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Technics has no time for DJs anymore

The new SL-1200 turntable is apparently not for you

5:00 PMWhen Panasonic announced a year ago that it was reissuing the Technics SL-1200 turntable, my gut did a flip. The Japanese company was finally getting in on the nostalgia wave that’s served black fashion and culture so well in the past five years with a product that was arguably the most recognizable piece of equipment in hip-hop not called a microphone.

Yet to ring in 2017, Technics creative director Hiro Morishita told The New York Times that they didn’t plan to market the new product to DJs. He even went so far as to call such a strategy “problematic.”

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That statement is nothing short of a direct insult to the hip-hop community and, more plainly, an act of erasure. You cannot separate the Technics brand from DJ culture. Not in this lifetime. And with good reason, too. It was the best product on the market for 30 years. The look was one thing, but the durability is what made the turntables a best-seller. Then, Panasonic stopped making them, then went through a couple of reboots with side versions, which never matched the original.

In the U.K., vinyl sales are at their highest in 25 years, up 53 percent in 2016. Record Store Day has transformed from a quasi-niche artisanal event to a global phenomenon. To quote DJ Khaled, when it comes to wax, business is boomin’. You can buy LPs almost anywhere and subscribe to any number of services that’ll send vinyl to your house. Some will even pair it with a legit bag of coffee. I get a text every day with a photo of an album cover — if I want it, I just reply YES.

Vinyl culture has not just seen a resurgence, it’s been mainstreamed and gentrified all at once. Which is where this strategy from Technics comes into play. As high-end audiophiles have turned their interest to old mediums, all sorts of brands have been getting in on the fun. It’s why you can buy a turntable in a suitcase at Urban Outfitters with a T-shirt or alongside a $2,000 bike at Shinola.

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From an age and money standpoint, hip-hop culture has aged perfectly for this product. It almost makes too much sense. After watching DJs wreck shop with the most well-known deck in the business in their youth, plenty of people would buy one these days as a listening device. While plenty of actual DJs have moved on to other products that certainly wouldn’t stop casual nostalgists from dropping large cash just to be able to say they had one, for the culture.

Which ultimately makes this so frustrating. To ignore the hip-hop community for the sake of, say, the classical music one, just doesn’t make sense. Rappers and orchestras are doing shows together at some of the most famous venues in the world. It’s borderline become a genre unto itself from a show standpoint.

Nas and Kendrick Lamar both performed with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Kanye West used an all-women orchestra in London at Abbey Road Studios to remix his album Late Registration, called Late Orchestration. Jay Z has taken his flows to Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall. Migos have even gotten in on this act. And how could we ever forget the way Sir-Mix-A-Lot shut it down with the Seattle Symphony. <— If you haven’t seen that, you need to watch it, by the way.

But all these synergies of musical styles aside, as a lifelong fan of the turntable as an instrument, a tool, a machine and frankly a cultural cornerstone, there’s a lot of disappointment in Technics’ stance. We get it. It’s supposed to be a better turntable. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon the people that got you there.

But this isn’t a Timberland heir in the ’90s saying their boots aren’t intended for black people. That was a relatively new trend at the time and, in general, it was a reckless comment about an item with a shelf life. Same sort of concept goes for Tommy Hilfiger, who popped off about minorities wearing his clothes back in the day. Shirts and pants come and go. The whole idea of the 1200s was that they did not.

It was an aspirational product for any hip-hop head. Saving the money to get them was half the battle. Not to mention that the worlds of audiophiles and DJ culture are more convergent than ever, which means this strategy of exclusion after using us to build a brand is just not smart. But then again, that’s just what people do when it comes to black culture. Ask Run-DMC.

Daily Dose: 12/30/16

Five years from now, the Greek Freak could be a $200 million man

11:00 AMThis is my last day of Daily Dose, as Clinton Yates returns on Monday. It’s been a blast this week running down the most interesting and noteworthy stories. Let’s get to it.

It’s coming up on three years since the city of Flint, Michigan, switched its water supply to the lead-contaminated Flint River. During that time period, anywhere between 6,000 to 12,000 Flint children have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead, according to the United Way of Genesee County. Ever since problems began to arise with the water supply in the city, government officials in the state were either willfully ignorant or purposely negligent in its handling of the situation, exposing tens of thousands of people to unsafe water. Over the past year, the water supply has been switched back to Detroit water, lawsuits have been filed, and officials have been charged, but contaminated water is still an issue. FiveThirtyEight, in its end-of-the-year awards, recognizes the man who blew this story wide open.

It’s the Cold War 2.0. On Thursday, the Obama administration announced new measures against Russia for its role in the alleged interference with this year’s presidential election. The measures include sanctions against multiple Russian agencies, including the spy agency that succeeded the KGB, the expulsion of 35 Russian operatives from the country, and the closing of two Russian-owned facilities on the East Coast. Early Friday morning, Russian officials shot back that they would recommend the expulsion of 35 American diplomats in their country, which is as petty as it sounds. While all of this may amount to a penis-measuring contest between the two countries, a recent story in The New Yorker about how the United States almost accidentally initiated a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union in the 1980s should give us all pause.

The Greek Freak is about to get paid … in five years. I won’t bog you down with the confusing numbers and terminology of the new collective bargaining agreement the NBA owners and players recently agreed to, but I will tell you that (no bias here) versatile forward and fan favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, for his next contract in 2021 (he just signed an extension in September), could nab a deal worth $240 million if he stays with his current team. That’s multiple-time MVP winners Stephen Curry and LeBron James money. Here’s to more dunks, struts and amazing stories from The Greek Freak for many years.


Winner of Thursday: rapper album sales

When a mixtape based on a Broadway play can sell almost 200,000 units in its first week, that means it was a good year for music. Complex runs down the first-week numbers for some of the most talked about albums in 2016.

Loser of Thursday: Simon & Schuster

The New York-based publishing company reportedly offered Breitbart editor and white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos a book deal worth $250,000. Yiannopoulos, who was famously axed from Twitter after he incited a swarm of hateful and violent messages toward Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, was a key agitator during the misogynist “Gamergate” controversy of 2014. The deal is not too surprising, though, considering Simon & Schuster has published the works of Donald Trump, Dick Cheney and Glenn Beck in the past.

What to look forward to this weekend: Driving safely

This weekend is New Year’s Eve, which means there will be a lot of alcohol and too much drinking and driving. Stay safe out there. AAA probably provides assistance in your area.

Daily Dose: 12/29/16

Jim Brown, Ray Lewis and Omarosa Manigault having a day party for Donald Trump during inauguration

11:40 AMClinton Yates is not back yet. He’s currently flying across the country on Soulja Boy’s $55 million G5 jet. Not the best cellular phone reception up there.

When I took over Daily Dose this week, I never imagined I’d have to write about so much death. But the day following the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher, legendary Hollywood actress Debbie Reynolds died at the age of 84. The Singin’ in the Rain star “suffered a severe stroke,” according to her son Todd Fisher, and died a few hours later at a hospital. The “curse of 2016” has inevitably gone from grieving for celebrities to a macabre game of “Guess Who?” Lost in the shock value of “Oh my God, X person died” are the families having to grieve for a lost loved one. In this case, a brother, son, daughter, granddaughter and half-sisters have to deal with so much pain and grief over a two-day span. The Guardian breaks down Reynolds’ illustrious career.

Another victory for Native Americans. Following the cancellation of construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline earlier this month by the Obama administration, which protected the sacred waters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native American tribes in the West received some good news this week from the federal government. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced the creation of two national monuments in Utah and Nevada, preserving 1.65 million acres of sacred land in the two states. As NPR reports, “The Navajo, Hopi, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni all have ancestral ties” to the newly created area known as the Bears Ears National Monument. The tribes along with conservationists have been fighting for protection of the land for years. Elected Republican lawmakers in Utah oppose the monuments, which may be for economic reasons.

Jim Brown’s inauguration day party for Donald Trump. The Hall of Fame running back, who stirred controversy earlier this month when he met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York City, will host the “Amer-I-Can Pre-Inauguration Day Party” in Washington, D.C., one day before Trump is set to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Brown will be joined at the event by his wife, Monique, Trump supporters and black pastors Darrell Scott and Bruce Levell, former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault, former college basketball coach Bob Knight and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. No mention of whether or not Don King will be promoting.


Winner of Wednesday: LeBron James

Rogaine denialist LeBron James and men everywhere can rejoice, as there is apparently a new laser-equipped device that stimulates hair growth. The LaserBand 82, which looks like Cyclops’ visor from X-Men, will cost you about $800 if you dare take the risk. Mashable has a cool video to show you how it works.

Loser of Wednesday: Dylann Roof

The convicted murderer told a federal judge on Wednesday that he does not plan to offer a defense at next week’s sentencing for his June 2015 killing of nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Roof, who has disregarded the advice of his defense lawyers and will represent himself during sentencing, will provide an opening statement during the Jan. 3 hearing, which could be one more opportunity for the white supremacist to spew his hate speech. Either way, after next week, we won’t be subjected to this man for too much longer.

What to look forward to on Thursday: SagerStrong pins

The late Craig Sager and his family partnered with Foot Locker a few months back to create Sager-themed pins to help raise funds for the SagerStrong Foundation. Even with the broadcaster’s death earlier this month, the partnership is still intact, and the pins go on sale today at participating Foot Lockers.

Daily Dose: 12/28/16

Rest in peace, Princess Leia

10:45 AMStill here. Clinton Yates traveled to Prague to work with a world-renowned linguist to figure out if it’s “5-2” or “fine, too.”

(Good) Journalism appears to be back. Even though the pay is rough, the hours are not ideal, and the stress levels are alarmingly high, there’s some good news on the horizon for those in the field of the fourth estate: journalism. A “profitable” Washington Post, as Politico puts it, is set to add more than 60 journalists to its newsroom in the coming year. That’s almost unheard of in this profession, but the Post — which has invested heavily in new media technology in its newsroom — over the past 12 months, at least, has found a winning formula for bringing readers back in. Part of that is chalked up to the 2016 presidential election, but it’s also the investment in good journalism. From David Fahrenthold’s work on the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the continued groundbreaking efforts of the Pulitzer Prize-winning police shooting database, the Post has found that where there is good work — and, not to mention, heavy financial investment from a billionaire — there is an audience. There is, of course, still work to be done to save an industry that’s lost almost half of its workforce since 1990, and being a newspaper reporter is consistently rated the worst job in the country, but there now might be light at the end of that tunnel.

Rest in peace, Princess Leia. On Tuesday, the world lost another great human being. Renowned actress Carrie Fisher, star of the Star Wars films, died after suffering a heart attack late last week. While Fisher is best known for playing fearless heroine Princess Leia Organa in the original three Star Wars movies (and most recently in 2015’s The Force Awakens), she also starred in The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally and Scream 3. Outside of acting, Fisher was an accomplished author and script doctor, and an outspoken advocate for mental illness, as the actress lived with bipolar disorder for most of her life. She was awarded the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard University this past May, where she told those in attendance, “Many people thank me for talking about [mental illness], and mothers can tell their kids when they are upset with the diagnosis that Princess Leia is bipolar, too.”

It’s still bowl season. College football bowl games kicked off Dec. 17, and while it seems like 50 games have been played so far, we still have 19 games to play before we reach the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 9 (8 p.m. EST, ESPN). And while most of the games so far have been forgettable — though we have three bowls named after fried chicken spots this year — the action always picks up the closer we get to New Year’s Eve. When you think of the most exciting moments in college football history, you think Statue of Liberty play or Vince Young or missed two-point conversions. And what do those plays all have in common? They all happened in one of the “big four” games: the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl. FiveThirtyEight runs down which bowl games are usually the best.


Winner of Tuesday: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

Burn.

Loser of Tuesday: Phil Jackson

After 17 years of dating — and four years of engagement — New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss have separated. Late Tuesday evening, Jackson tweeted out a screen-grabbed message stating that due to “the nature of our professional obligations and the geographic distance” between the couple, they were ending their engagement. That is sad in and of itself, but the dagger came when Buss retweeted Jackson’s original message, saying she has “nothing but love and respect” for Jackson but that “the love of my life is the Los Angeles Lakers.” How do you get put in the friend zone by your own fiancee?

What to look forward to on Wednesday: Analysis of celebrity relationships

From Drake and Jennifer Lopez to T.I. and his wife Tameka “Tiny” Harris. Don’t bother reading any of that. Pick up a book instead.