French Hip Hop?

There is an old saying that a “Lie can get half way around the world before Truth has a chance to get its pants on”.

There is one thing faster – music.

Festival celebrates French hip-hop

Since the founding of Washington, it has been tres facile to sense the French influence in the circles, grids and diagonals bequeathed by Pierre L’Enfant, and in recent years, it seems no office is more than steps away from a French (or French-named) place to buy a croissant.

You’d think Sylvain Cornevaux, cultural director of the Alliance Francaise, would consider his mission accomplished now that it’s so easy to pick up baguettes in our French-formatted city. He doesn’t.

“The bread, the architecture — these things are French, and these things are very nice, but they are also very old,” Cornevaux said. And so this month, in an effort to connect the District’s streets with the New France, he has organized a festival of French hip-hop dance.

Oui. French hip-hop dance. Does that sound oxymoronic? Au contraire, Cornevaux explains. Given the influx of immigrants from former French colonies and the general French fascination with urban American life, hip-hop culture caught on in France but quickly merged with higher-brow art. The result is choreography that’s now being exported back to the United States. And thus we have “Urban Corps: A Transatlantic Hip-Hop Festival,” which continues through Friday, May 25, at venues in Arlington County and the District.

“It is very interesting, because hip-hop was born in the U.S. but it has quickly developed in another way in France,” Cornevaux said. “Hip-hop was still an emerging artistic field in the beginning of the ’80s, but at the beginning of the ’90s, many hip-hop artists started working a lot with classical choreographers and with artistic directors of theaters. [Dancers] kept their hip-hop skills but transformed to show them in a contemporary manner. They incorporate hip-hop, mime and Capoeira,” a Brazilian blend of athletic dance and martial arts.

The Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting French language and culture, worked hard to obtain visas for 13 dancers affiliated with four French companies, and each troupe received funding from its home town or region to cover travel. The city of Nantes even paid to ship extensive sets for KLP Company’s show “Tour of Duty” to that Atlas Performing Arts Center.

“Tour of Duty” may sound like a show inspired by military battles or war video games, but according to press materials and the company’s Web site, it’s actually a narrative tracing the history of hip-hop in Brooklyn, beginning in 1960, and recounting years of gang wars and communities coming together.

Junious Brickhouse, founder of the District-based hip-hop collective Urban Artistry, is a bit skeptical about the storyline — Brooklyn? What about the South Bronx? — but suspects that the dancing will be on target. “I’ll be honest. I think there are some things that get lost in translation,” Brickhouse said, “but at the end of the day, I just want to get down with some nonverbal art.”…

Chez Chez…Indeed.

Where is the Love?

The love ballad has seemingly left the scene in terms of black music in America. Every day chances that there will be another Bary White,  Teddy Pendergrass, or Luther seem to get dimmer and dimmer – as the assorted wannabes and no-talent noisemakers flood the scene…

An interesting take on why no more “Love” in R&B.

Where is the love in R&B music?

When I was a teenager trying to figure out what the ladies liked, I would turn on the TV on Saturday afternoons to catch “The hippest trip in America.”

I’d close my bedroom door to make sure my younger brother wasn’t watching, and then I’d imitate the latest dance moves on “Soul Train,” the African-American dance show. Standing in front of a mirror, I’d unleash a series of spasmodic dance moves before embarrassing myself too much to continue.

Soul Train’s dancers never had that problem. As the show’s festive theme song played, wiry dancers in tight double-knit pants shimmied across the dance floor. I loved the huge afros, the lapels that were so wide you could land a small plane on them, and the suave “Soul Train” host, Don Cornelius, who signed off each show by declaring, “We wish you love, peace … and sooooulllll!”

But most of all I loved the music on “Soul Train,” especially the slow jams. They had everything — evocative lyrics, head-bopping grooves, soaring string arrangements and a whole lot of talk about love.

Yet when I listen to R&B today, I ask myself the same question Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway posed in their classic 1972 duet: “Where is the Love?”

Listening to black music today is depressing. Songs on today’s urban radio playlists are drained of romance, tenderness and seduction. And it’s not just about the rise of hardcore hip-hop or rappers who denigrate women.

Black people gave the world Motown, Barry White and “Let’s Get It On.” But we don’t make love songs anymore.

Why?

I asked some of the stars who created the popular R&B classics of the late 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s. Their answer: The music changed because blacks lost something essential — something that all Americans, regardless of race, should regret.

“We had so much harmony”

Some of what we lost, they say, was an appreciation of love itself.

Earth Wind & Fire keyboardist and founding member Larry Dunn says a new generation of black R&B artists is more cynical because more come from broken homes and broken communities.

“How are you going to write about love when you don’t know what it is?” asks Dunn, whose new album “N2 The Journey” contains a remake of one of Earth Wind & Fire’s most famous ballads, “Reasons.”

EWF, which gave us 1970s classics such as “After the Love is Gone,” didn’t create songs just to make hits, Dunn says. They also wanted to change lives. The group was known for songs like “Devotion” and “Shining Star” that celebrated love of self and God.

Those sentiments may sound hokey now, but Dunn says EWF could tell their songs had the intended effect. People played EWF love songs at their proms and weddings, and people still write letters of thanks to the group today.

“We had one guy who came up to us before a show and told us that we had helped him get off heroin,” says Dunn, who is as relentlessly upbeat and warm as EWF’s music.

Kenny Gamble brought the same ambition to his sound. Gamble is the co-founder of Philadelphia International Records, known as the Motown of the ’70s. The record label patented “Philly Soul” — tight, sophisticated arrangements with lush strings that formed the backdrop for classic love songs such as Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” and Teddy Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me.”

Yet Gamble’s songs were also driven by black pride and self-help. With his co-producer and songwriter Leon Huff, Gamble created social conscience anthems like “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and “Love Train” by The O’Jays.

Both the love songs and those with messages sprang from the same source, the belief that loving one another and your community was important, says Gamble, who still lives in Philadelphia renovating blighted neighborhoods through his nonprofit, Universal Companies.

“We had so much harmony, so much purpose in our music,” he says. “Our whole purpose was the message is in the music, and that message was to love one another and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Love songs flowered during that era also because black people were more optimistic, music critic Rashod Ollison wrote in an essay on Barry White, the rotund singer with what Ollison described as the “low-as-the-ocean-floor bass voice” who gave us love songs such as “Never Gonna’ Give You Up.”… (more)

In my view the tightest close harmony done in the past 50 years… Ever notice nobody ever tries to cover the old Dells or Harold Melvin songs? That harmony born of 20 or more years singing together is the reason – and you ain’t gettin’ that out of a synthesizer in 15 minutes on the cheap…

Ty-rone!

Looks like another job for an Ebonics translator has opened up at Syngenta…

World's Greatest Angry Scientist: 'Ya Fulla My J*z Right Now!'

Dr. Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley

Prof Attacks Chemical Firm Using … Hip-Hop Lyrics

Chemical company Syngenta has filed an ethics complaint over a Berkeley professor’s trash-talking. The company, the world’s largest producer of the controversial herbicide artrazine, complains that Tyrone Hayes has sent offensive emails quoting rap lyrics to company execs, Gawker reports. Hayes’ research has linked artrazine to cancer in humans and sex changes in frogs.

“So go ahed, bring your boys, cuz I’m bringing the noise. I told ya, you can’t stop the rage. You been bragging, but we’ll see who’s tea baggin’ when TDawg hits the stage,” Hayes taunted in one email. Hayes—whose research has formed the basis for several legal actions against Syngenta—says he grew up in a tough community and was merely reacting to intimidation from the company in a way he felt was appropriate. “Where I came from, people did a lot more,” says the prof.

World's Greatest Angry Scientist: 'Ya Fulla My J*z Right Now!'

Breaking the Chains of Hip Hop

Those of you old enough to remember when AM Radio was the ONLY radio – undoubtedly remember the daytime stations. In many areas, R&B stations were limited to broadcasting during daylight hours. At night, the AM station signals would “bounce” – resulting in an ability to intermittently pick up stations hundreds of miles away.

