Archive for Black Music

Will Classic “Black” Radio Exist in 15 Years??

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2010 by djvinceadams

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Close your eyes, take a second and think back to Black Radio in 1995. On one station that plays current Urban hits (we’ll call this station “Station New Music”) you hear Jodeci, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige and some Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey thrown in for good measure. A little further down the dial you have your typical “V103 – Urban Contemporary” station (we’ll call this “Station Dusties”) where you hear some current Luther, Whitney, along with some classic Stevie, Marvin and Aretha (notice, no last names needed.) Before you get too comfortable, open your eyes and figuratively turn on those same stations today.

In 2010 if you turn to “Station New Music”, not only is the selection more narrow than its ever been (in regard to variety), its nearly impossible to imagine how a lot of today’s music would be played on “Station Dusties” 15 years from now in 2025.

Can you imagine what “Station Dusties” will sound like in 2025? Will the 9am – 9pm be filled with this past decades hits like “Laffy Taffy”, “Hot in Herre” and Ciara’s “Goodies”? Will the slow jam/“quiet storm” after 9pm section be filled with radio anthems like “I’m in Love With A Stripper”, “Shawty is a 10” and “Birthday Sex??” Think about it, what songs from 2000 – 2010 will be considered a classic or “an oldie, but goodie” in 2025.

I ask these questions because as much as today’s music is about what’s hot or relevant in this social/news cycle, it has really moved away from being crafted music to simply being manufactured “microwave hot” songs. As a DJ, I talk to people about their views on music. One conversation not long ago with a Sprint representative (while I was in the Sprint Store) was that in her opinion people don’t care about whether music is “good” or not, they just want to have fun. She continued to say “think about it, whatever could be done musically has already been done. There’s nothing new left to do, so what are people left with.” I didn’t debate her position, but my initial thought is that if we as humans really believed there was nothing new left to do we would still be living in caves, playing with 2 sticks to get fire while wearing bear skin.

However, I do believe that she has a point. Not that I believe that there’s no new ground to break, but I do believe that many artists are more caught up in “what’s hot” than in breaking new ground (personal note – I don’t consider Auto-tune songs breaking new ground.)

My main purpose for writing this is that it really wouldn’t matter if all of the song writers, singers, rappers and DJ’s got together and said “we’re only going to give people quality music”, that wouldn’t change things in the least. There are still independent artist and some major artists who produce quality and potentially timeless music. Some people say that it’s all about exposure & marketing, but I don’t totally agree with that either. I believe that it’s the old “supply and demand” formula. Simply put, the people that listen to radio stations and consume music are the one’s that are ultimately responsible for what gets played and what doesn’t.

To me, the solution to this is similar to the solution that I’ve stated in previous blog entries about the state of music. We as individuals must demand more from our own music likes and dislikes and set our own personal bar for what does and doesn’t get played or purchased by us. In the event that we don’t change our personal standard for what’s considered good music, we are not only killing the future of Classic Soul radio, but future generations won’t have a measuring stick as to determine what a good standard for quality music really is.

Its up to us as consumers to not just “live for the day” as it relates to music, but we also must make sure that we conserve the institution that great African-American artist set for us in the 1900’s. Who will be the Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, James Brown, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, The Temptations, et al of the 21st Century? So, next time you’re blasting  “Daddy’s Home” by Usher, “Pretty Boy Swag” by Soulja Boy or “Massive Attack” by Nicki Minaj give some thought to the future of Black Radio. Oh yeah, think about progressing “Black music” for the next generation wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The same way that planting a tree preserves the forest or using less plastic preserves the ecology, the choices that we make in music today will either destroy or cultivate Black music radio/culture moving forward. Much love, take care of one another and remember – “we all we got”…VA

Oh yeah, R.I.P. Guru from Gang Starr – a true lyricist. Check out a blog about him and his passing from national tastemaker and blogger Audarshia Townsend… http://312diningdiva.blogspot.com/2010/04/deejays-reflect-on-rap-icon-gurus.html

Related Information:

“From Nancy Pelosi: Death to Music Radio?”

http://www.wgnsradio.com/from-nancy-pelosi-death-to-music-radio/15513/

Bamboozled – Why Is It Cool To Be Dumb in 2009?

