April 01, 2007
“They built it by walking across our collective backs. When I was at the source, Women ran shit literally and figuratively. We led the editorial meetings, we held down the fort, we provided the research, development, fact-checking, writing, planning and scheduling it took to print the most popular rap magazine on the planet. But we also provided the ass.”
—Miranda Jane, former and present Source staffer
A few weeks ago I did posts both here and on my own site on the insidious new trend known as minstrel show rap. Young jigs in ghettos across America, no longer content with making black people look stupid through normal means, have taken to reviving actual songs and dances from the minstrel show era.
A buncha other bloggers did posts on the trend as well and eventually the story was picked up by one of the columnists for the New York Daily News.
They’ve brought in a team of columnists not unlike XXL’s (a pure coincidence, I’m sure), which is made up of a who’s who of aging, non-writing Bol haters. The lone story posted today is by Adisa Banjoko, who’s leading a one-man boycott of XXL over that Lupe Jihadist bullshit.
Another post, by a 40-year-old sasquatch of a so-called hip-hop feminist named Miranda Jane (the quote above is from another blog of hers), is filled with bitter subliminal shots at yours truly. Then she goes on to rip off my minstrel show rap story right there in the same post. Shamelessness, thy name is woman!
And the magazine’s editor-in-chief has posted two entries so far, both of which make reference to XXL’s own Pravda Splinter. In one post, “Fahiym” is inspired to ask PS out on a date after watching Magic Johnson give a speech at some Hip-Hop Summit Action Network conference, but in the next one, he gets all mad because PS called the Source irrelevant on an episode of the Parker Report. Aww…Speaking of Blogging, I see XXL’s own kris ex has officially quit his blog here in order to spend more time smoking weed and looking at Internetsporn while he’s still young enough. It’ll be interesting to see who they bring in to replace him."
WELL COTDAMM BOL. IT'S FUNNY TO ME, 'CAUSE I'M ACTUALLY A FAN OF WWW.BYRONCRAWFORD.COM AND THE ONE KNOWN AS "BOL". I LIKE HIS TIMELINESS IN CALLING ME A "40 YEAR OLD SASQUATCH OF A SO-CALLED HIP HOP FEMINIST NAMED MIRANDAJANE"...ONLY YESTERDAY I HAD SOMEONE ASK ME IF I WAS 23, THEN MY FRIEND'S SUN GUESSED ME AT 24. NO ONE BELIEVES THE TRUTH, WHICH IS THAT THIS FRIDAY, APRIL 6, I WILL BE 33 2/3.
HERE'S TO STILL LOOKING LIKE A TEENAGER IN THE MID-THIRTIES, HAVING XXL.COM CALL ME ALL KINDA OLDBITCHES AND SASQUATCHES, AND HAVING THE SOURCE BITE THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF MY PIECE ABOUT MIXTAPE DJ'S VS. THE RIAA. DON'T FORGET TO CHECK THE O.G. SHIT FROM SOHH.COM AND RIGHT HERE ON PYRAMIDS II PROJECTS AFTER YOU'VE READ THEIR LITTLE SYNOPSIS.
'Pon De Replay: The RIAA Knocks The Mixtape Hustle, While Labels & Artists Turn Blind Eye
Monday - August 1, 2005 by Miranda Jane
In the early 1980s in Los Angeles, a young hustler named "Freeway" Rick Ross took some powder cocaine and cooked it up, creating a product known as "ready rock". Chances are the powder he used came from a contact based in Mexico or Central or South America. But Ross didn't have an airplane or a helicopter, and he wasn't the one bringing the coke into America, or assisting the locals in Peru and Nicaragua in getting the supplies needed to turn raw coca leaves into the illegal narcotic, cocaine. Many speculate that the manufacturer and distributor was in fact the U.S. government or one of its "shadow" subsidiaries. As Ross rose in wealth, fame and 'hood power', he acquired the accoutrements of the rich - cars, mansions, furs, jewelry, and beautiful women. High off his success, he hit the studio and released some recordings on L.A.'s underground scene under the name, "Freeway Rick". Rick was at the end of the line on the drug-money food chain, the head of the crew who'd be the last ones to touch a rock before it went into the hands, and pipe, of a consumer. So who was to blame, in the eyes of the media, in the "war on drugs"? Who took a loss, and was hit with a long stretch of time in the penitentiary, a casualty of this war? "Freeway" Rick Ross, the "retail distributor" of the crack game.
