“I’m From Rags to Riches”: The Death of Jay-Z

Cynthia Fuchs’s “I’m From Rags to Riches”: The Death of Jay-Z was an interesting and informative article about the rapper Jay-Z. This article was written in 2003, around the time that Jay-Z had announced his “retirement” from the rap game. He eventually came back to make more music, including the single that was heard all over New York City in the fall of 2009, Empire State of Mind. But before the fame and being known as Jay-Z, Sean Carter was just a young man from Marcy Houses, housing projects in Brooklyn, NY. Going through several problems in his life, he began to sell crack cocaine and he is definitely not afraid to speak about it. On the contrary, Jay-Z is known to speak about where he came from through his rhymes. He takes us to the places where he grew up in his music videos. After hitting it big in the rap game, he was not satisfied. He usually refers to himself as a hustler in his music, and that is exactly what he is. Jay-Z makes money any way he can possible think of, whether it is through a clothing line, co-owning the New Jersey Nets, or having his own sports bar in NYC, Jay-Z is making money from all angles. This is one of the reasons why many individuals respect him, not only as a person but as a business man. Jay-Z is the true example of he became from rags to riches.

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Paradox of Pastiche: Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, and the Race of Postmodern Auteur

Roger Beebe’s Paradox of Pastiche: Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, and the Race of Postmodern Auteur discusses how music video directors gained recognition of their work when MTV began adding their names to their videos. This essay provided a lot of information that I was not aware of before such as the director’s name was never on a music video until the 90s and therefore there was no directors trademark as there was with film. When it comes to film, we are capable of differentiating a Tarantino film from a Scorsese film. However, this was not occurring within the music video world. Beebe mentions that when MTV began adding directors name, the music video became and auteurist medium. It came about through MTV shows that interviewed the music video director and honoring them on the MTV Video Music Awards. As music video directors began to get recognition, viewers began to notice their own trademarks. Beebe discusses Hype Williams trademark in his 90s videos in which he used “extreme wide-angle and fish eye lenses, luminous objects in the frame, and jerky, stop-and-start motion”. Eventually, viewers knew that was a Hype Williams music video as soon as they watched it for the first time. He began directing music videos for Hip-Hop artist, and later did videos for some pop artists such as No Doubt, Coldplay, and Christina Aguilera.

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Grand Theft Audio? Popular Music and Intellectual Property in Video Games

Karen Collin’s Grand Theft Audio? Popular Music and Intellectual Property in Video Games was very informative reading. I am a fan of both music and video games and this article really helped me understand how these two types of medium mesh to help one another. One of my favorite video games that was mentioned in this essay was Guitar Hero. It was really interesting to know that the first band to appear as themselves in a music-themed video game was Journey. Nowadays, it seems that every musician or band appears as themselves in Guitar Hero, such as Slash, Ozzy Osbourne, and Hayley Williams from Paramore. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are good marketing tools to sell more of the artist’s music. The point of these games is to play all the songs that it contains so you can be able to unlock certain things, such as music, clothing, or instruments for your characters. From experience, I know that when I bought my first Guitar Hero game, I did not know all of the songs. Once you play the songs that you have not heard before, the song becomes very catchy and therefore you are going to purchase the songs. Also, when you purchase Rock Band for your iPhone, you can buy extra songs in bundles which is a good marketing tool to sell more music. Todays video games are definitely more interactive than before, in which you can learn how to dance and even learn how to play a real guitar with Power Gig. Video game creators are always trying to find a new way to entertaining us, and the type of music that it contains definitely plays a huge role.


iPod Culture and Urban Experience

Michael Bull’s iPod Culture and Urban Experience is an essay that everyone who has ever had an iPod can relate too. The majority of the essay is based on quotes that individuals have said about their experience with their iPods. I definitely related to the majority of quotes that individuals stated. We all somehow got trapped into this phenomenon of purchasing an iPod and never looking back. It has been out for nearly ten years and it seems that there is a new iPod every year for every different type of consumer. Like the majority of the individuals in this essay, listening to my iPod is a very personal experience. I have to admit that I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to my iPod. Everything has to be organized, with correct spelling and album covers. I cringe when I look at another person’s iPod and everything is spelled in correctly or has the track number instead of the actual song name. Most of the people in Bull’s article does not like to be interrupted while listening to their iPod. I definitely relate to this in which I do not like when people ask me for directions when I’m listening to my iPod. It feels like I am being invaded within my own personal space. Of course I end up helping them out, but i gotta rewind the song a few seconds back so I can listen to the part that I missed. Bull mentions that individuals are so obsessed with this device because it is uninterrupted and it is a continuos experience. When I’m driving, I like listening to the radio but I get irritated when commercials comes on. Thats an interruption, and that is when my iPod comes to save my car ride. The only way that my iPod can interrupt my listening experience is when it dies. It seems to ruin my day and now I am forced to listen to other peoples conversations on the train. iPods are definitely one of the most user friendly devices that has ever been invented, but it can also harm us in which we are not longer interacting in our daily lives.

