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JumpinJack AJ

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  1. De La Soul’s Legacy Is Trapped in Digital Limbo

    By FINN COHENAUG. 9, 2016

    From left, David Jolicoeur, Kelvin Mercer and Vincent Mason of the pioneering hip-hop group De La Soul. Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

    On Valentine’s Day in 2014, De La Soul did something surprising: The group gave away almost all of its work.

    After gathering fans’ email addresses in an online call-out, this hip-hop trio from Long Island sent out links to zip files for its first six albums. Those albums — including its 1989 debut, “3 Feet High and Rising,” a platinum record in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry — are some of the genre’s most influential and sonically adventurous, threading samples from obscure, kitschy records alongside recognizable pop, jazz and funk hooks.

    The links were available for a day, and the group says the response overloaded the servers hosting the music files. They also attracted the attention of Warner Music, which has owned those records since 2002, when it acquired the catalog of Tommy Boy Records, a pioneering indie hip-hop label.

    The attention wasn’t just because the group was giving its catalog away. It was because those six albums have never been available to buy digitally or to stream.

    In a recent interview, the group explained that it had reached a boiling point.

    “We were frustrated with people not being able to just get it,” Vincent Mason, 46, the group’s D.J., known as Maseo, said, adding that the financial impact of digital invisibility was amplified by the fact that their work with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz had introduced them to another audience.

    De La Soul’s first album, “3 Feet High and Rising” (1989).

    Warner Music Group, which controls the albums’ distribution, was quick to reach out. “They did tap on our window,” said David Jolicoeur, 47, formerly known as Trugoy the Dove (now just Dave), rapping his knuckles on a table for emphasis. “‘Hey guys, what the [expletive] are you doing?’”

    “We spent years and years trying to figure this out with Warner,” said Kelvin Mercer, 46, known as Posdnuos, who added that label personnel kept shifting and allies were “shuffled out” over time.

    But in gathering a list of dedicated fans, De La Soul may have laid the foundation for its new record. “And the Anonymous Nobody,” out Aug. 26, is a largely sample-free affair financed by a Kickstarter campaign that accumulated over $600,000 — more than a third of which was raised in eight hours, the group members say.

    Mr. Mason said they considered how much money they would earn from a record label and decided owning the album was worth more. “The faith, I would say, really kicked in when we gave away the music.”

    “And the Anonymous Nobody” is a drastic departure for the group. Rather than use samples, De La Soul spent three years recording more than 200 hours of the Rhythm Roots Allstars, a 10-piece funk and soul band it has toured with. Then the group mined that material for the basis of the 17 tracks (25 musicians ended up playing on the album). From the opening horn fanfare of “Royalty Capes” to the Queen-esque metal of “Lord Intended” to the loping cowboy funk of “Unfold” (an exclusive track for those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign), the record explores a number of genres, with extended instrumental passages. And a wild variety of guests — Usher, Snoop Dogg, David Byrne, Little Dragon — help shift the moods. The proposed guest list was even more ambitious — Tom Waits, Jack Black and Axl Rose were also approached. “Willie Nelson kindly declined,” Mr. Jolicoeur said.

    The producer Prince Paul, who worked on De La Soul’s early albums. Credit Donald Hight

    The album’s title, Mr. Jolicoeur said, represented part of the collaborative process. “This is about a person selflessly giving everything they could to make something cool or new or fun or better happen,” he said. “That became the vibe of the record. It wasn’t really about a concept of the song; it was about, out of nowhere: ‘I play trumpet. I want to contribute.’”

    Mr. Jolicoeur said he had learned that a similar, freewheeling approach often led to the kinds of sounds the group had sampled in the past. “When these guys from the Ohio Players to Parliament-Funkadelic were just jamming, that’s where the songs came from,” Mr. Jolicoeur said. “It was allowing something to happen organically.”

