As a filmmaker who’s shot documentaries on both Lil’ Wayne and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Adam Bhala Lough thought it a good idea to cross wires a bit and let the eccentric 76-year-old dub master bestow a bit of mellow wisdom upon the drank-sippin’ 30-year-old rap supastar.
For much of this decade, UK grime and hip-hop MCs have been focusing on skills much more than swag, and have fostered a sound that evokes what many consider the “golden era” of hip-hop circa mid-‘80s-to-mid-‘90s. It’s a stripped-down, loquacious and attitudinal sound, short on gimmicks and high on the culture. And in some crucial ways, it’s putting the American hip-hop scene to shame.
The last truly great MC squad to come out of hip-hop was the Wu Tang Clan. But there’s little reason to doubt that the UK Female Allstars—a rhyme crew assembled by British producer Mikey J (best known for his work with East London superstar MC Kano)—could rise to, or possibly even surpass, the Wu’s legendary status. (I’ll prolly get shit for saying that, but what the hell…)
The UK Female All Stars are made up of Mz Bratt, Lady Leshurr, Lioness, RoxXxan, Baby Blue and A.Dot. If you love hip-hop, just check out this video for the Allstars’ debut single “Rock the Mic,” both of which dropped yesterday (they’re giving the tune away here. And try to tell me these women don’t have game.
Last week the British historian David Starkey got into a lot of trouble on BBC’s Newsnight by claiming that the English riots were caused by “Black” rap culture and praising the notorious politician Enoch Powell. As could be expected his views were jumped on by the far right British National Party, and there has since been a public outcry that many think spells the end of the broadcaster’s career.
Now YouTube user sweetbabyjesus has uploaded a great cut-up video turning Starkey’s statements on the news program into actually quite a passable little rap tune - for an English historian.
Before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the markets in the late ‘80s, New York culture maven Michael Holman first made the move to put hip-hop culture on TV with the show Graffiti Rock.
In 1984, Holman—who played music with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo in the legendarily obscure band Grey—got a bunch of banker friends to put together $150,000 to shoot the pilot for the series at Madison Ave. and 106th St. It screened on WPIX channel 11 in June 1984.
Holman turned the show into a seminar on the culture. Alongside future superstars Run D.M.C., Kool Moe Dee and Shannon—and cameos by “Prince Vince” Gallo and Debi Mazar—he featured his own crew the New York City Breakers, pieces by graf artist Brim, and hilarious slang translations. For the time, the show is pretty slick and ready for prime-time. Holman picks up the tragic story from there…
So the show airs and actually does much better than people thought! We got great ratings and aired in 88 syndicated markets, nationwide. But when we went to Las Vegas to sell the show at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment) we hit a wall. First, the station managers (the people responsible for purchasing new shows in their markets) didn’t understand why “Graffiti Rock,” and hip hop was different to what Soul Train was offering. Secondly, certain stations wouldn’t take the chance to buy “Graffiti Rock,” unless other, larger markets did first. Chicago was waiting on L.A. to bite, and L.A. was waiting on New York. But the major New York syndicated stations at the time, were controlled by unsavory characters, and they wanted money under the table to put the show on the air! My main investors refused to deal with these forces (I of course would have done whatever I had to to get it on the air, and am still pissed they didn’t play along!)...
Graffiti Rock proved a legendary snapshot into what hip-hop TV was about to be. What a shot in the arm it would have been for the culture. Gnarls Barkley would later lovingly spoof Holman and the show for the video for their 2008 hit “Run” and before that, the Beastie Boys sampled Holman’s excellent little seminar on scratching in pt. 2 on their tune “Alright Hear This.”
I’ll leave part 3 of the YouTube of Graffiti Rock off this post in an appeal for you to reward a culture hero like Holman by buying the DVD.
I’m freaking out over how insanely BAD this is (not bad meaning good but bad meaning terrible). Seriously folks, I need help, I mean is this FOR REAL?! First up I can’t stop giggling, but secondly it raises a lot of questions. “Why?!” being one, closely followed by “Maybe she’s mad because he wrote this sucky song about her?” And who the hell is “Mayberry”?
Well, at least one thing is for sure - this gives lie to the myth that “making music is easy with Autotune.” Kind of. I’ve messed around with Autotune before (if you own a Mac you have a cheap version as part of Garageband) and know that these guys have to be doing something really wrong for it to sound this bad. In all fairness though, this was uploaded over two years ago. Maybe PtheG has improved since then?
