Monday, December 15, 2008

Kanye West - "Heartless/Pinochio Story" on SNL

One more clip from SNL. One other observation from my girl: "Why are all the rappers trying to sing now?" That's a really good question.

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Kanye West performs "Love Lockdown" on SNL

Kanye West - Love Lockdown - SNL - 12/13/2008
by 3030fm
Taken from the good folks at
Watching this live, I was left with a few impressions:
- What's up with that hair style? Someone @ compared it to Elvin from the Cosby Show. It's pretty busted, no matter which way you slice it. My girl kept commenting on how busted 'Ye is looking in general on this. Not that I'm trying to check him out, but I gotta agree.
- Auto tune just doesn't sound right live. Some of it sounded distorted, and at least a few times sounded straight static-y.
- The "Glow In The Dark" tour screens looked alright on that small stage, but I think the lighting could have been tweaked a little better. It definitely didn't have the same effect as when I saw it live in May.
- 'Ye's singing in general was a bit off this time around. When he debuted the song at the VMA's, I remember it being a little tighter. Of course, it was a bigger stage so I'm sure that had to affect his performance. Although the verdict's still out for me on "808's and Heartbreaks," I'm pretty amped to see him perform some of these songs live in an arena. They seem suitable for a big concert performance. Overall, his SNL performance fell a bit short, but only because I'm just holding him to such a high standard these days.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

"Beautiful Tragedy" by In This Moment featuring Emma Ortiz-Griffin of Population 5

"Beautiful Tragedy" by In This Moment

A video of Emma Ortiz-Griffin, the nine-year-old lead singer of local kids rock band Population 5, singing "Beautiful Tragedy" with Maria Brink of metalcore outfit In This Moment.
Alls I can say is "Wow!"

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New P.O.S. - "Goodbye"

Some new stuff from ya boy P.O.S. of the Rhymesayers crew. This is will be the single for his upcoming album, "Never Better."

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Audio: Asher Roth - “The Day I Was Crowned”

I stole this from, the newest single from the Caucasian sensation Asher Roth.

While it's obvious he's all up on Marshall Mathers's steez, he's still got a lot going for him. That college frat boy swag should go a long way toward some pretty serious buzz. He's already got a "Next" cover on XXL, alongside a pretty talented crop for '08 (including Wale, Kid Cudi, and my personal fave, Blu). '09 could be a pretty gigantic year for Mr. Roth. Plus, he's ripping The Root's "Get Busy" freestyle, which is never a bad thing.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2008 Alisal Eagles Pee Wee highlight reel (rough cut)

Here's a little video I put together for the Alisal Eagles pee-wee footbal team. They had a great season, making the playoffs and showing a tremendous amount of talent on the grid iron. This is a rough cut, the completed version should be arriving in time for X-Mas. Let me know what you think!

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Introducing The Best Late Night House Band Ever: The Roots!!!

Well, looks like Jimmy Fallon has got at least one thing right so far in regard to his new late night gig @ NBC: he hired The Roots to be his house band. While this was announced some time ago, it's pretty awesome to see it taking shape.

While this means less opportunity to catch the band on tour, it's definitley a good look for the guys. I'll be tuning in as much as I can to watch them. Can't hardly wait.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

8 Grammy nods for "The Best Rapper Alive?"

Last night, Lil Wayne got 8 Grammy nominations. And I'm like "What?"

I mean, I can't front on "The Carter III." Best selling album of the year, alladat. But geez, 8 friggin' Grammy Awards? That's all kinds of crazy.

I barely remember watching this year's Grammys, but I'm pretty sure I'll be watching next year, just to see what Wayne wins. I'm almost certain he'll take home the award for Rap Album of the Year, even though I'll be quietly crossing my fingers for Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" (no nom for The Roots "Rising Down?" Bummer).

It'll be interesting to hear Weezy's name mentioned alongside the other album of the year nominees like Radio head, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss and Coldplay. If Plant and Krauss win, I wonder if they'll shout out Weezy? I think Chris Martin would definitely big up Wayne since Martin's so tight with Jay-Z. Man, the possibilities just keep getting weirder and weirder.

And what if "The Carter III" does win for album of the year? Will Baby show up out of nowhere and give an acceptance speech like he did when Juvenile won at the Source Awards about 10 years ago? Where is Baby in all of this anyway? He was nowhere to be found on "C3." If Wayne wins, will he kiss Baby on the lips in the crowd? Did I really just wonder about that out loud?

On a side note, I hope MIA's "Paper Planes" wins for Record of the Year. It's a really great record and deserves that type of shine. Won't be mad if Adele wins for "Chasing Pavements" either. That's me and my girl's favorite song of the moment.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

E-40: "Earl"

Gotta give it up to the good folks at Nation of Thizzlam for putting the rest of us up on game. This is a seriously dope video and song. E-40 is looking reinvigorated. Maybe it's them dreads?

I haven't given "The Ball St. Journal" a proper listen. My bad. The stuff I have heard is pretty decent, save for the pop-y stuff.

What's up with Ice-T showing up at the end of the track? And he's not even rapping? Not sure what to make of that right there. Oh well. As they say in the O, this song go.

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"For The Record," Britney's back (sorta-kinda)

There was nothing severely revelatory about “For The Record,” the quote-unquote Britney Spears documentary that aired Sunday on MTV.
The opening sequence, a panoramic view of the L.A. skyline, is overlaid with a brief intro graphic explaining how Spears allowed cameras to follow her around for roughly two months, beginning just before the MTV Video Music Awards and leading up to the weeks prior to her album release, which debuted Tuesday.
While that opening sequence attempts to inject drama into its subject matter, it's stilted at best. Anyone who cares to watch it already knows the context of the documentary. Spears's celebrity has transcended pop-star stratosphere and entered a realm of surreal voyeurism rivaling the attention given to heads of state. We already know the girl is drama.
What makes the documentary work are the glimpses of humanity that pop up. It's hard to imagine there's a real human being hiding in that celebrity skin, but the cameras manage to steal some moments: her pops serving her cheese grits for breakfast, her best friends being flown in from back home in Louisiana, and, in the most revelatory point, Spears getting her two boys ready for a night of Halloween trick or treating.
Those parts serve the documentary's overall purpose, to remind people that Spears is a real person, better than the interviews segments that are supposed to provide a narrative thread. While the intro promised that no topic was off-limits, that is certainly a lie.
It's those interviews that provide the most glaring proof that this documentary was meant to shed the most positive light on Spears and her comeback. There is no mention of drug use. Nor is there any mention of her infamous ambulance rides to the looney bin
What we get are ambiguous answers from Spears on how she was surrounding herself with the wrong people and how she was manipulated by those she trusted.
The one interesting interview scene comes early on, when she confesses how deeply hurt she was after her breakup with former beau Justin Timberlake, which leads into her regret over her rebound hook-up with ex-husband Kevin Federline.
Other than that, it's pretty much false advertising as far as interview topics go.
Speaking advertising, the premier promised non-commercial interruption, but that only lasted until the 25-minute mark, at which point the audience was treated to an overly-produced perfume ad for her fragrance line. The cross-promotion cycle is complete when we later see Spears picking out the final design looks for her perfume.
Which is final proof that Spears comeback machine is right on course.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Listen To My Voice! with MC Lars, ytcracker and MC Frontalot

It's been a while since I dropped one of these, but the nerdcore supastars came through Monterey last week and blessed me with an interview.