    In its third decade as a group, De La Soul is in a special position. Along with the Bomb Squad’s collaborations with Public Enemy and the Dust Brothers’ production for the Beastie Boys, its work with the producer Prince Paul resulted in some of hip-hop’s pioneering sounds, establishing the melodic and harmonic possibilities of sampling. Now the group is re-emerging with new music after 12 years, during which the genre has gone through sonic and aesthetic revolutions: Hip-hop has become a top-performing genre on streaming music sites, and the internet has helped coronate a new crop of blockbuster rappers. But with the exception of “The Grind Date,” released through BMG in 2004, De La Soul has not been able to earn anything off its catalog from digital services.

    “We’re in the Library of Congress, but we’re not on iTunes,” Mr. Mercer said, adding that when the group interacts with fans in person or online, they always ask the same question: “Yo, where’s the old stuff?”

    That old stuff — which also includes “De La Soul Is Dead” (1991), “Buhloone Mindstate” (1993) and “Stakes Is High” (1996) — may be fraught with problems, according to people familiar with the group’s recording and publishing history. In 1989, obtaining the permission of musical copyright holders for the use of their intellectual property was often an afterthought. There was little precedent for young artists’ mining their parents’ record collections for source material and little regulation or guidelines for that process.

    “De La Soul Is Dead” (1991)

    Deborah Mannis-Gardner, a sample-clearance agent who worked with De La Soul on its new record, said that lack of guidelines could be why Warner Music is keeping the catalog in digital limbo.

    “My understanding is that due to allegedly uncleared samples, Warners has been uncomfortable or unwilling to license a lot of the De La Soul stuff,” Ms. Mannis-Gardner said. “It becomes difficult opening these cans of worms — were things possibly cleared with a handshake?”

    An added possible complication lies in the language of the agreements drafted for the use of all those samples. (There are more than 60 on “3 Feet High and Rising” alone — the group was sued by the Turtles in 1991 for the use of their song “You Showed Me” on a skit on that album and settled out of court for a reported $1.7 million.) If those agreements, written nearly three decades ago, do not account for formats other than CDs, vinyl LPs and cassettes, Warner Music would have to renegotiate terms for every sample on the group’s first four records with their respective copyright holders to make those available digitally.

    In a statement, a person speaking for Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group that deals with the label’s back catalog, said: “De La Soul is one of hip-hop’s seminal acts, and we’d love for their music to reach audiences on digital platforms around the world, but we don’t believe it is possible to clear all of the samples for digital use, and we wouldn’t want to release the albums other than in their complete, original forms. We understand this is very frustrating for the artists and the fans; it is frustrating for us, too.”

    A number of people interviewed say the legal phrase “now known or hereafter discovered” may determine De La Soul’s digital future. It ensures that samples cleared in the past are legal for use on streaming services and for digital music retailers.

    De La Soul in 1993. From left: David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason and Kelvin Mercer. Credit David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images

    Michelle Bayer, who handles De La Soul’s publishing administration, said that phrase’s potential absence on the group’s contracts for samples could complicate matters for Warner Music. (Warner Music would not provide details about the sample contracts.)

    “It’s tricky because someone could deny the sample use now, or negotiate high upfront advances, maybe even higher percentage or royalty than was originally negotiated, which lessens what the label can earn,” she said. “Before, people were like, ‘Oh yeah, whatever you want to do, we don’t even know what you’re talking about, sampling, who cares, whatever.’ Now, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s a big piece of real estate.’”

    Ms. Bayer added that people are still filing copyright claims on samples from De La Soul’s early records.

    “Two songs from the first album just came up that had never come up before,” Ms. Bayer said. “I think when Warner got the catalog, I think people started making claims, people were kind of coming out of the woodwork going, ‘Oh, well now it’s a major label involved, and we can possibly get more from them than we might have gotten from an independent label like Tommy Boy.’”

