Tuesday, April 06, 2010

#24: "TAKE IT PERSONAL"

Gang Starr
"Take It Personal"
Daily Operation
1992

By 1992, Gang Starr was still a duo on the come-up. With two albums under their belt, they still had yet to reach true greatness but it would be the first single off their third record that would catapult them into the conversations with Eric B. and Rakim, EPMD, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock (you awake?). "Take It Personal," originally a B-side to "2 Deep" in Europe, was a clear standout on Operation--impressive given an album that featured "BYS," "Ex Girl to the Next Girl" and "I'm the Man."

Led by the single greatest breakbeat in the history of hip hop (Skull Snaps "It's a New Day") and seasoned with simplistic bloops, bleeps and a three-tone piano loop, DJ Premier's innate abilities just ooze off the record. And it wouldn't had been enough for Premier to simply loop the Skull Snaps. He added a four rapid-fire bass kicks at the beginning of the sequence, threw a snare crash on top of the top of the loop and then fortified it with this incredible trunk-rattling low-end that did nothing but induce endless headnodding (original drum break). Those minute modifications for maximum return are what made Primo one of the greatest. He knew that every break wasn't perfect, but also realized that they were a few appropriate improvements from greatness. What he did with the original break is like whipping cream. It starts out liquidous and then, through constant agitation, it thickens. Skull Snaps never sounded this good.

And, for what a Guru verse is (an emotionless, monotone snore), his verses on "Take It Personal" actually fit. He spits a verse of regret at his former lover who broke his heart, then challenges every young rappers and lastly sprays haters with a short scathing (by Guru terms) third verse. Then, the track fades before he can do any damage. And, as much as I hate on Guru, what they accomplish on "Personal" is the perfect Gang Starr track. It's like a moment in time that is undeniably dope and worthy of #24 on this list.

Friday, March 26, 2010

#26: "INCARCERATED SCARFACES" / #25 "LIQUID SWORDS"

Man, you're getting a mad bonus tonight. Normally, I don't write much on Fridays. Of late, I haven't been writing much at all. But tonight, we're gonna blow the dust off of this thing. We need to get back to business. Don't call it a comeback....

We need to revisit the greatest 33 hip hop recordings of all time.


It would make sense that we'd do a two-fer tonight given the fact that numbers 26 and 25 are both Wu-fam and were both released in one of the last great years of the Wu...1995.


We'll start with "Incarcerated Scarfaces" by Raekwon.



Make no mistake, as an album, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is as legit and definitive albums to ever come from the Wu stables. Top-to-bottom, Cuban Linx is an insane and dashing account of Shaolin's street life. "Knuckleheadz" and "Criminology" build a dog-eat-dog landscape and, musically, it ventered where few Wu recordings had to this date in 1995. It was gloss. It was hustle. It put money to the operation and turned that fat into muscle. If Meth was the drug element, GZA and RZA provided the martial arts and Eastern philosophy element, Raekwon, then, was the criminal element. His songs were paintings of sometimes a brutal and harsh existence where status is hard to earn, everything can be bought and nothing is free.

I received a copy of it on CD as a last second birthday present. Upon first listen, it sliced and diced like previous Wu releases, but offered a fantastically varied lyrical construction. Less were the cryptic prose. They were replaced with unfiltered reality. Black and white. Blood red and green cash money. It was more Kool G Rap than any other Wu production and "Incarcerated Scarfaces" was the standout.

With a Detroit Emerald hi-hat as the backbone, RZA's sparse yet effective beat provides the perfect effect for Rae's pitbull delivery. Rae's blazing verses on "Scarfaces" are probably his most scathing and ferocious verses ever put down. His high point didn't last long, but it lasted long enough to give us this street rap masterpiece. Raekwon would rarely match the prose exhibited on "Scarfaces." It was a defining moment in his life as a solo artist that would never be fully reached again.

Not to be outdone, though, is "Liquid Swords" by the GZA.



"Liquid Swords" fully exposed Wu's fu-fascination. Moving from the grime and gloss of "Scarfaces" to a more menacing, dark and theatrical plane, RZA takes as swipe at two bars of Willie Mitchell's "Groovin'", loops it and "Liquid Swords" was born. And while RZA's production seemed infinitely effortless during this period (1993-1995), so too was the ease in which GZA would construct his lyrical assault. "Liquid Swords", lyrically, is much like an emcee delivering a serious of roundhouses and leg sweeps. GZA's prowess as an emcee is first and finally realized as he's given full verses to expand on his styles greater than on his first solo outing (released on Cold Chillin' before the days of the Wu) and Enter the 36 Chambers. His delivery is poised, unphased, focused.

My minimum table stacks verse on a gamble. Energy felt once the cards are dealt with the impact of roundhouse kicks from black belts that attack the mic-phones like cyclones or typhoon. I represent from midnight to high noon.

With GZA's ferocious mic handling and RZA's sinister production, "Liquid Swords" is the essential representation of Wu's finest output.

Now, for the lowdown, we're gonna start blowing through this list because it's possible that in the coming weeks, The Root Down will be going through some transformation or even elimination and regeneration. This blog as you know it might be disappearing and reappearing as something else. Clock's ticking. I got 24 more songs before we unveil the GREATEST SONG IN HIP HOP HISTORY.

Ya'll be good to your neighbor.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

OBSERVATIONS FROM SXSW

It's no longer about the independent artist. It's about Motorhead, Muse and the Black Keys and the independent artists fending for themselves.

Austin's much bigger than people give it credit for being when you're on foot.

Apparently, it's okay for a shuttle driver to halt his shift with patrons in his shuttle to get Burger King and not use the drive-thru but rather leave his van in the parking lot running.

Hype can sell anything to itself. Even truly atrocious music.

I can stay up til 3AM listening to music, but only once a decade.

Barbecue. Oh, how I love thee.

Those Darlins are incredible, but be prepared for Gallegher-like projectiles if you're sitting on the front row. Sometimes that projectile is love.

The festival itself is like walking through the internet without a pop-up blocker.

I'd say that, in Texas, no steak is worth $40, however, I found one worth $38. And asparagus is dang tasty.

People still dance like idiots. Some of them are actors named Bill Murray.

People still don't bathe. Seriously, if you can afford a wristband to this festival, how can you not afford running water and a bar of soap?

I can sunburn in Texas. It hadn't happened in probably 15 years, but it did this last weekend.

Absolutely no one cares about UT basketball.

J-Bird, nice guy.

People Under the Stairs are as good live as everyone says they are. Thes One is a beast. A tad corny, but all hip hop is a tad corny these days.

I am no longer the only one that likes Stones Throw. Five years ago, that crowd would've been half the size. Good to see what they do live, though.

Moshing has certainly improved from when I was a kid. They do cartwheels now.

Waterloo is way too proud of their vinyl.

Dr. Dog is dope. Thanks, Dale and Sarah.

Kia's are maybe a better car than I gave them credit for being. Still, though, they're a Kia.

Cab rides to Dale's house cost $42.50 from I-35 and 183. Thanks for spotting me, Webbs.

I don't know their new stuff from their old stuff. You're talking to the wrong guy.

People drink entirely too much Red Bull.

Austin is a difficult city to run in. But fun.

Five days is way too long to be away from my pregnant and lovely wife.

When the industry should be at its sharpest, it dulls out and drinks until it passes out. Only the diligent, the persistant and the hungry will survive, the rest will wake up two decades from now musing on about how they "remember selling cassettes and LPs."

And, just so you know, when you wanna play me new music, don't say that you're looking for "digital to take the lead on this record" when, collectively, you're only talking to about .05% of the digital market.

And, also just so you know, digital music will not save your job. It will chop off all of the industry's access weight and fat with the accuracy of a hatchet.

Maybe I should've drank entirely too much Red Bull.

I guess people from Texas just don't know who Rap-a-Lot was. Suppose I haven't done my job.

The Root Down needs a showcase.

Mole (as in mol-e'), when done right, is straight gangsta.

