The Idiot Box Revolt 

Assailing the hot music DVDs of the season. Because Christmas is tomorrow, Slappy.

News flash: Males between the ages of 18-34 are watching less TV.

Lock up your daughters.

It's true. In late November, Nielsen Media Research reported that prime-time TV viewing among this highly desirable advertising demographic is down nearly 8 percent since last year. While sports programming continues to be popular with dudes who watch the tube, sitcoms and dramas often don't hold their attention span -- women viewers outnumbered men by as much as 51 percent at the Big Four networks.

Evidently the dudes aren't really feelin' The O.C.

If that wasn't bad enough, a recent Chronicle article noted that the movie theater industry -- a $9 billion behemoth -- is being assailed by declining revenues and the increasingly high-profile home entertainment market. Nielsen research showed that video game use has risen almost 15 percent since 2002; industry analysts were quick to point out that the Internet is also responsible for some of this slack-off. According to comScore Media Metrix, as much as 75 percent of the 18-34 demo goes online regularly, with nineteen million horndogs busy checking out Paris Hilton's "Look ma, I'm a slut" video and other XXX-rated porn sites in the last month, which may have made their hands too sore to pick up the TV remote control.

But another major factor fueling the idiot box exodus is the rise of DVDs, which appeal to the MTV generation for many reasons, especially the way-cool bonus features and their high-tech digital sound, in many cases processed in 5.1- and even 6.1-channel stereos. This makes the DVD format perfect for music applications; music DVDs have essentially replaced both the theatrical concert film and the live album, a trend that will undoubtedly continue long after the 2003 holiday season has ended.

Because you're bored with network TV and you need something dope to watch on the 42-inch plasma monitor you got as a Kwanzaa gift, here are some music DVD picks, which, interestingly enough, fall into a few basic types:

The Instructional Video

This updated version of the self-help tape of yore has come a long way since the Jane Fonda Workout era. Take the Scratch DJ Academy's Semester 01, which sends you to DJ school without having to enroll or pay tuition. This DVD covers the basics of turntablism, as well as advanced subjects like club mixing, mix-tape-creating, battle routines, and production. It features a top-notch list of celebrity DJs, including Mista Sinista, Green Lantern, DJ Premier, Roli Rho, A-Trak, Evil Dee, and the late, great Jam Master Jay (who founded the academy). There's even a section on business tips, so you can quit that minimum-wage job and get busy promoting yourself as DJ Beat Master Bob.

The Entertainment Documentary

In post-8 Mile America, the underground MC battle scene has finally earned recognition by mainstream audiences as a cultural phenomenon. Enter the cipher with The Battle for LA, a well-done, well-edited account of a freestyle rhyme contest between two rival Los Angeles crews, Glory and the Tunnel Rats. It features plenty of dis rhymes that'll make you go "Ooooh!," with some DJing and B-boying thrown in for good measure. The best moment comes when a Mr. Scruff look-alike gets verbally destroyed by a quick-tongued female MC (who earns extra points for humiliating the opposite sex). Recommended for up-and-coming rappers, or anyone into hip-hop "for the love of the art form."

The Edutainment Documentary

Similar to the entertainment documentary, except with an overtly political edge. Because of their controversial subject matter, edutainment docs tend to be put out by independent companies less squeamish about far-flung conspiracy theories than multinational corporate entities (go figure). Some of the better releases in this field were Biggie & Tupac and Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11. The former suggested that the assassination of Biggie Smalls was orchestrated to cover up Tupac's murder, and that LAPD officers connected to the Rampart scandal may have been involved. The latter, narrated and scored by rapper Paris (and put together by local visual muckrakers Guerrilla News Network), tells you almost everything the government doesn't want you to know about the September 11 attacks, and hints at the rest.

The "Artists on Tour" Video

The Revenge of the Robots is as much an infomercial for critical darling alt.hip-hop indie label Def Jux as it is a chronicle of El-P, RJD2, and Mr. Lif's six-month descent into hell. It's Apocalypse Now on a tour bus, complete with footage of a remorseful El-Producto explaining why he bitch-slapped a heckler while performing the highly personal song "Stepfather Factory" (a scene paralleling Martin Sheen's on-camera nervous breakdown). For true fans, there's also a mini-documentary featuring Cannibal Ox's Vast Aire lounging in his natural habitat, plus five full-length Def Jux music videos.

The Live Concert Video

Capleton's Still Blazin' captures the fiery dancehall don known as "The Prophet" cavorting before his faithful devotees at Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It's the next best thing to being there, and you can practically smell the ganja in the air (as well as the butane from all the lighters being raised).

On the old-school tip, there's Jimi Plays Berkeley, a cult classic finally available on DVD. If there were any doubts that Hendrix was the 50 Cent of his day, watch the opening scene, where he gets all "P.I.M.P." with a spaced-out groupie in a limo on the way to the show. As a showman, Jimi was second to none, and his feedback-laced left-handed Stratocaster riffing still rips on any current axeman. The video quality is so-so (one of the cameramen was reportedly bombed out of his skull on acid), but the remastered soundtrack is killer, and there's a bonus audio-only disc of Hendrix' second set. Even with the film's obvious flaws, the footage of rioters in Berkeley set to the strains of the anti-(Vietnam) war anthem "Machine Gun" adds a certain gravitas that puts the freewheeling '60s into chilling context.

Gentlemen, start your DVDs.


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