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El-P: Definitive Jux ‘on hiatus’

…[As] a traditional record label DEF JUX will effectively be put on hiatus. We are not closing, but we are changing. The process is already underway, and the last several months (for those wondering what the hell we’ve been up to) have been spent dealing with the technical aspects of wrapping up the label in it’s current form and re-imagining our collective and individual futures.

In 2000 starting a traditional record label made a lot of sense. But now, in 2010, less so and I find myself yearning for something else to put my energy into. I also see newer, smarter, more interesting things on the horizon for the way art and commerce intersect, and as an artist and an entrepreneur, I’m eager to see them unfold. The evolution of this industry is, in my opinion, exciting, inevitable and it would be nice to see the DEFINITIVE JUX brand be a part of it. In other words, maybe we can turn this hoopty in to a hovercraft.

After over 10 years of existence, Definite Jux (formerly Def Jux) records is, according to founder/rapper El-P, officially on hiatus. The company, which has released some of the most seminal underground hip-hop records from the likes of El-P himself, Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, RJD2, Murs and Del The Funky Homosapien, will continue to sell it’s catalogue and even release one final record, Camu Tao’s posthumous King Of Hearts,” alongside a 10th anniversary compilation/retrospective album. As the quote above explains, though the company is not 100% shut down, where the future will take the company is up in the air, but one thing could be said for sure, the music industry is losing one of the greatest indie hip hop record labels to ever be.

For this blogger, my relationship with the genre of hip-hop has always been a little rocky. Through my high school years, the genre itself was a four-letter word, and even the idea of enjoying a hip hop record would be the most foreign concept in my mind. While it would be Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” that would smack me into reality and understand that there was thoughtful, well done hip hop that wasn’t the top 40 cookie cutter that filled the radio waves, I will always recall the first time El-P’s “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” and finally, for a lack of a better term, getting it. The production so polished yet ultimately raw, the delivery as biting and passionate as the blistering beats beneath it. This was the rap record I was dying to discover, yet never knew I was looking for.

While Stones Throw’s releases, marred in layers of samples and heavy jazz influences, and anticons outright weirdness would never pull me completely into the indie hip-hop world (my appreciation for the work of Madvillian and J-Dilla aside), Def Jux records was always the source I’d go to for an appropriate hip-hop fix I needed in my life. Will this be the end of all the artists Def Jux brought into my conciousness, in this day and age thats an obvious no, but there is still room to mourn the end of a movement, or in this case, an indefinent hiatus.


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Bringing the ‘Hurt’

So early (and I mean 5:40 in the am early) this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released it’s nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards, and even the most cynical of cynics inside me was pleasantly surprised at the nominations and lack of serious snubs (for the most part at least). Who were the two biggest winners of the evening, in the category of “stories you couldn’t even dream of writing” Katherine Bigelow and ex-husband James ‘King of the swimming pool full of gold doubloons World’ Cameron both lead the pack with 9 nods for their efforts, ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Avatar,’ respectively. So lets begin with the nominations, who should win, who probably will win and who got screwed over, shall we?

Best Picture

The grand daddy of awards this year was stretched out to 10 nominations for the first time, which, even though the field is pretty much closed in on 3 films, it’s a nice move to give some otherwise would be overlooked films some respect.

Who will/should win: This race has always been really between Cameron’s “Avatar,” Bigelows “Hurt Locker” and Tarantinos “Inglorious Basterds.” Both Bigelow and Cameron have nabbed directing nods for their efforts, but Ms. Bigelow did take home the Directors Guild Award, which has always been a sign of things to come at the Oscars. Who will take home the gold man? As much as it pains me to think, it’s too close to really call, but I’m putting my faith down that Bigelow gets what she justly deserves.

Snubbed: Theres something to be said about “Crazy Heart” getting looked over in exchange for “The Blind Side”, but it’s not the biggest shock in the world.

Best Director

Who will win: Once more this is another head to head between Bigelow and Cameron. Something also tells me that the Academy may just be ballsy enough to split the big two wins between them and give this one to Cameron.

Snubbed: Neill Blomkamp completely re-energized the sci-fi genre with one of the years greatest came-from-nowhere films “District 9,” how he got left out of the pack is completely bizarre.

Best Actor

Who will/should win: This is Jeff Bridges year, hands down, no matter how amazing George Clooney was in “Up In The Air,” it’s time The Dude gets what he deserves for one of the finest performances of the year.

Snubbed: Sharlto Copley, a man who never acted before in his life, yet brought to life one of the most reviled characters you found yourself slowly rooting for, in his role as Wikus Van De Merwe in “District 9”

Best Actress

Who should win: Unless you have no soul, Gabourey Sidibe stole the hearts of any real movie watcher with her performance in “Precious,” and while I’m not entirely sold on the future of her career, she at least knocked it out of the park and then some in this film.

