Thursday, August 28, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS: Explode the Vote @ Coffman Great Hall


After viewing several of the inspirational speeches given at the DNC, it is vital that getting the word out about voting has become more important than ever. So one of my acts on my Background Noise label, Green Sketch, will be performing at an event called Explode the Vote with Brother Ali, Big Quarters, The Usual Suspects and Illuminous 3 at the Coffman Great Hall on Thursday, October 2nd. Click on the image above to purchase your tickets and support the cause. Proceeds will go towards re-electing Keith Ellison.

In addition, the Background Noise Crew made a song about voting called "Time for Something," and it features the homies Orikal and J.L. Magee. You can listen to it below:

Background Noise Crew F/Orikal & J.L. Magee "Time For Something"

Video: Common "Announcement" (featuring Pharrell)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GZA Talks Pro Tools, State of the Wu-Tang Clan

"This guy had a tattoo on his face. A big fuckin' W. That W is probably the most known and the most famous brand in hip-hop."

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)
If you have nothing invested in lyrical hip-hop in general or the Wu-Tang Clan specifically, you probably aren't going to find much to like about Pro Tools, the new album from the Wu's own GZA. Over a bevy of spare beats from the likes of RZA and a handful of talented, primarily under-the-radar producers, GZA spits tightly wound narratives amid the usual Wu family abstraction, generally unconcerned with things like tunefulness or hooks.
However, if you are into lyrical hip-hop of the Wu-Tang strain, GZA's Pro Tools is probably the best thing you've come across since, well, 8 Diagrams. And it's exactly how GZA, long considered one of the sharpest (if not the sharpest) lyricist in the Clan, likes it.
"I'm an MC," GZA reminds us. "It has always been about lyrics. I mean, even if you go back to when I first started, or if you want to take it to the mid-early 80s, when it was myself, Dirty [Ol' Dirty Bastard] and RZA in a group, it was all about being lyrical.
"It's just like when you read a book, you look for great writing. When you read an article or interview, you look for a great story. When you watch a movie, you look for a great movie-- you know, a great beginning, an ending, subplots, ups, downs. I mean, you know, you wanna be entertained. You want to learn from it as well."
Pro Tools apparently began its life as a very different project than the one sitting on a shelf down at your local record shop. "Originally it was supposed to be a compilation album and I was gathering songs for the last few years," GZA explains. "I was in and out of L.A., different cities and getting different artists. You know, in-house family. I was doin' a lot of songs, puttin' them on songs, just to fill it. And over the years some songs was getting used for other people's projects 'cause it was sitting for a while. Then some songs got missing and discs were lost, and I just regrouped. I scrapped everything.
"I started saying to myself, you know, I don't really want to do a compilation with 35 different people. The less I can have on, the better for me, 'cause that's how I like it. I don't really like putting on other artists. I mean, if I could be on an album by myself, I'd rather. I love to have my brothers with me. If they can come, that's even greater. But I always have to prepare myself in case they're not able to make it and do it. So I regrouped and I did new songs."
Ultimately, Pro Tools features relatively few guest spots. However, one of those spots is one of the record's most memorable moments: as the opening track begins, Wu-Tang spiritual leader RZA repeats GZA's name over and over. It's a powerful statement of Wu-Tang unity, and a declaration that this album is deeply rooted in the Wu-Tang aesthetic.
Still, one can't help but be reminded of last winter's 8 Diagrams tour, which saw the Wu-Tang Clan touring without the RZA and completely ignoring their then-new LP. The release of the wonderfully strange album and the resulting turmoil within the Wu-Tang has left plenty wondering just what the state of the Wu-Tang Clan is in 2008.
GZA seems as uncertain as anyone. "I can't really call it, man. It's definitely not the same. It's not what it used to be, as far as the vibe. These brothers need to still get amongst each other and get out some things. You know, you can become wounded, and then your wound heals, but the scar is still there. And that's pretty much what it is. There's still a few scars. That's obvious. And, you know, they showin', but we just have to work it out. It's better for us, man. I mean, the brand is so strong that we need to really pull it together and really pop it off. We really need to put all differences to the side and focus on what we do have in common, because that's how it started off.
"That may be one of the problems. I mean, that's a problem with people in the world, anyway, in general. We can find 1,000 things that make us different, but we can't find one thing that makes us the same. You know, some brothers voiced their opinion. I mean, it's still love. It's just the vibe is funny. The vibe is real funny lately. I do plan on doin' another album with RZA. I mean, the most incredible album that's ever been done. I plan on doin' that."
With a few RZA beats on Pro Tools and the prospect of a shared album between the two, it seems clear that if there are now two camps within the Wu, GZA has hardly split from RZA's. "Oh, yeah. I can't write him out. I can't write him out like that. RZA's one of the best producers that ever existed. I mean, I'm not sayin' I agree with this music that was on [8 Diagrams]. There were some songs I didn't like. I mean, hey, it's like that sometimes. I'm not gonna like everything. But then you gotta look at the time that was allocated. It wasn't really a lot of time that was allocated to do this album. Sometimes you have to sit down... we weren't around each other for a while. We just decided to do an album, to come into the studio. RZA had these beats, and some dudes weren't feelin' a lot of it.
"You know, I'd rather stick to the formula, get the vibe of probably some of the beats that we used in the past, that sort of element. It's just that you can go anywhere with this music. You just have to feel it, you have to bring the best out of it. And I don't think we brought the best out of him, because I don't think the time was there. For instance, once I get out with him, then I'm able to sit down with RZA for three weeks, and I think we can really pull something off. It just requires time, but I'm not gonna write him out. Just hearing his songs like [Pro Tools track] 'Life Is a Movie', you know, just the production on that, that way we did that together goes to show you our chemistry is another level, myself and RZA. So I'm not gonna write him out. I may not like a lot of the songs that he was presentin', but hey, that's cool. I'll find something that I like."
If Pro Tools is any indication, GZA feels like speaking his mind a lot lately. One target of his ever-sharp lyrical swordplay this time out is 50 Cent, whose artistic integrity GZA has publicly questioned in the past. 50 serves as the subject of much ire on the track "Paper Plate", though GZA's wrath isn't just reserved for one particular commercial rapper. "So far as what's above the surface, what we hearin' and what we seein', it's just like [sighs]. It's the same story. It's never been like that for me. There's so much to get inspired from, good and bad. Every day there's so much in the world to just be hearin' rhymes about the same shit all the time. Ridiculous. So, you know, that's why I keep it along that line, staying focused and being grounded, keeping it Wu. Keeping it GZA."
If ever there was a testament to the strength of the Wu-Tang dynasty, it's the skit that prefaces "Paper Plate", in which GZA recalls meeting a fan with a tattoo of the Wu-Tang's iconic W emblem on his face. "It's unheard of, right?" GZA wonders. "This guy had a tattoo on his face. I mean, on his face. A big fuckin' W. And then he had all this other shit carved in. He had a whole bunch of stuff on his face, but the W was the biggest. It was like, 'wow, damn.' It's like that. Wu has it like that. You know, Wu-Tang is just that special brand. That W is probably the most known and the most famous brand in hip-hop."
At this point, the Wu-Tang Clan's legacy has certainly been cemented, with a storied 15-year history and a handful of undeniably classic records under their belt. GZA alludes to his own experience in "Paper Plate", reminding the 50 Cents of the world, "I'm 10 years your senior, but I flow like I'm 21." As GZA notes, "I'm about 10, 11 years older than you, 12 years older, but I rhyme like I'm 10 years younger 'cause of my energy, vibe, and freshness. I'm not sayin' that I'm like a youngster and I'm immature and I'm an amateur. It's just that I have that kick of a 21-year-old. That energy, that vibe, that spark. It's not like I'm on the mic rhyming like [affects exaggerated Kurtis Blow-like cadence] 'you know I talk to the rhythm in the rock and roll.' But I come from that era, you understand? I don't deliver in that fashion. I did that, I rhymed like that, you know, in the 70s when that's what MCin' was. So that's my point. I'm up here, 10 years your senior. I've been doin' this when you was in Pampers probably. Before you was born, actually. But I'm still rhymin' like I'm fresh off the block. And I'm evolving. I'm only getting better."
GZA goes on to explain the rest of the "Paper Plate" lyric, "'I'm 10 years your senior, but I flow like I'm 21 / Straight from Medina, with the mass of many suns": "I set it straight for Medina because, you know, you have to make it all rhyme. So Medina's Brooklyn, we call that Brooklyn. And I say a supernova, 'cause a supernova, most of them has the mass of many suns, or the sun that's, you know, shinin' light within our solar system."
Somehow I doubt that much though went into "I Get Money".
There's an awful lot of knowledge dropped all over Pro Tools. In typical GZA fashion, the album's verses are densely layered with wordplay and narrative alike. The craftsmanship that goes into a typical GZA song is obvious, as usual. "I put a lot into it when I'm writing, normally," GZA says of his writing process. "That's how it is, man. It's about creative writing for me. When I sit down and write a verse, I sit down-- I'm not really one to write a rhyme in 30 minutes. Every now and then, maybe. There was maybe one round that I was able to pull off in about 45 minutes, and that was for the 'Pencil' song."
The beats on Pro Tools are laid back and largely unfettered, a far cry from the busy nature of most modern hip-hop production-- and even RZA's labyrinthine work on 8 Diagrams. Does GZA, who manages to cram what sounds like hundreds of bars into practically every song, seek out this sort of sound intentionally? "That's a good question," he says. "I mean, I don't look for a certain sound. I just have to hear it. When I hear it, I have to know that that's it. But normally I like open beats, and I do look for beats that allow room for me to be heard. I don't like a lot of stuff cluttered. I don't like a lot of this ping-pong, ping-pong pinball.
"I mean, I'm from the era where, you know, I was even sayin' on "Mic Trippin'" [from 1999's Beneath the Surface], "I'm a break beat fanatic / Crates deep in attics / 45s marked up, looped with static." So I'm from the era where I rhymed on break beats. Drums, strictly drums, and breaks in the middle of songs. These breaks came from rap records, pop records, disco records, R&B records. Hip-hop is all of that. But these were breaks that the DJs used to scratch. That's what I'm used to rhyming off because I come from that era. I mean, I can rhyme off R&B music. I can rhyme off anything if I'm feelin' it, but normally I like an open beat, so you can hear somethin' real simple, somethin' that's not overpowering. I'm not that kind of MC, you know.
"There may be a lot of others that need a whole bunch of music to put on their lyrics because they're not as strong. That's why a lot of people say, 'Oh, you know, the beat is hot, though.' The beat can be hot, and if the lyrics is whack, I might not even notice how hot the beat is. You're like, 'this dude is real corny, man." You know, you had MCs in the past-- especially from the golden era-- that was incredibly sharp lyrically and had the most bullshit beats. But you didn't even notice that, like, 'Damn, I didn't know how weak that beat was, he was just tearin' it up so bad.'"
Beats and rhymes rarely connect quite as brilliantly on GZA's classic 1995 LP Liquid Swords. After a triumphant set at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival, GZA is taking Liquid Swords out on the road this summer and fall for a series of shows that feature him performing the album in its entirety. GZA doesn't see much of a conflict with the timing of promoting a new album while doing a tour highlighting an old one. "This was in the makings already," he notes. " If anything, this is a segue to launch this album 'cause, you know, I'm gonna be doing several songs off the albums. Promoters are paying for Liquid Swords, so first thing's first. What makes it great is that Pro Tools is out, so they like, 'I can get Liquid Swords, then I get a whole bunch of other stuff that's in this catalog, and then I get some of Pro Tools.' You're gettin' a whole lot."
08-26 Seattle, WA - Neumos (performing Liquid Swords)
08-27 Vancouver, British Columbia - Richard's on Richards (performing Liquid Swords)
08-29 Salt Lake City, UT - Palladium (performing Liquid Swords)
08-30 Denver, CO - Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom (performing Liquid Swords)
09-01 Dallas, TX - Palladium Loft (performing Liquid Swords)
09-02 Houston, TX - Warehouse Live (performing Liquid Swords)
09-03 Austin, TX - Emo's (performing Liquid Swords)
09-04 Minneapolis, MN - Cabooze (performing Liquid Swords)
09-05 Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College (performing Liquid Swords)
09-06 Madison, WI - SoCo Music Experience (performing Liquid Swords)
09-07 Chicago, IL - House of Blues (performing Liquid Swords)
09-09 Oberlin, OH - Dionysus Club (Oberlin College) (performing Liquid Swords)
09-10 Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live (performing Liquid Swords)
09-11 Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero (performing Liquid Swords)
09-12 New York, NY - Irving Plaza (performing Liquid Swords)
09-13 Boston, MA - Harper's Ferry (performing Liquid Swords)
09-17 Tempe, AZ - Clubhouse (performing Liquid Swords)
09-18 Flagstaff, AZ - Congress (performing Liquid Swords)
09-19 San Diego, CA - Street Scene (performing Liquid Swords)
10-24 Halifax, Nova Scotia - Halifax Pop Explosion
11-10 Brussels, Belgium - AB Club
11-12 Glasgow, Scotland - ABC
11-13 London, England - Electric Ballroom
11-14 Bristol, England - Academy
11-15 Nancy, France - L'Autre Canal
11-17 Paris, France - Elysée Montmartre
11-18 Marseilles, France - Espace Julien