When you see TV comedians on the street, they actually appear quite haunting. They look mean as all hell. Todd Barry and Doug Benson being two prime examples.

Austinites don't know how to deal with real weather.

30 minutes is the perfect length for a set. If you don't have a 30-minute version of your set, than you're not a real performer.

General Electrics are dope. Too bad only about 20 people left Austin realizing this.

The bums in Austin are actually quite nice. Largely. Few exceptions.
Never seen so many $3000 guitars under one roof. When they're all $3000, what makes them so special?

I don't wanna join Greenpeace, dude. I made a horrible mistake stopping for a second to listen to you. I should've faked a conversation on my cell. That usually works. But I don't wanna join Greenpeace. It's not that I don't believe in the ocean, but I live so far in-land, I'm not sure that I'm your target. I don't even live remotely close (I'm talking about 45 minutes) to a single body of water of any significance. Go hound someone else.

Hip hop sucks in 2010.

SXSW makes the keyboard look really fun to play!

Parking is hell in Austin and, for some reason, I feel that's truly the way they want it.

Trade shows suck. What an archaic concept.

I'm paranoid of crowds, but what sweet sound they make in unison. The low murmur of a crowd is like a symphony to my ears.

Shelby Lynne is one sexy woman. I mean that with great respect to my lovely wife. I think she would've agreed. She talks like a sailor though and gargles Lone Star.

The Lions rock my face off. Even though they weren't at their very best. They killed it.

Hate Blackberries. By the time I need one, I hope they're no more.

Not sure there's anything greater to a thirsty patron than $3 Heineken tallboys.

Dude, $10 a CD is not a "super super sweet deal," but $2.50 is maybe a little too sweet.

People still celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Who woulda known? Perhaps everyone forgot though that it's a holy day.

Sometimes it's just better to hold your pee until you get back to the hotel.

I don't know another Motorhead song besides "Ace of Spades."

Maybe that Greenpeace fella should target SXSW for all of the trees they killed for their Directory of Events. That thing is a phone book that's 35-40% advertisements for all their corporate sponsors.

People will stand in line for six hours to see the Black Keys. Namely Sarah and Dale. But, then again, they got to sit right next to them on stage. Because that's how they do it.

Next year, shave a day off.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

PUSHIN' WEIGHT

About to turn over my Larry Bird-thday (big ol' #33). Kinda a weird feeling. Not sure yet what it feels like. I'll get back to you on Monday. Told my grandmother about my upcoming birthday and she asked how old I was going to be and then said, "My gosh. That'd make your brother 35." Like how until my grandmother said that, I always saw being the youngest as a bad thing. All the sudden, I realized at least I'm not my brother's age. Sorry, bro.

I'm quickly coming to the realization that my life is going to drastically change this year. I'm gonna be a different man this time next year. When you have a young'n on the way, that anxiety is a kinda mix between game day being down three games to none in a seven game series and Christmas morning. Last night, I had dinner with my lovely wife and we just relaxed and talked. You forget sometimes that it's two of you going through it because the experience is so dynamically different for the carrier (her) and non-carrier (me). It's weird. My lovely wife's a champ. B'lee dat. She's doing good.


Settling in on two names. Ellison for a girl. Kyler for a boy. As beautiful as Ellison is for a girl, it's not in the name book that has 60,000 names. Guess that kinda means that we picked a truly original name. It seems like those books have everything. You could name your kid "Superturd" and it's in there. It means "brave" and "brown." My lovely wife was concerned about the kid growing up (if it's a girl named Ellison) and always asking what they're name meant and being that it's not in the book, we'd have to break it to her that her name doesn't have a meaning. I say that's garbage because I swear that if there's no meaning for a name, they just say it means "great leader" or "one of great beauty." Yeah, okay. We'll just tell her "Ellison" means "ballbuster" because we think it sounds like a politician's name. The first female president.


My lovely wife prefers I don't use the word "female" because it sounds like I've spent time in prison.


I've found myself concerned about what kinda music you raise your child on. Guess I'll answer that when I get there. Right behind how you change a diaper without dry heaving and how you navigate a screaming episode in public places. Ah, this is gonna be killer. Might need to create a "baby-proof" playlist which includes clean hip hop, African funk, James Brown and Charles Mingus.


I'm cancelling my gym membership. I hate that place. I was thinking the only reason I would keep the membership is to use the racquetball courts, but they're always overrun with sweaty old men running into walls. The weight area is like a prison yard. The treadmills feel like they're one loose screw from falling apart underneath you. And the whole place smells like sock. Even with the westerly wind that smells like a cow's butthole, I'd still take the outdoors over that place anyday.


Getting ready for South By Southwest (SXSW for the inclined or just "South By" to the really cool kids). I only remember going to SXSW about six years ago. I was a new music buyer. Thought I knew everything in the world. It was back when you went down there as a vacation from your day job. Now, we're going down there and landing meetings. Talk shop. Drum up some business somehow. Kinda wondering why retailers haven't been doing this for years. The industry convention is a joke, an embarrassment. No one wants to go. Those that do just bitch and complain and never arrive at solutions, leading to their own quick extinction. Hoping to see the Duke and Sarahsmile while I'm down there. Some serious showcases also. Duck Down's 15th Anniversary show, Rhymesayers, Stones Throw (head explodes). Mad decent.


I'm giving up on new music. There's no good music. But I got a set of these Fela reissues from Tara. They're serious. Serious. I'm glad I got rid of about 60% of my music. I haven't missed a single album yet. Weird how that is. Here, for nearly 10 years, I'm practically hoarding music and then with my back against the wall, a baby on the way and a collection that would make most people's head explode, my tolerance peaked. There was no sense in it anymore. Do I wish I got more than I did for it? Sure. After you took out the promos, I could only sell a few hundred. Wish I got about $10,000 for this stuff, but reality is that I needed it to be about $350. I needed it to be so little so I could realize that the crap I hold on to often only has value to me and not necessarily to anyone else. It's just the way it is.

Sure was nice being the hook up for a small group of music lovers.

Went for a run yesterday with Gary and Mason. First time out with Gary. He picked me up and then picked up Mason. Felt like I was probably the most experienced distance runner out of us as we made the drive out to Gary's in-laws property. It's an area just north of town called Bishop Hills. Now, Bishop Hills is a little secluded community of large ranch houses, big yards, winding streets with some moderately sized hills. Certainly nothing that I was too concerned about. I've done hills.

We get out there to his in-laws place and it's a bonofied ranch. There ain't no streets. Dirt roads, homie. Not to show any unnecessary worry, I just kinda went along with it. I wanted to do dirt roads anyway as I transition into the last two months of my Warrior Dash training. I figured it was one of those situations that certainly wasn't life or death and any potential consequence couldn't possibly be so dire that I should speak up in protest. Just roll with it. When Gary hoped out of the car, he's decked out in running gear, tosses me a GPS watch so we can track our distance and pace. Sweet. Dude came prepared.

I'm a gear guy. I respond to gear. If people got gear, it says something to me about their level of aptitude. When we're out at the softball fields, I respond differently to the guy who walks up with the batbag that you wear like a backpack and the bats stick out the top like two swords that can draw at any moment to slay a dragon than the guy who shows up in cut-off jean shorts dragging an aluminum bat with athletic tape wrapped around the handle and a nylon hat that reads "I Love Iowa!" When I saw Gary, he was that cat with the dual-bat backpack, the nice cleats, wristbands that came all the way up his forearm and the face of a killer. He was ready to do this.

Just roll with it. I keep telling myself.

He starts us walking down this hill wandering past small yucca plants, some mesquite trees. It's that harsh canyon land of the north panhandle. Not really farmable. It's a harsh land. Littered with rocks, gravel, horse turds. Gary says, "We'll just take this path up the way here," and begins pointing over the ridge and I'm sitting here looking for the "path" he's referring to. I don't even see the path. This is gonna be fun.

