Friday, April 30, 2004
Today's must-read: Tom Hayden on gang peace and the anti-war movement.
Next week's must-see: B+ and Eric Coleman at Transport Gallery, L.A.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:30 AM
FOXY BROWN RIDES AGAIN
Someone's been searching here with the terms "Diana DeGarmo" and "ethnicity", "Diana DeGarmo", "what is she" and finally: "Diana DeGarmo" and "Filipino blood". Look how far this chica's apparently come--from Snellville corn syrup to Daly City leche flan. But for the love of Rizal, my sisters and brothers, every music star who's racially ambiguous ain't Filipino!
posted by Zentronix @ 8:38 AM
Thursday, April 29, 2004
WE LOVE PLUGS
Two things to tell my Bay fam and visitors about.
First, Quannum comes home. Meet us at The Warfield this Saturday, Mayday. Come early cuz me and my funk brother O-dub will be spinning to warm yall up. I got a crate full of roots, go-go, and maybe even some Ghetto Brothers for ya.
Second, check out this great event going down next week. I'm on the board of Media Alliance and we're really happy to present this event next Wednesday at UC Berkeley with some of our favorite journalists and media justice/media democracy advocates.
Bob McChesney, author of the new book The Problem of the Media
Jerry Mander,president of the International Forum on Globalization
John Nichols, D.C. correspondent for The Nation magazine and all-around great guy
and last but never least, Farai Chideya, the brilliant, pioneering, award-winning hip-hop gen journalist/author, and host of KALW's "It's Your Call" (Are we happy she's back in the Bay? Hell yes we are!)
The topic: "Media Regime Change!"
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 7PM
Place: Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley
Tickets: $7 General Public / $5 Media Alliance members & students / First 100 students FREE w/ student ID.
Advance tickets on-line at Media Alliance, or by calling 415.546.6334, x300. See yall there!
posted by Zentronix @ 9:13 AM
Lots of great writing today.
Dave Tompkins on Freddy Fresh and the P-Bros.
Tommy Tompkins on Fela and the Black President exhibition.
Kelefa Sanneh on Kweli, KaySlay, Rakim and Ghost.
And while I wouldn't mind if I never hear from their [insert highly negative adjective here] owners again, here's Ta-Nehisi Coates' wonderfully written piece on the late Rawkus Records.
BONUS WORDS: Jelani Cobb on Nelly and Spelman. Thanks to Joan Morgan for the link, who calls it "hip-hop feminism at its finest".
posted by Zentronix @ 8:19 AM
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Now this is getting interesting. Cowell says American Idol is not racist.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:16 PM
Whoa. Elton John calls American Idol racist.
posted by Zentronix @ 4:35 PM
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Whoa, Tim Hudson curveball. Latin rhythms!
The mambo sends the queen and king of love out of their zone: Fantasia acts like J-Hud died. Dances well, sings worse. George unveils a new dance step, but still mainly jumps around like Kriss Kross, or um, House of Pain.
Latoya owns it. Renel weeps tears of joy. The Bay Area gets out the vote. A landslide victory for the A's-capped, ceviche-swigging, Alice Walker book club, hemp-clothed polyculturalists. Oh yeah.
Jasmine is beginning to sound Society of Seven. Which is a good thing if you're from Hawai'i and possibly not so good if you're not. We want Camille and her Rastacentric wristbands back like the Jackson 5.
John "Doogie" Stevens is incontrovertible proof that meritocracy does not exist in Amerikkka. (Even money he gets early acceptance to Yale in two years and replaces Noah Wylie in the cast of ER in three. "Great bedside manner", remark the producers. "Egads, what's up with his hair!", scream the stylists.)
Well surprise surprise surprise Diana "Mama Mia" DeGarmo is on point this week. Bonus points for getting her dress dissed by Simon, Queer Eye for the Arts High.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:33 PM
CONFESSIONS, PART WHATTHEF--K?
So leaving aside comment on the R.Kelly-ization of pop these days, Usher's "Confessions Part 2" has to be the most infuriating and intriguing thing on the radio these days.
Here's the breakdown, call it a full mack washboard confessional:
This by far is the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do
To tell you, the woman I love
That I'm having a baby by a woman that I barely even know
I hope you can accept the fact that I'm man enough to tell you this
And hopefully you'll give me another chance
This ain't about my career
This ain't about my life
It's about us...
