I told myself I wasn't gonna write about this, but that seems to be the first indication that I'm going to wind up writing about something. Everybody knows that there has been some controversy surrounding The Passion because of some possible anti-Semitic content. My personal belief is that the viewer will see whatever he or she expected to see, only more. If the person went in thinking she was going to see an anti-Semitic movie, that's what she'll see. If the person went in thinking she was going to see a visual representation of one of the central elements of her faith, that's what she'll see. I personally don't believe the movie has anti-Semitic intent, but I do believe that a person who is extremely sensitive can find it offensive. I wasn't planning on writing about that, but I hadn't told myself I wasn't going to write about that. I told myself I wasn't going to write about the other controversy; the one where some Black people are criticizing the movie because Jesus is depicted as being white. Now, I like to think that I'm hip. I understand all the ramifications of Jesus being white in the popular American imagination and all of that. At some point a few years ago, I used to really get uptight about things like that. However, being a little older and having more perspective, I really have to question the motive of the inquisitors. For instance, inthe first article I saw raising the issue, the person doing the protesting was Malik Shabazz, of the New Black Panther Party. Now I could be wrong, but somehow I suspect that he doesn't believe in Jesus in the first place. Moreover, I doubt that his objection to Christianity has anything to do with Jesus' physical characteristics. In my experience, many of the same people who will tell you that Jesus was Black will tell you that Christianity is the white man's religion. Now, I'm not going to get into all of that right here in this post (although I probably will at some point) but I will say that it can't be both ways. If Jesus himself is Black but the American Christianity which sanctioned slavery is based on a white Jesus, then the integrity of true Christianity cannot be questioned because the version that is in dispute is not authentic in the first place. Later, I read a review in which an AME minister raised the same objection. Kept telling myself I wasn't going to say anything, but at this point, I just can't help it. First of all, it was kind of interesting when they used the description in Revelation 1:14 & 1:15 on the "Black Jesus" episode of Good Times, but it's getting out of hand now. Good Times was a situation comedy. As much as people may want to use those verses as biblical proof that Jesus was Black, that's just incompatible with the text. The description provided in Revelation is not a physical description. Unless the proponents of that interpretation would also go as far as to say that Jesus was walking around the world with seven stars in his hand, a sword coming out of his mouth, and looking as bright as the sun. (Rev. 1:16) (So now what, is somebody gonna say that's proof he was high yellow?) No, the description of Jesus in Revelation 1 is not a literal physical description. First of all, it's a description of Jesus in his glorified form, not as he appeared as a human. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the description of Jesus in Revelation is as symbolic as the descriptions of nearly everything else in the book of Revelation. Unfortunately, I have seen Christian ministers use this same "proof," which definitely saddens me. The seven candlesticks which he was in the midst of, the golden girdle, the white hair (and please, please, please pay attention to the fact that the phrase "white like wool" is not a description of the texture of the hair, but a description of the color, which is amplified by the next phrase, "as white as snow"), the fiery eyes, the brass feet, the many-waters voice, the seven stars, the sword, and the bright countenance all have specific spiritual significance. It would be nice, but to read those verses as "Jesus is Black" is just wrong. Sorry. What's more, I think that living in the post-modern, 21st century United States, we place far too much importance on what Jesus may have looked like in the first place. If you believe that Jesus' purpose in coming into the world was to shed his blood for the remission of sins, then the color of his skin really doesn't matter. That's not a capitulation to the establishment, that's just a point of fact. If the race of the person who rescued me from drowning when I was 6 did not matter, then how much more should Jesus' "race"(which we scientifically know to be a false concept anyway) be irrelevant? Jesus' Godhood was not determined by how he looked, so we should not attach undue significance to his appearance. Unfortunately, because of the historical use of Christianity to support and justify racist practices, this is an issue. Regarding the question of the psychological effects of believing in a white Jesus, I concede that there could be some negative psychological effects. However, I would submit that those questions really have nothing to do with Jesus himself, but with the people who claim to have believed in him. Like I said earlier, if it's a misrepresentation and we know it's a misrepresentation, then the fault has to lie with the liars. Moreover, I think that when you really believe, whatever psychological difficulties may be encountered are more than compesated for by the spiritual benefits. Since I'm talking about the movie again, I might as well get it all off my chest. I don't think that this movie necessarily constitutes making a graven image, but I think it's important to keep it in its proper context; it's a movie. Mel Gibson didn't get into a time machine and film the actual event. This is no more the crucifixion than that Madden game I just got through playing was the Super Bowl. And here, I think Madden is a good analogy. Madden is very similar to football; looking at it on the screen, it's almost like watching a game on television. Almost. But in some very significant ways, it's not even close. Real football is exponentially more difficult than any video game representation could ever be. For as hard as it can be to pass on a highly-ranked defense on the game, to actually be on a football field with the same players would not even rate a comparison. Likewise with this movie versus the actual event. It's a representation of, not the. Remember that.
