“I hate the term ‘underground’ “

MeLa Machinko gives her take on the term “underground”

Yes, I know where I am. I also know where you’re reading this. But…

I never liked the term “underground.” As much as I have always been in love with “underground music,” it has always felt to me like the very thing I love about the music that tends to fall under the umbrella—the freedom and risk-taking sonically, the noncompliance to the popular rules of the day—it’s always seemed that the title “underground” sought to undermine those qualities, by boxing it in. And everyone who used it, used it that way…not just popular music lovers.

Beyond the catchall use of underground as “music that’s not generally commercial sounding and/or widely commercially released,” the term is at once used as a pejorative (see: Ebro) to mean “unappealing to the masses/unable to crossover because it’s not good enough” (which we know is horse shit)—as a badge of honor; a secret club for the smarter, cooler kids; a weapon used to shame anyone who dares like popular music. Most of that shit is wack and needs to stop.

It’s wild corny to fix your face to say that all the music that doesn’t make it past the corporate gatekeepers and onto the radio 100 times a day just isn’t as good as music that does. Plus a lot of that shit is trash.
But the so-called purist fans can hobble their favorite artist’s career by rejecting anything that to them remotely smells like they want to gain a fan beyond the hot, funky, obscure basement rap club they’re standing in. Think of any “backpack” or “conscious” (subsets of the underground) artist who collaborates with a mainstream artist and puts it out. Now recall their Twitter mentions that day. (Did you even listen to that 2 Chainz verse on De La’s album? He blacked. Haters hated anyway.)

Underground can mean how the music sounds, or how famous a rapper isn’t. It’s further complicated by the facts that A) the major deal is all but dead, so almost everyone is independent now (what that means these days is a convo for another time), and B) there are artists who do have major backing who pretend to be underground, for the authenticating narrative (and so they don’t get taxed in full by collaborators).

Soundcloud is a huge player in the underground conversation (and probably not so incidentally, “Soundcloud rapper” has also been used as an insult). Lil Yachty got his start on Soundcloud. Now he has a Target commercial. Some call him an industry plant. If XXXTentacion never changes his moody emo violent sound, but still gets chosen by Walmart ‘cause one day Drake apologizes and puts him on his Summer single, is HE still underground?

It’s exhausting.

I want the stigma gone, and I want the elitist heads to stand down.

Every rapper’s story began underground, one way or another. If the underground can mean all those things, then why can’t it mean the genesis stories of mainstream faves? Why can’t it mean the Polo Club, before they became the Migos? Kendrick is, as I type, coasting up the Billboard charts. He’s widely accepted as the most “woke” rapper of the times, still making the Blackest music. Section.80 is underground, ain’t it?

What if underground could be all the dope music that’s waiting to be brought to light, and all of the stories that come from the ones who went on to greatness?

I might could love that underground.

The end of the MP3…

MP3’s going the way of vinyl, cd’s and tapes
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The developer of the MP3, which revolutionized the way people listen to music, announced Monday it has terminated the file format’s licensing program after more than two decades.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a German research body that licensed MP3 patents to software developers, said in a statement that though the technology remains popular among consumers, “there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today.” Indeed, the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), MP3’s successor, is already considered the default audio format for YouTube, iTunes, and other music-streaming services.

The format became popular mostly because it could compress vast amounts of data without a commensurate deterioration in quality. In practical terms, it meant many songs—sometimes thousands—could be saved on a single device.

Though MP3 will join the list of older formats such as CDs, cassette tapes, and vinyl, it’s unlikely to enjoy the resurgence of its predecessors. As Gizmodo’s Rhett Jones writes, “The audio quality is trash by modern standards and some research has even suggested that its compression reinforces perceived negative emotional characteristics in musical instruments to the detriment of positive emotional characteristics.”

Still, the impact of MP3s on the digital music landscape won’t soon be forgotten. The format ushered the music industry into the digital age, fueling millions or billions of portable audio downloads and setting the foundation for an era that brought the iPod and all the other modern forms of music listening that have come since.

