Sunday, August 30, 2009

And Now Presenting...Flow


Breakfast of a Champion

by Sidik Fofana

Angelo Pancrazio Gulotta aka Flow is too cool for comfort. Mix the lyrical dexterity of a Lupe Fiasco, the sex appeal of a Chris Brown, and the business acumen of a young Russell Simmons, and you have the dashing eighteen-year-old rapper and entertainer. He’s one of those few people who gives you that rare notion that you’re in the presence of someone special, someone worth snagging a picture and/or autograph of as an investment for his inevitable stardom.

Flow’s industry-toppling debut EP, Breakfast of a Champion, is the beginning of that road of stardom, that where-were-you-when type of release. Backed by the singles “Dressing Room” and “Carousel” produced by Racharm of the Da Rocwilder’s camp and having worked with several industry big wigs including 88 Keys, Ed Lover, and Lloyd, Flow has had no trouble breaking the glass ceiling that plagues most rap amateurs. He has performed at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, made televised appearances on Entertainment Tonight, Fuse TV, MSG Network and collaborated with primetime labels like Jive and Interscope. “Those are major venues and I’ve been so thankful for that,” says Flow. “I know a lot of superstars who haven’t hit those venues yet and I’ve already had a chance to do those.”

Born October 9, 1991 in Sicily to Jamaican and Italian parents, Flow demonstrated a flare for the arts at an early age. Raised in Brooklyn, he started his entertainment career at the tender age of four, gracing the big screen beside Chris Rock in Pootie Tang and Nicole Kidman in Birth after being chosen out of over 300 children. He also worked as a child model for the Gap and Old Navy in addition to securing print jobs or several academic textbooks.

However, it was until the age of eight that Flow engaged in his main love affair. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a famous Italian musician of the same name, he discovered rap after hearing a Ludacris song on the radio and tried to rap along. “My mom was like, ‘Oh, go take a shower’ and when I was about to take a shower, I just started trying to rhyme,” recalls Flow. “Ever since that day, I always go in the bathroom, look in the mirror, and rap about what I see.”

As an adolescent, Flow would combine the lyrical wizardry he honed as a child with his people skills to make his first major steps in the industry. New York nurtured a young Flow with opportunities to publicize himself and he quickly started performing at venues throughout the tri-state area. After establishing himself as a force to be reckon with, Flow and his parents decided to take his act to the west coast where they settled in Bloomington, California. Flow got to work formed the trio 3 Shades Deep as well as hosted his own internet radio show on X.Radio.Biz, one of the top independent radio stations at the time. With unrelenting work ethic, Flow quickly separated as a star in the group and made connections as a solo artist. “I do homework,” Flow says confidently. “So when somebody says spit, I always have something ready because I write so much.”

Midway through high school, Flow moved back to the Brownsville part of Brooklyn where his charisma and networking reinvigorated his east coast presence. As a 16 year old, he opened up for BET comedian, Brooklyn Mic (Chappelle Show) and hosted What’s Up New York, a TV show on BCAT covering major events in Brooklyn. The show allowed Flow to get his name out there all while meeting important figures in the entertainment. Heads really started turning when Flow put out the freestyle, “Prince of Brooklyn”. That led to a sit-down with record producer 88 Keys (Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Macy Gray, Musiq Soulchild and Consequence) where the two immediately began collaborating on “Success”, a song about the thrills and ills of the music industry and like that Flow’s became an industry player.

To this day, Flow continues to beef up his resume. He recently teamed up with Lloyd’s for the “Party Girl” remix which spun on Hot 97. In the spring of 2009, Flow participated in the Teen Idol Extravaganza and performed the heart-wrenching poem “Colors of Love” at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. The poem amazed the audience, in particular Michelle from Destiny’s Child, and the event was later televised on E! Additionally, Flow graced the stage during an event for Congresswoman Evette Clark and rocked a crowd of over 2,000 at Madison Square Garden for the New York Liberty’s halftime show.

