Thoughts on Cuban Hip Hop Being Used to Overthrow the Gov’t

Davey-D-brown-frameThere’s a been a lot of conversation about the recent revelations of Hip Hop and Hip Hop artists being via infiltrated through an agency called USAID with the goal of shaping opinions and sparking unrest to create a climate that would lead to the overthrow of the Cuban government. You can peep one of the many stories about that HERE—http://huff.to/1qMR5T7

In speaking about this case, I noted that far too many have fallen into the trap of seeing themselves and this music/culture as being unique in it being besieged, put under surveillance and being deemed a potential threat to those in power. Too many people saw the police collecting dossiers on Hip Hop as some sort of badge implying it was a reflection of power. Such assertions have been made without the context of history…

First its extremely important to note that this Government has always used culture and popular expression and mediums to undercut, destroy, marginalize, control, redirect a people and yes even help overthrow governments. What was revealed about Cuba is by no means unique. It may be unique for folks hearing about this for the first time..What we are talking about here is something that’s global..Cultural expression is serious biz..

I can say this in 2006, I went to Beirut and attended and participated in global conference on music and censorship. There I met folks who had spent many years in jail from all over the world because of their music and art which challenged those in power. You can read some of what was spoken about at that conference HERE

In order to understand this what folks need to clearly understand is that culture expression here in the US is often limited in how it’s defined. Many simply call it art. And art in the minds of many is luxury that is brought and sold and put on display to admire and debate. Our history and understanding of how we express ourselves has been erased or distorted. So instead seeing many types of cultural expressions (rapping, singing, dance, poetry, playing of music) as important and even primary ways of communication, we fail to see to see that the government sees what we do in that light..

Dr Jared Ball

Dr Jared Ball

With respect to Hip Hop as professor Jared Ball has long pointed out, its ‘mass communication’..Those in power have never ceded ground or allowed us to have too much independent control of mass comm outlets.

Second point, Hip Hop being infiltrated and aspects of it being compromised is one the latest cultural expressions in a long line to be compromised. In order to best understand this.. I encourage folks to go on-line and look up this video that came out in the 1970s with a former FBI agent named Darthard Perry talking about how the government studied culture, in particular Black culture as a way to control the people.. You can and should peep that HERE—http://bit.ly/1BKXWjM

For those who find this be a bit of a stretch.. I encourage you to peep the speech Dr Martin Luther King gave August 11 1967 to the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers about the role of culture, in this case music and Black radio deejays.. He plainly states there is no Civil Rights Movement without these deejays and the powerful influence of Soul Music, which like Hip Hop had its own challenges of being deemed unsavory, less than sophisticated and even violent.. (Folks living here in the Oakland, ask your parents or grandparents about James Brown being banned and concerts being shut down because he brought out the ‘wrong crowd’).. Check out King’s speech and the one given by Minister Farrakhan to a similar body of Black music industry folks 13 years later… http://bit.ly/1yNyLXO

Third point, Hip Hop being as popular as it is was undoubtedly going to be seen as something that needed to be derailed, distorted and used a s a tool of oppression vs allowing it to be used as a tool of liberation. Wherever large crowds are gathered, we have got to expect those in power to be sizing it up and trying to figure out how to economically exploit it and politically derail it..

Bob MarleyFrom icons like Bob Marley being followed and undermined by the CIA to the banning of the drums during slavery at Congo Square to Fela Kuti who specifically said his music was a weapon being attacked, to the Black Arts Movement being marginalized where the late Amiri Baraka and others called upon Black folks to use their poems and music as weapons and be in alignment with the Black Power Movements of the time, to French rappers coming under fire and accused of sparking the 2005 riots in Paris with their music to the way the US uses its radio arm Voice of America to undermine governments, we should be clear in knowing that obtaining and maintaining public space will and has always been a challenge. We should be crystal clear that if you can ‘move the crowd’ folks are gonna have their eyes on you…

What’s most interesting about this scenario is that in many so-called progressive enclaves, culture is still seen and treated as an after thought or sidebar to the movement. Perhaps that’s deliberate because those in power in on that side of the political spectrum like their counterparts on the right want to keep many in the back of the bus and not have a seat at the table.

cuban rappersThe solution to all this is to 1-fully understand the power of our culture. Martin Luther King talks about that in his speech. In understanding its power, one has to then move in a direction where you are not dependent on entities and individuals who fear or don’t respect our culture for affirmation, funding etc..

2-Recognize many aspects of our culture are indeed powerful forms of communication. If Hip Hop has this much influence that governments use it to move folks from point A to point B, then what role are we playing when we consciously produce it or consume it?

3-Check out an incredible book called Party Music by Prof Rickey Vincent who digs real deep into this topic. He talks about the impact the Black Panthers had on Soul Music and how cultural expression was challenged and seen as a threat by those in power and ultimately used to destroy facets of the Black Power Movement..

4-Read Jared Ball’ s Book..”I Mix What I Like!: A Mixtape Manifesto” where he meticulously details how Hip Hop Music has been colonized. It’s important for folks to understand the many forces at work to harness our expression.

5-Read Jeff Chang‘s book Who We Be the Colorization of America  where he talks about the wars, political attacks and commercialization around Art and Culture and the derailment of movements around the concept of Multiculturalism.

6-Look out for an upcoming book due out in February 2015 from Timothy Taylor aka Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers that addresses many of these key issues.