Fast forward to 2005, and there's a new dope game being played out in the streets, and in the corporate boardrooms at major record labels and distributors. While some are just pawns in a chess game, others are making decisions from inside the Recording Industry Association of America, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspector office, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and at local and state police departments. On the flipside, mixtape DJs with decades in the game are dedicated to creating raw product - mixtapes - the CDs that function as Hip-Hop's primary source of promotion. This is Mixtape Incorporated, where Hip-Hop culture and corporate America are in bed together behind the scenes, and putting on a game face for the media and the public. Music is the uncut raw. Subject to copyright law, with the artist owning some rights and often "leasing" other rights to their record label and/or distributor, the fact remains that label representatives are giving unreleased tracks away to mixtape DJs like candy. The DJ is the businessman. He, or she, is using the original product - music - and cooking it up with a formula that includes blending, cutting, juggling, remixing; adding freestyles, drops, and exclusives from hot rappers and MCs. The final product is the mixtape, a smooth new blend of Hip-Hop, Rap, Breakbeats, Reggaeton, and R&B.
Different regions have varying criteria of what's dope in their neck of the woods. In New York, home of the mixtapes, DJs, and record labels; the bar is set high. Most of NY's top DJs have moved on from hustling mixtapes and their masters; securing major-label recording contracts, distribution for their own labels, producing DVDs, working in television, and moving their mixtape hustle to the world wide web on satellite radio networks such as XM Radio and Sirius or to online radio providers like AOL. Without a platform like NYC's HOT 97 or LA's KDAY to sustain them, southern Hip-Hop and rap fans use mixtapes as their radio stations. On the West Coast, mixtapes are a means to an end, a tool used for street promotions on an upcoming album, a hot new movie, or a specific brand of clothing or footwear - rather than as a product for sale on the streets.
Many consider Mixtapes illegal property. According to Diplomats capo Jim Jones, within the Dipset camp, "Mixtapes are like cigarettes [and] marijuana - cigarettes are the albums people put in stores, and mixtapes are the marijuana that you can't get in stores." The majority of actual mixtape DJs, true to the art form, would never release a CD compilation disguised as a mix, nor would they bootleg copyrighted material. They spend countless hours and dollars perfecting each release, ensuring their CDs are chock-full of exclusives, unreleased material, drops and freestyles from artists, remixed tracks, original beats, and unprecedented collaborations. Their CDs include original cover art, and some DJs even shrink-wrap their product before it is sold.
So what exactly is the problem, legally? According to Bradley Buckles, Executive Vice President of Anti-Piracy for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), "State law requires that the true name and address of the person responsible for producing the CD appears on the label and the product. In all of the cases where you see local police involved, they simply did not comply with state law. With some of these products you almost have to listen to the entire CD to tell if it is remixed to the point of being original. You can't tell that by looking at the label. But the police look at the label and see no one is identified, or in some cases a false name and address is given, they might have the name and address of a legitimate label and we can take a look." Additionally, retailers are most likely receiving the attention of the RIAA because someone's called in a complaint against them, Buckles told SOHH.com.
There have been numerous raids conducted recently on retailers, and while none specifically targeted mixtapes per se, tens of thousands were confiscated as a result of these raids. One of the largest raids took place in Indianapolis, Indiana, at a store owned by Alan Berry. Contrary to the newspaper headlines that followed the raid, Berry was a reputable businessman with strong ties to the music industry.
"That's the thing that we are totally dumbfounded by, we were a Soundscan store. The record labels loved us. We'd get in-stores with artists like 8 Ball and MJG or David Banner. We'd get a box of Def Jam CDs to give away or scan through to get a higher place on Billboard. We bought so much and we'd been around for so long, we felt that what we were doing was what the Hip-Hop game wanted. We wouldn't fuck with counterfeits, bootlegs, none of that stuff. If I got wind of another store selling a counterfeit or a bootleg, I'd go talk to them about it. So we had no indication that what we were doing was wrong. We had police officers who would come in and buy mixtapes all the time, and I had one local police officer who offered to go to court for us if we went to trial," Berry told SOHH.com.
Mr. Buckles offered a possible explanation for Berry's raid. "We also get complaints filed by competing retailers, and we get complaints from consumers sometimes who buy a product and decide that it's a ripped CD and they feel cheated. Quite frankly, sometimes we will get complaints from record companies or from artists on piracy that they'd observed. In none of those cases does it make it automatically a priority. We have to assess those complaints and the context of all of the problems we've got going on and make decisions from there. Sometimes we engage in a lot of training for police departments as to what piracy is about, and what state laws are about. Sometimes we'll get a call from the police department and they'll ask for our technical advice. The implication of your question and what you've heard is perhaps there's some undue influence of some labels, targeting specific retailers, but that's not a major driving force on what we do on a regular basis."
