I know I always talk about people watching TV and all that, but right now, I cannot stop watching Car Wash. (I guess that's why I done watched it 150-200 times already.) Now I'm watching for all the details and trying to formulate some life lessons out of it. Knowing me, I'm probably gonna wind up writing something very long about that movie. Car Wash. Man. And I put this on the downlow in one of the comments somewhere, but I'm brave enough to say it out loud. That hooker...she was kinda cute. When she was writing her name on the mirror in lipstick, I was thinking...Hippo might have been stupid, but he wasn't blind. (Even though it was probably the wig and the eyelashes.) Mona was the one, though. The intro shot of her walking across the street in that short waitress skirt, with the breeze lifting it ever so slightly... man! I've already said I'm a sucker for redbones and Mona was the truth. I knew that much when I was two. Although a little later, I kept thinking that she was the woman on the cover of the Ohio Players album, Honey. Actually, I was wishing that was her. Not only am I watching Car Wash, like, 3 times a day, I'm about to start watching House Party too. I'll probably break that one down at some point. House Party was tight. Robin Harris made the picture, though. It was funny and all that, but what kept it from being another one of those average teen pictures was the presence of a hard-working, no-nonsense parent. Kinda like if James Evans was the single parent of a son.
Following a link from Booker Rising, I ran up on this article describing Bill Cosby's critique of popular media as it pertains to language. Of all the things I talk about here, this is probably what I am most qualified to talk about. So you know I'ma break it down. I think the key to the whole discussion is contained in this paragraph:
Arnold Rampersad, Cognizant Dean of Humanities, School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and preeminent biographer of Langston Hughes, believes it is misguided to romanticize African American vernacular given the educational crisis facing today's youth: "Common speech is indeed vigorous and creative, but typically only someone who is educated can see the degree of creativity in such speech, and then romanticize what is essentially monolingualism. And people who romanticize monolingualism of the type attacked by Bill Cosby (the type founded on ignorance and the active disdaining of books) need to have a monolingual social class in order to satisfy their romanticism. Mr. Cosby is absolutely correct that monolingualism of this type is a guarantee of economic and other forms of poverty -- including intellectual and spiritual poverty."It's all about style-shifting. When having discussions about this very subject, I've described language as a pair of shoes. You have to wear the right shoes to the right function. There are some cases where it's fine to wear sneakers, and some times you have to wear shoes. Then in some other cases, only full-fledged dress shoes will suffice. Same thing goes linguistically. There are some cases when it's just not appropriate to speak SBV (standard Black vernacular). That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, it just means that a person is crippled if ze can't express zerself without it. At the same time, I must say that I get annoyed when I hear people say stuff like "talking proper(ly)." What is that? Going back to my shoe metaphor, while a person is more likely to run into difficulty trying to wear sneakers than shoes, there are some places where sneakers are not just the norm, they're the rule. Likewise, there are some (admittedly few) places where standard construction is contextually "improper." Being that I'm not a linguistic prescriptivist, all talk is valid to me, as long as it gets the point across. Which brings me to something I've been meaning to write about for several weeks. From Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun Times:
I don't know about you, but sometimes letting fly with a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon expletive is just what the doctor ordered. I am -- and readers of the column, sadly, have no reason to know this -- a big fan and user of obscenity, lacing my conversation with it all day long, only holding back, or trying to, before, say, my kids' teachers and while on live radio. Some say to do so is undignified. Some say it is unrefined. To me, we have this wonderful set of short, crisp, time-honored-yet-fresh words, and it is a shame not to use it, now and again, or even all the live-long day.Unlike Mr. Steinberg, I don't use obscenity regularly anymore, but there was a point when I was working on my Redd Foxx Junior License. When I was in high school, I went from one extreme to the other. There were some months when I would rather burn my lips than let a cuss word come out, and then there were some other months when I sounded like that Bernie Mac routine at the end of Kings of Comedy, saying the word "motherfucker" 32 times a minute. Now a lot of people I know call cuss words "bad" or "vulgar." Vulgar is probably more appropriate, since it literally means "of the people." Like I said before, it all depends on the context, but for everyday usage, I think "shit" is much better than its latinate alter-ego, "feces/defecate." If you step in a pile of doggie poo on the sidewalk, which one works better? "Shiiiit." or "Feeceees." Part of the value is that it's monosyllabic, which makes it ideal as a reactive interjection. The other value is that "shit" can fill so many parts of speech. Just like Magic Johnson could play all five spots on the floor, "shit" can fill almost every part of speech. Once in a discussion, somebody asked me whether I thought Jesus would've said "shit" - or whatever the equivalent was in his language. It's hard to guess because the difference between "shit" and "feces" or "spit" and "expectorate" is purely class-based. The words we regard as "right" or "proper" only have that value because the people who used them were in control of the society at that time. Had the Anglo-Saxons been running things, "feces" would be the "bad" word. I know Jesus wouldn't have cursed, but I don't know that "shit" is really a curse. Saying that is not condemning anybody or anything. It's just a word for a bodily function and the substance created by said function. So while I'm hesitant to say that he would have said it, I can't say that he wouldn't have. Anybody got any thoughts on the linguistic aspects of this question? (i.e., don't give me "Jesus wouldn't have said "shit" because "shit" is a bad word. The word's connotative value is arbitrarily assigned, so at that time it may not have
Leonard Pitts has an interesting article on the lengths to which some people will go to be celebrities and what that means for the rest of us. Thankfully, I do not have an idiot box and even when I am around one, I don't watch those surreality shows. My only guilty habit is getting my heart broken by the Eagles every January. (This year is gonna be different, though!) (subscription required.)
Inspired by my man, DJ $ Bill (that was my great-grandfather's nickname), I'm about this is a list of songs that inspired me to get a bass (along w/ a couple Russell Jones records I really like, just because.) Sir Psycho Sexy - Red Hot Chili Peppers Righteous Rhythm - Rose Royce Hikky Burr - Quincy Jones The Streetbeater - Quincy Jones Old Man - Masta Killa feat. The RZA & Ol' Dirty Bastard (samples Streetbeater) Stranglehold - Ted Nugent The Jam - Larry Graham & Graham Central Station Call Him Up (Can't Stop Praising His Name) - Keith Pringle Barney Miller Theme - Allyn Ferguson This House Is Smokin' - BT Express Skin Tight - Ohio Players I Was Made To Love Her - Stevie Wonder She's The One - James Brown Glide - Pleasure Givin' Up Food For Funk - The JBs The Grunt - The JBs Good Old Music - Funkadelic The Old Landmark - Rev. Milton Brunson Freddie's Dead - Curtis Mayfield Harlem World - Ol' Dirty Bastard Ashley's Roachclip - The Soul Searchers Scorpio - Dennis Coffey
I didn't put this one on the list, but of the versions I have, I think I like Ol' Dirty Bastard's rendition of Good Morning Heartache best. There's a woman, Li'l Mo, singing the song, keeping it very close to Diana Ross' interpretation. She's the anchor. None of the rest would work if she weren't there. Behind her is sparse instrumentalization (is that a word? if it wasn't, it is now.) led by an electric bass and a drum. The woman and the bass kill it. There's a muted sax, a guitar,and a keyboard in the background, but they're way back. On top of this modern version of the standard goes Ol' Dirty, doing his thing. If he ever took it seriously, I think Ol' Dirty could probably carry a note. On this song, he plays it straight for about the first verse, then it's on to extended off-key riffs, spoken ad-libs, and some mush-mouth sob talk. It works though. I have 6 versions of the song, but Ol' Dirty is the only one who sounds like he's absolutely torn up inside. That, I think, was Ol' Dirty's greatest strength as an artist. I don't know what he's doing now that he's on Rocafella, but that first album, Return to the 36 Chambers - The Dirty Version was tight for the same reason that this song is tight: he manages to be a fool within the structure of making a good record. At the beginning, I thought of Dirty as somebody who knew exactly how to play the fool without actually becoming one. Later, he just fell off and became one. Or maybe he was a fool that was playing like he was a dope artist. Either way, on Good Morning Heartache, he represented.
