Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Akil, of course, is a founding member of Jurassic Five. The Board, as some of you may have gathered from his earlier post on the topic, likes them a lot. I don't find that to be unethical. No no. And don't worry, The board's brief flirtation with music journalism will be mercifully brief. On The Beat is back next week.
TIME, culture and economics were all fairly cruel to Los Angeles rap collective Jurassic Five, the superstars who never were.
In the late 1990s, after almost 10 years of being bludgeoned by the likes of Ice Cube, the ears of South Central became tuned to an oddly polished brand of post-revival ensemble hip hop. For a group formed in a health store, of all places, Jurassic Five’s 1997 debut EP was an underground joy, dripping with simple beats, cut and paste samples and thinking-man’s lyrical interplay.
It was a hip hop fusion that carried through their ten years together, and is one that will be on display at the Belltable this Friday as founding member Akil The MC performs a highly anticipated solo set.
Jurassic Five weren’t quite a bolt from the blue - the groundwork had been laid years before by A Tribe Called Quest’s seminal ‘Midnight Marauders’ and those pioneers of the genre, De La Soul. But their breakthrough track ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ was equal parts fresh and disarmingly nostalgic, and the group offering “playground tactics/no rabbit in a hat tricks” seemed poised to take hip hop to a smoother place.
But Eminem was about to release the Marshall Mathers LP, and a rap genre that had become pointy and confrontational in the mid 1990s was about to become blissfully mainstream. J5 members Chali 2na, Akil, Soup, Mark 7even, DJ Nu-Mark and DJ Cut Chemist were about to find themselves in the right place at the wrong time.
Word of mouth ensured a full release for their debut EP in December 1998 on Pan Records, and in June 2000 Interscope published their second studio work ‘Quality Control’. Despite weaving together deceptively slick production, social commentary and left field samples - as well as containing the menacing masterpiece ‘Contribution’ - Quality Control was blighted from the start.
The group always had an awkward relationship with Interscope, complaining that the label were attempting to shoe-horn their style into places where it wouldn’t fit. (Prior to releasing ‘Quality Control’ one record company official is reported to have demanded more “Southern jigga-boo” beats).
Still, their creativity peaked with 2002 release ‘Power In Numbers’, which reached number 15 in the US Billboard 200. It was a spell binding record which could have easily been packaged as a concept album, so perfectly did it capture the grief, smooth life and lazy love of black man in modern LA.
2006’s ‘Feedback’ was equally successful commercially, but was met with a lukewarm reaction from critics. By this stage DJ Cut Chemist had left the group and their balance seemed to suffer, with collaborations with Nelly Furtado and the Dave Matthews Band sounding like the product of a group in search of a way.
They split in ambiguous circumstances in February 2007. This Friday founding member Akil performs a solo set at the Belltable on Cecil Street, where he will combine smidgens of his recent solo work with the likes of DJ Format and Japan’s DJ Yuktaka with a blend of J5 staples.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The international banking crisis has become the first phoney war of the 21st century.
Just like Europe in 1913, propaganda and ignorance on the part of the powers that be is clouding any attempt at tackling a deep-seated and poisonous problem, and we are all suffering because of it.
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is calling for Irish Nationwide CEO Michael Fingleton to return a €1 million bonus, in line with the Government's new, seemingly morally superior code on pay for bank executives following the State guarantee.
Once more, this is just the Government emitting hot air. Once more, it is Minister Coughlan who is responsible for it.
All over the developed world (excluding Canada, of course) senior bankers are being subjected to nothing short of a witch hunt. What is most unsettling is that this mass vilification is being backed, legitimised and encouraged by governments.
Senior bankers deserve little clemency from anyone, of course. The more we learn, the more we have come to realise that the dispensing of bad credit and seepage of toxic debt was derived from greed and irresponsibility by the people who were in charge of our money.
But with our exchequer bleeding and the toughest budget since The Emergency likely to come in the coming weeks, the last thing we need is this sort of mindless populism from the Tanaiste.
Wasting time, effort and what little political capital the Government has left going after individual bankers shows a clear lack of ideas and leadership.
