Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Barack Obama: So Fresh and So Clean

According to Senator Joe Biden, I, along with most African Americans, am a viable candidate for president because I take showers. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Biden had to say about my boy Barack.

“I mean, you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a story-book, man”

I just don’t understand why Biden stopped there. He could have easily continued with the following:

“I mean, have you seen Barack on the dance floor? Man, that guy’s got some moves. And he can old his liquor with the best of them. He drank Ted Kennedy under the table, and you know how Teddy gets down.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Superman versus the Giant Spider

The guys at KSK hipped me to this link (in the Meast of the Week section). It's 20 minutes of Kevin Smith talking about his experience writing Superman Lives. Absolutely hilarious.

An Open Letter to Today’s Hip-Hop Fans: Part 2

Read Part I Here

So you say you live for the beats. Well, I understand that. The beat is the “hook” that gets most of us listening to a new joint. Without Dr. Dre, In Da Club is just another song about drugs and sex. Without Timbaland, Sexy/Back is just a bad mix of electrofunk and falsetto.

Still, most of today’s beats sound like something out of my daughters Bounce and Spin Zebra (Don’t believe me? Check out this commercial and tell me if this doesn’t sound like the beat for “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It”).

The LEGENDARY Roots Crew
So, if you want to hear some REAL beats with REAL instruments, check out the Roots. The Roots aren’t a rap group; they are a full fledged band made up of a rapper, drummer, keyboardist, guitar player, bassist, and human beatbox.

I have a soft space in my heart for Do You Want More?!!!??! but if you have to start somewhere, start with Things Fall Apart.

The Roots tell you from jump start that this isn’t a formulaic rap album with their inclusion of spoken dialogue from Mo Betta Blues:

Bleek Gilliam: If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death. I mean, you've been out there, you're on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans,
you see, you know, Slavonic, anything except our people - it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don't realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man.
Shadow Henderson: That's bullshit.
Bleek Gilliam: Why?
Shadow Henderson: Everything, everything you just said is bull---. That's right, the people don't come because you grandiose m---------- don't play sh--that they like. If you played the sh-- that they like, then people would come, simple as that.

Yes, it's aptly named after the Chinua Achebe's novel.

Multiple tracks support this theme. "The Next Movement" let’s you know…

Hey you listeners, stop what you're doin and
set it in motion, it's the next movement
You listeners, stop what you're doin and
set it in motion, it's the next movement

This track is everything the Roots is about: grooving track, clever lyrics, great guest (DJ Jazzy Jeff). As Black Thought says:

This directed to whoever in listening range
Yo the whole state of things in the world bout to change
Black rain fallin from the sky look strange
The ghetto is red hot, we steppin on flames
Yo, it's infliction on a price for fame
and it was all the same, but then the antidote came
The theme of saving hip-hop is touched on again in “Ain't Sayin Nothin' New", a great track over two alternative beats (laid-back at first, until ?uestlove comes in with a more decisive beat).
Yo, head lost, sippin this Lambic Framboise
Spittin it for like whoever demand the answer
What's the cure for this hip-hop cancer? Equivalent to
this avalanche of black snow, rap flow
to get my people thinkin mo', we at the brink of war
What does it all mean? What's it all for?
With knowledge of yourself, then you're through the first door
My people hungry and thirst for more next music explore

Mos Def makes an appearance on "Double Trouble"; it doesn’t get exciting until the end, when you think ?uestlove is fading out. Instead of a fade to black, we get a second beat with a Mos Def freestyle (and a homage to Do You Want More?'s "I Remain Calm").

"Diedre Vs. Dice" is one interlude that I wish they made into a full track, but that’s ok, because they make up for it in "Adrenaline!" and “Don’t See Us”.

The crown jewel in this album is “You Got Me”, featuring Erykah Badu and Eve (where is she at, by the way?). I’m not a fan of the lyrics as much as the beat. Listen to ?uestlove’s breakdown at the end of the song… you can’t fake that with a drum kit. That’s real music. That’s real hip-hop.

