Almost Famous

The Avenues to Success

Illmatic

It was 2001 and the Jay-Z / Nas beef was heating up Hot 97 with the release of both “Takeover” and “Ether.” Back then I was just getting into buying ridiculous amounts of albums. In my room I had a small stereo system with a 3-disc CD changer and I would play sections of my favorite artists’ discography. One of those artists was Jay-Z. I remember prior to 2001, I took all of my Christmas money, went out to the record store, and purchased his entire collection up until Blueprint, which was released shortly after on September 11, 2001. One of my friends bought Blueprint for me for my birthday on November 9th, 2001 and for a while that’s all I listened to. Jay-Z had beef with Nas, so I had beef with Nas. I thought “Takeover” was just an incredible diss-record and at the time I was convinced Jay-Z was untouchable.

Around the same year or maybe shortly after, another one of my friends brought over a burned copy of Stillmatic. He was one of the biggest Nas heads I knew and absolutely swore by Stillmatic and “Ether.” We used to get in arguments about Jay-Z and Nas and although he had respect for Jay, we never could get on the same page about who was the better emcee. This was before I was extremely well versed in hip-hop and the deeper components of being an emcee, beyond just commercial success and production value. Perhaps this is why prior to having Stillmatic shoved in my ears, I blocked Nas out. I couldn’t understand Nas. Why was Jay a commercial monster with insane radio and TV play, while Nas always seemed to lag behind?

When I first heard my friend’s copy of Stillmatic I was instantly dragged in by the intro. Nas opened with a sense of nostalgia and a triumphant comeback I really never heard in hip-hop before. He was coming off a hiatus I shamefully knew nothing about. “One Mic” became a song I would play daily, at least once, and really just evoked a spirit of hip-hop I still reflect on today in the music industry. I loved Jay-Z still, but I was convinced after opening my ears, Nas was absolutely the better lyricist. Stillmatic started a trend of uncovering Nas’s discography, like I did for Jay.

Then there was Illmatic. I downloaded Illmatic from the notorious Napster or Kazaa or whatever the thing was back then. Nas was (and still is) a storyteller and Illmatic was his audiobook. At the time I got into Illmatic I was listening to probably every hip-hop artist around from the early 90s up until the early 2000s. Never before (this was before I heard Ready to Die before you gasp) did an album paint a vivid picture and truly present a working collaboration of production and lyrics. I found it difficult to just play a single song off Illmatic because it always felt like something else needed to follow it, move with it, and conclude it. After hearing Illmatic I wanted to be in New York City. I knew there was something special going on there and I needed to be a part of it. Illmatic set a precedent. None of my friends at the time could understand it; they brushed it off like it was meaningless. There was something special Illmatic evoked inside of my head and I’ll never forget the indescribable feeling.

In the next few days, after being in New York City for a little over a year, I will be a part of the logistics of Rock the Bells and Illmatic performed in its entirety in a very different hip-hop world. There’s a feeling of reaching a plateau I really can’t come down from and reinsurance the music industry is exactly where I want to be. I can’t match the genius of Nas with his nostalgic poetry in Stillmatic, but I can reflect on 2001 and the unbelievable circumstances I find myself in now. Before I moved to Toledo to get my Bachelor’s at the University of Toledo, one of my managers at my part-time job told me before I went to college I should stop listening to hip-hop because it was looked down upon and wouldn’t get me anywhere.

He was wrong.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | New York City | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Preface. Book II.

Change. Probably a word most of us are very uncomfortable with, including myself. We tend to gravitate around things which seem most familiar, safe, and involves no to low risk. We wake up everyday and find minor annoyances within our lives and especially with the things we are most passionate about. It is through these annoyances dreams develop into reality. It is within these annoyances we are able to transcend adulthood and revert back to childhood. When faced with a dream, you must be patient, stubborn and absolutely unrealistic. You must make moves when the rest of the world is sleeping and rest knowing you are already one step ahead of the rest of the world. This is where I stand. This is what eats away at my mind throughout the day, but I still keep it locked inside, until now. In a few weeks I will be making a huge move to New York City. I promised myself I would return and I have kept that promise among much opposition. This is beyond a new chapter in my life; it is really an entirely new book. Better yet, it is a very open book. From this point on, each of you reading this will see a timeline of my journey throughout closing this Ohio chapter, and opening up a new series in New York City. I will not take this for granted and I know I will come out of it victorious. To be honest, I can’t put into words or really explain to you right now where I will end up, all I know is it will be for the betterment of music. I’m chasing not just one dream, but a field of opportunities centered on the arts.

Closing a book in your life and ultimately being satisfied with the results is difficult because you know the book you are about to close is the foundation of yourself. It would be impossible to name off every person who has ever influenced me, but you know who you are or will know who you are because in every thing I do, you will be a part of it in some way. In the entire 22 years of my life, I have seen so much, learned so much, and changed so much. It’s amazing to realize how the people in your life fit into the puzzle of the future. They help foster your dream without you even realizing it. I am blessed to live without blindness to see that. This is why I enjoy writing, I take in everything. I sit in a coffee shop right now, trying not to be creepy, but looking at every person wondering where their feet have been. I could be sitting among undiscovered talent. I could be sitting among unfinished dreams. I start this journey young because I refuse to doubt myself. I refuse to have fear, opposition, or regrets. This is me and you will know me.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | New York City | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music Journalist in NYC Vol. 2

Honestly, January seems like just a moment ago. In fact, December seems like a week ago where I was stuck between Toledo and New York and wondering why I felt it was necessary to burden myself with more financial worries if I did decide to move to New York. Now, in the silent, well semi-silent night in Brooklyn, NY, only a few blocks down from where Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G sat on the corners and something in the Brooklyn air inspired them to pick up a microphone and change history, I sit on a lap top in a still, very surreal, urban environment in an old warehouse-turned loft with two random roommates I found on craigslist. I say urban because for almost 21 years my life, my life has been suburban and very ordinary with hardly enough hardship to create a documentary around my struggle to break into the music industry. I say random because although I’ve always been known to act on first impulses, this city directed me into the most random situations I’ve ever, and you will ever, be in.

Indefinitely I am never satisfied because this entire experience was a “better late than never” random, financially stupid decision. I was almost done with school and I could have settled for the carbon-copy. I could have stayed in Toledo, finished my spring semester of my junior year, take out more loans, work two jobs, and once again spend my summer in Toledo selling cell phones. This seemed logically the next stop on my college journey, but I decided to take a little detour. Unknowingly this little detour would evolve into a life-altering change and compose another chapter in your life you can only write when you’re young. This detour would wipe every thing and every person out of my life and replace them with new people and things only to be replaced again. This detour was never at any point easy and in fact, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Why did I do it? I ask this question every day I wake up breathing in the Brooklyn air and while on my short walk to the G train. After work I come home and walk up 5 flights of stairs, open the roof door, and light up a cigarette while staring at the Manhattan skyline off in the distance wondering how in the hell I got here and how the hell am I still here. I look down onto the Brooklyn streets, somewhere on Mrytle Avenue, I see life, real people, New York people, and I am a part of that scenery. Then, one last thing blows my mind every time, in the distance I see the skyscrapers within the financial district and I can frame the set of buildings I was able to see outside of my 24th floor apartment on Water Street only a month ago. If I look even closer and think even harder, near the Empire State Building stands another building where I used to spend writing long, strenuous articles for editors for some of the top newspapers in the world, and this was only a short summer ago. In fact, as I sit here, I realize my last summer in Ohio was the summer of 2007 because next summer my final move to New York City will be complete.