Posted in Life Lessons, Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2009 by djvinceadams

TO ACCESS PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES USE THE LINKS AT THE TOP OR CLICK “THE BLOGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE” TITLE TO ACCESS THE HOME PAGE…

Bamboozled Cropped

I often times post questions on my status-line in my Facebook account.  One of my recent questions was about movies and the answers brought me to think about how the landscape of Black movies is totally different in 2009 than it was in 1999.  That thought quickly lead me to reflect on the email that I recently read from Andreas Hale who was relieved of his duties as the Executive Editor of Music for Black Entertainment Television (BET.)  In the email Hale expresses the resistance that he was met with by BET Executives in bringing about a “positive” change within the programming of the station.  These thoughts then lead me to revisit thoughts that I frequently have regarding the lack of creativity and skill that is attacking Black music today.

In 2000 Spike Lee released a movie “Bamboozled” which was a satire about the effects of essentially turning Black entertainment into a literal “coon show.”  Although the movie was met with mixed reviews, in my opinion the movie has been prophetic when we look at the state of where Black mainstream media/entertainment is today.  A good friend of mine, Andrea, has expressed that “instead of art imitating life, life starts to imitate art and they [some individuals in the African-American community] believe that whatever these ‘artists’ talk about is real and try to live those things.”

I have a question for everybody 21 years old and older.  Regardless of how much you do or don’t like the current state of Black entertainment, do you feel that Black radio, Black television and Black movies were more provocative, mentally-engaging and intelligent 15-20 years ago and are we at an all-time low when it comes to Black entertainment? I think that it’s fair to guess that I am of the opinion that we are at an all-time low when it comes to the level of creativity and quality of Black entertainment.

I could get into the financial aspects of how the record labels and tv/movie executives only put money behind projects that they feel will produce revenue, but that’s a given at this time.  Additionally, I could say that there is a type of systematic racism that is taking place by “the powers that be”, but I feel that would be absolving the listening/watching/buying public from the role that they play in the caliber of entertainment that is being produced today.

The bottom-line is that it would appear that media outlets (tv networks, record labels, etc.) are developing and marketing media for the “lowest common intellect denominator” among African-Americans.  Of course there has always been “mindless entertainment” throughout the history of media, but the difference today is that “mindless” is now the new mainstream where it used to be more underground.  “Mindless” is the new rule where it used to be the exception.

I think that somewhere along the timeline that parents and adults forgot that entertainment is at times mindless fun, but at other times it is art.  There was a time that there was a fair balance of entertainment that inspired creativity on a higher level, inspired thought on a higher level and added a sense of “beautiful escape” from the world that we’re living in.  The caliber of entertainment today is so marginal, so beyond mediocre, at times so horrible that it doesn’t inspire it actually relegates the viewer or listener to a lower level of being.

The reason that I single out parents and adults is that there should be a certain level of maturity in this group of people that work out of a conscious position to expose themselves and their children to more than what the media executives are offering.  There was a time that if you wanted to let the TV/radio/movies raise your child that there were some options (does anyone remember “Teen Summit” on BET) that attracted younger minds and discussed/approached issues that inspired greater esteem and elevated the viewers’/listeners’ thought as it related to handling life from a more mature perspective.

I really don’t think that people in general realize what effect this “entertainment environment” has on young children.  Actually there are many people that are 20+ that don’t understand that much of their “socially accepted behavior” comes from the influences of the movies, music and television that they are watching.  Again, it would be very easy to point the finger at “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”, Tyler Perry’s tv shows and movies and recording artists like Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy (who make music of no socially redeeming value) and say that they are THE REASON that everything is the way that is today.  Once again, that in my eyes would be absolving US of the role that we play.

I think that through the history of time there has been controversial music and entertainment that created a stir.  I can remember DJing in college playing Luke records and other music from Florida that was 50 times more lewd and outrageous than the music that I play today in the clubs.  However, I think that there is a huge difference today in the people that attended the parties that I DJ’ed in college 20 years ago and the parties that I DJ in the clubs now in 2009.  It appears to me that the party-goer of 1989 had interest and likes beyond “party music” which allowed them to go out and have a good time and leave the party behind.  The party-goer of 2009 in many instance look to imitate the lifestyle of the music/musicians and the music itself and many of them practically identify and live within the vein of party music virtually 24/7.

