RapReviews' own Adam Bernard has been nominated by Hey! Nielsen and Billboard.com in their Best Music Blog contest for his work with Adam’s World. Voting began on Monday, November 12th and commences on Wednesday, December 12th. Here’s all the info on how to vote:
When an MC hits the stage wearing a button down shirt, tie and suspenders it tends to grab one’s attention. That's exactly what first made me take notice of Rugged N Raw last month when I saw him perform at a local club in NYC. I'd quickly find that the man also has some seriously nice skills on the mic. A native New Yorker, Rugged N Raw has been working extensively with DJ Static, a man most known for laying down beats for the likes of Talib Kweli and Rakim, and last year released Another Level, an album that's been described as simultaneously witty and lyrically tight. This week I caught up with Rugged N Raw to find out more about his music, his unique style, and what it means to "let the ugly out."
All censorship of curse words is Zone's own, so don't blame us. If you'd like to respond to Zone's new editorial drop him a line via myspace.com/jzoneoldmaid.
THE REASONS TV SUCKS TODAY
As I lay here in bed trying to recover from yet another sports injury I received trying to relive my high school dumbell curling days, I'm presented with 500 channels of current TV shows. I don't watch TV except for basketball and Law & Order SVU, so I'm ignorant to what's out there. Now that I have no choice but to see what is, I must say modern day TV is trash and these network execs need to be placed before a firing squad.
My first beef is TV villains. Back in the day the villain on an hour long cop show would scare the sh*t outta you. Like you couldn't sleep after a Hawaii Five-0 rerun. Wo Fat was evil as a muthaf*cka. That dude was just an ornery muthaf*cka, you'd never want to meet Wo Fat under any circumstance. Ever. Harry-O, McCloud, Rockford Files, shit even Knight Rider. The villains on those shows, you know when they came to your door they weren't sellin no f*ckin Avon and it wasn't no Jehovah Witness either. You were bout to get lumpified real good. They wouldn't even shoot you, they'd just throw knuckles with you and throw you through plate glass windows until you were carried out on a stretcher. No Mapquest, no internet, no digital special F/X, no sh*t. Just a knuckle sandwich and if you were high tech, a walkie talkie. I miss a good a*s whuppin on TV. Even on Murder She Wrote and Columbo, those old ladies were triflin. The b*tch would at least put D-Con roach killer in your coffee or something. Law & Order Criminal Intent? 12 plots in 3 minutes. Some argyle sock wearin tennis buff from Chappaqua is the damn villain on a crime of passion or insurance fraud? Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Even THRUSH, The Joker and KAOS from U.N.C.L.E., Batman and Get Smart, respectively, scared me as a kid and they were f*ckin comedies and cartoons. I keep hearing The Wire is a good show, but I don't have HBO and shouldn't have to have HBO to see some good TV.
If I see one more Emo, V05 Hotlook Gel wearing, N-Sync Max Headroom lookin, TRL pretty boy cop or some Alex P. Keaton, Luke Perry surfer boy playing a serial mudrer…I'm gonna toss this TV out the window of my car next time I'm on the Cross Island Parkway, hopefully the speed destroys any chance of the sh*t working again .
You CANNOT be a carb-conscious onscreen villain. Impossible. Patrick Bateman from Amercian Psycho was the only exception. Picture Wo Fat on the South Beach diet. Not happening. Live hard and die harder, at least when on screen. Real TV villains eat snack packs of trans fat and sh*t out bullets. If those villains died, it was due to a cholesterol induced heart attack. Cause you bet your a*s they never got killed in no scuffle. But some model pretty boy on screen with a Fresca in his hand is the villain. OK.
The young girls already have TRL, Hell Date (dreck), Flavor Of Love, Road Rules, Ugly Betty, Sex In The City (that Gonzo nose hoe gotta go...now), etc. The stiffs have Frasier, Seinfeld and all that other sh*t. On Tuesday night before SVU comes on, I need to get warmed up with some brains against the wall cop show sh*t. What do I get? The Biggest Loser. Dreck.
