Why 7 Rings Rings So Many Bells

This month’s New York magazine features a set of articles about popular music today and why questions of plagiarism seem to dog so many hit songs. I was happy to contribute an article teasing out the controversies around Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” by taking a musicological deep-dive into the disputed musical figure in question, a

Ich kann ein bisschen Reggaeton verstehen

ila, a German magazine devoted to Latin America published a special issue on reggaeton this summer, including an interview with yours truly. If you kann ein bisschen Duetsch lesen (like those of us who studied vergleichende Musikwissenschaft in graduate school), then you can click on that link in the last sentence and read it there.

Listening to the Sound of Culture

Last summer I was invited by Small Axe, a journal I have long wanted to write for, to take part in a book discussion of Louis Chude-Sokei’s engrossing, ambitious The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics. I’ve enjoyed Chude-Sokei’s perspectives on dancehall, Nigerian 419 scammers, and Bert Williams for years, and I was already

Get on the Good Foot

The following piece was published in December 2016 in The Wire‘s special issue, Spirits Rejoice: Sacred Songs, Divine Drones, and Ritual Rhythms (#394). I was excited by the call for pitches because I’ve been connecting lots of dots in my music history courses at Berklee between sacred and secular traditions, and I’ve become more and

Música Negra to Pop Reggaeton

I think the jury’s still out on whether the so-called “Despacito effect” will translate into a sustained presence of Spanish-language hits in the Hot 100, in regular radio rotation, on top-level pop playlists (and not just reggaeton / Latin ones), and so forth. I’m sure the “YouTube factor” will continue to make these decisions increasingly

Welcome (African?) Wizardry

I’m a little late sharing the good news of the John Wizards, a producer-singer duo from South Africa who put together my favorite recording of this year. But given that even some of my most musically voracious friends have still not heard them, I’m clearly not too late. So let me put it like this:

Thank You, Dr. King! (No Thanks, CPS)

Our 5yo brought this home from school this month. I don’t know where to begin. I mean, obviously the last one takes the cake, but I’m also tickled by the first choice students are given: an airplaine vs. a picture of Martin Luther King talking. Hmmm, which one? Admittedly, I’m finding it tricky to introduce

I’m Not a Harvard Man, I’m a Harvard, Man

I’m very pleased to report that I’ll be teaching full-time in the Music Department at Harvard this year, filling the big shoes of two ethnomusicolleagues on leave, Ingrid Monson & Richard Wolf. This is an honor and a pleasure, and even as a one-year non-renewable gig, it sure beats the adjunct beat I was walking

The Origin Story Is Genius Tho…

There’s an archived video of the panel I moderated last week during the Together fest. It begins with a six minute opening from me, then I introduce my esteemed co-panelists — Boima, Poirier, Ripley, Max, and Jesse — and we finally REALLY get into the convo about 10 minutes in. From there it’s a solid

Google Glance: “Beauty”

h/t Ferrari Shepherd, aka @stopbeingfamous— When I tried, I saw this — What do you see? (It changes all the time, and then again, it doesn’t.) For more Google Glances, see here.

Chombo Chursday b/w Paki Chulo

Check it out, my micropublic: I’ve got another “Throwback Thursdays” post over at Okayplayer’s LargeUp blog. This time I’m waxing nostalgic about a song produced by none other than El Chombo — Incluye el tema… Veteran readers of W&W may remember El Chombo as the producer of the notorious “Chacarron,” a song which — back

Is “Africa” “Actually” African?

Africa Is a Country, a wry but passionate blog devoted to “Africa” — the idea, not (simply) the song — in contemporary media (but “not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama”) has been threatening to make a weekly series out of the genuinely remarkable resonance of Toto’s 1982 soft-rock anthem. It’s a begrudging tribute of

Very African and Very Modern

As if there weren’t already enough to tease out about Konono N°1 and Congotronics, a recent article in the Guardian points to a song and video called “Karibu Ya Bintou” by Baloji, a Congo-born rapper who cut his teeth on the Belgian hip-hop scene but who has worked over the last few years to return

Spectacular Copulative Writing

Allow me to point you over to Norient.com, where I’ve just contributed an article that attempts a brief history of perreo and other “spectacular copulative” dances, including a glance at such recent instantiations as daggering, perreo chacalonero, and of course, choque. Longtime readers know I’ve been working to develop an analysis of such practices —

Talking Music & Media, Whirled & Jamaican, Self & Other

A couple items to share, pardon the self-centeredness, but hey, this is a blog, right? First, hot off the virtual presses: Radio Berkman has just posted a snappily edited podcast featuring yours truly in conversation with the one and only Ethan Zuckerman about world/whirled music, globalghettotech, jerkbow, tribal, moombahton, and platform politricks, among other things.

