Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hiphop Remains Mostly Mum on Japan Tsunami

With such an exorbitant amount of revenue being generated from Hiphop music, and especially with rappers now earning more than they ever have, I find it pretty surprising that Hiphoppers as a group haven't done more to come to Japan's aid in the wake of this month's tsunami.

Apparently Linkin Park has a new song available for download with proceeds going to a relief fund, but what about real and actual rappers? Where are they during this time of need?

Let's start with Pharrell, who has made a ton of money with the help of Japanese designer and musician Nigo and his rap group the Teriyaki Boyz, even going so far as to open a clothing store in Tokyo (full of attire designed by Nigo) before helping Nigo open up his own stores in New York City and Los Angeles (now closed) for his Bape/Bathing Ape brand.

To date, the most Pharrell has done is issue through one of his Web sites a brief statement that lets readers know he is "devastated" before wishing Japan the best of luck, or "God's speed," as he put it. That's a pretty weak move considering all the money his clothing lines -- designed by Nigo -- have made from Japanese support.

Not to be outdone, 50 Cent tweeted some insensitive jokes in the hours after news broke about the tsunami before begrudgingly apologizing. However, Vitamin Water money notwithstanding, 50 has yet to make a donation that is not in the form of cruel humor.

Ironically, Nicki Minaj (who calls herself the Harajuku Barbie, a reference to the Tokyo neighborhood of the same name known for its outrageous and colorful style and fashion) is participating in a digital album being released by Universal Music Group to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami. While Universal is home to a long list of rappers, none besides Nicki have been confirmed for the album.

Pete Rock and DJ Premier were just touring Japan this past summer, and DJ Spinna regularly deejays there, but still there has been no indication that any of the turntablists/producers are doing anything to give back to the country that supports them by inviting them to perform.

It is possible that the above mentioned artists (and more) have indeed done more than talk about it, but it would be nice to confirm that the Hiphop artists who we have all helped get filthy rich do indeed care about their Japanese fans enough to make a sizeable donation for earthquake/tsunami relief and aid.

Sandra Bullock gave a full million dollars, which obviously goes above and beyond the call of duty, but it also shows that these donations (which are tax write-offs, another incentive for the wealthy) are but a small percentage of these celebrities’ wealth.

It’s’ only natural that a number of Asian celebrities are doing their part.

Lady Gaga has gone the creative route, designing bracelets and selling them on her Web site to raise money for the victims, already tallying $1.5 million.

Ne-Yo performed in Japan after the tsunami hit, meeting with fans. While it is assumed the concert proceeds went to support the victims, all Ne-Yo said for sure that he was doing was spreading love through music, which is still admirable because at the very least it helps keep the spirits up of those who were in attendance.

Hell, teenager Demi Lovato (who I know for sure has less money than Dr. Dre, Eminem and Jay-Z – who, coincidentally,have all done nothing to help) has given $1 million.

Speaking of Jiggaman -- also known as the man who once rapped “I put dollars on mine, ask Columbine, when the twin towers fell I was the first in line” -- he has been conspicuously absent from the conversation of what celebrities have done in the wake of this disaster.

Jay-Z, the man who Forbes magazine last August crowned as “Hip-Hop’s Cash King,” earned $63 million in the previous 12 months. Yet, Jay still has yet to make any type of donation to Japan.

Diddy, who is arguably the most financially secure of all Hiphop-related artists, at least took to Twitter to express himself and his concerns for Japan, imploring his fans and followers to send text messages to the Red Cross, which will help generate funds for relief.

But Jay, who isn’t on Twitter, didn’t even issue a statement or anything that would lead us to believe he has an ounce of concern for the tsunami victims.

NaS is experiencing some financial hardships right now, so I will give him a pass for not helping. But again, a simple statement or open letter to a media outlet could inspire his fans to do something. You wonder why more influential, popular rappers don’t do the same.

