Saturday, January 17, 2009

Melvin Riley, My Holy Grail

This might seem random, but after watching BETJ late last night I learned that Ready for the World's lead singer was none other than Melvin Riley.

Why is this important?

Well, one of my closest friends and I have been on a 14-year mission to track down the video from Riley's debut single, "Whose Is It?"

Consider this Mission Accomplished. Enjoy, J-Will. And take that, Dubya.

Continue Reading »

Inherited = Caused?

It's possible that I have a different understanding of the meaning of the word "inherited" than Fox News. As in, Fox News reporter Wendell Goler doesn't seem to know what the word means.

From Think Progress:

Today, President Bush left for Camp David for what is expected to be his last departure from the White House via Marine One. During Fox News’s coverage of the event, hosts Martha MacCallum and Wendell Goler tried to rewrite history for Bush:

GOLER: This president inherited a budget surplus, but he also inherited what he called “the trifecta of bad times.” There’s the president headed out to Marine One right now. […] He inherited the 9/11 attacks. He inherited the recession and he inherited some tough times on Wall Street.

It would have been nice if Bush had also inherited wisdom or intelligence or humility. Continue Reading »

Friday, January 16, 2009

Big, black and beautiful as ever

So the reviews are in on the highly anticipated biopic "Notorious." As expected, they're mixed - the producers unabashedly said they were making a movie for his fans. I'm not sure that's what I was looking for, but we're all free to make our own movies about Biggie, I suppose.

However, when it comes to the Notorious One's music, there's no need for debate: Christopher Wallace was one of the game's greats. His lasting influence on hip hop can not be denied, even if your last name is Shakur or Knight and you were raised deep in the heart of Compton.

That said, now is as good a time as any to humbly submit a top 10 list of my favorites from Big. Yes, the list is in my order of preference. I'm almost certain you, my thoughtful reader, will have some suggestions:

10. I Got a Story to Tell - One of Biggie's greatest strengths was his skill as a storyteller. Too often, great underground lyricists (i.e. Canibus) fail to live up to the hype because they can't put together an interesting story. 16 bars of unconnected nonsense, you know? Not Big. "Her brain racin, she's tellin me to stay patient/She don't know I'm, cool as a fan/Gat in hand, I don't wanna blast her man/But I can and I will doe."

9. One More Chance (remix) - Not only did I love the remix, but I loved the video. It was like the BET Awards came to Brooklyn. Years later, I can still appreciate that cameo from Patra. And the original album version was hella raunchy. No way that ever would have gotten any radio play. The remix was just more proof of Puffy's evil genius.

8. Suicidal Thoughts - Even today, I can't think of another star hip-hop artist (with the possible exception of Eminem) who so openly talked about the struggle with their inner demons. This was just uncharted territory at the time.

7. Everyday Struggle - Also see No. 8. I think I once heard or read that Biggie said this was his favorite song on "Ready to Die." For several months, it was mine too. The beat, with a sample from "Either Way" by Dave Grusin, was just golden.

6. My Downfall - This is the one of two songs from "Life After Death" to make this top 10. This says nothing about Biggie's sophomore effort and everything about my preference for his classic debut album. I could have done without Puffy screaming all over the track. The intro was funny, yet still ominous.

5. Real Niggas - One of the first songs I ever heard from Big - it came off a Bad Boy mixtape that one of my friends had bought on the streets of New York. Probably Canal. Regardless, Biggie flexed his considerable lyrical skill over a number of Death Row beats. Just killed the track.

4. Juicy - Not much to say about this one. It's obvious, right? The ultimate hip-hop tale of rags to riches.

3. Who Shot Ya? - I still refuse to believe this was in any way about Tupac. The supposed connection just doesn't make any sense. Big just dropped some hardcore Brooklyn shit. He can't help it if someone's feelings got hurt.

2. Gimme the Loot - Bananas. I about flipped when I figured out that Biggie performed all the verses in this joint - I actually thought it was the dude from Lords of the Underground.

1. Unbelievable - The quintessential Biggie song. Everything is here; nothing is missing. DJ Premier truly brought out the best in him. Get ready to die, tell God I said hi/And throw down some ice, for the nicest MC/Niggaz know the steelo, unbelievable. I could listen to this on an endless loop. And at times, I've done just that.

