Wednesday, September 20, 2006
It's been 10 years since the murder of Tupac Amaru Shakur, the West Coast rap legend who was gunned down on the Las Vegas strip Sept. 7, 1996. He died six days later on Sept. 13, a violent end to a brilliantly flawed artist whose star seemed to loom larger in death than it did in life.
In fact, Tupac's death seemed to usher in a scary trend of the posthemous rap artist as marketing tool. While he was certainly a star in his own right while he was alive, his death lionized his legacy. Dead at 25, Tupac became a legend, and a profitable one at that.
Since his death, dozens of albums, most of them unauthorized, have been released under his name. The handful of official releases have routinely debuted in the top 10 album charts, and Tupac has wedged his way into the top 10 all-time profitable dead celebrities list (joining the likes of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley). In his death, Tupac became the first official hip-hop icon, a brand name whose image along with his art has achieved broad mainstream public appeal.
At the same time, Tupac's death brought out possibly one of the worst practices in hip-hop marketing: the posthumous album. Albums released by dead rappers have become a cottage industry within itself, beginning with 2Pac's "Makaveli - Don Killumaniti: The 7 Day Theory," and then followed closely by The Notorious BIG, who was gunned down in March 1997, six months after Tupac's death.
Since those dark days in hip-hop, posthumous albums, street records, mixtapes and even collaborations amongst dead rappers post mortem, have been released. Big L, Big Pun, Mac Dre, Eazy-E and Souljah Slim have all had successful record releases in the afterlife.
In the song "We Gon Make It," New York MC Jadakiss sums it up by saying "You know dead rappers get better promotion." For all of Tupac's cryptic posturing on his last official release (Tupac's "Makaveli" album was played up as foreshadowing the rapper's own staged death), the album's success - it was a multi-platinum record - was due in large part to his recent killing. This gave record companies the misguided conception that murder was a form of "keeping it real," and dead artists could turn a profit.
Rappers now use this as a means of gaining public acceptance, notoriety and for the achievement of record sales. 50 Cent's much ado'd mantra of "I got shot 9 times" earned him 5-times platinum sales. Songs dedicated to dead homies (Puffy's "I'll Be Missing You") have become number one hits. In short, violent and unnatural death, and the allusion to it, have become a marketing scheme in rap music.
And it's silly to think that this only happens in hip-hop; Bob Marley was shot during heated social times in Kingstone, Jamaica, his wife Rita Marley took a bullet to the head; African musician Fela Kuti had his family murdered, his mother thrown from a second story window, by racist African police. Both artists achieved iconic status post mortem, although it was due in part to their pursuit of social justice and equality through music and political action.
But in hip-hop, 10 years after the death of its most controversial figure, it seems that little has been learned from Tupac's death. Just this year, Detroit MC Proof and Houston veteran Hawk were killed by gunfire. Busta Rhymes' bodyguard was murdered at a video shoot attended by dozens of rap artists. The cycle continues.
And likely, it will stay that way, until someone heeds the Tupac lyric "Damn a n#@$! tired of feeling sad/I'm tired of putting in work/I'm tired of cryin while watching my homies leave the earth."
Posted by Marc Cabrera at 3:01 PM
Monday, September 18, 2006
Teddy Geiger and Lifehouse are performing Sept. 29 in Monterey. To be honest, I know very little about either group.
But that doesn't mean I can't hook it up for Monterey County fans who want to meet the band in person.
That's why I'm holding a contest. School me on the finer aspects of each act. Tell me what makes them so good or , dare I say, great. And do it with brevity - 100 words or less. Your words could win you a chance to meet either Lifehouse or Teddy Geiger.
So, here's the deal: The Monterey County fan who can give me the best description of each act's work, in 100 words or less, wins a prize: two passes to the concert, along with a chance to meet and greet each act before the show.
All entries will be accepted by e-mail only. Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contestants can enter as many times as they want, but only one prize will be awarded per contestant. Deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Lifehouse is a multi platinum selling rock band, who have number one hits and a large following. I know almost nothing about them. Likewise, I'm pretty clueless about Teddy Geiger. I've been reading up on him, and from what I can tell, he's an up and comer who was featured on the short-lived CBS drama "Love Monkey." The show was cancelled by the television network, but briefly revived by VH1 (the cable network aired the entire first season).
Tell me what makes them great, and one lucky Lifehouse fan will get to take a friend to meet the band and watch them perform Sept. 29 at Monterey Fairgrounds (tickets are still available at ticketmaster.com, or the Fairgrounds box office, 372-5863). Likewise, one lucky Geiger fan who gives me the best short essay on why he is such a good performer wins two passes to the concert, along with a chance to meet the artist before the show.
Good luck, and may the best fan win. Visit "The Beat" for updates as the week progresses.
Posted by Marc Cabrera at 4:53 PM
There was a moment last week during Rum & Rebellion's show, when the Salinas cow-punk outfit let the crowd sing its songs for them.
Lead singer George Sanchez stepped away from the microphone and started singing to noone in particular, as the crowd picked up baton and started singing along. It was one of those moments when a band finds its stride with the crowd, a fleeting occurance when artists work becomes a rallying call.
Rum & Rebellion played, potentially, it's final show in Salinas on Friday night at La Perla Restaurant. I say potentially because while Sanchez is leaving the area, two of its other members, drummer Scott McDonald and bassist Mark, are staying put in the Salad Bowl.
And so, Friday night's show was attended by a small throng of die-hards, myself included, giving the band one last big send-off. Tight as ever, the trio ran through its set with workman-like efficiency. Sanchez name checked all of the local bands the group has shared bills with, including openers The Achievement.
The songs sounded crisp, especially so in a tricky venue like La Perla, where the sound bounces everywhere and unknowing bands can play ear-piercing sets if their amps are turned up too high.
And then there were the moments for the friends/fans. Towards the end, the band grooved through "This Sin," a bluesy-ballad of adultery that was recorded as a duet between Sanchez and his SF homegirl Sunny. Again, the group let the crowd take over, which by this point had circled around the band like a campfire sing-along. Some in the audience even attempted to hit the whistful high notes that Sunny effortlessly achieved on record (most to no avail, on the crowd's part). The band loved every second of it.
And so it was, a quiet ending to a curious era in Salinas cowpunk. Rum & Rebellion will play some dates next month in the SF Bay. There's talk of a record release, time-willing, in the distant future.
But for friends/fans of the band, there will always be the moments, like Friday, when everyone gets to sing along and just take stock of it all.
Posted by Marc Cabrera at 11:47 AM