Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Busted Headphones

Sunday, February 12 2012

Hip Hop Es Mi Cultura

This travelogue takes us four locales: Havana, Chicago, Sydney and Caracas. Each locale translates into distinctive interactions with hip-hop and its pillars of deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti.


Sunday, January 22 2012

A Joy to Experience: Neo-Soul Singer Bilal Oliver

Bilal Oliver belongs to an elite class of late '90s Neo-Soul singers, but his guest appearances may be the true gems of his career.


Wednesday, December 7 2011

Art for the Hip-Hop Generation

The Legends of Hip Hop chronicles 50 deserving pioneers of the culture, and ultimately transforms and humanizes them.


Sunday, November 13 2011

Symbolic Weight & the Def Jam Aesthetic

A coffee table book about rap does not sound too "hardcore" or "gangsta", does it? Well, that's because it's not. What it just might be is sincere.


Thursday, November 3 2011

The Quest to Understand Tribe

This is supposed to be a documentary, not a fan letter. So how about some balance? It's big picture time when it comes to telling the story of hip-hop.


Wednesday, September 21 2011

Watch the Discourse: Luxury Rap, Success and Self-Absorption

The value of a release as large as Watch the Throne is that it goes beyond the gargantuan personalities involved or even the monster show dates designed to promote it. Part of the value is the discussion it generates.


Sunday, August 14 2011

My Favorite Aaliyah Things

Ten years after her passing, R&B and popular music fans still love Aaliyah. The continued vitality of her legacy speaks directly to our connection to her style, poise, talent, and potential.


Sunday, July 17 2011

The Hate for Southern Hip-Hop: Why So Serious?

The way some of us disparage Southern rap, you'd think rappers like Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame had recorded a record dissing Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane.


Thursday, June 16 2011

Prince’s Parade: It’s Really All About the Music

A large part of what I love about Prince is his ability to take his influences and synthesize them into a whole that suits his fancy. So it's not so much that he brings a new dish to the table. It's more that he explores new ways to enjoy what's already there.


Thursday, May 12 2011

The Wonder Year: Inspiring Soul with 9th Wonder

The RiverRun International Film Festival showcases a moving portrait of a man in his element, standing at the transformative intersection between hip-hop, education, and craft.


Tuesday, April 5 2011

Nate Dogg: Can’t Be Faded

Nate Dogg's contributions, and the workmanlike way in which he executed them, frequently garnered praise and commendations from his associates.


Tuesday, March 8 2011

Is There a DJ in the House?

If video killed the radio star, some might argue that technology crippled the hip-hop mix masters. Crippled, maybe, but the deejay is not obsolete.


Thursday, February 3 2011

Walk This Way: The Commodification of Hip-Hop

Now here's a little story, we've got to tell, about the business of hip-hop, you know so well. It started way back in history, from Alexander Hamilton down to Jay-Z.


Monday, January 3 2011

Deciphering the Jay-Z Code

He's got 99 problems but a book ain't one. Jay-Z's nonlinear memoir illuminates rap as personal narrative, lyric poetry, and transformative medium.


Wednesday, November 17 2010

Hip-Hop’s Laboratory of Language

What do William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, Ice Cube, and Ghostface Killah have in common? Finally, they all appear in anthologies.


Thursday, October 14 2010

Their Mics Still Sound Nice: BET Puts Ladies First

Do women rappers have to shake it in our faces in order to get us to listen? As this doc. notes some, like Salt 'N' Pepa do it with sassiness and sex appeal "...you know, if I was a book, I would sell / 'cause every curve on my body got a story to tell".


Sunday, September 26 2010

Keeping It Real: Dreams, Mind-Alteration, & Misperception in Hip-Hop

Hip-hop has been engaged in an ongoing tension between fantasy and reality, art and artifice but rappers, like all good artists, sometimes have to lie in order to tell the truth.


Wednesday, August 18 2010

Hip-Hop Storytellers: The Heist Motif

Bluster and bravado are considered par for the course in hip-hop, but rappers adopt cunning personas to tell stories of money, power, and respect.


Wednesday, July 21 2010

Hip-Hop Storytellers: The Vignette

"That story is over, but my rhyme ain't done." Vignettes are important tools in hip-hop's rich and plentiful storytelling tradition.