Who will win: No clue why, but this will probably got to Ms. Bullock, where the hell did “The Blind Sides” popularity come from people??? It’s astounding.


So those are the big 4, as for the rest of the list, Mo’Nique is pretty much guaranteed a win for Best Supporting Actress. As much as I lovvvvveeeeddd “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (and I despise every other Wes Anderson film, fact), Pixar will forever own the Best Animated Film category and anyone who is shocked by “Up”s win is a fool. “Avatar” will justly clean up every technical award under the son and even the film is awful in so many ways, it’s also probably the prettiest film visually ever made. And even though something tells me the Academy will give Best Documentary to “Food Inc.,” I’m still crossing my fingers for the controversial yet equally exceptional, “The Cove,” to take home the victory.

Lets hope March 7th is a slow work day for me, because I’m actually very excited to see what happens come Oscar night, especially after last years yawn fest.

Hurt Locker photo (cc) by Fan The Fire Magazine and Avatar photo (cc) by rxau and published here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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Zzzz…sorry, what should I care about again?: Grammy Edition

So, I was toying with the idea of live-bloging the annual parade of the Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences complete incompetence Grammys, but I got out of work a little to late and my roommates also decided to use the living room, so well, that kind of put the cabash on that idea.

Alas, I kept up with my annual masochistic tradition and paid attention to who won, who got screwed over and those who never, ever, deserve to have the phrase “Grammy Award Winner” attached to their name, but do (Black Eyed Peas, I’m looking at you).

As to why I subject myself to this masturbatory show of the recording industries parade of successful P.R. campaigns and tween-minded product testing, I point you to the 2007 Grammy’s, which will probably be the last time the awards show does anything right. If you can’t remember that far back dear readers, that was the year the Dixie Chicks dominated the awards show for their post-Bush fiasco record, “Taking The Long Way,” which, in this bloggers humble opinion, is still one of the greatest contemporary Country records of all time and not to mention one of the angriest records of all time.

Now, I’m no fool, I know a large part of their Grammy sweep in ’07 was incredibly political and a big screw you to Bush on the Academy’s part, but I’m willing to let that go for the sheer fact that it was a) the greatest record of the year, and b) I also appreciate a big middle finger to the Ca$hville, TN music industry which ran with its tail between their legs and abandon the best thing to come out of that state’s music machine in decades.

This year is no different, I was incredibly disappointed weeks ago after reading the nominations list, whoever wrote down with a straight face Beyonce’s “…Sasha Fierce” as one of the best records of the year is nothing but a damned fool. Yes, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It”) took over the world last year and deserves all the praise and recognition in the world, but does the Academy really expect us to believe that and the Black Eyed Peas were two of the best albums of the year? Pah-lease. I was also highly amused by the Globe’s wonderful piece of “no fuckin’ duh” journalism in this little piece by Sarah Rodman, popularity is the key? Really? Someone give this lady a Pulitzer for BLOWIN’ MY MIND.

But well, it’s all said and done, Beyonce reigned supreme, people continued to let the Kings of Leon think they will be relevant in 2012, and justly Lady Gaga netted two wins (I will fight anyone that says Gaga doesn’t deserve any best Pop category award, fact). The Zac Brown Band got the kiss of death and won’t be heard of again after a few months. And, as in every year, the one hope I had for an artist getting their just praise failed miserably, it of course fell in the all so popular Best Contemporary Folk Album category, which I know you were all dying to see on the show, what a let down, with Neko Case getting screwed after releasing the  best record of last year “Middle Cyclone,”surprised? No, but well, like I said, I have a level of a hope that borders of masochism sometimes.

But hey, Lil Wayne didn’t get shit — so you win some and lose some.

Edit: Oh, and Elton John, you’re back in my good graces, welcome back. The song has always been “Meh” to me, but he definitely made this so much more epic.

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Curiosity slightly maimed the cat

This past Wednesday, my Reinventing The News class was given the opportunity to hear from Stephanie Miller, Director of Digital Media for CBS Boston Television, who also works for WBZ-TV & WBZ-Radio

The topic of discussion focus mainly on WBZ’s efforts to combine the power of social networking media to their already established core audience, as well as a way to gain a younger audience that doesn’t normally choose to go to a source like WBZ for it’s news and information gathering.

In or around May of 2008, WBZ began a campaign they entitled “Declare Your Curiosity,” which invited listeners and viewers to submit things they were curious about, but didn’t really completely understand or know where to get the best information from. Executives, including Ms. Miller, are able to access this data in a rather impressive database that organizes everything into categories ranging from Sports, Politics to more local issues. Even going so far as to categorize “curiosities” by city and even county.

Such focused attention brings the central point Ms. Miller was trying to get across to us all, as budding journalists about to embark into the real world and into the current industry, one must start focusing much more at the community level, looking to see what the populations we live in really care about, and giving them the information and answers they seek. It would seem to some to be a relatively obvious thing, but not many sources do it, which makes this Curiosity campaign such an impressive start-up. Miller noted that since May of ’08, the program has gained close to 6,000 unique users on the website, alongside a sizable twitter following and facebook community, as well as a youtube channel full of promos.

The idea is very impressive, but would I honestly submit my own curiosity? Probably not, due to my incredibly limited knowledge of the in’s and out’s of this city enough to bother crafting something of interest. But could this been done well in my hometown? Definitely, it’s something that could and should catch on in as many media markets in the U.S. as possible. Crowdsourcing could very well be the revolution journalism has been looking for, not it’s time for them to just take it seriously, and WBZ/CBS seem to be off to the right start.

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Zzzz…sorry, what should I care about again?: Coachella 2010

Coachella Music & Arts Festival

As a new year dawns, so comes the rush to be excited over the cavalcade of music festivals that will bring us dreaming of summer. Per usual, the behemoth of indie music festivals, Coachella, released this week their 2010 lineup, with headlining spots going to Jay-Z….Muse….and Gorillaz. Wait, is this the same music festival that brought the world the long awaited My Bloody Valentine reunion? Kraftwerk? Cocteau Twins?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is still TONS to get excited for. Following suit with tradition, Coachella has a long awaited reunion show in Pavement, let’s just forget the fact that this reunion was announced last year. On the flip side, it seems Coachella is continuing a new tradition of bringing on acts that don’t quite follow their history of being on the cutting edge of bringing fresh acts to a large stage, be it last years Paul McCartney headline, Roger Waters and Prince of previous, with this years being Radiohead tribute band British superstars Muse to headline the second night.

Yet, there are some aspects of this years festival that do hold true to the festivals roots (snark free assessment, promise). From the long list of smaller, indie darlings (the xx, Florence and the Machine, Little Dragon, and Elitist Scum approved Little Boots) to the first US show of the recently hell frozen over reunion of Faith No More, and even Public Image Limited.

It still must be said that what makes a festival is the headliners, and it seems year after year what was once the music festival of record, has fallen to the likes to SXSW and Bonnaroo, favoring big name closers that don’t entirely follow the format of the rest of the festival, in order to sell tickets. Which then, hey, business is business, and who knows, maybe next years Ticketmasterchella 2011 will be an even better year, with the evenings closer Miley Cyrus really bringing the house down.

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BBC Sound of 2010: Ellie Goulding

Last week the BBC released their yearly tastemaker “Sound Of…” list, giving a little publicity and exposure to new talent expected to get big in the coming year, with everyone’s favorite folk/electronica artist, Ellie Goulding taking the top spot this year, joining the likes of last years winner Little Boots and Adele who took the spot in 2008. The list is chosen by over 100 of Britain’s top music critics, broadcasters and industry insiders, who each select 3 rising artists or bands for the following year. Current and previous years nominees have included Marina and The Diamonds, Florence and The Machine, La Roux, Lady Gaga and Passion Pit.

This announcement comes after a rather fruitful few weeks for Goulding, winning the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice prize in early December, an appearance on the Times of London’s top ten acts of 2010 list, as well as a performance on the popular UK music talk show “Later…with Jools Holland” and a mini tour around the UK with last years Sound Of… winner, Little Boots.

Full disclosure time, I’ve been on the Ellie Goulding train for months now, and to finally see her get the push and success that she is receiving right now is fantastic. Granted, these lists don’t make stars overnight, or stars at all, and sometimes the BBC list just gets it wrong (yes, Little Boots has been having a stellar career this past year, but the fact she topped dance music behemoth Lady Gaga goes to show sometimes critics don’t know what the hell they are talking about).

I also have hopes this gives her the proper support to mature as an artist, her lyrics need some definite work, but I think this wave of pop artists that actually write their own lyrics and compose their own music and don’t feel the need to just jump on the sex sells bandwagon is something the industry desperately needs more and more of. Robyn hit it out of the park the last couple of years with her self titled record, so it seems an audience is here, hopefully to stay.

Ellie’s first single “Under The Sheets” (Neon Gold Records) received rather modest success for being released off a tiny tiny blog-centered label, reaching number 53 on the UK Singles Chart. And with the upcoming release of her debut album “Lights” (Polydor) coming in March with the first single off, “Starry Eyed” coming in late February, we won’t have to wait too long to see what success may come for the girl.

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