Thursday, June 30, 2011

RIP MySpace?

In 2005, my career as an independent recording artist/entertainer/emcee completely changed. It was due to the creation and emergence of a website that I’d never heard of. Only in my dreams had I envisioned something so wonderful could happen. It all started on a chill day in the first quarter of ’05. I was over Tasherre D’Enajetic’s apartment, as we were working on a song called “Mutiny”. It featured Term, Asylum 7, Metasyons and Finale, along with me and Tasherre, and DJ Primeminister on cuts and production. The homie Zo! was present, as well, as he was there for moral support and random shit talking (sometimes you need that element, too). After we went over the song a few times, Tasherre turned on his computer and logs into something called MySpace. I’d never heard of this site before. He already had his own page, music on there, people leaving favorable comments… and a really pretty girl with really large breasts. After seeing all of that, I decided I needed a page, ASAP! As he continued through his page, I saw several people I recognized. But that’s not what got my attention. What got my attention is seeing several people I DIDN’T recognize. I had to ask… “I want a page. What’s the catch”? He said, “None. Its free”. At that point, I wanted to start slam dancing like I was at an Onyx/Wu-Tang/Nirvana concert. I decided against that when I saw how close I was to his apartment window. Days later, I finally had my own page and wasted little time reaching out to people. Once I had music on there, I was ready to go. Instead of doing the normal routine of becoming friends with as many people from Detroit as I could, I looked for people in places like Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Maine. Then I thought… LET’S LOOK OVERSEAS! I reached out to people in Norway, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, etc… it was easier than I thought. I couldn’t believe how many people loved Detroit music. MySpace provided me with an opportunity I NEVER had. I was able to get my music out to thousands of people worldwide without even hitting a button. There was an option to leave your music available for free download so I did that. Some mornings I’d wake up and see that I’d have thousands of plays and numerous downloads. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t getting paid for it. This was free promotion. And the way I looked at it, if people were so positive to receive something for free, they’d be more than willing to return the favor and buy some material later. The site also opened the door for me to communicate with artists I’ve admired for years and hope to one day record or do a show with. It even gave me the opportunity to make money, as I met several artists that wanted to compensate me for work and several promoters that wanted to book me for shows out of town. ME? I was truly honored. As the years went by, MySpace began to lose much of its popularity, as many similar sites that were organized better began to emerge. The site was purchased by billionaire Rupert Murdoch for $580 million and many changes took place. Several people tried to get me to “convert” to the other sites. I was totally against it because I was still making money so it didn’t make a difference to me. I wasn’t happy with the changes but I was still able to reach a large amount of people simultaneously. But after awhile, those changes were starting to affect my business. The option to download an artist’s music was no longer available (thank Jay-Z for that one) and the site was beginning to venture away from the importance of the independent artist. More mainstream artists were beginning to receive the attention, pretty much pushing out cats like me out the door. I VERY reluctantly moved to Facebook in 2009, almost kicking and screaming. I’d check the MySpace page every now and then, trying to recapture memories of recent past. Now I check it maybe once or twice a month… which is once or twice more a month more than nearly everyone I know! Sad. But surprisingly, megastar Justin Timberlake joined forces with Specific Media recently, as they purchased the site for $35 million (it was initially stated the site wouldn’t be sold for less than $100 million). Timberlake is reportedly extremely excited about this opportunity, as he shares the vision Specific Media has to help other artists and allow people a chance to express themselves. However, that’s an extremely broad vision. I’d like to see what specific goals they have for the site. One thing’s for sure, many people will now be out of work, as nearly half of the 400 staffers will be let go. Perhaps this is a sign of simplifying things again and making the most out of its resources. But if MySpace does not go back to the approach of helping out the independent artist, the decline will continue, even with a figure like Justin Timberlake watching closely. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Metta World Peace

Flagrant fouls. A basket-brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills versus fans of a division rival. Admitting to drinking alcohol on occasion BEFORE games. These are some of the lowlights of Ron Artest’s NBA career. Moments that will forever be attached and linked to his name. But after a recent life-changing decision, he’ll be remembered for much more than that. Artest has decided to change his name to Metta World Peace, a word derived from the Buddhist language. Many fans and sports analysts scoffed at the idea, questioning the motivation and dismissed it as a publicity stunt. What they failed to realize is the significance of the name, as the word means “friendliness” or “benevolence”, words that fit nicely in the description of an athlete that found himself mired in controversy earlier this decade. Forgotten in all of this scrutiny is the fact that the brawl at The Palace took place 6 ½ years ago and that he’s actually had a pretty good career. He’s a former Defensive Player of the Year, an all-star, a two-time First Team member of the All-NBA Defensive team, and perhaps his most significant individual award, the 2011 J. Walker Kennedy Citizenship award, culminating a remarkable comeback from a tumultuous childhood and early adult life. Artest (he has a court date on August 26 to see if the name change petition has been approved) grew up in the projects Queens, New York, where he lived with five other siblings and two cousins, sharing two bedrooms. He witnessed his father abuse his mother, his parents eventually divorce, and lost his baby sister to SID’s among several other things that would shape his personality over time. His upbringing wasn’t unlike many kids his age growing up and was the genesis of his of his anger and frustration. Basketball would serve as somewhat of a calming influence to Artest but the inner demons he ignored would surface several times throughout his career. However, the last few seasons have birthed an individual that understands his role and responsibility… to help others. Its been no secret that he’s been receiving professional help as he’s openly talked about it on air, even thanking his psychiatrist on live television, as his current team, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2010 NBA Title. I laughed like many others when I heard him say it. Not just because of the timing of the announcement but because you could clearly see a sensitive young man, ready to take on the world, hoping for acceptance while speaking in the most sincere form. He had arrived. Later on, he would make two decisions that nearly brought tears to my eyes. He decided to donate nearly his entire NBA Salary for the upcoming season to a charity for mental awareness. Also, he decided to have a charity raffle for his championship ring on his website, raising nearly $500,000. These noble efforts are not those of an “attention whore”, as some have unfairly labeled him. They are the efforts of a man who had the courage to face a personal issue and use his influence to help others. Regardless if he never wins another championship ring again, the mission has been accomplished. His story is one that can be viewed as inspirational and uplifting. He may not be World B. Free. Or Muhammad Ali. Or Bono. But he is a man. Thank you, Metta World Peace. Rock on….

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Yeah, I said it.  I put asteriks in there but the message still remains the same.  The anger and disappointment remains the same.  And it didn't start with tonight's annual BET Awards, either, because.... I refused to watch.  So again, its F**K BET.  The so-called network has been masquerading as a community and family vessel of hope and outreach for quite some time now. The awards show is simply a microcosm of what regular viewers should expect day-to-d ay: unintelligent, uninformative, saturated, copycat images, transmitted to you worldwide.  Ignorance at its finest, presented to you in high definition.... and you don't even need all the extra bells in whistles from your cable provider OR the store you purchased your idiot box from.  Why?  Because the answer is not in gray.  Its in black and white.  In my opinion, BET was a once a network that stood on principles that were valid and genuine.  It wasn't perfect, but it was a network that made me proud of my race. It was owned by US.  Owned by us not for just an hour on Saturday’s but 24/7/365, we owned it, too.  In addition to great video shows like Video Soul, Video LP, Caribbean Rhythms, and Rap City (before it later became Rap Shitty), Ed Gordon and Tavis Smiley had informative news and human interest programming.  Teen Summit came on Saturdays and discussed issues that teenagers face daily, from sex, peer pressure, pregnancy, STD’s, violence… you name it.  And they had dope musical guests every week.  But none of this exists anymore.  I knew the day would end when I saw that God-awful, “Cita’s World”.  The one thing the network had managed to avoid and now you succumb to it… stereotyping your own race.  I mean, I’m not that old-fashioned that I can’t laugh at my race or my own self, for that matter.  But this was sad.  Sad because the role she played has been accepted in our community for so long that it was clearly time to move on.  This made it really easy for others to observe, over-analyze, and be amused. Now, we flash forward to 2000.  Viacom purchases BET for $3 billion dollars.  Robert Johnson is a business man so I can’t be mad at that sale.  But honestly, he probably would’ve made more had that sale not taken place considering how much has been stolen from our culture in the first place.  By saying no, he would’ve forced others hand to submit to his brand of marketing and television and try to duplicate what he was producing.  Instead, he fell for the “banana in the tailpipe” and Viacom turned BET into a traveling circus of coonery for everyone to see.  No creative television, either.  Every BET reality show was a direct bite off one on MTV.  I mean, its not that reality shows have any educational value.  It was just frustrating to see a network that continuously set trends were now being forced into mediocrity’s vacuum, ridding the world of all intelligence for simple currency exchange.  And now, the main event:  TONIGHT’S AWARD SHOW!  UMMMM…. I TOLD YALL I DIDN’T WATCH IT!  You guys will have to fill me in on what happened (actually, don’t fill me in.  I’m good).  I’m pretty sure the show will be filled with cursing, gyrating, etc… followed by a couple of gospel music arrangements.  But that’s how BET gets down.  Remember, this is the same network that pride’s themselves in being a family network and uplifting family.  The same network that promotes safe sex and “wrap it up”… but the same network that allow several artists that talk about how “they bang hoes daily” to perform… but yet the promote a “wrap it up” campaign?  They tell you ALL DAY to “get tested” but most of the people performing aren’t getting tested.  They’re only promoting even more sex with multiple partners.  So keep your award shows.  Keep your network, period.  I tried to AT LEAST give yall a little support when you showed repeats of “The Wire”.  But once you took that off the air, you lost me.  After all, you can’t expect me to be watching a network that shows “Pain in Full” and “State Property” at least two weekends out the month.  And you can’t expect to me to tune in to a network that had the nerve to say Little Brother, Beatnuts, and De La Soul are “too intelligent for their listening audience”.  No thanks, yall.  Remote in hand and I’m now watching SportsCenter.  Peace

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm cheating on music

Sometimes, I feel like a dumb ass rapper.  All I do is rhyme.  I don't make beats or play instruments.  I'm not saying everyone should feel as extreme as I do about this but honestly... I think all emcees should learn how to play at least one instrument.  Music shouldn't be confined strictly by the genre you participate in.  Music should be progressive.  The reason why many artists of the past 10 years will be forgotten in the next 10-15 years (or less) is because they decided to remain stagnant.  They chose to take the advance money the label gave them and spend it on worldly possessions, leaving they're soul exposed for everyone to see.  Think about the music (especially rap) that is no longer relevant.  Many artists fall in that proverbial big label trap, only to receive a few dollars... and half of it goes to taxes at the end of the year.  The rest of it goes back to the label.  So what did you really make?  Nothing.  You just have a piece of meaningless jewelry.  All that time when you were buying things that you couldn't really afford, you could've been learning you're craft and creating a new one at the same time.  Basically, expanding your horizons way beyond the means of financial gain and a love affair with the corporate world and all of its greed and evil. Now its cool to splurge... a little... every once in awhile.  But while you're out there splurging, learn the business and learn a craft.  I've fallen victim to this... I can't tell you how long I've been saying I need to learn how to play an instrument.  And honestly, I have no excuse because jazz is BY FAR my favorite music.  Join me on the mission to cultivate and build, yall.  The music is dying.  And if we continue to let it suffer, those that come after us will kill it even more.  Let's do something about this so our ancestors can be proud of us.  Peace

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

St. Andrew's and beyond

Once long ago, there was a proud hip hop scene that existed in Detroit.  I was kind of a late bloomer, as I didn't appear on the scene until 94-95.  I just didn't think it was other people in my city listening to Wu-Tang, A Tribe Called Quest, and Souls of Mischief like I was.  When I discovered there were SEVERAL others listening to the same thing, I was amazed.  My hopes of a growing hip hop scene grew exponentially.  That's why I used to catch the bus to the Hip Hop Shop on 7 Mile.  Five Elements (later 5ELA) worked there... all three members: Mudd, Thyme, and Proof (RIP).  DJ Head would be in the store spinnin' tunes and I was just in awe.  Soon after I discovered "The Shop", my good friend Julia took me to a record store called Street Corner Music and introduced me to some guy she referred to as "White Mike".  He seemed okay, rather quiet.  Well later that night, Julia took me down to some club I'd never heard of... St. Andrew's.  To my surprise, "White Mike", aka DJ Houseshoes was spinnin'... and this fool actually had on his houseshoes when he spun!  He played all kinds of incredible joints, including the one that made me lose my mind... Audio Two "Top Billin".  This was June 1995.  I would go to that club damn near every Friday for a few years and ended up having some of the best times of my life.  'Shoes, DJ Q, DJ Head, Jewelz, Slym Fas, Head, Tony Tone, Dez, O Love... so many different DJ's... there's a few more I can't remember right now... but they all played records that sent the crowd in a frenzy.  Jay Dee (RIP) would walk in and hand a "white label"  to Shoes and all of a sudden you see about 30 dudes with locks simultaneously shakin' locks in a frenzy while the rest of the club would look befuddled... then all of a sudden, we're shakin' our heads, too.  Those Friday nites, I'd be freestylin' with Bugz (RIP), Freak, Beej, eLZhi, Britus, etc... watchin Cool E spit various Rakim verses, losin' my mind with Wingo and Mo when we'd hear "Proceed No. 5" or "Soul on Ice", watchin Quest Love do the "Cabbage Patch", seeing Pete Rock go crazy when DJ Q spun "Fantastic"... so many memories of that place.  Yeah, I know.... things change.  We move on.  We get older.  But that place had so many good times.  In fact, it probably kept me out of trouble.  It felt like a safe haven.  A rehabilitation center.  A place to vent.  A place to live, laugh, build, love, and vibe.  In fact, that's how the whole scene felt to me, no matter where we were.  Even if it was a cipher on the corner.  What happened to that love?  See back then, people went to shows.  And they didn't just go because you were opening up for a big name from out-of-town.  They came because if they didn't, s'thing felt wrong with the air they breathed.  They HAD to have it because they loved it.  Some graduated from the scene to do things that none of us have ever imagined.  Did they forget about us?  I'm not sure.  They weren't obligated to come "rescue us".  After all, they had their own lives, careers, vices, addictions, or whatever the case may have been.  Every now and then, I'd wonder if some of the cats that made it past St. Andrew's ever cared about building the scene or just themself.  As I get older, I grew to care less.  Like I said before, they weren't obligated.  Unfortunately, this goes well past St. Andrew's or any other club around the way... regardless if you live in Detroit or London.  I know it will never be another era like that again.  But for my city, I'm hoping that this Royce and Eminem album opens some eyes and brings about change.  Not necessarily because the album is dope (I haven't heard it), but because these two guys are recording with each other again.  That goes way beyond screaming Detroit in an interview or doing ad's with a car company.  I'm hoping that record brings about unity, education, healing, and understanding.  As of now, those things don't exist in my city.  I'm not putting the blame on any individual or group.  I'm just hoping Royce and Em realize the power they have to evoke change... change that can help our community, city, and culture grow.  Hope to see y'all cats soon.  Much respect from a fellow Hip Hop Shop and St. Andrew's alum.  Peace and prosperity.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Motown, Motown... Big city of dreams

As a kid, I remember riding down Dexter Avenue with my father. Seemed as if it were a Saturday ritual. He would point out the abandoned houses and dilapidated buildings, telling me how beautiful things used to look. Even though I could never imagine beauty gracing this and other areas we'd encounter, I couldn't help but recognize the hint of nostalgia and sense of pride in my father's voice. His words painted the picture for me at age 12 as we rolled down the city streets of my hometown... Detroit.  The John Coltrane playing in the tape deck served as the perfect background music. It probably aroused my curiosity even more. And as was the case everytime we took this route, the inner tour guide in him led us downtown. Once there, it felt as if I were in a third-world country. Many emotions ran through my head. Nervous. Anger. Confusion. Even betrayal.
How could the city that most know worldwide as Motown and/or the car capital of America appear to be so desolate? Did anyone care or was everyone just comfortable with the pasttime paradise of the glorius 60's?
I asked my father this question. Not in those exact words but fairly similiar. He told me that the riots in 1967 killed Detroit and recovery time was unknown. That was 20 years ago. Sadly, Hitsville USA still remains in a state of uncertainty.Why? Because many of those same buildings and abandoned houses still exist, serving as rat infested trap houses for children to be abducted and raped. They decrease the value of other homes in neighborhoods across the city, making Detroit an easy target for the national media. Having a mayor that has constantly lied in court, to his family and the city as a whole does not help the situation.
A recent study in Forbes magazine ranked Detroit near the bottom out of 100 cities profiled in job growth, unemployment, median household income and income growth. Public transportation is poor. The city council is corrupt. Numerous schools have closed. Wayne County is over $20 million in debt a month. And the city's population is dwindling daily. True enough, Detroit has experienced some good times. Casinos. Twin stadiums for major league baseball's Tigers and the NFL Lions. Revitilization on Woodward Avenue and other streets downtown. All isn't bad. But most of that good is just used to disguise the city (and eventually the state's) weaknesses. Even with all this going on, I still live in Northwest Detroit. I have a lot of love for the city. But much like anybody who has that one aunt in the family that gets on your nerves, I don't like the city right now. Usually, most problems start at the top. You cut off the head and hope the problem becomes non-existent. Its time to destroy and rebuild. See you in 20 years.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I truly miss '95....

Peace world.  Its amazing how a single year can completely switch your focus and change your opinions.  On family, music, the government, on... life.  1995, the year AFTER I graduated from high school, probably remains the most significant year in my life, in terms of personal growth.  No, I didn't convert to Islam, rescue three children from a burning building, or release a platinum single on Bad Boy.  But I was discovering myself.  Music had a large part to do with it and really... the discovery actually began in '94.  But in 1995, my eyes REALLY opened.  Raekwon, 2 PAC, Smif-N-Wessun, Dogg Pound, Mobb Deep, Pharcyde, and the GZA had a lot to do with it.  Not only did I think those albums (and many other releases) were incredible, but many of the songs on those albums became the soundtrack of my day, culminating with Friday nites at St. Andrew's... easily some of the best days of my life.  Freestylin' in the neighborhood, the parkin lot and sidewalk outside the club, inside the club, in the car... all of this taking place while funny cigarettes were being lit and passed around, making me really hungry after they were gone.  Catching the bus.  Walking to the store.  Relationships with females.  Meeting new people.  Going to festivals downtown.  Drinking and smoking... so many other things that may seem simple to some but were responsible for making me the person I'd eventually become.  Do I still do some of those things?  Sure.  Do I still enjoy some of those things?  Sure.  But for some reason, none of them FEEL the same anymore.  Not because I'm not interested but because I feel out of place.  Almost as if I've become a creature of habit.  Or if this is some sort of weird sensory dislocation.  Every now and then, nostalgia creeps in and I begin to reminisce.  I'm not sure if I'm getting older and wiser or stubborn and not willing to change.  But why should I have to? Why can't things be the way they used to in '95?  Things were a lot simpler.  We weren't slaves to technology.  Now, technology has its advantages... I'll admit that.  But honestly, I know some things just aren't for me.  So excuse me if I continue to live in the past.  '95, '85... anything but this current year we live in.  Advance with the times... what if I don't want to?  I wanna remember things the way they were when I was content and at peace.  At peace musically, physically, spiritually, and mentally.  That was my perfect balance.  So if I don't fit in your universe, I'm not mad at that.  And you shouldn't be, either.  I haven't given up on one day co-existing and sharing ideas on how we can make things comfortable for future generations.  But its gotta start from within all of us.  Perhaps one day I'll see you in the future.  We can sit back and play ATARI 2600, Super Nintendo, or Genesis.  We can actually have a conversation instead of texting each other IN THE SAME HOUSE.  We can actually say what we feel and give constructive criticism instead of being labeled a "hater".  We can think progressively, hoping to somehow align the present and the future, without ignoring the past.  But if you aren't ready, I can't make you.  I can only tell you how I feel.  We used to be able to do that, ya know.  When you're ready, let me know.  Until then, I'll have on my headphones.  Out....