December 17, 2004

How To Get Signed offers industry secrets
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

Kurt Cobain sent at least 20 copies of his demo to record labels without a response before he was eventually discovered. If he had read George Howard's new book, How To Get Signed, he would have known that sending unsolicited demos does nothing but waste postage. If you really want to get signed, follow the advice in Howard's book, and call your mom to tell her that your video is going to be on MTV soon.

Unfortunately, Howard is the first to tell you that it won't be that easy. As the former president of Rykodisc Records, Howard witnessed first-hand the mistakes that artists repeatedly made. In fact, Howard's book goes into such detail about the difficulties and pitfalls of building a music career that many readers might realize they would rather just work at Tower Records.

"This isn't meant to discourage you," writes Howard. "I'm telling you this so that you don't get discouraged when some or all of these things happen to you along the way. It's just part of beginning a career in the business."

For those crazy souls who decide to pursue a music career nonetheless, Howard's book offers a simple but thorough guide to catching the attention of a record label. He says that getting to this point is the most important step: "You will find that most successful artists share the sense that their music must be heard."

Written in a conversational tone, Getting Signed is an easy-to-read guide to every step involved in catching an A&R's attention, including what exactly should be included in a demo package.

Howard explains that the definition of a "label" is ever-changing, but it essentially means anyone who is willing and capable to reproduce, advertise, and distribute your music.

Howard recognizes that new technology is fundamentally changing the infrastructure of the music industry, which could threaten turning his sadistic guidance into obsolete advice in the post-mp3 apocalypse.

"The music industry is changing around me," Howard admits. "The record industry as we know it appears to be going away." Nevertheless, in one form or another, Howard says labels will continue to exist because they serve a function that artists are unwilling or incapable to do themselves.

Howard also argues that the record industry's obsession with illegal downloading is more of a red herring than the actual cause of falling CD sales. In fact, Howard writes, "As a technologist, I believe fervently that the Internet and other technology can be actualized as wonderful tools to help a musician's career."

In an interview with The Heights, Howard said, "More and more, there are bands that [are] just saying, 'We're going to make all of our money from touring,' and the record label becomes the engine that drives those things. They don't ever expect to see a dime from the label. It doesn't mean the labels are obsolete but just that they are providing a different service."

As a result, artists are forced to interact with labels in order for their music to be heard by the masses. Howard's book goes into detail about the procedure for dealing with labels. "As with every aspect of this business, the more you understand, the less likely you are to get taken advantage of, and the more likely you are to succeed."

Musicians might feel frustrated by Howard's tendency to speak about music as though it was a business rather than artistic venture, yet he reminds his readers, "By the act of sending your demo to record labels, you are buying into the culture that defines your music as product."

December 9, 2004

Street's Disciple
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

On Street's Disciple, Nas proves again that he has perfected the balance between popular and underground hip-hop. His lyrics are meaningful, but not overweight. His production is catchy, but not jiggy. His guest appearances are entertaining, but not relied upon. Nas sarcastically raps, 'it's trendy to be the conscious emcee," but for him it comes naturally.

Except for 2Pac and Outkast, rappers never actually have enough material to justify a double album. Nas' newest is filled with great tracks, but suffers from too much filler and sounds like a great watered down album.

John Legend at BC tonight
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Neo-soul singer John Legend is currently enjoying a hit single, "Used to Love U," on MTV and critical acclaim for his debut album Get Lifted.

On the cusp of super-stardom, Legend will be performing tonight at 9:30 p.m. at Boston College in the Rat, sponsored by the Black Student Forum. Tickets are $15.

Legend's album features stellar classic R&B piano ballads with a contemporary hip-hop edge. He has collaborated heavily with Kanye West, who co-produced much of Get Lifted.

Legend is also the first musician signed to Kanye's new label, GOOD Music. At this odd transitional phase of his career, Legend finds himself performing in a venue much smaller and less prestigious than he is used to when touring alongside Kanye, but Legend is now breaking into his own solo career.

Legend has worked alongside the Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z, and Alicia Keyes, to whom he is often compared because of his amazing talent as a pianist. His style of sultry love songs are a wonderful blend of the best qualities of down-tempo hip-hop production and sultry old-school R&B (think Donny Hathaway, not R. Kelly).

Legend's most famous collaboration occurred with Lauryn Hill on "Everything is Everything" from her Grammy-gobbling solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Though Legend might be a bit disappointed to find out where he's going to be performing, he will definitely be the only person disappointed at the show.
Will Noah take over Boston?
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Boston hip-hop has no king. Since 1991, when Ed O.G. released his hometown classic Life of a Kid in the Ghetto, no Boston rapper has put up a convincing fight for the title. On the verge of releasing his solo debut, Noah Dixon, CSOM '06, is very aware of the vacancy on the local throne.

Part of the reason for the strange, fragmented hip-hop scene in Boston is the city's college scene. Hip-hop has always had an uneasy relationship with institutions of higher learning - who can forget pastor Mase back in the day rapping about some guy flaunting his Ph.D. - his "player hatin' degree." Boston College certainly isn't the most likely place to find the next big thing in rap, but Noah is no native of Chestnut Hill. Long before I ever knew about Newton or Brighton, I heard stories about Noah's hometown from fellow Roxbury-native Ed O.G. Will Roxbury repeat?

Noah "Wait a Minute"
Be very careful not to get this song stuck in your head, or else you'll end up walking around all day humming "dut-dut-duhdut, dutdut-duh-dut." This track samples Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner," the simple, repetitive acapella pop song from 1987 that oddly resembles the I Dream of Genie theme song. Noah had to wait for the sample to clear before he was sure it could ever make it on the album.

In The Sopranos, Tony's daughter Meadow returns from her first year at Columbia as an intellectual-snob, obnoxiously over-using complicated words when not needed. Part of the problem with many college-educated rappers is that they write rhymes like research papers. Mr. Lif and Akrobtik are great Boston emcees, but their political themes and complicated vocabulary make them come off as nerd-rap to most. Noah is very clear about his style: "I make party music." This isn't to say his flow hasn't benefited from his education, but only to say school hasn't ruined his cool.

Noah "Get Back Yo"
The bonus track to the single features a short guitar lick over a fast, radio-friendly beat with a bit of Neptunes flavor - think of NERD's "She Moves" or Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You." The speedy beat forces Noah to play catch-up and gives him the chance to show off his spitfire double-time rapping. Until Twista's recent commercial success, conventional wisdom said that lightning-fast raps should be limited to rare B-side occasions like Jay-Z's phenomenal verse on "Is That Your Chick?" As these two tracks show, Noah shares with newly-hired Def Jam CEO Jay-Z a flexible, dynamic rhyme style that can adapt to a wide array of beats.

Like most lead singles, "Get Back Yo" is more catchy than quality, but Noah promises that this is just the bait to lure fans into the more personal and introspective tracks on the album. Look out for The Conflict in late February as part of an on-going trinity to eventually include Revolutionand Change.

November 18, 2004

Sly and Robbie lay down reggae riddim
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

How cool are Sly and Robbie? Too cool for words.

During their three-hour performance at The Paradise on Tuesday, Sly and Robbie were so immersed in their funky reggae rhythm that they didn't say a single word. Instead, the live drum and bass duo laid down a danceable groove while an all-star lineup of guest appearances controlled the microphones.

Drummer Lowell "Sly" Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare have been pioneers in reggae music for decades. Robbie played the bass on Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" and worked with Sly alongside Mick Jagger and Pete Tosh. Tuesday's show was the last stop on the pair's 25th anniversary celebration tour.

Sly, who earned his nickname by listening to Sly & the Family Stone while growing up, revolutionized reggae music in the early '90s by embracing the electronically programmed beats that became ragamuffin, or ragga for short. The group's beats provide the background for plenty of modern reggae dancehall, including the hit "Murder She Wrote" by Chaka Demus and Pliers.

Back in the day, the duo literally lived off only bread and water while touring in order to save up enough money to start their label, Taxi Productions, which they launched featuring the breakthrough of Black Uhuru.

During the show, Sly picked his drumsticks back up and proved he's still an amazing drummer despite his new role as a beat producer. His fast-paced syncopated rhythms were so intricate and complicated that they sounded as if Sly had produced them on his drum machine.

Robbie roamed the stage plucking away at his bass, flirting with college girls in the front row, and clowning with his silent partner sitting at the drums.

While Sly and Robbie took care of the rhythm and beat, guest singers rotated onstage to accompany the reggae legends. Keyboards, saxophone, and trombone comprised the rest of the backing band for Tony Rebel, who has been touring for nearly as long as Sly and Robbie. Rebel brought his Rastafarian dancehall groove into the mix along with sultry singer Blue Fox. Half Pint was the final act, bringing a bit of youth into a show dominated by aging, but still rocking, old-school reggae stars.

