Don’t Think about Elephants. (N*ggas in Paris Mix)

 

Let me get this straight. They name the song N*ggas in Paris and you get mad at a white person for saying N*ggas in Paris? Really? I suppose I could say that I blame Gwen Paltrow for saying the word..or typing the EXACT  title of the song, but why should I? Jay Z and Kanye named the song!

You all know that white people are the largest group of people who buy rap music? So when artists are saying those words they are repeated over and over again. There are mixed messages being sent. We say don’t use the word but we are going to use it all the time? I say “we” because unless “we” stop the community from using the word it will never leave the consciousness of this society.

What pisses me off is that I love this song, I just hate the title. But, let me guess what some people will say. It is the artist discretion to name the song. Really? So the label and the production company have no say at all in any of this? Ha, I bet they didn’t it either. Some executive (who very well could have been Jay Z) thought naming this song N*ggas in Paris would be a great idea! The title is inappropriate and everyone knows it, but you know what? It is provocative, it gets the people going!

However, we are going to get mad when some white person names the song. We are going to say to everyone that the word should never be used by white people ever. HA! If I told you to stop thinking about Elephants, what are you thinking about? This is exactly my point. There is no way that you can get people to stop saying the N word when you have people making money off the word. That is what hip hop has been doing for decades and people are buying it up. More importantly, white people are buying it.

This is not me saying that white people shouldn’t be buying this because I don’t believe that. I am one to believe that music tends to bring together rather than divide. Many rappers can sell out shows in Japan and do quite well in the foreign market. The problem is…they are spreading the word. So what is going to happen? Everyone will be thinking about the one word we don’t want them to say. No one really talks about it or brings that word into context. I would be surprised if the young black youth really knows the true meaning of the word.

The word should not be used period, but you cannot seriously be upset when the title of a popular song has the N word. Want to blame someone? First look into the mirror and ask yourself if you ever say it. If you do, then you are part of the problem. If you don’t then it is your job to tell others, no matter who it is, not to say the word and why. But, with pop culture glorifying this word…it will always be the elephant in the room.

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Heavy D: He Had is own Thang

When I talk about my love for hip hop, I often say that the artist that really made me start buying albums was Rakim. The first CD that I ever bought with my own money was Redman’s debut. But, the first cassette that I every owned was Heavy D and the Boyz: Big Tyme. Sure, I rocked Big Daddy Kane with my cousin who bout 12 inch vinyl records. I would also listen to my brother tapes as well so I was always into hip hop, but Heavy D represented something to me.

When I was a sophomore in High School I had very few friends. I felt like I was the smallest kid in all of Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys. I lived in Riverdale at the time because years earlier, my mother decided to move me to yet another section in the Bronx. I did not care for this place, I was in the whitest neighborhood I have every seen up to that point. The commute was something I had to get used to. I had to find my way from Castle Hill Ave all the way to Riverdale. This meant taking three buses.

I ended up making friends with kids from my school who lived in Washington Heights that took the exact route I did. Some were even seniors that I ended up hanging out with. But, despite this, I was relatively unhappy. I couldn’t speak to girls and I was just this short nerdy kid trying to find his way. Then one of my buddies asked me if I liked Heavy D. Of course I did, who wouldn’t like The Overweight Lover? So he gave me his cassette. Maybe he lent it to me and I just never gave it back…but I still have it.

I listened to Big Tyme everyday on my walkman. As I look back at it now, this was the first album that I listened to from start to finish. Not one bad song. He set the bar for me when it came to buying future albums. I remember how listening to this album got me through the days where school was hard in a time where my parents fought over me and their failing marriage. More importantly, I found it hard to fit in and I remember a particular line from his song “We Got Our Thang“: Don’t be down with everyone, let ’em all be down with you. This one line made me rethink many things in my life. I realized that I shouldnt have to fit in. I should just be me and let people deal with it.

Heavy D became a huge part of my High School life through this album. First, Big Tyme itself is a classic. Every track stands alone, but I absolutely love the song, “Somebody for Me“. This was another song that just spoke to me because he raps about how hard it was to find the one for him. It seemed to hold true to me for so many years. He was trying to find someone who loved him for who he is and I appreciated that. I remember some girl telling a friend of mine in high school that I would be cute if I had an earring and a mustache and got rid of the nerdy glasses. I was ready to get my ear pierced! But, my brother told me that I should not have to fix my appearance for anyone. A woman needs to like you for who you are now. It made me think of that song.

