Saturday, November 27, 2010

We All Have A Little Uncle Ruckus In Us

My favorite TV show nowadays is The Boondocks. I don't know if there has ever been anything like it before. Me personally, I'm somewhere between the Militant Huey and the wise ass Riley. But to be honest, there are times when I get so mad at our folks that a lil Uncle Ruckus comes out.

Who's Uncle Ruckus you ask?

Uncle Ruckus, is the biggest Uncle Tom ever imagined in the history of Black America. I mean, name two Uncle Tom's, ok, Ward Connerly and Michael Steele. Ok, those two have nuttin on Uncle Ruckus. On the episode below, one of his neighbors says something to the effect of, "Alex Haley isn't the only one who knows his roots."

"Huh? Who's Alex Haley?"
"You know, he made ROOTS."
"Roots? What's that some kind of gardening show?"

Okay, I could never get to that extreme. But here me out.

Recently in Atlanta a young man was killed @ a party, he got stomped to death for no reason at all. It's times like that when I wholeheartedly support the death penalty. I don't care about the racial issues surrounding the death penalty, if your black, you are not my brother if you do some bullshit like that.

Anyway, this episode of the Boondocks deals with the criticisms aimed at BET in the last 10 years with Uncle Ruckus thrown in for good measure. This episode was banned and it is my first time seeing it.

I doubt even Elijah Muhammad imagined a black man with more self hatred than Uncle Ruckus, from his constant kudos to the white man for bringing us here from Africa and giving us jobs on his plantations where we were gainfully employed and happy to him telling a white man, "May I jus say mista white man suh, that yo dookie smells like sparkling water with a twist of lime." I don't care what we do, i could never hate us that much, but this shit sure is funny. Lord where does Aaron McGruder get this shit from?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Changing Moments

I remember the day I graduated from high school, three weeks behind the rest of my class. You wanna talk about embarrassing, it was the first and only time, I had ever been to summer school. I should've dropped out in the 12th grade, cause basically, I rarely ever went.

All I had to do was show up and do four hours of work, which basically came out to something like six or eight pages of worksheets, it might have been less. I think I went to that class twice, I was done in two days. I turned in my work, the instructor stood up, shook my hand, and handed me my diploma. I don't think I ever looked at that diploma again.

Anyway, I've been going through a lot of changes, sorry I haven't updated this site siiiiiiiiiinnnnce, Bush was president. Now that I'm learning how to use my mytouch slide, I can do remote updates.

Keep it pimpin baby,

Mark Skillz

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It was a cold December evening in 1979 when my next door neighbor Adrienne said, “Mark, you gotta hear this new record called Spoonin’ Rap.” In fact everyone in my building was blasting the shit out of it. Up and down Kissena Blvd and Colden Ave everybody with a box was playing the latest jams – but this one was different.

The white-sleeved yellow label said SOUND OF NEW YORK USA. It was the first rap record to have song title listings “I Don’t Drink, Smoke or Gamble Neither”, “I’m the Cold Crushing Lover” and “I Was Spanking and Freaking”. The record itself was called “Spoonin’ Rap” by a guy who called himself Spoonie Gee.

Spoonie was different from every other MC at that time. Whereas most guys had big golden voices, this guy rhymed in a laid back conversational tone. Spoonie was cool.

“I’m the one and plenty lover who gives the good sensations,
I’m the good and plenty kid
With all the qualifications.
Now if the girl is ugly,
And she looks like a dog,
I start to running like a cow,
And leaping like a frog.
No, I’m not conceited baby please don’t take me for a toy,
Just remember me as Spoonie Gee the baddest lover boy.
The rhyme sayin’, girl playing, drink a lot of juice,
And what God gave me baby,
I’m gonna put it to use…”

Nobody rhymed like that back then. Spoonie was a mack.

Christmas morning 1979 guess what was under the tree? ‘Spoonin Rap’. It was the first record I ever got. I sat in the living room with my eyes closed listening to every sound of the record, the reverb, the slick bass line, the whistles, all of it mesmerized me. For eight years Spoonie sporadically released one classic 12 inch after the other, and then nothing. Spoonie’s last stand as a recording artist was a Marley Marl produced cut called “The Godfather”…

“Let’s get this straight there’s no contest,
So now you people know and don’t have to guess,
I’m not the king of rap,
Not lord, nor prince,
I was a young kid rappin’
And I been rocking ever since,
I was just a young buck
I didn’t care what
MC’s were in my they never uttered a what…
Cause I’m the Godfather.”

It was then that he got the most publicity of his whole entire career. Spoonie appeared in Right On! Magazine, Black Beat and got a write up in Spin magazine as well. But there was never anything in depth about the man. As hot as he was at the time there were no videos and he only played spot dates here and there. After “The Godfather”, “Mighty Mike” and “You Ain’t Just A Fool” Spoonie disappeared.

