50 Years of Hip-Hop: Influential albums From Washtenaw County

MUSIC HISTORY

A collage of colorful boom boxes with the word "Washtenaw" across it to represent the recent 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

A salute to Washtenaw County hip-hop artists and some of the influential albums they've made over the years. Graphic by Nate Pocsi-Morrison.

Hip-hop started in the Bronx in 1973 and spread across the world to become one of the most popular and influential genres ever created.

There were numerous 50th-anniversary celebrations for the art form in 2023, and we're working on some articles about the history of hip-hop in Washtenaw County that we’ll be sharing soon.

But before that, we wanted to share some influential hip-hop records made by Washtenaw County artists—as identified through research and interviews with local creatives for our upcoming history pieces.

There were plenty of other important recordings that were cited, too, but we're highlighting these selections because they’re the only ones you can listen to online. (A broader list will accompany one of our upcoming articles.)

Read on and drop us a line at pulp@aadl.org if you want to share stories and memories about the Washtenaw County hip-hop community.

For Love and Money: U-M professor Scott Rick explores how couples navigate finances in "Tightwads and Spendthrifts"

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Scott Rick and his book Tightwads and Spendthrifts.

In my family, I’m the person who insists on setting apart the cans that can be returned for deposit, while my husband says, “What do you get, three dollars? Not worth it.”

Perhaps not. But different philosophies about money, at the macro and micro level, are all-too-common in marriage. I mean, there’s a reason that finances always make the list of “things couples fight most about,” right?

To address these differences, Scott Rick, a U-M Ross School of Business marketing professor, has a new book called Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships. Billed as distinct from conventional self-help or personal finance books, the book instead uses behavioral science as scaffolding for a broader discussion of how spending plays into our sense of personal identity; why we’re sometimes attracted to people who are quite unlike ourselves (in terms of spending); and practical ways to work through money-related conflicts.

Friday Five: The Boy Detective, JDSY, ness lake, Same Eyes, LinX & KAISTO

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features ska-punk by The Boy Detective, electronic all-over-the-placeness by JDSY, indie-electronic emo by ness lake, synth-pop by Same Eyes, and rave music by LinX & KAISTO.

Peak of Success: Nick Baumgardner and Mark Snyder Revisit U-M Wolverines’ 1997 National Championship Season in New “Mountaintop” Book

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

The cover of Mountaintop on the left along with authors Nick Baumgardner (top right) and Mark Snyder.

Mountaintop: The Inside Story of Michigan's 1997 National Title Climb features interviews with past team members, coaches, and staffers. Authors Nick Baumgardner (top) and Mark Snyder spent two years putting the book together.

Books about the University of Michigan’s football team could easily fill several shelves, but strangely, one thing that’s been missing is a deep-dive chronicle of the 1997 National Championship season.

Don’t worry, though. Longtime local sports journalists Nick Baumgardner and Mark Snyder just filled that gap by way of a brand new book, Mountaintop: The Inside Story of Michigan’s 1997 National Title Climb.

Yet the arrival of Mountaintop inevitably begs the question: Why did it take so long for a book about that hallowed season to appear in the world?

“A lot of it has to do with Lloyd Carr, who doesn’t like to talk about himself a lot,” said Baumgardner, who now writes about the Detroit Lions for The Athletic. “That’s a big part of it. … The other thing, too, is a lot of these [former players] … they’re protective of it, and they aren’t very trusting about people getting their stories right, so it’s a hard group to crack.”

But crack it he (and Snyder) did, interviewing, over the course of two years, not just every surviving member of the team that they could track down, but also coaches, staffers, and others while doing loads of research, too.

“Mark Snyder came to me; he’d covered Michigan at the Free Press for a long time, and The Oakland Press and The Michigan Daily, and he’d known Lloyd for a long time ... he was certainly closer to him than I was,” Baumgardner said. “Lloyd and a few other people from that era came to Mark with the idea of maybe doing a book, since no one had done one on the ‘97 team.”

Longtime Ann Arbor music promoter Peter Andrews dies

MUSIC

Peter Andrews around the time of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, 1971. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

Peter Andrews around the time of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, 1971. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

Peter Andrews, organizer of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival mainstay, and longtime music promoter died on December 31, 2023, according to a post by Joe Tiboni on A2 Music History page on Facebook. (Tiboni owned Joe's Star Lounge and hosts the Big City Blues Cruise on WEMU.)

Andrews wrote about his life in the Ann Arbor music scene in The Joint Was Jumpin’: A Promoter’s Story, which was published as an ebook in 2018. You read an MLive interview with Andrews about the book here.

Michael Erlewine, founder of AllMusic, was the leader of The Prime Movers, which was the house band at Mother's, the influential teen club Andrews launched in 1966. Erlewine published a long interview with Andrews about organizing the Sinclair rally; you can download a PDF of the conversation here.

All Ann Arbor District Library pages tagged with Peter Andrews' name, featuring articles and photos, are here.

Ann Arbor filmmaker Christina Morales Hemenway premieres "Get Real" comedy at the Michigan Theater

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Christina Morales Hemenway head shot

Photo courtesy of Dancingstar Productions.

Christina Morales Hemenway got the idea for her new film, Tommy Hollywood and Katie Encino Move to the Midwest to Get Real, in 2005, after she moved back to Michigan following 17 years in Los Angeles. 

The Ann Arbor-raised Morales Hemenway—her parents own Elmo's T-Shirts on East Liberty Street—found so much humor in the expansive cultural gap between Left Coast glamor and Midwestern modesty that she wrote a script that ends up lovingly skewering both sides. (The ad line for the film is, "Think Clueless meets Fargo. A mutually offensive comedy.")

