It has been a six month journey with this story, but I am so grateful that it’s finally out. I wanted to answer this question: How is it that chefs and cooks all over the world are able to be so organized; and meanwhile many of us outside the kitchen can’t even keep our desks clean? Might great chefs and cooks have something to teach us aside from recipes and technique? And can we apply those lessons to our work and home lives? Listen here.
Come have a laugh at my expense tonight: I’ll be telling my personal stories from the “Baby Got Back” era tonight at The Soundtrack Series (alongside luminaries like Maura Johnston and Sasha Frere-Jones) at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge (The Red Fish, for you Freedom Fries folks), 158 Bleecker Street in money makin’ Manhattan.
PICTURED: The “Butt Balloon” makes its street debut in San Francisco, February 1992; and it’s Hollywood debut in the movie “Falling Down” with Michael Douglas.
On Friday, I’ll be heading to SxSW in Austin, Texas for two panels.
Saturday at 11a, Steve Stoute and I will be having a conversation about America’s multiracial future.
And a few hours later, at 1:30p, myself and Tony Cornelius — son of the legendary Don Cornelius — will celebrate the legacy of Soul Train with some moving and incredible clips from the show’s 35 year history.
See you there. Hit me up at @dancharnas on the Twitters. And read a bit of my interview with Chase Hoffberger in the Austin Chronicle here:
“Don’t say multicultural,” Russell Simmons once told journalist Dan Charnas. “Say multiracial. It’s one culture.”
Simmons is partially responsible for the latter point being more true today than it’s ever been. As the founder of pioneering hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings, he played an integral role in black music crossing over into mainstream culture. Think the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC remixing Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” or LL Cool J’s premiere on MTV.
Dan Charnas reported on all of it for The Source, the first major-market magazine to exclusively cover hip-hop. Last year, he published the mind-bendingly detailed The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, a 672-page analysis of every rap deal that made America the colorful society it is today. He knows a thing or two about the power of the crossover.
Read the rest here…
The significance of Don Cornelius to American culture — and to the American culture business — is told nowhere more eloquently than in one brief exchange between Cornelius and singer James Brown, a story that Cornelius himself recalls in VH-1’s excellent 2010 documentary Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America.
It was the Godfather of Soul’s first appearance on Cornelius’ then-nascent syndicated TV show — designed to do for soul music and black audiences what American Bandstand had long done for pop music and mainstream audiences. Brown marveled at the professionalism of the production, the flawlessness of its execution.
He turned to Cornelius and asked, “Who’s backing you on this, man?”
“It’s just me, James,” Cornelius answered.
Brown, nonplused, acted as if Cornelius didn’t understand the question. He asked it two more times, and Cornelius answered twice again: “It’s just me, James.”
That the man who wrote the song “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and who recorded the soundtrack to the Black Power movement could scarcely comprehend that a black man like Cornelius both owned and helmed this kind of enterprise without white patronage is a testament to the magnitude and the improbability of Cornelius’ achievements.
Read the rest on NPR.com
The new book that I co-authored with Bill Adler and Cey Adams — Def Jam: The First 25 Years Of The Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli) — is out this week. (Click HERE to buy the book.) So much more than a “coffee table” book, it’s a comprehensive oral history of the label. The book is being feted around New York in the coming week.
Tomorrow night, Paul Holdengraber will host a conversation at the New York Public Library with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons (the first time, I believe that those two have ever appeared together in public for such a discussion). The event, as of now, is sold out.
Then, on Monday, Bill, Cey and I will have a considerably more low-key discussion at NYU — fitting in that Def Jam actually started there.
Hope to see you at one of these events!
Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson — the woman who produced the first commercially successful hip-hop record and perhaps the first female record producer in history — died this morning of heart failure. She was 75. (I know that some accounts have her birthday in 1938, not 1936, but from family accounts I believe the earlier date is true).
