DETROIT AN OUTSIDERS PERSPECTIVE

Let's chat about Detroit. The first (and last time) time that I ever visited Detroit was for a family reunion. I was 14 years old and went with my paternal grandmother. She and my grandfather grew up there and moved to southern california before the idea of me, other grandchildren and great grandchildren ever existed. That place was the most depressing place that I had ever seen in my life. This was the 90's, Southern cali was gang land and wearing certain colors could get you rough up or killed, but Cali wasn't hopeless. It was tense. There's a quite a difference and that is what I learned as a 14 year old. I had never been to a city that had weeds the sizes of trees growing out of the freeways. It felt like no one cared about this place. They didn't even care enough to be angry.  Maybe folks use to care about the place, but no one cares about it now. This was the first time that I had ever seen a 7-11 that one could not go in, and was made of bullet proof glass, put the money in the bullet proof plexi turny thing at the counter and then the clerk slides around your change and request. I visited the 'great' Motown museum that looked as though it was falling apart at the seams. I had the opportunity to meet my relatives and see my grandmother be frustrated and annoyed. She's quite a composed lady so this was very rare form for her, but it was something I appreciated. It made her seem like a more dynamic person and I understood that she had made quite a concerted effort not to be in Detroit. This is the same woman who lived in NY and worked as a nurse and at one point even lived in Alaska. That's a different story though. Let's get back to Detroit. Detroit felt like it use to be amazing, a long time ago, and folks kept reminding others that it use to be amazing as the the city is slowly falling apart. It was like showing up to a party 20 years too late. Since that trip I've been facsinated with Detroit...from a distance. It's amazing and bazaar that a place that I have always felt represents many if not most American cities. Industry comes, folks work and live, industry leaves and the folks are stuck. Eventually trains stop rolling through, flights become few and far between, those that can leave do those that can't or won't stay and become forgotten. This seems like it can happen to just about any city in America. I've always felt that If there is a revival for the Motor City it will be spearheaded by artists and DIY folks, both insiders and outsiders. A few years ago when I first caught wind that one could buy a house in in Detroit for the cost of one months NYC rent. My ears perked up a bit and I mentioned to a few friends that we should but a few places near each other and set up shop...but  I wondered if I had enough optimism to actually live in Detroit or if the hopelessness would swallow me.  Well, I guess I decided that the hopelessness would swallow me and decided that it's not my journey right now. In the nature of artists creating awareness I recently saw to documentaries that addressed Detroit...in two different ways. The first one is Searching for Sugar Man. It's a Swedish/British documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul. It is about is an American folk musician Sixto Díaz Rodríguez based in Detroit, Michigan. His career initially proved short-lived with two little-sold albums in the early 1970s and some brief touring in Australia. Unbeknownst to him, however, his work proved extremely successful and influential in South Africa, although he was mistakenly rumoured in that country to have committed suicide. In the 1990s, determined South African fans managed to seek out and contact him, leading to an unexpected revival of his musical career. Their story is told in, Searching for Sugar Man, which has also helped give Rodríguez a measure of fame in the U.S. I enjoyed that Rodríguez continued to live out the themes and views addressed in his music even though his music carreer was pretty much non existant for most of his life. He worked from the inside out and is a bit of a reminder that, it's not a race. It's not linear. It's life and that's all. One more thing...he makes Bob Dylan's music seem like elevator music. A portion of it was shot with an iphone proving that many of us have all the tools we need to create in our pockets...pretty powerful. I saw Detroitopia and was happy to see a documentary that tackled many perspectives on the city of Detroit. Detroitopia focused mainly on the economy and was directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. 'The three Detroiters who are profiled are video blogger Crystal Starr, nightclub owner Tommy Stephens, and United Auto Workers local President George McGregor, each of whom reflect on their own experiences and share their observations about the city, its problems, and its opportunities. Also featured are portions of Mayor Dave Bing's discussions with city officials and residents about the possibility of geographically consolidating Detroit residents as a cost-saving measure. A group of artists, mostly newcomers to Detroit, are shown as well, particularly Steve and Dorota Coy. The Coys, who are performance artists, are featured on the poster and DVD cover for the film.' (info courtesy of wikipedia) The artists they showed kinda annoyed me. I have issues with outsiders being too large of a representative for problem solving. I wish they were working more with the local community (or if that was shown, if they are). That's my own issue though, and overall I was happy to see that the city was thoughtfully and sensitively documented. Detroit may still have a bit of magic left. What are your thoughts?    
Continue Reading

