By Jean Chung
Hip-hop is more than just a category, or a type of music, it is a
lifestyle. Composed of music, dance, rap and djing it is unquestionably a
unique and creative genre. Unfortunately, its image and true meaning
tends to become distorted through the modern filter of superficiality.
People tend to forget the message it originally conveyed. Of which is
the hip-hop I know, but the one portrayed on TV or Music Videos strays
style became noticed because of its uniquely distinct and creative
nature. The way the dancers embodied feelings and beliefs had truly
never been seen before. But now, everyone lies to him or herself.
Although said to be genuine and seemingly real, a majority of modern
hip-hop is solely developed to appease audiences. Ultimately ignoring
the individual importance the art stresses in its framework. The once
important thoughts and emotions are no longer expressed, but instead the
most entertaining trend at the time is.
In adhering to the public, the need for perfection has become
vital. These demands have prompted the need for editing flaws and add
fictional skill. However, this takes away from the beauty of the genre,
the struggle. In which hours upon hours are spent getting better and
nailing the moves, but today’s computer has made such dedication
unnecessary. Such alternatives really take away from the purpose and
meaning of the dance and its process.
To some, hip-hop is all about the old school. They bring it back to
the more primitive side, without the champagne, Escalades, grills, or
money. The intention was simply to have an outlet of expression to
embrace their cultural and artistic roots. With lacking such a motive,
modern hip-hop has been forced to conform to the public’s interests as a
means of making money and attaining fame are dependent on that very
DJing, breakdancing, rapping, and graffiti art aren’t the only
things that make people part of hip. They are simply the most commonly
ascertained forms, but there is much more to each one than meets the
eye. Being a Dj is much more than just standing above the crowd playing
random music, but the role also entails creating beats, mixing vocals
and instrumentals, and producing music.
Another one of its many faces is dance. For individuals, dance is a
release. A release of the energy accumulated from the primitive
instincts of moving to the rhythm and becoming part of the music. In
this way, one becomes closer to the beat, and the same time, displaying
another side of themselves. To be true to dance, it must become the
expression of love for music.
Rap is commonly noted to be the main factor that devalues the
reputation of hip-hop. As for the quality of rap, it has not degraded,
yet the music choice streaming radios has. The many talented underground
artists are neglected and unappreciated for this reason. The connection
between them and the radio opens doors for such judgment and
separation. Rapping a verse in itself tells a story, contains
psychedelic lyrics and instrumentals, and has no parameters as to what
it can be about. It, along with dancing, is the single form of hip-hop
that can be created in a stream of consciousness mindset.
Here is an example:
I put the needle to the groove and let my physical move
To these deep funky rhythms that uplift my mood
Flippin' through tunes and stacks of wax for quality
Addicted to vinyl and my only cure is poverty
Getting fingers dusty in a number of states
Is the thrill the kill or hunt for chase
Catch me diggin in crates for fatter breaks than Pangaea
Making beats for streets creating a buzz like sangria
Searching groove merchants and virgin soil for soul
Unearthing those beats that make your body lose control
And it don't stop a story telling never ending
Cali's the setting the plots a pot forever melting
Connecting cultures, through music it's amusing
Disk jockeys rock parties and it's records they're using
Awesome feeling my nodding head forecasts
It's the beats, no the vibes, man I can't hold back
Special Thanks to:
George C. Stower
By Christian Romo
It isn’t a good idea to idolize heroin addicts. Most of the people that saw Kurt Cobain’s arrival as the coming of the next prophet in the early 90’s are six feet under with the Nirvana singer himself. Musicians should never be placed on pedestals reserved for peacemakers and saints, especially when knowing all the risks, the drugs they ingested are what killed them.
Bradley Nowell is no exception. It’s easy to see why so many fans are turned off by Sublime, the second most important band from southern California (behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers), according to the two-headed monster KROQ. By the time his band’s major label debut and critically successful self-titled album came out, he was dead. He appears to have written more love songs for his Dalmatian Lou Dog than for anyone else. He smoked marijuana unapologetically and romanticized the seaside ghettos of Southern California. He certainly wasn’t popular among parents, and he was even discredited by his own fan base after a disastrous live tour following their debut album 40 oz. to Freedom.
When you separate the bad from the beautiful, however, perceptions change dramatically. Going through the track list for their commercial smash, I count no less than eight different songs I have heard on California radio stations in my short lifespan, enough singles to fulfill three or four hit albums, much less one. While many focus on debauchery, substances, and irresponsibility, there is enough brief wisdom to fill a Zen gospel on life.
Their debut hit “What I Got”, besides being one of the happiest tunes of the decade, is overflowing with emotional prosperity (“life is too short/so love the one you got/’cause you might get run over/or you might get shot”). The anthemic “Jailhouse” gives the best case for the young and dejected I’ve ever heard. Bradley is an emotional writer, and if you can’t hear his urgency on their most famous track “Santeria”, there is no way you can be alive.
There’s plenty of disrespectful fun as usual for the Long Beach icons. “April 29th, 1992 (Miami)” describes a fictional riot during the Rodney King incident. “Wrong Way” and “Caress Me Down” had to go through some clever repackaging and heavy censorship to ride the airwaves, but both are classics in the neo-punk movement of the 90’s.
Besides writing about some challenging topics, Sublime became the mastheads for white reggae because they were competent musicians who knew what sounded good. Every bassline is prominent and silky smooth, every guitar solo pitch-perfect, and every drumbeat reminiscent enough of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. On “Seed”, they effortlessly alternate amongst punk, reggae, and ska without losing any intensity, a challenge for the most poised musicians, much less beach rats.
At 17 songs and nearly an hour long, there are a few songs that could have been left off. “The Ballad of Johnny Butt” and “Burritos” are worth a listen but nothing else, while “Pawn Shop” and “Under My Voodoo” should have been nixed entirely. If you’re patient enough to get to the end, however, you will be treated with some beautiful work. “Get Ready” is the best hammock track on the album and the “What I Got” reprise happens to better than the single itself. Ending the already fantastic album is “Doin’ Time”, a staple of bonfires and beach parties and quite possibly the best summer song ever composed.
While you shouldn’t idolize heroin addicts, if they preach about love and happiness in poverty, by all means listen. Bradley Nowell is not a saint, but at times he sure sounds like one.
By Daniel Gong
On March 15, 2011, the world lost one of hip hop’s icons. Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, known as “Nate Dogg,” who made his presence during the G Funk era, passed away from several health complications. Nate Dogg had suffered two strokes over the last few years and was in the process of rehabilitation until he succumbed to congestive heart failure.
Nate Dogg was born on August 19, 1969 in Long Beach, California, where he met and befriended hip hop legend Snoop Dogg. Only a few years after, the duo teamed up with Warren G in 1991 to form their group known as “213.” After debuting on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Nate Dogg signed with Death Row Records in 1993. In addition to his four solo studio albums, such as G-Funk Classics: Vol. 1 & 2 and Music & Me, Nate Dogg has worked with some of hip hop’s biggest names such as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Warren G, Xzhibit, Eminem, and many others.
His unique soulful voice made Nate Dogg an icon of 90’s rap. Although he was not as publicly acclaimed as his counterparts, Nate Dogg has influenced hip hop just as much, if not more, than his partners at Death Row Records. His death has touched many artists as tributes from Eminem, Snoop Dog, Daz Dillinger, Warren G, Ice-T, Ludacris, and many others, have poured in. The Game has already released a track in Nate Dogg’s honor entitled “All Doggs Go To Heaven (RIP Nate Dogg).” As Snoop Dogg said “We have lost a true legend in hip hop and R&B.”
By Christian Romo
The first minute or so of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill seems innocent enough. A teacher calls roll in a classroom and all of the children are present except for a young Lauryn Hill. The rest of the album is dedicated to her “miseducation” by omission. Attending a spontaneous grammar school lecture about love may have robbed her of the material that created this wonderful album, but it also may have given her the wisdom to avoid the tumultuous romantic events of her life. After all, there is only one Lauryn Hill album, and as great as it is, no artist should be reduced to one piece of work.
Although the album is considered the crowning achievement of the neo-soul movement of the 1990’s, it can also claim the title of one of the best records of the 90’s and one of the best female solo records ever. It’s hard to imagine any artist as talented or conflicted as Hill, one of the few that can flow and belt with the best of the best. Her opener “Lost Ones” shows a Missy Elliot confidence and the ability to shred any male challenger to pieces with her strength, wordplay, and insight.
“Ex-Factor” is a heart-wrenching and simultaneously beautiful song that presents a songwriting talent matched only by the most pitiful in the music industry. “To Zion” is her heart-over-matters blast of feminism that is equally praiseworthy and disappointing (she has stopped recording due to her duties as a parent).
As the album continues, pieces of the lecture on love are interspersed between songs making it seem as if the tracks themselves are the filler to the simple childlike wisdom on love. “When it Hurts So Bad” and “Nothing Even Matters” are Hill’s consequences of her unexplained truancy, and though it seems she has learned her lessons (through “Doo Wop (That Thing)” her #1 single), she had to go through an immeasurable amount of pain to attain them.
Songs like “Every Ghetto, Every City” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)” are endlessly fun and show that Hill has the ability to spread her gospel through the boomboxes of the city and the nationwide waves of Clear Channel. Her rapping talent is spread throughout, notably on the haunting “Final Hour” and the swaying “Superstar”, and her voice, though not at a diva level, can be simply beautiful at times.
Between “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Superstar” is the most important line of the album: “There’s a difference between loving someone and being in love with them”. Delivered by any ten-year old girl your imagination creates, it props up the energy and leaves the lecturer speechless. It’s the centerpiece of the album, and though Hill does an admirable job of trying to match that girl’s bliss, her impressive endeavor can’t help but land short.
Some other noteworthy tracks include “Everything is Everything” and “Forgive Them Father”, but her most impressive effort is her cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”. It’s full of the passion that Frankie Valli lacked when he first recorded the American standard, and Hill’s version far surpasses his and the hundreds of covers made since.
As was the problem of many classic 90’s albums, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is way too long to listen to in one sitting. Fortunately, like the Gospel, there is no one way to take it in. Shuffling the tracks or even picking and choosing when and what you listen to will prove to be just as gratifying as weathering it from cover to cover. Lauryn Hill is not Jesus Christ, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the one who understands his pain and love the best.
By Christian Romo
Expectations are always high for the greatest band in the universe, but the energy surrounding the release of The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s eighth studio album, seemed suspiciously subdued. After the biggest social experiment/gimmick in digital music history brought their 2007 album In Rainbows to new heights, there seemed to be very little left for Thom Yorke and company to offer.
After another four year gap between albums, the band’s website last Monday announced the release of an eight-song LP for the end of the week. There is no “pay what you want” option; you have to shell out a reasonable nine dollars to obtain the music. For a small fortune, you could purchase what is being called the first “Newspaper Album”, complete with the album in every format imaginable packed with hundreds of pictures, news clippings, and goodies that no one will know until it ships in late Spring. Until then, we only have the digital form of the album.
And oh, what an album it is. As underwhelming as it was, In Rainbows seemed to be a return to form for the band, and The King of Limbs is a marked improvement.
The opener “Bloom” feels like the score for a modern rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and although it’s not a classic Radiohead opener, it catches the listener’s attention better than “15 Step” or “2 + 2 = 5” ever did. “Morning Mr. Magpie” is dull and a bit evocative of their previous efforts, but it is the only valley in an album with numerous peaks.
The band is composed of some of the best musicians around, but the real star is Phil Selway on the drums, who constructs and presents such complicated but enjoyable beats with precision. The album seems to be produced tightly in order to allow Selway’s ability on his kit to shine.
“Little by Little” demonstrates a godly reluctance to guitar riffs and Yorke’s trademark backhanded compliments (“I’m such a tease, you’re such a flirt”). The only reasonable single, “Lotus Flower”, is mesmerizing. The hooks are among their best in a decade and Yorke’s falsetto, though incomprehensible, is like honey.
“Feral” and “Codex” are fresh and worth a listen, but the most striking originality can be found on “Give up the Ghost”. With their one requisite song featuring an acoustic guitar, Yorke shows a vulnerable side we haven’t seen in ages. It’s haunting, revealing, and the song that will wear out your repeat button (if those still exist).
The album’s closer “Separator” is as uplifting as anything released within the last year. Selway kicks it off with a line worthy of a pantomime and by the time guitarist Johnny Greenwood joins in with his melody, it feels like a song a monk would burn onto a mix CD. It feels like transcendence itself, and the album ends with two possible reactions. One: you wish Radiohead would spend four years making an album longer than your average cartoon episode. Two: you’re glad they didn’t, because it seems unreasonable to expect something better than this.
The King of Limbs is not going to make any publication’s “Greatest Albums” list, but it is further evidence that after 20 years the greatest band in the universe has yet to show any signs of deterioration. B+
by Daniel Gong
In an era of music where synthesized instrumentation floods our radios, music production has never been more important. In today’s music industry, the quality of the beats, or song instrumentals, is perhaps the most important aspect of a song that catches the listener’s ear. The beat has to be catchy, yet with enough variation to keep the listener interested. Where do these beats come from, then?
From a simplistic aspect, artists choose from a massive pool of beats from many music producers. Although most famous artists have production contracts with well known producers, such as Kanye West and The Neptunes, some of these artists pick beats from small, unknown producers. For example, the beat for “We Made You” by Eminem was found on a producer network website. Since Eminem liked what he heard, he purchased the license for the beat and put out the hit single.
