31 March 2011

Negotiating identity

Rob One

A few days ago I was contacted by Rob Boffard who is a journalist and artists who records as Rob One. His brand new album African was at the time only to be released and I promised to give it a listen. Now, it has taken me couple of days to get to this point, the point where I am writing this, but I have been listening to the album a lot and I have been trying to write and make sense of it. It’s not nonsense - that's not the reason for delay - but I feel that it requires a little bit of understanding for someone like me. I don’t write just about anything nor am I in a habit of recommending music I don’t know. So I had to pay attention to know what is what.

See, like I said Rob One’s album is called African. It’s an identity reference and the album has a lot of other different identity references sprinkled all over it. Hip-Hop is a cultural expression of identities. I guess it really is many different things, but this is one of them. It has helped countless people – I am one of them – to negotiate their identities whether actual or imagined as Patrick Neate has written.

Rob is South African and the identity in South Africa is the biggest question mark or a mess depending on your approach. I think Hip-Hop, as opposed to many other popular music genres attempts to make sense of this. Admittedly a lot less in the mainstream, but let’s say that some segments of the Hip-Hop community spend a lot of time exploring the topic.

To understand this a bit, let’s look at the Cape Town crew Driemanskap. It’s a group I have written about before and now I am very happy to see them breaking through and hopefully also getting the rewards for their years of hard work, distinct style and seemingly never-ending creativity, and just to brag a bit, I am proudly the first ever person to have bought their debut album Igqabhukil’ Inyongo. From that album they have for now released two videos and both of them are about identity albeit very different ones. First one – Camagu – which is a flawless song, is about their Xhosa identity. It should have been the biggest radio hit in the country, but it wasn’t. I am not saying this only as a fan of music, but someone who has dedicated the past decade and then some for an attempt to understand radio as a medium. The second song, which to my surprise – I guess it goes to show something – has been enjoying much more support from the mainstream media is called S’phum’eGugs; a raw nearly six minute long brilliant township anthem celebrating that side of their identity. The album also has songs about South African identity in general, but I am just using the example to demonstrate the depth of the question of identity not only in Hip-Hop or even in South Africa, but more specifically South African Hip-Hop and how the Hip-Hop has been, and is, able to communicate the complex subject matter.

So I saw the album title – African – as an invitation to look into the questions of identity on this album. I was also intrigued because South Africa has this kind of imagined sound bite national identity involving rainbows and such. I know it aims to heal the nation, but the assumption is that the very experiences that have, in my opinion quite clearly, torn the nation – or all the nations within the country’s borders – apart, are supposedly the ones that bring them together as shared history and something that has been overcome together. And listening to the lyrics of the title track it is more or less this scenario that is described albeit with the emphasis on future, instead of past. Or at least only the very recent past from 1994 onwards.

But I understand; it is easy to be harsh and difficult to make sense since the sound bite South Africanism – even if it was talked about as being African – serves a very different and perhaps no less important function. Much like with communal prayers of many religions what is said is less important than the act of saying it. So the meaning isn’t only on the content of the words, but the act of saying them. Perhaps that is more realistic way to look at the young democracy with barely healings scars.

I’m inclined to understand the statements of the title track as a call to action for the artist's peers to seek pride in the identity that for centuries have been demonised and ‘othered’ or perhaps to find ingredients for that mysterious single South African national identity. Whatever the meaning exactly is might be difficult to communicate in any precise manner – this stuff is deep – but I guess the meaning of identity here is true in the way that it is true to oneself which is all it really can be, and therefore shall suffice.

Rob One reminds me of some Australian rappers – Muph and Plutonic, that sort of thing – and his voice and expression, which are hardly silky smooth, go quite well juxtaposed with beautiful easy going beats and melodies. A fine example of this is Conversations with the City which features Basotho lyricist Core Wreckah and singer Deney.

