Archive for the ‘’ Category
Tags: Blaze Magazine, Eminem, Freshness, Hip-Hop | Big Ced, MC Lyte, Monie in the Middle, Monie Love, Paper Thin, Slim Shady, The Industry Cosign
mentions it often, but honestly I never really paid it much
attention – that is, until I saw it up close and personal on cable late
one night. Sure, the signs were everywhere – like that time his image
showed up magically alongside some hip hop greats in a D-Nice clipped
gallery, or how he strangely knows every ol’ skool rapper within a 25
mile radius of Manhattan – but who really reads signs?
Of course I’m talking about Big
Ced of The Industry Cosign,
and a former editor for hip hop titles like Blaze
and The Source.
The dude’s been telling me (and anyone within earshot) he’s hip hop
royalty for years, but in NYC every third person screams some title or
another, so it’s hard to know when to believe.
One late night tryst with VH1-Soul yielded something
a familiar face as Mc Lyte’s man in her classic clip for the single
“Paper Thin.” Upon close inspection it was Ced starring as Lyte’s
trifling lover that she finds hugged up with two other chicks on the
subway somewhere in 80’s NYC. When it clicked that Ced was the
visualization of the tragic mack Lyte’s rapping about, I was stuck.
By the end of the vid, I was
on the phone calling head’s about the clip, browsers all over Brooklyn
youtube. But it wasn’t until someone pointed me in the direction of a
video I’d seen countless times as a teenager, that the true conversion
occurred – Monie Love’s, “Monie In The Middle.”
Yup, that’s him, all up in
the middle with Monie – the dude with the nerd glasses. It turns out
Ced actually is hip hop, the evidence was
glaring. He was a pivotal part of a musical
iconoclast – the female rapper which doesn’t even exist today.
But what makes Ced’s contribution truly noteworthy is that
actually America’s first male video ho – and that’s truly gangsta.
Written by Davey D
25 November 2008
This past weekend the State of the Black World Conference took place in New Orleans. Lots of activists, community leaders and artists came through to talk about key issues facing the Black community, developing and implementing an agenda along with the challenges we face as a community in the aftermath of Barack Obama‘s historic win.
On hand this weekend was Reverend Jeremiah Wright who was to receive a prestigious Legacy Award. For those who don’t know, Rev Wright was and continues to be a popular figure especially in church and religious circles. His villification for sermons taken out of context was a bitter pill many of us swallowed as Obama made his historic run for office. Him being distorted didn’t sit well with a lot of folks. In our minds Rev Wright was never wrong. He was always right.
We sat down and talked with him as he opened up about the entire ordeal he endured. He explained to us how he managed to stay strong and survive the storm. He said it was the love shown to him by average everyday folks who he felt always spoke truth to power that kept him going with words of comfort. We talked about Liberation Theology and the importance of faith and how one should use it in troubling times. Wright received death threats and talked about during his acceptance speech how the Nation of Islam protected him. He talked about his love and friendship with Minister Farrakhan and how he has always looked at other faiths as important to acknowledge, learn about and build with as we struggle for equality and true liberation for all oppressed people.
He spoke to us about his current relationship with President-elect Obama and whether or not he felt Obama could’ve handled the controversy in another way. He noted that back in 2007 he had remarked to Obama that there would come a day when Obama would have to distance himself from Wright and his church in order to get elected.
Wright spoke candidly about the toll some of this took on his family, in particular his daughter who was a first year student at Howard University and had to deal with harsh criticisms from fellow students who were unaware of Wright’s work and only knew him via Fox News.
He talked about his visit to the Clinton White House and how he along with several other ministers prayed for Bill and Hillary’s troubled marriage. He explained how he felt knowing that the Clinton camp were among the first to throw him under the bus when they knew damn well what his sermons were really about. The Clinton’s were aware of the distortions and knew the types of things that are said and the manner in which things get preached on Sundays in the Black Church.
Rev Wright also talked to us about the church’s relationship to Hip Hop and the love he has for Common who has been a long time member of his congregation. He talked to us about the types of steps he felt needed to be taken in order for the Church community and Hip Hop generation to better connect. He also shared the disappointment and hurt he felt when some rappers tried to clown him and take him to task in their songs. He wasn’t aware that there were many others like Paris, Rebel Diaz, NY Oil, Jasiri X and so many others who have been shouting him out in songs and shows in a good way.
Wright also talked to us about why he may start calling himself the 7 million dollar man-making note of the amount of money Obama’s opposition paid to run that slew of last minute commercials where they twisted his words and sermons.
In this particular episode you will hear long excerpts of some of Wright’s sermons that were taken out of context and made to demonize him. In episode 2 we play the original sermon that set things off. The theme is the difference between God and Government.
Never Confuse God w/ Government pt2
Below is the link to the 2003 sermon that set everything off..
This is the 2003 sermon in its entirety that pretty much set things off and cast long time Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright in a bad-light. When you hear this sermon you will see just how much they distorted his words. You will also see just how a what Rev Wright said could be taken the wrong way…
Listen to the interview by clicking link below…
Written by Rahiem Shabazz
The Legendary rapper LL Cool J did not take the Midnight train to Georgia to pay tribute to the soulfully singers Gladys Knight and Ron Winans. Most likely, he flew 1st class to the Peach State, where he held his meet and greet at their widely respected eatery (Gladys Knight & Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles) in downtown Atlanta. The aura of the atmosphere was akin to a celebratory event for hip-hop, which has been at a crossroad for the past few years, with its slumbering CD sells and mediocre artist to match. The musical fulfillment that LL brings overruns with promises for hip-hop’s gradual return to record chart dominance, after a prolonged period of absence.
The rapper best known for his multi-platinum albums on Def Jam is releasing the aptly titled album “Exit 13”, which is his thirteenth album on All-Star label Def Jam, but it may not be his last, states the relentless entertainment juggernaut. ‘I plan to continue putting out music for fans who grew up on my music and for all the newly acquired fans that is digging LL today,” he continued.Once known as the baby face 16-year old wearing a Kangol rapping about how he could not live without his radio, to the now muscle-bound rap icon, things still remain the same for Todd Smith. He still possesses the youth energy of that same 16-year old that stole the show in the most memorable scene in Krush Groove, two decades later. The undeniable quest for authentic music that resonates with hip-hop’s core audience as well as Top 40 radio is what keeps the rapper relevant in today market. There is no rapper from the mid 80’s, who still possess the bluster or lyrical ability to remain a household name, but as the saying goes, Ladies Love Cool J.
“I worked on this for two years as opposed to two and a half or three months. Instead of doing two movies in between the creation of the album, I turned down eight movies,” he says. Instead of taking, what I created in those three months of mixing it and putting it out, I actually made three albums to get the one album,” he continued.
Excited by his trademark flow and prolific lyrics on the album’s debut single Baby featuring R&B crooner Dream, radio stations and fans across the country are showing that LL Cool J still has what it takes. When asked, what selection from his catalogue would be next to impact the charts, he states, “Heart Beat is definitely in the running, so is You Better Watch Me and Get Busy which is a real hard record.”
Throughout his journey and travels from being one of hip-hop’s biggest names, he made a smooth transition to acting both in films and on his own sitcom, In the House. All of his career moves taught him a lesson in life. But, the biggest lesson learned was during the recording of his current album. “The lesson I learned on this album is that you keep creating until you love it. I invested every dime and all my energy in this album in terms from a budget perspective. I drove Def Jam bananas,” he chuckles.
As an entrepreneurial maven and visionary, LL Cool J understands fashion, and is not just another rapper, trying to parlay his popularity into a brand. Most recently, the Hollis Queen native’s LL Cool J line debut at Sears. “I entrusted Sears with my name and my clothing line because I wanted to keep it real,” said LL Cool J. “The world didn’t need another $5,000 pair of jeans. I wanted to create an inspirational, authentic line that was also affordable.” “Fashion is for the whole family,” he said, noting that his wife and children will play a key role in the installation.
If you thought having a rap career and fashion line was enough for the burgeon businessman, who is part of the founding team at Boomdizzle.com then you are extremely wrong. Boomdizzle.com is a music site developed by LL where people can go and hear new music from emerging artist. The platform is in its beta stage with thousands of users and official launches next month. “I wish this medium existed when I started states, LL the owner and visionary behind the website.
NHHPC Coverage-Hip Hop & Electoral Politics Panel Discussion
Are Hip Hop Organizations Really Effective?
by Davey D
Listen to Breakdown FM Interview by clicking HERE:
During the recently held National Hip Hop Political Convention in Las Vegas we had an explosive panel that addressed the issue of Electoral Politics and how they intersect with Hip Hop music and culture. We wound talking specifically about the impact or lack of impact Hip Hop organizations have on the voting process.
Sitting on this panel were the following people;
Rev Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus
Professor Lamont Hill of Fox news and Temple University
Tony Cani- Young Democrats
Honorable George Martinez of H2Ed and former elected Official & emcee
Rosa Clemente-Vice presidential candidate of the Green Party
This panel started off tame enough but then erupted and got somewhat contentious as the panelists started addressing some very hard and oftentimes difficult questions. around the role Hip Hop organizations play in mobilizing people around electoral politics.
A spirited discussion emerged about how we go about getting people politically engaged. Do we follow the model of having a high profile celebrity standing before the people hawking a cause or do we push for people to empower themselves by organizing block by block.
There was enlightening back and forth between George Martinez and Rev Yearwood.
Yearwood heads up the Hip Hop Caucus and recently enlisted the aid of rapper T.I.
and singer Keyisha Coles to do a big register and Get Out the Vote Campaign.
Yearwood was also behind the Vote or Die campaign with P-Diddy.
Yearwood talked about those campaigns and admitted that he had been approached about why he had not included lesser known artists like NY Oil or Immortal Technique who do the community work day in and day out . he said ideally he would like to see everyone involved.
George Martinez challenged the practicality of Rev Yearwood’s methods. He called it a sham and said it was misleading. He said people need to be empowering themselves and that such methods are good for getting funding but not necessarily good or even needed to get someone into office.
Martinez noted that he was elected before there were any of these organizations came into existence. he said it’s all about going block to block and locking things down that way. He insisted that if you aren’t known on your block then you essentially aren’t putting in work. he warned the audience to be wary of self appointed leaders who claim to rep for us while not putting in the work.
Yearwood felt it was unfortunate he and his organization was mischaracterized and that he was tired of hearing revolutionary rhetoric with no follow up from the people espousing it. He went on to emphasize that people are still dying in the streets and we have to reach them. He said he was about trying to reach his people to politicized them by any means necessary even it included using T.I. He said it was important that a felon like T.I. speak to the issue of voting because there are so many of us in our community who can relate.
Questions were raised about the impact funding has in allowing people to move forward or whether it compromised people to the wishes and agenda of the Democratic Party.
This question was specifically addressed by Rosa Clemenete around the members of the newly formed Gen Vote and money from the Tide Foundation and its ties to the Democratic Party.
This led to deeper discussions around why so many within Hip Hop activism still dependent upon funding from foundations and why haven’t business plans been hatched that would lead to true independence.
Another touchy issue that popped up was the lack of support from Hip Hop organizations for the Rosa Clemente‘s Vice Presidential candidacy. She pointed out that after years of complaining about not having our agenda being addressed and how the two political parties have all but abandoned our communities except when it comes to siphoning off votes, she was said there has been lack of support from the leadership of some of these Hip Hop organizations. She noted that this is not about Rosa Clemente but about the vessel she represents. She felt money and resources needs to be directed toward highlighting the 10 point platform of the Greens which includes Social Justice. That’s an issue the two parties dare not touch.
Rosa also brought home the point about the unwillingness for many including those in progressive circles to accept female leadership. She pointed out how disappointing it was for her to be apart of the NHHPC for over 5 years and show up at a panel as important as this that only had one female. That scenario has got to change quick.
Professor Lamont Hill talked about how easy it is to dismiss Obama if you are a progressive and permanently position him as a tool of larger political interests. He said its real easy to dismiss voting for the Greens as a throwaway vote for MCcain. he stated that for the first time we have millions of people excited about an election and looking at issues. He said we can’t afford to throw that away and that we should find ways to engage those folks who have come to politics through the Obama campaign.
He talked about the challenges many of us are facing in terms of raising money and being completely independent.
Tony Canti talked about the disastisfaction his group had with the democratic Party and how they broke off specifically so they can address key issues. However, he talked about how the electoral political process is a numbers game and that the game has got to be played in such a way that you make those numbers if the desired goal is to get someone into office where they can make key decisions.
Audience members like NY rap star NY Oil noted that part of the challenge we have is getting people to do diligence. he said far too many people go home after hearing all this information and never ever do their part.
by Davey D
In response to the numerous essays and articles circulating about the lack of depth and insight of CNN’s recent series ‘Black in America‘
I will say this again and again.. I grow tired of these type of articles as well meaning and insightful as they are…If we don’t like what CNN did, in the age of You Tube, camcorders, reality shows and independent film festivals in every city-DO YOUR OWN.. It doesn’t have to be a big production.. Hell, forget Black in America’, kick off your own series called ‘Black in your hometown‘.. or ‘Black in your neighborhood‘.. Do a series called Black in Oakland, Black in Detroit.. Black in Compton etc. After you put this together, you can gather everyone to a local church and show a short film highlighting the heroes and sheroes from your town. Highlight the people, places and perspectives CNN overlooked. Get your own host, your own guest, break down your own analysis.. There are all sorts of shining examples of this…
We can start with local d-boys and gangstas who woke up and got tired of not seeing CNN or the local news give a fair shot to their ilk. They got tired of local media not showing gangstas in their way that they felt was just…so what did they do? They started making their own damn DVDs. Go to any barbershop in ‘any hood’ throughout the US and you can get all sorts of upfront and close DVDs detailing the exploits of local cats from the hood and their underground world…Can we say Smack DVDs? Can we say Stop Snitching DVDs? Can we say Real Gangsters DVD? The list is long.
We can sit here and pass judgement and moan and groan about their content or lack thereof all day, but one thing I will say, is that those young brothers walking around with gold teeth and sagging pants found a way to communicate to the rest of the world their points of view. And like it or not they been successful.
Don’t believe me? Ask why BET, The History Channel and National Geographic all have shows focusing on gangs and gang life? Why do you think shows like American Gangster are so popular? Don’t get it twisted, these corporations saw thwe success young cats from the hood were having with the sale of those dvds and decided to tap into that market. Ya better ask somebody and take a cue.
Now considering that CNN was most likely hitting the Black middle class with their recent series, that means we are talking about church goers, the civil rights crowd, the young urban professional class, Bill Cosby fans etc. Many of these folks have money and resources.
Instead of complaining, why don’t we have people pooling resources to do their own Black in America series? Instead of putting on another expensive Jack and Jill type awards dinner where everyone dresses to the nines, why not take that money and pay some young film students to make us look good by putting together a film or series about us? Why not pay them to at least do some editing for us? What’s the hold up? What example are we setting for the rest of the world that in 2008 we are still complaining about CNN and not doing our own series?
Can’t somebody do a series and interview people like Rev Jeremiah Wright, Minister Farrakhan along with their local pastor and do a series called ‘Black in the American Church? can we have all these people on the same show without the over the top, distracting, racist analysis of a Fox News? Can’t somebody hit up entrepreneurs like Earl Graves, Dick Parsons, along with local businessmen and women and do a series called Blacks in the Business world? The possibilities are endless. I say no more essays and more direct action..
And finally for those who think I’m just writing.. think again.. I’m already doing my own series.. I went out and brought my first camera a few months ago, way before CNN announced their series. I started documenting my own stories.
I along with many others were following on the heels of activists like Malik Raheem who felt like the real story of New Orleans and the Katrina disaster wasn’t being told, so he and folks from his Common Ground organization, got some cameras and documented the 200 plus viligante killings that took place in the aftermath.
The name of the film whicjh they gave away for free was called ‘Welcome to New Orleans‘ That was our CNN..
We are following in the footsteps small films like Audio Rebellion put together by Fred Hampton Jr, Minister of Information JR and their POCC organization that focused on revolutionaries in our community.
They showed what happens when the community gets upset with elected officials and documented Congressman Bobby Rush being confronted by Chicago’s southside resident They are now working on parts two and three.
We are following the efforts put together by those on the Luv 4 Self network and filmmaker Opio Oskoni who were annoyed with rap star Flava Flav and what they saw as his ‘bafoonish’ TV show and decided to do a show film called Turn Off Channel Zero to counter the negative images. It was well recieved and shown all over the country.
Professor Griff from Public Enemy was the main feature.
We are following the lead of Hip Hop pioneer Popmaster Fabel who was tired of Hip Hop’s history incorrectly being told so he went out, got a camera and started documented all sorts of early history around the gangs that proceeded Hip Hop.
Five years later he has finished up this incredible film called ‘Apache Line from Gangs to Hip Hop‘. .
Many of us are following the lead of then up and coming film makers like Byron Hurt who got tired of misogyny in Hip Hop and decided to do his own film addressing the issue called ‘Beyond Beats and Rhymes‘.
We are following the lead of people like Raquel Cepeda who was upset with brothers wearing diamonds purchased from that sleaze bags like Jacob the Jeweler, so she got together with some rap artists, boarded a plane to Sierra Leone and did her own film ‘Bling A Planet Rock‘.
How about a Letter to the President that documented the intersection between Hip Hop and politics put together by film makers QD3 and Thomas Gibson?
I can go on and on citing examples.
Hell I can take it way back and bring up Public Enemy‘s PETV series before there was a such thing as DVDs.
Here they had people like Sista Souljah delivering news and views for Black people..Or even better lets take this back to the days following the LA Uprisings after the Rodney King beatings in 1992 and the film Straight from the Streets put together by Keith O’Derek.
That was our CNN where he documented the historic gang truces that took place.
Time for us to step it up and do our own thing and stop expecting CNN, Fox News and anyone else who routinely exploits us to suddenly do right by us.
Like I said before, why worry about CNN when we have us?
by Davey D
Rosa Clemente accepting a bid to run as VP on Cynthia McKinney‘s Green Party ticket is big news. In fact its great news. First Rosa is no joke. This Bronx born-Puerto Rican-African sista is sharp on the issues and uncompromising on the principals she stands for. She stands tall and fights fiercely for the communities and people she has long represented. She is more than qualified.
The other thing that is equally important is that Rosa gives voice to a variety of issues impacting the community that have been increasingly put on the back burner during this election season.
many of us have waited eagerly for important issues like the prison industrial complex, media justice, gentrification, a just immigration policy, police brutality (i.
e Sean Bell), war crimes and impeachment proceedings being levied on those in high office responsible and the Palestinian perspective in the Middle East to be addressed. With each passing day they seem to be tossed under the bus with the conventional wisdom being middle of the road white voters from small towns need to be appeased. Hence important issues like the aforementioned keep getting sacrificed.
The other day, a prominent TV News commentator made a highly offensive, arrogant remark when addressing the recent shift to the right by Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
He was talking about how those who see themselves as progressive and grassroots and played significant roles in the success of the Obama campaign, were feeling disenchanted and had gone so far as to stage a financial protest by withholding campaign donations until Obama reversed himself.
The pundit was asked if this will hurt Obama, he said it would not. Obama can afford to sacrifice those issues because that group of people have nowhere else to go. In other words they (we) can be taken for granted. That is never a good way to go into a campaign. See the way things work is like that. We start off making the sacrifice as our candidate goes for these so called middle of the road white rural voters. The game plan is once he/she gets in office he/she will start addressing our issues.
Unfortunately what usually happens is that as soon as they get into office they have to continue making sacrifices to make sure the party gets people re-elected in Congress and the Senate. We saw this with Bill Clinton. In his attempt to get folks re-elected he led the charge dismantling welfare, building up more prisons and of course shuttling in media consolidation. Wanna know how Fox News and crazed racist right wing talk show hosts came into power? Look at the media policies of Bill Clinton. All this happened when we were all being told to hush up and let him do these things to help make sure the house and senate are won by Democrats.
Well this is what happened. The house and Senate were not won by democrats. All that sacrificing to appeal to white middle of the road rural voters didn’t do a damn thing except lay the foundation for problems we are dealing with today. When I see Obama who I’ve supported cave in on FISA, give a luke warm response to Sean Bell, support faith based Initiatives, do an about face on campaign reform and ‘refine’ his position on the war, I start having flashbacks to Bill Clinton.
When will the sacrifices stop?
Hell lets look back to 2006 when the Democrats took over the house and senate. The victories was a mandate from voters to immediately end the war and start impeachment proceedings against George Bush for lying about our reasons for going to War. Well as we know that never happened. Progressives and grassroots people were told to pipe down and sacrifice because we needed to make sure the white house was taken back and hence impeachment and ending the war was not feasible if we wanted to make that happen. The sacrifices never stop.
Whether McKinney and Clemente stand a snowball’s chance in winning is not the issue as much as it is making sure large bodies of people go on record to say there are important issues that need to be addressed.
Instead of appealing to fickle middle of the road voters who more often than not don’t even support us, how about going after the 30-40% of the people who don’t vote? How about really being a candidate of change and figuring out innovative ways to appeal to them. Trying to out Bush Bush and his croonies has never ever worked. So right on Rosa Clemente. we wish you luck and we can count on you to ALWAYS speak truth to power and not cave in.
Lastly Clemente, reps a trend of young Hip Hop generation folks making big moves.
First we have BET correspondent Jeff Johnson possibly being the next commentator on the Tom Joyner morning show.
He may be the voice to replace Tavis Smiley.
Next we have Dr Lamont Hill getting a permanent spot on the Fox News Team where he is frequent talking head. Hill is by no means a right winger and he always hold it down. He most recently shut down Bill O’Reilly during an on air debate.
In Brooklyn’s 10th congressional district, longtime Hip Hop activist Kevin Powell has a really good shot at unseating a 26 year incumbent.
So good are Kevin’s chances is that the democratic machine that has long backed this Congressman Ed Towns has all but abandoned him. Kev is the man with the momentum.
In Atlanta Hip Hop generation head 31 year old Rev.
Markel Hutchins is mounting a serious challenge to iconic civil rights figure John Lewis.
In a recent debate, Lewis was ano show which did not bode well with people in his district who are beginning to wonder if he’s out of touch. Most importantly, Hutchins campaign forced Lewis to stop backing Hillary Clinton and get behind Obama. Hutchins called Lewis out for being in opposition with 85% of the district.
Below is a recent speech Clemente gave at the media reform conference.
Hip Hop Activist Accepts VP Slot to Run w/ Cynthia McKinney
JULY 9th, 2008
Today Rosa A.
Clemente released the following statement:
“I am honored and excited to accept this invitation to run with Cynthia McKinney. Cynthia McKinney is a hero to me and many others across this country and around the world for her courage in standing up to George Bush while the Democratic Party establishment caved.
“This campaign is the opportunity the Hip-Hop generation has been working for. This is our time to address the issues affecting our communities – rising unemployment, the high cost of food and housing, a lack of quality public education and access to higher education, the prison-industrial complex, and unaccountable corporate media. These issues are not being addressed by either the Republican or Democratic nominee.
“I choose to do this, not for me, but for my generation, my community and my daughter. I don’t see the Green Party as an alternative; I see it as an imperative. I trust that my Vice Presidential run will inspire all people, but especially young people of color, to recognize that we have more then two choices. Together, we can build the future we’ve been wanting.
Hip-hop artist M1 says, “I’ve never voted in the Presidential election; I’ve never felt strongly enough about a candidate to. Knowing that Rosa Clemente is down with Cynthia McKinney’s run, I feel that now is the greatest opportunity for the Hip-Hop community to put our collective strength and power to the test and vote for someone who represents who we are and what we stand for.
For more info visit:
To schedule an interview, email press-secretary@runcynthiarun. org
Once Upon A Time In The Bronx:
The Rise of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
By Mark Skillz
It was a extraordinary night for music history. For hip-hop it was the last barrier of mainstream acceptability.
The creators of rap music were going to be recognized by the same institution that honored rock icons Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and Ray Charles.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place every year at the posh Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City; for music history buffs as well as old rock fans with salt and pepper hair this is the night. Music critics and record industry heavyweights turn out in droves to celebrate the careers of the legends of rock that inspired the music we all know and love.
But the 2007 award ceremony was different. This was the first year that a rap group would be inducted into the hall of fame. Rock fans and music critics were livid.
Twenty-seven years after ‘Rapper’s Delight’ shook the world, the genre still wasn’t respected as a legitimate form of music.
“I’ve heard of Grandmaster Flash”, scoffed one irate fan online, ‘but who in the hell are the Furious Five? And why on Earth are they being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ahead of INXS?”
This year the group that practically invented rap as we now know it, has been formally inducted into the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside rock greats R.E.M., Patti Smith, Van Halen and The Ronnettes. This is a large step for a crew that many have called “the greatest rap group to ever grace stage and wax.” Their story starts in 1976 when it really was just about the music.
THE GENETIC CODE
Back in 2005 on a warm day in Oakland, CA I had the opportunity to sit and interview the man that wrote the genetic code for what we call hip- hop today: Kool DJ Herc.
But back in Herc’s day, it didn’t have a name it was what it was: just a neighborhood thing.
After listening to the founding fathers reminisces on his times as the first break-beat deejay progenitor, I realized something: Kool Herc is to hip-hop what Alexander Graham Bell is to the telephone, yes, he is the creator, but what hip-hop was then and what it is now are two different things.
One hundred years ago you couldn’t have paid Bell or an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi to have predicted the wireless phone, the cell phone, the blackberry, or any other modern device. Kool Herc himself will tell you in a heartbeat “I had no idea that this would become a billion dollar a year industry.
With that in mind I wondered something: If Coke La Rock (Kool Herc’s MC) was just spittin’ little phrases on the mike, not full all out rhymes as we know it today, then who was the first real MC spittin’ lyric for lyric on beat with a continuous flow?
“Mr. Herc,” I asked him as I scratched my head and searched for the right words. “I’m curious about something.
” I said, “Who was the first person that you saw rap as we know it today?”
Just then at that moment a warm smile enveloped Kool Herc’s street hardened face.
He looked out the window across the street at Lake Merritt, almost as if he was looking back at that day, in a quiet voice he said, “It was Mele Mel… Mele Mel and Kid Creole.
They were at a boxing gym on 169th St, in the Fort Apache area, as a matter of fact, it was the last place that I seen Big Pun alive at.
In a quiet and almost somber voice he recalled the events while sometimes taking a pause to look down at his battle scarred hands. “They was in the middle of a boxing ring with these big Afro’s… Kid Creole, as little as he is, had one too. Flash was behind them cuttin’. When I saw them I just smiled cause I knew where they got it from…they got it from me. And they knew that they got it from me. I wasn’t mad. Mele Mel saw me in the crowd and just nodded at me. I laughed to myself.
It must’ve been one helluva moment.
Hanging above the dimly lit gym was a thick cloud of smoke; it was a pungent mixture of cigarettes and reefer laced with angel dust. Stoned out dust heads tripped out as the dazzling display of flashing lights played psychedelic tricks on their minds. In the red light haze surrounded by stick up kids, gangsters and hyperactive b-boys Kool Herc got to see the first steps of his creation taking on a new dimension, as brothers Mele Mel and Creole were laying down the foundation for rap, as we know it today.
According to Kool Herc’s suddenly upbeat mocking recollection “They were saying ‘Yes yes y’all, to the beat y’all, a keep on y’all and ya don’t stop…”
Melvin and Danny Glover are from the South Bronx an area that was once described as a war zone. It was there where they were born and raised, them and six other gentlemen that would fill out the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group’s rise from hip-hop pioneers to 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees was long and hard. Their story starts in the grimy streets of the South Bronx where they were all fans of an amazingly innovative local deejay.
GRANDMASTER CRUSHES THE COMPETITION
“This group has never been just about five people”, Arthur ‘Disco Bee’ Hayward said to me while looking out his window smoking a cigarette.
What he is referring to is the fact that apart from the five MC’s (Mele Mel, Scorpio, Rahiem, Creole and the late Keith ‘Cowboy’ Wiggins) and the deejay Grandmaster Flash there were actually two other guys who were apart of the crew, Flash’s assistants: Disco Bee and EZ Mike.
“I go back with him to the beginning.” Bee says. “You ask around, anyone that knows the truth will tell you that originally it was Grandmaster Flash, Disco Bee and the Three MC’s.
On this day Bee was a bit frustrated. The impact of the bands induction into the Rock Hall of Fame could finally turn the page for a group that many mainstream media outlets have ignored over the last twenty years. Thus, generating some serious cash for a generation of aging hip-hoppers that never got the chance to see any real revenue for the music they’ve given most of their lives to.
Further adding to the situation is the fact that the contributions of Disco Bee and EZ Mike have practically gone unacknowledged. “Flash didn’t invent any of this by himself!” Bee says to me. “That shit [a three man turntable routine] that he did onstage at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors with Jazzy Jeff and Kid Capri is the same thing that me, him and Mike did back in the day.
Disco Bee goes back to Flash’s initial stages at a schoolyard called 63 Park.
Bee – as friends like to call him, would be there with another young man named Cordee-O, whose older brother was Flash’s partner ‘Mean Gene’ Livingston.
Disco Bee, along with Flash’s best friend EZ Mike, helped Flash innovate the turntable tricks that would elevate him from the status of a local deejay to a turntable god.
Today Disco Bee is a middle-aged man living in North Carolina with his family. With his Bronx accent, glasses and trademark baseball cap; Bee still retains much of the flavor of his Boogie Down Bronx upbringing. He was rather subdued while talking about his beginnings as a teenaged deejay more than thirty years back, but immediately snapped to life when the subject switched to his favorite sound system.
“The Gladiator”, he exclaimed with an exaggerated raspy voice while proudly wrinkling his face into an intimidating sneer while stretching out his arms and bringing them together as if he was wielding a mighty sword.
This was the system that enabled the group to compete with some of the most ground shaking sound systems in the Tri State area.
“So the Gladiator was all that?” I asked EZ Mike.
“What?” He said as his deep, death-like, gravely voice hit a high pitch, “What? No one could touch that system. It was untouchable.
“When we started playing The Dixie, this guy on Freeman St., this Jamaican guy built this thing for us.” Disco Bee recalled while beaming with pride. “The speakers were as big as refrigerators and we had four of them. It took two people to carry the amp, this thing was so fuckin’ heavy. We used to put a towel over it, so while we were carrying it into the club people would be pointing at us wondering what we were carrying. And then… we’d uncover it. They would be blown away by… the Gladiator!” Bee exclaims again with the same exaggerated raspy voice.
They went all around the city destroying other crews in sound clashes.
That was until one night in Jamaica, Queens…
“We were at this club on Hillside Avenue, what was it called?” Asked EZ Mike, “Oh yeah, the Fantasia that was it. Anyway there we were with the Gladiator, Flash was killing them people. He was cuttin’ that record ‘Catch the Groove’ to pieces: ‘Dunna dunna dun.” Mike said imitating the sound the sax squeal makes as it’s sliced and diced to pieces. “Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dunna dunna dun. Dunna dunna dun.” He was killin’ it. He was spinnin’ around and shit like that cuttin’ the record…and then all of a sudden we heard this huge monstrous sound go: “DUNNA DUNNA DUN”.
“Flash snatched the headphones off and looked around at us and said, “What the fuck was that?”
“We had no idea what it was, but it was so loud and clear that he could hear it even through the headphones!”
“So he went back to spinnin’ again. I happened to look across the room when I saw Goode, in a wheelchair push a button on his mixer and then we heard it again: “DUNNA DUNNA DUN.
“We were all like “Oh shit, that’s their fuckin’ system making all of that noise. They fuckin’ drowned us out – even with the Gladiator they fuckin’ drowned us.
” That was the night they met DJ Divine and Michael Goode and the awesome power of their set called The Infinity Machine.
But still Flash and his gravity- defying, lightning- quick, turntable techniques made him a very difficult deejay to defeat back then.
“One day after Flash had beaten Herc and all of them, there was a jam at a park.” EZ Mike tells me as his gravely voice becomes louder and louder as he gets more and more excited. “Herc was playing there. From the moment we got there people were like “Yo there goes Flash.” This nigga did one of the most awesome things I had ever seen in my life. He got on the turntables and started cuttin’ ‘Good Times”. He was killin’ that shit. “Good…Good …Good…Good Times…Good Times…Good Times. Good Times. Good Times.” And he kept doin’ it faster and faster…”Good Times. Good Times. Good Times”. Motherfuckers were watching this shit and were buggin’ the fuck out. And then all of a sudden he stopped and walked away from the set. He just kept on walking passed the ropes – we thought he was done. And then all of a sudden he went running back toward the turntables at top speed and flipped the cross fader just in time for the record to go “Good Times”. I swear everybody in the fuckin’ park lost their minds.
The rep was growing Flash was the deejay equivalent of a mighty god like Zeus or Apollo. But he couldn’t conquer the city alone.
THE KING OF THE STREET
Before he was a self-professed former crack addict, now, turned muscle bound tough- talkin’, protein-shake drinking, rumored to be a sometime male stripper and also – nowadays, an aspiring wrestler called ‘Muscle Simmons’; Melvin Glover was known as one of the greatest rappers to ever touch a mic: Grandmaster Mele Mel.
To hear that the first real ‘King of Rap’ sometimes moonlights as a male exotic dancer is heartbreaking to hear. You see, for many rappers of a previous generation Mele Mel was the equivalent of the mystic Bob Marley and the hard partying funk god Rick James. For many Mele Mel was like a prophet.
Just like no one would’ve wanted to see or hear about Bob Marley or Martin Luther King shaking their stuff onstage wearing nothing but thongs. No old school hip-hopper wants to hear about – or more importantly, wants to see, the great Mele Mel dancing somewhere in a thong as part of the ‘Gun Show’.
I have my doubts as to whether Mel is really an exotic dancer or not. So I asked him point blank: “Mel, I hear this whole “Gun Show” thing and you being a stripper is just an extension of a joke that you and Scorp’ started some years back.” To which he responded: “I do my thing. I’m not gonna comment on that, I got my hustle.
Just like I thought.
Today at 45 years of age Mele Mel is not ready to hang his mic up or coast his way into oblivion. In fact, he’s probably more over the top today, than when he was in his prime. He’s probably one of the few rappers alive these days that actually walks it like he talks it. He’s a man’s man in a culture that doesn’t value maturity. Anyone lacking in self-confidence could borrow a cup or two from him or at the very least could take notes. Even when he’s at his most boastful he’s being sincere.
“I made a way for me to do what I do and for them [other rappers] to do what they do. When you see Mele Mel I want people to know that you’re seeing a true to life living black legend.” He said to me with the raging confidence of a wrestling legend like Rick Flair.
When he’s not in the gym or onstage dancing in some club somewhere, he’s touring the country promoting his first solo album titled ‘M3’.
In the late ‘70’s Mel was known on the streets as “Flash’s MC”. He was the central voice for the baddest deejay the world had ever known at that time. In many ways they complimented each other: Mel was at the very pinnacle at what he did and Flash was unstoppable.
It hadn’t always been the case that Mel was the best MC though – no, many people who remember them from their days as the Three MC’s, recall when Mel’s older brother Danny (Creole) was the better of the trio. In typical fashion Mel told me quite confidently, “That’s subjective, who was better than who. Creole was good, but he wasn’t better than me.
In the Morrisonia section of the Bronx where they grew up at there were many fledgling MC’s that got on the mic for Flash in 1976. In fact according to Mel ‘anyone could get on the mic for Flash back then’.
Lovebug Starsky has made claims of being the first person to talk on the mic while Flash was cutting.
But it is the late Keith Cowboy that many remember as being Flash’s first real MC. While Cowboy, Lovebug Starsky and others were doing their thing with Flash in the park, the Glover brothers were hard at work preparing to take their neighborhood by storm.
“Me and Creole were in the house everyday practicing and polishing our routines. From the very beginning – we did everything together. We used to listen to Kool Herc and them. They used to say things like, ‘and yes y’all, the sound that you hear…” They were always saying ‘and yes y’all’ we really liked that so we used it. So we would take that and lengthen it and say it to the beat. So it would be “A yes yes y’all, to the beat y’all, freak-freak y’all.
“We went to all of Herc’s parties and studied their shit”, he continued, “We studied their format just like people would later study us – that’s how we studied Herc. There are a bunch of stories out there that say that Creole got on first and I got on a month or something like that later, no, we got on the mic for Flash at the same time.
From the very first time that Mel saw Coke La Rock and Timmy Tim on the mic, he says that rhyming became an all-consuming obsession for him. “I knew from that very first time I held the mic that this is what I should be doing.” He told me.
In fact he said as much on his very first record “Superrappin’…
“Ever since I talked at my very first party, I felt I could make my self somebody. It was somethin’ in my heart from the very start, I could see myself at the top of the charts, rappin’ on the mic, making cold cold cash, with a jock spinnin’ for me called DJ Flash. Signing autographs, for the young and old, wearing big time silver and solid gold.
My name on the radio and in the magazine’s my picture on a TV screen…”
No one would’ve guessed back then that all of that would come to pass. It can be argued that Mel’s competitiveness, ego and raw determination were key ingredients to putting the band at the top of the heap. Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that Mel was far more competitive than the rest of the group. To this day, he believes that not only can he body slam any opponent in a wrestling ring but can still defeat any MC out there as well.
Many rappers over the age of 35 consistently cite Mele Mel as a prime influence.
Rappers as diverse as Kid and Play, Big Daddy Kane, Hammer, Busta Rhymes, Too Short, Rakim and Kool G Rap have all praised his name over the passed two and a half decades.
His lyrical prowess is unmatched with songs like “World War III”, “Step Off”, “Beat Street Breakdown”, “King of the Street”, “New York, New York”, “The Truth” and “Survival”. He stood out in an exceptionally talented group.
Nowadays it’s a hard task to get the band that changed rap music to reunite. So much has happened over the years: drug abuse, break ups, fights over money, lawsuits, envy, bitter feelings for not being properly credited and death.
But before the group was full of animosity, before the records and movies, Grammy awards, world tours, long nights with strings of groupies and critical acclaim, in his heart Mele Mel was Flash’s biggest fan.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the sound that you hear is a def to your ear. Ya have no fear cause Flash is here. The disco dream of the mean machine the Darth Vader of the slide fader, no man in the world cuts straighter or greater than New York’s number one cut creator…” That’s how Mele Mel would open many a show with Flash back in the day.
“He’s the one that made me wanna get in the game”, Busy Bee told me. Busy is one of the group’s biggest fans and himself a hip-hop pioneer who is best known for his appearance in the movie ‘Wild Style’ and his record ‘Suicide’. He remembered how the guy that he was so much a fan of, was equally, if not more so an even bigger fan of Grandmaster Flash.
“I used to see him walk around in a sky blue t-shirt that said Pro Keds. Now on the bottom of the logo that said ‘Pro Keds’ he wrote ‘Flash fan’. He was a Flash fan. And he wore the shirt so much, that that’s the way I knew who he was. It was sky blue with white letters I’ll never forget it. I still have snapshots to this day of Mel in that shirt.
He was like with me what Monique [the comedian] said to the Bishop Don Magic Juan, “If you wear that green suit again motherfucker!’ You know what I’m sayin?’ He was like that back then with me, “If you wear that T-shirt one more time motherfucker, I’ll buy you a joint my motherfuckin’ self.
When I related the story to Mel from Busy Bee he laughed hysterically and said, “ Yeah, I remember that shirt.
EZ Mike remembers when Mel first came around their crew to get on the mic, “Mel wanted to get on the mic with Flash because [Flash] was the best. It was Flash that put him on. Mel and all of them followed Flash everywhere. I remember… they were fans of the man just like everyone else.
Whether it was on tape or on record Mel was usually the lead voice, with an almost brimstone and fire-like delivery he’d convey lines about Flash so convincingly that people thought that it was Flash on the mic.
“Grandmaster Flash is willing and able, he’s the king of the cuts on two turntables, he’s the grand grand the master man. He’s so nice on the slice he don’t need no band.
He rocks 45’s and 33’s, he rocks boys, men, women and young ladies!”
Not many people today remember Sylvia Robinson as a singer. She is probably one of the first black females to find success as a songwriter and producer. But without a doubt the biggest feather in her cap is the fact that she is without question the first black female recording artist to own her own independent record company. Many people call her a genius. There isn’t a thing about record production that Sylvia Robinson doesn’t know.
On a recent rerun of the syndicated show ‘Soul Train’ a flashback segment highlighted old footage of Sylvia from 1973.
“And now from the Soul Train history book this is Sylvia…” Don Cornelius said as he introduced her with his trademark smooth as velvet bass voice. The camera cut to a scene from the distant past where a dance floor full of teenagers with Afro’s and bell-bottoms swayed to the sultry sounds of an erotic disco beat.
On stage wearing an oversized jazzy yellow Apple hat and big hoop earrings, Sylvia Robinson moaned and whispered between sensually charged verses “What your friends all say is fine, but it can’t compete with this pillow talk of mine…”
And to think she almost sold the song to Al Green.
In 1973 the song ‘Pillow Talk’ was not only a top ten smash hit on the radio but also it was a hit in disco’s, bedrooms and in the back seats of cars parked in dark places all over America. The song ‘Pillow Talk’ resurrected a career that dated back to the 1950’s when Sylvia, as part of the R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia, busted on to the charts with the smash song ‘Love Is Strange’.
Along the way she wrote and produced for Bo Diddley, Ike and Tina Turner, The Moments, Shirley and Company, The Whatnots, Brother to Brother and many others. Sylvia knew a hit when she heard one.
Whether it was The Moments singing the R&B classic ‘Love on a Two Way Street’ or Brother to Brother covering Gil Scott Heron’s ‘The Bottle’ – the lady knew her stuff.
To top things off she and her husband Joe Robinson, a tough, no nonsense, gruff kind of guy, made the ultimate coupe de tat in the record biz in1975 by buying the Chess/Checker catalogue.
Or so they thought.
By purchasing the Chess/Checker publishing catalogue – a collection of some of the most treasured songs in early Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll history, the Robinson’s invited the jealous wrath of white record men. “Niggas weren’t thinking’ about buying publishing catalogues back then” a defiant Joey Robinson Jr, told me on the phone. They gave Joe and Sylvia pure hell from the moment they bought that catalogue.
In 1979 their record company All Platinum Records was struggling financially. That was until Sylvia saw Lovebug Starsky performing at the club Harlem World, that’s when a light went off: What if I could take what he’s doing and put it on wax? After thirty years in the music business Sylvia knew to trust her instincts. It would be those instincts that helped her to navigate the treacherous waters of the music industry for three decades that wouldn’t allow her to let the idea go.
First she approached Lovebug Starsky who turned her down.
According to DJ Hollywood, the man that many credit as being the ‘godfather of rap’, she approached him as well and he too turned her down. “I was making so much money at the time playing at the Apollo and Club 371 and other spots around the city, that making a record didn’t make sense to me at the time.
That’s when she got the three guys from New Jersey and christened them the Sugar Hill Gang and released the first commercially successful rap record ‘Rapper’s Delight’. The Robinson’s were the first independent record company in the world to rake in serious cash from a brand new style of music, which, much like rock n roll, would later have a profound impact on popular culture.
LEGENDS IN LEATHER
By 1981 Sylvia Robinson’s chokehold on the rap industry was complete. She signed all of the top groups in the city to contracts – iron clad contracts at that, so that no one could compete with her stable of acts.
The best crew on her roster was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
They were the real kings of rap back then.
And they were an arrogant bunch too.
Cold Crush Brothers deejay Toney Tone remembered a night at the early hip-hop hot spot the Disco Fever, when Scorpio “spent all night looking at himself in the mirror.” Many groups from that time remember the Furious Five as being the types of guys who were a little too full of themselves. “They didn’t really associate with MC’s outside of their group” many have said. Kool Herc remembered Mele Mel as being one of the only ones who would occasionally come out and play with him and his crew.
As brilliant as they were though their competition at that time would’ve been shocked to have learned that the band only practiced “maybe once a week” said Rahiem.
“We didn’t really practice that much because Mel and Creole didn’t get along. Every time we would get together, it never failed, they’d get into it, and one of them – usually Creole, would wind up walking out. We may have practiced one day a week – but it was intense, we practiced from three or four o’clock in the afternoon to ten or eleven at night.
Today at 43 years old Rahiem is the youngest member of the crew and arguably the most talented. His smooth tenor voice and wicked flow made him the lyrical co-anchor of the band. Whereas Mel is boastful and arrogant, in contrast Ra is quiet and introspective. “People see me on the street and say “Hey aren’t you…somebody I should know? They don’t know if I’m from the Cold Crush or the Treacherous Three or what”, Rahiem told me. “I’m not as easily recognizable as everyone else – and I kind of like it that way.” It was Rahiem that co-wrote many of the groups songs along with Mele Mel.
Scorpio a/k/a Mr.
Ness was the ladies man; with his braided hair and sharp features it was his charismatic persona that helped to give the quintet its swagger. To this day Kid Creole has long flowing straight hair as well as non-stop rhymes and a voice like a traveling salesman.
But it is the late bow-legged, deep voiced Keith Cowboy that many revere. He had one of the best voices ever heard on a mic. The most superb example of Cowboy at his best is at the end of the record ‘Freedom’. As the tape was fading out there were more rhymes to go, so the founding member of the Furious Five ended the song in a classic street corner style with finger snaps and all. He wasn’t the best lyricist in the group, but it was his voice and flow that forever sealed the ending of the song as a classic.
Once they got on Sugar Hill and their records started selling they went way over the top as far as egos went. And why not? They toured the country with some of the biggest acts of the 80’s: Evelyn Champagne King, The Gap Band, Joan Jett, The Clash, The SOS Band and many others, the band was royalty on the street; in Hollywood they hung out and partied with Eddie Murphy. Their stage show was in demand.
Night after night they toured the world like proselytizers of a new faith. They were spreading the word of the gospel that Kool Herc had crafted ten years before and were taking it to places as far as Aruba. People in Middle America had never seen or dreamed that eight guys with two turntables and a set of microphones could do so much with so little. They were warmly received in most places, but in others they were met with stone silence and indifference. What they were doing was so much different from anything anyone had ever witnessed.
“We were playing at Bond’s International one night. I’ll never forget this”, Rahiem said as he recalled the show. “When we first started touring with Sugar Hill, Sylvia used to dress us. She picked out these velvet suits with rhinestones – we hated those suits. Anyway, here we are at Bond’s International, opening for the punk rock group The Clash.
“Now here we are – we’re rappers, those white boys that came out you know, they wanted to slam dance and shit like that. So Flash is out there first doing his thing, and I guess he went ‘zigga zigga’ one too many times and the crowd started getting restless.
“Well, we get out there and start doing our thing and after a while I dunno… it seemed like everybody went to take a break and head for the concession stand – at the same time. The next thing we knew we were getting hit with all kinds of shit. I remember somebody threw an orange at Scorpio and it hit him dead in the balls. It was that bad. And we had to go through it twice because we played two shows that night. But we got over it because we were being paid $18, 500 that night. When we got off that stage every white boy in that place looked like someone who threw something at us.
But bad shows aside what making records afforded the group was the chance to tour the world. Some of them had never been outside of New York before; they were in awe of the sights and sounds of different places and having fans in neighborhoods that were similar to their own.
“I’ll never forget this time on tour in St. Thomas”, said Disco Bee. “Me and Cowboy were the only ones who woke up early, it was eight o’clock in the morning and everyone else was asleep. Cowboy said, ‘Yo Bee, let’s go out.” We were like two little kids with a new invention. I mean we were that happy. We were walking around when all of a sudden we turned a corner and were like, “Oh snap, you see that?” It was a bunch of brothers playing ball in a park with no shoes on. We joined in with them. After a while Cowboy looked at me and said, “Yo Bee, you gonna take your shoes off?” I said, ‘Hell no’. He said ‘me either’. The ground was too fuckin’ hot for that shit.
“We really liked touring the country”, Rahiem said. “One of the things that separated us from a lot of these cats today, is we didn’t just know our hood, we were in every hood”, Mele Mel said adamantly. “A lot of these dudes today are block niggas because all they know is their block, but when we came to town, we went into every hood and hung out and got to know the people.
Rahiem agrees, “As soon as we’d get off the plane we’d be like alright, take us to get some food, and we went straight to the hood. In every country and every city we didn’t care where – we went to the hood. We loved going to Florida, Atlanta was a good city for us, and we loved hanging out there. All over Louisiana – New Orleans, Lake Charles, Shreveport we got plenty of love there.
“What did you love about Louisiana?” I asked.
“The food, the women, once you’ve had a Creole woman, I dunno man that shit was like crack, that shit was addictive.
THE FURIOUS FIVE MEET THE KING OF PUNK FUNK
In 1982 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five sat on top of the rap music industry like a big 800-ton elephant.
But the world of funk was the dominion of a shit talkin’, weed-smokin’, cocaine-sniffin’, sex crazed, multi-talented singer, songwriter and producer named Rick James.
Decked out in leather and high heel boots his only real friends were a spliff and a guitar. With recordings like “Mary Jane”, “Bustin’ Out”, “Standing on the Top”, “Cold Blooded” and “Give it to Me Baby” Rick James was the king of funk. His songs weren’t just about sex and drugs – though they were a common theme, he also liked to write tunes that reflected his ghetto upbringing: “Pimp Simp” was a song he recorded with the Furious Five for the album ‘Cold Blooded’. His albums went platinum and he played to sold out stadiums all over the world. People that knew him have said that he was one of the hardest working musicians they ever met. For as hard as he worked though– he partied even harder.
“People need to go back in their memory banks and remember, in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, before Prince and Michael Jackson, Rick James was hot.” Mele Mel wants to reminds us. “He was the first modern day black rock star. When he walked out onstage and said “Fire It up” everybody in the place was firing their weed up. He was a talented dude.
Mel cites the song “Déjà vu’ which James wrote and produced for Teena Marie as being his favorite Rick James record.
“Slick Rick [as James was sometimes called] was basically like our father when we were out on the road”, Mel told me. “Slick Rick did for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five what Frank Sinatra did for Sammy Davis, Jr, he made everyone respect us.
“When we first went out on tour with him”, Mel continued, “We’d be outside our tour bus lifting our little weights that were filled with sand and doing push ups. Outside the coliseum or wherever we were doing a show at, we would get this little deli tray that would have meats and cheese and shit like that on it that looked like niggas probably could’ve wiped their balls with it or some shit like that. Rick would come around and check up on us and make sure we were all right and he saw how we were being treated. He went to Al Hayman, who at one time was the biggest promoter in the country, and put him and the union people, on notice: ‘Yo, treat them right, Flash and them are my boys.’ And they did it. So as a result of that we got better food, better places to stay, more space on stage and more time on stage.
“We immediately clicked with Rick”, Rahiem told me, “Although he’s from Buffalo he’s still from New York, his drummer Lino, from the Stone City Band is from the Bronx – we all immediately hit it off. We got high together and everything.
“Did you ever hear Rick James say ‘I’m Rick James, bitch!” I asked.
“Absolutely!” Rahiem responded, ‘that was his slogan, that’s really not a joke. That’s how he really carried himself.
“I seen him straight up kick a chick in the ass with a pair of thigh high suede boots on, he was wearing some black leather pants, he straight up kicked a chick straight up her ass. He said, “You must have the game fucked up, I’m Rick James, bitch! Get out of my dressing room.
Upon hearing Rahiem’s story Mele Mel laughed and remembered another event. “The first time I saw Rick, I hadn’t even met him yet. I seen him smack the shit out of a bitch, and this was a good-looking broad too, I mean he wasn’t no punk about his. He smacked her and said ‘Now get the fuck out of my dressing room! I was like ‘Oh shit’ this nigga is for real.
Rick’s charismatic personality and talent made a serious impression on the Furious Five.
But there was another memory of Rick that really stands out for Mel, “When we would be onstage Rick would be on the side of the stage wearing a hood over his head, watching us silently taking mental notes. He really wanted to help us to be better performers.
Rahiem recalls a night after the tour was over when “Rick called me when he knew he was going to be in New York, and told me to meet him at NBC studios on the set of Saturday Night Live, because he wanted to surprise Eddie. It was Smokey Robinson’s birthday; it was me, Rick, Smokey Robinson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eddie Murphy and a lot of others who all went out to Studio 54.
“What was Studio 54 like?” I asked.
“The only way I know how to describe Studio 54 to you would be to say…it was like Disco Fever to the 10th power. There were celebrities walking in and out of that place, it was something else.
A MESSAGE IN THE MUSIC
While the group was out on tour having the time of their lives, Sylvia Robinson was excited about a demo she got from percussionist and songwriter Ed Fletcher.
According to a 2004 article in Blender Magazine, Fletcher had two songs on the demo, one was called ‘Dumb Love’ and the other was ‘The Message’. In the article Mele Mel said, “No one wanted to do ‘The Message’ even Ed Fletcher didn’t think much of it”.
At the time the band was coming off of a string of records that blasted out of boom boxes and rocked block parties, skating rinks, cook outs and school dances – but they weren’t hits. Sales wise they were nothing in comparison with what was to come.
“Freedom”, “The Birthday Party”, “It’s Nasty”, ‘Flash to the Beat”, “Superrappin’ and “The Adventures of Flash on the Wheels of Steel” were top notch rap records – but they didn’t make it to the top of the charts.
The first commercial rap artist to release a record with any kind of social awareness was a guy who at one time had been a part of Flash’s crew. According to Disco Bee, “At one point the group got really large. I mean there were a whole lot of people in the group, man.
” So they ended up having two groups: the A group – which was the Furious Five, and the B group, which consisted of Kool Kyle, Lovebug Starsky, a guy named Georgie George and another guy who called himself Kurtis Blow.
According to the band, at first no one in the group wanted anything to do with “The Message”. It was a complete departure from everything that they had done. For a year the band ducked and dodged Sylvia at every turn. But the more they resisted the more pressure she applied.
Finally she put her foot down: Either record this song or that’s it. “She’d do things like withhold advances from us as a form of punishment”, Rahiem recalls.
According to Joey Robinson, Jr.
, the reason Mele Mel is the only one from the group featured on the song, is because he said, ‘Mrs. Robinson if you believe in the song – then I believe in you.” No one else in the band believed in the record.
Grandmaster Flash has gone on record as saying he was against the idea of only one person from the group being featured on the song.
However it was Rahiem’s voice that was originally on the track as well. “Mel and I co-wrote the verse ‘a child is born’ together, it was used on ‘Superrappin’. We decided while recording “The Message” that that part would fit into the new song.
I was in the studio I laid down the part that Duke Bootee would later do. But Mrs. Rob had a problem with my mother and I. She called us trouble makers.
Every group has its stand out member, whether it’s The Leaders of the New School, The Wailers or The Spinners, there is that one member that has a little bit more of that special something that makes them stand out from everyone else. From the very start of their careers at Sugar Hill, Sylvia noticed that special something in Mele Mel. ‘It was Mrs. Robinson that singled him out and made it look like he was the leader – but he wasn’t.” Rahiem told me. “Because his lyrics were more universal we let him take the lead on stuff that he wrote.
In the song ‘The Message’ Duke Bootee and Mele Mel painted raw lyrical pictures of the suffering of ghetto dwellers huddled together in the ruins of the neglected promise of America. For the first time on wax since the days of the Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron, there was a record on the radio that truly captured the claustrophobic desperation and despair of the inner city at the dawn of Reaganomics.
“Broken glass everywhere,
People pissin’ on the stairs,
You know they just don’t care.
I can’t take the smell,
Can’t take the noise,
I got no money to move out,
I guess I got no choice.
Rats in the front room,
Roaches in the back,
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat.
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far,
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car.
And then the songs refrain:
“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge,
I’m tryin’ not to lose my head.
When the song finally dropped it was one of the most awesome things ever heard in rap up to that point. In fact, lyrically it forever changed the game, the days of party rhymes and fun were over the seeds for a more serious art form were finally taking root.
By Davey D
Looks like the NYPD are living up to their reputation of being bonafide ‘dipshits’. We are just getting word that NYC Police located in what was once known as Fort Apache-the 41st Precint in the Bronx, have shown that police terrorism is alive and well.
The word is in a unprovoked attack they badly assaulted two members of the Rap group Rebel Diaz.
The story we are hearing is that group Rodstarz and G1 were up in Bronx on Southern Blvd in Hunts Point, when they noticed the police were harassing a street vendor who was selling fruit. The two went over to witness the cops in action and when they saw the police being abusive they pulled out a cell phone to video tape the incident and asked for the officers badge numbers. keep in mind that part of the Bronx has a large immigrant community and it is also being gentrified. The police from the 41st Precint have made it a point to commit acts of terror including the shooting and killing of an unarmed iGarifunan mmigrant man last year. http://ankhkara.blogspot.com/2007_05_27_archive.html
According to witnesses, when Rodstarz and G1 asked for badge numbers the police became agitated and turned around and started beating them with bully clubs and kicking them in full view of other vendors and people on the crowded street. The two were dragged off bloody, put into a police car and charged with resisting arrest and assault.
The backdrop to this story is that Rebel Diaz are not your ordinary rappers. They are well known activist who not only speak out against police terrorism, but have been key in helping out folks within this immigrant community. Hence it would not be usual for group members to bear witness and to speak out against the injustices. Rebel Diaz has committed themselves to given voice to the voiceless in that Bronx neighborhood.
Many feel that the assault by these cowardly Bronx police officers in plain view of everyone was a way to send a strong message to folks in the community that the police run things and they best stay in line. By beating the Rebel Diaz members in front of everyone was a way to spark fear and remind people that no one is safe from the police. They wanna let folks know that they can brazenly beat up popular rappers in front everyone even with cell phone cameras rolling and do so with impunity. The whole ordeal is akin to the slave masters from way back sparking fear in the hearts of other slaves by beating the strongest among them in front of everyone for all to see.
Over the past year NY Police have been man handling, arresting and terrorizing politicized Hip Hop artists, activists and news reporters.
For example, last year in Brooklyn well known attorney Michael Tarif Warren who routinely represents people in police abuse cases was badly beaten along with his wife when they stopped to watch and bear witness to NY cops terrorizing a unarmed tennage boy at a gas station.
During the protests immediately following the acquittal of the officers on trial for the Sean Bell shooting, journalists who had been speaking out against the police were harassed and roughed up.
Hopefully folks will read this and understand that what the police are doing will not work.. A police state will not take place on our collective watch..
(photo credit B Fresh Photography)
Listen to Breakdown FM Interview w/ Jahi
We sat down and spoke with Cleveland born artist Jahi who now breaks bread here in the Bay Area. His music and approach to life is a breath of fresh air that helps set him apart from the many who are clamoring for fame, fortune and noteriety in this crumbling music industry.
His new album ‘Less Is More’ captures the totality of his music experiences which has had him travel all over and live for a time in Denmark.
Jahi has shown that he is an independent thinker who is willing to stand uncompromised on his positions and incorporate new styles and sounds that make his music hit.
Below is a nice interview he did the other day with JR over at the SF Bayview.
As you read the story enjoy the Breakdown FM interview
Grown folks music: an interview wit’ rapper Jahi
by the Minister of Information JR
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
With the first generation of Hip Hoppers comfortably in their 40s, it’s about time that Hip Hop starts producing music for that age bracket.
Although Hip Hop is usually associated with young people, the people who grew up on RunDMC, Big Daddy Kane, Digable Planets, Brand Nubian, NWA, Digital Underground, Tupac, Rakim and Native Tongues are at the age where they have children who are the age that they were when they were listening to this stuff.
So that’s where an artist like Jahi comes in and allows aging Hip Hoppers to still listen to Hip Hop without having to listen to lyrics aimed at 17-year-olds. He is an up and coming artist who has been showcased internationally and rocked with some of the biggest names in the art form.
In his 30s, Jahi still maintains a level of integrity that is rarely displayed in hungry artists of any age. Whether you see Jahi on the stage rapping or in the streets aiding and assisting on community campaigns, he is the same sincere dude who is trying to right the wrongs that the government forces its low income Black population to live with.
I’ve heard about six of the tracks off of the new album “Less is More,” and in those chosen few I see why many have said that Jahi and mature voices in the genre like him are the future of Hip Hop. Check out Jahi in his own words and go buy the newly released album “Less is More.
MOI JR: Being in the era of Hip Hop where grown men act like teenagers on the mic, what motivated you to write “Less is More,” a Hip Hop album for grown people?
Jahi: First, let me say thanks to you and the Bay View for continuing to give a voice to the voiceless. My motivation to write this project came together in an organic way. I really wasn’t planning to record or do an album. I’ve been pretty disgusted with the music industry in the U.S., and even to some degree with so called conscious Hip Hop.
I connected with Big Tunes, a Bay Area new producer, and the vibes were in the right place. I decided that, one, I would not overkill it like most of these rappers out here with 17, 18, 20 tracks on an album. Two, since I come from the school of Hip Hop that says be yourself, stay original and innovate, I decided I would not follow any trends or try to fit in to grown men acting like kids.
Three, I wanted to do a project with hidden meanings – seven tracks, seven years since I’ve been connected to the Bay, seven styles that are unapologetically grown and not kiddish, seven energies that correlate with seven charkas … etc. The title “Less is More” is subliminal as well. Less bullshit, more substance. Less rhyming, more meaning. You can take it many ways.
MOI JR: You have traveled all over the world and rocked stages.
Can you tell those among us who strictly get their Hip Hop from commercial radio what they are missing?
Jahi: What we are missing is simply balance and variety. I could actually deal with some of the music on the radio if there was a balance. I don’t want to hear conscious music all day either. I like the production on Messy Marv’s albums as well as Snoop, as well as Estelle, as well as The Roots. I think in this ipod generation, people have given up on commercial radio and become their own DJs.
MOI JR: Can you tell the people a little bit about the inspiration behind your latest record “Less Is More”? Why did you choose the production you chose as well as the collabos that you chose?
Jahi: Well, I think I covered most of that already, but I’ll go deeper and break down each song: “Hop For Hire”, that title, comes from DJs in the 70s and 80s who would put these stickers on the back of their vans when they were out giggin. In that song I talk about places I’ve played, and it was that spirit that inspired the song.
“The Right Way” is a song about approaching a woman from a man’s perspective. Most of these rappers, even some of the so-called conscious ones, are still being directly or indirectly disrespectful to women. And some women think a man treating them in a negative way is cool, and I wanted to remind women that there are men out here who are not on that stupid shit.
Also, I have sons and wanted to teach a lesson through the music. “Every Word” was recorded at Onefam Studios, and I just got into my reflective zone. “Explore” featuring Gift of Gab was a big record because Gab and I have been friends for seven years and this was the first time we got together. There are real spiritual words in the music if you listen.
“Let it Out” is on some Jungle theme and I just wanted to stretch my creativity and do the unexpected. Hip Hop can be so boring and mundane sometimes.
“What We Can Do” was my response to the cultural folks who sit around all day and complain. I’m sick of that. There’s is always something we can do in the face of oppression.
Finally “This Side” is my “I’m loving California, let’s do it big, party, enjoy ourselves, and have a good time.” Most people who do party records can’t do it in a clean kind of way. When I party, I’m not on some young boy vibe. I party like a grown man who does not want any drama, dance a bit, enjoy the vibe and leave in peace.
Big Tunes produced most of the record. I produced “The Right Way,” and the rest of the producers are people I just connected with. Oh, I put Rev. Al Sharpton on the record because I like what he had to say. I got that clip when he did the eulogy for James Brown.
MOI JR: Your music is hot.
Why isn’t it on the radio? Can you tell the readers how commercial radio works from the perspective of an independent artist?
Jahi: My music is not on the radio because I’m not on Sony, Universal, EMI or Warner Brothers. Most people you hear that are not on these labels have a short shelf life on standard music airwaves. I would love to hear my music on the radio with everyone else, and any artist that is just saying f— radio is just pissed off.
It’s the best feeling in the world to hear your song on the radio. I released a record on EMI, a major in Europe, and I got major radio play and it was really satisfying. I really can’t speak to how commercial radio works from a perspective of an independent artist because I don’t focus on it. Why beat my head up against a brick wall only to get turned away.
I can connect with Internet Radio, satellite Radio or create my own radio show podcast as a response to no commercial radio play. College radio, which is starting to become challenging and co-opted a little still is probably the best outlet for an independent artist trying to get radio play.
MOI JR: In a recent conversation we had, you said you were getting rid of the backpacker Hip Hop artist image.
Jahi: I really never had that image, but sometimes I get lumped in with all these other artists who have been trying to shake that image off as well. Backpacker Hip Hop to me is The Cool Kids, for example, and I think it’s really corny. What I really mean is that not only am I trying to show people that men over 30 can still rhyme, make songs of substance … and I’m not just trying to perform in front of spoiled white kids in Idaho.
My music is first for Black people, then the world. I write from a perspective as a Black man, and the backpacker image sometimes means that you are on the college circuit in front of white kids and never hit the mature adult Black audience.
Also, I got to put this out there: I’m also shaking the comparisons to Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def etc. Although I respect SOME of their music, they are not me. They can’t speak for me nor tell my story. And my voice tone is different, my message is different. We are in similar lanes, but my image, my music and my passion is unique in its own right.
Also, for example, when I do a Jungle track like “Let It Out,” people flip out or don’t know how to take it because they can’t reference it. Ultimately, the image I’m looking to project is that I’m an emcee who respects what I do as an art form like a jazz musician. I am a grown man and not really creating songs for kids – if they dig it, cool, by all means – and I pride myself on bringing it live on a high level. If you are in the Bay, come see it for yourself.
MOI JR: What are the biggest challenges facing independent artists today? And are they in a better situation than artists from different eras considering that now y’all have myspace, youtube and the internet in general?
Jahi: I think the biggest challenge indie artists have is thinking they can cut corners and get quality music. People get Protools, buy a beat online, record it without mixing or mastering it, and then wonder why they are not respected in the marketplace because they don’t stand up with the major players … indie or otherwise.
Music in general is overflooded, and I think indie artists, who can’t find a niche market, build a fan base or get their music out just get frustrated and give up. Also, I think a lot of indie artists are being influenced and pressured by the perception of a “rap” or Hip Hop artist, and when they can’t keep up the front and have to deal with reality, it can mess with their psyche.
In terms of youtube, myspace etc., all these are great avenues, but it still is not the whole package. They are tools. Independent artists need to know about marketing, publishing, licensing, promotions, legal aspects etc. to really be able to position themselves to make the most of these tools. But I will say that I’ve met musicians all over the world from myspace and that was a wonderful thing.
MOI JR: Can you let the people know where they could hear and buy your music?
Jahi: At www. cdbaby. com/jahilife3 or at any shows I’m playing in The Bay. Also iTunes, Amazon, Target, HMV Digital, Virgin Digital, Wal-Mart … anywhere you buy music digitally.
The album is out May 27th and the release party is on the 28th at Blake’s in Berkeley. Folks can go also to www. onefam. biz to stay in touch and get linked or www. onefamspot. ning. com/profile/jahi. Good music always gets through.
half-man, half-amazing/cause in my physical I can express through song/delete stress like Motrin/then extend strong/I drink Moet with Medusa/give her shotguns inhale/from the spliff that I lifted in hell/
It ain’t hard to tell… Nas. One of the dopest emcees to emerge from of hip-hop, resurrecting the East Coast’s reputation for producing the illest, most prolific rappers in the country, in language, the planet, now has me scratching my head and questioning whether or not I’ll ever purchase another one of his albums (cd).
I understand the pressure of a career that demands one stay relevant and adaptable to appeal to the palate of an ever-changing fan base, however, that is no excuse for professional irresponsibility and communal disregard. Unfortunately this was exactly what I experienced on May 18, 2008 at 5:30pm while listening to Hot 97′s DJ Envy interviewing Nas about the new album, Ni##@. (Which I have heard is being changed, thank goodness, as of this writing.) Trust and believe I understand all about swag. There is no way an emcee can approach a mic without it and expect to be considered valid. It isn’t going to happen. The swag of course must be accompanied by skill and an ease of delivery that belies any doubt that may be part of the emcees internal experience. Nas has consistently delivered on these counts, whether the song was “OchiWali” or “I Can”. We may have been confused about his stances or if he had one, but he sounded convicted, so we gave him passes on the basis of his unquestionable lyricism and breadth of seeming knowledge. There are times however, when passes have to be revoked. This is one of those times.
DJ Envy questioned Mr. Jones about the title of his album. Nas responded that he received criticism from the elders in regard to this and that the elders didn’t understand that today’s youth have it harder than they (the elders) did. What?! I was thoroughly confounded. How? No one under the age of 40 knows what it is to have a cross burned on their lawn, nor have to get off of the sidewalk to walk in the dirt street because white folks needed the space nor be denied the right to vote nor have their choice of vocation nor love interest. If he meant something else, he didn’t say so. Envy also asked him about his long time relationship with. Nas laughed and said, “You talkin’ ’bout that song. You wanna know who Biter about.” He went on to say that 50 Cent is in a lot of pain and …”that brother’s crazy I ain’t saying he bite tables or nuttin’ like that but he be wildin’. That’s why I ain’t git in his ass, but if he ready, he could come see me.” I was at Black woman arched eyebrow mode by this time. DJ Envy said something else but I would be performing a major disservice by even pretending to have heard what because I was thoroughly riveted by Nas’ statements. At this point, Mr. Jones went on an expletive rampage, and very quickly all that could be heard was feedback and a hurried music choice. I waited for Envy to come back on the radio but that took a moment. When he did return he did an interview with TierraMarie, played her new song, played more music and spoke to TLC’s Chilli. Nas was not mentioned. It was as though he hadn’t ever been on the radio.
I stood in my kitchen, shocked and amazed. I quickly called my beau, who is quite familiar with the inner workings of hip-hop and relayed the aforementioned occurrence to him. He asked me a few quick questions about
How high is he?
Was he aware of how many people were listening?
Why would he dare put Hot 97′s license in jeopardy ( is always listening)?
Was he holding some kind of grudge against someone? The most lingering however was this one: Why would Nas, of all people go out like that?
One thing I always admired about Nas was his ability to think and not be typical. Another thing I admired was his ability to be emotional through his work but not have the need to be overtly antagonistic toward those he took issue with. I thought he had a basic respect for his peers; those of us who have grown up to and with him. My expectation was that he would take up the banner of adult, a grown up or as my Caribbeans like to say, a big man.
No, it isn’t that I am prudish or too bourgeois to appreciate the colloquialisms of urban, inner-city descendants. My favorite emcee is Ghostface Killah (who understands Ghost?) I will love NY emcees ’til the day I die. There are however, codes of behavior that we-people over the age of 27-need to exhibit to our peers and certainly to the children and youth that look to us as examples of who to be and become. If one doesn’t want to be a role model and uses that as an excuse, it doesn’t matter, they still are. Evidence, you seek? Look at the generation of young people who have little to no fear of authority, feel no personal responsibility to promote life in the community, much less the world they live in, and the every continuing disruption of Black marriage, love and family. THEY LEARNED THOSE BEHAVIORS FROM US! My point is simple, Nas KNOWS better.
At this stage in the game, he could demonstrate that there are ways to move that are just as effective in communicating a point that shows displeasure or irreverence without being crass and vulgar. While we are all responsible for our choices, what is being chosen? His last album was called, HIP HOP IS DEAD. That title leads me to think he was displeased with the direction of the music and culture that many of us found comfort and definition in. Our secret places to vent, express, teach and reveal the inner truths that many of us were too afraid to speak aloud. We, the socio-economically disadvantaged youth from female headed, single-parent homes who would grow up to be nothing more than usurpers of federal and state funded programs meant to maintain our subsistence found credence in our “street disciples”. As one from amongst us, how then does he behave in a manner that undermines his hard work and the influence he’s garnered that has spanned across social, economic and educational strata? No Nas, this is not good. My children’s Nana has always said, “When you know better, you do better.” That cursing tirade did not just affect me. Other working, educated, intellectual, former backpack, conscious folk are also questioning Nas’ devotion to both craft and culture. The prevailing thought and statement has become, “I’m not buying that. It may be something I download.” In the act of not giving a damn, was that his intention?
Iyapiphany is an educator and training specialist, currently residing in . She is also an essayist and performance poet. “Intentionally Black” and dedicated to her life, in the words of her oldest son, “She loves being Black,” Iyapiphany has made it her personal mission to understand the movements of Black men and the necessities of Black women to better help in the facilitation of BlackLove and the restoration of The Black Family. In addition, Iyapiphany is a columnist for the Contraband publication.
Listen to the Malcolm X Mix here:
The Ballot or the Bullet
Malcolm X, 3 April 1964, in Cleveland OH
The audio version differs from the text below. The audio version was delivered by Malcolm X’s Ballot 12 April 1964 in Detroit, Michigan [at a meeting sponsored by the Cleveland chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality].
Mr. Moderator, Brother Lomax, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can’t believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don’t want to leave anybody out. The question tonight, as I understand it, is The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here? or What Next? In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet.
Before we try and explain what is meant by the ballot or the bullet, I would like to clarify something concerning myself. I’m still a Muslim; my religion is still Islam. That’s my personal belief. Just as Adam Clayton Powell is a Christian minister who heads the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, but at the same time takes part in the political struggles to try and bring about rights to the black people in this country; and Dr. Martin Luther King is a Christian minister down in Atlanta, Georgia, who heads another organization fighting for the civil rights of black people in this country; and Reverend Galamison, I guess you’ve heard of him, is another Christian minister in New York who has been deeply involved in the school boycotts to eliminate segregated education; well, I myself am a minister, not a Christian minister, but a Muslim minister; and I believe in action on all fronts by whatever means necessary.
Although I’m still a Muslim, I’m not here tonight to discuss my religion. I’m not here to try and change your religion. I’m not here to argue or discuss anything that we differ about, because it’s time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem, a common problem, a problem that will make you catch hell whether you’re a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist. Whether you’re educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you’re going to catch hell just like I am. We’re all in the same boat and we all are going to catch the same hell from the same man. He just happens to be a white man. All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man.
Now in speaking like this, it doesn’t mean that we’re anti-white, but it does mean we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression. And if the white man doesn’t want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us. Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man. If the late President Kennedy could get together with Khrushchev and exchange some wheat, we certainly have more in common with each other than Kennedy and Khrushchev had with each other.
If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It’s one or the other in 1964.
It isn’t that time is running out-time has run out!
1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has ever witnessed. The most explosive year. Why? It’s also a political year. It’s the year when all of the white politicians will be back in the so-called Negro community jiving you and me for some votes. The year when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community with their false promises, building up our hopes for a letdown, with their trickery and their treachery, with their false promises which they don’t intend to keep. As they nourish these dissatisfactions, it can only lead to one thing, an explosion; and now we have the type of black man on the scene in America today-I’m sorry, Brother Lomax-who just doesn’t intend to turn the other cheek any longer.
Don’t let anybody tell you anything about the odds are against you. If they draft you, they send you to Korea and make you face 800 million Chinese. If you can be brave over there, you can be brave right here. These odds aren’t as great as those odds. And if you fight here, you will at least know what you’re fighting for.
I’m not a politician, not even a student of politics; in fact, I’m not a student of much of anything. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican, and I don’t even consider myself an American. If you and I were Americans, there’d be no problem. Those Honkies that just got off the boat, they’re already Americans; Polacks are already Americans; the Italian refugees are already Americans. Everything that came out of Europe, every blue-eyed thing, is already an American. And as long as you and I have been over here, we aren’t Americans yet.
Well, I am one who doesn’t believe in deluding myself. I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation; you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.
No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver-no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.
These 22 million victims are waking up. Their eyes are coming open. They’re beginning to see what they used to only look at. They’re becoming politically mature. They are realizing that there are new political trends from coast to coast. As they see these new political trends, it’s possible for them to see that every time there’s an election the races are so close that they have to have a recount. They had to recount in Massachusetts to see who was going to be governor, it was so close. It was the same way in Rhode Island, in Minnesota, and in many other parts of the country. And the same with Kennedy and Nixon when they ran for president. It was so close they had to count all over again. Well, what does this mean? It means that when white people are evenly divided, and black people have a bloc of votes of their own, it is left up to them to determine who’s going to sit in the White House and who’s going to be in the dog house.
It was the black man’s vote that put the present administration in Washington, D.C. Your vote, your dumb vote, your ignorant vote, your wasted vote put in an administration in Washington, D.C., that has seen fit to pass every kind of legislation imaginable, saving you until last, then filibustering on top of that. And your and my leaders have the audacity to run around clapping their hands and talk about how much progress we’re making. And what a good president we have. If he wasn’t good in Texas, he sure can’t be good in Washington, D.C. Because Texas is a lynch state. It is in the same breath as Mississippi, no different; only they lynch you in Texas with a Texas accent and lynch you in Mississippi with a Mississippi accent. And these Negro leaders have the audacity to go and have some coffee in the White House with a Texan, a Southern cracker-that’s all he is-and then come out and tell you and me that he’s going to be better for us because, since he’s from the South, he knows how to deal with the Southerners. What kind of logic is that? Let Eastland be president, he’s from the South too. He should be better able to deal with them than Johnson.
In this present administration they have in the House of Representatives 257 Democrats to only 177 Republicans. They control two-thirds of the House vote. Why can’t they pass something that will help you and me? In the Senate, there are 67 senators who are of the Democratic Party. Only 33 of them are Republicans. Why, the Democrats have got the government sewed up, and you’re the one who sewed it up for them. And what have they given you for it? Four years in office, and just now getting around to some civil-rights legislation. Just now, after everything else is gone, out of the way, they’re going to sit down now and play with you all summer long-the same old giant con game that they call filibuster. All those are in cahoots together. Don’t you ever think they’re not in cahoots together, for the man that is heading the civil-rights filibuster is a man from Georgia named Richard Russell. When Johnson became president, the first man he asked for when he got back to Washington, D.C., was Dicky-that’s how tight they are. That’s his boy, that’s his pal, that’s his buddy. But they’re playing that old con game. One of them makes believe he’s for you, and he’s got it fixed where the other one is so tight against you, he never has to keep his promise.
So it’s time in 1964 to wake up. And when you see them coming up with that kind of conspiracy, let them know your eyes are open. And let them know you-something else that’s wide open too. It’s got to be the ballot or the bullet. The ballot or the bullet. If you’re afraid to use an expression like that, you should get on out of the country; you should get back in the cotton patch; you should get back in the alley. They get all the Negro vote, and after they get it, the Negro gets nothing in return. All they did when they got to Washington was give a few big Negroes big jobs. Those big Negroes didn’t need big jobs, they already had jobs. That’s camouflage, that’s trickery, that’s treachery, window-dressing. I’m not trying to knock out the Democrats for the Republicans. We’ll get to them in a minute. But it is true; you put the Democrats first and the Democrats put you last.
Look at it the way it is. What alibis do they use, since they control Congress and the Senate? What alibi do they use when you and I ask, Well, when are you going to keep your promise? They blame the Dixiecrats. What is a Dixiecrat? A Democrat. A Dixiecrat is nothing but a Democrat in disguise. The titular head of the Democrats is also the head of the Dixiecrats, because the Dixiecrats are a part of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have never kicked the Dixiecrats out of the party. The Dixiecrats bolted themselves once, but the Democrats didn’t put them out. Imagine, these lowdown Southern segregationists put the Northern Democrats down. But the Northern Democrats have never put the Dixiecrats down. No, look at that thing the way it is. They have got a con game going on, a political con game, and you and I are in the middle. It’s time for you and me to wake up and start looking at it like it is, and trying to understand it like it is; and then we can deal with it like it is.
The Dixiecrats in Washington, D.C., control the key committees that run the government. The only reason the Dixiecrats control these committees is because they have seniority. The only reason they have seniority is because they come from states where Negroes can’t vote. This is not even a government that’s based on democracy. lt. is not a government that is made up of representatives of the people. Half of the people in the South can’t even vote. Eastland is not even supposed to be in Washington. Half of the senators and congressmen who occupy these key positions in Washington, D.C., are there illegally, are there unconstitutionally.
I was in Washington, D.C., a week ago Thursday, when they were debating whether or not they should let the bill come onto the floor. And in the back of the room where the Senate meets, there’s a huge map of the United States, and on that map it shows the location of Negroes throughout the country. And it shows that the Southern section of the country, the states that are most heavily concentrated with Negroes, are the ones that have senators and congressmen standing up filibustering and doing all other kinds of trickery to keep the Negro from being able to vote. This is pitiful. But it’s not pitiful for us any longer; it’s actually pitiful for the white man, because soon now, as the Negro awakens a little more and sees the vise that he’s in, sees the bag that he’s in, sees the real game that he’s in, then the Negro’s going to develop a new tactic.
These senators and congressmen actually violate the constitutional amendments that guarantee the people of that particular state or county the right to vote. And the Constitution itself has within it the machinery to expel any representative from a state where the voting rights of the people are violated. You don’t even need new legislation. Any person in Congress right now, who is there from a state or a district where the voting rights of the people are violated, that particular person should be expelled from Congress. And when you expel him, you’ve removed one of the obstacles in the path of any real meaningful legislation in this country. In fact, when you expel them, you don’t need new legislation, because they will be replaced by black representatives from counties and districts where the black man is in the majority, not in the minority.
If the black man in these Southern states had his full voting rights, the key Dixiecrats in Washington, D. C., which means the key Democrats in Washington, D.C., would lose their seats. The Democratic Party itself would lose its power. It would cease to be powerful as a party. When you see the amount of power that would be lost by the Democratic Party if it were to lose the Dixiecrat wing, or branch, or element, you can see where it’s against the interests of the Democrats to give voting rights to Negroes in states where the Democrats have been in complete power and authority ever since the Civil War. You just can’t belong to that Party without analyzing it.
I say again, I’m not anti-Democrat, I’m not anti-Republican, I’m not anti-anything. I’m just questioning their sincerity, and some of the strategy that they’ve been using on our people by promising them promises that they don’t intend to keep. When you keep the Democrats in power, you’re keeping the Dixiecrats in power. I doubt that my good Brother Lomax will deny that. A vote for a Democrat is a vote for a Dixiecrat. That’s why, in 1964, it’s time now for you and me to become more politically mature and realize what the ballot is for; what we’re supposed to get when we cast a ballot; and that if we don’t cast a ballot, it’s going to end up in a situation where we’re going to have to cast a bullet. It’s either a ballot or a bullet.
In the North, they do it a different way. They have a system that’s known as gerrymandering, whatever that means. It means when Negroes become too heavily concentrated in a certain area, and begin to gain too much political power, the white man comes along and changes the district lines. You may say, Why do you keep saying white man? Because it’s the white man who does it. I haven’t ever seen any Negro changing any lines. They don’t let him get near the line. It’s the white man who does this. And usually, it’s the white man who grins at you the most, and pats you on the back, and is supposed to be your friend. He may be friendly, but he’s not your friend.
So, what I’m trying to impress upon you, in essence, is this: You and I in America are faced not with a segregationist conspiracy, we’re faced with a government conspiracy. Everyone who’s filibustering is a senator-that’s the government. Everyone who’s finagling in Washington, D.C., is a congressman-that’s the government. You don’t have anybody putting blocks in your path but people who are a part of the government. The same government that you go abroad to fight for and die for is the government that is in a conspiracy to deprive you of your voting rights, deprive you of your economic opportunities, deprive you of decent housing, deprive you of decent education. You don’t need to go to the employer alone, it is the government itself, the government of America, that is responsible for the oppression and exploitation and degradation of black people in this country. And you should drop it in their lap. This government has failed the Negro. This so-called democracy has failed the Negro. And all these white liberals have definitely failed the Negro.
So, where do we go from here? First, we need some friends. We need some new allies. The entire civil-rights struggle needs a new interpretation, a broader interpretation. We need to look at this civil-rights thing from another angle-from the inside as well as from the outside. To those of us whose philosophy is black nationalism, the only way you can get involved in the civil-rights struggle is give it a new interpretation. That old interpretation excluded us. It kept us out. So, we’re giving a new interpretation to the civil-rights struggle, an interpretation that will enable us to come into it, take part in it. And these handkerchief-heads who have been dillydallying and pussy footing and compromising-we don’t intend to let them pussyfoot and dillydally and compromise any longer.
How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what’s already yours? You haven’t even made progress, if what’s being given to you, you should have had already. That’s not progress. And I love my Brother Lomax, the way he pointed out we’re right back where we were in 1954. We’re not even as far up as we were in 1954. We’re behind where we were in 1954. There’s more segregation now than there was in 1954. There’s more racial animosity, more racial hatred, more racial violence today in 1964, than there was in 1954.
Where is the progress?
And now you’re facing a situation where the young Negro’s coming up. They don’t want to hear that turn the-other-cheek stuff, no. In Jacksonville, those were teenagers, they were throwing Molotov cocktails. Negroes have never done that before. But it shows you there’s a new deal coming in. There’s new thinking coming in. There’s new strategy coming in. It’ll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death. The only difference about this kind of death-it’ll be reciprocal. You know what is meant by reciprocal? That’s one of Brother Lomax’s words. I stole it from him. I don’t usually deal with those big words because I don’t usually deal with big people. I deal with small people. I find you can get a whole lot of small people and whip hell out of a whole lot of big people. They haven’t got anything to lose, and they’ve got every thing to gain. And they’ll let you know in a minute: It takes two to tango; when I go, you go.
The black nationalists, those whose philosophy is black nationalism, in bringing about this new interpretation of the entire meaning of civil rights, look upon it as meaning, as Brother Lomax has pointed out, equality of opportunity. Well, we’re justified in seeking civil rights, if it means equality of opportunity, because all we’re doing there is trying to collect for our investment. Our mothers and fathers invested sweat and blood. Three hundred and ten years we worked in this country without a dime in return-I mean without a dime in return. You let the white man walk around here talking about how rich this country is, but you never stop to think how it got rich so quick. It got rich because you made it rich.
You take the people who are in this audience right now. They’re poor. We’re all poor as individuals. Our weekly salary individually amounts to hardly anything. But if you take the salary of everyone in here collectively, it’ll fill up a whole lot of baskets. It’s a lot of wealth. If you can collect the wages of just these people right here for a year, you’ll be rich-richer than rich. When you look at it like that, think how rich Uncle Sam had to become, not with this handful, but millions of black people. Your and my mother and father, who didn’t work an eight-hour shift, but worked from can’t see in the morning until can’t see at night, and worked for nothing, making the white man rich, making Uncle Sam rich. This is our investment. This is our contribution, our blood.
Not only did we give of our free labor, we gave of our blood. Every time he had a call to arms, we were the first ones in uniform. We died on every battlefield the white man had. We have made a greater sacrifice than anybody who’s standing up in America today. We have made a greater contribution and have collected less. Civil rights, for those of us whose philosophy is black nationalism, means: Give it to us now. Don’t wait for next year. Give it to us yesterday, and that’s not fast enough.
I might stop right here to point out one thing. Whenever you’re going after something that belongs to you, anyone who’s depriving you of the right to have it is a criminal. Understand that. Whenever you are going after something that is yours, you are within your legal rights to lay claim to it. And anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours, is breaking the law, is a criminal. And this was pointed out by the Supreme Court decision. It outlawed segregation.
Which means segregation is against the law. Which means a segregationist is breaking the law. A segregationist is a criminal. You can’t label him as anything other than that. And when you demonstrate against segregation, the law is on your side. The Supreme Court is on your side.
Now, who is it that opposes you in carrying out the law? The police department itself. With police dogs and clubs. Whenever you demonstrate against segregation, whether it is segregated education, segregated housing, or anything else, the law is on your side, and anyone who stands in the way is not the law any longer. They are breaking the law; they are not representatives of the law. Any time you demonstrate against segregation and a man has the audacity to put a police dog on you, kill that dog, kill him, I’m telling you, kill that dog. I say it, if they put me in jail tomorrow, kill that dog. Then you’ll put a stop to it. Now, if these white people in here don’t want to see that kind of action, get down and tell the mayor to tell the police department to pull the dogs in. That’s all you have to do. If you don’t do it, someone else will.
If you don’t take this kind of stand, your little children will grow up and look at you and think shame. If you don’t take an uncompromising stand, I don’t mean go out and get violent; but at the same time you should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence. I’m nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that violence on me, then you’ve made me go insane, and I’m not responsible for what I do. And that’s the way every Negro should get. Any time you know you’re within the law, within your legal rights, within your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don’t die alone. Let your dying be reciprocal. This is what is meant by equality. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
When we begin to get in this area, we need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level-to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. No one from the outside world can speak out in your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil-rights struggle. Civil rights comes within the domestic affairs of this country. All of our African brothers and our Asian brothers and our Latin-American brothers cannot open their mouths and interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States. And as long as it’s civil rights, this comes under the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam.
But the United Nations has what’s known as the charter of human rights; it has a committee that deals in human rights. You may wonder why all of the atrocities that have been committed in Africa and in Hungary and in Asia, and in Latin America are brought before the UN, and the Negro problem is never brought before the UN. This is part of the conspiracy. This old, tricky blue eyed liberal who is supposed to be your and my friend, supposed to be in our corner, supposed to be subsidizing our struggle, and supposed to be acting in the capacity of an adviser, never tells you anything about human rights. They keep you wrapped up in civil rights. And you spend so much time barking up the civil-rights tree, you don’t even know there’s a human-rights tree on the same floor.
When you expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights, you can then take the case of the black man in this country before the nations in the UN. You can take it before the General Assembly. You can take Uncle Sam before a world court. But the only level you can do it on is the level of human rights. Civil rights keeps you under his restrictions, under his jurisdiction. Civil rights keeps you in his pocket. Civil rights means you’re asking Uncle Sam to treat you right. Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth. And any time any one violates your human rights, you can take them to the world court.
Uncle Sam’s hands are dripping with blood, dripping with the blood of the black man in this country. He’s the earth’s number-one hypocrite. He has the audacity-yes, he has-imagine him posing as the leader of the free world. The free world! And you over here singing We Shall Overcome. Expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights. Take it into the United Nations, where our African brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Asian brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Latin-American brothers can throw their weight on our side, and where 800 million Chinamen are sitting there waiting to throw their weight on our side.
Let the world know how bloody his hands are. Let the world know the hypocrisy that’s practiced over here. Let it be the ballot or the bullet. Let him know that it must be the ballot or the bullet.
When you take your case to Washington, D.C., you’re taking it to the criminal who’s responsible; it’s like running from the wolf to the fox. They’re all in cahoots together. They all work political chicanery and make you look like a chump before the eyes of the world. Here you are walking around in America, getting ready to be drafted and sent abroad, like a tin soldier, and when you get over there, people ask you what are you fighting for, and you have to stick your tongue in your cheek. No, take Uncle Sam to court, take him before the world.
By ballot I only mean freedom. Don’t you know-I disagree with Lomax on this issue-that the ballot is more important than the dollar? Can I prove it? Yes. Look in the UN. There are poor nations in the UN; yet those poor nations can get together with their voting power and keep the rich nations from making a move. They have one nation-one vote, everyone has an equal vote. And when those brothers from Asia, and Africa and the darker parts of this earth get together, their voting power is sufficient to hold Sam in check. Or Russia in check. Or some other section of the earth in check. So, the ballot is most important.
Right now, in this country, if you and I, 22 million African-Americans-that’s what we are-Africans who are in America. You’re nothing but Africans. Nothing but Africans. In fact, you’d get farther calling yourself African instead of Negro. Africans don’t catch hell. You’re the only one catching hell. They don’t have to pass civil-rights bills for Africans. An African can go anywhere he wants right now. All you’ve got to do is tie your head up. That’s right, go anywhere you want. Just stop being a Negro. Change your name to Hoogagagooba. That’ll show you how silly the white man is. You’re dealing with a silly man. A friend of mine who’s very dark put a turban on his head and went into a restaurant in Atlanta before they called themselves desegregated. He went into a white restaurant, he sat down, they served him, and he said, What would happen if a Negro came in here? And there he’s sitting, black as night, but because he had his head wrapped up the waitress looked back at him and says, ‘Why, there wouldn’t no nigger dare come in here.
So, you’re dealing with a man whose bias and prejudice are making him lose his mind, his intelligence, every day. He’s frightened. He looks around and sees what’s taking place on this earth, and he sees that the pendulum of time is swinging in your direction. The dark people are waking up. They’re losing their fear of the white man. No place where he’s fighting right now is he winning. Everywhere he’s fighting, he’s fighting someone your and my complexion. And they’re beating him. He can’t win any more. He’s won his last battle. He failed to win the Korean War. He couldn’t win it. He had to sign a truce. That’s a loss.
Any time Uncle Sam, with all his machinery for warfare, is held to a draw by some rice eaters, he’s lost the battle. He had to sign a truce. America’s not supposed to sign a truce. She’s supposed to be bad. But she’s not bad any more. She’s bad as long as she can use her hydrogen bomb, but she can’t use hers for fear Russia might use hers. Russia can’t use hers, for fear that Sam might use his. So, both of them are weapon-less. They can’t use the weapon because each’s weapon nullifies the other’s. So the only place where action can take place is on the ground. And the white man can’t win another war fighting on the ground. Those days are over The black man knows it, the brown man knows it, the red man knows it, and the yellow man knows it. So they engage him in guerrilla warfare. That’s not his style. You’ve got to have heart to be a guerrilla warrior, and he hasn’t got any heart. I’m telling you now.
I just want to give you a little briefing on guerrilla warfare because, before you know it, before you know it. It takes heart to be a guerrilla warrior because you’re on your own. In conventional warfare you have tanks and a whole lot of other people with you to back you up-planes over your head and all that kind of stuff. But a guerrilla is on his own. All you have is a rifle, some sneakers and a bowl of rice, and that’s all you need-and a lot of heart. The Japanese on some of those islands in the Pacific, when the American soldiers landed, one Japanese sometimes could hold the whole army off. He’d just wait until the sun went down, and when the sun went down they were all equal. He would take his little blade and slip from bush to bush, and from American to American. The white soldiers couldn’t cope with that. Whenever you see a white soldier that fought in the Pacific, he has the shakes, he has a nervous condition, because they scared him to death.
The same thing happened to the French up in French Indochina. People who just a few years previously were rice farmers got together and ran the heavily-mechanized French army out of Indochina. You don’t need it-modern warfare today won’t work. This is the day of the guerrilla. They did the same thing in Algeria. Algerians, who were nothing but Bedouins, took a rine and sneaked off to the hills, and de Gaulle and all of his highfalutin’ war machinery couldn’t defeat those guerrillas. Nowhere on this earth does the white man win in a guerrilla warfare. It’s not his speed. Just as guerrilla warfare is prevailing in Asia and in parts of Africa and in parts of Latin America, you’ve got to be mighty naive, or you’ve got to play the black man cheap, if you don’t think some day he’s going to wake up and find that it’s got to be the ballot or the bullet.
l would like to say, in closing, a few things concerning the Muslim Mosque, Inc., which we established recently in New York City. It’s true we’re Muslims and our religion is Islam, but we don’t mix our religion with our politics and our economics and our social and civil activities-not any more We keep our religion in our mosque. After our religious services are over, then as Muslims we become involved in political action, economic action and social and civic action. We become involved with anybody, any where, any time and in any manner that’s designed to eliminate the evils, the political, economic and social evils that are afflicting the people of our community.
The political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community; no more. The black man in the black community has to be re-educated into the science of politics so he will know what politics is supposed to bring him in return. Don’t be throwing out any ballots. A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.
The political philosophy of black nationalism is being taught in the Christian church. It’s being taught in the NAACP. It’s being taught in CORE meetings. It’s being taught in SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meetings. It’s being taught in Muslim meetings. It’s being taught where nothing but atheists and agnostics come together. It’s being taught everywhere. Black people are fed up with the dillydallying, pussyfooting, compromising approach that we’ve been using toward getting our freedom. We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying We Shall Overcome. We’ve got to fight until we overcome.
The economic philosophy of black nationalism is pure and simple. It only means that we should control the economy of our community. Why should white people be running all the stores in our community? Why should white people be running the banks of our community? Why should the economy of our community be in the hands of the white man? Why? If a black man can’t move his store into a white community, you tell me why a white man should move his store into a black community. The philosophy of black nationalism involves a re-education program in the black community in regards to economics. Our people have to be made to see that any time you take your dollar out of your community and spend it in a community where you don’t live, the community where you live will get poorer and poorer, and the community where you spend your money will get richer and richer.
Then you wonder why where you live is always a ghetto or a slum area. And where you and I are concerned, not only do we lose it when we spend it out of the community, but the white man has got all our stores in the community tied up; so that though we spend it in the community, at sundown the man who runs the store takes it over across town somewhere. He’s got us in a vise.
So the economic philosophy of black nationalism means in every church, in every civic organization, in every fraternal order, it’s time now for our people to be come conscious of the importance of controlling the economy of our community. If we own the stores, if we operate the businesses, if we try and establish some industry in our own community, then we’re developing to the position where we are creating employment for our own kind. Once you gain control of the economy of your own community, then you don’t have to picket and boycott and beg some cracker downtown for a job in his business.
The social philosophy of black nationalism only means that we have to get together and remove the evils, the vices, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other evils that are destroying the moral fiber of our community. We our selves have to lift the level of our community, the standard of our community to a higher level, make our own society beautiful so that we will be satisfied in our own social circles and won’t be running around here trying to knock our way into a social circle where we’re not wanted. So I say, in spreading a gospel such as black nationalism, it is not designed to make the black man re-evaluate the white man-you know him already-but to make the black man re-evaluate himself. Don’t change the white man’s mind-you can’t change his mind, and that whole thing about appealing to the moral conscience of America-America’s conscience is bankrupt. She lost all conscience a long time ago. Uncle Sam has no conscience.
They don’t know what morals are. They don’t try and eliminate an evil because it’s evil, or because it’s illegal, or because it’s immoral; they eliminate it only when it threatens their existence. So you’re wasting your time appealing to the moral conscience of a bankrupt man like Uncle Sam. If he had a conscience, he’d straighten this thing out with no more pressure being put upon him. So it is not necessary to change the white man’s mind. We have to change our own mind. You can’t change his mind about us. We’ve got to change our own minds about each other. We have to see each other with new eyes. We have to see each other as brothers and sisters. We have to come together with warmth so we can develop unity and harmony that’s necessary to get this problem solved ourselves. How can we do this? How can we avoid jealousy? How can we avoid the suspicion and the divisions that exist in the community? I’ll tell you how.
I have watched how Billy Graham comes into a city, spreading what he calls the gospel of Christ, which is only white nationalism. That’s what he is. Billy Graham is a white nationalist; I’m a black nationalist. But since it’s the natural tendency for leaders to be jealous and look upon a powerful figure like Graham with suspicion and envy, how is it possible for him to come into a city and get all the cooperation of the church leaders? Don’t think because they’re church leaders that they don’t have weaknesses that make them envious and jealous-no, everybody’s got it. It’s not an accident that when they want to choose a cardinal, as Pope I over there in Rome, they get in a closet so you can’t hear them cussing and fighting and carrying on.
Billy Graham comes in preaching the gospel of Christ. He evangelizes the gospel. He stirs everybody up, but he never tries to start a church. If he came in trying to start a church, all the churches would be against him. So, he just comes in talking about Christ and tells everybody who gets Christ to go to any church where Christ is; and in this way the church cooperates with him. So we’re going to take a page from his book.
Our gospel is black nationalism. We’re not trying to threaten the existence of any organization, but we’re spreading the gospel of black nationalism. Anywhere there’s a church that is also preaching and practicing the gospel of black nationalism, join that church. If the NAACP is preaching and practicing the gospel of black nationalism, join the NAACP. If CORE is spreading and practicing the gospel of black nationalism, join CORE. Join any organization that has a gospel that’s for the uplift of the black man. And when you get into it and see them pussyfooting or compromising, pull out of it because that’s not black nationalism. We’ll find another one.
And in this manner, the organizations will increase in number and in quantity and in quality, and by August, it is then our intention to have a black nationalist convention which will consist of delegates from all over the country who are interested in the political, economic and social philosophy of black nationalism. After these delegates convene, we will hold a seminar; we will hold discussions; we will listen to everyone. We want to hear new ideas and new solutions and new answers. And at that time, if we see fit then to form a black nationalist party, we’ll form a black nationalist party. If it’s necessary to form a black nationalist army, we’ll form a black nationalist army. It’ll be the ballot or the bullet. It’ll be liberty or it’ll be death.
It’s time for you and me to stop sitting in this country, letting some cracker senators, Northern crackers and Southern crackers, sit there in Washington, D.C., and come to a conclusion in their mind that you and I are supposed to have civil rights. There’s no white man going to tell me anything about my rights. Brothers and sisters, always remember, if it doesn’t take senators and congressmen and presidential proclamations to give freedom to the white man, it is not necessary for legislation or proclamation or Supreme Court decisions to give freedom to the black man. You let that white man know, if this is a country of freedom, let it be a country of freedom; and if it’s not a country of freedom, change it.
We will work with anybody, anywhere, at any time, who is genuinely interested in tackling the problem head-on, nonviolently as long as the enemy is nonviolent, but violent when the enemy gets violent. We’ll work with you on the voter-registration drive, we’ll work with you on rent strikes, we’ll work with you on school boycotts; I don’t believe in any kind of integration; I’m not even worried about it, because I know you’re not going to get it anyway; you’re not going to get it because you’re afraid to die; you’ve got to be ready to die if you try and force yourself on the white man, because he’ll get just as violent as those crackers in Mississippi, right here in Cleveland. But we will still work with you on the school boycotts be cause we’re against a segregated school system. A segregated school system produces children who, when they graduate, graduate with crippled minds. But this does not mean that a school is segregated because it’s all black. A segregated school means a school that is controlled by people who have no real interest in it whatsoever.
Let me explain what I mean. A segregated district or community is a community in which people live, but outsiders control the politics and the economy of that community. They never refer to the white section as a segregated community. It’s the all-Negro section that’s a segregated community. Why? The white man controls his own school, his own bank, his own economy, his own politics, his own everything, his own community; but he also controls yours. When you’re under someone else’s control, you’re segregated. They’ll always give you the lowest or the worst that there is to offer, but it doesn’t mean you’re segregated just because you have your own. You’ve got to control your own. Just like the white man has control of his, you need to control yours.
You know the best way to get rid of segregation? The white man is more afraid of separation than he is of integration. Segregation means that he puts you away from him, but not far enough for you to be out of his jurisdiction; separation means you’re gone. And the white man will integrate faster than he’ll let you separate. So we will work with you against the segregated school system because it’s criminal, because it is absolutely destructive, in every way imaginable, to the minds of the children who have to be exposed to that type of crippling education.
Last but not least, I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns. The only thing that I’ve ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it’s time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun. It is constitutionally legal to own a shotgun or a rifle. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get a rifle and form battalions and go out looking for white folks, although you’d be within your rights-I mean, you’d be justified; but that would be illegal and we don’t do anything illegal. If the white man doesn’t want the black man buying rifles and shotguns, then let the government do its job.
That’s all. And don’t let the white man come to you and ask you what you think about what Malcolm says-why, you old Uncle Tom. He would never ask you if he thought you were going to say, Amen! No, he is making a Tom out of you. So, this doesn’t mean forming rifle clubs and going out looking for people, but it is time, in 1964, if you are a man, to let that man know.
If he’s not going to do his job in running the government and providing you and me with the protection that our taxes are supposed to be for, since he spends all those billions for his defense budget, he certainly can’t begrudge you and me spending $12 or $15 for a single-shot, or double-action. I hope you understand. Don’t go out shooting people, but any time-brothers and sisters, and especially the men in this audience; some of you wearing Congressional Medals of Honor, with shoulders this wide, chests this big, muscles that big-any time you and I sit around and read where they bomb a church and murder in cold blood, not some grownups, but four little girls while they were praying to the same God the white man taught them to pray to, and you and I see the government go down and can’t find who did it.
Why, this man-he can find Eichmann hiding down in Argentina somewhere. Let two or three American soldiers, who are minding somebody else’s business way over in South Vietnam, get killed, and he’ll send battleships, sticking his nose in their business. He wanted to send troops down to Cuba and make them have what he calls free elections-this old cracker who doesn’t have free elections in his own country.
No, if you never see me another time in your life, if I die in the morning, I’ll die saying one thing: the ballot or the bullet, the ballot or the bullet.
If a Negro in 1964 has to sit around and wait for some cracker senator to filibuster when it comes to the rights of black people, why, you and I should hang our heads in shame. You talk about a march on Washington in 1963, you haven’t seen anything. There’s some more going down in ’64.
And this time they’re not going like they went last year. They’re not going singing We Shall Overcome. They’re not going with white friends. They’re not going with placards already painted for them. They’re not going with round-trip tickets. They’re going with one way tickets. And if they don’t want that non-nonviolent army going down there, tell them to bring the filibuster to a halt.
The black nationalists aren’t going to wait. Lyndon B. Johnson is the head of the Democratic Party. If he’s for civil rights, let him go into the Senate next week and declare himself. Let him go in there right now and declare himself. Let him go in there and denounce the Southern branch of his party. Let him go in there right now and take a moral stand-right now, not later. Tell him, don’t wait until election time. If he waits too long, brothers and sisters, he will be responsible for letting a condition develop in this country which will create a climate that will bring seeds up out of the ground with vegetation on the end of them looking like something these people never dreamed of. In 1964, it’s the ballot or the bullet.
Research Note: This version taken from Malcolm X Speaks (pp. 23-44), George Breitman (Ed).
Published in 1965 by Grove Weidenfeld: New York, NY
Is Hillary Gonna Go Independent and Launch a New Party?
It Sure Looks Like It
by Davey D
So for a while I been saying Hillary was gonna pull a gangsta move at the convention in Denver and declare that she is going to run for President as an independent. Its not as far fetched as you might think.
Hillary has been over the top divisive to the point that she is damn near saying; ‘If I can’t be the nominee nobody can. I’m gonna fuck up this Democratic Party so much nobody can use it…That’s how she has been acting with all the racial disharmony bit.
There was a lot of early chatter before the first primaries that went along these lines-The game plan was for Hillary to be the nominee and Barack Obama to be back up. His role was to be a second rockstar/superstar type figure in the newly energized Democratic Party that was set to take back the White House in 2008.
He was to bide his time and get groomed and be a spark plug for young voters, moderates and maybe African Americans. Keep in mind, the Clintons pretty much had all of us Black folks sewn up.
They had locked down most of the Congressional Black Caucus who were publicly pledging their support and acting as surrogates. They had gathered up damn near every key Black elected official from here in Cali to New York.
We’re talking from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel-all were riding hard for Hillary. Adding to that, was the Clintons had sewn up most of the non-conservative Latino vote. The only thing Hillary Clinton had to work on was swooping up women voters who interestingly enough were divided about her candidacy weeks and months before the first primaries.
Now somewhere along the way something changed. Call it a miscalculation. Call it a double-cross. Call it a change of heart but the bottomline is Obama who was behind by double digits defied the pundits and started winning. Initially his success came with the help of enthusiastic young voters and college educated white voters. His momentum caused the Clintons to panic at which point they tried to ‘control all their Negroes’ and keep everyone in check, it backfired. The Clintons showed their true colors which manifested in their overt disrespect for Black folks.
Can anyone say South Carolina?
It was like almost overnight, Black folks who were still questioning Obama’s intentions and even his Blackness, started rolling with him when Bill Clinton, the supposed first Black President got real nasty and dissed Martin Luther King just days before his birthday.
Hillary Clinton, during that South Carolina stint added to the disrespect when brought out billionaire and former BET CEO Bob Johnson who she proudly claimed as a long time friend and advisor. That was a bad move considering the anger Johnson has sparked in Black folks nationwide because of his staunch refusal to stop showing degrading images of Black folks on his old network (BET is now owned by Viacom.
) Bringing Johnson out to rep Hillary and endear her to Black people would be like me bringing OJ Simpson to a NOW convention in hopes that he would endear me to women. It wasn’t happening.
Johnson showed his lack of worth by playing the role of Hillary’s subserviant lap dog as he promptly went on the attack and tried to clown Senator Obama by eluding to his past drug use which Obama had already admitted to in his memoirs. His action drew swift rebuke and was perhaps the final straw in a week full of racial swipes and insults by the Clintons.
Since South Carolina, the race between Obama and Clinton has been more than spirited but on many levels personal with the Clinton’s finally realizing that the guy who was supposed to be backup quarterback was actually gonna take this thing.
So now we fast forward with two or three weeks left in the primary and we see Hillary running harder than ever even tho there’s no way she possibly win in terms of pledge delegates. Thus far her strategy has been to keep bringing up ‘fuzzy logic’ and even fuzzier math which includes her continuously saying that she won the popular vote by counting the votes from Florida and Michigan in spite of the fact that both states were in violation of Democratic Party rules and thus did not and should not count. In the case of Michigan, Obama name wasn’t even on the ballot but that has not made no difference to the Clintons who seem to hope that by repeating a lie often enough people will start to hear it as truth.
By now we are all aware of the divisive race card the Clintons have been playing. They have been anything but subtle. Hillary has all but said she is in the race to rep for white people which is in sharp contrast to Obama who routinely gets criticized for not pushing a ‘Black agenda’ while seemingly always bending over to appease whites. Obama has made the cornerstone of his campaign to be a transcender of race and bring all people together. Such has not been the case with Hillary. One would think that Obama who has been winning impressively by bringing together folks of all ethnicities only attracts one type of person, where in fact its Hillary who increasingly appears to be a one horse show. She appeals to working class whites.
So what’s really going on? Why is Hillary still running everyone is wondering?. First, we know Hillary is not just running for herself. She has an entire team which includes her husband that she got to be accountable to and they’re not about to give up on their plans to be living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave come January 2009. Hence Hillary who is the face of that team is out there running like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s been all sorts of speculation. Some are saying Hillary is vigorously running in all 50 states for the sake of history. It would be akin to running out a ground ball or remain standing after a heavyweight prize fight.
others are saying that she’s running to increase her influence and have much more say so as to what direction the Democratic Party takes and the strategy it employs come the fall contest.
Others say she’s doing it to assure being included on the ticket as vice president or to ideally position herself for another run in 2012.
My prediction as I mentioned earlier was Hillary Clinton was gearing up to try and run as an independent but I couldn’t fill in all the gaps to complete the entire scenario.
This afternoon (Tuesday May 20)on former Air America talk show host Randi Rhodes did on her new show.
She talked about Clinton’s close ties to Senator Joe Liberman who was basically run out of the Democratic Party during the 2006 election because he was always riding hard for the Republicans and a stauch supporter of the Iraq War.
The Dems thought they could bounce him out and replace him with someone more liberal-Ned Lamont who was against the war.
Unfortunately the plan backfired. Liberman lost the Democratic primary but came around to kick everyone in the butt by winning the general election when he ran as an independent. So you know dude is salty. Rhodes surmised that Hillary and Liberman who was the 2004 democratic Vice President nominee, had to have discussed the possibility of her making an independent run.
Rhodes went on to give some insight as to what the Clintons may likely be feeling after having super delegates and party leaders who owe a lot of their success and positions to the them, turn their backs and break ranks to support Obama. She said in short, they may be more than miffed.
With Rhodes assessment in mind, you can now understand how a possible indy run would make sense.
People forget that Bill Clinton was one of the chief architects of the winning strategy of running to the political middle and taking a more conservative stance on social issues which was employed by the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) which he chaired in the early 90s. The DLC strategy is what led to the re-hauling of welfare, media consolidation which led to the Clear Channeling of commercial radio and the infamous crime bill which resulted in our prison population exploding to over 2 million.
The DLC’s willingness to forsake the progressive wing of the party and placate so called Reagan Democrats has been touted as the best political strategy to come along in decades. Its angered a lot of folks on the left who have found themselves either taken for granted or key issues along the lines of race and class, marginalized.
For a long time media outlets like Black Agenda Report with writers Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon have been putting Obama’s feet to the fire. Initially it was because of his ties to the DLC and later because of him following their strategy which means in the end Black folks will see their many of their key issues put to the back burner while white working class Reagan Democrats are appeased.
The way its shaping up is that there appears to be resentment that Obama might possibly be successful at that game and hence we are seeing the Clintons guard the white working class vote with the viciousness of a pitbull.
Any talk of racial reconciliation has all but been spat upon not so much by the Republicans but by the Clintons themselves along with key surrogates like Geraldine Ferraro who has already made disparaging racial comments about Obama has recently suggested that if he gets the nomination she will not support him.
The tactics used to lure the Reagan Democratics are the same racial fear based tactics used during the Clinton hey day.
It’s interesting to note that the Clintons now refer to this demographic as ‘hard working Americans’ as if no one else in this country works hard. It’s as if single Black & Brown mothers aren’t putting in work or Black and Brown fathers aren’t going through economic challenges after seeing their factory jobs disappear overseas?.
During the Clinton hey day those hard working Americans were depicted as ‘angry white males‘ who were supposedly royally getting screwed by the system.
Am I the only one who recalls the day when Reagan Democrats were crying that they were victimized by social programs like affirmative action, system abusing Black welfare queens and inner city crimes from the likes of Willie Horton?
Today we have one too many talk show pundits who are now floating out the idea that Hillary Clinton’s alignment and unwavering support of white working class voters is the start of a new movement and needs to be celebrated.
In recent weeks Hillary Clinton has been praised for reaching out and uplifting white working class voters with words like ‘forgotten people‘ and ‘marginalized communities‘ to describe them.
This time around their biggest fear is the afrocentric teachings of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and comments about them being ‘bitter’ from out of touch college educated types. Hillary is being depicted as their champ. The praise of her starting a movement is eerily similar to what was being touted about Obama early on when he was winning white audiences. But unlike Clinton the white people Obama has been attracting have been described as more educated (meaning they went to college) and therefore they are part of the elite.
Are the Clintons creating a scenario where they can they can take this new movement and start their own thing? It may not work be fully successful in 2008, but an independent Clinton run in 2008 sets the stage for 2012. I’m imagining a scenario where a somber Hillary Clinton from the floor of the Democratic convention announces that she is duty bound to ‘working class voters who are getting screwed and that she wants to be their champ and ensure that that they are truly represented. Hence she is gonna run as an independent.
Heck she and her crew may even spark off what they think will be a viable 3rd party that adheres to the values and platforms of the DLC. This new party will leave behind progressives, Black folks and young voters while offsetting that with moderate Dems, and Republicans and their new voting population that they will eventually take for granted-Latinos..(Peep the interview I did with Immortal technique and listen to how he laid the role Latinos voters will come to play in future elections)..
This is how things seem to be shaping up.
What do you think?
Keeping Up With the Joneses: BET and the Subliminal Culture of White Supremacy
Since Viacom bought out Black Entertainment Television (BET) my attention towards the cable channel’s programming has diminished to a crawl. I noticed several years ago how as soon as the take over was complete the changes became obvious.
Conscientious talk show host Tavis Smiley was immediately fired from BET Tonight and replaced by the non-threatening Ed Gordon, ultimately doing away with the late night news segment altogether.
At the same time, Rap City seemed to have all of a sudden lost its edge on bridging the gaps between the old, new and true schools in Hip Hop.
The predominant images in Hip Hop, especially on the famed 106 and Park became increasingly trendy; which actually meant more sexist, savagely stereotypical and violently vulgar. Alienated, I like many other conscientious loyal viewers made the decision to tune out. With the exception of special eye catching programs such as the Hip Hop Verses America panel series that aired last year, the only updates I would receive about what was shown on BET came through my students.
Flash forward to May 20th, 2008. It was late afternoon. A very close friend of mine who happens to be a pioneer in the music industry was visiting from out of town. He was flipping through channels on my living room television set and just so happened to land on BET. He quickly called me over to pay special attention to what was taking place on the screen.
The first obvious thing I noticed was that this was a special 106 and Park show, promoting the release of the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The first thought that came to my mind was that this was rather unusual, considering that all of the main characters in the film are white.
This is Black Entertainment Television after all right??? Not only this but the main character himself, Indiana Jones played by Harrison Ford, is supposed to be a famous anthropologist who is on a life-long journey to explore non-Western lands for precious treasures, which in his mind should be placed on display in Western (European) museums.
Co-host Terrence J was wearing an Indiana Jones get up on the show; brown leather jacket, brimmed hat and all.
The show was airing live from the Magic Johnson movie theatre in what was once known as the Mecca of Black intellectualism and culture; Harlem, New York. Today, Harlem’s population has been “whitewashed” as a result of rabid gentrification efforts. I automatically started making these connections in my mind and became concerned yet interested to see more.
I then noticed two pillars, one on either side of the set, reminiscent of ancient Egypt (Kemit), which according to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was one of the last greatest Black civilizations on Earth.
It quickly dawned on me that the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, took place in Egypt (Kemit) and how many of its glorious ancient artifacts are today found in many Western museums and how European (white) scholars have historically discredited Black people from developing such a civilization; giving more credit to what has been termed as “North African Caucasoids” (if there ever was such a thing) or simply put, “tanned” white people. Knowing all of this is important in order to understand what was to come.
Ashanti was the first artist to perform between the two pillars. On one level she appeared culturally enriched, with makeup around her eyes symbolic of the great pharaohs of ancient Egypt (Kemit).
Artistically however, it was obvious that she is being molded according to corporate-music industry research standards – trying to mold her to sound more like what’s presently “hot” (Keyshia Cole) rather than her own natural soft sensual musical self.
After Ashanti’s performance Shia LaBeouf, who plays Indiana Jones’ sidekick Mutt Williams, was brought up on stage. He was asked to kick a freestyle, but refused.
Instead, he did the “Crip Walk.
” The audience cheered.
Soon after, Karen Allen (who plays Indiana Jones’ ex-lover) was interviewed.
Jim Jones followed with a performance of his hit song Ballin’ to authenticate the movie premier taking place in Harlem.
Later on during a trivia segment called “Keeping Up With the Jonses,” Jim Jones taught all of the actors present, including Harrison Ford, how to do the “Ballin’ Dance.” Harrison Ford exaggerated the moves in a mocking way. All of the actors seemed stage fight and distant in front of a predominantly Black audience.
However, the most overt gesture of white supremacy was to follow.
“Whip trainer” Anthony De Longis (who trains actors such as Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and Halle Barry in the movie Cat Woman) was brought up on stage to demonstrate how to use a whip. After literally cracking a whip, he asked the trivial question “Why does the whip make a cracking sound?” He answered his own question by saying “Because it breaks the sound barrier.” He also mentioned how the tip of the whip moves at 700 miles an hour. (Imagine the impact on human flesh!) He then proceeded to perform tricks with the whip on a volunteer.
Terrence J backed out very quickly as if experiencing a “flash back” from slavery and instead offered his co-host Rocsi.
De Longis then proceeded to repeatedly crack the whip in front of her while she stood facing the audience in fright. He then lassoed her twice around her legs and pulled her into his arms and dipped her as if they were ballroom dancing. I know that this was the premier of the movie, but I constantly asked myself in disbelief “What is the meaning of all of this insanity?” On one end, your average person may think nothing is wrong with any of these images; after all, it’s celebrating the premier of a greatly anticipated movie right? On another end, I could easily envision white middle-aged Viacom executives laughing hysterically after placing the image of an overseer (or slave master) cracking a whip on a once Black-owned (now white-owned) cable network, subliminally rousing up the post-traumatic psycho-social stress of slavery. Not only this, this ridiculous display also denotes how the white man is still in control and continues to desire the Black woman sexually, while the Black man rendered powerless, sits back and watches. I thought it was clever how they slipped white supremacy in under the guise of it all just being “adventurous” entertainment.
The solution to this all? In the immediate, we must pay closer attention to what our children are watching and listening to. We must teach our children to question what they are watching on television and in movies, as well as the music they are listening to. How beneficial are these images (or sounds) to their own self-development, both individually and community-wise? How does it affect their self-worth? If they are taught to question, they will ultimately steer themselves on a path towards thinking for themselves. However, if history is not taken into account then we will continue to make the same mistakes as generations past. Our children will grow up ignoring the obvious and will continue to fall victim to stereotypical roles unchecked in all facets of society. It is up to us, who know better, to make time to make the difference.
More to come next month.
Written by Davey D
So this year Isreal celebrated its 60th anniversary and many western world leaders including our tyrannical president George Bush went over to the middle east to celebrate. While all the hoopla and bells and whistles are going off, there’s another side to the story.
This past weekend Palestinians from all over the world look at this time not as a celebration, but as a time to acknowledge when their land was taken away and destroyed-The Nakba
In San Francisco Arab Hip Hop artists from all over the country gathered at Civic Center plaza to let their voices be heard. They used music as way to bring people together communicate their anger and frustrations. The day long festival was a one of a kind event and we captured many of the moments.
In the first of this multipart interview you will hear from well known producer Fredwreck who in addition to producing tracks for Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and many others, now hosts a Arab Hip Hop Show for MTV out in Dubai.
We also hear from Bay Area artists Patriarch and the P-Stine Ryders.
There performance was on point and their album ‘Son of a Refugee is exceptionally dope.
In part 2 we continue our coverage with the historic Nakba Festival
Here we hear from the group Arab Summit who do an incredible performance.
We also hear from Ras Ceylon and Tunisian rapper Tricky.
We conclude by hearing from San Francisco’s Scribe Project.
In episode 3 we will hear from Boots Riley of the Coup, Rebel Diaz and the headlining act Daam who made the trip from Palestine and blessed us..
We also share with you some of the performances and sounds from the stage.. So kick back and enjoy.
To understand better about the Nakba we have included this article. There are two sides to every story-This is the other side.
Forget the two-state solution
by Saree Makdisi, The Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2008
Two peoples, one ruler: a Palestinian woman walks past an Israeli tank, Gaza Strip, July 2007.
There is no longer a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Forget the endless arguments about who offered what and who spurned whom and whether the Oslo peace process died when Yasser Arafat walked away from the bargaining table or whether it was Ariel Sharon’s stroll through the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that did it in.
All that matters are the facts on the ground, of which the most important is that – after four decades of intensive Jewish settlement in the Palestinian territories it occupied during the 1967 war – Israel has irreversibly cemented its grip on the land on which a Palestinian state might have been created.
Sixty years after Israel was created and Palestine was destroyed, then, we are back to where we started: two populations inhabiting one piece of land. And if the land cannot be divided, it must be shared. Equally.
This is a position, I realize, which may take many Americans by surprise. After years of pursuing a two-state solution, and feeling perhaps that the conflict had nearly been solved, it’s hard to give up the idea as unworkable.
But unworkable it is. A report published last summer by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found that almost 40 percent of the West Bank is now taken up by Israeli infrastructure – roads, settlements, military bases and so on – largely off-limits to Palestinians. Israel has methodically broken the remainder of the territory into dozens of enclaves separated from each other and the outside world by zones that it alone controls (including, at last count, 612 checkpoints and roadblocks).
Moreover, according to the report, the Jewish settler population in the occupied territories, already approaching half a million, not only continues to grow but is growing at a rate three times greater than the rate of Israel’s population increase. If the current rate continues, the settler population will double to almost one million people in just 12 years. Many are heavily armed and ideologically driven, unlikely to walk away voluntarily from the land they have declared to be their God-given home.
These facts alone render the status of the peace process academic.
At no time since the negotiations began in the early 1990s has Israel significantly suspended the settlement process in the occupied Palestinian territories, in stark violation of international law. It preceded last November’s Annapolis summit by announcing the fresh expropriation of Palestinian property in the West Bank; it followed the summit by announcing the expansion of its Har Homa settlement by an additional 307 housing units; and it has announced plans for hundreds more in other settlements since then.
The Israelis are not settling the occupied territories because they lack space in Israel itself. They are settling the land because of a long-standing belief that Jews are entitled to it simply by virtue of being Jewish. “The land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel and only to the nation of Israel,” declares Moledet, one of the parties in the National Union bloc, which has a significant presence in the Israeli parliament.
Moledet’s position is not as far removed from that of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as some Israelis claim. Although Olmert says he believes in theory that Israel should give up those parts of the West Bank and Gaza densely inhabited by Palestinians, he also said in 2006 that “every hill in Samaria and every valley in Judea is part of our historic homeland” and that “we firmly stand by the historic right of the people of Israel to the entire land of Israel.”
What room is there for the Palestinians in this vision of Jewish entitlement to the land? None. They are regarded, at best, as a demographic “problem.”
The idea of Palestinians as a “problem” is hardly new. Israel was created as a Jewish state in 1948 only by the premeditated and forcible removal of as much of the indigenous Palestinian population as possible, in what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, which they commemorate this week.
A Jewish state, says Israeli historian Benny Morris, “would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. … There was no choice but to expel that population.” For Morris, this was one of those “circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.”
Thinking of Palestinians as a “problem” to be removed predates 1948. It was there from the moment the Zionist movement set into motion the project to make a Jewish state in a land that, in 1917 – when the British empire officially endorsed Zionism – had an overwhelmingly non-Jewish population. The only Jewish member of the British government at the time, Edwin Montagu, vehemently opposed the Zionist project as unjust. Henry King and Charles Crane, dispatched on a fact-finding mission to Palestine by President Wilson, concurred: Such a project would require enormous violence, they warned: “Decisions, requiring armies to carry out, are sometimes necessary, but they are surely not gratuitously to be taken in the interests of a serious injustice.”
But they were. This is a conflict driven from its origins by Zionism’s exclusive sense of entitlement to the land. Has there been Palestinian violence as well? Yes. Is it always justified? No. But what would you do if someone told you that there was no room for you on your own land, that your very existence is a “problem”? No people in history has ever gone away just because another people wanted them to, and the sentiments of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull live on among Palestinians to this day.
The violence will end, and a just peace will come, only when each side realizes that the other is there to stay. Many Palestinians have accepted this premise, and an increasing number are willing to give up on the idea of an independent Palestinian state and embrace instead the concept of a single democratic, secular and multicultural state, which they would share equally with Israeli Jews.
Most Israelis are not yet reconciled this position. Some, no doubt, are reluctant to give up on the idea of a “Jewish state,” to acknowledge the reality that Israel has never been exclusively Jewish, and that, from the start, the idea of privileging members of one group over all other citizens has been fundamentally undemocratic and unfair.
Yet that is exactly what Israel does. Even among its citizens, Israeli law grants rights to Jews that it denies to non-Jews. By no stretch of the imagination is Israel a genuine democracy: It is an ethno-religiously exclusive state that has tried to defy the multicultural history of the land on which it was founded.
To resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, Israeli Jews will have to relinquish their exclusive privileges and acknowledge the right of return of Palestinians expelled from their homes. What they would get in return is the ability to live securely and to prosper with – rather than continuing to battle against – the Palestinians.
They may not have a choice. As Olmert himself warned recently, more Palestinians are shifting their struggle from one for an independent state to a South African-style struggle that demands equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of religion, in a single state. “That is, of course,” he noted, “a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle—and ultimately a much more powerful one.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA and the author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, out this month from W.W. Norton. This essay was originally published by The Los Angeles Times and is republished with the author’s permission
Written by Tiffany Gordon
Dr. Benjamin Chavis sits down with HHNLive.com writer Tiffany Gordon to discuss Hip-Hop and how it’s portrayed in the media, HIV/AIDS, the Hip-Hop Summit movement and much more.
Dr. Chavis on Snoop’s Larry King appearance: “He was very articulate, very cognitive with all of the issues of what the world is faced with. This is Snoop Dogg an Icon of Hip Hop, conversing with Larry King. Those things are very important.”
Tiffany Gordon: How do you feel Hip Hop is portrayed in the media?
Dr. Benjamin Chavis: Well I think that the established Media in the United States and to some extent around the world has a misunderstanding of Hip Hop. Hip Hop has many positive attributes. It’s a worldwide global culture phenomenon. Hip Hop is the cognitive expression of young people. It’s their lifestyle, it’s their consciousness it’s their mindset. Of course it’s manifested in music, but it’s manifested in fashion and it’s manifested in dance. And one of the reasons why Russell Simmons and I co-founded the Hip Hop Summit Action Network 8 years ago is because we wanted to make sure that how Hip Hop is portrayed in the media is more balanced…. more accurate. And typically focus on the most positive things that Hip Hop artists do to improve the quality of life for people, not only in the United States, but around the world.
TG: Why do you think the HIV/AIDS rate is so high in the African-American community?
BC: Well I think that there are several contributing factors to the high incident of HIV/AIDS in the African American community.
1. Poverty. When people live in poverty, they do not get the information; they do not have access to the information that they need to improve their quality of life. To decrease the number of HIV/AIDS incidents in the African American community, you have to do something about ending poverty.
2. How information about HIV/AIDS is disseminated. In fact the modality of the transmission of the information. A lot of times the information sort of flies over their heads. That’s why when the epidemic first started, a lot of African Americans did not take it seriously because they didn’t get the information in a serious way. People thought it was somebody else’s disease or some other group and there were a lot of myths and stereotypes about HIV and AIDS and so that made it harder for this to be taken seriously in terms of the pandemic and epidemic proportions that are now happening.
3. Young people, here in the African American community, are the most talented, the most gifted, but they also are the highest risk takers. And I think that if we get more information; utilizing a format, utilizing the language of the youth then we can be much more effective in getting the young people to understand the dangers of unsafe sex, the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
So I think the whole thing can be turned around through eliminating poverty, getting the information out in a better and more effective way and also focus particularly on youth, to get young people to participate in the reduction of HIV and AIDS and not just making young people the object to throw information at.
TG: So what is the main reason that you decided to start the Hip Hop Summit: you and Russell Simmons?
BC: I’ve been involved in a lot of movements. I worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the Civil Rights movement and in those early days, back in the 1950’s, 1960’s; we had to take a point position, similar to today. Hip Hop is the culture phenomenon among young people all over the world and if we can utilize hip hop culture as a means by which we address issues like HIV & Aids we could be much more effective. So Russell Simmons and I co-founded the Hip Hop Summit Action Network to deal with the wide range of this. We are also getting young people to go out and vote in record numbers. Hip Hop transcends race, Hip Hop transcends the social economic status of those who are rich and those that are poor. So I think Hip Hop has been one of the most effective ways and means by which we can challenge and rise to the occasion to stem the tide of the HIV and Aids epidemic.
TG: As far as the stereotypes that Hip Hop does have, the media only let’s us see the negative side…what can we do or other artists do to make sure that the positive images that we see overpower the negative?
BC: This is one of the things that we do in the Hip Hop Action Network. What distinguishes our organization from other organizations is the presence of the artist. We are artist-centric. And we are always relating to the artist that in their videos, in their lyrics, in their public statement, we have to make this issue a serious concern in the art form itself. And I think that we get a tremendous response. I think that every artist that we talk to, are very responsible, we don’t have to twist arms, artists volunteer their time, they give back to the community, particularly in this issue and I am very pleased on how hip hop artists are rising. One being the “Wrap it Up” campaign. Each artist has their own individual philanthropist and “give back” campaign surrounding issues of raising public awareness. So I think that part of what we talk about among the artists is how to deal with overcoming the negative stereotypes. Snoop Dogg was on the Larry King show and he wore a suit, he broke that stereotype. He was very articulate, very cognitive with all of the issues of what the world is faced with. This is Snoop Dogg an Icon of Hip Hop, conversing with Larry King. Those things are very important. Russell Simmons and I went on the Oprah Winfrey Show after the Don Imus thing, and there was some attempt to use Hip Hop as a scape goat for the negative things that Don Imus said which had nothing to do with hip hop. A lot of times Hip Hop gets blamed unjustifiably for some of the contradictions in the community. If you want to improve the quality of life of our people, we should not try to suppress Hip Hop. What we should do is try to inform Hip Hop and improve the social conditions that a lot of artists in their lyrics and in their videos display. It’s about the social conditions of the community, that’s what needs to be changed. There is no need to change the artist; you need to change the social conditions of the community.
TG: I saw David Banner & Master P on CSPAN at the congressional hearing. And I heard David Banner say that he changed his style and tried something different, but then when he saw that his record sells dropped he reverted back. Do you feel that a lot of artists are afraid to make the change because of that reason?
BC: First of all an artist has to be true to himself in order to be successful. Record sales come when the fans feel they can really understand and appreciate what the artist is saying and how that artist is saying it. It’s not so much the label tells the artists “well you have to do this to be successful”… it’s the artist, it starts with the artist. The artist has to say I’m going to represent my people, I’m going to represent my community and I’m also going to represent the contradictions among my people and my community. And if they do that, that artist will be successful, male or female. A lot of times artists do feel like they have to make some kinds of decisions to be more successful, but what our counsel is always telling them is to be true to themselves. Be true to the conditions, be true to the realities. If you put the reality out there in an art form, you’ll be a successful artist.
TG: So what’s next, what is the impact that the hip hop summit will have in the future?
BC: Well we are going to continue to raise this issue of HIV & AIDS and we are going to work very hard. We’re announcing a new “Turn Up the Vote” Campaign. We want the largest youth vote turnout in American history in November 2008. We are working in all of the various states. We have shocked America so far and we will continue to shock the world with young people coming out to vote in record numbers.
Written by Leon Bailey
Smitty, whom to most is known as the artist from Lil’ Haiti, Miami, FL who has ghostwritten for Dr. Dre and P.Diddy and also having a buzzing big single “Diamonds on My Neck.” He appeared to be on the way to becoming one of the South’s brightest new stars. Almost Three years later he has yet to release his debut album “Life of a Troubled Child.” Smitty has a lot to say on why his album was never released.
Smitty: Getting’ it in man. I’m in Houston right muthafuckin now. I been out here working with a lot of artists and finishing my deal with Chameleon/Blackground/Universal. I’m just happy to be a free man from J Records and appreciative. It feels good to still be out here making this music.
WordofSouth.com: So what went wrong with J Records?
Smitty: I don’t know if everyone knows the situation that’s going on over there right now from a label perspective, but Clive Davis just got bought out of being CEO over there. One of the heads of the division got fired and Barry Weiss from Jive is actually taking over right now. I’m not saying that J Records necessarily didn’t know what they was doing because they are a label, but they just didn’t spend money the way that I would have liked for it to be spent. My budget got to almost 2.5 million over the last five years. A lot of money was spent, but it just wasn’t spent the right way. When it was time to believe in the artist and believe in the record I think that people just stepped back and really didn’t believe like I needed them to. It’s all good though, no hard feelings and I thank them for giving me the opportunity, but at the end of the day its time to move onto bigger and better things. I wish them the best and I’m pretty sure they wish me the best and that’s all that matters.
WordofSouth.com: You were supposed to drop a little over a year ago. “Diamonds on My Neck” was getting major play. Whatever happened?
Smitty: At that particular time, I had the record “Ghetto” with Kanye West, Scarface, and John Legend ready to go. I don’t know, I think it was a new VP, Jeff Burroughs at the time and he just didn’t feel like it was the appropriate single to come with. At that time, everybody did feel like the record was hot and could be a successful smash. People hear the record today and think it’s crazy. Kanye produced it. He (Jeff Burroughs) didn’t feel like we had a second single to go with. So me being a young artist I looked at the situation like I got these people spending millions of dollars on me you would expect that they would know best. My team is saying it’s the second single and roll with it and drop the album, if I do numbers I do numbers, if I don’t I don’t, but at least id have the opportunity to show people what we’re bringing to the table. I would have had the opportunity to drop the album and present Smitty. They took so long and ended up doing a remix of “Diamonds on My Neck” with Lil Wayne and Twista and spending $60,000 on that when we could have shot a video for “Ghetto” or done something more productive. The remix never did get as much pub as the original record; it was just a waste of money. Once they had wasted that money, they didn’t wanna spend any money until they saw some results from the moves that they did. Before you know it, six months went by, a year went by, and I needed another record at that point. After that is when I came with the record “Lil Haiti” which is produced by The Runners and was one of The Runners first records and they felt like they could get that record and they didn’t get that record. That was almost a 1 ½-2 year span in which an artist that’s caught up in political bullshit because people don’t believe in the record. Now four years later you got people saying “damn, why y’all ain’t go with that record?” or “damn, why y’all ain’t put that out?” I’m out here in these streets having to answer these questions, but these people asking these questions ain’t gotta deal with what I gotta deal with.
WordofSouth.com: Did the same thing happen with “Died In Your Arms”?Smitty: Same shit over and over again. The Core DJ’s jumped behind the record, shout out to my man DJ Quest and Tony Neal and all of them. They done blasted the record heavy and at the time Brian Leech had came over and he had taken over the Urban department and he loved the record and was behind the record, but again it was almost a political battle going on because the urban side wanted to see what they could do with the record. Then you had the crossover side at J Records which is two different departments, they felt like they could do what they wanted to do with the record. Once nobody proved what they wanted to do with the record they let the record go to waste. When the record was up to 4-500 spins, getting millions of hits on MySpace about the record. They scared to spend the money to shoot the video saying that all the DJ’s aren’t fuckin’ with the record, urban ain’t fuckin with the record, and nobody is fuckin’ with the record. Urban ain’t fuckin’ with the record? The Core DJ’s are the ones who broke the record, how urban ain’t fuckin’ with the record? Every time I do a conference call with the Superstar DJ’s, the Heavy Hittaz, everybody telling me it’s a muthafuckin’ smash, but when you walk in the office they tell me urban ain’t fuckin’ with the record. That don’t make sense to me. Then also the crossover side telling me nah. I did the remix with T-Pain and Rick Ross and Junior Reid for urban and crossover and they tell me crossover ain’t fuckin’ with it because T-Pain and Rick Ross is on it. You know it’s a label, but it’s like everybody trying to protect they jobs. Nobody wanna go on the line and say the record hot and they ain’t doing what they supposed to do. That’s what happens at the end. The record gets thrown to waste and before you know it 4-5 months later spins start to go down because the program directors are gonna wonder why nobody else is adding it, so should they add it? It’s crazy right now. I got caught up in political bullshit and I ain’t trying to expose J Records, but the world needs to know what’s going on. People are getting fired and they trying to correct their system over there, so I feel like I have the right to speak out on how the system did me. A lot of artists been caught up in that same bullshit. The same way Clipse were did over at Jive. A lot of niggas get caught up. That’s what happened with that particular record. I appreciate the record and everybody who was a part of it. I just want to let people know that Smitty stays making records and keeps making hits and just want the opportunity to present these hits to the world and not let the politics and bullshit of a major label hold me back.
WordofSouth.com: It’s funny to me because these days labels aren’t signing no one or releasing anything unless it has a certain amount of spins.Smitty: And it’s really sad because a lot of these artists are not producing. A lot of these ringtone artists if you just do your homework, the last 4-5 hits, and most niggas did 30,000 and one artist did like 10,000. If you have individuals like Rick Ross who maybe didn’t have a #1 single, but had the #1 album and that’s what I respect. That’s what Hip-Hop needs, the type of artist and type of music that we need. No disrespect to the artists getting their ringtone game on, but this what happens, you sign ringtone rappers, you do no records. that’s why labels are fuckin’ the real artists out there because they too busy looking for ringtone artists. Then they get mad when they don’t sell any records. it’s all fucked up right now and the game is all fucked up right now and watered down. For me to be lucky enough to be in this game where I can still drop records and people still respond to ‘em is a blessing and I’m just thankful.
WordofSouth.com: When did you reach the breaking point with J Records?
Smitty: It’s been a long time and I don’t know if people have been listening to my freestyles, but after “Died In Your Arms” it’s been pretty much a wrap for me. I’ve seen so many individuals that smiled and looked at me in the face and told me this was gonna be a hit and they were gonna make things right this time. Based on the fact that my records were done badly I just felt that this was the last time that I was gonna be lied to and promised this and couldn’t be delivered. After “Died In Your Arms” failed it was too much of a slap in the face and it was a slap in the face to the whole label because when you step on the streets from Houston to Baltimore everybody says the same thing, “What happened to “Died In Your Arms,” that record was out of there.” When you have the whole world saying that, it just doesn’t make sense to me. That let me know that these people didn’t have my best interest anymore. It be different if it was a hood record and the hood like it and white people in Colorado that ain’t never heard the record or if you got a crossover record and the hood ain’t fuckin with it. But when you got the hood and all these white people going crazy for the record and saying what the fuck happened to this record and they look at you because you delivered the record. Who else could it be If I’m on the road doing everything I gotta do. That was the last straw and what’s when I said it was really no sense to hold back my feelings and that’s when I came out with a lot of underground records to let my underground fans know. A lot of freestyles telling niggas how I feel and what’s really happening about how niggas don’t fuck with me, but act like they do. Like I said, I ain’t the only artist to go through this, but it would be dumb of me and I would be holding myself back if I didn’t tell the world what’s going on with Smitty. Ain’t no sense of me sitting in the studio and saying, “oh they fuckin’ me up and I ain’t saying nothing” fuck it! I might as well say something and let the world know this what going on, so when you see me in the street you gotta respect me. Don’t just say that “oh he a one hit wonder nigga” don’t come at me like that. I went through a period as an artist where I had to explain to people that it ain’t me and don’t come at me sideways. After I put those freestyles out things started happening.
WordofSouth.com: How did you approach them about getting your release?
Smitty: It wasn’t even me; I ain’t have to go to the label. My production company already had a stipulation where he had an out in the contract anyway. The reason that people don’t understand why J Records didn’t wanna drop me is because I had a two album front deal and I hate to get political with the people, but what that means is once I drop my first album, no matter what’s spent on the album and what kind of numbers I do with the album, they were obligated to open up another budget. If anybody whose looking at it from a business perspective if they dropped a Smitty album without a strong single and I ain’t do no numbers they would have to do a whole another budget on hope and that’s just spending more money and not getting what they paid for. That’s why they kept holding back and saying I needed another single and another single trying to get their money back. All that did was hold me back. So, that was my production company who was smart enough to put that into the contract and they the ones that negotiated me out. He still has a label deal over there with Jamie Foxx called Foxxhole Records. I got lucky because I was over there for a while. It happens to a lot of people. Look at Rick Ross and Slip-N-Slide, he sat for like 6-7 years before he got the situation through Def Jam. Everybody goes through it, so I don’t want it to seem like its only Smitty, but I did persevere and I keep making records and keep going. he’s the one that worked it out to allow me to do what I wanna do. Shout outs to Chameleon Entertainment for putting that in the contract.
WordofSouth.com: How did the Universal deal come about?Smitty: Again my production company put that together again. They already knew we against all odds going against Clive and J Records and trying to get some of these records back. They felt the situation and at the time my man from Digiwaxx had re-blasted the “Died In Your Arms Remix” and a lot of people hadn’t heard the remix. It got a lot of people excited again. They believe in starting a movement with Smitty because It’s not even a tainted movement because I never got a chance and that’s the beauty of me never dropping an album. You can never say he ain’t gonna do numbers when he drop or talk about the numbers I’ve did in the past because I never had the opportunity to do it yet. I’m an artist whose always been on the verge. It was pretty easy for them to take on the situation. Atlantic had came to the table as well, but they was trying to set me up through Asylum and things of that nature. That necessarily wasn’t the best situation for what we wanted to do. Barry Hankerson had the balls to just fuck with a nigga and I appreciate that. I been on labels my whole life and to me it’s about somebody riding for you. Don’t spend 2 million on me if you ain’t gonna believe in the project. I’d rather you spend $500,000 and sleep at night than worrying about the project.
WordofSouth.com: Was you cautious at all about coming to another major?Smitty: Nah I wasn’t cautious at all. I been in the game too long and it is what it is. I don’t even get my hopes up. Like when I was a young artist I would probably be cautious because you trying to believe in what everybody says, but at this point it’s nothing. If we gonna do this then show me and I’mma see. You know when somebody’s 100 with you or someone just trying to sell you a dream. there was nothing to be cautious about, I have the records. it would be different if I was trying to find a single. I’m sitting on records and it’s easy to go to a situation, but it’s about me giving that situation a hit record that is great that can make a legendary artist. Are they gonna do what they gotta do with the record to make that artist be where they’re supposed to be? Are they gonna overlook the record and not do what they are supposed to do? That would be my only caution. After seeing a couple of situations I see that Blackground is really going hard for their artists and I dig that.
WordofSouth.com: you mentioned that you as able to leave with some of your masters, so for someone who does not understand the importance of an artist’s masters. Care to explain?What people don’t understand that with a label, any record that you record during the time that you’re signed is their record. As an artist you almost gotta hide your records. my nigga Slim Thug who I did a couple records with down here (Houston) is going through the same thing right now with Jimmy Iovine and Interscope. Niggas don’t understand that we still recording and he has to hide these records from the label because he doesn’t want to get them anything that they can make money off of him because they will try to keep them. Once you sign a contract with a label, it’s not your music anymore, it’s their music. I don’t care what it is, a freestyle, or anything. If they deny it that’s on them, but if they want it, its theirs. So what I had to do is keep the music I been doing under wraps and hold it. The other records were negotiated and if I wanted to get “Died In Your Arms” we just negotiate it because they can’t do nothing with it. we just pay whatever they’re offering or whatever they want to get it back and if they want they will, but I don’t see why a label wouldn’t because they trying to make all the money they can.WordofSouth.com: So leaking records isn’t always a good thing?
Smitty: Of course not because what it does if an artist trying to get out of a situation sometimes leaking records is the best because the label sometimes don’t be on their jobs and they don’t recognize what the record is. To leak a record and try to negotiate business is never smart because what ends up happening is the label can catch wind that this is a potential hit record that gonna hold on to it and see what that record is gonna do. Or you could have saved that record and started with a whole new system and whole new label that will go hard with a clean slate to see what that record is supposed to do. So you definitely don’t want to leak something if you’re trying to get business done.
WordofSouth.com: What is some of your short-term goals right now?
Smitty: Is to do this new deal the right way and get everybody on the same page as me and drop an album. I’ve already proved myself lyrically and done enough for people to know who Smitty is. It’s time for me to really just drop an album. It’s about putting an album out because you gotta understand I’m already on my fifth independent album, shout out to orphan records. I’m at Best Buy all day from an independent standpoint. I’ve done put out hundred of freestyles and it’s just about the time to bring that to the light so I can get the same reviews as the greats like Jay and Wayne’s. I spit and I go a thousand bars, it ain’t nothing to me at this point. The point is for the world to get a piece of it and for the world to recognize it. that’s what happens when you put an album out and I just want the album to be put out the right way. I’m not worried about the numbers and all of that because I done been in the system too long to let the politics hold me back. I’m at the point where I want to put out some music. I look up to the Kanye’s and Lupe Fiasco’s and people of that nature that are doing it from a standpoint of just putting out music. I want my music to be respected and that’s a short time goal. Everything after that, we’ll see.
WordofSouth.com: I know that you have done some ghostwriting in the past. Is that something that you are still doing?
Smitty: Yeah, Geffen just hit me the other day about a female artist that they got and about to work on. She got a record called “My Boyfriend.” My passion is songwriting, but my love is Hip-Hop. I have a passion for writing songs and that ain’t never stop. I go to the studio and I do records for me and do records for someone else just to have in the vault for my catalogue. That’s y thing.
WordofSouth.com: Anything else that you want to mention?
Smitty: Look out for Smitty, look out for the new movement, I’m still here I ain’t never left.
–INTERVIEW BY: Leon Bailey
Hip Hop’s True Orgins
by Daniel Dexter
Austin, TX: Frank Rochester is often described as a principled, fair and honest man to a fault. The 6′ 4″ 51 year old tenured anthropology professor at nearby University of Texas is a towering figure who you would best not to cross. There’s a large number of people 1500 miles away in New York City aka The Big Apple who are about to find out the hard way.
Professor Rochester is one who embodies the stubborn resilient spirit of the Lone Star state who is quite willing to go at an opponent against all odds. After quietly raging a two year battle, Rochester finally may be getting his wish as he takes aim at the media conglomerates who he claims unfairly, undeservedly and erroneously attribute cultural trends to the New York populace.
“Because New York City is home to all the TV networks and big time media, important stories and perspectives from other parts of the country don’t get discovered until somebody from New York ‘discovers’ or ‘invents’ it”, Rochester said with pointed enthusiasm.
“It’s now common knowledge that while New York City is often dubbed the fashion capital of the world, it really isn’t. The truth of the matter is most fashion trends start overseas in places like Japan and make then make its way to the states beginning with west coast cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco”, Rochester noted. “However to listen to the so called big city pundits you would never know that. It’s all about New York and it’s completely false.
As a cultural anthropologist Rochester has discovered that big media have created a mystique around New York that simply needs to be shattered. By falsely attributing cultural trends to the Big Apple many regions in this country have suffered a talent drain. Some of our best and brightest from Texas have wound up going to New York for validation.
The Roots of Hip Hop Expression: Bull-Dancing and Bell Ringing
“New York City being the center of the cultural universe is a myth. It’s one big urban legend that in many ways is harmful”, Rochester stated. “One of the biggest falsehoods is that New York City is the birthplace of the music phenomenon called Hip Hop. For almost three decades we have been led to believe that a bunch kids from public housing projects went out and created one of the most vibrant and certainly one of the most popular art forms in the 21st century. It sounds good on TV. It reads well in newspaper. It tugs at our heart strings”, Rochester grimaced, “But the truth of the matter is this cultural expression is rooted in Texas sharecropping and cowboy culture.
Rochester’s research shows that long before kids in the Bronx were rapping on the mic, there were rhyme sayers working the cotton fields in Texas as far back as the 1700s. Rochester has in his possession old slave and sharecropping journals and even old African -American newspapers that are filled with rhymes and limericks.
“Black people in Texas have been using rhymes as a form of communication for hundreds of years.”, Rochester noted. He continued by stating that it wasn’t unusual for groups of African descended men to get in a circle and recite rhyme against one another.
It’s part of what many anthropologist have long called the ‘African Oral Tradition‘ In Texas it was known as ‘Hollaring in the Circle‘.
Rochester pointed out oftentimes the cowboys would join those hollars and their own 2 cents in terms of rhymes. It was slave hands and later, sharecroppers rhyming alongside cowboys. “This is history that isn’t recognized”, Rochester said.
He went on to explain that break-dancing is actually a derivative of cowboy culture which started off in rodeos. He described how field hands would show off their toughness by lassoing bulls and allowing themselves to be pulled around. At first the cowboys would try and stand up and do fancy moves with their feet as a sign of being quick footed. As the bulls would become more agitated the cowboys would be dragged to the ground at which point they would do fancy spins on their backs while holding tight to the rope.
“This activity was called ‘back lassoing‘ or ‘bull-dancing‘ and it’s been in existence at least one hundred years before New York supposedly discovered it.”, Rochester quipped.
“If you look at what are described as power moves in Hip Hop dance, you will see that they are no different then the bull dance moves which are still done to this day at Texas rodeos throughout east Texas and near the border towns.”.
He added that bull-dancing was accompanied by quick witted wordsmiths who would serves as MCs (Masters of Ceremonies). These individuals would recite rhymes and make up limericks for the bull-dancers.
Often times a cowbell ringer would be in the back ground setting the pace by ringing the bells. At its best the announcer would say his rhyme to the beat of the cowbell.
“I guess a bunch of cowboys and sharecroppers inventing Hip Hop doesn’t sound as compelling as compared to some project kids from the Bronx.”, Rochester said.
Connecting Texas and the Bronx
Rochester has been able to trace the roots of Cowboy and share-cropping culture and its connection to New York and what would later emerge to be Hip Hop. He explained that in 1970 the Texas rodeo teams went to New York for the first time and did and very well attended exhibit at Madison Square Garden. The teams stayed for several weeks and mesmerized Big Apple residents with their bull-dancing techniques and cowbell ringing. The showmanship captured the imaginations of a lot of people including several New York deejays.
Rochester said if you go and listen to the first raps they sound just like bull-dance calls. The rapper would reflect his voice as if he was throwing up. These deejays later brought that style to the airwaves and popular nightclubs.
Rochester steadfastly maintains that it was from Texas Bull-dancing that Jamaican born Kool Herc adapted what would later become Hip Hop.
There is no doubt in Rochesters mind that Herc as well as other pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa and others all were inspired by the Texas rodeo.
Rochester pointed out two undeniable facts. First, during the 1970 Texas rodeo appearance in New York City, attending the event at Madison Square Garden was a popular class field trip for NY public schools. There’s a strong Likelyhood that many of New York’s pioneering figures saw first hand rhyming, bull-dancing and cowbell ringing.
Second, is according to migration patterns, many Black Texans fleeing racial discrimination and hardships landed in New York. The Bronx and nearby Westchester county were popular spots that when you do the research show its heavily concentrated with displaced Texans. This means that there is a strong possibility that during the summer months and holidays, Bronx born African American New Yorkers went ‘back home to Texas and got exposed to bull-dancing.
Taking it to the Capitol
Professor Frank Rochester is absolutely convinced that Hip Hop emerged from Texas before New York City. He claims that one of the reasons that Texas Hip Hop now outsells and is more popular then NY is because when it comes from here the audience is experiencing the ‘real thing’.
Rochester feels that the state of Texas is losing not only cultural recognition but also millions of dollars in revenue that could be generated if the world was to know the truth about Texas being the real birthplace of Hip Hop.
Rochester is currently working with lawmakers here in the state capitol to see about suing the city of New York for deceptive and misleading practices.
Texas lawmaker Tony Sanchez says he’s in agreement with Rochester. He feels that a strong message needs to be sent to all those complicit in this deception.
Ideally they want to get it legislated so that NY can’t officially call itself the birthplace of Hip Hop
“For years Texas has been overlooked and essentially victim to big city politics which has resulted in cultural theft. We can not allow New York City officials to erroneously lay claim to being the birthplace of Hip Hop. It’s a lie that needs to be corrected”, Sanchez wrote in a recent press release.
This amendment will be introduced to the floor of the Texas assembly next week and attached to Bill HR 321
http://www. capitol. state. tx. us/BillLookup/BillNumber. aspx
Thus far New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been silent on this but we suspect he’ll be speaking up in due time trying to defend New York’s ill-gotten attributions.
Written by Davey D
Every once in a while I feel compelled to do my duty as a productive citizen and generously give back to the community. Sometimes I volunteer my time. Other times I give money. Still on other occasions I give sound advice.
Today I wanna take some time out and give some sound advice to anybody who is an aspiring artist as well as to those who have been around the block a few times.
My heartfelt advice to you is as follows; If you happen to be booked for a show and the promoter has you coming on AFTER this LA based artist named Medusa… DO NOT DO IT.
Have your manager re-negotiate your contract, but do not go on stage right after her.
You may be able to get by if they let the deejay play an hour long set or something or you have an artist like KRS-One performing alongside you… Maybe if you’re a bit sadistic and like pain then following Medusa might be the thing for you to do. This woman is not to be followed.
If you are a battle emcee who has won a few contests and you’re feeling good about yourself and your looking for new challenges-Be warned! DO NOT set your sites on Medusa. Don’t let your homies or an over ambitious promoter set you up. If you find yourself on the bill and they schedule you to go one on one with her, the best thing for you to do is call in sick. Go on vacation.. leave the building. A true friend does not let their good friends get in the ring and trade lyrical jabs with Medusa. She will cause you extreme embarrassment, lots of pain and is likely to end your career if its in front of a large crowd. This woman who is often dubbed the Angela Davis of Rap or the High Priestess is no joke. Please Believe that.
When we look back on Hip Hop history one name that we simply will not be allowed to ignore is the Gangsta Goddess, The Angela Davis of Rap, the Top Cat of the clique Feline Science, the Godmother of West coast Hip Hop-the High priestess-Bow down to the one and only Medusa.
Most people know Medusa the ‘Top Cat’ of the clique Feline Science as colorful engaging pioneering sista who has been rocking packed houses here on the west coast for the past 15 years.
This skilled emcee hails from the legendary night spot-The Good Life Cafe which gave birth to legendary groups like Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, Volume 10, Kurupt, WC and many many more. Anybody who was anybody paid their dues at the Good Life back during LA’s Golden Era of Hip Hop in the late 80s/early 90s
Medusa was a regular to this haunt and later Project Blowed, where she not only held her own but would routinely surpass her male counterparts. As she explained during our recent sit down, that there were many a days she had to step into the arena and battle her Good Life comrads.
Medusa has always been known as a cutting edge, fierce emcee who is always willing to push the envelope. This was best illustrated on another memorable evening when she first performed what is now her signature song. ‘Power to the P’ is a spoken word piece that pays tribute to the female’s private parts. Medusa wanted to see how far she could go in terms of kicking up dust while adhering to the Good Life’s strict ‘no cursing’ policy. She laughingly recalled how it shocked everyone senses because it was very descriptive, very provocative and yet still ‘clean’.
“It took a minute before everyone realized what I was doing. Once people caught they started cheering and flicking their lighters”, Medusa noted. She said the sexually suggestive content prompted the owner B Hall to rise up and make her stop but that brief performance got everyone talking to this day.
Long before many groups were on the scene with a live band Medusa and Feline Science were out and about in LA breaking ground. Medusa explained that she’s a child of the funk era and came up at a time when Hip Hop was still unklnown in many parts. Groups like; Parliament/Funkadelic, The Barkays, Confunkshun, Brass Construction to name a few were the order of the day.
She noted that she always wanted to fuze Hip Hop and funk and bring those two experiences to a new heights. She explained that using band allows for so much more freedom of expression. And yes her band includes a DJ. But as she noted, it was wrong for so called music critics to place limits on what Hip Hop should ultimately be. She scoffed at those who claimed Hip Hop was ONLY two turntables and an emcee with a mic. It’s so much more.
Long before it was acceptable to sing while you rapped, Medusa was out in the fore-front alongside artists like Lauryn Hill,Queen Latifah and the Force MDs who came before them who were paving the way by including harmonies and melodies with their raps and re-introducing that style to the Hip Hop audience.
For all of us who know Medusa the emcee, there are many who recall that long before she rocked the mic she was a dancer. We didn’t call those who pop-locked, strutted, tutted, robotted and all that good stuff b-boys or b-girls back in the days. But let the record note that Medusa’s been popping since the 70s. She hooked up with a dance crew called the Groove-A-trons and been dancing ever since. During our recent sit down, Medusa went into detail about what the scene was like during those early days.
She explained how she first got exposed to emceeing via the song ‘Rapper’s Delight’. Later on she was inspired by watching Ice T do his thing at the now defunct Radiotron which was made famous in the movie Breaking.
Medusa also broke down the challenges one faces doing the independent hustle. She feels the grind is necessary but a good thing in the end. She said the trick to being successful is to be consistent. We also talked about the challenges she faced as a woman in the male dominated industry.Medusa started off by explaining that one needs to first love themselves in order to gain confidence.
She talked about this experience and how it made come out stronger and the end result was Medusa becoming how she came to form Feline Science. She said that came about after she felt she was being rejected to be a member of a group called ‘Masked Men’. Years later she realized she wasn’t being rejected, but instead being encouraged to start her own group which would and did become an entity on to itself. Everyone who got down with Feline Science both men and women all took on cat names with Medusa being ‘Top Cat’.
Medusa talked about how the music industry has seemingly only given a platform to one female emcee at a time. She recalled a conversation with Rah Digga who expressed the same concern about how only one female at a time ‘gets their run’. Much of this has to do with so called critics claiming that listeners can’t really tell the differences between female emcees. It’s an idea that Medusa soundly dismissed.
Medusa concluded our interview with Medusa talking about how women need to go about striking a balance between maintaining control of their art, but being willing to confidently work with folks and giving way to other ideas and perspectives when working on a project. Medusa talked about how being so rigid and controlling may have led to her not being able to work with Dr Dre. In retrospect there was a way to maintain ones credibility and still turn over control to a dope producer.
Medusa is currently set to drop her new album Gangsta Goddess.
You can check her site at
Written by Paradise Gray
This years “Take Back America Conference” in Washington D.C was much more exciting and energetic than the one I attended just a year ago. There were more young people of color present and everyone seemed to have extra pep in their step. I began the weekend with The League of Young Voters, taking their empowering “Tunnel Building” leadership training program at the offices of The People For The American Way. The training sessions were good, and included veteren and aspiring organizers from all across America, some as young as 17 years old.
The new National Director of the League Rob “Biko” Baker and National Political Director Khari Mosley handled many of the training workshops personally. It was a pleasure to work with these brothers and I learned some great new ideas and concepts to use for organizing effective actions and successful campaigns. I was happy to contribute by helping to teach a workshop on using new media and the internet (Myspace and Facebook) as organizing tools.
On Monday March 17th we headed over to the The Omni Shoreham Hotel where Van Jones the President and founder of “Green For All” brought the heat to the Take Back America Conference at this morning. Speaking to an overflowing room full of progressive Democrats Mr. Jones passionately explained the benefits of an emerging Green Economy. His inspiring speech informed the diverse crowd about policies and initiatives that could create jobs, efficient energy, reduce carbon emissions and improve local economies.
Mr. Jones received thunderous applause when he noted that by retrofitting American cities with renewable energy sources such as wind, solar panels and other alternate sustainable energy sources it would ensure that we would never have to wage war for oil again!
In the crowd I noticed the Reverend Jessie Jackson, Davey D as well as members of The League Of Young Voters, One HOOD, the National Political Hip-hop Convention, Reverend Yearwood and The Hip-hop Caucus and members of The Gathering.
Keep your eyes on Van Jones and the concept of a Green Economy and Green-Collar Jobs. Van Jones is a dynamic speaker with a great plan, his final words “I am not here to “Take America Back, I’m here to take it forward” connected and resonated well with this large progressive crowd.
Things got kind of heated on Tuesday morning March 18 when the Rev.Jessie Jackson was scheduled speak on a panel “Progressive Movement In A Democratic Era: The Lessons Of King And The Civil Rights Movement“.
The energy was already elevated as everyone was anxiously awaiting 10:30 when Barack Obama was scheduled to give his historic speech on race relations in America. As I approched the Regency Ballroom I noticed the Rev.Jessie Jackson being interviewed by Griff Jenkins from Fox News. Griff Jenkins was being very aggressive as he demanded that Rev. Jackson answer the question: “Do you or do you not condemn Barack Obama’s former Pastor Rev. Wright?”
Rev. Jackson refused to answer in the way that Jenkins was asking, Rev. Jackson accused Mr. Jenkins of using divisive tactics instead of covering the issues that are important in this election, Mr. Jenkins would rudely push his microphone towards Rev. Jackson’s face and reiterate “Do you or do you not condemn Rev.Wright?”
I did not appreciate the way Mr. Jenkins was treating Rev. Jackson and loudly voiced my opinion as Rev. Jackson, annoyed by Mr. Jenkins unprofessionalism, walked away. Mr. Jenkins then interviewed me and and when posed with the same question of whether or not I condemned Rev.Wright, I responded that when your face down in a mud puddle with someone’s foot on the back of your neck, you should not be judged by the words that come out of your mouth at that moment, anger is the appropriate natural human response to oppression!
I argued that Rev. Wright’s sermons were based on real feelings within the black community and had foundations in fire and brimstone preaching directly from the bible. Mr. Jenkins attempted to cut me off in the middle of sentences but I continued that I could quote him hundreds of statements from the bible that he would not agree with and he would not even recognize that I was quoting the bible unless I told him in advance.
I questioned Mr. Jenkins about why he was interogatting Rev. Jackson so hard when Barack Obama would be addressing the situation himself in less than 2 hours, I suggested that Mr. Jenkins that we should all wait until we have given Senator Obama the opportunity to address it personally before we form our opinions.
I guess that wasn’t enough for Griff Jenkins because as soon as the panel was over, his FOX News TV crew pushed past other journalists on the stage who were asking Rev. Jackson questions about the 5th Anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Davey D happened to be one of the journalists who was patently waiting for his turn to ask Rev. Jackson some questions, when Griff Jenkins barged in and started dominating the conversation, repeatedly demanding Rev. Jackson to answer, and diverting from the questions that others were asking about the war.
Davey had seen and heard enough, he began asking Griff Jenkins why are you here? Aggressively pushing his mic in Griff Jenkins face as he had done Rev.Jackson, and stepping in front of a retreating Griff Jenkins asking, ’why are you here?’
Davey encouraged others to flip the script on aggressive TV reporters that come in and try to set a tone that is contrary to the way that you are coming from, “you have a right to stop them from dominating the conversation and regain control. Fox News has declared war on people of color and puts them in a defensive position, not given them a fair chance to answer back to salacious charges and assertions. They have one sided conversations by asking you questions and cutting you off before you have a chance to answer them. Fox News creates an agenda and then places people of color within that framework to underscore what they are trying to say”.
Davey D said that what they tried to do to Rev. Jessie Jackson was a perfect example of “ambushing someone with the cameras” they kept asking Rev. Jackson over and over “why don’t you denounce Rev. Wright?… And as Rev. Jackson tried to answer they would interrupt him with “why don’t you denounce Rev. Wright?”
Davey D thought that it was disrespectfull, not as much towards Rev. Jackson (who Davey says can handle himself) as much as it is towards millions of people who can discern what is outrageous or offensive on their own without aid from someone who doesn’t go to the church so they don’t know how to put things in the proper context. Here is online video of the incident: (from FOX News)
SheNote’s Spotlight had a chance to chat with Lyonel “Kay-Kay” Rosemond. Fresh off the Erykah Badu (New Amerykah in stores now) project, the Universal Motown A&R agreed to share some insight to the entertainment game as he sees it. Since joining his uncle Jimmy Henchman’s management company in 1994 and being hired by Motown as an A&R, he has gone on to work with artist such as Erykah Badu, Chico Debarge, Lil Wayne and Joe. When meeting him you won’t notice the edgy, snootiness that radiated from most industry folk. Instead, you will meet a brotha that is rooted in his Muslim faith, deeply spiritual and grounded in raising his son and spending as much time as possible with family.
I saw him in passing periodically throughout the Erykah project but haven’t had a change to sit with him until now.
SN I know you just finished the Erykah Badu project. How was that process for you?
KK It was a long process, but a master piece doesn’t get painted in one day!! Long sleepless night in the studio but it was worth it!!!
KK Well right now I’m working on “New Amerykah” Pt. 2 –Return Of the Unk, but looking to sign this rap group named “Sa Ra”
KK Well a big impact on the music business I haven’t yet made but it’s comin! I’m just trying to make good music for the people that they can listen to for years to come! No one-hit wonders, or pop corn music! Music that heals ya soul!!
KK Well you defiantly have to know 1 or 2 people to get in the door! And you really must know a bit about the business in order to survive in this game!
KK There is no more artist development and that’s why a lot of the artist we sign today don’t stick around for long! They barely know how to speak or hold an intelligent conversation! Better yet conduct a proper interview! And that’s why we are in this mess now!! It does not exist
KK The Alternative Soul Music artist (we don’t say Neo Soul anymore) – But the Erykah Badu, Dwayne Wiggins, Chico DeBarge, De’Angelo, Joe!! They are real music makers, they all play instruments and can hold a note as well as put a song together from beginning to end, a bridge, melodies and hooks! There is no yaaaaaar tricks yaaaaar in they’re music!! That’s not real music!
KK Sa Ra, Jae Electronica, Strange Fruit, Spot, Brother Ali, Josiah Bell, D’Emile and the list goes on!!
KK Humility is the Key!! Eat a lot of humble pie, it sucks but it will always work out for you! I promise! And always put God first and he’ll make it happen for you!
KK Just to get a platinum plaque with my name on it! But when I finally got it I really wanted more! I set a goal and accomplished it. That’s what people need to do! Set goals, write it all down and put it in the universe and bring your thoughts to life! (But the real answer is: to make a change in the game, by giving the people great music).
KK Yep, by giving the people great music!!!!
KK I say it over and over again!! This business is 95% business and only 5% music, get an atty. Make sure your have a manager, and make sure if you believe in your craft spend your monies on it!! But make sure you on top of your business this is Babylon and you can easily get lost in the sauce!! The music business is the devils play ground, so be careful young people!!
by Davey D
Whoever said Hip Hop was dead, obviously had not peeped Blu, a South Central LA native who defies any and all stereotypes we like to associate with cats from the hood and West Coast emcees.
For starters we have to take special note to the way the tall lanky emcee spells his name. There is no ‘E’ at the end and its a oversight that he often rhymes about. Second, Blu got hip to Hip Hop late in life. He is the stepson of a strict pastor who forbade him from listening to Hip Hop while he was growing up. His biological father is a member of the Bloods who listens to gangsta and Bay Area turf raps. To this day Blu’s dad calls him him ‘Flu’ instead of Blu. Thats how deep it gets.
According to Blu, he got turned onto groups like De La Soul only after hearing DMX. His musical upbringing and ultimate influences before being introduced to Hip Hop was centered around a diverse collection of artists ranging from Al Green to Thelonious Monk to Bob Dillon. It’s no mistake that the lead song off his ‘Below the Heavens‘ album is a remake of the Del’s classic ‘My World is…‘
Blu says he regrets missing the Golden era of LA Hip Hop which was personified by legendary spots like the Good Life and Hip Hop staples like Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, Project Blowed and the late Bigga B to name a few. However there’s no denying that his lyrical prowess and charismatic style kicks in where those legends left off.
Blu acknowledges that it was people like Charli2na of the J5 who sat him down and laced him up with lots of info and tales surrounding the scene of that bygone era. Much of what 2na told him was underscored by radio shows like The Wake Up Show and Friday Nite Flavas before it was unceramoniously taken off the air.
As Blu honed his emcee skills he cites Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan, LA legend Cashus King and Planet Asia as being big influences. With respect to Deck, Blu says that he’s the illest emceee when it comes to kicking off a song. He cites the track Triumph as the one where Deck truly shines. Blu’s one regret with the new debut album ‘Below the Heavens‘ was not having Deck on. However when peeping songs like ‘Simply Amazing‘ you can clearly hear how he was inspired.
During our interview in which Blu walked us through a variety of songs including ‘Narrow Path‘, ‘Simply Amazing‘, ‘Show Me the Good Life‘ featuring singer Aloe Blacc of the Dirty Science Crew and ‘Bullet through Me‘ off an upcoming album called ‘Piece Talks‘, he admits that he has a lot to say and his feverishly working to put out 6 different projects which will allow him to get everything off his chest. He refuses to be limited by industry driven categories and limitations.
For example, in the song ‘Bullet Through Me‘ which is off the Piece Talks album produced by Ta’arach, Blu does an experimental cover of a Paul McCarthy song. He admits that upon first listens many will question where he is going and what he’s doing, but folks will learn to get passed any hesitations. His ultimate goal is to put fun back into Hip Hop and be creative. He also wants to help bring national attention back to LA and west coast Hip Hop. In 2008 where everyone is talking about Change, Blu’s attitude and outlook is right in step. This looks to be a big year for him.
You can peep the Blu interview on Breakdown FM by clicking the link below
(photos provided by Angelica Garde)
The Industry Cosign is a community for people who are working or are interested in the urban entertainment industry. It is an online conference room to discuss current events, trends and personal development. This website is quickly becoming the premiere destination for the latest news, photos and happenings from Harlem to the Bowery and beyond. We checked in with Industry Cosign’s founder, Big Ced, for some NYC insider info.
What brought you to New York?
My parents, since they came here and I had no choice at the time but to live with them being that they birthed me!
What do you love about living in New York?
The diversity of cultures, races, religions, ethnicities, the openness of most neighborhoods, the pretty women, the open-minded people, the fact that it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week. The selection of food, entertainment, theater, sports and you can basically find anything but fresh air in New York City!
What do you think makes a New Yorker?
It’s all about the attitude!!!! In certain sections of the city, you have to be a certain way to fit in and represent where you are from. It’s hard to describe a typical New Yorker, but it does come down to toughness and more importantly, ATTITUDE!!!
What surprises you about New York or New Yorkers?
I’ve been here all my life so nothing surprises me anymore!!
When you leave New York, what do you miss the most?
The busyness and diversity of the city, everything that makes New York, New York
Do you know any tricks or insider info?
If I tell you, I have to, well, I just can’t give away secrets!!
Tell us about your blog… what is the premise, what are your main coverage areas, how did you get started?
Well, I don’t consider my website a blog, being that I will be celebrating the fourth anniversary of The Industry Cosign (www.theindustrycosign.com) but the site is really an informational and networking website. It’s, for a lack of better words, an online magazine in terms of having artist interviews, executive profiles, daily news, whatever pertinent information to get your day going by coming to the site!
Best corny tourist attraction that you secretly love?
The city tourist spots, basically all of them, from the Empire State Building to Central Park to the Bronx Zoo to the Botanical Gardens.
Best neighborhood bar?
Damn, hard one….I go to so many neighborhoods…ha ha! But, I am more biased with this choice because I also do weekly parties there on Thursdays, but Negril Village (70 West 3rd Street) is a good choice because the décor, atmosphere and staff is great! The choice of drinks and some of the people who go there on a regular basis are one of a kind and there are always good looking women there!
Best late night joint?
Hmmmm, very tough one as to me not having a favorite because I ‘tour’ the night clubs, ha ha!
Last cultural thing that you did (movie, museum, theatre, etc…)
Hmmmm, took a drive through Harlem! J
Best fancy schmancy restaurant?
I do love Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse….
Best place to meet members of the opposite sex?
In New York? Man….. EVERYWHERE and I do mean EVERYWHERE, the trains, the library, the grocery store, Macy’s, the street, my dreams…..
Best place to hear live music?
Village Underground and Café Wha? Comes to mind, but I am sure there are many in many neighborhoods.
Written by Sharra Dade
Nigger, according to Dictionary.com is probably the most offensive word in the English language. Without a doubt, it is associated with black people. Also without question, it has a derogatory or negative connotation. It has been used since the Revolutionary War. With one meaning referencing “an ignorant person,” the word has been used, misused, and overused. However, throughout time the word “Nigger” and it’s meaning has evolved and has stirred up much controversy.
With the definition of “Nigger” meaning an ignorant person, is Nas merely saying that those that prejudge him and his album prior to hearing it, are ignorant people? Is the content and music of the album exposing truth’s that were never stated or taught? Did he find truths about himself that he had once never known? Is “Nigger” an acronym for what is a deeper meaning behind his album? I have not yet heard the album, so who am I to judge? I believe though, it is safe to assume that as an artistic and creative entity, Nas has an explanation for his highly controversial album title.
Please let me know your thoughts on Nas’ new album. Do you think that what he did should be tolerated or is there no excuse for his naming the album “Nigger?” Do you believe that he is exploiting the word or he is merely addressing issues that should have been addressed years and years ago that we as people are now trying to sweep under the rug? What do you think this album is about and his thought process behind creating it?