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Trying to Sell CD’s by Adding Extras

Chris Nelson’s Trying to Sell CD’s by Adding Extras brought me back to the day when we actually bought CD’s. Surprisingly, this was was not too long ago but it seems like many years have gone by since we have bought CD’s and played it on portable CD players. When Nelson’s essay was published in 2003, I was fourteen and purchasing most of the albums mentioned; P.O.D, Nickelback, and Obie Trice. Only having a CD player at that time, I was forced to buy their albums. By age 16, i received my first iPod and this changed my life, as well as others. I no longer had to buy a CD, since all the music that I ever wanted was free to download. However, my favorite artists kept coming out CD’s that had an extra CD of bonus music or a DVD, and so then I went back to buying CD’s for a short period of time. Nelson’s discusses this in his essay, in which music companies are really desperate to get record sales up, and so they attach extra material so consumers can go back to buying the music, and not downloaded illegally. Nelson also discusses how the reinvention of record stores have failed. The first thing that came to mind was Virgin Megastore. During my high school years, going to the Virgin Megastore in Time Square was a big deal in which we could go in and listen to the top fifty albums of the week for free. However, it got boring pretty quickly in which we could now preview a song from your own home and downloaded it for free. Virgin Megastore eventually when out of business, selling CDs for ten bucks or less on its final days. Nowadays, you can find the bonus material online, such as in YouTube, and also download extra songs as well. It is safe to say that CD’s are in a close brink of extinction due to the internet.

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Women in Rap

Gail Hilson Woldu’s Women in Rap was very interesting and entertaining to read. The rapper Lil’ Kim is mentioned a lot throughout the article in which she is one of the most important female rap figures from the 90s. Female rap and sexuality both go hand in hand and Lil’ Kim is a great example of it. The majority of female rappers in the late 90s based their music and image on sex, such as Salt-n-Pepa and TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes who wore condom glasses to get the message of safe sex across. However, Lil’ Kim took rap and sex to a complete level in which she made herself look more like a sexual object, rather than a rapper. Lil’ Kim’s first album Hard Core is mentioned in Wuldu’s article, and she states how just the title Hard Core sounds pornographic. The album cover has Lil’ Kim posing in a very sexual position, attracting the male audience for her beauty and not for her craft. Other album images include Lil’ Kim posing squatting down with her legs wide open, wearing just a leopard bikini. This image reminded me of today’s female rapper Nicki Minaj, in which she is posing the same exact way. Both female rappers have a similar style in fashion (color hair wigs, provocative clothing, ect.) and similar style in rapping (struggles, growing up in the hood, ect.) but using their bodies to market themselves. Another subject from Woldu that I found interesting was trying to understand the word “bitch” from two perspectives. In the male perspective, the term “bitch” is used very negatively, in which they are referring to women who has done some wrong. If a women betrays a man in any sense, she is considered a “bitch”. In female rap, “bitch” is used the complete opposite, in which they refer to their homegirls or black females from the hood as a “bitch”. Woldu states that in female rap this term is seen as “a weapon of empowerment”. However, the term “bitch” can go either way and it is used freely in rap music. Although the author mentioned Lil’ Kim a lot, she did not forget to mention other female rappers that have contributed to the rap game. Lauryn Hill is mentioned as a lyricist to the black community, advocating responsibility and self-respect. And there is also Missy Elliot, whose lyrics are very comical and that is what sets her apart from other female rappers. Overall, this article was interesting in which it explained the difficulty of a female rapper to gain respect in a male oriented field.

