Friday, June 30, 2006

an ascap golden note

The 19th annual ASCAP awards were held Monday night at the Beverly Hilton in LA, a star-studded affair hosted by Ciara. LL Cool J received a Golden Note Award, and Bill Withers, author of hits like "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lean on Me," took home the Heritage Award.

Accepting his Golden Note, LL free-styled, calling on members of the "fraternity" of music to resist the siren song of celebrity meaninglessness. "Don’t forget to be an artist. Don’t forget to say what you want to say and not what they want you to say." He called on the industry to "create instead of compete" to "leave a legacy of music for the next generation" and a "new renaissance of people."

And what better venue for the message than a music award show-- a place where hierarchy is as tangible as hair extensions and makeup, where you're either one of the somebodies pressed by paparazzi or... well, you ain't.

Withers broke comical for his acceptance: "I would say something profound but LL already said it all." Thunderous laughter and applause.

The event was spectacular but also in parts informal. Some came in jeans. Others, like Destiny's Child singer Michelle Williams, came in full evening attire. Rapper/Producer Missy Elliot kept it unique with a bright orange and sky-blue silky headrap and shirt that matched. Other celeb attendees included: Jagged Edge, Jermaine Dupri, who won Songwriter of the Year, Mary Mary, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Webbie, David Banner, Tank, Chingy, Lil' Mo, New Edition, and Xcape.

Reported by staff whizkid Vanessa Mizell.

Images: (1) LL; (2) and (3) Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams; (4) Terry Lewis; (5) Jagged Edge.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

the minstrel show

Rappers need beef for a healthy rap career. They beef with just about anyone. Most are publicity stunts and others are ridiculous, like rappers Ludacris, 50 Cent, Ice Cube, and others beefing with Oprah claiming she doesn't support the hip hop community and only caters to her large white audience.

Yet when Bill O' Reily forced Pepsi to drop Ludacris as a spokesperson, all he got was a few one-line disses on a few tracks.

But is it Harpo who's catering to a white audience, or these gangsta artists who are putting on the show and wouldn't dare do anything upset The (White) Man who signs their checks?

Here's an article titled We Still Wear The Mask By Dr.William Jelani Cobb that examines just that, offering great analysis on why black rappers perpetuate misogyny and violence towards their own people and community.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

turn it off already!

Who gave U.S. Marine Corporal Joshua Belile permission to (1) compose music (2) play the guitar (3) sing in public (4) do any of those things in front of a digital camera and (5) even sort of resemble mega-cool Pixie’s dude Frank Black? Ugh. Yet another case of bad decision-making on the part of the officer class in Iraq!

So now this guy's lousy folk song "Hadji Girl"-- a crude thought-dream of cultural incomprehension-- is flying around the internet all over the world. The image of Belile above was pulled from a Russian website. I can't read any of the words around the photo but I don't think any of it is good.

The only course of action is a court-martialing and then a showering of the offender with nonstop high-volume recordings of his own bunk singing and strumming-- a no doubt cruel and unusual punishment but as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would justify it: "Hey, this isn't some nice guy we're talking about here."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

all jocks outta the pool!

June has been a bad month for social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace as well as for the people who use them to broadcast their debauchery or to stealthily stalk the innocent. First MySpace was sued by a 14-year-old who says she was assaulted by a guy she met there. Then Weight Watchers announced it was pulling its ads on MySpace because it objects to appearing on pages belonging to porn stars. (Porn stars love MySpace.) Then BusinessWeek ran a worried Q & A with new MySpace security czar Hemanshu Niga. And now Kent State University has announced that student athletes have until August to take down their Facebook profiles, citing concern for both the safety of the athletes and the reputation of the school. A story about the ban in the Columbia Dispatch leads with these oddly mild examples:

“One student chose a picture of himself shirtless holding a Miller Lite can for his profile photo. He's on the baseball team. Another belongs to the 'My cell phone is my best friend when I'm drunk in Kent' group and lists skinny-dipping as an interest. She competes in track and field.”

