The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 6: Lawrence Jamal

lawrence jamal 01photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

(This is the final installment of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This interview features Dallas-based musician and rapper Lawrence Jamal.) 

The move from NWA to Big D…

I’ve done a lot in the past year.  Man, I can’t believe it’s been a year!  I had long hair at the time (last summer).  I’ve been to another country.  I’ve been stranded in another country because I lost my passport and I didn’t have access to my banking information.  I dropped a single, and then started working on an album, and then COVID hit.  I moved to Dallas for employment opportunities where I’m planting roots with my little brother in a major city and planning to release an album.  The major cities make things a little more accessible and makes for more opportunities to do business.  Northwest Arkansas is home, but it just doesn’t have those connections yet. 

Dallas is a great place to go corporate, make connections, and build resources, and when the world opens back up, then (I’ll) execute on what I’ve been working on.  The reason I’m working so hard on this album is so that I can put a solid product in my hands and then I can go focus on something else.  I don’t want to be torn when it’s time to do the next thing.  The COVID summer break is coming to an end.  

The Hot 16…

“The Hot 16” is a series I’ve been doing to keep content in front of people.  To break it down in hip-hop, there’s no rules to music, but there are 16 bars to each verse.  I just branded it in a way to make it seem exclusive but really it’s not.  There’s been a lot of “Hot 16 challenges” but the way I make it look, I make it look like a broadcast from a radio station.  I want it to be like a broadcast because what’s going to happen is as I evolve as a person and as an artist, the content itself will evolve in quality and I’ll have more money to invest in the future for production.  I’m looking forward to where this goes from grass roots.      

Carrying on right now…

The way I see it – I’m carrying on as if nothing has happened.  It’s been all about the music.  What you have to understand right now what’s happening in the world is almost normal especially for people of color if that makes sense.  There are a lot of people calling minorities in general and letting them know that ‘I love you’ and ‘I support you,’ and we see what’s going on and I do receive that, but the reality is that people have been dealing with this for years. 

You gotta understand I was frisk searched by a cop when I was 18 in a parking lot next to a park, and was so scared I almost fainted.  I’ve been slammed up against a car by the police because I answered a question when he asked me if I had anything to drink and I said I had one beer and I asked him if he had any, and he slammed me up against the car – this big swole up former Marine.   

I learned to respect authority, but I can’t allow those events and watching George Floyd have a knee to his neck til he dies.  That brought a lot of emotions that I don’t think a lot of people are ready to deal with that we need to talk about and that we are talking about – anger, betrayal, confusion, sadness.   

Being in the ATL recently…

I was in Atlanta four days after Rayshard Brooks was killed and I was riding in a car listening to one of the hottest radio stations in Atlanta 107.9 , and it was almost like I was in the mix.  It was different being in Atlanta, because Atlanta is predominantly black.  You get to see it from a different lens.  We’re almost in our own little bubbles across the world.  

I was at an Atlanta church playing (a show), and I had lunch with the pastor and we talked about Christian hip-hop and what that means, and it’s not what it seems.  I’m too real.  I’m not about being fake today.  We’ll see what happens.  My message is not changing.  I’m still going to be positive.  You’re not going to have to bleep out any of my words right now.  I’m good.  I’ve got to find other ways to build the kingdom.  I don’t know if my music lives up to that if you feel me?  It’s hard to manufacture that.   I’m taking care of my heart and keeping my heart healthy and everything else will flow from it. 

photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

Breaking down the walls…

What I see as a black man is the white evangelical church tearing each other apart because they’re not responding the way one person says is necessary.  It’s a lot.  I feel weird going to the church I came up in.  I don’t even want to be around certain environments right now. 

So all this going on, I called a minister I know and I asked him how should I be thinking about all of this because I need wisdom, and he said that on the other side of this what people are going to be looking for is that example and that changed man.  That black man that kept his head up and kept his integrity up because there is a lot of people putting in their afro pick right now with their fist high.   

I’m hoping to break down the four walls.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to entertain church people the rest of my life.  I don’t want to put on display how righteous I am because I know it’s ‘bs,’ and I’m not relatable at that point.  People can call me whatever but I’m just trying to reach people.  SoEverything Freedom” is still a mission.  It’s still a label.  But the way I see it, and the name of my album coming out August 1st is called “Don’t Play This at Church,” because I don’t want people to think I’m giving them another church album because I’m putting things in there that shouldn’t be played at church. 

Unification…

We have to hang onto unity, because unity commands blessing. So, we have to stay unified across colors, across borders.  It’s not about black or white.  It’s about the human race at this point.  I’ve experienced it, but ultimately I’m hopeful there will be change, but I’m also not excited to jump on the bandwagon on social media posts either. 

I’m actually moved by the support that the black community is getting from the outside.  I think the reason I’m so torn about people being at each other’s throats about not being anti-racist enough is not to give any of my friends a pat on the back like you did enough, but I think I really get to see people’s hearts through all this.  I get to see people that are about bringing a change in their community.  It’s almost like seeing a child walk and then run.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m encouraged to see how much support has been put together just through people unifying because if we can unify about this than anything is possible. 

Revisit Lawrence’s single “No Time Soon” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP and follow him on Spotify.

Check out his “Hot 16” series and connect with Lawrence on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 5: Kabrelyn “Brie” Boyce

Brie2photo creds: Joshua Asante

(This is the fifth part of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This interview features singer, songwriter, musician, and one half of the rock and soul band Dazz & Brie – Kabrelyn Boyce.)  

It’s a human life thing…

I won’t say it’s not entirely a black – white thing, but it’s more of a human life thing.  Color does matter, but what I mean by that is I’m not asking you to not be Democratic or Republican.  I’m asking you to recognize that we are human beings and our lives are just as precious as yours and your family.  That being such a hard concept for people to grasp is very frustrating to me.  I just want acknowledgement that this is happening and it’s not ok.

I try to be diplomatic and I try to be a peacemaker.  Even though I’m argumentative at times I still try make it where I leave a space for people especially if they’re ignorant about certain issues, but I’ve been getting very very exhausted.  Lately I’m just tired of explaining.  There are so many resources out there for people who may be confused.  But at this point some people are just choosing to be ignorant because it’s uncomfortable, and I just don’t have the space for that anymore.  There are always other truths out there, but I’m just having a hard time seeing the other side of this.

The Little Rock protests…

I went out to one (protest) in Little Rock.  I had to be a little careful about going out because my grandma still lives with my parents and she suffers from COPD and asthma – lung issues, so I had to be very careful and selective as to what I was doing, but I did get to one.

photo creds:  Milson Phoenix

Uncomfortable conversations…

One of my mom’s friends who is also my friend by default because we all work together sent us both a text message and you could tell she didn’t know what to say, which is an issue for a lot of white people right now. They just don’t know what to say. They don’t want to offend us, and they also don’t want to make light of it but they don’t know how to talk about it either so the conversations can be awkward.  She just said ‘I miss you all and I love you.’  My mom replied ‘I’m not ok,’ and she (our friend) texted back a scripture.  That could have been your window right there.  It’s sweet to respond with scripture, but it’s not the right tool to use right now.  There are times for that, but talk to me about it right now. 