MC Lars is a long time friend of "The Beat." I first met him at Stanford University for an interview in 2003. Since then, he's been all over the world touring and spreading the gospel of post punk laptop rap. His homies ytcracker and MC Frontalot are at the helm of the Nerdcore scene, which is literally a bunch of self proclaimed nerds rapping about what they know.

Hallelujah, holla back.

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“The Lil' Jordan Show" trailer

Our boy "Lil' Jordan" is getting ready to premier a show on The Golf Channel, "The Lil' Jordan Show." It'll be lots of fun celebrity interviews along with golf tips and pro advice.

It will also be a nice showcase for Jordan's combination of talents: golf and entertainment. Good luck Jordan!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Live: TheSaurus @ Monterey Live

ABOVE: A clip of TheSaurus vs. Tantrum at Scribble Jam '08. TheSaurus was the 2008 Battle Champ.

The best rapper on the planet resides on the Monterey Peninsula. Believe it or not, it's true. TheSaurus, the 2008 winner of Scribble Jam, the annual summer festival held in Cincinnati, has two world rap battle championships under his belt and is the one of two two-time Scribble Jam battle champions.

Freestyle MCing is as raw as it gets, and TheSaurus has devoted his entire life to the artform. Thursday night, opening for Alex Lee at Monterey Live, he flashed some of his impressive skills while showcasing his recorded work. He can definitely throw down the nice lines off the top, at one point chiding his Peninsula homie "this guy can't pick up a barbell/He's from Carmel." Coming unrehearsed, the punchlines hit just right.

One song big-upping the 831 was a nice reminder that this guy knows his place of residence and despite the acclaim he's received, he's a hometown boy to the fullest. I have video that I'm working on of the show, but you can check out one of his freestyles above and get a recap of Scribble Jam below.

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Live: Ozomatli & Chali 2na rock SC (and I Missed it!)

I was completely unmotivated Saturday night, so much so that by the time me and my girl got off our lazy butts to drive to Santa Cruz and watch Ozomatli at The Catalyst, we missed the entire show!

I've seen Ozo a minimum of 20 times (real talk), followed them the past 10+ years as they've gone from underground buzz band to "Sex and the City"/"Never Been Kissed" pin-up boys to a zillion-Grammy-Award-winning critical fave to their current incarnation as a reunion band. Jurassic 5 MC Chali 2na, who recorded with the band on its first two releases, has signed on for this recent tour.

Which made my absence all the more a bummer. Turns out me and my girl are fighting bronchitis, but that hardly seems like an excuse. As we got up to the ticket booth, Eddy Dees (booking agent/cool dude) looked at me, then looked at the time, like "you're barely showing up now?" I figured we'd catch at least the last 4-5 songs, but they shut their set down well before midnight, so no luck.

After the show, I ran into Wil Dog on the street. He's always been a cool guy who remembers me and my crew. I told him that I missed most of the show and I was bummed because I missed Chali.

"Oh, man, he's amazing," was his reaction. Yeah, I know. Thanks for rubbing it in.

Stupid bronchitis.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

More Nerdcore for that A##

Above: G4 TV spot with MC Lars, YT Cracker, MC Frontalot and Del (!)

The Digital Gangster tour comes through Monterey Live at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 (early show!). Featuring MC Lars, MC Frontalot, and YT Cracker.

Above is a TV spot that also serves as a sort of mini-doc on Nerdcore and its current stars. Yes, this is for real, and "The Beat" is all over it this week. In fact, we might as well start calling it "Nerdcore Week" because that's what we got. I'll be posting an interview with all three artists performing at Monterey Live later on this week.

Holla if ya hear me!

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The Digital Gangster Tour: Those crazy caucasion kids are at it again...

Video:"Manifest Destiny" YT Cracker & MC Lars

Longtime friend of "The Beat" MC Lars returns to his home turf with a few of his rhyme co-horts, MC Frontalot and YT Cracker, as part of the "Digital Gangster Tour."

Lars is a really cool guy with a genuine interest in hip-hop music and culture, so I can't front on dude, but his music isn't for everybody, especially those who can't appreciate a good "Weird Al" Yankovic song or are too hardcore to be nerdcore. YT Cracker may have one of the worst MC names of all-time, but that's kind of the point.

These guys just make me smile, and the beat on this one is almost, sorta kinda but not really hardbody. Love Lars "hardliner/49ers" line.

Final thought: this song could be an anthem for the white guilt movement if these guys took themselves seriously on it, which they thankfully don't. More Nerdcore to come, whether you like it or not.

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Friday, November 14, 2008


This is all the way live. One of those really fun things you wish you could have been at. These are, like, all of my favorite MC's on one stage. Only guy missing was Hov, but oh well.
Who do you think rips it the most? Let me know.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Download the new Zion I Mixtape "The Search and The Seizure"

Wasn't sure if I could find anything to post today until I came across this little nugget. Granted, I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm sure it's going to have some quality stuff. Zion I can do little wrong in my book, and if they're just going to give the music away, best believe I'm taking some.

Let me know what you think. Link below:

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New tracks from Slim Thug, Reef Da Lost Cauze, RADIx

Some new stuff I just got in my inbox. Holla if you hear me.

"Line Drawn In Sand"- Reef Da Lost Cauze

"I Run" (clean version) - Slim Thug

"Breaking Point" - RADIx w/Q-Unique

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This Week: Alex Lee and Ozomatli w/ Chali 2na

On the sure shots this week,Ozomatli has reunited with Chali 2na and will perform Saturday night at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. Visit for tickets and info.

Also, Thursday night at Monterey Live, Alex Lee will perform along with Scribble Jam champ and PG's own The Sauras. For info, visit

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video: Pugs Atoms ft. Deuce Eclipse, Dave Ghetto "Memorial"

Pugs Atomz "Memorial feat. Dave Ghetto & Deuce Eclipse from Pugs Atomz on Vimeo.

A really creative video from Pugs Atoms featuring Deuce Eclipse (Zion I familia, bay area MC) and Dave Ghetto. If you're not up on Deuce Eclipse, please get your weight up. Dude is seriously nice.

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Live: Redman and Method Man in SC

The above pic was taken about three months ago, backstage at Rock The Bells. That was when I saw Redman and Method Man live. The show was so good, I had to go back for a second turn on Saturday night at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

Saturday's show was, not surprisingly, very similar to their RTB show. Given the long list of shows that these guys have scheduled throughout the year, it makes sense they would travel the same show.

They opened up with a remix of "Da Rockwilda," their homage to Cypress Hill's "Hand on the Pump." Oddly, they re-organized their entrance as if they had mistakenly used the wrong intro music, then came back out to the strains of "1,2,3,4."

Combined, their catalogue of solo and group material is considerable. Meth can pull from both his individual work as well as his Wu-Tang Clan material, while Red has five albums and two collaborative projects (Def Squad and his work with Mef) to siphon. It's a good collection to choose from.

Red hit the crowd off with "Time For Some Action," which sounded great over the sound system. Meth followed with "Method Man," and the packed crowd went all kinds of berzerker.

I appreciated the wildin' out on stage and the crowd support, but you could tell the guys were in cruise control for certain bits. Going back to their tour schedule, it's gotta be tough getting up on stage every night and keeping up the energy these two possess. It's just not human.

I imagine they must be about od'd on 5-hour energy drinks. Red looked extra-high (although I don't know what he would look like not high), but kept toking with the crowd whenever they offered fresh blunts (which was all night). My girl wondered if he ever worries that the stuff they give him might be laced. He certainly didn't appear too concerned.

