Friday, May 30, 2008

"The Beat" Video Blog with Mic Quin

Episode 4 of "The Beat" in video blog form. We talk with our good pal Mic Quin as he plugs away at his projects and collaborations. Big up to Jose for providing the dope Jaguar for the shoot. We shot this out in Chinatown to give it that extra-grimy feel. Oh, Fa Sho'.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Final thoughts - Monterey Music Summit

In the wake of the indefinite postponement of The Monterey Music Summit, I got to say I'm pretty bummed — but more so embarrassed.

Sure, the county supes approved use of the Laguna Seca venue, however begrudgingly. But they did some back door stuff to make it harder for event organizers to go on.
With the billing of the event as a carbon-neutral, eco-friendly endeavor, free water and public transportation, even a visit from Buddhist monks, the county supes and Sheriff's office still thought it necessary to charge extra for security, to the tune of $30,000-plus.

Do Buddhist monks serve as a potential risk to public safety?

Of course, there was the presence of that one tall, lean, black rapper named Snoop Dogg. While it's hard to ignore any potential spark for gang violence in the wake of a double homicide in Salinas over the weekend, the way the Sheriff's department handled the situation was profiling at the least, blatant racism at the worst.

Snoop and his entourage were expected to endure a search by Sheriff's deputies, the only band required to do so on the bill. Out of 70 bands and artists, Snoop's crew was expected to be cool with this one "request."

Who does that? I mean, seriously, how are you going to allow a show to go on only if one black guy and his friends/managers/roadies are ordered to be held under a microscope?

The county supes allowed it, demanded it, essentially, to ensure piece of mind. Really, they were just making it more difficult for promoters to put on the show.

Which is sad and frustrating and, again, embarrassing. I'm embarrassed that elected officials in my region went along with this. Didn't someone tap one of these guys/girls on the shoulder and whisper in their ear "hey, this could be viewed as a bit racist, you know."

I'm venting, but seriously, we have just exposed ourselves as small-town, non-sophisticates who are unable to have a good time without proper authorities standing watch under lock and key.

This is the message our elected officials have chosen to send to the youth: don't trust anyone unless you can pat them down first. Then, make sure you milk them for all they have.

It will be a while before all of this gets settled down and we can look forward to name pop music acts coming through for large venue shows. This is an embarrassment to anyone in the county who has bought or downloaded a CD in the last five years.

The crusties got their wish. I hope they feel safer now that the threat has been averted. Meanwhile, gangs continue to run the streets of Salinas. Too bad we can't charge them an extra $30k to stay away.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Karma Loop TV interview w/Yak Ballz

The good folks at were nice enough to share this interview with Yak Ballz of The Weathermen (indy supergroup consisting of El-P, Aesop Rock, Cage, Breeze Brewin, RJD2, ya momma). Shout out to Chelsea at Karma Loop for providing the embed code.

On a side note, Weathermen member Camu Tao passed away over the weekend. Condolences to the family and friends of the talented, underrated Columbus, Ohio MC. Bless the dead, who started off with the group MHz (Camu Tao, RJD2 and Copywrite).

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Listen To My Voice! with Keak Da Sneak

Keak Da Sneak is the voice of The Bay, a gravel-toned, jagged-edged, smoked-too-many- Newports-growing-up- in-Oaktown growl that cuts through the track like a diamond slicing a pane glass window.
Since his debut with the late '90s Oakland group 3XCrazy, Keak has maintained a strong foothold in the Bay Area rap scene. Like Busta Rhymes stepping away from Leaders of the New School, Keak left the group to pursue solo success, using his distinct voice and ultra-smooth persona to carve his lyrical niche.
After years of grinding on the underground circuit and stellar features on other artists songs, Keak broke through in 2004 with the regional sensation “Super Hyphy.” The song, a sexy, catchy, side show carinval-ride jingle, was ubiquitous on Bay Area radio stations, and catapulted Keak to solo stardom. He followed that up with a high-profile appearance on E-40's jam “Tell Me When To Go,” a regional anthem that garnered national attention.
While Keak was riding high on his public profile, his contract ties with various independent labels prevented him from capitalizing on his success. More than two years after the “Tell Me When To Go” jump-off, Keak is just now releasing a solo album.
“Deified” is a collaboration-heavy, full-length album that finds Keak in his lane, mixing gritty street rhymes with party jams over fierce beats. Of course, there's always that voice, which is a force of its own on record and over the phone.
Keak talked to “The Beat” about his new album and representing the Bay Area on a national level. “Deified” drops June 10.

