A DJ Blendz PSA…

A quick reminder: In case any of my readers are interested, I do still have a few of these custom designed USB/flash drives for sale/ mixtape subscription. Just click on the ‘Contact Me/Subscription’ to purchase and/or get more information. The USB/flash drives all have one of my mixes in it so you won’t only be getting a nicely designed USB, you will be getting a DJ Blendz mix. All custom designs are in picture up top. Don’t sleep, get it while these particular ones last!

On the making of ‘Ms. Fat Booty’…

A portion of an article from Micro-Chop’s Gino Sorcinelli on the Aretha Franklin-sampled track by Ayatollah

The pain she channeled into the love-lorn music and vocals on “One Step Ahead” inspired Ayatollah to craft several renditions of the “Ms. Fat Booty” beat before deciding on the best version. As was the case in other Franklin-sampled 90s cuts like Onyx’s “Last Dayz” and Mobb Deep’s “Drop a Gem On ‘Em,” her voice makes the “Ms. Fat Booty” beat unforgettable. Her singing provides the perfect vocal elements for the hook and is also prominent throughout every other section of the song.

Around the time Ayatollah finalized the instrumental, he started developing a relationship with Rawkus records. The label’s A & Rs avoided listening to his beat tapes at first because of their busy schedules, but they changed their tune when he continued to show up at their offices on a regular basis with music to share.

One fateful day, Ayatollah arrived with a beat tape containing “Ms. Fat Booty” and earned himself a seat in the Rawkus conference room. Mos Def was so impressed by the work on this tape that he purchased the instrumentals for “Ms. Fat Booty” and “Know That” from Black on Both Sides, as well as six other productions that have yet to see the light of day. “I don’t know what he did with them, but if you thought those two were some great records, you have to hear the other six,” he told Nodfactor. “The other six were amazing, like really amazing.”

The spiritual successors of the Wu-Tang Sword Style…

Bandcamp does a drop on the new breed of Wu-inspired emcees. Here are a couple you might’ve heard on one of my monthly mixes…

Supreme Cerebral

Prior to his rise an MC, Supreme Cerebral was a talented college football player with dreams of an NFL contract. But after an injury put an end to his pigskin aspirations, he decided to pursue music. The New York-born, Cali-raised artist has adopted both Ghostface’s cadence and his fondness for abstract imagery, as well as the poetic license of Raekwon—which makes sense; when asked what Wu album impacted him most, he states, “It’s a toss-up between Supreme Clientele and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.” His track with Ralphiie Reese and Eloh Kush titled “All” is the perfect showcase for that reverence. When Cerebral spits, “Venomous dialect / The Wallys is violet / Acquired the flyest / Suede Bali the side shit / Battle designers / Paid thousands of dollars / Rambling nonsense / Now they channel our concepts / Conscious context,” he both shows respect to the Wu in his freewheeling imagery, and knowledge of their tropes with his reference to Wallabees. He even closes the verse by claiming the trio are the “Wu revision.”

Eloh Kush

Eloh Kush grew up in a hip-hop family. His older brothers John Robinson (aka Lil Sci) and ID4Windz made up two-thirds of the late 1990s rap trio Scienz of Life. The group’s involvement in Dr. Malachi “Dwight” York’s Nuwaubian Nation—a religious group incorporating Islam, Kemetism, Judaism, and Native American belief systems—clearly rubbed off on the MC; his songs reference teachings from the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, amont other esoteric topics. As he puts it, “I was taught to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, so I travel through many schools of thought.”

The New Brunswick, New Jersey MC—or “versifier,” as he likes to call himself—started out rapping in a crew known as Angelz Inc. more than a decade ago, but he’s mainly focused on solo material for the last few years. Kush is on the verge of dropping a collaborative project with the Supreme Cerebral titled Clarks Connoisseurs, referring to the footwear Raekwon and Ghostface popularized on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It’s an homage to Wu-Tang’s dynamic duo by some of the sharpest swordsmen in the game today.

“iTunes is as good as dead, but Apple Music is rising from its ashes”…

All the answers you need to know on Apple’s killing of iTunes is below…

iTunes is as good as dead, but Apple Music is rising from its ashes. After 18 years of iTunes, Apple is ending the app and channeling you to Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV instead. The three apps will be available across all your devices, which means that your music collection is, too. Apple’s announcement this week at the annual WWDC event joins other future updates for iPhones ($1,000 at Amazon), iPads ($249 at Walmart) and Macs, including iOS 13, iPadOS and MacOS Catalina software. But it’s the iTunes announcement that had Mac loyalists up in arms: If iTunes dies, what happens to all your music now?

Closing down iTunes raises big questions for those who have built up musical collections over the years. What do you have to do, if anything, to keep your investment intact? What if you use iTunes for Windows? And what happens to iTunes Match?

