Who am I? By Nijel Thomas

 
 

Who am I? by Nijel Thomas

           

            My name is Nijel. When I was much younger my nickname was mostly Nijey, but as I got older, into high school and college, friends began to call me Niggy. It was definitely more of a “cuter” nickname to be called by girls, and it never bothered me because it is a nickname derived from my actual name, rather than a racial slur. When I tell people that Niggy is my artistic name they first seem very awestricken, especially before I tell them that my real name is Nijel. In a drum circle I once participated in, here in Pittsburgh, comprised mostly of middle-aged white members, after telling them my artistic name was Niggy one responded saying people in his time would most likely not agree with that being my name. There is much truth in this statement. I often get the same sensation when I tell people of all races and ages my artistic name. Depending on who I tell, however, they may respond more hysterically to Niggy being my choice of an artist name. From the start, the biggest critic of this name was my family. My brother often says I need to change my artistic name to Nijey, my original nickname. This choice of a name specifically came to haunt my parents. Before I was born, they decided to name me Nigel, but with the spelling Ni-J-el, because of the fear of white people using my name as an excuse to call me the n-word.

            Speaking of family, I am the youngest of a very smart family. I have an older brother and sister, and both father and mother in my life. All of my family is from Baltimore City, whereas I was the only one born in Chicago. I spent the first 5 years of my life in Aurora, Illinois, before my family moved back to Maryland to a Baltimore suburb called North Laurel. The community I grew up in was very diverse in terms of race and class, but all-in-all was very friendly to one another. Upon moving to Maryland, I was able to skip kindergarten because of an accelerated program I had partaken in while living in Chicago.

 My musicianship had begun in 3rd grade where I learned viola from my teacher, with the coincidental name, Mr. Bowman. In 4th grade I started to pick up percussion, in which I continued to play in school band until junior year of high school. In 7th grade I had encouraged my parents to get me an electric drum set for Christmas out of my desire to start making beats, although I did not actually start learning how to use studio software until my sophomore year of college! I have also always loved sports, putting down high school band to focus on football and track my junior and senior years. I came to the University of Pittsburgh as a walk-on to the track team, however, an injury led to this ending, as well as a new beginning, to my music-making passion.

           by Nijel "Niggy" Thomas


Hip-hop Albums Overlooked in late 2016 by James Perry

ANDERSON. PAAK X KNXWLEDGE/ YES LAWD!

Almost a year after Anderson. Paak’s sophomore project Malibu, he and producer Knxwledge released YES LAWD! .In my opinion, this project was overlooked because a lot of people don’t know the star power between these two artists. Anderson .Paak entered the hip-hop world very quietly gaining a co-sign by the one and only Dr. Dre. Making a name for himself prior with his Venice project and then linking with the producer Knxwledge making the hit “Suede” which is on the “YES LAWD!” Album. This project is very family friendly because it gave you a nostalgic feel to old 80’s influences that are very apparent in Paak’s delivery. Knxwledge is spot on with production and this project has plenty of songs you can bump to in your car as well, that is, if you cruising down the street in your 64.

 

ISAIAH RASHAD/ THE SUNS TIRADE

The Suns Tirade was the best project of September in my opinion. From the rollout to the project itself it was golden. Isaiah had a lot to live up to with his previous release being Cilvia Demo. That project was honest and to the point, even though a lot of people felt like his music was really random and didn’t have content, he was kind if just rambling. In my opinion he had a story to tell with this album, lyrically soothing and the production is fresh. You can even get his long awaited TDE feature from Kendrick Lamar. His single “Free Lunch” serves as a cool single visual and his standout songs from the album in my opinion are “A lot” and “Find A Topic”.