As an artist on the verge, Flow’s present accomplishments pale in comparison to what’s in store for him in the future. As he continues to unlock doors, he has put his eggs in different baskets, excelling at school, plowing his way to fruitful music career, and securing himself business-wise. “Angelo is a down-to-earth cool person,” he says calmly, “but Flow is the beast, and when it’s time to perform I transform.” Now that’s a champion.

Origins of the Moonwalk

...but of course no one did it better than Michael. If anything this video shows that it's hard to remember when Black people didn't have style...

Sag Harbor Book Review

Colson Whitehead, with his extensive vocabulary and intelligent sense of humor, is the subject of my latest review off Here's my take on his latest novel, Sag Harbor.

Black to the Beach
By Sidik Fofana— Contributing Editor

The scene in Colson Whitehead’s third novel, Sag Harbor, which epitomizes the main character, Benji, and his rag tag bunch of adolescent companions, arrives when a parentless summer house prompts Benji to break down his friends’ smack-talking rituals. With a stroke of astuteness and whimsicality, Whitehead’s awkward 15-year-old protagonist provides his analysis:

“You could also preface things with a throat-clearing ‘You f*ckin’ as in “You f*ckin’ Cha-Ka from Land of the Lost-lookin’ motherf*cker’…’You f*ckin’ acted as a rhetorical pause, allowing the speaker a few extra seconds to pluck some splendid modifier out of the invective ether, and giving the listener a chance to gird himself for the top-notch put-down/splendid imagery to follow.”

The excessive profanity does not depict this enclave of Black teenagers who vacation in Long Island’s Sag Harbor as hip and in-the-know youngsters growing up during hip-hop’s golden age as much as it depicts them as middle class wannabees who overcompensate for their sheltered lives. It is still laudable, however, that despite the group’s pretensions of independence and knowledge of hip-hop urbanomics, Benji is the one member of the crew who is strangely unapologetic about his well-off, eclectic background. This isn’t more evident than at Sagaponack beach where Benji tries to convince his buddy, Marcus, that Afrika Bambaataa bit his seminal classic “Planet Rock” from a German band, Kraftwerk. He braves the backlash (one, for the blasphemy of implying Afrika Bambataa committed the ultimate Hip-Hop sin of biting and two, for indirectly admitting to his friends that he listened to white music), and offers a comfortable take on his point of view, “I just knew that it was okay to like both Afrika Bambaataa and Kraftwerk, and I liked what Afrika did with Kraftwerk.”

Sag Harbor, according to the author, has no defined plot. Rather than an epic coming-of-age work about one fateful summer, the novel is a slice-of-life that includes events sometimes connected to a larger narrative web (for example when a chance visit from Roxanne Shante and U.T.F.O. at Benji’s place of employment settles a brewing dispute over a word in Melle Mel’s “The Message”) and at other times completely random (when Benji accidentally gets hit in the eye during a BB gun war). The Long Island suburb that serves as the book’s setting becomes Shakespeare’s proverbial stage where Benji and his circle of hormonal and insecure teenage peers fret and strut only to flick off the lights in their vacation homes and return home to another drab school year.

With Junot Diaz winning the Pulitzer prize last year and a Victor Lavalle novel due later this month, Colson Whitehead has re-established himself as a contemporary voice of color. Sag Harbor> paves its own road because it addresses issues of class and race that have proven to be the stuff of great literary works, and it’s not written from a victimized standpoint. Colson Whitehead’s protagonist proudly represents that legion of middle class Blacks in limbo between the singe of being a “minority” and the welcoming hubbub of privilege.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Soul Power

Once in a while, a piece of media comes along that you have big up before you've even watched it. A friend of mine told me about this new documentary Soul Power, that features footage from the concert before Mohammed Ali's fight in Zaire. I'm talking, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, James Brown...this golden nugget is like a classic version of Dave Chappelle's Block Party. I haven't seen it yet, but by the time you read this, best believe somebody will be tearing my ticket and selling me popcorn kernels because I won't be waiting much longer for this treasure.

I'm Not a Pervert or Anything...

...but this photo is hilarious!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mosaic Magazine

I bookwormed this issue of Mosaic magazine all up with two reviews that I penned. I did one on Sister Souljah's new novel Midnight and the other Nelson George's memoir City Kid. Pick up the mag from the link below and look out for my writing!

Scroll through the issue down here!

Mosaic 25

R.I.P. Ted Kennedy

You don't even have to be from Boston or be familiar with the sordid but legendary legacy of the Kennedy family, to think of the great vault of sound political work that his name evokes. Barack Obama called the 77 year old senator who died yesterday "a singular figure," and I consider it to be one of the least arguable statements in a while. I remember on TV when he was at Obama's inaugural having a seizure, but insisted that attention be directed away from him. What a remarkable life lived.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Heroes

In the name of...


...and all the rest of my heroes, I will continue to stand up against the social injustices of this world, while showing the creativity, pizzazz, and beauty of oppressed peoples.


Sidik, your admirer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Judgment of the Doc Hollywood

It took the death of the world's greatest performer to expose the secret society of doctors who cater to the celebrity population. Some of these doctors willingly prescribe drugs for their superstar patients against their better judgment. I always wondered how these skinny models and dazed actors got their sleeping pills. Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor, is under attack for Jackson's death, but just released this video on youtube thanking his supporters. This whole Doc Hollywood thing raises issues about whether doctors should stand up to their celebrity clientelle and deny them access to these powerful drug cocktails or should celebrities, like they do with everything (especially when it comes to the law), get away with everything including medical privilege. Iono. That's a tough one...

How Cool are the Hyperizers?!

Check out Kevin Durant, Mo Williams, Andre Iguodala, Rashard Lewis as the Hyperizers in their full length Nike Commercial/groovy rap video. My man, Durant is killing it in the African necklace and Mo is rocking the ish out of the jheri curl and old school cell phone ...

Michael Gonzales on Mary J. Blige

Once here's one of Hip-Hop journalism's foremost voices, Michael Gonzales, on the queen of Hip-Hop Soul. This one is quite the page turner.

Looking Back at Mary J. Blige

by Michael Gonzales
When you meet her in person, Mary J. Blige is nothing like the soul sister of perpetual suffering that was once her trademark identity. “I’ve actually heard some fans say they liked me more when I was miserable,” Mary says. “If they want to feel my pain, then I suggest they go back and listen to My Life. I’m not going back to that place, so they can hate all they want.”

Since first dropping onto the post-new-jack swing landscape of urban music in 1992, Mary J. has had her share of haters. “In her life, Mary has been through the storm,” says singer Anthony Hamilton. “She’s been criticized, bruised and lashed, but that didn’t stop her from emerging like a diamond. For years she has been called ‘the queen of hip-hop soul,’ but Mary J. Blige is really the premier soul voice of our community.”

As a true blue Mary fan, I first saw her on stage of the Manhattan’s former Paramount Theater the same year her 1992 debut What’s the 411? was released. Opening for thuggish rude boys and label-mates Jodeci, Mary took time to blossom but the audience supported Mary’s every nervous step. Even then, one sensed that Mary was fiercely determined to strive and survive in the musical jungle, no matter how hard some industry know-it-alls tried to put her down.

“Looking back to the negative things some critics wrote, I’m glad it happened, because it made me the person I am now. I’m not a selfish singer anymore, but one that is trying to give back. Be it on stage or in the studio, I’m trying to put my own life in the songs so other people might figure out who they are. All the singers I have ever loved gave so much in their material, and I know how much they have given me. That’s what I’m trying to give.”


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Author Victor LaValle is back!

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So, I was talking to one of my undergrad friends and we got to the topic of writing. In one of my cocky epiphanies, I confessed to him that I wanted a urban writer with a literary edge. "There's nobody out there like that," I said to him. To which he said, "What are you talking about, that's Victor LaValle." In short, folks, Victor LaValle is one those writers that punk, innercity boys like me want to be. Now he's back with his third book, Big Machine, a novel which Mos Def calls "Gabriel Garcia Marquez mixed with Edgar Allan Poe" and says "It's like nothing I've ever read, incredibly human and alien at the same time." This joint came out last week and I can't wait to dig in.

Victor LaValle's Big Machine on ...

dead prez The Pulse of the People (Music Review)

Read my review on dead prez's Pulse of the People for and listen to the mixtape when you feel like overthrowing some shit.

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dead prez
(Invastion Music Group : 2009)

Hip-Hop’s equivalent to the revolutionary Black Panther Party, dead prez, is one of the few rap conglomerates that enjoy life without censorship. Plus, that damn double consciousness of theirs grants them access to both the unofficial fiefdom of worldwide gangstas and the equally unofficial roundtable of political overthrowers with social ease and very little credibility points damaged. Stic.Man and M-1 crack their ambassadorial knuckles on the Pulse of the People mixtape, the third volume of the Turn Off the Radio series, to which DJ Green Lantern, of Invasion! Mixtape series fame, lends a hosting voice. Cranked with African socialist ideals and demonstrations against institutionalized racism, Pulse of the People doesn’t lose its musical edge despite its dense political content.

In fact, the mixtape’s fiery lyrics and explosive production commingle very comfortably, with an advantage, of course, to the lyrics, which outrun Green Lantern’s dark but scanty instrumentals. After all, it’s dead prez, a group’s whose words have rarely been camouflaged by the beat. Take the track “Warpath” for instance, in which the underground duo swap sixteens about the corruption of the man. Over an electric guitar riff, M-1 rages, “He, the judge, the jury, and executioner/ Redneck Lucifer, the streets is on fire for all the years you’ve been abusing us.” The bars could light a stove a capella.

Pulse of the People also welcomes a coterie of diverse feature artists. Styles P bangs the gavel on “Gangsta, Gangster,” sharing credits on a mixtape with a motley crew of rhymesters that include Bun B, Johnny Polygon, Chuck D, Avery Storm, and Ratfink. dead prez needs no assistance, however, on the economy-indicting “$timulus Plan,” on which they urge, “You should google the Amero, then the Afro and the Euro/ Dollar bills don’t make you loyal, it can kill you…” Although the group hasn’t grown too much creatively, dead prez’s political vision has stayed consistent, rewarding a core fan base raised on the group’s radical debut album Let’s Get Free.

dead prez has mostly focused on content over craft over their steadily pulsating careers. So, where some may see a track like “Summertime” as a reminiscent, or better yet recycled version of Let’s Get Free ’s “Happiness,” the duo sees it as another cut that unveils how oppressed people find joy in their lives. In short, Pulse of the People may not be progressive hip-hop, but it is, more importantly, progressive politics.

-Sidik Fofana

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bean Is In The House

In the tradition of great Boston emcees-- Edo G., Guru, Mr. Lif -- lands the latest icon of the new school, 19-year-old A-lage, a really wondrous mix of inner city philosophy and hipster panache, thirsty to build Boston back up bar-by-bar. Cop his mixtape, Split Swagga, at

Listen to "Let It Rain" by A-Lage

Resurrect in Peace!

So everyone back to 'dey classrooms...false alarm. Vibe is back as a quarterly I hear, fresh off the purchasing block and into the hands of InterMedia Partners the same company, which funds Uptown Magazine. Maybe your boy can get some more bylines in there, but that's neither here nor there. Glad ya back, Vibe!

The Destruction of the Black Middle Class

Mark Anthony Neal posted this poignant essay by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammed
on the demise of the black middle class from the Huffington Post. Just thought I would give it some more burn as well...

The Destruction of the Black Middle Class
by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammed

To judge from most of the commentary on the Gates-Crowley affair, you would think that a "black elite" has gotten dangerously out of hand. First Gates (Cambridge, Yale, Harvard) showed insufficient deference to Crowley, then Obama (Occidental, Harvard) piled on to accuse the police of having acted "stupidly." Was this "the end of white America" which the Atlantic had warned of in its January/February cover story? Or had the injuries of class -- working class in Crowley's case -- finally trumped the grievances of race?

Left out of the ensuing tangle of commentary on race and class has been the increasing impoverishment -- or, we should say, re-impoverishment -- of African Americans as a group. In fact, the most salient and lasting effect of the current recession may turn out to be the decimation of the black middle class. According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33 percent of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession. Gates and Obama, along with Oprah and Cosby, will no doubt remain in place, but millions of the black equivalents of Officer Crowley -- from factory workers to bank tellers and white collar managers -- are sliding down toward destitution.

For African Americans -- and to a large extent, Latinos -- the recession is over. It occurred between 2000 and 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent. During the seven-year long black recession, one third of black children lived in poverty and black unemployment -- even among college graduates -- consistently ran at about twice the level of white unemployment. That was the black recession. What's happening now is a depression.

Read the Full Essay @ The Huffington Post

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chris Rock and Nelson George's Good Hair Trailer

Having gone from nappy fro, to cornrows, to now locks, I've always been diagnosed with that "bad hair." So I'm glad there's a film out that feels my pain! Here's the official trailer for Chris Rock and Nelson George's uproarious documentary "Good Hair" due out this October.

Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3's Official Cover and Unofficial Tracklisting

This is the official album cover to Jay-Z's newest album, The Blueprint 3. As you can see, it evokes a little of the Beatles' White Album, which gives it a cool, classy draft of legendary breeze. Below is the rumored official tracklist, which features most production by Kanye West and renowned Chicago bred producer No I.D. (Common's Resurrection among other things):

01. What We Talking About (produced by Kanye West)
02. D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) (produced by No I.D.)
03. Weigh Me Down (featuring KiD CuDi) (produced by Kanye West)
04. Unforgiven (produced by Kanye West, additional production from MGMT)
05. Run This Town (featuring Rihanna & Kanye West) (produced by Kanye West)
06. Empire State of Mind (featuring Nas) (produced by Kanye West & No I.D.)
07. When It Comes To This (produced by Timbaland)
08. Always (featuring Drake) (Produced by Kanye West)
09. Scenes From The Past (produced by No I.D., Co-production by Kanye West)
10. Everyday A Star is Born (featuring Mr. Hudson) (produced by Kanye West)
11. Already Home (produced by Kanye West)
12. Forever Young (featuring Mr. Hudson) (produced by Kanye West)
13. Thank You (produced by No I.D.)
14. Sound of The 70s (Bonus) (produced by Kanye West)
15. We Made History (Bonus) (produced by Kanye West)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Erykah Badu at Governors Island

So I wake up yesterday to a call from Erykah Badu's publicist who tells me she has two extra tickets for Badu's concert at Governors Island in NYC and asks if I want to go. I say, "Sure," mad calm but on the inside I'm like, "Hell yeah! My magic leprechaun must have just got a raise because shit like this never happens!"

Anyway, my boy Noah and I go--this is our first time to Governors--and it's absolutely divine (except for the six dollar hamburgers). I saw Janelle Monae rock the crowd with her pompadour and James Brownesque energy (buy her CD by the way...I'm gonna). Badu came out in a top hat and did an goosebump-giving cover of Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" among other dynamite hits. And get this, when she ended the show and folks were making their way back to the ferry, the lights came back on and she rocked the crowd for 20 minutes with "Bag Lady" and a slew of other classics. Shoot, I was happy. I got to chill in the sand and see my singing idol jump into the crowd as well as do a mad funny rendition of Tha Dogg Pound's "Ain't No Fun" (yep, she did say the "balls" line). It was good times, I say. Good times...

Black Thought Sings!

First it was M Def, then Andre 3000, and now Black Thought using the vocal box not just for the splattering sixteen but for its honeyfied harmonies as well. Hercules! Hercules! One of my best friends asked me why it's become a la mode from emcees to show their growth by dabbling on the R&B tip. You know what...iono. But I do know an emcee who can rap and sing is a dangerous thing. Anyway, check the new single by the Roots, "How I Got Over, where Black Thought tries out the chops.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Smile Every Time My Name's Up In The Source (August)

In this month's issue of the Source, I interviewed underground rapper/producer tandem Marco Polo & Torae. Anybody who is a connoisseur of authentic Hip-Hop knows that these dudes have a serious following...

Source Torae Marco Polo (August)