I covered Sylvia’s life extensively in The Big Payback, and I will likely have some more thoguhts to share on this occasion shortly. But until then, here are some vital links:
Sylvia Robinson information page on this site
Sugar Hill information page on this site
Sylvia Robinson wikipedia page
Earliest account of Sylvia Robinson’s death
Mark Anthony Neal’s remembrance
(Written for HuffingtonPost Black Voices)
In July, RollingStone.com commissioned Village Voice pop music columnist Chris Molanphy to craft a feature called “Introducing the King of Hip-Hop.”
The request came after the success of Molanphy’s previous post for the website, “Introducing the Queen of Pop” — in which Molanphy measured female music artists’ commercial performance in nine different ways and tallied the results. “Queen of Pop” crowned Lady Gaga, garnered 2000 Facebook “Likes” and engendered hundreds of comments-worth of bile from livid fans of Madonna and Brittany Spears.
For “King of Hip-Hop,” Molanphy consolidated his nine parameters into just seven — album sales, album reviews, chart position, touring, social media, YouTube hits, and awards — and tweaked his spreadsheet a bit, weighing album sales, chart position, and YouTube heavier, and giving less weight to social networking and reviews. Fatefully, Molanphy reprised the “Queen of Pop” survey’s irregular time period, a two-and-a-half year span between the beginning of 2009 and mid-2011, so that the data sample would be big enough. All Molanphy had to do was collect the data and crunch the numbers.
Not long after he started entering the figures, Molanphy stopped by Woodwork, a bar near his home in Brooklyn, to meet up with some friends. They asked him how his project was going.
“It’s clear Eminem’s going to win this thing,” Molanphy told them.
Oh man, his friends said. You are gonna get hounded for the white guy taking the crown. Continue reading Why Eminem Isn’t Elvis
Me upon hearing the news: “You guys have an issue about Jews? Nice!”
Many thanks to the good folks at Vibe for this inexplicable honor. One of those kinds of features that you read, but never imagine you’d be in.
Great to share a page with dream hampton for the first time since our days at The Source in the 1990s. And I look almost as tall as Derrick Rose. Weird to be in the same spread with luminaries like Kasim Reid, comedians like Kevin Hart, and true heroes like Wael Ghonim.
It was definitely reward enough to be able to tell the story I told in The Big Payback. This is a really sweet supplement.
Click here to see the page, full size.
Click here for more information about the issue on Vibe.com
Music criticism may be going the way of the CD in the Internet age, as critics no longer have much of a lead on fans in procuring new music, and fans have more platforms than ever to share their opinions directly with each other. We have, alas, become the squeezed-out middlemen.
But folks my age remember a time not so long ago when music critics were demigods, holy filters for the good, bad and the ugly.
So it still gives me a little chill when a guy like Robert Christgau — who’s been dubbed the “dean” of music criticism, with good reason — mentions my book.
Thanks to Michaelangelo Matos, the finest of a new generation carrying the critical torch, for hipping me to this one.
I’ve been honored by two invites to some pretty cool events in New York City this month. Hope y’all can come.
First, on Saturday, July 23, from 2:30p – 3:45p, I will try to fight the feeling that I’m pretty much out of my league while appearing on a Harlem Book Fair panel with Nelson George, Melvin Van Peebles and (gulp) Amiri Baraka at the Shomburg Center.
It’s called AMERICA REDUX: BLACK AMERICA AND THE ART OF CULTURAL REINVENTION. It will be televised live on C-Span’s Book-TV.
Panel change: Amiri Baraka will be unable to come, so panel above is cancelled and I have been shifted to AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY: TRIUMPH AGAINST THE GRAIN, moderated by Cheryl Wills, New York 1 News. Saturday, July 23, from 3:55p – 5:10p. Still televised live on C-Span’s Book-TV.
More details here.
Then, the next Saturday, July 30, at 3:30p, I’ll be giving an author talk at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center of Queens Library in Corona. Hop a train from Mecca or Medina and I will see you there. More details here.
It’s like that y’all. And that’s all.