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Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review- The Pact

I had to do something while my daughter was in sewing class so I picked up "the Pact" at Barnes and Noble and between that and waiting at a kid's birthday party, I pretty much read half of the book by three 'young' black doctors from Newark New Jersey named Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt, and George Jenkins about their lives, and the decisions they made which enabled them to be successful and beat the odds.

When I first picked up the book I was reminded of another I had read years ago, called "Makes me Wanna Holler" by Nathan McCall who would go on and become a journalist. Unlike that book however, this one was slightly more interesting throughout the entire thing. While it is mostly, linear, the fact that there are three different voices, who each had their own different hurdles throughout the phases that they all shared helps to make it interesting. From George being the  initial person who directed the trio with his ambition and lack of the same home issues that both Sam and Rameck faced for the most part.

One of the things you learn in the book, well, reinforce is that with a lack of role models, there are a lot of young black men who don't believe that they can do certain things because they aren't physically exposed to them. In the book, Sam talks about being in medical school and being unfamiliar with all of the tools while many of his class mates had family members who were doctors and at the very least exposed them or directed them to things that would be beneficial later on in life. While I agree, that once there is a decision made to go down a path, it certainly helps to have someone there to help direct, the idea that someone has to be standing there to say look you can do this still eludes my understanding. For me it shows that we as a people might be missing something in terms of imagination where we have trouble placing ourselves into any situation or life which we have not touched. I see it in the lack of black kids who are interested in fantasy novels, comic books, and video games outside of simulations. While these are not directly related, it does say something about how we view ourselves and what the world offers for us. Even in recreation and escape we aren't as forward reaching as others it seems and I don't know why.

But back to the book, there is a lot to be learned by some guys who went through a lot to get to where they are and to show anyone who reads this that they can indeed overcome their surroundings if they really do want to get something better and more productive out of their lives. There is also a documentary on the trio so check that out as well. Please let me know what you think of these readings and the movie.

As far as hip-hop goes, I do want to read Common's book and see what that is about because it seems his story is a lot deeper than you would imagine. The "Blueprint Decoded" was a somewhat interesting book, though for most kids who have grown up on Jay-z, we already know the meaning behind the words in his book. The real part is some of the explanation behind his life, especially early on, he is the first person to come out and admit he sold drugs so he could "be with his friends". That peer pressure is so strong at times to do the wrong thing and what irritates me in music is that it takes so long for these artists to change their message in the way they know will be productive. Just looking at Jay-z's open letter to his child, and it still amazes me how someone who has accomplished so much is just getting what people have been complaining about in his music for years.

Another book which I thought had some decent stories was the DMX autobiography written while he was still on top. I would loe to read a book from him in five or six years after he hopefully becomes more wise and stops making the same stupid mistakes. I see these successful people who have these tragic backgrounds finally tell their stories and look at those who are taking them in and can only wonder why the messages aren't truly sinking in. Maybe it's because it is all seen as entertainment because the authors are entertainers and not realistic. Hopefully in the future, a book like this will reach more young people and become an inspiration.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ti and Tiny

I think I would be remiss after all the Jay and Beyonce love if I didn't give credit to a Mr. Clifford "Tip" Harris for doing a show that brings family life to the forefront and attempts to stave off some of the damage that gets done once a week by Love and Hip Hop. Just this last week TI had to deal with the idea of his daughter having a boyfriend, and while the show is extremely sanitized and watered down as far as its overall reality, it still has a positive message unlike most of the VH1 programming.

Though TI has had his issues that irritate me and show he still has room to grow, he is also one of the more mature artists who gets regular publicity. He Seems to truly be involved with his kids and really love his wife who has been through the thick and thin with him. I can appreciate what they show and bring forth on the television.

While I am at it, let me also shout out another long standing but not as 'popular' black couple, Duane Martin and Tisha Campbell-Martin for being together so long. While neither of them is on Black Hollywood's C-list anymore it seems, they still made their mark in the 90's when I was coming up and remain another example of strong values.

