Tag Archives: Hip hop music

Album of the Week: “No More Heroes” by Solillaquists of Sound

solillaquists-of-sound-no-more-heroes

Daniel’s Thought:

“I wrestle with a number of routine judgments and trials,” Alexandrah sings on “The Curse.” “They’re counting down the days till I’ll be dead, or change my style. Assumptions made by stranger’s everyday, like they’ve read my files. Laymen relate with jokes they make. The catch to my laughter is I’m forcing a smile.”

This is Sollilaquists of Sound (SoS), the hip-hop quartet from Orlando, Florida, and sprawling over No More Heroes are themes of social exploration, political and governmental injustice and the media’s far-reaching hands. It’s an accomplishment to get these topics on point throughout the length of an album, but what really stands out is that No More Heroes writes itself as a detailed self-reflection by a group that is merely trying to understand the due process of life. “It’s the curse of pioneer, but I know I got a good thing going here.”

It’s quite easy for an artist to fall one of two ways when constructing conceptual pieces like this. On one end, you can easily trade meaning for melody and fall prisoner to being melodically obsessed. On the other end, you can sacrifice all aspects of melody in order to display a concise project. With these options, an album can be strong, but it’s far from complete. However, No More Heroes pushes both sides evenly, as it neither strays nor conforms on thematic atmosphere.

The obvious thing revolving around No More Heroes is that it’s an effective social outfit. On the electric bubbling opener “Marvel,” which cross-bends up-tempo breakbeats and flow that’s soaked in classic OutKast influence, SoS tackles being socially conscious. By the near end of the song however it starts to become apparent that this is also one of many points where the quartet questions ones self (“Take a little credit for your faults/Halt that personal closure towards your vault.”). Elsewhere, the album covers the media’s negative persona (“Popcorn”), exploitation (“Harriet Tubman, Pt. 2”) and an artistically drawn tribute to the late great J Dilla (“Death of the Muse”).

Although the subject matter gracing No More Heroes is nothing new, it’s presented in both a detailed and melodic stance, further proving that message without melody is meaningless. The variation provides a process for the listener that isn’t boring, and in the end it’s rewarding to find out that the album has many peaks. Spanning just over 60 minutes, No More Heroes lends us a hand in further understanding the world and what encompasses it; furthermore, it teaches us about ourselves and that there is no restriction to thought and what we can accomplish.

Gus’ Thought:

The 2008 album, No More Heroes, by the Sollilaquists of Sound is a first-rate listen from start to finish because of the musicianship, lyricism and message contained within it. The quartet made up of MCs Alexandrah, Swamburger, poet Tonya Combs and producer Divinci hailing from Orlando deliver an album combining spoken word, rapping, singing, live instrumentation and inventive beats. The first song “Marvel” begins with a womp-like bass line that quickly transitions into a deliberate drumbeat layered with synthesizer. From there, we move to “Harriet Tubman, pt. 2” where the group examines the consequences of exploitation in the United States due to the obsession with making a profit. As Swamburger states, “Now eeny-meeny-miny-mo/Aunt Jemima, Sambo/Uncle Ben and Mammy too/Which one are you black people? Forced to package soul in boxes.” No More Heroes is important because of how it confronts social issues with thoughtful lyricism and good music.

Within No More Heroes, there is a continuous shift between fast, medium and slow songs. This makes the album enjoyable to listen to because as Swamburger continually demonstrates his skill as an MC, Alexandrah will swoop in out of nowhere, counterbalancing Swamburger’s rhymes with her beautiful and melodic voice. For instance, “Popcorn” and “The Curse” are slower, more reflective songs that are made by Alexandrah’s voice. Following these is “Dolla Dolla,” a groovy, faster paced piece accompanied by a New Orleans style brass ensemble. At this point on the album, it seems that it couldn’t get any better. Then, “Death of the Muse” drops. This song features J Dilla’s mother Ma Dukes, J-Live and Chali 2na. Highlighting hip-hop royalty, “Death of the Muse” pays tribute to the legend that is J.

As a musical composition, No More Heroes is a tour de force. However, what makes this album even more remarkable is the political, social and economic messages embedded within each song. On “The Roots of Kinte,” Swamburger spits over sample hand drums. “Hello my name is whatever the game is/Whatever it’ll take to make you famous.” In “New Sheriff in Town,” Alexandrah describes: “Case of break, rape of address/Vacant cranium, man do the rest/Found best kept secret property of government suddenly/Now youth owes rent, tenant of stress.” Some music is pleasurable to listen to because of the musicality, but lacks any sort of consciousness or message. I am not saying that every song has to have some sort of political meaning. However, in the case of No More Heroes, the critically conscious messages embedded within the music makes the album an entertaining, and educational experience.

