Sippin' On Clorox?

Do Black kids really think it's "acting white" to excel in academic/intellectual pursuits? Dr. Edward Rhymes says no. In his article, Acting White? African-American Students and Education, Dr. Rhymes seeks to discredit disingenuous and misled pundits and celebrities who claim that there is some anti-intellectual movement afoot. Citing his personal experience with youngsters, both in and outside of the classroom, he claims that he has never heard any Black student "equivocate scholastic achievement with whiteness." Students at T.C. Williams High School say otherwise. In the article, When The Street And The Classroom Collide, several college-bound Black students report that many of their peers have ridiculed them as sellouts or "acting white" for their devotion to their studies. Something's wrong here. I would never go so far as to question another man's experience, but I will say that the evidence seems to support the kids more than it does Dr. Rhymes. Since Dr. Rhymes' article is published at Black Commentator, I will concede that bias could be a problem in the Washington Post article, since the mainstream press is partially to blame for fueling this stereotype. Or something like that. They're always on the lookout for that type of bias over there, so I'd better acknowledge it up front. I'm less interested in the Washington Post article than I am in Dr. Rhymes' article, but not so much because I think that the focus in the post is "righter" than Dr. Rhymes, but because Rhymes does a provide an interesting framework for analyzing the situation. Instead of placing blame, his stated purpose is to seek an explanation. He cites four elements as having explanatory power in the lack of academic push among Black youngsters: pop culture, curriculum, placement tests and other standardized tests, and the ethnicity of teachers. Okay, except where does any of that give the kids agency? But I'm getting ahead of myself. One thing I will give Dr. Rhymes credit for, he does a good job of pointing out the fact that the majority of the students are actually ambivalent towards academic success. All other things being equal, they would prefer to be on the smart side of average rather than the dumb side, but intelligence counts for far less than, say, physical appearance, charisma, or athletic ability. That's true. It's also true that the nerd stereotype did not originate in the Black community, so in that respect I suppose it's fair to question the degree to which people act like Black people are so anti-education vis-a-vis the mainstream society. That's a good piece of fat for some career eggheads to chew, but does it really matter? Whether Black kids don't push hard at school because they don't want to be "white" or they don't want to be "nerds" (and if you take the pop culture angle, there have only been two real Black nerds: the gay dude in the Revenge of the Nerds movies and Steve Urkel, so it's not clear that "nerd" and "white" are mutually exclusive) the issue is that they're not pushing hard at school. Not whether larger society is somehow culpable. I couldn't have cared less why my kids didn't think it was worth their time not to know how to multiply, I just wanted them to learn how to do it. The second element he targets is the curriculum. Let’s say for a moment, that I actually bought into this misconception about African-American youths’ aversion to education; when the curriculum is viewed from our social studies, history and English classes across the country, it’s easy to see how education and “whiteness” becomes inseparable. Ambra has written a good deal about the merits (or the lack thereof) of classical literature, so I'm not about to rehash that. She also has a piece about hip-hop in the classroom that's definitely worth checking out. All that to say that I can co-sign on a critique of the curriculum to a degree-- but only to a degree. Even Furious Styles, in Boyz In The Hood, stressed the importance of mathematics to his son. If the evidence showed Black kids doing well in math but poorly in courses where "Eurocentrism" could be blamed for their lack of interest, I wouldn't have an argument. That's not the case, though. I was a math teacher. I know. An eighth grader who can't immediately spit the answer to 12 X 12 is not the victim of a Eurocentric education system or one that is steeped in Americanity at the expense of facts. More than likely, he's the victim of too much idiot box, but we ain't gon' talk about that. We never do. As for Black students being steered away from AP courses, I'm not sure about the extent to which that has any bearing on this discussion. I think Dr. Rhymes' point is that Black students think high academic achievement is "white" because they don't see themselves reflected in the highest tier of coursework, but that's specious at best. I think the fact that most majority Black schools don't offer many AP courses is something that's worth investigating, but I'm fairly sure that if there were more parental demand (on the schools to provide the courses and on the students to make it worth the schools' while) those problems would be addressed. Still, that's something to keep an eye on. The ethnicity of the teachers...ehhhh. I think it can make a difference, but it doesn't have to. Much more important is the teacher's expectations for the students and the degree of tolerance that ze has for foolishness, both behavioral and academic. Black kids don't need a Black teacher to learn. It doesn't hurt, but it's not a necessity. Kids will respond to whoever cares. True enough that the teacher's worldview is passed to the students along with the curriculum, but I still maintain that that's not a deal breaker. It would be great if there were more Black teachers who could act as mentors and role models, as well as classroom instructors, but come on. Any group of students will show its collective behind to any teacher who will let it, irrespective of race. That's just what kids do. Finally, Dr. Rhymes demonstrates the difference between scholastic performance of voluntary and involuntary immigrants throught the world. Now that's some interesting stuff that I hadn't seen before. I'll definitely be taking a look at the literature on that. But... The most important element is one Rhymes brushes aside on the way to his conclusion: Although Ogbu’s studies offer some compelling reasons for the gap between African-Americans and whites in education, he also cautioned that we should not allow our righteous zeal to fight discrimination (and to break down barriers in education and in the opportunity structure), to cause us to ignore the personal behavior and attitudes that are conducive to academic success. Again, to the extent that I call myself conservative, this is why. All the rest of that stuff may play a role somewhere. Nerds on TV and in the movies or an deadening curriculum or no AP classes or a lily-white teaching corps may have some detrimental effect on Black educational performance, but none of that even comes close to the "personal behavior and attitudes that are conducive to academic success." We used to do much more with much less. There's no reason we shouldn't be doing better now.

Favorite Albums Wrestle-Off #1

In order to properly evaluate albums, the first thing I have to do is create a rubric. (What a fun word). I'm thinking that the criteria for hip-hop albums will be slightly different than the one for gospel albums, but not entirely dissimilar. After all, I'll be comparing albums within genre by the same artist, so it'll be inherently fair. Anyway, to review, this is going to culminate in a list of my 10 favorite albums...for now. The list I proposed last time was the following:
    Dare Iz A Darkside - Redman De La Soul Is Dead - De La Soul Songs In The Key of Life - Stevie Wonder Love Alive 1 - Walter Hawkins Resurrection - Common (Sense) Mama's Gun - Erykah Badu Amerikkka's Most Wanted - Ice Cube It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy Black Star - Mos Def and Talib Kweli Benny Carter Meets Oscar Peterson - Benny Carter and Oscar Peterson
Of those, I said that three are mortal locks: Mama's Gun, Nation of Millions, and of course, Songs In The Key Of Life. It's the other 7 that are giving me trouble. For one thing, I made that list three weeks ago and I'm not sure about several of those picks. But at least two of them are in competition to be my favorite album by that artist/group, let alone to be in my all-time top 10. So without further ado, let's get it on... For my money, the late 70's was the apex for gospel music as a genre. It was still in its most pure, undiluted form, but within that, there were some innovations. At the forefront of those innovations were the Hawkins brothers, Edwin and Walter. (Walter was also at the forefront of the pageboy-for-men innovation, but we ain't gon' talk about that.) Edwin had received a good deal of flak for his restyling of "Oh Happy Day" into a pop hit in the early 70's. Nevertheless, the rearrangement of traditional gospel songs was a central feature in Hawkins recordings. (We used to have a lot of Walter Hawkins records, so I can break that down further if need be.) Love Alive
    Song selection: 10 Old School Reinterpretation: 9 Tramaine-goes-off Song: 10 Get-down song: 10 Replay Value: 10 Congregation Participation: 10 Sequencing: 10
Total: 69 Love Alive 2
    Song selection: 8 Old School Reinterpretation: 10 Tramaine-goes-off Song: 10 Get-Down song: 10 Replay Value: 9 Congregation Participation: 9 Sequencing: 8
Total: 64 Love Alive and Love Alive 2, if they had been released as a double album, would probably be perfect. As it is, it's almost like listening to the same album with different selections. Even then, Love Alive 2 would be the weaker disc, but their overall combined strength would make any weaknesses negligible. The biggest difference between the two is in song selection. Simply put, LA 2 has a couple weak songs on there. I'm Going Away is just not that good. It's not a bad song, and within the context of the album, it's not so bad, but it's definitely the weak link. Come By Here, Good Lord is not that great either. The second area where LA 2 comes up short is in sequencing. Song order is an extremely underrated element of musical performance. Whether in the studio or in concert, sequencing determines the mood and helps to create the a rising or descending effect for the audience. Love Alive 2 seems too disjointed. On top of that, the last song is one of the somewhat lackluster. Having said all that, LA 2 is definitely a great album, and very likely in my top 20. It can't beat Love Alive, though. The permanent list so far: Songs In The Key of Life - Stevie Wonder Mama's Gun - Erykah Badu It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy Love Alive - Walter Hawkins next time: De La Soul Is Dead vs. Buhloone Mind State

It's All Over Now

Okay, but before I get to all that, I just saw the Tyson knockout. That joint was pitiful. Mike actually hit the ropes, bounced back up, and got caught with another fist. It was like something out of Rocky. Michael King has a discusson about it. It's just sad to me. As if the world's not in enough flux, there's not even a dominant name in the heavyweight division. At least before, even though we knew Tyson wasn't the same miraculously fast, hard puncher he was in 1986, there was always that back-of-the-mind thought that he could put somebody to sleep at any moment. This time, he was actually gunning for the KO in the first round and couldn't get it. Remember the guy on the SI cover?


