Watch The Trailer For Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation

Hip-hop has long drawn inspiration from the drug culture, from the stories of iconic dealers like Ricky Ross (many of whom were profiled in BET’s series American Gangster) to portraits of drug-ravaged communities, and everything in between. Yet the particular connection between the rise of crack in the mid-1980s and the culture of burgeoning hip-hop scenes remains under-explored (one notable exception: Ethan Brown‘s 2005 book Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustler). We were pleased, then, to announce earlier this month that VH1′s Emmy Award-winning franchise Rock Docs was exploring this topic with Planet Rock, a documentary narrated and executive produced by none other than Ice-T. The trailer, which premiered today and is viewable above, just stoked our interest that much more. Be sure to tune in to Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation on Sunday, September 18 at 10 PM on VH1.
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by (@unclegrambo)

“Pumped Up Kicks” Has Officially Captured The Zeitgeist, As Demonstrated By Vinny From Jersey Shore

Last week, ‘influential’ music blogger Carles of Hipster Runoff fame coined a new term to describe songs that “you’d imagine a group of suburban girls driving around suburbia blasting while they pour vodka into their Sonic slushies.” He (somewhat derisively) categorized songs like “Kids” by MGMT, “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit, “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn And John and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People as “bubblegum indie,” going as far as to break down their common traits as follows: “Vocal FX on some cool sounding voice. Sweet ‘dancey’ bassline. Synthiness. Whistling.”

NPR’s Ann Powers veered in a slightly different direction in her essay on “Pumped Up Kicks” yesterday, describing it as the “ideal summer song for a crash-and-bounce year.” However, she also made sure to call attention to reference Foster The People’s lead singer and songwriter Mark Foster‘s background as an advertising jingle writer and insistence on working whistling into his Song Of The Summer contender (“Because these days there is always whistling,” she sagely notes).

Though these two writers took different tacts at getting there, each acknowledged that Foster The People’s bouncy anthem has officially crossed over from the “indie” world and into the mainstream. This is further evidenced by the video you see above, in which Vinny Guadagnino of Jersey Shore fame dances to “Pumped Up Kicks” with a coterie of adorable moppets in his living room. (We also noted that it was used to score a scene in the Fright Night remake that hit theaters last week, too.) We knew that when we selected the band as a You Oughta Know artist back in June that they were headed for big things, but we had no idea that they would get this big, this quick. At this point, only one question remains: Will the band be able to build on the success of this smash hit with a second single off this record, or will the band veer off into one-hit wonder status? Regardless of that outcome, there’s no denying that “Pumped Up Kicks” has captured the zeitgeist during the summer of 2011.

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by (@Lacezilla)

Aaliyah’s Music Industry Friends and Fans Take To Twitter To Mourn Her Loss

Aaliyah’s mystique was transcendental even before she tragically passed ten years ago today, so it’s not surprising that the impression she left and music she made continues to cause a rippling impact on music culture. For fans, her music was the backdrop to their lives, scoring everything from fun-filled rooftop dance parties to the moments when boots were knocked. Her peers in the music industry held her in the highest of regards, and those close to her have, for years, commented on her spirit’s ability to penetrate and inspire.

Having never met R&B’s trail-blazing beauty, Young Money’s Drake tweeted to Aaliyah just last night, nodding at his belief that she is, like an angel, actively guiding him through his career. But Drake is certainly not alone in sending messages out into the ether to celebrate the late singer; in an era where grieving is often done in a public forum, we’re lucky to be privy to a layer of digital mourning that, before social media, we may not have experienced. We’ll be adding to this post throughout the day, so take a look at the tweets and iconic photos below from the likes of close collaborators like Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, and more. And please, by all means, feel free to share your memories and tweets of Aaliyah with us in the comments as well.

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Lil Wayne Sends A Controversial Message About “How to Love”

Lil Wayne quietly premiered a video for “How To Love” this week, but its subject matter is such a doozy that everyone’s talking about it anyway. The lyrical lament about a girl who never learned how to love has become a message video about a stripper who contracts HIV, but who could have gone to college instead. The maudlin storyline recalls TLC‘s message videos, by way of Metallica‘s “Turn the Page,” and it certainly has its problematic aspects (most of which are succinctly addressed in a Sound of the City piece written by a stripper). For many, though, its melodrama is emotionally affecting despite its politics.

