Friday, May 29, 2009

I Got 99 Problems, but a B-tch Ain't One: The Money Over B-tches Ethos in Global Capitalism and Hip Hop


Photo Credits Clockwise:
Luke & Doug E. Fresh & Dancer by Hilton Bailey
Venus Hottentot & Lil 'Kim - via Straight Outta New York
Tip Drill - Music Video Still
Unconfirmed Photo of Rihanna Fenty - Photographer Unknown

About a month ago I was walking on 125th street and
Madison Ave,
and a young Black man said he wanted to
"put his dick in my
butt." When I saw the leaked nude pictures
of Rihanna Fenty a couple of weeks ago,
I couldn't help
but think that there was a connection between
photos and the fact that this young man spoke to
me this way.

I kept asking myself, what is the connection between the two incidents
when I realized that both Rihanna Fenty and I were rendered into
Black female bodies there were only good for "being fucked" or
for fantasizing about "being fucked."

We live in a media environment made up of images,
videos, photographs, movies and text as well. All of these create,
perpetuate and reinforce all of our "isms", racism, sexism, ableism
and ageism.

Some people may say, well, "I won't watch it" or "I won't let
my son or daughter watch it." My response to that is that
you and I, and your daughter and son, all live in this
world together. Their friends are watching it, and our children
are influenced by their friends.

To say that my child will be protected because I
let them consume these images is akin to saying
I will protect them from air pollution by carving
out four square
feet of air around them to breath at all
. It just isn't possible.

Another response may may be, "what you are talking about doesn't
me and mine in my neighborhood." In the essay
Letters from Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King Jr. offers
the perfect response to that statement.
He writes,
It may be easy to say that what happens in your neighborhood is
unrelated to what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is
a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever
affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford
to live with narrow, provincial "outside agitator idea". Anyone who
lives inside the United states can never be considered an
outsider anywhere within its bounds.
Earlier this month I wrote about the white consumption of Black death
in hip hop. Many people felt that I was overstating the
of white consumers. Readers kept offering that the Black
kids are the ones who say what's hot in the first place, which
implicitly means that Black kid are just as culpable and that I
shouldn't emphasize the white consumption of black
death in Hip Hop.
This line of thought reminds me of the argument
that white slave holders aren't really that
culpable for their role in
chattel slavery because Africans participated
in enslavement of
other Africans

I think in terms of systems, not individuals.

Furthermore, the hyper consumption of these images is the
consumption of hatred of Black people, regardless of the
or ethnicity of the listener.

Trust, when it takes a Black president, a Black leader of the
free world to convince mainstream Americans and the world,
that Black men are not angry, violent, hypersexualized beasts,
then we seriously need to rethink the production and
consumption of hypersexual, violent black men in mainstream media.

While I wasn't willing to stop focusing on the consumption of
Black death, the readers comments forced me to
think about the history of hip hop behind the scenes.
In order to provide historical support for my position
I did some research and read Nelson George's, Hip Hop America,
Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop and S. Craig Watkin's
Hip Hop Matters.

In Hip Hop Matters, S. Craig Watkin's, explains the impact
of Soundscan on Hip Hop and provides a frame work for
understanding the white consumption of Black death in Hip Hop.
Watkin's writes,
...A few years after N.W.A's success, Eazy-E reflected on hard
core's mainstream breakthrough. "When N.W.A was together
we were talking directly to our homies in the street, in our language,
about what was happening to us; they were buying it," he said,
referring to young whites. "But the big secret before Soundscan
was there were some white kids picking up the records too.
Now everybody knows the secret."

...The unveiling of the secret left a profound mark on the selling of
hip hop. After 1991, the year Soundscan was introduced, there was
growing recognition that Hip Hop's market was
much wider and whiter than previously understood. The revelation
altered the very character of hip hop, or at least its commercial identity.
For the first time in the movements commercial history young white
consumers a crucial demographic in the culture and economic
mainstream emerged as a primary consideration rather than an
afterthought in the making and marketing of hip hop related
merchandise. After June in 1991, corporate hip hop, thought
few would admit it, was manufactured first and foremost with
young white consumers in mind....

...Rap's cross over appeal represented a strange form of cultural
tourism for many young whites. William Upski Wimsatt, a long
time admirer of ghetto youth culture believes that white youth
gravitate to hip hop because it offers a way to vicariously experience
the resilience of ghetto youth. White youth, he argues, "suspect they
wouldn't make it through what inner-city blacks do, so there is an
admiration that is almost visceral." Hip hop was their fantasy
island, a place to travel through the pleasures of consumption- rather
than actual contact into a foreign world- where they could live
out some of their wildest desires...
Watkins put it best when he stated that,
Eminim, like every other successful figure in hip hop, wants
Black kids respect and white kids money.
While the white consumption of Black death in hip hop is
today, it is also important to understand the role
that white folks played
in nurturing hip hop in it's early days.
In the early 80's the few mainstream Black radio executives
were looking
for the next Lionel Ritchie, Prince or Micheal
Jackson, they were not
trying to hear the boom and the bap.
In Hip Hop America, Nelson George
explains the impact of
this disconnect. He writes,
It is indisputable that black owned independents like Sugar Hill,
Enjoy and Winley cultivated and supported hip hop from 1979 to 1981.
But it was white small business people who nurtured it next. Scores
of white step mothers and fathers adopted the baby as their own and many have shown more loyalty to the child than more celebrated black parental figures.