    But others, including Paul Huston, the producer known as Prince Paul, who worked closely with the group on its first three albums, say they did their due diligence. “Sampling was obviously new, but we were told, ‘Hey, here’s some sample-clearance forms — you have to fill these out,’” Mr. Huston said, adding that Tommy Boy became much more careful after the success of “3 Feet High and Rising.” “It got to the point where it was like, ‘What is that scratch!?’”

    “Stakes Is High” (1996)

    Tom Silverman, the founder of Tommy Boy Records — which also put out albums by Digital Underground and Queen Latifah — said that making the group’s catalog available digitally would not be difficult, considering that Warner Music should know the copyright holders who have been receiving royalties for the physical sales of the records.

    Mr. Silverman said: “Cutting a deal, you would think, to give them more money, shouldn’t be that hard, especially if you’re fair and logical and say, ‘Let me pay you the same percentage that we’ve always paid you on physical on digital, too, so you can make that much money.’ So it doesn’t really make a lot of sense that they’ve haven’t even tried.”

    For De La Soul, Warner Music and the owners of the copyrighted samples, the catalog’s absence from digital media can be felt in an absence of income. That money would have come from downloads (the iTunes Music Store opened in 2003); streaming; ringtones (Mr. Silverman points out the group’s 1991 single “Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” as a potential ringtone windfall); and deals with television, movies and advertisers.

    The cultural loss, said Ahmir Thompson, the Roots drummer known as Questlove, is just as significant.

    “Unless Warner’s illustrious history is so disposable that they can let one or two classics just fall by the wayside,” Mr. Thompson said, “and live in this sort of storied folklore — I mean, ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ is very much in danger of being the classic tree that fell in the forest that was once given high praise and now is just a stump.”

    “Buhloone Mindstate” (1993)

    Lonnie Lynn, the rapper known as Common who has appeared on De La Soul albums, said the lack of a digital presence is a blow to available hip-hop history. “It’s obviously disappointing, because I feel like De La is timeless music, and I feel like there’s a 16-year-old that would find De La and be like, ‘Aw, man, that’s cool.’”

    The group says it volunteered to bear the administrative burden of making the catalog available but that Warner Music was not interested.

    Mr. Jolicoeur acknowledges the potential task Warner faces is “a lot of work,” but Mr. Mason argues the time to do that work is now. “When I try my best to tap into the psyche of record execs and how they think, they know there’s some value — that’s why they’re not letting go,” he said. “But on this side of the fence, you’re like, ‘I’d appreciate you don’t wait until one of us die to do this.’ Can I enjoy some of the fruits of my own labor, while I’m alive? Obviously, we’re in the music industry — more people are more valuable dead than alive, you know? Can we change that landscape?”

    “It really financially hurts these guys,” Ms. Mannis-Gardner said. “If Warners won’t license it, perhaps they could sell it back to the band members.”

    Mr. Huston said that several independent labels had approached him about releasing these records but that interest fizzles when he directs them to Warner Music.

    “It’s like almost when you’re a kid and somebody says, ‘Hey, can I borrow your bike?’” he said, laughing. “And it’s like, ‘I don’t know, my mom won’t let me; you can ask my mom,’ and they go: ‘Ohhh, that’s all right. I don’t need to borrow it.’”

    Mr. Silverman, who still runs Tommy Boy, hopes to obtain his label’s entire back catalog from Warner Music, and making De La Soul’s disputed albums available digitally is the first thing he said he would do. “They’ll be making a lot more money when that stuff becomes available,” he said. “Not the download part, the streaming part. It’s like they missed the entire era of downloads.”

    Given the success of its Kickstarter campaign, De La Soul hasn’t ruled out turning to crowdfunding to free its catalog.

    “Maybe that’s what’s next,” Mr. Jolicoeur said. “This music has to be addressed and released. It has to. When? We’ll see. But somewhere it’s going to happen.”

