Been a minute, but I’m back. Just wanted to give some shine to an artist that really needs to deserve more shine at the moment: Tarica June. She’s been making music for a minute now, but this cover of Jay Z and Rick Ross’s “FWMYKIGI” is, for lack of a better term, SICK! Tarica goes harder than, dare I say, both Jay and Rozay in her rendition of the song. Not only that, but she’s actually saying something in her bars, which come extremely hot and heavy! I can’t really do justice to the the lyricism, you just gotta listen for yourself. Peep.
Just two days ago was the 11th Anniversary of the murder of one of the greatest and most respected figures in all of Hip Hop throughout all time: Jam Master Jay of the Legendary Run DMC. A recent video courtesy of Revolt TV got me to thinking about JMJ, as well as many other prominent figures throughout Hip Hop who we’ve lost senselessly. But more than reflecting on their lives and what they did for the music and the culture, the question for me that comes to mind is: Why are the murders, shootings and killings of so many of our Hip Hop heroes still unsolved to this day? There are tons of answers to this question: we all know the stigma attached to being an African American man in the United States, and the fact that Hip Hop, though it’s a globally dominant force, is still viewed by many as less than worthy of attention, praise or even respect. Does that have to do with why the killings of so many black men and women that have been part of Hip Hop music and culture still sit in the unsolved pile? Are their lives no less worthy than any one else that have gone on into the next lifetime at the hands of whatever gunman or assailant? The murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace are the two biggest unsolved mysteries in all of Hip Hop history, but there are so many more that don’t have the mainstream folklore attention attached to them, from Jam Master Jay and even Chris Lighty. And in Lighty’s case, there is yet even more uncertainty and confusion, because there are theories abound, and we’re not even truthfully sure if his was a homicide or a suicide. The honest truth is that we have to CONTINUE to ask these questions about these folks. And it goes beyond just the music…it’s about the fact that they were PEOPLE, and their families deserve at least some semblance of the truth. I’m reminded of the Bob Marley tune “Redemption Song” and one of the most poignant lines in it: “How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?”
In 1999, Hip Hop stood on the edge of a new millennium, just the same as the rest of us: full of promise, potential, growth and uncertainty. The music had become more fragmented and sub-cultured than it had been in recent memory, with mainstream coming to the end of an amazing run in the 90s, and underground Hip Hop gaining more and more steam as we headed towards the turn of the century. One of the record labels that stood at the forefront of the underground, backpacker movement was Rawkus Records, and one of its greatest and most charismatic artists was Pharoahe Monch. And on the ultimate underground Hip Hop compilation album from 1999, Soundbombing II, Pharoahe dropped a single that to this day is truly unforgettable with “Mayor”. One thing to understand is the climate of New York city at the time. Before he gained the pristine, patriotic image of “America’s Mayor”, Rudy Guiliani was arguably one of the most hated and polarizing figures in New York politics, mainly due to policies that he passed that pretty much waged war on poor people and people of color. And Hip Hop took notice, with lines from Nas like “Guiliani is the 6-6-6…”. Pharoahe’s fictional account of a man racked with desperation and nothing to lose killing the leader of a major city may not name Guiliani specifically, but one can look closely enough at the times and decipher that the mayor was at least somewhat of an inspiration behind this tune. At only two verses, Pharoahe vividly paints a harrowing tale of a man that knows what he’s about to do will ultimately lead to his own demise, but doesn’t give a crap, as evidence by the final bar: “A dead man walking, destination: Devil’s lair/ F*** it if I’m gonna die, at least I shot the Mayor.”
I never thought that I would say this, but music superstars seem to have it kinda hard these days. What with the ability of fans to be able to connect with them so intimately now through technology and social media and already constantly being under the guise of the 24-hour TMZ news cycle, everything that they do seems to be scrutinized and and dissected to the Nth degree. Take Chris Brown: besides Kanye West, C.B. seems to be Urban entertainment’s poster boy for not be able to get a moment’s rest these days, ever since his domestic abuse debacle with one Rihanna, which now seems like it was a decade ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t defend Breezy’s actions and I won’t attempt to. Being the youngest of three children with two older sisters and two nieces, I could NEVER condone putting my hands on a woman in a way that’s malicious or meant to do her harm. I don’t roll like that. But even with all of the messed up and at times just plain dumb things that Brown has done in the last few years, from Rihanna to trashing dressing rooms to the Frank Ocean spat to the war of words and fists (well, maybe not fists) with Drake in the club, he’s dug quite a hole for himself, and even reveled in the image of being the bad boy.
