Archive for August, 2012

An Interview with State Senator Malcolm Smith

Last week, an east coast fervor was stirred when chart-topping MC Lil Wayne stated “I don’t like New York.” Wayne made the comment in an interview after a free show in Manhattan, and attributed his sentiment to the resistance the city has shown him in the past as well as his feelings toward being arrested within the city’s limits. those five words reverberated throughout the music world, alarming many, including New York State Senator Malcolm Smith. Senator Smith held a press conference in Times Square, demanding that Wayne apologize for his words. We had the chance to speak to the Senator in regard to both his growing up in hip-hop’s home, as well as what further actions against Wayne and others he plans to take.

When was your first exposure to hip-hop?

My first exposure probably goes back to LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Jam-Master Jay. I grew up with all of them and that’s why I count Queens as being the home of the hip-hop movement. Yeah, it started in the Bronx, but it clearly got taken to another level when Queens got a hold of it.

Would that make LL Cool J and Run-DMC your favorite MCs?

Yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, LL and I still do a basketball tournament together. Every year, for the past ten years called Jump and Ball.

What was it about Lil Wayne’s comments that you found incendiary enough to warrant an apology?

Well, most importantly, I think it was that it sent out the wrong message to the 50 million tourists who we have come to the city. And then obviously, you have the fan base he has that he’s pretty influential over. My position is, I feel if you don’t like New York, you don’t have to come to New York. Obviously he makes his money here, millions of fans buy his music. Nicki Minaj actually lives in the area that I represent. I just thought it was a statement that wasn’t warranted.

Would your feelings be different had Wayne’s comments been in a song as opposed to being in an interview?

Nope.

Do you feel you would have been as offended if it was an artist of comparable stature in any other genre of music, as opposed to hip-hop?

Listen, it doesn’t matter, no matter what celebrity it was. It could have been an actor. I love this city. I’ve been in love with this city. I have my family here. This is one of the greatest cities in the world. As an elected official that represents the state and the city, I’m not over anybody saying bad things about it. I understand his position as it related to why he feels that way because, obviously, what happened with Summer Jam and also he was arrested for possessing a gun. He shouldn’t have a gun in the city of New York, that’s not what it’s about. Matter of fact, if he wants to join me in my gun buy-back program, that would be good. I think he can turn a negative into a positive and send a good message to his fan base.

So you would still be open to working with Wayne in the future in event that would encourage positivity?

Absolutely, if it’s a positive cause. But again, if he feels he doesn’t like New York, he’s entitled to his opinion. He doesn’t have to come back, just like I’m entitled to my opinion about what he said.

In the event Wayne does apologize, would you pursue apologies from any further artists in the future who might bad mouth New York?

I will stand up for New York to anybody. Artists, another politician, a movie star, the President – I will still stand up for New York. Does not matter.

Would that include past artists too, such as Randy Newman for his comments on New York in “I Love L.A.?”

Well, I mean, anybody that wants to bad mouth New York, I’m prepared to stand up on behalf of [New York] and that’s that.

Interview conducted by H2C2’s Chief Media Liaison Chaz Kangas

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RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Cannibal vs. Zombie

The Hip-Hop Culture Center and Freestyle Mondays present the RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK!

Once a week, the Hip-Hop Culture Center will be bringing you the best in freestyle rap competitions from Freestyle Mondays’ Off-The-Head Gameshow Battle at 116 Macdougal!

But this isn’t your average rap battle. With a spinning wheel AND a plinko (Plink, Yo!) board determining what the topic is, MCs will have to stay on-topic as they come of the top!

This week, we landed on the FOOD CHAIN round, placing two competing species for genus lyrical dominance! John O. (of the Gecko Brothers) holds it down for the CANNIBALS while reigning champ Albert Rhymestein (Dollar Coffee) represents the ZOMBIES!


ALBERT RHYMESTEIN VS. JOHN O.
ZOMBIE VS. CANNIBAL

Albert Rhymestein’s music can be heard at – http://dollarcoffee.bandcamp.com/

John O.’s music can be heard at – http://thageckobrothas.bandcamp.com/

Stay tuned to H2C2 for more battles and be sure to check out the Freestyle Mondays Off-the-Head Gameshow Battle the FIRST MONDAY of EVERY MONTH at 116 MacDougal in Manhattan!

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If you’ve watched a hot hip-hop music video online in the past two years, chances are it was a production from Ricky Shabazz and the Boom-Bap Boys. We had a chance to sit down with director Nicolas Heller, the brains behind the camera, to find out what goes into to making the of the most creative hip-hop videos in the game today!