Before I could raise my hand like the dumb kid in class, we were off. Gary damn near disappears. This cat's hauling ass. I fire up to keep up with him. I immediately go into laborious breathing. This is hard. Gary breaks off at one point to go lock the gate we came through and he still catches up with us down the trail. This dude is a machine.

At one point, I check the watch and it reveals that we're pulling about 7:15-7:30 miles. Now, I'm topping out at 8:05. I'm actually keeping up with him on these trails...probably just because he's letting me. He's bouncing up and down these rocky paths with the agility of a col' panther. I'm working with the agility of a large gorilla with a gimp foot. My lungs are on fire. I feel like my assessment of this not being a life-or-death situation was probably wrong. I could die out here.

I don't even know where Mason is. I'm wondering if he's alive. His breathing was over my shoulder at one point and I could sense it getting further and further away. We come around the rim of this canyon and Gary pulls up to wait for us. It was the one mile mark. Gary plots out the rest of our route from the top of the canyon. I'm thinking this guy's insane.

Before you know it, the three of us are dashing down into the canyon. On a decline, Gary fires up to about 5:00 mile pace. That's blinding speed. And he's doing this as he's jumping off of rocks, dodging thorny plants, horse crap, avoiding animal holes. The faster I run, the less visible the path is because my point of view is rattling so bad. It's like I can't hold my head still long enough to see what's in front of me. I'm almost running blind just to keep up.

We do another mile or so and Gary pulls up to wait for all of us to catch up. We start talking the run to this point and I tell him that it's so very different than what I was used to from training for the maraton and he asks me what marathon I ran. I tell him White Rock in Dallas and turns out that he ran it too this last December.

Also come to find out that he did it an hour and a half faster than me. That's fast.

Also come to find out that he's done White Rock about three times.

And he's done another marathon and many half marathons.

And he's actually done a few triathalons. Which he actually prefers to just running marathons.

That would probably explain why he looks like he's chisled from stone and has the land speed of a cheetah on methamphetamines. Yeah, most experienced distance runner out of us? Yeah right. That'd be Gary.

Our last leg, ended with Gary sprinting up the rim of the canyon as Mason and I watched along from within the canyon. Gary gets to the top and I'm recalling Rocky dashing up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He gets to the top, puts his hands on his hips and overlooks the land like the master of his domain. Mason and I, now like his two apprentices languidly follow up in his shadow.

Saw a porcupine though. That was cool.

Yeah, I've got some training to do. Feeling the pain this morning. Gary's a freaking machine. I ain't scared. I'm doing that trail. I got my work cut out for me. I'm definitely out of my league, though.

Trails like that trim years off your age. Guess that's what I'm shooting for
.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

j3 AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM


Had the distinct pleasure of following up my nice long ski trip with a Monday in jury duty. Now, let's get something really straight here. I like jury duty. And, no, I don't just like it because I get out of work. I like it because it's deeply interesting to me. At face value, it appears to be a complete waste of time, but here's your chance to experience the way the process works...for better or for worse. You could have a cat that killed his wife with his bare hands sitting there in the courtroom staring each one of the panelist down as the attorney drills. I don't know about you, but that opportunity alone never presents itself to me. Not that I like hanging out with guys that killed their wife with their bare hands, but it's pretty cool a couple of times. The process of jury selection is pretty awesome too. The two lawyers go through a process known as voir dire which if you say it in West Texas, it kinda sounds like you're trying to order the duck. It essentially means that the two lawyers go through a process of elimination rather than selection. Whoever's left, is the jury. Of course, you don't want the morons in West Texas to know about the elimination vs. selection process because they'll just eliminate themselves. You know, the "I hate black people" guys or the "I was beat by my husband for twenty years" lady. Whether it's true or not, we'll never know. Guess they want to make sure they make it back to the house for the Showcase Showdown.


But why pass up the opportunity to see the system in action? To me, going all the way down there and then doing everything you can to get out of it is like going to the zoo, but passing on the lion cage. Or like going to a strip club, but just checking out the gift shop. Not that I know what that's all about. The county doesn't have enough cops to go out on roundups of all the cats that didn't show up for jury duty. You really don't have to go if you don't want to.



Nevertheless, here I sit in the jury room and I start thinking that there's really four types of potential jurors in Potter County. I tried to name a fifth and I'm pretty confident it's only four.



THE ONES THAT DON'T WANT TO BE THERE
Pretty self-explanatory. They'll do anything they can to get out of it. They'll even admit to being a bigot, a racist, a short-minded moron, an alcoholic, a wifebeater, a caregiver (not that there's any correllation there), an uneducated, uncultured and uninspired nincompoop. It usually happens when you get into the courtroom. The hands start popping up. Yesterday, a physician said that given the nature of the case (aggravated assault--which the lawyer kept referring to as "agg assault"--I thought that was pretty ill, but it's not like "aggravated" is really that long of a word), he doesn't think that he could be a fair juror in the case because serious injuries to ones body makes him really upset. What? The judge asked that he be removed. I imagined them taking him out back and threatening to wail on him with a metal pipe. There was just something about the way the judge said, "You're excused from the courtroom, sir." It was kinda mafioso and suggested it wasn't the end of that cats jury duty. But serious? I'm a physician and injuries to the body upset me? Dude, how do you make it through a day?


It's important to know that once you make into the courtroom, only if you're in the first two rows do you really stand a chance at getting selected for a jury. It's called the "strike zone." Most of the questions are directed at those couple of rows. If you're on the back row like I was today, it's a 99.9% chance that you'll eventually get dismissed. At this point, I've forfeited the thought that I was going to serve so I was just counting down the minutes trying to have fun with the experience while I was there.


The lady right next to me raised her hand and began sobbing (whether genuinely or not, the jury's still out) and said that she was once beaten and doesn't think that she could be fair and impartial in the case. "Ma'am, I appreciate your candor," said the lawyer. Seems I never hear the word "candor" except in a courtroom during the jury selection process. What the lawyer should've said, "Ma'am, I appreciate your candor and reliving that horrible experience that obviously traumatized you for years. I must add, though, that despite your public admittance to this terrible event that happened to you, I wasn't likely to ever pick you for a jury anyway so it really wasn't necessary. As I said before, I'm probably going to pick all of my jurors from the front two rows and given your location on the back row, you'll likely be dismissed anyway so I would just keep my mouth shut and avoid yourself the public embarrassment and emotional toil." She was dismissed though. Probably more on the performance than anything else.


Another man was dismissed because he was once shot in the arm by his best friend in a disagreement. His story was he apparently was so traumatized by that event that he couldn't set it aside and be objective should he be selected for jury. What in the hell? Not only is that like a public admittance that you failed to graduate from high school and you live in a trailer park, but it's also letting everyone in the room know that your brain is sorely underdeveloped and not only can you not work with simple concepts like logic and circumstance, but you have no notion of forgiveness and salvation. You're a moron. Go home and watch the Speed Channel.


If you really don't want to be there, I'll say it again: DON'T SHOW UP. They won't arrest you. They don't have enough cops here to care about you dodging jury duty. Plus, it's not like it's the first time you've dodged the cops so don't act like you just have to do the right thing. Stop taking up places for those that really want to be on a jury. It's a free drinking day for you. You can have that coveted 10:00AM beer that you never get to enjoy anymore and then tell your friends some lie the next day about how you served on a jury and convicted a hardcore murderer to death. And, yep, it only took one afternoon.



THE ONES THAT WANT TO BE THERE
Admittedly, it's probably the smallest percentage, but it wouldn't be the first time I fall in the smallest group. You don't really want it to go for more than a day beause the pay really sucks, but you still hope that you can at least experience the raw emotions of a man sitting in front of you either convicted or cleared of "agg" assault. I mean, this is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. I don't know many people who have 20 years on this earth to spare. I gotta think that good or bad, that was something worth witnessing. Plus, I just wanna know what happened. I'm always that cat that's watching COPS and am bummed out when the cops get there two minutes too late. I wanna know what went down. In fact, I wanna see it. In slo-mo.



