Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Idolator live-blogs the Congressional hip hop hearing

Check this out.

Wow. It's good to know Big Brother doesn't want us listening to the whisper song. I guess that's one thing we can agree on. ha.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nas told me hip hop was dead, so...

...here's a bunch of other songs i like. Some good live stuff from the Youtube abyss. And remember, i'm a hip hop head, so i don't want any scenesters criticizing me because Muse isn't cool anymore or anything like that. Enjoy.

1. Saul Williams and Nine Inch Nails: List of Demands LIVE

Best-dressed man ever. And he sounds perfect with NIN-- i'd actually pay money to see that concert.

2. Regina Spektor: Apres Moi LIVE

This was my favorite song on her big breakthrough album. There's better footage out there, but i like this performance better because it includes the rest of the band-- when they come in toward the end it's just chilling.

3. Gogol Bordello: Start Wearing Purple LIVE

Tell me this ain't the greatest song ever. I dare you. I like the recorded version better, but you can find a youtube of the video out there. Figured i'd post this live clip.

4. Muse: Time is Running Out LIVE

Yeah, an old song, but i got to thinking about Muse again after hearing another of their songs on the trailer to that vampires in alaska movie. They might be a Radiohead ripoff and they might not be the most technically amazing band ever, but they sure can write hooks and build suspense.

5. The Easy All Stars: Let Down (Radiohead cover) LIVE

Again, the album version is better-- it features Toots and the Maytals, but this is cool too. If you haven't heard this album (it's all of OK Computer covered in dub and reggae style), check it out. Radiodread.

6. Yoko Kanno and Seatbelts: Tank! LIVE

Yoko Kanno is my hero. She's just amazing. This is, of course, the theme song to Cowboy Bebop. I really don't know what i'd make of this song without that prior knowledge.

7. Wilco: California Stars LIVE

I'll stop here with a decidedly less hype song. This is from the Wilco/Billy Bragg album of songs written by (or at least the lyrics anyway) Woodie Guthrie. This is the most relentlessly heartbreaking song ever. I didn't like the live version at first, but when he gets to that third verse and plays with the melody it really hits.

I could keep going-- maybe this will be a regular thing: "Some Rapper's Favorite Non-Rap Songs" or something. I wanted to find good live footage of Pedro the Lion's "The Poison," but couldn't. Maybe next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena 6 backlash, some good links

Of course a backlash is bound to happen. And i don't mean so much individual actions (though those will happen too), but a broader sense of white resentment. And not just white people in that area, but white people all over the country. It's a cycle of rationalization and illogical, short-sighted notions of fairness and equality, a cycle that comes into play every time something like this gets attention in the news.

It's like they...we (i never know which pronoun to use for articles like this-- that's a post unto itself) see Jesse Jackson on TV and just shut down, no matter what the issue is. We want to talk about legal minutiae (but how many times was the kid punched? how heavy were his shoes? how much time elapsed between the noose incident and the fight? blah blah blah?) rather than look at the big picture (legal lynching, cruel and unjust punishment that doesn't fit the crime, etc.). We resent being painted as racist to the point of complete intellectual, ethical and logical collapse.

We just want so badly to believe that America is a fundamentally fair place, that we all have an equal shot at success, that we are indeed the masters of our own destinies same as everyone else. Because if we start to question all of this, if we dig deeper into the myths that have been implanted into us since preschool, it gets scary.

And it's not just conservatives, of course. It's liberals and progressives and even radicals as well. Even if we're speaking out about the Jena 6 or going to rallies or whatever, are we making the connections? Are we seeing this as one outrageous incident that deserves our attention, or as the completely predictable result of a society that systematically grants privileges to one group while oppressing others? Are we exploring our OWN racism? It's easy to take a courageous stand against the out-in-the-open, obvious racism going on in this case. But are we willing to look inside ourselves, to do the self-work necessary to become principled, effective anti-racists?

Particularly ridiculous cases like this one become media firestorms, which is great on one hand but also somewhat dangerous. Any cause celebre (Mumia, anyone?) is. While we need to get all the media attention we can, we have to be extremely careful to be constantly invoking the bigger picture, making the connections, building the foundation of support necessary to move against these larger forces. If we don't, the case will end (in either victory or defeat) and the thousands of other cases just like it all over the country will continue to be ignored.

Because we DO need to win these small battles-- people's lives depend on it. But we can't forget that Black boys and men all over the country are being locked up and killed over bullshit every day, that cases like the Jena 6 aren't anomalies, they're just the tip of the iceberg.

So how do we fight against or organize around these larger demons-- the prison-industrial complex, institutional racism, the white-lens media, capitalism, etc.? I don't think there's any easy answer for that. It's a combination of self-work (reading, educating yoruself, reflecting, etc.), interpersonal activism (having conversations with friends and family, writing articles and letters-to-the-editor, etc.), and larger-scale collective organizing. I think one without the other two is a dead-end.

I know this post evolved from "racist rationalization" to "how to save the world," but i guess it's just one of those days. Been feeling antsy up here, just working on music and poetry and writing. I think i'll spend the day researching organizations around here who are doing good work. There must be a few.

A few good links loosely related to the above:

"Carving Jena in Anti-Racist History"

"Have a Glimmer of Understanding, or Go Home"

The True Front of Progressivism

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6 National Day of Action

Obligatory-yet-still-important Jena 6 post. I assume that if you're reading THIS blog, you probably already know the deal. If not, here are some good starting links:

The Story

Action Links

I won't rehash what's been written elsewhere-- check out the above links, as well as a wealth of other information online. It's interesting to see the kind of impact bloggers seem to be having on this one; if ever there were a cause that "media activism" could really affect, this is it. Also, check out the relevant facebook groups in your area.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Professor Guante: Intro to Spoken-Word

A friend of mine asked me to do a presentation on spoken-word for her class at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School in Chicago. Since i'm in Minneapolis, we're using the miracle of Youtube. Here it is, along with some additional clips. I feel like i'm forgetting a lot, but i think this will do at least as a start. And yeah, i know i say "beautiful thing" a lot during this presentation.. I'm just so full of love. Ha. Anyways, i hope this works.

Part ONE:

Part TWO:


Part FOUR:

Get at me on MySpace at www.myspace.com/elguante. Also have a few more videos up at www.youtube.com/tripguante.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hip Hop: A Panel Discussion

UPDATE: an updated version of this, and much more, appears in my new book.

(Any similarities to real people, other than me, are coincidental)

~hip hop journalist/blogger Colin Pennyworth
~gangsta rapper Young Lil’
~hip hop scholar Professor Alastair Xavier Cheffordshire III
~hip hop activist Jamie “Jaymix” Wester
~midwest nobody Guante
~and our moderator, local news personality Sarah Mulligan

(The scene: a full auditorium at the local university’s student union. Our panelists are on a stage behind a table. The moderator stands at a podium to the right. The audience is composed primarily of college students, but a few younger and older faces pepper the crowd as well. Four white kids are ciphering in the back).

Mulligan: I’d like to welcome all of our panelists. So as you all know, we’re here today to talk about hip hop. We’ve got about half an hour, which should be more than enough time. So the first question: Nas (pronounced “Nass”) had an album out a few years ago called “Hip Hop Is Dead.” Is hip hop dead?

Wester: I’ll jump right in and say, as KRS-ONE once told me, HIP HOP isn’t dead. HIP HOP lives in the projects called your heart. HIP HOP goes to work every day putting food on your table. HIP HOP is immortal like GOD, and TALIB KWELI is JESUS. See there’s hip HOP and then there’s hip POP, and…

Young Lil’ (interrupting): Nah mean, Nas is a real smart dude. No homo. He charts well. I mean, people in the hood ain’t tryin’ to hear that book shit, but he still sells records. And that beef…

