Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Gig

I got a new gig writing for Centric TV's website (formerly BET J). I'll be adding ink to their Soul Sessions Blog, so look for more soul based entries on Corner Boy Jazz. I got the hookup through Mary Pryor who works for BET (amazing what a little networking at a listening party could do). Anyway, look out for my posts soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rollingstone Article on McChrystal

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, works on board a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft between Battlefield Circulation missions. 
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/NATO
By  Michael Hastings
Jun 22, 2010 10:00 AM EDT
This article appears in RS 1108/1109 from July 8-22, 2010, on newsstands Friday, June 25.

ow'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.
"Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?"
McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel's thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the "most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine." The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too "Gucci." He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops.

 "What's the update on the Kandahar bombing?" McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general's assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

"We have two KIAs, but that hasn't been confirmed," Flynn says.

McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you've fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

"I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says.
He pauses a beat.

"Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it."

With that, he's out the door.

"Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides.

"Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan." The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile
Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"

"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"
When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. "I want the American people to understand," he announced in March 2009. "We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan." He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn't know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

The Roots' How I Got Over Mini-Review

When it’s all said and done, the Roots will be that basement treasure group. Imagine our future Black Thoughts, Talibs, and Mos Defs discovering dusty compact discs that say Things Fall Apart or Game Theory on them. Talk about unofficial Hip Hop training. Real talk, the Roots’ newest album How I Got Over confirms what we already know about this legendary Philly band: that anything they put out is highly quality. They're the Lincoln Center of Hip Hop. This time around they put people on. On “The Day”, underground emcees Blu and Phonte spit for that dangling carrot stick torch and “Dear God 2.0” is a lyrical manifesto on the world’s imperfection rendered by Black Thought’s chocolatey vocals. Add another strong tally mark to the legacy.

Eminem's Recovery Mini-Review

Does Eminem's flow cease to amaze? Do tongue-twisting, multi-syllabic, out of this planet lyrics get boring? Eminem's latest album Recovery answers those questions with a resounding no. If Em has ever fallen off during his career, it was because of production and not lyrics (on this joint he rhymes "Roethlisberger" with "office worker". Recovery, as a matter of fact, has a committee of producers that include Dr. Dre, Just Blaze, Denaun Porter, Havoc, and others rightfully giving Em a breather from the beat reigns. Cold Wind Blows” is vintage Mr. Mathers and “Almost Famous” is so galvanizing every bar sounds like electric vomit. This album sounds like Em circa 2000. A must cop.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Drake's Thank Me Later Mini-Review

I swear I'm old. I heard Drake say "gun" like once on his whole debut Thank Me Later, at which point I had an epiphany: gangster rap is officially on its death bed. Here we have one of Hip-Hop premier rookies singing 808 ballads and identifying irony. That's right, peep "The Resistance": "I'm 23 with a money tree/ Growing more too I just planted a hundred seeds/ It's ironic 'cause my mother was a florist and that's how she met my pops and now my garden is enormous." Yes, the monotone singing can get nauseating at times, but with tracks like the prophetic "Thank Me Now" and the bouncy "Fancy", Drake is showing us the good ones no longer need toting licenses.

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

Here's a sure way to make me broke: release a Zadie Smith book every week. It took me a while to snag this bad boy off the shelf, but I did and I can't wait to digest. Thus far, I've read her debut White Teeth (phenomenal) and her follow-up The Autograph Man (meh). Still haven't touch On Beauty, which I hear is Smith at her most comfortable.

Anyway, Smith says that she didn't know she was writing Changing My Mind because the collection is a motley crew of essays that several editors have requested over a period of a few years. I took a sneak peak at Zadie's Zora Neale Hurston essay and I was reeled in. She writes how at first she resisted the notion of Hurston being a great writer. "I lost many literary battles the day I read Their Eyes Were Watching God," she writes. "I had to concede that occasionally aphorisms have their power...I had to admit that mythic language is startling when it's good."

Oprah Biography

Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley (aka Ms. Klepto/Ms. Misquoter) biography has been out for a while and I don't know who's reading it. Still, if you want some sensationalist anecdotes with questionable sources, by all means, dig in...