Miller Lite and skinny dipping? Is the university really ready to take on the First Amendment over this? Kent and other universities would save themselves a lot of time, money and effort if they just launched a campaigned to inform college students that grownups-- including parents, cops, teachers, and coaches-- have discovered the Facebook. Surely self-censorship would soon follow.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

a huge government victory?

I don't know how this went relatively unnoticed but it was reported on June 15 that the Supreme Court ruled that police no longer have to knock on alleged suspects' doors when issued a search warrant.

The article on claims this new ruling to be a "huge government victory." Really? Who does this benefit?

The difference between knocking before kicking your door down and just storming into your house unannouced may not be that big but it raises concerns about privacy, intrusion and excessive force.

Yesterday cops had to knock, today they're just barging in, tomorrow they're throwing grenades through your window.

And if I was a cop, I'd be pretty concerned about my safety going into a suspected criminal's house unannounced. You think he's gonna offer tea and crackers? Or grab a gun and shoot at the intruders, like anyone who had their front door kicked in by a group of armed men would do? Someone's getting shot and killed, like these unfortunate victims of police screw-ups. (WARNING: viewing this list of innocent men, women, and children may cause you to dig up your Ice-T "Cop Killer" cassete and drive to the nearest police station with a baseball bat and molotov cocktails.)

What's worse is that with Justices Alito and Roberts sitting on the Supreme Court, this is just a taste of what's to come.

Friday, June 23, 2006

evil stewart

The Washington Post editorializes today on the dangers of encouraging critical thought in young people, citing a study that says the 48 percent of college-age people (that’s a lot!) who watch the Daily Show "develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting." Um, maybe. On the other hand, those "cynical" views could lead them to vote. Or to work to change the system. Or to dance around in a circle chanting whoo-haa-booey!

Post Columnist Richard Morin is nostalgic for something that never was. "Lets get back to serious news!" "Let's get back to trustworthy politicians!" It's a common problem for older folks who don't watch the Daily Show.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

p2p planet

The National Research Council today came out with a strong statement of scientific fact: "There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" to say with confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years."

Read the news release and full reporthere.

This will come as no surprise to most of us and none of us who have seen Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. To encourage others to see the film and slow global warming, the website Share the Truth employs cutting-edge P2P political strategy and film marketing that, among other things, allows people to sponsor others to go see the movie-- by simply paying the ticket price or footing the bill for travel to a town where the film is showing (although in the latter case it would undoubtedly be better for the planet just to wait for the DVD or, I'm just going to say it, download the thing in a few months).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

co-opting consumers of color

You’d think that as media conglomerates have recognized the money to be made by catering to racial and ethnic communities, that media products might grow more diverse. But just the opposite, reports Makani Themba-Nixon in the last issue of the Nation:

"Flagship properties that were once trumpeted as success stories in black ownership--BET and Essence magazine--have become little more than shadows of their parent companies. The outlets' makeovers were designed to garner greater "synergy" and brand recognition for their corporate masters. As a result, BET looks more and more like VH1, complete with dog-eat-dog "reality" shows, cloying countdown lists and decade retrospectives that work to remake history--even black history--into trivia."

Many say media titans have been homogenizing their products and thus culture around the world for several decades now. The fact that it took them so long to recognize the value of BET and Essence audiences is perhaps more surprising than the bland culture-lite products they're now serving up for those same audiences.

benefiting mr. kite

The LA police department’s drones have reportedly taken to the sky over the city. Q: How will I know when I see one? A: Well, you know that thing that’s been "stuck" in the tree outside your window for the last fifteen minutes? Well that’s one of them and it’s streaming your life live, Truman Show-style, to the sheriff’s MySpace account. You’re one of his 10 million special friends.

At $30,000 each, the sheriff’s office says the drones are a steal, because helicopters cost $2 million a piece, not including barrels of fuel and landing pads and maintenance. Here’s Aviation Week on drones: "They’re inaudible from 1,000 ft. or less, can detect targets under trees, distinguish facial features from 4 naut. mi., and automatically recognize target vehicles."