Word on the street was that he was a prisoner of the crack monster. One guy told me he saw him sleeping on a park bench and there were other very sad stories out there about him. Fast forward to 2005. My man Jayquan contacted Spoonie and did the first real in depth interview with the man. Jay and Troy both told me how he was a real quiet dude. A couple of years later Allhiphop dot com held an online chat session with him, one of their writers got in touch with him and was able to interview him. His words would prove to be ominous to me: “Gabriel Jackson is a man of few words…”

Last year DJ Woody Wood did the first live radio interview I had heard Spoonie do in years. He was clearly different from what Jay and Troy had told me about. He laughed; he was more conversational than I was told he would be.

Then it was my turn.

In a sense I have been waiting since 1979 to interview him. After much back and forth with Tuff City Records I was able to get a phone interview with him. He was cordial and polite, but not exactly the most talkative person I have ever come across. Getting answers from him was pretty hard. The only time he really came to life and wanted to really volunteer answers was when I asked him about his previous activities with skeezers…

I was warned (not sternly but hints were dropped) that he doesn’t like to discuss his personal life. I wasn’t going to push him. The only thing he would openly discuss was his love of women. Beyond that, it was pretty tough to get him to open up. There was much he didn’t remember, but to his credit, he tried; in all honesty and in his defense I have to say, it is hard to recall things from twenty-five years ago – I know I have trouble doing so. And also in his defense, I think I woke him up from his afternoon snooze or something, because when I called him he sounded like he had fallen asleep and was awakened by the ring of the phone.

Me: Hello, Spoonie?
Him: (Yawn) Yeah man, what’s up?
Me: Hey, hope I didn’t disturb you, man
Him: (Yawn again) Nah, nah it’s cool…

It was three-way phone call with plenty of office noise in the background, half the time we couldn’t hear each other. There were plenty of times where Spoonie said, “Brother, your gonna have to speak up.”

I got what I needed from him though. In all of the interviews he has done, no one, not one person has ever asked a single question about his 1985 recording ‘Street Girl’. Everyone asks him about ‘Love Rap’, ‘The Godfather’, and ‘Spoonin’ Rap’. I thank God they didn’t because I wrote a classic for Wax Poetics that came out this week, my editor re-titled my story
Streets Disciple and I ain’t mad at him for it either. Brian usually comes with some good titles, my favorite one is “Interstellar Transmission: The Birth of Planet Rock and it’s Electro Repercussions”.

But all in all I got some good information from him. My buddy freelance writer extraordinaire and master wordsmith Michael Gonzales suggested that I should re-interview him, but do it in person. If I had the loot I sure would’ve. Through Michael I got in touch with Barry Michael Cooper. Cooper is the godfather of hip-hop journalism. Period. Point blank. No questions will be accepted. He is the guy that wrote the groundbreaking classics New Jack City, Above the Rim and Sugar Hill. Currently he’s been hard at work producing movies for the web Blood On the Walls and Chief Rocker are two of his latest classics. Tuff City founder and CEO Aaron Fuchs told me how it was through Cooper that he had come into contact with Spoonie. At the time, Cooper was into music and had started making records; one of the people he hooked up with was Spoonie. Cooper was a huge help to me in this article because he painted a picture of Harlem for me and of his impressions of Spoonie.

Bum rush the door of your local record store and cop this joint here, Wax Poetics is also available at Barnes and Noble and Border books.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mark Skillz is losing it

Maybe it’s the start of a nervous breakdown or something, I dunno. I used to be a cat who was always in control of himself. But lately I don’t know… Before the guys in white jackets come and take me away maybe I should tell you what’s going on.

I can’t put my finger on it I’m not sure when it started. But lately whenever I hear the music of my youth I get misty eyed and lose control. I don’t know why it keeps happening to me. I’ve noticed slow subtle changes around me. The hair on my chin ain’t black anymore it’s salt and pepper. I’m getting heavier and my muscles stay sore longer than they used to.

I know, I know I’m getting older, yeah, but I think the reality of it is catching up with me. And that sucks.

I can't rhyme along to RUN-DMC records without breaking down from remembering the Fresh Fest tours, Def Jam Tours, Dope Jam tours and a whole bunch of others. I can't rhyme along to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five records without crying thinking about the first time I heard 'Freedom' and how hyped me and my friends got hearing it.

Everytime I hear the song 'Peter Piper' awww man, "Then like all fairy tales end you'll see Jay again my friend!'

The other day I was sitting in a conference room at Verizon Wireless for an evaluation test one of the questions was: At this point in your life are personal pursuits more important than a career?

