The Crossroads of Hip Hop


Dr. Walter Greason: […] “Hip hop—the only social force to create an equitable, participatory, democratic, and global system of politics and economics over the last three decades—will vanish into history under a fascist backlash, consume the soul of our generation with consumerism, or evolve to inspire greater intelligence, creativity, and faith among ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

The crossroads we face is no less than the choice about the direction of our species and our planet. This essay hopes to open a conversation about the tools of culture hip hop may provide for our uplift and empowerment.” […]

Capital Controlling Media To Keep Us Thirsty For Violence


Noam Chomsky once explained the driving force behind the war machine as one that won’t begin to slow down until corporate America realizes that the majority of its customers are against a particular conflict. For when advertisers adjust to the collective vibe of the people (in order to sell product), the message is brought home to politicians in ways they must take seriously in a state-capitalism system.

I can’t remember where I read that—probably in Understanding Power—but it reminded me of his synopsis of the Vietnam Syndrome:

[…] The bewildered herd never gets properly tamed, so this is a constant battle. In the 1930s they arose again and were put down. In the 1960s there was another wave of dissidence. There was a name for that. It was called by the specialized class “the crisis of democracy.” Democracy was regarded as entering into a crisis in the 1960s. The crisis was that large segments of the population were becoming organized and active and trying to participate in the political arena.

Here we come back to these two conceptions of democracy. By the dictionary definition, that’s an advance in democracy. By the prevailing conception that’s a problem, a crisis that has to be overcome. The population has to be driven back to the apathy, obedience and passivity that is their proper state. We therefore have to do something to overcome the crisis. Efforts were made to achieve that. It hasn’t worked. The crisis of democracy is still alive and well, fortunately, but not very effective in changing policy. But it is effective in changing opinion, contrary to what a lot of people believe.

Great efforts were made after the 1960s to try to reverse and overcome this malady. It was called the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The Vietnam Syndrome, a term that began to come up around 1970, has actually been defined on occasion. The Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhoretz defined it as “the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force.” There were these sickly inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the public. People just didn’t understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It’s very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there’s a limit on foreign adventures.

It’s necessary, as the Washington Post put it the other day, rather proudly, to “instill in people respect for the martial virtues.” That’s important. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it’s necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence. So that’s the Vietnam Syndrome. It’s necessary to overcome that one. […]

Enter into the conversation: The Dixie Chicks.

These three women made plain what they felt was true in the run up to war in Iraq and now—three and a half years into this unjust war, their message is shared by a majority of Americans (65% want out of Iraq and more than 60% disapprove President Bush’s job).

So if you buy into the analysis that it’s necessary for a state-capitalism system to overcome such “sickly inhibitions about using violence” in order to flex all foreign policy options, then the actions of one of the last defenses in the current corporate line—the über-conglomerate NBC Universal—shouldn’t surprise you.

Even though CBS moved forward with an ad buy, NBC has steeled up and decided to not run ads for the Dixie Chicks documentary entitled, Shut Up and Sing.

Here’s part of their rationale (with my emphasis):

[…] While the Weinstein Co. had shown NBC its ads, it had not inquired about buying commercial time, he said. Generally, when an ad is rejected, prospective advertisers return and work with the network on ways to make it acceptable—as was done with the Michael Moore film, ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ he said.

But NBC heard nothing more from makers of “Shut Up and Sing” until portions of what NBC executives thought were confidential business correspondence showed up in a news release, he said.

“There was no attempt to come back and have a conversation,” Wurtzel said. “There are times when some advertisers get more publicity for having their ad rejected.” […]

NBC’s positioning for making the trailer more acceptable is akin to the central theme of a documentary called Shut Up and Sing. Are they really surprised that the band walked away and went to the press? Ten years ago, such a tactical play by NBC could’ve crippled an independent film’s message due to lack of exposure, but not now, not in the information age. NBC can stick to their “standards” and play all the games they want, because as Chomsky so eloquently analyzed, the people are on it.

UPDATE: Lawrence Lessig speaks to a previous media denial encounter with NBC that fell into a similar “not very flattering to the president” category.

(via Baron over at TwangNation)

Shine On, Syd

Cobain influenced my attitude, Lennon influenced my understanding of love, but Barrett influenced how I perceived the world around me.


He was a revolutionary thinker and musician, an explorer of the mind, body and soul, forever changing our culture with his tripped out, yet beautiful fusion of jazzy, psychedelic guitar, lyrics and surround-sound amphitheater concerts.

Not once, but twice, Syd left the glow of the spotlight way too early for many of us.


Charles Mingus: The Art Of Composed Politics


Last September, I happened upon Michal Levy’s brilliant computer animation of the Coltrane classic, Giant Steps. After reading John Amato’s latest musical post on John Coltrane, I figured John and his audience would dig it. Thanks for the h/t, John.

Now, if you’re truly a political head, yet only a casual a fan of jazz, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the life work of Charles Mingus. The man lived life on the edge, spoke from the heart and translated his political perspective into complex compositions and straightforward lyrics that would make even the most polished, political pundit take notes.


Check out this quote from a review of the Mingus Big Band release of Blues & Politics:

…Mingus’ song titles are also fascinating because they are so suggestive—how does the Haitian revolution or the rise and decline of man (“Pithecanthropus Erectus“) sound? The titles make you think and pay attention to the music as it is played—this is what Mingus desired most as a performer.

Throughout his career he sought a conscientious audience working with him to bring meaning to the music. Reprinted within the liner notes of Blues & Politics is Mingus’ untitled prose poem about pledging allegiance to the American flag as well as the lyrics to “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me”, “Don’t Let It Happen Here”, and “Freedom”. These pieces reflect Mingus’ concern with justice for all Americans across racial lines…

Pure genius.

Gito Gito Hustler And The Spunks: Banzai!!!

Japanese punk rock hit The Green Bean in downtown Greensboro, NC Wednesday night. That’s right, you heard me, I said Japanese punk rock! Both bands had a great sound, so very authentic and original.
The Spunks were sick—loud, funny and extremely tight. While the lead ripped on his own non-mastered Engrish, the drummer chimed in from all angles. They then sent us from laughing our asses off to banging heads like maniacs.
I gotta admit, Gito Gito Hustler sounded a bit like a Japanese version of the Chipmunks on crack, but as the set went on and their guitars and personalities took over (all the girls were crazy cute and punk), they grew on me quick. Such a great time!

Goodbye Austin and SXSW2006

alamo draft house

Well, it took me until today to be able to write my goodbye to Austin. Man, that town and conference kicks some serious ass. Some of my favorite moments from this past week:

  • Bruce Sterling‘s closing remarks on the state of the world. I’ve never been moved to tears by a public speaker before… I’ve a new favorite author.
  • Running into Doc Searls after the Sterling presentation, and chatting with him for an hour about everything from our shared past in Jersey and Greensboro (my current residence) to our love of basketball to our vastly different experiences with the KKK (mine is through my brother’s documentary, you gotta ask Doc about his) and then hitting up a BBQ joint with Doc, Marc Canter, Nancy White and Jerry Michalski.
  • Experiencing Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated and Alan Berlinger’s Wide Awake at the greatest theatre experience I’ve ever come across, the Alamo Drafthouse.
  • Adam Greenfield‘s ubiquitous computing presentation. (Adam is so very articulate and cultured, I can only hope that experience design is taken more seriously within the world of ubicomp than it is within the web) and Peter Morville‘s Ambient Findability presentation. Two very similar topics, yet two very different presentations.
  • Finally meeting Tish Grier, Will Giese, Thomas Vander Wal, Peter Merholtz, Tara Hunt and Chris Messina in person after months of blogging, commenting, plazing and flickring each other (did I say flickring?). And yes, I can confirm without a doubt that missrogue and factoryjoe are the web 2.0 version of Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Hitting up the town with Khoi, Chris, Ralph and Jeff. We were robbed of the SXSW Web Award for Best Green / Non-Profit site ( damnit! So we drank more.
  • I only ran into one former collegue/friend at the conference — Dan Saffer — but I think I made a handful of new ones along the way.

I had a blast. And I’m looking forward to next year already.

GZA (The Genius) & DJ Muggs In Powder Blue


That’s right, I said powder blue. Saturday night, I caught the Grandmaster show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. I hadn’t experienced DJ Muggs live before, so I didn’t know what to expect from him other than some bumping bass and high pitched wails. I mean, basically, could he move the crowd in unexpected ways?

The answer? No, not really.

After getting us fired up with some Cypress Hill classics, he kinda came off a bit rehearsed and sluggish. His intro loop and beat for GZA to hit the stage with must’ve repeated itself fifty times, and it was a vocal sample, so whatever meta-context it held was lost after the first eight repetitions.

Now GZA… well, that’s a completely different story.


GZA rocked the show. He jumped from their new shit, back to his old shit, back to Wu shit. I mean, he got the crowd hyped so much, at times I felt like I was watching Geldof control the audience within the movie The Wall (without the fascism, of course). I know Wu is an iconic act, but these kids were younger than ten when Enter the Wu Tang – 36 Chambers dropped in ’93. I dug the vibe; I guess it just felt a bit surreal.

In between flexin’ his skills, GZA paused a few times to school the crowd on the meaning of Wu-Tang, the social importance of lyricism and the enormity of ODB (RIP)—his tribute acapella flow to ODB was amazing, as he stressed the realness of the man that so often got twisted in the glare of the media; his testimony brought the crowd to a respectful silence.

GZA brought it hard, but also brought a mature flow and presence to the stage, which was a perfect contrast to the young-buck style of Kaze (put on by 9th Wonder), the local kid that opened up for him. After rocking the mic with the flavor of a master lyricist—hitting topical, emotional and stylistic memes—Kaze brought his boys onstage with him, introducing them to the audience by telling us to picture them on his grandmother’s porch. They didn’t get on the mic, but backed him up with energy, shooting the crowd with their cell phone cameras, posing and basically, enjoying their fifteen minutes.


Kaze’s flow was tight, but he saved his best for a 2 minute acapella drop on the US occupation of Iraq, George Bush and the lessons of karma. The entire crowd went nuts for his words that cut like a knife through the bullshit propaganda of the times. Keep an eye out for this kid.

Grind To The Back


So what do you do when the grind of the city commute smacks you in the face? You find a comfy spot in the back of The Jazz Gallery and let Steve Coleman’s workshop grab ahold of your soul.

Coleman wasn’t on my radar before tonight, but leave it to Jonathan to introduce me to a hot act in the Jazz scene. This guy is dope. He’s currently playing a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1 then a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1-1-1 then a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1-1-1… 1-1 beat, getting his drummer up on cue to the progressive, deterioration of the riff. Man, this is a workshop. Sue Mingus runs a “workshop” with the B and C players of the Big Band and Orchestra, occationally practicing new compositions. I love you Sue, but that’s not a workshop. That’s income.

Steve just invited audience members to join him on stage and work out the riff. Now with two women on the mic and the drummer carrying the beat, he gets abstract off the beat — like a launch point of a ramp built in progressive takes.

Two boards added, a half peeled away, two and a half stiched on, pause for a second, add three and gone!…

Now an audience member is on the piano, riffing to the progressive beat, Coleman standing back, checking out the take… and the first woman on the mic scatting… add Coleman…

Coleman’s not only brilliant, he has the patience and explanatory skills of a seasoned teacher.

Alright, now he’s dropping the improv down an octive and slowing down the tempo, mixing up the original riff into more paused flashes of laddders. Live blogging a jazz show… if I could visually describe what I’m hearing, well, imagine it to be something like this.