Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Favorite Five On-Screen Teachers

In honor of Ms. Rain, life-changing teacher, from the movie newly released movie Precious, here are my favorite five teachers from the movies.

5. John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) Kindergarten Cop 1990

Though a middle-aged man with a pet ferret teaching kindergarten would be rather creepy in real life, it warms the heart here.

4. Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) Freedom Writers 2007

Yeah, yeah, yeah...well aware of the middle class white women superheroine who swoops into the hood to save the inner city youth issue, but she did help those kids--the ends justify the means.

3. LouAnne Johson (Michelle Pfeiffer) Dangerous Minds 1995

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Ditto. Might have done it a little better than Swank.

2. John Keating (Robin Williams) Dead Poet's Society 1989

Edgy, unconventional, creative, Mr. Keating made boarding school seem like rock star camp.

1. Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) To Sir With Love 1979

Classic. Though, if you watch the movie again, any school teacher would tell you that Mr. Thackeray's class wasn't all that bad in the beginning.

I Have Been Waiting for this Site My Whole Life

...oh yeah, and enjoy this Lupe Fiasco mixtape, courtesy of this dream web site....


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Allen Iverson and the Divorce between Basketball and Hip-Hop

Once the NBA's version of Samson snipped his cornrows for the first time, it was a symbolic bookending of an era between roundball and rap. Allen Iverson was a rapper disguised as a ball player. His jumpshot was a rhyme. His crossover, a punchline. Just like a gangster would say, "Probation?", Allen Iverson said "Practice?" Now he's retired. Here's to my favorite ball player, AI.

But he'll be me

Sapphire and Monique

"Just for waiting for the Academy's nod..."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The New Black Power by Jesse Washington

Jesse Washington is holding down the cultural political wing of the Associated Press all but singlehandedly. Here's his latest:

New Black Power

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Ten months after Democrats took over the Capitol and the first African-American president moved into the White House, black lawmakers are in control of some of the most powerful positions in Congress — and face new challenges to using their long-sought influence.

There have been some victories — guaranteeing that stimulus money reaches some of the poorest parts of the country, expanding hate crimes legislation and moving to close health care disparities.

But "in some ways, our strategies haven't caught up with our own power," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, chief executive of the NAACP.

"The civil rights community is used to passing big omnibus legislative acts," he said. "We're not so accustomed to having the power to slice and dice that into 20 pieces and attach that to various other appropriations bills."

For generations, civil rights were inseparable from black politicians. That era ended with President Barack Obama, who has declined to engage in traditional black advocacy.

So any new efforts to help blacks who remain disproportionately unemployed, incarcerated, unhealthy and undereducated will most likely come from the 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"The goal is closing all of these gaps," said Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the caucus and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees budgetary spending. "When you look at all these huge systemic gaps, there's still not equality and justice for all."

But due to recent advances among blacks — Obama's election chief among them— there is a new resistance toward efforts aimed at helping black people specifically, said University of Pennsylvania history professor Mary Frances Berry.

"We're used to being supplicants at the table," Berry said. "Now they have to be smart. If they want to do something about unemployment, they can target those who have the highest rates. If you target education, target the lowest achievement rates. Don't say, 'We're doing this for black folks'; you say, 'We want to target where the problems are.'"

That strategy has been taking shape for some time, said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who as majority whip is the third-ranking member of the House.

Clyburn cited an amendment in the economic recovery package that he worked on with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to ensure that 10 percent of federal stimulus dollars are spent in areas where at least 20 percent of residents have lived in poverty for the last 30 years.

"If I were designing a quote-unquote affirmative action program today, that's what I would be using, the 10-20-30 formula," Clyburn said. "We are finding more and more sophisticated ways of doing this on a nonracial basis."

But some still say the fractious black caucus — which famously split over endorsing Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries — should be doing much more to bring together leaders from the private sector, education and local government to tackle problems facing black America.

"The black power establishment altogether should be given a B-minus or a C-plus," Berry said. "They need to pull together, join together and be smart about how they articulate what the goals and opportunities are."

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said recently enacted legislation expanding hate crimes protection and changes he is pushing to mandatory minimum sentencing laws are evidence of "a whole new power syndrome on the national scene."

He also said he planned to bring a bill through his committee calling for the government to study the issue of reparations to descendants of slaves. "This is not just a feel-good measure," Conyers said. "This is very serious business."

Obama opposes reparations and has said "the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed."

The caucus also played a major role in pushing the House to formally rebuke Rep. Jim Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who shouted "You lie!" during Obama's health care address to Congress.

"We weren't just going to let that go and not say something about it," said Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.

