Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The REAL Presidential Debate

After three debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, I've realized one thing... I seriously could've been watching something else. I already knew before I changed from ESPN to MSNBC, I'd get nothing but 90 minutes of sketchy statistics, broken promises, and empty rhetoric. I watched anyway, holding on to hope, I guess.

Actually, I watched the debates to see if a few key issues would be discussed: immigration, union rights, women's health, student debt, and green jobs... especially green jobs. Obviously, I knew the economy and certain elements of foreign policy would be discussed. Romney would get his chance to bomb on the Prez for how bad the economy was/is and the Prez would get his chance to flex his muscles for "taking out" Gadaffi and bin Laden. That's cool and I'm not saying they aren't important but those have always been major obstacles of our country, along with social security and health care, two issues that will never be solved in my lifetime.

Now there was a brief mention by Romney about Green jobs during one of the debates. But his question was drowned out and wasn't heard from again... unless it took place when I went to the fridge to get another beer. I really wanted to hear that question answered, though. This was an issue very personal to me, as I was in a 16-week program in that industry in 2010. Everything from sustainable building practices and applications, plumbing, resume writing, etc. was discussed. And I was extremely happy upon completing the program. Not only did I receive a certificate in Convergent Energy, I found out I had the highest grades in my class, receiving a total of 14 A's and five B's. This came as a complete surprise to me because I was nowhere near the smartest person in the class. That distinction probably went to either Mary Greenhill or Robert Morton. Whenever I didn't know an answer, I asked them... sometimes even before I asked one of our instructors.

Anyway, I was looking forward to finding gainful employment in this particular field after doing so well. 29 months later... NOTHING! What happened to all the jobs in this field that were supposed to be available? The goal was 80,000 jobs by the year 2013. The current administration budgeted $500 million in taxpayer dollars... but so far, barely over 50,000 people have been trained for these jobs and roughly 8,000 of them received a job in the industry. And the funny thing about that is many of those jobs aren't even new jobs that were actually created. Many of them were re-classified. Loose example: If you were a science teacher that talked about wind turbines and solar panels in your lecture, you were now considered as having a "Green job". BULLSHIT! Numbers might not lie but they can certainly be very misleading, at times. And only the "positive" numbers are revealed by the canidates when its beneficial to their campaign. Just tell the truth, regardless of what party you represent.

By no means am I writing this to determine who I'm voting for. No stupid debate will determine who I vote for, or even if I vote at all. My main concern is whether or not future generations will get the fair share they deserve. Unless something is done to preserve the present, they won't. I understand that alternative energy programs are expensive and require lots of research. That's one thing that has kept me patient. But this is an area that we can really communicate with other countries to expand foreign policy and instill confidence at home, simultaneously. Foreign policy shouldn't always mean overthrowing an evil dictator. How about talking to Denmark, who receives 30% of their energy from wind? Or Germany, whose in control of 1/3 of the world's solar capacity? Or Switzerland, where in some cities cars aren't even allowed. Or Iceland, where over 80% of its energy sources is pure hydrogen and geothermal power.

Indeed, some of these changes will be viewed with skepticism and probably flat out rejection if they were strongly considered in the United States. However, more discussions and forums need to take place. Otherwise, this country will continue to lag behind others in education and technology... and I'm not talkin' about Beats by Dre headphones and sophisticated cell phones. This is way more serious.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Who You Callin' a Bitch?"

"And even after all my logic and my theory/I added mutha phucka so you ignit' ni**** hear me"... To this day, those might be my two favorite bars in the history of hip hop. Amazing what the power of words can hold, especially when you consider the source of the word and the context they're used in. Such is the case with a song I heard recently by Lupe Fiasco. Throughout Fiasco's career, he's found himself either praised for his lyrical dexterity or shunned for being naive and somewhat overly sensitive towards fans and media. To a degree, a lot of the criticism has been fair. Many of his interviews have come off as unprepared and not well thought out, perhaps due to awful public relations or trying to please everyone. Both of those are dangerous avenues to travel and have damaged some of his credibility. In other words, some cats just don't take the brotha seriously. Despite all of that, I've found Lupe to be quite intelligent. He's also shown the ability to walk a line that many emcee's today cannot... make a hit record for the mainstream audience, while still being able to hold the attention of those in the independent circles (co-signs and guest appearances ranging from Jill Scott to Kanye West certainly helped along the way). Fiasco's latest offering is a song entitled "Bitch Bad". When I first heard the title, I already knew the track would be anything but how the title sounds. One of his strongest attributes is the ability to manipulate the listener... and he knows this. He takes FULL advantage of it on this track, as well. The track basically describes how some women portray themselves and display these type of feelings around their children, totally disregarding the fact the children may grow up to mimic the same behavior and view other women they encounter the same way. I think its an insightful look inside the mind of many females (and males) who are virtually clueless about their actions... and subsequent reactions. I've read more than a few reviews where Lupe was chided for the usage of the word "bitch" and his attempt to profit on a culture that's already saturated with profanity and loose stereotypes. WELL SO WHAT! We walk amongst many people who choose to keep their minds in seclusion. Some of those walk in the lane of the close-minded. Others just have a short attention span. So, perhaps it takes songs like this to get people to pay attention to not just their actions but their words as well. Here's an example from the song (the first couple of bars of the third verse)... "Disclaimer: This rhymer, Lupe’s not usin’ bitch as a lesson But as a psychological weapon To set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions Discretions, reflections, it’s clever misdirection" The song features an odd delivery at certain points but I feel the timing in releasing the record couldn't have been any better. Years ago, many either missed the point or never heard the very on-point "Da Bichez" by Jeru the Damaja. But Fiasco's track (at least, lyrically) might be "Da Bichez" on steroids. Hope you enjoy your high.... "bitches" lol!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Today, I'm a Puff Daddy fan

Okay, so I won't be running around in shiny suits, dancing in videos, and telling my audience to "take that, take that". However, I am giving Sean "Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy (and whatever other nickname he has)" Combs some dap. Congratulations. It appears to me (from a distance) you have a son you should be proud of. Sean's son, Justin Combs, will attend UCLA upon graduation from New York's New Rochelle Iona Prep. His prize from the esteemed university: a football scholarship. Now his prize from his father, a $360,000 silver Maybach when he turned 16 two years ago, might be a bit more appealing to the naked eye... but the gift from UCLA is something that will be worth a lot more in the long run... if he continues to display the work ethic and seemingly positive attitude he's shown thus far. Combs was definitely a worthwhile recipient of the scholarship, as the three-star football recruit maintained a 3.75 GPA. He also received offers to attend Virginia, Iowa, and Illinois but chose UCLA over the other schools. The fact he made his decision in the middle of a coaching change (Rick Neuheisel was eventually replaced by former NFL coach Jim Mora Jr.) speaks to his level of commitment to the school, as many times recruits change their minds and enroll at another school when situations like this occur. The 5'9, 170 lbs talent played quarterback and defensive back in high school but will more than likely play the latter for the Bruins. UCLA has fallen on some hard times recently, as they've become yet another victim of the country's economic downfall. But athletic scholarships are not based on financial situations and do not rely on taxpayer's money, explained the school. Amidst the recent controversy, the esteemed university decided to release a statement. "Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability -- not their financial need," the statement read. "Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters. "Each year, UCLA awards the equivalent of approximately 285 full athletic scholarships to outstanding student-athletes. The scholarships are used by the UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to pay students' tuition and fees, as well as room and board. In this respect, UCLA is no different from the overwhelming majority of Division I institutions." Under those guidelines, what is Sean Combs doing wrong? More importantly, what is Justin Combs doing wrong? Yes, Forbes magazine listed him as the richest rapper in the industry (his net worth was valued at $550 million in Forbes as of April 2012). But Justin shouldn't have to refuse the scholarship, unlike many who feel he should. What lesson does that teach him? Are we saying in this country that's been dubbed as "the land of opportunity", that he should be penalized for his father's fortune? Where were those same people when George Bush Jr. went to college? Or Chelsea Clinton? Will they say the same thing about Nick Montana (Joe Montana's son) when he transfers from Washington to attend another school? Is there a certain money barrier you aren't allowed to cross in order to receive a scholarship? WAKE UP PEOPLE? This is the same university that boasts such alumni as attorney Robert Shapiro, NBA greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Reggie Miller, LA Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, tennis greats Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors, etc... in other words this isn't the first money has walked through and eventually out of the university doors.... ITS FRICKIN' UCLA FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! True, they've had a tremendous amount of difficulty the last five years in their athletic department. And the football program is a far cry away from its glory days of the 80's and 90's under former coach Terry Donahue. But with a new coach in Mora Jr. who's already put his stamp on the program by eliminating many lazy practices of past coaching staffs, I feel the Bruins are a program on the rise. Some scouts may consider Combs as being undersized for the NFL. But he wasn't recruited based on his pro potential. He was recruited based on his performance in the classroom and on the field in high school. Therefore, he deserves the scholarship. He worked hard and earned what he received. Isn't that what we teach our kids to do every day? To me, it appears to be another attack by mainstream culture on hip hop... and he's not the entertainer, his father is. Both son AND father are being unfairly scrutinized and stereotyped for working hard to earn their status. Has anyone stopped to think about Justin's feelings? Of course, he knows who his dad is and how much money he makes. Applaud him for not depending on his father for having to pay for his education and him going out and earning it on his own. To me that's more impressive than his Maybach, his last name, or his dad's bank account.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The first time I met Titus, I was drunk as hell. I'd seen him for MANY years at St. Andrew's, Alvin's and several other well-known hip hop spots in Detroit... but this one wintry Friday night in 2000 was the first night I officially met him. Earlier in the night, I spotted him and one of his fellow group members in Slum Village. We did the usual thing cats in Detroit do when you make eye contact with them... you just kinda throw your head up in acknowledgment and keep it movin'. The second time I saw him that night, it went a little differently. This time we actually had to walk past each other. I'm thinkin, "Okay, actually speak. You always said how much you want to record with Slum... now's the chance to at least exchange info". What happened next completely fucked me up. Seriously.

Before I could even open my mouth to say "peace", he begins. His words: "Man, I don't know what's tellin' me this but but... you've got this Mos Def about you". Ok, this is NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR! I'm like, "All man, here you go with that shit". Him: "Nah man, not like that... I mean yall do kinda resemble each other... but its the vibe, man". He continues: "I see people flocking to you and you performing in front of thousands of people". "Its your aura". WHAT!?!??!?!?!

Ok, at this point he is really messin' with my buzz. How is this cat that I've been listening to and watch perform for years tellin' me this and he doesn't even know my name? Never met me, never heard me rhyme... NOTHING! But he was dead serious. I was way too drunk to comprehend any of that. But I was cognizant enough to tell him we should exchange info and kick it about this later. He agreed. After the exchange, we gave each other a pound and I went straight to the bar. I was confused, excited, frustrated, baffled... curious. Who the hell does he think he is?

About a week later, I decided to find out for myself who he was. I knew I had to work that day so I decided to call him early in the day. He gave me the address and I was on my way. I got to his place, a condo in the suburbs he shared with his son and his son's mother. He told me his son's name was Majesty. That's when I knew I would know this cat for awhile. You could tell he was a father of a young child. Crayons were on the floor and it looked lil "Magic" was doin' some artwork on the wall, too! He was only two and didn't speak very well at the time but he was an active kid. I remember when I sat down, the kid walked right up to me and tried to sit on my lap. I felt a connection. All of a sudden, Titus starts to speak Hebrew to him... and the kid understood. I couldn't believe it!

As the day goes on, the kid and his mother leave. I pull out some music for Titus to listen to. He's feelin' the tracks! I'm geeked, especially since I was playing him tracks by my favorite prodcuer, dak. After about an hour of listening to dak beats, Titus says, "Man, I'd be honored if I could play you some of these old Slum Village songs we did before Volume 1". ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?!? What kind of artist/celebrity does that type of stuff? Isn't he supposed to be arrogant? Full of himself? Nah, not this cat. Titus was different. He had a whole different spirit, almost as if he'd been here before... several times.

After awhile, my stomach starts growling. In fact, both of us are starving. He goes in the kitchen and makes some rice and the largest baked potato I've ever seen. I don't know what he did to make such a simple meal so good but yeah, it was on point. And honestly, it felt sacred. It felt like I was breaking break with a close family member. I left after eating and we both admitted that it seemed like the day flew by. Upon leaving, I knew that he truly would be someone I could consider a brother.

As the years passed, we indeed became good friends. In fact, he once told that I was his best friend... along with Waajeed. That was hard for me to believe from a man who'd met so many people and traveled so many places. But I knew he was for real. We had a lot of good times in the studio, hangin' out at the clubs, the ghetto ballet (his nickname for the titty bar), ridin' around the city, eatin' Japanese food, and just talkin' about life in general. He was a cat that was way deeper than rap and way deeper than music, in general. A brotha with a lot of soul, very spiritual, and very generous. Which is why...

It hurt that the last few years of his life, we didn't really get along the best. I wasn't all the way sure why but I knew something was wrong. He was by far the most stubborn cat I've EVER met. And that takes a lot because I'm pretty stubborn myself. Despite all that, we managed to get in the studio some more and begin work on our EP. We decided to call ourselves, Planet Pluto... based on the fact that Pluto was no longer considered an official planet, its very cold there, and since Detroit has seemingly become a "distant" place and he was not currently in Slum Village so the entire process was new to him.

We never completed all the tracks but I hope one day to get the material we recorded released in his honor. He was truly a great one. The world never got the chance to see his true greatness due to some things beyond his control... and some things that were his fault. I guess life is like that sometimes. I miss that dude. But I guarantee I'll make sure the world hears his music. My fam AHK put that responsibility on our crew back in 2004. I'll never forget his words and the sincerity he expressed them with. So Titus "Baatin" Glover, we will continue to honor your life and legacy forever. Thank you for the memories and thank you for the music. Rest in power.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Tell the Truth

One of my biggest pet peeves is irresponsible journalism. So many newspapers and news services are guilty of the practice on regular basis. Some of it stems from the rush to make sure their product is sold, no matter what it takes. Another explanation probably comes from a personal dislike for the particular subject/person, which then clouds any form of professionalism. The rest of it lies in sheer ignorance. Ignorance was in full bloom Monday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" and several other media outlets labeled Brown as a "rapper" and the "bad boy of rap". Excuse me, but I thought Bobby Brown was the "Kang of Rrrr-ra and Bee"?

I always find it interesting how mainstream media somehow finds a way to associate rap with seemingly every problem of the world today. Ok, I know its a LOT of utter trash out there... some of that stuff makes ME wanna go Van Gogh and cut off my ear or something. Anyway, I know Bobby Brown has been by NO MEANS a saint during his career. But to actually call him a "rapper" is a clear indication of what "they" really feel about rap and hip hop, in general. Also apparent in all of this is image clearly means everything, regardless of the product. A good PR machine can expand longevity many years beyond actual physical existence. An bad one or an ineffective one will cast you in several sterotypes and controversy for years.

For those that don't know, Bobby Brown was a member of widely successful R&B group named New Edition. After being kicked out of the group for questionable behavior on AND off stage, he went on to an even more successful solo singing career. Did Bobby "attempt" to rap on a song or two here and there? Certainly. But so did Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Teena Marie, and Montell Jordan. I don't think any of them could ever be mistaken for "rappers", especially with Montell Jordan saying things like "every since I was a lowercase g" or Madonna talking about "drinking a Soy latte", or "doing yoga and pilates". Laughable.

With all that being said, Bobby Brown shouldn't be blamed for Whitney Houston's death. Not only did she have her own set of problems before they married in 1992, they separated in 2006 and divorced in 2007. Yes, they had a tumultuous relationship. Clearly. But to place the fault on him for her unfortunate death is insane. One thing I'll say is I've yet to see the media flat out place that blame on him... but of course, delusional fans worldwide will accept that as fact and theory.

Like many other Hollywood celebrities and entertainers, they both had problems. Major life-altering problems and life-threatning problems. But to sit back and paint Houston as an angel and Brown as the devil is absolutely absurd. Her death is tragic. Any human death is tragic. That reality is something that Brown may not get over for quite sometime, especially with the mental and physical state of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who was rushed to the hospital as a result of the news of her mother (she's also had her well-documented issues, as well). And don't forget Bobby lost both of his parents in less than a year. I can only imagine what he's going through right now. Amazing he's even still alive, to be honest.

Understand this is not a plea or an attempt to reward him a medal, trophy, or plaque for good behavior. I'd just like to see stories reported with truth and a little more integrity. Instead of sensationalizing a story and placing undeserved blame, stick to the facts. I'm sure they probably had a genuine love for each other but realized the actual relationship was too much to deal with... so they divorced. They both entered the relationship with their own personal baggage and definitely picked up some more along the way. But they both moved on. I think we should, too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Death is Certain

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone"...

Those are a couple of bars from the ultra-famous tune by Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi". On Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, those words never rang truer for me, as I experienced the loss of my father, Augustus Greenleaf. "Gus G" (or Daddy Gus, as I've heard some others call him) passed away at the age of 77. Cancer was the cause, as it attacked his liver, lungs, colon, bladder, and kidney.

Honestly, his passing was s'thing I prepared myself for several years ago. He suffered a severe stroke less than 10 years ago... and that's when I saw the changes coming. The little things he used to do like watching "Looney Tunes" and "Tom & Jerry" everyday, going to the spa, and reading the Sports section all changed. Dates and numbers he would be able to recite easily... gone. But the thing that let me know my Dad wouldn't be with me to much longer is when he gave me his collection of jazz tapes. I ain't talkin' that bs smooth jazz crap that we both loathe so much. I'm talkin' about classic material like Bobby Timmons, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Ahmad Jamal, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef, Lee Morgan, and my favorite musician of all time in any genre... 'Trane. My Dad played music around me all my life. But it was something about the jazz, man.

Jazz and sports were our main connections. The jazz was heavier, though. It spoke to our soul. I remember many days he'd call me and see if I was listening to the Ed Love show WDET 101.9FM. Or how he'd call me and read off the list of tapes he wanted to go buy at Dearborn Music. He'd come pick me up just for the experience. After the purchase, he'd excitedly rip open the packaging and put the tape in before he put the car in drive. Once the tape got goin', he'd use the dashboard as an imaginary piano. I'd just shake me head and laugh knowin' damn well I was as into it as he was. Those are the memories of my Dad I'll remember the most.

I prepared myself for this day a long time ago. But until it happened, I never really know how I'd feel. I still don't know. Feb. 6, 2012 at 5:13 am was the beginning of his transition and probably the beginning of my transformation. The timing of it was so odd, considering I've been in the midst of planning a tribute to my good friend and music associate Titus "Baatin" Glover, who passed away in 2009. Add to that the fact my Dad's funeral is the same day as the soon-to-be legendary "Dilla Day" in Detroit, which honors the incredible producer/emcee/composer James Yancey. But the fact that those events are shaped around my Dad's passing push his transition closer to the forefront. It magnifies everything I've done and everything I'm about to do. Even still, I'm praying for strength and guidance because honestly... when the music stops I have no idea how I'm gonna feel. Now synchronizing headphones and pushing play....