Monthly Archives: February 2008

Helping Cut Waste at Hotels

When I stayed at a hotel last week for the teaching conference, I really enjoyed my room. One of the first things I noticed was the card placed on the bed. It read that they change the bedding every second day in order to conserve energy. You could hang the card on the door if you wished to have your bedding changed everyday.

They had a similar card in the bathroom about towels. Towels on the floor meant that they were to be washed. Towels on the rack meant that you would still use them and they therefore did not need to be washed.

I thought about all the water and soap that is used in a hotel on a daily basis. They must use a huge amount of electricity as well. I wanted to do something to help the hotel conserve these resources. Here is what I did and some advice on how we can all help cut waste at hotels.

1)Hang up your “Do Not Disturb” sign when you leave the room for the day.

This way the hotel staff will not come into your room at all. I know that I don’t change my bed sheets every second day at home so they don’t need to do that for me at a hotel. I also did not need to have my towels washed daily either.

2) Talk to the cleaning staff

When I came out of my room and placed the sign on my door, a cleaning lady asked if I wanted my room done up at all. I said no, and she asked if she could go in anyway just to punch in a number on the phone so the management would know she still checked the room. Apparently, they get paid by room. I was glad to help her out this way. I just asked her to remove the garbage from the garbage can but to leave everything else be.

3)Keep your room clean yourself

I make up my own bed in the morning. I keep my room clean. I hang up my towels so I can reuse them, just like I would at home. There is no reason that we cannot look after our hotel rooms by ourselves.

4) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I reduced the amount of washing the hotel had to do by resuing my bed sheets and towels. I used the recycling can that was in my room to properly dispose of bottles, cans, and newspapers.

5) Every little bit helps

It feels like I did something to help mother earth in my short stay. I know that this is really just a small thing. The hotel still used tones of soap, water, and electricity but I wasn’t contributing to it as much. Every little thing we can do to help the environment helps. We can do a lot of good if we all do just a little.

Blame The Art

There was violence before
There was jewelry before it
hip-hop did nothing but report
the reality we saw everywhere so,
Blame the Art

You’re outside the culture
so point your finger
it’s the easiest thing to do
Blame the Art

It makes you feel good
it gives you a target
but you will never obliterate it.
You know it too,
that’s why you
Blame the Art

It makes it seem like you are doing something
but perhaps, you should fight a battle to change
the things you dislike.
That would be a start.
Do something significant
Don’t just
Blame the Art.

Sometimes when I am in a conference or seminar, I like to scribble down poems or thoughts. I wrote this poem while the speaker was saying his speech about the erosion of values I wrote about yesterday. I was infuriated about his choice of words.

I then wrote another one about how I was feeling about his words at the time. The strange thing was that I saw him that night before in the business centre at the hotel. He was talking to his assistant and he said that he might just use an old speech. This small comment made me think more of his words from the podium. It seemed to me like he wasn’t prepared at all and I needed to vent. Fortunately, I had my pen and paper to do just that. This is what I wrote,

Write a speech!
Don’t just go with the flow
or you say BS
or nothing consequential
So I tune out but still clap
write some poetry
based on your crap,
at least it fertilized an idea.

Need Something to Blame, Why Not Hip-hop?

A speaker at last week’s teaching conference blamed the erosion of values on “Chuck E. Cheese” and “hip-hop culture.” Those were his exact words. Now I know that he was trying to make a point and while I agree with him that values do seem to be falling by the wayside, I can’t concede these points to him.

This speaker was an Aboriginal who referred to himself as an Indian. He talked about the problems that Aboriginal students face. I heard his messages echoed throughout the conference from teachers who have taught on reserves. I know that their traditional ways of thinking and behaving are being slowly being eroded. Some of the Native languages are being lost.

People are influenced by everything. I know that there are some violent video games and messages in rap songs that aren’t really appropriate for children. But blaming the art is too easy a thing to do.

I know that my parents educated me to what music and images are all about. This is a parent’s job. I wasn’t allowed to watch restricted movies when I was a kid. My parents didn’t let me listen to music full of swear words. They closely examined the media I was consuming and made me question the images and presentation of movies and music. I am glad that they did. I can separate the fact from the fiction in music, video games, and television.

