Tag Archives: hip hop

Music

Bitter Barista is also a rapper

You may have hard of Bitter Barista.  This Seattle-based anonymous rage blog was the classic tale of an employee ranting about customers and management and working conditions.  What you may not have heard is that Matt Watson, the name behind the blog, was unmasked by a rival coffee blog (which is a ridiculous sentence to write) and subsequently fired.  More importantly, you may not have heard that he also raps under the name Spekulation.

Here’s a little bio snippet:

Spekulation is a Seattle-based emcee and producer who blends both live instrumentation and sampling to create boombap rap records that are exciting and spontaneous. On stage, he performs with DJ AbsoluteMadman, Nate Omdal and a 6-piece live band.

And he’s not bad.  Check out Remember below.

Geek Music

Will.i.am debuts his track from Mars

CTVNews reports that Will.i.am, the Black Eyed Peas frontman, is going to debut his new track from Mars.

Literally.

The Mars Curiosity Rover is going to beam his song back to Earth, which is how the world is going to first hear it.

While a technological marvel, it’s an embarrassing use of the rover and the tech behind it.

Members of the team overseeing Curiosity’s work on Mars will be on hand too, to explain how the song was sent from the Martian surface to Earth, as well as other details of the rover’s mission on the Red Planet.

I guess that’s the useful part.  NASA is using Will.i.am to get people interested in the technology, and will hopefully actually explain the science behind it.

Let’s hope this song is better than the last BEP album.

Awareness Cool

Hip-hop stars shift on homophobia

Hells yeah.  It’s about time someone started to talk about this.  Ever since Frank Ocean came out, people finally began to discuss the shift in the hip hop landscape and their treatment of homophobia.

It’s by no means as graduated and accepting as it should be yet, but progress is slowly being made.  When you have some of the biggest names in hip hop on your side (Not to mention Tyler the Creator’s furious underworld hype), it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says.

The article, Hip-hop stars hit pause on homophobia in rap, covers some pretty wide-ranging territory.  It features quotes from many big names.  One of the most interesting notes comes from D.M.C., who states

D.M.C. is skeptical about some of hip-hop’s recent support of Ocean, since he believes homophobia is still rampant in the culture. Still, he is sure a homosexual hip-hop act will emerge: “Of course there’s going to be a gay rapper.” He said that a rapper’s success would be determined not by his sexuality, but by the quality of his raps.

Baby steps.

Cool Music

Hologram Tupac blows my mind

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2Pac’s holographic appearance at Coachella this year may be the most overhyped/coolest thing I’ve ever seen.  If you haven’t seen it yet, view the video below:

I’ve heard from multiple people that it was better on video that it was in person, but it’s still pretty technologically amazing.  This article from the Atlantic has a different take on it.  A profoundly critical one.  Take a look:

And much like Spinal Tap, Hologram Tupac carries traces of graying desperation. Dre’s The Chronic turns 20 years old this year, and with the exceptions of Wiz Khalifa and Kendrick Lamar none of the vaunted lineup of guests onstage for Dre and Snoop’s set represented fresh talent. Eminem and 50 Cent are household names but well removed from the best music of their careers. Warren G is a sentimental favorite; Kurupt is the answer to a trivia question.

Dr. Dre is 47 years old, Snoop is 40, and Hologram Tupac is forever 25. Hip-hop may have finally aged into an era of Oldies Revues—lavish and ludicrously expensive Oldies Revues, but Oldies Revues nonetheless—and Hologram Tupac stands as a marker of faux vitality, a callback to glory days, a nod to a crowd geeked on nostalgic sentiment. Seen in this light, Hologram Tupac starts to feel crass and exploitative, a mutually agreed-upon sham between performer and audience, the high-tech evolution of the Elvis impersonator.

I don’t think I felt that strongly about it.  I was more impressed from the tech side of things than anything else.  I guess I never gave it a second thought.  Give us your thoughts below.

Awareness Politics

Can Hip-Hop Change The Style Of Politics? : NPR

NPR asks an interesting question.  One that seems to come up every election season with increasing alacrity.  Can Hip-Hop Change The Style Of Politics?

I have to say that my suspicion is no.  Hip hop, like many other things with a following and with celebrity backing, can have an impact on changing public opinion.  Sure, it’s been crucial at raising awareness of many issues and probably has made a few people start thinking about things in a particularly different manner.  However, it cannot do it alone.

To get a better sense of the issues, NPR interviewed Lester Spence, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.  They had him to discuss his book: Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics.

