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.