Is Jay Z’s Presence Charity Enough?

August 1st, 2013

(Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

By: Jake Rohn

An ongoing war of words has pitted legendary singer and philanthropist Harry Belafonte squarely against rapper/sports agent Jay Z. Belafonte name-checked Jay Z (real name, Shawn Carter) and his wife, Beyoncé, last year saying, “I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their backs on social responsibility. That goes for Jay Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is Black.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Has Kanye Changed the Music Video Game?

July 25th, 2013

(Photo: Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam)

Earlier this week Kanye West released the music video for “Black Skinhead” from his Yeezus LP. Normally this wouldn’t be big news but with Kanye nothing is ever by the book. Many sites released the video but Kanye offered an exclusive version on his site, one that allows the user to chop and screw the video to their own liking.  This is the first time such interactive content has been available to music fans but it most certainly will not be the last.

Kanye’s genius on this venture is two-fold. First, with music videos becoming all but extinct on networks like MTV, fans need real incentive to seek them out. Consequently, this defeats the purpose labels spending tens of thousands of dollars to make them. But leave it to Yeezy to creative interactive art that not only entices viewers to check out his work but also to return to time and time again to recreate the video with their own vision.

The second smart move by Mr. West was directing people to  kanyewest.com. In an era where artists can control their brand without the backing of a major label or corporate funding and Kanye just demonstrated how artists can maintain autonomy.

Recently,  stand-up comedian Louis CK did something similar, making tickets to his live shows and even his new releases available exclusively on his site. By cutting out the middleman, in the case of  live shows which typically carry a $20 or more “convenience fee”, fans get to lose the excessive charges.

With Kanye’s new interactive music video, he just may have started a revolution. And it’s fitting given that no genre of music has been quite as game changing in music distribution and controlling one’s own brand in the last 20 years as hip hop.

This idea is great, but the fact that Kanye was the one to follow through with it is even better. Rather than partner with the big corps like Jay-Z and Live Nation, artists can receive 1005 of their profits and engage their audience directly.  Not to mention the fact that since everything Ye does as late, makes international headlines, he is getting free press simply by tweeting out links to his site along with instructions to log-on for exclusive content.

Unlike the paparazzi, fans will find interacting with Kanye a positive experience that aims to change the paradigm of music videos.

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Kanye vs. Paparazzi: Who’s really at fault?

July 23rd, 2013

(Photo: Splash News)

It’s no secret Kanye West’s relationship with photographers has been about as comfortable as Paula Deen at a Trayvon Martin protest. Never one to hold back, West is known to take shots at invasive cameramen, often showering them with angry commands. “Don’t ever talk!” is just one such example.

Last Friday,  July 19, 2013, West tried to wrestle a camera away from one of the many paps awaiting him outside LAX airport. The photographer, known as Dano, called paramedics and filed a police report while Kanye left the scene in a car.  TMZ reported the rapper would be charged with felony assault and robbery.

This is not the first time of one of Yeez’s verbal attacks got physical. He put his hands on one paparazzo demanding the man not ask any questions or to even to say “hello” following the famous incident where Yeezy face-planted into a sign.

Of the two sides–Kanye vs. Paparazzi–both parties seem to repeat the behavior that put them at odds, but who’s really to blame?

On the one hand, Kanye has no shame about his repeated lashings, boastful even, as he raps about his aversion to being nice to people on his latest LP, Yeezus. “Soon as they like you make ‘em unlike you/Cause kissing people ass is so unlike you.” Now, it’s pretty clear most celebs are not fans (at least not openly) of the paparazzi. One young man was recently killed crossing into L.A. traffic in an attempt to take pictures of Justin Bieber and not much sadness was expressed over his passing. The paparazzi are notoriously overly aggressive trying to elicit a response from celebrities that will make headlines and garner the photographers big bucks for their footage.

Dano, the cameraman that Kanye assaulted most recently, has a history of being antagonistic. TMZ reported that he was the one who instigated Britney Spears to attack his car with an umbrella years ago. And although, most would agree that there should be laws to prohibit some of the intrusive behavior of the paparazzi, they’d probably also tell you that the limelight and the flashing lights comes with being a celebrity.

Yeezy knows that people are going to play on his temper to try to get a rise out of him. Furthermore, the mother of his child, who he is scheduled to marry, is a creation of the very people he loathes. Kim Kardashian is the epitome of a media-created celebrity, so for him to want unwavering privacy is in direct contrast to what makes sense for Kim K’s career.

‘Sonning’ these cameramen was cute for a while but the entertainment value fades every time Kanye explodes and now he’s facing felony assault charges. If Ye’s hoping that they would leave him alone after seeing him go ballistic one a few of them he is wrong. He should expect photographers to be even more aggressive. Kanye’s temporary victory of getting the cameras out of his face is going to cost him a ton in the end. In this scenario, to the loser belong the spoils.