"I need a new nigga for this black cloud to follow cuz while it's over me it's to dark to see tomorrow" - Nasir Jones Afraid The Masquerade Is Over - David Porter Otha Fish - The Pharcyde I'm Goin' Down - Rose Royce Green Eyes - Erykah Badu After The Love Has Gone - Earth Wind & Fire Highways Of My Life - The Isley Brothers Trying People - De La Soul Woman - James Brown By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Isaac Hayes One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Joe Tex *still don't mean nothin' but Butterscotch
Three times this week, I have seen it written that Black households average 70 hours of television per week. Seventy hours. That's two full-time (35 hrs) jobs. That's literally inconceivable to me. That's 10 hours a day. In those households, the television must never go off. Or nobody goes to work or something. When is somebody gonna talk about that? Don't protest that Black folks are underrepresented inside the box, protest that we're overrepresented on the outside. Underrepresented in the library. Underrepresented in the book store. Underrepresented on the internet. Holla! ... I've been privately ranting about this ever since the throwback craze started. (Well actually before, because I was shopping at Mitchell & Ness before 93% of these fools knew there was such a place. I used to get minor league ballcaps from there. My best cops were the Kissimmee Cobras and the Santa Fe Canaries. This was back around 95. Back then, I used to be on first-name basis with the proprietor.) How you gon' wear a throwback Isaiah Thomas Indiana jersey with the name across the back? Indiana has never printed the players' names across the back. That's just disgusting and wrong. For $300+, accuracy should be paramount. And while I'm at it, why was I seein' people in the projects with throwbacks? What? That jawn cost over 3 bills; you live on the dole and got one but I can't afford one? I got a problem with that. That's why I could never be a politician. First day out I'd write a bill killing cable for anybody on welfare or getting government subsidized housing. I'd give library cards all day, but no cable. Shoot, two throwbacks and that's an entry-level Dell. Holla! ... I watched Car Wash for the Nth time today (150th? 200th?) Because I haven't seen Soul Plane, I really can't comment on it, but I'd be willing to bet that it was nowhere as smart as Car Wash. But this is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that it's a matter of taste. It would be very easy to write off Car Wash as a bunch of shuckin' and jivin', but I think there's more to it than just that. To be sure, it's mostly shuckin and jivin', and it's a precursor to some of these urban movies that are just really long music videos, but there are some very interesting characters in there; a couple of very interesting themes running through the goofines. One pet peeve of mine is that the DVD is not complete. If I didn't know the movie as well as I do, I wouldn't know this, but I've been watching Car Wash all my life. It's the first movie I remember going to the movie to see. I was 2 when it came out. We went to the Mode theater in Joliet, IL. I will never forget that. (The other movie I saw at the Mode was the 1976 King Kong remake. I don't really remember that too much, but my mom says that when Kong's eyes peeked through the bushes, I let her know that it was time for me to go.) Anyway, the cashier chick, Marsha, meets this suave dude who says he's gonna pick her up at the end of her shift. She's all excited and whatnot, but when she comes out at the end, Mr. GQ Smooth has his woman in the front seat. Marsha's date, sitting behind GQ Smooth, is a plug. They cut that scene out. It's probably only 30 seconds, but it stands out to me like missing eye teeth. One more note on Car Wash: the band, Rose Royce, that did the soundtrack for the movie, was put together by Norman Whitfield specifically to do the soundtrack. Before Car Wash, there was no Rose Royce. Considering the fact that they were able to come up with some moderate hits like "Wishing On A Star" and "Oooh Boy" later on, I think that was some pretty good band-making by Mr. Whitfield.
Somebody googled my spot looking for The Grunt JBs Arrangement. Because I know how difficult it can be to find this information, I'm gonna put it here. The Grunt (parts 1 & 2) 3:30 Trumpets Clayton "Chicken" Gunnels Darryl "Hasaan" Jamison Tenor Sax Robert McCollough Piano Bobby Byrd Guitar Phelps "Catfish" Collins Bass William "Bootsy" Collins Drums Frank Waddy
I read in the World Magazing blog about this new version of the Bible. It looked weird until I got to the excerpts. It would be hillarious if it wasn't so tragic. The following excerpt had me laughing out loud, though. Kinam- imagine what our bulletins would look like if Pastor Ted had'a spit this:
Matthew 26:69-70 Authorized version: "Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, 'Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.' But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest." New: "Meanwhile Rocky was still sitting in the courtyard. A woman came up to him and said: 'Haven't I seen you with Jesus, the hero from Galilee?" Rocky shook his head and said: 'I don't know what the hell you're talking about!'"I don't know what the hell they talkin' about either.
Samantha has a great post on the disingenuous use of the word "racist." I won't try to re-state her case, but I'll build on it a little bit. Racism is sort of like a mild cuss word in the sense that it gets too much use to be of any real meaning. There was once a time when hearing the word "bitch" on televison was shocking. Heads snapped to attention and jaws dropped in amazement. Nowadays, while some people may find it offensive, it's not exactly a surprise. We hear it so much that it's become almost passe. Same principle applies to racism. We're quick to draw the word racism or racist, but what does that really mean? I've said before that to some people, any time someone of a different race is uncourteous or shows some sign of dislike, the problem is automatically race. And I've also already said that everybody has the right to dislike anybody else for any reason. So then how can I tell the difference between somebody disliking me as an individual vs. somebody disliking me for phenotypical reasons? Honestly, I can't. Unless they just jump out of the cake and do something totally outrageous, then there's no way for me to tell. What's more, I don't want to know. If they don't know me, then the problem is theirs, not mine. I used to be the trainer at directory assistance. One of the main things I used to tell new operators is that people are extremely brave over the phone. They'll call you everything but a child of God, including any permutation of the N-word they can think of. On one level, using that epithet on a person is racist. But if that's all the person does, is the term "racist" really valid? Like Ice Cube, I used to "spell 'girl' with a 'B'," but I treated every female I knew with respect and I never called them that personally. So did my vocabulary override my action and make me misogynistic, or was there simply some tension there? (I stopped saying that when I accidentally let it fly on a friend-girl of mine. She didn't say anything because she knew I was only kidding, but the hurt look on her face washed that word out of my mouth with the quickness.) I mean, really, if somebody saying "nigger" is our biggest problem, then we've got it pretty good. Of course we know that we've got bigger fish to fry than some ignorant person's provocative vocabulary. I wouldn't care if the word nigger was expunged from history and could no longer be read/heard/spoken again, as long as cops are body-splashing Black dudes who appear to be in the act of surrendering, there's a problem. And let me say up front that 1) I don't live in Los Angeles, and 2) I don't have a television, so I really don't know what went on out there yesterday. I've seen some news reports, but somehow I'm thinkin' that a written description just doesn't convey the action. At any rate, since I really don't know what went on, I can't say that the police are wrong. What I can do is co-sign on the argument John McWhorter made in Authentically Black, which is that as long as police brutality in its current form exists, people will still believe that racism is as strong as it ever was. Bill Cosby's poundcake remark notwithstanding, we all should be concerned when we see an unarmed Black man get shot. We should remain cool enough to let a proper investigation take place, but we should definitely take an interest in the situation. What I really want to know is whether there are any unarmed white suspects who are being shot by police. It's perfectly reasonable to me that it may happen but not get much press. I doubt it, but that might be the case. I just want to know. If it's just us getting shot and beaten, then I don't suppose I need to say what that means for justice, even in 2004. I suppose there's an argument to be made that it's the fault of the criminal, even in the case of mistaken identity, as it was with Amadou Diallo (41 shots is a mistake, though? 41? Count to forty-one. That many is a mistake? Two is a mistake. Fifteen is a mistake from multiple shooters. Forty-one? Come on, now.), but I can't let it walk that easily. Richard Pryor was talking about this back in 197x, NWA rapped about it in 1989, and it's still going on today? Somebody has to step up. (On a side note, the somebody stepping up needs to be us. In Black Conservative, I wrote that the way for us to really get our position out there and heard is for us to be out there when something goes down. It's one thing for us to critique the civil rights industry and all that, but when it goes down, where are we? If we're to be taken seriously when we argue that racism is on the decline, then we should be the first ones pointing it out when it appears.) Okay, so racism is not dead. We can still see vestiges of it in personal interaction, as well as in its systematic forms. Jeremy does a good job of breaking these down in his post on the Presbyterian Church's pastoral letter regarding this very topic. However, the word itself is so overused that just about anything can be called racist. I remember a couple months ago, I read where somebody called The Boondocks racist. Racist? Leftist, yes. Angry? Maybe. Black Nationalistic? Right on! Racist? That's a stretch. (And funny. Don't forget to call it funny. "Can't lead OJ to a white woman" is the funniest punch line I've ever seen in a comic. Ever.") Just because somebody says something about "your" people, that doesn't make it racist. Larry Bird's comments a couple weeks ago (man, that chick really had me messed up. All this good conversation and I couldn't even write.) weren't racist. Personally, I don't even think they're inaccurate, but that's another post for another time. The fact is, race exists in this country and it' a factor in people's perceptions. I remember one time in a psychology class the teacher said something about a Black football player saying something about Black players having a harder time keeping their socks all the way up because they tend to have skinnier legs than their white counterpart. (Having skinny legs myself, I know about this first-hand.) He then pointed out the fact that there is no real room for discussion of observations like these; if Terry Bradshaw had been the one saying it and not Lynn Swann (Lynn Swann didn't really say it, I was just looking for a reason to throw this link.) people would have been beside themselves crying racist. Personally, I think there should be a moratorium on the use of the word. Everything's racist. By some definitions, I was being racist when I quoted Redd Foxx talking about, "The only way you'll see me with a white woman is if I'm holding her for the police." To some people, that's simply a matter of preference. If it's preference for me, it can't be racist for a white dude to say the inverse. I think I will return to this soon.
There's an interview with Ludacris on cnn.com that appeared earlier this month. I was meaning to talk about it then, but with all the ruckus that's been going on, I'm just getting a chance to get it in. The part that really killed me was this exchange:
Q: You did an "uncut" video for your song "Booty Poppin'," and Nelly's explicit "Tip Drill" video was recently the subject of protests. What do you think about the controversy over such soft-core porn videos? LUDACRIS: The people that are criticizing are mostly those who have never seen anything like this or haven't experienced this. Hip-hop music, what we're doing is showing you the reality of what goes on. We're not necessarily trying to promote it in our minds, we're trying to show the reality of what goes on in our neighborhoods. I would say to people who criticize, they're scared of the truth, because this is what's going on, it's like watching the news.I like 'Cris. I think he has some pretty clever wordplay and he definitely knows how to use his voice for maximum effectiveness. He's got excellent pronunciation so it's easy to tell what his emphasis is. I don't even mind the way he spells his pseudonym, since it contains an element of his given name. May not be the dopest MC ever, but he's solid. Maybe an 84 on the Madden scale with potential to improve. However, when it comes to this whole notion of "reality," he done lost his mind. "Booty Poppin" is reality. Right. It's a reality that it's a good strip club song, and it's a reality that there is a market for strip club songs, but that's not what's going on in our neighborhoods. I mean, strip clubs are in the 'hood too, but he's making it sound like he's talking about politics or something substantial. You know me, I think all those strip club songs are wack anyway, but I would have more respect for the people who make them if they would be upfront about it. Just say, "I like booty and I make records about booty because there's a whole lot of people who like booty too." Don't act like you're actually trying to make a contribution to society.
I'm foolin around with the background colors on this thing. The w-on-b looks cool, but sometimes it makes my eyes swimmy. (Need to take my medicine more regularly.) B-on-w is too bright, though. Got me squintin. Who knows what this will look like by the end of the week. Figured I'd make it easier to read before I kick off this fiction.
I just about hijacked a commenting session from LaShawn, talking about old electronic games and whatnot, so I figured I'd be nice and bring it over here. On the way, I stopped by the okayplayer.com message board, where there's a discussion going on about the best childhood fighting force. I will deal with this stuff in order. I was an Atari child. I remember studying the Sears catalog before we finally bought a system because I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go with the Atari (more accurately, the Sears version of the Atari) or one of those other consoles, like Intellivison or Odyssey. Because I didn't like the joystick on either of the other brands, I was all about the Atari. Plus, all the kids at school had Atari, and one of them even had a subscription to Atari Age magazine. In it, I learned how to make a left-handed joystick. I was 'bout it, holmes. I had a pretty decent collection of cartridges, but the ones I wore out were Space Invaders and Berserk, which I got for Christmas after I got the Atari. I think I got the 2600 in about September or something, right before I started 1st grade. Then, that Christmas I got Berserk and some other games. My mom liked Pac Man and I played it because it was there, but I wasn't too crazy about it. In addition to Atari, I also played a lot of Electronic Football. Mattell (or whoever their parent/subsidiary is now) has re-released the version I had, which was actually the 2nd edition. The first was white and the only thing you could do was run the ball. When they introduced version II, a pass button was added. I never actually owned Mattel Electronic Football I, but my Big Brother had one. That was what made me ask for one in the first place. (My Big Brother was the coolest. He was, I think, a sophomore in college and he took me to this dorm party where I saw somebody drink a goldfish. It don't get no cooler than that to a 6 year-old. But then on top of that, he had a subscription to Sports Illustrated, posters of Farrah Fawcett all over his room (and one of David Thompson. David Thompson could almost literally jump out of the gym)and a garage door opener. I ain't gon' tell you about how stupefied I was when he first ran that abra-cadabra game on me.) MEF II was better, though. Later came this hand-held racing game, Red Line. Took two 9-volt batteries. I used to get it in with this other boy who lived in the same apartment complex every morning while we waited for the school bus. You couldn't actually see the cars, there was only the Christmas Tree counting down the start for the race, and then you had to shift and press the accelerator until you got your time. Every time I won he would say I had cheated. I was like, "How you gon' cheat? Even if I start before you, the game shows your time. If I'm faster than you, I'm just faster than you." Dude got on my nerves sometimes. Now as far as fighting forces goes, for me it was all about G-Force. Everything else bit off them. I first saw G-Force when I was, I guess 4 or 5, while my mom was in undergrad at Northern Illinois University. We had a little b & w that I watched cartoons on in the afternoons, and on Monday nights, it was all about "240 Robert" and, of course, Monday Night Football...til like 9:30, when I had to go to bed. Didn't really matter, all I really wanted to hear was the "Superstar" theme song and maybe stall until the Halftime Highlights. Anyway, G-Force was the truth. They had the 5 character types: the leader (Mark), the hothead 2nd in command (Jason), the little skinny nerdy dude (Kiop), the big oafish muscle of the bunch (Tiny), and the chick (Princess). Every show after that bit the whole style. People a little younger than me swear by Voltron, but Voltron was just a slight variation on G-Force. I mean, they had Sven die so they could make room for the princess. Don't get me wrong, Voltron was hot and I watched every...single...day, but I also knew that it was the same people I had seen a few years earlier. Same thing with Star Blazers. I thought Star Blazers was G-Force, only they had switched over to a submarine-looking ship instead of one that looked like a plane and went underwater. But then Star Blazers broke out with the all-time ultimate weapon, the wave motion cannon. It just didn't get more raw than that. Just looking at that those words kinda crack me up. Wave Motion Cannon. Wow. That takes me back. Now, the Thunder Cats, that was a different bunch. We used to call guys with wild hair Lion-o. Dudes on my wrestling team...or was it somewhere else...used to call me Mumm-ra. I forget why. I didn't like it, though. I would come around and they'd be like "Mumm-raaa...the ever...livvinnnnnggg!!!" The voice of Panthro was the grandpop from the Cosby show. It wasn't until I got grown that I caught it, though. I wish I was that precocious, to be able to identify a voiceover. But while I'm doing it, Arsenio Hall was the voice of the Black dude on the official Ghostbusters cartoon. (Remember, there was that fake Ghostbusters cartoon that didn't have any of the characters from the movie.) Cree Summers was Penny on Inspector Gadget. Did she get a part in the movie? Anybody who voiced a major character should at least get a cameo in any live-action film, as far as I'm concerned.
