Lynne d Johnson



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04.22.03 01:37 AM

news you can use, or not

Nina Simone Dies
First, I would like to take a moment of silence for the grand dame Nina Simone who journeyed on to meet the ancestors on Monday. She died of natural causes at her home in Bouc-Bel-Air in the South of France. She was 70. Can I just say that I love this woman's music. "Mississippi Goddamn" and "Four Women" were favorites.

The Future of the Mixtape
Interestingly enough I have been wanting to write a piece about mixtapes. Although they have been around forever, I now see a trend, that of course 50 Cent is going to take all the credit for, emerging. Record labels better get their weight up. Geoff Boucher, wrote in the LA Times on the 20th:

"The CDs are called mix tapes, and while the name is defiantly old school in its cassette-era origins, they are the cutting edge of the moment as rap finds some of its future in its own past. A flagship symbol of that phenomenon is best-selling rapper 50 Cent, who this year spun his mix-tape success into major label platinum. J, a proud merchant, is well aware of all of this. "It all starts here," he said with a wave of his hand. "If it's new, it's right here."

"The mix tapes are the creations of local DJs who take hits, rarities, the works of up-and-coming rappers or all of the above, and use them to turn a blank CD into a highly personal jukebox. There is intense competition among those DJs to get the freshest material, and because the formal music industry has long viewed the whole scene as a copyright nightmare, a spirit of pirate radio pervades."

Gay Rappers Getting Record Deals
And another article idea I had, well not exactly, but since I know some folks in the Bay Area who are turning hip-hop on its head under the banner of homiesexuals I had thought to do a piece that would reflect what is happening in this arena. Let's just say I had pitched the idea to a magazine. The magazine shall remain nameless, but it appears that folks felt they did the gay rapper topic do death already. Yet this is clearly a different story, at least in my eyes anyway. Caushun is signed to with Baby Phat records and his debut, "Shock and Awe," is due to drop at the end of June before Gay Pride Day. Toure wrote in the NY Times on the 20th:

"Hip-hop is now as large a cultural stage as baseball was in the 50's, yet the mainstream is just as closed to gay rappers as the major leagues were to black men before Robinson. And, as with Robinson, for Caushun to break through could have a profound impact on how gay people are perceived throughout America."

Is Hip-Hop Really Dead?
Since I am back into this mode of posting an assemblage of hip-hop related mainstream articles, I'll also mention this other one that was sent my way today. To be quite honest, I am kind of tired of folks pronouncing the death of hip-hop or asking whether it can be saved, but here goes a read of that subject from Renee Graham in The Boston Globe from the 20th:

"For two of the past three years, a rap artist has enjoyed the top-selling CD of the year. In 2000, it was Eminem's major-label sophomore effort, ''The Marshall Mathers LP,'' and last year, the Grammy-winning Detroit rapper sold more than 8 million copies of ''The Eminem Show.'' So far this year, Eminem protege 50 Cent has the best-selling album with his debut, ''Get Rich or Die Tryin' .'' Since its February release, it has lingered in Billboard's top five and has sold more than 4 million copies.

"With other recent multimillion-selling releases by Jay-Z, Nas, Nelly, and Missy Elliott, hip-hop artists are a major reason the struggling music industry isn't in worse shape. Yet while the numbers don't lie, neither do they tell the whole truth. Rap music, which ushered the wonders of hip-hop culture from graffiti-splattered playgrounds to suburban front lawns, is in trouble."

"Nearly three decades since spoken wordscapes were married to beats to create a new musical vocabulary, rap music is flirting with creative bankruptcy. A genre once characterized by innovative, restless spirit now seems little more than an assembly-line product. Take a menacing scowl, a few platinum rings and pendants, a video filled with lip-licking, come-hither hotties, and someone who can rhyme about bullet-riddled mayhem, cognac, sneakers, dubs, or the latest Hummer -- and an MTV or BET-ready rap star is born."

"Once the most revolutionary and deconstructed sound since bebop in post-World War II America, rap music, the commericial centerpiece of hip-hop culture, is in danger of becoming routine, pedestrian, and, worst of all, boring."

Hip-Hop Activism
But as Trent is prone to say, hip-hop isn't dead it's just in another spirit. I think that's the way he turns the phrase. And you have heard this here before as well. There are folks reclaiming hip-hip and utilizing it as an agent of change. Jesse Alejandro Cottrell wrote in WireTap on the 18th:

"To anyone who watches MTV all day -- where P. Diddy, Ja Rule and Nelly dominate the screen flashing fancy cars, gold chains and an entourage of scantily clad women -- political empowerment and hip-hop may seem like conflicting terms. But hip-hop has been political in nature since its birth in the youth subculture of the Bronx during the late 1970s. Unfortunately what started out as a gritty portrayal of what was really happening on the streets has been perverted in less than two decades into a seemingly endless supply of high-paid corporate clowns rapping about little more than the fact that they1re rich. Today, mainstream hip-hop is worse than apolitical -- it has become a tool to oppress and distract an entire generation of youth, especially youth of color."

"Youth organizers today are fed up with this perversion of their own resistance culture and are taking steps to reclaim hip-hop's political power. According to Davey D, a founder of hip-hop activism and DJ of KPFA's "Hard Knock Radio," one of the first steps in reclaiming hip-hop from corporations is introducing the masses to politicized hip-hop. "They stole it from us, repackaged it, and are selling it back to us as something they created," he said."

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