Thursday, January 29, 2009

:::The Bitch Is Back::Grace For Your Face:::

By now, y'all should know that I have an affinity for Black folk in the arts that push the envelope and defy convention. Hendrix. Sun Ra. Basquiat. Bad Brains. Fishbone. Snuky Tate. Betty Davis. Andre 3000. Kelis. Janelle Monae. The list is long, yet not long enough. But Grace Jones, a.k.a. Strângé, has definitely earned her rightful place on it. I mean...who can deny the prowess of a woman who invented the ubiquitous 80s hair cut the flat top, slapped the sh*t out of a BBC talk show host on live television, and gave us one of the funkiest 80s throwback jams"Pull Up To The Bumper?" Hell, her 1982 feature length avant garde movie A One Man Show still informs my artistic sensibilities to this day. This month, the gender bending Grace stages a brazen return to the spotlight, snagging the cover of V Magazine in the process. Hurricane, her first studio album in nearly 20 years, is on shelves now.

Though most of the "cover story" consists of a fashion spread, it's still worth a thumb through. I'm guessing that's V Magazine's format. At any rate, I can't hate. So I'll celebrate. Homegirl deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award. Damn shame folks don't get props in such an age of accelerated manufactured celebrity. Check the video for the first single, "Corporate Cannibal":

Check her site here for more details. 'Nuff respect due.

Monday, January 19, 2009

::You Goin'?::

I'm already here. Too slow. U blow.

:::Goodbye, Old Chap::Mondo Kim's @ St. Marks:::

After the shuttering of their Avenue A, Uptown, and West Village outposts, the closing of Mondo Kim's flagship location on St. Mark's following a 20 year run somehow feels like a harbinger of woes to come for indie music/ film retail. While it's not quite the death knell many predict it to be, it's certainly discouraging. Apparently, several attempts to save the store fell flat after scant did plans to salvage the entire VHS/ DVD rental collection. Instead, this lauded, eclectic lot will end up half way around the world in Italy. Go figure.

I used to love digging through Kim's funky little 99 cent used vinyl bins. Even though 99% of it was crap, you'd always find a gem or two in there if you were a patient enough crate digger. I went weekly to stay up on the latest indie releases and copped many a bootleg vinyl, CD, and DVD. Kim's @ St. Mark's was like an institution for me: I've traded and sold so many CDs there, browsing till the clock struck 11:59 PM, even gawked at their ridiculous porn collection. Yeah, they've opened up a more scaled down version of the store on 1st Avenue, but it will never be the same. Yet and still, it's up to this new location and Other Music to uphold the indie rock torch in NYC. But the question is...if the weight gets too heavy for them to bear with waning record/ DVD sales and a lingering economic slump, will there be any successors to pass that torch to? Are we witnessing the last gasps of an era? Stay tuned through the technical difficulties.

Friday, January 16, 2009

::Virgin Megastore Closing Times Square Location::

Looks like the earlier reports were wrong. All wrong. Apparently the Union Square location is staying put while the perceivable money maker in Times Square bows out due to, you guessed it, rising rents and slumping record sales. It's rumored that the space will go to clothing retail outlet Forever 21. If this is true, this would be the third known instance where a clothier was able to foot higher rents than their less profitable music retail predecessors in NYC. HMV's 125th Street location surrendered its digs to Rainbow while the HMV at Herald Square made way for mainstream lingerie chain Victoria's Secret.

Oh, well. Can't say that I'll miss that location, seeing as that I loathe going to Times Square anyway. But I will most definitely make the trip when they have their liquidation sale around March/April and snatch up some vinyl on the cheap. I guess the old model really is dying after all. Right before our very eyes.

More info here and here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

::Prince's 3 Resolutions for 2009::

In 2009, Prince plans to release 3 full-length albums. Does anybody think this is a case of O.G. OD? But then again, Prince has always been the one for outdoing the competition. Even when the competition is himself. But even more audacious and bewildering is that he plans on releasing these albums without the aid of a major label. He's going a rather unorthodox route: distributing through an as yet unnamed major retailer. Hmm. Target? Best Buy? Those are the only national retailers left that carry music unless he's courting the national bully and global pillager WalMart. Whatever the case, I'm sure it will be a spectacle. His name still perks up ears and makes registers chime. And that's all good, homie. Just don't expect us to buy it if it's that esoteric, avant garde mind fuck garbage you put out at the beginning of the decade (Xpectations, N.E.W.S., Rainbow Children). I bought them all and was not happy.