Pennyworth (interrupting): Nas is just an out of touch New York rapper who doesn’t understand what the streets want. See, the South is on top now. Maybe if he quit being an elitist hack and wrote a few dozen songs about selling crack, he’d be singing a different tune. I had a sit-down with Jeezy the other day, and he told me…

Cheffordshire (interrupting): I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you there old boy. Like I say in my new book, Nas is a modern-day street prophet, a GRIOT, if you will, who translates ancient African folktales into a thoroughly postmodern gumbo that speaks directly to the blues experience. When he says that hip hop is dead, he is, quite obviously, alluding directly to OSIRUS, the Egyptian god of the dead. To die is to transcend, to become more-than, and Nas is quite simply following in the footsteps of Public Enemy as he…

Mulligan (interrupting): Mr. Guante, you’ve been rather quiet. Do you think hip hop is dead?

Guante: Um… no? I think that’s kind of an oversimplification. Do you mean hip hop as a global culture? Hip hop as art? Hip hop as a commodity? Hip hop as a force on the pop charts? These are all very different. Really, what does that question even mean? I think…

Mulligan (interrupting) Well since you don’t understand the question, let’s move on. Backtracking a little, what IS hip hop?

Wester (eyes lighting up): HIP HOP IS A CULTURE COMPOSED OF 37 ELEMENTS: b-boying, graffiti, DJing, MCing, beatboxing, street knowledge, street entrepreneurialism, street manicure/pedicure, breakfast cereal, beat production, martial arts movies, street upholstery…

Pennyworth (interrupting): Here we go again with that hip hop culture shit. I was on the phone with Pusha T of the Clipse the other day and he told me…

Young Lil’ (interrupting): Hip hop is like, it’s like, crazy, man. It’s like, a voice. Like, I’m Martin Luther King or Malcolm X or some shit… no homo.

Cheffordshire: Yes! Precisely, my dear boy. Hip hop is the united battlecry of the African-American proletariat, awakening from its slumber to reclaim its objective identity. It is Athena, bursting fully formed from the noble skull of Zeus. Hip Hop creates subjective spaces wherein objective reality can…

Mulligan (interrupting): But what about the sexism? Isn’t there a lot of sexism in hip hop?

Young Lil’’s manager (suddenly appearing behind the panel): Can I just jump in here for a minute? See, hip hop ain’t sexist; AMERICA is sexist. Hip hop is just reflecting that reality.

Young Lil’: Yeah and also, some bitches ARE bitches.

Young Lil’’s manager: Exactly. My man here is a ghetto reporter, showing middle America the objective facts about the ‘hood. You all should be thanking him for performing a valuable public service!

Guante: Your breakthrough single was called “Stomp a Ho Out (Over Nothing)!” Yeah, America is sexist, but there comes a point when we as artists need to…


Pennyworth (rolling eyes): Those are all old men who only sell records to white hippies. I may be from Maine, but I know that the streets don’t want to be preached to. Music should be devoid of social commentary because that shit is preachy. TI and Young Joc might be sexist, sure, but that’s real. And the beats are transcendent, slathering mountains of sticky sweet boombap with robo-sexy future synths and rumbling, neck-biting basslines. I had sushi with Ghostface the other day, and he told me…

Mulligan (interrupting): Don Imus. How ‘bout that?

Young Lil’’s manager: He’s a hater. He just hates. It’s all just hate, man.

Cheffordshire: What Mr. Imus fails to grasp is that neo-colonialism has created a kind of post-traumatic psychic shock in the African-American collective cultural consciousness. By invoking the terms he did, Imus has, in a sense, awakened the Cyclops, and now even the softest wool will serve as poor protection against the rage of the injured beast.

(pause… not in, like, a homophobic “pause” kind of way, but an actual pause)

Guante: The Don Imus incident was four years ago! Are we going to talk about East Coast vs. West Coast beef next?

Mulligan: How about violence. Isn’t there a war going on between the East Coast and the West Coast? Is hip hop inherently violent?

Young Lil’’s manager: No. It’s not. Simple as that. It’s fantasy. My man here is a poet, a master storyteller. We don’t get mad at Arnold for making “Terminator.” We make him the governor of goddamn California. My man here is just telling highly detailed, poetic stories.

Guante: But didn’t you just say that Young Lil’ was a “ghetto reporter, showing middle America objective facts?”

Pennyworth: You’re obviously one of those elitists who thinks all hip hop should be boring piano loops you can't get down in the club to. Why can’t you just respect Young Lil’’s body of work? I gave his last album, “I Sell Crack (You Just Die),” a 7.4 out of 10, the highest rating I’ve ever given anything. It was a masterpiece of dark, urban paranoia, mixing crackling high hats, shabble-tastic synth grooves and multilayered, Shakespearean vocalizationals. Meeting him reminded me of meeting Mobb Deep’s Prodigy for the first time back in…


Young Lil’: I will shoot a m’fucka though. Just so we’re clear.

Mulligan: Let’s take some questions from the audience. You there.

Dirty Backpacker: Hey duuudes, I just wanted to say that I think Jedi Mind Tricks is fuckin’ dope. What do you duuudes think?

(Pennyworth makes “jerking-off” motion with his hands, the rest of the panel stays quiet.)

Mulligan: Okay next question. You there.

Obvious College Student: I’m writing a paper on 2pac and Black Nationalism and I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts on… that.

Cheffordshire: In my new book, I say that Tupac Amaru Shakur was a modern day Rumi, perhaps mixed with Alexander Pope and Basho. His words can be endlessly analyzed because he directly channeled the oral traditions of…

Young Lil’ (interrupting): ‘Pac was real, you know. He sold a lot of records. I like that song about his mother because I love my mama too. No homo.

Mulligan: I think we’ll take one last question. How about you in the back?

Little Kid: Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to think you can cover all of hip hop in a half-hour panel discussion? I mean, this audience is composed of people with different levels of prior understanding, different life experiences and different ways of interacting with the culture. Hip hop is an enormous, complex global culture that is fluid and ever-evolving, yet we still talk about it like it’s some New York fad. Wasn’t this whole farce just a meaningless exercise in intellectual masturbation? Don’t half-assed discussions like this, whether at a conference or on cable news, always just undergird whatever assumptions people already have about hip hop, good or bad?

Mulligan: No. Okay now on to the closing statements. Professor, would you like to begin?

Cheffordshire: Oh hip hop, thou many-headed hydra, wherefore shall we find thee? In my new book, I write that Chuck D. of Public Enemy, while pioneering a kind of neo-romantic poststructuralist er er ER er ER ER rhythm, was in fact alluding to—and paying tribute to—his intellectual forebears, the guild poets of the Russian Revolution. And this is where we find hip hop today, at a crossroads. The Scylla of postmodernism on one side, the Charybdis of Marxist determinism on the other, the good ship hip hop must sail carefully, the winds of revolution in her sails, always forward, always backward.

Young Lil’’s manager: And I would just add on to that: haters hate. That’s all it really is. Like, some groups have called my man here homophobic. He ain’t homophobic. AMERICA is homophobic.

Young Lil’: And besides, I ain’t AFRAID of gays, I just don’t like to be around them, hear their voices or read about them in magazines.

Young Lil’’s manager: Exactly. My man here is a PROPHET. He’s like a cross between 2pac and Biggie, but with that Southern flavor that’s so hot right now. Make sure you cop that new album.

Pennyworth: Three Six Mafia’s zombieflutter chipmunk soul sound, combined with their stubbly, Goodburger basslines, ghetto dilapidated kicks and pure bricktop syrupy freneticism are really the only hope this middling genre has left. I split a muffin with Juicy J the other day, and he…


Mulligan: Mr. Guante?

Guante: O…K… I guess if I can say anything about this ridiculous fiasco, it’d be that…

Mulligan (interrupting): I’m gonna have to cut you off there. Sorry, we’re out of time. I’d like to thank all our panelists, the audience, and the conference organizers. Drive safely.