Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Music: Jaafar- "Superstar" and "No Pressure"

About two years ago, I was introduced to a soul singer named Jaafar from Birmingham, Alabama. The short version of the story goes like this: I was in Soundshop at Westend (RIP) and my home girl Des Williams (aka That Retail Chick) was playing some jamming music that I hadn't heard before. I asked who it was. She told me it was an indie artist, some skinny dude from Alabama named Jaafar who had come into the store trying to get some product in there on consignment.

I continued doing what I was doing (shooting a short video for the old plantation). The next song came on, and it too was jamming super hard. I decided right there that I was going to buy this guy's CD, which was a major feat because at the time I hadn't bought an actual CD since like, 2000. That may be a lie. I actually had bought Adriana Evans and FE's LIAB. The point is, even before downloading became popular, I worked in the music store throughout college and later was a music journalist, so I had pretty much been getting free music on the regular since 1998. I'm not typically inclined to buy anything.

So I head to the counter and tell Des that I want to buy the CD. She looks at me really surprised, but says no, she'll give me a copy if I hit Jaafar's manager and let them know how much I'm digging the music. I do eventually hit Jaafar's manager and producer, get to talking with him and eventually set up an interview for him to be featured in Rolling Out. (Read the interview) During the course of the interview, Jaafar tells me that while he was doing promo at Centennial Olympic Park, a homeless dude comes up to him and tells him that everyone that hears his CD will buy it. Jaafar says that the homeless dude was right, every single person that he played the record for, bought it. I thought about the day I heard it in the music store, and how I was going to buy it. It gave me chills.

At any rate, that was a long, random story that maybe illustrates just how much I like this guy. His debut record, Travel Light is available for purchase. Here are a couple of songs off of his sophomore record Supernatural Love. I really love "No Pressure" and aside from the sorta-rapping on "Superstar" I dig it too. He definitely can tap into Kem's demographic.

Jaafar- "No Pressure" 

Jaafar- "Superstar"

And for kicks, here is the song that actually grabbed me initially.

Jaafar- "Can You Make Time" 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Reasons Why I Do Not Hate Nicki Minaj

I really was going to stay away from doing any Nicki Minaj related posts. This is partly because I don't care that much to be discussing her at length, and partly because I like to pay attention to music that I actually support and like around these parts. She reminds me of an android-- I think purposely on her part-- sort of void of any real emotion or tangible connection to anything remotely real. Of course, this is the trend today in most pop music, especially among women, so whatever.

However, Nikki Minaj is a girl rapper, and as much at it bugs me, I usually feel inclined to jump in and offer some sort of opinion when people start to totally berate her for being average. That said, here are 5 Reasons Why I Do Not Hate Nicki Minaj.

#1- She is not the official representative of all female rappers. 

And it's unfair and downright silly to expect her to be. She's just yet another example of the overwhelming need for more female rappers (and actually, artists in general) to have the opportunity to have support and exposure. Then, we could actually pick and chose who to like.  Of course, all of us hip-hop folk can probably name a good five female emcees that we dig--Eternia, Stahhr, Boog Brown, Jean Grae and the like... but the bigger issue here is that if more female rappers were allowed to shine at the same time, Nicki could far more easily be put into her proper place, or her music could be kept in perspective. As it is, since there are no other female rappers doing it at her level currently, she is scrutinized and looked at as either the savior of girl rap (if you are one of her Barbie supporters) or the epitome of why people don't like female rappers. In all honesty, both assessments are unfair.

Look at it this way-- in the male world of hip-hop, or just in hip-hop since it's so dominated by dudes, the need to categorize it as "male" is redundant, you can name off the top at least 10 rappers who are huge--with mainstream radio-play, endorsements, etc. etc. You can name another 10 rappers who are underrated, another 10 rappers who are your current favorites, another 10 who are all-time favorites, and the lists go on. The cool thing is, the lists can realistically feature different rappers. You'd be hard-pressed to name 10 legit female rappers period, let alone have the audacity to try to make up lists. If the only rapper I was forced to listen to was Talib Kweli, or T.I., or Jay Electronica, it would be boring and terrible--and that's obviously not a swipe at any of them. I'm just saying, making one artist carry the weight of an entire genre is never fair.

#2- She doesn't even make music for me.

When Nicki Minaj began referring to her fans as "barbie dolls" and posing in pictures with obscene amounts of pink looking like the next installment of Bratz dolls, it became immediately clear that she was not making music for any woman over the age of 22, so why would I be offended that I can't relate to whatever it is that she says? It's silly, really.

I mean, if I were going to spend my time and energy being offended by Nicki, it would probably be because she's not a proper role model for young girls. But then, that opens up another can of worms because which one of these young, slutty, delusional poptarts is? Breast-baring Rihanna? Lap-dancing Beyonce? Acid-induced Lady Gaga? Nicki's primary demo is young, attention-seeking girls and non-black girls looking to validate their coolness by listening to whatever hip-hop is popular at the moment. Like, Kim Kardashian is probably bumping the Hello Kitty out of Pink Friday as I type. There are enough real issues to get worked up over in life; Nicki Minaj just ain't one of them.

#3- She's mildly entertaining, like a skinnier, less-talented version of Missy. 

I know that Nicki had beef or whatever with Lil Kim. I never cared enough to follow the specifics, so I don't even know what it was about, really, but whatever. The Kim comparisons seem a little off to me. As she's released more music, really, Nicki reminds me more of Missy Elliot than anyone else. The animated voices, the wild characters in the videos and performances, the general presentation on the mic. Of course, Missy is a great talent, so I'm not daring to compare the two talent wise, but I see a lot of Missy influence on Nicki. And admittedly, I find her relatively entertaining for 16 bars.  Or, if I had to compare her to a dude, she sort of reminds me of a way less lyrical Ludacris--sexual, silly, one-liners. At any rate, she's not terrible if taken in moderation. Have I downloaded her album yet? Nah. Will I? Eh, probably not. As I just mentioned, she's not making anything I'm interested in hearing at length. I'm just saying. Which leads me to my next reason....

#4-  She is no worse than Gucci, Dorrough, Lil B, Jim Jones or Lloyd Banks.

