Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In West Philadelphia....


I have two major influences in my life: Supreme Mathematics & Philadelphia. While it's pretty easy for anyone to recognize that I live out my Culture, it may not be as easy to see how being from philly affects how I see the world. It's not until you get older and have the ability to think back that you see how important location & culture are to developing your self-image. For example, most Black men aren't comfortable with wearing pink hats or pink shirts (That whole Cam thing notwithstanding), b.u.t. due to growing up in philly, I don't think twice about rocking a slightly faded pink polo shirt, due to the influences of my youth. Another example is music: I listen to 70's soul the way some of you listen to R. Kelly (don't all put you hands up at one time!). Another huge influence in Philly is Islam, b.u.t. I'm going to cover that in another post. For know, check out a list I was sent regarding 50 ways you know you're from Philly. This list is for those between 28-35, & even if you're not from the crib, I'm sure that there are things that you can reflect on in your own life of how where you're from partially shaped how you see the world. Feel free to add on...

1. You knew Will Smith when he was The Fresh Prince

2. You think South Street is Philly`s version of The Village

3. You know how to spell Schuylkill River

4. It drives you insane when someone says tennis shoes instead ofsneakers

5. You would BOO your own mom if she made a bad sports play

6. You don`t call a cheesesteak a Philly cheesesteak or a hoagie a sub

7. Seeing The Liberty Bell, and Independence Mall is not a big deal, andyou haven't been since your 6th grade class trip.

8. You own a Power 99 tshirt

9. You know what Power 99 is and remember Carter & Sanborne in the morning....let us not forget Horace the Taurus Pindaurus the THIRD and Rasheeda and her earrings.
9A. You`re an old a** Philadelphian if you remember Stanley T!

10. You know how to scam SEPTA. (I know all of yall have sold your>school tokens!)

11. An Asian person has ever served you shrimp-fried rice, three chicken>wings, a pizza roll and a homemade iced tea.

12. You know what a "Jawn" is


14. You been to club "Dances" at least once.

15. Everybody on the block is "yo cuzzin" even if they`re not related to you.

16. You used to go to the Gallery or South St. in the summer time just to chill.

17. You have a Chinese store on the corner of your block and their wings>put the local KFC out of business.

18. You have carried a City Blue bag to school in place of a book bag.

19. You grew up playin double dutch, KING ball, Catch-A-Girl-Get-A-Girl, House, Red Light Green Light, or playin ball on milk crates.

20. You hate KOBE

21. You know where the "Plat" is.

22. You go all out for Powerhouse like it`s a prom.

23. Ladies: You had an asymmetrical hair cut with parts on the side.Guys: You ever colored your hair and beard Blue Black.

24. The ice cream truck still coming making its rounds at 3 AM.

25. You know what a "TRIZZEY" is! LOL

26. You punctuate every sentence with, "YaMeeeeen" at least twice.

27. You want mayonnaise (and extra) on your "hoagie" not olive oil.

28. You hate the Redskins

29. You hate T.O..
29a. Now you REALLY HATE Dallas.!!

30. You realize that your favorite dessert is "wooder ice".

31. You ever had a hoagie, Chumpies and a red hug for lunch.

32. You pronounce ACME "ACK-A-ME" and Pathmark "Paffmark".

33. Grape Soda is not unusual!

34. You sleep soundly through gunfire and ambulance sirens and are>awaken by crickets.

35. You visit New York and are impressed by how clean it is.

36. You can`t eat french fries without Cheese Whiz.>>37. You call sprinkles on top of your ice cream cone "jimmies".

38. You don`t think Wawa sounds funny.

39. You snub a cheese steak that isn`t on an Amoroso roll.

40. You know who Jim O`Brien is and how he died.

41. You can`t imagine lunch without a Tastykake. (And you rub the tastykake on a flat surface before opening it so the icing doesn't stick to the plastic!)

