Why We Must Identify the Proud Racists of Charlottesville

Deandre Harris, during and after attacks by white supremacists. (google.com)

Deandre Harris, during and after attacks by white supremacists. (google.com)

Historically speaking, KKK members have put forth at least nominal effort in hiding their identities.  At this point in history, the whole white sheets and hood thing is just theirs.  Even ghosts ain't wearing white sheets anymore, as they don't want their brands associated with the Klan.  In the beginning KKK had many reasons beyond the sartorial for dressing up in their finest bedwear, but one not insignificant reason is that the hood also served to hide their identities.  See, the activities of the KKK have always been technically illegal, even if the membership of the organization itself was in some areas indistinguishable from the police department.  Still, it was important to cover up one's face, just to make sure that no unpleasant consequences came your way.   Which begs the question--why the fuck did these idiots in Charlottesville think that it would be an awesome idea to march through a town in 2017 yelling openly racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic bullshit, holding torches to illuminate their sweaty, angry faces?

Because sure as shit, like clockwork, the internet immediately began to identify them and make them accountable.  For some, this means losing their jobs and their livelihood.  For others, like the ones caught on tape beating Deandre Harris, a young black man, half to death--identifying them will hopefully mean serious consequences, like, an intimate relationship with the criminal justice system type serious.  But in the midst of all our celebration when they get caught, we have to put up with a bunch of whining--like that one angry ass racist who whines that now people think he's some angry ass racist, when really he can explain everything with some angry ass racist words, and we also have to put up with some hand-wringing about the faaaairness of it all.

I first ran into this fairly recently.  Y'girl loves advice columns, and I spend way too much time reading them.  In the comments section on one of them, I was recently surprised to see people questioning why other folks expose the deeds of Bad People to their jobs and work to get Bad People fired.  If a person is racist, it was posited by some, what does that have to do with their job and their ability to care for their family?  This was a real record scratch, time continuum interrupting idea for me, and one so thoroughly basted in thick, nasty white privilege that it should have its own heading in the bukkake section on PornHub.  But yes, there are actually people out there who think that racism is some kind of simple prejudice that is easily quarantined.  Like maybe you can be racist just on dating apps when women of color reject you, and all of a sudden she's all kinds of nigger bitches, but somehow be completely non-racist in every other area of your life.  Nah, son.  If you're racist, you're racist.  You ain't racist on Tinder without also being racist when hiring for your job, approving loan applications, or respecting your minority boss.  When you're racist, there is literally nothing you do that is not informed by the hate you carry.

That's why it's so important that these assholes in Charlottesville be exposed for what they are, and bear the full brunt of the consequences for what they were so proud to do.  There is no such thing as a 1 day racist.  These people are in white supremacist spaces on the internet, gassing each other up about how awesome they are, and how great the world would be without brown people, loving on Hitler and planning marches like the one they had last week.  As I said earlier, none of these people were just walking through town with their noses in a book and accidently stumbled into a KKK rally.  Yet, I'm seeing so-called allies wring their hands about whether or not people should be getting exposed.   Really?  Their president has made these cretins feel comfortable coming out of the shadows and showing their faces.  So for the most part, they eschewed hoods and robes, feeling so secure in their privilege and in the protection of the highest office of the land that they thought it was no longer necessary to hide their faces.  But it's a new day, and we have new tools.  These fools chose to expose themselves in the full, disinfecting light of day.  It is not 1875; a little thing called the internet exists, and we will use it.  So if you decide to put your face out there accompanied by the words and symbols of hate, you deserve all the opprobrium that comes your way.  Fuck them.  And if you think something is wrong with that, then fuck you too.

Police Doin' What They Do in Charlottesville

That is, the bare minimum--at least when it comes to policing white thugs. 

White supremacists display the fearsome power of the discount Tiki torch in Charlottesville, Va,  August 2017. (google.com)

White supremacists display the fearsome power of the discount Tiki torch in Charlottesville, Va,  August 2017. (google.com)

My social media is blowing up with this stuff in Virginia, and it's very interesting to see the divide here.  Because my white liberal friends are shooketh.  To the core.  Much lamenting, pearl clutching and even crying.  Black folks are like, "ah--you finally put the robe on, but we knew you had it in your closet the whole time."  As a people, we are saddened by displays such as this, but ain't ne'er a negro shocked.  Nor are we astonished by the lack of a police presence last night, when KKK members raided some suburban mom of that entire stash of Tiki torches she got from Target clearance a few years ago.  Tough stuff, that.  Grown ass men, walking around with a Polynesian import in hand, yelling anti-immigration rhetoric as they walk their weak asses through the mean streets of a predominately white fucking college campus.