Or any other mediocre/terrible rapper to achieve some measure of popularity or success. No need in attacking her for basking in the mediocrity that by and large, has dominated mainstream hip-hop for the past 10 years.

#5- She's not interesting enough for me to hate. 

That kind of emotion requires a depth of feeling that I just don't have for Nicki Minaj, or really, any rapper at all. Maybe if she ever said or did anything that was really profound, or exuded depth beyond the carefully constructed hollow image she's created (and I do believe it's carefully constructed because she's a very bright woman), I could muster up some energy for her. As it is, I just can't. Just as I can't muster up the energy to hate any other rapper, male or female, who hasn't done anything besides whine about life and brag about themselves. It seems unfair that people get so worked up about hating Nicki when again, she's not doing anything different from most rappers of her caliber.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Food Chain- "Reverse Psychology"

REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY from foodchaintv on Vimeo.

New video, "Reverse Psychology" from Denver-based group, Food Chain. Dope vid. I guess it's a bonus track off of their album, Corpses (which was great). Happy to see that people are starting to pay attention to these guys.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Living Music- Nov. 9th Edition

Times is hard. Ya'll don't need me to tell you that. Here's a list of the some of the random songs that have been getting me through my days. Happy living.

1- MGMT- "Electric Feel" ...Great for dancing around the living room.

2- Pete Kuzma feat. Bilal- "Hi & Dry" ...Great for driving with windows down.

3- Foreign Exchange feat. Chantae Cann- "Laughing at Your Plans" ...Great for driving with the windows down.

4- Zero 7- "Destiny" ...Great for wine and conversation.

The Saga Continues: Dallas Police Shoot Three Unarmed Men In Less Than a Month

Right on the heels of the obsurd two-year sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who shot unarmed Oscar Grant III in the back, while he was handcuffed, the police are at it again---this time in Dallas.

Over the course of the past month, three unarmed men have been shot and killed by police officers.

Oct. 29th- Tony Menchaca was killed. Out of all of the shootings, this one appears to be the most "justified," though Menchaca was clearly suffering from mental issues. Menchaca said he had a weapon, and reached swiftly into his waistband. Five police officers then opened fire, learning after they had fired 23 times, that he was unarmed. The question here for me would be, why did they shoot him 23 times? I can understand why the reaction would be to shoot, but it seems like police training should include learning how to fire non-life threatening shots at a suspect--especially considering that these people are exactly that...suspects.

Oct. 13- A Plano man was killed accidentally during a drug investigation. The Dallas Morning News states: "One of the recent shootings, in which a Plano police sergeant killed a man Oct. 13 during a drug investigation as officers closed in to arrest him, was accidental, police have said. A grand jury reviewed the case but declined to take any action on it."

Oct. 9- Unarmed 25 year-old, Tobias Mackey, is shot and killed by police officers, prompting an outcry from civil rights organizations in Dallas. An 11 year-old boy was grazed during the shooting. The Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers of Texas told the Dallas Morning News: "They've got to stop killing African American men, unjustly. We want the police to police. The biggest gang problem right now in Dallas is not gangs, it's the Police Department, and that's scary."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ode To...Jake One

Jake One is a beast. That said, here is an ode to his more recent endeavors.

Freeway "Escalators" (produced by Jake One)
Any producer that can make listen to an entire Freeway song is good with me. Anyone that can make me listen to an entire Freeway project is my new bestie. Not that I dislike Freeway, to the contrary, actually. But his voice can get a little nerve-wracking after 16, unfortunately. However, any time Free and Jake collaborate, I'm inclined to do nothing except bob my head in sheer delight.

Scarface- "High Note" (produced by Jake One)
I know Face has an actual video for this, however, I find it very disturbing and therefore, you will instead gaze at the Emeritus cover. Trust me, you're welcome.

Scarface-"Dope Man Music"
I literally ride to this 9 out of the 10 times that I get into my Dodge Neon. This track is ridiculous. I know I'm recognizing the talents of Jake One here, but: "It's all about the paper my nigga, fuck a struggle/we ain't dyin broke hopin to get it, that's why we hustle..." --recession music at it's finest.

Jake One featuring D Black- "God Like"
I really hate it when rappers refer to themselves as "God" or say things like "God like" as it refers to something as mundane as their "flow." Anywhoo, this sounds like something that Beanie Sigel would sound great over. As I've often lamented, he needs to let me pick his beats. If he did, he'd probably still be rapping.

Jake One-"I Glow" featuring Elzhi and Royce da 5'9
Aside from two of the best rappers alive being on this track, Jake exposes his west coast roots, much to my delight.

And on a completely separate, totally random note-- there is another dude with ONE in his name that consistently makes me click "listen" these days... DJ Burn One. Okay, the transition was corny, but I can't wait for his instrumental album, The Ashtray, to drop and not just because one of the songs, "Sharae's Charade" is named after your girl (Jacinta Sharae). *Here's hoping the extra cool title makes the cut.*

Freddie Gibbs featuring Pill- "Do Wrong"
It doesn't get much smoother than this. Burn One gets the vibe that Freddie Gibbs has managed to revive-- that early Suave House, T-Mixx, Mike Dean sound, and I love it.

Four Women- Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi (Inspired by Nina Simone)

I didn't really watch all of Black Girls Rock last night. But I did flip over and happen to catch this performance of Nina Simone's "Four Women" by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi. I literally cried. If you could remain unmoved after seeing this, you probably have no soul.

Here is the original by Nina Simone.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Years: Oscar Grant III, Oakland and the Elusive Justice System

This morning, I got up to look at the headlines. I wanted to find out what mainstream media was saying about the protesting in Oakland over the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot unarmed, handcuffed Oscar Grant III in a BART Transit station a couple of years ago. Mehserle received two years, although based on some red tape and a bunch of random laws, he could've only gotten four years max, anyway. So guess what I found this morning when I began my search? That's right. Not a damn thing. The browser is automatically set to go to RoadRunner, some search engine that provides daily headlines. The protest was nowhere to be seen there.

