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Hip-hop Review /CD Review by Daniel Garrett, Journalist 
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 Music CD

D'MAC (2 Qrazi Entertainment) ...has earned praises from his critics.  Fort Worth Weekly states: "The Fort Worthian honors the past...by not milking it." His style has been called "different," by his peers.  The critics are not alone noticing that D'Mac a "breath of fresh air" on the hip-hop scene today.

D'Mac formerly lead of his local quartet Marion Block Gangtaz, has emerged dramatically as a solo rapper / songwriter / producer.  In 2000 - 2002 the group completed an album together and performed a number of shows in the Dallas / Fort Worth Area.  They opened for such regioanal acts as Interscope's Slim Thug, Lil' Keke, Lil' O, also working with some radio personalities at KKDA (K104). (continued)

Contact info:
D’Mac (c/o Mary G.)
2 Qrazi Entertainment
7404 Independence Ln.
Fort Worth, Tx. 76140

Tel: 817-800-4365 or 817-800-2981
 

The public is invited to send us your candid comments on "D'Mac" to bryworld@aol.com



CD Review
Notes on the rapper D’Mac
By Daniel Garrett

                Culture raises and maintains a level of consciousness.  The emphatically, sometimes exhilaratingly, vulgar rhetoricians known as rappers make great claims for themselves as personalities, as craftsmen, and as spokespeople—as men and women who represent, people who keep it real.  Such claims should be judged thoroughly—analogous to the way we judge the work of other thinkers, writers, and musicians.  How imaginative, entertaining, wise, and sophisticated are the words and music of these rappers?  Are the values they espouse the kind that create or destroy human—personal, familial, communal, political, and international—relationships?  Do their visions encourage the development of useful rituals, the cultivation of precious liberties, and the building of necessary institutions?  Or, is the work of most rappers often a coarse, pandering distraction from genuinely important matters?

                With these thoughts in mind, I listened to the four-track compact disc by the rapper D’Mac that I was sent by a forum devoted to discussion of rap.  It would be unfair to expect any text to satisfy all of one’s hope for entertainment or all of one’s criteria for art, and I did not expect D’Mac to do so.  I was surprised by the aural production’s warmth.  Some contemporary productions overwhelm the ears with their production values; and the intricacy (or technological gloss) and harshness (loud, clashing rhythms) of some contemporary rap often creates a coldness that alienates.  The sound of D’Mac’s recording—a very natural tone, and a musicality that suggests some genuine instrumentation, in addition to computer effects—was a surprise.  However, D’Mac’s diction is not always clear and, obviously, if you cannot make out what he’s saying you cannot evaluate what he means or its value.  His language does use the common obscenities and that makes it undistinguished in positive terms.  D’Mac’s first rap is a seduction, and its appeal is made up of rhyming boasts, frank sexuality, and a dramatic soundscape (part reminiscent of a film soundtrack and a low-key, slowed down melody).  The second rap, with the refrain “I’m nothing like you,” is an affirmation of hard work, of dedication to one’s own purpose.  It has a harder rhythm than the first rap.  The music does not sound sampled, but is possibly original, though, like the first rap’s music, the sound production is not at all complicated.  I thought I heard the phrase “those sick Jews” repeated two or three times; and, if so, such unexplained prejudice is, of course, rejectionable.   (I just saw the film “The Merchant of Venice” starring Al Pacino as Shylock, a moneylending Jew, who suffers the disfavor of sixteenth-century European religious prejudice, and whose social experience when coupled with the abandonment of his daughter in an elopement with a Christian enrages him.  (His daughter takes his money and jewels.)  Jews were housed in ghettoes, forbidden to own property, made to wear clothing that marked them as Jews, and physically abused; and Shylock wants vengeance.  “The Merchant of Venice,” a play by a man considered the greatest English poet, Shakespeare, has Shylock ask if Jews do not bleed as all men do—and the play has been examined for anti-Semitism.  If Shakespeare can be so questioned, so can any rapper.)

                The third rap on the compact disc has a feminine voice doing its intro, and it’s a sensual sound, though the words are somewhat crude; and the male voice that follows it sounds as if it might be double-tracked (or as if there might be an ovedub, or second voice).  The piece has a groove—and the lyrics articulate openness to music, to opiates, to whatever (to even being a thug—surprise).  There’s interplay between the feminine and masculine vocals; and this is a very attractive production.  The fourth production may be the most dense—in terms of the use of voice (vocal intensity and rushed rhythm of the words); and the song has a drum (or drum-like) rhythm with light techno accents (tiny electronic beats).  The lyrics, which seem to be about being in a club, working, having an effect, mention an “ancient black race,” at least I think it’s ancient—could be “Asian,” and the lyrics also mention  “a benevolent foe,” and encourage someone to “shake your ass and your titties.”  The speaker talks of the “American dream—to get the cream.”  All in all, these four tracks were a pleasant first-time listening experience, but they did not inspire me to think any important thoughts or recall any significant experiences—which is what I would expect from very good film, theater, fiction, or music.