Bottom line, we may take what we do culturally speaking for granted. We may think our songs and dances are no big deal.. But others are not. They study it, see it as a threat and know its potential to liberate and empower if left unchecked. ‪#‎staywoke‬.

What is Hip Hop?: A Historical Definition of Rap pt2 (Street Hustlers to Revolutionary Poets)

Davey-D-purple-frameThis is part 2 of an article we penned called  The Historical Definition of Rap pt1. In that piece we talked about how the term Rap had been around long before DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell threw that first landmark Back to School party August 11 1973 in the community center at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx.

Many are not aware that when Herc and his partners Coke La Rock and later Clark Kent rocked the mic, they used the words ‘rhyming’ and ’emceeing’ to describe their vocal expressions. The word Rap became attached to Hip Hop in 1979 with the release of Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang.

Prior to ’79, the word Rap was attached to a variety of other vocal activities most notably slick, persuasive talk from street hustlers, pimps and players. Rapping was all about mesmerizing and dazzling folks with words with an end goal of convincing one to give up everything from money to property to sexual favors. if you were said to have ‘a good rap’, then it meant you had the gift of gab which in many circles was revered and respected.

Dolemite

Dolemite

With respect to the act of rapping, many seem to think that saying rhymes in a syncopated fashion over music is unique to Hip Hop. That’s a mistake. To not see Rap as something that is rooted in deeper histories, is to short change Hip Hop culture. Simply put Rap is part of a continuum. Every generation within Black America can point to an activity or music style that included rap-like vocal expressions. They range from little girls doing double dutch jump rope to young kids doing engine engine number nine type rhymes to determine who would be it when playing tag.

We’ve seen expressions that we associate with rap today show up in the form of popular artists like Rudy Ray More aka Dolemite who did tons of movies where he did routines like his signature Signified Monkey .

We saw it surface with singer song writer Clarence Reid aka Blowfly who did x rated songs like Sesame Street and Rapp Dirty which was released in 1980 but according to him was written in 1965.

Both More and Reid come from a generation where street talk that encompassed rhyme was not unusual. Sometimes called signifying, testifying or playing the dozens, such expressions are key foundations and precursors to Rap.

We saw Rap expression show up in songs like Here Comes the Judge released in 1968 by comedian Pigmeat Markham. Although not called ‘rap’ it clearly could stand alongside anything we hear today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvMBxlu62c0

We saw rap with Louis Jordan and his group Tympany Five and their landmark cut The Meeting which was released in 1962

In the same vein as Pigmeat is actor Lincoln Perry better known as Stepin Fetchit. The controversial character who many felt kept alive nasty stereotypes of Black people being lazy and shiftless was during his heyday in the 1940s,  the most successful Black actor in all of Hollywood. In this memorable scene from the 1945 musical Big Timers we see Perry hit up the piano and rap, decades before what we know as Hip Hop emerged..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qALvc-MIDY

Last Poets

Last Poets

We saw Rap expressions manifest itself in the form of revolutionary acts like the Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron and the Watts Prophets who are considered the grandfathers and godfathers to  modern-day rap. These acts emerged on the scene in the late 60s early 70s with the express purpose of providing sound tracks for the various Black liberation struggles taken place all over the country…Songs like When the Revolution ComesThe Revolution Will Not Be Televised and Tenements respectively exemplified the type of vibe they were kicking on the eve of Hip Hop’s birth.

Over the years not only have many of the songs from these acts have been sampled, but some of these acts have from time to time been featured in songs with popular artists. For example the Last Poets are featured on Common‘s song The Corner and NasYou Can’t Stop Us Now‘ which borrows the baseline from a classic  Temptations cut ‘Message to a Blackman

The Last Poets rap influence is shown on cuts like the White Man’s Got a God Complex which was featured on the ‘This is Madness‘ album (1971). It was remade 20 years later by groups like Public Enemy and Def Jef. Below is the PE version which keeps alot of original cadence in tact.

The Def Jef version of  God Complexx, shows not only the influence of the Last Poets but also Gil Scott-Heron as he uses the beat from Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

Ironically groups like NWA who were perceived as having an anti-revolutionary message sampled the Last Poets ‘Die Nigga‘ off their album ‘The Original Last Poets Right On‘ (1970) and made them known to younger generations with songs like ‘Real Niggaz Don’t Die‘ off the ‘Efil4zaggin’ (1991)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jy6Nebd_e0

GilScottheronGil Scott-Heron is often called the Godfather to Rap. It was a title he shunned, stating he preferred to be known as a bluesologist. Nevertheless, Heron was a towering figure whose signature song Revolution Will Not be Televised was redone by too many Hip Hop artists to name. Cuts like B-Movie and ReRon which were released in 1980 and 1984 respectively demonstrated his Heron’s rapping ability.

He was also one of the first artists from the 60s/ Black Power generation to jump on a song with than modern day rap artists..The anti-Apartheid song Let Me See Your ID  (1985) which features, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and Mele-Mel to name a few was monumental. The content and purpose of the song was incredible, but also although unintended it contrasted the generational differences in rap styles.