Is it me or did TV comedies manage to get more buffoonish, yet less funny and arrogant? Say what you want about being PC, but George Jefferson, Fred Sanford and Archie Bunker's racist, sarcastic and offensive brand of humor was closer to what's really on everybody's mind. Let's not sugarcoat it, this ain't We Are The World. I'd rather see George Jefferson and Tom Willis go at it, deep down that addresses what a majority of the people have in the back of their heads, even if it's in good fun. Sweet-N-Low comedy must be quarrantined for the sake of human decency.
Early Def Comedy Jam and Eddie Murphy on Satuday Night Live= classic. Most of the comedians on BET today= good candidates for crash test dummies. And Richard Bey woulda wooped Jerry Springer's a*s in a fair one. I tell you, it all started with UPN 9 and Homeboys From Outerspace…
Posted by Dub G For the past 15 years, Chicano rap has been an underling in the music industry. No television appearances or radio promotion, not even a single magazine interview. All they had in making their music heard were the record stores, the swamp meets, the internet and their fans. Because of their limited involvement and distrust in the music industry, the chances of their music ever being sold in stores or getting reviewed were slim to none. Therefore, trust among fans was heavily required.
When I was a member of the Upstairs Records Forum, I composed a theory as to why Latin Hip Hop and Chicano Rap were forced into these extreme measures. Their topics of everyday life as depicted by the Hispanic rapper affected the public by the way of instant response. If the beat wasn’t hot enough, or if the lyrics weren’t up to par, the artist wouldn’t be worth their time. In the case of a Chicano rapper, if all they talk about is being gangster, there goes their chance of ever making it to Billboard.
I find it very peculiar that the other Latinos in the Hispanic race - Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans and Columbians - are not affected by my proposal. Maybe it’s because their songs have a theme that is easy to understand, or their music style is definitive, top notch and hits a note straight to their heritage, or maybe, just maybe, they all have it better than the Mexicans. All Chicanos do is copy other people’s styles that have existed during the era of music, and apply whatever they have of their Mexican culture to their verses.
What I'm thinking is this: if you're a Mexican-American/Chicano and want to rap your way into the music industry, I say...
Prepare to give up that dream. You will never make it.
The people who work in the music industry get very anal when it comes to a Mexican-American rapper. They don't see no Lil' Demon or Mr. Criminal. They can't understand why Lil' Rob is a "Mexican Gangster", why Mr. Shadow's voice is the "Sound Of A Heata", or why Psycho Realm represents the "Psycho City Blocks". In fact, no one in the industry cares about Chicano Rap, unless you are prepared to talk about Kid Frost. The people knew what "La Raza" was about - a young Mexican-American, blood and spirit of an Aztec warrior, dwelling in the city suburbs of Los Angeles, fearing the other races for donning that skin color that is neither black nor white, and having the courage to stand up for their beliefs. Frost had a N.W.A. motif: rugged, raw and ruthless; he even had the privilege of working with a member of N.W.A. - DJ Yella on the vinyl release "Rough Cut". As N.W.A. became a household name due to their tales of corrupt police brutality in the gangster sense, the industry feared that a Latin gangster saying the same things as N.W.A. would be worse. How worse? Had Kid Frost succeeded, Chicano Rap would have been accepted alongside N.W.A.
Unfortunately, "La Raza" was the only hit single that gave Frost his recognition. What caused his demise? “Thin Line,” a slow jam homage to the 70's hit "Thin Line between Love and Hate" performed by The Persuaders. Combine that, with a disappointing follow-up to his debut platinum release that showcased an eager, strong-willing Mexican rapper, Kid Frost was dropped from Mercury Records.
