Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The BET Hip-Hop Awards Cipher (Mos Def, Black Thought, Eminem others)

This is the only five minutes I saw of the BET Hip-Hop awards for obvious reasons (see The Boondock's episode "The Hunger Strike" formerly known as "BET Sucks"). Watch this cipher. Mos Def, Black Thought, and Eminem go hard. No, I don't think you understood me...they go HARD.

And the girl Nicki Minaj does her thing thing, too....

REVIEW: Raashan Ahmad Soul Power

This one's straight off the press via This prolific Crown City Rocker is out with the solo album. Breathe in the Bay Area ether will ya?

Raashan Ahmad

Soul Power

Raashan Ahmad has released one of those interim albums. You know, the ones that musicians record while they’re on tour promoting another album (in Raashan Ahmad’s case his debut album The Push) because they’re tired of performing the same old ish. This new album, Soul Power, is weirdly orchestral and weirdly Oakland; the beats are more like instrumentation, and Raa’s sporadic delivery just screams “Bay Area.” All this makes Soul Power a regional album, diggable for the Hip-Hop world at large, but only truly appreciated by the natives.

Newly branched out on his own, Ahmad has seen much success as a solo artist. In Soul Power, he carries on the tradition of his old band, Crown City Rockers, with the album’s symphonic production. Tracks like “Celebrate” shy away from the drum-heavy beats that characterize most Hip-Hop backdrops. Ahmad rides that particular cut with some charisma—I refuse to say “swagger”—giving a playful touch to the track’s major scale horns. Lyrically, Ahmad provides colorful content that teeters the boundary between poetic and absurd. In “Patience,” he rhymes, “Since Mission One with my main man Mo/ Roxbury, Boston, freestyling in the snow.” His words have a childish sincerity, profound in their simplicity.

Raashan Ahmad does slip up at times. He suffers from the “I have delusional grandeurs of making club smashes” syndrome that afflicts its share of alternative rappers. An example of this is the song “Lambda” with those discordant alarms that mainstream heads like these days. This joint is deplorable for the simple fact that Ahmad willfully participates in this whole “snap your fingers” phenomenon. The wannabee status results in fast-paced flops like “Cornbread,” which sounds like “Boots” Riley doing a soundtrack for insert name of 70’s blaxploitation movie here. Needless to say, the track may leave some listeners underwhelmed.

Still, with all its drawbacks, Soul Power offers an enchanting listen. The album stays true to its theme and bumps with a classic feel almost all the way through. Even Raa’s throaty delivery is endearing. So, to whom it may concern, Mr. Ahmad does still have a career.

-Sidik Fofana

Sunday, October 25, 2009

350 Poems

There's a fantastically scintillating project initiated by where 350, 3.5 line poems were gathered in response to climate change. Why 350? 350 Carbon parts-per-million is a safe limit for our atmosphere which is dangerously above 390. Here are a couple of poems from the project, one by moi and another by one of my fellow teachers Maya Pindyck (Locket, Master Friend Among Stones) who is a literary beast. Yay, environmentalism!

332 : Sidik Fofana

There we shall lay, scattered like ape skulls
Or clues in god's toolbox
Long gone the very matter that explained
What happened

91 : Maya Pindyck

My love, lost, in sleek flaps
shuffling towards the ice sculpture.
Not a cruise, my love, just my love
mapping-- (--end of line-- space)--

For more poems, go here ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celebrating Human Evolution eyes will be glued to the tele when this documentary comes out....

Becoming Human: Unearthing Our Earliest Ancestors. Airs on PBS November 3, 10, 17, 2009

NOVA: Becoming Human

This fall, NOVA celebrates the 200th anniversary year of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book the Origin of Species with three evolution-themed programs.

On November 3, 10 and 17, NOVA premieres Becoming Human a three-part special on human evolution. The series combines interviews with world-renowned anthropologists and paleoanthropologists and the most recent, groundbreaking discoveries with vivid images of our earliest ancestors to present a comprehensive picture of our human past. We are also excited about are online activities surrounding evolution. On November 3rd NOVA will launch its new beta Evolution website - Carl Zimmer, Sean Carroll, Sarah Hrdy, Rick Potts and many others will contribute to the new site.

REVIEW: Alicia Keys's "Doesn't Mean Anything"

In the name of classic assassination of two birds with one stone, I had my journalism class weigh in on Alicia Keys's new single "Doesn't Mean Anything". They got at it Rolling Stones' style and I promised to publish the strongest review. So without further ado...