Watts Prophets Rapping BlackThe Watts Prophets have not only been heralded as important figures in the emergence of West Coast rap, but  in 1970 they released an album called ‘Rappin’ Black in a White World’. Many consider that to be the first to use the word ‘Rap’ to describe a  recording that featured rhyming, This groundbreaking album proceeds   ‘Rapper’s Delight‘ by almost 10 years. They also featured a woman vocalist named Dee Dee McNeil who isn’t often named when speaking of the Watts prophets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHxM71rcQus

One artist who is in the same vein as these revolutionary poets but not as well-known is Stax Record recording artist John KaSandra nick named ‘Funky Philosopher‘. He did a bunch of black conscious songs in the early 70s including one that is many ways a head of its time for the emerging Hip Hop rap scene at the time..  ‘(What’s Under) The Natural Do’ (1970) is an incredible song that talks about Black power  and how folks are gonna have to do more than just wear an Afro hairstyle in order to uplift the community.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQow4jYVM9I

One can’t talk about the Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron and Watts Prophets and their influence on Rap without talking about the Black Arts Movement which proceeded them and exerted profound influence. BAM  introduced a style of spoken word that was hard-hitting, uncompromising and often recited over Bebop and Jazz. BAM co-founder Amiri Baraka than known as Leroy Jones illustrates that style with his famous piece Black Art.

Baraka’s ‘rap’ along with the spoken word and slang executed by others within the Black Arts Movement were such that it was hard for folks outside the scene to pick up and appreciate.It was for the Bebop crowd who coincidently called themselves ‘Hip’. It was deliberate in challenging the mainstream and being anti-establishment. It’s deliberately uncomfortable Many like to draw parallels to Hip Hop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh2P-tlEH_w

BAM member Sonia Sanchez gives a brief history of that time period and how their spoken word paved the way for modern-day raps heard within Hip Hop. Sonia Sanchez: From Black Arts to Hip Hop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtRffMdbB0Y

Members of BAM

Members of BAM

Just for added understanding, one may wanna peep this brief documentary on bebop which was the precursor to the Black Arts Movement. Again here you will be able to draw some strong parallel to Hip Hop, especially when you consider that Bebopers called themselves coined the term ‘Hip’ which is how they referred to themselves. Peep  Bebop Jazz the Evolution of Culture Through Music.

These are just a few highlights of the many artists and expressions that are akin to rap to be in our midst before the birth of Hip Hop..Look out for pt 3 which deals with the influence of Black Radio deejays on what we know as Rap..

written by Davey D

The 10 Frisk Commandments & Other Songs Fighting Against Police Brutality

I love when Hip Hop steps up and flips classic songs to fit a modern-day scenario.. In this case its Stop and Frisk… props to Pittsburgh artist Jasiri X and comedian/activist Elon James White for this joint called 10 Frisk Commandments.. It’s a play on Biggie’s infamous cut Ten Crack Commandments..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhHYN7uw3AM

On another tip..Here’s a couple of other songs addressing the issue of police violence and how and why we should stand up against it.. The first is a video to the song Do We Need to Start a Riot  by Jasiri X It was filmed in several cities including LA where Henry Rollings one of the LA 4 from the 1992 Rodney King rebellions showed up and gave a few words.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcSm6EX1coo

The other song is from Bronx based Rebel Diaz who did a song and video called Stop! Stop and Frisk..which addresses the issue and shows folks in the Bronx demonstrating against out of control police..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-duTrV9hSg

The other is from Killer Mike who talks about the police and their No Knock warrants and what would happen if they tried that on him.. The name of the song is ‘Don’t Die

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ze1_vkSyPDY

 

 

Colorlines: Why We Need (Real) Gangsta Rap Right Now

This is a pretty good article penned by long time journalist Eric Arnold where he talks about the deliberate de-politicization of  rap and the rise of gangsta rap..It was in response to an erroneous article that came out a a couple of months back where the writer claimed gangsta rap had gone mainstream..-Davey D-

Eric k Arnold

The story is an all-too-familiar one: On Labor Day weekend, a Guatemalan immigrant named Manuel Jamines was shot in the head and killed by LAPD officers. The police claim the man charged at them with a knife, but at least one eyewitness says he was unarmed. The killing has inflamed long-simmering tensions between the police and immigrant and minority communities in Los Angeles, resulting in protests and arrests. Adding fuel to the trash-can fires are reports that the officer was involved in at least two previous shootings.

Jamines’ story comes as part of what seems an unending line of police violence against black and brown folks, from Oscar Grant in Oakland to Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit to systematic racial profiling in Brooklyn. At a time like this, when calls for police accountability are rumbling from grassroots activists coast to coast, our movement for justice needs a soundtrack. It needs music created from the same inner-city streets whose residents have borne the brunt of police brutality since before Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It needs gangsta rap.

Some critics have hastily written gangsta rap’s obituary. But in 2010, the genre remains a commercial force; what has declined is its gravitas as protest music. Once outspoken on the subject of police violence, in recent years, hip-hop broadly has been all but silent on politics of any sort, at least from a mainstream perspective. Back in the days, gangsta rappers faced off against label executives in corporate boardrooms over freedom of speech; now they entertain marketing meetings over energy drink endorsements.

This change didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen on its own. The de-fanging of gangsta rap has paralleled the corporatization of hip-hop—and the resulting de-politicization of what was once an inherently political art form.

continue reading this article over at Colorlines.

As we Commemorate the Anniversary of 2Pac’s Death-Who Speaks for the ‘Have Nots’ in 2010?

