Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pushing the envelope back?

What's good? I mean, what's REALLY good?! It seems as if there's a conspiracy to block the next level of Black music from coming to fruition. Dime-a-dozen hip-hop and R&B acts are being spat out from the factory at an alarming rate, while acts with edge and a futuristic sense of musicality get suppressed every time. The rule of thumb is if you don't fit in the box, you don't fit. The machine is scared shitless of anything that they don't already have a marketing algorithm for. Even if it compromises and applies a little pop sensibility to itself.
I mean...can you say Res?

Could it be that while some of these acts are actively pushing the envelope, the industry is incessantly pushing it back? Ya think so? The saddest part of this saga is that the public is deprived of making the ultimate decision of what appeals to them. I know, I know. Simply putting dope, cutting edge artists on won't remedy the problem. Most people are scared to even make that decision based on the conviction of their peers. But does that mean that we should just let the current situation remain?
Lordy. Sometimes I just want to quote my man Malcolm X:

"You've been hoodwinked. You've been had. You've been took. You've been led astray, led amok. You’ve been bamboozled."

I mean, I dig pop music just as much as the average person. Well...maybe not that much. But let's keep it funky, you need a well balanced diet in all aspects of life. All this cheese has got me constipated...

Anyway, here's an example of two groups that I thought would have been doin' it big by now. I know...wishful thinkin'.

It seemed like J.Davey definitely had next on the blowuptuate chart for the 2006-2007 period. Last year, they were buzzin' on the tongues of every "underground" figure of substance and popping up in the right magazines and on the right records at the right times. Questlove affectionately labeled them the "ghetto Eurythmics." Hmm...I prefer the "Black" Eurythmics. Jack and Brook were essentially at the tipping point of their career. But after the Warner Bros. deal stalled, seemed like they got buried in their own hype. I, for one, still love the group. Always have. Their sound is innovative, retro in some aspects but still fresh. Their bootlegs are legendary. Their image is mos def cutting edge. I had been waiting for a viable Black group to come along and push the envelope and kick a field goal in the process. Being that they scored some impressive touchdowns, let's just hope that this is just half time.

Sa-Ra. What can I say. The fellas are definitely talented. "Maxine" still stands as my favorite cut on John Legend's last album. Again, these dudes have gotten praise from the talking heads of the so-called "true school" Black music realm. They popped up in hipster and mainstream mags alike and issued a string of ill underground 12" singles, mix tapes, and limited edition Japanese import vinyls since 2004. Not only did they get signed to a major, but they signed to a joint venture label with the narcissist, flamboyant king of hipster-hop himself, Kanye West. All this amounted to nothing in the end. 5 minutes after the CD samplers went out the door to generate more buzz on their highly anticipated G.O.O.D. Music debut, Sony Urban had the rug snatched from under it and the Sa-Ra project has been hovering in purgatory ever since. To their credit, they did release a full length onBabygrandelast year, The Hollywood Recordings. But these dudes need to shine...for real.

Well...I could go on and on. But the history books are rife with examples and it would take me light years to wax poetic.
Therefore, I defer to my girl Jack Davey who sums it all up in a recent post to their blog. It's long winded, but exemplary to say the least. Cut and paste this manifesto as you see fit:

read this out loud !

this is intended for all of you lowly puppets who sit in your big offices in big buildings that will soon be out of business & thus, forced to hold vacant memories of an industry that once was . this is for all of the big wigs in suits & ties who sit at the head of the conference room table with creative opinions as empty as the "music" they force down the throats of the now bored & uninspired creative consumers . this is for all the idle assistants who only work hard enough to get their names on the grammy party lists, or whose only existence remains obsolete if he/she can't get into the hot new band's hollywood show debut . this is for the borderline retarded a&r guy who should in fact abandon his dreams of changing the failing record industry to become a highly paid talent scout at a modeling agency . this is definitely for all the marketing low lives who fail to avidly push great talent because the world's fave reality slut randomly decided one day while botoxing her armpits that she wants to be a rockstar.