Let me not to forget that he indeed a pioneer of the industry. The collaboration on Somebody for Me was with Al B Sure and at the time Hip Hop/R&B songs were rare. When I was in college he has this song with called “Dem No Worry We” with Supercat that was crazy! Dancehall was just becoming a sensation when that came out and I am pretty sure he was the first or one of the first Hip Hop artist to be on a Dancehall track. He moved to television with appearances on Its A Different World. He maintained relevance within the industry by continuously dropping albums in the 90’s. However, I think because he was not the gangsta/pimp type, he was not getting the airplay or the credit he was due.

When I think about the tapes that I made in college to listen to, I think about all the people who I put along side him. Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest,  EPMD, Jungle Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, and that is just to name a few. Heavy D died way too young. We joke about when we are all old and they will have the legends of hip hop performances like you see in those old Motown shows..who would actually look good performing? Well, Heavy D would have. He would have rocked it with songs that are timeless. He was never negative. He never used the N-word. He was always about being positive to women and the community. We not only lost a music legend, we lost a humanitarian.

Hip Hop (as I know it) is Dead.

Sometime last week I mentioned on Twitter that Hip Hop is dead. I have said this before and will probably say it again. It just so happens that days before I tweeted this, I was over a friend’s house and a bunch of us were talking and listening to Music Choice from Time Warner Cable. The channel was set on Hip Hop and R&B and I was not impressed for the entire night, which lead me to my statement that Hip Hop is dead.

Of course, people felt the need to argue with me and tell me that Hip Hop was indeed alive and I had to find it. Perhaps, but my point is that Hip Hop as I know it is dead and gone. I found it hard to articulate why I felt a certain way. I can only look back at the past and point out that (and this is my opinion) the greatest 2-3 year span of Hip Hop music was between 1991 – 1993. I actually expanded this to include 1991 because I think there were things that happened that year that kicked off the following two years. That era is important when you think about the apex of the genre. This is not to knock the 80’s at all, but take in to account some the albums that came out those years and the amount of music that was so good.

I was thinking about all this before I saw the documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”. After seeing it, I realized I was right in my assessment. Hip Hop is a whole different animal than what I remember it. This documentary was amazing and it took me to a place I haven’t been too in a very long time. This was when I loved rap music so much.  A Tribe Called Quest was that the center of it all with their albums that were just ridiculous. But, it was more that just the music, it was feeling, an intangible thing that no words could describe. It is like one of those stories that end up with the phrase “you just had to be there.”

I didn’t know at the time that I was in witnessing one of the greatest eras of  Hip Hop at the time. Sure, I grew up with it. My brother had a Boom Box and we would listen to cassettes, but this particular time was me in college buying my own CD’s and cassettes. I would make play-lists for people and record them. At one point I made my own rhymes and even a small song (it was horrible). I loved it and respected the industry for what it was. At one point during the documentary, Quest Love, from The Roots, says “The second Tuesday of October ’93, I consider that the last great day in classic Hip Hop. Two very important albums came out that day: Enter the 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang and Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest” This is the very basis of my argument.

Let’s talk about how many artists and albums came out during this period and think about the quality. Look at the industry now and you should see that anyone can be a rap artist now.

1991
  • A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory
  • NWA – N****z For Life
  • Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
  • Naughty by Nature – Naughty by Nature
  • Public Enemy – Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black
  • Black Sheep – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  • Leaders of the New School – A Future Without a Past
  • Main Source – Breaking Atoms
  • Nice & Smooth – Ain’t a Damn Thing Change
  • De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead
1992
  • Dr Dre – The Chronic
  • Redman – Whut? Thee Album
  • The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II Tha Pharcyde
  • Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Mecca and the Soul Brother
  • EPMD – Business Never Personal
  • Ice Cube – The Predator
  • Das Efx – Dead Serious
  • Diamond D – Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop
  • Gangstarr – Daily Operation
  • Eric B & Rakim – Don’t Sweat the Technique
1993
  • A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
  • Wu Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg – DoggyStyle
  • Souls of Mischief – ’93 til Infinity
  • Black Moon – Enta Da Stage
  • Queen Latifah – Black Reign
  • Run DMC – Down With the King
  • Lords of the Underground – Here Come the Lords
  • Onyx – Bacdafucup
  • The Alkaholics – 21 & Over

I picked 10 albums from each of these years that have solidified the era I am referring to. Before people starting digging through their collection on albums that came out in 1994, I just want to mention a few things. Nas dropped one of greatest albums in 1994, that is a given. However, he was in a single by Main Source in 1991 (Live at the Barbeque) and he had a single in 1992 (Halftime). The Notorious B.I.G, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, had a single in 1993 (Party & Bullshit) on the Who’s The Man soundtrack. Jay Z was in a group called Original Flavor that had a single in 1993 (Can I get Open). Common debuted in 1992 with his first album: Can I Borrow a Dollar?

This is the Hip Hop that I am missing. Can you name 10 albums that came out last year that was really good? I can name 2-3. Sure, we now have the Kanyes and the Drakes but we lack what this genre used to be. Now, it is all about the commercialism and the fame, which is fine because people need to eat. But, the artistry of Hip Hop has been reduced to fake rivalries, auto tunes, twitter beefs, and dance songs with one verse.

Maybe I have been spoiled with being born at at time when Hip Hop was beginning. Perhaps I am spoiled with being alive to understand that I have lived through the golden age. Hip Hop as I once knew it is dead. I wish I could say different but even Nas made a song about. I just have a question that was raised by Public Enemy, Who Stole the Soul?

Can I get a Wu-Tang?

Today is the Wu-Tang Concert that I am going to. I have made this event pretty well known on Twitter and on my personal Facebook page. I am very excited to go because this is the first time I am attending a concert outside of Syracuse in a very long time.

I do not express my love for hip hop nearly as much as I should on this blog. I consider myself a fan of older hip hop than of it’s current version. But, there are some individuals and groups that I would pay to see over and over again. Clearly, Wu-Tang Clan falls into this category. I find it funny because I love their music but I do not look like the typical hip hop fan in my opinion. People joke and call me professor (especially with my new glasses) but I quickly remind people that I grew up in the Bronx, where hip hop started.

I will always say that I feel privileged enough to be around when a culture was born. Even though I was really young when this whole thing started, I still saw how the world of  music change around me. I make fun of my brother because he is seven years my elder and I can remember the funky clothes he used to wear while carrying that boom box he got on his 15th birthday. The hip hop culture is something that was always a  subject that the both of use could relate to, even when things were not going well.

I feel that Wu-Tang Clan represents everything I wanted in Hip Hop at the time. The beats were crazy and the lyrics were sick. Since I used to watch Kung Fu flicks when I was in a kid, it only made the entire experience more enjoyable. I can remember back in my college days that my roommate and I would go back in fourth blasting CDs. He would blast The Notorious B.I.G (before his CD came out…) and I would pump Wu-Tang’s first album. It never got old and we loved every minute of it. This is also a time when you can buy an album and love the majority of songs on it. I find that to rare these days in any genre.

There was something about this group back in the 90’s, when I was in college, that represented a sense of freedom to me. I was away from my parents and I was loving life in the best way I could. Now, almost twenty years later, I can say that I almost feel the same way. I can go to this concert as my last act of freedom in 2010 and to usher in 2011 as a free single man that can do whatever he pleases.

The one thing I will try not to do is to not be too critical of the venue or the show in the technical aspect. The worst part about being an event planner and working so may concerts is that someone like myself be can critical of the staff. I will try my best to just enjoy the show!

Hip Hop is Dead…

I consider myself a fan of Hip Hop. I feel privileged to have grown up in this era that has seen this musical genre become a lifestyle. Since I have seen so many rappers and heard so many songs, I can be pretty critical of who I like. I can be picky with the Cd’s I buy and the music I listen to. I don’t believe every song is hot and I do not believe every rapper is a legend.

What happened to the day when Emcees could battle each other with pure lyrical skill? What happened to the days when KRS One and MC Shan used to drop songs and leave it all out on the airwaves for the benefit of the people? Well those days are gone. Hip Hop is supposed to be about ridiculous lyrics recorded over crazy beats.

Not these days. I came across an article about some beef between 50 Cent and Rick Ross. I am not sure what happen and I don’t really care. What I do know is this, I was never really a fan of 50 Cent and Rick Ross had one song I know of, so I don’t care about him either, but I really have no respect for 50 Cent when he can stoop as low as this: 50 Cent Releases Sex Tape To Humiliate Rap Rival.

I have nothing against porn or sex tapes. But, when 50 Cent is wearing a wing and narrating…that is just plain Baffoonery! Bad enough that this man loses a challenge to Kanye West (who I do like) over record sales, but now he thinks he is winning fans over releasing a sex tape of Rick Ross’s baby mama? Not to mention that chick is wack! (yeah I did see it)

This is not a surprise to me that he can sink this low. Is it that he cannot dominate with his lyrics? When Jay-Z stepped to Nas, did Nas try to take out Beyonce? Not at all. Nas handled it with the Ether. That is what true fans of Hip Hop want to see. They want to feel like they are in the club listening to two emcees battle it over a beat. We don’t see that anymore do we?

Now, I just have to wait every other year for a Common or Nas Album, or maybe something from Outkast or Kanye, or if I am lucky, The Roots will drop something soon. The golden days of Hip Hop are gone and I am not sure they are coming back…

“Hip Hop just died this morning and she’s dead…..she’s dead”

Blame It On The Boogie…

I struggled with a topic to discuss tonight. Depending on the day, it does take me a while to unwind from work. So, today being one of those days, I thought to myself maybe I should play some music to focus because I have come to the realization that this is what music does to me. I cannot explain it, but I can to school work or write a novel, all to music. Right now I am listening to some house music as I am writing this. Daft Punk to be specific.

Some of the students make fun of me because when they come into my office it is almost like a party. I normally have my itunes on shuffle so that I can listen to pretty much anything I have at any point during the day. I laugh because I had a meeting with a colleague today and we are having a serious conversation and in the background you can hear, “Brooklyn, We Go Hard”

It reminds of my days when I lived on South Campus when my roommate, Pop, would wake me up with music. That man would not let me sleep past 9am. So sometimes he would walk in to my room dancing to some new beats he got from one of his friends. I never considered myself much of a dancer. I mean I can do a mean chair dance. I have always been one of those people that would just bob my head to the music in a club. Unless, you put on some Salsa or Merengue, then it is on. Then I can cut it up!

Then there is the whole karaoke craze. I am not crazy about humiliating myself in public. However, I have been persuaded to sing a song or two. But, of course to me the Karaoke places that I have been to don’t really have the selection that I would like. Because I will admit, that if they have certain Michael Jackson songs…then may just have me jamming. I am talking about black Micheal. I am down to sing P.Y.T., or Off The Wall, or Billy Jean, I may even hit you up with Blame it on the Boogie or better yet, Dancing Machine! (I have a whole routine, I just need 4 brothers…)

I love music. If it has a good beat then I am all over it. So much so, that I have started a music collection that I am pretty sure that is so broad and I will never complete. I feel that my music collection is journey of my life. My parents would always playing music when cleaning, cooking, and driving. So, the music I heard as a kid is always something I have been interested in and will always look for. The tricky thing is that I am dealing with so many genres.

My father, to this day, is a gadget person, so back in the day, he had vinyl, 8 track, tapes, and even like old school reel to reel. I, of course, was not allowed to touch any of his things because I would destroy anything I touched. I do remember the number of records he had of Salsa. So many albums form Fania Recording Artists. So, he would make these tapes with El Gran Combo, Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, and I could go on. I am still looking for all those songs now!

My mother, while she was into Salsa. She loved Motown. So one minute I could be listening to Marvin Gaye and the next Diana Ross. I can never really prove this, but I think my parents went clubbing in the 70’s. Someone was playing Disco, because that is just another genre I cannot get enough of. Not to mention that I was an 80’s kid and was around to hear the birth of hip hop. My brother had a boom box! He loved him some Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, and Run DMC.

He amazes me because he still follows hip-hop. I call him the oldest Jay-Z fan alive. His response? The Rock is in the building! (He was a Guy Fan too…so I sing “Groove Me” just to get under his skin)

Name a hot song and I might just have it. If I don’t have, I will get it…

It was all a dream…


I do not go to the movies as often as I would like to so when I went to see Notorious, I was hoping to be transported back to the early 90’s. I am always amazed when a movie passes my expectations and I was indeed transoported. Notorious not only made me relive my college years but also made me dust off all of The Notorious B.I.G.’s cds. For anyone that is a hip hop fan this is a must see. This is when hip hop felt real.

I will not divulge any details, however I will express a few things:

Lil’ Kim protested her role in the film because she not portrayed accurately. Being that the film is not about her to begin with, I think that her role in the film was really not bad. She came across as someone that loved Biggie Smalls, but could not escape the fact that he only saw her as his mistress. Regardless of all that, he respected her and her skills (on mic of course…yeah yeah and that too).

Jamal Woolard, who played Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls, was fantastic. He had it all down, the flow, the heavy breathing, even the laugh. Kudos to him for a great job.

Finally, I am impressed that this wasn’t a Sean Combs show. This movie was meant to be about the greatest rapper of all time and it remained that way.

*****

Of course this movie got me to thinking, “How different would Hip Hop be today if Biggie was still alive?” While my opinions will be disputed, I am willing to defend them as well. I spent the better part of the night thinking about this and I came up with some these:

– Jay Z would not nearly be as big as he is right now. Neither would Beyonce for that matter…
Mase would still be in Hip Hop
– 50 Cent & Lil’ Kim would have better albums
– Junior Mafia would still be around (The Lox would still suck)
– This can go without being unsaid but, the state of Hip Hop would be better

Can you imagine a song with The Notorious B.I.G., T.I., Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and vocals by T-Pain? Damn, I do miss Biggie (and Big Pun).

Old School is the Only School

{Originally Posted on Myspace}

I have such a love for music. I realize that more and more everyday. There are several things that I love outside family and friends (and pets); Music, baseball (lets go Mets!), comic books, movies, and to a lesser degree video games. Yet, music bridges the gaps in my life. I hear a song and my mind will flood with memories of either good or bad times in my life. Certain songs will even make me think of a sunny day of when perhaps I first heard the song. I can say that Alicia Keyes first album Song in A Minor reminds me of brisk Syracuse mornings because I played her CD non stop each time I walked to work from Fellows Ave. So there is no wonder that, as I write this, I have 2138 (and growing everyday) on my I-pod.

The music I collect ranges from just about all genres, except country. But, I like to believe that I specialize in the old stuff or what I consider to be old. Sure, you will hear me jam to T.I. in my office but, I love music from the 70s and the 80s. I am talking about Old School Music. I mean I am really talking about when Disco was hot, when rap music was brand new, when R&B was really Rhythm and Blues, and when Michael Jackson was black. I am also talking about when Salsa music was classic!

I really believe I have the best music collection of anyone my age. I can make a play list for any occasion. You need background music? I got jazz for you. You need entrance music? I got music from soundtracks you wont believe. Lets not forget House music and all it forms. Lets not forget old school reggae either. I cant get enough of this stuff and just when I think that I cannot think of any more music to get, I see a commercial that has a song I dont have. Better yet, my father will have CDs of salsa classics I did not even think about before. The world of music, you gotta love it.

Funny story before I sign off. I was in the Bronx the other week (and happy to say that it is rockin) and when I visit my old hometown I make sure I bring new music back up with me because Syracuse isnt on top of all this shit. So I am on Castle Hill. Just got out of eating from a place called Sabrosura. I figured I would stop by a place called S.O.S, which is a DJ Specialty shop. I get all the music I need from this place. So we walk there and I see this small woman cop, who was built like a fucking rock, come out of the store. She doesnt have on a uniform, but you can tell she is a cop because of her gun and her handcuffs. I am thinking, ok she got some music and as I am about to walk in her partner was like, nah man, they are closed. So I am looking around like why the hell are they closed??? This guy, who is sitting on a mailbox next to two of his friends explains that they got shut down due to bootlegging and other illegal shit. Damn! I was so madbut I wont tell the cops how I bought a phat CD in a SHOE STORE near Pelham Parkway! As, I said…cant live without the music (and yes, it was and old school cd).

Hitting the Road!

{Orginally Posted on Blogger}

May is here! The last 5 months have been off the hook. I have been so busy. Just a few things: I was appointed as chair to ANCLA (Association of Neighbors Concerned with Latino Advancement). I selected a Master Program (Cultural Foundations of Education). Got an Ipod. Met the Roots, Common, and Jadakiss all one week. Not to mention I met Charlie Murphy! Then there is all the work in between. Proof as to how much I have worked….I have 3 1/2 weeks of vacation left (I get 4 weeks) that I have to use by July 1st.

My cousin Rick (Rico to you), was in Law & Order: Criminal Intent last night. It was the greatest performance I have ever seen in such a small period of time. I totally believed that he worked at a car rental dealership. When he looked at this guy and said “I will get the keys, you need a map?”, I was done. Remember the name Ricardo Maldonado!

So, I am going on tour! Since I have gotten tired of working so fucking much, I have decided to take to the roads. Puerto Rico in June. New York City, Atlanta, Florida in July. Washington DC in August and if I am really lucky Toronto in September. I should provide pictures, but at the rate I am going on updating this site….