As a music listener I tend to first listen to the whole album and then get stuck to a handful of songs. Often only weeks, months or even years later I realise what kind of tracks I have missed on the first round and there is one song on this record that I haven’t been able to turn off. It is called The Morning After. The Morning After is an emotional song that has really caught my attention. I have listened to it time and time again. I had it on repeat one on my headphones the whole morning in the bus and I have it on my headphones right now as I write. It’s difficult to turn off. This song is an honest reflection of life after a few beers. Perhaps it is the beer reference that reminds me of some of these Australian artists who never fail to mention their best friend in bottles, pints or cans. Perhaps I just think it’s a dominant theme here, because I have listened to this song more than any other one from the album. The album in general isn’t beer rap and even here it has been dealt without the general banality that so often characterises the songs of that nature. The Morning After has a beautifully melodic instrumental which enables the artist to rap his heart out and show us the real him. I mean, I don’t know him, but after this song I feel I do a bit. It is a reflection of the real him and if it isn’t, it is very well made script for what he could be. It is a story of an individual instead of a member of collective and it just feels like something that sits more naturally. It is him telling all about him – his life hasn’t been struggle – and inviting us to either give it a chance or just leave it be. The Morning After is not only the highlight of the album for me, but actually quite touching story of negotiating one’s own identity. It got me thinking a lot. Thanks.



Rest of the album can be checked out at Rob One’s Bandcamp site.

30 March 2011

A little bit of music for this evening.



Just because there's only one emcee rhyming doesn't mean that the video couldn't have an all star cast. Song by Stylah and the video tells you who are featured if you don't know them - I didn't know all, but most. I enjoy the mood of the song.

27 March 2011

Not in defense of Hip-Hop but common sense.

Sampling
Photo: Just press the button and music will come out.

There’s many versions, but I guess the dominant one is that Hip-Hop culture – a subculture of Black Culture as Chuck D would point out – has four elements that are not generally disputed by anyone. These elements are the art of emceeing (rapping), deejaying, break dancing and graffiti. There are others that have been suggested from knowledge of self to beer, and while other ideas have been more widely accepted than others, I suppose the only real consensus remains exclusively around these four.

I have been recently thinking a lot about these things, because I have been reading a lot – well, at least a bit – about the art form and it is curious how all four elements have been widely discredited.

I guess everything has its objectors, and I admit I am biased, but the attack on Hip-Hop has been more consistent than the military one to oil producing Moslem countries.

Rappers rap because they cannot sing. This is a common one to discredit often the most visible aspect of Hip-Hop. As if it was easy to rhyme. And I guess all of us can come up with something simle like cat and hat but many of us can play football in the park and not all of us can do it on a level of the top players in the stadiums. It seems to be assumed, as with everything that is Hip-Hop that everyone could do it if only they could be bothered. Granted I am not a big fan of all rappers. Rappers don’t get any unconditional stamp of approval from me and I think I am relatively picky – actually – but as an art form, a vocal application and a form of expression rapping is very powerful and I have always found it to have more impact than just poetry although I have nothing against poetry either. The way to articulate sometimes simple and sometimes complex matters to wide audiences to me is nearly magical. There are many topics that would have never featured broadly on any public platforms should emcees not have had that power in their words. There’s a lot of nothingy and many objectionable raps out there – sometimes it feels like they’re the majority – but the truth remains that if you think being a great rapper is easy, you are an idiot.

It’s not real music; pressing a button is not real musicianship. Well, it is perhaps true that the producers and deejays of Hip-Hop aren’t exactly the same as traditional musicians. Of course we could say that playing piano is also just pressing a ‘buttons’ but no one would ever suggest that in which order is irrelevant. Rap is not music, but it is a specific type of vocal style over music and sonically its tradition is defined by deejays. It’s is therefore different, but even if you don’t like it, it is not wrong and most of all, to make a really good Hip-Hop instrumental is a little bit more than just pressing a button or at least I don't know where the magic button is, if there is one.

Break dancing is not real dancing. Again, break dancing is different and perhaps often closer to acrobatics than waltz, and while to an untrained eye it appears like someone is electrocuted, this really is one of the most amazing skills that is associated with any culture. While I don’t spend anywhere near as much time and effort to witness it as I do with some other elements, break dancing, perhaps together with beatboxing which I don’t talk much about is one of those things that most leave me just staring with my mouth open and baffled – how is one able do this?

Graffiti is an act of vandalism. Graffiti artists are criminals with no artistic merit. Some small time taggers like to leave their poor handwriting for us to see with their black markers, but graffiti art is something else and I must say that the proper graffiti art rarely defaces any particularly beautiful and new buildings. We can simplify – my goodness that seems to be what people want – but I for one could not do graffiti. That is actually an extension of me not being able to practice any of the four elements.