Apple’s musical moves underscore the company’s renewed attention to services. Apple has long valued its ability to create premium experiences that keep loyal users invested in the brand’s ecosystem. For a company initially focused on hardware, iTunes was one of Apple’s first major successes in this area. People who had bought music from Apple were less likely to stray. Now, Apple is betting that Apple Music will largely pick up where iTunes left off.

Here’s what we know about Apple’s plans to transition you to Apple Music and the rest.

Does iTunes still work today?

Yes. Apple still advertises iTunes on the website. iTunes will continue to exist for the time being, but Apple won’t support it in MacOS Catalina, the upgrade coming this fall.

Why is Apple ending iTunes?

Apple said that iTunes was initially focused on burning and mixing songs on the Mac, but then suggested it was too big and bloated, and lost its purpose. “How about calendar in iTunes?,” Apple engineering lead Craig Federighi joked during the presentation. “I mean, you can have all of your appointments and your best tracks all in one app!”

Apple describes Apple Music as being extremely fast, which suggests that iTunes performance had gotten laggy.

Do I still get access to the same number of songs with Apple Music?

Yes, Apple advertises a catalog of over 50 million songs, plus collections of music videos (through Apple TV) and podcasts (through the Apple Podcasts app). Scroll to the end for more details.

Does my iTunes collection go away?

No way. Every song you’ve ever bought, ripped, uploaded or imported will already be part of Apple Music when you upgrade from your current Mac OS version to Catalina. All the files that are already on your computer will remain. Apple isn’t liquidating anything you already own, but it will reorganize where the files live.

Even my ripped CDs, MP3s and playlists?

Yep, even those. You’ll find them in your Apple Music library.

Will I still be able to burn a CD with Apple Music?

Yes, if you have an external CD drive and the necessary cables, though this isn’t something we’ve tested yet.

What about backing up my device, restoring my settings and syncing settings?

iTunes is the app you think of for backups and syncs, and those capabilities will exist with Catalina, just not in the Apple Music app. You’ll find them by opening the Finder tool in Mac. That’s the one with the square, stylized icon of a smiling face that serves as the operating system’s file manager. Open it, and you’ll see device will appear in the Finder menu, for example: “Jessica’s iPhone”.

How will I move music onto a device?

If you want to move music onto a device, you open one of your media apps, click and drag from your music library into the folder for your connected device, and it will transfer over.

What happens when I sync my iPhone or other device?

Today, iTunes pops up when you plug in your iPhone to sync devices, but that’s not the case with Apple Music. If you want to sync, you’ll find the setting in the sidebar in Finder. Apple is making this more opt-in (you trigger the syncing in Finder) rather than opt-out (you close the window if it pops up and bugs you).

What happens to people who use iTunes on Windows?

iTunes will continue to work on Windows as is.

Will iTunes still work on older version of MacOS?

You can still use iTunes on a version of Mac that predates MacOS Catalina (e.g. Mojave), but it won’t be available when you make the upgrade.

I’m confused. How is Apple Music different than iTunes?

iTunes is a free app to manage your music library, music video playback, music purchases and device syncing. Apple Music is an ad-free music streaming subscription service that costs $10 per month, $15 a month for a family of six or $5 per month for students.

Apple Music closely competes with Spotify and you can listen to songs offline across your devices.

Do I have to subscribe to use the Apple Music app library?

No. You can still access your music collection if you don’t subscribe to Apple Music. That is completely opt-in.

Is the iTunes Store going away?

The iTunes name will fade away, but Apple will keep the store and its functionality in the Apple Music app. You can call it up if you want to buy new songs and albums, but if you do subscribe to Apple Music, you likely won’t have much use for a store.

What happens to iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is a feature that gives you access to a song you bought through another service, say Amazon. Apple Music already has the feature built in, so you won’t miss out if you subscribe.

What if I like to make my own mixes?

If you like to DJ your own collection and albums, you’ll be able to import those tracks to Apple Music and listen to them across your Apple devices.

What about the Apple TV app — is that where my iTunes movies will live?

Yep! Any movies you bought via iTunes will move to the Apple TV app for Mac.

The Apple TV app (yes, for all your devices, not just an Apple TV) is where TV shows, movies and music videos will live on the Mac, including HBO and Showtime, and those iTunes movies you bought. It’ll support 4K HDR playback with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision graphics and Dolby Atmos audio playback.

Where does the Apple Podcasts app come in?

Fair question, since Apple is spreading iTunes functionality around. Apple Podcasts is pretty straightforward — it’s where you listen to and search for and subscribe to shows. In MacOS Catalina, Apple Podcasts will also let you type a few words or letters to find a show or episode.

Change is hard. Is there any reason I should skip the Catalina upgrade?

In addition to speeding up these apps, Apple encourages you upgrade to the newest version for ongoing privacy and security updates. Learn more about all the changes coming to your Mac with the MacOS Catalina upgrade this fall.