At no point did Sly and Robbie drop the beat for even a moment's rest, leaving the dancing crowd satisfied but exhausted by the night's end. Robbie ended the show with a bass solo so impressively dirty that he stared at his own hands with a disgusted look on his face.
America mourns ODB
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

First Yasir Arafat, now ODB. Russell Jones, aka Ol' Dirty Bastard, aka Big Baby Jesus, aka Dirt McGirt, would have turned 36 years old on Monday, but passed away two days prior. The cause of death remains unclear, but the biggest surprise is that ODB survived this long.

Every time ODB went to jail, he'd come back with a new nickname. In addition to a long list of violent crime convictions, ODB was arrested for shoplifting a pair of $50 sneakers and for being found nude in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Berlin. He was the first citizen to be arrested under a new law that made it illegal for convicted felons to wear bulletproof vests. During court proceedings, he was scolded by the judge for falling asleep and calling a female attorney a "sperm donor." He was truly an old dirty bastard. May he rest in peace, though he certainly didn't live in peace.

ODB - "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
What do ODB and the Jesuits at Boston College have in common? They both stand firmly opposed to the use of condoms. "Oh baby, I like it raw," ODB croons repeatedly on the hook to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Not surprisingly, ODB left behind quite a legacy. The modern-day Johnny Appleseed fathered at least 13 children, proving to his fans that he didn't just make up stuff in his rhymes - ODB practiced what he preached. That's keeping it real.

Mariah Carey - Fantasy [ft. ODB]
"Man, this girl is totally crazy," ODB must have been thinking to himself while recording with Mariah Carey, who might be the only person more imbalanced than ODB. "Me and Mariah go back like babies with pacifiers," he raps in his characteristic sloppy drawl. ODB was the best hip-hop cartoon since Flavor Flav; who else would jump on stage at the Grammy's to complain that Wu-Tang should have won instead?

ODB - "Got Your Money" [ft. Kelis]

ODB made his name as the eccentric member of the Wu-Tang Clan, but his biggest hit as a solo artist featured a radio-friendly beat produced by Pharrel Williams of the Neptunes and a catchy hook sung by Kelis. No one seemed to give ODB the memo that this was supposed to be his tame PG-13 TRL hit. He dedicates his biggest moment in the spotlight to "all the pretty girls, and the ugly girls too, cuz you pretty to me anyways, baby." There's an odd sensitivity to ODB, who was just a gentle Big Baby Jesus.

Pras - Ghetto Superstar [ft. ODB and Mya]
This track from the Bullworth soundtrack features ODB imagining himself as a U.S. senator walking the streets of the ghetto. ODB's ADD makes it hard for him to pay attention long enough to sustain a story for an entire verse. Trying to follow a logical path in ODB's narrative is nearly impossible, but his heart was always in the right place.
Without an enemy, Eminem falters
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

On his new album Encore, Eminem disappoints and impresses at the same time. He has always enjoyed a God-given talent for rapping, but it was his meticulous attention to rhyme scheme that made the difference between simply impressive and absolutely amazing albums.

Eminem comes off like a procrastinator who had two and half years to record his follow-up to The Eminem Show, but instead finished it in a rush at the last second. Like an intelligent student writing a late night term paper, Eminem cruises on natural ability, but still sounds tired and repetitive.

For better or for worse, producer Dr. Dre's beats perfectly match Eminem's flow. The doctor's beats lack their normal G-funk bounce, but remain better than those of most other producers. The problem is that Eminem and Dr. Dre shouldn't be compared with average rappers and producers. Eminem's beef with Benzono and Ja Rule inspired him to more passionate lyricism than anything found on Encore, but they were still petty feuds with lessers. If Eminem wants to assert himself as a legitimate candidate for the best rapper of all time, he needs to learn how to push himself to a higher standard on his own rather than relying on others to push his buttons for him.

The biggest problem (and biggest consolation) is that Eminem seems to be completely aware of this problem. He has always been at his most vicious when he feels threatened by another rapper, but on "Toy Soldiers," Eminem admits that he needs to demonstrate more self-control in the future. He raps, "It's not a plea that I'm coppin/ I'm just willing to be the bigger man if y'all can quit poppin/ off at your jaws/ Well, then I can/ cuz frankly I'm sick of talkin'."

The problem with this song and much of the album is that Eminem is rehashing subject matter that he has already kicked to death on better songs previously released on DJ Green Lantern mixtapes in the last few years.

On "Evil Deeds," Eminem brags, "Sometimes the average listener rewinds and plays me 20 times." On previous albums this has been true, but there isn't a single verse on Encore like the second verse in "Square Dance" from The Eminem Show, which required multiple listening before you could get you head around his lyrical gymnastics. On Encore, there are brief flashes of the impressive multi-syllabic rhymes that fans expect from Eminem, but he doesn't sustain his virtuosity for more than a line or two.

On "Big Weenie" Eminem rambles about his legions of jealous enemies, until he eventually admits, "It's pointless/ Why do we have to keep on going through this?/ This is torturous." The album isn't torturous, but it's certainly pointless. Eminem's irrepressible talent shines through his lazy verses nonetheless, which makes Encore a disappointment, but not a waste.

November 11, 2004

Vote for Lauryn Hill '08
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Waiting in line to vote in the election this year felt like waiting in line for food in the college dining hall. You know you need to choose something, but the options look so unappealing that you would rather not have anything. Some of the options are cleary worse than others, but how repulsive the chicken looks doesn't make the bland fish look any more appetizing.

When will we get a presidential nominee who people will want to vote for because they actually like him and not just because they hate the other guy? Probably not before the food in McElroy becomes a delicious culinary delight. Though the next election is still four very long years away, the Democrats are already looking for the future of their party. Nas and Wyclef Jean have declared themselves candidates. These are their platforms.

Nas - "If I Ruled the World"

Last night while playing Risk with my roommates until the wee hours of the morning I realized that our recently reelected president understood something about the world that I did not: Life, like Risk, is a game of world domination. Everyone from George Bush to Pinky and the Brain wants to take over the world, and Nas is no exception. On this duet with Lauryn Hill, Nas outlines his plan for when he's the man in charge. His first order of business: "I'd open every cell in Attica and send them to Africa."

Sadly, like most other politicians who want to rule the world, Nas seems more interested in the personal perks than the greater good. He raps, "If I ruled the world and everything in it, sky's the limit/ I'd push a Q-45 Infinite." I would hope for a bit more ambition from my leaders than the hope of driving a $55,000 car. Nas should at least try to get some multi-billion dollar no-bid construction contracts for his homies.

Wyclef Jean - "If I Was President"

Presidential candidates tend to promise the world on the campaign trail, but refuse to offer concrete strategies on how they actually plan on achieving or funding their proposals. Wyclef is no exception. In "If I Was President" he offers vague, crowd-pleasing promises like, "Instead of spending billions on the war, we can use some of that money in the ghetto."

What are your specific education proposals for reforming our failing schools in the inner city, Mr Jean? "Tell the children the truth. Yeah. The truth," he proposes. Unfortunately, Wyclef doesn't think the country is ready for such a straight-talker in the White House. He sings, "I'd get elected on Friday, assasinated on Saturday, and buried on Sunday." If Wyclef really thinks he'd be assassinated, then I'd definitely vote for him if he chose fellow-Fugee Lauryn Hill as his vice president and successor. Instead of looking to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to bring diversity to the White House, vote Lauryn Hill 2008.
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Live instrumental hip-hop tends to have its heart in the right place but falters in its presentation. It often seems like the emcee's lyrics are struggling to be heard above the band's accompaniment. Unfortunately, in order to avoid this problem, live hip-hop musicians often attempt to replicate the looped-sound of traditionally produced beats. The Roots, the most famous live hip-hop band, are notoriously guilty of both.

The three musicians and two emcees in Hieruspecs are perfect examples of how rappers and musicians can collaborate to create a progressive musically-based hip-hop album.

The crew hails from St. Paul, where it earned a reputation opening for fellow Minnestota-native Atmosphere. Who would expect Minneapolis to produce so much great hip-hop?

As a whole, the group's newest album, A Tiger Dancing, is the most enjoyable live instrument hip-hop albums of all time. Unlike groups like The Roots, Heiruspecs avoids the distracting musical wanderings typical of overly talented musicians. They seem more interested in entertaining the listener than impressing the critics.

As a result the album is listenable from beginning to end, with standout tracks including "Swearsong," where emcee Muad'Dib shows off his syllabic gymnastics, "5ves," where the live drums hit noticeably harder than your typical computer-programmed beats, and the beautifully romantic "Heartstrings," where emcee Felix shines as a subtle, poignant poet.

November 4, 2004

Jack Johnson as Consolation
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Tuesday was a sad day for America. I will try not to exaggerate the issue, but I feel sincerely afraid of what might happen in our world during the next four years. For the moment, I can find no energy for protest. There is something so alarming about what I see occurring in my country that I cannot confront it directly.