The fun stuff happened toward the end of their set. After the obligatory ODB tribute (which wasn't as contrived this time around compared to past renditions), they pulled out "Da Rockwilda" again, which may have explained why they fudged the intro.

Then, Meth did that thing where he stands up on the crowd like Jesus walking on water, Red jumped up on the club's balcony railing, standing about 10 feet over the crowd, and dove in! Some rock star ish, for sure, but he pulled it off without hurting himself. The crowd ripped off his Tony Parker jersey, but you could tell he genuinely loved it and genuinely was relieved he didn't mess himself up. That was ballsy.

While those were highlights, I think I'll while before seeing them again. At least another 3 months.

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Jimmy Santiago Baca performs in Salinas

Here are a couple of video clips from Jimmy Santiago Baca's reading Saturday night at the Cesar Chavez Library in Salinas.
More on this to come. Enjoy.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

More Barack Videos

Savvy reader Gloria Kalisher sent in this video from a local campaign volunteer. Pretty good tribute to the new prez.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama Mixtape

There have been a couple of songs released in the past few days celebrating Barack Obama's victory. Jay-Z released one, "History," produced by Kanye West. You can hear a snippet below.

Brother Ali of Rhymesayers also released a song. Ali is really a beast on the mic. Click the link below to hear his take on the historic election.
"Obama You're The Man" by Brother Ali

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August Sky performing Nov. 15 in Salinas

Received a note from the Band Dad for August Sky, announcing the band is performing Nov. 15 @ Giovane's, 348 San Juan Grade Road, Salinas. They'll be performing with my friends My Refuge. Show starts at 8 p.m..

As I reported yesterday, August Sky and Population 5 are in the running for KFOX's "Last Band Standing" competition. To vote,visit and look for the "Last Band Standing" link. Both August Sky and Population 5 are in the 18 and under category.

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New Zion I

"Juicy Juice" Official Video

Some newness from Zion I, Oakland's finest. The video is a bit hokey, but entertaining. I'm pretty amped about anything new from the camp. No word on a release date for their next album, but given the amount of attention Atmosphere and Murs have recieved this year, Zion I should be right up there with them. With the right push and some good fortune, they could get some MTV bumper shots anyday now.

Antenna (Unofficial Video)

I'm feeling this song a little more than the "Juicy Juice" single. Both songs are cool, but this one is a little more in Zion I's wheel box. Love the Amp Live production. Dude is slept on hard.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Vote for Population 5 and August Sky!

Population 5 and August Sky made it through the first cut in the 98.5 KFOX Last Band Standing contest. Both bands submitted a CD with three classic rock covers and we were chosen from about 80 entries to go on to the next round of judging.

Both are in the "18 and Under" category and are hoping to go to the next round. To get there, they need to get people to go online at and vote for the bands.

Voting ends at noon on Friday. Four winners in each category move on to the next round, where they get to perform in the KFOX studios. They'll pick two winners from that group, then they perform live in the studio. The following week they announce the winners for each category. Each category winner receives prizes and, more importantly, gets invited to do lots of gigs sponsored by KFOX.

Speaking on the fact that both bands were in competition, Population 5 manager/roadie/band dad Ernest Griffin-Ortiz insisted that there was no animosity on either side and both bands are cheering one another on.

"Although we're competing against each other in this contest, the members of August Sky and Population 5 are very supportive of each other. We believe that success is a renewable resource -- and there's plenty to go around for everyone."

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Goings On This Weekend

A couple of cool happenings going on this weekend, from the Peninsula all the way to South County. I've also got a few poetry/hip-hop gigs going on, so this counts as a gratuitous, shameless plug. Here you go:

Friday night, Candyman (the rapper, not the horror movie monster) performs at The Castle in Soledad. Y'all remember his early '90s hit, "Knockin' Boots." That was the jr. high dance special for me. Dust off your Z-Cavaricci's and black boots and get your groove on. Also performing will be Mic Quin, Alcatraz and Sammy Sluggz. Show starts at 9 p.m. Admission is $15. The Castle is located @ 140 Oak St., Soledad.

Also Friday night, my group Baktun 12 will be performing live @ Monterey Live, 415 Alvarado St., Monterey. We'll be doing our annual Baktun 12 Variety show with special guests The Cranks, DJ Mike J, Brown P, MC Cambio, The Joint Venture (J-Scrawls & DJ Mike J), and spoken word poets Jacob Tsypkin and Gayleene Badiango. Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam host Garland Thompson will emcee the event. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door. For information, visit

Saturday night, renowned Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca will be performing @ The Cesar Chavez Library in Salinas. Baca wrote the screenplay to the movie "Bound By Honor," a true Chicano classic. He's a bad dude, and I'll be opening with a spoken word set of my own. Come by, it's free. Show starts @ 7 p.m. Cesar Chavez Library is located at 615 Williams Road, Salinas.

One last note: Redman and Method Man will be performing Saturday night at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. For info, visit

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Common Speaks on Obama Victory

A little video I found of Common partying hard on election night. It's gotta feel good for him, both being from Chicago and being the first rapper Obama on record (he gave Obama a shout out on the remix to Jadakiss's song "Why" way back in 2005).

My poem "The Basics" has become completely relevant now that Obama is in office. I have the line that goes "By the year 2030, our nation's president will most likely have listened to old school rap." I'm going to have to change that to say that now, we have a president who listened to old school rap and bumps Jay-Z and Ludacris.

The official hip-hop prez has been elected. Can't wait for the inauguration.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Just a quick reminder that today is election day, so go handle that. Oh, and here's some ish-talking courtesy of MC Jelly Donut. Not an endorsement or anything, I just thought this was funny as hell.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Youth Speaks perform @ The Steinbeck Center

Some more video from Friday night's performance @ The Steinbeck Center. Members of Youth Speaks performed as part of the spoken word showcase. The event also featured yours truly. You can watch that video in the media player to the right. I have a few more of these lined up and I'll post them as the week unfolds. Cheers.

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Jacob Tsypkin "Choke" @ The Steinbeck Center

My boy Jacob Tsypkin performs his piece "Choke" as part of the spoken word poetry event held @ The Steinbeck Center on Oct. 24. I'll be posting up a few more of these throughout the day.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

"The Beat's" Top 10 Obscure Songs

Saw this on the boards @, where they posted 100 of the best obscure hip-hop songs. To see the compiled list and downloads, go here.

Seeing some of these songs got me reminiscing. Alot. So much so that I decided to come up with a top 10 of some of my favorite obscure hip-hop songs. This is not a definitive list, just some that I rounded up after reading this post. It will definitely be a fluid list, maybe even a semi-regular event when I'm hard up for a topic. We'll see.

Anyway, this list is in no particular order. If I can, I'll update it with some downloads later on:

My Opinion - Mac Mall
Sideshow - 415
In Summer I Fall - Derelix (O.G.)
What's My Weapon - Eyecue (Hobo Junction)
My Synopsis - E-Rule
Whole Kit and Kaboodle - MadKap
Kadijah - Dirt Nation
Check The Vibe - Dred Scott
All Over a Ho - Mz. Kilo
How You Want It, You Got It - Jungle Brothers

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Chinese Democracy": Is this for real?