The carbon-copy summer still holds true. As of right now, I still took out a loan, although not a very large one, and yes, I still sell cell phones. You could say I have three jobs, but I’d rather have more because currently I feel unproductive. A year ago today, where I sit would be a dream, an impossible height to reach, a silly thought. But right now, I sit in the greatest city in the world, working towards a dream I thought was unreachable. A dream where I needed an immense amount of patience and skill and a dream I never knew what it was. This dream needed to plant its seed in fertile land and although financially America does not seem the richest, New York still seemed to have enough nutrients. In December I doubted myself and fought until I was satisfied with my decision to stay, but judging by the current events, I was not. No one will ever know the logical voices I had to shut-off in my head to make this happen. But, more importantly, I made this happen. There was no suggestion, this opportunity did not come knocking at my door, I sought it, found it, and took advantage of it, period. When something prevented me from leaving, I dealt with it until every possible solution was used up. I turned negatives into positives and restored hope in my mind just by prevailing under immeasurable odds against me. At this point I was unable to be broken and basically had my bags packed, ready-to-roll, and prepared to throw myself into city where I knew basically no one and had to fend for myself.

It is a very interesting time to enter into the real world after college graduation. Besides the recession and a new administration, as humans we seem to be losing the real quality and genuine ability to understand what makes us human and what should unite us. The once powerful and prominent industries have begun a transformation and fallout and once again it seems we must start from the beginning and adapt to the environmental and social changes around us. To be within a city like New York during these historic times is an experience in itself and creates a new understanding of diversity. Although I don’t consider myself to be a true New Yorker, I do feel I have finally broken the threshold of tourist and native. I have become a product of my environment and look at the “New York stereotypes” as a norm, but still can sit back and laugh at them. I’ve made relationships with my morning coffee street vendors, my walk is brisk, I stay to the right on the escalators, I read other people’s newspapers on the subways, I’ve stopped giving to the homeless, and most importantly, I’ve learned to hustle. In only four months I’ve worked as a hip-hop journalist, photographer, theater critic, music critic, club promoter, pre-audio engineer, worked in a studio, worked for Time Warner, and sold cell phones for two different companies in two different boroughs. I’ve probably been to over 40 different clubs or bars, saw about 30 or 40 live shows, and stayed faithful to the worst diet I’ve ever had in a period of 4 months. I’ve been to Starbucks probably hundreds of times and probably only ate at the same restaurant once or twice. I exhausted my loan money, had the time of my life, made lifelong friendships from all over the country, established a large network of music industry professionals, and I promise you I will continue to leap forward until I get exactly what I want and what is to come.

This was four months and I promise you there is no way to step inside my shoes. There is no way when I return home I can explain all of this to you because you couldn’t even comprehend what I put myself through here. But just know this, whoever took the time to read all of this, you can do whatever you want in this world and right now is the time to make that happen. Don’t ever settle and don’t listen to anyone that tells you what you want to do with your life is silly. I don’t care where you’re at, but get somewhere where your passion exists and thrives, especially in these crazy times. We are at a point where the dreamers can dream and the entrepreneurs can win. There’s no job market? Well create one and do what you want to do because there is no longer anything stopping you. This is a time of new ideas and our generation is behind this explosion and responsible for many generations to come. Let’s get it.

Real talk.

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Roots Present: The Jam

I just couldn’t wait to post these up… stay-tuned for the experience!

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music Journalist in NYC Vol. 1

Through the trenches of disappointment, I once again begin my quest to break into music journalism. Whether I’m spending time in venues absorbing new music or riding the G train in Brooklyn trying to find the spark that ignited legends like Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G, I surround myself with musical bliss every opportunity I can. Ever since I arrived in New York City almost 4 months ago, I’ve jumped into a mix of aspiring artists, producers, writers, executives, and music enthusiasts. As a music journalist, I want to place myself in a position where I can familiarize myself with every aspect of the music industry. Through acting on these intense aspirations, I discovered several opportunities through New York University to expand my knowledge and begin to network. After subscribing myself to the NYU’s Music Business Graduate Student list serve, I found myself attending a networking social at Fat Cat Jazz Club. Beforehand I ordered simple, professional-looking business cards displaying my e-mail, phone number, and blog address.

