Tag Archives: music

Song of the Week – “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

British (by way of Sri Lanka) hip hop artist M.I.A. rhymes over a beat flipped by DJ Diplo from The Clash’s Straight to Hell to create Paper Planes. Straight to Hell is a classic riff and M.I.A’s Caribbean feel gels nicely with Strummer and Jones’s groove. 

Also check Diplo’s treatment of Marlena Shaw’s fantastic California Soul.

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MLK: James Brown “Saved” Boston

Martin Luther King was assasinated on April 4, 1968. By April 5, riots were tearing apart major American cities. Not Boston.

Mayor Kevin White** engineered a a deal that allowed Brown to perform and the legendary local PBS station to carry the show live. Everyone stayed home. Brown’s concert has been local legend for years, and now with the 40th anniversery of King’s death, VH1 has produced a rockDoc on the Boston show.

The Boston Phoenix calls this the greatest concert in Boston history:

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, America’s greatest civil-rights leader, was assassinated in Memphis. Violence erupted in major cities across the county as African-Americans, who had already endured so much, reacted to the loss of a leader who was both spiritual and practical. Mayor Kevin White panicked. Although Boston wasn’t literally burning, like Detroit or Los Angeles, it was approaching an ignition point. He considered canceling all public events, including a James Brown concert at the Garden. Fortunately, his advisers suggested that stopping the show would be viewed as yet another stifling of black expression and could easily start the very rioting they’d hoped to avoid. The mayor made history by meeting with Brown and asking if they could work together to keep the peace. He was less lucky with the local affiliates of the three major TV networks, who all declined to broadcast the show, according to music historian Dick Waterman. Instead, the PBS station, WGBH, stepped in so Brown’s music could reach beyond the Garden’s 14,000 seats and into the living rooms of everyone in Greater Boston. The show was an absolute tour de force. Brown soothed his mourning audience by dedicating the concert to Dr. King and delivering a million-watt performance packed with greats: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Cold Sweat,” “That’s Life,” “Try Me,” “Please, Please, Please,” and more. He invited White to speak to the crowd and the cameras. And when police reacted to fans who rushed the stage at one point, Brown assured them he could handle things himself, pleading, successfully, for everyone to return to their seats. On this night, music literally helped determine the course of Boston’s history. Continue reading

Today is ther 40th anniversery of MLK’s execution

I want to blog about it, but I short on time right now. Watch this space for further developments.

In the meantime, enjoy this moving mashup of Dr. King and U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”.Please take a moment to watch carefully and reflect.

UPDATE: OMFG! I just found this video of John Legend singing “Pride” to a civil rights montage promoting an upcoming History Channel special. God damn I love John Legend.

The Genius of Hip-Hop, Church Women as Theological “Hos”, and Jay-Z

Recently I finished a book by my favorite scholar, Michael Eric Dyson, called Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-Hop. Dyson, a Georgetown Prof, Princeton Ph. D, and a Baptist minister (that’s right – my intellectual hero is a Baptist minister. MLK was a Baptist minister, too.) offers an intellectual defense of hip-hop as art.

In one section, Dyson dissects the complaint that hip-hop artists don’t often play instruments or write music in the traditional way. He points out that school budget cuts in poor neighborhoods prevent children from receiving music training and instrument lessons. Dyson wants the audience to not “underestimate the genius” of the innovative young folks who engineered hip-hop out of a culture of hardships:

Many black and brown kids in vocational schools were sent to work repairing turntables for rich suburban school kids. But that circumstance drove their experimentation with various technological forms to under ground hip-hop’s aesthetic expansion. So these young folk ended up putting turntables next to each other, and out of that emerged the practice of cuing one record up while the other one is playing, and you’re listening to it, finding the exact spot to extend and repeat the break beat through scratching, and eventually with looping….

Look how it happened on the ground: what was essentially an attempt to repair broken turntables was used to generate an alternative sonic culture full of technological innovation that supposedly ignorant black and brown folk have now turned into a billion-dollar industry. Anthropologists call it bricolage, a French term first used by Claude Levi-Strauss to mean using what is literally at hand to create something…So these young black and brown folk took the technological leftovers of a richer consumer culture and fashioned a cultural and musical expression that has lasted to this day. [p 73] Continue reading