In times like these, I escape to music. At its very best, music can do something that I cannot: It can simultaneously condemn the ugliness and celebrate the beauty in the world. On a day when Americans in 11 states have decided to vote homophobic bigotry into marriage law, I don't need music to remind me of the injustice that surrounds us. Today I need music for hope, or at least consolation. Here hip-hop can't help me, and instead I turn to the simple poetry of surfer guitar player Jack Johnson.


Jack Johnson "Times Like These"
Liberals are inclined to talk about the president's re-election as if it marks the end of the world, but the slow, cyclical life of the Hawaiian surf has taught Johnson not to overreact to bad waves. From his perspective, the endless back-and-forth power struggles of politics, filled with "those for peace and those for war," are as meaningless as they are inevitable.

His words are simple, but his subtle wisdom is reassuring: "In times like these/ In times like those/ What will be will be/ And so it goes." All I can do now, Johnson seems to say, is ask God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. From the beaches of Honolulu, the politicking in Washington, D.C. seems distant and relatively unimportant to Johnson. When listening to Johnson, I'm not trying to forget or ignore the dirty politics in D.C.; I'm trying to remember the beauty that exists everywhere else.


Jack Johnson "Cookie Jars"
The problem is not George Bush. The problem is the 59 million Americans who voted for him. Johnson sings, "We only receive what we demand/ And if we want hell then hell is what we'll have."

Why are so many middle-class Americans willing to support a president who does not support their interests? Because the television media coverage of the election was so poor that most voters were woefully uninformed. I understand exactly how Johnson feels when he sings, "I would turn on the TV, but it's so embarrassing." The right-wing bias of Fox News doesn't bother me as much as the general incompetence of television news. Jon Stewart rightfully criticized the political hacks on Crossfire for hurting America by turning politics into some sort of entertainment spectacle. "You're doing theater when you should be doing debate to inform citizens so that they can be knowledgeable," Stewart said.
Online TV from BC Grad
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

In 1998, Drew Massey had a great idea, but the world wasn't ready for it yet. Six years later, his dream of combining television and the Internet has become a reality. The result is ManiaTV!, the first online streaming live television channel, which has left plenty of people asking themselves, "Why didn't I think of that first?"

With nothing more than the Windows Media player free software and a broadband Internet connection, like the one available at Boston College, viewers can watch music videos and shows for free, without registration.

Massey graduated from BC in 1992 and began work with Forbes before starting a professional men's magazine, POV. He eventually sold the magazine in 2000 to GQ, which gave him time to begin working on ManiaTV!

"In some ways, we're going against the grain," Massey said in an interview with The Heights, "but in another way, it makes total sense. We broadcast on the medium that is the favorite of the youth market. We're playing music videos, short films, sports features, skateboarding videos, all the stuff college kids with high-speed Internet access want to see."

Without the FCC regulating the channel's programming, ManiaTV! is free to broadcast music videos like Eminem's new controversial video, "Mosh," though it is still edited.

When Massy first envisioned ManiaTV!, the Internet wasn't ready. Instead of rushing into pursuing his dream before the Internet could support it, Massey waited until broadband Internet access hit a critical mass.

"We waited until there were 20 million viewers with broadband, which is the same number of cable TV subscribers there were when MTV launched," Massey said.

The comparison with MTV, or at least what MTV was when it first started, is an appropriate one. ManiaTV! is leading the way into uncharted territory, earning comparisons to William Paley's CBS and Ted Turner's CNN.

The biggest advantage of ManiaTV! over MTV is that Cyber-Jockeys (CJ's) host live shows and chat with viewers in real time over webcams and Instant Messenger.

Massey said: "We believe that the viewer will enjoy the community. You can chat with the CJ's and request a song. Within a few seconds, everyone is watching your video. People already have TiVO, they have OnDemand, but most people would prefer to watch something live."

ManiaTV! is not only the first online live channel that broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the only television station anywhere that is live all the time. That means no repeats.

Since going online on Labor Day, has enjoyed more than 12 million hits in eight and a half weeks. The site's October traffic doubled from September and Massey said, "We haven't even really started marketing yet."

ManiaTV! specifically targets the young, hip, and technologically savvy, and the station has found major interest from advertisers. Whereas a regular hour on television might contain 16 minutes of commercials, there are only a few minutes on ManiaTV!.
The New Danger
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

For the last few years, Mos Def has been all over the place. He's been acting, performing in his rock group Black Jack Johnson, and hosting Def Jam Poetry on HBO. The only thing he hasn't been doing since he released his classic debut Black on Both Sides is rapping. Not surprisingly, his new album, The New Danger, is also all over the place. Sadly, Mos doesn't actually rap all that much on the album but instead alternates between inaudible mumbles and soulful wailing. The result is an album filled with musical genius that fails to congeal into a cohesive unit. The album sounds a lot like a very diverse live performance, jumping from classic blues rock to Kanye West. The New Danger begins awkwardly, but after a few songs, Mos settles down and that lasts through the end of the album. Standout tracks include "Sex, Love and Money," "Blue Black Johnson," and "The Beggar."

October 25, 2004

Seniors love their Two-Car Garage
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

A few guys from different parts of the country meet each other during their freshman year at college. At first, some play instruments, some don't. They become friends and eventually form a band. They move in together off campus and turn their basement into practice space. They perform for their friends at local bars. This is how real bands get started.

Local band Two-Car Garage is part of a college tradition as old as cold pizza for breakfast, but unfortunately it is a tradition largely unpracticed here at Boston College. After forming at the end of their sophomore year, the members of Two-Car Garage moved off campus, where they evolved from a bunch of friends who jammed together into a band.

Drummer and song-writer T.J. Gordon, BC '05, says it was the band's time living off campus together that offered all of them the chance to improve as individual musicians and come together as a group. "We had a constant practice schedule, which was great for me, because I had become the band's drummer by default since we didn't have anyone else," says Gordon.

Last year, the band started playing at different BC events, including a benefit concert for the Emerging Leader Program and the Another Choice on Campus talent show, where it won third place. It was last year's undergraduate government-sponsored Battle of the Bands where the band first caught BC music fans' attention, winning first prize.

The band features dueling guitarists and vocalists Anthony Camilleri, BC '05, and Ethan Schuler, BC '05, who both reference local bands Dispatch and Guster as musical influences. Schuler sings in the University Chorale but had never played guitar before coming to BC. Camilleri, on the other hand, has played since he was 14 years old and spent an entire summer assembling pipe hangers in a factory to earn enough money to buy his first guitar. Bassist Justin Virojanapa, BC'05, might have also ended up as a guitarist if it wasn't for his older brother, who already played guitar and needed a bassist for his high school band.

Two-Car Garage's most ear-catching member is violinist Dave Samikkannu, BC '05. His bandmates describe him as the most musically talented in the group, having played classical violin since he was 4 years old. "There are a lot of songs that don't have a part for the violin, but he's so amazing that he can just listen to it a couple of times and fiddle around, no pun intended, until he finds a good place for the violin in the song," explained Gordon. Sometimes, the band even transcribes the lead guitar part into something that Samikkannu can play instead.

Two-Car Garage branched out from campus this year and began playing local college bars, such as Kinvara, where the band played Oct. 5. "It's hard to get started as a band while you're in college because you basically need to bring the crowd with you, but most of your friends can't come out to see you at a bar until your senior year," said Gordon.

The Kinvara show gave the band a chance to play a few fun covers along with the band's 13 originals. "With the violin, everybody expects some Dave Mathews Band, and we give them what they want. We'll do 'Ants Marching' because of the great violin solo, but also 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia,'" said Gordon. "Just for fun though, we'll also throw the Spice Girls' 'Wannabe' in there, too."

Now that Two-Car Garage has managed to bring crowds to its concerts, the group's members have started looking into the future, especially considering that they are all seniors. At least of few of the band members will remain in Boston, but for now they are focusing on performing and recording during the rest of this year.

Two-Car Garage will perform at Great Scott's on Nov. 8 and then return to Kinvara on the last day of classes, Dec. 10.

October 21, 2004

Eminem Attack President
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

What will Eminem do for his Encore? Some have speculated that he will vent some political anger on his upcoming fourth album, due Nov. 16. Will Eminem finally stop wasting his venom on easy targets like Britney and Benzino and instead channel his rage toward a more deserving enemy? Unfortunately, the album's horrible lead single ("Just Lose It") points to no such maturation and setting the release date for two weeks after the election rules out the possibility of having any real political consequences.

As a result, Eminem bypassed the lethargic and cautious record label to host a new DJ Green Lantern mixtape, Shade 45: Sirius Bizness, which also serves as an advertisement for Eminem's new channel on Sirius satellite radio. Eminem then enlisted underground emcee Immortal Technique to back up his big words with some actual socio-political knowledge.

Eminem "Mosh"

Until now, Eminem's strongest political words were, "Fuck Bush!" Earnest they may be, but ineffectual nonetheless. On this track, Eminem elaborates on his political views with more than two words: "No more blood for oil/ We got our own battles to fight on our own soil/ No more psychological warfare/ They trick us into thinking that we ain't loyal." Despite the Patriot Act, dissent is still truly patriotic.