                How does the work of the best rappers compare to that of Plato, Shakespeare, Rilke, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, and those we consider the best thinkers, writers, and musicians of our time, or any time (as this is ultimately the standard of posterity)? Who are the rappers whose work might be cited as high points of the rap genre?  (I might say, LL Cool J, Tribe Called Quest, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Tupac Shakur, Ice-T, Sister Souljah, Busta Rhymes, Common, and Nelly, to name a few who immediately come to mind—but I am not a connoisseur of the form.)  These are my cultural coordinates; and culture is received, always, in various contexts.  If rap work does not compare favorably with the best work produced, does not this mean that rap has to be properly contextualized as a minor form, possibly a transient form, in respect to its limitations?  Isn’t it important, then, to identify resources in other cultural forms to supplement rap—to supplement its limited consciousness and musicality—especially for its young constituents?

                On second listening to the Texan D’Mac’s four-track compact disc:  I found that the first track, “Chitty Chitty Bang,” seems to suggest some genuine attraction to a woman and an attempt to connect with her.  The narrator seems honest—or at least he has made a display of honesty—when he says “don’t be fooled by the rocks, I’m not rich” and admits that after sex, rather than feeling cool, he is still unsettled, still excited.  The second track, “Nothing Like U,” with a stuttered playful melody, full of swirls, had lyrics with much bragging about making big moves, and having a big house and a big pool.  (Is he talking about sick Jews or sick jewels or slick jewels?—such is the danger of faulty pronunciation or an unclear recording.)  Is all that bigness reality or fantasy?  “If U Want To,” the third recording on the disc, is about goals; and to achieve an image of toughness (I guess), the narrator uses “motherf-er,” “nigger,” and “big nuts” as part of his vocabulary.  He talks about people “mad because they’re used to seeing a nigger broke and bummy.”  And, he says, “I’m here to win it.”  Wasn’t there a time when African-Americans would have looked upon such self-praise as unnecessary: if you can do it, do it; if you can’t, be quiet.  The sound of that third piece, more than the lyrics, are well-produced.  The four recordings seem to form a movement from personal to public concerns, from intimacy to public speech, from struggle to success.  The last, “American Dream,” is one in which D’Mac refers to himself as a distinct character, in the third person.

                D’Mac’s compact disk is entertaining; and it arrives in a time in which films such as "Hotel Rwanda" and "Merchant of Venice" appear, and novels by inventive writers such as Caryl Phillips and Percival Everett are part of the cultural terrain.  This is a time when an earthquake has caused flooding that has killed more than one-hundred and fifty thousand people from Asia to Africa, and I have learned that the great cosmopolitan public intellectual Susan Sontag and the progressive Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm have died (the character and work of these women are standards).  It is impossible for me to believe these recordings by D’Mac are important.  Their messages do not stand up to the best of culture, nor the complexity of life; and I suspect that will be an unwelcomed conclusion, one likely to be called both pretentious and unfair.

                The rap community has often evinced a lack of understanding of the importance of criticism and a low tolerance for criticism.  The evidence for that is the verbal abuse of journalists on radio programs featuring rappers and the physical assault of journalists and critics who have commented on rappers in a way that has offended them.  Criticism is part of intellectual life, part of cultural life, a fundamental part; and it’s a sign of maturity to cultivate criticism—for an artist, an art form, and a culture.  It is the cultivation of criticism—the development of conscious thinking about form and content, a thinking that becomes public, shared—which helps culture to grow.  Culture, then, becomes part of what we call civilization, part of the works and institutions, manners and rituals, which embody the best of humanity.  I have been thinking about the phrase cultural logic—just as the extreme prejudice against Jews in Europe was the foundation for Hitler, images that we present to the world and the hate we—whether of European or African descent—casually use in conversation and music can be part of the foundation of future holocausts.  Will we praise or blame rap for its effects?

Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AltRap.com, Anything That Moves, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Changing Men, The Humanist, IdentityTheory.com, Offscreen.com, The Quarterly Back Review of Books, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today.



 
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