Hip Hop Word Count

In today's music industry, lyrical content is usually overshadowed by the instrumentals of the song or the lyrical content is so downplayed that songs only consist of a few words. Tahir Hemphill is a designer, photographer, and an entrepreneur who is hosting a special project entitled "Hip Hop Word Count."
"The Hip-Hop Word Count is a searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day.The Hip-Hop Word Count describes the technical details of most of your favorite hip-hop songs. This data can then be used to not only figure out interesting stats about the songs themselves, but also describe the culture behind the music. The Hip-Hop Word Count locks in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop."
His goal is to convert his findings into visuals to help us comprehend different cultures; to map a geography of language. For a visual, look at his video. Its interesting to find out what educational level the song you're listenting to is in. Are you songs smarter than a 5th grader?

The Hip-Hop Word Count x Keyword Search from Staple Crops on Vimeo.

Continue Reading

JUNKPRINTS RADIO EP

The promotional campaign is officially on!!! I Love music....no, I really love music. In a time like this, when hipsterism and the fear of being a hater have tainted our judgment on the music we like, I have decided to make ya'll a lil mix tape. I swear if I hear one more person say "I love all kinds of music and have 8 terabytes of everything including songs that don't even exist yet" or something along those lines I'm going to puke! C'mon son, we all know you have like 10 songs that you play on repeat...don't be ashamed, it's okay to have a preference. I have preferences and want to share them with you (like I always do ;). So here's the story of the EP, some of the tracks I kinda begged for, and some were inspired by a retarded long list of songs I was really feeling that month. I distributed the list to my super talented musician pals, kinda made them work together under the direction of Mr. Tough Dumplin and they returned with this.  This project was filled with many late nights on the roof of an undisclosed Red Hook building, a stuffy Kensington Bedroom Room, coast to coast chit chats,  jokes, tears, new friendships and old ones. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do and tons of love and thx to all the musicians on Junkyard Radio! Junkprints Radio Vol. 17

The following is the track listing and here's a link to the whole thing! Now ya'll know that this project wouldn't be complete with nifty packaging and a collection of merchandise including apparel, skate decks accessories and shoes inspired by the ep. This limited edition Cassette tape USB is free with selected online purchases. 1. Two Weeks by Earl Greyhound Vocals: Matt Whyte & Kamara Thomas Guitar: Matt Whyte Bass: Kamara Thomas Drums: Chris Bear http://www.earlgreyhound.com/ 2. Brooklyn Breeze Lyrics & Vocals: Dana Athens Production: Brian "Raydar" Ellis & Lee Turley for The Faculty Enterprise http://www.myspace.com/danaathens http://www.revivalistmusic.com 3. Let It Fly Lyrics & Vocals: Raydar Ellis,Tough Dumplin Teen Beats, R.ME George Reefah Production:  Brian "Raydar" Ellis & Lee Turley For The Faculty Enterprise Bass: Lee Turley Additional Keyboards & Sounds : Lee Turley http://www.revivalistmusic.com http://www.toughdumplin.com http://www.myspace.com/rebelsmusicempire http://www.georgereefah.com 4. JunkYard Radio Lyrics, Vocals & Production: Brownbird Rudy Relic http://brownbirdrudyrelic.blogspot.com/ 5. Toro Toro Toro - Remix Vocals & Lyrics: Lisa Marr Original version appeared on the EP "Soda and Lisa Sing You Some Songs" Remix Production:  Shahab Zargari http://www.lisamarr.org http://flavors.me/shahab 6. Rolla Skatin' - Remix Lyrics & Vocals: Manchilde feat. Tough Dumplin & R.ME Production: Think Twice http://www.manchilde.com http://www.toughdumplin.com http://www.myspace.com/rebelsmusicempire 7. Fighting Discrimination Lyrics & Vocals: A very nice guy Production: Tough Dumplin http://www.toughdumplin.com 8. Kate Goes to Jail Lyrics & Vocals: Teen Beats feat. Eliki Production: Teen Beats www.soundcloud.com/teenbeats 9. Brooklyn35 by Tough Dumplin & TBD Production: Tough Dumplin http://www.toughdumplin.com
Continue Reading

FIRST EVER OPEN STUDIO!