If you have little kids then you know Mickey Mouse has the “Mousekatools” and you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to dig a hole. So, I feel like we have to figure out what’s the tool we need to use right now for this moment.

The age of enlightenment…

I believe we’re in the age of enlightenment, and for the first time I see black people being informed and thirsty for information that hasn’t been easily accessible to us in the past.  I’m seeing more and more threads about history.  I’m seeing things about this is what you were told in your history class, but this is actually what was going on.  You learned about “The New Deal,” but you didn’t learn about “redlining.”  You learned about Martin Luther King, but not about Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.  So I’m hopeful because people (myself included) are finally fed up enough to ask what is it that we need to be doing to shift this mentality, to shift this time.

But I do feel fearful about certain organizers, certain names.  I’m fearful because they now have a target on their backs.  There are also several reports about black people being hanged around the country that are being ruled as suicides, and I don’t feel like they’re suicides.  I just don’t believe that.  It’s just too coincidental and that makes me a little afraid.  I’m heading back to L.A. soon and it will just be two women driving and I’m a little apprehensive as to what to expect if we get stopped.  I got stopped the other day for speeding and I was a little nervous.

I won’t lie and say we’ll hold hands and there will be world peace anytime soon because there are still those fears and that apprehension.  We’ve seen a lot so I am both hopeful and afraid.

The future and the past of Dazz and Brie…

I don’t want to speak for Dazz, but I know I’ll be going back and forth between Arkansas and Los Angeles in the future.  It’s kind of bittersweet because we’ve been working very very hard to establish ourselves and our band.  We have shows where we call people by name in the audience.  We’ve created a family unit with Dazz and Brie and so that’s going to always be there.  We’ll continue to do those shows but just not as frequently.  L.A. is like being a little fish in a big ocean.  It’s a little like starting over again, and I’m trying to get comfortable with that idea.  I know that expansion is sometimes necessary for growth.

  photo creds (left): Dominique Benedict (right top): Cameraman Stan, (bottom right):  Sydney Rasche

(Starting out), we mashed together some covers and not very good ones.  Afropunk was our first official show, because that was the first time we put together our songs that we wrote.  Before that we had done two block parties – one in Atlanta, Texas where I’m from and another in Texarkana, Texas which is right up the street and I think we did some Bruno Mars, but it wasn’t a good song like “24k Magic.”  It was something like “If I Was Your Man,” or something.  They were not good songs to cover.  They were just songs we actually knew so we definitely made some rookie mistakes.

Tough times…

Tough times are not new to us.  My family has always been about helping one another out.  The only reason it feels like a pandemic right now is because I haven’t been able to go out and make money like I normally do.

I realize that I relied heavily on my band mates to get my voice out, so I’ve started dabbling in production recently.  I can’t get to the studio and I have these song ideas but they’re (bandmates) busy doing their own things.  So I had to get over myself and my ego for a minute.  Creating and experimenting has helped get me through this as well.  I’ve had a MacBook for years and literally all I’ve ever done is just type letters and check email so now Dazz has been telling me ‘use your computer, get this app, and start working.’  So I’ve had a little tough love from Dazz the producer, but I’ve done about four or five songs just in the last week or so including “That’s How it Be.”  My creativity has been overflowing lately and I’m so grateful for it.   It’s made my mood so much better.

Revisit Dazz & Brie’s single “Concept 2.0” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP on Spotify.

Check out Dazz & Brie on their website, and on Facebook 

Connect with Brie on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 4: Dazzmin Murry

Dazz1photo creds:  Joshua Asante

(This is the fourth part of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with Dazzmin Murry, a Little Rock-based producer, song-writer, photographer, and one-half of the rock and soul group Dazz & Brie.)

Changes…

I’m trying to stay active during the times and switching a lot of things over virtually and trying to keep things moving.  It has definitely been a huge change for me as far as recording and working with other artists and playing shows.  Playing shows is basically a thing of the past right now.  I’m trying to make that switch over to virtual and I’m trying to figure out how to keep that energy that we love to bring at our shows alive and well through a screen.  So, it’s a trial and error roller coaster right now.   

Going back to Cali…

This February Brie and I had actually taken the leap to L.A. to do more studio work, production, and songwriting, because I think it’s difficult being an Arkansas artist when you want to focus on songwriting and producing – more of the studio work.  You have musical hubs like Atlanta, New York, Nashville, and L.A. where that energy circulates so much that it’s just inevitable that you’ll meet someone or run into someone who will help catapult your career or to play a venue where a lot of artists or talent managers frequently go.  So that’s just some of the things we don’t have here right now.  Little Rock isn’t much of a scouting hub yet, but I feel like it’s on the incline. 

We actually moved in February to work with a company, and then we had to come back to Arkansas for a show in mid-March, and the week we came home, COVID-19 cases were on a rapid rise and it wasn’t safe to travel back.  That project has definitely come to a halt for us for now.   

Dazzdoesphotograpy…

Photography has actually been my saving grace right now.  It has helped me still work with clients, and it has been oddly increasing during this time.  When everything else has shut down, it has given me the time and space to learn more, and it’s given me a steady clientele to work with which is a blessing during this time.   

Going forward I really want to focus on lifestyle and fashion photography, so I’ve been able to do some of that with photoshoots for birthdays or family photos.  I still want to incorporate a creative flare and keep my perspective in those regardless of whatever event it is with my photography. 

Protesting in Little Rock…

The protests were eye-opening.  I had never participated in a racial or social injustice protest before.  It felt somewhat surreal to be there in that moment.  Learning about the Civil Rights Movement when I was younger, and then learning more as an adult about what we’re not taught in school.  To be there in that moment, and to be part of the same issue that has been here in America since the start of this country was just surreal.  I also feel an obligation as an artist to be hands-on and to document and make sure an accurate representation from a black perspective is being presented. 

 

photo creds:  Dazzmin Murry

Current events…

I recently spoke with Rah Howard about all of the events going on and the pandemic taking place simultaneously, and how it affects us as humans, and as artists – especially as black artists during this time.  There is still a duty to document and speak up, but also fighting through the daily artist struggles of overthinking and lack of access to resources and trying to figure out how to redirect our careers because a lot of creative avenues require human contact or events that require to be there for you to make a living.  So, it’s just having this whirlwind of disaster and trying to figure it out day by day.   

For me, it’s brought a lot of my work to a halt without the resources to do the work and having the motivation to do the work and the support to complete it.  If it’s a good day and you’re feeling motivated to do the work, then sometimes you feel guilty not focusing on the rise in racial tension.  With racism so apparent now and so many people home, I feel like people are unable to ignore it.  Racism is not something that is new.  It’s just something that’s being publicized so much more and from different perspectives whereas we would usually have a media perspective of crimes and racism or incidents that happened, but now having those perspectives from people who are there in real time.  The black narrative being so apparent as well.  It’s one heck of a time right now… a big boiling pot.   