Alicia Keys's "Doesn't Mean Anything"
by Joni-Lee Green

"Doesn't Mean Anything", the new single from the many-times-over grammy winning Alicia Keys starts off with her signature piano. Yet as she croons, her voice sounds more like a 15 year old at a talent show, not like her usual soulful offerings. The song is full of long winded notes and a simple melody. However, the tune does carry a positive message and there is no doubt this record will sell millions.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Moth NYC you got that story that brings down the house every time you tell it? Why not tell it at The Moth, a weekly forum in New York City and Los Angeles where people gather and listen to each other tell tales or storyslams as they are formally referred to. People from all walks come through to non-for-profit organization's various Manhattan and Brooklyn venues...even celebrities. I heard Malcolm Gladwell was there. I heard Ethan Hawke was there. I heard Jonathan Ames was there. Heard Margaret Cho was there...ok imma stop now...

Here are the details on the slams straight from the site:

New York StorySLAMs are held four times a month.

On the first Monday of each month you'll find us at:

South Paw

125 Fifth Avenue

Park Slope, Brooklyn

7:30 Sign up, mingle, volunteer to judge
8:00 Stories begin

On the second Tuesday of each month you’ll find us at:

The Nuyorican Poets Café
236 East 3rd Street between. Avenues B & C
7:00 Sign up, mingle, volunteer to judge
7:30 Stories begin

On the third Thursday of each month we're at:

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

126 Crosby Street

7:00 Sign up, mingle, volunteer to judge
7:30 Stories begin

On the last Monday of each month you’ll find us at:

The Bitter End
147 Bleecker Street between Thompson & LaGuardia
7:00 Sign up, mingle, volunteer to judge
7:30 Stories begin

Shout out to fellow teacher, Ms. Maxon, for sharing the info...

An Awesome T-Shirt

All I gotta say is....

Mark Anthony Neal on Meshell Ndegeocello

A great essay on the one and only.

‘Hearing’ Meshell Again
by Mark Anthony Neal

Part of the initial appeal of Meshell Ndegeocello, one off the first artists signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, was her effortless exoticism. Arriving on the scene in 1993 with Plantation Lullabies and seemingly from a nether post somewhere between Trey Ellis’s “new black aesthetic” and Biggie’s “Big Poppa,” it wasn’t difficult for Ndegeocello, like Dionne Farris or PM Dawn’s Prince Be, to be easily cited as that other-type Negro—whatever that happened to be on any given day. But baby-gurl could pluck it with the best of them—Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Nathan East, Larry Graham, and of course Bootsy—so the regular, round-the-way Negros took notice. Wasn’t a black radio station in the country that wasn’t featuring “Outside Your Door” on their Quiet Storm program in those days. For the white folk not likely to venture down the radio dial, there was that duet with John Cougar Mellencamp, flipping the old Van Morrison classic “Wild Night” into an MTV staple. It was the only whiff a pop chart that Ndegeocello would ever get.

When Ndegeocello returned in 1996 with Peace Beyond Passion, courting controversy with a decidedly innocuous indictment of homophobia—by contemporary standards at least—on “Leviticus: Faggot,” her sound was lean, fierce and muscular, driving originals like “The Way” and her gender-bending cover of Bill Withers’ “Who is He and What is He to You?.” Folk might not have known what to do with the message and even less with the messenger, but it was clear that if you gave the woman more than a few moments, you too would be moving your ass.

With a winning formula in the mix—an old adage really, “free your mind and your ass will follow”—Ndegeocello played against expectation, making the first of several artistic statements. Bitter, her 1999 follow-up to Peace Beyond Passion, wasn’t so much a recording as it was musical brooding session and with it she had my ears and my heart. I have not listened to anything quite the same since, finding disparate passions in the music of Terry Callier, Laura Nyro, Alana Davis, Chocolate Genius, Lizz Wright, Bill Withers (quiet as it’s kept) and a host of others whose most common resonances were in registers far beneath the surface. What has been clear over the last decade is that Ndgeocello herself, has been most comfortable when she trust her ears instead of her body, so that even when she made that last stab at other-chartly and political relevance with Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape, it was the darker hues of “Jabril” and “Earth” that told on her—and on us for that matter.

Seems as if 2003’s Comfort Woman—an overlooked gem in any era, like Robert Marley’s Kaya—marks the beginning of Ndegeocello’s loss of faith in her ears, though as the primary composer and conductor of Dance of the Infidels (2005) she conjured, with Lalah Hathaway, beauty unrequited on the slow as death cover of “When Did You Leave Heaven.” With Devil’s Halo, her new recording on the Downtown/Mercer Street label, Ndegeocello’s faith in her ears and our ability to 'hear' her is renewed.