  2. Rakim Drops Timeless Wisdom In A Powerful New Collaboration With Stephen Marley

    Rakim verses are rare these days. But, when he speaks, he does so with intention and wisdom, and Hip-Hop listens. Rakim’s latest effort is a powerful contribution on Stephen Marley’s “So Unjust,” also featuring Kardinal Offishall, from Marley’s new album Revelation Pt. II: “The Fruit of Life.”

    Marley and Rakim spoke with Complex at length in a video about the making of the song and its meaning. “‘So Unjust’ is speaking about [the world being] unjust, so you have to be careful of who you trust and who you put your trust in,” Marley said. “See things through, rather than bargaining for the fish that are still in the water. Wait till they catch a fish and then bargain,” he added. The themes Marley articulated resonated immediately with Rakim. “The song content and the conversation on the song was something that I love dealing with,” he shared. “Somewhat political, conscious record…something to wake up the masses, and that’s right up my alley.” From the outset of the song, Rakim embraces the concept, rapping “Since history, it’s been depression and misery, racism, greed, deception and bigotry. They make you choose. You a prisoner or a soldier, but once you fall victim to the system, then you over.”


    The final version of “So Unjust” is a heavy Reggae groove that is true to the Marley family sound, however, it started off very differently. Marley plays the original beat saying “where it started was really kind of more straight Hip-Hop…The track evolved from where it initially started to where it is now.” Rakim adds that songs often go to a different level when two creative forces are brought together. “That’s what good artists do when you get a collaboration, the two artists respect each other and the two artists bring the best out of each other,” he says. The MC also shares a bit about his writing process, noting “usually it’s a slow process for me. I like to dissect the music first and see what the music wants me to do. So, when I pen it out, it kind of fits hand in hand.” Of the final result, Marley says “Doing a song with Rakim, I couldn’t do it lukewarm.”


    Though the “making of” video only features Marley and Rakim, Kardinal Offishal’s contribution also is outstanding. As Marley says, the Canadian legend’s vocals “seal it.”

  3. R.I.P. Kenny Kelly of 90s R&B group Riff


    (August 1, 2016) We are very sad to inform SoulTrackers of the bad news of the death of Kenny Kelly of the fine 90s vocal group Riff. As the group posted today on their Facebook page:

    As many of you may already know, we lost our brother Kenny "Damn" Kelly last night. Our hearts are heavy and broken. We send prayers and love to his wife Yolanda, his mother Mrs. Kelly and his brothers and sister, Terry, John and Pearl. There are no words to describe the loss of our brother. We are truly devastated and he will remain in our hearts forever. Please keep his family and us in your prayers. To think, we were just talking about planning our reunion concert here in Paterson this past Thursday. We will never forget that he called our harmony the "Riff Sound". He was the best and funniest cat we knew. Rest In Paradise...until we sing again.

    The New Jersey based group joined together in the 1980s, and came to the attention of music lovers when they sang in the hit movie Lean On Me in 1989 when they were called The Playboys. They changed their group name to Riff and were signed by SBK Records in 1990. They came out of the box with a self-titled album and the top 10 hits “My Heart Is Failing Me” and “If You’re Serious.” Riff followed two years later with To Whom It May Concern, but it was less successful. By the late 1990s, the group disbanded, and members Anthony Fuller, Dwayne Jones and Michael Best went on to be part of the group Men of Vizion.

    Various members of Riff reunited from time to time in the new century.

    Kelly’s tragic death at such a young age is another particularly sad blow to music fans in 2016. He will be remembered for his role in one of the talented male vocal groups that helped usher in a new period of vocal harmony excellence a quarter century ago. Rest in peace, Kenny. 



  4. http://thesource.com/2016/07/28/why-hip-hop-should-stand-up-together-support-method-man/

    Why Hip Hop Should Stand Up Together & Support Method Man

    July 28, 2016

    A rapper wants to keep his private life private, and the world won’t comply—go figure.