Why is it that when I first told people that I got a bass/was learning how to play the bass, they called the name of some Black guy who plays rock music? One of my friends was like, Darius Rucker! Another was like, Lenny Kravitz! I mean, there's nothing wrong with either one of those, but nobody thought of Bootsy? Larry Graham? Just wondering.
I saw the 3 disc set of the first season of "What's Happenin'." Best believe I'm coppin' it ASAP. I think I even saw the 2nd season of "Good Times." If so, I'll be coppin' that soon, too. I just need to find out what episode James died, so I can be sure not to buy anything after that. That's when Good Times jumped the shark.
I went and saw The Passion yesterday. It's intense. Very graphic; extremely visceral. My take is that it's not a movie that you see with other people; not for believers, at least. When you see something like that, the main thing you realize is that it was for you. That's what makes it so hard to watch as opposed to other violent movies. I'll put it like this- I cried watching The Passion, and the last time I cried because of what was going in a movie was, about, never. Moreover, I cut my teeth reading Luke 23, so I know the story of the crucifixion. I knew what was going to happen, which parts were scripture and which parts were artistic interpretation; there were even a few lines I was expecting to hear and didn't. I mention that to say that I was not at all caught off guard. I have even read a physician's description of the crucifixion, so the severity of the flogging was not surprising to me; I have been taught and personally believe that it was even worse than what was depicted on film. Isaiah 52:14 says "As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men." Still, watching a portryal of it is so different than reading about it that it almost defies description. It's one thing to read about how brutal a Roman scourging was, but it's something else altogether to see what one might've looked like. But I bet the difference between what the film portrays and what actually happened is even wider than the difference between what I imagined and what Mel Gibson suggested. Having said that, I do believe that the violence is so graphic and so overwhelming that it's numbing. If that scene was about a minute or two shorter, it would be even more powerful than it already is. I liked some of the dramatic devices like having the devil whispering temptation in the Garden and showing the devil moving amongst the crowd and the Roman centurions. Like I said earlier, though, there were some parts I was looking for that didn't show up. What's more, I wasn't sure what the point of having Jesus say something that is not in the Bible until Revelation. I understand it in a larger sense, but it's a curious inclusion. All that said, I firmly recommend it. I would suggest first going by yourself and then bringing anybody who you think should see it. Like I said, though, it's not the type of movie that you see together. You may walk into the theater with another person but you see this movie all by yourself.
Allow me to be one of the few to say that when it comes to the canonization of Tupac, I just don't get it. Was Pac nice? Yes...sometimes. Was Pac the nicest? Not by miles. So my question has always been, when professors started using hip-hop in the classromo, what made them pick him? Sure, there are elements of his life that make for hearty discussions, but I still don't get it. (Now, I've never taken one of these courses, so I don't know what the syllabus looks like. It's possible that everything I'm about to say is taken into consideration.) In a discussion of political rap, Tupac comes before Public Enemy and BDP? In a discussion of lyrics, Tupac comes before Rakim? Tupac comes within 20 feet of Rakim? So in the words of Mel Brooks, I'm like a eunuch at an orgy-- I just don't get it. In There's a God on the Mic, Kool Moe Dee provides a possible explanation, saying, "There are many emcees that rhyme better and are better lyricists than Tupac, but none can touch listeners on a mass level like Tupac did...he was like the hip-hop everyman." Being honest, that was a possibility I had not considered because Tupac never reached me like that. But to extend on Moe Dee's assessment, I think that the main thing that made people relate to Tupac was his passion. Tupac seemed to write from emotion and adrenaline, as opposed to writing (and rapping) as a pure display of skill. In that sense, I guess you could say that Tupac was real. In the sense that most people mean when they say "real," though, I'm not so sure. I know that Tupac became real, but in his case, it's like his life imitated his lyrics instead of vice-versa. I forget whether I read it somewhere or heard it somewhere, so I don't know who to credit with the idea originally, but somebody once said that the beginning of the end for Tupac was when he played Bishop in "Juice." Certainly, the timeline seems to support that, since the "Thug Life" Tupac came after he'd played Bishop. Before that, he was best known for his verse in Digital Underground's "Same Song." Once in a conversation with a friend, I tried to make the distinction between Tupac and Ice Cube, saying that Pac was the gangsta's thinking man while Cube was the thinking man's gangsta. At the time I waffled back and forth on which as which, but at this point, I think it's pretty clear that Ice Cube was the thinking man's gangsta. Primarily because he is still here, thinking. In interviews about the evolution of his career, Ice Cube is quick to point out that he is not 18 any more. The things he wrote on "Straight Outta Compton" were accurate from his perspective then, but he can't talk about the same things in the same way now that he's over 30. I'd like to think that Tupac would've made a similar transition, but he never made it to 30.
With all due respect to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, I'm about done with Black History Month. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that it's no longer necessary for America to highlight the contributions of Black people, I just don't think Black History Month is the right means of dissemination. And while I understand and appreciate the joke that has February as being picked for Black History Month because it's the shortest month, that has nothing to do with what I don't like about it. I wouldn't care if Black History Month lasted the whole May-ember, as long as it was for a set period of time, I would be against it. As long as we teach American history, we should be teaching Black history, because they're braided together tighter than Bo Derek's hair in that movie, "10." So what I plan to do here is lay out my case against Black History Month (BHM, for short), then step up with some possible solutions or at least additions to the regular fare. One of the main faults of BHM is actually inseparable from the way American history is taught in general. When it comes to America, it's all about the individual, truth be damned. To be fair, not all history is taught in this fashion, but it is for the most part. Just think about what we know about Rosa Parks. Basically, the way the Rosa Parks story breaks down is that one day, she was tired and fed up and refused to give up her seat, then Rev. King came down and the Montgomery bus boycotts began. In a sense, that's true, but it's nowhere near close to the truth. In reality, Rosa Parks' remaining seated was not predicated on her being tired, it was a planned event. Rosa Parks was not just a meek little domestic. She was the secretary for the NAACP, for crying out loud. Because of the way we make history hinge on the individual, however, many people don't know this. They don't know that the Montgomery boycotts were not spontaneous, but a planned event. According to Douglas Brinkley, author of Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was a teenaged girl, eating a candy bar while sitting in the "whites only" section of a bus. The bus driver barked at her in racist terms to move, but she refused...The national NAACP was about to make her the prime case to challenge segregation follwing the Brown v. Topeka ruling, but because Colvin was an unwed pregnant teenager, she ended up being deemed an unacceptable candidate by the black leadership. My point here is not to discredit Rosa Parks (even though that suit against Outkast is absolutely ridiculous and without merit) but to point out that there's just a general lack of knowledge about what really happened. I didn't know this stuff until I got to college. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging more of the people and institutions involved than just one specific individual. That's just not the way narratives go in our culture. That's problematic. Another problem I have with BHM is its limited focus. Every February, we hear about the same few people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, maybe Malcom X if the teacher is feeling particularly adventurous; mayyybe George Washington Carver, but probably not. Garrett A. Morgan? Marcus Garvey? A. Philip Randolph? Nat Turner? Dr. Mae Jemison? Guion S. Bluford? Frederick Douglass? Booker T. Washington? W.E.B. DuBois? No shot. Black Wall Street in Tulsa? Eatonville, FL? Zora Neale Hurston? Langston Hughes? (well, Langston Hughes might get some run) Toni Morrison? Earl Lloyd? Larry Doby? Curt Flood? Come on. Art Shell? Bill Russell? Seriously. Black History is not just about getting brutalized and enslaved and getting brutalized during Jim Crow. All of that is important, but that's not all there is to it. No matter what the focus is, all the action didn't take place during the 60's. (And by the way, Dr. King's life didn't end in 1963, after the March on Washington. He had a lot more to say than just, "...I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Why doesn't anybody talk about his opposition to the war in Vietnam or the Poor People's March? Like Chuck D says, Dr. King wasn't just a dreamer, he was a doer. He didn't go back to sleep.) Even worse than the lack of content that's passed off during BHM is the manner in which it's given. Most people know Black history like a category on a game show. "Who was the first Black astronaut? Guion S. Bluford! Yessss!!!" It's terrible. We spit random facts that may or may not be related to anything else that's being taught, without much historical context and without any significant connection to what's going on today, right now. As I write I am thinking mostly of middle school and high school students, but I'm convinced that there are a lot of Black adults who don't know Black History outside of the aforementioned few and maybe Kunta Kinte. So what's my solution? First of all, I think that the way history is taught has to be changed. If