Furthermore, I'm a little wary of the 3-album-in-one-year promise. Sounds just like the unfulfilled promise that another artist made to us last year:

But time will tell. And usually when Prince announces that he's makin' moves...the ink is already dry. Your man is good on delivery. However, the quality of the package is what concerns me. No pun intended. The delicate balance of making music for yourself while making music for the market place (ie; your fans) is one that often eludes many of our more eclectic artists. And Prince seems like he's been off of that tightrope for the better part of 10 years now. And it's safe to say that the fans have caught on by now. With albums sales at traditional outlets stalling, illegal downloading at an all time high, and a recession that seems to be dragging on with uncertainty, most folks have become devout members of the try-before-you-buy club. I wasn't really feelin' 3121, so I'll stay on the skeptical side of things until I hear his new stuff. I'm done with supporting artists based on blind faith. I've been burned too many times. If I were you, I'd save my lunch money. In the meantime, check out his new site here.

Vans X Bad Brains

Roaming the city today and saw this:

A double panel billboard announcing the collaboration (theoretical) of seminal hardcore punk band Bad Brains and skater clothier Vans! Note: this is a distinctly different collaboration than the Supreme X Bad Brains X Vans collection introduced last spring. For the Vans/ Bad Brains collection, it seems they went more for a practical usage of the images associated with the band when they created the kicks:

The insoles and the soles are kinda dope too:

Apparently, a few select bloggers got the drop on the collection last summer. But the joints are officially on the rack this spring. However, I have seen a few pairs pop up on Ebay already. But the page listed on the billboard ain't even up yet...that's how fresh this sh*t is:

I'm tryin' to holla at them lightning bolt joints. Trust and know that I will be keeping an eye out. I know I clowned them Cali kids The Pack for that wack ass 4 minute commercial called "My Vans," but it looks like I will be officially sporting my first pair very soon if I get my hands on a pair of these. I rep DC and Bad Brains all day. Ain't no bubble gum fad bidnezz here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

::Jermaine Dupri's 3 strikes::

It appears long-time music mogul Jermaine Dupri has just been handed his hat to him for the third time. According to sources, Dupri has just been axed from his position of president of Island Records Urban Division. Apparently, this is not a new experience for Dupri. In 2004, he exited Arista Records after one year to assume the position of president of urban music at Virgin Records. Following internal allegations of poor promotion of the label's urban releases and the lackluster success of Janet Jackson's final album for the label, 2006's 20 Y.O., Dupri exited the label. He sought refuge the following February at Island Def Jam, where the Island Records Urban Division was created with his leadership savvy and musical expertise in mind. But 2008 Island Def Jam releases by the label's biggest stars Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson underperformed, leading to this resolute, yet very precedented moment.

Damn, JD. A brotha just can't keep a job, huh. Not discounting his immaculate track record of hits and allegations that he's one of the wealthier purveyors of hip-hop, but his executive track record is akin to that of a merry-go-round. Nothing has lasted for this kat for longer than a year or two. But to his defense, I'm sure the changing of the climate of the music industry has more to do with this than his actual merit. The machine has put more emphasis on immediate returns now more than ever. In all truth, the corporate music industry structure of today does not allow room for growth potential. This goes double for artists, both new and established. Gone are the days when a successful artist can wait 3 to 4 years between albums and expect to be greeted with the same fanfare and sales as their previous effort. This can have a detrimental effect on the natural progression of an artist's work as well as the art form itself. Gone are the days when guys like Larkin Arnold, the late Jheryl Busby, and Cecil Holmes cut their teeth in the industry, landing long-term gigs as executives at major record labels and becoming walking treasures of contemporary Black music history in the process.

