Robbing the grave?

Consider this post more of a question than a statement.

With one of my former employers announcing this week that there is a new Michael Jackson album coming, it got me thinking – Is this exploitative of his death?

It would be easy to answer “yes.” But this isn’t such an easy question. We all jumped every time we heard about new 2Pac music. Even years after his death. But a lot of us didn’t even the same reaction to new Biggie music. And it isn’t because we were bigger Pac fans. So what is it? How come some posthumous releases seem like they are giving fans what they want, and some seem like they are robbing the artist’s grave?

Let me start with one bit of clarity. I am not talking the releases that follow almost immediately after their deaths and were clearly completed (or close to it) when they passed – such as Makaveli, Life After Death, The Big Picture, and Yeeeh Baby. I’m talking about unfinished recordings completed by people that never even met these artists, or songs unearthed many years after they died.
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We’re All Fucked (my response)

My boy Kip put me on to this great rant from someone that sounds like they’re in a similar position to me. So I’m gonna do my best to respond. It may have no point, other than to add to the ranting.

I hate to sound like a defeatist, but he’s right, we are all fucked. The industry has gone in a direction that can’t be reversed. Music is no longer tangible. It is a digital file – not a CD, record, or cassette. And that causes a lot of problems. First, mentality, it loses value to the consumer. There are few things that people value that they can’t touch and hold. And as computer speeds and hard drive spaces increase, consumers don’t have to worry about where they are going to “keep” their new music. There is so much free music out there now (legally and illegally, from blogs, mixtapes, bandcamp, etc) that many people, myself included, acquire so much music so quickly that there’s probably hundreds of songs in their collection that they’ve never even listened to.

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Quit sleepin’

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. My apologies. Recently got engaged and wedding planning seems to have taken over my life. But I have a minute now, and I feel like if I don’t post something soon I’ll lose all 3 readers I have. So real quick, I’m gonna post something for all of you. No stories or anything this time. Just a quick rundown of some artists and producers I don’t think get enough attention. All I highly recommend, and I suggest you support and BUY some of their music. iTunes, CD, vinyl, whatever. I’ve included links to a few favorite tracks. But let me be clear. It is some of my favorites, but there isn’t enough time or space to list them all.

Marco Polo: Dope producer. I stumbled on his album Port Authority on the trade-in site (Amazing site, check it out) I picked the album up purely based on the features, but the beats are amazing; hard-hitting, pure no holds barred Hip-Hop. He’s part of the Duck Down family now, and has done full albums with both Ruste Juxx and Torae now. Those are 2 MC’s worth checking out, too, and I learned about them thru the Marco Polo albums. His newest album dropped this summer, and is a must for any true Hip-Hop head.
Some favorite tracks: “Best To Do It,” “War,“Nostalgia”
Marco Polo on iTunes

Snowgoons: Crazy producer duo from Germany. My dude Jesse at Babygrande hooked me up with the album, and I gave it a listen purely based on the features. What stands out to me is how cinematic their productions are. They sound like they should be in movies. Can’t really think of any other producers making soundscapes like these.
Favorite tracks: “Black Snow,” “Hold Up,” “Who What Where When
Snowgoons on iTunes

Supastition aka Kam Moye: Back when I was still living in Cincy, I got a promo CD of a producer named Jon Doe, not to be confused with Cincy DJ John Doe of the 1200 Hobos. A great CD, but the standout track was clearly “The Signature (Rock On)” by Supastition. I loved his flow and his lyrics, which I’ve quoted here in Tha Sanctum before. I went digging and scooped up everything I could with his name on it, and I haven’t been let down. His most recent offering is under the alias Kam Moye.
Favorite tracks: “Hate My Face,” “Homecoming,” “The Signature (Rock On)
Supastition on iTunes

Skyzoo: I originally picked up Skyzoo’s collaborative album with 9th Wonder just on the strength of a full album of 9th Wonder beats. It was a pleasant surprise that the MC was worthy of the beats. I proceeded to seek out all the Skyzoo I could, including a collaboration with the legendary CL Smooth. Stay tuned for his album with Illmind coming in October.
Favorite tracks: “The Beautiful Decay,” “When I Rhyme,” “Raw Rap ’06
Skyzoo on iTunes

Apathy: Apathy had been building his rep over the last few years, including work with some of the artists I’ve mentioned in this post. A failed deal with Atlantic (which spawned a great verse on “Speak Ya Clout“) is probably a blessing for his real fans. The King of Connecticut says what he wants how he wants, and his beat selection is always on point. Thru his music I also got turned on to Celph Titled, and he’s also a member of Get Busy Committee.
Favorite tracks: “I Remember,” “Me And My Friends,” “Can’t Leave Rap Alone
Apathy on iTunes

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, and there’s more I could have included but not sure they’re considered “slept on.” Among those are Kidz In The Hall and Naledge, R.A. The Rugged Man, and Tanya Morgan.

Hit the comments and let me know who I missed.