The speaker at the conference obviously wasn’t well prepared for his speech. I think he invented examples and made up statistics. I, for one, know that Chuck E. Cheese does not have violent video games. I have taken children there several times and it is a very family friendly atmosphere.

And of course, the irony of him talking about Aboriginal culture and blaming “hip-hop culture” wasn’t lost on me. If he had said certain songs on the radio give children the wrong idea, I would wholeheartedly agree, but he said “hip-hop culture.” He was trying to get us to understand his culture and situation but he dissed my culture.

He probably didn’t know that some teachers are part of the hip-hop culture he was disrespecting. He probably doesn’t even understand that hip-hop is a culture. He showed his ignorance.

Fortunately, I had a chance to rebuff this at the next workshop. The presenter there opened up the floor by asking us what we wanted to remember about the morning’s seminars. I spoke up. I know that she didn’t understand me either. She said, “You want to remember that?” I stressed the use of his word “culture.” To my surprise, she added my point to the list on the chart paper. She wrote, “Respect all cultures.” Good advice and something to keep in mind.

Album Spotlight # 5

Coast II Coast by Tha Alkaholiks

I’ve known alcoholics and it is not a cool thing. That’s why when this rap group first came out I shunned them. I didn’t want to hear a group that just talked about getting drunk all the time.

Their first album 21 and Over got a lot of play on radio shows and Much Music. It started to grow on me but I was determined not to support them on principle. About a year after their initial success, I saw their first album in a cheap bin at a downtown record store. I thought about it, “Hmmm, can’t really go wrong for six bucks,” so I bought it. The record was slamming and it made me a fan.

I bought this second album on cassette and made sure to put it in my pocket with a permanent marker when they came into town in 1996. They played at the small but legendary X-club in Hamilton. The best thing about this venue was that the artists usually came off the front of the stage and hung out in the crowd afterwards.

I had the tape in my pocket just in case. Sure enough, I got every member of the group to sign my tape. The album isn’t the best album I’ve ever heard but the concert was definitely off the hook. They had so much energy on stage and it transferred to the entire crowd.

They even surprised everyone in attendance when Xzibit came out to perform his brand new hit, Paparazzi. No one was expecting this. The crowd went nuts when this song came on. I have never seen that much energy from a small club audience before and I don’t think I will again.

That is why this album is special to me. It will forever be tied to this concert in my memory and I have the autographs on the cassette insert to prove it.

The Third World is Right Here!

There are forgotten people and towns in Canada that are forced to live in Third World conditions. I never would of thought anything like this could happen in the rich and abundant country we live in, but it does.

My eyes were opened to this fact when I when to a teaching conference last week. I met a lot of teachers from all over the province and they had quite a few interesting stories to tell. The most interesting stories came from teachers who went up north to teach in First Nation Reserves. Most of these communities are isolated from the rest of the province. Many of them are only accessible by air, as they have no roads that go into the community.

These communities seem to have a lot of problems. One teacher told me that they missed a lot of school this year because their school had no heat and it was just too cold to stay in the school. Other teachers told me of water problems in their communities. The water wouldn’t always flow from the taps. Many houses don’t even have running water. They have water tanks in the basement that need to be filled up weekly by a delivery truck. When the water is available, it is yellow or brown in colour. The water needs to be filtered and boiled before it is safe to consume.

There were much more stories of heartbreak in our Northern Aboriginal communities. I can’t believe that people in this country have to live in such conditions. One of the keynote speakers touched on some of these issues. Some of these schools don’t have books or computers. They don’t have libraries, doctors, or barbers. The speaker said that a professional haircut might not mean much to us, but to a kid up there it can mean everything.

This speaker was from the United States of America and he talked about how the government and organizations are raising money for schools in Africa but totally ignoring people right here in North America that are basically living and going to school in the same conditions.

It’s sad. I wish there was something I could do about it. Most people probably don’t even think about the problems that Aboriginal people are facing on the land that they currently occupy. Kids need a safe place to live and go to school. They need resources to grow and develop to their full potential. Why aren’t we providing these things for all kids in our country?

The teachers that move into these communities for the school year and do their best under the circumstances need to be recognized for a valiant effort. But maybe they need to band together and call attention to these issues so that the general public will take notice and the government will be forced to take action.