The DC Market had two black stations, WUST AM 1120, and WEBB AM 1390, which were joined by WOL in the mid 60’s. The formats were strictly R&B. Tthe two biggest jocks in town for years were “The Moon Man” and Barry Richards, seen in this video in the 70’s -

And yeah, Barry was a white guy, who dominated black radio for years. I worked with Barry a couple of times in the early 70’s – and the guy’s voice was incredible. R&B music was euphemistically called “race music” at the time, and the airwaves were about as segregated as America.

Move forward into the first decade of the 21st century, and you find that music is still largely segregated. Sure, there are black and white artists who get airplay on different  station formats – but the venues still tend to follow the vestiges of that “race music” radio.

Breaking that mold are a whole new group of black artists, who are making waves in country – and many of the variations of rock.

SXSW shows why it’s a good time for black alternative music

Lisa Kekaula, lead singer of the rock, soul and punk quartet The Bellrays, is channeling Tina Turner. On one hand, it could be the muscular legs that are planted wide and shaking as she sings. But it’s probably the voice: She has this gutbucket growl that’s only getting more intense because she’s becoming increasingly frustrated at the ineptitude of the sound man here at this basement venue, Prague. Mics aren’t working and the mix in the house is way off. Despite this, The Bellrays are delivering the goods. The packed crowd, mostly white and largely male, is enthusiastically behind them. And the handful of black faces in the room are right there, too, thrilled to see this black woman rocker represent.

Here in Austin, Texas at the this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, it’s being underscored again and again: It’s a great time to be a black musician who’s providing alternatives to what’s assaulting listeners multiple times an hour on most radio stations. Call it black rock, black alternative, Afro-Punk, whatever. The fact is that across the country, black artists are making music that doesn’t fit neatly into the either/or boxes of hip hop and R&B. Audiences are noticing, they’re open and they want more. Continue reading

Heard It Through The Grapevine – Gladys Night Slams Hip Hop

Legendary Singer Gladys Knight Slams Hip-Hop Music

Legendary R&B singer Gladys Knight had some harsh words for the genre of Hip-Hop in a recent interview.

During an interview with BlackNews.com, Knight said that Hip-Hop had created opportunities for young artists, but the slammed the genre of music, claiming it had set back African-Americans as a race.

“It’s been bad, in my opinion, as far as the quality of the music and the stories that they tell. It’s one thing to be raw about your history, but they took it to another level and it became vulgar,” Knight said.

She also claimed that Hip-Hop had not “elevated our industry musically,” before blaming the music for a number of issues within the African-American community.

“It definitely has not elevated us as African-Americans, because we show disrespect for our partners, men and women,” Knight stated. “I believe we have lowered our self-esteem with these performances and presentations.”

Have to go with Gladys here. Maybe I’m just becomming an old fart, and I remember how my parents felt about the music I listened to as a kid…

But – to quote BB King, “The Thrill is Gone”.

A lot of it has to do with sampling, and the next logical step which was to outright steal the music created by real musicians, overdubbing it with new lyrics. The disappearance of real instruments lends a plastic quality to the music, and the massive overdubbing of base to make the music sound balanced on cheap low quality devices destroys any balance. Further, there is even a device which will translate a singers voice from being off-key to on key – ergo, whatever is (or isn’t in the case of lip-syncing) going into the microphone has absolutely nothing to do anymore with what is coming out the other end.

Bill O’Reilly Not Feelin’ Jay-Z’s New Song

Oh My!First Lou Dobbs discovers black folks actually use silverware to eat on a trip to Sylvia’s in Harlem

And now, Bill O’Reilly discovers Hip Hop!

Of course the last attempt at Hip-Hop by a conservative…

Didn’t turn out so well…


STAR And BUC WILD: Dyson joins the dark side | Vlad TV

Star and Buc Wild, Hip Hop artists, are a bit miffed at Professor Michael Dyson…

Not sure the critique is fair – but it is…  Verbal.

WARNING!!!!! The language in this one is crude.

more about “STAR & BUC WILD: Dyson joins the dark…“, posted with vodpod
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