Monthly Archives: January 2010

WTH is an iPad?

It’s official. Today, Steve Jobs announced the Apple Tablet that everyone has been waiting for – the iPad. I wrote about this release a couple of weeks ago, and now that the day is here, I thought I would update my thoughts on the product now that I actually know the specs of it.

It does seem like there are very many likable features on the device, such as the eBook capability and fun web-surfing. As I mentioned before, however, I don’t think this will catch on in the way that Macs, iPods, or iPhones have over the last 10 years. Unlike those devices, I believe there is a very small and niche market for the iPad, and see it unlikely that it will catch on significantly in the mainstream.
That being said, it is still to be seen how successful this will be because it did take the iPod a while to catch on before it flooded mainstream culture in the way that it did. Only time will tell.

Comm. in a Global Age #3: Stealing or Sampling?

Hip-hop music relies on one thing more than anything else – sampling. Sampling is the practice of taking parts of previously recorded music – or any sound for that matter – and used in way that makes a new piece of music. The foundation of hip-hop lies in this practice, from all the way back when deejays and emcees would kick it on the streets of the South Bronx in New York City. Deejays would find old (usually funk and soul) records with nice breaks (parts where there are only drums playing) and play that as a loop and then they would scratch another record on another turntable. On top of that the emcee (or rapper) would rhythmically talk or rap over the new backing track that the deejay was making. At first, when this just took place in urban areas, it was thought to be a fad, but when it expanded past urban areas, it became a problem.

When rap became a commercially viable (arguably with the release of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979), things started to change in the world of hip-hop. At this time, more and more hip-hop artists began recording their music in the same fashion that they had been playing at parties. Therefore, there was still heavy use of sampling in hip-hop music. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, hip-hop music became very popular in America and this is where the real problems for the hip-hop artists started.

The problem with sampling others people’s music is that their music is a copyrighted creation and the hip-hop records were using unauthorized (a.k.a. the original artists were not getting paid for their “work” on the rappers albums) samples. When rappers started to be very commercially successful, these original artists came running for the checks. The two most famous cases of this around that time were Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” (which sampled Queen & David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”) and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” (which sampled Rick James’ “Super Freak”). Although both of these songs heavily sampled their predecessors, neither of them credited or paid the original artists. Therefore, the original arts went to their lawyers and sued the new artists for copyright infringement and ultimately got a lot of money out of it.

After these incidents, producers, artists, and labels have become very cautious about who and how they sample older music. In fact, some artist have based their entire careers off of sampling other people’s music. In 1996, DJ Shadow created an entire instrumental album comprised completely of samples. Before Kanye West was an award show stealing rapper, he was a producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Record Label. West took old soul samples and speed them up and popularized the “chipmunk” style of hip-hop beats. While earlier producers (decedents of early deejays) mostly used analog methods, such as turntables and MPC’s, a new generation of producers has emerged with the popularization of computers. With a plethora of software available, it is now easier than ever for hip-hop producers to sample old songs (and they don’t need the physical record to do so). Producers such as 9th Wonder is one of the best examples of this because he is best known for producing solely on the production suite called Fruity Loops.

A lot of people claim that sampling is just “copying” other people’s work but I have to respectfully disagree with this thought. It takes a lot of time and effort to find and create the necessary elements of a hip-hop song. Some producers (such as ?uestlove of The Roots) has over 60,000 vinyl records in his collection. The amount of time it takes to both acquire those physical records and to listen to all of them is mind blowing. To find the right segment of a song to sample must be a painstaking process – especially if you are going to make something listenable out of it. I believe that if you properly credit the original artists for the song, there is no problem with paying respect to the people that came before you.

Comm. in a Global Age #2: Apple Tablet?

It has been rumored for some time that Apple is going to announce a new tablet device at the end of the month, and while no one has any official news on its existence, there are still many people enthralled with its perceived existence. With Apple’s rise to dominance within the last couple of years, it is believed by many that the tablet will be a game changer just as Macs and the iPhone have done. There is one problem that I see with this, however. For their Mac products and the iPhone, Apple came into an already established market and made products that were better than the products that were in that market.

The product, which is rumored to be called the iSlate, is supposed to be like a larger version of the iPhone – although it is still unclear if it will run an Operating System similar to the Mac OS or the iPhone OS. Despite not knowing these critical details about the iSlate, developers have already started to think of creative ways to use the new medium,

There have been many other tablets introduced (even by Apple themselves) and there really hasn’t been a demand for them – people actually prefer traditional laptops for the most part. There is a very niche market for tablets because they are only more effective than traditional laptops in certain situations, such as for artists or students. While they could possibly market it to these select people, I don’t believe that it will make enough of a splash to become “the next big thing” like people are hoping. It seems to be, just like most tablets that have been introduced, a gimmick item that will slowly fall out.

In the other markets that Apple has entered (and controlled) in the last 10 years, there has been a high demand for those types of products. There is an established demand for PCs. There is an established demand for mp3 players (although the iPod might be the exception to the rule here). And there is an established demand for cellular phones. By taking the time to make better products in those markets, Apple has been able to be a dominant player in those markets. With the tablet, however, they are entering a market that has had no proven success.

