Entries Tagged 'Race' ↓

When DAM Breaks, the Sound of Palestinian Freedom Gets Unleashed.

Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, above, wield the power of hip-hop as a force against the Israeli occupation of their homeland—the world’s longest—and their minds as well.

Formed in 1998 by brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar, center and right (friend Mahmoud Jreri, left, was added later), they initially sought to make party records that would earn them cool points with peers and the ladies. Then it was still “just for fun,” says Tamer. They completed a six-track EP titled Stop Selling Drugs, the first time any Palestinian had ever recorded rap music.

What politicized them, however, was the Second Intifada of 2000…and the music of 2Pac. As Tamer poignantly told me, for my March 2008 piece in VIBE, “Straight Outta Palestine,”

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A Public Enemy Sure Shot.

screen1Photo by Christy Aumer/The Daily Iowan—Inset photo by Harry Allen

screen2You’re watching one of the highlights from a great day in Iowa City, and Fear of a Black Planet, Twenty Years Later, right, hosted by the University of Iowa last week.

As yours truly gestures, above left, event organizer Kembrew McLeod, Keith Shocklee, Hank Shocklee, and Chuck D eye a monitor from the table. It displays that black & white, composite photo, by me, of momentary levity from our WBAU days in the early ’80s. In that image are, l-to-r, Chuck, Keith, radio show host Bill Stephney, Andre “Dr. Dré” Brown, Flavor Flav, Tyrone “T-Money” Kelsie, and his unidentified friend. Good times, friends, front and back.

Black is Definitely Back: Chuck D, Hank & Keith Shocklee, and I Invade the Heartland, Armed with Historic Photos and Fear of a Black Planet.


250px-jamestkirkThis is amazing: I’m back in Iowa; the Breadbasket of the Nation; the state that Ashton Kutcher, Ann Landers, Slipknot, T-Boz, gymnast Shawn Johnson, and Elijah Wood all call home, and that, in 223 years, will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, right.

Why am I here? Well, tomorrow, April 1st, marks one year to the day since I last visited the University of Iowa, to screen photographs that I took during my early life with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee, and others who formed our pre-Public Enemy crew.

I do this as part of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country, titled Shooting the Enemy: My Life in Pictures with the People Who Became Public Enemy. (For example, last week I spoke at the University of Wisconsin: Madison, and had an excellent time.)

Well, this time, the University of Iowa has upped the doggone ante: For three months, now through June 27th, prints from my archives—ranging in size from 11 in. x 14 in. to 30 in. x 40 in.— will be shown by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA).

It’s part of UIMA’s exhibition, Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hip-Hop Contexts featuring Harry Allen’s “Part of the Permanent Record: Photos from the Previous Century,” curated by UI professors Kembrew McLeod (Copyright Criminals) and Debroah Whaley, and on display at the Iowa Memorial Union’s Black Box Theater. (Here’s an interview with me about the images, my thoughts on hip-hop, and more.) That morning, I’ll even be talking with a photography class about the work!

800px-herky_and_tigerhawkThis, in and of itself, is incredible to me, and would have been more than reason enough to return to the original home of the indigenous Ioway people, and now the Hawkeyes, right. This is the first showing of my work since the 2007 Eyejammie show that got the ball rolling.

But McLeod didn’t create that über-cool graphic, above, just for me. Here’s the really ill part; the detail that throws this all up to the level of major sickness:

today2At 7:00 p.m. in Iowa City’s historic, 98-year-old, recently restored Englert Civic Theatre,
right, I’ll be lecturing and showing some of those those images, again, but with a twist: I’ll be doing it as part of a live panel, featuring Chuck, Hank, and Keith Shocklee, that then leads into a discussion on the making of P.E.’s 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet.
Released on April 10 that year, this new month marks the work’s 20th anniversary.

publicNot only have I never done a, no pun intended, public event on Fear, right, not to mention one with its original creators, but I’ve never presented my photos—of them—with them in the audience! I may break down in tears from the emotion of it all, y’all. Then, to top it off, there will be a rare, live performance by the Bomb Squad…which definitely takes me back to the era of my original pictures of Hank, below, Keith, and Chuck.

