Sunday, December 28, 2008

Meet Swizz Beats

This footage was so lost, I still can't find it. The raw footage from this interview with producer and rapper Swizz Beats still eludes me, but I came across the Wavelength episode that featured an edited version recently.

Swizz aka Kasseem Dean became known for creating the sounds for the artists on the Ruff Ryders label in the late nineties. He was promoting his debut album "Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories," in 2002, when we met him at the DTLR clothing store at Virginia Center Commons.

The producer has been a target of internet gossip sites recently, as reports have linked him to R&B songstress Alicia Keys. Swizz, who is separating from his wife of four years, denies the rumors.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a Merry One

Some last minute Christmas wrappin'.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anthony Hamilton gets to the point

Maybe you've heard about singer Anthony Hamilton's famous attitude. He's a diminutive artist who took some hard hits from the music industry before becoming a success and has every right to be bitter, angry and aloof. Well, he isn't. Instead, he seems to posess more humility and grace than the sum of his peers in the R&B game. Yasmine inteviewed the North Carolina native shortly before the release of "Comin' From Where I'm From," back in 2003. From what I hear, Hamilton still has the same folksy attitude that turns the people he meets into fans and supporters.

Hamilton talks with former Wavelength host Yasmine about his struggles in the industry, the love of music that kept him going and his desire to become an interior decorator. He's funny, too. The out takes from this one are a hoot. His latest CD, "The Point of It All," was released this week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kwamé never played out

The interview above is taken from "Soundwave," a precursor to "Wavelength," the failed video show I produced for over a decade that inspires this blog. Soundwave was hosted by Von and Chuck and produced by another guy named Chuck. I was usually the cameraman, but for some reason, I wasn't available when they went to the Richmond Coliseum to interview DJ Quik, Nikki D, Yo-Yo and Kwamé back in 1992. I'm sure I was doing something really important that night.

I was never a Kwamé fan. I thought "Ownlee Eue" was too R&bish and "The Man We All Know and Love," didn't keep my attention. "The Rhythm," I kinda liked. But with his polka dots and bugged out hair, the Queens native seemed to be long on style and short on substance. And after Biggie dissed him so poeticly and completely on "Unbelieveable," I thought that would be the last we ever heard of him. It wasn't.

Kwamé reinvinted himself as music producer, and under the name K-1 Million he did tracks for LL Cool J, Lloyd Banks and Mary J. Blige. He's also scored scenes in some major films and has his own indie label. He recently took back his name and produced the song "Sick," for Skillz on his last album.

The talented producer is seen here as an enterprising young man, with a hunger to share his music with the world and for a certain vine-dwelling fruit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pieces of Weight

I dug legos as a kid. But I never considered building anything like the images above.  What is it about these little yellow men people find so compelling?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Freake-quently Invited Guest

Freake aka Freak D was our favorite local rapper. He holds the record for making the most appearances on Wavelength, the defunct video program that spawned this blog, and is the only artist to have performed live on the show. As a guest, Freak was articulate, engaging and displayed intelligence and knowledge. We once debated the merits of In God We Trust versus the appeal of Reel to Reel. As a rapper, Freake has been part of a couple local music groups and once toured Europe with Skillz.

I heard through the grapevine that Freak hit a rough patch a while back, so I was heartened to see he's back on the grind.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Son of Bazerk plans 2009 Tour

The band's about to swivey again. Cutting-edge hip-hop group Son of Bazerk, known for their dapper clothes and highly charged music is planning a tour in 2009. MC Half-Pint aka Cassandra (pictured above, see if you can figure it out) says the online response to the band's classic material and the attention of a certain blogger (ahem) made her realize the group has not been forgotten.

For those who never knew, Son of Bazerk was Daddy Raw, Sandman, MC Half Pint, Almighty Jahwell and Bazerk. They released one album, "Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk," in 1991 on SOUL Records, which featured the singles "Change the Style" and "The Band Gets Swivey on the Wheels." The group was produced by the Bomb Squad, the beat makers behind Public Enemy and featured contributions from noted musicians such as Micheal Hampton and Cliff Branch. It was a hip hop record unlike any other before or since, but don't take my word for it:

One of the rowdiest, craziest, noisiest, most animated records the rap world has seen, "Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk" recalls everything from James Brown to Bad Brains to the Time to King Tubby to...well, a great number of things -- occasionally within the span of one track ... Similar to most Bomb Squad productions, the album has a merciless up-down-up-down sequence, with tracks continually flowing directly into each other. This only intensifies the breathless mania of the album. - Andy Kellman of All Music Guide

more ...

The groups sound could be described as being heavily influenced by the Long Island rap scene that included Public Enemy ... and by the style of soul epitomized by James Brown during his peak years. The sound was dense, manic and often noisy, but centered on very discernible funk grooves and ample use of heavily edited samples. -

I interviewed two members of the group in 1991, while on a shoot for what would become Wavelength, the failed video show that inspired this blog. As Half Pint slept on a tour bus, Daddy Rawe and Bazerk talked about their overseas tour and their second album, which remains unreleased to this day. I caught up with Cassandra, now a school teacher, a while back. That interview starts here.

Bazerk mentioned a third album in a recent interview, but expressed doubt that it would ever be heard. I'm not sure where this track I downloaded from back in the day is from, but it's worth a listen.

"Can't You See" Son of Bazerk 3:52

UPDATE: Join my facebook group Bazerk for Son of Bazerk!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Shout Out.

Skillz finally acknowledges all I have done for his career, with this blog and with Wavelength, the failed video show that I produced for more than 10 years. Listen close at at :45.

Friday, December 05, 2008

D'Angelo is not a Bad Boy.

Despite what one gossip site is reporting, D'angelo is not signed to Bad Boy Records.

"Contrary to various media reports, producer, composer, performer, D'Angelo has not signed with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records," the singer's manager, Lindsay Guion, said in a press release. "Both gentlemen hold one another in the highest regard, however the stories circulating in the press are totally false ..."

