Published on Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:39
by Khari Gzifa
A frequent topic lately, at least in hip hop circles, has been the idea of "culture vulture-ism" and the overt revamping of the popular hip hop image into a less melanin dominated one. While I definitely have an opinion that I have shared in some impromptu roundtables, I think the greater issue is being missed. To illustrate my argument please allow me to divert this conversation into a brief socio-economic lesson. I promise, I will return to my point.
In the 1970s a critical threshold in American business was passed with barely a word mentioned or notice taken. In that decade, GMAC (the financing arm of manufacturing giant General Motors, and basically a bank) for the first time surpassed GM itself in profit-making. When big business saw that it was more profitable to loan money to buy cars than to make and sell those cars, there was a seismic shift in our business models. In the interest of keeping it brief, things like NAFTA, the birth of the world’s most ridiculous CEO-to-Employee pay ratio and most importantly CONSOLIDATION are all direct results of that change. Consolidation is what has been happening all over American business for the last 4 decades; from the Ma Bell and public utilities breakups (which were supposedly done to INCREASE competition, lol), to the wipeout of neighborhood hardware and mom and pop general stores by the likes of Home Depot and Walmart. The new model is very few choices in all of your goods and services. No place is this rule more obvious than in public or terrestrial radio. As a result of that same consolidation trend, behemoths like Clear Channel are now able to completely dominate the marketplace. They are able to present their viewpoint everywhere at once, and only their viewpoint. By establishing that role in media they were able to change radio from its previous role of conduit or a highway through which ideas and art were transmitted between creator and consumer, into a new role as tastemaker and grand arbiter of what is appealing/popular and what ain’t! Now songs had to "cater to radio", images had to fit into a known value and the public needed to be TOLD what to like. See, that’s the only way the banksters, the bean counting counterfeiters that are the real force behind the huge multinational corporations and the crime enabling legislation that created this situation, know how to do business. It’s their ONLY model!
So all this brings me back to where we are now. The reason hip hop is lightening up is because it needs to accomplish two tasks for this group; a) it needs to sell to as wide a base as possible and that includes not just the majority culture but the originators too, and it needs to include the lions share within both those groups and, b) they need to sell other images, lifestyles, products, etc. to you through the music and to do this they need the least threatening/most broadly accepted images out there; the majority culture (read, white people). Remember, these labels are doing 360 deals exclusively for a reason. The money ain't there in music like it used to be and those same reverberations go through radio as well.Read more: #ThoughtfulThursday - Radio Silence
Published on Thursday, 03 July 2014 14:40
by Khari Gzifa
In today’s musical landscape when access to new music is ubiquitous and largely free, Hip Hop fans need a compelling reason to focus their attention, not least their dollars, on emerging artists outside the terrestrial-dome of commercial radio where anything that doesn’t sound dumbed-down and duplicative rarely gets heard. Hip Hop collective Fly Rebel Society released their sophomore album “reFRSH” in late May and we’re happy to report that anyone wondering whether it’s worth spending $9.95 to buy and bump throughout the summer won’t regret their decision by fall. “reFRSH” is a dope successor to their debut “The Fresh Effect” with notable tracks featuring infectious beats and admirable flows. It’s a meaty and fairly comprehensive tour through the group’s artistic reach back-dropped by top flight production values.
Hailing from the DC/Maryland area, The Fly Rebel Society (@FlyRebelSociety) members are Lega-c, Ryda Blak, Cooley, TeeJay, and godlymC; an amalgamation of different personalities and musical philosophies all underlying a common theme of being Fly and Rebellious in everything they do. And what they do with this project is meet the challenge many collectives face of stringing together a cohesive lyrical narrative on each track. On nearly every offering they deftly manage to keep a thematic unanimity in their songs that too often eludes even so-called super groups. That dexterity is on full display beginning with “The Procedure” and with other standouts like “Rearview” and our personal favorite, “Grind”.Read more: Review - Fly Rebel Society "reFRSH"
Published on Monday, 30 June 2014 01:52
Summer’s heating up now, and #EverydayStyle in DC has reached the sizzling point as well. Check out all the shots in our new photoset “Accessories and Tees.” Remember, style is attitude. When you’re comfortable with yourself you’ll never be uncomfortable with what you wear…
Published on Thursday, 05 June 2014 00:25
1. Your Twitter handle, Meluminati, is great. What’s the inspiration behind that and how is it a reflection of your personality?
“Meluminati” is a play on words of my name and Illuminati, but it just means I’m responsible for my own success, whether you believe it or not. I call myself a “conspiracy analyst” as opposed to a “conspiracy theorist,” so it’s not that I don’t buy into the idea, but I question everything to include the idea of questioning everything, lol. I think pop culture feeds off of people’s belief in the Illuminati, which adds to the mystique and controversy (i.e. free publicity), but it’s hurtful because instead of inspiring people to work hard, be consistent, and build lasting relationships (factors for success), it encourages people to believe that certain heights of success aren’t reachable unless you sell your soul. That’s crippling to the psyche. I don’t believe that, so I’m working to prove it’s not true. Guess we’ll find out.
2. Culture doesn’t really have any boundaries; social status, age, ethnicity. But there’s always going to be folks who don’t get that. Do you get questions about your ethnicity as it relates to hip hop?
I’m Asian, thirty-something, a woman, and a mom who works with hip hop artists...there’s a few questions about my entire existence lol. I experience racism and stereotyping more from the general population than I do within hip hop, which is probably why I originally gravitated to it. I think that as hip hop grew into a cultural force and global medium (and Wu Tang made all things Asian cool lol), those who grew up within it are more open-minded. I still get questions asking if I eat dogs and cats, which martial arts I know, do I do nails, how do I speak English so well, etc. and I probably always will as long as America exists. The real questions and issues within hip hop are about me being a woman. That’s a book.
3. No doubt you are a recognizable force in the DMV hip hop scene. How did you get started, what’s your background?
I got started by loving hip hop. I’ve always kept bumping into or becoming friends with people in some aspect of the music and entertainment industry, unintentionally, accidentally, and coincidentally. I guess that happens when you surround yourself by what you love. I never set out to be involved, I literally just wanted to help out some friends by providing my professional skills as a business consultant which seemed to be needed. The more I became involved, the more I saw the fundamental issues in the DMV that were deeper than an absence of business acumen, professional standards, or an industry infrastructure. I wanted to support those who were interested in changing the culture and setting the standards, not just talking or complaining about it. That’s the big picture story. The actual story goes like this: I met Jay Mills on Twitter who invited me to the Anti Club (which was everything the name implies), where I met Pro’Verb. I began working with Pro’Verb and helped to start Will Rap 4 Food. Through Will Rap 4 Food, I met Visto who launched Hippie Life Krew and Dirt2Gold. All of these brands are grassroots and promote inclusivity, positivity, teamwork, and other great concepts that shouldn’t be so rare...all things I believe in.Read more: 10 Questions 4.... Melisa Kim