    Wendy Williams first made light of Method Man‘s wife Tameka Smith having breast cancer back in 2006. At the time Meth earnestly said, “I just want to make Wendy Williams aware of exactly what it felt like to be sitting in that hospital room, watching them pump this poison into the one you love.” Now against family wishes, a photo of Tameka has surfaced online via Farrah Gray, a self proclaimed celebrity entrepreneur and self-made millionaire. Method Man pleaded with the man via Twitter to remove the photo, stating “if you have any decency..”, but his efforts were to no avail. Following a quick exchange, Meth unfortunately said he was done with social media until further notice.

    What does this mean for Hip Hop?

    Method Man leaving social media symbolizes one of our own being in a state of hopelessness. “I’ve lost faith in all human decency and I will not feed the trolls any longer. F*ck u all. 1,” he wrote. Trolls being the internet’s weirdest weirdo, and a true thorn in the side of some of our most legendary icons. Method Man is Hip Hop royalty, and should be respected as such. But we have people like Farrah Gray who can’t respect a simple request, to remove a photo of someone who didn’t even ask to be a part of celebrity culture. She married someone in the culture (a legend we might add) and that legend chooses not to expose his family to the hatred that comes along with being in the spotlight. Hip Hop should rally, and use this situation as a chance to shine light on the fact that none of their families deserve to be exposed to this type of injustice. If they choose to keep their families out of that light, then that should be a right of theirs, especially in the midst of a sickness or serious situation.

    How can Hip Hop take a stand?

    While Method Man was respectively asking Farrah Gray to remove the photo, a few more heavyweights should’ve chimed in, in his defense. A lot of times the masses conglomerate on pointless, petty issues and actually put a dent in a situation. Sometimes the issues we tackle together are serious, and this was one of those serious matters that could’ve been tackled as a collective. Method Man has entertained us all, given us his life on wax as well as on screen and for that, Hip Hop owes him a certain allegiance. We owe him an allegiance that should’ve warranted an uprising from the entire community. It’s not too late. Meth said that he was quitting social media until further notice, so we’ve put together a list of campaigns to run during his absence:

    List of Campaigns

    1. Wu Tang Forever: Bring Meth back to Twitter 

    2. Bring the Pain: Flood Farrah’s TL 

    3. All I Need: Hip Hop speaks for Meth to remove the picture 

    4. Shame on a Nigga: Who TF is Farrah Gray? 

    5. C.R.E.A.M: How much does a picture cost? 

    Hip Hop is a family, and it’s always going to be a family. When one is down, it’s the responsibility of the remainder of the community to lift him up. With Meth being one of the biggest stars in Hip Hop, this is the perfect time to show unity in the community. Simple request, to have his wife’s photo removed from the internet. Let’s rally behind him, and show him the support he needs so that he can return to social media, and continue to entertain us with a clear head.

  5. Early Tupac Collaborator Shares Original Version Of “Dear Mama”

    DJ King Assassin, Early Tupac Collaborator, Shares The Original Version Of "Dear Mama"

    As far as Tupac‘s most iconic material is concerned, “Dear Mama,” in its showcase of Pac’s softer side, particularly at a time when his character was being eviscerated by the media, stands as something well beyond the musical realm. An ode to his mother, the late Afeni Shakur who passed early this week, “Dear Mama” was a rare glimpse at Pac’s deceptively-sentimental self, particularly at a time when he was locked for an alleged sexual assault, which he fought vehemently against. And while, that tributary has certainly received its fair share of burn over the last few days, and rightfully so, early Pac collaborator, DJ King Assassin, has pulled the veil off the original version of the song, which bears a sample of Ice Cube protege and Lench Mob affiliate Yo-Yo’s line from “This Is A Man’s World.”

    Listen to the original version of Tupac’s “Dear Mama” below and dig into the the backstory from DJ King Assassin for some context.

