Archive for March, 2009

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Raise Up Knaan is in the Building-Make Room at the Table

by Davey D

Listen to the Breakdown FM interview w/ Knaan by clicking link below:

http://odeo.com/episodes/24382570-Knaan-is-in-the-Building-make-Room-at-the-Table

Davey DI met Somalian born rapper Knaan about 3 or 4 years ago in his current place of residence Toronto. We chopped it up back then and he assured me that it was just a matter of time before the US Hip Hop scene would open its arms to rappers from other shores. At the time that seemed far fetched because even though we all know that Hip Hop is a worldwide phenomenon, very few heads in the states can cite more than 3 or 4 artists from neighboring Canada much less from overseas. Ask folks to name artists from Africa and the conversation is all but over…

On one hand we should not be surprised. After all, Hip Hop always reflects the mindset and cultural mores of the people and places that embrace it.Hence to the degree we can hardly name off any of the Provinces in Canada it should not be a shock that we can’t name off any of her artists.

Nowadays Knaan is increasingly becoming a household word here in the states. He’s already a superstar overseas. For many he’s a breath of fresh air who reminds us just how flavorful good Hip Hop can be. His creativity and overall conversation raises the bar. His global perspectives reminds us that this is a big big world and our country is just a small part of it..

We caught up with Knaan during his visit at SXSW in Austin, Tx and chopped it up with him. We talked about his new album Troubadour which is a monster and what he was trying to get across. We talked about the challenges of knocking down doors in the US. Knaan quoted Saul Williams by agreeing with the assertion that Hip Hop has been republican in the past 10 years. Its been about money, closing its eyes to the realities outside its immediate borders and very unwilling to change.
He sees things changing for the better and that’s a good thing.

We covered a variety of topics including the recent move by Homeland security to scrutinize Somalis living here in the US as possible terrorists. We talked about the whole Somali pirates thing and discovered that what we been fed by mainstream news is a big lie. Knaan explained that the so called pirates are actually more like Coast Guards. They been patrolling the waters and stepping to foreign vessels that look at the un-centralized government in Somalia and hence feel they can do pillage the natural resources like over the top commercial fishing and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. The Somalia pirates have been stepping to vessels for violating their water space and have taken the matter up to the UN only to have the main violators France along with the US veto any resolution..

knaanWe talked about the make up of Knaan’s album and what it was like working with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Hip Hop legend Chubb Rock. He explained that Levine was a real cool and basically came through and laid down vocals for free. He just wanted to show respect and appreciation for the music.

He talked about admiring Chubb Rock’s rhyme flow and how it was an honor to have the rapper turned school teacher to come through and lace him up.

Knaan also talked about his rhyme influences which actually come from the Rhythmic Poets of Somalia. These wordsmith have been around centuries before the first rappers in the Bronx

Finally we talked about the state of the world and how US and US Hip Hop fit into things. Knaan noted that the US is now going a period where many of its citizens are feeling vulnerable and at ease. he noted its the same type of uneasiness that many throughout the world feel on a day to day basis. Our economic hardships are routine for the majority of the people around the world and now that type of situation is on our shores and we will have to not only rise to the occasion be much more aware of what the rest of planet earth is experiencing.

Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Knaan by clicking the link below:

http://odeo.com/episodes/24382570-Knaan-is-in-the-Building-make-Room-at-the-Table

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We sat down and talked with Zumbi of the group Zion I and celebrated the release of their much anticipated album ‘The Takeover’. Its a masterpiece of an album that features brother Ali, Courtney Holiday, Ty, jennifer Johns, Omega and more. We walk through many of the cuts and marvel at the group’s attempts to make a timeless album that journeys through the history of Black American music styles

In this interview we talk about everything from gentrification to life in the hood and the importance of  Black manhood and  Barack Obama.

You can peep the Breakdown FM interview by clicking the link below

http://odeo.com/episodes/24382566-Taking-Over-Hip-Hop-An-Interview-w-Zion-I

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CEDITORIAL: Why New York is not Winning
Written by Big Ced

What made New York, in terms of Hip-Hop, the place to be, was the abundance of talent and the stories that needed to be told to the masses. It wasn’t the poverty or the ghetto life that separated New York from the world, it was the melting pot, the air, the uniqueness of the city that made it stand out. It was also the sights, the atmosphere, the grittiness of the city that made it a place that others either wanted to visit or stay far away from. Any way you looked at it, it was always a place that was the center of attraction.

