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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: July 1981, ABC's 20/20 Brings Rap To The Masses

Posted by Billyjam, December 10, 2013 03:36pm | Post a Comment

20/20 Report Hip-Hop Special (1981) - Part 1

Above and below are the two parts of the very first network TV news program report on rap/hip-hop: an entertaining episode of ABC's 20/20 from July, 1981. While Yo! MTV Raps is routinely (and rightfully) credited for speeding up the popularity of rap/hip-hop by bringing the inner-city, Bronx NY born culture and musical form directly into the living rooms of middle America and exposing many non-urban kids to rap for the first time, it came along a lot later than this. The MTV weekly two hour rap music video show, hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, Ed Lover and Doctor Dre, did not begin airing until the summer of 1988 and hence was by no means the original introduction of rap music to mainstream America. That honor/distinction goes to ABC's 20/20 investigative journalism/news magazine program, that even predates MTV's very existance (well by one month), which was the very first national/network TV news show to do an in-depth spotlight on hip-hop or "rap" music, as it was still generally referred to back then, for a national audience.

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Refreshingly Unique Production by Berkeley's Raremink Puts Oakland Rapper D.Willz' "Watermelon" Video On The National Rap Map

Posted by Billyjam, September 7, 2011 09:14am | Post a Comment

D.Willz "Watermelon" (2011)


As any contemporary hip-hop artist will attest, having a great song in an already packed marketplace just isn't enough anymore. Even giving away free digital copies of your new album or mixtape isn't guaranteed to grab the short attention span of today's jaded, ever fickle hip-hop fan. Sometimes that great new song needs an equally great, eye-catching video to stand out & get noticed. Such is the case with the refreshingly unique Raremink directed video for Oakland rapper D. Willz' infectious rap song "Watermelon" - the latest, but most successful, in a string of catchy rap songs that the East Bay artist has released over the past several years.  And as you can tell from watching the "Watermelon" clip above, the video breaks damn near every rule in the what-is-expected of a rap music video; especially one from an Oakland rapper. But in so doing it magically manages to transcend all genres and styles by making a fun, instantly appealing clip that, not surprisingly, went viral: registering close to half a million YouTube views. It also clocked up views on various other online video channels as well as on TV: at first on In Demand and later on music video channels such as mtvU where the creative video also won  mtvU's Freshman 5 contest, based on popularity with viewers, and on MTV regular where it got into rotation on MTV Jams and AMTV.  Radio airplay actually came last in a sequence switcheroo that is a true sign of the times since traditionally radio airplay came first, not online play. Not these days.

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(In which we consider Natalie Merchant.)

Posted by Job O Brother, April 26, 2010 01:37pm | Post a Comment
natalie merchant leave your sleep

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Natalie Merchant perform selections from her (eagerly awaited after seven years off devoted to raising her first child) album Leave Your Sleep, a concept album consisting of poems from predominantly Victorian children’s books adapted into songs by Merchant herself.

Wow. That was a long sentence.

leave your sleep natalie merchant

This concert was made all the more intimate and aesthetic as it was housed in the somewhat small performance space at the Getty Center, making the entire experience one of those special moments when you love Los Angeles, because you’re enjoying something uniquely LA; like getting rear-ended by Tom Hanks or having Beverley D’Angelo bum a cigarette off you.

I can’t say I was a fan of 10,000 Maniacs, though I always respected them, and quite fancy their live album recorded for Mtv Unplugged. However, once Ms. Merchant went solo, I rallied and stood up to be counted.


It’s easy, in a popular culture so quickly and easily distracted by any shiny object dropped in its path, to undervalue Natalie Merchant’s musical contributions. As though a living embodiment of the very women (both historical and archetypal) she champions, her image brings to mind the brainy but dowdy girl in the library who might be pretty if she removed her glasses, set down that copy of Mrs. Dalloway and knocked back a couple shots of tequila. Who must her music be for, then, if not smart, lonely, college girls and melancholy gay men?

THIS AIN'T NO PICNIC VIDEO - MINUTEMEN Vs RONALD REAGAN

Posted by Billyjam, August 19, 2009 10:00am | Post a Comment
      
Minutemen "This Ain't No Picnic" (Double Nickles On The Dime, 1984 SST)

Until the other day when I accidentally stumbled upon the Minutemen's excellent video for their equally excellent song "This Ain't No Picnic," I had forgotten just how great this video was. The song, one of 45 Minutemen Double Nickles On The Dimebrilliant tracks off the SoCal band's flawless, four-sided 1984 release Double Nickles On The Dime (SST) -- an album that remains on my top five desert island discs all these years later -- was written reportedly by the late D. Boon out of frustration with his narrow minded employer at an auto parts store.

According to the recommended Michael Azerrad penned book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 (Little Brown), which borrows its title from a Mike Watt (Minutemen) lyric, Boon, who was working at this Southern Cali auto parts store, had wanted to choose the music to listen to at his workplace and had flipped to an LA area jazz/soul radio station. However, his boss wouldn't allow him to, reportedly  calling the radio station's playlist "nigger shit." "His [Boon's] frustration fueled a Minutemen classic," wrote Azerrad in his 2001 book.

The Randall Jahnson directed video for the song (above) may have only cost a meager $600 to make, but regardless it still got some (albeit limted) airplay on MTV that year and even managed to be featured in the first ever VMAs (VIdeo Music Awards) by MTV the following year. Note that the Ronald Reagan (who was president at the time) war film footage was all copyright free to use since it was free public domain content. To have your own copy of this video, pick up the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo at Amoeba Music, which features it as one of the DVD's bonus features. And, if you don't already own it, I highly recommend you buy the Minutemen's Double Nickles On The Dime album. It's a classic!
This Ain't No Picnic (D.Boon) lyrics

(In which the writer takes a break from writing to write.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 9, 2009 08:02pm | Post a Comment
sick card

My baby’s been under the weather. And by baby I don’t mean a child I gave birth to; I mean it as a euphemism for “that one dude I smooch and go to Target with.” Baby is just much easier to say.

Anyway, when my baby’s feeling poorly, he likes to watch predictable films, like... well... anything you can come up with that stars Jennifer Aniston or Sarah Jessica Parker and ends with them proving that they really were destined for true love, after all. Normally I protest and suggest we watch something with more substance, such as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie or The Cranes Are Flying – y’know, something that provides perspective and/or promotes psychological examination, to which my baby will argue that he just wants to “be distracted and get lost” in a film, not be intellectually stimulated. I argue that it’s hard for me to “get distracted” watching a film that makes me want to stab a Phillips-head screwdriver into my left aortic arch.

It's like this:

ME...


...VS. MY BOYFRIEND...


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