You can just see all the Ush fans thinking 'Oh that's so sweet, he's apologizing" and all the assholes rooting for Ush to get his girl back in bed where she belongs. Whatthef--k? The dude got another girl pregant--one he doesn't even care about--now he's begging to come back, figuring you'll accept that he's man enough to tell you what a dog he is.
This shit takes creep-dom to a new low. But at the same time, it's mad seductive, right?
The weird subtext of hits like Ruben Studdard's "Sorry 2004" and this one is: "Lie to me, just show me some tenderness first, then act like you're facing the truth although you really just want an excuse to get back in my pants."
Can't help but think that these songs are a sign of the [American] times. How do we really feel about W and Condi? If they just fessed--"Shit man, we really did fuck up with this Afghanistan/Iraq/Israel thing"--would we be like, "Ah OK, that's cool"?
Conclusion: Usher is yet another good reason to get Bush out of office.
posted by Zentronix @ 4:32 PM
Monday, April 26, 2004
So April's my birth month--which I guess means it's about returns and new beginnings.
Had a lot of both this month. After hiding in my little cave trying to finish the book, I was out in the world more than I've been since the beginning of 2002. Got to reconnect deeply with old friends in Storrs and New York, and make lots of new ones in San Jose, Seattle, Madison, and New York.
Humbled and full of gratitude to be part of the first (and definitely not the last) Ghetto Brothers national tour, much love to Oliver Wang, Eric Weisbard and Ann Powers, Justin and Eric Liek, David Muhammad, Nema, Ingrid, and the Hip-Hop Generation crew for helping. But most of all, to Wanda and Henry, incredible traveling companions, and in fact two of the greatest people on earth. (Did I also mention that Henry's new movie, "From Mambo to Hip-Hop", is the kind of project that could once again revolutionize how we think of hip-hop history? He's already done this at least three times!) And Benjy, well, he's a category unto himself--the axis around which the universe turns.
Best moments: folks cheering in Seattle to Henry's film as "Ghetto Brothers Power" hit the chorus; Robert Christgau, Josh Clover, and the crowd letting out a collective gasp when Benjy revealed he was actually Jewish; Benjy, Brother Righteous, and Afrika Bambaataa--it don't get more Bronx than that--posing for a historic photo in a Madison restaurant; hanging at WSMU with the Beat Conundrum crew, Cristina Veran, April Henderson, Freddy, super-fresh David, and Rachel Swan.
Also got to be at UConn minutes before the women won their final--and be saved from the ensuing beer rioting by Dr. Ogbonna Ogbar's LA-tested sixth sense; attend Jessica Hopper's band's NYC debut (they're called Challenger and they rock); to be witness a sambafied Tortoise bring down the Bowery Ballroom, this tour is a must-see yall; and to have many (but not enough) all-day or late-night bull sessions with the de la creme of the musicritterati and the new hip-hop intelligentsia.
Super shouts to the Hip-Hop Congress at University of Illinois, Todd Inoue, the First Thursdays crew, Yoshi Kato, Marian Liu, Billy Jam, Davey D, Ogbonna, Lizz Mendez Berry, UConn SUBOG, Joe Schloss, Dubs and Sango, Josh Cheuse, J-Shep, Jonny Crack, M.A.N., Karen Good, Raq, Joan, Fabel, Bam, Cashus D, Brother Righteous, Claudine Brown, Roberta Uno, Rha, Lenora, Aya, Van, Upski, J-Hops, C-Ryan, Whitney Joiner, Peter Shapiro, Martha Cooper, Danny Hoch, my Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian-European blood relations in Madison, my Filipino blood relations in NYC, James and Margarita, and SFJ, Sam, Jonah, and Debra--my surrogate fam for an afternoon. There's more, it don't stop. I guess I need to get out more often...
All in all a wonderful month, but I'm very happy to be back with Dez and the boyz, and anxious to see what they've done to my American Idols. I'm told I won't be happy. Semi-related thang: another Will Hung sighting.
More posting in the next couple of weeks, I promise.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:22 PM
Sunday, April 25, 2004
sup yall. i'm back. a few weeks of emails to return and lotsa stories. right now, i need some sleep. more a soon come...
posted by Zentronix @ 11:06 PM
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
AM I ALL AROUND YOU?
I'm anywhere but home these days.
A belated but deeply felt thanks to all who made the last weekend so wonderful: everyone at EMP--all past friends and many new ones--and to the fighting crew at Madison who made it happen despite massive pressure and haterade. Special shout out to all those staffers and volunteers who grinded day and night so we could do our thing. We definitely noticed, and all your work is really appreciated.
Here's some shit I did on Tortoise. If they're no longer fashionable after 10 years in the game, maybe that makes me happy.
Heading back to NYC tomorrow. If you're at the Thursday night show, please holla!
posted by Zentronix @ 5:07 PM
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Gotdamn it's all about Fantasia, I mean just the first phrase, with that drooping "eeea-sy" and you could see the afternoon sun slowing down the world.
Jennifer repped, just like I said she would. Latoya gets better every week. In like Jin.
George may be slipping.
I think Simon's comments about age were targeted directly at Diana Digarmo, who sang the whole song sharp and is way outmatched.
They certainly didn't suit Jasmine's subtle performance (and fuck Tarantino with his "delicate powerhouse" stereotyping)--nobody gets her local steez (which accounts for the apparent obsession with the Cole family singers), just like they didn't get Camille--but the comments did suit her choice of dress. Time to get out of the slippers and halter-top-fo'-go-cruise-Ala-Moana gear and start styling up, sistah.
The two Johns, whatever.
Prediction: Diana goes. But it should be one of the two Johns.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:03 PM
Lots of folks have been asking, so here's the info for the Hip-Hop As A Movement conference in Madison. The site is back up.
See yall in Seattle tomorrow and Madison on Sunday...
posted by Zentronix @ 12:39 PM
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Yeah it's true. I spotted Will Hung on my flight back to Oakland last Friday. Got to speak to him. Gave him props. He said, "Thank you, a heh heh heh." Didn't mention my brother's trademark infringement. Noticed he has a funny way of looking down when talking to guys and staring directly at the girls. Nonetheless the JetBlue flight was aflutter. Autographs and digital cameras, but thankfully no singing.
Of course, no one except the Asian Americans knew his name. Everyone else was like, "Hey there's that guy." "I was at my family reunion last week and we were just talking about that guy." "You know that guy has a record out", and "Boy that guy just goes to show you don't need talent anymore, just publicity."
As we got off the plane, MSNBC had his Today show appearance as their number one story on their daily news countdown, ahead of Iraq and Condi. And yet they still fly the dude back on Jetblue--where dude was stuck in seat 17E amidst the madding crowd.
Man, what does an Asian American guy have to do to get some respect around here!?!?!!?? Milk that cow, Will Hung, til she don't milk no more. Ain't Amerikkka grand.
So here's Oliver's sister's take on Will. Hilarious.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:01 PM
Monday, April 12, 2004
Back for a few days before doing the Seattle to Madison Ghetto Brothers connection. More in a second.
First, here's an opinion piece on affirmative action in the NYTimes Magazine that not only defies belief but logic itself.
Backgrounder: The Magazine has been on a several year kick to solicit as many anti-affirmative action pieces from disgruntled ex-liberals and less. Apparently there are diminishing returns. This guy--allegedly a tenured English prof at University of Illinois-Chicago (Stanley Fish's turf, so you can imagine the food fights in the faculty club)--is pretty close to arguing that 4=5. The kicker graf:
"But the real value of diversity is not primarily in the contribution it makes to students' self-esteem. Its real value is in the contribution it makes to the collective fantasy that institutions ranging from U.I.C. to Harvard are meritocracies that reward individuals for their own efforts and abilities -- as opposed to rewarding them for the advantages of their birth. For if we find that the students at an elite university like Harvard or Yale are almost as diverse as the students at U.I.C., then we know that no student is being kept from a Harvard because of his or her culture. And white students can understand themselves to be there on merit because they didn't get there at the expense of black people."
OK, we can get with the argument against affirmative action primarily as self-esteem booster, and we're always into exposing the myth of meritocracy. But whoa! Where did this last sentence come from? Last I heard, white students--and their right-wing demagogue puppeteers--were angry that diversity was being accomplished at their expense. Maybe something changed while I was out last week? Someone tell me.
PLUGOLA: THE LAST FOR APRIL!
This is it. The big one.
This weekend, Henry Chalfant, and Benjamin Melendez, the leader of the Bronx gang, the Ghetto Brothers, will be taking our thang to Seattle's Experience Music Project Pop Music Conference and to the Hip-Hop Generation conference at University of Wisconsin.
We're gonna be talking about the Bronx gang years from 1968-1973 and how they led into the creation of hip-hop culture. I got music, Henry's got films, and Benjamin's got stories. Holla!
posted by Zentronix @ 12:19 PM
Sunday, April 04, 2004
BOMB THE EXURBS
David Brooks on the exurbs as utopia. This is a self-flattering, somewhat spiteful piece, much of which I cannot agree with, but it's well worth confronting.
I could spill tens of thousands of words on why and where he's wrong--and I do in my book, with Chuck D to back me up!--but I won't right now cause I'm on deadline and I'm back on the road tomorrow again. Which brings me to...
If you're celebrating Connecticut's double-double on Tuesday night, come do it with me and the crew at the Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center, at 7pm. We'll be talking hip-hop and saluting the improvisatory genius of Okafor and Taurasi.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:43 PM
Friday, April 02, 2004
QUE VIVA RICHIE PEREZ!
This one is for the great Richie Perez, the brilliant, kick-ass New York organizer who was an inspiration, a mentor, and an example to so many of us.
Richie was born in 1944 and raised in the Banana Kelly neighborhood of the South Bronx. His parents had immigrated from Puerto Rico. When he graduated from Morris High School, he says, "My family-they gave me a choice, you know, go to the army or go to work or go to college."
As one of the few Puerto Rican students from the Bronx at Lehman College in the early 60s, he studied economics and business education and observed the anti-war and civil rights movements beginning to take shape.
"I wanted to stay out of Vietnam," he told me in an interview in 2002. "I wanted to be a journalist. But they weren't giving draft deferments for English majors. As the inner-cities got more and more race conscious, whites who taught business subjects, most of them came they came from the rural areas, didn't want to teach these things in the city. So there was a shortage of stenography and typing teachers."
"And I was researching! Because now I can't get a deferment on English and I know I'm of the age. So what the fuck am I going to do? Am I going to Canada? So I researched it. I mean I even headed down to the War Resisters League and I was looking at materials, how do you stay out of the war? It wasn't like I had deeply formulated opinions about imperialism yet."
He became a steno and typing teacher at Monroe High School, across the street from the Bronx River Houses, and joined the teachers' union. Frustrated by what he came to see as the insipidness of mainstream left politics, he became radicalized by the Black Panthers and the anti-war movment. At Monroe, he began to recruit students into the Black Panther Party.
In 1969, he heard that a Puerto Rican group called the Young Lords was starting up in Harlem. "I remember I was in a party with a friend of mine and we're trying to get a rap with these two women. You know we were trying to impress them with our political shit," he recalled. "And they said, 'Well if you really believe that, you shouldn't be over here, you should be down in Harlem with the Young Lords. We struck out, they put us down. But the thing was, they were telling the truth man!"
"So me and him said, 'You know what? They're right.' We went home both of us, threw on our leather jackets and our jeans, and we went down to the People's Church--the one that had been taken over by the Young Lords."
"There were activities, people speaking, political education, there were Panthers there. There were poets, lots of poetry going on. Pedro Pietri was there. A lot of people from the Nuyorican Village, a lot of musicians. The people hooked up a bass and drum and played for five hours. And I really liked what I saw there. Aside from the fact that we met some really nice women too! So anyway, I said for me, this is it."
It was a life-changing experience. Perez soon joined the Lords and soon became Minister of Information, and edited the Party newspaper. At 25, he was one of the oldest in the Party.
The following year, Perez opened up the Lords' Bronx office in his old neighborhood. After a rough bout with the local gang, the Savage Skulls, the gangs joined the Lords in bringing attention to the sorry state of health care in the Bronx, first with the takeover of immunization trucks and then with a takeover of the entire Lincoln Hospital.
In 1971, the Young Lords decided to export their revolution back to Puerto Rico. At this the point, Perez believed, the Party began to decline. "(The decision) was based on an incorrect premise. And the incorrect premise was that we are one nation and that we can export revolution from New York City to Puerto Rico. We would unite the nation, and we gonna show the people in Puerto Rico how you make a revolution," he said.
"We get to PR and it's very clear that we are different. We all got afros, we wearing dashikis, we got combat boots and fatigues, and the fucking hottest weather and all that shit. We can't speak Spanish for shit. And our newspaper is an English. We are looking at military solutions. Unnecessarily. We are coming out of a capitalist, technological, fast food, fast imagery culture, and we're comfortable in that culture. We go to PR and everything is moving too slow. The Movement in Puerto Rico ostracized us. "
The Lords eventually retreated from Puerto Rico and began what Perez called a downward spiral into centralism and dogmatism. "We became like a cult," he said. "We became so insulated there, only listening to ourselves. We were creating our own reality and validating our own reality."
"We began to convince ourselves that we were the greatest threat to American imperialism. We were down to about 40 people. "
By 1977, the party had split into two armed factions and violence became its own end. Perez and his wife were kidnapped by the opposing faction and tortured. They broke free and went underground. Perez would carry the physical pain for the rest of his life, walking with a limp and a cane. He mourned the ending of the Lords, a tragic end very similar to the Panthers, brought on by ego and COINTELPRO.
"When it ends with kidnappings and shit there's no reconciliation. Because now we have blood debts," he recalled. "That's what happened to the Panthers. At the first point that someone is killed and a sequence of revenge back and forth, the possibility of reconciling becomes more and more remote. And that's what we were involved in too."
In time, Perez returned to teaching Puerto Rican studies at Brooklyn College, and became central to the creation of the National Congress For Puerto Rican Rights. Forced out of the College by right-wing extremists, he returned to the Bronx to organize, and came into contact with the emerging hip-hop culture just as it was exploding into its block party era.
In hip-hop, he felt the same excitement he had with the rise of salsa, a music movement he saw as tied to the surging political consciousness of the late 60s and early 70s. And he heard the same potential black-brown unity that he had heard in the bugalu music of the mid 60s.
Perez's growing interest in cultural representation proved far-seeing. In 1980, he helped galvanize a national campaign to boycott the film Fort Apache: The Bronx", the first shot in what would become a national movement for representation and multiculturalism.
"We used the Fort Apache struggle to mainstream ourselves," he said. "And we built the broadest united front I have ever been in. There were more church people more middle-class elements and more forces that I normally would not have worked with. But it was good for us because it taught us a lot of how to do that."
During the 1980s, this anti-racist movement would result in boycotts against Hollywood films like "Charlie Chan" and "Year of The Dragon", calls for inclusive curriculum on college campuses and public education, and much more, eventually setting the stage for the breakthrough crossovers of black independent film and hip-hop culture in the late 80s.
Perez's work turned next to the issue of police brutality. A number of high-profile killings in New York City--Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffiths and Yusuf Hawkins--brought the issue to the media spotlight. But as always, Perez was not concerned with being in the limelight but with organizing the community.
"We needed to go beyond 'racist pig cop', which is what we used to chant at them. We've got to get our people to understand that it is institutional and systemic question because we need a systemic change. Because if you want people to move to a revolution and the changing of structures they've got to see the structures that they are up against," he said.
"So we began to talk about the need to take the community through a process of fighting around the case and that in that process they would learn all of these things and come to the conclusion that it was the system they had to fight, not an individual racist cop."
"The families had to be empowered in that process as well, because standing on the outside screaming at the system is important, someone's gotta do it and, but it carries much more moral weight if you are and the family is raising those questions.
"And it's a different kind of organizing. It is much less rhetorical, much longer process. It was less of us vs. the State, it was more of the families vs. the State and we are back-up. We were their troops. But they are gonna fight the government."
By the late 90s, with the Giuliani administration implementing the Broken Windows theory in zero-tolerance policing, police brutality surged to the fore again with the killings of Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Anthony Baez, Yong Xin Huang, Gidone Busch, and many more. Perez helped organize some of the biggest demonstrations against police brutality in decades, protests which eventually resulted in the scaling back of zero-tolerance policy.
During his lifetime, Perez was always deeply interested in the Hip-Hop Generation's political development, and he personally mentored hundreds of us.
In 2002, he sat me down for a day-long discussion in his office. We spoke about his life and work, and what he wanted to pass on to the Hip-Hop Generation. His words have become something of a credo to me. In memorial to an Elder, whose fighting spirit lives on in all of us, here are those words:
"The arc of history is that every generation has to fight the liberation struggle. Every generation. It doesn't matter what the generation before you did or didn't do. You're going to have to deal with it."
"It helps if there is a connection between the previous generation and the new generation. It helps, it doesn't prevent you from making mistakes. Every generation will make their own mistakes, will create its own organizations, will create its own cultural forms, its own expression everything. And every generation will have its own rhythm."
"See that's what I want to be for this generation. At this point , I figure that's what my role is. I mean I'm a great organizer and I'm an activist and I still like to kick ass, but how I can make my greatest contribution is I got to be part of that transmission of history. Because the time that you're on the historical stage is short, man."
posted by Zentronix @ 10:07 AM
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