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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Zion I on The Jacka: "We Need to Rep His Spirit Like He Always Repped For Us"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:15 PM

  • Zion I / Instagram
  • The Jacka
[Ed. note: As promised, we've been reaching out to the local hip-hop community to hear stories about The Jacka following the MC's tragic death last night following a shooting in Oakland. Here's a note from Zumbi of the legendary Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I.]

I first got hip to the Jacka thru his song "Barney (More Crime)." I was infatuated by his marriage of complex street narrative mixed with genuine spirituality. It tripped me out, and made me a fan for life instantly. Now, I can generally appreciate street music, but I don't get down with gratuitous hyper violence. What Jacka brought to the game was the dichotomy of striving for something more, while still being stuck in the downtrodden stress of the hood. His music is real to put it bluntly.

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Kev Choice on The Jacka: "He Was One of the Dons of Our Scene"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 9:31 AM

The Jacka, 1977-2015
  • The Jacka, 1977-2015

[Ed. note: We'll be reaching out to the Bay Area hip-hop community to hear stories about The Jacka following the MC's tragic death last night following a shooting in Oakland. Here's the Town's own jazz/hip-hop impresario, Kev Choice — who told us "This is going to hurt for a minute."]

To say that The Jacka was revered in the Bay Area would be an understatement. In his over 15 years on the scene, he was one of the most prolific MCs in our region. He also had the rare ability to make music derived from street sensibilities but with a contemplative, reflective, and inspirational message that provoked aspirations beyond the street mentality. His smooth and melodic flow was as recognizable and distinctive as any in Bay Area hip-hop history. His collaborations with other artists — from Freeway, to Andre Nickitina, to Zion I, to countless up-and-coming artists local and nationwide — showed the depth and broad reach of his lyrical ability, which can not be overlooked.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Moment of Truth: The Roots' Do You Want More?!!!??! Turns 20

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 8:45 AM

“You are all….You are all about to witness, some organic hip-hop jazz. 100 percent groove. And ya don’t stop! It’s from The Roots. Philadelphia-based rap group. Now check, check. Imma start it like this. Yo, dig it:”

About a week ago, The Roots’ major label debut, Do You Want More?!!!??! turned 20 years old, and I was swept by a rush of memories. This was the album that established The Roots as the greatest live hip-hop act in the world. Up until this point, all hip-hop knew was a DJ and MCs, but the Philly crew turned this notion on its head with a full band led by drummer ?uestlove, backing MCs Black Thought and Malik B, and a human beat-boxer named Rahzel.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Miranda July on Her Love For the Gilman and Growing Up In Berkeley

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 10:12 AM


Polarizing screenwriter-actress-director-artist-novelist Miranda July was in town last night, talking about her new book, The First Bad Man, with Adam Savage at a City Arts and Lectures event at the Nourse Theater. 

In the course of conversation, July — who hails from Berkeley — mentioned that some her earliest performances were at a "punk club," before stopping herself. 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rancid's Love Letters to the Bay: The Band's 5 Most Profound Punk Songs About Home

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Rancid, swelling with East Bay pride.
  • Rancid, swelling with East Bay pride.

If there's one thing Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen really dig writing about putting drugs, poverty, depression, and rebellion aside — it's places. Comb through Rancid's discography and you'll hit at least a couple dozen references to locales, especially cities, spread across the planet. Among other spots, the band has talked about Shanghai, Memphis, Olympia, Wash., Sierra Leone, Detroit, and, on several occasions, New York City.

Of course, the Berkeley-bred outfit has a special soft spot for California. “Brad Logan” begins with references to Santa Ana and Anaheim Hills, “Outgunned” mentions Bakersfield, “Civilian Ways” nods to Marysville, and a bunch of songs allude to Los Angeles. Rancid's feelings on its native state aren't warm and cuddly all the time — in “Antennas,” “Let California fall into the fucking ocean” is chanted like a prayer that best come true — but ultimately, the group does love California very much.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Richie Havens' Soothing Voice Rescued the Beginning of Woodstock

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Richie Havens in 1972.
  • Richie Havens in 1972.