That’s not to say that 20 years ago there weren’t fads and things that people did outside of the club that were representative of club life.  There were “high-top” fades like Big Daddy Kane or Kid from Kid ‘N Play.  There were gold ropes like LL Cool J and Rakim.  As much as people were trying to look like a rapper or party like a “rock star”, they weren’t looking to emulate that in their actual lives.  Although there were people who did, again, they were the exception, not the rule.

Of course it’s easy for me to sound like I’m casting aspersions on the party-goer of today or the people that are fans of today’s “pop culture”, that is not what I’m looking to do at all.  My only point in this submission is to identify that there is a growing “pop culture” in the music, TV and movies today that is very dumbed down, unintelligent, if not “coon-like” that is becoming a way of life not only for the reality TV stars, rappers, “wanna-be” singers and the less than engaging movies that are being created, but for the people that are entertained by this media.  In many communities and social circles it has literally become cool to not care about one another, to not have a positive presentation of yourself by appearance or by the way you speak and it is cool to “not care” about much of anything.   Without creating a balance in the things that are being presented as entertainment, we will have a more difficult time restoring entertainment (and our communities) to a place that moves us to higher states of creativity, intelligence and consciousness.

As much as the TV, movies, music on the radio or even the music that the DJ plays at the club contributes to this – morality, virtue and ideals start in the home and its my opinion that we in our everyday lives need to be each others heroes and role models.  I think that the continued domination of mindless music, sex/drug music and less than intelligent TV/movies will continue to be that way until WE as individuals begin to want and gravitate to entertainment that is more in the “art/creativity/intelligent” category than programming that is a perpetual “guilty pleasure” with no intelligent or redeeming value.

That does not mean that I am taking a shot at an entire group of people or an entire time period.  I’m very proud of my frat brothers from Rainforest Films that produce high quality movies such as “Stomp the Yard” and “This Christmas.”  I applaud artists like John Legend and Alicia Keys for always bringing a positive, showing class and a talented presence in their music and on television.  I am stating that there used to be a balance of positive imagery and “guilty pleasure” imagery and I am of the opinion that balance is broken.  Just as important, I feel that the people who do not try to imitate this lifestyle, who see these “Stank Leg-isms” as pretty meaningless are themselves turning a blind eye to the disparity that exists in today’s music.  Understanding and consciousness are the things that will help re-establish the balance in Black “pop culture.”

In the past there was a balance: for every “N.W.A.” there was a “Public Enemy”, for every “Ice-T” there was a “Heavy D”, for every “Geto Boys” there was “A Tribe Called Quest”, for every “Friday” movie there was a “X” or “Do The Right Thing” and I can’t count the numerous TV shows including “A Different World”, “Living Single”, “NY Undercover”, “Roc”, “Soul Food” and “227” that were entertaining, good for the family and produced in a way that didn’t consistently have buffoon-characters “jive talking” ever episode.  I’m not calling for an elimination of anything from today, just restoring the balance that used to exist.

As I’ve said in other writings, if you have cousins, nephews, nieces, students or children continue to be a positive influence for them by not only being an example of how to live a balanced life, but also expose them to quality/intelligent/creative entertainment (from the past and present) that lets them know that there is a difference and that allows them to become an agent for change in the caliber of entertainment that’s being offered.  I know that for me personally, as a DJ, that I will play classic feel good music in the middle of a party to show people that there was a time music held a different feel and was made in a way that can stand the test of time.

I think that what’s happening right now in the first decade of the 21st century with Black entertainment is simply a phase.  I think that things go in cycles and that there will be a better day soon when we see more of a balance in “pop culture” that represents a higher standard of living and deeper grade of thinking.  For now the true change must be ignited from the inside (the people) to the outside (the media.)  It can definitely be agreed that companies have a large influence on how people think, but we can’t be so lazy that we just throw our hands in the air and say “there’s nothing we can do about it.”  It is possible for all of us to be agents for change and if we took a fraction of the awareness, the gumption and the initiative that our ancestors did to erect change then we would begin to turn the tide in a better direction.