So what's left for the Mexican-American rapper? One can try cleaning up their image by talking about what their lives are like when they are not clapping their .357's. The Mexicans know how to grill carne asadas; fill up the coolers with Tequila, Pisto and Patron; and dub their girls heinas in hopes of knocking the boots with one such mamacita at a motel. It's all about proving to the mainstream that Mexicans aren't really a bad influence. You have A Lighter Shade of Brown, a Riverside hip hop duo consisting of members ODM (One Dope Mexican) and DTTX (Don’t Try To Xerox). They came into the game as brown and proud "Homies" who followed up their first club hit “Latin Active” with the oldies-influenced “On A Sunday Afternoon,” a take on the 1967 rock hit “Groovin’” by The Young Rascals.
“On A Sunday Afternoon” is helmed as the Latino anthem to perfectly describe an image of la raza having a good time. In fact, the media took this single pretty seriously. There weren’t any hints of gunplay or futile racial disputes in their lyrics; it was just drinking, partying and conversation. ‘92 saw the addition of sex when the Bay Area’s N2Deep crept into the charts with their ode to knocking the boots “Back To The Hotel.” The words were written. Drinking, partying, conversations and sex became the musical stereotypes of a Mexican-American party dude, a Latin Lover. When you think Latin Lovers, you key in singers. The media would feel much safer if a Mexican-American sang his way to stardom instead of rapping, for one spoken verse from a Mexican was all it took to be labeled a gangster. R&B vocalist Frankie J., the man behind the chorus of Baby Bash's "Suga Suga," used to be a member of the famed Latin group Kumbia Kings, well known for their mix of cumbia with R&B and hip hop. Frankie’s ambition was to hit the MTV market as a solo R&B artist, but the Kumbia Kings didn’t like it one bit for it was deemed too risky. He left the group and sent his demos over to various record labels, gaining an incredible number of interest from the A&R’s, along with a slew of lawsuits filed from the Kumbia Kings management, just for wanting to branch out from the Latin market. Funny that it had no effect on Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin. He started out as one fifth of the Puerto Rican pop heartthrobs Menudo, then returned to the music scene some few years later as an adult, blazing the Billboard with his English-Latin crossover smash, "Livin' La Vida Loca." Sex and lust: two of the Latin Lover stereotypes which was noticeable in his debut single, but that didn't stop him. For Frankie J., he just had to deal with talking to highly dedicated Kumbia Kings fans about the departure.
This year, immigration played a nasty role in the music industry. Follow me to Houston, Texas, where Mexican American rapper Chingo Bling takes the cowboy gimmick to a new high. Stylized ostrich boots, baggy blue jeans kept in place with a belt buckle, NBA jersey fitted, teeth grilled – not to mention the broken Spanglish language. At a first glance, he’s your Mexican Weird “Al” Yankovic, but better. He takes the slickness of Slick Rick and transforms your favorite hip hop hits to Mexican-themed parodies. If 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" was sweet and delicious, wait until Chingo took you to his "Taco Shop," where gordita and horchata are more than mere fast food delights. Hurricane Chris screamed "Ay Bay Bay." Chingo responded, "Ay Huey Huey." Not only is he good at mocking the music, he plays pretty well in the marketing business. He sells bobbleheads to rappers, hot sauces and tamales for the food goers, and even coloring books to the children. He's got down with some of the finest rap musicians in the game - whether it's Texas (Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Trae), Florida (Pitbull, Smitty), or New York (Noreaga, T-Weaponz).
Then, there's his political view on immigration. If any of you can remember, on the day of August 14, 2007, you might have been to your favorite record store, where on the shelves stood his newest release, They Can't Deport Us All, a product of Big Chile Enterprises, distributed by Asylum and Warner Bros. The cover with Chingo breakdancing over the U.S. border as he was being changed by a Texas sheriff. This was the album that blazed a rousing discussion over Mexicans of all backgrounds, immigrants and citizens alike. In his album, the Mexicans are being treated as lethargic, lethal Latinos that plan to overrun the U.S. grounds with their gun-toting gangster motifs, while in reality, the average Mexican just wants to live a better life for their family, away from the guns, drugs and gangs. In accordance with conservative journalists and pro-immigration supporters, Chingo Bling is trespassing U.S. soil. Earth to Michelle Malkin: Chingo Bling has no means in promoting immigration, territorial gain or violence.