In all...I feel bad for JD and Jay-Z, who exited as CEO of Def Jam Records in 2007 after a three-year tenure. Did they get the opportunity to actualize their full potential as executives? It's hard to say from the outside looking in. But judging from my experience in the music industry, I would have to say no. It's hard to gage someone's worth in such a short window with so many other factors at play. Aside from the fact that they were expected to carry on with the day to day duties of president and CEO respectively, they were also expected to bring with them their individual musical talents, contributing to a portion of the label's output. In addition, there were also outside projects to fulfill (guest spots on albums, tours, endorsements, producing other artists apart from the label's own). Not so easy a feat as they may make it appear in the media. Speculation that their positions were merely a facade have run rampant in the press. Whether they were fake poster boy executives or not, the fact is that their potential to grow into these positions, exceed expectations and become true industry veterans was cut short.

So will JD get another shot? With recent history as a backdrop, I'd say yes. His name still carries weight in the industry along with his 19-year-old imprint So So Def Records. He's one of the few successful producers who has managed to bring a brand quality to his name via the producer-as-celebrity phenomenon of the last 15 years. But the game of musical chairs is getting dicey. With labels consolidating and merging at such a rapid pace, it's difficult to say what tomorrow will bring in the way of job opportunities across the board. And it goes without saying that thelargely Euro-American male dominated industry has been essentially unconcerned with the seemingly petty ebb and flow of Black executives. But one thing is certain: the term "The Music Industry" is changing shape as we speak. It's apparent that the old model is dying. Yet it just may be quite possible that jilted folks like JD will be the wiser of them all, building the new media driven industry of tomorrow with the tools from their old model experience and their new model visions.

More info here and here.

.::Guantanamo Bay Closing?::.

Various internet news sources are twittering in speculation that President Elect Barack Obama's first executive order will involve the business of shuttering the infamous and controversial Guantanamo Bay U.S. military detention camp in Cuba. Though it was widely known as a point of interception for Haitian refugees on the high seas in the early 1990s, it has gained a nasty reputation for being a torture camp for suspected foreign terrorists and enemies of the state since 2002's War On Terror. The methods utilized at Guantanamo Bay have been lambasted most intensely over the past six years, culminating in widespread protests and demonstrations by various human rights organizations. The closing of such a facility would definitely be a cause for celebration...if their plans are not simply to transplant the heinous operation elsewhere, that is. Although there are equally questionable tactics utilized at various other prison camps across the globe such as Abu Ghraib...

...Guantanamo Bay, also known as "Gitmo," has earned quite the reputation most notably in the case of the Guantanamo Five, making it the shining symbol of POW inhumanity and the target of many humane society NGOs and advocacy groups.

It is noted by various news sources and advocacy groups that the closing of Guantanamo Bay, if speculation is correct, would not happen overnight. But if the murmuring is true, then it wouldn't be too far fetched to speculate that his new administration has plans to cook up an elixir for the long-standing bad blood between Cuba and the U.S. Only time will tell. All that I can say now is that this will definitely be quite the four-year journey for U.S. citizens and the international community alike.

More info here and here.

For more information on the history of Guantanamo a f*ckin' book. Or, take the American shortcut:

Friday, January 9, 2009


Those of you in the NYC metro area and abroad with a sincere passion for African drumming and dance have undoubtedly heard about the closing of the iconic Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre in December. After 15 years at their Union Square location, the recession coupled with low enrollment and exorbitant rent increases dealt a crippling blow to the center. Fortunately, they have found shelter in the Herald Square area and have plans to lay the foundation at their new digs in March of this year. Until then, Djoniba Mouflet and crew will be offering their same curriculum at 305 West 38th Street at 8th Avenue. The original pricing still stands as does the excellent level of instruction. However, to reach their goal, they are still in need of donations from all concerned about their future. For more information, visit their website here.
To see Djoniba in action, visit their Youtube page here.

:.:The Official End Of An Era:.:

I'm sayin' tho.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

::The Oakland Stroke::

Last night, the citizens of Oakland, California took to the streets to protest the New Year's Day murder of an unarmed civillian named Oscar Grant by several members of the city's transit police. With a glimpse of déjà vu in the rear view mirror, the event turned violent, steering this public assembly dangerously close to the edge. In the malay, a dumpster was set ablaze along with several trash cans in the area, windows of local businesses were left shattered, car alarms parked in the vicinity were intentionally set off, several of which were damaged (including a police patrol car) and at least one burned:

Over 100 protesters were arrested, including at least one minor:

Now, no matter how violent the media may try to sensationalize this small scale riot as... was nowhere near as tempestuous as the Watts riots of 1965:

(pejorative media news reel)

Or the L.A. riots of 1992:

But this pattern of rioting demonstrates, albeit theoretically, just how passionately the citizens of urban California feel about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And though I deeply sympathize with the business owners whose windows were broken and the owners of the cars that were damaged, I completely understand and side with the protesters.