Tuesday, June 15 2010

We Don’t Die, We Multiply: R&B Posse Tracks

Take Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You", a steamy tale of a mistress longing for romantic bliss with a married man, and imagine how it might play out with a multi-perspective delivery.


Monday, May 17 2010

Fear of a Rap Parody

Underrated in the annals of hip-hop cinema, Rusty Cundieff's Fear of a Black Hat is biting and unflinching, and forces hip-hop fans to stare soberly at the culture's flaws and to revisit their own reasons for loving the music.


Wednesday, April 14 2010

The Revival: A Declaration for Female Emcees

Hip-hop needs a women's movement ala Seneca Falls. The Declaration of Sentiments used the Declaration of Independence as its structural model (in hip-hop we call that "sampling").


Thursday, March 11 2010

Tupac Shakur: An Icon in Context

How do you tell the story of Tupac Shakur? One book tries connecting his life, and sometimes his music, to the social and historical climate of the times.


Tuesday, February 16 2010

There’s a Message in the Music

Hip-hop can, and should, promote the historical and cultural ideals that underscore the value of historical awareness.


Tuesday, January 12 2010

The 411 on R&B

A new decade promises to bring fresh sounds and renewed vigor to R&B. Let's hope it keeps its promise.


Monday, December 14 2009

I Still Love H.E.R. (And So Should Everyone Else)

One surprisingly successful technique for converting hip-hop haters and deepening the existing fan's love for the culture is to expose them to "old school hip-hop".


Monday, November 16 2009

Hip-Hop & the Contrast Principle

Hip-hop, as a culture and a musical genre, moves at lightning speed. Keeping up requires an awareness of our expectations and a willingness to revisit our assumptions.


Sunday, October 11 2009

The Messengers

K'naan's The Messengers series is a trilogy of episodes designed to highlight the genius of Nigeria's Fela Kuti, Jamaica's Bob Marley, and the United States' Bob Dylan.


Thursday, August 20 2009

Hip-Hop Marketing in the Digital Era

In the Digital Age, music and information sit at our fingertips. How do rappers use tools, new and old, to distinguish themselves from the competition?


Sunday, July 19 2009

It Ain’t Hard to Tell: The Legacy of ‘Illmatic’

The "half-man, half-amazin'", Nas' persona is part myth and part "everyday kid" from the Queensbridge projects.


Monday, June 8 2009

Prince’s Paisley Pals

Minneapolis, Minnesota was the center of Prince's musical kingdom, but there were a lot of musicians associated with his purple music. Here's a short list, with a few ground rules.


Sunday, May 10 2009

Janet Jackson: Regain Control

With the musical world filled with young "divas", there's little room for Miss Janet, an innovator who popularized the Sexy Diva With Choreography paradigm in the first place.


Sunday, April 12 2009

T.I.‘s Winding Road to Redemption

The road to Grammy-winning rap star Clifford "T.I." Harris, Jr.'s positive outcome may be paved with good intentions, but self-interest fuels the journey.


Thursday, March 12 2009

Hip-Hop Hooray: Tributes in Rhyme

Forget the beef, let's talk about honoring our hip-hop icons. Perhaps the best way to pay homage to hip-hoppers is to let them speak in their own words.


Sunday, February 15 2009

Biggie Gives Us One More Chance

Biggie Smalls' mythology hasn't afforded him a dreamy endgame à la Tupac or Elvis. Nobody imagines Biggie pulling the ultimate Machiavellian coup by making the world believe he's dead while he's secretly chillin' in Jamaica.


Sunday, January 18 2009

Seven Ways to Detox

It's 2009, and that means it has now been a full decade since Dr. Dre's last official release. Here are some suggestions for survival while you continue to await his long-gestating follow-up, Detox.


Sunday, January 4 2009

We Don’t Die, We Multiply: Posse Tracks

Having more than one rapper on the scene enhances and galvanizes a song, as the central theme is strengthened with each successive verse. As the saying goes, there's strength in numbers.


Monday, November 17 2008

Hip-Haute Couture

Although "hip-hop" means different things to different people, everyone seems to be confident that they know what "it" is. Through this subjective lens, there is also a unique brand of investment and ownership in the meaning of "hip-hop".


Wednesday, October 22 2008

Songs in the Key of Rap

The relationship between singing and rapping has had a transforming effect on hip-hoppers and singers alike.


