Monday, March 27, 2006


It’s time for a moment of socially responsible conservative thought. I told my new home girl the Golden Child, that like her, I too am a left-leaning liberal with right-wing views.

One day in 1942 East and West Oakland were beautiful places to live and raise your kids. As a matter of fact so were Compton, the Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant and many other places. Lawns were well kept. Trash was deposited into cans and picked up. People had pride in themselves and their neighborhoods. But a funny thing happened one day; somebody dropped a piece of trash on the sidewalk by accident. They new they dropped it but they were probably in a hurry to get to work. They probably thought to themselves, “It’s ok, someone will pick it up.”

Well someone never did.

And then an hour later while someone else was taking their trash out a diaper dropped out of their can and onto the ground. That person probably thought, “It’s ok, I’ll pick it up later.”

But they never did.

And the next thing ya know people just started leaving stuff in the street. Bags, used condoms, used tampons, soda bottles, food wrappers, leftover food and all other manner of human indignity. Soon a sure symbol of urban decay started to leave its ugly trail in the neighborhood: urine stains.

I love my people, but I will not tolerate any talk whatsoever about white people ruining the ghetto. I won’t tolerate any talk whatsoever about a secret society of white conspirators who scheme and plot day and night on ways to make black people look bad. There is no excuse, none at all for our neighborhoods to look the way they do.

I remember when I was 14 years old and I was hanging out with some friends, who shall remain nameless. We went to Mickey D’s, ordered our food and ate while we were walking down the street. When we were done we threw our trash right there on the ground. I was taught better, but you know what happens when you’re a teenager right?

One day while I was out with my mother I had something in my hand and threw it on the ground and kept walking. My mother, in disgust said, “Fool, what are you doing?”


“If you don’t pick that shit up…” she said as her eyes became a fire at the same time her index finger pointed to the ground.

“Ma, everyone throws their trash on the ground”, I said as stupid as can be.

“Oh, so that makes it right?”

“I dunno”.

Then she said something I will never forget…

“Mark, how do you think the rest of the shit got on the street?


Then she said, “Now pick that shit up.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

To Be A Dad


There has been a lot of stuff in the news lately about the “problem with black males”. A recent study said that black men are more disconnected from society than ever before. What no one really talks about is the fact that in the last twenty years black woman have advanced further than black men.

I remember reading an article not too long ago that discussed how men, regardless of race, were not furthering their education and were not entering into corporate America in numbers that equaled women.

If you doubt that women are advancing further in this society than men, then take a trip downtown, I don’t care which downtown, pick one, but go down there either in the morning, noon time or when everyone is trying to escape from work: 5:00 on the dot. Take a head count. What do you see? Count the number of white women you see. Then, count the number of black women you see. Now, count the number of black and white men you see. Okay we all know that you aren’t gonna find too many brothers down there, but I can guarantee you that black and white women outnumber even white men in corporate jobs. Why is this?

In the last twenty-five years, some smart people somewhere looked at the plight of little girls and addressed certain problems: self-esteem, education and role models. They correctly surmised that if little girls from the time they were very small were exposed to the same things that little boys (especially little white boys) were exposed to, they would advance. Thus, society turned its attention away from boys (because from the time that this society was born it has been a male dominated one) and on to little girls. Things like “Take your daughter to work day” came into being. I always thought things like that were cool. I’m somebody’s husband, brother, son, nephew, uncle and the role I cherish most: father.

In my short time that I’ve been on this planet, it never ceases to amaze me, the number of women I know that have been raped and or abused, I can fully understand why there has been a lot of focus on the problems of women. I can appreciate that.

One day when I was frustrated while potty-training my oldest son, I decided to get a book about the subject. All of the mothers I know seemingly forgot how to potty-train. I was shocked when I got down to the bookstore to find that not one book, not a single book about potty training had either a picture of a boy on the cover, or made any reference to boys in any way in any of the books. Everything was ‘she’ or ‘your little girl’ or something like that. No ‘he’ or ‘your little fella’ or ‘little guy’, none of that. Why? Because we have turned our backs on our sons.

There are no more Boys Clubs, because someone said that it was discriminatory against girls so it has to be the Boys and Girls Club. Activities that used to be exclusively for boys: baseball, football and basketball now include girls. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against little girls or little girls playing with boys, but boys need to have those things that are exclusively for boys.

As far as black males go, yes, I agree there is a problem; society turned its back on black males a long time ago. Some smart people somewhere need to recognize that the problems are: hopelessness, poor self-esteem, education and role models. Black fathers have been missing in action for quite some time.

I’ve lived long enough to know that there are two sides to every story; we never really hear the stories from black men that abandon their families. But for those that have I’d like to share a story with you.

