Monday, June 30, 2008

Tech weh yuself

Wayne @ has, as usual, written a really interesting post on chabbi and how it might/ might not fit into the 'ghettotech' umbrella.

If the guys in those chaabi videos were a street gang, holding guns & wearing kiffeyehs people would eat it up?

back when i was runnin my mouth, complaining about bizzarro distorted concepts of african music wayne quoted me (theantisuck) here.

I said - The roots obsessed decry Hip-Hop for losing touch with indigenous sounds. They blame American rap for destroying indigenous sounds yet they love ali farka toure, amadou &mariam, ethiopiques, ie. things that sound like American jazz and rock music. Then you have hipsters into African rap scenes, daraa j, kuduro, trying to find the music with the most dangerous street cred/booty beats and/or backpacker rap in Africa. Both “scenes” are perhaps dying yet so small and insignificant as to be nearly nonexistent next to the reality of African pop music and the actually huge scenes alive and well of coupe-decale, mbalax, swahili pop, zouk.

This isn’t to say that kuduro isn’t fascinating, especially from an academic perspective. It's just that I find it disquieting to see western audiences picking and choosing and making their own African celebrities and ideas of African music that seems so detached - in fact largely IGNORES much of the most popular African musical trends and artists celebrated across the continent. We seem to be creating our own African music scenes in our heads yet ignoring the scenes alive and kicking. Is this so bad or understandable? What are the consequences?

He responded by saying some legit points like we don’t have to listen to what's popular, shouldn’t worry too much about heisenbergian effects, and are coming from our own American, hip hop informed perspective.

Wayne asks: “Where are the Asian, Middle Eastern, or even European standard bearers for the global proles, if that’s what we’re repping?” global proles? I don’t feel like that’s what ghettotech is repping, even Wayne's stated bloggy interest is ‘American’ music, even in its broadest sense.

Ghettotech is music that is identifiably both ghetto (poor, urban, [hopefully black?]) and tech (what Wayne calls ““hip-hop logic” as well as the audibility of certain technologies and a set of sonic priorities weighted toward the low-end & the polyrhythmic”)

I feel like it would be hard to find Asian, Middle Eastern and Euro musics that fit entirely into that category. low-fi, urban, poor, sure. But they are just not engaged in the same intense dialogue with hip-hop as the Americas and Africa. I think that music comes from a totally different soundscape than that ol time triangular trade route of bodies/culture. Also not black. Race is probably an issue here.


Since runnin my mouth it turns out I was too cynical, at least about coupe decale. The mixtapes were already brewin. I can't even say I know mucho about African music anyway. Most of my knowledge is from living in Senegal in 2006 and the contacts I’ve maintained with friends there and diasporic shops/contacts. I think the distortion is also b/c African music is so mixtape/radio/adhoc spread. In Saint-Louis when I wanted to buy a cd I would tell shop owner Lamine what sounds I was interested in and ask about songs id heard at the club the night before and he would burn me a mix. no cd sales info. Even in JA, there’s trustworthy charts. So far I have been able to find no sort of trustworthy parallel African music charts. I feel like nobody has any idea what the people are actually listening to and so it’s hard to gauge context when discussing African music. If anyone begs to differ send me some links.

My orig point in that quote is that as somebody who just loves African pop music I love a lot of ghettotech music and the scenes occasionally awesome reflective engagement but find its limited scope frustrating. When I try to go to most clubs or music shops its arggg all marketed into that ol world music/nu whirled music ideas of African music. I wish there was a 3rd way audience dance/club scene that embraced global beats w/o always being ghettoed or downtempoed. But I dont think we are at a point where its easy to get direct engagement yet, so these scopes and ranges, i think, still matter. Not b/c of a few blogs influencing a music scene far away, but perhaps in terms of U.S. distribution.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Robbers, bandits, and blood-sucking vampires

"Average CEO compensation grew by 3.5 percent last year despite slowing economic growth, falling profits and mass layoffs, according to an Associated Press review published Monday. The review found that the S&P 500 CEO received an average yearly compensation of $8.4 million, up $280,000 (an average raise that is the equivalent of six times the US median household income) during 2006.