According to the release, the singer is still working on his third album in a Hollywood studio, which is scheduled a Spring 2009 release on RCA Records.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pimp C 1973 – 2007

A year ago today, UGK member and southern rap pioneer Pimp C was found dead in a hotel in Hollywood, California. The group was known for it's dirty south style and for their hits "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" and "Something Good." Surviving UGK member Bun B continues to carry the group's banner and a final album featuring the duo is forthcoming, as well as a solo record from the deceased rapper called "A Pimp Named C."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bush Frees John Forté

President George Bush has given progressives and his critics a lot to complain about the final days of his presidency. While his last minute laws regarding abortion, drilling in national parks and "clean air," aren't unexpected considering his policial leandings, the president made a move today that few could have anticipated, he commuted the sentence of Fugees affiliate John Forté.

Forté was nabbed at in a Newark airport in 2000, when two women, caught with liquid cocaine, named him as their contact. The producer and rapper has always maintained his innocence and refused to accept a plea deal. Despite help from friends in high places like Carly Simon, he was sentenced under mandatory minimum drug sentence laws to 14 years in federal prison in 2001.

The rapper concedes he made a mistake that day, but he and his legal team argue that his sentence was unjust. George W. Bush appears to have agreed with them. Forté was among 16 people who were pardoned or had their prison sentence commuted. Besides being convicted the Bush's home state of Texas, its unclear why this case caught W's attention. Perhaps he's caught the holiday spirit and this is just the beginning. Remy Ma home for Christmas? We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MC Breed, dead at 36

Midwest rapper MC Breed died yesterday. He was admitted to the hospital in September for kidney failure after he collapsed during a pick-up basketball game. He released more than 10 albums was known for his songs "Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin’” and ”I Gotta Get Mine." The latter song featured Tupac and follows below.

More ..."Ain't No Future ..."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Subject was Dwele

As rap music became boring and homogenized, Wavelength, the failed hip-hop video show that inspires this blog, began to incorporate R&B music into the playlist. Not just any urban music, however. Most of the singers that made it onto our show (AmelLarrieux , Anthony Hamilton, D'Angelo) would've been categorized as "neo-soul" back then.

Dwele gave us a few minutes after his soundcheck at the now defunct nightclub Bojangles in Richmond, Va., back in 2003. The Detroit native, now on his third album, talks about his music, his new video and reveals that was once ... a rapper.

BTW, I'm coming up on my 100th post and I've got something special planned. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's a New One

Will.I.Am might be in line for a cabinet post considering all the work he's done for the Obama campaign. Though this doesn't come close to his first effort, its much better than his sappy second video and a fitting end to the trilogy of propaganda films. Listening to this make me wonder what happened to Cody ChesnuTT?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

MTV remembers what the "M" was for

MTV recently soft launched, which gives users access to a sizable portion of the network's video vault. This isn't as revolutionary as it would've been before sites like youtube took hold, but with copyright holders becoming more vigilant, this may become the only place you can search for a Prince's "America" video and actually find it. And be reasonably certain that it will still be there a week from now.

The site is easy to navigate and has over 20,000 videos. Most of the big names are there, which have become hard to find on video-sharing sites, regularly perused by the copyright police. I haven't had the time to thoroughly search for rarer rap clips, but I'm sure the archive will be expanding soon. So until I can see some Yomo & Maulkie or Yaggfu Front clips, I'll reminisce with videos like this from The Pharcyde.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore, dead at 81

I've never sat through one of Rudy Ray Moore's films, heard any of his comedy albums or his attempts at making R&B music, but I know his work. The comedian's voice was sampled on countless hip hop records and his persona as an articulate, larger-than-life pimp was a role model for men who came of age in the 1970s. Whether that was a good thing or not is up for debate.

Moore, also known by the name of the character he often portrayed, "Dolemite" died on Sunday died in Akron, Ohio after a long illness.

Here's some of Moore's work (The ass kickin' starts at 2:15):

Moore also played the character of Petey Wheatstraw:

Here's Dolemite talking out his life and his mother, who is 98 years old. An appearance on the Arsenio Hall show follows.

A clip of Dolemite's "son" on SNL

Friday, October 17, 2008

Man's Best Friend

Beside every great rapper is his friend from the 'hood whose music career will be forced on the public. Known on the internets as "weed carriers," referring to their obligation to assume responsibility for their monied friend's bad behavior and habit, their job is can be risky, but it has its perks.

Through his close connection with DMX, who doesn't have a problem with getting arrested, Ruff Ryders member Drag-On appeared in three films and released two albums. Most people couldn't tell you one of his songs if you waterboarded them. A report suggests the rapper is now an employee of a Yonkers dry cleaners, as DMX continues his tour of courthouses.

Ray, a guy who grew up watching the failed video show that inspires this blog, Wavelength, handles this interview and talks to Drag about the delay between his releases, the content of his new album and reveals a past affiliation with another rap crew before his days as a Ryder.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Big Nat Gets Up Like a Fart Machine

Big Nat is a DJ and blogger here in Richmond, Va. His latest post is way funnier than it should be.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Welcome Back Real Talk

Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds decided to keep their "Juan Epstein" podcast going a few weeks ago and last week's edition might be their best ever. The duo sit down with The Large Professor and discuss his career in detail. There's a lot of new information, even for serious students of the professor's work.

"Juan Epstein" always reminds me of discussions the Wavelength staff would have after the cameras were off. Maybe we should've filmed that ...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Woman's Worth

The addition of Yasmine as host was a game-changer for Wavelength, the failed video show that inspires this blog. Once I relinquished hosting duties to the stunning Hampton, Va. native, her personality and energy became the nucleus of the program's final years. 

I met her while shooting a video for a rap group she sang hooks for back in 2001. She impressed me with her enthusiasm, professionalism and lack of pretension. These three qualities are usually in short supply in low budget shoots. We talked for a minute and I knew she'd be my replacement, even though she was moving to New York in a few days. 

We lost the local backdrop of the Richmond, Va., the town that had supported us for years and traded it for small studio spaces around New York City.  We also gained access to rappers and singers didn't have our RVA n on their touring schedule. Before she decided to move on, Yasmine logged hours interviews with popular artists and few movie stars. Since then, she's appeared in a movie with Goodie Mob, acted in short films and written about entertainment for Black Star News.

In this clip, with a pre-murder trial Cassidy, she provokes the rapper to break union rules and smile. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

BET's Rap City: Is it Really a Wrap?

BET recently announced that its long-running video program, "Rap City," would end next month. After almost decade on the air, the show never rose above mediocrity, although it often dipped below the mark. While the news of this mercy killing didn't warm my heart, I am concerned by what I heard from an industry insider today.

The bad news: Rap City might come back. Sources say the cancellation is a publicity stunt to generate nostalgia and interest in the program. Viewers might see a renewed version of the show back on the air in a matter of months. 

BET has attempted to reinvent itself in recent years. The cancelled "Uncut," a video show that aired uncensored videos and hired Reginald Hudlin to create some original programs for the network known for reruns and rap videos. BET might not be living up to its potential, but it's certainly not the joke it once was. Bringing back a dated and flawed franchise like Rap City would be a step backward. 

I hope it's just rumor. I hope Rap City is shut down for good and the network has moved on. Maybe, but I wouldn't BET on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Remember Summer?

Skillz "Be Alright" feat. Kornbread & Aaries from Okayplayer on Vimeo.

Skillz does. His new clip for "Be Alright," features the rapper enjoying family and friends on a warm day in Richmond, Va. As the kids are in their second week in school, it seems a little early to reminisce over the season and too late to celebrate it. But I guess Skillz thinks that'll "Be Alright" too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gettin' to This

It's taken me awhile to appreciate the music of Q-Tip after his "Amplified" phase and the meandering jazz/rap stuff that leaked from two unreleased albums. I even found it hard to listen to his earlier work with A Tribe Called Quest after those musical missteps. But I'm digging this. Welcome home, Q-Tip.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wild Wild West

"Til I got flashed by the paparazzi.. Damn, these n*ggas got me, I hate these n*ggas more than the Nazis.” - Kanye West.

There's never a good time to wild out in a airport, but if you had to pick a day, Sept. 11 would probably be the worst choice you could make. Yesterday, Kanye West and his bodyguard confronted a photographer who had taken his picture at LAX. In the video above, we see the bodyguard smash a photog's camera onto the floor while Kanye (grey hoodie) makes quick work of what looks like a flash. The bodyguard then runs up on the shooter who recorded the fracas on a video camera, but isn't able to wrest it from him, according to TMZ. The web site also claims that West was arrested after he was approached the same pap who videotaped the incident while a police officer stood beside him. The rapper's bodyguard was arrested as well and both were released on $20,000 bond yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Just Kidding

Thanks to the good people over at MOD for providing a home for the bits and pieces that have been trapped in my videocassettes for years. This clip reminds us why Kid N' Play got a movie deal and that they once a had a DJ named Wiz who wasn't Martin Lawrence.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Source of Discourse

Former Source Editor-In-Chief Kim Osorio sued the ownerz of the magazine for sexual harassment in 2005, describing a workplace where "employees often watched pornographic movies and hung pictures of females in G-strings, smoked pot and called women bitches." Supposedly, this was the environment she worked in for five years, day in and day out, until she was fired. The jury found that she wasn't a victim of sexual harassment, but they did award her $7.5 million for unlawful termination.

While she waits for that payday, the former editor has been making good use of her time. She's the executive editor at BET Interactive and she's written a book about her time at the magazine once known as hip-hop's bible, "Straight From the Source," which came out yesterday. I haven't read more that the excerpts shared on the blogs, so its hard to tell if she's accepting responsibility for the mag's failure or painting herself as the helpless minion of morally bankrupt owners David Mays and Raymond Scott.

She admits to sleeping with rappers, which was one of the charges made by Scott in a interview where he was found to have defamed her character. The former editor explained her relationships with artists in a recent interview.

“I don’t think that I did anything wrong by dating people or being involved in relationships with people. For women it always comes down to the Scarlet Letter, sexual – oh my God, it doesn’t matter what year, what millennium we’re in; we are always looked at in that sort of light.”

She goes on.

“I love the way they hold rappers on a whole different level. Are you saying that no one is allowed to date anyone in the industry? Or are you saying writers aren’t allowed to date rappers? Or are you saying writers aren’t allowed to date anyone in the industry? What is it that you’re saying?

It's been a long time since I finished journalism school, but I'm pretty sure they still have that rule about not sexing people you interview or write about. Once your drawers come off, your objectivity is already gone. Of course, things happen when adults work together closely over a period of time and that's when you make professional adjustments. NBC's Andrea Mitchell stopped covering financial matters once she started seeing her future husband Alan Greenspan. Reporter Maria Shiver was relieved of her duties at NBC once she became the First Lady of California. But Osorio doesn't seem to think there was anything wrong with her hook-ups with rap titans Nas and 50 Cent while she was editor of one of the top-selling music magazines.

That's the kind of attitude that led to the demise of hip hop journalism on ink and paper. If you want to read the truth about hip hop in 2008, blogs are the only source.

UPDATE (9/11/08): Kim might not have got that $7.5 million after all.

Monday, September 08, 2008

He said Whut Whut?

N.O.R.E. not only drops the f-bomb during this interview with former Wavelength host Ray, he also threatens fellow Queensbridge rapper Nas. If you can't recall the discouraging words that led to this lesser-known rap beef, listen to an emotional N.O.R.E. here and here.  A quick search of the internets suggest that N.O.R.E. ultimately chose to weaponize a flower pot as this feud climaxed in a nightclub.