Speaking of "Taco Shop," let us look at the way how they choose their beats. Many Mexican-American rappers have tried many ways to enter the scene with originality. The question was how to do that. Chicanos couldn't copy what the blacks and whites have already done with their choice sampling or original melodies, so the producers felt necessary to sample the oldies. Not songs that were done in the 80's or 70's that today's famous producers lay out. For example, Kanye West and J Dilla take soul and old-fashioned R&B influences into their singles. Chicanos go further. Some 60's, maybe 50's. The time of the Rock N' Roll Era. You know? Ritchie Valens.
Here are some Oldies throwbacks:
- Mr. Capone-E. All the artists in Hi Power have used Motown music on their songs. "Angel Baby" and "Take A Chance On Me" from Mr. Capone-E are sure standouts. - Lil' Rob. "If You Should Lose Me" featured a sample from Rancid's "Tropical London." "Pachuco's Night" had a snippet of "Dedicated To The One I Love" by The Shirelles. "Natural High" was based on Bloodstone's version of the same name. - Knightowl - "Here Comes The Knightowl" took the stylings of Tony Allen and shaved him bald in the process. - Spanish F.L.Y. - "Soy 18 With A Bullet" was inspired by Pete Wingfield's "Eighteen With A Bullet." - Cypress Hill - The deep drops of "Duke" in "Duke Of Earl" were based on the ones made by Gene Chandler. - Kid Frost - "Thin Line" took on "A Thin Line Between Love And Hate" by The Persuaders.
You can see that a lot of Chicano Rap is influenced by the oldies, or songs that are played on oldies radio stations. Mexicans grew up listening to Ritchie Valens, The Shirelles, Brenton Wood, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Gene Chandler, The Supremes, and other long forgotten legends. It was the only genre that the Hispanics could relate to without being referred to as gangsta rap ripoffs, a criticism that occured when Chicano rap was getting exposure underground from the 90's and into the new millenium. The only people that ever listen to 50’s-60’s rock today are veterans of the Rock N Roll era, so if a Chicano song featured a sample from either War ("Lowrider") or Dion and the Bellmonts ("Teenager In Love"), listeners are going to wonder about the single's longevity. Will it be enough to spark interest, or is Chicano rap phased out like Rock N Roll? That's when they start taking the most drastic road ever taken.
Chicano rap is often looked in the music industry as chameleons. They copy other people's styles and songs that have hit the airwarves so that they can get into the mainstream. Some have even hopped on the band wagon for a rebelled style that is not Mexican called Reggaeton. It is ironic to even mention Reggaeton in this topic, for it was this very subgenre of Latin Hip Hop that gave one Chicano rapper the voice he needed to be heard. I'll explain who that artist is later. Allow me to illustrate two scenarios regarding copying and following:
1. If you copy somebody else's song, not only are you making a mockery of the original artist, you are shaming them, yourself and the fans. "Nothin' But A Southside Thang" by Capone-E and ODM was a disappointment. I say it now and loud. UTTER PIECE OF SHIT. They should have never jacked Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg's classic joint. It's very important to leave timeless tracks like this one alone because they can never be reborn. Kid Frost tried remaking "La Raza" for his East Side Story album, but that song came up empty handed. If they wanted to do a Southside Anthem, do so without copying. Be original. Learn your flows and techniques before taking this dangerous path. We all know how chameleons sound like when they try to blend within their surroundings.
2. If you jump into the band wagon for Reggaeton, chances are, you're going to make it. It did benefit Chingo Bling for his ability to stick to his heritage and mix his lyrical bringers. The one who needed that boost was San Diego rapper Roberto Flores, known to the bald-headed cholos as Lil’ Rob. In 2004, Julio Voltio, protégé of Puerto Rican rap star Tego Calderon, released an exclusive version of “El Bumper” to the syndicated Latin Hip Hop network Pocos Pero Locos. The buzz was phenomenal, for it finally gained the Mexican community the recognition it deserved, after 14 years of semi-successful Chicano rap releases. When summer approached, Lil’ Rob rounded up the calles of San Diego with the help of I.E.’s rising producer Fingazz, and gave us a glimpse into the world of “Summer Nights,” a Chicano version of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime,” Spanish slang, brown pride and all. This is the single you all know and love.
