August 05, 2005

Jeff Chang: Why Hip-Hop Writing Doesn't All Suck In 2005

Peace Tamara,

I've been really enjoying Country Fried Soul. There's lots to love about your book. One thing I really dig is how you designed it to be explicitly hip-hop. I really love your mixtape concept. It's like the funk is in the format, too!

That's what is also interesting to me about hip-hop writing. First off, there's a huge variety of styles—as many as there are MCs or graf writers or DJ or b-girl/b-boy styles--and mad quality to be had. Don't believe me? Check Raquel Cepeda's incredible anthology And It Don't Stop or Oliver Wang's Classic Material. (And anyone who doesn't believe "real" journalism, the kind that takes risks and changes lives, is happening in hip-hop should check Cheo Hodari Coker's biography of Biggie or anything by Elizabeth Mendez-Berry.)

I'm not even getting to Bakari Kitwana or Mark Anthony Neal or Tricia Rose's cultural criticism or Danyel or Adam Mansbach or Jee Kim's lit or Joe Schloss, Cheryl Keyes, or Raquel Z. Rivera's scholarship. I could go on mentioning peers like this who inspire me for days...

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August 01, 2005

Hip-hop Writing Empowers Us and Gives Us a Voice

Hey Jeff,

I'm sorry it took a while to reply to you, though it looks like people have used my absence to get a discussion going. In some ways that has actually helped me to come up with what I want to say here, for it's that same opinionated spirit that these people are expressing that makes writing about hip-hop interesting. More so than other musical genres, writing about hip-hop opens you up into such a vulnerable space simply because there are always people who will tell you if they think you are full of shit for what you are saying.

I've told you this before, but it was somewhat of a terrifying challenge to write the Dirty South book for so many reasons. Not only is it my first book but it's the first to tackle this subject (and I pray not the last). I had an overriding fear that my work would not appear credible to those who have chronicled the culture for many years. That shit kept me up at night at times!

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July 27, 2005

Jeff Chang: Why Do We Love Writing About Hip-hop?

Hey Tamara,

Hope all is well, the book is blowing up, and the weather is good on your side of the Bay!

Getting a chance to link up back with you within the blog fishbowl is a pretty cool thing. And I know it's going to be a really interesting conversation because we've been asked to talk about hip-hop history.

Now this is funny to me in some ways. We're both Left Coasters--and Bay Area partisans, at that. (Representing the blue and gold and the green and gold and the paying side of the Bay Bridge, which I'm always gonna be bitter about...) So it's strange that I'd go and do a history that falls in love with the Bronx, Long Island, Watts, DC, and many other places--but makes little mention of the Yay, the place where I actually chose to put down some roots--and that you're doing the history of the Dirrrty. To take it further, I grew up on an island in the Pacific.

Hip-hop is often so much about representing where you're from and who you are. I guess a great place to start this conversation is: what in the world possessed us to think we could do what we did?

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July 21, 2005

Danyel Smith: What's a Music Critic's Relationship to Music?

Hey Kim,

thanks for the thoughtful response.

Changing the subject to music, I wonder how your relationship to it has evolved.

I got into this business because I loved to write. I would have written about anything, and was writing about everything from mayors'
conventions to olive oil when I was was starting out in the Bay Area.
But then Too Short and Hammer and the three Tonys started blowing up, and I wanted to write about them. HAD to write about them, like life depended on it. One thing led to another, and I end up as music editor of Vibe, then editor in chief ... hm. My story's old and been told. ;)

All's to say, I loved music, the sound of it, the histories of it, the art and science of it, the lyric sheets in LP covers, all that. There's a part in BLISS, wherein Eva is young and taping songs off the radio with a GE Cassette Recorder. That's the kind of girl I was. And in my twenties (hey now! quite some time ago!), when it was all about the excitement of reviewing live shows, I felt like the luckiest chick in the world -- going to the Bud SuperFest, or the Frankie Beverly concert, for free, and getting to write, and have published, my opinion about the shows. It was a dream come true. A dream I didn't even know I had until I was in the middle of it.