This is the 200th post. It's Saturday. Generally, weekends are for cleaning up, but I'm an old comic booker, so multiples of 50 are special issues. Conflict of interests. Scattershot thoughts or double issue? To solve this, I think I'm gonna finally deal with some posts that have been lingering around for too long. By the end of the day, I will have completed that Love Alive vs. Love Alive 2 comparison I've been selling woof tickets about for the last two weeks, and I'll probably get into something a little more substantive, like this question of "acting white" as it pertains to education. I read a couple interesting articles that deal with this in different ways, and I need to weigh in. Also, there'll be an autobiographical some'nother.


Space Giants

Does anybody remember the Space Giants? Goldar, Silvar, Zan, and Methuslem vs. the evil of Radak? That used to be my sure shot on weekday afternoons when I was in early grade school. I don't remember what channel it used to come on...maybe Chicago's channel 64 or something. One of those high numbers at the end of the UHF dial that I always got in trouble for turning too fast. Then there was Spectreman. Space Giants I remember vaguely. Spectreman, on the other hand, I actually remember the music and some of the dialogue from that. It looks cheesy now, but it's just the prequel to the Power Rangers. Spectreman was hot, though. It used to come on channel 26, WCIU. When I was in grade school, it came on around the same time as the Space Giants. Later, when I was in Junior High, it came on before school, at about 6:30. Best believe I made sure to get up and hit the shower so I could eat my Lucky Charms and watch Spectreman.

Melle Mel's MC Ratings

This is from an interview with Melle Mel. Kool Moe Dee rated him the greatest MC of all time in the book, There's A God On The Mic. At first I kind of disagreed, but then taking everything into consideration...I really can't argue with it. From my first post, I've been mentioning really breaking that stuff down, and as I approach # 200, I may honestly start some systematic breakdown. Or else, maybe that will be my inaugural address when I finally pack up and move. At any rate, these are Melle Mel's ratings for some well-known (and maybe not-so-well-known, for you non-hip-hoppers) MCs. This is on a scale of one to ten. Caz - 10 Rakim - 9 T La Rock - 7 Moe Dee - 10 LL Cool J - 7 Lil Rodney C - 6 Nas - 8 Kid Creole - 10 ( Im probably biased 'cuz he is my brother ; but he is a dime to me ) Rahiem - 10 Scorpio - 8 Cowboy - 10 Run - 7 Chuck D - 8 DLB (Fearless 4)- 7 Busy Bee - 5 (laughs....thats my Nigga , I Love him to death - he just wasnt lyrical ) Jay Z - 9 Ice Cube - 9.5 Ice T - 8 G.L.O.B.E - 8 Big Daddy Kane - 9 Kool G Rap - 11 (not a typo - eleven) Mc Shan - 8 KRSOne - 8 Biggie - 10 Tupac - 9 Guru - 8 Just looking at it, the first thing that jumps out at me is Kool G Rap's 11. Now, I'll be the first one to say that G-Rap is probably the most underrated MC of all time, but 11? With Rakim as 9? Definitely warrants further review. The evals on the other members of the Furious 5 are suspect. I dismiss those out of hand. Biggie > Kane, Rakim, KRS? Tupac = Kane Rakim? Tupac > KRS?!, Chuck D? Biggie > Ice Cube > Tupac... probably about right...although Jheri Curl Cube v. Biggie...Once Upon A Time In The Projects vs. Niggas Bleed... the very thought makes my mouth water.

Ice Cube Joint

At first this was going to be another in the occasional series on my dismay at the public adoration of Tupac. My contention is that Ice Cube was the MC that Tupac wanted to be. There are some strong parallels to their careers, and there would probably be a lot more had Tupac not died when he did. I'm not taking it in that directon right now, though. Instead of comparing him to his inferior, I'll just let it suffice to say that Jheri Curl Ice Cube was the greatest MC ever from the West Coast. Now, I'm specifying Jheri Curl Ice Cube(JCIC) as opposed to the later incarnations, because there's a definite difference in tone and quality. Death Certificate, his second full-length solo LP, I still count as JCIC, even though he had cut his hair by that point. Ask anybody who has a historical sense of hip-hop and they'll tell you that after Straight Outta Compton, everything was different. I've said that a few times myself. This time, I'm not trying to place it in any kind of sociological context or any of that, I'm just talking about an album. There had been gangsta rappers before, but nothing in the world could compare to Straight Outta Compton. Ice Cube either wrote or co-wrote all the important songs on there. Now this is not to say that Cube was a one-man show. On my breakdown of favorite groups, I said that NWA had the first complete starting 5 in the modern era of hip-hop (no disrespect to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5). MC Ren was nice. A lot of people front on Ren, but Ren was the truth. And even though he wasn't an official member of NWA, The D.O.C. was second only to Ice Cube in terms of lyrics and delivery. As the ghostwriter, however, Cube gets more credit. So Cube is basically the one who gave gangsta rap its name, with the song, "Gangsta, Gangsta." He's also the one who brought incessant vulgarity to the forefront. But in the era in which NWA came, nobody would have paid them any attention if it hadn't been for the lyrics. That's what made NWA so dope, Cube was a stone-cold writer. From Parental Discretion Iz Advised:
I'll be what is known as a bandit You gotta hand it to me when you truly understand it Cause if you fail to see, read it in braile It'll still be funky -- so what's next is the flex of a genius, my rapid-stutter-steppin if you seen this dope, you hope that I don't really mean this But if played, made the grade a high-top fade Is not my trademark when I get loose in the dark You guess it was a test of a different style It's just another motherfucker on the pile Drivin your ass with the flow of your tongue You hung yourself short, the after-knowledge was brung to your attention, by the hardest motherfuckin artist that is know for lynchin any sucker in a minute Stagger 'em all When I start flowin like Niagara Falls Ice Cube is equipped to rip shit in a battle Move like a snake when I'm mad; and then my tail rattle I get low on the flow so let your kids know When I bust, parental discretion is a must
Or from the brother song, The Grand Finale, from The D.O.C.'s sublime No One Can Do It Better
Picture a nigga that's raw Amplify his ass and what you see is what's on Muthafuckas I slaughter, blow em out the water Word to me, fuck the father My medley is deadly as a pin in a handgrenade 5 seconds before you get played You can't throw me, I guess you'll blow up Ever see a sucker scatter, it'll make ya throw up Then I take advantage, you can't manage To get up, all you can do is sit up, I get lit up Hit up, Ice Cube tearing shit up Like a dude you can bet on Collide like a head on Collision, stutter steppin is an incision Of a nigga saying exactly what I vision Because I'm gone, you think I left you all But I stay in yo' ass like cholesterol When I blast some solid as alcatraz And if you escape, you better swim fast 'Cause I'll catch ya, physically and mentally And the capital punishment's the penalty Sit in the electric chair, grab a hold Pull the switch, yo' body twitch, your eyes explode Out your skull 'cause being dull on a flow Is an N-O, niggas didn't know that I can go Off and show off to throw off the law Turn, take 10 paces then draw What's left is a muthafucka dead in the alley Ice Cube is the shit on the grand finale
Kool Moe Dee only gave cube an 80 on battle skills, but I beg to differ. Jheri Curl Cube was a MONSTER. Personally, I think Rakim was the best that ever did it, although I have to acknowledge that KRS-1 has a legitimate claim as well. And if Big Daddy Kane was not quite on the same tier as those two, he's only micrometers below. In any case, Jheri Curl Cube would give any of those dudes fits. The craziest part is that they were all at the top of their games in the same time period. These young cats try to tell me that '94 was the year, or '98 or somethin'...naw, dawg. '89 was the number. I'm not even gonna bring Chuck D into the discussion. For all Cube's work with NWA, it's when he broke camp and recorded solo that he became simply devestating. Amerikkka's Most Wanted was by almost all accounts an instant classic. I remember getting a letter from my friend that summer. He was like, "That's the hardest nigga I ever heard. I'd hate to run into him in an alley." But it wasn't just that. It was hard and funny and thought-provoking all at the same time. See, to tip my hand on the 2Pac argument, in addition to the elements I described before, a big part of Pac's reachability, of his "everyman-ness" was the fact that he wasn't an outsanding lyricist. He was approachable in that way. Cube, on the other hand, the average listener knew...there was no way they could ever get it like that.

Now I'm Excited

The Grind Date, the new De La Soul album, is coming out on September, 28. Check y'all at the store.

Like A Eunuch At An Orgy

What's the point of any governmental regulation of sex? Seriously. Moral regulation, i.e. pontification from a religious institution is one thing. State regulation is something altogether different. Nobody stepped to me on prostitution...whatever. Except for the element of taxation, I don't see how the government has a stake in it one way or the other.  This goes even bigger than that, though.  Texas had a law banning sodomy.  How's the state gonna decide that only coitus is legal? Or in this case, how's the state gonna decide that sex toys are illegal without a prescription? I have my uncertainties about the calls for smaller government, because as I've said many times, I think there are definitely some things that the government is better-suited to handle than private entities. There aren't many, but there are some. Determining the manner in which two grown-ups (or one, as the case may be) carry on is not one of them. I guess I just don't get it.


Some REAL News...

