The Chill Out Zone’s soft, stoner-friendly beats, thick keyboard laden melodies and well written verses, perfectly executed in Wiley’s hazy English accent, are certainly chill inducing in both senses of the word. The majority of the songs are relaxing, easy to listen to, and would make for killer background beats for a laid back night in a smoke filled basement, puff-puff passing a gutted Swisher Sweet around a tight circle, laughing about nothing in particular. But if you can manage to stop hacking and coughing, long enough to listen to his lyrics you’ll find that they are anything but chill.
The first five tracks of “The Chill Zone” are deeply personal and heavy handed pieces, covering a menagerie of subjects ranging from war to the current and future state of rap, hip-hop, and even the meaning of life. The first five tracks on the album are some of the strongest, deepest, and artfully crafted tracks I’ve heard out of the UK hip-hop scene since Tricky.
Many will argue, and have argued, that Wiley has sold out, forgotten his roots, and cannot be counted as a member of the UK hip-hop elite. I vehemently disagree with this line of thinking. The beats may be softer, the instrumentation eclectic (at times, sounding as if they’d feel at home in a rain forest rather than on a hip-hop record), and there is a distinct lack of that familiar, fender dropping, door rattling, 808 bass drop we’ve all come to know and love.
Despite all of these very anti-hip-hop vibes Wiley retains the virgin-tight rhyme schemes, and needle-point precision flow that only the most elite and genuine artists of the hip-hop world possess; skills that he flaunts and displays, with perfect aim and with pure, crystal clear, unadulterated talent, on track after track of “The Chill Out Zone”.
The first half of the album is indeed a powerhouse of emotion with strong, precise messages, as well as musical and vocal artistry. Tracks six through eleven however, fall short of such lofty praise. Though none of the songs are bad necessarily, they most definitely leave something to be desired, especially after the energy and fire of their five predecessors. Far too many of the songs are centered around relationships, love, and sex.
It’s Wiley’s positive demeanor and gentlemanly manner that lend his songs a sense of cheesy childishness. Though positivity, chivalry, and respect are timeless and endearing traits that all men worth their salt should possess; they seem to coat hip-hop songs in a sort of, squirmy awkwardness, akin to the sickeningly polite, well-groomed, virgin boy we all remember from grade school, who got his ass beat daily during recess. Rap and hip-hop songs should be tough, gritty, and without apology, like the tall greasy mean-mugged kid who, inexplicably, fucked every hot chick in school, despite treating them like thirteen year old street trash.
Overall “The Chill Out Zone” is a decent album, with well-crafted vocals, some great hooks, and a lot to say. Unfortunately, it is dragged, kicking and screaming, out to the playground, and beaten to a musical pulp, by its latter half. All of the heart, attitude, and energy of the first six tracks is watered down and degraded by the grade school romanticism, decade late beats, and bad sound FX lifted straight from your old 8 bit Nintendo console.
It seems like no one really has to wait until official release dates anymore to get a listen to new albums. The rule of thumb is: the more popular the artist, the earlier his or her tracks leak, and the faster they spread. Just ask Ciara. While her latest album can’t exactly be considered a flop, it’s definitely no fantasy ride, as pretty much the entire project leaked to the internet weeks and weeks before it was due to be released. You just can’t hit them listeners like you used to – and when it comes to responsibility, again, larger projects means more people being involved and more people being involved means a higher chance of someone letting something slip.
Then again, leaking one track early has the potential to make your entire album – if it’s good enough. Usher’s “Yeah!” (how could we forget?) lit everything on fire when Lil’ Jon, its producer, deliberately let it loose while Usher was prepping “Burn” as the lead single. Fans loved it, critics loved it, and Confessions went Diamond in the US (that’s Platinum status times ten for you people who’ve never heard of it). Brilliant marketing tactic… or just crazy luck?
Off the top of my head, upcoming artists whose albums in danger of pulling a Leona Lewis include: Ryan Leslie (although it’s doubtful because he’s writing and producing everything himself); Rihanna (although it’s unbelievable how tightly under wraps her new project is); Mary J Blige (she is working with quite a few producers); and of course, Usher (can you say high-profile??). While fans who just can’t wait for new music may benefit from all this lack of discretion, admittedly, it’s pretty damaging to the artists themselves. You’ve got artists like Cassie who are leaking songs every day, and although it’s not clear whether or not this is being done deliberately, it’s definitely not helping their careers – from what we’re seeing now, at least.
