Thursday, April 29, 2010

M.I.A. Video Banned

The video for M.I.A.'s latest single "Born Free" has been banned from youtube for it's violent and shocking content. Created by controverstial music director Romain-Gavras, at 9 minutes long the video makes for gruesome viewing. The concept of the song is to question the truth of our freedom in democracies such as the U.S. Who is really 'Born Free' with such heavey military and government control at work?

The video focus's on an out of control army rounding up those who are different, in this case people with red hair, and sending them off to a military camp to be brutally murdered. My own take on this is that the video is a reference to America's war's in Vietnam and Iraq and the little justification for such actions.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Anyone familar with Romain's work will already be aware of his ability to shock and horrify fans, he was the director for electro act Justice's "Stress" video (below), in which a gang of thugs set about carrying out random acts of law-breaking and thievery.

Jus†ice, Stress from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

A lot of people argue on wheter or not these videos promote violence, personally i feel the director is using his artistic vision to create thought provoking pieces which don't hide from any uncomfortable truths about the world around us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How The Record Industry Works

Like everything in life, once something becomes popular, people will figure out a way to make money from it. In order to understand why mainstream hip-hop is in the state that it’s in, you need to have an understanding of how the record industry works. Ask yourself what the goal of a record label is and who exactly calls the shots? Here is a diagram of a typical set-up of a record label:

At the top sits the record company president, notice just below to the right of him is a stack of money, representing 'business affairs', this is because he is essentially a business man concerned with making money through music. Typically, he will be a white male with little interest in the arts but a strong knowledge of business and how to run a successful company. Think Simon Cowell. Just below the boss and his business men are a team of college graduates which the men at the top use to sell their products on ground levels.

It is the A & R’s job to sign new acts. He works in conjunction with the promoters and marketing department. Notice the term artist development listed beside promotion. In recent years, the name of this section has been changed to "product development". It is a fact that all major labels see their acts as products to be sold. Now If your wondering why hip-hop is producing poor yet best-selling artists in the mainstream you have to question the motives and decisions of the A & R‘s.

It is their intention to sign puppets that will produce songs which can be marketed at a young, impressionable audience. The best way to do this is by selecting acts which can give teens unattainable goals. The majority of hip-hop acts signed on major labels are made to look tough, rich and rebellious; everything that a young male may wish to be. The product then becomes something the listener will continuously purchase in the hope he can emulate the lifestyles of the act.

Nightclubs, radio stations, music channels and concert promoters all form unspoken pacts with the record labels. This is why just a small amount of acts receive all the air play. No-one would say Lady Gaga is the best singer of her generation yet her constant promotion means she is played more than all other pop acts. The end result is that casual music listeners assume the most played and talked about acts represent the best of their genre.

The truth is hip-hop music is a culture formed by people on the streets. In it’s original form it wasn’t created for making money, rather it was created by us and for us. The talentless acts you see on television are the record companies picks for the biggest money makers. They are moulded pawns of rich white men, often the early careers of these artists don’t resemble anything like the finished version you see on music television. This is because now they have been reshaped to fit the system, i.e. the product has been developed.

Bryan Williams (I won’t bother promoting his on stage persona) runs a subsidiary label of rap music to which he signed his son Dwayne Carter. Dwayne is the ultimate moulded rap star, he was brought up by his father to act, behave and live a certain lifestyle which could be percieved glamorous. An A & R’s dream, the label 'Cash Money Records' is under the ownership of Universal Records. Pictured on the left below is Doug Morris, boss of Bryan Williams and Dwayne Carter.

In this video Bryan talks about his philosophy with regards to hip-hop, it promotes a lifestyle which his boss Doug hopes you buy into:

So to sum up this video, here is Doug's product telling us he dosn't give a fuck about music, the only thing he cares about is money.

