Monthly Archives: September 2007

Tallulah

The community in Tallulah, Louisiana is fighting to transform a prison into a comprehensive community college. Peep the video above or this article to find out more. These good folks have also invited The Cheddar Box to join in the fight. More to come…

David Banner Checks Congress

“Rap music is the voice of the underbelly of America. And in most cases, America wants to hide the negative that it does to its people. Hip Hop is that voice. And how dare America even consider not giving us the opportunity to be heard”

~David Banner

Lawmakers, civil rights activists and music industry executives met on Capitol Hill recently to discuss the “controversial or offensive content” the government feels that Hip Hop is portraying. Rapper David Banner, above, gives an amazing testimony in defense of Hip Hop. How is it that the US government can continue to engage in terrible wars, shady business deals and oppression, but blame America’s problems on the content of Hip Hop music? What this comes down to is exactly what Banner highlights: Its okay for the White social elite of America to engage in and profit off of negativity, but not okay for Black People to profit off of negativity. Fuck that. Congress gets a big Fuck You from the Box.

J-Hop

Pharrel and Japanese fashion icon/undercover dj NigoJeff Yang’s bi-monthly ‘Asian Pop’ column in the SF Chronicle is friggin awesome. This week, he examines hip-hop’s universality in the context of Japan’s embrace of the music and culture. Japan does love it some hip-hop, most definitely. I used to think it was simply because Japan is really into American pop trends, but Jeff breaks it down as something deeper:

” to say “I” in a society built around “we” is an act of rebellion, of radical self-expression, that connects the experience of the Japanese hip-hop community with its peers around the globe who are also seeking to define their “I.” Ironically, from that international collective of people saying “I” comes a collective we — a nation of people who are converging and collaborating based on mutual desire of expressing themselves, their passions, and their love of beat and rhyme.

One nation under a groove. Word.

Commie Banana Slugs!

Revolutionary Banana Sluggers, son. This totally validates my UCSC college experience.

Mayor Ron Dellums and Oakland’s Violent Struggle

We’re approaching the final months of Ron Dellums’ first year as Mayor of Oakland, and he has stated how he thinks big city mayorship is a harder job than the US presidency. His relationship with the mainstream local press and media has definitely been cold, and the really negative articles about him written by SF Chronicle columnists such as Chip Johnson and Matier & Ross are reflective of that. However, that relationship might be changing, and Chip Johnson wrote some interesting thoughts on a conversation he had with the Mayor recently.

I for one appreciate that Oakland now has a progressive, passionate Mayor with real vision. He leads in a very thoughtful way, and it shows in his approach to specific issues, such as public safety. Oakland has one of the highest murder rates in the country, and the struggle to stop the violence occurring in our city everyday is an issue that must be addressed (not to mention racist killings like that of Gary King, killed by the Oakland Police Department). It is also a very complex issue with no simple solutions. Dellums has been criticized for not providing concrete details on his plans for lowering the homicide rate; people think he’s straight up “not doing anything.” However, he recently announced his plans to hire 25 Street Outreach workers from East and West Oakland whose jobs will be to steer Oakland youth away from crime and drugs and into recreation programs, education and jobs. The idea is that these workers will be experienced in conflict resolution and social services, as well as being from the neighborhoods they would work in, thus giving them the cred they would need with the community to try to stem the violence. This is an idea that makes so much sense, but is completely different from the generic solutions to crime that you normally get that call for “more cops, more arrests, bigger jails,” all of which Dellums has repeatedly said he will not pursue.

This is the difference that you get with Dellums. I get the sense that he doesn’t want to just appear like a strong personality in front of cameras and press conferences, he genuinely wants to do what he can to make Oakland the “model city” that we all know it can be. He wants to take the time to think and plan out a course of action, so that the plan is the best one. However, he’s always said that he is only one man and can only do so much by himself. If we are invested in a prosperous future for all of Oakland’s residents, we all have to do our part. Time will tell if Dellums’ approach does in fact translate into results. Its still early in his term and I for one am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Jena Six and the Bay Area War On Gangs

Thousands marched in Jena, Louisiana yesterday to protest the treatment of the “Jena Six” by the fucked up American legal system. I’m glad it was such a strong demonstration of solidarity against institutional racism. Our man Jordan Flaherty over at Left Turn Magazine wrote a great article awhile back explaining the context of the Jena Six here.

At the same time, we have a discreet “War On Gangs” taking place in San Francisco City Hall that is a reminder of how institutional racism takes on a much more subtle form here in the Bay Area. SF District Attorney Dennis Herrera has entered a heated debate with SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi over proposed “gang injunctions’ as a way of tackling what is perceived as a rising problem with SF gangs. I posted awhile back a very informative piece written by Adachi that outlined how such gang injunctions have proven to actually increase violence. Essentially, they become a means to legally target and further criminalize inner-city youth of color. Fuck that. Don’t believe any of the bullshit, Adachi knows what he’s talking about and should be supported.

**UPDATED 9.24**

As the murder rate approaches the 100 mark in Oakland this year, the questionable killing of Gary King by the Oakland Police Department reminds us that racist violence extends everywhere from Jena to Oakland.

Kanye Vs. 50 and Thoughts On Rap’s Future

kanye_west_-_graduation.jpg fiddy.jpg

Apparently Kanye West’s new album, Graduation, has won the ridiculously hyped “album sale” battle with 50 Cent by outselling him by over a few hundred thousand copies this last week. OhWord has a pretty hilarious summary of the situation:
‘Curtis Milhouse Jackson Concedes Defeat to J.F.Kanye.’

People were actually framing the whole thing as a “battle over the direction of rap.” I chose which side I was on and bought a copy of Kanye’s album, which is awesome, but I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t a former 50 fan. His first album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, brings back good memories. I was a bright young college freshman at the time, and rap was in need of another strong personality. ‘Fiddy’ grabbed that role with no hesitation. He had major swag and there was really no better mainstream rap album to get drunk and high to that year. However, he’s now on album #3, and my college days are over. The guy seems too much like an overblown cartoon character of rap cliches now, or maybe I’m just gettin old.

Kanye on the other hand, continues to surprise me. It was so easy to get wrapped up in this ‘battle’ because of what these two figures seemingly represent: 50 as the thugged out establishment vs. Kanye the self-absorbed but always musically innovative/progressive. Rap no longer illuminates the complexities of crime, it simplifies the equation down to a gleeful and unrealistic glorification of the criminal lifestyle. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be pretentious and I still love me some occasional Young Jeezy. But with the new album, its almost like Kanye is asking, “how long can this really last?” The declining sales of music, and rap especially, shows that he’s on to something, and at the same time, his production skills continue to challenge the audience to redefine what they think rap should sound like. Not to mention the fact that he’s a middle class guy from Chicago who never sold drugs and was always into rocking pink and purple sweater vests.

I was really feeling this blog No Trivia’s review of Graduation. In describing Kanye, it says:

‘Of course, he’s not a “concious” rapper, so he has as much fun with serious, political rap as he does with those crack rappers; he obviously has an affinity for both. The line “I’m like a fly Malcolm X/ Buy any jeans necessary” is just one of many lines that if you unpack it, is just trying to define himself through contrast. He’s a guy no doubt informed by Malcolm X (Poppa West was a Panther) but also a guy really into hot clothes and also okay with sort of mocking Malcolm’s words’

In thinking of rap’s past, present and future, Kanye is really a reflection of where we are at today in a lot of ways, while his music hints at where rap might (hopefully) be going.