Tag Archives: hip-hop

F.A.M.E.

Brown, C….and about 20 other people. (2011). F.A.M.E. S.I.: Jive.

Officially, I am against violence. Unofficially, People Magazine needs to have it’s reviewers smacked upside their heads like Chris Brown did to Rhianna. They are quoted as saying that this album of Chris’ was exactly what Micheal Jackson would have made if he were 21 in 2011. It is not. Yes, the tunes are catchy, but Micheal Jackson could write lyrics (ie. full, grammatically correct sentences). Chris can only talk about how wealthy and handsome he is. Chris is just some punk who, at best, gets to approve the beats that other people make for him… also if you’re a “singer” ditch the autotune Chris as well as your talk box effects might have been fresh in 1998 when Cher released her hit song Believe… but now they are getting’ plaaayed OUT!

Pop music has always gotten a bit of ridicule, but remember the days when Ella Fiztgerald and Frank Sinatra were considered “Pop Music”!?! Those people had talent, while Chris Brown has only good looks, great agents and creative producers. After all he is barely credited with making half the album (I suspect that’s the part of the album that sucks). Don’t believe me? Well, check out the track credits at Allmusic.com. The songs “Look at me now” and “She ain’t you” are perfect examples of the cool beats and terrible lyrics/vocals that pervade this album. In fact “She ain’t you” samples the beat from Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature“…maybe that’s what the tools from People magazine caught on to.

Good hip-hop lyricists are people like KRS-One or Talib Kwali. People who can bust a sick, original beat are people like Juan Atkins of Cybotron or Grand Master Flash. If you want the whole packadge there are tons of folks who have risen to stardom for true talent, as a starter I suggest you witness the fitness of Roots Manuva, legend extraordinaire (then check out how he remixed that same song a few years later…SIIIIIIICKNESSS!) Keep in mind that most of these cats were blowing up around the time I was born (1983)!

What do we have now? We have an immature Chris Brown riding the wave of other people’s hard work, unable to control his temper because he’s being coddled by an industry that will forgive his flaws/crimes until the paper stops flowing. I’m not saying that Chris shouldn’t be given a chance to redeem his disgraceful actions, I’m saying he isn’t reforming because that he’s not being encouraged too.

I wish modern pop stars were more interested in making music than headlines.

Sentences: The life of M.F. Grimm

Carey, P., & Wimberly, R. (2007). Sentences: [the life of M.F. Grimm]. New York: DC Comics.

In an earlier post I’d kinda trashed Word Up! magazine for providing incomplete coverage of questionable role models. This book by Percy Carey, aka MF Grimm, is a great example of success in the areas that Word Up!’s coverage of Lil’Wayne fell short.

MF Grimm has a story comparable to Lil’Wayne he unapologetically talks about getting in fights, shoot-outs, dealing drugs, and the “glory” of the gangsta life. The main difference in MF Grimm’s story is that he doesn’t just share the glory, he shares, his pain, his regret, and the consequences of his actions as well. He never blames anyone else for his paralysis nor for his several incarcerations (well, okay he does blame a snitch as the reason the cops pinned him, but admits that if he wasn’t dealing drugs he wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place).

The graphics are engaging; not too explicit, but not watered down. The dialogue is rough, but real. The story is captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Even in the roughest of situations, Percy Carey is sure to remind readers that good influences are always around. True, Carey’s fighting spirit is what got him into a lot of trouble but, after he smartened up, it was that same fighting spirit that got him out of trouble.

This story is a rollercoaster ride of a black man’s life growing up in NYC in the 80’s and trying to break out of the gang life and into the hip-hop industry. From Sesame Street to being jailed and paralyzed, Carey’s story alterates between down to earth and boastful, but that’s an element of hip-hop regardless. Also, one final shout-out is to the credit that Carey gives the strong female role models he’s had in his life; his Mom, grandmother and sisters. It is nice to see women of colour represented as people rather than objects, a mistake made far too often in the rap world.

Anywho, here’s MF Grimm stats on AllMusic.Com and here’s a track that keeps it real off of his album American Hunger, “I Rather Be Wrong”

Word Up!

Enoble Media Group. (2009, Dec/Jan). Word Up!.