Everyone should have heat, water, and electricity in their home and school. Everyone should have access to doctors, dentists, libraries, barbers, and other resources that we take for granted. There should be no one living in third world conditions in this beautifully rich and abundant country.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 6 A Piece

Read The Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5

Graffiti rose in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s in New York. It went from simply writing a name on the wall or subway car, to painting larger, more complicated designs. This new form of graffiti art was called a piece, short for masterpiece.

Writers now showed even more artistic talent in their pieces. Lettering was given a third dimension and depth. Logos and pictures also became part of the art. The pieces were large and colourful. It was an exciting time to be a writer.

The art even received some legitimate attention in 1973 when The New York Magazine Newspaper ran a competition to find the best piece. In 1982 the art form was the subject of a motion picture, Wild Style. The film introduced a lot more people to the art and only widened the popularity.

In the 1980s, this style of art started to appear in other parts of the world. Europe, Spain, and Canada all have writers. Australia is a hot spot for graffiti even today and one of the best places to see fresh art.

It is clear that graffiti art is not going anywhere. Some cities have actually tried to give artists a place to create where they don’t need to fear prosecution. Hamilton used to have a yearly event called Concrete Canvas. It was a weekend long event where the true culture of hip-hop was celebrated. Artist created pieces on large wooden planks right before the spectators’ eyes. Rappers, DJs, and break dancers entertained the crowd from the stage. It was always a great event.

Next up

Part 7 – Break Dancing

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 5 Graffiti Art

Read The Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

To most people, graffiti has a negative connotation. It is often associated with vandalism and crime to those outside of hip-hop culture. It is probably the most misunderstood of the four elements. It is an element that often gets overlooked. It shouldn’t. It is significant and plays an important part in the history of hip-hop.

People have been writing on walls and surfaces since man first walked upright and used a stick to draw in the dirt. We have some great records of the way Ancient civilizations used and created art. Graffiti as we know it was created in New York in the 1960s.

I think that as soon as someone saw a permanent marker, they had a desire to write their name on the walls. It’s almost primal, the need to create art on the surfaces available. Sure, we can get slabs of rock, paper, canvas, and other surfaces to write on other than walls in the city. Unfortunately, those that can’t afford such art materials are shut out of creating art.

It is simple and cost effective to grab a marker and write your name on the wall. This is what is known as tagging. Writers, as they are known, would tag their nicknames on the walls wherever they could. Writers tried to outdo themselves by the style of the lettering that they would use. The tags moved from marker to spray paints. This allowed writers to blend colours, bend the letters, and just be creative with the whole process.

A good tag is a work of art. It is not simple a two-second scribble. I don’t have any use for that style of tagging. Writing “Melissa was here,” or carving your initials into a tree is not art.

Writers became famous, much like the DJs who were running block parties at the time. Their signature was not just a name but a style. Writers had unique styles of lettering, colouring, and shading.

After a while, it was hard to find a clear wall or place to paint. The Metropolitan Transit Authority didn’t appreciate the art on their trains and subways. They spent considerable time and money removing graffiti.

The artists would not be deterred. They all tried to outdo each other. Tags became more complicated and stylized. They became larger and more colourful. Tags now became only one part of graffiti art.

Next Up

Part 6 – A Piece

Be Happy With The Little Things

Sometimes it takes something small to make you appreciate all of the things you have.

For instance, I was housesitting again last week. I like to help my friend out by doing this for him. It gives me a chance to get some privacy and to enjoy all the toys that they have. I like the flat screen television with surround sound that they have. I really enjoy listening to their satellite radio too. I can usually get quite a bit of writing done while I am there because I can just put on the radio and write. I don’t have to worry about switching CDs or anything else. I just let the radio play and write, write, write.

So, when I got to their place that first night last week, I immediately turned on the satellite radio. For some reason though, I could only get three channels in; one was a sports channel, one was news, and one was a preview channel. I tried everything I could to get this thing to work, but it didn’t.

At first this was a terrible inconvenience. I wanted to write and listen to some of my favourite music and I couldn’t. Instead, I had to listen to regular radio. I don’t normally listen to regular radio. I listen to Internet radio, mix show podcasts, or CDs. Since I didn’t have any of these things over there, I had to make do that first night.