I was fed up with the cost of living in the Bay Area, a place I will always love. I had to make the drastic decision of how to get out. My wife and I agreed that I would leave ahead of the family to go live in South Carolina. It’s much cheaper to live here.

Anyway, for five months I was away from my wife and kids. And it was hard. I have never ever had insomnia a day in my life, but I developed a severe case of it while I was away from my family. It was so bad that it started affecting my vision. In another words, a brother is gonna need some glasses soon.

Anyway, finally the wife and kids joined me out here, our sons 4, 2, and two months were excited to see their dad. As I was happy to see them too.

The other night I left my kids with their older cousin while I showed my wife the town. When we came back home at midnight I was amazed to see them awake. They know that when its time to go to bed, its time to GO to bed. At first I thought it was my two year-old that was the culprit

But nah, to my surprise it was this one, my four year old, he wouldn’t stop crying.

And he isn't one that cries or whines much.

Just as I was about to rein more terror than Osama Bin Laden, my wife alerted me to something: separation anxiety. For five months my kids hadn’t seen me. They were used to seeing me everyday. We played together. We ate together. I disciplined them when they need it. All of sudden they were without their dad.

My four year old said that he’s had dreams about Batman and Dracula, and how Batman was going to bite him. No matter how many times I told him that Batman was the good guy and that Dracula was the bad guy, he wasn’t having it. I took him and his little brother by the hand and walked them upstairs to their room. I read them their favorite story: Pinocchio and the Whale. After that they still wouldn’t go to sleep. So what did I do? I lay there with them until we all fell asleep. They needed the security of their dad in a foreign place.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Can you go to Wal Mart and get carded while buying a DVD.

My wife is the church going one in our family, come 11 o'clock on a Sunday morning (I don't care what the holiday is) I'm fast asleep, I ain't goin' nowhere but my living room. When the "Passion of the Christ" came out a few years back I wanted to see it, but never got around to it. So, there we are in Wal Mart walking past the DVD of the "Passion of the Christ", my wife being the good Christian she is, scoops it up real quick. Personally, I wanted to get "The Mack" on DVD, I've had the video for close to 20 years now.

Anyway, we get to the check out counter and "WOOOOOP, hold it now", says the clerk, "I need to see some ID for this purchase."

I started checkin' the cart out to see if my wife snuck some wine in there or something (she's supposed to be breast-feeding). The next thing I know the clerk is holding the "Passion of the Christ in her hand.

"This film contains language that is offensive and has scenes of graphic violence, you need to be over 18 to purchase this movie."

"Hold up a sec", I say, "Now, I know I have a baby face and all, and the sweatsuit probably doesn't help the situation either, but you've got to know that I am, if not your age then older. Let's be real here", I say trying to find the humor in the situation, "with this gray stubble on my chin, lady how can I be under 18?"

"That doesn't matter, it could be hereditary".

"Wait, wait, wait", I say, still trying to come out of shock and back into my senses, "You mean, you want us to show you ID to see a film about Jesus Christ?" What kind of Jesus Freaks run this place?

"Uh huh, yep that's right", she says.

Now to be honest with you I'm no Christian graphic can the language in a movie about Jesus Christ be? And don't forget "The Passion of the Christ" is in a foreign language, English wasn't around in his days true believers.

Now I do believe that it is a violent movie, cause, once again, and I'm being 100% Oprah honest with you...if it was me that had to die for your sins, sheeeit, we'd all be in hell. From my limited studying of the Good Book, I hear they beat that dude damn near to death. This would be the first movie in a long time that showed a brother getting beat down since Bleek and Giant caught a bad one in Mo Betta Blues.

So like I said, if it was me, that had to die for your sins like that ie; the whip, the crown of thorns on my dome, carrying a cross for mad blocks in the heat and all and not nan ni99@ offered me a drop of mofo's would burn in Satan's Kitchen.

So back to the story.

After we showed ID for the movie the clerk advised us of another law down here: "No buying clothes on Sunday before 1:30 pm".

"What?" I said.

"Well", the clerk said, "it isn't a law, but this Wal Mart will not sell clothes before 1:30 pm on Sundays", she said with a smile.

"Well I''ll be", I said. Only in the south.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


"Big Love" is a new show on HBO about a guy somewhere in Utah who has three wives and seven children. All I can tell you is that I have one wife and three kids and they are more than enough. Only a fool would have three wives...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden…

One of the biggest songs on AM radio in the early 1970’s was a Country/Western song called ‘Rose Garden’ by a singer named Lynn Anderson. The hook went: “I beg your pardon, but I never promised you a rose garden”.

As a little kid I had no idea what in the hell that song was about. I heard it every time my father and I were in the car together. The moment the song would come on he would instantly crank the volume up and laugh as he sang along with the hook. In a voice that sounded eerily similar to Sidney Poitier (at least to me he did) my dad – singing all of the wrong notes, would continue to sing that song until well after we got out of the car. The song, I surmised had some special meaning to him.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you – or the one you’re with, complains about your life together, the quickest response is usually to say “Hey, nobody’s perfect.” Or you say what Lynn Anderson said so poetically “I never promised you a rose garden.”

Nowadays it looks like President Bush wants to sing that song to us. And judging by the latest headlines he has a lot of singing to do: “IRAQ IS ON THE VERGE OF CIVIL WAR”. His response: “I beg your pardon...” The next headline: “IRAN THREATENS PAIN ON U.S.” His response: “I never promised you a rose garden.”

In all honesty I have something to admit to you, during the 2000 presidential election, to the consternation of my family, I was a rat’s hair close to voting for George Bush. I was fed up with the way the Democratic Party has taken the Black vote for granted. All a white Democrat has to do is throw on a dashiki and show up to the biggest Black church on a Sunday morning and clap as close to on beat as he can, and BAM: He gets the Black vote. I wasn’t havin’ it. No more, I said, a candidate must come with some concrete facts and a plan before he gets my vote. So, in that spirit I figured “hey, let’s hear what this Bush fella is talking about.”

Let’s put it this way, that Tuesday election in 2000 I didn’t cast my vote for Bush.

When he got into office I figured, ok, here’s there let’s see what he’s gonna do. Well, not too long after getting into office 9/11 jumped off. I was all for going to Afghanistan and kickin’ ass over there. But then he started mentioning Sadaam Hussein’s name one too many times. I was still heartbroken over the World Trade Center. I reasoned to myself that we should hear him out about going over there. I was scared of being attacked again – like everyone else. He insisted that they were very close to having a nuclear weapon. In some speeches he said they were two years away from acquiring a weapon of mass destruction. Which was a lie.

Bush mentioned our intelligence reports in his speeches, which, have now been confirmed to be totally and completely inaccurate. He said, “Based on our intelligence and other evidence.” He never said what that evidence was.

His reasons for going over there just didn’t sit right with me. The only valid point he made, as far as I was concerned, was that the Iraqis kept thwarting the inspection process. One of the conditions that the Iraqis agreed to when they surrendered back in 1991 was that they would allow open and free inspections. The inspections never really went right, there was always a delay. We imposed economic sanctions on them. They were suffering.
But they had nothing to do with terrorism.

When we finally got on the ground there after the whole ‘shock and awe’ thing we found no weapons of mass destruction. Nor did we find any terrorists. They’ve found their way there now, but they weren’t there before.

The war in Iraq, which many of us thought would be a rerun of the lightning-quick 1991 war, is turning out to be the worse conflict we have seen as a nation. This war may be worse than the one in Vietnam. Everyday that we spend over there is another day that we have pissed off more Arabs. This is a war that we cannot win.

What we don’t understand is that unlike us, when our nation was being born, there was a movement that led up to the Revolutionary War. There was a movement from within the country, people were pissed off and were organizing themselves to make change. That’s what separates us from them. We as a people wanted change. There was no movement on the ground in Iraq to overthrow Sadaam. There was no movement or rallying cry around Iraq for democracy. For us to say, ‘Here we have gotten rid of Sadaam for you, now go ahead and elect a government so we can leave. Your destiny is in your hands man, God love you.” Is total bullshit. That country has been around since the time of Noah’s Ark and they have known nothing but kings, emperors, rulers, shahs and whoever else can wear a crown. To expect them to have democracy after three years when they didn’t ask for it is wrong.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's Hard Out Here For A Real Hip Hopper

By Mark Skillz

Many people dismissed a movie about a Memphis pimp going through a mid-life crisis who turns to rap for his salvation. It was called ‘trite’, ‘exploitative’ and corny. But it was one of the best movies of 2005. The film’s title song “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” had heads boppin’ in movie theatres, but no one would’ve guessed that the song, by Three 6 Mafia would’ve won an Oscar.

I know I didn’t.

In recent years “Crunk” and all aesthetics attached to it have been the Willie Horton of modern day hip-hop. Black intellectuals and hip-hop purists alike have singled this sub-genre out for being the cause of everything that is wrong with hip-hop today. The grillz, the bling, the tats, the white tee’s and the country slang have all been made symbols of everything that ails the hip-hop movement. In a lot of corners the mind set is: if they would go away we could have our hip-hop back.

In a perfect world maybe, but we live in a world that is far from perfect.

Hats off to Three 6 Mafia they did their thing, they represented their hood in the best way they knew how. Hip-hop is all about expressing who you are to the greater world. Whether it’s Crazy Legs kicking his legs around at 60 miles per hour, or D.J. Roc Raider on the cross fader, or an MC from Tennessee spittin’ a hot verse into a microphone, or Futura 2000 tagging a wall; it’s the artists way of expressing the following mantra: I AM. I BE.

Whether or not you agree with the subject matter of the song, you still have to take off your hat to those brothers, they didn’t start rappin’ last week, these are some guys that have been on the grind, for many years now, they deserve that award.

But what’s sad about all of this is that while Three 6 Mafia were being celebrated on one side and dismissed by the other, a whole other scene, a truly sad scene was being played out on the campus of Stanford University.

Hip-hop pioneers Busy Bee and KRS One hijacked a recent panel discussion on hip-hop to the shock and awe of all that attended. They called journalists and scholars to task for not really representing the culture. They angrily questioned the legitimacy of a panel that discussed hip-hop, but without the presence of any Bronx pioneers. They constantly uttered the refrain: “I am hip-hop”, as if no one else in attendance had any connection to the culture as well.

What was more shocking than KRS One’s repeated outbursts were his threats against my colleague and brother journalist Adisa Banjanko. To everyone’s surprise he threatened Adisa with bodily harm, called him a “FBI agent”, “a traitor to the movement” and “a fraud”.

I know Adisa and I’ve known of Adisa’s work for many years now, if there is a pioneer hip-hop journalist, Adisa – among a few others, is surely it. I remember when the brother used to write into The Source magazine, you could find his comments, religiously, on the ‘letter to the editor’ page. It would always say “The Bishop of Hip Hop”. Speaking of those days, here’s a mission for you true believers, find the The Source cover with Ice Cube on the front in 1991 and look at the letters to the editor page and tell me what names you find there. If you look hard enough, you’ll see the first scribblings from yours truly.

Adisa is a guy who loved hip-hop and Black Nationalism and found a way to carve out a niche for himself in this culture of ours. None of us that write about hip-hop do it out of anything less than a total and complete love for the culture. It is hard to do something for little to no money when you don’t love it. I’ve told many a young and aspiring journalist that if you’re going to write about this thing of ours, the man you should look to for inspiration is Adisa Banjanko. To call Adisa a ‘fraud’ and an ‘enemy to our movement’ is not only counter-productive, but its as wrong as the day is long.

At one time KRS One was the standard bearer for what a hip-hopper could be.

For Busy Bee and KRS One to dismiss the journalists and scholars who write about and study hip-hop is counter-productive. We all need each other in this thing of ours. Without writers who are passionate about the culture artists stories go undocumented. What many people don’t know or forget is that before the Internet, Source magazine, XXL or any other media outlet, hip-hop got poor coverage. You could count the number of media outlets on one hand that accurately reported on hip-hop music.

I can understand why a guy like Busy Bee would be frustrated, beyond his appearance in the movie “Wild Style”, and being the first brother in hip-hop to be lyrically ambushed on stage in 1980 by Kool Moe Dee, the only other noteworthy credit in his career was a hot record he did back in ’88 called “Suicide”. Before 1990 guys like him were luckier than a four-leaf clover if they got two inches of column space on a page.

KRS is a different story all together. He has graced every magazine cover in hip-hop for the last 20 years. Throughout his career KRS has made statements to reporters that not only left writers speechless, but readers as well. Like many of us, he is a study in contradictions: Afrocentrist, Humanist, scholar, poet, teacher, scientist, hard rock and many other things.

Kris Parker, the man, the artist grew up in public. I’ve heard him on numerous occasions say things that baffled me to no end: “George Bush is a great president”, “I am a scholar”, “Don’t vote”, “I am the God of Rap”, “I was a seminary student”, ‘I am the living embodiment of hip-hop”, “fuck education” and so many other things that I’ve walked away in disbelief each time.

This latest public outburst is helping to destroy the credibility of a man who once lectured at prestigious universities all over the country. It’s like standing across the street watching a reckless driver and a voice inside your head says, “Yo, he’s about to crash.”…And then it happens. As a fan and as a brother in the struggle I think it’s time for KRS to take a break and take stock of what’s going on around him.

With all of the passion we all have for hip-hop, we often times come off, individually and together, as if we had divine ownership of her. Many of us act like because we heard or were into the music before someone else, that it means that we somehow love it more than anyone else does. Hell, I tell people all the time that the music found me in 1978. God reached down out of the clouds and said, “Mark, you are hip-hop...”

It’s kind of like sibling rivalry, the oldest brother feels like he is inherently closer to the mother because he was born first, that makes him somehow or another more special that the rest of the children. The middle children always feel like they have to fight for attention and the younger ones, forget about it, they’re spoiled.

It’s time we all grew up and got passed our beefs over who’s real hip-hop and who’s rap, who’s living it and who’s not. There are more pressing issues that we as adults have to confront that affect our community than something as trivial as who loves hip-hop more. Hip Hop belongs to the world, not to one man, or one city, or town or borough; but the whole world. We are all hip-hop.