 

 SABA/BUCKET LIST PROJECT

People don’t really know who Saba is, he’s more noticeable for his voice than anything because he doesn’t really do TV performances or tour much. He did get a little mainstream stardom when he featured on a friend and collaborator s song, who just so happened to be Chance The Rapper. The song was called “Angels” and was a great way to entertain the hip-hop world on a bigger scale. The newest member of the SAVEMONEY collective made a name for himself with his newest release, the Bucket List Project. This 14 track mix tape has a neo soul feel to it as Saba shines on this project lyrical and in production as he co-produced almost every track. He has artists like Noname Gypsy and Twista on the project as well as Smino and Jean Deaux. Some stand out tracks are “Photosynthesis” and “World In My Hand”

 

 

NONAME GYPSY/TELEFONE

This here is Noname Gypsy, she has been killing hip-hop guest verses since 2013 appearing on Chance The Rapper’s, “Lost” on his break out mix tape Acid Rap. They connected again to his single “Israel” where NoName officially showed that she was a force to be reckoned with when it came to her lyrics and delivery. Her and Chance on a song together made gold for the third time on his 3RD installment

Coloring Book. Her project was nothing shirt of lyrically genius and lighthearted like her spirit. With features from themind and Raury, she shines bright in a lane that is clearly her own. Not to mention she has put on for the women in the hip-hop future with not signing to a major label like artists like Saba and Chance The Rapper. Telefone is a must listen

by James Perry

 

Brown by Nijel "Niggy" Thomas

shutterstock_98686277.jpg

 

Since Black History month is coming to an end, I feel it is a good time to share this story of mine. Over the summer here on Pitt’s campus, I worked as a camp counselor for its YMCA. Interestingly enough, this camp had a lot of kids who came from foreign countries, specifically China. Some of whom just came to stay over summer with parents or other relatives doing work here, and others just recently migrated to America. At the beginning of the summer, when camp had first started, it was often my duty to watch over the youngest kids. These kids were mostly ages 5 to 7, with the exception of a few 4 year olds. It was two of the 4 year olds that gave me one of the most impacting experiences so far in my life.

            These two 4 year olds were girls whose families recently came to America from China. For the purpose of this blog I’ll just call them Yin and Yang. Yin was very nice and cooperative. She seemed to be the favorite among all the camp counselors for the time she was there because she was very discipline at her age. Yin did not cause any trouble with any of the other campers or counselors and followed directions that she was given. Yang, however, was the complete opposite. Yang did not listen to any of the counselors and would always cause a big fuss when things did not go her way. I feel as if I had grown closer to Yang because she reminded me of how I was described to be at that age, hard-headed!

            One day of camp, the other camp counselors and I were beginning to start a drawing activity with the campers. I was sitting at a table with Yin and Yang trying to instruct them on what to do for the activity. Yin, of course, listened to me and started the activity, whereas Yang kept getting out of her seat and walking around the table, circling me. Neither of the two girls could speak English very well, Yin a little better than Yang, but I had caught on the fact that Yang would often belittle the counselor’s instructions by just not communicating at all. The only times she would talk would be in Mandarin with Yin. Beginning to get a little impatient with her, I had asked Yin why Yang never listened to me. Yin simply responded, “She said it’s because you’re black.” I was in disbelief! I was crushed! These girls were only four years old, yet already misguided by race’s role in our society.

            The rest of that day I could not think straight. All of my personal theories, approaches, solutions, etc. was poured into the drain by these 4 year old Chinese girls. I did not know if I could continue to associate with Yang because of what I had learned. After talking to a few of the other counselors about what had happen, I had finally gotten a grip on myself. “This girl is only 4 years old,” I thought to myself, “She’s vulnerable to any idea. I should give her the correct one.” The next day (or few days later, I can’t remember), I was playfully interacting with Yang and told her to put her hand on the ground next to mine. I asked her what she saw. She pointed at my hand and said “Black!” and then pointed at her own and said “Yellow.” I told her that she was wrong, then pointed at both our hands and proclaimed, “Brown.” Her entire face lit up! Hysterical at a fact she had never known before, she could sense that I was telling the truth. From that moment on she began to listen and follow my instructions.

by Nijel "Niggy" Thomas

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by James Perry

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom just closed at the August Wilson Center after being extended when we opened February 4th -7th. The experience I had with that show will always be special to me because not only was this my first full length August Wilson show, but this was my first black History show at Capa and my first time working with Pittsburgh Playwrights Director Mark Clayton Southers. Mark told us when we first started working on this project that he was for sure that the actors would do their job and learn their lines, what he was looking for, was for the actors to gain and obtain life experience. Knowing that nobody in the cast was the actual age of their character it seemed as though it would be difficult for us to get into these characters and live in the time period.

