Monthly Archives: November 2008

Across 135th St.

Are we voting yet?

Writer/DJ/crowned sarcasm champ Chairman Mao kindly shared his experiences of last week’s historic election day in the USA, as well as these beautiful photos taken when he, his wife Andréa and son Trevor went to vote in Harlem.

The Chairman wrote: “Tuesday night was amazing. Baby Trevor was asleep so we didn’t hit 125th St. to join in the revelry after Obama’s victory was projected. (History or no history we weren’t waking him – if you ever have a kid you’ll understand; we took him out w/ us in the morning to vote, he did great, but that was enough.) Every car that drove down our block or up & down Lenox was honking, every group of folks who were walking down the street was yelling ‘Obama!’ Like I said since we didn’t venture out our experience was probably like that of others in most parts of NYC – or most blue-friendly cities across the country. We heard from friends who live in Austin TX that the reaction from just looking out the window was very much the same – folks leaning on their car horns, people literally celebrating in the street.

We popped a bottle of Dom P that we kept from when we got married & toasted. Andréa cried early & often during the news coverage – tears of joy, of course. But she was also thinking of her late grandfather, who she was very close with, and how great it would have been for him to have lived to see this. She called her dad – an old Harlemite now living in California – to share the moment.

Finally, America had done the right thing. (The non-white thing.)”

Read the rest of the Chairman’s words in this post I wrote today for the Academy blog, along with some thoughts from Stones Throw artist Aloe Blacc.

Lines Inside

Trevor Brando

Evolution is Televised


(photo by Liam Lynch)

Lisbon’s Buraka Som Sistema will win Best Portuguese Act in tonight’s MTV EMAs. I spoke to João Barbosa aka Lil’ John last night about what Buraka have been up to in the host city of Liverpool. So far, not much, it seems (apart from doing interviews for Portuguese TV stations).

The BSS beatmaker says they’ve been dodging crying fans of German emo band Tokio Hotel (who are staying in the hotel next door), trying to catch Wiley playing a show (“He didn’t show up…typical Wiley”) and accidentally ending up in the red light district (“We ran out of there as fast as we could”). But it’s Liverpool Music Week, and since they’ve now discovered the area with the good clubs, they might still have a few adventures while they’re there. Lil’ John isn’t sure if it’ll be at tonight’s awards ceremony though, where he thinks the locally nominated awards are a bit of a farce. “I’m not really that proud of it.”

Still, even if MTV sux, the nomination is interesting…Too easy to dismiss a sea-change of support as lucky timing. To hear more from Lil’ John on the subject, here is a post I wrote today for the RBMA blog.

Songs of Innocence

erik obama

As you might have noticed from the overbearing media coverage, some of us in Europe are pretty happy about Obama winning the election. OK, the election night party at local bar Stecken was only attended by 15 people, five of whom (like Frank West from Sin & Soul Records) were actually watching the footage. But I can assure you that plenty of people stayed up all night, snacking on pretzels and drinking herb liqueurs. Or at least until 4am, when CNN called Ohio for Obama and there didn’t seem to be any way for McCain to clinch it.

In the case of my friend Mina von Sneakerberg, she’s probably happy at least partly because she won’t get lectured so much about her home country’s foreign policy so much. Mina, who manages Legowelt’s Strange Life Records, lives in the Netherlands. Once when I went with her to see Mr Wolfers and Alden Tyrell play in Rotterdam, a VJ subjected us to images of Bush interspersed with the McDonalds symbol with a red line through it. McDonalds, unfortunately, doesn’t disappear when Bush goes out of office.

Mina says the Obama victory was good, but she wasn’t 100% re-enthused about American politics. “I’m really stoked, but also really confused and grumpy that we just voted in CA to ban gay marriage. What the fuck: it was finally made legal in May, and now it’s undone.”

Meanwhile, the election has given Germans pause to think about their own voting constituencies. Jan Niklas Jansen (below) plays in local Cologne band Locas in Love. They were recently in NYC to record their new album, for which Niklas is sewing up 250 handmade felt record sleeves. (maybe the majors are in worse financial straits than I thought…). I asked him if he’d talked to any of his American friends yesterday, and he said “They seemed relieved, in part just to have something new to talk about. It’s strange because I’ve never seen people around here affected by politics like that. Being there in September, I was interested to see people care about it so much. Because people here in Germany seem so disaffected, in a way.”

niklas obama

Over in the UK, our friend Tony Nwachukwu is going to play at a victory party at London’s Plastic People club tomorrow night. He says, “I stayed up all night whatching (sic) the results on our good ol’ BBC and as the results were uncovered, the true magnitude of what was about to happen finally kicked in..
London was a great place to be with a lot of people, particularly of colour, with an acute sense of joy and freshness.”

“My son asked me if Obama was good at Parkour. I said he has the potential to be great at most things.”

I guess we’re all pretty ready to drop our cynicism, at least for a few minutes, and the moment of the acceptance speech in Grant Park allowed us to do that. The rhetoric of Obama and his speech writers harked back to America in the 60s and 70s, and not just to the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems like back then musicians reacted to their circumstances with a kind of hopefulness that is barely believable these days, despite what Russell Simmons says. There’s obviously a reason why Obama referenced the Sam Cooke song in his acceptance speech, and why I had Aloe Blacc’s version stuck in my head throughout the campaign (I wasn’t the only one). It’s a coincidence that Obama’s campaign strategist is called David Axelrod – but when we drank French champagne last night, it was Songs of Innocence that we ended up listening to.

I’ve always preferred that album to Songs of Experience.