Keeping Up with the Jonzee still at the right spot.

Friday, October 31, 2008

No Doubt

I grew up going to Church--even though often one or both of my parents often did not go. They would straight drop us off for Sunday school (which we looked forward to--it was really about hanging out...)

When I reached my hateful teenage years, I stopped believing. I was angry. IBM was laying off 10k people in my little 35k town. Parents--fighting like hell. Excuse my French, but I said the "heck with 'em".

Until, a summer in Alabama, in which my favorite cousin Erma watched her husband and youngest child drown in the river, while her oldest struggled back to shore. My family and I were late getting to 'bama...and me and my brother probably would have been in that water too.

The day before they were buried she found out she was pregnant. I will never forget watching my cousins and uncles and father carrying Erma out of that Church screaming, crying for God, repeatedly saying she knows He will protect her.

If she could hold on to that, even in a time of so much pain and anguish. How could I be so pissed off and angry and doubtful about some small stuff like the 'Rents not getting along?

I have been a believer ever since. And that belief--that every challenge is a blessing on the back end has never failed me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

D'Angelo, baby. Come home

I been waiting for you. I know that naked photo shit really drove you off the deep end. All them fawning chicks (and dudes...but never mind) obsession with your Adonis-like figure made you, a sensitive introvert, incredibly uncomfortable.

Especially since you are such an incredibly gifted musician and want to be respected for that more than anything.

Now, let me be perfectly honest. I, too, stared gap-mouthed at that video on more than one occassion. And you looking all fine and chocolately was definetely a plus. But, honey, I and many chicks like me are straight audiophiles and it was definetely more because the ease of which that incredibly intimately composed, intricately layered song comes forth.

Matter of fact, after seeing the video three times, I never cared to watch it again. The master songwriting in someways, felt cheapened by the video.

Honestly, I could give a good got-damn if you ever looked like that again. No offense.

Where you at son? I find myself searching the archives of iTunes and Soul Sanctuary looking for songs with your voice on them. Like that Rh Factor song called I'll Stay, my man, is one beautifully written, way-down-deep in the soul song.

Look, Broheim, there are mad people in the world making bank right now writing bullshit and passing it off as some sort of musical craft. You always struck me as more of a Common-type dude--as in you did it your way and knew you were going to get paid. So come on, folks are feenin for real music('specially us over 30 types who are coming to grips with the fact that clubbing these days in generally at the over 30 joints.)

Maybe the video thing in the end felt like to much soul-selling for you. Don't know. But I do know one thing, that a God-fearing dude like you should remember. Nothing can happen that is too much for you to handle. So suck it up and get it together.

There is no excuse for wallowing in the liquor-fueled self-pity, Bruh. You got a gift to share.

If it will make you feel better, keep your damn clothes on this time.

Just a little tough love from one audiophile to another.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Two Gay Uncles

My grandparents have four children—three boys and a girl. One of the sons is my father, married for over 32 years one year to the day I was born. The other two sons were gay.

As a little girl, I guess I knew that my uncles were different. My oldest uncle (May he rest in peace) never had a girlfriend I can remember. He had a friend. Growing up with a middle class African American family from the Midwest, "friend" was always what someone you were dating was called. I never really thought about it one way or the other. And as my great granny would say, "it made me no never mind".

My family never made a big deal out of it. My uncle’s “friends”, were no different than my auntie’s “friends” of the opposite sex. His friends were treated like family. Even after one serious relationship ended amicably, the friend still often came to Sunday dinner. The “friends” called my grandparents "Mom and Pops" like they were their parents, and never missed a birthday or anniversary.

My uncle is gone now. My father lost his best friend and I lost my hero. But his closest friend will be at Thanksgiving dinner with some delicious dessert in hand.

Being out was not as, or at least as it appeared, simple for my younger uncle. He got married. Got cheated on badly and got a divorce all within a year. And then he found his voice. After that he entered into a serious relationship with a couple people, who were embraced as family just as well. The family of the man from his first serious relationship still sends letters and cards from Germany on holidays and birthdays. Just like his older brother he loves deeply and has a special place in his heart for his nieces and nephews.

Now, he is getting older, his embers have become a nice glow and he is with the man I think he will be with for the rest of his life. And Michael is family too. I hope one day, that I will get to see that commitment ceremony.

I am sure my grandfather and grandmother as well as my aunt and father struggled a great deal with the idea that both of my uncles were gay. But love was the key to dismissing any hard feelings or thoughts of putting them out of their lives. The strength it takes to not pay attention to what many in the world would say is a sickness, or the hatred and animosity the world may throw your way for having gay children is undeniably difficult. After all, my grandparents grew up in the Great Depression and raised a family during the height of the civil rights movement. To be a black man and make it through those times you had to be tough. But my grandparents raised three intellectually tough, free-spirited, big hearted men—two gay and one straight—and they love them all the same.

What I realized today, is that we have never differentiated my Uncles' pursuit of "finding the right one", from any of our straight family members. To this day, I don't think I have ever heard anyone make a differentiation between them being gay and us being straight. I don’t even think we think about it. It is what it is.

And in the end, what it is, is love.

Friday, October 10, 2008

This Moment

We will never have to pay the price our ancestors had to pay. Never.

We won't have to live through the ex-facto version of slavery in the form of sharecropping.

We won't have to send our daughters to back room alley doctors to risk health and life for the right to chose.