Though I know some of you won’t be in Iowa today, check this out: the four of us will be appearing on KRUI, the university’s excellent, student-run radio station, at 1:30 pm ET/12:30 pm CT, and the conversation will be streamed live, so definitely hit that.

hankwtmk0000And, don’t forget: If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome seeing Shooting the Enemy, right, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at HAllen@HarryAllen.info, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.

The Official Iowa Caucus: The State That Elected Obama Casts Their Vote For Public Enemy, Chuck D, the Bomb Squad, and the Media Assassin in a Black Planet Summit.


Stay tuned! More details tomorrow!

Shooting the Enemy: My Life in Pictures with the People Who Became Public Enemy.


That’s the title of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country. In it, I show some of the photographs I made in the early 1980s, before I started writing. These images—of Chuck D, Flavor-Flav, Bomb Squad leader Hank, above, and Keith Shocklee, as well as others—were created several years before Public Enemy existed, and long before their place in music history was assured. So, they’re a real insight into an important part of music history in its raw, unformed state.

(In the image, above, Shocklee briefly looks up from twiddling knobs at a fraternity party at Hofstra U. in Long Island. It was the kind of event Spectrum City mobile d.j.s, Hank & Chuck’s crew, hosted fairly often during their so-called “salad days.”)

When giving the talk, I speak about getting involved in photography; meeting Chuck D and the rest at Adelphi U.; and growing in hip-hop with them—my education at the feet of, arguably, some of the culture’s most potent masters.

Audiences who’ve seen the images—whether at my original Eyejammie Fine Arts exhibition in 2007, or at these lecture events—recount the innocence and freshness of the images, their humor, and how black & white pictures, which we see less and less these days, project a sharp, visceral quality.

I’ll be speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tomorrow, March 23rd, as a guest of the Department of Afro-American Studies, led by chair Dr. Craig Werner (Higher Ground; A Change Is Gonna Come).

Then, next week, I’ll be returning to the University of Iowa for the knockout: A museum show featuring twenty-six of my photographic prints, then Shooting the Enemy with Chuck, Hank, and Keith, directly followed by a panel with them on the making of P.E.’s Fear of a Black Planet, celebrating its 20th anniversary April 10th. (More on this in a week!)

If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome this cultural-history-discussion-with-pictures, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at HAllen@HarryAllen.info, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.

Hip-Hop’s Caucasian Invasion.


So-called “ghetto parties,” like the one depicted above, were only one of the topics Racialicious‘ Carmen Van Kerckhove, writer Jason Tanz (Other People’s Property), and I addressed when we met a few years ago to discuss “White People and Hip-Hop.” (Since you’re wondering, my favorite detail is the “TUPAC LIVES” tattoo on the bicep of the red-scarfed brunette, middle row.) Arguably, the types of interactions white people have with the culture are far more varied.

More, the question became, how should we see these contacts when people have them? What do they mean for the culture of hip-hop? How do they affect, or describe, the larger issue of race?

I didn’t necessarily expect it would be, but the piece, for me, turned out to be a major moment, and touchstone, in my work attempting to clarify these critical subjects. (It was podcasted on Addicted To Race, Racialicious‘ internet series, in 2007.)

Of course, I’ve also addressed these issues, here, on MEDIA ASSASSIN, and in other places; for example, my “Fight the White Rap History Rewrite” post on rapper Asher Roth, or “The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What The Eminence of Eminem Says About Race,” which I wrote for The Source.

However, after doing so once, before, a couple of years ago, I’ve decided to re-air this talk with Carmen Van Kerckhove and Jason Tanz. They’re guests, today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 12, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear their ideas, and my own, by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

“Thanks For Nothing, Mo’Nique….”
Sincerely, Your Co-Stars.


I don’t have a dog in this fight over Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson not doing promo, leading up to the Oscars, above. (Those were “the politics” of which she spoke during her acceptance speech.) I was only faintly aware of the controversy as it was happening, and I’m guessing that most people think Oscar marketing is far and away over the top.

I thought her performance as hyper-abuser Mary Jones in Precious was incendiary; frame-splitting. Clearly, she deserved the award, and as many excellent roles as she can now get, which, given race, will probably be few. (Hers is the fifth acting award given to a Black female in 82 years.)