Tough times don’t last…

Getting through tough times I like to focus on solutions.  I like to focus on my strengths and what I’m able to do and what I feel may be a healthy solution for whatever situation I’m in.  Again, by being back home and not being able to perform or have as many studio sessions as often it has caused me to focus on the resources I would like to have here at home.  So the reason why we felt like L.A. may be a better move to achieve some of our goals 

Dazzcreatorsvillage

I have a 501c3 non-profit called Creators’ Village and working on phase two of a program rollout to create more opportunities for all artist to be inclusive of all artists – multi-genre, men, women, people of color.  So figuring out how to gather those resources and distribute those resources equally throughout the state has been a healthy project I’ve been working on.  So, focusing on a solution not only for myself but for other artists that are facing similar issues.  In phase one I partnered with a local non-profit called Brandon House that I’ve done workshops and camps with for high school kids.  The next rollout will focus more on artists like me to help support artists financially and creatively.   

Hope…

I honestly don’t know a word to describe my feelings for what is happening now.  I would like to hope that things would change but being honest about the fact that this isn’t a new issue.  I don’t believe that people were not aware.  I just think it was easier to ignore when it wasn’t in your face.  It’s not like we’ve provided new information to people to help bring a new awareness.  It’s just bringing something to your face that you’ve already been aware of and you knowing now that we’re looking to see if it makes a difference in your actions or if people decide to change.     

It’s a feeling of I would like for this to happen but I’m not sure if I’m hopeful that it will because it’s not a new topic. 

Revisit Dazz & Brie’s single “Concept 2.0” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP on Spotify.

Check out Dazz & Brie on their website, and on Facebook 

Aunt to the adorably photogenic “Chunka,” you can connect with Dazz on Facebook or Instagram or with @Dazzdoesphotography on Instagram.

 

 

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 3: BAANG

BAANG4photo creds: Alex Kennedy

(This is the third part of a multiple-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with Fayetteville-based musical artist Jeremiah Pickett, aka:  BAANG – Believe Aspire Achieve Now Go)

Music during a pandemic…

It’s been a very very interesting challenge trying to navigate being an artist in general.  Releasing and dropping stuff right now, because on one hand if you think about it – do I even want to promote or put anything out?  On the other hand, you kind of realize that art is the thing that brings us together.  It’s the medium that’s most successful when pushing for anything.  So it’s been tough actually releasing stuff but I’m also encouraged because I’ve been inspired enough to create and inspired enough to work so when the time comes and I feel like that voice needs to be heard I’ve got some stuff I’m excited about sharing with people.   

BLM…

I’m naturally a glass half full type of guy, but I’m also a realist.  So I try to be honest if nothing else with myself.  I try to avoid pacifying myself in blind hopefulness.  I wanted everything to be rooted in some level of truth.  I am hopeful for the future when I see things like this – right now is the only time in history where all 50 states have protested one single event, and in this case it’s injustice.  There are people in Norway chanting ‘Black Lives Matter!’  I don’t know if there’s even black people in Norway.   

People keep saying COVID is a disease and it is, and it should be paid attention to and it’s claiming lives.  Equally as important is the disease of racism that’s plagued this country since the beginning of its’ time.  We’ve shut down school and restaurants for COVID.  We’ve ain’t never shut nothing for racism, but I think we need to pay that same level of attention to it.  I’m hopeful when I think about the fact that conversations are going forward.  I’m hopeful that the people who are much smarter than me who know to say yes there are injustices in this country and yes there are issues, and this is how we can tackle it.  This is how we can dismantle the systems that were created.   

I’m seeing a lot of young people that are educated and intelligent and zealous and full of energy and fearlessness, but some of the young people I’m seeing are very strategic.  They are not too quick to jump in front of a bullet, but they also have the knowledge to know that energy and passion are nothing without organization.  It’s encouraging because there’s something you can grasp onto as we move forward.  

Opening eyes…

I’m seeing a lot of people either speaking out or not speaking out because it’s uncomfortable or can challenge our norms or our paradigms that protect us, but it’s really really cool and encouraging for those who have the choice to seclude themselves, but instead they are using their voice and platform to advocate and push for change and to learn.  People should be encouraged, because there is no point of arrival with this stuff.  We’re always going working towards and pushing forward.  

I’ve been in a very interesting space.  People have been asking me how I feel and my response is the same way I’ve been feeling the past 26 years.  This stuff is a trend right now and is popular.  It (racial tension, social injustice) has gained international attention.  It’s the topic of conversation now so a lot of people are just now being enlightened and awakened to this disease.  I’m black, and I’m black in the south.  None of this is news to me.   I don’t say that in a prideful or rude way.  I’m just saying I feel the way I’ve always felt.  This is opening other people’s eyes.  Definitely when we see an unarmed man killed, or excessive force used on women of color – yes it shocks and pains us and deeply grieves us.  That’s the harsh reality that comes with being a person of color.   

IMG_0126 photo creds: Jake Ruth

Personal challenges…

It’s been challenging trying to be intentional with tapping in and consuming information, and also trying to protect my peace.  There’s an agenda to discourage and to cripple using tactics of fear.  If the media can push all of these negative narratives and all of these tragic, disgusting, hideous videos and continue to feed us this stuff then it can get to a point of now, there’s no hope.  It’s like it doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, things won’t get better.  But I think there’s a healthy amount of information that we do need to see and we do need to be plugged into.  That’s been a personal challenge – trying to find the balance of being engaged and detaching for my own mental health. 

Finding that voice…

Finding my voice in the midst of all of this has also been challenging and trying to use my voice most effectively.  Personally, I’m a delayed internal processor, so when stuff is happening (COVID, protests, race riots, hangings) instead of engaging immediately it takes me a little while before I can internalize and start to break down things.    

It’s a challenge for me.  Typically, I shrink as more intention is paid to me.  I’ve never once told myself I wanted to be an artist or wanted to be in any position of influence where people thought that I was this unobtainable larger-than-life figure.  I think as a kid it was just rooted in me watching their (famous artists) lives change once they reached a certain level of influence.  This was off-putting to me because I’m a private guy and I think when people meet me, and they see my personality, they automatically assume I would like to do this or that.  And I’m also a very willing person because I’ll do whatever you ask me.  I’d rather set up the tables and chairs and clean up after the event, but if you need someone to host it – ok, I’ll do that.   

I gain energy from recharging alone and being by myself.  I’m learning to embrace the influence that God has given me and trying to learn how to steward it.  It’s not going to go anywhere no matter how much I engage it or keep it at bay.   

