Wednesday, October 29, 2008 LBTV :: More Blatherings On Hip-Hop
I'm in the ether right now getting ready for the Born In The Bronx conference at Cornell--stay tuned for pics and highlights sometime next week after the elections.
In the meantime, here's another vid. Of course, I can't promise any more coherence in this one than the Bloggingheads one below. But you knew that already...
Bloggingheads :: Eli Lake and I Debating Hip-Hop & Politics
Here's Eli Lake and I from today's Bloggingheads TV:
Eli and I talked about the Vibe cover story, Ice Cube's aspirationality, and debated crime policy and the Clipse, Bill Ayers and Too Short, and a lot more.
Not sure I was the most articulate dude in the face of Eli's ridiculously broad and deep intelligence--which ranges from Pakistan and nukes to SoulStrut.com and the Rawkus catalog--but I tried to hold my own and it was a very enjoyable conversation...
posted by Zentronix @ 6:44 AM0 commentslinks to this post
Inspired by Barack Obama's speech in Denver, where 3/4s of the Meters played at a New Orleans benefit, legendary drummer--really the best drummer of all-time--Zigaboo Modeliste decided to funk up his own tribute to the man in "Obamagroove"...
Here's the bonus house remix by Zig's son, Kelly "Spy Boy" Jones. It's got a NOLA-meets-Baltimore-inna-Manchester-stylee vibe...
Download the songs at www.obamagroove.com and Zig will personally send half the proceeds to the campaign.
Thursday, October 23, 2008 Voices of The New Majority :: A Southern Son Finding A New Life Nov 27 Photo Courtesy B-Fresh Photography
You look up and this cat is smiling at you. He's wearing a red shirt and his eyes are hidden behind shades, another rapper on the grind. He's here now in Las Vegas, where gaudy wealth and brutal poverty exist side-by-side, and a million simulations of the American dream are on sale around the clock. He's got a CD, and it's called "My America." He introduces himself. Some rappers name themselves after heroes, villains, cartoons. His name is a simple fact. Nov 27, his date of birth. It's the only thing he's sure of.
He was born James Price, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 28 years after nine African American students desegregated Central High School, 21 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. When he was born, when Bill and Hillary Clinton were still in the State Capitol and Little Rock's civil rights traumas were about to give way to gang-land traumas.
Nov 27 grew up all over town. "I didn't really have a stable home from time to time year to year," he says. His parents were still trying to live the party life. So he moved all over town to stay with grandparents, aunts, other relatives. "When you're not in a stable environment, you can't adapt fully. You can never feel like you're safe."
He adds, "I was kinda homeless for a little bit, I had to deal with surviving on the streets when I was young. That made me learn how to survive through my mind. That's where rap comes from—surviving from the mind."
Some of his kin were Bloods, so he was too. Then, at 14—the year he began thinking of rapping seriously, the year he started hearing Cash Money and Busta Rhymes and Snoop and Dre in a whole new way—he found himself at a new school on the north side of town, the Black Disciples' and Gangsta Disciples' side of town. It was, he says, "the beginning of my troubles."
Wearing a red cap sideways to school one day, he was surrounded by 30 cats in black or blue. They told him they didn't like the way he was wearing his hat. He wouldn’t back down so he got beat down.
"That's just some of the stuff teens go through out here on the streets," he says.
"It's like, you can't surrender, you don't want to be considered a punk because these cats want you to throw your rag down or abide by their rules cause it's their side of town."
After two years of banging, he says, "I came to the realization I got to do something better. I can't indulge in this nonsense to where it could lead to the end of my life. There was times when I was like the only one representing for the gang that put me down. And I got these so-called homeboys? They weren't down. So it was like, what's the use? I got no backup."
His family sent him to Austin, Texas to cool out for a couple of years. And he did. But when he returned to Little Rock, back this time to a Blood neighborhood, trouble still seemed determined to stalk him.
"I was at a security job at Pacific Railroad. Friday night. I was gonna go holla at my homeboy. Something was telling me just stay home. I guess that was my conscience. 'Just stay home, just stay home.' 'Naw man, it's Friday I'm trying to see what's up with the night.'"
"I'm walking down the street. I see six cats over there approaching me like, 'What up?' I didn't say nothing to 'em, I kept walking. They surrounded me. I'm thinking I'm gonna have to squab with them cause they around every angle. I'm trying to get ready, see who's gonna make the first move. Then I hear clink-clink, paw-paw-paw-paw."
Bullets pierced his stomach and his arm. As he lay on the ground he wondered, "What did I do to deserve this?"
His wounds weren't fatal. But his emotions were a riot. "I went through my pain with that, my anger, my frustration. Listened to my conscience. I didn't retaliate because that just would have been another dead person on the street."
"That's pretty much what Little Rock go through, man."
The violence didn’t end. A short time later, a group did a drive-by on his house. He was 20, had been shot 4 times in his own neighborhood. He knew he had reached the bottom.
"So I just went to sleep, and I woke up. That was a sign. Like, hey I'm still alive. After that, that was the turning point. I was like, 'I ain't finna be around here in this death trap.'"
He left for Austin for good. Got a job, rented an apartment, got back on his feet. Started rapping again, made contacts in the industry. He joined up with a group called Mafia Mob. He was searching for something.
Nov took a job as an elections clerk and was awed by the intensity of the Democratic primary caucuses. He started noticing how his neighborhood on the east side of Austin was becoming gentrified. He got interested in community events. He was going to one—a Department of Justice hearing on community policing—in the fall of 2007 to give a statement when trouble found him again.