.....The corporate record companies had been committed to producing
black talent for little over a decade when hip hop on small labels began
appearing regularly on the charts. Because it was perceived as juvenile, unmusical, and with limited audience, it didn't fit the prevailing crossover
orthodoxy then epitomized by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. The twist is
that it prospered without them- by figuring out a whole different way to attract
white music fans.
While Nelson George and S. Craig Watkins analyzed the
the business and consumer relationships,
inCan't Stop Won't Stop
Jeff Chang cites what I have identified, as three other material
changes which allowed the "Money over B-tches
Ethos" in Hip hop to take root and flourish. The first is the
bankruptcy of the independent distributors. According to Chang,
By 1995 two remaining national independent distributors Indie
and Alliance face severve financial difficulties and merged. Before long,
Alliance closed down its Indie operations, laid off its two hundred employees and filed for bankruptcie. In three years, it went from a $500 million
dollar company to one that owed $500 million. Soon there would be no nationally owned distributor...Major distributers squeezed indies by offering
chains deep discounts and incentives at the expense of indie retailers. As hundreds of stores and dozens of chains closed, indie distributers were stuck
with unpaid billd and were forced to close. The impact on indiependent [record
lables] was immediate.

The irony, is that in 2009 the independent and major,
distributors are moot, almost fifteen years later, with the
digitization of the internet. Sidebar, I can only wonder
what would have happened to Hip Hop if the Telecom
Act would have been passed in2006 instead of 1996.

The second factor that Chang mentions is Dr. Dre's The Chronic.
I was in high school and a super boom bap head when
The Chronic came out. Something shifted
in the air in the Bay Area. There was weed paraphernalia everywhere.
Weed hats, back backs, socks, t-shirts, jackets, hoodies. It was as if there
was a championship weed smoking basketball team in California
and everyone was a fan. Chang describes the mark that The Chronic and
Doggystyle left on the rap game when he writes,
In 1993 the popularity of Yo MTV Raps was fading and majors [labels]
were clearing themselves of potential liability. But "Nothing but a G Thang"
and "Let me Ride" propelled the post gangsta aesthetic into heavy rotation.
Later on Doggy Style, Dre and Snoop, largely ditched industry rules for more
smoothed out rhymes and gangsta parties and sold even more records.

...Artistically, The Chronic and Doggy Style were remarkable
achievements because they synthesized contradiction vectors- in the city
and suburbs, street and tech, first world and fourth, like a Ghery Building
covered in graffiti...
So, while the mainstreaming of the Gangsta was the second factor,
the third was the ascension of Clear Channel, who according
to Chang, "...went from owning 40 stations in 1916 to 1240 stations
in 2003, commanding a whopping 28% share of all radio revenues and 27%
of all radio listeners."

What is the connection between hip hop and global capitalism?

Both Hip Hop and global capitalism focus on short term gains
without concern of the long term impact or sustainability.

Think about the number of artist's who are one hit wonder's
that you never heard from again. The one who had that banger
last summer, like what's her name?

Conversely think about your favorite artist, who rarely, if at all,
ever gets any air play, who you pay to see on tour, who
you search out the internet for her newest joints on message boards.
Think about your favorite artist who get's little to no promotion or shine.
Think about this artist, and ask yourself why you don't hear more of
them on the radio? You won't hear them on the radio because
unless the artist has mass appeal and can cross over to white listeners.

Wasn't this the fear with Jennifer Hudson. Could she appeal
her "black fans" and her "American Idol" fan's? In an article, by
Ben Sasario, Jennifer Hudson explains,

“I can’t just put out an R&B song and expect that to go over for
everyone,” she said. “I can’t do that with a pop song either. On the
album there’s a hip-hop song, a gospel-inspirational song for my
church base, and then we have to have the big ballads for fans
through ‘Dreamgirls’ or ‘Idol.’ And of course I’m black, so we have
to have music for African-American people, which is more on the
R&B end. It’s a huge fan base, and that was the scariest part, which
is where the pressure came in.”
Its crazy when you think about how both Hip Hop, R & B and capitalism
are driven short term gains.

The above video, the Story of Stuff, does good job of explaining
why short term profits and thinking lead to long term problems
in the current American capitalist system.

In fact, our current global food system is another example of short
term gains run amok. For instance, If I eat salmon is New York
that was initially caught in New Zealand, frozen and shipped
to North America, this requires both cheap labor and cheap oil. In the
book, Why Your World is about to Get a Whole Lot Smaller", Jeff
Rubin is very clear about how triple digit oil will force us to
produce and buy local, because buying products from
China/Mexico/New Zealand, will no longer be as cheap as the
once were.