Being thankful…

All of this stuff that is happening in the world has forced me to come to terms with what I value.  I compare that with what’s really important.  I’m thankful for having to spend a lot of intentional time with family.  I think that’s why I can honestly say with all that’s going on that yes, I’m feeling all the feels and all the emotions and yes I went for a jog after Ahmaud Arbery was killed, and broke down crying from just the weight of everything that’s happening.  And still there’s this constant presence of joy and I know it’s God-given and joy’s not circumstantial, but you can be joyous in the midst of crisis.  I think a lot of that joy is intentional from whom I’m getting to spend time with.  Hanging out with my brothers has been so fulfilling but by no means does it make you forget what’s going on.   

My buddy told me that healing takes place in the context of community, so we mourn together and grieve together, but we also celebrate and rejoice and eat breakfast together.  Surrounding myself with people who can encourage and uplift, and also hear, and be a shoulder has been my saving grace in these times honestly.  

It’s a broken world…

You know I have to take you to church one time.  My hope doesn’t come from this world.  I subscribe to the faith of Christ so I believe that this is a broken world full of broken people in need of a savior.  I believe that.  Not only was I taught that, because honestly I don’t believe everything I was taught.  I believe that from experience.  I’m broken.  I have a wicked heart.  I’m sinful by nature and still to this day there’s a million things I need to work on and fix, but I’ve seen God show up in my life countless times.  And so that’s where my hope is.  It’s in knowing that God is not mocked and that he’s not a liar and that he’ll be back.  His plan is to restore us completely and fully and so right now while we walk around weary and we’re hard pressed on every side but not crushed (2 Cor. 4:8).  It’s our job to push for change, to fight for truth, to advocate for people.  That’s our job.  Some people take the stance of ‘God’s going to fix it.’ Yeah, He is, through us from the people he put here to carry out what he called us to do.  We can’t just be passive and take the back seat.  So, yeah, God’s going to fix it and you need to stop being racist.  God’s going to fix it and you need to stop perpetuating white supremacy.  We can’t just be dismissive and passively bow out.   

 I’m hopeful from what I see and I’m encouraged by the people putting stuff in place.  I’m mainly rooted in that this is a broken world full of broken people and one day a perfect God is going to see us through. 

Check out BAANG’s 2019 Bike Rack Records release “Never Goin’ Back” on Spotify.

You can find more of his original music on Soundcloud 

Connect with BAANG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram  

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 2: SeanFresh

 

SeanFreshandGraceRiverphoto creds:  Christian West

(This is the second part of a multiple-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with the smooth and #freshforever Little Rock music artist @seanfresh.

BLM…

I’ve seen a bunch of ‘black lives matter’ and ‘we’re on your side,’ which is cool, but also a kind of weird at the same time.  It’s a great time to be alive, but not a great time to be alive you know?  Man, I do believe that a change is coming.  People are tired.  It took a pandemic.  It took a lot.  This is like a perfect storm for justice.  And I think the generation we live in is that people are tired of just marching and protesting for justice and equality only to have our efforts washed away by a new song, a new movie, a scandal,  or a sporting event.  We demand equality by peace or by force.  But we are tired of the status quo.  If we have to die, then we have to die so that my daughter can grow up and live a dream that was supposed to be for all of us.

I’m not going to fall.  One of my favorite characters of all time in a movie is Bane.  It’s because he had lines like ‘you all are just getting accustomed to the dark.  I grew up in the dark.’  I have learned to be successful in the dark. This life doesn’t mean anything to me.  The only thing that matters to myself is my family, my legacy, and being kind.  

Jesus didn’t do nothing to nobody and they murdered him.  We’re talking about being Christians now.  The reason why your sins (and mine) are wiped away is because of Jesus.  It wasn’t some easy route to Christianity either.  Jesus got 39 lashes and was treated like dirt so you can be free and wear your double-breasted suit on Easter and have your holier-than-thou attitude.    

Choosing kindness and love…

Being kind everyday and choosing what’s right is what gets me by everyday.  And that doesn’t always mean choosing what’s legal and maybe what’s right in the eyes of God.  I can go to sleep every night though knowing I chose to do what’s right, and if I didn’t then God forgive me.  Have mercy on me and show me the same grace and mercy that I can hopefully show to someone else. 

I take stuff one day at a time.  I lost a lot of weight – 50 or 60 pounds.  I never gave in to society not looking at the totality of the injustice, but looking at today, and today I choose to be kind.  I choose to love.  And at the same time, if I choose to bust a head or break a window then it is still out of love because sometimes I don’t see how we must understand that sometimes bloodshed has to be done for peace to come.  That is the most Christian and American thing ever – busting heads for justice.  We wouldn’t have America if it wasn’t for riots.   

Equality…

For some reason when it comes to equality for black people, we’re not even asking you to be better, we just want be treated the same way as everybody else and we got to fight for that every single day.   If I got to die for it, cool.  If you got to die for it, cool.  That’s just the mentality that we have now.  We’ve tried so many peaceful ways and the thing is no one has the answer. 

In the music industry everyone wants to try to tell you what to do.  I’m not saying getting social injustice across America is equalized with getting into the music industry, but there is no answer for it.  If there was, we would have tried it already.

Family lives coming and going…

My new baby daughter is named Grace and is two months old.  At the same time, my grandma just passed and I’m doing her eulogy.  I really don’t think too many people have cried, because she is the definition of someone who lived right, who loved Christ, and who stood up for righteousness.  My grandma made me some Hammer pants one time when I was younger.  She was always for me.  Everybody had Hammer pants at school, and we couldn’t afford them.  So she made me some Hammer pants because she wanted me to be accepted.  She was used by a lot of people in her life because she served a lot of people, but at the end of the day it’s like well done.  Everyone is like – grandma lived an amazing life! 

photo creds:  Dacori Jones (left) and Mike Morris (right)

Fresh forever…

I know that I will live forever.  This is just a small part of eternity so I’ll be doggone if I’m not going to stand up for what’s right.  You know, be me at all times.  I’ve never been scared of anyone, because I’m not afraid to die.  I’ve never been scared to stand up for what’s right.

It’s coming..

I think change is coming.  We have a non-profit helping mentor kids (jUSt/Global Kids – Arkansas), and we’ve had that for 10 years, and it wasn’t because of what’s going on now.  It was because we were going to change the world.  My perspective of change is that it’s always going to come in some form.  Whether it’s the return of Jesus or I die and go to Heaven.  But I never thought the world would just now realize it’s racist.  I didn’t care or wasn’t focused on the norm.  I am more worried about making a difference today and being kind every day and choosing what’s right.  

I’m hopeful for change, but who would have thought that COVID-19 would hit and no one would go outside?  And you’d have social distancing.  And then you have Minnesota, and you have time to follow social distancing, but then a police officer puts his knee on the neck of a grown black man.  You say George Floyd changed the world, but George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  That was it.  We still pissed off about Emmett Till.    

The truth of the matter is everything lined up perfectly for change.  But we’re only a few weeks into this.  We just got body cams on our police officers in Little Rock now.  They’re videotaping it.  So what?  It ain’t like it ain’t happened before.  We’ve seen it before.  We’ve seen all the films.  So, we’re just getting started.  