How much exactly do these beats cost? For smaller producers who license their beats from small websites, the full rights to a beat are generally a few hundred dollars. However, for some of the industry’s biggest producers, such as Dr. Dre, beats can cost several hundred thousands of dollars. For example, Mary J. Blige purchased the beat for her hit “Family Affair” for $500,000 from Dr. Dre. In addition, Dr. Dre collected over $2,000,000 in royalties, a percentage of the song’s revenue, just for that single. Yes, Mary J. Blige did make millions off of her hit, but it was at a high cost. With beats at such a high price, it can be a very risky investment for an artist. Sometimes an artist is unable to break even from the costs of the beat among many other expenses.
Unfortunately, much of music politics plays a role, so many artists forgo handpicking their own beats for their songs. There are artists who produce much of their own music, such as Kanye West and Soulja Boy. However, most artists rely on the various music producers for their instrumentals. Unfortunately, while artists receive such high acclamation and attention, the importance of the producer is overlooked. While most people can name a long list of artists, they can only name a handful of music producers. All in all, it is important to understand the long process and the many people involved in a song’s success. The artist is often the face of their success, but it is important not to forget the music producers, promoters, managers, and the many others that make it all work.
In a move that should have been executed years ago, the Super Bowl officials finally invited the Black Eyed Peas to entertain for the halftime show. After years of snooze-worthy classic rock (minus Bruce Springsteen, who was phenomenal) they finally wised up and brought in a group with energy.
Although it’s hard to think of an act more fitting to the Super Bowl than the Peas, they were better than previous years, but completely underwhelming. All of the costumes, except for Fergie’s, were cheesy and the vocals robotic. The addition of Slash was not necessary, though I was pleasantly surprised by Usher descending from the scoreboard.
The dancing box-heads at the end were fun, but overall, they could have done better. Let’s just hope they don’t revert back to fifty year olds with guitars.
By Daniel Gong
When people hear the term “underground” music, they generally think of artists who remain in the “underground” because they are not skilled enough to sign to a major label and “make it big.” Although song concepts vary in all directions, generally underground artists create music that expresses who they are and what they believe in, whether it is on social issues, political issues, etc. Though the underground scene is present in all genres of music, I will be focusing on underground hip-hop.
Despite not being mainstream, underground hip hop presents rap music of all moods and styles, from the speedy flow of Tech N9ne to the gritty sound of Vinnie Paz. The underground contains an infinite number of extremely talented rappers, most who will go unknown to the general public. How can such talent be limited to the ears of underground fans?
Artists, such as Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy, are mainstream because they are signed to major labels, which focus on providing music that is popular to the public, hence the term “pop.” However, with immense amounts of money at stake, labels direct artists to create music that is easiest to market. These mainstream artists are played on the radio, and although they reflect but a fraction of hip hop music, many never hear anything else. Many people define hip hop music based on only one of the many aspects of the music.
So why do people stay in the underground? They choose to remain independent to continue making music they love and do not allow money to interfere. This is not to say that artists in the mainstream do not make music they love, but just that some artists choose to continue their music, which does not always follow the trends of the music industry. These trends however affect underground hip hop as well, as some rap may be coined “underground” in different eras.
However, staying in the underground does present many hardships for artists and producers alike. As a member of the underground scene, I have encountered numerous artists who are suffering from financial woes while continuing to create the music they love. I have the utmost respect for these artists who stay true to their styles, despite the many obstacles. As hard as it may be to be financially successful in the underground, many artists have done so. Some of the underground’s biggest artists, to name a few, like Tech N9ne, Jurassic 5, Brother Ali, all live very successful lives; both financially and musically. So the next time, try the underground music scene and perhaps you will like something you’ve never heard before.
By Julian Vischer
I’ve never seen anything like it. It was awesome. It was incredible. How was Roger Waters’ The Wall Tour? It completely blew my mind.
The concert begins with a partially built wall onstage blown to bits by a roaring B-52 bomber plane and jets of fire shooting out from sides of the stage. Waters progresses through the album that bears the name of the tour, slowly rebuilding the wall, which represents isolation from the outside world. In The Wall, the main character Pink’s own wall is built up by figures in his life like his grade school teacher, his mother, and a former lover, each of whom arrive onstage as massive blow-up creatures.
The first of these characters is the teacher, which appears in “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and with “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”, children also ran out onstage. In this tour, Waters took a fairly positive approach, incorporating some optimism for the future as the children beat back the looming teacher while forcing him out of the wall.