Part III – You want synthesizers? Let me introduce you to the Player and the Poet.

Friday, January 26, 2007

An Open Letter to Today’s Hip-Hop Fans: Part 1


Young Jeezy isn’t hip hop. Young Buck isn’t hip-hop. Young Jock isn’t hip-hop. Young Dro isn’t hip hop. It’s just fake, light pop lyrics over cookie-cutter beats. Their style is like tv static; sure there’s sounds, but nothing’s being said. If you want really hip-hop, check out these albums…

Part 1: De La Soul - Stakes Is High

Trugoy the Dove, Posdnuos, and Maseo... out of this world
If there was such as thing as a State of Hip-Hop address, De La Soul’s Stakes is High would be it. Funny and brooding, poignant and syrupy, Stakes… is everything right with hip-hop. It’s a decidedly New York album, but its message is bigger than NYC. There are a number of standout tracks: “Supa Emcees”, “The Bizness” (I love that chorus – “I sit and think with the drink about how I’m gonna win”), “Dinninit”, “Long Island Degrees” (which has a special place in my heart because of the summer I spent working in Long Island), “Betta Listen” (the funniest track on the album), and “Big Brotha Beat” (which introduced the world to the Might Mos Def!!!).

The most significant track on the album is the title song. I’d go out on a limb and say it “Stakes Is High” (with a close second to Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.”) is the best statement on post 90’s hip-hop. The entire song is worth memorizing; here are a few key verses:

I'm sick of [w]itches shakin' asses
I'm sick of talkin' about blunts,
Sick of Versace glasses,
Sick of slang,
Sick of half-a$$ awards shows,
Sick of name brand clothes.
Sick of R&B [w]itches over bullshit tracks,
Cocaine and crack
Which brings sickness to blacks,
Sick of swoll' head rappers
With their sicker-than raps
Clappers and gats
Makin' the whole sick world collapse
The facts are gettin' sick
Even sicker perhaps
Stickabush to make a bundle to escape this synapse

Yo, it's about love for cars, love for funds
Loving to love mad sex, loving to love guns
Love for opposite, love for fame and wealth
Love for the fact of no longer loving yourself, kid
We living in them days of the man-made ways
Where every aspect is vivid,
these brothers no longer talk sh--
Hey yo, these [negroes] live it
'Bout to give it to you 24/7 on the microphone
Plug One translating the zone
No offense to a player, but yo, I don't play
And if you take offense, f' it, got to be that way
J.D. Dove, show your love, what you got to say?

I say G's are making figures at a high regard
And [negroes] dying for it nowadays ain't odd
Investing in fantasies and not God
Welcome to reality, see times is hard

Part II – What? Rapping over a live band? Who would have thunk?

A Raisin In The Sun Pt II: One Of These Things...

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong…
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In the Sun tells the story of a black Chicago family and their dream of moving out of a cramped apartment and into a house in the suburbs. The rub is that the house is in an all white neighborhood. The family struggles with the decision throughout, ultimately choosing to move into the house at the end of the story.

Hansberry never wrote a follow up to the play; if she had, it might have gone a bit like my experiences today.

I spent the afternoon with my 17 month old daughter; We watched a little Star Trek, ate some grapes, then went to the neighborhood playground. We played on the swings and slides, and overall she had a good time. I did not.

Why not? Well, a few reasons:

  1. Baby Jenkins and I were the only people of color at the playground. Not the only BLACKS, the only PEOPLE OF COLOR. No Asians, No Hispanics, No Native Americans… nothing. It’s not like I need to see the United Nations at an event to have a good time. I guess it just felt awkward. Especially since…
  2. Other parents were talking to each other and asking what part of the neighborhood they lived in. No one asked me where I lived. I assume it was because they thought that I didn’t live in the neighborhood. In fact, not only did they not ask me where I live…
  3. Most people didn’t speak to me. They didn’t even smile at it. It was as if my daughter and I didn’t exist. Elisa would run up to some of the moms while they were talking; I would run behind her and try to introduce myself to the ladies. They totally ignored me. A page right out of Ellison’s Invisible Man.