The creative parts of black people are stitched into American culture.  You have to have a majority to make changes and when others stand up and when women stand up, that’s when it goes down.  That’s when change comes.   

Jabs, jumpers, and staying busy…

I’ve been boxing since the pandemic hit and I’m about to do it competitively.  My jump-shot is not as good as it used to me, but my endurance is better.  I’m getting buckets still, but now you can’t score off of me.  My defense is good, and I’m getting all the rebounds.  So when I say my jump-shot isn’t as good, even my jump-shot at subpar is better than 97% of people’s jump-shots! 

Recently, I missed my flight back home from New York, because I was trying to get some things in Harlem from the Malcolm Shabazz market.  I thought we were going to make it, but we didn’t.  So we stayed and I started Googling open mic spots and the one in Brooklyn is one of the first that we found.  So Gavin (Hawkins) recorded it and it turned out good, and we put that up on YoutubeI’m just busy.  I don’t ask anyone for anything.  I just do my own things.  I’m working on my music and trying to get more subscribers on Youtube and Spotify.  I’m about to put out my new project “Gold Fangs and Chains” soon so we’ve got a bunch of stuff coming.  I’m also working on a clothing line collaboration with 22nd Element.  Man, God is good, and this is going to be the greatest year in my life.   

WHWR by SeanFresh from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape

He’s calling a 2020 Lakers’ championship and you can connect with Sean at SeanFresh.com or FacebookInstaTwitter, or Youtube

 

 

 

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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 1: IamBijoux

Bijoux(photo creds @dazzminmurry)

(This is the first piece of a multiple-piece series on the one year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This post features my recent interview with Little Rock’s lovely and talented  #herroyaldopeness @iambijoux)

About 2019…

Last year was really cool to be an artist.  Getting your art out now is different.  I’m very fortunate.  I’ve had a day job the whole time I’ve been doing music.  I’ve been living my life off of two incomes since 1997 and have been fortunate enough to work from home.   I wanted to be sad about all the gigs I’ve lost, but I just couldn’t sit in that.  I have to find a way to make my art worthwhile.  

But I did a lot of shows, a lot of music.  For the first time in my life getting to perform my own music at festivals and shows so that was amazing.  “Go With It” on the Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape was my first single ever.  I got to perform at Pride Little Rock, which was amazing and is a huge stage and I got to perform “Go With It” live.  I went (Facebook) live in March.  I was fortunate enough to be able to do that from my living room because I have sound equipment, and I think that first video has about 14,000 views (currently at 16k views and counting).

Performing for Juneteenth…

This is my third or fourth for Little Rock and I’m always pumped about Juneteenth.  It’s so funny to me in America; St. Patrick’s Day – not a problem.  Cinco de Mayo not an issue.  But a holiday like Juneteenth – people got something to say.  So many cultures have specific cultural holidays that we celebrate as a nation.  I never get upset about St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo or Octoberfest.  Juneteenth is an opportunity to take pride in my culture, and we have a lot to be proud about.  

 

On BLM…

Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that any other race should stand still while we run forward.  The phrase is simply that they matter.  I will never stop being baffled by how that is a point of argument for anyone.  Not even black lives are equal to yours.  Just matter.  And people still find something to say.  If I come to you and say it’s my birthday, say happy birthday Bijoux or happy birthday girl, don’t say oh, happy birthday to all the Aquarians.  Who’s standing in front of you right now?  It’s me.  It’s my birthday.  Celebrate me.  It does not diminish anybody else’s birthday, because I was not the only person born on February 18th, but tell me Happy Birthday.  Don’t say there are other people born on the 18th.  So?  It’s not their time right now.  You don’t even know them.  Happy birthday Bijoux.  Thank you. 

A bully…

Let’s say you go to school every day and there’s a bully and every time they see you, they call you a name and they push you into a locker.  The first time it happens you’re probably really really hurt, and you go home, and you tell somebody.  I’m so upset.  Why would somebody do me like that?  And if you tell somebody and they’re like it’s not a big deal – everybody gets pushed a school, get over it.  You would  probably feel sad those next few times you get pushed into a locker, but after awhile if that bully doesn’t get transferred or get in trouble or go to juvie, you’re just going to be like – you know what I go to school, a guy pushes me, whatever, I go on with my day.   

Growing up I had a friend circle – two white girls, a Mexican girl, a Filipino girl and me, and I remember the day that we asked how come everyone’s skin is different colors?  You know that there is a difference.  Once you start experiencing racism, you get this feeling that you’re less than.  It’s imposed on you.  I know that more people are willing to confront their racism and bias than they used to so that makes me hopeful.  But once again, that’s not going to stop that bully from pushing me into my locker.  I’m less sad about it now because that bully doesn’t come to school every day, but he still exists, and the next time he sees me, he’s going to push me into that locker again.   

 

Racism within the church…

Let’s say you pose the question of the first time you encountered racism; everyone is going to tell you of a time at grade school.  They can remember that moment and know they haven’t been the same since.  And I say that to say ‘yeah I’m sleeping at night and yeah I’m ok because this is not new.’  None of this is new information for me.  I don’t lose sleep over it anymore.  It doesn’t keep me up at night anymore and it doesn’t always throw me into fits of crying anymore, because I remember the first time I ran into a nice, well-meaning Christian person and the first time I was called a racial slur:  I was in Catholic school.  I don’t know what I did, or if I did anything.  One of my classmates cussed me out and called me a racial slur and I thought ‘oh, I’m different.’  

(photo creds @dazzminmurry)

Getting through tough times…

First and foremost, I’m a believer.  I’ve experienced God for myself.  I believe that all things work together for my good.  I truly believe that.  I’ve worked to cover my loved ones and my community in prayer.  I have trauma from my childhood that has built a resilience that I don’t know if money can buy.  Part of that resilience is creating these networks of self-care to make sure that I’m ok.  So, I have a therapist.  I have friend circles and groups.  I have been on a Zoom call every week since March the 12th.  I’m on Facetime probably six hours a day.  I have time that I’m alone and I enjoy that too.  I always have.  But, if I need something, I know I have somewhere I can go or someone I can talk to to get what I need.  I get to see my Godsons.  I have so many opportunities to talk to friends.  I have game night and book club with sister in law over Zoom.  I’m working from home.  I’m doing music in the house.  I do everything here, so I have compartmentalized my home.  I only do certain things in certain rooms; I’ve been getting dressed up every day because it makes me feel good – skincare routines, makeup every now and then.  When I have Zoom brunch, I get really fancy that day.  I’ll get some smoked Salmon on a cracker on my couch in front of my cell phone.  I’m doing my best to replicate the life that I enjoy. 

Right now…

I see the reports.  I’m active on Twitter.  I don’t watch the videos anymore, but I see people’s accounts, I’ve signed petitions, I donate money.  I’m getting ready to do some performances for BLM.  I have therapy.  I have my friends to talk to and I’ve made my own peace with the country I love, and I live in.  It’s messed up as it always was, but it don’t hit the same.  

