opinion piece

(yes I know it’s not a sandy pic, but it’s what I found)

Thoughts and prayers to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, who it turns out wasn’t just frontin in order to impress Hurricane Danny Zuko but was actually a pretty devastating mess of a storm that caused all kinds of destruction. I ended up stuck in Florida with my parents and unable to return to DC for a couple days due to the storm, as a result I spent time watching coverage of the storm. Other than taking in just how much damage took place and how desolate and grim New York looked, I took away two things from the coverage:

1. These reporters aren’t getting paid enough to broadcast live from the midst of the storm. These news stations haze worse than a college fraternity.

2. Once I saw surfers out there riding waves as the storm was starting to pick up power, I realized just how big of a pussy I am.

I’ve been obsessed with surfing since I was a kid, and yet 23 years of age and I still haven’t done it yet. nothing like a devastating storm to remind you of how much you take life for granted and how many things in your life you “never got around to doing.” I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t surfed at all yet, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time though–and not in a bucket list, let-me-try-it way either, but in a full-fledged I want to do this on the regular way. I’m not entirely sure how I’ll make it happen–seeing as how I’m too broke to travel right now (the fact that it’s close to winter doesn’t help) but I will make it happen somehow someway.  Whatever I gotta do to prove to myself that I am NOT, in fact, a pussy.

Last weekend was Howard Homecoming so, as always, ratchetry was aplenty and there was a whole lot of frontin going on. Luckily for me, I got to spend the weekend not overpaying for parties with too many people in them by photographing for D’usse Cognac. For the uninformed, D’usse is a new dark liquor specialty spearheaded by Jay-Z; it’s strong, yet sweet and the bottle will make anyone look like they’re on some serious king shit.  Case in point:


Thursday night was spent at The Park on Fourteenth. A four-story club that looks extravagant and parties without abandon. Over the top? Maybe, Bougie as hell? Definitely but fun all the same. I spent the entire night–from happy hour at 6, to last call at 1:50–behind the lens capturing the party, taking pictures for the D’usse brand and pushing my way into VIP where Wale and self-made mogul Ken Burns were located. By the way, in a city like DC, where you’re only as relevant in the black community as whatever status you hold, I definitely felt pretty damn gangster brand dropping anytime someone tried to check me about who I was photographing for–easily the best, subtle middle finger to people.


So many feelings come to mind when thinking about the Stadium gentleman’s club in DC. What should be a happy place intended to showcase the premier acrobatics of well-built clothes-averse glitter painted machines–seriously, they’re machines, machines designed for twerking–is usually ruined by large crowds and overpriced drinks. When it came to Saturday night during Howard Homecoming, just about everyone in the city tried their best to push their way in; this of courseled to shoving, pushing, arguments and the fire marshall making sure the huge parade of people still trying to get in were left out in the cold–including myself and the D’usse brand manager, Elaine. Sucks but I mean, you make the best of it, and with an outdoor tent filled with more drinks and performances from kings of hood music, Pastor Troy and Yo Gotti, how much can you really complain? Plus I got to meet Memphis fucking Bleek; my quest to meet the original rock-a-fella all-stars is now slightly more complete.


After the ordeal that was Saturday, I got to spend sunday brunching it up at “Eyes Wide Open”, an art + brunch affair sponsored by grey goose cherry noir. Full on D’usse promotion mode here, with me snapping away and pretending to be some sort of professional while secretly hoping that none of these pictures come out bad. (You know… everyday for me). The event also brought about a great opportunity to market the drink with a young up and coming Roc Nation artist by the name of Bridget Kelly (whose music you should check out by the way) and the forever awesome Anthony Hamilton. Lowkey, this was a big deal for me but I kept it cool… because you know… I’m a grown ass man and shit. Next stop after this was the day party at bar code, a nice little sports bar which, like a lot of places here, rented out the place to promoters wanting to throw parties. I don’t know what it is about day parties but they always seem more fun; it’s always more fun to party during the day–having some beautiful young ladies pass out free shots of D’usse to the crowd probably helped a lot too. The Howard alums turned up to an 11 of course and with appearances from Bridget and Anthony, Raheem Devaughn and, one of the new 106 & park hosts, Miss Mykie, the party turned out to be a stellar event… ratchet all the same but stellar.

To find out more about D’usse, like them on facebook here and follow them on twitter here

Photo credit: © WGBH Educational Foundation

If you’re like me than you wake up early every morning to go to your soul crushing job that you don’t openly complain about too much because you’re just happy to be working anywhere right now, and if you happened to stop by twitter perchance you might have soon Lupe Fiasco in the midst of one of his pseudo-intellectual rants on whatever he’s angry about now. This is nothing new but what made this particular one interesting to me is a short little convo between him and black hippy’s self-proclaimed “Haile Selassie of Hip-Hop” Ab-Soul about the Pyramids.

