Hip-Hop Rap-Up: M.O.P., Shadow & Cut Chemist, Too $hort, Live Human, Diamond District, REKS X Hazardis Soundz + more

Posted by Billyjam, November 22, 2014 12:08pm | Post a Comment
Among the new/recent releases to arrive at Amoeba is M.O.P.'s Street Certified which earlier this week was released by Nature Sounds as a digital download. The new nine track EP from the two-decade strong influential Brooklyn rap duo, whose name stands for Mash out Posse, features such tracks as "187," "Broad Daylight (featuring Busta Rhymes),"  and the Street Certified title track that features Queens hip-hop duo Mobb Deep. The EP is executive produced by DJ Premier and is just one of two new releases from the duo. The other will be a special box set retrospective entitled 20 Years And Still Gunnin: The Ammo Box.

If you are in the Bay Area and missed DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's recent all vinyl Afrika Bambaataa record collection themed Renegades of Rhythm tour when it stopped at the Mezzanine two months ago (I checked it out and it was off the hook!) you will have another chance to catch to two noted Cali DJs/producers/vinyl collectors when they do another Bay Area show (this time in the East Bay) when their openers will be Dam-Funk and Davey D at the Fox Theatre in Oakland on Tuesday November 25th at 8pm. Tickets here.

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The Coup's Boots Riley Keeps The Revolution Alive & Discusses His Ambitious "Shadowbox" Stage Production

Posted by Billyjam, November 21, 2014 10:18am | Post a Comment

About a quarter way into the The Coup's amazing world premiere of Shadowbox - the longtime politicized Oakland hip-hop group's ambitious multifaceted, mixed media, multi-stage production that played as a kind of preview for only two shows on the one night at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) - front-man/emcee Boots Riley pointed to the giant scale floor to ceiling artwork by East Bay street artist Jon-Paul Bail. The East Bay muralist's giant cityscapes print, that wrapped its way around all walls of the entire performance space at YBCA, was an accurate image of the changing city that awaited outside the museum's walls.  Skyscrapers and other towering buildings with bold logos emblazoned on them of American born and bred entities like Twitter, Google, IBM, AT&T, NRA, and the PMRC acted as the perfect backdrop to the revolutionary hip-hop group's message of Shadowbox - to question authority and rebel against exploitative predatory corporations and the politicians that they've paid off to continue their rise to power at the expense of increasingly poorer working class of America.

In addition to Boots Riley and his full live band, the large scale production boasted numerous other artists joining the Coup on three stages (sometimes simultaneously) including Dead Prez, Classical Revolution, W. Kamau Bell, Mortar & Pestle, Snow Angel, Eat The Fish Presents, and Extra Action Marching Band. The choice of all of these artists, like the inclusion of Jon-Paul Bail's art work and the video projections and other stage designs by David Szlasa, was all the brainchild of Boots Riley. The Coup mainman has been a fan and friend of East Bay artist Jon-Paul Bail for many years and the inclusion of his art seemed like a no-brainer, he told the YBCA audience. "The first time I met him was in high school when we used to cut school and go to Alameda Beach and the police would harass us - even after school they'd harass us. And all of a sudden I would see police roll up and on the side of their cars where Nazi insignias - what looked like official Nazi insignias on the car and they were placed very neatly so it was done when they were at a coffee shop or something. And I was like 'Who is doing this?' because that was how we felt about the police. And then I met him…… And I was in an organization called International Committee Against Racism and we worked on going to fight the Nazis up in Vallejo. He was the first artist putting out political messages in his art - him a bunch of other students at CCAC. And we ran into each other recently and put this together."

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Remembering Jimmy Ruffin

Posted by Billyjam, November 20, 2014 07:28am | Post a Comment
Since the sad news broke yesterday of the passing of Motown great Jimmy Ruffin - who died earlier this week at age 78 following the announcement last month of him being seriously ill - I've been going back and digging up some of the popular recordings by the man (scroll down to see/hear select videos). While he may not have been quite as famous as his younger brother David Ruffin (the lead singer of the Temptations) he was an incredibly talented artist. Born in Mississippi Jimmy Ruffin moved to Detroit in the early sixties to connect with Berry Gordy's Motown Records - or rather initially Motown's Miracle Records imprint. There he recorded his biggest hit in 1966 with "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted."

Other Ruffin songs that enjoyed success over the years included "Gonna Give Her All the Love I Got ," "I've Passed This Way Before," and the 1980 hit "Hold On To My Love." Ruffin, who relocated temporarily to the UK in the 1980's where he recorded with such artists as major soul music fan Paul Weller, continued recording up until two years ago when he released his final album, There Will Never Be Another You. Below are a few select videos featuring the man that Berry Gordy called "truly underrated." Check for his music at Amoeba including his 1969 album Ruff'n Ready, the 20th Century Masters collection The Best Of Jimmy Ruffin - The Millennium Collection, and the duet full-length I Am My Brothers Keeper  that he recorded with his late great brother David who died 24 years ago. Hopefully the two Ruffin brothers are reunited in the afterlife and singing sweet soul music together again.

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John Waters Returns to California With His Popular Annual Christmas Show

Posted by Billyjam, November 19, 2014 03:52am | Post a Comment

Film-maker, screenwriter, author, stand-up comedian, art collector, hitchhiker, and friend of Amoeba John Waters will be doing another one of his popular annual one-man Christmas show tours this upcoming holiday season.  that will kick off in San Francisco at the end of this month and in the week following feature back to back California dates including LA on December 5th - all before heading back East to wind up the four-week tour. Themed loosely around his 2004 release A John Waters Christmas Waters' live show focuses as you would expect on the offbeat and the more kitsch end of the holiday. In it he covers a lot of territory, discussing gifts to give and how to react to ones you receive. Also more importantly, as he states in an interview from last holiday season with his hometown TV interview below ℅ of Baltimore's WBAL TV, he offers invaluable tips on how to survive the drama of the holidays and "how to react to the trauma of it, if your family's crazy, and how to get through it."

Tickets on sale now but some already sold out including the SF date. California dates include San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall Nov 29th, San Diego at The Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre on December 1st, Palm Springs at McCallum Theatre on December 2nd, San Juan Capistrano at The Coach House Dec 3rd,  Agoura Hills at The Canyon on December 4th, in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store in Hollywood on December 5th, and back up in NorCal at the City Winery in Napa on December 6th.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: June 1990 Billboard Hot Rap Singles Top 30 Chart

Posted by Billyjam, November 18, 2014 10:50am | Post a Comment

In the twenty four years since the publication of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles Top 30 Chart (left) rap/hip-hop has grown by leaps and bounds in both terms of widespread acceptance and (seemingly) unstoppable global popularity. Upon publication back in mid June 1990, while popular enough to deem its own weekly chart, hip-hop was still somewhat marginalized and was far from the mainstream cultural force it enjoys today. However while examining the contrast between radio/sales charting hip-hop in 1990 and 2014 there are many notable differences. For starters hip-hop was still largely labeled or referred to as "rap" back then which is somewhat ironic since popular "hip-hop" today is technically more "rap" than  than it was back at the beginning of the nineties.

From eyeballing this June 1990 chart, that was compiled from a national sample of both retail and one-stop sales, it's evident that commercially popular hip-hop appeared to be a lot more adventurous and much more diverse in style -both production wise and lyrically.  Also notable is how major labels did not dominate the bulk of rap sales - rather is was pretty much evenly split between indies and majors, although many of those same independent labels would in time make deals with the majors. Another notable business factor was that record labels (indie or major) could still be very profitable ventures since 1990 was a time when people still bought records and tapes to hear music. There was no illegal free downloading/file-sharing of music, and the only threat to labels was illegal dubbed bootleg cassette copies of their releases. Hence labels had more money to spend on promotions of their artists/records.

Women hip-hop artists, who to this day have never gained equality in their genre, were still in the minority back in June 1990 with only five out of this top thirty chart being female acts. These five included three groups - something much rarer today when female rappers tend to be solo acts - that included Hammer proteges Oaktown's 3-5-7, Def Dames whose "Set It Off" heavily sampled Strafe's 1984 club/radio hit of the same name and who should not be confused with the Euro girl group of the same name who came a little later,  and early career Jermaine Dupri discovered rap/rNb trio Silk Tymes Leather. The other female chart entries were Icey Jaye ("It's A Girl Thing"), and Queen Latifah in a duet with David Bowie in an update of his previous era hit "Fame 90." Speaking of minorities within rap there was one Latino rap act on this chart - Los Angeles rapper Mellow Man Ace (the bilingual single that he is best remembered for, "Mentirosa") who is the brother of Sen Dog of Cypress Hill.

Political and socially charged hip-hop included such chart entries as X-Clan's "Raise The Flag," Public Enemy's "911 Is A Joke," former Public Enemy member Professor Griff's "Pawns In The Game," the Afro-centric and Native Tongues members The Jungle Brothers ("What U Waitin' 4"), and the number one chart entry: Ice Cube's incendiary title track of his debut solo/post NWA album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Ice Cube's former NWA partner Dr. Dre (still two full years before he would unleash The Chronic) was represented on the chart via The D.O.C. single "The Formula" from the 1989 album No One Can Do It Better which he produced and was recorded before The D.O.C.'s tragic car accident that would ruin his music career. Other West Coast acts represented on this chart included Compton's Most Wanted and the Bay Area's MC Hammer (then in his prime and riding high with the single "U Can't Touch This") and Digital Underground who were taking the world by storm with their big hit "The Humpty Dance." 

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