Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mystic Talks with Beats on The Boxx After Winning the Whats Beef Beat Battle (Part 1)

Mystic talks with King Dice about his career so far, switching from hip-hop to EDM, winning beat battles, and the equipment he uses to make music.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

BRAC: The Sacrifices Moreno Valley and San Bernardino made for global peace

Wise up about the region’s recent history

Moreno Valley and San Bernardino used to have a big Air Force base employment sector due to March Air Force base. Then the Cold War ended and President Clinton, the first post-Cold War president, in recognition of this enacted BRAC, Base Realignment And Closure, because the country didn’t need to maintain so many full capacity military bases in the wake of the end of our decades long struggle for power with Russia. So the Inland Empire, being a politically not-that-powerful region for a few reasons ( as a conservative part of a liberal state, it was unlikely to be a factor in flipping the entire state in a given race) was on the chopping block. We were to help pay for America’s peace dividend: and so, March and Norton Air Force Bases two of the area’s most important economic engines had their operations drastically reduced and even partly privatized in terms of the campus’ use if I’m not mistaken.

So we laugh at San Bernardino and Moreno Valley for being ghetto and poor but these are the harsh realities of society: people don’t want to pay for militarism forever and Bill Clinton was actually trying to reduce the military industrial complex’s massive pervasiveness a bit in a time when that was politically sellable. Sometimes unpopular things are the right thing to do, sometimes the right thing to do has unfortunate consequences. Sometimes smaller pictures suffer in service of the bigger picture. I’m not justifying any particular side of a debate on these issues I’m just saying know the context. Know that it’s more than just “haha so ghetto and poor i could never”. 

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Shots Fired: The under-discussed classism of dismissing California’s Inland Empire

It’s hypocritical to yap about Reagan all the time and then leave poverty out of your analysis of the I.E.

It’s wild how we love to give rappers passes for stuff we don’t give anyone else passes for.
Jokes about how ghetto the Inland Empire and San Bernardino are about class, about making fun of
people who struggle economically, don’t have pristine environments and struggle with poverty.

To take the semantic stance of “oh he didn’t say the I.E was bad just that he was glad that he wasn’t
raised there” is to work very hard to ignore the class implications of dismissing California’s Inland
Empire a region that includes Temecula, Victorvile, Corona, San Bernardino, Muscoy, Redlands,
Riverside, Fontana, Ontario, Rialto, Highland, Colton, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Lake Arrowhead, Lake
Perris, Crestline, Upland, Cucamonga, Bloomington, Alta Loma, Etiwanda and more. 

photo of gathering at Serious Cartoons Records & Tapes in San Bernardino, CA; submitted by Noa James

As the word “ghetto” finally fades into tackiness, people look for other ways to make fun of people that
are poorer than them and for some Southern California residents, “San Bernardino” or something like it
are shorthand for that. This is why it’s important to educate people about social justice, socioeconomics
and numbers more broadly: it’s not like it’s a city of people who decide to be poor or “ghetto” or “dirty” or
“shady” or whatever: statistically over ⅓ of the population of San Bernardino is actually literally living in
fucking poverty. Half of the city is receiving government aid of some kind. People who run cities and
municipalities have to look at a region’s “taxbase” in other words, who is paying the taxes to fund a
government and a society: when half of your people are on government aid and ⅓ in actual life or death
struggle with real poverty then you have a very small taxbase to fund services and make things better
with. This isn’t hard to understand. But some people still want to joke about Sanbernaghetto like a bunch
of people just decided to make a shitty city.

There’s a lot to factor in: a city slow to take advantage of the potent cannabis economy, going through
bankruptcy, high rates of violent crime. In the last 35 years the Inland Empire has lost jobs at Kaiser
Steel in Fontana as well as military-base shutdowns in Moreno Valley and San Bernardino and these
are cited as the biggest factors in discussing the last few decades’ poor economic performance for the
region. During the recession we were hit particularly hard and were slower to recover. Countless people
lost their homes in Fontana, Upland and Cucamonga around 2008 and left to cheaper Bernardino,
Moreno Valley and Rialto in the decade since. 

Dark city?