We won't get spat upon marching for equal rights for all.

We won't have to feel that the only "white collar" job for you us was to be a long as it was in a segregated school. Or be a cop because it was the only "good job" for a man from Ireland.

We will never feel nearly the sting of corporate racism as the first and second class of folks of color climbing the ladder at IBM, ATT and other Fortune 500's in the 1980's

No. That is a price that was long ago paid. It is a price that we can't even imagine today. If somehow, it became expected that any of the aforementioned events was something we would have to cope with, would sooner commence to trying to beat someone within an inch of his life, then let them try to desecrate our humanity in any such form.

And, it is price, that understandably none of us can relate to. Other than the vivid stories of our parents and grandparents, we have little related experience. We are so far removed from ever having to deal with this kind of treatment that many of us have looked at older folks--particularly those who were active in the civil rights movement like they are know-nothing relics of the past. We see our generations of X and Y as having crossed the post racial line in so many ways. Hip-Hop and other cultural aspects seemingly connected to "Youth" have been the great uniter.

That is until, in someways, right now.

History, once again, shows us that it still has plenty to teach us know-it-all young folks. Right now, as I type, Senator McCain and his runningmate are somewhere allowing crowds of suppoters to turn into angry seeting mobs on unfounded hatred for an opponent who is different. They are using coded language of racisim and hatred through such phrases as "dimish the prestige of the presidency", and insinuating terrorist connections to assassinate his character. Their silence about the not-so-coded language of terrorist and nigger used by their surrogates and supporters is driving the point home. No man of color. Not this time. Not ever.

And it is downright frightening. I know I have never seen anything like it. But those folks who paid the price? They have. They kept their eye on the prize. No matter what kind of hateful and beligerent behavior was constrantly thrown their way. We must do the same.

Change is on the horizon. I truly believe it.

This is our moment to stand up and say, "Never again". This is our time to be the morally compelling voice in the room. We must make sure our children never have to pay the price that we pay.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Hip Hop Pass

My man Ink jumped on the buzz about the Biggie movie with a link to P. Rosenburg's recent posting of the entire 4-hour Mr. Cee's Big Mix. And then Ink said two of the best things he has ever said. Big was not the Goat but he was gifted as hell.

I agree. Somewhat.

Someone already threatened to take my Negro card when I said I neither enjoy cornbread nor collard greens. But I got my AARBG (American Association of Retired B-Girls) card well hidden, so back the hell up.(My NY card, on the other hand? I might not be able to keep that one.) Back in the day, no one could question my allegiance to East Coast Hip-Hop. If you got in the whip with me on the way to school and tried to pop Black Moon out the deck for Master P or Eightball and MJG, not only were you getting put the hell out but you might have lost a digit on the way. And Biggie was King.

So clearly, back then, if you had asked me the hip-hop head password of yesteryear "Pac or Big", I would have said Big. Admittedly, it was partly because I because of the East Coast allegiance, and partly because I was living in Cleveland--where real hip-hop could go die and never be found. And you can add to that, the fact that I started every morning with a little Big with my Breakfast. (But it was mostly because I couldn't stomach that wack shit that passed for hip-hop on the North Coast.)

Now? The answer is different. The answer is Pac. And you know what? I shoulda said Pac then. As I have gotten older, I have actually paid alot more attention to Pac then I did in my early hip-hop listening days. He is prolific, conflicted, poetic, and often reaches down into a vat of emotions few people in any genre of music can. Shallow party shit. Crime drama. Heartfelt what-the-fucks. All of it. Brilliantly laced together.

Now before you start calling me unpatriotic to the hip-hop head nation or some sort of hip-hop terrorist, let me say there is still no doubt that Big was incredibly talented. There is no doubt that Big had an incredible lyrical gift. There is no doubt that he has spit some of the most amazing verses in hip-hop. Ever. Point blank. Period. I mean, I used to go home and practice the man's rhymes so I could spit it like I wrote the bars myself. But in my old age it seems to me so much of Big's flow is shallow. Its about shallow-ass shit. If you go back and listen to both of his first two albums most of the material is a precursor, perhaps treasure map to the road to riches via the unadulterated hood-rich, bling-bling, me and my 55 bitches and 4 video ho's hip-hop that we is rammed down our throats daily on a Radio Won station near you. Big was the King of Hood-rich and on down the hill it keeps going.

When I listen to Big now, I can so clearly hear that he had yet to tap into his best game. He was resting on his laurels. To me, he was a lot like Jay has been his whole career. Big could KILL you with his lyrical flow whenever he wanted, and every once in awhile drops a verse to remind you, but he didn't have to in order to be viewed as King shit. He only gave us the good flow cause it sells just as well. Money was the motivation. And while, of course Pac rapped about much of the same shit--seems to me he dug deeper. Perhaps that is why he was so conflicted.

Maybe I've gotten to hip-hop righteous in my old age. But I always need you to say more to me. Big chose not to do it. Perhaps he knew he was so talented but saw it more as a hustle he was good at then something he wanted to wreck shop at. Perhaps, it stopped being a challenge. Who knows. But I need more in my hip-hop, particularly as the world gets more complicated and simple all at the same time.

...Now, if you are looking for me, I will be in a witness protection program or hiding out at Gitmo. And my NY card has been stored in a country where I have immunity from US intrusion.