Archive for the ‘Entertainment & Arts’ Category

Have you ever seen the movie the “Matrix?” It is a sci-fi action thriller that took on an interesting plot and scenario. Essentially, people were plugged into machines to have their lives simulated. Neo or “The One” has figured out that his reality is not reality. He can see and alter the actual coding in the simulated environment, to make it simple, he the shit. We should all aim to have that perspective as Neo did. Although, that clout of perception can be disguised in a multitude of ways. In the movie, some people did not want to wake up out of the pseudo-reality they created for themselves, and would even try to stop or kill Neo in his fight against the machines. This introductory story will prove noteworthy later on.

I have a short list of guilty pleasures that includes watching reality televisions shows that have demonized African-Americans, I log into World Star Hip-Hop which includes a bevy of topics such as sex, violence, ignorance, constant objectification (women, men, children, etc.), and more violence and sex. I see these things as a mixture of curiosity and allowed ignorance on my part. Yes, allowed ignorance, this is something that I just made up. I think it is a credible word. To me, it means that I am self-aware of the digressive act I am about to partake in, but I do not internalize it. That means I can watch these things, and you will not hear nor see the effects of what I have seen infused into my thought process and actions in my life. Whereas some folks watch these things on television, and internalize what they are seeing into their thought process in having a relationship, how to raise children, how to dress, and even how to talk to people when situations have heightened (it seems fighting is the only answer on most these shows). Another bothersome factoid is how people in similar situations as these reality TV stars are the main ones who criticize them. That is an another blog post in itself in the sheer lack of vulnerability and ownership of one’s actions and feelings. The television shows fail to show the majority of people who have similar situations. For instance, if you are a man who is playing several women (Stevie J), and have several children, a television character may make this look appealing (he usually has a lot of money or makes you perceive that). Some real men may try to live out this fantasy to only have made things more difficult for themselves and those around them. In reality, many of these same types of men in similar situations suffer from depression, no employment, child custody battles, little time to see their children, little education, and have turmoil in their relationships with their partners. It creates a revolving cycle of bullshit. Please excuse my French. These are the vertical messages being fed into society. There are more stereotypes, generalizations, and people who gave up in fighting those stereotypes and generalizations. This is where people lose sight.

Some people do not know how to tell the difference or even worse, do not want to tell the difference. Remember the movie “The Matrix?” The scariest people are those who recognize and act on their ignorance and ratchedness a midst the consequences. Is this not similar to the behavior of many people we see in reality television shows? The hordes of people who yell “Worldstar” as they record an event that could lay them behind bars? I guess there are folks who are Neos, some who are agents, and some who are people who do not want to wake up. Which one are you? I do not want people to feel bad for watching these things (I don’t!), instead, I pray you have the vision to know the difference. Love, hope, charity, and faith.     

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If you, like me, are an avid listener of great music, but especially jazz then this brief  (not that long, read it) review of my three favorite albums will serve useful for you. I have been waiting to write up this review for quite some time—I like to listen to the albums thoroughly before conversing about it to others. Thus far, I have listened to each of the albums almost everyday since their release. Each of the albums unequivocally add nuance to the genre of jazz in their own distinctive way, which, to be honest, is what contributes to their amazing success. Not to mention the musicians and vocalists. The albums are: Be Good by Gregory Porter, Radio Music Society by Esperanza Spalding, and Black Radio by Robert Glasper (The Robert Glasper Project). If you have listened to any of these albums then you are, of course, listening to some damn good music. The albums are sonorous, the arrangements are just fire, and the tracks, well—you will have to listen.

Be Good by Gregory Porter, which is a follow up to his album, Water (which I should say, was like walking across water, excellent!), showcased (yet again) the agility, classic, and impeccable voice of Porter. His soulful voice takes one on a rollercoaster of classy originals to perennial familiars—his adeptness with his assured tenor voice is nothing par of exuberant. Oh, and the horns, the horns on this album are, in my opinion, worthy of bowing down to the “horn gods” if they at all exist, the arrangements are just pristine. His song “Be Good (Lion’s Song),” is a nice and mellow original piece by him—its like sitting on the lawn in Chicago’s Millennium Park daydreaming—the slow tempo song allows one to tangibly and vicariously live through the vocals of Porter. Likewise the horn, piano, and drums in this piece will have you longing for more as the song nears its end (climax). Nearing the end of the album, Porter ends with what I would label his dénouement—with songs like “Worksong”—which is a breakneck version of the great Nat Adderley’s “Worksong” that will indubitably give you chills.  Porter’s singing is flawless throughout the entire album, and there is some great blowing, the improvisations are vibrant—featuring saxophonist such as Yosuke Sato and Tivon Pennicott. If you haven’t listened yet, you should.

Ah, the great jazz vocalist and bassist, Esperanza Spalding, brings it on her new album Radio Music Society. Sidenote: I have always liked Spalding, before her feature at the White House. Oh, and to be extremely clear, I was glad Spalding won that Grammy! Anyway, back to my review. The Portland bassist-vocalist opens with a groovy up-tempo song “Radio Song” that is bound to get you moving your body (or for the reticent, bobbing your head), she will truly have you “singing along with love in your heart, because you like to, because you need to”. As with Porter’s, her album showcases her nimble voice and mastery with the bass—electric and upright. Just. Splendid. This album melds pop, funk, and soul with airtight jazz—no easy feat. For example, the soulful sound of “Black Gold,” which is an affirming song for all people of color but especially Black men who, to put it lightly, are constantly put down. This song is aimed at listeners who may not have a deep interest in Jazz; however, Spalding keeps the track firmly rooted in a jazz lineage. Then we get to a groovy, sexy, and soulful-jazzy cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” between the saxophone great Joe Lovano and the vocals of Spalding, the two of them, listeners are bound to love this track. If you don’t have it already, you should cop Radio Music Society.

Lastly but certainly not least, Black Radio by Robert Glasper, in one word, is epic! Just the first track “Lift Off” will have you craving more. Analogous to Spalding, Glasper’s album is infused with pop, funk, soul, and, of course hip-hop, which we can hear throughout his album—just magisterial. This is a jazz musicians dream, the ability to fuel improvisations vis-à-vis pop tracks—Glasper does it with precision, soul, and adroitness. Oh, and be sure to adjust your ears to hear his excellent acoustic piano groove, wow! The album begins with a sultry rendition of Mongo Santamria’s “Afro Blue” featuring Erykah Badu’s sly voice while Glasper with his signature style keeps up the track with his acoustic obbligato, must listen! It is sinuous.  That’s not it.  On another track, Lalah Hathaway soulful and expressive voice covers  “Cherish the Day” by Sade—Glasper (with his incontestable skills on the keys) plays a running commentary around the vocal. Continuing his experiment, the sexy-as-hell voice of Me’Shell N’Degeocello sends chills down my spine as she does the vocals on the song “The Consequences of Jealousy,” her voice and the underlying soulful tones by Glasper on the acoustic piano is second-to-none. Oh, be sure to dig the groove session at the 5-minute mark. Then we have one of my favorites off the album, “Why Do We Try” featuring Stokley William (lead singer of Mint Condition), this is a track that is bound to send you on a nostalgic rollercoaster as it did me but also get you thinking about how underrated Stokely’s artistry is. As pop culture critic and professor, Mark Anthony Neal notes, “The genius of Glasper’s new recording is its willingness to expand the range of what we consider black music and what black radio might consider as appropriate for black or so-called “urban” audiences.  Similarly, scholar and musician, Guthrie Ramsey, who also just released his own album The Colored Waiting Room (review coming soon), writes, “[Black Radio] plays with sonic, social, and iconic symbols in a way that recalibrates calcified, boring ideas about genre and turns them on their head, all with a good sense of funky adventure. A must listen.

Pushing our intelligibility of “what jazz is”, all three of these artists remind listeners of the complexity and nuances of jazz and what can be done to it as a genre.  The albums are always on rotation at my home—they should be on at yours as well. In fact, I just ran 4 miles while listening to Black Radio. Peace.

Frolic across the tear laden tissue skewed haphazardly about the desires of her heart I try not.

Far from being a man is the one who cares not for her feelings but only for that feeling he gets when they’re feeling…

Too much to loose she has when she lets him savor her sweet nectar… but she lets him because she thinks she has to.

Afraid of being alone she gives him her treasure, hoping and praying, convincing herself that this will keep him, this time it’s different, he is different, this time is the last time.

Sorry, but this time is now “last time” cuz the next time you’ll be thinking of the last time hoping that that time won’t lead to another next time looking at last time…

Another notch on your belt has been etched by the acid of another passionless romance. Who’s to blame?

Sitting static in a pond without ripples is the imagination of those without a yearning for an understanding of all things implied.

If not on their island where the dimensions are explicit and there exists no unknown they find themselves baffled, confused and uncomfortable.

This is an ode to the explorer’s spirit.  Charting the rough waters in the sea of individualism.  Building bridges to unknown land connecting curiosity with reality making a marriage of infinite possibilities.

Threading the massive vessel of determination through the narrow canal of unfair barriers and un-subscribed limitations.  We are a people who inhabit the uninhabitable; not by choice but rather by force, yet we still thrive.  You will not write us off!

I compose the score to which my life dances to.  The high notes in the last movement will bring a close to my life’s work.  Tending to the beacon in the lighthouse on the dark waters edge will be me protecting my legacy.

Recently I have found myself listening (on repeat) to “Play” by Goapele. Many of you may know her from the song “Closer To My Dreams,” a song that first put me on Goapele. In the near future, her new CD “Break of Dawn” will be released. In the meantime, however, thirsty and anxious listeners of Goapele’s unique and soulful voice are left with this one song, “Play.”

I am almost certain that this CD will be fire, as I have always liked her adept and creativity. She presents a refreshing voice in the music business. She is someone I’d like to vibe to at a nice lounge with a glass of wine or vodka with a garnished lime and some great conversation.

In short, this song goes hard!

Check Goapele out here: http://goapele.com/

Hear her song here: 

This Poem was written to honor the memory of my fraternity brother’s mother.  It was recited at her memorial service.  By far one of the most important things I’ve ever written.

 

With the help of the divine she gave me the gift of life.  My first cold harsh breath, resulting in a shrill loud cry was as sweet a note as any to her ears.  Squirming, loud, red, and wrinkled; yet she was the first to say he’s perfect.

We all know that this day will come. Laying the first woman you ever loved to rest is never easy, is he wrong to be selfish? To want her for one more second, one more warm meal, one more I love you, one more hug and kiss.  Her smiling face floats in the mists of his memories where she’ll live forever. Here is where she’ll never leave him.

Branded is the soul with the love of a mother. An eternal flame, flickering like any other, grows and diminishes with time, but never will it be extinguished. Its warmth can be called on when we’re at are lowest and its light shines when we’re at our darkest.

Only in true love do needs and wants coincide.  The only entity capable of occupying two places simultaneously yet in each domain it’s the remedy to a different pain.  And it is because of she who loved first that we’re able to love at all.

Many years have passed since I first picked up Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X and since then I find that I am without understanding of who this man really was.  I can remember as a child watching different documentaries or hearing adults and teachers speak about his character.  These accounts of X’s character, mostly by word-of-mouth were the seeds that have grown to my current idea of who he was.  I always thought of Malcolm X as being intimidating and relentless in his efforts toward equality.  It was as if I was taught that Malcolm was the good bad guy in the civil rights movement and Dr. King was the one that I should be fond of and take heed to.  Nevertheless I always found myself having more of a natural curiosity when it came to Malcolm.  An issue that I’ve developed concerns how elders like to portray Malcolm– is that he is this fierce and fearless leader.  I dare not discredit his involvement in his fight for civil rights but something a lot people overlook is the fact that Malcolm is merely but a spokesman.  His rhetoric is second to none; to watch him deliver an address to any size crowd was like watching any master craftsman in the middle of creating the piece they’ll be remembered for.  But Malcolm’s initial agenda was given to him by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.  As their national minister traveling all over the country and the world he would spread the beliefs of an organization he decided to join, not one he created.  It wasn’t until after Malcolm renounced his allegiance to the Nation of Islam that he, to my understanding, started to become a true leader.  Creating his own organizations and spreading a message of his own.  It is unfortunate that he was killed so young, because if he had lived to continue his work I truly believe that he would have been immensely more popular and influential then anyone would’ve been able to imagine.

Though as I’ve mentioned, the very nature of how the two of these texts were developed couldn’t be more opposite.  The beginning of Malcolm’s life, as told by both Haley and Marable was nothing short of colorful.  His family dynamic is what I believe made X so special.  The fact that his physical appearance was so striking, having red hair and a long slender frame, people tended to favor him in many instances throughout his life.  What both texts have been successful in doing is illustrating that there has been a sort of mystique about Malcolm since the day he was born.  Being raised in a household that was as deeply rooted in the principles of Garvism as the Littles were, it was a place that prompted their children to think much more independently than others in many instances.  Though this may sound beneficial to the development of their children I believe it caused too much confusion.  In a sense they were brainwashed like many children are as they don’t have a choice as to what doctrine the family chooses to observe.  The issue with this is that those very principals that they believed so strongly in weren’t readily accepted by the likes of whites or blacks; and it was this very movement that led to the destruction of their family.

The violent cluster of potential underlined emotions, motives, and beliefs, in the Little household were overwhelming.  I found myself wondering if Mrs. Little honestly believed in what her husband was doing for the Garvey movement or did she assimilate out of fear of being defiant to her husband.  Did Malcolm’s father decide to join this movement looking for more than just a opportunity to advocate for his human rights or did he see an opportunity to put his family in a better financial position granted his advancement in the organization?  None of us will ever know the true motives behind the actions of an individual but it’s always interesting to hypothesize.  Nevertheless I believe that it was because of Malcolm’s father and his plight to spread the gospel of Garvey, and his subsequent death because of it, that led the eventual mental breakdown of Malcolm’s mother and pretty much eroded the family all together.

Yes, Little Sr.’s devotion to Garvey did the family as a whole more harm than good; but my observation of the family dynamic isn’t to be taken as a criticism.  I find myself giving praise to all who in their own way were joining the fight for their human rights.  Instilling in Malcolm that he was no less of a human than any of his white counterparts was the best thing to come out of this; and possibly the reason he was such a bright student as a child.  Never was he afraid of challenging others’ opinion of him; curtailing his academic and social abilities was never an option and he often outperformed all of his peers because of it.  He was a gifted boy who wasn’t intimidated by his white peers’ jealousy or his superiors telling him to lowers his expectations of himself. This I believe was the most dangerous personality trait he acquired, his absence of fear when it came to challenging the authority and his disregard for anyone who tried to stop him from realizing his dreams.  The makings of a young revolutionary.