WeFunk’s PodCast

I just discovered WeFunk’s podcast. It’s by far the best podcasts I’ve come across. They’re spinning hip-hop, reggae, rare groove, funk, etc. Here’s the playlist from the latest episode to give you an idea of what you’re in for:

gene harris – don’t call me nigger, whitey
talk (over ?? – be happy)
cymande – getting it back
blackbyrds – runaway
les demerle – moondial
reuben bell – superjock
notations – super people
marley marl feat. masta ace, craig g, kool g rap & big daddy kane – the symphony
capleton feat. method man – wings of the morning
bounty killa feat. jeru da damaja – suicide or murder
krs-one – rappaz r.n. dainja
masta ace – b-side
keith murray – herb is pumpin’
channel live – mad izm (remix)
nas – it ain’t hard to tell (remix)
cannonball adderly – walk tall (live)
sonny stitt – slick eddie
roy ayers – tarzan
crown heights affair – streakin’
brooklyn people – peace and love
dj shadow – lesson 4
l.l. cool j – mama said knock you out
jungle brothers – j. beez comin’ through
digital underground – the humpty dance
e.p.m.d. – so wat cha sayin’
eric b & rakim – the r
y.z. – sons of the father
x-clan – raise the flag
digital underground – arguin’ on the funk
talk (over lin que – let it fall instrumental)

Move to China, Become a Rapper & Make Millions!

I was reading an article in Business 2.0 about Americans who are making it big in China when I noticed a picture of a brotha with two Chinese girls next to him. (reminds me of that line from Digital Undergrounds ‘Sex Packets’, but I digress…) So of course I skipped right to that part of the story and what I read blew me away. This cat moved to China on a whim, had never done any ‘serious’ performing before and is now a huge star over there and making millions! See for yourself…


As in much of the world, Americans and American culture are often viewed in China with a mixture of repulsion and fascination. Andrew Ballen has ridden the second part of that equation to improbable heights.

Ballen arrived in China four years ago “on a whim,” he says. A native of New York, Ballen, now 32, had dropped out of Duke University’s law school, angering his father, a high-achieving Jamaican immigrant who is a physician in North Carolina. Ballen wanted to get far away from the scene of his failure, and China seemed about as far away as he could go. He didn’t know a soul in China. He didn’t speak a word of Chinese.

To cushion his landing, he took a job at one of China’s leading for-profit language schools. After a month, he realized two things. First, he’d never earn enough money as an English teacher to live well in China. Second, Chinese youth were mesmerized by hip-hop. “As an American black kid, I knew something about hip-hop,” Ballen says.

He’d never done serious performing in America, but Ballen quickly started his own weekly Thursday night hip-hop show in Shanghai, renting out a club, paying a flat fee to the Chinese owner, and keeping the $4 entrance fee and a slice of the bar take. He canvassed top universities, distributing fliers to students to announce his opening night. He did the same in expat neighborhoods, concentrating on women. “Get the hot women, and the hot men follow,” Ballen says, summarizing his marketing strategy.

Three hundred people turned out to hear Ballen rap and DJ on opening night, and kids keep coming back, in increasingly large numbers. On a recent Thursday night, Ballen takes in $3,200 from the gate, and the bar soaks up more than $10,000. In the four-year history of the show, Ballen has grossed nearly $2 million.

The rap gig launched a burgeoning multimedia empire. A few months after his debut in the club, Ballen started an English-language radio talk show where he spoke frankly about romance and the anxieties of youth. The talk show led to a deal with Motorola; Ballen became “the voice” for some cell-phone services. Next he started a popular TV travel program, striking an innovative deal with one of Shanghai’s leading stations that allowed him to sell advertising and keep the lion’s share of the take.

Andrew Ballen is now a star in China. He moves around the country with two Chinese assistants, one of them on hand simply to answer his mobile phone. The endorsement deals keep coming; even his old employer, the language school, pays him more than $1,000 a month to be a pitchman. He is frequently stopped on the street by Chinese who want to shake his hand or buy him a beer.

On a recent Friday, after staying up all night at the hip-hop club, Ballen snatches a few hours of sleep, then goes into a studio to do a radio commercial. Next he grabs a late breakfast and gulps down two cups of coffee before locking himself away to write a script for his next TV episode. Between paragraphs, he ponders how someone who never ran a business in the United States could launch so many, so quickly, in a country he still barely comprehends. “I have nothing,” he says, “but my imagination.”