It was refreshing to finally surround myself with the inspirational dreams of others my age who also wish to be a part of the music industry. After talking to several of the aspiring artists, producers, and managers, I felt a strong connection with their ambitions and dreams. Many of us felt we are the future of music and to be a part of that vision is an indescribable feeling. Yet, even as a semi-experienced journalist, I still find it very difficult to network and contribute to that vision. As a result, I ordered a few beers to calm my nerves before I began to make my way around the bar and introduce myself.

After spending time with a handful of managers, artists, and producers and handing out business cards, I established several ground rules for my future networking experiences. At this point when you are networking the first impression is very important. Possessing a fearless, confident swagger is vital and perfecting your “pitch” in what area of the music business you want to pursue should be your intro. Eye contact, body posture, and even voice infliction are all factors in an effective business relationship. I found the biggest struggle was keeping their focus and attention and I immediately recalled advice that was given to me by a recruitment specialist through my fraternity, “people love to talk about themselves.” This is particularly useful in discovering what makes people “tick” and how you can compliment their talents with your own talents. After making several connections and collecting a stack of business cards a sense of accomplishment was resurrected. A vast city full of opportunities awaits me and I’m only scratching the turntables.

Real talk.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ryan Leslie, S.O.B’s

R. Les, LloydAfter following Ryan Leslie on Twitter for weeks, I finally heard word of an upcoming show at S.O.B’s on Varick and E. Houston Street. With only four tickets left at the S.O.B box office, I purchased two; later discovering not only Thursday’s show was sold-out, but Wednesday’s as well. Ryan Leslie, who binds himself to his fans, after hearing the news of the outstanding ticket sales, pledged to put his entire heart into each show, promising surprise guests and a string quartet. It is not often in the music industry I see an obvious passion for performing and satisfying a reasonable ticket price of $20, so ‘excited’ certainly doesn’t capture my emotions a few days before the show.

I choose to follow Ryan’s day-to-day updates on Twitter and pay extra-attention to his every move because he possesses a passion for music I also share and I feel many artists emerging in the mainstream simply lack. I arrive to the surprisingly short line at S.O.B’s about 7 30, an hour and a half before Ryan is set to perform. S.O.B’s is a dimly lit venue with a fairly small stage and two bars, the main one towards the back and a smaller one off to the side. The dining area is full of linen tablecloths and roped off entries filled with an audience who probably is clueless to what exactly the “Ryan Leslie Experience” could entail. My friend and I make our way amongst the standing-room crowd, swaying to the old school R&B blaring through the speakers behind us. The media is already gathered at the front of the stage, testing their exposures against an empty, dimly-lit stage awaiting Ryan Leslie’s arrival. Much of the crowd is already severally intoxicated, raising their drinks to the sky with their eyes closed singing along and snapping to the DJ’s rhythms.

I remember glancing at my phone several times, watching 8 00 turn into 8 15, and 8 15 turn into 8 30. About 8 30 the opening band sneaks on stage and my friend and I move our way to the front of the intoxicated mess, my camera securely propped against my side. After hearing my friend’s ranting of, “You’re the press, why don’t you have a press pass? I wanna meet Ryan Leslie!, Go get a press pass!,” I grab myself a spot next to an undercover policeman, who was pushing his hammered girlfriend away from him and pawning her off to my friend, who was also intoxicated. “Yeah, I had to drag him here!,” his girlfriend screams at me as I wonder if I really have to put up with this for the entire show. “No, no, no, I like Ryan Leslie,” the policeman reassures me. The opening act was a getting a fairly severe, negative reaction from the crowd. Part of it was probably the anticipation of Ryan’s debut on stage, perhaps they too were stalking the man on Twitter for weeks, digesting unbelievable promises for tonight’s show. The most recent update I received at that point was Usher apparently made an appearance at Wednesday night’s show, so a visit from Kanye or Jay-Z wouldn’t be a shocker.

S.O.B’s began to fill extremely quickly, signifying the show was truly sold-out. An extremely high percentage of the crowd was female, probably in their late teens or early twenties, but I was going to sing with them anyway, all that Twittering better amount to something. I secured my spot pretty well by letting the two extremely drunk girls gravitate around me and scare-off anyone attempting to move closer. As the opening band quietly walked-off stage to the sound of a few faint claps, the highly-anticipated crowd lined-up at their nearest bar to replace their empty drinks. Of course, as the clock hit 9, Ryan Leslie was nowhere to be found; only the latest club bangers filled the air.

Ryan’s band began to file their way on stage about 15 minutes after 9, two saxophones, one trumpet, a drummer, and two guitarists, but I expected this was just the beginning. An electronic keyboard was set-up at the front of the stage, probably reserved for the mad scientist Ryan Leslie to make his YouTube videos come alive. Then, like the calm before the storm, Free, former host of BET’s 106 and Park, appeared on stage hyping the crowd as if Tupac was returning from his grave. The respect Free gave Ryan Leslie was unbelievable, especially considering Ryan’s still limited exposure across New York. It was refreshing to finally hear the mainstream give Ryan the respect he deserves, hopefully signifying a new era of talent. As Free walked off stage, the first few piano strokes to “Gibberish” played, one of the more mellow tracks on Ryan’s new debut album. The crowd erupted and began to snap their fingers, some of them already mouthing the words to the ironically word-less song. Ryan Leslie’s bodyguards cleared a path for him through the crowd and the musical genius himself appeared on stage and the crowd went absolutely wild, immediately recognizing he was in fact going to open with “Gibberish.” “I’d like to welcome you, to the Ryan Leslie experience,” he said, “I wrote this,” referring to “Gibberish,” “because sometimes, you just don’t know what to say.”

Ryan was ecstatic to be on stage in front of his fans, with some of them following him for years. By the end of “Gibberish” Ryan’s face was already beginning to perspire as he grinned upon hundreds of screaming fans. He continued with the energetic “Quicksand,” jumping around stage pointing at different instruments as if he was passing on some of his energy to them. Throughout the entire show Ryan was well-connected to his band and his environment, particularly in awe at the front row of star-struck, energetic females. At one point during his next song, “You’re Fly,” he took a young woman’s hand and proclaimed his catchy-hook, “Baby you’re fly, baby you’re fly, I love the way you walk and the look in your eye…” I found myself, although thrown in a pit of dancing, screaming females, singing along, and needless to say I was never ashamed.

Immediately I noticed Ryan’s versatile between his vocals, rhymes, and instrumentation. By only his third song Ryan had to wipe his face off with a towel because he was perspiring all over the stage and looked to be completely out-of-breath, only quickly to run right into “Diamond Girl,” his arguably biggest hit right now and gets enough radio-play to get most of the crowd putting their hands in the air. As Ryan began to slow down with “Valentine,” the electronic keyboard on-stage reflected the same feeling Ryan tries to emulate in this YouTube videos. Ryan at one point completely stopped singing and most of the front row was able to finish most of the song, probably as a newer and hard-working artist an unforgettable experience. As promised, the string quartet filed in onto the stage and played with Ryan until the end of “Addiction,” where another surprise jumped on stage, Lloyd. Lloyd transitioned into his verse from “Girls Around the World” and after giving Ryan his respects, ventured back into V.I.P along with Fonzworth Bentley and Tyson Beckford. At this point, Ryan looked completely drained from sliding from microphone to keyboard and keyboard to doing 360 degree spins on stage. The energy level on stage completely matched that of the crowds, so much in fact I don’t think they knew what to do with it.

After the lights completely dimmed, Ryan looked up at the ceiling, probably reminiscing on an extremely successful show, and transitioned into his final song, “How it Was Supposed to Be” with electric guitars screaming the introduction while Ryan positioned his arms across the stage. His enthusiasm continued with a passionate keyboard solo and a fist across his chest, just breathing in the last of the crowd’s energy for the night. He exited with every person rushing to the coat check humming “How it was Supposed to Be” and a satisfaction of knowing maybe Ryan just resurrected a passion in music that sometimes needs to reach surface.

