Archives for posts with tag: music

With the creation of a new music service that benefits artists who are already ridiculously rich, here’s an alternative idea:

Create a streaming service for independent music.

Here’s the idea:

– there is a massive number of sites that review indie music, right? So why not bring their reviews together and create a “metacritic”-type site that initially serves music based on the average review score.

As listeners have a chance to listen (or not), the number of plays on the site can take over as the main scoring mechanism.

– the creators of the service can start out by getting paid a decent salary, but nothing exorbitant. As the service picks up steam, the revenues go to the artists until all artists receive 80% (or whatever is agreed on) of revenues from their music. Beyond that, the site keeps the money as profit. This ensures that artists get paid _before_ the site makes any large amount of profit, rather than the site being based on pimping its artists and giving them left-overs.

I’m not sure if anyone has done anything like this, but if they have, I’d gladly support it. If not, I hope you steal this idea — or better yet, several people can steal it and create an alternative indie music industry on the Internet that actually pays musicians first.

The real question is: how do we eliminate middlemen and create a technology that is fair to the artist — in a way that is transparent to the extent that the artist also feels that their compensation is fair?

Neither Spotify nor the other streaming music services have done that to any satisfactory degree. That’s why this idea matters.


This story begins with the drug-overdose death of a twenty-seven year-old American ex-paratrooper. The date was September 18, 1970. His first name was James, middle name Marshall, last name Hendrix.

In the present day, a young woman born across the planet lands in the U.S. at the age of sixteen. Amethyst Amelia Kelly is her birth name, better known onstage eight years later as Iggy Azalea.

All Is By My Side

Jimi Hendrix seemed to be a peaceful person, despite a difficult upbringing marked by neglect from two parents struggling in post-WWII America.

The new film about Hendrix’s life, “Jimi: All Is By My Side” starring Andre Benjamin, portrays Hendrix as violently abusive. In the film, Hendrix’s “wild” image as a performer is extended into a distorted portrait of the man’s personal life. The end result is a poorly crafted conflation of Jimi Hendrix’s real personality (introverted, perhaps even shy) and his persona as a performer (which was a Little Richard-inspired flamboyance updated for the 1960s London rock crowd).

No one can tell who Hendrix “really” was, except for people who knew him personally. On that note, Hendrix’s real-life ex-love Kathy Etchingham has publicly denounced the portrayal of her as some kind of abuse victim in the film.

Not only was she not consulted about the film — which has her played by Hayley Atwell from the Captain America movies, with Andre Benjamin from hip-hop group Outkast as Hendrix — she is upset about a scene that depicts their relationship as so turbulent that he beats her up badly.

“It’s just completely made up,” Etchingham said of the incident.


Etchingham insists their relationship was “a completely fun time”, with Hendrix dedicated to his musical career well before the drug problems that contributed to his death at 27.

“He was a gentle person — funny, entertaining, articulate, and knew exactly which direction he was going in,” she said.

Jimi Hendrix’s ex Kathy Etchingham: ‘Scuse me while I defend my guy”

How terribly inconvenient it must be when the real person is still alive to debunk a fictional character conjured in her image. You can read the rest of what she had to say about the film and the Jimi she knew by clicking here for the interview.

To say that Hendrix was prone to violence is about as sensible as claiming that Sir Richard Branson is somehow a homophobe. The evidence points in the exact opposite direction in both cases. Sadly in regard to the Hendrix biopic, Andre Benjamin’s apparently extensive preparation to play the role of Hendrix was wasted by a mawkishly sensationalized story that wasn’t worthy of its subject.

The Origins of Azalea

The history of rock music, as told through the life of Jimi Hendrix (among so many others), becomes relevant again in the example of its modern manifestation, rap and hip hop. Yes, hip hop and rap are the children of rock and roll, mainly derived from the rhythms, dance and style of James Brown. Hendrix, however, is the more visibly imitated prototype “rock star” whose influence has proved itself to be as timeless as the blues-based brilliance of his guitar. Both Brown and Hendrix drew from the same nucleus of inspiration that infuses practically all of pop music today.