The next scene is “Mother” in which Pink’s mother arrives onstage to “help build the wall”. The song opens with footage from Waters in 1980 (the last time Pink Floyd put on “The Wall Tour”), and flashes different messages across the wall like “Big Mother is Watching You” and “Mother Knows Best”.
In “Young Lust”, the final of the inflatable monsters appears onstage. Pink’s lover is depicted as a gigantic praying mantis, seducing him in and distracting him as the wall continues to be built right behind him. In the last song of the first act, the wall is almost completely built. As Waters croaks out the final “goodbye”, the final brick is placed in the wall.
In the second act, the wall begins to fall. In “Vera”, incredibly touching videos of soldiers returning from war to surprise their children at school are played on the wall. “Bring the Boys Back Home” depicts images of war with the inspirational anti-war quotes.
Next came one of the greatest rock songs ever written. Waters did not fall short in any sense with “Comfortably Numb”. He wailed the lyrics perfectly as guitarist Snowy White completely nailed the solo.
After “Comfortably Numb”, the famous crossed hammer symbol took over the wall. Footage from “The Wall” movie was portrayed as hammers marched across the stage in “Run Like Hell”. Also, one of the most memorable Pink Floyd logo, the pig, floated out above the audience.
Finally, “The Trial” consisted of almost entirely footage from the movie. At the end of the song, the wall was finally “torn down” as bricks crashed to the stage. Waters and the band performed “Outside the Wall” amidst the rubble and the final notes of the saxophone rang out as the band exited the stage.
Overall, the music and visuals were completely awe-inspiring. However, Waters’ politics in the concert were a little much for me. For example, the image of B-52 bombers dropping religious symbols, company logos, and political emblems onto American suburbs was shown up on the wall during “Goodbye Blue Sky”. His images of starving African children and abused Afghani women were stirring, but what was he trying to prove? Was this an attempt to inform the audience that there is evil in the world? It tied in nicely with the concert, but the message sent was very shallow.
However, through all of Waters’s politics and anti-establishment propaganda, there is a clear idea that can be taken. It is easy to see walls being built in American society now more than ever. It is about time for our walls to be torn down again, and Waters’ tour couldn’t have come at a better time. A-
By Matt Ramirez
It is quite natural that most bands, if not all bands, want to “make it big”. Many feel that in order to do so, they need a well-known record label behind them in order to achieve this goal. Yet, as time has proven to us again and again, this is obviously not the right mentality to have when starting a career in music.
Let’s cut to famed musician and mastermind behind one of the most popular industrial bands, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who originally signed with the now bought-out TVT Records. While working on his first album, Pretty Hate Machine, the label forced him to work with producers that he did not want to work with.
During the Lollapalooza tour, TVT recorded his live performances without permission and released a ten song live EP in the U.S. entitled Head Like A Hole. Reznor claimed that he should have received more royalties from the sales of Head Like A Hole because, according to contract, he should have received a payment as though it was an album, not an EP. TVT disagreed.
Reznor continued to tour in order to bring in money without having to make another album for TVT and recorded his next album, Broken, in secret with the personal funds he raised during the first Lollapalooza tour. He would eventually leave TVT.
This is just one publicized example of many different types of fallout with artists and their record labels. Many labels have forced bands to make the type of album that “sells”, not necessarily what the band wants to make. In fact, during contract signings, many of these so-called “business tycoons” hide specific clauses within the contract, which allows them to get away with such nonsense.
For example, a band may make an album that will sell in the market for $20. Yet, the band only makes 80 cents for every album sold. On top of that, the band has to pay the label back the money they lent them in order to make the album. Finally, to put the final nail in the coffin, the label owns the album, not the artist. Digital stores like iTunes don’t give the artist any more leverage; Apple still reaps over 90% of the profits earned from the record sale. Am I missing something here?
When signing a record deal, a band has to be extremely careful as to what they are signing up for. Now, in order to get away from all of that hassle, many bands are moving to indie labels or even going as far as creating their own labels in an effort to escape the corporate chains and greed. Doing so gives these artists the artistic freedom without trying to conform to the label’s demands and becoming slaves of their own work.
The music industry is an ever-changing entity within our entertainment world. It is up to these creative geniuses to find a way “around the system”. And now, my unwarranted advice: By all means, go ahead and make a record deal with a major record label. You may succeed, but it may cost you as well, financially and musically. If not, go for indie labels. However, since they are not well-known, be prepared to become your own marketer.