It certainly hurts music
August 07, 2020

Would Kanye West's candidacy really hurt Joe Biden?

It is widely believed that Kanye West's American presidential candidacy serves one purpose - to take potential Joe Biden's votes, black and young ones, and make it easier for Donald Trump to win. Billboard argues it just might not happen like that. African Americans tend not to vote for candidates solely because they are Black, while West’s status with Americans age 18 to 29 is actually more unfavorable than favorable - said David Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University whose research focuses on the links between young people’s entertainment and political preferences. It’s also possible West could actually draw support away from Trump, since he’s been an outspoken supporter of the president in the past.

Don't keep on grabbing in the free world
August 05, 2020

Neil Young sues Trump for copyright infringement

Neil Young filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Donald Trump's campaign for playing his songs at campaign rallies. The complaint filed in New York federal court states that "Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate". Young alleges that Trump's campaign lacks a license to publicly perform 'Rockin' in the Free World' and 'Devil's Sidewalk'.

Hachalu Hundessa / Diamond Platnumz / Bobi Wine

From Senegal to Kenya to Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new generation of artists is giving voice to the grievances and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people - Guardian says in an article about African musicians fighting oppressive rules. Hachalu Hundessa was a popular Oromo singer and activist in Ethiopia, who was murdered last month. Tanzania’s highest-selling artist, Diamond Platnumz, had songs banned and was arrested. Rapper Falz from Lagos raps about country’s political class. Bobi Wine is a popular reggae star and opposition MP in Uganda and will release a new album next month that addresses “the real issues people are facing – the injustices, corruption, high taxation, misrule, abuse of human rights, dictatorship”.

News from the "bizarre" segment
July 20, 2020

Kanye West starts presidency campaign with chaotic rally

Kanye West has officially launched his campaign for the 2020 US presidential election, with an unorthodox rally in Charleston, South Carolina, ABC reports. West appeared with "2020" shaved into the back of his head and wearing a protective security vest, and addressed the gathered rowdy crowd of a few hundred people without a microphone. He gave an impromptu monologue about 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman saying she "never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people" (Tubman was rescuing slaves on the network of routes and safe houses known as "underground railroad", risking her own life to lead people to freedom). West also suggested that women should be given $1m when they have a baby. He clarified that he thinks abortion should be legal, but that there should be more support for those who need it. West also said that marijuana "should be free". He also spoke about his private life, his children and his mother... You can watch his rally here.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled the potential return for live music in two weeks - from August 1, socially distanced audiences can return for indoor performances in theatres, music halls and other venues, IQ Magazine reports. From October, Johnson said “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events will be able to restart, subject to successful pilots around the UK. The PM warned, however, “the timetable I’m about to set out is conditional,” adding “we will not proceed if doing so risks a second peak”.

Black is the color of my true identity
July 10, 2020

Tom Morello: Racism is as American as apple pie and baseball

Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine has spoken of his experiences with racism and encounters with the KKK - “In Los Angeles, dozens of times, I was pulled over when driving, going on official band business but in my old Chevy Astro van when I was driving through Beverly Hills. ‘Why is there a thirty-something-year-old black man in this neighbourhood?’", Radio X reports. While he was growing up, in Libertyville in Illinois, he was "the only black person. Once, there was a noose in my family\s garage, there was the occasional burned cross on the lawn", and then, “I was in a popular band that had songs that were predominantly played on white, rock-oriented stations, the way I speak is not typically urban vernacular, and there’s a large part of my fan base that freaks the fuck out when I say that I’m black".

Some of the biggest acts in music - including Eagles, Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Tool, Nickelback, Imagine Dragons, Weezer, Chainsmokers, and Chris Stapleton - have received funding from the US government to support their crews for any current and future tours postponed due to coronavirus. The Eagles, Pearl Jam and Disturbed took out some of the larger loans among the listed touring musicians, being granted somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million. American government helped some small labels as well - Sub Pop Records, Third Man Records, and Knitting Factory Records each received a minimum of $350,000. J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, Light in the Attic, ATO Records, Dim Mak, Rostrum, Cleopatra, and Stones Throw Records each received at least $150,000.

That last musician in the White House was there ages ago, time for a new one?!
July 08, 2020

Kanye West unveils his political platform - conservative, anti-vaccine, pro-life...

Kanye West talked in lengths with Forbes about his presidential bid - he has chosen a party name, Birthday Party, a slogan, “YES!”, and a vice president - Wyoming preacher Michelle Tidball. His political views are quite conservative - he said vaccines are “the mark of the beast”; he believes family planning is racist - “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work”; he envisions a White House organizational model based on the secret country of Wakanda in 'Black Panther'. NME's Mark Beaumont argues that West's "Presidential bid, by swaying even a small amount of liberal and minority voters away from Biden, might well serve to aid Trump’s re-election chances. You might even wonder if the whole idea for the West 2020 campaign came from POTUS sliding into his DMs to stroke his permanently priapic ego".

The UK government has pledged £1.57bn of help for country’s museums, galleries, theatres and music venues, hit hard by the big lockdown caused by the Covid-19. The biggest one-off investment in UK culture is welcomed as "surprisingly ambitious" by the industry, Guardian reports.

Charlie Perrière

Narratively published an amazing article about Imperial Orchestra, a group of talented musicians who were forced to play for Jean Bédel Bokassa, a despot who started as president and then declared himself the emperor of Central African Republic. Bokassa is often caricatured as one of Africa’s most tyrannical dictators, a ruler who fed his opponents to crocodiles, adored diamonds and women, and - music. Bokassa believed music would be an effective tool to consolidate and aggrandize his power and influence both at home and abroad, so he assembled Imperial Orchestra. One of the members of Imperial Orchestra, Charlie Perrière remembers the violent years and singing for the tyrant.

"The UK government’s idea of gigging in the age of coronavirus is an unworkable shambles. And no wonder. It’s an experience and an industry of which they have as much first-hand knowledge as a maggot does of mountain biking... Have you seen a Conservative attempting to enjoy music? It’s like watching a drunk goose try to water-ski" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes about his government's plan to save live music venues. There's a real solution - "Luckily the Music Venues Trust, backed by 500 grassroots venues across the country, have come up with their own roadmap to reopening. It’s a far simpler affair, consisting essentially of just two steps. Step one, the Government provides a £50 million fund to ensure all venues can survive until October, the earliest many envision being able to put on viable gigs. Step two, they fuck off out of it".

Century of violence
June 30, 2020

A century of black music against state violence

Sara Martin / Leon Bridges

NPR Music has published a massive project documenting A Century of Black Music Against State Violence - a 50 songs list describing specific acts of police violence, and some of the ugliest stories with which America - and, since it goes international, the world - has to reckon. It is a story of Black American music and its response to oppression, and particularly, state-sanctioned violence. It starts with 1927 Sara Martin's 'Georgia Stockade Blues', continues with John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., and dozen others from the Afro-American canon, to finish with this year's Leon Bridges' 'Sweeter'.

Serj Tankian / Axl Rose

There are numerous examples of metal bands supporting #BlackLivesMatter and the fight for good in general: Black Sabbath have printed T-shirts altering the logo from their 'Master of Reality' album to read Black Lives Matter; Serj Tankian of System of a Down took a very clear stand: “Coordinate online and block every street everywhere and force the regime to resign. The time has come. Your time has come @realdonaldtrump”; Guns N’ Roses gave support to BLM on Instagram and Axl Rose unequivocally took a side against Donald Trump. But, there are black sheep: John Dolmayan, System of a Down’s drummer, used Instagram to offer his support for Trump’s claim to be the greatest friend to minorities America has ever had; Sandra Araya, the wife of Slayer’s Tom Araya, has been posting racist memes to Instagram. Guardian reports on the clearly dividing issue.

In the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, a #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag appeared on Twitter, but it was successfully trolled by American K-pop fans. Soon after, they humiliated Donald Trump - a large number of TikTok users and K-pop fans, it transpired, had registered for tickets to attend the US president’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last weekend, but they had no intention of attending. Trump ended up speaking in front of about 6,200 supporters and organisers in the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena, Guardian reports. New York Times tries to explain why K-pop fans are turning into political activism.

When Johnniqua Charles, 27, was detained in front of a strip club for, as she believes, no reason at all, she sang the officer "You about to lose your job", while dancing. Her detaining routine was taped, released on social media, and has inspired several remixes, memes and dance videos. It has since become a chanting regular at protests. Charles told the NBC "It feels so overwhelming to me. It’s just heartwarming to know that my song is being used for something so powerful". But it has also changed her quality of life for the better - Charles' sister, Andrea, created an Instagram account for her and is helping her trademark "You About to Lose Your Job". Charles, who has a 3-year-old son, said that she was struggling with homelessness and addiction before the video went viral, and that she is planning to use the money people have donated to her via GoFundMe to rent an apartment and start her own business.

The underside of symbols
June 18, 2020

Algiers: Dismantle public symbols of racial control

"American capitalism was built on slavery and the historical bloodlust persists today in the form of Covid-19 health inequalities, gentrification, mass incarceration, violent policing, colonial conquest and worker impoverishment" - Atlanta band Algiers says in an opinion in the Quietus, about monuments being torn down these days in the U.S., and symbolism behind them. "There is, therefore, not an either/or choice between dismantling public symbols of control and pursuing the tangible demands to bring justice for victims; abolish the police; dismantle anti-black political, financial, health and education institutions; and end the miserable condition that exists for Black and other oppressed people on this Earth".

Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Spotify plan to commemorate the June 19 holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S., Billboard reports. At Warner, Juneteenth is not being treated as a day off but rather “an important time for all of us to learn, reflect, and connect as we continue to battle systemic racism". Spotify will exclusively feature black artists on Friday, June 19th.

An encouraging story in the Rolling Stone about clubs in New York, California, and California D.C., shut down in March due to coronavirus, opening lately to shelter anti-police brutality protesters. Venues like Flight Deck, Club Cumming, 9:30 Club have become havens for protesters offering them charging facilities, hand sanitizer, water, restrooms and basic first-aid, some milk to dull the sting of pepper spray...

NYPD Stalker department
June 15, 2020

New York hip-hop police squad - "out of control"

Busta Rhymes

For over two decades, New York City police has had a unit dedicated to keeping tabs on rappers and the people around them, keeping files on figures like Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Damon Dash, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent. To this day, officers create reports about rap shows in NYC, naming artists they believe are gang members or that have rivals who may show up looking for trouble. Derrick Parker, the man who initiated the "hip-hop police", says the squad is "for their [rappers'] safety”. Complex reports they don’t just make reports about who is going to be appearing at a club - they also intimidate club owners into canceling events. “They’re a shadowy specialized unit that conducts overly aggressive investigations that monitor every move of entertainers”, says Dawn Florio, who has represented a number of rappers, “to me, it's like stalking at the highest level... This unit is really out of control”.

Rage Against the Machine were a target to some fan criticism due to band's "political opinions", with one fan saying "music is my sanctuary and the last thing I want to hear is political bs when i’m listening to music". RATM's Tom Morello answered kindly - "Scott!! What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN’T contain 'political BS'?. I need to know so I can delete it from the catalog". Lawyer Elisabeth Ryan, Morello's Harvard colleague, was more straightforward saying - "What machine did you think they have been raging against for decades? The Ice cream machine? The ATM? Lawnmowers?".

Billie Eilish shared her anger over the killing of Rayshard Brooks in an Instagram post - “man FUCK. watching this video made me so fucking angry”, she wrote aside a photo of Brooks. “FUCK THIS SHIT. JUSTICE FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS. FUCK THIS SHIIIIIIIIT. #justiceforrayshard !!!! WHY ISNT EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT THIS??”, Billie Eilish added. On Friday, Brooks was shot in the back and killed while fleeing after Wendy’s employee called police to report a man sleeping in their drive-thru, Billboard reports. Eilish’s brother Finneas also reacted to the murder via Instagram: "Asleep in his car in a parking lot. Shot to death. Don’t let yourself be numb to this. Don’t let the world stay this way”. In similar news, Beyoncé has shared an open letter on her website to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, seeking swift justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency room technician who was killed in her home by Louisville police, Time reports. Also, Barbra Streisand has gifted her Disney shares to the young daughter of slain Minnesota man George Floyd, CNN reports.

BMG's M.I.A. and Andre 3000

Music company BMG has pledged to address "inequities or anomalies" in the record contracts of black artists, following criticism of widespread financial inequality in the music industry, Music Business Worldwide reports. BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said the label was “mindful of the shameful treatment of black artists”, and would begin a review of historic record contracts within 30 days.

"Hip-hop has always spoken out on police brutality. But more businesses have partnered with hip-hop in recent years. Those companies have felt the pressure to contribute to the same culture that’s making them rich. It’s one of many factors that accelerated the shift in response to this crisis" - Trapital argues about the power hip-hop has come to possess now. The two main reasons why hip-hop became the dominant culture, Trapital says -empowerment and social media.

Pussy Riot have released ‘1312’, “an international anthem against police brutality”, inspired by the 2019 protesters in Chile and released in solidarity with people across the world protesting the murder of George Floyd. Pussy Riot are joined here by Argentinian artists Parcas, Dillom, and Muerejoven, in a call to arms for those who are showing extreme bravery and strength in the face of increasingly violent abuse by police officers. The song is accompanied by an animated video from Vladimir Storm. They have also released a manifesto against police violence.

Little helpers...
June 05, 2020

What to do to help racial justice

Vice suggests a handful of ways to get involved in the fight for racial justice in the music industry. One way is to purchase music and merch directly from Black artists and Black-owned labels (especially today Friday, June 5, on Bandcamp when the platform is once again waiving their revenue share on all merch and music purchases made on the site; DJ Techtools made a spreadsheet of 1,000-plus black artists and producers whose work you might consider buying). Another is reading and sharing works of Black journalists. A broader action music lovers can undertake is lending their voice to the wider fight for fair pay in the recorded music industry. The Movement for Black Lives suggests ways to help as well.

The Weeknd, Lizzo and John Legend have signed an open letter calling for police budgets to be cut following the death of George Floyd, All Hip Hop reports. The open letter was launched by Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and a founding member of the Movement 4 Black Lives (M4BL) and calls for local officials to cut police spending and budgets and instead increase spending on health care, education and community programs.

Consequence of Sound praises K-pop fans for mobilizing on social media for a good cause. Usually, they use social media to support K-pop stars, this week however, they're using their powers to commandeer racist, right-wing social media hashtags like #whitelivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, and #MAGA. On both Twitter and Instagram, K-pop fans have flooded the aforementioned tags with videos of their favorite K-pop groups (called fancams), GIFs, and memes. The barrage of these posts has, at least for a short time, effectively drowned out posts actually related to the hashtags.

Freedom? Justice? Equality? For All?!?
June 03, 2020

A powerful protest song - 'Pig Feet' by Terrace Martin

Terrace Martin has made a powerful protest song with an equally strong video, recorded in reaction to George Floyd’s murder and the protests that have happened afterward. "Someone asked, how do I feel? I told them hurt, fearless, angry, aware and fully ready to protect me, my family & my people at all cost” Martin said about the song. Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamasi Washington, and G Perico joined him on it. The song’s equally powerful video begins with a message - “the video to this song is happening right outside your window” - and features footage from the protests. It ends with a long list of black men and women who have been killed by the police.

Jay-Z has published full-page ads in numerous US newspapers honouring tragic Black Lives Matter icon George Floyd, CNN reports. The ad quotes Martin Luther King's 1965 speech to protesters in Selma, Alabama: "A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right... So we’re going to stand up amid horses... We’re going to stand up right here, amid the billy-clubs... We’re going to stand up amid tear gas!". In similar news, The Weeknd has donated $500,000 to a number of organisations that are committed to racial equality, Variety reports. Killer Mike appeared on 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' talking about the same issue, suggesting to white people to "send financial help to some of the organizations... on the ground. Then get your butt down there and help those organizations in the physical" (watch that video here). Speaking broadly about the problem, he added - "what I need white America to do beyond right now is understand that right now is always. It isn't just helping in the now -- it is being a part of fixing it always".

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