"I need a new nigga for this black cloud to follow cuz while it's over me, it's too dark to see tomorrow" – Nasir Jones
I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer - Stevie Wonder
Green Eyes - Erykah Badu
It Ain't No Use - Stevie Wonder
You Can Leave But It's Going To Cost You - Marvin Gaye
Walk On By - Isaac Hayes
Pride and Vanity - Ohio Players
Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You) - Stevie Wonder
Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer) - Bessie Smith
Get Out My Life Woman - Joe Williams
I'm a firm believer that the antidote for the problems that beset hip-hop lie within hip-hop itself. No bunch of curmudgeonly old heads who don't like hip-hop in the first place has anything constructive to add to the discussion. There's always a place for valid critiques, but if it's all criticism and no analysis of technique, then it's just plain old hate for hate's sake. That's unnecessary. State your beef and widen your focus. If you don't like hip-hop, say so from the beginning and then critique pop culture as a whole. From time to time I will highlight an artist or an album that I think represents what hip-hop can be or should be. This will necessarily entail a rejection of that gangsta-playa-hustler paradigm. (I still like Jigga, though.) Today's entry is J-Live with his 2002 release, All Of The Above. If you need to be reminded that modern-day hip-hop can be everything that we used to like about it, this is a good album for you. Strong lyrics. Thought-out and planned with metaphors that make sense and add to the rhyme. Different rhyme strategies: end rhyme, internal rhyme. This is good stuff. And he sets the baller-player types straight on Do That Shit Now everybody want heaven but nobody want death Shit a lot you kids wouldn't even settle for injured So why you frontin' like you want drama see that shit ain't fly You need to spend a couple nights in a trauma center And did you ever seen a crack baby How bout a 30-year-old woman strung out into a little old lady You see some of these folks that gotta live in these streets today Either shot up, smoked, or sniffed their life away Here you are, talkin' about your triple beam dream It's ironic cause you can't pass eight-grade math You don't know the half, the third, the fourth the fifth Ain't old enough to drive talking about you pushing a six And frontin' like you gotta watch for the narks You gotta watch for your momma when your ass ain't home by dark (c) J-Live Get up on that.
Every time I go back to Philly, I keep planning to write about this, but I never actually sit down and start chopping. Well I am today. Ambra wrote about parenting a few days ago. This is directly related to anything she mentioned, although I believe it does play a role in the discussion. There are many people who talk about the problem of out-of-wedlock births (don't get me started on the i-word.) and while I could provide a first-hand perspective to much of what's being said, I'm gonna decline for now. While the two-loving-married-parent household is certainly the optimum situation in which to raise children, I've been around enough people to know that it's not a guarantee of anything. Moreover, I think that we fixate on the nuclear family to the exclusion of the extended family. Even with two loving, married parents, Mom and Pop don't know everything and can't handle everything. They need Granny and Grandpa and A'nt Janie and Uncle Buster (who is really not related) and Ms. Nancy from up the block. Sometimes I think people get it twisted and act like just because Hillary used the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" it's all of a sudden some pinko mantra. It's the truth. Everybody over a certain age knows that if your neighbor caught you out there cuttin' up, you would get it from them and when your parents found out, you would get it again. Your parents (if you were blessed to have two) did the best they could, but unless you were a part of the Family Robinson (Swiss, Mountain, or Space) your parents had some help. Even the Space Family Robinson had Dr. Smith and the robot to help keep those hardheaded kids in check (although Dr. Smith probably needed more watching than Will). Naw, the bigger problem, or at least a more confounding problem is the age at which many of these girls are getting pregnant and the consequences that arise because of it. As a general rule, young people have no parenting skills. Now, I'll be the first to say that parenting skills are developed by time on task, just like everything else. Nobody has a baby and then automatically knows what to do. It's all trial, error, and adjustment like any other skill. At the same time, it seems to me that when a person is below a certain age, they simply lack the tools to raise kids. I guess I should be up front and say that it's probably not purely a function of chronological age, because some people are more mature than others. That's just life. It's also a fact that in times past, women were married at much younger ages, so while a female might have been a teen mother, she was married, so we would look at it differently. That's where the extended family comes in. If it wasn't for Uncle Billy and A'nt Peaches 'nem looking out for Mom and Pop, who were young and didn't know what the devil they were doing, we would be in a whole, whole lotta trouble instead of the whole lotta trouble that we're in. In the book, Moral Capitalism Steven Young asserts that our whole way of life is partially based on the market-created idea of the teenager. In cultures where the extended family is still the dominant paradigm, there is no stage of life where an individual is too old to be treated as a child, but not old enough to be treated as an adult, and that's it. You move from childhood to adulthood in steps, increasing in responsibility along the way. A teenager is a marketer's wet dream: impressionable with a pocket full of money and no responsibility. Well, the thing is that even though people are technically teenagers for only 7 years, we keep finding ways to extend that period. Credit cards are just a means of giving false depth to those pockets. But that's another discussion for another time. For right now, let's concentrate on the fact that in our culture the teen years are supposed to be a time of very limited responsibility. Some parents may do it differently, but the overall protocol I'm working with is this: once a child gets past 12, they act wild and go against what the parents have been teaching and all that foolishness. Then, at some point in the future, they get a little wisdom and realize that their parents were right in the first place. Not saying that's how it should go, but we'll just take that as a given and go on from there. Teenagers as a group have no sense. Sure there's a sensible one here and there, but overall they don't know a thing. The problem is, they don't know they're ignorant yet. They think they have it all figured out and that older people are the ones who don't really know what it's about. And I'm not just talking about parenting skills here, I'm talking about every aspect. Making matters worse is the fact that teenagers really are a viable market, so their tastes are catered to by Madison Avenue, which makes them think that everything they think/say/do (read: will buy) is legitimate. Therefore we get a stylistically sterile version of hip-hop whose dominant paradigm is that of abnormal normality (thug life, keepin' it real = shootouts, bling bling, big-booty hoes walkin around nearly naked all the time, etc.) So what happens when people at this stage of life have kids? Well we already know, don't we? Parents and kids should not be interested in the same things at the same time unless the child is "old" for zer age. In other words, the mother and daughter shouldn't be close enough in age to both be excited about going to an Usher concert. (Now R. Kelly…that's another story…) There's no accounting for tastes, so maybe that's a bad example, but a mother should have some seasoning on her life before she starts trying to raise a child. If the mama doesn't know anything but partying then that's all she'll be able to pass on to the child. Like I mentioned once before, this problem is compounded in school, because in many cases, the F1 generation is lacking in educational resources (e.g. high school diploma, grade-level reading skills), which already puts the F2 generation at a disadvantage. That's before we start talking about bad attitudes and mistrust of authority figures like teachers. That's just basic "if the mama can't spell cat, the child probably won't be able to, either." Kinda like the old Flip Wilson routine where he was like "if you wanna see two ugly people, follow an ugly kid home." What really disturb me is when I see the F2 generation of young parents dealing with their own seeds. They don't have a clue for what to do themselves, and the only model they had was the F1 parents, who didn't know anything, so it's all about cussing the child out and beating the child b/w spoiling the child. No clear plan or set of rules by which the child will be raised, because truthfully, the parent is still a child. They literally grow up together and as my head coach used to say, "they're dumb together."
