Style Wars – Obama and McCain Graded on Musical Taste

The wars of the future, there ladies and gentlemen, nurse will not be fought over oil, or territory, or, contrary to what you may have been told, water. The wars of the future will be fought over cool.

So – to the point. Earlier I received an email from imeem:

Dear dex digital:

Before you vote, check out imeem playlists of Barack Obama and John McCain’s top ten favorite songs:

Whoa. Both major presidential candidates had online playlists? You know I had to check this. And looking at the playlists, I realized how much these speak to the style wars of the future. Keep in mind, kids – the hypebeast electrobanger listeners will some day be running the country. What you see below is a rundown of each candidate’s playlist, with a running commentary, final grading, and suggestions on improvement.

So, because voting based on political stances is played out – here I present the official Mixtape Show guide to voting based on taste.

First – Barack Obama.

Ready Or Not – The Fugees. This is a very, very good start. A group that many adults (and younger kids, really) haven’t even heard of, but Obama doesn’t care. A brash opening move that will get respect from the hardcore. Respect.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye. I’ve actually always hated the hook to this song, but the rest of the song is classic. Political Black soul. A strong following move.
I’m On Fire – Bruce Springsteen. Off the Born In The U.S.A record, which methinks is an appeal to the “Obama – ain’t that like Osama? I bet he’s one-a them thar A-rab queer lesbasexual terrarists” crowd. Decent enough song. I didn’t have this one in my house growing up.
Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones. This either. I am, however, noticing a rather unsubtle selection of track titles here.

Read on for the rest of the lineup…
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So if there was a State of the Hip-Hop Union, generic I think one thing that we could probably count on would be that unlike any previous or current administration, we would get the straight, uncut reality of our current status. I mean, there would still be lying about what sort of dirt people did in the past or how many guns/cars/etc dudes owned – but yeah. I would tune in to watch that.

So the idea behind this is people from different angles telling us what our current situation is – some of them more indirect than others, some of them more violent than others, and hey, some of them even have some recommendations for us. Enough from me, let’s see what they have to say…


Stereolab – Neon Beanbag I think I must have been the one person at KUCR that never actually played any Stereolab. Probably because I never really listened that much – my mistake. Everybody go out and buy Stereolab. Off the 4AD and Rough Trade 2008 Sampler, which is ridiculous.

Young Jeezy – My President feat Nas. Leave it to Jeezy (yeeeeeeeahhhhh) to make a song where he praises a presidential candidate, damns the current president, and raves about his blue lambo in the same breath. I like this song.

East Coast Avengers – Kill Bill O’Reilly. I really wanted to get this episode out like four days ago, but technical difficulties prevented that. As I say in the episode itself – this track placement comes with zero disclaimers or apologies. I figure that in a genre where threatening other rappers for nothing is the norm – threatening somebody that actually deserves it is pretty sensible. ちなみに、the girl at the end probably deserves an award for best line in the song. East Coast Avengers is made up of Esoteric, Trademarc, and DC the Midi Alien.

Mic Legacy – So Ghetto feat Rapper Big Pooh. The instro on this is like the musical embodiment of the Minstrel Show cover plus being in church.

Crooked I – Paper Planes Remix/Block Obama. I’m not exactly sure what the official title of this cut is. About 80% of the stuff this dude is talking about is totally ridiculous – including the random diatribe on claiming that stealing songs is “not hip-hop”. I’m not saying that stealing music is a good thing, but seriously, it seems like every time I turn around someone is telling me that something is “not hip-hop”. Eating broccoli is not hip-hop. And co-opting the “Change” line? There’s got to be something wrong with that, but I can’t hate. Anyway, this song is hip-hop, and it is over the Paper Planes riddim, which makes it extra good.

Elzhi – Colors. Come on, it’s Elzhi. There’s something sort of surreal about this song – not just the imagery. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a great song. You might need to play it back a few times to actually get what he’s doing.

Invincible – Locusts feat Finale, wsg Gwen Mingo and Ron Scott. Welcome to the reality that is Detroit. There’s a video to this as well – I’ll leave my commentary on this one out and just let you read the interview. Thanks to Sweeney Kovar for this one (and the one above, come to think of it). Album sounds like it’s definitely worth a purchase.

The Stranglers – Golden Brown. Apparently everyone else and their mom has discovered this song recently and are trying to make beats out of it, but if you want to hear a proper drug song done properly by proper white people (nothing against Pink Floyd, I like you guys too), this would be a good joint to track down.

See, told you I was back on track, sorta.

Regardless of what I said earlier,

Anyone who can inspire something like this deserves some respect.

TI$A (Taz Arnold from Sa-Ra) + Daedelus – Vote Obama.

