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Problems Mount at Bronx Building 1520 Sedgwick Ave Where Young D.J. Kool Herc and his turntables helped invent hip-hop 

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It was in the community room on the ground floor of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the West Bronx that a young D.J. and his turntables helped to invent hip-hop, the music that spawned a global culture.

Parties held by Clive Campbell, known as D.J. Kool Herc, in the building’s community room in the early 1970s are seen as crucial to the early evolution of hip-hop.
A generation later, eyes again turned to the hulking brick tower overlooking the Harlem River when tenants, politicians and housing advocates fought to keep the building in a state-run rent-protection program and out of the hands of real estate investors.

They lost the battle, and the building was sold in 2008. Now, more than a year later, housing code violations have piled up, and tenants are seething at the new landlords. Advocates and analysts say that the building’s problems could be a harbinger of a housing crisis in the city’s low-income neighborhoods, especially in the Bronx.

Here, it is not individual homes that are most under threat of foreclosure — it is whole apartment buildings occupied by hundreds of families. And it was not the residents who took out the heavy loans — it was investors who live far from the overleveraged properties.

While banks and owners seek to recoup staggering losses from overly optimistic real estate deals in neighborhoods like the South Bronx, Washington Heights and Corona, Queens, tenants have been left with some of the worst of the bust: crumbling buildings, rats and roaches, the threat of foreclosure.

Since the new owners took over at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the fall of 2008, the number of violations has jumped to 598 from 82, an increase of more than 600 percent, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“Because it was well maintained and families decided to stay there, relationships grew and it ended up leading to one of the most important cultural contributions in decades,” said Dina Levy, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group. “If that were to fall apart, it would be an indicator of what’s going to happen to communities that are stable in the outer boroughs.”

For decades 1520 Sedgwick, which has 102 units, was a much-desired, affordable address for working-class families. When Sylvia Jones moved there in 1997, she said, the lobby was so well maintained that “you could see your face in the floor.” She remembers Christmas parties, Halloween trick-or-treating, back-to-school drives. “We were like a family in there,” Ms. Jones said.

When Clive Campbell, otherwise known as D.J. Kool Herc, held the much-celebrated hip-hop parties in the community room in the early 1970s — parties many see as crucial to the early evolution of hip-hop — the whole building was invited.

Today, a ride in the building’s lurching elevator provides a glimpse of current conditions. It is far from the worst of buildings. But the testimony can be powerful.

Mordistine Alexander, on the 15th floor, said that for three months she had to use a screwdriver to enter her apartment because the lock was broken and no one ever showed up to fix it. Mary Fountain, on the sixth floor, complained of a crack in her bedroom wall, saying, “I can look through and see the sunshine.” Barbara Griles, on the 13th floor, said she planned to move out after 17 years because her toilet flooded her living room, the building’s floors were dirty and “when you ask for service, you don’t get it.”

During the height of the boom, real estate investors, many of whom were backed by private equity funds, paid top dollar for as many as 120,000 apartments across the city, most of which were either rent-regulated or were in buildings that had recently been removed from the state’s Mitchell-Lama housing program, which had kept rents relatively low, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But the market collapsed, and the new residents willing to pay higher rents never came, leaving the buildings overleveraged and vulnerable.

About 300 of those buildings were in the Bronx, and at least 40 are in foreclosure, according to the University Neighborhood Housing Program. About 100 more buildings in the borough are at risk, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board says.

Neglect has spurred some tenants to stage protests outside the banks that hold the mortgages.

Others became so fed up with the unresponsive management and the deteriorating conditions that they left the building, or even the borough. About a dozen tenants have moved from 1520 Sedgwick or are planning to, according to the tenants’ association.

The decision to leave carries a special resonance in the Bronx. The fires of the 1970s that turned neighborhoods to rubble began as landlords neglected their properties and middle-class families fled.

“We in New York have definitely seen this movie before,” said Rafael E. Cestero, the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “The combination of financial distress leading to severe physical distress in these buildings impacts the neighborhoods, and it has a ripple effect that risks destabilizing neighborhoods that we have all spent so much time rebuilding.”
Part 2

Added by: Chinita, 02/Feb/10 | Comments: 0

Run-DMC Musical Is Planned 

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They helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream, revitalized the career of Aerosmith and now, Run-DMC could be headed to Broadway.

