Saturday, January 31, 2009

LaBelle: 30 years later

Is it just me or does it annoy you when groups who were popular back in the day get back together for a last go round.... They make the national tour circuit, they get the massive PR blitz and then when you get to the show, they sound really bad... I mean like they should have just stayed home... I went to see LaBelle last week. They came to the Nokia Center at LA Live... and I have to admit they were stupendous, off the chain, awesome, super, all that and some chips!!!

I really liked this girl group back in the day seventies when they were out. Remember they had the futuristic outrageous outfits and the socially conscious lyricism... Their harmonies were off the hook. I remember "Come into my Life, Get Somebody New and of course the R&B/Disco classic "Lady Marmalade"... And while this is not the first time they reunited, I was really excited about this reunion for the simple fact that I just was not aware of the earlier reunions.
Interestingly enough, there was not a lot of press regarding their appearance in Los Angeles. And perhaps that explains the lack of buzz regarding their appearance. In my opinion the show should have been hosted in a smaller venue as the Nokia Center was not the optimal location for a LaBelle Reunion show. Sad to report, there were a LOT of empty seats in the Nokia Center... This program would have been more effective inside the Club Nokia or one of the smaller venues around town. That said, the group fought through sound issues (OK,Live Nation, I have been to a couple of shows where your sound was really sub-par... I mean Teena Marie, LaBelle and even a few more R&B legacy artists of whom I will not mention here but my opinion of y'all in LA consists of poor sound production),,,

I was amazed at how beautiful the women of Labelle looked. I have seen Patti LaBelle a thousand times and she has definitely is an R&B legend after she left LaBelle... And Sarah Dash, she has remained active in the industry over the years, but I have to say, I was surprised to be reminded how she had the body of life back in the day and now she is a healthy, size 17/18...(that's my estimate meaning to say she is a voluptuous woman as opposed to the brick house she was back in the day... of the three females, Sarah had the body of life...)
These women were off the chain... experienced, charming, entertaining.... But I was most struck by Nona Hendryx... from the moment thy took the stage, her energy was apparent... I was really surprised when the ladies confessed their ages... Patti and Nona is 64 and Sarah is 63... But Nona was clearly to me, the most beautiful... No disrespect to the other ladies, but I am trying to tell you that Nona Hendyx is FOINE!!!

I did not know that Nona wrote most of their songs.. It was apparent that Nona was a phenomenal songwriter...And upon further review, she is certainly due her respect... But up until this point I just did not know... I mean this was an awesome group back in the day.. and Nona's creativity was central to that success...
During the middle of the set, they showed film clips of LaBelle from back in the day...I don't know about the rest of the audience, But I really appreciated where LaBelle came from and where they were today, as I watched the vids on the big screens in the venue....
Amid technical difficulties and what seemed to be uncertainly of the house as they seemed surprised at the house attendance LaBelle was off tha hook.... I am so glad they sang Isn't it a Shame... And while their new core audience (the LBGT segment was THICK in the House) definitely supports Nona and Patti, I am not sure they remember, appreciate or celebrate the legacy this girl group has with the timeline that is black music history...

All I know is that LaBelle in 2009 still captured the essence of what they were back when I was in school.... Tight harmonies, stage chemistry...and a library of songs that will always be a central element of black music history....
LaBelle... if you can, check them out... support this legacy group by your attendance....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blagojevich: The Big Payback??? A fantastic speculation

I have been watching with keen interest the ongoing saga of Illinois Governor Blagojevich. He's being impeached because he put a price on the senate seat vacated by President Obama. Or did he? Did he actually offer the seat for sale or was he reacting to the frenzy that we all know occurred as people jockeyed for position, hoping to be appointed Senator. I know the transcripts show shady dealings but hey it's politics! I know he said that certain folks said they would put 5k down if chosen (er, uh at least the transcript indicates that "number 5"'s people went in with thier mind on the money and the money on their mind...)

Blago entertained the notion and spoke about it out loud where folk could hear him and that's why he's in trouble... But let's examine this a tad closer. Why him and why now??? I mean aren't politicians known to be in the smoke filled room dealing and wheeling? What made this so special?? Why was Blago carted off to jail in front of the entire country? And why did the arrest take place so soon after Mr.Obama's election win? Why was he taken by surprise by his arrest? Most politicians know what's coming don't they?

I really want to know what the inside scoop is on this story. Could it be that Blago hated on Barack Obama in the early days when Barack as an upstart Senator started announcing his dream to be President? Can't you imagine all the haters Barack encountered at the beginning? Even those he thought as friends. Even his closest allies... Perhaps only a few ever believed that he would be President of the United States. I bet even Michelle doubted him at first...

