Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Got This: When good intentions go wrong

After a recent heartbreak, I had to send an explicit e-mail to a couple of my friends. It basically went something like, “Such and such and I are no longer dating. Don’t ask me about it, don’t ask me about him and don’t mention him to me. If you see him out somewhere, don’t call or text me to tell me.”

I said all of this not because I’m mad at him (because I’m not) but because some of my friends do too damn much in the name of friendship. While I am absolutely the ride or die friend, I have never been a “Fuck him! He ain’t shit! I hope he dies!” type.

Honestly, I might think your partner is trash, but I won’t say it. Here’s why:

1. The “fuck that guy” response doesn’t make your friend feel better. It doesn’t. Your friend genuinely cares for this person. How do you think trashing them makes your friend feel? It makes them feel like crap when they were already hurting. Breakups are exhausting. Don’t make your friend exert more energy by having to defend an ex-partner.

2. People have skewed impressions of their friends’ significant others. A lot of people call their friends to vent about what their partner did wrong but fail to call about what is going right. As a friend, you don’t know the ins and outs of their relationship. You may think you know everything but you don’t, so chill.

3. They breakup, you flip out, and then they get back together. Awkward…  So, now what happens after you’ve made it clear that you hate their partner? Your friend isn’t going to feel like they can be honest with you about their relationship. Pride is a powerful thing, especially when you don’t want to look like the fool in front of your friends. Your flipping out may also deter someone from getting back with the person they really want to be with. Someone could be denying themselves happiness because of your judgment.

4. We’re all grown here. Unless someone is being abused, let grown folk handle their own business. There’s no need for you to jump in the fight when I can handle my own. When people jump in, they’re implying I can’t handle this by myself.  I can. Trust.

Don’t get it twisted. I appreciate my friends for having my back. I know they sincerely love me and are trying to look out for my best interest. It’s just that sometimes we do more harm than good with our love.   Be careful, lovies!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

iStan: a Bilal appreciation post

There are a handful of artists that I absolutely stan for. I will buy anything they release without having heard a single note and attend every show that comes my way no matter how many times I’ve seen them live. I will also side-eye you to death for speaking negatively of them in my presence. Yes, I stan hard and you should know better. 

Just in case you didn’t know, here is my stan list (in no particular order): 

1. Erykah Badu
2. Radiohead
3. Beyoncé
4. Raphael Saadiq
5. Outkast
6. Bilal
7. Kelis

Damn, am I a hippie? O_o Moving right along… 

Today, we’re going to talk about my main man #6, the great weirdo extraordinaire, Bilal Oliver. 

I saw him perform Saturday at my new favorite concert venue, the legendary Howard Theatre. I have seen this man perform more times than I can remember and Saturday’s show ranks at the top. It was incredible. I literally had to refrain from hitting a good ol’ church two step shout  many a time during the show. (I hope y’all don’t think I’m playing because I’m SO sincere.) 

They were kicking people out for taking pictures and recording, so I don’t have any footage for y’all. Just take my word for it. It was seriously on another level. The first time I saw Bilal perform, I felt like my whole soul had opened up. It was an eerie but delightful feeling that I couldn’t shake for the rest of the night. Until Saturday, I hadn’t been able to achieve the same high of my first Bilal experience. (I sound like a crackhead, don’t I? That’s fine. Stop judging me!) 

Why do I love him so? First of all, that voice! My goodness, Bilal’s voice is getting better with time! That pitch perfect falsetto was surely sent from on high. There’s not another voice like his in the game, now or ever. It’s amazing. 

Also, he’s freaking FEARLESS. He’s not afraid to take risks with his music or his voice and I love him for it. His sound is ever evolving and always a breath of fresh air for me. 

Lastly, you don’t get much realer than Bilal. Songs like “Sometimes” and “All For Love” hit you straight in the gut. There’s an authenticity in every note that is as rare as a white truffle. Bilal’s music truly reaches inside and grabs my entire soul and this is why I stan. 

Highlights of the show:

1. A bad ass impromptu tribute to Chuck Brown. Bilal sang “Love It” while his percussionists hit a Go-go beat. It was awesome.

2. Bilal scatting his life away segueing into “Sometimes.”

3. Bilal saying, “I usually don’t do shows when I’m trying to make up shit. They had to come get me out the dungeon!” NEW MUSIC ON THE WAY! *ecstatically jigs* 

If you’re unfamiliar or unsure, take a listen. The man is undeniable. 

Think It Over (Acoustic): 

My all-time fave, All For Love:

Is This Love (Bob Marley cover) - Yes, he is conducting and singing at the same damn time!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Are You The Annoying Neighbor?

I've been thinking about sliding a copy of the following under each of my neighbor's door: 

Are you neighbors as annoying as mine? What's the most asinine thing that your neighbors do? Leave a comment and let me know I'm not the only one! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Testimony: How exercise helps keep me sane

I was just starting my junior year of college when my mom suddenly passed away. Instead of taking the semester off, I returned to school a week after her funeral. As could be expected, I struggled mightily with school after her death. I was severely depressed. There were many days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to talk to my friends but I knew I had to get help.