Paula Wagner, the veteran Hollywood producer, said that her Chestnut Ridge Productions company was working with the rappers Joseph Simmons (known as Run) and Darryl McDaniels (DMC) as well as the estate of Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay) to produce a stage musical about Run-DMC, the seminal hip-hop group.

“Their work speaks to everybody,” Ms. Wagner said in a telephone interview, “and the story of their rise to fame is innately theatrical.”

Founded by Mr. Simmons, Mr. McDaniels and Mr. Mizell in Hollis, Queens, in the early 1980s, Run-DMC became one of the first rap acts to reach a mass audience, selling millions of copies of albums like “King of Rock” and “Raising Hell,” as well as a ubiquitous 1986 remake of the Aerosmith song “Walk This Way.” The band continued to tour off and on for years, and was on the verge of a reunion in 2002 when Mr. Mizell was shot and killed in his recording studio in Jamaica, Queens.

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Paula Wagner will produce the Run-DMC musical.
Ms. Wagner is best known for her long association with Tom Cruise, having worked as his agent, a producer of several of his films (including the “Mission: Impossible” movies and “War of the Worlds”) and the chief executive of his revived United Artists studio. She began her career on stage as a 13-year-old actor at the Youngstown Theater in Ohio. She earned her B.F.A. in theater at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, has published plays of her own and performed at the Yale Repertory Theater.

Ms. Wagner said she was also a lifelong Run-DMC fan. “Their lyrics and their music is infectious,” she said. “It’s vibrant, it’s alive. Who they are and what they did was a culturally defining moment. It embraced everybody.”

Ms. Wagner acknowledged that her film-producing experience was no guarantee that she could execute a stage musical, and she said she was talking to other producers and potential team members to help bring the project to Broadway. “I have a number of good friends,” she said, “and I think I will be turning to all my friends.”

She said that in addition to the original Run-DMC songs that would be featured in the show, Mr. Simmons and Mr. McDaniels might provide new material or that an outside composer might “very possibly” provide songs.

Ms. Wagner said there was no timetable for the Run-DMC project to come to Broadway, and no specific shows that it was seeking to emulate

Added by: Chinita, 02/Feb/10 | Comments: 0

J Dilla biography written by Ronnie Reese, the first biography of J Dilla to be officially commissioned and published 

J-dilla.com the official website for the heirs & estate of James Yancey/J Dilla, representing his name, merchandise, and recordings. They are particularly proud to present J Dilla biography written by Ronnie Reese. With respect to the many pieces on the artist’s life, ranging from press releases to feature articles, this is the first biography of J Dilla to be officially commissioned and published.

James DeWitt Yancey “came across like an angel on earth,” singer and songwriter Steve “Spacek” White told Fader magazine in 2006. Most people tend to speak of him this way. His contributions to music were indeed felt as angelic, no matter the alias—John Doe, MC Silk, Jay Dee, or J Dilla. But the James Yancey legacy is wide-ranging. What he contributed to the lives of others was duly as significant.

He was an artist to those who worked with him, but also a son, a father, a mentor, and a friend, with interests beyond music. When he began dating a girl who worked at Dutch Girl Doughnuts, it was the best of both worlds. “He would bring home at least two dozen doughnuts every night after he had already eaten one [dozen],” says his mother, Maureen Yancey. The chances of him bringing home two girls were just as great as him toting his favorite confection. “One won’t do and two is not enough for me,” wasn’t just the chorus to one of his songs. “He was honest, though,” Maureen says with a laugh. “He never lied to a girl. He always told them where home was and who he was with, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Yancey and his mother were a team. It was his mother, as well as his father, Beverly Yancey, who instilled the importance of truth at a young age. “My children grew to detest liars,” says Maureen. “So this is how it was with Dilla. If you promised him something, he expected it. If he was going to be honest with you, he expected the same thing.” Honesty remained a theme in their relationship until his death; Yancey even taught his mother how to roll blunts after he fell ill and his fingers became too swollen for him to prepare his self-described “medicine” for himself.

Yancey was humble and generous, known to rent a limousine during the holidays and take his friends Christmas shopping for their families. He was an honest man, making him an anomaly in a music industry where honesty is ordinarily in scant supply. It was this musical sincerity that attracted fans from around the globe and made him a legend among his peers.

Among these peers was DJ Jazzy Jeff, who recalls, “What separated Jay was that he was uninhibited in his knowledge of music, and he was uninhibited when it came to making his music. A lot of producers say they are, but a lot of us are ‘industrialized’ as I like to call it, meaning we’re slaves to an industry, even when we don’t realize it. We have to do something that radio will find credible, or the hip-hop community is going to understand.

“When radio was a freer space and played music that people liked instead of what people paid for, the music that we heard was created by somebody in their basement being a mad scientist. Jay is a throwback to that time. He’s the guy in the basement.”

* * * *

Yancey was born on February 7, 1974 at Zieger Osteopathic Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, the oldest of three children born to Beverly and Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey. The family’s musical lineage was strong; mother Maureen was an opera and classical music enthusiast and father Beverly a bassist, vocalist, and 25-year performance and recording veteran. “Jazz was the music he grew up with and was raised on,” says Maureen Yancey. “Since he was a couple of months old, he wouldn’t go to sleep unless he heard jazz, so my husband had to sing and play for him to go to sleep. It was his lullaby music as a child n his nursery.”

From age two, Yancey’s life was nothing but music—an incomparable passion in a music-laden family that included grandfather William James Yancey, a pianist in the silent film industry, and an uncle, Clemmer Yancey, a noted writer, arranger, and singer on the local Detroit circuit. Yancey’s first formal instrument training came on piano and cello, where he learned to read music before taking up drums, flute, and guitar. The family lived in Detroit’s roughly hewn Conant Gardens neighborhood, where Maureen kept her son out of harm’s way by requiring that church act as an alternative to any potential maleficence. If Yancey wasn’t at home working on music, he could be found singing in the Vernon Chapel AME youth choir, or as an acolyte for Holy Communion. He served as a both a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout, and was a member of Vernon Chapel’s Young People’s Division where he was active in community service.

After graduating from Farwell Middle School, Yancey enrolled at Davis Aerospace Technical High School, sparking a struggle for independence in the Yancey household. “He didn’t want to be at Davis,” Maureen recalls, “But he was just excellent at physics, so I thought that maybe he would warm up to it, but he was interested in music. He ended up practically turning Davis into a dance hall, because every time I turned around he was going to DJ some party.”

The technical curriculum at Davis helped Yancey develop a mathematical approach to music composition, but he found other aspects of the experience stifling, particularly the attire. “He hated wearing his Air Force ROTC uniform,” says Maureen, who went back and forth with her son in a “three-year fight about him being at Davis.” The conflict grew when Yancey began working with musician Joseph “Amp” Fiddler, who lived within walking distance from the Yancey home. Fiddler was an accomplished keyboardist, producer, and composer, best known for his tour work with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. His home studio—Camp Amp—was training ground for many of the neighborhood’s young musicians. “That’s where we bumped heads,” Maureen explains, “because he was supposed to be at school early for lab class, but he was at Amp’s all night in the studio.

“I didn’t realize that Amp was doing sessions at that time. Dilla didn’t tell me he was helping Amp. Amp would let him engineer certain sessions, but he never told me! His dad and I didn’t have a clue that he was as involved as he was, and that he was learning that much. He didn’t talk about it because he wasn’t supposed to be at Amp’s. He was supposed to be at school—at a school I wanted him to excel in!”

Yancey was stubborn, but above all, was “a great kid,” says Maureen, who eventually understood the nature of her son’s resolve. At times, adults may underestimate or overlook a child’s ambition due to his or her youth, but in many instances, children have a clear idea of their life’s path at an early age. At two, Yancey knew his mission was to make music, even though his mother had other plans for his future. “When you know that music is in your heart,” she says, “you have to follow that, and it helps if you have your parents’ support.” The Yanceys were a close-knit family, and Beverly and Maureen both open-minded caregivers, so was ultimately awarded their blessing.

“My husband and I had many different interests…we did a lot of different things,” Maureen explains. “But James was totally into his music. It was like it ran through his veins.”

* * * *

“Jay was cool; he was quiet,” Amp Fiddler recalls. “Jay was raised well by his parents. Maureen and her husband are good people, and they lived across the street from the church I went to.” Yancey began spending time at Fiddler’s home the late 1980s, digging through the extensive record collection Fiddler shared with siblings and advancing his skills in live instrumentation. Under Fiddler’s tutelage, the youngster was also gaining his first experience with drum machines and digital programming. “He learned the sampler real quick,” says Fiddler. “I’d show him how to quantize, how to freak shit, how to change the time signature, make the feel different, [and] make it fall ahead or behind the beat. He loved that.”

“Amp’s influence on James was wonderful,” says Maureen. But Fiddler was just one of the people in Yancey’s circle, a unit that the reticent teen kept small. A common refrain from those who knew him best is, “Dilla didn’t fuck with a lot of people,” although family—nuclear or extended—were family for life. Frank Bush and Derrick Harvey (Frank-N-Dank) were such figures in his life. They were best friends since elementary school, “We used to sing in the church choir, Boy Scouts, all of that,” says Dank. “We had a really interesting childhood, and music always played a part in that.” Yancey befriended Ronnie Watts (Phat Kat) during hip-hop open mics at the weekly Rhythm Kitchen; Humberto Andres Hernandez (DJ Dez) was a fellow musician and regular at Camp Amp, plus a member of the Ghost Town collective of which Yancey was a part; the late DeShaun Holton (MC Big Proof) grew close to Yancey post-Ghost Town, forming the Funky Cowboys as the budding producer was outgrowing his pause-and-record method of beat-making and moving on to his early instruments—the Akai MPC60, E-mu SP-12, and Akai S950 drum machines and samplers.

“This was me pre-Hip-Hop Shop, pre-D12,” said Holton in early 2006 “We go back on some real-life shit.”

Rappers R.L. Altman (T3) and the late Titus Glover (Baatin) met Yancey in the late 1980s. The two were also from Conant Gardens, and later, classmates of Yancey’s at Detroit Pershing High School, where Yancey would transfer for his senior year. In a predominantly Black, middle-class district like Conant, hip-hop in the late ‘80s was paramount, and the initial relationship between the three was based on word-of-mouth and the pursuit for neighborhood MC supremacy. Altman and Glover were part of one group and Yancey was one-half of a duo with Frank Bush. “Jay Dee wanted to challenge us in rapping,” said Glover in 2006. “He was like, ‘I can beat both of ya’ll.” What began as competition, however, turned into camaraderie, as throughout their many rap battles, the trio showcased such individual talent that they became fans of one another’s respective styles.

Like Yancey, Robert O’Bryant (Waajeed) was a promising young producer and also a talented visual artist who had been friends with Glover since they were of single-digit age. O’Bryant and Glover—along with Yancey, Altman, and Yancey’s cousin Que. D as crew dancer—formed a quintet called Ssenepod. As O’Bryant’s art studies began to take precedence and the appeal of hip-hop dancing lessened, Ssenepod was reduced to a trio, and then to a pair as one of its members found his way into street life.

“Baatin had started selling drugs,” says Altman, “and we went to confront him about it. He was like, ‘Man, fuck that….I gotta do what I gotta do.’ That’s when we started Slum Village. Slum Village started as rebellion against Baatin, to get him to fall back into hip-hop again.”

With Glover in the streets, Yancey and Altman continued to cultivate the Slum Village sound, recording with Fiddler before signing as artists with a management company run by R.J. Rice and former Detroit Pistons basketball player John Salley in 1992. Rice had long been a fixture in the Detroit music community as the founder of local R&B outfit R.J.’s Latest Arrival, and like Fiddler, provided a home studio setting for Yancey to further his training. Both men recognized Yancey’s tremendous potential, but it was Fiddler—performing on the Lollapalooza tour with P-Funk in 1994—who was able to help the star-in-the-making reach his potential by introducing the music of Yancey and Slum Village to Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.

Says Fiddler: “I was fulfilled just by seeing him reach his goals and being exposed to the world of hip-hop like he should have been, because he had exceptional talent. I knew Q-Tip could take him there.”

Free of his business with Rice and Salley, Yancey’s production career began to blossom under Q-Tip’s direction—traveling, networking, and doing credited and uncredited work for artists such as Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde. Yet on the home front, Slum Village was stagnant. Glover had returned to the fold, but “we were still broke,” Altman admits. “We were happy for our boy, but at the same time, me and Baatin were broke.”

But Yancey would never forget his friends. “He was loyal to his people,” says Altman, to which Fiddler adds: “I knew he would be back. They were his boys. He and T3 went too far back for him to run off and not come back. And when he came back, he came back with a vengeance. I think he realized that he needed to represent Detroit again, and he came back hard. He made some badass music during that time.”

Among this music was Slum Village’s seminal debut, Fantastic, Vol. 1. The widely bootlegged album sparked a stylistic movement in both the underground and mainstream hip-hop communities, and established Yancey as one of the genre’s brightest young artists. Prior to its initial 1996 release, Q-Tip’s status as an industry icon—and the clandestine nature of the Ummah production team, i.e. Q-Tip, Yancey, and Tribe DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad—overshadowed Yancey’s individual accomplishments. But with Slum Village finally in the forefront, the real Jay Dee was headed towards prominence.

* * * *

If Q-Tip and Yancey’s Detroit family were influential in the early phases of the producer’s career, then Roots drummer and hip-hop town crier Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson—with help from soul marvel Michael “D’Angelo” Archer—was his fiercest advocate as the ‘90s came to a close. “The night that Q-Tip finally let D have a copy of Fantastic, Vol. 1,” Quest recalls, “D played five cuts on my telephone. Then I had him play the cassette through the phone onto my answering machine, and that’s all I did when I was on tour in Europe. I’d call my machine just to hear the third ‘Fantastic’ interlude. D was in love with ‘Estimate.’” The Roots and D’Angelo were at the center of one of the more creative collectives in hip-hop and R&B history—a group that included Common, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Bilal, James Poyser, and Jill Scott—and Yancey’s reputation among his peers began to grow in spades. His workload also increased, and the combination of greater professional demand and differences in focus led to distance between Yancey and the other members of Slum Village.

“It was more the expectation of things [to come] that made Dilla want to leave the group,” says Altman. “He wanted to put more of a street edge on Slum Village, which was cool, but we weren’t living the lifestyle that he was living.” Not to mention that Yancey was very much an individualist; he was selfless, but also a private man who didn’t desire a lot of attention. Interviews, label politics, and the overall life of a hip-hop superstar wasn’t his calling, so by the time Fantastic, Vol. 2 was released in 2000, he was largely a member of Slum Village in name only, although continuing to produce for the group on its next two albums.

In 2000, Yancey also produced ten songs on Common’s gold-selling Like Water For Chocolate LP and contributed to Erkyah Badu’s platinum Mama’s Gun. This earned him two Grammy nominations for Common’s “The Light” (Best Solo Rap Performance, 2001) and Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know” (R&B Song of the Year, 2001). The following year saw the release of Yancey’s solo debut Welcome to Detroit—the first artist album to be commissioned by and released on BBE Records. 2001 also brought the “Fuck the Police” single, which became one of the more popular entries in his catalog.

”That song was totally true,” says Maureen Yancey. “He caught so much flack from the police for being a clean young man. The police department was down the street from where we lived, and every time he pulled off they’d stop him and harass him. They even tossed the car once looking for something; because he was young and clean-cut, they thought he was selling drugs.

“Proof was at the house one evening when James had another run-in with them. He had only gone to the gas station which was three doors away. I told him not to get upset because he was hurt to tears. He was so angry and just tired of being harassed, so I told him, ‘Look, this is what you do—you go downstairs and make a song about it, and you laugh in their face.’ And that’s when he came up with the ‘“F” the Police’ thing. And people are still singing it today! Every time I go somewhere, that’s one of the songs they play.”

Ironically, as a teen, Yancey’s first job was as a junior police cadet with the Detroit Police Department. But over the course of his adolescent and adult lives, his opinion of law enforcement gradually became more contemptuous as he experienced persecution for simply being young, black, and liking his clothes wrinkle-free. Thankfully, the profiling didn’t deter his professional growth. In the years following “Fuck the Police,” he extended his collaboration with Busta Rhymes to an unprecedented five consecutive albums in addition to signing a production contract with MCA Records. As MCA was in the process of folding into Geffen Records, an undeterred Yancey released his second solo effort, the Ruff Draft EP.