I’ve always worked. Jobs have been just that for me: J-O-B’s. Just something to pay the bills nothing to build my life around. When I went back to school at 34 years old I made up my mind that writing was going to be my career. And it’s a hard field to make a living in – especially when your niche writer. So I’ve had to do what I’ve had to do to provide for my family.

It sucks to be damn near 40 and having to apply to jobs that don't pay a whole lot. I'm really focused on writing I guess you can call that my salvation if you will. If it wasn't for the fact that i have this gift I'd truly be up sh-- creek without a paddle in a sinking boat.

When I look at what I've accomplished story wise I feel better about myself, but financially, oh it sucks to be me right now. The Eddie Cheba article has finally been published I'll be posting that on Hip Hop 101A in a week or so. I'm trying to cut the word count of my Iceberg Slim article down, my editor says he wants it but, 6300 words is too many, 'How about 5,000?" He asked me. I thought cutting 1300 words would be easy - it ain't!

I've sent in enough articles to Wax that 2008 should be a good year for me there. I wrote a piece about the rise of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Disco Bee, EZ Mike, Rahiem and Mele Mel gave me some really good stories for it too.

I bumped my writing skills up exponentially when I wrote this really great piece called 'Street Girl: Spoonie Gee's tale of a Doom Fox'. Spoonie is still one of my favorite MC's of all time, he's been getting his life together in the last couple of years.

My man Sammy Bee over at Tuff City hooked me up with Spoonie for a phone interview, Spoonie doesn't talk much, but I got a little something out of him.

The real highlight for me though was I reached out to Barry Michael Cooper, the guy that wrote New Jack City, Above the Rim and Sugar Hill - basically this is the dude who's stories helped shape my generation. Barry gave me some insights into Harlem and Spoonie that I have never read anywhere. I don't know when the article will be published but please believe me it is ghetto red hot!

My next assignment is going to be a monster feature about Kurtis Blow, needless to say I am pulling out all stops for this one!

But with all of that going on I still have trouble paying my rent and providing for my kids. And it hurts. It wasn't supposed to be like this at this point in my life. I have to do this writing thing now - I don't have the time to do it 'later', anything can happen to me later. My aunt Zelma just passed the other day from a brain aneurism. Just like that, bam...If I should die tomorrow at least i have contributed some great work about my generation. And i have more to say, I ain't just some guy who knows nothing but old school hip hop, i have more interests and things to add man, but I gotta do it now, cause tomorrow ain't promised!

But here’s what constantly goes through my mind: What happened to the 18 year old guy with the world at his feet? Where did that go to? Where did the guy run off to? But more importantly will he come back?

Not likely.

It’s been a stressful time: I’m finishing up my first book which, by the way is called ‘When the Music’s Over’ and of course (I don’t want to mention the name of the company) I had to quit my job recently because I can’t work for a crazy person.

For a year and a half I worked for a person who is the mental and emotional equivalent of Jim Jones. No for real. I wish I was lying. I have never been in a situation before where a person manages their company through manipulation, paranoia and other mind games that would make a psychiatrist like Frazier Crane say ‘Take a seat.’ She really had no idea how to run a company or manage people it is the worse example of mis-management that I have ever seen in my life, this story almost has Ken Lay-like overtones, for real.

The person I worked for has a Napoleon complex as well other inferiority issues, the only way she knows how to make herself feel better is if others aren’t doing well, she constantly talks about what that person has done wrong, but what I’ve learned is that she is merely deflecting attention away from her many faults. Someday I’m going to write about it, but I need more distance. The perspective title for the book is ‘The Sinking Ship’.

I hope I don’t crack up in the meantime.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

'Borat' and 'The Other Hollywood'

I’ve been broke lately so I’ve been staying indoors mostly reading books and watching movies. I finally got to watch ‘Borat’. I fell on the floor laughing at that movie. Now I know I’m late seeing the movie ‘Borat’, but I ain’t late to the party. I’ve been hip to Sasha Baron Cohen for a few years now.

It all started for me, with some damn Madonna video. I saw this guy with a red sweat suit and a red doo rag, I’m thinking to myself ‘look at this idiot’. I didn’t who he was or nothing. I just thought he was some funny looking guy in a Madonna video. And then HBO premiered something called ‘Da Ali G Show’. It was bugged out. My wife couldn’t stand it. As a matter of fact I’m the only person I know that liked it. I called Davey D and was like “Yo D, yo D, man, you gotta see ‘Da Ali G Show’ kid”. He said, “hell no, that show is full of stereotypes and shit, man.” What did I expect from a liberal Berkeley activist, huh?

Anyway, this guy Sasha Cohen is a genius. He’s a lot like Andy Kaufmann. I mean he’s really on the edge. You couldn’t really call him a comedian in the classic sense, because it’s not like the guy could get onstage and do a routine, I mean he could, but like Kaufmann, what makes him funny is how far he takes his characters. He plays jokes on unsuspecting people and gets the funniest results. His comedy is really a commentary about how cynical and xenophobic our culture really is. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m not a cynic or that I’m not xenophobic or homophobic or any of that stuff. If some guy walked up to me and tried to kiss me, I’m putting my hands up. For real. I don’t care what your culture is – I ain’t kissing no man.

But as funny as ‘Borat’ is…right now, somewhere in America there is a guy named ‘Bruno’ playing the same kind of jokes on unsuspecting people. The ‘Bruno’ jokes will definitely be played on people in the south and the Midwest. God that shit is going to be funny.

I’ve been reading – nah, that’s not the right word, I’ve been engrossed in a book called ‘The Other Hollywood’. I’ve never read anything like it. It tells the story of the rise of the porn industry. I know, I know, I know: the porn industry? Yes. It is a shocking and funny story. The book is by Legs McNeil. It tells the story of John Holmes’ rise and fall. For those that don’t know who John Holmes is…. well, google him and you’ll see. Ironically enough I’ve never seen a John Holmes movie. I’ve seen pictures of the guy, but never seen a movie. Anyway, he was an interesting guy. Not the smartest guy you’d ever meet. Nor was he the nicest guy for that matter. It would be safe to say that he was a sleazy kind of guy. He seemed to have at least two part time jobs and two full time jobs: he was a part time porn actor and sometime batty man. Full time? He was a drug addict and an idiot.

My favorite stories are the ones that detail how the Feds were trying to build a case against the Mob – who were the one’s profiting from the porn business. The most shocking story was when there was a HIV epidemic in the industry. Wow. That’s all I can tell you.

Friday, June 29, 2007

No...We're Not

If you've read this blog over the years you've probably heard my thoughts on homosexuality...well, here we go again...

Today I was reading what this guy said ...

Recently there was a poll that asked Americans if we think that homosexuals can change. For the record: I don't think they can. And why should they? If your gay your gay, right?

According to the previously mentioned article "We're all gay" in some form or another. To that I say: "Oh no we're not."

Over the years I've heard 'stories' about people who 'wake up' one day and discover their gay. To which I say: Yeah right.

You know good and goddamn well that your 35 year old ass didn't just wake up at seven o'clock Thursday morning and say "Wow, hmmmm I think I'm gay..."

It doesn't work like that. You were gay the whole time.

I've heard people say that P-Diddy, Russell and others are (allegedly) gay because of all of the money they make and the circles they run in. To which I say: Yeah right.

It doesn't matter how much money you make. I can win a 100 million dollars tomorrow and I don't care what, I am not going to be 'experimenting' with my sexuality. I don't want to see, hear or read about two dudes pounding each other in the ass. Nope, don't wanna know about it. I used to love the HBO show 'OZ', but I used to have to watch it with my hands over my eyes on certain parts. 'Pulp Fiction' is my favorite movie but I don't watch that part where they rape Marcellus Wallace. Iceberg Slim is one of my favorite writers but I still haven't read - and refuse to read "Momma Black Widow', nope won't do it. I don't wanna know.

I don't care what the Christian Right says people can be born gay. And it didn't just start happening 30 years ago, hell no, it's been going on since we evolved from whatever and where ever. When I was in junior high school there was a kid named (for legal reasons I will not divulge his real name, I'm going to be rich one day and I don't want that guy suing me) Andre, it was the seventh grade, I kept seeing this kid that looked like a boy sometimes and a girl other times. I remember asking some of the fellas, "Yo, is that a dude or a broad?" To which they said, "a little bit of both."

So, many years later I run into a guy from the old neighborhood and we're talking about people from back in the day and I ask about that kid Andre to which this guy said, "Oh he's a pimp now. He pimps dudes and broads."

Was I surprised? Hell no, I seen it way back then.

When I was a crazy teenager I used to subscribe to the belief that homosexuals should all be sent to live on an isolated island somewhere with a chain link fence and forth and so on. I don't believe in that kind of garbage anymore.

However, I still disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. What a person does in the privacy of their home is their business. I have no problem with it. I'm glad that there are gay clubs and parades and proms, they have the right to express themselves.

However, I don't agree with gay marriage. Nah duke, you knew once you came out of the closet that that wasn't cool. I don't doubt for one second that you all love each other and all, but, marriage is between a man and a woman. For me God has nothing to do with it. In every society since time began (at least for human beings) marriage has been between a man and a woman. Without a doubt men and men did what they did, however, there has always been an understanding that, yo, no-no-no-no-no our civillization can't be built on the union of two men as married partners. And besides that shit doesn't sound right.