7 Comedy specials that will make you laugh.

Because I work at night, usually only three days a week, I have a lot of time at home. Most of it is spent finding new music, cutting records, playing bass and writing these blog posts. Ok sometimes I watch an entire season of a show in two days! (sorry not sorry)  I really try not to watch to much TV though.  So my new found love is stand up comedy. Why? because I can put it on, and still clean up the kitchen,  prep dinner, straighten up and do other things while it’s on. I just listen and laugh.

Since everyone loves to laugh here are 5 comedy specials that I found hilarious.

  1. Louis C.K. 2017 –  (Netflix) Louis C.K. is the best comedian alive today. (my opinion) His jokes have no schtick or gimmick that draw you in or make them funny. He just writes really funny, high quality observational jokes with excellent delivery.  No “Black people do this, and white people do this”  No lowest common denominator. Sure he does poop jokes sometimes, but in an artistic way, yes artistic poop. He is a polished professional, who can hit on social issues in a way that makes you laugh but also, makes you think. His opening bit about abortion is a classic example. “If you need an abortion……. You better get one, and quick, don’t be fu**ing around, we don’t need more shi*ty people around.”   “Some people think abortion is killing a baby. It’s not killing a baby…… Ok it’s a little bit killing a baby, just a little.” He goes into how both sides feel (pro life vs pro choice) but never uses those terms. Just makes hysterical comparisons that will make you laugh. Enjoy it!

 

2. Dave Chappelle- Deep in the heart of Texas- (Netflix) This is the second special Dave Chappelle released on Netflix this year. After his very long hiatus, one of the kings of comedy is back. A lot of people were offended by these specials, but it’s stand up comedy, I thought it was par for the course. We have to remember he tells “Jokes and Jokes and Jokes and Jokes!” All comedians are just kidding, the entire performance is based on joking.

What I love about this special and his style in general is how he attacks race. He uses stereotypes and current events as fuel to touch on the different ways people live and are treated by society.  The opening bit about the 4 white teens that assault him touches on racial hierarchy in an extremely skillful way. He also gets into Ebola and AIDS by saying “Isn’t it funny how all these diseases hate and kill everyone that old white people hate.”  He heads right into police killing Black people, Isis decapitating people, Paula Deans racial slurs, and Bill Cosby rapes, making  those profane topics so pretty and hilarious.  Watch it and laugh, but don’t take yourself too seriously, It’s just jokes.

3. Aziz Ansari- Buried Alive- (Netflix ) He kills this set. So much relatable material delivered with high energy and a lot of great analysis. Millennials, dating, as well as the joys of being and not being a parent are all addressed in extremely remarkable ways.  I have seen the act twice and even though I knew what jokes were coming, I still was laughing. Why? Because it’s quality material. He interacts with the audience on topics such as dick pics, meatheads in the club and on line dating. Many times reenacting the scenario while playing two or three different roles. Sorta like Biggie on “Gimmie the Loot“.

The set is on point, highly recommended.

 

4. Michael Che- Che Matters- (NetflixChe commands the stage and the audience with ease as he takes on racism, gentrification, catcalling, Donald Trump, terrorism and transgender issues. Che has written these jokes knowing full well his audience and the reactions they will have, and it works to perfection. In one bit on gentrification  he asks. “White women, do you know how powerful you are, you are so powerful that the value of land can increase just because of your presence” In his stereotypical white girl voice he says  “Brooklyn used to be kind of sketch, but now its pretty chill” a dig a the drastic changes taking place in Brooklyn as we speak.

He continues “You want to stop Isis, send white women. Isis will be the first terrorist group forced out due to rent increase” Funny joke, with a relevant point. As he deftly moves from issue to issue, he repeatedly involves the crowd asking them questions about politics,relationship, religion, porn, not knowing what response he is going to get, then coming up with a joke to fit audience members answer. Either he thought about every answer possible and wrote hundreds of jokes, or he is just an excellent improv comedian, I would say the latter.

My favorite section is about  Black lives matter. He starts by saying “Black lives matter, thats a controversial statement, just matters. JUST MATTERS! Not that they are better than you, just matters” It’s a great statement, because it calls out our society in a very raw way. Just saying those three words can bring on a heated argument. Mostly because many people don’t believe that Black live matter. He’s hilarious, watch and laugh.

 

 

5. Hannibal Burress- Comedy Comisado- (Nextflix)

We all know who he is now because of his “Bill Cosby is a rapist” set that brought him to fame and Dr. Huxtable’s past into the public eye. As a Ilana Glazer’s ex boyfriend on “Broad City” he plays a laid back dentist, and his stand up comedy is a reflection of that juxtaposition. A Laid back delivery, but a truly professional set. Within this special he gracefully moves from topic to topic with quick hitting punchlines that are written to be the segue to the next joke. This makes the whole act feel totally seamless. I was alone in my apartment laughing out loud as he ripped into the “Maniacs” at Embassy Suites in Downey, California who think he faked his identity to try and check into a 2 star hotel. How Lasik eye surgery may kill or blind you, Unwillingly taking pictures with cops, and don’t judge him for his 70 dollar cleaning service, he tells the audience. “Some of you spend that much on vaporizer accessories easily, so don’t judge me”

He builds jokes with great skill making you wonder, where he is going with this? As it unfolds and tension grows he hits you with a twist. A twist that makes you bust out laughing. The best part about it is you don’t just laugh then. I found myself riding my bike listening to Parliment and thinking back to these jokes…. and laughing again. I think you will too.

 

Ok its really 7 specials to watch

Wanda Sykes- What happened Ms. Sykes.(Full show is on Youtube)   The perspective of the Black female is greatly underrepresented in comedy. Wanda Sykes is on top of her games in this special, using the struggles of People of color and women to make us laugh.  She makes great use of the racial dynamics of her own  family. She is Black female comedian married to a white French woman and has two “really white” kids. “Sometimes I look around my kitchen table and I get scared. I want to know ……. how did all these white people get in my house”

Wanda gives a woman’s perspective on the latest election, the economy (Nothing good trickles down), women’s rights, equal pay for equal work and gun rights.  She is an excellent writer and this set plus POOTIE TANG are excellent examples. Her take on the evolution of Talapia is classic. “I don’t f*** with Talpia, I betcha four years ago talapia had feet. Talapia was walking around, stepped in some gmo’s. His feet shrunk up and he said, I better roll my ass in the ocean” 

She is comedy legend and a master of the art form. Be sure to check her out.

Lucas Bros- On Drugs- (Netflix) These twin brothers tell dead pan jokes mostly about the war on drugs and how it has affected them personally.  They hate Richard Nixon and they tell you that many times. They drop some great OJ jokes, figure out why Charles Barkley was in Space Jam, and let us know that 77 percent of black happiness comes from white suffering via a pie chart.

The end of the show is kind of like a Ghost of Christmas past cartoon.  Richard Nixon takes them back into time and shows what life would I have been like with out the war on drugs. What they found was actually horrifying. With out the war on drugs, money was put into education, healthcare and infrastructure. Poor black and brown people had opportunities and incarceration rates didn’t go through the roof.  However with no war on drugs, no crack epidemic, no crack epidemic, no urban decay, no urban decay, no hip hop. No hip hop equals no Biggie! They are presented with Christopher Wallace C.P.A. which I’m sorry to say made me cringe. Biggie brought so much joy to so many. What if Biggie Smalls was the illest….accountant?  It is a great show with lots to think about. Watch it and laugh.

I really hope you enjoy these specials as much as I did. There is so much negativity surrounding us right now. It’s nice to sit back and just laugh for an hour.

5 Steps to sharing Hip Hop with your kids.

Jay-Z raps on “Renegade” “You see I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined”

The modern ghetto Jigga raps about is the place where Hip Hop’s stories of  gang life, violence, sex, and drug use came from. A ghetto created by policy makers who did not care about poor people of color.

http://www.vibe.com/2016/08/poor-urban-planning-led-to-hip-hop/

It is important to know this history, so that we can understand the foundations of this culture. If Hip Hop is important to you, and helped to shape you, at some point you will want to share it with your children. As they get older they will be exposed to it anyway. It is up to us as parents to help guide their listening. Unearthing the social context behind the music, and helping them see the lineage of Hip Hop as part the African diaspora. While also giving them the right information to just listen and enjoy the vibes as entertainment.

Hip Hop started out as party music. DJ’s spun break beats (open drum parts of tracks with little instrumentation around them) to get B-Boys and B-Girls to lose themselves in the music and to dance more furiously. From park jams, to the Sugar Hill Gang on to LL.Cool J, The Beastie Boys and RUN DMC, a good time was the main objective.

We then move on to the likes of Eric B. and Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD and KRS ONE. Party tracks were still filtered in there, however having a message, original style and knocking beats became the objective.

As time moves into the 90’s with N.W.A, Biggie and Pac the street stories became more vivid and more vulgar. Lyrics became highly evolved poems, that painted pictures for the listener. Hip Hop always had a bad rap but, at this point the American government was cracking down on it, trying to censor it and use it as a scapegoat for society’s ills.

Eventually major corporations saw the economic power of hip Hop and began to mass market it. This transition produced the cookie cutter images of gangsters, pimps and hoes we see in hip hop today. These images that reflect almost no diversity within the spectrum of the artists. If you have a message in your music, you will be stuck in the periphery of Hip Hop culture. This should not be the case. We as parents who love Hip Hop should not hide the music we love from our kids. We also should choose wisely how we share this music, and create a foundation for what we think is acceptable.

How do we do this? Well here are 5 steps to sharing hip Hop culture with your kids.

STEP ONE

Choose the right artists-  You don’t have to jump in with the rawness and try to explain it. Talk about the historical portion a bit and play some fun old school songs like.

Catch The Beat by T-Ski Valley- It samples Heartbeat by Taana Gardner. Start with that, discuss how at first Emcees were rapping over disco records.

 

King Tim III (personality jock) – By Fatback Band A straight funk jam that shows how early emcees rocked it. I mean it’s a stone groove with old school rapping over it, it’s gonna make you dance, always a good thing with kids.

 

The Message by GrandMaster Flash and the Furious Five. – This song has an intriguing beat that can capture a young listener from the start. We also hear the first set of lyrics that really dig into social issues experienced by people of color in these ghettos constructed to keep them voiceless. This is a great one to read along with. Lines like

“It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under”

“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head”

These lyrics are a great starting point for discussing where hip hop came from and why this expression was so important to these incredibly creative individuals.

 

Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty by Nature- Kids love songs that have dance moves . Once you start the Hip Hop Hooray Hoooooooo, Haaaaaaaay hands in the air dancing around, its going to fun and memorable.

 

More examples- Eric B and Rakim – Paid in Full (Song and Album)  Jungle Brothers- Straight out of the Jungle, (Album) MC Lyte- Cha Cha Cha, RUN DMC- Peter Piper. Hard Knock Life by Jay-Z

STEP TWO

Approach the topic of misogyny and sexism and homophobia with care

Hip Hop culture has always been a boys club, a few women have made it, but not many. As Pilar and I raise up two black girls in this sexist society it is important to let Aaliyah and Lola know a few things. They must know that they are powerful, brilliant, creative, independent and capable of being in charge, not just being a prop for someone else. Hip Hop can be detrimental to a young women of color. Mainstream images of females in Hip Hop are less than flattering. Mostly “sex objects”, or a “boss type bitch” no in between or artistic variety. We must present hip hop to our kids that is made by amazing, diverse, strong women.  As well as records that women and give inspiration for growth. Here are some selections.

That Thing- Lauryn Hill – Filled with soulful harmonies and L-boogie at her finest, this is a great record. A nice segway into how relationships work, the good the bad, and what to be careful of. (Really the entire Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album, just listen to it)

 

Latifah’s Had it up 2 here by Queen Latifah- This is the Queen at her best. Dana Owens letting  other emcees know Who is in charge. If you say negative things about me, I will let you know.  I’m better than you and never step to the mic when I’m around.  If you are trying to build strong leaders, play this record. The double entendre of “Some of these commercial entertainers are commercially a pain to my rhyme and my behind TRYING TO DISS DANA. I love it because her name is Dana, but she enunciates the line so it could be saying DANA or Disdain her.

 

U.N.I.T.Y. by Queen Latifah- All we have to say about this song is “Who you callin a bitch?”

 

Keep ya Head Up- 2 Pac– This record takes on domestic violence, reproductive rights, single motherhood and black love all in just the first verse.

 

Flawless by Beyonce- She is out shining Jay-Z! She does not need a man, or marriage. She is living her artistic vision, she’s in charge and everyone knows it. The poem by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tackles the question: why we ask women to aspire to marriage, and see other women as competition. Great talking points for raising informed women who are aware of their power.

 

Total Wreck by Bahamadia- Lyrics of fury is all you can say about Bahamadia. She is not very well known, but rips the mic majorly.

 

STEP THREE

Make it Fun and show the artistic diversity.

I know I can very easily take Hip Hop too seriously. My life is dedicated to all of its beautiful intricacies. However to bring kids in, you have to keep it fun. Here are some  fun songs that you can dance to, and just have a good time.

Me, Myself and I- De La Soul- An Uptempo track that samples Parliament. The track opens up with a Hip Hop take on Snow White, then the trio let us know its ok to just be yourself.  De La is a perfect way to show how Hip Hop can have diverse sounds, imagery and subject matter. The track  just feels good, brings nostalgia for parents and is fun to party to. The whole album (Three Feet High and Rising) is kid friendly and a Hip Hop classic.

 

Tennessee and People Everyday (remix) by Arrested Development- Tennessee, great beat with lots a quotable lyrics that address dealing with the stresses of life. “I challenge you to a game of horseshoes…..A game of HORESHOOOES!”

 

People Everyday- The Call and Response at the start will hook any one of any age. Play it, dance. Then maybe play Sly Stone Everyday People to bring it full circle. Arrested Development in general is a positive group with true hip hop aesthetic.

 

Hey Ya by Outkast- All generations love this song, it just makes everyone happy. Count in with Andre 3000 1,2,3 uh and Get up, get into, get involved.  

 

I Can by Nas- Nas gives us a history lesson while simultaneously uplifting the youth. Hard work and perseverance are the main themes within this record. I really like how he says “Nothing is easy, it takes much practice” A lesson that is hard to teach in an age of instant gratification.

 

Let me clear my throat by DJ Kool- A classic party record that also has a call and response dance section. Try it out, “when I say freeze you just freeze one time, when I say freeze yall stop on a dime, FREEEEZE!

 

Alphabet Aerobics by Blackalicious. Kids learning the alphabet and new words?  Two measures at a time Gift of Gab raps words that all begin with A then b, then c all the way to Z.   This takes some close listening but there is a lot to learn about connecting words, and learning words that begin with each letter of the alphabet.

More music- The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest

 

STEP FOUR

   Read along with the lyrics as you listen

An excellent way to see how great an emcee is to try to repeat the lyrics in time with the same cadence and rhythm the rapper used. It’s a fun activity that involves reading and musical timing.  Whenever I read lyrics of songs I think I know by heart, I realize I don’t really know it exactly. It’s really challenging so the bloopers are fun. You can gain a real appreciation for the rappers delivery and the message of the song as whole by doing this activity.  

Who to read along with? Outkast, Black Thought (Emcee from The Roots), Busta Rhymes, Jean Grae. all of these artists present complex rhyme schemes in extremely musical and creative ways. Try to rap along with them, its tough.

     STEP FIVE

Emphasize that Hip Hop is a culture. A culture with it’s own music, art, dance, fashion, speech and                         customs

Hip Hop culture consists of DJing (the music) Graffiti (the art) Breaking (the dance) and rapping (speech)

These aspects are rarely discussed in mainstream Hip Hop. If you can show you tube videos of DJ’s cutting breaks, while dancers spin on their heads, kids will be into it. A freestyle battle where emcees are improvising lyrics based on their surroundings, with someone beatboxing is a great way to draw them in. Unfortunately the 5 pointz is gone here in NYC but there are plenty of pieces and murals around to show our children. If you are not in a city with graffiti,  hit up the internet. You can find great graffiti art to share. Maybe even work on some bubble lettering together.  If you can connect those murals to Hip Hop, they will see that this culture was created to give a voice to young people that society threw away.

I Hope this piece helped to give you some ideas on how to share this beautiful art form with your children. Enjoy the music, dance, have fun, talk, share ideas on life and society. Hip Hop can help us learn more about each other. Helping to  shape critical thinkers, listeners, and build an informed citizenry.

Pretty and Profane

 

“ MF’s say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels, but do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?” Jay-Z (Renegade, Blueprint album)

Think about this question Jay-Z asks. Do we listen to music? Or do we just skim through, hear what we want to hear, and receive only a partial message.

Hip Hop is a true Black American art form that has influenced music, style and economies all over the globe. However because it has been taken over as a corporate commodity, and used to drive sales, hyper-masculinity and huge profits  have  pushed artists to create a world that some say is filled with violence, misogyny and homophobia.

Tricia Rose writes in “Hip Hop Wars

Hip Hop is in a terrible crises. Although its overall fortunes have risen sharply, the most commercially promoted and financially successful hip hop–what has dominated mass-media outlets such as television, film, radio and recording industry for a dozen years or so- has increasingly become a playground for caricatures of black gangstas, pimps and hoes. Hyper-sexism has increased dramatically, homophobia along with distorted, anti-social, self destructive, and violent portraits of black masculinity have become raps calling cards. Relying on an ever-narrowing range of images and themes, this commercial juggernaut has played a  central role in the near-depletion of what was once a vibrant, and complex popular genre, wringing it dry by pandering to America’s racist and sexist lowest common denominator.”

I agree with Dr. Rose, not just because I am nostalgic for the Hip Hop of my youth. I agree because if you have eyes and ears that are open you can hear and see that this culture has been swallowe by a corporate entity where lowest common denominator equates to more sales. So if you want to be signed, you portray these images, leaving all the messages and positivity for the underground rappers.

Dr. Rose uses the term lowest common denominator. I like the use of that term because in order to find the lowest common denominator in mathematics one must understand all of the steps it takes to reach the answer. You must know addition, subtraction, multiplication tables, know what a numerator and denominator are. You need to be able to factor and sometimes solve for numbers that are not present based on the given information. Finding the lowest common denominator can be difficult, and if you skip or mess up a step you are done. Finding the LCD and deciphering hip hop culture can be difficult if you don’t have all the tools to find the answers.

Is there beauty in Hip Hop? Yes Beauty. To me it’s like a private beach with a never ending horizon, but there is Hennessy in my Pina Colada and Slum Village bumping to relieve the stress.

Is there ugliness in Hip Hop? Yes, there is ugliness. The stories of people who have been systematically driven into second class citizenship for generations usually have some vulgar elements. T.I. Explains this perfectly on the Daily Show.

Trevor Noah  (host)

In Hip Hop people are talking about guns, people are talking about shooting, saying F*** the police. Critics would say, how is this helping the dialogue.

T.I.replies (paraphrased)

Hip Hop has traditionally been a reflection of the environment the rapper was in before he made it. So if you want to change the content of hip hop music, try changing the environment of the artist and he won’t have so many negative things to say.

 

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/9q9jvb/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-t-i—-showcasing-home-life-on–t-i—-tiny–the-family-hustle-

One of the crowning jewels of Hip Hop is it’s ability to juxtapose the beautiful with the crude and the brilliant with the boorish. The Pretty and Profane being weaved together to create a culture that fully represents the struggle and the beauty of Black and Brown Americans.

Knowing that Hip Hop employs the pretty and the profane is what makes it so appealing, and what makes it so complex.  But as Jay-Z asked us, do we really listen, or do we just skim through it.? Do we know all the steps it takes to solve X? In some cases the question is can we get past the profane to enjoy the pretty?

In 1991 I went to the now defunct Randall Park Mall with my Dad. We walked Through J.C. Penny, past the video arcade (do those still exist b/c I love them) past foot locker and finally it appeared, Sam Goody or Coconuts I can’t remember.

We walked in and I perused the aisles of CD’s in long cardboard boxes that were more than twice as long as the CD itself. I saw posters of album covers for The  New Jack City soundtrack (got that already), Bryan Adams (Nope) Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Marky Mark, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston.

I liked a lot of those artists and even had some of their albums. However today was my entry into another world. This is would be the first day I heard THE PRETTY AND THE PROFANE in one. This is day Hip Hop shocked me into a love affair. In this world virtuoso wordsmiths were help up by thick 808’s and 12 second of sample time. In this world violence and misogyny live right next door to conscious upliftment, pro-blackness and messages of hope. Filth and elegance top rocking around each other to classic breaks.  Completely in tune and on time.

I picked up Apocalypse ‘91 by Public Enemy and O.G. (Original Gangster) by Ice-T.

At this point I was a Hip Hop newbie. I had Raising Hell by RUN DMC and “I’m the rapper he’s the DJ” by The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff”

Not hating on those records.They are both great albums in their own right. But Public Enemy and Ice-T contained two special elements that transformed me.

Beats by the Bomb Squad and the lyrical Shock Value of Chuck D and Ice-T

Beats by the Bomb Squad- The Bomb Squad were a group super producers from Long Island. Hank and Keith Shocklee, Chuck D, Gary “G wiz”, Eric Sadler and Bill Stephney revolutionized the technique of sampling. Before the Bomb Squad Hip Hop producers would use 2-5 samples per song on average. But the Bomb Squad could easily rock out 15-20 samples in one song. Consistently hitting your ears with bits of classic music collaged into a magnificent piece. Bomb Squad beats are a consistent sonic assault. They all employed all the dope melodic and rhythmic elements of black music, right on top of screeches and squeals, sirens and funky scratches- creating a sound palette that forced me to press rewind because they blew my mind. (Redman)

I was in front of my Fischer boombox with the CD player on top. Mouth open, eyes wide, unable to move or fully comprehend what I was hearing.  Beats hit so hard, and moved with merciless momentum. So many different sounds and bits of songs I recognized totally reinvented to create something sonically pleasing and dissonant at once.  I’m 36 now and still find new things to hear in beats by the Bomb Squad each time I listen. I can’t forget to mention Chuck D dropping the knowledge of the middle passage and cointelpro on me as an 11 year old. A booming voice that demands your full attention. You can listen to beauty of the beats to the lesson or just enjoy the power and grace  of the voice over “murderous” beats.

Check out how Chuck helps us visualize the middle passage and slavery. Families being ripped apart, laying in your own feces, being branded, these are all profane actions laid seamlessly with a knocking beat and a powerful delivery. Pretty and Profane.

After I was blown away by the beats next came the Code of the Streets. Ice-T fresh off New Jack City fame gives a brutally honest look at the life of a gangster in Los Angeles. He commits murder, robbery, and kidnapping all within the first 2 songs. On top of Afrika Islam beats that rival the ruggedness of the Bomb Squad. I admired the beauty of the beats and the Lushness of the dark storytelling. The exquisite, trading spaces with the truly offensive. Throughout the album Ice-T delivers hard hitting rhymes about the truth of gang life, while laying the foundations of social constructs that created this reality.

New Jack Hustler verse 3-  Ice T – Over a sample of Jasper Country Man by Bobbi Humphrey (Lyrics below)

I had nothing, and I wanted it,You had everything, and you flaunted it. Turned the needy into the greedy, with cocaine, my success came speedy. Got me twisted, jammed into a paradox. Every dollar I get, another brother drops. Maybe that’s the plan, and I don’t understand,God damn—-you got me sinkin in quicksand. But since I don’t know, and I ain’t never learned, I gotta get paid, I got money to earn. With my posse, out on the ave, Bump my sounds, crack a forty and laugh. Cool out and watch my new Benz gleam, Is this a nightmare? Or the American dream? So think twice if you’re coming down my block, You want to journey through hell? Well shit gets hot. Pregnant teens, children’s screams. Life is weighed on the scales of a triple beam. You don’t come here much, and ya better not. Wrong move (bang), ambulance cot. I gotta get more money than you got, So what, if some muthafucka gets shot? That’s how the game is played, Another brother slayed, the wound is deep BUT they’re givin us a Band Aid. My education’s low but I got long dough, Raised like a pit bull, my heart pumps nitro.Sleep on silk, lie like a politician, My Uzi’s my best friend, cold as a mortician. Lock me up, it’s genocidal catastrophe,

There’ll be another one after me…….a hustler.

In one verse he discusses government involvement in the drug trade, how it has affected the Black community, the “band aids” that don’t fix the problems, materialism and  teen pregnancy. We also hear of scared children dealing with the ruthlessness of a place where  life is weighed on the scales of triple beam (device used for weighing drugs).

He asks us, is this a nightmare or the American Dream? A valid question since every dollar he make another brother drops.

On the surface this verse contains profanity, murder without regret, and a promotion of gangster lifestyle. However if we listen to the entirety of the verse we see that he is really discussing  American social injustice and a fixed system specifically the cycle of poverty leading to crime, and crime to prison. He shows us how even prison doesn’t end the game.  “There’ll be another one after me…… a hustler”  No matter what, lock up one drug dealer, someone will take their place the next day.  A magnificent beat underpinning a lyric that is both polished and polluted. The pretty and profane.

I can’t not give you the original sample. It’s one of my favorites.

Jasper Country Man- Bobbi Humphrey

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Now how do we break this down. The pretty and the profane, the gorgeous and the grimey.  I remember listening to The Chronic and Doggystyle on my yellow Sony CD player up in my room, on headphones trying to hide it from my parents. Think about  Ready to Die. Easy Moe Bee beats bumping, Biggie ripping the track open with so many different rhythmic inflections, adlibs and cadences. Although the album is riddled with profanity, violence and even suicide, I you have the ability to take on the project as a whole , the artistry of the album cannot be denied.

Listen to the opening verse of Unbelievable. Lyrics by Biggie beat by DJ Premier

“Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the livest one
Representing BK to the fullest
Gats I pull it, bastards ducking when Big be bucking
Chickenheads be clucking in my bathroom fucking
It ain’t nothing, they know Big be handling
With the mac in the Ac’ door paneling
Damagin MC’s, oxygen they can’t breathe
Mad tricks up the sleeve, wear boxers so my dick can breathe
Breeze through in the Q-45 by my side, lyrical high
And those that rushes my clutches get put on crutches
Get smoked like dutches from the master
Hate to blast you, but I have to, you see I smoke a lot
Your life is played out like Kwame, and them fucking polka dots
Who rock the spot? Biggie
You know how the weed go, unbelievable.

In this verse Biggie beautifully weaves in and out of pulling guns on people, bathroom sex, Smoking weed, crippling someone and dissing an old school emcee. That is what it seems like on the surface, but when you read along and listen simultaneously to his delivery and the word play, there is a lot more to take in. Biggie masterfully uses the english language to  makes it seem like he is just taking part in violent acts and getting high. In reality  it’s all metaphor for his UNBELIEVABLE rhyme style.  Pretty and profane.

These lyrics are spit over top a super hot beat the the legendary DJ Premier. His rhythmic scratches bring Biggies voice in an out letting us know who is the illest. Not to mention the genius sample of R. Kelly’s  “Your  body’s calling” Which birthed the title of this track. Speaking of pretty and profane R. Kelly is whole other article. Primo always makes the rawness sound so damn lovely.

So why did I have to hide this music. In retrospect I do not think Ice-T or Biggie would even be considered hardcore today. The lyrics were smart, based in reality, it’s excellent story telling filled with expert use literary device. Why would my parents not want me to hear this? Why would they not want me to hear Snoop or Dre, or Nas, or Jay-Z or Wu- Tang.

Was it the cursing? I don’t think so. I watched movies with cursing in them all time from a young age. Also our parents are the same generation who listened to Richard Pryor records, and Redd Foxx. Talk about saying something foul…. They were the kings.

Was it the Violence? I don’t think so. I saw Robocop when I was 7 years old. Should I have, I don’t know, but I turned out Ok. However it seemed like they were fine with me viewing the material.

Was it the sexual themes and misogyny? Ok even I can admit I didn’t need to hear Biggie have sex in between One more Chance and The What. I just didn’t need to hear that. It was absolutely vulgar, and offensive to many. But the track that follows up the profane interlude (The What feat. Method Man) is so damn pretty. Here we are met with Jay-Z’s question again, do we listen to music or just skim through it. Do we take on projects as a whole, or do we take one part and say this whole album or this whole genre is just trash. Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies. However if I only saw the rape and murder scenes, without the rest of the movie would I really be qualified to judge it?

The reason I think I hid it was because of a generational gap. When I was growing up Hip Hop had a bad media image. My own family publicly came out in the media against Hip Hop and it’s lyrical content. In the end most of the critics heard one or two songs and labeled an entire genre as “evil” without ever listening to a full album or inquiring about the diverse group of artists  Hip Hop had to offer. There used to be all kinds of Hip Hop music, with many different messages and foci. Now ” However in all honesty ask yourself could your mother make it through the entire Chronic album?  Most of the Mom’s of that era I know could not.

Here’s an example. I was at my friend’s house back in  highschool. We were listening to “Sucka Nigga” from A Tribe Called Quests Album Midnight Marauders. This song delves into the historical roots of the term “nigger”. A word used to cause pain, and how Hip Hop has taken control of the word, using it as term of endearment. However we got in trouble for listening to Tribe because all her Mom heard was Nigga, Nigga, Nigga, Nigga,Nigga. If we would have sat with her mom, broke down the Freddie Hubbard sample used,  and deconstructed the lyrical content to bring the pretty and the profane to the surface, she would have gotten it. But these conversations do not happen.

 

Sucka Nigga – A Tribe Called Quest

My wife Pilar and I bump classic Hip Hop as a “Daily Operation” (Gangstarr)  Loud in the house, sub woofer pumping. Should we be hiding it?

We have two daughters Aaliyah (5) Lola (3) They are incredible in every way. I want to be able to share my love of Hip Hop with them. I want to play the albums I  grew up listening to for them. Some of my greatest memories are listening to Motown tapes in my Dad’s car. I know every lyric, every drop, and every key change  Motown ever wrote from those car rides and talking about music with my Dad.

Will I be able to impart that kind of history on Aaliyah and Lola?

I think it’s my duty to help Aaliyah and Lola understand the social constructs that created all these stories of violence, and misogyny that glorify the dark parts of this life. It is also my duty to help them see music and art as entire pieces. The ability to understand the project as a whole, not just a bunch of curses and violent acts. It is mine and the duty of other Hip Hop parents to nurture a mature listener.

So how do we raise kids who can understand the social constructs that created these very explicit narratives? Kids who can separate art from reality.

  1. Choose the right artists- May not want to jump right in with rawness. Start off with something like

The Message by Grand- Master Flash and Furious Five

Paid in Full by Eric B & Rakim

 

Work your way up to N.W.A, Biggie and Kendrick Lamar

N.W.A – Fuck the Police – A blistering take on police violence

 

Kendrick Lamar- Blacker the Berry- Ingenious look at how America loves Black culture but hates Black people

If  sharing your love of Hip Hop with your kids is important to you I don’t have to tell you that there are  a lot  of differences between say, Biggie, Common, The Roots, School- Boy Q,  Nicki Minaj, Drake, Jungle Brothers, and Kendrick Lamar. You can pick songs and albums that you feel comfortable with. If they start to ask questions, look for the teachable moments. They can understand more than we think.

I want my kids to listen to Things Fall Apart, Wu-Tang Forever and Aquemini with fond memories. To love these albums and use them to ask just as many questions as I did.

 

  1. Approach the topic of sexism and misogyny with care.

“Raps stars and the corporations that distribute their songs get away with and have profited handsomely from highly vulgar and explicit forms of sexism specifically targeting black women. A fact that only encourages other up and coming artists to follow in their misogynist footsteps to get famous and rich. For all the recent and past outcry against the ways that hip hop generally depicts black women, this state of affairs has, for the most part (with just a few major challenges here and there), been allowed to expand and diversify mostly unchecked.” Rose (Hip Hop Wars)

Pilar and I are raising two black girls in 2017 America. This country is  not really a forward thinking place anymore.  Aaliyah and Lola will undoubtedly face challenges as women of color.

I mean look at this twitter feed to see how Black women are treated in the workplace.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-women-of-twitter-share-the-bs-they-put-up-with-at-work-every-day_us_58daca63e4b01ca7b427a563

They will have some advantages too, but being a woman of color in America is an uphill battle against, racism, sexism, cronyism, nepotism, and many other isms.

How can I make sure that Aaliyah and Lola know that they are not a rented prop for some man? How can I make sure they know to never accept disrespect, and know they can be in control, powerful, creative and influential, without playing into the stereotypical roles of black women in hip hop. How can I show them this when something I love shows so much of the opposite?

Well, I will choose the right artists to share. I will break down MC Lyte, and Queen Latifah. I will bump that Jean Grae and Bahamadia. Lauryn Hill stays on repeat.

It’s my job to show them the Hip Hop I love, and find modern artists that share the values and aesthetics I want to foster. To show that Hip Hop is a culture with its own, art, music, dance, fashion, speech, and customs.

Andre 3000 raps on Humble Mumble (Stankonia)

“ I met a critic, I made her sh** her drawers. She thought hip hip was only guns and alcohol. I said oh hell naw, but yet it’s that too. You can’t discrimihate cause you done read a book or two. What if I looked at you through a microscope, saw all the dirty organisms living in your closet would I pause it.”

Andre is saying hip hop is bigger than the stereotypes and negativity. And no need to hit pause on just the dirty parts we are so complex.

I am talking about creating responsible active listeners who do not just skim through. Listeners  who can break the music down analytically, but also just chill, vibe and enjoy it as helps them grow. They will be able to hear and enjoy the Pretty and the Profane as one. The Bomb Squad will bring them as much pleasure as Mozart, Duke Ellington and Baldwin.

Why is this important? Because Hip Hop is a music that named an entire generation of people. It was a driving force in our formative years, and helped to shape who we are as people. I truly believe that sharing Hip Hop and Hip Hop culture will help my kids know me better, creating lifelong memories.

 

The beat will always go on, life will bring joy and pain, but hip hop can help you appreciate the pretty and the profane.

 

New Edition- Inspirations and Influences

 

Art influences art. One talented performer admires another, analyzes what they have done, then they add their own element to it. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. Especially for Black Music in America. From Work songs, to Spirituals to Blues, Jazz, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop. Each one of these styles was built from the foundation of it’s predecessor.  The BEAT GOES ON because it is in the soul of the African to play and perform music and to dance.  I know I know it’s a stereotype, but it’s true. It was and still is a part of everyday life. I know I got to have my music right for every occasion. Shower, workout, dinner, long drive, chilling the friends, life has a soundtrack

As I was watching the New Edition Story I couldn’t help but think a few things

1. It’s really good! BET  kilt the production of this series, the cast is extremely talented, and the dance steps were  TIIIIIIGHHT! I mean they were always in time and together, made the visual nostalgia that much more intense. On point in every way.

2.  New Edition grew from the soil of  Doo-Wop groups  like the Penguins, The Coasters and the Drifters. Motown groups like the Four Tops and Temptations, on to the Jackson 5. You can clearly see and hear the connections between the generations. I have seen The Jackson’s on VH-I 100 times, The Temptations 200 times, The Five Heartbeat. honestly upwards of 1000 times  From the outfits, to the dance steps, to the story arch itself. The New Edition Story is a great example of how cultural DNA passes down within Black Music.

3. Industry rule #4080 record people are shady.

A major focus of this website and my work in general is connecting the dots within Black Music.  Bruno Mars was quoted in Latina magazine saying

“When you say “Black Music,” understand that you are talking about Rock, Jazz, R&B, Reggae, Funk, Doo-Wop, Hip-Hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even Salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, Black Music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag. I’m a child raised in the ‘90s. Pop music was heavily rooted in R&B from Whitney, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, TLC, Babyface, New Edition, Michael, and so much more. As kids this is what was playing on MTV and the radio. This is what we were dancing to at school functions and BBQs. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me. They have brought me so much joy and created the soundtrack to my life filled with memories that I’ll never forget. Most importantly, they were the superstars that set the bar for me and showed me what it takes to sing a song that can get the whole world dancing, or give a performance that people will talk about forever. Watching them made me feel like I had to be as great as they were in order to even stand a chance in this music business. You gotta sing as if Jodeci is performing after you and dance as if Bobby Brown is coming up next.”

 

http://www.latina.com/featured/magazine/2017/bruno-mars/

I think he just said it all. The continuity of African culture stands strong through generations.  He even put New Edition on his list of influences.

Let’s analyze this DNA strand a bit further. Can you name any Black Male R&B groups that tour and record, dance and sing like New Edition?……………………..

Nope, because there aren’t any. There is not one Black Male R&B group currently signed to a major label. Throughout the history of Black Music in America this was one of the most popular group formats. That has changed 100%. Ego’s along with a music industry that is selling fewer albums each year has killed the R&B group as we know it. I really hope there is a group of kids out there that saw the New Edition Story,  then immediately got up and started working on their steps. Please, keep the culture alive.

Below is a list of Black Male R&B groups who have influenced each other throughout the generations.

 

Doo Wop

The Platters,  The Drifters, The Moonglows The Coasters, The Penguins,

Rhythm and Blues (Jump Blues)

Louis Jordan, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters

Rock and Roll- Little Richard 

Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard

Funk/Soul

Temptations, Four Tops, Jackson 5, Impressions, Whispers, Kool and the Gang, Ohio Players, Earth Wind and Fire, Isley Brothers, The Gap Band, NEW EDITION, Boyz II Men, Shai,  Toni, Tony, Tone,Jodeci, MINT CONDITION, 112, Black Street, BBD, Jagged Edge, Dru Hill, Next, Soul 4 real. Now we have The Weeknd and Bruno Mars holding it down.

Now check the mix

New Edition- Inspirations and Influences

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/djalias/episodes/2017-02-10T16_05_41-08_00

People’s Protest Vol II

I know you all have been out there fighting the good fight. I started a Facebook thread last week about “Favorite Protest Songs” This mix is the product of YOUR suggestions and YOUR willingness to stand up for what is right and virtuous. As I listened back to the this mix on the train yesterday I got goosebumps and my eyes welled up several times. This mix tells a story, and addresses the social issues we are dealing with now head on. I have not felt this creatively satisfied in a while, and I thank everyone who took the time to comment, and share and listen. Seriously THANK YOU!

https://www.mixcloud.com/djalias2/peoples-protest-vol-ii/listeners/

 

Track list-

Ancestor Intro- Speech (Arrested Development)
Make America Great Again- Pussy Riot
April 29th, 1992 (Miami)
Borders- MIA
They Don’t Really Care About Us- Michael Jackson
Sly Fox- Nas
Killing in the Name Of – Rage Against The Machine
Sound of Da Police- KRS-ONE
Impeach The President- The Honey Drippers
What’s Going On- Marvin Gaye
You Haven’t Done Nothing- Stevie Wonder
Alright- Kendrick Lamar
Ladies First- Queen Latifah ft. Monie Love
When You Gonna Learn?
My Country- Tune-Yards
Arrest the President- Intelligent Hoodlum
Bullet Proof- Ray Mang
Zombie- Fela Kuti
Keep on Pushing- The Impressions
War- Bob Marley
The Warriors- The Gladiators
Ghetto People Song- Everton Blender
Ohio- Isley Brothers
Which Side Are You On?- Ani Difranco
Which Side Are You On?- Talib Kweli (feat Tef Poe and Kendra Ross)
Feat Not of Man- Mos Def
This Land is Our Land

 

Don’t Let The “MINUTIAE” Infiltrate

 

“I think that what I have learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves, and what  I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman. I saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered, that he was okay, and accept him. And I hope that we do a better job of that”

I was moved by this speech last night. Mahershala Ali while accepting is SAG award for best supporting actor spoke to our humanity and emotions while holding back tears of his own. Clearly a shot at #45, but classy one. Mahershala asked us to not “get caught up in the MINUTIAE that make us different” Race, class, religion, sexual orientation, all minutiae. I’m loving that word right now. Minutiae. We are letting our tiny differences create giant divisions. Divisions that give hate and fear the ability to  huff and puff, and eventually you know what happens. Religion almost took him away from his Mother. But love won out,  not the name of their respective God.

Ernie Hines- Our Generation

 

With the March for Equal rights last Saturday, then all the immigration protests that went down this past weekend. It seems that a lot of people believe in the ideals America claims to hold dear. You know, all are created equal, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and all that.

Big ups to Mahershala Ali on a your SAG award, and for helping us sift through the MINUTIAE…… one more time

MINUTIAE (great word)

 

Also go see MOONLIGHT! Tells a story we do not usually talk about. A population of people folded in on themselves.

Get Up, Stand Up

 

FullSizeRender My family heading out to the march.  Aaliyah, Lola and Pilar (left to right)

I did not wake up yesterday thinking…. I’m about to be a part of history. But I was. Actually it wasn’t me. It was me, my family and friends, along with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. We were joined by those in Atlanta, Chicago, Nairobi, Helsinki and Buenos Aires even Antartica held it down yesterday. I had no idea this was going to be global “Jumpoff.”

IMG_3722 Listen to these girls. They are the future. “It is my body, so it is my choice” Marches popped off all over the world.

2300womensmarch-v4

The Women’s Rights march showed the power of the people.  Millions of people all over came out to “Get Up, Stand Up”  There were signs for Women’s rights, Black Lives matter, Dump Trump, We can’t Comb over racism, LGBTQ rights, everyone got a little love today.

My mind is blown by the number of people that came out. It is very easy to feel like we are too small to make a difference. Yesterday I saw many small groups of people turn into a massive force. I feel inspired, I want to do more, get more involved. I’m sure I’m not alone.

To think that folks in Georgia (the country) came out to protest Trump and what he stands for gives me hope. There is a quote going around now that goes something like, “There are more of us than there are of him” Meaning
WE THE PEOPLE can stand up as one, and fight for equal rights. Equality for everyone. Every time I heard that quote before yesterday, my cynical side sighed and rolled its eyes. However today I feel hopeful. Today I feel like human beings actually care about one another. I know that the entire world feels that we are living in “Tryin times”(Roberta Flack)  and that we’re willing to hit the pavement and “Bring the Noise” (Public Enemy). Man, that what’s up.

Is this march going to save the Affordable Care Act? I wish that it could. Is this march going to make our new Attorney General not racist? No, but it did spark the spirits of the people. If we the people form a closed fist, we can knockout the hatred. We saw today how many people care, now lets keep the momentum going!

IMG_3737

This  journey of equal rights is a strange one. It’s centuries old, but it stays fresh and never loses its strength. Like my President Barack Obama said, “Democracy is not the buildings. It’s not the monuments. It’s you. Being able to work together to make things better and being able to listen to each other.”  

 

images

Thanks to;  Pilar, Aaliyah, Lola, Amy, Nick, Nina, Sara, George, Zora, Yuen, Brian, Morris, Iyla, Meno, Latoya, Clementine, Alex, Meg, and Sabrina. Sharing this experience with you was inspiring.

Now check out the Mix that accompanies this piece. I know you gonna dig this.

  •  Stand Up Jamrock by Bob Marley
  • Hip Hop Dreams by DJ Alias, Kanye, Game
  • Come Together by The Beatles
  •  The Revolution Will Not be Televised by Gil- Scot Heron
  •  Get By by Talib Kweli
  • We The People by A Tribe Called Quest
  • American Idiot by Green Day
  •  Black Pride interlude by Solange
  •  Mississippi Goddamn by Nina Simone
  •  Fight the Power by Public Enemy
  •  Tryin Times by Roberta Flack

Handmade Vol II

img_8902

 

Mixed with my two hands for your two ears.  One cup of Childish Gambino, 2 Teaspoons of Aretha, 2 tablespoons of The Police. Bring it to a James Brown Boil. Garnish with John Coltrane.

 

Track List-

  1. Legend has it- Run the Jewels
  2. Spottieottiedopalicous- OutKast
  3. Motivation- Atmosfear
  4. Welcome to our world of merry music- Mass Production
  5. Makes you blind- Glitter band
  6. I Want you (she’s so heavy) – The Beatles
  7. I Want you (She’s so heavy)- Eddie Hazel
  8. Rockin- The Weeknd
  9. Give it up turn it a loose- James Brown
  10. 100 Miles and Runnin- N.W.A
  11. Voices inside my head- The Police
  12. Nao Aguento voce- Trio Esperanca
  13. Comet Course- Flying Lotus
  14. I’m Blue- Ike and Tina Turner
  15. The one who really love you- Mary Wells
  16. Yildiz Tilbe- Adanali
  17. Circle- Zeb
  18. Spanish Harlem- Aretha Franklin
  19. Straight to the Bar- DJ Spun
  20. Autumn Serenade- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
  21. Kaifa Part 1 &2- Karl Hector and the Falcons
  22. Have Some Love- Childish Gambino
  23. Solid Wall of Sound- A Tribe Called Quest
  24. Notorious Thugs- Biggie
  25. No, No, No- Dawn Penn
  26. Right Time remix- Kaytranada and Tuxedo
  27. Wading- Sunset
  28. Bite the hand that feeds- Nine inch Nails
  29. Let no man put asunder- First Choice
  30. It Don’t mean a thing- Ray Brown
  31. Start of the ending- Mobb Deep
  32. Misdemeanor – Ahmad Jamal and the Sylvers

 

Track List-

  1. Legend has it- Run the Jewels
  2. Spottieottiedopalicous- OutKast
  3. Motivation- Atmosfear
  4. Welcome to our world of merry music- Mass Production
  5. Makes you blind- Glitter band
  6. I Want you (she’s so heavy) – The Beatles
  7. I Want you (She’s so heavy)- Eddie Hazel
  8. Rockin- The Weeknd
  9. Give it up turn it a loose- James Brown
  10. 100 Miles and Runnin- N.W.A
  11. Voices inside my head- The Police
  12. Nao Aguento voce- Trio Esperanca
  13. Comet Course- Flying Lotus
  14. I’m Blue- Ike and Tina Turner
  15. The one who really love you- Mary Wells
  16. Yildiz Tilbe- Adanali
  17. Circle- Zeb
  18. Spanish Harlem- Aretha Franklin
  19. Straight to the Bar- DJ Spun
  20. Autumn Serenade- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
  21. Kaifa Part 1 &2- Karl Hector and the Falcons
  22. Have Some Love- Childish Gambino
  23. Solid Wall of Sound- A Tribe Called Quest
  24. Notorious Thugs- Biggie
  25. No, No, No- Dawn Penn
  26. Right Time remix- Kaytranada and Tuxedo
  27. Wading- Sunset
  28. Bite the hand that feeds- Nine inch Nails
  29. Let no man put asunder- First Choice
  30. It Don’t mean a thing- Ray Brown
  31. Start of the ending- Mobb Deep
  32. Misdemeanor – Ahmad Jamal and the Sylvers

Awaken, My Love: Music for You and Your Folks

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Awaken My Love!!! As Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri would say is ‘Sooooo, Funkdafied.” It is the latest album by The Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) a.k.a. the dude that can’t lose this year, a.k.a. the dude that is playing Lando Calrissian in the new Star Wars (yeah Billy Dee’s role),  a.k.a. the dude that created and wrote the best new show of 2016, which is Atlanta.

This album most assuredly brings the Trunk Funk, but it also serves up Rock, Soul, Blues and Gospel all in one beautiful gift. Holding the roots of Black music at it’s foundation, and using creativity as a spoon to feed sophisticated musical palates that are tired of bland music.

Honestly, I have not been more intrigued by an album in years. I have played it at least 10 times all the way through since last Friday. I’ll admit, it may not be a first listen type of album. It has layers and experiments that will grow on you. For me it was a lot like listening to the Love Below  by Andre 3000 of Outkast for the first time. I just did not know what to make of it. I was not a Love Below fan at first. Now I think It is one of the best albums ever recorded, but that was 16 years ago. Now my ears were ready for this kind of work.

What is so special about it? Why should you play it on repeat?

First off Gambino is going to shock you with sound, then connect to you as a fan. This album is filled with fuzzy guitars, falsetto vocals, gospel singing, punchy bass, and psychedelic interludes. The album hits over the head with beats that bang, girls that sang, and a styles that clang together to create an unforgettable journey. Not what you would expect from someone who has only put out rap albums. To be truthful I don’t love his other albums. But I do feel like AML combined with Atlanta make me feel connected to him as an artist. I see myself and my friends and family in his writing and characters.

As I was listening I could place people in my life who would be into this music, or the lyrics reminded me of an experience with them. I saw myself in this art, I heard myself is this art, and that means a lot to me. He is making music for “Me and my Folks”

Soooo, next up is my favorite topic. Musical History. I listened to Awaken, on my home system, out for a run on headphones, and off my computer speakers. Each time the funk hit me in a different way, resulting in a screwed face head nod with a “whooooo….. It’s Hot” attached to it. However when I got into the car and played it, everything came together.

No one can tell you what love feels like, you just know. I had a moment going through the Holland Tunnel playing this album and I just knew. How did I know? What did I hear? I heard him using Funkadelic and Sly Stone as a roux to make a delicious pot of Gambino Soul Stew.

 

unknown

1. Maggot Brain by Funkadelic

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2. There’s a Riot Going on by Sly and the Family Stone.

These two albums are the sonic foundation of  Awaken, My Love.

Want to compare them? Let’s do it.

Have Some Love- Childish Gambino

 

Can you get to that – Funkadelic

Do you hear the unison voices singing gospel like harmonies on top of the snapping back beat?  Gambino perfectly invokes the feeling of “Can you get to that” in a completely original way.  It’s like hearing George and Bootsy get busy but  with  modern recording equipment, just fownk!

 

Redbone by Childish Gambino

 

I’d Rather Be With You- Bootsy Collins

 

Hear that punchy Bootsy Bass, and the chords?  It’s what we do. Learn from our ancestors to create something new. While still giving credit to those that taught us.

Baby Boy- Childish Gambino

 

Just like a Baby- Sly Stone

 

Just listen to the Bass line… the influence is clear.

Message!

The Pharcyde wrote ” I want to kick something that means something”  a line on their classic album “Labcabincalifornia” In an era of mumble raps and senseless music that is “Offensive and a threat to us.” (Oddisee)  Childish Gambino is bringing us music with a message. Music that tells us to “Stand Tall” and never back down from your dreams. Music that asks us to “Have Some Love.” Music that shows us it is ok to be “Terrified” at times and on Baby boy he croons of a parents love for his/her child.  This album, and Atlanta give a glimpse into the life of a real person, allowing you to see yourself in it. This is age appropriate music with meaning. From the talking drum, to the slave field holler, to KRS ONE. We have used our music to send messages. Glover is keeping the tradition strong.

Musicianship.

Unfortunately, a musicians credit list has not been released. (digital technology uggh, just give me liner notes please) But whoever it is that played on this record……. I love them, plain and simple. The album is laden with warm funky yet melodic bass lines. Guitar that is sometimes smooth and acoustic like Norah Jones, but gritty and distorted like Jimi Hendrix on the next track. The drums are big and crisp. Intended to keep your head ringing through the whole journey. The Vocals are Prince like with Andre 3000 fused in. The background vocals invoke the Fisk Jubilee singers and En Vouge simultaneously.  It’s top notch musicianship  throughout.

This record contains a sound palate that is unlike anything you will hear currently. So much movement. Not just Verse, Chorus, Verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and out. No, these are fully imagined, and perfectly executed musical compositions. Compositions with dynamic shifts in rhythm, volume, tempo and style throughout. I even love the way is ends…………………….

 

 

Further listening.

Maggot Brain- Funkadelic

There’s a Riot Going on – Sly Stone

The Love Below- Outkast

Dirty Mind- Prince

Hot Buttered Soul- Issac Hayes

Are You Experienced- Jimi Hendrix

 

 

To actually live together?

IMG_8930
Devices, Devices Divisive.  Am I the  only one who gets into fights with people over the internet? I mean days long battles. Attack, counter attack, air strikes, followed by insults and character judgments.
 One of these epic struggles with an old roommate of mine. We basically have opposite views on everything involving social and political issues. It got to a point where we were insulting one another, pretty badly. But we were tight,tight, tight in college. These issues never arose for us. We were teammates on the defensive line. We partied, ate a lot of food, and kicked it hard. I had no idea we were so fundamentally different then, even though we were living in the same house. Now we both have lost just a little respect for one another.  There has to be a way to reconcile right? Or has our President-Elect and the avalanche of feelings that stem from this election been too much?
    Sometimes we get physically and emotionally consumed  writing a response on Facebook. It’s a crazy feeling, and not a healthy one.  We put a lot of ourselves into writing these responses, but so much of our point is based on our humanity and emotion. Seeing three dots flash, then reading words will never be the same as sitting in someones living room, favorite drink in hand and having a face to face conversation.
The problem is that race and socio-economic status have segregated how and where we live. These homogenous communities allow stereotypes and ignorance to fester. Lets imagine if folks with different backgrounds and cultures all got a chance to at least meet and interact as humans some minds would change. Some. How often does this happen? When does a Black female film maker  from Brooklyn have a conversation with a Miner from West Virginia?
Over this holiday season the topic came up as I was talking with my parents at the table. We were discussing the fact that there are people who have never met a person of color in their entire lives! Yes, this is true. There are citizens in this country who have never met a Black person before, or a Puerto Rican person, or insert any minority. They only know people who look and think just like them. TV shows, movies and mainstream media have built their understanding of who we are.
This conversation brought up a memory for my Father that he had never told me or my Mother.
He was the sophomore at Aurora College in Illionis, and the class president. Two White freshman students from Jacksonville, Florida were on the campus for the start of the year. When they found out that the Sophomore class president was Black, they pretty much lost it. They went to the Dean and said essentially that they were going to leave the school, and there is no way they could go to a school where a Black person was in this position. The Dean calmed their fears and told them to just go hear this man speak.
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This is a photo of my father Marvin McMickle and a few of his classmates at Aurora College.
After the speech these two students approached my father for a dialogue. They told him, “We almost left this school and did not attend because of YOU” Baffled, he asked them how he could have that effect on them. The answer is rooted in the segregation we began this piece with.
They said “We had never met a black person who could speak english”  Of course even in college my father was extremely eloquent and a master orator. He blew their minds, and completely shattered all their prior experiences. But think about it this way. What would have happened if they just left school and never heard the speech? They would have gone back to the same community in Florida with the same views.
The only reason they came into contact with a Black person like Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle,  was because they were engaging in higher education outside of their comfort zone. A majority of people do not get this opportunity. We never get to meet each other, and see the humanity of one another. This happened in 1967, and there are still people today who believe that Black people are stupid and lazy. These beliefs are passed down through the generations based upon myths (myths like, black skin can rub off onto you and make you black, he encountered that one as well)
How do we get to really know people who are not like us, especially in this social media era. The algorithms are set to only show us posts and news in line with our beliefs and “likes”. We don’t even get to read how other people are thinking and feeling, let alone actually talk to them. My President Barack Obama said in his farewell speech. “If you are tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one in person”
My same old roommate also said this (Sorry to keep blowing your spot, but you give me so much material)
  “If you are going to a black neighborhood you are taking a risk. All black neighborhoods are dangerous.”
He also told me that I have never experienced racism and it’s not as bad as I think. Thanks for telling me about my black experience homie, appreciate that.
 This is a person who claims to not be racist. When asked how many black neighboorhood’s he has visited …. radio silence. We know the answer.  Now would a face to face conversation change his mind about black communities? That’s a hard battle. Trump is normalizing the belief that all black people live in crumbling  inner-cities, that need fixing. Since he doesn’t talk to or interact with any people of color his attitude is not likely to change. Guess he has never heard of Prince George’s county either.
This is not the fault of any individual, and it really isn’t a choice for most Americans. We just do not live in the same places together.  It is a systemic problem based upon racist practices in housing like redlining.” Redlining is the practice of denying or limiting financial services to certain neighborhoods based on racial or ethnic composition without regard to the residents’ qualifications or creditworthiness. The term “redlining” refers to the practice of using a red line on a map to delineate the area where financial institutions would not invest”
Below is an example of a housing covenant in Washington D.C.
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Source- http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35255835
Sooooo no Blacks, no Jews, and no one from the Middle East. I know this song, heard it somewhere before.
The US government was complicit in this type of discrimination for decades. Complicit in keeping us apart. This is one of the reasons we don’t really live together. We may be in the same city or town, but not truly living a life together.
Until we are sitting down with people who think differently from us, hearing them, and letting them hear us. No stereotypes or myths will be dissolved, and we will continue to grow apart. I am not saying this is easy.  It takes patience along with compassion. It has to come from a place of love.  We have to be willing to stop saying “Oh he or she is just  a stupid redneck” and the other side needs to chill with  the thought that people of color are  lazy, criminal thug, rapists who only live in inner cities and collect welfare.
Can we do this? I really don’t know.  Just like with our environmental problems as a planet.  I go through points of hope, and sometimes I think nah we’re too for gone, just forget it.