In essence, this song is Lil Wayne’s version of John Mayer‘s “Daughters.” This is not inherently a criticism; Mayer gets a bad rap, partly because of the extent to which the audience to whom he appeals is uncool (and, admittedly, partly because he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut). The rap ballad has always gotten a bad rap, even as its exemplars have often been rappers’ best-performing songs. Even the anti-rap-ballad screed Jeff Weiss penned for The Hollywood Reporter in response to “How To Love” admits that rap ballads perform extremely well on radio and in the market. To the extent that it’s about purity of rap, his argument is not dissimilar to hair-metal fans’ distaste for those bands’ seemingly pandering ballads.

One thing’s for sure: “How To Love” is an extremely divisive video. See for yourself above and let us know what you think in the comments.
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Aaliyah Remembered, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today, the life of pioneering R&B singer (and budding movie star) Aaliyah was cut tragically short when the Cessna 402B carrying her and eight others, including the pilot, crashed 200 feet beyond the runway in the Bahamas. Her talent is such that she is not an artist we look back on in our memories, but one whose music and influence have remained very much a part of our lives in the decade following her untimely passing. Even so, such a milestone calls for a more focused remembrance. Here at VH1 HQ, we’ve already revisited The Fader‘s reposted 2008 cover story tribute (and are rocking its attendant mixes) and for our money the best of today’s tributes comes courtesy Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, remembering Aaliyah at Life + Times:

We?d already been through the years of Janet [Jackson] and of SWV, who brought elements of hip-hop culture to R&B, but Aaliyah was the first to fuse R&B cool fully to hip-hop swagger, just in time for rap to take over the world. She transformed Tommy baggies and boxers into a look so feminine it was almost preternatural, and when she sang about desire, it was so knowing you knew she was one-upping her subject.

For more, watch the highlight reel of interview segments that MTV News compiled from her 2001 episode of Diary, and check out who in Aaliyah’s circle of celebrity friends is taking to Twitter today to mourn her loss. We also welcome your thoughts and memories about her in the comments.

Rest in peace, Aaliyah. You are still very much missed.

[Image: Getty Images]

by (@unclegrambo)

Is Joe Jonas Singing About Dumping Taylor Swift In “See No More”?

Joe Jonas would be incredibly happy if his career followed the same trajectory as Justin Timberlake‘s. Both started out as cogs in the Disney machine, then followed that up with successful stints in boy bands. Timberlake, as we know, was able to parlay his early stardom into a wildly successful solo career, and now Joe Jonas is trying to do the same. In an attempt to gain a new audience, he’s played in front of a bunch of egg-throwing hipsters in Williamsburg and buddied up to Jimmy Fallon, but what he really needs to break through is a hit song, preferably one with a juicy tabloid angle, à la Justin’s cool and calculated Britney takedown, “Cry Me A River.”

Jonas’ first single off his forthcoming Fast Life LP, “See No More,” stiffed; it peaked at #92 in the Billboard Hot 100. However, the single was just released in the UK last week, and the British press inquired as to whether it was directed at his ex, Taylor Swift. You may recall that Jonas dumped Swift during a 20-second phone call in 2008, an event which the heartbroken Swift eventually chronicled in the song “Forever & Always” (“Was I out of line? Did I say something way too honest / That made you run and hide like a scared little boy?”).

After listening to “See No More,” we can’t imagine why anyone would think this song about a “cold” girl who “threw it all away” is directed at the Swift (especially considering Jonas already dissed T-Swizzle on the Jonas Brothers track “Much Better”). That didn’t stop London’s press-hungry Metro from asking the question, though, which Joe flatly denied. “No, that?s not about her,” he tersely stated. “When I write songs I don?t say who they are about because I don?t want the audience to relate to what was going on with me when I wrote it. You say one thing and it becomes a big rumor.” Much to the (likely) chagrin of his publicity team charged with generating interest in his solo career, it appears that this case is closed.

Joe Jonas: I Didn’t Write a Song About Dumping Taylor Swift [US Weekly]

by (@unclegrambo)

Last Lap: Lil Wayne Threatens To Kidnap Beyonce, Inception Star Covers Nirvana, And More

Where’s the beef? On Lil Wayne’s just-leaked Tha Carter IV, that’s where! According to Blackbook, Weezy’s new track “It’s Good” features this bar directed towards Jay-Z: “Talkin? ?bout baby money, I got your baby money/Kidnap your b****, Get that ?how much you love your lady?” This is apparently in retaliation to a verse that Jay sung on “H.A.M.” that dissed Young Money. First Game disses Jay, now Wayne? Sh*t’s about to get real, son! [Blackbook]

The 20th anniversary of Nevermind is just around the corner, so Nirvana-mania is clearly in bloom (drum roll). At a concert in Seattle last night, the Inception star played a cover of “Lithium,” which he punctuated with this off-the-cuff dedication: “You know it seems like everytime people bring up Nirvana, people wanna talk about how Kurt Cobain killed himself. But I gotta say, it doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter that he’s dead, it doesn’t matter how he died, his songs are f***ing awesome, that’s what matters.” [Everybody Loves Our Town]

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by (@Lacezilla)

Unsubstantiated Rumor Alert: Did Rihanna and J. Cole Make A Sex Tape Together?

