05/6/12

Remembering Yauch

The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch died of throat cancer last week. Always some cruel twist of fate for a rapper. See The DOC of NWA & DMC of Run-DMC. We knew him as MCA. (Sheesk. This post already has more acronyms than a text message between 13-year old girls transcribing an FDA compliance manuel. BTW. ALOL.) I have a weird history with the Beastie Boys. When Licensed to Ill dropped, to nearly universal acclaim (among both whites and blacks), I sort of thought they were clowns. Long before some of the divisions that eventually developed in hip hop culture, I felt like the Beastie Boys were a parody of the real thing. I thought their flow was corny, their gear too white, and that they were a product of their beats not their lyricism. (It was probably some sort of latent self-hate.) Even now, I’m not sure I was precisely wrong, just short-sighted. By their sophomore record, Paul’s Boutique, it became pretty clear that there was something sustainable and serious about them. And, in fact, it could be said that they became one of the most creative voices in music, film, and fashion of a generation. They were a significant influence on my musical youth.

Not to mention, Yauch was probably my closest rap doppleganger, a fellow silver-haired spitter.

“I’m flowing like a mudslide and when I get on I like to ride and glide.”

No song today. Nothing really got me going. R.I.P.M.C.A.

03/29/12

BREAKTHROUGH

That’s the theme of tomorrow’s TEDxGreenville. It might also be what I do to this picture frame window to my right if this week doesn’t end soon.

I present third, in the first afternoon session, immediately after lunch.

I have between 8-10 minutes to perform a song, explain the entire evolutionary history of recorded music, describe song blogging, write and record an entire song on stage, and then publish it to this site. I have calculated, therefore, that I’ll have between 3 and 4 seconds to actually be worried about it all. But, that’s still plenty of time to puke right?

The event is sold out but there are still other great ways to participate. There is a smartphone application available here. And, the event can be livestreamed at TEDxGreenville.org on the day of the event.

If nothing else, check back here around 2:00 pm to hear what we created from stage.

This has been nearly 6 months in the making. I’m so blessed for the opportunity.

03/2/12

Ninja

My son covers a PBS classic.

Pictured above: E-Scrilla (Left) & J-Willis (Right)

Vocals and Percussion Performed by J-Willis. Written by J-Willis & The Electric Company

Today’s song blog here:

Silent e

02/28/12

G.I.

I’m getting backed up.

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

A terrible tragedy of a high school shooting in OH, yesterday. Couldn’t get to it last night. Plus, Michigan and Arizona Republican primaries. Hopefully, one or both this evening.

The good folks over at CriminalJusticeDegreesGuide.com shared this link with me. A list of the all-time top ten best prison songs. It combines my two favorite things: ranking and horizontal stripes. I actually can use the extra 10 pounds a great striped shirt hangs on you in a photo.

Plus, it respectably features one of the most powerful songs of my youth, Public Enemy’s Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. The list is a pretty good spectrum of genre and era.

My only prison song here. But, it happens to be my favorite.

01/20/12

Frankensteinin’

SOPA winds up being pretty close-to-home-hitting. If you haven’t heard, there is a bill before Congress to give additional law enforcement powers in order to police intellectual property piracy on the internet. Think going to jail for your beach trip YouTube slide show set to Billy Joel’s “These Are the Times to Remember.” On Wednesday, various online sites protested the bill by going black for the day.

But, long before mp3 players and Napster and digital music were ever a twinkle in the panicking public’s eye, hip hop had been wrestling with the ethical and legal issues of digital and intellectual property rights for decades. A culture built on the sonic lifting of data bits, called sampling, understood the beauty and the bravado of attempting to take the work of another and make it your own. Whether the same disco break juggled between two turntable record players or the electronic database of drum hits on a Dr. Sample or the rubbery touch pads of an MPC60, growing up, hip-hop was always taught to share.

So when the rest of the world finally got around to sampling in rock ‘n roll and country western and sharing music files and video over the worldwide web and between their personal electronic devices, without permission, rappers had long been building a kind of collective and borrowed digital art museum for generations, about which no one had ever previously given a flying flip.

Of course, with the proliferation of ways to boost and jack and replicate others’ hard work, record companies and television stations and movie houses and book publishers and the like got sort of cranky about it all. That crankiness has apparently resulted in a pretty serious piece of proposed legislation that threatens the way we’ve grown accustomed to enjoying the internet.

The internet works mostly because it is a free-for-all. It’s like information capitalism. Wikipedia is a shining example. How could an online encyclopedia, which J.D. Wackadoo from your son’s little league team might have contributed to, be more accurate than World Book? Well World Book may have had, let’s be generous, an editorial team of 50 people. Wikipedia has a team of millions. And, for every proffered opinion of Johnny Screwup, Wikipedia enjoys 10 pair of expert eyes trained on that same entry. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, thousands and thousands of really smart people are the payoff for also allowing us doofuses to participate too.

Anyway, it is the culture of collaboration and shared information which makes the internet maybe the most powerful tool ever created (that actually feels an understatement). Where the potter in Nepal and the potter in Appalachia can Skype Raku jokes.

The issue also implicates a philosophical divide. How one sees him or herself. Are you the cumulative, frankensteined product of your family and friends and influences or are you some a priori, self-made island? Do you deflect or claim credit for your success, in whatever measure enjoyed? When we become convinced that we have “made” this or “invented” that or “composed” these, we are confessing an obliviousness to the shoulders of work upon which we actually stand.

