Posts Tagged ‘hip-hop’

songs of revolution

January 29, 2011

Following the events that have been unfolding in Tunisia and across the Arab world, I can’t help but comment on something that at least in most major media, has gone unnoticed. That is, to draw attention to a new phenomenon – a force at play in the popular uprisings in Northern Africa – Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and elsewhere as well – to say nothing of Jordan and perhaps Lebanon as well.

But there was a crucial event at the start of it all – when popular unrest began on a massive scale in Tunisia – that was smoothly if quickly glossed over by most U.S. media. I’m referring to the hip-hop video above, of course.

After what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it’s become impossible to deny that Hip-hop is truly a global phenomenon now, with potentially significant political implications.

And some of the most exciting events are centering on the Arab world, where a diverse mix of insurrectionists are swiftly disproving the oft-repeated lies and stereotypes about Islamic politics and divisive sectarianism in the Arab world.

While Internet-based strategies of resistance and activism seem to bear frequent mention in the media, hip-hop activism receives only passing mention (as for example when the song “Mr. President Your People Are Dead” landed a 22-year old Tunisian rapper in jail and stoked the fires of popular rage against Ben-Ali’s government).

To my mind, the omission masks a fear of hip-hop and the political possibilities it offers for transforming and redefining public space.

I’ll offer my argument for this claim after posting some more hip-hop videos:

Check out, for example, this video of the Narcicyst featuring Shadia Mansour:  Narcicyst is originally from Basra, Iraq, is super-original, and you can buy his album on iTunes. I’d recommend it.

And here is a track from Behrang Miri called Ramallah (I have Sameh Zakout a.k.a. Saz to thank for this link). This track – and video – are awesome. (In the case of this track I suppose it’s the eponymous subject rather than the MC that’s Arabic per se. I hope I wasn’t using the word “eponymously” incorrectly – I think I wasn’t, but let me know via the comment box if you think I was): 

You should also check out Saz, a rapper and beatboxer (and producer I believe) from Ramle. There is actually a documentary film about him directed by Gil Karni. You can check out some clips here, on Gil Karni’s site.

Now for good measure here is a video from DAM, a Palestinian hip-hop group from Lyd / Lod:

WHY IS HIP-HOP POLITICALLY SIGNIFICANT?

Hip-hop is more than its core “elements” (b-boy/girl, graff, DJ, MC); it’s a way of life. And as such, hip-hop is about a lot more than the vagaries of materiality and insignificance. It’s not just “ho’s, bankrolls, and clothes,” as Nas once eloquently put it – what hip-hop really is about (to my mind) is the intersection between life and culture, between environment and individual identity. It’s about rebellion and reconstruction.

Hip-hop was created by young people growing up in the shattered ruins of an urban war that humanity lost. If hip-hop politics is a politics of urban renewal, of individual expression triumphing over bland conformity and mindless consumerism, then its absolute antithesis would be the politics of “benign neglect.” Hip-hop’s not just another dance style or musical genre. Notwithstanding its own emphasis on originality, style, method, and individuality, I’d argue that hip-hop is fundamentally more intrinsically social (and more political) than any of these, because it was about people (mostly young people) deciding they were fed up with the violence, abandonment, and neglect in their community and creating a style of communally-based expression to counter these phenomena. A distinctly urban style of expression born out of realism – the realism of universalized oppression and shattered communities.

Hip-hop can be recognized as both familiar, recognizable, and yet at the same time a culturally distinct style of expression. Whether you witness it in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Bogota, Ramallah, or Cairo, you’ll still know it as hip-hop…but I’ll bet you’ll discover hip-hop to be local in character, diverse in its forms of expression, and often idiosyncratic in the way it relates to the distinctive character of the cities or territories out of which it operates. This is because, I would argue, hip-hop poses a distinct challenge to the conventional categories of group-forming and the attendant processes of identity formation. That’s because hip-hop is a way of life.

