Monday, August 28, 2006


Sunday, August 27, 2006

harper's sucks

why it always hafta harsh my mellow?

as eric said, i really shouldn't be allowed to read 90% of the stuff that i do, but somehow those sneaky little articles find their way into my hands and brain.
the most recent cause for distress is from the August 06 issue, entitled "Imagine There's No Oil: Scenes from a Liberal Apocalypse." it's about the Peak Oil movement, a group of people who believe oil production either has peaked or will within the next 5 years and that the world as we know it will completely disintegrate. the change will bring with it anarchy, fascism, extreme violence, not to mention of course no air conditioning, no cars, no factories producing things like wool, plastic, meat, soap, (maybe even no internet?). mankind, they hold, will survive (if at all) in agrarian villages. to prepare, the Peak Oilers are turning their savings into gold, learning agrarian skills like butchering and making real plans to move to self sustaining villages that they can live in while disaster rages around them.

oy oy oy. don't like hearing it? me either! damn you, harper's! as if we don't already have enough to worry about with the growing spectre of islamic fundamentalist terrorist lunacy! and global warming. and genocide and cancer!

yet for all the worrying it's obvious that i, and probably anyone reading this, are still in the midst of the party. the only real problem we have is the nagging sense that any day now it could all come crashing down. this is the purpose terrorism serves, at least in my life: letting me know that the foundations in the world i used to see as unshakable are tenuous at best, and decreasing my quality of life the slightest bit to put me more on par with the reality of suffering that's going on out there. is too much to ask to just be happy and calm and unworried and just...alive? the answer, of course, is yes, it is too much to ask. there's so much shit, so much shit out there. if we aren't in the midst of it, and we're somehow managing to hold on to our decadently indulgent lifestyles over here in the cradle of the west, dammit if we're not going to be stressed out.

i realize, though, that stress is useless unless it propels one to action. so maybe we should be looking into investing in gold or making plans for agrarian village living, or moving our families the hell out of america to new zealand or some place. if we're not going to do that, then we (and by we i mean i) should just shut the hell up and go to brunch.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

love for latyrx

sort of continuing on the 'what happened to hip hop' theme, but not completely, because i have to take a moment and pay tribute to the incredible The Album by Latyrx (Lateef and Lyrics Born), released in 1997. it's a bit scary that it's coming up on the 10 year anniversary of this album and the two guys haven't done anything else together. why, lord, why? my longwinded tirade below doesn't really come close to explaining it. i think i need to get these people on the phone and grill their asses.
anyhow, The Album is one of those hip hop masterpieces that keeps you enthralled from start to finish, with perfect song-to-song flow and just the right number of random interludes that add touches of humor and insight. rediscovering an ablum these days that you don't feel the need to frenetically skip over songs with on your iPod is rare and kind of amazing.
as to the songs themselves, they are gems that aren't immediately apparent -- the best kind. the hooks and beats and words seep into you and you just need to be listening to them all day long. love that! it's been a while...
i recall having heard once that marvin gaye and tammi terrell had the best matching voices of any musical duo ever. lateef and lyrics born are true contenders, not only in timbre, but also in rhythm and lyrics. they're musical poets that each innovates in his own way but together succeed in weaving an intelligent, ass shaking album that for my money, in the genre, hasn't been matched since. a must have hip hop classic.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's wrong with New York vol. 2

No! No! No! Jeeeesus.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

what happened to hip hop?

i may be slow, but i realized something was amiss when i recently attended a free lyrics born show at the santa monica pier. his material was exactly the same as it's been over the past three years, and there's something wrong when an incredibly innovative artist in one of the most innovative and politically charged musical genres has stopped innovating.

i did a little cursory internet research on what the hell has happened to hip hop and the popular opinion seems to be that monetary interests have won out over art and politics. that's undoubtedly part of the problem, but i think the answer is deeper and more complex, and here's what i think it is.

hip hop was and is a black art form. it was born both an organic expression of and response to the condition of being a minority in the US. but what i'll call true hip hop artists -- the ones who remember that the roots of the genre are political -- changed at a certain moment. they ceased to be centered around expression and became centered around mission, a mission of being the consciousness for a black community with unfulfilled potential and what they saw as confused priorities. look at the difference between De La Soul and artists like Mos Def and Lauryn Hill. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is basically a blatant, unshy effort at making black people think they have brains, through music. it's not bad -- it's a great album -- but in a way it's kind of laughable when compared with artists that preceded her, who simply let the music flow out of their own conditions, rather than dictating to others what their conditions ought to be. it's no big surprise that the album was so popular among white people, and less so among black people.

watching the progression of political hip hop is watching a black genre gradually being disowned by its original creators and embraced by everyone else. i went to hear The Roots at this forum where they were interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell, and the ratio of white to black people in the audience was about 30 to 1, and no shit, they were pissed off about who their audience is. the mass black audience for hip hop has moved to a completely different brand of hip hop from what those guys put out, and that brand is the pussy, bling, party whatever brand. it's shallow and economically motivated, but in a weird way it's more appealling, and maybe, in another weird way, it's a black musical form that rejects true accessibility by non-blacks.

like Lauryn Hill's dictations/observations, a lot of hip hop artists who have seen the way things have progressed for the genre have talked about what's wrong with it. many -- admittedly excellent -- hip hop albums talk about "being real," not wanting to be judged by money or whatever it may be. i quote the Black Eyed Peas' first and only stellar album, Behind The Front, "I see you try to dis our function by stating that we can't rap/Is it cuz we don't wear Tommy Hilfiger or baseball caps/We don't use dollars to represent." that statement is stale. stale stale stale. i don't fault politically motivated hip hop artists for pointing those things out, but they got hung up on it. they got hung up on looking from the outside in, rather than expressing from the inside out.

the moment when things started to change was when the vultures of commerce recognized the awesome pureness of hip hop and began circling, looking for a way to profit from and exploit brilliance. the problem was that politically charged hip hop began to be guided by reactions to the changes, rather than by continuing to be what it always was. of course, being a white person and critical of all that is messed up, not only because i'm technically an outsider, but also because those reactions have created albums that i adore. but hip hop wasn't created for me, and hip hop artists need to get back to their roots.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

radio piece

you might think that losing internet access would be a relief or at least an interesting break. but it's not, not at all. the dependence is solid and complete and there's really no reason to wean yourself off of it so all you can do is writhe in the agony of partial withdrawal.

regardless, i have a radio feature airing on WNYC AM 820 at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow night, Sunday, and in l.a. it'll be on on Monday at 2:30 p.m. on 89.9 FM KCRW. and at 2:30 p.m. on monday you can also listen on KCRW's live stream at AND if you don't catch any of those you can listen to KCRW's archives of The Business (the show i produced it for) a day or so after it airs. it's pretty exciting and a fun piece featuring my family. so it's colorful. and actually the L.A. show will be different from the other versions of The Business across the country because it's KCRW's pledge drive right now and we had to make a shorter version for the drive and a longer one for everyone else. if you listen in l.a., pledge! danke.