Eminem got it right: "I'm like a skillet bubblin' until it filters up." Marshall Mathers might not be Howard Zinn, but he is an exaggerated barometer of suburban white America's adolescent angst, reflecting a festering anger among the uninformed and apathetic. On his last album, he stood with these kids, the ones with "so much anger aimed in no particular direction, just sprays and sprays," but after four years of the Bush administration, even Slim Shady understands that it is now time to direct our anger toward those who actually deserve it.

Immortal Technique "Bin Laden"
The difference between Immortal Technique and Eminem is that Tech read a book before he wrote his anti-Bush tirade. "Bin Laden," also on the Shade 45 mixtape, features Immortal Technique at his most politically vicious, blaming the government for the inner city crack epidemic and attacking Ronald Reagan for funding al-Qaida.

Technique compares George W. Bush to Osama Bin Laden, telling Americans that "Bin Laden was a CIA tactician/ They gave him billions of dollars and funded his purpose/ Fahrenheit 911, that's just scratchin' the surface." Tech explains the current insurgency in Iraq, not as evidence of fanatical loyalty to the old regime, but as the natural self-defense of a people from a foreign invasion. American ghettos would also defend themselves from invasion, Tech says, but it wouldn't reflect support for the Bush administration, but rather an instinct of self-preservation.

October 14, 2004

Ozomatli Explodes with Energy Onstage
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

One could waste plenty of hyphens trying to describe Ozomatli's sound: Hispanic funk-rock-rap with salsa-merengue roots and punk-rock energy. Describing Ozomatli's live performance needs far fewer words: remarkable.

The Los Angeles-based 10-man collective brought a contagious energy to The Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday night and maintained complete control of the ecstatic crowd throughout the two-and-a-half hour show, which featured an uninterrupted flow of songs from the group's self-titled debut and its newest release, Street Signs.

The band's rowdy cacophony of horns and percussion inspired excited dancing from everyone in the crowd. The only people who seemed to be enjoying themselves more than the screaming crowd were the ebullient performers onstage who jumped and screamed with a seemingly ceaseless supply of energy.

With a dozen multi-ethnic musicians onstage, Ozomatli is truly an international orchestra in which timbales, turntables, and trumpets come together for a free-wheeling party of rhythm and horns. The performance featured solos from nearly every member, including the dirtiest clarinet solo Boston has heard since Benny Goodman.

Ozomatli also features two emcees, Justin Poree and Jabu Smith-Freeman, who throw poltically-conscious verses on top of the polyrhythmic percussion of drummers Jiro Yamaguchi and Mario Calire.

The rest of the band, when not performing, chips in with additional percussion by banging away at anything they can hit with a communal set of drum sticks circulating on stage.

In an interview following the concert, Yamaguchi told me, "Playing in Boston is fun because the crowd is full of college students who are trying to have a good time. As for us, we always have a good time."

The highlight of the evening came with a guest appearance from trumpet genius Tony Lujan, who dazzled the crowd as he was accompanied by mariachi guitar played by Raul Pachecho [ed. note: a fellow Thacher alum] and scratching from turntablist Rene "Spinobi" Dominguez.

Without any single leader, Ozomatli is truly an ensemble of superb musical talent who know how to rock a crowd. It would be nearly impossible to avoid catching the infectious energy that literally comes down from the stage as the members of Ozomatli descend into the crowd for a conga line that ends each of their shows.

After the band's conga line at the South by Southwest Music Festival last year ended with two members in jail for a noise ordinance violation, Ozomatli kept this rowdy party indoors.

The only thing better than Tuesday night's show would be seeing former members Chali 2na and DJ Cut Chemist (now of Jurassic 5) performing with their old crew. Nevertheless, any fan of live music should never miss an opportunity to see Ozomatli perform.
Best duo in hip-hop
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Six years after Mos Def and Talib Kweli rightfully declared themselves "the best alliance in hip-hop," the pair has finally returned. Unfortunately the dynamic duo isn't releasing a sequel to Blackstar, but instead separate solo albums from each emcee. Since Mos and Talib parted ways their careers have headed in decidedly different directions.

Mos Def, recently nominated for an Emmy, has been focusing on his burgeoning film career, acting on Broadway and starring as Ford Perfect in the upcoming film adaptation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In contrast, Kweli has remained on tour and in the studio, earning himself the respect of even Jay-Z, who rapped "Truth be told/ if lyrics sold/ I'd be lyrically Talib Kweli."


Mos Def "My Life"
Hip-hop heads are bitter about being forced to wait half a decade for the follow-up to Mos Def's classic debut Black on Both Sides. We expected the second coming of Christ with his recently released The New Danger, but sadly it's nothing more than a very enjoyable album that could have been better.

The vast majority of Mos Def's musical ventures since his last album have been live performances with his rock band, the Black Jack Johnson, who appear throughout the new album. As a result, for better or for worse, The New Danger sounds more like a live show than a studio creation. The music is diverse and intriguing, but unfortunately Mos Def doesn't shine lyrically as he has in the past. In fact, he eschews rapping altogether for much of the album, instead acting as lead singer and even background vocalist for his band. Nevertheless, the album is entirely enjoyable from beginning to end, though hopefully we won't have to wait until 2009 for the next one.


Talib Kweli "Beautiful Struggle"
Instead of wandering all over the musical galaxy like Mos, Talib Kweli has stuck to what he does best. Kweli isn't a charismatic crooner like Mos, but he is smart and talented emcee dedicated to sharp lyricism. While Mos was busy hosting Def Jam Poetry on HBO, Kweli released his solo debut, Quality, which earned the respect of the underground while slowly catching the attention of the mainstream.

The Kanye West-produced single "Get By" got heavy radio rotation, which apparently inspired Talib to try to reproduce his MTV success on his new album with the almost-identical single "I Try."

Beyond this, Beautiful Struggle is a very solid album, nothing more but certainly nothing less than what fans expect from Kweli. The album also marks the return of former collaborator Hi-Tek, who produced Talib's classic Reflection Eternal back when Rawkus Records, now bankrupt, was the best underground record label in hip-hop.

October 7, 2004

Kanye lives up to the hype
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

While many superstar artists allow their media hype to overshadow their actual music, some still struggle to raise the standard even when they are the standard. Despite his recent over-exposure, Kanye West has continued to produce innovative tracks for a diverse group of emcees at a furious pace. While he makes millions on royalties from radio hits like "Jesus Walks" and superstar collaborations with Jay-Z, Kanye has also remained dedicated to his roots in the subterranean hip-hop scene, offering phenomenal beats to Talib Kweli and Dilated Peoples. But after a year of non-stop Kanye on the radio, even Chuck D started to wonder why "somebody gets top-notch producer credits for speeding up old records." Rather than stagnate and disappear, Kanye has recently elevated his game with two new tracks for underground heroes Common and Pharoahe Monch.

Common - "Food"
In the last few months, it seems like Kanye has been selling beats to anyone with some cash, but when fellow Chi-town native Common asked to collaborate, Kanye made the upcoming album, Be, a priority. The public caught its first glimpse of the result over the summer, when Common and Kanye appeared together to perform "Food" on The Chappelle Show. Hip-hop heads bumped a poor quality MP3 rip of the live show that was circulating on the Internet until a studio version of the song leaked recently.

If for nothing else, Kanye deserves our thanks for accompanying Common back to his classic emcee style after his recent eclectic intergalactic music journey, Electric Circus. Though I support artists like Andre3000 and Common who experiment with less conventional projects, hip-hop sorely needs another classic album. Common's return to rap will most likely give Kanye yet another reason to brag about himself.

Pharoahe Monch - "New World Symphony"
If for nothing else, Kanye should be respected for bringing lush musical instrumentation back to hip-hop. Of course, to really give credit where credit is due, Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari deserves to be recognized as the source of much of Kanye's genius. Though he sculpts her violin sample into a great beat, I can't imagine Kanye actually composes Ben-Ari's ridiculous violin solos, which grace the end of most of Kanye's tracks. I appreciate his decision to offer this beat to Pharoahe, who enjoys great respect in the underground but (so far) minuscale sales.

Maybe the Kanye touch will have the same effect on Pharoahe as it did on Twista, catapulting his career from underground purgatory to certifiably platinum. "New World Symphony" doesn't disappoint either, promising in the chorus "We are the future, you are the past." In his verse, Pharoahe prophesizes about America's future under the current president, "In twenty zero nine, speech will be a crime."

September 28, 2004

Rockin' Out at The Rat
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

During a particularly loud moment in Asobi Seksu's performance in the Rat last Tuesday, the three Boston College police officers working at the event stared at the oncoming wall of noise with a mixed expression of confusion and irritation. Fortunately, they seemed to be the only ones not having fun, as the rest of the crowd obviously enjoyed the trio of indie-rock performances.