Picture Barack coming home one day and saying "baby, I'm going to run for President of the United States!"
"Yeah right silly" "but baby, really. I am going to run for President"
"You're serious" "yes, dear I am"
"but honey, you know they'll never elect a black man to the white house"
Barack looks deep into his wife's eyes, holds her in his arms and tells her, "girl just wait, I'm gonna put you up in the White House... I'm going to be the President and you, my sweet lady, will be the nation's first black first lady.... I can see it now... Aretha Franklin will sing at the inauguration, and we'll slow drag to "At last" by Etta James, but Beyonce is gonna sing it.... c'mon girl you know that's our song....!"
"oh boy, stop dreaming and eat your dinner"
"I'm telling you, Michelle, you know how I do it, I have the audacity to hope!"
and then her momma says "I told you that boy would lose his mind someday"

In his work arena, I bet there are folk who just tried everything they could to discourage, stop and sabotage Barack's run for the White House. I'm thinking Blago was a major playa hata from the start. I'm thinkng these guys have some uncomfortable relationship issues. I'm thinking the conversation kinda went like this:

"Hey Governor, I need your support, I'm running for President"
"Yeah, right.. You? President? Of what?"
"The United States."
"of what?"
"Of America"
"You think that America will actually elect someone like you to the White House? You people and this dream"
"Alright Rod, you just wait, I'm going to get into the White House and when I do, I'm going to blow the lid off all your dirt. Sneeze and you are going down..."
"Yeah right,bro, you're going to take me down... I'm Blago, I'm the Man in this state and you ain't going nowhere unless I say you go"
"Aiight Governor, keep talking stuff.... When I'm elected I'm coming.. matter of fact, when I'm elected I won't even have to come... one morning the authorities are just going to show up at your door BEFORE you get your jog on... They'll bring handcuffs, cameras and your constitutional rights and you'll be exposed to the nation - no, the world, for the sleaze you are.. Watch your back man because I AM going to be the President of the United States and you ARE going down"
"yeah right, I guess I shouldn't worry too much because you'll never be President... That part of the dream will never be realized"
"keep talking"

And so Barack Obama wins the election and within a week, five-o comes to visit the governor and carts him off to jail in a very public scene that is played out in front of a cadre of international media cameras...

Reap What You Sow... What goes around comes around.... Payback is a b****

Monday, January 26, 2009

Notorious BIG: I Remember

I finally saw the film "Notorious".

Big Up to George Tillman. The story, the characters, the look of the film, the whole essence of how they told the story of Christopher George Latore Wallace aka Notorious BIG/Biggie Smalls was simply well-done. The film gave me pause to remember those days in our industry.

The scene where Puffy starts Bad Boy and they had the postcard with the baby boy... I think I still have the card and even an invitation to a party/showcase at Jack the Rapper...

I remember the Source Awards situation. But in the film, they didn't show the part when Snoop gets up and says "what? y'all don't have no respect for the west coast??" That was classic.

I remember that Puffy was a rising star in the Uptown Records camp...

I remember the party on the fateful night of March 9, 1997. I was invited by Vibe magazine and executives from Burrell Advertising and to this day, in my book, this party remains the hottest industry event ever. It was held at the relatively new Petersen Automotive Museum. That night was hot as people from all over the entertainment and media industry, surrounded by all sorts of automobiles - classics, exotics, race cars, antiques partied in celebration of the Soul Train Awards. It was so fly...

I saw Notorious BIG, sitting in a super VIP area(VIP within the VIP). I had never seen him before. I mean, up to that point I had seen and met a LOT of hiphop stars, many who have come and gone, but even at his meteoric rise, I had never seen this man. But there he was...Those glasses, sitting there chillin' obviously enjoying himself...

I remember the excitement in the air that BIG was coming to LA... The death of Tupac nearly seven months earlier had shocked and changed the consciousness of the HipHop community. and the notion of peace was finally the order of the day... It was a good thing that Notorious was coming out...

I remember that the advance copy of Life After Death was in my collection but I had not played it yet.. seeing him reminded me that I need to catch up with my listening...

So there we were, chillin' at the industry's hottest party when the announcement came that the fire marshals were shutting the place down early... We exited, and I remember BIG's entourage were just a few feet behind me... I knew the area pretty well, so I went directly to my car, pulled out into the alley behind the museum and exited east. Got home, glowing from a great time and was really proud of our industry. I awoke the next morning, turned on my radio and was floored to learn that Notorious BIG was gunned down on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. I was tremendously affected by this news as I had just seen him....

The murder is one of the defining moments of music history and remains a cold case within the files of the LAPD. No one knows who killed Notorious BIG. I've seen the City struggle with this case for 12 years now and it is tragic that justice has not been served. Most reports imply that missteps in investigative procedure by the LAPD, coupled with links to Raphael Perez and Nino Durden, and other prominent figures in the LAPD Rampart scandal; are the central obstacles to solving the case.

The film taught me things about BIG I never knew. For instance I heard he and L'il Kim had were romantically linked, but I did not know it was that deep. I knew Faith was his wife and I remember the scandal of Tupac's alleged relationship with her. What I did not realize how badly he treated Lil Kim. Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace said, in an interview at , that "I would love to speak to Lil’ Kim, because I need to ask more about this love relationship because I really didn’t like the way he treated her and I’m praying that that’s not it. Only she can answer those questions. She’s a sweet girl and I didn’t think she deserved to be treated the way he treated her, if that’s the case."

The film could have been a contrived production that sent fantastical images of the hiphop industry but instead I found the film to be believable, fascinating depiction of what was going on in the industry in hose days. The actors chosen to portray the real life characters in Biggie's life, were dead on. Jamal Woolard as Biggie, Natauri Naughton as Li'l Kim, Derek Luke as Puffy were all familiar ad believable.. The one in all of this was the masterful performance of Angela Basset as Voletta Wallace... She was awesome!!

I saw the film Notorious... and I remember!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unlocked: The end of a journey

For the last 9-plus years, I have proudly worn my hair in locks. It has been a journey that is spiritual, self effectuating and and at the same time self conflicting. The journey has been redeeming and illuminating. It was a journey that cleansed my soul on so many levels.
On January 21, after much prayer, soul searching, and self-evaluation, I cut my locks off. I did it. I now look so much more corporate. But, it was time. I decided last fall that I would cut my beloved locks and intended to enter into 2009 without my beautiful hair, but ran out of time to catch up with my people to do the deed.
The 2009 MLK weekend and subsequent Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama gave me pause to reflect on my essence as a Black American. I thought of my parents, both of were patriotic, yet deeply conscious. My Mother always pushed me to read, but always made sure I read about my ancestry. This background stuck with me as I grew into adulthood, and certainly, I have always been a man who never disregarded my heritage, never chose self hatred when I looked at myself in the mirror. Part of my self expression in this regard was to develop and grow my hair into locks. I love my hair - my natural hair. I love my dark chocolate skin. I know I am American but remain conscious of the sacrifices my people have made in order for me to enjoy the rights I enjoy.

That said, I embarked on a 9 and a half year journey of locking. And on January 21st, I went to my loctician and asked her to cut my locks completely off. Yes, after Mr. Obama took the oath of office, and initiated a season of change in this nation, I too stepped forth into a season of change. For those who know me, they will agree that this is a deep and poignant change for me. I am known for my beautiful locks. People look at me and see themselves.. and sometimes, people are caused to reflect on their spiritual consciousness... I was called Black Jesus by so many brothas and sistas.... Here's a funny story: We were hosting an advance screening of Kung Fu Panda. The event was held in an IMAX Theater and attracted a diverse crowd. There was a Caucasian man there with his son - a little guy about 5 years old. The child kept staring at me until his curiosity could not be contained anymore. He looked up at his dad and asked "Dad, is he Jesus?"... His Dad answered, "I'm not sure...." True story.

And so here we are. 2009. A new year. A new President. A new consciousness in America. And deep in my soul I have a new consciousness... I am an American. Not just a black American, but an American. And so I march out on 2009 with a new look, a new attitude, a new consciousness, and a new purpose.

My journey is complete, for I have come full circle....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Times, They Are a-changin...

It is good to be an American. That's right.. Not just a black American, but an American. We have just embarked on a journey that will be full of challenges and situations, but we just thank God for the opportunity to exercise real democracy as opposed to unmitigated authoritarianism. Barack Obama has taken the Oath, got his party on as he and Michele ran through a slew of inauguration balls and has gotten down to the business of running our nation.

I am so proud of this man. I am so proud of this nation. A nation who has overwhelmingly agreed that we need change. We need to be more about the people as opposed to self interests and destructive tendencies on the world stage... The election and inauguration of Barack Obama has caused me pause to look inward. Yes, I am a conscious brotha who definitely understands the legacy of black people in America. In my lifetime I have been privy to a lot of African American firsts however, the Presidency was still a far-flung achievement in my mind. But Barack changed that for me. I loved that the center of his political consciousness is rooted in the essence of community development. It is the extension and result of what used to be considered revolutionary standards. It is an ideology that holds the needs of the people first.

And while I watched Barack Obama move to the nation's highest office, I look inward. I am inspired to do better. To be a better man, because just as this black male represents me and the best my community has to offer, I represent him. No longer can I say "The Man" is holding me back... I am "The Man"On election day, moments after the announcement was made that Barack Obama had been elected President of the United States, a young woman whom I know, and deeply respect looked me directly in the eyes and said " Greg J., you can't say that they are holding you back anymore.. you can't blame them, Barack just showed you that anything is possible in the country."

