Showing posts with label tupac shakur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tupac shakur. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Day The Music Died

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies while still alive" - Tupac Shakur

On September 13, 2007, back when I began blogging, I wrote a post entitled "A Little Tupac In All of Us," which touched upon Tupac Shakur and his undying appeal. That was nearly ten years ago, to the day. 

Twice as many years have passed, twenty-one to be exact, since the late great rapper took his final breath inside of a Vegas hospital. 

Besides the body of work left behind, I'm reminded of the multi-faceted brother over the years as I've witnessed countless rappers emulate him. To say Pac was influential is an understatement; he's the most influential rapper the game has known, by far. 

Although many tried, and others continue to try, none come close. Pac was built from a different cloth. 

And that's the reason why part of my love for the rap game died. Not lyrically, cause the love for the art form was instilled from the very beginning or the moment  I heard "Roxanne, Roxanne." 

Not musically either, cause nothing compares to a perfect hip hop beat. 

But the heart and soul. 

The game lost its heart and soul the day Pac died. 

Just as the heart and soul personifies a person, Pac personified the game. Life imitated art and art imitated life, both of which led to every word being felt in ways unseen beforehand nor ever since. 

I'll always recall that unforgettable day. No sooner than I'd walked in the door from work, I received a call, claiming he'd been pronounced dead. 

For some reason, I didn't believe it. The day before, I'd read a newspaper article informing he was expected to survive his gunshot wounds. 

While on the line with the caller, I received another call, assuring he was gone. 

Since I didn't believe or perhaps didn't want to believe, I dialed information for the number to the hospital. The operator gave the number, but added I wouldn't reach anyone. "Their switchboard's been busy since the rapper died."

Floored, I don't remember how I replied. 

Whatever I said, she kept saying she was sorry to hear. Then asked if I knew him, personally. 


"Everyone knew him," I replied. "We all have a little Tupac in us."

And we do. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 13: Band Or Artist That Has Gotten You Through Some Tough Days (Write A Letter)

"It's real now." - Tupac Shakur

Pac,

Well you're dead, now. 

Finally murdered.

Although somehow I don't think you're too upset with the fact, seeing as how nearly everyone who followed your music understood that you were damn near obsessed with dying. You wished death. But why? You had much to live for. To the day, I wonder the true significance of your existence had you recognized the power of your tongue, being. It's a shame. And hard to believe you - someone who possessed the talent to awaken the spirits of so many of our people, struggled so hard with yours. But I guess that's how it is when you're young, black, not giving a fuck, and never really understanding society nor your place within society. Like we were, it seems. Which is probably the reason why we identified with your music the way we did. The way we still do. I recall the day I heard Soulja's Story and how completely blown away it left me. 

You had the gift. 

But what really did you expect?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Change The Game: The Maturation of Jay Z


"Momma ain't raised no fool." - Jay Z



Exit Tupac, Biggie.

Few had known of the direction in which rap music was headed after the voices of two of the genre's biggest and most charismatic stars were violently silenced. We only knew that the culture could not afford to attend another wake of such tragic proportion. None saw the significance of rap icons born and raised in heartless streets and thought to had survived, slain in those same streets. Talk about coming out worse off than when they went in. 

Unfortunately, and speaking solely from a gangsta rap standpoint, there is a mightily thin line between art imitating life and life imitating art. A mark often blurred by the "keep it real" code of the streets already confusing as it is, seeing as how the majority of America's Most Wanted lifestyles re-enacted in studios are mainly responsible for the life sentences and death certificates of many somehow determined to uphold a slippery meaning. Gangsta rap was officially dethroned on September 13, 1996 at 4:03PM in a tearful Las Vegas Hospital. Shell casings scattered along the path of where its proud King once reigned. And just so you know shit is real, gunshots also claimed the life of its heir-apparent, six months later in California. Two royally talented conveyors of street life gunned down in the thick of their prime. Twenty-five and 24 years of age, respectively. Kids. Good friends turned bitter rivals. Truth be told, neither Pac nor Big were much of any gangsters or drug dealers. Both signed professional recording contracts based on  outstanding abilities to rhyme and, of course, sell records and generate millions of dollars for rap labels. 

Blessed with a lyrical gift of gab, Biggie looked to party and bullshit and fuck bitches. Pac was more of an activist. He was also a good actor. Maybe too good, some will say. For whatever reason, perhaps in an effort to become ultimately recognized as a "real nigga," both artists took on the big ballin', dick swangin', mob life persona widely respected by targeted audiences. But I doubt if either believed selling records would become a matter of life and death, despite routinely addressing the latter within lyrics. It did. One thing led to another and lines were crossed. Both rappers, touched. Contracts voided. All that remained, besides two unsolved murders and an industry full of rappers unsuccessfully emulating Pac's THUG LIFE demeanor, were negligent CEO's releasing posthumous albums and claiming enormous royalties in the process. Businessmen. Suge Knight of Death Row Records and Sean "Puffy" Combs of Bad Boy Records, neither of whom cared the fact that each of their breadwinners recalled deadly premonitions the day of the murders. Heart beating fast. Time to die. 

In retrospect, the entire scenario is no different than droves of young black males murdered on a daily basis throughout every urban city in America. Gangs of less than academically-inclined brothers who chose to forego college sometimes high school educations and declare eligibility for street life, where odds of success are just as failing. But it's a dog-eat-dog world and, well, in all due respects, one must have a canine somewhere in the race. Regardless of whether the dog is more likely to be ripped apart by the aggressive jaws of a salivating criminal justice system or ran over, shot and killed in well-attended, dehumanizing streets. Like fucking dogs. As if the value and expectancy of one's life is lower than that of humans. Cold steel, of slammed cell doors and barrels of gun variety, keeps it real-er. Rest in eternal peace, Pac. Like Suge and Puffy, high-level street dealers are competent businessmen however shrewd and ignorant. No different than suit and tie wearers formally trained in areas of supply and demand, shipping and receiving, accounting, clientele, sale, and crooked business tactics in attempts to turn profits. The product stands as the only difference. Often times, as witnessed by large drug shipments seized on a regular, street hustlers show more of a proclivity for enterprise than textbooks. If only these young niggas were able to transform such acumen onto a corporate playing field. Talk about a takeover. 

To the day, I wonder the heights in which Pac and Big might have ascended had it all remained business and never personal. If art hadn't falsely imitated life. I ask myself the possibilities if brothers, suddenly equipped with keys to open previously closed doors, had remained focused and rode powerful waves of fame and fortune to the point where the sky was the limit in terms of success. RIP B.I.G. All the while providing a positive and far more substantial blueprint in which generations upon generations of street hustlers might claim and maybe, just maybe, prevent the game from playing brothers in aforementioned manner. After the senseless murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, I kept thinking to myself this sort of amalgamated maturation being exactly what rap music needed.

Enter Shawn Carter.




Saturday, June 16, 2012

Likes And Dislikes: Tupac Shakur

"For every dark night, there's a brighter day." - Tupac Shakur

LIKES
  • critically-acclaimed body of work
  • fave movie: Above The Rim
  • fave song: Papa'z Song
  • Pac spoke truth, whether loved or hated
  • unmatched ability to convey raw emotion
  • personified the rose that grew from concrete
  • exceptional poet
  • brave-hearted
  • a little Tupac in all of us
  • June 16, 1971: Afeni gave birth to hellraising, heavenly son
DISLIKES
  • The Shining Serpent
  • hardheaded, troublesome
  • signed with Death Row Records
  • lived life as if he had nothing to lose
  • spoke entirely too much about death
  • trapped: searched for something that could not be found
  • never received the chance to meet him
  • September 13, 1996: The Day Tupac Died
  • cried like I had lost a brother
  • lived so fast, died so young

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quote of The Day: Tupac Shakur




"No matter what these people say about me, my music does not glorify any image. My music is spiritual if you listen to it. It's all about emotion. It's all about life. Watch people, because you can fake for a long time. But one day you're gonna show yourself to be a phony. Measure a man by his actions, fully, from beginning to end. Don't take a piece out of my life or a song out of my music and say this is what I'm about. 'Cause you know better than that."

- Tupac Shakur



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tupac Said What Needed To Be Said



Every now and then you might catch me buying an album by one of today's current hip hop artists. Kanye West's epic production Dark Twisted Fantasy, being the last.

Before then, up and coming rapper Young Jeezy had myself and what appeared to be the entire city of Atlanta standing in long lines for his debut album, five years ago.

I enjoyed both efforts. Each offers a raw, gritty, somewhat rebellious vibe that gets the adrenaline flowing from the moment the first track plays.

Assuring the hip hop culture that the music hasn't died.

And it hasn't. Yet.

But, as far as momentum goes, I will be the first to admit that 15 years ago to this very day, on a hospital bed in Vegas, hip hop lost not only its loudest voice but perhaps its brightest star, as well.

I'm sure there are those who disagree with my opinion, although they'd be hard-pressed to name another rapper as brilliant and significant as the late Tupac Shakur.

Or, one who touched the lives of so many people on the West Coast, East, North and South.

True enough Jay Z took the game to unimaginable heights, financially, while others such as Kanye, Jeezy, The Roots, Lil Wayne, Eminem, and Outkast held things down, geographically.

Though I hardly believe 'Ye to be as impressionable in California nor do I believe there to be a young kid somewhere in Brooklyn hanging on Jeezy's every word.

Everyone loved Tupac. Everyone. Everywhere.

There were probably things about Pac that made you cringe or that you hardly cared for, which I imagine can be said for most human beings.

But, as far as a microphone in his hand and cameras in his face goes, and saying what needed to be said - Tupac Shakur.

Bet on it.

See, people are scared to truly speak their minds. Whether it's due to not wanting to ruffle feathers or reveal shallowness on their part, most are actually afraid to express themselves.

Tupac had no fear. In fact, he spoke from the depths his heart. With conviction, and clarity. Which, depending who you ask, is the purest sentiment of hip hop. One in which the art was born.

Yesterday, while listening to the song Lord Knows and firing Pac lyrics with the same passion of yesteryear, I was asked if there are other rappers who I listened to before Pac came upon the scene.

Of course, I insisted. There are countless numbers of hip hop artists I've heard, jammed, many whose lyrics I know like the back of my hand.

But I listened to Pac. I actually listened.

That's the difference.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Random Ish


  • Listen. I understand the fact that Hollywood is an entertainment business, all about the almighty dollar, and would stop at nothing to make a dollar. But every so often there arrives a film that, afterward, should never be remade, ever again. In my opinion Juice is one of those serious films. Not only is a remake scheduled, but, bubblegum rap artist Soulja Boy, of all people, is slated to portray the role of Bishop, a character owned by the late Tupac Shakur. Trust, Pac has turned over in his grave.

  • Fantasia performed in my city last weekend, giving everyone their monies worth. If you've read my blog in the past, then you know of my deep admiration for the woman who, due to her God-given talent, overcame the bleakness of a situation to which many young black women fall victim. Afterward, as everyone left the parking area, Fantasia's driver pulled around to my lady and her friend as we all were walking to the car and commented on how they were "wearing those dresses." Memories.

  • Speaking of singers, lately, I find myself listening to one song in particular by one of my favorite male recording artist Lyfe Jennings. The song, Statistics, is of the "if you don't know, now you know" variety which, of course, in my opinion, are the best kinds of songs. As always, Lyfe breaks down the game in a way that it should remain forever broken. In other words, a woman can never say she was blind to the fact.

  • Being happily married is what every woman strives for. To meet, fall in love, and exchange vows that will last a lifetime is the stuff in which legends are made. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen as such and I've noticed how most women are emotionally unable to come to grips with this fact. They are left feeling incomplete. But, to those who continue to enjoy life, regardless of the fact, I honest to God commend you.

  • I believe that, as a man, I have arrived at the point in my life where I no longer look to obtain new relationships, friendships, bonds. Nowadays, I simply look to make good on all the connections that I have built over the years. I realized that much of my blood, sweat and tears have gone in vain. I figure, I put it down, so it's only natural that I pick it up. Feel me.

  • I would like to share a quote from legendary singer Al Green, a passage which currently speaks to my heart in a way that you would not believe. "Ain't nothing wrong with being in love with someone." See, I have lived these past 5 years, afraid to ever believe in love again. True enough I respected its power, but I simply refused to believe. Not anymore. Love is good, and has always been good.

  • Teach Me How To Dougie: Michelle Obama has to be the most down to earth First Lady that my eyes have ever witnessed. Check out this video of her dancing with a group of middle school students in Washington, DC. Being a sista born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, one has to figure that Michelle kept her "street dancing" to a minimum for the camera.

  • Can't keep asking me to speak me about Osama. Matter of fact, I don't want to speak about Osama.

Monday, November 22, 2010

All Eyes On Vick



Dogfighting.

Dogs. Fighting.

In essence, this is what led to NFL star quarterback Michael Vick spending 19 months inside of a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Conspiring to fight and kill vicious animals that, somewhere along the lines, were genetically tampered to do just that - fight and viciously kill one another.

A heinous crime, I heard, but you will be hard pressed to find anyone from a financially-depressed background, as Vick, who agrees. If so, I doubt very seriously if any will defend the criminal act as being callous and cruel enough to strip a man of his earnings, possessions and freedom.


Truth is - dogfighting is an urban subculture. However renegade, it has, and will continue to take place as long as pit bulls exist, especially in urban areas of America. Whether PETA, local, state, federal authorities and dog lovers alike, deems it as a crime or not.

Since it's legal to murder animals for human consumption, I wonder if Michael Vick would have been arrested if he had cooked and eaten the dogs afterward?

No, it's hardly a politically-correct line of thought, I admit. But, as the case with crime, period,  for those who endure the darker side ... life itself becomes more about surviving the struggle and less about doing the right thing. In fact, for many, the right thing to do is to survive the struggle, by any means necessary.

Education is the key - unfortunately it is not always reality, certainly not in a country which suffers from moral issues. More times than not, wayward environments lead to wayward behaviors. Children and adults are initiated into such ideology and guided through various mythologies, inviting a sometimes misguided infatuation on many different levels.

Struggles anew, warnings and advice are often unheard.

Fortunately, for Michael Vick, his direction in life was pushed at an early age through his exceptional football talents. While many of his childhood peers appeared lost in the world, Vick's athletic presence spoke of eventual fortune and fame, a lifestyle which so many troubled youths kill, die, or end up in prison trying to attain.

Not to suggest that a young Michael Vick sang in the choir every Sunday morning or helped old ladies across the streets. I'm sure he picked up his share of bad habits along the way. Whereas others ran the streets, Vick ran and performed on the football field in a manner so promising that allowed the inner psyches of others to live their dreams through his success.

At some point, I am certain Michael Vick had an idea that he'd placed himself in jeopardy through the dogfighting ring. But, as usual, it takes one incident to realize that, while Vick indeed stayed true to the game, the concept itself remained foreign to those nowhere near his position.

As often the case with enormous amounts of money, it draws enormous crowds and eyes. Hungry eyes. Many, with long arms extended in search of sentimental charity. If it's a familiar face - someone you know and somewhat trust and, let's say, grew up fighting pit bulls with, then you are susceptible to sponsoring activity that enables your homeboys and their families to live just as comfortable.

A concept otherwise known as keepin' it real, in and around the hood. If a meal ticket like Michael Vick eats, then surely his people should be eating as well. Everyone has everyone's back. Whenever. Wherever. However.

That is, until one day, a family member is pulled over by law enforcement on a simple drug charge and, due to the car being registered in the breadwinner's name, the authorities begin asking questions, demanding answers.

The one and perhaps only time where it is possible for your peeps to earn their keeps, and they fail miserably. Instead, they all agree to testify against Michael Vick and, suddenly, the walls came tumbling, with only Vick left to pick up the pieces.

As he sat alone inside of a jail cell for roughly 575 days, no one really knows the exact thoughts which entered his mind. We can only speculate. If I had to say, I imagine the majority centered around the fact that here he sat behind bars due, mostly, to the actions and inactions of the very ones whom Vick sought to keep from living a life behind bars.

Persons whom Vick hardly needed in his professional life in the first place. Exploitation can never be the basis for a long lasting friendship - a lesson which late rapper Tupac Shakur never learned. For Michael Vick's sake, let's hope that he did.

In other words: Play the game Mike, don't let the game play you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tupac Shakur: Dying To Live, Living To Die



Half the time, it's not about life but instead, death, and what you're gonna do with your time until then. It's not pessimism - just another way of looking at the situation. And there are a whole lot of young Black men who look at it just like that. Tupac Shakur was one of those men.

- Raoul Dennis



As I consider the life of Tupac Shakur, as I often do, while listening to his music or watching his movies, I recall the rose which grew amazingly from concrete.

I remember the son of a former Black Panther who, revolutions aside, grew relatively poor without knowledge of his biological father. A pimp, otherwise known as Leggs. I visualized an innocent child taught to become the next leader of the militant movement, only to watch as the majority of his heroes were murdered or thrown in prison.

I imagined the harsh reality witnessed by Tupac as his mother Afeni Shakur, a woman who carried her son while behind bars, gave up The Struggle for her own struggles with cocaine addiction.

One can only wonder the demons birthed from these horrible experiences into the consciousness of Tupac Shakur. Again; born to lead, witnessing firsthand the tragic destinations of others who led.

As I considered the life of Tupac Shakur, I understoodd how and why he became THUG LIFE -  the penchant for guns, drugs, women, money, violence. His complete hatred for law enforcement; hence the incident in Atlanta in '94 where Pac shot two off-duty police officers. The controversy which quickly surrounded him, as two teenagers killed a couple police officers, then claimed their motives to be Tupac's lyrics.

Therefore, it was understood why then-Vice President Dan Quayle insisted to there being no place in this society for Tupac's music.

I marveled at the articulate brother with an unmatched ability to strike nerves through such emotion, feelings and struggles. In each and everything accomplished. Good, bad, and ugly. Tupac's supposed posturing and glamorization of all the things that we as a society have been made to forget; expected to sweep under the rug; throw in jail; possibly kill.

Moreover, I applaud the brother who became the voice of a new generation; the hip hop generation; its rage.  The brother born not to make it, yet somehow did. Like most rap artists, Tupac drew from his many real life experiences. Unlike many, though, Tupac Shakur appeared to have genuine concern when he empathized with "mothers on welfare" and issues affecting the black community.

Born June 16, 1971, it was clear to everyone with eyes that Tupac Shakur, a Gemini, was two different people. One who didn't give a fuck and another who did.




***



As I considered the tragic death of Tupac Shakur, which I often do, I remembered the exact moment and my reaction to hearing that he had passed away. The large amount of disbelief, experienced.

Til this day, I wondered, how Tupac, a self-made millionaire, having walked out of a New York maximum-security prison less than a year after being shot five times and robbed the day before sentencing, managed to get caught up in the  Crips/Bloods street gang war, while simultaneously committed to his music and film careers, his fiance,  family, probation, countless court cases and the well-publicized East Coast/West Coast rap beef.

When it was quite clear to everyone that Pac wasn't a gangster. If anything, he was just a hardheaded thug.

As I considered the death of Tupac, I  reminisced upon his unheard-of ability to touch the hearts of the untouchables, the cold hearted. Everything Pac represented in the minds of those hardly phased by the legacies of X and Dr. King, and no longer "asking" for a level playing field. Clearly positioning themselves to take it.

However, I wondered what would have been next for a man so incredibly gifted, who gave so much of his heart, mind, body and soul to the music and streets which eventually took his life, as well as the lives of so many young, gifted, misunderstood brothers. In Pac's demise, we learned, death really was around the corner.

I shed tears for 'Pac, crocodile tears, for a brother I had never met. Yet, somehow it  felt like we had rolled together for years. Throughout all of our childhood and coming of age fears.

I reflected upon the murdered "gangster rapper", whose name meant "Shining Serpent" and "Thankful to God." His admired work ethic, his influences and endless material, his range and charisma, his fearlessness due to him being so strongly convicted in his beliefs. And, of course, the money which, for the first time in his life, had finally been obtained. Pac now had the financial means to finance his lifelong dreams.

As I considered the passing of Tupac Shakur, I do so, while considering the untold potential which too passed away on September 13, 1996 at 4:03 PM.

How long we mourn.



Friday, May 14, 2010

Likes and Dislikes: Rap Music





LIKES
  • the childhood memories
  • the greatest rap song, ever 
  • raw vibes
  • shows like vh1 hip hop honors
  • tupac shakur
  • its ability to actually speak to listeners
  • there are still a few good rappers left
  • meaningful, impressive flows
  • jay z took rap music to another level
  • when art imitates life


DISLIKES
  • when life begins to imitate art
  • it sold out a long time ago
  • nowhere near how it used to be
  • false bravado
  • most rap videos
  • anyone can and will be signed
  • unbalanced lyrics
  • spirituality bankrupt
  • can hardly stomach the majority
  • plies tortured the song two occasions

Monday, March 8, 2010

90s Music: Coming of Age



  • While I absolutely loved 80s music, the decade of decadence, the fact is - I was too young and inexperienced to truly feel the lyrics being promoted within the songs of my favorite 80s artists. It would be almost another decade before I gained the experience needed to truly embrace all the emotions being expressed. Thus, with 90s music, I came of age.

  • During this time frame I pretty much listened to everything from rhythm and blues to rock and roll to hip hop to gangster rap to pop music to blues to jazz. Everything except house music. While trying to decide which artists left the greatest impression upon my mentality, whose songs remain embedded within my heart, I did not have to look any further than bad boy recording group Jodeci (members K-Ci, JoJo, Mr. Dalvin and Devante Swing). Songs like Forever My Lady, Stay, Lately, Feenin', these songs produced the most memorable moments in my life during the 90s. Favorite Jodeci song: Love You For Life.

  • Ooooooh on the TLC Tip! I know of not one person who did not own the album Crazy Sexy Cool. I once had the opportunity to meet T-Boz, Chili and Left Eye (Rest In Peace) during Freak Nik '92 at a popular Atlanta, Georgia park. I must say, all the zany behavior displayed by these three petite and talented women truly represented their enigmatic personalities. Bright colors, over sized dress, condoms, smooth dance moves and all, there is no question that TLC deserves the most credit for bringing Atlanta to the forefront of the music scene. Favorite TLC song: What About Your Friends.

  • Take away Jodeci's suggestive lyrics, their unbuttoned shirts, the show, hotel and after party, all the drugs and alcohol, of course, and you have Boyz II Men. A quartet which consisted of four young men from Philadelphia who shared their voice with the world in the form of their self-proclaimed "Motownphilly" sound. What I remember most about Boyz II Men, besides being the most successful R&B male group of all time, were their beautiful song lyrics. Tracks such as On Bended Knee, Uhh Ahh, End of The Road, and my personal favorite: Please Don't Go Away.

  • Like TLC, there is another group which captured the "smack it up, flip it, rub it down" essence of the early 90s. Bell Biv Devoe, otherwise known as BBD. At a time when West Coast gangster rap and drug dealing had begun to weigh heavily upon the psyche of young America, these ex-New Edition members boasted a rather impressive R&B flavor, arraigned over energizing hip hop beats, in songs Poison and Do Me! Hip Hop smoothed out on the R&B tip. Their style was innovative and their concerts were even more incredible. Favorite BBD song: (BBD!) I Thought It Was Me.

  • While Jodeci left the greatest impression I think it's safe to say that R Kelly absolutely owned the 90s music scene. When he dropped his debut solo album, the classic 12 Play joint, if you weren't, it at least seemed like you were ready. Honestly, we all made love while songs like It Seems Like You're Ready, Sex Me, Bump N' Grind, Your Body's Callin' played in the background. A celebrated singer, songwriter, producer, performer and freak, R. Kelly picked up where Luther Vandross left off, as far as "baby making music" is concerned. One of the best concerts I've ever attended, women actually removed their panties and tossed them onstage. Favorite R Kelly song: Trade In My Life.

  • Mary J. Blige: The Queen of Hip Hop Soul. What more can I say about this woman that hasn't already been stated? If the epitome of love and lust, its passionate and painful plight, could be perfected within one particular voice, Mary J. Blige would certainly be that voice. See, others sing about it. But Mary, she sang, in a voice so powerful that we could not help but feel all the heartache and pain trapped deeply within her spirit on songs Real Love, Be Happy, Not Gon' Cry, her collabo with Method Man, as well as her nailed remakes of I'm Goin' Down and Sweet Thing. Mary J. Blige is one of the realest, ever. Favorite song: My Life. She recorded the My Life album while in clinical depression.

  • Whenever 90s music and gangster rap are mentioned in the same breath, the complete dominance of two rap artists and their respective record labels quickly come to mind: The Notorious B.I.G., product of Bad Boy Records, headed by Sean "Puffy" Combs. And Tupac Shakur, Death Row Records and infamous label boss Marion "Suge" Knight, at the time, one of the most feared men in the music industry. Once friends, Tupac and Biggie became hated rivals after Shakur was robbed and shot five times in '94 as he entered the lobby of a Manhattan, New York recording studio. An incident which eventually led to the well-documented East Coast/West Coast beef and left both incredibly gifted young men dead, and an everlasting hole in the heart of rap music. Even sadder, til this day, no one has been arrested for either of their drive-by murders.

  • Gone too soon. These words enter one's mind whenever thoughts center around Aaliyah, and the '01 plane crash which tragically ended her life. An aura so beautiful and irresistibly fly, Aaliyah was nicknamed "Babygirl." Her self-proclaimed "smooth personality, G mentality" brand of music helped redefine hip hop and R&B on songs Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, Back And Forth, If Your Girl Only Knew, One In A Million. It showed in the angelic nature of her vocals and her effortlessly performed dance. Only 22 years old, the world was left to wonder what could have become of her promising musical and film career. Favorite Aaliyah song: At Your Best.

  • Monica, the first born child of hip hop and R&B music, hit the scene like a sandstorm in '95 and transformed her Atl-swagger into one of the hottest releases of the mid-90s. Only fourteen years old, fourteen!, in all my years, I personally have never witnessed another female artist who commanded as much attention at such an early age. Although young, Monica came with some heat on songs like Like This And Like That, Don't Take It Personal, and my favorite: Before You Walk Out My Life. While Monica continues to record music, most fans will agree, it's her debut appropriately entitled Miss Thang which shall forever remain embedded in our hearts.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

random ish: "...most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps...."



I honestly do not know how I feel about this story out of Los Angeles, California.

It appears three Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School teachers, all white men, were removed from their classrooms after giving their students portraits of O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul to carry in a Black History Month parade, while children from other classrooms carried more appropriate photos of black role models such as Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and President Barack Obama.

"The superintendent will not let anyone make a mockery out of Black History Month." District Superintendent Ramon Cortines said.

Now, me personally, I am not smart enough to give directions from Earth to the moon, but I have enough sense to know these three teachers should be downright ashamed of themselves. Of course they should. Being teachers, expected to educate students at an accepted and professional level, it's insane to even suggest their choices are worthy of recognition for Black History Month, a remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

And, since we all know how society, in general, feels about people, places and things which do not exactly represent status quo, I have no choice than to believe each teacher knew the amount of uproar caused by such action.

No different, I suppose, than if a mother or father walked into their child's bedroom and saw posters of Simpson, Rodman and RuPaul all over the walls. Individuals that neither the parent nor the child shares a personal relationship, so it's not as if the child will assume the role of a murderer, bad boy and begin to dress in women's clothing. But it's the image itself of what each celebrity represents which leads the parent to overreact and immediately rip every poster from the wall.

As someone responsible for the well-being of a child, I figure it would be more idea, more of an asset, for a student to become enlightened to blacks who positively influence social conditions such as Mandela, Tubman and Obama, which I imagine is how Cortines felt. Exactly how the three schoolteachers - whom jobs she is now calling for, should have also felt.

Well, after reading the story, it forced me to think about my own cultural heroes. And how society views each person. And you know what I realized? I concluded that neither of my black heroes - Tupac Shakur, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Gil Scott-Heron, Assata Shakur, all deep thinkers who spoke extensively and truly followed their hearts, hardly fit within the framework or formalized status, either.

Not too mention how pretty much all spent time behind bars for felonious crimes, which rarely afforded an intimate understanding and judgment based on the true beauty of their character. Only the supposedly dark and ugly pixels found within the souls of each person.

People who society views differently and who, coincidentally, viewed society differently.

I must say, it's a good thing I am not a schoolteacher. Chances are, if I painted a perfect picture of Black History Month to students, it would probably result in the calling for, not only my job, but my death as well. Which, sadly, at some point and time in their respective lives, was the case for each and every one of my African-American heroes.