It’s time to acknowledge the truth: “Hip-hop” doesn’t just mean rap –  and perhaps it also doesn’t just mean the “four elements” of breakin’, DJin’, MCin’, and graffiti. In other words, maybe hip-hop is not just another form of “cultural expression,” a “subculture.” In fact, I would argue that history is now demonstrating more clearly than ever that if anything, hip-hop is perhaps something akin to what we might call a “trans-cultural” mode of expression. Or, if you will, a new way of addressing the difference between “culture” and “subculture” – maybe even a process of making the “sub-culture” transcultural.

A new political opposition has taken shape: hip-hop versus benign neglect.

Will governments continue to get away with not-so-benign neglect, as Ben-Ali, Mubarak, and many other dictatorial regimes have for so long? Or will hip-hop intervene, in forcing a confrontation with the world as it is, which really means a struggle to change it: to live in the world as it really is so that we can live the lives we want to live, rather than to ignore the implications of responsibility and try to hoard or plunder as many of its spoils as possible.

It shouldn’t be hard to see which of these political approaches is winning the day in many parts of the world today, particularly in the Arab world – or why.

What hip-hop might be saying to us – at its most radical – is to destroy or subvert the shattered remnants of an obsolete order, and to recreate a new and idiosyncratic style that’s grounded in the particularities of one’s daily existence.

I think it’s hard for Americans to think about hip-hop culture in a way that decentralizes it from its contiguity with American popular culture – given the subversiveness with which hip-hop has come to define many of the values and experiences associated with pop culture in the public sphere. But I’m beginning to see some of the exciting things happening with hip-hop right now in the Arab world and elsewhere, and to realize that hip-hop will never, ever be the same.

Hip-hop is more than (musical or visual) style; Hip-hop is a way of being. It’s a kind of lifestyle choice, which involves social and thus also political being. This is why real hip-hop is really more about communities and individuals, really. It’s not really about bling but about winning.

And this is why I’m not surprised that its role in popular uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere is not being widely acknowledged. As El General’s video attests, it’s difficult to argue that hip-hop is giving rise to the voicing of discontent and affirmation of popular resistance in a more direct, unequivocal, and emphatic way.

So that’s why I wanted to write this post.

Now go check out some hip-hop you never heard before – and leave me some recommendations in the comment box, because I’ve barely just begun to stumble upon amazing Arabic hip-hop and I just know there is so much more dope shit out there.

And cheers to the Tunisian people for putting hip-hop on the map along the road to revolution, now to all my people it’s time to take action for change and start wrecking shit!

Proh Mic featuring Adad

January 23, 2011

Here’s a short one for y’all:

I just discovered Dirty Science, where I came across this delightful video. Adad guest MCs alongside Proh Mic and also directed the video. Feelin’ it y’all: 

P.S. Pretty sure I heard a King Crimson sample in there! From Starless and Bible Black isn’t it? [edit] Actually, it’s Fallen Angel, off Red. Ha, didn’t notice that on the first listen – though I love King Crimson, and love when I recognize samples I know. Man, what a great album Red is! (Click the link to see search results on Amazon.)

Can’t resist posting Fallen Angel then…

Right then…enjoy!

forecast for 2011: ill music ahead.

January 8, 2011

…and another post about fresh and exciting new music. Welcome to 2011.

I should admit at the outset that musically it’s hard for me to contain my excitement; for some reason it just seems as though all the music I’ve been hearing lately is amazing. And quite a lot of the electronic dance music I’ve been hearing is really beginning to unsettle a lot of my assumptions about what that category really means. There’s just a lot of good music coming out lately. It’s an exciting time to be interested in producing music – really an exciting time for absolutely anyone interested in envisioning the future of what the “music industry” might be like.

New stuff I’ve been hearing is fresh, and interesting, and dope – and more and more, blurring the lines between genres of electronic music faster than new ones can be created. And some of the new “genres” that have been cropping up reflect (at least to me and my ironic sensibilities) some serious grasping at straws. I mean, “brostep?” “Post-dubstep?” “Future bass”?

Actually, I think the latter is sort of innovative…but overall, what does this ever-abounding and increasing proliferation of genres really signify?