This magazine has been categorized as Undecided, but I think I’m going too easy on it. My problem is the target age group and the magazine’s portrayal of black people, which can be a touchy subject and I wish wasn’t an issue… but is. Moving on…
Word Up! magazine has a layout that is nearly identical to Seventeen magazine so one assumes that the audiences will be roughly the same age level 14 – 16 year olds, give or take a few years. Just replace the regular audience of suburban middle class teens, with urbanless advantaged teens. Then replace the girly cosmetic adds with ads for specialty hair products for black hair, replace Taylor Swift with Lil’ Wayne (aka Weezy) and you’re good to go.

Now, I’m not saying that Seventeen promotes wholesome characters, far from it in fact. But, the specific issue is how different the role models are depending on your skin colour. The medias constant promotion of black celebrity thugs is exemplified in this magazine. At the time of publication Lil’ Wayne was already up for charges of possessing a loaded fire-arm and for drug charges. The second main star of the magazine was Chris Brown, a man who in a months time would be charged with assault and making criminal threats on his girlfriend, Rhianna. The only charge that carries any palpable jail time is Weezy’s drug possession charges which is sickening in itself when you compare it to Chirs’ assault charges. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Lil’ Wayne’s official reason for quitting coke (the powder, not the soda pop), if he even quit, is because it gives him acne, not because of the bad highs.

I am a middle class, white male. I easily make the judgments that guns are bad and coke ares bad because I never grew up around them. The only exposure I had to knowledge of these items was from every authority I knew saying they were bad. Lil’ Wayne grew up in a very rough neighbourhood of New Orleans where crack-cocaine wasn’t a foreign threat, but a factor in everyday life. It is very easy for people who have never know hardship to harshly judge those who have only known hardship, and I am trying to avoid judging the magazine (and Lil’ Wayne in this way).

This is why I am undecided. Even though the magazine glorifies the lifestyles of people who abuse powerful drugs, carry murder weapons, and beat up women Word Up! is also providing a platform for poor black kids to see people who were born in the same situation they were have (for the most part) rejected the streets, worked on their positive talents, and become successful. Lil’ Wayne is one of the hardest working artists in the pop music industry, an industry where fame and success are often bought and provided for performers rather than being earned. So what if Lil’ Wayne has problems. If you grew up where he did you would too. Check out this article if you want some context.

Ultimately though, Lil’ Wayne, has tons of exposure and there are better role models out there. Although his influence is waning from popular media there’s Master P and if you care to go back a little further, Louie Armstrong, all Louisianan successes. But, if you want to find a current black celebrity who is an entirely positive role model (not counting Obama because he’s a politician and I am specifically thinking about representation in the entertainment industry) they will be difficult to find… Wayne Brady, maybe? Then again the number of celebrities in the entertainment industry, regardless of skin colour, who are wholly positive role models can probably be counted on one hand, maybe two if you search around hard enough.

Groovin’ With the Groovaloos

Rapier, B., Crumbs, ., Boogie, M., & Inspired Productions. (2004). Groovin’ with the Groovaloos: Learn the hip hop grooves. Roseland, NJ: Inspired Productions.

So, if you know me you know I’m a dancer. Not in the sense that I’m coordinated, or elegant, but in the sense that when the good tunes start playing my legs, hips, arms, feet, neck, eyebrows, well, everything starts shaking, twisting, and stamping, not in sync, but usually in that order. As such I felt it would be beneficial to brush up on my hip-hop groove styles by watching this instructional DVD.

Unfortunately I didn’t find this DVD too helpful. Firstly the group of dancers goes WAAAAY to fast for me, even when they slowed down and repeated their moves it was hard for me to keep up. However, that just might be because I’m old, stiff, and grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Metallica, so I spent most of my teenage thrashing my head around rather than swaying my hips. So, the fact that I couldn’t keep up may have been my fault, however the extenuating circumstances did little to facilitate my learning. The video is shot outside and the ever-changing background kept distracting my focus, there were a lot of dancers, I believe seven, so it was hard to pick one and follow them, and the lead Groovaloo didn’t do a great job of interacting with the audience, mostly just told us to watch rather than follow along, not cool Groovaloo, not cool. They were good dancers though.

With all this in mind I think that if I had started with volume 1, or had other people around to feed off of and show off with this experience would have been more fulfilling and my groovin’ might have been pimped out a slightly more than it was.