Tyson is fighting again? I don't see it. I know why he would fight again, but from a fan's perspective, I don't know why anybody would watch it. He's clearly washed up as a championship-caliber fighter. Even the sideshow element is stale. So what if he melts down? I've seen it before.
Walter Williams mentioned this in the context of a larger argument about price controls, but I'm sticking to the ladies night angle. I meant to write about this a couple weeks ago when I saw it on the OkayPlayer message board. How's a dude gonna sue because women get in free on ladies night? What, does he want to go to a club with all dudes or something? Men will pay to go where women are, but to draw women you need something cheap or free. If it didn't work like that, ladies nights would never have become as common as they have. I thought that was common knowledge, though. I even used it when I had to get student volunteers for a research project I was doing last semester. I told my partners to concentrate on getting girls. If you get the girls, the dudes will come. A part of me thinks the dude's problem is that he wasn't getting any action. If that's the case, then he should try to meet women at the library or at the grocery store, where there is no cover charge. Don't hate. Haterade makes your breath stink. big up to Booker Rising for reminding me about this.
I didn't really have a preference in the Finals either way. I've already said that I'm a Kobe fan, but for as long as I've known about him, I've thought Larry Brown was the truth. If there was ever a coach who deserved a ring, it was Larry. Now he's got one. Althought I wish he had gotten his first one three years ago with a certain lightning quick, cornrowed six-foot shooting guard. Ooh! And Sheed gets a ring too. Bonus.
That was fun yesterday, but it's time to get serious for a minute. It seems like every day I keep reading about this Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which is Russell Simmons' group. Of course I like the idea of getting people of my demographic involved in the political process. I don't even beef because they're being inculcated into the belief that the Democrats are their friends. Most Black folks think that, so why should hip-hoppers be any different? Thing is, somebody has to step up and challenge them with something different; let them know that there's an alternative to expecting "them," i.e. the government, make everything better. In that spirit, I'm looking at the 15-item HSAN National Agenda to see what kind of modifications a conservative or moderate could make so it would actually be workable. THE NATIONAL AGENDA 1. We want freedom and the social, political and economic development and empowerment of our families and communities; and for all women, men and children throughout the world. Certain phrases, while I understand very well what they mean, are problematic for me. "Such-and-such [insert kind here] empowerment" is one of them. The problem is that it objectifies the "empowered." They're not an agent in getting their own power. Political empowerment? You have to make your own political power. The government can't give that to you. There's more room for argument on the point of economic empowerment, but among the hip-hop generation/audience, there's not really a shortage of money. There's a shortage of knowledge of what to do with it, and a poor understanding of the relationship between end$ and mean$, but that's something we have to fix ourselves. 2. We want equal justice for all without discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, creed or class. Okay, whatever that means. I think we just about got it, though. 3. We want the total elimination of poverty. How? What level of poverty? Are you talking Bangladesh poverty or are you talking hot-running-water project poverty? 4. We want the highest quality public education equally for all. Here, here! 5. We want the total elimination of racism and racial profiling, violence, hatred and bigotry. By whom? Good concept (you know it's a pipe dream), but who is going to do the eliminating and how? Seriously. On a practical level, if somebody is particularly sensitive about racial issues, ze can't even tell racism or bigotry from plain ole dislike. And while the argument can be made that racism should be against the law, I have the right to not-like anybody I please for no other reason than the fact that they breathe a combination of oxygen and nitrogen. They can dislike me for the same reason. 6. We want universal access and delivery of the highest quality health care for all. I'm in favor of this, but I don't think it can actually be done. From what I understand, there's a tradeoff between access and access. That is, if when everybody can just up and go to the doctor, nobody actually gets to see him; I know that's how it was when I went to the free clinic (for the first and hopefully last time in my life) last year. I got down there at about 730a and didn't get out until about 1145, and the doctor still didn't take care of my problem. Later, I found out that I still had a few days left on my insurance coverage and went to a regular doctor, who had me in and out in about 35 minutes, problem taken care of. We all know how I feel about the prescription drug racket. 7. We want the total elimination of police brutality and the unjust incarceration of people of color and all others. Take off the specifier "people of color". Sometimes it's necessary for the police to use force, but some of those jokers take it overboard. 8. We want the end and repeal of all repressive legislation, laws, regulations and ordinances such as "three strikes" laws; federal and state mandatory minimum sentencing; trying and sentencing juveniles as adults; sentencing disparities between crack and powdered cocaine used; capitol punishment; the Media Marketing Accountability Act; and hip-hop censorship fines by the FCC. Now we're getting down to the hip-hop specific stuff. Okay, the mandatory sentencing stuff is on point. There's no legitimate reason a judge should be hamstrung from using his own intellect to determine the appropriate sentence for a convict. It's politically expedient, and it makes lawmakers look "tough on crime," but it basically amounts to overdosing the prison system. As far as capital punishment, I'm not against it per se, but there are far too many innocent people being executed by the state for me to cosign. (And here's a question for my Christian brothers and sisters who think capital punishment is biblically mandated—or at least justified: who's responsible when an innocent person is put to death? Does that make us all guilty of murder? I don't believe God will get caught up in the "we thought we were doing the right thing at the time" excuse.) I'll get into hip-hop censorship a little later. But here's a taste: down with censorship, up with responsible lyrics. 9. We want reparations to help repair the lingering vestiges, damages and suffering of African Americans as a result of the brutal enslavement of generations of Africans in America. No. I don't mind reparations in concept, but it's never gonna happen. Not ever. Let's move on to something else more productive that can be done. How 'bout lowering the rate of unwed childbirth? (I will NEVER use the word "illegitimate" because not one person in the world can tell me that having married parents axiomatically means anything about the child. There are certain statistical likelihoods that go along with the traditional Western family structure, but not being born into such a situation does not de-legitimize a person. Fuck that. [Yes, I take it personally.]) 10. We want the progressive transformation of American society into a Nu America as a result of organizing and mobilizing the energy, activism and resources of the hip-hop community at the grassroots level throughout the United States. Here we go with the spelling. Then organize, mobilize, and change. That's our responsibility as Americans. Not right, responsibility. 11. We want greater unity, mutual dialogue, program development and a prioritizing of national issues for collective action within the hip-hop community through summits, conferences, workshops, issue task forces and joint projects. Again, make it happen. 