Happy end of summer! In conjunction with Fashion's Night Out, I'm hosting my first ever open studio shopping extravaganza and I'd like to invite you and yours to the festivities. I'll be debuting some new Junkprints artwork and clothing in the new Junkprints studio: The Junkyard! The night wouldn't be complete with out DJ spinning, baked goodies, door prized. The festivities are free. Please RSVP so we'll know if we should be baking a wedding sized cake or a muffin. WHEN: September 10th 2010 from 6p-11p WHERE: 66 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11205, Btwn Flushing and Park Ave in the Navy Yard region of Brooklyn. COST: FREE!! For the last few years Junkprints has been dedicated to pushing the boundaries of art and fashion through textile exploration, subversive graphics and clever juxtapositions. Recently we even had a feature in the New York Times. This whole Junkprints adventure has been quite whirlwind and I'm looking forward showing off the new junk and sharing this special evening with you 😉
Continue Reading

Acceptable Coonery

Every once in while I find my self making a conscious effort to not be  a negative stereotype of a black person...and then I feel super silly about it, because I can't fully control how folks will or won't react to things and that type of over analysis is retarded. With that being said, I am particular about who I'll eat watermelon in front of...I ain't no coon, I'm just sayin. I love (and hate) my hip hop music and must admit that I jam out to alot of things I can't co-sign on and have taken the liberty to compile a short, non complete list of extreme cases. 1. Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't have None) by Snoop Can't say that I've ever tried to convince my lovers to make Mclovin' with my homies, but hey, what ever floats your boat. 2. Ante Up by M.O.P. Honestly I never find my kidnapping people, but do consider it as a career option when I hear this. 3. Anything by the Clipse Generational drug dealing is always makes for entertaining dinner conversations 4. Just about anything DJ Quick has ever said. I consider my self to an educated, well rounded, cultured gal, and these def do not fit in with my feminist views but I love them to pieces and the only justification I can give for this, is that I love the stories. Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily compare Ante Up with the Bicycle Thief,  or Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart but they all tell  engaging  stories. What music do you get engaged with but don’t relate to?
Continue Reading

Copyright, Copyleft

I recently watch a very interesting movie called , RiP! A Remix Manifesto. It touches down on the bases of old copyright laws, common copyright laws, illegal downloading, and how our freedom to reuse music and art is being taken away. It had interviews by musicians, artist, and of people who got into trouble because of that lost of freedom. I mean, for centuries people have been recycling music into something new, I don’t see why it has became such a major problem. Someone influences someone, and recycling an old piece of music into something new I find it as a way to capture history. Also, I think it's cool to see how many versions of a song can be remixed into something totally new and fresh.
Continue Reading

Art Installation: Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’m Yours”

At my old school sometimes I would study in the student center which featured just about anything a college student would need including a Starbucks, food court, a lot of seating area, a game room, and a lone piano on the second floor. Sometimes a brave individual would play a medley of songs that could be heard on multiple floors. It often reminded me of the Nordstrom department store where you could always find a pianist performing while you shopped. One day I went to study in the center and was able to score one of the coveted tables on the second floor. Just as I was getting into the groove of studying somebody begins to play the piano on the second floor. It would have been lovely because I like to study to the sounds of contemporary jazz anyway, but this so-called pianist was horrible. I almost began to feel embarassed for him because people began to shout at him, but then I remembered I had two finals to take the next day and he was distracting me. Cue imaginary laser beams of disgust from my eyes. I was reminded of that time recently when I read about an art installation in New York by artist Luke Jerram. Luke Jerram is a British artist who works through a variety of mediums including sculptures, live art, and installations. If you are in the New York area between now through July 5th  be sure to check it out "Play Me, I'm Yours". For this installation Jerram installed sixty pianos around Manhattan and its surrounding areas for anyone to play from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Even Cyndi Lauper has performed at one of the locations. If you are interested in tickling the ivories yourself in public then click here for piano locations.
Continue Reading

Music Monday: What Does Your Ringtone Say About You?