What was the first music video you recall ever seeing?

The first music video I can recall seeing is “Getting Jiggy With It” by Will Smith. However, I really want to say it was “My Block” by Scarface because that was the first video that REALLY stuck out to me. Made me realize hip-hop videos could be creative.

When did you decide you wanted to begin shooting music videos?

I decided I wanted to start making music videos my Junior year of college after making 10 short films and hardly getting any recognition from people outside my circle of friends. Music videos were my chance to piggy-back off of a musician’s success.

Which video was your first, and how did it feel going through the video making process for the first time?

My first music video under the Ricky Shabazz and the Boom Bap Boy alias was “Destroy” by C-Rayz Walz. I really lucked out with that one. This was around the time I began feeling very discouraged in regards to my shorts not getting attention. My friend, Will Kowall, who is heavily involved in the underground hip-hop scene brought it to my attention that C-Rayz was going to be in Boston and was looking for someone to shoot a quick video for him. I nervously approached him with a really insane idea where he gets chased down by furries in the wilderness and ultimately gets shot in the face. He dug it. We shot it, and the rest was history.

Now that you’re several dozen videos removed from those early works, what’s one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were starting out?

I REALLY wish I had held off on shooting my more complicated treatments instead of rushing into them with little experience and no budget. I would love to re-shoot a bunch of my old videos. Don’t think the musicians would be too thrilled about that tough.

A few of your videos deal with continuous take shots. What intrigues you about that particular style?

I think it looks badass. My inspiration comes from gangster movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Directors had a tendency of building tension before someone gets the shit kicked out of them by dropping a dope song, and in one continous shot, have the protagonist makes his way over to the antagonist and beat them senseless. I would find those scenes more interesting than any fight scene with cuts every two seconds.

Have any artists ever shown resistance to your concepts? Did they eventually realize you were right all along?

Artists show resistance all the time. It’s really hard to convince these guys to take risks. Especially if they are more established. I am usually able to meet at a common ground though.

Have you shown any of your videos to your family? Which videos are their favorites?

My parents watch all of my videos whether I like it or not. They both follow me on Twitter and Instagram, so it?s pretty hard to hide any projects from them. For the most part, they really enjoy all of them. I think the only one that ever disappointed them was “Grateful Dead of Night” by Moe Pope. In the video, I had a half naked woman chained up by zombies who eventually devour her. They needed to have a talk with me after that one.
Their all time favorite video of mine is “THANX” by Fresh Daily. It’s kind of upsetting considering I shot that two years ago.

What do you believe makes for a quality video?
Damn. A lot. I’ll go with the less obvious answer: Making the artist look cool. You have to approach videos from a consumer’s standpoint. No one is gonna buy an artist’s album if they look foolish in their video. No matter who the musician is, if a filmmaker makes their client look like a cornball, they haven’t done their job properly. It’s tough though. There are a lot of corny musicians out there. I certainly have failed a couple times.

If you could do a video for any hip-hop artist alive or dead, who would it be?
That’s a loaded question. It would really depend on whether or not I had complete creative control. If I had this control, I would like to do videos for Cam’ron, Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Gunplay, Chief Keef, Ghostface Killah, Scarface, Project Pat, etc. However, there is no chance in hell I would be able to get any of those artists to even consider listening to one of my wacky treatment ideas.

Some artists I think I could collaborate really well with would be: Action Bronson, Lil Ugly Mane, Flatbush Zombies, Riff Raff, Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire, El-P, ASAP Ferg… Damn, the list goes on.

Finally, if I got to choose one dead artist to shoot a video for, it would be Eazy-E or Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

What?s one video you would suggest somebody checking your work out for the first should look at to get the best idea of your style?
It was made with a 2 person crew, and $15 budget. But I would suggest everyone watch “GUTS” by Juan Deuce and Falside. This is probably the only video I ever directed where I had 100% creative control. I think it shows. Now imagine giving a treatment like that to Cam’ron… C’mon son.

Check out all of the Ricky Shabazz and the Boom-Bap Boys Productions at Rickyshabazz.com and follow Nicolas Heller on Twitter at @RickyShabazz

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RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Lil Kim vs. Kim Jong-il

The Hip-Hop Culture Center and Freestyle Mondays present the RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK!

Once a week, the Hip-Hop Culture Center will be bringing you the best in freestyle rap competitions from Freestyle Mondays’ Off-The-Head Gameshow Battle at 116 Macdougal!