By no means am I a huge GNR fan, but they have to be acknowledged for their pop culture contributions and just for being such excessively egotistical rock stars (the stories of Slash's drug excesses alone are junkie hall of fame worthy).

But now that "Chinese Democracy" not only has a release date but a corporate sponsorship attached to it, it looks like a go. I got this in my e-mail today:

* * * *
First Single – “Chinese Democracy” – Premieres on Radio on October 22
* * *
Pre-Order Begins Today at
* *
MINNEAPOLIS, October 22, 2008 – Best Buy and Geffen Records announced that one of the most highly anticipated albums of all time, Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, will be available beginning Nov. 23 at Best Buy and on CD, vinyl, and digital downloads. The title track, the first single from the album, was released to radio today, October 22. Chinese Democracy is the first album of new material from one of rock's most influential bands since the 1991 simultaneous releases of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II.

Of course, GNR jumped the shark a long time ago, but now they're in the same league as bands like The Eagles, who only release their albums at Wal-Mart. At least CD will be available for digital download.

Haven't heard the lead single yet. Not sure if I want to. If anyone out there cares to give a review, feel free to do so in the comments section. Peace.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review: Alex Lee's "Headphone Heroes EP"

She's going by her government name these days, but not a whole lot else has changed for Alex Lee on her latest release, the EP “Headphone Heroes.”

Blessed with fly looks, style and vocals that suggest the butter smoothness of Ladybug Mecca mixed with the gritty wordplay of Bahamadia, the MC/singer formerly known as A.Lee is an 831 original, even if she now resides in the Yay Area. On her latest set, the Seaside-native explores every angle of her talent — crafty lyricism, jazzy, harmonic vocals, and confident charisma — to reveal a tad more about the gifted hip-hop soul artist.

“Headphone Heroes” picks up where her first effort, “The Channel,” left off. Easy vibes percolate through the lead track, “Doin' It,” produced by London beatsmith Majhik. On this foreign exchange collaboration, freaked through the magic of MySpace, Lee melts into the groove with silly but sultry stream of consciousness rhymes, shouting out her UK brethren and her daddy with one flip of the tongue.

Revealing her girly-girl side on “I Just Wanna Dance,” she flirts innocently while laying out what she wants, reassuring her suitor “Ain't no need to worry, I ain't a goldigger/but I'll dance to it, old school to Jigga.”

The beats, provided by her elementary school friend Jon "B.B." Bomarito, Vermont-based producer S.K. and the production duo Sonica, are airy and elegant, befitting Lee's smoothed-out soul.

Lee utilizes her singing voice to ample effect, pulling melodies out of thin air and fitting them into each orchestration lock tight. Lee's skill lies in her seeming effortlessness on the mic. She's so at ease that the listener is lulled into a trance while Lee provides the theme music to the perfect quiet storm.

When she does bring the thunder, it erupts into a dance floor banger “Bam! Boom!” Sounding like a rhyme super-hero, Lee matches the comic book title with super woman rhymes: “They ain't fuckin with me/but oh well, to hell with it/ you can't tell I'm the best female to spit it/but the gender ain't an issue/blessed like ahh-choo, so I need a tissue.”

The definitive jam, “CaliSoul,” takes the theme music from your favorite Dockers commercial and transforms it into a love letter to the Golden State. Celebrating medicinal marijuana, undocumented Mexican laborers and Mac Dre slappin' in the trunk, Lee does her home state proud.

At a trim 9-tracks, “Headphone Heroes” is a sample of the funk Lee has to offer. Sadly missing is the track “Hotter” that appeared in the recent season finale of “America's Top Model.”

Also absent is any real introspective music that might reveal more of Lee's personality, but that's just nit picking. Ultimately, Alex Lee lives up to her super hero moniker. With any luck, “Headphone Heroes” just might save hip-hop music from its stale self.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Emcee Cambio: "Astrotraveling"

Astrotraveling by Cambio from Javier Goin on Vimeo.

Cambio of Para La Gente released this clip for the song "Astrotraveling" off his album "The Bridge Called My Back." Directed by Javier Goin ( It's a good look for your boy.

Cambio will be performing Nov. 7 at Monterey Live along with J-Scrawls, The Cranks and my group, Baktun 12 (shameless plug). More info to come.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

MProv's Last Performance in Monterey

Local beat box phenom M-PROV recently gave his final performance at The Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam (which I co-produce every Wednesday @ East Villeg Coffee Lounge in Monterey).

The art of beat boxing is rarefied, and luckily M-PROV has been holding it down here on the Peninsula. Sadly, he's seeking greener pastures and heading out to the big city, the rotten apple, NYC, to live the fabulous life of a beat boxer in Babylon.

While his talent will be sorely missed locally, I wish him well on his journey. Props to M-PROV and his beat boxing, saliva-spitting, harmonica-blowing bad self.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

De La Soul tribute on VH1 Hip-Hop Honors

Now this is how you pay tribute. I've always switched between De La and Tribe as far as my all-time favorite rap group. Last night, it was De La (but I reserve the right to switch back to Tribe at any time).

This is just awesome. I'll have a more thorough overview later on today. Stay tuned.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Hip-Hop Honors tonight; Alex Lee, Redemption later this week

Tonight is VH1's Hip-Hop Honors show, which has become an unofficial hip-hop hall of fame induction ceremony.

This year's honorees include Cypress Hill, De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, Slick Rick and Too Short. It's a deserving class, and all of them are in my favorite artists of all-time list. I'll blog on the show tomorrow.

Also this week, your girl Alex Lee (formerly A.Lee) is performing Wednesday night @ Monterey Live. Show starts at 9 p.m. It's a release party for her new EP "Headphone Heroes," which is a terrific record. Support your girl.

Saturday brings the second installment of Redemption, the b-boy dance competition and showcase. This one goes down @ Fit Athletics, 880 Tioga Ave. in Sand City. Show doors open at 5 p.m., show starts at 5:30 p.m.

That is all.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

9G's (for the last time, I promise)

The final video of my flight with the T-Birds has finally arrived. You can click on the media player to the right to view the video, titled "Riding With The Thunderbirds Take 2."

Thanks to our web goddess Lisa for converting the cockpit footage for me to edit. Since I'm a trained print journalist and by no means a video guy, this takes a bit longer than it might for other trained professionals. Luckily, I'm learning.

Here's to the brave women and men who serve in our armed forces, and to squeezing every drop of pub and press I could get out of this story. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The End of "Rap City"

So Rap City is coming to an end. Read the story below from for the details.

I guess it's about time, since they shifted the show's time slot around and I didn't even know when it was on anymore. Plus, I couldn't tell you the name of the hosts since Big Tigger left.

At it's peak, Rap City was daily appointment television for me during my teen years leading into college. I grew up watching it during the Prince DuJour into Joe Clair/Big Lez era. I followed it until shortly before Tigger left.

During high school, they would show a lot of different videos and artists that didn't get play on MTV at the time.

Probably the coolest thing they introduced was "The Booth," where rappers would go into the recording booth and spit "freestyles," usually pre-written joints that weren't recorded on albums to that point.

Eminem and Jo Jo Peligrino (!) were some of my favorite booth moments. I remember Prodigy doing a really lazy verse, looking and sounding like he was stoned out of his mind. Cam'ron also had a really good booth sesh.

There are no real definitive Rap City moments, unlike, say, Yo MTV Raps, which had tons of classic moments. Rap City simply brought hip-hop into the mainstream with its consistency. Unfortunately, at some point, they started playing the same 5 videos over and over again.

