The end of American empire is going to be interesting. Economic devaluing of our money means that American-associated status goods and images may be all we have left to offer the world in foreign trade. We all noticed the rush of 'we buy gold' commercials. Incentive was the high price of gold and the low strength of the American dollar which made buying tiny pockets of gold efficient. Most of our natural resources are gone. Other than cheap food (which the world hates us for anyway), we're busted.
The implications will be broad.
1. America will be tourist wonderland for a while. Then international visitors will smell the desperation. Did anyone else see the Russian Billionaire with a giant yacht slipping through SF bay . . .
2. American celebrities will increasingly seek money in foreign lands. Allen Iverson heads to play in Turkey.
3. The imagery and representation of wealth and status will be made available to lower class American consumers. Knock-off luxury automobiles, versions of 'top-shelf' liquors available in drug stores, not to mention the cheapening and deepening of the digital entertainment media will soothe the sting of being a citizen in a second or third world nation.
I'm reading Moorhouse's India Britannica. I'm in the section about british military responses to the Indian uprising. Here is Moorehouse on the subject:
"No Indian troops were allowed to man field guns from 1861 until the first world war, the only concession toward their use of artillery being the formation of Indian mountain batteries, whose light guns and other equipment were carried by mules and therefore took some time to assemble and fire. There was also a powerful school of thought which advocated the mixing, as much as possible, of tribes and castes in Indian regiments so that it would be difficult for any potentially mutinous leader to obtain the cohesion he needed to produce a serious threat."
As a fan of gucci mane, I've enjoyed his lyrical play with the notions of white. He regularly describes his white or clear diamonds as "caucasian" and occasionally personifies these ideas. Consider on "diamonds," from the GucciAmerica mixtape: "Miley Cyrus diamonds on/Caucasian 'cuz I'm not racist."
The price of hip hop intellectuals Times Standard, October 30, 2008
In 1931 the brutal soviet dictator Joseph Stalin convinced writer/intellectual Maxim Gorky to “return to become Stalin’s literary ornament” as written by Simon Sebag Montefiore in his recent book Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. It turned out authors and poets were relatively inexpensive. A mansion, a pair of vacation homes, the rights to his publishing monies, and a driver were all it took to lure the founder of “socialist realism” from Italian exile back to the Soviet Union, where Gorky became a mouthpiece for a bureaucratic machine that murdered and displaced millions. I wonder what the price would be for most hip hop “stars” these days? Would a down-on-his-luck Flavor Flav be as willing to rap for a dictator as he is to embarrass himself on a reality television show? In the money-driven world consumption and wealth have only become more important since 1931. The MTV/BET fashion amplification engine seems to be bumping 250 dollar jeans and cocaine as icons of glamour which lays hip hop in precisely the place Gorky was for Stalin: cover. Hip hop conversations about politics are important. Far beyond the rappers who plug for Obama, (and the tiny handful who have advocated for McCain) we need to consider the long-term consequences for so-called political hip hop that acts as a cover for political scheming. NWA star Eazy-E dropped $2500 for a fundraiser dinner with George W. Bush in 1991, an antic he described as a publicity stunt. Regardless of who got used in that exchange: George W. Bush, or Eazy-E, the desire for publicity with no thought to the discussion the sound bite pushed off the stage is a logical extension of Gorky’s greed. In 2008 country music stars and rappers face off in a corporate chain store version of the presidential debates – and some second tier emcees have advocated for McCain precisely because it is the kind of tantalizing entertainment/reporting that will get their names in the paper. In the presidential election coverage, pundits have enjoyed picking on rappers who have advocated for Barack Obama, and musicians have made quick work producing political themed songs (the best of which, in my opinion, is reggae star Cocoa Tea’s “Barack Obama”), but they are shallow versions of the political capacity of hip hop. As a medium of discussion, the least valuable conversation in hip hop is who people are going to vote for. I’d rather hear emcees debate about the war in Iraq, economic crisis, and women’s issues – but heck; I’d rather hear the candidates discuss those issues. As the economy tightens and wealth pools in the hands of a few, the price of a struggling hip hop musician will certainly go down. Given the success rate hip hop musicians is one-in-a-million, and that those on the top amplify their consumptive success by name-dropping “necessary” labels of fashionable clothes and expensive cars, we shouldn’t be surprised to see more hip hop musicians working for well-paying oppressors in the future. The only question will be at what price?