But this isn’t your average rap battle. With a spinning wheel AND a plinko (Plink, Yo!) board determining what the topic is, MCs will have to stay on-topic as they come of the top!

This week, we landed on the Superstar round, assigning each MC to rap from the perspective of a worldwide superstar for lyrical dominance. Cold Stone Steve Awesome (AKA Stack That Paper) got the guise of Kim Jong-il whereas Chaz Kangas represents Lil Kim!


COLD STONE STEVE AWESOME VS. CHAZ KANGAS
KIM JONG-IL VS. LIL KIM

Chaz Kangas’ music can be found at http://chazkangas.bandcamp.com

Stay tuned to H2C2 for more battles and be sure to check out the Freestyle Mondays Off-the-Head Gameshow Battle the FIRST MONDAY of EVERY MONTH at 116 MacDougal in Manhattan!

Don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

The Young and The Hip-Hop on: Hip-Hop’s Global Impact

With hip-hop being a youth-based culture at its core, we at the Hip-Hop Culture Center feel it’s important to give the youth a platform to express their feelings on what interests them about hip-hop’s current climate, as well as where they think it’s going. Today, our youth reporter Dominique Williams takes a look at the global impact of hip-hop!

All Around The World: The Global Economic Impact of Hip Hop

It has been almost 30 years since the introduction of hip-hop. Over that time, hip-hop’s become immensely popular, not just in America, but worldwide. Hip-hop has expanded itself into music, fashion, advertisement, movies, and more. It’s given many rappers, and those associated with the genre, the chance to branch themselves out into other ventures and create their own brands. Also, it has allowed them to bring hip-hop to other communities through organizations and fundraisers as well. As of today, Hip-hop has become a global phenomenon where it ranges from a genre of music to a full-blown lifestyle. Hip-hop has gone through many changes that some people do not agree or identify with. It has impacted a lot of things in the world from fashion to politics. Hip-hop music has been used as a means to create songs that deliver somewhat negatives messages such as sex, drugs, and violence (“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash), police brutality (“F**k the Police” by NWA), poverty in America (“Heard Em’ Say” by Kanye West) etc. But has also been used to advocate more positive messages about “being whatever you want to be” (“I Can” by Nas), a father son relationship (“Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith), HIV/AIDS awareness (“Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-n-Pepa) etc. Overall, hip-hop has had its share of praise and scrutiny.

The hip-hop economy increases at an astonishing rate. Hip-hop is, according to Forbes, an industry that garners 10 billion dollars a year. Advertisers see rappers as an opportunity to sell their brands because of the impact they have on the younger generation. It is reported by the NPD Group, that more than 50% of people who purchase hip-hop albums are either teens or in their early 20s. Young fans gravitate towards the images that they see of the hip-hop lifestyle, the cars, jewelry, expensive clothing, etc. For that reason, when seeing a rapper associated with a particular brand, they are more inclined to buy a certain item in order to be a part of that lifestyle. For example, when Busta Rhymes, “Pass the Courvoisier Part Two” was released, sales for Courvoisier cognac increased. For these reasons, rappers such as Jay-Z (Rocawear), Nelly (Apple Bottoms), Sean “P’Diddy” Combs (Sean John, and various vodka brands such as Ciroc) are examples of showing a desire to create their own brands.

Hip-Hop began in 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the South Bronx in 1973. DJ Kool Herc, recognized as the originator of hip-hop, hosted various parties at this location, mixing a variety of different musical sounds. Other things associated with hip-hop include beat boxing, breaking, break-dancing, and many more. During the 70s, hip-hop was not recognized by America, believing that it was only a fad and that it would create the impact that it has today until the introduction of the song “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, a group composed of Michael Anthony “Wonder Mike” Wright, Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson and Master Gee, assembled by Sylvia Robinson. A major hit, “Rapper’s Delight” moved more than eight million units worldwide. Soon, rap’s popularity and style began to grow. During the 80s, NWA (N***as With Attitude) was introduced to the world as embodiments of gang violence, sexism, and hedonistic values. Their lyrics were very harsh and straightforward, so much to the point that there song “F**k tha Police” raised concerns amongst the FBI, warning them to watch out or face trouble. This song protested against police brutality against minorities, this message was somewhat ignored, believing it was simply a message to insult the Police Department, until it was later seen with the eruption of the L.A riots.