Must-Listens:
“The Curse”
“Marvel”
“Death of the Muse”

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Hip-Hop and Its Influence: An Interview With David Kirkland (Part Two)

By: Gus Navarro

This is the second half of a two-part interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland about hip-hop and its educational impact. Dr. Kirkland is a professor at Michigan State University and one of the coordinators of ULITT and directors of CAITLAH. In this part of the interview, Dr. Kirkland comments on the transformative power of hip-hop education. For additional context, check out the first half part of this interview which can be found here.

Excerpts taken from an interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland on February 26 th, 2013…

GN: In what ways does hip-hop manifest itself in education and educational circles?

DK: Right, so let me just say there are two things in education. You can talk about hip-hop in education. Some of us have talked about hip-hop in education, ways to use hip-hop to teach other things. And so you can do that. We call it scaffolding or bridging. You can use Tupac in order to teach the classics if you will. You can use Tupac in order to teach literary devices and elements like chiasmus, consonants, and other types of rhetorical literary ideas or entities. You can use rap in order to create a mnemonic device to memorize mathematics, its been done. I call that hip-hop in education. But hip-hop education is the type of education or pedagogy that hip-hop is established in. Hip-hop teaches. It works in the tradition of the African Griot. It works in that oral tradition, it works in the oral tradition of the street press where individuals would come together and they would collect stories and they would collect histories. It works in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History in the sense that it has its own pedagogy, its own moment. So the cypher becomes this space where everyone is equal but at the same time in order to be elevated within that cypher, the cypher is trying you. Its like a cauldron, it invites you in, but it doesn’t let you remain the same, you have to put your energy out there; you have to be vulnerable. So, hip-hop education suggests a vulnerability, it has its own language, its language is rap. And rap isn’t just the science of rhyme; it’s the science of truth. So when we hear hip-hop artists talking about rap, the thing that makes rap significant isn’t just a rhyme, it’s that it gets close to truth. It’s saying things that people realize. This is hip-hop education. Hip-hop education is the element of pedagogy, the element of education that exists within the hip-hop idea. And it’s not necessarily the traditional education that we understand or know.

GN: So going off of that, can hip-hop education or hip-hop pedagogy exist in mainstream schools?

DK: I think hip-hop in education can exist in mainstream schools, but hip-hop education is a school in and of itself. I think schooling should and can be informed by hip-hop. We should do school more like we do hip-hop. We should have cyphers break out that invite people, we should break down the walls of schooling and construct education and the education imagination based on how people understand and live life today. And hip-hop gives us a glimpse into that. So if we think about education and how it’s constructed today we have to go back to history. We have to go back to post-industrial history where you had labor laws that prohibited youth from working. So we needed some repositories to place these kids so we constructed these entities and the architect of these entities were usually the architects of prisons and factories. We also had this really interesting agrarian culture; what to do in the winter? So we set up this thing where you go to school in the winter and in the summer you don’t. So the imagination around how we look at schooling today isn’t necessarily the most effective way to do school for now because it was based on a society and culture that is long past. So there is an argument to re-think education anyhow. But hip-hop gives us this third space, this site of really interesting creation, both pedagogical creation as well as performative creation coming together to inform the ways that people learn; the way that the mind is impressed upon. And I think that’s important.

GN: I think it is too and off of that, what do you do at Michigan State to carry these things out? Is it just in class or are there other programs that you’re involved in within MSU? And what is the approach to these programs?

DK: Well Michigan State University is a hegemonic space. It’s a fairly traditional space with really good people in it pushing against traditions. But there is one thing about dominant hegemony is that they have gravity to them. We can pull up, but we can only pull so long before the thing gets heavy and it falls back in its place. But I have done some things at Michigan State University within my classes because I think it’s important. This goes back to the question of why teach hip-hop? I don’t want to teach hip-hop because it engages youth, that’s important. I can give the youth candy, that will engage them too and it will hurt their teeth. I teach hip-hop because it’s smart to do so. We teach Shakespeare, we teach Dante, we teach all these other people I called “hip-hopgraphers.” We teach them because it’s smart to do so. If in the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity? I teach it because it’s smart to teach hip-hop. I’m not going to wait until Tupac is dead a hundred years to say, “wow, lets reflect on this.” We need to reflect on it now. Because by reflecting on it, it gives us a way to understand ourselves in powerful and important ways and to re-shape the world that we live in, so that it can be more inviting and more beneficial to more people. So I say that to say, I teach it in my class because I have to, because its what makes us smart by studying and examining hip-hop today. I also created a set of interventions. One intervention is our Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching (ULITT). It is a hip-hop pedagogy retreat that I brought to Michigan State University. This year is our second year into that, and we’ve seen transformative results. I got an email today from a teacher that told me that one of her participants told her that the event changed her life. That she found healing as well as strategy through it and for me, that’s important. So I’m trying to open up spaces at Michigan State University. I don’t know how long those spaces will be open before the powers that be close them, but for as long as we can keep them open, we’re going keep them open.

GN: Thank you very much, I appreciate you sitting down with me and talking.

DK: Thank you.

It is important to reflect on the purpose of schooling and education. The public school system as we know it comes from the Technological Revolution of the early 19th century. Schools were modeled after factories that were essential to the United State’s economy. Kids get union breaks too, its just called recess. As students move through school they are indoctrinated into the “American Way” and are prepared to enter the work force by the end of their education. Having the skills to find a job is in no way a bad thing, but it may be time to approach this in a different way. With the continual push towards globalization our world cannot function without things such as computers, the Internet and smart phones. Nowadays there are so many ways in which we can express ourselves and connect with people. Using hip-hop as a worldview, as a way of reading the world and interacting with others allows teachers and students to collaborate and learn together. Hip-hop education gets away from the one-size fits all educational model of testing and standardization. Hip-hop education creates a space where students are encouraged to create and learn using multiple disciplines such as writing, music, film, photography, art and dance all while pushing students to develop the agency to navigate the complex society we live in. When we focus on testing, we are not supporting students to be curious and ask conceptual questions about their communities. If we want to use hip-hop education, we have to be willing to change how we do school and how we teach students. To build off Dr. Kirkland’s statement, he is not talking about using lyrics to teach the 50 states. That is hip-hop in education and super status quo. Instead, he is talking about using the worldview of hip-hop to teach students to be curious, critical, vulnerable and to use their experiential knowledge. As Dr. Kirkland explains, “In the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity?” This is not a traditional model of education, but it is time that we at least consider what this could do for our students as they grow and learn about the world around them.

*You can check out Dr. Kirkland’s blog at davidekirkland.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @davidekirkland.

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Dear Readers: An Open Letter From the Editor

Dear Readers,

First off, I must tip my hat, give a bow and thank you personally. If you are reading this letter, then you are reading Bonus Cut, and for that I thank you immensely. It means so much to me just to have readers and people viewing Bonus Cut and I am blessed with everyone that visits and continues to visit in the future (I promise that every issue will have great stuff).

If you’re wondering what Bonus Cut exactly is, I will try to help. But first: did you read our “about” section? If not, I suggest you do that, because really, that’s what we are. If you’re still confused, then here’s a short story for yall.

I initially came up with the idea for Bonus Cut about two years ago, although it was nothing like it is now. Back then I had become part of a small thread online that discussed Hip hop, shared music and introduced new artists. It was a relief at first, but as time grew I soon realized that I wanted to delve further into the culture. A year later I started a small blog that posted music and photos, but that wasn’t enough. Simply sharing music had good intentions, but there was so much more to this great culture that I wanted to share and discuss.

By the near end of 2012 I came up with the idea to start a site that touched on more than just music. I wanted to it to discuss Hip hop culture in general, its impact on worldview culture, worldview culture’s impact on Hip hop, the genre’s reflection on politics and humanity and its portrayal of everyday life. Of course, I also wanted the site to share new and old music alike, but I wanted to make sure that wasn’t the only thing Bonus Cut was after.

I realized soon that I couldn’t do this alone. I’ve tried running sites and blogs by myself, and slowly they became monumental to the point where it was too much for me to handle.

With that on my mind, I contacted one of my good friends, who was perhaps the one guy who understood the underlying theme I wanted Bonus Cut to reflect. It’s taken quite some time for us to prepare this, but Gus and I are finally ready to unleash Bonus Cut to the public.

It’s quite weird sitting here now, because I want this to become something people look forward to every week, and I want it to succeed beyond my imagination, but that’s not the most important thing about Bonus Cut. The most important thing to me is that no matter how many people will read this week by week, we’re going to be spreading the love of Hip hop to at least someone. And for that I’m grateful.

With that being said, the buck doesn’t stop here. There are improvements to be made, more writers to contribute and ideas to be shared. I expect this to be a gradual process, but a successful one, and once again, thank you readers. Thank you.

Also, not to sell myself here, but if you’re a fan of Hip hop and want to talk about it and what it means to you, why not write for Bonus Cut? Information can be found under the “about” drop-down box near our header!

-Daniel

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