Amoeblog

Sudden Death Of Underground Rapper Pumpkinhead At Age 39 Sends Shockwaves Through Hip-Hop Community

Posted by Billyjam, June 10, 2015 01:13am | Post a Comment

Since the news broke Tuesday afternoon that longtime Brooklyn indie hip-hop artist Pumpkinhead (aka PH) had died at age 39 - and with no cause of death announced - the hip-hop community has been in shock over the sudden death of this widely beloved underground rapper born Robert Alan Diaz who came up in 90's hip-hop and built a rep on the battle scene and collaborated with a slew of artists. Above is a still from a KOTD rap battle where he handed it -via way superior battle freestyle - to his losing competitor Skelly. Not much is known about his sudden death except that he reportedly had only very been recently admitted into the Somerville, N.J. hospital where he was pronounced dead on Tuesday morning June 9th. As news traveled fans and fellow hip-hop artists reacted. Upon  finding out that he had lost a friend, Brooklyn hip-hop contemporary Talib Kweli took to Instagram to recall how, "Robert and I went to PS 282 together in Brooklyn, 4th grade. We then reconnected when he became an MC during the indie era of the late 90s. He signed to Makin Records, I signed to Rawkus. Then PH went on to reinvent himself again in the new battle rap era. He LOVED MCing and was great at it. To lose such a great human being so early in his life, man. No words. There is a fraternity of artists who were around for all of this. PH inspired us all. He will live on thru us even though his physical presence will be missed." Meanwhile longtime friend Jean Grae, whose stage name was given to her by PH, Tweeted that "Dynamic and the Dynamic Remix were the first songs I produced that got released. man. Man. MAN. Pumpkinhead. Man." That track she produced is below, as is another Pumpkinhead collaboration with Jean Grae when both joined another frequent musical collaborator Immortal Technique on his dope track "The Illest." Among his numerous collaborations the one with Marco Polo "Orange Moon Over Brooklyn" (insert) was an excellent one. I met Pumpkinhead when he guested on my radio show back in 2008 at the Knitting Factory as part of Brooklyn Academy along with Mr Metaphor and Block McCloud. Meanwhile beyond the hip-hop world's loss, more profoundly impacted is the rapper's surviving family - his wife and two kids with another on the way - who are currently still scrambling to come to terms with the shock of his death, and slowly realizing that they do not have enough money to cover all of the sudden expenses that have landed in their lap. Hence a crowdfunding drive has been just set to help with the funeral services and a memorial that would "make him proud."

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Femcee Jean Grae Stays In The Music Biz To Deliver Quality Hip-Hop

Posted by Billyjam, September 6, 2011 06:18pm | Post a Comment
         
Jean Grae "R.I.P (feat. Styles P & Talib Kweli)" (2011)

A few years ago super-talented New York hip-hop lyricist Jean Grae threatened to quit the music business altogether. Luckily for hip-hop fans everywhere, who treasure the relatively few positive female emcees in a male-dominated field, that temptation to call it quits passed and Ms. Grae stayed in the game and continued to both perform and record (she is in good company on Talib Kweli's label Blacksmith Music).  Currently on tour she headlines Oakland's New Parish tomorrow night, September 7th, on a bill with Mr Len from Company Flow and local (by way of NY) DJ Ren the Vinyl Archeologist kicking things off, along with host Flossafee.

A while back I caught up with Jean Grae to ask her about her once thinking of quitting, and also what it is like to be a female in such a male dominated genre? "It's really hard to not quit. It's gonna be eighty times harder than the dude next to you," she said of being a woman in rap, adding that "It's definitely a difficult place to be and it definitely requires a thick skin. And sometimes it's hard and sometimes you want to quit." But she noted that having good supportive and positive people in your immediate circle and a "love of" what you do, makes it all fall into place.

Jean Grae headlines tomorrow, Wednesday September 7th, in the East Bay show. Doors 8pm. Tix $15 The New Parish is located at 579 18th Street near San Pablo in downtown Oakland More Info

Despite Being a Minority, Femcees Continue to Put It Down in the Male Dominated World of Hip-Hop

Posted by Billyjam, March 31, 2011 04:42pm | Post a Comment

Medusa "Choclet Giddy Up" (2011)

Before the month of March, aka Women's History Month 2011, comes to a close I wanted to shine some light on a sampling of the female hip-hop talents out there today and what they're up to, including both some well known, longtime women artists and some new up-and-coming female artists. For a myriad of reasons, namely the genre's prevalent macho attitude, even all these years later female artists remain a clear minority in the male dominated field of rap music. Hence, those women who continue to make hip-hop music demonstrate a true dedication and passion for their art form.