Rihanna’s new album is by far the most interesting out of the upcoming releases; she may not be the best singer, but everything she touches turns to gold. What I can’t fathom is how no one, apart from her camp, has any information whatsoever about her fourth album. It’s slated to drop in November, but as of right there isn’t even a hint as to what the name may be. Impressive. It’s doubtful that she’ll last all the way to the day of release without at least a song leaking (apart from the lead single), but the building anticipation promises pandemonium – could this be the antithesis to Usher in 2004? Or will a major leakage happen and make this just another warning for artists and producers who want to leak tracks without knowing what they’re doing?
Slug of Atmosphere still doesn’t know what a hit record is. Following over a decade of rapping and underground success, the lyrical mastermind has yet to realize what sells and what doesn’t and he’s perfectly fine with that.
“I don’t listen to urban radio,” he says over the phone. “Me and Ant [Anthony Davis, the other half of Atmosphere] don’t pressure ourselves to make a hit song. We want to make records that are good. How to make a hit song – would I know how to? Maybe I don’t have that yet. I’m a career artist and for me, I’m okay. I can be myself. There’s no fake shit.”
In 1979, a 7-year-old Sean “Slug” Daley used to take car rides with his father in Minneapolis. This is where the eventual Atmosphere member began taking note of songs on the radio. “My dad would listen to Sugar Hill Gang and Earth, Wind and Fire,” he said. “I didn’t think that was rap for me. For me when Run-DMC came out I knew that wasn’t for my dad.”
Without sports picking his interest, Slug turned to hip hop early on after discovering jams from Ice Cube and Chuck D. He became a deejay at thirteen when he wasn’t seeing rappers like X-Clan perform and eventually became a battling MC. At the time, hip-hop was a new thrill he associated himself with. “It was a peer thing,” he said of the game. “And then girls started liking it.”
Of the “girls,” one may or not be the prominent “Lucy” featured in a slew of Atmosphere songs. The recurring designation seems thematic. She is the title of an EP called Lucy Ford and Slug mentions her on almost every Atmosphere album. Speculation has left some believing the name could mean anything from his on/off again girlfriend to his dog.
When asked about this Slug claimed the moniker was not even his original idea and was actually inspired by another rapper. “Common did it with “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and I thought: That’s the ultimate metaphor – rap as a girl.”
Slug felt this sort of allegory was influential due to the hip-hop age he was bred in. “I come from the rap era when artists were ready to attack consciousness,” he said. “I used [Lucy] to do that with governmental, social issues and the music industry.”
With six studio albums as part of Atmosphere, Slug doesn’t take aim at people getting his songs on the web though. “Honestly, half these kids wouldn’t know who I am if not for the Internet. Download my shit if you got it,” he said. He just thinks it will spoil the experience of Atmosphere live.
“I would like people to wait. When you hear a record playing for three months and then see a show it can sometimes falls flat. You hear the songs so many times it’s inevitable. I would rather people get the same feeling I had when I’d see Big Daddy Kane.” When it comes to his own performances, Slug often meets up with show-goers afterwards and he says they usually have a similar reaction.
“I think our fans like us because they know what they’re getting. I’m the same asshole in real life as I am on the album. They also say I’m the same down to earth dude,” he said. Talking about his career with rap cohort, Ant, Slug added they’ve always stayed true to who they are. “We’re blessed because we can be ourselves,” he said.
For their sixth studio album called When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold slated for April 22nd, the rap duo does that with a different sound. Slug said the group wanted to make a tamer record and that the first track of fifteen sets up that tone. “We wanted to make a quieter album, and that was one of the songs that sparked it off,” he said about “Like the Rest of Us.”
But one of the wildest parts of the song list emerges on “The Waitress” track. Says Slug: “Tom Waits beatboxes on it. I’m friends with his son. We’ve known each other for quite a while now, going on five or six years. And I finally asked him, I think literally, ‘Have I known you long enough now to ask if I can get in touch with your dad? Or is that offensive?’
So, I sent him the song and asked if he’d sing the chorus. He sent it back and totally avoided the chorus, but instead beatboxed on it. And it sounds good. It worked. We kept it subtle. I didn’t want to be exploitive. I wanted to make sure it made sense musically, and I think ultimately it really did.” As per the latest release and the future, Slug said that he just wants to remain true to his art. “Whatever hits me,” he said. “That’s the song I want to make.”
