Archive for March, 2008

Tanya Morgan is a rap group

March 31, 2008

I really enjoy perusing hip hop blogs to see what everyone is listening to; who likes that album, track, beat, emcee, etc. Since the Tanya Morgan/DJ Soul mixtape, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group, has hit the web, I’ve been surprised at the little I’ve read on it. I’m still spinnin’ New Ameryah, and of late, have been going through my De La discography; but Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group has really been a speaker hog. Their full length, Moonlighting, was certainly in my top 5 of 2006. And, while this mixtape is an amalgam of sorts, representing old TM, random tracks/cameos, and presumably some tastes of TM to come, I think it’s one of the better listens out right now. I know I don’t live in a vacuum – hence, my suprise at the little blog space I’ve found sharing thoughts on TM. I’ve read quite a bit on Guilty and eMC (since the latter’s official release, even more so). I’ve had two questions:

First, is Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group kind of overlooked because it is a mixtape, and not an “official” release? I can see this happening (or, are listens too wrapped up in Ode and The Show to notice?) I tend to categorize mixtapes differently than LPs; but, I think TMRP is just that dope! Secondly, are people turned off of TM because they’re seen as “hipsters?” I never thought about this, but I have seen some bloggers express that they’re turned off by the “hipster movement.” I was 10 when 3 Feet High & Rising came out, so I wasn’t privy to real-time discussions on that album; But, as afterthoughts years later, I do recall a similar critique of De La Soul. De La responded by titling their sophomore release, De La Soul is Dead, as a humorous answer to the hype around 3 Feet. Hence, I guess this contemplation has spawned a other questions:

Is there a “hipster movement?” If so, does it have a definitive shelf life? If TM are hipsters, who joints them in their movement? (they need allies, no?) Are they trying to take over the world? Or are they trying to save the world? Are they entwined in a rivalry? Perhaps hipsters are affiliated with backpackers? How do hipsters feel about the rising gas prices? Do they not rhyme about watches and cars because they can’t afford them? Will they have their own video game? Who would play Von Pea in a movie? Just because Illyas got locks, does it mean he’s Jamaican? Who’s more likely to back their movement: Obama or Hillary?

I know, I’ve given you a lot to consider. It will help you if you put your Tanya Morgan playlist on; be sure to include any Von Pea you can get.



Getting Riches…

March 29, 2008

About two months ago, I had the following to say about Guilty Simpson’s “Getting B***ches”:

“Getting B*****” is one of the last highlights from this offering. I must admit that Denaun Porter has become one of my favorite producers in the last six months or so. His beats are so crisp and loud, yet manage retain the critical amount of grime that keeps them street-worthy. His works also possess a soulful quality that is hard to describe–though it is undoubtedly aided by Mr. Porter’s unique, falsetto singing voice that finds its way onto his tracks. Guilty is dope here. This beat provides the busy, noisy, and dirty playground that Guilty Simpson needs…

Two months later, this is still one of my favorite tracks off an otherwise underwhelming LP. I’ll say it again: I think it captures Guilty and Mr. Porter at their respective best. Denaun Porter is one of the dopest in the game right now. I had thought that this track would make a good single, and it still might; but it wasn’t on the first 12″ ; however, they did release a video for “Getting B***ches” last week. Peep it:

The Economics of Sampling…

March 20, 2008

This is certainly an interesting issue, politically speaking, because there’s no big bad villain on either side for people to rally against and take sides. It’s fan vs. his favorite musician; techie-information-ager vs. the anti-establishment artist that supplies the soundtrack to his web-surfing and blogging.

So, to follow up on Pete’s post, here’s my take:

In my reading of Madlib’s comments, he was basically saying, “If you like our music, stop posting those samples, because we’re going to get hit with lawsuits and have to stop making this type of music.”

Every Google-able blog post incrementally increases the chances that an enterprising lawyer or corporate research department latches on to an uncleared sample, and files suit. Sure, the information is all discoverable on the net, but that’s why this is the information age and people pay money for other people to organize all that information into an easily-digestible format. The organization of this information is vital (and ironically, copyright-able, as well). These blog posts are doing that work for free.

Whether you pay up front by clearing the sample, or at the back-end by settling a lawsuit, sampling can be expensive for artists like Madlib, and indeed cost-prohibitive.

That is the simple economics of this game, from what I understand. If these artists complied with the strict letter of the law, they couldn’t afford to make those beats.

