The Joy & Pain of a Young Generation: “Chiraq”

Watched some of Noisey’s “Chiraq” documentary last night. The gang culture there and the Drill music scene are really interesting. Basically, you can see how these youngsters have been affected by the previous generation. When I see these young men dancing, smoking, and waving guns in their videos I think, “Where are the fathers, where is the guidance?” Then I realize they are the product of a generation that was almost entirely killed or incarcerated by the system in the 80s and 90s. The family unit has been disrupted, the guidance is not there. Then I listen to the music. I used to not feel Chief Keef, Lil Reese, etc., now I realize they’re just a mouthpiece to the streets. The emotion they put into their music is very real, the production is creative, and their expression is honest. It’s just kind of a shame that their generation seems to have lost the lyrical and performance skills that MCs used to need to get respected. Now respect comes from how “real” your music is. This is also a result of the past generation.

I often think how I grew up in the early 90s hearing 2Pac, Wu-Tang, Ice Cube, etc. on the radio. These kids grew up in the early 2000s hearing Ca$h Money, Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy. Partly, the elders have failed to build with the youth and properly pass on the culture, but it’s mostly due to corporate America promoting ignorance and negativity, and blackballing artists with a positive message. While I don’t think Chief Keef is personally to blame, I think it’s a shame that a corporation pumped $8 million dollars into spreading his message of violence and destruction when there’s so many talented young artists out there who could have a positive impact but are going unheard. Funny enough, most of the consumers of Chief Keef’s music are white kids who are physically and mentally far removed from the South Side of Chicago. It reminds me of mainstream’s America initial shock once rap music left the ghetto and started coming in the suburban households of white children in the 90s.

I have a feeling that the producers of this Noisey documentary were some of those children. Same goes for many bloggers, journalists, and other people of “influence” within the music industry. It’s crazy how many people in hip-hop have nothing to do with the culture, the areas where it was created and the people it’s supposed to represent for. It’s almost like a regular 9-5 family man watching The Godfather and feeling like a Mafia don. Of course dude would never join the Mob, but he gets excited when he sees Michael Corleone shoot up the restaurant. For some reason it’s exciting to see impoverished Black teenagers point guns at the camera, smoke weed, and talk about the murder and destruction that makes life in Chicago a living hell for many people. Kids are really dying behind the lyrics to these songs, the videos on YouTube, and the posts on social media- meanwhile record labels, magazines, and blogs like Noisey are profiting. I don’t believe this documentary was made for any reason other than shock and entertainment.

So I will ask the questions that I didn’t see get asked in the “Chiraq” documentary: What can be done about the gang violence in Chicago? How do you reach a kid like Chief Keef and teach him accountability & the true meanings of the culture without attacking him for who he is and still respecting his art? How do we shift the culture of the industry so that people from our communities are properly involved and represented?

Free Boosie x Free Eddie Conway

Did you hear Lil Boosie was freed from prison yesterday? I’m not the biggest fan of his music but it seemed like in every hood I’ve been to across the country, youngsters love him. I used to think it was silly to scream, “Free Boosie!” or “free” anyone who’s been convicted of crimes they actually committed. We are conditioned to think that prison is deserving of people who break the law and that if ya do the crime, ya gotta do the time. Then I realized that NO ONE is deserving of prison. It is a cruel and unusual punishment that completely strips people of their humanity and does nothing to actually correct behavior, transform lives for the better, or stop criminal activity from happening in our communities and not even behind the walls themselves. That being said, let me ask another question:

Did you hear Marshall “Eddie” Conway was freed from prison yesterday? At the age of 24, Eddie Conway, who was the Baltimore Black Panther Party’s Minister of Defense, was arrested for shooting 2 police officers and murdering one of them. However, his was one of many cases that was influenced by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. It has been officially documented that through COINTELPRO, the FBI arranged for the framing and murder of many Black Panthers and other revolutionaries, as well as using undercover agents and snitches against them and the media to spread misinformation. Conway earned 3 college degrees from behind bars, as well as writing 2 books and starting a literacy program for prisoners. Finally after 44 years in jail, he was released yesterday.