Who do you think of when you consider the origins of rock?

Guns’n’Roses, Nirvana, maybe Elvis if you want to stretch back a bit. Probably not Fats Domino, Jackie Wilson or Ruth Brown.

“Rhythm and blues. Really Blue? Really Brave? Really Black. […] One of these, you can use it. But R and B stands, for Ruth Brown.” – Ruth Brown

(See also: Ruth Brown performing “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean“)

For the average “pop culture junkie”, the roots of modern music are buried under childish hypermasculine bragging set over repetitively programmed beats, almost completely lacking melody or compositional complexity. Our mistakes are what make us human, and the autotuned voices we hear today possess a small fraction of the personality conveyed by artists in prior decades. The production values are stunningly addictive, but the resonant human core is often empty.

This began as the original rhythm-and-blues artists of the 1950s were replaced by others. The original artists often saw their songs performed for throngs of adoring fans who had no idea that their new favorite music had actually been appropriated. Rhythm-and-blues was re-christened as “rock-and-roll”. The songs were re-recorded at a faster tempo, re-used in a bid to “gentrify” a genre that was once considered “jungle music”, mainly because of the outcast status of the artists who gave birth to it.

The soul of hip hop was first brought to life by the “freaky” experimentations of Little Richard, channeled through James Brown and electrified by Jimi Hendrix. It has since been washed “clean” of all its colorful — or as Ray Charles put it, “dirty” — origin story. Now what we have is the inevitable endpoint of consumerism: a blandly attractive product whitewashed of all context and devoid of anything more resonant than the sound of ringing cash registers. In our digital age, you’re more likely to hear the “cha-ching!” sound as a sample in a song than the mechanical chime in a physical store.

Exotic, Authentic, and Unassailably Fake?

Hold on, I hear somebody coming. She’s right outside the door. Should I let her in? Too late, here she is…

In barges Iggy Azalea, with her sort-of-sultry (but mostly average) looks and amazingly “ethnic” body type (code for: unusually wide hips, narrow-ish waist and large bum). As some African-Americans dubiously claim “Native American” origins, she claims to be part Aussie Aborigine (so exotic! Darling, do be careful not to try too hard).

Unsurprisingly, Azalea seems near-universally disliked by American rap musicians from Snoop Dogg, Rah Digga, Eminem, Nicki Minaj and Q-Tip to newer faces like Azealia Banks and J.Cole (although J.Cole was “just making an observation about ‘capitalism'”, or so he says).

Why do so many rappers hold such particular disdain for Iggy Azalea?

One reason seems to be the illusion of “authenticity” that most pop stars so desperately cultivate. The idea of being “real” generally refers to the inexhaustible rags-to-riches archetype:

– Most mainstream American (and English) rappers claim to be from somewhere in the council estates or “the ghetto”.

– Iggy Azalea claims to have been a poor girl in Australia for whom high school “made her sad”, so she dropped out.

– Most rappers have stories of fighting their way up through fierce neighborhood competition, where music was an alternative to the gangster lifestyle. Their stories rise from a history of struggle that extends back far before January 1, 1863.

– Azalea was made fun at school and decided to chase her solo dream as a rapper when her two bandmates didn’t take it “serious” enough.

Can you detect a difference in the two types of backstory on offer here?

Now you also know the target audiences for the two types of artist.

A Feud Between… Whom?

Now we have the “feuds” between the Australian Azalea and almost everyone in the land where hip-hop began.

Skipping to the interesting part, we see her response to Azealia Banks (why must their names be so improbably similar?!).

Iggy Azalea tweets to Azealia Banks: “The reason you haven’t (succeeded) is because of your piss poor attitude… your inability to be responsible for your own mistakes […] the inability to be humble or have self control. You created your own unfortunate situation […] and don’t have the mental capacity to realize yet. Probably never will.”