But the public eye can also be the eye of the storm for many a celebrity to deal with, and the latest incident involving Chris Brown has seemed to not only be blown out of proportion by music and entertainment media outlets, but also one where all of the facts haven’t come out. Then again, the facts aren’t always what matters when it comes to today’s media, especially when there’s a potential juicy story involving a major international music star. There are questions all around: who threw the first punch outside the hotel? Was it Brown or his bodyguard? Did he utter another slur against gay people? Has he or will he spend time in jail…again? Is he really going to rehab for anger management?
The whole point is this: it’s not really a matter of answering the questions truthfully. Instead, it’s a matter of presenting a certain version of what is deemed to be the truth to sway public opinion in a certain way. Like it or not, that’s the game. Personally, I think Brown does need to watch his actions, who he has around him and what those folks intentions are. But maybe the general population and the media itself need to start taking a closer look at the way stories and news items are presented, and if they are done in a way that actually IS fair and balanced, or if it’s all just about ratings, sweeps weeks and what the best story is, even if it’s not one that’s accurate.
Check out a story on the SPIN.com website that gives the latest on Chris Brown’s most recent ups and downs.
The news just came that Rock & Roll pioneer, legend, Velvet Underground front man and all around rebel Lou Reed has passed away today. Undoubtedly, there will be tons of tributes to a man that became an icon in the eyes of many fans for much of what he did for an to rock music throughout his life and career. I admit that I still am learning a lot about rock and some of it’s biggest figures, including Reed. One of the things that has always intrigued me about him is how he seemed to intentionally take the road less traveled throughout his career, from fronting a band that the basic antithesis of the Flower child generation in the late 60′s and early 70′s in The Velvet Underground, to all of his tongue-in-cheek, sometimes questionable and mysterious issues with sexuality that he touched on in his music, to releasing some of the most divisive pieces of music in history, from Transformer to Metal Machine Music. Even more interesting to me was how he was tapped earlier this year to review Kanye West’s album Yeezus, and the praise that he bestowed upon it. Here’s a piece of music by Reed that can be found on the Internet and will probably have at least 2 million views by tomorrow morning, but is still pretty amazing.
Thought I’d share some pretty awesome indie music with the masses today! Check out singer/songwriter/producer LenaChanel and her gorgeous cover of SBTRKT’s “Hold On”… you will NOT be disappointed.
It’s interesting to see that N.W.A., the Hip Hop group once deemed to offensive, macho and negative to be considered part of mainstream culture, has now been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the legendary LL Cool J. Time was, it seemed as if Hip Hop itself was being excluded from the RRHOF all together. But considering all of the musical folklore and heroism that surrounds N.W.A. these days, still one of the only acts ever to be publicly condemned by the F.B.I., it actually stands to reason. Just the same way rock icons like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, who were also at one time considered too naughty and risque for the public during their respective hey days, it’s the same for N.W.A. The rebels of the past eventually always become the iconic pioneers of the present and future. That’s just how it works in music. Anyone reading this that’s too young to remember N.W.A. or may not be familiar with them in the least, here’s a video that will get a history lesson started for you.
Ok, I’m TRULY not even sure what to say about this one. Apparently Kanye West kicked off his tour by having an actor portraying Christ as part of his live show. Truthfully there are SO many questions that we can come up with from this latest situation from ‘Ye: what was he thinking? What was the purpose? What message was he seeking to impart? Is this an indication he’ll be back to his old musical self? Does he believe what he says in the song “I Am A God” on his latest album? Is this blasphemy? Was it intended to be a joke? Or was it Kanye being serious and forthright? Should we even read that much into it? Is there more to the story? Like I said, SO many questions…and from what I gather there probably won’t be a whole lot of concrete answers, just more gossip and fodder for the TMZ crowd. *Sigh*
I must apologize to begin with…this is the first post I’ve made in a LOOOOOOOOONG time due to lots of extenuating circumstances, and for that, I am truly sorry. However, I’m picking myself back up and trying to get back on the horse once again, so to the followers of this blog: THANK YOU FOR BEING PATIENT!