As an answer to “Why is it cool to be dumb in 2009?”, I think that it has become a social norm in many African-American communities to live down to the example that’s being presented in much of our entertainment.  Moving to a better, more elevated way of thinking starts with everyone in their everyday life looking to affect change positively for not only themselves, but for the peers and younger people that they may influence.  Not only is it cool to be “dumb,” but it has become cool to not care.

Let’s make a change to care and display a positive alternative for people that allows us to continue to advance as a people and not take the years of social progress from the 1860’s, to the 1960’s, to the election of an African-American President and essentially relegate ourselves to a place where we are essentially out of control.  Originally the control was taken from us, this time we are consciously giving it away and that in essence is “dumb.”  Don’t be Bamboozled, we have a lot of power, let’s put it to good use.

Much love and take care of one another – “we all we got”…VA

Additional Info:

Andreas Hale Letter Re: Conditions at BET: http://www.bvblackspin.com/2009/09/08/bet-ex-employee-e-mail/

Top 25: Black TV Shows of All-time (ranked by Ebony Magazine 2007)

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_12_62/ai_n27391446/?tag=content;col1

I had a problem with the BET Awards…and I blame somebody’s Mama!!

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2009 by djvinceadams

Soulja Boy Gets “Familiar” With Himself On-Stage at The BET Awards 2009

So, here I am awake at 4am after djing at a party and I can’t stop thinking about the colossal mess called the BET Awards.   If you watched the awards, you can’t help but have strong feelings about the show.  If you missed the show, consider yourself lucky.  If I had to say what percentage of the show was good – that would be about 30% good and 70% “are you serious.”  If I had to sum up the entire show in a sentence it would be “the BET Awards set African-American progress back to a period that would make ‘white and colored’ water fountains an everyday siting.”  Pretty sad to say and if it were not for the hundreds of tweets that I received on Twitter during the show (twitter.com/djvinceadams) , I would have tuned out long before the end.

It was apparent to me during the “Red Carpet” pre-show that there was some very “sub-standard” production value that I hoped would improve as the show progressed, but it didn’t.  I was surprised throughout the entire show how Jamie Foxx, Ving Rhames and other “adults” who should “know better” were acting is if they didn’t have the slightest idea that this could possibly be the highest rated BET Awards broadcast ever given all of the media attention that it received (i.e. CNN pre-show coverage, Satellite Radio simulacast, etc.)  I expected for the younger performers to not show decorum, but I was beyond shocked at many of the things said and done.  You would think that if these were the “elite” of the black entertainment world then we would be properly represented.  I won’t even go into tons of specifics, but I’ll just say that the grown folks should have known better.

I was excited to see the awards when I heard that there would be a ton of “surprises ” that were planned.  After viewing the show, I was wondering would those surprises be when Don Cornelius talked us to sleep?  Would they be Guy and BBD looking, breathing and sounding like they were over the hill in their early 40’s?  Maybe it was the decision to have Ciara sit and sing one of the more obscure Michael Jackson songs that you’ll find in his catalog (Ciara is a performer and not a singer right?)  Oh, I know, maybe the surprise was the one that my man @DJ_Fokis pointed out on Twitter – they did a Michael Jackson tribute show that didn’t feature any uptempo hits or serious MJ dancing talent.  Between the idiotic things that happened, the “what the hell just happened” things that happened and the “I can’t believe that just happened” things that happened – its fair to say that the buzz word for the night was “awkward.”

