Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust.....Support My Morehouse Brother, Saul Williams!

Saul Williams and Trent Reznor are in my opinion the upholders of artistic integrity and freedom in the music world:

Trent Reznor and Saul Williams Discuss Their New Collaboration, Mourn OiNK

Saul and Trent.Courtesy of Cornerstone
Spoken-word and hip-hop artist Saul Williams toured with Nine Inch Nails last year, and Trent Reznor liked him so much that he decided to produce his new album. The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, a mind-boggling fusion of genres — think NIN meets Gnarls Barkley meets Justice, if you can do so without your head exploding — will be released tomorrow through Williams's Website as a free download (or you can chip in five bucks to support Saul). The two artists spoke with Vulture by phone from L.A. this afternoon, discussing the album's genesis, the imploding record industry, and how much they paid for the new Radiohead album.

How did this collaboration come about?
Trent: I'd come across Saul through his "List of Demands" video, and it really impressed me as strong piece of work, as an aggressive rock-type track that jumped out of the television. So I checked to see if he was interested in touring with me. And it impressed me that he could go in front of an audience that probably didn't know who he was. He won the crowd over, and I watched it happen every night. I said, "Hey, if you ever want to experiment on some tracks, let's see what happens."

How would you characterize the music?
Saul: Gosh, I don't know, ghetto gothic? I guess I'd characterize it as hard-core dance. I don't know if I'd include spoken word in it, actually. It's so danceable. I have a lot to say, but I wanted to find a way to say it that didn't get in the way of me dancing my ass off.

Did you ever butt heads?
Trent: There were times when we disagreed on things, certainly, but sooner or later he'd realize that I was right. [They both laugh.]

What inspired you to go the In Rainbows route with this album?
Saul: From the start, I remember Trent saying, "Let's give it away for free." At first, I was like, "This dude is out of his mind!" But then it really started making sense, and, of course, with Radiohead doing it, we were like, "What the fuck? The idea that we had was great, and we should really follow it through."

Trent: I think it's just an awkward time right now to be a musician. The reality is that people think it's okay to steal music. There's a whole generation of people, that's all they've known. I used to buy vinyl. Today, if you do put out a record on a label, traditionally, most people are going to hear it via a leak that happens two weeks — if not two months — before it comes out. There's no real way around that. I'm truly saddened because I think music has been devalued, so that it's just a file on your computer, and it's usually free. But we can't change that. What we can do is try to offer people the best experience that we can provide them. Will it work? I don't know. But I think it's a great way to get music out to people who are interested. At the end of the day, all I care about is the integrity of the music, and that the feeling of those who experience it is as untainted as possible. I'd rather it not be on an iPod commercial. I'd rather it not be a ringtone that you have to get with a free cell phone or any of that bullshit.

Are you using this project, Trent, to test the waters for a self-released NIN record?
Trent: There isn't a Nine Inch Nails record done. I'm starting one right now. If I had one that was done, I would [release] it today in exactly the same way. I won't have one done for several months. One of the things that started this in motion with Saul was me sitting around thinking about finally getting off a major label, which I think is the right move for Nine Inch Nails. I wasn't looking to jump right back into another binding contract with a big company, and I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't advising Saul to do that in today's climate. We decided to go the route we did, and we'll see what happens.

How long do you think before the labels are out of business?
Trent: I mean, who knows? I remember a time when it felt like, being on a major label, our interests were aligned. At times, it's a pretty well-oiled machine and the luxury is that I feel like I've got a team of people who are taking care of the shit I don't want to think about. I don't care about the radio guy, I just want to make music. But those days are gone. Because, mainly, that infrastructure is broken at the moment. How long before [record companies] are irrelevant? Who knows? They seem to be doing everything they can to make sure that happens as quickly as possible.

Saul: I had already had experiences with my first album, with Rick Rubin and Sony and everything, where the company basically sat on it for two years and told me it wasn't hip-hop. So, I was also very familiar with the infrastructure, and this just made the most sense.

What do you think about OiNK being shut down?
Trent: I'll admit I had an account there and frequented it quite often. At the end of the day, what made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store. Pretty much anything you could ever imagine, it was there, and it was there in the format you wanted. If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now. iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc. Amazon has potential, but none of them get around the issue of pre-release leaks. And that's what's such a difficult puzzle at the moment. If your favorite band in the world has a leaked record out, do you listen to it or do you not listen to it? People on those boards, they're grateful for the person that uploaded it — they're the hero. They're not stealing it because they're going to make money off of it; they're stealing it because they love the band. I'm not saying that I think OiNK is morally correct, but I do know that it existed because it filled a void of what people want.

How much did you guys pay for the new Radiohead album?
Saul: I paid $7, which is like, what, fourteen pounds? No, wait, that's like three pounds!

Trent: I bought the physical one, so I spent a whopping $80. [Pauses.] But, then I re-bought it and paid $5,000, because I really felt that I need to support the arts, so people could follow in my footsteps. [Saul laughs.] —Ben Westhoff

Earlier: OiNK Founder Will Be in Really Big Trouble — Just As Soon As Police Figure Out What He's Done Wrong
OiNK, 2004–2007: A Vulture Tribute
OiNK Busted: The Internet Responds

CultureLab and Shakenworld Productions Present.....

The 10 Cane Rum Birthday Celebration

Saturday, September 8, 2007

It Might Blow Up But It Won't Go Pop-Hip Hop Event and Panel Discussion

On August 3rd, CultureLab hosted multimedia artist Fahamu Pecou and a host of other artists, DJ's, Journalists and Producers for a monumental night of hip hop homage and critical review. The evening was capped off with a thought provoking panel discussion on the current state of Hip Hop. Here is an overview of the night. Special shout outs to Red Bull, Chili's, Mozes and Bong Spirit Vodka for their support.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Questlove DJ Set, Dallas LFT Party 8-29-07

Last week the city of Dallas was blessed with a sizzling DJ set by one of the greatest young musicians on the scene today, Ahmir Thompson AKA ?uestlove, of the Roots.

?uestlove is one of the most unique musicians in any genre of music because he not only plays drums in the only globally touring live hip hop group, The Roots, but he is also known as a fantastic DJ. Many times after a full two to three hour concert, ?uestlove will go out and do an all night DJ set at a club in whatever city the Roots happen to be in.

Last week as part of a launch party for a new chic Victory Park apparel store called LFT, ?uestlove was the featured DJ for the party. He blazed the night with an eclectic DJ set that included the usual hip hop anthems but also a little Lynrd Skynrd, Guns 'n Roses AND even the Sesame Street theme song!

As you can see from some of the pictures, the sponsors of the event were Samsung mobile phones, and Bacardi’s Grey Goose Vodka.

It was indeed a CultureLab type of event with great brands in the mix, beautiful people and bumpin’ music.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Man Bags, The Body Beautiful, Beautiful People and Custom Sneakers

New York is always the center of the universe when it comes to trends and tastemaking. On my recent trip to New York here are a few things that I noticed:

The ever present “Man Bag” was the star of the fashion story. The man bag is almost a necessity in New York as walking is tantamount to navigating around the NYC. I saw men with everything from Chanel bags to camoflage army looking bags. I admit that the Chanel bag seemed a bit much to me, and the guy who had it was a bit….shall we say, soft.

The main thing is that despite the popularity of the man bag in New York, I do not think its popularity will translate to the heartland. This is mainly because, as the obesity statistics attest, the majority of people outside of New York City are sedentary and overweight. Walking is not a necessity for those of us in the hotlands and heartlands of Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Nebraska and Illinois, therefore that Man Bag becomes a severe fashion statement as opposed to a casual necessary accompaniment.

That leads me to cover off on the beautiful bodies that I saw in New York City. As a 230 lb. six foot 1 large sized man, I felt very out of place on the set of the photoshoot for the ad campaign that my Agency is producing. Most of those working there in the studio were fit and had no signs of pot bellies or flabbiness. That is not even considering the female models that were on set. It seems that the AVERAGE size for the female model is 2, 34 a/b cups and a height of about 6 feet. The male models were all gorgeous with cool 24 hour shadow, size 40 suit sizes, and lean muscle mass. Wow, I felt like immediately leaving New York to run home, hire a trainer, and begin running non stop on the treadmill. I am seriously out of shape, and I realized that the shaping of your body and being fit is just as important in this business as your actual work. I guess it also helps that really good food is hard to come by in NYC too. We discovered that eating a good meal was not as important in NYC. The restaurants there were awfully high and the food at best was mediocre. No one invites you over for a good hot meal either, as no one seems to cook in NYC. There were many beautiful bodies in NYC and next time I go back, maybe I will be one of them.

I must say that the nightlife options in NYC are impressive. As a lover of real soulful house music, I found nirvana at a club in the coolest of the cool NYC areas called the Meatpacking District. The club was Cielo and we happened to luck up to hear the one and only Kevin Hedges of the famous dance music duo Blaze spinning house and Afrobeat. Cielo is a club built for sound so the sound system in there was off the chain. The lighting inside the club was dramatic too.

If I could take one thing back with me to Dallas, Texas from NYC it would be the open attitudes of race and socializing across cultural groups. In the W hotel where we stayed, the people in the lounge were melded together by groovy sounds across all genres, good drinks, cool atmosphere and a willingness to mix it up. There was a lack of unnecessary haughty “I am rich and white and don’t want to socialize with those not like me” attitude and snootiness that seems to permeate every nice nightspot in Big D. Instead, people were celebrating the end to the long hot week and wanting to mingle. It was evident to me that everyone was welcomed and the music expressed that.

We also went to one of the best black owned restaurants in Manhattan, Maroons. Maroons is located in the Chelsea area of NYC. Chelsea is predominately gay and white but it was rather cool that a black owned restaurant serving Southern and Caribbean cuisine could flourish there. When we walked in for our 9p reservation we were greeted warmly by the hostess. Inside this tiny space were beautiful black people, an older white couple having a nice meal, a table full of gay white men, and a smattering of afrocentric couples on what seemed like nice romantic dates. The food was good at Maroons and the Jamaican rum punch was the real deal!

Finally, we cover off on sneakers. The hippest people in New York had what seemed to be the most unique and odd looking sneakers I had ever seen. In the shopping district in SOHO every other shop seems to offer some assortment of one of a kind sneakers from Puma, to PF Flyers, to Nikes, and to Mitre. Sneakers are the newest trend amongst the fashionistas and I think this is something that is happening in the heartland too. Sneakers are the shit right now.

So if you go to New York open yourself to snooping and observing to check out the latest trends. New York City is a terrific place and the people are equally terrific. I encourage everyone to experience it if they can at least once a year.

Peace and Love,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Multicultural advertising, is it still relevant in this online media age?

Every once in a while in life we experience unexpected pleasures. Late one Saturday night I was at home watching TV when I decided to change the channel and stumbled across a vintage edition of Soul Train circa 1981. What I saw brought a smile to my face, gave me pure exhilaration and triggered memories of being a kid on Saturday mornings watching this great show. For those of us in the know, Soul Train was the one show on TV where African Americans could see themselves in all their creative brilliance and glory: Al Green, with a perm, the underrated Atlanta funkers, Brick funking it up on the Soul train stage and a pre-Shalimar Jody Watley getting down with Jeffrey Daniel on the Soul Train line. It was also evident that it was a show brought to you by UltraSheen (a Johnson Company product), Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

I call these three companies the pioneer triumvirate of corporations that targeted African Americans. Soul Train, in a way marshaled in a new era of programs that provided advertisers an avenue to target young influential African Americans. With the advent of Soul Train was the birth of Black ad agencies that developed targeted ads that resonated with this constituency.

Fast forward to the spring of 2007 and the question becomes is the era of the traditional ethnic targeted ad agency over? The answer is yes and no. The reality is that we are experiencing a remarkable time of fundamental shift in the advertising industry with advertisers shifting resources from broadcast to online. The reasons for this are simple, those who are in the so called millennials group, especially those in the most prized demographic of 18-34 are spending increasingly more time on the internet.

Furthermore, America is experiencing a demographic shift where Latinos are the largest minority group, and non-whites have a faster growth rate than whites. In the meantime, African Americans have gone from the most influential and coveted ethnic group for advertisers to being less important than the Hispanic consumer group. It could be said that this is a golden era for Hispanic agencies much like the 80’s were for Black agencies. So there is still a need for agencies who truly understand and can connect effectively with those in the multicultural groups.

So the country is more diverse than ever, the omniscient power of the major networks like ABC, NBC and CBS are being usurped by young people spending more of their free time on line, and Hispanics have become the coveted minority consumer group. So what does this mean for those agencies built for the era where broadcast tv reached the masses of those in the 18-34 age group and for African American and Hispanic agencies used to steering advertisers to the traditional broadcast avenues of radio and tv? It means that the relevance of these agencies is being jeopardized.

To survive they are going to have to understand the new media landscape with all of its nuances, proliferation of media options and cross cultural blending of young adult consumers.

My Space is just as popular with young Hispanics and African Americans as those in the general market. So when it comes to advertisers who want to target multicultural young adults, My Space and YouTube should be top of mind, not necessarily or Additionally, there are not many ethnic targeted program options online that have a lot of mass appeal amongst these groups. Instead what you have is extreme fragmentation by interest. There are websites where urban Hispanics lurk like, or a website for “Afro Punks”, Blacks who are into punk rock, and there are Black gossip blogsites like Young Black and Fabulous, that is growing its number of hits daily.

So in a world of blogsites, My Space, Facebook, and YouTube how do you target ethnically? For the younger demos it is no longer just a matter of buying TV ads on Mun2, MTV or BET. The new media landscape is now extremely complex, but effective multicultural targeting can still be done. In our point of view, effective targeting is now about understanding “tribes of interests”. At CultureLab, we are all about tracking and researching these emerging tribes and the proliferation of websites and brands that target them.

In closing, I would like to pose the question, who will be the pioneering advertisers who successfully connect with multicultural young adults online? Will it be the advertisers like Apple who make no effort whatsoever to target by ethnicity or will it be advertisers like McDonalds who have a long and impressive record of targeting different multicultural groups? The answer remains to be seen but I would argue that the winners are those who truly understand the dynamics of developing tribes of interests, cultural blending, class stratification, and the cultural nuances of each ethnic group. Also, the winners will be those brands like Apple that have strong attributes that register with young adults across cultural groups. It is safe to say that amongst the younger multicultural groups it is almost taboo to target them by race, this means a more insightful and universal approach will need to be delivered by advertisers who want to target them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

cLAB In Focus

In May the CultureLab agency conducted a series of focus groups with college students in the DFW area to gauge their media consumption habits, attitudes toward race, politics and technological aspects of their lifestyle. The age of participants ranged from 21-23.

Click the image above to view a video of highlights from the focus groups. Big thanks goes to Kristina, Desmond, Arthur and Anietie for helping us out with this project.

Monday, April 30, 2007


CultureLab was given the assignment of trying to change the perception of Bluetooth headsets among the 18-25 young adult demographic throughout Latin America and to effectively market Nokia’s sleek new BH-800 headset. Nokia like other Bluetooth headset makers faced a challenge in convincing younger people to buy them.

The perception of Bluetooth headsets among this group was that they look too “techy” and too “dorky.” Generally, the demo tend not to wear them because it makes them look uncool.

From a pure product perspective the Nokia BH-800 is a winner with it’s sleek look, metallic color and small size.

The resulting ad campaign was developed to go against the grain and to communicate more of the emotional benefit of wearing this sleek headset. Instead of following the usual concepts of Bluetooth headsets, CultureLab wanted to show how a fashionable headset can not only make you look good but also make you feel sexy. Its like when a woman wears nice lingerie, or jewelry, or when a man puts on a tailored suit with a tie.

These ads were intentionally more risqué because of the creative license that Latin American advertising is given.

CultureLab succeeded in creating a new perception of Bluetooth headsets and effectively introduced the Nokia BH-800 in the LTA market.