20 October 2006

High fives to the youth!

It is hard to understand the rationale behind the actions of some politicians… no wait, actually, it is very easy to understand the rationale behind the actions of some politicians; it only is hard to justify them.

Possible next Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, met yesterday with Rhymefest, an American Hip Hop artist. They talked about whether Hip Hop is harmful and sends a negative message to the youth. My first thought about it was “Rhyme.. who?”! How is he the representative of the worldwide Hip Hop community and if he is, how come I know nothing about his political activism? Has there been a new rising star and hope for political music or political musicians since I gave up on American Hip Hop?

Usually I start making conclusions without much research. This time was different. I went to listen to some of the tracks from this guy and it appears that I can safely continue ignoring the overground in the United States as Rhymefest, in the first song that starts blasting from his website tackles the important issues of having “these hoes on the floor”, he asks women to “put it on his stick” and invites them to perform oral sex with him. Go back to sleep hopefuls. This is not political – just another rapper disrespecting women and promoting himself. He denies this is about promoting himself but it obviously would be rather unlikely that he did not.

Or am I judging him too quickly? Maybe. Maybe I should wait for longer time and see what it is that he does and stands for. Maybe. But then again - there are people in the British Hip Hop community who could have talked about the real topics; Blak Twang amongst many others have done songs specifically about this Hip Hop lyrics / gun crime problem, and if they are not good enough (or sell enough records and create enough publicity) then surely there are several Americans who have some credibility when it comes to the politics in music.

So, Cameron decided to dodge the bullet, and talk to an unthreatening rapper from America instead of a British one. As I said, it is easy to understand because it is unlikely that an American rapper, rapping about hoes, would bring up the social condition of the large groups of the society in UK, whose life Hip Hop is, who Mr Cameron has criticised. At least not with any authority.

And the justification for all of this? Considering the party that David Cameron is leading, regardless of his attempts to renew its image; the disastrous effects of its politics in the 80’s on to the state schools and the general conditions for not so well off Britons, it is ridiculously arrogant for him to attack an art form, and then solve the situation by accepting cup of tea invitation from a rapper on a promotional mission – from another country.

And about Rhymefest, I must still continue, that if I am looking at this incident purely from business point of view, he made a brilliant move. To get this publicity with a price of one flight ticket is great. Everyone who is trying to sell records should have thought about that. I am not against him as such, although now that I have recogniced a few of his songs from the BBC Radio 1Xtra rotation, I find them to be awfully boring and disrespectful, which I cannot or do not want to justify with anything. But as far as I understand Rhymefest has not promised anything to any community in UK unlike Mr Cameron has.

It was not Cameron though who initiated this meeting. He had just worried over a radio DJ shouting out some people who are in prison and you know the general "it's not racial but this cannot be tolerated stuff". When hearing about that, Rhymefest had contacted him apparently so they could chat about it. And he said yes. Fair play. What I cannot understand is, that if he is so worried and if he is a politician who cares about the people - why did he not contact the elders of the British Hip Hop community to talk about it? 

Maybe David Cameron, as down as he is with the youth and their culture, could take few hours every week in his schedule to high five to these artists, instead of concentration of what happens in the streets of UK, its council estates and state schools. Is it life imitating art or art imitating life? Or is it just a photo opportunity – I think I know what I feel about it.

During the times of Labour Government attacking Moslems during their holy month of Ramadan and Conservative Party doing its best to not look conservative, the British politics are getting a bit much. It is hard to imagine that the two parties would be stupid; they probably are very smart. They just pick the opportunities that suit them and are popular. In that their ethics are much like the ones of American chart rapper.

15 October 2006

Birmingham reality

I have been meaning to go out and take some pictures of my new/old surroundings. I used to live quite near when I first came to country but here are some updated photos from Erdington, Birmingham. Not the most exciting environment, I must admit, but just to give an idea why I get frustrated so easily.
Nobody comes to Birmingham to be famous.

More photos from diffent countries, continents and times can be seen at two of my flickr accounts here and here.

Revolution will be sold in the shopping centre!

I have been wandering around Birmingham city center today for most part of the day. I find it to be amusing or sad. It really is completely depending the mood I am on. Now that I have had a good week, today the anniversary of the radio show, Public Enemy concert and people around me have just generally been nice, I felt amused by the capitalism taken to its extremes.

What is my definition of capitalism taken to extreme I hear you ask? Well I suppose it can be few things; one of them definitely is what I always complain about when you buy something and immediately lose any rights for anything but the really mad one is when revolution, rather its imagery and symbols are up for sale. And the thing about it is that they are not exactly on discount. There are few so called revolutionary artist, musicians, who record for major record labels (considering the kind of contract policies and the ruthlessness of the big companies, we should not hold our breaths with the revolution), and that is kind of contradictory to me but today I saw a kind of scarf that some anarchist, however the group is labelled, often wear on sale in an trend shop. And the price tag on it said £16! Now before you think that I looked the tag because I wanted to buy it – no is the answer – I was just so amused to see it there. Then again Che Guevara T-shirts have been a standard for a long time and there are times I feel that not quite everyone knows who is that mysterious character in their shirt; maybe if they did they would not even wear them.