Monday, August 25, 2008

G-Unit Producer Jake One Signs to Rhymesayers for LP

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Mainstream meets underground in a big way on White Van Music, the debut studio album from Jake One. The Seattle producer is part of G-Unit's production team, and in the past, he has worked with 50 Cent, De La Soul, Snoop Dogg, Young Buck, E-40, and Lil Scrappy, among other folks.

For White Van Music, Jake has fused this world with the world inhabited by his new label, Rhymesayers. Thus, the record features appearances from a wide variety of hip-hop heads, including Posdnuos (De La Soul), Busta Rhymes, MF DOOM, Young Buck, Freeway, M.O.P., Slug (Atmosphere), Little Brother, Prodigy, Keak Da Sneak, Black Milk, Alchemist, Casual, Ish (aka Butterfly from Digable Planets), Royce Da 5'9", and Bishop Lamont.

Rhymesayers will release White Van Music on October 7.
White Van Music:

01 I'm Coming [ft. Black Milk and Nottz]
02 Gangsta Boy [ft. M.O.P.]
03 The Truth [ft. Freeway and Brother Ali]
04 Turn It Down
05 God Like [ft. D. Black]
06 Bless the Child [ft. Little Brother]
07 Oh Really [ft. Posdnuos and Slug]
08 Hi09 Trap Door [ft. MF DOOM]
10 Dead Wrong [ft. Young Buck]
11 Kissin the Curb [ft. Bishop and Busta Rhymes]
12 How We Ride [ft. Freeway]
13 White Van [ft. Alchemist, Evidence, and Prodigy]
14 Big Homie Style [ft. J Pinder, GMK, and Spaceman]
15 Scared [ft. Blueprint]
16 Great Sound
17 Get Er Done [ft. MF DOOM]
18 Feeling My Shit [ft. Casual]
19 Soil Raps [ft. Keak Da Sneak]
20 Glow [ft. eLZhi and Royce Da 5'9"]
21 RIP
22 Home [ft. Vitamin D, C-Note, Maneak B, and Ish]

Stream: Jake One: Various Tracks

Talib Kweli, David Banner Head Hip Hop Live! Tour

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

For the second consecutive year, a few excellent MCs will throw their best verses over a 10-piece live band accompaniment from Rhythm Roots Allstars as part of the Hip Hop Live! Tour.

This year's participants in the tour are Talib Kweli, David Banner, Little Brother, and B.O.B. Kweli and Banner are on board for all dates, while Little Brother will pass opening duties to B.O.B. midway through. The fun begins September 28 in San Diego.

