When up-and-coming R&B star Frank Ocean released an open letter to his first love via his Tumblr, some people wondered whether this was a joke à la Lil’ B. For decades we have wondered what the world would look like the day an urban music artist came out of the closet. And with last week’s revelation, the picture seemed pretty uninspired: Currently America is broke, stuck in a couple of wars, our politicians couldn’t be more polarized, and Tom Cruise is going through his third divorce.
Before she was Nicki Minaj, the international superstar (real name: Onika Tanya Maraj) with her wigs and outlandish colorful outfits that give Lady Gaga a run for title of Best Weirdly Dressed, she was Nicki Minaj, a talented aspiring hip-hop artist from the Queens. And the above video of her from that pre-red carpet fame era is currently being passed around the Internets in the past couple days with some viewers longing for this rawer, more pedestrian side of Nicki Minaj. Hey Sasha Frere-Jones: feel free to use this as a flint for your next essay about constructions of identity and its conflict with notions of authenticity as it pertains to hip-hop. Or something. Incidentally, if you slow down Nicki Minaj’s voice she sounds a lot like Jay-Z. Conversely, if you speed up Jay-Z he sounds like Nicki Minaj. This is a mathematical fact.
Last week, Odd Future affiliate, DJ, producer, singer, and overall badass Syd tha Kyd decided to do what young urban punks do in an interview, she flew off the handle giving her unedited opinions on the state of culture. And that’s a polite way to say Syd is frustrated at the lack of gay role models in urban music. She went as far as to question the legitimacy of Alicia Keys’ marriage, along with Queen Latifah and Missy Elliot’s sexuality. “You know she loves her some bitches,” is an exact quote.
Article: The latest b-boy dance moves
I’ve long expressed my love of hip hop dance films. If you’ve ever wondered just who’s spending money to go see the movies in the STEP UP franchise, well, count me in that demographic. I like their combination of sick dance routines, hot dancing chicks and positive, uplifting messages about acceptance. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise – and by fight I mean challenge to a dance off, obviously. I, for one, can’t wait for the fourth in the series, STEP UP 4EVER, which is slated for release sometime next year. I’m sure it’ll feature a lot of moves inspired by the dancing at events like the Notorious IBE (The Notorious International Breakdance Event) b-boy contest in Holland.
Article: The Amen Break
The above 20 minute documentary was made in 2004 and it’s all about what is likely the most famous sample ever recorded, the “Amen Break,” pulled from a hit, then forgotten, record from the 1960s. That single, the song “Amen, Brother” was performed by the The Winstons. This film honors it.
Rapper T.Shirt weaves 120 film titles into one cohesive song while wandering through the two-floors of the Angelika, my favorite theater in the City. And this video was also done in one-shot. As his t-shirt says, I think this video is MAD ILL. You can view a list of all the films name dropped in…
Article: NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell
Watch this film if you love New York or music. It’s eye-opening.
Many music genres emerged from NYC in the late 1970s: dance, hip-hop, punk. This wonderful film dissects the politics of 1977 and the emergence of those music genres, which, to this day, shape and inspire most popular music. Also thrown in is a history of being a minority, race and sexuality, in Manhattan during the time.
This impressive four minute video of French beat boxer EKLIPS covering the “history” of hip hop’s classic hits in a single take is blazing through the web. Relatedly, check out this cute 19 year old Canadian Chinese girl Sophia KiddBeatz who posts beat box tutorial videos on YouTube which are pretty popular. [Hat tip: Pooja!]
How do you get a group of urban high school students interested and involved in issues like climate change and environmental justice? Connecting it to the music they love is a good bet… and we’ve already seen how hip hop’s worked as a tool for engaging target audiences on topics ranging from local, healthy food to the damage created by plastic shopping bags.
Article: Green hip hop vs. the plastic bag
Let’s face it: an awful lot of environmental activism leans towards the stern and dour side. Getting artists involved (particularly as artists, not spokespeople) can shake that up… and even add an element of fun to a serious message.
That’s the approach non-profit Green Sangha took to its Rethinking Plastics campaign. Yes, the campaign page has all sorts of good scientific information on the costs of single-use plastic shopping bags, but to make the message a bit more catchy, they also produced a hip hop video featuring socially conscious artists AshEl Eldridge and Jenni Perez. The information here is also solid: “Plastic State of Mind” ties in everything from litter to the BP Oil Spill to dioxins in breast milk into its rap. The ultimate message: ban the bag.
This pair of French twins Laurent & Larry Bourgeois or the Les Twins are much, much better at dancing than you. They’ve apparently been causing a stir with their updated twist on b-boy dancing. Watch their astonishing performance above at the 2010 World of Dance. More on them here at Metafilter.