Every year around this time many of us within Hip Hop take some time out and reflect on the life and times of Tupac Amaru Shakur as commemorate the anniversary of his tragic death Sept 13 1996. With each passing year its interesting to note that as a younger generation grows older, icons like 2Pac don’t seem to mean as much. For example, I’m not sure I heard anyone shout him out during the MTV VMAs..  Not sure if people took time to acknowledge him during the red carpet interviews or if anyone bothered to ask their thoughts.  Did anyone ask ‘What do you think 2Pac would be doing if he was here?’  ‘What do you think 2Pac would say about our current economic situation?’  “What would Pac have said about that preacher wanting to burn Qu’rans or all the hoopla made at Ground Zero about that Mosque/ Community center?  What would he have said about the looming sentencing trial for the cop who killed Oscar Grant or the riots that have taken place in LA after cops shot an immigrant? What would Pac have said about all those homes being destroyed and people killed during the tragic fire in San Bruno which we are now finding was because of negligence by PG&E?  Considering that’s an area where a lot of people of color live, do you think Pac would’ve been screaming on that? Such speculative question gets asked because it’s all but absent from those who are privileged to have access to a mic.

Pac like so much of our history has been made disposable and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Is it our fault as elders for not bringing him up enough and keeping his and the memory of other past icons alive? Have we grown so that we now see him through a different lens and maybe don’t hold him up as high anymore? Did we put too much on him?

In looking back I think what folks admired so much about 2Pac was that he gave voice to an underclass of people. He gave voice to the those who we call the ‘Have Nots‘. What’s ironic is that in 2010 we have more ‘Have Nots then ever before, but instead of kicking up dust and challenging those in power about the injustice of such conditions, we now have folks looking for answers in corporate lackeys masquerading as rap stars or corporate backed pundits who know of Pac but would never dare embrace his fearlessness and boldness in seeking change. Still others look for the Glenn Beck, the Tea Party Movement and maybe Congressman Ron Paul to give them voice.

When Pac died at age 25 he was just beginning to find his voice and there’s no telling where he would be in 2010. There’s no telling how he would’ve ultimately have used his platforms and popularity and how things would be different as a result..The young Black male who he claimed to have spoken for would be older now and we would hope that he would be speaking and doing things to change the wretched conditions so many find themselves in.. Alas we can only speculate, but we should not underestimate the differences one man or woman can make.

Moving forward we understand that every generation has their heroes and sheros.. I’m from the public Enemy era, the folks who were my interns back in the days came up under Pac.. Many of them have maintained that fiery spirit 13 years later..My question today is who inspires that in today’s generation? Who is speaking truth to power and kicking up dust? Or have we retired that as a viable method to get things done?

As I was watching what appeared to be a very lack luster VMAs last night I kept asking myself where are the fire-works? Who’s the person that’s gonna leave us with something to talk about for years to come? The closet we came was when Drake yelled out Free Lil Wayne. Many were hoping we’d have that moment with Kanye West who came out wearing a red suit that drew comparisons to late comedian Richard Pryor on Sunset Strip. He’s always one to be counted on to say something provocative. His performance was mesmerizing. But we didn’t get much from Kanye other than him rapping about what a jerk he was .. Instead it was singer Taylor Swift who was famously interrupted by Kanye during last years awards, kicking up dust by doing a song where she took aim at him.

As Kanye closed the show I kept wondering if this generation of Have Nots had someone speaking for them on these national stages.

Written by Davey D

Brenda’s Got a Baby

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl54ABY8VgY

Trapped

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCEmTaWSPTk

Interview w/ Arsenio Hall

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gtFtYNDzY0&feature=related

Interview w/ Vibe magazine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQexa5GFlw4

Interview w/ Davey D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pylx2HLzrwY

1992 Speech Atlanta..Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ4FvfM9Ftk

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Is BET really the Belly of the Beast? An Open Letter from Andreas Hale

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We often hear about some of the negativity surrounding BET (Black Entertainment TV). Over the years it has been the target of boycotts, protests and thousands of complaints. Most center around the network resurrecting nasty stereotypes. Thats not a good look for an outlet that has positioned itself to be a leading voice and representation of Black America.

Andreas Hale is well known in the Hip Hop world. He was the man behind the success of Hip HopDX where he served as editor and chief for a number of years. he was a factor in the National Hip Hop Political Convention-Las Vegas chapter. He’s been an outspoken critic of BET and media outlets that disrespect Hip Hop and Black people in general.

Hale being hired to work at BET was a shock to many of us because we knew about his outspokenness. He said he would give it a good year. He is now starting to tell his story.

-Davey D- 

 Is BET really the Belly of the Beast? An open letter from Andreas Hale

Andreas Hale

Andreas Hale

To friends, colleagues and those that should know,

As of today (September 8, 2009) I am no longer the Executive Editor of Music at BET.com.

Upon entering the position at BET I said that I needed one year to see what really went on inside the belly of the beast. I needed 365 days to sleep with the enemy and infiltrate the system. One year to see if they REALLY wanted change at BET.

As someone who has been critical of BET for many years, it surprised many that I would leave my post at HipHopDX last year to take a position at BET. But it was an opportunity I absolutely had to take. I could no longer be critical of this company without accepting the opportunity to change it when given. Although I was hired to bring about change, I was systematically shut down. I wasn’t hired to make noise, I was hired to be silenced.

The truth of the matter is that everything that you thought was wrong with BET is true.