Best African Dance Ever

So, yeah. There’s rearing; and then there’s rearing — Slightly older kids, well enculturated & irrepressibly motivated, can tend to take things to the next level, bumping body parts with acrobatic abandon and lighting rooftops (and laptops) on fire — Devotees of dancehall reggae and reggaeton will no doubt recognize elements of perreo and daggering

Now That’s What I Call Enculturation 2011

via Dave Quam’s tumblr (sorta) ~~ which cannot be posted with out this kneejerk embed-again also: further reading: “¡pooh bear, yo le conozco apenas!” “Gwada Blondinettes Have More Fun” “Rearguard Opinion?”

Global Reggae

Next week I begin teaching my second course at MIT. It’s a new syllabus, though it draws on certain materials I’ve used before. In contrast to previous offerings, however, this will be the first time I teach a class with a primary focus on reggae outside of Jamaica — on what I’m calling here “global

Moombahton, Munchiton, & Related Reggaetony Ear Candy

a moomba, apparently — no relation to afrojack, i don’t think Reggaeton doesn’t die, it just continues to fragment and reconstitute in a thousand different ways. (Sorry about the passive language there — I don’t think reggaeton has viral/memetic agency, but I still find myself using that sort of shorthand/emphasis even when what I want

big gyptian (riddim meth0d repost)

[Ok, here’s another oldie-but-goodie from the Riddim Meth0d vaults. Plenty of readers are no doubt familiar with this post/mashup, especially since I’ve revisited the issue. In the time since I wrote it (almost 5 years ago!), I’ve also had the strange fortune of submitting a brief report — about the significance of “Big Pimpin” to

¿Sueños de Jerkbow?

Sometimes it really does feel like I’m in Oz, some Wizard behind a curtain producing lifelike YouTubes of my swirling musical obsessions — or like that cartoon kid Simon for whom the things he drew came true ¡ via via via con dios !

Wata Gwaan?

Mil gracias a Marisol LeBron, who not only first brought to my attn the wonderful nueva-media phenom of “Watagatapitusberry,” but who has offered some interesting thoughts on its homosocial joi de vivre (check her initial round-up of home videos) and has kept up on the latest developments around the song. Most recently, the launch of

Mi Brain Nuh Need Visa Fi Fly

The latest Woofah — a UK-based magazine covering the latest and greatest in bass culture — is finally out, and it’s a big, glossy whopper of an issue. What’s more, yours truly has a thinky-piece in it exploring the fraught relationship between Afrofuturist reggae musicians and the Rastas-in-Space projected by Hollywood films and sci-fi authors

Reanimating the Castles

Pacey Foster has a great post over at his blog detailing a recent discovery of — and creative engagement with — a 1914 book published by Vernon and Irene Castle, perhaps the premiere dancing couple in the pre-jazz age and crucial players in the formation of the “society” dance scene in NYC during the 1910s.

Music Industry and Digital Youth Culture

Next Tuesday (Feb 2) will be the initial meeting of the first class I’m teaching at MIT. I’m excited about the course, a new one, which invites students to read along with me and collectively investigate what I’ve been calling music industry — that is, a broader understanding of musically-propelled cultural practice than something like

Hurban Renewal

Ok, back to reggaeton. So, once again, back to questions of vitality and vocality. Or, how it’s doing and for whom & from whence it speaks. one way of looking at the “reggaeton” “crash” (and recovery?) I was tickled to see Birdseed name reggaeton genre of the year for 2009, fully contra Gavin’s provocative post

All My Hats At Once

tis the season for donning hats & maybe getting clobbered by a classmate Last Wednesday night I was the guest of Emily Corwin, host of The Neighborhood, a weekly radio show broadcast from Cambridge/MIT on WMBR. As she billed it — With trusty laptop in tow, Wayne wears all his hats at once –– musician,

Loo$e Change, Tight Flick

I enjoyed this so thoroughly yesterday that I need to post it here. Thanks to Frank Roberts for the tip. Becca called this 15 minute film “pitch perfect,” and I think she’s right. Hope you dig this as much as we. Someone needs to give Mykwain Gainey the resources to produce a series or something,

Gwada Blondinettes Have More Fun

White people can’t dance, you know — to be more precise, not if they’ve been raised in a place or community or family where they’re not socialized and enculturated into dancing, or don’t later make great efforts to correct such an impoverished upbringing. (& of course, that goes for ppl of any color.) This video

