Monthly Archives: September 2010

America’s Addiction: Currently, in Los Angeles, there are over 40,000 men and women in gangs; in the United States, close to a million.

America’s Addiction

Currently, in Los Angeles, there are over 40,000 men and women in gangs; in the United States, close to a million.

“A house divided cannot stand,” observes Cornell Ward, Executive Director of the Unity One Foundation and former gang member. “When I first got into it, I had my brother with me; we grew up in the neighborhood together and then drugs came into the picture. Suddenly, he wants half the block to sell his drugs, and we’re against each other. Then, two others want part of the block; there are four of us. It spread in that way. Now there are over 9,500 gangs in L.A.”

When Ward turned 19, he became affiliated with Rick Ross, a.k.a. “Freeway Ricky Ross,” (drug lord not rapper), an L.A. narcotics trafficker who transformed the cocaine trade by mass -producing crack through Central America. Ross reportedly earned $2 million dollars in one day while also furthering his trade into other cities across the U.S.

Ward was Ross’ top lieutenant.

“I was the youngest kingpin in the area,” notes Ward. “I remember when I was ten years old. I walked in and saw my uncle smoking a pipe and I didn’t know what it was. Ten years later and he’s my first client. That’s how it works. We are conditioned to chase the root of evil.”

Some claim it’s a territorial matter or lack of good policing, but, according to Ward, the relationship between drugs and gangs is a marriage. One almost couldn’t exist without the other. He now works for the Unity One Foundation, creating programs that translate street skills into business tactics, as a way of reforming youth by redirecting their intellectual assets. What clever sales strategies they’ve developed through drug trading can effectively be applied in a corporate setting; where they used to “re-up” on drugs, they can instead do with stocks.

“There is not a gang problem, there is a substance problem,” adds Ward. “It leads to depression, lack of education and understanding. Even if you’re just producing crack, you get high off the slightest touch or inhalation, and it leads to a confused state of mind. You don’t go out and do a drive-by shooting in a right state of mind.”

Ward equates gang proliferation with a state of modern slavery, the role of slave and master defined by substance and abuser. He also points to the fact that the U.S. government negates the urgency of the problem, allowing it to exacerbate unnoticed. In fact, statistics show that over 50% of homicides in L.A. are attributed to gang violence, likely the result of mass drug funneling from the border.

“The government has satellites monitoring the moon in outer space, yet they can’t tell us how much dope is being shipped in,” comments Ward. “People don’t care because they think it doesn’t affect their families, but it’s a source of money that feeds into everything. Wall Street’s driven by it. Miami’s built on it. Everyone blames it on kids and poverty, but gangs wouldn’t survive without drugs.”

Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are living proof of the prominence of cocaine within Hollywood’s elite, and a CNN report last year on Bernie Madoff’s notorious firm displays evidence of corruption with American business. As stated in the report, Madoff allegedly financed a “cocaine-fueled work environment,” diverting money abroad when “federal authorities were closing in at home.” Additional accusations assert employees were sent as runners so commonly that his office earned the nickname, “The North Pole.”

Where there’s demand, there must be supply, yet it is America’s unsung, impoverished neighborhoods which feel the greatest burden. Everyday children are born into homes where drugs are a way of life, and die because of competition to sell. The recurring stories of death in Mexico provide further testament to the necessity for U.S. officials to review both drug policy and prevention techniques.

“There are no success stories unless you can get out, and you can only get out when you reach a spiritual understanding that the dope game destroys everything you love,” comments Ward. “When my child was born, my wife had a heart attack and my baby had its bladder hanging out. I had to give blood so my wife could have a transfusion…Most people don’t get a chance to see it…Kids don’t even believe you can survive on the streets without going to jail.”

Subsequently, the trade proliferates in jail, as traffickers are able to increase cliental and many don’t make it out alive. Ward suggests the only solution is to “speak life” into youth.

“It can be like palm trees though, which take five years to sprout after you plant the seeds,” he adds. “By the first year, there’s nothing. The second year, still nothing.  The third year, nothing again, and then people give up. Most people give up before anything can happen.”