Maybe we could get some of these drone-kites to teach our “targets” when the targets are still preschool age, before they become adult "targets under trees" or the people driving "targeted vehicles"?

save screech!

North Korea is testing missiles, Dan Rather quit, but screw all that...Screech is about to be homeless! Say it ain't so!

Dustin Diamond, who as "Screech" on the early 90s teen comedy series Saved by the Bell, provided millions of kids with years of afterschool cornball humor (and if you wake up early enough, you can still catch reruns on TBS). In fact, I'm willing to bet this is old news to most of you but, like every former child star, he's broke and is losing his home and is selling t-shirts to raise money to prevent foreclosure at

He's also selling banner "brick" spaces for $1,000, so I guess he's losing his mind too. He's been leading a campaign to get his home back. He was recently on the Howard Stern show and has been getting a lot of unnecessary press (like this blog posting).

I don't know what's worse -- Diamond's situation, or that people as pathetic as myself care. But hey, the man kept us entertained in our adolescent years and taught us how not to dress -- the least you can do is buy a t-shirt.

Monday, June 19, 2006

a howard dean of an mp3

Last week the song God Save the Internet was released online by Broadband, a folksie trio--Kay Hanley (pictured here), Jill Sobule and Michelle Lewis--now poised, if the swiftly climbing number of downloads is any measure, to rob the heart of America from the Dixie Chicks. Or not. The song seeks to inspire direct political action, demanding listeners to rally around the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which seeks to ensure continuing fair access to the web for all. Problem is it's a terrible song, even as a mocking tribute to... who exactly, Joan Baez? Clearly the song is tongue-in-cheek, and it is good for a laugh, but really, can't we get Radiohead to contribute for chrissake? We need a musical heavy-hitter behind this fight! Wasn't that the lesson of Howard Dean: Right strategy, wrong guy?

hip-hop pbs

Still two weeks to tune in Jeff Chang at the American ID Series, where he's flexing interpretive muscle on contemporary evolving US culture. Here's how he started off on June 9: "Hip-hop provided a way for invisible young people to make themselves known, to represent themselves." Go Jeff! In this forum, he may be communicating to people who have never given any of this real thought. So go Jeff again!

download roundup

Stream it now. Not later!

First get your M.I.A. groove on. Then check out Brit hipster girl Lilly Allen, who's breaking out everywhere including here.Then you can go get dreamy at Saddle Creek in Omaha, Nebraska: click to stream Azure Ray’s first song and then from the stream-list you can fill a half-hour with interior gems from Bright Eyes, Broken Spindles, Orenda Fink, and Maria Taylor. Finish up by climbing on board Yay Area hyphy radio hosted by DJ Backside.

Now you're all filled up for the week. Enjoy!

Friday, June 16, 2006

mainstream hip hop tackles serious global issue: Cristal champagne

In a recent issue of the Economist, the managing director of Louis Roderer Cristal, an expensive and popular champagne favored by millionairre rap stars, announced that the company's association with hip hop is "negative attention." Now Jay Z is boycotting Cristal after already giving them years of free advertising from name-dropping it in most of his hits.

"Cheap" Cristal starts at several hundred dollars -- the average rap fan can't afford it. The only people who've been getting played this whole time are rich materialistic rappers who've been giving free advertising to and supporting companies that don't care about what they represent, and at the same time encouraging fans to foolishly throw money away. (I had a friend who bought a $600 bottle of Cristal for his wedding. A $12 Korbel woulda done it for me.) This is just a repeat of the Hillfiger incident years ago when it was announced he didn't want minorities to wear his clothes while Wu-Tang and others kept referencing the brand in their song.

With as much pull as Jay-Z has, he's going to boycott a damn champagne company?! I mean, I'd feel stupid too if I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars only to be slapped in the face but damn Jigga, ain't there something IMPORTANT to protest?