Chem Trail Rap forever…

The latest Unkut post has Robbie analyzing various rappers’conspiracy theories…

Chem Trail Rap, also known as Tinfoil Hat Rap, Eff The Illuminati Rap or Flat Earther Rap, has been permanent fixture of hip-hop ever since it became passe to talk about the actual real problems that Public Enemy, Paris, X-Clan, and Brand Nubian addressed in their music. In an attempt to somehow be more ‘underground’ and edgy, it was deemed old hat to be hung-up on the subjects of institutional racism and the War on Drugs when there was wild-eyed conspiracy theories about government sanctioned UFOs to be plundered by every weed head with a copy of Milton William Cooper’s Behold A Pale Horse in their rucksack.

This trend was amplified once the internet provided new avenues for crackpot theories to be distributed, allowing them to reach a far wider audience than the photocopied leaflets and newsletters previously distributed through militia bookstores, incense shops, and gun conventions. The likes of Non-Phixion, Immortal Technique, and Jedi Mind Tricks nurtured a loyal audience of folks convinced that AIDS was made in a lab in order to kill off particular sections of the population, 9/11 was carried out under the instructions of George W. Bush, and JFK was shot to prevent him from revealing the secrets of aliens living amongst us.

As I’ve previously noted, B.O.B. is a strident Flat Earther, going as far as penning a song on the subject and engaging in heated debates on social media. According to Salon, B.O.B. has now moved on to Holocaust denial in an attempt to become this generation’s Professor Griff. I was also saddened to discover that D.I.T.C. stalwart A.G. also subscribes to the idea that we’re living on a flat disc covered by a giant dome and that space travel is a lie, which further strengthens my resolve that it’s a terrible idea to ever read the Facebook status of any rapper you have even the least bit of appreciation for.

There’s also a burgeoning field of hip-hop conspiracies to contend with, such as Jay Z being a major Illuminati power player, Tupac living on a tropical island, and Three 6 Mafia being active worshippers of Satan. Which begs the question – are rap fans more susceptible to conspiracy theories than other music fans? The short answer is no. Bizarre ideas and accusations of cover-ups have been going on since Paul McCartney was apparently ‘replaced’ by an imposter after ‘dying’ in 1966.

The format of rapping just happens to lend itself to more intricate ‘exposes’, as a rap song will typically contain far more information than any rock or heavy metal tune could ever squeeze into four and a half minutes. Add to that the potential to make yourself seem particularly clever and well-informed by revealing the ‘tricknology’ that permeates our every waking moment, and you have the ideal breeding ground for mentalist music. Take ol’ mate Prodigy from Mobb Deep, who in the latter half of his career has dedicated a significant portion of his rapping to teaching the ‘sheeple’ about the dangers of the various secret societies controlling us all. On 2008’s appropriately titled ‘Illuminati,’ Prodigy raps: “Illuminati want my mind, soul and my body, Secret Society trying to keep their eye on me/But I’mma stay incogni in places they can’t find me/Make my moves strategically.” Might I suggest that naming a song after the organisation from which you’re trying to keep a low profile isn’t exactly the best way to fly beneath their radar… unless it’s all part of an elaborate plan to bait them into publicly exposing themselves in a cunning game of cat and mouse?

There’s also a growing section of Fake Deep Rap for fans who want to appear ‘woke’ but prefer something a little less rabid than alien abductions and Freemason plots. This particular community can often be found enjoying the tranquil sounds of J. Cole, Joey Badass, and Lupe Fiasco, where vague spirituality meets even vaguer messages about being the best ‘you’ that you can be, all wrapped up in the warm embrace of smug self-satisfaction because you’re so much more sophisticated and evolved than those lowly Mumble Rap fans who just want to get wasted all the time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my underground bunker to boil the mind controlling drugs out of my tap water and complete my manifesto exposing how ‘the gay’ control the rap industry, as Fat Joe warned us all about years ago.

SummerStage 2017…

SummerStage is back so i picked out a few upcoming events for the 2017 summer i think my readers would be interested in…

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic / Main Source / DJ Marley Marl hosted by Roxanne Shante
June 11 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm | Free @ Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Grand Central Pkwy., Whitestone Exwy. bet. 111 St. & College Point Blvd., Park Drive E.
Queens, NY



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Digable Planets
June 21 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Coffey Park Verona St. bet. Richard St. and Dwight St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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Just Blaze in association with Meanred
June 23 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Coffey Park Verona St. bet. Richard St. and Dwight St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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KRS-One / DJ Chuck Chillout
June 25 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Coffey Park Verona St. bet. Richard St. and Dwight St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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GrandWizzard Theodore
June 29 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Betsy Head Park Dumont Ave. & Strauss St.,
Brooklyn, NY