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The Beat Video Blog w/ Sleyv

Episode 3 of “The Beat” in video form. Shout out to Will, Alicia, Rerun and the gang at 40831 Clothing in Salinas for allowing us to shoot there.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interview with Slug of Atmosphere (Pt. II)

Part two of the Slug interview.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Interview with Slug of Atmosphere (Pt. I)

I've been riding pretty hard for Atmosphere of late, but they're definitely one of my favorites. The new album is dope. Cop that.

This is courtesy of the good people at Big up to Chelsea, who was nice enough to hand this over. First in a two-parter, so expect the second installment sometime tommorrow.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

"Listen To My Voice" with Darren "El Gallo" Carter

For being a red-head white guy from Fresno, Darren Carter throws down a mean grito.

That would be a long, screeching, spirited celebratory yell made famous by Mexican mariachis. Carter's grito is an homage to his upbringing in the barrios of Fresno, where the red-head comic earned the nickname "El Gallo" or "The Rooster.

"I've been practicing. I love it," he said before unleashing a loud, screeching Mexican grito, a traditional celebratory yell. He punctuates it with an authentic "Ahua!"

Carter will perform Friday at the Fox Theater in Salinas. Show starts at 8 p.m.

El Gallo talked to "The Beat" about his upcoming show. Read the full story in the Sunday Leisure section, or just listen to my voice below.

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"The Beat" Video Blog with Delirio

Episode 2 of "The Beat" video blog features Salinas/Las Vegas band Delirio.

Formed at Alisal High School during the late '90s, band members Edgar Escobedo, Albert Lopez, Marco Lopez and Juan Diego Lopez have mixed synthy new wave with riff-heavy Rock En Espanol. The quartet, all raised in East Salinas, released their debut album "Auto Destruccion" in 2007, a four-year process that found the band consistently re-tooling their sound and set while producing the record on their own.

Props to Anthony Lane and the Fox Theater Salinas for allowing us to shoot at The Fox Theater. Check out more of the band at

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Listen To My Voice! with Savage Sun

This one is a bit delayed, but a (long) goodie. I interviewed Christopher Schamber, aka Savage Sun, a few weeks back. The story ran in the print edition of “The Beat,” but I somehow managed to miss this in the blog. It's here now as part of “LTMV!”

Savage Sun is a CSUMB grad, social worker and MC now living in The Lou (St. Louis for the 'hood-impaired). His debut album, "The Art of Being Alive” is a live wire mix of esoteric lyricism and mood music inspired by the seasons. Sun is in the lineage of poets/MC's who use their music to inspire and vent.

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Snoop drives soccer mom's wild on "OLTL"

Assesing Snoop Dogg's performance last week on “One Life to Live” — it was kind of like watching a real-life celebrity make an appearance as an animated characeter on “Scooby-Doo” or “The Simpsons.”
Snoop showed up at a bachelorette party held in a nightclub. He followed up a stripper. He hit the stage and a dozen or so soap opera housewives screamed “Snoop!” like teeny-boppers at a Miley Cyrus show. The stripper looked confused.
He wore a brown leather outfit and shades. My mom's reaction: “He looks like a Pimp!” Which, I guess, is the point — Snoopy the Pimp relied on his faux-mack image to win over the hearts of suburban soccer moms the world over. I wonder how many middle-age moms picked up their kids the next day at school bumping “Sexual Seduction,” the song he performed on the show.
None of this would have caught my attention were it not for the “controversy” surrounding Snoop's appearance at the Monterey Music Summit. Although I was once a devout OLTL folower (long, boring days of summer vacation mixed with my mom's programming the vcr to record her soapies made me a fan by default), there's no reason for me to watch now. Snoop's appearance provided a weird, brief re-entry point.
At the end of his song, Snoop offered a contrite “What It Do, Landview” to the screeching crowd. I wonder how he'll greet the Monterey crowd ("Orale Monterey?"). The soccer mom crowd might eat it up.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

"The Beat" - Video Blog-cast

Look to the right. See that? In the video viewer. It's "The Beat" logo on a video player. Click on the player and you'll see the premiere episode of the video blog-cast "The Beat."

This is the first in an on-going series I'll be producing. I'll interview artists and do video of shows, have some fun, talk to folks. It'll be a nice way to give readers of the blog a little more insight into the music and entertainment going on on the Central Coast.

This week, we're talking to B.I.G. T.I.M.E. of SicSide Entertainment. His crew is hosting a talent show Wednesday night at The Hippodrome, 321 Alvarado St., Monterey. Showtime is 8:30 p.m.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy "The Beat" video-cast. And if you'd like to participate in an upcoming episode, contact me

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Listen To My Voice! with El Vez

El Vez, The Mexican Elvis, is not your typical Elvis impersonator.

Not a whole lot of Elvis impersonators would reference The Zapatistas in their lyrics, or turn a James Brown anthem into a pro-Chicano crowd pleaser (“I'm Brown and Proud”).

Mixing musical mash-ups with Vegas cheese and Pro-Chicano messages, El Vez is a prolific, profound entertainer who mixes performance art with classic American rock, seamlessly.

His real name is Robert Lopez, and over the phone he's an eloquent, funny, easy-going Chicano who can turn it on with one lip curl. He talked with ‘The Beat’ about his work and his upcoming performance May 8 at the World Theater at CSU-Monterey Bay. For more info, visit, or go to

**Note: You will have to push pause on the player for the Ben Kenney podcast two entries below to listen to the El Vez interview properly. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

On Snoop Dogg: Fighting Gang Violence with Intolerence Won't Work

Monterey County Board of Supervisors and the crusty residents of this here county are really showing their general disconnect with youth culture in regards to Snoop Dogg's performance at the Monterey Music Summit.
In today's paper, The Herald reported that summit promoter Joe Fletcher was told that the supes could keep the event from taking place “if Snoop was on the bill.” Among their concerns was the spat of gang violence currently plauging nearby Salinas and the sometimes violent messages sent in Snoop's lyrics.
So their counter to gang violence is veiled cultural intolerance? That's the vibe I'm catching from this.
First off, as in any debate involving defense of rap music, I gotta be straight up and say some of Snoop's lyrics are inescusable. This is the guy who penned “Bitches Ain't Shit” and “A Nigga Wit A Gun.” We're not talking Bob Dylan here.
At the same time, Snoop has matured as an artist and performer. He's re-invented himself as this sort of West Coast ghetto good will ambassador, accentuating some of the more positive aspects of 'hood and hip-hop culture.
He was a coach for his son's pee-wee football team; he's got his own E! Network reality series depicting his life as a father, husband and family man. He's set to appear on the soap opera “All My Children.”
He's become a hood-icon from the D-Boys to the Desparate Housewives.
Critics, of course, will point to his violent past as an excuse to hate on his seeming calmer present. He was acquitted of murder charges in 1996. He was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, a folding metal baton he claimed was a movie prop, at a Los Angeles Airport in 2004. Recently, he was held but later released after his entourage was involved in a scuffle with security at a London airport.
Snoop's persona as a certified gangsta (he's claimed Long Beach Crip membership since his early days) is what carries over into his mainstream reputation. That gives the crusties plenty of ammo to work with.
But believe it or not, Snoop's gangsta persona is not even considered real anymore within the United States Ghetto network. Not to say he's soft of lost his touch, but cholos and thug world over know that Snoop is a character as harmless as the cartoon beagle that provided his namesake.
When you mention Snoop Dogg to your local vato loco, he might smile and nod his head in appreciation, rattle off a song or two that he likes.
No one is going to say that Snoop's music will incite violence. Period.
It's kind of like being afraid of the Rolling Stones in the aftermath of Altemont. Are you going to be worried that a Hell's Angel biker will shank you if you go to a Stones concert?
More seriously, it's a problem that county officials think they know what's right for residents when it comes to entertainment options. For years, the people in this county have complained about the lack of entertainment options, pop music in particular, available to them.
Now, when we have a superstar of Snoop's caliber helping make the area a potential hot bed for pop music acts, we're saying no way? It's too dangerous?
What really scares me is that while county supes and Peninsula residents who cite Salinas's gang problem as a reason to cance the show. Are they worried that it will cause more violence in Salinas, or are they worried that the violence in Salinas will somehow migrate to Laguna Seca? Are they worried Salinas gangsters will show up en masse to ruin it for everyone? What gives?
And since the Monterey Sheriff's Office has become involved, are they worried they won't be able to handle Salinas residents showing up? Shouldn't the Sheriff's Office be prepared and trained well enough for an event like this? No one cries fould when 200,000 people bombard the county during Rodeo and Grand Prix week. All of a sudden Snoop is showing up and the Sheriff's office isn't prepared to handle it's own residents?
No matter what the outcome, the powers that be are really showing their inability to gauge the response of youth popular culture. Snoop's appearance should be a wake-up call that local leader's fears are not in tune with the reality of its residents.
If they're worried that Snoop's appearance will fuel gang violence, what does that say about their ability to solve the gang problem by itself?

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