This small problem of mine seemed stupid and inconsequential to me when I thought about why I was there. My friend was in the hospital because he is battling cancer and is going through some tough times financially because of it. He probably can’t afford the monthly fee for it anymore. How could I be upset over not having satellite radio under these circumstances?

He has been battling this for some time now. He hasn’t been able to work and has actually had to sell a few of the things in his house. His wife is still working but they have basically lost half of their income. It must be hard.

It makes me appreciate everything all the more now. I have everything I need in life, and I have my health. There are things that I don’t have and would like to have but I shouldn’t focus on that. It is important to realize all the things that we do have and to be happy with all the little things we can take for granted.

Album Spotlight # 4

Big Red Letter Day by Buffalo Tom

The year is 1993 and I am glued to my television set every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Claire Danes fills up the screen as a 15 year-old teenager in the critically acclaimed My So-Called Life. I am captivated by her character and this little show and tune in faithfully ever week.

The show often featured music from alternative bands and tried to stay true to the type of music that teenagers were listening to at the time. One episode had the characters going to a Buffalo Tom concert. At this point in my life, I had never heard of this band. I liked the episode and enjoyed the music but didn’t think much about it until I saw the soundtrack in a music store. Being such a huge fan of the show, I scooped up the CD like it was a newly discovered treasure.

I really liked the Buffalo Tom song on the soundtrack and set out to hear more of their music. Big Red Letter Day was the latest release from Buffalo Tom so I quickly scooped this one up a few days after getting the soundtrack. This album is amazing. It’s just a great album. I can’t really describe their sound on a blog and give them justice. It is power-pop rock that always seems to fit my mood.

I have been a fan of Buffalo Tom ever since. The one thing that really impresses me about this group is that they have a very distinct and constant sound. All of their albums have this same sound. They don’t feel that they have to change their sound every album like some artists. Their sound never gets old for me. It works and I’m glad that they continue to stick with it. I blogged about their latest album 3 Easy Pieces last summer.

Buffalo Tom is a three-piece group that I always have in heavy rotation. I can play any of their albums no matter what my mood. I always go back to them and listen to them several times ever year. They are an excellent group and I would place them in my top 5 groups of all time period.

Everything You Want out of Life

You can get everything you want out of life by helping others get what they want. At first glance, this saying doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Conventional wisdom tells us that if you want something that you have to work hard for it. While I believe that this is true, I think that the definition of work needs to be expanded.

Think of it this way, if you want a garden to produce vegetables you need to do a lot of things in order to make this happen. You need to prepare the land. You need to specifically arrange how you plant each seed. You need to care for each plant as it starts to grow. You need to water the plants and make sure they have enough sunlight. Putting up a fence so that neighbourhood critters don’t get into it is also a good idea.

Come to think of it, a garden is a lot of work. The work pays off in dividends though if you are patient. There is just something unparalleled about tasting the fruits of your labour, as it were. Homegrown crops always taste much better than store bought ones. Maybe it is because we can taste the effort and hard work we put into our gardens.

I sometimes think that life works much the same way as a garden. People are like plants in a lot of ways. They need just as much care, loving, and time that a plant does. Think of all the ways you could work to improve your relationships. Think of ways that you could help people in your daily life. Think of ways you can help a stranger.

Doing little things everyday can sure add up to a productive garden. A compliment here and there, a favour with no expectations of it being returned, a kind act for no other reason than it is the right thing to do; all these things can go a really long way.

If life is like a garden and we treat everyone with caring and respect, than our efforts will come back to us. I like to think that what you give, or put into your life, is what you get out of it. Therefore, helping others ultimately helps yourself in the long run. You might not see the benefits of it right away and you shouldn’t look for them either. They will come your way if you help other people get what they want out of life.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 4 Rap Becomes Popular

Read The Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Run-DMC signaled the new era. Their music was able to appeal to a very wide audience. Hip-hop moved beyond the ghetto and white fans gravitated toward the music. Run-DMC released three albums; a self-titled one in 1984, King of Rock in 1985, and the ground breaking Raising Hell in 1986. All of these records fused together the street sound of rap with hard guitar sounds of rock. It was a sound that was unique and could not be ignored. They would release several more records over the years but these three are very important in the expansion of the art form.

Run-DMC took a group under their wing. This group borrowed heavily from the success of Run-DMC. They used rock guitars, they traded off vocals, and their songs were quite good. The only difference was that these kids were white. As such The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill hit a wide audience.

Run-DMC wanted to sample an Aerosmith record. Their producers thought that it would be a great idea to redo the entire song. Run-DMC thought that it was a terrible idea but reluctantly agreed to make the record. They shot a video for “Walk this Way,” where they were practicing the song in a studio space. Aerosmith was in the next room and trying to rehearse as well. Run-DMC turned up their music so loud that Steven Tyler took a mic stand and crashed through the wall, and starts signing the hook.

Later in the video, Run-DMC crashes an Aerosmith concert and they do the song together on the stage. It was an amazing video. And it turned out to be Run-DMC’s biggest hit. It also rejuvenated the fledging career of Aerosmith.

Singles started to pour out like crazy. UTFO released Roxanne Roxanne and Roxanne Shante’s countered that with Roxanne’s Revenge. Doug E. Fresh released The Show and La-Di-Da-Di, Kool Moe Dee put out Go See the Doctor .

Groups even started to come out of areas other than New York. The Geto Boys originated in Texas and became instrumental in starting the southern rap movement. It became clear that rap music was here to stay. This was not a fad as some people had called it.

Next up

Part 5 – Graffiti Art

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 3 The Shift to the MC

Read The Introduction, Part 1, and Part 2

In 1978 a subtle shift happened to the culture of hip-hop. The music industry needed a name to call this music and started referring to it as “rap music.” Most people didn’t mind the new term. In fact, people started to call themselves rappers. This term shook up the very foundation of hip-hop. The music shifted from being about the DJ to being about the person rhyming on the microphone.

Rap radio shows were born. Then first one was Mr. Magic’s “Rap Attack” on WHBI. So now with an outlet for the music to be heard other than just parties, the focus shifted from DJing and dancing to rhyming. It took a while but soon the MC was front and center and the DJ was pushed to the rear.

In 1982 Kool Moe Dee crushed Busy Bee in a rap battle on stage. Busy Bee was known for kicking famous party raps that sounded good but really didn’t say much. Kool Moe Dee was much harder in his delivery and lyrics and beat the popular MC hands down. Since then, battling has become part of the culture as well.

In 1983, Run-DMC released a single on vinyl. 12-inch singles would feature two songs, one on either side of the record. On one side of this historic single was “It’s like That,” which was much like Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks,” in that it dealt with real issues for the poor black nieghbourhoods. Run-DMC had a harder and more street sound that the flashy Kurtis Blow. This was more evident on the B-side to the record “Sucker MCs.” This track was a battle track where Run ripped through any would be MC. It was a great record and had an edge to it unlike any other record out at the time.

The following year, The Fresh Fest tour rolled through 27 cities with the biggest acts of the time; Whodini, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, and Run-DMC. The tour was such a big success that they ran what was billed as “The Second Annual Fresh Fest” only six months later.

The rappers were now more popular than the DJs. DJS still had a vital role in the shows but the rappers seemed to garnering all of the attention. Battle raps came to the forefront. Doug E Fresh came out with “The Original Human Beat box,” and blew everyone away with the drum sounds he was able to make come out of his mouth.

It was an exciting time for hip-hop culture and it was only about to get bigger.

Next Up

Part 4 – Rap Becomes Popular

Album Spotlight # 3

Huh!? Stiffenin’ Against The Wall by Organized Rhyme

The year is 1991. I catch this strange music video called, “Check the OR.” I’m fixed to the television. The song and video are captivating. The old school vibe and sample have my head nodding. The comedy on the screen makes me chuckle.

The three guys in the group run around like crazy the entire video. MC Bones raps as the trio go grocery shopping. They make a big mess. Bandmates squish bananas on him but he doesn’t miss a beat, he keeps going.

The Chorus goes, “Check the OR, Ya like it so far.”

And I am saying “Yeah!”

Everything about this video is great. I am so struck by it that I run to the record store that day to pick up the tape (Yes, I said tape.)

I get home and play the tape. It is funky! The beats are amazing! The two MCs trade off lyrics that are both real and funny at the same time. Some might label this as comedy rap but I think that it is great hip-hop album. It is unique. I never heard anything like it before, and I haven’t since.