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– Courtney Garcia

Liner Notes: Lip Gloss On Steroids

Lip Gloss on Steroids

Most of you may are probably too young to remember the Coolio 1994 hit “Fantastic Voyage” (which was actually borrowed from the 1980 song of the same name by Ohio-based funkadelics Lakeside), but he video was summer-beach party incarnate. The opening sequence, before the music starts, sees Coolio answer a call from his friend Spoon, who suggests the two of them get to the beach for a barbecue. Coolio’s frustrated response is: “How we gonna get there? We aint got no CAR!” Coolio slams down the phone and then mutters, “Fool.” As the music starts, a funked-out, masculine, magical fairy godfather appears and turns Coolio’s busted-ass bicycle into a completely pimped out convertible. Coolio and Spoon’s dilemma has been solved. They turn up their car stereo, gather all the ladies they can find (by loading them into a bottomless trunk as they cruise the town), and head on down to the beach for a summertime party. This is just but one example of a music video centered around a car, and it’s all-important kick ass stereo system.

How should we perceive music that is blared in public space? Is thundering out sounds from a car stereo while cruising at seven miles per hour through an urban center considered rude? Obnoxious? Or a permitted freedom of expression? Some people get very annoyed by any automobile that pumps base out of its subwoofer loud enough to rattle the coffee pots on the local Starbucks as it creeps by. Others become impressed and awed at the sheer power of the stereo, the slickness of the vehicle, and the overall edge in the driver’s style and musical taste, rubbernecking towards the sound as if it was a bad car accident. But I wonder what of the intention of the driver? Is the volume and song for him only, and you are just a spectator that happens to catch the effects of being near enough to hear it? Or is he playing it for you–so you will listen and the decision has nothing to do with him at all?

Perhaps the more important question that needs to be asked psychologically is: what is the driver of the vehicle attempting to draw your attention to? Assuming we all agree that the loud stereo and slow cruising speed is calculated to make the public look at him and his car, the following question has to be: but for what reason? Is the driver trying to draw attention to: a) himself; b) his car; c) his stereo; d) the song; or e) a combination of all four? Why do some people spend so much money on car stereos? It is plainly not just for their (meaning the ‘drivers and passengers’) listening enjoyment, but it is so everyone around them can hear their music as well. Are they imitating a music video like the one described above? Are they attempting to relive something they think is cool from a memory in their younger days of other cars they witnessed while once walking along a street? Or is it just another ploy to get the attention of members of the opposite sex the same way birds sing, roosters crow, and crickets rub their legs.

Letting the public know what kind of music one likes is a fairly common expressive. The way someone dresses can say a lot about the ‘genre’ of popular culture to which they are attracted. Each type of music has its own “style” so to speak, and I think we would all agree that the Bronx hip-hop fan would probably dress differently than the Park Slope indie fan. The loud car stereo is a combination of being able to share with the world those likes and tell and show off the economic power one has to purchase expensive items that are not part of a ‘factory’ modeled component. Their car stereo is not intended for FM radio at moderate volumes. Furthermore, it imposes a specific sound (the style of music being listened to) onto the rest of the community. This gives voice to a particular subsection of society that may otherwise be viewed as unimportant or subversive. In other words, it is a, “I am here” statement. “Listen up. Pay attention to me and hear what I have to say.”

Finding ways to draw attention to oneself is nothing new in our culture. Lip-gloss that shines, body glitter that sparkles, shoes that raise heights, hair color that stands out as not being natural, these are all subliminal social practices and decisions we make that help others around us take notice and subconsciously classify us. There is a lot that we do in our society that subconsciously falls into the category of “daily routine” so that people will observe our existence. Choosing to install an Alpine iDA-X305 into your Honda Civic and then turning the volume of your newest K’naan album up to -14dBs while puttering around the main drag by the beach is not a subconscious effort at all–it is extremely conscious. Sure, it may be something practiced only by the overly extroverted, but it is just another form of self-expression and nothing more or less.

So, if you are like me, and you find yourself annoyed with the vehicle that sits at the red light with its stereo blasting at the sound level of a jet engine, try not to be so bothered. The driver is doing nothing wrong, and in a way it is just another form of hair dye or lip-gloss on steroids.

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– Kory French

New Album Releases: Ft. Black Mountain, Dungen & Your Youth

Canadian psychedelic rock-band Black Mountain has just released their third full-length studio album Wilderness Heart. The five friends turned bandmates began jamming up north in 2004 crafting songs that mince heavy rock tinged around the outside with some metal influence.

Their new album reflects a slightly more folk imbued design than the bands earlier more hard hitting work. But fear not Black Mountain fans, the bands’ latest brain-child is still structured around deep, low rumbling guitar riffs and raspy but precise vocals. Some of the tunes are strongly reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age with a slightly more alt-rock feel. There is also a definite 70’s rock influence going on here but the slower pacing of “Old Fangs”, and songs like “Buried By the Blues” show the band being able to mold their sound into something wholly original.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic Swedish folk rockers Dungen have recently released their sixth studio album Skit I Allt (English translation: Fuck it All) courtesy of Mexican Summer. Headed by Renaissance man Gustav Ejstes, Dungen has seen many changes in its lineup since its inception in 1999 but Ejstes  creative control has been a constant. The young Swede has sang, produced, and arranged, his way through six records thus far and he’s only 31 years old.

Though the lyrics are all in Swedish the bands 2004 release Ta Det Lugnt brought the band national acclaim within indie-rock circles. Their latest release is likely to help them maintain that extended recognition. Skit I Allt plays out an interesting menagerie of genres. To such an extent that its hard to define their style here.

Elements of classical, jazz, indie, and psychedelic rock intermingle in settled plateaus of sound. However, while Dungen is able to successfully synthesize these competing genres into a smooth, well-woven tapestry, the overall modus operandi at times seems indiscernible.

The best song on the album is probably “Brallor”, a rhythmic track that guitarist Reine Fisk leads with  poignant and well-placed gritty riffing that evens out the songs lean on reverb. This year has proven to be a busy one for Dungen, marking the onset of their biggest international tour to date, including an appearance at indie-film darling Jim Jarmusch’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, a high quality alt-rock festival held in the woodlands of upper New York.

Brooklyn bred noisy pop-rock group Your Youth has just released their debut album Aloha. The album is an exercise in pop- infused fuzziness. Light, airy and head-boppin’ tunes fly off this record, making it an aptly named endless summer serenade.

“Rip Live” is a 90’s infused hard-drumming number that features sing-song lyrics. “Diamond” is a catchy- chorused riff which the band released as the first teaser single in early August. The EP can strike you as a little too repetitive at times, both in its structure as a whole and in it’s unfaltering adherence to 90’s band pop-rock styles. Still, Your Youth’s Aloha is a great choice for those wishing to extend their summer carefree vibe. An impressive first album sure to please indie-pop lovers.

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– Amanda Decker

AOTW: Black Mountain

Psychedelia, folk, and a whole lot of rock can be found on the latest release from the Vancouver, Canada based quintet Black Mountain. The band released Wilderness Heart, their third studio album on September 14th. Their new album comes complete with a more polished sound that still holds true to their 70s-esque, psychedelic-rock feel.

Wilderness Heart, released on Black Mountain’s label Jagjaguwar, may be their most radio-friendly and easily digestible to date. Though, their uniqueness is not lost in a pop-filled oblivion. Frontman Stephen McBean’s vocals remaining slightly haunting with an old-school rock-n-roll flare. However, he seems to be projecting more and the vocals just seem more crisp specifically on tracks like “The Hair Song” featuring the sensual vocal accompaniment of Amber Webber. The song is not only one of the more palatable on the album it is absolutely delicious.

To achieve a more polished, mainstream sound the band used producers Randall Dunn (Boris and Sunn O))) ) and D. Sardy (Oasis and Rolling Stone). What is interesting is they recorded with Dunn in Seattle and Sardy in Los Angeles and you can almost hear the difference in location within the tracks. It seems as though the tracks recorded in Seattle have a much more mellow vibe. The differing moods on the album make for one complete package and though some disagree, one of their most ambitious and rewarding albums to date.

Keep listening to BreakThru Radio for music from Black Mountain and if you get a chance be sure to catch them on tour.

Black Mountain LIVE!!!

Sep 27  –  Festsaal Kreuzberg  –  Berlin, Germany
Sep 28  –  59:1  –  Munich, Germany
Sep 29  –  Salumeria della Musica –  Milan, Italy
Sep 30  –  Bronson  –  Ravenna, Italy
Oct  01  –  Circolo degli Artisti  –  Rome, Italy
Oct  03  –  Le Romandie  –  Lausanne, Switzerland
Oct  04  –  La Maroquinerie –  Paris, France
Oct  05  –  Ancienne Belgique – Brussels, Belgium

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– Emily Smith

Setlist: Party Hour

Chromeo can often be heard on PARTY HOUR

Saturday nights on BreakThru Radio are anything but down time. If you are one of those individuals who enjoys decompressing on a Saturday evening after a long week at work with a good book or a long movie, DJ J Dayz’s Party Hour is not for you. However, for those of you who like to get your night started at the stroke of midnight, then check out DJ J Dayz and The Party Hour (which airs at 10pm) for some of the world’s most fresh and upcoming electronic beats.

Featuring “a great playlist of independent music” from around the world, DJ J Dayz likes the focus of his show to be about mixing up all the genres that add to a great party atmosphere. “The show has everything from dub step tracks featuring Rusko to electro dance by Deadmau5, to the latest releases from Chromeo and La Roux. Plus a mix of independent hits brought to you by Kid Sister, N.E.R.D. and Chali 2na,” J Dayz writes about his most recent program that airs this coming Saturday night. And of course, not to be forgotten, “also in the mix tonight is one of my personal favorite hip-hop tracks of this year, “Monster” featuring some of the hottest MC’s in the game.”

Give credit to DJ J Dayz; the music is far ranging. The title may lead the listener to believe s/he is in for a solid hour of techno, but this isn’t the case. J Dayz covers all his tracks of the great party mixer dropping funk, Euro-disco, drum and bass, and some hip-pop. Regardless of what style it is, it all has one thing in common; it is made for a Saturday night party. Even listening to the show myself right now, I find it hard to not want to go out and hit a club or bar and start my weekend off a little early.

There is more to just hearing the beats. DJ J Dayz walks his listener through the tracks he plays, which is refreshing in a genre that usually overlooks such analysis. After playing a new track of the recently released Chromeo sophomore album Business Casual. “Now some of you may be wondering what to expect from this new album,” J Dayz announces. “Well, of course you know Chromeo holds down a really cool vibe of kind of like eighties retro-electric funk, a nice fusion of sound, kind of has a nice old new-wave sound to it.” It isn’t often house DJ’s give album reviews between tracks, all the more reason to check out BTR’s Party Hour.

This is music that DJ J Dayz calls “crack for your ears … That addictive music.” It’s a great window into the indie scene of techno and hip-hop, and you could get addicted. Kanye West, La Roux, Zombie Disco Squad—there is really no placing one label to it. Perhaps this is why BTR decided on the somewhat generic Party Hour. There is no limiting party music, if it’s good and gets you moving on a Saturday Night or Sunday Morning, it could make its way onto DJ J Dayz’s program.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Allison Kilkenny: Unreported – MSNBC Agrees Pope Protests are Small and ‘Poisonous’

The establishment media is usually fairly dismissive of protests unless those “activists” are funded by a multi-million dollar astroturf organization like FreedomWorks. Millions of people can turn out to protest a war, but such a tremendously popular cultural movement isn’t seen as “authentic” until its participants represent the “correct” agenda.

For example the authoritarian, bigoted, right-wing Tea Party agenda. Only when a movement adopts the pre-approved, right-wing message will the media turn out in droves to cover a few hundred octogenarians caked in teabags, buzzing around the Mall on their Rascals.

Otherwise, the media covers protest as a bizarre spectacle waged by shrill, usually left-wing, extremists. The latest example is how MSNBC has thus far covered the Pope protests in London. Thousands came out to join the protests, and their list of grievances seems very reasonable. They criticize the Vatican for:

  • “opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids”
  • “promoting segregated education”
  • “denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women”
  • “opposing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, including universal decriminalisation of homosexuality”
  • “failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation

Being anti-AIDS and child rape hardly seem like the ideologies of extremists, right?

Well, not according to MSNBC, which chose to book a single guest to discuss the protests, George Weigel, frequent NRO contributor and author. Weigel has written several Vatican propaganda pamphlets masquerading as books, including one titled “The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.” Apparently, “victory” and “freedom” come in the forms of gender and sexuality discrimination, and facilitating the spread of AIDS.

It’s hardly surprising that Weigel immediately leapt to criticize the protests, which he dismissed as being small, insignificant, and “poisonous” to the overall atmosphere. Perhaps a protest organizer would have pointed out the Pope’s documented cover-up  of child rapists is actually poisonous for society, but we’ll never know because MSNBC chose not to invite a protest representative onto the show.