While all of these four elements have been good enough to be used to generate money for various corporations and sell almost any product imaginable, there seems to be a widespread need to discredit this art form on some pseudo-intellectual level. People make all kinds of statement and back them up very poorly. Music is a question of taste and while one can criticise and make their opinion heard, there is no need for an all out attack on something you don’t like. I hate to sound like I am simplifying, but I don’t think I am; if Hip-Hop was White culture it would have been left alone. That is not to say that it is racist to not like Hip-Hop, but that a lot of racist like to let their racist steam out by attacking this art form. Nothing new here really, but worth remembering especially for us of the fairer hue.

22 March 2011

Powerful video: The Danger of a Single Story

This is truly amazing; if you only ever decide to watch one video in order to understand the global imbalance of news and the skewed and incredibly simplified perception of the perceived ‘other’ make sure it is this one. Browsing through one of my favourite blogs, Africa is a Country, I came across this and I cannot recommend it enough. Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie talks as part of a TED event about the danger of a single story. But there’s no way I can put it better than she does so just have a look.

21 March 2011

Anticipation

Listening to Focus Mode, the old mixtape from one of my favourite rappers Klashnekoff I can’t help but note that I am really looking forward to his new mixtape that should be out soon. In Twitter he has mentioned that the name of the release might be Brand New Day, just like the song he recently leaked and which I assume we can find from the upcoming mixtape. While I am not absolutely sure that it will be free online release – well, I obviosuly can’t make that promise on his behalf – I assume it might. I base the assumption on the fact that it’ll be by DJ Whoo Kid and the mixtape he did with Giggs was. I wasn’t much feeling the Giggs one though, it’s simply not my kind of music, but purely looking at my music library statistics there has been few, if any artists that I have listened to as much in recent years as I have Klashnekoff. His raw road man attitude is combined with focused raps on varying topics. Of course there’s always some lighter songs in the mix, but what he does best, are the autobiographical reflections and stories of his life as a person and as an artists in the industry, but outside of its traditional structures and the permanent business as writer Nelson George describes the unmovable class of music industry people who are seemingly untouched by the changes of trends.

While I am looking forward to what I dare to expect to be my soundtrack for the spring 2011, I am also looking forward to another thing; a video. Nearly a year ago another UK artist, Akala released an album, DoubleThink, and it was on my top two of 2010 together with Klashnekoff’s previous album. Akala is a complex yet simple; he is a poet, historian and social scientist in one man and then he makes some pretty upbeat ‘let’s do this thing’ type of tracks. But the next single and video by him is for song Find No Enemy and that song is the most heartfelt deepest one I might have ever heard. It is Akala at his best in many ways, although I have always enjoyed all of his diverse influences. While waiting for the video which is done by brilliant GlobalFaction and that Klashnekoff mixtape here’s a live version of the Find No Enemy just to get us ready for the music video. I am sure both links will be here as soon as they are online, so it’s not the worst place to look for them. 

15 March 2011

Breaking News

Mikko 136

What happened in Egypt? Besides the recent revolution; still only few weeks old, but what happened then? Do we know what happened to Mubarak and how has the transformation started. What fills the vacuum left by decades of western sponsored power unbalance?

Silly me, it no longer is breaking news. It’s old news. Too old to even feature as a small imageless online article on the side column of any self respecting mainstream publication I guess.

But Libya, surely that is still topical? I answer my own rhetorical questions here I know, but no it isn’t. Why isn’t it? Because something else happened somewhere else. And you know what else, it happened in an industrial country and it’s the biggest loss of life in such in recent times. And there are much more dramatic images of destruction available from there.

We – or our media; the media we like follow and for which our viewing gives its authority – likes to focus on one thing at the time. The media, as has been argued by people cleverer than me, can’t tell us what to think, but my gosh, it can tell us what to think about.

Life is deeper than news. Even a revolution is only a beginning for a process that is likely to be a lot less media sexy than the next breaking news. My thinking is that the fast and steady flow of news distracts us from ever actually having a clear picture of anything, but a lot of fragmented facts and factoids about the latest topic of global interest only to be soon forgotten. It all gives us a distinct sense of knowing what is happening, but in reality many things, more important to our own everyday life take place with no or little reporting. That is not to discredit any people currently suffering in Japan and elsewhere; I am not talking about them, I am talking about us, the consumers of news elsewhere. I guess it really is a sign of privilege when you can focus on the problems of others’. Alternatively it is an escape from your own problems, but in big picture it is good to remember that outside of itself, this kind of obsessive news voyeurism has very little significance, at least to me.