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No Doubt – Just a Girl

Just A Girl
Throughout the history of popular music, there have been many songs that ordinary individuals can relate too. Just A Girl by No Doubt is one of those songs in which many young girls in the mid 90’s considered this song as a girl anthem. No Doubt is a rock band that was formed in 1986 in Anaheim, California. Formally known as Apple Core, Eric Stefani created the band and gave the lead vocals to his little sister, Gwen Stefani. After facing several problems with their formal group members, Tony Kanal joined the band as the bassist, Tom Dumont as the guitarist, and Adrian Young as the drummer. No Doubt was soon signed with a new label entitled Interscope Records in 1990, and released their self-titled debut album in 1992. However, their first album was a total flop, in which it only sold 308,252 copies and had no radio airplay. This was mostly due to the music industry main focus on the grunge movement that was happening in Seattle, Washington. Grunge bands such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam all formed in the early 90s and they were the main focus with their new alternative sound.Although grunge music was getting radio airplay in the mid 90s, a different form of rock was about to hit the mainstream that was nothing similar to any grunge band. With No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and their first single Just a Girl, they would gain recognition in shifting the attention from grunge music to popular music in the music industry.
No Doubt’s third album entitled Tragic Kingdom was released on October 10th, 1995 through the label Trauma/Interscope Records. The first single off that album was Just a Girl, which was released on October 21st, 1995. The song was written by Gwen Stefani and Tom Dumont and it helped the band break into the mainstream after their disappointing self-debut album. Unlike the songs of their first album, Just a Girl did receive radio airplay in which it first aired in a California radio station. Influenced by ska and new wave music, No Doubt was determined to show that in their music by using electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, keyboard, trombones or trumpets, and also incorporating electronic and experimental music. Ska music is known to have fast tempos and in Just a Girl it does just that, going 110 beats per minute. Since No Doubt is heavily influenced on new wave music, they decided to use a Roland Jupiter-8 (an eight-voice polyphonic synthesizer) which can be heard throughout Just a Girl. The song also includes retro sounds, 80s keyboard and effects. According to www.wikipedia.org , Just a Girl is “written in the key of D major, like the majority of popular music”. Also, Gwen Stefani “spans nearly an octave and a half, from B3 to E5 in scientific pitch notation”. What sets aside Just a Girl from any other rock song out at the time is the opening riff. It is very upbeat and the use of electronic sounds made this song to be very energetic and bright. This can be heard clearly in the first ten seconds of the song when it is performed on Tom Dumont’s electric guitar and a Roland Jupiter-8. This is totally different from grunge music that was popular at the time, in which the sound was darker due to the use of high level guitar distortion influenced by hardcore punk and heavy metal.
No Doubt is known to be a ska punk, alternative rock, and/or pop rock group. Different from other alternative bands out at that time, No Doubt sounded like no other in which their choice of instruments changed the mood of alternative rock music. Both ska punk and new wave are both subgenres of rock music, as well as grunge. However, the differences between these subgenres are their lyrical approach. In grunge music, lyrics deal more with rage, apathy, and “addressing themes such as social alienation, confinement, and a desire for freedom” (www.wikipedia.org). On the other hand, ska punk lyrics were more upbeat describing daily life scenarios with punk style vocals. No Doubt’s vocalist, Gwen Stefani, had more freedom with the writing process when her older brother, Eric Stefani, decided to leave the band. That’s when she wrote Just a Girl, an anthem for young women who want to break out from the common women stereotype. In the first verse of Just a Girl, Gwen Stefani sings;
Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

In this verse, Stefani explains how she has been blinded all along, and that she does not need a man, who could be her husband, father, or older brother, to be by her side every time. When Stefani wrote this song, she had just broken up with her bassist Tony Kanal so this could be the reason why she got inspired to write about female empowerment. The first verse is important because it informs the listener of what she is going to sing about and why she feels this way. From this verse, we know that she is not happy on society’s views on women in which they always have to be in the hands of a man in order to be happy. In the chorus of the song, Stefani sings;
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ol’ me
Don’t let me out of you sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights
Oh… I’ve had it up to here

The chorus changes slightly throughout the song, but in this chorus, Stefani seems to be very sarcastic in describing her appearance. She states that she cannot do certain things in society because of her appearance. She writes about herself as being little and petite which can be associated as being vulnerable and fragile. Stefani is being sarcastic with her characteristics because she is neither one of them, but since she is a woman, she is automatically considered weak. In Just a Girl, Stefani is stating the facts of how men and society view women and how this common stereotype has not gone away for the many centuries that is has been around. In the second chorus of Just a Girl, Stefani sings;
‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes
…Oh I’ve it up to here.

In the second chorus, Stefani explains how unfair being a woman can be. In a BAM magazine interview, Stefani explained that she got inspired to write this song when her father got mad at her for driving home late from her boyfriend’s house. She continues by stating “I wouldn’t trade (being female), but I really don’t think guys understand what a burden it can be sometimes” (BAM Magazine, Nov. 1995). Even when a woman has matured, they are still considered vulnerable or weak in which they won’t be able to defend themselves if something bad were to occur to them. Throughout Just a Girl, Stefani is sending out a message to society that woman can be strong too in which she repeats “I’ve had it up to here” and “Am I making myself clear?” and this is the reason why this song is considered to be a girl anthem.
Around the time that Just a Girl came out, the grunge era was beginning to die out and a new form of rock music was taking over the airwaves. No Doubt marked the beginning of popular rock music in which they influenced many pop rock bands to come out in the late 90s and early 2000s. It also empowered bands to have female vocalist, such as Evanescence and Paramore in early 2000s who both claimed No Doubt to be very influential to them. Just a Girl peaked at number 23 in the Billboard Hot 100, but the album Tragic Kingdom was certified diamond, selling over 10 million copies making them very influential in the music industry overall.

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