On Friday, October 8th, Atmosphere with guests Blueprint and P.O.S. performed at the Opera House in Toronto. As the audience packs together, shoulder to shoulder, collectively cramped and waiting, until 10:35 pm as Slug casually walks onto stage. He stands around with his black hooded sweatshirt draped over his recently grown back hair from the remnants of a bizarre Mohawk.
He presents himself in a proto-prominent stature, resembling a musical icon, and the crowd is forced into a frenzy of enthusiastic adoration. There is something unusual about the general sentiment of the show, a sort of je ne sais quas aura of finality that floats above the crowd. The congregation is immediately whirled into a hip hop dervish in that Sluggo becomes the deity of this unspoken trance-like state. At the conclusion of “God Loves Ugly” Slug looks at the audience, catching his breathe he says, “Do you guys have faith? I’m doing the best I can.” Although the majority of the audience responds with the same robotic assertiveness that can be found in a military line up, I feel the crowd generally misses the point, and does not see the underlying message of Slug’s statement.
There is something disenchanting about him asking whether we, the audience still have faith. There is something pathetic about it all, a puppy dog plea to not get forgotten among the litter, and yet the entire audience seems completely blind or indifferent to Slug’s appeal.
During the show, Slug plays mostly old material that although is better than playing material from his latest album, consistently reinforces the possibility in my mind that perhaps this is the last time I’ll be seeing Atmosphere. The show felt like a conclusion instead of a march to the future which was emphasized by the looming stench of an ending rather than the refreshing scent of a step forward.
I was able to get Slug on the phone the following Monday, and my questions were focused on that uncomfortable feeling that began during the show. Is this the end of Atmosphere? How long will Slug continue? “That’s a good question” Slug responds. “I’m going to go forever; I don’t know how long I’m going to be MCing, but even me, myself, I don’t listen to music for adults. And, how long is a 17 year old going to identify with what I’m saying. And I’ll probably not be jumping up on stage when I’m 40, but I’ll keep trying and make music. I’m still pretty confident that I’ll be playing a role in putting out quality music for kids.” With the kids in mind, it’s important to take a look at who these kids are that Slug is making music for.
Atmosphere seems to have a fan base that is dramatically noticeable as a house divided. On the one side you have the loyal fans who have been there or who favor his work from Overcast EP (1997) through his work on God Loves Ugly, however, they are still loyal to Slug for his integrity, yet are pretty darn skeptical of his work post God Loves Ugly. They are specifically ashamed of the mistake of an album, Seven’s Travels, specifically watching Slug bounce around in a long white tee in his “Trying to find a balance” video on MTV. As of 2005, I would say, give or take, this comprises about 35 percent of Atmosphere’s fan base.
The second half of Atmosphere’s fan base are the newbies, the pop punk kids of Warped Tour and the angsty emo kids who are glad someone else is conflicted about girls as much as they are. This group is very fond of crying and writing poetry, (hard emo-core poetry, mind you) and they get a real release out of watching Slug bounce around in the “Trying to find a balance” video.
Now, by all means, do your own research, this is strictly a guess from the gut, but it feels as though probably his fan base of ten kids from Minnesota who were there in the beginning, way back in the good ol’ days of 1997, are probably working at the local Tasty Burger in Minneapolis or are currently signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment. It is pretty hard to imagine that his original fans comprise Atmosphere’s fan base as of 2005.
Due to my inquisitive nature I ask Slug how he sees his fan base grow or mature through the years. This is a fairly difficult question, because the Master of Ceremonies, generally, is removed from his audience. While the MC is on stage being praised, the fan, like, myself for instance, is surrounded by the shirtless 14 year old drunk kid, with a fresh shaved head, who has convinced himself that this is not a hip hop show, let‘s say in 2005, but rather a Pearl Jam show circa ‘94 and decides to mosh during the show. It’s all fun and games for the MC, who is not standing front row center with this pre-pubescent hoodlum, so probably does not take notice of him, in any larger sense then that really enthusiastic 14 year old who confesses his love while getting his girlfriend’s t-shirt signed.