She said Clyburn's position as majority whip was crucial to this and other caucus priorities: "We're able to sort of project and amplify our voices because he's in the leadership."

Clarke said that in bills such as the stimulus package, health care reform and auto industry bailouts, caucus members affect "the chemistry of the legislation" by ensuring that provisions to help minorities are included.

For example, the House health care bill provides billions of dollars to address the substandard health care many minorities receive. It's unclear whether the provisions will remain after negotiations to reconcile the Senate health care bills.

Berry, the Penn professor, said the caucus' effectiveness should ultimately be judged by results on problems in poverty, education, unemployment and other areas.

"We're going to find out how smart they are, how committed they are and whether they have a fix on what the people need," she said.

The Life of a Soccer Star

...and boy does it rival that of a rock star!

Going McCarthy

An interesting editorial by Washington Post blogger, Abed Z. Bhuyan, comparing Islamophobia to the Red Scare...

The Faith Divide

Going McCarthy
Today's guest blogger is Abed Z. Bhuyan. Abed is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service where he majored in International Politics and minored in Islam and Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is currently a high school teacher in New York City with Teach for America.

In his most recent weekly column at Forbes, New York University Professor Tunku Varadarajan asserts that the recent murders at Fort Hood is a case of an individual, Nidal Malik Hasan, "Going Muslim." A term coined by Varadarajan himself, it is an adaptation of the phrase "Going Postal." While Varadarajan pats himself on the back for his neologism, he only succeeds in showing his own ignorance and bigotry.

In fact, Varadarajan is the latest in a series of individuals who engage in something that might be called "Going McCarthy" -- after the anti-Communist, fear-mongering Sen. Joseph McCarthy of the 1950s. Indeed, the fear-mongering that Varadarajan espouses is not uncommon to us now nor is it unusual in our collective national history. Islam has been conveniently placed in the void left by the Soviet Union and communism in the post-Cold War world. Modern-day McCarthyites, including Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson, pride themselves on instigating a paranoia that targets American Muslims like me. Let there be no doubt that Varadarajan has officially joined their ranks.

Varadarajan defines his new term as one that describes "the turn of events where a seemingly integrated Muslim-American--a friendly donut vendor in New York, say, or an officer in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood--discards his apparent integration into American society and elects to vindicate his religion in an act of messianic violence against his fellow Americans."

With this term, Varadarajan concedes what many Americans already knew about the likes of Varadarajan: they do not distinguish between the few violent members of a religion and the overwhelming majority of that religion's practitioners, who account for as much as 25% of the world's population. Moreover, Varadarajan absurdly creates a world where an American Muslim can either be the friendly donut vendor or the mentally disturbed mass murderer.

He argues that religion has been privileged and exempt from rules of normal discourse. This, apparently, is a recent concern of Varadarajan. After all, he made no claims this past summer that the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller was an example of "Going Christian."

To say that I am baffled by Varadarajan's calls to end the political correctness when publicly discussing Islam is an understatement. Political correctness is not there simply because he says it is there. On the one hand, we have Pat Robertson stating that Islam itself is the problem, and on the other Bill O'Reilly admits that America is trying to win the hearts and minds of Muslims because "we can't kill them all." If this constitutes political correctness in 2009, then I shudder to think of what a politically incorrect statement would look like.

Perhaps even more disturbing to me was that an official at NYU, where Varadarajan teaches, quickly dismissed calls from Muslims and other people of conscience who found Varadarajan's article hateful. "We are an institution that treasures free speech and open dialogue," wrote Dean Thomas Cooley in a condescending e-mail reply. "You need to think more about what this means since you don't seem to understand it."

Of course, in giving Varadarajan this free pass, Dean Cooley only exacerbates the situation, not only by insulting the intelligence of his own students, but by giving the cop-out answer that is too often used to defend and facilitate Islamophobia in our midst. It is important for leaders like Dean Cooley to firmly reject the dangerous narrow-mindedness and intellectually baseless claims of men like Varadarajan, who should not be granted immunity simply because he wears an NYU or Forbes uniform.

One can't help but wonder whether Dean Cooley would have been more thoughtful in his response had homophobia, anti-Semitism, or racism been at issue.

The fact of the matter is that all forms of bigotry must be condemned and certainly not glorified in the name of free speech or academic freedoms. The same way that homophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism must never go unchecked, Islamophobia must never go unchallenged. Allowing any form of bigotry to fester is irresponsible at best, and dangerous at worst. [To his credit, NYU President John Sexton has publicly stated that Varadarajan's article was offensive and wrong.]