Over the past year I’ve seen a lot to reinforce my position that BET is too far gone in the negative to turn into a positive. We have all always thought the worst, but to actually see it in action is another thing in its entirety. The unprofessionalism, the tom foolery, the favors, the misappropriation of resources, the bad ideas that reinforce negative stereotypes, the emasculation of men, the meetings that break down in full fledged cursing battles, the unpaid overtime, the tears from employees scared for their underpaid and overworked positions and ultimately the unwillingness to change are all harsh realities that I’ve witnessed firsthand.

That is not to say that there aren’t some good people who have sat in the offices of BET. Unfortunately, the good people are not in positions of power to instill any change. Instead, they work their fingers to the bone just to keep their jobs in this harsh economic climate. The other good people ran out of the door as soon as an another employment opportunity presented itself. To say BET was a revolving door would be an understatement.

I came in with a plan to provide balance and to deliver good music to the masses and help make BET relevant again – at least in the dot com world. Those attempts were shut down by out of touch executives who run a dot com but could barely turn on a computer. By those who judge their metrics by page views over absolute unique visitors (that‘s ad sales talk). By those who simply don’t understand the internet.

They brought me in because of my track record but never once took a look at my body of work. If they did, they would have known that I was the pen behind editorials such as “BET’s Coon Picnic” or were aware of the many times I have been critical of their award shows and programming. All they knew is that I played a major role in making a once unknown website into a online media outlet that surpassed theirs and they wanted a piece of the action. Too bad they never researched who I really was.

During my tenure I worked long hours and sometimes succeeded at bringing in decent content to try to reflect the change I wanted to achieve. But it wasn’t without opposition. While some interviews and content initiatives were able to make it through, many others were either shut down or met with ridicule. I offered ideas to incorporate the blog world and to spotlight new talent before MTV did. Those ideas were met with comments such as “This isn’t HipHopDX” or “You don’t know what you are talking about.”

BET is not about the quality of your work. Rather, BET is about the relationships you have with powerful people within the company. BET is not about challenging. Instead, BET is about accepting and saying “yes.” If you have known or followed me over the years, you would know that these are things that simply are not in my character and ultimately resulted in my removal.

For the artists and labels that I have worked with for years, I tried. I did whatever I could to achieve that balance many of us wanted to see happen. To the writers who wanted to writer for BET, I made an attempt but was never given a budget to work with.

Upon my arrival, I was told I would be given a staff. Not true. I had a staff of one to carry out daily operations on a website. I fought tooth and nail to accomplish the minimum (an embeddable player and a site people could navigate) and was constantly brushed off. It was a position that was set up for failure. But I endured as long as I could.

Alas, I have been removed from my position after infiltrating the system and the timing was perfect. I wasn’t let go because the site’s numbers were down. Not because I didn’t work hard. Simply because of a personality clash with an individual whose proverbial ass I didn’t kiss enough. Again, not about the work you do but about the relationships you keep and the sides you take.

I’d like to thank BET for covering the cost of my relocation to bring me to the great city of New York/New Jersey. I’d also like to thank them for putting me in close quarters with people who think like me and will hopefully work with in the near future. I’d also like to thank them for providing me enough controversial content that I observed firsthand and will make for many tales to be told.

I said it and I meant in: One year to either make changes or move on. I left HipHopDX on September 16th 2008. Today is September 8, 2009. Eight days short of a year. Most thought I wouldn’t even last that long. But in that year I’ve had my greatest fears about Black Entertainment Television affirmed.

There is so much wrong with BET that I’d rather not break it down in a single email.

It is pretty good fodder for a book don’t you think?

As of today, Andreas Hale is a free agent.

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

AN INTERVIEW W/ JOHN FORTE POST PRISON

dbanner1newparis

Forte has been busy. He’s laying down the framework for 24 new songs at a downtown Manhattan studio and hitting the stage for the first time in eight years in New York with the Roots, Talib Kweli, Chrisette Michele and Pharoahe Monch.

Q&A: Post-prison Forte busy with music, book, blog

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090504/music_nm/us_forte

john-forteblue-225NEW YORK (Billboard)Singer-songwriter and producer John Forte was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1997 for his work on the Fugees’ multiplatinum album “The Score.” But he’s now best known for the November 2008 commutation of his prison sentence by President George W. Bush. Forte was released after serving seven and a half years of a 14-year sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking.

Since then, Forte has been busy. He’s laying down the framework for 24 new songs at a downtown Manhattan studio and hitting the stage for the first time in eight years in New York with the Roots, Talib Kweli, Chrisette Michele and Pharoahe Monch.

In addition to signing a book deal with Simon & Schuster to publish his memoirs, he’s blogging for the online news site the Daily Beast and working with In Arms Reach, a nonprofit program committed to promoting a positive environment for children of incarcerated parents and at-risk youth.

Billboard: The new tracks have a melancholy, lonely quality. Is that how you felt when you wrote them?

John Forte: These songs were written while I was away, but they’re not necessarily about being away. The songs are like haiku in that they are concise. There is a tinge of solitude in them but it’s a reflective, centered solitude. Not that I’d resigned myself to my fate of 168 months or 14 years in prison. I resigned myself to the present.

Billboard: Did you listen to music while in prison?