Not that I really expected to be. It's not surprising that media has been very light on the coverage of the protesting (last night's from all credible accounts was generally peaceful) and rioting over this trial. If media is a propaganda machine, it doesn't make sense to report on things that might incite the average American to get up and make some noise over the continued injustices in this country.

Protests and movements, if frequent enough, lead to revolution. Why do you think those people over in France are always in the streets?

Over here, the idea of protest is typically limited to an online petition sent by some organization like Save Darfur or After all, can't have the revolution interrupting the next episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Dancing with the Stars, now can we?

So, the media under-reports the rare instances of American's peacefully assembling to address injustices. Especially injustices that involve the shooting of an unarmed black man. Especially protests that are not limited by race (note the picture above, which features people of all nationalities). None of the protests in Oakland, which have been occurring fairly regularly over the past two years or so, are properly reported. Apparently, Oakland, home of the perhaps one of the most revolutionary movements to emerge out of the U.S. in the past five decades--- the Black Panther Party--- has people there that still have some fight left in them.

Anyways, continuing in my search for information, I headed over to another site.  This is what I found on CNN. I had to scroll down to the middle of the list of headlines that are in the sidebar of the page.

Oakland police chief: Protesters 'tearing up' the city
 Authorities in Oakland, California, said unruly marchers were "tearing up the city" as they protested a two-year sentence for a former transit police officer convicted for killing an unarmed man.
They were throwing rocks, bottles and trash, and ripping up fences late Friday, Police Chief Anthony Batts said.
That's how the story begins. Now, from the accounts that I read on Twitter (yes, I still get on to see what folks are talking about) namely, my personal hero, Davey D, the protesters were peaceful. The police, however, were not. They ended up arresting between 100-150 people. According to Davey D, the people were shouting not to resist the police.  This is what he had to say about it on his blog, HipHopandPolitics:

Tonight Oakland Police showed us what Marshall Law was all about as they conducted mass arrests in East Oakland around 6th and East 17th. All in all over 150 people were arrested and likely to be taken to North County or Santa Rita for the weekend.
This all began when about 500 marchers left downtown where city hall is located and attempted to march to the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was murdered. OPD had devised a boxed in strategy which was described as a scrimmage line. With the use of helicopters, dozens of patrol cars and undercover cops spread throughout the crowd, police in a series of manuevers tried to corral marchers into a block and immobilize them.
So who is telling the truth about what went down? Some journalist who is reporting from Los Angeles (where the case was moved) or the man who is actually there? Why wouldn't CNN have had reporters based in Oakland reporting what was happening? Poor journalism? Laziness? Apathy? I'm thinking the latter two.

I headed over to the Oakland Tribune to get what would hopefully be a more accurate account of events. Their headline immediately told an entirely different story. Of course it was the top story for them--but beyond that, here's what it said:
Peaceful rally ends in 152 arrests

A day of peaceful protests over the sentencing of BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle ended in an angry march that led to a confrontation between protesters and police and 152 arrests. One officer had his holster ripped from his gun belt and another was hit by a car; his condition was unknown Friday evening.
But the scale of violence and destruction that marked previous protests did not manifest itself Friday night, although City Hall closed early as did several stores near 14th Street and Broadway.
This is significant, because the average reader, the average person who is generally unconcerned/unconnected with the entire Oscar Grant III saga isn't going to head over to an Oakland-based publication to get a more accurate, thorough account of events. They will read CNN's lazy, uninformed headline, maybe the first two graphs of the story and call it a day. Propaganda at its best. Further, the CNN story didn't even make mention of the inflammatory, degrading remarks the judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, made, chastising Oakland citizens for writing to the court, demanding that Mehserle receive a higher sentence.

I don't expect much more reporting to be done on this case. It, like the rest of the countless cases concerning unarmed black men and the police will subside. Their names will only come up when the next black man is murdered...then they will inevitably slip from our lips again.

So what to do? Two years. Two years for murdering someone. My cousin is doing 30 years for armed robberies, in which no one was killed, no lives taken. Two years. Michael Vick did that much time for killing some damn dogs-- mean dogs at that.

"Treat me like an animal, but love them Pits..." --Killer Mike, "I Gotcha"

Two-years. I almost feel like a hypocrite for just sitting here, typing. Internet activism, Tweeting injustices isn't working. So what to do? It seems as though no matter we do, the cycle continues.

Case and point: here's a story that I wrote, ironically, two-years ago after the Sean Bell verdict. I interviewed members of the hip-hop community, including Killer Mike, Gorilla Zoe,, Edward Garnes and more.

50 Shots: The Community Speaks on Police Terrorism

Edward Garnes:  “Systematic change takes constant attack. What happens is we get complacent and comfortable. We put the heat on every couple of years, then we fade away. And cops and system know that black folks will have momentary enlightenment and go back to business as usual."
Two years. Something has to give. I just don't know what. Maybe two years from now, someone will have a clue.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dating the Modern Mid-20s Black Man

Goodness, gracious. This hit so close to home, it isn't even funny. Actually, it is still really funny.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Black QBs...Still Black Listed?

Last night, I was watching Monday Night Football (until the Titans ran away with the game and I turned to see Cliff Lee and his faded hat beat the Yankees, yay!). I was watching Vince Young and David Gerrard (before they were injured) and got to thinking about Steve McNair--honestly, I hadn't thought about him in a minute, and felt bad about it. I wondered why his legacy isn't remembered more, even if he did die under terrible circumstances, it really doesn't have much to do with his great talent on the field.

Coincidentally, I woke up this morning to see that his wife has been awarded $2.5 million from his estate, since he apparently had no will at the time and his assets were therefore frozen this whole time. Anyways, the whole thing made me start thinking again about the plight of the black quarterback. I come from a football loving family, and most of the time, the women tend to root for the teams that have black QBs, and to a slightly lesser extent, black coaches. This year, the favored team by the women in the fam is the Redskins, mostly because they are so disgusted with the way that Philly treated Donovan, a franchise QB.