The horrifying tragedy at Fort Hood is a time for solemn remembrance of the brave soldiers who died. Sadly, for opportunists like Varadarajan, it also serves as an event ripe for exploitation. His published bigotry is an insult to the institution of free speech and ought to be wholly condemned.
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.

REVIEW: Sum and Belief are the Lone Wolf

For my organic Hip-Hop lovers out there. This was a pretty good CD. Here's my official review off

The Lone Wolf
Sum and Belief
by Sidik Fofana

I guess “flow” is the right word for it. However, Sum’s impressive rhyming is—if one is searching for a more apt analogy—like surfing. Some MC’s can surf the wave of the beat a half-a-bar or a full bar before having to breathe or break up the continuity with an abrupt phrase. This is not Sum’s style. His producer, the LA bred Belief makes the background a melodious vessel and Sum does what he knows: rides it to the fullest extent. Thus, the two put their heads together for the cogent The Lone Wolf , which bundles well-tailored lyrics into a concise half-an-hour of music.

Sum sounds like what you would get if you forced Jesse James to tell his life story on Def Poetry Jam. There’s definitely something cowboyish about this album—the lingering acoustic guitar notes and the harkening harmonicas over Hip-Hop beat breaks—that beckon the Wild West. The sound, along with Sum’s damn-near elegiac storytelling, gives The Lone Wolf a certain type of ghostly mystique that’s unfamiliar to Hip-Hop. This distinguished vibe presents itself in songs like, “Breakfast on the Moon,” a speculative ballad that’s one part science fiction and two parts slave narrative. All the while, Sum’s breathless rhythmic delivery continuously pops up during the LP begging for praise. In “35 Cents,” he uses his nimble tongue and squeezes the line, “Evaporated pieces of a story that you can’t encapsulate and carry with you when you lonely,” effortlessly into one bar.

The Lone Wolf is more a conceptual album than a musical one. It’s the type of release one appreciates and not necessarily dances to. Catchy hooks take a backseat to well-crafted lyrics (see “Next September”). Sum and Belief have concocted an opus that sounds dope on speakers and even doper on paper as poetry. Whether this music stands the test of time, depends on which definition of “music” applies.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100 Greatest Wire Quotes

Is you taking notes on a criminal *@# conspiracy?

Good looks to fellow teacher Abed Bhuyan for forwarding this!

Klassic Kreationz

They're like the 2009 version of the Souls of Mischief. Check out the track "I Just Wanna Be Me". Very nostalgic.

Bill Cosby Doing Hip-Hop?

Bill Cosby is putting out a Hip-Hop album via Hip-Hop group the Cosnarati about personal responsibilities. He's encouraging folks to setup private listening parties. For more info go to Meanwhile, here's a snippet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Art of Frank Morrison

Ever wonder where Corner Boy got its headlining icon? Mr. Frank Morrison. This man is the unsung arbiter of urban art. Gotta throw a piece up here from time to time. Diary Day 4

Follow Sidik Fofana on his quest to land a freelancing job at the prestigious publication,

When I last left, I had sent a lengthy email to managing editor, Jeanne Cartensen, seeking a position as a contributing writer for the Books section. I got this email back...

Jeanne Carstensen is no longer at Salon. She can be reached at

For Salon inquiries, please contact Ruth Henrich, associate
, at

Bummer. But then, I checked my gmail and I got this email from associate editor, Thomas Rogers...

Hi Sidik,

I'm writing because one of our Salon writers came across your tweet today -- and had many of us (including Joan Walsh) intrigued. While we can't exactly offer you a job right now, we'd love to have you join and cross-post to Open Salon, our blogging site, where we'll keep a special eye out for your work. There may also be an opportunity to get involved more involved in Salon books content in the future (we have some bigger projects in the works).

To join you just need to go to and sign up for an account. E-mail me when you do, and I'll make sure to check out your blog.

All the best,

Thomas Rogers

Associate Editor

They actually wrote me back! Although I didn't exactly get my desired result, the future looks promising. So for now on, I'll be blogging on Corner Boy Jazz and Open Salon with hopes to build an audience as a cultural critic. Meanwhile, I'll keep writing my book reviews and nudging the Salon editors from time to time. Tune in for more diary entries!

Mos Def spits Black Thought's "75 Bars"

Good looks to my homie, Noah Barnes, for putting me on to this clip. This is an example of two great lyricists with an appreciation for each other's art. Mos Def is such a fan Black Thought's that he knows the lyrics to Thought's modern classic, "75 Bars". Have fun...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 Day 1

Call it Gonzo. Call it reality blogging. Call it whatever you want, but I'm introducing a new topic on the blog where you get to see my real life hustle to get a writing gig. The target: I absolutely love the writing on this site and it has been a dream of mine for the past umpteen months to contribute to their book section. So every few days/months, I'll update you on the job hunt. If this were basketball, it would be the equivalent of following a college senior through the bumps and bruises of trying to play professionally. This should be fun or depressing. Anyway, here's the first note I sent them...

Dear Mrs. Carstensen,

I’m writing because I would like to contribute to your literature section. As thorough as it is (Laura Miller’s last review of Pynchon’s Inherent Vice really left no stone unturned), I think it could be benefit from a minority writer. You guys have done a marvelous job of covering the big name contemporary authors of color, but I think there are more minority authors that your progressive audience would love to read about. For instance, I noticed that you have a very meticulous review of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but no review of Edwidge Danticat’s Brother I’m Dying, which came out around the same time (and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award). I saw a terrific review of Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, (which I read with both delight and discouragement), but no review of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. Those are the gaps I can fill.

Though my experience is nowhere as extensive as say an Andrew O’Hehir or Stephanie Zacharek, I have a few strong suits of my own. One, I am a voracious, eclectic reader. I read everything from Margaret Atwood to Zadie Smith. I’ve gone broke walking out of the Strand with a canvas bag of books (yesterday I bought the Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine among a slew of other goodies). Two, I got one of those Ivy League degrees that may or may not grant me some legitimacy. And three, I’ve written tons of book reviews for I'm such a fan of's writing that I've modeled my reviews after those Laura Miller's.

So, why not give me a shot? I recently wrote a review for Victor Lavalle’s new book Big Machine. It’s being doing well with the major press. It's a 1500 word review in the voice. I pasted the link to it. Whaddaya say? At best, you’ll have an even more thorough book section with a dedicated contributor. At the very least, you’ll have to write a short pink slip to the author of a mediocre review.

Please let me know what you think--even if it’s one or two sentences—so I know that this letter was not just fired into the response-less ether. Thanks for reading this and hope to hear from you soon!

Sidik Fofana

The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part 2: From the Bastille to Baghdad

What's my secret? Books like these make even dense fellows like me seem educated.

Nneka the songstress

While Veteran's Day granted me 24 hours away from the kiddies, I seized the time off to conduct an interview with none other than Nneka, a Nigerian singer-songwriter, who performed with the Roots last night. Look for my article on coming soon...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Obey Militant Art...

Every now and then Imma slap up an Obey Giant art piece on Corner Boy just to show my appreciation for what Shepard Fairey and his West Coast artists are doing. A picture tells a thousand words...

Victor LaValle Big Machine Book Review the book intensively page for page, loved every moment, and penned a 1500 word book review for!

LaValle's Big Machine

By Sidik Literature Editor

With his first novel in seven years, Victor LaValle takes a dip in the noir side of the literary pool. Big Machine is written through the eyes of a heroin-addicted former janitor who follows some cryptic notes to a secret society in New England in 2002. This is the cult-following, paranormal story that his first two works were afraid to be. It dives off the familiar plank of African-American fiction to where hardened Queens dwellers meet underground mutants.

Black fiction has never been the most elastic genre but Victor LaValle—whose first collection of short stories, Slapboxin’ With Jesus, was a tightrope fall away from the urban fiction category—has certainly complicated things with his clash of street lit and phantasmagoria. LaValle faithfuls may expect Big Machine to be like his old tales of concrete, grit and despair but his book makes that familiar New York element a mere sideshow to the deep woods and sloshy sewers that dominate this novel. Also, readers may be surprised to find much more magical realism and outright absurdity than existed in the terse, unsentimental Slapboxin’ With Jesus or The Ecstatic.

With that said, our unlikely hero, Ricky Rice, becomes an “unlikely scholar” who spends his days in solitary investigation, leafing through obscure newspaper clippings for signs of God’s communication. The office, known as the Washburn Library, is located in Vermont (though LaValle hints that it might as well be situated the universal West Bum--, USA) in the Northeast kingdom, which is predictably surrounded by cabins, pickup trucks, redwoods, and only seven Black people.

Rice and these six other Black people, plucked from their former lives of anonymous deterioration, are introduced to the Dean with his “big jug ears and skin the color and texture of chunky peanut butter.” The dean further jumbles his guests’ already blurry understanding of why they are there, which Rice later finds out is to locate any evidence that points to origins of the society’s founding father Judah Washburn. Rice researches, then gets sent with another scholar, Adele Henry, to find Solomon Clay, the Washburn Library’s bad seed who has resorted to terrorist plots to blow up the Bay Area of California via suicide bombers. Their investigations lead them through the streets of San Francisco, a murky sewer, a train platform in Manhattan, and an emergency room—where the absurdity peaks and Rice discovers he’s pregnant with a parasitical egg. A murder plot also figures into the story.