The event was co-sponsored by WZBC and the UGBC as part of the ongoing concert series in the basement of Lyons. Up-and-coming rock groups Paula Kelley, Asobi Seksu, and 27 were on all on the bill for the show.

Unfortunately, a late beginning and a long set from Paula Kelley left only 45 minutes for the two other bands. Kelley performed songs from her 2003 album The Trouble With Success, which was chosen as one of the best local albums of the year by the Boston Herald and the Phoenix.

The show was preceded by a talk given by Eric Reeves in Devlin 008. Reeves is a professor at Smith College who has testified several times before Congress on the ongoing crisis in the Sudan.

In addition, the $5 suggested donation at the concert went to the non-profit organization Doctors Without Borders in support of Genocide Awareness week.

The highlight of the evening was surely Asobi Seksu. The foursome demonstrated a delicate ability to create an overwhelming rush of white noise while nevertheless retaining a melodic, almost pop sound, reminiscent of groups like My Bloody Valentine. The group has found a considerable following in the last few years and, despite WZBC's motto of "No Commercial Potential," Asobi Seksu even has a video on current circulation on MTVu.

Lead singer and keyboard player Yuki Chikudate has a beautiful, soaring voice that still struggled to stay above the thumping drums and thundering guitar of the band. Asobi Seksu's songs would build up to an explosion of sound that approached the noise of a jet engine, only to be perfectly deconstructed to the barebone kickdrum of drummer Keith Hopkin and built back up again.

The last to take the stage, 27, warned that it would only play three songs, which worked out considering the fact that they were only left 15 minutes. The threesome, like the other two bands, boasted a female lead singer. In terms of the sheer mass of sound, 27 sounded quiet following Asobi Seksu. In sharp contrast to the spastic guitar playing of Asobi Seksu guitarist, James Hanna, who would jump around the stage as he thrashed away, 27's guitarist sat quietly in a chair onstage as he plucked away.

How could you tell the concert was a success? There were even groups of students dancing, which is always rare at a BC event. WZBC and the UGBC will continue to sponsor the concert series in the Rat throughout the year.
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Chuck D used to say that rap was CNN for black people, but today hip-hop looks more like QVC. Emcees used to be journalists who described their urban reality, whereas now rappers serve as unofficial spokesmen for bourgeois brands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton. So far in 2004, there have been 81 rap songs on the Billboard Top 20. Thirty-seven percent of these songs mention at least one brand name, according to Hennessy (52 times) and Cadillac (49 times) were referenced most often, but Toys 'R' Us and U-haul got only eight and three shout-outs, respectively. It's a sad day for hip-hop when one can't distinguish between the music and the commercials when listening to the radio.


Run-DMC - "My Adidas"
Back in the day, of course, things were different. Run-DMC unintentionally started the trend of corporate sponsorship with "My Adidas," an ode to the rappers' favorite sneakers. Following the success of the song, Russell Simmons invited company executives from Adidas to attend a Run-DMC concert at Madison Square Garden in 1986. Simmons promised his brother, Reverend Run of Run-DMC, that they could get an endorsement deal if they took off their Adidas sneakers and held them up during the performance.

When the Adidas execs saw the crowd's enthusiastic reaction, they began to grasp the power of product placement in music. For the next four years, a sponsorship deal worth $1 million annually guaranteed that Run-DMC would never be seen without their Adidas. While Chuck D and KRS-One believed in the revolutionary political power of hip-hop, Simmons viewed the movement in terms of marketing. "The hip-hop community is the biggest brand-building community in the world," he said.

Nelly - "Air Force Ones"
Years later, Nelly decided to mimic Run-DMC and write a song about his generation's sneakers. Whereas you could hear a genuine passion for Adidas coming from Run-DMC, Nelly's song sounded more like an extended radio jingle. Not surprisingly, Nike soon turned the video into a commercial, which turned Nelly into a corporate mascot with as much artistic credibility as Tony the Tiger. The problem isn't the corporate sponsorship, per se, but Nelly's ridiculous contention that he didn't write the song with the intention of getting a Nike deal. He feigned suprise when (gasp!) Nike decided to give Nelly his own line of sneakers. It's too bad that Nelly's superb marketing skills couldn't come up with a better name for his sports drink than Pimp Juice.


The Game - "Whole City Behind Us" (ft. Kanye West and Ludacris)
Music videos have looked like commercials for Benzes and Cristal for a while, but now commercials look like music videos. A new television ad for cell phone company Boost Mobile features three of the most popular emcees in hip-hop rapping into their walkie-talkie phones. Incorporating popular music into an advertisement is certainly nothing new, but the lines between art and advertisement are now becoming so blurred that one can hardly tell the difference. This song was originally released inan Ampd Boost mobile commercial and will also appear on The Game's new album.

Busta Rhymes - "Pass the Courvoisier"
Like Nelly, Busta swears he had no intention of establishing a business relationship with Courvoisier when he wrote this song. Not surprisingly, though, after the sales of Napoleon's cognac went up by 20 percent in the United States following the release of the song, the rapper and the alcohol company hopped in bed together with a lucrative promotional deal.

The October 2002 issue of Fortune magazine describes a memo obtained from Sony music in which the company blatantly offers to include product plugs in the lyrics of an upcoming album by boy band B2K. In addition, Lori Lambert, vice president of strategic marketing at Epic Records (the Sony division that represents B2K), said that the same offer could be extended on behalf of "most of our pop acts." Though more blatant than the instances involving Nelly and Busta, the idea remains the same: Hip-hop has sold its soul. All the fake pimps in hip-hop have gleefully accepted their new roles as whores for corporate sponsorship.

September 21, 2004

The Genius of Rubin
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Rick Rubin can do whatever he wants. He might look more like Jay-Z's bodyguard than his producer, but Rubin has proved thrive and again that he has the golden touch no matter the genre. Together with Russell Simmons, he co-founded Def Jam while still at NYU. His first hits included L.L. Cool J's "I Need A Beat" and Public Enemy's Rubin-produced debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show. From there he's worked with everyone under the sun and continues to be one of the most progressive and innovative players in music.


Run DMC - "Walk this Way"

Rick Rubin is a man of ideas. In 1986, hip-hop was still trying to gain mainstream success in a mess of hair bands. Aerosmith was on the other side of the career curve, apparently past its prime and over the hill. Then Rubin had a simple idea that would change popular music for the next decade: bring rock and rap together on one stage, remixing Aerosmith's original classic with a new hip-hop sound. Everyone from Limp Bizkit to Eminem can attribute the seeds of their careers to this one song. This technique, taking a classic song and remaking it as someone else's, would become one of Rubin's specialties

Beastie Boys - "Fight for Your Right"
Licensed to Ill was the next step in the evolution of rap-rock, featuring samples from Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, not to mention the mean guitar solo from Slayer guitarist Kerry King on "Fight for Your Right." The album also made it acceptable for white kids to like (and purchase) hip-hop, making it the first rap album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Under the Bridge"
Though Rubin made his name with hip-hop, he has mainly focused on rock since his amicable split from Simmons and Def Jam in 1989. When he was enlisted to produce Blood Sugar Sex Majik, he moved the band members into a mansion where they lived and recorded for several months. Today, that's a common practice, but at the time it was considered bizarre. Though he actually produced the beats for Def Jam artists, with the Chili Peppers Rubin's role was more broad and less clearly defined. He was the sonic director of the entire project, acting as guide for everything on the album, including Anthony Kiedis' lyrics. While working together, Rubin discovered a page in a band member's notebook about overcoming his heroin addiction. Initially Keidis didn't think the lyrics fit the album, but Rubin convinced him otherwise. The result was "Under the Bridge," which became the album's biggest hit. The lesson: always trust Rubin's judgment.


Johnny Cash - "Hurt"
Before passing away, Johnny Cash said, "Rick saw something in me that I didn't know was there anymore." The Rubin/Cash collaboration surprised nearly everyone, not only because of its critical and commercial success, but also because of its choice of songs. Their most recent album, The Man Comes Around, the fourth installment in the American series, features Cash singing his cover versions of songs originally written by Sting, the Beatles and Depeche Mode. Rubin convinced Cash to cover songs that he would have never previously considered, such as Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Cash took Trent Reznor's deeply personal lyrics about his battle with drug addiction and turned them into his own, while Rubin's sparse arrangement leaves plenty of space for Cash's harrowing voice. No one could have imagined the 70 year old Cash's return to cult popularity, but with Rubin he found his way onto MTV2 and college indie-radio.