Now so far Will and Jada are still hanging in there but the lingering rumors do bother me somewhat with their relationship, but I'm not judging, even if they do break up today, they have still had a long marriage, and are examples of good solid parents that we should all aspire to be.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You aStupid Hoe

Nicki minaj actually released a video for this adhd induced song. Honestly, Nicki is very unique and I can give her credit for that but all of the little cartoon gimmickery is old to me, especially when it's so ridiculously overused. This video also has nice color and it does have unique style to it as well, but it is too unfocused for my own personal tastes. Once again, it's something that shows talent and artistry. A good eye but at the end of the day it's just too much all at once. But hey, She is dancing again so that's a good thing.

Oh yes, at the end she calls herself the female weezy, I guess that makes her a clown who is trying way too hard to be different when she could just be herself.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Let's speak on movies for a bit...

Now I don't like to take things out of hip-hop too much when I'm posting on this blog but I think that's there is an important topic to discuss, and that is the new movie Red Tails which will be in theaters as of January 20th. Now I know a lot of people are going to say (especially younger) I don't want to see that shit just because it's got black people in it, it looks boring, I don't car about WW 2 and etc. I understand that, but I will say this, you're young, you don't know any better. At some point in the future, you will want to see different images portrayed on the screen and not just the same old things. You will want to see this, not just because you want to see it, but because it opens an important avenue of alternate visions of our people in the future.

Many people have some things to say on it, not the least of which is George Lucas, the producer who understands how the industry works and is a veteran, yet he spoke on the difficulty of getting this movie made. Here is the editorial one of my faithful readers wrote about the matter just recently.

Look, this is one of those issues that crosses the barriers of age, sex, or anything else because it matters to our entire community to do our best to see this movie and support a vision that is different from the norm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2 Chainz proves it's hard to get it

So another issue of a dude who represents the 'real' in the streets going wrong was also recently evident in Michigan. Let me say this- if you don't belong there, keep your ass out of Michigan people, it's real up there. So apparently, there was an attempt to jump and rob Tity 2 Chainz at a club appearance after a show he did up north in Detroit. As the story goes, he was going into the club to get his money for said appearance in the back ways and almost got jumped by a group of thugs looking to make a name for themselves. However, another group of thugs intervened and Mr. Chainz was allowed to get away unscathed.

I don't know if the video makes sense to you but here is the real issue that's going on, there are too many dudes who are in the industry who are trying to be business minded still doing business with street niggas and thugs who don't have that same mindset. You see it seems to me that guys make this street music and really start to believe their own hype and forget what it is they claim to know so well and represent. muxh like Young Choppa Coty last week, 2 Chainz has been out talking this thug swag shit and dudes believe it. They also want to be able to say they're thugging more than him and tougher so this is what happens to you. You have got to be more aware of your situation.

Here is the other problem, you want to rep the streets you have to end up in street places, aka, the trap. We know why it's called the trap because thats what the hell it is, a trap. Unfortunately, you cannot do business with everyone and you're going to have to leave some money on the table because there are things that aren't worth the effort. If you never received your money, then you never go to the club you're supposed to be at. There is going to be some kind of problem, guaranteed. Either something like this when you were about to get your money and it's really a scheme to get you, or a situation where you end up in an altercation or worse and your reputation takes a hit. There is a point when you cannot deal with the streets you have to transition out of that or bad things will happen to you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why you should be critical too

I've been seen as too critical of a lot of artists, especially today because I think they're wack or squandering talent. One of the main reasons is that I have grown up on hip-hop and realize that to impress me it takes a lot because I have heard a lot of hip-hop. I mean all I was buying when I first started working was cd's and because the labels were putting so much money behind rap, there was a lot to buy.It was a golden era. Guys were getting on but the music was reasonably cultivated to keep the majority of trash below the radar.

I keep getting into arguments with people who tell me I'm just stuck in the past and don't want the game to evolve, that's actually the opposite because all I see now is things getting worse and de-evolving. Just look at rhymes now, what was transformed in the 90's to a serious art of tongue twisting metaphors and similes is now going the opposite way to simplicity or straight forward talk. I can do that. That defeats the point of rapping. How colorful is it to say "I move that weight" on your songs. Not very.

