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The F-Word: Homophobia in Hip-Hop

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A BAMM.tv Exclusive Report by Joseph Bien-Kahn

Warning: Strong and derogatory language is present throughout this article. BAMM.tv in no way condones discrimination of any kind. We felt it necessary to present the raw language used in the form of lyrics, comments, and quotes in order present an honest story addressing homophobia and sexism in hip-hop.

A rapper recently told me, “When you say, fuckin’ faggot, that’s like the worst possible thing you can say about someone, besides like, dirty cunt. Those are terrible words and when they’re coming out of your mouth, you have this feeling of, almost, hyper-masculinity, this feeling of like extreme power. When you’re saying those words, you feel badass, you feel like you’re dominating somebody.”

The rapper who said that, Sam “Oh Blimey” McDonald, explains herself as “exactly the opposite of what I know the face of hip-hop looks like.” She’s white, she’s female, she’s homosexual.

I squirmed in my seat when I heard that opening quote; your stomach might have turned reading it. But that’s where hip-hop’s at today. It struggles with mainstream success and its all-too-present misogyny and homophobia. Rap is big enough now that the headliner acts say all the right things about homosexuality and hip-hop. But the truth is, homophobia is still a living, breathing force in the rap game.

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Jay-Z And Master P: A Tale Of Two Empires

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Joey Bien-Kahn takes a revealing look at the interwoven business history of two modern day moguls: Jay-Z and Master P …

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2013 was a bad year for Jay-Z the Rapper. Magna Carta … Holy Grail had none of the dark elegance of Reasonable Doubt, none of the club slaps of The Blueprint and not even any of the royal over-indulgence of Watch the Throne. It didn’t have a club hit, wasn’t committed to artistry, and some of the lyrics read like stroke-induced gibberish (“I’m in the ocean/I’m in heaven/Yacht!/”Ocean’s Eleven”).

But 2013 was a great year for Jay-Z the Mogul. Once again, Jay made money for himself and his friends, while remaining squarely in the public eye. He presold a million copies of Holy Grail for early download on Samsung smartphones and tablets (check out that promo below). He toured North America with Justin Timberlake, bringing in $69.75 million. And his protégées J. Cole and Kanye West put out two of the best studio albums of the year, while his wife won the Pop Star Wars with an unprecedentedly unexpected album drop that defied the Age of Internet Leaks.

Stadiums: sold. A million records: sold. Samsung smartphones: sold. Say what you want about Jay’s rap output since The Blueprint (2001); just don’t say a thing about his business savvy. Let’s be honest here—Jay-Z the Mogul has been the more impressive side of Shawn Carter for much of his career. Remember: He’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man.

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Bamm.tv Featured Artist: The Flashbulb

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Meet electronic mastermind Benn Jordan. He’s a man of many different names, collecting pseudonyms the way a hyperactive 90s kid collected Pokemon. You may also have heard him referred to as (deeeeeep breath now) Acidwolf, CHR15TPUNCH3R, DJ ASCII, Dr. Lefty, Dysrythmia, FlexE, Human Action Network, Lucid32, rapemachine, rnd16, 66x or Q-Bit.

For the purposes of our Featured Artist celebration, however, we fixing our beady eye on Benn’s most well-known alterego: The Flashbulb.

Benn is particularly direct when it comes to the origins of Flashbulb. “In the mid-70′s,” he recounts, “Lee Jordan and Denise Richardson met while vacationing in Virginia. Many sexual instances later Denise noticed she was more nauseated than usual. 9 months later the band was formed, but did not record music for another 14 years.” In other words: it’s just him. Flashbulb is a one-man operation, and Benn is the brains and talent behind it.

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BAMM.tv Featured Artist: Wallpaper.

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Anyone familiar with reviewer shorthand will know the meaning of the term ‘wallpaper music’. It’s often used to describe the output of MOR giants like Coldplay or Maroon 5 – it’s background stuff, ambient dinner party noise, inoffensive and barely noticeable chatter which uses music more as a pleasant crutch than a blazing center of attention.