Respect to the crew at MOD for the redesign. What y'all think?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Son of a Preacher Man

Former Fugee frontman Wyclef Jean's attempts to distract former Wavelength host Yasmine Weaver become more desparate and comical as this clip continues. He sings, he stares, he flirts and but doesn't get much more than a grin from Yas.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Children of Destiny

Although she's taking a step back in recent months to let her sister get some shine, Beyonce remains the MVP of the Knowles family and her former group Destiny's Child. I met them at the Impact Convention in Miami, Fl., back in 1999. Wavelength had a strict "No R&B" policy, back in the day, but the rules were bent for these young ladies and others followed in their path.

I had something clever for them to say that I wanted to use as a bumper. It didn't go the way I planned. Three of the four girls forgot, but B remembered ... half of it. You can hear my voice helping her out if you listen close.

This clip shows how strong the relationship was between these young ladies and also uncovers a previously unknown talent of LeToya's: talking through her teeth.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Soul Men

It's hard to process what happened this weekend. Actor and comedian Bernie Mac dies in a Chicago hospital from pnemonia on Saturday. Isaac Hayes,65, found beside a still-running treadmill at his home in Memphis on Sunday.

I was in Las Vegas last week and after a three hours of a high-pressure sales pitch for a mediocre resort, my wife and I were given free tickets to see George Wallace. Towards the end of his act, Wallace did a Bernie Mac impersonation. He admitted that it needed some work, but it was good enough to remind the audience how funny Mac's stand-up once was. Wallace moved on to the next joke without saying much about the comedian's condition. Perhaps he knew something he wasn't able to share.

Hayes and Mac have left a lot for us to remember them with. Along with Hayes' productions for other artists, solo work, Mac's television and film roles, they recently finished work on a film called "Soul Men," with Sam Jackson.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Skillz in 1995

There used to be an annual concert in Richmond's Highland Park, called the "Park Jam." I think it ran for about 4 years or so, mostly local acts on a portable stage performing for neighborhood folks. D'angelo was billed one year, but he couldn't make it. One of the dudes from Shades of Lingo came out and rapped once. It was usualy a parade of wannabees and good-tryers, unless Skillz was performing. Once he took the stage, he made the event legit.

I think the concerts continued for a couple of years after this particular performance. Artie Jefferson, a local record shop owner who put the shows together, decided to quit while he was ahead. Even though the shows would go on into the night, there were no incidents in the park, which is now called Ann Hardy Plaza. But the area continued to decline and soon the neighborhood was frequented by people who didn't respect community events. The event retired with a perfect record.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Skillz Drops A Million

Is this really happening? Is Skillz actually seeing a proper album release, something that hasn't happened in more than a decade? Well, it sure looks like it. After years of being held up, pushed back and let go, the rap vet is scheduled to release "The Million Dollar Back Pack" today. See you at the wrecka stowe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Queen of the Underground

Female rappers have been an endangered species for several years. Let's look at the sad landscape of yesteryear's stars and last week's chart toppers.

Queen Latifah is singing jazz standards and allegedly planning to marry her trainer. Monie Love plays other people's records on the radio instead of making her own. Remy Ma is spitting bars from behind bars. Lil Kim has done her time and is hoping that her old fans recognize her on a new label with a new face. The only hits Foxy Brown has been responsible for lately have been those upside her manicurists' head. MC Lyte is doing voice-overs for award shows instead of being nominated for awards. Lumidee, Lumi-don't. Yo-Yo's judging a reality show contest with female rappers, including one that had a established rapper as a contestant.  Lady Sovereign hasn't been seen since her meltdown at Studio B in Brooklyn.  (She's short, so it could be we're all just looking over her.) Add to the list, these ladies from the 80's who are missing in action: J. J. Fad, Michie Mee, Ice Cream Tee, Oaktown 357, Wee Papa Girls, Antoinette, Ya Kid-K, Deadly Venoms, Poizon Posse, Boss and  Lin-Que. R.I.P. MC Trouble and Lisa Lopes.

While some have survived the game and made a successful career for themselves away from the microphone, like Roxanne Shante, (that's Doctor Shante to you)  few have kept it real in the game for years. Philadelphia-born Bahamadia, while only three albums deep, has been in the business of music for over a decade. She cultivated a fan base in the underground scene while guesting on projects with The Roots and Erykah Badu. The True honeybun sat down with me after a show with Unspoken Herd at Alley Katz in Richmond to talk about her next project, European audience and why she's always being asked about the status of females artists in hip hop.

Shout out to the other sisters doing the damn thing: Missy Elliott, Jean Grae, Imani Coppola, Trina and Khia.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Skillz Goes So Far

How busy is Skillz? He shoots a video while he gets his hair cut. The veteran spitter called in a Talib Kweli to pinch hit for Common, who appears on the album version of "So Far, So Good." I guess Common was "Wanted" elsewhere.

This the latest single from the Virginia artist's perpeturally forthcoming album "The Six Million Dollar Back Pack." The latest release date: July 22.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It Was Spoken

"Fck that. I love Souljah Boy." - Nas (June 27,2008)

When Kanye West compared Nas to Souljah Boy recently, he brought the Queensbridge rapper in the Ice-T vs. Souljah Boy beef. From the stage of Richmond's Friday at Sunset concert series, Nas let his thoughts on the viral feud be known.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Planet Rock

Watching this old clip reminds me of one of things I miss about the good ol' days. Free T-shirts. Those oversized cotton promotional short-sleeves that came in the mail made my fashion decisions simple and showed everyone how hip I thought I was. But as the game changed and video shows didn't rate like they used to, the free shirts were the first perks to go. I still have a few in storage, but I had totally forgotten about this light blue number with the serpent-like design. It was soft and comfortable like a child's blanket. Ahhhh.