Anyways, Mike Tillery over at StartingFive wrote this great piece about the plight of black QBs last week, with a special emphasis being placed on Donovan and his incredible NFL career thus far, which still has yet to be properly acknowledged or respected. Sure, he hasn't won a Superbowl, but neither had Payton Manning when he was still being considered the best QB of all time. Tony freaking Romo gets more respect from media and analysts. It's sad.

Anyways, Mike makes some great points:
Despite the accomplishments of the aforementioned Moon and McNabb, do front offices, fans and media still view Black quarterbacks as running backs in the year 2010?

He goes on to question:
Does the trickle down effect of the current Black athlete quarterback narrative seep into the minds of veteran officials not used to seeing QB athleticism on the NFL level because of the narrative? Cunningham and Vick? Quarterbacks or running backs? Steve Young…quarterback or running back? John Elway…quarterback or running back?

See what he did there? Anyways, it's an interesting discussion. It's just sad that we are still having it in 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Quickie Tribute to Minnie Riperton (In Honor of Breast Cancer Month)

It's October and Breast Cancer Month, as anyone who watches the NFL knows. Seeing 350 pound linebackers wearing pink wristbands and socks is inspiring in so many ways. No sarcasm.

I've been on a big time Minnie Riperton kick for the past four months or so, and after reading a comment on YouTube, thought it was fitting to do a quickie tribute to Minnie in honor of the month. She passed from breast cancer back in July 1979-- a month after I was born, ironcially, at 31 years old. I've always felt a strange connection to her, not on any psychic/weirdo stuff, but just, her music has always really resonated with me in a bone-chilling kind of way.

As I got older, I began to appreciate her even more, and not just because of her other-worldly vocal ability. She was a layered writer. She was super sensual, but subtle. Still, she was progressive. She even drew criticism for some of her lyrics--my mom told me that when she was in broadcasting school, she failed a project for including Minnie's "Inside My Love" in her line-up. Apparently, it was too risque at the time.

At any rate, here is my quickie tribute to Minnie--just a few of my favorite songs:

"Baby This Love I Have"- This song was obviously sampled by Tribe Called Quest ("Check the Rhyme"). I love this track, it's so sensual. Fellas, this is the song to put on while sipping on a glass of good Pinot Noir or Merlot with your girl--read: the warm-up.

"Reasons"- Probably one of my favorite songs ever, seriously. In a weird way it sort of reminds me of Stevie Wonder's "Visions"--maybe it's because he produced the song during his Genius Years.  Anyways, this song is so layered. I'll even post the lyrics:
The reasons for my life are in a million faces

Like aching promises I feel them in my bones
Slipping through my fingers to dance upon the road
The reasons for my life are more than I can hold
But oh, the sweet delight to sing with all my might
To spark the inner light of wonder burning bright
You're not alone
You're not alone
The reasons for my life are buried in deep places
Words once could awaken them
These seeds that I have sown
Ringing through the madness to crash against the cold
The reasons for my life cannot be bought or sold
The reasons for my life are filling all my spaces
Like rushing waters flow, they carry me along
Twisting through my memory to pull free from the load
The reasons for my life are more than I was told

"Perfect Angel"- This song is just beautiful, her voice just skates over this track like silk. Yahzarah actually did a great cover of this on Zo's Just Visiting Too, which is no small accomplishment.

"Inside My Love"- Clearly, I don't need to say anything about this. This has to go on the all-time Best Songs to Make Love To list.

"If I Ever Lose This Heaven"- I couldn't find a better version of this song, which was Quincy Jones' (produced by him and I think written by Leon Ware, who also co-wrote "Inside My Love." But this is Minnie singing it solo. If I'm not mistaken, she had already lost the use of her right arm and this was recorded just a few months before she passed. Consumate performer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The BET Hip Hop Awards: Courtesy of My Mother

So last night I accidentally watched the majority of the BET Hip Hop Awards. It turned out to be far more entertaining than I thought for one reason: my mother. Below is a partial transcript of my mother's take on the show.

JACINTA: You're watching the BET Hip Hop Awards? [makes strange face].

MOM: [shrugs] I just turned the TV on and this is what was on.

JACINTA: Oh, I was watching The Game earlier.

....About 15 minutes into the broadcast.....

MOM: Why are they yelling? Why? What is wrong with them? ....Why are they screaming at me?!

JACINTA: Oh, that's just DJ Khaled. He likes to scream a lot. It's kind of his thing.

MOM: [frowning] Well, he sounds like the kids that do our announcements at school: "Yo, this is DJ C with the morning announcements!!" And then they just scream the entire way through the announcements.What is wrong with these people?

.....After flipping briefly to an especially disturbing episode of Law & Order: SVU.....flips back...

JACINTA: I'm ashamed to say I kind of like this Soulja Boy song. Me and Mike sing this all of the time: "" [dancing]...

JACINTA: Wait, there is no dance to this song? Shouldn't he be doing the Pretty Boy Swag?  He really needs a dance to this song. He looks retarded.

MOM: [Looking at Jacinta like she's retarded]. He needs to pull his pants up. He can barely move. This is not hip-hop.

JACINTA: Is that Cortez? Why do they keep showing him? He's not even a rapper. They do know that, right?

.....After flipping back to SVU and watching Olivia actually kiss a man and wear a dress....flips back...

MOM: [looks horrified] "What?! Coochie Man! What?!"

JACINTA: No, he said GUCCI Mane.

MOM: Uh-uh. I definitely heard him. He said, "Coochie" coochie man. Who are these ghetto people?

...flips back to watch the oozing sexual tension between Olivia and Stabler. Just kiss already...sheesh....flips back...

JACINTA: [Laughing hysterically] Every time I see this dude, I think of Khalil [four-year old cousin] dead-panning to his dad's friend: "Um, your baby looks like Waka Flaka Flame."

....flips back to Law & Order....

MOM: Wait, let me see Waka Waka Flocking Flooka Flame....

....flips back....

MOM: Oh, he looks crazy. What is he doing? Why is he screaming? Why is he jumping? Where is he going?

JACINTA: You know he got really famous after being shot at the gas station around the corner from where I used to stay.

MOM: [shakes head]

JACINTA: And now you see why I've been so frustrated with being a music writer for the past few years.

