Archive for May, 2008

When I’m Right, I’m Right

Last year around this time, I got involved in an prolonged e-mail debate with two great friends of mine (Kristan Sprague and Shaka King) about LeBron James’s 48-point outburst against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs. I didn’t personally witness the Fourth Quarter, but saw the Sportscenter highlights the next morning around 8 a.m. He had his team’s last 25 points, including 29 of their last 30 in the fourth quarter and overtime, when Greatness is conferred on the knaves and neophytes.

Part 1

Anyone who understands me as a person and a fan knows that I am devoted to seeing LeBron James succeed. I feared the hype machine might topple the Man-Monster he is well before he achieved his “Youngest Player To” Awards. I wanted for Jordan karma to cleanse the Cleveland Cavalier franchise in the form of a savior. Continue reading ‘When I’m Right, I’m Right’

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MixWeek – Da Gif “Classick”

Da Gif is a Harlem emcee who made his way to Delaware and then back to Brooklyn to link with my fellows from The Dugout. Gif has an amazing penchant for soulful rap songs with sewn-in storylines. “No Born ID” is his lead single and stand-out effort off his album All Hail the New Nigga Nation. The way Gif’s voice, full of urgency and bluster, match a soul track is testament to his talents as a Black musician. Rather than approach a song with dry verses for preset instrumentation, he meshes thematic concerns with the funky or soulful part of his song. J Soul, producer phenom from Flatbush, Brooklyn, defines this imprint with his jumpy piano riffs (“Peace of the Pie”) and encompassing horns come by way of Big Raim on “Oh Love”. Gif makes the careful balance between conscious emcee and prominent songwriter by avoiding moralistic leanings, sticking to his compelling ghetto allegories. This evenness is particularly pertinent on “No Born ID” which details a confused college-aged woman in the throes of racial displacement because of her mixed ancestry. “Crop Boys” also assumes this mood of part-commentary, part-irony in its shared verses between Gif and Cavalier. Both artists talk about the impropriety of the U.S. government and the field slave/house slave mentality bent on dividing blacks but with a humorous undertone, almost staring in the face of righteous rappers like NYOIL who have not often matched lyrical skill with prophetic messaging. The song starts with “Uncle Tom arm in arm with Uncle Sam” painting a rosy picture of the spoiled marriage between duped blacks and their state-sponsored shepherds.


Download Classick here

Choice Cuts: No Born ID, Peace of the Pie, Oh Love, 2 Strong

Volume 3 of Hip Hop Poetry

There is this unspoken pressure to use a website or weblog to do what other weblogs do. This seems contradictory to the purpose of using a new format to do versatile things. Recently, I have heard claims about this here being too esoteric to be effective. I’m willing to wager, however, that if I continue to create a new standard for creative journalism, essays and expression that it will expand what people think of hip-hop writers. Lil Wayne says “if hip-hop is dead, I am the embalming fluid” because there is nothing to be said for preservation without innovation. Even so, I am going to concede that a weblog can only be great if it captures attention of some slice of the population. The slice I’m looking for? Anyone who enjoys good diverse writing on cultural theory.

A friend of mine subtly joked that creating this genre “hip-hop poetry” was a nod to trends, and that maybe my inner need to be an emcee was coming out through some saccharine, soon-to-be forgotten poems. But when Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown wrote their jazz poems, it was not because they wanted to be jazz musicians. They lived in a neighborhood and in an era where jazz was a reality beyond its musical confines, much like hip-hop reaches past music and notes to things like advertising, clothing, and dancing. When I write, I am writing from the hip-hop perspective. I also write from the reggae perspective but being a Brooklyn citizen for 20-plus years seats me in the middle of a hip-hop existence. At its nascence, hip-hop is my older sibling. It gives me advice on how to live, how to listen, how to express. The “flow” of hip-hop, the rhythmic wording of the songs, is the best way my generation has learned to experiment with verbal patterns. Shakespeare is iambic with his. Jay-Z is “Dead Presidents” with his. One speaks to our souls more than the other does. This poetry is not written just to be expressed aloud, nor would it be complete if it were not considered as aurally-charged work. The sounds and the flow of this poetry makes it relevant to me just as I’m sure sound and flow have always been pertinent to Black writers.

Treat Her Like a Lady

What nose
How lips, round hips
Flush with a blush rose
I struck gold but bodes
like a stroke of luck
After the muck shoals
For you I had a
month old dutch rolled
I imagine the dust drove me
to untold phantasm
You shoulda chose to rebuff those advances
no running once you had stolen the
manhood
replaced it with human
lush tones
Could be my soul’s in a rut
whether lust grows or I
Don’t give a fuck
Ride it off into sunset
Unnatural nadir, hopeful
we’re young and get
back to it later
But it’s fated like it’s faded
Our cotton: soft and worn
We’ll stop and give pause to mourn
Love and marriage; drugs and ballads
Garishly tossing the gloves
Disparage what was…
To some new stranger
Few drain true anger
much rather damage the tub

It’s a war game, a clever ruse
so we cork pain we never lose
in a coarse vein we force hate
to settle

Chris Webber, Josh Howard and Basketball Liberals

Basketball players, even outside of the sphere of political thought, exist as symbols for our belief. Without question, some fans see their players as icons of a philosophy to which they adhere. In that way, they can also be divisive figures. “Divisive” seems noteworthy in this election cycle because it has appeared in speeches since early February concerning how fractious our country may or may not be. Mayce Christopher Webber is one such polarizing figure. As one friend sympathetically told it, he will be forever maligned for an ill-fated time out call committed when he was a neophyte baller. The time out C-Webb called in his championship try against North Carolina. Better yet, he will be imagined as a product of unmet potential, unsubstantiated hype, a passive participant in an aggressive game. However monolithic these descriptions seem, the sporting press churns out one after another cliche to describe Chris Webber as a product of tragically docile judgment. To his detriment, he was mired in a recruitment scandal from which the University of Michigan Wolverines have only recently recovered. To his credit, he was an effusive player who could endear his teammates with swift passes, heady play and thunderous moments. His intellect, it seemed, lived in the “soft hands” that basketball scouts and commenters would gush over. Erotic undertones aside, Chris Webber played with grace even at his worst. As the embodiment of the “pivot,” he was apt to make decisions on a stop that others at his size rarely dared to make. The problem of these perceptions is that they are viewed as isolated schisms of opinion, varying from one writer to another, one armchair critic to another. Really, they are the result of a political influence that often permeates the sporting world. Basketball conservatives eschew flash, flair and personal style. Basketball liberals tend to detest workmanship, functionaries and exactitude. Of course, the best players employ style with their substance, and in so doing, approach serene levels of balance for casual fans, god-like control for students of The Game. Moderate political beliefs are common. Most of the country has lukewarm views on many issues, extreme views on only a handful. In order to fully explain the gap between Basketball Liberal and Conservatives, let us call attention to the latest dust-ups in the NBA sociology sphere. Continue reading ‘Chris Webber, Josh Howard and Basketball Liberals’