Various styles of hip-hop culture have been introduced in other countries. Japan was introduced to Soul Train in the 1970s, which became a gateway for them in accepting black culture. Hip-hop was introduced to Japan in 1983 after the movie “Flashdance” where, for a few seconds, they caught a glimpse of children breakdancing. Hip-hop continued to appear onward into the 90s with the introduction of artist like Heavy D and MC Hammer. Japan has also accepted hip-hop culture to the point where Hip hop is considered a type of lifestyle someone might want to be apart of. The Japanese , who are involved in the Hip-hop culture, are also concerned with buying the items that they see in music videos such as DKNY, Polo, etc. The only difference between American interpretation of hip-hop and Japanese interpretation of hip-hop is the message. In America it is seen as, not a race thing, but an art form that is conveyed in many ways, whereas in Japan, it is seen on a more superficial level and conveyed in one way based on the visual messages presented to them, such as the cars, the clothes, and the African-American rappers. But the exposure to the culture shows the impact hip-hop has on individuals around the world.

Hip-hop, over the years, has made a name for itself and has managed to spread its influence all around the world, impacting people with its messages and images in some way shape or form. Hip-hop has expanded itself through the media with fashion, movies, and global export. It has also allowed other rappers access to other ventures such as acing, screenwriting, entrepreneurship, etc. Despite this, many individuals continue to carry their individual opinions about hip-hop, some of them negative, some positive, and some are simply undecided. Like all musical styles, some are more popular then others, and some soon do not have the same they used to back then. But hip-hop will continue to remain within the influence of the media, continuing to impact the individuals within and outside of the U.S. and, while its popularity may fluctuate, will not disappear.

Dominique Williams is a Bronx-born Alfred University student currently studying Communications. Along with writing, singing and playing video games, her favorite rappers are Eve, Eminem, B.o.B, and T.I.

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The Hip-Hop Culture Center and Freestyle Mondays present the RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK!

Once a week, the Hip-Hop Culture Center will be bringing you the best in freestyle rap competitions from Freestyle Mondays’ Off-The-Head Gameshow Battle at 116 Macdougal!

But this isn’t your average rap battle. With a spinning wheel AND a plinko (Plink, Yo!) board determining what the topic is, MCs will have to stay on-topic as they come of the top!

This week, we landed on the C-Block Round. Here, a lovely lady is chosen from the audience and each MC has to convince her why they’re so much better for her than their opponent, effectively c-blocking them!


PREMROCK VS. MATRIXX
C-BLOCK ROUND

PremRock’s music is available online at http://premrockandwilliegreen.bandcamp.com/

Stay tuned to H2C2 for more battles and be sure to check out the Freestyle Mondays Off-the-Head Gameshow Battle the FIRST MONDAY of EVERY MONTH at 116 MacDougal in Manhattan!

Don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook!

Michael Gonzales is one of hip-hop’s most influential and important journalists. With his work appearing everywhere from Vibe to ego trip and Wax Poetics, as well as authoring 1992’s essential hip-hop primer Bring the Noise, his voice is one of the most knowledgable and engaging to ever cover the culture. With his new essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ appearing in the latest issue of One More Robot magazine, we bring you this excerpt from his ‘Living in Crack City’ article as well as include his Top Five picks for the Greatest Crack Songs of All Time.

As a native New Yorker born and raised on the uptown streets of Harlem, my personal version of ‘Living for the City’ went from stickball games in the street to dodging bullets in the day as crack vials shattered beneath my sneakered feet. Yet, while smoking crack rocks began its raging rein of terror in 1984, the same communities were also contributing culturally with the rise of rap music.

With rappers becoming the aural equivalent of Italian neo-realists directors, my favorite being Vittorion De Sica, these young poets were unafraid of showing ‘the real’ in their material. It was only a matter of time before crack culture (selling, buying, dying) and rap music began to overlap. Twenty-eight years after I first heard a cocaine corner boy on a 145th Street muttering, “Crack, crack, crack,” there has been thousands of rock related songs released.

When I began working on my latest drug-related essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ for the forthcoming One More Robot Summer Issue, I spent a lot of time on YouTube getting lifted and inspired by crack songs created by everyone from Schoolly D to Lil Wayne to Rick Ross. However, since this is issue #10, I decided to pick my personal top-ten crack classics based discs to serve as the soundtrack. In addition, since the piece is about New York, all the songs selected are East Coast based. As one crack head screamed to the other, “Rock on!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeJedMKpw9Y
5) Fat Joe – “Crack Attack” 1998


4) Grandmaster Melle Mel – “White Lines” 1983

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQFaF9ryxa8
3) Jay-Z – “Rap Game/Crack Game” 1997


2) The Notorious B.I.G. – “Ten Crack Commandments” 1997


1) Masters of Ceremony – “Cracked Out” 1988

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