Big Machine rewards us with deposits of lasso-tossing action that initialize at the right time. The novel lets free a ping-pong of drama and flashback, which conspire to heighten Rice’s culminating feat. The reader does not have to bulldoze through cryptic subplots or dig up the climax’s hidden tributaries; one of the book’s positive traits is that the Washerwomen story and the main plot alternate chapters and spare readers the hassle of unveiling veiled themes for the sake of erudition. LaValle does not seem concerned with the pretentious graphics of complex plot webbery.

Heroism is a by-product of fantastical literature, which leases realistic protagonists for comic book type adventures. Just the fact that Rice is a hardened Queens native transposed onto an unlikely New England environment cues the bizarre dilemmas that he will face throughout the novel. As a matter of fact, the locations in which Rice often find himself come to represent the anti-New York City: the snail-paced Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the outdated Garland, California to name a couple. Still, the ultimate theme is not urban alienation because unorthodox elements like swampy sewers and inner city cults are also thrown in the mix.

LaValle creates a scavenger hunt of American cities, inaugurated by Garland and sustained by a trail of clues that connect seemingly disconnected places. It’s an underground world where people like the venomous Solomon Clay roam like serial conspirators who hatch plots just for the sake of pure discord. This anarchical world of religious fervor has hopelessly steered its subjects from sanity. As LaValle flip flops between Solomon Clay’s zealotry and the tragic story of the Washerwomen, he seizes the opportunity to remind us—via his main character--how religious enrapture is mostly a byproduct of convincing passion. “They stood there grappling, foreheads pressed against each other, two sisters, a lion and an ox,” Rice says of the Washerwomen. “They seemed to shine like beast of prophecy, their vitality more persuasive than any words. That’s why we believed.”

The Big Machine, from which the novel derives its title, is doubt, which serves as religious possession’s antidote or nemesis, depending on how one looks at it. It is this weapon of mistrust that drives Rice beyond a face value analysis of documents at the Washburn Library, transports him to a true understanding of the unhealthy though mesmeric energy of the Washerwoman, and motivates him to capture the demagogue Solomon Clay. The ghosts of such cults as the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas and Heaven’s Gate in San Diego, California loom over the novel, partly because they’ve become reference points in any discussion about religious fanaticism, but mostly because LaValle feeds on our guilty curiosity about how such religious obsessions form, ripen, and ultimately dismantle. These groups are perhaps the prime paradigms for the big machine of doubt, ephemeral constellations of intense faith and blind worship.

The novel’s super heroine is Adele Henry, a fellow field agent and former prostitute whose determination to fulfill the work of Washburn equals if not surpasses Rice’s in vigor, adding to it a femme-fatale touch. If the Branch Davidian cult represents misdirected religious energy, Adele (whose loyalty towards research eventually supplants her loyalty toward drinking) shows how a concentrated mission can yield positive results. Adele’s bitchy approach (she would take the epithet as a compliment) to uncovering Clay’s tracks emerges not only as a weird yet productive expression of feminism, but also as a serious turn-on for Ricky Rice.

Such are some the tensions that float around in Big Machine. It is ultimately up to the reader to decide whether the novel’s hammerhead theme is religious condemnation, urban versus rural transfusion, a tour of American cities or kick-ass feminism. If such weighty ideas fail, LaVallecan almost always rely on his entertainment value. Throughout LaValle’s writing career, he has proven he can engage readers through sheer plot. Thus, Big Machine stays afloat with the same mechanisms that made The Ecstatic a critical success. LaValle’s latest endeavor plays on a market that caters to inner city voyeurism luring a certain bracket of readers into a curiosity about how ghettos function in America. This novel is a twisted literary version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” except that the hillbillies, in this sense, are minority urbanites and the alienation those country bumpkins felt in California is the alienation that these urbanites feel anywhere there are not huge skyscrapers and long subway cars offering the cover of anonymity. LaValle seizes moments for social commentary by the throat; it’s no mere coincidence that the unlikely scholars are scraped from the dingy corners of American slums (a la Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth and are empowered subsequently to do revolutionary work.

It is easy to view LaValle’s characters as unforgivable stereotypes or, worse, unimaginative defects but Big Machine is not all about where these characters have been so much as it is about how far they’ve come. That’s why as Rice carries a stash of heroin, which weighs more and more on him during times of stress, readers may not find themselves forming panicky suspicions about a relapse. It’s almost to say that Rice wears his street corner resilience as a force field that protects him from any U-turn back into despair.

LaValle takes first person invincibility to a brand new plateau of possibility, one that provides journalistic footnotes on the nature of African-American perseverance. What spares Big Machine from the gory nebula of the civic underworld is its willingness to beat the real and the fantastic into a miracle whip of character development via scattergorical adventurous settings. It’s not so much that Ricky is the protagonist, so much as he becomes the protagonist just like a lucky town fair contestant becomes a winner after a period of bumper car and arcade joystick obstacles. Rice’s complaints, as his journey gets more and more arduous, are really self-realizations that mark the rise of his leadership capacities. “And when I get too puffed up, when I invest too much in my own powers,” he says, “I rely on what the Washerwoman taught me. Doubt grinds up my delusion. It makes me humble. And that’s a gift.”

In LaValle’s newest work, it’s this personal journey that makes us gods and ants at the same time, as we bounce to and fro without conceding power.

Fela Kuti Resurrection!

The Man, The Myth, The Legend. I know what I've heard about Fela Kuti from my crawling kid musicologist days. The whole spiel about this mesmerizing Nigerian multi-instrumentalist who married all his backup singers in one fell swoop reeled me in. His body of work--chalked with afrobeat classics--is a dynamic political statement in itself, beaming with Pan-African pride. From his birth to a middle class Nigerian family in the late 1930s to his death in the 1997, Kuti's life has a perfect mix of fame, drama, rumor, conviction and demons. In the coterie of musical icons Elvis, Lennon, Coltrane, Tupac, Biggie, and Marley, Kuti has earned his spot.

Hear a sample of the music.

For more music go here ...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Drunk History

This series had us dying in the Teacher's Lounge. Apparently there's this site www.funnyordie/drunkhistory where dudes get wasted and retell famous historical events. What a riot! Here's a drunk retelling of the duel between Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr. Enjoy!

Strange Journeys with the CunninLynguists

This has to rank in the top three funniest interviews I've ever done. These guys were just so cool and hilarious. Via

An Episode of Strange Journeys with the CunninLynguists

The CunninLynguists are the Gulliver’s Travelers of Hip-Hop. Their sojourns have led them to the hills of Norway, a castle in Kentucky, a frat house in Vermont, and even to an Alaskan porch. They’ve lost rental cars keys, been compared to Neapolitan ice cream, and bought Heinekens for street bums. One member even recently split his head open. They narrate all like clever court jesters infusing every anecdote with a touch of hilarity. It’s the same sense of humor and wit that makes their latest album Strange Journey Volume 2 such a sonic treat. The trio’s fifth album has cemented them as a mainstay in alternative Hip-Hop. So, get past the name because Deacon the Villain, Kno, and a vicarious Natti (who had to forgo the interview because of daddy duty) have gotten way past it and are back to tell about their fantastic journeys.

OKP: I’m very impressed by Strange Journey Volume 1 and Strange Journey Volume 2 so I was thinking I’m gonna honor the themes of those albums, and all the questions I ask are gonna be based on strange journeys.

Kno: You sure about that? If you wanna ask how we met or how we got our name, you’re more than welcome to do that because it’s only been done like 15 million times.

OKP: (Laughs) I feel you. Na. So, the first question is, out of the three of you, it you went on a strange journey who would drive and why?

Deacon: Who would drive? I would say I’m letting Stevie Wonder drive a Jetson mobile, going straight so there’s nothing to bump into. It’s going straight to the sky, no obstacles, no clouds.

Kno: We’re not letting Natti drive. I’ll tell you that much. Natti gets to ride, but I would rather have Stevie Wonder drive than Natti.

Deacon: Natti keeps some of them smokables on deck, so we know we’re gonna be straight.

Kno: Willie Nelson, I would rather see him drive. I’ve never seen Willie Nelson drive obviously, but whatever he can do behind the steering wheel is better than what Natti’s got on deck. So, we’ll roll with it, you know what I’m saying.

OKP: What is the strangest place you’ve ever been and why?

Deacon: I’m gonna say Alaska because there were all types of weird things going on in Alaska. Number one, we’re in Alaska. It’s cold as fuck, but we managed to have what was probably our hottest show ever. It was so packed that the walls were sweating. People’s sweat would evaporate and hit the walls. Then you go outside and it’s cold as fuck and people are still walking in flip-flops. That has always boggled my brain. They were trying to prove a point like, “It ain’t cold, we’re wearing flip-flops.”

Kno: The show got over at 2am that night and it was still light outside. You could see Russia from the stage.

Deacon: We went by somebody’s house and instead of wind chimes they had a bunch of forks and spoons hanging on strings.

OKP: What’s the strangest hallucinogenic journey you’ve been on?

