Thursday, March 22, 2012


Over the past few weeks, with more media coverage surfacing about the tragic story of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, I have been saddened, outraged, incensed, upset, and a whole laundry list of emotions that I can’t even put into print at the moment. From the indifference from some within the hip hop community, to the blatant racial overtones that certain facets of the media will portray with this ongoing saga, it is becoming quite evident that there indeed is a war going on outside no man, woman, OR child is safe from. Mobb Deep was only saying, in a language that their generation can understand, what was, and still is, going on. This time, however, the war is not black on black crime, or is it?

Here’s what we know thus far about the demise of a promising young black male. Trayvon Martin was a good student. Trayvon Martin was 17 years old. Trayvon Martin was walking to the house of his father’s fiancee after making a trip to the convenience store. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a so-called neighborhood watch individual. Trayvon Martin had on his person when confronted by Zimmerman a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die. Trayvon Martin should be alive at this very moment. Now when I said that this “war” is not black on black (or as Kanye would so aptly put it “blacks on blacks on blacks), you have to look at how this type of violence is viewed from a media standpoint. Where is Nancy Grace and those of her ilk with this travesty? During the Casey Anthony debacle, there was constant coverage. However, this type of story is almost being swept under the rug, and why? Is it because there is a small value for the life of a black male? As history shows us, young black males are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to respect, at least from a societal aspect. Here in Harm City (or Bodymore, Murdaland), you are constantly inundated at 11PM (or earlier) by news of another shooting or homicide, typically involving a black male. It’s almost like we as a community are numb to this reality. However, this “reality television” is far removed from “The Real World” or “Love And Hip Hop”. The murder of Trayvon Martin (and I am saying murder now because I’m not going to sugarcoat what occurred in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012) is now the reality of this world. The murder of Trayvon Martin at the evil hands of one George Zimmerman is not a hip hop love moment. I’m drawing these parallels to state the obvious, or not so obvious. When will we (as in hip hop community) stand up and fight for what is truly right?

I consider myself an activist and advocate within the hip hop community. I have no choice, truthfully. I was born into this culture. I AM HIP HOP. WE ARE HIP HOP. KRS-One was not joking or playing around when he stated emphatically that he was the embodiment of the culture that is hip hop. Even down to the term “hip hop”, it is a movement. Being hip is a sense of cool, being down for the cause. When you hop, that is a form of movement, jumping from one small area to another spot. Put hip and hop together and you have what should be deemed as a cool movement, a movement with a cause. What I have noticed over the past few days is a reluctance by some that are so-called “hip hop heads” to even attempt to stand up for injustice, either because they don’t see the need or value. The Million Hoodie March, which took place in New York City at Union Square on Wednesday, March 21st, showed solidarity as hundreds stood side by side with the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. The turnout should have been even greater, in my opinion. As I’ve posted recently on Twitter, if so-called “hip hop heads” are willing to stand in line for the newest kicks or video games, then they should be willing to stand up for injustice. If our foremothers and forefathers risked life and limb for causes to make our existence a better one, shouldn’t we do the same? It’s a different era, but it appears that we are seeing signs of the same “Willie Lynch” mentality, where the life of a black individual is reduced, negated, devalued, or completely ignored.

George Zimmerman should not have the luxury of utilizing a controversial 2005 Florida Stand Your Ground law. In essence, Zimmerman was not arrested because he was acting in self-defense. According to Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte, “law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.” This statement was released March 21st by Bonaparte as part of a letter addressing criticism of Sanford law enforcement for not making an arrest after the shooting and subsequent death. So Zimmerman is indeed innocent until proven guilty, but in my eyes, he is already guilty. He is guilty of extinguishing a promising life for Trayvon Martin. He is guilty of misusing his so-called authority as a neighborhood watch by targeting a defenseless teenager. How threatened was Zimmerman by Trayvon Martin, a one-hundred forty pound black male, especially if Zimmerman was in excess of two-hundred pounds? Zimmerman has a history of constantly making complaints and calling law enforcement, showcasing a vigilante mentality. This new-aged Charles Bronson wanna-be crossed the proverbial line, ultimately leading to the death of Trayvon Martin. Now we have the the Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee, “temporarily stepping down”. This sounds more like propaganda than anything else, and I’m not surprised in the least bit. After refusing to arrest George Zimmerman, he now decides that it is time to step aside because he is a “distraction”. A distraction, you say? Distraction is such a mild, tame word when applied to this case. This case is both complicated and simplistic, because you have so many varied emotions and feelings that have been applied. It sickens me on so many levels.

I have a 17 year-old son that could very well be Trayvon Martin. I have a soon-to-be 19 year-old son in the same position. Both are “good kids”. They love music, they are not part of the criminal system, and they are on track to be very productive individuals in this still-racially divided society. Both of my sons can be considered that next generation of hip hop culture. They both are embedded in the musical intricacies of hip hop, often using the trials, tribulations, and ills of society as base material for their lyrics that are penned (or in this technologically advanced society typed/texted). “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from”, taken from the Mobb Deep joint “Survival Of The Fittest”, is fitting for this saga. Not only are those words prophetic, but connected to the overall tone of the song in general. This third track from the album The Infamous showcased a mentality of urban living that far too many young black males deal with on a daily. Unfortunately, because of this mentality, those living on the outside or periphery will assume wrongly that young black males are up to no good, are criminal element, or are a nuisance to “proper, white society”. I feel strongly that Zimmerman, with his “fucking coons” sentiment shared on one of the 911 calls shared to the public, saw Trayvon Martin as just another hip hop individual that the media portrays as a threat to himself and society. Trayvon Martin was a threat, in my opinion, but he was a threat to the establishment as someone that would transcend his skin tone, and not be just another “nigger”. The –er is placed on the end of that derogatory word to show what Zimmerman thought of this precious life that will not see his 18th birthday.

So, what can the hip hop generation of today do? We all can make our voices heard, no matter creed, color, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, or any other differentiating circumstances. Every one of us has a Trayvon Martin, directly or indirectly, in our lives. Let’s make certain that we speak volumes to stop this from becoming a trend in our society. Trayvon Martin would want it that way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


"Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant the livest one, representing BK to the fullest..." pretty much set the tone for the one and only Christopher Wallace to wax poetic over the dope DJ Premier production "Unbelievable".  This gem on the debut album Ready To Die was, in my opinion, the highlight of the album, because it put B.I.G., Biggie, Notorious B.I.G., whatever you wanted to call him, in a lyrical zone.  Premo has a way of bringing out the best in an MC (see Nas, Jay-Z, Guru, Jeru, etc.).  That way is evident with "Unbelievable". 

"Unbelievable" Link:

The body of the song was crafted from the Quincy Jones joint entitled "Kitty With A Bent Frame", a 1971 creation from the album New Orleans:  A Quincy Jones HeistThis song provided the rhythmic bounce that Premo needed to craft the soundbed for Biggie to spit fiery lyrics
Most hip hop heads (and music fans in general) remembered Biggie on this past March 9th, the fifteenth anniversary of his untimely death. 

"Kitty With A Bent Frame" Sample Link:

Reflect and respect the lyrical architect that was Notorious B.I.G.  He was able to show on this Premo track that he was a battle-ready MC of the highest degree, and his influence is still evident in a plethora of hip hop artists today.  Even with a recent WEAA 88.9 Strictly Hip Hop panel that I participated in, Biggie was voted as the #3 of All Time Best MCs.  That is a huge accomplishment for said artist that only had the opportunity to record two full-length albums.  His discography is not as deep as his forever attached-at-the-hip counterpart Tupac Shakur, but the depth of his material spoke loud and clear.  Of course this isn't a diatribe against 'Pac, because I deeply appreciated his poetic and revolutionary lyricism (when not being misogynistic).  What I am saying is that Biggie Smalls, even with the bravado, crassness, and sometimes violent imagery, was able to paint urban despair in such a manner as to give hope.  You may not be able to recognize that at first, second, or third glimpse, but the unique artistry is there.  Even the bleakness of the album title, Ready To Die, was probably a misnomer.  I don't believe he was ready to die, even in that crack era of '94.  With a daughter to support, a mother to ultimately make proud, a rising "all up in the video" young executive to prove himself to, B.I.G. wasn't ready to have his death certificate signed.  By his second stellar album, Life After Death, he was ready to LIVE.  Unfortunately, that will to live beyond his urban, Brooklynite circumstances was extinguished.  What we have from him is a legacy that will carry on for years and generations to come.  Christopher George Latore Wallace was indeed "Unbelievable"!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Later today, Phonte and 9th Wonder will be a part of the Red Bull Music Academy Session in Philadelphia, joined by soul artist Jesse Boykins III and Rich Medina.  The Red Bull Music Academy is a very dope concept, exposing individuals to various musical workshops and festivals, bridging gaps and giving those involved a communal feel.  To show the vibe associated with RBMA, here is one from the archives (2006 to be exact).  Thanks to my good friend MJ, I'm posting this dope look into the lecture series component of RBMA.  Phonte, being the cool as ice character he is, gives a unique perspective on his Little Brother music, along with a comedic side that is his and his alone.  The video is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes long, and it is well worth every minute.  Take a look, and spread the word about the Red Bull Music Academy.  If you can, venture to Philly at Sigma Sound Studios (made famous by the Legendary Roots Crew), located at 212 N. 12th Street.  It will be well worth the short drive up 95 North for my B-more/DC fam.  Here is a link to the RBMA info for this evening:  Also utilize the RBMA site for more information about application/registration for a dynamic music experience.  One Love!

Lecture: Phonte (Melbourne 2006) from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

Friday, March 2, 2012


The hip hop community lost one of its most beloved figures November 8, 2011.  No one was expecting to hear the saddening news of the passing of Heavy D, especially after seeing him the previous month on the BET Hip Hop Awards.  To commemorate his life and effect on the hip hop community, and music in general, Centric aired a well-deserved documentary. I hope that his legacy and musical influence will stretch beyond a few months worth of nostalgic looks back at his life, because Dwight Arrington Myers touched many of us with his fluid moves, liquid flows, and charismatic flair.  My prayers go out to Heavy D's family and close friends.  A special thanks is extended to Yardie, also known as Mr. World Premiere, for posting the documentary in its entirety.  Peaceful journey Heavy D!

21222726 by YardieGoals