Link to this article:

– Allison Kilkenny

Liner Notes: The Marriage Between Music and Sports

It is past mid September already, and as summer washes into fall more and more each day, a lot of us are ending with the summertime fun and falling into the traditions of autumn. In America, there is one pastime that is as synonymous with fall as Christmas is to Winter—the good ol’ game of football. Now what does a radio station that features break out bands in New York City have anything to do with football? The answer is, “not much;” at least not on the surface anyhow.

BreakThru Radio does not even have a sports section, let alone any programming dedicated to sports news. This week’s edition of Liner Notes does not seek to give you a top ten list of 2010’s college football teams, debate the NFL’s upcoming games, or discuss who I think will win the World Series of Baseball. What I do intend to do is to make you think of the relationship between sports and music in a way that perhaps you haven’t before.

Arguably, sports and music account for one-half of the four institutions that most greatly effect and influence modern popular culture (fashion and technology being the other two). So what is the relationship between these two faculties? How does one play off the other? Are they interrelated, or are they two separate customs that have nothing to do with one another?

Sports, specifically college sports, have come to incorporate popular music into everything they do. Music is played by the bands at half time; during the warm-ups it is used to motivate the athletes; and sound clips from the day’s current top forty are inserted during breakage of play to keep the level of intensity and excitement high in the stands. Whether you are aware of it or not, music and sports are tightly braided pair.

One of the leading academic experts on the matter is University of Toronto musicology professor Kenneth McLeod. Pointing out in many articles how “music and sports connect in a number of ways: aesthetics, marketing approaches, and performance strategies,” McLeod asserts that the relationship between sports and music is a way many societies “construct gender and racial identity.” The role of pop music in sports, and vice versa, subconsciously assists in the creation of masculine and feminine roles in our society as well as separate and tie racial identities. Hip-Hop—Basketball—Black; Country—Nascar—White; Cheerleading—Football—Feminine. These are all samples of what McLeod is referring to.

Let me give you another example. Think of a recent Nike or Gatorade advertisement you saw on T.V. Now ask yourself not only how these companies use music to sell their product, but also how the music chosen creates the image of a professional athlete. Popular music is a marketing tool that is wisely used to inspire its viewer. A viewer will watch the sixty-second spot and make a subconscious connection between the athlete/sport and the music being played. What emerges is a blending effect, or what McLeod refers to as “sport-rock crossover” (although I would argue the connection goes beyond the genre of rock and into the other genres as well). For those of you who work out, how many of you do it to music and why do you think that is? Is it because you aim to imitate the image of your favorite athlete you saw on the Gatorade commercial? Or is it because the Gatorade commercial inspired you to workout and you imagined your workout to be just like the one you saw in the commercial?

Moving beyond advertising, how many of you have ever been to a live sporting event? Was there a band? Did the fans involve themselves in chanting or singing hometown ra-ra songs? Did the MC of the game play popular tracks in between plays and periods? Perhaps more prominent in soccer than any other sporting culture is the existence of the fan-chant; the world recognized “Olé” perhaps being the strongest example. In a lot of college football games here in the U.S., marching bands have recently evolved to include a mix of traditional marching songs with modern day popular tracks. Just look at this video of the Delaware State University marching band doing a medley of “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé, “One” by Mary J. Blige, “Death of Autotune” by Jay-Z, and “Boom, Boom, Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas as a prime example.

The last thing I will say on the matter is about the relationship between music and racial identity. Because I was a football player in college, the locker room is a scene I know all too well: one stereo; sixty young men from all different walks of life who are all trying to get jacked up at the same time for the same event. When I was playing ball, it was a constant battle between my black teammates wanting to hear DMX’s “What’s My Name” and my white teammates wanting to hear “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit. Of course what happens over the course of a season as a team bonds with one another, is that both songs come to motivate both groups of players and a cultural or racial fusion occurs. Sports and music bring together black and white. A little cliché for today’s time, I know, but this phenomenon has been around since the fifties and sixties and has played a major role in the coming together of two groups of people (look at the film Remember the Titans as an example).

So if you are a big music fan, and care nothing for sports, that’s fine. But don’t think that the music you make, or the music you like, doesn’t have an effect on athletes and the culture in which you live. Sports culture is massive all around the world, and what becomes popular in music sometimes does so because of a giant push from sports. Even ultimate indie hipsters in their skinny jeans and horizontally striped French navy tank tops can’t bypass the relationship between the two. As strange as it may be, world’s apart in style, there is still a common denominator between the Dallas Maverick fan and the Arcade Fire Fan.

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– Kory French