The Curse of Being a Black Artist

Ice Cube helped me in ’92


I think I have fallen in love with Camus (a dead white Algerian
philosopher who argues that the death penalty is premeditated
murder
) and Anthony Hamilton simultaneously.

What does this have to do with being an artist? Everything,
simply because over the last few days I have been apart of
a few conversations on the tension between art and commerce.

Two days ago, on Twitter, Indieplanet and I were having a discussion
about art, commerce, Joe Budden/Vlad flap up.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Its a bigger issue of basic ethics.
Too many blogs/video sites decide at some point to exchange
ethics for page views.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Re: Budden/Vlad – What are your
thoughts on the whole situation. I think its a bigger picture that
video sites should consider.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Shouldnt it be possible to make a
contribution AND get paid?? It is possible (not common)
to change the game & have morals

Yesterday, Dart Adam’s sent me a link to an essay of his which outlined,
amongst many things, how the The Telecommunication’s Act
spearheaded mergers and acquisitions in radio and how these
changes impacted hip hop.

To cap it off, yesterday, Brooklyn Bodega posted a Facebook note asking
“Does Money Ruin it All?” He wrote,

the other day one of our family posted a comment that he was no fan of ‘Notorious’ because too many people had profited from its production. He cited Memebrs of Junior Mafia, Puff and I assume he also had a problem with Ms. Wallace as she looks to have been in charge and arguably received the largest check.

So the question is does the presence of money make it impossible to produce a work of pure artistic integrity?

The responses ranged from, “as long as the Wallace family is
compensated
then it is all good” to “making money is practical
for everyone including artists”,
and finally “this is a less of an
issue of the evils of capitalism and rather a question
of authenticity.”

Many of the comments reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of
capitalism and both how it has historically impacted art and how it impacts
hip hop and Black artists specifically.
Because capital is productive
property, there will always be a move to
exploit the the property to
obtain the most returns.


This is why we have 5 CSI’s, 6 Indiana Jones’s and Hannah Montana
dish towels.

Quality be damned.

Think about it, art is referred to as intellectual property for a reason.

And here is where the tension arises. If our music, our precious
Hip Hop
music began as a voice for the under represented, what does it mean
for us to be so silent about its current state of affairs?
And, if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive? Why are we
so reluctant
to admit the way in which the market has impacted our art?

I have watched both Saul Williams and KRS rationalize getting
money with Fortune 500’s. And I thought to myself why
be coy, why not just say, “Ya’ll, I got bills to pay.”

Lets be clear, I do not claim to be on a pedestal. If Coke/Sony/Steve
Madden/ came calling and wanted to work with me and I chose to do so, I
wouldn’t turn around and say to you “Well the executives
at Coke/Sony/ like me, so this is a great partnership.” I would
understand that they want to rock with me because they feel that
I may be able to enhance their shareholder value. Simple as that.

So if you see my face and big {teeth} smile on the back of a Brooklyn
Erotica anthology at the end of the year, lets be clear, I had to pay
some bills and I am okay with that
.

I guess, I am really perturbed at the fact that we all clearly understand
the nasty bottom line of the Dope game, but when it comes to
analyzing
the ways in which the nasty bottom line of Capitalism
affects our art
we get shook.

Statement was very similar to another statement that I read by
Camus
(pronounced Cam-moo, like shampoo.) In the essay
The Wager of our Generation, Camus writes,

The aim of art, the aim of life, can only be to increase the sum
of freedom and responsibility to be found in everyman and the world.
It cannot, under any circumstances be used to reduce or suppress that
freedom, even temporarily….

No great work of art has been based on hatred or contempt. There is
not a single true work of art of art that has not in the end addressed the
inner freedom of each person that has known and loved it.

In an interview on Verbalisms, ran by the phenomenal and formidable
(wink) Raquel Wilson, Dan Tres OMi interviews Wise Intelligent of PRT
on the role that
art and music plays in our culture. He writes,

There are quite a few people who feel that music that is created to raise the consciousness of a particular community is irrelevant in the age of what William C. Bansfield calls the post-album age wherein the music created is commercially driven and marketed to a specific segment of society. Wise Intelligent, the front man for the influential hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teacher, always felt and continues to feel that he was galvanized by the spirit of the people to take up the mic to educate the masses. It is a tragedy that Wise Intelligent, who penned one of the best odes to Black women with ?Shakyla,? is forgotten when it comes to bringing knowledge of self beat up and compressed into hip-hop form.


Where does Anthony Hamilton fit in? His album is the first one in
a very
long time, that both instrumentation wise and lyrically, has
helped me make sense
of my life. He has helped me be okay with
my new found freedom
. The irony is that it isn’t Hip Hop,
and because am notoriously
boom bap oriented and it feels weird.
I will add that Q-Tips The Renaissance has been in
rotation as well.

Anthony Hamilton also comes into play because the title of his
album
connects to an essential question asked by Camus, which
is what is the
point of life? While I do not have an answer to that, I
have been thinking about the roll that music plays in affirming
who we are.

In 1992, I had Death Certificate to make sense of what was going on
in LA, in the Streets of Oakland and in my family life.
What music do
the young bucks of today have to help them make
sense of their lives?

What music do they have to help them make sense of the rage that they
feel about the murder of Oscar Grant?

The Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival is B-Girl Heaven.

When I went to sleep on Saturday morning,
at 7:13am,
I did not have a ticket to the
Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.

By 12:30 pm. I did. THANK YOU JASE.

You ever go to a function and the energy just crackles.


Like YOU KNOW you are about to have the time of your life.

Thats how it went down.

I gets there.

Firmly plants my @ss up front.


I wanna be so close to the speaker

that when they play the Bridge is Over,
I feel my kidneys jiggle.