Yancey briefly toured Europe in January 2003 in support of Ruff Draft. Upon his return to the States, he took ill. Exhaustion and malnutrition were initially considered possible causes, but a trip to the emergency room revealed thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood condition. Despite ailing health, Yancey remained a creative force throughout the year, teaming with renowned Los Angeles producer Madlib for the landmark Jaylib LP and crafting a blistering remix of Four Tet’s “As Serious As Your Life.” At the urging of longtime friend Common, Yancey relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles in the spring of 2004, a year that also brought return to his musical roots. One such effort was his work on mentor Amp Fiddler’s Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, and another, his interpretation of Jack McDuff’s “Oblighetto” for the Blue Note Revisited LP.

“The Blue Note remix was something he was proud of,” mother Maureen recalls. “It touched something deep in him because it was in a different vein, and it was also the music he grew up with—jazz. It was his lullaby music as a child when he went to sleep in his nursery, so it meant a great deal to him. He probably got more out of that than any gold or platinum plaque.”

Sadly, Yancey’s health began to worsen. Maureen moved to L.A. in November of 2004 to be closer to her son, who became seriously ill as the year came to a close. He would eventually be diagnosed with Lupus, a condition wherein the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. The Lupus led to kidney failure and repeated dialysis treatments and hospital visits, yet Yancey’s wouldn’t let his physical state keep him from reaching out to fans. His work output slowed; Steve Spacek’s “Dollar,” and “Love Is” and “It’s Your World” from Common’s Be LP were notable 2005 productions. But his spirit was strong enough to allow him to tour Europe for a few weeks from November to December with Frank-N-Dank, DJ Rhettmatic, his mother, and friend and confidant Dave “New York” Tobman. “He wasn’t supposed to go,” says Frank, who had been friends with Yancey and Dank for nearly his entire life. “But he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it…I’m going to go and rock in a wheelchair.’ It was like this was going to be the last time for him and his niggas to bring this shit full circle.”

Yancey spent his final months doing what he loved the most—creating music. He released Donuts, his third solo LP, on February 7, 2006 before passing away three days later at the age of 32.

Maureen Yancey was extremely close to her son, and he left her with his guidance on how he wanted to be remembered. “We shared the same dream and worked towards it together,” she says. “He prepared me for what I have to do. He accepted his condition, and in order to make me strong and make sure I did what I have to do, he had to instill some things in me.

“So I’m great. I haven’t mourned. I’m not mourning, I’m celebrating, because I’m just so excited about him getting the credit he worked for and deserves; [We’re] letting the world know just how great he was with what he did.”

Ronnie Reese

Added by: Chinita, 25/Jan/10 | Comments: 0

Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Red Alert, and The Original Jazzy Jay reunite on the wheels of steel for the first time in over 25 years. 

Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Red Alert, and The Original Jazzy Jay reunite on the wheels of steel for the first time in over 25 years. Many have neglected the fact these individuals are primarily responsible for the genesis of hip hop culture.
Noisemaker Media's Mark Carranceja was at the right place and at the right time to capture this historic moment in hip hop history.
The True School Park Jam Series / 2010 Trailer

Added by: Chinita, 12/Jan/10 | Comments: 0

Young Palestinians Find Their Voice Through Hip-Hop 

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The Maqusi Towers in Gaza City look a bit like US housing projects. The neighborhood consists of several tall apartment buildings grouped together in the northern part of town. It is also ground zero for Gaza’s growing Hip-Hop community. On a recent evening in one small but well-decorated apartment, a dozen rappers and their friends and families relaxed, danced, smoked flavored tobacco, and rapped the lyrics to some of their songs.

The occasion was a post-show celebration of the taping of Hip Hop Kom, an American Idol-type talent competition for Palestinian rappers. Fifteen acts from across Palestine performed on Thursday night, and the show was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah. Through the use of video conferencing and projection, each city could see and hear the performances happening in the other. Five groups from Gaza participated, and Gazawians came in first, third, and fourth place.

The Gaza City show was held in a small theatre in the Palestine Red Crescent building. Although only publicized by word of mouth, nearly 200 young people filled the theatre, loudly cheering for the rappers and breakdance crew who took the stage.

One of the organizers of the contest, a charismatic literature major named Ayman Meghames, is a minor celebrity here. Part of Gaza’s first Hip-Hop group — named PR: Palestinian Rapperz — Ayman dedicates his time to supporting and publicizing Gaza’s young music scene.

Armed with a ready smile, Ayman was seemingly everywhere at once that night. He was on stage introducing the acts, helping with technical difficulties, greeting friends, and coordinating with the West Bank organizers.

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation, and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. “Most of our lyrics are about the occupation,” he tells me. “Lately we’ve also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about.” Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. “Most of the world believes we are the terrorists,” he says. “And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop.”

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed’s next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy’s apartment, the perfomers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman’s cel phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn’t win — for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory. DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire-rimmed glasses, is DARG’s manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazawians gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

These stories may seem incongruent with much of the international reporting about Gaza and the Hamas government. But it is exactly for this reason that they should be told.

If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps when we learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night, we can rethink the US’ unquestioning support for Israeli aggression against this almost entirely defenseless population.

Yesterday, I visited a journalism class at the Islamic University, taught by Rami Almeghari. The students had many questions, but one young woman’s words in particular stayed with me. “What can we do to reach people in America and tell them how things really are here,” she asked. “How can we get them to listen, and to see?”

Article written by Jordan Flaherty for Dissident Voice

Added by: Chinita, 09/Jun/09 | Comments: 0

Hip Hop Appreciation Week (HHAW) 2009 is May 17-24 (Cooperation) 

The Temple Of Hiphop (created by Hip Hop Pioneer, KRS ONE) is pleased to announce that Hip Hop Appreciation Week (HHAW) 2009 is May 17-24 and the theme for this year is “COOPERATION”! Hip Hop Appreciation Week started in 1998 and is always celebrated during the third week of May. Now celebrated in cities and countries around the world, it is a time for those who love the culture of Hip Hop to come together and help de-criminalize the images of Hip Hop that are portrayed by the mainstream media.
Now is the time, more than ever, for COOPERATION in our communities. The Hip Hop community should work together to organize our people, our knowledge and our resources as we continue to work through the challenges we are facing domestically and globally!

Added by: Chinita, 19/May/09 | Comments: 2

Hip-Hop on the Rockefeller Drug Laws !! 

Added by: Menace, 24/Mar/09 | Comments: 0

Hip-Hop Fan Sentenced to 20 Hours of Beethoven!! 


You can’t be serious!!!! This week in Ohio, a redneck judge ordered a kid to listen to 20 hours of Beethoven for playing rap music too loudly in his car. LOL - the kid decided instead to pay the fine. Check out the news story after the break.

A defendant had a hard time facing the music.

Andrew Vactor was facing a $150 fine for playing rap music too loudly on his car stereo in July. But a judge offered to reduce that to $35 if Vactor spent 20 hours listening to classical music by the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

Vactor, 24, lasted only about 15 minutes, a probation officer said.

It wasn’t the music, Vactor said, he just needed to be at practice with the rest of the Urbana University basketball team.

"I didn’t have the time to deal with that,” he said. "I just decided to pay the fine.”

Champaign County Municipal Court Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott says the idea was to force Vactor to listen to something he might not prefer, just as other people had no choice but to listen to his loud rap music.

"I think a lot of people don’t like to be forced to listen to music,” she said.

She’s also taped TV shows for defendants in other cases to watch on topics such as financial responsibility. As she sees it, they get the chance to have their fine reduced "and at the same time broaden their horizons.”

Added by: Menace, 13/Oct/08 | Comments: 5

Nas Talks Education, Controversy & Hip-Hop !! 

New York rapper Nas has never shied away from news controversy in 
his almost two-decade career. Even so, the artist, whose real name is 
Nasir Jones, has little patience for controversy for the sake of 
selling albums. "If you’re just faking the funk, if you’re just 
starting trouble with people just for attention and you got no goal, 
it’s going to end before it started,” Nas said. "People will catch onto 

Nas’ latest untitled album has stirred up plenty of its own trouble. 
Nas originally called the album N—-r, but left it untitled after 
criticism around the title. Rev. Jesse Jackson and the NAACP both 
criticized Nas for the album title, while some artists, including 
Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Common, supported it. Nas said he eventually 
changed the title because he didn’t want the negativity to overwhelm 
his album’s content.

