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Archive for the ‘Thoughts & Convesations’ Category

 “If it hadn’t been for Jazz, there wouldn’t be no rock n’ roll” – Louis Armstrong

If your life had a soundtrack, what would it play? Would it play the faith of Spirituals, melancholy of the Blues, improvisation of Jazz, harmony of Doo Wop, the edge of Punk Rock, the consciousness of Soul, the love of R&B or rebellion of Rock n’ Roll?

Whatever it may be, if you’ve ever wanted to give ‘thank yous’ to someone for creating the perfect sound for your life’s moments, this is the month to do so and your thanks should go out to none other than (drum roll please)……BLACK MUSIC! Black music is the mother, father, sister and brother to any and every genre of music that we listen to today.

For nearly four centuries—392 years to be exact, but who’s counting?—from the spirituals of the first Africans in English America in 1619, to the hip hop of MCs in urban cities in 2011, Blacks have dominated the rhythmic fronts of music and dance. So much so, that in 1979, encouraged by the songwriter/record producer Kenny Gamble (one-half of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame producers Gamble and Huff who penned such classics as The O’Jays Backstabbers, Paul Jones Me & Mrs. Jones, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Wake Everybody…get yourself some digitally remastered copies of the hits produced by Philadelphia International Records!!) President Jimmy Carter designated the month of June as Black Music month. For 32 years, presidents have announced to Americans that we should celebrate Black Music Month for all of the contributions and innovations Blacks have given to the music world.

And rightfully so as every genre of music has fused, borrowed, lifted and in some (actually many) cases down right stole from the traditions and innovations of African/Black Americans.

Scholars have suggested that Black Music is the only true American music. Transported across the Atlantic, Africans were stripped of their cultural priderocks, including their names, languages, religious practices, and even their drums—obviously it was understood even then how powerful a beat could be! However, the folkways and customs of the African cultural were not so easily dispensable and was resurrected in the fields and churches. Many Africans were natives of West Africa, where the rhythmic act of call-and-response was commonly practiced in civic and government gatherings, religion and music. As the Africans ‘found’ Christianity and participated in church services, they quickly adapted the call-and-response exchange to their church services and ‘work’ songs (known as field hollers) not only followed the call-and-response pattern but were lyrical tales of faith and freedom codes. It was of this creative genius that the famous “Negro Spirituals” were born, with such timeless songs as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Wade in the Water”.

Post-slavery, but definitely not post hardship, gave way to The Blues and some of the first ‘secular’ music. The Blues set the call-and-response scheme to a repeating progression of chords with rhythm talking that told the tales of personal woes in a harsh reality of hatred, pain, struggle and oppression. And don’t let the date of 1912 fool you, (the first published blues song “Dallas Blues” and first time the word ‘blues’ was used to describe the music), black people had been playing and signing the blues since the 1870s. The rugged simplicity of blues lyrics lent themselves to complex instrumentality, as blacks innovated new sounds as they learned to play European instruments such as the piano and the violin.

Such innovations were evident in the late 1890s with the creation of Jazz. Jazz fused notes from the blues, with the syncopation of field songs and the improvisation of the shouts/calls to create a musical genre that is locally, regionally, nationally, and globally recognized and admired. A musical rebellion to the classic European music, Jazz has “swing” (a groove as we like to say) created by the interaction and improvisation of the musicians. Jazz yielded such musical geniuses as Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith.

Not too many people will argue against the facts that the Spirituals, the Blues and Jazz are the works of African Americans. However, remember when I said on some occasions music was downright stolen, where this is that occasion; this next genre is where things get unnecessarily contested …you guessed it, Rock n’ Roll. Ladies and Gentleman, for the last time Elvis IS NOT THE INVENTOR OF ROCK N’ ROLL!!!Do you really think a man in a red, white, and blue sparkle jump suit create Rock n’ Roll?

Let’s examine the evidence. Rock n’ Roll is a fusion of the Blues (Black people), Jazz (Black people), Gospel (you guessed it, Black people) and Country {and hold your horses before anyone tries to get all up in arms about Country music and think you have an ‘aha’ moment…let me learn you real quick—a great deal of style, and of course the banjo, a lead instrument in the country sound- came from African Americans! Blacks and whites (specifically British and Irish immigrants) worked and played together in the rural south, blending instruments like the fiddle and guitar with the banjo to create their sound and evolved the storytelling approach of the blues to create their lyrics…..so once again, Black people get a fair share of the credit!).

Though there will continue to be debate about the degree of importance each genre had in ultimately creating the sound the truth is that Rock n’ Roll was a re-branding of the African American rhythm and blues (specifically the boogie woogie blues with a backbeat). Yes Elvis may have drew on the ‘country’ roots of the music, but it was artist like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino who did it first, AND made the the sound appealing to white America. It was their music that was ripped off and covered by artist like Elvis without their knowledge or permission. Even when Rock n’ Roll began to die out in the early 1960s in the US, British Rock n’ Roll was on the rise as artist like the Beatles looked to the music of such icons icons such as Muddy Waters (Blues legend) and Chuck Berry (Rock n’ Roll legend) for songs to cover and/or sample.

As debatable as the topic of Rock n’ Roll may be, one thing is undeniable, Black music has been the root to all American music genres. Across decades, generations and centuries, Black music has been able to sum up the tides and waves of an era with musical compositions that snap the fingers, bob the head, and tap the foot of anyone that can hear. Some music has been a evolution, while others have been a revolution; some overt in their expression, others covert in their message. Regardless of whether the music reached mainstream tv and radio, or remained underground on porches and basements, the fact remains, black musicians have been the masterminds, innovators, and originators behind the music that takes centerstage and background in our lives.

So next time you throw your hands in the air (rooted in the ‘shout’ behavior of slaves religious services which reemerged in Hip Hop) to your favorite song, whether it’s ‘black’ music or not, remember, it’s actually all black music.

 

Urbanites tell me, what genre(s) would you put on your life’s soundtrack???

 

The image is not my creation and being shared with the public by the Indiana University, accessible via the following link. http://www.indiana.edu/~a594/time.html

 

 

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Clippers. Blades. Straight razor. The tools of the Master Barber–the man that gave you a fresh low fade (or ceasar) and a clean lining. Mr. Frank, Mr. Joe, and Big Tone have been cutting the same little boys heads since they were about 2 years old. He knows how much to take off the top, shape up the edges, and clean up that goatee. He’s been there for back to school, class pictures and Easter Sundays and every other Saturday in between. He is a a transformer, taking you from “who shot john and forgot to kill him”  to “who is he, that man is CLEAN!” In short, he has skills!!

Why would you ever abandon this man???!?!

Sometime in the 2000s guys started trading in fades and ceasars for braids and cornrows. Now, don’t get me wrong, Allen Iverson had some of the coolest braids the league ever saw, butttttttttttt can I please get a fresh cut with a clean lining?!?!??!

Now, everyone may not agree with me, and that’s okay, but in my opinion staring at 21 (that’s job interviewing age) you are officially too old for braids, cornrows and wild afros. And to be clear, this has nothing to do with an assumption that any of the above look to ‘hood’ but more to do with the fact that you need to grow up. A grown man walking around with his rubber-band tied ends resting on his neck or even worse beads (seriously, where did you get those from? Your little sister or daughter???) isn’t exactly screaming mature working man.

And I know R. Kelly’s song Hairbraider was catchy, but even he needed to quit it (and I love R. Kelly), but 38 years old with braids?? I think not! (FYI: he got the memo and is back with the clean fade now, rightfully so, for a 44 year old man).

Let’s re-unite with the Maste Barber. “I’m a gown man” is the mantra of the decade, so let’s go ahead and get a grown man haircut!

Urbanites what do you think, should the fades and ceasars make a come back in place of the braids and cornrows?

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Salim and Mara Brock Akil just signed a multi-year deal with BET. I’m am super excited to see a African American couple earning success and doing it together. They both are diligent and steadfast in their endeavors and the hard work is paying off as Hollywood is recognizing the creator/writer/producer team they are. Great for them!

But I have an issue…..they are supposed to be reigning in a new era of scripted shows. But let’s talk about the new “The Game”.

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An audible gasp escaped my mouth as I hit the rewind button on the DVR with one hand while vigorously wiping my glasses on my shirt with the other hand.

“She couldn’t have been!” “I must be tripping, they wouldn’t dare!” “I know I didn’t see what I think I just saw!”…all fleeting thoughts that sprinted through my mind as I pressed play to re-examine the scene in question. And lo and behold, to my dismay, it was true; Tasha Mack, the sports agent momager, was smoking a Black & Mild!! It was episode 1 of the new season and it was all the confirmation I needed that BET had successfully ghettotized The Game.

I along with my closest two million viewer friends, tuned in to the CW for two seasons (I missed season one and had to play catch up via re-runs) for my weekly dose of Melanie, Derwin, Tasha, TT, Malik, Kelly and Jason on The Game. The show brought an interesting and unexplored look into the lives of the rookie, star, and veteran professional football players as they dealt with the women in their lives who represented the glitz, glam, hilarity, sacrifice, reality check and drama. Week in and week out, they kept us laughing and crying as we rooted for Melanie and Derwin to get back together, Kelly to get a back bone and tell Jason to stop being so cheap, and Tasha to just tell ’em like it is.

So after only three season, I was disappointed the CW was canceling the show. It was everything you could ask of a half-hour sitcom: relatable (yes we ‘ve all channeled our inner Tasha and told somebody “look here” when we needed to check’ em real quick), funny (remember when Derwin thought Melanie was pregnant and kept referring to her stomach as “little Appelonia!”) dramatic (of course when Derwin and Mel were FINALLY  about to get back together, here comes Janay talking about she pregnant)–at the end of the day it was a great cast, great writing, quality entertainment.

Fast forward about a year or so and its confirmed that The Game was to be resurrected (YAY to the power of black women and social media) and BET was picking up the show. And this is right about when  I threw ‘a flag on play”….BET??!? SERIOUSLY??!

BET long ago relinquished its right to be the voice of the people. The channel is no more than a glorified hollywood rap video with the occasional ghetto cinema viewing. Long gone are the days of Video Soul, For the Record, Teen Summit, On Stage, and even Rap City in the Basement (this was an ode to real hip-hop artists, not hollywood manufactured ‘stir and pour’ rap stars). The channel’s past few years has been known for such poignant programming as: XXX rated music videos, Hell Date, and College Hill (where the college students aren’t ever in a college class!)–a display of coonery at its best!

So how exactly is BET supposed to do The Game justice? BET doesn’t have a favorable track record proving they can produce a credible scripted dramedy.?  Even if the station really wanted to, its about ten years removed from quality programming. And that’s no surprise to anyone. BET has been taking heat for the past decade for its poor representation of Black America (you know its bad when the co-founder is ‘ashamed’ of what the network has become). So if I know this, and you know this, and you have to assume that the people behind The Game knew this, it brings us to the question at hand, did The Game sell out by going to BET or did they buy in to a popular yet skewed (somewhat) belief that all black people want to see ‘urban’ (code for ghetto) TV?

SOLD OUT??

Now, for simplicity, let’s deal in the hands of good and bad. If The Game represented good and BET represented, well…bad (not judging here), what would ever make them consider walking over to the bad side? “Call it lean, mean, mean green. Almighty dollar” (O’Jays sang a classic here!). {Of course, of course, the cast and crew was like a family that was shocked and distraught at the abrupt end to the show and I really do believe this-and wanted to reunite, so this is removed from the equation}. One could argue that they should have left the show with its dignity and not even considered bringing it to BET, regardless of how many zeroes were on the check! Sure it would have been a premature end to a story that could have kept giving (the show has a least a good 6 seasons in it), but is the resurrection worth the trade-off of class the show would undoubtedly give up being on BET?

  • Exhibit A: They have Tasha dripping in ‘tude until she is just down right ghetto (Exhibit A1-Tasha Mack smoking that Black & Mild on Rodeo Drive).
  • Exhibit B: Malik’s head is so big he’s just a disrespectful, arrogant superstar that has no humility. (Exhibit B1-Malik turning up a bottle of Hennessy and throwing money at his cousin (TT) telling him go fetch him some chicken after he had the audacity to sleep with TT’s girlfriend).
  • Exhibit C:  Melanie’s becoming so shallow she’s near being a gold digger wifey (Exhibit C1–Melanie showing Derwin a cover of the couple on Essence magazine while telling him he shouldn’t go to Malik’s press conference to support him because he’s ‘a brand’ now and being seen with Malik would ruin that? )
  • (and just for good measure to drive my point) Exhibit D: why was there ever a need for the girls to take off their blouses and sit topless just to get rid of the reality crew that’s following Kelly?? THAT’S SOME FOOLISHNESS ON MULTIPLE LELVELS!!

These antics seem pretty far removed from the characters we have come to know and love. And yet, they have signed up for it—seems like the dignity of the show had a pricetag that BET could afford.

BOUGHT IN??

But wait! Before we all jump on the “don’t let BET raise your kids” bandwagon BET still has faithful fans that tune in hourly and daily, proving that someone is still watching. Correction…millions are watching! (Tell the truth, did you tune in to the BET Awards???) Sure it would be easy to say ‘shame on you BET’, but in some twisted way, they are only showing what the people want to see.

Somewhere, there is some ethnic consumer insight that reads ‘9 out of 10 African Americans consumer agree that they prefer to watch shows that represent urban entertaining lifestyle’. They’ve bought into the idea that black people like over the top drama TV, I mean after all, its be an overnight success for reality TV which has million of viewers. Thus, they hit us with the 3S formula: they gave Tasha a little more “Sass”, gave Kelly a little more “Soul” and gave Derwin a little more “Swag”. The recipe to an urban sitcom success.

  • Exhibit A: Tasha’s ‘getting her groove back”, with her younger boyfriend Donte and everyone’s in support since her break up with Rick Fox (VJ Terrance Jenkins from 106 & Park plays her young beau. Now I know this is suppose to be the ‘defense’ part of the article, but really, why is he on the show? I digress— back to the regularly scheduled defense)
  • Exhibit B: Kelly has ‘a new attitude’ with her own reality show proving that she can get along just fine without Jason and rocking designer labels!
  • Exhibit C: Derwin’s finally the man. After thee seasons of being the rookie, Derwin’s finally a star getting Nike endorsements and Sports Illustrated covers!

BET simply gave the characters a little more flair and up-ed the urban drama to keep us romanticizing the glamorous life of the rich and famous.

So did The Game sell out to a ghetto disgrace or did they buy in to the ghetto fabulous life? Whose fault is it? Maybe its a little of both; perhaps The Game was a little too willing to lend the show to the stereotypes of black drama and maybe BET just spiced it up a little more to cater to an audience that wants over the top laughs. Time will only tell if it was the right move for either side. The wild card in all of this is that this could be the safety net BET has been clamoring for the past few years to get back in the good graces of the middle class Black America (aka ‘uppity Negroes”). Who knows? In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to catch a scene here and there (I just can’t bring myself to watch regularly after the whole black & mild on Rodeo Drive foolishness) until I can tell if the essence that was The Game is gone for good or making a comeback.

What do you think…sold out or bought in??

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As the word CONGRATULATIONS jumped off the letter with the blue & orange dolphin in the top right hand corner, I knew I was officially on the ‘road to success’. I was 14 and had just made my first big decision, choosing a high school. I filled my high school days with honors classes, track & field, dance team, culture clubs and community service. When it was all said and done, I had amassed a collection of refrigerator-posting worthy accolades that included Who’s Who of American High School Students, Global Young Leaders Conference Ambassador, and Miss Teen Illinois Top 5 Contestant.

I lyrically wove these experiences into 500 word essays and hoped that coupled with a transcript

and ACT score that proved my academic commitment my universities of choice would see who I was—someone who was trying to be successful.

As high school came to an end, I traded in my blue & orange Dolphin for maize & blue Wolverine and headed to the ‘Harvard of the mid-west’. With big decision number 2 under my belt (and a mighty good decision if I might add…GO BLUE!!!) I was driving straight on that success road and my ETA was right on track.

College was a wealth of memorable experiences that are good, bad, ugly and everything in between! Saturday football games in the Big House, ½ price appetizers at Applebee’s on Thursday nights and Black Homecoming after parties at the Frat Houses filled the weekends, while sports marketing & biomechanic science classes, work study hours editing the Kinesiology magazine, interning in the university athletic marketing department and being a resident advisor filled my weekdays (nights and weekends too…do you really think I slept with a schedule like that?!?!)

Throw in pledging the “First and the Finest, a fellowship in the Minority Leaders of Tomorrow program, studying abroad in China to work on the Summer Olympics, and finishing 4 years of college in 3 ½ and college was everything it was supposed to be and more. While I was proud as I walked across the stage to graduate (with Honors—I don’t at all mean to brag, but I earned it!!), there was a piece of me that felt I was simply doing what I was supposed to be doing, working hard in the name of doing well; next stop, the ‘real world’.

Blessings were surely on my head as I left college with two job offers, especially considering I was entering the work-force during the early stages of the economic downturn. I accepted an offer in market research (no that’s not what my degree is in, but sports isn’t really women-friendly) at one of Fortune Magazine’s “most admired companies in the globe” and moved to a new city to begin the next stage of my life. While this has definitely come with growing pains, I have been on a journey of self learning and discovery since I pulled up here. I have developed and strengthened my skills, discovered work I never knew I wanted to do but enjoy, and fostered relationships that are helping me grow professionally. In 3 years I have been promoted, moved to yet another city and travelled to 5 different countries. By all accounts, I would say that I am highly blessed and the road I have been on has truly navigated me to success.

But now I am at a crossroads.

Unlike before where the road has always been paved due-North, it is now coming upon exits that have me wondering if I should turn. I took a brain dominance quiz once and it said that I actually use both hemispheres of my brain near equally, though I do have a tendency toward my right brain. Over the

past few years though I have come to learn that my job prefers the left brain, and while I have no regrets about my career, I am not wholly fulfilled because there is a part of me-my right brain-yearning to create, imagine, and dream in color.

This is when I wonder if success’s address has an alternative route from this point on. If I keep straight my GPS map shows the streets of MBA, different job assignments, and career progression, but I’m not sure if it’ll feed that creative half of me that has been sitting dormant now. However, if I turn, the GPS maps are less defined, just vast road ahead with countless attractions I can stop at that may get me closer to my right & left brain unity and hopefully meaningful success.

I’m not used to not knowing what mile I’m coming upon along the road and I must admit it’s a bit unnerving yet exciting. What to do when the road gets you to where you wanted to go, but you’re not sure that’s where you want to stop; Do you keep straight or turn left at the fork in the road?

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