While there are still hints of the Emo rock that marked 2007’s The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, Devil’s Halo settles on a mood somewhere in between The World… and Bitter. The bassist remains lyrically provocative throughout—Ernest Hardy notes this ditty from “Lola:” “a wife’s just a whore with a diamond ring”—but here is wordless quality about Ndegeocello’s vocal performance. Tracks like “Tie One On” and the twangy (in the tradition of Craig Street’s work with Lizz Wright and Cassandra Wilson) “Crying in My Beer,” are simply beautiful in their starkness; the lyrics largely served as adornments. Tellingly, the title track is an instrumental that Ndegeocello wrote when she was a teen growing up in Washington, DC.

Though Ndegeocello has long distanced herself from mainstream contemporary R&B, her most striking artistic statement on Devil Halo comes from the R&B world of the 1980s. Ready for the World’s classic slow drag, “Love You Down” was ripe for a post-auto-tune update, but Ndegeocello gives the song a breathtaking new edge—dreamy and urgent. Ndegeocello tells music journalist John Murph, “Love You Down” is a song that “brings up fond memories. It has a great melody. Also I had a great time trying to put the song through my [artistic] filter. I hope people hear the love in my version.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Top Five Favorite Living Fiction Writers

...and here they are...

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Age: 32
Birthplace: Enugu, Nigeria
Works: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), The Thing Around Your Neck (2009)
Awards: Best First Book, Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Orange Prize for Fiction
Quote: "I always say I'm the kind of feminist who likes lip gloss."
Style: poetic, soul-bearing, cultural

4. Edward P. Jones
Age: 48
Birthplace: Washington, DC
Works: Lost in the City (1992), The Known World (2003), All Aunt Hagar's Children (2006)
Awards: Pen/Hemingway Award, Lannan Foundation Grant, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The National Book Critics Circle Award
Quote: "Almost all the books I read in those first years, when I was 13 years old and beyond, were by Southern authors, black and white, so I think I feel a particular affinity for any organization that involves Southern writers"
Style: reminiscent, ornate, detailed

3. Junot Diaz
Age: 40
Birthplace: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Works: Drown (1996), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Critics Circle Award, Eugene McDermott Award, Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award, Pen/Malamud Award, Rome Prize
Quote: "It's never the changes we want that change everything."
Style: witty, hip, vernacular

2. Zadie Smith
Age: 34
Birthplace: London, England
Works: White Teeth (2000), The Autograph Man (2002), On Beauty (2005)
Awards: Orange Prize for Fiction, Shortlist for Man Booker Prize
Quote: "The past is always tense, the future perfect"
Style: humorous, clever, warm

1. Toni Morrison
Age: 78
Birthplace: Lorain, Ohio
Works: The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1974), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987), Jazz (1992), Paradise (1999), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008)
Awards: National Book Critics Circle Award, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Nobel Prize for Literature
Quote: "Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."
Style: concise, poetic, wise

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Basketball Bible

Bill Simmons...could kiss the man if I swung that way. After reading his book on the redemption of Red Sox, Now I Can Die in Peace, I was a believer because any Red Sox fan is a brother to me. Now, this ESPN pundit extraordinaire is coming back with the Book of Basketball, a holy tome on my favorite sport. The book breaks the NBA down to its most elemental compound and wows any roundball enthusiast with its breadth of knowledge. I can't wait to read about Simmons' pyramid which organizes the greatest basketball players of all times into tiers. When this book drops, I will drop everything and consume.

Good Hair Review

Did you see the movie yet? I did and it was fantapulous. So fantapulous that I wrote the review while I was watching the movie and I shipped it off to that same night. So, if you haven't seen the movie, read the review and get amped because this documentary is a near classic.

It’s why black women sit under those big, hot machines for hours and why black girls sometimes sit by the bedside worshipping white Barbie dolls: good hair. Chris Rock channels his inner Ken Burns, giving celebrities, hair stylists and clients, and public figures the third degree about their hair practices, however paganistic they may seem. Of course, it’s Chris Rock, the master of layering comedy with a political silver lining, so the film Good Hair asks the essential question: all that money to chemically change your hair?

