That time I went to a barrio in Venezuela to talk to a religious rapper

It was Twitter that led me to this chamo. The story I worked on before that was about bitcoin or something.

I wanted to get back to something that had the potential to entertain in a city that was hyper violent and barely had toilet tissue. It came in the form of a group of guys who made home movies to show to the hood and also rapped on the side.

The leader, Joe, was a rapper who had the story of redemption through God and beats. I met a bunch of guys who were doing some reggaeton-rap stuff. They made a movie that reminded me a little of “I’m Bout it”. It was mostly because of the production value. It’s always the production value with these hood movies.

We went to their hood; their community center. It was beautiful, rising there were the slums, the barrio that ran up the mountain.

And I was safe, because the Garcha twins were right there with me.

The twins were working on Marty’s movie. We had all worked on Marty’s movie by this time.

Watch the video at the top if you haven’t already. It took some time and some care. Plus the kid from the La Linea hood, who hops on to bust a rhyme around the 4:34 mark is everything about hip-hop culture.

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Live by the FunK

Flickr Photo by Michael Tapp https://www.flickr.com/photos/59949757@N06/8720840260/
Flickr Photo by Michael Tapp 

I first met DāM-FunK at Cinespace in LA some time in 2007. He was something I never saw before, a funked out space alien with turntables, shouting out the names of $200 records as he played for a crowd of hipsters. Well, the man, a former Inglewood hip-hop keyboardists, now key-tarist, has made some big strides in his career and is the modern day incarnation of a funk artists. And instead of playing for other people at Cinespace,  he has his own long running L.A. residency called Funkmosphere.

I caught up with DāM-FunK before he stopped in Houston (for those taking notes, si…I’m in Houston now, but more on that later.)  Here’s what we talked about. Full interview at Houston Press.

Rocks Off: So what happened after you saw that tweet about modern funk, and why was it incorrect in your opinion?
DāM-FunK: One of the guys on Twitter was like “Nah, you can’t forget about Dam-Funk.” So, it’s like it caused a little lightening storm a couple of days ago and I watched it. I would hope that people, the historians, writers and critics can keep the facts straight because now they’re going to try to use “modern funk” as the term now, because they know they can’t say neo-soul any more.

And I just hope that people don’t forget about some of the funk that really is happening with synthesizers, drum machines, and beautiful chords. It’s not the chicken scratch type style of funk or soul that was considered modern funk. So the guy from Jimmy Fallon’s show, he incorrectly is trying to change history — innocently if you will — because I think right now people are just do excited that D’Angelo dropped this record.

Continue reading “Live by the FunK”

Niña In the Game

Niña Dioz with French Montana and Raekwon at in New York City, 2013 Photo: Niña Dioz on IG
Niña Dioz with French Montana and Raekwon at in New York City, 2013
Photo: Niña Dioz on IG

When I wrote about this young woman in 2009 I had no idea she’d still be around to bask in the glory of fame and hip-hop. She’s stuck it out, and while I’m not an unabashed fan of her music, I kind of dig that she did a few things: come out the closet and continue to perform and make music. Truthfully, I don’t give a damn that she came out, but from what I’ve heard it’s the queer community that’s giving her heavy support back in Mexico. That’s one way to keep those concert dates hitting.

Here she is at some industry shin-dig with the flavor of the moment, French Montana and the  Wu-Tang Chef Raekwon.  She made a quick East Coast tour stop in May 2013, when she played shows in NYC and Philly.

Code Switching and You Still Got the Juice

I really enjoy the code switching going on here, I mean,  I’ve never heard Ye talk in his “corporate” voice. I might be one of the only guys in the world who didn’t listen to his last  album all the way through. I was a huge fan of that early mixtape work though. Can never take anything away from this man. I’ll even call My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy an early classic.

His mention of Walt Disney as an idol? OK. I guess he knows the history on that figure.

All in all, I’m impressed with what he’s done in his life. Keep it up, Ye.

Lord Finesse Interview Circa 2006

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Lord Finesse.

A “rap icon” is the lazy way to describe his contributions to the game.

I dug up this 2006 interview I did with the man. This early in my hip-hop writing career, I wasn’t able to decode a 1 hour plus interview. Focus, man…

In this scratchy, rambling interview I’m playing a character that I could best describe as Ralph McDaniel’s ugly step son.

Finesse talks about Dr. Dre, and I ask him about Ice-T.

He talks about Japanese hip-hop friends.

He goes in on Fat Beats Records, and talks about the craft of rap.

Serious rap nerds will get something out of this. I sure thank the guy for the material.