As people we have to stop supporting this joke of a system, if you search hard enough you will find the artists the record labels don't want you to know about. People who make honest music to uplift, inspire and educate.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Concert Review: Digable Planets

90's Jazz-Hop group Digable Planets are an example of what people refer to when they talk about wanting hip-hop to be like the old school. Back then the focus of groups such as this was on THE MUSIC, something that the mainstream eventually lost focus on. Their blend of Jazz and uplifiting hip-hop was ground breaking at the time and remains still at the forefront of this exciting sub-genre.

They appeal now to hip-hop heads who refuse to buy into today's garbage and are marginalised to small crowds such as the room in Crawdaddy. Brought in by promoters Choice Cuts at 24 euro a ticket, some people may question a price like this for a group who havn't released any new material since the 90's. However like R.A.T.M. these cult bands are very much in demand due to a select audience of avid listeners.

Support act UGO was first to open up the show and while i didn't expect much, i was actually quite impressed with his thought provoking lyrics and ability to hype up the crowd. He even covered a version of the Oasis classic "Champagne Supernova" which worked very well.

Step up Ladybug Mecca, Doodlebug and Butterfly aka Digable Planets. They started with some striaght classics from their debut album "Reachin'", changing the words of 'Pacific' from 'New York is..' to 'Dublin is red hot'. Incrediblly, nearly 20 years after it's release all three members retained their silky smooth flows. The show was interrupted briefly to fix a problem with Ladybug's microphone and then it was back to the music.

Doodlebug encouraged the audience to ignore race, colour and creeds and join forces under one new hip-hop flag. With plenty of cannabis in the air, Digable Planets were in their element feeding off the crowds energy. Performing for a near two hours they broke into much loved material from their second album "Blowout Comb". Even dedicating some songs to the recently passed Guru. They then finished with their trademark record 'Rebirth Of Slick' which got the biggest cheer of the night.

All in all these intimate gigs make for cracking concerts and i would recommend anyone to fork out the money if their looking for a good time. Let's just hope for some new material from the group soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Digable Planets Live In Crawdaddy

Digable Planets played Crawdaddy last night in what was their first Dublin gig. Below are some of the photos i took to capture the event.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview With Homecut

Homecut (pictured below on the right of Soweto Kinch) is one of the U.K's greatest emcees, here he sits down to answer my questions on hip-hop and industry politics, hope you enjoy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

DETOX: Expected This Summer

After years of waiting, several false release dates and a bunch of broken promises, it finnally looks like the long-awaited Dr. Dre album "Detox" will hit the shelves sooner rather than later.

A host of fresh images of Dre working with some of the artists expected to feature have been posted on the internet and it makes exciting viewing for all us hip-hop fans.

The first single is to feature Jay-Z and will be called "Under Pressure", a recent video by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine confirmed this. Although many people would say the best days of Aftermath are somewhat behind them, the news will come as a mini-revival especially as the next Eminem album now called "Recovery" is due this year. Even more positive for the label, gangster rap star The Game announced that his next project "The R.E.D. Album" will also be released through Aftermath.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Official World Cup Anthem: Wavin' Flag

"Wavin' Flag (Remix)" by Canadian emcee K'Naan has been selected as the Official 2010 World Cup Anthem. It represents a meteoric rise to the top for the rapper/singer who is in the mould of great acts like M.I.A. & K-Os. The song was first featured in it's original version on his 2009 album "Troubadour", and while he does not rap on the record it reperesents a fantastic victory for hip-hop music.

The specially altered lyrics written by K'Naan go as follows:

Give me freedom, Give me fire
Give me reason, Take me higher
See the champions, Take the field now
Unify us, make us feel proud

In the streets, our hands are lifting
As we lose our inhibition
Celebration, it's around us
Every nation, all around us

Sing forever young,
Singing songs underneath the sun
Let's rejoice in the beautiful game
And together, every end of the day

We all say
When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back , and then it goes ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

All City Chess Club

Lupe has announced on his Twitter that he's to release a remix of "I'm Beaming" which will feature none other than underground king "Blu". Other emcees expected to appear on the track will be Asher Roth & The Cool Kids amongst other more pop orientated acts. It's being speculated that the artists will form a group under the name "All City Chess Club".
Personally, i would be sceptical as to the longevity of this idea as it was a couple years back now that Lupe promised us an album from "Child Rebel Soldiers", a group which would feature himself, Kanye and Pharell, yet it never saw the light of day. Collab albums are a current trend in hip-hop right now with Nas and Damien Marley set to release their joint LP "Distant Relatives" in the coming months.