Couple people I ran into were like, you here by yourself?

I was like, Yessir.

A few weeks ago, Your boy the liberterian introduced
me to classmates parent and described me as someone
who has , ” a 5 foot party periphery around her at all times.”

At first I thought he was being funny. Then I realized that sh*t was true.

Dolo ain’t a problem.
I mean its a HH festival in BK. I ain’t alone!



Without further adieu, I present to you, my BK HH Festival Rundown.

THE CROWD

The crowd was like democracy on crack.

White Folks. Babies. Old school Bronx b-boys.
Young bucks w/ tribe t.shirts.
Fly ladies.
Frat Boys.
Mexicano’s.
Filipinos.

Negros.

Just straight LOVE.

In fact in observing the crowd, I began to wonder if

is the unifying nature of Hip Hop why Pac is dead.

I can’t think of any other thing could bring
this mixture of people together.

THE ARTISTS.

TANYA MORGAN
These cats were on stage when I arrived.

They are some charismatic, Hip Hop loving dudes.

I MEAN.

EMCEES, who are HAPPY to be rapping.

They have an exciting stage presence.

The BEATS KNOCK. HOOOOOOOWWWWRD.

Peep SITTIN AT THE BAR. It go <------as the hyphy kids say it. SH*T is life affirming.

In fact. Their energy reminds me of Pharcyde.

EMILY KING
This jawn has some pipes.


Her voice is like teena marie’s lil
b-girl sister.


Fly style. Check.

Plays guitar. Check.

Crazy B-girl swag. Double check.

Emily is a winner.

Buy her music.

EXTRA P.

So old boy is in my lane. I have an affinity for
the horn rimmed, malcom X glass wearing cats.



His set was short. Yet perfect.

The Bug out, is that he had salt and pepper in his beard.
Awwwwish.

Grown Man Emcee!

And I think his daughter was on stage. Posted up, taking
pictures. Awishhh. Hip hop. A family affair.

THE EL-MICHAELS AFFAIR
These cats BLEW MY MIND.
Their music is like Fela meets Tower of Power.
I.
Kid.

You.
Not.

My favorite part of their set was “Guess the Wu Tang beat”.

They played WU instrumentals, LIVE.

DUDE.

The moments after they played the tune,
you could see almost feel hip hop brain waves
rippling through the crowd
trying to figure out, WHAT BEAT IS THIS?

After the first 10 or 20 seconds, we would figure out
and folks would shout out OOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH’s.
That sh*t was like church.

SKILLS
Skills is a rappers rapper.
A performers performer.

I been new about him.

BUT.

To witness him is another experience.

You know what it is?


HE IS AN ENTERTAINER.

And smart as sh*t.

I mean. It has been so long that \
an emcees rhymes were so fly that
I just wanted to be their friend.

“i feel that hip hop if it isnt careful will
maybe go the same route that jazz music went..after a while the people
wont care…they wont support it or come see it… Same shit…different music”

Artist do that. You know?

He engages with the crowd.

He’s comical.

Works the stage.

Asks for and expects crowd participation.

I would actually PAY to go see him.

Like somma that outta pocket 2007 Hip Hop show
in Manhattan ticket prices.

Feel me?

JERU
Ol’ boy stopped by and did the water song.

He wasn’t even on the line up. Just popped by.

MAN. LISSEN.

Can you imagine. Sunny day.
Brezzy.

74 degrees. Perfect periwinkle blue sky.

And hearing the little,

Bloomp, Bloomp, Bloomp, Bloomp… You wanna buck whhhhat?

Buck Shot popped by and did “I gotchu opin.”

He wasn’t scheduled either.

Dres did a Fever for the Flavor,
and some new songs.

By this time it was 5 something.

Ghost was scheduled for 7.

I had been standing up for about 3.5 hours and wanted
to go get some carbs and a nap and come back.

My boy Jase was like,

“Ghost isn’t coming on till 9.”

I was like word.

I thought about it.

DRES was on stage performing his new sh*t.

I was like. Ummm. Laters on these.

M.Dot was ty-yerd.

So I bounced.

So im sitting in the middle of lemonade refill,
a twenty minute walk away from the festival
and I get a text from Jase,

“Ghost is performing”.

Dude. It was 7:41. I was piiiiissssssed.

But.

I kept it moving.

I went home.

Got dressed and got scooped by my
gurl, and went to ,Jamaica Flatbush
and then to a party in Fort Greene where I danced
so hard my feet were ’bout to declare mutiny.

So.

In hindsight.

I missed Ghost.

But I got Extra P.

So Im happy.

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Did you go to the festival?

If you could choose the line up,
who would you add?

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M. Dot Presents: National Ghost Face Day

I have never interviewed Ghost Face.

However, the fact that he is headlining this years Brooklyn HH Fest, leads me to believe that my opporuntity may be just around the corner. <<***Smiles big.

If given the opportunity I would ask the following questions:

1. Would you ever put out a Tony Starks Greazy Love Ballads mixtape?

2. How do you deal w/ writers block?

3. Name the beat that “got away”. That one beat, that for whatever reason
you couldn’t get it cleared or for some reason you weren’y able to use it on your album.

4.What are the three characteristics that make you irresistable to women?

5. What is something we don’t know about ODB?

6. Does your moms listen to your music? If so, what does she think?

7. Magnums or Raw dog?

8. Seeing as you are crazy nice with the verbs, have you ever considered teaching a poetry class?

9. Any room in your life for “educated birds?”

10. Name a regret pertaining to your career.

11. Name a career altering positive decision pertaining to your career.


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Dam. This was the pre 9/11 ghost.

I think you could still smoke in clubs back then.
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Look at this little gem.