So, Slug, how has your fan base changed, I wonder. “It’s grown, that’s the only noticeable change, and with growth comes the politics of the business. You’re going to have kids that are going to be like, ‘I only liked him when I only knew about him.’ That’s just the nature of art with growth. In the end does it really matter how many records I’ve made, or have I inspired people to go out and make a better record then me? Yea the fan base has changed, but I’ve figured out a way to justify this, do I want to say the same shit to the same 50 kids that already know? Or do I want to influence the more ignorant audience who will eventually finds out about Jean Grae or Mr. Lif? Epitaph did us a favor with good distribution, I was like, put me in Warped Tour in front of these fucking pop punk kids and show them what hip hop is about.
I can’t show them what KRS One taught me, but I can tell them about myself. What’s the point of preaching to the choir? Personally, I feel if more people listen to Aesop Rock, there will be less white hat frat boy date rapers. These people are saying some really important things that people need to listen to, why do people want to clench it?”
Slug makes a valid argument. Why should he keep preaching to the choir, the “same 50 kids” as he puts it? Maybe I’m just being nostalgic of his earlier works and bitter at the little kids at shows who just discovered Atmosphere. Maybe it’s a good thing that these new kids are getting exposed to something different, but do they appreciate his work on Overcast, or Lucy Ford EP? Is Slug even nostalgic about his work on Overcast or Lucy Ford?
“I remember when I was a kid, it wasn’t mainstream and underground, it was, what was your intent? I used to get angry at LL when he would keep making songs about girls, and I would be like, ‘why did you make that”? There’s so much hip hop now, as it is now and how it was in ’97. It’ll always be the same. You have young people defining what they hate and what they love. What you choose to be interested in and what you choose to define yourself on. You have a lot of people who do that with music. When you have kids that hate on the mainstream, tell me that Outkast sucks? Then you have kids that are like, ‘fuck Aesop Rock or fuck Slug, that’s fucking nerd rap, whatever, you’re defining who you are, this is youth culture. I hated on plenty of shit when I was a kid. When I listen to rap, I listen to mostly old rap, because that’s where I was when I was forging my identity.
[When Atmosphere was coming out with Overcast] We all experienced a rush of people embracing us, because of indie hip hop. It was bigger than me, or Slug, or Atmosphere. It has nothing to do with me being a dope MC or not. It was about the time. Lucy Ford was to speak to people more my age. “Nothing But Sunshine,” the writing was sick, the beat was so so. Billy Joel is a great songwriter. I’m not a great songwriter; I just said what I needed to at the time. I’ll never be the MC that Busta Rhymes is, but I’ve learned more of how to tell a story. I know I’m a way better writer now. I know Lucy Ford and Overcast was the shit, if I can get kids to smile at the show or think it’s fresh then I’m doing my job. Representing my city, I still follow boom bap, and I still rhyme. I was never one of those dudes that said I would quit rhyming.”
Perhaps my feelings at the show were a bit off. Maybe this isn’t the end of Atmosphere. It surely is the end of Atmosphere as we know it, given by the material on his latest album You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having. I guess I’m still hoping for the day when I can see Atmosphere and think, yes, they are an “up there lyrical unit that keeps the average MC confused like a eunuch.” Those will be happy days, but until then, I will have to remember his older works for what they were, and let the new kids have fun, although, I can’t imagine how much fun they’re having. Regardless of the change of fan base and the dramatic change of his material, one thing is for sure. Where are you living these days Slug? “Minneapolis, I’ll never leave.” I think that’s one thing I’m pretty sure will never change.
Race, Representation and Resistance: Hip-Hop History and Politics in a Capitalist Culture
written by Michele Wong
What is hip-hop? Where is it derived from? What did it stand for and what does it stand for now? Why are there controversies in media? More often than not, those who engage in the culture and the world of hip hop, whether it be dancing, rapping, deejaying, spinning or admiring, do not think or know about the systemic roots of hip-hop. Sure, there are the “true school” kids who pride themselves in knowing what song came out when, or the complete anthology of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, or whatever, but still have no idea of its systemic issues. Why is that? How did the historical role of hip-hop come to be ignored by today’s generation of hip-hop contributors?
In this article, I will be discussing the topic of hip-hop history and politics in a capitalist culture through the theoretic framework of the following articles: Gangsta Culture- Sexism, Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap? by bell hooks, Check Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self: The Death of Politics in Rap Music and Popular Culture by Todd Boyd, The Politics of Hip Hop by Manning Marable, This Dark Diction Has Become America’s Addiction: Language Diaspora, and Hip Hop’s Billing Economy by Michael Eric Dyson and Bling Bling… and Going Pop: Consumerism and Co-optation in Hip Hop by Imani Perry. These articles all have one thing in common: they all recognize that hip-hop is a social changing culture. However, how has this culture really changed?
In Oprah Winfrey’s Town Hall Meeting on the hip-hop in the post-Imus era, she failed to acknowledge the major systemic issues of racism and sexism in the context of the capitalist culture paradigm.(1) Rather, hip-hop critics on the show attacked individual artists, radio stations and television network, Black Entertainment Television (BET) drowning the issues with personal stories of their experience with discrimination. Specifically attacked on the show, rapper 50 Cent responded with a valid point that it is very easy to attack an individual rather than large media empires that run media outlets. (2)
Although guests Russell Simmons, Common, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, and Kevin Liles attempted to create a forum on the historical positive impacts of hip-hop, it too largely ignored the issues of hip-hop within a capitalist culture. Marable’s article supported Russell Simmons’ emphasis on educating the artists(3) by creating strengthening networks within the hip-hop community, such as the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).
According to Marable, hip-hop was rooted through decades of racial and class struggle looking for social change and cultural empowerment, thereby believing that HSAN is necessary to reconnect civil rights leaders with the young hip-hop contributors today. This vaguely illustrates a relationship between politics and hip-hop. The words economics (money/bling), power, capitalism are all description words within the political science dictionary as well as associating with hip-hop culture when dissected into their own roles. Hip-hop now is fueled with a multi-billion dollar industry from top dog record labels to television shows like Randy Jackson’s America’s best dance crews showing off the art of breaking to millions. Increasingly so, hip-hop has submerged into the capitalist culture.
Marable depicts a degree of positivity that hip-hop plays in mainstream society. With HSAN, Marable believes that hip-hop can be an element in shaping society today. Still, he acknowledges the reactionary impulses of current hip-hop toward misogyny, homophobia, and specifically corporate greed that were “brutally exploited by business practices of managers and music executives.”
In describing corporate greed, bell hooks coined the term white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks 115) highlighting the predominant white capitalist society that has created a cultural vacuum crossing the world into white values while rewarding young rappers with monetary compensation for their contribution. Similar terms can be found within the same context such as white supremacist corporate capitalism (Dyson 58) or as the media’s eager embrace of the ghetto lifestyle (Boyd 327). The description of “ghetto lifestyle” points to a desire of white capitalism that young hip hop listeners are subscribed to.
This all mighty powerful hungry moneymaking machine is what has changed hip-hop into allowing “the success of a plethora of MCs with mediocre skills.” (Perry 191) It is the very topic that the guests of the Oprah Winfrey show have failed to address. They neglected to dig into the reasons why these young rappers are expressing words of hate. Most of these young musicians see what they have to do to make money: through commercialism dictated by the capitalist culture. The bottom line is; if you wave a million dollars across a poor man’s face, he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
What is hard to understand is the belief that white supremacist capitalism is what caused hip-hop to create music endorsing violence, misogyny and materialism. The type of music heard during hip-hop’s youth is parallel to what is being heard on the radio now. But because money is heavily involved, it has been tainted. Materialism, objectification, violence and misogyny were always prevalent in hip-hop and more specifically it was already deeply embedded into the patriarchical society. The only difference now is that it has been exploited. Those negative connotations are glorified now because it sells records.
While Afrika Bambataa established Zulu Nation for a political purpose, hip-hop was also developing from local block parties in the poverty-stricken Bronx. In the 1970’s, most of the young men in these types of communities were exposed to the violent gang wars in New York City in the seventies.(4) Hip-hop was established as the voice and heart of a neglected part of society, not as a voice of political embrace, but as a voice for their reputation. Eventually, the voice transformed into a political cause. All-in-all, DJ Kool Herc wasn’t attempting to develop a whole new genre of music or a brand new cultural expression rather he did so to formulate innovative mixing and scratching to establish a name for himself, or simply to put food on the table.
In a smaller scale, gangsta rap can be compared to mondo films, a type of documentary exposing really shocking and disturbing subject matter.(5) It started as one documentary and then it got more and more extreme to the point that it started turning into exploitative sales, encouraging to become more notorious. The content and shocking matters had always existed, yet the divergence of capitalist culture had tainted its original value. That is what hip-hop has developed into now. What it will evolve into later, we can only wait and see.
Notes (1) Oprah Winfrey Show. April 17, 2007. After Imus: the Hip Hop Community Responds. click here (2) Black Tree Media. You Tube. 50 Cent Response.
(3) “All throughout history the poets who have been a reflection of society have always been under fire. We don’t like what they have to say, but some of it has to be examined. It’s important that we teach artists more. It’s my job to teach artists to know more and say more.” – Russell Simmons on Oprah Winfrey Show (4) There are many examples of New York City gang war references in the 1970s including: New York Times. Bronx Gang Leader is Slain Trying to Arrange Peace (December 3, 1971) p 36 Other examples include novel the Warriors by Sol Yurick and the movie directed by Walter Hill. (5) Examples can be found on http://www.mondomovie.com
This semester, I’m taking a class at York University called Theorizing Hip Hop Feminisms. I honestly thought my professor would present videos like the Freshest Kids or something else I’ve already seen.
I was wrong… she showed something I not only never watched, but never heard of. Yes, I am very ashamed.
Byron Hurt (picture below) is an anti-sexist activist and filmmaker from Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Northeastern University as a quarterback… and get this: after he graduated he was hired by the Center for the Study of Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, where he became a spokesperson for domestic violence prevention. When he started he had no idea what he was doing, but after much research he became what I would say an expert.
Hurt had a love and passion for the culture of hip-hop. He also realized that in today’s society and hip-hop in particular, there is an excess in hyper-masculinity. Why do men degrade other men by feminizing them (i.e. emcee battles), or why is this culture in particular so homophobic yet so homoerotic?
He set out looking for the answer by raising money and creating the award winning documentary, Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, written and produced by Hurt. It explored the issues of masculinity, violence, homophobia and sexism in hip-hop music through interviews with artists, academics, a feminist, aspiring rappers and fans. Just some of those featured in the film include Chuck D, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Russell Simmons, Emil Wilkbekin, Stephen Hill, Sarah Jones Carmen Ashhurt-Watson, Dr. Jelani Cobb, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Kevin Powell, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Jason Katz, and Dr. James Peterson.
The opening scene captures its audience by first calling hip hop today, a box. No one leaves or goes outside the box because if they did, they’d be called a pussy, a wuss, a homo, a chump (see youtube video below). He’s right. I see it everyday. I see it in my friends, where when they make a sexual pun, they right away MUST say pause or no homo.Well fast forward a moment.
The film is not there to attack the hip-hop heads. The film is to make everyone aware of what is going on. Feminists have been doing so since day one. The interesting thing about Hurt is that he doesn’t coin the term feminist. Nor does he give feminists (especially black feminist thought) the credit it deserves for the ideas he uses in film… and for good reason. Feminism has been given a bad rap. The moment you say the word people back off. So before you go judging, this is a feminist film in a man’s perspective, in a non-feminist lecturing way. He also does not attack the individual, in fact, I would say he victimizes the individual rapper by situating him in the reality of white supremacist capitalist society. It sounds weird, but I’ll describe more later.
This film was, how I would describe written, filmed and produced perfectly.
The issues Beyond Beats and Breaks acknowledges are Masculinity, Misogyny & Homophobia and Media Literacy.
Masculinity may sound like a good thing to a man. I mean it is the traditional notion to teach a boy to “be a man.” However, when hypermasculinity go hand in hand with violence, it creates societal and systemic problems seen in our schools, communities and neighbourhoods today. He suggests that one way of counteracting hypermasculinity is develop other ways and notions of “being a man” and by doing so we have to step away from this one-dimensional way of seeing things, and in this case, “we” means hip hop.
At the BET’s annual spring fling in Daytona, Florida, Hurt interviews aspiring rappers. Each and every one of them he encounters rapped about rape, guns, violence, while dominating other men by demeaning and feminizing them.
Another young man, licks his lips at the women in Daytona, in hopes of getting some “bitches and hoes” and explains that women who dress like the women in music videos are not considered sisters but considered a bitch or a ho. Hurt calls the women over dressed in bikinis and asked if they considered themselves as a bitch or a ho. They replied that they are not. When asked about the music videos and how they feel about it, they replied that the music videos are simply not talking about them.
