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Friday, March 16, 2012

SXSW 2012

In case you haven't heard, I'm spending the week in Austin, TX at the convention known as South by South West (SxSW) just networking, getting hammered and having a generally jolly ol' time. Between catching shows from vets like Mobb Deep and EPMD, stars like Wiz Khalifa and Future, and up-and-comers like Hopsin and Clear Soul Forces, I might be having the best time of my life.... Again.

This year, however, I did not come to Texas empty handed. This time, I brought an album preview. If you don't know, the Black Collar Movement LP / Mixtape / whatever is all but set to drop in a few months. I felt it made sense to let folks know what he deal is. So here are five random tracks from the record that I threw on the SxSW Sampler. Production by Sonny The Producer, Stewart Villain and Terminill. The sampler also features a guest verse by my boy Scrips and a hook by the lovely and talented Caitlin Cardier.

Enjoy and please provide feedback. #APM

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Debauchery - Mac Smiff X Luck One Vs. DJ Chill

Check out my write up on WeOutHere on the "beef" with DJ Chill. In the meantime, enjoy this track by myself and Luck. I think it gooooessss....


Monday, January 16, 2012

Pass The Mic + Happy 2012

Welcome to the New Year, folks! Your boy is making a little more money but it's still Black Collar around here; no luxury vehicles or Louie luggage, just public transportation and a fly new watch. Been super busy as of late writing for We Out Here Magazine, but thought I'd take a moment to drop some dope new music on the page. Enjoy!

Who said Portland doesn’t have emcees? Produced by Terminill for Flatline Studios, Pass The Mic is the city’s ultimate rap cipher and the opening track for Flatline Studios Complilation Vol. 1. Inspired by the Pepsi Smash campaign of late, the crisp audio-video collaboration puts 8 of the city’s hottest, most explosive rappers on display.

Serge Severe (of Animal Farm) leads off repping Portland on an incendiary digital beat loop, and makes way for Th3ory Hazit (Humble Beast) and Jon Belz (Chill Crew) to work magic on the track. A quick skip in the beat and it’s time for Luck One (of Seventh Science) to add his bit before Quiz Zilla flirts with double-time flows. Next, Mila Gordana adds a woman’s touch with her distinctively sultry sound before Cassow gets in it, leaving the final verse for Braille (Humble Beast) to drop knowledge.

With this project, Portland becomes the latest in a long line of cities to create a Pass The Mic track. Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas and Chicago have all represented their respective metropolitan areas in this manner with success. Now it’s Portland’s turn to show and prove. The associated music video – shot and directed by V1Creative – is sure to turn heads, and will hopefully attract more attention to the Northwest’s growing rap scene. In the words of Terminill, “I just want for the world to get a taste of what Portland has to offer hip-hop.” You can rest assured, this collection will not disappoint.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Opinion: Running In Circles (Why Google Plus Never Stood A Chance)

As Facebook began to replace MySpace as the preferred place for people to spam our walls with terrible music, get way too much information about people we do or don't know, and tag us in pictures of Jordan heels, many social media lovers flocked to Twitter for a more controllable experience. Seeing the value of owning a successful social media network, Google abandoned their failed attempt to mimic Twitter - Google Buzz - and re-entered the SM arena with Google Plus (G+) with the goal of capitalizing on the growing public frustration with Facebook.

With a look that nearly mirrors Facebook, and the ability to put people in "Circles" so that users can easily decide who sees what, internet addicts flocked to G+ with the hopes of "starting over". A few months later, it is an online ghost town. Despite having millions of subscribers, it simply seems that no one uses the platform for anything besides bashing Facebook and complaining that nobody ever uses G+. So what happened?

Aside from the sub-par mobile apps (or complete lack of apps for BlackBerry users), issues with Internet Explorer (no one's using Chrome), and the simple fact that people were not quite ready to move-on from Facebook, there is a more simple reason that G+ just never caught on. People use social media for instant attention and up-to-the-moment information, and Google Plus just doesn't deliver either. This all starts with the aforementioned Circles.

MySpace and Facebook had "Friends". In the friend system, people request to be your friend and you have the ability to approve or deny them. Simple. This leads to feelings being hurt sometimes, but it works. Twitter changed the game by allowing people to simply "Follow" people that they find interesting. This allowed celebrities to amass millions of followers with little to no effort (as they don't have to hire people to accept all of those requests) and makes following back optional. People wanting more privacy can setup private pages, which requires potential followers to pass approval. The elimination of the "friend" concept was a monumental change in the social media world.

The developers at Google decided to take it one step further with the Circles concept. Rather than have your information out for the world to see, G+ allows people to choose who they want to see their updates. Further, you can create various circles so that posts are only seen by those you want. Sounds nice and private, right? Right... and that's exactly the issue. Lets take a few examples, shall we?

A: I think you're cool, so I add you to my "Cool People" circle and let you see my updates. You don't know who the heck I am so you just skim over my updates. Where's my instant gratification? G+ fails because it lacks the ability to let people see into other people's lives; instead, it gives us the ability to push our lives (no matter how boring or mundane) onto others. But that's not how social media works.

B: Blake Griffin is awesome. I wanna see what he's talking about. But Blake is not going to find me on G+ and add me to a circle so that'll never happen. Thus, I'll just keep following him on Twitter. People who do interesting things don't (or at least shouldn't) spend time trying to find people to talk to. That's what fans do. In essense, G+ has the game backwards.

C: Terrible Rapper X adds me to his circle, and now I have to see his mess or block him. I hardly know this guy and I'm OK with that. Now I have to make a choice about him, and I'd rather be passive. So while my wall is safe, my timeline is hot garbage.

To summarize, Google Plus is perfect if you want a quiet, tame and occasional social media world. It's also a great way to keep in touch with pre-designated groups of friends. It has very little purpose to people looking to expand their networks and engage with dynamic personalities. Really, by focusing on creating a ratchet-less Facebook clone, Google succeeded in creating the first Anti-Social Media platform. Good job.


NOTE: This article is not meant to bash Google as a company. Most of their products (especially Blogger and GMail) work great for me. Holler.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Real Talk: Roundtable with Mayor Sam Adams on the Oppression of Black Nightlife

In a medium-sized city like Portland, Oregon where Black people make up a dismal 6% of the population, it's not hard to imagine that African American culture is stifled at every turn. Two huge parts of any culture are music and attire... If you're local to this area, then you probably already know where I'm going with this.

"We" often talk about "they" and "the powers that be" holding "us" back. This sort of talk gets "us" nowhere, and more often then not leaves "us" both angry and frustrated at an unnamed enemy. Last Monday, a few of "us" got together to meet with some of "them" and delved into what may or may not be a futile attempt to make a change.

After a summer that featured the closure of one of Portland's few Black-owned establishments and the shut-down of Portland's biggest monthly hip-hop party (Massive), a good friend of mine and master networker, Keeara Taylor (of 360 Degrees Unlimited), used her City Hall contacts and some creative Twitter-jabbing to pull Mayor Sam Adams and some of his staff into a round-table discussion regarding the issues regarding Hip-Hop Culture and - to put it bluntly - racism in Portland's nightlife. Further fueling this discussion are issues such the blacklisting of hip-hop events and the use of vague dress codes to exclude (primarily) Black males from various clubs in the name of gang-enforcement.

During the summer, tensions reached a fever pitch. It seemed that every violent crime was labeled gang-related and every unsolved downtown assault and murder was blamed on a Black suspect in an over-sized white tee. As expected, this meeting was delayed until fall, and by now, most of us are over it as our focus on party-going has dwindled with the Northwest weather. How quickly we forget our past priorities in today's culture of disposable politics... But let me avoid that tangent for now.

The meeting went well. While a number of Portland's prominent hip-hop figures did not show up, a handful of intelligent, articulate and passionate members of the community did. The Mayor made sure to get the perspectives of the various attendees; Keeara discussed undercover racism, Chase Freeman (from Beauty Bar Portland) discussed difficulties in booking hip-hop artists, I discussed the difficulty for even a well dressed respectable Black male to gain entry to various establishments, Terminill (of Flatline Studios) discussed the lack of outlet for local hip-hop musicians. Alan Bell and Danny Davoodi echoed these sentiments, adding credence to the discussion. Danny also noted that the presence of foot patrols in high-occupancy areas have helped significantly and should continue.

On the proverbial other side of the table, the Mayor expressed, obviously, that public safety was his main concern. He noted that African-American gangs accounted for a large percentage of Portland's shootings and admitted that deterring the activity of Black gangs was a priority. Similarly, sergeants and lieutenants in charge of downtown operations and gang task forces discussed the ability of clubs to avoid violence with three simple rules: Don't Allow Entry to the Visibly Intoxicated, Consistently Enforce A Dress Code, and Consistent/Thorough Searching of Patrons. Unfortunately, we did not hear much of anything from the city's Director of Art & Culture, though I was especially interested in his take on the dilemma.

The major point of discussion revolved around the fact that dress codes are not consistently enforced; rather, they are used as a way to systematically exclude. We also touched on the blacklisting of hip-hop shows, or really any event that was expected to draw large crowds of Black people. The police countered that there was a lack of communication between promoters and police, causing a lack of trust, and admitted that events are blocked when they feel there will be violence. The Mayor added the claim that the police are able to predict violence at or immediately following certain events with remarkable accuracy. Everyone agreed that many people that should be at the discussion were not present, though it was not always agreed exactly whom those people were.

While seeds were planted on both sides of the table, there was no resolution attained. As such, the Mayor agreed to continue the discussion in November. One thing that I would love to further address is the dress code piece. After some prodding by yours truly, Lt. Steinbraun noted that while the police do not set the dress codes (or set quotas on the number Black people allowed in clubs), the club owners and security may be setting rules that are exclusionary in nature in order to ensure they meet police standards. In my opinion, it should be the duty of the city to ensure that business are not discriminating on protected classes (i.e., race, gender). Furthermore, if the city is not saying what the dress codes should be, why are most of the clubs setting the same dress code? Hats, sneakers, and athletic gear do not create or foster violence.. and what exactly is gang attire?

Clearly, there is a lot more work to be done here, but I'm happy we're setting the groundwork. When the lane's open, anything's possible.

Tis' all for now, kids. And remember, don't tweet about it, be about it.

~Mac, your undercover local activist.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kicks: M7 Advance

Ahhhhh... The joys of being a Knicks fan... Not only do I get to endure constant ostrasization from sports fans across the world, I am also left out of the loop when special edition gear comes out.

I can remember years ago, desperately wanting for a home Sprewell jersey. Good luck getting those anywhere besides the Garden itself, circa 1999. Truth be told though, I probably dodged a bullet since the jersey was obsolete the next year and downright embarrassing shortly thereafter. Oh, the joys of hindsight.

Despite this wisdom, I am still a stupid and emotional Knickerbocker die-hard, and the current objects of my fashion affections are Carmelo Anthony's latest in the Jumpman collection: The M7 Advances.

I'm not a big fan of the blue/white/orange variation, but these black and whites are hella sick to me and would look great on the rack next to my CP3s.

Just my luck though, they are only gong to be available at the NEW YORK Nike Town, and probably won't even be made available for online purchase. Being that I live in Portland, Oregon, that blows chunks. But... this is the Black Collar Movement and we make our own luck around these parts.

I'm praying these shoes don't sell out like Scottie Pippin, because I'm actually planning a road trip back East at the end of June. No, not just for the shoes. I'm going to visit my parents in Richmond and planned to make a NY stop on the way anyway. So if these are still available when I get there, you might catch me in a pair of the most exclusive sneaks this side of the Appalachians!

NOTE: I'm still looking for a driving partner, so hit me up if interested. (Driving there, flying back.)

Wish me luck!

~Mac Smiff (Knickerbockers/Mets West Coast Afficionado)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Music: Shane Eli

Despite the fact that I listen to a ton of music, create music, and love music, I rarely blog about music. This has to change. So here goes...

When I was down in Austin for SXSW, I had the pleasure of meeting a friendly and charismatic fellow named Shane Eli. He was kinda holding up the wall at the 2DopeBoyz Showcase and while I can't recall how our conversation started, we quickly found ourselves laughing and exchanging info. When I asked what brought him to SXSW, he told me he was a producer, and that he rapped a little too. I told him that I rap, but that I've been slacking on my game and needed to get refocused. He shared some encouragement and let me know he had a free mixtape coming out soon. I promised to check it out.

A few weeks later, I was going through the contacts I'd gained and found Shane's rather stylish business card. So I went to and downloaded his mixtape I Can Do Better. I'd highly suggest you do the same.

Little did I know that this guy writes, records, produces and raps on his own music. I also did not expect to download a 19-track album with top-to-bottom quality. After my first play through, my initial reaction was, "This is free?" I was also surprised to learn that Shane has produced for a range of artists from Diggy Simmons to Earth, Wind & Fire. I'm going to say that again... Earth, Wind & Fire... Wait, is this the same humble dude I met in Austin?

I can't lie, I had to completely re-think my project once I heard this album. Guillotine is my favorite track on the record - there's just something real Black Collar about it - while Bo Jackson, City Never Sleeps (ft. Jenny Bapst), and Let’s Ride (ft. Playboy Tre & Rittz) are in a tight race for second place. Two months later, I'm still banging this in my car on a daily basis. Without doubt, this is in my top 5 albums of 2011, and I don't see it falling off the list. The only knock I can offer are that the intros provided by DJ Skee seem out of place and are kind of annoying.

Enough with the jibber-jabber, do yourself a favor and download I Can Do Better (via DJ Booth) by clicking on the picture below. And yes, I know he looks lke Drake. OK, I'm out.