When human life is devalued in a capitalist society, it is a scary thing. Murder of civilians at the hands of government-owned agencies is one of many issues of gross misconduct and inhumanity that needs to be addressed as this new administration begins to plant its seeds. If the country is continuing with business as usual after 233 years of existence and still fails to address the err of its ways past and present, then hell hath no fury that will match the fire from the people when they really become fed up.

This should not be the way we bring in a new administration promising a new brand of hope. But I guess that's my idealist mind talking. I guess what I really mean is that this riot, no matter how small scale, fortifies the need for citizens to be proactive in their government and communities. Because if this is a snapshot of the fallacy of our new post-race America, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

I'm well aware that historically, riots have been frowned upon by the intelligentsia and the like:

But if we've learned anything from the French and English revolutions, although they were more strategized, revolts can elicit results. And I also believe it's one of the very few mediums that the masses have to effectively communicate their collective anger and frustration with a sociopolitical system that is failing.

.:::.100% Suckaproof::January:10:2009::NYC.:::.

Another jump off for all you hipsters, skaters, and pop culture haters. Free food & liquor. Yeah...that should get your attention.

.::Aaron McGruder's Black Jesus...good lawd::.

I'm sayin'. Does it get any worse?! I was on the fence with The Boondocks. While the majority of the characters were essentially antagonists that perpetuated negative stereotypes of Black Americans, there was one strong protagonist in Huey's character. But in Black Jesus, the main character is essentially a walking stereotype guised in the likeness of a historical sacred figure. And not a protagonist to be found (note: just because the lead character is "interpreting" scripture, doesn't qualify him as a protagonist). Not sure I get the synopsis of the series anyway. It's apparent that the production turn around for a series like this is a lot quicker than an animated series like The Boondocks, but I wonder if it's necessarily cheaper.

In short, I'm a little tired of the vast majority of so-called Black entertainment. Most of it falls between the chasm of milquetoast and callous. I never thought Kat Williams had a good stand up act. Tyler Perry needs a new shtick. BET officially lost its swagger in the Viacom buy out, alienating a large portion of its former audience. And Janet Jackson should probably reinvent herself some time soon if she wants to have an ounce of relevancy at this point in the game. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but that's how I feel. I just think there's a whole range of motion and potent artistic expression we've yet to bring to mainstream culture. Still, I have hope.

But it ain't in Black Jesus. Aaron McGruder's approach seems to be a bit lazy here. There doesn't even seem to be any viable story lines. I guess lazy humor is the order of the day. But what exactly makes me more partial to The Boondocks versus Black Jesus? It's probably the fact that The Boondocks had a great subtext of social commentary, more parallel to Trey Parker & Matt Stone's approach to South Park. For example, The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show and The Huey Freeman Hunger Strike episodes were brilliant in my opinion. I'm sure the fact that The Boondocks is a cartoon and Black Jesus is a comedy with live characters factors into my partiality also. The ridicule seems uglier to me when acted out by real people versus animated characters.

When I hear the name Black Jesus, I think of funny yet insighful things in Black pop culture. Like the episode of Good Times when Michael Evans, much to James' dismay, wanted to hang a painting of black Jesus on the wall:

And Paul Mooney's 2007 stand up comedy DVD Know Your History: Jesus Was Black and So Was Cleopatra:

But with the type face of the opening credis to McGruder's latest series, it just makes me think of 1970s blaxploitation flicks. Speaking of, are there any parallels? Do you think I have any valid points, or am I just ranting? Chime in. In the meantime, you can watch other clips from Black Jesus at Aaron McGruder's Youtube page here.

*::*Top Of The Pops:2008*::*

I'm sure I'm missing some dope sh*t on my list. And contrary to my sometimes inflated sense of self, it's quite possible that I just wasn't aware of some of the dopenesss that came out last year. But 9 times out of 10 if I didn't list it...then I probably heard it and just wasn't feeling it. That's not a knock to your fragile tastemaker egos. I'm just sayin', tho. (note: these albums are in no particular order)