Sooooo … if you were a frenzied hip-hop electro-pop mastermind who drops beats like John McClane drops bad guys, you probably wouldn’t want to associate yourself with the word. You’d call yourself ‘Explosion Beast’ or ‘Annihilator’ or ‘Dance Yourself Sick’. That would be the predictable thing to do. The thing is: Ricky Reed – the producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Wallpaper., our brand new Featured Artist – is anything but predictable.

Interested yet? Want to read on as we get all Home Depot on your ass and really start examining Wallpaper.? Or are you just a big old Doo-Doo Face?

(Note: Doo-Doo Face is the title of his first album. It’s just a joke. We’re not really calling you a Doo-Doo Face. Unless you’re a sadomasochist and are into that kind of thing. This is the internet, after all).

Anyway. Let’s continue (after the jump …)

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BAMM In-Depth: Did Anyone Kill The Radio Star?

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Time for another of our great in-depth features from our BAMM.tv London correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time around, Zakia looks at the state of modern radio …

Musicians have been singing about the death of commercial radio for over thirty years, but it’s only now that the rest of the entertainment industry is in agreement. Todd Pringle of the online curation app Stitcher can think of few advantages that terrestrial radio has over online radio: “There aren’t too many – from a user perspective, terrestrial radio is pretty poor. You’re beholden to a particular schedule which may or may not fit with yours, often have to stop listening at inopportune times (i.e. arrive at work), and can’t go back and pick up where you left off.”

The projected future of online radio has long been curation. Has curation been displaced by the driving force of personalisation, at a time when we trust algorithms more than DJs? Some of the BAMM.tv team were way ahead of the curve back in the days of Open Thread Radio. One of BAMM.tv’s predictions for 2013 was the rapid growth of online radio and streaming services. The picture online is even more dynamic now, and threatens to change radio as we know it. Has radio failed to stay relevant? And if that is the case, what did manager and business mogul Troy Carter mean earlier this year when he said that radio is ripe for “disruption”?

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BAMM.tv Featured Artist: The Stone Foxes

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Blues, rock and country – they’re labels so simultaneously vague yet culturally ingrained that sometimes they seem to have lost all meaning. Pretty much any guitar based album in existence – and, to some extent, a number of genre-fusing hip-hop and electronic projects too – carry elements of this all-American heritage, be they proudly displayed as centerpiece artistic choices or tucked away as subtle undercurrents. Whether it’s sound, attitude, aesthetic, or a combination of all three … there are certain touchstones guitar music will always have to adhere to. Its just part of the deal, folks.

With this in mind, it’s easy to come to a natural conclusion: that to define a band as ‘blues-rock’ with hints of ‘country’ is to render them somewhat unremarkable. A drop in the ocean. A thumbprint on a skyscraper. In some cases (hell, let’s say in most cases) this wouldn’t be too far from the truth. In the case of California’s foot-stomping avengers The Stone Foxes, however, listeners can rest assured that their sound – while steeped in the vast, winding heritage mentioned above – is far from generic. Let’s put it bluntly: a rock to the head has always been a rock to the head since the first brawl between two cavemen. That doesn’t mean a perfectly-placed rock to the head in 2012 doesn’t carry with it a real fucking impact. Some things just don’t seem to mellow with age.

The Stone Foxes throw out rock with a capital R, blues with a capital B, and country with … well, maybe an odd smattering of uppercase font. Put it all together, and you’ll no longer be interested in literary deconstruction anyway – you’ll be too busy (in the time-honoured fashion of another American tradition) throwing your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

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BAMM In-Depth: Big In Japan

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The phrase ‘Big in Japan’ has always been a bit condescending. Being successful there is supposed to be easy, because of the island’s famed love for anything different and western. The stock description has also been used to imply the artist in question just isn’t very good. But we hear it less and less, as the so-called borderless internet makes it impossible for stars to moonlight as rubber duck pedlars and credible musicians (check the two shameful examples below).

Are the musicians who only become successful abroad actually less cool? Is it just harder to get a successful career off the ground in the diminished pop markets of the US and the UK? And does it even matter anymore where you’re successful, when the music industry is in such a fragile state?