Rap is and should remain a for of musical poetry where people are constantly trying to step up the metaphors and rhyme schemes as well as remain on topic whenever possible. Wayne is one of the better rappers save for the last part because all of his songs are all over the place about whatever next rhyming word comes up and most of the time it involves sex, drugs, or shooting. Most other guys can't even seriously do even that, look at Big Sean, he has some of the simplest rhymes, no good concepts, nor is he a compelling person to listen to.

I always like to relate this back to your job. You show up every day, go above and beyond what you need to do to be successful and help your company and everyone nods their head to acknowledge you, but the guy who comes in and barely finishes his work gets the employee of the year award, the raise, and the respect. You're going to be pissed. Then think about it happening again and again, you are better at every facet yet the guy below you gets the accolades just because, it's mind boggling. The only reason you can come up to explain it is that by making this lackluster person popular the people in charge are able to maintain their status and superiority because they are under no threat to look bad. Rap fans today support the rappers that make it seem simple because they always feel like they could do it too. The guys who can actually rap are intimidating. Am I generalizing, yeah I am but in every conversation, I don't get any empirical evidence or reasoning beyond no one wants to hear lyrics anymore.

But back to why you should be critical, just like with anyone you're giving your hard earned money to, you need to make these guys earn it. You cannot let someone just do whatever and not put in the effort and progress. At any store if you repeatedly get bad service, you need to stop supporting said store until you get what you want and should get as a customer. Same thing with political action, same thing with artists. If you are not getting the best you have the responsibility to demand more. You should be critical, do not be afraid of someone challenging you to make something "as good" or "better" because in reality that isn't relevant. Hell with a lot of these acts, part of the problem is that I am sure that I can create something that is just as good which shouldn't happen if they are putting forth an effort.

As a critic I'm going to take my heat and everyone isn't willing to do that about hip-hop. Some people aren't willing to take being critiqued at anything, but anyone who offers up something for public consumption, whether it be a painting, a song, a tweet, or facebook status, is opening themselves to the opinion of others. If you don't want to hear anything negative, then do not put it out for anyone to hear, read, or see. If you do, you are open to critique and if your behavior deserves it, then it should be given.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Young City aka Chopper gets shot..surprised?

So I really thought about ignoring this particular situation because I'm like..It's Chopper...from the band...oh well. But I was moved to listen to this audio of him describing what happened to him, all the while realizing he's going to talk even tougher now. Here is the video courtesy of MTV real fast.

So you're driving around a place where no one knows who you are and if they do know who you are, they want to prove something. You're in a flashy car, and instead of just turning your ass around and going back on the highway or to a lighted area that seems safer you stop at a damn gas station. That isn't very smart. Then you rap about the things you rap about, portray the lifestyle that you want to talk about and glamorize and then ask why someone shot you? You're from the hood you say, you have your face tatted, your chain says M.O.E., the wack ass music you put out is talking about just this same thing and you wonder why this happened to you? You asked for it dog.

Much like i've been trying to reiterate recently, you have to somewhat be what you say because when things happen to you, you need to understand why. You may want to think it's just entertainment and for many rational people we understand just that, the problem is there are people who really do the shit that you say you do and they're going to do it. They also want to see if you are who you are, so they're going to target you because it kills two birds with one stone.

The other factor is that there are real people getting into the game because you have allowed people who have more than just authenticity into the game by making that an important aspect of rapping. Now being deemed authentic is more important than being able to actually rap so accordingly, they're going to test you and prove their realness because that is all that they have. It should be expected, you promote violence and a certain lifestyle, you can expect it to be as real as you want it to be. Especially, when you can't afford to keep it away from you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The "Boss" conundrum

Maybe it isn't as much of a conundrum as it is annoying that everyone thinks they are a boss of something now in rap. I'll give credit where it is due, Ross has certainly seemed to personify this attitude and take it to the net level, even though, just like wrestlers, it isn't what he first started out as. Much like going from a Heel to Face can make someone blow up, thus it is with rappers. Do a couple of features as a regular guy, fall back, buy some new clothes and develop a new attitude aand you go from T.I. on I'm Serious to the Rubber Band Man a.k.a. the King Biiiiitttccchhh.

