Mic Dropped

Posted on 16th September 2016 in Hip-hop, Journalism, video

broken-mic

Style Weekly has been a place to find my writing for almost a decade. They’ve allowed me to write virtually anything I’ve wanted and we haven’t had any major concerns over the years. But things change. Style isn’t the paper it used to be. Like most print publications, the internet has changed the way they do business. Their staff is smaller. There editorial choices are more vulnerable to outside forces than they should be. This has led to Arts & Culture articles written by publicists who were paid by Style to promote their friends and their music. It seemed any rapper with a press release and Youtube account was fit to print. This insn’t the way to build trust, credibility or respect with your readership. I was embarrassed for Style. I questioned whether I should continue to write for them. After this week’s cover story, “WWREHH,” the answer is becoming clear.

But first, a little background. For more than a decade a produced a hip-hop video show called Wavelength for several different local television outlets. I interviewed local rappers and national artists, such as Run-DMC, Gangstarr, Bahamadia and De La Soul. I played cutting edge music videos with some help from friends like Andre Christian, who I’ll get back to later. I did all this with my own money, equipment and tenacity. I quizzed rappers at record stores, nightclubs, on the street, at sound checks and once in a girls locker room. I loved hip-hop and I wanted to see it treated with the respect and critical analysis it deserved. There is a web page of missing videos and busted links somewhere on the internet that can tell you all about it.

Back to this week’s 6,000 word cover story. It’s a rambling, manic article that’s the work of someone who isn’t sure who or what is important, so everything is thrown in. This guy talks to rappers, promoters, historians, journalists, hookers, club owners, producers, meter maids, janitors, mailmen and a guy named “Cheats.” (Okay, three of those sources I made up. But you get the picture.) Imagine someone making a burrito this way, adding all the ingredients they could find (peanut butter, pineapples, cough syrup, string beans, etc.) and sliding it to you on a plate. That taste in your mouth right now? It’s this article. I’ve excerpted some of the more distasteful morsels below.

Richmond is still defining itself when it comes to hip-hop. The music’s history runs deep here. The area was an early stopover for original stars coming from New York traveling Interstate 95. Yet the city never developed its own sound or identity, and never fully integrated its dance floors.

So who were the original stars of hip-hop? Do they matter? I guess not, since there wasn’t enough space in this magnum woepus to mention them by name. This was a chance to provide context and continuity to an article that sorely needs it. We should know that artists such as Stetsasonic, FunkDoobiest, Notorious B.I.G, Black Moon and Yo-Yo came to Richmond, because they are important. And that makes Richmond important. See how that works? It’s as Easy as E. That line about segregated dance floors is something I’m still trying to sort out.

In the article, a caption refers to Mad Skillz making a cameo at an Art of Noise event in July. Anyone who has actually attended one of these events or glanced at this particular artists’ social media would know that he has co-sponsored this event since it’s inception. He’s at every Art of Noise event, for the whole time. He couldn’t make a cameo if he put on red codpiece and hollered “Ow!” It’s like a rapper making a guest appearance on his own album or you being a guest in your own home. He’s supposed to be there! Speaking of Skillz, the article correctly states that he put Richmond on the map for hip-hop in the 1990s. Moreover, he repped Richmond and the Commonwealth throughout his career, which spans over two decades. But he wasn’t even interviewed for this story. Instead we have deep thoughts from artists who are considered underground because not many people like them.

Elsewhere, another picture features three of the members of one Richmond’s most influential collectives, the SupaFriendz. However, only one of them is identified. The missing names are DJs Danja Mowf and DJ Marc. The latter’s name was on the marquee for the event, which is was visible from the heavily-traveled thoroughfare known as Broad Street.

Richmond is known mainly for rapper and ghostwriter Mad Skillz, who also serves as a tour DJ for Nicki Minaj, rapper Nickelus F. and the neo-soul and funk crooner, D’Angelo. The latter has a history of legal problems in his hometown and has done little to promote local ties or area artists — .

Ok, we know that D’angelo is a soul singer. We should also know that he’s not a rapper, so why is he in this article? Is all music created by young black men automatically considered hip-hop? Should Breezy and Trey Songz be here as well? The article states that D’angelo hasn’t done much for Richmond. I question that assessment. Two of his music videos were filmed here, “Lady” and “Send it On.” He could’ve been on a sound stage in L.A. or a beach in Aruba, but he chose the cinematic jewel of Belt Boulevard, Southside Plaza, as a backdrop instead. That’s a hood pass that never expires, no matter how many people you allegedly spit on. Now all that was a while ago, but as any fans of D’angelo know, he’s been preoccupied in recent years. Staying out of jail, producing an album after a long hiatus, touring the world except Richmond, etc. In this article, D’angelo is like the main character in the movie “Clerks,” who ends up at work on his day off and bad things happen. He’s not even supposed to be here.

This is from the article’s sidebar, about an hip-hop historian: ” … and he’s talking to a former employee at Phono Booth record store, once on Laburnum Avenue near the Essex Village apartments, where major hip-hop stars always stopped in the ’90s.”

Again, we have the nameless but “major” stars of hip-hop making an appearance. Another chance to drop a mile marker in this epic trudge of an article passed by. Adding to that is the writers’ assertion that the historian is working with a former employee of the Phono Booth record store. Guess what? That store had one employee, the aforementioned Andre Christian, and he doesn’t know this historian.