Hip Hop Live! (Talib Kweli + David Banner):

09-28 San Diego, CA - Canes *
09-30 Los Angeles, CA - House of Blues *
10-02 San Francisco, CA - Grand Ballroom *
10-03 Portland, OR - Roseland *
10-04 Eugene, OR - McDonald Theater *
10-05 Seattle, WA - Showbox SoDo *
10-08 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater *
10-10 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue *
10-13 Bloomington, IN - Bluebird *
10-18 Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre #
10-19 Asheville, NC - Orange Peel #
10-20 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club #
10-23 Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero #
10-24 Boston, MA - Showcase Live! #
10-25 New York, NY - Nokia Theatre #

* with Little Brother
# with B.O.B.

Stream: B.O.B.: Various Tracks
Stream: Little Brother: Various Tracks
MP3: Talib Kweli: Momma Can You Hear Me
Video: David Banner [ft. Chris Brown]: Get Like Me [from the The Greatest Story Ever Told LP]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mr. Lif Releases New Album One Song at a Time

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)
Photo by Hibbard Nash
Mr. Lif has returned from the shadows to drop science. Political science, that is. In light of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Lif is using his new album, I Heard It Today, "to create awareness on current political issues and agendas for Americans and the global community," according to a press release.
To allow himself the flexibility to address issues as they present themselves, Mr. Lif has a non-traditional plan for the release of I Heard It Today, which is the follow-up to 2006's Mo' Mega. Starting with the release of "I Heard It Today" on September 9, Lif will write, record, produce, and digitally release one or two new songs every three weeks (September 23 and October 14) until Election Day (November 4). Afterward, he'll release one more single reacting to the election.

Lif will then compile these singles, along with additional unreleased tracks, for the full album, which will be released via his new label, Bloodbot Tactical Enterprises, on Inauguration Day (January 20). Production on various tracks will come from Edan, J Zone, Illmind, and others.
Here's the artwork for the "I Heard It Today" single:
MP3: General Elektriks ft. Mr. Lif: Requiem for a Neocon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Publick Enemy: It Takes A Nation of Millions (parts 2 & 3)

Part 2 (Built from Scratch): In installment #2, PE and the Bomb Squad look back at the building blocks used to construct their classic LP, exploring how their intimate knowledge of records shaped not only this record, but also hip-hop at large.

Part 3 (The Legacy): With the final installment of our three-part series exploring It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, we survey some of the more enduring contributions of this classic Public Enemy record.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation Of Millions... (Part 1 of 3): Beginnings

With this the first of 3 segments, Pitchfork.TV begin its in-depth look at the classic Public Enemy record It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Chuck D, The Bomb Squad, and others bum-rush memory lane, and give us a glimpse into the early days of P.E.

Giant of Internet Radio Nears Its 'Last Stand'

(swiped from The Washington Post)

Pandora, Other Webcasters Struggle Under High Song Fees

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Pandora is one of the nation's most popular Web radio services, with about 1 million listeners daily. Its Music Genome Project allows customers to create stations tailored to their own tastes. It is one of the 10 most popular applications for Apple's iPhone and attracts 40,000 new customers a day.

Yet the burgeoning company may be on the verge of collapse, according to its founder, and so may be others like it.

"We're approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision," said Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora. "This is like a last stand for webcasting."

The transformation of words, songs and movies to digital media has provoked a number of high-stakes fights between the owners of copyrighted works and the companies that can now easily distribute those works via the Internet. The doomsday rhetoric these days around the fledgling medium of Web radio springs from just such tensions.

Last year, an obscure federal panel ordered a doubling of the per-song performance royalty that Web radio stations pay to performers and record companies.

Traditional radio, by contrast, pays no such fee. Satellite radio pays a fee but at a less onerous rate, at least by some measures.

As for Pandora, its royalty fees this year will amount to 70 percent of its projected revenue of $25 million, Westergren said, a level that could doom it and other Web radio outfits.

This week, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) is trying to broker a last-minute deal between webcasters and SoundExchange, the organization that represents artists and record companies. The negotiations could reduce the per-song rate set by the federal panel last year.

The two sides appear to be far apart, however, with Berman frustrated.

"Most of the rate issues have not been resolved," Berman said. "If it doesn't get much more dramatic quickly, I will extricate myself from the process."

"We're losing money as it is," said Westergren, a former acoustic rocker. "The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we're doing is wasting money."

The digital reproduction of works in print, audio and video has provoked waves of lawsuits over who should benefit from copyrighted works distributed over the internet. The media company Viacom sued YouTube for running clips. Record companies have sought to punish file-sharers. And in radio, the digital transformation has recharged long-standing disputes over how much performers and their record companies ought to be paid when a song gets played.

By contrast to traditional radio, which broadcast only one song at any given time, Pandora's technology allows listeners to create their own stations, through which hundreds of thousands of song are played simultaneously.

For example, if a Pandora listener expresses a preference for "Debaser" by the Pixies, Pandora will search its catalog for songs that have similar musical qualities and create a station accordingly.

Soon after its launch, Pandora drew raves and listeners. Revenue at the growing company, which is supported by venture capital investors, was slated to rise above costs for the first time in 2009, Westergren said.

Then came the decision by the Copyright Royalty Board.

"I was on the bus when I get this message on my Treo," Westergren said. "I thought, 'We're dead.' "

SoundExchange, the organization that represents performers and record companies, said it supports the higher royalties for Internet radio because musicians deserve a bigger cut of Internet radio profits.

"Our artists and copyright owners deserve to be fairly compensated for the blood and sweat that forms the core product of these businesses," said Mike Huppe, general counsel for SoundExchange.

The Copyright Royalty Board last year decided that the fee to play a music recording on Web radio should step up from 8/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2006 to 19/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2010.

Multiplied by the millions of songs and thousands of listeners Pandora serves, that means the company will have to pay about $17 million this year, Westergren said.

The effect may be even worse for smaller outfits. Many small webcasters have said that the royalties as determined by the copyright board would be 100 percent to 300 percent of annual revenue, said David Oxenford, a lawyer who represents some of them.

"Obviously, that's not going to work," he said.

Even more galling to webcasters is the fact that they pay more for playing a song than traditional or satellite radio, a result of patchwork regulation created as each technology emerged.

Traditional radio pays nothing in performance royalties, though SoundExchange is pressing to change that. Satellite radio pays 6 or 7 percent of revenue. And then there are webcasters, which pay per song, per listener.

Using listener figures from Arbitron for XM Satellite Radio, it is possible to estimate that the company will pay about 1.6 cents per hour per listener when the new rates are fully adapted in 2010. By contrast, Web radio outlets will pay 2.91 cents per hour per listener.

SoundExchange officials argue that because different media have different profit margins, it is appropriate to set different royalty rates.

Moreover, they complain, Internet radio stations have done too little to make money from playing their songs.

Pandora makes advertising money only from spots placed on its Web page, not on audio ads that run between songs. Other stations are similarly struggling to persuade companies to pay for advertising in the new medium.

"We're taking this challenge very seriously," Westergren said. "When we have our board meetings, the central topic is the revenue trajectory, not how happy our users are."

He said Pandora has a 30-person ad sales operation, or about 25 percent of its workforce. The company will soon start running subtler ads similar to those on National Public Radio, too, he said.

"Something like 'The next half hour is brought to you by . . .' " he said.

Westergren and other webcasters argue that Web radio, which generally plays a far wider range of music than is offered by traditional radio, provides invaluable promotion for many independent musicians.

Matt Nathanson, a singer-songwriter who has recorded for both major and independent record labels, said he is worried that the demands placed on Internet radio could "choke" the industry before it gets its footing.

"Net radio is good for musicians like me, and I think most musicians are like me," he said. "The promotion it provides is far more important than the revenue."

Westergren, seemingly wearied by the constant haggling over the issue, signaled that Pandora's investors may also be impatient for an end.

"We're funded by venture capital," he said. "They're not going to chase a company whose business model has been broken. So if it doesn't feel like its headed towards a solution, we're done."

