I go chop ya dollar

This is a dual-language blog entry. Nigerian Pidgin first, then the translation to en-US. 

Dem get dis show for radio "This American Life". I been hear small small part of de show wey dem gist about 419-eaters. Some oyinbo dey make wuru-wuru for de yeye people wey dey send that e-mail. When the show finish dem play Osuofia "I go chop ya dollar", but dem say na de song wey popular among all de 419 people. I think say them go make people confuse. That song popular throughout Africa, and no be guy say we dey make cunning for Oyinbo. Make I tell you truth, O! 

OK, I lied. I'm switching to en-US all the rest of the way. First I'll translate the above, and then I'll continue... 

cue sound of ghetto blaster tape rewinding

There's this radio show "This American Life". I caught a bit of a recent episode which included a tale of 419 baiters, basically westerners who look to tun the tables on the e-mail scammers. At the end of the show they played Osuofia's "I go chop ya dollar", saying it's a song popular among 419 scam artists. This might be true, but it's misleading. The song is popular throughout Africa and the diaspora, and not because people are celebrating e-mail scams. I think it's worth clearing up the record a bit, but first of all, here's Osuofia. 

Poverty no good at all, oh
Na him make I join this business 
419 no be thief, its just a game 
Everybody dey play am 
If anybody fall mugu, Ha! my brother, I go chop am 

Translation: Poverty sucks, so I joined this business. 419 isn't stealing--it's just a game. Everybody does it. If anyone is stupid enough to fall for it, I'll get away with what I can. 

National Airport na me get am 
National Stadium na me build am 
President na my sister brother 
You be the mugu, I be the master 
Oyinbo I go chop your dollar, I go take your money disappear 
you are the loser I am the winner 

Probably no translation needed except to mention that Oyinbo means white man. 

Osuofia is a character from a few popular Nollywood comedy films, and really what this song is doing is two-fold. It's providing some fictional escape from the too real problem of poverty in Nigeria, among honest people and dishonest alike. It's also skewering the outrageous claims of 419 scam artists, along with the outrageous gullibility of those who fall for such claims. 

Think of it: you walk up to a man on a small town Nigerian street (say Okigwe, where I went to secondary school). You tell him "hey, if you were to send Americans an e-mail telling them you're the widow of the President, and that if they can get you $10,000 you'll get them $1,000,000 the president stole from his people." You might expect his reaction to be: "I can't imagine who would fall for such a silly story, but if they did, I don't feel sorry for them, because why should they want to help in theft from people who can so ill afford to lose anything?" You could also imagine this man wandering back to work with no lunch (he has to skip that meal to save money) dreaming of what he could do with $10,000 from a greedy, gullible hand overseas. 

Then a year later you go back to that same man and you tell him "Remember that scam I told you about? Well it's been going gangbusters, and there have been a lot of victims, and now people look at all Nigerians as just a bunch of spammer/scammers." Imagine his combination of bemusement, bewilderment and contempt for both the scammers and the vics. Most Nigerians handle such nonsense with black irony, and this is precisely the spirit of "I go chop ya dollar". I'd say that's obvious to any Nigerian who hears it, and the festive tone of the song is just the broadest clue. 419ers who enjoy the song probably employ intentional double irony. 

Which means, of course that the use of the song in the close of "This American Life" represents a triple irony. Which is pretty cool, even if they unwittingly gave the wrong impression about the song's audience.

Ubuntu Edgy, Firefox and Flash

One of the things I noticed upon upgrade to Edgy is that I'd lost Flash support in Firefox. I wish I could say that I had no need for Adobe/Macromedia's crap, but I can't. For one thing, I often make musical discoveries on MySpace pages--my musical interests tend towards the underground. I set about this evening getting Flash working again, and it was harder than I expected. Recently MySpace switched to Flash 9 (punks!) and I decided to use the version 9 beta bone that Adobe tossed to the Linux community. I found that the nonfree virtual Flash package had ben removed, so I restored it:

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

The plan would be to just copy the libflashplayer.so from Flash 9 beta over the installed version 7. BTW the Flash 7 file was 2MB and the Flash 9 Beta file is almost 7MB. Might be debugging info or something, but yeesh!

