John Wellington Ennis filmmaker, activist, some dude. Sun, 23 May 2010 22:02:43 +0000 en hourly 1 Diamond District brings D.C. Hip Hop to L.A./blog/diamond-district-brings-d-c-hip-hop-to-l-a/ /blog/diamond-district-brings-d-c-hip-hop-to-l-a/#comments Sun, 23 May 2010 06:56:50 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3801 The venerable DJ store Fat Beats on Melrose was welcome to L.A.’s first visit by Hip Hop artists Diamond District, an infectious charge of old school rap flavored by the emcees’ region, the “DMV” — the area spanning D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, a merging of affluent areas with impoverished neighborhoods wrapped around the heart of America’s government. The group gets its name from the diamond-shaped layout that is the District of Columbia.

In this video, emcee/producer Oddisee explains Diamond District’s musical goals, and the group performs their album’s opening song, “Streets Won’t Let Me Chill.” Insisting on getting the small gathering hyped, Oddisee leads those present in call and response during the song, rather amusingly.

Oddisee, the group’s producer and one of Diamond District’s three emcees, explains that the juxtaposition of the poorest neighborhoods and the richest centers of power makes for “a terrible combination.” Nonetheless, he asserted that having traveled the country and around the world, the D.C. area is still one of the best places to be African-American. At Diamond District’s performance the previous evening at the Self-Help Graphics Center on Caesar Chavez in East L.A., Oddisee introduced himself to the audience as part Arab, part Black.

D.C.’s diverse music scene has been known in the past for Hard Core or Go-Go, and home to such multi-genre masters as Thievery Corporation. The array of cultures and sounds is a theme throughout Oddisee’s layered arrangements and moody composition on the Diamond District tracks, and Oddisee openly aspires to the ranks of the late J Dilla, the innovative and influential DJ/emcee. Oddisee Music has put out several solo rap albums, an album of beat instrumentals akin to DJ Dimitri from Paris or DJ Shadow, as well as produced with other local artists.

Diamond District
is a collaboration of Oddisee with emcees yU and XO, backed by DJ Quartermaine, all of whom are independently prolific solo artists. Their collective effort is an earnest attempt to revive the sound of early Hip Hop, a styled once termed “Boom Bap” by KRS-ONE for the classic old school rhythm comprised of a booming bass line, complimented by a bumping cymbal/snare sound.

Diamond District’s socially conscious lyrics are a welcome relief from the played-out materialism of mainstream rap, removed from thuggery and overindulgence. Their rhymes and alliteration, punctuated with a staccato flow, carve dense portraits of scrapping to get by, direct outrage at corrupt powers, and map out their disciplines and dreams, while asserting their love of soul music with vigor. Their voices seem bigger than their years, their flows sharpened with a DC-area drawl, and their delivery confident and charismatic.

At this in-store performance in West Hollywood, this group that has traveled the world nonetheless warmed to the inauspicious setting as their introduction to the entertainment capital of the world. Oddisee even ripped on his DJ, Quartmaine, for being a Cancer-Leo cusp, a pretty L.A. thing to do. Though their debut album In The Ruff has only been out a few weeks, several in the crowd knew it well enough to request songs and sing along.

This video is the performance of Diamond District’s single off In the Ruff, “I Mean Business.” A mantra to discipline and ambition, the song features a hook from Gang Starr, a knowing homage, released before the untimely passing of Guru.

Diamond District aspires to the integrity and artistry of Black Star, the classic collaboration between Mos Def and Talib Kweli released over a decade ago, and they work it like they are determined to prove themselves worthy heirs to the cause.

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Broadcasting in Primary Colors at the eGuiders Studio/blog/eguiders-live/ /blog/eguiders-live/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 04:56:44 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3795 Today I appeared on the Interwebs with eGuiders Live from their Los Feliz studio, discussing my film PAY 2 PLAY and my recent coverage of the Ohio primaries.  Host Marc Ostrick was witty and urbane, and he screened a series of clips from the recent political dramas I have been following.

Part of the next generation of indie media broadcasters pioneering low-tech live entertainment, the eGuiders Studio has sought to expand its viral video curating into real-time conversations with content creators and cultural mavens.

Originally built as a site where high profile producers and directors recommend videos, including the likes of LOST’s Damon Lindelof and Animal House’s John Landis, eGuiders founder Marc Ostrick sees the live internet experience as a new frontier, much like the early days of radio. So, Ostrick set about designing a studio for both advancing eGuiders’ content as well as proving the viability of a low-budget broadcast model that he could consult others on. The studio recently launched with existing and experimental technologies, modest media aspirations, and some borrowed furniture, staking out a live talk turf that was beyond the typical web fare such as techies talking shop or teenie boppers treating their webcam like it’s just more social media.

The beta period has since proven popular, with a hipster sock-hop vinyl record series called “B-Sides Live,” as well as a talk show series with star content creators sharing their work in studio on “eGuiders Live,” which has recently featured Kevin Pollak and some of the founders of Funny or Die.

I welcomed the invitation to stop by the eGuiders Studio to discuss my travel throughout Ohio covering the primaries for The Huffington Post and filming for my campaign finance reform documentary, PAY 2 PLAY. My conversation with Ostrick ranged from U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, the internal Democratic Party fracas in Ohio that erupted right before the primary election, and the new Robin Hood movie. Here is the playlist of the videos I shared with the eGuiders audience:

Videos in this Episode:

1. SNL’s “Weekend Update” (2005) - Tina Fey reports on Rep. Jean Schmidt’s gaffe in the U.S. House of Representatives, attacking U.S. Rep. John Murtha for being a coward. (2:00)

2. Think Progress: Jean Schmidt & Birther (2009) - U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt on amateur video agreeing with a woman who insists Obama should not be president because he wasn’t born in the U.S. (:40)

3. From my Huffington Post interview with Surya Yalamanchili
Running for U.S. House against Rep. Jean Schmidt, Surya describes his nickname “Chili.” (1:00)

4. From my Huffington Post interview with David KrikorianDavid Krikorian criticizes his opponent, Surya Yalamanchili. (:48)

5. Cincinnati NBC-WLWT News 5- Coverage of the scandal where David Krikorian denies mocking Surya’s name. (2:00)

6. Keith Olbermann on “Countdown” on MSNBC - David Krikorian is named “Worst Person in the World” for mocking Surya’s name. (1:15)

7. My follow-up Huffington Post interview with David Krikorian -
David Krikorian rebuts Olbermann, alleges collusion between MSNBC sponsors, and attacks bloggers. (1:30)

8. Keith Olbermann on “Countdown” on MSNBC - Olbermann airs my interview with David Krikorian, and again names him one of the worst people in the world. (2:07)

9. Cincinnati WCPO-9 News Primary Election Night - Krikorian admits defeat on election night, while accusing his opponent of playing the race card. (2:15)

10. My Huffington Post video of Surya Yalamanchili’s victory speech(1:56)

11. The trailer for Robin Hood (:25)

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Diamond District at Fat Beats, West Hollywood/blog/diamond-district-at-fat-beats-west-hollywood/ /blog/diamond-district-at-fat-beats-west-hollywood/#comments Tue, 18 May 2010 06:14:27 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3792 D.C. Hip Hop came to West Hollywood yesterday as Diamond District gave an in-store performance to celebrate the release of their debut album In the Ruff.  This song is “I Mean Business,” and already seems like a classic.  Fat Beats’ illustrious interior featuring decades of rap greats plastered over every angle makes for an effective setting.

More video to come of Diamond District’s first L.A. appearance.

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Diamond District/blog/diamond-district/ /blog/diamond-district/#comments Sat, 15 May 2010 06:57:34 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /blog/diamond-district/ D.C. hip hop artists Diamond District shone in East LA tonight. Check them Saturday at Fat Beats on Melrose & Curson in West Hollywood at 5:30 pm doing an in-store performance. (And remember, you first heard of them from me!)

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A Threat to Documentaries/blog/a-threat-to-documentaries/ /blog/a-threat-to-documentaries/#comments Mon, 10 May 2010 23:27:37 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3741 In a disturbing precedent, a Federal judge has ordered a filmmaker to surrender over 600 hours of raw footage he filmed about a long-running suit against Chevron

Court Orders Documentary Filmmaker Surrender

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Ohio Underdog: Surya Yalamanchili Wins Primary for U.S. House/blog/ohio-underdog-surya-yalamanchili-wins-primary-for-u-s-house/ /blog/ohio-underdog-surya-yalamanchili-wins-primary-for-u-s-house/#comments Thu, 06 May 2010 16:29:06 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3737 In a race that drew national attention in its closing days over allegations of race-baiting and conspiracies, the winner of the Democratic Primary for U.S. Representative in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District is political newcomer Surya Yalamanchili. Yalamanchili, or “Chili” as he is also known as, is 28 years old and left his job as the youngest brand manager in Proctor & Gamble’s history to run for office full-time on a threadbare campaign out of his condo.

Yalamanchili will now challenge U.S. Representative Jean Schmidt in November for her House seat. While the political establishment has already taken a dim view of his chances, Yalamanchili has already exceeded expectations in winning the party nomination, and has the networking ability you might expect from someone who worked at LinkedIn. Besides, he was on “The Apprentice,” and those people are hard-core.

Here is Surya’s speech Tuesday night upon hearing that his opponent David Krikorian had conceded the election.

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Keith Olbermann Swipes Back at Krikorian/blog/keith-olbermann-swipes-back-at-krikorian/ /blog/keith-olbermann-swipes-back-at-krikorian/#comments Tue, 04 May 2010 02:05:07 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3733 Keith Olbermann just responded on his show tonight to my interview with David Krikorian that went up earlier on The Huffington Post.  (Many thanks for the linkage today from Think Progress, Politico, Cincinnati Enquirer, Buckeye State Blog, Plunderbund, Ohio Daily Blog, among others.)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Ohio Candidate Rebukes Keith Olbermann for Calling Him World’s Worst Person/blog/ohio-candidate-rebukes-keith-olbermann-for-calling-him-worlds-worst-person/ /blog/ohio-candidate-rebukes-keith-olbermann-for-calling-him-worlds-worst-person/#comments Mon, 03 May 2010 15:26:29 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3726 David Krikorian has just had one of those weeks where he has gone from local personality to whipping boy, with the stampede of critics that only the blogosphere can bring.

Krikorian’s remarks at a campaign event last week with veterans in Clermont County struck one attendee as racially insensitive in how Krikorian referred to his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Surya Yalamanchili. That attendee then wrote a letter to the current representative for Ohio’s 2nd District, Jean Schmidt, concerned that Krikorian had suggested to the audience that Yalamanchili could not get elected in the Second District of Ohio because of his name.

Jean Schmidt then took the surprising step of writing a letter to David Krikorian, deploring his conduct and intolerant attitude. Her public reprimand was quickly joined by similar letters to Krikorian from David Lane, Chair of the Clermont County Democratic Party, Tim Burke, Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, and Chris Redfern, Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. Such a broad condemnation for a candidate less than a week before the primary election is virtually unprecedented, according to people who have been in Ohio politics for decades.

In this exclusive sit-down interview with The Huffington Post, David Krikorian takes the opportunity to respond to Keith Olbermann for naming Krikorian the “Worst Person in the World,” as well as hit back at those who had singled him out, particularly Ohio party leaders. In the interest of fairness, their responses to several of Krikorian’s charges have been included in this video, as this debate has intensified in recent days and devolved into further internal party conflict. In as much as conflicting accounts can allow, this report from the Ohio campaign trail is intended to illuminate Ohio voters amidst a local political dust-up, and also satisfy onlookers observing the cultural sensitivities of Southern Ohio.

These profiles from the Ohio campaign trail are for my upcoming documentary on campaign reform, PAY 2 PLAY.

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U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt’s Contenders/blog/u-s-rep-jean-schmidts-contenders/ /blog/u-s-rep-jean-schmidts-contenders/#comments Wed, 28 Apr 2010 22:13:51 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3718 In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. FEC allowing unlimited corporate spending on elections, I have been examining the challenges facing political newcomers running for office for my forthcoming film PAY 2 PLAY.

These profiles from the Ohio campaign trail are a chance for candidates to get their message out in a way they might not be able to otherwise, in consideration of the obstacles and considerable expense required to run for office. No endorsement is implied by the inclusion of any of the candidates in this series.

Democratic Primary for U.S. House of Representatives: Ohio’s 2nd District

This coming Tuesday, May 4th, Ohioans vote in their primary elections for national and statewide offices. Ohio has long been romanticized as a microcosm of America and a bellwether for national politics. Yet primary elections are a pivotal point in our democratic process, and it often goes ignored by the media and the public, even on the local level. Supporting a candidate early on can make a real impact, as money and momentum are much harder to come by before winning the nomination.

Ohio’s 2nd District is currently represented by Republican Jean Schmidt, first elected in 2005 in a special election running against Paul Hackett, a race that drew national attention–Hackett, a Marine having just returned from Fallujah, ran as an anti-war Democrat. His narrow loss suggested that a reliably conservative district stretched across Southern Ohio could one day be in play for Democrats. While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has eyed Rep. Schmidt’s House seat as vulnerable over the past election cycles, Schmidt has nonetheless survived.

This Democratic Primary brings three candidates who look to challenge Rep. Schmidt for her House seat. In the interest of providing an equitable platform, here are video introductions from the candidates, along with their websites, so that they can speak for themselves, without having to pay for it.

Surya “Chili” Yalamanchili

David Krikorian

Jim Parker

Follow the progress of the film PAY 2 PLAY at

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Are Corporations People?/blog/are-corporations-people/ /blog/are-corporations-people/#comments Mon, 26 Apr 2010 18:36:50 +0000 John Wellington Ennis /?p=3716 This short video by Lawrence Lessig succinctly and engagingly explains why literally everything bad could begin to be solved by campaign finance reform.

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