And I’m not speaking only in terms of Hip-Hop or even music. We have the Broadway shows, Central Park, the Botanical Gardens, Coney Island, etc. I could list all the major attractions and still have more places and things that make this great city stand out. Malcolm X, the Civil Rights Movement and Gay and Lesbian protests. And let’s not forget the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the New York Giants. See where I’m going with this? It will never be just one event or attraction that makes us so notable.

Wall Street, the Empire State Building and the financial district. King Kong. All in the Family, the Jeffersons, NYPD Blue and New York Undercover. Union Square, the Tunnel, Studio 54 and the Palladium. Sylvias, Copelands and Amy Ruths. Damn, this could go on for days.

But the real reason for me writing this is the rumor (or is it truth) that New York Hip-Hop is dead, wack, stale, doesnt matter anymore. Why does it take Jay-Z or Nas to make NY relevant? Where are the new cats who were supposed to take off where Jay left off? Remember when Public Enemy, KRS-ONE, Das Efx, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Slick Rick and every other successful New York Hip-Hop artist was hot and doing it? Remember when MC Hammer, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Uncle Luke, Common and any other emcee outside of NY wanted to be accepted by New York? What happened to those days?

Now we all have theories. Its time for other regions, people were sick of the NY sound, cats outside the region didnt care about being accepted by NY. Maybe we are the victims of our own arrogance. Maybe there were too many hot NY emcees and the competition with each other allowed everyone else to sneak in and take it from us. Doesnt matter, we are officially wack right now and there is only one thing that will put us back on top again! And no, its not the Jay-Z/Nas collaboration we are anticipating. NY is missing a great big factor that was the VERY reason why New York is envied, yet targeted, even by terrorists. We have something that is built in us, especially if we are born here, others gain once they move here and others elsewhere try to duplicate it with their own twist. Once we get this back, WE WILL WIN and be BACK ON TOP! Its one simple word and all the great emcees, past, current and hopefully, future heads has had and/or have. Are you ready? SWAGGER!!!

Let me repeat that word for the people who didnt read it correctly the first time, SWAGGER. Thats what we are missing! I am challenging the new breed of emcees to start incorporating that in the way they do things. I dont feel that from any of the new, what I call, mentionables. Papoose, Jae Millz, Maino, etc. Granted, all are talented, some even lyrical, but I dont feel the swaggerness from them that I feel from a 50 Cent, a Ludacris, a T.I. when those guys do ANYTHING and Im not just talking about them rapping. They all have an air about them that makes you take notice to them, something this new crop is lacking. Once those young bucks realize that the swagger will make them hot, they will get it.

And on another note, New York Hip-Hop was always known for its diversity and grittiness. I had a conversation with Uncle Luke yesterday and he stated that you cant know the streets if you are not in the streets. I agree completely, every one is trying to be Puff and Jay and anyone else who is able to afford the bling lifestyle, yet they dont want to work to get there. And another thing, STOP TRYING TO MAKE MUSIC LIKE THE OTHER HOT REGIONS AT THE TIME! We were hot because we went to the beat of our own drum, but nowadays, if Atlanta is hot, niggas from NY are trying to be like Atlanta. When are we gonna say fuck everybody and lets take the lead once again? We NEVER followed, we may have borrowed and made it ours, but we NEVER followed, but the current crop, all they do is mimic what the others are doing and until the cycle is broken and the right emcees lead the way, we will always be lagging in the Hip-Hop world, a world WE created, nurtured and controlled. Now all we can do is look as everyone else surpasses us in EVERYTHING!

In closing, cause Ive CED a lot, I am from New York, I live in New York, I will always represent New York, but no one likes being on a losing team. Right now we are the New York Knicks. Several years ago, ok, many years ago (during the Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniels, Jon Starks days), whenever a basketball team came into Madison Square Garden, they knew they were in for a fight and a loss, now, they come into the Garden knowing it will be easy. NY Hip-Hop right now is the New York Knicks. Regardless of who is coaching, the team STILL SUCKS.

