All Articles Tagged "hip hop"
“We been hurt, been down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, ‘Where do we go?’
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
Nigga, I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright”
The song is explicit and emotional, speaking directly about racial disparity. Current events show us that we are not safe, and some of us feel displaced. There is some hatred for the cops because of the police brutality. You could argue that “my knees getting weak and my gun might blow” is about the helplessness that makes you want to take matters into your own hands, or maybe the helplessness that might make you want to turn the gun on yourself. The song is timely and the black-and-white video that dropped yesterday is gorgeous, packed with symbolism, and even downright depressing.
But as far as Rivera’s statement, two things: 1) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism. 2) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism.
I had to say it twice because his sentiment should be in the Guinness World Records book for the longest reach in the history of reaches.
Now, that is not to say that rap music is not jam-packed with problematic and damaging messages, but using Lamar to make his point displays Rivera’s ignorance of the culture. Kendrick Lamar is one of the few Top 40 rappers whose purpose is to share a message about the trials and tribulations of our current times. Had Rivera referenced Young Thug or The Game, his statement would have some weight, but alas, he did not. Then again, why would I expect the man who blamed Trayvon Martin’s hoodie for his own death to make a valid point when throwing around tone-deaf cultural accusations?
Let’s be honest: Modern-day commercial rap music is theater, akin to the WWE and Love & Hip Hop. A lot of things are said and done to get ahead, not because the lyricist truly means it. Rick Ross is a glowing example of this. Once a corrections officer, the Florida-bred rapper is constantly criticized for spitting bars about a history of drug dealing and arms carrying. Back in 2008, when it was uncovered that he had worked as a prison guard, Ross denied it, insisting that pictures of him in his uniform had been Photoshopped. He later came clean and admitted that if times got tough enough, he would return to his old job though his recent troubles with the law might make that a bit hard. No matter his past, Ross is a character in a costume and his act has paid off.
But for every Rick Ross portraying a hood caricature, Kendrick Lamar lands on the other end of the spectrum. He did grow up in Compton. He is facing internal struggles about his socio-political environment. He did see a lot of violence growing up. He sometimes has girl problems, too. He’s just different. Very different from his colleagues in rap.
As a Black woman, the violent and misogynistic lyrics in commercial rap definitely make me uneasy but they don’t “damage” my worldview. The first time I really remember being put off by the content of a rap song happened when I was 10 and one of my family members was bumping DJ Quik’s “Sweet Black P***y.” I vividly remember covering my ears in disgust as Quik rapped about his love for, well, you know. Bad words were no friend of mine. As a side effect of hearing this song, I do not prefer to use that word nor hear a woman’s nether regions referred to as such. While I definitely came up with vulgarity-laced hip-hop, there was a balance in my life; my dad constantly exposed us to the oldies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, which allowed me to revel in a time when men were able to sincerely proclaim love for a woman and her beautiful…soul. There are probably a few hours worth of music from the ‘70s devoted to the beauty of a woman’s eyes alone.
Those times are gone. Long gone. Now we have songs about eating booty like groceries. I am forever nostalgic.
The levels of homophobia, violence, exploitation, and misogyny in popular rap are at peak levels. When I get frustrated by any of this, I have to remind myself that the music industry is like theater. It’s a sometimes cartoonish, and troublesome production, much like Ringling Bros. Theater is dramatic and compelling and it requires the views and participation of the audience. What if the audience doesn’t realize it’s watching a show? Do young kids realize that Nicki Minaj is the Hulk Hogan to Onika Maraj’s Terry Bollea? Would it change their views if they understood that Minaj is a character that Onika created to be successful? She is a strikingly talented businesswoman; over the course of 8 years, she has created a multi-million dollar empire that includes a clothing line, signature perfumes, an alcoholic beverage, platinum records, sold-out tours, and three movies. Behind the persona, for the world to see, is a success story. What could be damaging about that?
But a lot of kids take entertainment at face value. Therefore, it falls back on the parents to set the tone and lead their kids by example. The onus is not on Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tyga and any other rapper you can think of to be role models; it starts at home. While I may have had an uncensored entertainment experience as a child, my parents made a lot of lessons very clear to me: Treat people how you wish to be treated, respect yourself and your elders, help others, and act like you got some sense. It was and has always been, just music. It entertained me. It made me think. But it didn’t damage me.
I don’t think the tone of pop rap is going to change anytime soon, so these uncomfortable messages are going to continue to dominate and be passed around. But, in the background and sometimes in the forefront, we get entertainers like Outkast, Common, Mos Def, J. Cole, Jidenna, and yes, Kendrick Lamar. They give me hope that there is a balance in this rap universe, and that positive, uplifting messages are being shared too.
But whether or not there is a balance, rap music does not force or cause racial disparities. Rap music could never be more powerful than racism. Racism is a hateful never-ending plague. Rap music is not perfect. It feeds the culture, and sometimes perpetuates nasty messages, but it can also heal, raise awareness and bring a marginalized group together in celebration of the vibrant culture that racism deems ultimately inferior.
The warmer weather months are often filled with many large music festivals such as Coachella, Governor’s Ball, Lalapalooza, Made in America, and for the strictly hip-hop audience, Summer Jam, Hot 97’s annual summer event (also the largest hip-hop music festival in the world.)
Beyond the music, these concerts and festivals provide fans with the chance to listen to the music of their favorite artists, interact with different vendors/sponsors, meet fellow fans, and also dive into the summer music festival “sub-culture” of tailgating, drinking, and “feeling” the vibes.
Prior to attending this year’s Summer Jam concert, I interviewed Hot 97 executives Ebro Darden and Deon Levingston about what goes into planning the event and what their expectations/visions for the 2015 show are. Chatting with them prepared me for what content to expect, but it was the experience of what it must be like to be a first time festival-goer that intrigued me.
“The fans at Summer Jam are super-duper fans of the artists, music, hip hop and R&B. That’s important for an artist’s brand. [This] is where you can reinforce your position in the hip-hop culture,” said Darden.
Despite the rioting that occurred outside after a group of individuals tried to gain access to the concert without having tickets, Summer Jam was still a hit. Favorites from the festival stage included B.O.B, who got crunk with the audience and had an unmatched energy. Joey Bada$$ (who I admittingly have never heard before) wowed me with his lyrical flow and commanding stage presence. Overall, the Stadium stage performances which included surprise guests like Future, Redman & Method Man, Nicky Minaj, 50 Cent (and more), were equally impressing.
There are two main reasons why I believe everyone should experience a large summer concert festival at least once in their life:
Experience what “live music” truly means. Listening to a song on the radio versus seeing it performed live are two different things. Add people surrounding you engaged on all sides, and you have a very special situation. The energy that radiates from the stage during a good live performance (whether it be DJ or live band-backed) is something that is hard to describe. Even if you aren’t a hip-hop head, you’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for what it takes to truly perform and produce crowd-appealing music. An artist’s ability to command a live stage can be a turning point for his/her career.
Learn to appreciate hip hop music as a powerful (and unifying) force. When Remy Ma stepped on stage with Fat Joe to rap her verse on “Lean Back,” the stadium erupted with cheers. It was as if Remy was all our personal friend who we were welcoming back home from a long absence. I may be a bit philosophical here, but I couldn’t help but think about how hip-hop music unites people of all backgrounds, if only for a moment. At any point during the day, you could look around and see individuals mouthing the words being performed on stage. As I observed, it’s easy to get lost in the collective magnetism of performance art.
One concertgoer, Crystal Adams, who I chatted with after the event was over, attended with her husband and teenage children. “My favorite performance was Fabulous’ set because I felt it truly repped the tri-state area,” she said. “I loved seeing so many people who have been at past Summer Jams rock the stage together.”
She continued, “I haven’t done Summer Jam in many years mostly because I felt I was too old. This year however, our teens wanted to go so I went to chaperone but ended up having a great time! Fortunately, we missed the melee outside and I certainly could have done without the weed smoke in my face all night, but overall it was a great time with the family. I look forward to taking them to future concerts.”
As Darden told me in our pre-Summer Jam interview, “Music is all about life and memories. Summer Jam is part of that music memory… that’s the most meaningful piece for people.”
Now, as an official Summer Jam attendee alum, I’ll have to agree with Mr. Darden. Throughout the night, I observed so many people making memories I imagine they’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether it be singing ,”I Don’t F*** With You” by Big Sean accompanied by a stadium full of screaming fans, chilling with your best friends walking the stadium grounds, or sitting down wondering why an able artist (*cough cough* Chris Brown) decided to lip sync his top hits and still expect the crowd to be pumped, the experience always trumps.
Though all are not equal in prestige, any music fan knows a good live music festival is one of the ultimate ways to experience the art form. Be sure to get out there and experience one for yourself.
At a time when many women in music are working hard to look and sound exactly the same, sometimes it feels like there aren’t very many female artists speaking your language and trying to make genuinely good music. Not true! They may not be at the top of the Billboard charts or all over the magazines yet, but there are some very talented women out there ready to change the game. For music lovers everywhere, here are five up-and-coming women in music to look out for.
This Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and emcee has had her vocal abilities compared to the likes of Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill, but with a fresh twist. She has provided supporting vocals for many musical geniuses including Common, Lalah Hathaway, Zap Mama, and The Roots. Her work with The Roots landed Maimouna her first Grammy nomination for the hit “Don’t Feel Right.” In 2011, Maimouna released her first EP, Black Magic Woman. That same year she released a full-length album titled The Blooming, which made the Washington Post’s list of the Best DC Music of 2011. One of my favorite songs of Maimouna’s is her cover of Lorde’s “Royals.” Maimouna reclaims our rich African history and proclaims, “We’re already Royals, see it runs in our blood. We just been having tougher luck, we need a different kind of buzz. Let me be your ruler, call me Nefertiti and baby I’ll rule, come on in to reality.” Maimouna is truly a voice that will take the music industry by storm.
MC Lyte was one of the groundbreaking hip-hop artists of 1990s, especially for women in rap. Now after an 11-year hiatus, the legend is coming with a new album aptly titled Legend.
There are a few promotions centered around the release, including the album’s one-day-only availability in throwback vinyl format only (with digital downloads for album purchasers) at independent record stores nationwide as a part of Record Store Day.
For the album Lyte, whose past hits include “Cold Rock A Party,” “Ruffneck,” “Cha Cha Cha,” and “I Am The Lyte,” had a little help from her friends. Ten in fact. And it’s already getting great reviews.
“The comeback in itself is an art. On Legend, however, MC Lyte doesn’t appear to have any jet lag,” raves the Source magazine.
The newest single to be released from the album is “Check,” with its retro underground hip hop feel. Prior to this, “Ball” featuring Lil Mama & AV was released.
And the single “Dear John” proved to be MC Lyte’s first Billboard charting single in 11 years. The track features Common and 10 Beats.
For more information on Lyte’s new release, check out her website.
First, who’s your favorite conscious rapper?
And secondly, what is a conscious rapper?
I asked this question about a month ago on my Facebook page and the consensus among most who responded was that a “conscious rapper” was an emcee who wasn’t afraid to make a much needed political and social critique in their music. While everyone who responded had their own ideas of which emcee out today best fit that label, they all pretty much agreed that the label gets thrown around way too much.
As wiki defines it, conscious rap, has its roots in the jazz poetry movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s, which included the likes of The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. However in this essay, An Historical Definition Of The Term Rap, Hip Hop historian Davey D reminds us that rap itself is shaped out of a long tradition of signifying, which was loud, brash, boastful and at times political. Probably the genre’s most notable influencer is former SNCC and Black Panther organizer H. Rap Brown, whose legendary signifying found its way in the Sugar Hill’s Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”
At any rate, as Hip Hop progressed, the conscious definitely have evolved over the years from its peak in the ’80’s when mainstream rappers like Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS-One weren’t afraid to directly and aggressively pump a Black fist, yell at the cops, tell us to fight the power and more importantly, make all kinds of political statements. However what often constitutes conscious rapping today is a little more ambiguous.
And I think no one more illustrates that ambiguity than Common.
It should be noted that upon his arrival on scene, he didn’t look or sound anything like he does now. There was no talk of Black Panthers or worshiping the Black Queen. There were no crochet hat and pant sets. Instead, on his first album Can I Borrow A Dollar? Common Sense was your typical backpacker in baggy jeans and oversized sweaters, using clever word play and rapping about tricking “Heidi Hoe” over jazz beats.
Common kept up the same jazzy motif and slick word play on his second LP Resurrection which dropped in 1994. And although not as blunt as his first album, Common still loved talking about the ladies, reminding us all on the title track, “I’m a hoe, not a hoe-nigga.” But admittedly his rapping got a little more deep and self-reflective.
In particular, he took his “admiration” for the ladies and turned it into a metaphor about the decline of true Hip Hop in I Used to Love H.E.R. The track was a weird bit of respectability politics, which equated the purity of Hip Hop to a woman’s lost innocence and virginity.
Naturally, some folks, including fellow emcee Ice Cube, would take issue with Common’s assertion that “gangster” rap, which was the mainstream at the time, was ruining this figurative woman. Yet the song’s insightful critique would resonate with and draw strong praise from many Hip Hop fans who had grown disenchanted by the ever-increasing commercialization of the genre. The track would not only become a quintessential reference in Hip Hop’s history, but it was the moment, which helped to solidify Common’s place as a conscious rapper.
Most fans of Hip Hop are not the least bit shocked by news that Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight Jr., former head honcho at Death Row Records, has killed someone. Some of us might even claim to have seen this coming.
And yet, for years we kind of ignored, if not excused, his erratic and often violent behavior because that’s just Suge. Folks might not want to admit it, but lots of us were entertained by Knight’s debauchery. From the story about the time he hung Vanilla Ice by the ankles off a roof until he signed away rights to “Ice, Ice, Baby,” to his most recent arrest for alleging stealing a camera from a photographer with accomplice Katt Williams, doing crazy things used to be a huge part of his appeal.
And as disgusted as I am by his actions, I do wonder if somehow Hip Hop culture, which at times seems to thrives off of hyper-masculinity and violence, kind of empowered Knight?
No, I don’t think that Hip Hop was the reason why Knight plowed into a bunch of people, killing one. That is all on Knight. But rather, how might our being entertained by Marian Knight’s erratic behavior have shielded him from getting the help that he needed? And I’m talking mentally.
This is not the first time the question of mental health in Hip Hop has been broached here. Last April, Tom Barnes penned a piece for Policy Mic, entitled “What We Should Really Be Saying About the Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis.” In case you hadn’t figured out, the essay is about Wu-Tang affiliated rapper Andre Johnson, aka Chris Bearer, who in a bout of depression fueled by drug abuse, cut his penis off and jumped out of the window.
Barnes argued then that Johnson’s suicide attempt was indicative of a culture, which celebrates mental illness. More specifically he writes:
“There is a romantic notion surrounding artists as tortured geniuses who relieve their anguish through creative expression. But when artists’ suffering shows its fullest extent and ends in tragedy, it’s not ok to be entertained. It’s time to face up to the facts about mental illness in hip-hop and treat it as the problem it really is.”
As noted in a previous piece, I thought Barnes overstated the prevalence of mental illness in Hip Hop alone. I firmly believe that Hip Hop culture is no more or less flippant about mental health than the rest of society. But after Knight’s latest violent outburst, resulting in the loss of a life, I’m really starting to see his point. And I’ll take it one step further: what if it’s the fans, who give excuse to depression, personality disorders and other unchecked mental illnesses; not only because it entertains us, but also because it feeds into narratives that Black boys and men are inherently bad and later, dangerous?
“Another theory is that African Americans don’t also subscribe to treatment. So we could be suffering for years and we won’t get help,” said Ronald Crawford, mental health professional and author of Who’s the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas?
Crawford, who also writes for Rap Rehab, said that while he wouldn’t make a diagnosis of Knight without meeting him first, the rap label boss’ behavior, as reported in the media, is consistent with an anti-social personality disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the disorder include difficulty dealing with people, frequent trouble with the law and having little to no regard for the rights, wishes and feelings of others. Crawford added that anti-social personality disorder is a common diagnosis among people serving time in a correctional facility.
He acknowledges that Knight probably found refuge for his erratic behavior in the glorification of his image, as do other artists including Kanye West and DMX, whose erratic behavior (and in the case of DMX, actual diagnosed mental illness) is often cosigned by fans.
This is only compounded by the already fragile nature of American manhood, which frowns upon the sharing of any emotions and feelings, that could be perceived as weak. Crawford said that anger is considered a secondary emotion usually meant to protect oneself from vulnerability. And the anger we sometimes hear in Hip Hop may very well be the result of people not knowing how to express their true feelings properly. “It’s raw emotion – that is lots of what we hear. People don’t know how to say, you hurt my heart. So they say other hurtful things.”
However , Crawford is not convinced Hip Hop (or by default, the Black community) culture nurtures mental illness. Instead he points to a number of artists who have used their platforms to talk about mental health including Pharoahe Monch, who last year dropped an album about his own bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts.
In fact, Crawford said that he has felt that the raw emotion within Hip Hop has been helpful in getting some of his more difficult patients to open up about what is troubling them. “A lot of people pay attention to the misogyny and the violence in rap, but one of the things they don’t talk about is how rappers have been talking for years about fatherlessness and the impact it has on young men,” he said.
Crawford isn’t the only one who has used Hip Hop in counseling services. A couple of researchers from Cambridge University have created Hip Hop Psych, which also uses some of Hip Hop’s more positive lyrics to raise awareness about mental illness.
He also points out how often the artist’s intended message is lost when we focus only on the presentation. “I think it is a little deeper than some of the lyrics that they use. And we need to take the time to get into what they are saying and not how they are saying it,” he said.
While Crawford thinks we should be aware that an artists’ erratic behavior might be indicative of deeper issues, and that help should always be encouraged, he doesn’t believe that fans should stop patronizing their art. To do so, is like punishing people for being hurt or having mental health problems, he said.
“Is it what the artist is saying, which is upsetting you? Or are we mad at what they are going through? I think instead of shooting the messenger and getting mad at what they are talking about; let’s get mad at the conditions of what they are talking about,” he said.
I’ve always said I love listening to Charlemagne on “The Breakfast Club” but I would be scared to actually meet him. On the one hand it’s refreshing to listen to someone who is so honest in expressing his thoughts on music and pop culture. Charlemagne has said that Wendy Williams taught him he could either be for the people or for the industry. He chose the former and it shows.
But I would be scared to meet and have a conversation with him because Charlemagne frequently makes disparaging and disrespectful remarks to and about women. He gawks at women when they sit next to him, commenting on their bodies. He crudely and openly talks about sexual practices, even women’s vaginas, while said women are visibly uncomfortable with the conversation or attempt to change the subject. Long story short, he’s consistently disrespectful and rude.
Most of the time, no one calls him on it. People, men and women alike, (because he talks to men about vagina too), have either smiled nervously, remained silent or attempted to change the subject.
But that’s not what happened today. When Master P sat down with “The Breakfast Club” this morning, things took a left turn when Charlemagne tried to insult a Mercedes, a female rapper signed, at one time or another, to No Limit, Master P’s record company.
Here’s how it went down.
Charlemagne: I always wondered, how did you set up promotion for your projects? Because it was a time that No Limit was dropping project every week. It was a No Limit product in stores every week. Except for Mercedes, we never saw that. And I always wanted to see that because she had a fat ass pussy.
Master P: See there bruh, hold up… Don’t talk about Mercedes like that.
Charlemagne: Oh, my bad. I didn’t know. Is she family or something?
Master P: She ain’t family; but still though, with all my people man, you know how I am. But we good, man. You know what I’m saying…you know how we get down.
Charlemagne: But how were you setting it up, promotion wise?
Master P: Naw, let’s go back to this dog. Let’s respect. Because I’m not going to talk about your sister, your mom or nothing. That’s the first thing. I know you do your radio thing and I respect that; but at the same time, Mercedes is a…she a female.
Charlemagne: You right. My bad. But she did look good on that cover though.
Master P: She did look good. That’s your opinion…
An upcoming rapper walks into the room and Master P gets distracted. Then DJ Envy tries to get Master P to answer the original question. Master P obliges and then gets back to the issue of respect.
Master P: But like I said man, it’s about respect, Charlemagne. You know me and you go back.
Master P: When we talk about women– I don’t care I ain’t gon’ disrespect no hookers or nothing. Cuz I don’t do that, I’m a man. And I don’t want nobody to disrespect no people that I know. You know what I’m saying.
Aaaahhh what a breath of fresh air! With the exception of the word female…this was so perfect. I absolutely love the fact that Master P lets him know that it’s not about Mercedes being related to him, the fact that he knows her means he won’t let anyone disrespect her. And then the response got even better when P said, in fact, he wouldn’t speak about any woman in that way, regardless of what society may say about her worth or moral standards. Standards starts with self and the fact that he is a man, he won’t allow himself to disrespect women. There is only one word that can detail my reaction to this portion of the interview: YAaaaaaassssssss!
And since I grew up in and still go to church, I feel this Holy Ghost dance gif is appropriate.
Women have been degraded and disrespected for far too long in the confines of Hip Hop. But if we’re being completely honest, it’s not just Hip Hop. The medium, as it’s been known to be, is a reflection of the world in which we live, good and bad. It’s society’s fault for making us believe that women are somehow inferior and therefore worthy of this type of treatment and discussion. And if I can take it a step further, it’s not just men who disrespect women. You need work at MadameNoire for only a week to see women calling other women all the types of hoes, bitches and thots in our comment sections.
Misogyny is real and so deep, women have become the torchbearers of it.
I appreciate Master P and his response so much because it shows us how to stand up for the rights of women. (Note, that Master P was very respectful and direct in his approach.) We don’t have to smile politely or laugh it off. And it also shows that all women, no matter what they may do for a living or if they defy your personal, moral code, should be and deserve to be respected as human beings.
You can watch the full interview on the next page.
“I Sparked A Change”: Iggy Azalea Explains Why She Thinks She Has Changed Hip Hop, And How She Deals With Her Haters
When you really think about it, Iggy Azalea had a really good 2014, and a really bad 2014 at the same time. While “Fancy” became her breakout hit, which ushered in a string of other hits from her album The New Classic, she was also called everything but a child of God by everyday people, rap fans and fellow lyricists (hey Azealia Banks!). And while she tried to defend herself here and there, the comebacks only made things worse.
But Azealia isn’t letting her detractors get her down. In fact, if you ask her, she has already made an impact on hip-hop, even if her career doesn’t last longer than a hot second. It all started when GQ asked her what she wanted her legacy to be down the line:
“You never know how long you’ll be in people’s good graces, especially in this business. So I hope it’s long—but I could be here for three or four years and then be out, like most artists. So it depends. I might be here for a long time. At the very worst, if I have a short-lived career, at least I could say I sparked a change—that I inspired some leniency in what people accept in hip-hop. And if I have a very long career and can be gyrating in a leotard at 35, that would be great.”
As for people who would disagree with such statements, I-G-G-Y says she’s #unbothered. The accolades she’s been given have helped her feel that way:
“Uh, awards season helps. Anytime where people get to choose who they want to have a voice and they choose me, I just think that makes it worth it. And that gives me the patience to just bite my tongue. When people choose me as the person they think should be speaking for them, I think, Well, I don’t really care what someone in the industry or another artist has to say about it. Your opinion is biased anyway, because you want people to listen to your voice. So having actual people who choose me, it makes me think, I have a place, and I don’t care what other people have to say about it. I was a fan of rap music growing up, and I didn’t feel like there were enough characters that represented me and my situation. So I think it’s needed.”
Hmm. Not sure what to make of this.
An Italian-inspired restaurant in Washington, DC is planning to host a hip-hop dinner to honor slain rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac in February. For the menu, which hit Twitter earlier this week, Graffiato is serving “thug rice,” which is cuddle fish ink risotto, crawfish, crispy clams, cauliflower. There’s also “blood money sausage” and “Chocolate Chip Blunts” on the three-course meal.
After Graffiato, chef Mike Isabella, a former Top Chef contestant, heard of the criticism of the menu, he told DCist the menu is simply a “work in progress,” reports The Grio. The menu has since been taken down with the only mention of it in this press release on the Graffiato website.
The dinner is to take place Feb. 2 and cost $65 per person.
“Restaurateur Mike Isabella gave Y&H the following statement via his publicist, who says he’s not available for an interview: ‘The Graffiato dinner on February 2 is a celebration of hip hop from two of the greatest artists of the 90s. The menu is still a work in progress, and dishes will be inspired by songs, lyrics and classic east and west coast dishes’,” reports Washington City Paper.
Technology entrepreneurship offers an extensive amount of opportunities. But flip through most magazines and websites that delve into the space and, at times, it seems as though the content isn’t speaking to you, more so at you…and in another language. It’s a concern that The Phat Startup (TPS) team—Anthony Frasier, James Lopez, Jesal Trivedi and Jahde—recognized and aimed to disrupt.
