Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"My Sister & Me..."

-- October 26th, 2004 --

Family is a beautiful thing, isn't it? To know that someone has your back till the wheels fall off is a refreshing and safe feeling, right? Wish I could share that feeling with my immediate family. The people who I came into this World knowing as my family are a bunch of looney-tunes. Not saying that they won't have my back and wouldn't try to fight my battles, it's just that I know that everything with my family has a price. Mainly a monetary price.

I had to fill out a FAFSA form for my Spring semester at the University I attend. So, money is very tight for Kevin right now because he needs to be able to have loot for books and other miscellaneous bills that may rear its ugly head. Upon telling that to my family and being on campus for the play that I'm in (picture coming soon) -- I was under the belief that they were going to support what I was trying to do. WRONG! I had came back home one night after play practice to see a bill sitting in front of this very computer that I am on right now.

The bill was for... get this... $2,654.18. Now where they got 18 cents from is beyond my reason of comprehension. But, the bill wasn't all that far-fetched. Listing some things for my car insurance (monthly) and putting some funds in for the electric bill, were understandable and well within reason. But I could NOT fathom how could someone try and tax me for sleeping on the couch where I live?!!? $10 for sleeping on the couch, $20 dollars for sleeping in. Hell, I didn't have anything else to do till a certain time. Nothing to be done around the house, so if I laid on the couch until 9:45 when my Mom goes to work at 8:45, doesn't seem too harsh, now, does it?!!?

I was livid. I told one of my best and closest friends about it and her words were -- "Get out of the house... IMMEDGIATELY!!!

That is her in the picture with me. It was taken some time ago at her family's block party in Akron (home of LeBron James). I say that she is my sister because she has always been there for me through thick and thin when others weren't. When my own sister had (and has) her habit of doing shady business, my best friend is there to rectify the situation.

In part, I am writing this to express my gratitude to her for us not only being friends for a hella long time (is it going on double-digit years, yet?!), but to also to tell her the potential that she has within her own faculties.

S. Boogie -- you are going to accomplish great works sooner as opposed to later. You have the drive, ambition, courage, and resolve to be the best at whatever you decide to put your mind to. Those divas need to understand that there. Do not sweat the small stuff -- who cares if you don't have a boyfriend or a Man or whatever people want to call it. It only hinders you in the long run. Look at Oprah -- she ain't married Stedman and she's a BILLIONAIRE!!!! You have opportunity beating down your door, so let that be your guide to everything else you wish to have in life. I am proud to call you my friend, elated to know you as my best friend, and inspired enough to say that you are family in my eyes. Love you, always -- be blessed and stay righteous.

Your Little Brother -- K-Star...

"There's No Us in Trust"

-- October 26th, 2004 --

"How could you do this to me?!!" "What made you think of such a thing?!!?" "With who?!!?" "...why...?"

Questions from the heart of a person who has been done wrong too many times... by too many people. Yes, I know that you have been hurt, led astray, misused, abused, and left for dead by some miscellaneous man or woman who has decided that you no longer fit the equivalent of who they want in a relationship. It understandable to ascertain that you have been with the person for a long period of time. Your hearts have joined together in unison. You both have met each other's respectable families. Spent loving nights together joined at the hip and awoke to have eyes greet the arising of a new day dawning.

But all that is over now. It is a startling epidemic that both those in relationships and ones who are single face daily. We do NOT trust each other. I believe that you never put 100% of your trust into another person because people have a tendency to fail you. But the "I-first" mentality seems to be the trend in relationships as much as it is in rap music. Why is this? Could it be because men and women no longer have patience to try and understand one another for who they may be? Or is it because the stereotypes that we place on each other are beliefs that we hold true to?

All in all, it is quicker to lose trust rather than to gain it. But how do you feel if it was never established? That no matter what you did whether good or otherwise -- it was perceived that you had an ulterior motive. A friend of mines is going through this relationship -- although he doesn't understand or maybe acknowledges this fact. The woman that he chose to be on-and-off with will never trust him. Even though he has done his share of wrong in his day -- he still stick it out with her through her spaz out moments.

A particular event that happened was we were at a club, all dancing -- and she happens to stroll in unannounced. Cool -- no problem... But she came in when she saw him dancing with a miscellaneous chick who was friends with us. Miscellaneous in her eyes because she didn't know her -- keyword: instant threat... So she yanks my friend and begins berating him about his "transgressions" -- so he becomes one of those house Negroes that BruthaCode was talking about in one of his blog posts. He was attached to her hip, no even really to come around the girls who we're friends with... who were also the ones who rode up there with us. My friend is a dance major in College -- so his life revolves around fast-paced syncopating rhythms... but was limited to two-stepping with his "girl" because she didn't want to dance in front of all these people?!!?

