Saturday, August 1, 2020

"Created Equal" (1984) by Jean-Michel Basquiat


"Created Equal" (1984) by Jean-Michel Basquiat 



Article at "Hip Hop Golden Age"

Last month I had an article posted at the Hip Hop Golden Age website "Who Got the Camera? by Kevlaar 7 & Bronze Nazareth: A Lyrical Breakdown" which takes a close look at two verses from the title track of the late Kevlaar 7's album Who Got the Camera? from 2011. As I have written about a few times before, that album was loaded with messages exposing social injustices and it came forth as an outcry against police brutality and racial violence. As Ari Melber talked about in a recent segment that aligns in some ways with my piece, this is a topic that rappers have made music about for years and since they were exposing what is now a widely accepted truth some of them deserve Pulitzers. Kevlaar 7 passed away on December 23, 2014. The reality of present day racism and its historical roots was always a major theme in his music. He explicitly came to warn us all but he knew he was also ahead of his time, as he put it on the opening track to the Wisemen album Children of a Lesser God, "It's too early, truth is dirty."


Kevlaar 7 (RIP)

Just like his brother Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar was a brilliant lyricist (and a great producer too) and these two came together on this song to deliver a poetic exposé documenting the ongoing atrocities of racial violence in America. Now that these issues are front and center in American life in 2020, so many of us have been compelled to try to learn more about these issues, seek out knowledge and read more history. American history is so often presented in a way that tries to conceal the bad stuff, but we need to face it if we will ever be able to overcome its painfulness. Bronze and Kevlaar wrote about this history and its present manifestations in their verses often, although rarely as concentrated and focused as on this track. This article I shared is actually an excerpt from a book I've been working on for several years where I try to unpack, interpret, and expand on many verses from Bronze. That book also includes another song he did with Kevlaar devoted to bringing this same topic to light. We are living through a sudden awakening now and it is helpful as ever to glean historical facts and information from the poetics of tuned-in rappers writing about Black America for those of us who want to see what's been going on and try to envision a better future. 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

(Video) Anti-Racism: Listen to Jane Elliott and Share This

Jane Elliott is an educator and anti-racism activist who has been working for more than 50 years to educate the public about the reality of racism in the United States of America and how to overcome indoctrinated racist beliefs. As her videos have been circulating around the internet a lot recently, I've been watching and learning a great deal from her. She is a captivating speaker, a passionate and fierce human being, a provocative and extremely knowledgable teacher who will crack your head open, show you what was implanted there by indoctrination, and help you to see things clearly for what they are rather than how they appear to be.

Of all the videos I have watched so far, the one I am sharing below struck me as the best because the interviewer gives her the space to speak her lessons longwindedly and she absolutely goes off. She goes off on the inherited bullshit American society indoctrinates its children with, she goes off on Trump, she describes what she witnessed as a small child seeing Hitler rise to power and World War II explode while comparing that to today, and she provides a litany of lessons for the viewer to learn from. She recommends a bunch of insightful books and even, towards the end, admonishes us about the power of television and what it does to our minds, recommending we all seek out the work of Marshall McLuhan to learn about how the medium of television can damage your perspective and sensory perception.


PLEASE WATCH THIS AND SHARE WIDELY. If you have friends or family members who express racist views or who don't understand the gravity of our moment in history, make them watch this. This woman Jane Elliott has that type of energy that will sit you down, make you shut the fuck up and LISTEN to the authority of her knowledge. She loves to bring up the etymology of the word Educator which literally means one who leads others out of ignorance. Listen and let her guide you.



Monday, June 1, 2020

"Pity the Nation" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti



Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              With force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Putting the Killing of George Floyd in Context

Photo of George Floyd from USA Today.

It seems as though we can hardly process the horror of one tragic murder of a black person by the police before there’s another one and another one, each more egregious than the last. The killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis is the main focus right now because it was all captured on video in broad daylight and inevitably strikes the viewer as an act that is heartbreakingly malicious and inhumane. A handcuffed man, face down on the ground, not posing any threat, suffering from an officer callously forcing a knee into his neck for nearly ten minutes. The officer kept that knee planted there even two minutes after they’d realized Floyd no longer had a pulse. All while other officers watched on. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

Looking Back on 2019 (Part 3)


Street art seen in Mexico City, June 2019.


A little delayed in sharing this final look back at some of the things I liked about 2019, but that gave me time to properly soak in the music that dropped later in the year. As always with this blog, my favorite new albums came out of the realm of hip hop in its purest and grimiest form.

We are now nearly a quarter century past the golden era of hip hop and the art form remains alive with a slew of newer artists arising to bring fresh blood and new approaches to a musical tradition whose forefathers they seem to not only respect but spiritually summon and pay homage to. Some established rap gods have also helped bring along the new artists. These phenomena were reflected in some of the albums and artists I dug in 2019. Here are, in no particular order, my favorite albums from last year with a few words about each.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Looking Back on 2019 (Part 2)



Books Read in 2019:

1. Harpooning Donald Trump by Tom LeClair
A short book of essays by a literary scholar arguing for the importance of literature during times of political turmoil. LeClair goes into what he calls "systems novels" here, that is, enormous novels that seek to contain everything. These can be useful guides to crazy times. He especially highlights Robert Coover's The Public Burning, a satirical novel that features a caricatured Richard Nixon as the protagonist and narrator. The book's best chapter analyzes Trump from the perspective of Moby-Dick---what LeClair calls "the only book you'll ever need"---and concludes:
And we will need literate readers---like Ishmael---to counter Trump's unscrupulous monomania. Not just literate readers but literary, which is literate on Human Growth Hormone. Literary readers do not think any more carefully than literate people, but literature trains one to care about and care for language as a sensitive instrument, not just a blunt tool for propaganda and power. I'll quote Wittgenstein again: 'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.' The world of literature is large with possibilities of imagination and thought and feeling. The world of pre-literate Donald Trump is small, impoverished by ignorance and fear and anger. Literary responses to Trump may not bring down a president or even affect his policies, but literary artists still must continue to provide models of rigorous thought and rich expression---just as medieval monks preserved manuscripts in an earlier dark time---for great and great-minded literature is in and of itself a harpoon, a weapon against the fake 'great' and small-minded demagoguery. (p. 95)

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