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Atmosphere “To All My Friends”

I know it’s cliche, but I’m a big Atmosphere fan. Yes, I love Hip-Hop. Yes, I’m white. Yes, I’m from the Midwest. But I don’t love Atmosphere because I fit their profile.
First, I learned about Atmosphere long before they were as big as they are now. As I’ve mentioned, I grew up outside Chicago as a huge Hip-Hop fan, with very few others around me. No one else deejayed, no one else dreamed of making Hip-Hop a career, and at best, people around me were in to Puff Daddy, Mase, and whatever else was hot at the time. So when I got to college in Cincinnati and met some other Hip-Hop heads, it was a relief. Towards the end of my freshmen year, the DMC competition brought a regional to Cincinnati, and I finally got to see a DJ competition live and in person. I was blown away by the likes of John Doe, and the eventual winner, DJ Abilities, a member of Atmosphere’s Rhymesayers crew. That night, I also witnessed an incredible performance and freestyle session by Slug and Eyedea. Before I left, I picked up Dynospectrum’s album and Atmosphere’s Overcast album. That was the beginning of my fandom.
Now, being in the Midwest, especially Cincinnati as Scribble Jam continued to blow up, it was easy to stay up on Atmosphere and see them perform fairly frequently. But I think I really began an appreciation the summer I was away from the Midwest, interning at a major label in NYC, and spent much of the summer listening to God Loves Ugly.
Now that I am in NYC, I try to catch Atmosphere as often as I can, and they never disappoint. Unfortunately the latest tour is not coming out this way. But their tour-inspired new single “To All My Friends,” has been in heavy rotation lately for me.
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Thank you

There is no better title for a post about Herve Romain than “Thank you.” And it’s almost a shame that I’ve had a blog for a week or 2 now and am just dedicating a post to him now.

I mentioned him earlier in the Busta Rhymes/Eminem BET post. And in my previous post I mentioned being lucky enough to have a career in music. And that is thanks to Herve.

I was in a position when I thought my dream of getting paid to talk and think about music was over, and then I met Herve. And when he found a job for me, he believed in me and fought for me to get the job. We met several months before he actually interviewed me, but we regularly exchanged e-mails as I was looking for work. Then one night, Valentine’s Day, he calls me around 5pm and asks me to meet him for drinks. That was Herve – working when most everyone else was out celebrating a Hallmark holiday. But we met for drinks, and he helped me the rest of the way thru the interview process, including fighting for me when there were doubts I was the right guy.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about Herve. Herve knew everybody, and everybody knew Herve. My first time back in Cincy after getting the job, I was at a bachelor party and it turns out another friend of the groom knew Herve from college. It was more than 10 years since college for them, and they were friends, but not best friends. But that was Herve – if you met him once, you remembered him forever. I still run in to people that ask if I knew him when I tell them where I worked.
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When Did You Discover Hip-Hop?

In the movie Brown Sugar, they ask, “When did you fall in love with Hip-Hop?” Allow me to amend that. When did you discover Hip-Hop? Or music in general if you are specific to Hip-Hop.

For me, it was the summer of 1992. At least that’s when I realized it. I was 12 years old, just finished 6th grade. I already had all the typical, pop-friendly rap in my collection – Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, MC Hammer, etc., as well as some more “grown” Hip-Hop like Public Enemy, Digital Underground, and NWA. And apparently others saw my love for Hip-Hop even before I did – when Black History Month rolled around in 6th grade, each student in the class was asked to give a short speech about a famous person, event, aspect of Black history. While most students were assigned the standard topics, my teacher requested I speak about Hip-Hop.

But the summer of 1992 changed everything. I was at summer camp for 2 months as I was almost every summer of my childhood. It was in northern Wisconsin, about 6 hours north of Chicago, and was basically a sports camp for kids from around the same area as I was. Wake up in the morning and play basketball, softball, flag football, soccer, floor hockey, and more til it was time for sleep.

But there was also down time: after meals, before sleep, during rainy days. And it was during that down time that one of my cabin’s counselors took me under his wing. He was probably 17 or 18 at the time, though to a 12 year old he seemed much older. And like a mentor of sorts, he saw my love of Hip-Hop and worked to educate me more. He had a CD collection of about 100 CD’s. which at the time, blew my mind. And during down time, he would play me music by artists I had never heard of at the time.
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The Lost Art of Wicky Wicky

Gonna touch on a few points in this post. But we’ll make The Animal Crackers the centerpiece. The above video is their bio. They have some amazing routines on YouTube, including a practice of their 2006 US-winning routine. Search for them.

They’re a collective of Cincinnati-based DJs and MCs, and many of my Hip-Hop experiences in Cincy started with them. The Nati Kid was one of the first legit Hip-Hop heads I met when I got to Cincy for college, and I remember him giving me a cassette of one of their practice routines.

These guys ran the weekly Hip-Hop night every Wednesday at the legendary Top Cat’s, featuring dope MC battles, and many great performances, including Big Daddy Kane, Souls Of Mischief, X-ecutioners, and even the Black Eyed Peas in the pre-Fergie day (Not to digress, but with Kim Hill joining them, that was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to). To see those acts in such a small club made the performances that much more memorable. And the Crackers have worked with many underground legends – Mr. Dibbs, Hi-Tek, Piakhan, Paul Barman, and others. They were also instrumental in the development and growth of Scribble Jam.
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