Here in New York City this week, besides the post Oscars chatter and talk amongst weather weary New Yorkers about that false mega-snowstorm warning (the 10 inches of snow forecast to hit this week never materialized past a light dusting), a lot of talk is on the new Forbes report. That new report by the magazine places New York City, in a tie with Honolulu, as the USA's "most-overpriced city" to live in because of both expensive housing and a high cost of living. Personally I expected NYC to be in a tie with the ridiculously expensive San Francisco market, which came in number 7 in a tie with Essex Co., MA while San Jose ranked higher at fifth place, but wasn't surprised with New York ranking highest expense. As Democratic Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez noted in a public response to the new findings things are only going to get more expensive for the average (non-rich) New Yorker.
"From ever-soaring rent levels to higher priced foods and goods invading lower-middle income neighborhoods, many lifelong residents are being pushed out of their homes," said Rodriguez in whose district the average rent is currently at just under $4,000. Meanwhile most struggling working class and middle class New Yorkers are anxiously looking to new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who got elected on a platform that promised more equality on things like housing. And even though de Blasio this very week forced luxury condo developers at the former Domino Sugar site in Williamsburg to construct 700 new affordable apartments (double the amount initially supposed to be built) many feel that it is too little too late in terms of housing costs overall, plus the fact that the general cost of living in NYC outweighs everything else. EG: one recent comparison study found utilities to be 29.6% higher here than in other parts of the country. Bottom line New York is a great city to be in but you do have to pay the price to live here. But on the bright side other new statistic released this week show that, while rents continue to rise, crime continues to drop across New York City's five boroughs - and this news comes following the NYPD substantially backing off on their controversial stop-and-frisk practices. New statistics show an 18.5% drop in murders for the first two months of 2014 with other crimes also substantially lower than this period in 2013.
Run-D.M.C. "Sucker MC's" (live 1984)
Released 30 years ago - in March of 1984 - Run-D.M.C.'s eponymous debut has not aged one bit nor lost any of its vitality even three full decades later. So for this week's Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog I salute this influential landmark, nine track album Run-D.M.C. from the renowned Hollis, Queens, NY hip-hop trio (although only two appeared on the front cover); an album that ushered in a new school era of hip-hop upon its release back in '84. More than any other early era rap act the power trio of Run-D.M.C., comprised of Joseph "DJ Run" Simmons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, and the late great Jason "Jam-Master Jay" Mizell (who was murdered back in 2002 in a Jamaica Queens recording studio), were such a phenomenally influential rap/hip-hop act that they singularly were responsible for converting legions of new fans, who up until this point dismissed rap as mere novelty, to hip-hop music.
Furthermore Run-D.M.C. were also pioneering within hip-hop itself by being responsible for releasing the first real full length rap album to become a major hit. Up until this point rap acts generally only released singles and the idea of a full-length had not yet widely taken root. Hence in so doing Run-D.M.C.'s debut elevated the genre from been a primarily singles driven sub-genre of black music to help it go on to become the unstoppable force it is today on a global level.
Sonically the album was harder than anything else in rap music up until this point in time, and was delivered in a beatbox style, over hard drum machine beats, with in-your-face, aggressive (rebellious rock like) delivery of protest songs like "Hard Times," "Wake Up," and "30 Days." With a logo that is still copied to this day and a simple but instantly recognizable sharp fashion sense shared by all three, Run-D.M.C. cemented their image and themselves forever with this 1984 debut on Profile Records which, in 2005, was reissued as a "Deluxe Edition" with the four bonus tracks: "Rock Box [B-Boy Mix]," "Here We Go [Live at the Funhouse]," "Sucker M.C.'s [Live]," and "Russel & Larry Running at the Mouth." Below, alongside the cover art, is the original 1984 version track list of the landmark LP.
Every year I watch the condensed version of the Oscars the day after with just the highlights, but this year I decided to actually watch the Oscars in real time, live on TV, all three and a half hours. Overall it wasn't bad but, like the long (and overrated) The Wolf Of Wall Street, it could have been edited down to half the length to make for a much more snappy, flowing production. But I still watched and, for most part, enjoyed the proceedings of which I made the following observations.
Speech highlights of the night for me were Lupita Nyong'o (best supporting actress) who, after getting a big loving hug from her brother and "best friend" Peter Nyong'o, made the most moving speech of the night, that had some audience members tearing up and that ended with the encouraging words: "no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid." Also moving and meaningful was the speech by the most deserving Oscar winner Jared Leto (best supporting actor for his brilliant role in Dallas Buyers Club) who dedicated his award, "for all the people of the world who have felt injustice I stand here for you and with you."
Meanwhile the 30 Seconds to Mars member and actor's co-star/best actor winner Matthew McConaughey (who I loved in both Dallas Buyers Club and in his too-short appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street) gave the most confusing rambling-on speech of the night, that seemed to have little to do with the movie he won the award for and sounded like maybe he had been at the Hollywood Weed Buyers Club beforehand stocking up on strong concentrates to smoke beforehand. Best (and only) acceptance speech done in song was by Darlene Love (for her part in the best documentary feature 20 Feet From Stardom) who was clearly very happy to be honored at the Oscars and who got the first standing ovation of the night for her entertaining song/speech.
Speaking of music the big surprise to me was that U2 didn't win. Nor did Pharrell Williams! And after both did excellent performances during the big show - Bono and co. doing an acoustic version of "Ordinary Love" from Mandala, and Pharrell Williams doing "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 in which he was joined by a stage full of dancers in 50's style fashion doing some excellent dancing moves (including aerial shots). But then the Oscar for best song went to brother and sister team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for their song "Let It Go" from Disney's animated feature film, Frozen. Karen O was joined by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig on guitar for a performance of "The Moon Song" from the movie Her but I found the performance non-engaging and boring. Better was Bette Midler's live rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" which followed the in memoriam segment and that had the artist in tears after her performance. As a giant screen showing silent clips of Judy Garland in scenes from The Wizard Of Oz dwarfed her, Pink did a nice enough (but not great) version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" that had me scratching my head wondering why not have Liza Minnelli (Judy's talented Oscar winning daughter who was there with her half-brother and half-sister) sing it instead of Pink? But maybe it is about politics and perhaps she was invited to in the first place.
Shout out to E-Lit at the Berkeley Amoeba Music store for running down, in the above video, all the new and recent hip-hop releases to arrive at Amoeba lately in both CD and vinyl formats including Open Mike Eagle's Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes(on vinyl) and As Is on CD by longtime prolific Bay Area hip-hop soldier White Mic of Bored Stiff fame who, as E-Lit notes, also has a forthcoming release - a previous collaboration with Z-Man - now coming on vinyl. All of the releases showcased by E-Lit above can be found at Amoeba Music in the three retail stores (Berkeley, San Francisco, and Hollywood) and in most, but not all, cases online at the Amoeba.com store.
Hip-hop concerts, parties, and events from the Bay to LA and beyond in the week ahead include Too $hort doing a most worthwhile charity event that offers fans a chance to go both bowling and into the studio with the godfather of Bay Area rap while simultaneously helping out the East Oakland self-described multi-service community transformation hub Youth UpRising that Short has long been involved in. The ongoing Too $hort Charity Buzz auction fund drive, that offers the final winner "one hour of recording time in the state of the art music studio at Youth UpRising, a 25,000 sq. ft. community transformation center in the heart of East Oakland. Following the recording session, join Too $hort for a game of bowling at Lucky Strike, a stylish bowling lounge in San Francisco," is currently up to $850 with the estimated value on this item listed as $2000. Bid here and help a worthy cause and yourself at the same time. Auction ends March 11th. In the South Bay tonight, Saturday March 1st, LA rap vet Ras Kass along with Indjnous headlines a show with Motion Man (whose classic 1993 song/video "Mo Like Flows On" is below), Jeff Turner, Opski Chan, Audio Dru, plus DJ Abraham and others. Show at Back Bar 418 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113. 9pm 21+ $10 more info.