This part is my favourite part. Brace yourself.
Hurt illustrates a hypothetical picture: George Bush doing a speech in front of a nation and calls a group of black men niggers. He asks, would black people respond “oh they’re not talking about me”?
He makes a valid point. A very valid point.
What about homoeroticism in hip hop?
Interviewing three drag queens, they reveal how homoerotic the homophobic hip hop culture really is. A queen explains, when LL Cool J licks his lips or 50 Cent and Ja Rule pose half naked, greased up and muscular in music videos, magazines and album covers, women are not the only ones looking at that. Now there’s a thought.
“While these images might not have been created as explicitly homoerotic, hypermasculinity in hip-hop, sports and fraternity cultures serve to bond men together, often at the expense of women, gays and men who do not meet strict gender-based roles and expectations”
Like Hurt, I love hip hop myself. In fact, I’m big fans of Talib, Russell Simmons, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes. So it was shocking to me when I saw that not one of them had something conscious or respectful to say about the subject matter. Simmons responded that he simply did not have the “equipment.” Go figure. Don’t get me wrong, I still got respect for him, though, I really want to smack him with my shoe and scream, “Racism isn’t the most important discrimination issue!”
Hurt does recognize that it is not all at the fault of the individuals – the rappers. He does not forget to include the overwhelming influence of the white supremacist capitalist culture – a term coined by bell hooks. In one of my readings for class, it makes the comparison of how black rappers today are still enslaved by the superior white capitalist culture. Money is just the diversion. They are trapped in the box and imprisoned to demean other black men and women through their lyrics.
The slaughter of hip-hop began during its establishment in the mainstream “growing increasingly limited and one dimensional.” When Hurt confronts the aspiring rappers about their unoriginal lyrics, they immediately respond defensively that its what “they” want to hear. It’s how to get a record deal.
A good friend of mine once told me that if you wave a million dollars in a poor man’s face, they’ll do anything you want to get it. It sure looks like he’s right.
Hurt explores how white-owned record labels run their businesses. In 2003, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission lifted the bans on media deregulation, allowing media corporations to own multiple radio stations, television networks and other sources of entertainment (around the time when Def Jam was bought out). These corporations in turn have expanded their buyers to white consumers, raking in millions more.
A while back, I watched Oprah’s Town Hall Meeting on Hip Hop. A guest compared today’s rap videos to the Birth of a Nation. If you’ve watched it, I hope you hated it. The film was made in 1915 after the Civil War depicting black men as hypersexual, dangerous animals (especially to white women). It was highly racist and was used to recruit Ku Klux Klan members, which worked. When I heard that comparison, I was appalled.In Hurt’s documentary, he shows clips of Birth of a Nation.With no surprise, I was disgusted.
I don’t normally watch a lot of music videos unless I youtube them myself to specifically watch one. So, when I watched Nelly’s Tip Drill video for the first time in the documentary, my jaw dropped. The man who made the comparison was right. Nelly is a victim of white supremacist capitalism.
Byron Hurt brings both academia and well-respected artists together, merging both paradigms collectively into a greater understanding for the world. The moment I finished watching the documentary in class I bought it and I encourage every one who has love and respect for hip hop, hyper-emasculated or not, to watch it. It’s one to keep in your collection.
The Vancouver Fashion Week was four days (November 1-4) of colour, excitement and creatitvity, which provided Vancouver’s fashionista community with much to see and talk about. The week began with the VFW opening gala at Bar None in Yaletown, where media and those lucky enough to attend, got to meet the designers and see a showing of their latest designs. All designer works were showcased on the runway at The Chapel (304 Dunlevy St.). Some of the local designers included Lily O’Brian, Faye Caudwell, Shaina Webb, Dahye Lee, Roberta Lee (TUSH), Daniel Gonzalez (Damage), and Justina Anzulovich (Like Sunday). The VFW is slated to return in early April of 2008. For more information on the VFW or photos please visit: www.vanfashionweek.com
Vancouver’s naughtiest fashion show and auction benefit was everything expected and more. The Be Bare fashion auction show at the Commodore ballroom (868 Granville Street) was a success, not only for the designers who showcased their work, but also for the individuals in the crowd who wanted to dress just like the models they saw.