Produced by Nelson George (“American Gangster”, CB4) and narrated by the Rock himself, Good Hair follows hair salons in America’s metropoles in various stages of hair consumption. The film is centered around the annual Bronner Bros hair competition, capturing the twirls and whirls, under water and upside down snipping of Atlanta’s hair battle royale. Yet as celebrated as the event is, there’s something controversial about Black women’s relationship with the hair industry and Chris Rock damn well gets to bottom of it.

Good Hair features a high profile panels of interviewees of color who give their two cents on this widely discussed issue of hair grooming practices in the American-American community. Nia Long, Lauren London, and Melyssa Ford represent the relaxed and straightened mainstream. Tracie Thoms, the natural alternative. Ice-T and Andre Harrell the male point of view, and Al Sharpton and Maya Angelou provide intellectual interpretations of the three. Together with sound bites from a few other notable names, no hair strand is left untwisted.

Rock first tackles relaxers, of which millions of ounces are produced containing the scalp mutilating ingredient sodium hydroxide. With help of a “chemistry expert”, Rock shows how the same chemicals, which Black women and girls as young as three years old use in their hair, can burn through a soda can in only hours. Rock also shows how of these endless brands of Black hair products, only a small percent of them are Black owned or as Al Sharpton thought provokingly puts it, “Black women wear their economic exploitation on their head”.

Rock’s hilarious social commentary also brings him to India where he searches for the origin of packaged hair. He discovers that the same hair that Black women pay thousands of dollars for in hair salons across the country, pious young girls at Buddhist temples sacrifice for free. This seemingly ludicrous see-saw of supply and demand inspires Chris Rocks to bundle a large bag of “Black hair” and try to sell it to beauty supply stores in Los Angeles. Of course, his little experiment yields no buyers, but does yield racist statements from an Asian shop owner who adamantly tries to convince him that Black women don’t want hair that looks “too Africa”.

Nia Long and Melyssa Ford break down the culture of weaves and from their testimony it is clear how the dealing of Indian hair has become big business. Sharon Jones, who also sat for an interview, humorously noted that in every black city, one can catch a glimpse of unwanted “tumbleweave” blowing through the streets during the day.

Good Hair thrives off of clever quips from Chris Rock and funny anecdotes from men and women who visit barbershops and hair salons across the country. When asked that last time he touched a Black woman’s hair, one man in an Harlem barbershop replied, “1986. Before the market crashed...”

At the end of the day, Good Hair steers away from self-righteousness by not casting judgment on the women who do choose to chemically alter their hair. Throughout the movie, Chris Rock takes a moment or two to consider how his findings on Black hair will influence his daughters, and he comes up with the a propos solution to tell them what goes on top of their heads is not nearly as important as what goes in their heads. Ice-T echoes similar sentiments about the triviality of the straighten vs. natural debate when he says that Black women should have what they want because if they don’t, “they could bring a whole lot of fucking pain”. Good Hair is a funny conversation starter.

It premiered at the Tribeca theatre in NYC, thanks to sponsors, Dr. Miracles and Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), to very warm reception and if taken to heart, the film might even change some lifestyles.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ari Gold Fires People In Style

If you're not an Entourage afficionado, let me catch you up. In the show's Season Finale, agent Ari Gold buys out his former boss for some $75 million dollars. Now that he gets to call the shots, the item on the agenda is downsizing. But if you know anything about Ari, you know that this will not be done quietly. So peep how he does it. If I ever become a boss, this is how I'm gonna fire people!

Thanks to Abed Bhuyan for putting me on to this clip!

Black Dynamite Trailer

This film starring Michael Jai White is the Don't Be a Menace/Scary Movie of Blaxploitation. Look out for this hilarious spoof in theatres near you.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Revolutionary Crunk

The revolution is accusatory. The revolution is in your face. The revolution calls a spade, a spade. In music, the revolutionary takes the same rhythm and language of anti-message and makes it the message. This song is controversial, the words are profane, but I stand by it!

Gladwell's New Book

I cop Malcolm Gladwell books like I cop Nas albums. The famed author of the Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers is back with a collection of his New Yorker essays, published over a ten year span. Gladwell's astonishing links to seemingly different entities continues to amaze me. In the Tipping Point, he discussed how proximity in public housing facilities aided the syphilis epidemic in Baltimore. Blink explored the process of thinking without thinking and Outliers introduced the 10,000 hour rule, which guarantees anyone can be great at something with that many hours of practice. Gladwell is an avid sports fan as well (who'd a thunk?). So, it goes without saying, I'm going to make this endorsement without even reading the book. I won't be wrong!