As he was crossing the street, two whites stared him down and starting shouting at him. He stopped. They got out of the car. From behind his shades, Nov 27 told them, "I'm not trying to fight but I'll defend myself." They started scrapping.
When the police came, they took the two white men aside. They slammed Nov faced down on the asphalt. The men told the police Nov had thrown rocks at their car and challenged them to a fight. But when Nov tried to say that was a lie, they handcuffed him, pulled his shirt over his face, and took him to jail, charging him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
But this time, the trouble ended up different. Nov landed an attorney, Kenavon "K.C." Carter, who took the case. After watching the police video, the judge offered to dismiss the charges dropped if Nov would stay out of trouble for 6 months. That wasn't going to be a problem this time. Carter took Nov to more community events, brought him to Las Vegas for the National Hip-Hop Political Convention.
So now this cat is standing in front of you. He's told his story. Behind his shades, his mind is spinning. He is meeting people he never would have met before, he is seeing possibilities he never would have seen before.
"In my raps, I try to tell people we don't have to blame nobody for our oppression because that leads to hating. That's where rap plays a role, it can relieve tension and bring people together," he says.
"Change can be a positive thing," he adds. "Bullets went through me but they didn't kill me, man. It's like I'm resurrected, a new me now."
Behind his shades, it seemed clear he was getting closer to what he was looking for. A tribe. A cause. Something to believe in, something that might last past tomorrow.
posted by Zentronix @ 3:23 PM0 commentslinks to this post
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 Voices of The New Majority :: A Hip-Hop Activist In Search Of Answers Carlo Javier Garcia Photo Courtesy B-Fresh Photography
In August, crowds gathered every day in the streets of Denver to protest at the Democratic National Convention.
On the day before the Convention opened, one in the crowd was a 22 year-old Puerto-Rican, University of Colorado student named Carlo Javier Garcia. He wore Swiss Army sunglasses, red and black Adidas, a red and black kaffiyah, camo shorts, and a black “Recreate ’68” t-shirt. He marched alongside anarchists.
At that same moment, two of his brothers were in Iraq, one on his second tour of duty. Another brother was at home after being wounded in combat in Afghanistan and awarded a Purple Heart. His father, an Army Lt. Colonel, had also done a tour there, and was still working part-time in the reserve in Miami.
Carlo was clearly from the black bloc of the family. But he saw the protests from a different perspective than many of his companions. His family's service to the country, he said, inspired him to be there.
"There's a warrior ethos in our family," he said. "I was in ROTC for a year. The more I thought about it, the more I read and learned in college, I was like, I can't be a part of this illegal imperialist war. You come to realize you don't need to be a soldier in the army to be a warrior and fight."
He spoke as the anti-war marchers and riot police stared each other down in front of the State Capitol. "This", he said, "is me being a warrior and fighting."
"You think of what happened in the DNC in Chicago 1968. There were police riots, there was a police state. Look at it now," he said, pointing to the lines of riot cops facing down the activists, "they are storm troopers going to battle. All the bad things that happened—no, that's not what we're trying to recreate. What we're trying to recreate is the spirit of activism and unity that was so prevalent back then. Now it's 2008, it's time for us to reinspire everybody."
I asked Carlo if he planned to vote. He had more surprises. He said that, unlike many of his fellow marchers, he did. And he was voting, as he had in the previous election, for the Democratic candidate. "Barack is an inspiration," he said.
Why was he helping organize a protest at the DNC, I asked him, if he was voting Democratic?
He chuckled. He'd heard the question before. A lot.
He explained that his dad was a "yellow-dog Democrat"—an old term Southerners invented to describe voters who would vote for a yellow dog on a Democratic ticket over any Republican.
"Your vote isn't necessarily significant. I voted in 2004 and 2006 and I've been disappointed both times," Carlo admitted. But he felt the protesters played a crucial role in influencing the Democrats.
"We could go to the RNC and protest all we want. We could have the police state attack us and destroy us at the RNC—it's not going to make a difference to John McCain and the rest of the Republicans. But we can come here to the DNC and potentially have Barack Obama see us in mass force, see the people movement, and inspire him for change."
He added, "We have to hold them accountable. In 2006 we elected a Democratic Congress on the platform that they would end the war in Iraq and cut funding for the war. There's been a troop surge. We're still at war. My brothers are in there now on 15-month tours. This is my family. These are my problems."
At that point, the activists seemed to have settled on a decision. They retreated and marched in the other direction toward downtown. The police dispersed. Garcia left to join the marchers.
Later that week, we caught up with each other at the Iraq War Veterans' demonstration. He had been arrested the previous day, and because he had been on probation, he was facing potentially serious charges. Despite his concern, it seemed as if he had to be at this protest; it hit the closest to home.
He marched to the Pepsi Center then left for Boulder to help set up a Public Enemy concert, sponsored by his hip-hop collective, Mad Society Project. It was a good day—the War Veterans demonstration was the peak of the week for the street demonstrators and the Public Enemy show was a success.
But in general, the protests in Denver hardly matched the fervor of the ones in St. Paul at the Republican National Convention, let alone the outpouring of emotion that greeted Obama's acceptance speech.
Since then, the economy has become the nation's most pressing issue, but the wars rage on. In the last month, there have been 10 American and over 130 Iraqi civilian deaths.
A couple weeks ago, I emailed Carlo to check up. He wrote back, saying that he had as his court case loomed, he had thought a lot about what he and the Denver activists had called their "Days of Resistance". He wasn't entirely sure they had worked.
"The day of the large scale protest is dead," he wrote. "I realized our protest wouldn't change policy before it all went down, but I hoped it would inspire others, and to tell you the truth, ain't shit changed. We gotta figure out a different formula to inspire the people who need to be inspired."
He was still searching for answers.
I thought back to something he had said on the streets of Denver: "The Bronx was burning. That is us now. Our country is burning and there are people who are speaking out against it. Your average hip-hop head now should be an activist, should be going out and doing something."
Colin Powell had been bugged by many things in his party’s campaign this fall: the insidious merging of rumors that Barack Obama was Muslim with intimations that he was a terrorist sympathizer; the assertion that Sarah Palin was ready to be president; the uniformed sheriff who introduced Governor Palin by sneering about Barack Hussein Obama; the scorn with which Republicans spit out the words “community organizer”; the Republicans’ argument that using taxes to “spread the wealth” was socialist when the purpose of taxes is to spread the wealth; Palin’s insidious notion that small towns in states that went for W. were “the real America.”
But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.
“I stared at it for an hour,” he told me. “Who could debate that this kid lying in Arlington with Christian and Jewish and nondenominational buddies was not a fine American?”
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 Tipping Points :: Early Voting In Swing States
As this long campaign enters its final two weeks, attention has turned to massive get-out-the-vote efforts, especially early voting.
Since this year's election could bring one of the highest turnouts on record, especially at precincts in communities of color and around colleges and universities, both parties and nonpartisan organizations like the League of Young Voters have already begun bringing people to the polls.
Early voting could very well make the difference. Nearly a third of all voters are expected to cast an early vote.
Polls show that Obama may be capturing sizable leads in the early vote. In part this may reflect the enthusiasm gap between the parties over their candidates. The Gallup Poll reported last week Democratic voters were 20-points more enthusiastic than their Republican counterparts about voting this year.
But the difference may also reflect the party's diverging tactical decisions. While the McCain campaign seems to have been concentrating on fighting "voter registration fraud" and laws that ease voting restrictions in the courts and on the airwaves, the Obama campaign has been dedicating big resources into galvanizing the early vote.
In Ohio, perhaps the key swing state, many who lived through the last two elections won't easily forget the long polling lines they faced. Some voters in 2006 waited in bad weather over 12 hours to cast their vote. Interest in early voting has been high, and not just among voters. Earlier this month, Republican officials unsuccessfully challenged the early voting laws. Ohio's early voters have favored Obama over McCain.
For the past two days, Senator Obama has been in Florida, the other crucial swing state, which began early voting this week. The Obama campaign also has early voting outreach efforts up in the important battlegrounds of Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Montana.
In North Carolina--once a solidly red state--the Obama campaign has been putting together a particularly massive effort to encourage "1-stop voting". North Carolina law allows voters to register and vote by absentee ballot at any county polling place right away. These efforts seemed to be paying off. Over 200,000 have already voted in North Carolina and Obama may be leading by as many as 30 points over McCain.
Thursday, October 16, 2008 McCain Lost Me
With watery red eyes that had him looking as if he'd just smoked a bowl of medical marijuana, Senator John McCain might have made me feel sorry for him.
I'm far from a conservative, as far as the suburbs of Honolulu are from the streets of Brooklyn. But this year I was willing to give John McCain a fair hearing. "Change is coming", he had said in St. Paul and, weary of politics as usual, I was genuinely interested to see if he and the Republican Party were willing to back it up.
But last night I finally gave in. I broke. I was stomping around the house, scaring the kids, yelling at the radio and the television, and generally not digesting my dinner.
Here's why. We're now past silly season and into shitty season. Falling down in the polls like Michael Douglas, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin have gone negative, unleashing fear out of their little box of horrors.
McCain argued last night that he has "repudiated every time someone has been out of line." But he continues to allow his VP nominee—someone CNN's Leslie Sanchez once said was "a vice president for the rest of us"—to insinuate Obama is not like the rest of us. He continues to flog non-stories about ACORN, a federation of community organizations working for poor people led by a woman of color, and Bill Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical who now is a respected voice in education.
McCain and Palin are betting that those who believe Obama is Arab or Muslim—and please so what if he were?—will also be scared of community organizers in poor communities and communities of color who have registered over a million new voters. Just for perspective, the false registrations—which afflict every voter registration campaign—represent less than half of one percent of all the new registrations—a pretty good rate, if you ask me.
McCain and Palin are betting that those who believe Obama is down with terrorists—because he actually lived and went to school in Indonesia once and what's up with that middle name?—are still scared of 60s activists who have become distinguished professors and respected community leaders focusing on improving education for poor, inner-city students. Why focus on the real issue of how to fix the educational system for the nation's future, when you can draw people back to the spectacle of battles that are 40 years old?
Full disclosure: I've knocked on doors and phone-banked for ACORN. I've written the Afterword for Bill Ayers' new book, and I was honored that he asked. So call me a domestic terrorist threatening to destroy the fabric of American democracy.
But I don't think I'm alone.
Voter registration fraud doesn't mean that Mickey Mouse will show up and try to vote on November 4th. Voter suppression, however, is an active Republican strategy that's been in place since the 1964 Voting Rights Act expanded enfranchisement. Is there any wonder why election protection groups feel they need to be in communities of color, working-class people, immigrants, and not in, say, Salt Lake City?
And if we want to talk Bill Ayers, let's start with education. Ayers has quietly done important work in Chicago and earned the respect of the best education leaders in the country, liberals and conservatives alike.
McCain, on the other hand, asserted last night that the country had finally arrived at equal access to education, apparently unaware that school segregation has climbed since the Reagan era to levels unseen since the eve of Brown vs. Board of Education.
In his effort to push vouchers, he confused them with charter schools and lied—with a big smile—about Washington D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee's position on them. McCain simply doesn't seem to have as much knowledge or passion on education and higher education as he does about Obama's supposedly scary relationships.
And here is the thing. No one really cares about my friend Bill Ayers and no one really cares about ACORN except for the right-wing nuts and racists in the party, the kind of folks who show up at rallies to yell "Kill him!" when Obama's name is mentioned. Instead I think most voters, like me, want to know how the war can be ended, the economy be turned around, and the education system be fixed.
But McCain, despite his "I'm not George Bush" zinger, seemed more intent upon bringing back the ideas of the past. At times, he sounded like a GOP greatest hits compilation.
When the discussion turned to abortion, for instance, he said, "We have to change the culture of America," he said. It was a conscious echo of Pat Buchanan's famous 1992 culture war speech, the singular text of the right-wing backlash.
McCain tried to paint Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal, a throwback to the days when the elder Bush made Michael Dukakis ashamed of the "l-word". And he revived Reagan-era disses—"class warfare" and "spreading the wealth"—to describe Obama's economic plans.
Of course after four decades in which the wealth gap has yawned and a month in which government has set aside nearly a trillion dollars to bail out Wall Street, class warfare and spreading the wealth don't sound so bad to lots of middle-class and working-class voters.
No, Senator McCain, you're not George W. Bush. Yes, you've been a warrior and you remain ready to fight. But you don't look like you're fighting for the future. You look like you're still fighting the past.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:02 PM1 commentslinks to this post
If you're at all interested, here's an interview for the Addicted To Race Premium podcast, one of the most consistently intriguing places for cutting-edge dialogue on race and culture. I was really honored to be asked to participate.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 Q+A :: Immortal Technique Breaks Down The American Empire Immortal Technique is a steadfastly independent voice—from his music to his politics. The Lima-born, Harlem-raised rhymer broke through at the turn of the millennium after emerging from prison and the east coast battle-rap scene. He made his name with "Revolutionary, Volumes 1 and 2", showcasing his fierce intellect and broad knowledge of history in hardcore skills.
For the past 7 years, he's practiced what the politics he preaches, setting up an orphanage in Afghanistan, raising funds for children's hospitals overseas, and working closely with youths and prisoners' rights and immigrant rights groups.
He took some time out to talk about the elections with us while out touring his new Viper Records album, The 3rd World.
How do you feel about these elections?
None of these people will change the dynamic of the way America is set up. I think that at the end of the day that there are a lot of people that are looking for Barack Obama to change things and I think that there are things he will be able to change, but not things he’ll be able to stop. Like people will say, "Stop the war." But I think he’ll be able to change the war but I don’t think he’ll be able to stop the war. I think that he can do great amount of stuff for the social programs that exist in this country but it’s a whole other story when it comes to the amount of stuff that has to be done in terms of our interests overseas.
Are folks focusing too much on electoral politics when they’re trying to get change in this country?
It sounds horrible but people really only really respect harsh and tough change, you know what I mean?
What do you mean?
Every ounce of being we’ve ever had came from people fighting over it. For example, what made the fact that Greece was a part of the Roman Empire legitimate? Or that Egypt was part of it, or the southern part of England part of it. Was it some divine right or right of conquest? What makes the northern part of Mexico now California, New Mexico, Arizona? And the Roman Empire existed 6 or 700 years, Byzantine Empire even longer. So really when we think about it, in the span of things we as a nation barely got our feet wet in terms of what we have accomplished in terms of manipulating the form of government in bettering it.
I think as our democracy evolves, it's going evolve in one way or another. It’s going to have to become even more of respectful of civil liberties because that’s what democracy is all about. It’s about creating these institutions that protect the civil liberties of the people. Otherwise all we’re really doing is voting 25 times every century and we feel more secure.
If you want to get to the deeper question of it, I think it’s all about control. If we really believe in God, then the mind of God must contain every possibility for every single outcome based on the smallest random choice we make in life that increases exponentially throughout our lives. So really did we have a choice in making our destiny? And I think that’s the issue with man—the control we don’t have. We overcompensate by trying to conquer other people and our women. Try to overcompensate for the inescapable fact that we can’t conquer ourselves.
So I think that plays about a microcosm in local politics and presidential politics too. People want a candidate that is going to see things from their religious point of view, their economical point of view. It was your choice to not to get an abortion, but you want to have control so no other person gets an abortion. You forget you were an immigrant once upon a time in America.
When you talk about person being a “redneck”—a lot of people that came to this country were white were slaves. They didn’t call them slaves they called them indentured servants. But they were indentured 7 years to their masters. They were even cross bred with African slaves to create, quote-unquote “mulattoes” because those were more expensive to sell and you’d get more profit. But if you think about it, these white people toiled in the fields all day and since white people don’t tan too well when they took of their shirt, what did they have? A "red neck." And that meant you were a poor, white sharecropping farmer. These insults are based upon your social status in society.
So that’s what we dealing with right now, the inability for us to go back in time and look at what creates the image of what we are today as Americans, as whatever race we choose to identify with, and as people with a particular political agenda in the upcoming election.
You call your new album, 'The 3rd World.' The new census projections just came out. They were predicting that the US would turn majority-minority in 2050. They had to lower that projection to 2042, by 8 years. What do you think will happen with questions of racial justice in this country?
We always talk about building unity among the races but a lot of the times there’s not unity within the races themselves. I think the people who are most racist against one another are the people who look kind of like one another. I know when you're uneducated to another culture, it’s kind of hard to see the difference between an Indian and a Pakistani person. Or Korean and Japanese. And at the same time, these are individuals that when you go back in their recent history they had the most drama. They do not like one another. 50 years ago Peruvians and Ecuadorians hated each other, but at the same time, they’re the same people and that’s the craziest part.
I don’t think it’s something that’s going to happen overnight because unfortunately the curriculum that we are taught in school doesn’t go back that far, it doesn’t want to deal with those specific issues. And those workshops are not being replicated on the street level to those individuals who need to be brought into the discussion. This doesn’t just need to be a discussion that just happens in some elite intellectual arena but it needs to be public domain. You know, education shouldn’t be a privilege but it should be a right.
Do you expect to vote this election?
Who are you going to vote for?
I’m not going to vote for John McCain. I’ll put it like that, so that’s pretty much my answer. Some of the issues I wanted to put in the perspective of individuals who put immigration back on the perspective, people who are going to help repair the economy. Individuals that are looking to be not just respectful of our cultures but other people’s cultures and have open dialogue with other parts of the world.
You're voting Obama?
I don’t think that man is Black Jesus. I think he’s Black Caesar.
Reverend Bernice A. King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told the crowd on August 28, echoing her father’s epochal “I Have a Dream” speech given 45 years before. And now the flocks gathered at Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High stadium would witness a giant step toward that dream’s realization in the historic nomination of Barack Obama. “This is one of the nation’s greatest defining moments,” she told the roaring audience.
The 85,000-plus people who gathered to hear Barack Obama accept his nomination as the Democratic Party’s first black presidential candidate were a rippling, multihued cloth of humanity—people of all faiths, colors, and generations in rapt anticipation, shedding tears of joy as the sun set over the snow- capped Rockies. But it was more than just a powerful, emotional gathering. It was the outline of a new American majority.
Backstage, as The Black Eyed Peas leader William “will.i.am” Adams prepared to step onstage to perform “Yes We Can” with John Legend and the Agape Choir—a song that, like the candidate it celebrated, seemed to emerge from nowhere to sound a note of idealism in a time of cynicism and strife—he was thinking about his old neighborhood.
In the projects where he was raised—the two-story Estrada Courts in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles—there’s a famous mural of Che Guevara pointing straight at you like Uncle Sam. The graffiti-style words next to Che read WE ARE NOT A MINORITY!! In Obama, Will saw a candidate who reflected his reality. “Obama is probably the first mirror of America,” he said. “The presidents we’ve had before, they’re still portraits that were painted a long time ago.”
People of color are now a majority in forerunner states like California, Texas, New Mexico, and Hawaii. More than two in five Americans under the age of 18 are nonwhite. Census data project that the United States could become majority-minority by 2042, a full eight years earlier than previously expected.
Thanks to hip hop, American popular culture has been thoroughly, to coin a word, colorized. These are all signs that we may be in the middle of an era of expansive racial change. For some, these signs point to fear. For us, they point to hope.
Rewind back to the bitter cold of this past January, when Iowans under the age of 25 delivered Obama’s margin of victory in that first caucus, jump-starting his historic march to the Democratic nomination. In the 14 most competitive states, young people made up more than half of the 3 million new registered voters. Through the primary season, young voters turned out at almost twice the rate they did in 2000.
Young people, urbanites, progressives, and people of color have been the driving force behind Obama’s presidential run. “Barack Obama owes his nomination, in large part, to the strength of those voters,” says BET News analyst Keli Goff, author of Party Crashing: HowThe Hip-Hop Generation Declared Political Independence (Basic, 2008), “and the strength of people underestimating those voters.”
Forty years have passed since Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy fell to bullets. In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon and American Independent Party candidate George Wallace won 57 percent of the electorate by campaigning for the so- called “Silent Majority,” stirring a white backlash against “student radicals” and “angry negroes.” Since that time, racism and generational fear have been a dependable, winning electoral strategy.
Politicos parsed the “Silent Majority” into demographic slivers to more deeply exploit those fears, a process that continues in coded stereotypes like “hockey moms” and “hard- working Americans.” kind of politics that abandoned and contained inner-city youths. In 1992, Pat Buchanan gave the backlash a new name: “cultural war.” Right-wingers went after the hip hop genera- tion in everything from censorship to policing. Would Bill Clinton have won without his Sister Souljah moment? (Google it.)
Q+A :: De La Soul On Whether Obama Can Deliver
Feted spectacularly on last week's VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, De La Soul is still in motion—working on new projects for their AOI label and touring extensively around the world. They are also all family folks now, with grown man concerns, and lots of wisdom to drop.
Vibe recently caught up with Plugs Two and Three—Dave the rapper formerly known as Trugoy and Maseo the DJ formerly known as the P.A.—and got to talking about Barack Obama's success and what it means for the Black community.
Check for a guest appearance in this interview by Chief Xcel from Blackalicious, and a gratuitous (unendorsed) product placement.
Vibe: Do you think this is the most important election in our generation?
Dave: I think the Hip Hop generation is probably more involved, if you wanna say that. I think our age group, and the culture as a whole, I think it identifies with the issues of today. I think we are getting older. Hip Hop expands from the 16-year olds all the way up to the 35-year olds. So I think this year this election has more of a hip-hop presence involved, and it is important to us. We’re family men and women, we pay taxes, we deal with issues in our community, and so to be a part of molding what they future is in store is important to us, definitely. We wanna be a part of that.
Vibe: Do you think that Obama’s presence this year in the election changes things, makes things different at all?
Maseo: His presence gives hope. His presence overall gives hope. I don’t know if it’s gonna change much, but it gives a lot of hope. Just based on my opinion, everything is based on tradition. A lot of things traditionally just aren’t going to change. But I feel his presence does give a lot of hope for change.
Dave: In addition to that also it gives to a certain demographic to feel like they are involved. And unfortunately that might be ignorant, to feel like someone is of your color, is of your background, so you now be involved, but it is a part of it. We are all human beings, and I think when we see something or someone that we can stand by and be comfortable with, I think that’s a part of the whole process as well. Him being a black man running for the Presidency says a lot.
Maseo: Becoming President, that’s the change in itself. So let’s see where we go from there.
Vibe: You plan on voting this year?
Dave: Oh yeah.
Vibe: Can I ask you who you’re gonna vote for?
Dave: You know, I’m gonna vote for Obama.
Maseo: Me and McCain are starting a label! (laughs)
Vibe: What are the issues that are important to you?
Dave: This war. Just to hear casualties day after day after day, and not only from our side, which is important, but on that side as well. It’s time for some sort of resolution. And to hear that one candidate is willing to stay over there longer, or "stay the course" and another is trying to pull ‘em out and get ‘em home, that’s kinda important to me personally. I think it’s time for us to pull outta there, or try to find a way to pull outta there.
Vibe: What are the issues for you? How about healthcare? Most artists don’t have healthcare.
Maseo: That’s one of the things I’ve kinda focused in on. Obama’s taken that really to heart because I believe that his mom died, poor healthcare, so I think he’s making that a prevalent issue in our country and I think it’s necessary. I have a mother-in-law who deals with some issues with her healthcare. So I like to see him make that possible out of all the other things he has to try and fix.
Dave: As much money as is being spent on the war, you would think that somebody could funnel a lot of that money into helping people who just need it, naturally. Whatever ailment or age, you see so many different countries have free healthcare, and it works. I think we can figure out a way to make it work.
Maseo: Healthcare and education is necessary. We got all the security in the world, what else are we gonna do now? I think we’re pretty much locked down slowly but surely, accepting martial law. You can see it. But for the most part, we need healthcare and education. Education is terrible. I can tell you the state of Florida right now, what they teaching in the school and the testing that they have to pass doesn’t coincide with the work they’re learning all year long.
Vibe: What do you say to people who aren't registered to vote?
Maseo: People just gotta step up and participate. You just can’t sit and complain. You have to come; you have to vote. You have to be a voice to be reckoned with. You have to first educate yourself on what you complaining about before you can even complain.
Dave: And if Obama’s a catalyst to get those out there to pay attention and learn about what’s going on, let it be. If he’s gonna be a reason, and I speak to my Black community, if he’s gonna be the reason for you to be interested, learn what’s going on, get some information, and then weigh the scale. You never know, McCain might be the person for you. But get involved, educate yourself, and make a decision.
Maceo: I guess the obvious change is Obama, and I feel like of course white people—some of them—don’t wanna reckon with him, but a lot of them are. Race is working for Obama, in a lot of respects. That’s what’s tripping me out. I’m hearing things like KKK is supporting him [laughter]. How true that may be, you don’t know, but I’m hearing things like that. It's funny because I'm not really political! But I'm just saying, 'cause I got a family it gets important.
Vibe: You guys did a whole album called 'Buhloone Mindstate'—talking about you might blow up but you won’t go pop. Is Obama at the stage now where he’s about to blow up and do you think he might go pop?
Dave: I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure.
Maseo: Popular culture’s popular culture! He’s a big part of it now, whether he likes it or not.
Dave: It’s a big pressure. Not only do you have an individual who’s trying to get in the house and run a country, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who are on one side of the field that’s expecting him to deliver for them. I think there’s gonna come a time where he has to separate politics from popularity. I think there’s people out there wavin’ that flag—Obama, Obama!—and literally, Black folks are out there waiting for our deliverance. But I think at the end of the day when that man gets into office he has to deal with politics, and politics are supposed to be for the benefit of the people. But when there’s a time when you have people who are waiting for this deliverance, you gotta kinda let that go, so they [Black people] may view that as him going pop; Black folks might be like, 'Well what’s up wit’ us? I thought we was supposed to be blowing up!'
Chief Xcel from Blackalicious: If he’s not gonna address those and deal with politics as you say, then why should he be our choice?
Dave: I think a lot of it has to do with the whole slogan of just “Change.” I think a lot of people are just looking for that change, that new face, that different thing, and obviously, how the country’s been ran like the whole last eight years, people are not comfortable with that happening for another four years, and I think that’s where the popularity is. But I think that there is a group of people who are waiting for more than just politics. They’re waiting for that deliverance!
Maseo: Everybody's got a job to do. It’s just that simple.
Vibe: Do you think hip-hop helped this country get to this moment, where we could actually visualize having a black President?
Dave: Absolutely! We've come a long way.
Maseo: It’s like Guinness, an acquired taste. (laughs)
For the latest on the 2008 election, including voter registration deadlines, check Vibe.com's Politics page. Check De La Soul and hundreds more on the elections in the November issue of Vibe, on newsstands soon!
posted by Zentronix @ 1:51 PM0 commentslinks to this post
Cey Adams & Bill Adler's Book On Hip-Hop Art & Design Out Tuesday!
Hip-hop graphic designer Cey Adams and resident genius Bill Adler, both featured in Total Chaos have put together an amazing book called DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip-Hop. Featuring essays from folks like Sacha Jenkins, Franklin Sirmans, Armond White, Russell Simmons, Cheo Coker, and Bill, and tons of the visuals--by folks like LADY PINK, HAZE, Dapper Dan, Buddy Esquire, and Cey--that made hip-hop what it is, it's out tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008 Q + A :: Bun B On Why He Registered To Vote
Bun B has been one of the strongest voices in hip-hop this election season. That comes as no surprise to headz who have been following his reality rhymes since the early 90s as a member of UGK.
But although Bun has had his mind in politics and thangs for a while, he admits he's still a relative newcomer to the election process.
Vibe caught up with him this past August when he came to Denver to see Barack Obama's nomination. He talked candidly about why he first registered to vote and why he only chose to vote lately.
(BTW our Politics page has all the state registration deadlines and links to register online. It's still not too if you live in one of the 20 states left.)
In many ways, Bun's interview sounds prophetic even now. Check what he had to say about O.J.
Who ya with in November?
Was it difficult to make the decision?
It wasn't easy. Like any decision a person has to make, I did my research. Went to Google and typed in 'Obama education', 'Obama energy', 'McCain oil'. You need a candidate that has an actual plan. People shouldn't lose sight of that. And there's gonna be a lot of elections—local, state, as well as national. So I hope that what I might be able to say helps get people involved in elections, period. Because it starts at the national level, people are really interested in the presidential race, but it filters down to the state level.
What are you trying to do this year?
My whole thing is I'm trying to help get not just youth, but folks who are disenfranchised from the system, get them back in the process. It's not for me to send people a certain way. But just to get them into the process. It doesn't stop with just voting. At the end of the day, we need to hold him accountable. Everything is just beginning in November, more so January. It's not the end when you vote. It's just the beginning.
Obama is not perfect—his ideology, what he'd like to do versus what he's able to do are two different things. It's not like, 'Great! we got a Black president' and it's all good. We all got hyped about Kwame Kilpatrick. We need to hold Obama to a higher standard than most.
Had you voted or been involved with voting over the past few years?
We got involved with Vote or Die (Diddy's Citizen Change campaign) eight years prior. People need direction and they follow me, so I understood my power as an artist: let me galvanize and get people into the process first. Then once they're in the process, we'll start at the national level, then we'll break it down how the congressional thing works, then on down to state, down to the alderman, down to your precincts.
When did you begin to vote?
That's a good question. In Texas, you get to register to vote when you renew your driver's license. I was absent-minded in my early years—probably due to all the extracurricular activities I was involved in (laughs)—but you get your license, and it asks you do you want to donate to this or that or get registered.
I was registered independent. But I never voted. Being in Texas, though, once Bush became president we had an idea of what the mentality was that would go into a Bush government and we told people this is what yo can expect. When it happened, we were right, and now he's one of the worse presidents we've ever had.
My family went off to war. My cousin is a marine and he was deployed to Afghanistan. So I was like, if my cousin dies over this shit, IT'S ON. I'll use all my power to do this. Even if he makes it back alive, it should still be on. From the beginning it's important to support the troops and then it's important to bring them home, and I was like, if things don't go your way, you have no reason to say you didn't try.
What's your biggest fear about this election?
That voters will get disenfranchised. Right now, there are so many people who are standing up and taking notice and they got people involved. You can't have the perception that their vote won't count. It's not even about Obama-Biden losing the election. A lot of people are hanging their hopes on this election.
I really feel like there's a silent majority. Like, the silent minority is disenfranchised, inner-city, possibly lower-class. Regardless, politicians will make decisions that won't help them. But there's also a silent majority—I feel like there's a lot of people that it's easy for them to say they're voting for Barack Obama so they can come across as politically correct or socially progressive. But at the end of the day I don't think they can bring themselves to vote for a Black president. Like I'm talking about the conversations you get to have sitting in the first class cabin. These are folks who if hillary didn't get the nomination, they wouldn't vote for the Democrats. I think the majority of Hillary's constituency has issues with minorities. It's not her fault, it's just the reality of world she and I both live in.
What are the issues that you're not hearing about that you want to have people talk about.
I really don't hear a lot at all about the youth. I want to hear what they have to say about No Child Left Behind, the fact that a lot of after-school funding has disappeared. The only schools getting funding already have money, and a lot of the inner-city schools are closing.
And immigration. I'd love to hear more about immigration reform. They don't want to go there now.
There are a lot of people who were feeling indifferent and now they're energized and I'd hate to see that go to waste. We can't be fair weather about this. We can't let the hip-hop community catch the O.J. Syndrome.
What do you mean?
I mean that as a black man, I don't want black people to support Barack Obama simply because he's black. Know what he stands for. In the future, we could have a Latino president, or a president of another color, another heritage, another culture. There are kids right now getting involved in politics and I don't want to see that go to waste.
Thursday, October 02, 2008 Musical Interlude :: Z-Trip's Obama Mix
Click above for the link to DJ Z-Trip's Obama Mix, recorded live in Denver at the Manifest Hope Gallery during the DNC.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:22 PM0 commentslinks to this post
Wednesday, October 01, 2008 Q+A :: Tom Morello On Obama, Race & The War
As guitarist for Rage Against The Machine, Tom Morello brought turntable pyrotechnics to the guitar. This past August, he and his fellow bandmates supported anti-war demonstrators, especially Iraq Veterans Against the War, at concerts held during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
(Click here or here or here for coverage of the Denver protest.)
But before he was a Guitar Hero, Morello worked as an aide to California Senator Alan Cranston. He has seen the political system from both inside and out.
Vibe caught up with Tom Morello performing as The Nightwatchman at a Labor Day Concert for SEIU on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, which had been cancelled due to Hurricane Gustav.
Vibe: Do you think the 2008 election will be a historic turning point?
Tom Morello: I think it remains to be seen. I think that anytime we’ve seen real, substantive, progressive, radical, or revolutionary change, it has come from below, not from above.
Two important lessons I learned working with Senator Cranston—who is one of the most progressive guys on issues of the environment, immigration, civil rights, and peace issues—eighty percent of the time I was with him, he spent on the phone asking rich guys for money. That money doesn’t come for free. That is how this system operates. You can change the people in office, but you can’t change the system by pulling the ballot. You can’t.
How change happens, whether it's been women’s right to vote, desegregating lunch counters, eight-hour work days, is from the people who are not in office, standing up, organizing, struggling, fighting, and demanding their rights—much like the Iraq Veterans Against the War did. Had they backed down and said, ‘we’re going to go along with it and hope for the best’, they never would have gotten that audience. It’s a small microcosm of what this is about.
As the half-Kenyan, Harvard graduate from Illinois, in his early forties, who’s not running for office, I'd say this. If Obama is elected, problems of race don’t go away. This country has four pillars: baseball, apple pie, NASCAR, and racism to hold this shit up. And so it would certainly be a step towards civilization if the electorate were able to put a moderately progressive African American in office. But it should not mean problems of race would be over. We’d have to be extra vigilant against that.
Vibe: That’s one of the things some of the protesters were trying to make a point of out in Denver. They'd say, 'It’s about accountability and forcing the issue.'
Tom Morello: And memories tend to be short. It was two years ago when a Democratic Congress was elected, to end the war. And they cowardly rolled over like dogs, and didn’t do it. And why aren’t there barricades in the street over that? We put them in office, and they just weren’t held accountable, and that’s key. No matter who’s elected—on November 5th, is when the real work begins for you and me, because you have to make sure, if it’s McCain, you have to fight like a bobcat…in a sack! And if it’s Obama, you have to fight like a bobcat in a sack to make sure it doesn’t backslide.
Vibe: Talk a little bit about what you have been doing around the anti-war movement.
Tom Morello: Well I’ve been a part of the anti war movement since the 10 million person march before the war began. And I think Iraq veterans speak with the most authoritative voice, they set the stage. George W. Bush and I have something in common, neither one of us served under fire. Those men and women did and when you listen to their stories, it brings the reality of what that war is home. We visited them in the Veterans Hospital today, and soldiers lost half their bodies or half their heads, but that’s the reality of it. The whitewashing of the war of mainstream corporate media has been just criminal. We don’t see the maimed families and all the dead Iraqi civilians. All that is ‘Yo is the surge working or not?’ Well what the fuck does that mean? It isn’t working for the 22-year-old boy I saw who doesn’t have any body below his bellow button. It isn’t working for his 19-year-old wife, either. So, I think that Iraq Veterans Against the War not only have the right ideas, but the courage to take on whoever’s in office.
Vibe: Are there any other plans going into the fall, as the debates kick in?
Tom Morello: My touring starts right before the election, so it’ll probably ramp up to that. There’s no doubt that Obama’s going to be a better president than McCain.
Vibe: Are you going to endorse him?
Tom Morello: No. I think that in my music and in my politics, I’d like to keep them completely uncompromised. If there’s a candidate that I see eye to eye with up and down the line, then I’ll endorse that candidate. With his saber rattling about Iran, with his determination to continue an imperialist war in Afghanistan, there’s a lot that’s iffy about that, but he’s certainly better than McCain. I’m not going to give either one of them a chance to breathe when they’re in office. It’s important to continue to put the pedal down when either one of them is in office.
Vibe: Do you think we are on the verge of a new majority in this country?
Tom Morello: I think that race plays such a huge factor in anything in America. The fact that we’ve had these seven years, that we’ve had the worse presidency in the history of the republic, and that the polls show the two candidates, Republican and Democrat, in a dead heat?! Are you kidding me?! You should be able to run a barnyard animal against any Republican candidate and have it be ninety/ten.
Well there’s a simple answer to that. I think it’s an unspoken answer, but it permeates every poll and we’ll see. I was watching the Democratic Convention, and I don’t know if America can vote for a first lady who’s African American and smarter than they are.
Tom Morello: I came from a small white town in central Illinois. I’m watching that through the eyes of the parents I grew up around, and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t think they can pull that trigger’. 'I’ll take the soccer mom from Alaska who can shoot a gun.' Part of me is screaming in front of the TV: 'Give the Democrats a chance to fuck it up for once! Enough of that!'
For more on the 2008 election from Tom and many others, check the November issue of Vibe, on newsstands soon!
Tom Morello's new album, a solo record as The Nightwatchman called "The Fabled City" is out this week. A record with Boots Riley of The Coup and Stanton Moore of Galactic will follow in early 2009.
Special thanks to the intern crew for the transcriptions for this interview series:
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