In my first journalism class, the professor kicked that old cliche, "Man Bites Dog...That's news." But this...this is just sick.
A suburban Chicago man is in court today facing charges he raped a female dog, facing up to nine years in prison and $75,000 in fines if convicted. Joyner faces one to three years in prison and fines up to $25,000 if convicted on each of three charges. The dog, which suffered physical injury during the attack, is reportedly recovering in its owner's care.
What I wanna know is, what was he on? I've seen guys leave the club with "dogs", but I've never seen one go into the kennel to pick her up.

Harold Washington Quote

This is the quote from Mayor Harold Washington's second inaugural address that basically sums up what I think the NAACP should be, substituting racial differences for political and ideological differences. If the NAACP can't be this, then maybe we should make something that can.
Chicago in four years has brought together black and white, Asian and hispanic, male and female, the young, the old, the disabled, gays and lesbians, Moslems, Christians and Jews, business leaders and neighborhood activists, bankers and trade unionists--all have come together to mix and contend, to aruge and to reason, to confront our problems and not merely to contain them.


For Those Who Have An Ear To Hear...

It just occurred to me that there is a sickening irony in the fact that Ice Cube's The Product is based on a sample of Sly & The Family Stone's You Can Make It If You Try. Now, I'm thinking that if I had done it, the whole thing would have been intentional. Somehow, I'm thinking Cube & his producers probably weren't setting it up that way, but what a contrast. There's a sickening blog post in there and one of these days I'm gonna bring it out.

It's A New Day

Let me put this out here right now: I don't do politics. Some of my thoughts may tend to align more closely to one end of the political spectrum, but that's about as far as it goes. I claim neither the jackass nor the pachyderm. At the party level, it's all self-serving and fraudulent, as far as I'm concerned. Not saying that all politicians are crooked, but a politicans have the same job as everybody else: to get paid. Some take their jobs more seriously than others, but that's the same as it is everywhere else. When I go to Foot Locker, one of the salespeople will really take his time and make sure the shoe fits and answer any questions I may have about fit or what I can expect in terms of the mileage per week, while the other person will just toss the shoebox at me and walk off to look at the girls that just came flouncing in the door, wandering back in my direction only if he's not getting any play. That's life. So to point out that such-and-such a politician is really principled or whatever...doesn't move me. His job is to get me to vote for him and he'll do whatever he has to to keep it. I vote solely because my grandparents couldn't. I don't just walk in the booth and punch levers at random, but when I vote, I'm doing it for Granny and all my other (s)kinfolks who didn't have the opportunity when they were my age. I won't say that voting is not useful, but I think that more hands-on person-to-person contact trumps governmental action five days a week. (Some things have to be done by the government, plain and simple.) Now. I will say that Barack Obama, who's running for the US Senate in Illinois, gets my attention. Not because of his political stances on anything; I'm not watching that carefully. I was born in Illinois, but I'm not in his constituency any more, so it really doesn't matter to me. What is interesting to me is that he may represent paradigm shift in the stylings of Black "leaders." In this article from the Times-Picayune, we see:
"I think this is really the end of an era of race and politics," said Angela Dillard, a history professor at New York University whose specialty is race and politics. "Something's shifting and changing, and people like Sharpton can't change with it, and something new and different is being created and it is about people like Obama." The old model of the black protest leader making demands no longer makes sense in an age tapped out and tired of race, Dillard said. But Obama can argue for policies virtually indistinguishable from Sharpton's in cooler, nonracial terms, while still affirming a message of racial identity and uplift implicit in his very being.
Like I highlighted in the Q-Tip interview, it's as much about style as it is substance. I don't mean that in the superficial sense here. I mean that how a person comes across is just as important as what they bring. The book of Proverbs is full of admonitions about just that very thing. It's not just about race any more, it's about the complete package the candidate brings to the table. For all I know, Obama may be to the left of Al Sharpton. No matter what his ideology, I like the fact that he's not taking it to the old 1960's style technique. Now, I don't know what's being planned for the Republican convention, or who's gonna be speaking or what, but for some reason I don't suspect that a Black Republican candidate of the same "star" quality would get quite the same type of coverage. Invariably, there would be some mention of a difficulty reconciling Blackness and Republican-ness, like they're mutually exclusive. Maybe I'm being unnecessarily pessimistic about that. I doubt it, though. Thinking about the Black Republican politicians I have seen, they definitely did not follow the Dinosaur (read: NAACP) model, but they tended to be rejected out of hand because they didn't drink the Kool-Aid and vote Democratic. We'll see what happens.


This is from an interview with Q-Tip, formerly of A Tribe Called Quest.
Q: You hear two things all the time on the internet. One is that, whenever a rapper is up for a role in a movie, people get up in arms about that casting. The other is when someone, like Jadakiss, speaks out, people say “Why should I listen to a rapper?” Hip hop has been around over twenty years. Why is it not getting the respect that rock n’ roll got? Q-Tip: There’s a couple of reasons. I would be naïve to say that it had nothing to do with the fact that the rappers are African-American males and the majority of this country is white. If you can hear the music and not see the face, if you can just hear the message you can have empathy, but sometimes if you see the face it becomes a different thing. We all unfortunately have a bit of racism in us, I think the other part of is the things we endow ourselves with. Jay Z is quick to call himself a pimp. Tupac was quick to call himself a thug. L’il Kim is quick to call herself a bitch. When you start saying these things about yourself that are clearly negative, it’s going to be like a magnet. You attract those things to you. You’re going to bring all that commentary to you and what you do. Being that those images are probably the most prevalent in the form – the hustler, the pimp – it’s going to bring all the commentary. What’s going to happen is that when cats don’t get to first base, they’re going to be disgruntled. “Why is motherfuckers hatin’ on us? Knowhuyahmean? You just lucky I ain’t out robbin’ you all.” I speak on that because I’m from the same situation. I grew up right in it, watching my uncle and them squeeze off and mainline and shit, seeing hypodermic needles and hearing gunshots. I grew up in the same New York City that a lot of us did, but I just knew that I was better than all of that. I didn’t want to project any of that. I think that those things are relevant, and they are important, but there’s a tact, and there’s a creative way that you approach it
He's dead right. I think there's definitely a degree to which these personae that rappers have taken on have severely limited their ability to effectively speak on certain issues. Right now I'm thinking specifically of when Jay-Z couldn't move into that apartment building because the other residents were concerned about what might happen. On the one hand, that reaction is foul. At that time, and probably even moreso now, Jigga could probably buy the building if it came down to it. Nevertheless, it's his own fault. If Q-Tip had had that type of money, I don't think there would have been as big a problem (although there may have been. Who knows?) because he has never projected that hustler/pimp image. And the truth is, Jigga may not even have that much going on in his life; certainly he did at one time, but this is Jigga we're talking about, not Beanie. I'm thinking that Hov is smarter than that. The thing is, it's not just about the substance, it's about the presentation. (This is partially the appeal of Obama. I'll get to him a little later.)


Whas'nEVER I Play, It's Got To Be FUNKY - Grocery List

It was suggested to me that this weeks playlist be arranged around the concept of food. Not strictly things to eat, however. More in the sense of food as "something that gives nourishment where it's lacking." This is a mixed list; some songs are listed because of the titles, some because the message of the song is nourishing. Anyway, here goes. Sanctified Lady - Marvin Gaye Gotta Learn How To Dance - Fatback Band C.R.E.A.M. - Wu-Tang Clan New World Water - Mos Def More Bounce To The Ounce - Zapp Sister Sanctified - Stanley Turrentine Good Old Music - Funkadelic Jam On It - Newcleus You Can Make It If You Try - Sly & The Family Stone He Can Hear Me Sing - Rev. Milton Brunson & Thompson Community Choir Rebel Without A Pause - Public Enemy Jesus Can Work It Out - Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir I Am, I Be - De La Soul Remedy - The Black Crowes Jesus - Debra Killings

Warmup Bout...

Told you Stanley Crouch ain't no joke. Crouch vs. Sharpton. Seriously.


Black With N.V.

Where there is no vision the people perish - Pro. 29:18   Young girls are getting pregnant because they want to.  Not all of them, although any is too many.  According to this article, nearly 25% of the girls between 14 and 18 years of age who participated in a survey in Birmingham, AL expressed a interest in being or wished they were pregnant.  I have some problems with that. Now, I could get up on my soap box and go off about how all people, but kids especially, need to save themselves for marriage, and I would be quite correct in doing so.  I'm sure there are many other people who will take that angle, however, so I'll leave that to them.  What I'm more interested in is why.  What in the world can a 14 year-old possibly want with a baby?  Some possible answers are mentioned here:
Researchers didn't look at why the girls wanted to get pregnant, but past studies have suggested that young women sought babies so someone would love them or so they would have someone to love. Studies also have suggested that young women wanted children to heal scars from their own childhood or to be independent of their families.
Those may certainly represent some major components of the situation, but I think there is a more pressing aspect.  "I think it's kind of appealing for girls who don't see a lot of positive future options," she said. Young, black women need more opportunities, Davies said.

I did some research on teen pregnancy when I was in undergrad and I came to a similar conclusion.  People who can't see the future get caught up in the present.  The pregnancy rates among girls who had solid plans for the future were significantly lower, as was the age of first intercourse.  Obviously, anybody who's active can get pregnant, and sometimes it happens to the girls who have the most to lose, but more often than not,  the girls who are already struggling to see tomorrow wind up with babies today.  I think lack of vision is clearly the culprit here, because not only do the girls fail to see the benefits of forestalling their activity, they fail to see the consequences of having a baby.  Like Common said, "Young girls with weak minds, but they butt strong." So what's the solution?  Yeah, abstinence training should be an integral part of whatever is being done, but that has to be done within a context.  You can't just tell a kid "Don't." and expect that to be it.  No matter what a given person's reason for not-doing anything is, it's based in the future.  If a person is celibate for Jesus, that celibacy is based on something beyond the present.  It's not just being celibate for the sake of being celibate.  The sooner we realize that, the better.  We can't just go in there talking about, "You shouldn't be active because you shouldn't."  Well we could, but we'd be getting the same results we are now. I think this is another example of the type of opportunities I was talking about the other day.  A large abstinence program...while it may be effective, does not have quite the same impact as a person speaking to a person, woman-to-girl (preferably) and not so much stressing the act of abstinence as the benefits of it; really, not even stressing abstinence so much as stressing the limitless possibilities that can be realized with patience and the willingness to delay certain gratifications. But it's more than that.  The point is not just to go somewhere and talk, but to be able to model it; not necessarily model abstinence, but model the possibilities of a future worth waiting for.


The Truth

This is why Chuck D is Chuck D:  he says what I would'a said if I had thought of it: Anti-Lectualism and dumbassification in our society has leaked into the concept of having unstealable items in your crib. For example 30 years ago cats would rob your house and take a tv or stereo equipment and sell them on the street to get good money when the dollar was longer. 20 years ago DJ and stereo equipment, Tv , and the new invent the VCR would be a thiefs theme. 10 years back a DVD player along with those others would be items. Now everything is within the brain of a computer, at the same time none of the afore mentioned items can get jack on the streets. You can get a BRAND new TV,STEREO, VCR,DVD from your nearest Wal-Mart for under a $100.At the same time, you can leave 10 crisp $100. bills under any computer keyboard and it may be safer than a vault. This in the way is a social embarrassment, knowing that if a 4 stack of SPINNING RIMS were in a corner that along with some shiny CUBIC ZIRCONIA jewelry would distract todays crook to lumber them out the backdoor even if they didnt have a vehicle.

Gospel Hip-Hop

Now this is what I would regard as authentic gospel hip-hop.  Like I said before, the message and the music aren't necessarily incompatible, it's just that it needs to be handled by somebody who knows what they're doing.


Snappin' & Cappin' Dream Matchups

Grudge match:  Jesse Jackson vs. Jesse Peterson Main Event:  Al Sharpton vs. Stanley Crouch.  (I would pay big money to see this one.) Add on if you can think of any.


Wha'chu Gon' DO Now

            "The one thing I know, everyone respects a true person and everyone's not true themselves. All these people who are heroes, the ones who have been lily white and clean all their lives, if they went through what I went through, they would commit suicide.  They don't have the heart that I have.  I've lived in places they wouldn't defecate in." -Mike Tyson I don't know anything about the source of that quote, when it's from or the question he was answering.  What I do know is that Mike is right.  There seems to be this need that we have to feel like we're somehow better than somebody else.  Mike's an excellent example because his athletic ability led him to achieve both fame and fortune, which for most people, would be a dream come true.  From the comfort of their own lives, they sit and pontificate about what Mike should do or should have done, and what they would have done differently if they were him.  I know; I've done it myself many times.  But when I read that quote, I started really thinking.  Now, since 8th grade at least, I've firmly believed that if you took any random dude and put him into the same situations that I was in growing up that he would be in about the same place as me.  Might do a little better, might not do quite as well, but our positions would be comparable.  I never took that to the next level and imagined what it would be like to live somebody else's life, though.  Now I'm neither "lily white" (although I'm fairly sure Mike didn't mean it solely in a racial sense here) nor a hero, but knowing what I do about Tyson's early life, if I imagine myself in those types of situations, it's hard to imagine a totally different outcome.  Of course my life would be different from his in some respects; number one, I'm not 217 pounds and I can't knock people out with either hand.  I don't think I would have committed suicide, but there's a strong chance I wouldn't have made it to 30. Of course, the rub is that every situation we see is the result of choices that we have made.  Nature and nurture have their place, but in the end, whether because of nature, nurture, narcotics, or nimbus, we made decisions that put us into certain situations.  It's tough to know what we would do under a different set of circumstances because our whole thought process is predicated on having seen and done the things we saw and did. I think sometimes when we conservative types talk about issues affecting poverty and poor people, we have tendency to look at it primarily from some abstract position, be it economic, theological, or some combination of the two.  Of course people are in the positions they are because of the choices they made.  Until they realize that, they will never have any agency in their own lives.  But we have to do more than that.  So what if I can shoot between water and wind to come up with an explanation for why people are poor and why it's not the result of some conspiracy to keep them poor?  That's all well and good, but if it's not making a difference in anybody's life, if it's only about the attempt to make or defend some policy that our political adversaries don't like, then it's worthless.  It's all cool to be analytical and make an argument explaining why the idea of a minimum wage or a "living wage" is actually more detrimental than helpful, but I still don't know what that does for people who work hard all week and still can't get by.  Like the old saying goes, statistics don't lie, but they can't make a hen lay. I have said it before, and I will say it again, this is our best opportunity to make a difference in the community.  The progressives, by and large, don't want to actually get out there and do it.  They want to set up a catapult that will toss money at a situation, making the government responsible to make sure things get done.  Legislate the situation away, nevermind the fact that legislation doesn't even begin to address the root of the issue.  People don't just need governmental regulation and assistance, although some do need that.  People need people.  The conservative ideology is focused on operating at the individual level, but where are we when things are going down?  We should be the main ones helping as literacy volunteers and tutors and building houses and soforth.  It's a piece of cake for me to sit off to the side and say what's not working.  Yeah, I can tell you that some public school's self-esteem program is a waste of time if the kid knows he can't multiply.  If I'm not in there helping him to accomplish things so he will have a foundation on which to build his self-esteem, then what am I doing? You know, a while ago, I mentioned tutoring in a post.  Didn't get very many comments, but the ones I did get only spoke on its ineffectiveness except as a tool for making the tutor feel good about himself.  But think about it this way:  if you were in that child's position, would you rather have somebody there ostensibly to help you, or would you rather that person decide that they couldn't make that big a difference anyway and stay home?  What's more, you never know what kind of impact you're having.  Even though it may seem like you're not getting through to that person when you can see them, what you're actually doing is planting a seed in their life.  It's not necessarily going to show right away.  It may never show.  Shoot, unless you stay involved in that person's life, it will probably never show where you can appreciate it.  Occasionally it does.  Once I was at the mall and one of my most knuckleheaded students ran up on me talking about, "Mr. Tooley!  I'm gettin' an 'A' in math!"  Wasn't quite a fair tradeoff for all the grief he had given me when he was in my class, but it was nice.  My point being, so what if I can't see how it's making a difference right away or within some time frame I've concocted?  If it's about doing the right thing, then the result that's visible to me doesn't matter.  Investing in another person's life is never the wrong thing.    Maybe if Mike had had more investors who weren't primarily looking for their own return, he may be in a different situation right now.


The Eagles

Now if we get Eddie George...


Name Callin'

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." "Well I'll get some sticks and stones and break your bones, and the name that'll hurt you will be ESTHER!" –Exchange between Aunt Esther and Grady on Sanford & Son House Nigga. Poverty Pimp. Uncle Tom. Divisive Demagogue. I'm tired of Black politics and politicians.  Seriously.  There's not even an exchange of ideas any more, except between people who already share some common thoughts.  There may be some rousing exchanges between fellow conservatives on a given issue, and probably the same types of interesting dialogue between progressives, but once the audience gets mixed, it's game over.  All of a sudden, the only thing that matters is representing your "side."  No acknowledgement of any of the "opposition's" valid points, no recognizing the limitations of their own position, nothing.  We each hunker down behind our respective banners and lob missives from there.  Sure, there are some people who wander out into the middle, but our voices tend to get lost in the cacophony. Since there's not much going on in the middle anyway, why not put a ring out there and get it on?  On Common's 1997 album One Day It'll All Make Sense there's a recording of his father saying, "I just got this urge to kick Jesse Jackson's ass…I just wanna get him in the ring in front of everybody…"  I'm not necessarily saying we should get representatives from each ideological position and have them duke it out…although I'm sure that would be very interesting.  What I am saying is that since the whole dialogue eventually breaks down in to name-calling anyway, why not just get out there and do the dozens in the first place?  Now I will say up front that most conservative types would seem to be at a disadvantage in this type of contest.  Usually, conservative arguments tend to be long on logic and short on emotional appeal.  I love to read Thomas Sowell, but I'm thinking that his dozens game may be a little suspect.  Now to be honest and tell the truth, I don't know.  He may keep his arguments logical and concise in public, but when it comes down to "Yo Mama" snaps, his catalog may be deeper than Barry White's voice.  That's an X factor.  Now the progressives are a known quantity.  Captained by the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, they're bound to do well at this type of event.  Those two already have the public speaking acumen down, and I'm betting that Al has done his share of "freesermoning" over the years.  We already know Jesse can pull out complex, mulisyllabic rhymes at will. In thinking about this, I'm reminded of the episode of Good Times where "Balderman" Davis was being challenged by a younger candidate who was focused on the issues.  As is usually the case on sitcoms, the action goes down in the family's living room—Davis and the other guy start off talking about the issues but then it breaks down to the dozens.  Davis rolls, but the challenger refuses to engage him, wanting to focus on the issues.  Well, as anybody who watched Good Times knows, Davis won. I'm always on the thinking about ways to get an audience with the Black community at large.    For ideological conservatives, reaching the community at large may not mean much, but for a pragmatic conservative like myself, it's all about doing whatever it takes to reach the people.  Not everybody's going to cross over, or even budge from their current position, but for those who may, we should have different strategies.  Some people can be persuaded by tightly-focused intellectual appeals.  Others can be moved by seeing a conservative presence in the community.  Lord knows there's enough to be done, so we all can have an impact in our own way.  Me, I may just donate my part of my "Yo Mama" joke repertoire.  