I went to the counseling center on campus and signed up for grief counseling. Even though I never missed a session, my depression caused me to drop class after class and extended my stay at Howard for an additional two years. Throughout my fight to beat depression and earn my degree, I continued to attend regular counseling sessions.

My counselors consistently advised me to work out. They were adamant about the positive effects exercise could have on my mental health. If I couldn’t make it to class, what made them think I was going to make it to the gym?  I never did.

It’s been eight years and I’m just now coming around to seeing things their way. I can finally attest to the positive benefits of exercise on my brain.

Last week, I got some bad news from someone I love dearly. Immediately, my spirit was crushed. I dreaded the days filled with soggy tear soaked pillows that I just knew lay ahead. My appetite left me and I didn’t anticipate its return anytime soon.  This was going to be bad. Real bad. Michael Jackson.

The next morning I woke up with eyes so swollen I didn’t know whether to go to work or go to the hospital. I sincerely couldn’t figure out if they were swollen from crying or if something had bitten me on both eyes in my sleep.

All day long, I was tipping on the “please don’t cry at work” tightrope until it was time for my weekly workout class with the co-workers. Every Thursday at 1:00 a group of us work out with a trainer. Although he routinely kicks our ass, I look forward to Thursdays because it gives me an afternoon energy boost. I think more clearly and my normally short attention span improves after these intense workout sessions.

This time, I noticed another side effect of the work out: my mood brightened substantially. Also, it’s hard to focus on your sad situation and power lunges at the same time.

While my heart was (and still is) broken, working out regularly has helped me keep depression at bay. I have made it my focus to keep BOTH my body and mind active. In addition to working out, I’m making sure I don’t isolate myself. I make it a point to get out of the house rather than sitting and dwelling. I’m finding things other than my sadness to focus on, like a good book, the NBA Playoffs and MY BLOG. *smiles sheepishly*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not running (literally) from my pain. I think it’s important that we allow ourselves to feel but, just like squats, don’t overdo it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chuck Brown and the Heart of the City

Chuck Brown died yesterday.  The Godfather of Go-go is gone. The man who has been central to the identity of black DC has departed this life and left us with only music and memories. It is generally assumed that while his body is gone, his legacy will reverberate within the soul of this city for generations, but is this true?

Chocolate City isn’t so chocolate anymore and is getting less so with each passing day. Like most major cities in America, gentrification is changing the way our neighborhoods look and feel. If you haven’t been to DC in the last few years, to come back and see how much it has changed can be quite a shock. Many neighborhoods are unrecognizable to old residents.

Chuck Brown’s death can be seen as symbolic of the death of the DC that many of us know and love. He created a sound that unified a city. Go-go is a major part of what makes DC unique and now, with gentrification, DC is on the verge of becoming just another run of the mill town.

A lot of people moving to the city don’t recognize the rich culture here outside of politics and monuments. Not only are long time residents being physically forced out of their neighborhoods but the essence of the city they’ve called home, long before  suburban life became un-cool, is evaporating.

During the coverage of Brown’s death on WUSA 9 News last night, a reporter went to the local radio stations and had DJs explain what Go-go is. That’s like having someone explain Jazz on the local New Orleans news. Who exactly are you talking to?

For them to frame it that way, would make it seem like black life here is a sub-culture rather than the dominant culture. Why not assume that residents in the District, black or white, are familiar with Go-go at least enough to recognize it as an art form unique to the area?

Seriously, if you live in DC and don’t know what Go-go is, please move. You’re a poacher.  Just like the hunters that kill elephants just to take the tusks and leave the rest to rot, that’s what you do to our city when you don’t recognize the beauty outside of the latest condo or trendy cafĂ©.

I’m not saying all DC residents need to be in the go-go every weekend, or ever for that matter, but how can you LIVE here and not recognize an art form that has been the lifeblood of the people for decades? That’s ridiculous.

In Natalie Hopkinson’s essay on The Root she says, “Simply put: Go-go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music — sometimes derided as 'pots and pans' — that gives voice to the communities where it was created and from which profits are taken."

So, what happens when these communities are no more? Will the heart of the city cease to beat? I don’t know but what I do know is that Chuck Brown made a tremendous contribution to music and DC culture. For that, we will always love and miss him. R.I.P. Chuck

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The N-Word and White Privilege

After this month’s outcry about a NY Post columnist’s ignorant comments on Jay-Z’s involvement in the Brooklyn Nets’ marketing, I’m reminded of a question that comes up in my mind again and again. Why do white people insist on the right to use the n-word?

How many times have we heard some version of the argument, “Well, black people use it, so why can’t I?” My question is, why do you want to?

It seems to me that some of our melanin impaired brethren are so arrogant in their privilege that they refuse to be denied access to ANYTHING. Not even to a word that THEY used, and continue to use, to insult and degrade an entire race of people.

Somewhere over the years, it became out of vogue for whites to use this word publicly.
Now that they’re hearing it used by blacks in popular media, they want the privilege to do the same. This line of thinking showcases a pathological greed that is pervasive in much of White American history, and present, for that matter.

