Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Salute to Captain Video

There's a crucial part of the music video industry called video promotion. In the early days of Wavelength, a 3/4 video delivered in the mail would be followed up with a call from a video promoter asking when you were going to play it. If you decided to add the video to your playlist, you could expect additional calls, which usually led to a sense of familiarity and kinship. Some of these people worked at record labels, but many of them were independent contractors, slinging Nas one week and Home Team the next.

Mark Weinstein was one of these independent promoters. He ran a company called RNR Freelance, which at one time was one of the largest of its kind. He and his staff were experienced and knowledgeable about the music and artists they hocked, two qualities that were undervalued at similar outfits. At least three of his employees had done time in established rock bands and Mark had been involved in hip-hop video since the days of UTFO. He was a staunch advocate for local and regional video shows, fighting for us in places we couldn't get to. He also wrote for The Source, back when it was readable, under the name "Captain Video." He was one of the music men.

The word "promoter" has some negative connotations. I have certainly encountered a few who were ethicly-challenged. Let's keep it real, Don King is a promoter. I didn't know Mark well enough to vouch for his moral upstanding, but do remember that if someone at his company promised something, they tried to make it happen. Concert tickets, vinyl, t-shirts, advertising, interviews or whatever else I badgered them for, I usually got it. Except for that "Warm It Up," twelve inch by Kriss Kross. But I've forgot all about that, really.

I got a call from one of Mark's former employees this week, telling me that Mark died on Monday. The circumstances regarding his death are unclear and rumors are circulating, as they often do in these situations.

Industry folk in New York will gather next week to remember Mark Weinstein, a true music man who earned his rank.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wrath of the Damaja

Artie Jefferson, the owner of the record store where this interview with Jeru the Damaja took place, was known to share his theories about artist development. I recall he and I discussing some of the thematic elements of "The Sun Rises In The East," and he said something I never forgot.

"You've got you're whole life to make that first album," he said, and then explained that coming up with another one within a shorter time frame was a challenge some new artists weren't up to.

I can't say whether Jeru's second record was rushed, but it didn't have the impact of his debut. Soon afterwards, he fell out with the Gangstarr foundation, which left him without the signature sound of DJ Premier and a association with recognized movement that's a prerequisite for rappers today.

On his second record, Jeru had the audacity to confront the forces that threatened the artistic integrity of the music he loved, while other rappers were either complicit with their silence or going with the flow. Jeru continues to fight the good fight on independent releases, but the damage is done.