The audio interview is 12 minutes if you can spare it.  Otherwise, there’s also a transcript that will let you scan the interview.  It’s actually a fascinating piece, and if you have the time I strongly suggest you take a read/listen.  Here’s a snippet.

MARTIN: So the idea that hip-hop is a core sort of truth teller, its primary purpose is to say sort of uncomfortable truth. Has that always been a part of its history?

SPENCE: Yes, it has. Hip-hop starts and rap starts as a way, as a vehicle for working class, black and Latino youth to express themselves and, although there is this boastful element to it, where you have MCs talking about how dope they are, etc., etc., people have always made the attempt, at least, to connect them to everyday reality.

MARTIN: What is not in dispute is that hip-hop is associated with a certain generation, or the rise of a certain generation with its own kind of preferences around music and style and a beat and so forth. And it doesn’t seem illogical to think that a generation that grew up with hip-hop as its primary musical form would also kind of take it into the voting booth, you know, as it were, or take it into the world of political activism.

Here’s a moment that crystallizes this for you very clearly, which you talk about in the book. The former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, elected in 2001 at the age of 31 – of course, he comes from a political family. His mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was the long time congressional representative from the Detroit area.

And you describe one of his inaugural events where he enters the room, but rather than silencing the crowd in the traditional manner to speak, he – finish telling us about that scene and tell us why you found it particularly powerful.

SPENCE: Yeah. I mean, so I was there. There were a number of DJs spinning house hip-hop all night long and he comes in while Biz Markie is DJing and Biz Markie is an old school MC who’s transitioned into being a DJ. And around the time the mayor walks in, Biz starts spinning his own stuff, like "You Got What I Need." Right.

And Kwame comes in and, instead of calming everybody down, you know, he takes up the mic and he starts singing with Biz Markie in the song. And then we all start singing with him. And I remember saying, like, man, this was the most charged political moment of my life. It was like, finally, there was somebody like us in office.

Music

Black Star performs on Fallon

Watch them perform Little Brother and You Already Knew on the Jimmy Fallon show.

 

All courtesy of Blackstarhub

Awareness Underreported News

R.I.P Heavy D

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Unfortunately, another hip hop icon has passed on.  Heavy D, born Dwight Errington Myers, died at the far-too-young age of 44.  MTV is reporting that

“He had gone to the doctor the day before,” Winter told New York’s Daily News. “He had what appeared to be flu-like symptoms.”

“He said he had a touch of pneumonia, maybe from traveling,” cousin Ruddy Phillips, 50, told the Daily News after speaking with the entertainer’s dad. “He just got back from England.”

The Overweight Lover was conscious though experiencing trouble breathing when he was transported to Cedars Sinai Medical Center after a 911 call was placed at 11:25 a.m. PT on his behalf Tuesday. However, he was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. PT. Although an autopsy has been performed, the coroner is declining to announce any cause of death until toxicology tests are conducted due to Heav taking various medications.

Until they find out what happened, its useless to speculate.  But the one thing we can agree on is that this is tragic, and he had a lot more life to live. I can honestly say that I slept on his last couple of albums, but in honour of his legacy, I give you Now that we found love.  Check it out below.

Music

Justin Bieber raps over Otis beat

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The Bieb surprised everyone by dropping a verse or two over at Power 106 out in Los Angeles.  He rapped over the Kanye/Jay-Z Otis beat, and actually did a hell of a job.  I’m not sure where he managed to pull this from, but it’s hard not to like the little Canadian. I gotta say that I’m a bit sceptical that this is a real freestyle, but even if he wrote it it’s still good. 

I obviously love the Zach Morris reference, and “There’s a bigger me inside this little me” is just hilarious to me somehow.  But check it out.

Cool Music

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake unite again

They are back at it again. We’ve covered this duo performing their History of Rap (including Part 2).

And they hit it out of the park.  Somehow Timberlake has become more and more likeable over the years. 

Awareness

Rock the Bells (Toronto) was supremely disappointing

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I’m about as huge a fan of the Rock the Bells series as anyone else.  I was jazzed when it first came out, have written enthusiastically about it every chance I’ve gotten.  But sadly, my faith has been broken.

Despite an embarrassing lack of promotion (as you can see below, the Toronto show was not even listed on the main festival website), I still managed to find out about it, and buy tickets to the Toronto show.  Boy was I disappointed.

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And yes, the Toronto show comes fully branded, with tickets stating that it was a Rock the Bells event, and ads at the venue showing the Guerilla Union branding.  The lack of publicity around the event, let alone the lack of even a mention on the RtB website meant we had no idea of the lineup going in.  We knew at the minimum, that Lauryn Hill and Nas would be there; that Nas would be accompanied by AZ, Pete Rock and DJ Premier; and that some “special guests” may show up.  Nope.

The show was set to start at 6:30, but we showed up late, knowing that’s the way things go.  No big deal on this front, as it’s pretty standard for most shows, especially big ones.  But there was no openers.  No acts, not even a local group to hype the crowd.  We sat, stared at closed curtains, and listened to some recorded music.  At least the hip hop was good.

Nas finally came on at around 8:15 pm, and actually put on a pretty solid performance.  He played most of Illmatic, and had the crowd up on their feet and loving the energy.  Nas let Premo and Pete Rock do their own thing, battling and hyping the crowd.  Then he gave a quick goodbye and left the stage.  Things were looking good! I figured, at the minimum, seeing Ms. Hill and Nas  would have been worth the hefty price tag.  I was wrong, kind of.

Lauryn Hill’s recent touring hasn’t always met with warmth.  When she came through Toronto in January, Toronto’s major newspaper called her set “self-indulgent” and “baffling”.  This time around, more of the same.  Nas left the stage, and we were left to sit there for an hour and a half, again, staring at some closed curtains and listening to canned hip hop.  I mean honestly, this was Rock. The. Bells.  And this was Toronto.  How in God’s Son’s (Nas reference, get it?) name could they not at least call up K’Naan or even Drake and just have them come out to fill in the blanks?  Fill in the huge gaps in the lineup with someone, so that the audience, mostly having paid over $70 each, doesn’t have to sit around and wait for nothing?

The National Post says that Lauryn Hill’s performance at Rock the Bells was an “epic catastrophe”.  Noah Love writes that:

The sad thing is that Hill’s chief attribute, her powerful voice, remains completely in tact. But two things turned this show into an epic catastrophe:

1. She might have employed the worst sound crew in the history of the concert industry. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Hill simply wasn’t available earlier in the day to do a sound check and it wasn’t their fault. But I will say this: It is close to impossible to screw up the sound at the Ampthitheatre. I have been going to shows at the venue since 1996, and I can’t remember a time where the sound was an issue. (Weather, on the other hand … )

But something on this night was just awful. The bass and drums were pushed through the roof. Or rather to the roof, where they bounced back, creating a dizzying echo in the crowd below. Hill was barely audible through the ensuing mess. What I did hear from her was strong, but that leads me to the second problem …

2. Wow, Hill is an unmitigated disaster as a performer right now. Again, maybe it was just this show, but she spent the entire performance flapping her arms constantly at the sound people at the side of the stage and at her band. It was beyond distracting and, after some time, outright uncomfortable to watch.

Now, I may not say it was a unmitigated disaster.  However, I’m totally on board with most of the sentiments.  This show was supremely disappointing.  I want my money back, and my faith in Lauryn Hill.  Not sure that either of those will happen.

NOW Toronto, a free alt-weekly with enough street cred to sink a ship feels the same way.  So don’t let it seem like it’s just the mainstream media that has it out for Ms. Hill.  According to NOW,

“The Toronto stop of the Rock The Bells tour at the Molson Amphitheatre was one of the most poorly planned, half-hearted hip-hop events in recent memory.”

Furthermore, NOW says this to summarize the show:

Finally emerging past the Amphitheatre’s supposed 11 p.m. curfew, Hill hewed closer to Miseducation’s original sound this time, but with a new, anxious, rapid fire pacing that befuddles fans and breaks hearts. She flew through Lost Ones, To Zion and That Thing (Doo Wop), flailing her limbs and spewing unfocused energy, and then walked off stage, leaving her band behind.

Confused, angry, and resigned fans began to stream out en masse and, morale-wise, that’s pretty much where the show ended.

Hill closed the night with some Fugees material and the Nas duet – If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) – to swaths of empty seats.

As sad as I am to admit it, I’m one of those people that left before the show was over.   The show had upset me, and beating the crowds was, at this point, more important to me than waiting, and hoping, that Nas had stuck around for 3 extra hours and that maybe they’d perform If I Ruled the World.  I feared I wouldn’t recognize it, much like it was hard to pull out a lot of whatever it was Lauryn was playing on stage.