Well if the idea of revolution has turned into the image driven; or rather its image has become a trend then what is this revolution anyway? How do we define it. Firstly – I must say as I seem to give some vibe and people make conclusions - considering me a revolutionary is the biggest joke ever, I have never felt like one and I do not feel I have ever done anything particularly revolutionary – mainly because I never wanted to. When I talk about revolution, I mean the Marxist/Leninist step towards their ideal society. I think it is rather hypocrite idea as people just are not that “good” that it would work. I was not born into a society where any other kind of revolution was needed anyway. I have never been oppressed and although I often say big words about crimes against humanity – what have I really done in order to earn the title revolutionary in a wider scale (even outside of this Marxist definition.) – I wish I had but nada is the answer my friends and that is ok. At least I know what I am not.

Then again there is another way of describing revolution. It is much more sensible to me. It is about the evolution of mind; knowledge of self if you wish. According to that I do my best to fit in the description. It is a strive for positive change and I am not sure how relevant the pace of movement is as long as there is some.

Well, my point today is that we do not need to worry about that. Why would we? It seems that revolution -well at least its imagery and symbolism are coming into fashion now that the pseudo-political science seems to be suffering from Michael Moore's absence. Just eat pot noodles for a few weeks, save enough money and get the attire that is needed to not to need to think. Hurray!

13 October 2006

Good times

This week on Tuesday I went to Wolverhampton. Not the most exciting place on most days of the year, actually as far as my experiences go, quite the opposite. But I did not go there to hang out but for a reason – a very good reason. Legendary Public Enemy, my favourite band was performing there.

It is always serious event on one hand; I want to be on a venue early enough to get on the front row and maybe buy a T-shirt but on the other, it is just the best fun ever. It was my third time of seeing them live. Other gigs have been in Helsinki and then in Dublin. All of these have been on the highest standard and two more recent ones with a full live band playing the tracks. The energy during the two and half to three hour concert is unbelievable. It is the most exercise I get these days and I am not afraid to admit that I behave in these like a teenage girl during the Westlife concert – what can I say.

Great concert and what made it even better was getting a shoutout from the leader of the group, MistaChuck D, and later on signed tracklist of that gig. I get very exited about things like that so good times. It has been a good week as I also have the first anniversary of the radio show. Cannot complain.
Here is the actual item - well scanned version - but if you click it you can see a bigger version.

History lesson - Middle East

I came across this today and thought that it was quite interesting. 5000 years of History in 90 seconds.

12 October 2006

Don't think about that - think about this!

Ask any comedian, broadcaster or a politician and they will confirm that timing is everything. Anything that happens or is being said has only half, if even that, impact without the correct timing. This has got nothing to do with the relevance of the incident - it is just a part of package we are willing to buy.

The other day a plane hit a skyscraper in New York. This time it was not an attack against anyone’s “way of life” or “values”, but apparently an accident. The person in question was not threatening one (possibly only having a beard during the play-off season) but rather an all-American sports hero so may he rest in peace. It is awful really, isn’t it?

Well this is where the timing comes in. What a strike of luck to the mass media who even at its most anti-republican moment stands firmly behind its agenda (then only serving the ones opposing its policies, yet often benefiting from its decisions). Now they do not need to worry about, say, 655 000 dead Iraqis.

It is true that this plane crash, as a tragedy, was great distraction to all the other things that are happening on the planet, but it is interesting to me how, for the first time that I remember after the much-talked nine eleven, the media and the politicians are making it very clear that this incident has not got anything to do with terrorism. Generally they keep their dominance up by creating a threat to everyone and then posing as the ones to lead the way back into the light – to the safe haven of “western” values only and global unity (terms and conditions apply – mainly that everyone needs to agree with these so called western values or otherwise they are considered as a part of axis of evil).

The power of media, as many media theorist argue, is not its power to make decisions for us. As in what do we think about something, but it rather controls our minds by introducing us the topics we should think about and what is our opinion may be shaped from the few facts offered and then the general feeling of it. And on the other side of things, all of a sudden, with a little help of Michael Moore, internet conspiracy theories and 24 hour news networks everyone can be a specialist in all that is wrong in the world. There is no focus in any of this. We just support “it” or oppose “it” and “it” can be anything. Choose your side and stick to it. It is like supporting a football team – you have to stand with them on good times and bad times or otherwise you become a traitor.

655 000 is a lot of people to die. It is 655 000 mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. It is 655 000 teachers, shopkeepers, soldiers, cops and cons. It is 655 000 Iraqis and no matter what anyone feels it is 655 000 human beings opposed to two of which one was a baseball player. All of the sudden even in UK media pretends that it cares about baseball. And on the moment of truth 655 000 dead people are only a fraction of the poor people who go to sleep hungry and never wake up. Who are born without a chance because the “values” of west maybe supported a regime which is not capable to serve the people but which definitely agrees on selling oil and diamonds to the corporate west. Maybe they are victim of the draught maybe something else – like general bad governance.