I want to wait until the product is officially announced and I know its full capabilities before I make a final judgment, but I don’t see it becoming as mainstream as iPod or MacBook. I have no doubt that it will be an interesting product with a lot of support from developers, but it is unclear how it will be utilized before the ins and outs of it are officially released. If the demand isn’t there, I don’t see how this can possibly a “breakthrough” product.

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A Different Kind of Video

This is a video that I made while interning at my middle school last spring. I made it for the music director at the school who also serves meals to the homeless every Wednesday evenings.

Better Things by Passion Pit

I can’t believe how fast time has gone. I made this almost a year ago, but it seems like it was just yesterday. This was the last ‘big’ video that I helped produced and it has me realizing that I need to get back into actually making stuff. Well here it “Better Things” by Passion Pit. Shouts to T ‘N’ Krumpetz aka Misha Gordon-Rowe and Cecily Lloyd.


Comm. in a Global Age #1: "It’s an award show, I didn’t kill anybody."

This last Friday, I received my copy of Kanye West’s new live CD/DVD, “Kanye West on VH1 Storytellers”, in the mail. The two disc set contains footage and audio that was filmed in late 2008/early 2009 and aired in February of last year. The concert features new and old songs by the rapper with commentary on the making of and inspiration behind the songs. While he included insight about his love life and his mother’s passing in 2007, there was a particular comment he made that caught me off guard, especially considering the time at which this was filmed. While talking during his song “Amazing,” Kanye says, “You either die a superhero or live to become the villain…so many times they make me out to be the villain…I apologize for acting like a bitch at award shows. It’s an award show, I didn’t kill anyone.” This comment reminded me of what happened at the MTV Music Awards, when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift while she was accepting her award for Best Female Video. Whether you hate or love the man, the music, or the personality, there is no denying that the media heavily influenced Kanye’s reputation after this event. (Click “Read More” to finish reading this post)

It is no secret that Kanye is a very outspoken individual. Since the beginning of his career, he has spoken his mind in nearly every situation. From the final track on his debut album where he talks for nine minutes about the difficulties he experienced with the industry in his early days, to lengthy posts on his blog, to multiple mic-snatching moments (yes, the Swift incident was not the first incident of this kind). Up until the incident with Swift, however, Kanye was able to use this cocky/confident attitude to help his career instead of hinder it. It is unclear what was different about this incident, but the media completely turned on Kanye after this one.

Even before the end of the show, the clip of Kanye and Taylor had already reached and the publicity of the incident was beginning to spread. In the following few days, almost every popular media outlet had some for of the story – everywhere from MSNBC to the Today Show to the View, who had Taylor Swift as a guest. Due to the media’s overall support of Taylor and disapproval of Kanye’s actions, Kanye’s reputation and image was badly damaged by an incident that was not out of the artist’s method of operating. The thing that was different in this incident was that Kanye’s star power was great enough to give him the opportunity and confidence to perform such a stunt at a large award show. The fact that his opinion was expressed in such a public place and that he was interrupting an artist that embodies purity and innocence led to the immense amount of scrutiny that he received.

Since the last time that Kanye had a major outcry at an award show, a lot of things had happened in his life that changed people’s perception of who he was as a person and an artist. Since the 2008 Grammy’s (which his most recent blow up at an awards show) he had one of the biggest and most successful tours in recent memory, he broke up with his long time girlfriend, he made an album (which he sang, not rapped, on) about that break up, and was named (by MTV) the “Hottest MC of 2008.” It is safe to say that just over a year later, Kanye had moved out of his role as just a rapper, and was now a genuine pop star. The antics that he did as a “rapper” could not be brushed aside as easily now that he was a “pop artist.” More people knew who he was, and therefore, more people cared. I am not saying that Kanye is not at fault, but it is definitely interesting to see how the media and the public can change how the react to very similar situations after the perception of someone is altered. The media was able to successfully build up Kanye’s reputation and then just as easily break it down when he did something that was not acceptable to the general public.

While because he was a bigger star this go-round more people cared about his public mess up and therefore damaged his reputation more than ever before. He canceled a tour with Lady Gaga and has almost completely stayed out of the public view since the incident. This is an entirely different reaction than any of his previous incidents and I believe that this shows he is growing as a person and, as a fan, I hope it means that he will continue to grow as an artist. When the media repeatedly attacks some artists, they often turn to drugs or alcohol, Kanye has proven that he goes to his music to get out his frustration and I am greedily anticipating some better music in the near future. But more importantly, it shows that Kanye won’t let anyone get in the way of what he wants, and I can’t wait for him to prove to everyone how great of an artist he truly is. Despite what the media makes him out to be, I hope other people can recognize the talent that he has, forgive him for a small mistake and appreciate his music, because as he said himself, he “didn’t kill anybody.”

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Blast from the Past

I just found an old hard drive of mine (which I thought was completely fried) and it had on it some pictures that I took back in 2006 from my trip to London (along with a few other places) and I’m actually amazed at what my sophmore-in-high-school-self was capable of. Here are some of the highlights. Hit the jump for the rest of them.