The one moment I do remember vividly is the first time I saw Puff and Mase's "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" video. They played the video non-stop. That was when hip-hop jumped the shark.

Anyway, peace to Rap City. I'm going to miss it, sort of.

Popular hip-hop music video program “Rap City” has ended its run on BET after 21 years on the network.

While SOHH first heard about the rumor last week, BET has announced the official word on their website earlier today. According to their Sound Off blog, “Rap City” will be replaced by “The Deal” hosted by DJ Diamond Kutz.

The new hour long series will consist of old and new elements from “Rap City.” Hip-Hop videos will continue to play but now they will be accompanied by pop-ups with facts on the given artist/song. The Booth, which was a staple on “Rap City” for artists to showcase their freestyle skills, will also remain a segment on the new series.

More than just a place for hip hop videos, Rap City gave fame to several hosts throughout the years, the first of which was Chris Thomas in 1989. He was followed by Hans Dobson, Prince Dejour and Joe Clair who debuted as host in 1994. Leslie Segar (a.k.a “Big Lez”) shared hosting duty with Clair from 1994 to 99.

The series evolved to “Rap City: Tha Basement” in September of 1999, with host Big Tigger. Mad Linx, J-Nicks and DJ Q45 all held short lived stints in the last three years.

BET has plans to run a “Rap City” finale but a date for the special has yet to be announced. “The Deal” premieres on BET on November 10th.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Top Gun, Snitches!

Aww yeah.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

My Thunderbirds Flight Playlist

I got to fly in an F-16 on Thursday, which was, to quote the great poet Mighty Mike McGee, a pocket full of awesome.
Preparing for and recovering from the flight, however, required a bit of mental and emotional prep work. What better way to capture and gauge those emotions than with music playlists?
The following are pre-, mid-, and post-flight playlists for my big fly in the sky:

Pre-Flight Playlist

Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins:
An obvious choice. Anytime I think of jets screaming through the air, I think of this song, and my favorite fictional fighter pilot of all-time, Maverick — pre-Oprah couch surfing and Scientology-goon Maverick, of course. This song is still pretty awesome more than 20 years later.

“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz: Some more chest-thumping, high octane, adrenaline rush inducing fight music. I'm bumping this loud as I gear up for my flight.

“Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn)” by The Trampps:
This is more of a psyche-job, as I'm trying to avoid two things: first, I don't want to crash and burn, baby, burn and second, I don't want to leave the earth with this stupid song ringing in my head.

“Fly Like An Eagle” by The Steve Miller Band:
Now we're back on track. This song is a little more mellow than the first two, but still is a good primer for what it feels like floating in the sky.

“How High (Erick Sermon Remix)” by Redman and Method Man:
Since I got to meet both these guys backstage at “Rock The Bells” last month, gotta throw them in the mix. Plus this song is so heavenly, it can't help but soothe the strain of going up. How high? So high that I can kiss the sky. Indeed.

“Low Rider” by War:
Since I'll be one of the few Chicanos to go up in an F-16, I gotta represent for my gente. I'm bumping this as we cruise toward the runway and prepare for take-off.

Mid-Flight Playlist

"Oh S---” by The Pharcyde:
Anyone who watches the video at knows the four-letter word I expelled upon take-off. Not suitable for a family-friendly newspaper, but apropos nonetheless.

“Physical” by Olivia Newton John:
Geez, this jet-flying thing is strenuous. As we hit a few maneuvers and prepare for 9G's, I'm a sweat hog. Am I really this out of shape?

“Help” by The Beatles:
Okay, we're flying over Lake Nacimiento and it's an all-out assault on my senses. Nausea, dizziness, muscle strain, panic and Acrophobia combine for a painful physiological cocktail.

“We've Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals: As we finally hit 9G's, I'm thinking to myself “Why did I sign up for this again? Oh yeah, because I thought it would be cool.” Boy am I stupid.

Post-Flight Playlist

"Take My Breath Away” by Berlin:
Kinda sort of another no-brainer, but for entirely different reasons. I felt like I could barely breathe up there. Yay, oxygen!

“At Last” by” Etta James:
As we approach the runway for descent, this song rings in my ears, with new lyrics. ”At laaassst/my love for the ground, has come along...”

“Take Me Home” by Phil Collins:
Great ride, awesome pilot, once in a lifetime experience, yadda-yadda. But for the almighty love, just take me home and put me to bed. I'm done.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Final Thoughts with Bubba G. Scotch

My DJ Kazzeo story ran Sunday, but there was one voice that didn't make the deadline and deserved to be in there: Bubba G. Scotch.

In case you don't know, Bubba G. Scotch is the most influential local DJ/radio personality in my book. He started as a disco DJ and helped bring hip-hop to the area. His name loomed large during the 80s. He was a hood ambassador and gentleman who kept it true to heart.

Here's what he had to say about Kazzeo:

"One of the things I admire (DJ Kazzeo) for is endurance and endurance builds respect. Endurance is what gains momentum in what you do and he's done it. He's hung through thick and thin and it's very admirable.

I believe he is the real deal here in the area. You want to hear good musix, the good rhythm and rhyme, you got to Kazzeo.

If it wasn't for Kazz and a few more cats that are out there who are my friends in radio, radio's dead. Kazz... is one part of what keeps music alive. When you have to resort to (satellite radio) to hear what you like, it's because we're not getting our own munchies locally. Kazzeo is keeping it alive and he's thriving.

I commend him and a lot of the guys out there that do it and they do it with heat. You can feel it.

People are hungry for music. People need to be entertained. I need a home cooked meal. I've had too much microwave. The dedication that Kazzeo and a few other guys have for the music, I have nothing but respect for them."

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Monday, September 08, 2008

2008 VMA's: The Beat-Down

Watching the MTV Video Music Awards has become less and less a tradition for me. Once upon a time, I anticipated it with the fervor Giants Opening Day (or almost). This year, I was kind of bummed because it was on at the same time as my new guilty pleasure, "I Love Money" on VH1.

Despite that lack of adolescente build-up, I invariably end up watching the damn thing, as I did once again this year. I even semi-rushed from running errands and pucking up dinner to catch it on time.

The show kicked off with a Britney/Jonah Hill and followed her much ballyhooed "show introduction." MTV's made a reputation for itself for big intro's, from Pee-Wee Herman coming on post-masturbation-in-a-porn-house-bust to MJ and Elvis's daughter slobbering all over themselves on their way to divorce court a
few years later.

It turned out to be foreshadowing, as Spears wound up winning three awards, including the top honor of best video. She looked like a robot on xanex the whole time, and even my girl called shenanigans, joking it was a big "pity party" for her. Tom Breihan said it was an apology for throwing her under the bus after last year's show.

I think MTV just has too much invested in her to let her fall off the deep end and, in a way, they're probably feeling kind of shaky knowing she at any moment could have died and they might have been partly responsible. Considering what she was up against, I was mildly surprised she didn't shoot herself on stage, in front of the cameras. She just might make it after all.

I was more interested in watching Russell Brand, who I found hilarious in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and has intrigued me since. His monologue fell flat, but mostly because the audience was too stupid to appreciate it. He riffed on the Jonas Brothers a whole lot, and also got a dig in at the Republican party. He had gusto and guts and mad, mad hair. Props.

The network also introduced what they called "live videos," basically turning the back lot of Universal Studios into live-shoot video performances, that fell somewhere between Bing Crosby X-Mas Show musical numbers and Sesame Street performances. In fact, the Jonas Brothers performed on what looked like the Sesame Street stoop before finishing with a big live set and hundreds of screaming fans rushing the stage.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

“The Beat @ Wave St.” w/ 880 South

So the first episode of "The Beat @ Wave St." debuted last week at Pretty friggin' cool!

Basically, we've reached an agreement with Wave. St. Studios in Monterey to start shooting and airing live studio interviews with bands. This "pilot" featured San Jose Dub Rockers 880 South.

The guys were really cool and funny and energetic, which made the experience a whole lot easier. If anything, it was a challenge to keep up with them.

Still, there are some fuzzy points for me in getting used to being on camera. My independent efforts doing the video blogs went a little smoother because there was only one camera, and I knew where to look. With the Wave St. gig, I'm working with a few more cameras, and it's hard to know where to look at any given moment.

But I've got to give it up to Rhett and the crew at Wave St. Studios. They were very accommodating and fun to work with. We'll do more of these in due time, and hopefully they'll generate some buzz and get better as we figure things out. In the meantime, just click the player to the right and enjoy. Peace.

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Why Obama Reps for US

So what does it mean to have a hip-hop president?
That's the question now that Barack Obama has secured the Democtrat Presidential nomination. Music publications like Vibe and Rolling Stone have been quick to drop the "hip-hop president" label on the newly minted nominee, but carrying the label isn't as cut and dry as it might seem.
The obvious entry point for Obama's criteria as a hip-hop presz is race. But being the first black presidential candidate doesn't automatically endear you to the hip-hop nation. I doubt rappers would have referenced Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice had they emerged as presidential or vide presidential nominees.
Obama's status as the hip-hop president is in large part hype. Believe that. No one can be all-encompassing in the eyes of hip-hop heads and maintain any measure of authority. Hip-hop, like punk and folk and blues, is grossly anti-authoritarian, sometimes to a dubious fault. To some degree, Obama might be better off avoiding the tag altogether.
But hip-hip is youth culture, and more often than not, relevant youth culture. It's still the heartbeat of the hood, despite the regression of artistic merit and record sales. The bass bumping out of passing car windows is still a hip-hop rhythm, a modern-day smoke signal relaying the word or rhyme of the day.
Hip-hop is still a harbinger for political controversy. Don't believe me? Think about it: who does Bill O'Reilly choose to pick on when he wants to reach a younger demo?
Rappers like Nas, Ludacris and Cam'ron have all been caught in the conservative pundit's crosspins, partly because they make themselves easy targets, but also because Republicans need them like police departments and prisons need crime. It's an industry of contempt.
As long as rappers detail systematic social ills with sometimes vile, vulgar content, pie hole pundits like O'Reilly will always have fodder.
With a hip-hop president, well, that must have the O'Reilly's of the world champing at the bit. It's like when political comics hope the dumb candidate wins office just so they can have more material to mine.
Despite the media tag, Obama has wisely kept the hip-hop lobby at arms length during his campaign. Sure, he might mug it up with Russell Simmons or talk about the Jay-Z album collection bumping in his iPod, but he knows too much can hurt his chances.
He publicly denounced Ludacris for a song the Atlanta rapper released promoting Obama's campaign earlier this year. The offensive lyrics and grade-school insults would have been easy targets for the Republican campaign.
That's where the hip-hop prez tag can lead to undoing.
Like it or not, Obama is the first presidential candidate endorsed by the hip-hop nation. His combination of race, youth, energy and swagger have endeared him to the hip-hop community.
It's crazy to think that we'll have someone for us, by us, representing as the most powerful man in the world.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All Hail The Chief (Rocka)

I wrote a poem called “The Basics” in which I predicted “by the year 2030, our nation's president will have most likely listened to old school rap, will most likely have rocked Polo or Cross Colours, and will most likely be explaining to the press that he not only inhaled the blunt, he mixed the gin and juice at the party that night, yo.”
So maybe I was off by 22 years, and there's no quantifying the last part of that stanza, but make no mistake, Barack Obama is our first hip-hop presidential candidate.
Which is why one day walking out of a Giants game in July, I purchased an Obama '08 hat from a street vendor hawking wares for five buck a pop. It wasn't because I was swept up in Obamania, but more because, well, the irony was too good to pass up.
The hood had already embraced you boy Barack. You know you've arrived when they're bootlegging your gear.
But this is a pivotal moment in the rap stratosphere because there is a candidate that folks can relate to. Skin color has a lot to do with it, no doubt. He's also been getting co-signed by a coterie of rap notables for some time now.
Jay-Z has name dropped Barack in several rhymes and used his image on stage during a recent world tour. Slug of Atmosphere performed on the David Letterman show rocking an Obama tee. You can go as far back as Jadakiss name dropping the Illinois senator on the hit single “Why.”
So tomorrow night, when the delegates at the Democratic National Convention run their roll call and nominate Obama as the Democratic Presidential candidate, what should be bumping out of the sound system at Invesco Field to solidify his status as the hip-hop prez?
I've read one blogger suggest "Pump It Up" by Joe Budden, which wouldn't be a bad deal.
I have a few ideas. “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls would suffice, with it's opening line of “It was all a dream..” and the catchy chorus (“You knew very well, who you are/...a superstar”)
Biggie might be too hardcore for the demos, so maybe we ease the gangsta persona but still keep it a little rough with LL Cool J “Momma Said Knock You Out” aimed at John McCain and the Bush regime. That will rally the troops.
Still too much?
Well, if we're trying to maintain wholesome family values while still keeping it a little hood, then the obvious choice would be a remake of the classic “Eric B for President” to “Barack O for President” by Rakim.
What could possibly be more fly than Barack, standing at the podium with 75,000 screaming supporters at his beck and call, and the God MC Rakim Allah steps up rocking a bootleg Obama hat and rearranged lyrics.
“He came in the door/He said it before/the oval office never seen a prez so hardcore...”
It's gonna happen, 22 years ahead of what I had scheduled.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"The Beat" Blog-Roll

So if you look down and to the right, you might notice a new feature here on "The Beat."
Yep, I've started a blog roll with my faves titled, appropriately enough, "My Faves."
I've been meaning to do this for some time, but I was finally sprung into action at the behest of Jordan Hung, a DJ/journalist/blogger who happens to a former student of mine in the Mosaic journalism workshop, class of 2007.

Jordan's blog "WEYO!WZERS" is a very nice, up to the minute news blog detailing prominent hip-hop happenings and cool recommendations on music and culture. I'm really proud of Jordan: not only is he on his way to a promising journalism career, but he has exquisite taste in music. By all means, check out his stuff and support young.

A few notes on the others in the blog roll:

I had to give some shine to my fellow Herald bloggers, John Devine with "PrepNation" and Dania Akkad with "D-Tour."

John-John (as I like to call him) is the preeminent high school sports journalist on the Central Coast. From North to South county and everything in between, John is a relentless prep sports guru who offers more insight per story inch than anyone in the area. Plus, he helped me land my gig here at The Herald, so I owe him that much. Give his blog a view.

D-Tour chronicles my homegirl Dania and her trek to Syria to explore her roots and, perhaps, attempt to interview the person responsible for the suicide bombing that killed two of her family members. D-Weed is a former Herald staffer and good friend. Her reports from the front lines are exciting and emotionally wrenching. I'm very proud of her work (as is the entire newsroom).

Rounding out the roll call, The Sound of Young America is the coolest podcast dedicated to all things awesome. Jesse Thorn is a UC-Santa Cruz grad whose primary focus is comedy, but he throws in all kinds of fun stuff along the way (a recent interview with members of the super cool band The Hold Steady is just one example of the awesomeness that runs rampant through TSOYA). I fudged and got his website addey wrong last time, so be sure to check out for all the skinny.

And finally, Tom Breihan is a former Village Voice music blogger who is transitioning to a new gig with CNET. His old blog, Status Ain't Hood, provided lots of pilfering material for "The Beat" (hey, if you're going to steal, might as well do it from the best). Tom's a really funny, honest, humble, opinionated writer and his stuff is pretty spot on. "Dip Dip Dive" is his personal blog, but when he launches his new deal, I'll add it to the roll.

This list is a work in progress, and I'm sure I'll add more in the coming weeks and months. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments slot. Paz.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

"The Beat" Video Blog with The Achievement

"The Beat" video blog is back like that! It's been a minute, but we got the internets on lock with our latest edition.

The Achievement is an area punk/folk band that is saying good bye after a few years on the local scene. Their final show is Saturday at The Cherry Bean. Show starts at 7 p.m.

The video is viewable in the media player located to your right hand side. Just click on the play button and enjoy.

We'll miss you boys!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Rock The Bells 08 - The Beat Down

I got to Shoreline Ampitheater for Rock The Bells 2008 sometime after 3 p.m. Saturday, which meant I missed Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Jay Electronica, Murs, Wale, and, regrettably, Raekwon and Ghostface. I didn't miss MF Doom because he (or more likely, his imposter) didn't show up.

I did get there in time to see Rakim, which is always a good thing. Alas, it was the last song of his set, but “Juice (Know the Ledge)” sounded great, and Rakim was a fireball of energy on stage.

The late arrival was semi-intentional. Although I hadn't planned on being quite that late, I had already seen most of the previously mentioned artists. And if there's one thing I've learned about rock/rap festivals, they can be looong. So getting there mid-day isn't a bad thing because you still wind up seeing 4 to 5 hours of music.

De La Soul hit the stage after Rakim. Their live set is always fun, familiar stuff, but they never just go through the motions. This marked probably the fifth or sixth time I've seen them, and they took all of the highlights from the previous sets I've seen (throwback mini-mixes, that freeze-frame routine during "Rock Co.Kaine Flow").

Red and Meth came next. Their set is like an adrenaline rush mixed with Red Bull and Vodka chased with Kripy Kreme Donuts and topped off with a Swisher. Meth loves jumping into the crowd.

Red loves making funny faces and being really vulgar on stage. They played their solo hits. The crowd feasted on everything.

I retreated backstage and caught The Pharcyde and Mos Def from the grass area, partly to recoup and partly to meet up with the folks who rolled with me. The Pharcyde reunion was a bit underwhelming, but I was paying only half-attention to their set.

Mos gave a solid, understated show. One thing I love about his set, his DJ always does these really smooth break beat runs, sophisticated polish and swagger. Mos sang and rhymed in his silky slim manner. I kind of missed Kweli though, especially during the Black Star songs.

Nas hit the stage and I got in the press pit for his show, which had the air of a monumental appearance. Seeing him on stage, flipping from talking trash about Fox News to ripping through "New York State of Mind," it was hard hitting and poignant. Nas is at a point in his career where people are listening to and watching his every move, and he seems to know this. He was confident and commanding but poised and humble at once. He's older now, aware of the power his words carry over an audience. It was pretty dope to see him in the moment, controlling the stage.

Finally, the moment arrived for Q-Tip and Tribe to take the stage. The pit was allowed to shoot the first three songs of Q-Tip's solo set and then the firs three of Tribe. Q-Tip hit he stage like a pro, doing "Vivrant Thing" and a few other joints off "Amplified." He did a few from his new album, including a duet with Mos. Tribe showed up, Ali Shaheed on a raised DJ booth, then Tip joined by a healthy-looking Phife and an animated Jarobi. The opening strains to "Bugging Out" dropped, and I pretty much geeked out. These are my heroes, the one act that I can always be rest assured will maintain artistic integrity in hip-hop, so I just stood back and watched. I wanted to enjoy every moment.

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The Beat does "Rock The Bells '08"

On Saturday, I went to "Rock The Bells" at Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View, where I got to meet...

The Funk Doctor Spock

The Ticallian Stallion

And the future President Murs.

I also got to see up close to see...


and Q-Tip.

All in all, it was a harrowing experience. I've got some audio and video stuff on the way, so hold tight. But summing up my experience in a word: Dope.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

A Tribe Called Quest = My “Wonder Years”

The music and the movement of A Tribe Called Quest summed up my teenage experience with butter smooth lyricism and a crisp 808 bass thump.
I'm dating myself, but over the course of my high school career from 1990 to 1994, A Tribe Called Quest released three classic hip-hop albums, “People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” “The Low End Theory,” and “Midnight Marauders.”
That was my wonder years trilogy, a trifecta of poetic perfection that enlightened my youth. So what if I sound overly nostalgic. As I prepare to see my favorite rap group for the first time (this is written in advance of their Saturday night performance at Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View), the memories of those years in tune with the Tribe rhythm are bouncing back in perfect sync.
“People's Instinctive Travels...” was released in 1991, just before the start of my freshman year. Tribe was an anomaly at the time, four members (Q-Tip, Phife, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi) who dressed in dashikis and head wraps, rhyming about losing their wallets on a cross country road trip and falling in love with girls named after fruit. At first, I didn't get it.
Then, the song “Can I Kick It,” with its sample of the Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side,” got played in heavy rotation on Yo! MTV Raps (yeah, I'm old school like that) and “Pump It Up” with Dee Barnes (okay, now I'm just old). I paid more attention to the group, bought the tape (what are those?) and bumped it in my Walkman for most of my freshman year.
I knew the group was on to something when toward the end of the year, my friend Frank pulled the tape out of his Walkman and handed it to me.
“You heard of these guys?” he asked.
“Oh yeah, I've been bumping that for a while now,” I said, feeling like someone who had been in on a secret for a long time and now everyone else was just starting to catch up.
Mid-way through my sophomore year, “The Low End Theory” was released and I was on board, a full-time Tribe devotee. When the video for “Check The Rhyme” came out, my neighbor Danny couldn't stop talking about it.
(Side note: Danny had a satellite in his back yard, one of those half-dome, iron rod joints that moved at the speed the earth rotates around the sun. He was the only guy on the block who got BET and got to see more rap videos than me. I was always trying to watch videos at his house during the summer).
By the summer before my junior year, the song “Scenario” was our neighborhood anthem. We would blast it on my little boom box and scream along to Busta Rhyme's “Rah-Rah/Like a Dungeon Dragon” verse at the end.
I even started dressing like Tribe. When I saw Q-Tip perform on television rocking a throwback New York Yankees fitted cap, I ran to the mall and scooped up the exact same cap.
My senior year was dominated by “Midnight Marauders.” At the time, I worked at “Sam Goody” in the mall. We would get music in advance and employees could buy tapes the day before they were purchased.
The day we got the album was also pay day, so I had planned my own private listening party to celebrate at home.
The thing that made Tribe so cool was their music could appeal to everyone. I liked the beats and the lyrics. My girlfriends liked Q-Tips voice and thought he was fly. The homeboys on my block liked the bass they could bump in their rides.
Back then, I tried to turn on everyone to Tribe. When they broke up a few years later, I was pretty depressed. I never got to see them live. The one chance I did have, I missed their set by a couple of minutes. That sucked.
Now, I get to relive my wonder years and jam out with the best.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

My GO! Magazine story on DJ Spooky

Here's my story on DJ Spooky. I conducted this interview by e-mail, which always sucks. Although I hardly prefer phone conversations because of their informality, at least you can gauge a person's tone and manner while talking with them. Through e-mail, unless they use really creative punctuation, there's no gauge whatsoever. For all I know, his assistant or manager could have written these up.

