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Prairie Pop: Pop Summit

Springtime is here, and I’m ready to rock: in this case, at the Experience Music Project’s Pop Conference, held last month in Seattle. It’s one of my favorite places to be, for a variety of reasons. The event attracts a diverse mix of music-obsessed scholars, journalists, critics, musicians, and other misfits—a strange brew that injects […]

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Prairie Pop: Hip Hop's Media Assassin

For those listening to hip hop 20 years ago, Harry Allen’s name was well known after the release of Public Enemy’s classic “Don’t Believe the Hype,” from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. That 1988 album—with its massive freight train of a title, and rocketing aural attack—established the group as agitprop […]

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Prairie Pop: Major Disappointments

I’m guessing that many of you have never heard of Tommy Keene. He’s a working musician who has accumulated a fairly deep catalog over the past 30 years, but he has never scored major hit and, in fact, the man has had his share of setbacks. Keene’s experience with Geffen Records in the 1980s, for […]

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Prairie Pop: Turn Off Your Radio

Copyright infringement, billboard “alteration,” an evil secret society known as the Illuminati, country music legend Tammy Wynette, the incineration of £1,000,000 in cash, and—most recently—No Music Day. These odd, interconnected events were engineered by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, an anarchic British pop duo who used several pseudonyms, including their most well known moniker, the […]

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Mix It Up

[audio:Double_Dee_Steinski_-_Lesson_1_The_Payoff_Mix.mp3] Double Dee & Steinski – The Lesson 1 – The Payoff.mp3 [audio:Double_Dee_Steinski_-_Lesson_2_The_James_Brown_Mix.mp3] Double Dee & Steinski – The Lesson 2 – The James Brown Mix.mp3 [audio:Double_Dee_Steinski_-_Lesson_3_History_of_Hip_Hop_Mix.mp3] Double Dee & Steinski – The Lesson 3 – History of Hip Hop.mp3 The most unlikely outsiders to make a distinct, lasting impact on hip-hop were two ad […]

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A Disco Less Traveled

Arthur Russell was straight outta Oskaloosa, an Iowa native, born and bred. He died of AIDS in 1992, leaving behind a sprawling and obscure body of music that hops through genres—sometimes imploding them, and other times inventing new styles along the way. After escaping the Hawkeye state to join a San Francisco Buddhist commune in […]

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Pitch Perfect

The Pitchfork Music Festival, now into its third year, is the best event of its kind happening in America right now. In fact, it is kind of a disservice to call Pitchfork a “music festival”—given the bad connotations associated with the term (drunken idiots, mud and garbage baking in the hot summer sun, ughh). However, […]

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Believe the Hype

When Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988, it was as if it had landed from another planet. The album came frontloaded with sirens, squeals, and squawks that augmented the chaotic, collage backing tracks over which PE frontman Chuck D laid his politically and poetically radical rhymes. […]

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