Audioslave - "Show Me How to Live"
Rage Against the Machine recruited Rubin for the follow-up to The Battle of Los Angeles, but when Zack de la Rocha quit the band in 2000, Rubin suggested that the rest of the band join forces with former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Rubin went on to produce Audioslave's phenomenal debut and is currently working on the follow-up. In 2004, the self-described workaholic will also work with Slipknot, Weezer, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Jay-Z - "99 Problems"

"You crazy for this one Rick," raps Jay-Z in a shout out to Rubin, who made his glorious return to hip-hop in order to contribute a beat to Jay-Z's retirement party, The Black Album. Surrounded by fluffy Neptunes beats, the heavy guitars and drums reminded everyone how much hip-hop needs Rubin again. In the phenomenal video for the song, Rubin looks mean and shaggy with his long ZZ-Top beard.

September 14, 2004

KO-S Rebels against the current
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Who will save hip-hop? Most people would look to New York, Los Angeles, or maybe Atlanta for the next revolution, but while gangsters from all over the country try to take over hip-hop with ever bigger guns and egos, there's a joyful rebellion going on just across the northern border. Instead of trying to take over, Canadian rapper K-OS is attempting to change the rules of the rap game with his newest album Joyful Rebellion and the result couldn't be more enjoyable.

K-OS' 2001 debut album Exit gathered awards and acclaim for its unique musical hybridity. Like its predecessor, Joyful Rebellion seamlessly moves from reggae to folk rock while still remaining a hip-hop album (unlike Andre3000's The Love Below, for example).

What distinguishes K-OS from most emcees is a diverse musical talent, allowing him to incorporate live instruments into his songs without letting the music draw attention away from his lyricism, as often occurs with groups like The Roots.

K-OS manages to avoid all of the possible pitfalls that often ruin such musically ambitious albums. Though the album crosses musical borders, it never feels like an aimless wander. K-OS maintains a sonic and thematic consistency that pervades the album, holding it together as a cohesive unit.

The lead single, "B-Boy Stance" is a gritty old school hip-hop joint that samples a short Public Enemy loop, the only sample to be found on an album otherwise notable for its lush instrumentation. In many ways, K-OS is taking hip-hop back to its revolutionary roots, but unlike Chuck D's Fear of a Black Planet, this album delivers its message with a vibrant joy instead of violent anger. According to K-OS, rebellion is an internal struggle to make ourselves better people (and therefore better emcees).

Throughout the album, K-OS searches to find his place. On "Man I Used to Be" he admits, "The things I said I wouldn't do, I did them." From there he tries to find his way through an internal rebellion against external temptations.

The best song on the album, "Crabbuckit" takes the funky bass line from The Cure's "Love Cats" and flips it upside down to create a dirty blues rap song where K-OS compares himself to a crab stuck in a bucket. Pianos and saxophones fly around while the infectious bass line gives a K-OS a strong foothold to show off his lyrical skills. Even if he weren't such a talented musician, K-OS would still be an impressive emcee. He manages to drop intricate syllables into the perfect groove between beat and melody.

To write a fair and balanced review, both the strengths and weaknesses of an album should be mentioned, but K-OS's Joyful Rebellion leaves little to be criticized. All of his songs are meticulously composed with a great attention to nuance and detail. As a rapper, a singer, and a musician, K-OS might not save hip-hop, but he has certainly resuscitated it with a beautiful infusion of fresh air.

June 1, 2004

Justin Bua: an artist for a new generation
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

On Wednesday nights, Justin Bua teaches a basic drawing class (FA 207) at the Univerisity of Southern California in Harris Hall, room 210.

Outside the classroom, Bua is the best-selling living artist among college students and the pre-eminent visual artist of the hip-hop generation. In his spare time he's making music videos, starting his own shoe line, and trying to change the way America views art and treats our artists.

"It's unfortunate, but to a lot of people, art is associated with wealth. People think you need lots of money and education to go to an art museum, but my stuff is different. My art is rooted in street culture," explained Bua in an interview with The Heights.

Like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Bua's artistic world of colorful magical realism, seen in paintings such as The DJ and The Piano Man, reflect the racially diverse reality in which he was raised, interpreted from the distorted memories of his childhood.

"Forever, artists have been painting kings and military leaders. I am also painting the heroes of my time, whether the DJ, the graffiti artist, the baller, or the piano player," said Bua. "Growing up in New York in the '80s, I looked up to these people."

Despite his unconventional themes, Bua's art is structured in remarkably traditional methods. His class at USC teaches the basics of drawing the human body, and since attending the prestigious High School of Music and Performing Arts his own education has focused on classical techniques.

At 16, he took a year off from school to perform with a professional breakdancing crew, The New York Express, in over a hundred shows all over the world. Later in life, his passions for art and hip-hop culture collided to produce his urban-themed paintings.

"What we were doing in New York at the time, I mean, we weren't defining it as hip-hop, it was just our life," explains Bua.

"There was no real need to name it. Yeah, I was b-boying and emceeing and all that stuff, but I wasn't going around thinking, 'Yeah, this is hip-hop,' because it was all I knew."

In addition to his unique and immediately recognizable artistic style, Bua is most notable for his keen entrepreneurial business sense. He has made a name for himself in music videos, most notably Slum Village's "Tainted," and television commercials such as his recent campaign for the video game NFL Street.

Bua has recently expanded beyond the canvas into designing his own shoe line called the PF Flyer, which will feature his artwork. Only 1,008 pairs of the three different designs will be available, but Bua plans on expanding in the future.

There are also plans for an upcoming line of hats and a book of his paintings. "I didn't always have a good business sense, but it's a hustle and you learn along the way," said Bua.

Though this sort of business ambition is commonplace among musicians such as Jay-Z, Bua laments the fact that artists so rarely make money from their work. "I think artists aren't taken seriously in our culture and it's because our values are all f- up. I'm trying to open up the possibility for artists to be respected and appreciated like musicians or actors are. Part of that includes being able to make money."

Once someone starts making money from selling hip-hop culture, some will inevitably label the artist a sellout, something Bua promises he could never be: "You have to worry whether kids think you're selling out, but really that's not a really concern for me, because there are some things I would never do. I'm a vegan, so I will never do anything for McDonald's.

"It is simply not an option, not for a million dollars," he continued. "I would like to move into hemp shoes, but even now I know I would never use leather."

To Bua, there is a clear distinction between selling art and selling out. He said, "I am respecting and exalting my heroes, not just using them to make some money. I plan to keep being entrepreneurial and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, because I plan on changing the industry.

"I want to be a pioneer that changes the way people buy and sell products. I don't want to just put more crap in the stores and make a dollar."

May 25, 2004

Not a Common sight
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

This year's surprise end of year concert was a surprise for even the students in the Undergraduate Goverment who organized the event. While rumors spread around campus about who the secret performer would be (Spin Doctors? Maroon 5? Blues Traveler?), the real headlining act, Talib Kweli, canceled three days before the concert.

Liz Fulton, co-director of Community Events, scrambled to find a new performer at the last minute and miraculously managed to bring Chicago rapper Common to help Boston College students celebrate the last day of classes.

Throughout the afternoon giddy BC students enjoyed the carnival atmosphere in the Mod parking lot, where there was no shortage of free burgers, hot dogs, and fried dough. With classes finally over, students played on an inflatable obstacle course, escaped from the spring heat in the dunk tank, and took advantage of the caricaturist.

In the early afternoon, Kotter performed on the side stage while students enjoyed the festivities and beautiful spring weather. There was supposed to be a number of bands that were all going to perform, but like Talib Kweli, they all canceled at the last minute, leaving only Kotter to rock the stage until it was time for Common to perform.

During our interview, Common said he was excited to perform at BC. "Normally when I perform, everyone in the crowd knows me and all the words to my songs. They've been fans for like 10 years, so all I have to do is show up and everyone goes crazy."

"But somewhere like here, most people probably don't even know who I am, so that just means I have to give an even better show and earn myself new fans," he continued.

Common's performance was energetic and entertaining, filled with a variety of new songs from his latest, Electric Circus, and his upcoming album Be, along with old-school classics from Resurrection and Like Water for Chocolate. The crowd was most excited when the opening chords from "The Light" began, screaming and singing along with the chorus. Common's affable stage presence and good humor was the perfect match for the great weather and collective good mood of the students done with classes.

The DJ gave an impressive exhibition in turntablism, scratching up a storm as Common showed off his b-boy skills by break dancing across the stage. In contrast to most rappers today, Common has always worked to keep all aspects of hip-hop alive instead of focusing exclusively on the emcee.

Common then asked for a volunteer from the crowd to come up on stage and freestyle with him. Plenty of aspiring rappers raised their hands for the chance to rhyme with Common, but only one, Kahleil Blair, BC '04, aka Maverik, got to come up to exchange verses with him onstage.

Common opened with an amazing freestlye that must have been hard for Blair to follow, proving once again why even Jay-Z admits, "Truthfully/ I wanna rhyme like Common Sense."

But even Common, along with everyone in the crowd, was impressed by Blair's impromptu performance. Maybe if the headlining act cancels at the last second again next year, then BC could get Blair to perform instead.

Unfortunately, the entire performance lasted only an hour and Common quickly left after the show, leaving everyone wanting a little bit more. BC students took advantage of the great weather and lingered in the Mod parking lot, enjoying the moment of fun before studying for finals began.