Check out part two after the jump…

Continue reading “Lord Finesse Interview Circa 2006”

Rapper Prodigy talks ‘Infamous’ book publishing

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The first time I had a chance to interview Prodigy of Mobb Deep, was during his solo run on the heels of releasing “Return of the Mac,” his second solo album.

It was during a time when everyone was releasing albums on Koch. Some kind of savior of b-grade rappers everywhere. But I never thought of “P” as a second-tier success. His work in the 90s was the precursor to the cocaine raps of the 2000s.

He’s been around longer than you think, having appeared on the “Boyz n the Hood” (1991) soundtrack with the group Hi-Five when he was still signed to Jive Records.

That first interview was a bust. It was “nah meens” and one-word answers. The kind of stuff I wasn’t equipped for, really. Its sucked. I was writing the piece for The Smoking Section and I think it sucked so bad that it got scrapped. That just gives you an idea of how ill it was.

What follows is the third time I’ve chopped it with Albert Hughes, aka Prodigy. He’s into book publishing and trying to go for more grown-man prospects in the business.

He served a few years in jail and you can tell that time has matured him. He’s on his business grind and celebrating a 20 year anniversary as part of what’s probably one of the greatest rap duos to come out of Queens.

How did you come up with the idea to write a novella?

It took me two months with my laptop and I banged it out. I banged out the beginning, middle and the end. I wrote it in 1999. It was sitting around until last year. I was looking for a new book to put out since my autobiography. I said, let me get somebody to turn it into a book.

So, I reached out to Steve Sevill. He’s got the slang from out there (England). He said he was interested in getting it done. He sent it back to me, in about a month. He added little things to the story.

I was trying to do different things. I was trying to connect with somebody new.

New Jersey’s new prince of hip-hop


I’m beyond overworked at this point in my life. But the band still plays on, player.

Here’s a little one-off I hobbled together and stuck together with some chewing gum. No reflection on the artist, but let’s just say I’m an artist still finding his rhythm. Such is life.

One thing that I think is interesting about young Mula, besides that catchy ass name is his hustler’s spirit. He’s been at this for a while and keeps it 100% Brick City.

If he plays the game long enough one will never know the heights he could achieve. For more on this young bearded MC, follow him:

@MikeeMula

Mixing it up for cuz

 

That picture is of a guy who made the NJ Amber alert earlier this month. He tried to steal his kid, I think.

No relation.

My cousin came to visit. Stayed about 3 months. Good times, good times. Dude was my first  friend, first ace! First cat I drank beers in NYC with. My dude. Family.

Now that I’m at that crucial juncture where I have mouths to feed and people who look to me to take care of them — the carefree days are over.

Well, not really…it’s just another era for me.

Enjoy the mix, it was inspired by Pancho.

Shabazz Ish

Ish né Butterfly

When I saw Digable Planets back in like 90-something at Apollo Theater, I was a little surprised to see that the crew was relaxed and humble. All three members were chilling with their public when the show was over, smoking blunts and walking in the street with the rest of the fans. I mean, these were MTV stars at this point. They could’ve been on some greater-than-thou stuff.

Above, the former Seattle-to-BK transplant who went by Butterfly. He’s now back in Seattle catching some fame from the rap scene, but also keeping his efforts alive with his first full-length release that you can read about, here.

I’d been reading about “Shabazz Palaces” for a while, but didn’t know his first LP was coming out this summer. NPR has a nice little series, led by a former co-worker of mine, Ann Powers (who was nice enough to have coffee and a chat with me once in L.A.—she’s always been (kinda) supportive).

This week, Sub Pop, the label that released Nirvana‘s first record and which is also home to Fleet Foxes, will release Black Up, the debut album from its first major hip-hop act, the critically adored Shabazz Palaces, which has resurrected the career of Ishmael Butler, once of the hit ’90s group Digable Planets. Every week a new hot act was bubbling up on my radar. I noticed that some of my old rocker friends were now frequenting hip-hop nights at Nectar and the Lo-Fi Lounge.

Check the rest, here. And, here.  And kudos to http://www.subpop.com/ for signing this guy. Smart move, ya’ll.

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East-West Paperboy Division

I was at a VJ Uncle Ralph McDaniels session in Manhattan over the weekend. While Uncle Ralph was doing damage with the video mixing, the homie Samaha leaned over and asked, “You think he’ll play Paperboy?”
Had to laugh at that one. Sure, Paper Boy is the one-hit gem every West Coaster knows as the jam that rocked outdoor BBQs and skating rinks statewide. In the midst of gangster rap, this Paper Boy guy jacked a funk loop and rode off into the sunset, or did he?

Maybe one day Uncle Ralph will figure out how to squeeze this jam into his rotation, keep an eye out and let me know if you see it. He’ll be streaming his Saturday “Video Music Box” show, here.