12. We want advocacy of public policies that are in the interests of hip-hop before Congress, state legislatures, municipal governments, the media, and the entertainment industry. What public policies might those be? I see your lips quivering but you haven't said a word. 13. We want the recertification and restoration of voting rights for the 10 million persons who have lost their right to vote as a result of a felony conviction. Although these persons have served their time in prison, their voting rights have not been restored in 40 states in the US. I think it should depend on the felony. Extortion, embezzlement, insider trading? You better believe they should forfeit the right to vote. 14. We want to tremendously increase public awareness and education on the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. I think the public is fully aware of the "pandemic" of HIV/AIDS. The fact that people are still catching it at a high rate is not because they don't know about it, it's because they don't care, or they think that it can't happen to them. I've mentioned a couple times that the same groups that have high rates of HIV/AIDS contraction have high pregnancy rates. There's obviously a disconnect with the idea of using condoms, but I don't know that it necessarily stems from not knowing, it's just a reflection of poor gratification delay skills. Condoms do generally lessen the sensation, and they do necessitate an interruption in the action, but come on! And they're FREE, for cryin' out loud. They're available at schools, clinics, Planned Parenthood centers (don't ask me how I know about this stuff, just let it suffice that I do.) I know many people who don't like the fact that kids can get condoms at school, but I think it should be pretty clear that they're not making the kids take them. On the real, they need Jesus. Hip-hop about that! 15. We want a clean environment and an end to communities in which poor and minority reside being deliberately targeted for toxic waste dumps, facilities and other environmental hazards that destroy the health and value of our neighborhoods. True that. NIMBY is strong when you can generate some political power. Take care of point number one and this one will fall as well. Basically, this list seems to me to be good-sounding ideas but not much that's really actionable. Some of my friends might make a larger statements about progressives in general, but I'll just leave it at that. Still, within these points, I think there is some room for us to get in there and do something. The hip-hop generation is a younger version of us! All 15 of those items, at some point, we believed in. We still do believe in a few of them, but we just think there are other, non-governmental ways to go about accomplishing them. Let's get out there and make something happen.
I'm a music fan. Maybe to be more accurate, I should say I like music in general, but I'm a straight-up fan of certain genres and artists. There's a reason I titled my blog "Stereo Describes My Scenario." One, because I like music that much, but two, because it's a Public Enemy lyric. I try to get artists I like into whatever I'm working on, either by title or content. Once I called a paper I wrote on tornado formation and development, "Black Cloud in the Hour of Chaos." I said all that say that music is more than just racket in the background for me. I pay attention and break it down. When I'm talking to somebody who can break it down with me, we can chew it all the way to the last morsel. With that in mind, run and get the Polygrip. If you're looking for politics, check back later this week. For now, it's all about the best song by the greatest R&B songwriter ever. If I was better acquainted with more genres of music, I'd just call him the best ever and leave it at that. As it is, I'll just say he's in the pantheon. Stevie Wonder has a tremendous catalog. As with every artist, some parts are stronger than others, but even his wack records (and there are a couple) are better than most artists' best material. I'm not sure how his record sales went, but to critics and all the fans I know, his strongest period was right after he took full creative control of his material. The first four albums, Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, and Fulfillingness' First Finale represent a string of near-perfect albums. Music of my Mind has my favorite Stevie song (although not the one I think is his best), Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You.). It was a solid effort, but it didn't begin to hint at what was to come. Talking Book took it up a level with Superstition, You And I (you know I had to mention that one. Michael sang it at Thelma's wedding.), and Looking For Another Pure Love. Innervisions gets me in trouble because a lot of my friends keep trying to tell me that it's a perfect album, but I just don't agree. Don't get me wrong, it's staggeringly good, and I don't think there is any fast-forward material on there (which by my own definition makes it a perfect album, I guess), but it just doesn't crystallize as perfect for me. Even though there's not a bad song on there, none of them really stand out and bop me over the head. (That sequence from Living For the City to Higher Ground is particularly good, though.) Fulfillingness' First Finale is another album that would be solid on its own, but coming in the string of great music (in consecutive years!!) makes it even that much better. Kinda like Pippen was a great player, but when he was with Jordan, he was one of the best ever. (Ask me one time why, even though I think Mike may have been the greatest baller ever, and Pip may have played himself out of the top 50 with his performances in Houston and Portland, Mike's greatness was just as dependent on Pip as Pip's was on Mike. Somebody ask me about that one time.) After that came The Album, Songs In The Key of Life. Here is my dog in the "best Stevie album" fight. To really represent it properly, I'm gonna break it down into sides, like it was when I first got my chubby little fingers on it. SIDE 1 Love's In Need of Love Today Have A Talk With God Village Ghetto Land Contusion Sir Duke The first two are solid songs; if they were players on Madden, they would go about 80-85. Like I said before, for any other artist, these would represent the apex of their work. For Stevie, they're good, if unspectacular, especially on this album. With Village Ghetto Land, the album starts to pick up. This is the song those rappers who claim they're just "describing life as it really is" wish they could write. Stevie paints a crisp, detailed picture here, and he can't even see! I'll be reiterating that throughout this piece, especially as I really break down lyrics, but think about that. In Village Ghetto Land, he writes, "Children play with rusted cars/ sores cover their hands" and he can't even see. I knew kids that played with rusted cars and they did have sores on their hands. I didn't put the two together then, and I doubt that I would even notice it now. That's amazing. Contusion is a strong instrumental jam that my mother didn't like. She said it should've been called "Coufusion." I thought it was hot, though. Then, on Sir Duke, he ratchets it up to 10. SIDE 2 I Wish Knocks Me Off My Feet Pasttime Paradise Summer Soft Ordinary Pain Perfection. I don't really know what else to say. Side 2 of SITKOL is unbeatable in terms of both songs and sequencing. I could try to name standouts, because like I mentioned when I wrote about this in Singer-Songwriters, I did try to kick some lines from Knocks Me Off My Feet to the girl I liked when I was in 3rd grade, but I wore out the whole side of the record. The end of the first verse of Summer Soft actually used to make me sad, when he's like, "...taking with her summer's play..." If I was still teaching, I would bring these songs in and make the kids break down all the poetic devices Stevie uses. SIDE 3 Isn't She Lovely Joy Inside My Tears Black Man Perfection again. Isn't She Lovely, I don't even need to write about that. Everybody knows that song, and everybody who has a daughter wishes ze had written it. Of these three, Joy Inside My Tears is my favorite, though. I don't know why, but I've always liked melancholy songs. (I guess that's why Here My Dear is my favorite Marvin Gaye album, with You Can Leave, But It's Going To Cost You being my favorite song.) Joy Inside My Tears is 6:30 of pleasure. Then comes Black Man, which every American History class should listen to. Many times, it seems like some conservatives think multiculturalism is a bad thing. That's wrong. The oxymoronic hegemony that has developed in the name of multiculturalism is bad, but so is acting like the only people who have ever contributed anything to America are of European ancestry. It's about dispensing the facts, not telling the stories that show me and my people in the best light. SIDE 4 Ngiculea – Es Una Historia - I Am Singing If It's Magic As Another Star Not content to just talk about multiculti, Stevie actually practices what he preaches, singing