42. You've purchased jewelry from Fiff Street or Market Street.

43. You vacation at Wildwood

44. You know where to find the Rocky statue.

45. You know that only tourists go to Geno`s, Pat`s and Jim`s for
authentic cheese steaks and you only go if you're drunk and its 3:00am.
45a. You know where the "Let Out" is.
45b. Club McDonald's.....

46. You know what and where "Boathouse Row" is

47. You aren`t a bandwagon Sixers fan. You loved them when they sucked,and before they had A.I.

48. You know that MOVE isn`t some new dance to do when you hear "DA ROOOF DA ROOOOF DA ROOOF IS ON FIYAHHHHHH".

49. You ever drove/walked by Channel 6 when they were doing the weather and beeped/ danced to get on TV.

And finally....50. You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends fromPhiladelphia

Monday, December 18, 2006

Food For Thought


If you read this blog, I'm sure that you're at least somewhat "Conscious" about what you eat. By "conscious", I don't mean vegetarian or vegan or fruitarian; I mean aware of what you eat & what effect it has on your body. For me, it's been a long journey towards my health & nutritional world at the date of this writing. At this point, I consider myself a "healthy" eater, which translates to me observing the dietary laws of the NGE, & maintaining a majority vegetarian diet ( although I enjoy Salmons company very much).

Below is a article from Bloomberg that I found on regarding a study done that people with higher IQ's tend to become vegetarian later in life. Firstly, I have serious doubts about the method used to identify intelligence in our society, and secondly, you have to draw up what conclusions can be drawn from the inferences stated. Check it out, & tell me what you think!

Smartest kids go vegetarian

By Eva von Schaper

Bloomberg News

Children with a higher intelligence quotient at age 10 are more likely to become vegetarians later in life, according to a study published online today by the British Medical Journal.
People with an IQ of 110 were 21/2 times more likely to avoid eating meat, the lead author of the study, Catherine Gale of the University of Southampton, said in a telephone interview. Researchers studied more than 8,000 men and women, and found vegetarians were more likely to be women, belong to a higher social class, and have higher educational degrees.

"If you are bright, you are more likely to understand health information, and more likely to act on it," Gale, a senior research fellow, said.

The results backed up findings that intelligence is associated with lower rates of heart disease.
While their intelligence may allow the vegetarian participants to be more health literate, some vegetarians act on purely ethical reasons when they give up meat, the study said.

The researchers studied participants at age 10, and followed up 20 years later. About 4.5 percent of them said they were vegetarian. Some who classified themselves as vegetarians found it acceptable to eat fish or chicken.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pouring Up

Think about this for a minute: Hip Hop is the American Dream. What I mean by this is although it may have started in the ghetto & represented the underprivileged, it's goal was to make it out & blow up, thus transcending it's environment. Not that this is necessarily wrong, as nobody poor wants to stay poor. It just means that the time will eventually when HH "sells" out, & people shouldn't be as surprised as they are when it happens.

Take HH's relationship to business. In this day & time HH sells everything from gold grills to blunt wraps usually with very little concern as to the social impact or quality of the product. Quick quiz: besides Vitamin Water (Curtis Jackson) (1), name one product that you really want your children or future generations to have? Most of the products that we hawk are specifically designed for us and in many ways continue to reinforce the same behaviors that prove to be counter-productive to our community. Besides Jay-Z (HP commercials) & Diddy (Sean John) most of our products are "ghettoized", if you will.

Which leads me to Champagne. Long the drink of choice the money getters in HH, Champ became the ultimate symbol of style & status, even leading to the absurd (See Damon Dash pouring champ all over women while in a drunken stupor). And while rappers incessantly told us about the cost of the grapes, no one ever told us how good it tasted, or how exclusive that year was. A couple of weeks ago, I read a article in Fast Company ( Branson, the Hip-Hop taste maker who was in the process of securing his own champagne for sale in his wine bar, as well as other locations throughout New York. The article peaked my interest for two reasons:

1) The fact that he's developing a product that falls outside the pale of what we expect from HH- related figures

2) The lack of visible support from artists who benefited from Branson's stature (Jay, Diddy)

I'm posting the article below so that you can see it, and dig what happens when people develop a short memory. I salute the brother Branson for going outside of the norm with his business idea,(2) and not falling victim to the same ol' same ol' with marketing & promoting the product.

