Friday, December 30, 2011

Def Poetry (2002-2007)

Def Poetry, which was co-founded by Bruce George, Danny Simmons and Deborah Pointer, is an HBO television series produced by hip-hop music entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The series presents performances by established spoken word poets, as well as up-and-coming ones. Well-known actors and musicians will often surprise the audience by showing up to recite their own original poems. The show is hosted by Mos Def.

In November 2002, a live stage production, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam opened on Broadway. The show featured poets Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad, Staceyann Chin, Lemon, Mayda del Valle, Georgia Me, Black Ice, Poetri and Steve Coleman. The show ran on Broadway until May 2003, and won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. The show subsequently toured both nationally and internationally.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hokies Bowl Victories

Catch the article at the Bleacher Report.

Just remembering the good ol' days...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kina Grannis - "In Your Arms" (2011)

On November 14, 2007, Kina Grannis began posting videos of her self-released songs on YouTube. Her first video, "Message From Your Heart," was entered into Doritios Crash the Super Bowl contest. The contest, which she won, landed her a contract with Interscope Records.

Stairwells was released on February 23, 2010 and debuted at No. 139 on the Billboard 200, No. 5 on the Billboard Top Internet Albums chart, No. 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and No. 18 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.

On November 3, 2011, Grannis released a stop-motion music video for the single "In Your Arms", using 288,000 jelly beans. It took about 2 years to complete the project. The video accumulated over 1 million views within the first three days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Davis, Williams Suspended for Failed Drug Tests

Washington Post:
Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis were officially suspended without pay for four games by the NFL on Tuesday, according to a statement issued by the league. Suspensions begin immediately for the pair, who had failed multiple drug tests.

Williams reluctantly accepted the penalty earlier Tuesday, according to a person familiar with his situation. Davis’s response was less clear; he had been exploring whether he had other options than accepting the suspension, which was hammered out in a deal between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Williams and Davis were among 11 NFL players who failed drug tests at the start of training camp, immediately after the NFL lockout was lifted. But as part of the settlement between the NFL and the players’ union, those players received no punishment under a 30-day grace period granted players. During the four-month league shutdown, players were neither tested nor counseled about drug use.

Davis and Williams both failed an additional test during the season for recreational drugs, believed to be marijuana, according to people familiar with their cases. Under the settlement between the NFL and the union, the third positive test is being treated as a second offense, which carries a four-game suspension.

Both players allegedly failed tests for marijuana use some time earlier in their careers.

News of the suspension first broke Sunday, shortly before the Redskins’ 34-19 loss to the New York Jets at FedEx Field.

Davis, whose contract expires at the end of this season, was working with an attorney before the NFL issued its statement Tuesday afternoon to determine whether he could challenge the penalty. But he seemed to have little recourse. Because the suspension is part of a deal between the league and the union, he would have to challenge both if he went to court.

Williams, according to one person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, accepted the suspension after he and his representatives concluded they had no other choice except to fight both the NFL and the union. The Williams camp, the person said, was disappointed with the deal struck by the union, believing the final outcome should have been more lenient because of the circumstances of the lockout.

The Redskins confirmed the suspensions Tuesday afternoon, after the NFL issued its statement. Under league policy, neither player will be allowed to visit the team’s Redskins Park facility or take part in any team-related activities until the suspension is lifted immediately following the regular season. They also will be removed from the team’s 53-man roster.

Davis has career highs this season in catches (59) and yards (796). He is in the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after this season. He was supposed to make $600,000 this year but will likely lose $141,176 by missing the final four games.

Williams, the fourth pick in the 2010 NFL draft, was set to earn $7.852 million in the second year of his rookie contract. He stands to lose nearly $1.85 million.

"You're talking about accountability," Mike Shanahan said, "people being there through thick and thin. And when you don't do that, there's not really anything you can say except, 'I screwed up.' And they were men enough today to stand in front of the team and say, 'Hey, I did screw up, and we promise it won't happen again.'"

"I didn't need an apology," said wide receiver Santana Moss, an offensive captain. "I feel like what they done to themselves, they (needed to) apologize to themselves before they apologize to me."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Georgetown Course: "Sociology of Hip-Hop - Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z"

USA Today:
WASHINGTON – Michael Eric Dyson parses Jay-Z's lyrics as if analyzing fine literature. The rapper's riffs on luxury cars and tailored clothes and boasts of being the "Mike Jordan of recording" may make for catchy rhymes, but to Dyson, they also reflect incisive social commentary.

Dyson, a professor, author, radio host and television personality, has offered at Georgetown University this semester a popular — if unusual — class dedicated to Jay-Z and his career. The course, "Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z," may seem an unlikely offering at a Jesuit, majority-white school that counts former President Bill Clinton among its alumni. But Dyson insists that his class confronts topics present in any sociology course: racial and gender identity, sexuality, capitalism and economic inequality.

"It just happens to have an interesting object of engagement in Jay-Z — and what better way to meet people where they are?" Dyson said. "It's like Jesus talking to the woman at the well. You ask for a drink of water, then you get into some theological discussions."

Dyson offered his first university-level hip-hop course in 1995 at the University of North Carolina. Since then, he’s taught at Columbia, DePaul and the University of Pennsylvania, where he offered courses on Marvin Gaye and Tupac Shakur, using his 2002 book “Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur” as the primary textbook.

In recent years, Boston University has taught Bob Dylan and New York University has taught the Beatles, but college courses on rappers are rare. Courses on contemporary rappers are practically nonexistent.

He says Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is a worthy subject because of his diversity of business interests — a clothing entrepreneur, he's also a part owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets (soon to move to his native New York borough of Brooklyn) — as well as his immense cross-cultural appeal and "lyrical prowess" in articulating contemporary black culture and his place in it.

"I think he's an icon of American excellence," Dyson said.

Dyson will draw from texts such as Jay-Z’s own Decoded, Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes, and Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s Empire State of Mind, along with other articles and films about hip-hop culture.

In his lectures, Dyson wrestles with the idea of rap music’s inadvertent political gravity. “Hip-hop has globalized a conception of blackness that has had a political impact, whether or not it had a political intent,” he booms.

He draws parallels between the writings of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and the rhymes of the ’90s rap legend Notorious B.I.G. He examines Jay-Z’s adolescent street hustle as a late-capitalist aftershock of the dynamics sociologist Max Weber described in his 1905 work, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” He explains how America’s 21st-century class struggles kindled the Occupy Wall Street protests — all against the backdrop of the rapper’s ascent from the bottom of the 99 percent to the tip-top of the 1.

One recent lecture centered on how popular black artists reflect their culture and race to the public at large, with Dyson name-dropping LL Cool J, Diahann Carroll and Bill Cosby. The professor and one student went back and forth on whether the rapper's lyrical depictions of his extravagant lifestyle — "Used to rock a throwback, balling on the corner/Now I rock a Teller suit, looking like an owner" is one of many examples — amounted to bragging and rubbing his taste for fine living in the faces of his listeners.

The student took the position that Jay-Z appears overly boastful, but Dyson countered that the rapper, who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project but has since become a multimillionaire, has never lost his ability to relate to the struggles of everyday people and has continued giving voice to their concerns. Though Jay-Z raps about Saint-Tropez and expensive cigars, he also talks about being nurtured by Brooklyn. And in one song, 99 Problems, he attacks racial profiling with a stark depiction of a racially motivated traffic stop: "Son, do you know why I'm stopping you for?" the officer asks. Jay-Z replies: "'Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low."

The chairman of Georgetown's sociology department, Timothy Wickham-Crowley, says he supports Dyson's course for trying to show how Jay-Z's music fits into American society, and Steve Stoute, an author and marketing executive who has done business with Jay-Z and has spoken to the class, said the course has practical value for students interested in business.

But others have concerns.

Kevin Powell, who writes about hip-hop and has run unsuccessfully for Congress in Brooklyn, said any discussion of Jay-Z should account for what Powell says are the rapper's derogatory lyrics toward women and his expressions of excessive materialism. Kris Marsh, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the black middle class, said that while she appreciated Jay-Z's cultural significance, she was wary of structuring an entire course around him and using his narrative alone to reflect black America. Though hip-hop artists can focus a lens on urban life, she said, "sometimes these artists use poetic license" and blend fact and fiction to an audience that is often suburban and white.