in 3 languages on Ngiculea... Are you kiddin me?! Then comes If It's Magic, which is one of the few songs for which I think the word "beautiful" is really appropriate. The harp, the sentiments, that song is synergistic. Finally, Another Star, is funny: lyrically, it's melancholy, but it's an upbeat, danceable tune. (I know because I was at a club one time and they played it and I danced the whole 8 minutes, sweating my money blue.) SOMETHING EXTRA - remember the little record that came in there? Saturn Ebony Eyes All Day Sucker Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call) Just closes out a perfect album. Especially Easy Goin' Evening, which is what sunset on a warm, summer evening would sound like. If my life had a soundtrack, All Day Sucker would be the love theme. Of course, all those other songs can't really be perfect. On the Madden scale, they're all 99s, but for As we have to take up another level. As is that geeked up version of yourself you make in create-a-player when you pull all the sliders to 99. When I wrote about this before, I made note of the fact that Stevie wrote songs that women would like to hear that men would actually say. I mean, I could talk and talk and talk about this song, but I will just post the lyrics and let them speak for themselves, highlighting passages I think are particularly interesting. But as you read, remember that this stuff was written by a man who cannot see with his natural eyes. Un-believable. So now that I'm shuttin up, go get your copy of Songs In The Key of Life (if you don’t have it, you ain't got no collection, you just got a bunch'a records.) and get groovin'. As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May Just as hate knows love's the cure You can rest your mind assured That I'll be loving you always Now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow But in passing we'll grow older every day Just as all is born is new You know what I say is true That I'll be loving you always Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky ALWAYS Until the ocean covers every mountain high ALWAYS Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea ALWAYS Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream Did you know that true love asks for nothing Her acceptance is the way we pay Did you know that life has given love a guarantee To last through forever and another day Just as time knew to move on since the beginning And the seasons know exactly when to change Just as kindness knows no shame Know through all your joy and pain That I'll be loving you always As today I know I'm living but tomorrow Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear For I'll know deep in my mind The love of me I've left behind Cause I'll be loving you always Until the day is night and night becomes the day ALWAYS Until the trees and sea just up and fly away ALWAYS Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4 ALWAYS Until the day that is the day that are no more Did you know you're loved by somebody? Until the day the earth starts turning right to left ALWAYS Until the earth just for the sun denies itself I'll loving you forever Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through ALWAYS Until the day that you are me and I am you AL~~~~~WA~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~AA~~~ Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky ~~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~AA~~~ Until the ocean covers every mountain high ~~~AA~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~YS We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles Can make you wish you were born in another time and space But you can bet your life times that and twice its double That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed So make sure when you say you're in it but not of it You're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love And maybe our children's grandchildren And their great-great grandchildren will tell I'll be loving you Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky Loving you Until the ocean covers every mountain high Loving you Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea Loving you Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream Be loving you Until the day is night and night becomes the day Loving you Until the trees and seas up, up and fly away Loving you Until the day that 8x8x8x8 is 4 Loving you Until the day that is the day that are no more Loving you Until the day the earth starts turning right to left Be loving you Until the earth just for the sun denies itself Loving you Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through Loving you Until the day that you are me and I am you Now ain't that loving you Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky Ain't that loving you Until the ocean covers every mountain high And I've got to say always Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea AL~~~~~~~~~WA~~~~~~~~~~~~AYS Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream Um AL~~~~~~~~~WA~~~~~~~~~~~~AYS Until the day is night and night becomes the day AL~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WA~~~~~~~~~AYS Until the trees and sea just up and fly away AL~~~~~WA~~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4 ~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~~~~AA Until the day that is the day that are no more AA~~~~~~~~~~~~AA~~~~AA~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AYS Until the day the earth starts turning right to left AL~~~~~~~~WA~~~~~~A~~~~~~~~~~~~AA Until the earth just for the sun denies itself ~~~~~~AA~~~~~~~~AA~~~~~~AA~~~~~~AYS Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through AL~~~~WAYS Until the day that you are me and I am you Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky Until the ocean covers every mountain high Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream Until the day is night and night becomes the day Until the trees and sea just up and fly away Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4 Until the day that is the day that are no more Until the day the earth starts turning right to left Until the earth just for the sun denies itself Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through Until the day that you are me and I am you
My vacation stunk. Mostly. There were a couple moments that were pretty good, but those incidents were just outliers. If it's possible to have a vacation worse than that one, I don't want to know about it. That piece about Stevie Wonder's As is still forthcoming, although the former Butterscotch (I'm takin' back my name)really spoiled my appetite for the song. Ray Charles died too. I don't usually get too upset when celebrities die. To put it a little more accurately, I usually don't care. I "voted" for Reagan in the "elections" we had in 1st and 5th grade classes, but don't think I was pressed about his passing last week. Ray Charles, on the other hand, that kind of got to me. Being into music as much as I am, and knowing the impact that he had on my favorite artists and athletes (Sugar Ray Leonard was named after him), that hits a little more locally. Even at that, I wasn't all down in the mouth about it, I was just surprised and saddened. The only celebrity whose death really had me down in the dumps was Bobby Phills, who was the shooting guard for the Charlotte Hornets. I was down in the mouth for, like, three days after that. And really, I still don't understand why. I didn't like Charlotte, and I barely knew who he was; I sometimes traded for him on NBA Live '98, but that was about it. Then I woke up and went to watch Sports Center while I was eating my Super Golden Crisp (I wasn't diabetic back then) and they led off with that story. It was strange. Anyway, all those projects I announced last week will see completion this week.
- Why As is Stevie Wonder's best song - Is there really such a thing as "hip-hop culture?" - some other good ole goodies But for now... More funky drum breaks
- Yes We Can Can – Pointer Sisters (3:38) The funk of this beat saturates the whole song, though. Even when they're singing over it, there's just no hiding this funk. I'm gonna hafta do some research to see who the drummer is on this track.
- Apache – Incredible Bongo Band (0:01) Wow. Every time I hear this song, I think about my friend's pop, who plays the congas. I wonder if it influenced him.
- I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More – Barry White (0:01). Hurtin' em. Almost seems too funky to be on a love ballad.
- I Just Wanna Celebrate – Rare Earth (2:44) Nasss-D. Excellent display of a tightly controlled but powerful break.
One refrain among critics of Bill Cosby's comments two (three?) weeks ago is the charge of classism. While I think these arguments hold no water in this specific case (particularly since we still don't have a complete transcript, so there's no way to properly contextualize the statements. According to Cosby, all the most "inflammatory" stuff is in relation to the number of high school dropouts), there's a discussion to be had on the degree to which we want "lower class" folks to imitate the behavioral norms of the "upper class" and the reasons for that preference. I'm not about to get into all that here, but I will raise a few questions that stem from it. Like I said yesterday, funny characters have a right to do things just because they're funny, regardless of the social impact. I guess this question really goes to the heart of the function of artistic expression, whether it's art for arts' sake, or art for the sake of some other purpose, religious, nationalistic, upliftment of the race, or otherwise. Personally, I don't think that art should necessarily be beholden to any ideological premise. If a Christian wants to MC, all zer raps don't necessarily have to be rhyming sermons. Of course, if ze comes out with some "money, hoes, and clothes" record, zer witness will be suspect, but I don't think it would be wrong or un-Christian of zer to come out with an album of pure MCing, with allusions to the Gospel throughout, a/la Lauryn Hill. Perhaps a better example is Bill Cosby himself. Again, Bill Cosby's comedy is not so much designed with a political purpose in mind, as it's just supposed to be funny. Perhaps its decidedly apolitical stance is something of a protest in and of itself, but either way, if you're going to take something substantial out of a Bill Cosby routine, it's going to be something that you as the listener work up and apply to the material. It wasn't there in the first place. "To My Brother, Russel, Whom I Slept With" is funny. It was funny when I was 12, when I first heard it, and it's funny now. Having been a lit major, I know how to deconstruct it and "unpack" the layers of meaning, and why certain allusions are made, and why certain strategies are employed, but that's all stuff that I bring to the work. To My Brother Russell is there solely to make the audience laugh. Nothing more, nothing less. All that to say that this conversation goes beyond stereotypes of Black folks. I'm just dealing with it at this level because this is what I like to talk about. Now. In the case of the most stereotypical portrayal of Black folk and other folk that you can think of, whatever that may be (cuz Butterscotch is complaining about how much I write about Soul Plane), the fact remains that there are some Black folks who don't think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, there's probably a good number who think that it's legitimately funny and wish that there would be a sequel. Because if you really think about it, even though SP only did about 5 mil over the weekend, that's probably not an accurate reflection of the number of people who saw it. If ever there was a movie that was tailor made to be hit by the bootleg market, this is it. That means that many more people have seen it than the official counts recognize. Hence, there is a market for this, and it's not white people trying to perpetuate stereotypical images of Black folks. For people, who may be unaware of the social ramifications of comedy or don't care one way or the other, Soul Plane and its ilk are okay. It all depends on what the individual thinks is funny. I think Martin is trash, but I like Good Times. Some other people think Sanford & Son is nothing but coonin' and buffoonin', but they know better than to say it to my face. Understanding, then, that the perception of what's entertaining is a matter of taste, it's important to determine if we want to keep "our" kind of artistic expression up front because we don't want "their" kind to be the only depiction of us, or because deep down, we don't want anybody to think "we" are like "them", i.e., we don't want white people to think that all Black people love chicken and watermelon, can't control their libidos, can't use words in context, dress in gaudy colors, and are always shuckin' and jivin'. If that's the case, then we're off base. Like I said last time, to a racist, it doesn't matter which foot you put forward, the Stacey Adams or the Chuck Taylor. For the majority of non-racist white folks, some of whom may simply not know anybody Black, the key is diversification of images. That's why shows like The Cosby Show and its progeny (227, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Different World), where they displayed a solid Black family structure were so important. For that matter, the first two-and-some-change seasons of Good Times could be included as well. But while Black folks have been acquitted well from time to time on comedies, what about on dramas? I'm not talking about fly-in-the-buttermilk shows like E.R. or LA Law, I'm talking about substantially or majority-Black shows. What happened to Franks Place?(who?) Exactly. Nobody watched it. The problem with that assessment is that it suggests that we all have to be on our best behavior for the advancement of "the race." I don't know if that's really true anymore, but personally, I still feel like that sometimes. Why should I, though? The West Philly thug knuckleheads have no more to do with me than the Jenkintown thug knuckleheads have to do with some other (read: white) graduate student. Yet, if we're all at the mall, I cringe when the Black thug knucklehead is getting dragged out in handcuffs. The other grad student may remark or shake his head at Jenkintown thug, but he's not worried about how J-thug going to reflect on him. He doesn't worry that Black folks are going to think that all white people are like J-thug. He's Grad Student, J-thug is J-thug and he knows that nobody's going to mistake one for the other. I, on the other hand, still have people getting worried when they see me coming. It could be because I sometimes walk with my game face on, but it's definitely irrespective of what I'm wearing. I've gotten the same reaction in ties as I have in t-shirts and sweats. (But at the same time, I've already written about how I feel shaky when I walk through neighborhoods where people are flying the confederate flag; I don't feel all that comfortable in all-white neighborhoods either. That's strange, considering that the probability is much higher that I would get bumped off in the 'hood than in the exurbs.) Are we at the point where we're judged on our individual characteristics as opposed to the group that we belong to? Conservatives are quick to condemn liberals for subscribing to groupthink, but is it not logical, at least to some extent, to think as a group if you're going to be identified as that group, regardless? Not really. When it all falls down, you have to do you. Can't worry about thug nigga or any of the rest of 'em, cuz they ain't worried about you. Bottom line, then, is let them have their fun. All people have a right to act a fool if they want. If the job of providing a healthy image of Black folks has been left to Snoop, it was over before it got started. If we want to see something else, then we should get about making what we want to see and then supporting that, but necessarily because we feel that we have to uplift the race. If that's a byproduct, then that's fantastic, but as far as stereotypes and the avoidance of them goes, the only ones we should be worrying about is us.
- My Writes - De La Soul, feat. Tha Liks
- Come Clean - Jeru Tha Damaja
- Cha Cha Cha - MC Lyte
- Esoteric Circle - Jan Garbarek
- Ain't No Sunshine - Roy Ayers A little story here...I like going to used record stores, but I hate it when the people who work there automatically assume they know more than the customers. I know this song was originally recorded by Bill Withers, but I also know who I'm listening to right now. I'm like, "Do you have Ain't No Sunshine as recorded by Roy Ayers?? See right there, I'm not acting as if Roy Ayers is the original artist, I said, "as recorded by." Anyway, the dude is like, "That's Bill Withers." I started to come at his neck, but I was just like, "I know, but I'm looking for the Roy Ayers version." He didn't have it anyway. I should've known better, though. This was the same dude that tried to tell me that Bootsy never played with James Brown. The Rolling Stones or the Beatles or Elvis, he could'a got me on. James Brown? No shot.
- You're Right Ray Charles - Joe Tex I'm gonna base a blog on this meta-song.
- Mannish Boy - Muddy Waters
- The Jam - Larry Graham & Graham Central Station
This is exactly what I'm talking about. The HBO film, Something The Lord Made, about a Black carpenter who helped to change medicine, is a much-needed alternative to the foolishness that is Soul Plane. It's not so much about Soul Plane necessarily being a bad thing...I still believe the potential for a really good satire is there. With the right script to make him "get in where he fit in," Snoop could be a good character actor. The problem is the lack of diversity. I just wish Something The Lord Made didn't come on HBO...or that I had HBO so I could watch it. Also, as an aside, while Stanley Crouch is venerating Bill Cosby and Vivien Jackson, as he should in this column, would it have killed him to mention Mos Def's rapping with in the context of non-buffoonery? As I have said before, for me, the fact that a person simply does not like hip-hop lessens any critique they may have. If a person can't admit or doesn't know when it's good, then what difference does it make when they say it's bad?