Monthly Archives: December 2008


Did rap originate in Scotland?


The Telegraph reports that an American Professor is claiming rap music, specifically freestyle battles, actually originated in Scotland centuries ago.  The Scottish tradition of flyting is, as Professor Ferenc Szasz claims, a battle of “verbal jousting” that was done in verse.  

Szasz claims that Scottish slaveowners brought the practice over to the US and that slaves there adopted it and it lead to, ultimately, the birth of hip hop.  

Frankly, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.  There are some similiarities between rap and flyting, mainly that both consist of a verbal tussle where individuals take turns and marks are given for the most clever lyrics and disses.  Even with these similiarities, I think rap had a way different progression to get where it is now.

Still, it’s an interesting little analysis by a little-known academic, and a connection I had never heard of.  So it is entirely possible there is at least some Scottish influence on the contemporary freestyle.


2008: The Year in Review by Dave Barry

It’s become a tradition that Dave Barry will release his “year in review” article each December, and I’ve started to look forward to them.

This year is no exception.

Some highlights:

-In politics, Barack Obama addresses the issue of why, in his 20 years of membership in Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he failed to notice that the pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is a racist lunatic. In a major televised address widely hailed for its brilliance, Obama explains that . . . OK, nobody really remembers what the actual explanation was. But everybody agrees it was mesmerizing.

-Meanwhile John McCain, still searching for the perfect running mate, tells his top aides in a conference call that he wants ”someone who is capable of filling my shoes.” Unfortunately, he is speaking into the wrong end of his cellular phone, and his aides think he said ”someone who is capable of killing a moose.” Shortly thereafter McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as “Hamper.”

-As world financial markets collapse like fraternity pledges at a keg party and banks fail around the world, the International Monetary Fund implements an emergency program under which anybody who opens a checking account anywhere on earth gets a free developing nation. But it is not enough; the financial system is in utter chaos. At one point a teenage girl in Worcester, Mass., attempts to withdraw $25 from an ATM and winds up acquiring Wells Fargo.

-President-elect Obama, continuing to bring change in the form of fresh-faced Washington outsiders, announces that his secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton. The position of secretary of defense, currently held by Bush appointee Robert Gates, will be filled by Bush appointee Robert Gates. Responding to rumors that he also plans to retain Dick Cheney, Obama insists that he has tried to ask the vice president to leave, “but nobody knows where he is.”

Plenty more.  Check it out.


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Hip-hop Film

Wu-Tang film coming out

Wu: The Story of The Wu-Tang Clan is a documentary film that traces the rise and fall of the infamous Wu-Tang clan.

It looks like a pretty interesting take on their storied career.  NPR reports that the film is partly a biography, and partly just a kick ass hip hop movie.

I appreciate their focus on the fact that the Clan came from Staten Island and did their best to represent it wherever they were.  At that time, hip hop was clearly more territorial than it is now, and there was a major feud between East and West Coast rappers.

Beyond just their various personalities, this film does a fantastic job of showing you all the ways Wu-Tang changed the game.  Both from an artistic perspective and a business standpoint.  Without their influence, emceees these days wouldn’t be able to hold all the copyright, or necessarily produce for others freely.  Hell, these kids apparently were all allowed to have their own solo deals on other labels.

That’s impressive.

Check the story out.


RIAA to stop suing file sharers

Some of you may have noticed our penchant for following the RIAA while they pursued a ridiculous plan to sue as many people as they could in America to try and discourage downloading.  At last count they had filed 35,000 law suits.

Finally, the evil behemoth has come to its senses.  CBC is reporting that they have announced a new plan to stop suing people and instead will focus on working with ISPs to try and cut off internet access to those they think are downloading.  Personally, I don’t think this plan has any chance of success.  Providers are not going to want to monitor their customers or their usage more than they are.

But we shall wait and see.

Cool Hip-hop Film

“… like Remo in Beat Street”

Maybe the most professional of the early hip-hop film classics, Beat Street was released in 1984 and tells the story of aspiring superstar* b-boys from the South Bronx.  Unlike its contemporaries – think Wild Style and Krush Groove – Street transcends camp and, even today, remains more than a mere curiosity of hip-hop’s original Golden Age.  A genuinely decent film, it will make you wish you were present for that fleeting period when being a b-boy meant dabbling in all four of hip-hop’s elements and fights were settled on the dance floor rather than through more violent means.

And even if you ain’t feelin’ the film for its artistic merits, it’s worth watching for appearances from a host of early hip-hop luminaries, including Us Girls, The Treacherous Three, The System, Rock Steady Crew, Soul Sonic Force & Shango, The Magnificent Force, New York City Breakers, Furious Five, Tina B., Afrika Bambaataa, and Johnny B. Bad.

