Entries Tagged 'Music' ↓

Fear Of An Un-Toured Planet: Chuck D and Questlove Join GrindXDesign!

“83 tours, 82 nations.”

That’s Chuck D of Public Enemy, right, giving a terse description of his career as a global artist.

In other words, he has steadfastly carried the flag “in the name of hip-hop,” as he often notes, to many places, just to firmly, lovingly plant it. That’s the best reason for having him co-lead the Wednesday, September 19th GrindXDesign.com tutorial on working as an international artist.

(When I asked Chuck to speak and take questions on this issue, he said “Yes,” immediately. Immediately. He doesn’t say yes, immediately, to anything, certainly not to me. So, in part, that’s when I knew I was on to something.)

That he’s been so many places, though, is not my only reason to host him. The other one is that he often took me with him, and he didn’t have to do it. Ghana. Australia. Hawai’i. France. Brazil. The aforementioned Germany, and many more places. (That, above, is a picture I took of Chuck, one morning, in Egypt, in front of the pyramids.) These, and others, were all sites I never thought I’d see, but did, doing so on behalf of the culture, and P.E., courtesy of Mr. Chuck. Thank you, sir.

Getting someone else to help Chuck carry the ball for GrindXDesign wasn’t a struggle, though. (I say his, despite the fact that far too many U.S. hip-hop artists give side-eye to touring overseas. It’s the food, they often say.) That’s because I reached out to the inimitable Questlove, of the Roots, and bandleader at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, right. (Before doing the TV show, his crew’s 200-shows-a-year churn was legendary, which is much of how they got so astounding as a live act.) In fact, when I DM’d him, Quest was, actually, on tour in Europe. Getting him booked required nimble mediation from his manager, Rich Nichols, to get it done, but it was.

Get on the horn and hear what these two giants have to say about this often overlooked aspect of being a modern musical artist. Purchase your ticket to the entire GrindXDesign series of 8 live, one-hour “modules,” presented one-per-week for eight weeks, by phone.

Tickets are $77 until midnight, tonight; $97 after that. (Save 20 bucks, spend it on more hip-hop.) Everything starts this Wednesday, August 15th, with Rap Coalition’s Wendy Day and Booth Sweet LLP’s Dan Booth. Subject: “How To Get A Record Deal.”

#gXd: Fear Of A Black Planet?

Americans travel less than almost any other people on Earth.

Most of the hip-hop ever made was created in America, its birthplace.

What are the implications of these two facts for touring, and the benefits artists can derive from going abroad?

#gXd: Is Hip-Hop Getting Better, Or Worse? Or Is It The Same? Or Is It Simply A Matter Of What You Like?

The majority of all human output is of average quality, or trash. A small amount of it is excellent. What we remember most, though, is what excited us, and moved us.

So, like René suggests, was hip-hop in the past—the Pre-Wax Era, the Pioneer Era, the Golden Era, the Gangsta Era, the Baller Era—better? Or is it that you just really remember the parts you liked? Or is it that you just don’t like what you’re hearing because you liked what you heard? Or do you like what’s coming out nowadays more?

What are your thoughts?

#gXd: Hip-Hop Allows Artists To Express Diversity And Uniqueness. But How Did These Become Values In, And Qualities Of, The Culture?

One of the hardest aspects to understand about any phenomenon is why it is the way it is.

Take, for example, the United States. It’s commonly held that this is a country which values individualism. As opposed to celebrating the person who dutifully does what his family or community says and wants, as some cultures do, we hail the white guy—it’s typically a white guy, right—who “bucks the trend,” “goes against the grain,” takes the path less chosen,” “innovates.”

The Iconoclast. The Rebel. In some societies, these are figures of outrage. But, here, they are seen as absolutely, quintessentially American.

But why?

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#gXd: How Big A Role Do “Connections” Play In Hip-Hop Success? Is It More “What You Know,” Or “Who You Know”? Why?

What do you think of Erick’s statement?

#gXd 1

Two Years Ago…

…I stopped blogging.

At that point, I’d been running the Media Assassin site for 2½ years. I was publishing new content every single day, five days a week. I had an interested, growing readership. I was being noted in the mainstream press. I broke a story. I even got into a fight with Kirstie Alley.

But, two years ago, after 828 posts, I just felt I’d run out of things to say. So I stopped blogging.

I knew it would not be forever. I knew I’d be back when I had a different, more compelling way to express myself: Something interrogative, more varied, deeper.

As well, I knew I wanted to confront the state of hip-hop culture, above. I didn’t want to just talk about it. I wanted to mount actual projects, and use the blog as a central location for drawing visibility and help to those efforts.

We’re at a real inflection point. Hip-hop is bigger than ever, right. There’s more opportunity than ever. There are more ways than ever for artists to truly get their grind on: To reach audiences and to profit from what they make. This, even as the music business changes radically.

One thing that will never change, however, is that knowledge equals power. It’s one thing to work hard. That’s grinding. It’s another thing to work smart. That’s design. The most successful people effectively blend the two.

That’s why, for the first time, I’ve decided to not only share what I know, but who I know.

If the state of hip-hop music, the record business, or where they’re going mean anything to you, keep reading this blog. Follow me on Twitter (@harryallen). Friend me on Facebook.

Keep your eyes open for the hashtag #gXd.

I’m going to be launching a project that is really important to me. It’s going to be a game-changer. I’ll be inviting you to join me.

Artwork: “Wack Rappers,” silk screen and watercolor on archival paper, by Patrick Martinez, 2007

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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Enraptured in the Harmonies of Winters’ Bittersweet Song.


Cellist Stephanie Winters describes the sound of her 2004 debut album, Through the Storm, rereleased in an expanded version last year, as “beautiful sadness.”

In Portuguese the word is saudade—a sadness that makes one want to live again. In a spiritual sense this recording is my “blues”. I do not use that word to describe a musical style, but to suggest the transcendent honesty which musical expression enables.

seatedbywindow-lowIndeed, Winters, right, through often bottomless multitracking, saturates the newly added “Mercy Street,” made famous by Peter Gabriel; her vision of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”; or Thomas Dorsey’s renowned gospel standard, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” with a somber cry. The whole work breathes deep mood, yet not melancholy. In a way, it feels like a film, a wordless one, perhaps, telling a story of love found, made, lost, and unforgotten.

Winters has performed and recorded with Richie Havens, Enya, Corrine Bailey Rae, Anne Murray, Paula Cole, and the O’Jays, among many others.

Stephanie Winters is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 23, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear her ideas and music by tuning in at 2 pm ET. 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.

Malcolm McLaren, 1946-2010


The New York Times reports the death of svengali, impressario, and iconoclast Malcolm McLaren, above, today, at the age of 64.

His companion of many years, Young Kim, confirmed that Mr. McLaren died on Thursday, and said that he died of mesothelioma at a hospital in Switzerland.

never_mind_the_bollocksMcLaren is best known, and will be most remembered, for assembling and managing the sneering punk prototypes, the Sex Pistols. Fearsome and outrageous, especially in an era that had just come through yacht rock and disco, the quartet’s sole, 1977 studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, right, remains one of the most influential rock albums ever. (This fact later led McLaren, with typical, consumate bombast, to declare himself “the inventor of punk.”)

I didn’t know about any of that, however, until much, much later. I didn’t know who McLaren even was until one afternoon in 1982, when driving down Commercial Ave. in Freeport, listening to my ’75 Impala’s radio, I heard the opening wails of his agglomeration with New York’s World’s Famous Supreme Team, “Buffalo Gals.”

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