Remember when Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty was an innocent girl standing underneath an umbrella, before she was hollering at a “Rude Boy” to join her in some “S&M” on her “California King Bed”? Yeah, our memories of those days are getting fuzzier, too, especially if the rumors of a new Rihanna/J. Cole sex tape are true!

“We have seen it and we do not know what we are going to do with it yet,” said a rep from the Hustler empire told Radar Online. Odd J. Cole didn’t mention it when he played us his album last week, but the 26-year-old protege of Jay-Z will certainly benefit from this tabloid circus since Cole World: The Sideline Story drops next month.

Rihanna is, unfortunately, no stranger to scandal, accustomed to fending off rumors of secretly dating mentor Jay-Z and canoodling with Drake, not to mention having to endure the embarrassment caused when naked photos she sent to then-boyfriend Chris Brown were leaked. Like many stars in the public eye, the Barbadian pop star wears a target on her back for this kind of negative attention, and her music, as we jokingly alluded to in the beginning of this post, might make it easier to assume that the sex tape exists. But in all fairness, just because her songs can be boldly sexual in nature doesn’t mean we should jump to conclusions, even when taking into account that the Roc Nation-managed artists have toured together and are known to be friendly. Developing!

Hustler Insist They Have a Rihanna and J-Cole Sex Tape [Radar]

by (@Lacezilla)

85-Year-Old Tony Bennett To Intro Amy Winehouse VMA Tribute

The 2011 VMAs are airing live from Los Angeles on Sunday night, and the latest addition to the evening’s already-stellar lineup is Tony Bennett. The 85 year-old (!) will captain what’s sure to be an emotional tribute to recently-deceased singer Amy Winehouse. Introducing a slew of performers who are currently being kept confidential by the folks in MTV’s ivory tower, we’re excited to see that Bennett, who had recently collaborated with Winehouse on a duet due this fall, “Body and Soul,” will make an appearance on the notoriously youthful VMA stage. While the majority of the MTV audience’s demographic was not yet even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when Bennett took home his first Grammy in 1963, this certainly isn’t the first time an elder statesman has been booked on MTV’s annual celebration of the year’s best music videos. Want to see what we mean? Check out our list of the Top 5 Oldest People To Appear On-Camera at The VMAS!

5) George Clinton, 52 Years-Old (1993): George Clinton presented the Best R&B Video award alongside West Coasters Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in ’93. Then 52 years-old, the funk innovator and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee must have been pretty psyched to hand Moonmen over to the lovely ladies of En Vogue. And the Funky Divas were most likely equally as pleased!

4) Lou Reed, 54 Years-Old (1996): Making a cameo with house band(leader) Jack White of Raconteurs, Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground was well into his fifth decade at the ’96 Video Music Awards. Hosted by Dennis Leary, big winners that night included Coolio, Alanis Morrisette, and Smashing Pumpkins.

3) Diana Ross, 55 Years-Old (1999): Who could forget the jiggle heard ’round the world? When Mary J. Blige accompanied Lil’ Kim, Lil’ Kim’s breast, and Motown sensation Diana Ross to present the award for Best Hip-Hop in ’99, all hell broke loose! The then-55-year-old Rosstook it upon herself to, on live television, cup and jiggle Kim’s pasty-covered, partially-exposed boobie.

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Adele’s Vice When She’s On The Road? Basketball Wives, Of Course

It’s not like we needed another reason to love Adele, but she gave us one anyway. During a recent show in Las Vegas, Adele revealed that her post-show routine involves watching Basketball Wives in her hotel room. We can totally get on board with that!

While bantering during a show at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, the singer told her fans “My band was out all night getting drunk, while I stayed in my room like a true rock star and watched Basketball Wives.” And for good reason — it was hard to pull away from that season three reunion, wasn’t it? We wonder if she plans to tune into Basketball Wives LA, too?

Adele Turns To Basketball Wives In Lieu Of Rock-Star Partying [LA Times Blog]

[Photos: Getty Images/VH1]