These are but a small sampling of rappers and Hiphoppers who could and should be doing more to support our fellow humans during this time of hardship. We say 911 is a joke but then we turn around and don’t do anything to help expedite emergency aid to those who are in immediate need it help. Ironic, to say the least.

Japan has been doing for years now more for Hiphop than most Americans do for it, helping to keep all four elements alive through still actively practicing deejaying with vinyl and breakdancing/b-boying. We already know that Japan has always been on the forefront when it comes to art and specifically their genre of Anime, but they are active participants in the graffiti culture, as well, a phenomenon that isn’t as celebrated as the other three elements.

Considering all the Japanese people have done to help keep Hiphop alive, it’s ironic that we Hiphoppers aren’t doing more to help keep the Japanese alive. Literally.

Japan's faithfulness to Hiphop culture has never been questioned. It's a shame the opposite isn't also true and the favor is not being returned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RIP Nate Dogg -- Aug. 19, 1969 - March 15, 2011

News broke last night that the legendary and pioneering G Funk singer Nate Dogg passed away yesterday.

I know I've made light of Nate Dogg's presence in the news over the past few years but my respect, admiration and gratitude for the man and his music can't be expressed in just a simple blog post.

No details about his death have been released yet but Nate did suffer a stroke a few years ago, which is tough to come back from.

No one is perfect, so I hope that instead of his more controversial moments Nate can be remembered for his memorable musical contributions that propelled numerous songs to become lasting, chart-topping hits. To me, he was this generation's TJ Swan. and that's an understatement. Nate's presence on records enhanced them

I will also remember him for his signature silky smooth voice and trademark sleepy, glassy eyes. He will be missed.

Here are but a few of my favorite songs with Nate Dogg:

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Mos Def Song: World Premier

No, this blog post isn't a world premier. That's actually the name of the song, and rumor has it that it could end up being the lead single for the album that Mos Def is alleged to currently be working on.

Keen ears will recognize the song's beat as a track released last year as part of Madlib's Beat Konducta series of instrumental albums (and also a key component to the success of Mos Def's most recent album, which was mostly comprised of other Beat Konducta releases.

The song is classic Mos and everything we've come to love and expect from him -- a perfect mixture of rapping, harmonizing and singing over unmistakable Hiphop beats.

On a side note, as if last month's performance with Lupe and Kanye wasn't enough proof, it is quite clear that Mos cannot stifle his love for Hiphop, which repeatedly results in his return to the booth despite other, more lucrative, profitable endeavors that he could [and probably will later] be taking advantage of.

For this fact we should all rejoice and be thankful to one of the few remaining providers of unadulterated true school Hiphop music.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jim Jones + Rae and Ghost = Confusion

The curious case of Jim Jones being featured on Raekwon's as well as Ghostface's latest albums has left most if not all Wu-Tang fans dumbfounded, bewildered and stunned.

There is an overwhelming feeling that the inclusion of the Capo was not only unnecessary, but also a waste of precious space that should be reserved for only the most skilled of rappers -- something that Jim Jones falls well south of -- like Black Thought, who is also featured on both albums.

On Ghost's new album, the song with Jim Jones is something of a Ja Rule club track gone wrong (which is redundant, making it doubly worse), a sound and style that obviously has no business being on a Ghostface album. I always figured that if Ghost wanted us in the club he'd give us certified hits like Cherchez La Ghost, not this piece of wannabe pop fluff:

Handcuffin’ Them Hoes (feat. Jim Jones)

Not to be outdone, Raekwon has a song with Jim on his own album, but a recent performance on Jimmy Fallon sans Jim ironically shows that Jim's inclusion wasn't at all needed for the track as it is performed without a hitch.

My question is: when did this peculiar association between Jim Jones and Raekwon and Ghostface materialize? On what basis does Jim get to be featured on their albums, thus ruining the listening experience for die hard fans of both artists?