Forte: I ended up listening to (Philadelphia’s triple A station) WXPN in the south New Jersey area where I was for at least the last four years of my sentence. I got turned on to so much: Jose Gonzalez, Regina Spektor, Sia, Rachael Yamagata, Cat Power. I actually used those guys as barometers to my songwriting. The beauty of Cat Power is the divine imperfection in her voice. I don’t listen to her expecting any perfect notes and pitches, but I believe her, and that’s what motivates me.

Billboard: In some ways, you seemed to have evolved beyond hip-hop. How does that part of your past fit into your new material?

Forte: I take umbrage with the fact that when the press came out after my sentence was commuted, I was referred (to) in every periodical as “rapper John Forte.” I’d like to think of myself as a musician who happens to rap. But whether hip-hop becomes more commercial or more thugged-out or more about conspicuous consumption, it will always have that undertone of speaking truth to power, questioning the status quo. That’s what always defines hip-hop, always has and always will.

Billboard: You were released in December, and you’re already busy. How did you make such a swift transition?

Forte: I have great people in my life. It’s through the competence, the compassion and the love of the people around me that has made this transition as seamless as it appears. It’s not lost on me — the blessings and the opportunities that have been put before me.

Billboard: Did people keep in touch with you during your time in prison?

Forte: When the really hard days hit and I felt despondent, dejected and the social pariah that a federal number sets you up to be, I’d go to mail call and get one letter from a fan. I was at my nadir, and then out of the blue — of course it’s never out of the blue, everything happens for a reason — I would hear from a fan or somebody who appreciated what I put out there. It was reaffirming that the music had its own course.

Billboard: Why did George Bush decide to grant you a commutation?

Forte: I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that. I know that we went through the process like everyone else. I had a lot of support, but it was my last ray of hope. I went through my appeals process. It was a tiny sliver that opened up to me being here now.

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)

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Raise Up! Knaan is in the Building-Make Room at the Table for African Hip Hop

Davey DI met Somalian born rapper Knaan about 3 or 4 years ago in his current place of residence Toronto. We chopped it up back then and he assured me that it was just a matter of time before the US Hip Hop scene would open its arms to rappers from other shores. At the time that seemed far-fetched because even though we all know that Hip Hop is a worldwide phenomenon, very few heads in the states can cite more than 3 or 4 artists from neighboring Canada much less from overseas. Ask folks to name artists from Africa and the conversation is all but over…

On one hand we should not be surprised. After all, Hip Hop always reflects the mindset and cultural mores of the people and places that embrace it.Hence to the degree we can hardly name off any of the Provinces in Canada it should not be a shock that we can’t name off any of her artists.

Nowadays Knaan is increasingly becoming a household word here in the states. He’s already a superstar overseas. For many he’s a breath of fresh air who reminds us just how flavorful good Hip Hop can be. His creativity and overall conversation raises the bar. His global perspectives reminds us that this is a big world and our country is just a small part of it..

We caught up with Knaan during his visit at SXSW in Austin, Tx and chopped it up with him. We talked about his new album Troubadour which is a monster and what he was trying to get across. We talked about the challenges of knocking down doors in the US. Knaan quoted Saul Williams by agreeing with the assertion that Hip Hop has been republican in the past 10 years. Its been about money, closing its eyes to the realities outside its immediate borders and very unwilling to change.
He sees things changing for the better and that’s a good thing.

We covered a variety of topics including the recent move by Homeland security to scrutinize Somalis living here in the US as possible terrorists. We talked about the whole Somali pirates thing and discovered that what we been fed by mainstream news is a big lie. Knaan explained that the so called pirates are actually more like Coast Guards. They been patrolling the waters and stepping to foreign vessels that look at the un-centralized government in Somalia and hence feel they can do pillage the natural resources like over the top commercial fishing and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. The Somalia pirates have been stepping to vessels for violating their water space and have taken the matter up to the UN only to have the main violators France along with the US veto any resolution..

knaanWe talked about the make up of Knaan’s album and what it was like working with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Hip Hop legend Chubb Rock. He explained that Levine was a real cool and basically came through and laid down vocals for free. He just wanted to show respect and appreciation for the music.

He talked about admiring Chubb Rock’s rhyme flow and how it was an honor to have the rapper turned school teacher to come through and lace him up.

Knaan also talked about his rhyme influences which actually come from the Rhythmic Poets of Somalia. These wordsmith have been around centuries before the first rappers in the Bronx

Finally we talked about the state of the world and how US and US Hip Hop fit into things. Knaan noted that the US is now going a period where many of its citizens are feeling vulnerable and at ease. he noted its the same type of uneasiness that many throughout the world feel on a day to day basis. Our economic hardships are routine for the majority of the people around the world and now that type of situation is on our shores and we will have to not only rise to the occasion be much more aware of what the rest of planet earth is experiencing.

Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Knaan by clicking the link below:

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Born in Aztlan-Meet Hip Hop Zulu King Apakalips (Respect His Lyrical Prowess)

We sat down and talk with San Jose rapper, activist, teacher & Zulu King Apakalips. He’s one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Apakalips HERE:

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BreakdownFM-Apakalips Interview

 

When we talk about Bay Area Hip Hop we often focus on what is happening in Oakland which is considered Ground Zero. It is in ‘Tha Town’, that we find the likes of Too Short, Digital Underground, Keak da Sneak,Hiero, Blackalicious, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Saafir, Zion I, Mistah FAB and so many more.After Oakland, the spotlight usually turns to neighboring San Francisco which is home to Bay Area legends like San Quinn,Rappin’ 4tay, Paris, Michael Franti,DJ Q-Bert, DJ Apollo and in recent days artists like Big Rich.

