use It:
Turntable allows you to interact with other people in the room, giving it the best real-time social experience of all three music services.
How It Works:
It’s almost like iTunes, except everything is streamed. On the free version, you can pretty much listen to whatever you want when you want to.
Why Use It:
It’s been in Europe for a while, and was just introduced here in the US. People have been salivating over this thing like nobody’s business. So sign up to be one of the cool kids. It’s the closest you can get to a subscription service, and the paid version is available on a bunch of different devices. You can also share and listen to other people’s playlists.
EDITOR’ S NOTE – This post is actually a comment we got about Gods’Illa’s single, You Don’t Have To Be A Star. The comment was so insightful that we wanted to make sure everybody had a chance to read it. BIG shout out to seanzbrother; glad to have brought you some music that reminds you why you STILL love hip hop.
Not too long ago, I was watching ‘Tupac Resurrection’ with my 16-year-old son. I pointed out, when they showed clips of Black Panther and SNCC activities, that young people were always catalysts for change in our communities.
Although my generation benefited from the struggles of the 60′s and 70′s, we were children of the 80′s. Our revolution was televised. We expressed our activism, our culture, our frustrations, and our dreams through the music and art of hip-hop culture.
Those who were there know what crack did to the Black communities of NYC during the 1980′s. Hip-hop’s heroes like Tupac, and Sister Souljah, broadcast the daily triumphs and struggle of a youth that felt voiceless. For that reason, we loved ‘Pac as we loved Hip-Hop.
As an adult now, I miss Hip-Hop. I miss Hip-Hop that truthfully conveys the beauty of the Black community; a beauty that shines through, despite the best efforts of those who foolishly presume to wield power. I want to thank Gods’ Illa for ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Star’. I mean, I’m definitely gettin’ my grown man on. But that true love has a way of making you feel nineteen again. Peace.
Check the song below.
Yeah yeah its old news now but Dallas did the improbable and beat the Miami Heat to capture the championship last night.here are some tweets we kinda sorta found funny.
@esbecreative: *Breaking News* tomorrow is lebron james day…everyone gets to leave work 12 minutes early
@DeePhunk: Chris Bosh cryin’ in the locker room soundin’ like a young Chewbacca. Mad claw marks on his locker.
@benmaller: “NBA unable to send unused Heat championship memorabilia to kids in 3rd world because of choking hazard.”
@pittswiley: You saw me suck at my job this week. I didn’t see you suck at yours because you’re of zero relevance. — LeBron James
@TheBillWalton: A reporter asked Lebron & Wade if they choked. In answering the question, Lebron deferred yet again to Wade.
@dangerroom: This is like if Emperor Palpatine had to give a press conference after the Death Star went boom. #Heat
@owillis: LeBron is just like Michael Jordan… EXCEPT JORDAN WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.
I was just reading a post by Manifesto over at Blackvibes.com, lamenting the pace of technology and how fast things change. As a grownhead, I truly feel him when he says:
“I didn’t realize I was in the midst of a media medium shift until about a year and a half ago, when I referenced on Facebook the compact disc wallet I keep in my car, and several friends responded, ‘Who the hell still listens to CDs in their car?’ The concept of only listening to my iPod in the whip was foreign to me then, and remains as such now.
“I suppose I’m turning into my father — the man who only grudgingly embraces new media; I always make fun of him for just graduating from dial-up Internet less than two years ago and still using as his primary television the one that belonged to his mother-in-law who died in 1994. But am I really much different from a man who still speaks fondly of the 8-track player on his old Buick Century?”
My “Nobody Told Me” moment came about 9 years ago, when I was passing out 15-minute mix tapes to showcase my finesse on the two turntables. I gave it to one club owner and he looked a little funny, then said, “I gotta find a tapedeck to play this in.”
Manifesto isn’t alone in bemoaning the death of CDs. A download is convenient, but there just isn’t that sense of permanence that comes from holding the CD of the artist; reading the liner notes, peeping the cover art. MP3s just don’t give you the same level of knowledge of the album.
Even artists seem to be leaving the format behind. Talib Kweli only released his new CD Gutter Rainbows in digital format (at least, here in the States). I was kickin it with our own Hip Hop Purist a while back and he was telling me his misadventures of trying to get an actual hardcopy of Blu & Exile’s debut album “Below the Heavens.” Long story short, he downloaded it.
Like Manifesto, I just gotta say I’m fighting the good fight–but things aren’t looking so great for our hero.
CLICK HERE FOR THE MANIFESTO POST