THE ONES THAT WANT TO BE THERE BUT ACT LIKE THEY DON'T
This one's a weird one. They so badly want to get picked but all the while act like they're too cool for school. It typically comes off as this "I'm too busy to spend a day here" kinda act yet they showed up which either means they fear a witch hunt if they don't or they so badly wish they get picked. It's like, to them, there's something wrong with wanting to serve. Like it's not the cool thing to do and they've spent their whole life trying to be that cool. It starts in the jury room. When asked to raise their right hand, they look around to see if anyone's looking, reluctantly with a smirk they raise their right hand, take the oath and then slump down in their chair looking over their shoulder acting like they can't wait to bolt. Then, when they pulled into a panel and are seated in the front two rows getting drilled by the attorney, they can't sit still as they wiggle around in excitement.

To spot them, you have to show incredible patience and have to be a seasoned people watcher. They're very sly. They don't always appear as obvious as the first two.

It's particularly funny watching older folk do it. When they're in the courtroom, they act so bored and underwhelmed yet when they hit recess in the hallway, they can't shut up as they shuffle around from congregated potential jurors to congregated potential jurors approximating his chance at being selected saying things like, "Man, I hope they don't take me" when in reality, that's precisely what he wants. He wants that validation. That selection. It makes him feel important. Included. To this man, I say, "It's alright to want to be on a jury. It's hella-dope. Don't feel bad. Don't feel stupid. It's what our country is all about."


IMBECILES WHO DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT'S GOING ON
This is the remaining 85% of the people there. They don't know whether the summon was an arrest warrant, a parking ticket or an eviction notice. If they're lucky enough to actually figure it out, they show up and the party starts there. They just kinda follow everyone else. If everyone sits there waiting, they sit there waiting. If someone gets up to get some coffee, they help themselves. They sometimes might even pick up a magazine knowing they can't make sense of the words on the page. The hilarity really begins when they get invited into the jury room for selection/elimination.

Give them a chance to open their mouths and dudes just can't possibly help themselves.

There's a fool-proof way of identifying these morons. It's when we're ordering the duck...voir dire. I'll give you an example from Monday.

ATTORNEY: Today's case is about aggravated assault. Mr. XXX XXXXXX has been charged with aggravated assault with intent of serious bodily injury to Ms. XXXX XXXXXX. Yes, sir?

MORON #1: I don't think a man should ever hit a woman. Period. No exception.

ATTORNEY: Sir, I certainly appreciate your opinion. Do you think that your strong opinion might hinder your ability to objectively reach a ruling in these matters should you serve on the jury?

MORON #1: Well, no, I'm jussayin. I don't think it's right, but I can put it behind me.

Say it with me now:

THEN SHUT THE HELL UP.
Another one:
ATTORNEY: Would any of you have a problem with relying on only one witness in this case if that one witness is a Amarillo police officer?
MORON #2: Hey, sir, one of my best friends growing up is a cop.
ATTORNEY: Okay, is that going to affect your decision in these matters should you--
MORON #2: Whaddya mean? I don't gather.
ATTORNEY: Well, sir, if you were selected to serve in the jury trying this case, could you put your relationship with an Amarillo police officer aside?
MORON #2: Wha?
ATTORNEY: Does your friendship with the Amarillo police officer affect your feelings on this case or would you be able to put that aside and approach this case objectively.
MORON #2: Oh yeah, man. Sure I can put it aside. It wouldn't affect anything.
Again, say it with me:
THEN SHUT THE HELL UP!
I'm just trying to get out of here as soon as possible. It seemed like everytime a hand popped up like a prairie dog, the world came to a screeching halt. I don't care if you think it's wrong for a man to hit a woman, if you like cops, if you hate cops, if you smoke weed, if you once got a ticket for speeding even though you were going five miles-per-hour under the speed limit, if you got shot in the arm, if you once lived in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Shut up! Stop talking. Stop raising your hand. Everytime you speak, I lose brain cells. By the time I left there, I could barely find my way home. If he dude farted, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from claiming it. If you ever wonder what slows down the judicial process, it's the process and the fact that the process includes more idiots than the customer service line at Wal-Mart. It's remarkably...uh...remarkable. Imagine you're falsely accused of some horrendous crime. Like they just got it wrong and you're sitting across from twelve of this dimwitted dog turds and they're either going to acquit you of all charges or lock you away for forty years. Do you feel comfortable that the system is working? Do you trust these people to set you free? What does it mean if your tried by your peers? Do you really trust your peers? Would you rather anyone but your peers try you? Who are your peers? I don't know if I'd feel completely normal with twelve of anyone in this town deciding my fate.
It's a bizarre system we tolerate. Fun to take in once every year. They can keep calling me. I'll keep going. It's my civil service. I can't help myself in that way.
Speaking of the system, this Guilty Simpson record is so damn ill. It's the Madlib mix of his new material in the first of twelve installments of the Madlib Medicine Show. Buy it, homie. It won't disappoint. Dare I say I like it better than the proper Guilty Simpson album. Slammin' stuff.

Monday, February 22, 2010

FOR YOUR LISTENING DISPLEASURE: THE BLACK MOON MIX RE-UPPED

Per request of an unnamed Root Down reader, here it is. Just click on the image.

Sorry, I've been such an absentee blogger lately. We'll say I'm in the field working on a story. Went to see Texas Tech ultimately lose to the Longhorns down in Lubbock this weekend. Good game, but Tech ended up losing by a mere four points. You gotta play all 40 minutes.

Met our new doc. His name is Miles Davis. Odd thing is that he's not black and he doesn't even like jazz. Guess it's not really him. Actually, it's Lon Miles Davis, but he the "Lon" is silent. Good guy. Got a sonogram done. The nameless he/she baby looks kinda like a gummy bear. Best news is everything appears fine at this stage. Second best news is there's only one of 'em.

So, on top of everything else, I'm trying to wrap up this zombie mix, shirts should be delivered today to me so I'll be mailing them out soon, gotta review with the board up at work on Thursday morning, going skiing right after that in Taos where they have close to 80 inches of glorious snow, training seminar the week after skiing, heading to SXSW in mid-March, need to get started in painting my office for a genderless baby, listen to Wu-Tang and decide whether or not another mix is worth it, continue training for the Warrior Dash (which is almost sold out for the second day now--insane), do the Warrior Dash, continuing selling my CDs to raise money for a new computer, ugh. It never really stops. Before you know it, Sox will be starting up against the Yankees on opening day. Results may vary.

Yes, I've been watching the Olympics. My new favorite event is skeleton, I believe. What an insane sport. I used to think bobsledding was, by far, the most freakishly insane sport. Then it was luge. Then it was going headfirst to almost 90 MPH with your chin about three inches from the ice. Yeah, that's ill.

No time to chat, kid. Gotta go make the donuts. Be safe.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

MORNING MUSINGS

(sits down with third cup of coffee, slightly lightened with a tablespoon of soy milk)



Saw Zombieland last night. Yeah, about time. The opportunity never really came around after I failed to catch it in the theater. It was badass. Everything I was hoping for. Thanks to Tim E. for the lender. My lovely wife even watched all of it which is commendable. Never thought that was going to happen after the blood in the opening credits alone. Of course, she was sunk in the first sequence in which narrator says, "That's me and this is Garland, Texas. It might look like a zombies have demolished it, but that's just Garland."

She said, "I like this movie already."

From there on, it was just a matter of enduring all of the gory and bloody creative killings of zombies. Some of them were brutal, but you can certainly see the appeal from a zombie lover like myself. Good flick. Worth the wait.