Crazy, huh?!!?

Now, my thoughts about battlin' in clubs while being in College is that it's lame. Who wants to see two or three or four guys poppin' and lockin' when there is a multitude of girls waiting to be gyrated upon. But on this night there was indeed a battle. My boy does have skills. He was battling a couple of cats who I knew from the Cleveland chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. They were nice too. My boy was soooooo rattled from having gotten into argument after argument with his "girl" over so many stupid stuff that he was couldn't concentrate on what he was doing in the battle and got ate up.

Stupid crazy, huh?!!?

Now, I'm not just taking my boy's side because that's my dawg. He has his mistakes as well. He doesn't trust her either. But through all this distrust, they managed to keep a tab on one another for three years. Why put yourself through all the stress, heartache, and anger if you cannot deal with the person you've decided to spend your time with? It seems ludricous to do such a thing, right?!!!?

Insane crazy, huh?!!?

Which leads me to believe that you have to most definitely leave trust to the Lord above. Because if left in the hands, hearts, and minds of us humans -- we are bound to try and find all the flaws possible in that belief. Trust can be a powerful drug or a dangerous weapon...

Crazy, huh?!!?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Dazed & Confused"

-- October 19th, 2004 --

I feel like there is this big inside joke being told throughout the Black women community in regards to something pertaining to me. Not like everyone is laughing at me, hardy-har-har -- but it seems like I cannot get the ones who I'm interested in. This joke must not have gotten to ALL the Black sistas because the ones who I know I'm not remotely interested in all find a way to try and hit me up.

Do I not fit into the mold of what most females want in a Black man nowadays? I mean, unless it's totally out of wack -- I would think that Women would want a man who is single (meaning no past girlfriends or relationships that happen to creep up), no kids, educated, in college, has his own transportation, and has a good personality. Now... if I have been led to believe that these aren't some of the criterias that most Black women want in a Man... then... by all means, feel free to tell me where I've gone wrong. What I have come to notice is that when dealing with me -- most Women are comfortable expressing themselves. Why? Because I at least try to attack the issue from a male and female perspective (the females usually offer their own insight).

Is it because I don't fit into a-typical role that most females want to have on their arm? I'm not the 6-foot-5, 280 lbs. of muscle, with the big brown, Tupac Shakur eyes. Hell, I'm not even the Taye Diggs frame, even though we may have the same height (I heard the Brotha is indeed short). I love who I am. I think that I am the shit -- that can only get better. (LL Cool J Starter Kit, I tell ya.)

I am tired of playing messenger to a couple who don't have the balls to figure it out for themselves. Exhausted with knowing all there is to know about a certain person, only to get put on the back-burner for someone who's past is as shady as the darkside of the moon. Disappointed that I can be the right type of person for someone in almost every sense of the word -- but fall short on some unnamed checkpoint on their list for a "good Black man". Is it stressful, somewhat? Not to the point where I'm losing sleep wondering why said-Sista doesn't find my company to be the one in which she wants to keep. But it is sad... Why? Because of all the "complaints" about there not being any good Black men or being in situations where you know the Brotha isn't any good -- that by taking a chance with me would be a welcomed change.

Yes, I acknowledge the fact that I'm not going to be on every Sista's "to die for" list -- I know there are some things that will never garner a woman's fancy. Whether that be materialistic, spiritual, or otherwise -- in some ways I will never measure up to a Black woman's standards. But let my actions speak candidly for me before assessing that I am not the one that you want.

It perplexes me to see that others can live their life so freely when it comes to a myriad of things -- sex, commitment, et cetera. Meanwhile, I have to sit idly by only because those who I choose to be interested in don't fancy me the same. So, amidst the confusion -- I am deciding to take a sabbatical.

Yes... a vacation if you must say so... To do what is best for me. Travel, continuing to write (not just in this journal), working out -- whatever it may be for me to do what is best for me until I'm ready to return to the forray. Ladies... I'm out like the Lakers in the Finals... better yet, I'm hangin' it up like Jordan. Hopefully when/if I return -- things would've changed. But a good friend of mines said it best... "Ain't nothing new under the Sun..."

So, I bid you adieu...

P.S. -- For those who may or may not understand -- the reason why I have Larenz Tate is to emphasize what woman may/may not think is attracted versus myself.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

"Coonery 101: An Education"

-- October 16th, 2004 --

There is a reason why I love Allhiphop.com so much -- besides the quick updates in the Hip-Hop community, they really have great writers. This piece caught my eye, I hope that it sparks some good thoughts in your mind.

To read the article about Coonery 101: An Education. Please click on the picture.

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe...?!!?"

-- October 12th, 2004 --

"It's the sign of a sick and insane people... and I haven't lost my mind, yet, thank God..." A man who I consider like a Father to me says that everytime he gets into his rants about what Black folks don't, won't, or just too afraid TO do. It was that very statement that keep ringing in my head the more I read this article. For those who didn't [or don't have time to] read it -- I'll explain myself.

The morals of Black culture are severely out of wack. Maybe in our pursuit of the perception of "freedom" we decided to emulate White folks in everything that they do and... in true African-American fashion -- do it better than them.

This child -- a 22 year old single mother, left her child home alone. While she partied and watched television and movies with friends. As Spongebob Squarepants pranced across the t.v. screen -- her 2-year old daughter laid lifeless. Dying from an agonizing dehydration and a diaper rashed that was the equivalent of a 2nd degree burn.

[Hopefully, this will spark your interest in reading the story for yourself...]

I again state that this is the sign of a sick and insane culture...

Where young men and women are having unprotected sex and are neglectful of the responsibilities that await them either nine months down the road or a few weeks later in the Doctor's office. Where young Black women are having children at ages when they, themselves, are still developing and have to now put their lives on hold for another. The men in these relationships stray away from the responsibility of being a father.

.....Or is this what the White media would like us to believe?

I believe that there are plenty of Black Men stepping up to handle their responsibilities -- it's just that we as Humans like to focus moreso on the negative trappings rather than the positive release of our self-esteem. Take a look at shows like Maury or Jerry Springer. Whose main focus is to shock and dismay you with their antics. Maury's main highlights on the show deal with the paternity test. [A guilty pleasure, if I may add] -- But it is shows like this that really show you how deprived a culture we can become and/or are in some regards. Why? Because we actually have people like this. We actually have people who will have five or six children with the same amount of different partners all who deny any knowledge of ever being with the woman in question. Then demean the woman who not only mothered their children but who THEY chose to sleep with.

It is the sign of a sick and insane culture when you have men not proud of the actions that they took. Worst when you have women participating in acts just to do so for pure pleasure without any regards for what may happen to them or the life that they carry within them. Children are supposed to be a blessing -- a continuing legacy of a union formed out of love and mutual admiration. But what I am seeing is a total disregard for the sanctity of marriage, even the dissolution of respect between a man and woman in any fashion. It's sad when a child has to grow up wondering where's his daddy...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

"Quench My Thirst"

-- October 7th, 2004 --

Gawrsh, it is a gift and a curse when it comes to being single. I mean -- you aren't spending your money on her, can come and go as you please, don't have to hear her mouth when/if she's upset. On the flipside, your bed is empty. You have no one to really be the affectionate ear to listen to you complain and not think that you're annoying. Or laugh at the jokes that only you find funny.

Relationships are a crazy thing. What I've noticed these past few years is that us, as males, in addition to some females -- are thirsty.

Thirsty -- v. -- Wanting or desiring a person of the opposite sex to the extreme degree.

Yes, for some it doesn't matter if you have all of your teeth, just as long as the face is cute and the posterior is stacked -- you'll do. For women, it may be something materialistic that you own, or the fact that you have good hair. All in all -- we want what we want now -- no waiting or patience in-between.

I titled this, "Quench My Thirst" -- because of that impatience that I am feeling right now. It's just a phase that'll surely pass, but that loneliness feeling... when it creeps up, it hits hard. No, I wasn't surrounded by a lot of lovebirds, nor was I around a bunch of sex-crazed fiends. It was a mixed bunch. The bottom line is that I saw people who I was attracted to and I wanted to see how far it could go. But as I looked around the room -- I see a whole lotta Brothas just standing there at this party just staring at anything that was bouncing or girating to the sounds of Reggae, Slow R&B, or Rap.

I, myself, was dancing, because that's what I do. But tese females are coming to me dancing with me because "Guy A" is saying, "You in the yellow... come here..." and it's actually not working. ...That is... at the time, because after the party this particular Sista was definitely networking with this Brotha and disappeared with him after the party was over. All well and good, all I ask is to know what you want -- please... being indecisive is NEVER the answer.

It is just right now I wish that I could have someone to hold onto and care about solely. Whereas this is not the case, I can't help how I feel. In the morning, I will have no recollection of how I felt and will move on from this. I just had to write about it. So, please... bear with me... it is an arduous journey and this is just one of my many pit stops..

Monday, October 04, 2004

"Before I Was Black"

-- October 4th, 2004 --

I was a White boy before I became a Black man. Armed with JCPenny's threads and Payless shoes. Even attended a Catholic private school. St. Patrick's elementary school was my stomping ground where at a young age I chased white girls... as we all did as young boys, playing "Capture the Girls". I stood out. Not just because I was Black, but because I had a temper. A part of it may have been because of that difference, but it surely wasn't understood by a 2nd grader whose friends were nothing but white. Kent, Ohio was definitely not a Hip-Hop hotspot. So, my attention was focused all-around when it came to music. In my household, old school sounds of Parliament and Stevie Wonder flowed beautifully. On my radio 93.1 WZAK played the R&B joints at the time. I, personally, loved Tony Toni Toné's "Anniversary" -- and after 10 o'clock it was the sounds of Hip-Hop which I taped every late night for the exclusive joint. But when I was in school -- it was all about "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day's "Dookie," "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden, "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam, and anything by Nirvana was a topic of conversation with the bevy of Jacob's, Ann-Marie's, Danny's, and Fred's.

Going into the 6th grade things became different. I became aware as to difference between myself and "them". It began with my Social Studies class -- one of my favorites. It became apparent that my history didn't show up in my book. It was around that time when Blacks were pushing to get our history celebrated. I played my part -- going to such lengths as to getting Black History Month celebrated at St. Pat's. It didn't really fare well with the other students but my arrogance was definitely displayed that day. I mean, in these textbooks, they glanced over the Civil Rights, rewrote what happened with the "cultivation" of America, and never really mentioned slavery and its injustices. White people began rubbing me the wrong way. Their comments were no longer flattering. I began to feel like a mascot. Don't get me wrong, I don't take anything that I've learned at St. Pat's for granted, but I began to see how the games were being played. And I was no longer willing to be a participant in their games. I lashed out more. Whereas my temper had been subdued since my younger days, it re-emerged when confronted with things that I felt were right. I became a nuisance to my teachers, a problem with administration, and an outcast to my fellow classmates. The change was increased since I was hanging out with kids just like me from the public schools. There was still that difference amongst my own kind -- seeing as how I spoke "proper" or "white" and they were fluent in slanguistics. But that difference would be something that faded away with time.

I was a White boy before I became a Black man, and since I've made that change I'll be damn if I ever go back. I've learned a lot from being within the white society. Some things funny, some things that I wish would change -- but through it all -- I hold no regrets, because progress is always to be made forwardly.

Finally, graduating from 8th grade marked a transition from boyhood to becoming a man as I was leaving the safe confines of my private elementary school for the rigors of public High School. I was armed with my intelligence, self-confidence, and definitely an emergence of knowledge of self.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"12 Points"

-- October 3rd, 2004 --

I read this from Allhiphop.com -- an interesting piece written by Adisa Banjoko. I usually just put the links to articles if I feel that it is something that the viewer may read, but I really think that people should read this... so...

"12 Point Program for Hip-Hop"

Right about now, there is a resurgence of consciousness in Hip Hop. It reminds me of what was once known as "The Golden Age of Hip Hop". This new consciousness is evidenced in the rise of Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Paris, Zion I, Common, Mystic, Mos Def, Encore, Shamako Noble, Immortal Technique, the new tracks by MC Ren, and others. This is a beautiful thing to watch, and something that makes me proud to see.
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense used to have a ten point program to rebuild the Black community. It was something to help keep the Black community focused how freedom was to be achieved. Unfortunately, the masses did not listen to them as well as they should have and many people lost out due a lack of follow though.
This is a twelve point program I have constructed in hope of rejuvenating the Hip Hop community and industry across the board. I believe without fail that if these ideas are put into action that Hip Hop will gain a higher status in the minds of those who love it as well as in the hearts of those who hate it. This list can be used by anybody (regardless of race, faith, or culture) who is an MC/rapper. But for those that TRY to be conscious, I feel these things are a must. Big props to Scape Martinez for helping me refine this (even though we disagree with some points).

1. Stop the cursing. If you are going to reach the people, you need to be refined lyrically. You will have one up on the radio industry who tries to ignore you.
You must also make yourself loved by the parents of the children who love Hip Hop. Keeping it clean on wax is an easy way to gain an upper hand in the streets and in the industry at the same time. Plus you don't have to always make clean versions of everything- so it saves you money. In the movie Malcolm X's original mentor says that a man curses because he does not have the tools to tell you what’s really on his mind. So chill out and tell us what’s on your mind. Gangstarr's Step in the Arena is a perfect example of how you can stay REAL and not curse.

2. Stop using the word "nigga". The word "nigger/nigga" was a lyrical tool of empowerment for the Hip Hop movement during the late 80's and early 90's. It came at a time when Black people needed to counter the hateful words being put upon them for so long. Now, the word has indeed been diluted in its power (it does not hurt most Black people to be called that name anymore). However, it also lost its painful historical relevance. We need to remind people of where the word came from, so it is never taken lightly. If you are unclear on the history of it, go read "100 Years of Lynchings" by Ralph Ginzburg.

3. Read. The more you know, the more you can rap about. Read about the history of your people as well as the histories and cultures of others. Nobody is asking you to become Nerdball McGee- but you should open a book. Choose a topic and go learn something you did not know the day before. Then bring that into Hip Hop. Ice Cube, KRS ONE and Tupac Shakur were arguably at their best when they were reading.

4. Rap about YOUR Struggle. MC's and rappers who are remembered are story tellers. Slick Rick, Ice Cube, Tupac and Rakim are able to bring you into their world and allow you to see from behind their eyes. This should be your goal as an MC. Tell us about your fam, your area, your personal journey in a way that no one else can tell it. If you cannot do that, you will certainly fail to impress and inspire. Tell us about your city. Nobody cared about the Queens, Compton, or Vallejo until MC Shan, Eazy E, and E-40 told the world stories about where they came from.

5. Stop following trends, create them. The rap industry tries to create cookie cutter rappers now. They all come complete with pimp cups, loc's, butt naked women and saggy pants. That has its place. But we need more people pushing the lyrical envelope. Brothers and sisters don't try to flow with originality anymore. They just try to copy a carbon copy. Do not be afraid to find out who you are and challenge the trends across the board. N.W.A., Biggie Smalls, Beastie Boys, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Public Enemy, Kwame, Paris, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, and Eminem (YES, I said EMINEM) all take creative chances musically and lyrically. From your look to your flow, be original in your life and on wax.

6. Respect Women. This is a subject that cannot be discussed too much. We need to stop using the word bitch and hoe (I'm talking to myself as well as y'all). We need to stop objectifying all women. By undermining them, we undermine the cornerstone of all civilization. This is a serious thing. You can still make a dope jam and show respect to the women. Remember that every "hoe" and "bitch" is someone else’s sister, daughter, mother- maybe even yours. So clean yourself up. I'm not asking you to take estrogen shots, watch Oprah 24/7 and wear a wig. Just show some respect.

7. Don't forget to rock the party. This is a major problem in Hip Hop. Most of the MC's who try to be conscious. They get so caught up in their mission that they forget to have fun. If all you do is spit politics and stuff, people never get to see you shine creatively. Show the people you have skills to rock the party, and then give them something to take home.

8. Learn an instrument. Since its inception Hip Hop has gotten far by sampling. The record industry has come down hard on us at times for doing it. Sampling has served its purpose, but it is time to show the world our full creativity. Learn an instrument for yourself. If you do, you will gain a new respect for those you sample and you'll get new insights on how to make music for yourself.

9. Listen to all kinds of music from the past. This is crucial. Part of the reason Hip Hop is so stale is because Hip Hop only listens to Hip Hop, nowadays. Chuck D, Mix Master Mike, DJ QBERT, KRS ONE, P Ditty Poor Righteous Teachers, Premier, Jungle Brothers, Marley Marl, Timbaland, DJ Quick, Dr. Dre all listen to other forms of music. You should also read the biographies of some of these artists as well (something I'm about to get into). They listen to Jazz, Reggae, Blues, Rock, Heavy Metal, Symphony, Salsa, Zen flutes etc. This is a BIG part of what makes them great. Now, go be great!!!

10. Acknowledge the beauty of the other Hip Hop elements. This is a HUGE problem. Sometimes I think it is talked about too much. But the bottom line is that if you don't have a full appreciation for graf writing, b-boy'ing, popping, locking, and turntablism you are missing a lot of tools that you can both learn from and incorporate into your shows. A lot of people confuse appreciation of these elements with being a hippy or dealing with things that are not "real".
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don't sleep on that.

11. Choose a Cause. Once you know who you are, it is important that you ask yourself "What will I champion in Hip Hop besides my lyrics?" You care about education? Poverty issues? Are you just a party MC? Are you gonna champion your culture? Politics? Child abuse? Domestic violence? WHAT?!?!? Choose a cause then make sure you mention it from time to time. NOT ON EVERY SONG- because you will turn people off.

12. Never forget the poor. This music is from them, for them, forever. Knowing that fact always, IS KEEPING IT REAL.

Adisa Banjoko is author of "Lyrical Swords Vol. 1: Hip Hop and Politics in the Mix", available at www.lyricalswords.com.