The night started off like any other fashion show would. Models and designers were running behind, make up and hair had to be finalized and there was an atmosphere of excitement, fear and pressure to perform. Nearly 45 minutes later, the show began and the models were ready to show off their chic look on the runway.
The runway portion of the show was nothing short of spectacular with the event’s spokesperson, model Noot Seear, opening up the night and starting off the runway show in a beautiful outfit by Evan & Dean. The rest of the show only got better with models showcasing other great fashions by Richard Kidd, One Of A Few, Melinda-Mae Harlingten, Kulpa, Jonathan + Olivia, Blue Ruby, Vera Wang, Sunja Link, d a c e, Marchesa, Evidence of Evolution, Brooklyn Clothing and Allison Wonderland.
Dave Dimapilis & P.J. Prinsloo of the Sketch Laugh Lounge MC’d the event for the most part of the night. Dance performances were done by the SVS style Crew and Dj’s Flipout and J.Reign provided the music.
An hour after all the hot fashions where shown, the show took a “naughty” turn. The auction began on all the clothes shown and few were lucky enough to bid on some of the clothes they saw and take them home with them. With every outfit being bought the models stripped down to their underwear, not only to show how sexy they really are but also to show their devotion to a great cause. 98% of the donations given that night were given to the Rose Charities in order to help those with facial disfigurement, suffering from HIV & AIDS, and also by giving a chance to those who wouldn’t normally have a chance to live.
Everyone in attendance was overly pleased with the outcome of the event and all the money raised for charity. It is hoped that the event will return next year, if not at the Commodore Ballroom then once again somewhere in the city.
Listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” seemed to influence us all at one point in some way. But amongst all the material that floats around, it truly grabbed a young girl from Atlanta, serving as one of the reasons she became inspired to create her own music.
Few of us can remember having a bank account at eighteen that rivals that of most adult professionals. In fact, at eighteen, I don’t believe I have that much exceptional experience to shower people with stories of. Definitely little in comparison to that of “Crunk & B” superstar Ciara, who states that she is in reality, a “simple” girl. A simple girl who has achieved platinum sales before being able to have a drink legally.
I deem the all-over-print-design hoody officially over. If you donâ€™t know what I speak of your eyes are closed. These hoodies are featured among societyâ€™s finest and lowest. They feature designs such as multi-colored stars, clouds, words, skulls, guns, logos, and everything else. The design is a print Xeroxed numerous times all over a fabric. Itâ€™s like taking a stamp, and stamping a hoody until it is entirely covered. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve seen them among campus, in Seattle, at a show or in your best friends closet.
I believe they became played out back in December, but now is the time to announce its demise. The style is full-blown like an epidemic. Every time I see someone wearing them I cringe as if cigarette smoke blew in my face. My hands clasp in hardened angst at the mere sight of them. I have never owned an all-over-print hoody, I never had too because everyone else did. Theyâ€™re like the Griswallâ€™s house during Christmas holiday, completely over-the-top.
The average price for one of these is around $70. Knock-offs can be purchased between $20 and $30 and offer a buyer the same self absorbed vanity. Iâ€™ve seen the hoodies for up to $300 for exclusive styles by â€œballerâ€ status clothing labels.
These hoodies make me dry heave with bitterness. Theyâ€™re the plague to fashion, consuming every clothing boutique and adorning every young hip-hop zealot. Theyâ€™re an eye-sore among a crowd. They have the uncanny ability to draw you in like tunnel vision, then crush your senses with anxiety like falling Tetris blocks.
The best place to observe them in action is at an underground Hip-hop show. They flock like gulls and shit all over the floor. And of course theyâ€™re topped off with a New Era fitted ball cap, golden logo adorned on the bill like a merit badge. I have nothing against ball caps, but chill out on the perfectly matched hat, hoody and shoes. The same kids that own this gear probably order every El-P produced-record via the web with fierce conviction. These kids are the epitome of sold out. Their taste is over confined and rigidly stagnant. These hoodies are at the bulls-eye of the fashion target right now. Companies keep slinging them however, because they make a ton of money, but those money-making days are coming to an end. What more can be done with the design? I anticipate the day I donâ€™t see them at fashion boutiques and throughout online stores. All-over hoodies are raging birthmarks with an inferiority complex. I hope they go out of style like Laser Discs.