Pop Goes the World

There’s little I can add to all the tributes and reflections gumming up the web these days, but like so many others I feel compelled to say something. Inspired even. I found Andrew Sullivan’s and Jeff Chang’s posts pretty resonant, Jason King’s too, among others, and I’ve been particularly struck by all the MJ music

Real Talk, Lads

So, yeah, inundated by mixes, but finally got a chance to check out last month’s Rinse FM set by Butterz (ft. Terror Danjah), which shows grime (& its bastard cousin, dubstep) alive&well & wot-u-call-it as ever. Comfortably contentious even! Esp w/ the notion that grime might be less than alive & well. I love the

Balls of Steele

how u like me now off the hook in the facebook with the twittering in urban/suburban hip-hop settings? GQ: do you have a favorite [rap act]? Steele: P. Diddy I enjoy quite a bit. GQ: Do you want to rethink that? Steele: [laughs] I guess I’m sorta old-school that way. Remember, I came of age

Old (and Not So Old) Weird (and Not So Weird) America

We’re visiting Becca’s sister, her husband, and their 6-month-old twins in North Carolina this week. Initially drawn to Durham/Duke, Leila&Sebastian und Sasha&Max now live in a small-ish town called Burlington, in an old mill house they rebuilt themselves (with a little help from their friends). Yesterday, we escaped some rainy morning blues by heading to

Welcome to Brownsville

Former wunderkind hip-hop critic and now English prof at Vassar, Hua Hsu asks some great questions in his hot-off-the-press Atlantic cover story, itself a question, “The End of White America?” — What will it mean to be white after “whiteness” no longer defines the mainstream? Will anyone mourn the end of white America? I especially

I-talian Money?

“Arab Money” may not have musical legs to stand on (remains to be seen — I think it’s still climbing up urban radio playlists), but it sure is the talk of the virtual water cooler. Most of my posts and comments on the song & its fallout have been distillations of email conversations with awesome


I first stumbled upon Aaron Bady’s blog, zunguzungu, when searching some keywords along the nationalism / imperialism axis. And though lots of his posts have provoked my imagination, from incisive readings of The Wire and The Office to shock’n’awe as modern-day lynching, it was his blog’s title — for obv reasons, if you’re familiar with

A3rab Money Refix?

would you prefer to listen while looking at an img of what may or may not be a swank Dubai livingroom? You may have heard — or at least heard about — the above, a remix of Busta’s infamous “Arab Money,” featuring Lil Wayne, Akon, Diddy, Swizz Beatz, T-Pain, & of course, Ron Browz. There

A Farce To Be Reckoned With

todo mundo » Blog Archive » Crank Dat ROFLCon taken down from YouTube! kevin records a message for souljaboy, in souljaboy style (ms.xu = the new ayrab!), after the ROFLCon version of "crank dat" (in which a roomful of MIT folk / internet geeks did the dance) got served with a take-down notice :: ah,

Skin Care Adventure

Is Michelle Obama's "Ass" Off Limits? | Critical Noir | Blogs | Vibe.com Mark Anthony Neal — 'Never before has a First Lady's body been subject to the amount of scrutiny and surveillance as is the case with Michelle Obama; she has been rhetorically poked, prodded and groped. Many would have found such a line

Palingenetic Ultranationalism

The Elephants Child: ring ring ring rachel re: ring tones, txt speak, & refurb'd nokia nat'lism (tags: cellphones video global nation language blogpost) ffm713's blog – FFM presents The Pen & Pixel Madhouse – Skyrock.com 73 pages of pen&pixel rap album covers (via noz) (tags: hip-hop art design album gangsta) Palingenetic ultranationalism – Wikipedia, the

Tabula Rasta

EBONYJET | Whose Tube: Doing For Self or The Cyberground Railroad: Part 2 "We are taking this cyberground railroad to new celebrity, much like our cousins worldwide. Youtube has become a place to 'get a rep,' for some to use as a stepping-stone to other things. But for some, and maybe most of us, it

Nietzsche House

The N-Word Is Flourishing Among Generation Hip-Hop Latinos – Music – Village Voice "Somehow, the n-word has found its way back into hip-hop's critical zeitgeist: I'm interested in exploring, as a Dominican New Yorker, how we as a community have propagated it. Recently, due to the mounting criticism of Boricua rapper Fat Joe's use of

Just May Be

I’ve been on a serious YouTube grind over the last couple weeks, working up a couple papers/talks on black digital youth culture. Check the waxtube or my favorites to sink into a pixelated dance trance. Gave one version of this black-digi-youf chat a couple weeks ago at Harvard, which thx to a little bird tweet,

Cogito Ergo Cogito Sum

Confessions of an Aca/Fan: MySpace and the Participation Gap "There's a huge gap between what you can do when you've got unlimited access to broadband in your home and what you can do when your only access is through the public library, where there are often time limits on how long you can work, when

Dungeons & Dubstep

Dazed Digital | Hank Shocklee hank shocklee is my hero, for real :: here he talks about dubstep (and offers up his own d-step mixx), his west indian heritage, the reggae album he's working on with his bro (!!), film scoring, and the state of hip-hop and music industry (and laziness) :: dude doesn't mince

Where Do I Begin (To Tell the Story)?

