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.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iceberg Slim, Sidewalk Justice

It's been a long time I shouldn't have left you...I know, I know, I keep letting you down. Sorry but there's been one too many things happening in this crazy thing called my life. Please believe I been working real hard on bringing you high powered, super-charged up, ultra-magnetic articles to read for the future.

It all began when I started doing research about one of my heroes Robert 'Iceberg Slim' Beck. I've never seen an article, or a book about the man who inspired a movement. Gangsta lit/ghetto lit whatever you wanna call it, started with him way back in 1967. Beck wrote seven books, three of which were autobiographical. Of those three books: "Pimp: The Story of My Life", "Naked Soul" and "Airtight Willie and Me" he was loose with certain facts about his life. I thought to myself that it would be cool if someone - using journalistic techniques, told the story of the man behind the books.

Nice idea, right?

It is the hardest project I have ever undertaken. For one thing his widow refuses to do interviews. His first wife - well, common-law wife, is too sick to talk. His daughters? Oh my God, they are hard to find. I reached out to them through a lawyer and two publishers, to which I got no response. Which means, that they too don't wanna talk.

Which is ashamed. We're talking about a man that started a movement. We're talking about a man that is said to be one of the best selling African American writers ever. He sold somewhere near six million books that have been translated into four different languages in forty years. So we're not talking about some obscure guy. We're talking about someone that has had an impact on our culture... And his family doesn't want to talk publicly about him? That doesn't sound right.

If it was my dad that had a major impact on American culture I would share anything I could about him. But I guess, not everyone thinks like I do. Shame.

I pitched the story around to magazines and newspapers, all of whom passed...they don't get it.

But all is not lost true believer.

I told my editor Andre Torres at Wax Poetics what I had been working on and he's interested in it, so all I gotta do is find an angle and edit what I have and we'll take it from there. Stay tuned on that front...

I was talking with my home boy Ronin Ro last night and we got to talking about the 'Stop Snitchin' movement that is plaguing our communities. Here's my take on 'Stop Snitchin'...

If you and I are both doing grimy ass, illegal ass s%#!t together and I get busted...I can't rollover on you and tell the cops what your doing. I have to do my time like a man. If I tell on you - then I'm a snitch.

There are certain occasions when it is necessary to go to the cops. For instance: Your next door neighbor sits in front of his window (curtains open) all day jacking off looking at little kids. What do you do?

Me, I'm knocking on his door first. He'll have his dick in his hand, I'll have a baseball bat or a hammer (which oddly are both phallic symbols, but the similarities end there) in mine. He will quickly get the point that if he doesn't...

A) Close his fu$&kin window.
B) Stay the hell away from my kids and everybody else's kids

He will see that a baseball bat and or a hammer are harder - and more deadly, than his dick. After that I'd go to the property management and tell them that I promised to discombobulate and do some real primitive ish to the retard in 4E.

Let's say I knew that the guys next door were bank robbers - would I call the cops? Hell no. Robbing banks is a victim less crime (for the most part) the insurance pays the bank off.

But let's say, the idiots next door to me are bank robbers who have gone on a violent bank robbing spree. Would I tell?

Hell yeah. Now they've involved innocent people. What if that was your kid? Or your grandmother or moms cashing a check when Wally Gator and crew come in and stick the bank up and start pistol whipping customers. They deserve the wrath of the law.

Here's where it gets more interesting.

Let's say my son saw a robbery take place. He saw first hand the whole thing and even knew the guys that did it. Do you know what I'd tell him to do? Keep quiet.


Kids are in a different social structure than we are. I'd tell my son: Look, you saw what you saw, you know what you know, but for your own safety, you didn't see nothing. Kids can get to other kids real quick. Kids roll in large groups. Your average thirty and forty year old doesn't roll like that. The best way for a kid to protect himself is to be quiet and to stay out of the game.

However, if it is a violent crime that my son has witnessed ie; rape or murder, then we are both going to the cops. After that Smith and Wesson will be actively protecting my residence.

As adults we have different responsibilities. If I see a violent crime ie; rape, murder, carjacking, molestation I'm going to the cops. I'm a regular dude. I ain't a gangster. Gangsters have it to where they can exact their own revenge, your regular average ordinary pedestrian doesn't have it like that. We have to go to the cops for justice.

"Stop Snitchin" has turned our communities into places where justice rarely ever gets served because no one wants to be involved and no one wants to do do anything. So the sense of community is non-existent because our homes and stores have become havens for criminals

Friday, May 18, 2007

Didn't see it coming

There were just certain things that I knew were going to happen on my favorite TV shows this season.

Let’s start with ‘The Sopranos’, I just knew that Chris was going to get caught up with drugs and dealing with the two Arab guys that had been coming around buying weapons, that he’d get busted for it, and then turn rat for the Feds.
Damn, was I wrong…

I didn’t see that coming.

Nor did I see Melinda Doolittle losing to one of
the weakest and weirdest American Idol contestants yet.

I didn’t see that coming.

The problem with American Idol isn’t a matter of racial conspiracies or a flawed voting system. No, it’s none of that. It’s a flawed American youth culture.

What we’re seeing are a bunch of 13-18 year-olds who have every access to modern technology, but sorely lacking in judgment. We’re seeing kids who basically don’t know how to judge talent based on the necessary components that come with it: craftsmanship, skill level, technical ability and originality. When you see a talented singer like Melinda voted off, you have to wonder.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Inside and Out

Once again I’ve been away too long. I know, I know. Life is has been pretty rough nowadays. You know the saying: “When life throws you lemons…make lemonade, right?” Well, what do you do when life throws you shit? Throw shit back, right?

I’ve been busy trying to write proposals and articles and deal with my family and work, that I get very little time to talk to you.

Someday soon Wax Poetics will run my Eddie Cheba article; I can’t wait to see it in print. You have to understand something, I hounded Eddie for two years for that article. I stepped my pen game up 200% for that piece, I put my heart into it. I can’t wait for you to see it, you’ll know what I mean. No one has ever told the story of that side of hip hop history like that before. Trust me its well worth the wait.

I also handed in an article about the rise of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, considering their nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame it is a timely piece, and it too is some of my best work. I checked all of the major publications and none of them, not one of them, covered the story like I did. But, I have no idea when that article will see the light of day.

I know I have an idea you should contact Wax and tell them “Hey run them Mark Skillz joints…”

The Virginia Tech shooting was horrifying to me. It made me stop and think about all of the potential wacko’s I could’ve offended over the years. You never know what goes through some people’s heads, man. One day, you’re in class minding your business and then some wack job is in the back of the class taking pictures of people not saying anything. You have no idea what the pictures are for or nothing. For all you know he’s using them to jack off to. You never know.

The scariest thing – it was all scary, but the part that bugged me out was he stopped what he was doing to record a video and take pictures of himself. That tells you something about the impact that the media has on wacko’s. One day, someone else is going to imitate what this nut job did, except in his video he’s gonna stop talking and pull down his pants and start wacking off. I’m telling you its coming. Sorry, no pun intended. But it’s true.

I’ve been hooked on American Idol lately I don’t care what, I hope Melinda Doolittle wins.
Her performance last night was dope to me. I don’t care what Simon and Randy say.

Speaking of American Idol, that dude Blake is kinda corny yo. I mean he’s a talented dude and all, but on the real, all that shit he’s doing to them songs is kinda corny kid. When he makes them sound effects he makes the songs sound like you’re in some weird club somewhere where you need to be taking some kind of mind altering drug in order to dance. His last song last night was aiiight, but he killed – and I mean killed not in a good way, ‘You should be dancing’ – wack, wack, wack, totally corny.

I know you like LaKisha but, on the real she ain’t gonna win, yo. A lot of black women I know are rooting for LaKisha because she in a way represents them. Stay with me on this. LaKisha looks like an ordinary sister, she can sing, but she’s a big girl. And a lot of women can identify with a big girl easier because she is non- threatening to them. She is one of them.

Check this out, bring up the subject of ‘Dreamgirls’ and watch what happens. Most Black women are rooting for Jennifer Hudson’s character because they just ‘ain’t feeling Beyonce’. Not Beyonce’s character – but Beyonce the person. See what I mean? Beyonce is threatening to them; her beauty makes her someone they don’t want to relate to. Check that out then get back with me and we’ll compare notes.

Men, we don’t have those hang ups. We have other hang ups, but we won’t knock the next dude because he looks better than us…nah, nah, nah, nah, we’ll knock the next dude if he tries to play like he’s better than us. He can think whatever he wants – we don’t care, but if he tries to play like he’s king of the castle then there will be probs. Most dudes who knock the next dude do it out of insecurity. Same as women. But for men, at least most men I know, so long as homie isn’t throwing shit in your face its all good. Get back at me on that we need to talk about it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Shot of Viagra for the Movement

Last weeks incident with Tony Yayo and Jimmy Rosemond’s 14-year-old son has sparked outrage in New York. Which is a good thing. But when will we confront the real enemy?

Who’s the real enemy you ask?

The real enemies are the ignorant ass jack offs, who – of their own free will, continue to perpetuate the worse stereotypes of Black men. And guess what? They too are Black men.

You know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the so-called brothers and sisters that who – through their own actions, have shown that they don’t hold the same values as the rest of Black America. These people choose to be niggas. Or niggers. Or if you really want to keep it real niggaz.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence and run down for you what a nigga is. I think you know.

But what of this planned rally? Is it going to be more sermons and freedom songs or is it going to spark real meaningful dialogue amongst Black people? Bill Cosby has been touring the country for the last couple of years speaking his peace. Stanley Crouch has been on his stepladder condemning our generation for so long, I’m starting to think the brother is glued there or something. We haven’t given him reason to stop because he’s right. Especially when you think about recent events. Anyone remember NBA All Star weekend for starters?

If the Hip Hop Action Network really wants to make a difference here’s what they can do. They can march all right. They can find out where that brother Tony Yayo is going to be that day and march to that building or house and hold their protest there. Bring drummers, conga players and a several thousand pissed off people. Be sure to beat the drums loud so that people know you mean business.

And when you get to his location break out the stepladder and turn on the bullhorn and say the following: “Marvin Bernard (that’s his real name) this is the Black community. Bring your black ass out here nigga! It’s time for you to answer to the people!”

Back in the 60’s they identified the enemy and made an example of him. Anyone remember the name Bull Connor? Hearing his name today wouldn’t cause a normal sane Black person to feel warm and fuzzy now does it? That’s because we know he’s the enemy.

Same for the people like Marvin Bernard.
If we don’t confront them our movement will continue to be as limp as a bad case of Erectile Dysfunction. Russell Simmons and Ben Chavis have decided to not take part in the planned rally. Hmmmmm…I wonder what they really think about the subject? I smell poverty pimpin’ goin’ on. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deep In the Heart of Texas

I always heard that Texas wasn’t a place to go fuckin around at. I remember my first trip there, I was stunned by the signs on the doors of just about any business you went in: “NO GUNS ALLOWED” or this one: “No Concealed Weapons Allowed At All”.

“What the fuck?” I thought to myself. At first I thought it was a joke of some kind. After a while I realized these mofo’s weren’t playing. I remember tapping someone on the shoulder and asking them about the signs. They told me that it was legal to carry a gun in Texas it just couldn’t be concealed. As a matter of fact you can shoot a person in Texas as long as you can prove that it was in self-defense.

Now imagine something like that in New York or California.
“Pow! Pow!”
“Hands up ni----“
“Hey, hey, hey, it was self-defense that asshole stepped on my sneakers!”
“Oh yeah? Tell it to the judge Tupac!”

See couldn’t have that kind of shit anywhere else but Texas.

It all goes way back deep in this countrys history. Back when the English started settling here. And in fact even further than that. When one dude had a beef with another dude they’d settle it with a duel. Yeah for real. Here’s how it would go down.

One guy would write another guy a letter.

“Dear Sir,

You hath offended me and my honor sir. I challenge you to a duel to the death. You may choose whatever weapon of your choice. If you don’t have a weapon I shall be happy to provide one for you. I say we meet at daybreak two mornings from now. Where we will turn our backs to each other and count off twenty paces out loud and then turn and shoot at each other, until one of us is dead.

If you don’t show you will provide further proof that you are of dubious character and will hath offended me more.

May the better man be the victor.


That’s some wild shit ain’t it? You see these guys had ‘gentlemen agreements’ and stuff like that. There was a code these cats went by. So ok, the one dude who was challenged to the duel would respond by letter as well.

“Dear Sir,

I accept your challenge and I am ready to defend my honor sir.


These idiots would meet out in the open with a referee of sorts, it would be someone who made sure these things were carried out in an honorable fashion. So dig it, they’d meet and turn their backs against each other and count off an agreed upon number of steps and then turn, and in some cases would take turns shooting at each other.

After a while guys who were a little less scrupulous did things like instead of taking the agreed upon 20 paces would turn around and shoot after five steps or some shit like that. Me myself, shit, I would set that shit up so that my tenth step was behind a tree or something. Or better yet, when the letter came demanding the duel, I would have acted like it was a bill collector and refused that shit.

“Fuck you” I’d write back.

But as the country moved west things degenerated. The kind of people that moved to settle the west weren’t blue bloods or aristocrats or nothing like that. Nah, these guys didn’t mind going days or weeks or hell months on end without a bath or a shave. They were much more rugged than the guys back East.

So that dueling shit had to change.

Since these guys weren’t abiding by ‘gentlemen agreements’ in the wild, wild west - in came the showdowns. The quicker you were on the draw the more likely you were to live.

So as the wind blew the old dried up tumbleweeds around and the old broken down doors frantically open and shut as people fled the street, two desperadoes would meet in the middle of the dirt road. Neither one of them had bathed in months and you probably smelled a mixture of piss, shit, whiskey and fear from both of them from all the way back in the saloon. They probably chewed so much tobaccee that their teeth were rotted and brown. But it was alright because you were only gonna be smelling one of them after it was all said and done.

Nowadays nobody waits for another person to draw before they shoot, if you can get your shot off first your lucky.

Texas is a real law and order kind of place now. Since the death penalty was re-established some years back, they have executed more people than any other state. They’ve executed some 386 people in ten years. In California, you could’ve gotten sentenced to death row in 1978 and your ass might be up for execution this year.

In Texas there’s no waiting period buddy. There have been times when they have had three executions in one day! Now that’s law and order for your ass.

Now they amended the law to where you no longer have to retreat if someone is attacking you. You can just pull your shit out and shoot. “Boo-Yaa!” that’s right. You can take them out right on the spot if they threaten you on your property, in your car or at work.

Ain’t that some shit.

Habitual Line Steppin' in the Age of Beef

Word on the street is Jimmy Rosemond is not a guy to be messed with. His nickname is “Henchmen”. He earned that rep that hard way on the streets of New York in the 70’s, ‘80’s and 90’s. Since I don’t know the man personally, I won’t be the one to be spreading half truths and rumors. Let’s just say I wouldn’t wanna be Tony Yayo right about now.

According to this from Tony Yayo allegedly put his hands on Jimmy’s son.

Where I come from that means war.

To hell with beef…when a grown ass man slaps a kid – that ain’t his, oh that ni--- got an ass whuppin’ comin! There are consequences and repercussions for shit like that. Walls shake and furniture moves when someone crosses that line.

Ordinarily I am against violence. But on an occasion like this: I understand.

Should a pile of rocks happen to suddenly fall out of the sky and onto Tony Yayo’s head – I’d understand.

Should he be sitting in his prison cell and suddenly and mysteriously find himself hanging from whatever objects are attached to the ceiling of his cell – I’d understand.

There are a few immovable laws of the streets that everyone abides by. Well, they should abide by. And at the top of that list after ‘don’t talk about nobody’s moms’ is: ‘don’t touch another mans kids’.

If you have beef with somebody keep it to that man, don’t cross the line and take it to the kids.

But let’s just say, and I’m sure of this, he didn’t know that that was Jimmy’s son. Ok, but why would a 29 year old man hit a 14 year old boy?

Regardless if the kid had a big mouth or not, you don’t hit a 14 year old. What’s that prove?

“Yo man, I just slapped this lil’ ni----“…
“Oh word?”
“Yeah, man this lil’ ni---- was wearing a Czar Entertainment t-shirt and shit man.”

Sounds ignorant to me.

Now on the other hand let’s say hypothetically that the kid is lying, because he said 50 Cent was there as well. It would be ashamed if these brothers went to war over a lie. One member of G-Unit has manned up and said if it did go down it wasn’t cool. Let’s see what kind of man 50 Cent is.

That’s 50’s home boy from way back. But home boys or not. You can’t back your mans when they get out of line like that.

We’ll see how it breaks down later.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

An Important Life Lesson

Of all of the people I remember from third grade there will be one person that I will never forget. Her name was Miriam. We went to PS 24 in Flushing, Queens. Don't ask me what year it was cause I damn sure don't remember. Let's just be safe and say it was in the mid to late 70's.

Anyway, everybody in my class used to run away from this skinny Puerto Rican girl named Miriam. I never knew the reason. At the very sight of her mother fuckers would start bookin'. "Ill Miriam's coming..." And they would dash away like roaches. The rumor was she threw up in a water fountain and contaminated the drinking water for the whole entire school or something like that.

Well, after a while stupid me joined in on it too.

"Ill, Miriam!" I said as I ran as fast as I could.

That went on for about a year.

Fourth grade rolled around and we did the same thing to her. That was until one day in March or April I think it was. Had to be one of those months cause it wasn't cold anymore.

There was Miriam walking across the schoolyard. 'Ill Miriam", I said as I started jettin' the hell out of the way. Word was she had 'cooties'. Whatever in the hell 'cooties' were I sure as shit didn't want them.

But this day wasn't gonna go down like any other day.

Just as I was reaching top speed lo and behold Miriam was hot on my tracks. 'Oh shit the cootie girl is gonna get me!' I accelerated more, I looked back, "Goddamn, she's closing in!"

I juked to the left and then a quick right, then I made another quick juke to the left, surely she'd be in the dust by now.

Hell no, her hand was damn near on the back of my shirt. "No, don't touch me please!' I shouted.

'Gotcha!' She said.

'Oh no, I'm gonna start throwing up or something like that" I thought.

But it didn't happen.

"See, I touched you and nothing happened to you." She said looking me square in the eyes.

"Yeah, huh" I said surprised.

"Why do you run from me? I don't even know you."

"I dunno." Stupid me responded.

"See, you run from me because everyone else does. That's not right."

'It isn't?' Stupid me responded back.

'No, how would you like it if I did the same thing to you?"

'I don't think I'd like it."

"So how do you think I feel?'

"Hey, you're right."

"When you see me just wave and say hi, I'm not a bad person."

'Ok, you got it."

After that whenever she and I saw each other we always smiled and said hi to each other. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that girl. She taught me to never follow the crowd. Just because one person doesn't like somebody doesn't mean that i have to dislike them too.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Conspiracy theories and different agendas @ the Rock Hall of Fame

On the streets of New York City in the 1970’s the name Grandmaster Flash rung louder than a fire engine siren. He had the rep. He was definitely the man back then. I heard the name before I heard the man.

One day at the Jamaica Alden – an old movie theatre in Jamaica, Queens – this was a ghetto ass theatre on Jamaica Ave, if memory serves me right. My pops took me and my brother to see the ‘Fish That Saved Pittsburgh’. To show you just how rowdy this theatre was, you had dudes walking in there playin’ their box as if they were outside. Cats were smokin’ weed and passin’ 40’s as if they were at a party. I mean it was some real nig- type shit.

Anyway, the song ‘Good Times’ by Chic was the hottest record out at the time. Deejays loved to cut the shit out of that record. Everywhere you went you heard it. Right before the movie started up someone was playing a Flash tape on their box. I now know that it was Mele Mel on the mic at that party, back then I had no idea who was talking on the mic for Flash, but it was just before ‘Rapper’s Delight’ came out. This rap shit was at a fever pitch on the streets.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard ‘Superrappin’. To this day that is one of my favorite songs from that group. It was the first time that I heard a group of five MC’s literally sound like one. And their rap skills were head, shoulders, knees and toes above the Sugar Hill Gangs.

Now that the group has finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it feels kind of like the movement has been validated in some ways. Way back in the day, rap music was definitely not respected, in fact, for many years it was the ugly stepchild of the music industry. No one really respected the music. They didn’t value it because guys were ‘just talking over a beat’. Many people – right until today, don’t think that it takes talent. And if they do think it takes talent, they don’t put it on the same level as singing or playing an instrument. It’s really not a respected art form.

While I was watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on TV, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, because the group that electrified the movement – the movement that I have been apart of for my whole life, the same movement that I grew up with, was finally taking its place alongside the greats of Rock history.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are to me and my generation what Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ike Turner and the Beatles are to previous generations. They were the group with the biggest influence, hell; they were the first rap group.

The thing that disappointed me the most watching the broadcast was Jay Z’s introduction of them. And here’s why…

Jay Z is definitely one of the greatest rappers ever. I’ve followed dudes career from ’85 to now. And that’s just it. Jay and I are the same age, we’re both damn near 40’s year old. How can he get up in front of any camera or any audience anywhere on a night as historical as that and not talk about what impact that group had on him personally? It defies any logical explanation I can think of.

Like I said Jay ain’t no 22 year old from Boise, Idaho or someplace like that, he knows how important that group is to hip-hop. None of us would be doing what we’re doing now, had it not been for them. And that’s real.

Over the years I have interviewed just about all of the
major hip hop pioneers for various articles I’ve written in print and online. Many of them have mentioned a conspiracy of sorts that is meant to downplay their contributions to the culture. Many of have said that there is a stigma attached to being a hip-hop pioneer that is difficult to live with. Part of that conspiracy that the brothers have talked about is that anyone prior to RUN-DMC, it’s almost as if they didn’t exist or weren’t as important as Run and them.

At first I didn’t believe it. I thought it was the remnants of the coke some of them had been sniffin’ in the 80’s.

That was until one night when LL Cool J accepted a Soul Train Award – I think for lifetime achievement or something like that. LL credited Run DMC as being “the creators of rap as we know it today”.

That statement struck me in between the eyes and has stayed with me to this day. “How can Run and them be that?” I asked myself. That’s impossible. It’s physically, mathematically and historically impossible. I could see someone 21 years old and from Butte, Montana or somewhere like that, saying something like that, because they wouldn’t know.

But not James Todd Smith from Hollis, Queens a guy who like myself and Jay Z is also damn near 40. Ain’t no way.

Someone damn near 40 – and or over 40 and from New York has a different perspective of the music and the culture than someone who is damn near 40 and from Shreveport, Louisiana. They aren’t going to know about the block parties, the jam tapes, the weekend jams at parks, rec centers, gyms, parking lots, parking garages, roller rinks and anywhere else a crew of guys could set up a sound system and jam. A person from outside of New York is not going to understand certain things that were apart of the culture back then. They just wouldn’t.

So when I hear these guys who are my age and whom I know grew up on the music the same way I did, not personalize their experience and omit the contributions of guys like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, I reflect on those conspiracy theories and they gain more credibility day by day.

But why would anyone work to discredit them?

The theory is is that Russell Simmons is behind it. For some reason allegedly, Russell doesn’t want anyone or any group to overshadow RUN-DMC.

And to be honest there is some credibility there. Check this out.

In 1985 the movie ‘Krush Groove’ came out. This was a movie that featured just about all of the Rush Artist Management groups. From what I understand, originally, the movie wasn’t even going to be about Russell, it was going to be called ‘The King of Rap’ or something like that and was going to be about Kurtis Blow.

Somehow or another that got changed.

When the movie was released Right On magazine did a full feature on the movie and its stars. This was big back then. By the way Right On Magazine was the only publication covering hip-hop back then, Spin Magazine would come along in the late 80’s and do it, they were the first to seriously cover the music. Anyway, in this issue they described Kurtis Blow’s character as an “aging over the hill rapper who’s career was over.”

From what I understand Kurtis was born in 1959 in 1985 he would’ve been 23 years old when that movie came out. Now you tell me, how is a dude washed up at 23 years old?

It wouldn’t be until years later when I learned about the industry that I learned that an artist’s management are the ones that protect his image in the press. They work with fan magazines on articles and whatnot – those articles were advertisement, so I imagine RUSH Artist Management paid for that write up.

Hmmmmmm….why would an artists manager dare let one of his acts be seen as ‘washed up and over the hill?”

Unless they had another agenda.

From what I understand the first rap group with a platinum album is not RUN-DMC, it’s Whodini’s ‘Escape’. Not only that, but Run and them have been credited for having been the first rap group on Soul Train and American Bandstand. How is that possible when Kurtis Blow was the first rap artist on Soul Train and the Sugar Hill Gang were the first rap group on American Bandstand.

Unless someone has another agenda.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Looking For Mr. Untouchable

At some point this summer in some obscure town somewhere in Middle America, an old unassuming Black man is going to have an acute interest in two movies. One of them is called ‘American Gangster’ and the other is a documentary called ‘Mr. Untouchable’. To the people in some quiet suburban section of the heartland, neither movie will matter to them.

For nine years this old, bald, bespectacled Black man, has lived quietly amongst them, far removed from the life he once lead a lifetime ago.

If for some reason, by some twist of fate, the old man would stumble upon someone over 60 years of age from Harlem, New York – he’d feel the kind of sense of danger that he’d hadn’t felt in many years.

Once upon a time a long time ago, in a different life, his name was Nicky Barnes. He was New York’s biggest drug lord. That was until he was bought down by the Feds and incarcerated for life. And then he flipped on his people and turned informant. That’s why he isn’t Nicky Barnes anymore. He’s been in the Federal Witness Protection Program and has been quiet.

Until now.

In March of this year Rugged Land Publishing released “
Mr. Untouchable: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Heroin’s Teflon Don”. ‘Mr. Untouchable’ captured Barnes in all of his arrogance, cunning and shrewdness.

Barnes lived well. He had the best of everything: Rolex watches, mink coats, custom made Italian suits, platinum rings with huge diamonds and all the ‘zings’ he could smoke.

What is a ‘zing’? According to Barnes it was a joint rolled with hash oil, Jamaican Motah weed, angel dust and crystal cocaine sprinkled in for good measure. The high gave you an ‘Arabian floating feeling’ he said.

The 1970’s were a helluva time to be Black. The Civil Rights Movement, the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party emboldened African Americans like at no time before. Tremendous strides were made on many fronts. But if you were an African American drug lord in the ‘70’s, well, the world was yours as they say.

It was the first time in the history of organized crime that so many Black men were able to stand up and free themselves from being under the feet of the Italian Mob. There had always been organized crime in Black communities; the problem was Black racketeers were dependant upon the Italians.

This summer when the movie ‘
American Gangster’ starring Denzel Washington hits the theatres, it will be very difficult for Barnes, now 74 to stop himself from going to see the movie. ‘American Gangster’ is about one of Barnes old rivals Frank Lucas. In his day, the North Carolina born Lucas was as ruthless as they come. Barnes and Lucas didn’t care for one another at all. Cuba Gooding, Jr. will be playing Barnes on the screen.

The other movie Barnes – or whatever his name is nowadays, will be hard pressed to avoid is a documentary about his life called ‘Mr. Untouchable’. For the first time in years Barnes will get to hear from his former associates, and get their take on his rise and fall.

I’ve known about Nicky Barnes since the 80’s, I had heard he was a snitch. I never understood why a man of his supposed stature would turn on his people. After reading the book, I understand why.

The book ‘Mr. Untouchable’ is about loyalty, greed and revenge.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hip Hop's Death and Music Evolution

It is said that in the last days of disco record companies were losing their shirts left and right. They had sunken millions of dollars into a dying art form and everyone was crying. There were signs everywhere “Disco Sucks”.

Some of everybody recorded a disco record Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, Phyllis Diller, Rick Dees (gotdamned Disco Duck) and too many others. It was a cash cow in the 70’s. White folks danced off beat in discothèques, had orgies in stairways, openly snorted cocaine, drank champagne – like the shit really tasted good, it was the time of their lives. That was until the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement caught momentum and people stopped buying Donna Summers records. And oh yeah, all those nights of bingeing on cocaine and sex led to things like herpes and then AIDS.

Now that sucks.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about hip-hop being dead. I’m not sure if it is or not, but let’s go back to my disco example first.

If you wanna see if Tommy Mottola is really a connected guy – you know some Italian cats like to say that they “know a guy who knows a guy that knows a guy that is connected…” well, Tommy’s allegedly one of those guys who knows some guys who can plant your ass in Giant Stadium. Anyway, if you want to piss him off try going into his office and getting a deal for a disco act. Just mention words like “fever”, “boogie” and uh while you’re at it wear a white suit a`la Johnny Travolta in Saturday Night Fever style. Then look out because some 400-pound guy in shades with a baseball bat is going to escort you to the parking lot the Jimmy Hoffa way.

Tommy was one of those record execs who lost his shirt during the disco days. Disco is a bad word in record industry circles.

But is disco really dead? I mean how can a style of music die? Well disco morphed into house, techno and you also hear elements of it in acid jazz.

For the record they also say that Jazz is dead too…

Well if you ask any trained jazz musician he might say two things, one of them being: “No, it’s not dead”, then he might say something like “it isn’t appreciated like it should be.” And he would be right.

What about rock? What about the rock n roll of Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis and all of those guys is that dead?

Well no one is recording new records in that style anymore. What is difficult for me to believe is that once upon a time – a very long time ago, those acts (minus Jerry Lee Lewis) were supported by African Americans. But if you go to see Chuck Berry, Little Richard or anyone else of that genre now, you will be hard pressed to find a black face in the crowd.

Do you know why? Because we abandoned that style of music 50 years ago.

I have a test for you put an ad in a Minneapolis newspaper say something like “Producer with a million dollar budget looking for excitingly, fresh band in the vein of Prince and The Time” and see who responds. Do you know what you’ll get? Five fat guys in their late 40’s who have just dusted off their guitars and keyboards for one last shot. Do you know why? Because the youngsters around those parts are too young to remember Prince in his heyday. But hey, with a million dollar budget you can get the five fat, balding, 40 year- old guys in the gym for six months and with a diet program and plenty of Pilates you can make one hell of an attempt at resurrecting a sound of a bygone era.

What about Rhythm and Blues is that dead? Hell, Nelson George proved that twenty years ago with his groundbreaking classic “The Death of Rhythm and Blues”. When Rhythm and Blues died it supposedly morphed into R&B. I know your scratching your head asking yourself if you read that right – you did. Yes R&B stands for Rhythm and Blues, so let me ask you this…do you hear any “Blues” in R&B music today? Ok let’s take a look at the top ten R&B songs of last year. Hold on let me get situated. Ok here were go:

Let’s put it like this: John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and Leela James come damn close! But you can’t get a Cuban cigar for it. Maybe a five dollar one…But uh…Mariah Carey, Nina Sky, Gwen Stefani, Pussycat Dolls, Faith Evans, Fantasia and Destiny’s Child? Can you honestly with a straight face tell me that those acts sound like they have been inspired by the blues? I'll wait...

Whatever happened to Grunge, Modern Rock, Acid Rock, Industrial rock and all those other styles is the same thing that happened to the Do Do Bird and other extinct species – they got swallowed up. Whether or not you believe in evolution is on you, but one thing that is a fact of nature is that only the strong survive. The same applies in music.

So now is hip-hop dead?

Well, using my current line of thought I’ll say this: The hip-hop I grew up on is dead. And it had to die to make way for a new generation to interpret the music their way.

In a recent interview with Tommy Boy Records founder and CEO Tom Silverman, I asked him what was the music industry doing wrong today?

He told me that the majors are pouring 1.5 to 3 million dollars into their acts and the records aren’t selling. In other words
record companies are losing their shirts with hip-hop and R&B, kind of like the last days of disco.

I asked some
friends writers I respect “Is Hyphy Hip-Hop or a cousin?”

They all said, “Yeah it’s Hip-Hop.”

In all fairness I was supposed to call Adisa but I caught the flu, shit has had me out of business until today. Yo Adisa I’m gonna call home boy.

Anyway after some of the usual back and forth with this
guy I say, ok, it’s a sub genre just like Grunge and all those other styles are to Rock. But never the less it is Hip-Hop as are Snap, Bounce, Krunk and Chopped and Screwed. It ain’t the hip-hop I grew up on, but it is hip-hop. One day in a couple of years from now all of those sub genres will give way for a new style of hip- hop. Speaking of which what happened to ‘Miami Bass’ is that still being done?