EMP 2013: A Shadow of Its Former Self

Better Than: Watching two full days of rock docs. 

At the 12th annual EMP Pop Conference at Tisch School of the Arts on Friday afternoon, Princeton professor Alexandra Vazquez was presenting on Superstorm Sandy, remaining structures of colonialism, and Cuban-American salsa singer La Lupe, also known as the Queen of Latin Soul. On a PowerPoint slide behind Vazquez were the lyrics to "Oriente," one of the many songs Lupe made with Tito Puente; except this time, she sings about how the King of Latin Music threw her out of his band, as if Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony made a song together about their divorce. "Tito Puente me boto," Lupe spits, crying her signature "Yiyiyiyi!" at the thought of him replacing her with the "good girl," Celia Cruz. Suddenly, in that same spirit of provocation, Vazquez paused her presentation to address the "whispers" that had been going around the conference. "Is this the last year of EMP?" she asked.

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Stephen Colbert Is A Bit Miffed That His Pop Conference Paper Got Rejected

Next weekend, various stripes of music nerds (critics, academics, people who just like to think a lot) will descend on New York for the EMP Pop Conference, an annual mind-meld of pro and amateur musicologists that's taking place in our fair city for the first time. The conference, sponsored by the Seattle rock and roll museum the Experience Music Project (and this year co-sponsored by NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, where I teach), is this year themed around the intersection between urbanity and music, and the weekend has an opening panel starring Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Santigold, and Das Racist's Heems and a closing talk about crate-digging with ?uestlove. In between are a slew of papers and panels that include a roundtable on mixtape culture featuring SOTC alums Zach Baron and Ryan Dombal, a look at the LA rave station MARS-FM by Michaelangelo Matos, and Jon Caramanica talking to GZA about Liquid Swords.

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