Stealing is wrong. In most cases, illegal.

But, when we share ourselves over the internet or otherwise in life, we are celebrating, in the best way, our derivative and common selves. It’s certainly a choice to call such conduct “piracy” and ourselves “thieves” and “robbers.” I suspect, though, doing so will feel something like pirates walking their our own gangplank.

Flip the javascript on ’em, Bonita Applet Bottom . . .

Performed by the ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

(Little piece of trivia — the beat for today is a remix, by djclutch, of a song I did called Ad Infinitum off my debut solo record Simple Moves (available on itunes). It’s part of a group of remixes djclutch imagined entitled Similar Moves. Appropriate to today’s entry, therefore, I suppose it is a kind of sample of a sample of a sample. Like stealing the same thing three times . . . from yourself. I wouldn’t last a day in jail. I look great in orange. I mean great.)

Today’s song blog here:

Walk the Plank

11/22/11

Bed Rest

I can’t seem to shake this head cold and have completely lost my voice, which greatly puts in jeopardy my Thanksgiving song. There’s still some chance I can post by Friday. It’s a rare thing to find Huckleberry Spins so speechless.

In the meantime, me and my quill pen remain relegated to the bed, studiously attending my real work responsibilities. My wife snapped a photo from under the drape of her 19th Century box studio camera. She’s so clever.

And, yes, that is a stogie. Good for the sinuses. Prohibitions against smoking in bed and solid information on lung disease are still up for some debate here in South Carolina.

10/8/11

Give and Take

Steve Jobs passed this week. I don’t need to fill you in on his story. He’s an accepted technological genius of our time. Apple’s products have changed the way we live our lives. I’m not an Apple or Jobs worshiper but our family has nearly the entire product line, in various specs, and has been Apple exclusive for some time. It is hard to overstate the difference in the execution of my daily living pre and post iphone and macbook and ipod, for both the better and the worse. Certainly other brands have designed similar or superior devices but Apple always seems to be the first to market and the one most sensitive to subtleties of style and self awareness. They are of course now the corporate conglomerate that in some ways they always spurned.

For me personally, I have this weird dream of simplicity that couldn’t be any more incongruent with the way I actually live. And, the convenience of the Apple lifestyle invites all these simultaneously efficient and distracting incidents of modern living.

A lesser publicized story is that of Occupy Wall Street a, maybe grass roots/maybe contrived, Financial District sit in by protestors, of Lord knows what demographic, decrying the excesses and abuse of Wall Street and its Government regulators and enablers. In addition to my glorification of simplicity, I also have this romantic idea that I’d like to be brave in protest standing against the many injustices of our western lifestyle, government and personal.

The two stories, Jobs’ death and Occupy Wall Street, stir so much of the same tensions in me. I have these competing desires to simultaneously worship the progress of our society and burn it down. I’m sure I’m not alone. I don’t have the wisdom or the time to postulate an answer. But, I suspect that living life is finding some middle ground. Not as a cop out or compromise but because in every generation humanity has been called upon to find virtue in its advancement. Our portable technology is not evil. Our digital lives are not evil. But, they are susceptible, just like the buggy and the plow, to distraction or to misuse or to self-aggrandizment or to laziness.

I guess I’m just trying to learn a little bit better about how to give and take.

May God bless the Jobs family in this time of grief and sadness.

Performed by ipoet. Music sequenced by the ipoet from Yael Naïm’s “New Soul.”

Forbidden Fruit

09/8/11

2011 NFL iPreview

It’s not my fault that the Republicans debated and the POTUS presented to Congress his jobs’ plan the same week as the NFL resumed “work.” I had a choice to stay faithful to the original purpose of this site and cover the week’s politics or I could do an NFL preview and drive traffic. Go Skins!!!

I did make the slightest observation concerning the lost innocence of the game. It was a deft touch and shouldn’t evoke any serious guilt over your fantasy football league or major gambling problem.

I had to squeeze a full 17 week schedule plus playoffs in 8 bars of music, so if you have any questions concerning my actual prognostications, don’t hesitate to comment or inquire.

Just to reiterate, these songs are being prepared at warp speed under less than ideal sonic and recording conditions. So cut me half a break as I foray into pop-electronica. It might be a little “pitchy.” Oh, and I’m not a dang singer. I’m an emcee.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s blong hit here:

Foam Finger

07/12/11

Sorry

To all the people whose attachment to their pets I had trouble understanding, I owe an apology.

Our cat was killed this weekend. Not sure if it was a dog or a coyote or a raccoon or what.

Half an indictment of the tragedy-free life I’ve led and half a tribute to the special place pets hold in our homes and heart, it’s been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced.

Without going into all the details, I have some guilt for the circumstances in which it happened. I’m furious that he’s gone. And, I’m unbearably sad that he was conscious and in fear, most likely, when it happened. He was not quite 2.

The worst is that, as a father of three, I’ve been given some horrible window into the more serious tragedy of losing one’s child prematurely. If my reaction is proportionally more severe, it looks like I’ll probably just quit.

Anyway, he was an awesome cat. His name was Pumpkin. My wife, three children, and I will miss him a great deal.