"I don’t like to feel that somebody is trying to pick out one thing 
about me and make it negative,” Nas said. "Unfortunately, you have a 
lot of people who are threatened by people like me, whether they rap or 
not. I don’t give them any power by saying I’m just selling the n—-r 

"If the title isn’t there, the album cover becomes even more 
powerful,” Nas said, referring to the untitled album’s cover. The cover 
shows Nas shirtless with flagellation scars in the shape of an "N” on 
his back.

The counter-culture music Nas makes goes along with his life story. 
He grew up in the Queensbridge housing projects in Queens, N.Y. After 
dropping out of middle school, Nas educated himself, studying ancient 
religious texts and early hip-hop music. The irony of college students 
paying to see a middle-school dropout is not lost on Nas.

"You wonder what your teachers would say now,” Nas said. "You wonder 
what people — ‘cause they saw me on the corner — I wonder what they 
think now.”

Even so, Nas said he still appreciates the value of education and hopes to complete his own some day.

"In education, there’s a lot that’s wrong with the way the system works, but at the same time, it’s very important,” Nas said.

"This is a whole new world for me,” he said when asked what he would 
study. "Literature is one [major]. And of course, history. I like to 
think of myself as a historian.”

Nas’ interests show through in his music as well. His songs deal 
with issues in hip hop music, race relations and other controversial 

"The stuff that I listen to the most is not the most radio played,” 
Nas said. "Radio is important too, but you can’t let everything be 
about the radio. I like to make music where I’m not always working for 
the charts.”

"I still do have fun, even though it comes out serious,” he added. 
"The records that I tend to keep on the album are the ones that are not 
much about fun.”

Even though his music deals with heavy topics, Nas said the music doesn’t have to be contemplative.

"You can be flying down the highway doing 90 [mph], listening to something like ‘Testify.’ It’s all about how you are feeling.”

Added by: Menace, 02/Oct/08 | Comments: 4

Hip-Hop Pioneers Celebrate Evolution Of Hip-Hop!! 

Afrika Bambaataa and other pioneers of hip hop are scheduled to
travel to Ithaca, N.Y., to speak at a two-day conference celebrating
Cornell University Library’s acquisition of Born in the Bronx: The
Legacy and Evolution of Hip Hop, a collection that documents the early
days of hip hop with recordings, photographs, posters and more.

According to news sources, events on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 are
scheduled to include music, performances and lectures by several of hip
hop’s founders, and roundtable discussions led by prominent speakers
from the hip hop and academic communities. Cornell University Library
will host the event, which will highlight the one-of-akind historical

"By paying tribute to those who laid the foundation, we tell our own
history,” Bambaataa said. "Preserving hip hop’s early years will help
future generations understand the places they come from.”

Bambaataa is scheduled to address the symposium onOct. 31 as part of
a roundtable discussion featuring other hip hop pioneers such as
Grandmaster Caz, Grandwizzard Theodore, Popmaster Fable, Tony Tone,
Disco Wiz and Kool Lady Blue. Select artists will also perform in Alice
Statler Hall that evening.

Noted hip hop historians will speak at the event, including authors
Jeff Chang and Mark Anthony Neal, associate professor of black popular
culture at Duke University. Hip hop photographer Joe Conzo will present
his historic images of the Bronx during the conference. The event is
free and open to the public.

"We want the community at large to celebrate hip hop’s contributions
to American culture through a better understanding of its origins,
which are the focus of this unique collection,” said Katherine Reagan,
curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts at Cornell University Library.

Johan Kugelberg, a collector, curator and writer in the field of
popular culture, donated the materials to the Library. Kugelberg’s
book, "Born in the Bronx,” chronicles the evolution of hip hop in the
South Bronx, beginning in the early 1970s. The 2,000-piece collection
includes the archive of Bronx photographer Joe Conzo, vinyl records and
other recordings, handmade party and club fliers, and custompainted
textiles by artist Buddy Esquire.

Visit http://rmc.library.cornell. edu/hiphop for more information.

Added by: NtG, 29/Sep/08 | Comments: 1

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