not a wholescale change in curriculum, then at least at the classroom level by individual teachers. (And as I say this, it pains me to have to admit that when I taught I didn't have the foresight or the classroom control to implement any of these ideas.) History has to be more than just a recounting of what happened, it should be a means of exploring what can happen and perhaps what should happen. (Althought that should kind of worries me these days.) What about teaching not just actions but philosophies and ideologies? Why did Booker T. Washington propose the course of action he did? What about DuBois? What shaped his outlook? How were their philosophies similar? To what extent was their difference of opinion a precursor of what was to come between Dr. King and Malcom X? (And by the way, with this madness of trying to de-religify public education, how is it possible to really teach about Dr. King? His whole nonviolent philosophy was based in his Christianity. It's just not possible to extract what he did from what he believed.) How 'bout highlighting the strength of the Black community? For instance, in the movie "Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored," there's a part of the story where one of the young men in the family gets beaten up by the KKK. The audience doesn't see that part, though. We just see him before and after. We never see an instance of white racism that is not met with Black resolve and dignity. Why not teach Black history like that? What's wrong with teaching about Black Wall Street in Tulsa? There's something in that story for every political bent. Wanna prove how Black people could achieve in the face of the most virulent racism? There you go. Wanna show how depraved some white have acted? It's right there for you. Wanna show Black power before it became a catch phrase and an image? Right there. But of course, ultimately, it's not just about the content, it's about the time. Even if a teacher were to present these ideas, why should it be confined to February? Why can't it be a part of American history? Of course it can. And it absolutely should.
A couple weeks ago, LaShawn Barber wrote a very interesting piece about Black History Month. I commented on it a few times myself, but I still have some more to say about it, so I figured I will weigh in on the matter myself. Not right now, though. I don't have too much time, though. The end of Black History Month (!) is next week.
I kept telling myself I wasn't going to say anything about this, but I can't help it. Free agency is coming up and if Andy Reid doesn't get Donovan some help at WR, I'm defecting to the Colts or something. Not that it makes any difference, but I swear...I can't take it any more. I can't even watch the games because I don't want to take the years off my life. Sure they would've lost to the Patriots, but come on! This is the same thing that happened last year. (And the worst part is, I say all this stuff knowing good and well that I'm gonna try and try and try not to watch, then they're gonna string some wins together and I'll be right there going through heart palpitations and short breath, hollering at the IB, both on good plays and bad, then next January I'll be right back here, talking about how disappointed I am.) If they're just gonna have some guys out there dropping passes, I'll go up to Bethlehem next year for training camp. I can drop 6 passes and get shut down by a 5'9" dude for league minimum.
Right now I'm listening to the James Brown album, "Say It Live And Loud: Live In Dallas, 1968." It was his first live recording after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. At any rate, listening to this makes me wish I could have seen him live back in the 60's and early 70's when he was at his creative peak, making three separate and wholly different bands deliver absolute stone-cold funk. The centerpiece of this album is the 12 minute version of "Cold Sweat," with the drum solo (by two drummers!) being absolutely nuts. Even better for me are the introductions and the transitions between certain songs, for instance "Cold Sweat" and "There Was a Time." I can tell James was fire and I'm listening to a 34 year-old recording. I bet when that piece was live...man. James was in control of things. The best control of an audience would have to go to Marvin Gaye on the live version of "Distant Lover," though. I listened to James and Marvin back-to-back, and while James probably gave a better, more energetic show, with the dancing and the yowlps (which were instructions to the band, if you don't know) and the cape trick, but Marvin did it just by singing...and maybe a little disrobing, but I don't think this recording of "Distant Lover" is from the striptease portion of his career. What seals the deal for me is the chick in about the middle of the song who just explodes. James was workin' em to death, but Marvin was just...Marv was killin' em. Wish I could've been there.
I do a lot of reading by and about Black conservatives. I'm definitlely closer to being a conservative than I am a liberal, or a progressive, as they prefer to be called. Nevertheless, when I read Black conservatives, I sometimes wonder why they never have anything good to say about Black folks. It seems that every time I look (and maybe it's just the writers and the articles I'm reading), it's always about how we have become the victims of the thing that was meant to help us (Affirmative Action) or pointing out how ineffective our "leaders" (the Revs. Al and Jesse) are, or framing the problems that plague the Black community as if they are pathological and endemnic to us, and not spread throughout the wider community. As Common said: With that anti-rap, complainin' about this and about that soundin' bitch-like, that ain't gon' make a nigga get right The problem as I see it is not in the conservative message, it's in the delivery. While I don't think that racism is almost dead, on life support, or even in the hospital, I would argue that racism is not our main problem. Not any more. My personal estimate is that racism is responsible for holding us back, maybe, 25%, and that's including institutional and structural racism, which are things that have racist effects without anybody necessarily having a racist intent. Whether you agree or disagree with that figure, I think it's hard not to concede that the biggest problems facing us are caused by us. I'm more likely to be killed by another Black male than any other demographic. And while some people might try to make that a result of systemic racism, racism is not what's making that particular dude pull the trigger in that particular instance. No, the problems that plague our community come mostly from within. This is where I think the Black conservative (or maybe I should say the black Conservative) message goes awry. Instead of just highlighting problems, they should offer solutions. Really, they should focus only on their solutions. As many conservatives write, the typical rank-and-file Black person is usually a lot more conservative than the politics as espoused by Black "leaders." At the same time, there does not appear to be an effort made to reach out to the disaffected masses, except to repudiate the "leaders." Really. What is that supposed to do? It's not a personality contest. I don't think Black folks are caught up under a spell, we just want what's best for us, just like any other group of individuals. Right now, the majority of Black folks seem to think that the programs forwarded by Democrats and progressives are what's best for them as individuals. The way to counter that is to actually present an alternative, not just talk about how so-and-so party or such-and-such ideology is damaging Black people. A good example is the book, Scam: How The Black Leadership Exploits Black America. In it, Rev. Jesse Peterson highlights what he sees as the failings of current Black "leaders" and how we have been duped into following them. I won't get into a full discussion of the book, but here are two reviews, one favorable and one unfavorable. My point in bringing up the book here is that from what I understand, Rev. Peterson does some tremendous work in helping troubled Black youths. However, in reading the book, you get only a very limited sense of what that work is and what it entails. Personally, I would rather know what Rev. Peterson himself is doing and how it's working than what Rev. Peterson thinks of what Jesse Jackson is doing. I can see what Jesse Jackson is (or ain't) doing for myself. At the same time, I think that we as Black folks have to recognize that "Blackness" does not come in one political hue. Just because a person is against Affirmative Action doesn't mean they are anti-Black or that they have forgotten where they came from. It just means they have a different opinion on the best way to move Black people forward. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's everything right with it. John McWhorter frequently points out how Black people built institutions in the face of virulent racism, but now we're supposed to think that we can't do anything without government assistance. Saying "we don't need them to help us" is not anti-Black. Regardless, it's healthy to have different opinions out on the table. If we can accept the fact that Black folks come in this wide spectrum of physical colors and charactaristics, why can't we accept that Black people come in different political shades, as well? Why does a Black Republican have to be an "Uncle Tom" or a "sellout?" How does caricaturing Clarence Thomas as a lawn jockey progress Black thought? It doesn't. I guess my main point is that we don't have to agree on everything when we have the same goal in mind. Like I said, stereo describes my scenario.
The January 29th Terrordome, Chuck D's montly column on Publicenemy.com, contains a scathing indictment of what conservative writer, John McWhorter, in his book, Losing The Race: Self Sabotage in Black America, would call anti-intellectualism. What's most interesting to me is that you have two men from widely differing political perspectives attacking the same problem. While there are probably elements of each person's stance that would not appeal to the other, I think there is real significance in the fact that they agree on a very substantial issue. Chuck points out, "Once upon a time smarter cats were heard and if you were to say something or do something dumb and stupid, cats would call you on it. If you were a ‘light in the ass’ little whatever, you wasn’t whipping anyone’s ass so you had to take it, and when you came back you would have to be, or at least appear to be, smarter to avoid the verbals." It's not that way any more. Now, it almost seems like we revel in being ignorant. I think Chris Rock said something like, "Niggas don't know nothin' and they don't wanna know nothin'." And yet, this is the way we choose to present ourselves in society. Not all of us, of course, but enough. Too many, in fact. I'm talking about cats in college; cats whose only association with the street life comes not from their childhood environment, but from active choices they make after they should know better. Guys who don't become "thugs" until they get to high school and sometimes later. That's a problem. It's like, I see this thug image and I feel like that's what I'm supposed to be so I play to it, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with who I, as an individual, am. I think that in a sense, the whole postmodern element of not having any objective standards has trickled down even to hip-hop and our generation. Back in the day, there was such a thing as a wack record, even if it sold. Artists actually took pride in the fact that they only went gold, meaning that their work was good enough to move units, but it was not so pop-accessible that everybody wanted a piece of it. It was about the Hip-Hop Nation exclusively. Nowadays, if you try to apply some type of standard, people will say that you're hating, as if that means they're not wack. Or more accurately, as if nothing is wack except records that don't sell. Please. Well, that same mentality has become prevalent in our actions. We see ignorant cats and won't step to them. And I'm not talking about somebody you don't know, because this is 2-04...jokers will blot you out for less than nothing. I'm talking about people we know. Those of us who have knowledge have a responsibility to share it with those who don't. I'm no 5 percenter, but I do think that the majority of people don't have a clue, or at least they are not cognizant of the influences on their actions. They may know it if you asked them about it, but they really don't think through what they do, they just respond to the situation. It is the job of the ones who have learned to analyze first and then move to teach those who have not learned. Gotta roll.
Let me preface this with the following: I'm not about pop records. I'm from the era when it was okay if a record sold, but that wasn't the point. There weren't a whole lot of slick videos with half-naked girls to seduce the consumer into buying a wack record. An album had to be cohesive. It couldn't have one strong radio track, a couple sleeper hits with the rest hot garbage. First of all, radio was irrelevant, since rap got almost no airplay in the early days; the same thing went for videos and MTV. Even BET confined rap videos to one hour a day on Rap City. (Remember the Mayor, Chris Thomas?) Having said that, I should probably say that I'm not trying to do this objectively, although I will probably follow Kool Moe Dee's lead and try to come up with a mathematical model that can at least explain why I think the top albums are at the top. 10. Ready To Die - Biggie I liked Life After Death, and it actually has my favorite song by Biggie, Niggas Bleed, but it's just too long. I have always maintained that if Life After Death were condensed into a single CD, it would be one of the top 5 of all time. As it is, I just think Ready To Die is better. The production is not as slick (note the transformation for Biggie with the remix of One More Chance- the whole player element of his persona came out of that song and that video; from the slickness of the look to the slickness of the production.) but Biggie seemed hungrier. Notable Songs: Warning Ready To Die Unbelievable 9. Only Built For Cuban Links - Raekwon By the summer of '95, I was beginning to transition out of the stage where I could listen to drug dealer records and just deal with it. Every so often in life you reach stages where you analyze where you are and where you're going, and when I took a look around, the thoughts expressed via the theme of this album did not relate to me. That said, it was a killer. Even though it seemed more like a Rae & Ghost album than a solo album by Raekwon, them fools killed it. Even the songs I didn't like so much, either for content or production, when I actually sat there and listened to them, I had to admit that the lyrics and the flow were ridiculous. Plus, even though I wasn't crazy about the concept, the album did have one. Notable Songs: Guillotine (Swordz) Glaciers of Ice Verbal Intercourse 8. The Chronic - Dr. Dre This was that album. I remember going to Armand's Records when it was behind the Gallery underneath the parking garage on 11th street and thinking about whether I was going to buy it back in December of 92. I didn't get it. Literally. I know better now. The production on this album was absolutely incredible. Even though every producer and his uncle bit the style in the following years, at the time, nobody was doing that high-pitched synth. Even more, he gave credit to the originators of that style, naming it G-Funk, after P-Funk, from whom he got most of his samples. (Remember the beginning of the Dre Day video when he pointed at his Funkadelic t-shirt?) Notable Songs Dre Day Rat-A-Tat-Tat Stranded on Death Row 7. Nobody Can Do It Better - The D.O.C. It seems that nobody remembers this record now, but when this album came out, it was the fury. Dr. Dre's production here was probably even better than it was on The Chronic, just because the styles were so diverse. Plus, and this is one of the reasons I think Dre is the best rap producer, all the tracks seemed tailor made for the D.O.C. For me, D.O.C. is like the Bernard King or Gayle Sayers of hip hop. From this one album, we know how dope he was as a solo performer, and we know from his ghostwriting on Efil4gizzan and The Chronic how good his writing skills were, but we can only imagine what would have happened had he not gotten into that accident. By the way, on this album, you get the chance to see what NWA could have been; the full starting lineup at regular strength. The Wu-Tang Clan took up the mantle and ran with it, but NWA was the first group to have a bunch of dope solo artists (with Eazy-E being the notable exception) banded together as a group. Notable Songs The Formula Let The Bass Go The Grand Finale 6. '93 Til Infinity - Souls of Mischief For people who thought West Coast stopped at the Chronic, this was the antidote. If you have this (and you should if you don't) listen to this right now. It's fresh. Rhymes, rhymes, rhymes. When I first bought it, I wasn't necessarily crazy about the tracks, although I like them more now, but them dudes had crazy rhymes. They turned out to be a one-album wonder, but that one album was tremendous. Notable Songs: A Name I Call Myself Live and Let Live Make Your Mind Up 5. The Blueprint - Jay-Z Sorry y'all. I like The Blueprint more than Reasonable Doubt and there's not much anybody can say to convince me better. I think it's the tracks, mostly. The Takeover? That Doors sample? Are you kiddin' me? Ain't No Love? Are you kiddin' me? I might buy a good argument that Reasonable Doubt was a better album, but I will never like it more than The Blueprint. It's just not possible. Remember, this is my subjective list, not the objective one. Notable Songs: Takeover Ain't No Love Hola Hovito 4. Black Star - Mos Def and Talib Kweli This is the album that made me love hip-hop again. By the time this came out, I had pretty much given up. I wasn't feeling Jigga yet, and everything else was Puffy-affiliated. Then here came these two brothers lookin' like it was about 13 degrees when they took the pictures for their album cover. There are no weak tracks on this album. None. (Well, maybe Jane Doe's verse on 'Twice Inna Lifetime' drags it down towards average). I haven't done the mathematical components yet, but whatever they are, this album will average an 'A,' I know that much. Notable Songs: Brown Skin Lady Respiration Thieves in the Night 3. De La Soul Is Dead - De La Soul This is hard for me. How can I pick one De La record over another? Everybody talks about how revolutionary 3 Feet... was, but ...Is Dead was counterrevolutionary. They just took everything they were supposed to be about and flipped it on its head. Still highly conceptual, highly intellectual and lots of fun, but radically different, and to my mind better. Prince Paul does not get the credit he deserves as a producer. That Brother Bones tap dance music sample on Peas Porridge? Who else would have thought of that? And what other group could have freaked it like they did? Notable Songs: Peas Porridge Oodles of O's Afro Connections... 2. The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest Another tough one. The difference between this and Midnight Marauders basically comes down to the following: A) Phife, for as much as a liability as he was, killed it on Butter. B)Scenario. C)Scenario. Midnight Marauders had some hot songs (God knows Electric Relaxation was one of my favorite songs from the first time I ever heard it) but there was nothing on there that matched the crazy energy that was on Scenario. Again, no filler material on this one. Not that there was any on MM, but I just hafta give The Low End Theory the nod by the slightest of margins. Notable Songs: Scenario Butter Verses From the Abstract 1. It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back This time, it's personal. There is probably no album that is more important to me than this one. Without getting into all that, suffice it to say that this album changed what a hip-hop record could be. First of all, there's the matter of Chuck D's voice, both in the figurative sense and the literal sense. Figuratively, Chuck's voice was that of the Black man. Not that there weren't other artists out at the same time speaking similar messages, but that was all Chuck was about. Chuck wasn't going to kick a rhyme about being the best MC, Chuck was all about being Black. Then there was the matter of his actual, physical voice. Nobody, and I mean, nobody in hip-hop has more control of his voice. And if you remember around that time, there were a lot of guys trying to use that post-Chuck style (think Charlie Brown from LONS and ED O-G and maybe even the D.O.C.), but nobody had it like Chuck D. He wrote as somebody with authority and he delivered his rhymes with authority. And then there's the matter of the tracks. Pick one and insert your own commentary about how you hadn't heard anything like it. It's all killer. MOST Notable Songs Rebel Without A Pause Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos Night of the Livig Baseheads Bring The Noise So that's my top 10. There are some records that I meant to put in there but didn't because I wasn't sure which ones to bump. I'll mention them now: Whut? Thee Album - Redman Enter the 36 Chambers - Wu-Tang Clan (what was I on to miss that one? Maybe I should bump off '93 Til...) Straight Outta Compton - NWA (I didn't include this one because it's like two different albums. We all know this is the album that basically made gangsta rap, but you can probably boil that down to 5 of the songs on here. The rest of it is not impressive at all.) Amerikkka's Most Wanted - Ice Cube. (I might hafta re-think this whole list after # 3.) Yeah...okay, so this just goes to show how much I need to come up with a mathematical system for ranking these albums.
I'm doing some research on obesity and diet. The easy culprit seems to be fast food places like McDonalds (especially McDonalds) but the research indicates that it's not necessarily so. According to this paper the increase in caloric intake is due more to snacking than increases in meal time. This is interesting. I know this is the case for me, but it makes me curious about everything else. Now, the time that obesity, as indicated by the BMI, or body mass index, really started to show a marked increase beyond what is healthy was about 1980. At first I wondered whether the decrease in dinner time calories (and the increase in snacking calories) had any connection to the increase of the dual-income family. That is, if both parents work outside the home, nobody is spending a whole lot of time cooking, and therefore the eating is decentralized. The kids (or non-cooking adults) eat what they can when they can, instead of waiting until dinner. This would lead to more children faring for themselves, which necessarily means simpler, more ready-made foods, which, could conceivably lead to more snacking. Of course, two-income households didn't start in '80, but I still wonder if there's any correlation. That certainly seems to have played a factor in my case. Then again, I just don't like to cook.
I suppose I'll get it right out front that I'm unsettled on the title of this blog and therefore it's subject to change. One consistent thing is that it will come out of a line from a hip-hop song, probably by Public Enemy. The first one, "...I got soul to voice my opinion with volume" came from Rebel Without A Pause. Since that's my all-time favorite PE song (makes me wonder where it is overall), I figured the title should come from there. It didn't really work, though, because it doesn't stick with the way it appears in the song. Really, the line is, "Playin' the role I got soul to(o)/ voice my opinion with volume." I didn't like the "playin' the role" part, though. So after listening to some PE stuff, I moved to the next song, "Prophets of Rage," and lucked up on "stereo (stereo) describes my scenario/left or right/black or white..." That's probably a more accurate reflection of my politics and whatnot, which I will probably spend some time discussing at length, so I figured that was the quote to go with. Maybe I will have a PE quote of the day or something. I know I should find a way to get some James Brown in there too. As soon as I get this thing figured out, it's gonna be good.
First day out. My original plan was to talk about what I think funk is by dissecting "Let A Man Come In and Do the Popcorn, Pts 1 & 2" by James Brown. I'll save that for some other time. What I will do is list what I'm reading and listening to right now. Reading: Moral Capitalism - Steven Young Rediscovering The Other America - Kilty & Segal, eds. Defending Black Faith - Keener & Usry Questions of Faith - Peter Berger School Choice and the Question of Accountability - Van Dunk and Dickman There's a God on the Mic - Kool Moe Dee Booker T. Washington and Black Progress - W. Fitzhugh Brundage, ed. Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk - Crouch & Benjamin Listening to: Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn, pts 1 & 2 - James Brown The Jam - Larry Graham & Graham Central Station Give It Up - Kool & The Gang Everybody Ought To Know - Tramaine Hawkins Ain't No Sunshine - Roy Ayers Funky Robot - Rufus Thomas Give Me A Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer - Bessie Smith