While I figuratively send my strength to the suffering and oppressed around the world where ever they may be, I think I will turn the telly off. Enough already, let me read a book.

14 March 2011

Set reading

Lyrics of a rap revolutionary

Postman brought me a new book today. Between me and my wife we order a few books and they are all, obviously in our opinion at least very cool and interesting, but today a special one came through. Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary by Chuck D, edited by Yusuf Jah (who co-wrote Chuck's first book) and this time the foreword is by KRS-1. So there. Pretty cool. 

I am currently reading, or rather actually re-reading which I have done a lot recently, Nelson George's Hip Hop America and after that and then this new one I think I have, for now, covered the broad subject of Hip Hop subculture to my satisfaction and move on to something else. It's been fun though and this new one looks like it might be very interesting for a big fan that I am.

Lyrics of a rap revolutionary

13 March 2011

Early spring days

Early spring

Slowly, yet I assume surely the spring is coming to Helsinki. Days are getting visibly longer and ice and snow are melting. Summer is inevitably on its way, but first the spring. Welcome old friend.

9 March 2011

Swedish Hip-Hop

Looptroop Rockers

It's early days; I can’t lie and say I have any detailed observations of the new Looptroop Rockers album Professional Dreamers. I only got it today as it was released, but it does sound very good. Very very good. This is an album I have been waiting for long. Looptroop has always managed to express things I felt needed expressing and I really relate to them although we are not from the same country. They’re of course Swedish. It’s not popular in Finland to like all things Swedish, but I quite do. Not all, but you know, many. Swedish rap is one of them. I’m hardly on the top of things as far as it goes at the moment; ten years ago when I stayed in Rinkeby, Stockholm I was far more in tuned with things, but my interest started even earlier than that. My first real purchase was Petter’s Vinden Har Vänt single, then the album Min Sjätte Sinne and from that I graduated into Ken Ring’s Vägen Tillbaka which I still consider a classic album with many great songs like Eld och Djupa Vatten. Truth to be told, the first Petter album was pretty good as well. After that he got a little more jiggy as did most of the rap world, but soon after these releases, Looptroop brought a little different vibe into the mix. Non-Stockholm group was rapping in English and when I first saw Long Arm of the Law my view of Scandinavia changed forever.

There really are many artists, old and new, that I am not mentioning here, who have made cool songs and even great records. The Latin Kings, Mobbade Barn, Fattaru and so on, but one artist that has collaborated with both ends of the spectrum that the above mentioned form, is Timbuktu. He is one of the lyricists who shine in two languages equally. No small feat that. I first heard of him on a Petter collaboration Rulla Med Oss, then I found Pendelparanoia; Gott Folk came down the line and, yeah, many many great tunes as solo artist and as someone blessing choruses and guest verses both in English and in Swedish; rapping and singing. Now also a radio presenter, Timbuktu is soon releasing a new Swedish solo album and the first taster is online. The track Dansa, made in collaboration with pianist Jan Lundgren and Duo Pannacotta, is beautiful and the video is a work of art. This is good stuff. These artists take me to the past and future all at the same time.

Download Dansa for free from Timbuktu's home page. For non-Swedish speakers the file is where it says Ladda ner MP3 här.

8 March 2011

Just a simple song

This is just a nice song. It doesn’t have any political message – it’s about the morning after; nausea and self-loathing. Doesn’t sound like a something you would choose to dwell on, but yet I cannot turn this song off. It’s quite good. Also downloadable freely from the player below (the downwards arrow). The track is by UK artist Ghostpoet and it features Kano. Kano has been one of my favourite UK emcees for years. You know, up there not on top but very near. His first album Home Sweet Home is still amazing and I have also enjoyed some of the more recent stuff although not as unconditionally. This song is Cash & Carry Me Home Remix and its video is courtesy of Soul Culture blog which is at times really great site.