That’s something I don’t get: American media is so obsessed with both the stories of races co-existing
and post-industrial towns economic situations. The Inland Empire is all of that and more than most
places but still it is dismissed as dismissible, forgettable, “ghetto”, meth-ridden. It’s almost as if lots of
activists, media figures, corporations and more that say they care about minorities and quality of life for
the unfortunate do not actually care.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote the famous Atlantic Case for Reparations article in 2014, talks a lot
about how the dominant American narrative has always indoctrinated us to think that people of color
invite their challenging circumstances with particular short-comings in work-ethic, “family values”,
“strong male role models” etc. but all studies show that when you factor in structural barriers to normal
healthy economic and family life installed into the superstructure of our society by centuries of white
supremacy and imperialism, black and brown people are not intrinsically less likely to work or be there
for their kids or have good values etc. So to bash areas like the Inland Empire full of impoverished
brown people working their asses off is to victim-blame. When rappers like Tyler or Jay Z or whoever
dismiss poor people and poor areas firstly it’s not a coincidence that that is the area that they chose to
bash and secondly, it’s part of the same right-wing white supremacist ideology espoused by the old
white guys pictured with Reagan people are always meming about, the same philosophy that birthed
Trumpism, the post-Paul parts of the Tea Party movement. 

This is not to say any rapper that says shit like this is a war criminal in the class struggle but rather
just to say be aware of this train of thought’s origins and context. Realize when framing is causing you
to elide class in your analysis of something.

                                               THOPFest Ontario, CA photo by J. Sevilla

What does all this have to do with hip-hop?

Personally it doesn’t bother me that much that bigg-ish rappers say stuff like this from time to time.
I’m even starting to like it because it helps me find other social media accounts of people that live in the
I.E. but what does bother me when I see people co-signing the bashing of the Inland Empire because it
reminds me of how ingrained into us hatred of the poor is by American culture. It’s one thing to say it’s hot
or to complain about the struggle but I disagree with comments about the area or its people being
intrinsically uncool or whack and I object to comments about “it’s bad for creatives/we don’t support

Imagine going to the home of a family that is hungry and criticizing them for pirating music online or not
having nice enough art on their walls. That’s what it is to say the I.E. doesn’t support its creatives: yeah
Mo Val, San Bernardino, and many more have major economic issues, why wouldn’t support for the arts
be part of that context? That’d be like a city being on fire and you kept complaining about this one random
part of the city that’s on fire as if the rest of the city wasn’t on fire.

Anyway yes: there is less city by city support in terms of dollars for the arts in the I.E. than in an area like
Long Beach that is both more affluent and staffed by city leaders that prioritize a more progressive vision
of culture and the arts. Because so many people are struggling economically, it’s harder for artists to
make a living off of solely a regional customer base. Harder but not impossible granted. But in terms of
the people? In terms of the talent? 

It’s just wrong to say there’s not opportunities. I’m from San Bernardino and the proximity to San Diego
and Los Angeles and my own diverse area has allowed me to achieve a healthy amount of my artistic
goals and has since given me as much of a platform or shot as I could ask for to try to tackle the rest from.
If someone wants to show me how per capita (controlling for population) compared to x, y or z region
there’s less opportunity, given the economic context I’d be very open to such an argument but to say
there is no opportunity and that “people don’t support each other” is factually incorrect.

photo credit: China Tokyo Japan, submitted by David Dee

Given the economic challenges of the Inland Empire, people should be amazed at what HAS been built: the Common Ground, a massive legacy continues, THOPFest, Punch Line Kings battle league, a cannabis friendly record store venue in Serious Cartoons and way more….this is just the stuff that’s still happening right now. 

Stop twisting it in your head to something that it’s not: the I.E. is a region with talent like many others
and it’s also a region with massive swaths of impoverished people. These are two distinct categories
but these identities intertwine, so when people try to dismiss and then people try to say you’re crazy
because you’re feeling a certain way about it just remember your correct feeling of there being something
wrong about such dismissals is you knowing deep down that this is all part of the only argument that ever
really mattered: the one about valuing all humans regardless. 

Stop twisting it in your head to something that it’s not: when they dismiss the I.E. they are spitting on what
they perceive as lower-class people. Class struggle is real and social media and the internet allow people
to tell on themselves about whose side they are on; we’re not haters for keeping note on when people
reveal themselves.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and
Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based
nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Leap of Faith by Aye Sincere- A King Dice Experience (Album Review)

I won’t do this often, I’m not Anthony Fantano and I really have no desire to be. I’m an emcee, a producer, and a damn good artist.  With that comes my ability to find, analyze, and promote good music. Aye Sincere is an artist I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow. I jumped at the chance when I was invited to his album listening party for Leap of faith. I pulled up to Serious Cartoons Records in San Bernardino and settled into a nice spot on the couch. As I became one with the cushions the lights were dimmed and Sincere spoke briefly about the project. Then he hit play…