There was a catch. A lot of fans who looked up to him since '95 as a "Mexican Gangster" who lived the "Crazy Life" and celebrated "Pachuco's Night" were aghasted when they heard him on "El Bumper". It did not fit well within the Mexican community. Mexican R&B artists, they can accept. Frankie J. did a remix of "Obsession" with the music duo, Luny Tunes. In the case of Flores, he was put on the hot seat where he faced many of his dedicated fans backing out, claiming that he betrayed the raza by going Puerto Rican and hooking up with the Cubans. What the fans forgot was his undying loyalty to the Chicano lifestyle, and how he was able to keep that going. He appeared on The Game's "My Lowrider," for a respectable eight bars alongside seven other rappers. He was recruited by up and coming R&B singer LaLa for a remake of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Going Back To Cali.” Both of these songs showcase his roots and respect for Chicano rap, yet the fans don't want any part in supporting the artist who jumped on Reggaeton. The perception is, if one person goes Reggaeton when they started out Chicano, they are no longer supporting that artist.
If that was the case, there needed to be a leader, a motivator that would lead these Mexican American rappers in the right direction. If you believed that ex-KPWR radio personnel Khool-Aid and Latin Hip Hop producer E-Dubb were responsible for artists like Lil’ Rob, Baby Bash, Omar Cruz, T-Weaponz and Joell Ortiz to hit the airwaves, you're partially correct. At one point, Chicano rap was under the supervision of Eric "Eazy-E" Wright and his Ruthless Records label. Alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and a fairly unrecognizable will.i.am and apl.de.ap, Eazy E introduced a Mexican trio who went by the names Toker, Wicked and Danger: the Brownside. Wright had a couple of followers in his Ruthless roster: Slow Pain, A.L.T., Sleepy Malo, Mister D, Kid Frost and J.V. He planned for all of these rappers to invade the hip hop scene before the rise of Death Row, Bad Boy and the East-Coast-West-Coast war. His dream, unfortunately, never came to pass when he was diagnosed with AIDS in the year of '95. When Eazy died, so did their chance of getting their music marketed.
The tradition of passing the torch to an absent runner continues to this day. Consider if you will the Pico Rivera, California duo Psycho Realm. The Gonzales brothers, or as you’d call them Sick Jacken and Big Duke, gained a great deal of assistance from B-Real of Cypress Hill. Big steps were about to be made in their ongoing legacy, but when the album was released, conflicts between the group and Sony Records surfaced, signaling their release from the contract. “Moving Through The Streets,” Track 9 off their independent release A War Story, finds Jacken alienated from the industry where only the fans are worthy of their presence:
I'm from the Family, Sick Symphonies, underground crowds are into me Got out the industry cause the label became my enemy It wasn't meant to be, the machine was just trying to censor me Didn't do it for Sony, so they ended up releasing me Independent No longer locked down for an infinity So my vicinity remains true To my identity Sick Jacken Exploiting the sound, verbal attacking Ear drums, from where you're standing, you'll catch the rapping Music Of The Mask, infiltrate past, blast out Your loud speaker, haters get ass, we get the Last Laugh Like Bloodstone Look at the picture Tell me what's wrong Earthquake weather turned L.A. Into a flood zone We dry it up Come with the raw, when we transmit the Rhyme network, Psycho Realm, that's my conecta
In Houston of 2000, Carlos Coy A.K.A. South Park Mexican was making "Power Moves" of his own when Dope House Records got distribution assistance from Universal. He and his independent label were about to get into the major leagues until Universal pulled out. At the time, there was a rumor going around that Coy was molesting children, including his own daughter. It went all the way up to Texas courts, where SPM was confronted and found guilty for aggravated sexual assault – without any need for physical, factual evidence or cross examination. The reason: the jury and the courts did not give him a chance to explain his side of the story. His team had more factual evidence and valid testimony than the prosecutor's, yet the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff. He was sentenced to 40 years at the Texas Department Criminal of Justice. Even during his long term sentence, Coy had the brains and the brawn to write a bank of verses that wound up in the 2006 release, When Devils Strike. Still, SPM feels betrayed.