So, I could sit here and complain, but I’m already formulating my action plan.

  1. I’m going to go to the playground ever other weekend and MAKE those families talk to me. My daughter is going to attend school with these kids, so I need to get to know some of these families.
  2. I’ve going to start initiating conversations with the parents. They ALL can’t ignore me.

A few other observations…
  • The park didn’t have a basketball court. Instead, it had a soccer field. What park doesn’t have a basketball court?
  • The playground had a rock climbing wall. I’ve only seen those things in REI.

More on this in a few weeks…

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hil St. Soul - Something new for the 07

I usually listen to CDs on my way home from work because I’m not a fan of today's popular music. Today, I only had a Luther Vandross CD in the car. I wasn’t in the mood to listen to Luther, so I turned on the radio instead. Good thing I did, because for the first time in a long time, I heard an R&B song that absolutely blew me away.

The group is Hil St. Soul (Hill Street Soul) and the track is "Hey Boy" (off of their SOULidified album). Hil St. Soul is a duo out of London made up of Hilary Mwelwa and Victor Redwood-Sawyerr. They remind me of Floetry, Groove Theory, and Zhane mixed together.

Check out the track “Hey Boy” (linked here and at the heavy rotation section).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Best Music You've Never Heard - Vol 7: Truth Hurts

To George, with love...From Patti and Eric

I was going through some old CDs the other day when I came across Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla”. I’ve always liked this song. The first movement features two dueling guitars; the second movement is a moving piano solo.

Though as great as the instrumentation is, I really like the song because of the lyrics and the reason behind the lyrics.

At the time this song was written, George Harrison (of the Beatles) and wife Patti Boyd were having martial problems. Boyd, needing a shoulder to cry on, turned to Harrison’s good friend, Eric Clapton. Eric, being the good friend that he is, fell in love with Patti, then wrote this song to convince her to leave George. Talk about ballsy.

Anyway, that got me thinking of some other songs that are based on true romance. Here are some that you probably haven’t heard before.

  1. John Coltrane – “Naima”. You know that I couldn’t leave JC off this list. “Naima”, off the Giant Steps album, was inspired by and named after Coltrane’s then-wife Juanita Naima Grubbs. This, hands down, is my favorite Coltrane track. The re-release of Giant Steps includes a number of alternate tracks. I’ve included the alternate track of “Naima” in this collection. It’s starts off a bit harsh, but I prefer this version over the original due to the longer length of Coltrane’s solo.

  2. The first album of Stevie's Classic Period

    Steve Wonder – “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)”. “Superwoman…” is another song in two parts. The first part of the song is about “Mary”, who wants to leave and become a movie star; the second part has Stevie wondering why his lady hasn’t returned yet.

    This song is really about Stevie’s relationship with Syreeta Wright. Stevie had produced much of Syreeta’s music; she wanted to go off and do her own thing, which Stevie wasn’t so into (supposedly he can be a control freak in the studio). You hear this in the lyrics – “Mary wants to be a superwoman and try to boss the bull around.” Mary is really Rita (Syreeta’s early recording name) and Stevie is “The Bull” (Stevie is a Taurus; he named is production company Black Bull).

    Still, Stevie and Syreeta stayed friends after their breakup, which leads us to…

  3. Syreeta – “Heavy Day”. Yup, Syreeta sang about their relationship, too. Heavy Day is about how alone she feels on stage because the songs that she’s singing are about her former lover. In effect, it’s part three of “Superwoman…”.

  4. Billie Holiday – “Don’t Explain”. Here’s another oldie, but goodie. Lady Day wrote this song when her husband came home with lipstick on his shirt. As she says in her own words:

    “I saw the lipstick. He saw I saw it and he started explaining and explaining. I could stand anything but that. Lying to me was worse than anything he could have done with that [w]itch. I cut him off, just like that. ‘Take a bath’ I said, ‘don’t explain.’”

    To get it out of her system, she started singing phrases. Before long, she had the whole song.