There’s a lack of remorse in the destructiveness with which white people have used this word. If there was any remorse at all, whites would want nothing to do with it. But many continue to feel slighted by society’s insistence they don’t use it. I don’t understand this.

Let’s say Chinese Americans have a word they use among themselves but would be offended if I used it. You know what my response to that is? I don’t use it! It’s really pretty simple. I am absolutely devoid of any desire to use a term that has been deemed exclusive to a particular group, ESPECIALLY if my use of the term is offensive to this group.

We can argue all day about whether or not black people should use this word themselves. After a full day of arguing, I don’t think we’d come to an agreement on the issue. So, I won’t bother. But what I will note is that blacks didn’t just start using this word with the invention of the boom box.

My grandfather was born in 1922. He and his peers called plenty of folk “niggas.” Were there black people in his generation who detested the use of the word? Of course. But let’s get over this notion that the Hip Hop generation somehow brought about the revival of the n-word.

The issue is, rappers RECORDED black use of the word, which was then consumed by millions of white youth, who in turn felt entitled to the public use of the word.

And we’re back to where we started. White entitlement and privilege. Will we ever see the end of it? Will common sense and decency one day prevail? I’m not hopeful. Are you?

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Than Music: The war against black sports radio

If you read my review of the documentary “Beats, Rhymes Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”  last year, you will remember that I credit much of my love for Hip Hop to my big brother, Henry Lake, Jr. The same could be said for my interest in sports.

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than watching football on Sundays with my dad and brother or sneaking in the living room to watch basketball when my brother had friends over. I enjoyed their commentary more than anything but over time, this grew into a genuine love for the game.

Over the years, my brother became known as something of a basketball expert in the city and eventually got the opportunity to host a sports talk radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM in Minneapolis. This was my introduction to sports talk and I immediately fell in love. I listened to just about every show featured on the station and would even call in to give my two cents on a topic every now and then. I learned that sports talk radio was so much more than breaking down the x’s and o’s of a given game. There was comedy and culture involved and I found it all highly entertaining.

Soon after being introduced to KFAN, one of my best friends told me to listen to the 2 Live Stews show. The Stews are two brothers (literally) who had a nationally syndicated sports talk show out of Atlanta. Doug and Ryan Stewart started each show to Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terror Dome” and, as members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., ended each show with George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”. They instantly became staples in my day. I would schedule my entire day around The Stews. Yes, it was that serious.

When I started listening to The Stews, they had a 3 hour nationally syndicated show. These boys from Monck's Corner, SC kept their show lively with gut busting commentary and high energy discussion.  The show completely centered around their listeners, or as they called them, “dogs and poodles”.  It reminded me of sitting in the living room with my brother and his friends, listening to them debate the hot sports topics of the day. There were arguments, lots of jokes, and plenty of Hip Hop.

In 2007, The Stews branched out into TV, with recurring appearances on ESPN's "First Take" and their own TV One show "Black Men Revealed." The Stews were being seen and heard in more places than ever but they still lost their syndication deal with Sporting News Radio.

Atlanta-based radio station WQXI 790 The Zone, had been the radio home of The 2 Live Stews show since the show’s start in 2001. Within five years, The 2 Live Stews became the highest rated show on the station. Once The Stews lost syndication with Sporting News, fans outside the Atlanta area now had to listen to The Stews online at WQXI’s website.

Eventually, WQXI got a new Program Director who was less than enthused about the direction of The 2 Live Stews program. Suddenly, The Stews could no longer choose their own music. “Welcome to the Terrordome” and “Atomic Dog” were replaced with “Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera. Oh, the horror! Additionally, The Stews could no longer call their listeners “dogs and poodles” or give “big ups” at the end of the show. They now had to say “thank you” instead of “big up”.

Are y’all side-eyeing as hard as I am? It was very clear what was going on here. The Stews were now deemed “too black” and 790 The Zone was having none of it.

As of last year, The 2 Live Stews were still the strongest show on the station. Other than a  disdain for diversity in programming, what would make you take away what made The Stews unique?

Something like Destiny’s Child, the writing was on the wall. The 2 Live Stews show has now been cancelled. The Stewart brothers can be heard on a new show called The Red Zone with some white hosts from WQXI. It’s clear that Doug and Ryan are just biding their time until their contract is up. I’m hoping they get picked up by another company who will give them back the creative reigns to their show.

It’s clear that race played a large part in The 2 Live Stews situation. Just look at the comment section of this story about their show’s cancellation. Commenters repeatedly claim that The Stews catered to “thug nation”, “ghetto” or “hood” listeners. It’s clear what WQXI’s fan base thinks of listeners like me.

What’s more troubling than the fact that my all-time favorite sports talk show is no more is that blacks in sports talk radio are damn near non-existent. There are no shows hosted by African Americans on ESPN Radio or Yahoo! Radio (who acquired Sporting News in 2011).

Blacks in sports media can be found all over television but are like chupacabras on radio. We hear a lot about the demise of black radio from the music standpoint but I think the discussion must be broadened to cover more than music. We’re losing across the entire industry. Can anything be done to save black talk radio? Should we be focusing on owning our own stations and catering to our own communities? What say you?