Dwyer to release post-grad hip-hop album
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Beggars can't be choosers, which is why most young artists are forced to accept the undesirable terms and conditions of a music contract with a major label when offered the chance.

Sean Dwyer, on the other hand, demanded more than any record company would offer: "I want complete creative freedom and I want to own all of my own music."

In an industry where Michael Jackson, and not Paul McCartney, owns the rights to the Beatles' entire catalog, Dwyer quickly realized that he was going to have to record, release, and distribute the album himself in order to avoid sacrificing his artistic rights.

Trying to do all of this while still fulfilling his school responsibilities as a full-time student at Boston College Lynch School of Education proved nearly an impossible task and, as a result, his album remains unfinished as of gradation.

"I really wanted to have it all done by graduation so my friends could hear it, but trying to do it all by myself while I was still in school was just too much," he said.

Sadly, this means that only a handful of people have heard even the unmastered demo copy of his solo debut, tentatively titled Broken Spoke. The hip-hop album boasts production from Alec Tervenski, BC '04, who is known as Adept and also produced beats for fellow Boston College emcee Noah Dixon, BC '06. Noah's full length debut album will be released in September.

As a senior, Dwyer won't be back at college in September, so this summer he plans on finishing the album and finally releasing it. Most of the album is already complete and was recorded in BC's recording studio in Campion.

Dwyer said, "I had all of my classes in Campion and never even looked in that room. I certainly didn't expect there to be a recording studio behind those doors."

Dwyer's rhymes are careful poetic constructs delivered with a self-assured confidence that avoids the typical rapper's arrogance. Unlike many rappers, Dwyer's lyrical content doesn't hide behind the beat. Even if you took the beat away from his verses, they easily become poetry that can stand on their own merit.

As a result, you are just as likely to see Dwyer reading his work at an open-mic poetry show as you would be to see him freestyling at an emcee battle.

Or you might even see him without his rhymes all together, singing and playing acoustic guitar at a local bar with alum Ryan Read, BC '02. Before playing music together, they played football at BC before Read graduated and Dwyer quit the team.

During his junior year, Dwyer went abroad to Florence, Italy. He said, "In Italy, I was really removed from hip-hop culture, so I really focused on my writing and guitar playing. When I came back I was excited to get back into rapping again, because it definitely made me a better writer and better musician in general."

It was also in Italy where Dwyer first started playing music professionally: "I had been doing the open-mic thing for years, but in Italy I had a job playing guitar in local club. The idea that someone would pay me to do what I love, to play music, was crazy to me."

When Dwyer returned to BC, he began playing again with Read, performing at O'Briens, Becket's, and other bars around Boston. Dwyer also has an acoustic guitar album recorded with Read and there are plans for another in the making.

Now that he will be graduating, Dwyer says he can finally focus on his music. "Even though looking back on it, I know I had lots of time and I probably could have done it, trying to do all the business parts of it while still getting homework done and trying to write new music was just too much," he said. "Hopefully this summer everything will be done."

Careful with his words and yet strong in his delivery, Dwyer has a lot to offer as an emcee, but what distinguishes him from the rest are his impressive musical skills and ability to write a cohesive narrative. Especially today, hip-hop needs more musicians and poets like Dwyer.

May 4, 2004

Art For Awareness
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

When is art just art? When the Global Justice Project and UNICEF of Boston College sponsor a weekend of socially conscious art, poetry, and film in the Vanderslice Cabaret room to inspire and educate the community through artistic and verbal expression.

"Just Art was a small idea that was turned into an impressive reality last year," said Brigitte Hamadey, who organized Just Art with Gabriella Suau, UNICEF director. "This year we just tried to keep it going and make it better in order to give artists on campus a chance to share their talents."

The typically bare and sterile Cabaret room was transformed into an astonishingly beautiful gallery of painting and photography by BC undergraduate and graduate student artists. The artwork of student Eli Akerstein and alum Aimme Kallaugher were especially impressive and stood out in the multi-faceted art event, which lasted from April 22 until April 26.

Roberta Kaufman, BC '75, opened the weekend with a speech about her experience as a freelance photographer. Also performing on Friday was Long Division, a three-man Latin jazz band featuring Michael Collins, BC '07.

The highlight of the weekend was the open mic night sponsored by Naked Singularity. Spoken word poets Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman gave inspired performances in addition to "Shades of Silence," a performance by internationally known spoken word artist and activist Carlos Gomez, sponsored by the Hip-Hop Culture Club. A member of Def Jam Poetry family, Gomez's poetry was entertaining and inspiring, and touched on issues of international injustice such as prostitution in third world countries, as well as personal issues regarding love and betrayal.

On Sunday, Just Art escaped from the confines of the Cabaret room and brought music to the courtyard of Lower Dining Hall. A celebratory drum circle, sponsored by the Music Guild, was followed by a live reggae band called Wildest

Drums brought hoards of students outside to escape from studying for finals. Soon jubilant dancers were bouncing around while others tapped away at drums. It was a rare site to see BC students break out of their shell and dance around with such excited abandon.

In addition to the music and art, there was a discussion on activism for social justice led by professor Charles Derber and a film festival featuring politically-themed movies like City of God, 1984, and Eyes on the Prize.

"Arts Festival is great, but it's only once a year," said Hamadey. "Just Art is a wonderful opportunity for all the hidden artists at BC to come out."

The weekend was in fact a great opportunity, not only for the artists, but for everyone who enjoyed the myriad beautiful and entertaining events.
Eminen shines, but his band bores
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Even Michael Jordan couldn't save the otherwise horrendous Washington Wizards, but at least he turned them into a decent team worth watching.

Similarly, even Eminem can't save the otherwise ignorable D12 album, D12 World, but at least you can skip around and listen to all the phenomenal verses from Eminem and decent production from Dr. Dre and Kanye West.

Part of Jordan's failure to bring the Wizards into the playoffs can be attributed to his old age and weak knees, but Eminem is obviously at the top of his game right now, so there is no one to blame but his teammates.

It's not that the other members of D12 are horrible rappers, but their generic content and delivery wither in the huge shadow of Eminem, the "lead singer of the band." The album opens with "Git Up" and an especially ridiculous verse from Eminem, who then unfortunately hands off the baton to his less-gifted crew.

Sometimes Eminem's verse is first and you can simply skip the rest of the song, but often a jewel is hidden in the heap of mediocrity, such as on "Get My Gun," in which Eminem's hilarious rap about a jammed gun is surrounded by the others' forgettable verses.

In terms of rapping, there isn't enough Eminem, but in terms of production, there's too much. Eminem has once again used D12 as a guinea pig for his continued experiments with production, but no one needs six songs produced by Slim Shady. Fellow D12 rapper Kon Artis, aka Denaun Porter, produces three tracks on the album; yet, his work for D12 never sounds as good as when he produces for 50 Cent ("Stunt 101" and "PIMP").

Kanye West offers an excellent beat for the title track, but the song ends forgettably without a verse from Eminem. Even Kanye's Middle Eastern violin melody outshines the bland rhymes from D12.

Unlike the hometown crews of Nelly or Cam'ron, most of D12 can actually rap surprisingly well, especially Proof. Their inability to shape interesting verses out of their natural talent proves that a nice delivery can't compensate for empty, repetitive subject matter.

Dr. Dre probably hates to waste one of his beats for D12, but he nevertheless obliged the requests from his white little brother and produced the ominous "American Psycho II," featuring B-Real from Cyprus Hill.

The surprise guest on the album is underground producer Hi-Tek. Best known for his classic collaboration with Talib Kweli, Reflection Eternal, Hi-Tek is instead paired with Bizarre, quite possibly the worst rapper of all time, for the album's only solo cut, "Just Like U."

It's always painful to hear a quality instrumental butchered by an ignorant, talentless emcee, but despite his utter lack of talent, Bizarre at least grabs the listener's attention.

It would be difficult to say whether it's because of his horribly disgusting and inappropriate subject matter (even compared to Eminem) or because of his laughable lack of skill, but Bizarre's verses are at least mentionable for the fact that they are difficult to ignore.

Unfortunately, that can't be said about the other, admittedly more talented members of D12. If you're the type of person who forgets someone's name 30 seconds after you've been introduced, then you have no chance of remembering the difference between a verse from Kuniva or Swifty.

For fans of Eminem, the D12 album is full of great verses from the best rapper alive, but it amounts to nothing more than a decent album with a catchy single to keep Eminem on the radio until his solo album comes out at the end of the year.
MixTape Friday: Spring Hope
By Canyon Cody
Originally Published in The Heights

Right when you think hip-hop finally sold the last of its soul, someone with soul to spare comes to save the day. The last few months have been full of decent but disappointing releases from Dilated Peoples, dead prez, and D12, but it now seems as though we are in a spring renaissance of quality hip-hop. While Usher soars in terms of sales, these artists are taking hip-hop to new heights in terms of quality. Backpackers rejoice! Could the second coming of hip-hop finally be upon us?

