Tuesday, March 19, 2013

 What’s Wrong with Popular Music and Culture?


I love Hip-Hop and I love Electronic music. The problems with Hip- Hop and Electronic dance music today is it’s blatant promotion of drug use and dangerous life styles and values. What’s wrong with having fun? Nothing. What’s wrong with doing you? Nothing. That leads to the question what’s wrong with drugs?

You may ask,why shouldn’t I pop a molly every now and then? Why can’t I get drunk every weekend? What’s wrong with a little weed? What’s wrong with sipping sizzurp? Well I answer by asking, What’s wrong with Crack? What’s wrong with Methamphetamine? Inherently there is nothing wrong with enjoying your life. In our popular culture casual drug use is something that is virtually encouraged and many can claim a casual use of drugs that may never have interfered with their daily living. The majority of people know that any drug use can become out of control very easily. The truth is that there are extremely high rates of drug addiction and abuse in the youth and generations X and Y, the hidden fact is that there are an extremely high number of functional addicts. I personally know many.
 Returning back to those questions, what’s wrong with Crack? Now I can hear someone shouting Ecstasy and Crack aren’t the same thing! How can you compare Methamphetamines with molly, sizzurp, or Cannabis?

I can because they in essence do the same thing, they take a human being out of their  natural state and alter  their psychological, emotional, physical, and metabolic function. Lest we forget at one time Crack was the thing to do. In the early Nineteen eighties when Crack hit the scene, nobody knew how addictive and bad it was for people, they just thought it was the new hip thing to do, Like molly or MDMA, Ecstasy and all it’s variations. With some of popular music’s biggest drug use proponent’s falling ill and other’s dying as of late, I think it is worth asking this question. Should drug use be allowed to be promoted on songs playing on the public airwaves?  Lil Wayne’s recent seizures from  purported constant abuse of Cough syrup, Alcohol and Cannabis highlight this culture of high functioning drug addict behavior.

                                        Ecstasy LSd and Raves Hooked Illegal Drugs EP 4

I am a staunch supporter of free speech, freedom of the press and liberties we as American’s share and have the privileges of enjoying. I also believe our music and culture are being permeated by violence and drug culture that is degrading the minds of the youth and all forth coming generations unless something is done to change it. With The Ultra musicfestival going on in Miami and the underground drug culture that comes with it this issue is very relevant. People are always going to use drugs and alcohol to alter their physical states. It’s as old as people themselves. What we need to do is become conscious of the messages we push to the youth and the coming generations, in music, and in our commentary and conversations. Record labels and artist need to do more!

Many of our experiences as young adults or college student’s experimenting with drugs and alcohol come from our music and culture. Do we want to leave drug use and it’s struggles and health problems as the legacy to our children? I sincerely don’t. If my children one day decide to use drugs, or drink, or smoke those are their decisions. I only wish that they make educated decisions and not biased decisions based on popular novelty music, culture and irresponsible pop icons who promote self destructive behavior.

In the early Nineteen Eighties when Hip-Hop was developing it was merging and growing in its sound and style. One of the reasons for the proliferation of Hip-Hop culture and its growth with new sounds and sampling in the electronic music world was Africa Bambatta, the Soul Sonic Force and the Zulu Nation. The Zulu Nation dubbed the emerging art forms as Hip-Hop. They took this thing we call Hip- Hop and brought it to the world showcasing all of the elements of Hip Hop and adding knowledge to the mix. Through having fun and battling with DJ’ing Graffiti dancing and rhyming the youth developed ways to compete. This prevented the loss of our youth in the minority communities by promoting working out our differences through art and competition instead of violence, gang and drug culture. Hip-Hop developed into an escape from some of the same values being promoted in it today.

The Zulu Nation is involved in a campaign to promote the original Hip-Hop values they helped create and oppose the values being fostered  today by websites and companies such as World star Hip Hop, Major record Labels and  rappers who use the Hip Hop name to promote  the aforementioned destructive values. The Zulu Nation believe that any use of the term Hip–Hop by  companies who promote values that conflict with the original values laid out by the Universal Zulu Nation  are in direct violation of the culture. To the Zulu these individuals are destroying it’s meaning and people.

                                                  The Zulu Nation Culture vulture Report

I agree with the universal Zulu Nation’s assessment of the situation. What Hip-Hop   and popular culture in general have become today are  simply promoters  of self destructive behavior. The warping of Hip-Hop and it’s values have come to be because of the interests of capitalists, corporations and individuals who stand to make a profit by promoting sensationalism.

Would Electronic dance music and all of its genres and off shoot’s even exist in any of it’s varied forms with out the basic structure of Hip-Hop? The answer is no. It can be argued that the real reason for the spread of EDM and its DJ and VJ centric culture is because of Hip-Hop. The Drug use came from the rave culture . I applaud Deadmau5 for taking an anti-drug stance within the culture and genre after experiencing the tumultuousness of drug abuse and it’s effects.  We all need more vocal influential artist being opposed to drug abuse in the limelight no matter how odd they may be.

                                             Joel Zimmerman aka deadmau5 in the Studio

In conclusion, I just want to remind all of you, who are still old enough to remember  what Crack did to our families and communities in the eighties, of what we experienced. I want you to remember and hold those memories in the forefront of your mind because after those years something went wrong. I am a member of the first part of Generation Y, I was Born in 1981,  and I still remember. The members of our generation failed. We failed in teaching our little brothers and sisters about what we experienced, about our parent’s mistakes. We failed in knowing how to deal with our own problems and many of us have succumb to the same drug abuse and bad habits, but we can still correct our wrongs and succeed in helping our children make better decisions.

 In 1985, if you asked a Crack smoker about their drug use they may have said, Crack is better than heroin, it’s hip, Its fun. Today you may ask an ecstasy user about their drug of choice they may say, at least I’m not smoking Crack, or I pop mollies because its Fun, everybody is doing it, in certain circles it’s hip.  They are different drugs but I see the parallels and the danger in their use and in the use of any thing that is not in moderation. We need to focus more on the positive healthy options we have in order to survive and help our future generations thrive. You may feel defensive at my statements about drug abuse and destructive behavior, but can anyone argue with the statement that being drug free can not lead to drug overdoses, impaired decision making, drug induced health problems, STD’s, Abortions, or unhealthy behavior?

                                    Planet Rock the Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation

Wednesday, March 6, 2013



                                       Baauer performing at Webster Hall in New York city

By now everyone has heard Brooklyn New york's very own Dj Baauer's EDM  and Trap beat inspired " Harlem Shake" song. Hate it or love it, it's here to stay having made it's mark. In my opinion, the real reason for the song's success has less to do with the song, and more to do with the actual dancing or, attempts at dancing that are displayed in the first video to go viral using Baauers's song as its soundtrack." DizastaMusic's Youtube channel which is the comedian Filthy Frank's platform to the world, was the first channel to use the song and create a "Do the Harlem Shake" video reaching 17 million views and causing hundreds of copy cats to pop up. I think Filthy Frank is the reason that the real Harlem shake dance has all but been forgotten. Watching the original video it looks like when the beat drops Filthy Frank (wearing the pink "onesie" leotard) attempts to do his rendition of what the real "Harlem Shake" dance must have looked like to him, he then gets even more ridiculous with his movements and gyrates and humps the air with the rest of his very foolish looking masked cohorts in a very homo-erotic looking dancing frenzy.

                           Do The Harlem Shake (original) -Filthy Frank

I have no idea why this ridiculous comedy video became so popular other than it's sheer stupidity,which I suspect was the point. The problem is that the masses of completely ignorant followers took to the internet and perpetuated Filthy Franks stupidity, or genius(depending on where you stand on the issue) at the expense of the actual Harlem shake dance. This has made  dancers in Harlem, and many in the Hip-Hop and "minority" communities feel like it's just another one of the many intellectual properties belonging to long forgotten"black" or "minority" artists and dancers to be exploited, raped, reworked and  recreated deriving from the original dance created in Harlem,without giving any credit to the originators. Many people that know what the actual Harlem shake dance looks like are disgusted at the millions of people completely slaughtering the dance itself by  appearing not to be able to dance on beat (or shake on the beat).

        Melissa Harris-Perry Straitens out White America on The Harlem Shake

I have heard so many arguments and stances on the issue. I heard someone say that the dance started by someone imitating what a person looks like when being shot in the chest, or making fun of a drunk person. I also heard that same person express an opinion  that the actual dance shouldn't  be remembered or linked to a cultural heritage of Harlem because of these questions about how the dance began. I think that it's actual origins or purpose are irrelevant in the argument. The dance was created in Harlem, by it's residents. Whatever its origins  the dance has been taken and misrepresented, recreated perverted and monetized. As a B-boy, and Hip-Hop connoisseur, I understand how people  feel about the issue, especially the dancers and originators of the Harlem shake themselves. The dance is still performed by the youth in Harlem, and their are dance crews that are known for their Harlem shaking yet the origin and culture of the people that created the dance, which is what really created the song is barely acknowledged.

This week the song that Harlem, and the Harlem shake dance inspired, DJ Baauers " Harlem Shake" went to a historic number one on Billboard's Hot 100 charts. Fueled by the buzz of over 400 million collective youtube views, including Filthy Frank and all the imitators which include,divers,college students, Paratroopers,soldiers,Marines, celebrities, fools and even rappers such as Fat Joe. There has been a lot of talk and debating about the issue on social networks, yet I have not heard any comment by Baauer, or Mad Decent records in reference to the issue.

                                                       MAD DECENT RECORDS

 In terms of public relations, and management of the artist and their business, it may be a smart thing not to say anything. If we bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of folks purchasing the Baauer's music could probably care less what the real Harlem Shake is, and probably couldn't do the dance anyway, then it is clear that Baauer and Mad Decent records have more of a vested interest in not  addressing the issue. It would probably be a major buzz kill! After all  a buzz kill would cost money, not make money! Baauer has not released an actual video to his song yet. I think that if he does he should feature the original and all its variations, that way he wouldn't have to say anything and would pay respect to the actual dance which inspired the soundbite in his song.

Bodily movements aren't copyrightable. Thats the truth, and in the end there is nothing to stop any one from taking a dance someone created, and making a song about it deriving from the original and making millions of dollars with it. However, it is detestable, to take someones cultural ideas and mutilate them and monetize them and never acknowledge the dilution of the original or the effect that it may have on those that created the idea you are capitalizing from. Let me pose this hypothetical question.Would we all look at the issue the same way if a pop star made a song about  the famous Cambodian Apsara Dance and then featured a completely different dance which  mocked the original? Or even if people took the dance and made fun of it with their own version like Filthy Frank and that became  popular at the expense of  Cambodian's dances, would that be ok? What do you Think?

                          Princess Buppha Davi Performs Apsara Dance