Their Eyes Were Watching Halle

For a young minute, I've been hearing that Halle Berry is going to play Janie Starks in a television adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.   Some people I know have serious beef with the whole project, from the fact that it's going to be a made-for-TV movie, to the fact that Oprah is supposed to be behind it, to the selection of Halle as the protagonist.  I don't really have a problem with any of that, I'm just wondering why they can't give anybody else some shine.   This is the type of role that could be a real opportunity for a promising young actress.  Why are they giving it to a vet?  From what I understand, the director wanted Halle for the role.  I can definitely understand that, but for as much as we complain about how much work non-superstar Black actresses don't get, when the casting calls get made, we make the same choices.


Random Notes From The Illadelph

Last spring, I mentioned how much fun it is to watch men ogle at women.  Yesterday provided another stellar example.  Crossing the street in front of me was a veteran brick house.  She looked like she was in her late 30's, but could have been a young-looking fifty-something.  What wasn't in question was that at in her day, she was the truth like absolute veracity.  And the sun still had yet to set on her.  She had probably put on a few pounds since her zenith, but even the extra pounds had gone to the right places.  I watched her cross the street, interested to see which direction she was headed and whether anybody else was watching.  One guy seemed to perk up, but that was about it.  It turned out she was going west just like I was, but there was a double-length bus in the street so I couldn't see what was happening over there.  When she emerged from behind the bus, there was a line of at least four old heads, following her like ducklings.   Once again, I will tell you, if you're not watching men look at pretty women, you're missing out on some of the best fun summer has to offer. ****     There's an article on Townhall.com , Freedom Means Never Having to Take Down Your Fuzzy Dice, pitting freedom against governmental overregulation.  While I generally agree with the premise of the article, there are some things that leave me scratching my head.  To wit:   
To begin, California is banning soda in middle or junior high schools during regular school hours.  They also require that elementary schools serve only water, milk, and juice drinks that are at least half fruit juice with no sweeteners.  Sure, sugar isn't healthy in large quantities, but shouldn't parents and school cafeterias be allowed to make those decisions themselves
  The problem is not that the California legislature is taking pop machines out of the school, it's that they never should have let them in there in the first place.  Take my word for it, I know that under-funded (or perhaps properly funded but inefficiently managed)  school districts need all the money they can get their hands on, but selling sugar water to kids who are already likely to have poor dietary habits is not the way to do it.  Some kinds of legislation really are intrusive and really do constitute governmental micromanaging of the citizens' lives.  At the same time, certain things just ought not be, whether the market will allow it or not.    However…   If we take the argument made in this article out to its extreme, it goes to a very libertarian stance.  In fact, the author praises the state of Ohio and the Comonwealth of Virginia (she could've added Pennsylvania too) for allowing liquor to be sold on Sundays.  But what I want to know is, why stop there?  And I'm not being facetious here, these are just things I would really like to know:   Exactly why is marijuana illegal?  When get back home, I'm gonna run back through the book, Reefer Madness and highlight some points on the timeline that got us to where we are today.  Yes, it's an intoxicant and a carcinogen, but since when have those factors alone been grounds for illegality?   Hard drugs are one thing, marijuana is another.  And let's not get into the question over the legality of hemp.  Like I said, I'll make a note of this one so I can pay some attention to it when I get back.   Exactly why is prostitution illegal?  Illegal and immoral are two different things.  And again, I'm not talking about whether people should go to prostitutes, or what the potential damage to the family structure is or whatever, because that's a bogus argument anyway.  I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, but I'm sure there are more "homewreckers" who give it away free than there are who charge for their services.   All that to say, if anybody wants to answer, keep it on point:  why is it legal for John to buy Trixie dinner and then go somewhere and do the grown-up, but illegal for him to give her the same amount of money and skip the dinner? And for that matter, why is it illegal for Goldie to take the money from Trixie after she gets it from John?    I just wanna know.  Can anybody help me? ****    Training camp starts in a week.  I've already talked to one friend, who's a Redskins fan, who thinks the Skins are gonna go 10-6.  I'm don't know about all that, but I do know that the NFC East is going to be a tough conference this year.  I don't know what it would take for me to get excited about the Eagles again this year (probably watching two wins), but I'm not gonna let them break my heart again.  It ain't gonna go like it did last year…or the year before that.  (I'm talking all this stuff now, but watch around November, when they're 8-2 or whatever.  I'm gonna be geeked up just like it was January 2002 and none of those NFC Championship losses had never happened.)   Speaking of football, Madden 2005 comes out on August 12th.  Look out. 


Whas'nEVER I Play, It's Got To Be FUNKY - All-Onomatopoeia Squad

This week, it's all about songs with hot onomatopoetic elements.  This does not include sound effects, strictly instruments played in a way to make them sound like some element of the song.   Jungle Boogie – Kool & The Gang (Listen to those elephants!) Car Wash – Rose Royce (the popping guitar is the foam as it bubbles onto the car) Little Red Rooster – Sam Cooke (the organist is a beast, imitating the rooster, the dogs, and the hound) Jesus Can Work It Out – Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir - watch the B3 as it shows the water rolling back when the Israelites go through the Red Sea Easy Goin' Evening (My Mother's Call) – Stevie Wonder - Sounds just like what it describes.  This song makes you want to sit in a lawn chair and sip some lemonade, fanning away mosquitos. Aqua Boogie – Parliament - pure submarine funk. Spinning Wheel – Blood, Sweat, & Tears - 100% merry-go-round jam

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

Evangelical Outpost has a very interesting discussion highlighting some concerns about the use of the word "pimp" as verb or an adjective without negative connotations.  Later some potential alternatives are offered.   Child molester – n. slang term used to refer to an older person who attempts to pander to the tastes of children and teenagers in order to make a quick buck. "I have to give the executives at Columbia Pictures their due credit. Those guys are the biggest group of child molesters in the business."
Rapist – n. a male who possess a broad sexual appeal to women who have a weaknessess for misogynistic losers "Yo, dude, I caught Snoop Dog’s concert last night. Man, that guy is the biggest rapist in the game! Stalker n. – term used to denote a person who often associates with celebrities. Busted for public lewdness– caught associating with famous Democratic celebrities such as Barbara Streisand or Whoopi Goldberg. "Did you hear about the head of MTV’s programming? I read in People magazine that stalker was busted for public lewdness."
   This is interesting, but I think a pimp is different from those other characters in some substantial ways.  Now, what follows is not a veneration of pimps, nor is it a justification for what they do.  It's just an analysis of why "pimp" has taken the linguistic turn that it has, and why other sexual predator terms cannot.   [autobiographical] For about 3 weeks when I was in 11th grade, I actually thought I wanted to be a pimp.  Not for any malicious reasons, but just because I wondered what it must be like to have that much game.  What in the world could you possibly say that would make a woman have sex and then give YOU the money?  The whole prospect of that was just mind-boggling to me, especially since I had ZERO game in high school.  That ended when my fool behind actually TOLD MY MOTHER. [/autobiographical]   The biggest difference between the pimp and other sexual predators, the main element that allows the pimp to be viewed as an anti-hero is the thing that fascinated me:  a pimp cannot be a pimp if he has no game.  For the uninitiated, game is simply the ability to get somebody to do what you want them to do, primarily through persuasive means.  It usually includes some measure of deception, but that's not necessarily the case.  Don't get caught up on the deception, because that's not the point.  The fact that a man lies to a woman or uses circumlocution doesn't make him a pimp. Game is part message, but just as much delivery.  It's not what he says, it's how he says it.  Even when the pimp says things that make no sense in the real world, it sounds fly. "I told the ho you better get in where you fit in before you get a check-up from the neck up."  No real substance there, and both of those phrases are pretty much clichés now, but when the first pimp spat that line, it was literally unheard of.   In a way, the inverse of the pimp is the preacher.  Not the degreed, college educated, lecturing-type minister.  He may deliver the Word, but he ain't no preacher. It's not just what's being said, it's the style in which it's being delivered.  In the Black church tradition, there are certain stylistic elements that go along with delivering a sermon.  Furthermore, there is a school of thought which disdains the use of prepared notes, preferring that the minister "freesermon" to borrow a phrase I've seen elsewhere.  The preacher who can freesermon (rapping off the top of the head (coherently, for an extended period of time.  Making up a three-line cat-hat-mat rhyme does not qualify) is called freestyling, so the preacher is freestyling a sermon.) is the flip side of a pimp in the verbal sense. (There are probably some other elements I could go into, but I'm not trying to write a dissertation here, just make a couple points.)   The other thing that a pimp has to have is style.  Actually, game would probably come under the heading of having style, but I've heard of pimps who wear t-shirts and baseball caps.  They don't have style, but they have game.   Anyway, style.  No pimping with out style.  Now saying that a pimp has style does not necessarily mean that I think what he's doing is stylish, but it is an acknowledgement that there is a degree of preparation and flair that a "square" does not put into his clothing choices.  For instance, just about everybody has a mental image of what a pimp's outfit would look like.  Whether it's fashionable or not, it's ostentatious.  That's the point.  In the animal kingdom, the male is always more adorned than females.  Think peacocks.  The whole point for the pimp is to "get chose," or have a ho decide that she's going to give him her money.  The more prosperous the pimp, the better his chances of getting "chose."  So even in the parody I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, when Fly Guy came out of jail with the stacks with goldfish in the heels, the point was that at one point, he was at the top of the pile.  Goldfish in his shoes?  Are you kidding?  That's big pimpin', baby.   But a pimp's clothing style was only penultimate.  The real deal was his ride.  It wasn't enough for a pimp to have an expensive car, he had to have it tricked out something fierce.  Again, think of the stereotypes:  ain't no pimp driving a hooptie.  That "diamond in the back, sunroof top…" that's a pimp-mobile, baby.  So when MTV talks calls their show "Pimp My Ride," they mean "take my car and floss it out like a pimp would do his Caddy."   Like I said at the beginning, I'm not trying to make pimping legitimate in any way, shape, or form, but I do think that in order to look at the ways the use of the word "pimp" has changed, it's necessary to understand the elements of game and style.  In all honesty, I think much of the use of the term has actually gotten it twisted.  Some people think that a person is pimping if he's successfully (?) juggling several women.  In that respect, they're using it to signify having a degree of "control" over women.  But like a good friend of mine broke it down for me, "You ain't pimpin unless you gettin paid."  So in one sense, most of the people talkin' about pimpin' ain't doin' it.  .