Racists get out their finest sheets and Confederate flags for white supremacy rally amongst a small gathering of police officers. (google.com)

Racists get out their finest sheets and Confederate flags for white supremacy rally amongst a small gathering of police officers. (google.com)

The events of last night and this morning in Virginia were not a surprise.  This was not a chance encounter, like, one Nazi was walking down the street and saw another Nazi he knew and crossed the street to catch up, and then they were like, "Hey, isn't that Joe from United Nazi Church?  Oh, and there's Cam the manager at KKKFC!" and before they knew what was going on, it was goddamn Nazi reunion.  Nah, son.  This shit was planned.  For months.  There were probably cottage industries that sprang up alongside it.  You know someone probably made a killing bleaching sheets and starching hoods so they'd stand up nice and all pointy like.  How drôle to show up with an over-bleached, yellowed sheet and a droopy hood like some low class racist yokel.  No, these mother fuckers were primed and ready for primetime.

Lone black woman in flats and maxi dress approached by armored cops. Avengers and Suicide Squad just out of the frame. (Reuters/J. Bachman)

Lone black woman in flats and maxi dress approached by armored cops. Avengers and Suicide Squad just out of the frame. (Reuters/J. Bachman)

So where were the damn cops?  Pick any large assembly of Black Lives Matter protesters, and not only is there a large show of force from the local police department, but they also call in the state police, the Suicide Squad and the Avengers.  But here, when you have a planned congregation of several large pro-white hate groups, and you know things are going to be more incendiary than a Tiki torch in August, there's barely any show of force.  I'm glad a state of emergency was eventually declared, but it was so obvious that they were not ready for what they had to contend with.  Interesting.  For any assembly of black folks, the very worse is assumed, and cops are there, the itchier the trigger finger the better.  In fact, it ain't even gotta be a whole assembly of black folks; it could just be one black guy driving with his family.  But for a gathering of several known hate groups, it's "oh, it'll probably be alright.  We'll just wait and see what happens." 

Yeah, black people ain't really asking where the cops were in Virginia.  We already know why policing this sort of a gathering wouldn't be high on their radar.  One, because a gathering of white folks will always be given the benefit of the doubt, even when they don't deserve it, and two, because most of the police force probably took the day off to join in.

I Seriously Do Not Believe Paul Rosenberg Will Bring Def Jam Back To It's Glory Days

So if you're really into the record label/label head/sales history part of the hip hop industry, no doubt you've heard the latest buzz about Paul Rosenberg taking over the storied Def Jam record label next year. Paul Rosenberg is the manager for Eminem as well as many other profitable acts in hip hop and rock and is given credit with signing other stellar acts such as 50 Cent, Obie Trice, D-12, and Slaughterhouse.

Its been no secret that Def Jam has lost a lot of it's luster over the past few years and has been in desperate need of a facelift, reconstructuring, new ideas, or just some sort of breath of fresh air. In case you didn't know, Def Jam records (founded in the 80's when hip hop was still getting it's legs by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons) sprang the careers of such legendary acts like Run DMC, T-La Rock, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and EPMD. So Def Jam was known for bringing the best of the best as far as hip hop was concerned. But, Father Time is undefeated. And after so many years Def Jam has been somewhat maligned for falling victim to a lot of the same bad habits practiced by it's contemporaries that Def Jam used to stand heads and shoulders above. Signing numerous flash in the pan artists that were simply the Flavor of the Month to cash in on short lived trends, dropping artists with little or no reason, not promoting certain artists enough who had paid their dues but were no longer seen as "relevant", and abandoning the idea of artist development. Now the Def Jam label, which was once the most respected label in the world of rap, is home to acts like Desiigner, Lil Durk, Iggy Azalea, Justin Bieber, Gunplay, and a bunch of other acts I frankly have never heard of.

Enter: Paul Rosenberg. The consensus is that he will bring raw, edgy, unadulterated, "rip your face off rap" back to the label and to the mainstream. But is this really so? Can Def Jam be saved? Should Def Jam be saved?

Well, let's start with the latter question, should Def Jam have to be saved? Or any record label for that matter? The simple fact is that technology and the way its advanced the past 20 years have almost made record labels obsolete and unneeded. Record labels' primary job in their hayday was to promote it's artists, make sure people were hearing about releases whether through radio play or video play or just putting up posters and ads, and to distribute the actual physical product to the appropriate outlets- record stores. But seeing as there are no more records stores to ship actual physical product to and music is downloaded and consumed all over the inter-webs now, that task has been outsourced to a computer mouse. A few clicks, and you've got the album or mixtape you're looking for. The internet is also the new landscape for promotional material now, whether it be banners or promo videos for potential buyers to peep out before they decide to spend any money or even download it for free. My point is that record labels as a whole just ain't pulling in the big bucks they used to.