Press Pause: The History Of Pause Tape Production

Good write-up on the history of pause tapes. Here’s an excerpt…

A good pause button and a vivid imagination were all young hip-hop enthusiasts needed to create something out of their sense of wonder. Using a boombox or stereo with dual cassette decks, aspiring DJs and producers would play and record a sample from another tape or record, pausing the tape once the sample had finished its rotation. They would then rewind to the beginning of the sample and un-pause the tape, starting the process again and extending the sampled loop for several minutes.

Although pause tapes used a different form of music media than early hip-hop DJs who relied on turntables and vinyl records, Miles Davis and Alicia Keys collaborator Easy Mo Bee believes 1970s block parties were instrumental in the genesis of early pause tapes. “The two turntables got us thinking and made us wonder,” he says. And this pioneering production technique came about well before early samplers like the Akai S-900 or E-mu SP-12 existed, something 32-year production veteran 45 King can attest to. Known for enduring classics like Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” “The 900 Number” and Eminem’s “Stan,” he remembers recording pause tapes as early as 1975 – four years prior to the first “official” rap record, “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by Fatback Band. This foray into pause tapes started with a thoughtful gift from his dad, long before a vocation in music was even a thought in his mind. “It wasn’t a career,” he says. “It was my father bought me a radio that has a pause button on it. A Marantz Superscope, and it was one of those pause buttons when you clicked it – it made a click sound so it was on beat. It was a nice box with a good pause button.”

The pause button also helped artists create megamixes and DJ-style mixtapes, while those with more advanced set-ups used a 4-track recorder or an overdubbing feature on their cassette deck to layer loops. Layering wasn’t for the faint of heart, as it was extremely difficult to get samples to match in terms of tempo and tune, while repeated dubbing lead to tape hiss. But this didn’t deter Marley Marl collaborator and Redef Records artist K-Def, who made early pause tapes with a Lasonic boombox and graduated to loop compositions with a Tascam 4-track. “I was so good with the pauses that I would actually record three of the tracks and then bounce ’em over to one track,” he says. “And then I would start pause mixing again.”

K-Def believes pause-tapes helped inform much-needed skills like editing, time stretching and pitch shifting once he had access to proper samplers. “Most people now, they just want to make a beat, they don’t understand audio editing,” he says. “And that’s a very intricate part of hip-hop. If you don’t truncate your samples right and tight, the beat will sound sloppy. That came from pause buttons. You had to be on time with it.”

The endless examples of innovation and lessons taught by pause tapes seem to know no bounds. The late J Dilla is said to have taken apart and altered his tape deck so he could further extend samples. Meanwhile, Soul Council member and Grammy-nominated producer Khrysis taught himself how to filter basslines inspired by Pete Rock, Q-Tip and Wu-Tang by adjusting the tone knob on his boombox as a teenager in the mid-’90s. “Just keep going back and forth until I got a good little frequency,” he says. “I started getting fancy where it was like songs in the ’90s, you would have your high pass and low pass.”

In addition to serving as a training ground for many storied DJs and beatmakers, pause tape production played an important role in the first 15 years of recorded rap music. One of the earliest successful examples of a pause tape on record is the 1980 Bozo Meko Records release “Flash It To The Beat / Fusion Beats (Vol .2).” A bootleg party single that has seen many re-releases over the years, “Fusion Beats (Vol .2)” quickly became the in-demand song on the record at block parties and clubs due to the way it extended breaks from James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved,” the Mohawks’ “The Champ” and Dyke and the Blazers “Let A Woman Be A Woman And A Man Be A Man.” According to the song’s creator, Afrika Islam, the entire track was composed on his cassette deck in his bedroom.

As pause looping thrived in and around New York City, it also took off all over the United States. Orlando DJ and bass music icon Magic Mike started making entire mixtapes of pause edits and mixes on his boombox in 1981. He worked his way into a radio DJ slot at age 13 on the strength of his demos, later earning a New York City club residency before his 18th birthday. Even Houston legend Pimp C of UGK, whose skills as a producer are often overlooked, mentioned making pause tapes in a 2007 interview with Red Bull Music Academy contributor Andrew Noz.
To think that people in New York City, Orlando, Port Arthur, Texas, and cities all over the United States were making pause tapes in the early ’80s unbeknownst to one another points to a form of collective consciousness taking place during the very early years of rap music and beyond. 2010 Red Bull Big Tune champion 14KT described the phenomenon beautifully in a 2015 Facebook post: “I thought I was a weirdo because I didn’t know anyone in Ypsilanti around me who made pause tapes like me when I was young. It was like I got chosen and summoned from aliens. Little did I know, it was an unspoken language across the world.”

Jay Smooth no longer at WBAI…

Salute to Jay Smooth for sticking to his principles on this

Since 1991, Jay Smooth has been the host of The Underground Railroad, the longest-running hip-hop radio show in New York.

As of Thursday, July 19th, the show is no more.

Jay Smooth announced that he was resigning from WBAI, The Underground Railroad’s home for the last 27 year. The reason? In protest of the fact that WBAI hired Leonard Lopate, a longtime host of WNYC who was fired last year for “inappropriate conduct.”