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DJ Premier and Friends in association with Lyricist Lounge 25th Anniversary Series
July 2 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Betsy Head Park Dumont Ave. & Strauss St.,
Brooklyn, NY


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Slick Rick The Ruler / GrandWizzard Theodore
July 7 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Springfield Park 184th St. & 146th Terrace
Queens, NY 11413 United States

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Judy Torres / Cynthia
July 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Queensbridge Park Queensboro Bridge, 41 Rd., 40 Ave. bet. The East River, Vernon Blvd., and 21 St.
Queens, NY


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Mr. Cheeks / Large Professor
July 14 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Queensbridge Park Queensboro Bridge, 41 Rd., 40 Ave. bet. The East River, Vernon Blvd., and 21 St.
Queens, NY

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The Legendary Ladies of SKYY
July 15 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Queensbridge Park Queensboro Bridge, 41 Rd., 40 Ave. bet. The East River, Vernon Blvd., and 21 St.
Queens, NY

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Capone-N-Noreaga in association with Lyricist Lounge 25th Anniversary Series
July 16 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Queensbridge Park Queensboro Bridge, 41 Rd., 40 Ave. bet. The East River, Vernon Blvd., and 21 St.
Queens, NY

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TKA
July 19 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Corporal Thompson Park Broadway btwn Markham Rd. & Wayne St.
Staten Island, NY United States

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Lisette Melendez
July 20 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Corporal Thompson Park Broadway btwn Markham Rd. & Wayne St.
Staten Island, NY United States

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GZA in association with Lyricist Lounge 25th Anniversary Series
July 23 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Corporal Thompson Park Broadway btwn Markham Rd. & Wayne St.
Staten Island, NY United States

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Rock Steady Crew 40th Anniversary featuring MC Lyte
July 30 @ 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ SummerStage, Central Park Rumsey Playfield
New York, NY


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Lisa Lisa
July 30 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ St. Mary’s Park St Mary’s St bet. St Ann’s Av and Jackson Av
Bronx, NY

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Ultimate Break and Beats Anniversary / BreakBeat Lou / SPECIAL ED / Camp Lo / hosted by Lord Finesse
August 2 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Crotona Park Crotona Park North to South, Fulton Av to Southern Blvd and Crotona Park East
Bronx, NY



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Stevie B / Ted Smooth
August 4 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm @ Crotona Park Crotona Park North to South, Fulton Av to Southern Blvd and Crotona Park East
Bronx, NY


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Kid Capri’s Block Party Live
August 5 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Crotona Park Crotona Park North to South, Fulton Av to Southern Blvd and Crotona Park East
Bronx, NY

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Jadakiss
August 6 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm @ Crotona Park Crotona Park North to South, Fulton Av to Southern Blvd and Crotona Park East
Bronx, NY

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Funkbox in the Park: Tony Touch / Danny Krivit / Jellybean Benitez / D-Train / honoring Evelyn Santos
August 13 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm | Free @ East River Park Amphitheater
New York, NY 10002 United States

“Modern fans are superficial, ignorant of rap’s legacy and rarely care what’s being said as long as it ‘feels’ right and looks the part – hence Lil’ Yachty”

Why some of today’s relatively unremarkable rappers attract so many loyal fans

In recent years, I’ve often found myself perplexed at the fact that many, perfectly competent but otherwise unremarkable, rappers have managed to amass sizeable followings of passionate fans. Where previously this kind of loyalty was reserved for artists of exceptional ability or undeniable charisma, now a modicum of talent and an affable personality seem to suffice. A real head scratcher, it would seem, until earlier this week while I was chatting with an esteemed associate who’s had first-hand experience in several areas of the music industry. He reasoned that the current generation of rap fans hold artists to a different standard than he and I did, and that these often ‘second rate’ rappers made their fans feel more connected and ‘closer’ to them because of this ordinariness.