If you guessed by my digression that I wasn't a fan of this particular artist featured above, you're right. Digable Planets were a little too derivative for my tastes. I may have bobbed my head to "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," but their work never moved me like the pioneering rap groups they borrowed their style from. Now this is purely my critical observation, based on my recollection of their sound and what was happening in hip hop back then. It has nothing to do with Lady Bug Mecca looking me dead in the eye in 1993 and saying nothing after I said hello to her before a Richmond concert. That incident is totally unrelated and nearly forgotten.

Did I mention I was wearing a Digable Planets t-shirt at the time?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now, What's the Meaning of Dope?

If it happened on television in 90s, and some rappers were involved, I probably have it on tape somewhere. In addition to the archive related to the failed venture that led to this blog, I have a separate collection of videotapes of things I ripped from television back in the day.

I've thought about sharing this with the rest of the world, but I didn't want to attract the wrong kind of attention on gootube. So along comes JC at the Meaning of Dope. The site is a virtual museum of hip hop footage, most of which you won't find anywhere else. This performance from The Late Show with Joan Rivers is the second clip I've uploaded to MOD, you can find the find the first one here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

X in Mourning

Lyricist, reality show host and actor Xzibit has been on my mind lately. The rapper recently blogged about the death of his son, who was born prematurely and has begun to talk about his grieving. It's a rare moment of vulnerability in the hip hop world, that reminds us that behind the stone-faced superthug image rappers project is a human being that is as vulnerable to the uncertainties of life as we all are.

The clip above shows Xzibit, The Liks and Defari onstage at Virginia Commonwealth University's Franklin Street Gym, a few years back.

R.I.P Xavier Kingston Joyner

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Suge got Knock'd.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. About a decade ago, Marion "Suge" Knight held the keys to the rap kingdom. He had Snoop, Tupac and Dr. Dre on his label. He was revered and feared in the industry due to reputation for "hands-on" business negotiations. He added the word "Untouchable" in front of label's moniker and it seemed to fit, for him at least. Even as his empire splintered and Death Row went bankrupt, his name still commanded attention and respect and he became the only star on his label.

Now, Suge appears in reality shows and low budget films with Jean Claude Van Dammme and silly movies like "Reno 911!: Miami" trading on his reputation as an music entrepreneur and an enforcer. After the images from a Sunday night altercation hit the net, Knight may have a hard time selling that image.

According to TMZ, Knight interrupted a conversation between two men outside a night spot. Knight was apparently unaware that one of these men was a member of IKSRFO. A scuffle ensued and Knight took one to the jaw, leaving him on the sidewalk for three minutes, out cold, according to TMZ.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Arrogant Voices of Musical Truth Speak

After the demise of their smart and critical hip hop magazine, the brilliant minds behind Ego Trip didn't stop churning out controversial and provocative ideas. They published two excellent books, "The Book of Rap Lists," and the essential "Big Book of Racism." Later, the content from the latter publication led to a VH-1 show called "Race O Rama," a show that twisted the channel's typical rehashes of the past with insight from rap artists mixed with informative content.

The crew then jumped on the reality show bandwagon, tapping MC Serch for "The White Rapper Show," and partnering him with Yo-Yo for "Miss Rap Supreme."For the most part, the collective have let their work speak for itself. Recently, however, they sat down with Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America, and offered insight into the process behind their creative and compelling productions. Listen in below.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

25 Rappers that suck ... according to Yahoo

Yahoo music writer Rob O'Connor has compiled a list of the 25 worst rappers of all time. As you might imagine, his list has inspired some debates among people who care deeply about such things. He might look like the Spin Doctors, but he's writing for hip hoppers. The list follows, along with my humble analysis of his selections.

25) Chicago Bears: The Chicago Bears are a professional football team based in Chicago, Illinois. In 1985, before winning the Super Bowl they daringly commemorated their proud achievement with "The Super Bowl Shuffle," a rap tune that made this group of on the field tough guys look like an ineffective glee club. Did they really psych out their opponents with this? So why didn't they record a follow-up? They didn't win the Super Bowl the next year. Honorable mention goes to the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers, the L.A. Raiders, the Cincinnati Bengals and the L.A. Rams, other football teams who couldn't resist the urge to kick back a few beats and look more than a little silly.

The Chicago Bears are a football team. So they would be 32 bad rappers, not just one. Picking on a novelty group this early in the list places the integrity of this project in doubt.

24) Bubba Sparxxx: Cut from much of the same cloth as Fred Durst, here's another earnest white boy looking to earn his street cred by exhibiting talents he doesn't actually have. You know how a kid will brag that his TV is bigger than your TV and then never get around to showing you this "Big TV"? That's kind of what a Bubba Sparxxx album is like. You keep hearing about how cool and assured he is, but you never actually hear any music that backs up the claim. Guest appearing on tracks by Limp Bizkit and Justin Timberlake should make you very nervous, despite some legit rappers claiming he's OK.

I never listened to Sparxxx long enough to determine just how wack he was. I'll take your word for this one, Rob.

23) Mike Jones: He can't rap, but he sure knows how to make friends. Putting his cellphone number on his T-Shirts ensured that Mike would never be lonely. But can you really trust a rapper whose track "Houston Dynamo (Don't Play)" is the official team anthem for the Houston Dynamos? A soccer team?

Can't argue with this choice. Nobody would remember the name of this one hit wonder if he hadn't repeated it a jallion times in his one hit.

22) Bobby Jimmy And The Critters: In the 1980s, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to parody rap music. Weird Al was slow on the draw here. So this Los Angeles group did the honors with such "timeless" classics as "Gotta Potty," "Ugly Knuckle Butt" and "Somebody Farted." I know it sounds pretty good, classy even, but fart jokes get old quick no matter who's doing the telling.

For someone to be considered for a list like this, they should have to take themselves seriously. Bobby Jimmy aka Russ Parr, and his Critters were a joke. But it was funny.

21) 2 Live Crew: Oh, I know they stand for the first amendment. And "Me So Horny" deserves its rightful place in our cultural lexicon. But take away the historical importance and the one-joke wonder of it all and you're left with a crew of dudes who had to break up before everyone figured out they didn't know what the hell they were doing.