We need to get the dynasty going again, like The New York Yankees. No one was beating the Yankees in the seventies, they went through a slump and who is beating them now (In terms of constantly being one of the better teams)? We need to be the New York Yankees, not the New York Knicks, but more importantly, we need to take the game back! We need to be the leaders! We need to be the trend setters again! We need to get down and dirty once more to prove that we can get dirty and come out on top again. But until that happens, we may as well stop claiming where were from cause it wont matter. Its not what we did yesterday, its what we are doing tomorrow!

Big Ced is the founder of Industry Cosign and one of the most respected executives in the entertainment industry. You can check out his site at www.industrycosign.com

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original article-August 31, 2006

I feel bad for these cats, because they really try to do the right thing. First they had major drama from the late Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Next they had Native Americans upset with them for their stellar performance at the Grammys and now they got folks in the real Idlewild getting up in arms over what many are saying is an incredible flick. Would they rather see these guys do another gang bang, pimp, hustler movie with no redeeming value?

Outkast Catching Heat Over New Movie

Idlewild, Mich. For moviegoers, Idlewild is the title of a new film starring platinum-selling hip-hop duo OutKast. For many others, however, Idlewild is a historical landmark. Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, known to rap fans as Andre 3000.. and Big Boi, respectively, star in the film, which is a musical drama set in the 1930s in Idlewild, Ga.

But theres one thing Idlewild doesnt exist. At least not in Georgia.

There is an Idlewild, Mich., and some who have frequented it arent happy because outside of the name, the movie has nothing to do with the small town in northwest Michigan.

Its an insult, said Coy Davis Jr., a Grandville filmmaker who directed the historical documentary Whatever Happened to Idlewild?

As a child, Davis spent many summers from the 1950s through the 70s in the Lake County town where his family owned a cottage.

They take something with such historical significance as Idlewild, take the peripheral aspects of it and turn it into a shoot- em-up, bang-bang minstrel show, he told the Grand Rapids Press for a story published last week. It demeans me as an African-American.

I understand its just entertainment. But call it Mishawaka, call it Schenectady. Dont call it Idlewild.

Idlewild, Mich., about 60 miles south of Traverse City, was a haven for black entertainment during the segregation era. Its rich, storied history is remembered mostly in glowing nostalgic terms. It was a place where black professionals from all over the Midwest vacationed and saw performances by legendary entertainers such as Louis Armstrong and B.B. King.

According to Ronald Stephens, a Detroit native and author of Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan, the movie draws a few parallels to the real Idlewild, but nothing more.

Its biggest asset is it puts the name in the publics imagination in ways the small town of Idlewild, Mich., couldnt do, Stephens said.

John Meeks, owner of the Morton Motel in Idlewild and the self-proclaimed unpaid, unofficial Idlewild ambassador, said prospective filmmakers have been sniffing around the town for years, but the makers of Idlewild never came by.

A lot of people are disappointed when they find out it isnt about Idlewild at all, he said. Its unfortunate that the name is being exploited, that it has no connection to the history of one of the most famous black resorts.

The film, which opened nationally Friday, co-stars Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Ving Rhames and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, along with musicians Macy Gray and Patti LaBelle.

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orginal article-Aug 26 2006

This interview between two old friends, JR and Davey D, alerting us to a looming corporate-government threat to our freedom of information and communication on the internet is taken from the Aug. 23 edition of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, and we are spreading the word through this list until our website, http://www.sfbayview.com, is back online. A popular website that drew 2 million hits a month, it’s been badly hacked and is now under reconstruction.

Check back in a week or so for a new, better than ever, more informative, inspirational and exciting http://www.sfbayview.com. Meanwhile, we’ll send out a few of the stories and features from this week’s Bay View and invite you to spread them widely.

The future of the internet: an interview with Hip Hop journalist Davey D

by Minister of Information JR

I remember when I first met Hip Hop journalist Davey D in the mid-90s, and he was talking about how big the internet was going to be; 11 years later he has one of the biggest Hip Hop websites on the internet, http://www.daveyd.com. He has always been on the front line of trying to arm the people he has influence over to become computer literate and learn how to use the new technology and use it to our political and economic advantage.

In this current episode of the haves versus the havenots, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are working with sellouts like Congressman Bobby Rush and others in Congress to jack up the price of internet service, which will ultimately result in less people using it.

This is a fight that we ask everybody reading this to inform themselves about as well as get involved with, because it will affect you and your family. Check out Davey D as he informs us about the Net Neutrality Act …

MOI JR: What is the Net Neutrality Act?