Article: Amazing dance video: Turfing
No, this isn’t a dramatic scene out of a dance movie (one of my guilty favorite story themes): it’s just four “cooler than you’ll ever be” guys on a soggy and rainy street corner doing dance moves that can only qualify as expert level dancing otherwise known as “turfing.” The dancers are “No Noize (red…
Try explaining climate change to young people in terms of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, or the dangers of toxic wastes by focusing on water sheds… chances are they’ll be checking their phones, if not dozing off, in a matter of minutes. Now imagine these same concepts being addressed by rappers from the neighborhoods these kids come from… you’ll likely see more enthusiasm for the topics.
Hip-hop stars rush at the chance to collaborate. You pick up a rap album and it seems almost always to be a duet disc with guest vocalists appearing on multiple tracks. Pop stars caught on to this craze too. Trying to gain street cred and a younger audience, performers as diverse as Madonna, Beyonce, and Maroon 5 have enlisted the guest hip-hop performer to appear on their discs. Hell, I even think Wyclef Jean and Kanye West have been on more records for others than on their own songs.
Quick: think of a hip hop song that addresses urban farming or vegetarianism. You might have a tough time… doesn’t most of the music associated with this style revolve around glorifying gangstas? Not according to the organizers of this weekend’s sixth annual Organic Hip-Hop conference: “Just as Hip Hop as a culture was birthed in activism with the goal of saving lives, we seek to continue in that tradition by providing an alternative lifestyle that will garner better physical as well mental and spiritual health.”
Legendary hip hop group The Roots remind us that they’re still a force to be reckoned with despite their mainstream-friendly daily duties backing up Jimmy Fallon as his house band. From their upcoming album of the same name, “How I Got Over” blends a socio-political message about brotherhood and lending a helping hand where “someone…
Article: "T-1000 jumps out & drops the shocked copper then he steals the cops wheels & investigates John Conner"
DJ Mayhem and MC Mouthmaster Murf, the duo behind the band The Anomolies have gained some fame and the adoration of nerdcore hip hop and action film fanboys alike in the past for their epic rap summarizations of classic blockbuster movies such PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. They’re back brilliantly again and this time apply their lyricism…
Article: Beatbox hip hop medley
Brett Domino and Scott Peavis, two of the Brett Domino Trio, nerdify Hip Hop by performing this medley of rap classics such as “Rappers Delight” and “Jump Around.” They are using the Stylophone beatbox, which reproduces sounds that were originally created, not by a computer, but by a MAN, or less dramatically, beatboxing champ, MC…
Article: Kanye West glows in the dark
Love him or hate him, one thing is for certain: you’ve talked about Kanye West this year. He’s the arrogant buffoon who bullied a teen girl in front of millions. He’s the rap star who at the top of his game turned his back on hip-hop’s school of thought and made a techno-pop album where he sings. He’s remarkably annoying.
Article: Blitz the Ambassador
I’ve been watching on repeat lately the music video for Brooklyn rapper Blitz the Ambassador’s single “Breathe” from his new album Stereotype, an iTunes Hip-Hop top ten chart (without label support! Dang, someone sign him UP! ). Before moving to the States for college at Kent State University, Blitz’s musical style was strongly informed and influenced by his experience growing up in Ghana surrounded by the sounds of Afro-Beat and Highlife, as well as playing djembe in drum circles. Speaking of style, if “Breathe” is any indication, he’s got that and then some. The music video and the sound, backed by his band Embassy Ensemble, is brimming with head-nodding, shoulder-shaking, foot-tapping energy.
Blitz recently composed the original score to the PBS documentary, BRONX PRINCESS, which chronicles a Bronx-bred teenager, Rocky Otoo’s journey from New York City to Ghana to reunite with her chief father.
Article: Human beat box laboratory
Disembodied heads replace the traditional turntables and drumset in this awesome must-watch video by beatbox crew Neurosonics Audiomedical Laboratory. The production quality is remarkable. It’ll turn your head!! Neurosonics Audiomedical Labs Inc. from Chris Cairns on Vimeo.
Article: Beef on the internet
The New York Times today ran an interesting story on an old topic: beef between rappers in the hip-hop community. The article focuses on Joe Budden, a new school rapper, and Raekwon, a 90s rap relic, famous for being a member of Wu-Tang Clan. Budden has built a following, and a means of attack, via the…
Article: SUNfiltered music videos
This week’s top five music videos circulating around the Internet tubes. They all share a certain upbeat sound which is perfect for sunny summer weekends. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
1. The theatrical music video for Australian duo Empire of the Sun’s (Luke Steel from The Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore from Pnau) catchy electro-pop tune “Walking on a Dream” was shot in Shanghai and directed by Josh Logue.