Hell, both albums are saturated with guest appearances anyway, why vex listeners even more with a studio gangster who used to rock a perm? But I digress...

A bit of research uncovered a video of Raekwon expressing his admiration for Jim, so I can only guess that the inclusion of Jim on Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang was borne out of that same esteem.

But Rae is coming off his most successful project since his debut in 16 years ago. Certainly his fans gave Rae no indication that they wanted to hear him on a song with Jim Jones. Jim -- who's recent attempt at getting attention by way of a convenient car crash failed miserably -- hasn't seen success in more than a few years.

Suffice to say, I'm confused and just slightly disappointed.

Remembering Biggie 14 Years Later

R.I.P. Christopher George Latore Wallace, May 27, 1972 - March 9, 1997

Things done changed.

And that’s an understatement considering the current landscape of Hiphop and rap music, what with all the emphasis being placed on Hip-Pop and em-singing instead of emceeing from rappers who are true to and respect Hiphop culture.

But through it all one voice has particularly remained consistent, reciting insightful rhymes that to this day still hold cultural value, meaning and relevance.

A voice that surprisingly still resonates with the finicky taste of Hiphop heads who routinely shun anything if it isn’t brand spanking new.

Despite the fact that most if not all the rhymes that we still hear from the Notorious B.I.G. are recycled [again and again] from his lone two studio albums that he recorded in life, he remains a top contender for the coveted title of greatest rapper of all time.

That is an amazing feat when you take into account the mass influx of quality [and not-so-quality] rappers that have paraded in and out of the industry (including the rappers he helped put on) since BIG’s passing 14 years ago on this day, March 9, 1997.

I was finishing up my senior year in college when I heard the news, which, since there was no Internet back then, was at first tough to confirm. No one wanted to believe that BIG was dead.

And more than a decade later it seems the same remains true.

With a successful biopic and countless rappers imitating BIG or shouting out BIG or sampling BIG lyrics (or even stealing Biggie’s lines), it is obvious he still remains a lyrical force to be reckoned with.

The only time I got to see BIG perform live was back in the mid 90s at a bowling alley-turned nightclub on Victory Boulevard in Portsmouth, Virginia. He had his snap cap, bright-colored shirt and Versace shades complete with a cane for the regal effect that he favored. He delivered his rhymes perfectly on stage with no hint of a lack of breath control (a true feat for a man of his size and weight) before gunshots rang out and the crowd hit the floor, scurrying to exit the building alive.

BIG survived that shootout before ultimately meeting his fate in another, but the memory of his lyrical mastery lives on well beyond those two incidents.

Below are a couple of my favorite Biggie moments. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Video: Nice & Smooth -- No Delayin'

Yes, you read correctly.

This is the official music video for a song from Nice & Smooth's 21 year old self-titled debut album, which has more than a few classic tracks on it.

In fact, in my opinion, No Delayin' was the best song on the album. An instant classic that stayed on repeat in my tape deck.

The duo never released the song as a single but it was a radio mix show mainstay just off of its simple looped piano and drums, and of course Teddy Ted's scratching section. You know what I'm sayin? (Only true Nice & Smooth fans will understand that one...)

The song sampled Big Daddy Kane's legendary "awww yeah" from the intro to Ain't No Half Steppin, so it's a pleasant surprise to see Kane get his proper respect via a cameo in the video.

More groups that are classified as old school should take a page from Nice & Smooth's book and release official videos for their classic album cuts that were overshadowed by more popular [and arguably not as good] singles.

Can you imagine if Big Daddy Kane in 2011 released an official video for Young Gifted and Black. Everybody else has jacked that song, so why shouldn't Kane bring it back too?

Or what if Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick finally shot a video for La Di Da Di?

Or if EPMD could put aside their differences long enough to shoot a video for one or all of the signature "Jane" installments.

The possibilities are limitless, but so is the doubt I have that this concept will ever catch on with so-called old school rappers. Too bad.