As long as we’re on the topic of “Arab Face” I’ve decided to dust off and finish up this post that’s long been sitting in my drafts folder. (It’s post #100, and I’ve recently published #400, if that’s any indication of how long it’s been on a backburner.) There are countless twisty, tangly stories of

linkthink #611: Pound for Pound

Reggae Vibes presents Jamaica’s Weekly Music Countdown Charts top20 dancehall singles chart, up-to-the-time (thx, rachel) (tags: dancehall reggae jamaica charts) MASALA: Reggaeton de Aruba. The Dutch Tropics nice post on reggaeton in aruba, w/ lyrics in papiamento (tags: reggaeton caribbean aruba blogpost mp3) YouTube – bigcityfm’s Channel collection of videos from boston’s caribbean radio station,

Sticky! Sha3kira Ma3shup & “Arab Face”

Really enjoying the discussion on that sha3bi post — please help keep it going if ur so inclined. This post is mainly a way of bringing that discussion “to the top” but I might as well share a related find… It’s not embeddable, but this video mashup of a sha3bi song and a Shakira/Beyonce vid

linkthink #519292: Loosing My Mind [sic]

Shaggy feat Trix & Flix – Feel The Rush | The Heatwave Blog – dancehall reggae and bashment “la cumbia cienaguera” of samim’s “heater” fame (and a hit in its own right in south america for decades) gets yet another odd reanimation via shaggy and the euro 08 football cup :: and round and round

linkthink #1593: orb-eyed nagimandavah

BOMB Magazine: Ned Sublette by Garnette Cadogan garnette interviews ned about his new orleans book :: knowledge gems dropped left&right (but mostly left, knamean) :: dig the stuff on funkiness toward the end (tags: neworleans book interview caribbean US urban culture race history cuba jazz funk) itwofs.com – chronicles of plagiarism in indian film music

White Rap Claptrap

As some might have noticed in a recent linkthink, “Ghetto Revivalist”® John Brown (aka, the King of da Burbz) — idiot-savvy hypeman extraordinaire — is promoting a new mixtape with a spoof commercial for a cereal product called “Ghetto Revive-Os” — Despite being at the center of a number of truly cringe-worthy moments in the

linkthink #3954: Areas of Excerptise

SSRC Books » Blog Archive » Structures of Participation in Digital Culture “Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, edited by SSRC Program Director Joe Karaganis, explores digital technologies that are engines of cultural innovation…” (tags: academic book pdf digital culture research tech web2.0) Day 2 of the R. Kelly trial: The “Little Man defense” and

Rearguard Opinion? (Slackness b/w Sexism & Sexuality)

I’ve been meaning to share my reflections on the smut/slackness symposium I participated in @ Penn for some time now, but, well, you know how the end of the semester can go. Many of the themes that emerged in the panel have been ‘verberating in my head, however — ideas which seem to resonate with

linkthink #8998: The Money of Color

zSHARE – 02 live set 2.mp3 – “Where They At” vintage nawlins bounce live performance — triggerman & raunch galore (via twankle&glisten) :: http://twankleandglisten.blogspot.com/2008/05/lil-sumtn-sumtn.html (tags: neworleans bounce hip-hop live mp3 vintage digitized) zSHARE – boss man mood. original soul jazz cl.mp3 tis the season for killer instros :: a new reggae-soul-jazz mix c/o dr.auratheft ::

linkthink #5184: Mariachi Bhangra

A Backlash? – New York Times race-based feelings about the dem candidates, post-race-card BS :: this chart speaks volumes (tags: race election08 chart obama clinton nyt) El Nuevo Día – Todo sobre la leche felix jimenez on lipstick, leche, and the war in iraq (tags: spanish op-ed cultcrit war iraq puertorico) YouTube – An Interview

linkthink #7402: Like, Totally Obliterated

Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’ – New York Times “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.” (tags: US prison stats nyt) Globalization or Zoo-Like Exploitation? Slum Tours on the Rise at Racialicious – the intersection of race and