Can anybody from LA confirm if this is actually getting any airplay back home? Even on the college circuit? It wasn’t getting any love at all before I left. Thanks to Karthi for putting me up on the video – I’m actually a little embarrassed at how late I was.
(for the original, page curse-laden version, check Episode 99 – The Primaries)

And bonus video:

The East Flatbush Project feat Stress – Day In A Life.

Yes, the video from one of the stronger joints on last week’s episode. Thanks for Spencer for getting that to me. (If you’re looking for relevance, look at his shirt).

No matter what a person’s stance is on Obama or music or whatever, I pretty much defy anyone to deny hip-hop culture’s importance in this campaign. Like it or not, this culture is going to play a big part in the next four (or more) years.

That said, if somebody can get the man himself to dance to the Obama rap song, I will personally donate a large sum of money to his campaign.

New episode soon.

Is Barack Not Black Enough? DJ Chuck T, Spike Lee, and…me.

Prologue: Don’t get me wrong – this is absolutely not a personal attack on DJ Chuck T (he’s one of a few people that is actually willing to speak their mind on this and he should be respected for that). Nor is this even directed at him – it’s more directed at anyone with a similar opinion on the subject. What I am doing here, here though, for sale is using this as an opportunity to bring something up because Chuck brings up something that serves as a counterpoint to something that has been in my head for a minute.

Okay, Let’s Get Into It…

Like anyone who is even somewhat involved in the music world, I get a lot of e-mail. Demos from people hoping for some airtime (can you say airtime for a podcast?), mail from people who hate/like the show, promos from major labels, promos from indie labels, and general “blasts”.

Last week, I got an email blast from DJ Chuck T, who most of you will recognize as being a ridiculously prolific (as in drops two tapes a week) North Carolina mixtape DJ, the man behind the Down South Slangin’ and Sexxplicit R&B series. And yes, this is the same dude that aired Lil Wayne out after badmouthing mixtape DJs.

The Original Video

Anyway, in an email titled “DJ Chuck T Blasts Barak Obama On MTV! OUCH!!”, DJ Chuck T posted a link to this video (sorry, I can’t embed it – just click here, it’s short)

What doesn’t come out in the video, though, is this (excerpt from the email sent out):

“[...]the self-proclaimed “Malcolm X of Hip-Hop” DJ Chuck T has unleashed his fury on the Presidential Candidate! “He’s not black, he’s bi-racial! And he wasn’t even raised by black people…” DJ Chuck T stated to MTV’s Shaheem Reid on the Red Carpet of the 2008 Ozone Magazine Awards. Chuck T went even further and said “Barak doesn’t embody the values and characteristics we as black people are raised with…”

That “bi-racial” section definitely didn’t sit right with me, so…I wrote dude an email.

And as expected, I got a pretty thought out (considering the dude is preparing for a speech in DC) and respectful email, where Chuck elaborated and stood by his opinion. No issue in particular with that.

And I was about to leave it at that, until:

A Challenger Appears

Spike Lee came out and pretty much said what I had said, minus a few points here and there. Dig the article, then come back: Spike Lee has Sharp Words in Denver.

So compare that to the original email I wrote a few days before this article came out. Obviously I’m not claiming that Spike Lee jacked what I’m saying – this is just for comparison. Also, I’m posting the full unedited text of this mainly because I don’t feel like paraphrasing, but I’d appreciate it if you took it as a token of my honesty and openness.

What I Think, I Guess

My original response to the original email blast:

Peace DJ Chuck T -

I’m sure your email inbox is flooded on a daily basis, and you may well not be able to get to all of your mail directly, but I just read this and felt like I should respond.

As far as lashing out at Barack Obama the politician, I don’t really have much beef with that. To me, the dude is a politician. Maybe a good one, maybe a bad one, but a major league politician who plays by major league rules, which means he is going to pretend that certain people don’t exist, go back on his word when it is convenient, etc – that is what politicians do. He is just another politician, scheming for votes, because that is what politicians do. I’m not sure about being the biggest Uncle Tom in the history of Black America – but I don’t think you meant that literally. I did an episode about the primaries a long time ago but refrained from outright supporting Obama because I didn’t feel it was appropriate given my mixed feelings on him. I personally will probably vote for the man – not because I am terribly excited about him bringing some sort of change to society because I don’t think change comes from the top – if you look at our history, particularly Black history, it never has – but because McCain is a scary dude and I do not want him bombing anyone else.

