HMV Irks Me pt. 2

Pop is pop. Hip hop is not. No matter which way you slice it, hip hop will never be pop. While it has seemed leaned that way in the last half a decade, I can never see it being pop, and that is part of why it’s so appealing for me. There are different types of hip hop and rap: commercial/mainstream, hardcore, underground, etc. But it’s all hip hop. The fact that it is its own lifestyle and attitude is appealing to me and I take comfort and acceptance in it. I used to be largely into commercial side in my younger years. The Nellys, Lil’ Waynes and Master P’s were in heavy rotation. Now in my 20’s, I am gravitating more and more to the underground side of things. I think this is mainly due to the diversity of talent in the underground, as well as the substance of the content being put forth. The lack of serious competition and the perceived freedom of expression is both refreshing and exciting. The first artist that really drew me away from the commercial lifestyle was Shadrach Kabango, better known as Shad. He has style, substance and lyricism in the pocket. And the craziest thing: he’s Canadian! My immediate thought was, ‘Wow. There are Canadian MC’s?’ It was all very new to me. Discovering Shad’s music led me to gradually unveil other rappers from my country. One of the most talented is Toronto-based rapper D-Sisive. He released a new album in June titled Vaudeville, his third album release to date. To make a long story even longer, I saw a copy of this relatively new release at HMV. Literall, a copy. One copy. That’s it. What do I see beside it but almost an entire row of Drake. Plastic CD cases with Aubrey Drake Graham on the cover, half of which were his “mixtape” — that “saved the rap game” — from last year. D-Sisive’s case is nicely laminated, thick paper, something you would want to buy simply for the look. Such is the reason why it is so saddening, to see evidently unlimited copies of a mixtape that came out over a year ago mercilessly squishing an authentic work of art that is Vaudeville. It is lamentable that this is where the music industry is: flash over flavour, commercial over content. If I had the money right there, I would have scooped it up and saved it from spending another day on the shelf. I know what you’re thinking, “But Dylan, Drake’s Canadian too!” While this is true, Drake is Canadian only by nationality. He doesn’t need a gazillion copies of his mixtape and his album on shelves. D-sisive does! Granted, I like what Drake is doing, I respect it. But he’s a commercial artist on a major (Cash Money). It’s not his fault. But D-sisive is Canadian: Becoming big in Canada, trying to make a name for himself in Canada, apparently not getting much help from outlets in terms of being seen in Canada. There really are no comparisons between these two rappers’ careers. Drake came up as an actor on “Degrassi”, is now a commercial success in the states. D-sisive came up in the Toronto battle scene, where he won respect and gained immense confidence. Why record stores feel like they need to promote that over homegrown talent is absolutely baffling. I dunno, maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe before I got to the store, a D-sisive fan went in and bought up 9 copies of the CD and left one on the shelf. But we’ll never know.

Dear HMV – Canadian division: please be respectable to your national artists. They are the ones that didn’t sell out, didn’t move to the states and want to turn this country into a viable market to make a decent living. You are preventing that from happening by disporportionately whoring yourself out to commercial and mainstream interests. Instead of these artists being a beacon of light for attention and inspiration, they are merely an afterthought. Come on. Start supporting. Without your help it is a lot harder to get the word out, as you are currently one of the biggest sources of music in the nation. Oh, and if you can play Santa and give me a gift card so I can buy up the only D-sisive CD on your shelf, that would be wicked. At least tell my girlfriend that I want one. Thanks.

Rock on?

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HMV Irks Me

I was in my local hmv store the other day, basically just browsing. I looked at some documentary DVD’s, some new albums, some classics but restrained myself because a. It is so close to Christmas and b. I currently don’t possess the funds to buy anything. I continue to do a lap of the store to come upon my favourite music section: hip hop/rap. Or in this case, “a whole mess of CD’s nobody seems to give a crap about”. It sits right between the electronic and soul section, which is fine, but while every other music section is nicely set up with the face out, the content in these seemingly forgotten sections is packed into shelves tighter than a sardine can. Only the feature covers (Black Eyed Peas, Nicki Minaj(really?)) are positioned face out, while the rest of the music is ordered horizontally with the name and artist only visible on the spine.

So I find myself craning my neck to see what music is available; I feel like a less patient person would have said ‘screw this, I’m going to Sunrise.’ Listen, I understand hip hop & rap might not be the most popular genre of music in your store, I get that. I’ve been a hip hop fan basically all my life, believe me I understand the lack of appeal. I also understand that there is a demographic to which hip hop does appeal. So don’t you think that recklessly cramming these CD’s into a tight space — without having the titles and artist easily accessible and advertised, while a friggin’ Kesha CD gets a marquee in the front of the store — kind of eliminates an entire buying group? Just a thought.

Maurice Clarett

Watching ESPN’s E:60… They’re doing a feature on former Ohio State Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett. Here was a guy who seemingly had everything: he was the starting RB for one of the most successful programs in the country, he had the popularity, drugs, girls. He was the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos after he starred at Ohio State for one year. Despite legal and behaviour problems, he ended up getting drafted in the 3rd round. Even with this perceived success, some people just cannot get away from their demons despite some of the best opportunities presented to them.