I’m guessing you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second. I’ll let you decide what that means. It’s unfortunate that the media has only partially covered Conway’s release (if at all). While I was in college I got the opportunity to hear him speak over the phone from prison and ask him questions. During that time I further studied COINTELPRO and the prison industrial complex; there’s many other innocent political prisoners that the US is holding. Not to mention all the people who are caught up in the cycle of poverty, crime, and oppression. I say- FREE EM ALL!

Make sure you head to Rock The School Bells this Saturday and check out my workshop, “The Revolution of Tupac Shakur.” Through group discussion, pictures, video, and music, I’m going to be examining 2pac’s history, career, and death; and the impact he had on society. I’ll be covering a lot of stuff, from the Black Panthers, the FBI, and COINTELPRO to Suge Knight, Biggie, and Thug Life as a movement. If you’re a Pac fan you’ll love this, but please spread the word to anyone who might be interested (especially youth!) and check out the other awesome workshops at this event.  Free RSVP here:

Make sure you head to Rock The School Bells this Saturday and check out my workshop, “The Revolution of Tupac Shakur.” Through group discussion, pictures, video, and music, I’m going to be examining 2pac’s history, career, and death; and the impact he had on society. I’ll be covering a lot of stuff, from the Black Panthers, the FBI, and COINTELPRO to Suge Knight, Biggie, and Thug Life as a movement. If you’re a Pac fan you’ll love this, but please spread the word to anyone who might be interested (especially youth!) and check out the other awesome workshops at this event.

Free RSVP here:

Fried Chicken for Black History Month

Today they are serving fried chicken for the Black History Month at the residential housing I work at in the TL. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fried chicken. I love fried chicken. But for a Black History celebration with an audience of all backgrounds I don’t think its helpful to confirm the stereotype that this is all black people eat. Not to mention that the Black community suffers from high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other health/nutrition-related diseases. But instead of addressing that, we’re serving food deep-fried in vegetable oil. Whenever I suggest healthy alternatives I’m looked at like a weirdo or told I need to lighten up. Is it weird that I would rather serve yams, plantains, or black-eyed peas? Or maybe even research an authentic African dish? Or even Afro-Carribean? Afro-Latino?

During every holiday, my organization bends over backwards to provide events that match the holiday’s theme. I’m told to drop whatever I’m doing and start making Christmas ornaments, or Thanksgiving turkey drawings, or Valentine’s cards. Doesn’t matter that many of our non-Christian residents don’t celebrate Christmas. Or that the kids I work for don’t know that the pilgrims slaughtered the Indians on Thanksgiving. Or that Valentine’s Day is a holiday made up by corporations who are influencing children’s perceptions of love just so they can exploit those feelings later. If I don’t get with the program and provide events for these holidays I get in trouble. It reminds me of being in school and being pinched by everyone if I didn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s all about conformity, and teaching conformity.

In the case of Black History Month, this mentality becomes especially harmful. I refuse to conform to the idea that black people are simply just descendants of slaves who love fried chicken and either grow up to be athletes or entertainers (today’s event is mostly discussing people from those two categories). In reality I am much more interested in Black history that discusses scientists, mathematicians, scholars, and kings. I’m interested in teaching that black history does not begin and end with slavery. I’m interested in pointing out that EVERY culture on this planet right now is descended from Africa.

But let me just shut up. I just got in an argument with a co-worker because I asked her not to include Kwame Kilpatrick as part of today’s celebration game. Guess I’m the only one who thinks the corrupt former mayor who’s currently doing 28 years in jail is a poor example to include in the black politician category. I should just stop, go along with all this shit and conform, because it’s much easier to do that than be the weirdo who has a problem with everything right?

NEW VIDEO: Style Exercise #1 - Crowd Control

Basically just doin’ me in my natural habitat. Filmed in about 1 hour on about 3 blocks. If ya like it, comment and share. If ya don’t like it, hey, that’s ok.

Parental advisory: This music video contains explicit raps, graffiti, pigeons, and Korean food.

The other day I looked back on all the music I’ve put out over the years:

2006: Gas Mask Colony-Top Bottom
2007: Sucka Free State of Mind mixtape
2008: Sucka Free State of Mind v. II
2009: Sucka Free State of Mind v. III, Gas Mask Colony - Genuine Masters of Ceremony
2010: Back to the Baysicks mixtape, Hi Yella Club (BIG Shawn & Dregs One) - Bright Moments mixtape, Dregs One & Equipto - Generation Gap mixtape
2011: The Wake Up Call mixtape, The Wake Up Call album
2012: The Inspiration mixtape
2013: the STYLE tape mixtape, No World Order album w/ Monk HTS & P.Fetti
2014: …?