Making Fingleton hand back his bonus will not fix the shocking lack of regulation in Irish banking that let men like him award themselves this money in the first place. But crippling bank CEO's wages will only serve to ensure that the best people for these jobs will look elsewhere when asked to take up the stewardship of our banks in the medium and long term.
There is no joined up thinking here.
This Government, bereft as they are of popular support, have been reduced to dispensing soundbites that play on the anger and confusion of ordinary people towards the banks.
Because the ineptitude of Minister Coughlan and her cabinet colleagues becomes clear with even the slightest scrutiny, they are determined to direct the eyes and the fury of the Irish people at anyone but themselves.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
There's a good article in the New York Times today on how EU member states are starting to get a touch of cold feet on the issue of taking in detainees from Guantanamo Bay, as many - including Ireland - initially said they would.
Now that the diplomatic euphoria of Barack Obama's election has receded, world powers are starting to realise that yes, the world is still in the toilet and no, international relations haven't gotten any less complicated because the US President now knows how to punctuate a sentence.
The European concerns about the details of possible prisoner release, from access to US intelligence on the men to what their status within the EU will be, are tangible and understandable.
Through Guantanamo Bay, CIA rendition and illegal detention, George W Bush has essentially created the most layered and complex foreign policy knot of our generation. It will not be undone quickly or easily.
Assuming that the Government does not renege on its offer to take one or more Gitmo prisoners into the country, it is only a matter of time before public opinion here and elsewhere begins to sway this debate to a potentially awkward conclusion.
How receptive can we expect the Irish public to be to the whole idea? Even if the Department of Justice's already messy web of immigration policy is negotiated and agreed status is afforded to a Gitmo prisoner, it will not make dealing with a ream of social problems any easier.
For instance, how well could one of the 17 Chinese Muslim Uighur minority currently detained in Cuba integrate into the Asian community in Dublin, or even Limerick?
How long would it take before the News of The World or some scaremongering Republican Sinn Fein mouthpiece track down and expose them?
To what extent would Garda monitoring undermine the individual's ability to assimilate into Irish society?
The upcoming meeting of the European Council will most likely see leaders spend most of their time arguing over Eastern bank bailouts and the explosive cost of our exports. But they would also do well to consider how they intend to handle the Gitmo issue as well.
Barack Obama has a 12-month timetable in place for the full closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and being the realist that he is it is one he will want to adhere to.
The attitude of the Irish public towards Gitmo prisoners living and working amongst us - be they hardened zealots or innocent victims of CIA brutality - will go a long way towards shaping the Government's overall stance on the issue.
The Government could certainly do with the political capital that will come from working with Washington on this.
But making it work on a social level will be far more complicated.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
No, seriously, think about it.
Ten to twelve seconds of bright light and warm fingers would be a far more productive use of my legal tender than backing these Godforsaken horses.
A good tip Gavin, really? Casey Jones in the 2.40, huh? 12/1 is a good price is it? Worth a fiver each way, is he?
Tearing off my own face with cheese wire would make more sense.
If Alexander Severus doesn't win in the 4.40 The Board will place a bomb in his shoe and kick John McCirick in the rump.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The brazen political hypocrisy of the Adams and McGuinness Provisionals
has now reached a new sickening low with their call to inform to the police in
the ongoing conflict in the Six Counties, a spokesman for Republican
Sinn Fein said today.
Joe Lynch from Beechgrove Avenue in Ballinacurra Weston in Limerick, the RSF chairman in the southside of the city said that the comments of both Adams and
McGuinness in the wake of the army attack exposed the real feelings of
men who once were considered Republicans.
They now want people to inform to the police in order to protect their huge
political payments and their positions of power under the British Crown, he said.
The fact is the Republican Movement they joined is still intact despite their best efforts at destroying it by selling out and surrendering to the British and accepting partition and British occupation. For as long as British troops remain in Ireland they
will be opposed by the Irish people.
Their weasel words ring out at a time when they are also commemorating the Gibraltar Three who were executed by British State agents in this ongoing war against the British occupation in Ireland. Adams and McGuinness have the gall to parade to the graves of men and women who died in the cause of Irish freedom while
acting as agents of the British Crown against true Republican people.
