The Ballot or the Bling-Bling: With the third Twin Cities Hip Hop Festival kicking off, an event that this year focuses on activism and the electorate, it's worth linking to jim izrael's sharp piece "The Ballot or The Bling Bling," about the problems with mobilizing the Hip Hop Nation to vote: "The leadership behind this movement is trying to link an ambitious wish-list of political reforms to a generation too hypnotized by spinning car rims and diamonds to grasp even the most basic tenets of economic and political responsibility." (Kudos to Witt for pulling the festival off.)

Blues v. Abstract Truth: And writer Greg Tate--whose Bitches Brew dream band, Burnt Sugar, is coming to Minneapolis in December--injects a little politics into his discussion of the roles of hip hop and jazz (but I'm mostly linking to it because I love his use of language):
In an ideal world it would work like this: Hiphop would be our blues medium and jazz our abstract-truth medium, the one charged with breaking the silence about the kulchur of the Black poor, our ethnic accent in its most pristine folkloric form, the other charged with speaking the unspeakable, how the human spirit needs more than the spoils of global capitalism. Point blank, hiphop contains all the Black alienation rage and desperate desire for rhythmic pleasure we used to could (sic) hear in jazz, because hiphop is a vessel for all that sound and fury and signifying Cornel West says one cannot not know about being Black in America. The woundedness and the creativity. The blues by any other name. Too accessible and exploitable in hiphop, all too absent in African American improv today.
Bojah and El Bloqueo: Last night I got to see a quick performance by Brock Satter, aka Bojah, a spoken word artist/musician who's being harassed by the feds for a trip he took to Cuba to perform at the International Hip Hop Festival. He says he traveled to Havana in compliance with then-current US rules, yet a letter from the Department of Treasury is threatening him with civil penalties of up to $65K and criminal penalties up to $250k. As the old Phil Ochs song goes, "[S]omehow it is strange to hear the State Department say /You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay." Help Satter out by attending a fundraiser at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis on August 29.

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