(Decoded: you’re lazy, entitled and irresponsible; you’re self-destructively impulsive and unable to control yourself; your situation is completely your fault; you’re too inherently stupid to realize that I’m obviously right, mainly because I say I am.)

She then played the ultimate Ignorant Self-Righteous Dummy card by trying to predict Banks’ response and discount it pre-emptively: “Now! rant, Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won’t make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio.”

Notice the tinge of “I’m more popular, therefore I’m right” in the Australian’s words.

“Enjoy continuing to bang your head against that metaphoric brick wall & Savor this attention. I’m the only way you get ANY.” The poor little girl who everybody used to make fun of? No longer. Iggy Azalea is now the Winner who takes all and gets to talk trash. She’s the bully who wins by assuming the victim’s identity, ending with this tweet:

“You’re poisonous and I feel genuinely sorry for you because it’s obvious at this point you are a MISERABLE, angry human being. Regards!”

What’s most fascinating here is how obviously oblivious the Australian is to a simple fact — one that’s all too clear to many who read her words. The fact is that her “defense” against Banks is almost exactly the same as the trusty talking points of those who believe that modern corporate capitalism is somehow a “meritocracy” where the “best” win and the other 99% should shuffle off and die. In her retread of the “authenticity” myth, Azalea keeps such staunch faith in her mind-blowing artistry that her success could only be due to pure hard work and skill. Luck and marketability (and a certain physical kinship with Jennifer Lopez) had nothing to do with it.

Her cynically superficial “positive thinking” ignorance has darker undertones as well.

Gleeful Ignorance Patronized By First-Hand Experience

Now we have context for the series of Tweets by rapper Q-Tip, which have been archived in the previous post (click here). What was Azalea’s response? Dismissal, of course. A living legend offers his store of first-hand knowledge, and the best response is to whine about how “patronizing” it feels? Something is definitely not right.

And the story comes full circle as Iggy Azalea claims that her ex-boyfriend (you’ll undoubtedly be surprised that he’s a Much Older, Scary-Looking Black Guy) is ‘violent’ and ‘aggressive’. The Poor Victim is so afraid of him that she avoids the entire state of Texas where he lives.

Have we heard this type of story before? In this entry perhaps? About a certain great musician whose musical lineage is the basis for Iggy Azalea’s artistic sustenance and success?

Misappropriation All Over Again

Yes. You’re so right: the misappropriation of Jimi Hendrix’s life story for a “biographical” film. It may not have been intended as a documentary, but the film ended up as an unintentional farce that insultingly caricatured the man. Now Iggy Azalea barely stops short of claiming that her Scary Black Ex-Boyfriend raped her (that may have seemed to be a bit much after the recent Eminem controversy, and it may have confused her fans since Eminem is white).

The “violent black man” stereotype has been evoked several times in the media during 2014 alone, most strikingly in justification for police murdering teenagers and young men in the United States. We saw the stereotype in a film about Jimi Hendrix, who may have been one of the most peaceful (if troubled) rockstars in the history of music. And now, perhaps unintentionally, Iggy Azalea again panders the narrative of stereotypes to her mostly-unsuspecting fans.

The problem isn’t that she’s Australian, or that she’s a marketably curvaceous rapper (who somehow doesn’t write her own lyrics?), or even that she’s a woman.

There is a reason why the history of popular music matters enough to learn more about it. Along the way, you may fall in love with “new” old artists, be touched by influences that open and re-shape your sound, and gain dimensions of cultural awareness (dare I say “sensitivity”?) that can only elude those who are trapped in the disposable consumerism of the eternal present.

Seek Out Real Artists: You’ll Know It When You Hear (Or See) It

If you want to learn more about the real story of a real artist, you might be delighted to begin with this program rather than more of the usual MTV/TMZ Hollywood-style melodrama:

Jimi Hendrix, The Uncut Story

Thankfully, there will always be artists who learn from the past while creating the future. I hope that this applies to you, too, regardless of your chosen expressive modality.