Entries Tagged 'Culture' ↓

#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?

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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.

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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.

Wish You Were Here.

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The disappearing landscape is an issue in all communities, and the question of how to preserve the visual character of towns, cities and rural areas is always pressing.

This is even the case in Havana, Cuba’s capital and largest city, where political and economic isolation have compelled Cubans to retain the use of structures longer than many urban centers might.

Yet Havana is, indeed, changing. It’s a turn that Cathryn Griffith, in her new book, Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage, covers through an unusual technique of matching early 20th century postacards, bought primarily through the internet, to modern-day views, like these of Cuba’s famed Centro Gallago, above. Through this unusual technique, Griffith not only documents the historical form of the island’s architectural heritage, but creates a template for how communities may, perhaps, preserve that tradition in any place.

Cathryn Griffith is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 16, at 2 pm ET.

screen31But first we’ll speak with Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker. Pennoyer is the principal partner of Peter Pennoyer Architects and chairman of the Institute for Classical Architecture and Classical America. Walker holds a degree in historic preservation from Columbia University, and has co-authored three books with Pennoyer. Their newest, The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury, tells the story the late 19th / early 20th century architect whose classical forms, resistant to modernist trends developing in Europe and other places, led to some of the most beautiful structures of his era. Many are well-preserved, even now, and commissions like these stone barns for the Rockefeller family, right, or his design of New York City’s Forest Hills Gardens, continue to delight and inspire.

You can hear Peter Pennoyer’s, Anne Walker’s, and Cathryn Griffith’s ideas 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.

“Funny, when my dad talks to me from the Great Beyond in a Nike ad, he says ‘Mostly, we watch people make whoopie.’”

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That’s author Colson Whitehead (John Henry Days) in the hed, on Twitter, taking a little spit out of Tiger Woods’s new Nike ad, above.

In the spot, the disembodied voice of Woods’ late father and golf mentor, Earl, who died of a heart attack in 2006, is heard urging the athlete to deeper self-examination and introspection:

“Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?”

And that’s it. That, and a very controlled, low-key camera dolly-in to Woods’ expressive, soulful eyes.

The spot, which ran before and after Tiger teed off during the Masters Tournament, is the first Nike piece with Tiger to air, post the golfer’s massive Bimbo-gate sex scandal. (During the controversy, over a dozen women surfaced, claiming they’d slept with the married superstar.)

don_kirshner_2_120This commercial moves me to ask the question my sister and I always did after watching each lame Kansas video on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, right, late Saturday nights when we were kids: What does it mean?

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