And if it almost seems like a sign of desperation (this persistent generation of new categories that struggle to keep up with the unclassifiability of the more hybrid and unclassifiable new frontiers of electronic dance music today), isn’t such desperation perhaps a positive indication? It seems like our capacity for naming things is frenetically being outpaced by the creativity and originality of a lot of the newer dance music of the past couple of years. (And I’m not just referring to developments in “dubstep,” “UK funky,” and “future bass” but also to newer stuff I’ve been hearing in the somewhat more well-established genres of drum & bass, minimal house, techno, grime…really the list goes on and on.) All I can say is, wicked. Bring on the freshness for 2011!

Commence my list of some of the freshness that’s been gracing my ears lately:

First to top off the list is IKONIKA. Ikonika, a.k.a. Sara Abdel-Hamid is KILLING it right now. I really liked her track Dckhdbtch (click the link to give it a listen via Boomkat). Definitely buying some of her stuff. She’s also going to be playing a few dates stateside and at MUTEK this year, so watch for that, especially if you’re in NY or LA.

I have Resident Advisor to thank for the following lead: a cutting-edge label from Germany called Fachwerk (myspace | mix / interview via RA).

I know it’s 2011, but I’m still craving more Basic Channel (site | digital releases via Boomkat ). I just bought a couple releases from the Scion sessions. Deep, deep, deep.

More music updates to follow shortly. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Portishead will make their move back into the studio and put out new material in the foreseeable future. Their last album, while different and perhaps challenging in certain ways, was good – at least, I liked it a lot, and so did other Portishead fans I talked to. I’m looking forward to hearing new stuff coming out of the Duck Down camp (will most likely be copping Buckshot’s forthcoming book – and speaking of hip-hop literature, the forthcoming book from Malice of the Clipse called Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked will be on the “must cop” list as well.) Overall I don’t even have much to say about hip-hop right now except that I’m well behind the times – but I do think this is a great time for hip-hop. There is tons of great stuff coming out and a high likelihood of lots more in 2011.

What else, what else? Oh yeah – I’m still really behind on the dubstep front, but one name has already captured my attention: Ramadanman (siteApplePips podcast). Great producer, and awesomely cool name too I might add. I just purchased the Ramadanman E.P. from last year, which he put out on his own imprint, Hessle Audio. I can’t resist posting the video for the last track on the E.P.: breathtakingly awesome jungle amazingness:

And, of course, there is so much more good music that’s been coming out that I’d love to write about. But it is now the following day from when I began this blog entry (no, I wasn’t writing continuously – I put it on hold last night to buy mp3s and go mix at a friend’s house), and now the shower is calling. Happy 2011 to all my bassheads, friends, and people everywhere!

fresh music roundup/ personal update…

December 24, 2010

What’s up everyone?

Akiva here. I haven’t posted an entry in quite some time. The following represents an attempt at a brief summary of what I’ve been up to, and also a recap (as always at least as much for my own benefit as for my readership) of some of the great music I’ve been hearing lately.

Here goes…

Well, firstly, I fulfilled a long-standing goal earlier this month when I bought the Apogee Duet and Logic Studio – two powerful audio tools that will go a long way toward helping me begin to establish a small home-based audio production studio. How exciting! I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of Logic, but I do have some previous experience with audio software so I don’t feel like I’m totally starting from scratch.

This purchase, though, is undoubtedly a big part of why I’m so excited about music right now (and the improvement in audio quality after I got the Duet set up was noticeable). Here are some highlights for me as far as stuff I’ve heard that’s either come out recently or is forthcoming (warning: this list will be rather eclectic):

1. My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky: Swans (site). Let me be blunt: I was fucking ecstatic to hear that Michael Gira decided to reunite the Swans. This album does not disappoint. The first track, “No Words / No Thoughts,” which clocks in at 9:24, starts out ambient, and builds menacingly and forebodingly for minutes until it explodes into a repetitive riff that breaks down into the familiar Swans “wall of sound”…a sequence that refreshingly goes on and on, as though to make up for the years of silence since the Swans disbanded in the ’90s. It’s a wonderful album.