The operation at the British Army barracks in Antrim finally exposes the real nature of these so called figures in Republicanismwho are now so compromised that the have to do the bidding of the British.
Not only should they stay from Republican graves this weekend and in future, they should also cease using the name Sinn Fein because they have disgraced it.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Human history has been a painful and cynical jig.
The Dark Ages, the fall of Constantinople, the Great Fire of London, the invention of folk music - through all his endeavours man has truly perfected the art of making life completely miserable.
But even Nero would have struggled to conjure something so thoroughly tormenting as a local election.
The tedium. The glad-handing. The camp electioneering. The posturing. The intellectual emptiness.
Thanks to our PR-STV system for electing members of the Dail, local government in this country is essentially an irrelevance, and is treated in the halls of power as such.
While local councils should be the first (and most crucial) form of active citizenship, town, county and city councils in this country instead reflect little more than localised versions of the Seanad - launching pads for some careers, retirement homes for others, and a shelf for the rest to stew, refrain and swear.
There are some very good men and women sitting on Limerick City and County Councils. But there are far too many self-important, litigious and inactive cronies whom the politics and systems of our country have allowed to bleed the State dry.
Every five years, we hope that the electorate will toss out this dead weight that claims to represent our interests but does little of the sort.
But so long as local government in this country is by-passed and councillors are left without true, demanding responsibility that would separate the public servants from the leeches, we will continue to vote for the people who bought us a pint, the faces we recognise, the men and women who are incapable.
Or, worse still, we don't bother to vote at all.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Modern man has a lot to be happy for. Sliced cheese, for example. And Jeremy Clarkson.
But one of the more agitating things we have to put up with is the liberal, illicit use of the word 'celebrity'.
Once, it meant something. Joe Namath was a celebrity. Tupac Shakur was a celebrity. The Wombles were celebrities.
But now it has been reduced to a flippant adjective, something for the tabloids to put before perfectly ordinary occupations such as 'chef', 'gardener' and 'bigamist'.
This Friday, we get to see another scurrilous use of the term with the 'celebrity' jigs and reels competition in the Sin Bin nightclub.
Now now, put down that mallet. The Board of course supports all efforts to raise money for breast cancer research, and he is sure it will be great fun, etc etc etc
But God, as always, resides in the details.
The Board works within ear shot of one of the contestants, David Hurley, and we can assure you that a celebrity he is not. (He isn't much of a dancer either, but that is beside the point)
And make no mistake, attempting to quench our rage by adding the suffix 'local' celebrities won't work.
The journalists, councillors, retired models and ambiguous rugby figures of Limerick have been sucked into Andy Warhol's grey pond of celebrity, in which no one is famous because everyone is.
(This doesn't include the Claw, obviously. If he ever thought I was slagging him The Board would be both murdered and killed)
Nonetheless The Board will be in The Sin Bin on Friday, deriding all the contestants and consuming liquefied barley by the tonne.
If he survives the night without having a shoe lodged in his eye socket, he will consider it victory.
Though he was quite disturbed when he read this story on the BBC's website, explaining how two black holes have been found "dancing" perilously close to each other in a galaxy far, far away.
Untold quasar-based destruction will be caused should one confuse the other's tango with his charleston.
The omens for Friday, it seems, are written in the stars.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Fresh from the oily tinker box that is the Limerick Leader's entertainment corner comes the most exciting news since the moon landing.
Jurassic Five are coming to Limerick!
Well, one of them is.
Akil (The short one) is going to be performing a solo MC set at The Belltable on March 27. Allow me to lead the first celebratory cry.
As a 23-year-old male with far to high an opinion of himself, The Board has his vices. Foremost of these is a love of post-revival ensemble hip-hop.
Every morning, before he sets off to work to spin his words every which way, The Board spends nine minutes sitting in his car with J5's 'Power in Numbers' and 'Quality Control' and A Tribe Called Quest's 'Midnight Marauders' and 'The Love Movement' in his hands, trying to pick his 7.30am ear-gravy.