The data render ridiculous those apologies for social inequality resting on the idea that CEO pay is linked to ‘performance’ in some meaningful way. The Associated Press review found that “CEO pay rose or fell regardless of the direction of a company’s stock price or profits.” The report also notes that half of the 10 best paid CEOs—who collectively hauled in half a billion dollars last year—presided over companies whose profits shrank “dramatically.”

John Thain, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, ranks first on the list. He received $83 million in compensation for the year, despite presiding over a company that posted a $9.8 billion loss in the fourth quarter. He replaced former CEO Stanley O’Neal on December 1, 2007. O’Neal left the bank with a compensation package worth over $161 million, despite his direct oversight of the bank’s gambling with mortgage-backed securities that ultimately exploded in 2006-2007.

Likewise, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, also in the top 10, received a compensation package worth $41.7 million, even though his firm announced the writing down of $9.8 billion worth of loans and a loss of $3.61 billion in the fourth quarter.

The housing bubble and the worldwide financial crisis it has created were fueled by people like Mack and Thain, as well as the enormously wealthy shareholders they represent.

In good times, financial executive compensation has been tied to increases in stock value and short-term asset performance. But it does not seem to track the downward spiral as these measures fall. In recent years, financial executives have swelled their bonuses by buying up huge tracts of “mystery-meat” securities with high yields and intentionally miscalculated risk.

This reporter recently attended a lecture by David Hartzell, a former vice-president of Salomon Brothers, who played a role in the development of the mortgage-backed securities that were instrumental in creating the current crisis. He noted that by repackaging bad mortgages as high quality securities, his firm could generate previously unimaginable profits. “When we first discovered this, it was like somebody turned on the cash spigot,” Hartzell said. Naturally, a great deal of this cash made it into executives’ pockets.

The latest figures have already evoked calls from sections of the business press for greater corporate oversight of CEO activities and compensation. Much of this comes in the form of “shareholder activism,” as if the biggest shareholders did not approve the policies implemented by financial CEOs when they sent stock prices and dividends soaring.

Questions along these lines were raised at Hartzell’s speech at the University of Delaware. The dean of the university’s business college observed, “In accounting 101 we learn that high yields equal high risk. We know the CEOs had an incentive to disregard this because they were getting huge bonuses. But why didn’t the shareholders say anything?”

Hartzell did not have a ready answer, but it does not take much soul-searching to find one. The wealthy shareholders—those with real voting power—were perfectly happy to see the financial firms’ profits and stock prices skyrocket, even at the expense of long-term stability, and to give top executives tens of millions for making this happen.

Looking at the AP compensation report, one is struck by the apparent correlation between a CEO’s pay and the amount of social harm his or her company inflicts. The bankers who triggered a worldwide financial crisis got the biggest bonuses. Then we have the energy executives, whose compensation shot up some 32 percent last year as gas prices breached $4 per gallon, sharply reducing the real incomes of millions of working people.

Bob Simpson of XTO Energy took home $50 billion in compensation in 2007, ranking him at number four this year. Other energy executives on the list included Eugene Isenberg of Nabors Industries and Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum, who took home $44 billion and $34 billion respectively.

Other bonus hikes went to executives who succeeded in destroying jobs and driving down wages. Rick Wagoner of General Motors received a compensation package of $15.7 million, up 60 percent from the previous year, despite presiding over a company that posted a $39 billion loss in 2007. He was, however, successful in scrapping GM’s healthcare obligations to workers and pushing through plant closures.

And what have been the social consequences of all this? Who has paid the cost of this enrichment of a tiny layer at the top of the social ladder? According to the latest estimates, one in twenty Americans will soon have negative equity in their homes, and millions already face foreclosure. Energy prices have shot up by 17 percent in the past year alone. Real wages have fallen by about 1 percent during the same period, with far steeper declines threatened."

US: CEO pay sets new record as economy tanks.
via jdean