Check it out:

* From maybe the best line in the film:”Charlie, superstar is not a profession.”


Bush gets shoes thrown at him in Iraq

President Bush is hilarious in this scene.  An Iraqi tv journalist literally threw two shoes at him during a press conference and called him a dog.  A pretty major insult from muslims (dogs are considered unclean and you shouldn’t show the sole of the foot to anyone, let alone throwing a shoe).

In case you remember way back when, Iraqis were throwing their shoes at the big statute of Saddam that was being pulled down shortly after the invasion.

One thing you gotta say is that he handled it with remarkable aplomb.  And, he’s got wicked fast reflexes.


“The price of hip hop intellectuals” is bogus conjecture

Despite the ridiculous juxtaposition of terms in this headline, please bear with me.  Maxwell Schnurer is a columnist for the Times-Standard, a tiny paper in Eureka, California, and he has decided to play political theorist.  Well, to be fair, he’s also a prolific blogger and the proud owner of one of the worst designed livejournal pages I’ve seen.  It’s difficult to determine if this is the same person, but the odds are pretty strong that he is also an Assistant Professor of Communication at Humboldt State University.

Now I’m not sure if this piece he wrote is meant to be satire or what, but if we take it at face value it is an epic attempt at linking hip hop and Stalin.  Well, hip hop and tyranny in general.

This is the first half of the article:

In 1931 the brutal soviet dictator Joseph Stalin convinced writer/intellectual Maxim Gorky to “return to become Stalin’s literary ornament” as written by Simon Sebag Montefiore in his recent book Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.

It turned out authors and poets were relatively inexpensive. A mansion, a pair of vacation homes, the rights to his publishing monies, and a driver were all it took to lure the founder of “socialist realism” from Italian exile back to the Soviet Union, where Gorky became a mouthpiece for a bureaucratic machine that murdered and displaced millions.

I wonder what the price would be for most hip-hop “stars” these days? Would a down-on-his-luck Flavor Flav be as willing to rap for a dictator as he is to embarrass himself on a reality television show?

In the money-driven world consumption and wealth have only become more important since 1931. The MTV/BET fashion amplification engine seems to be bumping 250 dollar jeans and cocaine as icons of glamour which lays hip-hop in precisely the place Gorky was for Stalin: Cover.

I think it is a pretty bold argument to make, but Schnurer does make a few good points later on in the article.  He states that watching country stars face rappers in the McCain vs. Obama campaign “in a corporate chain store version of the presidential debates – and some second tier MCs have advocated for McCain precisely because it is the kind of tantalizing entertainment/reporting that will get their names in the paper.” That is a statement I can actually agree with.  You had all kinds of clowns coming out of the woodwork in an effort to get some publicity.

But really, that’s all Schnurer says that even comes close to making sense.  His outlandish claims of hip hop being used as a cover for tyranny are just as bad.  A desperate ploy for publicity and a creative but misdirected argument.  Even though I’ve spoiled the first bit for you, please take a look anyways and make up your own mind.

[Source: Times-Standard]


The Root questions okayplayer’s relevance

okayplayer is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favourite hip-hop websites. The digital home of cats like The Roots, Jean Grae, Erykah Badu and Common, okayplayer features fresh content of all types, from videos to interviews to news to the occasional free track or two.  The best part about it, though, is the sense of community that pervades the site.  Unlike other, newer hip-hop sites (okayplayer turns 10 next year), okp, as it’s known, has a fiercely loyal readership.  The people who are in to okayplayer are in to okayplayer.  Maybe it’s because legends like ?uestlove and Badu are regular contributors to its boards, or maybe it’s because the site doesn’t feel contrived – it’s obviously the product of a group who remain passionate about good hip-hop.

But given its age, is it still relevant?  On Tuesday, the Root ran an article entitled “Is Okayplayer Played Out?” in which Marcus J. Moore asks:

“… now that the Afrosphere is in full bloom and the very ’90s “neo-soul” genre has faded, a question has emerged: Has okayplayer become the digital equivalent to the old man at the club?”

Fortunately, he answers in the negative. After describing how a couple of other okayplayers feel, Moore offers his own insight:

“Not only is okayplayer still relevant, but it represents all that is good in music. Facebook and MySpace are more personal and allow people to reconnect with long-lost friends and family. But there are few other places on the Web to build friendships with others who share a progressive philosophy about music and get exclusives on new projects directly from the artists who share that sensibility.”

Definetly check the article out for yourself.  But before you do, here’s a classic joint that’ll make you think twice about doubting whether there’s still a place for sites like okayplayer .


A history of 78 labels

Ever wonder how the labels on your records evolved over time?  Well have no fear, thanks to a find on Metafilter 4080 Records presents to you Ted Staunton’s archive of labels.

Some interesting labels in there, all arranged by decade.