Anyway, even before copying the Flash 9 beta I found that Firefox was crashing every time it loaded a Flash site. After some hunting I found a bug with Ubuntu Edgy and either version of the Flash plugin. There are several workarounds mentioned in that thread, but one of them is simply to bump up color depth to 24 bits. I hadn't even known Edgy had limited me to 16 bits, but surely enough I checked my /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Section "Screen"
    Identifier      "Default Screen"
    Device          "NVIDIA Corporation NV34M [GeForce FX Go 5200]"
    Monitor         "Generic Monitor"
    DefaultDepth    16

I changed that from 16 to 24, restarted X, and all has been well since then. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, speaking of music on MySpace, here's my brother's crew, StrawHat BentLow.

...your best advice is look for the hat...

See also: "On Huck, Hip Hop, and Expression"

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Wu-tang Flashback via Dave Chappelle

I was watching what I believe (so far - only having seen a handful of episodes) to be the funniest Dave Chappelle skit ever, 'Racial Draft', when the Chinese representative gets up to pick his representative and he paraphrases the original Wutang introduction:

From the slums of Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan strikes again
The RZA, the GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef
U-God, Ghost Face Killer and the Method Man

It Gave me chills and flashbacks to a much better time in music. I remember that track (Method Man) was the only song I ever heard from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) at the time. I bought the tape (yes, back then I was rocking a tape walkman) not knowing exactly what to expect. The yellow, odd looking symbol and inset made me thing twice at the store. It ended up being one of my favorite purchases. My favorite of the clan has always been and always will be the GZA (aptly named the Genius). My favorite verse snippet (from Amplified Sample):

Guide this, strenuous as an arm wrestle
Move swift as light, a thousand years in one night
Inflight with insight
Everything i thought of, I saw it happen
Then I rose from the soil, the sun blackened
Then came rap czars, left tracks in scars
A pair of brightness of exploding stars
Give you goods to taste
No ingredients to trace
You'll remain stuck trying to figure the shape of space

(I had to make some corrections to the entry on The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive)

Dave Chappelle's musical selection for guest appearances and Hip-hop skits (anyone seen the Turn my headphones up skit? Funny!) is perhaps the most obvious indication of how grounded he is, but when the Chinese delegation picked the Wutang in Racial Draft, I almost lost it. Yeah, perhaps border-line tasteless, but very well-written comedy.

[Chimezie Ogbuji]

via Copia

Just a friendly game of mailbox baseball

Baseball was never for Blacks
It used to be a pastime for Whites
Now it has mad Puerto Ricans
But that's not the point of this song.
The point of this song, and I make it mad simple when I be flipping this script
Is that the industry is all over the mound pitching but nobody's making any hits.

—Natural Resources—Negro League Baseball

Yeah. Mailbox baseball. That game of legend (I've never seen it played) where a pack of stereotypical American teenage lombards drives down the boulevard whacking at mailboxes with Louisville sluggers from the car windows until they hit one with unclaimed mail, enjoying the resulting shower of fluttering letters. I did something like that to myself today, quite unwittingly. (I'm amazed there's room in my cheek for the tongue after a day like today).

I've been completely retooling my e-mail habits, in part to use uche@ogbuji.net more for professional correspondence that does not have immediate bearing on my day job. I the process I managed to completely kill my fourthought.com address today, and as I hear it, it's all been bouncing to hell. Sorry folks. Unless you work for a company that writes checks to Fourthought, Inc., I'll probably be asking you politely to start using my ogbuji.net address from now on anyway, so you might as well start now (that address wasn't affected by the outage). Meanwhile I've straightened out the config problems, and as soon as DNS has a chance to propagate, my fourthought.com address should be working again.

BTW, those who have ever sent me e-mail at my ogbuji.net account and learned how infrequently I get around to checking it will notice a marked improvement in my attention (I should temper that promise by mentioning that I haven't been able to keep up with even my fourthought.com address in years. It's no fun being afflicted by chronic Scrolliosis).

Back-to-off-topic note w.r.t. my silly intro: If you're an underground hip-hop head and haven't heard the song whose lyrics I used you'd best get up out there and find that single. It's a classic from 1997, and it was the first time I heard the M.C. then known as "What What?" and now recognized as the great Jean Grae (repping South Africa—she runs through your hood with her middle finger up.). It's a great romp of a song that refuses to take itself too seriously, and has the tickly lounge piano in the background loop to match. It's da Jawn!

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Inventing XML for music

I got an interesting message in response to "Learn how to invent XML languages, then do so". Michael Good of Recordare LLC wrote:

I enjoyed your response to Tim Bray's piece on inventing XML languages.

I hope that when listing important XML vocabularies in the future, you will consider including the MusicXML language for music notation:

For 20 years people had tried to invent a better format than MIDI for exchanging music notation between applications. MIDI was not designed for this purpose, even though it was used this way. It could do the bare basics but not much more, and was really inadequate to the task. The two major attempts, NIFF and SMDL, failed in attracting any significant industry support (in SMDL's case, any industry support whatsoever). MusicXML is the first such language to succeed.

MusicXML is supported by over 50 applications, including the market leaders in music notation editors (Finale and Sibelius) and all the major players in music scanning. It has been adopted by commercial and open source projects; by industry developers, hobbyists, and academic researchers; by established products and innovative new applications. Consumers can finally exchange digital sheet music files between applications, and the barriers to entry for innovative new applications in the market has been dramatically lowered (e.g. see the entry of MuseBook, OrganMuse, Notion, and musicRAIN into the market).

I'm sure there are other examples where XML has successfully (not just potentially) broken down barriers between document interchange in specialized fields. But for now, MusicXML is the most dramatic success story I know. I do want to better understand how MusicXML measures up to XML vocabularies in other industries in terms of adoption rate. If you have pointers to other work in this area, anything you could send on would be most appreciated.

This just underscores my first reaction whenever I hear someone discouraging people from inventing XML formats—how can that be the product of anything but the narrowest world view? XML's strength is in providing a syntactic framework that can be used across innumerable domains. There is no reason why a musical XML format should not be as important as , say, Docbook. I don't know anything about XML formats in the music field, but I'm certainly happy to see that there is room in the XML universe for MusicXML as well as Country Dance (Folk Dancing) animation language, to grab another example plucked from XML.com.

I was curious, so I browsed the landscape a bit for Music and XML. There were some interesting nuggets in the usual sea of noise in this SlashDot article on MusicXML, including this comment:

[Don't forget] the archival value of MusicXML -- [people] criticize it for "re-inventing the wheel," but they're only looking at the value for music composers and consumers.

The true value of MusicXML is as a universally understood format for describing musical scores digitally. The music libraries of the future aren't going to be made of paper, don't you think?

This speaks very sensibly to the overall value proposition of XML. The universal syntax allows data formats to evolve that enhance the longevity of stored data. Longevity that comes from transparency. (OK, so you have to have long-lived storage media as well, but that's a different topic). Such longevity is further enhanced by (once again) the closeness of the expression to the domain model.

There are other XML specifications in the area:

Actually, just go straight to the indefatigable Robin Cover on the topic.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Hip-Hop in its essence is Palestinian

This is a hunting season the prey is one more home
Of a dove trying to survive under the hawk’s regime
(page ripped) lets try something more optimistic:
each day I wake up and see like a 1000 cops
maybe they came to arrest a dealer…(he’s ever here, over here, oh no
they came to destroy his neighbor’s home)
what is happening here? A hate bubble surrounding the ghetto
why is it hard for him? And who’s going to answer him? Anywhere
I go, excuses are there to greet me
I broke the law? No no the law broke me
enough, enough (enough, enough) gentlemen (gentlemen)
I was born here, my grandparents were also born here, you will not sever me
From my roots (you will not sever me from my roots) understand, even if
I have faith in this “if you wish it is not a legend” regime
You still haven’t allowed me to build a porch to stand on and express it

—Tamer Nafar of DAM—"Born Here" translated lyrics

When explaining Hip-Hop to people my motto has always been: "Hip-Hop in its essence is regional", based, of course, on the word play at the heart of one of Hip-Hop's greatest songs, Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R.". I'm always blown away at how kids the world over take the basic art form, and make it so emphatically theirs. The quickest way to get clowned in many countries is to try to rap just like 50 Cent, or even just like Talib Kweli. Same goes for DJing and the other elements. It's already been the case in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, East Great Lakes, Los Angeles, the Bay area and more places within the U.S. Hip Hop was born in New York (with much courtesy from Jamaican immigrants), but anywhere it's picked up, it takes on an instant regional flavor. This is the strength of Hip-Hop.

I personally look out for the different Hip-Hop flavors of Paris, Lyon Zürich, Toronto, Dakar, Lagos, Havana, Tokyo, and many such places. It looks as if I'll have to add the West Bank to that listing.

Via Ethan Zuckerman I learned about a precious blossoming of Hip-Hop in Palestine. I've listened to a bunch of the linked tracks and watched a bunch of the videos. This shit is mad hot. The kids are articulate, angry and yet extraordinarily circumspect. Like many very sad observers of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I've found too little distinction made between Israeli, hard-line Zionist, Palestinian, terrorist, refugee, etc. These Palestinian rappers vent their frustration with the heavy-handed tactics of Israeli security forces without succumbing completely to the "annihilate Israel" logic of extremists. Sure there are parts of the Israeli side of the story that you're never going to get a fair hearing from in Palestinian rap, but no one could reasonably expect any more in such a polarized situation.

I personally believe that it's the "keep it real" ethic of Hip-Hop that makes it possible and even essential in such horrible conflicts for people to speak their mind without losing their minds. "Keep it real" is the same ethic that allows Hip-Hop to adapt so completely in wide-ranging locales. It can have negative consequences, from glorifying violence and sexism to causing smaller-scale conflict such as the Tupac/Biggie feud, but you rarely have to strain your ears before you find the culture quite willingly criticizing itself. And there is plenty of karma to balance out the negatives. Just last month (1) (2) there was a U.S. release of an amazing hip-hop collaboration between a Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese Christian former child soldier and Abdel Gadir Salim, a Sudanese Muslim bandleader. This is a conflict that has risen to levels of total war and genocide. I don't expect the release of Ceasefire will end the very deep-seated Sudanese strife, but it is just another example of how Hip-Hop brings people and cultures together even while it thrives on authentic cultural identity. Hip-Hop in its essence is Sudanese.

Sidebar. I went to watch Mos Def (purportedly), Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and Jean Grae at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Thursday. Mos Def was a no-show due to illness, but Talib Kweli is the one I wanted to see the most, anyway, and it would be my first time watching Pharoahe in concert. All the performers held it down solid, and as often happens when I go to such ensemble concerts, I had a pleasant surprise. K'naan, front man of The Dustyfoot Philospher, is a Toronto-based Somali rapper I'd never heard of. He did a superlative set rapping and singing while playing a traditional drum, with two other drummers working beside backup strings, organ, and a DJ. It was all-out boom-bap with unmistakable East African flavor. He moved the crowd to near hysteria (not bad for the act with leftover billing). He didn't get much into the simmering disputes between Somalia and Eritrea, but he definitely waxed eloquent about how real it is just to keep life and limb together in so much of his Motherland, and the many international and home-grown outrages that fuel the tragedies (keeping it real: he's as hard on Black warlords as he is on White colonists). Yeah. Hip-Hop in its essence is also Somalian.