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BAMM.tv Featured Artist: Thao And The Get Down Stay Down

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‘Get down, stay down’ may sound like a direct command (imagine your clichéd ‘give me fifty’ drill instructor barking it in your ear) – but such straightforward bludgeoning really isn’t the style of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the San Francisco act who just happen to be BAMM.tv’s new Featured Artist.

This isn’t to say that there’s no immediacy to their music. Thao Nyugen and her mainstay cohort Adam Thompson (the band members have previous included Frank Stewart and Willis Thompson) have crafted a body of work which – while loosely fitting within umbrella terms like alt-rock and folk-rock – opens up with multiple listens to reveal rewarding intricacies, unique vocal and musical flourishes, and melodies within melodies.

You may think you’re getting everything with a surface listen – and an enjoyable surface listen it definitely is – but sentiments like ‘you are a dead man/I just have to shoot the gun’ (‘Body’) and ‘I come back because the punches always hit the same’ (‘Trouble Was For’) show off a beguiling complexity. Think of similar creative multi-taskers like Broken Social Scene, Jim Ward, Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Feist – not a bad line-up to be mentioned alongside – and you’ll be close.

Or, y’know, just listen to them. (click ‘more’ to continue)

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BAMM In-Depth: The Comeback Trail

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Here’s another of our in-depth articles from our London-based correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time, she looks at the increasingly prevalent modern phenomenon of the comeback artist …

Justin Timberlake announced his comeback this year
– yes, JT. Put it this way, the 32-year-old’s first release was back when Dubya had been in power for less than a year and the first dot com bubble had just exploded (‘Like I Love You’, below).

The comeback has always occupied a special place in the world of music. Unlike political comebacks, musical ones rarely the same renewed vigor. You don’t humour a politician (or at least we don’t think we do) but the force of nostalgia is enough to get people excited about a singer or band’s return. We’re never quite sure whether to take it seriously – arguably, we’re even more cynical about musicians’ abilities than we are about those of politicians. Will they be as passionate as they used to be? What if they aren’t as good as we remember? What does that say about us? Worst of all, they remind of us how old we’re getting.

There was a more (or less) cynical time – depending on your point of view – when making a comeback was like doing an encore. Or comebacks were only for the kind of musicians who did encores, who couldn’t get enough, and were willing to spin out the old hits for an unimaginative audience. So what’s changed? It’s a real truism that touring is the only way to generate money – correspondingly many bands have sucked it up and gone touring together, including legendary fall-outs like the Stone Roses (below).

Generally, rock music comebacks have always seemed more dignified. It involves a different kind of struggle, as though they just didn’t want to come back until they were truly inspired. Click on ‘more’ to continue!

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BAMM.tv Featured Artist: Diana Gameros

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Time for another BAMM.tv Featured Artist: a selection of great music, exclusive articles and prize giveaways (among other things) from one of our favorite up-and-coming artists. This month we put San Francisco singer-songwriter Diana Gameros under the spotlight …

Soulfulness is a hard thing to quantify. People are a varied breed, and experience tells us it would be foolish to go all-out and categorise emotional response – music that leaves one listener cold may well prove to save the life of another. Music may be universal but the gamut of reactions works on a far more personal level – an innate form of relativism that both unites and separates us all.

Sometimes, though … sometimes you just have to appreciate the resonance of an artist. Opera may not do it for you, but you can’t help but quiver at the bombastic authority of a tenor or soprano. Heavy rock could well be the last thing you’d listen to, but you’ve have to be a cultural zero-mark not to marvel at a virtuoso guitar solo. As for emotive, Latin-tinged, classical acoustic songwriting? That might be outside your sphere altogether, but – frankly – if you’re not massively moved by the heart-stopping performances of Diana Gameros, then you might as well nail that coffin lid down now.

Luckily – here at BAMM.TV – we are big fans of emotive, Latin-tinged, classical acoustic songwriting. And we’re even bigger fans of the heart-stopping performances of Diana Gameros.

Stick around, and you might just find out why.

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