While the writer claims hip-hop in Richmond hasn’t found it’s identity, it’s this article itself that’s wandering and adrift. It asks, “When will Richmond embrace hip-hop?”, as if the city is under some Footloose-style bylaw that prevents gatherings of more than one turtable and a microphone. This city embraced rap music decades ago, maybe a few months before the rest of the country. Even now, it’s still a dominant cultural force among young people. So whatcha’ sayin’? If the writer is trying to prove that it’s hard out here for new artists, we got that. But it’s supposed to be hard. That’s what makes you a better artist, if you’re willing to put in the work and suffer through rejection, indifference and criticism. No, it’s not easy and if you’re waiting for someone to embrace you just for uploading your daydream, your arms might get tired.

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Citizen Kane

Posted on 15th October 2014 in Hip-hop, Journalism

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Here are a few outtakes from my recent chat with the Big Daddy Kane. The rest of the conversation can be found at StyleWeekly.com.

Your audience is likely to hold two generations of Big Daddy Kane fans these days. Are there any of your songs that young people connect with more than others?

On Twitter and Instagram, I see a lot of young cats, tweeting or posting stuff about “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” or  “Raw.” You know, the mentality of the young generation, the type of music they like, it’s amazin’ to see that they would be into my music.

You’re doing this show with Rakim. There were rumors of a rivalry years ago, including one about a pay-per-view event, where you were supposed to be battle. 

It never happened. It is what it is.  It would’ve been dope.  I would have loved to done it, but it just never happened. We don’t have no problems, we’re cool. I guess it was just something the people wanted to see.

What did you think about your Unsung episode on TVone? Did you think it was fair? Were you cool with it?

Yeah, I was really cool with it. It was like a real uncomfortable situation for me, because, I think that “Unsung” is such a great TV show. It’s a show that artists really truly need, to make people aware of their legacy. I just hate the name of the show. I think it just should’ve  had a better name. I think that “Unsung” is a bad name for the show. It gives the feeling of that person they’re talking about is someone that never made it. Because you call it “Unsung,” you know what I’m saying’? So I was very hesitant about doin’ the show. You know, until they made the money right and gave me some creative control. But I believe that they did an excellent job with the episode.

Back in the day, when the Juice Crew/BDP beef was in full swing, I always wondered why KRS-ONE didn’t dis you on the “The Bridge Is Over,” since he came at your crew so mercilessly. 

Me and KRS was cool. I mean, KRS-ONE and Ms. Melodie are the ones that came and helped me move out of my parents crib, when I moved into my first apartment, with Scoob, (my first dancer.) Me and KRS was carrying the couch downstairs, Ms. Melodie had the TV.

So it wasn’t that he didn’t want it with you, y’all just had prior relationship?

KRS wasn’t scared of me. I don’t think KRS would be scared of any rapper. To be honest with you, if I had a choice, to battle a rapper between Rakim and KRS, I would choose KRS instead of Rakim.

Why?

Because Rakim is dope MC, at saying’ rhymes, but KRS is a battle rapper.  You know what I’m saying’? KRS – that would be some serious serious competition. ‘Cause he’s a battle rapper. He understands the art of battle. There’s a lot of great MCs that say great rhymes, but they can get crushed in one round ’cause they don’t know how to battle. Sayin’ a dope rhyme and battlin’ someone it two totally different things.

 

Over My Bed: Images from the Hip Hop Industry

Posted on 4th January 2012 in Hip-hop

 

I forgot to mention I’m having a little thing on Friday here in Richmond, Va. I’ll be showing some posters form my private collection, mostly promotional hip-hop images of artists from the golden age of hip hop. The show starts at 6 p.m. at Steady Sounds on 322 W. Broad Street. Come on down.

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Infamous Interview

Posted on 21st July 2011 in Hip-hop, Journalism, video

More than decade has passed, not since I’ve updated this blog, but since Mobb Deep’s Prodigy and I talked. We caught up a few weeks back for this article in last week’s Style Weekly. Odd headlline, huh? Peep my 1995 interview with him below.

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A Legendary Lyte

Posted on 29th March 2011 in Hip-hop, Journalism

My interview with hip-hop veteran MC Lyte appears in this week’s Style Weekly. The last time I spoke to rapper was in the basement of Ivory’s Uptown Lounge in 1993. Unfortunately, the Radio Shack microphone I selected for the interview betrayed me, and I’ve been waiting for a another chance ever since. Here’s some parts of my talk with her that didn’t make the cut.

CB: As an older and wiser woman, when you hear records like 10% Dis, do you think maybe I shouldn’t have said that …?

ML: Oh no, not at all. It’s a song and in encapsulates that point in time. So, I’m never regretfull for it, it’s just something that I did. Not that I’m older, I can make the decision as to whether or not I want to create lyrics that leave that type of effect. I’m probably trying to leave a different type of effect on people than I was when I was sixteen, seventeen years old.C

CB: Are there any producer out now that you’d like to work with?

ML: Well, I’ve always wanted to work with Timbaland. I think that would be a different route. I’ve worked quite a few producers, from Jermaine to Puffy, to Teddy, to Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis …

CB: Prince Paul.

ML: The Neptunes, Missy and her camp. I’ve worked with so many, but Timbaland is one that I haven’t work with. I’d like to see how that could go.

CB: Do you ever plan to put another album?

ML: ” … I plan on putting one out. I told all my twitter followers, when I’m up to 100, 000 [followers], I’ll release a free mix cd, which is an album that’s free.