Friday, August 15, 2008

RIP: Jerry Wexler - Producer, Mogul, Legend

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Legendary record man Jerry Wexler, who helped shape the sound of R&B, guided the careers of titans such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Led Zeppelin, and helped launch Atlantic Records into a powerhouse, has died at his home in Florida, according to Rolling Stone. He was 91.

Wexler began his career in the late 1940s as a journalist, writing for Billboard magazine. He invented the phrase "Rhythm and Blues" for the publication for use on what was then known as their "Race Music" chart. In 1953, Wexler joined Ahmet Ertegun as co-head of Atlantic Records, a post he would hold until 1975. The two were instrumental in bringing the R&B music they loved to a wider audience, further incorporating it into the burgeoning sounds of rock'n'roll.

As both a record mogul and producer, Wexler was a tireless promoter of his wares, and in constant pursuit of exciting new sounds in modern music. Of his many successes with Atlantic, a mid-1960s distribution deal with legendary soul imprint Stax was one of his greatest. The arrangement brought Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs, and countless others into the fold, introducing the world to the gloriously loose Muscle Shoals sound that characterized the Stax catalog.

In 1966, Wexler signed a young singer by the name of Aretha Franklin, encouraging her to sing in a more natural, less measured style. Her subsequent work with Atlantic-- in particular, the recordings she completed in Muscle Shoals-- remain some of the finest albums of any era.

The late 60s brought a string of British rockers seeking to bump elbows with the soul musicians they'd been ripping off, and Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the like linked up with Atlantic, thanks to Wexler. In 1968, Wexler brought British chanteuse Dusty Springfield to Tennessee to record the legendary Dusty in Memphis, which Wexler himself produced. Also in 1968, Wexler and Ertegun agreed to sell Atlantic to Warner Seven Arts (later Warner Brothers), a deal that lost Atlantic a sizeable amount of money. He told Rolling Stone, "What a mistake. Worst thing we ever did."

Ertegun left Atlantic in 1975, eventually picking up some A&R work for Warner Brothers that netted the label new-wave pioneers like the B-52s and Gang of Four. He struck out on his own later in the decade, producing records for Bob Dylan, the Staple Singers, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, and many others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, becoming one of the very first non-performers to achieve the honor. It's not difficult to see why.

Wexler retired to Florida in the late 90s, where he largely cut himself off from the business elements of the music industry. He is survived by two children, and his wife, writer Jean Arnold.

Video: Aretha Franklin: Respect [live in 1967]

Atmosphere Extend "Paint the Nation" Tour

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)
Photo by Dan Monick

In an attempt to bring folks more Lemon-y freshness than a dish soap commercial, Atmosphere have added a second leg of U.S. dates to their "Paint the Nation" tour. The trek now extends into mid-November.

Before the nation-painting begins, Atmosphere have some European dates to finish, starting tonight (August 15) in Zurich, Switzerland. After "Paint the Nation", the duo has also added a trio of Australian dates.

Finally, Atmosphere will play the Take Back Labor Day festival in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention, as previously reported.

08-15 Zurich, Switzerland - Tonimolkerei
08-16 Munich, Germany - Ampere
08-17 Gothenburg, Sweden - Göteborgs Kulturkalas
08-18 Malmö, Sweden - Malmöfestivalen
08-20 Oslo, Norway - Bla08-21 Stockholm, Sweden - Nalen
08-22 Copenhagen, Denmark - Little Vega
08-23 Prague, Czech Republic - Hip Hop Kemp Festival
08-23 Helsinki, Finland - Tavastia
09-01 St. Paul, MN - Harriet Island (Take Back Labor Day)
09-10 Fargo, ND - The Venue *
09-11 Sioux Falls, SD - Sioux Empire Expo Center *
09-12 Omaha, NE - Slowdown *
09-13 Denver, CO - Monolith Festival
09-15 Boise, ID - Knitting Factory *
09-16 Missoula, MT - Wilma Theater *
09-18 Eugene, OR - McDonald Theater *
09-19 Sacramento, CA - Empire *
09-20 San Diego, CA - Street Scene
09-21 Bakersfield, CA - The Dome *
09-22 Santa Cruz, CA - Catalyst *
09-25 Los Angeles, CA - Wiltern *
09-26 Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues *
09-27 Phoenix, AZ - Edge Fest
09-28 Tucson, AZ - KFMA Fall Ball
09-30 Houston, TX - Warehouse Live *
10-01 New Orleans, LA - Tipitina's *
10-02 St. Petersburg, FL - State Theater *
10-03 Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Revolution *
10-04 Orlando, FL - Firestone *
10-06 Atlanta, GA - Masquerade *
10-07 Ashville, NC - Orange Peel *
10-08 Richmond, VA - Toad's Place *
10-10 Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head *
10-11 New Haven, CT - Toad's Place *
10-13 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg *
10-14 New York, NY - Irving Plaza *
10-15 Providence, RI - Lupo's *
10-17 Portland, ME - The Station *
10-18 Burlington, VT - Higher Ground *
10-20 Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Small's *
10-21 Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom *
10-22 Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall *
10-24 Cincinnati, OH - Scribble Jam @ Annie's *
10-25 Nashville, TN - Wildhorse Saloon *
10-27 Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Theatre *
10-28 Grand Rapids, MI - Intersection *
10-29 Urbana, IL - Canopy Club *
10-31 Madison, WI - Orpheum Theatre *
11-01 Milwaukee, WI - Riverside Theater *
11-02 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue *
11-05 Iowa City, IA - Englert Theatre *
11-06 Lawrence, KS - The Granada *
11-07 Tulsa, OK - Cain's Ballroom *
11-08 Austin, TX - Waterloo Park (Fun Fun Fun Fest)
11-09 Dallas, TX - House of Blues *
11-11 El Paso, TX - Club 101 *
11-12 Albuquerque, NM - Albuquerque Convention Center *
11-15 Columbia, MO - The Blue Note *
11-16 Chicago, IL - The Vic Theatre *
12-30 Lorne, Australia - The Falls Festival
12-31 Marion Bay, Australia - The Falls Festival
01-03 Busselton, Australia - Sir Stewart Bovell Park (Southbound Festival)

* with Blueprint, Abstract Rude, DJ Rare Groove

Video: Atmosphere: Shoulda Known [from the When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold LP]

A break from our scheduled programming: A poem by Stewie Griffin

Oh squiggly line in my eye fluid.
I see you lurking there on the periphery of my vision.
But when I try to look at you, you scurry away.
Are you shy, squiggly line?
Why only when I ignore you, do you return to the center of my eye?
Oh, squiggly line,it's alright, you are forgiven.

Video: The Genius Speaks - Wu-Tang's GZA/Genius Speaks on the August 19th Release of "Pro Tools"

(via Babygrande) The GZA/Genius, Wu-Tang's famed lyrical swordsman, serves up some jewels regarding "Pro Tools," his fifth solo album, set for imminent release on August 19th. The notoriously elusive emcee opens up in this rare and exclusive interview, providing coveted insight into the new album (and his favorite tracks), the current state of hip-hop and also directly addressing the recently leaked, buzzing 50 Cent diss track ("Paper Plate").

Also...log on to NOW to check out an exclusive preview of the entire "Pro Tools" album. This is an exclusive opportunity to preview what notable blogger/tastemaker/critic Byron Crawford has already coined "shockingly good. The best GZA album since Liquid Swords...very well the best Wu-Tang-related album since Supreme Clientele."

Tune in to as well for the "Pro Tools" album cover redesign contest for a chance to win a full CD DJ set-up from Stanton worth $1600:

Also look for GZA this summer/fall on the highly anticipated nationwide "Liquid Swords" tour which commences August 21st in Los Angeles at the El Rey Theatre. He plans to debut the new material for the first time ever following the performance of the entire classic "Liquid Swords" album.