Smile Every Time My Name's Up In The Source (Summer 2010)

My newest Source article with femcee Tiye Phoenix.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wale Remakes Classic West African Song

So, "My Sweetie", the bonus song on Wale's Attention Deficit album is borrowed from an old 70's popular African song that I used to hear all the time in my childhood. The song is called "Let Me Love You" by Bunny Mack. I respect Wale a lot now that he introduced the world the classic West African upbringing (peep the house party in the video). As momdukes said to me on the phone, "If you went to an African party in 1975 that did not play that song, then it was not a good party." Check out both versions....

Wale "My Sweetie"

Bunny Mack "Let Me Love You"

European Racism in Soccer

It's a beautiful game, but it has its ugly side. Peep this ESPN expose on racism against Black and African players.

Congressmen Gone Wild

What happens when a college student in DC asks a congressmen if he supports the Obama agenda? Ummm...violence. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) is asked the question and goes apeshit and what do you know, the marvels of technology have allowed us to see it on film!

Mortal Kombat Trailer

I know I'm about eight days late, which translates into 50 some odd cyberspace years, but this new Mortal Kombat movie is gonna be bonkers. I love those superhero movies that give the characters real life back stories (like Peter Parker attending Columbia University for science...) and that's what this does. A true movie within a movie...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Conversation with Bonsu Thompson

Bonsu’s Bylines
By Sidik Fofana
It was Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada who hipped the world to that cabal of trendy brainiacs who really make the cultural decisions. I’m talking the movers and shakers known as journalists. As editor of the fictional Runway magazine, Priestly was actually putting her too-good-for-fashion intern in her place when she told her that even her haphazard blue sweater was “selected for you by the people in this room.”
Minus the haughty dryness, Bonsu Thompson is the Miranda Priestly of Hip-Hop. As a journalist and editor for XXL, King,, and other primetime pubs, Bonsu has a major league say on which kicks are on your shoe rack, which rapper is on your ring tone, and which vixen is in your wet dream. He’s a cultural engineer influencing the rap industry like brokers influence the Dow. Luckily, he was nice enough to give us the blueprint.

