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Posts from October 2005

One In A Million

Although I did attend the historic Million Man March in 1995, I decided to skip Saturday's (Oct. 15) Millions More Movement rally in Washington, D.C.

But I did watch the entire event on C-Span.

Looking at C-Span's television coverage, I would estimate around 300,000 was in attendance. But who cares, right? The Main Event was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. As usual, the minister gave a fiery speech brimming with honesty and a few questionable rants. One particular questionable rant was his theory that after Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything in New Orleans, the government might have bombed the levee so that the flood waters would kill every African-American living in the area. In short, the government acted out a plan of genocide by water.

Well, I don't believe that at all.

This was simply a natural disaster that was worsened by President George W. Bush and the federal government's incompetence to respond to such emergencies. But don't get mad at the minister; this is what happens when the truth about the Hurricane Katrina disaster is withheld from the public -- you get a whole bunch of conspiracy theories.

As far as the minister's call for the people of New Orleans to file a class-action suit against President Bush and FEMA for "criminal neglect" -- I say, "Bring it on!" In addition, there should be an impeachment hearing conducted for the removal of President Bush from office. There are too many Americans dying under his Administration and most of it seems to be behind on some bullshit. But that's a whole another post.

All and all, the MMM event was extremely uplifting and I enjoyed some of the speeches made by Russell Simmons, American Indian Russell Means (he called Republicans "Devilicans" in his speech), Rev. Al Sharpton (watch out for Jim Crow, Jr. Esq.) and Donna Farrakhan Muhammad (Minister Louis Farrakhan's daughter).

But of course, whenever Black folks get together at a large gathering there are going to be some strange moments.

First up, while I was happy to see a few rappers show up at the event, nothing was more stranger than seeing New York rapper Jim Jones limp his way up to the podium to perform his hit record "Summer with Miami." But someone cue up the unedited, cuss-filled vocal version(!!) and not the instrumental. After the umpteenth F-word came blaring out of the speakers, Jim Jones gave up, apologized for the mishap and walked off the stage. Yep, the Dip Stick Set rhyme-spitter realized that his ass didn't belong up there onstage. He should have heeded Al Sharpton's advice: "Just sit down and shut up."

Thankfully, Wyclef Jean was able to pump the crowd up with his entertaining performance. Although 'Clef's Bob Marley impressions is annoying (if not blasphemous -- R.I.P. Bob), I loved Wyclef's concert. The refugee performed the protest song "Stand Up/If I Were President," the Mardi Gras anthem "Carnival" (dedicated to New Orleans) and his impromptu MMM anthem, "Not Just a March, We're Building a Movement." Bravo! Hurry up with that damn Fugees album, bro!

But the "crazier than crazy" highlight of the day goes to the R&B boho Erykah Badu. She gave a speech full of mumbles and jumbles -- and I seriously believe she was high on crack and weed. Her speech was simply bizarre. One of my favorites lines from her speech: "The water is half cold, but we forget that we are the water . . . we are the earth."



But I have to say this . . . and please forgive me.

Erykah Badu has a nice petite ass. Whoo-wee! Someone call King magazine, Ms. Badu has a baduky butt. Yessir. You can probably sit a small teacup set on that booty. No wonder the D.O.C. tapped that crazy ass. Who knew that Erykah had a little bump in the trunk?

Ahem. But back to the MMM rally.

Since I wasn't there, I had to look around the blogsphere and see if anybody was reporting live from the event.

Robert of the Hip-Hop Politics blog was there at the MMM rally! With $40 in his pocket, he was able to cop a few t-shirts, beverages, a snack and other goodies. But the highlight: a free autograph from Rev. Al Sharpton. Props!

Washington, D.C. blogger/writer David Blake was inspired by the messages of the MMM rally, but disappointed by the audience's response to the event. He types:

Although my overall mood was excitable, I could not help but notice that a good portion of the crowd was not at all moved about the true intentions of the march. I don't know how to articulate it, but it seemed that people were there because they were obligated as Black people. You know, kind of like going to the family reunion when you really could be doing something more exciting and meaningful. Or like going to the fair only to get funnel cake.

During my time there, one speaker, [Essence Editorial Director] Susan Taylor, did move me and gave action plans for us, but as I feared, no one really listened. I left the event troubled but still optimistic. Even after discovering that Keith Boykin -- speaking on behalf of the National Black Justice Coalition -- was silenced by the event's organizers(*), I am still optimistic that someday we will get our shit together.

(* Gay activist Keith Boykin was indeed prevented to speak at the event. You can read the whole story HERE.)

And finally, blogger Bobby Brown, Jr. (no relation to the former New Edition crooner) was dissatisfied with the MMM event. And he asked a very important question: What's the plan?

What I've come to realize after doing some serious comparative analysis and critically examining . . . is that one of the MAJOR differences between the Civil Rights Movement and the Million Man March, Million Women March and Millions More Movement is a CLEAR AND PRACTICAL PLAN OF ACTION.

Now before you shut me out, I'd like to encourage you to hear me out and understand that the hard work that went into planning this event should be acknowledged. The fact that somebody is doing something to bring us together is a wonderful thing. But I'm wondering how many times are we going to come together and consistently be reminded of how much the [government] hates us and the many problems facing our community.

I also wonder how many other people like myself left the event with a troubled spirit. And most of all, the sad reality that while the show was nice (although not quite as inspiring as the Million Man March), unfortunately, we still don't have a clear plan of action to help us move forward. How long will it be before this day becomes yet another distant memory in our already crowded minds?

An interesting question. And I don't have the answers, my brother.

In the end, I hope that people who attended the MMM rally understand that we must make it a point to empower others and ourselves in the Black community. We must all try to walk in a positive light.

And more importantly, someone needs to tell Erykah Badu to keep her ass at home. Crack is wack!

All joking aside, we definitely need to start building a sound economical and political movement.


Craft Work

Blackalicious recently dropped their new CD The Craft in stores last week. It looks like the duo went in the direction of the Roots by being musically adventurous (i.e. Phrenology and Tipping Point) with their sound and crafted a disc that you would have to sit down and actually listen to. There are no crunk tracks on here; there are no radio-friendly singles. This is a collection for the hip-hopper that wants to hear some thought-provoking rhymes and interesting musical forms. I don't think The Craft is a hip-hop classic, though. It's certainly this year's unconventional rap effort.

What do I mean by unconventional? Basically, I'm saying that the music is unlike what is getting radio airplay or video rotation on BET. For me, that's a good thing because I'm tired of some of the rap songs that get radio love. I always championed any rapper who dares to go beyond the norm and make music that is challenging and damn-near funky. But "unconventional" doesn't always translate to "classic" material (i.e., Quasimoto's The Further Adventures of Lord Qua). However, The Craft is dope; I enjoyed the disc, but it won't get any heavy rotation in my iPod. (Downloadable tracks: "Rhythm Sticks," "Give It to You," "The Craft")

But the blogsphere has spoken out on the Blackalicious' disc, and the reviews are mixed it seems:

Blogger Sean Shaghaghi, of the blog/website, gave Blackalicious' The Craft 4 out 5 stars, calling Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel "the best [rap] duo outside of OutKast."

But music lover fennel wasn't thrilled with The Craft. He says, "Xcel's tracks don't bounce the way they used to and Gift Of Gab is starting to sound like a bad Del the Funky Homosapien. Ugh."

Blogger Nik Mercer wrote an interesting assessment of The Craft. He types:

I must say that I dig it hardcore. The lyrics are wittier than ever, and the beats are creative. I think it would be difficult to be a creative beatmaker these days. Hip-hop seems to be digging its own grave by only featuring beats as the melody, rhythm and time keeper.
Music head Ozren, of NuDo blog, also liked The Craft, as well. He opines:
It looks like [The Craft is] already set to be called legendary. Gift Of Gab is one of my favorite MCs . . . for he spits amazing flow, and above all delivers strong, clear and coherent spiritual overview of human potential in this transition times.
But music/entertainment critic Al Barger, of, wrote a scathing review of Blackalicious' The Craft (Be forewarned, this review is brutal). Not only did he think that The Craft was a shitty album, he also believes that rhyme-spitter Gift of Gab failed miserably to master the craft of songwriting. He assails:
The Craft really disappointed me. There's not one memorable song anywhere in this. This is going to end up being a short review 'cause there's nothing to talk about. OK, screw this. I give up. I want to play nice, but this recording is just crap. I'm trying to be patient, but I'm not going to sit through a full second listening. It's just nothing. I swear I'd listen to Mariah Carey's [Emancipation of Mimi] again before I'd give this any more attention. Sorry.

But music writer Daniel Wolovick wrote the most comprehensive critique of The Craft. He proclaims that The Craft is lyrically and musically better than Kanye West's calliope hip-pop of Late Registration. He writes:

And the best hip-hop album of 2005 (so far) belongs to Blackalicious with their new joint The Craft.
Is it going to sell more copies? No.
It is going to get more play in the clubs? No.
Will it even get on the radio? I doubt it.

[It] doesn't matter.

Because none of those factors are important when deciding how great an album is. Bottom line: Gift Of Gab has better flow and lyrics than Kanye. [The] beats are more creative and less polished than Kanye, and the album takes way more gambles and breaks down far more musical barriers than Kanye.

Blackalicious' albums are like wine, they get better with age. Nia and Blazing Arrow still move decent copies to date, and this album will be no different. As good as [their] back catalogue is, The Craft is the pinnacle of a rather illustrious career thus far [from] this dynamic duo.

Wow! Daniel was really blown away by the disc.

As for me, The Craft didn't blow me away. I liked some of the songs on the disc, while others I passed on. It's certainly not better than Nia and/or Blazing Arrow, in my opinion. And it's definitely not a hip-hop classic recording.

And finally, I'm going to leave you with this:
E. Sol of the hottest new hip-hop/music blog posted two joints from The Craft -- "The Fall And Rise Of Elliott Brown" and "Black Diamonds And Pearls." Thanks, dude.

So, what do you think about Blackalicious' The Craft?


Life Cycle

Can we please have a moment of silence . . .

August Wilson (1945-2005)

Celebrated playwright August Wilson died of liver cancer on Sunday at a Swedish hospital in Seattle. He was 60. August revealed that he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in August and that he was preparing to die. "I've lived a blessed life," he said. "I'm ready." A Pittsburg, Pa. native, August chronicled the African-American experience in the 20th Century through nine race-based plays aka "The Pittsburg Cycle" because they were all based in his hometown. Two of his most well-known theater productions Fences and Piano Lesson, both won Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. August's plays also helped introduced audiences to a numbered of unknown African-American actors, including Laurence Fishburne, Courtney B. Vance, Charles S. Dutton, Phylicia Rashad and S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order). Before his death, August completed his 10th and final play, Radio Golf.

This is a great lost in the American theater community. My first trip ever to New York was around in the late '80s when I went on a high school field trip to see the Broadway play Fences. I think James Earl Jones was starring in the lead role. There was talk of bringing one of August's Pulitzer-Prize winning plays -- I think it was Piano Lesson -- to the big screen. Lets hope that happens -- Spike Lee, now is your time to shine, get cracking on an adaptation.

Bloggers K. Lance, Michelle Fry and Ethelbert Miller also remember this extrodinaire playwright.

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August Wilson, R.I.P.