Sadly many overlook San Jose which is actually the largest city in the Bay Area and the epic center to high tech Silicon Valley.Perhaps its because San Jose is 45 minutes away from Frisco and Oakland which are just minutes apart or perhaps its because companies like Apple, Google, Oracle and other high tech giants dominate the news and overshadow SJ hip Hop. Whatever the case, make no mistake San Jose and the South Bay region has had major impact.

San Jose and the South Bay is or has been home to some notable folks who we all know and love.DJ King Tech of the Wake Up Show, producer Fredwreck, producer Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and his Stones Throw record label started out of San Jose.DJ Kevvy Kev who is headed to his 25th year on the air, pioneering graph writer Scape One, female dance pioneer Aiko, Grand Diva Kim Collete, prolific writer AdisaBanjoko, Hip Hop Congress president Shamako Noble are some other names that also come to mind when we talk about folks who put the SJ and the South Bay on the map.Anyone from this part of town recalls the legendary b-boy battles that were routinely held at the Hank Lopez Center with the full support and cooperation of the city which was step up from San Francisco and Oakland.

This is the conversation we had with Apakalips a long time fixture in the San Jose rap scene who just released his masterpiece of a solo album called ‘The Otherside‘ Originally from Southern Cali, this community activist/ school teacher started out around 2002 with a group called Tributairies .They were best known for blowing up the Iguanas Cafe in downtown San Jose where they sparked off Lyrical Discipline.This was a weekly Friday night gathering which attracted emcees from all over the South Bay who would come through and test their skills.It was done in the same vein as the Lyricist Lounge in NY, the Good Life in LA or the now legendary underground parties and freestyles sessions at 4001 Jackson street in Oakland put together by Mystik Journeymen and the Living Legends crew.

Apakalips later went on to join the Universal Zulu Nation and eventually became the president of the Gateway chapter and quickly made it one of the more active chapters in the country. Apakalips would routinely hold unity meetings as he’d gather the heads of key Hip Hop and community organizations and tastemakers in the San Jose community to find common ground and to collectively work on projects impacting us all. He was tapping into the fact that San Jose had some of the pro-active heads who have some well heeled Hip Hop organizations around that have done incredible work. Shout outs to Hip Hop Congress, D-Bug, MACLA, Funk lab and Miese to name a few.

During our interview we talked about the release of his new album ‘The Other Side‘. It has been critically acclaimed and for many its a throwback to a date and time where people allowed their creativity to roam completely free without fear of violating some sort of record company politics or copyright laws. The Otherside has unexpected samples that give this an album your traditional boom bap sound on one track and a Latin tinged sound on another. Still on other songs you will hear the influences of drum and bass. No two songsare alike, yet the album has a consistent theme in terms of being gritty and lyrically sound.

The ‘Otherside‘ covers many topics including, California’s unique contributions to Hip Hop and its b-boy, b-girl tradition and its cultural influences. During our interview we talked about how Hip Hop is a form of communication and within it cultural expressions and activities like dance and rap go way beyond Hip Hop, and in fact are deeply rooted in traditional Mayan, Aztec and African traditions. Apakalips felt that it was important that we view Hip Hop with a larger historical and cultural lens.

We talked about the social and political movements that proceeded Hip Hop and how they impacted Hip Hop culture in the past and today.We particularly built upon the legacy of the Black Panthers and Brown Berets.Aakpalips reminded us that during the hey days of those organizations in the late 60s and early 70s we had Hip Hop expressions in the west coast with pioneering groups like the often overlooked Black Resurgents dance crew who were strutting and roboting long before Michael Jackson, dancers on Soul Train or the word Hip Hop was coined.

We talked at length about the important role Latinos played in Hip Hop, specifically the role Chicanos here on the West Coast. Apakalips lays out the long history and reminds us that just like their Puerto Rican counterparts on the East coast, Chicanos were down with Hip Hop from the very beginning especially in the areas of graf. He noted that here in the west Chicano writers, taggers and muralist had a big impact on Hip Hop.We talked aboutthe early emcees and deejays and the influence that icons like Julio G and Tony G who were part of the legendary KDAY Mixmasters in LA had on West Coast Hip Hop culture.

We also talked at length about the long social and cultural connection that NY had with LA. Long before there was some media driven East-West coast war, early Hip Hoppers were routinely going back and forth and building with one another. It was all love throughout the 80s. Apakalips talked about how pioneering Hip Hop and Latino figures like Hen G, and Prince Whipper Whip and Zulu King Afrika Islam hooked up with Ice T and helped set a tone for things to come.They set off famous Hip Hop club nights like Radiotron Water the Bush and Club United Nations and formed groups like Rhyme Syndicate and the Zulu Kings.

We ended by talking about some of the challenges facing San Jose’s Hip Hop community.One thing that is being addressed is the homeless problem. Apakalips and many others feel like the city hasn’t been doing enough. They are also addressing issues facing San Jose’s growing migrant worker population. In recent days they have also been dealing with an oppressive promoters law which requires anyone promoting an entertainment event to pay a 500 dollar fee and get a license which will allow one to put their name on flyers and pass them out.

written by  Davey D

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KRS-One: Is He Potentially to Hip Hop What Marcus Garvey was to Pan-Africanism?