Still in the process of going through my CDs. I'd say that I'm probably somewhere between 75-83% complete. It's been an difficult process. I'm nearing about 1,000 CDs gone and think I can probably lose somewhere around 500 more. That'd take me from about 3,700 to 2,200. A lean 2,200. That might be a little high still. It honestly feels like I'm giving everything away. Once I decide that I want to set it aside and confirm that I want to give it away or sell it, it's difficult to even listen to it. I'm sitting here looking at a Nicole Willis and the Investigators CD thinking that I need to listen to it and make sure I don't want to keep it, but the energy it would take to even make that decision is too expensive to me at this point. I just want to see it go away. It's the same thing that happens on "Hoarders." They get to a point where submission to the process is easier than fighting it and they start throwing away their prized thimble collection and teacups they've been holding onto for three decades. I'm kinda at that point. I've been deligently pulling anything into iTunes that seems meritable, but even that seems hardly worth it.

The feeling of giving it away is incredible. The other day, I set the entire remastered set of Creedence Clearwater Revival on someone's desk and they approached me later and told me how much it meant to them because they love CCR (and, well, I don't). Felt like Christmas morning. The trick is making sure that they make it into the right hands, but eventually, you just gotta start tossing them like throwing stars. I can't obsess too long on making sure that I give the right CDs to the right person. I'll never get it done.

It's amazing how short my loyalty is, though, once I get started.

And it's not like I gotta short fuse, but ultimately, I'm getting rid of CDs to provide for some storage space so that I can clear some furniture out of my current Boom Boom Room so that we can turn it into a nursery for a little baby because, well, my lovely wife is pregnant.

Yep, you heard it here first. Well, unless I told you already. The office space as it's currently known will be dissolved into the guest room (vinyl goes in with the guests...I'll do inventory after every visit). My clothes go in the guest room. The desk, the chair just go. The computer is simply too big for any other space in the house so I'm raising some cash to replace it with a laptop so I can, essentially, make any space an office. The tower's in excellent shape and has never given me any trouble. It's got 250GB of storage and, I think 6GB of RAM. It's a Dell. If anyone's interested, holla. I'll be selling it. Would like to do it locally, but not tied to the idea.

The CD project has been telling, too, of what kinda dad I want to be. Man, some of the questionable CDs of my collection (or, rather, CDs of questionable taste) become quite obvious when you're browsing for CDs to get rid of. I really had very little standards of taste and decency for a while there. Some of them would be like stashing a gun or a collection of porno mags in the house. Like I'd never feel safe with them around. Problem is that most of the guys that I'd like to give them to have also disappeared from my life. Well, that's not really a problem, I suppose. I wanna be a good father. To start, I better get to cleaning up my act a bit.

Getting rid of all of this CD weight (and book and DVD weight too) has really been a liberating experience...as tasking as it is. I even put a autographed copy of Snoop's last record into the giveaway pile. It's like the golden ticket. Someone will find it. Unless they see it, question it's authenticity and then throw it away. Trust me, I saw him sign it. It's real.

Some days I hope that this means I can finally get a minivan because I so badly want one. That's probably far in the future if at all. We're only expecting one at this point.

Warrior Dash training is on like Donkey Kong. Got a little behind last week with all of the audible sensory and the three-day belly ache that followed Sunday's Super Bowl. Man, you put a package of Girl Scout Thin Mints in front of me, they're as good as gone. Throw in a couple of bowls of frito pie (one in the fourth quarter which was the one that inevitably did me in) and you pretty much wipe out the first half of your week. Now that my stomach, intestines and bowels are back to normal, so follows the training.

Had a nice jog with Mason the other night. Somehow thought that dressing in all black for a night jog was a good idea. The weather's starting to warm up nicely, but looks like we're about to get another blast this weekend.

To my fellow warriors, keep that training up. You don't grind, you don't shine. Looks like the second day of Warrior Dash Texas is selling out wave by wave. Those dudes are making cheddah hand over fist. Shirts will be ready soon. Hopefully by the end of the month.

Holla atcha boy.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

SHEDDING THRICE MY WEIGHT IN PLASTICS

On A&E, they call this "hoarding" and they have an hour-long show dedicated to it. So it might be a little unfair and inaccurate to call what I do "collecting." I'm a hoarder of music. I've been this way for about ten years now. To me, music in it's physical form are like artifacts that will be invaluable in mere decades from now and, for that reason, it's important for me to stow them away in every nook and corner of my house so that I can one day expose them to the world and say, "Look at my freaking collection. Isn't it awesome?"

Reality is that I have CDs in my collection which aren't even opened. I have CDs that people have professed to be one of the greatest recordings of the last fifteen years that are unopened and sitting in my shed next to the fertilizer. I have three copies of records and it wasn't unintentional. I have close to 4000 CDs in my collection and I only listen to about, uh, 20 CDs within the year. If you're doing the math. That's about a 200-year supply. If I'm unlucky enough to live that long, I might listen to all of them if we still have CD players that long. By then, music will be implanted into our head.

I've been privileged to work in an industry where music is free and in ample portions. If you want something, you can likely get it. That was always a dangerous arrangement for me. When I first started working in it, I kept every CD I could get my grimy hands on. I figured even if I didn't listen to it myself, I would give away to someone who would appreciate it. And I did it. Often. I would give 30-count boxes of CDs to friends, relatives, my lovely wife. I'd give boxes of CDs to my neighbor. I figured it was a perk to the business so I would exploit it for all it was worth. I was taking home CDs by the handfuls every day. And one point, I hit an overflow and couldn't keep them all under one roof so they started to flow from closets and in plain view to the garage, to the shed. Anywhere I could get cubic inches, I would take it.

Now it's hit a point of intolerance. It's out of control. It's doing no one no good and in the middle of it is me. I started it and now I'm going to end it. I haven't listened to the new Doom record. I haven't listened to the new Felt record. I used to run home and listen to a new Doom record for two weeks straight and I haven't even touched the new one yet. It's sick. There's all of this music that I can share with others, sell online and I'm doing nothing but waiting for my chance to unveil it only to be told, "Dude, you should've sold this a long time ago."

Here's how it starts.

Step 1:

Crack open a box of CDs and take out any CD that visibly hasn't been opened yet or is a CD that you know you haven't listened to in ages. It might also be an artist or genre in which you used to argue until you were blue in the face about how great they were/it was, but no one believed you. They might not have believed you because it might have actually been garbage. Hear for yourself. Place all of these CDs in one massive bin (I filled up a massive washtub in the shed in mere seconds). Ratio of tossed CDs to keeped...approximately 2:5

Step 2:

Everyday, go out to the shed and take a handful/armful of CDs from this washtub inside, in your car or to work. You're going to be in a constant state of auditioning. This isn't about listening to what you want to listen to, it's listening to what you need to listen to. It's your habit, now deal with it. You don't have to listen to all of them. For example, I know I just bought the remastered Abbey Road. I came across another copy of Abbey. The original CD pressing. I don't need it. It goes onto the third step. This has been pretty telling of how much garbage I've been holding onto. Most things, I press play and listen for about five seconds and I'm ejecting and putting in another. It's not that they're necessarily that bad, they're just not what I'm listening to anymore. I'd rather put them in the hands of people who might really enjoy listening to them instead of sitting on top of piles of them like the mean kid in pre-school. There are other things that I see and think, do I really want my kid coming to me one day asking who "Necro" is? So, here I sit and listen. I'm listening to about thirty CDs a day at this point. My ratio of keepers to losers: 1:12.

Step 3:

I put the losers into three stacks. There's the promos. These are things I can't sell because, well, it'd be unethical and in violation of rules and provisions of my work. There's some good stuff in there. This will be stuff that I will find homes for. Friends with taste in music wanted to take some of these CDs off of my hands. The second of the stacks is the stuff that I can sell for a premium on either Ebay or Amazon. Found a few CDs that are showing a used selling price for up to $20. These are the goldmines in my collection. This is where I make money. I'm not promising to make a ton, but it's at least turning space in my shed into cold hard cash. The last of the three stacks is the stuff that I can just go up the road to my local Hastings and sell to them. I'll probably make only about $.70 a unit when all is said and done because, let's be real here, this ain't a stack of Metallica or Pink Floyd. It's stuff they intend on selling for about $3.99.

Step 4:

Stop the bleeding. This is something I've really been doing over the last two years or so. I just haven't been bringing as many home. There's no zeal anymore in getting CDs at work and bringing them home, stacking them in a corner and listening to them only if get to them. We're flipping the script here. It's the new j3...j4 if you will. No more hoarding music. Give it away. Be picky. Only keep the very best. You're not a fan of Elvis. Creedence Clearwater Revival. You know people who are. Share with them. You have no interest on being on the leading edge of every new buzz band or up-and-coming hip hop artist. You like being a source of musical knowledge, but don't need to bury yourself in plastic to achieve that. People deserve to hear your collection.

Don't you like how these conversations happen in the first-person like I've already processed these affirmations? You're right. I do tell myself these things. I have to. It makes sense of the process.

That's it for now. I gotta get back to listening. At the ratio above, I'm looking at quickly shedding about a quarter of my collection...over 1000 CDs. I've got some work to do.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

WARRIOR TRAINING HAS BEGUN...13 WEEKS BEFORE PILLAGIN'

Ready to break out of this house and put a hurtin' on a neighborhood street. Been cooped up since Wednesday night with a couple of unsuccessful ventures into public. If I wasn't getting my own Honda Civic stuck in ice and snow, I was helping someone else out. Last night it hit a climax with my lovely wife and I stuck trying to exit a parking lot in ice, snow, slush and about ten inches of ice cold oily street water. And only one of us drove stick. The other had to push. Luckily some cat hopped in out of nowhere and lifted the car like Hercules and sent us on our way. No more car until Monday morning. I walked to church this morning. Walked to Starbucks. I'm walking everywhere. It's good for the spirit anyway. Feet are cold, but who cares. I figure anything to toughen me up for my upcoming training is good. This next week, my 13-week training begins...rain, sleet, blood, ice, gravel, frogs, locusts, fire, snow or barbed wire. Nothing's gonna stop me.
Missed our chance to register, but based on the intimidation left by the logo, they added a day to the Texas event so Team Root Down is still rolling strong. I even teased the logo a little more to give it a little more Maiden on the font. I was going to have the letters bleeding, but figured that might be a little much. Maybe for the next softball jersey.

My goals for the next 13 weeks are set. All of them leading to the ultimate goal of finishing the Warrior Dash in 45 minutes. Don't know if that's good or horrible. I have no measure. That's just the time I set for it. If that gets me first place, then I'll take it. If that's dead last. So be it.

This week I start with a 13-mile week. Three 3-mile runs and one four mile run on Saturday. I must maintain no faster than an 11-minute mile. That's our starting point. The ultimate goal is to be able to run three miles in 25 minutes. That's 8:20 miles. Every week, we'll increase speed expectation with a gradual increase in weekly mileage. Unlike marathon training though, the most we'll do in one week is 17 miles. Those 17 miles will be done at a 8:40 pace while leaping Hyundais and swinging our 40-pound swords as we go. That's the toughest week. Mileage tapers off but speed increases from there for the last two weeks.

Diet will be monitored, but not strictly. I've developed enough good habits over the last year that I'm not worried about that. All in all, it'll be close to 200 miles in 13 weeks. Add into it two gym days a week working on four things: arms, legs, core and flexibility. I don't know any personal trainers and hate gyms, so that oughta be fun. Gotta do it though. The goal is not to buff up. I don't want muscle mass. I want my body to be that of a lean and mean warrior.

Anyone wanna join in? Get at me now. Shirt order is going in soon. $13 a pop. Shipping charges may apply. I've got the training schedule drawn out. Anyone interested in seeing it, hit up my inbox. Until then, let the games begin.

COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS, PT. 1

Hawdcore recommendation to all readers. Missed it when this aired on PBS and, to most people, it's easy to miss things airing on PBS. For that reason, I'm giving it a throw-up on the Root Down for all you heads that didn't catch it the first go-round. Nevermind the kinda cheesy intro. This film is really well put together. It's short too, but not short enough to throw up in just one fail swoop. It's broken down into nice 9 to 10-minute chunks.

A very nice piece to put into cultural context some of my ranting and praises of records like Paul's Boutique, Three Feet High and Rising and Fear of a Black Planet.

Makes me wanna get to work on my next mix, but got some bigger biz to tend to. In the meantime, enjoy Copyright Criminals.



Interesting story about Tom Silverman from Tommy Boy (who's featured in the film). Dude was at the helm of some of the greatest hip hop ever made. I got tons of respect for that dude. I was at an industry event wearing my Geto Boys shirt that's fashioned after the old Tommy Boy logo (with Scarface, Willie D and little Bushwick rocking it) around the lobby.

I'm heading up to my room and the elevator doors open in front of me and, in front of me is none other than Tom Silverman and I'm five feet in front of him with my Geto Boys shirt. I recognize him like immediately. Never seen him before and here's the man standing right in front of me...the man who gave the world De La Soul, Stetsasonic, Digital Underground, Naughty By Nature, House of Pain and countless others. He's standing right in front of me and I'm rocking a ripoff of his label's logo with nothing to block it. He looks at my shirt in bewilderment. Looks up at me and I'm standing there with this dumbass look on my face. I begin moving quickly past him to hop on the elevator as he begins to point at my shirt and say, "Hey!" Dodged a bullet there.

I've seen him since at the same industry event. Never wearing my Geto Boys shirt again.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

FOUR THINGS WORKING WITH THE MUSIC INDUSTRY TAUGHT ME IN 2009

THE INDUSTRY WILL NOT WIN AGAINST FRUGALITY
I'm not blaming the industry for Napster, but let's be real, here: Napster is the product of a society that had lost its tolerance. It started with a punk that didn't see that music was worth paying for and then, like wildfire, he surrounded himself with an army of millions that agreed. Myself included. And this was long before economy would be reduced to unrelenting famine. This was 1999. What it taught everyone but the music industry was that there were some fundamental issues that had never been discussed before. It's not an issue of who owns music, but rather what's it worth? The answer for many was it's worthless. And furthermore, I'll be happy to risk prosecution to prove it. It doesn't really matter whether or not the industry agrees, that's the perception and the only ones that can change this perception is the source.

And the industry didn't.

Instead, they tried to suffocate, smoke out and/or break down the doors and arrest these perps to protect their assets like the freaking Wild West. Instead of listening to focus groups and putting their commentary into actionable defenses, they instead went on the offense and attempted to prosecute, embarrass and publicly assassinate those who had robbed from them. You'd think that an industry that had as much power, money and interest would find a better way to sort through their problems. Instead though, they took the approach of a angry bull. Careless. Reckless. And unsuccessful.

With no "plan B."

You can't say they didn't have fair warning. Here we are, a decade later, and the same holds true. Except now, we're involved in two wars, the housing market has hit rock bottom (and continues to fall, incredibly), the economy has completely gone to hell, unemployment has soared to levels unimaginable and here, the stupid and hapless music industry, is still trying to sling CDs for $16.99.

The very definition of idiocy.

This ain't paper towels or diapers. This is a compact disc. It's a medium that is archaic and, as we've found, replaceable. We found that out ten years back when people were exchanging this new format called an MP3 for free on peer-to-peer applications.

Some companies have found a way to offer retailers cheaper goods and have reaped the benefits. Others still think that somewhere, somehow, someone is still going to pay $16.99 for the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, Pink Floyd. Now, I haven't been to every corner of the globe, but I can guarantee you this. If they're out there, there ain't many of them and to find them, you're going to burn all of your pending profits...as few as there might be. If I can buy Zoso for $8.99 digitally (almost half the price of a compact disc), where's the value in that old, tired piece of plastic? If I only want "Stairway," I'd be better off just shilling out $1.29 instead of paying $16.99 for the entire record.

You can't reverse the trend. You can't convince a population that has already severed their tie to the physical good that, overnight, it's now worth $16.99 again. They've abandoned that idea. Gone. There's no wisdom in thinking that's going to happen. And if your model doesn't offer profitable margins at selling the same CD to retailers for $6.00 so they can retail them at $8.99 everyday, then you need to recreate your model because that's the reality.