WNYC did an investigation and found multiple complaints against Lopate, which ranged from inappropriate comments to bullying.

That didn’t stop public radio station WBAI, which is based in Brooklyn, from hiring him. The station is also paying Lopate and his producer, something that is unusual for producers and hosts at WBAI. On Monday, July 16th. the first episode of Lopate at Large premiered. During the show, the allegations were barely touched or addressed.

After the show aired, Smooth let his frustrations be known. He told the Columbia Journalism Review:

“If this show is still airing as of Friday, I’m definitely not going back on Friday…The question for me is, have we gone past the point that I want to go back at all?”

New Year’s Eve Mix.. NOT

The good news is i was able to get into DJ mode for NY’s Eve last night at the homestead. I decided to also pop in a CD blank to record the festivities and share it with ya’ll today. Yaaay!


Bad news part: It was not to be as all i got was ‘CD Error’ once i woke up this morning to finalize it. Too bad, cause i played a shit-load of joints(Freestyle,Disco,House,etc.). Oh well, 2018 here we go. Look out for my ‘best of 2017’ on the way soon, hopefully with no TD’s.

DJ Perly: “When I heard my name as the USA champ, I was surprised and just overwhelmed with joy”

Salute to DJ Perly, the first female to win a DMC title. Boricuas, represent!

This year’s national champion goes by DJ Perly, and she represents Hip-Hop’s very birthplace. The Bronx, New York native outlasted dozens of other competitors at the competition hosted by D.I.T.C.’s Lord Finesse, besting runners up Dwells (also representing NYC) and Los Angeles’ Shmeeze. Upon winning, Perly could be seen proudly showing off a Puerto Rican flag, a symbol of her heritage. She was already the 2016 DMC NYC Regional Champ, also the first woman to hold that title.

As she explained to DX, it was a surreal moment, though she sensed that history would be on her side. “That night, I instantaneously felt the high energy of excitement. I knew it was going to be a really good battle. Not sure how the night would end, but it was going to be a good night.” She continued, “When I heard my name as the USA champ, I was surprised and just overwhelmed with joy. I was so overwhelmed I kinda lost feeling in my legs and dropped to the floor [laughs]. That moment truly felt magical and gratifying that hard work was paying off.”

Her achievement will fundamentally change the way little girls envision their futures behind the turntables. Rob Swift took to Facebook today (August 9) to post a message of encouragement, speaking to what Perly’s win means for Hip-Hop as a whole. “Many women have set out to win a world DMC title. Perly has gotten closer than all of them. I see cracks in the glass ceiling,” says the X-Excutioners member and celebrated DJ. That glass ceiling, Perly says, is nowhere near close to being shattered entirely. “From what I know and experienced in the past is that some people just don’t think that women can do what the guys can,” she says. “Some people just don’t want to see a woman kick ass and prove that women can do anything in this world. They’re just afraid.”

It’s a problem she says exists well beyond the confines of Hip-Hop, into all genres of music. “oSme men — not all — see women as weak and frail, but in fact, [we] are truly the strongest. Women go through a nine-month pregnancy, and give birth to the future and next generations of game changers. And think about it, child birth hurts like hell and we still kick ass. I applaud all those women who fight day in and day out to show and prove that this world is not a man’s world, and women can succeed in male-dominated fields. Women have the power and strength to move the world in a positive direction. We all have that power.”

This music production tool is the reason why all new music sounds the same…

The Click

Imagine music as a recipe. Would you be able tell whether it had been made with artificially engineered ingredients or fresh produce from the farmer’s market? Canned tomatoes might work just fine—but maybe you wouldn’t know what you had been missing until you tried the same dish with heirlooms, each beautifully misshapen with unique streaks of sunburst yellow.

Drummer Greg Ellis wants listeners to begin thinking about sound like food—as something they physically ingest that has a quantifiable impact on their wellbeing. These days, he believes most people are consuming the musical equivalent of McDonalds: processed, mass produced, and limited in flavor.

A lot of this aural blandness has to do with technology. It begins with the producer who relies on a computer rather than live instrumentalists and ends with the devices we use to consume our music, which cut out the dynamics captured in the recording studio. Ellis, a session drummer who can be heard in the background of Hollywood blockbusters such as Argo, Godzilla, and The Matrix series, is exploring this phenomena in a forthcoming documentary, The Click.

What is “the click”?

The “click” is a digital metronome that musicians listen to while recording to ensure their rhythm is exactly in time with the tempo. A simple and now nearly ubiquitous part of the recording process, it has had a profound effect on the music we listen to.

While the click was originally intended as a tool for precision and cohesion, Ellis says its perfect uniformity ushered in an expectation that the rest of musical parts should follow. Suddenly singers, instrumentalists, and drummers were expected to sound like machines. When vocalists were slightly off key, they could be auto-tuned. If a bass player wasn’t perfectly in-time with the drummer, their parts could be processed in a recording program that syncs them up. Of course, that’s if a live musician is used at all—many producers in pop, hip hop, and R&B now use samples or synthetic sounds generated by computers instead of using their human progenitors.