GZA/Liquid Swords Tour:

Thu 8/21 Los Angeles, CA El Rey

Fri 8/22 Santa Cruz, CA Moe's Alley

Sat 8/23 Petaluma, CA Phoenix

Mon 8/25 Portland, OR Berbati's

Tue 8/26 Seattle, WA Neumos

Wed 8/27 Vancouver, BC Richards

Fri 8/29 Salt Lake City, UT Paladium

Sat 8/30 Denver, CO Cervantes

Mon 9/1 Dallas, TX Palladium

Tue 9/2 Houston, TX Warehouse

Wed 9/3 Austin, TX Emo's

Thu 9/4 Minneapolis, MN Cabooze

Fri 9/5 Grinnell, IA Grinnell

Sat 9/6 Madison, WI SoCo Music

Sun 9/7 Chicago, IL House of Blues

Tue 9/9 Oberlin, OH Oberlin Collge

Wed 9/10 Baltimore, MD Ram's Head

Thu 9/11 Philadelphia, PA Trocadero

Fri 9/12 New York, NY Irving Plaza

Sat 9/13 Boston, MA Harper's Ferry

Wed 9/17 Tempe, AZ Clubhouse

Thu 9/18 Flagstaff, AZ Congress

Fri 9/19 San Diego, CA Street Scene

Game Slams Jesse Jackson -- Twice -- On New Tracks With Lil Wayne, Nas

(swiped from MTV News)

MC also challenges Jay-Z, G-Unit (again) on tracks from forthcoming LP.

"It's a hundred different messages you can take from the song," Game said on Monday afternoon, cruising through Houston on his way to a radio station. "It's called 'My Life,' so tune in." The video for the song, from his forthcoming LP L.A.X.,premieres on "FNMTV" Friday (starting at 8 p.m. ET).

"And I ain't no preacher, but here's my Erick Sermon," he raps on the record. "So eat this black music, and tell me how it tastes now/ And f--- Jesse Jackson 'cause it ain't about race now."
Later he adds "Walk through the gates of hell, see my Impala parked in front with the high beams on/ Me and the devil sharin' chronic blunts/ Listening to The Chronic album/ Playin' backwards, shootin' at pictures of Don Imus for target practice."

It's very provocative — and he goes after Jackson even harder on a different track from the album, "Letter to the King," that leaked on Thursday (August 14).

The song — a duet with Nas — has bars that are lyrically astonishing, and will probably be the pair's most talked-about collaboration yet. Of course, the "King" the duo refers to is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At times, the two talk directly to the late civil-rights leader as if he were still alive; at others, they ponder aloud about what could have been.

"If Dr. King marched today, would Bill Gates march?" Game raps on the third verse. "I know Obama would, but would Hillary take part?/ I feel the pain of Nelson Mandela/ 'Cause when it rains it pours, I need Rihanna's umbrella/ For Coretta Scott [King's] teardrops/ When she got the phone call that the future just took a f---ing headshot."

If you don't remember anything else about the song, Game's controversial last line will stay with you.

"I wonder why Jesse Jackson ain't catch him before his body dropped," he asks. "Would he give me the answer?/ Probably not."

At press time, Game had not responded to MTV News' requests for comment on why he's going after Jackson — a longtime King associate, who was present at his assassination in 1968 — so hard, but he did speak with us at length about L.A.X. in Houston earlier this week.

Several other noteworthy tracks from the album hit the Net on Thursday (August 14), including "Angel," which features classic name-dropping from an outspoken Game while Common guest-drops metaphors. There's also a song called "Ya Heard" that features the Compton track-slayer engaging in some rap repartee with Ludacris.

Game described the album as "just me taking flight, man. This album is gonna be real special — from beginning to end, it's gonna knock."

Recently on KISS-FM in Phoenix, Game admitted that he's a fan of Jay's music, but predicted that a battle between the two of them would be one-sided — against Jigga.

"I'm young, stupid, disrespectful," Game said. "I haven't lost a beef. I killed a whole group limb by limb — see what happened to G-Unit."

Speaking of the Unit, estranged group member Young Buck appears in the video for "My Life," which also co-stars Lil Wayne.

"Buck is in the video for a split second, robbing the liquor store!" Game smiled. "Lil Wayne came out to California — he re-routed his tour bus, made a U-turn for me, [so we could] shoot the video. I think the video is gonna do some great things."

L.A.X. is due on August 26.

Streets Collaborations With Robert Wyatt, Muse Trashed

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)
With the release of the Streets' fourth LP, Everything Is Borrowed, approaching fast, Mike Skinner continues to ramble on. He's let loose the album's purty cover [above], revealed details of a Robert Wyatt duet that didn't make the album, and seen the leaking of a collaboration with Muse. Plus, he rambles to almost no end on the Streets' MySpace blog, though not without some juicy hints at Everything's follow-up.
The press release for Everything Is Borrowed mentions that album track "On the Edge of a Cliff" originally featured vocals from elusive psych legend Robert Wyatt. For some reason, that version was "lost in the edit," according to Skinner.
Not so lost, however, is Skinner's collaboration with Muse. A couple weeks ago, a track began circulating on various websites and message boards, purporting to be a pairing of the two British juggernauts. Muse confirmed it with a post on their website, saying "The MP3 floating around...was the result of a late-night jam session and something we did for a bit of a laugh featuring a blues riff we have been playing live recently upon which Skinner recorded some vocals. It is not intended to be a serious release so we are happy for it to be leaked unofficially."
According to a report from The Guardian, the track is called "Who Knows Who" and is the result of Muse singer Matt Bellamy's desire to create "London rap-rock" with Skinner, as quoted from an April interview with BBC 6 Music.
In the realm of official releases, Skinner's aforementioned MySpace blog references the Streets' follow-up to Everything Is Borrowed, which he is still calling the Streets' final album. In an earlier post, Skinner called the record "dark" and "Berlin-influenced." In this newest post, he writes, "I've finally done it. I finally bought the legendary 909 drum machine I always wanted. I'm bringin' it home for the final Streets album (not this one-- you might have to wait two years for this shit). It's gonna be called Computers and Blues, and it's all about dancing and CHATTING SHIT. 45 minutes of 130 bpm-style straight spittin'."
We're not sure how much of that to believe since most of it seems to come from Skinner's excitement about the drum machine, but hey, we like dancing and chatting shit, whatever that is exactly. We're also not sure how much to believe about this blog post, which claims that Skinner had his house repossessed on Tuesday. Though the line, "you'll get to see the whole video when it drops soon..." suggests that maybe it had something to do with a music video.
Everything Is Borrowed comes out in the UK via 679 on September 15. The album's second, still-unnamed single follows on September 29.
The Streets have plenty of dates in support of Everything Is Borrowed starting in October, and before then, they have two European festival shows this month.
The Streets:
08-19 Ibiza, Spain - Ibiza Rocks Festival
08-29 Paris, France - Rock en Seine
10-04 Glasgow, Scotland - Barrowlands
10-05 Manchester, England - Academy
10-06 Sheffield, England - Plug
10-09 Birmingham, England - Academy
10-10 Newcastle, England - Academy
10-11 Oxford, England - Academy
10-13 Southampton, England - Guildhall
10-14 Preston, England - 53 Degrees
10-16 Norwich, England - UEA
10-17 Bristol, England - Academy
10-18 Nottingham, England - Rock City
10-19 Leeds, England - Academy
10-25 Oslo, Norway - Rockefeller
10-27 Copenhagen, Denmark - KB Hall
10-28 Hamburg, Germany - Gross Freiheit
10-29 Bielefeld, Germany - Ringlokschuppen
10-30 Dresden, Germany - Strasse E
11-01 Duisburg, Germany - Kraftzentrale
11-02 Frankurt, Germany - Hugenottenhalle
11-03 Berlin, Germany - Huxleys
11-04 Warsaw, Poland - Stodola
11-06 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso
11-07 Luxembourg, Germany - Den Atler
11-09 Munich, Germany - Muffthalle
11-10 Stuttgart, Germany - Longhorn
11-11 Cologne, Germany - Live Music Hall
11-12 Zurich, Switzerland - Rota Fabric
11-13 Freiberg, Germany - Fri-son
11-15 Madrid, Spain - Joy Eslava
11-16 Barcelona, Spain - Razzmataz 2
11-18 Strasbourg, France - Laiterie

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Audio: Doomtree "Game Over" & "The Wren

The five rappers and four producers that make up the Doomtree crew have been powering through the underground community since their inception, with critically acclaimed releases from their home-grown label, including their own False Hopes series of EPs, and the release of P.O.S.’s Ipecac Neat (named "Best Album of the Year" by The Star Tribune). Since meeting in junior high, they've all lived and worked together, helping to create the dynamic and tireless work ethic they have developed as a group. Over the past five years, Doomtree has gained momentum as one of the best hip-hop collectives in the Midwest.

The self-titled album, DOOMTREE, is a landmark for the group and a self-proclaimed beast. With 21 tracks, not only does the record build the momentum of the crew, but it also highlights their talents as solo artists. With an already outstanding catalog including fans of punk and indie rock, and rap purists, this release is sure to rally an even bigger audience with the call for independent thought. As Doomtree says, "The anthems are victorious, the storysongs are full of dream and intrigue, and the bangers reset pacemakers."

The Wren

Game Over

Rage Against The Machine To Play Protest Gig During Democratic National Convention

(swiped from MTVNews)

Agit-rockers already announced Minneapolis show during the Republican gathering.

This year at least, Rage Against the Machine are bipartisan bomb-throwers. The agit-rockers, who are already playing a show in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention in September, have just announced another gig during the Democratic National Convention in Denver at the end of this month.

The "Tent State Music Festival to End the War" will take place August 27 at the Denver Coliseum and feature sets by Rage, the Flobots, the Coup, State Radio and former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, whose proto-punk band famously performed against the wishes of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley during the violent protests outside the 1968 DNC gathering. The band went home without their instruments, but they did have bloody battle scars from brawls with police.

Rage also know a thing or two about getting shut down at the DNC, as their 2000 set during the party's gathering in Los Angeles erupted in chaos when police rushed in and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. This year's all-ages show will begin at 11 a.m., and tickets are free to those who sign up for the lottery by presenting a valid ID at the Tent State University location in Denver between August 24 and August 26. Winners will be notified by e-mail on August 26.

The Denver protest event is being put on in conjunction with the Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tent State University, a group that works to help young people "take back their campuses and their communities." Tent State plans to erect a "sea of tents" in City Park, Denver, during the DNC and create an "alternative university, teaching tactics and strategies necessary to force an end to this war." Among the guests on tap during the protest are third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

During the protest, Tent State will also host a series of other shows as part of the first Tent State Music Festival, featuring sets by longtime social critic and ex-Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, as well as the Coup, Michelle Shocked, Jill Sobule and some "special guests" during an event they are billing as "4 Days of Love & Action."

The logo for the protest, as well as the slogan, are meant to evoke the iconic poster for the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival, which promised "3 Days of Peace and Music" and featured a white bird sitting on the neck of a guitar. The Tent State festival, in contrast, features an electric guitar being held aloft by a fist.

The organization has several days' worth of creative protests planned, including the Funky Snake Marches that will wind through downtown to protest the war in Iraq, daily morning gatherings that the group says will "turn downtown into one massive reminder to the delegates and the public of what war looks like" and the erection of mock checkpoints around Denver on August 26 to "mimic the experiences we force on people in Iraq, Palestine and on the U.S./Mexico border."

Other acts scheduled to perform during the Tent State festival include: Melissa Ivey, Blue Scholars, Son of Nun, God-des and She, 8" Betsy, David Rovics, Rachel Bagby, Common Market, Apex Vibe, P Nuckle, Fulcrum, Kombat, DJ Russh and the Flash Mob.
The latest Rage show is part of a growing musical roster for both conventions, which also includes a just-announced Grammy Foundation-sponsored gig featuring Daughtry, Everclear and the Flobots during the DNC; a Service Employees International Union-sponsored show by Rage guitarist Tom Morello, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco and Steve Earle during the Republican Convention; and various other local concerts in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area during the gathering.
MTV News and the Street Team '08 citizen journalists will be on the ground at both conventions, sorting through speeches, streamers and ceremony to find the information you need to choose the next president.

The Roots to Tour With Estelle, Gym Class Heroes

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

What's the world's finest live rap group got in common with a brassy British up-and-comer and a cadre of silly yet sad-sacky emo-rappers ? Well, not a whole hell of a lot...until October, that is.

Yes, the Roots, Estelle, and Gym Class Heroes will join forces for a co-headlining spin around North America this fall. Could it be that we've all been sleeping on Gym Class Heroes, and this is a wakeup call from ?uestlove aimed directly at our brains? Or is this just another step in the Roots' slow crawl towards full-bore emo-dom they set in motion with that ill-advised collaboration with Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump that didn't make Rising Down?

Either way, look for that Wu-Tang/Lily Allen/My Chemical Romance jump off in the spring.

The Roots have a whole mess of European festival appearances to attend to before linking up with Estelle and the Heroes.

The Roots:
08-14 Avenches, Switzerland - Openair Festival
08-15 Salzburg, Austria - Frequency Festival
08-16 Helsinki, Finland - Flow Festival
08-17 Biddinghuizen, Netherlands - Lowlands Festival
08-20 Bergen, Norway - TBA
08-21 Oslo, Norway - Scentrum Scene
08-22 Bodo, Norway - Parken Festival
08-23 Oudenaarde, Belgium - Feest in ‘t Park
08-24 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic - Hip Hop Kemp Festival
08-26 Moscow, Russia - B1
08-29 Paris, France - Rock en Seine Festival
08-30 Argyll, Scotland - Connect Festival
08-31 Stradbally, Ireland - Electric Picnic
09-06 Madison, WI - SOCO Music Experience !
10-03 Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live *
10-04 Norfolk, VA - The Norva *
10-05 Myrtle Beach, SC - House of Blues *
10-06 Atlanta, GA - The Tabernacle *
10-07 Lake Buena Vista, FL - House of Blues *
10-08 Miami, FL - The Fillmore at Jackie Gleason *
10-11 Dallas, TX - The Palladium Ballroom *
10-12 Austin, TX - The Backyard *
10-14 Phoenix, AZ - The Marquee *
10-19 Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues *
10-21 Denver, CO - The Fillmore Auditorium *
10-23 Milwaukee, WI - Eagles Ballroom *
10-24 Chicago, IL - Congress Theatre *
10-25 Detroit, MI - The Fillmore Detroit *
10-26 Toronto, Ontario - Sound Academy *
10-28 New York, NY - Roseland Ballroom *
10-30 Worcester, MA - The Palladium Downstairs *
10-31 Asbury Park, NJ - Asbury Park Convention Hall *
11-01 Albany, NY - Washington Avenue Armory

! with the Black Keys, GZA, Benevento Russo Duo, Ha Ha Tonka
* with Estelle, Gym Class Heroes

Video: The Roots (ft. Wale and Chrisette Michelle): Rising Up [from the Rising Down LP]

Kanye Bringing Fatburger to Chicago

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

If you believe Men's Fitness Magazine, Pitchfork's hometown of Chicago currently stands as the 20th fattest city in the U.S. Best believe we're coming for that #1 spot (uh, again) thanks to the tireless efforts of Kanye West.

According to Crain's [via Chicagoist], Kanye's KW Foods LLC plans to open the very first Chicago-area location of the gluttony-forward California-based fast food chain Fatburger. Fatburger will open the doors at their new spot in suburb Orland Park next month, with another coming in January on the south side. Crain's reports that KW Foods has secured the rights to open 10 Fatburger joints in the region, and are currently seeking a lease on a third locale.

Of course, one cannot help but point out the irony of the dude who penned "The New Workout Plan" opening up a restaurant with that particular name, but, shit, man, Kingburgers and Fat Fries make their own rules.

Thanks Kanye! We're back on top, fam!