But judging from the responses, Spooky is one gifted, intelligent man, with a lot of good work under his belt. He's playing at the Henry Miller Library on Saturday. He'll go on about the same time I'll be watching A Tribe Called Quest some 100 miles north in Mountain View. Just thought I'd mention that.

The redwoods of Big Sur might seem an odd venue for any DJ other than DJ Spooky.
This is a guy who set out to Antarctica in hopes of making an electronic music recording sampling the sounds of ice.
A conceptual artist, DJ, turntablist and all-around digital music maven, DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid (real name Paul Miller), will perform a live show Friday to benefit the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. This will not be an ordinary DJ set, where the crowd watches a selector spin wax. His set will be a "live multimedia sound, music and visual collage, remixing cultural personae incorporating recently discovered Allen Ginsberg 1950s recordings, as well as audio of Henry Miller tuned specifically for the redwood forest's acoustics."
Fresh off a trip to Tel Aviv, Miller answered questions via e-mail for The Herald in anticipation of his Friday performance. He talked about his upcoming show, his "mixtape book" titled "Sound Unbound" and the "Terra Nova Project" that took him in search him to Anarctica in search of the perfect beat. Here is the e-mail transcript:
Q: Have you been to the Henry Miller Library/Big Sur before? Impressions?
A: Well, everybody knows of Henry Miller's literary work, but not a lot of people know about his watercolors. I always get a laugh out of the fact that me and him have the same last name (slavery did all sorts of funny things, eh!). My gallery in NY is Robert Miller gallery, too ... guess it's a Miller thing ... Anyway it's funny — no relation though. I imagine that the library would look like a scene in one of his watercolor paintings. You know ... the bright colors and mischief ...
smiles and laughter and all that. I mean hey ... the climate alone would be amazing and inspirational. Anyway, nah, I haven't been to the Henry Miller Library before.
Q: Your show will feature recently discovered Ginsberg '50s recordings. How will you blend those in with your work?
A: Well — there are so many divisions between the different eras — sampling breaks all of that down. My new book "Sound Unbound" looks at this kind of situation: and asks a simple "What if?"
It's a book that has essays from people as diverse as Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Chuck D, Moby, Pierre Boulez, Saul Williams, Bruce Sterling, Jonathan Lethem, etc.. The audio companion has rare material from Allen Ginsberg, James Joyce, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Liam Gillick, Trilok Gurtu, Sun Ra, George E. Lewis, Aphex Twin, Sonic Youth, Philip Glass, Iggy Pop etc — how would anyone take these voices and sounds and make a mix? I guess the "impetus" is about saying anything goes — why not mix these people and see what happens? Ginsberg is an inspiration on a lot of levels — he basically broke all the rules — and — had a good time. Jazz? Check. Literature? Check. Art? Check? I like people who say to hell with the rules — sampling does the same thing. We move from The Beats of the 20th century to the "beats" of the era of hip-hop, techno, etc.
Burning Man has more in common with people like Ginsberg or Amiri Baraka than half of the museum and gallery shows commemorating these cultural movements. I could go on, but anyway, yeah, the evening will have some really rare Ginsberg recordings and video material. It's the era of the remix!
Q: How was the Miller audio tuned specifically for the redwood forest's acoustics? Will the average listener be able to distinguish it that quality? How so?
A: Electronic music fits into so many categories — outdoors, no problem. From forest to city to glacier — I'm inspired by it all. For example, I went to Antarctica and shot a film that let me think about applying DJ technique to the environment. I know it sounds quirky, but that's kind of the point. When I was thinking about Terra Nova, I wanted to figure out a way to make music out of the sound of ice. The amount of ice down there is kinnd of geological clock: Why do we look at almost everything around us and take it for granted that this will all be around for the next couple of centuries? Environmental change has always been here. Think of the dinosaurs, think of all the different extinct species. Extinct is forever ... i.e. unless somebody out there picks up the pieces of your ashes and puts you back together, then we've done our thing, and our time on this planet is over. I wanted to go to Antarctica to look at the ice and think about it all - and make music from the ice.
What happens when you apply DJ technique to ice? Anyway, the redwood forest is still standing! I thank whatever divinities there may be for the fact that the library was saved and that we can come together to support the library as a cultural center. We need more, a lot more of these kinds of places in America.
Q: Your new book features interviews and essays with a wide range of talent. Was there any one thread that connected them in the book?
A: "Sound Unbound" is a "mix-tape" of a book. It has a lot of different voices — I really like to think of it as a kind of polyphony. Books usually are about one topic or one theme etc., etc. My stuff is about a certain kind of fragmentation. Sampling and literature go hand and hand. If you look at the 20th century, I think that the way people put together everything from factory production lines to poetry — think The Model T Ford Car, or William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, jazz soloists like Charlie Parker, composers like Ornette Coleman...and of course, all of hip-hop etc. — it's all about the fragment, the motif. That's probably what connected all the different people in the book. I'm a fan of doing the non-obvious.
Q: The art of DJing itself has changed dramatically since the beginning of the decade, due to technological advances and changes in industry standard (i.e. records crates have been replaced by laptops/DJ software). Is DJing now about keeping in tune with the technology as opposed to plying the craft?
A: Software, software, software! Everything that can be digital will be digital. Your phone, your record player, your computer — it's all about convergence. I'll be lecturing at Google's corporate headquarters the next day after I leave the Henry Miller Library! In "Sound Unbound" I had Daphne Keller, the "Senior Legal Counsel" for Google do an essay about sampling and intellectual property and she set up a lecture at Google. I guess it'll be about "DJ as search engine." But yeah, technology has changed the game. I really think that video, and other kinds of visual stuff — YouTube, blogosphere, laptop critics, wildstyle digital graffiti, you name it... it is just starting. Everybody is DJ'ing 'cause it's all about selection, and that means everything from Web browsing to 3G phones will be musical. Feel the funk baby!
Q: How did the "Terra Nova" project take shape? What challenges did you face during your trips to Antarctica?
A: I wanted to figure out a way to get out of cities. All of the shows I do, usually, almost every where all the time, are in cities. I'm writing to you just as I transfer on a flight from Sri Lanka, to Delhi (India's Delhi airport is wild!). But imagine how much most music styles — country, hip hop, dub reggae, whatever...are about the way we live, and the stories we tell. I wanted to figure out how do we make songs out of the planet itself? How do we as human beings realize how much we're messing up the earth? I want people to realize that we can do other things, and check out other ways of being. Anyway, the trailer is at terra_nova.php
You gotta decide for yourself!

Marc Cabrera can be reached at mcabrera@monterey GO!


• What: DJ Spooky aka That Subliminal Kid performs live in concert
• Where: Henry Miller Library, Highway 1, Big Sur
• When: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15
• Tickets: $25, available at or 667-2574
• Information:, or 667-2574

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