This might be described as the ‘performing in the bedroom mirror with a hairbrush’ effect, where the audience feel a strong connection and almost believe that they too could one day be up on the stage themselves if they develop their ‘personal brand’ enough. This is an interesting shift from the attitudes of yesteryear, where rappers often had a certain public aloofness as they struggled to keep up with the neighbourhood hustlers who set the style trends and almost always had bigger gold chains and flyer gear. There was also the issue of accessibility to consider – you needed some serious cash for studio time to hone your craft once you moved beyond the pause-tape demo, and even once you had proper music in the can there was a very limited set of gate-keepers between you and your (potentially) adoring public.

Now that Joe Macbook can record, mix, and master his own music, shoot a video for it and then go and spam the shit out of unsuspecting Twitter users, it’s an easier dream to sell. Now if the rapper they admire embodies many of the qualities the fan considers important to them (dressing well, smoking weed, pushing vague Fake Deep positivity) without appearing too technically advanced or skilled, then it’s feasible that the fan might one day be able to perform alongside them as a peer. This, in turn, breeds a particular strain of loyalty which leads the fans to buy branded handkerchiefs (may not have actually been done yet but it’s only a matter of time) and valiantly defending them in the Great YouTube Comment Section Wars.

My friend also noted that as a result of music and arts programs being effectively abandoned by the public school system, the subsequent generation lacks many of the skills required for critical artistic thinking, which produces a wave of artistic types who find it easier to mimic, replicate and recycle older, better ideas with no shame and a disturbing lack of self-awareness. He continued by pointing out that there’s also a trend to ‘deify’ artists of the past in an attempt by teenagers to create or validate their own self-identity without actually understanding them or their music. Thus Tupac and Biggie become their James Dean and Marilyn Monroe – cultish idols to be worshipped but rarely understood.

Likewise, issues which plagued rappers for years such as artistic credibility and street-level respect have been rendered virtually null and void, as a powerful meme can destroy your career quicker than a dozen shoot-outs out the front of Hot 97 ever could have. The only people who are concerned about rap ghostwriters are angry Facebook dudes who were denied entry into the Conservative Rap Coalition for being older, angrier, and 85% more bitter than I could ever aspire to be, even if I lived to a hunned.

Rap fans have evolved from being that kid wanting to dress like their favourite rapper and wear a t-shirt with their logo to now aspiring to carry their weed, be their Social Media Manager, and feature them on their new mixtape. Modern fans are superficial, ignorant of rap’s legacy and rarely care what’s being said as long as it ‘feels’ right and looks the part – hence Lil’ Yachty. The same thing can be said of any pop music fan since recorded music became commercially available, so this speaks more to rap becoming assimilated into pop culture than anything else. Pop music is essentially about feeling sorry for yourself, love songs, and jumping around like an idiot, so that’s what the public face of rap has morphed into as well.

SoundCloud will no longer be taking down DJ mixes for copyright infringement…

A little TOO LATE, maybe?

In a recent interview, SoundCloud founder Eric Wahlforss said that DJ mixes will no longer get taken down from the streaming service for copyright infringement.

The interview, done with German outlet Groove and translated and cleared up by FACT, stated that SoundCloud made deals with the proper licensing publishers — like Germany’s licensing giant GEMA — to make sure mixes will be able to stay on the site and not get taken down by their automated tool that scans the site for licensed songs.

DJs could previously only make mixes with material that wasn’t asked to be taken down by SoundCloud or with songs they had permission to use. You were allowed a couple strikes on your account (on some occasions) before your account was terminated, but some accounts were terminated all at once for having too many mixes up.

This is a nice move for SoundCloud, but it may be too little, too late for the streaming service as its lost tons of trust amongst the music community.

SoundCloud recently introduced SoundCloud Go — a paid part of the service that doesn’t feature ads. There were talks of Spotify buying SoundCloud, but Spotify recently backed out because of licensing issues.

“Looking through old flyers is to walk through a ghost town buried under high-rise condos, Starbucks and CVS stores, and remarkably anonymous 21st century architecture. Buried beneath them are clubs and parties that spoke for a wilder, more reckless and innovative city that the one we live in now”