Coming Up...

Looks like I'm gonna be joining the exodus to Movable Type.  I got averytooley.com registered, so at some point I'll be packing up and heading around the corner.  A big, fat shout to my good friend, Nyki for the inspiration.  In addition to the blog, there'll be some other goodies, so stay tuned.   ***   Also, it was suggestied to me by a friend that I put more biographical info on here.  We'll see.  I will say this much, though:  I hate the half-Windsor knot.  There's nothing worse to me than seeing a hot tie looking all mangled by an asymmetrical knot.  Fellas, there are lots of ways to tie a tie.  My personal preference is the Shelby knot, but whatever you go with, let's even it out, huh?   ***   This week, I'm gonna jump into this Funk-Soul-Jazz thing with both feet.  In the meanwhile, probably later today, I'm gonna start shaking out the last 7 of my 10 favorite albums.  I'm thinking that I'm only gonna allow one entry per artist/group, so in cases where there are two possibilities, the albums are gonna have to battle it out.  Today's matchup will be Walter Hawkins' Love Alive v. Love Alive 2.   Also, I may fool around and post a follow-up to that Prejudice post.  Looking at the comments, both here and at other places that linked to it, I think most people got what I was saying but some people missed the point completely...or they tried to correct me with my own argument.  Whatever.  Like I said before, that's what grown folks are for, having different opinions.    


Point Seen, Money Gone

James Brown has a new record coming out, a 35 year-old jazz recording Soul On Top.  Best believe that I will be copping it.  Anyway, in the article, James says something that I plan to give some major consideration to in the coming weeks:"
When people talk about soul music, they only talk about gospel and R&B coming together. That's accurate about a lot of soul, but if you are going to talk about mine, you have to remember the jazz in it. That's what made my music so different and allowed it to change and grow."
  He's right.  There's a tendency treat jazz and R&B/soul as separate entities, like they had no influence on each other, but that's oh-so not the case.  Especially considering the background of James' musicians.  Not just James, though, the influence of jazz was everywhere in Soul music.  Like I said, I'll be getting into that in more detail a little later on, though.  Once, a reader asked me what happened to the Funk, or something like that.  When I scratch this up, hopefully I'll be able to answer that fully and see whether Funk as we know it is on its death bed.


Papa Don't Take No Mess

I'm tripping.  I just watched the episode of Good Times when Michael brought home the bully who had been taking his lunch money.  Now I just watched it, but I'm still not sure how Michael and Florida talked James into letting the bully, Eddie, stay for the weekend.  What I DO know is, Eddie said he wasn't gonna do any homework to James' face.  It was a case of the old quote, "Act like you want it and see if you don't get it."  Eddie got it.   Now, to Eddie's defense, he didn't know you don't fool around with James Evans.  James might joke and have fun sometimes, but he don't play.  What was funny was the sound effects of the beating while Florida and the kids were in the kitchen.  Had. Me. Dying.   Thinking about it in a larger context, though, the second season of Good Times was 1975, almost 30 years ago.  In it, we see a boy get a beating from a man who's not his father, ostensibly because the man cares about him.  Nowadays, Eddie would've been on the phone to the police, the department of child welfare, the ACLU, and anybody else he could think of.  But for all our so-called advancements in parenting, what have we really got?   This also makes me think about Bill Cosby's comments some more.  Yesterday I heard a link to him talking on the Tom Joyner show (which you can listen to here)  in regards to people who have been critical of his comments and the mishandling of the whole even by the mainstream press.  (We may get into that a little later.)  Now, I don't watch a lot of television...as in none...but I'm betting that there aren't very many shows where the parents are shown to discipline their kids but clearly love them.  Nowadays, the kids are the hip and the parents are just plugs who, in the best of cases, when the kid has acted a fool, may have had a point after all.  James was not the star of the show on Good Times, but his was the dominant presence.  If the Evans family was the 80's Lakers, Florida would be Kareem, but James was Magic.  After he left the show, it was over.  To be sure, there were a couple funny episodes, but James had that crib on lock.  The thing is, the Evans family was po- they couldn't even afford the o-r, but taking them out of the ne'er do well sitcom context, we wouldn't expect the kids to live in those same circumstances all their lives.  James had a 6th grade education but he was adamant about making sure that his kids got well beyond that; so adamant that he would beat the devil out of a kid he had just met for not-studying.  And saying it to his face.  (But come on, some things you're just supposed to know.  James was a big, solid man.  Common sense would tell you not to get in his face with a whole lotta jibber-jabber.  Same thing as Ike Turner on What's Love Got To Do With It-- there was no reason to catch a full blow from him.  Once he thumbed his nose, you knew what was next.)   Much has been said about villifying the poor or making them scapegoats for the ills of society.  Without a doubt, that goes on too.  But the fact that a person is poor, be it financially, healthwise, spiritually, or educationally doesn't mean that they have to stay poor.  Too many times I think that people who claim to be concerned about the poor don't want to do what it really takes to make a difference.  It's easy to spout off about some government program that costs millions of dollars but only means a few dollars difference to a particular family.  What's hard is getting in there and helping people to see that their present is their future only if they allow it to be.  James knew it.  That's why he had two kids who were very strong academically and one who, even though he didn't apply himself in school, was a talented artist, which requires a good deal of discipline in its own right.    If I remember correctly, Cliff Huxtable won as the favorite TV dad.  The more I think about it, that title should go to James Evans.

Why I'm Conservative

This paragraph here, from the article, The Rebirth of Psych  by Bethany Allen, pretty much crystalizes why I lean to the right.  
I know that everyone would like to believe in the American dream, that if we work hard we can overcome our conditions, no matter how low on the totem pole we start out. But I've been at the bottom and I just want to go on record to say it's just not that easy. At one point in my life, I was once what some people might have and probably did classify as a welfare queen. I know just how hard it is to pull yourself out of that station, and the so-called "assistance" measures that are in place were at times more a hindrance than help. The welfare system as it stands today is full of reverse incentives — most notably the fact that you are generally penalized for trying to save money — and provides little or no help to families transitioning out of poverty. It can feel very much like a trap because there is really no legitimate way to get out of it unscathed and with money in the bank.
What?  Easy and possible are not mutually exclusive.  I think that's the whole problem, people think that it's supposed to be easy to move up.  The American dream is not that "everybody will" it's that "anybody can."  There's a big difference between the two.  But here's the clincher:  
For people like me and Bill Cosby and the millionaire athletes he accuses of being illiterate, we were able to escape poverty because we have gifts that not everyone has. For me, though I am far from the millionaire bracket (for now) my writing career enabled me to quadruple my income in five years time, but for most people, that just doesn't happen. People like Cosby and pro athletes have exceptional talents that in addition to hard work got them out of the projects. In reality, it oversimplifies the matter to think that a strong work ethic is enough to get anyone out of poverty, especially when "the system" does so much to keep you there. This is not the assessment of an uber-liberal black who wants desperately to blame white people for my or anyone else's problems — I'm speaking from experience here. No matter what color you are, it works the same. Just try and save money for Shaniqua or little Bill to go to college — you'll lose your childcare voucher and your rent will go up, and you'll be right back at square one, jack.
Now, I'll be the first one to admit that childcare can confound any attempts to make forward progress, but let's keep it real.  First, that's a result of an active choice.  Some choices just make it harder to make the right decision later on.  That's life.  Ain't no good times without scratchin' and survivin'.  My bigger problem is the elitist attitude that masquerades itself as being one of the people.   If I'm everybody and everybody is me, then the only differences between where I am and where they are are 1) the grace of God and 2) the choices I've made.  I've always believed that I'm no different than the average person.   I'm not in some special category that makes me exempt from the things that every other brother goes through.  I've made choices that have kept me out of some situatuations and gotten me into some other ones, but that's about it.  Anybody else has the same opportunities that I have.  The way I see it, it's not elitist to say, "I did somethin' with what I have, now you do somethin' with yours."  That's keeping it real and demanding responsibility from a person.  In the biblical parable, the dude with the one talent didn't get absolved because he only had one talent.  He was supposed to do something with the one talent he had.  Nowadays, we come off like, "Of course he couldn't do anything.  He only had one talent."  Wrong.  What's elitist is to say, "I came out of those circumstances, but I'm different.  The rest of 'em can't do what I did."  What we need to be saying is, "I made it out and you can too.  Here's how."   Maybe at some point I'll talk extensively about how liberal types have made the poor a different kind of "untouchable" and what that really suggests.  

