The Execution Of A Chump (updated 3/10)

March 10, 2012

I’ll make this brief for anyone who doesnt know.

1) A “journalist” stole heavily from the review I did of Danny’s Payback album on this very site. Said journalist was caught and shunned to the point of cancelling their Twitter page

2) Said journalist issued the apology below, blaming the industry’s pressures for her indiscretions when the fact is she was making a name for herself without a shred of actual talent. It’s important that you read this to the end for the real kicker.

I’m taking this opportunity to address the recent reports of plagiarism that have been surfacing over the Internet this past week. As someone who has spent the last seven years building a career in journalism it pains me to be sitting here trying to find the right way to explain how I could have made such an error in judgment. I am someone that takes great pride in being a writer and takes journalistic integrity very seriously. However, I say all that to say that I am not perfect and I have in fact made a mistake that goes against everything I stand for as a professional. While my name has been subjected to much criticism and judgment by numerous people as of late, trust that no one will ever be as hard on me as I am on myself.

With that being said, it was never my intention to negatively affect anyone or try to make a gain from someone else’s work. I write about Hip-Hop because it’s something I am very passionate about. Most of the gigs I get in this industry don’t pay. I have a day job for that. For me, it was always about the love – of the culture, of the artists and of documenting a movement that served as a huge source of inspiration to me growing up. When print publications didn’t allow the freedom to cover the music and subjects that really spoke to me, I turned to the Internet. Besides my own blog, I soon discovered the world of underground Hip-Hop sites that offered a space to share and continue to contribute to the dialogue with like-minded individuals. Here, I created a home.

But it takes a special kind of person to be a writer – someone that spends most of their time in their own head. It takes someone who can sit and take the time to digest information and dissect in a way that forms an educated opinion and then creatively expresses that opinion so that others can understand. It takes an even stronger kind of person to do all that AND be in this industry. Above all you have to be very competitive, aggressive, and have a thick skin to stand a chance. And somewhere while navigating that fine line between writing for passion and being ”successful” at it, I got lost.

When the opportunity to write for HipHopDx came along, I was thrilled. It meant that I was being recognized for being some sort of authority on music and that what I said would really matter because of where my byline would be. But what I didn’t realize was the level of pressure that would come with this. Self-doubt has a way of creeping up at the most inconvenient times and making you question whether or not you are good/smart/relevant enough to keep up with such a fast moving, over- saturated business. I took assignments that I didn’t truly have the time or capacity to fulfill to the best of my ability. I was being pulled in many directions and should have been honest with myself about my limitations. It gets exhausting to be ambitious and take on assignments that have to be turned around in three or four days. None of this is an excuse, but I am just trying to honestly answer everyone’s number one question: “What happened?”

It wasn’t fun anymore. You figure, well I need to put something together, because I don’t want to say no and miss out on this opportunity. Then suddenly you are scrambling to meet one of many deadlines. It is also easy to think that I am one of millions of online writers/ bloggers and the likelihood of people actually reading my work is slim, and paying attention to it even less. So, I ended up using other people’s words to express something I was too tired or too uninspired to come up with myself.

This action is so far from the person that I really am it embarrasses me to admit it. However, it was my mistake and I will own it. It’s one thing to discredit me, I can handle that, but what hurts me the most is the thought of somehow discrediting or letting down all the people that have supported me in my career thus far. In this business it is all about the co-sign, we all know that. I have had the honor of working with so many talented and legendary people that respected me and co-signed me with nothing to gain. I hold each and every one of these relationships in high regard. I hate the thought that these people will now think differently of me because of a mistake I made. To all of you, and you know who you are, I apologize for disappointing you.

To HipHopDx – I am sorry for inadvertently impacting your credibility. It was an honor to work with you and I thank you for the opportunity.

To the writers affected– I apologize for not citing your work and using it as a quick fix for myself.

Personally, I am using this time to take a step back and reassess what is important – to get back to the essence of why I write. When I write, it will be about things that authentically touch and inspire me and not because I think I “should” be doing it. I am learning it is okay to say no when necessary. Most importantly, to stay true to my own voice and my own vision at all costs. Otherwise, the only person I am really cheating is myself.

3) Yesterday the apology was taken down, today it’s back up. This is becoming a weird game of cat and mouse.

Danny! – Payback (review)

January 17, 2012

Genius is a complex and often misunderstood attribute that lends itself to fearless eccentricity. Within Hip-Hop it is particularly rare to find this trait, as most producers and MCs operate within safely predetermined constraints for their art. Danny Swain has never hesitated towards boldness, initially operating as an independent wunderkind wearing hats both behind the boards (well renowned for quirky sampling) and on the microphone rapping. Despite his professional trajectory hitting a slump as he forged a botched affiliation with (now defunct) Definitive Jux Records, Danny is presently aligned with major powerhouse Interscope Records; his seventh album Payback aiming for consideration in the mainstream’s reindeer games.