Now speaking to Def Jam directly as a label, for any artist who's really hot and has strong buzz, what would convince him to sign with this label? Especially when he can release his own music independently whenever he feels like it and not have to give another entity and portion of everything he earns? Especially when artists continue to be dropped from a label, or get their projects shelved indefinitely for unknown reasons.

Also, content wise, Paul Rosenberg has a record of signing more hardcore, edgy, and lyrical artists in the past. And that's just not where rap is at anymore unfortunately. And they already have artists like Nas, Common, Redman, Logic, Ghostface Killah, and Jadakiss, and we see how much airtime they're not getting on the radio. It's frankly going to take a conscious effort of both up-and-coming artists, consumers, radio stations, and other record labels outside of Def Jam to make that type of rap popular again. Sure, there are other labels like TDE out there who clearly care about talent, but it's gonna take the cooperation of all the other parties mentioned as well.

We used to look to certain record labels as indicator of what was quality music...anything with a Def Jam, Tommy Boy, Loud, Ruffhouse, Death Row, or Rawkus logo stamped on it, was seen as legit. It was seen as vetted. That was until record labels betrayed us and started putting out trash. Now it's gonna be extremely hard to get that trust back from both fans and artists.

Is Andre 3000 Right? Can You Ever Get Too Old To Rap?!

Recently, hip-hop legend, pioneer, an MC extraordinaire and one half of Outkast, Andre 3000, came out in an interview with Complex and basically said in so many words that he was pretty much rapping because he's too old. I don't want to paraphrase what he said and misconstrue what he was trying to say so I'll share the direct quote from the article:

  “I kind of like not being a part of [Rap music], now that I’ve done it,” 3000 tells Complex‘s Alex Gale. He continues “As I get older, I start to see myself move more back from it—the hustle and bustle of putting out an album, the pressure of being in the studio trying to come up with something. Now it’s more like a hobby for me, so I don’t think about it in that way. Even with Outkast, if we never do another album, I’m totally fine with that. When I was 25, I said I don’t want to be a 30-year-old rapper. I’m 42 now, and I feel more and more that way. Do I really want to be 50 years old up there doing that?”

“Rapping is like being a boxer,” André equates. “No matter how great you are or were at a certain time, the older you get, the slower you get—I don’t care who you are. And I can feel that coming on. There’s always a new wave of artists, and sometimes I’m just like, ‘I’m good. I’ll let the young guys do it.’” Moments later, he says, “I don’t get much happiness from doing music like that—I get happiness from pleasing who I’m working with, and helping them, and seeing them be excited.”

I respectfully disagree with 3 Stacks. Outkast hasn't released an album in over a decade with their patchy-but-still-great-in-spots Idlewild, but anyone who's heard any of Andre's guest verses he's peppered throughout the hip-hop world since then will agree that he has not lost a step at all lyrically and creatively and constantly reminds us just how far rap has fallen off in recent years. Speaking for myself personally, I know Andre's verses for "Walk It Out", "Everybody", "Sixteen", "Pink Matter" & "International Players Anthem", but I either cannot name the other artists on these songs or fast-forward through their verses. Okay, well...maybe not "International Players Anthem"...that whole song is fire, but Andre definitely outshines everyone on that joint too!

Another reason I disagree with Andre is because Jay-Z just taught us that grown men in their 40s can definitely still craft an "adult" sounding hip hop album that is commercially successful and socially relevant without catering to all the youthful BS in the industry. And I mean no disrespect to the Jigga Man, but Andre 3000, to me, is just a way more intriguing and creative MC lyrically. I'm sure plenty of heads who have been long time fans of him and Outkast would support and buy a release by him. Heck, A Tribe Called Quest was able to sell an album last year 18 years after they broke up. They sold 132,000 units and reached the number 1 spot on Billboard which a lot of current, more "relevant" artist cannot do. My point is that those like myself, who grew up on rap music, who are getting older, who still have the money to actually buy music...we haven't gone anywhere. We didn't reach the age of 30 and all of a sudden developed a taste for jazz or classical music. We still appreciate and dabble in other genres, of course, but we still need our hip-hop dag-nabbit!! I can only listen to the classics so many times before I just need to hear something new. And most heads I know around my age aren't gonna pretend to like Ugly God, Lil Uzi Vert, and Kodak Black just cause we're told to like them. Most heads I know. We haven't gone anywhere and we haven't all died off and we still have a hunger for good ol' hip hop that I think someone like Andre 3000 is totally up to the task to create. I know he compared rapping to boxing, but rapping ain't boxing. Rapping is rapping. And it's art. Much like sculpting, photography, or painting. And there are many examples of sculptors, photographers, and painters who produced works until the day they died or at least well into old age.

