Thursday, October 13, 2005

Music: The Mainstream Is Full of Crap and Piss: Lady Sovereign

Lady Sovereign is wack!


Lady Sovereign is wack!


Lady Sovereign is wack!


Lady Sovereign is wack!


Lady Sovereign is wack!


Lady Sovereign is wack!



Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.



Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.


What's with the title of this post and the first eighteen lines, you may wonder? It's just a reaction to some of the "product" I see being pumped through the media, where the disparity between the hype surrounding an event and the actual entertainment value of the event is so great that it defies comprehension and makes it difficult to maintain any kind of trust in the printed word.

Hype is nothing new; the scenario I described happens all the time. I don't think people understand, or appreciate the measures that corporations and the media undertake in order to push that hype. I remember an article from MTV covering the Black Eyed Peas performing before the VMAs in 2004. The article ended with "and Will.I.Am closed the song out with an explosive breakdancing routine". Now I'm no fan of the Black Eyed Peas, but I could watch some good breakdancing (on mute, of course). I might have liked to to see that.

Oh wait a minute. I did (not of my own volition; it was job related. Give me my hip-hop pass back). Homeboy did a backspin for two seconds, stood back up again. Yay. "Move along. Nothing to see here, people". You want to see an explosive breakdancing routine? Check this out. Then take a look at your gut and go hit the gym.

Paul Graham is this hacker who came up with the right application (e-commerce store builder) at the right time (the bubble) and made millions. He touts the virtues of computer languages most programmers have nightmares about. He also has some pretty insightful material on his site about business and technology. In his essay called "The Submarine", he discusses what he's learned about PR firms while building buzz for his application (read: hype machines) and their influence on the news:

"Suits make a corporate comeback," says the New York Times. Why does this sound familiar? Maybe because the suit was also back in February, September 2004, June 2004, March 2004, September 2003, November 2002, April 2002, and February 2002.

Why do the media keep running stories saying suits are back? Because PR firms tell them to. One of the most surprising things I discovered during my brief business career was the existence of the PR industry, lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news. Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms.


The biggest and most frequent tool used in communication is repetition. It's as old as anaphora and alliteration in Latin. In 2005, News and PR firms take it to an obscene point. If you didn't believe it the first time, you will the millionth. That's why Funkmaster Flex drops a bomb on every song every four bars on a new song he's pushing, to the point where you don't actually hear about the 100 inch rims that MC Corporate Ho has put on his baby momma's stroller. That's why TV networks have multiplays of the same show 2 to 4 days per week (Apprentice, or Survivor, anyone?). And that's why every couple of days the food in my stomach heads towards my throat when I see some coverage of one of the latest hype products: Lady Sovereign.

I Recently came across this paragraph in the article by Tricia Romano in the Village Voice.

"Lady Sovereign may be one reason to bother with hip-hop post-1990 (emphasis added). I am not the biggest fan, but after seeing her blink-and-you'll-miss-it set, I had newfound respect. Her delivery and her songs are as tough and compact as she is. She was originally slated earlier in the night; rumor had it she was pushed back so "Jay"—as in Jay-Z—could catch her. The other rumor was that Jigga had signed her that day. (Of course, similar notions were floating around about M.I.A., but that never came to pass.) The Lady looks like a hardened Fiona Apple in an Adidas tracksuit (very Run-D.M.C.—what'd I tell you?), and, if possible, sports a bigger scowl. She's so punk, after she was done, she simply dropped the mic with a thud and stalked off the stage. If I were a rapper, I'd totally be the five-foot Lady Sovereign (I'm already almost the same height—just gotta work on my skillz and my scowl)."


While I am entertained by Ms. Romano's accounts on a scene in the city that I haven't checked out myself, I can't take her opinion and/or perspective on hip-hop seriously after giving Lady Sovereign any type of positive review. Google "Lady Sovereign Review" to see what reporters have thought of her performances. I saw Lady Sovereign at a concert with real rappers Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif and Blackalicious on September 15.

She was performing as entered the venue at Webster Hall. I saw what looked like a 12 year old in baggy sweat chirping in an accented voice, four or five hipsters-in-training (you know, those who in a few years, will grow up to hit the first stop on the express train from the Manhattan dorm room to Suburbia, currently Williamsburg) yelling in response. The beats were ugly choppy Casio CZ101 synth chords over 808s, and she had no stage presence. The NYC crowd, while not being overly excited, was actually paying her attention. I wasn't sure why, until I picked up a copy of the Fader magazine at the show. Cover number 2, y'all. You've got to be kidding me.

People must have seen her picture, or read part of the article and said to themselves, "Well, it doesn't matter what I may think. She's got an article in Fader. There must be something to her music. I'm going to listen until I figure out what it is."

That's hype. Her team must be good, because reportedly Jay-Z's trying to sign her, or has signed her to Def Jam. Or is that hype too? Well, I'm letting you know right now, Don't Believe The Hype. I have both Streets albums, and Dizzee Rascal's "Sitting in the Corner". I like those. I enjoy their music. I may also like other grime artists that come out. However, I don't feel Lady Sovereign, and don't think she deserves the accolades she's getting. In order to counter the loads of massive spin, I'm going to do what I can to fight it.

Lady Sovereign is wack


Lady Sovereign is wack


Lady Sovereign is wack


Lady Sovereign is wack


Lady Sovereign is wack


Lady Sovereign is wack



"So what should I buy" you say? "What should I get to entertain me without insulting my musical taste and intellgence?". Time for some counter PR. This is my first attempt, so let me know how it goes.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.


and while you're at it...

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.


Hmm...maybe I need to read a PR book or two.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Debunking Urban Legends: Will Blacks lose the vote in 2005?

A few days ago, I got an forwarded email from a friend with the subject line "Camille Cosby's Speech." The email refers a Camille Cosby column on racism where she says that Black people will lose the right to vote in this country in 2007.

Seems outrageous, doesn't it? Something along the lines of Nigerian bank scams and spam promising to increase your penis three inches. But what if there's some truth in this email? It's time to hit the net and do some research.

First, I tried to figure out if Camille Cosby did actually say that. Lo and behold, it does seem that Mrs. Cosby did write an op-ed piece on July 8, 1998 in response to the killing of her son, Ennis, by a racist from Eastern Europe. In this piece, she does mention the Voting Rights Act. She writes that...

"The Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 will expire in 2007. Congress once again will decide whether African Americans will be allowed to vote. No other Americans are subjected to this oppressive nonsense."

My next stop was the Urban Legends Reference Pages, a one stop shop where people can check on the truth behind any email that ends up in their inbox. Will Microsoft pay you to read email? (no) Are there really traces of cocaine on 80 percent of US dollar bills ? (yes).

In this particular case, doing a search on the "Voting Rights Act" reveals that the Voting Rights Act will indeed expire in 2007. The 15th amendment of the Constitution gave Blacks the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act was put into place in order to overcome the Jim Crow laws and obstacles put in place by Southern States to keep blacks from voting, including the poll tax and literacy requirements. If the Voting Rights Act were removed, local governments wouldn't have to consult with the federal government before making any changes to their voting rules. The Urban Legends article claims "that we as a society have finally (if slowly and painfully) progressed to the point we no longer need to take special measures to ensure that every citizen has a fair opportunity to participate in a democratic voting process. There are times when we should get all riled up about what our government is doing, but this isn't one of them."

I don't think I agree with that sentence. Both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were filled with scandals of Black disenfranchisement, especially in Florida. Michael Moore has a section of "Stupid White Men" devoted to it. The People for the American Way web site has an article detailing the extent to which politicians (mostly of the Republican stripe) will go to in order to reduce numbers of Black people at the polls.

I got more information on the Voting Rights Act, by checking out the page available at the Department of Justice pages here. They also have a response to the numerous letters that they have received as a result of these email forwards here.

From all these sources, I was able to put together these conclusions.
Camille Cosby did make that statement, but it's not completely right or wrong. If the Voting Rights Act expires, Blacks will still have the right to vote, but without the federal monitoring of both registration places and voting policies provided by the act, Mississippi might return from the 74.2% voter registration rate in 1998 to the 6.7% voter registration rate in 1965. It is fair to say that if this act is not extended, there will be enough leeway for local districts to incorporate any discriminatory practices they would like. That could result in many Black people finding that they cannot vote.

So what is there to do? I've sent an email to the Department of Justice asking about the process involved in extending the Voting Rights Act. I'll post any response I get.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Free Event Websites in NYC

I've been looking for a change of scene, change of activities or perspective for a little while now. In my quest for something new and different, I've come upon various listings for free/cheap/unusual activities in NYC. These lists are a mixed bag (some lists have events mixed in with requests for friends to accompany the events), but there's enough material to chew on and perhaps get rid of that Time Out subscription: