DMX, Zimmerman & The Value of Life.

Who killed Abraham Lincoln? John Wilkes Booth. 

Who killed John  Kennedy? Lee Harvey Oswald. 

Who killed Trayvon Martin? George Michael Zimmerman.  

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Why am I mad about George Zimmerman gaining celebrity status? I mean, don’t we celebrate murderers– all the time?

As my portion of the world turned to face the sun this morning, I read the news and felt as if I had been slapped in the face: DMX vs. George Zimmerman in a celebrity boxing match.

“Celebrity”: That’s what the twitter accounts of News Breaker, The Griot (NBC’s effort to appease African-Americans), and CNN (supposedly the standard setting news company… supposedly) called the forthcoming fight.   

I got mad: Mad at the media, mad at social media, mad at America. 

Like, this shit is cool? A guy shoots a kid, gets away with it– and now he’s a celebrity. I mean, come on… It’s Black History Month: we’re supposed to be celebrating our ancestors and forefathers. I don’t celebrate murderers!

Well… Actually, I do. And I’d argue that the majority of Americans do too.

From famed Wild-West gun slingers to renown rappers who claimed Westside– murderers are celebrated in America’s popular culture.

“Yeah, I’ve killed somebody,” said a friend, during a casual conversation not too long ago.

The living room got dead silent. There were only a handful of us in the room– but mannnn, you could hear our collective interest growing. We wanted to know that story. My friend, a former Marine, told a bit of his tale of traveling the world, and spreading Democracy with bullets; the American way.

We didn’t “celebrate” the fact that my friend killed someone (and neither did he). But for that brief moment, while we indulged in his story, he was the coolest dude in the room. Hands down.  

“Murder was the case that they gave me,” once said a young Snoop Dogg. And when Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus beat that murder case, his popularity grew. And continued to grow. Is Snoop Dogg a murderer? Well, he beat the case. I mean– I don’t know if he actually killed anyone. I wasn’t there.

The fact is: a “gang member” (as the LA Times Article initially identified him), a man by the name of Philip Woldemariam is dead… and Snoop Dogg/Lion/Zilla is still making music. And he’s still a celebrity. 

Speaking of celebrity rappers getting out of jail after beating a murder charge: Lil Boosie is set to come home soon! He’s currently serving an 8-year bid on a drug case. But while in the pen, Lil Boosie was facing a 1st degree murder charge. Torrence “Lil Boosie” Hatchet was accused of ordering Michael “Marlo Mike” Louding to be his hired triggerman. Well, Marlo Mike is now sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lil Boosie’s name is gaining a greater celebrity status as I write this … and Terry Boyd, a young Black man, is dead. But, #FreeBoosie tho.   

I’m not saying Boosie or Snoop shouldn’t be stars for their talents– I just think it’s ILL that killing someone can earn you respect. 

On the other side of the “famous because I killed” coin, are people like this guy named Watani Stiner.

I think Stiner has an awesome story. It’s a tale of the struggle for freedom, a shooting on UCLA’s campus and a father’s sacrifice for his family. I’ve interviewed Stiner before; I was only allowed to bring in paper and pencil. I’d love to interview Stiner on film/ audio/ oh hell, if I had a nice photo of him it’d be worth a thousand words. I think the world would love to hear about how he is serving a life sentence for the murder of two former Black Panther leaders, how he escaped prison, and then turned himself back in– for his family. But, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prohibits the media from conducting interviews with specific inmates, out of fear that the interview will cast that incarcerated individual into a world of stardom.

First name: Eye. Last name: Ronic. (Ironic).    

The amount of money the prisons are making off of Black men is astounding– but that’s a totally different story.

The crux of this story: “Tell me what’s a Black life worth?”- Tupac.

Look man, even if World Star Hip Hop gets exclusive broadcast rights, TMZ photographers catch first-row photos of the carnage, and they attach a GoPro to DMX’s forehead– so we can see a 1st person perspective of what some people might call justice. I wouldn’t watch it. I just don’t want to see that shit. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to see a petition signed to end this fight— I’d rather see people valuing life.

That’s what we’re fighting against. As young Black men, we’re fighting to show the world that our lives are valuable.  

… But first we have to value our own lives. 

Side note:  …  I wouldn’t mind seeing George Zimmerman fight Johannes-Mehserle

Oh, and here is a top ten list of celebrities who’ve killed someone. (Don King is on there, who knew?) 

Peace.

Where does “Gangsta Love” come from???

Snoop Dogg’s new video “Gangsta Luv” f. The Dream is a funny ass video, and watching it has sent me on a mission: where does Gangsta love come from?

I mean, LL Cool J was “hard”, until he showed his vulnerability,  let his guard down, and dropped the classic single, “I Need Love“. But then again, LL wasn’t exactly “gangsta”…I needed to do more research…

Clip from Snoop Dogg's "Gangsta Luv" video...where does gangsta love come from?
Uncle Snoopy: where does gangsta love come from???

So I started with

Snoop- Dizzle, since he inspired this train of thought…I thought he might

have a track for this train to run on. The classic Snoop Dogg Love video in my eyes is “Losin Control”, I heard this in 7th grade, and to this day its

applicable.

But being from Northern California, there is a quintessential gangsta love song that says it all,   Mac Mall’s “Wide Open”

And then Master P. had his run, so I had to see what Percy Miller could bring in to the table in reference to gangsta love…

Master P F. Mia X

“thinkin about you”

And of course, when we speak of gangsta love, we have to talk about the tragic side…here are a couple of songs that have the tragedy of a Shakespearean sonnet…and the reality of John Singleton movie.

The Losty Boyz: Renee…. If you don’t know about this, then sit back and soak

game.

B.I.G’s “me and my bitch”. This song is classic, not only because Christopher Wallace paints the tragedy blatantly, but this song is sampled by a song that pops up later in this list..which means without this song, another song would not have existed.

this is a write in because: 1. its an R&b SONG (KINDA) and 2. now that I watch the video…its kinda corny… TQ’s “bye bye baby”

Eve’s “Love is Blind”…this is “gangsta love”…not only love between man and woman, but the gangsta things a woman would do fer her friend. I respect it.

And while on the topic of Eve, although she did drop a song titled “Gangster Love” f. Alicia Keys,  I don’t believe there was a more “gangsta love song” from her than her classic track “gotta man”…with that said, I gotta let it rock:

while we are on the topic of Ruff Ryder’s influence on “gangsta Love”…I wouldn’t dare pass up DMX’s “How its goin down”

50 Cent’s 21 questions has its place in the world of gangsta love… And

although his gangsta is questioned in real life, the way 50 used the music industry was definitely gangsta.

While we are on the topic of questioning people’s real life gangsta… Lil Wayne’s

“Youngin Blues”, the cold part is, one day, this will be  “ole folks music” for late 80’s babies…

Alright- enough with the tragedy- enough with the fake gangstas…lets keep it real. When we talk about love, we have to talk about the things you will do for

love- Bobby Caldwell’s “Do For Love” is perfect compliment to Tupac’s eloquent lyrical expression of defining this phenomenon of “gangsta love”of which I choose to speak.

I FOUD IT! the definition of gangsta love… a sample of Notrius B.I.G’s lyrics

“we ride together, cry together, I swear to God: I hope we fuckin die together” plus the soul sound of  Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terell “You’re all I need to get by“…all refurbished into a form that went directly to the heart of mid-90’s Hip-Hop heads:  Method Man and Mary J. Blidge,”All I need (to get by)”.

This shit is gangsta.

Gangsta love is fighting for love with the same passion that you would fight someone from the opposing turf, click, set, or in the broad sense- the other  side. Makes sense to me: you fight for love- cause the opposing side is hate- what gangsta doesnt fight against hate?

Check 1-2, 1-2…Dear Hip-Hop, These 12 songs are 4 You!

Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z recently came together to make yet another classic Hip-Hop track titled “I wanna Rock” (remix). Jay-Z’s entire verse is an ode to some of the influences in the rap game. It got me to thinking: what are other songs that are Ode’s to Hip-Hop/ music that I have to make note of….here’s the list:

(**there are two or three songs that the lovely people at youtube.com decided to make “Embedding disabled by request”…therefore you might have to click the link and watch them on youtube instead of this blog- thanks capitalism, you’ve done wonders for Hip-Hop)

To kick things off, I’d like to call on Erykah Badu, who is arguably the nicest female Emcee in history, but happens to be defined as an R&B/ neo-soul artist. I love this video, as it depicts Hip-Hop’s entire time line. From the block with donkey ropes and Addidas to the current world of corporate Hip-Hop, where white audiences reign supreme. The video is full of cameos: MC Lyte, Kool Herc, Chuck D, Common, and the legendary b-boy breaker Crazy Legs…check 1-2-1-2..check it out.

And while we’re on the topic of Badu, you gotta throw this one in there Erykah Badu’s “The Healer”…just because she dedicates it to J. Dilla, the late great producer…and she says “Hip-Hop…its bigger than the government.” And it is.

R.I.P Dilla

This next 1, might have flown under a couple of folks radars…but this is special to me: I used to this on repeat when I was about 10 or 11 years old…and at that time, you had to listen to the whole song, and rewind the tape in order to listen to it agian.

R.I.P. Freeky Tah

Eric Sermon’s “Just Like Music” This is a refreshing track, made by a legendary emcee and is a great example of the power of sample; using the legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s vocals.

R.I.P. Marvin Gaye

Afrika Bambaataa’s track…it’s a prerequisite to breing a hip-hop head… you don’t know this. Hip-Hop Don’t know you!

Dead Prez’s Hip-Hop…this is the power of Hip-Hop in terms of revolt against media control. This is motivation music; when this song comes on in my headphones, I have to hold myself back from doing push-ups…cause doing push-ups on the metro train is a little too gangsta for the majority of society.

Speaking of gangsta, you can’t more gangsta than NWA.The group’s resurgence in the late 90’s brought about this track…it wasn’t an ode to hip-hop as much it was “chin-check” of the so-called gangsta rappers of the day. Just a lil something to say “Hello”, and let the word know who started this Gansta shit: West side!!!

R.I.P. Easy- E.

Keeping it in the hood… One of my favorite’s and probably one of the most underated tracks in the history of Ode’s to Hip-Hop, not only was this song slept on by many, but I even slept on the video was looked over too! with appearances from Bun-B, Devin the Dude, and Scarface; Cleveland artist Ray Cash’s “Bumpin my Music” had to make the list…

Since we’re in the South now, we have to mention Outkast. They are the greatest Hip-Hop duo in the history of mankind. period. And with their artistry combined with Slick Rick’s aura, the song “art of story telling” is an ode to Hip-Hop’s basic purpose… a way for people without a voice to rhythmically tell their own story.

With the amount of life the last artists have put into the game, its hard to imagine Hip-Hop ever needing a tombstone…But Queens emcee Nasir Jones begged to differ. Nas’ “Hip-Hop is Dead” wasn’t an ode to Hip-Hop, it was more of an obituary… But it has it’s place on the list, for: if you love something, you should forever be critical of it.

Seemingly in response to Nas’ claim that Hip-Hop had met its death date, a slew of young artist popped up with lyrical insight and a breath of new life into Hip-Hop. One of the most notable new artist on the scene is kid from Chicago by the name of Lupe. This track is not only a dedication to slain rapper from New Orleans, Soldier Slim, but a dedication to many young men and women who find life in beat breaks, fresh hooks, and clever punch-lines.

Lupe Fiasco’s “Hip- Hop save my life.”

And last but not least… the all time classic: Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Horay”…the original dedication to Hip-Hop.

Hope yall enjoyed this… R.I.P. to BIG and 2PAC, a number of other artist…And in the words of Eric B. and Rakim:

“what happened to peace?…oh yeah: PEACE!”

Sam Cooke vs. Tupac Shakur…John Coltrane wins.

I need to change.

There are things in my life I need to correct, what they are-we’ll get to that when the time is right, but for now, I question: What is change?

I’ve always asked myself: who was right? Sam Cooke or Tupac Shakur?

Both died at a young age. Both were amazing musicians. And both were Black men with a message about change.

Sam Cooke’s “A Change is gonna come” has resonated off the walls of every Southern Baptist church in the bible belt of America, and beyond.

While Tupac’s “Changes” has influenced the world over, and recently made the Roman Catholicism headlines as it was added to the Pope’s playlist.

Both speak on the topic of change, but Cooke’s spiritual optimism versus Tupac’s reality check have always left me asking…change? WHAT’S THAT?

In my eyes, people change one of two ways: they change by choice…or they change by force.

When I think about Change, I initially think of the juxtaposition between Sam Cooke’s spiritual optimism versus Tupac’s reality check. Wondering to myself if Change is possible?

And then I look to stories that exemplify change: The story of Moses in the Bible- a murderer turned leader, the story of Malcolm X- a street hustler turned community vanguard, and most of all…I think of the story of John Coltrane.

Mr. Coltrane was one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever live, but he wouldn’t have dawned that title if it wasn’t for his DECISION to change.

Coltrane, a young acclaimed musician, known for playing jazz that was “ahead of his time”, became engulfed in the heroin epidemic of inner city America circa the mid 1900’s. His addiction deteriorated relationships with both his wife and his business partners (Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and others), and caused Coltrane to make that change…

the story goes that Coltrane locked himself in a room in Philadelphia, Pa. He fed himself nothing but bread and water. His rehab process eventually crossed paths with the process of spiritual enlightenment. Even if by choice, change is far from an easy process. Coltrane periodically kicked his habit, but it was his moments of clarity that brought about some of the most transcendental jazz music the word has ever known. Coltrane’s effort to reinvent himself showed through production of many classics, but my favorite, “A Love Supreme”, has been my motivation to kick some the habitual actions that have been keeping me from reaching my highest potential.

With this said, I’ll leave this post with two Coltrane qutoes:

“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”- John Coltrane.

I just think thats clever… And the next one, well it’s all about change.

“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.”- John Coltrane.