Davey D: Let me explain what net neutrality is. For people that are listening, it gets a little complicated, so it might seem boring, but it is real important because it is going to change the way that we communicate with one another. Right now if you go on the internet … the internet has been a real god-send for a lot of people. Whether youre trying to get news across, or whether youre trying to get your radio show, the Block Report, across to people, or whether youre just an artist trying to get music from one point to the other, the net allows for you to do that freely, meaning that youre just one click away. So in other words, if you have your Block Report, your Block Report can be as big as ABC or CNN, because the only thing that everybody has to do is know the address so that they can click to it.

And so thats been a big problem for the big media conglomerates and a lot of people in power. So lets say that you find out some dirt on a politician, you can go put it on your report, and all that you have to do is get the address to everybody, and they can access that. If they just click on it, they could get the information.

If youre an artist, and you dont have all the money that 50 Cent has, you could come out and do your tape, put the music on the web, and all you got to do is get the address so you can bump from 50 Cents site down to yours; its just one click away.

So now what you got is these big media outlets, in particular AT&T and Comcast theyre the leaders. This Congressman, who you should know, Bobby Rush, from the Congressional Black Caucus and a few of these other people have been leading the charge to change the scene.

So now what they want is they want to make it so if you go to a site, and you dont pay a certain amount of money, then the site will be slow. So lets go back to the example that we used with your Block Report versus CNN. Right now, its even. If I click CNN, Ill see CNNs site. If I click your site, I go to the Block Report. I can get the information freely.

Now theyre going to say, We want the CNN site to load up quicker and were going to have to charge you $10, $12, $13 extra dollars a month or maybe even more to have people easily get your site. So when I go to click on your site, it might take forever for it to download. If I go to click on CNN, its right there quick, fast, in a hurry.

So hopefully that makes sense to people. So they want to basically divide up the internet, so that people who dont have money, people who have a radical or different point of view, people who are competition for major record labels and industry, that their internet connection to the public will be real slow and everybody elses will be real fast. Thats the best way to kind of describe it.

MOI JR: Who are some of the key players, and how has the fight been going up until this point?

Davey D: Well, what they did in Congress was that they had a thing called the Cope Act, and the Cope Act was basically like the Community Opportunity Program something I forget the whole acronym but it was called the Cope Act. This is what Congressman Bobby Rush pushed forth.

Now his angle was that he was trying to tell people, look, if you vote for this act and we get it passed through Congress, this is going to allow peoples cable bills to drop down lower. And he also said that the money that people will have to pay is going to go for research so that the companies like AT&T, Comcast and these other service providers could come up with high speed internet.

So now on the surface, people are like, My cable bill is going down, and theyre going to use the money so that we could have a faster connection. So he might come to you as an artist and say, Man, just pay this extra money, and you could get the speed so that it is almost a hundred times faster.

It sounds good on the surface, but here is what he is not telling you. The first thing is that he got $1 million from AT&T. That should tell you something right there. The million dollars was so that he could run programs out of his own little building that he has in Chicago.

The second thing is, is that the technology is already there. About two or three years ago, I cut a deal where I was going to work with some people in South Africa actually the government over there to provide them content, and when we were talking about making the deal, we thought that we would have to Fedex all of our information. And they told us about how fast their technology was, and they said back then this was about 2003-2004 they said that the technology that they had was close to a hundred times faster than it was here in the U.S.

So in other words, if I wanted to download a movie in South Africa, I would do it instantaneously at the snap of a finger; music you can download entire albums real quick. So the speed is there. So if youre trying to get information to the masses of people, you could do it instantaneously.

Now at the time, they were saying that the U.S. was making it very difficult to get that sort of technology into the United States, that they were trying to find a way to monetize it. So they were working with Danny Glover, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, and all of these other people to get content, so that it could go to South Africa and they can take advantage of their technology. In Beruit, where I was at for a week, their technology was much faster than ours. In France, their DSL connections are about 50 times faster than it is in the U.S., and they pay only $6 a month.

So the technology is there and it doesnt need to be discovered; all theyre going to do is just open up the gate. And theyre just trying to bamboozle people by telling them, Pay some extra money and were doing research. The only research that theyre doing is just going to pick up a phone and call up somebody and say, OK, lets bring the technology in. So those are two things that we need to really keep in mind.