Times Standard, August 1, 2008 Humboldt is thick with musical talent. One of the casualties of the proliferation of rappers in this area is that some voices get overlooked. When Dirty Rat producer GMG handed me a CD-R labeled Humanoids from the Deep, it joined a fairly large pile of new music, but it only took one play to stand out.
The Humanoid emcee’s Ink and the Broke Superhero were not only musically talented, but they were clever with the rhymes. As Ink says on “emcee for life,” “If it’s a war of words, I hit you with a triple letter score.” The Humanoids from the Deep mixed the political with the humorous, and created just plain old great hip hop.
Ink is a Humboldt musician – and I was honestly curious about his background. I called him up and got a few words from the emcee on his collaboration with Fortuna’s Dirty Rats, (appropriately called Dirty Humanoids) and a little history. ( Collapse )
In front of an adoring crowd, Culture’s lead singer Kenyatta Hill dedicated his performance at Reggae on the River to his deceased father, the roots star Joseph Hill. The senior Hill helped found the band and penned such esteemed roots classics as “two sevens clash” and “zion gate.” ( Collapse )
The Delta Nationals are a talented quartet of local blues-rooted musicians whose second album, All over the map emerged this year. As the title suggests, the album is a diverse collection of toe-tapping music authored by the band members. The Delta Nationals have created a wonderful boogie sound on this album which should resonate with most dancers, enliven almost any dinner party, and even elicit nostalgia in the stubborn-minded. ( Collapse )
The Humboldt Crabs bested the Humboldt Steelheads in both games of the doubleheader on Wednesday night. Despite the losses, the Steelheads are shaping up to be a strong baseball team – made up of local college students; the team is full of scrap and quickness.
There were more than a thousand appreciative fans glad for the Steelheads last minute substitution for the Marin Merchants. This is also an excellent year for the Crab roster and the teams played good fast baseball. Of course, in Crab Stadium the baseball game is only part of the experience. ( Collapse )
The Coup’s Boots Riley is an incendiary poet – a Maya Angelou level verbal antagonist. Teamed with with Pam the Funkstress, a DJ/Producer who makes some of the funkiest tunes in all of hip hop, The Coup have made five albums of politically charged hip hop. This week Boots Riley was pulled off a Virginia festival stage and charged with “abusive language,” putting an end to the set. ( Collapse )
Hip hop is commonly defined by the four elements (dancing, djing, graffiti writing, and emceeing), but it entails a whole host of other knowledge.Comic books, cinema, fashion, and of course location are crucial in understanding this cultural movement.Thinking about the geography of Humboldt Hip Hop can be a valuable way to consider this movement.
I rode my bike to The Works,Eureka’s fine independent record store on a sunny Sunday morning and discovered DJ/emcee/Dirty Rat Stir Fry Willie crouched over the record bins at a time many people would be in church.Willie is a charming, ecstatic, often costumed performer whose DJ nights featuring rock, soul and hip hop offer a chance to see this kinetic artist show off his musical inspirations.We shared words on disguises, records, motivations and spoke of our places in the universe.
Stir Fry Willie a handful of his fellow Dirty Rats rep Fortuna, while I honor the fair city of Eureka – which I consider the center of hip hop culture on the north coast. Affordable, accessible, and complete with the semi-regular drama of cities ten times its size, the stories of hip hop bubble through the record stores, clubs and streets of this beautiful city.