And so, today I am now walking taller. I am aspiring to be a better husband(if that's possible, cuz I'm pretty darn good!!). A better father (er,uh, grandfather) and willing to serve God even the more... I want to do more to help my community get better. I want to be the best I can be. Speaking of being a better husband, isn't it refreshing to see a positive images of the black family? I mean, no gum-smacking, neck rolling, loudmouthed sista girl... no inebriate, verbally abusive, don't-wanna-support black man... no out of control, foul mouth loud, bad-azz kids... I mean this is a real black family, intact, intelligent, positive.... Just like mine and the one I came from.... the stereotypes have been shattered!!

The times require a paradigm shift in everything I do. I need to really go for my dreams. Never hesitating nor stopping to wonder what limitations are before me. Because now, more than ever, I can accomplish any dream that God has placed in my consciousness... The times also require, now more than ever, that we treat each other better. The self hate among black folk has to be abated. Your image in America has been fundamentally changed. You are "The Man"... Our sensitivity toward our women must change. We have to do right by our children. Women have to do right by us... It is a cultural paradigm shift that is necessary and taking place whether we are ready or not...

I hope you realize that this time is a result of the prayers and sacrifices of our ancestors... Mama, Big Mama an' em praying and marching and giving their lives for equal access... This is the answer - direct from the Most High!!

As we start along this road of progress, let us recognize the paradigm shift that is here. Let's do better among ourselves... The Times, They are a-changin...!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Do You Feel? Let Me Count the Ways

As I watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I heard from friends and family, most of whom began their conversation with "how do you feel??" This morning, I contemplate this inquiry. How do I feel?

Proud: I am a child of the civil rights movement. Too young to participate but old enough to understand what was going on and what was at stake. I am the son of black American parents who constantly reinforced to us that education, spirituality, knowledge, and a civilized demeanor would take me far in this society. They told me constantly that anything is possible in America and that it was up to my generation to overturn the ills of a racist American society. And maybe, just maybe I would see the day when America would live up to its creed that all men are created equal. They told me that perhaps in my lifetime I would see America elect a black person to the presidency of the United States. My dad was a career military man, a brotha who could not do any other job in the military except cook and wait on white officers. This is one of the only jobs a black man could have in the US Military. On family vacations to segregated El Campo, Texas, he would make it a point to show me the white side of the tracks and tell me that some day, we would be able to safely walk across the tracks, own a home, own a business, run for office... Some day, son, color won't matter, you will be able to do anything.... I am proud that his encouraging words have come true...

Inspired: One can only imagine the trials and challenges Mr. Obama has faced during his journey to the Presidency. Yet, he has stood strong through the trials and emerged victorious, poised for great things through the change-making administration he has put together. The nay-sayers, the haters, the doubters, the times he was told no he can't... when in fact, yes he did. This means that I too can overcome the obstacles in front of me. When someone tells me no you can't, I just think of Mr. Obama and say Yes, I Can...

Motivated: anything is possible in America. The playing field seems level now. I am motivated to bring change in my life. I am motivated to do more in my business life. I am motivated to be a better husband. I am motivated to be a better father, er, grandfather. I am motivated to pursue my dreams as God has planted them in my consciousness.

Excited: The times are tenuous, yet exciting. The consciousness of America has changed right before my very eyes. I am excited to know that no longer do I have to look over my shoulder to see that the man is trying to hold me back. Oh sure, there are those who cling to the old ideals of white supremacy, but the election of Barack Obama has shown the world that those old racist, supremacist views are dying a death in America. I am excited to know that the man cannot hold me back... because I am the Man.....!

Inspired: The black man from humble beginnings. The brotha whose political nucleus was formed in the streets of the hood. The man who's ideals embrace an America where all have freedom, liberty and social justice. President Obama's sensitivities, political agenda, his dedication to his wife and daughters have inspired me to do more for my community and my family. Today, I am inspired to increase social and economic justice in my community, demonstrate compassion an alleviate poverty as tangible expressions of the kingdom of God.

Determined: To make my community a better place. To lift my fellow man. To be closer to God. To love my family. To be the best that I can be.

Excited: That America has made the right choice, overcoming all odds. I am excited about the change of direction this country is making.

Hopeful: That this nation will support this man. Hopeful that certain forces in our nation will do the right thing and fall behind our commander in chief.

Grateful: that Almighty God has moved to place this black man in the office of the President of the United States. I am Grateful that the descendant of slaves is at the side of the man whose African roots signal a closeness to God's earth and that closeness will result in good. Good that will return America to her previous standard of greatness. I am grateful that I have lived to see this moment. I saw the first mayor, governor, senator, congress persons, astronaut, quarterback, coach, baseball manager, golf champion and so many more firsts... Lord, I am grateful for the first black American President of the United States...

How Do I Feel? Glad to be an American!