Kno: You know, I would have to say that the pain that I felt while un-medicated in the emergency room after I split my head open. That’s been strangest hallucinogenic journey I’ve been on since I don’t really partake [in smoking weed], you know what I’m saying? Though people say I have high beats. I understand that but I think my mom had drugs when I was in the womb. I think that’s probably an issue.

Deacon: That’s definitely the case. I think this story is probably about Natti. I don’t know but we was in Norway. He smoked an Earth bong. They dug a hole in the ground and made a bong out of the dirt to smoke the weed and get high on the hills of Norway. Like in the mountains. They put it in the ground and I think they put some rocks or coal-like substance. I missed out on it though.

OKP: That’s some strange shit right there. Kno, how did you split your head?

Kno: I don’t know, I was watching Wolverine the movie and I just felt kind of funny because the movie sucked ass. The movie was so bad it made me pass out. I don’t know. I was out at the movies chilling. I mean I’m glad it didn’t hit me while I was on tour or on stage. I just felt kinda funny and passed the fuck out and busted my head open on the way. It was completely fucking random, but I have no idea.

Anybody reading this, if you know anything about Atlanta hospitals, just praise Jesus they didn’t take me to Grady because your boy Kno would be “no longer.”


Oh shit, now I can see why you guys have such a big fan base on OKP.

Kno: They hold us down. OKP always holds us down.

OKP: That’s serious. So what’s the strangest thing that happened on your journey to becoming Hip-Hop artists?

Deacon: There was one point in our career where we got compared to Neapolitan ice cream. That was pretty strange. You know a white guy and a black guy, like chocolate and vanilla.

Kno: What’s funny was that they were saying that the Puerto Rican guy was Mexican. Sonya Sotomayor would be pissed off. It’s not a good look.

Deacon: I think the strangest thing is that a large chunk of our fan base don’t even like rap. They’re music lovers and they support us every time we come through.

OKP: What’s the strangest journey you’ve ever taken to visit a girl?

Deacon: Oh boy. I got go back for a while for that. I remember when I was about fifteen, no seventeen, me and my boy stole his Pops ’76 deuce and a quarter. I was seventeen, didn’t have my license, but I drove. We got lost on country roads looking for the girls’ houses and didn’t find them until like four in the morning and we had to have the car back by 4:30 so his pops could go to work and we didn’t know where the hell we was at and we had to find our way back in thirty minutes. It was fucked up.

Kno: And after all that, Deacon didn’t even get a hand job.

Deacon: That was before cell phones. That was a pitiful trip.

Kno: I will say that I had a long distance relationship with a girl from Canada and I don’t even have to explain why, but it worked.

OKP: I hear that. What’s the strangest place you ever spent one night?

Deacon: We had a rental-car and my best friend had a slumber party. It was in Vermont. We lost the rental keys. The thing is after we had to leave, we had to stay all day and all night at this frat house because we lost the rental car keys until somebody randomly came with a set of car keys like, “Did somebody lose these last night.” We were stuck an extra 30-40 hours in Vermont because of that.

OKP: Oh my goodness.

Kno: We’re in the middle of nowhere, Vermont. It was obviously a newer car, it had a chip in it and we lost the only key—well Deacon lost that shit, I ain’t gonna take responsibility. We lost that shit and we basically had to sit there because we would have had to tow the car 40 miles to make the new key with the chip in it. It was totally fun—

Deacon: It was early in our career 2003 and we was in a rental car and we wasn’t supposed to be above Kentucky state lines and we were in Vermont.

Kno: That was in the days when we weren’t really making no money off this shit.

Deacon: We were in the trenches like hell back then and we smoked a whole lot of weed and played a whole bunch of Madden.

Kno: And all of a sudden, a dude comes out like “Dude did you leave some car keys,” and fifty people at once were like “Oh shit!” and then we left.

OKP: Y’all got some crazy stories.

Kno: We got plenty of them.

Deacon: They’re a dime a dozen for real.

OKP: Aight, what is the strangest thing that happened on your journey to the corner store?

Deacon: We live right downtown in Atlanta, right by Georgia Tech, as far as outside looking in, everything looks tight, but back in the day, it was the hood. It was one of those places that got gentrified. Right outside there’s the hood store that survived the times.

I go over to the corner store. I walk over there. It’s a nice quick walk. I’m like let get me a Heineken. I drink beer but I never drink Heineken. Never. So I pass by this bum and he says, “Yo man, are you on your way to the store?” I’m like, “Yeah” He says, “What are you gonna get?” I said, “I’m gonna get me a brew. Imma quench my thirst.” He says, “What type of brew you gonna get.” I say “I’m gonna get a Heineken.” I say “Heineken” and he looks at me like I’m about to buy a Ferrari. He looked me up and down and is like, “Hmmm Heineken time…Heineken time!” I’m like, “You damn right it’s Heineken time.”