With regard to global capitalism, when thinking about putting
profits over people, five distinct examples come to mind.

The first is the bailing out of the banks and AIG without requiring complete
transparency and accountability. Where is the money going?
Who is spending it? Tax payers dollars = tax payers voice.

The second is the removal of American jobs, many which are union,
to China, Mexico and India for the purposes to hiring the cheapest labor

The third is unwillingness to provide health care for all. Health care
is expensive and many of us don't have it, including myself. Many employers
know that we will not quit our jobs, because we have employer based
health care. Oftentimes, we are unwilling to leave jobs because we want
to keep health insurance for our children. Lastly, medical bills are the
leading cause of bankruptcy for the middle class.

The fourth is treating drug usage like a crime instead of a public health
. Folks addicted to drugs need treatment, not a jail cell, or at the
very minimum, treatment should be an option. Prisons are big
businesses, publicly traded on wall street, so their is a profit
incentive to imprison as many people as possible.

The fifth is the selling of subprime loans to low income and middle
class African American and Latino families. The mortgage industry and
wall street's actions were short cited, greedy, profitable and unsustainable.

With regard to corporate Hip Hop, when thinking about putting
profits over people, three distinct examples come to mind.

The first is Clear Channels 800 radio stations.
Have you asked yourself why you hear the same songs on
"urban radio" station's in D.C, NY, Philly, and Chicago? Well,
the play lists are set nationally, hence, why different cities play the
same songs and in many cases ignoring the music made
by local artists.

The second is the removal of all programming from BET
that had any socially redeeming value. BET Nightly News,
Teen Summit, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley and Midnight Love.
These shows were all removed and replaced with what?
Digital chitlin's, that's what.

The last is the marginalization of all rappers who don't fit the
Gangsta/Pimp/Ho narrative. Tricia Rose was right when she said
that if Tupac came out today, he would be labeled a "conscious

Taken as a whole, I hope it is clear how the drive to make
profits impacts both our music and our lives and the lives
of our children. It hasn't always been this way, and it doesn't
have to remain this way.

We can make history again, we did it last November.

All movements start with one person saying something.

I just spoke.

And, my president is Black.

Note: In preparation for this essay, I posted above photo's to Photobucket
to make a slide show. Less than 20 hours later, the photos were flag and
removed by Photobucket, under a violation of the terms and conditions of
the site. I found it ironic that I was trying to critique the images and was censored
but the producers and distributors of the images, are rarely, if at all censored.

Is the connection between white consumption, short term
profits and corporate hip hop clearer?

Isn't that collage powerful?

Do you think there is a connection between the images and
how we treat each other?

What do you think of the connection between the unsustainablility
of our economy and the unsustainability of corporate hip hop

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Conclusion


I am coming to the conclusion that most
of the people who Blog about Black people,
Hate Black people.

Damn Homie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Camus, Obama & Torture: That Right There is Hell Breakin' Loose


8 June 1972: Kim PhĂșc, center left, running down a road near Trang Bang
after a South Vietnamese Air Force napalm attack.

Last week, I couldn't figure out why the issue of torture

was consistently being presented in the media
. I have
been busy, writing about
other things, and preparing to
go to graduate school.

I turned to my colleague, Matthew Birkhold and was like

"Dude, why are they tripping of the torture documents
and the pictures, I don't recall
torture being
made illegal. Is it in the Constitution?"

He then turned to me, and stared for a minute.

Then I said, "Oh, snap, the Geneva Conventions!"

You see, none of the articles I read mentioned
The Geneva
Convention, so I was unsure as
to scope of the implications
of a charge of torture. In
the article
What is a War Crime?, Tarik Kafala describes
the history and historical context of War Crimes. He writes,
The concept of war crimes is a recent one. Before World War II, it was generally accepted that the horrors of war were in the nature of war.

But during World War II the murder of several million people - mainly Jews- by Nazi Germany, and the mistreatment of both civilians and prisoners of war by the Japanese, prompted the Allied powers to prosecute the people they believed to be the perpetrators of these crimes.

The Nuremberg trials in 1945 and 1946 led to 12 Nazi leaders being executed.

A similar process started in Tokyo in 1948. Seven Japanese commanders were hanged, though the Allies decided not to put Emperor Hirohito in the dock.

These trials were essentially the precedents for the cases that the modern-day tribunal in The Hague hears.

In addition, individual governments, feeling that justice has not been done, have acted on their own initiative.

...Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: "Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including... wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, ...taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
To cover his behind, President Bush provided retroactive
for himself and his entire administration for
war crimes. What an amazing move in light of the information
that is being revealed.

I then began to put the pieces to together.
The alleged terrorist have to be housed outside
of American
soil, less they be granted due process and a
a trial within the
United States court system. So long as they are housed in
unknown prisons around the world, they will not be charged
and there is no incentive to proceed with due process and give
them their day in court.

President Obama made a campaign promise to close
Guantanamo, however, Congress is saying, no can do,
unless he has a plan.

While writing this, the just reported that President Obama

has decided to transfer
Ahmed Ghailani to New York and
try him in civil court.
The main issue is that some members
of the Senate don't want
alleged terrorist's housed in
American prisons.
The fear seems to be rational and I
am unsure as to why.

Andrew Sullivan (aka Mr. Cantankerous and awesome) of
has eloquently summed up President
Obama's reversal on releasing the
torture photos. Sullivan writes,
Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predcessors'
war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to prosecute
them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing
evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and
the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt
his successor.

The rationale for the suppression is fatuous:
"their release would endanger the troops."

You mean releasing evidence of war crimes would
render US soldiers more vulnerable to attack? How?

This IS a Democracy. There is due process.

I was sort of excited to write this piece, not because of
the topic,
but because so many elements that I have been
thinking about
this year have coalesced in this issue.

For instance, back in December,
Thaddeus Clark sent
an Esquire article, The Falling Man, by Tom Junod,
photos of taken of folks who jumped out of the
World Trade
Center. Thaddeus and I started having a
conversation on
Twitter about Camus, whom I was
reading a lot
of at the time.

Camus was notoriously anti-death penalty. In his era, folks
decapitated using a guillotine.
Camus's rationale was
that in order for the death penalty to
be exemplary and
actually discourage other people
committing crimes, then the
heads of the the decapitated
folks should be displayed for the
entire town to see.

Yes. Displayed. Camus was no joke. He was a big believer

in the transparency of death, if the purpose of the death was
deter folks from committing future crimes or vicious acts.

In the essay, Reflections on the Guillotine, Camus
writes about the death penalty and watching his
father return home and
throwing up, after witnessing
a public execution. He writes,

When the extreme penalty simply causes vomiting on the part of the respectable citizen, it is suppose to
how can anyone mistaken that it is likely, as it
out to be, to bring
peace and order into the community.

....People write about capital punishment as if they are a whisper...
But when silence or tricks of language contributes to the maintaining abuse that must be reformed or a suffering that can be relieved, then there is no solution but to speak out and show the obscenity hidden under the verbal cloak

In the article, Falling Man, Tom Junod discusses a
left on the website, Here is New York, which
speaks to the discomfort
that we have with death and
photos of dead bodies. Junod writes,

.....on the Here Is New York Website, a visitor offers this commentary: "This image is what made me glad for censuring [sic] in the endless pursuant media coverage." More and more, the jumpers -- and their images -- were relegated to the Internet underbelly, where they became the provenance of the shock sites that also traffic in the autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and the videotape of Daniel Pearl's execution, and where it is impossible to look at them without attendant feelings of shame and guilt. In a nation of voyeurs, the desire to face the most disturbing aspects of our most disturbing day was somehow ascribed to voyeurism, as though the jumpers' experience, instead of being central to the horror, was tangential to it, a sideshow best forgotten.
American's are interesting. We enjoy death as entertainment
but are incapable of being a witness to the actual death's in
Iraq and Afghanistan wars, death committed in our name.

If those photographs are released, the entire tone and scope
and conversation around the Iraq and Afghanistan war's will change.

The men and woman (are their any women in Guantanamo)
who are being held in Guantanamo will be seen as both
human beings and as alleged terrorists. If they are tried
and found guilty of these awful acts, then they need to be

The American men and women, the American troops, who
have died will go from being abstract entities, in the minds
of the mainstream public, to human beings who have
died in our name.

We are all human beings.

We all have a mother.

We have all been children.

Someone changed all of our diapers.

The same way the photos of the My Lai Massacre
and of Kim Phuc significantly changed public opinion on
the Vietman war, the release of the torture photos will
change how we feel and hopefully inform our choices
around the Iraq and Afghanistan

It is time to release the photos.

Should the president release the photo's?

What kind of country has one set of rules for its
and another for its prisoners?

Did President Bush plan on keeping the detainees
forever? It seems like it, as there was no plan
to deal with them via release?

What kind of Democracy holds alleged criminals

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are N-ggas Really that Homophobic? Part II


Recently in The Daily Beast, Elizabeth Gates wrote an
article titled, "Does Kanye Dress Too Gay." In the article

she discusses Fonzworth Bently, Andre 3000 and the history
of flamboyant dressing amongst
African American men
through out pop history.
Gates writes,
With the current onslaught of homophobic rage
against Kanye West and his globally chic crew
(comprised of style maverick Fonzworth Bentley
and Taz Arnold of musical group Sa-Ra to name a
few), it seems like Generation Y has all but forgotten
that the ritual of expressive dress was in fact borne
of the black-male community. If young audiences
would dare to conduct a comparative study, they'd
inevitably find that Kanye West’s 2007 Grammy outfit
really had nothing on Eddie Murphy’s red-leather
get-up in his 1987 stand-up film Delirious, and that
Prince and his bedazzled unitards would quickly
render AndrĂ© 3000’s Top-Siders and patterned
suspenders meek and perhaps even typical.
Giving Kanye a little context, the way he dresses makes more
sense especially when it is seen as being rooted in the history
of African American male performers.

I see the fascination with both the way that Black men dress
and the fascination with Black male sexuality as being rooted
in American history as well. Black sexuality was central to the
and growth of the United States. It is perhaps
natural that
as a nation we continued to be fascinated with
what Black
people do with their bodies sexually.

The day after I read Elizabeth Gates article, Robbie Ettelson
from Unkut posted several images
of old school hip hop artist, and I was surprised to find
a picture of Big Daddy Kane wearing see through pants
with white lace underwear. I immediately thought, he
would be
called 15 kind's of gay if he were to wear that now.

In hip hop, Black masculinity has come to be so narrowly
that if you do not embody a masculinity that
closely approximates
50's then you are by default
feminine and gay
. Word?

What ever happened to the range of expressions of Black male
masculinity? The *Trinity Doctrine is what happened.

Within the last two month two teenage boys have committed suicide
as a result of being continually bullied, harassed and called gay.

In April, both 11 year old Carl Joseph WalkerHoover and
11 year old Jaheem Hererra hung themselves, in two
seperate incidents, after incessantly being teased and called gay.

Lets be clear, women in general and Black women specifically occupy
a subhuman status in our culture.

For Black women there is street harassment, the under or unreported
rapes, we are overworked and underpaid, we over represented on the
poverty statistics and we are disproportionally represented in new
HIV case statistics.

There is a connection between being homophobic and hating women.
In many ways homophobia is rooted in the hatred of women.

Think about it this way, one of the stock disses in hip hop is to
say that the other emcee:
1. Is feminine
2. Soft like pussy
3. Gay
I see the rationale as being, "your a man, why would you ever
want to be like a woman, they not even human, just some shit
that's fuckable." I call it the "We don't love them ho's" doctrine.

Hence the homophobia.

*The Trinity Doctrine, by and large is responsible for such
a limited view of "true" Black male masculinity in pop culture.

If, rappers need to be Gangsta's/Thug's to move significant units,
and if hip hop is the predominant vehicle through which Black men
are presented in the media, then there is both a supply and
demand for limited, unsustainable, unhealthy views of
Black masculinity.

In 2007, I wrote a post titled, "Are N-ggas Really that homophibic?"
which led to an interesting conversation in the comments section
amongst both male and female readers about the fear and homophobia
in hip hop.

I ask again. Almost two years later:

Does homophobia seem particularly stronger in hip hop
then in American culture at large?

Were you aware of the two boys that committed suicide?

Did you follow my connection between the hatred

of women and the hatred of gay folks?
Do you agree? Why or why not?

For more reading check:
When Bullying Leads to Suicide
by [The Root]
My piece, Jeff Chang, Total Chaos and Hip Hop

*The Trinity Doctrine is based on a reading
of Tricia Roses Hip Hop Wars, and I use it to describe the
Gangsta/Thug/Ho archetype that is the dominant narrative
in 2009 corporate hip hop.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lovelle Mixon x The Wire x Residential Cesspools


Graphic by Kevin Weston and Arturo Tejada.

Below you will find an excerpt to Kevin Weston's and Aurturo Tejada's
artist's statement, titled "Hating Lovelle Loving Obama." They write,

As artists we were trying to provoke thought and raise questions. Lovelle Mixon is a product of this society, just like our current president....

...People are going to demonize Lovelle Mixon for what he did. In this society’s eyes he was a rapist, a thug, a murderer, a cop killer. He was all of those things.

What Mixon wasn’t, even before he committed these brutal murders, was a human being. No one—and I mean no one—gives a fuck about the Lovelle Mixons of he world. If he died at the hands of another black man (which is the case for most murders of black men) there would have been barely a blip on the radar screen. Because he was a convicted felon—constitutionally he was a slave (read the 14th and 15th amendments carefully).

...The Graphic is intended to raise questions, not answer them.

Below is an excerpt from the transcript
of the above David Simon interview. I have posted
it because I think it is relevant to the this discussion about
East Oakland, Capitalism, rape, Lovelle Mixon and
the post crack urban economy.

DAVID SIMON: Right. You see the equivocations. You see the stuff that doesn't make it into the civics books. And also you see how interconnected things are. How connected the performance of the school system is to the culture of a corner. Or where parenting comes in. And where the lack of meaningful work in all these things, you know, the decline of industry suddenly interacts with the paucity and sort of fraud of public education in the inner city. Because THE WIRE is not a story about the America, it's about the America that got left behind.

BILL MOYERS: I was struck by something, I forget where I read it, that you said. You were wrestling with this one big existential question. And you talked about drug addicts who would come out of detox and then try to steel jaw themselves through their neighborhood. And then they'd come face to face with the question, which is?

DAVID SIMON: "What am I doing here? What am I doing here?" You know, all the same problems that a guy coming out of addiction at 30, 35, because it often takes to that age, he often got into addiction with a string of problems, some of which were interpersonal and personal, and some of which were systemic. The fact that these really are the excess people in America, we-- our economy doesn't need them. We don't need ten or 15 percent of our population. And certainly the ones that are undereducated, that have been ill served by the inner city school system, that have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy. We pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we're actually including them in the American ideal, but we're not. And they're not foolish. They get it.

DAVID SIMON: Again, we would have to ask ourselves a lot of hard questions. The people most affected by this are black and brown and poor. It's the abandoned inner cores of our urban areas. And we don't, as we said before, economically, we don't need those people. The American economy doesn't need them. So, as long as they stay in their ghettos, and they only kill each other, we're willing to pay a police presence to keep them out of our America. And to let them fight over scraps, which is what the drug war, effectively, is. I don't think-- since we basically have become a market-based culture and it's what we know, and it's what's led us to this sad, I think we're going to follow market-based logic, right to the bitter end.

BILL MOYERS: Which says?

DAVID SIMON: If you don't need 'em, why extend yourself? Why seriously assess what you're doing to your poorest and most vulnerable citizens? There's no profit to be had in doing anything other than marginalizing them and discarding them.

When I learned that Lovelle Mixon killed three Oakland
Police Officers,
Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Sgts. Ervin Romans,
and Daniel Sakai, 35, and one John Hege, was on life
I was sitting in the living room, working on a blog post.

I was devastated because I knew that this could conceivably
mean grimier policing in Oakland, California.

To that end reached, I out to a woman that runs an organization
in New York City, that I would like 100 Visionaires to be based on.
She mentioned that she operates without a permanent place, so I took
it upon myself to help her find a permanent location. (Trust
I soon learned that, in order to be helpful, it is important
ask folks what they need instead of assuming
.) My heart
was in the right place, my process was a little janky.

Personally, I knew that I had to do something after Oscar
Grant was murdered, after Rihanna Fenty was beaten publicly and
now after Lovelle Mixon killed four police officers
and was murdered himself. Doing something was my only option.
Otherwise I would begin to feel like a victim, and you know that,
God willing, we don't do that in 2009.

I decided that I was going to try and meet with Bob Kerry,
President of the New School, of which I am an alum, to
see whether he could introduce me to someone in the Bloomberg
administration that could help us secure a permanent location
for the aforementioned non-profit. ( Mind you, this is right before
all the protests started happening, I have a post coming
on The New School student activism later this month).

So I got fresh and dipped and went to the New School, and
who was walking out of the building as I was walking in?
Bob Kerry. I stopped him, and told him what I was interested
in and he told me to make an appointment with his assistant.
I am unsure what, if anything, may come of it, but it felt good
to move from thinking to doing, instead of just complaining
and feeling paralyzed

Which brings me back to Lovelle Mixon.
I haven't said anything about the incident because I was
unsure as to what to say. About a month ago, I did a podcast
with Faith of Acts of Faith blog. Near the very end she
made a comment,
that struck me about the neighborhood
that Lovell Mixon was murdered in, being a residential
cesspool. Now,
I am pretty talkative, but in that moment I was
silent. I knew that I had something, but I wanted to
choose my words carefully because of the nature of the topic.

After the podcast, I watch the Bill Moyers interview with
David Simon, the creator of The Wire. For the record, historically,
I had always thought David Simon was trafficking in Black
death. After seeing this video I realized that Simon may
love the hood as much as I do
. Perhaps what I found to be
more relevant was his critique of capitalism
and the fact that he understood that the dope game was a perverted
capitalist economy (I would argue that the dope game is
capitalism at its core), and that the corner kids in The Wire
don't believe the hype, they know that based on history,
the American Dream isn't for them and that the corner is their
destiny. Peep the transcript,

DAVID SIMON: They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multi-billion drug trade.

BILL MOYERS: I've done several documentaries over the last 40 years. The first one I did was about the South Bronx, called "The Fire Next Door." And what I learned very early is that the drug trade is an inverted form of capitalism.

DAVID SIMON: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: To pacify these people who don't have any economic-

DAVID SIMON: Absolutely. In some ways it's the most destructive form of welfare that we've established, which is the illegal drug trade in these neighborhoods. It's basically like opening up a Beth Steel in the middle of the South Bronx or in West Baltimore and saying, "And you guys are all steel workers." To just say no? That's our answer to that? You know, the economic model does not work. And by the way, if it was chewing up white folk, it wouldn't have gone on for as long as it did.

When I write (most of the time), I don't write to win, I
write to educate.
I imagine that there is a clear
between the posts that are educational and just some
stuff or personal matters that I want to share.
That being said,
I know how to win arguments, I have
been trained
academically to do so. Consequently,
winning arguments isn't relevant to me on this site.

What I am interested in is sharing the critique that
I have of the world for the purposes providing
that may help work towards a more
just and sustainable

With regard to Lovelle Mixon, I had incredibly mixed feelings,
and it makes sense because his case is one in which
class, race, gender, alleged rape, the prison industrial complex
and the Oakland police state are all intertwined.

Let me be clear. Victims do not have an excuse to be perpetrators.
Every person is accountable for their own actions AND as a community
we are responsible for one another, especially our most vulnerable.

I will say it again.
Victims do not have an excuse to be perpetrators.
Every person is accountable for their own actions AND as a community
we are responsible for one another, especially our most vulnerable.

I was once a little Black girl in East Oakland. I have every interest
in having an alleged rapist investigated, identified, evaluated,
and treated as such.
A person who has raped people is sick
and needs to be treated or locked up and dealt with.

Before he was an alleged rapist he was a human being.
No one was born selling crack, owning slaves, pimping
women or consuming black death as a form of entertainment
The young man who told me two Sunday's ago that he wanted to "stick his
dick in my butt" is a human being as well. He is sick,
and needs to be dealt with, not coddled or ignored. It is a public
health and public safety issue.

That being said, I have been thinking a lot about our
personal, local and global willingness us to see that
we are all responsible for the world that we have.

I have been thinking about the fact that we create the
conditions in our society, that no one magically creates them for us.

I have been thinking about our rugged individualist tendencies
and how these tendencies fail to take into consideration that
we are all connected. Always. (The piece that I am writing about
Hip Hop, Globalization and Sustainability will further underscore

Human beings cannot live in a residential cesspool.
Sewage is the only thing that dwells in a cesspool

Calling a neighborhood a residential cesspool is frankly
the language that an outsider would use.

Calling a neighborhood a residential cesspool
eliminates a neighborhoods past and leaves very little room for
transformation to create another future.

I remember my East Oakland, CA pre and post-crack,
and I remember my family pre and post-crack as well.

Pre-Crack, Oakland was a city in which you could leave
your front door open and go to the grocery store. Folks
would never think of doing that now, it would be down

right stupid because you would get jacked

Pre-Crack Oakland has been on my mind recently, as
a month ago, I went to Kalamazoo, Michigan and was enamored
with the fact that it reminded me of pre-crack Oakland.
There was an arts scene, mixed class neighborhoods,
some well off white enclaves, a college area with the
requisite college scene, a bustling downtown that
was pedestrian friendly, Black working
class neighborhoods with owner occupied
homes and some neighborhoods with beat down
housing projects.

This isn't to say that Oakland doesn't have this now because it
does, but the post Crack violence residue, the always pending
threat of violence, that crackle in the air wasn't there
in Kalamazoo. In some ways this the essence of pre-crack
Oakland. However, I was a visitor, and I would imagine that there are
some long time Kalamazoo residents that may disagree with me.

(Kalamazoo also doesn't have the racial diversity of Oakland which
has a vibrant and visible South East Asian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Latino

I wasn't going to publish this piece. There is SO much going on in it.
But, when Samhita
Mukhopadhyay initially posted about Lovelle Mixon
and it didn't go very well but she turned around and posted again,
and the conversation and comments were inspiring. Based on her
courage, I knew that I had to take that step as well.

I realized that if I took my time, and thought clearly about
my intentions and was open to dialogue it would be fine.

More Reading:
-An Infamous Legend is Born and a Community is Under Seige
by Kevin Westin, New American Media
-Understanding the Dialogue around Lovelle Mixon, by Samhita

, Feministing
-36 Hours in Oakland NY Times

Why is it so hard to see the humanity in folks

What do you think of the Obama inspired image?

Didn't David Simon drop some joints in that interview?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

**Edit: I Need Help with the Rap Corporations Chart


I have decided to do the rap corporations chart and I
need some help.

I have the data, but I need someone to either help
me to do the data entry. We can use Many Eyes or another
online mashup program, it can be a flow chart,
a la Power Point, Gliffy, or Flow

I am going to have to write a piece (and read two books
in order to write them) to accompany it
and I can't do
both, time does not permit.

I am also thinking doing a legal time line of African American's
in the United States.

Get at me at m.dotwrites / gmail if you can assist.

I really appreciate it.

***I know there are at least two or three of y'all
that sit at work and have some hours to kill on the

I have received an invitation to use software, Flowchart (which is in
beta) to make a chart in real time & chat with each other.
I think the forces are on our side. Here are the 3 steps:
  • I will make the template for the chart
  • I will send you the links to the sites that have the
    information on corporations
  • We divide up the work and enter the data into the site.
Presto. Hip Hop, Corporations Chart!
It should take about 45 minutes for three people to cut and pasting info onto flowchart.
Email me if you are willing to help.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Re- All That Crack I Sold, I Lied.


Incarcerated Scarfaces Part 1 Of 6 - The funniest movie is here. Find it

"Can you just imagine going to jail in 1989 and them
telling you you
release date is February 2004? Its crazy."

Malice Video Blog 1 from Malice of the Clipse on Vimeo.

It has certainly been a week.

Saturday, I finally realized that I was going to have to publish
my work myself. Don't get it twisted, I am still going to pursue
other avenues, but the resistance that I received with regard to
criticizing art and capitalism confirmed that I was on to something,
and that I needed to create my own lane(s) instead of asking
for someone to let me ride in theirs.

Having had such a writing heavy load the last two
weeks, Gentrification
and Asher Roth I am both tired
and reinvigorated.

Asher Roth has provided a kind of needed fodder for me
to talk about race, capitalism and gender
Saturday, and I started talking about the resistance to my
critique of the white
consumption of black death and
corporate rap.
Like me, she is a survivor. The South
Bronx's Finest. She was like "Yo, peep Sylvia Rhone,
he came in with a Black face and changed the
the game with regard to boom bap. Oh and peep
Universals assets, Jay Z wasn't endorsing that Darfur
water for nothing." She went on to tell me that Universal's
parent company
has other holdings related to water and
I was like word are you trying to get me got"?
I dug around
on Wikipedia, and Rhone did play a role in
the elimination of Boom Bap from Elektra.
Then I turned
around and Robbie at
Unkut posted an interview with
Dante Ross, former A & R at Elektra. I felt like the arch of this

story was pulling me along.

When I received Gordon Gartrell's terse comments
I was like,
uhhh, why the anger?
I just couldn't figure out why folks were so resistant
to accepting the fact that corporations play a material role
in shaping our music. They play a material role in shaping
just about everything else in our culture, why should rap music
be exempt?

I asked, "Am I going to have to make a United Corporations
of Hip Hop chart?" She responded, you can but you might
wanna do it under your pseudonym. I got shook. You know
I'm paranoid. You can't be from Oakland and not be a little 'noid.
We got cointelproed in the 70's. Don't ever underestimate the
power of the Black communities historical memory.
Its our survival 101.

As I contemplated doing a Hip Hop Corporations chart
and essay,
I was like, dude, is this gonna be my Jim
Webb moment
? then reminded me of the Incarcerated Scarface's video.
And we began to talk about
how when people get a taste
of violence, they develop a bloodthirst,
like bleeding in

It's almost like the kids are running towards a fight.

Given the fact that both and I have lived on blocks that
had Black blood running running the street, the conversation
was both intense, intimate and informative.

After I got off the phone with her, I thought about how
many of the images in hip hop are rooted

in early American stereotypes that are extremely racist.
Black men as thugs, beasts, rapists, animals.

So I sat back and watched all of the Incarcerated Scarface's
videos on Saturday. And I came away thinking,
what do these men, these men who have been stabbed up,
wounded and shot at, these men who have spent , 10, 15,
20 years in prison, I wonder what they think about the
Thug/Pimp/Ho corporate rap music and how it may
influence the young bucks coming up behind them?

I told Birkhold about the resistance to my critique, he read the
comments and was like "yo Ne, you know
what you can do, you
can do a historical piece on Rap and Corporations.

Read Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop and S. Craig Watkin's
Hip Hop Matters."

I was like "dude first of all I am reading three books
for a post already.I have like four other pieces in the pipeline. A 'Lil Kim

piece I have been itchin' to write, this sustainable green economies
piece, a piece on my problem with white privilege, I'm backed up."

But see, that's the beauty of writing online, the feedback loop
has the capacity to force you to change your game up and be nimble.
The writing, the work, becomes a living breathing animal.

But back to Incarcerated Scarfaces. You see. I am a huge Clipse fan.
I like the Clipse as much as I like Mobb Deep. In my Asher Roth post
I wrote about how things haven't been the same since the "Tree huggin'
bitch" skit on their last mix tape.

Well, this past weekend the Clipse's former manager turned himself in
after having been charged with leading a 10 million dollar drug ring.

Malice of the Clipse, went on to make a video announcing that
how "he has been part of the problem [in rap], but he likes the
foolishness in his rhymes and his music."

Given my corporate rap/Asher Roth last week, I was
curious about how folks wold receive Malice's
statements about not having sold crack in a very long time.

Many people thought that he was coming clean.
Others felt that he was admitting to being a liar.

Personally, I was intrigued by the Don't Trust my Crack Raps
PSA tone
of the video. I was kind of ironic. Like an SNL skit.

"Hey kids. Do as I say. Wait, don't do as I say, do as I do. Wait,
just figure out how to separate the fact from fiction."

With the Clipse, Black male masculinity and questions of
humanity on my mind, I had an epiphany today.

I realized that the reason why I write about hip hop the way
that I do, is because I see the people behind the music.

A former supervisor, a lawyer from legal internship that
I had 3 years ago
,wrote me a recommendation recently.
He mentioned
that one of the reasons why he knew
that I would not be happy with "the law"
is that it would
require that I see people only as abstractions, and that
I have
a propensity to see the human dimension of
relationships, especially as it pertains to power,
addiction and violence.

I think this is an issue at hand when I write about
hip hop, the
white and Black consumption of Black death,
street harassment and Black men
and prison.

Where many folks see rappers, victims, kids and race,
I see human beings, humans with agency, humans who will
need to be accountable to one another,
if we are to live in
a sustainable

So yeah. I am tired yet, I have a new perspective. Here's
to embracing
independence. Salud.


How you been?

Why is it so hard to accept that our music thuggin'
and mean muggin' faux & real
for profit?

Do I have to do a corporations chart to make
this 'ish real? If so, imma need an intern or
some help.

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