Right now, the main players are AT&T, Comcast, Verizon; you should really look twice when you see Verizon doing all these commercials about downloading music. Theyre trying to cultivate a habit for people so that you start to associate Verizon with music. And what will eventually happen once the Net Neutrality thing goes through, then theyll come back and be the ultimate music site. And then all of these independent artists who theyre not in favor of, who they dont have a relationship with, who cant pay whatever money, they might not be able to get on the Verizon site.

AT&T has already opened up a music portal, and theyve been advertising it as the ultimate place to get all of your musical needs. So, in other words, these companies that just provide phone service are now starting to move inside the entertainment arena in anticipation of being able to have these high-speed connections that nobody else will.

MOI JR: How do you think that that is going to affect the digital divide on Black, Brown, and low income communities?

Davey D: Youre going to see that immediately, because whats happening is that people in our community are catching the most heat. In Chicago, they just found out all of this information about Commander Jon Burge who was torturing people. Ok, now they might do a headline on the paper, but theyre not going to tell you the behind the scenes story; theyre not going to interview everybody who is there etc. etc. And people need to know about the information so that they can either come up with new strategies, find out who they need to talk to, or at least keep their eye on the case.

Well now, if you have the internet either inaccessible or somebody like you as a journalist want to provide some information or some insight, you cant communicate to one another. Thats basically what this boils down to.

Theyre trying to find ways to make sure that people who dont have a voice never get a voice. And the internet was providing that, and people were stepping up their game, starting to do their own radio stations online, do their own magazines, do their own websites, their own distribution, and all the sort of stuff that they were doing online, and it was bringing people to a point of parity with the big boys.

Now they want to change that and basically shut it off. So anything that we need to have exposed is going to be very difficult to do, because of the change that they want to bring to the internet. Some people might say that now well just go back to the traditional ways, which is, Ill go print my own newspaper or Ill start my own television station, or Ill do whatever. But what is happening with the price of energy going up and some of these new labor laws and these new copyright things that are getting ready to come down the pipe, that is going to be even more expensive than going online.

MOI JR: How can people keep up with the Net Neutrality Act. I know that you have http://www.daveyd.com, but how else can people keep up with some of the information in regards to this Act?

Davey D: The main site that you go to is savethenet.com or savethenet.org; thats the main one. Now just to show you how devious the people on the other side are, what they did was they used similar language to talk about this situation. So they have a campaign called Hands Off the Internet, and they have a nice little cartoon to make it seem like theyre down with the people.

So when you watch their cartoon, its like, Yeah, we dont want nobody messing with the internet, and thats why were saying Hands Off the Internet. Support that. If you see that cartoon or hear that title, Hands Off the Internet, thats AT&T trying to pull wool over your eyes and act like theyre your best friend, when really theyre trying to stifle you in the end.

The other thing that you need to know is that theyve been spending up to a million dollars a day talking to people in Congress, lobbying your Senators, so like when I called Dianne Feinsteins office, she still doesnt have an opinion. This thing has been in front of her for six months, and she still doesnt have an opinion, which means that she might be on the fence in terms of taking money from AT&T or Comcast or Verizon. So those are the people that you need to stay away from.

Savetheinternet.org or savetheinternet.com are the two places that you should go to, and they could give you all the breakdown on it.

Email Minister of Information JR at blockreportradio@sfbayview.com and listen to the Block Report at http://www.myspace.com/blockreportradio. Keep up with Davey D at www.daveyd.com.

POCC Block Report Radio is teaming up wit’ Flashpoints Radio to bring the people a live dialogue between some of the Bay Area’s biggest media makers  and commentators to talk about the Net Neutrality Act and how it will affect Black and Brown people, the recent hacking into the SF Bay View website and corrupting files, and independent media and its role
in shaping our world.

The guests will be Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther radio producer, Davey D, Hip Hop journalist who runs the website Daveyd.com, and Terone Ward, the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper’s webmaster.

You can join us live in the studio on Wednesday, August 30th, at New College, 780 Valencia between 18th and 19th, in San Francisco at 5pm. The studio has seats for 40. Let’s fill ’em up. Admission is Free…

If you’re not in the Bay Area or can’t be in the studio, listen to the show at 5pm Wednesday on KPFA 94.1 FM or http://www.kpfa.org. To listen later, the show will be archived at http://www.flashpoints.net.