Now, nearly 20 years after the initial inspiration, the comedy more commonly called Get Real has its premiere at the Michigan Theatre on Friday, January 5—which is only fitting.

"Russ Collins [executive director] of the Michigan Theater plays the mayor of the small Midwestern town [the characters] end up in," Morales Hemenway says. (Her 2005 film, Dreammaker, also premiered at the Michigan Theater.)

Filmed in Milan, Ann Arbor, and Brighton, the fish-out-of-water comedy pokes fun at our celebrity-obsessed culture. Get Real is Morales' fifth feature outing as a writer-director and it shifts the focus from the romance of her last film, 2019's Bride +1, to satire and tells the tale of two disillusioned "L.A. airheads" who move to a small Michigna town in a last-ditch bid to save their relationship. Actors Chris Daftsios and Joni Allen play the lead roles, and a large part of the rest of the cast is Ann Arbor-area actors—most of whom have never acted before.

Friday Five: Tru Klassick, JahSun, DACAMERA, Ness Lake, Lily Talmers

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features beat tapes by Tru Klassick and JahSun, drum 'n' bass by DACAMERA, emo-indie-tronica by ness lake, and a melancholic single by Lily Talmers.

Feeling Stranded: Linen Ray Reclaim Their Sense of Hope on ‘By a Thread’ Single

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Rebekah Craft wears a white wide-brimmed hat with a black leather jacket and black-and-white flowered dress. Gabriel Craft wears a white button-up shirt with a black vest.

Linen Ray's Rebekah Craft and Gabriel Craft. Photo by Mike Frieseman.

Despite feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken, Linen Ray refused to give up hope.

The married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) tried to stay positive and calm while helping a loved one navigate a mental health crisis.

But over time, it felt like they were carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. There were moments when caring for another became too much to handle alone.

“Trauma will sometimes cause a person to bury their pain and live in denial. For us, it felt so completely overwhelming,” said Rebekah Craft, who hails from Ypsilanti, but is based in Nashville, Tennessee with Gabriel Craft and their family.

“We weren’t exactly living in denial, but when life comes down on you so hard and you feel helpless, you sometimes lose the ability and energy to express your thoughts and feelings. We were grieving and in a dark place.”

In that dark place, Linen Ray reclaimed their sense of hope and channeled their emotions into songwriting. What resulted is “By a Thread,” a vulnerable new ballad that serves as a plea for help and understanding.

Helena Mesa discovers “Where Land Is Indistinguishable From Sea” in her new poetry collection

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Helena Mesa and her book “Where Land Is Indistinguishable From Sea”

Helena Mesa measures the space between places and people through the poems in her new collection, Where Land Is Indistinguishable From Sea. The poems teem with longing, whether from loss or distance or both. 

This longing is sometimes for a person and other times for a place. In the poem “First Year Gone,” the poet speaks to an unreachable person as she undoes her knitting: 

                       You’ve become
a dream, my lips tasting only
damp wool, an ocean bed
drained of seawater, its kelp
drying in summer heat—if only I could 
cross the dry basin
before storms flood the ocean once more.

The impossible task of traversing the ocean bed illustrates how “you remain as far now as you were / when I first knit these rows.” The loss is a drought, and more storms are on their way. 

Another poem, “After Exile,” narrates some attempts to feed another person’s bird after she has left. The bird does not eat: “It understood longing hungers longer / than anyone could hold out / their hand.” Mesa, too, understands what it is like to not have the one thing that a creature needs, the one joy in this all too bleak life. 

Religious undertones permeate the poems, especially Eden which appears in several places even though “I did not ask to be an Eden.” “The Lesson” reflects on the concept of God’s presence when “She said, He is everywhere, / even inside you.” While Eve must deal with her shame in the garden after eating the forbidden fruit, the shame becomes a side effect in Mesa’s poem. Exile moves to the forefront, and it is even a foregone conclusion at the outset of sin because “He lived inside her / and felt the thought form.” Another poem calls forth “Lot’s Daughter,” and the poem titled “The want for faith” describes the tenuous nature of faith that allows one “to glimpse / what might be the blurred edge / of a dog chasing a hare / or nothing at all.” Clarity is elusive. 

The longing in these poems brings not just the ache of loss but also the occasional fruit of “sweet persistence.” The poem named “Waiting to Meet in San Francisco” is breathless with hope, and the poet takes the imperative to implore: “Say yes. Say you will / let go, say you’ll never, / say air will catch us both.” The time of day also brings splendor, as “Morning crackles more clearly through the trees.” Brightness seems to cut through the grief and desire. 

Since some loved ones are gone forever and religion does not provide all the answers, Mesa’s poems continue questioning what distance means. Mesa’s parents left Cuba for the United States when they were young, and that drastic move informs poems in the collection. The recurring questions about time and space appear in multiple poems, such as “Catalog of Unasked Questions,” which starts with the lines:  

How far before home
receded beyond the horizon? 
(54 km) How far before It’s too late
to turn back
? (22 km) 

The mileage and time add up. These totals may or may not change the outlook, as the last question of the poem asks: 

              …And how far
Before the distance
No longer felt distant? 
(                            )

Distance is the reality as “Everyone I’ve ever known / lives so far.” Fulfillment remains out of reach given that “The map to reach you pale and wordless” does not offer answers to close the distance. 

Mesa lives in Ann Arbor and teaches at Albion College. I interviewed her about Where Land Is Indistinguishable From Sea

Friday Five: Iggy Pop, Jacob “Spike” Kraus, The Chopped Liver, Christmas, Dead Schembechlers

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week jazz-tinged Hanukkah tunes by Jacob “Spike” Kraus, lo-fi Xmas classics by The Chopped Liver, an industrial-techno mix by Christmas, a violent holiday clash by Dead Schembechlers, and Iggy Pop covering several seasonal faves.