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KRS-One: Is He Potentially to Hip Hop What

Marcus Garvey was to Pan-Africanism?

 

By Bro. Tony Muhammad

Politrix2012@yahoo.com

 original article-May 07, 2006

 

tonymuhammedchitown-225Just hours prior to his lecture at Florida International University this past month, KRS-One and myself had a deep conversation about how controversial the topic of discussion for the evening was Hip Hop and the Art of Civilization Building.  We talked about the general feelings, beliefs and characteristics associated with being part of a culture.  We discussed how the concept of a cultural identity is by and large something invented, a process that comes into being as a result of social circumstances.  The word culture in root, means to cultivate as you would do to a tree or a plant with the purpose of making it grow and flourish.  At the lecture, which was opened up by a panel of scholars from various walks of life, all influenced greatly by Hip Hop culture, KRS-One mentioned how today Hip Hop is in every profession: teachers, lawyers, doctors, even FBI Agents.  He also mentioned how people of different religions throughout the world claim Hip Hop. 

 

From a layered perspective of what culture is, the concept of culture is much more complicated than merely claiming identification with one particular group of people.  Under this view, we can identify with different sets of people in different circumstances.  For instance, I myself am what is typically known as a Latino and I am able to relate to and identify with other people within this diverse group based on the language, customs, food and music we generally share.  In other circumstances, as a Muslim, I am able to relate and identify with others based on the Islamic traditions that they hold (i.e. prayer, fasting, social customs, religious holidays, etc.).  From a constructionist point of view of what ethnic identity and culture is, a culture includes the concept of having a common history, traditions, myths, art, music, literature (or oral traditions) and language (even merely in the form of sayings, catch phrases, or even what is generally regarded as slang).  According to Dr. Joane Nagel, cultural identification among a group of people could come about as a result of either it being imposed by others, self-realized as a result of political and social realities or simply chosen based on perception of meaning.  When analyzed carefully, Hip Hop includes all of these characteristics and the people who have entered into it in different ways throughout its history.

 

marcus-garvey-225Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the early 20th century, was deemed controversial for arguing that peoples of African descent are in fact one people because they share a common racial condition and history.  Based on this, he developed a universal flag, newspaper, religion, national anthem and attempted government and economy under the banner of Pan-Africanism.  Garvey also organized world conferences which attracted and involved the participation of African peoples throughout the world who spoke different languages but identified with each other solely on the concept of being African.  Mind you, this was unheard of prior to this time and Garvey received both praise and scorn for it during his time.  Today, much of the cultural symbolisms and traditions that were birthed in the Garvey movement are found among African peoples throughout the world.  We even have an attempted unification of African countries, The African Union, which surely could not have been developed without the idea and belief that the peoples that live within the region have some form cultural connection to one another and should come together based on it.

 

 Is this much different from the path that KRS-One is headed towards?  He has already been both highly praised and scorned for introducing the concept I am Hip Hop.  Under the Temple of Hiphop, for the past 8 years, he has pushed the idea of celebrating Hip Hop Appreciation Week in mid-May.  He has even had the United Nations sanction Hip Hop as an official culture, developed what is known as The Hiphop Declaration of Peace and is currently in the final process of releasing the universally driven Gospel of Hiphop.  Just as Garvey, at one point of his life, became greatly frustrated with Blacks in the United States for being too focused on their own problems (rather than viewing the scope of their reality from an international perspective), KRS-One this year seeks to celebrate Hip Hop Appreciation Week in Europe to see if there is a difference of response to his calling.  Overall, to many of us of the Hip Hop generation in the past 20 years, KRS-One has many at times driven us to question our world views and identity within it a mental and spiritual exodus that Marcus Garvey inspired in a similar way almost a century ago.

 

krsone1smile-225Those who do not take KRS-One seriously in these endeavors typically just view him as an artist.  As you look deeper into KRS-One, you will see much more than this; a philosopher who expresses himself in the traditional ways of the West African griot breaking down history, science and universal principles backed by the popular music of the time.  Today, in our superimposed Western form of thinking we tend to separate and categorize (and sub-categorize) all of this and tend to limit each other based on one main thing that we do in our lives.

 

When we take Hip Hop a step further and say we are going to form a government and economy over it, this may not be possible at this particular time when the corporations of the world are defining for people generally what Hip Hop is supposed to be and what a typical Hip Hopper is supposed to look and act like.  When the ice of this age melts and the glits and glamour are gone, will we be able to distinguish between who the real community builders are from the trend followers?  With how diverse the Hip Hop community is and how certain members are so highly ego driven, would a political and economic system over it be successful?  How would we be able to deal with the concept of diversity itself, especially considering that racism itself continues to be a highly unresolved problem in this world?  What about dealing with issues in the community such as homosexuality, which is highly expressively unacceptable among many within Hip Hop?  How much of this can potentially become a mass movement rather than a spectator sport situation?  Truly, these questions need to be answered before we move forward in this increasingly complex and technological world.  Surely, we can not rely on just one man to answer them for us.  We must all do our part within the dialogue – The Reality!

 

Stay tuned to the Urban America Newspaper website, www.uannetwork.com, as to how you can get a copy of the historic KRS-One lecture at Florida International University on DVD in the following months.

 

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