For more info, email JR at blockreportradio@yahoo.com.

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Hip-Hop In Germany

from The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine #46 (April/May 1996)
by Boris Heimberger

When I went to the States for the first time in 1986 I would say I was the typical European kid. I was a MOD and Ska and New Wave music was the hype. I went to a record shop while I was out there and bought some promo copies of Sugarhill records with a lot of Grandmaster Flash on it. I had read some stuff on hip-hop but had never heard of Melle Mel. Then I went to a Whodini concert and guess who was the special guest that night, Run DMC… who at that time had not discovered Adidas yet.

Hip-Hop in Germany has a similar beginning like in the US. Although strongly influenced by overseas records and movies like Wild Style, it turned and flowed in a different direction caused by a different enviroment. Graffiti and breakdancing came out big but it only lasted for one summer. But hip-hop survived in the underground with people still bombing trains and rap jams at special clubs. At that time we did not have MTV or anything comparable in Europe – but with it’s start about three years ago hip-hop broke thru to get more popular and our own industry started to grow. The German equivalent of MTV’s Yo Raps is VIVA’s Freestyle which presents a comfortable mixture of US, GB and German Hip-Hop. Low budget bands sit together on the interview couch with the Beastie Boys and a crew of VJs travel around the country to make updates.

Special clubs that play 100% hip-hop are rare. In Hamburg you will find all those special clubs clubs in the Red Light district around the Reeperbahn, which is very famous not only for their prostitutes but also for the highest density of bars, music clubs, and discos. Due to the amount of sex and crime in that area it is not a beneficial enviroment. But the advantage of no limit opening hours makes it to be the most famous area of all of Europe. Famous clubs are The Mojo (more jazz oriented), Molotow (hardcore), and The Powerhouse which is separated in two parts – one for jungle music and one for hip-hop. The Powerhouse is the most favorite for US rappers who are touring and/or hanging out after a show. Last summer I met Ice T and his Body Count Crew as well as House of Pain at The Powerhouse. There are also a lot of jams all over the city where German DJs mainly play native music intermixed with live acts. Breaking is not very big in the clubs except for The Powerhouse and I have to admit that I do not know any breakers because most of those guys are from the suburbs. Live acts always depend on the season – which is Spring to Fall. Last summer we had a open air concert featuring Ice Cube and Gang Starr that was a highlight. Unfortunately the Amerikkkas Most Wanted Tour, featuring Ice T, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy was cancelled. Word had it that it was cancelled due to a management problem, same thing happened with the Warren G concert. We’ll see what happen this year.

Like the clubs there are not any pure hip-hop radio stations, but almost everyday hip-hop dj’s have their hours to play rap music. The good thing is that there is no censorship here. Example: Everday you can hear 20 Fingers original ‘Short Dick Man‘ on the radio.

Like in the states the US Rap Music market is very big and you can find everything in the big mall record shops including local independent German releases. But shops like Zardoz in Altona normally have the brand new releases first, that’s where I found the ‘Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation‘ on compact disc. The relation of import and domestic right now is 70% import to 30% domestic right now, but domestic is increasing rapidly. CD’s have practically taken over the market out here and cassettes are almost out and are just used for black copies. I think they keep a little bit of vinyl alive for the DJs to scratch with and sample. It’s hard to describe the scene in detail because even in the city of Hamburg different styles occur due to ethnic and musical background. Germany is full of immigrants from Turkey, former Yugoslavia and of course Africa. Consequently everyones rappin’ in the lanquage that he or she prefers. Due to a grand hardcore community, rock influences in German hip-hop are much stronger than in the states.

Graffiti artists like Hesh and Daim actually earn enough money from their art to live from and other groups like Fantastische Vier (fantastic four) are mega-stars. If you meet Miro (alias sprayer Mesh, alias rapper Masquerade) you might have the impression that you have just met a lazy bum (but this probably comes from his yugoslavian background) but once he starts working his creativity of music and graffiti it definitely makes him to be the GM of his hood Altona.

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The History of Hip Hop
by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook (reprint from 1985-The Power of Rap)

Nowadays if you ask most people to give a definition of “rap”, they’re likely to state that it’s the reciting of rhymes to the best of music. It’s a form of expression that finds its roots embedded deep within ancient African culture and oral tradition. Throughout history here in America there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, Shining of the Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes, prison ‘jail house’ rhymes and double Dutch jump rope‘ rhymes are some of the names and ways that various forms of rap have manifested

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70’s, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY’s West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren’t into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day’s popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; ‘Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house‘. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans.

