Inspiration: Keeping Our Child-Like Curiosity & Fascination Throughout Life

Related image

Su Blackwell artwork from series ”Dwelling”

When we were children, many of us asked our parents a thousand questions a day, genuinely eager to learn more & curious about what is around us. When there are trips to science museums or book club days at elementary schools, many children enthusiastically look forward to these simple yet amazing delights. The reason why I still visit public libraries for personal interest is because I love what I’ve found there growing up, and it has influenced me greatly. It started with my mother taking me to the public library often, & within the children’s section I was introduced to books like The Magic School Bus: Lost in The Solar System and Here in Space by David Milgrim. I believe educational books like these helped me become fascinated with astronomy & complex matters relating to space and time. Presently, I love books such as Space Atlas: Mapping The Universe & Beyond, Final Frontier by Brian Clegg, and physicist Michio Kauku’s books because they are amazing to me. Captivating books like the ones mentioned inspires me to ask even more questions due to passionate curiosity, & think of all the endless possibilities that have yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, often times a child’s curiosity and eagerness to extensively explore a variety of different subject matters can decrease. Many blame school systems’ educational curriculum, but learning is a process that never really ends. Of course, we may not find all of the truths of life and answers to questions that are surrounded in mystery…but there are valuable sources available to us for a variety of different topics if we are genuinely interested. I encourage us all to continue having a curious child-like fascination and to inquire more. Our whole lives are an educational opportunity, and it should not be limited. Let’s keep going to our city’s museums, supporting our libraries that are sometimes in threat of closing, reading daily, and exploring different topics beyond just the surface. As children, we are so eager to learn more and even what is considered ”simple” makes us want to discover why/how. So, as we continue on our educational journey (life)… let’s keep that same pure fascination/interest!

Retrospective: Underrated & Under Appreciated Women Pioneers in Hip Hop

We are aware of the many legendary men pioneers & innovators of Hip Hop like Grand-Master Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, and D.J Cool Herc. However, throughout Hip Hop’s history, there has always been iconic female artists who were influential MC’s, producers, and D.J’s. These ladies have never really gotten their full credit compared to their male counterparts. Here is a  brief description of some underrated women Hip Hop innovators & pioneers who deserve much more recognition than they have received so far. Of course, this list is not meant to be exclusive to only the women mentioned here. There are many equally notable underrated women pioneers not included, such as Nikki D, Oaktown’s 357, The Sequence, and so many more. Despite their lack of recognition, they will always be a major influential part of Hip Hop culture and it’s foundation.

238BEATS: #ClassicPic Sweet Tee & DJ Jazzy Joyce

Pioneer D.J Jazzy Joyce (left) with rapper Sweet Tee. 

Although D.J Jazzy Joyce is considered a pioneer female rap D.J/producer, she is still not as celebrated as her D.J/producer male counterparts. She was born in Bronx, New York and has collaborated with other female rappers such as Sweet Tee & produced her 1986 single ‘It’s My Beat’. She began recording in 1983 with Whiz Kid and Globe as a vocalist on the song ‘Play That Beat’.  She participated and won many D.J battles, including winning her first D.J award in 1983 at the New Music Seminar. Some of the artists she has deejayed for and collaborated with includes the 90’s rap trio ‘Digable Planets’,  M.C Lyte, Rich Nice, Africa Bambataa, and Nenah Cherry. Black Girls Rock awarded Jazzy Joyce and named their D.J award the ‘Jazzy Joyce D. J Award. Currently, she is a producer on New York’s Hot 97 radio station.

MC Debbie and DJ Wanda Dee - Harlem World by MC Debbie D on ...

D.J Debbie D (left) & D.j Wanda Dee

Here's a Tribute to Some of the Women MCs Who Raised Hip-Hop (THE ...

D.J Debbie D

D.J Debbie D was born in Harlem, but raised in the Bronx. She was the only female M.C with the 1979 rap group D.J Patty Duke & The Jazzy 5. She got her first start as a M.C while attending summer D.J block parties in 1977. After going solo in 1981, she began calling herself ‘The Grand Mistress’ and was one of the first Hip Hop female soloists. After joining the group US girls, she was featured in the film Beat Street, and collaborated with the Juice Crew as an M.C Soloist as well. D.J Debbie D is not only one of Hip Hop’s first female rappers, but a fashionable pioneering Fly Girl who is now a published author, earned a doctorate, and a preacher.  She has a non-profit organization called Us Girls, which aims to empower women and girls.

 

Sweet Tee | Discography | Discogs

Rapper Sweet Tee and her 1988 song ‘On The Smooth Tip’

M.C Sweet tee was born in Queens New York and was signed to Pioneer Records. Her first single was the 1986 ‘It’s My Beat’ featuring female D.J/producer Jazzy Joyce. Her debut album included the hit ‘On The Smooth Tip’ in 1988 . Some of her associated acts includes Kwame, Salt-n-Pepa, and Antoinette.

Bahamadia - Hip Hop Golden Age Hip Hop Golden Age

Rapper Bahamadia

Underrated lyricist and rapper Bahamadia was born in Philadelphia, and debuted her first album Kollage in 1996, which featured the classic single ‘Uknowhowwedu’. Throughout her career, she has collaborated with artists such as The Roots, Jedi Mind Tricks, Morcheeba, Guru, and Erykah Badu.

Exhibitions, events celebrate hip-hop culture | Cornell Chronicle

MC Sha Rock (center) of the ‘Funky Four Plus 1’

MC Sha Rock was born in North Carolina, but raised in the Bronx, New York. She is one of the first female rappers and is often dubbed as the ‘Mother of the Mic’. The Funky Four + 1 was one the first rap groups to appear on television and MC Sha Rock inspired many other legendary female rappers like MC Lyte and ‘DMC’ of rap trio Run DMC with her style of rapping on early mixtapes. She began rapping with the Funky Four + 1 in the late 70’s and also began her career as a b-girl/break dancer as well. She was affiliated with the Zulu Nation, and she had her first hit as a member of  The Funky Four + 1 with their 1979 hit ‘Rock The House’ on Sugar Hill Records and the 1980 hit ‘That’s The Joint’.

 

 

Bill Ray’s Watts Riot Photography: ‘Still Seething Collection’ Analyzed

The 1965 Watts riots can be analyzed from different perspectives depending on someone’s personal viewpoints. Some considered it a rebellious act inspired by systematic racism that differentiated the 60’s youth from their ‘We shall Over Come’ peaceful protest-only minded elders, while others consider it a community that caused more damage to their neighborhoods than progressive help/change. These remarkable photos are in vivid color and captured by Life photographer Bill Ray (1936-2020) one year after the bloody and tragic Watts Riots events of 1965.

I remember hearing about the Watts Riots from my parents, whom did not share the same perspective on activism as their elders. Like other baby boomers who were youth in the late 60’s & early 70’s, their ‘icons’ were outspoken young activists like Fred Hampton, Stokley Carmichael, and Malcolm X. It was a time when positive empowering songs like James Brown’s ‘Say It Loud’ was being played on stations and the youth were becoming increasingly angry by the mistreatment they were continuously experiencing.  I also recall seeing the 1993 movie Menace to Society, in which the main character Kane spoke about the infamous Watts Riots in the beginning of the movie, and how it changed the area permanently. At first I always wondered, ”why destroy the businesses and homes in your own neighborhood?” However, now I examine these unfortunate events from multiple viewpoints, and closely analyze the built-up intensity & frustration these youth were feeling leading up to the the Watts Riot.

I love these photos for several different reasons,  partly because I am a history & vintage culture enthusiast. I look at photos like these and wonder what happen to the subjects.  While analyzing the Watts Riots and the community’s transformation, I also think about the historic important neighborhoods in my native city Atlanta, like my father’s childhood on Troy Street. Before drugs like crack and crime infested the area & other  communities across America, these historic areas were filled with families that shared a positive strong connection with their neighbors. There were constant random peaceful block parties with feel-good soulful music blasting throughout the community,  neighborhood fish fry get-together’s full of laughter, kids safely riding their bikes outside and playing until the street lights came on, and just a different type of community-feel then what is present now.

Here are some interesting photos from Bill Ray’s Watts Riots Life Magazine collection.

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Molotov cocktails in Watts, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts Los Angelos,1966. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Pictures

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Molotov cocktails in Watts, 1966. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Pictures

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

The words painted on the grocery store alerted rioters that the stored was African-American owned. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/ Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Thelma Johnson Streat: Multi-Talented Artist & Trailblazer

Thelma Johnson Streat was a distinctive and multi-talented artist that emphasized intercultural appreciation. One of her most recognized artworks, Rabbit Man, can be seen permanently at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Thelma Johnson-Streat also worked with other iconic artists such as Diego Rivera and she was the first African-American woman to have a painting exhibited at the MOMA in 1942 & her own television program in Paris. Streat was a mixed-media artist, who not only created paintings but also wanted to end stereotypes and prejudice through dance. She performed cultural dances and songs for many children in Europe, Canada, U.S, & Mexico to help them gain an insight & appreciation for cultural diversity. Although she was threatened by ignorant terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Streat did not let this prevent her from expressing herself and emphasizing much needed truthful messages within her creations such as ”Death of A Negro Sailor ” & ”The Negro’s Contribution to Medicine and Veterinary Science”. She also created an educational visual program called ”The Negro in History.” Thelma Johnson-Streat (1911-1959) is an artist and innovative story teller that should not be forgotten. Her artistic expressions and educational works are inspirational and interesting. Here are a few of her acclaimed artworks.

Image result for thelma johnson streat art

The Negro’s Contribution to Medicine and Veterinary Science, c. 1945

Image result for thelma johnson streat art

Thelma Johnson Streat artwork, title

Image result for thelma johnson streat art

Rabbit Man, 1941

Image result for thelma johnson streat art

Thelma Johnson Streat Photographed Posing

Art Happenings: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors Exhibition Tour & Past Artwork Creations

I was very excited to hear that Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrored Room’ is coming to the High Museum of Art starting in November 2018. I am still thankful and grateful that I decided to become a High Museum of Art member back in 2014 (very cost effective & worth it compared to what you get with each membership type), and it is art collections like ‘Infinity Mirrored Room’ that makes me eager to return repeatedly for more than one viewing. Yayoi Kusama (1922- present) is known for her captivating and colorful creations that are concept contemporary artworks with different mediums used. Some of her art includes styles such as surrealism, abstract expressionism, and pop art. Here are some interesting artworks by Kusama, which also includes ‘Infinity Mirrored Room’ installation.

IMG-3081

Infinity Mirrored Room, Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3079

Reach Up To The Universe, Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3077 (2)

Stars by Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3076

Butterfly-Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3072

Infinity Mirrored Room, Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3075

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: With Artwork by Yayoi Kusama

IMG-3078

Yayoi Kusama as a child

IMG-3071

Yayoi Kusama

Snowfall: Season Two’s Crack Era Retrospective 

Season 2 of John Singleton’s FX show Snowfall will likely detail more of the effects caused by the Crack Epidemic during the infamous Reagan Era. Predictions for next season include the main character Franklin, the rising ambitious drug dealer, and how some of his own family members will become addicted to crack (likely his father and one of his friends). Will he choose to sell the product to his own blood or a pregnant woman? Will his conscience bother him after witnessing what crack is doing to his neighborhood or will financial desires triumph over virtue? The thing is, some people during the Crack era like real life drug dealer Rich Porter (portrayed by Mekhi Phifer in Paid in Full) and others may have saw selling crack as a way out of poverty, but in the end there was more tragedy than long term success. Crack money came with betrayal from “friends”, countless enemies that wanted them dead, and the people who changed into walking zombies after using the drug. I suppose some may think a multitude of different cars, fresh fits, jewelry, and other material things was worth the tragic end…but it was not a good trade. The significance of Snowfall is not to make the Crack Era seem like a desirable/glamorous time, but it’s importance involves telling true stories from different perspectives. We see why Franklin is doing what he does, but we also see how it is affecting everyone around him in a variety of ways on the show. During the Crack Era, the dealer may not have been affected in the same way as the user or a child, but each one has an interesting story that is still relevant to reflect/analyze on over 30 years later. 

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

Image result for Juice Crew Members

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.

 

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.”

Image result for sonny rollins

Image result for sonny rollins

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.