20 May 2010

Hear Today, Gong Tomorrow

Everyone wants to be a rapper or DJ nowadays. It's easy, too. Kids get their My First Mic sets from Playskool and their Fake08 drum kits and they think they're the next Run DMC. *sigh* Don't get me wrong: I believe everyone should have the opportunity to showcase their talent to the world...IF they have talent.

It saddens me to see that hip-hop is seen as a disposable genre. So many artists come in with a hit single about nothing in particular over a snazzy beat by DJ Gobbledygook and "invent" an energetic dance that mimes some childhood antics and then blow away like dust in the proverbial wind. For the sake of creative differences and so that we don't step on any toes, we won't name any names in today's article, but hip-hop heaven knows I want to. Let's just say that, after reading this article, if you find yourself offended...well, if the shoe fits, right?

This is how it goes down. Some kid in some random city decides that he can be a rapper because 1) he received a grade of "A" on his poetry assignment in the fourth grade eight years ago, 2) his favorite rapper's favorite rapper, Lil Young CT, the West Coast Down South Eastside rapper from New York came up with a hit song entitled "Granny Drawers," and 3) Diddy offered him a contract. That, unfortunately, is the recipe right there for a hit single. There's nothing wrong with being a poet and crossing over into rap. There's nothing wrong with being inspired by your fave artist. Shoot, there's nothing wrong with Diddy (...), but that does not make for a successful CAREER.

Where is the substance in hip-hop? Where are the lyrics that make you think? Where is the story? I know for a fact that so many fans are sick of hearing about cocaine, dubs, money, dirty ho's and liquor. Some of these things are fine when consumed within reasonable limits (I'll let the reader ascertain which of the aforementioned items are "fine") but there has to be more to hip-hop than that. I've seen artists come and go and get a "Where Are They Now" special on VH1 and they all admit that they don't know what happened to their careers. I'll tell you what happened: you didn't have staying power. I swear, I wish there was Viagra for rapper's careers (pause, lol).

I know this world and this society is built on forward progression. Hip-hop is no different. I cannot demand that we return to the days of old. That's not fair to the genre or to our artists or DJs, but we need to return to a sense of true style. We have to expect...no, DEMAND more of our artists and of ourselves. I watched the Country Music Awards this year (yea, I admit it) and was astounded to see country artists that were performing and highly successful PRIOR to my birth not only being recognized by the modern genre but also still highly successful. The same goes for Rock: KISS still goes on tour occasionally and so does Ozzy Osbourne and they sell out crowds. They are considered icons to music as a whole. I hear about Travis Tritt and Twisted Sister more than I hear about Rakim or Slick Rick. That saddens me.

With that said, I have nothing against the Soulja Boys of our day. He will never be Nas, Jay-Z or KRS-One but he is doing his thing and he is successful. He's had a string of hit singles, which means the public is enjoying his work. I can respect that. I just ask that the young brother take it further than "ringtone raps." What are ringtone raps, you ask? Songs that have no definite meaning in them and do nothing except contain a catchy hook, a slick dance and/or a fly beat. These are the songs that iTunes ringtone section are made of. Do they usually sound cool? Yes, but they have no substance to stand on. Let's Do Better for ourselves, and for our genre. If we don't fight to keep it alive, trust me: Dolly Parton, who has been performing for over 30 years in country music, and Willie Nelson won't.

And for the record, I don't know and have never heard of anyone by the name of DJ Gobbledygook or Lil Young CT. These are names I made up for the sake of discussion. If your stage name happens to be Gobbledygook, then I'm sorry...but you need help. And I don't mean help suing me.

Tune in next time when we return to our Pioneer Series, this time discussing an influential figure in the world of rap. If you have any comments on this or any other article, feel free to shoot us a line here at www.bestinthemix.com!

(F)ornication (A)lways (M)akes for d(E)motion

Everybody wants their 15 minutes, right? In this day and age/society, most of us feel like it's our God given right. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...but at what costs? Nowadays, it doesn't take much to become an overnight celebrity. The television is chock full of "reality" shows that turn everyone, even Joe the Plumber, into household names. The world of hip-hop is no different.

It seems that there are two major (and potentially very negative) career paths for the urban youth today: that of the one hit wonder (aka ringtone rappers) and that of the groupie. We're going to focus on the groupies today.

Everyone knows about arguably the most infamous groupie out there in hip-hop, Karrine Steffans. Of course, she prefers the term "video vixen," but I believe that's a tad bit misleading. Sure, she was in some rap videos, but that's not what she is known for...at ALL. In case you've been under a rock, Karrine, or "Superhead" as she is patronizingly known, is recognized for having sex with multiple rappers and actors and being married to hip-hop legend Kool G. Rap (!!!). She is also known for putting all of those relationships on blast in her tell-all scandalous books.

Let's define the term groupie, hmm? According to dictionary.com, a groupie is seen as:

a young woman who follows a band seeking romance with the band members.

That's cute..."romance." Trust me, romance in this case is not of the Disney variety. There are numerous stories of numerous women (and men) who have done interesting and odd things to get the attention and admiration of celebrities. Some do it for the sex and only the sex. Some do it for the chance at wooing a celebrity. And then there's those like Karrine, who do it for the notoriety. Now, I'm an amazingly open individual and I don't like throwing stones, but I think it is extremely disrespectful to have sex with various people, especially celebrities who are already in the spotlight, strictly for the opportunity to blast them on the Internet and various media outlets. There are various ways to get attention, but that just seems low.