As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-‘Davey D is in the house/An he’ll turn it out without a doubt.’ It wasn’t long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as ‘rap’ but called ‘emceeing‘. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of deejaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane’s dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.

Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. This was basically the same reason why any of the aforementioned verbal/rhyme games manifested themselves in the past. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn’t need a lot of money or expensive resources to rhyme. One didn’t have to invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.

Rap also became popular because it offered unlimited challenges. There were no real set rules, except to be original and to rhyme on time to the beat of music. Anything was possible. One could make up a rap about the man in the moon or how good his dj was. The ultimate goal was to be perceived as being ‘def (good) by one’s peers. The fact that the praises and positive affirmations a rapper received were on par with any other urban hero (sports star, tough guy, comedian, etc.) was another drawing card.

Finally, rap, because of its inclusive aspects, allowed one to accurately and efficiently inject their personality. If you were laid back, you could rap at a slow pace. If you were hyperactive or a type-A, you could rap at a fast pace. No two people rapped the same, even when reciting the same rhyme. There were many people who would try and emulate someone’s style, but even that was indicative of a particular personality.

Rap continues to be popular among today’s urban youth for the same reasons it was a draw in the early days: it is still an accessible form of self expression capable of eliciting positive affirmation from one’s peers. Because rap has evolved to become such a big business, it has given many the false illusion of being a quick escape from the harshness of inner city life. There are many kids out there under the belief that all they need to do is write a few ‘fresh’ (good) rhymes and they’re off to the good life.

Now, up to this point, all this needs to be understood with regards to Hip Hop. Throughout history, music originating from America’s Black communities has always had an accompanying subculture reflective of the political, social and economic conditions of the time. Rap is no different.

Hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged. Initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art, break dancing, deejay (cuttin’ and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). Hip hop is a lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music and mind set that is continuously evolving. Nowadays because break dancing and graffiti aren’t as prominent the words ‘rap’ and ‘hip hop’ have been used interchangeably. However it should be noted that all aspects of hip hop culture still exists. They’ve just evolved onto new levels.

Hip hop continues to be a direct response to an older generation’s rejection of the values and needs of young people. Initially all of hip hop’s major facets were forms of self expression. The driving force behind all these activities was people’s desire to be seen and heard. Hip hop came about because of some major format changes that took place within Black radio during the early 70’s. Prior to hip hop, black radio stations played an important role in the community be being a musical and cultural preserver or griot (story teller). It reflected the customs and values of the day in particular communities. It set the tone and created the climate for which people governed their lives as this was a primary source of information and enjoyment. This was particularly true for young people. Interestingly enough, the importance of Black radio and the role djs played within the African American community has been the topic of numerous speeches from some very prominent individuals.

For example in August of ’67, Martin Luther King Jr addressed the Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters. Here he delivered an eloquent speech in which he let it be known that Black radio djs played an intricate part in helping keep the Civil Rights Movement alive. He noted that while television and newspapers were popular and often times more effective mediums, they rarely languaged themselves so that Black folks could relate to them. He basically said Black folks were checking for the radio as their primary source of information.

In August of 1980 Minister Farrakhon echoed those thoughts when he addressed a body of Black radio djs and programmers at the Jack The Rapper Convention. He warned them to be careful about what they let on the airwaves because of its impact. He got deep and spoke about the radio stations being instruments of mind control and how big companies were going out of their way to hire ‘undignified’ ‘foul’ and ‘dirty’ djs who were no longer being conveyers of good information to the community. To paraphrase him, Farrakhon noted that there was a fear of a dignified djs coming on the airwaves and spreading that dignity to the people he reached. Hence the role radio was playing was beginning to shift…Black radio djs were moving away from being the griots.. Black radio was no longer languaging itself so that both a young and older generation could define and hear themselves reflected in this medium.

Author Nelson George talks extensively about this in his book ‘The Death Of Rhythm And Blues‘. He documented how NY’s Black radio station began to position themselves so they would appeal to a more affluent, older and to a large degree, whiter audience. He pointed out how young people found themselves being excluded especially when bubble gum and Europeanized versions of disco music began to hit the air waves. To many, this style of music lacked soul and to a large degree sounded too formulated and mechanical.

