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Archive for May, 2004

You a rich girl, girl

Saturday, May 15th, 2004

There are two songs on the radio these days that both use big obvious samples to great effect: Young Gunz Rich Girl and Mobb Deep Get it Twisted. They’re both pretty incredible.

Rich Girl has a sample from the Hall and Oats song of the same name. It’s this big, loose and lanky sample that they turn into a stomper with the addition of this real nice synthetic-sounding snare.

Got it Twisted slows down the organ line from She Blinded me with Science and turns goofy into menacing in a way you wouldn’t think possible.

The lyrics in both songs are pretty dull. Got it Twisted is just about being menacing, and even in that narrow vein it just has one or two good lines (“get a little blood on my daughter it’s nothin- she’ll live”). And the Young Gunz song has their characteristic “we’re still learning how to rap” feel to it. Both tracks sound like exercises.

But they’re still pretty amazing songs, right? Just goes to show how much power there is in that kind of juxtaposition. Like that energy in ionic bonds.

And the final point: when you listen to these, don’t you get the feeling that they both would’ve been done years ago– and better–if the sampling crackdown had never happened? Sampling in hip hop isn’t dead. It just got slowed waay doowwn.


Another thing about Rich Girl: the other day Nick and I were driving past the local college and we saw some of our class-of-oh-four friends out in the sun sitting on porch roofs and playing beer pong. We stopped to chat and they were listening to a Hall and Oats record. Coincidence? Probably not. I’d say it’s yet more evidence that sample based music has the power to give funny old records a new lease on life.

Songwriters, Copyright, and Filesharing

Friday, May 14th, 2004

NICHOLAS HAD AN INTERESTING email conversation with the head of a songwriter’s association last week, and we think it’s kind of an interesting look at how some of this stuff gets debated. It’s not comprehensive or even very methodical– it’s just a little back and forth, but it gets at some key issues. Songwriters are an important ally to convince: they’ve been screwed in a whole bunch of ways by the major labels but they also have a lot of nervousness about the changing industry because they’re some of the only creative people that actually get paid in the current system. We’re sure that they’ll get much more money if filesharing is legalized and monetized, but that’s hard to swallow for a lot of people. Our long-term challenge is to create the resources and information that can make a solid case to musicians, songwriters, and indy labels, while weakening the major labels ability to stop progress.

“I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years and have no great love for record labels but at least they do…”
Read the conversation here


TV on the Radio Interview

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

CHECK OUT OUR LATEST interview, just posted, with front man Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio (he’s the one on the right in the picture).

TV on the Radio

The band started the way it happens in books: by messing around in their loft, making a few tapes, and daring to play shows before they really knew what they were doing. (Of course it helps that they are incredibly talented.) Despite their success and the mysterious ringing of their cell phones (see interview), Tunde vows they will stay at Touch and Go Records for as long as possible. This is a heartening sentiment that I have heard recently from just about every musician I’ve spoken with for this interview series. It seems that the charade of money and glamour that the big five labels offer is gradually being exposed for what it
is: a house of cards. As the majors weaken, the independent music movement is becoming stronger and stronger. While the executives ponder how to reverse this, the answer is obvious: independent labels put out music for music’s sake. Sales are simply a great side effect. And though everyone loves packaging, talent speaks for itself.

Read the interview here, and see ‘page 2’ of this blog (above) for news on upcoming interviews with more super indie rockers and rappers.

upcoming interviews 5.12.04

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

From the Interview Department: we have four exciting interviews upcoming. TV on the Radio should be up very soon, with Beans (ex-Anti-Pop Consortium), Daniel Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), and John McEntire (Tortoise) to follow. Each have varying opinions on the issues that drive Downhill Battle–some in contradicition–and all were refreshingly frank in that aspect. Look for those soon. Also, if anyone has any feedback on the interviews we’ve conducted so far, including questions you’d like to see asked of future subjects, or ideas about who those subjects shoule be, feel free to email me at: mb|at|downhillbattle.org.

DMCRA Hearing

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

TUESDAY WE POSTED ABOUT the DMCRA, a bill that would reform the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Well, there’s a Congressional hearing going on right this very moment, and Codewarrior from DMusic.com is blogging the hearing live. Sounds boring, but actually makes for pretty interesting reading: follow part 1 of the hearing here (here’s part 2). And this a good rundown of what’s wrong with the DMCA.


Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

SO IF YOU CLICK on the tab that says “Page 2” (look above), you’ll see our new page 2 blog that we started on Sunday. It’s intended to be a little bit more freeform than this main page. The goal is to help strike a balance between keeping regular readers updated with interesting tidbits and news, while still having posts on the front page that get at bigger issues and that make more sense to first time readers. We realize it can be frustrating sometimes to stumble across a new website and see a post about some random minutia that you have no context for. Anyway, check out page 2, also take a look at the news and readings tabs for more good stuff.

PlayFair hacked again

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004

via Slashdot: iTunes’ DRM scheme has been circumvented again, and the PlayFair project, as it’s called, has a new name and a new webpage: hymn-project.org. Now you can strip the restrictions off any songs you buy from the iTunes Music Store, and play them on whatever software or portable player you choose. In case Apple sends them another cease and desist letter, Free Software Foundation India will be providing legal support.

It should be noted that the PlayFair project has virtually no usefulness or significance for filesharing. All of the music on iTunes is readily available elsewhere, and at this point it seems like anyone who’s interested in using iTunes is probably not going to be very pro-active about sharing their music. It’s not obvious at first glance why Apple has been playing legal hardball with a tiny project that is not going to have the tiniest impact on their bottom line. Apple’s a pretty smart company, so our guess is that the impetus for legal action traces back to much less smart companies: the majors. When news comes out about Apple’s DRM being shaky, the major record labels get spooked, and Apple–to ease their fears–calls in the lawyers.

The hymn-project, though it’s based in India, and though the kid who started it is from Norway, features some choice words from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Interpreted faithfully, American copyright law is actually pretty cool. Too bad it barely ever is. Check it out

Reform the DMCA – Support DMCRA

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004

THE DIGITAL MEDIA CONSUMER’S RIGHTS ACT is a bill in the US House of Representatives that would make some important and much needed reforms to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Dmusic and the EFF are trying to get people to send messages to their representatives. You can read more about the bill here. And if you have a moment, send a letter to your rep— it really does make a difference when members of congress realize that people actually care about what seem like arcane copyright laws. Without citizen pressure, it’s easy for corporate special interests to get whatever they want, and that usually means bad things for music and the broader culture.


Monday, May 10th, 2004

Greg emailed us a while ago about a new site that he’s starting called thepirateship.org, which is a new discussion forum for filesharing issues. Could be a good place to flex your rhetorical muscles, but we also tend to be wary of too much talk and too little action (which is why downhill battle discussion boards have been postponed until we have the right framework to keep conversations moving in a productive direction).

Welcome to Page 2

Sunday, May 9th, 2004

Hey everyone. Today we’re starting this ‘page2’ blog which will have more casual posts and updates about what we’re working on at Downhill Battle. We sometimes feel reluctant about posting little notes and details to the main blog because we have so many new people coming to the page every day. We worry that it could be a little off-putting to come to the site for the first time and see a post about progress on the iTunes script if you have no idea what we’re talking about. But we also want to keep regular readers up to date, and this seems like a good solution. We’ll see how it goes.