Longtime Bay Area hip-hop artist Paris, who headlines Slim's tonight (1/2) on a bill with Equipto and Locksmith, has always stayed 100% true to his political beliefs and never shied away from controversy. In fact, the outspoken revolutionary rapper, who famously got dropped by Tommy Boy Records over his outspoken content back in the early '90s, has not softened up one bit. He continues to speak out against the injustices he sees around him, even three decades into his career. Ample proof of this can be found on his latest release, Pistol Politics, which he strategically released on September 11th, 2015. 9/11 is not just a date bound to attract the public's attention but one that symbolizes a topic close to the artist's heart.
Ever since the history-changing September 11, 2001 event, Paris has utilized his music as a platform to question 9/11, calling it an inside job. The cover art for his album Sonic Jihad, released two years after 9/11, showed a plane crashing into the Pentagon. Meanwhile its tracks featured such "truth music" tracks as "What Would You Do" that addressed the artist's theories on 9/11 as well as the Illuminati's agenda.
It's been a rough year for music with so many artists in rock, hip-hop, and jazz dying during 2015. It seemed like every week brought more sad news of some other musical great passing. This week alone began with the shocker that beloved hard rock bad-ass Lemmy Kilmister of Motorheadand Hawkwind had died at age 70. Also on that same day news circulated that Stevie Wright, lead singer of the sixties rock n roll band The Easybeats, had died at age 68. The Easybeats, who scored the 1966 hit "Friday On My Mind," was one of the first Australian pop bands to make an international breakthrough in the 1960s. More sad news came on Tuesday morning when it was announced that drummer John "Brad" Bradbury of the legendary UK ska band The Specials had died at age 62. "It is with deep regret that we say goodbye to our great friend, the world's greatest drummer, our beloved Brad. RIP," came the Tweet from the official Special's Twitter account. So far there is no word on the cause of death of Bradbury.
LL Cool J and his DJ Cut Creator school the young Maine audience in hip-hop (June 1985)
"I'm from New York City. I have a house in Brooklyn. I live in Queens. And I got my man Cut Creator; he lives in Manhattan," LL Cool J tells the unlikely audience at one of his early shows on June 21st, 1985. This week's Amoeblog Hip-Hop History Tuesdays rewinds back three full decades to an unlikely locale for hip-hop history -- a small college hall in Waterville, Maine. There at an all ages show the less-than-full auditorium crowd was made up of mostly young school age kids with seemingly little or no familiarity with the still young genre of hip-hop (although I bet that this show changed the musical tastes of many of those in attendance.). It was at that Maine town's Colby College that a most articulate 17-year-old LL Cool J, along with his DJ Cut Creator, brought the gospel of hip-hop to a seemingly unschooled audience. This LL did in a perfectly balanced concert meets lecture session - covering scratching and beatboxing, as well as rapping. It's important to note that at this time, it would still be years before YO! MTV Raps would bring the Bronx-born music and culture of hip-hop directly into households across the nation.
Not only was hip-hop new to the much world at this stage in time but so too was the future superstar hip-hop artist (and actor) whose name stood for Ladies Love Cool James. Back in the early summer of 1985 the only record by LL Cool J was his debut single "I Need A Beat." That Def Jam rap single may have been a hit for the new rapper but, judging by the lackluster reaction of the crowd when he and his DJ performed it, most at this Maine show were unfamiliar with it and its maker. It would be another five months before the talented teen from Queens, NY would release his huge hit debut album Radio that last month celebrated its 30 year anniversary (Radio available in LP format). But regardless of how unknown he may have been to this audience or how little most seemed to know about hip-hop, nothing deterred LL Cool J. Young but a true professional, he meticulously broke down and explained all the components of hip-hop in a easy to follow method that was bound to make his audience curious to seek out more. And as such I think this is one of the greatest hip-hop videos from this time period. I only recently learned of this clip when a friend of the son of concert organizer/producer Mike Starr forwarded it to me via WFMU. She did so to inform me that Starr, who went by the radio DJ name of DJ Time Bomb, had just died (Rest In peace). Reportedly the late Maine DJ/promoter had organized LL to travel to the college to perform and had paid him $500 for the show. But because LL would be the only only rap act on the bill, the artist was concerned it would a be short performance. So Starr shrewdly suggested he use the opportunity to educate the audience in the elements of hip-hop; particularly scratching, and beatboxing in addition to rapping. This he ably did and more; even leaving the young impressionable minds with the message of don't do drugs and stay in school! Below is the Krush Groove clip featuring LL Cool J's "I Can't Live Without My Radio" found on both the Krush Groove soundtrack and on LL Cool J's album Radio.
With its number one album being the critically acclaimed Kendrick Lamar modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, this Top 30 Hip-Hop Hit Albums in 2015 list is one of three Amoeblog hip-hop year-end lists. This list's results are compiled by drawing from various sales figures of the year's top-selling albums, while also taking into consideration overall critical response. The factors included are first week sales on the Billboard Top 100 chart, overall sales at Amoeba, plus Metacritic ratings. A lot of the time, both sales figures and critical ratings are equal, but on some occasions they were not (hence why some albums might rate higher on this chart than lists based solely on sales). Still, overall the Top 30 that made the list is reflective of the most commercially well-received albums in 2015. With a few exceptions and regardless of the order, this top 30 includes most of the top 30 best-selling albums of the year. Exceptions would include Dom Kennedy's By Dom Kennedy and Drake & Future What a Time to Be Alive because both 2015 albums were digital only and unavailable through Amoeba. The list is also reflective of a lot of the artists whose album tracks received major radio airplay in 2015.
Destiny's Child "8 Days of Christmas" (2001): 1 of 14 songs on 2015 White House Holiday Mixtape
Yesterday the White House, via a published Spotify playlist, unveiled the playlist (left) chosen by the president and First Lady (The First Playlist?) for this 2015 Christmas/holiday season. Descriptively entitled Holidays with the Obamas, the virtual mixtape noticeably does not include any hip-hop by the man dubbed by many as the "first hip-hop president." Not even Run-D.M.C.'s ubiquitous holiday hit "Christmas In Hollis" (slightly devalued IMO by its use in a car commercial) that was first released in 1987 when the president was 26 and Michelle was 23 and they were both reportedly fans of hip-hop & rap. Also absent are such hip-hop friends and guests of the current White House as Common and Jay-Z. But then come think of it, neither recorded Christmas songs that I am aware of. However Hova's wife and fellow former White House performer Beyonce did make the current playlist, as part of the female trio that catapulted her to fame.
New Orleans-born Bay Area soulstress/actress Ledisi's version of "Silent Night" is included as are Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men’s “Let It Snow,” and the late great Luther Vandross' 1995 recording "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (audio below). As with any music list compiled by any person (especially POTUS), people will find fault and question why such a song was included or why another was not. My critique was, why no rap?, while another's was how come "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" by James Brown was not included? It's all subjective so we can wonder all we want. However, more telling will be future Barack Obama Christmas playlists after he no longer holds the office of president and will be free to really let loose and include anything he truly wants. I'm visualizing a hardcore rap Xmas playlist featuring songs like the recently reissued Eazy-E "Merry Muthafukin Xmas." But we'll just have to wait and see.