2. 2D33P is a new drum & bass project and label from Trace and Voyager, “focusing on the ’94 vibe and beyond.” All you really need to do is click that link (it leads to their soundcloud page), and listen to the tracks. Unless your soul is immune to sub-bass frequencies and breakbeats (in short unless you don’t like jungle and aren’t willing to be receptive to something new), you’ll see why I’m excited. I’ve also heard a couple clips of tracks forthcoming in 2011 on Trace’s legendary drum & bass label DSCI4.

Speaking of which (and I’m going to probably going to do an entirely distinct post just for this, because I don’t want the link to get lost in the mix), there is a link on the DSCI4 soundcloud page to a mix by Trace and Ed Rush from 1997 called the No U Turn Experience. If you have any interest in drum & bass history, `90s era techstep, and the legacy of underground institution that is No U Turn, don’t pass it up.

Looking at iTunes, I’m beginning to realize I probably only bought one or two releases this entire year. You know what? That’s not going to stop me. I’m going to tell an uber-brief story to illustrate why I think dope releases from 2009 and even (dare I say it?) 2008 are still worthy of mention…

Two days ago, I happily checked out a free track being given away by Blu Mar Ten for Christmas. It’s a total banger. Anyway, some asshole posts a comment, like, “Wow, this track is amazing – can’t believe it’s four years old!”

RIGHT – because it’s only in the last three years that technology has finally enabled us to make amazing music! Everything before then, while still noteworthy, is now going to be relegated to a bygone era. Because…now every producer can afford a DAW, and Ableton and Autotune and etc. etc. etc. Thank God that after millenia of primitive audio production techniques good music will finally be within our reach…OK, now that the rant is over, I’m simply going to say that there’s so much good music that’s always coming out, I’m obviously at least two or three years behind even on the stuff I like to follow most. . . like hip-hop and d & b.

3. Something that’s fresh right now…Duck Down Records!! These guys are KILLING it right now. I still need to catch up on the last five years of dope releases from them. My “to cop” list includes some of the Buckshot & 9th Wonder collabs, the Heltah Skeltah albums that have come out since they reunited a couple years ago…Sean Price’s solo stuff…Boot Camp Clik…oh my god, the shit is fresh. Brooklyn is definitely on the map right now.

4. I gotta mention my man Dash Speaks, a very talented MC, DJ, and producer that I went to high school with. What he does is fresh and original – I just downloaded his album Geography a couple months ago and really, really liked it. His lyrics and approach are unique; the production is an innovative hybrid between hip-hop simplicity and a sort of electronic dance music synth / beat aesthetic, making the album accessible without sacrificing its integrity (if you ask me).

As a matter of fact, you can too. Check a review and free download link here. Dash, Speak brother!

5. It came out last year, but Rakim’s Seventh Seal is fire. Go get it if you haven’t already.

6. While dubstep and dubstep influenced bass-heavy music has continued to become increasingly trendy, drum & bass producers and labels have been stepping up their game over the past year and many of them are killing it. A label that has consistently delivered in terms of quality and originality has been Critical. Without getting too sappy or gushing praise, I gotta say that Critical exemplifies what’s good and what’s always been good about drum & bass. The sounds are varied and diverse. The production quality is always high, and the tracks tend to be on the moodier and techier side, but other than that, the criteria seem to be whatever Kasra thinks fits the label, which is a good approach, and has really allowed Critical to hone and define its own sound. I love what they’ve been doing.

7. A label I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, but which has really put itself on the map and garnered some attention in 2010 is Shogun Audio. Friction has done a good job showcasing a diverse range of musical talent. I would have to say that it is labels like Shogun, Critical, Exit (D-Bridge’s label and one of my faves – killing it right now) that have done a great deal to release material that reshapes the templates for what we used to define as “techstep,” “liquid,” and so on. Rightfully, much of the new d & b straddles several of these arenas. I’m also really happy to see the stripped-down sound that D-Bridge, Instra:mental, and Spectrasoul are pushing to start to get more acceptance. When Shogun Audio first showed up on the scene, I expected Friction to release forward-thinking d & b with deep roots in techstep and the “neurofunk” tradition. Of course, he did; but over the past year he’s also been pushing the envelope with tracks that hardly fit that description. His podcast has featured guest appearances from the likes of Spectrasoul, Lenzman and Rockwell. Shogun is killing it, and doing its part to help shape the new sound of drum & bass for the 21st century. With new material from Alix Perez and Icicle, Friction seems to have done a good job balancing releases from established artists with stuff from more up-and-coming producer. Cheers to the Shogun Audio massive…assassinating the global scene right now.