Ivan actually concedes this point, and ultimately agrees to cease the behavior that Madlib complained about:

Point #5: Should Underground Artists Get Leniency on Copyright Laws?

I mentioned this argument before, and I think it’s one of the the most grounded and fair-minded of them all. Here’s a board member who expressed it quite wisely:

Well if you don’t want to hear anymore classic underground albums come out in the future then keep doing what you’re doing. Realistically there is no way they could have cleared all the samples on Madvillainy, and Lib is obviously trying to prevent any lawsuits now that would both effect him financially, and potential listeners aurally as the album would be withdrawn from stores. You state that you believe all samples should be cleared, but if that was the case 90% of the great underground albums wouldn’t exist.

This leads me to the conclusion that I will now no longer complete sample sets of albums by underground artists such as Madlib. Fair enough people? See? I can be reasonable!…

Now, he goes on to address the various other (sometimes immature) comments made on his blog, and engages many of the faces of this issue as moral and legal matter, but I wanted to highlight the above passage, just so that it does not get lost in cacophony of unrest. It’s understandable to want to defend one’s self under these circumstances, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the issue: assuming he meant what I said above, Madlib was probably right.

In point #5 Ivan expresses an entirely rational position that I actually share. I think it acknowledges that, whatever one thinks about the morality of Madlib’s behavior vis a vis the original artist, and the appropriateness of a fan’s ability to discuss that sampling, as fans, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would make it no longer economically feasible for Madlib to make his music. That risk is real, and the decision on the part of the fan is cold, and rational. So, if you value Madlib’s contribution to the art form over the satisfaction that you get as a fan from public discussion of sample credits, you realize that these blog posts might not be a good idea.

After so many words have been written on the topic, Ivan may be disappointed to see such an binary explanation, but I really think that the issue forces these writers to choose what is most important to them: their sample heavy blog posts or Madlib’s music.

I don’t think that Ivan’s work is wrong in any moral sense. Far from it–it’s excellent. After thinking about the issue for a while, I just think it’s unwise, in light of the above.

The real culprit is the law (“Redirect the anger against politicians and judges, very clever, Kyle!” –Ed.). But until the law changes, the hip-hop community has to get by, and we need good music like Madlib’s to keep the art alive.

For what it’s worth, I think that an enterprising lawyer from our generation will one day convince a judge that sampling is form of “fair use”, making permission from the copyright holder unnecessary. I’m sure this has been argued unsuccessfully in the past (I haven’t done the research), but I’m hoping that as the hip-hop generation populates the legal culture, our attitudes might change, and make this argument more palatable. This might actually become a research project for me.

But if it happens, it is going to be intelligent, articulate folks like Ivan that make a difference… and this discussion is only priming the pump for that future endeavor. Let’s make it happen.

PS: Many of my references to Ivan and Madlib were merely shorthand, as this debate involves many other similarly-situated parties; pardon my laziness, Ivan.

Killa Tape Interlude…

March 20, 2008

Pete, did you peep the “Killa Tape Interlude” on the new Tanya Morgan mixtape (track 8)?

That’s why I have love for these guys. They make the music that we would make if we could make music.


March 20, 2008

I think some fellow bloggers have done a good job of elucidating the sampling debate given some shine by Lord Quas’s apparent request for the removal of a compilation of original samples for Madvillainy. Hiphopisread has been on the story like Fox News on a car chase in Los Angeles; I’ve enjoyed perusing it during my morning blogroll. (Side note: some of the “blogger” comments he imbedded in his post are quite funny). Being as Kyle and I have often had this discussion in the past, and also employed the oft-quoted Primo, “…that’s some greedy ass, fake bull$hit…” I wanted to add my nickels.

The researcher in me accepts most of the sentiments shared by Ivan and some of his readers. There are few experiences that get me more amped than listening to a track and having that “A-Ha” moment that links a track to some dusty song from three decades ago. I’ve often, in my excitement, dropped some of my friends an email, something to the effect: “Yo, check [Track Title] by [Artist]; you hear that vocal sample/bassline/etc.? Yadda yadda yadda…”

As such, my interest in compilations such as the aforementioned Madvillainy samples, or websites that curtail my research, e.g. SampleSpot, certainly peak my interest and have serviced me well. And I have sought out sites that provide information on tracks; I own several compilation albums, e.g. (and perhaps ironically) DJ Premier Salutes James Brown, which features original James Brown tracks on one disc, with Disc 2 featuring hip hop songs that sampled said tracks…mixed by Primo by the way (as per my sources).

