Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Jitu tha Jugganot

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www.cjsr.com
6 PM Mountain Time

The hip hop legend Nas has said hip hop is dead.

Many fans would disagree, but for different reasons. Some would point to the record sales of platinum and multi-platinum performers such as 50 Cent and Eminem as proof of the genre’s vitality.

Yet hip hop sales have been falling, or actually plummeting. According to music industry statistics compiled by Nielsen SoundScan, hip hop sales have declined more than those of the industry at large: almost 47 percent since the year 2000.

Apparently the fans who shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars have become satiated with years of the materialistic idiocy of “playa” rhymes and the sociopathic, KKK-sponsored fantasies of gangsta rap.

But with those fans having moved onto other genres, have they left hip hop’s bloated and bullet-ridden corpse in the street?

And how did hip hop move from being a diverse, ranging series of styles in the mid 1980s to one led by a dynamically political vanguard around the hub of 1990, only to collapse into misogyny and violence by 1993?

Some of those who make the most passionate argument that hip hop is not dead are those who have been engineering the return of the music’s social and political consciousness. Classic artists who never left such as Public Enemy, KRS-One and Brand Nubian, come-back grown-ups such as X-Clan, and relative newcomers such as Talib Kweli, all prove that hip hop for adults is the indeed the shining star.

And then there are the artists who are richly talented and skilled, who’ve fought rhyme battles and real ones, who’ve paid dues in the community and struggled up from obscurity for years, who are only now beginning to gain their place in the moonlight. One of those artists is Chicago’s Jitu tha Jugganot.

In 1991, Jitu tha Jugganot still belonged to Chicago outfit Ten Tray. Despite gaining some success, including placement on the record label Polygram, the band eventually disappeared on the crowded hip hop tarmac. But Jitu himself would not go away, not least of which because he is a seasoned organiser and neighbourhood leader with Chicago’s respected Kenwood Oakland Community Organisation.

When he’s not onstage, Jitu teaches Afrikan-American history at St. Leonard’s Adult High School, the only accredited secondary school in the US set up for former prisoners. There he’s enjoyed enormous success with students, and the respect he’s garnered as an activist and as an MC have earned him special credit with music producers who produced his 2006 album Necessary Ingredients at no charge. Such respect also comes from having won the Battle of the Iron Mic, and from being a four-time MC battle champion at Wild Hare.

Tonight we’ll listen to my feature conversation with this titanic MC. Jitu spoke with me via telephone from the offices of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organisation. Occasionally you’ll hear the sounds of his colleagues doing their daily work, which at one moment included vacuuming the office.

For legal downloads of select songs, or to buy the album Necessary Ingredients, click here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

T.R.O.H.H. (They Reminisce Over Hip Hop)

Mark Anthony Neal writes on Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)":

"Me and my boy, Frank Jr., have been listening to hip-hop since about 1978. Though we were clearly of the moment--first generation hip-hop heads with requisite ghetto passports--we were always out of step with the hip-hop moment. Much of that had to do with our general demeanors as cerebral nerds (legendary Strat-o-Matic players) and with the old men we called our fathers (Frank Sr. and AC), who instilled in us just too much respect for the Jazz, Blues and Gospel Quartets of their youth to ever think that any one form of music surpassed another. It was all a continuum.

"So, while we rocked our Run-DMC/Miami Vice gear until it was well past cliché (you know, Kangols, shell-top Adidas, dark sport jackets and pastel t-shirts) and were the first in line when It Takes a Nation of Millions hit stores, it was never as if hip-hop's fascination with the hyper-present (and the hyper-real) ever fazed us. We needed shit that was timeless -- Coltrane, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, the Dixie Hummingbirds immediately come to mind -- and hip-hop had yet to prove that it would be that in the late 1980s.

"Then one day we heard 'They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y.)', and it was Frank who remarked rather succinctly that, if we had been hip-hop artists, I think this is the kind of music we would have made. 'They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y)' (1992) is, of course, the now-classic single by Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and is one of the many gems collected on The Best of Pete Rock and CL Smooth: Good Life."

The above passage grabs inside my ribcage and squeezes in a way I didn’t know possible--something like a hug version of heart massage. Beat-beat indeed. Reading this hit me like reading Mosley’s Socrates Fortlow stories or Cleaver’s Soul on Ice for the first time. The details, that trans-space/time vibe you get from the syllables of someone you’ve never met who speaks as if he’s known you his whole life.

My own love affair with hip hop began in August of 1988—yes, I can be that precise.

I’d been listening to hip hop already for a few years, although in E-Town, it wasn’t that easy to catch on radio and I hadn’t yet been buying much wax. I caught some Run-DMC, some LL, Keith LeBlanc’s “Malcolm X: No Sell Out” and the only Melle Mel song I could find—don’t laugh--“Vice” on the Miami Vice soundtrack.

But when I returned from a shitty summer working a government job for students in Ottawa, my sister Anna had four birthday gifts waiting for me: The Word compilations 1 and 2 (introducing me to Schoolly D and Kool Moe Dee), Battle of the DJs (introducing me to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince), and most importantly, BDP’s By All Means Necessary with KRS-One on the cover holding an Uzi in a look-alike pose of Malcolm X holding the rifle at his window while protecting his family from the assassins who even then were closing on him.

