Thursday, January 28, 2010

Intersecting Losses

This week has marked an important loss of two great people who have shaped many a person's life, but particularly hip-hop community members and the many scholars of hip-hop who pursued critical histories during their education journeys.

This week, Howard Zinn, Professor of History at Boston University and author of a People's History of the United States, passed away. Zinn was a fiery political activist and excellent writer, who brought to light the history of peoples maligned to the corners and crevices of history.

Zinn encouraged students to look more critically at the history they were reading, asking not what the history said, but who was doing the saying? Such efforts to disrupt the status quo influenced countless activists, scholars in law, history and political science, not to mention students of all ages. His work helped encourage a history that was more responsive to the masses, and that did not reside in the white-washed mind's eye of the historical studies apparatus. His work critiqued what history was and developed a theory for what history could be.

Likewise, this week, Donnie Simpson, long-time Washington, DC DJ steps down from his post at WPGC radio. Donnie Simpson began working in radio in his hometown of Detroit at the tender age of 15. He relocated to DC in the late 70s. In 1981, he made is television debut at the local Washington, DC NBC affiliate. In 1983, he joined BET becoming one the first VJs in the country. Simpson has greeted visitors on his morning show on WPGC since 1993. Donnie Simpson has been a shining star in the DC radio community for some 30 years and his departure will leave a tremendous void for this community. He has been an active participant in charitable organizations and also established his own scholarship fund, with his wife, for minority students.

The combination of these two events should have a significant impact on hip-hop listeners and scholars. My guess is that more than a few readers have stories of how reading Zinn for the first time made them reconsider historical studies and how listening to Donnie Simpson in the morning put them in a positive mood. It's not every week that two legends leave us, and we'll be hard pressed to find someone to carry on their respective legacies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of The Union: The Streets "Is" talking Pt II

... eating peach cobbler actually but you know what I mean. Well, I wish I had something to offer from the streets re: the Republican response to the President's speech but the music started up just as the new Gov of Virginia took the podium. I have no idea what he said. The only thing I know about he response is that the black woman sitting behind the Gov warranted a couple of comments (nothing nice sister, sorry). I will have to catch him on youtube and see what the what. Anyway, back to the President ... right after I signed off to order my cobbler, the POTUS vowed to work with Congress and military personal to repeal Dont Ask Dont Tell. Ok that's a feel good moment. I'm for that because although I'm as against gays shooting people in unjust wars as I am straight people, military service has been poor people's ticket to health care, social mobility and travel for many years. But let's be clear, the President pulled a fast one I think. He did not issue an executive order repealing the exclusionary policy - he vowed to work on it. Therefore success will be measured by whether he worked on it or not. Having worked on it but not repealed it will not mean a great deal to all those queer people who look to the military (despite its faults) to feed their children, have pap smears and to see the world. We will have to see I guess. In the meantime, Kanye's calling " la la wait to I get my money right!" I am going to sign off here and pick this up tomorrow. peace people, PB

Reporting on the State of the Union Address Pamela D. Bridgewater live on location in a bar in DC

...leaving aside for moment the current debate in this bar as to whether Michelle Obama has on a wig, I would like to set the stage for my viewing "party" for the President's State of the Union Address. First off, I am in a bar eating fried chicken livers and drink the nicest Malbec Ive had in a long while. The bar is Langston's Bar and Grille and it is classic DC - ole school DC - fashionable, sassy and generous. Also, this place, like DC is demanding - bring your A game, no matter what it is, politics, pool, music, money - just bring it! Well, Im here and I have brought my A game (one of them at least). Tonight my A game is hunger and something particular from our President. My chicken livers and wine were right on so I'm able to listen particularly well for the President to speak to the people I think have been off of the this Administration's radar screen - working class folks. Im pleased to report that I am pleased! The President, although smug and flippant at times (he cant help his swag) mentioned (with a lot of comedy peppered throughout): Student loan, Community banks, small business loans and health Care. These will have important impact in the lives of the hip hop nation! My favorite line so far is that Democrats must solve problems Not run for the hills.

need to order my peach cobbler so please tuned - more in a minute.....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soundtracks vs. Comebacks: Music Sampling Gets Scored

Interesting commentary about the reliance on and legal pitfalls of sampling in hip hop music.

I welcome your comments on the following question: Why do hip hop artists and producers prefer to sample the actual performance of a song (which includes rights in the musical composition a/k/a underlying work and and the actual sound recording) rather than just re-create the sounds in studio? Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

hip hop and haiti

The hip hop community is out in force, pledging its support and joining relief efforts helping to deal with the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti a little more than one week ago. The relief efforts are being led by Haitian-born artist Wyclef Jean whose organization Yele Haiti has been offering humanitarian support in Haiti since 2005. (Donations are accepted at or by giving a $5 donation by texting “Yele” to 501501). In addition, U2's Bono and Jay-Z are teaming up on a new single to benefit the people of Haiti. The effort is not only carried by hip-hops stars, but local hip-hop groups around the country are also holding benefit concerts raising funds and awareness for the tragedy in Haiti.

The hip hop nation has not survived this tragedy without loss, as Haitian artist Jimmy O was confirmed dead last Friday. Jimmy O was a Port-au-Prince native who worked with Wyclef Jean’s Yele organization. Evenson Francis, regarded as the “pioneer of Haitian hip-hop” also did not survive the quake when he could not escape his recording studio. In remembrance his friends held a ceremony in Delmas Stadium where he had enjoyed performing.

Rap mogul Russell Simmons has called on the hip hop community to action saying “we must do all that we can as individuals and collectively to help save the lives of our brothers and sisters in Haiti.” This call seems to have been answered as Americans have raised over $150 million. The true question will be, however, once the tragedy fades from the evening news whether Haiti will remain at the forefront of our collective thoughts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Acclaimed "Copyright Criminals" Doc Debuts on PBS 1/19/2010

Broadcast Premiere

January 19, 2010

This Compelling Doc asks ... "Can you own a sound?"

 Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.”The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground—while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more.

It also provides an in-depth look at artists who have been sampled, such as Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s drummer and the world’s most sampled musician), as well as commentary by another highly sampled musician, funk legend George Clinton.As artists find ever more inventive ways to insert old influences into new material, this documentary asks a critical question, on behalf of an entire creative community: Can you own a sound?

Support for Copyright Criminals provided in part by the Independent Television Service, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the University of Iowa.

" amazing documentary on the history of sampling" -Rob Sheffield. Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone

USA Today calls Copyright Criminals "...a compelling and insightful documentary illuminating both sides of a hotly debated issue."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bar Exam

Artist: Wyclef Jean
Track: Yele
Album: The Carnival

Although there are lyrics on the web, the lyrics in Creole have received some criticism from web subjectivities and my rudimentary knowledge of Creole don't allow me to assess more than a few words or phrases.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haitian Disaster Relief

Please visit to donate to relief efforts in Haiti. Haiti is the first independent country in Latin America and the first independent black republic. The earthquake, which occurred just two miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, destroyed the state prison, houses, and hospitals. Concrete dust is strewn over every surface. Hospitals cannot accommodate the injured. Aftershocks were felt over 100 miles away and thousands of people have been displaced. The United Nations and United States have already committed aid. If you are in a position to help, perhaps you should.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hip-Hop Song on Lobbying

I make no claims as to the quality of the song, but it's funny and rather accurate.

-- Nick J. Sciullo