As my peeps used to say in the early 90s: "Peace in the Middle East".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


The only reason I'm influential is that I say what's on my mind.... Think about it. I make [movies]. You couldn't possibly be worrying about a film career and sit up and be saying the stuff I say on radio. You'd be like: Oh wow, what if they don't put me on the next movie... I don't care. I don't care about these records, these movies. I don't care. I've have to live my life from point A to point B and saying what's on my mind. That's what I care about: being in tune with myself, and people respect that. That's why I'm on a college lecture tour. I'm on my way to Harvard or some place, to teach people how to be real. Isn't that stupid?

—Ice T—Fresh Air interview, originally 1992, re-aired on hip-hop week 2005

Ice-T in that quote, provides one of the best definitions of hip-hop I've heard. Overall, this is a great interview for anyone who wants to break through all the media circus that has ever surrounded Ice-T and get a sense of what the man is really about. In fact, for anyone who really wants to get a sense of Hip-Hop's essence, whether you're down like Foxy Brown, or one of the many who has no earthly idea how a genre as horrible as Rap has flourished for three decades, you need to check out Fresh Air's Hip-Hop week . (Click the "Listen" then "Next Story" links until you've heard Monday through Friday. One hour each, all trimmed to the choicest segments). I do wish she'd had more on grafitti, break-dancing and even beat-boxing, which are among the core elements of Hip-Hop culture, but MCing and DJing are well covered.

I like the bit at the end about Ice-T taking it to college campuses to teach some realness. From what I gather, US Academia needs a heavy dose of realness. There are attacks on academic freedom coming from all directions, with sanctions and threats taking the place of debate. Whether they're fundamentalist Christian/Muslim/Jewish, atheist, gay, straight, white supremacist, black revolutionary, Communist, Neocon, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or whatever, it's all about students and faculty choosing to be conventional, surprising, or even shocking in their ideas. Universities only thrive under Hip-Hop's first principles: "speak your clout"; "show and prove". Sad that it takes a sometime controversial rapper to put it down like that.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

On Huck, Hip Hop, and Expression

"I was born where the weather's forever warm,
   ... except for the storms ...
   Dirty south! Baby, It's sketched on my arm,
   Till' death and beyond,
   Country like I'm living next to a farm
   and war, like we resurrected from 'Nam
   I get it from Mom.
   Short-tempered, weapon in palm,
   Like Malcom X, we study Techs instead of Koran
   Who said it was calm?!
   We're like the Palestinians and Jews, except for the bombs,
   That's why I must address it in song ... "

This is my ode to Hip-Hop and a chance to share a little bit about the lesser known of the three Ogbuji brothers. Above is my favorite quote of his from a song (“Life Begets Evil”) within an a body of work we spent quite some timeon, called "Ahead of My Time." His musical alias is Huck Finn (same as the character in Mark Twain's work). That garage band site, is where I plan to host a few songs from the album. We worked on it over the winter of 2002, during one of the low points in my life (don't let the smile in that photo fool ya) where I was destitute, boarding with my parents, without employment, and seriously considering (with the state of the economy and all) that I had picked the wrong profession and needed to seek other passions in life.

It was a scattered collection of his thoughts and (in his words basically), the culmination of a 7 year effort to master the art of MCing (moving the crowd - as KRS One puts it). I've often asked Ejike if he has done any significant work since 'Ahead of My Time' and he says he hasn't mostly because as far as he's concerned it was the most complete representation / expression of himself and any further creative attempt would do it a disservice. I can't argue with that because in its essence that's what Hip Hop is, ultimately: a powerful form of expression.

So, I've made a promise to him that some day I'll find the means to get the original work professionally mastered (originally, he recorded the tracks and produced the instrumentals with his microphone and Fruity Loops, while I mixed and mastered them with Acid Pro 4.0), design the cover with the original art we decided on, shrink-wrap it and do some grass roots marketing. I intend to keep my promise someday.

