live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
live and direct from san francisco, ca
live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
During my video shoot for the song "Revolutionaries" with White Mic, we stopped to chop it up with the legendary Spie One of TDK crew. We got some footage of graff murals where one of Oakland’s premiere yards, the 23rd Yard, used to be, and Spie gave us a tour and broke down the history of the Yard and its connection to the king Mike DREAM (RIP).
I decided to post this today because Saturday is DREAM DAY, a celebration of Mike’s life and legacy. Dream has always been an inspiration and one of my heroes, even though I was very young when he passed and never got to personally meet him. Saturday will be a great day of art, music, and community and I’m proud to be performing there along with some other Bay Legends.
There’s nothing more refreshing than hearing a nice voice hit some soulful melodies. It’s even more impressive when that voice can bounce back and forth between signing and rapping, all over some unique production. That’s the homegirl Are Too in a nutshell. She’s been pushing a hard line to follow her dreams and get her music out there, which I really respect. Her debut album, Life Injected, features banging production and introspective songs that really give the listener a good sense of just who she is as a person. This is some good music to kick back and relax to, or to bump on a nice cruise through the town. Like I said, she’s been working really hard- she also works with children in Oakland- so she definitely deserves your support. Check her out.
Today’s interview features the beautiful Jenny Spitz, a dope photographer, spoken word artist, and community activist from Sacramento. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing this young lady for a while now and she definitely inspires me with her passion for creativity and her wisdom which is beyond her age.
1. Who are you, where are you from, and why are you here?
I am a spoken word artist, photographer in the making & a learning-skills counselor. I am from Paracho Michoacan, Mexico, but I was raised in the city of Sacramento. I believe I am here to enjoy a life full of experience and growth, but most importantly I am here to help my community in any way possible. To help them is also to help myself, to educate them is also to educate myself. I am here to stand up for what I believe, to create art and work hard while also enjoying the beauty of life.
2. What is one defining experience from your life that helped make you who you are?
There are many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. The loss of relatives, heart-breaks, lies, and my own mistakes have all been learning experiences. Where there is pain there is also growth, so all the hardships in the past have just been the pipeline to todays strength.
3. Who are some of your biggest influences?
Many people have influenced me along the way. From Malcolm X and Angela Davis to My parents and the people in my community.
4. What are some of the challenges you’re currently facing, and what have you been doing to overcome them?
I have been currently facing the challenge of juggling a full time student schedule, part-time learning-skills counselor work, and trying to make room for friends and family as well as time for my art. Keeping a detailed calendar of events, due dates, and work schedule helps me feel organized and less stressed. Making sure I have at least one day out of the week dedicated to friends/family and or Poetry/photography has been helpful. Keeping in mind that some days its not a bad thing to ditch the school books for some quality time with loved ones.
5. What gives you the inspiration/motivation to push on everyday?
Motivation comes within, if i didn’t believe in myself then where would I be today? Inspiration to keep pushing also comes from my mother, father, and people around me. The youth inspire me to be a better me, to keep pushing for my dreams.
6. (Bonus) You are both a skilled photographer and spoken word artist- how do you use each of these as a form of expression?
There is beauty in capturing a real life moment, those candid shots are more than just images. They are memories, real life memories. Capturing the beauty of life itself through camera lenses is a form of expression. Spoken word poetry is a way of reaching out to all kinds of people, it is a way to connect with strangers and share your truth through metophors and rhymes. Poetry is a way to vent, to speak for the voiceless and represent for people who come from the same crazy detailed metaphors as mine.
Keep up with Jenny on IG and Twitter: @jennyspitz
What up everyone, thanks for checking out the first installation of my reading list. My father always wanted to be a writer, but had to give it up, so from early on he pushed me towards reading and helped me fall in love with letters. I don’t think he expected my love of letters to be expressed through rap and graffiti, though. Ha. Nowadays I read for fun and to learn about new things, or even about myself. It wasn’t always like that, though. I think our school system does a bad job at teaching literature; making us read books that aren’t interesting or culturally relevant. It’s up to us to change that, so my solution is to show folks that reading and learning are actually dope things to do. So on this segment of my blog you’ll find novels, comics, poetry, and all types of non-fiction that will not only entertain you but challenge the way you think.
Before getting into my favorite books and comics that probably aren’t too well-known, I wanted to talk about a novel that’s loved by many for my first segment. This book is so popular it almost feels like it’d be redundant for me to spread the word about. But then I realize there’s still probably plenty of folks out there who haven’t read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and need to. So maybe this blog post will serve as the start of your journey to read and come to love this book.
That’s what The Alchemist is all about: a young boy’s journey towards fulfilling his own Personal Legend. When Santiago, a teenage shepard in Spain, has recurring dreams about the pyramids in Egypt, he feels compelled to ask a gypsy woman to interpret the dream for him. The gypsy encourages him to visit the pyramids and find a treasure buried there. Doubting her, the boy is about to dismiss her prediction when he meets a strange old man who seems to know everything about him, and says that the treasure is his Personal Legend. This leads to a mysterious sequence of events, where the boy is guided by omens and chance encounters with people who change his life forever- and vice versa.
It’s my experience that our society often kills the dreams and hopes of young children like Santiago. How many of us are working day in and day out, not to pursue our own destinies, but simply to survive and put food on the table? How many of us have chosen to ignore our own hearts and souls’ desires in order to do what we thought we had to do? The boy encounters people who have failed to pursue their Personal Legends- they may not even realize they’ve failed, but for some of them the question, “What if?” is a constant presence in their life. In our world, sometimes, the voice of family, friends, loved ones, society that kills our dreams. Sometimes, it’s our own doubts that keep us from living out our full potential.
“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”
The plot reads something like a children’s adventure fable, but it’s not the sequence of the story that makes The Alchemist such an incredible book, it’s the way that it’s written and the themes and messages hidden in the details. Almost every line in this book is a profound message about the workings of life, the world, and our own hearts. In the same way, almost every event and detail in our lives is a message about the way the world works- that’s something The Alchemist will get you thinking about it.
Like the boy Santiago, we can find omens throughout our daily lives that will let us know whether or not we’re on track to achieving our own Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend may not be as grand as hidden treasure buried at the pyramids, but I believe that each of us has a destiny and calling that needs to be fulfilled. Personally, I’m tired of seeing my peers live their lives unfulfilled. I’ve had plenty of times myself where I’ve questioned what I’ve been doing and where I’m headed, coming really close to giving up on things I’ve worked hard to accomplish. But one lesson the boy learns that resonated with me is that events that seem unfortunate can lead to positive results- it’s all on how we bare with them, and what we chose to learn from the experience.
The Alchemist is one of the best-selling books of the last 20 years and has been translated into dozens of languages. I think Paulo Coelho succeeded in writing a story that truly speaks the Language of the World, as he calls it in the book. When he writes it’s like he’s speaking to the inner child in all of us, one with all the curiosity and courage to dream before we grow up and get hit with reality. If you could use some inspiration and motivation, this book will give it to you.
Paulo Coelho, the author who has inspired millions.
“CAN YA DO THE THIZZELLE DANCE?!”
That question was guaranteed to set off almost any dance party in the Bay Area during the last decade. When Mac Dre’s Thizzelle Washington album dropped in 2002, followed by the highly-popular Treal T.V. DVD in 2003, his music and personality spread contagiously. The sound on this project was a slight departure from MD’s trademark Bay Area gangsta style. Dropping rhymes since 1989, it was no secret that Dre was all about the party life, but the Thizz movement took that in a new direction- and the whole Bay soon followed.
Everywhere I went during that time, I heard people slapping Mac Dre. Whether it was cars passing by, other kids in high school, house parties- everybody was on it. The sound was different, fun, and got people moving. It also changed the culture of the Bay, which went onto influence the whole world through the so-called Hyphy Movement. But before the movement, Dre really brought hyphy to the public- the REAL hyphy. As I remember the term (and maybe Keak Da Sneak can back me up on this), someone who was acting hyphy was highly intoxicated, feeling themselves, and ready to trip and get active at a moment’s notice. Basically when someone hyphy walked in the building, you could predict it wouldn’t be long before a fight (or worse) broke out. This seems fitting for Dre’s Thizzelle Washington album, where his character is something like a cat who loves to have fun and party, but is also real gangsta who’s serious about his money.
At first, thizz (or ecstasy, for you squares out there) seemed like an unlikely drug of choice for a Bay Area thug. I mostly associated it with white and Asian kids in the rave scene. I can recall Mac Dre rapping about thizz since the Rapper Gone Bad album in 1999, but by the time Thizzelle Washington came out, it seemed he had made a whole entire lifestyle around the drug- which is pretty obvious if you listen to the album. From the beats, to the raps, and even the shitty vocal mix, it sounds like Dre and his folks pretty much just popped a few pills and partied in the studio.
Ecstasy and music go quite well together, as the drug brings the user’s emotional and physical feeling to new levels of pleasure and relaxation. But sometimes that emotion can get heavy, especially when you’re coming down off the high. In the context of this album, that makes sense- Dre goes from the fun-loving ladies man to the gorilla pimpin’ street hustler to the OG vet who’s been on both sides of the gun and the penitentiary. Some of the songs are deep and reflective of the vicious cutthoat lifestyle, like “Help Me” featuring Rydah J. Klyde of the Mob Figaz and Pittsburg project legend King Freako (RIP). Songs like “Stuart Littles” and “Han Solo” give the listener a little insight into the mind of Mac Dre where he expresses some of the things he deals with when the party’s over and he’s left to his own thoughts. But- just like a thizzelle high- Dre bounces all over the album through the ups and downs.
There’s two songs that define this album and Dre’s whole movement at the time. One is “Thizzelle Dance,” where Dre and Chuck Beez took a weird beat from Portand producer Syko and created a party hit that paid tribute to thizz and one of many unique dance moves Dre was known to create. The other track that was guaranteed to get the party crackin’ (and still does to this day) was “Boss Tycoon” featuring Yukmouth of The Luniz. Over another Syko beat, these two Bay Area vets not only ripped this track lyrically but they showed many people that there were players in the rap game who enjoyed the same type of success as some these cats on MTV and BET, even without the same exposure. As an independent artist, it says a lot that Dre was able to get radio play and CD sales all over the West Coast and beyond from these two hits- even though many people still slept on these joints until after Dre’s death.
There’s plenty of other bangers on this album, and most of the production could still be considered unique and creative in 2014. As I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty clear that Dre handled a lot of production and recording in-house with his homies around. The song “Rap Life” with Sleep Dank might be the weirdest beat ever anyone’s ever rapped on. Their lyrics are tight but the song is damn near unlistenable- those fools must have been thizzin’ hard when they made that one. Also there are two interludes on this album that pretty much make no sense, and as I said earlier the mix is pretty shitty. But all that, even the low quality of the mix, gives the album it’s own unique feel.
The success of Thizzelle Washington allowed Mac Dre to build momentum towards what might have been the most successful phase of his long career. That was cut short in 2004 when Dre was gunned down in Kansas City, MO. His death was a huge blow to the Bay Area community and hip-hop period. For a long time, I tried to make sense of the murder of one of my heroes. Although I can’t judge whether he deserved it or not, he definitely died a gangster’s death, and always rapped about his cutthoat lifestyle catching up to him one day. His death was a huge blow to the Bay, as he was poised to take his success even further on a nationwide scale and bring our whole region along. However, after he died, new people started paying attention to his and the rest of the Bay’s music, which allowed cats like E-40, Keak, and Mistah FAB to pick up the ball and run with it.
But did the Bay drop the ball? Before he died, Mac Dre started his own label, Thizz Entertainment, which he used as a vehicle to put out his music and DVDs, but also for his peers to get their music heard. With a whole mob of rappers and fans supporting him, Dre had a Thizz Nation (aka The Nation of Thizzlam) behind him that was apart of his movement. After his death, it seemed like Thizz was ready to keep the torch lit and continue Dre’s vision. This slowly deteriorated, as fans became oversaturated with mixtapes and albums. All of a sudden, dozens of previously-unknown artists (some that had never even known Dre) were reppin’ Thizz. As the “Official Mac Dre Thizz Nation” logo was stamped on hundreds of subpar projects (many with recycled songs that had been heard before) the fans started to lose interest. One wondered how much of the money generated from the “Official Thizz Nation” projects and products went to Dre’s mother and children.
The biggest shame is that there has never been a full-length, all-new album released posthumously by Mac Dre. The Game Is Thick Vol. 2 was released just 13 days before his death. This was a strange coincidence to me- the original The Game Is Thick album was released by The Mac, Mac Dre’s rhyming mentor who was also murdered in 1990. Both of them were unable to live long enough to demonstrate their full potential. After 10 years of bootleg-quality Mac Dre albums, I’d still like to see the release of an official album with unheard material. Until then Ima bump all the classics faithfully. Everytime I hear Thizzelle Washington I’m reminded of the time when everyone wanted to be Mac Dre and there wasn’t a better rapper in the world.
Rest in Peace Mac Dre, we love Furl!