No, this is not a joke. An old audio clip has been unearthed of a teenage Mark Sinclair (aka Vin Diesel) rapping over a beat by legendary NY avant-dance composer Arthur Russell under the name Second Edition. This is bizarre not so much for the music, but for the idea itself. Diesel, the lug head, $20 million action star and Russell, the stoned, gay, downtown disco bohemian trying their hardest to make a primitive rap tune work. It seems like a match made in an alternate universe, but no, it definitely comes from this dimension. It has been discovered on tapes owned by renowned guitarist Gary Lucas, who has this to say on his Soundcloud page:
Fragments of an aborted recording session at Battery Sound NYC in 1986 which brought together fledgling rapper Mark Sinclair—today better known as the actor Vin Diesel—and avant composer/dance music maven Arthur Russell in a project midwifed by Gary Lucas, who discovered Mark Sinclair rapping and break-dancing on the streets of the West Village, and greenlighted by Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records and Barry Feldman of Upside/Logarhythm records.
“I’m the Man of Steel” the teenage Sinclair asserts, foreshadowing his stellar ascent as a worldwide action movie hero (“Triple XXX”, “Pitch Dark”, and most recently the #1 box office hit “Fast Five”)—but even Diesel is no match for Arthur’s crafty diabolical beats, which keep dropping “the one” out from under him, breaking up Sinclair’s delivery and eventually rendering the session useless.
“It’s the white part of me fucking it up!” —Mark Sinclair at the recording session
Unfortunately embedding has been disabled, but if you really are curious to hear it (it’s not amazing to be honest) you can do so here.
Thanks to Steven Hall.
Ultra-respected Detroit hip-hop producer James DeWitt Yancey a.k.a. J.Dilla a.k.a. Jay Dee would have turned 37 today. Four years ago, he died of cardiac arrest after a long struggle with lupus, and a few days after his last album, Donuts was released on Stones Throw Records.
Little can be said about Dilla that isn’t said in this 40-minute film, J. Dilla: Still Shining, released on the genius’s birthday by Brian “B.Kyle” Atkins of Gifted Films, which features many of the artists who he inspired or for whom he produced tracks, including Bilal, Erykah Badu, Pete Rock, ?uestlove, Common, Q-Tip and Monie Love, the last of which simply described his work as “the feel-good.”
Have a look at this tribute to a guy who helped keep the hip-hop artform elevated with his intense skills, superhuman drive, and simple love of music.
Designed by Roger Linn and released by the Japanese company Akai in 1989, the MIDI Production Center or MPC has proven to be the backbone of hip-hop production. Its 16-pad interface allows for 64 continuous sample tracks, and has provided producers with some of the intense sound-granulating control that you’ve heard in the genre’s last 20 years.
The MPC has been around for pretty much all of Providence, R.I.’s Abraham Orellana’s life. So it makes almost cosmic sense that Orellana—who does business under the puzzlingly given name of AraabMuzik—has a masterful way of pounding the pads. He came to most peoples’ attention as the man who produced this summer’s “Salute,” the reunion track for Harlem’s Dipset crew (after the jump). Personally I think the kid’s talent far outclasses Dipset’s extreme-swagger stance, but whatever.
Here he is in raw form in the studio with his buddy the MPC-5000…a visual treatment of his virtuosity to follow…
Shawn Carter a.k.a. hip-hop mogul Jay-Z sat down yesterday with top African-American public intellectual Cornel West at the New York Public Library for a talk—moderated by Library director Paul Holdengräber—that was to be centered ostensibly around his memoir Decoded, but ranged through a wide variety of topics and modes.
It bears notice that despite Jay-Z’s superstar pop status and the hype surrounding the book, the appearance didn’t bear an airing on, say, MTV. I truly wonder why.
Love him or hate him, Carter’s journey from Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Houses projects to mega-millionaire mogul maps almost directly to the 30+-year story of hip-hop from marginalized urban phenomenon to global cultural movement. And West’s contextualization of the rhymer’s work and writings within the urban African-American artistic experience is pretty striking.
The status commonly accorded to Jay-Z as the greatest rapper of all time amounts to truly tedious hype. But there’s no denying that the man’s got power, perspective and a dangerous mind.
Public Enemy’s explosion onto the American music scene in the mid-to-late-‘80s transformed the musical views of a lot of people, myself included. These guys were the full package. Sonically they fused hardcore New York rap style with militant black power lyrics and a dense, bombastic sample-heavy rhythm attack. Visually, they had a solidly political graphic style and tough, utilitarian fashion sense that accentuated their revolutionary attitude. PE were a dream come true for dorky college students like me who were in love with both serious anarcho-punk bands like the then-recently defunct Crass and black music in general—especially hip-hop. Their 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is a landmark in American pop music.
PE marks their entrance into collectors’ posterity via a 3-CD/3-DVD-photo-book-and-t-shirt box set with a new video for their summer single, “Say It Like It Really Is,” shot in the surprisingly peaceful surroundings of Niagra Falls. Older, but still dangerous minds.
After the jump: a 2007 video re-contextualizing of P.E.’s 1999 tune “I”, with Chuck D. surveying New Orleans’ Ninth Ward…
I may not agree with all of Tech’s positions in general, but I do admire him as one of the few politically minded rappers who walks the walk. Dude built a damn orphanage in Afghanistan with no external or corporate funding, so he gets my salute.
Here are a few excerpts from his compelling Haiti look…
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
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