These guys really inspired me. I had been rapping for a few years before I got this tape but seeing that three white boys from Ottawa, Ontario Canada make it in the rap world, it gave me confidence to keep writing and step up my game.

I wrote them a letter and signed up for the fan club. This was the first time I had ever done that. I was surprised to see my letter was personally returned by MC Bones. He sent me an entire page with some doodles on it, thanking me for being a fan and telling all my friends to “Check the OR.” I was blown away by this.

I looked at the return address on the envelope. He had actually used his actual address in Ottawa and his real name. It read. “Tom Green.”

Tom Green has made a lot of waves since this tape. I have been a fan ever since. I caught his little cable show every week before it was picked up by MTV. He now has another show on the air that he tapes right out of his house in Los Angeles. I guess he doesn’t mind telling people where he lives.

A few years ago, I managed to find a CD of Huh! Stiffenin’ Against the Wall. I was so excited about this find. It is an amazing album. I digitized it and have it on my MP3 player. Too bad these guys only made one album. This one is a classic. Tom Green has made some other albums but they fall too much on the comedy side. This album straddles the perfect mix of old school underground hip-hop with comedy.

Jericho Returns

Jericho is television at its best. That’s why when it was cancelled last season, the fans stood up in unison and said, “Nuts!”

The fans rallied behind the show and used a line from the season finale episode as a battle cry. The way the fans fought for the show mirrored the way the characters fought for their town of Jericho, Kansas.

It worked. Tonight, the show returns for a seven-episode arc. If it does well, it may be picked up for next season. Please tune in, even if you have never seen an episode. The show is brilliantly written and keeps you on the edge of your seat every week. Here’s a brief recap to get you up to speed.

In the first episode of the series a nuclear explosion goes off in the nearby city of Denver. The residents of the small town of Jericho try to cope with the aftermath, but soon discover that Denver was not the only city hit with bombs. Dozens of bombs went off across the United States of America. The country is thrown into shambles and with communication devices down, Jericho is cut off from the rest of the world. It becomes clear through the season that someone orchestrated the attack and that Jericho might not be safe.

Some people come into the town and try to exploit the resources that they have. The town takes in refugees and works together so that everyone in the town can survive.

In the season finale last year, a nearby town tries to seize the town and claim its resources for its own. The leader of other town asks for their surrender by on the radio.

Earlier in the episode, Jake had recounted a story his grandfather told him about General McAuliffe during WWII. The General was asked to surrender to the Germans and he made the one word reply of “Nuts” on the radio. The reply meant that they would not surrender or give up.

Jake had a one-word reply to the request, “Nuts!”

Fans helped to resurrect the show by signing a petition, sending letters and email, and shipping nearly 20 tons of peanuts to CBS. This creative campaign saved the show. The executives asked the fans to stop sending them nuts and announced that the show would return.

The fans proved that they were nuts about the show. We need to keep up the effort that saw us send CBS eight million nuts and show them that we are still committed to this show. If this short second season is a ratings hit, the show will return in the fall. Let’s make that happen.

Hip Hop Represents at The Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards celebrated their 50th anniversary last night in style. While very few awards were given out, the show was a powerhouse of live performances.

Alicia Keys opened the show with a duet with Frank Sinatra. He was shown on a black and white video behind her. It was a great performance. Alicia Keys also performed “No one” a little bit later in the show. She is an amazing talent and captivates me every time I see her. She did a really good job at the SuperBowl pregame show as well.

Kanye West performed his hit “Stronger” with the help of Daft Punk. When the song was over he started to sing. He actually sang. I recognized the song from his second album. It was a tribute to his mom. He wrote the song before she passed away. As he performed it last night, I could see that he put his all into it. It seemed like it was a hard thing to do. It was a great tribute to his mom. It really was moving.

Kanye West won rap album of the year and thanked his mom again. He even had “Mama” shaved into the back of his head. The music tried to cut him off but he wouldn’t let them do that. He told Common not to release an album in the same year as him because this award was his. It was nice to see that he was acknowledging the other nominees.

This was the first Grammy Awards that I can remember where all of the rap nominees deserved to be there. I wouldn’t have been mad who won the award with the strong list of nominees they had last night. I was pulling for Common. His album is great. But then so again is Nas, and Jay-Z.

Rihanna and Jay-Z won for best collaboration for the massive hit “Umbrella.” Will-I-Am rapped and sang a history of the Grammy Awards. The first ever rap award was acknowledged in the broadcast as well by one of the presenters.

The Grammys did a great job and represented hip-hop to the fullest. They even paid tribute to Pimp C during the segment they do ever year about talents that were lost in the year.

Thumbs up to the Grammys! It was a great show and I was fixed to my television for the entire broadcast; that doesn’t happen every year.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 2 Rap is Born

Read The Introduction, and Part 1

Part 2 – Rap is Born

In the mid 1970s, DJs still owned the parties and were held in reverence. DJs such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash quickly became legends. They all strove to improve their DJ skills and soon employed MCs (masters of ceremony) to help them run the parties. An MC’s job was to hype up the crowd and introduce the DJ. This allowed the DJ to concentrate on the technical aspects of delivering a good set.

MCs used the toasting style that Kool Herc had made popular. They started off the DJ introductions with slick rhymes. The toasting started to become more intricate and eventually ended up with the MC rapping verses. At this point the raps would not be considered songs, but it would not be long before rapping became an element all on its own.

The first rap record recorded was by the Fatback Band and it featured King Tim III and was released in 1979. Shortly thereafter The Sugar Hill released “Rapper’s Delight”. They rapped over the break to Chic’s “Good Times”. This record was really just a reflection of what had happened at the block parties.

Songwriting took a step up in 1980 when Kurtis Blow released “The Breaks”. He spoke about issues of poverty but the record still had a party-type vibe and didn’t delve into the topic too deeply. In 1982, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five released a record that really dealt with the daily life and socioeconomic realities of the black neighbourhoods. This record was called “The Message,” and this is the record that really convinced people what the power of rap had to offer.

It wasn’t long before the DJ, who had been the focus and creative force behind hip-hop was regulated to the back while the rapper took the forefront. I think that this is something that is often overlooked in the culture today. Rap music used to be about the DJ. We cannot forget this important part of our history and culture.

Next Up

PART 3 – The Shift to the MC

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 1 The DJ

Read The Introduction

It is hard to define the exact time that hip-hop was created. There are so many influences that came together to form the culture and many of them far pre-date hip-hop.

Where did it come from? It was born out of dancing and the love of music.

DJs began to play parties and realized that partygoers liked dancing to the breakdown of the record. A break is the part of a song where there is no singing and the rhythm is stripped down to a simple drum pattern and some back up. DJs soon learned that they could use two record players playing the same song in order to prolong the break. As soon as the breakdown ended on one record, the DJ would time it so that it would immediately play again on the other record. This way, the DJ could extend a thirty-second break indefinitely. Thus breakdancing was born.

One DJ is credited as starting up the culture of hip-hop in the Bronx. While it can be argued that a lot of elements came together to form the culture, his contributions cannot be ignored. His name was Clive Campbell, better known as Kool Herc. In 1973 he deejayed his first block party. These parties were held outside and were the starting point of hip-hop.

You didn’t need money to be part of this. All you needed was one DJ, two record players, a mixer, and two copies of a record. Hip-hop wasn’t even used to describe this cultural phenomenon until years later.

It moved beyond the DJ just playing a record and kids dancing. Kool Herc brought a new element to it from his native land of Jamaica. It started out simple enough. He would try to hype up the crowd by saying short, pithy rhymes over the sound system. He adapted this technique from the reggae style known as toasting. At this point, rapping still did not exist. The DJs played music, occasionally talked in rhyme to hype up the crowd, and people danced.

It was a great equalizer because DJs could plug into streetlights for power. They didn’t need to pay money to go to a club to listen to and enjoy music. Block parties became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s and quickly developed into something more. In 1974 Lovebug Starski started to refer to this culture as hip-hop but the term didn’t catch on for a while.

Next up

PART 2 – Rap is Born

Chase March – the rapper

I think when you love hip-hop as much as I do that you need to be involved in the culture actively somehow. I have written about it for years. I cover hip-hop topics in this blog often. I used to write record reviews, stories, and interviews for the university newspaper back when I was still as student. That was a lot of fun.

I started writing rhymes around age 11. My first song attempts were horrible. I couldn’t rhyme on time or beat. I worked at it and learned quite a lot about putting together rap songs. It was just a hobby but something that I enjoyed.

I even learned how to DJ and beatbox. After a few years of messing around and having fun, I managed to write a few songs that I am proud of. I’ve even had the opportunity to perform my songs live in a variety of situations. I absolutely love it. It is an amazing feeling performing original material on stage.

It’s been a long time since I’d written a song. That’s why I was so surprised last week when I managed to write a few new ones. One is called “This Sport” and I compare our daily lives to a sport. It’s a good metaphor and I think the song really works. I wrote another song called “Make a Difference.” The chorus goes, “You can make a difference by being you / You can make a difference this much is true.” It’s one of those feel good, inspirational songs.

I have been considering, possibly, going into the studio this summer to record a demo of a few of my songs. I have time to write but I don’t really have time to produce or record right now. Still a Chase March album sounds like a pretty good idea. I will have to write some more and see if I can put together enough songs for an E.P. I could even release it digitally and see what happens. This sounds like a really good idea.

Tomorrow, I will be starting my series A Brief History of Hip Hop. This series is broken up into key components of the culture. I will be posting up the entries on Thursday and Fridays for the next several weeks. I hope you enjoy it.

Album Spotlight # 2

Good Weird Feeling by The Odds

This album is absolutely amazing. It is one of only a few albums in my collection that I never seemed to get bored of. I can listen to it no matter what my mood.

When it first came out I listened to it all the time. I can sing along to every song on it. Now that it is over ten years old, I still listen to it often. In fact, it has been in heavy rotation since I got it. I listen to it several times every year. I don’t think I can say that about too many of my albums. As such, I think this is one of the greatest albums of all time.

My brother is a huge fan of this Canadian rock group as well. He actually signed up for The Odds mailing list in the 1990’s. They mailed him tickets to an exclusive concert in Toronto for the release of the album after this one. It was the coolest thing in the world. They were quite a large group at this time because this album was a huge success. As such they were billed as Nigel the Cat at the venue so no one would know that it was actually an Odds concert except for the industry folks and fans that were personally invited.

Good Weird Feeling is my favourite album by the Odds. The songwriting is witty and comical at times. The songs really rock and have a timeless feel to them. This is by far my favourite non-rap album of all time. I think that if I were to rate my albums in order, this series of Album Spotlight posts have it in the right order so far. This is the second most important piece of my entire music collection. If you haven’t heard this album, do yourself a favour and go check it out.

Have a Heart

February is Heart and Stroke Month. It is a month where volunteers will be canvassing door-to-door to raise money for research and health promotion.

I know that it is annoying to be disturbed at your home and asked to donate money. After all there are thousands of worthy causes out there. Before you slam the door, turn off your lights, or hide I want you to consider a few things.

1) Official Heart and Stroke canvassers will have a kit with receipts, pamphlets with information, and a badge identifying themselves.
2) These people are donating their time so you can donate your money
3) These people do not get paid for this in anyway
4) All the money goes to the Heart and Stroke Foundation
5) It is cold outside in February
6) These people are trying to make a difference and fight for a cause they believe in. Many of them will have been touched personally by Heart Attacks or Strokes.

I want you to consider these things if and when you get that knock on the door. I also want to let you know that I have been a loyal volunteer for the past several years, and it just might be me knocking. I know what it is like to be on both sides of the door for these visits.

Here are a few things you can do to make this process easier

1) If you wish not to be disturbed please put a sign on your door or mailbox that reads “No solicitors.” If I, or other volunteers see this sign, we will not knock on your door.
2) If you don’t have money, be polite and say, “Sorry, not at this time.”
3) It is not about how much you donate. You can donate a quarter, a dollar, or twenty dollars. It is up to you.

I have met some very rude people on my canvassing routes. It is really frustrating coming across people that turn off their lights and hide from you. It is annoying to be cut off and not listened to. We are just there trying to make a difference.

One more thing to think about – Imagine what a difference you could make if you gave every charity that came to your door a quarter. Doesn’t seem like much does it? But every house times twenty-five cents would really add up and make a huge difference.

Just think about it, okay? Thanks!