In my hip hop deprivation, I’d never heard of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, nor of their brilliant “The Message.” I wouldn’t hear about the Last Poets for another half a year. So until Kris, I’d had no idea hip hop could be truly political (LeBlanc’s “No Sell Out” doesn’t exactly count, since it was a DJ cut full of MX samples, not an original song of lyrics; I suppose Paul Hardcastle’s “19” is a cousin of hip hop, which I also loved). Sure, I enjoyed “My Philosophy”’s weird wordplay on its own terms, but “Illegal Business” and “Stop the Violence” (really, the only political songs on the joint) exploded in my ears like skyrockets above my eyes.

It would take months before I was even willing to give Public Enemy a chance (partly based on my confusing them with Public Image Ltd.) and months after that that I actually started to like PE (beginning with “Show Em Whatcha Got”—never underestimate the power of a producer’s cut full of sampled perfection).

Years before Kris ever said it about himself, BDP really was hip hop for me, and was part of a summer of Africentric education and transformation. I’d read Malcolm’s Autobiography and a few other Malcolm texts years before, but that summer I came across Soul on Ice and then embarked on a solid year of reading BPP texts. I saw School Daze shortly after and the Spike Lee revolution was truly on its way. The anti-apartheid solidarity movement was alive all over the world and right in my home town, and my sister Anna and I were in it to win it... what else can I say? I’d just turned 19 and everything was possible.

And hip hop seemed—naive as it seems now—as if it were going to be at the centre of a revolution. The next four years of the genre seemed to bear that out. And then there was gangsta rap. And the small labels being snatched up White corporate giants who wanted to destroy the revolutionary lyrical content of hip hop and push gangsterism and misogyny as their counter-revolution. Never underestimate the power of corporations to co-opt and corrupt art and culture.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Blast from My Past: Oni, the Haitian Sensation


Recently remade the acquaintance of Oni, the Haitian Sensation courtesy of her Facebook search. Sister rocked the mic back in 1991 T.O. at Young Poets of the Revolution, produced and directed by Br. Adisa S. Oji, AKA The Teacher. I performed at YPOTR too, and again in 1992.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: The Ravaging of Africa, Parts 1 of 2



cjsr.com
CJSR FM-88
6 – 7 pm Mountain Time

From time to time, media personalities in the West discuss the difficulties faced by Afrikan countries in achieving economic, social and political stability and prosperity. Sometimes ordinary citizens tackle the same issue.

What’s all too common is the notion, conveyed overtly or covertly, that the agonies faced by the continent are entirely homegrown. That if Afrikans would only stop complaining and blaming European civilisation, they could achieve much more than they have. Indeed, such sentiments were made recently by no less than French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who went so far as to say that calls for Afrika to resume its historical greatness are useless, since according to him, no such greatness ever existed, because “Africans have never really entered history.”

It’s terrifying to know that a man of such stunning depths of ignorance controls one of the world’s most powerful militaries and a stockpile of hundreds of nuclear weapons. Yet such attitudes are common enough right here in North America.

The next time you hear the sentiment that Afrikans should simply “get over it,” meaning the holocausts of slavery and imperialism, the murder of scores of millions and the continued plunder of the continent, you might want to remind the speaker that Ireland took more than 800 years following English conquest to achieve economic, political and social stability, and Northern Ireland has only just recently entered an uneasy peace.

And despite English tyranny against and exploitation and murder of the Irish, Ireland never faced the comprehensive destruction that Afrika faced by Europe.

Tonight we’ll hear parts one and two of a documentary examining the effects of European imperialism on the Afrikan continent. Part Two, “Economic War,” focuses on how the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have destroyed the economies and social sectors of Guinea, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. But we begin in Part One, “Militarizing Afrika,” which describes how the United States fomented the devastating war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and engineered the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The series is written by Asad Ismi and produced by Kristin Schwartz.

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: The Ravaging of Africa, Parts 1 of 2

cjsr.com
CJSR FM-88
6 – 7 pm Mountain Time


From time to time, media personalities in the West discuss the difficulties faced by Afrikan countries in achieving economic, social and political stability and prosperity. Sometimes ordinary citizens tackle the same issue.

What’s all too common is the notion, conveyed overtly or covertly, that the agonies faced by the continent are entirely homegrown. That if Afrikans would only stop complaining and blaming European civilisation, they could achieve much more than they have. Indeed, such sentiments were made recently by no less than French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who went so far as to say that calls for Afrika to resume its historical greatness are useless, since according to him, no such greatness ever existed, because “Africans have never really entered history.”

It’s terrifying to know that a man of such stunning depths of ignorance controls one of the world’s most powerful militaries and a stockpile of hundreds of nuclear weapons. Yet such attitudes are common enough right here in North America. The next time you hear the sentiment that Afrikans should simply “get over it,” meaning the holocausts of slavery and imperialism, the murder of scores of millions and the continued plunder of the continent, you might want to remind the speaker that Ireland took more than 800 years following English conquest to achieve economic, political and social stability, and Northern Ireland has only just recently entered an uneasy peace. And despite English tyranny against and exploitation and murder of the Irish, Ireland never faced the comprehensive destruction that Afrika faced by Europe.

Tonight we’ll hear parts one and two of a documentary examining the effects of European imperialism on the Afrikan continent. Part Two, “Economic War,” focuses on how the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have destroyed the economies and social sectors of Guinea, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. But we begin in Part One, “Militarizing Afrika,” which describes how the United States fomented the devastating war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and engineered the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The series is written by Asad Ismi and produced by Kristin Schwartz.