Long time followers of Danny’s arc are familiar with his well documented frustrations towards the music business. Payback finds him on the verge of a meltdown after arduous efforts of catching a break using sheer talent in a climate that rewards imagery and gimmicks. The album’s plot leans towards art reflecting life, centering around the plight of a rapscallion reaching his breaking point and ending up on trial for vague miscellaneous infractions. The audience is taken on an elaborate ride hinting towards vigilantism as former allies, envious competition, and rappers with poor business acumen bear Danny’s reckless wrath. With guests ranging from modern avant-garde to chart toppers and Grammy winners, he meets the duplicitous challenge of sticking to his guns in attempts of netting new fans.

An acute interpretation gathers Danny’s battle for redemption on Payback as an extended metaphor for the self-examination of an artist at his wits end. While he carries a brash self-confidence, razor sharp wit and precise rapping ability, he remains forced to question his function in an industry that doesn’t value progressive artistry. This gives probable cause to explaining the album’s overage of features, suggestive of a scheme to creep through what would be an otherwise small window of opportunity. On the surface the project could be compared to the run of the mill Hip-Hop compilation, but understanding Danny Swain is realizing his creative mind is nothing if not conceptual. A look at the grander scheme shows drastic measures taken in hopes of attaining an ever elusive spotlight, and a possible mockery of what the music business has become. Long established supporters should find themselves amused, inspired and empathetic towards the brevity employed in our protagonist going out on this subversive limb. In the end, Payback examines whether the masses are adept so as to grasp the method of Danny’s madness, or if he has preyed on the notion that they likely won’t be.

1)De La Soul – I Am I Be

May 22, 2011

Song: I Am I Be

Album: Buhloone Mindstate

Year: 1993

Why this is my top Hip-Hop song of all time: While an obscure choice, this was Hip-Hop confronting adulthood and maturity, from a group we were just used to being fun and zany. This song is beautiful, serious, introspective, soulful and jazzy and in 2011 it’s a look at longevity and artistry when you consider De La, Busta, Prince Paul, Dres and Q-Tip are still making music of substance today, and Chris Lighty/Bob Power still have relevant careers. As a bonus, look at this picture and be jealous.

(that’s the first voice you hear on this song)

Sincere thanks you if you took even the slightest interest in this experiment of mine, it took over a month longer than the expected end date if I would have done one song a day. Zip files with every song broken up and pieced together will be up over the next few days.

2)Boogie Down Productions – The Bridge Is Over

May 21, 2011

Song: The Bridge Is Over

Album: Criminal Minded

Year: 1987

You love to hear the story, again and again. MC Shan releases “The Bridge” as an homage to New York’s legendary Queensbridge housing projects, in it he’s mistaken for saying Hip-Hop begun there. Radio DJ and Juice Crew affiliate Mr. Magic goes on to reject a demo from KRS-One who went on to retaliate with the “South Bronx”,  taking MC Shan to task for his claim on Hip-Hop’s origins but really just because he’s down with Mr. Magic. Shan comes back with “Kill That Noise” (I’ll go on record saying I don’t believe I’ve ever heard this song and at this point I’m sure it sounds dated so I won’t even bother. I was 7 at the time, sue me) and his career is all but laid to rest with “The Bridge Is Over”

To put this in a modern day perspective if any younger heads are reading this, “The Bridge Is Over” for MC Shan was like what “Back Down” off of Get Rich Or Die Trying did to Ja Rule’s career or what “The Takeover” nearly did to Prodigy’s career. The song that had all of Hip-Hop no longer able to view you r present status with any sort of reverence, after which point whenever you show your face the elephant in the room is that you got demolished. The wickedest piano melody ever, a drum that defined boom bap, and lyrical murder mostly in the form of patois. Kris barely even rapped, he ended it with a Billy Joel interpolation and that quickly it was a wrap for MC Shan though the Juice Crew would still go on to maintain some success after which point.

3)Native Tongues Posse – Buddy Remix

May 21, 2011

(I know the picture is incorrect, I just wanted to put up something Native Tongue-ish to me)

Song: Buddy Remix

12″ single

Year: 1989

Prince Paul is a production wizard and a genius of our time. He took the Taana Gardner “Heartbeat” bass line, combined small elements from a slew of other records I have no clue about and created the backdrop for what I consider easily the best posse cut of all time.

Everything about this song is magical and fun. De La, Jungle Brothers and Tribe really rip it, then Monie Love comes in and KILLS it, then Q-Tip & Queen Latifah harmonize The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” randomly and it’s such a happy moment for Hip-Hop. Then Queen Latifah does a silly Hispanic accent in a skit at the end, this was before she became a leading actress, before the Tribe breakup, when the Native Tongues were still a unit and it felt like everything was great within the culture.

4)Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick – The Show

May 21, 2011

Song: The Show

Album: Oh, My God!

Year: 1986

Let’s see here…

  • Teddy Riley produced this just a few years out of puberty. He’s from Harlem’s St. Nicholas projects where I still have family by the way.
  • He replayed the Inspector Gadget melody and made it into boom bap
  • All of the noises and beatboxing Doug E. Fresh did, the trading off of raps with Slick Rick was dope
  • Without this song, the aforementioned “Cant Stop The Prophet” remix wouldn’t have been the same
  • Without this song “Party And Bullshit” wouldn’t have been the same
  • Without this song Slum Village’s “The Look Of Love” wouldn’t have had that “Word, Rick?” part after “no need for that I get down with raps, just say word”
  • Without this song The Pharcyde’s “Return Of The B-Boy” wouldn’t have existed, period
  • It was done in a studio and made to sound like a live show, complete with Doug E. Fresh’s epic outro (“as you can see, most definitely, WE ARE (fresh) CHILL WILL, (fresh) BARRY B…”

Basically everything about this record won and still does to this day.

5)Public Enemy – Rebel Without A Pause

May 21, 2011

Song: Rebel Without A Pause

Album: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

Year: 1988

This was another of those moments where I hadn’t heard anything like it before and haven’t heard anything like it since. I don’t know what prompted the Bomb Squad to come with what sounds like a tea kettle (watch it be an obscure James Brown break or something) but it was the perfect backdrop for Chuck D’s commanding presence. Every line was worth paying attention to despite the song not having a message compared to a lot of Public Enemy’s general fare, this was like their version of a battle record that just so happened to name drop Assata Shakur long before it was fashionable to do so (“recorded and ordered, supporter of (Joanne) Chesimard”). I have to imagine this epitomized what black power must have sounded like at the time, Chuck D is to be commended for becoming the MC most commonly associated with talking about civil activism long before rappers went to shunning the “conscious” tag. As well, this song wouldn’t have been complete with Terminator X’s mean scratching.

For the sake of shits and giggles, here’s Beanie Sigel’s humorous cover featuring some of State Property, whereby they proceed to rap about things that would make Chuck D look down on them with great levels of scorn and contempt.

6)Nas – N.Y. State Of Mind

May 19, 2011

Song: N.Y. State Of Mind

Album: Illmatic

Year: 1994

Im hardly one of those people that believe Illmatic to be the greatest thing to ever happen to Hip-Hop, it was just at the time a really great rapper getting with a bunch of really great producers with the end result being an intro, 8 classic songs and “One Time For Your Mind”. Sure we hadn’t heard anyone as gifted as Nas was but I’m never one for blowing things out of proportion. That much said the opener after the intro was at once funky, hard, and a whole new level of Hip-Hop in and of itself. Nas was never the tough guy rapper, he just broke down the world around him and painted pictures that were like films on audio. The flows on this were like a jazz musician finding whatever rhythm works for him at a whim while still keeping with the beat. The beat, another Premier gem was wondrous and the lyrical performance was just potent from top to bottom.

7)Jeru The Damaja – Come Clean

May 19, 2011

Song: Come Clean

Album: The Sun Rises In The East

Year: 1994

This was just art. It was a statement representative of that whole golden era. The drums were that KNOCK, Jeru rapped like no one we had ever heard before or since his time and it was just a really proud moment for New York. This is probably one of the reasons my eyes got wide as dinner plates when I met DJ Premier at the Moment Of Truth album signing at the Sam Goody a few blocks over from where Fat Beats was (remember record stores?) Jeru’s flow was smooth and playful yet unorthodox and it was rather effortless how well he came off connecting lines where the previous one left off. For the record, that isn’t a sample of water drops just because that was what you saw in the video, water drops could never be that melodic. This was a time where you were basically being given props if your voice was scratched on a hook, the way Onyx was saluted here, Jeru’s vocals from “Come Clean” went on to be cut up on the hook for Blahzay Blahzay’s “Danger”. The scratching breakdown at the end is crucial as well.

8)LL Cool J – I’m Bad

May 19, 2011

Song: Im Bad

Album: Bigger & Deffer

Year: 1987

Sure there was the goofiness of “Rapper’s Delight”, the cool of Run-DMC,  Kurtis Blow and a pantheon of early slick talkers, but Hip-Hop’s braggadocio may as well have been born with LL Cool J’s “I’m Bad”. I was all of 7 years young when this came out, but I have to imagine James Todd Smith became the man everyone wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with around this time. This was just unbelievable levels of domination, confidence, presence and just slaughter even if cats like Rakim and Kane would go on to prove themselves superior with the lyrics down the line. To say LL ripped it here would be quite the understatement.