Corner Boy Jazz: What have you been up to these days?
Bonsu Thompson: I’m pretty much at the independent stage of my life where I’m kinda being outsourced by certain brands. I’m still very much magazine affiliated. I still produce some work for XXL and I’m a correspondent for They actually purchased my blog at the end of the year.
CBJ: Cool.
BT: I got my own company Dreamz R Real entertainment and you know, I’m just trying to get a lot of web programming initiatives off the ground and playing in partnerships so I’m busy.
CBJ: It sounds like that. I first got familiar with you on the journalism tip, reading King and XXL. You know how to get a lot of information out of people. You do it in a slick way, but you ask the tough questions. How did you develop your interview style?
BT: Honestly, my interview style is very much a part of my personality. Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve always been a very direct dude. I’m always hungry for knowledge and so I wanna get things done. I try to eliminate as many channels as possible in acquiring that answer by being direct. Not direct where it’s blunt and offensive, but more so where it’s conversational. I try to inspire the person to give me the answer that I want whether that’s through flattery, catering to their ego, or letting them know that I’m really much aware of the contribution that they made artistically. When a journalist seems prepared for an interview and they’ve done their homework, the subject is most likely to be a little more open with the interviewer. I don’t know if it’s a slick thing. I don’t know if you’re trying to trick anybody. I want the person to forget that the recorder is on and that this is for the media. I want them to feel it’s just a one-on-one conversation between two people and I’m curious to know X, Y, and Z.
CBJ: So do you have any written notes or do you go straight off the top?
BT: I always have a blueprint of what I want. I put out some questions. The funny thing is I never really plan my questioning way in advance. I may have things off the top that I automatically want to ask somebody or I know the public wants to ask a certain subject. I always try to throw my questions on a notepad or my Blackberry like on the way to the interview. I want the questions to be as fresh as possible. I don’t want to ask a question that I wanted to know the answer to a few weeks ago and something comes out online that addresses that in a certain form and it’s not even relevant anymore.
CBJ: True.
BT: So I try to keep it as fresh as possible. I’m definitely prepared, but nine out of ten times, just throwing those questions down is an exercise in remembering what I want to ask. It’s usually just a combination. You never want to be formulaic with your questions anyway. You can’t ask “What did you eat this morning?” then “What did you have for lunch?” because they may say something about breakfast that may start off something else. If they tell you they had breakfast with Bill Clinton, you can’t be like next question, “What sandwich did you have for lunch?” It’s more like, “You had breakfast with Clinton?”  So I’m prepared for the overall story of being present in the moment to hit them with the follow-up to get that real insight.
CBJ: I feel you on that. So who was your best interview?
BT: Wow that’s tough. Honestly my favorite interview—I can’t say best interview—but I would say my favorite interview was with Andre 3000.
CBJ: Hmmm, what made that so good?
BT: Because number one, I’m a ridiculous Andre 3000 fan. If I had to pick a top emcee right now, it would be him, and maybe like Black Thought second, and then Jay-Z. I’ve been an Andre 3000 fan since his first verse on Southernplayalistic, “The Player’s Ball,” and the videos back in ’94. When he dropped The Love Below album, everybody was like, “Yo ‘Dre’s buggin’. You got one of the illest emcees in the game and now he’s singing on some American Bandstand shit, like what’s good?” We started the interview in Atlanta, which is one of my favorite places outside New York. I’m interviewing him and the first thing he said was, “You can ask me anything.” Of course, it wasn’t my first time interviewing him, but ‘Dre was somebody I wanted to get familiar with so that was like music to a journalist’s ears. We talked a lot about music and rap. We talked about his music and his direction with it. He told me his favorite emcee was Q-tip, but the majority of it, which I enjoyed the most, was just a conversation about his questions about women and his relationship with women and it was a very, very honest and almost vulnerable conversation because he had all these questions. You think about this guy who’s looked at as a superstar, extremely bright, a ladies man, and his questions are coming from a very childlike position. It was fresh and honest. I walked away with so much from it and he actually echoed a lot of my own questions and sentiments as well. I really enjoyed it. That interview still stands the test of time in my opinion.
CBJ: Wow. That’s serious. What’s an example of a question that he had that surprised you?
BT: Well, mainly about marriage. He said he didn’t understand the institution of marriage. He was like, “How do I know marriage wasn’t something created by God because he didn’t want nobody looking at his girl?”
CBJ: That’s funny. How do you personally feel about that?
BT: I was like word because it has to be some kind of discussion about Western marriage. Guys are constantly cheating and it doesn’t feel natural to sleep with one woman. It requires a lot of restraint and discipline. I’m wondering if it’s restraint and discipline or if it’s repression. If it’s repression, that’s not really good. You’re depriving yourself of something that you should have or something that feels natural. I always think there’s a level of discipline that should always be exercised no matter what you do, but it’s like to be so universally difficult and to feel so unnatural like what’s going on, what’s good? Are we going against nature’s grain? If you look at ancient civilization especially dealing with the darker people, their thing was men of a certain stature had more wives. But it wasn’t on some just running around fucking everything. It was on some like the more stature you had, the more money you had, the more wives you were allowed to have. If you could take care of your wives and your x amount of children, you were allowed to have that, you know what I’m saying? It’s not it’s like so you love me, you’re stuck with me and only me and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I think the older couple that goes through the trials and tribulations that come with marriage and are able to sustain those ways and do their thing and be monogamous is beautiful, but there are so many guys who are great, who are strong in their own way but fail in that area. Like what the fuck? What’s going on? Is it the human being or is it the rule?
CBJ: Yeah that’s philosophy right there, man. Speaking of relationships and women in general, you’ve interviewed and written about a lot of beautiful women for King and other mags. Have you ever had a romantic interest in anybody you covered like, “Damn I should get at her?”
BT: I kinda bitched up with Erykah Badu, that’s for sure. I have a ridiculous crush on Erykah Badu and that goddamn video (“Window Seat”) ain’t helping it at all. I’ve always been an Erykah Badu fan and a few years ago, XXL did their first R&B version, which was Hip-Hop Soul, which I actually went on to be Editor-in-Chief of for a few issues. My assignment was Erykah Badu. The then editor-in-chief knew I was a huge Erykah Badu fan. He knew I would have had a hissy fit if anybody else wrote that story. I went in to do the interview and when I sat down with homegirl, she was just as beautiful as I had imagined. Just her spirit, her tone, makes you feel comfortable. We didn’t really have a lot of time to talk, but even the time we had felt maximized. She was real attentive to me. She did not rush anything and was honest. I’m very professional, but it was like you can look at her eyes and be like, “I see why these dudes are running around in crochet pants and everything.” I could definitely see that. I could definitely be in a kufi, but I’m so paranoid about being unprofessional. I missed out on a lot of opportunities.
CBJ: On the flipside, have you ever been interviewing a model, singer or rapper and been like, “Damn, if I wasn’t mistaken she kinda giving me the eye a little bit…”?
BT: Oh yeah, absolutely. Girls are trickery just like anybody especially if you want somebody’s position or you think you can gain something. Women are always gonna try something. I remember crazy times with girls in the club. They’re showing me model pictures and all of a sudden a naked picture comes up and they’re like, “Oops, my bad. I’m sorry!” I’m like. “Yeah no doubt.” Girls try that shit.
CBJ: Hilarious. Most definitely. But yeah, how did you get into this line of work? How did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
BT: Man, I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I’ve always been a writer. Coming up I thought I wanted to be a TV broadcaster and as I got older and learned the different professions that writing can offer you. I always flocked to creative writing. I’ve always been inquisitive about people so I wasn’t so much into being in front of the camera. I was into sitting with myself and getting my pen game on and fleshing out that story. I loved the writing process so as I got older I figured journalism would be it especially as Hip Hop journalism grew. It was my love, Hip-Hop music and then writing. It was like hell yeah. This is what I wanna do. I wanna write for the Source. So when it was time to go to school, to college, journalism had to be the thing. The funny thing is I actually got an internship at XXL while I was in college. I learned more being an intern than I learned in college journalistically speaking.
CBJ: That’s serious. How did you make the jump from intern to professional?
BT: Just paid my dues. I had the luxury of being around some really good people who were about to be really big like Elliott Wilson, who had an incredible reign at XXL. When he left the Source, he had a name in the game, but he wasn’t the man he is today. He really made that history with XXL, history that I was a major part of. I started out as an intern for Datwon [Thomas]. He was like an associate music editor or something and I was an intern. I was there when he got his first cover story, things like that. I was with these people on the come up, so basically I had to impress them. Elliott didn’t know me from a can of paint. He just got the co-sign from Datwon. I did maybe like two pieces for Elliott. He was sold. I got a job. From there, I just focused on impressing him. He was actually a music editor by heart, so he didn’t want to give up that music editor position and I was a diehard music head. I was official. Lyrics, songs, I knew it all. I listened to the most misogynistic music and then put on the most underground acoustic rap. He appreciated my diversity at the time.
CBJ:  So what advice would you have for people trying to get into Hip Hop journalism in the future?
BT: I don’t know. Study with a great. Hip Hop journalism is not really great today. There’s a lot of media on the internet. A lot of outlets. A lot of people doing interviews and webcams and stuff like that, but it’s not as official as it was. So I think people should learn what it was so they could make it better in the future. I think we’re like in a holding pattern right now and we’re trying to feel each other out. It’s like the web’s too cool. The internet is like the new kids on the block. They don’t wanna give it up to the old g’s which is print and print is like, “We laid this down for y’all. Y’all can never do it like us.“ Until those two sides create diplomacy, I don’t know what it’s gonna be. I know I don’t consider myself a journalist. I’m more of a cultural engineer because I have my hands in so many facets of entertainment as far as music and A&R, management. My whole thing is I’m trying to present what’s not there already. There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are things not being done and there are initiatives not being capitalized on that can help the entire game and that’s what I’m focused on today.
For more from Sidik, visit his blog at

Cee-Lo Mixtape

Did you want that Cee-Lo Green mixtape for free? 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

20 Fiction Writers under 40

The New Yorker just put out this list this week...

Summer Fiction: 20 Under 40

Our Summer Fiction Issue features twenty young writers who capture the inventiveness and the vitality of contemporary American fiction. Each of the twenty writers answered a brief questionnaire; to read the Q. & A.s and find links to their stories, click on the portraits below. You can also read about the creation of the issue, and listen to a conversation with two of the issue’s editors.

20 Under 40: Writers 

New Book, How To Rap by Paul Edwards

There are rules to this shyt and Paul Edwards wrote him a manual. With the assistance of the legendary Kool G. Rap and a stone soup of acclaimed rappers which include Public Enemy, Pharoah Monch, Twista, Royce Da 5'9, Murs, Aesop Rock (the list nears infinite actually), this University of London master in postmodernism, literature, and contemporary culture breaks down the art of emceeing into edible bits. Broken down into sections "Content", "Flow", "Writing", and "Delivery", How To Rap addresses the blueprint of the complete rapper. "The words of the interviewed artists will guide you step by step through the art form, breaking down the different elements of the craft," Edwards writes in the intro. "By exploring the key components individually, you can focus on and master each one. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010