One month after spending a good portion of a late attempting to navigate the grief, loss, and shock of Imanu Amiri Baraka's transition from elder to ancestor, I am ready to share this with the world. It is a raw first response. In respect for his family those who knew personally, I delayed sharing this. I'm compelled to today. Àṣẹ
I had an early introduction to Gil Scott-Heron's poetry and music. My father has a pretty decent sized record collection, and when I was a child, it was massive. By the time I was 4 or 5, I knew how to operate the record player and some of the basic functions on the EQ.
“We will not compromise who we are to be accepted by the crowd. We want substance in the place of popularity. We want to think our own thoughts. We want love, not lies. We want knowledge, understanding, and peace. We will not lose, because we are not losers. We are lasers.” – Lupe Fiasco, Lasers Manifesto
Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers was one of the most anticipated albums of 2011, partially because it was supposed to be released during the summer of 2010. Atlantic Records unceremoniously placed the album in post-production purgatory, and by fall it seemed that the album would never see the light of day. A massive petition of over 32,000 signatures and a planned protest outside of the New York headquarters of Atlantic Records on October 7, 2010, tipped the scale in the opposite direction. All seemed right with the world. The underdog triumphed, and the emcee known for refusing to dumb down his lyrics would release yet another insightful, lyrical opus.
The Coen Brothers 2010 adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel True Grit lives up to its title. As a second adaptation, the film is likely to be measured by many against the 1969 incarnation starring John Wayne. Considering the different social environment in which each film was released, and the alterations in the tone of Westerns made during the 60's and 70's by Sergio Leone, the 2010 version of True Grit is an arid, morally ambiguous tale of retribution.
It is no secret to many of you that I view art not as a product, but as a vehicle for culture. Nas and Damian Marley's Distant Relatives project brings this philosophy to the forefront of two genres of music. As a fan of both artists, as a lover of Hip-Hop and Reggae, as a participant in the culture, as a writer, and as a part of the African Diaspora, I believe this album to be a milestone. Not only is Distant Relatives an album, it is a documentary. Through multiple outlets, Distant Relatives explored the connections between Hip-Hop, Reggae, and Africa.
It's like GLEAM, God Love Everything Around Me
true and living deities surround me
you can see me GLEAM
every time I step to the podium, suckas stay salty like sodium
cuz the way I GLEAM, females start to take notice
at which rap niggas be the dopest
and if you don't GLEAM
then there's something wrong with your style G
God Love, God Love Everything Around Me
It isn't often that a group is able successfully take a beat from the Wu-Tang Clan and create an original, shining track. Cavalier and Faro-Z accomplish that with G.L.E.A.M. (God Loves Everything Around Me). Using the beat and ad-libs from the Wu's legendary C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), the duo from the hip-hop super group New Rap Order spit afrocentric and spiritual rhymes over RZA's masterpiece. The accompanying video includes a montage of relevant clips that display simulaneously the beauty and horrors of Afrikan history.
The year is 2005. Kanye West's 1st single for his upcoming album, Late Registration, is exploding over airwaves, and over my home stereo system (my dad's old analog receiver he bought when he was 17 coupled with my black ipod classic). It was during this time of Kanye-dom that I was up late one night on Okayplayer.com, and I found a link to a re-dux of Kanye's new single, "Diamonds are Forever", called "Conflict Diamonds" by a young Chicago MC named Lupe Fiasco. Lupe spoke eloquently on the topic of blood diamonds in West Africa, and elaborated on the civil wars and murder that loom behind the image of "bling" in hip-hop culture.
This clip is a testament to the eternal genius of James Baldwin, who was a leader amongst leaders. Shout out to Jeffrey Severe (click to follow him on Twitter) for the original post, found on his blog, which includes the transcript of Baldwin's interview. This fan video captures the spirit and sentiments echoed across Nas' most recent album, Nigger (I will never call it "Untitled"). This is powerful.