Richie Havens was an old soul, singing with the voice of an ancient wise man even when he was young. Every artist strives to find their own voice, but it seemed to come naturally to Havens. His deep sandpaper and honey baritone came from some inner place of power and transformation. He was able to make every song he sang his own. Havens gained a national following when he played the Monterey Pop Festival, but it was his performance on the first day of the Woodstock Festival, Friday, August 15, 1969, that made him an international presence.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Murder City Devils' Spencer Moody: Five Reasons He Fucking Rules

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Spencer Moody and his beard.
  • Spencer Moody and his beard.

Spencer Moody, who played with the Murder City Devils, is playing the Hemlock Tavern this Sunday. And if you care about rock 'n' roll and punk and experimentation and all that is right with music, you will squeeze your ass into that tiny, little, dark room and go watch him. Here are five reasons Spencer Moody fucking rules.

1. Sometimes he's a bit scary -- in a good way

Any Murder City Devils fan on earth will tell you that, on stage, Spencer Moody looks like he's about two drinks away from being the half-naked crazy guy on a corner in the Tenderloin at 2 a.m., loudly delivering a slurred sermon in which everyone on earth gets sent to hell because his heart got broken. Watch this video -- he even does it in the middle of the day, at massive festivals, where no one understands what the hell he's trying to do:

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Patti Page: What Did She Mean By "Throw Mama From the Train?"

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 8:16 AM

Patti Page, R.I.P.
  • Patti Page, R.I.P.

I'm staggering through Walgreens Wednesday night, my brain in slo-mo, and my body numb. I'm getting a cold and I'm hoping to diminish its severity with some mass-produced placebos. My head is thick, the walls are moving and the floor is tilted. I come to a shelf packed with various remedies all promising instant relief. I blink my eyes, trying to focus, when suddenly a familiar voice comes floating through the air, singing a song I haven't heard in decades:

"Throw mama from the train a kiss, a kiss

Wave mama from the train a goodbye...."

At first, I think I'm hallucinating. The garbled syntax of the lyric echoes my own muddled thinking, but then the old memory cells kick in and I'm transported back to my youth.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here Are the Songs They Play at a Middle School Dance

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 9:22 AM

[Editor's note: The following post by Houston writer and ESL teacher Shea Serrano was named the best blog post of the year in the first-ever Voice Media Group music writing awards. Originally published by our sister blog at LA Weekly, It's a sidesplitting minute-by-minute account of an afternoon he spent chaperoning a junior high dance. Read more about the VMG music writing awards here.]


1:04 pm: In about 25 minutes, I'm going to be chaperoning a middle school dance. The dance is for the school's graduating 8th graders, of which there are several hundred. I've probably chaperoned fifteen of these things already. It's like being a bouncer at a night club, except this party will take place in a cafeteria and nobody told me not to let in Black or Mexican people.

1:08: Oh shit. They're serving free cake at this dance. That's actually kind of great. There'd probably be less hostility at proper night clubs if they gave away cake, right? Once when I was in a club, I got into a bit of a tiff with a gentleman. Shortly thereafter I snuck up behind him on the dance floor and punched him in his ear as hard as I could. I'm almost certain that wouldn't have happened if I'd had a slice of Italian Cream Cake on a Styrofoam plate in my hands. Fuck your nightclub for not serving cake, yo.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dave Brubeck: The Genius Who Made Experimental Jazz Accessible

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 10:49 AM


For a lot of people, jazz is just a stereotype -- a nebulous free-form art that comedians (or any of us, really) will parody without ever knowing what it's really about. Just hit some keys and scat a few syllables: jazz! And there are certainly performers who embrace the improvisational liberties offered by jazz so enthusiastically that they endanger their accessibility to mainstream audiences. However, Dave Brubeck was not only accessible but popular. His defining quartet, which toured and recorded together for 10 years (1958-1967), created the first million-selling jazz album, Time Out, in 1959 -- the same year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue and Charles Mingus put out Mingus Ah Um (all on the same label, by the way).

Brubeck's accessibility was not the result of catering to the marketplace, but grew out of a confluence of public interest in "difficult" music and artists (Brubeck, Davis, and Mingus among them) who had been working in jazz for decades and had simultaneously matured as recording artists.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"