I thought the Hattie McDaniels mention was a fine touch, though a little anachronistic. I mean, as much as I hated Halle taking it doggystyle from Billy Bob in order to get her statuette, Berry’s mention of contemporary female artists who’d been denied awards seemed, to me, a much more pungent tribute.

Precious Cocktail ReceptionNo, the only problem I have with Mo’Nique’s testimony at last night’s awards—and I’ve not seen anyone address this—is why didn’t she thank director Lee Daniels or lead Gabourey Sidibe, right, by name?

Mariah Carey powerfully sets up Mo’Nique’s whole last scene. Not a single syllable in her direction, though?

Yeah, I know: She said, “my Precious family”? C’mon: Does that really cut it?

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Still Greedy, Still No Good: In New Teaser for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gordon Gekko Shows He’s Still Got A Lot of Lizard In Him.


wall_street_money_never_sleeps_ver2What absolutely thrills me about the teaser for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, right, Oliver Stone’s follow-up to his 1987 classic, Wall Street, are two hilarious sight gags that take place near the 1:00 mark. Both have to do with the release of corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from prison. (Lovers of the first film, below right, know that it ended with Gekko’s protegé, Bud Fox [Charlie Sheen], turning over information to the Feds that would put Gekko away for a long time.)

Of course, the short’s best visual effect—Douglas’ nearly quarter-century older face—isn’t one, and in a powerful close-up, above, Stone and the actor put it to tremendous use, to convey both the unrecoupable passage of years, Gekko’s great humiliation, and his desire for infinitely lucrative revenge.

wall_street_filmOne of the most fascinating aspects of revisiting definitive works is learning, as one inevitably does, how fungible they were when created. Few, now, could imagine anyone but Michael Douglas as the oily and sinister Gekko, and, ultimately, Douglas was given an Academy Award for his portrayal.

But as noted in Wikipedia, referencing James Riordan’s Stone: A Biography of Oliver Stone and other sources,

the studio wanted Warren Beatty to play Gekko but he was not interested. Stone initially wanted Richard Gere but the actor passed, so the director went with Douglas despite having been advised by others in Hollywood not to cast him. Stone remembers, “I was warned by everyone in Hollywood that Michael couldn’t act, that he was a producer more than an actor and would spend all his time in his trailer on the phone”. But the director found out that “when he’s acting he gives it his all”. The director says that he saw “that villain quality” in the actor and always thought he was a smart businessman.

In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Shia LeBoeuf co-stars as Jacob “Jake” Moore, a Wall St. trader on the come-up, engaged to Gekko’s daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). From the looks of things, this apparently gives Gekko more than usual parental concerns. Check out the teaser, then the trailer, below.

Also, as a special bonus, watch the original trailer for the first film, also below. When you do, keep an eye out for the very first, brief image after the logo and, realize, yes, that was a different world.

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Congratulations, Sears, on Winning the “All-Time Most Completely Unnecessary Use of Breakdancing in a Television Commercial” Award.

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Vanity Fair: White Power Pictures.


The world gets smaller and smaller, and Vanity Fair‘s gets even tinier, still: Their new, March 2010 Hollywood cover, above, shot by Annie Leibovitz, features a bevy of SPF50-dependent, semi-translucent beauties.

They are, l-r, Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick.

While this isn’t unexpected—I’ve written, here, on Media Assassin, before, about VF‘s glaringly white Tinseltown special issues—it is, again, a tad doddering, and way out-of-touch.

cover-girls-bts-1003-we06It’s almost, like, given the kind of talent available and doing amazing work today, if you do a magazine cover of nine young women in film, right, and they’re all white, it’s just because you want it white. You’re making, intentionally or not, a racial power statement.

I wonder: While discussing Haiti over lunch, did any of these actors say, “Wow: This sure is one Caucazoid photo shoot”? Better yet, did anyone refuse to be part of something which so genteely hangs out the NO COLOREDS sign?

I don’t know if these women have thought about this, but, just like global warming, every bit of race adds up, and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. At least, consider that the next time you’re cast in a project—like this one—that sends relations back sixty years.