Bottled Up

Just When Cristal got kicked out of the party, Hip-hop fixture Branson B. was rolling out his own champagne. So where are his famous friends now? Hey, it's just business.

Hip-hop giveth and hip-hop taketh away. Earlier this year, Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer Champagne, was asked by The Economist whether the hip-hop world's love of its flagship, Cristal, "could hurt the brand." "What can we do?" Rouzaud responded. "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom PÃrignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Chalk up another one for French diplomacy. An indignant Jay-Z, the multiplatinum rapper and Def Jam Records president and CEO, promptly slammed the statement as racist and called for a boycott, triggering a rush of nasty PR for the gold-tone bottle he helped put on the map. No more endorsements in hit songs, no more gauzy close-ups in videos or on red carpets. The embrace that made Cristal the eighth most-mentioned brand in Billboard's Top 20 chart in 2005, according to American Brandstand, was summarily withdrawn.

Cristal will survive, of course. Demand still runs high, even if some of the slack has to be picked up in the less-than-glamorous Chinese and Russian markets. But within hip-hop--and the coveted young demo that follows its cues--what will take its place?

This is the question for Branson B., a Harlem talent manager and entrepreneur with local roots that run about as deep as they get. Branson doesn't rap, but he was once described as "hip-hop's version of the Dalai Lama." Now, with Cristal's implosion, he's looking to become hip-hop's version of Frederic Rouzaud: A self-taught oenophile, Branson has spent years developing his own high-quality champagne and has just begun rolling it out in select venues nationwide.
Branson's venture has all the makings of the perfect entrepreneurial storm. He has name recognition in a champagne-fueled subculture and a new bubbly to bring to market at precisely the moment when the dominant bottle has gone flat. But his story is an object lesson in how hard it can be to build a brand even when you seem to be the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. By his own calculations, Branson has been paid tribute in more than 50 songs over the years. Now he's hoping some of those old friends in the hip-hop community will show up to back one of their own. Hoping and still waiting.

Almost Famous

Long, neat dreadlocks fall across Branson's broad shoulders as he sits beside a line of empty champagne bottles in his Harlem wine bar, which is still under construction. Scattered among the empties are various promotional materials for rap artists and events. One glossy card plugs a DVD documentary on the notorious street thug 50 Cent, whose violent exploits inspired the chart-topping rapper who took his name. Branson narrates the project.
Branson's name, like Cristal's, is a hip-hop staple: It has popped up in hit lyrics from stars such as the Notorious B.I.G., Sean "Puffy/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy" Combs, Mase, Redman, and LL Cool J. It's "like he's a celebrity," says Jimmy Rosemond, CEO of Czar Entertainment and manager of rapper the Game, adding that for out-of-town artists, an audience with Branson is a "status symbol." Fab 5 Freddy, coexecutive producer of VH1's Hip Hop Honors, agrees: "When you go to the top of the food chain, he's a well-known guy."

In fact, Fab 5 Freddy and other industry insiders credit Branson with having triggered rap's champagne craze in the first place in the early to mid-nineties, when he'd show up at recording sessions or other events with a few bottles of his latest favorite. But Branson is not your typical upturned-pinkie connoisseur. The lyrics about him tend to be of the "smoke a little Branson inside the mansion" variety (he's quick to point out that "I don't control the lyrical content, I don't control the artist"). And his reputation in the neighborhood goes back decades, to its most storied hip-hop incubator, the Rooftop Roller Rink. He has since managed artists including major R&B star Christopher Williams and the influential producer and Jodeci member DeVante Swing. He had his own record label for a while and later worked on another with Andy Hilfiger (brother of Tommy). For more than 20 years, his candy store, the Sugar Bowl, was an uptown landmark.
Branson's love of champagne led him downtown, however, to Manhattan's finer wine shops; with their guidance, his fascination evolved into an obsession. "He was always exploring different champagnes," says J.R. Battipaglia, manager of Garnet Wines & Liquors in Manhattan, who has known Branson as a customer for more than 15 years. "He wasn't a label buyer."