Influenced by Lean Startup methodology and hip-hop culture, The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that develops premium content for new to serial entrepreneurs. Known for their well-attended NYC events, where they’ve brought tech heavyweights such as Reddit founder and serial investor Alexis Ohanian, VaynerMedia founder and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ben Horowitz (a.k.a Nas’ bestie), co-founder and general partner of the venture capital fund, Andreessen Horowitz, the Phat Startup is entering a new chapter, hosting their inaugural Tech808 conference on November 21 at New York University. The conference, which is in partnership with the Clive Davis Institute, will explore the world of entrepreneurship through the view of those who are grinding and hustling to make power moves.
MadameNoire caught up with The Phat Startup co-founders to discuss tech entrepreneurship, starting your own venture and why Tech808 is a must-attend conference.
Lopez: I was inspired to start TPS because I noticed that the similarities between hip-hop and lean were a perfect way to educate aspiring entrepreneurs that resonated with the hip-hop culture. Buzzwords are cool, but if you don’t understand them you cant learn from them, or apply those lessons.
Frasier: What played a big part of me jumping into The Phat Startup is being constantly asked questions about becoming an entrepreneur. When I got together with James, and we began to see we could use the culture as a way to get entrepreneurs interested and informed, it was magic.
How did The Phat Startup go from an idea to a platform to a movement, which entails events and now your conference, Tech808?
Frasier: The blog was the first step. The content was the second. The content played a huge part in our journey. When we wrote resource guides and conducted interviews, we weren’t talking to a white kid at Stanford. Sure, anyone could relate and benefit from our content, but we had a certain demographic in mind. We wanted to ask questions a single mother in Newark, NJ could relate to. I wanted to create a guide that a college dropout in Oakland would vibe with.
As a result, it helped us gain a following. The largest reason people follow us is because we present the same resourceful, quality information you would get anywhere else, but with a cooler voice. It’s less intimidating, and people love that. We love hip-hop, so when we wave our flags we do it like any hip-hop movement would. We wear our T-shirts; we make sure the logo is visible on our products. It makes people want to join the squad and be part of something. Hip-hop taught us that.
What can attendees expect from your inaugural conference?
Lopez: For Tech808, we decided that having people talk about the come up wasn’t as valuable as them telling you how to create your own come up or movement. We wanted to get off the usual background information and have all speakers leave the community with executable advice that they can start implementing the day of in a TEDx style conversation.
We want to educate our community, so Tech808 is pure executable advice, no self-promotion.
Talk to me about the inspiration behind the name Tech808
Frasier: The Tech808 name came from our founding members: Jesal Trivedi and Jahde. The 808 is the most famous bass sound in hip-hop. It has a boom to it that is unmatched. Bringing tech together with that represents the convergence of the two cultures. It also means we not playing games out here!
How will Tech 808 be different from a lot of the other technology conferences happening in other tech hubs such as San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta and New York?
Lopez: Tech808 is different because we wanted to focus on the lessons learned from founders in the trenches right now. People like Mark Zuckerburg are super special, but the tactics they use now can’t be used by a company that is just launching. All of our speakers are building their empires from an early stage and their tactics are the ones our community needs to implement now.
Frasier: I agree with James. What also makes us different are the same reasons we were able to attract our audience. It’s the culture. It’s the comfort level [of] people asking questions and not feeling dumb, or left out. We are for the people. You don’t get that vibe when attending a larger, more popular conference.
For those aspiring to be tech entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them about starting a business in the tech space?
Lopez: As Nike would say, just do it. There will never be a perfect time to start. Start now and learn how to overcome the obstacles that you’ll face. There isn’t a blueprint to follow, but you can learn from how others over came adversity. Do that and grind!
Frasier: My biggest piece of advice for aspiring tech entrepreneurs is to learn and build as much as you can. Learn how to code. Don’t have the time to learn how to code? Learn how to prototype! Learn how to build wire frames. Learn how to communicate your vision to a technical person. But, as much time as you spend learning, you have to start building and making mistakes. Making mistakes is how we get better and, trust me, you will learn to love making mistakes in the tech world. Making mistakes is actually better than reading articles and books.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.