I know, I know. Some of you are crying foul. "What about the celebrities who willingly participate in these shenanigans?" Yes, something must be said for them as well, but they aren't making their business public, right? Groupies have been around for years, and will continue to be so, but this foolishness has to stop. Tell-all books, magazine articles, sex tapes...really? I love a juicy scandal as much as the next one, but there has to be a limit. I remember when Superhead was a huge source of table talk. "How could she fuck so many men? Why is she airing out her dirty laundry? How will her son feel when he gets older?" Good questions, all of them. I don't know what possessed her to do it. *cough, mumble "the paycheck" ahem, cough* All I know is that she went through hell trying to defend her name and honor. Did it work? No. She has no credibility anywhere, but she has a lot of money in the bank and two best selling books. Wow. That's what it takes? This is the lesson that we are passing on to future generations?

As a result of Karrine's success, other women have attempted to recreate it, with varying results. Today the big name is Kat Stacks. Kat Stacks is a "model" who jumpstarted her career by supposedly sleeping with damn near the entire Young Money crew and then attempting to blast them and other rappers like Nelly and Game. She hasn't fared as well as Karrine, it seems.

I have followed this woman (with limited interest, I may add) and have seen her name dragged through the mud over various media outlets. She may get lucky and get a small book deal, but that's about it. My bottom line is that there are more productive ways to get your name out there. Unfortunately, too many people believe that "any press is good press." I strongly disagree. I'd rather the masses spread the word about www.TheNiftian.com because there are awesome stories, great poems and fantastic pictures...not because the writer is a pervert. Come on, people: Do Better.

Stay tuned for the next episode where we discuss the other trend: ringtone rappers. Also, if there are any subjects of interest that you want to hear from www.bestinthemix.com, please shoot us an e-mail or leave us a comment and we'll check on it!

04 May 2010

Mixtpes : "The Nerd and The New Guy" - L.O.T.G. (Kleos and Davy)

The wait is over! Kleos and Davy Jones have finally released their second mixtape, "The Nerd And The New Guy" hosted by DJ Smirfnoff Ice! After the release of their first mixtape, "Braille Music" fans didn't think that the project could be topped but they have done it! Everything is better the second time around and bestinthemix.com is PROUD to present to you a free download of the new mixtape hosted by http://www.smoothdirtyproductions.com/. Click the photo, download, enjoy!

Pioneer Series: DJ Kool Herc

We here at bestinthemix.com are true believers of forward progression. However, how can one move forward without understanding your roots? So, we'll be doing a Pioneer Series every once and again to familiarize many of you with the origins of this wonderful world of hip-hop that has taken over the globe. And what better start than to deal with one of the origins of one of the most important facets of hip-hop: DJing? So sit down, spit out your gum, keep your hands to yourself, and take notes; class is starting. Clive Campbell...name sound familiar? He's largely credited with being the godfather of hip-hop. 1520 Sedgwick Avenue...know the place? Ask any "true" hip hop head and they'll tell you that's the birthplace of the genre. That's where Mr. Campbell (better known as DJ Kool Herc!) first began DJing parties for his sister and the neighborhood. Kool Herc, who gained the nickname Hercules because of his physical dominance, moved to the Bronx at the age of 12 from Jamaica. Herc, as he is popularly known, is widely credited with not only being the father of hip-hop, but also with helping to coin the term b-boy/b-girl, which are shortened terms for "break boy" and "break girl." Breaking has two meanings in the world of hip-hop. The first definition deals with the part of a record where the vocals are out and the percussion is the main source (instrumental). Dancers loved this particular part of the song because it gave them a chance to highlight their skills without the words taking away from their shine. The dancers became the b-boys/b-girls (get how it goes together?). Herc, being the innovator that he was, accepted the popularity of the break section and prolonged it by playing the same record on a set of turntables and switching back and forth between the songs at the exact same spot, sometimes at lengths of five or more minutes. The breaks in the songs weren't usually very long, so this gave the dancers more time to breakdance on the floor. This was a huge step forward for music and dancing and threw Kool Herc into the limelight, because no one else had done this before.
Although Herc isn't credited as the first rapper, he was definitely one of the first MC's, using his words to "toast" or talk over the track, which was common in his home country of Jamaica, where the MC would stand by the DJ and shout instructions to the dancers or get the crowd hype. Toasting became the blueprint for current day MCing and rapping. Herc began focusing more on his DJing, furthering the craft and hooking up with Coke La Rock, who became the rapper for his break beats.
As Herc's popularity grew, he began to play at the numerous clubs in the area, and local high schools. Popularity led to imitators, which led to competition. Because of that competition, many new DJs and rappers were able to make a mark as well. Herc influenced many other grandfathers of the genre, such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Herc's style of music played is also credited with easing a lot of tension and violence in the city, as the gangsters had something better to do and get involved with. Bambaataa himself was once a general in a notorious gang before he became a DJ.
Unfortunately, not all violence stopped. DJ Kool Herc eventually stopped DJing in 1980 as a result of being stabbed while trying to stop a fight. The crowds died down at his concerts as a result of the stabbing, and Herc left the stage. In the mid 80s, his father died and Herc became a victim of the crack epidemic that ravaged New York. He eventually overcame, becoming a public speaker on the virtues of hip-hop and getting the landmark 1520 Sedgwick Avenue recognized as a historic location by the state of New York.
Let's all take a moment to toast one of the first and the greatest: DJ Kool Herc, the father of Hip-Hop as we know it. Look for more articles on the pioneers of the genre here at bestinthemix.com!

Now, before you put your notebooks and pencils away, write down your homework assignment: download the newest mixtape from Kleos and Davy Jones, The Nerd And The New Guy, from http://www.smoothdirtyproductions.com/! See you next time...