Ghostpoet - Cash & Carry Me Home (feat. Kano) by ghostpoet

Shades of Grey

In the aftermath of the Million Man March which took place in October 1995, Minister Farrakhan of Nation of Islam went to several countries in Africa and Arabic West Asia as part of what he referred to as the World’s Friendship Tour. During this tour he met, amongst many other leaders, with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi who promised Nation of Islam one billion dollars for the empowerment of Black people in United States. The money was planned to strengthen, amongst other things, the Black economic opportunities by supporting the business sector. Besides being banned from the United Kingdom, Minister Farrakhan has been heavily demonised in the western press; his opinions on certain things have made it very easy, but the simplification doesn’t erase the achievements of this organisation on grass roots level in everyday peoples’ everyday life. I don’t have to agree with his faith – since I disagree with all faiths – or other views to acknowledge that.

Clinton administration, unsurprisingly, went on to block this donation which from their point of view was understandable – a foreign leader doing something they had failed to do – or even chosen not to do for generations. It would have made them look very bad and given too much financial power for someone else within their society. So it was easy for them to discount Farrakhan as militant and in other, a lot less polite ways, but they forgot to take a step back and ask, well, why is he so militant. The answer would have been centuries deep systemic oppression and disempowerment of his people, so I guess that didn’t sound like something they would want to look too carefully into.

But I am not writing about Farrakhan here. Like said I don’t share his views on many things – perhaps most things, but life isn’t always only about opinions. As much as I disagree with religion in general, the way it has been organised within the Nation of Islam has undoubtedly played a positive role in the poor areas of United States and should similar idea find its way to South Africa, the status quo would be filled with fear quicker than they could say reverse racism or counter-revolutionary polemic. In my opinion, none of that makes the religion any more sensible or truthful; science agrees (or rather I agree with science), but I guess religious people don’t believe in their religions because they think that science is on their side. Perhaps the creationists are one exception here and they, truth to be told, at least actually believe in what they claim to believe in. But I have digressed. I was writing about Gaddafi. Gaddafi promised this much – one billion dollars, which sounds like it’s from Austin Powers film – for the empowerment of Black America. On top of that, he also has a history as a strong supporter of Southern African liberation armies such as ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe to which Libya provided weapons during the atrocious decades of apartheid. At the time, inconveniently and embarrassingly the whole west, apart from few leaders were convinced that Mandela and his lot were all out terrorists with no justification to their cause. They were thinking along those lines until very recently. Mandela actually was only taken off of the United States terrorist watch list in 2008.  Whether such late correction of mistake was an accident is not very important; the fact that he was there to begin with is the point. During struggle, the friends of liberation movements tend to be selected by their enemies.

But forget all this – Gaddafi has never done anything but evil. That’s the official version. That’s the mantra. Yesterday you knew very little, but today, point finger; forget that even now you don’t know much, and just hate him. Just hate. He’s evil.

The truth is, even without this spin he doesn’t come across very likable; like a tyrant he has ruled his people with iron fist and refuses to let go off power, in African Union he has effortfully tried to become the leader of the continent and he, or at least his family, likes Beyoncé.

So what I am not saying here is that he is not trouble or that I support him, but rather that we don’t have to forget the good just because there’s a lot of bad to be said. And I am no expert; I know very little, barely anything, about him or Libya, but we seem to have such a slender grasp on the critical thinking that we can only understand things in their extremes. Is he good or is he bad? Much like with Mugabe – who was crucial in the liberation of Zimbabwe – who thinks that wasn’t a good thing? – and under whose control many things went well initially. Of course many things went pear shaped as well, but we don’t have to forget the Zimbabwean education system just because, in general, Uncle Bob’s thinking cap fell off some time ago.

Like I said, I am not writing here because I am some specialist on the topic. My knowledge is based on the media hype. I only hope that the future of Libya looks good and Gaddafi is not actively involved in it and that the people get peace. Average Libyans didn’t benefit from Gaddafi’s aid outside their borders, and, if not peace, they have very little to gain from a conflict.This is not time for the so called west to prove that they have been right all along. Especially when they - or rather we - haven't. 

6 March 2011

Entering the Arena: Manqoba - The Winner

Long before the latest Internet gimmick where winning has to be typed accompanied by a hashtag in order to be put in context, a young man from Khayelitsha, Cape Town claimed to be the winner. Firstly, that’s how his stage name Manqoba translates, but it’s not just his word, actions speak a lot louder since he won the Pioneer Unit and Kool Out Lounge organised emcee contest last year. And this was no ordinary competition as the preliminary rounds were organised in many of the Cape Town’s townships and the final, finally in the city and he was the one who walked out of the club victoriously into the studio – not quite directly, but soon after – and recorded an EP under the Pioneer Unit production umbrella. That was the trophy. And the EP is out and it’s called The Winner.

