Adam Yauch (best known as MCA from the US hip hop group the Beastie Boys) wasn't larger than life. Beneath the dynamic stage presence, over-the-top rhymes and highly stylised videos was someone who was quite humble and even soft-spoken in interviews. One almost gets the feeling that Yauch and his MCA alter-ego were two separate people. The hole that both leave in modern music, however, is immense.
In a recent interview with Hip-Hop DX, a hoodie-clad Nas exhibited an understandable amount of despair at the case of African American youth Trayvon Martin, the shot dead by George Zimmerman while walking home from the shops in Florida in February. The US hip hop artist said: “You never want to hear that kind of news. When it happens, you remember how many Trayvon incidents happen everyday all over the world... “It doesn’t seem like the race problem will ever get solved. I like to be optimistic, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever get solved.”
Wrecking Ball Bruce Springsteen Columbia www.brucespringsteeen.net Bruce Springsteen is back. And according to fan and detractor alike, he's angry as hell. Given the times in which we find ourselves, this should be unsurprising. What is surprising, however, is the musical method he's chosen to express this anger: a sound and structure that is at once vintage Springsteen and new territory for the Boss.
The Egyptian revolution has mobilised millions of people. It brought down the United States-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The struggle for democracy and equality continues. Countless songs dedicated to the uprising rocketed around the internet. Two of these songs, "Rebel" and "Not Your Prisoner" from hip-hop trio Arabian Knightz, quickly became anthems of the revolution. Arabian Knightz released their new album Uknighted States of Arabia on January 25 ― the one-year anniversary of the protests that sparked the revolution.
Ramy Essam has been featured on my Rebel Frequencies site before. The young folk-singer may best be described at "the troubadour of the Egyptian revolution". Essam performed at the initial rallies demanding dictator Hosni Mubarak step down, and was kidnapped and tortured as a result. And yet he still writes and performs. Furthermore, his own personal struggle to sing publicly demonstrates how much more work the revolution still has ahead of it.
Electronic Intifada (EI) brought together three stories in early October that paint a vivid picture of the need for a cultural boycott of Israel. This certainly is no surprise, given that EI is without a doubt the best source out there on the Palestinian struggle. Still, it seems worth connecting the dots. First is United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's threat to withhold aid from global aid programs crucial to Palestine's infrastructure and culture.
“Since his death, Tupac has become an international martyr, a symbol on the level of Bob Marley or Che Guevara, whose life has inspired Tupacistas on the streets of Brazil, memorial murals in the Bronx and Spain, and bandanna-wearing youth gangs in South Africa.” These words, penned five years ago by culture writer Eric K Arnold, are just as true today, a decade and a half after the African American rapper was shot dead on September 13, 1996 ― perhaps even more so.
Natacha Atlas, the award-winning electronic-worldbeat artist, has canceled her upcoming show in Israel and will be boycotting the state until the apartheid regime is dismantled.
Another pop-music cliche came tragically true this past weekend: “Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.” The same age as Joplin, Hendrix, Morrison and Cobain. Like all of these amazing artists she has gone way too young. Like all of them, she had reams of talent, skill, and most importantly, soul. She was lucky enough in her short time to really and seriously change the way many of us view music.
The Grammy awards have long been the kind of thing that one simply has to deal with if you're going to approach music under capitalism. It comes wrapped in all the elitism, commerce and segregation that necessarily has to accompany the music industry, but it's still something of a great salt lake for any artist — even those who are the most socially conscious — if they want to navigate the most treacherous waters of their craft. Like any money-making venture, it can be just as susceptible to public pressure as it is to the forces of the market.
The “Big Four” record companies, already responsible for more than 80% of album sales on the planet, may be on the verge of becoming the “Big Three”. On May 6, Warner Music Group was sold to Ukrainian-American tycoon Leonard Blavatnik. Warner is the world's third largest record company. Blavatnik ― the world's 80th richest man ― is also rumored to have his sights set on number four EMI. If that sale comes to pass, it will create the largest music label in history.
I’ve never really bought the idea that 17-year-old Canadian-born pop star Justin Bieber is just some harmless, happy-go-lucky teen heart-throb. Anyone who saw the near-riot he inspired in Liverpool can attest to this. His most recent comments about abortion in an interview published by Rolling Stone on February 16, however, crosses a whole new line. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” Bieber told the music magazine. “It's like killing a baby?”
This went up on IS singer Macy Gray's Facebook page on January 17: "I'm booked for 2 shows in Tel Aviv. I'm getting a lot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wanna go. I gotta lotta fans there I don't want to cancel on and I don't know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?"
There are more revelations than you can count in the now-infamous Wikileaks cables — a fact highlighted by the arrest and extradition attempts against Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. But here’s another one that’s been buried, and it definitely hammers home the need to defend not just Wikileaks, but freedom of speech in general.
United States Republican representative from Ohio John Boehner is feeling pretty full of himself nowadays. Little wonder. With the Republicans winning back in control of the House of Representatives in the November 2 elections, Boehner looks set to be the next Speaker. And like any pompous career politician who fancies himself cock-of-the-walk, he seldom lets facts get in the way.
Maya M.I.A. N.E.E.T. Recordings www.neetrecordings.com Big Day Out tour January/February 2011 www.bigdayout.com It created a buzz well before its release date. For months, every pop music outlet speculated on its content. It provoked fervent anticipation among fans, censorship from the internet, and derision from elitist establishment journalists. When Sri Lankan-born Tamil musician M.I.A.’s Maya finally arrived in July, it predictably polarised critics.