I do feel hopeful and I probably always will.  Not only is it an outlook that I choose to take, but it is convenient for me to take.  I don’t have a black husband or black sons, but I have two black brothers and a black dad and black mom and it’s just us in our space and so far everybody is staying safe.  I’m just as worried about them regarding racism or police brutality as I have about them since the mid 90’s.  Everybody seems to be staying safe from Covid and my family members that are in the health care profession are screened and tested on a regular basis and they’re taking so many precautions that I don’t worry extra about them. 

Be aware, be active…

Racism is superimposed into American society and it’s interwoven through everything – these micro-aggressions and subtexts and media.  After 3 yrs. of having a bully smash you into your locker you’re not about to go home and cry over that like you used to.  It’s one thing to experience racism, but to have been indoctrinated into it in ways that were subconscious to you, and then confronting your bias is an act of bravery.  It’s a necessary step.  If you see that you have a problem and you’re doing work toward it, in my opinion it’s an act of courage.   

Hopefully all of us can start being more conscious of our own bias because everybody has them.  Everybody has a responsibility to confront their own, be it poverty or someone that has a different face than you who looks different than you.  We all have this work to do, and I’m really proud of those who are doing the work, having the conversations, protesting injustice, donating to causes that help people who are being disenfranchised because what else would Jesus have us do?  Would Jesus have sat by and watch injustices happen to people and say ‘that’s not my problem’?  Well, you answer ‘that’s the way it’s always been.’  Jesus was always against the way things had always been.  The same Christ that we believe saved our souls is the same Jesus that was getting into trouble with the government for healing on the Sabbath.   

If I have the opportunity and the capability to help somebody’s affliction, I’m going to do what Jesus did and help them.  And I think that’s a mandate that we all have a responsibility to follow.  We all have our work to do and if you’re doing work then kudos to you.  And we all have our work to do and I mean everyone – me included.  We all can do more, and I’m never going to stop appreciating where people come from.     

Bijoux’ 2019 single “Go With It”…

 

Connect with Bijoux on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, and Youtube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“It’s Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings”

“or or this place!” – Murray Head

Murray Head | Discography | Discogs(Murray’s head)

Spring of 1985 was the highlight of my 8th grade year.  The reason?  Three letters – S.O.D., aka “School Outdoors.”  For one glorious week (four nights actually), the eldest class of Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma slept in cabins and spent days in outside classes (mostly) at the University of Oklahoma Lake Texoma Biological Station.  The station, founded in 1949, sits on the north shore of Lake Texoma about two hours from Norman, and has indoor classrooms, a recreational room, a library, and a cafeteria onsite.

,                               (If you’ve ever been there, then you remember the bell!)

The spring of 1985 was nearing the end of my first school year living in Norman, Oklahoma where my dad had been hired by Billy Tubbs the previous summer to be an assistant men’s basketball coach for the University of Oklahoma.  The Sooners were led that year by three-time All-American Wayman Tisdale, who still holds the all-time scoring record for the Sooners.  The season was not too far removed as the Sooners had been ousted in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that season.  After a narrow two point win over Karl Malone and Louisiana Tech, the Sooners lost two days later to Keith Lee and Memphis State 63-61.  That would ultimately be Wayman’s last game as a Sooner.  Just a junior, Wayman would break Sooner hearts around the state a few weeks later and declare for the NBA draft.

“All change don’t you know that when you play at this level there’s no ordinary venue.”

I was moving on as well, preparing for high school.  It was actually called a “mid-high” in Norman as 9th and 10th graders were separated into two mid-highs (West and Central) from the juniors and seniors at Norman High School.  But before we ascended into high school and you became a jock or nerd or preppie or goth, the graduating 8th graders had one last middle school fling together surrounded by water and nature.

During that week, we had a security guard (Mr. Wagner) that would handcuff you to a tree if you attempted to cut in line during mealtime.  This was a favorite risk that many of my classmates attempted through the week (including me unknowingly that first morning).  There were skits to perform and spider sniffs and trust walks and a host of other activities intended to keep the adolescent minds of 8th graders attentive and engaged.  We were also charged with journaling each day and eventually turning that into a project to be graded.

If you’re a friend or classmate that attended S.O.D., or you’re just curious about my journaling skills as an 8th grader in 1985, then may I present to you, straight out of my attic and back from 1985, my S.O.D. journal!

“Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town.”

Click on the various pictures to enlarge them…

“Time flies doesn’t seem a minute, since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it.”

“A little flesh, a little history, I can feel an angel sliding up to me.”

“Can’t be too careful with your company, I can feel the devil walking next to me.”

(I only received a 92 for this project.  Apparently my artistic skills were lacking!)

“Bangkok, Oriental setting, and the city don’t know that the city is getting”

Orientalism in 'One Night in Bangkok' | Critical Hit!!

The peculiar career of Englishman Murray Head produced this lone top five U.S. hit in the spring of 1985.  Peaking at #3, I learned this song was actually written and performed for the musical “Chess,” which depicts a cold war era chess tournament featuring grand masters from the U.S. and from Russia.  Some of the lyrics actually started to make a little bit of sense when I learned that.  The musical itself ran for three years in London’s West End between 1986-88 and then had a very short stay on Broadway in 1988.

A lyrically interesting song, it usually harbors enjoyment or deep dissent from the listener.  Personally, I like it.  And, it also serves as a reminder of the spring of ’85 and my time at S.O.D.  Here is “One Night in Bangkok…”

“And thank God I’m only watching the game controlling it.”

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“People Get Ready”

“There’s a train a-coming.” – Curtis Mayfield

Vinyl Revival: Curtis Mayfield, 'Keep On Keeping On: 1970-1974 ...

Sometimes I think it’s not necessarily the pain of losing someone that causes the most grief.  It’s in those dark moments in the days and weeks and months immediately after that cause some of the greatest heartache.  Maybe it’s the finality of it all.  Maybe it’s the sense that our loved one is slowly slipping from our short-term memory into our long term spectrum, and becoming just another passing image of better days gone by.

Those images become a little more fuzzy, the voice a little more distant, the scenes a little less vibrant.  There’s also this strange feeling that we don’t want to let go of the pain, because it means letting go of the person, which we all know somewhere cognitively is just not true.

It’s taken me quite some time to work through my personal loss this year and put it in a somewhat coherent post.  I’ve already lamented over how bad 2020 is so far.  That’s no shocker, but somewhere there are silver linings.  I just can’t quite see them yet.  I came across a post on Insta from my cousin’s girlfriend recently, and it said something to the effect that she isn’t counting 2020 to her age because she didn’t use it.  Fair enough.  And if you’re reading this, and you’ve lost a friend or family member recently (COVID or otherwise), then I’m truly sorry.

“Faith is the key.  Open the doors and board them.”

I lost my father-in-law, Haskell Rycroft, in March (heart).  He was 88 and still at the top of his game mentally.  He was a pastor, a husband of 50+ years, and a father to six daughters (nothing could scare him!).  He was a force of nature – “a man’s man.”  He loved guns and hunting and sports and politics, and most of all was passionate about pursuing his God and spreading what he knew to be truth.  He was creating.  He was writing poems and books and lyrics and strumming his guitar and making music with his newfound love of the harmonica.  He was still preaching and teaching to whomever would listen.  Haskell had the key and he got on board.

(My wonderful, loving father-in-law, Haskell.  Harmonica in hand and joy in his heart.)

I lost a college basketball teammate in April (heart).  He was hilarious and talented and people loved him.  He was a basketball coach, a musician, a husband and father.  He was coaching young men during some of their most formative years at a high school in Oklahoma.  He was hawking health products and cars and shoes online.  He was a hustler.  He was also writing and creating new music and putting it out for wandering ears on whatever platform he could connect with you on.  He was performing live concerts from his house during lockdown and you could find his musical taste somewhere between Waylon, Hank and Merle, and Prince on the musical spectrum.  Wes had the key as well and he also got on board.

(My song-singing, Redmen for life, former college teammate and friend Wesley Michael Hayes)

“All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket.  You just thank the Lord.”

I don’t post these pictures of two men separated in age by nearly 40 years to make you feel sorry for me or to garner some unnecessary attention.  I don’t need it (and by the way these two men would have gotten along fabulously).  No, I post these pictures to relate.  I join you on the pain spectrum.  I feel your sense of loss.  You are not alone in wanting to see people again.

You are not alone either in wanting to hold onto the pain for fear of letting it go, and in doing so letting go of that person.  In fact, I’m not telling you to let it go.  I hear that advice too often, and it’s not always applicable.  Hold onto it while it’s comfortable.  Just put it away in the closet or a lock box or a photo album when you don’t need it.  Let the man who will take away the pain hold onto it, but go back and grab it when you need to, because it’s ok to.

I also post these photos to celebrate those two lives.  I post them to celebrate those in your life that you want to celebrate, those that got on board.  If you’ve lost anyone recently, post their photo in the comments section if you want.  There is something cathartic about putting words to paper and surfing through old photos on a cell phone.  The silver linings many times are just the smiles that are often unintentionally cast across our faces thinking, looking, and remembering.  

“Have pity on those whose chances are thinner
‘Cause there’s no hiding place from the kingdom’s throne.”

The religiously inspired song written by Curtis Mayfield and sung by his group The Impressions in 1965 has always carried with it a message of hope and freedom and unity.  It’s beautiful.  It provides a big-picture mentality and was one of the reasons Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the song as an unofficial Civil Rights movement anthem.

Whether your faith carries you in search of better and brighter days ahead (and I hope it does), I think we all need to heed songwriter Curtis Mayfield’s message as it applies to the now and to eternity.  It’s also just a mellow, cool song that we can all lean back to, close our eyes, feel the sun on our faces, reflect on beautiful days gone by and better days ahead.

“I’m getting ready.  I’m getting ready…”

Here are two different but very powerful versions for your sampling taste today:  the late, great Curtis Mayfield’s version (assisted by Taylor Dane on vocals) from 1989 and a short-lived NBC television show called “Night Music,” and then the video featuring the distinctive voice of Rod Stewart with the legendary Jeff Beck on guitar from 1985.

Thank you Lord.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Wesley Michael Hayes music on Youtube

Haskell Rycroft on his harmonica playing O What a Savior

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“We Got the Bottle, You Got the Cup”

“Come on everybody let’s get…” – The Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys: Read A Classic NME Interview From 1988 | NME

Last night I watched “The Beastie Boys Story” on AppleTV.  I signed up for a free 7 day trial just for this very purpose.  Whether I’ll continue with my subscription for $4.99 a month is questionable at this time.  I already have too many streaming services – YouTube TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, ESPN+, Disney, and Hulu.  I don’t know that I have enough time in the day to justify all of those services already.  But, I digress.

“The Beastie Boys Story” was fantastic.  I’ve been a fan of the Beasties since “Licensed to Ill” came out in 1987.  Coming along at a perfect time as white suburban teens everywhere were dipping their toes into the rap pool, I was one of those kids.  My rap tape collection was growing with the likes of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Kool Moe Dee, and then here come these three crazy rappers hailing from Brooklyn, calling themselves the Beastie Boys and all the while making me laugh with an album called “Licensed to Ill” (“what a dumb name!” – Joan Rivers after mistakenly calling the album Licensed to Kill and being corrected in one of the clips).

I never saw them perform, nor will I ever after the passing of Adam “MCA” Yauch in 2012, but I learned so much and was as equally entertained by the remaining two members Mike D (Mike Diamond) and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz.  The live documentary produced by Spike Jonze featured the two on stage in Brooklyn, mics in hand, reliving the past through a combination of stories, pictures, music, and video.  They spoke about their original girl drummer (Kate Schellenbach), who you can tell they felt bad about dismissing back in the day before they blew up.  Of course they spoke frequently about Yauch, who created the band and was really the creative driving force behind the trio.  I learned about their departure from Def Jam and Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin after the initial album and constant touring schedule, and their move to the west coast and the reinvention of their band over and over through the years.  It’s all very interesting and worth watching if you like the Beastie Boys or just have an appreciation for who they were and what they accomplished in their 30+ year history together.

“The song and dance keeping you in a trance.  If you don’t buy my record I got my advance.”

I wore out that Beastie Boys cassette tape “Licensed to Ill” in 1987 & 88.  There were times during those sweltering Oklahoma summers that my cousin Kasey would come stay with my family in Norman, Oklahoma for a week.  At nine years younger, Kasey was like a little brother to me, and I would take him all over with me – to mow yards (summer job), to the golf course, to the mall, to get snow cones, to the movies (anyone remember “Masters of the Universe” starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man; yeah, I hooked Kasey and I up with tickets to that).

Of course, I would fill him full of my 80’s soundtrack which usually meant he was getting a large dose of hair metal, classic rock, and of course rap – particularly The Beastie Boys (who had very little explicit lyrics on that first album).  Besides the obvious “Fight for Your Right”, our go-to song was their minor hit “Brass Monkey,” which we thought was just really funny to sing along with.

C4DB280D-F2DE-40B0-8008-DF1BA92AB1FC_1_201_a(Two future Beastie Boys circa 1988-89 – myself and my little brother – my cousin Kasey.)

I had no idea what Brass Monkey was though I could surmise that it was most likely some kind of alcoholic drink.  Pretty sure Kasey just thought it was a song about a monkey.  I mean he was only about 8 when we were listening to this song.

Of course the Beasties completely changed course with their next album “Paul’s Boutique,” which was deemed a disappointment shortly after its’ release.  I actually bought the cd and I mostly enjoyed the track “Hey Ladies” over and over in my dorm room at St. Gregory’s.  Occasionally I might bump “Shake Your Rump” or “Shadrach,” but for the most part it was nothing like anyone (including me) expected.  Over the years though, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for this album even dishing out a few bucks for a “Paul’s Boutique” t-shirt a few years back (I also bought one for Kasey).