I personally remember back when I was 14, I would watch NCAA football games on the weekend. Maurice Clarett was undoubtedly one of my favourite players. He wasn’t the biggest, but he was the most solid, agile, and hard-working players on the field. I have never played a down of organized football (my town didn’t have a local league and my high school never had a team), but I am a fan of the game and a fan of what Maurice did on the field. He was the most prominent, coolest, most visible athletes in college football. He had the Sports Illustrated cover. That’s all I saw. So when I find out that no less than one year later he’s being arrested and is going to jail, it blew me away. I never thought that someone in such a high status, with all the hope and potential a guy could ask for, would have such a bad situation and be such a “bad person” (my ethics scale at the time: good people, bad people).

 During the summer after his first year, the cops were looking for Maurice because of a robbery charge. He had gotten pretty drunk at a bar, and while he was stumbling home he started verbally abusing someone on the street, brandishing a gun. The Ohio Police had him on a robbery charge. Knowing the cops were looking for him, Maurice jumped in a car and started driving… with three automatic rifles and a 40 of vodka. Paranoid. Desperate. Crazy. Clarett said of the situation, “…You could have had Jesus Christ sitting in that car next to me telling me the right thing to do, I probably still wouldn’t do it.” The cops caught Maurice. He went to jail, sentenced to 7 1/2 years. That was in 2006. Fast forward to 2010, and this April Maurice was released on good behaviour after 3 1/2 years. Primarily helpful to this early release was an exercise that I am doing right now; Maurice started a blog with the help of his girlfriend. He would write and dictate his thoughts over the phone; she would type them into the blog. Now, Maurice has a new lease, and no doubt a new outlook, on life. He is enrolled in courses at Ohio State once again while playing semi-pro football for the Omaha Nighthawks.

 I guess me at 14 didn’t fully comprehend the fact that, yeah you can have it all, and you can be in a good spot on the field or in your career, but that doesn’t mean you’re in a good spot in life. And vice versa. However, the manner in which we turn those situations around, as Maurice did, is the key to a healthy and happy existence. Maurice makes $50,000 a season, an honest living to support his girflriend and child. Wow. What a roller coaster. Maurice’s blog is still up and running, check it out at  http://mauriceclarett.wordpress.com/ . It’s fascinating stuff, and it’s a prime example of how you can, and have to, be the change you want to see. No excuses.

Jon Stewart, The Grand Ol’ Party, and the Prostitution of Tragedy

http://tv.gawker.com/5713220/jon-stewart-to-republicans-you-cant-exploit-911-anymore

This is comedian and political satirist Jon Stewart hitting the nail right on the head in regards to a crucial bill designed to help the first responders on 9/11 and the Grand Ol’ Party’s vehement blockage of said bill.

Stewart started the crusade against ignorance on Friday, and the second video was taken from Monday’s episode, both courtesy of Gawker. He provides incredible insight and information, something that is in itself bittersweet, considering his show is broadcast on a comedy network. He points out the inadequacies and lack of dissemination of real, current information from the three major networks, a reality that is maddening and absolutely incomprehensible. The fact that CNN, MSNBC, etc. have shows on ALL DAY LONG and cannot get a considerably important message across, while Stewart has 22 minutes on a late-night basic cable show and can break down the issues within that time, is terrifically tragic. Maybe these anchors, producers, CEO’s should shut down their programming for those 30 minutes (or and hour, because they might as well look at Colbert) and start taking notes. How hard is it, as a multi-BILLION dollar news corporation, with all their media monitoring and “investigative reporting”, to go out, interview politicians from both sides, gather facts and present the truth? I will give props to Olbermann, but it’s the fact that these issues are being missed while we get to hear about another celebrity boob job! I think people in general deserve a tad bit more respect than that. As Jon quipped in the video, “… it’s not every day that Beatles’ songs come to iTunes.”

Now look, I’m Canadian, and I do not have a strong conscious connection to 9/11 in terms of nationality. But I do have a strong connection to humanity. What frustrates me is not only the lack of human decency in not passing the bill, but the sheer fact that the Repubs are prostituting a tragedy: tugging at heart strings while simultaneously cutting the strings of attachment to the very people who risked their health and lives to save Americans. It’s like the head master of a school for orphans publicly crying out, “The children have no food! They are suffering, starving, dying!” Then as the donations roll in, she seats herself in front of the children and chows down (*pictures the headmaster in the movie “Matilda”*).

Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner (D-New York) is a staunch supporter of the bill and its humanity. He can be seen in various Youtube videos blasting the right wing monacle-droppers for the aforementioned prostitution, hinting towards a large remnant of self-interest in the conflict behind the healthcare bill, and the consistent cowardice of the GOP in what Tribe Called Quest emcee Q-Tip calls “this 9/11 healthcare Rebublican flip”.

The truth will come out. Unfortunately it is said that a lie will travel around the world twice before the truth has a chance to tie its shoes.