MOM: Yes, I do. [sighs]

MOM: Now, why is P.Diddy bobbing his head? He knows he doesn't like this shit. He knows he's thinking: "I guess I better pretend to like this..uhhhh...."

...flips briefly to A Different World, where sadly, they are still showing episodes from the first season, which all pretty much sucked...flips back...

JACINTA: Wow. It's Antoine Dodson. That guy I showed you on the Internet.

MOM: That's really him, huh? [looks impressed].

JACINTA: [stares at MOM].

MOM: It's nice that he got a house of it though.

JACINTA:  [shrugs] I guess.

....flips to see Kenan Ivory Waynan's sister sitting on a couch in the residence hall, laughing loudly at something that clearly isn't funny...flips back...

MOM: They are still screaming. Why are they still screaming?

JACINTA: It's still DJ Khaled.

MOM: What is wrong with young black people these days?

JACINTA: Actually, he's not even black. But he still gets to say "nigga."

MOM: Hell, he is a nigga. All of these people are niggas... even Eminem. I saw him on 60 Minutes. He is really sad. Smart, but sad.

....flips to see DeWayne Wayne running for Mrs. Hillman in an especially retarded episode...flips back...

MOM: Who is she?

JACINTA: Diamond...or Princess. Nah, I think Diamond.

MOM: Is she rapping? [looks baffled]. Is that rap? What is she doing? Is she rapping?


MOM: Sooooo, if what she's doing is considered rap, why didn't you make it? God must just not have wanted you in this dirty entertainment industry.

JACINTA: Yay! Royce Da 5'9. I love him.

MOM: [frowning] Ew, I don't. Why does he have so many tattoos?

JACINTA: [ignoring MOM]. Ha, he said "...loaded with a baby Cannon like Mariah.." Hee.

MOM: Huh? What does that mean?

JACINTA: Nick Cannon is married to Mariah Carey and she's pregnant. It's a punchline.

MOM: [stares blankly]

.....back to a terribly dressed Lisa Bonet awkwardly flitting around Dewayne....flips back...

MOM: Oh, ok, I know this J.Cole guy. I think I heard him on the radio. Yeah, this comes on the radio. [bobs head awkwardly].

JACINTA: J.Cole is great. I've decided he's future. And he's cute. [bats eyelashes].

MOM: Ok, yes. Now this, this is hip-hop. I can understand what he's saying. This is real hip-hop. He actually has a message.

JACINTA: Mom, you don't know real hip hop.

MOM: Yes, I do, from back in my day.


MOM: Yes, it started back in my day! What do you think the Last Poets were? Hip Hop! Gil-Scott Heron? Hip Hop!

JACINTA: Ok, mom. You know hip hop.

After that, my mom left to get on the phone and never returned to watch the rest of the show. I stayed for a few more minutes, mostly to watch B.O.B., who did great despite the terrible sound, the buddy, Yeller (Yelawolf) get a great look on a national show and see Cy-Hi Da Prince (who I recognized as star back when he was still in that group, Hoodlum, that was signed to Jazzy Pha's label...*pats self on the back*). All in all, it was an unexpetedly entertaining evening. Thanks, mom.

The End.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

T.I. on the Cover of Upscale Magazine

Yeah, so I'm a tad bit late with posting my own story, but let's just say I was pretty occupied throughout month of September. Staying in and out of the hospital, minor surgery (complete w/ complications), the whole nine. So posting wasn't high on my priority list. Funny how being sick, or in excruciating pain re-prioritizes things in your life.

At any rate, I ran across this earlier this morning. I guess they printed a double cover (still don't have a copy myself yet). The incredibly talented Hannibal Matthews took the pictures, which came out dope. This interview actually took place in mid-July...who knew that a few weeks later, shit would hit the fan... again? At any rate, I always love interviewing T.I. He's a pretty cool cat-- always answers questions, isn't afraid to be vulnerable and has always struck me as a genunine dude. It's unfortunate that he can't seem to get it together.

As I said, the interview was pretty cool and some of his family was even there. (His uncle was flirtatious and actually invited me to dinner. I politely declined since he's like 57, or something.). I don't think they ever publish the full story on Upscale's site for some unknown reason, so if you want to read the full article, you'd probably have to buy it, or read in the aisle of your neighborhood Walgreens or something.

Hope you dig it.

Read: T.I. Covers Upscale Magazine

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reality Check: 1 in 7 Americans Lives in Poverty

If 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are poor, can America really still be considered the richest nation in the world? How does that even make sense? Check this out from the Associated Press:

The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven living in poverty in the richest nation in the world.
The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Obama's first year in office.
Of course, I'm sure the majority of the country will miss the real point here, and find some way to blame Obama for this--even though it's an inevitable. issue that he did not create and at the end of the day, simply could not control. The story continued:

Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 23.1 percent, according to rough calculations by the Census Bureau. It was followed by Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas and Georgia. On the other end of the scale, New Hampshire had the lowest share, at 7.8 percent.

Of course we knew Mississippi would be the poorest-- it always has been. But Georia also makes the cut, which is really not that surprising either, despite the "recession-proof" claims of wack ass Atlanta promoters and rappers. Actually, Atlanta operates in general under a hood of fantasy, with no real tangible connections to what is really going on in actuality.

I guess this is still the image that pops into most people's heads when they think about poverty.

But in actuality, this is more what poverty looks like in America these days.

My mom works in public schools and she is constantly telling me about how many kids come into her office (she's a nurse) looking for food. Or how many kids are only able to eat at school because they don't have food at home. Food stamps are oftentimes not enough to realistically feed a entire family for a whole month.

I've been through some experiences over the past week that really personally illustrated just how poor this country is. I don't know how people keep living in a state of delusion-- I suppose I could blame E! or MTV, but that would be too simplisitic. I don't know. It's getting scary.

Too many people are still running around with their heads in the sand. The sad thing is, I don't really see any solutions coming any time soon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ode to Mr. Mike

I recently had an epiphany. Mr. Mike needs a tribute. That said, here is my ode to Mr. Mike--one of the most unrecognized guys to come out of the south, but arguably one of the most subtly influential. I got to know Mike pretty well a few years ago, and even produced a few tracks for him. One of them is on my first release, The Other Side of the Game pt. 1. The other never was released. I don't have it on me at the current moment, but I will find it and post it, in case anyone cares to hear it. Anywhoo. Much love to Mr. Mike.