Honestly, I don't have that much of a problem with what rappers call themselves, but my issue is the fact that the public, or people who listen seem to take on these personas and really really believe it. You ever see an adult who doesn't know wrestling is scripted when they finally find out? It's like seeing a 30 year old who still believes in Santa or a 40 year old virgin. You'd be less shocked to see a unicorn.

Let's look at the reality, you're signed to someone else's label, you're not a boss, nor the boss. So while I may think Meek Mill's I'm a boss is a decent song, when I see dudes out and they're yelling back and forth at their homies singing the chorus like they really are in charge it's annoying because we know they're going to work the next day, punching in and taking orders. Rap can be an escape, I understand that, but how much do you really need to try and convince yourself that you are more than what you are before you actually go out and make moves to become just that.

It's troubling that the trend of pretending or perpetrating to be a boss is more popular than the actual moves needed to become a boss. In an era where we finally have a black president, we are more concerned with popping bottles of Ciroc and throwing money on strippers so that they don't think we're broke than making positive growth within our community. Yes I have a huge problem with this idea of escapism in rap music where it's only popular to show this image of what we would like to be- powerful, rich, living the luxury life- and it is ultimately preferred than the image of what really is going on. I have been told that maybe it can be inspiring to those listening, an ambition for them to achieve that position. There are two things wrong with that idea, number one, it is painted as if it is this position or you're a failure, which is a losing proposition. Two, isn't it just as inspiring to be reminded of what you're going through, and where you are in life to moving forward?

We have an entire group of young people whom it seems are totally unrealistic in their expectations for life. One of the biggest complaints about the Occupy Wall Street protestors was that they were mostly young people who felt privileged and that they were owed the cushy jobs that they went to school for. To an extent that was somewhat right, though it would marginalize the entire movement to boil it down to that issue alone. I see the same thing reflected in the music and television today, the most popular things are those which are about the life people feel they are owed, not as much as about how to get there or the alternatives which would be a "middle class lifestyle" of stability and comfort. You don't have to be the boss to be successful. You don't have to have the most luxurious items to be comfortable. Nothing wrong with aspiring for greatness but someone needs to be rational and realistic about this. Everyone cannot be a boss, everyone isn't a boss, and 9/10 'reality' rappers are lying to you and fictionalizing their lives to make them more interesting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Common v Drake - My Take

So the buzz this year so far is the feud between Common and Drake which recently popped off, first with Common dropping "Sweet" which was full of subliminal shots, Drake tweeting, then Common going all in on the same beat as Drake's latest feature. I am always of the mind that beef can push people to do their best especially in hip-hop. I would have liked to see a lot more subliminal shots before Common went so hard but this is still adequate.

First off, Drake is a guy I want to like but I don't feel as though he has earned the arrogance that he has to this point. I want him to be able to make a statement and to win and be successful, however, I don't think he truly represents the things that he could because of trends and the people he is surrounded by. Look the biggest thing to me that Drake represents is the idea that you never have to answer for who you claim to be. When Drake talks slick someone needs to say something, and no, not just a street dude like a Jeezy, because at the end of the day this is hip-hop, rap and you have to be able to hold your own against whoever it is you have an issue with. Common is perfect for this because he is what Drake should aspire to be as an artist, street respected, relevant, and able to make good music without resorting to gimmicks to get over.

As for Common, I wasn't too happy with his liberal use of the word bitch on his album. A friend of mine pointed out that Common is supposed to be peaceful and a leader so to see him just jump out and attack Drake seems odd at this point. The West Coast Beef he had years back was a reaction so it was legitimized. However, Common is better to go after Drizzy than to make a song about Tity 2 Chainz. But the thing you have to remember is that Common is about something, he stands for something so this probably isn't as random as things would seem.

Look, word on the street is Serena Williams is part of this whole thing and it is very likely. She was involved with both artists at some point and who knows how things have broken down as far as communication and the actual relationships go but there is something behind the scenes that has caused Common to go off. Now to see if Drake responds and responds adequately is the question, or will this turn into an event where you have random Meek Millz shots at Common. What I also hope to avoid is a new school vs old school battle or anything that ends up not based upon the merits of actual bars and lyrics.

Look I listened to the original "Stay Schemin" and the biggest problem I had was the part where Drake talks about Kobe Bryant's wife because it was so random. So Common took that and has gone to the next level and taken that to go hard at the kid. The thing I also think that hurts Drake is that when he went onto his twitter about the situation (which isn't manly as is) he ended up deleting what he said. Look if you want to speak up on something, speak up and stand behind what you say don't try to bitch out.  Okay maybe there is also his ridiculous consumerist music which is all about consumption and is just a negative thing to be focused on hip-hop.

Look I'm more of a Common fan than a Drake fan but I really do want Drake to be successful. Hopefully this will push both artists to spit some good bars and give us some good entertainment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jay-z is the greatest Dad in the world apparently....

Let me say this, I have no hate towards Jay-z for having a kid. Hell it's about damn time. But people we need to get a collective grip for real. He isn't the first father, not the first celebrity father, and I'm pretty sure he isn't the first to love his daughter. I have no problem with him dropping the song, "Glory". In fact, I am proud of him and this is the kind of stuff I've been wanting him to do to expand the definition of being a man in hip hop because too many of these 'fathers' in rap act as if their kids don't exist. You hear one random reference and that's it. Other than Will Smith with "Just the Two of Us", Xzibit  with "The Foundation", and Ja Rule with "Daddy's Little Girl", very few if any artists make songs for their children or inspired by them...that I know anyway, feel free to educate me on some others if you know them.

But the overall fascination from people on the newest member of the Carter family from her name to the symbolism behind it has gotten way out of hand. Women reposting the song on facebook as if no man has ever done anything in the name of their child before and tweeting about how special he is. While there may be plenty men out here who do not represent what is needed from men, there are plenty who do. Much like we claim we value life when a celebrity dies and we go about trying to make meaning out of it, I would rather we use some of that energy to encourage regular people who are not celebrities to continue in their efforts. Maybe Jay can help to get some of these young men to step up and become actually that since he can influence their style of dress to taste in alcohol.

Today Jay has released an "open letter" which is code for shit to show off to everyone much like plenty of people have recently done and it is cute and sweet and hopefully provides a vision of where Jay will go with his music.

“Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich,

I didn’t think hard about using the word Bitch.

I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it

now with my daughter in this world

I curse those that give it.

I never realized while on the fast track

that I’d give riddance to the word bitch, to leave her innocence in tact.

No man will degrade her, or call her out her name

the women won’t despise her and call her the same.

I know it’s gonna miss me

cuz we been together like Nike Airs and crisp tees

when we all used to hang out front

singing 99 problems but a lady ain’t one.

Excuse me miss, can I be your mister

cuz I can tell the difference from a little girl and a sister,

She never grew up, her father left her alone

I promise not to talk like we used to

until Kingdom Come.

I’m so focused on your future,

The degradation has passed

I wish you wealth, health, and insight

forever young you may pass.

Blue Ivy Carter, my angel.”

Though I don't like the generic nike and crisp tees line it is cool. But also irritating that this guy, with all he has been exposed to over the last decade, is just getting it through his thick skull what some critics have been irritated by during his career which is his language and lack of understanding about his leadership role in the youth of urban America. I know I had a huge problem with him calling Beyonce his "bitch" several times in the past and with this I'm hoping he will cease to do so. 

Jay-z is a role model and a leader, parenthood isn't easy and hopefully he can be an inspiration to young men everywhere to step their games up and realize their actions will directly affect their children in the future and start caring about more than popping bottles in the club.

That Niggas Corny

After reading up on what others thought about my boy Childish Gambino's album "Camp" and seeing the comments I felt like I needed to address something that continually cropped up, the idea that Donald Glover is 'corny' because he doesn't talk about the streets. At least thats what my assumption is, but that initial feeling can't be true because Drake and J.Cole both go against the grain and don't talk about street life yet they aren't considered corny.

What is corny now anyway, in an age where every rapper from Wiz Khalifa to Tyga is tatted up from head to toe and all under the age of 25 and both talk mostly about partying and smoking weed. That's very cliche and neither of these guys is an even somewhat bad dude no matter what the tats say. It doesn't seem to fit in with their fun loving personalities, isn't that corny? There are no complaints about Wiz's extra short shorts from the mainstream so what would make Childish so different?

How about Drake who not only is the anti-thesis of street, but who constantly croons to women about his failures as a man? Would he be corny too, or is he popular enough to be considered not corny. What's funny is reading through the comments of some past blogs and I had someone tell me that street rap was dead. Then how do you explain Jeezy selling more than Common who I was told is boring or the popularity of a one Tity 2 Chainz?

So spitting about how much beluga caviar you eat while flying in your Jet and pushing your Lambo isn't corny even though you have yet to drop an album. That's what's really tough, to be the same as every other guy who is out I guess. I remember when guys were calling Joe Budden corny for talking about himself, getting punched in the head by Raekwon's goon and generally speaking his mind instead of being quiet and not talking about anyone ever. Look I'm pretty sure most rap listeners are actually more like me, people who have jobs and don't drink Ciroc bottles every night while eating the finest of crab meats and pushing Maybachs with Louie Vuitton Duffle bags in the passenger seat full of 20's and or kilos. In other words the rest of us are all corny but we just can't admit it yet.

Not Telling me this dude isn't corny

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mix tapes are out of control

So you may know I'm not a big fan of the modern mix tape, especially as is treated like an album, albeit with limited distribution and no direct checks for the artists. I understand, once 50 Cent and Gip-set were able to make a huge push in the streets with them, they became the accepted way to gain publicity and create a buzz, though since then, the impact has been negated because literally everyone has mix tapes, mostly full of garbage.

Let me discuss why it no longer makes business sense to drop repeated mix tapes, especially once you have signed your deal. Number one, you are driving down the value of what you will eventually release on the label. If I get an "album" for free three weeks before your album drops, why do i really need to buy that album? Then what is going to make me pay the retail price when I can go through the same channels to get that album bootlegged thus cutting you out of the loop on that part of your check. "That little check I'm not sweating that". Yeah but you should, 50 grand is 50 grand.  100k is 100k . Get your money, the label will.

Then you're doing the label's job, they're not paying you any extra for that, and guess who is reaping the benefit. Guess what happens when the label doesn't feel they should do any work to promote you, you end up like 50 Cent, Bow wow, and countless other rappers who ended up on the back burner with the label squatting on your material to hold you back. The other thing is if you have a three or four album deal, you can always release free shit and hope to do shows but the label profits some kind of way if you do get popular again and they drop a completed project. But the other thing is these mixtapes are free for the label especially once you put 'singles' out on itunes and other digital formats. You're not progressing that deal and putting that label in the position where they have to cough up more money for you nor are you getting closer to freedom to move independently.

Musically, is my biggest problem because your business is your business buddy. I'm more of a critic and you need to put out something interesting to keep my attention. Rick Ross just put out an album in November, here we are, the beginning of January and he drops a tape of all the same exact type of songs. What was the point of me buying this last album, and what was your point in releasing all of this music? You're not maximizing your content by pushing every last song out and making it special, you're letting me know you don't even take the time to do this, everything is disposable. I laugh when I hear people calling today's albums classics, or even worse, classic mix tapes. If it cannot stand for more than two or three months before you drop something else it isn't a classic.

Time for old man rant time, but I remember when you would rock a tape until it popped. You would want to cry when your All Eyez on Me cd got scratched up because it was that good an important of an album. I don't anticipate nor miss these guys because they never go away long enough for me to have a void. The only dude recently that has garnered some feeling of where has he been I want to hear this is Jeezy, and while I may have been disappointed, at the very least, me, a non-Jeezy fan was looking forward to it.

The last few mix tapes i have listened to, none have come close to impressing me and making me feel like I had to hear the artist some more. Fabolous' was especially disappointing, but then again he never fails to let me down. What is your take on the mix tape phenomenon?


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