This is called The Chicano Curse. When a Chicano rap artist emerges, you're hoping for that Mexican American lyricist to hit the mainstream. What prevents the rapper from making an impact is the media's perception of a Mexican performer, the public's view of the Mexican, the codes they go by, the fear of betraying their own race, and the fear of being betrayed. Even if they do make it to the top, there will always be someone in the line that is plotting to take them down, and eventually succeed. Mexicans will always be looked at as the desperate determined immigrant who works at a measley fast food restaurant or at a dangerous chemical plant, lieing, cheating and stealing their way to stardom as if the spirit of WWE Superstar Eddie Guerrero was still within them. The government sees this as a problem, and they intend to protect the United States of America by removing all immigrants from the country - even if it means to deport citizen-born Mexican-Americans like me.
How can we prevent the Chicano Curse from spreading?
Most assume that the life of a rock star’s child is a blessed one. Constantly traveling with the band and living the celebrity life from day one. Sirah’s father traveled with a number of bands, but the rock star lifestyle wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He fell down a path of drug addiction that eventually took his life and his daughter would soon find herself traveling down that same path. For Sirah, however, there was a savior and that savior was, and still is, Hip-Hop.
This just in from www.BallerStatus.com - singer T-Pain was arrested this morning after turning himself in for an outstanding warrant in his hometown of Tallahassee. Pain, real name Faheem Najm, was charged with driving with a suspended license. A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest on June 15th. T-Pain was booked by the police and released on his own recognizance at 7:54 AM. Welcome to the not-so-good life!
Feedback. It’s the one thing labels and artists crave, but some have a very hard time handling when it’s not absolute praise. Some writers only give positive feedback, they are useless. I, as many of you know, have always been a harsh critic and, not surprisingly, I’m equally harsh when it comes to the feedback I give for albums. My feeling is if something stinks I should let them know in the nicest possible way so they can go about improving their skills. The following is an exchange I had last week when a very small indie label’s owner asked me for some feedback. I have redacted the name of the label and the artist because this isn’t about creating a beef, it’s about illustrating a prime example of how not to take feedback and how to hurt an artist’s career.
Poet, playwright, actor, educator, MC, multi-ethnic and multi-faceted, Dyalekt lives his life truly embodying the word Artist. Very little that he does isn’t in the name of some form of art and with all of those things he throws himself into he always finds some way to work Hip-Hop into each and every one of them. A little over a year ago Dyalekt wrote and starred in his own one man Hip-Hop Theater show titled Square Peg Syndrome and now he is ready to release the music from that show, along with some of his other work, on his debut LP. Though he’s currently on tour in Europe with two other members of the Mindspray crew, a Brooklyn based rap group he joined over two years ago, Dyalekt sat down with me before his plane took off to discuss what Square Peg Syndrome is all about, why he feels everyone can relate to it, and how he's utilizing Hip-Hop to create a new way of learning in the classroom.
Taking a look at the current Radio & Records charts, which are the charts that tell us which songs are getting the most airplay, on “urban” music stations six of the top 40 songs, including four of the top 12, feature T-Pain. Apparently the world loves the vocoder, and as much as I hate to admit it the Chris Brown song he guests on, “Kiss Kiss,” is straight fire. Seeing T-Pain singing everyone’s hooks made me want to take a look back to those who blazed the path for him. With that in mind, today I examine the great lineage of the guest vocal in modern Hip-Hop.