As with any musical genre, hip-hop goes through different waves and stages. Since its beginnings, trends in the popularity of female artists have periodically come and gone. And right now, following the meteoric rise to fame of Lil Wayne female protege Nicki Minaj and the breakout success of her late 2010 debut album Pink Friday, it looks like we might be set for a new wave of female MCs in the mainstream. If this occurs, as many industry insiders predict, it will not only make it easier for new female artists to get heard but it will also be easier for longtime female artists putting out new releases. One longtime female rapper who will not give credit to Nicki Minaj for the album she is reportedly dropping this year is Lil Kim, who you'll recall had a very public verbal beef with the younger rapper and who, back in November, unleashed the uncomplimentary rap "Black Friday" in response to Pink Friday. This week Nicki fired back with her latest Lil Kim diss track "Tragedy."

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Interview with Ava DuVernay About Her Documentary My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip-Hop, Premiering on BET Tonight

Posted by Billyjam, August 30, 2010 11:40am | Post a Comment
 Trailer for My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip-Hop (2010)

While making the documentary My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip Hop, which premieres on BET tonight at 10pm, what surprised director Ava DuVernay most was "the vulnerability of the women," citing one in particular, the Lady of Rage. "You think of emcees as invincible on the mic and my view of Lady of Rage is always in "Afro Puffs" [video below] Lady of Rageand she's got her leather jacket, and she's grabbing the mic, and she's killing it, and Snoop's to the right and Dre's to the left," said the LA based director, who herself started out as an emcee. "But then when you sit down with her [Lady of Rage] she's just, she's a woman. She's a sweet, kind of vulnerable artist who talks about her journey in a really transparent, beautiful way. And I found that again and again and again, whether it was Salt n Pepa or [MC] Lyte or YoYo or Rah Digga, that they are emcees but they are also women. So it was really just sitting down woman to woman and having some really great conversations and I think I was surprised by that. I was more prepared for the emcee side but I saw more of the sister side."

As a filmmaker, DuVernay came to critical acclaim with her 2008 feature debut, the documentary about the Good Life cafe in LA where coincidentally she began her own hip-hop career on the mic. Titled This is the Life, the excellent documentary won a slew of awards at various film festivals, was released theatrically, played on Showtime, and was one of the featured films in last year's Amoeba Music Monday Movies series at Space 15Twenty near the LA Amoeba store. The success of This is the Life led to many things for DuVernay, including her two-hour concert documentary on New Orleans' Essence Music Festival that aired on TV One over the weekend, and tonight's BET documentary, which includes interviews with such artists as Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Trina, The Poetess, Roxanne Shante, The PoetessSalt n Pepa, Eve, YoYo, Lady of Rage, Jean Grae, and Rah Digga.

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Ten Questions For Talib Kweli

Posted by Smiles Davis, March 27, 2009 01:10am | Post a Comment

Talib Kweli can easily be crowned as one of Brooklyn’s finest mc’s. For years the industry veteran has championed positive portrayals of urban society through his eternally omniscient lyrics. After the critical and commercial success on Black Star, Kweli, alongside “Ms. Fat Booty” himself, Mos Def, forced record labels to pay closer attention to underground Hip-Hop. Before the Internet, an underground artist struggled immensely without the help of perpetual touring. Needless to say, the crowned emcee puts on a concert better than blueberry pancakes and mimosas on a breezy Sunday morning. He takes “hip-hop live” to a whole new level. Check out this EXCLUSIVE footage of Talib and long time collaborator Hi-Tek putting it down last week in Austin, TX at SXSW to a live band and a packed house.

 
                                                   (video courtesy of Paul Stewart of Next-Thing)

I caught up with Talib and asked him ten simple questions. We chopped it up about the upcoming Reflection Eternal: Train of Thought II album -- one of the most anticipated albums of '09 -- Blacksmith artist Jean Grae, Strong Arm Steady, his collaboration with R&B singer Res, and the possibility of a Black Star Reunion.

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