Earlier this year I posted an article on the Website SoSoActive.com about the 40th Anniversary of the landmark album Catch A Fire by The Wailers (some say Bob Marley and the Wailers, but in keeping with accuracy, this of course was the name they were known by before Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston left the group for good.) Well, October marks the 40th Anniversary of the group’s classic follow-up album, Burnin’. And though Catch A Fire is steeped in glorious music nerd/Rock Doc glory with stories of how Chris Blackwell gave the Wailers’ the money to record the first album and could hear that every single penny had gone into creating a bona-fide masterpiece that stands the test of time, it was Burnin’ that helped put Bob, Peter, Bunny and the band on the road to musical super stardom, especially Bob himself.
Many of the songs found on Burnin’ are reworks of older Wailers tunes, some from their days with Lee “Scratch” Perry, including “Small Axe” and “Duppy Conqueror”. The sound that can be found on Burnin’ follows in the direct footsteps of Catch A Fire, though in a few places, much more desperate and militant that its predecessor, especially at the very beginning of the album. Where CAF starts of with the equally smooth and rough “Concrete Jungle”, Burnin‘ intentionally begins with the more pronounced, unforgiving and uncompromising classic, “Get Up Stand Up”. The song is a classic call-to-arms to the oppressed throughout the world to fight for their very right to live, and has become arguably the most recognizable song in the Bob Marley/Wailers catalog. Comprised of funk, rhythmic and potent words of anger and an overall message of breaking the chains, both physical and figurative, “classic” doesn’t to the song justice.
One of the most curious differences between Burnin’ and Catch A Fire is that we hear the voices on lead vocals of Bob, Bunny and Peter throughout. Peter can be heard taking the lead on “One Foundation”, while Bunny’s high-pitched wail can be found on “Hallelujah Time” and “Pass It On”. Bob, of course, gets the majority of the lead vocals on the rest of the album per Chris Blackwell’s successful attempt to make him the center of the group, much to the behest of Peter and sometimes Bunny, according to legend. And of course, the album included a number of additional notable songs, including (as previously mentioned) a masterful reworking of “Small Axe”, a traditional Rastafari chant to end the album, and another song that has become synonymous with the legend of Bob Marley, “I Shot The Sheriff”.
Soon, both Peter and Bunny, frustrated with the direction of the band, would leave to pursue their own solo careers and become Reggae legends in their own right. Their backing vocals would be replaced on the next album, Natty Dread, by Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Bob’s wife Rita Marley, collectively known as the I-Threes. And though the original line up of The Wailers was no more, the focus shifted immediately to Bob, and soon his legend would be cemented. However, it would not have been possible without the timeless creation known as Burnin’.
It’s surprising to me that I haven’t done a segment on this song as of yet, seeing as it’s probably my favorite joint out of their entire catalog. Yeah, I know there are a ton of other songs by Gorillaz that I could have chosen as a fave, but something about this remix from the D-Sides double album has always spoken to me on a cerebral level. This is one of those songs where you can’t help but to dance to it, or at least nod your head, even if you’re a staunchly-rooted wallflower. One of the things that has always intrigued me about Gorillaz is that there is such a history, a story and a folklore behind the creation of possibly the most successful virtual group of all time. Don’t believe me? Just read the book “Rise of the Ogre”, which goes deep into the music and the myth that is this group. But getting back to this song, there are lots of subliminal musical influences here, from it having a dark but disco-y feel to the haunting vocals. Gorillaz and the masterminds behind them have always been masters and combining the dark and the bleak with the danceable and the poppy. Hot Chip Remix of “Kids With Guns” is proof positive of just that.