You can't discount the social impact of the 2 Live Crew's music and their struggle to be heard. They took rap to a place you never thought it would be, The Supreme Court. Move to strike this group from the list.

20) Nelly: Whoa, Nelly! Yeah, the band-aid was a great gimmick and noting that when it gets hot, it's man's natural instinct to want to take off his clothes, well, that's priceless, too. Maybe his next album Brass Knuckles, slated for release in a few months, will show us a new side to this flat-screen rapper. Surely, he's had time to find qualified producers and to bone up on his diction to make it sound like something more than reading off of cue cards.

Good pick. Nelly has no skills whatsoever.

19) Dan Aykroyd And Tom Hanks: Dan Aykroyd at least can claim he's a comedian but Tom Hanks is just an actor who's been cast in comedic roles and worn dresses. "City Of Crime" runs through the credits of their 1987 film Dragnet and they even made a video for it, suggesting they had ideas of branching out beyond their acting community. The hip-hop community apparently didn't welcome them with open arms, saving us from further inept endeavors. They make Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy's rap attempts sound nearly legitimate by comparison. That's going some!

Another novelty pick. I'm starting to think Rob O. had to pad this list to reach the magic 25 number. I'm surprised MC Skat Cat isn't on here.

18) Chingy: You know an "artist" is really hitting a nerve when they inspire an onslaught of negative reviews at every website you visit. The consensus seems to be: "This guy's beats are terrible and his lyrics are stupid, degrading and barely literate at best." And we're guessing that came from his mom. I didn't need to read all 385 one star reviews to be tipped off to just how much other people don't admire this man's talent. To think he owns houses in multiple cities, partners a restaurant in Miami and has appeared on The George Lopez Show as himself! Someone's got a bit of explaining to do.

I concur. Chingy should stop.

17) Elvira: Cassandra Peterson had a perfectly legitimate career as "Elvira" the devilishly seductive vampire. Had she formed a Goth Metal group, it might have made sense, but in 1988 she opted for "The Elvira Rap," a charmingly inept attempt at doing what she does poorly. But she didn't stop there. "The Monsta' Rap" followed. Fool us once, shame on us. Twice, it's your problem, sista!

One more novelty group and this place is starting to look like "The Gong Show."

16) Insane Clown Posse: Face paint, bad rap-metal, once out of rhymes begin spraying their audiences with soda, Insane Clown Posse have all the hallmarks of a bad hype and the terrible, terrible records to back it up. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope don't do much of anything well. Which explains why they hide their true identities. They make Kiss, their obvious influence, seem like the apex of modern culture in comparison. On the bright side, perhaps it's ICP's lame attempts at rap that have stopped Kiss and their accountants from considering a similar move.

Never heard them spit, but l bow to your wisdom and experience, Rob.

15) Rappin' Duke: Any rapper who boasts of working the mic at Ponderosa isn't likely to be taken seriously. His other claim in his self-titled rap ‘Rappin' Duke" that Kurtis Blow and Run DMC wouldn't have heard of rap were it not for the "Rappin' Duke" is as ludicrous as his boast that no rapper would exist after him. The Rappin' Duke never had a career beyond this single (there is a second single believe it or not called "The Duke Is Back" on famed Tommy Boy Records, but he apparently was not, in fact, "back"). That's what you get when you choose John Wayne as your point of hip-hop reference. Sorry, partner.

The Rappin' Duke couldn't rap. Duh-huh. Thing is, he was so bad, he wasn't easily forgotten, and that almost makes him good. Technically, though, he probably belongs on this list.

14) Master P: It isn't until you get to the chorus of Master P's Grammy-winning hit "Make ‘Em Say Ugh" that you realize just how bad this is going to be. P doesn't show much promise on the verses, but the guttural, food poisoning groan of nausea that provides the tune with its "hook," is among the genre's dumbest and least appealing. He has made a career out of moaning "Ugh." Of course, this success has been off the chart, ranking him in Forbes as one of the most successful entertainers and entrepreneurs. Thankfully, he now serves as a Youth Ambassador for the NAACP, a move that should lead to fewer musical endeavors. Only God Can Judge Me may be the name of one of his albums, but I prefer to let the people decide this one.

One of the filthiest to ever pick up a microphone. Master P's flow is sloppy, unpolished and completely devoid of any artistic merit. Move this guy down to the top 5.

13) Tony Yayo: Being the weakest link in any ensemble brings its own cross to bear. Why do you think Professor Griff was always the most annoyed member of Public Enemy, after all? As a member of G-Unit, Yayo was clearly the caboose of the group. If he really calls his latest album I Am 50's Tax Write-Off, which wouldn't be a bad idea, it would save the IRS time when the audit comes due and blatantly remind everyone he was in a group with 50 Cent. A better idea than Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon. The guy goes to prison on a weapons possession charge, but decides it's better to hype being an Outlaw Of Grammar?

I hear nothing but bad things about Tony Yayo's music. I'll assume they're all right and that Yayo is where he ought to be.

12) Northern State: While some people assume that anyone who can speak can rap, it's not quite that easy. Just as a singer must master pitch and tone, a rapper needs to sound natural. Nothing about this female Long Island trio ever sounds natural. They don't try to pretend they're anything they're not. But being well-educated, literate nerds from Long Island who name-check Al Gore doesn't for convincing rappers make. Grabbing Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys to produce their album doesn't lend "credibility" either. It looks desperate. And having your tracks featured on Grey's Anatomy is just weird.

Inspired choice. I heard an album from these girls and I wanted to get my ears coned afterwards.

11) Shaquille O'Neal: Now I love watching Shaq stand over the basketball net and push the ball in with his hand. Being 12 feet tall has its advantages. Rapping isn't one of them. It doesn't make you sound better. If a midget like the Geto Boys' Bushwick Bill can get it so right, how is it that Shaq could get it so wrong? Well, as Bushwick would tell you "Size Ain't (expletive deleted)." Sure he can wax personal "Biological Didn't Bother" but bad puns like "Can't Stop the Reign" and "Blaq Supaman" (that's not even a pun, that's goofy spelling) just don't quite match up to what he's capable of on the basketball courts.

Shaq is waq. He does make the mistake of taking himself seriously, which made Skillz's destruction of his rap career all the more enjoyable. 99 free throws, anyone?

10) Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch: I believed them when they rapped "I Need Money." That sounded like the truth. But I draw the line when they title an album Music For The People. Why? What did the people ever do to you, Marky Mark? We certainly didn't ask for this music and if we did we should have been more specific. We wanted it to be better, that's for sure. But Marky Mark saw it coming. He knew he had a better career in underwear ads (calling David Beckham!) and in movies. Which is why we don't get to enjoy any new music from him anymore. Somehow, I think we'll make it.

A well-deserved ranking. The whole bunch was garbage and Marky was just acting.

9) K-Fed: When being married to Britney Spears is your greatest artistic accomplishment, you join a long line of Yoko Onos waiting for their eventual artistic validation. Someday, an ironic hip-hop group will no doubt celebrate Playing With Fire, Kevin Earl Federline's debut album. But for now, we're content to pretend it never happened. We'll let him keep custody of his children, but he must promise us to never make another album for as long as he shall live.

Mr. Federline's MTV performance was as embarrassing and pathetic as his ex-wife's appearance a month later. K-Fed's breathless effort showed a lack of discipline and practice, the two things that could have compensated for his lack of talent. He never put in real work, but he did earn this spot.

8) Will Smith: The people who vote in the Grammy Awards might very well be drunk when they do so. Or maybe they don't listen to the records they vote for. Now rap music wasn't really enjoyed by the "establishment" back in the 1980s, so they were primarily guessing at what the "kids" were listening to. And "Parents Just Don't Understand" was obviously a pretty "wacky" "rebellious" little number with all that clever rhyming! And Will Smith was certainly still "safe" enough to not inspire too much controversy. Which is exactly why he's a lousy rapper. And why Smith got out of there and into acting before everyone caught on.

A travesty that nearly discredits this entire exercise. I'm not a fan of Mr. Smith's work, but I do recognize its significance. "Brand New Funk," alone should keep him off roll calls like this one, not to mention his partnership with pioneering D.J. Jazzy Jeff. Mr. O'Connor, I just don't understand.

7) Mr. T: Yes, I pity the fool who thought Mr. T had a career singing, rapping and wearing extremely short camouflage shorts and stretched to the knee tube socks while telling you to treat your mother right. From his instructional video Be Somebody Or Be Somebody's Fool. Why take advice from a guy who seems to have opted for the latter?

I wonder if Rob O'Connor, the writer of this list, suffered through the scores of rap albums made by actors and comedians, and then picked the most horrible. Imagine listening to the Chunky A album and that record that Bud from Married With Children released and trying to decide who sounds worse. No wonder he looks so angry in his blog photo.

6) Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit): You have to question anyone who participates in a group that applauds its own erectile dysfunction. "Rap-metal" sounds like a bad idea, even before you hear how poorly it's executed. Ice-T couldn't pull it off with Body Count and these clowns can't even get the metal part right. So you can only imagine what happens when a rhythmically challenged singer attempts to show his "street cred" by enlisting the help of Method Man, who should've known better than to associate with a group whose stage props have included playing in a toilet. Some hints are more than hints.

The total dissappearance of Mr. Durst and his band from the music scene makes me happy when I'm sad.

5) Puff Daddy: P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, no matter what name you give him, his rapping doesn't improve. Sure, he's been a successful entrepreneur. Apparently, he can sell anything. He sold the idea of talking over a perfectly legitimate hit single by the Police as one of his own creations and winning a Grammy for his troubles. Again, are these people drunk when they vote?

Puffy's not one of the greatest rappers. But some his ghostwriters are. So that almost makes him ... okay.

4) Dee Dee King: As the bass player for the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone was very good at counting off "1-2-3-4" and then playing his bass notes very fast. He didn't sing particularly well, but as a punk rocker he didn't need to. He wrote a handful of great songs. But then he decided he wanted more. He wanted to escape the artistic box that was the Ramones and establish his own identity--as a rapper! We only acknowledge what Dee Dee himself acknowledged. He truly was the "baddest rapper in Whitestone, Queens." R.I.P.

I had no idea this existed. Thanks for the warning.

3) Brian Austin Green: Brian Austin Green from the hit TV program Beverly Hills 90210 released a rap album in 1996 with tracks such as "That's Right" featuring the Black Eyed Peas, "Style Iz It," "Didn't Have A Clue" and "Beauty and Da Beats." I believe these titles reflect his passion. And if "sounds great while sleeping in a shopping mall" can be construed as a compliment, then I'm among his biggest fans and--though I hadn't realized it until now--have been anxiously awaiting his "comeback" for 12 years now!

Okay, he sucks. Next.

2) MC Hammer: "U Can't Touch This" was first described to me as someone repeatedly yelling "Stop, It's Hammer Time!" over Rick James' "Superfreak." Sounded like a bad idea. Sounded like a bad joke. Then I heard it. MC Hammer went on to sell millions of albums. Some people even took to dressing like him. Yet somehow he never managed to turn this into another marketing line, not even for glasses. That's how he ended up on reality TV, I guess.

Hammer dirtied the game with his hollering and trite lyrics, lowering the bar and paving the way for a sea of wackness that drowned hip hop. He's probably a nice guy, though.

1) Vanilla Ice: Whether Suge Knight ever actually dangled Robert Van Winkle, Mr. Vanilla Ice, from a balcony or not, the point intended is an important one: STOP MAKING RAP RECORDS. "Ice Ice Baby" isn't so much a bad song as simply an insult. Instead of making a low-rent porn video, Ice makes Cool As Ice, a film so bad it almost makes you wish he'd stuck to making records.

A given.

Let's recap. 1 Football Team. 5 Novelty acts. 10 White acts. 1 Legend. 3 Pop Stars. 3 Women.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just Phrontin'?

Pharrell Williams, tennis shoe pimp and the face of The Neptunes production team, stands accused of beat jacking. House and soul music artist Peven Everett says that a track with Britney Spear's voice that found its way onto the blogosphere, "Sugarfalls" closely resembles a song by Everett called "Party of the Year."

The songs are compared in the clip above, so you can judge for yourself. You'll have to endure Mr. Everett's chest-thumping narrative directed at Skateboard P, but the music speaks for itself –- this was a heist.

Alas, the case is not that simple. In the video, Everett says that during a dinner meeting with Q-Tip, the rapper asked for his opinion of the N*E*R*D frontman and mentioned that he's been "giving Pharrell music." Later that day, Everett discovers the Britney track on the internet that Pharrell produced, which closely resembles his own song.

This kind of thing would probably wouldn't matter to to two industry cats. Money or favors would be exchanged under the table and all would be forgotten. But Everett isn't that type of guy. He's built his career creating his own music and controlling it, while typical producers push buttons and wait for things to happen. P.E. is not the one to fool with and he let it be known.

But, let's put ourselves in Pharrell's ice cream shoes for a minute. Imagine you're a successful producer who's part of a team that's sold millions of records. You hear a
track from a relatively unknown producer and you like it. You remember how you came up, producing music with your friend and afterwards some guy named Edward Theodore Riley puts his name on it and takes credit. So you let a troubled pop star "sing" over the track and worry about the details later. It's a reasonable scenario that might have played out differently if Peven wasn't so sensitive about his sh*t.

Everett is currently at odds with 2/3 of the Glow In The Dark tour. He's also upset with Kanye West for some reason and has diss track aimed at the dropout on his myspace page.

Isn't there a six month waiting period after somebody's mama dies before you can diss them? I think it's part of the Geneva Convention.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Some Ol' Bullsh*t

After three posts about death and grieving, it might be time to lighten things up around here. Here's a street rehearsal from two of the Supa Friendz crew, Lonnie B. and Danja Mowf from 1998. The duo were about to perform without their somewhat famous third member at one of Richmond's popular nightspots.

The camera loses them a few times, I think I was laughing too hard. I have some scenes from the performance on tape as well. Drop me a note in the comments if you'd like to see them posted here.

Another reason I'm throwing this up is that I had to deal with some bullsh•t today. This little song reminds me I'm not alone.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Other Brother

I had the unfortunate experience of telling a friend of the Levert family about the death of Sean Levert this week. The day after the singer's death, I was interviewing public intellectual Cornel West for my day job. Since I knew he had worked with Gerald Levert on one of his spoken word projects, I asked him for a comment about his brother Sean's passing. The skilled orator struggled to find his words. He hadn't heard the news.

I I read him the AP article as he listened in disbelief. I felt like the grim reaper as I transcribed his stunned reaction. I managed to work in one last question, but the conversation I had enjoyed was over. Nothing kills an interview like a death notice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Breath Control

Screwball's KL died this week from asthma attack. Screwball was hard to the core and I loved their music from the first moment I heard it. The were like five Freddie Foxxes or M.O.P. at the end of a really bad week.

I saw them at the next-to-last Impact Convention in Miami. They were performing at a Tommy Boy party hosted by Prince Paul and were onstage when I walked in. It was an typical industry gig, with people milling around the club, glancing at the stage occasionally during lulls in conversation. They did a short set and closed with F.A.Y.B.A.N., a banger as politically incorrect as it is a heartfelt and justified. A lot went down in Miami that weekend, but this performance alone would've made my trip.

As a longtime asthma sufferer, I've always had a deep respect for the spitters in the game with this chronic disease. Rapping is all about breath control and for those of us with asthma, so is living.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Steady As She Goes

Of all the R&b songbirds to come out of the U.K. in the last years, Corinne Bailey Rae seemed the be one most likely to enjoy a long career. While Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen fought battles against themselves, Bailey-Rae kept putting out good music. She released an expanded edition of her self-titled debut with a handful of new songs, an Itunes exclusive live session EP and her voice graced songs by Amp Fiddler, Al Green, Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller. She's also got some great covers of Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" (which she almost dignifies) and The Raconteurs "Steady, As She Goes," flowing through the internet tubes. You can also find her on tribute albums to Fats Domino, John Lennon and a planet earth.

Bailey Rae always seems to hit the mark just right. Even though the songs on her debut are all about being in love, the emotion she brings make each one seem like a singular expression. If there's a feeling I got about her after hearing the album, it was that this was a woman who loved her man.

Corinne Bailey Rae's husband was found dead in his apartment on Saturday. Jason Rae, 31, was a saxophonist who backed his wife, Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. Police are investigating his death and have charged a man with distributing controlled substances.

It doesn't take a therapist to figure out that Corinne Bailey Rae is probably devastated. If she grieves as hard as she loves, I hope she's being looked after by those close to her in this time. It's a tragic situation that will take time to overcome and process. For those of you who do that sort of thing, keep Corinne in your prayers. She may need our voices now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More from the Left Coast

More from my brief visit to the West Coast back in '99. Warren G was also on the bill with Ghostface Killah at this party during the Billboard Music Video Conference in Santa Monica. Kelis, Blaque and Pink also performed. Kelis had just come out with her screaming song and Pink was just a white girl singing typical R&b and hadn't yet thought about flipping the "i" in her name upside down.

With the exception of Ghostface's performance, it was a typical industry concert, where the performers are largely ignored by record company people and their associates, who are too busy chatting to pay attention. The discussions continued throughout Warren G's performance and he let it be know that it wasn't unnoticed. The talking died down for a minute, but they eventual went back to doing what they do. Makes you wonder why they got into the business in the first place.