In a recent interview hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa spoke at length how NY began to lose its connection with funk music during this that time. He noted that established rock acts doing generic sounding disco tunes found a home on black radio. Acts like Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones were cited as examples.

Meanwhile Black artists like James Brown and George Clinton were for the most part unheard on the airwaves. Even the gospel-like soulful disco as defined by the ‘Philly sound’ found itself losing ground. While the stereotype depicted a lot of long haired suburban white kids yelling the infamous slogan ‘disco sucks’, there were large number of young inner city brothers and sisters who were in perfect agreement. With all this happening a void was created and hip hop filled it… Point blank, hip hop was a direct response to the watered down, Europeanized, disco music that permeated the airwaves..

FYI around the same time hip hop was birthed, House music was evolving among the brothers in Chicago, GoGo music was emerging among the brothers in Washington DC and Black folks in California were getting deep into the funk. If you ask me, it was all a response to disco.

In the early days of hip hop, there were break dance crews who went around challenging each other. Many of these participants were former gang members who found a new activity. Bambataa’s Universal Zulu Nation was one such group. As the scene grew, block parties became popular. It was interesting to note that the music being played during these gigs was stuff not being played on radio. Here James Brown, Sly & Family Stone, Gil Scott Heron and even the Last Poets found a home. Hence a younger generation began building off a musical tradition abandoned by its elders.

Break beats picked up in popularity as emcees sought to rap longer at these parties. It wasn’t long before rappers became the ONLY vocal feature at these parties. A microphone and two turntables was all one used in the beginning. With the exception of some break dancers the overwhelming majority of attendees stood around the roped off area and listened carefully to the emcee. A rapper sought to express himself while executing keen lyrical agility. This was defined by one’s rhyme style, one’s ability to rhyme on beat and the use of clever word play and metaphors.

In the early days rappers flowed on the mic continuously for hours at a time..non stop. Most of the rhymes were pre-written but it was a cardinal sin to recite off a piece of paper at a jam. The early rappers started off just giving shout outs and chants and later incorporated small limricks. Later the rhymes became more elaborate, with choruses like ‘Yes Yes Y’all, Or ‘One Two Y’all To The Beat Y’all being used whenever an emcee needed to gather his wind or think of new rhymes. Most emcess rhymed on a four count as opposed to some of the complex patterns one hears today. However, early rappers took great pains to accomplish the art of showmanship. There was no grabbing of the crotch and pancing around the stage.

Pioneering rapper Mele-Mel in a recent interview pointed out how he and other acts spent long hours reheasing both their rhymes and routines. The name of the game was to get props for rockin’ the house. That meant being entertaining. Remember back in the late 70s early 80s, artists weren’t doing one or two songs and leaving, they were on the mic all night long with folks just standing around watching. Folks had to come with it or be forever dissed.

Before the first rap records were put out (Fat Back Band‘s King Tem III’ and Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper Delight’), hip hop culture had gone through several stages. By the late 70’s it seemed like many facets of hip hop would play itself out. Rap for so many people had lost its novelty. For those who were considered the best of the bunch; Afrika Bambaataa, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four (yes initially there were only 4), Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Romantic Five, Funky Four Plus One More, Crash Crew, Master Don Committee to name a few had reached a pinnacle and were looking for the next plateau. Many of these groups had moved from the ‘two turntables and a microphone stage’ of their career to what many would today consider hype routines. For example all the aforementioned groups had routines where they harmonized. At first folks would do rhymes to the tune of some popular song.

The tune to ‘Gilligan’s Island‘ was often used. Or as was the case with the Cold Crush Brothers, the ‘Cats In the Cradle‘ was used in one of their more popular routines. As this ‘flavor of the month’ caught hold, the groups began to develop more elaborate routines. Most notable was GM Flash’s’ Flash Is to The Beat Box‘. All this proceeded ‘harmonizing/hip hop acts like Bel Biv DeVoe by at least 15 years.

The introduction of rap records in the early 80s put a new meaning on hip hop. It also provided participants a new incentive for folks to get busy. Rap records inspired hip hoppers to take it to another level because they now had the opportunity to let the whole world hear their tales. It also offered a possible escape from the ghetto…. But that’s another story..we’ll tell it next time.

written by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook
c 1985

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