What I do have a problem with, though, is how you referred to Barack Obama – “He’s not black, he’s bi-racial! And he wasn’t even raised by black people…”

That, to me, doesn’t make any sense, no matter how you look at it. If you want to look at things from a historical angle, then you’ll remember the “one drop” rule. Beyond that, before Obama was all over the TV, I’m pretty sure that when he walked into a 7-11, just like when you or I walk into a 7-11, the person behind the counter did not see a “biracial” man or a “guy who wasn’t even raised by Black parents”, they saw a Black man, and they acted accordingly.

And it makes even less sense to say something like that considering that exactly one sentence prior, you referred to yourself as the Malcolm X of Hip-Hop. I’m sure you know this, but Malcolm X himself was ‘biracial’. One half African-American, one quarter Grenadian, and one quarter white. So maybe you are making a distinction between 25% white and 50% white, with the former being “black” and the latter being “not black”. If not, then maybe picking another historical persona would make your argument more coherent.

That said, though, unless your family came to the US independently, if you look at your own family tree (and I know that this is hard for the descendants of the slave system to trace back more than a few generations – if you’re able to do this, then count yourself as being very fortunate – on my side, we have no idea what went on beyond 1900 or so), I’m pretty sure you’ll find that you are not “100% Black”. I’m not sure what the statistics are, but there are very few African American individuals who are not mixed with something or other – including me, yourself, and Ludacris.

For me, trying to slander someone by saying that they aren’t “Black”, or “Black enough”, is about as counterproductive as you can get. If you have beef with someone’s actions, particularly another Black man’s actions, address his actions. If you feel that he has turned his back on his people, that’s fine. But when you try to exclude him from the population based on some illogical, fuzzy numbers game, you also start to exclude some very important historical figures – and you start to fragment the Black population and cause friction and fighting where there should be cooperation and positive movement.

As you know, most kids, particularly minorities, do not listen to what politicians have to say – but they will listen to what people like you and me (you, obviously, much more than me) – people who either make or distribute music, have to say. That’s why I was concerned. And I realize some of this may have been a “publicity stunt”, and it seems that the “he’s not even black” statement didn’t go on the air anywhere, but the approach is what worried me.

Anyway, I’m sure you have other mail to get to, so I will end this here. Peace.


So, let me make a couple of points here.

First, while I respect their individual opinions, I don’t agree with either DJ Chuck T or Spike Lee. I think Spike is going awfully easy on Obama. And on the other side, I think the whole “bi-racial” thing is a mass oversimplification.

What does get me worried is this whole “Black enough” argument. This isn’t a recent development, and I don’t expect it to die out any time soon, but with the fact that we are currently facing the very real possibility of a Black man sitting in the Oval Office, this issue takes on a new kind of urgency.

Blacker Than Thou

Classifying someone as simply “biracial” is next to useless. Where’s the line between “monoracial” and “biracial”? 25% “mixed”? 12.5% “mixed”? Same thing with offering a “biracial” bubble on an application form – do you mean to tell me that there is no difference between a kid with Black American and white parents and a kid with Korean and Indian parents? Sure, there is a possible common experience of “Jesus Christ what am I” for the kid’s childhood (or their whole life, who knows), but you can’t tell me that our Black/white and Korean/Indian kid have any inherent cultural commonality. Excluding Barack Obama from the “Black” category because of 50% of his bloodline or the complexion of the people that brought him up is a scary notion.

What’s Blackness? Is it the music you listen to (rap)? Is it your IQ (low)? Is it your economic background (poor)? Is it how many gold chains you can fit on your wrist (a lot)?

The Effect Abroad

And yes, any Black person knows that the above have nothing to do with your being Black. Unfortunately, though, there are plenty of non-Black people out there that don’t get this. I’m not just talking about white kids here. The whole “Barack is not Black” line is not limited to the US, kids. Dig this topic from popular Japanese social site Kotonoha:

オバマ氏は日焼けしすぎた白人 (Obama is just an over-tanned white guy).

So somewhere, ladies and gentlemen, we have shown the rest of the world that being smart/well-spoken/successful is the antithesis of Blackness. It’s not just the police in LA and Atlanta that think this, it’s not your middle school principal, it’s the general, global populace (remember when Davey D said something similar?) (bonus points: Same Japanese website, different topic: “ 目の前に黒人がいると怖い / I’m Afraid of Black People“)

I’ve said this before, and I still believe it – America has one of the most uniquely screwed up race complexes I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve traveled that much, but still). This isn’t helping anybody. And the further that this thing goes, the more that this is going to come out into the open. I can’t say that that’s a bad thing.


Enough of me, though – what do you think?

Bonus closing joke – I don’t know any Black people that use words like “bamboozled” or “hornswoggled”. I hereby call Spike Lee’s Blackness into question. Can I get an amen?

okay, okay, a funky drummer?