ChristCube and Missionaries Wit Attitudes?

I love Jesus and I love hip-hop, so it would seem that the hip-hop services described in the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) would be right up my alley.  For some reason, though, it just doesn't sit right with me.   I'm not exactly sure about the source of my discomfort.  I know everybody doesn't enjoy the same musical forms (and we can get into a debate on the musical legitimacy of hip-hop at some other time.  But before you speak, make sure you can account for The Roots.), and that there's nothing wrong with expressing the love of Jesus in different genres.  There's everything right with it.  Still, the idea of a hip-hop service...something seems shady about it.   More than likely it's this quote that's got me uncomfortable:  "Hip-hop is who we are; it's how we talk," Holder said. "We're foolish if we think we going to communicate any other way."  I got a problem with that.   As I've said I-don't-know-how-many times, I am not a linguistic prescriptivist.  I don't care about cuss words, I don't care about non-standard construction, I don't care about made-up words, I don't care about anything but making sure that the message is conveyed from the sender to the receiver.  At the same time, the pragmatic part of me knows that no matter how hip-hop we are, no matter what kind of street slang we talk when we're around the way, we'd better have a different set of verbal "shoes" to put on in different contexts.  I couldn't get up in the pulpit talking about, "W'sup, dawg."  I suppose there's a good discussion to be had on whether I should be able to or not, but there's no question that I can't.  So when I read    
Church leaders have gotten into the act, as well. In the presence of Kurtis Blow, one of rap's founding fathers, Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam concluded the mass July 2 by encouraging "all my homies and peeps" to "keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell it like it is."

I'm not sure how I want to react.  Part of me wants to bust out laughing.  Part of it is just that I'm not used to hearing that construction in that context.  Forget whether it's valid or not, I'm just not used to it.  I have to concede that.  At the same time, do we really need to take it there?   Personally, I think it would be one thing if there was a groundswell movement by Christian hip-hoppers who started their own congregations and held services like these.  While I would still have my qualms about it, at least it would be legitimate effluence and not a gimmick.  Yeah, the apostle Paul mentioned becoming all things to all people, but Jesus don't need no gimmicks.  What makes it gimmicky is not the hip-hop element, however, it's that the people in charge don't even have the hip-hop cadence down.  When Jesus met the apostles, he spoke to them in terms they were familiar with and could understand.  I'm thinking that he was probably not unfamilar with those terms himself, though.  With my background in funk, soul, and hip-hop, I'm probably not the best one to start some type of heavy metal outreach ministry.  I don't know the lingo, I don't have a rubric for evaluating what's good, and I don't know what's popular.  Hip-hop has the (dis)advantage of being very accessible.    Because most people think it's all about rhyming couplets with a stress on the last word, as popularized by Melle Melle in the early 80's, just about everybody thinks they can rap.  Because it's the number one genre worldwide in terms of sales and media attention, everybody has contact with it, and many people think they really know something about it.  Hence, we get all these commentators who wouldn't know Rakim from Radio Raheem, talking about hip-hop this and hip-hop that, as if that little smidgen they know represents the sum total of what hip-hop is about.  Unless a person deals with it and understands it at more than a cursory 'I-saw-it-on-the-idiot-box' level, they probably shouldn't fool with it, either to critique it as a whole or to try to use it as a tool.  Take some time, learn about it, understand the lingo, get some historical perspective, then start trying to deal with it.   All that to say I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea to use hip-hop as a tool in spreading the gospel, but I think it's probably better left to people who have already built up their dexterity.


AIDS and the church

I think I've figured it out. Not that I didn't know it before, but it has crystalized for me now. As it pertains to the Black church and institutions modeled after it (NOI), there are two directions people try to take it. Some people see it as a spiritual institution first. - Well, some people see the church as a spiritual institution only, but that's why I refer specifically to the Black church and not the Christian church in general. From its inception, the Black church has been engaged in civic/social issues. It has never been solely a spiritual institution, for better, worse, or six of one, half dozen of the other. - Some other people see it as a social institution organized around a shared theology. Now, I'm not gonna be the one to try to say what somebody's relationship with Jesus is based on their politics. There may be some other litmus tests, but even they can yeild misleading results, depending on when I make the observation. With the exception of Jesus, nobody in the Bible absolutely had his thing together. We remember them for how they finished, not how they were along the way. Look at a small portion of the wrong part of the life of Moses, David, Peter, or Paul, and you'd think they were mortal locks to go to Hell. None of us has achieved perfection, we're just at different points along the way. Sometimes people may drift off the road, but I think it's one thing to be drifting and it's another to be on the wrong road altogether. For whatever that's worth. Dawn Turner Trice writes about a church in Chicago that has had an HIV/AIDS ministry for about 12 years and is getting requests from other churches who want to start similar programs. She writes
Historically, the black church hasn't been too keen on dealing with HIV/AIDS or issues of sexuality, particularly homosexuality. But look at the statistics: In Chicago, 15,900 people have the disease, with African-Americans making up 56 percent of the total; nationally blacks make up 12 percent of the population but account for more than half of all new HIV infections.
I don't think it's that the church has been reluctant to deal with issues of sexuality - especially homosexuality - I think it's that the church has been reluctant to accept homosexuality. There's a difference. It's the church. It's not the NAACP. I have been ragging on the NAACP for two days, so let me say this right here: I don't think the NAACP as an organization is unnecessary, but I do think it has lost its way. The NAACP should be the social institution that people keep trying to make out of the church. The church, as a biblically-based instituion, has no business endorsing homosexuality. That's simply inconsistent with what the church is founded on. (Now, if some alternative church-type organization arises and tries to claim that the mainstream denominations are misinterpreting the Bible or whatever, then that's on them. That's between them and the Lord.) The church doesn't have any business accepting homosexuality, explicitly or implicitly, any more than it does accepting heterosexual fornication or murder or anything else on the list in Rom. 1:29-31. The 2ACP, on the other hand, has none of those restrictions. That's where people of varying sexual orientations and political persuasions and whatever other differences there might be should be able to debate and hash out ideas and ideals and work out a social vision and a plan for getting there. The NAACP should be the place for ecumenical conversations. Not the church. Now, I'm not saying that the church should act as if HIV/AIDS don't exist. Christians are supposed to visit the sick and care for the needy. That's our job. Conservative, liberal, apolitical, or anywhere in between, the fact that you're not fornicating is moot if you can walk around and act like you don't give a ...um... like you don't care about the sick and the poor and the hungry. Like the old song says, "everybody talkin bout Heaven ain't goin." What's more, that statement is probably more self-reflexive than most people realize. So again, the church has a responsibility to stand in the gap for people with HIV/AIDS. They just shouldn't neglect their spiritual foundation to do so. The church mentioned in Turner-Trice's article, Trinity United Church of Christ, seems to do that. "They focus on abstinence, but they also talk about healthy sexual behavior," she writes. That's a pretty muted description, but I'm guessing that it would sound a lot like this description of the AIDS prevention program at work in Uganda (thanks La Shawn)
The Ugandan leader credited with slashing HIV rates in his country insisted Monday that condoms are not the ultimate solution to fighting the AIDS scourge, saying abstinence and loving relationships in marriage are even more crucial.
Now that's how it should be done.

Whas'nEVER I Play, It's Got To Be FUNKY

Ain't No Half-Steppin - Heatwave With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker You're Right, Ray Charles - Joe Tex Love Your Life - Average White Band In The Heat Of The Night - Ray Charles Don't Want To Be A Fool - Luther Vandross One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Joe Tex Get Out My Life, Woman - Joe Williams I Just Want To Celebrate - Rare Earth Yes We Can - Pointer Sisters Reign Of The Tec - The Beatnuts

Papa Jack

Some prominent Senators, athletes, and celebrities are banding together to get Jack Johnson a presidential pardon to overturn his convention based on the Mann Act. I've got ambivalent feelings about it. On the one hand, we all know he got railroaded. The Mann Act was intended to keep women from being transported across state lines for immoral purposes; a Chicago pimp taking his workers to Gary would be a prime candidate for conviction. Jack Johnson's got convicted because he was traveling with white women. Plain and simple. He should never have been tried in the first place; the fact that he was only goes to demonstrate how far people have gone to get prominent Black people, especially Jack Johnson, who was the first Black heavyweight champion and quite flamboyant. I got stories about Jack Johnson. At the same time, it's 2004. Jack Johnson's conviction was 91 years ago. He's been dead since 1946. Somehow I think there are probably other, more significant miscarriages of justice that need to be addressed. This is just a chance for some people to get cute in front of a camera and act like they're "down."