Honorable mentions: Big Poppa, Hypnotize, What's Beef?, Get Money, Dead Wrong, Warning, The What. You know, the problem with a top 10 is that there's only 10 spots.

Even today, it's remarkable to think about how much influence Big had in a relatively short amount of time.

At the age of 30, I now know that 24 years ain't about shit. You haven't even gotten started, you haven't experienced anything, you have no real stories to tell. Even if you're a small-time crack dealer in Brooklyn or a fast-rising East Coast rap star or even some desk flunky working overnight hours at The Associated Press bureau in Dallas.

At 24, the story of your life has yet to be written. At least for most of us. And yet there's Christopher Wallace, not just another victim of gun violence yet still a statistic.

I can't wait to see "Notorious." I don't want to see how it ends. It's hard not to think he and we were all robbed of a proper finale.
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Amen, Rev. Al

An Anti-Semite. A racial arsonist. Race-hustling charlatan. Irrelevant. The black equivalent of Richard Nixon and Pat Robertson.

Over the years, the Rev. Al Sharpton has been called a lot of things. He's even been stabbed in the chest.

But no one can ever accuse him of being a coward. And that's why, to me, Sharpton still occupies a meaningful perch in American political discourse. Maybe it's precisely because he's unelectable that he has the freedom to lead the fight where others, like our president-elect, are gun-shy.

Via TNC and Adam Serwer, here's Sharpton talking about something that surely won't draw any attention - or cameras - from CNN or FOX News:

"I am tired ... of seeing ministers who will preach homophobia by day, and then after they're preaching, when the lights are off they go cruising for trade...We know you're not preaching the Bible, because if you were preaching the Bible we would have heard from you. We would have heard from you when people were starving in California - when they deregulated the economy and crashed Wall Street you had nothing to say. When [accused Ponzi scammer] Madoff made off with the money, you had nothing to say. When Bush took us to war chasing weapons of mass destruction that weren't there you had nothing to say.

"But all of a sudden, when Proposition 8 came out, you had so much to say, but since you stepped in the rain, we gonna step in the rain with you."[...]

"There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people's bedrooms and claim that God sent you. It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being [relegated] into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners."


No doubt, Sharpton is an easy target for his many critics: he's still rocking a conk, prone to saying stupid things and, yes, an opportunist of the highest order. If Sharpton was seeking the role of the leader of Black America, then I suppose he failed - unless you're talking with Bill O'Reilly.

But that in no way should diminish some of Al's more meaningful work from his national pulpit. I've never known him to back down, even in the face of insurmountable odds. Sharpton is a complicated, if not courageous man. And we shouldn't forget that.

Serwer says: "It takes some courage not to take that for granted and to challenge people, knowing how many of them will disagree with you."

Continue Reading »

So much beauty in the world

Not American Beauty. I'm talking about the 2008 Weblog Awards.

Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish took the top prize and, given his tremendous work over the past few months, I have no problem with that.

Going over the list of nominees, I'm reminded of the way I felt as a child when I watched Barry Sanders dart around the football field. I considered myself something of a special football player, so I feverishly tried to figure out what Barry was doing that I couldn't do.

Ridiculous, no? He was a future Hall of Famer; I was a kid whose athletic flame was destined to be extinguished at 20.

In the end, I just felt frustrated. Some people are just better, and that's that. And in the blogosphere, as on the gridiron, the talent pool out there is tremendously deep.

It's extremely humbling. Continue Reading »

Not-so-deep thought

The term "Bird Strike" will become quite popular with headline writers, especially those assigned with the NFC championship game (the Eagles vs. the Cardinals for the uninitiated). Continue Reading »

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Thousand Miles

Apropos of nothing really, other than the earlier Wayans reference:

Continue Reading »


If only the middle-school aged Blackink had been fortunate enough to be home on the day that this scene from "Days of Our Lives" aired on the tee-vee:

For Your Consideration - Longest Daytime TV Sex Scene...Ever @ Yahoo! Video

Trust me, I'm no prude. Far from it. But even for the midafternoon "stories," is this not a bit gratuitous? I guess even stay-at-home moms and grandmas need some mid-day titillation.

By the way, this actor nearly surpasses Shawn Wayans in his relentless effort to slip as much tongue as possible into the mouth of his co-star. Well done, sir. Continue Reading »

The answer?

Godspeed, Gannett.

Today Gannett is implementing a furlough program across all U.S. divisions and at corporate headquarters. This means that most of our U.S. employees - including myself and all other top executives - will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter. This furlough will be unpaid. Unions also will be asked to participate.
Only about a month ago, the Seattle Times started this trend. The disturbing part of this all is, if it works, expect to see this cost-cutting measure replicated at newspapers throughout the country.

And honestly, it has to work. Continue Reading »

Little Hitler leaves home

Finally, these kids have a chance:

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Three New Jersey siblings whose names have Nazi connotations have been placed in the custody of the state, police said Wednesday.

Holland Township Police Sgt. John Harris said workers from the state Division of Youth and Family Services removed 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell and his younger sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, from their home Tuesday.

Harris said family services did not tell police the reason the children were removed. Agency spokeswoman Kate Bernyk said it does not comment on specific cases.

Go figure. Who would have thought the Campbells would be irresponsible enough to lose custody of their children? Continue Reading »

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The audacity of dopes

While doing a little research on the Internets for the previous post, I saw a link to a Web site asking about the origin of the phrase "out in the street, they call it murder."

Someone had the audacity to credit Cam'Ron. Wow. Just wow. Goodness no.

In case there was ever any doubt among my generally well-informed readers, let's post a link to the source (embedding has been disabled for this video). Continue Reading »

Out in the streets, they call it murder

Via Ta-Nehisi, could this truly be the start of the healing process?
The BART police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man on an Oakland train platform and then refused to explain his actions to investigators was arrested Tuesday in Nevada on suspicion of murder, authorities said.

Johannes Mehserle, 27, of Lafayette was taken into custody in Douglas County, Nev., said Deputy Steve Velez of the Douglas County sheriff's office. The arrest was also confirmed by David Chai, chief of staff to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

Mehserle was arrested in the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward who was lying facedown after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a fight. An Alameda County judge signed an arrest warrant alleging murder, and Mehserle surrendered without incident, authorities said.
We've been here before, of course. Too many times. Expectations can be a dangerous thing. Continue Reading »

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What I Decided

As a half-hearted tribute to one of the First Lady's favorite songs of the moment, I thought I'd run through a quick list of decisions that I made during my three-day hiatus from blogging.

Sure, this is a copout of sorts. But I've got a lot on my mind and not a lot of time to share it all. I'm moving forward, dig?:
  1. I decided that President Bush is the worst kind of frat boy. New Orleans or Baton Rouge, eh? Someday, I hope that history makes him own his failure and his appalling indifference.

  2. I decided that Sarah Palin should have a camera trained on her at all times. 24-7. It has all the makings of a Fellini-esque comedy.

  3. I decided, after a few minutes of deliberation, that I need some Rod-sized balls. My familiarity with Tennyson will need some work, though.

  4. I decided that I was really disappointed with "Meet The Press" this week. And I'm especially disappointed with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Rep. Maxine Waters for taking part in that silly, borderline offensive segment about Prez-elect Obama and our troublesome black folks. On the flipside, I expected nothing less from Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint.

  5. I decided that next year I'll be rooting for only two college football teams: TCU and whoever is playing against Florida.

  6. I decided that I'll wait until I return to Tampa to watch "Notorious" with the First Lady. But I consider this as much a sacrifice as missing all four NFL playoff games this weekend.

  7. I decided that I can hardly put down Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers." If I do anything during this vacation, it's going to be completing that book.

  8. I decided that I'm already in love with the new joint from Earth, Wind & Fire featuring Raphael Saadiq. Do check it out.

  9. I decided that I can not listen to another song involving Ron Browz.

  10. I decided that I will not observe Jan. 20 as my unofficial national holiday. Sure, it's a meaningful moment in American history. But there's still much work to be done.
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