Sunday, September 28 2008

We Don’t Die, We Multiply: Heartbeat Props

The Digital Underground party has apparently come to an end. If so, we must acknowledge the group for more reasons than popularizing "The Humpty Dance".


Tuesday, August 19 2008

We Don’t Die, We Multiply: Hip-Hop Groups

Group identification creates interesting scenarios within hip-hop culture, from the formation and maintenance of group identity to the difficulties of promoting the lyrical skills of a group's various members.


Thursday, July 10 2008

Truth in Humor

The second season of The Boondocks tackles issues that are important to the hip-hop community with contributions from numerous hip-hop artists. Boondocks Response Syndrome explains why we react to this series the way we do.


Wednesday, June 25 2008

Daytime TV Goes Gangsta with Snoop Dogg

Hip-hop's top dog touches down in soap opera territory for two days of music and melodrama.


Thursday, May 15 2008

Mama Said Knock You Out: Hip-Hop & the Family Unit

There are four hip-hop rules for families. One: Fathers, take care of your children and their mothers. Two: Don't talk about other people's mamas. Three: Be good to your own mother. Four: Repeat as necessary.


Thursday, April 10 2008

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Hip-Hop’s Fight Against Time

Hip-hop fights haters, record labels, rival emcees, and even the law. Time, however, has proven to be a formidable opponent.


Thursday, March 13 2008

The Ballot or the Beef

It's possible that hip-hop and the US government have been engaged in the longest running beef of all, from the infamous FBI letter sent to NWA in 1998 to the Congressional Hearings in 2007 seeking to investigate hip-hop lyrics.


Thursday, February 14 2008

El Che & the Thriller

Rhymefest's mixtape tribute continues hip-hop's longstanding affection for the Jacksons.


Tuesday, January 15 2008

101 Hip-Hop Albums of 2007

A hundred and one reasons why hip-hop is not dead, say these three opinionators.


Thursday, January 3 2008

For the Love of the Art

How cool is it to go to the "Self Help" section of a bookstore and get a book with life lessons from N.W.A., Little Brother, and Ghostface Killah?


Thursday, November 8 2007

Yo! Your TV Raps: Hip-Hop on US Television

Hip-hop's TV exposure has been strong, giving us a mixture of critique, celebrity, and celebration. Who, in the '80s, would've guessed that hip-hop would have such cultural presence?


Thursday, October 25 2007

A Righteous Boy’s Hip-Hop Journey Through Babeland

Songs, more songs -- the prolific singer-songwriter and musician Ani Difranco keeps coming up with them. Here's some help for finding the best of Difranco, especially if you also like De La Soul.


Sunday, September 9 2007

From Boogie Down to Tinseltown

Rappers in showbiz: Did hip-hop land on Hollywood or did Hollywood land on us? For those in 'the land', some of the 4,079 hip-hop laws of crossing-over.


Thursday, June 21 2007

Hip-Hop at the Crossroad: Time, Testimony, & Identity

In the '90s, X-Clan took us "to the east". This year, the group returns from Mecca in "vanglorious" fashion.


Tuesday, May 8 2007

P.M. Mixtape, Vol. Two: Love and Trouble

Since relationships are tough, we need all the help we can get. Sometimes the best advice comes from listening to the right song.


Monday, March 19 2007

P.M. Mixtape, Vol. One

Maybe the sun has set on the days of the cassette tape, a format that made you work for your music. Huff, feeling nostalgic for the "fast forward" and "rewind" buttons, makes his own theoretical cassette mix of oddball hip-hop tunes.


Sunday, February 4 2007

The Purple Experience: Your PopMatters Primer on Prince’s Pop Life

So many Prince albums, but where do you start? Here's a funky little list designed to aid your quest.


Thursday, January 4 2007

Word Problems: The Snitch’s Dilemma

What if you and your friend were arrested and you were offered leniency in exchange for information about your friend or "the streets"? The hip-hop community believes the very existence of the deal begs us to reconsider our concepts of loyalty and law enforcement.


Sunday, November 5 2006

Please Call It a Comeback

That scene in Superman III, with the boy yelling words of encouragement to the struggling protagonist? That's how I feel when I think of Lauryn Hill.


Monday, October 2 2006

Unsung Heroes: The Band of Extraordinary Women

Huff fantasizes about wielding Diddy-like power to create a supergroup of underrated, under-the-radar female musicians. Danity Kane, eat your heart out.


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