Beanie Sigel vs. Jay-Z- Why Hov Won’t Return His Calls

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Hustler's Ambition, Words From The Genius

Since Beanie Sigel’s halfway dis record against Jay-Z, “What You Talkin Bout” debuted on Kay Slay’s show on Hot97 last night, the internets/streets are going nuts about the Broad Street Bully airing out Hov.

First, the song. People are going ape shit but in reality, this song is like, not good. The beat, a middling drum pattern with a tick-tocky clock-like melody, is a mellow backdrop so you can clearly hear what Beanie’s saying. Except he’s not really saying much. which makes this song itself a total non-event.

Secondly, the interview. In the first half it sounds like Beans is genuinely peeved about a bunch of things that went on with Roc-A-Fella, all legitimate beefs. He talks a bit about going to jail, how the Young Gunz were only getting $1200 a night on the road with Jay, himself not being paid on tours, money that he thought he was due through a sneaker deal with Pro Keds, so on and so forth. Without any intimate knowledge of the business affairs that went on at Roc-A-Fella, I’ve no doubt in my mind that the  funny money situations Beans speaks about with album advances, recording budgets and Roc-A-Fella’s various business, were really occurring. This is the record business, shit happens.

The most striking part of the interview to me though, was when Beanie says he hasn’t spoken to Jay-Z in two years. He mentions that he can’t get in touch with Jay, that it takes talking to 5 people to speak with him. To hear Beanie tell it, Shawn Carter is like the Michael Corleone of the rap game. Except he’s really not.

Beanie Sigel thinks that Roc-A-Fella was a family. It wasn’t. Beanie Sigel was signed as a recording artist to Roc-A-Fella Records, given an album budget to record songs which the label could then exploit in the marketplace. In terms of that avenue of business, not mixtape songs or whether Beanie Sigel is “nice” or he bodied so and so on a track or went to war with Jadakiss or Nas, he was not very successful. To the best of my knowledge, only one Beanie Sigel album went Gold, and that was his first LP, The Truth, which was spearheaded by a Jay-Z single, “Anything.” Keep in mind this was the year 2000, when a rapper could literally take a piss on a record and it would have sold platinum or better. That Jay-Z had the single from another artist on his label’s debut LP should tell you something- Beans was a commercial liability from day 1. As Beans alludes to in his new song, he “brought the fellas to Roc-A-Fella.” Yeah, that’s exactly what he did. He lent an element of goonery to Roc-A-Fella when all they had was Jay and Bleek (hardly what I’d call goons).

Beanie was like Jay-Z’s Tony Yayo, except less paid.

On top of all this, Beanie signed with Dame Dash Music Group back in 2004. In a wikipedia entry on Beanie, it says he made the decision to sign with Dame over Jay because he’d never spent time around Jay on and off day. That he had a more personal relationship with Dame and Biggs. Now here he is, five years later, saying they were like a family, that he wants a phone call blah blah blah. He didn’t want that phone call in 2004, when he was sitting in Jay’s office (according to the Charlemagne interview), asking to be let out of his contract. So what’s the real story?

Perhaps Jay is like Michael Corleone, and once you take sides with another family, you’re done in his eyes. Or perhaps it’s a lot less dramatic, and it’s more like, as I alluded to above, Beanie never really being much of a marquee player, more like a Rick Mahorn-style bruiser who was on the team just to rough up the other team’s best player (Jadakiss, Nas, Jaz-0, etc).

In that respect, Beanie would fall in line with a whole assortment of characters who Jay-Z has left by the wayside as he’s moved on to bigger and better things.  Take a number- R. Kelly, Foxy Brown, Jaz-O, Amil, Dame Dash, DMX, Irv Gotti, Ski Beatz, Sauce Money… this list goes on and on. My thought is, Beanie should add his name to the list of those who may never get a return call from Hov. This whole scenario is sounding like a Tweet song right about now.


The Retail Mixtape Needs To Die

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Words From The Genius

Just received an email about Sean Price’s new mixtape, Kimbo Price, hitting stores October 27th. If the fucking thing is in a store, it’s not a mixtape. Can we just kill the idea of the mixtape album already, and call the thing an album? Please, this is ridiculous. You’re confusing fans. Fans want to know the shit is an album, that it is something you put your heart and soul into. Otherwise, don’t put the project out at retail. If it’s some piece of shit that you threw together haphazardly, just give it away. I know Sean Price’s level of quality is high. He doesn’t make much wack music. In fact, I’ve been a fan since he debuted. But me, as a fan of rap music, I get turned off the minute I see the word mixtape associated with an artist of P’s caliber. So I get it, Kimbo Price is the prelude to a forthcoming album. But that project isn’t dropping until 2010. Plies drops two albums a year on a major label. Sean Price can’t drop 2 within 6 months on an indie? Fuck outta here.

Call things what they are. If there are original beats, original lyrics and hooks on the project, it’s an album. It’s not a mixtape. Leave the freestyles and all that shit nobody wants to hear on the cutting room floor and make it an official project. Please. This isn’t 2004, when the mixtape/album was some sort of novelty item that artists could drop on indie labels to hold fans over between proper major label projects. That shit is dead.

Do the right thing.


Interview With Beatnuts Playwright Sacha Jenkins

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under St. Elsewhere

Hip-hop’s relationship with theater thus far has been nothing more than a fling. Rappers flirting with the stage, hitting it then quitting on a whim. Diddy stars in Raisin in the Sun here, Jim Jones promotes his latest release with the Hip-Hop Monologues there. But that may soon change, if hip-hop historian Sacha Jenkins has anything to do with it.

A founding member of the hip-hop brain trust Ego Trip, a renowned journalist and television producer, Jenkins conceptualized and wrote “Deez Nuts,” the hip-hop play du jour about the oft-overlooked Queens rap duo, The Beatnuts. A Queens native himself, the play follows a journalist (based on Jenkins) as he sets out on a quest to write the ultimate Beatnuts article. What follows is their story, interspersed with a healthy dose of Beatnuts music. Half narrative, half performance art, “Deez Nuts” attempts to straddle the line between homage to the Beatnuts legacy, and providing a platform for what could arguably be considered a Beatnuts concert.

Last night, the play kicked off the Hip-Hop Theater Festival (October 1st-17th) in New York, way off Broadway, downtown at the Ohio Theater. We caught up with Sacha Jenkins just prior to night two of the play’s three night engagement.

Where did the idea for “Deez Nuts” come from?

The idea for the play Deez Nuts came from me having a desire as a writer to sort of cover new terrain and also being from Queens and being such a fan of the Beatnuts and understanding that there’s so much regional talk. Their attitude and how they carry themselves is so indigenous to Queens. A lot of people dig the Beatnuts but I don’t know that they fully understand the Beatnuts the way that I did. I had this desire knowing that these guys have big personalities, they’re funny, knowing that they have this rocky relationship at times, I figured that bringing that to the stage would be fun and interesting for people to see.

Was it a conscious decision to choose them as a focus, or could another group easily slide into the role of being what the play is about?

I think that you could cut and paste people into something like this. I’m sure that because live performance is the way to go, I know this is a trend that is up and coming. [But] I think the combined story of the Beatnuts makes for a more interesting sort of narrative. They aren’t platinum. They’re not on the cover of every magazine. They been in the game nearly 20 years.

What was it like the first time you met them?

Me and Psycho Les went to the same high school. I didn’t know him personally. I would see Les around in school and he was a quiet dude who always had a fat rope chain, nice sheepskin coat, nice sneakers, and he was Columbian; I just assumed he was a drug dealer, but it turns out he wasn’t. He was busy dealing dope beats and eventually dope rhymes. Juju, he and I have many friends in common, so we didn’t necessarily know each other back then, but we know enough of the same people, that we could have known each other, or we kind of know each other, since we know the same people from the same time. Me really connecting with them on a deep level was when I had the inspiration to do this play.

What was the process like convincing them or selling them on the idea to actually do this? I’m sure there was some apprehension.

I think they were a little skeptical, mainly because they’ve been through so many ups and downs in the business. So it’s just kind of like, “Who is this dude, kind of out of nowhere telling us about a play?” Then Peter [Oasis– the play’s producer] came back with, “Well I know these guys at the Hip-hop Theater Festival and they’re good people.” I knew them as well, but I didn’t know them the way Peter did. I think [The Beatnuts] were skeptical initially but eventually the persistence and me and Peter saying, “Alright we got tickets to go see the Jim Jones play, this thing is happening and it’s a trend and it’s gonna continue to grow, and you guys should want to be a part of something like this.” Once we introduced the Hip-hop Theater Festival to them and they started to see this was a reality and there were people working on their behalf to produce something that pays tribute to their legacy, they said, “Alright, we’ll fuck with this weird dude.”

What will people take from this play?

For hip-hop people who aren’t familiar with theater, I think they’re going to walk away with a thoroughly enjoyable hip-hop experience. For people who aren’t necessarily in the hip-hop world, they’ll walk away with an experience that was very musical, and not necessarily in a Jesus Christ Superstar sort of way. It’s a very direct encounter with people who are part of a culture. It’s anthropological, it’s social, it’s musical and it’s theatrical.

There have been hip-hop people in theater- Diddy in Raisin in the Sun, Mos Def in Top Dog/Underdog, the Jim Jones play. So you’ve seen these hip-hop people sprinkled throughout theater. Is hip-hop’s relationship with theater a good one?

I’m new to theater. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the audience has been hip-hop fans. Fans of the Beatnuts. People in hip-hop at this point want more. People expect their artists to give them more. So that’s why I think this trend is going to grow. Artists aren’t selling records anymore, so how do they eat? They sell merchandise and they tour. I think that hip-hop fans are going to come to expect more of their artists and they’re going to want theater.

You just had your first show. What went right, what went wrong?

What’s great about it is the nature of how the show breathes. Some things went wrong, [but] no one will ever know because of how the play the works and the rapport that the both the actors and the Beatnuts have with the story. So there were a couple of flubs but honestly nobody noticed. I think Juju came in early on a song, or he didn’t do his verse twice and he stopped and said, “Yo I just fucked up that verse, whatever, that’s hip-hop,” and everyone laughed. You wouldn’t even know if he was serious or not serious, but didn’t even matter because of the way he handled the situation. The more we perform it the more comfortable we’ll be with it, the more natural it is. There’s some improv involved with it. I wasn’t trying to get the Beatnuts to be actors. I wanted them to sort of display who they are by talking to them. This show is almost like a conversation with the Beatnuts.

The premise of it is a journalist going to interview the Beatnuts, but how much of a narrative is there to it?

There’s a journalist who starts out wanting to write the ultimate Beatnuts article and then changes his mind and wants to get out of journalism because its dying and he decides to take a shot at writing a play. The show is really about the process of writing that play, how it sort of affects the lives of the group and how they feel about this play that is being written about them. Is there a narrative? Sure. But a big part of that narrative is the music of the group and the group sometimes in their own words.

And the long term goal is to make it a franchise that can sort of live on its own and continue and travel and perform?

The goal is to make this a healthy, living organism that the Beatnuts can take around the world. I’m still a huge fan of their music. I think its timeless, I think its funny. I think every once in a while there’s like a political perspective. But ultimately you get a real sense of what Queens is like. I’m a big proponent of sharing Queens with the world. If it wasn’t for Queens, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. Spike Lee’s all about Brooklyn, I’m all about Queens… not that I’m Spike Lee or anything.

What else are you up to?

I have a new book, which is the part two to another book. The new book is Piecebook Reloaded: Rare Graffiti Drawings, 1985-2005. And that basically is a compilation of images culled from various sketchbooks that graffiti artists have. Sketches and drawings that date back to 1985 and to roughly 2005. There are a couple 2006s and 2007s that sneak in there. That’s the companion book to the first book that came out about a year and a half ago called Piecebook: Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers. That book spanned from 1973 to about 1985. This book picks up the baton where the last book left off. There’s some book signings and some speaking engagements surrounding that. I have a few television projects that I’m developing, I don’t want to jinx anything. Other than that, getting ready for the cold weather in New York.

And last words?

RIP Mr. Magic. The DJ who started it all for hip-hop on the radio.



Diddy Signs With Interscope- What Difference Does It Make?

October 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Hustler's Ambition, Words From The Genius

spotted at Nahright

What good is it jumping from one sinking ship to another? Either way, you’re going down. That’s the thought that came to mind when I started reading the hooplah about Diddy signing with Interscope Records last week. The way the partnership is explained, Diddy signed a joint venture agreement with Interscope for his label, Bad Boy, which he will release his next LP, Last Train to Paris, through. Future projects, whether they be Diddy albums or reality television pop acts, will also go through Interscope, by way of this new business alliance. The artists that were previously signed to Warner Music Group through Bad Boy’s deal there, they will stay at Warner Music Group. Makes enough sense.

The thing is, Diddy seems geeked about the deal. He’s making videos, he’s tweeting, and basically the blogosphere/rap industry is caught up in the hype. My question is, who really gives a fuck? I’m not so sure I wanna pat Diddy on the back for his latest move. I applaud this man for a lot of what he’s done. I even worked on his Making His Band TV show a few weeks ago (episodes I worked on should be airing soon), so it’s not like I’m being biased for no reason here. When it comes to the business side of things, Diddy is that dude.

But to me, Diddy signing with Interscope makes him a dinosaur. It made someone who was once a forward thinking executive, who revolutionized many aspects of the rap business, seem even more out of touch. For one, Interscope has had very little success with urban music as of late. Outside of Eminem, who is arguably not even an urban artist, there are few acts Interscope has on the urban side that have done well in recent years. Whereas urban was the foundation Interscope was built on, with Deathrow and the like, the past few years have seen the label transition into more of a pop powerhouse, with Lady Gaga and the Pussycat Dolls at the forefront. Interscope’s promotion/marketing muscle was and still is legendary, except now it leans more towards top40 than anything else. Hear any Game singles lately? 50 Cent? I thought not.

So Diddy’s making this sort of weird electro funk soul LP that has him singing and shit, and basically he’s going to attempt to cross over like he did in the old days. He’s Danity Kane without the catty singers involved.  This way, if things don’t work out he can only blame himself, not some crazy blonde chick who goes all paparrazi nazi on the music industry. Whether or not people take Diddy as an artist seriously anymore (did they ever? hint: “don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks”), that’s debatable, but the motive makes sense. If you’re going to cross over, get with the machine that can cross you over- Interscope.

But that’s what an artist needs. What Lady Gaga needs, what the Pussycat Dolls need, what some unestablished pop rock act needs. That’s not what Diddy needs. Diddy, like Jay-Z, is bigger than hip-hop and bigger than the record business. He’s bigger than what some corporate TI can do for him. Sure, he may not be as hot as he once was, but that’s actually a benefit. Why? Because the expectations are lower. And right now, the only thing you can look forward to in this receding record business is lowered expectations, coupled with either shrugged shoulders when you miss your mark, or celebrations when you overachieve. Because of this, Diddy could have ventured out, he could done some creative partnership between Bad Boy, a new media company, and say Live Nation, like Jay did. Considering Diddy just spent an entire reality show looking for band members, it’s clear that he’s looking to capitalize in the live space. But why link with a label to distribute dinosaur-like records when it’s clear the business is elsewhere. Getting with Interscope just seems archaic.

Take that, take that?