Ouch.
I've always found ringtones fascinating because I think that the ringtone a person chooses says a lot about them. I have only and will only have one ringtone and that is "Push It" by Salt and Pepper. Now what does this ringtone say about me?
  1. I'm a bit wild.
  2. I like to party.
  3. I'm stuck in the 80s.
  4. Call me for a good time.
Now that I think about it. My ringtone doesn't describe me well at all because in reality:
  1. Other than having a smart mouth, I'm pretty tame.
  2. I rather stay in than party all the time.
  3. I didn't get to experience the 80s because I was born in 1990.
  4. Please don't call me.
Nevertheless, I love my ringtone because it sounds great even though I forget to put my phone on silent at the most inappropriate times. Thus creating a party wherever (and I do mean wherever) I go. I'm curious. What is your current ringtone and what do you think it says about you?
Continue Reading

Music Monday: Competition in Hip-Hop…a very,very brief synopsis.

Before I get into the topic at hand I have to first caution you that I am in no way, shape, or form a music expert. I am just a fan of sounds who likes to watch too many documentaries on the history of music. So, feel free to disagree with anything I write because it's the American way. Okay, now I'm ready. Is it just me, or is hip-hop the most competitive music genre of them all? I guess I should differentiate the titles "hip-hop" and "rap" before I continue because they always seem to get mixed up. Personally, I would define rap music as a sub-genre of hip-hop. Some people have said all hip-hop is rap, but not all rap is hip-hop. Hip-hop pioneer KRS-One once said, "Rap is something you do, but hip-hop is something you live." So when I say "hip-hop" I am also referring to "rap". Since its conception hip-hop has always had its share of conflict. Most notable are the "beefs" or grudges between artists. I would call them emcees or rappers, but then I would have to define the differences between the two because there are definitely differences. This whole post can get off topic fast, so bear with me here. Hip-hop artists have always tried to battle each other for the either the top spot on the charts or the top spot in the streets. You never see artists in other music genres act as hostile towards each other as hip-hop artists. Have you ever heard of diss record from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones? No. Other than the diss song that the Dixie Chicks recorded about country crooner Toby Keith I would say that most artists of other genres tend to support each other or at least tolerate each other at award shows. I will also admit that there have been rivalries in rock music between band members, but at least they keep it in the "family" and none of their grudges have ended in death. Nowadays hip-hop beefs are encouraged more than ever with lists like MTV's "Hottest MCs in the Game" pitting artists against each other by ranking the top ten rappers (in their opinion) of the year. There are various reasons that hip-hop as a musical genre is the most competitive. These reasons include the egos of the artists, a desire for the artists to showoff their lyrical prowess, a deep dislike of other artists, and a need to separate themselves from others in the genre. For many young people music is the only way they think they can make it in the world. Who would blame them for thinking this when famous artists like T-Pain walk around wearing a dumb $400,000 "Big Ass Chain" . By starting beefs emerging artists are able to create a name for themselves in the industry. Starting random beefs with other artists is actually how 50 Cent got his start. The question now is whether or not competition is healthy for the hip-hop community. A positive aspect of competition is that it forces the artist to try to better themselves lyrically in order to become more notable. However, competitiveness often takes a turn for the worse in hip-hop when it goes from the recording studio to the streets (or, the Source Awards). It would be more beneficial for hip-hop artists to support each other and work together in more ways than collaborating on a DJ Khaled record. I think that Russell Simmons had the right idea with The Hip-Hop Summit, but there is more that needs to be done. Artists need to learn that there are other ways to become successful in the music industry that do not include creating beefs with other people who are after the same goal. Starting beefs may seem like a easy way to the top, but it won't help you stay at the top. I'll just end this here before I get lost in my own thoughts, but I would like to pose this question to you: Do you think competition in music is healthy for the hip-hop community?
Continue Reading