The intoxicating promise of New York City’s night-life flyers

The new book “No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999,” edited by Adrian Bartos (otherwise known as the d.j. Stretch Armstrong) and the archivist Evan Auerbach, and featuring the collections of dozens of artists, designers, and clubgoers, commemorates a time when Manhattan was one of the world’s great party cities. Like any account of how much fun New York used to be, it is also a shadow history of real estate. It is intoxicating to flip through these pages and take in the radiant diversity of names and musical scenes that each laid claim to the same city. But there’s also a stark sense of distance between then and now. Few of the venues listed in these flyers still exist, and it’s astonishing to recall how much of the city once seemed beneath the interest of speculators: the spontaneous, open-air parties that sprung up on the abandoned High Line, now one of the city’s prime tourist attractions; the once-deserted corners of the meatpacking district or Lower East Side, where boutique hotels and parking lots now stand. The Palladium, one of downtown’s largest clubs, is now an N.Y.U. dorm. Moby tells of one party with no address, just a cryptic directive to “be on the L train at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night.” He waited on the platform, and when the train arrived it had been taken over by club kids.

What “No Sleep” depicts is a much looser time, after disco and before the gilded age of mega-clubs and luxury bottle service, when the only guiding ethos was that anything was worth a try. There are flyers in the shape of candy bars, detergent boxes, and dollar bills, printed in eye-catching neon or in austere black-and-white. The bulk of the collection being from the nineties, there are plenty of variations on the Nike swoosh, remixed Bart Simpsons, and faux cigarette logos. Many specimens here are notable simply because they advertise events that are hard to imagine today: the release party for Jay Z’s first album; a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day party flyer drawn by Keith Haring, advertising the d.j.s Larry Levan and Jellybean Benitez; Moby, spinning all different genres, seemingly on every other page; David Faustino—better known as Bud Bundy from “Married with Children”—sharing a stage with Doug E. Fresh and Organized Konfusion.

Even as parties grew more established, their flyers were still full of inside jokes, cryptic shout-outs, manifestos squiggled into the margins. Bartos and Auerbach resist the temptation to make any definitive claims about the era, other than that it was a blast. It’s all anecdotes, a fitting way to highlight any good night out. There was the time Russell Simmons lost his phone somewhere at the Soul Kitchen party, and the d.j. turned the music down low so that someone could call it from a payphone. The time Nell’s, a tiny, exclusive club on Fourteenth Street, turned away Cher. Mostly, “No Sleep” is a chronicle of resourcefulness. These were clubs that sprung up inside decommissioned power stations, abandoned churches, community halls. A few pages are devoted to Mecca, a famed hip-hop party at Tunnel that brought the rugged and the glamorous alike to a deserted block of westernmost Chelsea. Though it would go on to shape the sound of New York hip-hop, its beginnings were modest, relegated to Sunday nights, because rap music still seemed a novelty.

Nostalgia is often a yearning for a different set of choices, or even fewer choices altogether. There’s something romantic about the power that a well-designed flyer and word-of-mouth buzz once held, and for the acts of communion and escape that took place with minimal concern for branding or profit, since there existed few ambitions greater than just making the scene a little bigger. “No Sleep” ends in the late nineties. For some, the tank was running empty. A particularly touching testimonial comes from Kenny Kenny, a club kid turned promoter, photographer, and doorman. “We were all broken birds trying to fly,” he writes, saluting the tribe of misfits he ran with, “but many didn’t make it.” He describes what was just around the corner: Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his obsession with beautifying the city by regulating “quality-of-life” offenses.

Of course, as long as there are young people drawn to New York—not a foregone conclusion, with rents these days—there will be resourceful thrill-seekers trying to have a good time. And there are still innovative young d.j.s and promoters renting out the backrooms of Chinese banquet halls and community centers, finding new places to throw parties. Today’s night life persists in the shadow of (and in spite of) the New York that came in the decades since “No Sleep.” As the journalist Nelson George recalls, “Looking through old flyers is to walk through a ghost town buried under high-rise condos, Starbucks and CVS stores, and remarkably anonymous 21st century architecture. Buried beneath them are clubs and parties that spoke for a wilder, more reckless and innovative city that the one we live in now.”

According to Lady Miss Kier, a d.j. and partygoer who would eventually find fame as a member of Deee-Lite, it was a time when a lot of clubs felt no need to turn a profit, since many of them were fronts for money laundering. Without that pressure to constantly expand, parties were free to experiment and build their modest freak fiefdoms. The memories that remain aren’t necessarily of the music or the fashions but of a sense of intimacy. A party flyer is a promise but not a guarantee. Maybe one tumbles out of a book that hasn’t been opened in a decade, marking an epic night out that you barely remember, beyond how small yet infinite the world once seemed.