The music industry will not be win against frugality. Movie industry found that out. The game industry is finding that out. Music industry has had a 10-year head start and still hasn't figured that out. It's almost like they're waiting for it to turn around.

They blame everything from artist contracts to manufacturing costs as to why they can't offer a cheaper good. I'll put this as simply as I can: at the current model, there soon will be NO PROFITS because no one will spend more than $8.99 for a CD. Tell Jimmy Page he'll have to tour until he's 95 because he ain't gonna make no more cheddah off of his the actual sell of his recordings. That or he's gonna have to sell a helluva lot of Swan Song t-shirts at Target. Will I ever see Physical Graffiti for $12.99? Who knows?

Will this generations greed mean that, forty years from now, no one will even know what in hell Led Zeppelin is and why is Floyd pink? If we can't sell the music, will anyone care?

Will anyone miss it?

Cheaper products can jump sales. The music industry will have to adjust their model to make it profitable. Right now, it's retail that's taking the hit for them.

THERE'S MORE EMPHASIS ON THE PROFITABLE PACKAGING THAN ON THE PRODUCT
Over the past decade, the industry has tried nearly every idea on how to retain their profits through crafty packaging and re-packaging. Problem is, they actual product has suffered. The value proposition has been compromised. Let's say, for example, a CD sells to retailers for $12.05 and yields the distributor/label $4.05 of profit (meaning that the good costs them $8.00 to manufacture, royalties paid, etc).

Let's say we cut out the liner notes and, instead, just put a four-panel sleeve in there and save us $.75 per unit. Then, we found a way to cut back on packaging by employing a light-weight cardboard sleeve. That saves us an additional $.50 per unit. Let's say we shave off about four songs off of the album. That's less royalties we'd have to pay the artist. Let's say that's saves us another $.50 in royalties we'd have to pay (that's a damn good contract--this is purely for example). Music industry would increase their profits by $1.75 per record because, now, that same piece that they intend to sell to retailers will cost them $6.25 to make. Still will be sold to retailers for $12.05 and then retailers will be expected to sell this "lite" good for the same price as "premium" goods.

Fail.

Then, the industry instead decides to attempt to split the difference by selling it for $11.00. They still increased their profits by $.75 when all is said and done and they feel satisfied that they offered a cheaper good to retail. Problem is, if retail was selling the full-priced premium good (full packaging and all) for $15.99 (and not selling many, mind you), that was a profit of $3.94. Because the "lite" packaging was, well, less value, they had to pull their price down $2.00 to move any significant amount of them into the hands of the skeptical and frugal end consumer. So, now, at a selling price of $13.99 on a $12.05 good reduces the profits to $1.94. Now, if the retailer can sell twice as much at two bucks less, than they're making $3.88 where before they were making $3.94. $.06 less, but it's keeping the category alive. Not likely anyone's doubling units, though, off of a more flimsy package. In fact, they'd be lucky to sell 30% more. Knowing this, the distributor says they'll cut the price because they realize that the package is "lite." The price is now $11.00. Retail's saving a $1.05 from the $12.05 cost previously because of the distributors crafty repackaging. Remember, though, I'm only going to increase sales by 30% tops at $13.99. I was making $3.94 a sale at $15.99. Making only $1.94 when I reduced it to $13.99, but my units increased by 30% so I'm really making $2.52 off of the increased sales from moving it to $13.99. Even by the reduction of the cost of goods to $11.00, I'm only making $3.88. I'm no closer than I was before by selling them at $15.99. It's a superficial cost change that, in the end, hits the consumer because they have a substandard good because distributors are attempting to increase profits by decreasing the end value of the product. Without a consumer to buy it, there's ZERO profits. The last person I'd want to piss off is the consumer. Secondly is the retailer who is the vehicle of delivery to that consumer. Without both, the future is beyond bleak. It's non-existent.

The music industry has tried everything to increase their profits instead of finally lowering their profit expectations and increasing their units shipped (like the 30% increase we were quoting before). The trick is to make less per unit, but ship more units...therein increasing your overall profitability.

For retailers, because they only make tops $3.94 off of the sale of a product that costs them $12.05 and, secondly, because people are desperate for both CASH and CHEAPER PRODUCTS, the used CD game has been one with a much brighter future. Retailer spends $2.00 to get the same unit out of the hands of the consumer and then turns around and sells it for $7.99. Cheaper than $15.99, y'betcha. Even cheaper than buying it on iTunes and nothing to show for it except a charge on your debit account and a little half-inch image of the cover art. And, for the retailer, they increased their profits from $3.94 to $5.99 (over 50% more). For distributors, they hate the used CD game because they know they'll lose with their $12.05 product. If you're looking for Zoso and there's a $15.99 new copy sitting right next to a $7.99 used copy, which are you buying? No question, anymore.

I feel for the music industry. They're in a tight place. The only solution at this point for increasing sales is not shaving back on the value of their product, but offering a satisfactory good and cutting their own profits to do so. Every industry is going into survival mode at this point as we enter another year of the worst recession most of us will ever see. If there's any industry that is not exempt, it'd would be an industry that has been down double digits year-on-year for the last seven years...the music industry. They could be the heroes if they really wanted to be.

PEOPLE WILL BUY CDS FOR THE RIGHT PRICE
When it's the right price, people will buy almost anything. That's an interesting proposition for an industry that can't turn around their own decline with the help of a thousand focus groups, armies of attorneys and strategists. I was selling some piece of crap Ted Nugent live record hand over fist, week-on-week. Not because it was a good record, but because it was $3.99. You would've thought it was the single greatest record ever made.

I've been critical of rap labels for not following suit and, because of this, many of those old recordings didn't make the leap from the 80s and 90s to the 00s. I mean, you mention 3rd Bass' The Cactus Album or We Can't Be Stopped by the Geto Boys to anyone and only real heads (like myself, haha) will say, "Yep, dope record." No cats have ever heard of that record because very few rap labels are willing to accept that those old records ain't worth the sticker price anymore. I guarantee you if some cat could by the first three Public Enemy records for $5.99 everyday, you'd be seeing high double-digit increases. Those records are still $9.99 everyday. In some markets, even more. The Cactus Album should only be $3.99. Not because it's not a good record. But because it is a good record and people should hear it. Some records are just not worth a dime more like that Nugent live record. But some are well worth it. The $3.99 bin can't just be full of lumps of coal. There gotta be some gems in there somewhere. No one wants to be that gem. They just hand off their garbage to retailers for the $3.99 bin.

Here's what the structure should look like. I'll use Zeppelin again for my example.

$12.99: Physical Graffiti, Song Remains the Same (because they're both 2CDs)
$9.99: Zeppelin I - IV
$8.99: Houses of the Holy
$5.99: Coda, Presence
$3.99: In Through the Out Door

Let's do the same for Pink Floyd.

$12.99: The Wall
$9.99: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Ummagumma
$8.99: Meddle, Animals, Momentary Lapse of Reason, Division Bell
$5.99: Obscured by Clouds, Saucerful of Secrets, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Atom Heart Mother
$3.99: The Final Cut, Soundtrack from "More"

Same for Public Enemy.

$8.99: Greatest Hits
$5.99: Fear of a Black Planet, It Takes a Nation of Millions, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Apocalyspse 91
$3.99: Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age, He Got Game, There's a Poison Goin' On

How about the Rolling Stones.

$9.99: Exile on Main Street, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers
$8.99: Goat Heads Soup, It's Only Rock and Roll, Their Satanic Majesties Request
$5.99: Some Girls, Tattoo You, Aftermath, Steel Wheels
$3.99: Voodoo Brew, Bridges to Babylon

Beatles anyone?

$13.99: White Album
$9.99: Abbey Road, Sgt. Peppers, Revolver, Let It Be
$8.99: Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, Help!
$5.99: With the Beatles, Please Please Me, Beatles for Sale, Hard Day's Night
$3.99: (NONE)

I want so desperately for the music to stay alive, but it ain't gonna happen through $.99 downloads and ringtones. That's close enough to free. Once it gets down to that level, people aren't going to want to pay anything anymore. The music industry has to find the middle ground between FREE and an ABSOLUTE RIPOFF.

NOT EVERYONE IS LADY GAGA
Just before anyone makes another reference to Lady Gaga's success as encouragement for an industry with very little bright spot. Not everyone is Lady Gaga. In the same way that not everyone was Norah Jones. Even Norah Jones hasn't been Norah Jones of late. Don't act like this is a turnaround. It ain't. There's still life in the physical CD but it 95% of it hinges on price. The other 5% is quality of the product. Stop trying to make it better and just make it cheaper. It's that simple.

If I may loosely quote our CEO from a meeting in front of industry executives, "Even a drowning man will eventually start kicking."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE ROOT DOWN PROUDLY PRESENTS: THE BEATLEMANIADDENDUM



The Fifth Dimension "Ticket to Ride" (1967)
Marshall Williams "Norwegian Wood" (1968)
Les DeMerle "A Day in the Life" (1968)
Los Fernandos "Yellow Submarine" (1971)
Ike and Tina Turner "Come Together" (1970)
Orchestra Harlow "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" (1969)
Beastie Boys "I'm Down" (1986)
The Vontastics "Day Tripper" (1966)
Ramsey Lewis "Julia" (1968)
Sarah Vaughan "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (1977)
The Churchills "She's a Woman" (1970)
War "A Day in the Life" (1976)
Tomorrow "Strawberry Fields Forever" (1976)
Nina Simone "Here Comes the Sun" (1971)
The Soulful Strings "Within You, Without You" (1967)
Edwin Starr "My Sweet Lord" (1971)
Chet Baker and Bud Shank "Hello Goodbye" (1967)
The Bar-Kays "Hey Jude" (1969)


Because there's no end to dope Beatles covers, I thought that The Root Down Presents Beatlemania deserved an second swing. So here it is: The Beatlemaniaddendum with over an hour of extras that didn't make it into the first go-round complete with a commerative White Album treatment. Appropriate that I'd lean toward the White Album cover treatment being that the Yellow is experiencing a proper white out as I type this. It's a Thursday off with a decent chance of a Friday off as well. Nothing provides for better creative exertion than blizzard conditions.

The Beatlemaniaddendum is what I could sweep up off the cutting room floor from the first installment that was salvagable material. There are even some new gems that I never knew existed. There's some repeat offenders...the Soulful Strings, Bud Shank, Ramsey Lewis, Nina Simone and there's even some more mainstream covers that possibly you've heard before. If not, well, I'm honored to bring it to you. They were just too ill to pass up twice.

You know, I kinda feel like a tool. I'm like the lowest of the low. I'm making mixes of people who ripped off other people's music. But there's not really another group that you could do this with. That's what's fascinating about the Beatles. It seems like everyone's done a Beatles cover. It's like a freaking rite of passage for a musician, group or band. The more obscure the better. Searched high and low for some lowlife covering "Why Can't We Do It in the Road?" but was unsuccessful. Found about everything else. Classical renditions, dub treatments, the freakin' Beasties, blues players, Chet Baker. They've been covered in France, Thailand, Mexico, Cuba, Canada, Russia, Japan...here, there and anywhere. But why the shortage of decent "Happiness is a Warm Gun" covers? Hmm.

As a kid born after the Beatles were well over, it's hard to really sense their cultural and musical impact except through the endless renditions of their output. Sure, I have the records and I can listen to the Beatles anytime I want, but there's something more deeply intriguing about hearing someone else do the Beatles. To me, it's one mark of what kind of musician you are. Not necessarily how good of a musician you are, but what kind. I know the originals. Can hit the key without a cue. When you hear someone take a familiar melody into a completely different zone, it's a new creation. A standalone composition. That's why I don't like any of the newer covers because dudes are just scared to rock it anymore. I've heard too many atrociously boring and underwhelming covers in my research. There's armies of cats who just love the Beatles too much to do anything different to the song than to play it the way it was put to record. Even the Beatles themselves didn't like their music that much. Destroy it. That's what I say. If I can only vaguely recognize the melody, I'd have more respect for you as a musician. People treat music with so much reverence. Who cares? Not like Ringo's going to show up at your front step with a machete to collect your forearms. Beethoven's ninth is only played one way at one tempo. You didn't play it if it was performed with any variance to the way it was written. But this ain't Beethoven.

Enough of my typing like I feel it's necessary to preface a mix like it's all-important and musically significant. It's a mix of other people's music. I'm just putting it together and uploading it for you so you don't have to go through the work. And now, without any further adieu, I proudly present to you:

THE BEATLEMANIAddendum

Click the above link to download.



For those who might have missed the first edition, click here. If the link download link doesn't work, email administrators (me) and I'll re-up it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

#27: "DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE"


PUBLIC ENEMY
"DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE"
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
1988



The second single off of PE's breakthrough album It Takes a Nation, "Don't Believe the Hype" is only the first of five PE songs to hit The Root Down Top 33. "Don't Believe the Hype" is a collosal composition with it's Syd Nathan Pinckney's paint-stripping sax scream, the classic drum break from "Synthetic Substitution," layered over it is Chuck's scatching prose and Flav's boyish antics. Along with the first single released from Nation, "Rebel Without a Pause," it ushered in the new PE sound.


A stark difference from their first album, these two singles bordered on irritation. They were unapologetically confrontative. Chaotic. Dischordant. And unlike "Rebel," which prominently featured Chuck and Terminator caught in typical posturing, "Don't Believe the Hype" was an attack with purpose and precision. Chuck was taking aim at the media and it was a direct hit. Responding to early clashes with the media (whether real or ficticious), Chuck arms himself with three of the most furious verses ever put to record climaxing with the third verse in which Chuck simply goes off.

Whether it's defending himself against allegations or simply lashing out at the "radio suckas" that had long since held an avoidance to hip hop and, even further, PE's harsh realities and instead fed pop fantasies to the masses, Chuck's third verse is a fiery and absolute punishing series of blows.

Leader of the new school, uncool,
Never played the fool, just made the rules.
Remember there's a need to get alarmed,
Again I said I was a timebomb.
In the daytime, the radio's scared of me,
Cause I'm mad, plus I'm the enemy.
They can't come on and play me in primetime,
Cause I know the time, plus I'm gettin' mine.
I get on the mix late in the night,
They know I've living right, so here go the mike, sike!
Before I let it go, don't rush my show.
You try to reach and grab and get elbowed.
Word to herb, yo if you can't swing this,
Learn the words, you might sing this.
Just a little bit of the taste of the bass for you,
As you get up and dance at the LQ.
When some deny it, defy if I swing bolos,
Then they clear the lane I go solo.
The meaning of all of that,
Some media is the whack.
As you believe it's true, it blows me through the root.
Suckas, liars, get me a shovel.
Some writers I know are damn devils.
For them, I say "don't believe the hype."
(Yo, Chuck they must be on a pipe, right?)
Their pens and pads I'll snatch,
Cause I've had it.
I'm not an addict fiendin' for static.
I'll see their tape recorder and I'll grab it.
(No, you can't have it back, silly rabbit.)

Chuck's intent is evident. To liberate the listeners from the falsity of the media giant. To be so freaking gullible and think for yourself. You got eyes to see with, ears to hear with, a brain to think with. Don't believe the hype.

That's all good, you know..."message" and all, but honestly, "Don't Believe the Hype" just makes me wanna dance my col' ass off. It's a difficult balance for such heady messages to also cut the rug. This was rarely achieved in hip hop, but if there was anyone that could do it, it was PE. "Don't Believe the Hype" blends this wylin' sweaty house party bounce along with a hot and nasty pimp strut. This thing col' rocks the party.

I'm going skiing. You're not.