yes .

this open letter is for all of you .
come feast your eyes upon the truth behind your insolence for 5 minutes , if you even have your job for that much longer. 

your blatant lack of respect & worship for the oldest & dearest artform has brought a once thriving & artistic industry to a grinding halt . your willingness to believe that the world wide web has killed the consumers' thirst for new & exciting talent is wildly ignorant & safe . you would like to feed into this stupidity because you are too lazy to stand behind substance ; you'd rather take the low & easy road than take the time to nurture true talent . you'd rather tirelessly feed us the same carbon copied , lip synching , sex dripping , faux punk "i got my entire outfit from hot topic" rocker , buffoonishly ghetto "are they even speaking english?" hip hop , "same old same" sound from song to song type image & force us to believe that this is all the world's artists have to offer . you'd rather watch your company stocks & yearly record sales severely plummet than take strong initiative to fix the current problem . you'd rather see hundreds of employees laid off & out of work during the holidays because you're too afraid to stand up for something new & different . you're content with creating a 1-hit wonder society , where any idiot with anything shockingly catchy can enjoy a sorry 15 minutes of fame & a future segment on vh1's "biggest 1-hit wonders of 08" extravaganza .

where is the new generation of legends ?

beyonce & alicia keys are old shoe ins . r kelly , sure , but his personal dramas easily overshadow his genius . radiohead & outkast comes to mind , & then i draw a big blank .

the latest thrill in music has been an over abundance of great dancers with mediocre voices , albums , singles , concert ticket sales , etc . thank god the internet allows every joe blow in the universe a free forum to overexpose every little thing , especially mediocre celebrities . thank god for online music forums , such as myspace . artists are able to directly connect with the people & expose themselves & their art to everyone everywhere at the click of a button . myspace proves that music can no longer fit into a box . long gone are the days of urban vs pop vs alternative radio . gwen stefani had hit songs for years on the pop & alt charts , but she records a song written by pharrell & she's instantly on top of the urban charts as well . this new r&b dance pop music crosses over to white kids & that kelly clarkson "since you've been gone" song was smeared across the lips of many a young black girl last year . m i a is all over the indie alternative stations , & lets not even get started on gnarls barkeley .

all signs point to the obvious : true music consumers right now are a ) young , & b) smart . young kids are able to point & click their way to every new trend . they arguably have short attention spans & they want to be in on what's cool & personable to them . when madonna emerged in the '80s you had tons of girls around the world imitating her every move & style down to the mole . kurt cobain turned grunge commercial when he was exposed to millions of kids who felt like society's outsiders looking in . hip-hop has been a huge influence on mainstream culture since the early '80s because of it's relativity . kids have not changed . young people are not mindless robots who like what you tell them to like with no opinions . the youth are always looking to be enthralled .

they want to be entertained . they want to feel as though they are a part of something that will be written about , studied , & revered 20 years later . they , like all of us old & young alike , want to be inspired . when i was a kid i saw prince prance around on stage & dazzle people with his art & i felt inspired to do the same thing . why are you music industry idiots attempting to tell us that we don't want to be touched ? why are you trying to rob us of new musical experiences ? will there ever be another motown 25 / michael jackson moonwalk experience ? will we never again hear a single like queen's "bohemian rhapsody" on the radio because the hook isn't catchy enough ? will we never see another band like the talking heads & joy division or parliament ? will there never be another artist to rival frank zappa ? will we be forced to hear different versions of the same dumb song on every single radio station every 5 minutes simply because the record label had enough money to pay off the station manager ? are we still supposed to care about mtv when there are hardly any videos in rotation ? do i even need to mention b e t or v h 1 ? are any of the classic record industry outlets working these days ? as of late it seems that artists are independently breaking ground with their own efforts . songs are being licensed for national commercials from artists' myspace pages & personal websites . ellen degeneres has been known to book musical guests from videos seen on youtube , & as i aforementioned , gnarls barkeley not only created a new genre , but they also won grammy awards for an album that was recorded in home studios & released through an indie label .