            Mark brought in actors like Ezra Smith who had been in August Wilson plays all over the USA to give us a taste of the style that August Wilson uses and the way his words are supposed to make your feel. All the while, he’s telling us to stay true to ourselves as actors but take tips, watch and learn.  During this process I realized that August Wilson has a certain home feeling that invites everyone in on a world they feel like they have been to before. He has a very nostalgic feel and it draws you in with the way his plays are beautifully written.

            For those who don’t know what this play is about ill give a quick overview. The plays starts out with Irvin, Ma’s manager, and Sturdyvant who are waiting on Ma and her band to get there so they can record some more of Ma Rainey’s records. The band is there but Ma Rainey is late because on the way there they get into a car accident that involves the police. When Ma arrives, the police officer follows and Irvin pays him off. Levee, the trumpet player, met Ma Rainey’s love interest in a nightclub the night before and tries to win her over all while not trying to cross Ma. Levee is also trying to get his own band together, hoping that some songs he’s given Mr. Sturdyvant will help boost him up the food chain of entertainment. When he gets turned down, he has only his pride left, so when Toledo, the brains of the show, steps on Levee’s shoes? Levee kills him.

            In this 2 act play you will find a lot of August Wilsons B principle, the Blues, Jorge Luis Borges, Amiri Baraka, Romere Bearden. These, for August Wilson new comers are the 4 things that influenced August Wilson and his style of writing.

I felt glad to be able to say I did this show because we sold out EVERY SHOW at Pittsburgh Capa and came pretty close to selling out the AWC. Mark told the cast he would love if we could tour it, Id love to! I had so much fun with this show I wouldn’t mind being Slow Drag for months…..maybe even years! Not getting my hopes up but still, its nice to dream.

by James Perry

Why YouTube Is For Artistic People - by Curtis Herndon

 

 

Why YouTube Is For Artistic People

by Curtis Herndon

 

There’s millions of people who use YouTube.com everyday as its now being used more thn TV. If you are not familiar with YouTube then i’ll explain what it is. YouTube is a video sharing website where people can post videos online for millions to watch. The website was founded and launched for all to use by three employees of PayPal named Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim, and Steve Chan in 2005.It was uploaded for the same purposes it has now. Later on other as people used the website, it was later on bought by Google for $1.65 billions dollars as they seen that the website would be a huge success for years, and that it did. Now millions of people upload videos to YouTube, and millions of videos are uploaded by people daily. Some people on YouTube were able to make a career on making videos as you can make money by the amount of views you get on each video, as long as it's in order to their terms of rules. For example, a YouTuber who goes by the name Pewdiepie made a career of uploading YouTube videos, and makes a range of $15 million per year. As you can see, YouTube.com grew to be one of the biggest websites in history.

 

Youtube is great for people of all kind who watch videos of all kind,but I wanna talk about why it's great for artistic people. A Lot of artistic people believe or not hates Youtube and thinks is garbage, but i strongly disagree, and this is my reason. One thing great about being an artist, whether if it's music, dancing, visual arts, and etc., is that you can always be inspired by someone else’s work. Maybe justing looking at what one has done can give you a new and fresh idea. Like i stated before, there’s almost videos on anything on Youtube, and most likely anything you’re interested in, another people is also interested in that as well. There’s billions of video and people showing off their art, and billions of videos of people who shows tutorials on how they made their art. Those kind of videos are perfect for an artist, because every artist needs a little bit of inspiration now and then from someone.

Not only can you be in inspired by people, but people can be inspired by you if you ever decided to share one of your own videos. Some artists love to keep their work to themselves which is always okay, but you're one who likes to show your work, YouTube is one website I think you may like to use since the website has over 100 millions users. People may have a look at the creative work or words you may wanna put out there, and give someone else a good idea for someone of their own. Just to add, it's almost like running a TV show where everything that happens in the show all all up to you, nobody could tell how things it's run, because it's all about you.

In conclusion. Youtube is a way for us to be able to share the beautiful art we want people to see, now matter what it is, and for us to see the creative minds of others.