A while ago i came across an amateur emcee on youtube who freestyled over the fore-mentioned Lupe track, i think its worth seeing and i wonder if "The Cool Kids" can do any better.

Hip-Hop On "YO GABBA GABBA!" :)

I just recently found this children's tv show on Nick JR. which features hip-hop artists performing and acting for children. It's called "Yo Gabba Gabba", it's quite amusing as you'd imagine, so here's some footage of Mos Def & The Roots as seen on the show.........

Strangely enough it's not the first time hip-hop has been used as children's entertainment. In 2008, Chali 2na from Jurrasic 5, Lady Bug from Digable Planets, Scratch from The Roots, Wordsworth and Prince Paul formed a group called "Dino 5" and released a conceptual album in which each member played a talking dinosaur.

Perhaps even more bizarre was Ice Cube's venture into childrens movies. Whos idea it was to cast a gangster rapper in family movies is anyones guess.

I'm hoping this year will see Immortal Technique show up on "Bear In The Big Blue House" with a rhyme for the kiddies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

R.I.P. Malcolm McLaren & Nujabes

For those of you who don't know who McLaren is, he was the manager of the Sex Pistols in the 1970's. Sadly, McLaren passed away at the age of 64 this month due to mesothelioma.

The news came as quiet a shock to many of his friends who didn't even know he was ill as he lived a reclusive lifestyle in Switzerland. His philosphy was that social movements and music go hand in hand, he infamously took his group on boat trips to the house of Parliment and had them perform loud anarchist songs, this resulted in his arrest and plenty of publicity.

In '83 he ventured into hip-hop music and formed his own solo-career. At the time hip-hop was very much a little known sub culture in the U.K. and McLaren was influential in bringing it to a wider audience. You may even recognise his vocals (below) from Eminem's "Without Me".

So with this recent untimely passing, i am reminded of the death of Japenese hip hop producer Nujabes.
Nujabes was a musical genius who heavily influenced a lot of artists in the U.S. and worldwide. His works can be compared to the innovators of hip hop jazz & soul like Pete Rock and Dilla. Real name "Jun Seba", he was involved in a car crash and passed Feburary 26th, just a short time after his 36th birthday. It is rather sad to think such influential people have left us so suddenly.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Interview With K-Murdock (Of Panacea)

K-Murdock is the producer for Panacea, he got in touch with me around two years ago, after i created a video for him for the track "Place On Earth" (below). Since then i've been lucky enough to have exchanged a few e-mails with him, and he's been very kind in granting me this interview.........

1. “Piano-rama” received great critical feedback from fans and music journalists alike, do you have any plans to release another solo-project?

Yes sir! I plan on having something new out every season, seasons change, and so will the projects! Whether it’s a solo compilation like "Piano-rama" or a side project or another Panacea album etc... There will always be something produced by me... this is my life's love, so while I’m blessed to have the ability to put the music out, I wanna roll with it you know!

2. Do you think hip-hop is as good today as it was in the old-school?

Yes and no. It’s bigger than it ever was and I’m glad its more accessible and accepted by the world, BUT it also has become so monetized and myopic in scope, on a mainstream level specifically that people's understanding of hip-hop may not be as broad as it once was when the radio used to play a wide array of styles and artists.

As big as it’s gotten, the rift between over and underground has become even wider, and that saddens me. I feel like it’s lost its creative roots a bit, and now it’s more about copying what’s hot as opposed to being unique and innovative like it once was. I just wish that old balance was restored!

