Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CMJ Conference '06

by James O'Connor

     Covering a conference like CMJ is like the running of the bulls. It’s pretty crazy, there are a lot of people and when you’re a member of the press, you’re like one of the bulls trying to get as many of those suckers as you can without wiping out. And with trying to fit in as many panels, speakers, meetings, interviews, and movies into the day, you would feel like wiping out at around nine o’clock. At that point, you don’t have the choice of going to bed, the only remaining question is ‘what dope ass concert am I going to check out tonight?’ With show highlights this year of, AG, CL Smooth, Mojoe (stop sleepin’ on that new Texas ish), the Stones Throw 10 Year Anniversary Tour, and a Stetsasonic reunion!... if you weren’t there, you missed out dude.

     To be perfectly honest, I really think CMJ is just a big excuse to get a whole bunch of industry heads, college radio DJs, struggling artists, and some really good acts into the same city for a few days so they can all run around in a rather wild, debaucherous manner. Some might label that as ‘networking.’ Although somebody here or there might learn something and I’m sure a lot of business is accomplished, but who in their right mind is waking up to go to the 9 AM panel about copyright law?

     The first thing I did when I arrived in the city was go pick up my registration badge at Lincoln Center and take a look at the conference guidebook to see what was on tap for the week. Actually, right before I looked at the guidebook, I bumped into Chuck D who had a gaggle of college kids and wannabe rappers swinging from his bozak telling him how awesome he was. After a good smirk, I looked through the lineup of panels and panelists and found a few points of interest amongst the fluff such as “Spin Masters: Becoming A Successful Club/Event DJ.” Now maybe the panelists dropped some serious knowledge bombs on the audience, but wouldn’t your Grandma be able to tell you that it’s about who you know and to just keep pushing and working hard? Needless to say, that was not a panel I attended.

     I thought “The Impact of Local Music Video Shows” panel seemed pretty cool. In today’s world where MTV should actually be called ‘RTV’ or reality television, the idea of having a source to view local talents art and music is something we should all be able to appreciate. Then there was “Radio Star Confidential: Top DJs Tell All” which had Marley Marl on the panel among others who talked about breaking artists and their influence in certain artists careers. A-Trak was a panelist on the “Battle of the DJs and Remixers” which contained the very cliché subtitle of “Who’s Hot and Who’s Not.” It is amusing to get a group of ego driven artists in a room to discuss music and remixes pertaining to their artistic merit. I highly recommend it for the entertainment value alone. And speaking of pure entertainment value, the panel of “Getting Into Bed With Porn: The Crossover Partnerships Between Music and Adult Entertainment” seemed to me to be in somewhat bad taste as I’m sure a large majority of CMJ registrants are merely college radio DJs who do their weekly radio shows playing indie rock, hip hop, and metal in which the adult entertainment industry doesn’t really seem to fit into that picture anywhere.

     Going back to the essence of CMJ being a clusterfuck of industry heads, it gave me the opportunity to schedule an interview with Amir. Check that out in the features section! Having the chance to talk records with a true break fiend who has been in the game for twenty years and hearing him spin at APT the following night was definitely a tasty treat. Along the same vein of nighttime entertainment, I’d have to say another sure shot highlight was Peanut Butter Wolf’s set Thursday night at BB King’s. He spun a VJ set… wait what? That’s right, a Video Jockey set and it was hot as hell. With two projector screens on each side of the stage, the lights were lowered as the images were fired up for a sensory smorgasbord of early nineties music videos including Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Stezo, MC Breed, Jeru the Damaja, Wu-Tang and tons more classics. The crowd pleaser was Wolf’s beat juggle of Stezo’s “It’s My Turn” with the opening Skull Snaps break while the video juggle of those nineties dance moves had people in a trance.

     With so much to do and so little time, CMJ was an overall sensory overload in the city that never sleeps. There is a little something for everybody between the various panels to attend, shows and movies. And I was only approaching it with an interest in the hip hop related activities; forget about the butt load of rock shows that were scheduled…


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