"We're not sure if it's fiction or real life. It can be almost indistinguishable sometimes in hip-hop," she said.

In an opinion piece published in the student newspaper, The Hoya, junior Stephen Wu dismissed as "poppycock" Dyson's belief that Jay-Z could be compared to Homer or Shakespeare.

"It speaks volumes that we engage in the beat of Carter's pseudo-music while we scrounge to find serious academic offerings on Beethoven and Liszt. We dissect the lyrics of Big Pimpin', but we don't read Spenser or Sophocles closely," Wu wrote.

Danielle Bailey, a senior international business and marketing major who is taking the class, said she was a Jay-Z fan before enrolling but now has greater appreciation for his business acumen.

"I know a lot of people are upset, but I think the point of college is to think outside the box. I rarely have classes that allow me to look at things differently," she said, adding, "It's not always about Mozart and Homer."

Dyson makes no apologies, saying the course is a conduit for studying the "major themes of American life" and that hip-hop artists at their best deserve to be classified alongside literary luminaries.

Jay-Z was on tour and not available for an interview, his representative said. But Dyson, who considers himself a friend of the rapper, says Jay-Z has told him he appreciates the course. And Bailey said she heard Jay-Z give a "shout-out" to the class at a recent concert of his she attended.

"You're doing the class there," Dyson says Jay-Z told him. "I'm doing kind of the master class while I'm in concert."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Black Keys

Spotlight: David Wilson

"It’s really no pressure; I want to be that spark," Wilson said. "It’s a drive in me. I like making big plays. At the same time, my team needs it. When somebody on offense makes a big play, the whole sideline gets electrified."

David Wilson finished the 2011 season with 1,709 rushing yards, fifth in the nation. He fell short of the ACC’s single-season record for rushing yards, which Virginia's Thomas Jones set with 1,798 in 1999. But it was a school record, and he became just the third player in ACC history to finish a season with more than 1,700 yards. The 5'10", 205 lb. junior ran for 100 or more yards in all but two of the Hokies' twelve regular-season games, tying an ACC record last established by Ryan Williams, then a freshman, in 2009. He finished No. 7 in the country and led the ACC in rushing yards per game at 125.15, and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He had nine rushing touchdowns and was second in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 163.8 per game, for a total of 2,253 yards. He also caught 21 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.

In November, Wilson was named the ACC Offensive and Overall Player of the Year. He immediately follows a former teammate, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, in winning the award. Virginia Tech is the first program to produce consecutive Players of the Year since Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward was honored in 1992 and 1993. It’s the fifth time that different players from the same school have won in consecutive years; that happened most recently with the selections of Virginia QBs Shawn Moore (1990) and Matt Blundin (1991).

He was a durable back who proved last year that he could carry the full workload, and his athleticism and explosiveness made him an exciting player to watch.

While there's debate about how high Wilson would be selected should he go pro - ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the 26th-ranked prospect, while Mel Kiper Jr. doesn't have Wilson in his top 25 - there's universal agreement that he'd wow scouts, coaches and general managers at the NFL Scouting Combine given the opportunity.

He could legitimize his 4.29-second 40-yard dash time.

He could show off his 40 1/2-inch vertical leap.

He could dominate the broad jump because, as he reasoned, it's not much different from the triple jump, an event he earned All-America honors in last spring by finishing sixth in the NCAA track and field championships.

More information:
» Oct 26: "Is David Wilson having a Heisman-worthy season?"
» Nov 14: "Turning Into A Record-Setting Duo"
» Nov 30: David Wilson is ACC Offensive and Overall Player of the Year

Thursday, December 1, 2011

TV People: Don't Go Into Music

From The Office:
Leslie David Baker ft N.U.M. - "2 Be Simple"

From Jersey Shore:
Vinny Guadagnino - "Rack City Bitch"

DJ Pauly D - "Beat Dat Beat"