    “The original version of ‘Dear Mama’ was far different than the version that was released, as far as the hook was constructed. Originally, the hook was a sample of a song from the legendary rapper and friend of both of ours named Yo-Yo, from Ice Cube’s [Da] Lench Mob. The sample was ‘Wouldn’t be a damn thang without a woman,’ which was taken from the original song from Ice Cube’s ‘This Is A Man’s World,’ with the scratching done, of course, by yours truly DJ King Assassin. The day after we had finished up on everything we were in Echo Sound in L.A. when Tupac comes in the studio very upset and proceeds to explain to us that we had to take out Yo-Yo’s part because a person by the name of Pat Charbonet would not give us the clearance to use that part in the song, so we had no choice but to take it out and that’s where even the Richard Pryor excerpt, which you will hear, is completely off the released version of the song.”


  6. Hey everyone,  I never thought I'd be one of those people who took a break from the board.  It wasn't intentional, I just got super buys (and still am).  I don't know that I've really been here all year.  To sum things up, I was working on a show the first two months of the year. More recently I did a small part in another show, which we're also doing out of town in a few weeks.  Life has been a mix of good and bad.  I'm still stuck in my awful job, which keeps giving me a schedule that makes it hard to live a satisfying life. I'm determined to change that soon, but the direction is foggy, so it's hard to know what steps I want to take. I met this girl a few months ago who I totally fell for and I put it out as we got super close. However, she's in this empty long distance relationship that I was sure she was going to end and hasn't yet. She often shows she wants to take the step, but all I can do is be patient right now, which is maddening. I've been vibing to Arrested Development's two new albums and I've been revisiting Tribe's work since Phife's passing.  Things are good, but tough.  I constantly feel like I'm on the edge of good changes, but getting frustrated with how much is my responsibility and how much involves patience.  I may not be hitting the board every day, but I'll be back. I've been catching up on old posts, so you'll likely late responds from me.  I hope things are well with everyone.

  7. Digable Planets Have Announced A Reunion Tour For This Summer

    Digable Planets Announce Reunion Tour

    Just when you thought their New Years Eve show in Seattle might be the last time you see you Butterfly, Doodlebug and Ladybug Mecca in one place at one time, Brooklyn legends, Digable Planetshave announced a full-on reunion tour for the heads of the world. Beginning at Sasquatch Music Festival on May 28th and continuing on throughout the summer, Digable will hit many of the majors on the festival circuit, including Essence Festival in New Orleans and Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, but won’t stop there, as sights are set on DC, Atlanta, Nashville and Salt Lake City amongst others in the continental US of A. And while there’s no word on whether we can expect anything in the way of new music in the meantime, their live and direct game should hold you over and provide you with that mid-summer nostalgia you’ve been aching for. Peep the full schedule for Digable Planets’ reunion tour below. Revisit the catalogue on iTunes today.

    Tour Dates:
    5/28 @ Sasquatch Festival – George, WA
    7/2 @ Essence Festival – New Orleans, LA
    7/16 @ Pitchfork Festival – Chicago, IL
    7/18 @ Woodward Theater – Cincinnati OH
    7/19 @ Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
    7/20 @ The Saturn – Birmingham, AL
    7/21 @ The Exit In – Nashville, TN
    7/22 @ Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
    7/23 @ Music Farm – Charleston, SC
    7/24 @ Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
    7/26 @ 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
    7/28 @ Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, PA
    8/18 @ Pioneer Park – Salt Lake City, UT (Twilight Series) with Pusha T


  8. Will Smith is definitely a cool dad, but even cool dads question their children’s choices sometimes. That was the case for Will when his son Jaden decided to wear a Batman costume to prom.

    In an interview with GQ Magazine, the actor spoke about his son’s infamous outfit, the same one that he wore to the Kimye wedding. He told the mag, “The night before we get an emergency call from [his date’s] father: ‘My daughter has just found out that Jaden is wearing a Batman suit to the prom.’ So we talked to Jaden, and he agreed to wear a tie with the Batman suit. So, I blame his mother.”

    Check out the candid interview above.