why should artists even seek major label deals ? they are completely outdated & obsolete . artists are sold the dream that talent can secure superstardom , but it becomes evident that labels only sign bands nowdays because of the band's existing fanbase & record sales , or because they dig the artist's look & want to cash in . they don't want to develop the art . they don't want the artist to express his/herself entirely . they just want the artist to comply with what will get the company a big monetary return . they sign you for millions , pimp you for pennies , then drop you a year later when the music they made you record & release is no longer relevant . you're left on the streets unsigned & irrelevant & ready to infect the world with the music you've always wanted to make , but no one will take a chance on you due to your previous material . meanwhile , the label has already put white out over your signature on the slave deal & replaced it with a younger version of you . cold game , ain't it ?

the age old model is failing . as an industry based on faithful consumers you have lost your connection with the people who matter most : the PEOPLE . you have yet to show them that you are with the changing times & able to adapt to something new . you are proving that you are too afraid to promote good music . you would rather let the monotonous drone of what is today's music remain unbalanced by substance . you would rather watch more legendary artists abandon you for direct deals with itunes & touring companies . you would rather allow the internet to defeat what should be your life's work . maybe you should excuse yourself from the next a&r meeting to go take a look in the bathroom mirror . stand there & ask yourself why you took this job , & when you realize it's simply because you wanted to be cool & "in the mix" then return to the conference room , take that gun out of your pocket , & shoot yourself in the head in front of your coworkers so that you are made an example of . if you can in fact leave that conference room & look in the bathroom mirror with pride & hunger to break the monotony then head back into that conference room , jump on top of the table & read this manifesto .

this is a challenge .

we're calling your bluff .

record labels are nothing but banks that give artists hi price loans in exchange for artistic control . put your money where your cocks are . go out on a limb & support real music for a change . find the line where the internet & the real world meet & infect more people with something magical . start building more legends . it's almost too late . interscope is dead . def jam is next . motown who ? mca what ? warner , you're not too far behind . the war sirens are ringing & you're content with playing deaf & dumb .
we're calling your bluff !

we're here to reprogram how you & the rest of the world listen to music .

we can do this together , or you can stick to your own devices & peril in the process .
we are the people . we are the future . we are the present .
who are you ?


copy this , paste this , & repost it wherever you see fit . email it to those who you believe can benefit from somethin like this . this is from the heart in jerry maguire "who's comin with me?" fashion . lets open our eyes , our ears , & our hearts . lets stop standin for the bullshit & start demandin these idiots to take charge & make change . substance has the right to be heard . support real shit & start takin it to the streets !

c'mon people .

it's 2008 . diddy killed music in 94 . it's time for some better shit .

Pass it on...


ml said...

I love love love love Res debut album. But I gotta say, I checked her live a couple, maybe 3 summers ago, in a Blacksmith (her then management co.) concert, and I gotta say I was not feeling so much her new stuff. Way too poppy seed for me. Res, please go back to Doc.

And speaking of Doc, another dope album is Esthero's debut, "Breath From Another." One of my FAVE FAVES. And me, personally promoting/producing her acoustic show 2 summers ago was definitely a career highlight for moi!

(Doc produced both Res and Esthero's debuts.)

AHMAD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AHMAD said...

I have to agree with ml on this one. Res's new stuff was not hot (I think she had more control over the new tracks) show was disappointing too. As much as artist like to think they're a one man/women show, everyone needs a musical partner. Look at Pete Rock and C.L Smooth, Talib and Hi Tek, Amy Winehouse and Salaam Remi, the list goes on and on. Each artist changed drastically after disbanding.

Res please go back to Doc.