Some Real Hip-Hop For Ya

Devish NAACP gettin' me all worked up. I almost forgot to run this week's album. Today's album, Masta Ace's Slaughtahouse, was one of the first hip-hop albums to cast a critical eye on that whole gangsta genre. What's more, this came out in 1993, when gangsta rap was really emerging as the dominant paradigm. In their year-end review of the albums of the year, The Source (back when it was actually worth reading) called Slaughtahouse "the moral center of hip-hop." Ace wastes no time getting at the gangstas, doing a spoken word intro and then a Hardcore Rap 101 skit.
Teacher: Now when you rhyme, you hafta say that you smoke blunts. *underlines on chalkboard* Also you hafta mention that you drink 40's. You hafta mention that you carry a 9 millimeter, a tec-9, a mac 10, a M16, or an Uzi. *underlines on chalkboard* Does anybody have any questions? Student: Excuse me, but I don't have a gun. Teacher: It's not IMPORTANT if you have a gun or not. Just ACT LIKE you have a gun.
That's followed by the title song, which is in two parts. First is a parody of a gangsta act which features two MCs, MC Negro and the Ig'nant MC. Following that comes Ace, literally setting the record straight and mapping out the focus of the album. One of the strongest element's of Ace's skills is his ability to really paint a picture of what's going on in a neighborhood. Not that ludicrous Ludacris/Nelly/NWA reality where everybody's either shooting somebody or getting some at every moment of the day, but in the Village Ghetto Land sense of describing what's there. This, from Late Model Sedan:
Cause my man Shiloh, is out on the prowl With some East Medina, brothers that's foul Lookin to protect, the streets that our mothers Have to walk on, from black young brothers It's bad enough, that if I walk through a white Neighborhood, that, I gotta be prepared for a fight Why should I be scared of the dark Skin on a brother that be lurkin in the park I oughta be safe in a black neighborhood But someone's always up to no good Niggaz ain't never gonna make no progress Killin one another, but you know I guess I'm feelin thirsty, I'm goin to the store If anybody calls, I went to the store!
Oh. And somebody should spit this to Kweisi while he's trying to get at Black conservatives:
As I walk through Brooklyn, Compton or whatever, I wonder why black folks don't wanna stick together. We talk about justice, and how little we get, yet black men be killin' black men for talkin' shit... (right...right...) (";Here's the one, that one that always talkin' shit...";) [gun shots] How the hell we supposed to wage war against the powers that be when we are still our own worst enemy?
Instead of worrying about the laws going back to 1963, how about trying to get the murder rate and out-of-wedlock birth rate to where they were in 1963?

Evolve, Already!

"Preposterous like an androgynous misogynist" - Talib Kweli La Shawn, Samantha, and Michael have all written about Kweisi Mfume's comments regarding Black conservatives. Check them out for some solid rebuttals and logic questioning. Me? I'm just gonna make it plain: he's out of his wig. This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday. He's still in the Colored People mindset. Everything I said remains true, only this time I kinda feel like really getting at the N2ACP. Very rarely (and I mean VERY) do I agree with Rush Limbaugh, but when he calls it the NAA(L)CP, I can't help but admit he's right. If you're not liberal, they ain't speakin' for you. Which is too bad. You would think that if there was any place the conservative viewpoint would be respected or at least heard, it would be in the N2ACP. Only thing is, I don't think the focus is really on Advancement. I think it's really about maintaining the legal status quo, circa 1968. Like I said, I don't necessarily think the organization is altogether obsolete, but they are certainly focused too much on the past. We're not going back to 1963. Black people are not going to lose the right to vote, we'll still be able to shop, eat, and sleep where we want, and if we just feel like it, we can marry white people. The laws are not going to change. But that's all you keep hearing because that's all they've got anymore. Like my driving instructor told me, "It's hard to go forward if you keep looking in the rear view." Or to quote Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." Only in this case, it's not what's gaining on us, it's what we're losing. It's time for some honest dialogue. Jokers need to quit resortin to punk moves like name-calling and step to the plate with some real conversation. Don't tell me I'm a puppet because your lines ain't got no pull. I want to see somebody point out to me in practical terms, where the conservative agenda is wrong. I can accept ideological differences. Probably won't agree with 'em, but that's what grown folks are for, to have different opinions. The question is, wha'chu gonna DO? Talking about racism and classism and patriarchy and capitalism and whatever other structural elements are at work in keeping the Black man down is all good, but if that talk doesn't lead to any action, then as Nino Brown would say, it's "running the marathon." And as for the insinuation of pay for position, it's easy to lament the plight of the poor when you're sitting up in hotels, eating good. Pimps up, hoes down, right?


Welcome To The 21st Century, Y'all.

La Shawn writes about the NAACP with passion and conviction, nicknaming it The Dinosaur. I think she's dead right. Even the name is an anachronism. Colored People? That was progressive for the Aughts, when Du Bois and his backers organized in the first place, but that term has been played out, the fact that my grandmother still asks if there are "any colored" on a game show before she'll let me change the channel, notwithstanding. More problematic than the name is the fact that the organization appears to be stuck in the "protest until y'all give it up" paradigm. That went out with Nehru jackets. At this point, the main impediment to the advancement of colored people is colored people themselves. The NAACP needs to hop in this time machine right quick. On the left-hand side panel at Booker Rising, towards the bottom of the page, there is a list of statistics about Blacks in America. Take a look at it. Not as bad as you thought, is it? Certainly not indicative of a struggle. Don't get me wrong, I'll be one of the last ones to say that everything's all good for Black people in America, but I think it's about time to accept the fact that for however bad it may be (if it can honestly be called bad), it's not 1964. Should the NAACP continue to act as a sentry, watching for discriminatory practices and policies wherever they may be? I don't see why not. However, at this point, that shouldn't be the main thrust of their effort. One of the things that has always disturbed me about political/ideological discourse in this country is that it's so polarized. So when it comes to W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, it's like we're supposed to choose sides or something. There are no sides. They were both working for the same thing. I think I said in somebody's comments one time, Washington and DuBois were the legs that we have to stand on. I would argue that while Booker T's emphasis on work and economic growth in the Black community was important, Du Bois's legal and social strategy was necessary in the early part of the 20th century. There are several examples of thriving Black communities that were obliterated by racist mobs, most notably (for me because you know I hafta work a musical angle in here somehow) Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK. That's where the GAP Band got its name from, the three streets that comprised that area, Greenwood, Archer, and Pine. (now you know.) Economic progress without a the legal/political means to maintain it is of limited use. However, like Biggie said, "Things done changed." Nowadays, Black businesses are in more danger of being under-patronized than burned down. I'll grant that there may be some racially motivated arson and/or vandalism that goes on, but certainly not on the scale that it used to be. When a Black fighter beats a white fighter, we don't have to worry about the reprecussions that followed Jack Johnson's exorcisistic whipping of Jim Jeffries. (He beat the devil out of him.) We hardly even bat an eye any more. (But on the real, can somebody tell me why President Reagan had a phone in Gerry Cooney's dressing room to congratulate him, but not in Larry Holmes' room? Stuff like that resonates with me. Seriously.) At this point, we're past needing legal protection. Now it's time for Black America to concentrate on getting busy with the elbow grease. People can complain about classism all they want, but it seems to me that the only thing "classism" really means is that we shouldn't expect poor people to do anything other than what they're doing. Bill Cosby and his comments over the last several weeks have been keeping the word buzzing in the air, but it's even more pervasive than that. A couple months ago, when the sisters at Spelman kept Nelly from holding a fundraiser on their campus following the release of his video, Tip Drill, they were critiqued as being classist. Come on, now. It's classist to say it's demeaning to Black women to have a video with a guy swiping a credit card through her nether regions? Usually people who level that charge want to blame the interlocking systems of oppression, patriarchy, capitalism, and racism. Okay, whatever. I'll let all the rhetoric slide for a minute. My question is, what does that mean in terms of action? For all the people who claim that Bill Cosby is being classist in critiquing the way some young people speak, what do they suggest? It doesn't matter how much affirmative action is out there, if a person can't speak with a modicum of intelligence, he ain't got a chance, do he? And I say this knowing good and well that I come from a linguist's perspective, with all communication being valid as long as the idea that's being expressed by the sender is being understood by the receiver. That's cool in a theoretical discussion, but when it comes down to getting a j-o-b, the linguist's perspective means nothing. It's not oppressing anybody to say, "You need to step up your vocabulary." Didn't Pimp C say it in Big Pimpin'? ("Go get a book you illiterate son of a bitch and step up your vocab.") Classist? Yeah, if by that you mean people need to study something besides the idiot box (I will never get off that 70 hours a week thing.) So then, for the NAACP, the name is symptomatic of their larger problem. They need to adapt to the times. How bout instead of concentrating their focus on the Black community's struggle with forces from the outside, they put more effort into the problems that the Black community itself can fix? Not saying that that's not being done now, or that even it's not an integral part of what they're doing, but all I'm hearing from Julian Bond is complaining about President Bush. After Bill Cosby's initial comments, Kweisi Mfume said something like, "We've been saying that all along." To whom? And when? If that's supposed to be our leading organization, then they need to get out and lead and stop talking about who's not doing what for us and why it's okay for those of us who ain't doin nothin to keep doin' nothin. I really hope they get their agenda together in Philly this week, but after Thursday, they need to stop the yappin and make it happen.