Derrick N Ashong and Soulfège

Sweet Remix

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Love Rain Down - A Short Film "Love Rain Down" is a 2012 Official Entry in the Palm Beach International Film Festival

An animated film based on the song "Love Rain Down" from the album "AFropolitan" by Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) & Soulfège. The movie follows the tale of a little boy named "Johnny" who makes a trip to the legendary "Crossroads" of Robert Johnson fame, and stands down the Devil armed only with a song...


Check out this Unite Against The War on Women video using our song "Fight On" Then DOWNLOAD the Free mp3 of 'Fight On' via SoundCloud
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Million Download Campaign - I'm Not a Playa I Just Rap a Lot

In the opening weeks of the Million Download Campaign, we've had a ton of questions about what we're doing, how we're doing it & why.  Thus far I've tried to break down some of the basic economics of the record business as well as the thinking behind the idea of open source music.  We've even touched on why artists do what they do. What we haven't done is look at the social implications of all this.  Since Black History Month is about to come to a close & I haven't said anything Black all month let's jump in at the deep end.


As a young Black male in the USA, the Record Industry has a pretty limited preconceived notion of "who I am" as a potential artist or consumer. As an artist, there frankly isn't a whole lot of room for a bruh in the biz to be anything other than: a) A Hip Hop Thug, or b) An R&B Crooner. Mind you I'm not talking about behind-the-scenes positions, producers, agents, label execs etc. I'm saying that if you are a young Afro-Descendente looking to get signed to a major label, without fitting into one of those two categories the pickings get real slim, real quick. Take a minute and think about contemporary Black artists you see in the mainstream and perhaps you'll see the trend I'm talking about.

What's more interesting even than the place of artists, though is that of Black consumers. I hear people talk all the time about how Hip Hop is the "voice of the youth" and reflects what young Black kids care about. Whenever I hear someone make a statement along these lines I can't help but ponder the most effective way to persuade a person to voluntary chew on an old sock.

Hip Hop IS a powerful force no doubt, and many of us who came of "artistic age" in the Hip Hop community will probably go to our graves with a rhyme on our lips. But Hip Hop as represented in mainstream American culture is NOT necessarily the voice of Black youth. To understand why, it's worth taking a quick trip back in time. In 1971 the Columbia Records Group commissioned a report from Harvard Business School titled "A Study of the Soul Music Environment," affectionately known in the Industry as the Harvard Report. Released in 1972, it made a number of recommendations on how CRG could move into the Black music business. If you want to get deep into the implications of it, check out the four parts of this article.

For our purposes today, the main thing to note is that the Harvard Report identified a trend in music that charted on the "race" music charts, crossing over to the Top 40 charts. It noted the cost efficiencies of marketing music to a smaller demographic (ie. the Black community), and in effect recommended that these communities be used as a kind of "farm league" for identifying & validating artists, which could then be marketed to a mainstream audience. The basic recommendations from the Harvard Report became the blueprint for the eventual creation of Black music divisions by all the major labels.

While Hip Hop is a global cultural phenomenon, rooted in voices from Black communities, the marketing of Hip Hop is designed to reach far beyond those communities. And if you want to sell a lot of rap music to suburban White teens, you're going to have an easier time selling sex & violence, than Five Percenter philosophy. In other words, the Industry built around Hip Hop has a distorting effect on what "Hip Hop" is, at least in the mainstream. If you want to to rap about guns, girls & drugs there's an infrastructure there to promote what you do. If you want to rap about just about anything else...not so much. And don't mess around and think you're gonna' rock an electric guitar & step outside the boundaries of what "Black" kids are supposed to play.

Ultimately, I don't know how much you can blame the Record Industry for selling something people want to buy, or artists for creating it, whether you or I think it's "authentic" or not. But what do you do when people stop buying the stereotypical BS the business has been selling them for decades? You could always sue your customers, and create oppressive legislation to choke off the advance of technology. Or you could build a better business model.

In the end what we are doing is not only about challenging the Industry, it's also about challenging the limited vision the Industry has of who "we" are.



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The Net Strikes Back

It's a proud day for the internet.  After thousands of websites "blacked out" in protest of internet censorship as represented by the overreaching SOPA/PIPA legislation, Congress is being forced to take note, with one of the Senate sponsors of the legislation backing down today.  For the past decade old media companies in the throes of the demise of traditional business models, have sought to bully the new web order into compliance with the needs of the few and the out-of-touch.  From the RIAA's massive and disastrous effort to sue music lovers, to the film industry's fruitless efforts to ban the VCR, old media has a sad if storied history of resisting technological advance when it would appear to threaten established business models.  

The crazy thing about this tendency is not only it's anti-competitive nature, but it's demonization of the very tools that have historically enabled these industries to fluorish.  At the advent of radio, record labels claimed that broadcasting music over the airwaves would harm their ability to sell music - a charge they returned to in 2006 with a failed effort to declare broadcast radio a form of piracy.  As many of you will already know radio would ultimately become the most crucial element of marketing/promotion in the history of the mainstream Recording Industry.  Likewise videocassette & ultimately DVD sales, would turn into the primary locus of profit for film companies.

Today these same enterprises are out to cripple the internet as we know it with two ill-conceived pieces of legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate.  The purported intent of both bills, is to enhance the ability of copyright holders to pursue injunctive action against overseas enterprises engaging in counterfeiting and/or piracy.

I don't want to go into an exhaustive critique of SOPA/PIPA as that's been happening all over the web for months now.  I just want to point out TWO key things to consider in order to understand what is happening here:

1) SOPA/PIPA passes the buck: the cardinal sin of these proposals in my mind, is that they for the first time outsource responsibility for the protection of copyright, from the copyright holder to other parties. So for example, YouTube could be held liable for a user uploading a piece of copyrighted content and could be shut down if unable to prevent such infringement from occurring. The irony here, is that YouTube is already responsible for responding to take down requests from copyright holders. The dastardly "innovation" of SOPA/PIPA is that it could theoretically require ISPs to block YouTube.

In other words, somebody uploads something they "shouldn't" to YouTube and Verizon/Comcast/AT&T prevent you from viewing at all. One of the fears here, is that given the litigious nature of the mainstream media conglomerates, ISPs would ultimately be forced to make a determination not to allow access to certain kinds of sites at all.  Now companies the size of Google, Facebook and others might be able to afford the cost of litigation to protect their enterprises.  But what about Wikipedia? How about Reddit? How about the next great startup-destined-to-be-a-giant?  Answer: They'd be dead in the water before they were even born.

2) What is happening with SOPA/PIPA is a perfect example of the corrupting influence of big money on US politics.  The revolving door between Congress and K-Street lobbying firms is one of the biggest problems facing American society.  It's gone far beyond the appearance of corruption at this point. I'd argue there is a fundamental and accepted corruption at the heart of our political system.  Whether it's an FCC commissioner leaving to take a job as a lobbyist for Comcast, four months after granting approval for the acquisition of NBC/Universal from GE, or former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) leaving the Senate to run the MPAA (film industry lobby), there is an unholy alliance between deep-pocketed corporations and the people we entrust to protect the rights of citizens and enterprise alike.

The bottom line is, if the advance of technology is leaving your old-skool business model in the dust, don't worry about innovating, buy yourself some clout in Congress and happy days will be here again.

But not this time. Today the titans, the upstarts, the denizens and the scofflaws of the internet stood up to an unwarranted power grab by the powers that used-to-be, in defense of internet freedom for us all.  This is hardly the end of this particular war.  But it may possibly be a beginning to ending the corrupting influence of narrow interests on our public officers.  As the five digital fingers said to the face of Big Media...




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