Alan Berry bounced back after his shop was busted, opening a new location called Naptown Music. "We opened up almost a year ago, and we're selling mix CDs out in the open. I'm in defiance, like. 'Let's go to federal court." Now we have addresses on the back of our CDs, come on RIAA, come knock on my door. Let's get Eminem on the stand; let's get 50 Cent on the stand; let's get Interscope Records on the stand and see how it should be done. My point is that we've got this store open, tomorrow we could be raided and have federal charges put up against us, but in a way I'd be happy to do that. The state couldn't really do anything other than say we didn't have the addresses on the back of our CDs. That was the thing that burned me up, trust me I have mad respect for the artists and DJs, it just seems like [they should] stand up for people that are in the game with [them]. Why didn't anyone stand up and say this is wrong, drop these charges. We agree that the mixtape game works.
According to Berry, his store never sold bootlegs or burned copies of anyone's music or movies. "One of the biggest things that really killed us was in the local paper the headline was "brothers accused of bootlegs." That's the thing, the fact that the public, the RIAA, and the local police, they don't differentiate between a bootleg and a mixtape. There is a difference."
In other progressive activities, Berry has placed an op-ed in the New York Times and founded a new online venture to share mixtape-style music from peer to peer called LegitMix.com.
Responding to Berry's case Buckles said, "Well let me stand back and say I don't want to get into the facts of any particular case because it may be law enforcement information that I may not have access or may not be at liberty to share. Basically we have programs where we constantly survey the retail music market looking for people who are selling product that violates state or federal law in terms of copyright. This is something that goes on around the country, all the time, and we do it by generally surveying thousands of stores." So why doesn't the RIAA go directly to the DJs, instead of confiscating their mixes at retail? "I don't think you should assume we don't ever go after the source, sometimes you've got to start at the retail level. Everyone involved has to understand that certain activity is illegal. In cases like you've seen in NY and the Berry case, these are generally cases that don't have anything to do with federal copyright law - whether or not someone was authorized to use copyrighted material - it has to do with whether or not product was labeled in accordance with state law," he explained to SOHH.com.
DJ Jelly, one of the foremost mixtape kings of the south, describes how an anonymous call about bootleg clothing in the local flea market recently affected his business. "They just shut down one of my stores about two weeks ago. We have six retail spots, and one is in the flea market where I sell my DJ Jelly mix CDs. They arrested one of my partners. I mean, it's really a bigger problem for everybody involved in Hip-Hop - that we don't have control over what we do.
Atlanta's DJ Drama, also been affected by the recent raids; stressed that his products are original creations and should in no way be confused with illegal material. "I know some raids happened down here, I don't know which stores. I try to keep below the radar. I know most of the time they go more after the retailer than the actual DJ. One hand scrubs the other; the retailers are some of my best friends. The problem is that the RIAA don't really see the difference in bootlegs and mixtapes, and because they have that confusion the lines get crossed. If they go to the retailers that have bootlegs, that's one thing - mixtapes are another. It's ironic 'cause most of the mixtapes that I do, if it's not with the artists themselves, the labels are paying me to do it. For the RIAA to tell me I have to stop is bullshit. I mean, 75% of what I do is original material, and it can take anywhere from six months to one month to work on a tape.
In Miami, FL, Mr. Marc, owner of Mixtape.com and Mixtapes.com, was one of the first casualties in the war on mixtapes. "I started in 1993, I was pushing NY mixtapes to a lot of local stores in Florida. In 1998, I took it online and was the first mixtape site out there. I was able to buy 'Mixtape.com' and 'Mixtapes.com' because no one else owned them at the time. None of that brought any attention on me. I was carrying nothing but mixtapes, but there was a well-known rapper out there who put out his album himself through his manager, basically he'd left his label and started selling the album on the street. The manager approached me and asked me if I'd sell it on the site. I put it on the site, and got a cease and desist order from the record label saying that the label owned the masters. I sent the label the remainder of my CDs and I told them who I got it from, 'cause I thought they were selling legally. After that there was no other trouble, until a guy who claimed to own a store in a flea market started coming to my office once a week to buy wholesale. It turns out this guy was an undercover cop. The reason I bring up the rapper is when I was in court; they had a copy of the cease and desist letter. They probably saw the CD, went to my site, and then saw all the mixtapes; that's my assumption. I'm still shocked that all these big mixtape sites are up online.
The raids on Mr. Marc's business created a wave of fear that still permeates the Hip-Hop and music business in Miami; driving him to legalize the two websites. "What happened to me drove a big shock through Miami, there were just a lot of people scared. I do still listen to mixtapes, but only underground stuff. I never listened to the stuff I sold. Mixtape.com is now a clothing store. I sell a lot of independent clothing lines. I like to support them the same way I liked to support mixtapes. At least I know with fashion there's no way for me to get in trouble. I only knew the music industry. I used to do street team work and I just lost the taste for it after this happened to me. So, I started my own clothing line called Graff Gear."
PEACE TO ALL MY ARIES FAMILY - CHACE INFINITE, A-PLUS, B-BOY "OSH", SISTA ASIA, KILLA SHA, AND OF COURSE MYSELF, MIRANDAJANE. LOVE IS LOVE.