Talib Kweli - "Lonely People" The Beautiful Mix
Recently, an unfinished version of Talib Kweli's next album The Beautiful Struggle leaked on the Internet and got posted on Kweli was furious and replied with a post on the site to vent his anger. To the guy that posted the mp3s he wrote, "Are you that much of a loser that you gotta live off another man's work?" He continued, "I will find out who you are and you will be dealt with accordingly." As a result, the album's release date will probably get pushed back even further, but in order to please his fans in the interim, Kweli has released a mixtape called The Beautiful Mix hosted by "Rick James, bitch!" (aka Dave Chapelle).

The standout track is "Lonely People," produced by Kanye West, featuring a John Lennon sample from "Eleanor Rigby." I bet Grey Album producer DJ Danger Mouse could offer Kanye some advice about the impossibility of ever clearing the Beatles' sample, but that's the beauty of underground mixtapes.

Pete Rock - "Appreciate" Soul Survivor 2
In my opinion, Pete Rock is the best producer of all time, with DJ Premiere, Rick Rubin, and Dr. Dre as honorable mentions. His classic collaborations with CL Smooth produced two of my favorite old school albums (Good Life and Mecca and the Soul Brother), so when I heard that his soon to be released solo album Soul Surivor 2 featured Talib Kweli, dead prez, Rza, Pharoahe Monch, and Little Brother, I thought it was too good to be true. Though I shouldn't have been surprised, the best track on the album turned out to be Pete Rock's reunion with CL Smooth, "Appreciate." If you're not careful, the catchy chorus will get stuck in your head forever: "2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?" 9th Wonder and Kanye West are imitating today the smooth sample-based production origninally perfected by Pete Rock years ago.

Brother Ali - "Self-Taught" Champion EP
Don't sleep on Brother Ali! There isn't a more talented and less appreciated emcee in hip-hop than this Minnesota native. Like Eminem, you need to get over the fact that he's white before you can really appreciate him, but he's not just white; he's almost pink. The albino rapper addresses his uniqueness on "Forest Whitiker" from his Rhymesayers debut, Shadows on the Sun: "I'm albino man, I know I'm pink and pale/ And I'm hairy as hell, everywhere but fingernails."

Most importantly, Ali proves himself a truly talented emcee and not just a genetic gimmick, which makes the album one of the best in recent memory. Make sure to peep "Dorian" and "Blah, Blah, Blah" featuring Slug from Atmosphere. Just released was Brother Ali's new Champion EP with nine awesome tracks, including "Self Taught" where he explains "There's a thin line between anger and hunger/ and I ride a unicycle down the middle."

Danger Mouse and Gemini - "Ghetto Pop Life 2" The Twenty Six Inch EP
Ever since his Jay-Z remix project, The Grey Album, grabbed everyone's attention (including, unfortunately, the Beatles' lawyers), Danger Mouse has enjoyed more notoriety than sales. Fortunately for him, Danger Mouse's earlier album with emcee Gemini, Ghetto Pop Life, is finally getting the attention it originally deserved. Now Danger Mouse has the industry at his doorstep begging for a DM beat, but first he decided to release The Twenty-Six Inch EP with Gemini, featuring two new songs (including the sequel to his debut album's title track, "Ghetto Pop Life 2"), remixes of songs from their LP and guest appearances from Cee-lo and Sadat X.

April 27, 2004

Emerson students start records label
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

In terms of resume building, Emerson sophomore Molly Casey definitely has one of the most eye-catching extracurricular activities: president of a student-run music label, Emerson Records.

"The record label is run entirely by students, but nothing was really happening with it for the past few years. This year we really decided to do something," said Casey in an interview with The Heights.

In addition to their academic responsibilities, Casey and the rest of the students on the staff of Emerson Records have turned the inactive record label into a thriving young organization that recently signed its first band, Audible Mainframe. The label plans to release the band's first record next month.

"We don't really know what to expect in terms of sales because there's no precedent at Emerson Records for what we're doing. We're not getting paid or anything, so this is supposed to be a learning experience for us and it definitely has been. We're all really excited to hear the album once they finish mixing and mastering it," said Casey.

To promote the band's debut album and raise money for charity, Emerson Records brought old school hip-hop pioneer Jeru the Damaja to the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center in South Boston last Saturday.

The unusual venue wasn't an ideal location in terms of accessibility and acoustics, but Jeru and especially Audible Mainframe gave an inspired show for the small crowd of dedicated hip-hop fans.

In addition to the headliners, Emerson records brought the Deck Deamons, an amazing DJ quartet which includes DJ JayCeeOh, and the Floor Lords, who have been break dancing in Boston since 1981. From their youngest member (13) to the oldest (37), the Floor Lords left the audience in awe with their dance moves and their unique custom b-boy and b-girl sneaker from Saucony.

The graffiti of a local crew called Hi Cost Low Art complemented the music and the break dancing perfectly, making the entire experience perfect for true hip-hop fans.

Jeru the Damaga has been synonymous with quality old school hip-hop since his classic 1994 debut The Sun Rises in the East. Jeru's separation from Gang Star following his beef with Guru has apparently prevented him from performing all of his DJ Premier-produced hits

Despite a good set from Jeru, the star of the show was Audible Mainframe. The eight-person hip-hop band comprises guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, saxophone, with a DJ and emcee.

Their energetic live show and eclectic combination of rap, funk, and rock gives Audible Mainframe a contagious energy spilling into the crowd.

The band's politically progressive lyrics, musical virtuosity, and kinetic stage presence puts Audible Mainframe in good company with bands like The Roots and Ozomatli.

Audible Mainframe will be playing a live acoustic set on WAAF (107.3) on May 2 to promote its record release party at the Middle East Upstairs on Wednesday, May 5. Its debut album Framework will be available for $5, and local emcee Jake the Snake will perform.
Head to Lupo's
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Boston is blessed with a great assortment of music venues ranging from the edgy and always dependable Middle East in Cambridge to the fancy Wang Theater in the Theatre District.

The best local concert venue, though, unfortunately isn't that local. It's Lupo's at the Strand in Providence, RI.

Despite being only one hour closer to the musical epicenter of America, it appears as though many musicians would prefer to only travel to Providence if they have to leave New York, rather than coming all the way to Boston.

Or maybe it's just that Providence has the best live music club north of New York. Lupo's attracts a consistent flow of top notch performers who are too big to play in a smaller Boston venue like The Paradise, yet still not big enough to fill the FleetCenter.

In the next few weeks alone, Lupo's will host Bouncing Souls and Reel Big Fish on June 20, and Incubus on July 2. This week, BB King, whose Boston bar/club was closed last year, will be at Lupo's on May 1 in addition to Talib Kweli on April 28.

The arrival of Talib Kweli in at Lupo's is just one example of a fairly major artist coming to Providence who will not perform in Boston on the same tour. On the night after his Lupo's performance, Kweli heads back to New York for another concert rather than continuing on to Boston. This trend is especially noticeable among popular underground rappers. In addition to Kweli, The Roots and the fifth semi-annual freestyle battle called the Mic Wars will appear at Lupo's.

The superior hip-hop concert selection in Providence, despite the smaller city size, cannot be attributed to a greater demand in Rhode Island for urban music but is a direct result of how great of a club Lupo's is.

Though the Middle East and the Paradise are phenomenal clubs, they both have a reputation as primarily rock clubs, despite their often diverse schedule. The reputation isn't entirely undeserved though. The Paradise is, after all, officially called "Boston's Legendary Rock."

The ambience of Lupo's is comparable to the Middle East but considerably less claustrophobic. There is plenty of space in front of the stage for mosh pits and generally rowdy behavior without needing to worry about crashing into anything but fellow fans.

The balcony is the best view in the house and allows people to escape the crowded pit of fans near the stage. The acoustics and lighting are superior to just about anything in Boston. No matter where you are, you can hear and see the music on stage just fine.

Unlike the reputation of many other bars and clubs in Providence, Lupo's is a very strict enforcer of the legal drinking age and will only accept real identification. The beefy bouncers are not subtle with underage drinkers or anyone else causing trouble, which can add added entertainment to your visit as long as you're not the poor guy in trouble.

An announcer repeatedly reminds the crowd over the PA system that they are in a non-flammable building with plenty of fire escapes. The motivation is to calm patrons following the recent club fire tragedy in Rhode Island, but its more irksome than comforting.

For some reason, artists seem to stick around after the concert at Lupo's more often than they do here in Boston, and music fans aren't ushered out of the venue as hastily. As a result, Lupo's might be your best chance to get that coveted autograph from your favorite musician.

Though Boston offers plenty of concert options, the trip to Lupo's is worth the fast and cheap train or bus ticket to Providence. Find a friend at Brown with whom you can stay the night, and enjoy a nice night in Rhode Island.