So then I got serious. Slaved. Plugged. You know the drill.

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July 16, 2005

Kim Osorio: The Trap of the "Music Bubble"

Hey Danyel,

Sorry it took so long to write back, I just got back in town. Yes, we’ve never hung out in person, but I guess we’ll make up for that here online. We’ve definitely, though, crossed paths, or even maybe, walked down the same one. I remember bumping into you at one of those VH-1 or MTV tapings, and you told me, “You’re doing a great job” and then you shot me this look. And I knew exactly what it was you were trying to say without saying.

I’m only about nine chapters or so into Bliss (by the way, congrats), but already I’m starting to remember what the “music industry”—or as I like to call it “music bubble”— is really about. Eva works in the music bubble, a place where nothing else exists besides her business (be it personal or professional). I’m starting to see this as a problem for Eva because as I’m over 100 pages into Eva’s life, I have yet to hear from a parent, a sibling, a best friend, an aunt, a grandparent, a cousin—you get the picture. It’s only been a couple of days for Eva, but that’s all it takes, because as most of us who have been-there-done-that know, 24 hours without contact to the outside world will turn you into the one thing you’d never admit to being: #4080’s shady ass industry person.

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July 11, 2005

Danyel Smith: A Lil' Bliss For You

Hello Kim,

We've never hung out, but it's a pleasure to meet you online. Hope you enjoyed the book. If you've got bones to pick with me, I'm ready ... : )

Hashim asked me to start with a little about the subject matter of Bliss, so here goes. This very first bit is basically from the flap copy:

At a 1998 gathering on the Bahamas Paradise Island, record exec Eva Glenn is throwing a comeback showcase for her singing sensation, Sunny Addison. At the event's peak, Eva begins to sink beneath the waves of a confusing sexual triangle, a career at a crossroads, fading self-confidence, and decisions to be made about her possible pregnancy. She decides to flee Paradise for the pastoral out island of Cat, and what begins as an idyllic break turns into an intense sojourn that brings Eva to terms with the crises closing in on her.

It was my goal to take a cold look at the machinations of the music industry, but to also write with a passion for the power of pop. I wanted this novel to be about the year after Biggie and Tupac were murdered -- the bizarre mood so many of us were in then -- and have it also be about the rhythm and blues of life, and why we hold tight to the sex and music and love that offer us a fleeting glimpse of bliss, even when the price is steep.

The book is about women on the business side of music -- women of our, and of the previous and the next generation -- dealing with new power, new money, the pressure to be and to stay motivated, tough, pretty, in shape, in a relationship, and to do all this while acting like they are oblivious to the racial and sexual tensions that exist in the world, and in the music biz specifically. Bliss is Eva's story, for sure, but there are other important characters -- Dart, Ron, Giada, Sunny, Hakeem, Myra, Ned, Gayle -- who have whole stories. The way these men and women interact with each other paint a portrait of the way things were ... way back when artists like DMX were brand new.

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May 03, 2005

Desperate Hip-Hop Wives: Married to the Game

SOHH spoke with The Source's former Editor-in-Chief Kim Osorio, artist manager El, former Aftermath executive Tashion Macon, promotions manager Kim Trick and Hip-Hop journalist and author Giselle Zado-Wasfie about their opinions on the real life treatment of women professionals in the male-dominated Hip-Hop industry.

These stories are raw...

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April 26, 2005

Arrest of 5-Year-Old A Sick Travesty

OK... so this 5-year-old girl in Florida is straight arrested and handcuffed in school after wildin' out on her assistant principal. [watch the disturbing video]

Regardless of how much this little girl was cuttin' up, being a spoiled brat, fighting the teacher, etc, 5-year old little girls should NOT under any circumstances be handcuffed. And to think she was handcuffed behind her back like a common criminal!

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