I have to finish what I started. That’s 13 projects all created and released independently. There are about 6 more full-length projects I recorded during this time period that have never been released, at least 1 of them will be dropping this year. Besides that I made around 1000 beats and did dozens of feature verses for other folks’ albums & mixtapes.

Even though none of these projects have ever received any major commercial success or acclaim, I’m still hella proud to have chronicled these years of my life through my music and to be able to share my experience with people from all over the world. Some of these projects aren’t available anymore so if ya got em make sure ya hold on to em! I’m gonna look into repressing & re-releasing a lot of these this year, until then please hit up & support. Cop some music and tell a friend cuz I couldn’t have done any of this without YOUR support!!

San Francisco Then & Now: Destroy & Rebuild

I had a few thoughts while reading a book called “San Francisco: Then & Now,” which shows past and present pictures of SF landmarks and neighborhoods. Of course you know the Golden Gate Bridge is gonna be in there, plus Fisherman’s Wharf, Transamerica Pyramid, etc. I wanted to look for residential neighborhoods but could only find the Marina, Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, and the Sunset. When reading about the Sunset the book said the alphabetic street names (Anza, Balboa, Cabrillo, etc.) were all named after Spanish colonizers, meaning the people who stole those very same lands and murdered and enslaved the population living on them. I will always think about that whenever I drive through the Avenues from now on.

To me, gentrification is colonization. Not to lessen what the Indigenous went through, but I think SF locals can identify with being forced out of your homeland and watching a conquering race/class take over the land while appropriating your culture and directly benefiting from your hard labor.

Another action colonizers take is wiping out the history of the people being colonized. Looking back at this book that mentions almost no working-class areas, I realized that our neighborhoods have never really been included. Based off the pictures in this book, it would be easy to assume that only white people live/lived in SF. There was a small blurb about Fillmore’s jazz history but what about the proud dockworkers that settled Bayview/Hunter’s Point, or the diverse artists and musicians of the Excelsior? Actually I’m having a hard time thinking of other historical facts about these neighborhoods because, come to think of it, they’ve never been taught to me!

I recall an article in Huffington Posts about black business leaders boycotting San Francisco because black residents are being shut out of the tourism industry. I read the comments and saw things like “Why would anyone want to go to black neighborhoods in SF?” or “They’re too dangerous for tourists to visit.” Yet Chinatown is full of poor folks, and definitely has a history of gangs, crime, and violence, but is still one of the biggest tourist draws in the city. Perhaps being able to benefit from worldwide tourism has allowed Chinatown to gain more economic power and prosperity, while also shaking the same stigmas as other Asian/black/Latino neighborhoods. If our history and our value is unknown or unacknowledged, then I guess it’s on us to document and tell our own histories in our own way. We have to show these yuppies, hipsters, tourists, corporations, and greedy politicians that we have always played a crucial role in this city and that our culture and history is beautiful and deserves to be recognized.

One final thought. When looking at a picture of Golden Gate & Taylor (off Market St) from 1922, I saw well-dressed white folks walking to and from local shops and businesses. Now that same intersection is part of the Tenderloin and swarming with drug addicts, dealers, and struggling businesses. It’s also being heavily gentrified right now as part of Mid-Market redevelopment. Crazy how once neighborhoods become populated with poor people of color, they are neglected, flooded with drugs (crack dealers do not own planes), and given a bad reputation. To me it seems like the people of these neighborhoods are made to die a slow, institutional, systemic and social death. As they are being neglected, the rich make plans bulldoze over their lives and legacies to build new housing and businesses that those poor people would never have been able to afford. It’s very likely that 2022’s picture of Golden Gate & Taylor might also feature well-dressed white folks enjoying successful local businesses without a poor person in sight.

As I get more and more involved in the struggle against gentrification I realize how important it is to document all this information and make it readily-available. This is still a fairly new, developing issue and not everyone has access to the facts. Maybe I will write a book of my own. I don’t want to look at an SF history book in 20 years and see that our struggle to maintain our housing and our culture has also been swept under the rug.