Kanye has to figure out a new way to deal with the paparazzi before he ends up behind bars. In his mind he maybe a God, but in the eyes of the law he is just a man.

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Did Jay Z and Samsung Really Trick Us?

July 19th, 2013

(Photo: Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images)

By Jake Rohn
Say it ain’t so, Hov! A couple of weeks ago, I praised Jay Z for demonstrating an unparalleled business savvy in his approach to releasing his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Hov paired up with Samsung to drop a bombshell in the form of an extended commercial that featured an all-star list of producers working on what is assumed to be the product that is on the cusp of public consumption.
In light of some new information and with some time having passed since the album’s release, I’ve done a complete 180. I now wonder if Jay Z, who has embodied hip hop’s competitive and entrepreneurial spirit ever since the early ’90s, now represents everything Public Enemy fought when hip hop was still in its formative years. Read the rest of this entry »
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Should More Music Acts Join Stevie Wonder’s Florida Boycott?

July 18th, 2013

(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Moriba Cummings

Trayvon Martin is dead, George Zimmerman is acquitted and many are unsatisfied with the verdict. In hope of justice, Americans throughout the nation have gathered in the streets of New York City, San Francisco and Atlanta, to name a few, to march in Trayvon’s honor. In addition to these peaceful protests, various celebrities have expressed their distaste for the verdict with Stevie Wonder even going the extra mile and officially announcing that he will never perform in the state of Florida again until the “Stand Your Ground” law is eradicated. In regards to Wonder’s bold and thought-provoking statement, one cannot help but wonder, “Should other celebrities follow suit?” Read the rest of this entry »

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What Nas’ Harvard Fellowship Means for Hip Hop

July 16th, 2013

(Photo: Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic)

By Jacob Rohn

Earlier this week, HipHopDX reported that Harvard University honored Queensbridge rapper Nas (real name Nasir Jones) with “The Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship,” which is being established by the Hip Hop Archive and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, named after the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the storied institution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Has Hip Hop Traded Credibility for Capital?

July 16th, 2013

(Photo: John Ricard / BET)

By Jake Rohn

As expected, the George Zimmerman acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin has polarized the nation. There has already been an outpouring of outrage expressed by celebrities via social media and Beyoncé took a moment during her performance to acknowledge the verdict and to send thoughts and prayers out to Martin’s family. Young Jeezy took to Facebook to extend his thoughts to the family as well, saying, “I would like to offer strength to you and the family throughout this entire ordeal. I pray that justice is served and the memory of Trayvon is carried through you and through all of us.” He added, “It’s in GOD’s Hands.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Twerking: When Will the Madness Stop?

July 12th, 2013

(Photo: Miley Cyrus via Twitter)

By Moriba Cummings

Twerking, the controversial dance revolution, has been taking over America. While many, specifically those within the Black community, are saying this is nothing new, it seems as if the world has just begun to jump on this wave that just seems to keep rising in height. With the likes of Miley Cyrus, Leona Lewis and even Jay-Z – no, he didn’t actually twerk – contributing to the ever present relevance of this craze, it’s that much harder to escape, no matter how hard you try. But like other cultural popcorn crazes of the past, twerking’s days are numbered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Willow Smith’s “Summer Fling”: Great Art or Premature Growth?

July 11th, 2013

(Photo: MELODIC CHAOTIC MUSIC VIA YOUTUBE)

By Moriba Cummings

It’s summertime – everyone’s hot, out and wants some company, even if just for the season. These are usually the sentiments of single young adults, but not for a 12-year-old, right? Is it a thought that is too grown for adequate conception for a soon-to-be adolescent? Judging from Willow Smith’s controversial new music video titled “Summer Fling,” it’s all in good fun, but where is the line between fun and practicality drawn? Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Lil Wayne Really Retire?

June 12th, 2013

(Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

By Jake Rohn

On last night’s (June 11) Jimmy Kimmel Live, Lil Wayne told host Jimmy Kimmel that he planned to retire after he releases The Carter 5 album, which the “Lollipop” rapper said might come after his next album, a joint effort with Birdman. Kimmel then asked the 30-year-old what he planned to do in retirement, to which he responded that he wanted to spend some more real “quality” time with his family. Wayne seemed serious but the timing begs the question: Does he really want to retire or has a recent decline in popularity and underwhelming album sales (I Am Not a Human Being 2 sold 217,000 in its first week to The Carter IV’s 964,000) driven him to step away for a minute to create a demand for him to come back? Read the rest of this entry »

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