This is my favorite quote because it's a direct reference to a past time in 1997 when he, myself and my two best friends Nnedi Okorafor and Okechukwu Mbachu decided to embark on a road trip to New Orleans. It was there that he and I got tatoos - for different reasons. He got a tatoo that said 'Dirty South Swamp Land' (on his left arm) and I got a tatoo that said 'Umunne Kwenu' (on my upper-forearm). I won't go into the whole politics of tatoos and why some despise them and others abuse them (in my mind), but I mention it because his reference to it is one of the reasons why the above quote resonates with me. In addition, his reference to his birthplace, Gainsville Florida (“where the weather is forever warm – except for the storms”) makes it further hit home, but the icing on the cake is the reference to our mother and her short temper (one which only her sons have been privileged to experience) but few realize exists.

I'm digressing a bit, because as much as I wanted to write about Ejike, I mainly wanted to try to express my love for the art form he tried so hard (and so successfully, IMHO) to perfect: Hip Hop and MCing.

I was inspired to write this when I recently heard Ice Cube on NPR's 'Fresh Air' and the interview almost brought me to tears. Why? When asked why Hip Hop shouldn't be considered a bad influence for the younger generation and in general, he responded that Hip Hop is about expression and about Ego. He said, for him, it was a healthy way to find a voice to express himself in the very turbulent world he found himself in. I was moved, because in only a few concise sentences, the man (whom my experience with the artform began) completely articulated the essence of the artform. Unfortunately, transcripts are not freely available, but can be purchased

You see, when Uche, Ejike, and I were reunited back in 1989 (in East Brunswick, NJ), he had us listen to NWA's album (which marked the beginning of the second renaissance of Hip Hop – the first was triggered by Whodinis Rappers Delight). We stood there, not even teenagers, hit first by the language, but what stuck with us was the powerful expression.

It stayed with all three of us and effected us differently, but it definitely had a permanent effect on us. I tell people all the time that Hip Hop saved my life in High School, and they think I'm overstating the truth, but I'm not. Highschool was a period in my life where the effect of cultural transplantation had a devastating effect of my sense of self worth and identity. I stood out like a sore thumb, visually, culturally, and phonetically. However, in Hip Hop, I found a medium of expression that helped emphasized my individuality and a healthy ego.

There is something about a rhythmic percussion and base, steady vocal cadence, and gritty imagery – peppered with uncensored dialect that simply get's the hair on the back of my head to stand straight up. I swear, every time I hear Cannibus' (By far my favorite MC) Master Thesis, I get a chill and rewind at least 3-4 times. Why?

Well, I'm not a Christian, but when my rel:lifePartnerOf explained to me the denominational distinctions (within the Christian faith) in whta constitutes the act of speaking in tongues, I felt it was the perfect analogy. As I understand it, one thing that is common to all (or at least most) denominations is that the Holy Spirit resides inside all of us and can manifest itself in a variety of ways – the most prominent being the ability to channel through its host, verbally. I think of the act of MCing (onced honed) as similar. Whereas one is spontaneous, the other takes hard work.

Very hard work. Ejike would spend days on end in the summers, writing in piles of lined notebooks, working on his cadence, delivery, content, intensity. The most useful tool for this (and this is the same for most other MCs) is freestyling. The concept is well known from the movie 8 Mile, but when you are at the point where you can channel your thoughts and the images that resonate with you directly without much thought for perfecting the delivery or how you may seem to those observing, it's a similar phenomenon. The main difference is that whereas when speaking in tongues the origin is the Holy Spirit, in Hip Hop the origin is the unfiltered combination of ego and self expression. In fact, this analogy is very striking and perhaps not completely coincidental considering the cultural context in which both forms flourish is one and the same.

I've done my own share of honing, and I'm much better than I used to be – no where as good as Ejike, but there is some satisfaction in knowing that if I ever were to come across a Cipher – a group of amateur MC's practicing their delivery with each other – I could hold my own. I would leave feeling like I've connected with people I may not have known or will ever know again through a dialect that's somewhat based on a musical artform, but fused mostly with that part of me that is most unique.

Someday, I'll finish what Ejike and I started in the winter of 2002 and come through on my promise to him to put the finishing touches on the culmination on his effort to master an artform that effected him as much as it did his other two brothers. If not for him, then at least in honor of the artform itself and it's immeasurable value as a means to carve out my identity in a multi-cultural society - one which is but a microcosm of the infinite variety that is our existence on this lonely, rotating sphere.

[Chimezie Ogbuji]

via Copia


Rap snitches
Telling all their business
Sit in the court and be their own star witness
"Do you see the perpetrator"
"Yeah, I'm right here"
Fuck around, get the whole label sent up for years
True. There's rules to this shit
Fools dare care
Everybody wants to rule the world with tears for fear
Yeah yeah tell 'em—tell it on the mountain hill
Running up their mouth bill
Everybody doubting still.
Informer, keep it up and get tested
Pop pleated bubble vest or double breasted.
He keep a lab down south in the little beast
So much heat you would have thought it was the Middle East.
A little grease always keeps the wheels a spinning
Like sitting on 23s to get the squealers grinning,
Hitting on many trees feel real linen,
Spitting on enemies enemies get the skill for ten men.
With no brains but gum flap
You said there's gun clap,
Then you fled after one slap
Son, shut your trap save it for the bitches
Mmmm. Delicious. Rap snitch knishes.

MF Doom—from "Rapp Snitch Knishes"—MM..Food?

[Note: "with tears for fear" is Doom's pun, not my typo]

This song is nothing but wicked, but in a sly way. I get an image of Berry Gordy leading his famous Motown quality control sessions. "Rapp Snitch Knishes" drops on the platter. The focus group looks around at each other and wonders "what is this weirdness"? What's with the over-tightened electric guitar loop followed offset by the sauntering bass riff? What's with the staccato flow. Maybe? Maybe? Nah. Dump it. Then later on as they're on their way to the car, they all realize that one song from the day's session is firmly lodged in their heads. And they're still replaying it to themselves the next day, and all that week. What do you know? They should not have dumped that song? I think that's the major label attitude to a lot of genius of the Metal Face Doom sort. Fly but too risky.

"Rapp Snitch Knishes" sounds as if it shouldn't be any good, but it's actually a mini masterpiece of abstract hip-hop. And I just love the subject matter. MF Doom is mocking all the superbadass MCs who like to boast on how many people they've killed, how much drugs they've sold, and how many hoes they've pimped. Any sensible person figures that:

  1. Either they're fronting Vanilla Ice type punks or
  2. They're frank but stupid, saving the feds a lot of investigative budget to build a case against them

A lot of MCs make fun of category 1, but it took Doom's audacity to pull cards on category 2. And if people don't believe he has a case, they need look no further than Murder Inc. and Death Row, both record labels that had to change their names because of the effects of Rap Snitching. And while 50 cent's G Unit is busy reveling in Murder Inc.'s misfortune, their fans should reflect on the fact that there is no bigger Rap Snitch Knish right now than 50 cent (well, The Game is making quite a run at that title).

Mr. Fantastik (who's 'dro is the stickiest, he says) guests lovely on the track, and the playful back and forth is enough fun that I hope Doom and Fantastik (whom I'd never heard from before) team up more often in future. It's always worth checking for MF Doom, a true hip-hop veteran, one third, as "Zev Love X", of classic group KMD, which also included Doom's brother Subroc. KMD met their demise because they said exactly what they thought, and MF Doom continues the tradition. His all time classic is Madvillainy which is ingenious lunacy. I also recommend Spitkicker's The Next Spit, volume 3, a mix CD hosted by Doom, and featuring a couple of tracks from MM..Food?

MM..Food? and Madvillainy are two of the top ten albums of 2004. If you've been sleeping, wake up and cop that underground goodness...early. And the next time you hear some MC killing hundreds of victims on wax, just think quietly to yourself. Mmmm. Delicious. Rap snitch knishes.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty.
We forward in this generation
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have—
Redemption songs.

Ms. Dynamite—from her Live8 cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song"

I've been hearing a lot about Ms. Dynamite's performance at Live8. Numerous attendees have rhapsodized over the power of her "Redemption Song" cover. Even commentators who had already blasted her for being the token black Live8 performer seemed to soften their tone when talking about her actual contribution. And BTW, yes, although I have plenty of beef with Live8, as I had to express to a friend lately, that does not mean that I've ever felt it necessary as a result to denigrate everyone who supported Live8. I'll leave the indiscriminate spray of spleen to others. Anyway did people really expect anything pedestrian from the wicked brilliant Ms. Dynamite? From the woman who can chat in rapid syncopated fire like a semi-automatic gun, and then sing as engagingly as a Savannah weaver bird? Once I heard that she covered Bob Marley's wonderful song, I knew I had to hear for myself.

The first time I heard Ms. Dynamite was when she set fire 'pon Sticky's UK Garage club anthem, "Booo!", which soon became an Ogbuji household anthem. Next I heard her shred the So Solid track "Envy (They don't know)" (which couldn't become an anthem at our house because Lori unfortunately hates The So Solid Crew). So we were mad ready when she dropped A Little Deeper ("It takes more" and "Dynamite" from the single had already taken their turn as household anthems). But never mind my family's endorsement, let's hear from Ali G:

Next up is MC Dynamite, who is me favorite Garage MC with his or her track called "Dynamite". That is a wicked name for the track and me swear this track is just like Dynamite, because it's going to explode like a massive bit of dynamite. And like this kind of record, dynamite can make a lot of mess and proper mash things up, just like Dynamite can. Oh yeah, this track can also blow up like dynamite. Sure this track ain't red, and don't come in boxes with the name "dynamite" on them, but this tune is also on fire, just like Dynamite, innit? This is also a banging tune, and dynamite goes "bang" when it come out of the box, doesn't it?

OK. Enough with the Sacha Cohen. I hunted down the Live8 performance, first finding an AOL/Netscape widget site that offered Live8 videos but refused to work with Firefox. I did eventually find a collection of Live8 mp3s, including this "Redemption Song" Live8 clip. I also got the concert version "Dy-na-mi-tee", another favorite, a really sweet old-school romp (old school beat, old school sentiment, etc.) through her airy brand of nostalgia. I must say it sounded a bit muddled and rushed at Live8, which I can understand from what I heard of the logistical difficulties of cramming so many acts together in such an unforgiving schedule. She did add bongos to the background, which I think is a nice touch. Sounds as if it would have made a nice studio remix, but she's on to her next project, I understand. Hells yeah. I'm all about a new Ms. Dynamite album (can't find any solid links yet, just the rumors of a new album).

One note of interest, some cat I don't think I've heard before performed a rap at the end of "Redemption Song". The lyrics are fairly insightful, with just a couple of WTF bits.

What's going on, nothing's changed, we're still exploiting the poor
Slavery never ends, yo it just changed wars
AIDS and free trade decimating the young
Famine everywhere but why never a shortage of guns?
Conflict, duel all over the globe instigated by our leaders
War in the Motherland but no African arms dealers
The West robbed the third world of every single cent
Now there's Third World debt. How does that make sense?

The last two lines do smack it all home, on the real, although I think we need to get past all that. Africans will get theirs back from the West, over time. Demographic power and all that. The more immediate concern is Africa's independent economic development.

I do still say: Live8 in London, eh? No Roots Manuva, eh? No Ty? No Klashnekoff? No Est'elle? No Blak Twang? Heck, not even Dizzee Rascal? Somebody didn't do their Supreme Mathematics, son.

But at least they got some Dynamite, and we got a reminder that Bob Marley's song is a superlative testament to the emotive and universal power of music.

And hey. Yay! I scrounged out a few minutes for a Quotīdiē. Chicken noodle soup for the overworked soul.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia