Archive for the 'My Man!' Category

200 Or Less: Flight 187

Fifty flirts with fatalism. Forget flirts, fancies futility. While a reluctant Jay-Z downplays conflict and heralds success, 50 Cent openly contests the value of earthly gains. Curtis Jackson has seen the mountaintop; his G4 jet crashes into it. Most compelling about “Flight 187”: video mural depicting a confused but decidedly ironic multi-millionaire. If celebration and champagne are in vogue, macabre meltdowns are 50’s leverage, his levee stemming the tide.

Drake, the reluctant baller, has purred about the pitfalls of progress. 50 hasn’t pretended as much about his need for riches. Here, the first signs of wealth’s drag on his conscience. Not one for window shopping, he’s indulged even the negative parts of fame, namely feuding and vanity. But the yield has been curious.

“Brought you from the hood/Destination, hell or heaven?”

The floating question mark deranges his song nearly as much as its groaning vocal thump. In one “mm,” there’s baby mama drama, death visions, astuteness. Like Biggie before him, 50’s been ready to die from the inception. Specifically, it’s the imminence of his dream. As he nears the symbolic end, life’s hold tightens inexplicably. Black manhood ultimately corrodes vitality, discarding dreamers in the offing.

I’m a rider.

ManchildInThePromisedLand

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Oh You Mad Cuz’…I Punched You in the Face

I know about the narrative arc of hip-hop seemingly representing this “end to violence” in the South Bronx, giving way to breakers and b-boys to go along with emcees and DJs. But realistically, this is a romantic view of the tension and competition inherent in rap music. Freestyle battles, whether in a public space or at the local radio station drip with oneupmanship and dog-eat-dog fury. Of course, speaking as an armchair social scientist, this means that it ultimately feeds into the disunity complex among black men. It means that something that is partly responsible for a new creative class among blacks has much more of a destructive tendency than a constructive one. So there’s just as much aggression and violence in the outer world in this black art of hip-hop. Sometimes that manifests in good ways, like in Ice Cube’s “Today Was A Good Day” where Cube talked relief from the stresses of L.A. strife. Sometimes it just transfers violent memes to violent acts, as in its traditional stance on all things women.

It yields a humorous distance from reality for me. I like a good rap battle as much as the next fan. But when it deteriorates–like these do–into fights for physical dominance, I still appreciate it for just showing its ass. Hip-hop can never really be bought or framed for the positive or negative because it’s visceral. These reactions come from outside factors even if the music itself has a dandy relationship with violence. Violence courted hip-hop from the get-go, and now we have YouTube to watch the result. Enjoy!

In the storied legacy of rap battles, there have been some heated exchanges on wax. Since the millennium turned, those turned into knockout blows knuckle-up style in the form of Smack DVD clips and YouTube snippets. These fist-fighting battles trumped the tradition of wordplay, and sunk hip-hop into the dregs of other internt sensations like Bum Fights, Street Fights and Kimbo slice marauding.

Here are the HeardonmyStoop faves:

Oh You Mad Cuz I’m Stylin On You

Nikz and ENJ are having a pretty sound, typical street-style battle until ENJ drops the line of the year “Oh you mad cuz I’m stylin’ on you” which throws Nikz into a rage unseen…and then KNOCKOUT! Continue reading ‘Oh You Mad Cuz’…I Punched You in the Face’

Updates

Just a few updates. I haven’t written an “exclusive” post for drewricketts.com in a minute. I’m applying some of the video-editing skills I’ve learned from good ‘ol Windows Movie Maker to publish my first show “The Baba Ganoush Hour”. I also realized that the first incarnation of Heard On My Stoop was more focused on essays, critical analysis and poetry. However happy I was with those posts (pretty happy), I want to become a more prolific blogger and use this site as more than just a resume. Therefore, starting today, the posts will be much more frequent, cover more current events, and long essays will be either linked from other sites where I have written or posted here for personal consumption.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. It means I never will stop. I’m intent on making my posts relevant based on what categories they fit into. Since I’ve been blessed to attend events and harvest a variety of interests, I’m going to change up the site’s categories a bit and also the layout gradually.

Click the links below for the latest articles I’ve written:

Hello Beautiful column – It’s called Grooming in Gotham and it’s part of a series of men’s blogs about relationships. Kevin Clark is the single guy. Jerry Barrow is the father. Some anonymous guy is the fiance. It’s a humorous column based mostly on past relationships.

She’s A Crowd – About the peril of potential threesomes in a thriving relationship.

Double Word Score – About the competitive spirit existing between women and men.

Newsone.com – News, news, news. I have been checking out Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, now that Tom Breihan is gone from the Voice. Ron Mexico is killing the hip-hop news but ain’t too many other brothers I read regularly for op-ed. Mark Anthony Neal has my attention. Trying to give the Issue-based journals a shot.

The Case of USA Basketball vs. Racism – On the triumph of the Olympic team and what it means for their standing in the world beyond hard-court respect.

Charter Schools Are Separate but Unequal – An analysis of charter schools in the Election year when education has tumbled down the Issues ladder.

The Case for Black Conservatives – A review of the black blogosphere (Afrosphere) and its power in the media world.

New York City Sports News – I will be writing scouting reports and player profiles for High School Basketball prospects. I’ve always wanted to cover sports, especially with amateur basketball being so vibrant in NY. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for. As a beat writer for this site, I’ll be offering some video interviews to go with the written reports. (That will be bananas, I assure you.)

I still plan to do work for Smoking Section, Rawkus, King Magazine and all those other great sites that have accepted my work. Check me for any more links.

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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

Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)

via SmokingSection

Credit: Gotty, P, fam

Def Jam wanted a talented artist like Joe Budden to stay loyally in the fold, but wouldn’t give him the support he needs to remain relevant in the mainstream. Although top-billing acts like Nas, Redman and LL Cool J might deserve their due for past accomplishments, none of them hold the same promise as Joe Budden. Nevertheless, his career failed to launch after the success of breakaway hit “Pump It Up.” His torment seems to have fueled his Mood Muzik trilogy – a catalog of downtrodden songs describing the suspension act of a rapper on a foundering label. Besides dealing with unusual, career-threatening health concerns, Joey also had to wait in the proverbial wing while the snap-crunk-Dream movement unalterably defined the genre for young fans.

One senses his discomfiture not only in the telling lyrics bounding from Mood Muzik, but also in the raspy drawl of his responses. For someone so overwhelmingly analytical, he finds little hope in the shift rap has taken from flattened gangsterism to noir everyman verbosity. Lil Wayne’s free-form metaphors and Kanye’s picayune observations about dropout insecurities are the way of the day, a welcome mat for Joe Budden’s negative rants about the solitude of near stardom. Then again, his name has existed in the cloud of internet renown. Give or take some trials, that forum has certainly aided his cause as he enlists ground-level tactics to draw similarly cerebral folks into his reach. Inflated expectations have been his hurdle as well as the core of his haunting moody refrains. He’s taken matters into his own hands, securing a deal to release his next album on Amalgam Digital.

On the cusp of the NBA All-Star game, with starters having been announced, the other side of the discussion will include the great players not invited to play. Joe Budden has been noted as the excluded star so many times in his career that he’s come to terms with not meeting the measure of vacillating public perception, likening himself to one of basketball’s underrated athletes.

Joe Budden!

Words By Drew RickettsGraphics By P.

Joe Budden: Hello?

TSS: Yo wassup Joe.

JB: Andrew how you feelin’?

TSS: I’m feeling good. Definitely been looking forward to speaking to you.

JB: Oh okay. That’s what’s up.

TSS: One of the first freestyles I heard of yours was the one you did over the old NBA theme and I’m a real basketball fanatic. I’m into knowing, beyond the stars, all the players on all levels. I remember you mentioned Dirk in Dallas before he was a big name. When I talked to Cormega, he made a powerful comparison between himself and Rod Strickland, in terms of his career path. Who would you compare yourself to?

JB: Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy as of right now.

TSS: Brandon Roy? Why’s that? Continue reading ‘Joe Budden is Moody (Interview)’

Buppy Rap

Young Chris has always been an astute Hova follower since his first days with the Roc. Despite some of Jay’s claims that the Roc-a-Fella staffers will return to prominence as emcees, the public isn’t ready for Beanie Sigel; Freeway is even more gruff; Peedi Crakk is too. Chris has sensed this and responded by creating a watered-down Jay-Z for Young Guns records and a variety of freestyles in the past five years of his young career. But it brings to the fore another question perhaps larger than the staying power of Roc Boys: why does Jay-Z inspire so many imitators and admirers with his persona?

At one point in his career, Sean Carter exemplified the poetic hustler. Like his namesake Iceberg Slim, he was greasing palms, speaking quietly but convincingly about his life, and he needed no praises. Now there’s a whole museum of Hov’ MCers. Everybody’s duping the flow. When your flow becomes synonymous with “cool,” it’s no surprise that guys like Young Chris will make it a point to recreate it for a new generation.

More than that though, every investment banking black business man who grew up listening to Hov now emulates his lifestyle…and pitifully so. Being privy to the world of buppies makes for some compelling blogger fodder. Jay-Z is probably one of few elite rappers whose audience has graduated both figuratively and actually. The college crowd, much like their Republican ethic, has embraced him for his upward mobility. A black Harvard grad can watch the “Roc Boys” video and see in Mr. Carter all the arriviste beauty of high life. One struggles to reconcile, however, that upper-crust Hov with the aforementioned hustler’s anthemic life.

<!–more–>In one sense, he makes for the perfect rags-to-riches story because he’s retained some parts of his Brooklyn swagger-heavy persona while muscling his way through the boardroom. Then again, he hardly speaks to the conflict of traversing disparate worlds and inspiring even the corny dudes to talk so lovingly about “changing clothes.” Not all that is bourgeois, glitzy, buttoned-up is fun or even original. Case in point: whenever one of my dear buppy friends advertises the latest party on Facebook, it’s ALWAYS accompanied by the latest Jay-Z lyric about his lavish digs. At the risk of being called a hater, that’s lame. Is it really a “Black Bar Mitzvah” because you’re having a party? The hip-hop generation appropriates items like these for better or worse. In the generation just before us, everyone rocked leather Africa pendants and afro picks, regardless of the supposed cause because it was part of the music, the lifestyle. But with that appropriation comes bandwagon-jumpers or dick-riders or biters or copycats. Jay-Z, because of his financial largesse and his eminence as a musician and executive, has his admirers. Doubtless that he’s become iconic unlike many of his peers in the same field. Still, it’s startling (to me at least) the turn that he’s taken from belief system politics to image politics.

On a related but discursive note, Kidz in the Hall recorded some Obama tribute song that signifies the shift from rap being purely young people’s angst poetry to buppy stance. It’s not odd that a rap group whose first album relates to the college-dorm-room listener would choose to capitalize and identify by those markers. What is different here is there proclamation of a candidate (borderline righteous) in the midst of a competitive, completely open 2008 race. Basically, the next-gen groups like Kidz in the Hall want to seize upon the “Grown n’ Sexy” set forth by Jay-Z to be “Grown n’ Cerebral” or “Grown n’ Educated”: both DJ Double-O and Naledge are Ivy League University of Pennsylvania grads. So, Puff and Russell Simmons used generalities of urban struggle to create Vote or Die movements that centered on ideas rather than specific figures to endorse, and then Kidz in the Hall took it a step further. Whether or not that makes for good music, I’m not sure. Here’s their video.

Ethan Brown = Down For Life

I first heard of Queens Reigns Supreme by Ethan Brown on NahRight.com. Eskay, who will no doubt be remembered a decade from now as the guy who broke black media, had a post dedicated to the book about Queensborough gangsters. Ethan Brown is not only an author, but an intrepid nonfiction journalist whose affinity for hip-hop culture has made him a star in his own right. To chronicle the lives of “Fat Cat” Nichols and Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff is a feat in itself, but to face off against their mythology and the highly secretive federal files/culture is a whole ‘nother animal. Brown is far from a hip-hop sympathizer, and he maintains his journalistic integrity even while delving into worlds that require unwavering loyalty. That notwithstanding, Brown has a G-Pass for years to come. His latest book Snitch makes it clear how much black people have suffered at the whims of the federal sentencing mandates for crack-cocaine possession.

The Supreme Court ruled recently that federal judges applying sentences for crack possession could “use more discretion” (whatever that means in the face of mandatory minimums for five grams of crack) in their decisions. In a way, this ruling comes as an appeasement to the activists who have screamed themselves blue in the face about the racial discrepancy in crack case convictions. Ethan Brown’s investment in this and other causes has vaulted him from crime journalist to injustice expert.

The advance copy of Snitch made such an impression on me that I had to dedicate a post to the man in question. Here is my review.

Hip-hop journalism is a strange term to say the least. The culture – which has grown to startling proportions in the last decade – has many signifiers that now fit neatly with its ethos. Ethan Brown belongs to a special cadre of writers who use hip-hop as a vehicle to explore the “culture of crime” so to speak. His seminal work Queens Reigns Supreme detailed the connection between Queens’s most notorious criminal leaders and the rap figures, like 50 Cent and Irv Gotti, who tie into their legacies. Brown drew the ire of both the law enforcement officials whose records he scoured for his lengthy exposé and the criminal legends that feared he would add a spill of truth to their enormous folkloric stature. Beyond navigating treacherous waters with his novel, he proved that rigorous investigative work often reveals intriguing narrative accounts of misrepresented subcultures.

Snitch offers a necessary perspective of the criminal justice system in light of the recent frenzy concerning the anti-informant, anti-police sentiment given credence in rap music. Known to many as the “Stop Snitching” campaign, urban communities have fired back at crime initiatives that center on coerced testimony and unreliable information. The prosecutorial branch of the law has, to a large extent, shifted to the use of witnesses over solid evidence. Brown specifically broaches the 5K1 law in the book, which offers leniency in the sentencing guidelines for drug-related offenses if defendants offer information about other cases of interest. Although the intent of the law is to encourage low-level dealers to provide information that could collapse drug cartels, it has been the basis for corruption and outright deception. The author argues that senators looking for a magic bullet in the war on drugs have faltered mightily by allowing the 5K1 law to reign over the collection of evidence. Rather than sympathizing with drug offenders or bashing this new trend, Brown examines the ways in which it affects all participants of the legal process from the unjust imprisonment of Euka Wadlington to the mysterious murder of a Baltimore District Attorney by a ruthless drug informant. Aptly titled, the book shows how information meets distortion under the gaze of blind Justice.

You can read more from Ethan Brown at his site www.ethan-brown.com or see his appearance on the Season Finale of BET’s American Gangster series (the Supreme episode).