The EP has been out for a while actually and I have been listening to it for a while. So I am not writing based on one listen, but a couple of weeks having it in the rotation with some other recent as well as older releases. It is a very strong introduction. I wonder how old the kid is, but he certainly has a lot of fire in him. Perhaps unfairly, it’s too easy to compare him to many already tad more seasoned artists from the same Spaza genre. Especially when the EP has features by many of them; naming names Driemanskap and Rattex, and the collaboration with three fourths of Driemanskap is one of the highlights of the EP for me. In this track, however, Manqoba stands his ground which is no small achievement next to the older statesmen of Spaza rhymes. The melancholic instrumental sets the mood and the lyricists intertwine their raps effortlessly with natural skill. I remember when I first heard Driemanskap on Battle of Gugulethu Volume 1. where, to me, the stand out track was called Itsho Into. The guys must have been quite young at the time and what they lacked in experience they made up – and then some – with their passionate delivery and hunger. They sounded hungry for all that music could bring and at the same time dying to scream their lyrics for the world to listen. I don’t know if the world did hear the lyrics and that is not the point. Now after years they are at least starting to, but Manqoba has that same hunger in his voice.

On top of the track with Driemanskap, Passop, another song that really catches my attention is the opening track with its haunting background chanting and confident flow over hypnotic sounds. To be honest, this is all around solid EP. I am not going to lie and say I suspect it being on the top of my list in the end of the year, especially when there’s going to be a tough competition it seems, but I never expected him to become my new favourite rapper anyway. At least not yet. That kind of heroic narratives are actually quite boring because brilliance is a result of years of dedication. So as great as the EP is and as hard as the rhymes are, I'd imagine this is not him peaking – yet – it is him showing infinite potential and in the meantime delivering a good package. Production standard is high and the beats are on point – hardly a surprise. Manqoba’s flows are hard hitting and I really like the fact - for some reason - that he’s made a song for his parents. I doubt this is the last we hear of him.

But don’t take my word – have a listen and support proper fair trade African Hip-Hop.

On Beef and Power

bksw

A few days ago, I assume as a reflection on recent events in UK music, a London based producer and activist DJ Mutiny, also known as Agent of Change, posed a question in Twitter. 


I couldn’t ignore the question since first, I am a big fan of Public Enemy, and second, I was just busy reading the book Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin' by Russell Myrie so the thoughts were fresh in my mind. He didn’t make a diss track as such against an individual or another Hip-Hop crew, however in one of the early songs that a little later gave the group its name Public Enemy Number 1, he did send a clear warning to other local rappers that had been doubting his abilities. But it isn’t really a diss as such; merely a mild ego-boost of a young man. Chuck has, as many then online went to point out, dedicated his career and life in general in dissing the corporations and governments when needed.

Having finished Myrie’s interesting book I started re-reading Chuck D’s Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality which he co-wrote with Yusuf Jah and came across this quotable.

I bragged about myself in my early records, because we’ve never been taught to talk positively about ourselves, and I thought that was good. My focus, however was not on boasting about myself or battling brothers on the microphone. I wanted to rap about battling institutions, and bringing the conditions of Black people worldwide to a respectable level. (1997: 59)

Elsewhere in the book, while writing in detail about the atrocious role Hollywood has played throughout its history in creating negative Black images – the topic covered in Burn Hollywood Burn track  – he perhaps adds to this idea by saying,

Break Hollywood down to an industry, break the industry down to a company, break the company down to individuals, and you’ll see people running like roaches. (1997: 51)

So the individuals he has gone after has not been the next man rapping, but the owners of corporations. That's the big picture.

On a slightly unrelated topic I have really enjoyed re-reading recently. Many books I had read before many of my experiences and now I realise what kind of stuff I missed on the first go, but also how I did recognise many important books before I even understood their importance. Another one of them is Patrick Neate’s Where You’re At: notes from the frontline of a Hip-Hop planet. For some reason I have been reading about Hip-Hop a bit. I don’t do it that very often, although of course Chuck D’s book is not primarily about the art form in question. I guess it’s got something to do with my new job in the cultural sector that has made me want to remind myself of cultural things close to me. Just to help me to determine where I stand - the knowledge of self.