On the other hand, I do kind of get where he's coming from. He's paid his dues. He's provided classics that will be bumped for many years to come. He's made significant contributions to the culture and has nothing else to prove. And I imagine it gets increasingly difficult to fit into an industry that continues to cater to and encourage the most undisciplined characteristics of young people while you continue to grow old and mature. Because let's face it, for every Andre or Jay Z in the game, there are 21 21 Savages. Nobody wants to be that 45 year old in the club with a bunch of college kids. They look old and out of place, and should feel that way (R Kelly, I'm lookin' at you).

So at the end of the day, I respect and understand Andre's stance and position, but at the same time can't discard my wishful thinking hoping that cats like him will every once in a while shake up the game and show the young cats how it's done.

 

Ghetto Fast Food Joint Practices That Need To Stop Now!

Over the course of my 33 years of life on this earth, I've eaten a lot of fast food (nothing I'm very proud of) in a lot of different areas. And I can honestly say that there are certain practices and shortcomings that are...how you say, habitual, when it comes to fast food restaurants in the black community. I have made a list of all the things that I want to see stop being done in said establishments and while I know its wishful thinking on my part, maybe we can at least demand better or just stop supporting joints that do the following:

The unresponsive drive-thru intercom. You drive up, there's silence. You call out to see if anyone's on the other side, there's silence. You honk your horn, silence. Finally after a while, an extremely distorted and barely audible voice responds and tells you "Hold on a minute!" You patiently wait, then after 5-7 minutes of staring at the intercom, they're finally ready to take your order. You spit out the first couple of items you want to order and they yell out "Hold on." again as if you're reciting your order at some breakneck speed that they simply cannot comprehend.

Getting the order wrong all the time. I swear one time I ordered a plain burger from the Wendy's around my house and they gave me buns with no hamburger patty on it!! Just the bread with some mayonnaise, pickles, ketchup, and onions spread on it. Why is it so hard for hood joint to get the orders right?! If I'm telling you I don't want certain toppings on my sandwich, I thought I was in essence asking ya'll to do less work?! Which brings me to my next point...

Not giving you any compensation for screwing up your order. At the same Wendy's around my house my wife and I had to take back a messed up order and the manager looked at us with a straight face and said "I'll comp you for the burger." which I thought meant he would give us the sandwich we ordered and paid for, how we ordered it, and our money back for our troubles, but no. He meant he'll just give us what we paid for without charging us any extra!! I'm like "Nigga, how you gonna comp us for something we already paid for by just giving us what we paid for?!!" The idea of giving the customer a free drink, french fries, or dessert for the inconvenience of screwing up their order or making them wait for 30-45 minutes for no clear cut reason, is obviously a concept hood fast food joints have never heard of.

Not accepting debit/credit cards. This is disturbingly common. I've been robbed before and make it a habit to not carry a whole lot of cash on my person. I would say that 50% to 65% of hood food joints do not accept plastic because there's a fee connected to using the card machine. Some forward thinking hood spots simply charge you an extra 25 cents to pay with a card, while others simply skip all that jazz and install some off brand ATM in the corner of the joint that will charge you $3.50 to withdraw $20.

The obligatory 15 minute wait for an item that they should have on tap. Why in the wide, wide world of sports do I have to wait 15 minutes or longer for an item whose name is in the name of the establishment?! Why is it a 15 minute wait for chicken at KFC or Popeye's Chicken?! Its not like I ordered shrimp or catfish or some other specialty item that doesn't get requested often. Or say it's a burger joint and there's a wait for fries...these are items you should theoretically have on tap and a constant supply of!! Well, at least they're letting you know what you're in for.

Telling you to "drive up to that spot" after you've paid for your meal in the drive thru. When did this BS start?! You pay for your food and they want you to drive another car length or two up to some random spot. Why can't I wait right here? Where I just paid you? Isn't is easier for you to just give me my food at the window than to send some 90 pound teenager outside into the 15 degree weather to hand me my food? And what if the order's wrong? Now I gotta get out of the safety of my car and knock on the window or the go in the actual place (which obviously I was trying to avoid by going through the drive- thru!) to demand the correct order. If asking the customer to drive past a certain point has something to do with clocking shorter wait times for their lines (this is what I've been told), how bout you just have the food ready and cooked? Quit trying to employ trickery and just do what they do in the other neighborhoods...work to have the food ready quickly.

I'm calling on all my fellow black people out there to please stop patronizing joints with these habits or at least call the corporate office to file a complaint. Cause if we never demand change, we can never expect it.

Rap Has Officially Trumped Rock n' Roll As America's Most Popular Music Genre

So the Nielsen's data people have come out recently and have officially declared rap music the most popular form of American music trumping rock music in sales and consumption. This comes as no surprise to those with a little age on them, who have been able to observe firsthand the trajectory of rap's popularity. Rap went from not getting any music videos shown on mainstream outlets and being largely ignored by music based award shows to being almost only form of music you see featured in movie trailers, commercials, and hear in nightclubs. Its become more and more evident that hip-hop is here to stay. Even with popular slang, terms that originate from hip-hop culture are what dominate. Terms like "dope" and "lit" have replaced "gnarly" and "cool". Whatever styles of dress and grooming you see among the current rap artists are what gets adopted by their adoring, young fans(and in a lot cases, even pop artists)- in the 90's it was gold & platinum jewelry, baseball caps, baggy jeans, Jordans, etc., now it's skinny jeans, grills, dashiki hoodies,  and whatever else the young kids are running around in these days. But I have a few theories as to why rap has overcome rock as America's most popular music:

White people have always stolen, or "borrowed" from black people. Like it or not, white mainstream culture has always looked to black culture as the indicator of what's cool, edgy, and the "next big thing", often to exploit it monetarily, and less often just because whatever music black people are cooking up genuinely appeals to them and makes them dance and feel good. Black people have always been creators and have always seemed to be able to create something from nothing, or at most, very little. Divorced from our original African roots when brought here to America, we created jazz and blues as an original art form. White people became fans and began to make their own jazz. The rhythm and blues Black southerners created served as the skeleton for what became rock n roll, and the new rebellious music that was once labeled "nigger music" was quickly becoming the soundtrack to the lives of white youth. White people took it and made their own rock music. Hip hop music has been able to fight off the next White takeover of itself so far, but that doesn't keep white pop culture from borrowing elements of the music like the aforementioned slang, dress, and forms of dance. They show their support for the most current form of black music through buying albums and tickets to hip-hop shows (In fact, I've never been to a hip hop concert that wasn't at least 50% white). Simply put, white people always adopt whatever black people are doing because it's cool. And I don't think they're gonna stop "borrowing" things from us any time soon. 

Rock music stopped being edgy and also fell off. The age of classic rock has been long over, and the age of rock being looked at as edgy/scary has been over for even longer. Rock had to almost reinvent itself with the birth of heavy metal to appear scary and dangerousat one point. Rap, however, due to the conscious and subconscious perceptions of the young, Black male (or how White America sees the young, Black male) became the King of Everything Scary when it burst onto the scene in the 80s. America saw this as the music of criminals, drug dealers, thugs, gangsters, and street scum who up until now had no voice and didn't deserve one. A couple of guys with long hair who wore spandex and pretended to salute Satan had nothing on Eazy-E, Ice T, and Public Enemy. Their music was brash, unapologetic and drenched in profanity. And on top of it, they didn't even play instruments! But despite these factors, America's infatuation with violence and misogyny (and penchant for looking to Black culture as to what's cool) kept feeding the beast. White America couldn't look away from rap culture but at the same time, didn't want representatives of this new culture living next door to them. Another factor is that rock has been assimilated into pop music to the point where most people can't name off the top of their head a whole lot of true rock groups that are pushing the genre forward. Sure, you have your Black Keys and White Stripes, but when it comes to rap, most youth can name more rappers than they can name rock artists.

The versatility of rap music provides something for everybody. Throughout the past 30 years rap has  evolved way beyond party music. It's the genre known for speaking out against things like police brutality and social injustice. It's great for storytelling. It's great for talking about love. It's great for talking about hate. It's great for talking about a good day. It's great for talking about a bad day. It's great for talking about nothing. It allows for introspective self reflection. And did I mention it's still great for partying and dancing to?! Even if the ultraviolent overtones of 21 Savage don't fit you, you have a Drake (and his many clones) to chill out to. If the garbled ramblings of Lil Yatchy or Migos aren't your cup of tea, you have artists like J-Live and Pharoah Monch out there still flexing their vocabulary. Don't like the beta-male crooning of Drake? You may like the confident, grown man bravado of a Black Thought or Jay-Z...Wanna hear rap from a female perspective? Rapsody, Jean Grae, Bahamadia, Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliot, Eve, MC Lyte, Rah Digga, Queen Latifah, Snow Da Product, Nitty Scott, Young MA, or one of many others are available to check out. There's literally rap for every personality, every mood, and every age group that's been alive since it's inception.

So taking everything mentioned under consideration, acknowledging that rap music is here to stay, I surely hope it continues to morph, grow, evolve, and continue to be an accurate reflection of the black experience in America.  

Why Some Folks Can't Leave R. Kelly Alone. Newsflash: It's Only Partially the Music.

Apologies for sharing this creepy ass photo of R. Kelly by Sebastian Kim (GQ.com)

Apologies for sharing this creepy ass photo of R. Kelly by Sebastian Kim (GQ.com)

Look, I'm going to admit from the jump that I was never an R-uh fan.  I'll let others talk about and write articles about his music and how it moves them, has moved them from decades.  I believe them.  I believe that for some people R. Kelly and his music are so inextricably linked in the soundtrack of their lives that it's hard to let him go.  I personally just never gave a fuck about the dude.  So maybe that makes it easier for me to be objective about his status as asshole, manipulator, and predator of young, Black women. 

R. Kelly in his creepy mask and even creepier lining.  Seriously, where they do that at? (Google.com)

R. Kelly in his creepy mask and even creepier lining.  Seriously, where they do that at? (Google.com)

But even given that, it's hard for me to understand why some of y'all are out here taking it rather personally that R. Kelly has come under suspicion again.  Spinning multiple plates in an effort to absolve a guy who done told you he was the pied piper, who spent at least part of a decade running around in a creepy mask and cape, singing songs with unabashedly terrible lyrics like "I'm butt-nekkid; sweat socks and house shoes."  But, as per usual, most of R's fans want to find a way to blame anyone but the guy accused of doing all the raping.  This time, most of these folks are coming for the girls' parents.

Now, I do understand the compulsion to side eye these parents, with all the press conferences, and wrinkled-bedsheet-background-having, wardrobe-change-featuring YouTube videos.  In front of these parents were all the rumors, the man's music itself, the existence of child porn featuring R. Kelly with a child, the fact that he illegally married Aaliyah when he was good and grown and she was 15, and the compendium of evidence that Jim DeRogatis has been putting together on R. Kelly for literally decades.  And these parents were still cool with not only taking their young women to an R. Kelly concert, but then also taking them backstage to meet the pied piper himself, literally offering their babies up on a silver platter to one of the world's best known manipulator of young minds.  One of the moms complaining now admits that she had knowledge of Kelly's misdeeds, but that she somehow thought nothing could happen if she was there.  That is willful ignorance at best, mercenary callousness at worst.  It's outrageous!  So believe me when I say I get why people are coming for these parents. This mother ignored everything she knew about R. Kelly so that she could have a chance at money and fame by sacrificing her daughter to him. 

The Pied Piper of R&B leading children astray. (Google)

The Pied Piper of R&B leading children astray. (Google)

But how many women sacrifice their even younger daughters on different altars?  I'm talking about the mom that forces her clearly reluctant daughter into a too tight, too long hug with the same great uncle that used to feel her own ass up back in the day.  I'm talking about the mom that chastises her daughter for having "impure thoughts" when she begs not to be forced to accept a ride from the youth minister.  Or the mom that blames her daughter for being "fast" when she catches her grown ass boyfriend in her daughter's room.  See, from an early age, girls are taught to ignore their internal warning systems in favor of not making a scene and embarrassing men.  Society reinforces in every way possible that no matter what the provocation, women should keep quiet, and always seek to minimize the discomfort of males.  Black girls, who have for centuries been villainized as prematurely hyper-sexual creatures, are particularly vulnerable.  One only has to look at comment sections under any article involving an underage Black girl and an older man to see how easily the allegations against these vile, grown men are dismissed, their victims reviled as "fast" girls who "knew what they were doing."  It's my belief that many people cannot denounce R. Kelly without first being forced to come to terms with the men in their lives guilty of the same things Kelly has been accused of, and then coming to terms with their own complicity in staying silent.  Better they pretend that bad things only happen to bad girls.

Women in general are not being protected from predatory men.  Black girls in particular are not just being sacrificed, but when they try to speak out, they are then blamed for being victims.  When we do this, we are adopting as our own the White supremacist myth that Black women are rabidly sexual creatures that lure men by their female wiles and animalistic natures.  No.  We must do better by our girls.  But how can we do this if we can't even turn the dial when R. Kelly comes on?

Rap Groups That Need To Reunite, TODAY!

Tragically, we've seen way too many MCs pass away in recent years. The departure of Mobb Deep's Prodigy has laid to rest any hopes of another Mobb Deep album or seeing them perform live one last time. And the passing away of J-Dilla, ODB, Fresh Kid Ice, Poetic, Guru, Jam Master Jay, MCA, Eazy-E, Baatin, and Proof has effectively nixed any prospects for complete reunions of groups like Slum Village, Wu Tang Clan, 2 Live Crew, Gravediggaz, Gang Starr, RUN DMC, the Beastie Boys, NWA, & D12, all of which have classic (or at least great) albums under their belt.

Fortunately, and in bittersweet fashion, my favorite group of all time, A Tribe Called Quest, blessed longtime fans with an official farewell LP that was in the works right before the untimely passing of core member Phife Dawg. And it turned out to be the best rap album released last year IMO.

So here's a list a hip hop groups, who's members are all alive still, that I would like to see reunite for at least one more album, before Father Time and the Grim Reaper strike again. Some of these groups are beefed out and split up bitterly, some just had creative differences and went separate ways, others might just be on hiatus. But they made magic happen when they were together, and I'd like to see that happen again. So, in no particular order, this is who I wanna see make one last go at it:

1. Black Star- Mos Def and Talib Kweli joined forces for only one album, but that album just happens to be regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums ever. Both these MCs have gone on to do solo projects, have solid discographies, appear to be on the same wavelength creatively and lyrically, and are on good terms with each other and friends. So reportedly, its just scheduling conflicts and other personal obligations preventing an official reunion project. But if it ever does materialize, expectations will be set incredibly high, and maybe that alone will prevent it from happening...

2. The Fugees- There is some understandable bad blood between Lauryn and Wyclef, but man, can't they put that aside to help out Pras?!! I doubt he's driving an Uber now, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind the income from another Fugees album and tour. Once they found their stride in the studio, the music they cranked out was nothing short of amazing. But right after they dropped their one classic album, they went their separate ways and Lauryn and Clef almost immediately started throwing shade at each other and Pras dropped Ghetto Superstar. SMH. This is the one group I think is least likely to get back together though.

3. Pete Rock & CL Smooth- Why Pete Rock and CL started not getting along is still unclear, but what is still clear is their chemistry together on a track. CL's buttery, clear flow glides perfectly over Pete Rock's soul drenched, jazzy, boom bap productions. Even when it's been years since their last collabo, they seemed to have never missed a step. Not to mention, no other rapper sounds as good and natural over PR's beats than CL Smooth, and Pete Rock has collaborated with ALOT of MCs over the past 20+ years.  

4. Little Brother- This group was a victim of what I call the Gang Starr Effect, where the producer's acclaim and popularity surpassed that of the group members he came in the door with. As a group, Little Brother seemed to be stuck in the underground, and looked at odd by television networks and radio stations who couldn't make heads or tails of them due to them possessing no clear marketing gimmick outside of dope beats and rhymes. But at the same time, underground rap fans adored them, musically they seemed to have picked up where A Tribe Called Quest left off. While the group seemed to have hit a glass ceiling in the industry, 9th Wonder's production was being sought out by high profile acts like Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, and Erykah Badu. It was only a matter of time before the trio went their separate ways. Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder have all had decent careers since, and appear to all have plenty of gas in the tank, so I think if they were to reunite their talents one last time, the result would be phenomenal.

5. Company Flow- El-P has reached "super-producer" status since his Company Flow days, producing classic albums and songs for Mr. Lif, Murs, Aesop Rock, and Cannibal Ox while heading his own indie record label, releasing a jazz album, a movie soundtrack, stellar solo LPs, and most recently joining Killer Mike to form rap duo Run The Jewels. El-P's sound has evolved and become incredibly diverse over the years, so I'd be anxious to see what he'd cook up for Big Juss and Mr. Len. As a group, they never shied away from speaking on politics, religion, family structure, and commercialism, so given the current, modern climate in Trump's America, I'm sure they would have plenty to say. Their only full length project, Funcrusher Plus, is also regarded as one of the greatest independent rap albums ever. Big Juss' solo album didn't have much replay value from what I remember, and it was clear El-P's production kind of forces the listeners to be attentive to their dense flows. I don't believe Mr. Len ever released a solo project, but I'm really curious as to what they would churn out.

Jay-Z's 4:44 Critical Acclaim, Explained

By now, unless you've been living under a rock, in a cave, on the moon, and your fingers in your ears, you've heard Jay-Z's latest album 4:44, or at least heard the reviews and commentary on it. Mainly, how much of a "grown" and "mature" album this release is. Over the course of the LP, Jay highlights the benefits of things like generational wealth, good credit, and investing in things like art and real estate. Concepts that are very foreign to a lot of young black men who listen primarily to rap. He also is very open and honest about personal shortcomings and his family dynamic. To put it bluntly, this was a very unconventional rap album and a very unconventional Jay Z as well. It was an creative left turn for him as an artist, and a thematic Russian roulette as far as rap albums go. Already, I'm hearing disc jockeys and critics placing 4:44 as one of Jay's top 3 albums, and some are even putting it at numero uno. That's saying a lot considering Jay Z is considered one of the best to ever touch the mic, and this is album #13 for him. After having a week to digest it properly, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by the album, but don't want to be a prisoner of the moment and put it on a pedestal prematurely, but I do think it falls on the more favorable side of Jay Z's discography.

But on to this business of how "grown" this album is. Let me first say that the definition of "grown" is extremely relative, especially within hip-hop. 4:44 has earned that label due to it's touting the aforementioned themes and avoiding hanging it's hat on what 99% of the rap world prides itself on: promiscuity, partying, pills, money, clubbing, violence, frivolous spending, and stunting. So kudos to Jay Z for that. But to perfectly honest, Jay Z isn't the first MC to record a "grown" album if you were to go by that definition. Granted, Jay Z is first rapper of his stature to do so, and maybe that's why he's being looked at like he's reinventing the wheel, but for years the Commons, Mos Defs, Talib Kweli's, and countless others have been putting out music that by any definition would be considered introspective and mature. But...we know how it goes. Because those artists and others like them haven't achieved the level of wealth Jay Z has, their opinion's and in turn, music, holds less weight. People of all races, but in particularly the black community, equate wealth with talent, business acumen, intelligence, professionalism, and credibility. These other "lower level" rappers also don't have the stature to partner with another major corporation to wholesale their album in advance sort to speak. So when Jay Z speaks, the world listens. And he chose to use his moment in the spotlight to impart some gems on the minds of listeners. This is something that is just not simply done (or is extremely rare) by rap acts who are on and popping right now. In fact, if Jay had released 4:44 as his second album, instead of his thirteenth, it might have been career suicide (especially considering there's no real radio single on here). Sure, back in late 80s and early to mid 90s golden era of hip-hop, who had numerous groups and artists who were instilled with a sense of black pride, spirituality, and knowledge of self, but hip hop has been going the way of the savages for a good 15+ years now. Some would argue longer. So when you hear people say "It's about time a rapper made a grown, mature rap album!" they're really talking about rappers among the current crop who are getting radio play and magazine covers, right now.

As for the rest of the rap world, hopefully they'll take notes. Maybe they'll put forth more of an effort to rap about adult things without fearing their sales going down the toilet. Maybe they'll experiment more and rap about family life as opposed to club culture. Maybe they'll encourage younger listeners to show more soundness of mind financially. Listeners will go on whatever journey you take them on as long as it sounds good.  Jay Z and many others who've come before him just proved that.

So, What's the Going Price for a Black Life These Days?

Family of Philando Castile, including his mother, Valerie, respond to the acquittal of his killer. (Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency)

Family of Philando Castile, including his mother, Valerie, respond to the acquittal of his killer. (Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency)

Weeks after being gutted by the acquittal of that asshole that murdered Philando Castile, we found out that Castile's family is being awarded a $3 million settlement.  I'm happy for them.  Really, I am.  It won't bring their loved one back, but at least it's something, and God knows they deserve something.  Yet, happy as I am when I hear of families receiving some sort of financial restitution, it is never enough, as a cash payout for a stolen life can never be enough.  And after so many headlines like this, I have to ask why is it that all these cities, all these police departments would rather shell out cash by the millions instead of putting an end to the carnage? 

This is happening across this country in cities large and small, but we'll focus on just one.  Back last year it was reported that the cash strapped city of Chicago had paid out over $662 million in a little over a decade for police misconduct.  That's over half a billion dollars.  Yet, the city has only made token efforts to reform its police department, because apparently they'd rather just keep killing Black and Brown folks and paying off their families instead of making real changes to get real results.  I don't claim to have all the answers to end police misconduct towards minorities, but surely half a billion dollars, if pointed in the right direction, could effect some real change?  But instead, Chicago, and other cities and towns like it, would rather keep the status quo than keep their money.  It defies logic.  But to do otherwise would be to defy racism.

The police department and the cities that support them are built on a foundation of white supremacy; racism is woven into the very fabric of American society.  To start to pull at all the bad threads that make up that society could cause the entire cloth to unravel.  Dismantling these systems -- of which police misconduct is but a symptom -- will take time, effort, and yes, money.  More time, effort and money than our society is apparently will to expend just to save a few minority lives. 

How many more lives will be snuffed out?  Shootings by police are at an all time high, white supremacy retains its chokehold on American society, and the taxpaying populace seems almost perfectly content to shell out $3 million here, half a billion there for the loss of a life in state sponsored murder.  In Chicago the total was $662 billion from 2004 - 2016.  What will that figure look like in the next decade?