The classic debate that always takes place when the pyramids come up: who built them exactly. Lupe takes the rational argument that slaves built them over decades and decades whereas Ab-Soul takes the conspiracist stance that just maybe aliens or some other mystic force had something to do with it. Fine, I guess, as long as we agree that they’re not instruments of satan as stated by series of badly made youtube videos.

This is a touchy subject I think. On the one hand, the idea that the Africans who spent lifetimes going through abuse of every conceivable kind to make elaborate coffins for their overlords aren’t even getting the credit they deserve for it pisses me off. Yet, I am nothing but fair and I am willing to acknowledge te fact that there are  a lot of questions left unanswered as to just how these estimated 20,000 people were able to pull this off in the amount of time they did. Fair enough, but the human tendency of going “it must be magic” when they don’t understand something doesn’t really seem like the way to solve the mystery. That being said though, I kind of believe it’s a little bit of both.

In an interview with NOVA, archeologist Mark Lehner, who lived in Egypt for 13 years, says himself that he’s questioned whether or not those workers had divine or super-intelligent inspiration. He says the biggest problem with the journey to find understanding of who built these pyramids is that there’s no record of them. They’ve been lost because they were nothing more than workers, but we do have inscriptions and graffiti art left by different tribes from that era (which naturally people call fake), so we’ll have to make do with that. Ab-Soul brought up the idea of ascension–the idea that you didn’t have to die to be brought up into heaven. Definitely an idea that existed in ancient egyptian culture and probably has something to do with the positioning of the pyramids and aligning them with the stars. There will always be skeptics, hell even I believe in some of the mystics behind the whole ordeal but the idea of discrediting the work of a generation of people rubs me the wrong way–and that includes the less out there theory that it must’ve been an older generation that built them and not the egyptians. For this though, I’ll end with a quote from Lehner:

“To some extent I think we feel the need to look for a lost civilization on time’s other horizon because we feel lost in our civilization, and somehow we don’t want to face the little man behind the curtain as you had in “The Wizard of Oz.” We want the great and powerful wizard with all the sound and fury. You know, go get me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We want that sound and fury. We always want more out of the past than it really is.”

So for about a week or so there’s been a new Rihanna track circling the wagon that everyone seems to be sitting on. Now I’ll be frank (no ocean), I don’t dislike Rihanna (shifty eyes)…Okay, I do, but for reasons I don’t have the time to delve into. But unlike my “RiRi-Hater” cohorts who see no good in the self proclaimed Good Girl Gone Bad, the majority of my reasons are comprised of musical quality, or lack thereof. Don’t get me wrong, RiRi has lots of talent, otherwise she wouldn’t be where she is, and so highly celebrated. And while this is Hollywood, where the “real” is harder to find than a g-string on a fat man in a two-door coupe, they don’t tend to hang around fakes too long either (see Milli Vanilli).

For me, it is her talents, at least one in particular, that annoys me. Like the majority of her hits, RiRi seems to have the “catchy track” jones. Whether it was Pon de Replay (when we mixed her up with M.I.A in 05’), S.O.S, Umbrella ella ella (ey ey ey), Don’t Stop The Music…Music, Hard ey ey ey so hard (sorry Jizzle), Rude Boy Boy, S&M, Birthday Cake cake cake cake cake cake cake (not to be confused with 2Chainz’ Bday special) or Diamonds, Rihanna will work the hell out of a catchy tune. This is to be commended because of course you need to move units. Unfortunately for her she’s become so good at it that she’s a Mega star because of it. People overseas and in the states flock to her shows and will beat you down for anything ill thrown her way (Don’t be standing outside my window damnit).

Now maybe I’m the only one that believes this, but once you become a mega-star the pressure should continue to build along with your skills and success. But, I honestly think we get so caught up just jamming along to an otherwise catchy song that we skip over a lot of bad vocals, stale verses, terrible live performances, or we (not so much I, hence the blog) simply don’t care. So then where’s the appreciation for the art? Why do people rip Beyonce (the Queen of the hive) when her performance is slightly less than goddess-like? Why not say Soulja Boy (king of catchy dance tunes) is the best rapper alive? Why didn’t they make Soul Plane 2? Why was D.L Hughley and Cedric on the Original Kings of Comedy and not Martin?? (Yeah I went there #Runteldat)

With this Diamonds track, you know, the one that had to be written after a long and trippy night at K.O.D, hence saying DIAMONDS 39 Times!! (Insert Chief Keef ANY phrase here) It was simply the same formula, same result. It says truly nothing. Or, at least nothing you can’t text. I can just imagine how this went down in the studio… RiRi: Yo…fool I got this hard ass track tho! (thug life) Crew: str8 str8 RiRi: Check it…We shine bright….(laughs and hits the molly) We shine bright like… a diamond ohhhhh shit…Crew: ……str8 str8.

As I looked for a deeper explanation on rapgenius,com I noticed that RiRi has gotten so advanced on the catchy song flow that this track had a PRE Hook, Hook, and Post Hook, which had to take up ¾ of the entire song…where’s the verse space!? #wddda #barbados. You don’t have to try to talk about Slavery, Somalia, Women’s Rights, Education, or the Economy (see what I did there) but if you make a love song, go all the way in. Remember RiRi you’re a mega-star. If we label people mega-stars shouldn’t we get our moneys worth? When Jay-Z or Ye drop an album in comparison with say Young Dro (Best Thang Smokin’ was fie back in 06’), there is a huge difference. The pressure, criticism, detail, skill, everything is heightened due to an appreciation and respect of the artist and music. When RiRi drops an album (she’s done so every year 2005-2012, except 2008’) its like lets hit the club and get ready for a continuation of this album next year, just like last year. Just one huge compilation. Which is fine if you’re trying to make your cash and dash! Just not so much for a mega-star who millions idolize.

And I’m speaking on the masses that hear your singles on the radio. In today’s day and age, you buy an album at your own risk. So if the album is trash, use iTunes album preview. But, for those who for whatever reason can’t and only see you on TV or listen to radio, you have to do better. The game calls for it. RiRi is much better than the Diamonds track, or is she? Cause at the end of the day I’ll probably have all 39 diamonds stuck in my head. Or cubic zirconia, I’m on a budget; either way we’re screwed til’ the next fish line is cast out.

Torch Eberhart is an inspired and highly motivated filmmaker eager to create reflective films that impose a sense of urban culture. The themes of separation and loss are prevalent in his stories due to his inspirations in Japanese Manga and Anime. But his films are not absent from the surreal and imaginary, as Torch believes the ultimate goal of a movie viewer is to escape the threshold of their everyday lives; to venture out and enjoy the real and unreal stories of others. You can check out his site here and you can follow him on twitter here.

Today, October 1st, is Nigerian Independence Day. A day important to me as someone born of Nigerian parents but moreso than that, aday that makes me think of family. This is my 2nd independence day away from home, no big deal other than I miss out on a lot of food, but it does make me think back to being a kid again. A kid who couldn’t care less about my heritage because I was too busy getting teased for it in school. Most of us kids were that way, we didn’t know much about the culture we were in, yet it was still something cherished in our own way, how else can you explain the wistfulness in which I recall those moments. So on this day of independence, I think back to the people who gave me some of the best years of my life. You know, when you’re young your parents tell you that family is all you need; you never really listen to them because when you spend all your time with the same people, you tend not to appreciate them. But they’re right essentially, all you have in this life is your family and the ones close enough to be considered family. So to all o my family, I wish you all a Happy Independence Day.

At what point does rap music have to take responsibility for a destructive culture it’s helped to manifest?
Rap music has spent years taking listeners on a journey through a rough jungle of decadence, violence, history, philosophy and sex throughout its existence and, at times, it could be argued that it has gone too far at times. It’s at these times where the rap community (and it’s defendants) have come to its rescue —with the most readily available scapegoat being: “We’re speaking a truth about an environment we’re from”. By all accounts, this is pretty much true; rap and hip-hop culture spawned from the ugliness of living in poverty and violence. It was an escape from that place (whether mentally or physically through success), but more-so than that it was a testament and portrait of the other America, the place where the American dream doesn’t take place.

This argument can only go so far though, and after all steps need to be taken back, the scene needs to be purveyed and we need to evaluate whether we’re still telling a story or if we’re just nurturing a culture of violence. It’s hard to tell a kid living in abject poverty how to live a righteous life when he can’t put food in his stomach, it’s also hard to convince that same kid that crime doesn’t pay when all he has to do is turn on tv and become inundated with the message that it actually does pay. It’s a complex issue handling these types of situations, and naturally when something is too complex for us, instead of trying to deal with it we just sweep it under the rug as nothing more than a black and white issue that’s not our problem.

The truth is: all we have are the quandaries. A subject like this is such an enigma where every answer you can come up with leads to a dead end. Society is fucked; violence takes place because of the nature of living in turmoil, violence is celebrated in music, movies and television because that’s all we know and music is pushed to the masses because it’s profitable and—to paraphrase Breaking Bad—companies aren’t in the morality business, they’re in the empire business.

All we have our the moments where rational people can sit and discuss what is happening under our noses. The biggest issue with this though is that those same rational people aren’t taking part in saving these areas that they’re so torn up about. As someone who’s volunteered to at-risk youth, I know from experience that you should consider yourself lucky if you can save one; no matter how much time you spend with these kids, no matter what you try to tell them, when it’s all said and done you’ll leave and those kids will go back to that environment and culture of destruction that is sculpting their minds every day.

Violence is a natural function of life. It’s everywhere, always has been and always will be. Entire cultures and colonies were built on violence. (including this one.) We’re born violent; when we come out of the womb, we come out kicking and screaming. As we grow older society tells us our violent nature is wrong and tells us to stifle it. But stifling our nature doesn’t erase it, and the difference between areas with little to no violence and areas that are heavily violent is the rules we apply to ourselves. If you’re starving than you do whatever you need to just to eat, that’s just a given; there are neighborhoods are full of people starving and their pleas for food have gone ignored. Maybe there’s a chance that rap is just nurturing this mentality more than educating about it—it’s a high possibility; but, at the same time, no matter how much bloodshed has taken place in Chicago or New Orleans, it’s a helluva lot less than what’s taking place in countries all over the world. Not saying it because that makes the situation better, just saying it because it’s true. It’s a violent world. Just as societies have denigrated and destroyed themselves because of violence, no society has made any sort of “progression” without it.

The beauty and the shame that comes from gangster rap music is that it gives a microphone to America’s forgotten children. From N.W.A., blasting street knowledge about being poor, angry and black with the kind of reckless abandon that can only come with youth to Chief Keef conveying that same abandon, albeit in a different way entirely. T.I. referred to Chief Keef as the future, the sad thing is he might be right. I’m not going to talk shit about him because I like the kid, I just think he’s incredibly misguided and has no idea just how grand the ramifications of his actions are–and that’s what makes him the voice of this new generation. A generation of mentally unstable young kids with no direction and no guidance from anyone, taking their cues from a culture that tells them their worth is based on what’s in their pockets and has taken guerrilla-like machismo and stylized prostitution and labeled it swag. George Carlin has a great bit about why man is driven to violence, basically saying that our need as men to destroy everything can be deconstructed to be just one big, “who’s got the bigger dick” contest. It only makes sense that that a culture as degraded and jaded as the black culture participate so heavily in this act.
However when all this is said and done, I’m still speaking in generalities. Violence is everywhere and in every culture, long before there was any music. (Not to speak of rap.) There is no direct correlation between rap music and violence, but that doesn’t excuse it. It’s nice to think that if the music was positive or, at least, cautionary then maybe things would be better and lives would be saved. I’m sure a few would. The issue though, lies in every other factor that drives these kids to take a person’s life. When Lupe Fiasco went on record to say that chief Keef scares him, he’s not speaking on him personally he’s speaking on an environment that made him who he is. The greatest American catastrophe that’s taking place right now is happening in the development of our youth, and it just shouldn’t be that way. The children are our future and each day that passes the future becomes desolate, and all one can really do is hope that those roses that will grow from the concrete bloom bright enough to turn it around.

More than any other medium, books are a gateway to the ultimate fantasy world. More than TV, movies or even music. They require the imagination to to work overtime, even with comic books there to paint a picture for you. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I like to entertain the idea that I’m a real writer-you know, a guy who writes (or at least wants to write) professionally… for a career… to live off of. Foolish I know, but everyone has a dream. I’ve been reading books, mainly comics and graphic novels, since I learned to read. From Calvin & Hobbes to the batman detective comics to when I first discovered the dark knight returns and Watchmen, these were the books that shaped my world. Sure I took cues from fiction books and pop culture essays, I mean they’re the reason I write the way I do, but those comics formed the prisms of my imagination.
I’m in love with creating worlds in my mind; because why not? Real life is full of shit and daydreaming and fantasizing are the only things around to keep you sane. Disappearing into books and comics, or even films, assist with the process. Years have been spent hiding in secret forts, spaces in closets or within the confines of textbooks that you’re supposed to be reading. (And oh how you dreaded being called to read a chapter in class as a result.)
All of this hullabaloo is my way of talking myself into believing I can join this industry of people I’ve admired. It’s a tough world; you’re young and still full of hope, still believing you can write for that magazine you love or making that film that you’ve wracked your brain over day in, day out or even coming up with that graphic novel you’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s definitely a weird time, life hasn’t made you completely bitter yet. (Yet.) That’s what keeps me moving I guess; not fame, money or glory but the undying hope that I can be an industry guy. The type of writer that all my favorite writers enjoy reading stuff from, that would be better than anything.

I’m not a fan of rap label compilations. There’s way too much going on and they really serve no purpose than as a marketing tool to advertise for the rappers on your label. However, because this was Yeezy and the G.O.O.D crew, I was willing to give it a shot and see if they could sell me on it. They couldn’t.

I have the same issue with Cruel Summer that I had with Watch The Throne, there’s no luster in it. It’s like these guys were on vacation and, I don’t know, I guess it rained one day so they were stuck in their  expensive ass hotel and thought, “Hey, fuck it, let’s make an album to kill time.” Frankly, by the time the record was done I was exhausted with it–also, I don’t have to remind you of my feelings on luxury rap.

The album starts off with R. Kelly doing that thing he does, only this time it’s not sexual. Essentially a pale imitation of “Lift Off” from WTT, it wasn’t exactly the strongest of openings. (Especially with ‘Ye phoning it in.) Luckily enough, after this is the album’s strongest streak of songs with the infectious bop of “Clique”–which features Jay-Z, Big Sean and Yeezy bragging about his girlfriend’s sextape that  doesn’t star him–to what was arguably the jam of the summer “Mercy” and the “church-in-the-ghetto meets a hip-hop dungeon”-like style of “New God Flow” (Now with Ghostface, being who he’s always been, the fucking best).

I wanna like songs like “The Morning”; it sounds good and the repetitiveness of the beat works in this kind of song, but it’s way too feature heavy for me to get into. Just as soon as I’m feeling a rapper’s verse, he’s gone. Also, Kid CuDi’s “verse” on this song is only slightly less lazy as the one he did for “All Of The Lights”. Also, as tempting as it is for me to want to like a song with Ma$e on it… I just can’t get with this “Higher” song, but we’ll always have Harlem World bruh. Honestly, the rest of the album is just a blur of features I can’t keep track of and mostly interchangeable beats. (Just thinking about it is tiring; the Kid CuDi one was good though.) Finally, the album ends with the remix to Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” and I’m left wondering  a few things, namely: does this change my feelings for the G.O.O.D crew, and how is it Cyphi got to only be on two songs with like a half a verse on both,that seems like a pretty raw deal.

Like Watch The Throne, I feel like Cruel Summer is a decent mixtape pretending to be an album. It’s fun and sounds great, but that doesn’t mean it’s no less phoned in. That being said, it’ll probably sell well and I’ll hear it at the clubs when I’m drunk enough to enjoy it more.

Over the weekend, the BET music matters tour made it’s way to the Howard Theatre in DC. The tour—which is headlined by Kendrick Lamar featuring fellow TDE members Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, MMG artist Stalley and newcomers Fly Union—is all apart of BET’s supposed insistence that it cares about music and wanting you to believe that they do indeed “got you”.
The concert, I have to say, was a lot of fun. The Howard Theatre is an elegant looking place and, somehow, my friend and I ended up in the front row; a place where, as you can imagine, hilarity ensued.

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It amuses me how much, as a culture, we’re obsessed with jewelry. Not content enough to wear an understated necklace or Cartier watch, instead we choose to either wear as many chains as humanly possible or just go for broke and get the most extravagant and decadent piece of bling out there.

Like the kid who got into mommy’s makeup we’re not content with being nuanced or subtle, we’re gonna put on everything we can. Is it really necessary to have a diamond encrusted replica of yourself around your neck? No. Did you really need 50 chains, 30 bracelets, 10 watches and a ring on each finger? No –but it’s hot right?

Far be it from me to harp on anyone’s unique take on style. I feel like everyone should do what feels right for them, but at the same time, there is a such thing as overkill. One thing that the post hip-hop landscape has brought into the social conscience is the marriage of decadence and ignorance with the idea of “normal” in modern society. In a nutshell, we live in a world where you can take that cashmere burberry sweater and maybe rock a chain or two with it–some may hate it and some may love it but the point is, it’s a thing to do.

Bling, like everything else, is best when done in moderation; you know, a gaudy ring or two here and there or the flashy bracelet from time to time. Too much extravagance seems to come off as attention-seeking to me. It’s always best to stand out without seeming like you’re trying to stand out; that’s why you never put on too much cologne and that’s why you never wear any clothing that distracts from you the person. But maybe I’m just sleep on the matter, maybe a diamond-studded four finger ring is the perfect accessory to match a suit. I’ll have to take that into consideration next time I’m online shopping my last bit of money away.

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