Archive for February, 2008

Identity Crisis

I listened to Drake’s mixtape The Comeback Season last night. The review, I thought, would have been a divergent addition to some of the music I’ve been known to like. Drake is a packaged rapper. His rhyme schemes, look, content are all fairly predictable teen girl fare, albeit clean. Government name: Aubrey Graham, Drake has been a cast member on Degrassi High. Although it’s not impossible to come out from under the Nickelodeon stigma (see: Nick Cannon), one gets the sense that Drake has been thinking too hard about how to do so. “That B*tch Is Crazy” for example, takes us on a winding road of adult dating to induce cloying sympathy from other males. Much of The Comeback Season suffers from this problem. Graham makes a concerted effort to stride into adulthood with utterly sophomoric topics. The money-cars-ho’s motif is not only trite in this case, but also forced. I don’t think even he expects us to believe that his escapades in the Continental GT are exciting because most of the tunes drip with the resentment of being misunderstood by labels and A&Rs. Unfortunately, his trouble is the opposite — he’s too easily understood and it’s simply uninteresting. Drake’s website, thisisdrake.com, appears focused on gravity, all dark hues and stormy profiles. The young man seems trapped in the throes of an identity crisis. But who is to blame? Continue reading ‘Identity Crisis’

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Updates

I’ve been attempting to break out of the shell of obscurity. Two quick pieces until the next entry.

“Tongue in Cheek” essay about Barack Obama and his running partner, hip-hop, on King Magazine’s website.

The Breaking by Cavalier – Short review and album leak on SmokingSection.

Punk’d

Dirk Nowitzki is feeling left out. The Dallas Mavericks debuted Jason Kidd in a return to his original team, albeit in a different shape than it once was. Dirk has been known in different forms throughout his career. Jason Kidd has (mostly) been known in one form: the staid, dishing, defensive guard from California who could find a way to win everywhere he went. Despite public dust-ups with both teammates and wife, Kidd could produce a triple double on a slow night, even while laboring in the swamps of the Garden State. Vince Carter’s star had long its iridescence when he arrived to the New Jersey Nets. Richard Jefferson’s bright promise never matched Jason’s expectations. Sadly, the Tall German won’t match them either. Dirk Nowitzki, since Steve Nash’s link with the Phoenix Suns, has been a player lost. When he ran with Nash and Finley, before they had been scooped up by other Western Conference giants, he remained idyllic and carefree. Don Nelson made sure that his only obligation was to his shot and the purity of the game. Nellie asked for him to be a guard in Frankenstein’s body, to remain svelte enough to beat forwards off the dribble, to rebound and defend at his leisure. In other words, keep the game simple and within your personal boundaries. Of course, billionaire Mark Cuban grew impatient with his green squad, and decidedly dispatched free-wheeling in favor of methodical.

Dirk wilted even as Most Valuable Player of the Association. Although long-time critics professed that his game had improved, (read: he traded some offense for occasional defense and intimidating grand-stands) his latest version was unable to produce the coveted chip. No ring for the Euro player quite yet. He was still “soft” supposedly. Adding Kidd as a companion is meant to instill some tenacity, but Dirk Nowitzki is not lacking for it. Any 25-point scorer with a rebounding appendage is tough. He inspires empathy, however, in the failure on the mountaintop. Pairing him with a lone gunmen doesn’t speak to the function of his game one bit. Kobe Bryant’s self-containment will absolutely suit Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, whose skills favor missed shots and inside presence. His egomaniac sprints and zigzags mold their straight-on bounds neatly. Although Jason Kidd and Steve Nash do similar things on the court, their attitudinal differences are too many for Dirk to ignore. Nash seems as if he could make a joke of The Game. It doesn’t wear capital letters when he plays. Continue reading ‘Punk’d’

Politics as Usual

Every occupation is a performance. Unless you are doing something you have been programmed innately to do, and even when you are, you have to put your “job” face on. I have not perfected my “job” face because the last three jobs I’ve held were teaching engagements with nonprofit educational programs. Besides the loose atmosphere, jeans-and-sneakers dress code, and overall youthfulness of staff, nothing has ever been light about the mission. In my three years being an educator specific to nonprofits, I’ve been informed by my own experiences as a product of that machine. Our electoral-commercial construct provides the bureaucratic model (for better or worse) for the average charitable organization. Donors give money based on the promise of success, executives then channel the money into resources, subsidies like scholarships, and staff. But, in some cases, risk management and accountability are absent from the equation. As much as I’d like to augment the work of benevolent programs, their methods are often faulty and, at worst, built for failure. What makes them run? Who has an interest in the education system and its improvement? There’s money in the ‘hood and in failing schools. Attempting to discuss and chronicle the answers to these questions with friends and family members has opened doorways for debate.

Think It Over

My education was sponsored, in part, by the highly organized nonprofit vehicle that I mentioned in my previous post: Prep for Prep. After a gamut of tests, nerdy ten-year-olds from New York City amble to Trinity School on 96th Street for summer classes, year-long preparation for independent school admission. We saddle ourselves with over-sized book sacks to make trips uptown. Wonderment nudges us to enter a new frontier but, corporate sponsorship pays for our teachers, researchers, administrators, counseling staff and materials. As I understand it, Prep for Prep works like this: Continue reading ‘Politics as Usual’

Product of My Environment

Instructing students in East New York is like my version of martyrdom. After two stints teaching with Harlem education programs, and some shaky tries at completing my own education, I have come to some unsettling conclusions about myself and how I have reached a mental impasse. Right now, devoid of a college degree and reeling from it, I still have trouble summoning the undaunted motivation to continue on that path.

I should qualify this by first declaring how much joy I derive from teaching students not unlike me at seventeen, both precocious and infinitely talented. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel obligated to correct some of the malfeasance festering in the urban education system. There is no single factor that prevents underclass access to education. Money concerns haunt poor urban families the most. Often, in our four-year cycles of election fanfare, we speak about the “plight of the middle class,” but middle class families can generally afford health care and alternative options for education. Where I was fortunate, others may not have been. But there’s the trick of it: how fortunate was I? Continue reading ‘Product of My Environment’