Branson says it took a good decade before it occurred to him to go into the business. He gravitated toward the rare but unsung "grower-producer" champagnes--those grown and bottled on one estate--and when he first expressed interest in importing some by the acclaimed Guy Charlemagne, Battipaglia was surprised but jumped to help. He put Branson in touch with Jeanne-Marie de Champs, who represents some of the top estates in Burgundy, as well as Guy Charlemagne. "He has a personality that we are maybe not used to in France," de Champs chuckles, "but it's great." She agreed to broker an introduction overseas.

So, more than two years before the Cristal controversy even broke, Branson journeyed to the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, in the Champagne region, for the nearly three-month-long process of selecting grapes for three wines. He sweated through the rules and regulations imposed on new businesses by the French government and the region's hyperzealous governing body. (The laws, de Champs notes, "are very strict. You cannot do what you want, how you want, or what kind of label you want.") He fought off a challenge to his trademark from another company that claimed Branson's name was too similar. He created his own sleek, understated logo for the label and secured a New York State broker's license to buy and sell alcohol.
After three and a half years and an investment he puts in the mid six figures, Branson had three bottles of his own: a blanc de blanc/brut reserve, a brut rose, and a special 2000 vintage, now available as "Guy Charlemagne selected by Branson B." Retail cost: $40, $43, and $65, respectively, or roughly a quarter the retail cost of a bottle of Cristal, which can run $800 or far more in some nightclubs.

Brand Flash

"There are two realities in champagne," explains Roberto Rogness, general manager of Santa Monica's Wine Expo and a commentator on the industry for NPR and MSNBC. "It's almost exactly like the music industry. Over here is pop music and over there is the music you want to listen to." Powerhouses like LVHennesseyt Hennessy Louis Vuitton), the world's largest producer of luxury goods, dominate the game with millions in marketing muscle, while the best small vineyards in Champagne remain all but invisible despite arguably superior--and definitely cheaper--products. "You have always been able to buy our bottles of better champagne than Cristal for the same money," Rogness says flatly.
"I'm not going to lie. I'd love nothing more than for Jay-Z to stand up and say, 'Hey, I'm drinking Branson B. now.' That would be wonderful, and help sell the product."
In other words, the champagne hierarchy is no meritocracy, and the rest of the $23 billion U.S. wine market is no different. Fab 5 Freddy and others point out that rappers are expanding into wine and liquor just as they moved into apparel following Russell Simmons's striking success with Phat Farm. Meanwhile, the rise of bottle service in large clubs has made them far more influential as distribution and promotion channels--making brand flash a critical component of sales.

Both trends--rappers' entry into the wine-and-spirits business and the use of clubs to promote brands--are being built into the entire product-development strategy. For example, David McCallen, CEO of Straight Up Brands Inc., a publicly traded company, is launching a sparkling wine called Wave with rapper Foxy Brown, as well as other beverages with Ja Rule and DJ Clue. According to McCallen, because Foxy is signed to Def Jam, Jay-Z has agreed to host Wave's launch this winter, "appear around the product with her," carry it in his 40/40 Clubs, and include a promotional insert in her new CD.

The quality of the wine isn't the main point--it's all about placement and cross-promotion. McCallen stresses that deals like Foxy's aren't endorsement deals. The artist "owns a piece of the brand" and shares in revenue as a creative partner (he puts the profits on wine products at around 35% to 40%, and up to 100% on spirits). "We give them signing bonuses, just like a record deal," he explains. "I want the artist to literally work [the name] into their songs, rap about it, have it in their videos. It's all product placement." After Busta Rhymes released his hit "Pass the Courvoisier" in 2001, that tipple saw a 30% sales increase.
"This is a fit for [rap artists] from a product point of view," McCallen adds. "I mean, they're shameless promoters . So it's not a disconnect for them to rap about a liquor deal, a liquor product that they own. It's spot on."

The Shepherd

And then there's Branson, with his studiously chosen grapes, his understated bottle, his legit French label and trademark. For Branson, the quality of the wine is the point. But as wine merchant Battipaglia knows all too well from the retail side, grower-producer champagnes like Branson's, outstanding as they may be, have struggled here. "Americans, I would say, are very label conscious," he says, adding that Branson is "really working hard to get exposure. I think he initially thought it would have been a little easier."

Up at his as-yet-nameless bar in Harlem, Branson gives voice to a classic business quandary: "I don't want to pigeonhole myself to the rap community and be like, 'Hey, this is a rap champagne,'" he says. "I'd like the support of the hip-hop audience, but I'd like the hip-hop audience to be educated and aware and conscious of what they're drinking." In other words, he's serious about this stuff. And that has always been his way. "When Puff and other people in hip-hop were young and just about to do it, they were very inspired by Branson and his tastes," says Fab 5 Freddy. "Branson is a very intelligent, very aware tastemaker. He's one of those shepherds."
Wouldn't you think, then, that a guy with so much legend behind him would have the hip-hop community rallying, eager to put forward one of its own?

Branson mentions having sent some samples with a personal note in early 2006 to Jay-Z's 40/40 Club in Manhattan. He and Jay-Z aren't close, but they know each other socially through a mutual friendship with the late Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. Branson worked for Biggie as a consultant during portions of his multiplatinum career, which was cut short in 1997 in a still-unsolved homicide.

Though he's built like a linebacker, Branson comes across tonight like a self-possessed yet world-weary professor. "I mean, I'm not going to lie. I'd love nothing more than for Jay-Z to stand up and take a position and say, 'Hey, I'm drinking Branson B. now.' That would be wonderful, and that would help sell the product." After Jay-Z cited Krug--hardly a brand known for its uptown cred--as an alternative to Cristal, it saw "a nice sales increase," acknowledges Emily Cohen, Krug's New York--based senior brand manager (she says she can't link the two events, but Wine Expo's Rogness says he also noticed a spike--and does attribute it to Jay-Z's plug). Jay-Z didn't respond to repeated requests for comment about whether he would support Branson's new venture.

Combs, too, is nowhere in sight. Czar Entertainment's Rosemond says Branson's role in advising and building up Biggie was "definitely one of the components" of Combs's own ascent. ("So Branson, pass me a jar cuz these cats done went too far," he raps on one track.) For months, however, Branson has been hearing that Combs was considering launching his own champagne. "You know, it's funny," Branson says, without laughing or smiling, "here I am trying to do something, and now he's trying to do it." He adds, "Puffy and I had a good relationship for a lot of years, and I used to share champagne with him, but I wouldn'tÂ… ." His voice trails off. "I know that I had some kind of impact in his life, but I don't know if he would admit it.

"You know what I've learned?" he adds. "Everybody remembers different things."
Combs also refused to say whether he intended to support Branson's champagne--or compete with it. Fab 5 Freddy is sure he and Jay-Z will do their part (Combs owns a number of popular restaurants as well). "Oh, absolutely. It's just a matter of time, if it hasn't happened already." He relays that Combs tried some of Branson's label earlier this year and enjoyed it.

Then, in October, the rapper Nas was quoted talking about the possibility of "Diddy/Nas champagne." A week or so later, a Jay-Z video appeared shilling for Armand de Brignac, a champagne with a gold-plated bottle and an ace-of-spades-shaped label. The company's CEO insisted there was no financial arrangement with Jay-Z but complimented him on having "the highest standards and finest taste."
Maybe it's not about community, after all.

Bubble Up

Dining in a slick Murray Hill lounge one mild fall evening, Branson seems more upbeat than he did at his wine-bar-in-progress. Honey lounge in New York has signed on to carry Branson B., and the exclusive Cain clubs are thinking about it. Megu has added it to the wine lists at its tony Japanese restaurants in Trump Towers and Tribeca (Tribeca's list is a Wine Spectator award winner). Platinum-selling rapper the Game recently wrote Branson B. Champagne into the performance rider for his upcoming world tour. Momentum is coming Branson's way.

"I'm happy being creative," Branson remarks. "I'm happy doing things, making things happen, having ideas, and seeing them manifest." Asked about the days of dropping by while Biggie was in the studio, he recalls being present the night "Rap Phenomenon" was put down on wax. "We're sitting in there, we're listening to the track, and then he just spits my name as part of the lyrical flow. You know, everybody turns and looks at you, but at the same time, it's not about you. It's about how it fits, it works, and it all feels good.
"I didn't know he was going to do that," Branson adds, sounding humbled.
Only recently did Branson decide to track down all the songs that have included his name and document them. The sheer volume took him by surprise. "I don't think there's another person who isn't an entertainer or star who has been mentioned more than myself in the lyrical content of this music," he muses.

"That, I guess, is building a brand."

1 - Who woulda thunk it?

2 - Everybody in HH starts a Vodka or Congac, and when the trend ends, they're left holding the bag

Friday, December 08, 2006

Outta Control


There's been alot going on, so on this day of Build/Destroy, it's my will to touch on a number of things that caught my eye over the last couple of days. Walk w/me:

- Iraq sure turned out to be Bush's Vietnam, didn't it? To make matters worse, he won't move with 2 of the main recommendations made by his pop's homeboys (aka The Iraq Study Group), lest he appear to be capitulating to the demands of those who slouch away from fighting for the freedom of people the world over (good mimicry, right?)

- My beloved city of Power Allah (Philadelphia) is outta control. The city is on record to have more murders than days in the year, & of course most of the casualties are young Black men. Earlier this week, there was a shooting outside the fist movie theater opened in North Philadelphia in 60 years, & a 17 year old was arrested for attempted murder. This may come off as conservative or whatever, b.u.t. we have very serious environmental & cultural issues when a 17 year old takes it into his own hands to take someone off of the planet. No amount of marches or symposiums will handle this issue, & while music itself is only one aspect of the landscape, a steady diet of "Murder Murder Kill Kill Homicide"

- On this subject, two weeks ago, there was an article done in the New York Times Sunday Magazine regarding the No Child Left Behind (Also known as the Poor Ghetto Children Still Left Behind) act, expectations, and socialization. The article highlighted studies done that point to a child's early socialization being the biggest factor in preparation for school. Specifically, the studies focused the amount of "utterances" that children hear that assist them in wiring their brains for language & idea comprehension, and the amount of affirmative vs. Negative or disparaging statements that children hear. While all of the issues in education can't be thrown out due to this study, I can't help but think about all of the young girls that I see out in the street who spew out negative comments to their children on a daily basis. Inadvertently, they could be wiring their children for failure. With that said, think about all of the negative that our babies hear on a daily basis, that can possibly impact their psychology and view on the world.

- HH is increasingly becoming outta control (in a real way). From violence at events (BARS Awards & Mixtape Awards), to the petty (b.u.t. funny) disputes that are popping up everywhere (see: young buck & gillie vs. lil wayne), the streets are beginning to affect the industry in a negative fashion. The new rift that is developing is based upon ageism, and developed out of the NY vs. the South "pork" (cause it's worse than beef).

Case in point 1: Weezy's diatribe regarding Jigga. In a sense, the fans and the magazines are to blame (along with the drugs) because they allowed him to continue with this "greatest rapper alive" garbage for a couple of years now. It was only a few years ago that he wanted to be on DJ with Jay-Z, so why the turnaround? The inference that Jay had to come back to "save" HH, when in the eyes of Wayne it's doing just fine as it is.

Case in point 2: Jeezy's diatribe against Nas. This one's a little deeper, & points to the framework for how people understand HH. To Jeezy, he IS HH, so how could it be dead? Hip Hop for him (and others of his ilk) getting paid & telling his story (In that order). to him, it has nothing to do w/ the 4 Elements or consciousness or anything else (outside of being a "real nigga"). In a way, I can't blame him, if only for this reason: Let's say that the most influential time for you to hear HH is between 11-15 years old. If your 32, the most influential artists would have been Run-Dmc, LL, Rakim, BDP, and so on. If you're 25, then the most influential artists would be Dre, Snoop, Biggie, Jay, & Pac, as they were the biggest artists during that time frame.

Now, the artists that I named as influencers for the younger crowd all looked up to the artists I mentioned earlier(Even 5-0 says that his favorite rapper is Rakim), b.u.t. took the music (as well as resulting culture) in another direction that made no mention of the foundation . For example, how many young people know that Jay's "Aint no Nigga" took the beat from an EPMD song? Or that BIG's interlude on Life After Death was a direct knock-off of P.S.K.? Or for a more modern example, how many kids (or adults) knew that Jay's "Girls, Girls, Girls" was a old-school chorus? By the time the kids got the music, there were no traces of the culture, only the music and money.

Case in point 3: Lupe Fiasco. In one of his responses to a negative review of his album, he mentioned that he didn't own one tribe album. If you so-called savior of beats & rhymes doesn't know the basics, then what do you expect out of the others?

All of yall get a grip. It ain't what it was, and never will be, as all things must change. If they want HH to be alive, put out good HH.

- Damon Dash is seeming to be outta control. On Kays Slay's satellite show earlier this week, Larry Davis called in from the injustice and stated the following, among other things:
1) Dash is a liar
2) Dash stole the SP logo from Beans
3) Dash is trying to get paid off of LD's life story without his permission
4) Jay left him because he doesn't do good business
5) Dash drained Rocawear

now, while only they know the true story, I'll say this: It's kinda odd that Dame doesn't get down with anyone anymore. No Beans, no Nore, no Jay, no nobody. I kinda looked at it like he got the bum deal, b.u.t. it appears that he may have been giving out the bum deals. He doesn't even seem to be involved in any Diplomat business, which is strange unless they know something that the general public doesn't.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Won/Lost Ones

(Jay-Z Won/Jay-Z Lost)


If it isn't already apparent, I'm very interested in the intersection of Hip-Hop, Economics, & Society. For that reason, Rocafella Records always stood out as an example of the bridge between good business and quality art. No matter where you stood on the subject matter, it was obvious that there was care & effort put into Jay-Z's music. As far as business practices, RR always seemed to see beyond the pitfall and traps of HH economics (e.g. Demanding true ownership vs. Being the owner of a "vanity" label).

However, by the time the play ended, Jay, Biggs, & Dame broke up, the music started to suffer, and RR served as yet another example of HH relationships gone bad.

What Happened?

Well in a nutshell, Jay-Z won & Jay-Z lost. Below, I will explain how he could do both at the same time.

How Jay-Z Won
When RR first broke up, I looked at the conflict as 2 different business styles, with Jay leaning towards corporate partnerships & Dame charting a course of serial entrepreneurship. At that time, I saw the differences as surface. Now, we know the cause was precipitated by Jay feeling that Dame's business whims (signing everyone w/ pulse, a foray into movies, buying pro-keds) were destroying the brand. Additionally with Steve (Puffy don't break my neck) Stoute at his side, Jay began moving into uncharted waters as far as HH, Marketing, & Brand Identity, Jay didn't have as much need for the aggressive, loud-talking Dash. One other thing that put the nail in the coffin was that many of Jay's business partners (Stoute, Lyor Cohen) weren't too fond of the way that Dash got busy.

When Jay-Z & friends threw Dash out of the matrix, I thought it was a pretty cold move to do to a person that you got paid with for the last 7 years. In reality, Dash was left without a home & without a identity due to being pushed out of RR. Most of the artists on Rocafella went with Jay, leaving Dash with Rell, Sizzla, & Beans (Who has since left dash). After being thrown under the bus, Dash tried to start his own thing, to no avail. Fast forward to 2006: Jay sells 700,000 units first week out, & Dash is more known for doing reality shows & stalking Jay. Also, for all those who are into this sort of thing, Jay's promo push is the last of the mohicans as far as the big corporate variety (More on Steve-o Stoute in another post). Right now, Jay is on top of the world, & Dash is most known for being bitter & his wife's budding fashion career. In this way, Jay won.

Jay Z Lost

Although Jay's on top of the world in one sense, in another way, he's tarnishing his legacy & image. Although Kingdom Come sold well, it will go down as one of his least well received albums from a critical perspective. When listening, you can't help but see the Jordan in him (post-Bulls,that is).

Kingdom Come finds Hov in a zone where he wants to show the world he's got it, b.u.t. make it look effortless at the same time. Instead of leaving when he (& his squad) were on top, he comes back to show that he's the best that ever did it (A title he's been chasing since HH memorialized Big as the best thing since the Hula Hoop). In this sense, I like to compare Jay/Mike with Bird. Bird knew when it was time to roll and did it gracefully, moving to the front office so that his career in basketball could take it's natural course. We don't have any Larry Legend's in HH because unfortunately, it's a bit too ego driven for that. Rapper are always forced out after their prime by a new generation (HH eats it's young & it's elders).

I do applaud him for trying to create a new zone in HH, if you will: The "Old Head" HH album. You know, the HH album for older grown & sexy, upwardly mobile types. If you're going to do that, you have to be consistent: You can't talk it, and then do bad odes to strippers ( True Old Heads are much more discreet & subtle). The other thing about KC is the preoccupation with "Young Niggas". Instead of leading without having to lead, he tries to bully the youth into taking his lead,however beneficial that road may be.

Which leads me to his issue with Jim "The Workman" Jones. You see, although Jones is outwardly flashy & arrogant, in reality, he's a hard worker with alot of initiative and drive who's taken himself from hypeman to star in his own right. He also actualized what no other rapper was able to do: create a true "movement" based on gang affiliation (The Red Team) & pavement pounding. Say what you will about his music, b.u.t. the diplomats are one of the few NY crews that have country-wide appeal. Jones has been the most outspoken in coming at Jay for sometime because in the eyes of the constituents that Jones serves (New York & Youth), the legend of Jay-Z lost some of it's luster. Along the way Jones manages to come up with a hit song, only increasing his visibility & annoying Jay even more. So now Jay finds himself in a battle of sorts with a moderately talented rapper who keeps firing shots. What does he do?

He makes a diss song over Jones's song, which only shows that he's as vulnerable as people think he is. If you are truly above the fray, then you shouldn't be pulled in by Jim of all people. On the other side, if it was a publicity stunt, then o' how the mighty have fallen. Either way, it's a lose-lose situation that he never should
have put himself in.

Finally, there's this thing about being the president of Def Jam. Without hating or anything, the question has to be asked: How can you run the label & record an album at the same time? Doesn't that seem like a huge conflict of interest where you'll turn in two half-assed efforts instead of one good one? How can a president be focused on the strategic plan for the label when the focus is on a huge corporate rollout for your own album? You can't be the president & be on your own tour at the same time. On the real, Jay had to do this album to make the numbers look right for Def Jam this year with a strong 4th Q push, in the face of a steadily declining market share for his company. In doing so, he has sacrificed the artists on the label, many of whom came to DJ because he was going to run the ship.

The best thing Jay could do for HH at this point is to prove that we can manage it just as well as we do it in a changing marketplace. In a interview Jigga noted "70,000 is the new 150,000"m b.u.t. if we buy that, how in the hell did you sell 700,000? The same way it was done in the past: promotion, marketing, & product placement. I don't knock the hustle, I knock the application