1.Leap of Faith- The album opens with a skit setting the theatrical tone of the album. The opening track is an introduction to the “live instrumentation” feel this album has. This track feels like goodbye to rapper known as Young Sincere.
2. Are you Okay- the influence of Anderson.Paak is obvious, but with a twist. On the second track we get introduced to the new persona of Aye Sincere, shedding the veneer of Young Sincere for a more mature tone and higher level of artistry.
3. Let Go- Nicklaus Grey can be heard lending his voice to the hook of Let Go. Propaganda does a great job of complimenting the voices and styles laid before us on this song. The trio really create magic on this song
4. Leap Down- This song is an upbeat one.
5. Fall Away pt. 3- Aye Sincere creates a haunting vocal intro that bleeds into another upbeat song. By this song I was craving something new, not because the songs are bad, but I began to feel the diversity in the album was lacking. Had the song adopted the identity of Nicklaus Grey’s bridge It would have been a well needed break from the 1-2-3-4 up beat songs we’ve gotten so far.
6. Glide- Ask and you shall receive. This song is a demonstration of the ability for Aye Sincere to show his ability to craft songs from tapping in with Nicklaus Grey for vocals again to utilizing CJ Wesley’s ability to blend in with the established feel of the album.
7. Earthbound- another song you could hear at Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe. There is definitely a deliberate intention to capture this specific sound. Instead of being another rapper in a sea of sound-alikes, Aye Sincere does a great job of setting himself apart in a way that I think will set him up for huge opportunities and future successes.
8. Come Back Home- if you go to buffets and like to get a little bit of everything, this song is for you. I mean, I like it, it IS a good song. I just feel like the artist I just spent 7 songs getting to know is lost on this track. Again, not a bad song but if I heard this song first and listened to the rest of the album, I feel like I would think they were two different artists.

Aye Sincere is Anderson.Paak plus Chance the Rapper times Childish Gambino circa Because the Internet with a generous helping of West Coast I.E. flavor people have come to expect from this region. This album feels like you’re sitting in on a well-polished band’s practice sets, the chemistry pours through the speaker even when guest features grace the various songs. It all just works. The growth can’t be ignored. All too often artists grow and change in name only but Young Sincere becoming Aye Sincere isn’t just a superficial transformation. The songs, the vibe, and the skill has evolved. August 30th the album drops.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Politics of Bandana by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s new Bandana, the sequel to the already legendary Piñata is remarkable in a lot of ways but one is the depth of political commentary in Gibbs’ stories, in comparison to the first record in the series. In songs like “Flat Tummy Tea” and “Situations” he refers to Jeff Sessions, Obama, Bush and more that have been involved in lawmaking that affected him or the characters he raps about.

In “Flat Tummy Tea” he says
Obama can't make the law retroactive, what the fuck
Congress cock-blockin' niggas from comin' home to they family
If you lucky, when he left out of office
You got a pardon, overtime cut

This makes me think…Gibbs probably would not agree with young leftists that say there is no difference between the two major political parties or even given actors within the parties: here he is describing a situation where the small difference between two possible versions of a law meant the difference between the protagonist getting out of incarceration or staying. The Obama administration was always pushing for more reforms than the Republican congress would cooperate in delivering and here Gibbs explains point blank how that affected him. Per, Gibbs says he was locked up when he wrote this so I suspect this stuff somewhat applied to his situation.
On “Situations” he says
Motherfuck Jeff Sessions, I'm sellin' dope with a
Only union some of me and my niggas got is the Western
I'm they favorite rapper when niggas fucked up and they stressin'
Lot of niggas feel like I got my bucks up and I left 'em
Tell them pussy niggas come get the fuck up on my level, yeah
This how it feel to wake up and you don't owe nobody shit
Not an explanation, not no conversation, Drug Administration, suck a nigga dick

Again, he isn’t just saying “fuck all the politicians…” despite references in his songs to having been arrested on the day Obama was elected. He is saying fuck these Republicans- almost as if he knows the right-wing administrations tend to seek harsher penalties and set up the more draconian frameworks in the first place.

The specificity of the bind the protagonist in Bandana finds himself in is one of its innovations in relation to Piñata; a friend of mine, notorious tweeter Wavy Jones said he thinks Bandana is more of a Gibbs record whereas Piñata felt like more of a collaboration. The depth of the story telling in Bandana backs this I think, it’s like Gibbs is letting us, the listener, in more and learning about some real shit. Worth paying attention to, I think.
Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers