Monthly Archives: May 2008


Sound Barrier – the art project

In one of the cooler art projects I’ve seen in ages, Maia Urstad decided to build a whole wall out of old boomboxes and audio equipment.

Sound Barrier, as she titled it, has lofty goals.  She says that her inspiration came from the “ruins” of ancient walls in the countryside, and argues that this technology will be the ruins that our generation leaves.

Here’s a little more of her explanation:

CD-and cassette radios in the installation have a double, visual and conceptual function. On an auditory level they are mediating the sound image implemented in the installation. Visually they are the concrete building blocks, the obvious function in the wall, but they also reflects issues related to the technical development and our culture of consumption.

The CD players in the wall are playback units for a composition of electronically treated sounds borrowed from radio waves, Morse code, FM- and satellite radio etc. Sound signals that also will be obsolete and forgotten sooner than we might expect.

The installation SOUND BARRIER is a creative examination of correspondences and the juxtaposition of issues. The questions it poses are many, including and especially: ‘What will become of the ruins after us`?’

It’s an interesting look at our society.  No one doubts that the sheer amount of electronic waste in the world is beginning to be a major problem.  The question just becomes what can we do about it.  I’m not entirely sure if people will really take much away from this installation, but it’s definitely worth a look.  Considering you’re reading this on a computer, maybe you will make a small change in your own life.

[Sources: Gizmodo, Make]


Wale’s ‘Mixtape About Nothing’ drops (Free Download)

For those of you who’ve been paying attention, we’ve been hyping up Wale for a little while now.

Wale has been working on a Seinfield-inspired mixtape, amusingly called the “Mixtape about Nothing“.  I haven’t given it a listen yet, but it’s up and available for download thanks to Elitaste.

Click here to go download it.

Just to get an idea, here’s the tracklist:

1. “The Opening Title Sequence” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
2. “The Roots Song Wale Is On” f. Chrisette Michele (produced by ?uestlove & James Poyser)
3. “The Feature Heavy Song” f. Bun B, Pusha T and Tre from UCB (produced by Best Kept Secret)
4. “The Freestyle (Roc Boys)”
5. “The Perfect Plan” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
6. “The Kramer” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
7. “The Crazy” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
8. “The Vacation From Ourselves” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
9. “The Remake of A Remake (All I Need)” f. Tawiah (produced by Mark Ronson)
10. “The Grown Up” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
11. “The Manipulation” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
12. “The Artistic Integrity” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
13. “The Star”
14. “The Skit (Untz Untz)”
15. “The Cliche Lil Wayne Feature (It’s The Remix baby!)” (produced by Osinachi)
16. “The Bmore Club Slam” (produced by Scottie B)
17. “The Chicago Falcon Remix” f. The Budos Band (produced by Mark Ronson & Eli Escobar)
18. “The Hype” (produced by Best Kept Secret)
19. “The End Credits” (produced by Best Kept Secret)

[Source: Okayplayer]


Children of polygamist sect being returned

As we reported on a week ago, a court in Texas had made the first step by stating that the children in a polygamist compound in Texas had been illegally seized.  At first, this only meant an appeal, but now it seems like the whole case has collapsed.

The Texas Supreme Court has said that Child Protection officials, and the state government in general, had failed to prove that anything untoward was going on that the polygamist compound.  There wasn’t adequate proof that the children were in danger, and therefore the state had no right to seize them.

Because of this finding, the 400+ children that were seized from the FLDS sect are being returned to their parents.  The only catch is that the parents must take parenting classes and not leave the state.

I’d like to believe  that nothing bad had happened to these children at the compound, in which case maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.   Since the whole raid on the sect was made because of a phone call from a girl, it’s disturbing that no one has been able to find this mystery caller.  It almost makes me feel like maybe this whole thing was blown out of proportion.


Marley Marl launches radio station

Marley Marl is launching a web radio station called Future Flavas Radio.  This is a program he ran on New York Radio hosted by KRS-One back in 1994.  It’s been around for a few years, and now is going online to try and secure a wider audience.

I have a feeling there’s going to be a pretty sick lineup, so check it out here.

[Source: ThugLifeArmy]

Featured Politics

Nepal votes to abolish the monarchy

No more King Gyanendra in Nepal.

The people of Nepal have voted to abolish their monarchy and become a republic. This is great news for them, or at least for most people. The monarchy has been around for nearly 240 years and has recently come under heavy criticism.

Back in 2005, Gyanendra seized power and dissolved parliament. He argued that the current government wasn’t doing enough to contain the Maoist insurgency. The Maoists were running a guerilla war outside of the capital, and causing significant terror.

But the Maoists have turned things around. In the most recent election, they stood as a political party and won a rather sizeable majority. They held a referendum and the people of Nepal voted to dethrone King Gyanendra, the last of Hindu monarch in the world.

It’s impressive that the Maoists have managed to stop being a widely-condemned armed resistance (one that was on the terrorist watch list in the US) and instead become a recognized government. While it’s easy to say that I wish other “terror” groups around the world would follow this example of legitimate political discourse, I have a feeling it’s easier said than done. Still, I hope this is an example of the way peaceful politics can achieve something a decades long guerilla war could not.

It almost makes me wonder what they’ll call him now. Just Gyanendra? Former King Gyanendra? Hmm.

[Sources: Reuters, CNN]


Everyone is getting sued

Or so it seems.

Joe Farrell is a saxophonist who produced a track called Upon This Rock back in the 70s.  Not normally that big a deal, I’d say.  Except for the fact that this song was sampled in everything.  Some of the biggest hip hop groups have used this sample to make some killer hits

But now there is trouble.  His daughter has brought a suit against Kanye, Common, Method Man, and Redman.  Also their labels.  She’s alleging that they used the sample without permission.

It’s a sad story, and Pitchfork has a bit more of the details.

Those tunes? Kanye’s “Gone” from Late Registration, Common’s “Chi-City” from Be (incidentally, also produced by Kanye), and Method Man and Redman’s RZA-produced “Run 4 Cover” from 1999’s collaborative LP Blackout! The lawsuit claims that the tune was used without approval, a familiar story in the annals of rap history.

I guess I understand the desire to protect your father’s work, and no one likes being “ripped off”.  But everytime something like this comes up I always get that brief flash where I assume it’s a money thing.  The fact that the daughter is only suing for 1 million would, at first, belay that suspicion.  But then again a mil is a lot fo money, even if  these guys are worth a lot more.

[Source: Pitchfork]

Art Cool Geek

The Vancouver Art Gallery goes KRAZY!

If you’re in the Vancouver area, be sure to check out the Vancouver Art Gallery’s newest exhibit: KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics+ Video Games + Art. Another example of the mainstream art world embracing pop culture, this exhibit promises to be “a groundbreaking project that offers unique and dynamic insight into the world of comics, animated cartoons, anime, manga, graphic novels, computer/video games and visual art.”

I love exhibits like this, because they push the boundaries of what constitutes legitimate art. And by forcing us to think about what does or doesn’t belong in an art gallery, they help ensure our cultural output remains creative, innovative and compelling.

The moment we stop challenging our notion of art, the moment our society begins its decline into stagnation.  


Nodding at the back

Nodding at the Back is a hip hop photo exhibition taking place in the UK at the moment.   Put on by Punch Productions, it features work by Ian Reynolds.

In case you’re interested, it’s taking place at The Albany Theatre in Deptford,  London, and will continue until June 8.

It’s got an incredible goal in mind, and one that I think needs to be seen more and more often.  Check it out: Over the past 20 years some academics and historians have claimed hip-hop culture has been hijacked by the conglomerates, and the new wave of MTV children who have diluted its authenticity. Preservation of culture is important and that’s what inspired us to commission Ian Reynolds to produce this collection of images.  This exhibition is by no means an A to Z of the Birmingham scene but a mere fraction seen through the eyes of one photographer.

How can anyone argue with that?  It’s obvious that too many people only see hip hop as glorifying violence, denigrating women, and promoting a consumptive lifestyle.  It’s absurd, of course, but considering that’s pretty much all that’s shown on the radio and MTV or MuchMusic, it’s no surprise that lots of people don’t know any better.

So check out the exhibition if you can, otherwise, take a gander at Reynolds’ website.


Problems in the micro-loan world

Our friends over at SepiaMutiny have run a rather fascinating post about the nature of micro-loans and the banks that offer  them.

In case you aren’t entirely familiar, the concept of micro-lending was developed by Mohammed Yunus, a professor in Bangladesh who founded the Grameen Bank.  This bank specialized in offering very small loans ($100) to women in Bangladesh and ended up having a phenomenal rate of success.

He built on this principle and it quickly caught on and expanded all over the world.  Now, we’ve got websites like that let regular people offer microloans to approved borrowers.

But not all is well on the micro-loan front.  At least not according to this article.  One of the micro-lending banks, CompartamosBanco in Mexico has gone public in an IPO last year.  The accusation is then that it is now acting like a company and not in the best interests of the poor.

“Another critic, Chuck Waterfield of Microfin, a provider of software to microfinance institutions, accuses Compartamos of “monopolistic exploitation of the poor”. He alleges that it is charging interest rates of over 100% a year, little different from what illegal loan sharks demand, and that it is deliberately making it difficult for poor borrowers to understand how much they are paying for their loans. He and Mr Yunus are campaigning for the microfinance industry to agree on common standards on disclosing charges to help borrowers.”

There is now much more competition between the needs of the shareholders (i.e. they need a return on their investment) and the needs of the poor.  Instead of acting somewhat selflessly, there is now concern that the profit motive will take over.

It’s definitely a concern, and one that the rest of the micro-loan world seems keen to avoid.  I think I’d back Yunus as far as saying there should be a standard code of conduct for these institutions, especially with regards to disclosing their interest rates and providing information to potential clients.  If they begin to act like traditional banks, it does seem to pervert the basic idea of what they set out to do.

[Sources: SepiaMutiny, the Economist]


Camu Tao R.I.P

Camu Tao, a producer (and emcee) off the Def Jux label has recently passed away after a battle with lung cancer.  Yes, this isn’t a story of an emcee who was gunned down or overdosed, but a tragic tale of a battle against cancer.

His skills are an emcee are not super high on my personal list, but I can really appreciate what he’s done.  Plus, as a producer he’s worked with some incredible people, including RJD2.  Tao was actually in Mhz with RJD2 and Copywrite.

El-P, a long time collaborator, gave a small eulogy on his blog that was incredibly touching.  Click on the Okayplayer link below for the full eulogy, but here’s just a small portion:

We, his friends and family, have truly had our collective hearts broken by his passing. Not only because of the loss of our friend, but because of the loss of his contribution to those who never knew what we knew about his talent and his potential. He was the secret that no one wanted to keep and we always knew that one day his vision and his heart could change music forever the way he changed all of our lives.”

Rest in peace, Camu Tao.

Camu Tao – Plot for a little

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[Source: Pitchfork, Okayplayer.]


As a show of respect which I thought was pretty interesting, his myspace page shows all his “top friends” have changed their pictures to one of him.  It’s nerdy, but I think it’s a wonderful thing.