A Homage: Marley Marl, Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records Legacy

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During the ‘Golden Era of Hip-Hop’, innovative producer/DJ Marley Marl and DJ Mr. Magic (1956-2009) formed the legendary Juice Crew. Groundbreaking artists that were a part of the Juice Crew created music with Marley Marl on the Cold Chillin’ Records label, which includes Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Roxanne Shante, and MC Shan. The collaborative music team helped usher in a new era in music, and of course…there was the well-known ‘beefs’ with the Boogie Down Productions. The famous ”Bridge Wars”, which partly started when lyrics were misinterpreted in MC Shan’s ”The Bridge” and then KRS-One/Boogie Down responded with ”The Bridge is Over” and ”South Bronx”. Not to mention the ”Roxanne Wars” series started by a then 14 year old Roxanne Shante (which influenced at least 100 response songs about the ”real Roxanne” created by different artists). The Juice Crew created a distinct collection of songs that are timeless and a great reference to the ”Golden Era”. Some of my personal favorites includes Biz Markie’s ”Vapors” and Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Long Live the Kane’ album. Marley Marl produced a variety of classic projects, which includes L.L Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ album, and Marley Marl’s first album ‘In Control Volume 1’ introduced one of the most influential and recognized songs in classic rap…”The Symphony”. Some of the legendary artists who consider Marley Marl an influence are Biggie Smalls, RZA, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock. When paying homage to those who helped create the ”Golden Era of Hip Hop”, it is important to always remember innovator Marley Marl and the Juice Crew. Their music still sounds amazing and refreshing.

 

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Making America Great… ‘Again’?: Historical Hypocrisy & Modern Change

President Donald Trump claims to want to make America great…again. The word ‘again’ is a stretch, because depending on who you ask and their personal experiences throughout the history of the country…America was never great. Nevertheless, for those of us who still have faith that America can someday be great & actually reflect what it has promised/envisioned, it is obvious that hypocrisy and systematic discrimination thrives in the land of the free. The poem by Emma Lazarus on The Statue of Liberty in New York, ”the New Colossus” is suppose to stand for immigrants and refugees coming to a welcoming and compassionate/empathetic safe haven , a home for those who desire to leave or force to flee their homelands. Of course, Trump is not the first who discriminated against certain groups of people because for as long as the poem was first engraved on Lady Liberty in 1903, the poem’s message has always had it’s ‘terms & conditions’ depending on what ethnic or religious group people belong to. There is a clear long history of America showing more acceptance to certain groups of immigrants & refugees in comparison to others. Still, there are many immigrants, refugees, and forced migrants who have continued to have faith in America and want to come through the ”golden door” despite hostility/prejudice towards them . I encourage all to not be discouraged or faithless, but to continue to make our own positive marks in the world…let’s not wait on political leaders to make America (or anywhere) great. President Trump’s executive order and extreme vetting policies for Muslim-majority countries is just one of many hypocritical happenings that should not be accepted or validated if we want to make America great for everyone…not just selective groups. Over a century ago, The New Colossus was as new and promising as the Liberty Statue it was engraved on. Now, in modern times and after hypocrisy has continued to be prevalent in the U.S, it seems as if it’s the ”Old Irrelevant Colossus” because often times throughout the years…Lady Liberty is not a truthful representation/image of the actual freedom, justice, and liberty that is denied to many. However, instead of just complaining about the cons of America and hypocrisy in the nation, we should also encourage and implement positive change/actions. No matter who is in office, what awful/evil doings we witness personally or see constantly on our news’ channels…stay faithful and remember we are all equally important in creating positive change with our actions and mentalities, triumphing over negativity in the world.

 

The New Colossus Poem by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Trip Hop & The Bristol Sound: A Few of My Favorites

Trip Hop originated from Bristol ,U.K, & the sound has been partly influenced by jazz, hip-hop, funk, and soul. The Bristol Underground scene of the 90s involved experimenting with art and music, particularly with drum & bass. Trip Hop’s drum-based breakdowns and sound involves several types of music styles , and is a good example of just how diverse electronic music is…there are literally no less than one hundred ‘subgenres’.  When I think of some of the most interesting and diverse sounds in electronic music, it seems only right to mention Trip Hop greats/legends such as Howie D, Morcheeba, and Nightmares on Wax. To pay homage, here are a few of my favorite classic Trip Hop songs & artists of the 90s, an amazing innovative time for Electronic music.

 

A Retrospective: The Amazing Artworks of Jacob Lawrence & William H. Johnson

Here are some of my favorite artworks by two remarkable artists that have contributed greatly to the art world & society alike. Whether the focus is the Harlem Renaissance, love, War, the notorious chain gang, modernist illustrations of everyday life, serene nature or self portrait/reflections…each of these artworks are truly enthralling. While Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was considered a modernist/social realist artist by some, Lawrence himself considered his creations ”dynamic cubism”. William H. Johnson (1901-1970) created artwork with evolving styles, ranging from realism, expressionism, and folk-style. I love how the artists’ creations have vivid colors to create realistic stories & settings in their paintings that are a part of not just African American experience, but America’s history as a whole… diverse settings/stories that real people have experienced in the 20th century. These artworks, many now on display at art museums such as the Smithsonian & Metropolitan  , are important expressions that definitely deserve continued acclaim.

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Jacob Lawrence ”The Library”

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The Strike by Jacob Lawrence

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William H. Johnson Self Portrait

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”Teheran Conference” by William H. Johnson

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Jacob Lawrence Self Portrait

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William H. Johnson

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William H. Johnson ”Training For War”

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Jacob Lawrence Migration Series

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Jacob Lawrence ”The Swearing In”

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William H. Johnson ”Chain Gang”

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William H. Johnson

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William H. Johnson ”Off to War”

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”The Lovers” Jacob Lawrence

Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins: ”There Will Never Be Another You” Live in Denmark 

Saying that Sonny Rollins had a ”great” seven decade long career is an understatement. Rollins is not only one of the most significant jazz musicians in music, but he is a living inspiration and amazing composer who has received accolades such as the National Medal of Arts , Polar Music Prize, multiple Honorary Doctor of Music awards, and elected to the American Academy of Arts of Sciences. Yet, it is not just the awards that represent just how astonishing Rollins’ career has been. Even if Rollins was not as recognized or given so many awards, his music’s quality is momentous and exceptional. Whether he was a saxophonist creating music for Blue Notes Records, Okeh Records, Prestige, RCA, or any other recording company…his compositions will forever be rich jazz standards that are a part of music history since the late 1940’s. Thank you Mr. Sonny Rollins.  Here is one of my favorite performances/song from live in Denmark, 1965, ” There Will Never Be Another You.”

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The Art of Funk Classics Sampled in Rap: Some of My Favorite Original Versions

Here are some of my favorite legendary songs that have been sampled and redone by rappers, who then recreated hits or classics all over again. These songs were already brilliant when first created, equally innovative/unique, and will always sound refreshing. The four videos I chose, in order are: ”Walk on By” Isaac Hayes Version, which was sampled by many including Notorious B.I.G in ”Warning”; Parliament Funkadelic’s ”Swing Down, Sweet Chariot (Let Me Ride), which was sampled by many including Dr.Dre & Snoop Dogg in ”Let Me Ride”; ”Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players, which was sampled by many including M.C Breed in ”Ain’t No Future in Yo Frontin” & N.W.A ”Dopeman”, and Taana Gardner’s ”Heartbeat”, which was sampled by many including De La Soul in ”Buddy”.  The words of Parliament Funkadelic from Swing Down Sweet Chariot (Let Me Ride) explains it all, ”….Light Years in time…ahead of our time….”

Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince Treatise : A Philosophy That Is Still Relevant Today

Machiavellianism, introduced in the Niccolo Machiavelli book The Prince, is a term that does not just apply to the Dark Triad subject in applied psychology. Machiavelli’s philosophies in The Prince included the belief that it is okay to use immoral/foul means such as manipulation & showing a disregard for morality in relation to personal gain and self interest. Some people argue that Machiavelli’s acceptance of immoral actions was due to the fact that he lived during a time in Rome when political conflicts and success through criminal actions were common among it’s leaders. However, this time period is not the only era where immoral actions have been common in society. As long as societies have existed, baleful actions have been used throughout history for different reasons…not just among princes vying for power. Unfortunately, it is accepted and a normal/common practice for societies to manipulate and commit evil doings toward others for their own personal gain/self interest in our world. Many people have developed a “that’s just the way it is” perspective on this detrimental behavior because it has been universally prevalent throughout our timeline so far. Therefore, Machiavelli’s philosophies are not just historic political science lessons that reflect the world he knew…but it also can be used to compare what is now, the present. It has gotten to the point where we question & categorize just what is immoral and moral depending on a society/culture’s accepted practices. I may be speaking from a bias point of view because I believe in not perfection, but at least trying our best to be morally upright and emphasizing virtue & genuine goodness. However, no matter what different ethical/moral philosophies exist, Machiavelli’s The Prince should have been a reference for what to avoid, but it now seems as if it is a repeated pattern that does not just apply to old Rome’s royal hierarchies or a personality test. Nevertheless, since the future is not yet written and the present is still unfolding, there is no universal rule that implies history has to keep repeating itself. Yet, even though we are one humanity, we are also individuals who do not share the same mentalities and belief system when it comes to virtue and morality. ..perhaps that is why treatises like The Prince and Machiavellianism seems to have been a relevant philosophy for a very long time.

Underground to Pop Music: The Art of the Evolution of Music

Manipulating the sound of a record while someone spoke on a microphone was not widely accepted less than 40 years ago. Before the musical art form we call Hip Hop and the method we know as rapping was an internationally recognized fixture in popular music culture, it was a underground innovative movement. It is always exciting and refreshing when a new form of musical style (which eventually is often considered a subgenre) has been introduced & created. Whether it was the origins of punk music with bands like The Kinks and The Ramones  or the “college rock radio” era of alternative music with musicians such as R.E.M & The Smiths, they all have one thing in common. Rebellion. They all rebelled against what was popular and mainstream. Yet, often times in history an underground musical art form became a part of the mainstream popular music culture if it was accepted on a massive level. Case in point: Kurt Cobain was not comfortable with Nirvana’s music being a part of pop music culture (In Bloom song speaks about this). However, that is what “Grunge” music became…chart topping hits that was played continuously on heavily viewed channels such as MTV. Nevertheless, it was their decision to  sign with a major record label, and “bandwagoners” naturally came with this. In fact, there is often a repeated pattern in music with this, which will probably always be. There are many factors such as generation, society/cultural events, technology, and demographics that correlate with an underground “alternative” sound being popularized. The problem is when a new musical style/sound starts off as fresh and different… then is transformed into something that has lost its “edge” and individuality due to exploitation in the music industry. The art of “underground”music becoming popular mainstream music has its pros and cons, all how we perceive it. Either way, music has & always will be an ever progressing art with many different colors. Hundreds of years from now what we listen to today, what we call “rebellious”, “alternative” or “innovative” in comparision to a “pop music” sound will be so interesting to compare with what sounds/styles may be introduced in the future. The evolution of all music is inevitable. 

More Than Protesting: Strategic Action, Effective Change

Protests are not always effective when it comes to progression/change. So, what is? To help gradually decrease police brutality, there needs to be reconstruction , change & progress  on the federal, state, and local levels of government. The reason why unfit and bad cops keep getting away with these crimes is because they are protected by policies that are flawed. We cannot keep simply protesting, being out raged on social media, and accepting that this is just how it is. Effective change means not just discussion and protest signs, but it also means strategically planning & taking action. So, let’s contemplate a few effective actions we can do that will help implement change.

1. Educating ourselves on the policies/laws already enacted and policy solutions that needs to be enforced, then demanding action from policy officials at all levels of government. Don’t complain, but then refuse to actually be a part of change. Don’t shoot down my suggestions, then refuse to try or give better solutions.

2. It’s okay to be angry, but create positive change from that anger. Saying “fuck the police” and then ranting on social media is not going to solve anything.

3. I encourage all to learn more at joincampaignzero.org, which goes into detail more specifically on the  problems, solutions, and actions we can take to implement effective change.

All in all, if we live in a place where issues like police brutality and basic human rights violations plague the land, then we all should help implement change and discuss/take actions concerning effective solutions…. Especially for those of us who complain and are angry.

Boogie Down Bronx:Classic Photography

1520 Sedgwick Avenue and D.J Kool Herc are names forever synonymous with a part of the origins of rap music. In 1973 on August 11th, Kool Herc hosted a back to school party for his sister at the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue apartment building. At the community house party, he introduced a technique that involved two turntables, a mixer, two copies of the same record, and playing another song at the beginning or middle of the record while focusing on ”the break” in each one. With D.J Kool Herc presenting his technique, his friend Coke La Rock began to rap and many legendary rappers like Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Master Flash all claimed to have witnessed this historic significant event in music history. In honor of The Boogie Down Bronx, here are some truly amazing and influential photos that shows why  The Boogie Down Bronx will always be considered a birthplace of the rhythmic poetic art we call Hip Hop.

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