Hopefully this will be a wake up call for all of the rap stars who should be putting money into the communities they came from and the ghettos they glorify rather than multi-billion dollar companies who laugh while they make money for them. (Slavery's never been this easy -- they don't even have to crack a whip!) Let's hope they don't just switch back over to Dom P.

If you have no idea about what this blog is about, here's a detailed article from 2004 about hip hop and champagne. Read and laugh/cry at the ridiculous amounts of money they spend.

Booty Check

Earlier this month our friends at playahata blogged the opening of World Cup in Germany and the racist nature of soccer in Europe. Included was a mad time-lapse photo of Toni Braxton singing the grand opening number with the stiff opera quartet Il Divo. Braxton was fantastic and not just because her tiny skirt ended up flapping over her waist in the breeze while, unfazed, she tried to push it back over her naked curves, referencing for all the world as iconic an American pop-culture moment as there is: Marilyn Monroe standing over the windy subway grate in the Seven Year Itch.

The takeaway: although the political "head" of our culture may be estranging the world, our pop-culture "booty" is busy reminding everybody what they still love about us. Yaaay Toni! Thanks for that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Okay, no more posts about MySpace after this, I promise. Everyone and their pet has a damn MySpace page and it's supposedly great for networking. But has anyone ever read the fine print?

"By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content, messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") on or through the Services, you hereby grant to, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the Services."

The New York Daily News wrote an article about it here with comments from a spokesperson saying they're going to rewrite the terms of service.


Fader magazine is probably the lead vehicle right now in the business of commodifying cool. Reading it twists you up: "I'm a fan; I’m repulsed; I’m both!" Fader is the bad boy with the hot car, the yucky girl with the perfect smile. You want it but it's not good for you.

So, for instance, last week the Fader staff blogged Jamaica Style Week 06, a week-long fashion show in Kingston put on by "Saint International Modeling Agency and whole bunch of other yardies…" The photos posted on the site say it all: beautiful Jamaicans, African-inspired designs, primary colors-- the clothes are cool looking and partly because they suggest what a more inclusive, "ruder," expanded couture culture might look like. And of course chilling in Kingston for a week probably didn’t suck either. So you think: "Yaay Fader! Way to go!" But then you look again, pause, and think: "Oh no you don’t Fader. This is just more of the same-- skinny girls and gawkers, colonial commodification of the exotic, a billion-dollar industry tapping consumer weakness and neuroses. Does Jamaica need that? Does anybody?"

Fader confuses: it talks fancy to you but treats you like a wannabe lover. I don’t know what I feel from one page to the next. Is anyone with me on this? Anybody?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Email from an American overseas on the death of Zarqawi

Here's an account of the morning of Zarqawi's death that was posted on a MySpace bulletin (MySpace and YouTube are probably the best things to happen to the internet since Al Gore). It's a nice little slice of a soldier's daily life...

From: "Travis Gluesenkamp"

Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2006 07:05:33 -0500

Holy cow. at 1200 our time I was laying in bed. I woke up cause I heard a few gunsots. as I was putting my boots on I heard more gun fire. then a machine gun. I grabbed my weapon and ran to the roof thinking we were being over run. I got to the roof and bullets were flying every where. the was shooting in all directions. It sounded like the entire city was fighting its self. some rounds hit right were I was taking cover. I got a little worried cause I forgot to put on my body armor and helmet. I was just up there in a tshirt. So we got hunkered down and were looking to see who was shooting at us. we couldn't see anyone, but we could hear where it was comming from, and the rounds were still hitting around us. then over the radio we heard thet they killed zarqawi. the y were shooting to celebrate. the IP and Iraqi army were shooting every bullet they had. We went back inside because it was getting to dangerous to stay outside. plus we cant shoot them because they arn't firing "at" us. the shooting went on for a half hour, and just as it was winding down the insugents started to mortar us. I guess they weren't as happy about his death. So needless to say it was a wild morning.