For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

The mecca for Star Wars fanatics is back August 23rd through the 26th. There’s no doubt that there will be troopers, clones, and ewoks galore throughout The Orange County Convention Center.  Beyond a galaxy’s worth of actors from the motion pictures, animations, and other Lucas properties, there will be a special discussion held with actor, writer and cult favorite director Kevin Smith during the convention. Here are pictures from Star Wars Celebration V.

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New video for “I Shall Not Be Moved” from the new album “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp.”

Get it on iTunes here.

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Game Warp 2012 redelivers the goods with classic entertainment brands and a pinball blast from another time in electronic gaming that still engages in an era of iPad apps and HD gaming systems. Beyond the baby boomers, the Game Warp II thrilled plenty of gen-Xers and millennials at this year’s event.

One of the most exciting additions was AC/DC’s 2012 foray into the classic tactile gaming experience with their own new machine.

Game Warp I:

After visiting Game Warp, a convention focusing on retro gaming with a particular interest in pinball machines, it was interesting to see the reach that entertainment brands licensed for some of these games have had. Names like Elvira (yes, she’s still syndicated nationally), Doctor Who, and The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” have had staying power. However many others also continue to resonate, if for no other reason than nostalgia. At the event, game enthusiasts were lined-up, clamoring to play a round of The Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball. Today, reliving fond memories of yesteryear may be what drives people to this type of convention; however, a visit to just about any casino today will also reveal tons of retro entertainment properties, from Popeye to Kiss, donning the facades of slot machines. The power of retro brands and the value of that intellectual property was recently brought to light in a lawsuit brought against CBS by actors of the classic TV show Happy Days for allegedly not fully compensating them for the use of their likeness on such games and products.  

How does this relate to you if you’re a writer, musician, or artist? The challenge for content creators is creating characters, music, art, and ultimately brands that resonate with audiences. That connection can bring with it the ringing reward of branching into industries never thought possible.

(images taken at the Game Warp event.)

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As one half of the voice of Jedi Mind Tricks, Jus Allah lives, eats, and breaths in the world of indie Hip Hop. His group has enjoyed a significant cult following globally since the release of the their underground hit album, “Violent by Design,” over a decade ago. Since, the group has sold hundreds of thousands of units to their audience. In this exclusive interview with Insomniac Magazine, Jus talks about thriving in an era where record labels aren’t nearly as necessary as they were when the band first emerged in the late ’90s. He also discusses his influences, connecting with fans, and promotions. As well, he shares some secrets about success in the music industry. Interview and story by Israel Vasquetelle.

Watch our talk here:

For anyone starting to make their way in the music industry today, here are some valuable takeaways from the interview:

Labels can still provide value for artists, however, the Internet clearly makes it possible to reach many people and build a fanbase. Regarding connecting with fans, Jus states that being humble and open to communicate is key.

Illegal downloads, streaming sites, and sales:
For everyone that downloads the music, there may be at least ten people who they shared it with. In other words, the revenue from sales may be less than it once was, but the audience may be greater. So, touring and the sale of merchandise, specifically in the live environment, is really the salvation for independent artists. He states, “It’s another avenue for people to hear the music. If they download it for free, but they come and show their support at the shows, buy tickets…and buy merch, it levels it out.”

Regarding physical goods:
The band still sells CDs and vinyl and he explains that for some “…having a physical copy will never go out of style.” “There are people who, even after downloading, will still buy the physical CD.”

Reality of radio for indie artists:
Although he states that commercial radio doesn’t play their music, Jus believes that satellite radio and college radio are still very important. He states, “A lot of people don’t know what to listen to. If you’re into independent music, it gives you an idea of what’s going on in the scene.”

On traditional stores:
“It costs a lot to get your CD into stores…for us it’s always been a positive thing.”

Guest artists on your release:
“The real talent lies within. You’re going to get exposed whether you’re good or not.”

Staying relevant:
Passion is immensely important. He explains that even within the group, they are competitive. When recording, they do their best to out do each other’s efforts.

Jedi Mind Tricks’ new album “Violence Begets Violence” now on iTunes.

(Special thanks to Varras Tower.)

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In honor of the great Teena Marie, below is an interview conducted with her. During our talk, she shares her love for music and discusses a lifetime of creating it. It was with sadness that we learned of her passing, however, we were blessed to have had the opportunity to hear her story first hand. There is no question that her songs will be rediscovered by future generations of music fans seeking soulful inspiration.

Teena Marie Interview
In a day and age of commodity artists who are forgotten shortly after a year or so of a radio hit, and in an environment where hit artists of yesteryear are remembered only by those who were raised on their sounds, it is rare to find an artist who continues to resonate with new and old audiences decades after launching their career.

Teena Marie stepped on the scene in ’79 and continues to touch music fans with her amazingly soulful voice. Not only has her music swept her fans off of their feet for years, but she has also influenced new generations of hit makers. The list reads something like a who’s who of Hip Hop stars, including Jadakiss, Ludacris, The Fugees, and Snoop Dogg.

Teena Marie’s history and career within the music industry is about as distinct as any artist today, from her start on Motown (signed directly by legendary Berry Gordy), to decades later releasing records with dirty south royalty Cash Money Records. If that’s not impressive enough to distinguish her from other divas, she is one of the most successful Caucasian R&B artists of all time, whose discography boasts a treasure trove of hits. Beyond that, one of her funk soaked masterpieces, “Square Biz” happens to also place her on a very short list of female artists to first bring rap onto radio. The only other lady on that early list is Debbie Harry. Blondie’s “Rapture” and Teena Marie’s “Square Biz” both became radio hits in 1981.

Teena Marie shares her thoughts on her start with one of funk’s most iconic stars (the late Rick James), explains the inspiration behind her current culture and soul rich album “Congo Square,” discusses her career and the music business with candor, gives her insight on today’s Urban music, all while exuding sincere passion for her craft and love of music. She is engaging and delightful, but what else would one expect from legendary soul diva Teena Marie aka Lady T.

I would like to go back to the beginning for a moment, if you could tell me a little bit about your upbringing and how you were influenced by the soulful music that you ended up creating for so many years.

There was just all kinds of music in my house. I have five brothers and sisters so everybody was listening to something different. My oldest sister loved Motown. My brother liked a lot of the San Francisco groups, like Sly & the Family Stone and Janis Joplin and some real soulful stuff like Otis Redding. Then my other sister liked pop music. My mother and father had great, great musical taste so there was a lot of Sinatra around the house, Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn. Just great, great music in my home.

I love music period, but I just really, really love the Motown sound and as I got older I really loved male vocal groups like the Dells and the Dramatics. I love the beautiful harmonies and stuff like that.
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