"All in My Mind"- Eightball & MJG feat. Southcircle
Good grief. Anybody who is still, in 2010, talking about how the south doesn't have "lyricism" needs to be shot after listening to this song. EVERYONE on this track snapped super hard.

"New Day"-One of my favorites off of South Circle's Anotha Day, Anotha Balla.

"Where Is Ya Love"- Clearly Mike was influenced by the west coast. Notice the random "west coast singer" who actually could not sing on the track. Why did the west coast always do that? Feature some terrible ass singer? Anyways, it jammed nevertheless.

"It's Yo Attitude"-I just remember writing Thorough's bio (one-half of South Circle) and finding out that this song was randomly featured on As the World Turns or something. Seriously, this was on a mainstream soap opera back in the day.

"Wicked Wayz" feat. Ice Cube- Probably Mike's most popular song. Back when rappers weren't comfortably-political (meaning socially conscious only when it's convenient).

"Kool-Aid"- Eightball & MJG-feat. South Circle- This was made around the time that I was hanging with Mike and Ro pretty tough--both of them decided to leave Atlanta shortly after this song was made though, and head back to Houston. Can't say that I blame them. Notice Mike crooning on the chorus. Dude can actually sing. Preacher's son and all that. Anyways, I thought this was going to help them make some kind of comeback, or you know, do something. But...yeah.

Tweet: "Always Will"

With my emo ass.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Foreign Exchange Readies 3rd Album, Authenticity

I normally don't do things like post album art and whatnot here. I think it's boring and silly, quite frankly. But, Phonte sent this over yesterday afternoon, and I'm a big supporter of his and the FE Family, so why not? 

I see that Chantae Cann is going to be featured on the album, which is super cool. She's the "voice" on Jaspect's Polkadotted Stripes album. I remember Phonte asking me why the hell I hadn't put him up on Jaspects a little over a year ago. Of course, I had, but the songs I sent him weren't his favorites on the album, so I guess he kind of forgot. Anyways, he was going ape over Chantae's voice--asking who on earth she was. At the time,  I didn't know much about her myself, only little tidbits Jaspect's manager at the time, Jeff Cohran, had told me. Anyhoo, fast forward about a year or so, and Tay tells me he has just finished recording vocals for Chante. A few weeks later, at the FE show in Atlanta she nervously gets on stage during their impromptu jam session, and RIPS it. Good gracious, this girl's voice is other-worldly. I just hope that she gets over her shyness a bit.  

So, that was my personal Authenticity story to justify making this post. Not really, but I wanted to share anyways. I think this album should be pretty incredible. I don't think most people understand how much work these guys put in. I mean, how many artist do you know that not only write, sing, and produce their own vocals, but then, mix their own vocals and engineer all of their own sessions? That's what Phonte and Nic do. Phonte essentially handles all of the vocal work--mixing the vocals, writing, engineering and Nic handles the music--producing, mixing the tracks.  For any of you who have ever spent actual time in a studio (and no, interviewing someone for an hour or two doesn't count), you know that is an overwhelming amount of work. 

Anyways, I'm looking forward to this project. Leave It All Behind is still in rotation...literally.

Picking up where their 2008 Grammy-nominated "Leave It All Behind" set left off, "Authenticity" is the group's most diverse work to date, with a tight, 11-track song cycle spanning the duo's trademark brand of lush electronic soul, to stripped down acoustic pieces that recall the heyday of 70's singer-songwriter driven folk. 

Lead single "Maybe She'll Dream Of Me" is a playful, synth-driven hip-hop groove featuring a rapped verse from Phonte that evokes the band's "Connected" era, while the epic opener "The Last Fall" finds some of the band's most cynical lyrics to date ("Love is at worst an excuse/at best it's a truce...") over a frenzied Nicolay production jammed with layers of strings, guitars, and dense choral harmonies. 

"I think every band reaches that point when they come into their own and find a sound that is distinctively theirs," says Phonte in reference to the album's title. "The title refers to me and Nic's journey to find our own unique space within this vast musical landscape. The biggest challenge as a musician is to find that 'thing' that makes you who you are. But I think we're getting there, and we're finding our way more and more with each record." 

Featuring guest appearances from longtime contributors YahZarah, Darien Brockington, Zo! and Median, and also relative newcomers Chantae Cann and Jesse Boykins III, "Authenticity" hits stores 10/12 on +FE Music.

11. This City Ain't The Same Without You feat. YahZarah

10. Laughing At Your Plans feat. Chantae Cann

9. Everything Must Go

8. Make Me A Fool feat. Jesse Boykins III & Median

7. Don't Wait feat. Darien Brockington

6. Maybe She'll Dream Of Me

5. Fight For Love

4. All Roads

3. Eyes To The Sky

2. Authenticity

1. The Last Fall

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Do Not Tweet, and I Am...Not

Six months ago, I deleted my Twitter page. Six months ago, I ceased to exist.

When I first deleted my page, I got a lot of emails and phone calls.  

"Are you okay?" "What's going on with you?" "Why did you delete your page!?"

People associated my mental health, stability and psychological well-being with my occupation on Twitter. The fact that I had willingly deleted my page, for no apparent reason, was a sure sign that I was going through a psychotic episode.

I started to wonder...

Was I still alive? Was I okay?

For the first few days after I deleted my Twitter account, I remember checking myself in the mirror frequently. I still looked the same. My pupils weren't dialated. My hair wasn't falling out. I seemed to still be breathing.

The phone calls, emails and texts, those were starting to slow down, however. It was then that I realized that my relevancy as not only a writer, but possibly as a human being was somehow inextricably linked to my Twitter page. After all, I was no longer available to tell everyone all of the vitally important things they needed to know, in order to gauge if I were still alive:

"Out having drinks with my baby @suchNsuch!"

Or references to my exciting dating life...

"About to go grab a bite to eat w/ the misses."

Or references to my fab lifestyle...

"Just had a great weekend of fun, sun and drinks with the fam @blah @blah @SuchNsuch Summer Sunday Fun, Fun, Fun!"

Or references to my impeccable health regiment...

"Hitting the gym now." 

Or vague references to my popular religious/moral beliefs...

"Faith is so important stuff!"

Or offer comments about my preferred brand of lemonade while shopping at Kroger...

"Do you prefer Simply Lemon or Minute Maid? Simply Lemon for me..."

Yes, without my Twitter page, my existence was becoming dimmer and dimmer. People were unable to read about how I entertain myself, who I entertain myself with, where I enjoy drinking, how I serve Jesus and how frequently I practice yoga. In essence, they were unable to know the real me.

Then, there was my career.

In the 2000 school of media-- I know that visibility is everything. Writers want to be more popular than the artists/celebs they cover. We create websites using only our names. We make videos where we essentially interview ourselves. We bustle around town with equipment we don't know how to use to be seen and "on the scene." We participate in meaningless roundtable discussions that never lead anywhere, and serve no purpose--other than of course, to show that we were invited to the meaningless roundtable discussion.

Twitter has become the perfect medium for us media "tastemakers."

We can participate in silly music related debates (debates that in no way have any bearing on the actual state of the industry, but serve only to illustrate that we can write 140 characters about whoever the rapper up for discussion is). We can articulate just how much we know, and how quickly we can discreetly google what we don't know during an especially heated discussion. We can illustrate how smart we are. We can offer brazenly sarcastic commentary on every song that leaks or every ill-advised email blast we receive. After all, how else will people know how many unwanted emails we get per day, or how many people want us to listen to their music?  We can brag about where we are, and where you aren't. We can tell you where we just landed.

It hit me. Without Twitter, how will other "tastemakers" know that I am still "tastemaking?" How will they know I am witty and sarcastic? How will they know that I'm alive?! I mean, sure they can read my bylines or blogs, will they really know if they are unable to read what I'm #nowplaying every hour on the hour-- and that my musical taste (and therefore personality) is eclectic, yet grounded, well-informed but approachable? They won't. That's how.

My worth, I've found--both personally and professionally is synonymous with my Twitter Page.

And my Twitter Page no longer exists.

Therefore, I am... not.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

iCarly=Child-Sized Soap Opera

The weekend before last I was hanging out with my little cousins at my Grandma's house in Kansas. Of course, because it's Kansas and was like 117 degrees outside (almost literally), they were hanging in the living room, watching TV.

Then it dawned on me. I know why these kids these days are so advanced.

They sit around watching soap operas all day.

Now, I admittedly watch some of the shows that come on Disney Channel and Nickleodeon--mostly because I'm always interested to see what they are feeding to our kids, and I have a three-year old niece who imitates everything she sees. It's from watching these shows, like Hannah Montana for instance, that I was able to give my brother and his wife an informed opinion about why the show is too old for her.

So anyways, the kids, aging from ranges 8-12 were totally engaged in the shows that came on-- namely, Hannah Montana and iCarly. Both shows have real people (apparently cartoons are dead). They have love interests. They have continuing story lines. Seriously, it's like Young and the Restless for the pre-teen set.

Of course, all of this soap-opera like drama is disguised by the overt slapstick comedy that all of the shows incorporate. In fact, the slapstick comedy is what makes the shows look totally harmless-- and also fails to engage most thinking adults, because their brand of "comedy" is just, well, atrociously, obnoxiously un-funny.

Watching the shows, made me think about what I was watching at that age. Really, I was reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club, which in all honesty, was kind of the same thing-- but better because I was like, actually reading. I'm not suggesting that the shows are inappropriate, only that the concept of them is, at the foundation, very grown. I mean, where are the X-Men cartoons when you need them?

Anyways, as I said, I now understand why these kids think the way that think, and then grow up to become stars on reality shows like the Hills or other ill-advised MTV reality shows. Sitting around watching soaps all day has never been healthy for anyone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Hot Heavy & Bad (Joi) Video: "One" directed by Dashon.Is

Here is the new video, "One" by Hot Heavy & Bad, directed by Dashon.Is. It was shot on Auburn Ave, mostly in front of Pal's Lounge, which is owned by Devon Lee. As Devon says, "Joi is the Hot and Heavy and I'm the Bad." Guess this video amply demonstrates that statement.

Charles Taylor Blood Diamonds--The New Major Motion Picture?

I've been trying to keep up with the developments of the Mia Farrow and Naomi Campbell testimonies against Charles Taylor. The prosecution is trying to get Taylor (the former president of Liberia who the U.S. government is rumored to have put in power, only to strip him of it when he got too out of control) on some blood diamond charges. Allegedly he gave Naomi some huge diamond back in 1997-- and they are now bringing that up as evidence against him.

Today, I get online and find out that Mia Farrow testified, and her testimony directly disputes Naomi's, who said she didn't know for sure if the diamond came from Taylor or not. It has been suggested that Taylor was using raw diamonds to leverage power and whatnot from different people.

My question would be: then why the hell did he give one to Naomi Campbell of all people? Not to be rude or anything, but even in 1997, Naomi wasn't like over here calling shots or wielding political power. She was like, at Fashion Week.

At any rate, I really find this story to be pretty fascinating and fully expect for it to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon as the random white dude who is sensitive to the plight of African people and therefore must see Tayor destroyed, Gabrielle Union as Naomi Campbell in her first Oscar-nominated role (or Keri Washington because she already sort of has the accent down) and Gwenyth Paltrow as Mia Farrow. I'm dead serious. Mark my words.

If you guys haven't watched the Vice Guide to Liberia, as I suggested months ago, it will fill you in on more detail about Taylor and the other warlords, and the overall state of the country right now. It's going down over there. It's extra ironic because Liberia is the closest that America got to colonization in Africa. Suffice to say, the country is now f--'d up, and apparently, no one gives a crap about it.

As usual, great job, America. Meantime, I'll be waiting on my check from Lions Gate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The 5 Best Female Singers On the Block

Folks are always complaining about the auto-tune, out-of-tune state of R&B/soul music. With that said, here are the four women (currently) that I think have the best vocals in the game.

1- Janelle Monae. She's number one on my list simple because of her vocal dexterity. The way that she's able to switch styles at the drop of a dime is crazy and her range is ridiculous. I've literally gotten the chills listening to her sing.

2. Yahzarah. Anyone who has seen Yahz live knows her vocal ability is other-worldly. She's probably the most vocally-limber singer I've heard, honestly, alongsie Janelle. Hell, anyone who can do justice to a Minnie Riperton ("Perfect Angel") cover deserves a standing ovation.

3. Amy Winehouse. Sure, she has an unhealthy addiction to narcotics, but good gracious, her voice is beautiful. Rich, textured... she's the certified shit. Praying for her comeback--I'd hate for her to go out like Janis Joplin.

4. LaToiya Williams.  She sounds really Aretha Franklin-ish/Fantasia-like, minus all of the unnecessary screaming. Her voice just melts into her tracks. Soulbounce says she's coming out with an album soon. Looking forward to that one.

5. Chrisette Michelle. Her vocal control is pretty impressive, especially because she's so young. I'm excited to see what she does as she gets older. Also, it would be nice if she could get with different producers and writers who can help her fully display her depth of talent.

Jazmine Sullivan
Melane Fiona
Carlitta Durand

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Joi on the Cover of Creative Loafing

This story was a long time coming. It was especially cool for me to write because I'm such a stan, er, FAN of Joi. She's super duper cool, plus her talent is for real, other-worldly. I've had a chance to check out her new music with Hot Heavy and Bad and no exaggerating, it's the certified shit.

She's an artist that re-invents the wheel every time she drops, for real. As a writer, she's the type of artist that inspires me to still want to write music, honestly. Not that I'm jocking or anything-- just saying.

At any rate, if you ever get a chance, make sure you get down to Pal's Lounge on Auburn and Bell to check her out for FREE every Saturday night, while the getting is good.

She will also be having a Creative Loafing Cover Party and will be debuting her video for "One" (which is dope as hell) on Thursday evening at 7:30 at Pal's Lounge.

Hope you enjoy the story.


Friday, July 30, 2010

New Music: "Ebony Essence"- Mykel

So people are always asking me about what new music I'm listening to. I'm sure I usually turn out to be a disappointment when I tell them, not much, then randomly mention Radiohead's Ok Computer.

But I have found a few artists here and there that capture my attention, one being singer/songwriter/guitarist, Mykel.

I first heard him on "Miss Atlanta" by Bobby Creekwater and was impressed. Then, I heard him live at the A3C Festival and was more impressed because he can actually sing. I ran into him at Sunset Lounge a couple of days later, yada-yada-yada...months later, I heard some new music and was super impressed. Dude is really dope.

Anyways, he's currently pushing his new single "Ebony Essence" (and this isn't even the dopest song that he sent me) so I thought I would post it for your listening pleasure. Be on the lookout for dude, he's really talented.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 6 Fashion Choices of Black Men in Atlanta

I was hanging out at Pal's Lounge the other night, having a great time at their karaoke event, when it dawned on me that there are exactly 6 ways that black man likes to look in Atlanta. I think I got a glimpse of all 6 while there. Lucky me.

1- Like Pill. This is the certified trap look, reserved for actual dope boys. No posers accepted.

2. Like the New Boyz. Reserved for all the hipsters or hipsters who don't want to be called hipsters or weekend hipsters or...whatever. If you're over 24 and you still look like this, you are probably single.

3. Like the 2010 version of Kanye West. This is what most business professionals/corporate yes-men/industry guys with a title have decided they enjoy looking like on the weekends or during after-hours. These guys are sorta gay, but possibly not. But...yeah. Mostly gay.

4. Like Saul Williams. This is the almost hipster, but not quite hipster look reserved for those who enjoy chewing on bamboo sticks and lecturing folks about the ills of hormone-infested, cloned beef, chicken and all other forms of meat.

5. Like Gucci Mane. The flashy dopeboy, "you may find me locked up in Fulton County on any given Sunday" look.

6. Like Killer Mike. This look is pretty much reserved for people who were actually raised in Atlanta. Folks from Adamsville (the westside) and Decatur (the eastside) are usually spotted in this uniform--Wrangler or Levi Jeans, Polo Shirt, Nikes or Adidas and an Atlanta cap (of any team as long as it's crispy and fashionable).

And that good folks, is the entire gambit of your blackness. The end.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dude, I'm Stuck in a Really Bad Episode of The Hills

Sometimes, living in this reality television driven, pop culture worshipping society, I really feel as though I'm stuck in a really bad episode of The Hills. An episode that I simply can't escape. It's one of the reasons why I deleted my Twitter page and rarely get on Facebook. As jacked up as it sometimes is, I tend to enjoy living in reality more than immersing myself in a perpetual state of self-congratulating fantasy.

Last night was a prime example of what I mean.

While America was going ape, literally, over Lebron James' major Knots Landing-esque decision about what team he was going to sign with, protesters in Oakland were rioting over the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who murdered Oscar Grant (who was handcuffed) execution style, at a busy public transit station.

It's disheartening to say the least. I didn't see one major news station cover what was going down in Oakland, or have any relevant commentary about what the verdict (he received involuntary manslaughter) meant for the current state of the country, the community at large or the police's relationship with the everyday citizens they are supposedly serving and protecting. Maybe some station did, but if so I missed it.

What I did see, was Larry King, who chose to use his talk show to join the Desperate House Wives-like phenomenon and dramatically discuss where Lebron was going to go after leaving Cleveland. Nevermind the fact that the NBA has turned into the City-- starring deluded, frilly athletes, owners and commentators, with ESPN serving as a wack version of MTV----the incessant coverage of Lebron instead of actual news just goes to show how far we as a society have slipped down the rabbit hole.

It's pretty disgusting.

I saw Obama giving his perspective on the Lebron James deal, but not addressing the never-ending cycle of police brutality and terrorism in the black community.

I don't know. It's time for us to collectively get back to reality. We're like a society of 12 year-olds at this point, and it's past time to grow up.