In short, the hip hop fan in me appreciates the access to sampling information, whether it’s in the album’s credits or not.

With that said, I can also align with the ideas that Lord Quas, or Madlib, or whoever else may posit regarding the act of posting/promulgating sample origins. Hear me out.

Hip hop producers have managed to make great music AND clear/cite their samples. Both activities can coexist in a “financially perpendicular” relationship. ha

However, I can understand, from an artist’s perspective, why they’d prefer to have the samples remain obscure…or at least not available in a collective union. It MAY challenge the freedom they have in making the beats we love so much. I understand the gist of sample clearance. From that, I can derive a sense of what an artist must go through when conceptualizing a track/beat/album – it can be quite daunting I imagine. And while I mean no disrespect to the sampled artists, I don’t think clearance should be a hindrance to the creation of an amazing album, say…for consistency sake, Madvillainy.

I know, it’s really an argument one can hardly push through too easily.

Okay, the grand finale.

From an artist’s perspective, I can certainly understand Lord Quas’s request (the manner and reason of his request are another thing). While I don’t wholly agree that identifying samples hurts hip hop, I think it walks the fence of hip hop capitulating to “the Man,” or sample clearance regulations. As such, it almost defies the spirit of what backs the revolutionary history of hip hop. Despite the Souljah Boys and Rick Ross’s of the world, I still see hip hop as the music of the people; the unity, soul, and creative threads that tie its listeners together. (Sorry, I’ve been distracted by Duke winning…talk about snitches…) In a way, I see sampling as aligning with that notion, and allowing artists to spin some sonic yarn that I, in NJ, can feel, as well as dude in Texas, L.A., Chicago.

NOTE: The above are the thoughts of me, and do not necessarily, or in its entirety, reflect the thoughts of other Trading Tapes contributors. But, if Kyle agrees with what I’ve shared, he damn well better cite me.

UPDATE: Check hiphopisread for an update on the debate, and another insightful perspective.


March 18, 2008

I know, it’s been a while. I’m still bumpin’ New Amerykah and The Adventures of Seymour Liberty – always important, for me at least, when an album still has spins after the first few weeks. Usually, when I get an album I’m diggin’, I’ll play the crap out of it for a week or two; then, via natural selection, the album will get sorted into the proper hierarchy. For example, Mobb Deep’s Infamous received hella spins when I first got it…and it has pretty strong replay value to this day. Similarly, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate still has spinning influence, or spinfluence, 8 years later (or 7.5 years); compare this with Com’s follow-up, Electric Circus, which I gave plenty of spins when I first got it – now, usually I’ll pick-and-play tracks intermittently.

Market experts predict that EB’s NA will have strong spinfluence – I’m still bumpin’ “Me,” “The Hump,” and “Soldier on the regular. Similar with Coultrain’s ASL (album’s tempo and arrangement reminds me of Dwele’s Some Kinda…)

When I posted my big review of Erykah’s New Amerykah, I think I may have overestimated the commercial appeal. Perhaps it’s the influence of reading others’ reviews, but I think this album may be too layered for commercial staying power. Listen, Erykah’s no Nitchze, but some may not be patient enough to listen to Erykah’s stream of consciousness, dream-like flow. I was glad to see New Amerykah in the top 10 (debuted and peaked at #2; currently #6) after her first week nonetheless. I tend try not to measure an album by sales, but naturally, I support artists I like getting paid.

In addition to the previously noted, I’ve also been bumpin’ my BDP discography. Big ups to hiphopisread for his sample-related posts; listening to BDP is very similar – is KRS-ONE the most cited emcee in hip hop? Or Rakim? Anyone do that research? “Stop the Violence” off By All Means Necessary is where it’s at – relevant 20 years later. And how contemporary does “Necessary” sound? Relativism and racism under the scope; “Yeah, I’m making some money; he’s making some money/but none of these are necessity/what I find to be a necessity is/controlling a positive destiny.”

And finally, I just grabbed the new Tanya Morgan mixtape, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group, here. I’m a big Tanya Morgan & Von Pea guy so I’m pretty excited to peep this. Anyone check it yet? Thoughts?



March 3, 2008

I was perusing this New York Times article centered on Badu and NA, and this inset picture is so bad ass, I had to post it. BadAss.