Real talk.

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March 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Ryan Leslie

ryan-leslie“They try to put me in a box, it’s impossible!” Ryan Leslie says in the beginning of “Diamond Girl” off of his much anticipated, self-titled, debut album. The question still remains, “who is Ryan Leslie?” for much of the crowd, but during the midnight release of his debut album on February 10th Leslie sold out the Times Square Virgin Super Store and during the 1st week was over 190% in projected album sales. Leslie’s album also topped out on iTunes top 10 albums just during the first day. So who is Ryan Leslie? A producer, song writer, singer, entrepreneur, performer, YouTube blogger, and a Harvard graduate at 19 years old with a degree in government and economics. RyanLeslieTV, his official YouTube channel, boasts over 50,000 subscribers and centralizes Leslie’s talent and passion in the studio which probably contributed to his first week’s outrageous album sales. While must underground artists look at YouTube as a median to distribute and showcase themselves, Leslie, on a mainstream level used it as distribution as well, but more importantly documented his entire life in and out of the studio to relate to his fans on a more personal basis. From creating a new hit track for his 2006 project Bad Boy-signed Cassie to catching lunch in Harlem, Ryan Leslie puts a camera on his star-studded lifestyle. Leslie even updates his facebook and twitter statues to where exactly he will be and fans have reported actually seeing and meeting up with him at those places. Studio sessions for Leslie are truly where his debut album shines, too bad they don’t come included on the album as extra content.

Leslie’s polished tracks on his debut are hardly the thin air they were created from. Walking into a studio with Ryan Leslie through the eyes of YouTube is like a fantasy of hundreds of different instruments coming together in perfect chemistry and Leslie is the mad scientist. At one point on his YouTube adventures Leslie rush orders a “pocket trumpet” from the internet and has it rush delivered to his door that same day just to sample a few notes from it. His adoration on YouTube creates an additional fan base that admires his pure music creation, not really his affiliation with any other artists or his probably unknown producing he did for artists such as Britney Spears, New Edition, or JoJo. The long overdue self-titled album, some fans who’ve waited years for, will be very much a repeat for many avid fans. A good portion of the tracks are the studio creations he documented on YouTube months before, but Leslie throws in some re-worked versions of old favorites and a good handful of newer tracks. With the exception of “Addiction” featuring Cassie and Fabulous, Leslie rides solo. The five-piece studio orchestra is found throughout the album which sets Ryan Leslie apart from the rest of the producing legends because the only thing he’s sampling is himself and so far the only thing he’s producing is the definition of passion.

Real talk.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Quality Hip-Hop, Quality Journalism

pen-factory The year is 2009 and I am just a blink away from completing my undergraduate career in a hope to become a journalist. I won’t sit here and tell you I’ve wanted to be a journalist my entire life, in fact, the last thing I ever wanted to pick up was a newspaper until my freshman year in college. I was a satisfied, uncurious American who paid little or no attention to the rest of the world, until I discovered writing. My story doesn’t start with a love for CNN, it starts with a love for hip-hop. I was an extremely, white, suburban (and I still am) hip-hop fan who became obsessed with hip-hop probably all throughout high school and continued into college.

After hours upon hours of nodding my head to the music, memorizing the lyrics, and have them ringing through my head the rest of the day at school, I was captivated by how much emotion an artist could put into a single hip-hop song. Now I’m not talking about that radio-stuff, I’m talking about the rest of hip-hop that goes relatively unnoticed. I felt as though something inside of these artists gave them a talent and skill to reach a mass number of people through captivating, sometimes unbelievable lyrics. There was a socially conscious aspect to many of these artists and I was determined to find out what made them tick. They were the voice for the voiceless, even role models for my generation.

I started to go back in time, before my generation, and look at how hip-hop evolved. What I discovered was hip-hop so much more than music, it was an entire culture. Hip-hop was personal expression in its purest and probably most attractive form. In response, I began to create my own hip-hop, scribbling in notepads, in and out of school, sometimes instrumentals blaring in the background. I never recorded any of it, I mean I would have probably sounded horrible, but people began to take notice. What happened without my knowing was I became much more conscious of the world around me. I began to operate in a worldly state of mind and that meant paying more attention to the news. My poetry and hip-hop became a zone where I could create the world around me from my point of view and people would pay attention because it was in an art form people were already accustomed to.

This is quality journalism and this is where I’m at today. Should they start spinning records on CNN? Why not, but think of hip-hop, in some respects, as a gateway to personal expression and in that expression hip-hop artists are able to educate and inform people. This is where I felt a calling and this is where I am today. My duty as a journalist is to educate my audience in the most pure, unbiased form possible. We utilize our five senses to give you the most accurate story and bring the world home to you. Before every journalistic piece I write, out of habit and perhaps nostalgia, I turn on my favorite hip-hop song and it inspires me. Even though I retired my hip-hop career, that same mindset still adds to my journalistic vision, and more importantly, I might actually make some money because Eminem and Vanilla Ice already came and left. Quality journalism is forever and as we proceed to give you what you need, we won’t stop, because we can’t stop.

Real talk.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Chuck ‘D’

ChuckEnter the 1960s and breathe in a world of revolution and restoration. The music, the experimental drugs, and more importantly, the culture, were a unified fist fighting for peace. Although some of the means were wrong, the purpose was there, and it is this unification that all of us secretly long for in our broken, weary hearts in today’s age. Enter the 1960s and also enter the birthplace of Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Roosevelt, New York or as the world now recognizes him as, “Chuck D.” For the much younger crowd, Chuck D was the man behind the socially conscience rap group called ‘Public Enemy,” which may be remembered for the outrageous antics by Flava Flav, but should be dissected for its lyrics and depth of honesty and boldness. Today, Chuck D is now recognized as a legend, and rightfully so, but a legend in a music industry is he no longer performing in. Although Public Enemy may have faded in the distance, it seems we need them now more than ever. Chuck D may not be throwing a fist in the air on stage and educating his audience about worthy causes in a lyrical composition, but he is still just as appealing and influential. He has been called a humanitarian and a role model, but more importantly, he is able to step outside the media box and steer the future in the right direction. New York University students filed in the Skirball Performing Center as they normally do expecting to sit only several feet in front of a celebrity. A celebrity they would take hundreds of pictures of without a giving a second thought about the magnitude of his influence. The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU opens the eyes and ears to real, effective social change.Chuck D’s approach was from the perspective of the media and shutting out their ideas and creating our own. Particularly in the African American community, Chuck heavily focused on the media’s way of defining African American culture, “We do shit, somebody else defines us,” he said. Networks like MTV, BET, and radio stations like Hot 97’ here in NYC, according to Chuck, are poor depictions of reality and to base our musical tastes and definitions of genres on them is just another way media defines our world.

Chuck reminded the students at NYU to be who you are and be proud of what you represent where many artists are falling short. Think of the artists on the radio we look up to, who are they really under all of the stardom? Dissecting the world through the microscope of Chuck D was refreshing because it was from a perspective that hardly exits in popular culture. Chuck on stage was more than an artist, writer, or speaker; he was a symbol for social change and not in the musical sense, which may have been overlooked by some. Artists like Public Enemy probably would not get radio play on today’s media sector because it seems the media has already defined what music is and we obey and listen to that claim. While NYU students will not all enter the music industry and have the know-how to be social entrepreneurs, Chuck reminds us to simply stay in school. This NYU community can stand against this “radio radiation movie nation,” as Chuck put it, and rise against backwards thinking. The transformation of celebrity to social activist occurred on that stage and that is what perhaps gave the audience the sense of being dumbfounded and star struck. It was in this refreshing view of celebrity status the audience could throw-up a fist and shout, “fight the power!”

Real talk.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment