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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, will be appearing this Saturday, April 30, 2011 at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books alongside renowned music scribes Fred Goodman, Simon Reynolds and Randall Roberts on a panel entitled “In Flux: The Music Biz.” Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve had a number of peak experiences since the release of The Big Payback, some public (like being interviewed on radio and in print) and some more personal (the emails and Tweets and phone calls from friends, family, colleagues and strangers alike).
But there’s a special thrill for me in The Big Payback making New York magazine’s “Approval Matrix” this week:
Of course, my Mom and Dad like that the book cover gets to loiter right by the sign that says “Brilliant.”
But, for me, it’s the positioning of the book between “Highbrow” and “Lowbrow” that validates what I was trying to do as a writer, and in many ways reflects the ethos of hip-hop itself, and of the man who first captured its ultimate potential as recorded art, my former boss Rick Rubin.