8. Frankly (and this could just be a reflection of my musical tastes changing), although I’ve always respected them but never been a hugely dedicated fan, I’m kind of warming up to Hospital Records. Obviously they are a total institution by now, and with fresh and hugely popular new acts on their roster like Netsky, they hardly need my endorsement. But I still want to recognize this label for their contributions. Again, a few years ago it seemed like you could pretty much sort d & b tracks by category: liquid, neuro, roller, jump-up, wobble (remember “clownstep”?), hardstep, ragga, jungle…FUCK that! Listen to the new d & b and it’s liquid / neuro-funk / dancefloor / tech. jungle. THAT’s what I’m talking about. (A LITTLE more innovation with the breaks probably couldn’t hurt…but my point is simple: d & b is fresh now so fuck the haters! Frankly more dubstep illustrates the problems associated with d & b than d & b does these days. But feel free to make use of the comment form if you want to argue that point – this is swiftly turning into a rant.) Although in any case, I gotta say, the old school vibes are making a comeback. And that’s something that makes me happy.

9. I guess now that I’ve consulted my iTunes library, I realize that Nine Inch Nails’ free album the slip was actually released in 2008. But I only found about it and downloaded it a few weeks ago. Well, it’s good. Thanks for the free music Trent…and for keeping Nine Inch Nails alive. rock on! And while I’m on the topic of 2008…Portishead‘s Third is fucking awesome. Bleak and cynical and wonderful. It took me a few listens to get into it. Totally worth while. Here, watch the video for Magic Doors.

(I’ve got to grab some dinner…to be continued)

P.S. Bonus video link…O.G.C. – Hurricane Starang. With Heltah Skeltah. It’s a real banger, not to be missed.

Still to come…artists I’m just beginning to discover and still want to check out…labels to watch…producers to watch…forthcoming albums I’m excited about. The round-up will continue! Peace, love and enjoyment…hope everyone that’s reading this has enough reason to stay positive going into 2011. I’m out.

a link.

September 13, 2009

quick post (because it’s 9:30 and I have to get up at five and I just found something cool): check out Corner Prophets, which seems (I haven’t had a chance to really check it yet) to be a blog about hip-hop in Israel and Palestine. This post links to a four part video interview about the Israeli / Palestinian hip hop scenes. I’ve always been curious about the presence of hip-hop on this particular cultural frontier. So here’s a chance for me to learn something – and perhaps, dear reader – for you as well.

I hope to do more research on this topic, and will try to keep updating frequently, so watch this space.

**UPDATE** take a look at http://www.dampalestine.com, the website of a Palestinian hip-hop trio called DAM, based in Lod. I’ve listened to a few of their tracks and I’m impressed. Lyrically they write well (I don’t understand Arabic, but I’ve read some lyrics on their site and watched the video for a track they released in Hebrew – which I understand – and Arabic); musically they draw their inspiration from “Arabic percussion rhythms” and “Middle Eastern melodies” as well as hip-hop influences. So pay them a visit and check out the music..

***A MUCH LATER UPDATE*** Also please check out SAZ at http://alsaz.net/

Sameh Zakout from Ramle is an up-and-coming Palestinian MC with real talent (if I am not mistaken he self-produces as well). I don’t know too much about him so I’m not going to try to say more than I know. This I do know though – Sameh is for real. He’s a highly talented artist. I’ve actually chatted with him online and he told me that after a decade he has gotten signed to a stateside label. His album is forthcoming and I know I’m definitely not going to sleep on it. Believe me this guy is going nowhere but up. You heard it from me first. Click that link and check out his music, and check the bio on his page for more info.

Incidentally there was a documentary film made about him as well. If you know more than me about Palestinian hip-hop (which would mean more or less knowing anything at all!) please drop me a line and spread the knowledge.

Stay tuned..