  5. Marvin Gaye – “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You”. I started to include “Come Live With Me”, “Feel All My Love Inside”, or “Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again”, but decided against it. Those three songs are included on the I Want You album, in which Marvin literally sang to the object of his affection, 17 year old Janis Hunter. Marvin wooed and won Janis, moving in with her and having a child in 1974. All this would have been fine and dandy, had Marvin not already been married at the time…

    Anna Gorgy Gaye (Marvin’s first wife) ultimately filed for divorced in 1976. Marvin was ordered to pay Anna a large sum of money; Marvin and Anna’s lawyers negotiated and a portion of the money due Anna would be obtained from the royalties of Marvin’s next album. That album was Here, My Dear. The album chronicles the start of his romance with Anna, their divorce, and the start of a new life with Janis. “When Did You Stop Loving Me…” rhetorically asks how Marvin and Anna went from love to divorce. Some choice lyrics include “If you ever loved me with all of your heart, you’d never take a million dollars to part”, ”But I can’t understand, is if you loved me, how could you turn me into the police?”, and “You’ve got judgment on your side, you’ve said bad things and you’ve lied”.

    What’s truly funny is that Anna Gordy was so po’ed about the truth in the album, she thought about bring up an invasion of privacy lawsuit against Marvin.

  6. So was Rick really a superfreak? Teena's not saying...

    Teena Marie – “Cassanova Brown”. I have to think my brother for hipping me to this track. I wasn’t always a big fan of Teena Marie, but over the last few years I’ve come to like and respect her work. As most Teena Marie fans know, Lady Tee was involved in a long relationship with her mentor at Motown, Rick James. Rick and Teena ultimately broke the relationship off on good terms. Once Teena left Motown, she recorded the track “Cassanova Brown”.

Blogger is starting to crack down on the music downloads, so if you want the compilation, send a note to and I'll send you the link.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Cousin Leeroy

I've never played World of Warcraft, but I do understand the basic premise of the game (having played Ultima when I was in high school). Here's a funny clip that I ran across today...

From Wikipedia:
The video clip is a machinima recording of the game World of Warcraft. The clip begins with ten players, including Leeroy the Paladin, planning a raid on part of a dungeon. The players are heard discussing tactics before they enter, however, Leeroy remains quiet. In real life, Ben Shulz was away from his keyboard and was not paying attention to the discussion. Just as the team begins discussing the final plan for its assault, Leeroy suddenly springs to life, shouting his battle cry of "Alright chums, let's do this! LEEEROY JENNNNNKINS!". He then charges fearlessly into battle, to the complete and utter incredulity of his teammates. Attempting to rescue their comrade, the team charges in and attempts to execute their plan but they are quickly overwhelmed.

Leerooooy Jeeenkinssss!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy MLK Day!!!

One of the greatest men of the modern era.

Don’t You Know, It’s the Playoffs!!!

I’ve noticed that color commentators (especially former players like Daryl "Moose" Johnston) love to tell us that certain mistakes can’t be made in the playoffs (as if those same mistakes are acceptable in the regular season). Every time a receiver drops a catchable ball, you hear “It’s the playoffs; Player X needs to make that catch.”

Does this logic translate into the real world? If a doctor botches a sugery, I doubt his boss tells him, “Look Dr. Smith, it was perfectly acceptable to sever your patient’s aorta last month, but now it’s the playoffs, and you can’t go around cutting the main arteries of our patients.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Love A Love Supreme

Lord, thank you for John Coltrane.
You wouldn’t find my favorite worship album in the Contemporary Christian section of your local music store. You wouldn’t find it in Gospel, R&B, or Rock sections either. That’s because my favorite Christian album was recorded by a jazz artist.

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is arguable Coltrane’s greatest work (with Giant Steps and My Favorite Things a close second and third). Supreme is special to me because Coltrane’s praise is heard in every note he plays, every crash of Elvin Jones's cymbas, every chord of McCoy Tyners piano, and every bassline on Jimmy Garrison's bass.

Here’s what Coltrane wrote about the album in the linear notes:

This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.

Of the four part album, "Resolution" is my favorite piece (you can listen to it on YouTube here). It’s a decree of sorts – “Thank you God for who You are and what You did for me!!” It’s an oath– “I will strive to grow nearer to You”. It’s a promise - “I will love and adore You all the days of my life.”

Sure, you don’t hear those words in the song, but that’s what’s great about this album (and jazz in general). You don’t have someone else’s words interpreting what you should think and how you should feel when listening to the song.

Man, I love this album. You probably will, too.

Veggie Tales

Bob the tomato would look really good with some garlic and salt right about now

I’m into day three of my weeklong fast (evening meals only) and I’m starting to struggle. Then I read this passage from the book of Daniel.

Daniel Chapter 1: 3- 16

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king,
who has assigned your
food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

So if Daniel can be alright on vegetables and water, then I guess I can make without an evening meal for the next four nights.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Slow Fast

Today is the start of my church’s Solemn Assembly (a weeklong time for fasting, prayer, and assembly above and beyond normal church activity). During the week, members of the church substitute family worship and devotion for evening dinner and television.

Note: We do this as a church because we find it easier to fast collectively (similar to a group of friends trying to loose weight together). The specific time and duration isn't Biblically mandated; we choose the second week in January because it's the start of a new year.

Since Mrs. Jenkins is pregnant and baby Elisa is only 15 months, I’m the only one fasting in the house. Fasting has always been a struggle for me. I really like to eat. I don’t like sweets or chocolate – I just like food.

I use to think that fasting was overrated. Sure, Jesus fasted. He also walked on water, and I don’t see Christians trying to walk on Lake Grapevine. Still, despite my doubts, I gave fasting a try four years ago.

And you know what? I really grew from it. Fasting helped me to focus my thoughts and prayers. When I got a hunger pain, I thought to the reason that I was hungry. That forced me to continually turn my thoughts and prayers to God, so instead of thinking of God once or twice a day, I was talking to God all the time.

This year, I’m looking for God to help me “breakthrough” some issues I’m having with work/life balance and spiritual growth. What exactly does “breakthrough” mean? Well, it means that I’m looking for God to help me see the path that He wants me to follow. And how does one “breakthrough”? Well, my pastor using the following scripture to illustrate the point.

1 Chronicles 14:8-11
When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went out to meet them. 9 Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim; 10 so David inquired of God: "Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?"

The LORD answered him, "Go, I will hand them over to you."

11 So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand." So that place was called Baal Perazim. [b] 12 The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire.

13 Once more the Philistines raided the valley; 14 so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, "Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

17 So David's fame spread throughout every land, and the LORD made all the nations fear him.

Here’s how David realized his “breakthrough” (and how we can realize our own breakthroughs):
  1. David recognized that he was who he was because of the grace of God (David went from a Shepard to a King because God willed it; likewise I’m where I am because of God and not my own doing)

  2. David asked God specifically what should be done about his enemies (David didn’t try something first and then turn to God; I need to ask God before I act)

  3. Once David got his answer, he moved decisively (Once I get an answer, I need to move on it and not wait)

  4. After David achieved victory, he destroyed all the false idols there (I need to destroy my own false idols)

  5. After the Philistines started to attack again, David went back to God and asked what to do (We have to continually turn to God for every challenge)

  6. David’s victory was for the improvement of life for al Israel; it wasn’t just for David (when looking for a breakthrough, we need to ask for things that will benefit others and not just us)

I’ll check back in later on during the week.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out To Lunch for a week

Hey guys, sorry I'm slacking on the posts. I took a much needed vacation last week, and this week my employer's got me working like a hebrew slave. Catch you all next week.

While I'm out, be sure to read these other blogs: With Leather, Kissing Suzy Kobler, Deadspin, Daily Views and Pop Culture, and Soul Sides (the best audio blog out there.

Plus if you're really bored, you can watch in a few college stepshows I uploaded to YouTube - 1997, 1999, 2000.

"You Can't Step With Us!!!"