Colorlines: Why We Need (Real) Gangsta Rap Right Now

This is a pretty good article penned by long time journalist Eric Arnold where he talks about the deliberate de-politicization of  rap and the rise of gangsta rap..It was in response to an erroneous article that came out a a couple of months back where the writer claimed gangsta rap had gone mainstream..-Davey D-

Eric k Arnold

The story is an all-too-familiar one: On Labor Day weekend, a Guatemalan immigrant named Manuel Jamines was shot in the head and killed by LAPD officers. The police claim the man charged at them with a knife, but at least one eyewitness says he was unarmed. The killing has inflamed long-simmering tensions between the police and immigrant and minority communities in Los Angeles, resulting in protests and arrests. Adding fuel to the trash-can fires are reports that the officer was involved in at least two previous shootings.

Jamines’ story comes as part of what seems an unending line of police violence against black and brown folks, from Oscar Grant in Oakland to Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit to systematic racial profiling in Brooklyn. At a time like this, when calls for police accountability are rumbling from grassroots activists coast to coast, our movement for justice needs a soundtrack. It needs music created from the same inner-city streets whose residents have borne the brunt of police brutality since before Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It needs gangsta rap.

Some critics have hastily written gangsta rap’s obituary. But in 2010, the genre remains a commercial force; what has declined is its gravitas as protest music. Once outspoken on the subject of police violence, in recent years, hip-hop broadly has been all but silent on politics of any sort, at least from a mainstream perspective. Back in the days, gangsta rappers faced off against label executives in corporate boardrooms over freedom of speech; now they entertain marketing meetings over energy drink endorsements.

This change didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen on its own. The de-fanging of gangsta rap has paralleled the corporatization of hip-hop—and the resulting de-politicization of what was once an inherently political art form.

continue reading this article over at Colorlines.

DJ Quik’s Diva-Like Behavior at Ruby Skye

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DJ Quik’s Diva-Like Behavior

By Eric Arnold in Clubs, Music
Friday, Jun. 12 2009 @ 10:35AM

Is “Amerika’s Most Complete Artist” also a complete diva? Last night’s Ruby Skye show –featuring Quik, Kurupt, the Kev Choice Ensemble, and Trackademicks–was, from the look of things, a wholly entertaining concert, featuring not one but two live bands, two classic West Coast artists, and an undercard of some of the Bay’s finest emerging talent. Appearing onstage in a tuxedo, a ponytailed Quik definitely gave his fans their $30 worth (though the same could not be said of the venue’s $7 12-oz. beers), even if he was outshined somewhat by Kurupt (whose classics, among them “New York, New York,” XXplosive,” and “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” earned a more enthusiastic audience response than Quik’s “Tonite” and “Born and Raised in Compton”).

However, according to ASD’s trusty spies, at the rapper-producer may also have been somewhat of an egotistical playa-hater behind-the-scenes. Apparently, Quik thought he was James Bond and Frank Sinatra all rolled into one, delaying the opening of the show so he could take a photo shoot in the venue lobby, refusing to allow the other acts to sound-check, and not allowing the local musicians to store their gear in the backstage room.

Despite Quik’s attempts to sabotage his opening acts, even without a sound check, the KCE outplayed Quik’s Blaqkout band, who were competent but fairly listless. The closest they got to stretching out was a long vamp on “Tonite,” which was no match for Choice’s classically-inspired piano riffs. Not to take anything away from Quik, but Choice actually seemed like a more complete artist, in that he seamlessly transitioned from rapping to bandleading to being an instrumentalist, while Quik just rapped or posed for the crowd.

Quik’s onstage banter offered some hints as to his conceitedness; at one point, he remarked, “that’s okay, my hair appointment isn’t until tomorrow.” The off-the-cuff remark may have been intended as a joke–I’m sure it was hot onstage, especially with a tux on–but in light of the allegations of backstage bullying, it seems more insightful than perhaps Quik intended.

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Divalicious? DJ Quik

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

The Los Angeles Times royally screwed up a big story about Tupac’s 1994 robbery and shooting. What else did it get wrong?

The Los Angeles Times royally screwed up a big story about Tupac’s 1994 robbery and shooting. What else did it get wrong?

By Eric K. Arnold

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/PrintFriendly?oid=678909
April 9, 2008

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The unsolved murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were the subject of the documentary Biggie & Tupac.

It may have been the biggest f-up in the history of mainstream media hip-hop coverage.

In case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Times was caught red-faced when website TheSmokingGun.com out-reported – and more importantly, out-fact-checked – the daily newspaper a couple weeks ago on what seemed to be an important story detailing new evidence in the 1994 shooting and robbery of the late Tupac Shakur. Times reporter Chuck Philips, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, revealed that an incarcerated and unnamed informant had confirmed the involvement of Sean “Diddy” Combs, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, hip-hop manager Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond, and Mafia wanna-be James Sabatino in the incident. Philips did not name the shooter(s) but presented alleged FBI case files and court transcripts. One of the robbers, Philips wrote, still had Shakur’s purloined medallion, fourteen long years after the fact.

The Times article drew more than one million viewers to the paper’s web site, making it the newspaper’s most heavily trafficked article this year.

Blogs followed suit. “Sometimes a reporter comes to a story, and sometimes the story comes to him,” wrote blogger/author Jeff Chang in a post. Other outlets, however, were skeptical. As MTV News noted, Philips has sparked controversy before with his reporting methods. “His allegations are at times hard to believe, and he has drawn criticism for largely citing unnamed sources,” wrote reporter Jayson Rodriguez. “And many question why an older white man is the one pursuing the case of two murdered black hip-hip icons.”

Philips initially defended his reportage. “I’m not gonna write it just because someone says it,” he told MTV News. People have tried to set him up in the past, he added, “But in this case, I [didn’t] write anything until I feel it’s confident, it’s true.”

The only problem was the story was apparently completely fabricated by Sabatino, a chubby, boyish-faced scam artist with a long rap sheet who has boasted of his alleged ties to both La Cosa Nostra and the hip-hop elite. After the Smoking Gun meticulously dissected Philips’ account, pointing out several glaring inconsistencies – among them evidence that the FBI documents were typed on a typewriter, not a computer (the bureau hasn’t used typewriters for approximately thirty years) and, most tellingly, that Sabatino wasn’t in New York when Shakur was shot – the Times admitted its error. “I got duped,” Philips told the Associated Press, which is basically the journo-speak equivalent of “Oh shit. My Bad.”

There’s also the matter of potential litigation both from Diddy and Rosemond. In a statement, Rosemond’s attorney said the Times and Philips should “Print an apology and take out their checkbooks or brace themselves for an epic lawsuit.” Since the Times issued a formal apology within 21 days as required by law, any potential lawsuit would face an uphill batle, considering the strength of California’s media protections.

Perhaps most interesting is speculation on how this doozy of a boo-boo will impact the future of entertainment reporting and, specifically, coverage of rap and hip-hop. “Mainstream publications have been letting a lot of people who aren’t connected to hip-hop do major stories,” says author Adisa Banjoko. “Stories on Tupac, B.I.G., or any other dead rapper [are] seen as easy filler and hype for a boost in sales.”

From a mainstream media perspective, rap music is often associated with crime just like famine is associated with Ethiopia. High-profile incidents of violence involving rappers have long been fodder for newspapers, Internet sites, and TV news; sensationalistic, tabloid-style reporting has become par for the course. After with this latest blunder, the Times look like opportunists willing to print anything, as long as it draws traffic.

Meanwhile, Philips is starting to seem like a G-Funk version of the morally twisted paparazzo Danny DeVito played in L.A. Confidential. His past stories on the B.I.G. and Tupac killings were questioned by African-American journalists and hip-hop-identified outlets, yet his methodology largely remained sacrosanct despite these complaints. His 1999 Pulitzer for exposing corruption in the entertainment industry gave Philips a lot of credibility, but that now seems as dubious as the purported FBI case files Sabatino apparently wrote from behind bars.

This latest incident only renews suspicions about the veracity of Philips’ past work. In particular, Philips has been accused of deliberately misreporting key evidence in the 2005 wrongful death suit against the city of Los Angeles by B.I.G.’s mother, Violetta Wallace. He also claimed that B.I.G. paid a member of the Crips $1 million to kill Shakur in 1996 – which was denied by both Tupac and Biggie’s camps – and has drawn suspicion away from Suge Knight by discrediting ex-LAPD detective Russell Poole, whose investigation of B.I.G.’s 1997 murder led to a tangled web of corrupt cops, music industry gangstas, and city officials.

In 2005, Front Page magazine speculated that Philips was an apologist for Knight and Death Row Records: “By fingering two dead men … as Tupac’s killers, Philips’ story took the focus off Suge Knight, whom many believe had Tupac killed because Tupac planned to leave Death Row. Philips’ story also claimed that Biggie was later killed by the Crips for stiffing them – again taking the heat off prime suspect Suge Knight.”

Webmaster/journalist Davey D says he dismissed Chuck Philips a long time ago. “Now it’s beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s wrong and he was wrong in the past,” he says.

Perhaps, but to many hip-hop insiders, digging up Tupac’s 1994 shooting seemed like a red herring in the first place. At the end of the day, Davey D says, Philips’ stories “don’t really connect the dots in any kind of meaningful way.”

Still, he adds, “A lot of this stuff has run its course. … If you look at the top news that’s going on in hip-hop, it’s all arrests. … People are talking about Remy Ma crying in court. That’s what I’m hearing.”

The bottom line in the assassinations of Tupac and Biggie remains that both murders are still unsolved. If and when the truth is ever uncovered, it’s probably safe to say it won’t be the Times or Chuck Philips who’re responsible.

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

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