These days, Ellis says he’s not given space to create most drumming parts. Although he’s played drums with greats including Billy Idol, Mickey Hart, and Beck, a producer who knows little about drumming will often create his part for him before he gets into the studio—and expects him to play it precisely on the click. He sometimes doesn’t even play through the entire song any more: He’s often asked to play just a couple measures, which are then repeated using a copy-paste function that prevents variation, dynamic, or embellishment.

And that could be having an effect on our enjoyment of the music: There is some scientific evidence on the value of giving listeners something they’re not expecting. “Music that’s inventive excites neural circuits in the prefrontal cortex,” says Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of This is Your Brain on Music. “It’s the job of the composer to bring us pleasure through choices we didn’t expect.”

Is technology making music more creative, or less?

Ellis says this popular method of production stifles creativity. “I’m not calling out anyone who uses the gear, I’m calling out the gear itself, which we’ve let dictate our sense of music and time,” Ellis says. “There’s a sense that when you’re faced with the real thing, it actually feels wrong to people.”

“Everyone’s used to hearing everything precisely on the click and with autotune,” agrees Petros, a producer in Los Angeles who has worked with hit-makers such as One Direction, Enrique Iglesias, and Dillon Francis. “So if a recording is not done that way, it will sound off.” However, Petros and other music producers are welcoming these new technological advances as a positive, not a negative. He says completely automating drum tracks is cheaper, easier, and more precise—and, in some ways, it allows for more creativity, not less.

With a live drummer, producers have a limited number of sounds to choose from, but with a program, they can quickly and easily experiment with dozens of different options until they find the one that sounds right. Petros says that most of his friends who are producers in the music industry don’t even know how to record a live drum set, and that a significant number of people who have songs in the Billboard Hot 100 don’t have any formal music training. But do they need to, any more?

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ singer Alex Ebert says it’s become too easy for anyone to make music with a computer and free software. Consequently, there’s been an “undeniable loss of mastery” among a significant percentage of the musicians and producers making hits now. He’s says he’s not anti-technology: Technological experimentation, after all, is what allowed for the birth of revelatory albums including The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jimi Hendrix’ The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Instead, he’s against technology being used as a crutch rather than a tool for invention. “Musical successes are just being regurgitated in refinement,” he says.

Not everyone agrees. Robert Margouleff, a recording engineer most known for revolutionizing the use of the synthesizer on Stevie Wonder’s albums, has called the laptop “the folk instrument of our time.” It’s allowed for innovators like St. Vincent and Bon Iver to create new sonic experiences and entire albums by themselves, and has lowered the barrier for new artists to create masterpieces in their bedrooms.

But what about the consumers? As music becomes more mechanized, how is this trend affecting the experience for the people paying for it with their Spotify subscriptions?

How does the device we listen to music on change what we hear?

This technological wedge doesn’t stop at the act of music creation itself: Ellis believes that the way it’s packaged and then listened to only further separates us from the warm, feel-good vibrations we originally turned to music for. “There’s all kinds of losses that happen after music leaves the studio,” says USC professor of electrical engineering Chris Kyriakakis. “It’s basically all downhill from there.”

Engineers compress tunes in order to convert them to files compatible with our multitude of devices. Information is immediately lost during compression, and then even more information is lost depending on what system we then play that file through. It’s like “a palette that’s shrunk down to primary colors,” Ellis says. Listening to music through headphones that don’t perfectly fit into our ears, for example, or smartphone speakers that cut out frequencies emanating from the guitar, bass, and drums means we end up hearing an even more dumbed-down version of the sonic vibrancy the composer originally intended.

Some efforts are being made to mitigate these effects. For example, Spotify recently tweaked the volume of their entire song library in order to try and bring some of the original subtlety back that was stolen from their compression. As Bruno Romani writes on Motherboard, “When compression occurs in an exaggerated way, it makes everything louder, which ends up stealing the dynamics away from the music itself. It’s like listening to that one loud friend of yours who always yells when they’re drunk. In addition to being bothersome, it also becomes monotonous after awhile.”

Which type of music is better for us?

We may not be experiencing the full gamut of potential expression, but does mechanized music have a different effect on our brains?

Neuroscientist Levitin says we don’t know if music created with live instrumentation has more healing potential than its click-y counterpart. What we do know is that whether it’s created on a click or not, a steady rhythm is more likely to put people in a trance because the neurons in our brains start firing in synchronicity with the beat. Levitin says this trance can “help you to relax or achieve some insights you wouldn’t otherwise.”

Levitin has also co-authored a study that found people who listen to music together have synchronized brain waves. He hypothesizes that, at least in the case of a concert, audience members might feel more empathy and bonding if they’re able to see the musician. This is something Ellis argues we’re sorely lacking in our lives today, opting to watch YouTube footage of a live gig on our tiny screens on the way to work instead.

Brian Eno explains the loss of humanity in modern music…


In music, as in film, we have reached a point where every element of every composition can be fully produced and automated by computers. This is a breakthrough that allows producers with little or no musical training the ability to rapidly turn out hits. It also allows talented musicians without access to expensive equipment to record their music with little more than their laptops. But the ease of digital recording technology has encouraged producers, musicians, and engineers at all levels to smooth out every rough edge and correct every mistake, even in recordings of real humans playing old-fashioned analogue instruments. After all, if you could make the drummer play in perfect time every measure, the singer hit every note on key, or the guitarist play every note perfectly, why wouldn’t you?

One answer comes in a succinct quotation from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which Ted Mills referenced in a recent post here on Miles Davis: “Honor Your Mistakes as a Hidden Intention.” (The advice is similar to that Davis gave to Herbie Hancock, “There are no mistakes, just chances to improvise.”) In the short clip at the top, Eno elaborates in the context of digital production, saying “the temptation of the technology is to smooth everything out.”

But the net effect of correcting every perceived mistake is to “homogenize the whole song,” he says, “till every bar sounds the same… until there’s no evidence of human life at all in there.” There is a reason, after all, that even purely digital, “in the box” sequencers and drum machines have functions to “humanize” their beats—to make them correspond more to the looseness and occasional hesitancy of real human players.

This does not mean that there is no such thing as singing or playing well or badly—it means there is no such thing as perfection. Or rather, that perfection is not a worthy goal in music. The real hooks, the moments that we most connect with and return to again and again, are often happy accidents. Mills points to a whole Reddit thread devoted to mistakes left in recordings that became part of the song. And when it comes to playing perfectly in time or in tune, I think of what an atrocity would have resulted from running all of The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street through a digital audio workstation to sand down the sharp edges and “fix” the mistakes. All of its shambling, mumbling, drunken barroom charm would be completely lost. That goes also for the entire recorded output of The Band, or most of Dylan’s albums (such as my personal favorite, John Wesley Harding).

To take a somewhat more modern example, listen to “Sirena” from Australian instrumental trio Dirty Three, above. This is a band that sounds forever on the verge of collapse, and it’s absolutely beautiful to hear (or see, if you get the chance to experience them live). This recording, from their album Ocean Songs, was made in 1998, before most production went fully digital, and there are very few records that sound like it anymore. Even dance music has the potential to be much more raw and organic, instead of having singers’ voices run through so much pitch correction software that they sound like machines. (witness the obscure disco hit “Miss Broadway,” for example, or LCD Soundsystem’s career.)

There is a lot more to say about the way the albums represented above were recorded, but the overall point is that just as too much CGI has often ruined the excitement of cinema (we’re looking at you, George Lucas) —or as the digital “loudness wars” sapped much recorded music of its dynamic peaks and valleys—overzealous use of software to correct imperfections can ruin the human appeal of music, and render it sterile and disposable like so many cheap, plastic mass-produced toys. As with all of our use of advanced technology, questions about what we can do should always be followed by questions about what we’re really gaining, or losing, in the process.

Soundcloud days might be numbered…

Oh, damn

The biggest platform for sharing music, especially fire internet rap bangers, has reportedly been pushed to the edge. A new report suggests that the streaming platform Soundcloud only has enough cash to survive for 50 more days.

Soundcloud employees quoted by TechCrunch, said that SoundCloud cofounders, Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, told staff that despite laying off 40 percent of its workforce, the company only had enough money to survive until Q4—which is just 50 days from now.

Despite the leaks from the video conference, a company spokesperson told Techcrunch that the company was “fully funded into Q4” and currently in talks with investors.

Whether the company is financially stable or not, the employees who spoke to Techcrunch are clearly pissed off. “The people saved from this are jumping ship,” one employee said. “Morale is really low.” Another employee said that staff laughed during the video conference when Erich Wahlforss described the SoundCloud staff as family. “You just fired 173 people of the family! How the fuck are you going to talk about family?”

Another grimy detail revealed from the meeting was that SoundCloud knew it had to layoff a lot of staff months ago but did not properly inform its employees. It was also reported that the company even hired staffers who were laid off shortly after quitting their old jobs and moving to Berlin. One staff member, Vojta Stavik, told Techcrunch that he is taking legal action against the company. Stavik was set to start on July 17 and fired ten days before his start date. He said his contract stipulated that he was supposed to receive four weeks’ notice of dismissal. Stavik further told TechCrunch that SoundCloud had refused to pay his salary for the four-week period.

So whatever happens to SoundCloud, one can only hope that it can save itself from this ticking doomsday clock. However, it might be a good idea now to save your SoundCloud gems while you still can because who knows what will happen to all that music if the site shuts down.

“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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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.

“In a time when Polo was being made for and marketed to the aspirational white middle class, some of the most rigorously sourced collections were sitting in closets in Brooklyn housing projects”…

The Lo-Lifes brought high fashion to Hip Hop

Ever since the mid-1980s, Thirstin Howl the 3rd had been saving everything: every photo of him and his friends, dressed in head-to-toe Polo; every last mention of his gang, the Lo Lifes, in a media publication, large or small. The clothes, the accessories, the ephemera. Over the years, his life became a museum.

“I’ve been documenting this story without even knowing I was documenting,” he said recently, discussing the impending release of “Bury Me With the Lo On,” a thick, ostentatious and loving coffee-table book that captures the history of a certain subculture of Polo obsession, beginning with the Lo Lifes, the Brooklyn gang that he helped found that terrorized department stores from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.

All of the blueprints for hip-hop’s current obsession with fashion are contained herein: the laserlike focus on brand, the lifestyle aspiration, the subversion. Today, the genre’s stars collaborate with high-fashion houses or create their own clothing lines. None of that would have been possible without the Lo Life blueprint.

The Lo Lifes formed in 1988 from the union of two shoplifting crews from Brooklyn: Ralphie’s Kids from Crown Heights, and Polo U.S.A. from Brownsville.

Thirstin Howl the 3rd — or, as he was known back then, Big Vic Lo (his real name is Victor DeJesus) — became, later in life, one of the most visible members thanks to his rapping career, in which he always kept his dedication to Polo at the tip of his tongue. (The book takes its title from his song “The Polo Rican,” but it’s not only a lyrical euphemism: In the back of the book is a picture of one Lo Life member in his coffin, wearing a Polo ski sweater.)

“Bury Me” is made up of vintage photos, largely from the Thirstin Howl archive, and regal current-day portraits of Lo Lifes and Polo obsessives shot by Tom Gould, a young photographer from Auckland, New Zealand, who moved to New York in 2009 with an interest in hip-hop and graffiti and an urge to document the culture he had studied only from afar. He met Mr. DeJesus the following year.

The result of this cross-generational collaboration is a lavishly designed book about lavish garments, worn lavishly. “That was the goal,” Mr. Gould said. “We wanted this book to be cherished and protected by the same people that love this culture and love these clothes.”

Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of this book is, in Mr. Gould’s portraits of Lo Life founders, how good the clothes themselves look, still department-store crisp despite two-plus decades of wear. Each member’s portrait is paired with vintage photos, as well as a first-person account of his relationship to the brand, often relating wild stories of teenage shoplifting.

And the book’s vintage photos are consistently thrilling, from the ones capturing parties where dozens of teenagers wore stolen Polo head to toe, to one Lo Life member’s grinning 1988 Bloomingdale’s security mug shot, which he stole from the store.

All together, it makes for a potent folk history of capitalist sedition. In a time when Polo was being made for and marketed to the aspirational white middle class, some of the most rigorously sourced collections were sitting in closets in Brooklyn housing projects. (Given the Lo Lifes’ fraught history with the Ralph Lauren company, the book comes with no official support from Ralph Lauren.)

“The first generation, it was straight ’hood,” Mr. DeJesus said. “It was criminal. You’d get robbed. You’d have to rob.” But by the mid-’90s, things were beginning to change. Polo had gained a foothold in hip-hop, and many Lo Lifes had died or were in prison. After completing the last of several prison stints in 1994, he went straight and brought his crew with him.

“Once we made that positive transition,” he said, shoplifting “was no longer a requirement in Lo Lifes.”

By then, a new generation of fanatics was emerging, though not stealing. “I started meeting people who were living the Lo Life culture,” Mr. DeJesus said. “They had so much more to offer than being gangster from the hood. They had talent, skill, resources: things the founders lacked, things we couldn’t acquire.”

Initially there were tensions between the generations, but those have largely been quelled. Nowadays, the community comes together at Polo clothing conventions or annual events like the Lo Life BBQ in Brooklyn, or Lo Goose on the Deuce, a gathering in Times Square.

Mr. DeJesus isn’t the Polo obsessive he once was. (“I have children, so they ransacked my collection,” he said.) But he recently released a Lo Life clothing line, riffing on vintage Polo motifs.

“Bury Me” ends up as a vibrant capstone to a devoted life, though. It unites all the demographics: the boosters, the rappers, the collectors. “You have to respect the new generation and embrace them,” Mr. DeJesus said. “Without the new generation, you would just be a story of the past.”

“I know what it’s like to make an abandoned building a playground, or take a mattress and turn it into a gymnastics mat”

Rock Steady Crew’s Crazy Legs on his upcoming battle

Rich Colon is 50 years old, an age when thoughts of mortality creep into men’s minds and invitations to join AARP start appearing in their mailboxes. Faced with midlife crises, some men buy sports cars, join the Hair Club or start to prowl nightclubs. Mr. Colon has taken a different approach: He is going to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a dance-off on Friday against Storm, a German break dancer, in what is being called the “Battle of the Gods.”

Mr. Colon is better known as Crazy Legs, a pioneering B-boy (which is what he prefers to call himself) who first gained fame in New York City’s early hip-hop scene, then helped the culture go global through appearances in videos by Malcolm McLaren and movies like “Beat Street,” “Wild Style” and “Flashdance.” He and his friends in the Rock Steady Crew — Mr. Wiggles, Frosty Freeze, Doze and others — went from basement discos, parks and playgrounds to stages in London, Paris and Tokyo. Though he had said his last battle was in 2014, he decided to pull a Michael Jordan (or a “Godfather: Part III” Michael Corleone) and return to compete.

“When I did that last battle, I had bruised ribs, so I felt I had unfinished business,” Mr. Colon said. “Though I know that at 50, I’m either incredibly inspiring or incredibly stupid to be doing this.”

His motivation is more than just to prove a personal point. Though he is part of a culture that rewards bravado, it is also one created by young people who had little in South Bronx neighborhoods that had been reduced to rubble. Improvised soundtracks came from D.J.s who plugged their rigs into streetlamps while dance crews challenged one another, relying on their only possession: supreme self-confidence from surviving hard times.

Thoughts of the 1970s pushed Mr. Colon to go to battle. He divides his time between New York and Puerto Rico, where he sponsors an annual dance event. He has grown concerned about the island’s economic collapse, which has plunged many children into poverty, according to a report released this month. The crisis reminds him of the hardships he witnessed in childhood. So, in a culture where showing off in the spotlight is a given, he is using his turn to speak his mind.

“I know what it’s like to make an abandoned building a playground, or take a mattress and turn it into a gymnastics mat,” Mr. Colon said. “And right now, there are a lot of abandoned homes in Puerto Rico and people are fleeing. The reason I’m doing this is to bring awareness to the situation in Puerto Rico, its economic crisis and how desperate life has gotten there. We need to mentor these kids who are being affected by their parents’ not having any work or even money to meet their basic necessities.”

He has been lucky to make a living dancing, giving workshops and collaborating on other projects. His last regular job was in 1989, when he quit working at a health club near Riverdale in the Bronx. (“You could do a history of what went on behind closed doors,” he said. “From selling people memberships they couldn’t afford, which is why I quit, to after-hours pool parties.”)

When news of the battle was announced, it was done so teasingly, with Mr. Colon saying only that a challenge had been issued to another unnamed dance legend. Many fans assumed — correctly — that the other dancer was Ken Swift, a former member of Rock Steady who parted ways with Mr. Colon in 1996. When he declined, the organizers of the V1 Festival enlisted Niels Robitzky, a German dancer known as Storm.

The battle with Mr. Robitzky will be six rounds. In each, one dancer will perform a routine, and the other will respond with his own moves. Each round could take less than a minute of intense moves, with no breaks in between.

To get into shape, Mr. Colon has spent months at boxing gyms, working with two trainers. His strategy is to be prepared not just physically, but mentally.

“B-boys practice, but very few train,” Mr. Colon said. “Surviving deep in a battle is a whole different thing. You got to understand what walls mean when you hit them. You got to train until you get to the wall and then fight through it. After the second or third round, it’s all mental. I’ll have to take Storm into deep waters.”

And after it is over, win or lose, does he retire?

“I’m not going to say this is my last battle,” he said. “Once you’re hype and in shape, you see a bunch of B-boys and get that feeling about how you want to smoke this dude. How do you quit culture? Just because you say you’re going to do it doesn’t mean you’re not going to react when you hear some James Brown.”

Artists, music industry looking to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act…

Artists petition to end the era of free music

Any music fan actively involved with the digital age has come to learn that the relationship between the internet and musicians can be tempestuous. On the one hand, consuming music for free has become the default practice while on the other, artists themselves are often suffering because of it. For those raised on programs like Napster and Kazaa, paying for music has become an outdated practice and for those born in the era of streaming services like Spotify and Tidal, owning music means something else entirely. Sites like YouTube are proving themselves to be wild cards in the debate over proper compensation for artists due to their not being solely a place for listening to music, but now artists like Pusha T, Sade, Roy Ayers, Vince Staples, Miguel, and others are joining forces to force direct action from Congress.

As reported by Pitchfork, the artists above and a host of others are looking to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the set of treaties that in 1998 began protecting the dissemination of copyrighted material on the web. Having all signed a strongly worded petition, the artists involved are interested in “curtailing the practices of sites like YouTube, which allows users to upload copyrighted material for anyone to hear,” although that website isn’t named in the petition. For years, these outlets have been given what’s called “safe harbor,” effectively allowing for the uploading of copyrighted material as long as its taken down once an official warning has been issued. Because of that somewhat loosely binding agreement, the petition argues, the DMCA “has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.”

Adding more gravity to the petition’s demands is the fact that major companies are also involved, including the Recording Academy, the governing body behind the Grammy Awards; and the Recording Industry Association of America, which is responsible for (amongst other things) doling out certifications that an artist has achieved gold or platinum-selling status.