Saturday, May 12, 2007

Remember when you could go and see a nice hip hop its all about the video...
Fairness is fairness this is a clip from November 2006. I hope Kelis has a child-support component in the pre-nup. What I don't understand is why project mentality about your child when you can actually support the child and keep on stepping....
The sign from the Cyclone - a wooden roller coaster in Brooklyn NYC.
As it stands there are so few things that are uniquely geographic specific. Growing up in Philadelphia I watched as many developed a NYC complex. Because Philly is a big city in it own right (pop of 2 mil) it is hard to sell as different from the city 90 miles away. Once I moved to Brooklyn I thought I wouldn't have to deal with that, but of course that is not the case. For whatever reason retailers want in and they want move out what makes the City gritty - makes the city Gotham. Coney Island seems to have been one of those distinctly NYC things that have endured...that is until this spring. A developer purchased the famous Astroland and is looking to build beachfront condos and a 'new' amusement scene that riviles Las Vegas (his words not mine). Of course my thought is who would choose to go to a knock-off of Vegas in Brooklyn as versus going to Vegas --- or Atlantic City. I don't think there is an individual in the US who whould rather go to see the Statue of Liberty replica in Vegas as versus a trip to NYC to see her firsthand. While it maybe an accurate replica it is not the same thing, and as someone who saw the 'twin' statue of liberty while in Paris it is a beyond disappointing experience. The 'charm' of Astroland was that it was a throwback with nods to the modern. Teenagers could be found on dates hanging around the putt putt course while new york rap blasted from the bumper car arena. Muslim girls could be spotted on the beach with headdress intact, while latino's fished from the nearby piers. Unfortunately those who will by the condos, will be doing so with the old notion of Coney Island and will probably find the new experience disappointing....
I found this while looking for something else in Venice 2007. It turns out I stumbled on the entrance way to the Guggenheim Museum. Ironically it was probably one of the most dramatic public art pieces in Venice.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hip Hop Is Alive - However Gangsta Rap Is Not Doing So Well

I have always had an affinity for gangsta rap. From my first bootleg of NWA's Straight Outta Compton to my current bad boy crush on the Game, I have always appreciated the 'direct' approach of gangsta rap. The imagery is sharp, vivid and concise while the melodies are primal, contemptuous and melodic in their bass undertones. However someone should tell the popular media that gangsta rap is 'dead' and while its existence makes for an excellent 'example' to those who do not heed popular society's warnings its presence within mainstream hip hop has diminished.

Coming from an oral tradition and culture, hip hop is always about the fluidity of transition and as such gangsta rap has morphed and moved on over the last decade plus. Its verbal vestiges can be found in cocaine rap, while its musical imprint can be found in the hyphy and screwed scenes.

But for whatever reason, popular media hasn't realized the big bad wolf - gangsta rap - is no longer around....
Jay Z is found of quipping you can't knock the hustle, but it seems that society is trying to do just that to Hip Hop. It seems that everything wrong in the world is hip hop's fault. Low clearance rates in predominately African-American neighborhoods (60 minutes), the existence of misogyny (Oprah), and the denigration of African-Americans with usage of the n word - all hip hop's fault. I would like to believe that the folly and bluster of hip hop has made it public enemy number one, but I'm not that naive.

Hip hop is powerful in many ways, but not that powerful to be the route of these various issues. These issues existed before hip hop and unfortunately will exist after hip hop. However hip hop is well suited to change the discourse of these issues, as well as other issues, and I believe this is why hip hop is hated on.

Because hip hop has often spoken to issues before the general public bellwether has sounded it has exponentially grown in 'power' over its relatively short life span. Hip hop has always operated on the belief that the internal defines the external not the other way around. I as the hip hopper can give a damn about what the general public thinks of my style of dress, how I speak or how I act - because I like the way I dress, I understand what I mean and I am resolute in my actions. This ethos has served hip hop well for the last few decades, but unfortunately it is time for hip hop to realize it does have a valid voice and that validity only comes in connection with the external it so often rebukes.

Because the external society knows hip hop's position of not defending its action to those outside of the culture it has become the sport of the day to blame hip hop for any and everything. Only once hip hop becomes focused and vocal on how it defines itself can it actually speak to the inconsistencies drawn by the greater society. Hip Hop needs to develop this voice because without it, the benefits of characterization as a culture is at risk of being diluted internally and externally.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

In New York City there are bootleg sneaks, bags, polo shirts, watches, jeans, .... how come there aren't any knockoff new era caps.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mr. Cooper:

Shame on you and your producers, Mr. Court and Mr. Sharman, for the shoddy piece of journalism aired on Sunday, April 22, 2007. After viewing your 13 minute segment titled Stop Snitchin’, I am unsure of the intended message. Mr. Cooper should I believe that hip-hop has created this ‘organic’ campaign to champion the existence of a violent underclass within the low-income communities of predominantly African-American minorities? Or perhaps, I should have left away from your segment thinking that if only hip-hop artist started rapping the virtues of cooperation with local police forces then crime as we know it in low-income communities would end or at the very least lift the clearance rate to the paltry 60 percent national average quoted in your piece. Maybe your piece was tempting to convey how record companies’ are in collusion to profit from violence in low-income communities.

I feel Mr. Cooper your segment was one of comparing oranges to tangerines – there is a common culprit between the silence of a community in investigative efforts and artists championing of this silence but that culprit isn’t hip-hop. Hip-hop artists have preached for years, the ethos of ‘snitches get stitches’ or commonly characterized as a “Stop Snitchin’” campaign. Because hip-hop is a culture, it has a well understood code of ethics among its members which is based in part on its interaction with other cultures. The no talking to the police policy for hip-hop artist is bore out of the reality that the police culture does not have the hip-hop culture’s best interest at heart – in essence the police are not concerned with protecting the community. In New York City, the police department has a task force (aka the hip-hop police) that treats hip-hop artists as if they are members of an organized criminal entity with constant surveillance of artists. Given the level of suspicion given to hip-hop artist, both local and out of state artists, by police even when they are well established artists operating legal business within the city limits it is not odd that Cameron Giles (aka Cam’ron aka Killa Cam), Jacyeon Taylor (aka The Game aka Chuck Taylor), or Trevor Smith (aka Busta Rhymes aka Bus-A-Bus) would hold firm to the concept of not talking to police – no matter what.

Within the low-income communities which must deal with not only suffering at the hands of criminals but also must bare the burden of living within the same community with criminals, the credo of “Stop Snitchin” speaks volumes again to the police department’s ineffectiveness to identify the real threat and to control crime. What would have been nicer than having someone mention 75 percent into the piece about clearance rates in general would have been someone speaking to clearance rates within the African-American low-income community when eyewitnesses step forward and testify in cases or clearance rates within other ethnic specific communities’ (ie Asian-American) with the similar belief in not talking to the police when dealing with select aspects of violent crime. I suspect if you must snitch on your neighbor’s son about a crime and then have to go and live next door to the perpetrator until the trial, odds are you are less inclined to get involved in the first place and are more inclined to work harder to move – similar to Mr. Giles (aka Cam’ron) comment about living next door to a mass murder. Of course this does not bode well for the children of the community, which you attempted to show how they are indoctrinated by way of hip-hop, at an early age too not talk to the police regarding crimes. Again what would have been more revealing then having children parrot what the previous ten minutes of the piece established would have been delving into how they understand their relationship to police and more importantly community policing. Given that all of these children are from NYC you had a recent example of policing not working in the community that they are aware of (the Sean Bell shooting incident) and countless other similar incidents that have happened within their community that would have revealed how these police images work within the framework of ‘Officer Friendly’ community policing for them. I am betting dialog would have revealed parents, community policing or community organizations do not have a plausible narrative for this, but hip-hop does have one. You can’t fault hip-hop for having a narrative that fits, however that means your story should have been barking up a different tree other then hip-hop’s or your story should have focused on how that narrative is drawn within hip-hop.

Mr. Cooper I expect better journalism from you, and more importantly from the brand that is 60 Minutes, and this was simply a shoddily researched effort by you and your producers and mirrored MTV News more then the venerable source that is the home of Mike Wallace and some of the best investigative journalists. Mr. Cooper in the future, try actually asking questions that will lead you closer to the core of an issue instead of taking the target du jour (hip-hop) and trying to build around it. This approach has not served you, and left you committing some bad journalism. For instance you mention Kimberly Jones (aka Lil Kim) and her perjury conviction, but you didn’t mention that fellow rappers from her entourage actually ‘snitched’ on her leading to the trial and her successful conviction. Of course that wouldn’t have worked well with the overall theme of hip-hop artist promoting a hardline ‘stop snitchin’ campaign, also I was confused why Ms. Jones was mentioned at all since she was convicted on perjury which isn’t a violent crime like the ones insinuated throughout your story. Also you alluded to the murders of Tupac Shakur (aka Tupac) and Christopher Wallace (Biggie Smalls aka Notorious B.I.G.) as examples of ‘stop snitchin’ at work despite the cooperation of many within the hip-hop community with various police forces in charge of investigating the murders and those same police forces ineptness with the investigation. While I haven’t gone to a tony school like Dalton or Yale, I know enough about journalism to know your case examples should be valid and your research thoroughly vetted.

Mr. Anderson at the very least you should apologize to the African-American community for using them for such an exploitative story as the one you produced. Your story committed the same fallacy that many local police departments do, the African-American low-income community is judged guilty first and all investigations start at this point for them. This leaves African-Americans working twice as hard to prove the base level of innocence that most Americans can assumed during an investigation. Your story assumed that hip-hop with its bluster has to be guilty for the lack of cooperation between police and the community, despite your story having poor case examples for this you produced a story just the same. No meaningful dialog can come out of a poorly built piece of journalism such as the Stop Snitchin piece, and as an African-American and as someone planted firmly within hip-hop culture, I am deeply offended by this ‘brand’ of journalism you tried pass off on April 22, 2007.

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