3. At this years Grammy’s Flo Rida was nominated for best hip-hop album, do you find the industry looks to reward record sales and not talent?

I didn’t hear Flo Rida's album, but I also didn’t hear people raving about it either. I know people who listen to all styles of rap, underground, mainstream, etc... So that alone leads me to believe that it could be more about sales, hell to keep it real, if it were on talent and being fresh, I feel like WE could have been nominated if that was the sole prerequisite.

At the same time, Q-Tip was also nominated for best hip-hop album; I don’t recall him doing crazy numbers as far as sales go, so obviously, someone is listening who understands talent too.

4. Besides hip-hop, which other forms of music do you draw influence from when producing?

When creating my music, I tend to sample and listen to anything else that I can use, it doesn’t even have to be music per say, I tend to also incorporate sound effects and stuff too, just to add personality and character to my music.

I like to think that I create soundtracks to stories when I make music, it's like scoring short stories when working with Raw Poetic of Panacea, he has helped me open my mind and sound up by not limiting what I use in my works.

5. Panacea have an extensive back-catalogue of quality music, but if you could choose just one song to be your favourite, which would it be?

I think 2 songs come to mind.....

1 is "Birdfeather" off our first album which will always be special to us since it was the FIRST recorded Panacea song back in 2003! And the funny thing is, I gave Raw P. a beat CD and that beat was the last on there, the one I thought he would hate and he loved it the most, we recorded it, the rest is history...

The 2nd I would have to cite as being a fave is "Starlite" because of how crazy and daring it was, especially as a single off your first national release! Props to the guys at our old label, Glow-in-the-Dark for being blassy enough to put it out because it definitely let people know we are on "some different shit" with our music :)

6 Many people see you guys as jewels of the underground, but if you were to go mainstream, do you think this would take away from your art?

Not at all, we have had songs played on "top 40" radio and gain new fans off it, and it never once made us lose any older fans, they were just hyped that a bigger audience was finally recognizing what we were doing musically.

Besides, I have given up on trying to be "mainstream", I cater to our loyal listeners and they in turn spread the music and that’s who support us so why not just cater to them. At the same time, being progressive in nature, I try and do projects that branch out and in turn may attract a new population of fans, and that’s ok with me too because I never sell my artistic soul, just spread it out!

7. If you weren’t a hip-hop producer which path do you think you’d have taken in life?

I know Raw Poetic would be a teacher or published poet, myself... hmmm, I would be a writer of sorts, I was really into creative writing in college, that’s how I came up with "Panacea", but music and radio has always been my first love, so if not a writer, I would be strictly on radio playing other dope progressive hip-hop music like I do now on Subsoniq (

8. The internet can be seen as a blessing or a curse for music depending on your viewpoint, do you view internet piracy as a significant threat to your record sales?

Not really, people are going to get what they want using the internet, it’s hard to police everybody, lol. All I ask is that if you really like the music, try and support in some fashion, be it coming to live show or buying a tee shirt etc. so that we as artists can continue to make more music for you to enjoy, its a cycle, but unfortunately not everyone sees that, but I keep doing my part to keep it going!

9. If you could produce a track for any emcee dead or alive who would it be?

I would love to work with Q-Tip or De La Soul, or BOTH on one track, if that happens, i'm good. The other emcees I got on my wish list are: Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Phonte of Little Brother and CYNE. But Tribe and De La are my ultimates without question! Fingers crossed...

10. And finally, a lot of fans have been waiting to come and see you guys perform in Europe; will this be the year it happens?

I hope to God it'll be this year, we get a great response from our music in Europe, from the Netherlands to the UK, I get asked this like every other week, so I tell them, be patient and hopefully someone or something will bring us over to rock, and trust me, we would make it memorable, BELIEVE IT!

K-Murdock we shall talk soon.........

Thanks for the dope questions Patrick, anything you ever need, I got you!

© (interview by Paddy Lane)