Video: Kanye West: Champion [from the Graduation LP]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Audio: Elzhi F/Royce Da 5'9 "Motown 25"

"Motown 25," the first single from eLZhi's upcoming album The Preface, opens up with a thick n' heavy beat and a multi-layered weaving of Motown-era samples. The production on the autobiographical track competes for the spotlight with eLZhi's complex rhymes. The lyrics ooze style and exemplify just how good eLZhi is at what he does. He says, "N****s call me arrogant / That's because I'm confident." But with lines as fresh as "Flawless / Should be the very reason you applaud us / You saw us laying down the flow / Just as raw as crawfish," clearly there is much to brag about. Featuring Da Royce Da 5'9", best known for his work with Eminem and writing hits for the likes of Dr. Dre and P. Diddy, "Motown 25" is a triple threat of killer production, collaboration, and lyricism.

Motown 25 (Featuring Royce Da 5'9")

New Vids to check out!

Kanye West "Champion"

Santogold "Lights Out"

Rhymefest "Stolen"

Why There Is No Freedom of the Press: Israel clears troops who killed Reuters cameraman

(swiped from Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) - An Israeli tank crew who killed a Reuters cameraman and eight young bystanders in the Gaza Strip four months ago acted properly and will not face legal action, Israel's senior military lawyer has concluded.

The military advocate-general told the international news agency in a letter sent on Tuesday that troops could not see whether Fadel Shana was operating a camera or a weapon but were nonetheless justified in firing a shell packed with darts that killed him and eight other Palestinians aged between 12 and 20.

Reuters said on Wednesday it was deeply disturbed by a conclusion that severely curtails the freedom of the media to cover the conflict by effectively giving soldiers a free hand to kill without being sure they were not firing on journalists.

Shana, 24, filmed two tanks positioned about 1.5 km (a mile) from where he was standing for several minutes before, in a chilling final 2 seconds of video, his camera captured one tank firing a shell that burst overhead, showering the journalist and others with thousands of metal darts known as flechettes.

"The tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti-tank missile, a mortar or a television camera," Brigadier General Avihai Mendelblit of the Israel Defense Forces wrote.

But the military lawyer cited an attack that killed three IDF soldiers in another part of the enclave earlier in the day, a separate grenade attack on a tank, the fact that Shana and his soundman who was wounded were wearing body armor -- "common to Palestinian terrorists" -- among reasons for suspicion.

Their blue flak jackets, like the car, were marked "PRESS". The army said the troops could not see those signs. Journalists in Gaza say they have rarely seen militants wear flak jackets.

Mendelblit wrote: "In light of the reasonable conclusion reached by the tank crew and its superiors that the characters were hostile and were carrying an object most likely to be a weapon, the decision to fire at the targets ... was sound ...There is no doubt that Fadel Shana's death is a tragedy..."

"A journalist in action was killed by IDF fire, along with others not involved in the hostilities. However ... the available evidence does not suggest misconduct or criminal misbehavior ... I have therefore decided ... that no further legal measures will be taken."

Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said: "I'm extremely disappointed that this report condones a disproportionate use of deadly force in a situation the army itself admitted had not been analyzed clearly.

"They would appear to take the view that any raising of a camera into position could garner a deadly response."

Reuters wrote to Mendelblit on Wednesday with a number of questions, including asking precisely why the soldiers ruled out the possibility that Shana was a cameraman, why the fact he stood in full view of the tanks for some minutes did not suggest he had no hostile intent and why the tank crew, if concerned but unsure, did not simply reverse a few meters out of sight.

In Jerusalem, the Foreign Press Association said it was disappointed with a report that seemed to give soldiers license to fire on journalists without being sure of their target.

In New York, Joel Campagna of the Committee to Protect Journalists said: "These findings mean that a journalist with a camera is at risk of coming under fire and there's not that much that can be done. That's unacceptable.

"It's difficult to believe ... that the IDF took the necessary precautions to avoid causing harm to civilians -- as it is obliged to do under international law."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spotlight on Egypt's marriage crisis

(swiped from BBC)

"I want to get married" is a perfectly normal thing to say for a young Egyptian man. But when a girl says it in such a conservative society - let alone writes a book with that title - she is making a political statement.

"Girls are not supposed to be actively seeking something, a girl simply exists for someone to marry or divorce her," says the author of the top-selling book, Ghada Abdelaal. "To say she wants something is seen as impolite."

The book started as a blog, before it was spotted by an Egyptian publisher and printed as a series of comic sketches in which flawed and failed suitors knocking at her parents' door.

A paranoid policeman, a hirsute fundamentalist, a pathological liar and other hilarious caricatures portrayed in sparkling Egyptian vernacular.

Marriage anxiety

The veiled, softly-spoken Abdelaal is a sharp and witty observer of social incongruity in Egypt, a feisty spirit trying to tear up stifling tradition.

She says her target is not Egyptian men but a tradition known as "gawwaz el-salonat" (living room marriage), where a stranger is brought to the family home and the daughter must decide whether to marry him on the basis of this brief encounter.

"People who go for a picnic need to know each other a little longer than that - let alone make a lifelong commitment."

The book's popularity - it is in its third print run with a sitcom in the offing - reflects a widespread anxiety in Egyptian society. More and more young people cannot afford to get married.

Although the book focuses on finding Mr Right, she acknowledges finding an affordable flat remains an almost insurmountable obstacle. Many young people stay engaged for years before they can save up enough money.

"By the time they actually get to live together, they are already tired of each other," says women's rights activist Nihad Abou El Qoumsan. This causes the unusually high rate of divorce among the newlyweds in Egypt, she says.

Such is the impact of property prices on the marriage crisis, a popular talk show has invited engaged couples to join a draw to win a flat.

A new apartment will be given away by a wealthy businessman every day of the fasting and holiday month of Ramadan, in September. Huge numbers have registered.

Sexual frustration

Some describe it as a social time bomb. Religious customs mean there is no sex before marriage. So how do young people react to this situation?

Sociologist Madeeha al-Safty of the American University in Cairo believes one consequence is sexual harassment of women and rape reaching unprecedented levels in Egypt.

"If you are frustrated, there is the possibility that you take it out [through] violence.
"Some people choose the safer way in moving towards a more religious attitude - not necessarily extremism, but it might reach the point of extremism," she adds.

But anthropologist Hania Sholkamy hesitates to link the problems of sexual harassment and rape to the marriage crisis.

"I don't think people who harass women on the street are necessarily single, or necessarily sexually frustrated. There are many millions of people who are extremely frustrated, but they do not harass women.

"I think the issue is one of violence and gender disparities, pure and simple."

Gender disparities is a theme running throughout Abdelaal's book, from the provocative title questioning the women's passive role in a traditional society to the way children are brought up.

"They ask young girls here when they are three or four, who would you marry… they implant the idea your only purpose in life is to get married.

"Even after she goes to school they tell her that a girl's only future is in her husband's home. So what happens when a girl for any reason cannot get married? Should she set fire to herself?"

Stars pay tribute to Isaac Hayes

(swiped from BBC)
Stars including Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin have paid tribute to the soul legend Isaac Hayes, who has died at his home in Memphis aged 65.

"I've lost one of my best buddies and it is not easy to reckon with," Warwick told US TV show Access Hollywood.

Franklin told MTV that Hayes was "an enduring symbol of the struggle of the African-American man and was a shining example of soul at its best".

He was taken to hospital after he was found unconscious next to a treadmill.

Franklin said Hayes was "so musically advanced and timeless in his compositions". She added: "He was loved and appreciated by so many."

Gloria Gaynor called him "a gentleman and an extremely warm and talented artist", who she "respected and admired".

In 1985 Gaynor recorded one of Barry White's songs, You're The First, The Last, My Everything, for Hayes.

"I will miss him and his contribution to the entertainment world and to human kind," she said.

Hayes started his career as a songwriter for the legendary Stax label, penning hits including Soul Man and Hold On I'm Coming for duo Sam and Dave.

Sam Moore told BBC 6 Music he was "just the most, sensitive nicest kind" man.
"Isaac is now free," he said. "He is at peace. No-one can hurt him any longer. No-one can use him. He doesn't have to work."