Toya Alexis is the Truth!

I had the pleasure of seeing/hearing Toya Alexis perform last night when she opened for Esthero (who also wrecked shop, but we all knew she would). Toya can sing her ass off. As I just learned from her site, she was a finalist in Canadian Idol a couple of years back. Based on how she sang last night I can’t imagine what the five people who placed above her sounded like. Her site says that her debut CD, S.O.B Story, is dropping on August 2nd so keep an eye out for it.

Radio.Blog Tribute to Luther Vandross – R.I.P.

I just heard that Luther Vandross passed away today so I had to do a radio.blog of some of my favorite Luther tracks. People always say that “they don’t make ’em like this any more” but in Luther’s case that’s very true — voices like his don’t come along very often. I used to wear these songs out back in the day. Enjoy…

P.S. Great minds think alike. EJ and Todd put together a tribute to Luther as well. Be sure to check that one out too, they’ve included some classics that I’m ashamed to say I don’t have in my collection… yet. 🙂

Club Nouveau on ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’

I just got an email about Club Nouveau’s appearance on NBC tonight. All of you 80’s R&B fans won’t want to miss this. Set those TiVo’s…

Club Nouveau ushered in a new sound in music, It was 1986 and “Rumors” took the music business by storm, But Club Nouveau was more than just a new group with a new sound and a new hit. Club Nouveau brought a new attitude, Led by Jay King & Valerie Watson (as the Timex Social Club) “Rumors” was Independently Produced, Manufactured, Distributed, Marketed & Promoted without the help of a Major Record Company on any level.

Club Nouveau’s success brought them to the attention of a young up and coming record executive by the name of Benny Medina who had just come to Warner Brothers as the Head A&R Rep for their R&B Division. Medina made the King Jay Record Label and Club Nouveau his first signing and “Jealousy” (#8 Billboard R&B) was released as the first single from the album titled “Life, Love & Pain” (released in 1986). Jealousy was followed by “Situation#9″(#4 Billboard R&B) both released in 1986.

DVD: Freestyle – The Art of Rhyme

I’m really looking forward to this DVD being released later this month: “Freestyle – The Art of Rhyme” (You can watch the trailer on that site.) The film has taken a gang of awards at various film festivals, so it shouldn’t disappoint.

Explosively documenting the story of a group of underground hip-hop MCs & DJs from the early 1980’s to the present day, Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme is a film that explores the world of improvisational rap – the rarely recorded art form of rhyming spontaneously, or “off the top of the head.” Made over the course of more than seven years, mostly with borrowed or stolen cameras by a co-operative of students, b-boys, DJs, and MCs know as The Center for Hip-Hop Education, Freestyle takes the viewer on a journey through the previously unexamined dimensions of hip-hop as a spiritual and community based art form.

Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme, experimental in its nature as improvisational cinema: no showing of the film is ever the same experience, combining the best of independent art house cinema within the hip-hop mix tape format. The project features appearances by: Supernatural, Mos Def, Black Thought & ?uestlove of the Roots, Freestyle Fellowship, Lord Finesse, Cut Chemist, Craig G, Juice, DJ Kool Herc, Boots of the Coup, Medusa, Planet Asia, Sway, Crazy Legs, Jurasic-5, Wordsworth, Bobitto Garcia, and The Last Poets. Freestyle offers us a context in which to view living art as a social critique in story and rhyme that is designed to bring about a cathartic transformation of frustration into beauty.

Freestyle follows some of the best MC’s ever to bless the mic, featuring legendary battles including those of the film’s hero; Supernatural pitted against his arch nemesis Craig G providing the through line for this tale. As these artists improvise poetry out of a mix of language, politics and culture that make up their lives, we discover revolutionary worlds where the English language is subverted and re-appropriated as a tool of economic and social empowerment.[read the rest…]

Radio.Blog: ‘Necks Move’ by Deep Thinkers

It’s not often that I like a CD on my first listen, so I was pleasantly surprised when I first listened to ‘Necks Move’ by Deep Thinkers. “Necks Move’ is a refreshing departure from the typical hip-hop being produced these days. The group is a throwback to old school hip-hop yet their music also draws on influences ranging from jazz to drum & bass. Hip Hop Politics has an excellent review of the CD, which covers the disc better than I ever could. So check that out while listening to the radio.blog below.

“Big ups” to Willis at Datura Records for hooking me up with the CD.