Chris Faraone was nice enough to meet me at The Boston Phoenix for an interview. He was amazing enough to sit with me for enough time to talk about everything from the qualities of good writing to the music choice of Floridians.
Exposed ceilings with pipes and vents above added an industrial appeal to the Boston Phoenix. The dark colors, cubicles and paper ridden desks were somehow inviting. I like that Journalism is NOT a career that calls for the use of noise reduction headphones or earplugs.
Quite the opposite, walking through the newsroom you can see the creative process is far from a solitary activity. This makes for a newsroom that felt comfortable and collaborative.
They even had a water cooler. Where I am from, Beverly, we called it the “bubblah.” Now that I think about it “bubblah” pronounced with a THICK Boston accent might be the ugliest word in the universe. Anyway, Faraone asked me if I would like a glass of water. I serve people many glasses of water and food full-time (while in school.) Anytime someone else offers me something as simple as water, I appreciate it more than most would. Thanks you, Chris Faraone! That was enough to make my day.
I passed on the offer because I probably would have spilled it all over his phone (or something equally as embarrassing.) Speaking of phones, as a journalist, they must be tremendous asset of technology. However, Faraone emphasized the importance of writing things down all the time. He said that he brings a notepad and pen with him everywhere. “I forget everything, so I write everything down,” Faraone said.
Faraone explained to me the importance of simplicity. We discussed the techniques he uses in writing that parallel the methods needed in quality hip-hop writing. Faraone said he is quite meticulous about the length of his paragraphs. He depends on cadence and flow in his writing.
The problem with the writing of many emcees and journalists, according to Faraone, is the reliance on cliché references and overly complicated writing. He explained that many hip-hop writers reference the same things and very few are offering their audiences something new.
Throughout East Coast Avenger’s (ECA) album Prison Planet you can find voice samples from the prolific historian, one of my icons, Howard Zinn (www.howardzinn.org. ) If you don’t know who he is read this book now:
Matt Damon wants you to:
If you don’t watch the whole video start at 1:40 and listen for two seconds
In following Chris Faraone’s coverage of Prison Planet and examining the controversy and intent behind the music, I was delighted to receive an invitation to a special pre-screening of an upcoming Zinn documentary, The People Speak:
Here’s my story of the screening. An amazing experience that makes my student loans worth every penny.
The People Speak is a documentary that brings to light the voices of resistance to injustice that have been left out of traditional history books. The documentary was inspired by Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States and from the book he co-authored with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People’s History.
Zinn teamed up with Christopher Moore (co-producer of Good Will Hunting) and shot the majority of the documentary at the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College. Thus, they chose to hold a pre-screening of the documentary in the Semel Theatre at Emerson College. The People Speak will air December 13 on the History Channel and will also be for sale on DVD.
Performers re-create the emotional impact freedom of speech and action had throughout history. Zinn and Moore explained the eagerness of many accomplished performers to contribute to the documentary. “The idea for making my books into a movie has been in the works for quite some time. However, it ended up becoming a documentary instead a feature film,” Zinn said. The format of the film weaves together speeches throughout history, historical footage and musical performances. Ben Affleck and Howard Zinn narrate throughout the piece. The speeches are the words of some famous and some obscure Americans who, according to Zinn, “fought for our democracy.” They are read by such prolific entertainers as, Marisa Tomei, Sean Penn, Randy Newman, and Sandra Oh to re-create the emotional impact of these moments in history.
They create a film record of what, according to Zinn, makes our democracy come alive and how civil disobedience is a defining characteristic of history. Zinn and Moore hope that presenting these activists from our past, they will inspire a new generation to act.
The version of the documentary that the crowd at the Semel Theatre saw was two hours without commercials. However, the version set to air on the History Channel is 90 minutes with commercials. “They didn’t want to air any of the recent or present day portions,” Moore said, “and they want us to omit many of the musical performances.” Among those performances was, recording artist Pink’s, track Dear Mr. President. Seated in a stool with an acoustic guitar she sang, “What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away? And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay? I can only imagine what the first lady has to say. You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.”
Moore said that PBS was also interested in airing the documentary. “PBS loved it. However, they refused to air any portion past 1948.” The crowd gasped at this notion. “Why would they want to do that,” an Emerson student asked. “Because PBS gets funding from the government and this film doesn’t always paint politicians in the best light,” Moore said.
Despite the Boston Globe facing a financially unstable year, the newspaper’s publisher P. Steven Kinsley and Editor Martin (Marty) Baron are optimistic about the expansion of their readership. Members of the community, faculty, and budding journalist students gathered in the Semel Theatre, on Thursday afternoon, as Ainsley and Baron shared their feelings about the current condition of the news business. In addition, they addressed the tribulations the Globe has faced over the past year, and what they believe is the future of the news.
The irony of a greater readership yet lesser income leaves newspapers, like the Globe, in search of a successful business model. “The reality is that media is exploding. It’s becoming much more entrepreneurial. It’s becoming much more creative. It’s capable of engaging with readers, users, and listeners in much more dramatic ways,” Baron said. The internet is a means of telling stories and connecting with readership, and for The Boston Globe it is Boston.com.
The web provides the expansion of an audience. However, there are also aspects of the web that have hurt newspapers financially. The popularity of sites, like craigslist.com, that offer faster communication and free classified listings have depleted the revenue newspapers had earned from classifieds. “It’s hard to compete with free,” Ainsley said. However, Baron and Ainsley explained the importance of journalists remaining entrepreneurial and flexible in the future of journalism.
The readership of Boston.com might stand as an illustration of the type of journalistic agility the Globe’s publisher and editor deem vital. “We have 5 million unique visits a month on Boston.com. If we were just a newspaper we wouldn’t have that,” Baron said. “There wasn’t any particularly breaking news in the Globe today. But far more people read today’s Boston Globe than have ever read it before in its history and that is because of the web,” Ainsley said.
According to logic, it seems financially surreal that The Boston Globe broke readership records in the same year the The New York Times Co., threatened to shut the paper down unless costs were cut and later considered selling the paper. Ainsley, who on October 29 announced that he will retire at the end of the year, said he believes there will be an expansion of business models that are based on payments from the readership on the internet. “The kind of thing, I think, today most newspapers are backing away from is the, so called, paid wall. Where if you want to go to the site for any reason whatsoever it’s going to cost you. In fact, the traffic that we get from search engines, Google being the dominant one, are very valuable to us, as far as translating into advertising sales,” Ainsley said.
Ainsley sees the possibility of newspapers adopting a “low risk” model that adopts the ideas of paid web models, like Pandora uses, that gain substantial revenue from “modest” or micropayments. Pandora obtains revenue from audio ads that it plays on its free service however, for a small fee of $3 a month users can listen to music without the ads. Ainsley believes there will be more of these as he said, “pay us and we’ll make the site less annoying” business models.
Baron believes those entering the field of journalism will gain a “job of great purpose” and “fulfillment.” What the journalism students heard Thursday, from two gentlemen who withstood approximately a 12 percent lay off reduction of the overall newsroom at the Globe, was highly optimistic. “The readership of journalism everywhere is greater than it ever was. For the young people coming into the field, the opportunities are actually expanding not contracting,” Baron said.
I am not finished elaborating on the previous “Kill Bill O’Reilly” post. However, I wanted to change gears for a bit. My intent is explore the ways in which hip-hop is often stigmatized as an uninformative and violent genre of music. Hip-hop is stereotyped as the music of the ignorant. In some ways, those of us that appreciate the roots of this music genre can see where this typecast may have been earned but I would like to reveal the ways in which it deviates from this label. In doing so, I want to show you a little bit more about the emcees who recorded “Kill Bill O’Reilly” and what makes their music and their lives very different from what many would assume.
First, I will begin with a member of East Coast Avengers, Seamus Ryan aka Esoteric (http://www.esoterichiphop.com/) has been an integral part of the Boston hip-hop scene for at least a decade. His latest release Saving Seamus Ryan represents the concept of the “truth” that seems to be lacking in much of current hip-hop. Chris Faraone (http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Music/90816-Freudian-trip/?rel=inf) wrote:
Hip-hop is faker than Vince McMahon’s business plan and tan combined. Pussy-whipped MCs who sling Whoppers rhyme about bagging blow and smacking ho’s; even cats who actually do poison their communities exaggerate their hood credentials. That can’t be said for Boston producer/rapper Esoteric. By crate-digging and scripting double-barreled layman rhymes, the proud new dad and dog lover composes cuts about big-box stores and domestic normality that targe the conflicted fool in all of us.
Tracks like “Modern Love in Boston”, my personal favorite, offer elements of domesticity and relationships that anyone can relate to. This level of honesty is what hip-hop has been missing.
In Faraone’s article, Esoteric explains the development of Saving Seamus Ryan. An album that was accompanied with a short story booklet also written by Esoteric:
The album is based on a dream I had four years ago,” says Eso, who plucked and placed hundreds of carefully manipulated samples, sound bytes, and snippets to illustrate his saga. “It’s not a direct retelling. There are a lot of twists and turns in a David Lynch kind of way, but some of it definitely also comes from real life, like the part where I put my dog to sleep. I can trace my lineage to Sigmund Freud, but it goes pretty deep, and you probably don’t have time.
When was the last time you heard a song about a lab? (Nope, not the “lab” as in slang for studio but an actual Labrador)
In Faraone’s article Esoteric explains:
If you have it in your blood to do this like I do — and trust me, it’s kind of a curse — then you just have to keep on rapping about what you know. I love my dog.
In future, posts I will examine more into the music of Esoteric, his love for his dog, and how his skill for writing about what he knows may be hip-hop’s saving grace.
Throughout my blogs I will be examining the role of ethics, the importance of truth, and preservation of freedom speech and how they apply to both journalism and hip-hop. There is no better place to start this demonstration than with a story that begins with a rap song; “Kill Bill O’Reilly” and (just to name a few) resulted in:
- Keith Olbermann spitting a verse from the single on national television.
- Unjustifiable censorship by MySpace (which is owned by the Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation)
- Michelle Malkin blogging a response that consisted of nothing more than fictitious name calling (Side note: To this day I bet she secretly practices, in the shower, a sick sixteen battle verse she’s keeping on ice. Because she’s too busy to share it.)
- A ranking in Olbermann’s “Countdown of the Worst People”
Examining the coverage/reaction of the “Kill Bill O’Reilly” single demonstrates the controversies surrounding the ethics of rappers (many due to racist and socio-economic misassumptions) and rap music in general. I will trace what happened when the rap music questioned the credibility of journalists. Journalists whom the public trusts as conveying the truth. Journalists whom taught the public to hate rap music.
You are rappers you have better ethics than Bill O’Reilly does. Live up to them don’t live down to him. Word to your mother.
A direct quote from Keith Olbermann, when he addressed the East Coast Avenger’s “Kill Bill O’Reilly” single, on his NBC broadcast:
When North Shore raised emcees MC Esoteric and Trademarc collaborated with DC The Midi Alien to form East Coast Avengers and record Prison Planet…
a thought out political album, they hoped to open some eyes.
The eyes they did catch (before the album was even released) may have been important ones…but did national recognition somehow harm ECA’s overall appreciation of Prison Planet ?
The album earneda spot on Chris Farone’s best albums of 2008 list (seen here http://jumptheturnstyle.com/?p=2062 ) His ranking of ECA’s first album begins with these words:
In some ways, I almost wish that “Kill Bill O’Reilly” didn’t blow up the way it did (though it was dope to see Boston cats grab national headlines). Not because I don’t want that conservative assbag stabbed and stuffed, but because to a degree I feel like some folks got the impression that the ECA boys were one-dis ponies – which Esoteric, Trademarc and DC definitely aren’t.
Before I get into the assumptions about ECA’s lifestlyes, Michelle Malkin made on her blog, I will interview Trademarc of East Coast Avengers. Among many things I will ask what it felt like to be ranked on a nationally sindicated news program as one of the “worst people” and how Michelle Malkin’s rebuttle compares to reality.
For the record, I told him to shave.
When a rodent is brought up in conversation with me, it’s difficult for one not to wonder if I’m rehearsing a dance. An involuntary routine that is impossible to fully describe through the written word. But I will try. The disgust of the scurrying critters contorts my body into what looks like an angry version of the played out Chris Tucker “ear to the shoulder dance” with a little bit of Elaine’s uncontrolled jerkiness thrown in. If I understand the words coming out of mouths as rodent discussion, I cringe. My spine curls and one ear smears a shoulder as if wiping an imaginary “wet willy.” Occasionally, I even need the Golden Retriever post swim shake to remove the residue of the notion of a rodent’s presence.
You can image my feelings when a saw this, on the cover of the Boston Phoenix:
The image corresponded with Chris Faraone’s front page article, http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Life/92486-Boston-rat-rampage, where he connected the undeniable rat infestation in Boston to the economy. Faraone wrote:
While many publications (including this one) have previously wrung hands about the gravity of the problem, none has yet connected the droppings between the global financial collapse and the rise of these perpetually reproducing and diseased underground adversaries.
The morning I spent contemplating a move into Boston, found an omen. Actually, another omen had come a few weeks prior when waiting for the Green Line at North Station. A large rat scurried around, receiving not even the bat of an eyelash from any other commuters. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just my rodent phobia imagination, rodents were moving in.
Faraone’s article mentions this video. Which I think you should definitely check out and let me know what you think of it because I can’t stomach watching it and I want to know how it is:
I had a million quotes to share with you from Faraone’s article….
then I realized if you live, work, or go to school in Boston you should read Faraone’s entire story. This is another reminder of the far reaching repercusions of the dollar bill…in the words of Wu Tang: “Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M.”
On that note, the next post will be back to music! And I’ll explain some future posts to look foward to. Now read Faraone’s rat article!
Remember when hip-hop wasn’t embarrassing? I do and I don’t think I’m the only Boston hip-hop fan with lingering feelings of nostalgia. I miss the low ceilings…the graffiti on the bathroom walls…the Polo…the “can get I get a plus one?”…the Hi-Fi pizza at a million in the morning…(never thought I’d say this) but I even miss the beer line. I miss….the packed shows at the Middle East downstairs. I miss the energy at the Boston hip-hop shows of the 90s. A time long before Joe Budden could compare the Middle East, to the underground hip-hop club that birthed Eminem’s character in 8 Mile, The Shelter.
Where are all the Boston hip-hop artists of that time period now? Is the fact that nobody from Boston blew up like Eminem an indication of its lacking? I think it’s quite the opposite. It can be said that, most if not all of the most successful and well-known Boston hip hop artists cannot rely on music alone to support them financially. These artists have not changed their art in the name of gaining a broader audience. The prospect of monetary gain isn’t even powerful enough to alter their pen.
Making a living from using words to represent what is the closest to “real” encounters obstacles when audiences consider The Flavor of Love reality. VH-1 fostered a broad audience and commercial appeal for a member of one of hip hop’s most prolific groups, Public Enemy. Unfortunately, for many hip-hop fans Flava Flav’s…
draw came from his Tyrone Biggonesesque…
behavior and “courting” of attention starved strippers. For those of us that can remember the first time they heard Public Enmemy’s, “Fight the Power” with the same vivid recall this image evokes…
this is a reality we never wanted to see on TV. Additionally, the internet and the ability to create an audience without leaving your parent’s house makes for an “everyone is a rapper” phenomenon.
For many in the hip hop community this new era has been discouraging. But remember…hip-hop came out of struggle. Music that represents first hand voices of lessons learned through experience. Music thats basis lies in facing harsh realities through verse. Thus, I believe, through this age of frustration with the music industry…
there will come a resurgence of an audience that demands real local hip-hop. Edo G, who journalist Chris Faraone, refers to as “Boston’s longest-running, best-known rapper” in a recent Boston Phoenix article reflects my anticipation when he says, “We’re all on the cusp of something big right now and we all still have it. There are plenty of people who are anywhere from 25 to 50 who still like hip-hop but who don’t like bubblegum. They want to hear music they can relate to, and we’re servicing that need.”
Through this blog I will examine Chris Faraone’s coverage of the Boston hip-hop scene. I hope to observe the re-growth of a fan base that appreciates the words of real grown up rap. I do not believe that every rapper has to lie.
“I often thought that if there had been a good rap group in those days, I might have chosen a career in music insted of politics.” Richard Nixon