Portishead sampled Hayes' Ike's Rap on their breakthrough single Glory Box in 1994.
Speaking to BBC News, the band's Adrian Utley said: "It was just cool as hell. We had Isaac Hayes records hanging around. It's purely sonic, it sounded so good. It was just immediately a very cool track.

"I would say we've definitely got him to thank, because had he not written that tune we wouldn't have sampled it and the basis of the music that you hear is his."
Hayes, a flamboyant, deep-voiced performer, won an Oscar for the 1971 hit Theme From Shaft.

He was perhaps better known to a younger audience as the voice of Chef from the hit cartoon show, South Park.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

He was about to begin work on a new album for Stax, the soul record label he helped build to legendary status.

British soul star Jazzie B, who became friends with Hayes after they performed together in the 1990s, described him as "a really nice man" and "as cool as ice".

"He was an equal cornerstone to the evolution of hip-hop, what's come to be known as R&B, and urban music in general," he told BBC News.

"So there's absolutely no doubt that Isaac Hayes will be truly missed and he was a very influential part of music as we hear it today."

'Renaissance man'

Collin Stanback from the Stax label told the Associated Press news agency that the star "embodies everything that's soul music".

He added: "When you think of soul music, you think of Isaac Hayes - the expression, the sound and the creativity that goes along with it."

In a statement released from The Recording Academy, the body behind the Grammys, president Neil Portnow called him a "true renaissance man".

He added: "After laying the groundwork for the Memphis soul sound through his work with Stax Records, his groundbreaking theme song and score for the movie Shaft cemented his status as a musical icon.

"The world has lost a true creative genius and a passionate humanitarian, but his indelible legacy will remain ever present."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Spanish shopkeeper finds Homer Simpson euro

MADRID (Reuters) - A one euro coin has turned up in Spain bearing the face of cartoon couch potato Homer Simpson instead of that of the country's king, a sweetshop owner told Reuters on Friday.

Jose Martinez was counting the cash in his till in the city of Aviles, northern Spain, when he came across the coin where Homer's bald head, big eyes and big nose had replaced the serious features of King Juan Carlos.

"The coin must have been done by a professional, the work is impressive," he told Reuters.
The comical carver had not taken his tools to the other side of the coin displaying the map of Europe. So far, no other coins of the hapless, beer-swilling oaf have been found in circulation.

"I've been offered 20 euros for it," said Martinez.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

RIP: Soul legend Isaac Hayes dies

(swiped from CNN)

Soul singer and arranger Isaac Hayes, who won Grammy awards and an Oscar for the theme from the 1971 action film "Shaft," has died, sheriff's officials in Memphis, Tennessee, reported Sunday.

Relatives found Hayes, 65, unconscious in his home next to a still-running treadmill, said Steve Schular, a spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff's Department.

Paramedics attempted to revive him and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 2 p.m., the sheriff's department said.

No foul play is suspected, the agency said in a written statement.

Hayes was a longtime songwriter and arranger for Stax Records in Memphis, playing in the studio's backup band and crafting tunes for artists such as Otis Redding and Sam and Dave in the 1960s.

He released his first solo album in 1967.

In 1971, the theme from "Shaft" became a pop hit and won an Academy Award for best original theme song. The song and the movie score also won Grammy awards for best original score and movie theme.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

RIP: Bernie Mac, actor, comedian and put-upon dad, dies at 50 from pneumonia complications

(swiped from the Star Tribune)

Bernie Mac died Saturday morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital, his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles.

Bernie Mac blended style, authority and a touch of self-aware bluster to make audiences laugh as well as connect with him. For Mac, who died Saturday at age 50, it was a winning mix, delivering him from a poor childhood to stardom as a standup comedian, in films including the casino heist caper "Ocean's Eleven" and his acclaimed sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show."

Though his comedy drew on tough experiences as a black man, he had mainstream appeal — befitting inspiration he found in a wide range of humorists: Harpo Marx as well as Moms Mabley; squeaky-clean Red Skelton, but also the raw Redd Foxx.

Mac died Saturday morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital, his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles. She said no other details were available.

"The world just got a little less funny," said "Oceans" co-star George Clooney.

Don Cheadle, another member of the "Oceans" gang, concurred: "This is a very sad day for many of us who knew and loved Bernie. He brought so much joy to so many. He will be missed, but heaven just got funnier."

Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.

Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.

Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine, Mac joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language. Obama took the stage about 15 minutes later, implored Mac to "clean up your act next time," then let him off the hook, adding: "By the way, I'm just messing with you, man."

Even so, Obama's campaign later issued a rebuke, saying the senator "doesn't condone these statements and believes what was said was inappropriate."

But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.

"Wherever I am, I have to play," he said in 2002. "I have to put on a good show."

Mac worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago's South Side. He began doing standup as a child, telling jokes for spare change on subways, and his film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy "Mo' Money" in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama "Get on the Bus."

He was one of "The Original Kings of Comedy" in the 2000 documentary of that title that brought a new generation of black standup comedy stars to a wider audience.

"The majority of his core fan base will remember that when they paid their money to see Bernie Mac ... he gave them their money's worth," Steve Harvey, one of his co-stars in "Original Kings," told CNN on Saturday.

Mac went on to star in the hugely popular "Ocean's Eleven" franchise with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, playing a gaming-table dealer who was in on the heist. Carl Reiner, who also appeared in the "Ocean's" films, said Saturday he was "in utter shock" because he thought Mac's health was improving.

"He was just so alive," Reiner said. "I can't believe he's gone."

Mac and Ashton Kutcher topped the box office in 2005's "Guess Who," a comedy remake of the classic Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn drama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" Mac played the dad who's shocked that his daughter is marrying a white man.

Mac also had starring roles in "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Transformers."

But his career and comic identity were forged in television.

In the late 1990s, he had a recurring role in "Moesha," the UPN network comedy starring pop star Brandy. The critical and popular acclaim came after he landed his own Fox television series "The Bernie Mac Show," about a child-averse couple who suddenly are saddled with three children.

Mac mined laughs from the universal frustrations of parenting, often breaking the "fourth wall" to address the camera throughout the series that aired from 2001 to 2006. "C'mon, America," implored Mac, in character as the put-upon dad. "When I say I wanna kill those kids, YOU know what I mean."

The series won a Peabody Award in 2002, and Mac was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy. In real life, he was "the king of his household" — very much like his character on that series, his daughter, Je'niece Childress, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

"But television handcuffs you, man," he said in a 2001 Associated Press interview before the show had premiered. "Now everyone telling me what I CAN'T do, what I CAN say, what I SHOULD do, and asking, `Are blacks gonna be mad at you? Are whites gonna accept you?'"

He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001 along with his "The Original Kings of Comedy" co-stars Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer.

Chicago music producer Carolyn Albritton said she was Bernie Mac's first manager, having met him in 1991 at Chicago's Cotton Club where she hosted an open-mike night. He was an immediate hit, Albritton said Saturday, and he asked her to help guide his career.

"From very early on I thought he was destined for success," Albritton said. "He never lost track of where he came from, and he'd often use real life experiences, his family, his friends, in his routine. After he made it, he stayed a very humble man. His family was the most important thing in the world to him."

In 2007, Mac told David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" that he planned to retire soon.

"I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit," Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977."

Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the city's South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was the deacon of a Baptist church.

In his 2004 memoir, "Maybe You Never Cry Again," Mac wrote about having a poor childhood — eating bologna for dinner — and a strict, no-nonsense upbringing.

"I came from a place where there wasn't a lot of joy," Mac told the AP in 2001. "I decided to try to make other people laugh when there wasn't a lot of things to laugh about."

Mac's mother died of cancer when he was 16. In his book, Mac said she was a support for him and told him he would surprise everyone when he grew up.

"Woman believed in me," he wrote. "She believed in me long before I believed."

Mac's death Saturday coincided with the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, a major event in the predominantly black South Side that the comedian had previously attended.

"It's truly the passing of one of our favorite sons," said Paula Robinson, president of the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area. "He was extremely innovative in putting his life experiences in comedic form and doing it without vulgarity.

"He was an ambassador of Chicago's black community, and the national black community at large."