I got him a Heineken, got me a Heineken. Damn right, it’s Heineken time, I work hard for mines. Imma buy me a Ferrari today. Imma buy him one too.

OKP: (Laughs)

Kno: You can’t say he drinks Heineken. That’s fucking up our promotion. He drinks whatever you guys pay him to drink.

OKP: What is the strangest place in Kentucky?

Kno: There’s a castle, not a White Castle, a castle. Not only that but according to Kentucky lore, there’s so many stories behind that castle. At one point whoever owned it killed his lover, but there’s all these crazy ass stories, but it’s a fucking castle in Kentucky.

Deacon: We grew up literally five miles from a castle.

OKP: That’s random.

Deacon: Not only that, we never got past the fence surrounding it my whole life, but the day we shot “K.K.K.Y”, the door was wide open. For the first time ever, I got to go inside that castle. That was random. Our lives are very random.

- Sidik Fofana

Watch CunninLynguists perform "Nothing To Give" live at the QN5 megashow, in this high quality vid below:

For more strange journeys, pick up CunninLynguistsStrange Journey Volume 2, now in stores near you, or on Amazon or iTunes. Also be sure to cop Strange Journey Volume 1, at Amazon .


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Photography from the city of Boston

Here's a sample from a collection of pictures taken in Boston's innercity by photographer Seree Fofana. Yes, finally there's somebody representing for my hood...

For more photos, go here ...

REVIEW: Michael Jackson: Remix Suite

I'm telling you my student journalists are going to run me out of a job. We had a listening party in our journalism class and those High School writers were jotting feverishly. In the end, only one could be chosen and here it is...

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite (Motown)
By Camilla Bell

Emerging through a canopy of futuristic and techno cadences, Michael Jackson’s voice seems to resonate from the era of Motown to 2009, an epoch where there “Ain’t No Sunshine,” seems to be the theme song of the year. Posthumously released, Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite, is a compilation of remixes by famed producers Polow Da Don, Frankie Knuckles, Dallas Austin and The Neptunes, known for penning hits for Snoop Dogg (“Drop It Like It’s Hot,”) and Ludacris (“Money Maker”). Jackson whose repertoire of albums includes “Forever,” “Off the Wall,” and the celebrated “Thriller,” has transformed from thriving child star, to legendary Pop icon and innovator.

In a seemingly futile attempt to maintain the standard of perfection the late Michael Jackson upheld, prominent producers reduce the legacy of Michael Jackson to that of mediocrity. Nevertheless, the majority of the remixes are of hits during his tenure with The Jackson 5, a period before the defamatory rumors, the risqué accusations, and the inexplicable reasoning behind his demise. Though the album was created with the intention of celebrating the life of Jackson and the contribution he has made to the music industry, The Remix Suite is a far cry from the success of prior albums Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory: Past Present and Future, Book 1.

Granted, there are some songs, which mirror the creative and innovative spirit Michael rendered to listeners worldwide. Revamped by renowned producer Benny Blanco, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” is a composition of video game inspired beats, laced with a melancholy rhythm, which adds to the intensity of the song. Blanco effortlessly captures the depthless feeling Michael possesses as he croons about the aftermath of a love lost. Moreover, it seems that we can “Never Can Say Goodbye,” as the Neptunes allow Michael’s individuality to surface as the backdrop beats bolster the original version of the Jackson 5’s hit song. In efforts to bring vitality back to the album, Polow Da Don remixes “Dancing Machine,” and incorporates a Madonna inspired background to the melody, taken from her single “4 Minutes.”

With the tasteful remixes comes a surprising siesta which lulls even the most hopeful listener to sleep. Frankie Knuckles’ spin on the classic “Forever Came Today” takes forever to begin leaving listeners awaiting the arrival of songs less monotonous and more upbeat. “Please don’t close the door to our future there’s so many things we haven’t tried I’m gonna love you better than I used to and give you all the love I have inside.” Though the door of Michael’s future has since closed, the aforementioned tune, replete with explosive synths and a retro beat, allows Michael’s voice to shine through.

The summation of the album contains a remix created by none other than artist/producer Akon, known for being on countless records by artists ranging from T-Pain, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, to Lil’ Wayne. Akon’s mix to “Ben,” though simplistic, restores Michael Jackson to the throne he inhabits even in death, above one hit wonders, wanna-be impersonators, and artists who are more interested in monetary gain than in the art of performing music.