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Entries in sOuL from the O (16)

Tuesday
Dec162014

s O u L PERFORMS 12/20 @ SPICE MONKEY | Oakland Drops Beats Music Crawl

I'm looking forward to this gig as I'll be returning to the Spice Monkey (1628 Webster St, Oakland, CA) for the 2nd installment of the Oakland Drops Beats Music Crawl. The show begins with an art installation by local artists from 6-7:30pm, then live music begins at 7:30 with MC Intelligence (HipHop), Chloe Jean (R&B) and  most notably the good homies FatheR BrotheR Sun playing their magical blend of funk and hip-hop via a live band at 9pm. I'll be closing the show out around 10, performing songs off of the upcoming sOuL mixtape along with some other gems. Arrive early and pay $5 stay late and get ya mind blown ;) Either way, come through!

 

Details below...

 

 

Tuesday
Oct212014

The Day I Saw Nelson Mandela...

 

I wanted to post this sooner, but couldn't find the ticket stub for the longest time (at least a year). Then one day while cleaning up I stumbled upon a place where I had stashed it in safe keeping: the ticket for when I saw Nelson Mandela speak, shortly after being freed.

I was 14 years old. My cousin and I were given tickets to see Nelson Mandela speak at the Coliseum in Oakland. We knew this was a big deal! So much so that one of our family members had given us tickets with the order to "Go see history!" and off we went...

 As my memory recalls:

Bart train to Coliseum station. The train was packed, and so were the walkways to the Coliseum. People were singing, the vibe was beyond positive all around. We end up on the Oakland A's baseball field surrounded by thousands of people - from the field to the stands. It wasn't until Mandela came out and started to speak that it all started to sink in:

Nelson Mandela! Mandela! The man freed from political persecution. 27 years hard labor in prison. The government that sent him there up held the brutal  "Apartheid" system. Any Black South African could be killed for protesting, let alone in everyday life. Many were. Black there = 2nd class citizen. The odds were stacked against Mandela but the South African anti-apartheid movement ignited the world wide anti-apartheid movement - which in turn created a moral force that demanded the South African government to set him free...and there he was standing free!

I remember that day feeling proud to be African/ African-American. That somehow justice was able to finally come through for someone of color (even at 14 I already had glimpses of racial injustice in American society, which made the suffering of Black South Africans all the more relevant to me) and the amazing courage it took to stand up to an oppressive force even when they are killing people all around you, and subjugating daily life to terror and injustice.

(I recalled this moment briefly on a verse on the Go Back track off of The Unspoken Word album:

Harputt's Addidas / Mandela free at Coliseum arenas / First dose of Cheech's )

 

When Mandela died I pondered (as I have lateley when any of the legends pass away) "who will lead us now?"  I know we are supposed to embody the examples of those who did great things before us, and not idealize them to a point of missing the point: get up and stand up for what is right and just! The question for me is more from a place wanting to have that example, living, to point the way, to remind us in these modern times that we still have work to do to counter the current tide of injustice, racism, and oppression. Finding this ticket stub was a reminder that I was there to witness this great man days after being freed, a critical moment in South Africa and world history; but also to consider Mandela's legacy, and not forget the trials that he and the anti-apartheid movement faced,  and overcame on their journey for freedom.

Thursday
Jul112013

Behind The Music: COPX

COPX is the only song off of The Unspoken Word album that I produced a beat for. Originally I wanted to call it some crazyness like "Many Moons" or something like that (lol!) I was feelin its tripped out effect but decided to sit on it for better ideas to spring forth - the kind of ideas that write themselves and later become songs. Such inspiration this time around unfortunately came from a tragedy in my community of Oakland California.

After a long night of welcoming in New Years Day 2009 in San Francisco, I was driving home when I heard of a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale BART station. This transit train station was in my hood (7 min away from my house by car), so the story got my attention right away. The news was a buzz about Oscar Grant, the victim, shot in the back by a BART police officer while laying face down on the train platform. Caught by multiple passengers on cell phone cameras, one viewing was devastating and equally enraging. From what appears to be a man laying on his belly with his hands behind his back, while an officer crouches down behind him, and another officer not too far from his side. At some point the officer directly behind Oscar Grant, stands up, with no provocation, pulls out his pistol and shoots Oscar Grant in his back. Killing him almost instantly! THERE WAS NO NEED FOR THIS TO HAPPEN- THAT MAN SHOULD BE ALIVE . The sudden pop of the gun, seemed to pause the passengers witnessing it all , and then the gravity of the situation hit them as well and instantly people started booing the officers from the train. The passenger's reaction caused some of the remaining officers on the platform to pull out their weapons and point them up close to the windows of the BART train. Some rider's cell phones were even confiscated by police.

This incident was disturbing on many levels and as such I found myself writing lines to CopX again, but this time the lyrics stuck. These were the first to land on the page and stay:

"Gather leaders brothers, sisters and meet us/ corners and side walks peep the pigs that perceive us/ and pass it on/ Gather leaders brothers, sisters and meet us/ corners and side walks peep the pigs that perceive us/ and pass it on"

It was only a week later, after seeing Oscar Grant's photo on the news that this tragedy took another dimension: Oscar worked at the local grocery store I shopped at. Him being the only Afircan American to work in the the meat section, I immediately recalled purchasing fish and poultry from him weeks prior. This made it strangely personal. I didn't know him more than the guy working behind the counter, yet he could've been me, my friend, cousin, brother etc.

  

Much has been written about Oscar Grant's murder (some call it a killing, I call it murder), the subsequent trial that found the officer that stole his life Johannes Mehserle guilty for involuntary manslaughter (not the 2nd degree murder charge most in the community felt he deserved) resulting in a 2 year sentence - let out after 11 months served, the multiple protests, to the much anticipated movie based upon the whole tragedy "Fruitvale Station" (comes out July 12, I highly encourage y'all to see this film!)

 

 

 

 

For me CopX evolved into a story brought on by this tragedy but also the sentiment that police murdering unarmed people is a far too common place. In the United States this happens so often, that the Malcolm X Grassroots project did a study and determined that every 36 hours a person of color (more times than not unarmed) is shot by police in the United States. That extensive report can be found here. In Oakland the police were determined to draw their weapons far too often which raises all sorts of issues. So throughout the song there's elements of Oscar's story and the stories of others as well...

non believers eat a cock unarmed citizen shot
by that same guilty cop who shot 12 months ago
a cat in the back ran instead of froze
froze instead of ran/ evidence showed
No drugs no strap no no threat posed
All they found was a bunch of fucking no's

Trying to balance anger, rage, the impression that Black life in my community and nation at large is less valuable and as such can be exterminated in an almost "oops" kind of way, or worse in a malicious way by police was not acceptable. CopX was a way to express all of these feelings as well as reclaim a sense of humanity. At the end of the song I used a sample of Oscar Grant's mother speaking at a press conference after the trial of her son's killer - it still gives me chills...