This year's first legitimate Christmas music post

Legit because of the well-selected posting time, of course.

This weekend I'm having a house warming party (any readers are welcome to show up, comment for details) and the theme is going to be appropriately seasonal, including the music. Since the new apartment is large enough, there's going to be two separate sound sources, and since CDs are useless and boring, we're going for the computer vs. the vinyl player. The former is easy enough: It's going to be all-parang. As usual, Imeem is the best source for trini music, and I've found this enormous parang playlist:

2008 & Back Christmas Parang Holiday Music*** (New)

115 songs, that should last all night. Or until my girlfriend decides to switch to Spotify, which should be about fifteen minutes.

The vinyl, that's trickier. I had about four Christmas albums plus the odd extra track last week, and so I've spent several days hunting down as much as I can, with I must say surprising success. (A convenient record fair helped.) I now have eighteen Christmas albums, plus a single, an album with a Christmas song on it and an unfortunate duplicate, all for about 400 kr. About half are actually reasonably good, too, including some bona fide classics like A Christmas Gift for You, Christmas Jollies and Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.

But I also have some albums that are less well known. I thought I'd go ahead and highlight three of them quickly.

Ramsey Lewis Trio - More Sounds of Christmas

This is a surprisingly tight package of instrumental jazz (mostly in some sort of vague cool-jazz vein) with some seriously different interpretations of Christmas classics coupled with originals. If I have one complaint it's that some of the originals are a bit too much jazz and a bit too little christmas for their own good. As a sample, here's the radically redone version of "We Three Kings".

The Whispers - Happy Holidays To You

Somewhere (1979 to be exact) on the border between modern soul and eighties R&B, this has a somewhat similar problem to to the last album - the interpretation of standards is great, very soulful, but the originals tend to be a bit clichéd and cheesy. "Funky Christmas" is probably the best of the lot, although it's uncharacteristically disco.

Half Man, Half Biscuit - All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (from Back again in the D.H.S.S.)

Right, this isn't really a Christmas album at all, but this particular song is one of the greats in the genre. It shows painfully, I think, what indie fucked up from punk's legacy: this is in equal parts a story of a pained childhood, a total absurdism and a subtle piece of social critique. It's the last bit most indie bands today tend to forget.


Genre of the Week: Eurobeat

Sometimes a genre just clicks as the missing link in your personal puzzle of music discovery, leaping between continents and time periods and immediately grabbing your attention. For me, eurobeat is definitely one of those genres. It connects, in a way which is really fascinating, the eighties dance genre of italo disco with the latest ringtones and video game sounds. And what's more, its existence raises many more questions than it answers.

Eurobeat is a genre of music produced entirely in one country, Italy, and consumed entirely in another, way on the other side of the earth: Japan. It's been running as a genre more or less constantly for twenty years now, without slowing down much. And it's got its own huge subculture, which involves one of the strangest looks to appear in the part decade, in any country: the blackface Ganguro girls.

As good a place as any to start exploring the genre is the Swedish eurobeat site eurobeat.se. Iocc, the site's owner, claims to have 71 Gb of the stuff, collected from strange and esoteric FTP servers in Chile and Finland starting eight years ago. Apparently, he says, one guy in the US claims to have more music, but he's at least #2 in the world. The obsession in foreign countries with this phenomenon is perhaps natural seeing as to the Japan fascination that's been sweeping Europe in the past few years, but this stuff is truly marketed only to Japan. Iocc keeps returning to this irksome fact during our interview.

What does eurobeat sound like? Well, Iocc's favourite track might give a hint as to what sort of thing is on offer. "Go Go Dance" by the Go Go Girls (a completely fabricated group whose members switch constantly) is fast, carelessly happy, rhythmically quite complex and insanely energetic, constantly switching portions of its content around.

Eurobeat has its roots in a familiar story from the history of music: fashions changed in Europe with the arrival of house music in the late eighties. Japan, however, had grown attached to the older music and its crazy lyrics and image, and wanted more. Enterprising producers gave it to them, and the earliest eurobeat from the late eighties sounds distinctly like just more italo. But then, slowly, it began to evolve - new instruments and musical styles emerged, and the tempo accelerated to upwards of 155 BPM circa 1995 before dropping somewhat again. The typical style and image emerged: more or less anonymous rent-a-face artists always singing in (bad) english, tracks who borrowed the names (but not any of the music!) from major hits...

Just how this evolution took place is one of the great mysteries of the genre for me. Practically the entire musical output of the Italian studios who produce eurobeat is distributed and owned by a Japanese company called Avex Trax, and there's no direct feedback from any of the marketing. Also, most of the tracks are sold in compilation form (like the famous Super Eurobeat series) and it must hard from the vantage point of Italy to tell just how well an individual track has done. And yet, the music evolved and changed with the times and is now thriving in its third decade. One music studio I talked to, out of about six or seven still in business, produces around half a dozen tracks every month. How it's worked? The cryptic answer I got was that they sense what their customers want, but that's just mystical ESP bullshit, isn't it?

Well, part of the longevity is probably due to its subcultural moorings. Besides the fantastical (and from a racial point of view eminently analysable) ganguro girls, there's a huge scene centred around the arm-based dancing style para para, including at the now-closed mega club Velfarre where eurobeat was often the main genre of the dance floor. Here's another Go Go Girls track (with more post-colonial goodness to analyse) with some para para dance stylings:

There's something about eurobeat that's immediately familiar to your ears even though you've never heard it before. Part of it is probably its immediately noticeable influence on other Japanese culture: you can hear eurobeat (or something like it) in video games, in anime, on television. But Iocc also points out that it might well be the other way around: a lot of the familiarity might be from the old disco styles in europe in the eighties it's based on, and not least from older video games. That bright, two-oscillator synth that you hear in a lot of this stuff, for instance, is basically lifted as an idea entirely from one of the typical sounds of the classic SID chip on the C64.

So with over fifteen thousand songs in this breakneck genre's history, where would you get started if you're interested in the genre? Iocc recommends the "Euro Mach" series of compilation albums (should be pretty easy to find online), which were released during the ganguro craze's commercial high point around 1999-2001. Supposedly, they're even happier and more upbeat than the average eurobeat tracks...


How four-on-the-floor can R&B get?

Apparently all of Sweden's R&B bloggers are joining together in a couple of week's time, leaving Sweden without any current R&B blogs and the new blog without any competition. Since I've spent the last couple of weeks mostly listening to R&B (via the brilliant iM1) I thought I'd attempt providing both. At least for one post.

As you all probably know hip-hop has recently taken up a lot of influence from electronic dance music of various kinds to the point of sampling it directly. Well, R&B if anything permits itself to go even more trancey. There's plenty of effervesynths going around, and more and more beat and sound ideas from house, trance and techno are burrowing into the music. Hard to get more chillout room than this new Polow Da Don production, for instance:

Crishan - U

All well and good so far, because the harmonic and song-building qualities of R&B are still perfectly intact. (And it's a great track.) But what's considerably more shocking to me is just how much the beat has gone full-on four-on-the-floor. Sure, even in a song like the above those first beats are emphasised, but compare it to this:

Adonis - Senses

No, it's not the 80s house producer Adonis, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so. The first fifteen seconds has no percussion but four-on-the-floor kick drum, and then adds a hand clap as well until a slightly more rhythmically complex chorus a minute in, but nothing vaguely resembling syncopation. I realise the producer has done similar things before, but this is damn extreme, both in single-mindedness and volume.

This trend has got to have reached the end of the line soon, right? Pity. I kinda like it.

PS. Listen to it making its way into dancehall as well. How four-on-the-floor can dancehall get and still be dancehall?

Jah Cure and Wayne Marshall - So High


Freedom and Music Quality

In the last couple of days I've posted a couple of blog posts that have given the illusion that good music can be produced in countries with extremely oppressive regimes. This summer I posted about decent music in a communist dictatorship.

Well, the thing is, if indeed these claims are true they're very much exceptions. Actually, it's fairly amazing how clearly freedom correlates with good music worldwide, generally. Today I came accross (via) the web site of Reporters Without Borders, and this year's edition of their famous Press Freedom Index. And I think the map and table of the freest countries is pretty startling.

Some of the freest countries in every region read like a who's who of recognised music producers and blog favourites.

In the Caribbean: Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

In Africa: South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali (Ivory Coast & Angola are okay).

In Asia, though the general level is lower: Turkey, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Lebanon.

The correlation is far from perfect either way, especially in Europe and the Americas, but it's still a bit too much to be a coincidence, I think.


Hip-hop crackdown in Burma

I'll freely admit to never having heard of Zayar Thaw before reading about him in the news and on the net today. You know I love Asian hip-hop and try to find it in the strangest places, but I honestly have never thought of looking at Burma as a possible country it could be big in. But apparently it is. Or was. Zayar Thaw, one of the biggest stars, was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for his part in the 2007 uprising. Another big star, Yan Yan Chan, is still awaiting sentencing, and last year they came and took G-Tone, after he took off his shirt to show a tattoo in support of the monks. He was released, but banned from ever performing again.

The scene wasn't bad. There was plenty of stuff I could well have blogged about. Here are a couple of videos, a little old-fashioned perhaps but vital nonetheless.

Yan Yan Chan - Lite Kye

G-Tone and others freestyling

Acid (Zayar's and Yan Yan's group)- Ma Ya Kyout

Burmese C-Walk

Do you think we from the international hip-hop/globetech/whatever community have a special responsibility towards these people? We gladly accept their wares, play their records, encourage their independence. All this material would certainly have ended up on my old radio show. On one level I guess it's horrible when a dictatorial regime cracks down on anyone, or on any artist. But just like the PEN club defends writers specifically, I think this is precisely the sort of thing we need to engage in if we're not just going to be irresponsible surface skimmers.

What do you think?


Jesus fucking horrendous Christ

I thought there was no cultural activity going on in Kista compared to it's more vibrant neighbours. I was wrong.


The enemy is here! Dammit!

Something is brewing in Zimbabwe

Wow, Zimbabwe's blandly-named-but-sometimes-brilliant local genre urban grooves is really picking up pace! Less than a year ago I was googling it and finding nothing, but now there's tons of material, much of it newly produced. It's great to see music springing up in a country that hasn't had a happy last few years, and for it to be fresh and unsettled the way good new genres are supposed to be. (Though a lot of it seems to be made by expats.) There are influences there from the two regional power houses, Tanzania and South Africa, and you can kinda hear some sort of warped kwaito-meets-bongo-flava thing going on in there. Like on this track, by the unfortunately named Street Niggaz out of Bulawayo, which clocks in at a very discoey 116 BPM and samples the bassline of Madonna's Holiday.

Street Niggaz - C'Zobalimaza

I love the houseyness of a lot of this stuff. There's stuff that almost borders on straightforward gospel house! In general, there are loads of warm deep-housey synth mats, which I'm usually ambivalent about but it works great here. But it's far from universal: there's plenty of material here, still, that copies the usual American and Jamaican suspects, and it's still developing. (A lot of stuff is actually labelled "Zim Dancehall", they've even got their own riddims.) Then there is material that ties into older Zimbabwian music as well: plenty of Kalimbas and Kwassa kwassa guitars going on here.

There's plenty more tracks in the genre to be found on the youtube page of zimvibes.


Social Class III: Stuck In The Middle With You

If the first post in this series was, vaguely about the working class and the second about the elite, then this is the post about the middle class. Probably the hardest to analyse, since I'm from some sort of middle class background myself.

But then, who isn't? In a discussion with blogger tray here, there was a discussion about two posters, one supposedly elitist and the other one supposedly working class. Yet I can pretty much bet you that both posters were made by people who consider themselves middle class. And yes, certainly, as Gavin points out here, so do many party oriented rappers, Lil Jon among them. Or David Banner, who's got a masters degree in business administration. Isn't he middle class? Obviously what's middle-class varies from caricature to caricature, just as the term hipster does.

A university, for one, is a largely middle-class environment (having free universities like in Sweden barely changes that). Yet on any campus you're going to find vastly different attitudes - from the small town kid there to receive some sort of professional training and to party, to the utterly pretentious wannabe academic pursuing a Bildungsideal. The square and the hipster and the nerd coexist, all middle-class. Hardcore punk? Middle class. Easy listening? Middle Class.

The middle-class, quite simply, diverges. According to Neo-marxist Nicos Poulantzas (link in Swedish) it's because they have a choice. Unlike the upper class, who are bound for leadership positions, or the working class, who are bound for subservient manual labour, the middle class can go one of several ways. They can become "intellectual workers" (not, says Poulantzas disdainfully, intellectuals) who occupy a position similar to the working class when seen from above, low-level white-collar workers. Or they can be close to the high bourgeoisie in various management positions. This choice is made as early as middle-school, by selecting out some students over others. I can see this in my own family, where I'm the intellectual kid who's gone on to adopt (like it or not) bourgeois values to some extent, whereas my three older siblings have had a very different attitude. My sister went to college for four years and she's a naprapath, but she's certainly not the kind of middle-class person who'd be invoking neo-marxists in a blog discussion. She's not part of any silly Habermasian bourgeois public sphere.

Still, there's something about the choice idea that rings hollow. I certainly felt expectations from my upper-middle-class parents to go to university for my personal development mostly, and I'm not sure the white-collar worker's kids look at it the same way. Maybe the biggest distinction between the fractions of the middle class is not strictly economical but a divide between different attitudes? Or to put it another way: I can well conceive of Lil Jon's parents being doctors. But I could never, ever conceive of them being artists. Or sociologists.

There's a complex system of attitudes in the middle class, dividing up people into different groupings. Liberal social worker? Read the Guardian, shop at second hand stores, listen to Michael Franti. And so on. Actually, supposedly taste in music is a great sociological predictor for the other attitudes - and the recently publicised study on the subject is entirely missing the point. It's not your personality determining your taste in music - it's your role in society that determines both how you're supposed to act and what music you're supposed listen to.

Maybe intellectual parents who are worried about their kids underperforming in school should make them become fans of progressive house or something, and everything will be all right...


Quickie (literally)

I'm doing a course on he historiography of music, which mostly consists of reading books like this. One topic that comes up a lot, in traditional music history, is periodization: how to divide history into blocks, which for some reason is considered important.

Our teacher, obviously stuck in the usual elitist Eurocentric (aka "western") tradition, talked about the length of periods, and mentioned how some claim you can have sub periods as short as maybe 25 years! Some people claim Sturm und Drang as a subperiod even! Obviously, as a pop genre buff I scoff at that sort of numbers. In pop music discourse it's not uncommon to have genres that everyone agrees only lasted for five years or so - grabbing something out of thin air, say, post-punk.

This got me thinking. What, when it comes to generally used and agreed-upon genre names, is the shortest-lasting genre ever? Tentatively I've started thinking of really short genres with definite starts and stops, and I've come up with Rocksteady's two short but incredibly, incredibly creative years as a first shot. But surely there must be even shorter ones?


Evangelical Shoegaze

I've been subscribed to the StumbleUpon topic "christian music" for ages now out of curiosity and this is the first time it's thrown up anything vaguely interesting. Jars of Clay, the rabid christian shoegazers. Wow.


One year on, I've moved

I've been blogging for a year now. Since it feels like I just had a big celebratory post (#100), I thought I'd do an update of what my life looks like instead, and make it an annual, November 8 me-post.

Well, apart from solidifying my musicology student identity and messing about with the usual interpersonal relationship issues, the one big thing I've done recently is moved. So I thought I'd do a quick presentation of my new neighbourhood, Kista.

View Larger Map

Kista is a suburb of Stockholm. Because I know that I have many American readers, I'd better explain that this means it's considerably poorer than the inner city. Although not technically part of the Million Programme, it is surrounded my areas built in the sixties and early seventies, and shares many of its features. However, it is also a strange, dynamic boom town. Stockholm is growing, and verging on becoming the kind of multi-centred city that is practically standard with cities of two or more million inhabitants, and Kista is often touted as the potential "northern centre". People come here rather than leave here during the day.

As such, it has two large draws, neither of which is particularly pleasant for the residents. The north-eastern part is Sweden's equivalent of Silicon Valley, full of high-tech companies and tech-oriented university campuses. (It's practically a dead area to walk around in, though.) Cutting us residents off from the office zone is an enormous, lengthwise oriented mall, one of the biggest in Stockholm. (Which makes shopping and eating out nearby expensive and annoying.)

As for the residential portion, roughly the south-western third, it's all condominiums (unlike the surrounding areas, where it's mostly rental). This means that, while it's still considered an immigrant area, it's the "middle-class immigrant area" - where the residents are still close to the cultural centre/run-down banlieue of Rinkeby, while being safely tucked away from the welfare class. The closeness to the IT campus also attracts a fair number of students (like me, though I don't study there) and IT professionals, and it's thus supposedly one of the best-integrated areas in all of Sweden. I've not noticed it much myself (beyong seing all kinds of people down at the shop), but then I've only lived here a month.

On the other side of the residential area is, thankfully, nature, in the form of an old military excercise field turned barely used green belt. Great place for walks.

So that's where I live. I'm going to give a shot at discovering the local music life as soon as I have time, but we'll see. Strange as it may sound for such a dynamic, price-rising area, there's almost no feeling of actual life.


Social Class II: C'est Beau, La Bourgeoisie

Congratulations Obama supporters! Now, while the iron is still hot, I thought I'd better give you a word of advice.

I've been following the US elections from a distance, and some of the most interesting texts I've read about it have been from a distance too. And they paint up a fairly worrying picture. First, Swedish blogger for a major right-wing newspaper (and ardent Obama supporter) Martin Gelin wrote about the Joe the Plumber shtick (in Swedish):
It's a real laugh to see how Swedish "middle class journalists" are falling for it. Can we call it a low education complex? Intellectuals who have a a complex towards the working class and desperately try to understand what the working class likes: cosy hockey moms who say "youbetcha" but don't offer a single pragmatic solution for low income earners.
Second, style journalist Marcus Dunberg took it one step further in a column in the free newspaper Metro (again in Swedish). Following Gelin's thought to its logical, Palin-bashing conclusion, writing about how all the candidates fought about who had the most regular-Joe background, and how, in his eyes, it had created a backlash:
If Sarah Palin is an anti-elitist, then by extension the diametrically opposed stance has to be something good. [...] On the streets of Manhattan more and more people are turning up wearing T-shirts that say "Liberal Elite" on them. It's about time us elitists are able to run free, without being judged by the commoners.
Well guys, trust me, if any of you have started falling into this shit then stop it. An elitist is not something you want to be. And yet, there seem to be little signs everywhere that, in fact, a consciously self-labelled elite is starting to appear even among the young, And I for one won't attribute it to Sarah Palin. (I do realise that "elitist" has come to stand for women and upwardly-mobile blacks, and for liberals in general. But adopting it yourself is a total cop-out to the forces that rather would not associate with the working class at all. Whatever new type of radicalism is emerging, I just have to ask them: don't ignore the working class. The class system is still one of the chief sources of inequality in the world.)

When I was still very politically active politically a few years ago, the kind of "complex" Martin Gelin talks about was still very much alive, and no-one pointed it out in order to mock it. People would try to reach out to the working class. They would hide their high levels of education and buy "anti-fashion" clothes from charity shops. The enemy was a traditional establishment consisting of both a cultural and an economic elite, who oppressed the working class and its (popular) culture in equal measure.

But now we're seeing this kind of shit, radicals dressing in fashion labels, and a seemingly conscious distancing from the working class in all sorts of contexts. Whatever you think about backpacker rap (I hate it, myself) and the dull roots reggae that was the soundtrack to a lot of demonstrations a few years ago, at least it never celebrated the upper-class lifestyle that's enjoyed in this post's titular track:

The song is from this fall, a period when (indeed) the new elitism seems to have accelerated. Just look at the iconography on the posters for this London club:

Can you imagine a club that plays kwaito, kuduro and baile funk having a poster so obviously designed to turn away the diaspora and the working class a few years ago? It's way past the sort of art-school faux DIY you still see around, it's deeply entrenched in a horrible sort of Victorian colonialist exotica. The concept, and the poster, has already been copied in Stockholm, of course:

It's taking working class music and planting it into a context the working class has no access to. (Like I said, little things. But what if the bear is real?)

How did we get here? Well, the right-wing appropriation of equality rhetoric in one thing. Another is the loss of a credible cultural elite to fight and the appropriation of the symbols of youthful rebellion by big business. But I think maybe part of the blame can be attached to the recession - is it a coincidence that some of the most elitist youth cultures ever have hit during recessions? Bereft of financial markers of success, the upper class takes to refinement as the dividing line between them and the mob. We've got better taste, even if we don't have more money, ergo we're better than you.

We'll see if, indeed, we're seeing a new elitism emerge. But I hope, for the sake of the left wing in general, that you Obama supporters won't be the ones spearheading such a movement. Now start by not trying to distance yourselves from the working class and for god's sake, please don't use the label "elitist".


Social Class I: Watermelon

I was at a party at the home of a fellow blogger recently when I fell into a conversation with another blogger, prompted by my assertion that I don't much like East Coast hip-hop, especially not the rather middle-classy Native Tongues type material. At which point he retorted, in paraphrase:

"So you like your hip-hoppers poor and out in the country, eating watermelon? You don't want any uppity black people, right?"

He was joking, of course, but it hit home more than he realised at the time. Because it's basically true: I prefer small-community, dance-oriented, working class hip-hop to cosmopolitan, underground, middle class hip hop. Does that mean I'm buying into the Jim Crow stereotype of the carefree Negro in a straw hat?

What I'm basically facing here is an issue of intersectionality. The ethnic minority of black people in the US and in Europe are, as a group, marginalised, and the majority of them are relatively poor. The struggle to escape poverty, for them, is twofold: not only is it economically problematic, but the stereotype society has of them is that they're poor/untrustworthy/criminal, making it all the harder to get anywhere else. In fact, in the US at least the idea of "black" and "working class" seem so closely intertwined that we get phenomena like this.

So it's difficult to honestly claim a growing black middle class is a bad thing - it's definitely a crucial step in the breaking down of the negative stereotype and in integration. But the question really is what do we mean by integration? There seem to be hundreds of models, both of what is desirable and what we actually mean, and often integration is defined purely in terms of economic success. I don't think it's nearly that simple. One favourite model of mine, from when I studied journalism and which I despite incessant googling have not been able to find the source of, has three levels:
  1. Segregation, in which the marginalised group is excluded from the public sphere entirely and does not have access to the higher positions in society. The culture of the dominant group is completely prevalent, while the culture of the marginalised minority is actively repressed.
  2. Partial assimilation, in which the vast majority of the marginalised group is still excluded and its culture relatively repressed, but in which a small elite within the group is allowed to rise, but only if they actively adopt the culture of the dominant group.
  3. Integration, in which both groups have adapted to each other, and both cultures are considered equally good and are both part of the public sphere.
I really like the emphasis on cultural rather than just economic equality in a model like this. In particular, I think the idea of the second level is very apt for a lot of groups in society - here in Sweden, for instance, there's plenty of Kurds in very high positions with largely mainstream values, maybe even disproportionally many, but that doesn't mean the majority isn't oppressed and that Kurdish culture isn't oppressed. Likewise, when it comes to black people there are successful ones (like these two that are in the news a lot today, Monday), but they're a relatively small minority and, crucially, they've been forced to adapt to the mainstream culture to gain success. Like women who have to be more "masculine" than the boys to succeed in management, successful black people often have to be extremely mainstream in every way in order to not appear as an "angry black man" or some other stereotype.

This partial assimilation may be needed for there to be equal access for a greater variety of black culture in the future, but (and here comes the point of the post) it doesn't make for very good music. Completely assimilated artists are one thing (yes, liberals, there are black people in all sorts of music) - no shadow falls on Bad Brains or TV on the Radio; they're basically part of a mainstream white culture. But a lot of the sort of partially assimilated half-measures, the "black" music created to garner acceptance with a mainly white audience, often comes across as superficial, trying too hard, a bit hesitant, not daring to go towards any interesting extreme. And that, to give a fuller answer, is why I'm not so fond of De La Soul. (And global fusion music.)

So what of the minstrelsy Negro in the straw boater and the toothy white grin? Well, as a destructive intersectional stereotype it goes two ways. Yes, it's a conflation of the categories of "working class" and "black". But in its details, it's also a demonisation of actual black working class culture. Mainstream middle-class white society (which, of course, is the public sphere really) has a great tolerance for middle-class black culture of the kind above - all my middle-class hip-hopper friends here in Sweden are fond of "true school" hip-hop and underground hip-hop. Meanwhile, there's a great intolerance of working-class black music - again, the Swedish hip-hoppers usually deride it as "LCD Rap". The watermelon man is a thinly veiled depiction of the hate felt towards actual working-class, rural blacks.

I think there's a great value in working class black culture, and I try to do my best to promote it. I'm not going to go around saying it's the "real" black culture, that sort of essentialist statement only leads to dismissal of legitimate expression, but I do think that in order for there to be full, positive integration its value needs to be recognised and it needs to be stopped looking down on. We need to stop assigning stereotypes of all sorts and appreciate whatever someone wants to do, and whatever they chose to communicate. And I don't know about you, but I'm always happier when ABN comes up with something introspective than when Atmosphere does.

This is the first in a series on class. Next time I'm going to deal with segregation, elitist Obama supporters and how class issues are affected by a recession.