- By Curt Naddy

Positive Week by Tyreek Peppers

Positive Week

 

This week has been a positive one. In other words, I was very excited because of my internship at 1Hood. Not only that, but if some don’t recall, it’s Black History Month—the month where we look back to the past and celebrate our black ancestors. Not only to celebrate, but to give thanks to those who’ve passed on doing and leaving behind something great.

 

I would also like to talk about the week I’ve been having in general: working at 1Hood as an intern. 1Hood is an organization that helps young people from the community. 1Hood is also big on helping people hone in on their talents and skills, so that they use them for their advantage in the future. The few days that I’ve been working at 1Hood, I enjoyed meeting the other interns and supervisors. Everyone that works at 1Hood has the same common goal and interests. I was surrounded by an atmosphere that was really warm and positive. Everyday, there was something new to do at the office, and every time I’m there I learn something new.

 

I’m also working with another organization called the Youth Enrichment Service. The Youth Enrichment Service, or YES Program, is a place that focuses on the youth. The YES program helps students pursue education and helps them reach future goals. While working with YES, I’ve been training to become a mentor. Before I could become a mentor, I had to persuade the organization as to why I wanted to become a mentor by writing a essay. After the organization read my essay, they started preparing me for my mentee. The organization asked me again why I wanted become a mentor; I told them that I plan on leaving a positive mark, giving them a role model that can lead them in a positive way, and showing the youth that grows up in the hood that, even though life gets hard and knocks you down, you get back up.

 

This week was a very positive week because University Prep High School threw an event in honor of Black History Month. The principal, vice principal, and a few of the staff put together an event that I surely won’t be forgetting for a while. The event was held on 2/16/17. Dinner started at 5-7:00 p.m., and it had entertainment and food. A couple of students took part in the event, and parents and students were invited to come out and take part in the festivities, as well. University Prep itself produced a duet of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, sung by two young ladies; a spoken word piece, poetry, and a traditional African dance routine. As the event was ending, I interviewed random people about how they liked the event. The responses I received were exciting. There was comments like, “Fantastic!” and, “Remarkable!”.

 

All in all, this week was a positive one. I began training to become a mentor for the YES program,  I started an internship at 1Hood that helps people discover their talents and skills, and University Prep threw a Black History event. I think that the University Prep Black History event was a nice touch, in honor of Dr. Charter G. Woodson, the creator of Black History Month.

They Don’t Make No Awards For That by Livefromthecity

They Don’t Make No Awards For That

 

A review of the Grammys by Livefromthecity

 

So let’s get this out of the way right now, the Grammys, the Oscars, and pretty much any academy-based awards show is is going to be very whitewashed. Are we really supposed to be surprised that Adele swept all the major categories? Are we supposed to be shocked that they gave Beyonce’ Best Urban Contemporary Album? We are talking about the same academy that gave Macklemore Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar after Kendrick dropped a modern day classic while your boy Macklemore, um didn’t fam. So let’s not act like we haven’t been down the road of our culture being completely shitted on before. We ain’t new to this.

 

Remember what Kanye did 10 years ago? Is that starting to make sense to anyone yet? Sure, he was drunk. But drunk minds speak sober thoughts, right? All of that hype around America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift died down since then, and now we the people are starting to realize that this nigga actually had a motherfucking point. This nigga Kanye recognized the problem LONG before the millenial “woke” era. It took our generation’s best rapper (Kendrick) to make an uber pro-black album for us to wake up and pay attention to this shit.

 

I know y’all niggas watched that speech Adele gave at the end of the show. That was just as bad as Macklemore posting those texts up three years ago. But this time, she did it in front of everyone. “Bey, I know you deserve this award, but I’m going to accept it while I tell you how much you deserve it more than me.” Come on Adele, that’s bullshit. We all know damn well you wanted that trophy. This is your comeback season. This entire thing was designed in your favor ma. Soak up the glory. Soak it in good. Rub it all over your white body. You won the award. White people need to do us a favor and enjoy their privilege in fucking silence fam. We tired of y’all telling us how much we deserve the shit that y’all got, and then not doing anything in your privileged power to help us get it. For yet another year, a white person had all eyes on them, on one of the biggest platforms in the world, in one of the biggest moments of the year, during music’s biggest night, and chose to exercise their privilege and flaunt that in front of millions of people.

 

Adele, you had a chance to do what you knew was the right thing to do. You chose to walk off of the stage with the trophy. You chose to take all of the awards home with you and display them in your trophy case. You chose to speak up and tell Beyonce’ how great her album is, how all of your black friends love it, and how it makes you feel as a woman. And with all of that said, you still gonna take that trophy home because you wanted it. You wanted to win that award. You don’t get any brownie points in the black community if you tell us how bad you feel for us. There were many moments during the night that we could point to as examples of white privilege being exerted straight up to our faaaaaaace (Drake v.) but that would require a  series of think pieces that I ain’t go no time to write. The bottom line is we don’t need white people to speak up about their privilege. We see it. We acknowledge it whether you notice or not. We need action. White people need to take a stand when they know it is right.

 

 The Grammys and Chance the Rapper by James Perry

 

The Grammys and Chance the Rapper by James Perry

My African American History teacher asked me a very good question yesterday and I couldn’t wait to respond. Class started with the usual warm up, introduction to the lesson and the goals for the class when he said “So I know I’m a little old but I’m a hip-hop head myself, and I want to know who is Chance the Rapper and what is the hype about his music?” Now I’m not a super fan but BOY I could not wait to answer this question!

 I had to go all the way back to showing him his earliest work BEFORE 10 Day showing the videos of him rapping as well as his “Lost Files EP” with other Chicago artists. His reaction to what he heard was surprising because he wasn’t impressed! The only thing he said was that Chance reminded him a little of Outkast with his rap style and beat selection. I was determined to get more of a reaction out of my teacher. I then showed him his Acid Rap mix tape and his music video for the song “Brain Cells”. Now, a lot of teens in my age group don’t like Chance because of his commercial status.

 The interesting thing that people don’t see is that his fan base came specifically from college tours, selling merchandise and using Sound cloud to push his SAVEMONEY collective with artists like Vic Mensa, Alex Wiley and Mick Jenkins, all of which are friends of Chance and have helped pave the way for Chicago artists to connect on music have it be based on friendship instead of what their “label” may want from them.

Not only is Chance known for his quick come up and success, he also managed to build riches for himself while remaining independent. These were all things I had to explain to my teacher while he was watching these videos and listening to his songs. Even after everything I told him he still wasn’t impressed. At this point he was telling me that I may as well give up because he doesn’t see him changing his mind on it. I had one more shot so I showed him his newest project “Coloring Book”. This project seemed to catch his ear because of the more mature material that families can listen to instead of teenagers. With features from artists like Kirk Franklin and multiple songs using Chicago’s Church choir. It seemed like this project caught a lot more attention because of the content. It was more expectable to play this project for social events, as an upbringing to the people. Still keeping to his original sound with beats that make you want to move as it takes you on a journey while he enlists superstars Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Future and many more. My teacher was REALLY interested when I showed him his iconic Grammy performance for the 51st Grammy awards. He did an amazing arrangement of “How Great/All We Got” and it blew his mind away!

I was really impressed with the performance personally so it was great that I was able to share that moment with my teacher who doubted his music. The icing on the cake for me? Showing him that he won Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Best New Artist. He even announced that he is coming to Pittsburgh PA on May 20th!

by James Perry


Who am I? by Curtis Herndon


Who am I? by Curtis Herndon

         My name is Curtis Herndon, and I am an 18 year old senior from Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School. I was born in Pittsburgh on March 3rd 1998. I grew up in a house of four which included my mother, my father, my older brother Gary, and myself. When I was younger I aspired to be many things such as a police officer, an astronaut, a game designer, and a rapper. My new goal is to be a music producer, video producer, comedian, and singer.

 

       When I was in third grade, my teacher Mrs. Russell asked me if I was interested in learning how to play the trombone. I was very open and took the opportunity, so for 6 months during that year I played the trombone. For the next two years left in Elementary School I keep learning new songs on the trombone, and then started playing the piano, I was now learning two instruments. I moved on to Middle School, which to be honest wasn’t fun for me because I was bullied for 3 years, but I never gave up on what I loved. While still playing piano and trombone, I decided to learn how to play the snare drum for the school band. While learning a single drum, I thought to myself “Why don't I take on a whole drum set?’ and so I did just that. I still play all those instruments until this day.

 

       I believe it was third grade that my dad gave me a shiny camera that made videos up to 30 seconds. That camera was like my best friend as I started using it everywhere I went. I made random videos of literally whatever I wanted. Jumping to middle school when I took computer class where I learned to use Movie Maker to edit the videos I recorded, later on to see that video editing would be a big part of something big in my life. High school was the start of that big something. Vine was released and I wanted to be a part of it, so I made an account under the name Curt Naddy, which was a name my brother use to annoy me with, but it was there as a place holder until I thought of another name. Later on to see many people liked my videos, and would remember me as Curt Naddy, so I made it my official stage name. I incorporated my skills from Vine to YouTube and made better use of my skills there. After people saw what I can do, they wanted help from me and I decided to use these newfound skills to help others. Doing this showed me I had a talent I could make money from, then I started that big something, my own media business titled “Naddy Productions”

 

       While a toddler, my favorite show was Blue’s Clues, I had all the toys and clothes from the show. One thing that stood out was Steve taking out his notebook and drawing objects and showing us how they are drawn. I took advantage and drew what he drew, and that was my start of being a visual artist. Later on in life I would attend art class on the side while still attending schools, because a lot of schools I went to did not offer art to us. Three years ago I took my art to another level when a program called the Lighthouse Project taught me a lot of graphic designing on Photoshop. Photoshop became a big part of my media business as it’s how I make flyers, album covers, and just awesome art pieces to give to people.

 

by Curtis "Curt Naddy" Herndon


They Don’t Make No Awards For That

A review of the Grammys by Livefromthecity

So let’s get this out of the way right now, the Grammys, the Oscars, and pretty much any academy-based awards show is is going to be very whitewashed. Are we really supposed to be surprised that Adele swept all the major categories? Are we supposed to be shocked that they gave Beyonce’ Best Urban Contemporary Album? We are talking about the same academy that gave Macklemore Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar after Kendrick dropped a modern day classic while your boy Macklemore, um didn’t fam. So let’s not act like we haven’t been down the road of our culture being completely shitted on before. We ain’t new to this.

 

Remember what Kanye did 10 years ago? Is that starting to make sense to anyone yet? Sure, he was drunk. But drunk minds speak sober thoughts, right? All of that hype around America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift died down since then, and now we the people are starting to realize that this nigga actually had a motherfucking point. This nigga Kanye recognized the problem LONG before the millenial “woke” era. It took our generation’s best rapper (Kendrick) to make an uber pro-black album for us to wake up and pay attention to this shit. 

 

 

I know y’all niggas watched that speech Adele gave at the end of the show. That was just as bad as Macklemore posting those texts up three years ago. But this time, she did it in front of everyone. “Bey, I know you deserve this award, but I’m going to accept it while I tell you how much you deserve it more than me.” Come on Adele, that’s bullshit. We all know damn well you wanted that trophy. This is your comeback season. This entire thing was designed in your favor ma. Soak up the glory. Soak it in good. Rub it all over your white body. You won the award. White people need to do us a favor and enjoy their privilege in fucking silence fam. We tired of y’all telling us how much we deserve the shit that y’all got, and then not doing anything in your privileged power to help us get it. For yet another year, a white person had all eyes on them, on one of the biggest platforms in the world, in one of the biggest moments of the year, during music’s biggest night, and chose to exercise their privilege and flaunt that in front of millions of people. 

 

Adele, you had a chance to do what you knew was the right thing to do. You chose to walk off of the stage with the trophy. You chose to take all of the awards home with you and display them in your trophy case. You chose to speak up and tell Beyonce’ how great her album is, how all of your black friends love it, and how it makes you feel as a woman. And with all of that said, you still gonna take that trophy home because you wanted it. You wanted to win that award. You don’t get any brownie points in the black community if you tell us how bad you feel for us. There were many moments during the night that we could point to as examples of white privilege being exerted straight up to our faaaaaaace (Drake v.) but that would require a  series of think pieces that I ain’t go no time to write. The bottom line is we don’t need white people to speak up about their privilege. We see it. We acknowledge it whether you notice or not. We need action. White people need to take a stand when they know it is right.