The way I see it – anything these days that can take the attention off of the really relevant stuff is good enough for American lead corporate mass media. It is sad state of things when everything is supposed to be somehow so evolved. The mass media, indeed, in the new millennium, serves as the greatest Weapon of Mass Distraction.

8 October 2006

First anniversary of WSOM radio show

Next Saturday 14th of October marks the first full year of WSOM international hip hop show on Cape Town airvawes. Thanks for listening and thanks for Bush Radio for co-operation.

It's gonna be a great show with some new exiting songs that haven't previously been played on the show. Listen the show in Cape Town on 89.5 fm Bush Radio, or online worldwide at 2 pm (GMT +1, EST + 6).
Check the playlists of the previous shows and listen to some interviews from the show's weblog and if you want to contact me, maybe hook me up with some Hip Hop tracks that deserve airplay, write to mikmikko@gmail.com
Peace, Mik

A cool podcast

I just came across a cool podcast from Podnosh about the new Soweto Kinch record and his inspiration from the Birmingham B19 tower and its surrounding area. You can download the interview here and read more about it from here.
Check out their site for more podcasts about Birmingham, its people and stories.

7 October 2006

Few thoughts from the island.

The rain that is pouring down today is just ridiculous. It sounds like the biggest clich̩, I know, but I am not saying that it always rains. But always when it rains I seem to be outside for one reason or another. And the public transportation is what it is, sometimes you are lucky and jump into the bus straight away, more often you wait but why is it almost non-existent when it is raining? РAnd why am I outside?

Besides getting soaked today the houses, the Victorian ones, are the only places on earth where it takes a week to get your laundry dry without the dryer and you must put a jacket on when you go in because it is colder there than outside (I have no idea how that is even possible).

That is all today. Have a good weekend and I will have a hot drink.

1 October 2006

Different musical experiences

I must say that I’ve been slightly vexed for missing two potentially fantastic South African Hip Hop gigs during past few months. Generally I would like to see Zubs and Proverb, the two artists in question, performing live wherever it could happen but that I had to miss them both on my home pitch. Proverb was performing in Helsinki this week and Zubs in August on a festival near capital. What makes both gigs particularly cool – or how could I tell because I was not there but at least potentially – is that they performed with live bands. I am sure that the ones who went were in for a treat and I am happy that these guys got up north to spread some love but the fact remains – I am still slightly gutted.

While I don’t really actively lose any night sleep over the missed cultural experiences I must say that I had some compensation when this Wednesday I saw Jurassic 5 performing live here in Birmingham. I have not been buying (or in any other way getting) their recent releases but they were good fun watching and the performance lasted for a good one hour forty-five minutes and the best part for me; I had a free ticket. I quite like free things and the fact that the tickets were almost £18 to begin with, I doubt that I would have invested that myself.

So some faith has been restored into the American Hip Hop music now. The next big thing is Public Enemy live gig in few weeks in Wolverhampton. If you did not know – I love Public Enemy. They are my favourite band of all the times of all the genres. I have tattooed their logo on my leg and when I see them live, like I have seen them before in Helsinki and in Dublin, I become like a teenage girl in Westlife concert. It is a bit sad but I suppose I have always lived my life quite strongly through some musical experiences; having that real life soundtrack on and that may have something to do with my behaviour.

My favourite thing about UK (and the list is very short) besides few friends and the fact that TV is always the first in the world with its documentaries is the music scene. I have been trying to get back on the track of things here and this time it has not really taken much effort because summer is so dominated by the festivals that not many big things have been released. Not the ones that would come all the way to Birmingham anyway or if it is local then no one will ever support it so I would not have heard about it. The truth here is that even in Cape Town local artist get much love from local or any media in comparison to Birmingham.

That goes to everyone except one artist – Soweto Kinch. He just released a new record Life In The Day Of B19, A (Tales Of The Tower Block). If you have not heard of him I am not going to explain much but recommend to check his resume and of course his music. It is jazz. A Lot of Hip Hop influences and rhyming happening there on the record but the in its full essence it is jazz and that is good. I think it is good because so much Hip Hop is influenced by jazz and many other things but this time it is the other way around. I like the record for many reasons; firstly it is good musically, secondly it is like a radio drama/jazz musical and thirdly, and maybe my frame of reference is too narrow, but for the first two reasons I have not heard anything like it before - and one more thing, it is based in Birmingham. I am very happy to hear something that is based in Birmingham – and that BBC programme about obese people did not count.

A Little Darker mixtape from Illastate Records (Akala and Ms Dynamite) is decent. A bit too aggressive at times although I really like aggressive music. Some of the lyrics made me a bit uncomfortable. Maybe I am just getting older and more conservative. Well at least older. Needs to be said that my favourite just now on this moment in the UK music thing is Lowkey. I sign out with his freestyle video – Peace and enough about the music now.