 

(Reppin’ my Paul’s Boutique shirt and reunited w/ my Beastie Boy cousin Kasey last year) 

“I drink Brass Monkey and I rock well.  I got a Castle in Brooklyn (that’s where I dwell)”

In honor of those summers long ago when I would cruise around in my ’84 Camaro with my windows down, my stereo pumping, and my little cousin Kasey riding shotgun, and in honor of a band that was ground-breaking, innovative, hilarious, and just reminded you that you and a couple friends could probably form your own group like this – here is the band that’s “got more hits than Rod Carew,” (sidenote: I love Rod Carew) – check out a “live” performance of The Beastie Boys on TV’s “Solid Gold” with “Brass Monkey…”

“Tilt your head back, let’s finish the cup.”

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“I, I’ve Been Watching You”

“I think I wanna know ya (know ya)” – Morris Day and The Time

There’s a podcast I listen to regularly called “Stuck in the 80’s” and occasionally they have a segment called “What’s Your 80’s Obsession?”  It’s just whatever you’ve been listening to, watching, or reading that has some sort of 80’s relevance.  Well, my recent watching of “Purple Rain” on Netflix gave me my current 80’s obsession, and it may not be what you’re thinking… or it might be if the big picture above is any indication.

I recently watched “Purple Rain” in its’ beautiful purple majestic entirety on Netflix for the first time since the 80’s.  Arguably Prince was hitting his peak as a star with this album and film, and I was anxious to go back and re-watch a film I hadn’t seen in ages.  The album speaks for itself.  For many of us 80’s kids that loved a little soul or R&B or funk, “Purple Rain” was one of the defining albums of our generation.  But, what about the movie?  Was the acting by Prince really any good?  Did the bandmates have a lot of lines?  What about the co-stars Apollonia and Morris Day?  Was Prince’s family plot-line believable and cohesive?  Were his musical performances as good as I remembered?  So many questions abounded, and I’ll let you watch it and decide for yourself.

But also, what did the critics back in the day have to say at the time?  Well if you grew up in the 80’s, then you knew that there were truly only two opinions on movies that mattered – Siskel and Ebert.  Thumbs up.  Thumbs down.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were on network tv from 1982-1986 with a show called “At the Movies.”  They reviewed the latest movie releases, and I wanted to hear what they had to say every week.  The two were film critics from competing newspapers in Chicago, and will forever be linked especially since a lot of people could never remember which was which (myself included).  Gene Siskel (who passed away in 1999) was the slimmer, taller, balder of the two and was film critic for “The Chicago Tribune.”  Roger Ebert (who passed away in 2013) was the larger, glasses-wearing, head-full-of -hair film critic for “The Chicago Sun-Times.”  The two of them would lay judgement every week on films with their signature thumbs up or thumbs down review.

Here are Siskel and Ebert reviewing the best of 1984 which including their glowing approval of Prince’s debut, “Purple Rain.”

 

In Siskel and Ebert’s review above, there is no mention of my current 80’s obsession – Morris Day and the Time.  My cousin in North Carolina recently texted me a picture of his turn table setup that he’s been perfecting while in isolation with his girlfriend during this pandemic.  He has an eclectic reading and listening gene somewhere within him.  He may be quoting Charles Bukowski one minute and then the next sending me a text with the picture below featuring the vinyl album of The Time’s self-titled debut album from 1981.

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Morris Day and The Time was a group created by Prince as part of his contract with Time Warner, and I found myself captivated by the scenes featuring Day and his sidekick, Jerome, throughout the movie.  Anyone remember their take on the old Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on First?”  Morris and Jerome change it to “What’s the password?”

Comedy gold, right?

Day’s character was constantly trying to out-perform “The Kid” (Prince’s character name in the movie).

Day to Prince before Day takes the stage:  “Why don’t you stay awhile, see how it’s done?

Day had a wonderfully flamboyant wardrobe.  His vanity.  His narcissism.  His perfectly coiffed hair, trimmed mustache, and wandering eyes.  His pursuit of Prince’s love interest Apollonia (“Oh, Lord… Either somebody put something in my drink, or you’re the finest motherfucker I’ve seen in ages!“), and his creation and managing of Apollonia and the girl group – Vanity 6 during the movie (Vanity 6 was in real life another one of Prince’s groups that he created).

After watching “Purple Rain,” I texted my cousin, and rhetorically asked how Morris never garnered any Oscar buzz for his self-absorbed portrayal of himself!

Original members of The Time included super-producers Jimmy Jam (keyboards) and Terry Lewis (bass).  Recognize those guys?  You should if you like any music from Janet Jackson or a little group called New Edition.  The band also included drummer and producer/songwriter Jellybean Johnson as well as Prince’s longtime friend from his childhood – lead singer Morris Day.  Prince also recruited promoter Jerome Benton from another band.  Despite the enormous talent that comprised this band, Prince played all of the instruments on their debut album and credited the production of the album to his alter-ego “Jamie Starr.”

Arguably the most successful of Prince’s creations, The Time is best known for three hits – “Jungle Love,” “The Bird,” and “Jerk Out.”  The latter of those three was on a cd (1990’s “Pandemonium”) my roommate Joe Moe owned our sophomore year at St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  I remember singing “Jerk Out” around the dorm room and also was introduced to the funny “Donald Trump – Black Version.”  In fact, here’s a very short clip showing off my Morris Day laugh while listening to “Jerk Out” circa 1990.

 

So the past few days I’ve had Morris Day and the Time on my speakers soaking in the cleverness of the Prince creation.  Rumors of fighting between The Time and Prince seemed to be the cause of the initial split back in the 80’s but The Time has reunited several times throughout the years for shows and tours.  And ironically, Morris Day and The Time will be one of the bands performing on “The 80’s Cruise” in 2021 (which the guys at “Stuck in the 80’s” promote and also attend along with original MTV VJ’s Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, and Alan Hunter).  Of course the cruise is assuming, you know, there are any actual cruises anymore after this pandemic.

“Come on baby, where’s your guts?  You wanna make love or what?”   

Morris Day And The Time | Black music, Soul music, Music legends

One of the iconic lines in 80’s music lore I would argue, and a line from their most memorable song – “Jungle Love.”  The song only peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 – a travesty in my book especially when you consider that their 1990 hit “Jerk Out” (while still a solid single) made it all the way to #9.  I’m not sure what held “Jungle Love” back so much in 1985 but their were some bonafide heavyweights in front of it that week in 1985 featuring songs by George Michael, Billy Ocean, Phil Collins, Foreigner, Hall & Oates, REO Speedwagon, and The Pointer Sisters just to name a few.  Nineteen eighty-five was one of the best years for 80’s music in my opinion.

Regardless of its’ lack of more success on the charts, here is one of the more underrated 80’s songs, and really another example of the brilliance of Prince.  Check it out, oh we oh we oh…

Ahh, that’s it, that’s it.  Come on.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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