Let me touch on what for me was the most “awkward” part of the night.  It wasn’t only awkward, it was bittersweet.  That would be the arrival of Janet Jackson on stage and the speech that she gave.  So, let me understand the BET Awards producers…after Janet gets the courage to come out and grace the world with a word during her moment of grieving, you put her on stage immediately after Drake sings “Best I Ever Had” (the song is not about donuts by the way) FOLLOWED BY Young Money, Drake and Lil Wayne being bleeped for the entire “Every Girl” song (and no they don’t want to just “HUG every girl in the world”) THEN FOLLOWED BY Baby and Lil Wayne doing “Stay Strapped.”  So, after sex and violence you bring out the guest of honor in her moment of grief??  In that moment, I literally felt ashamed that she was put in that position.  She handled it with grace and dignity.  I think that the tweet from twitter that summed up my feelings at that moment came from @ThePBG and it stated “I wish BET died & Michael Jackson did a tribute to them .” I personally think that FOX or NBC saw this whole ship sink and somebody’s planning a MJ tribute show that will be so incredible that BET might have to consider scrapping their entire awards concept.

I find it extremely irresponsible of BET to not hold themselves to the same discretion level and talent quality as The American Music Awards at the very least.  I can understand if they don’t have the same budget, so there’s a reduction of the production value – that however is no excuse for poor judgment and bad taste.  I do think that they have a budget for some level of quality assurance.  Obviously, its not money well spent.  I have even stronger feelings about someone not pulling T-Pain aside and saying “hey Bruh, with the level of spotlight for ‘us’ tonight, take off the big ass chain (that reads ‘BIG ASS CHAIN’).”  As for Jamie Foxx, I found myself missing past BET Awards Show hostess Monique who I think would have globally handled the night with laughter and the sensitivity that the evening needed – Jamie missed the mark for me on too many occasions.

In the end, it’s really supposed to be about the music and entertainment right??  Ahh, that’s right – it wasn’t very entertaining and the music wasn’t that good either (aside from the 30% of good that took place.)  In the end where does this all put us?  To take a wide left, I think this puts us in the position of being educators.  I don’t think that the crash and burn of the BET Awards on Sunday, June 28, 2009 was an overnight/one-show occurrence.  This has been a slippery slope for some time, which may have finally slipped off the edge this year.  So, how do we become educators??  Well, the BET Awards gets one thing right every year – the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Congrats to The O’Jays who looked far more impressive than the majority of the performers who were 30-40 years younger than them

I think that any real music fan or person of an age that would consider themselves to be “old school” owes it to the younger children and young adults to share what we would consider good music to be.  I admire that John Legend studied Stevie Wonder or that Ne-Yo studied Michael Jackson.  Today we have artists like Soulja Boy who studied 50 Cent and considers 50 to be old school.  To further add insult to injury, Soulja Boy I’m sure has made much more money in the few years that he’s been on the scene than Doug E Fresh has since his arrival 25 years ago to the hip hop scene.  The sad part is that Soulja Boy until this year had no idea of who Doug E Fresh was.  That’s not Soulja Boy’s fault, that’s his Mama’s fault.  As well, new singer Jeremih has a “hit” on his hand with “Birthday Sex”.  I would bet you that he is very familiar with R. Kelly’s Bump N’ Grind, but until this year Jeremih had no idea of who the group “Guy” was.  We, as the ones that know better, have to educate younger listeners so that their range of music isn’t simply the past 10-15 years, which by many is considered the most sluggish period in modern record sales and/or under-developed in regard to musical talent (or lack thereof.)

I could go further on this subject, but I think that the conclusion is obvious here.  In order for us to get better (from BET, artists or the industry as a whole) we have to play an active part in keeping the quality up.  We can all do it in our own way.  Some may write to BET and share their feelings about the quality of the show.  Some may expose a teenager to the Gap Band or Marvin Gaye and share with them what music is, not just songs.  I think that Alicia Key’s words of “we can’t do everything, but we can all do something” definitely applies to this situation as well.  The landscape of Black music as we know it today is being degraded at an alarming rate.  If you were in doubt of that, certainly watching the awards show brought the words “it ain’t like it used to be” to mind for many people.  Remember the magnificence of the “Motown 25” Tribute Show in the 1980’s (some of you can) and how they had a fraction of the resources and budget that BET has today.  The missing ingredient is talent.  It’s hard for the future singers, songwriters and musicians of tomorrow to know what heights can be reached if we don’t step in and expose them to what real music is all about.  I’m blaming these guy’s Moms, but it’s on all of us.  Share the gift – expose others to quality – you won’t just save them, you’ll save a legacy – our music.

Let the music play…VA