Monday, April 24, 2006

Interview with rapper John Eff Kennedy

Jay Eff Kay is a rare breed of rapper. He's political but he's hilarious. He's deep but he likes to entertain. He's raw but very intelligent. Jay Eff Kay is someone I can relate too, in that he went and did all the "right" things, like go to college, get a good job, and live a meaningless, respectable life. Then, he looked back at that, and saw it for what it was. Then he said, F-everything, Im gonna be a rapper, and I will tell the truth! With clever, witty lyrics, tight metaphors and ill punchlines and most importantly an insight into the state of the world, Jay Eff Kay is ready to take the rap industry by storm. How will a fickle rap audience react? I don't know if an audience addicted to BS commercial rap crap is ready! Jay is ready to take on the rap game....

Who are your influences?

Jay-Z, Eminem, Fabolous and Biggie are heroes to me. 90% of the time I have music on it's them. I just study their albums over and over. Thematically, I emulate Springsteen, Dylan,Johnny Cash: I sorta try to paint a portrait of America like they do. But, I was a latchkey kid, so every other type of media is a huge inflence, from Hellraiser to Fight Club to South Park to Luv Dat Asian Azz 2. Nowadays, underage girl's "view pics" sections on Myspace.

What made you start rapping?

Someone gave me the Slim Shady EP during my first summer of college. That got me all ratcheted up. I didn't realize that you could do so much with rap until that point. I borrowed a 4-track from an indie rocker friend and started lobbing down rhymes that summer, at night after work. I kept developing my material since then -- writing in between classes and on lunchbreaks at work. I saw it as a hobby until a couple years ago when I got into a real world job and just got suicidal. Then I had to make it what I do. Oddly, if you'd asked me in high school what I'd have wanted to be, I'd probably have said a politician.

Is the music you do shaped by your political views?

I'm a pretty angry dude and I attribute a lot of that to the socio-political set up in America.
Some of my songs overtly express those views, like "Bomb The Hamptons," and all of them contain at least some peppering with political nuggs. Life is just so political nowadays you can't avoid that. In my song about college, I'll drop a line like "And I thank god for affirmative action, it let me put my sperm into latins."

What do you think of politics and hip hop? Do they mix?

Fuck yea. In the early 90's all the biggest rappers where these angry political heads -- Cube, Ice T, PE. That was the highwater mark, tho this is the low point we got now. I was on today and they said "politically, [Kanye] just might be the most important voice in rap." That's just fucked to me. He'll drop one shit-for-brains conspiracy theory line in a song that's 99% percent about what a hero he is (see "Diamonds...") and that's enough to get called political? That's the best the son of a sociology professor and former Black Panther can do? Sadly, a lot of my generation is chill with that, with not having any kind of deeper analysis. We want our politics in these fluffy soundbytes that you can eat on the runlike it's Go-gurt.

How is your music shaped by your experience?

My music is all about the typical American experience, which is pretty much what I've had. Born in the city (Boston's Hyde Park) went to high school in suburbia, went to school, got a shitty job working for a company where I was just a number, became angry and disillusioned. I add a lot of cartoonish violence and sex, but the American experience is also filled with that stuff.

What is your target audience? Who do you want to hear you music?

I want to be "America's rapper", like Bruce is America's rocker. The populist rapper, reaching listeners from that 8th grade girl who's getting the parental consent for abortion number four to that agitated office worker listening to CDs in their cubicle as they plot the incineration of company headquarters. That means I try to make my music as accessible as possible, with listener friendly beats, sing-song lyrics, clear diction, lots of cusses. A lot of rappers alienate a broader audience by relying on abraisive production or impenetrable lyrics.

What is your preference? Vinyl or Digital?

All the street corner mixtapes in NYC are on CDs so...

Who is your favorite artist in the industry? In the underground?

That's a tie between Jay-Z, Em & Fabolous. I don't listen to any "underground" rap really. Cream rises to the top, and there's a reason most underground rappers stay underground. I trust Kay Slay and them to sort through the underground and tell me who's worth listening to.

Do you prefer Atlanta crunk or Miami bass?

I like rapping over both.

Is there a "Hyphy Movement"?


Why the name Jay Eff Kay?

It's both pop cultural and political, a combo I aim for.

Do you have a favorite president?

LBJ. He signed the Civil Rights Act and more importantly there is this story about him showing his kahk to some Japanese reporters and saying: "Don't see 'em this big out here, do they?"

What is your favorite political weblog? Hip hop weblog?

I don't regularly crack open any political blogs. Online, I get all my political news rawdog from (which I consider the most objective of the news network's websites..though certainly it's not entirely objective). I don't need any repackaging from a blog. I find hip hop blogs (and hip hop writing in general -- not including this blog of course -- ;)) are just where haters go to die. Hip hop writing is currently the antithesis to what hip hop is about. Limp wristed writers, bitter about their grad school debt and smallish statures, being snarky towards top selling artists. Lighten up -- get some fresh air. Grab a beer, I got some high school seniors on Myspace I can introduce you to.

You think the US government will attack Iran? What do you think will come of

My understanding is that if Iran is dealt with in any way, it would be by an international coalition -- that Europe especially is supportive of an intervention here, in a way they were not with Iraq. Honestly, I think Iran will vag out and back off before anything happens anyways.

Do you think protesting has become too commercialized and watered down?

Yeah, basically it's like what hippies do now that Phish broke up, or a fashion show for Laguna Beach types who want to feel "all political & stuff." If you really want to make a difference, hit the internet or write a column in your shitty school paper. The evidence its just a scene is that if you go to a political rally for one thing, you see signs for another thing that's totally unrelated. My brother was at an anti-war rally and saw signs that said "End Racism."
Like, they dont' even bother reading what the rally is about before they drag their bongos over to it.

What is the future of political rap? Will it make a comeback?

Inevitably. Everything is in place for it. There has never been a more democratic medium, except maybe punk music. any kid can just grab a mic and a beatmaking program ripped off LimeWire and just air their thoughts. And we live in a more political climate than we did a decade ago, so maybe that will be the sperm that fertilizes this ripe ovum. Some people have been hyping Sai or Papoose as the next big political things, but I'm thinking beyond that, like the rap Rage Against the Machine. In some ways i hope I'm seen like that, tho maybe with a bit more humor.

Who is your favorite political rapper?

I don't really listen to any "political" rappers nowadays. Most artists today who package themselves that way are just unlistenable -- they just beat people over the head with stuff.Even I bristle when someone calls me "political" b/c I try to be more complex that than.

Who do you prefer, KRS-One or Chuck D?

The only KRS-One I know is from that "Radio" song with REM, which was pretty gay. So, Chuck D. "911 Is A Joke" came out when I was in 7th grade and that is one of the greatest political songs of any genre. Addresses an issue, but it'll get you singing along, get your
remaining teste jigglin'. That's pretty much what I aim for.

Parting words: Anorexic chicks, add me up on myspace at and everyone else look for my debut album "Unamerican Idol" out this summer.

Check out Jay Eff Kay on:
His weblog
Jay Eff Kay on Sonic Bids
Battle of the Bands
Check out all his music on FunEnder!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Excerpt from an article "Hip Hop and Gangs"

Hip Hop music video watchers may have noticed a few years ago everyone was throwing up what appeared to be gang signs. In videos, CD covers, promo photos and aligning them selves with certain colors alluding to gang affiliations. I remember watching TRL and a certain corn ball ass rapper came out throwing up a “Playboy Crip” sign. That’s a Mexican west coast gang, not a NY black gang. Now, if you’re some impressionable kid from the ‘burbs or some inner city kid looking to be a part of something, what would think? Maybe he’s a triple O.G. and all the people behind him are in his gang? “Takes more than some niggas wearing the same colors and silly ass hand movement to be a gang” says a member of a Baltimore gang.

Read the rest on KandunOnline

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jack the Rapper: Part One of a Series on Patriarchy and Hip-hop

Inconveniently enough, there is no one person we can isolate from society and hold up as the architect of patriarchy. Every individual, from birth onward, enter into relations which are patriarchal, whether we are on the dominating or the subordinate side of the coin. Oftentimes we say that people simply perpetuate sexism, whether they are the cause of it or not. This is partially true. Yet sexism is perpetuated daily, whether we actively participate or not.

Who takes the blame for this social construct? Young, black, male, rappers, of course. It is true. Black men in general have been the scapegoats whom society pushes off its ugliest of ills: violence, poverty, crime, etc.; all have found black men at the center of these social phenomenon. And because hip-hop has always been the creative medium for many young, black men, it takes on a more acute guilt.

Read the rest (including a comparison between Lil Jon and Common) on Kansas City Infozine!