The Summer Pool…NBA Free-Agent Pool.

At this point, just the thought of this upcoming NBA free-agent season is more entertaining than the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

It’s the week of Memorial Day Weekend, and I’m dreaming of that summer pool… that free-agent pool. The Playoffs are played out: the Lakers are poised to take the West and the Celtics/ Magic battle in the East is good competition at the least.Yawn.… I want to know where Lebron is going!?!?
Is he going to New York? Is he taking the show to Manhattan so he can ball in The Garden- with the Knicks? Or is he rolling with Hov to Brooklyn with the Nets? Chicago with Rose? Miami with Wade- Wade’s a free agent, will he be there?…or wait! Maybe Lebron is staying in Cleveland! Maybe they’ll bring in a big man to ball with him! Like Amare Stoudemire! That way Amare and the big Shaq-tus (cactus + Shaquille O’neal…long story) can be united again. Pause. ….or may be even Chris Bosh- yeah! C. B! He’ll be the 3rd biggest thing to come out of Canada in recent memory (only trumped by pop rapper sensation Drake and pop singer sensation Justin Bieber). Oh yeah, shout out to the Bieber kid on the whole BET Award thing!

I might as well shout him out, I was already on a roll cracking jokes about this entertainment industry. That’s all this association is: pure entertainment. Big names in big markets, revenue driven, high priced athleticism. And I’m engulfed in it. So many new jerseys will be flying off the rack next year, I’m just glad its not fashionable to wear them to the club anymore. Actually, If my selected wagers on the placement of this summer’s free-agents pays off, I’ll buy one of those new Golden State Warrior jersey’s (when they hit stores- this summer). I won’t wear it to the club. But I’ll wear it to the beach…or the pool. No joke.

To get a better picture of the free-agent pool of the summer of 2010, click this link right HERE.

Alright, now that we got all of the jokes out the way, its time for the real question, who will retire? We’ve got Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’neal, Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse (who was balling this year, to his credit) and I’m still pushing for the Magic to resign Adonal Foyle!

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From One Drum.

“How many different drum patterns do you think there are?”,  A talented producer and good friend, Jamon Dru of “The Whole Shabang” production team once asked me; I still don’t have an answer…

Jamon Dru isn’t the person you’d find burning incense, studying books on Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, and playing a Congo while ironing his Kente cloth. Actually, your more likely to catch him producing tracks for the Bay Area’s top artist. He has produced tracks for D. Lo, Beeda Weeda, and many others; recently he composed the beat for the Messy Marv track “7 seconds flat“. And even though Jamon Dru makes beats for West Coast gangsta rap, I’d bet my favorite dashiki, that even he would agree: no matter how many different drum patterns there are, they all tell a story- a story of the African Diaspora.

On the other side of the African Diaspora is talented artist and good friend, Messiah Ramkissoon of “Royal Alliance Music Group”.  The Trinidadian artist, with the Brooklyn background and Howard University education, is a true word smith. And it shows in his craft. The highlight of his resume: 3-time Apollo winner. But this isn’t about the accolades, this is about the African Diaspora connecting through one drum. Messiah recently did a song which was crowned the winner of the Sudanese’s government’s political action competition in effort to get citizens to participate in voting in the first Democratic election in 24 years.

Messiah worked with Cheb YaCine , Al-SadProxy, Langa and video producer Nas Jota, as emcees from the states to Sudan came together for this political track titled B Sotoka (With Your Vote).

The intercontinental connection between artist within the African Diaspora is nothing new. The collaborative efforts between the Washingtonian emcee with Nigerian lineage we know as Wale, and the Somalian spitter they call K’naan has been a breath of fresh air. Wale and K’naan have done shows together, and the duo also have two collaborative songs, ” TV on The Radio” and “Um Ricka“, both songs are more than worth the listen.

Speaking of “worth the listen”, a small portion of the world is awaiting the May 18th release of the “Distant Relatives” project by Queens, NY artist Nasir “Nas” Jones, and one of the heirs to the Marley throne out of Trenchtown, Damian Marley. The highly anticipated Nas and Damien Marley album are both examples of the musical connection taking place in the African Diaspora in current popular music. Here is a dope interview by Hard Knock TV on the “Distant Relatives” project.

I listened to the tracks by Messiah, K’Naan, J-Stalin, and Damian Marley over and over, trying to answer the initial question posed to me Jamon Dru. I figured four different artists from different parts of the world would have different sounding drums. That thought didn’t last too long… not only do the drums sound alike, but the subject matter is identical : guns, drugs, jail, war, capitalism, AIDS, and the concept of “race” are just a few things that are ever-present in the African Diaspora.

In the end, Jamon Dru’s question was probably a joke or a riddle… there is infinite number of possible drum patterns… but there is no doubt that they all tell 1 story: the story of the African diaspora.

The Ticket.

A conglomerate of my homeboys brought their selected  talents together like they were the Super Friends or something,  and created a short movie about a “Ticket” that will keep you on edge for all 15 minutes.

“grrrrab yo tickect”- Goodie Mobb

Cameron Moore (director), Charles Turner (score), Glen Jones (soundtrack), Joe Davis (actor), John Prince (actor), and Devin Parish (actor), came together to make a twisted depiction of the classic tale: money is the root of evil.

The finished product is a dope 15 minute student film, like I’ve said, but I think the most impressive part was seeing the behind the scenes work. Seeing Cameron tote his laptop computer around like a high school quarterback does a playbook.  Seeing Charles focus intently on putting his compositions with Cameron’s edits. And seeing Glen (G-money) beat me in NBA 2K10 while simultaneously recording verses for the title track to the project. I have to applaud them. Well, not G- Money, I want a rematch…Na, in all seriousness, the song is good music. check it out, here is “The Tickect” by G-Money.

… and while your at it, watch the movie!

Here is a look at ” The Ticket” p. I

“The Ticket” p.II

Much respect, keep producing, keep growing yall.

“One Good Thing About Music, When it Hits You Feel No Pain”- Bob Marley/ not Drake…Never Drake

Fuck Drake… yeah I said it, catchy bastard…and Fuck Lady Gaga while your at it…Damn pop music has been polluting my mind too long!!! I’ve got to get to the bottom of this…

I hopped off my six hour cross-country flight, and sat at the baggage claim terminal with the patience of a wile fisherman. I was fishing for my bags. But my angelic poise and focus was disturbed by a manic voice in my head. It was the voice of Drake …and all it was saying: “one good thing about music/ when it hits you feel no pain”,  a line from the song “Over”.

I had to get away from my mind’s lyrical repetition. I grabbed my headphones. Activated the pandora application on my blackberry. and let the Bob Marley station take me away from the world of Drake-dom.

…”One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain” sung the Trenchtown legend named Robert Marley.

The first song that pandora played was Bob Marley’s “Hit Me With Music

My jaw dropped. retrieving my bags wasn’t nearly the object of my mission anymore. It was deeper than some luggage. This was about “one good thing about music”…or rather, the “one bad thing about music…when it hits- it gets stuck in yo brain!”, and I was tired of it.

I eventually made it home. I kissed my mom for Mother’s Day. I punched my nephew for his Birthday. And I even saw this pretty young lady from Berkeley smile- that made my day. But I wasn’t content. not nearly. I popped up in the middle of the night and began an internet inquiry in effort to get to the root of this issue.

this should be considered business malpractice.

When you start digging up dirt, you will find worms. In this case, I found “earworms”. An article on Howstuffworks.com informed me that,  “(earworms) are parasitic in the sense that they get lodged in your head and cause a sort of “cognitive itch” or “brain itch” — a need for the brain to fill in the gaps in a song’s rhythm”. The site continued to say that, it is a function of your auditory cortex to naturally want to fill in the gaps missing in auditory patterns. The auditory cortex does the repetitions in effort to complete the pattern that was once heard.

The cycles of catchy tunes serves as the perfect pattern to spark the auditory cortex; all that’s saying is: “listening to music will casue music to get stuck in your head”…uhhhh….duuuh! The question is, once a song is stuck in your head, how do you get that DJ to stop the record?

The article suggests listening to another song, or listening to the same song again (to complete the pattern), or even go as far as imaging the “earworm” as a real thing- and then picture it crawling out of your head. (and these are paid scientists???)

I can remember being young, sitting at a bus stop, and a passing car’s soundtrack would be blasting down the street; as the car passed, my mind would be indoctrinated. I noticed this pattern at a young age, I’ve always had a thing for noticing patterns. So when the article on earworms suggested that music being stuck in your head is nothing more than your brain trying to form a pattern, I can believe it. I like patterns. I excelled in elementary school! And I look good in plaid, at least the girl from Berkeley with the pretty smile thinks so.

In the end: the pattern of getting music stuck in my head must go! Before the summer “pop hit” comes out, I need to find a way to rid myself of this patttern!

But until I do… I’ll sit here, in a state of misery, with Lady Gaga’s  quote “my phone vibrrrrating”, from the song “Telephone” playing over and over and over in my head.

I’m not a big Drake fan, and not nearly a member of the Lady Gaga fan club; but I figure the only thing worse than you getting a song stuck in your head- is when someone else causes it to happen… So I decided to share that song with yall…songs cool, but the video is epic!

That Very Same Corner

Money over Bullshit was the name of the song. I couldn’t remember it for the life of me. I searched the whole Nas catalog looking for this quote:

“Seen niggas live-laugh-party- and die in that very same corner.”

It had been stuck in my head all of last semester.

The liquor store was right there. The weedman’s house was right there. The Chinese takeout spot was right there! And all three could be delivered for a nominal fee….

…This was life. Nothing more than a numb cycle full of mediocre grades, mindless social networking, and taking the “L” in every sense of the word.

I sat in a house one block away from the gymnasim. The same gymnasium where the class of 2010 was walking the stage. I followed on twitter as they updated constantly. And when my kinfolk asked me if I was going to the graduation… I don’t remember my exact answer, but I can tell you this:

I ended up playing NBA 2K10 on Playstation 3…again….and again…and again.

The highlight of my day was the three games I played. All of them went into overtime. I lost all three. I took the “L”.

“Overtime” must have been the word of the day. It made sense: everyone in the house would be serving at least one semester extra at this fine institution. We all had different feelings as to what this meant. Some saw it as an extension on time to manifest their “master plan”. A couple people believed that 4 1/2 to 5 years is becoming the norm due to financial situations, and still, others such as myself saw it as another societal obstacle to keep me away from the things that truly matter: health, family, and pursuit of personal fulfillment.

...that same corner...

Whatever the outlook, we were all coming from the same position: not the position of 2nd year seniors, but the position of that very same corner… You know what corner I’m talking about… the corner where the liquor store is right there. The weedman’s house is right there. The Chinese takeout spot is right there! And all three can be delivered for a nominal fee….

We were living- laughing- and partying in that very same corner. Dying? naw, we were still young, healthy, and very much alive physically. But in a sense, a part of us was dead: that dream of getting off of this “corner” called college on schedule was dead.

We spent time, energy, and good money on bullshit. We used the five cent black plastic bags from the corner store to dump our blunt guts, we recorded tracks for a mixtape that was set to drop on the 4th of Nebuary, and we ate takeout… often. This was us living, laughing, and partying. It was a seemingly fast lifestyle, although we never went anywhere. And because of this, the “death” came slow.

Each of us slowly realized, it sucks that we won’t graduate with the people we came into college with. We battled the mixed emotions of being happy for our “classmates”, but all the while, mad at ourselves.

This summer will cause us to leave that same corner, just to return in the fall.

A part of me wants to ask Nas: is it possible for an individual to live, laugh, and party in the same corner without dying? Then again, I don’t want to know: I just want to get away from that same corner. After all, its money over bullshit. And college (that same corner) costs too much.

this Nas video inspired this train of thought

Black Graphic Novels

Wait… so you mean to tell me there is a genre of comic books, that tells stories of legendary Black historical figures!?!? tales of Black fictional figures!?!?! and highlights Black heroes?!?! where has my Black ass been!?!?!

I first found out about this world of Black comic books through a presentation by Kyle Baker at Howard University. Baker is the author of the award winning book, “Nat Turner”.

The book depicts the historical tale of Nat Turner’s revolt against slave owners through few words, and many graphic pictures.

The art was amazing. I was hooked. I began researching other books…

I heard about ” Stagger Lee” and ” Daddy Cool”. Both graphic novels, that use the term “graphic” to the fullest extent; the books show nudity, speak of street life, and if ever were turned into a motion picture, they would be rated R.

Needles to say, I bought both of them. “Daddy Cool” is my favorite thus far.

I also heard about the Golden Legacy series, and my mind was blown. This is the perfect way to teach Black history!

Comic books are the easiest books to consume (fewer words and more pictures)… and because of the imagery, the authors’ message is that much more influential.

Speaking of influence, before Kyle Baker departed from his stop at Howard University, he left this jewel for me to wrestle with in my thinking tank of a head…

“What is the most stolen type of book in the world?”, Baker asked the audience in the lecture room.

everyone was quietly thinking.

Baker responded to his own question, “THE BIBLE!”.

everyone laughed…

and then Baker said, “…the second most stolen type of book in the world: comic books”.

Yeah, I found out about this genre a couple of months ago, and I’m already a collector.

Summer Reading List.

There are three books that mean more to me than the phone books taped to the ribs of a prison inmate. I re-read them every so often; their substance is ever applicable: they keep me on point, in case something pops off!

When the residents of Drew Hall dormitory on Howard University’s campus in Washington DC came to me, asking about suggested reading for the summer, I recited a list of only three books:

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, “Assata: an Autobiography”, and “Manchild in the Promised Land”, which was written by Calude Brown and published in 1965, the same year Brown graduated from Howard University.

A wise man once said, “Don’t ask a question, when your sitting in-front of a computer.”- King Anyi Howell

…And since we live in an age where information travels at the speed of light, I thought it’d be a bright idea to open thie question of a summer reading list to the word of facebook and twitter…these were my results:

Midnight – Sister Souljah

The Invisible Man- Ralph Ellison

Black Boy- Richard Wright

Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker

Dutchman by Amiri Baraka.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

The Ear, The Eye, And The Arm by Nancy Farmer

Vernon can Read by Vernon Jordan

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Outsider by S.E. Hinton

Black Power by Kwame Ture

Nat Turner by Kyle Baker

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Art of Seduction / The 48 laws of power by Robert Greene

The Pact” by Drs. Rameck Hunt, Sampson Davis & George Jenkins.

Chasing America by Dennis Watlington

Browder Files by Anthony T. Browder

$40 Million Slave by William C. Rhoden

Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams

…and finally, this book:
Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

After compiling the list, I fell into a deep conversation with my barber about literature, and he even suggested this book to me. He likes the book , but hardly has time to read it; he referred me to the audio form of the book youtube has made available to the world…here is a clip (chapter 1) to get you started:

“Uncle Ricky: can you tell me a bedtime story pleeease!!!”

3:34 am.My head is currently nodding in affirmation as I stare at my speakers. The lyrics were like sketch flip books: the animations ran through my imigaintion and I was engulfed…

teacher reads Easy-E lyrics to school children...
teacher reads Eazy-E lyrics to school children...

Recently, I picked up the book ” The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons. I perused the first 10 pages of the book, and took note on Simmons’ method of influence. The author say, lectures, and long winded speeches do nothing for most people, while a good story will pull most listeners to find the answers themselves, thus engaging and captivating the audience:

“We spend too much time talking to a person’s rational brain and we neglect their emotional brain…”.

It wasn’t the concept that blew my barn doors open and got me to thinking; it was the real life application.

For instance, If I tell you,  “don’t go down a dark street- it’s not safe.”, you might listen to me- but you will not be moved. But if I tell you, “about three weeks ago a kid that looks just like you was abducted on that dark street…”. I have tapped into your emotions, and now you have not only listened, but you have been moved. Even more so, I have not advised you to do anything, instead, I have given you enough information to make your own life decisions.

This is a relatively simple concept. We see it all the time in society. But the one place this concept is most readily seen in my life-isn’t seen at all:It’s heard.

Hip-hop has expanded my vocabulary, has given me rhythmic inclination ( I can dance… on beat), and now I realize, Hip-hop has given me some of the greatest examples of telling stories. Stories that influence, stories that move, stories that cause you to stare at the speaker and nod in affirmation as if the emcee was speaking to you… and these are just a few:

First off, if you know nothing about storytelling in hip-hop ,you need not go further than a man by the name of Slick Rick “the Ruler”. His long list of classic albums include hits like “Mona Lisa” and “Young World”, but the story that reigns supreme in hip-hop, is a track by the famed eye-patch sporting-British Emcee called,  “Children’s story“.

On the heels of Slick Rick’s first mention, it is only right to chase that drink with a second helping of Slick Rick. This time, it’s via a collaboration with the ATLien duo, known as Outkast on the track  “The art of Story Telling“. Outkast f. Slick Rick.

Two of the top rappers in the game, Nas and Jay- Z also have a couple of stories that standout to me as lyrical illustrations of real life situations.

Jay-Z’s ” Meet the Parents” is something like a hip-hop Shakespearian Drama:

while Nas’ “Rewind” is like watching a VHS backwards- right before you take it back to Blockbuster…

On the West coast…there are two or three tracks that are stories that I hold near and dear…

first is the track”Northern California” by San Quinn, which is a story about how the Bay Area came to its current position within the Rap game.

…and then there is a story by East Oakland’s own Yukmouth (1/2 of the Luniz- who made the song “I got 5 on it”), the track is titled ” City of Dope”  and gives an explicit account of the history of the streets of East Oakland as seen through a young man’s eyes, while coming of age in the crack-cocaine era.

Speaking of coming of age, the song “Southside” by Scarface,  was one of my favorite tracks growing up. In my teen years, you couldn’t imagine how often I used the line: “spent my day right off of (28th) broke and disgusted/ not a dollar to buy food/ but i’m smoking…so fuck it.”… ( I’d change the block Scarface references to  the block we hung out on.)

Speaking of smoking, and hanging out with the boys, and a classic lines in story rhymes… I give you Christopher Wallace’s contribution:  “Call my niggas on the cell/ bring some weed, I’ve got a story to tell”.

Notorius BIG ” I gotta Story to Tell

I noticed… many of my the story songs take a dark tone; they speak about death and portrayal, they speak of crime and sin. And I couldn’t end on that note…So, before this train of thought pulls into the station, I’d like to play one uplifting story: “Today was a Good Day”- Ice Cube.

alright, that’s the end of the story hour for now…yall go make like Ice Cube and have a good day… oh, and keep this in mind:

…Let us lead a life so that we have a story to tell at the end, a story that moves people. a story that influences people. and not just another story that people listen to…