A few blocks away from the record store, I am dazzled by the art on the alley wall of the Accident Gallery, a crucial local performance/gallery space. It’s worth noting that the alleys of several local businesses have become dizzying optic-stimulating art spaces.One business contacted me with the tale that they’ve added large full-color art pieces to their outside wall largely to deter low-quality writing on their walls. The outside writers deserve kudos for sharing their visions with the citizenry and the idiot who has been writing on trees deserves 100% shame.
Among other cross currents that blow through the Accident Gallery have been the recent spate of slam poetry contests run by the feminist and verbally-savvy crew A Reason To Listen.After some cut-throat preliminaries, the Humboldt Slam Team is now final and prepared to represent the lost coast in the world of stage poetry performance.Carved out of the competition, the newly inaugurated Slam team consists of: Vanessa Pike, Brad Wilson, Mischief Mic, and Lorena Boswell.The Humboldt team will travel to the national championship in Madison Wisconsin in August.
Backwoods star Garth Culti-Vader had an accident recently with some injuries.His recovery period was spent crouched over a computer editing his first film.Titled: Chronic TV: Humboldt Hip Hop Volume 1, the movie shows Garth rocking a handful of live shows, a new song from Sub Sab emcee Elision, a video from producer emcee Myster DL and some high-speed, dank-inspired editing.
Accompanying Myster DL into the Universal Balance Productions Studios, I ran into Massagana vocalist and emcee Ishi Dube.Ishi has been performing and rocking hard for 2008 bringing conscious reggae and repping his location to audience at a moment’s notice.
Myster DL was in the studio to work on a couple of tunes, and it was rad to see producer/guitarist Piet “Demolition” Dalmolian lay down some guitar solos and tweak the pro tools.DL is a behind-the-scenes kind of musician, whose catalogue of tracks is rich with underground stars.With some time spent soaking up the sounds in Miami, his albums are catchy and kicking.Check out his recent album The Storm, and his first local mix tape Humboldt County Stories hosted by Onyx emcee Sonny Seeza.
I cadged an invitation to see Dirty Rats GMG and Stir Fry Willie do some MPC damage in their Fortuna, Dirty Rats lair.Watching a beat evolve from vinyl to chopped loop under the talented fingers of GMG was a real honor.As I exited Stir Fry Willie laced me with some of the Dirty Rats back catalogue, including the 2004 album the Plague, and a copy of his ultra-rare first album Piss in the Crisper.Pass the verses or ride in hearses.
HumboldtState’s Poetry is Not a Luxury collective have been hosting a series of politically charged open-performance spaces, including contributions by Watts ProphetAmde Hamilton and Anarchist Black Panther Ashanti Alston.
L.C.A., or Lower Class Alcoholics have been opening shows all over Humboldt, including for the recent Devin the Dude stop.They’ll be touring around California in June supporting their album Bottom of the bottle, concluding in Eureka with a star-studded Red Fox Tavern show Friday June 13th with Himp C, the Resonators, and the Republican Duck Hunters.
Local bass player and Opti-Pop emcee, J the Sarge has a new project with Freestyle Fellowship star Myka 9 called Magic Heart Genies – the debut video is out on the internet and the sound is quick and slippery – check it out and get the album when it drops this summer.
Subliminal Sabotage emcee MCP has released his long-anticipated solo album I’m in love with death. The release is worth the wait – featuring keyboards masterfully played by BSwizlo, contributions from many of the Subliminal Sabotage/Nucleus musicians carving out a a smooth plate for MCP’s whisky tortured dark vocals.
Humboldt RockerReckless Rex organized and hosted a B-Boy dance battle last month and dancers swarmed to fight for the thousand dollar top prize in a two-on-two breakdancing battle which was captured by global stars the Break Disciples -- RoxRite and Kid David.Claiming the victory in the popping battle was JHits who will be coming back through town to teach some workshops with Rex this weekend.Check the workshops June 12 at and June 15 at in the old creamery building in Arcata.
Respect the geography, and keep the music and culture moving forward ‘til next time.