The Board admits that he got a little light headed when he heard rumours that J5 might be coming to Limerick. (They disbanded in 2007, of course, and re-forming seemed to be off the agenda). And even though it will just be Akil and his face fuzz making an appearance on Cecil Street, we are still pleased.
All credit to Joanne Beirne at the Belltable and Eight Ball for giving me a reason to wish away the next 24 days.
One can only hope that Eight Ball's press release, guaranteeing a spatter of J5 classics in Akil's set, is accurate.
'Hey', The Board feels, is on a par with 'Electric Relaxation' as the finest smooth-joint of the past 20 years.
We thought we'd come a little different/Somethin' unscripted/Push up our percentage/Rip it like we meant it/Vintage verses sentence wordsmith/Here with no delay/Relax and don't decay/Turn to the DJ/He can make ya people say...Hey...Hey
Monday, March 2, 2009
Brian Cowen still posseses those qualities, of course. But the problem here is his party.
Noel Dempsey's bombastic and brutally honest speech aside, the Ard Fheis was self-serving, aggrandising and very difficult to watch.
The party of government have clearly decided that at a time when their popular support is at a record low, they will stay true to their core, indulge one another and hold the line.
Not. Good. Enough.
One immediately thought of Lindsey Graham's speech to the Republican Party convention in the US last year, in which he brazenly declared that his party "are on the way to victory" over Barack Obama. Very rarely do we get to see politicians loudly declare just out of touch they and their parties are.
The Fianna Fail pantomime - in which Bertie Ahern (a man who posterity will judge as a reckless, manipulative and painfully populist leader) received a prolonged standing ovation - will do little to restore its battered reputation.
When an electorate is so dead set against you, your policies, your culture of cronyism and how you have steered this country into a ravine, the only choice a party has is to offer up its cheek.
The entire FF party are not to blame for the banking crisis, of course. Minister Dempsey's declaration that they are not all "guilty by association" does ring true.
But the Irish voters are not willing to compromise. Fianna Fail stood with open arms to receive the joy of the boom. It now has to take all the anger of the bust. If you want to deflect blame, a brash display of assumed authority under the FF banner isn't the way to do it.
It is no coincidence that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is the most popular politician in the country today. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Party hold all three arms of the US government. It is no coincidence that laissez-faire leaders, from Sarkozy to Kostas Karamanlis, are without popular support.
Western democracy is moving to the left.
If Fianna Fail is left holding three local councils across the country after June 5, we will all be very surprised.
Generation Kill, which is currently eating up a meaty slice of his Sky+ box, is a slick, sarcastic and utterly real depiction of what the Colin Powell warfare model has made of the standard US Marine.
And then there's the small matter of The Wire.
If you haven't seen it yet, The Board recommends it as highly as Alexander Fleming did penicillin.
There's little I or anyone can write here of its sheer majesty that hasn't already been said. Put simply, it should have won a Nobel Prize for literature. It is the pinnacle of television as a modern art form.
But aside from all this, it will give you something equally precious - the chance to pass yourself off as being smarter than you really are.
The Board, as we have discussed, occasionally presents himself as a journalist. As such, when the 14 arrests were made last week in relation to the murder of Shane Geoghegan (the first charge of many, it is hoped, being made on Friday) his friends asked him questions, assuming he knew something.
The following is a rough transcript, edited for purposes of realism:
Q:"Who are these 14? Did one of them do it?"
A: "Well, maybe. They probably think a few of them were involved, but they can't be sure. So you arrest a load of street level associates at the same time - people who might have helped hide the ones who did it, maybe stashed the gun.
"You get them all in, so no one knows what the other's been saying. Then you lean on the low level players, wave some 3 to 5 at them, try and roll them up the chain. The senior guys know how to take some jail time, sure, but the younger ones, the teens in it for a thrill and some pocket money, they're the ones the Guards will sweat. They're the ones who'll point fingers.
*The Board breaks into a slight Baltimore drawl*
"Good po-lice, after all, ain't nuthin without informants."
For holding his own in this conversation, and for the gift of 'Charles Dickens' as a slang term, The Board owes thanks to the regal vision of Simon and Burns.
He can only hope they're not men to call in favours.