Shock on Pac
This is an excerpt from my interview with Shock G. Let me say that Shock was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. There’s a certain depth and soul to him that I haven’t seen in any other artist that I’ve spoken with. Respect is definitely due.
Below is just an excerpt from what he said about Pac, much of this portion of the conversation was lost. Shock obviously has a lot of love for the man. Maybe a lot of this was in Thug Angel. I don't know, never saw it. Anyway, all you Tupac fans enjoy.
I’m sure that you were devastated when you heard that Pac died. Did it surprise you?
Nobody who knew Pac was surprised when he would get shot, we just didn’t think he would die. He was invincible. He had an angel watching over him the first five years of his career, cuz there was many times he was not supposed to live. Many times the average person wouldn’t have survived what he went through. But he always survived it. He was 25, maybe it was his time. Honestly, he wasn’t real happy. He was real restless. He was really ADD when he didn’t have weed. An unrestless soul.
Were you in touch with him in the later years?
Last time I saw him was at an LL Cool J show about a month before he checked out of here. (long pause) He’s all over, man. There’s so much Tupac in some of these guys I meet out here. (Bay Area MC) Kev Kelly was with us last night (at the Digital Underground Show) and wanted to say Tupac’s lyrics so much. When he talks, sometimes I black out and think I’m talking to Pac. He doesn’t even know he’s doing it, he just has so much love for Pac and he’s shaped himself that way. Just like Pac shaped himself like Martin Luther King.
Pac’s four influences in the order they happened were Chuck D, MC Ren, Scarface, and Martin Luther King. The first person he looked to was Chuck D, and when we met (Pac) he sounded like that. Then MC Ren grabbed his attention from NWA cuz he was so African American. He was so much a regular nigga, as Pac would say, and he loved that about him. For a lot of people, Ren was their favorite rapper in NWA. Not in the pop world, but in the streets. He kept it gully. Then Scarface started to seep in. And finally, what started creeping into Pac as he became more well-read and historical was Martin Luther King’s delivery, the success of that delivery. Pac studied that and let it slip in. (mimicking MLK’s flow) I have a dream when all the people (mimicking Tupac in nearly the same voice) That’s why I steady thugging. That’s what I can hear. Some of that emotion in Martin’s delivery Pac incorporated. And last but not least, Big Psyche from Thug Life. He sounded like Pac long before Pac did.
Do you blame Suge Knight for what happened?
I blame Suge Knight’s parents for what happened to Suge. I blame the United states and capitalism for what happened to Shug’s parents. And on and on and on. All these people walking around, whether they’re violent criminals or suicidal rebels like Kurt (Cobain), that’s our world making these people like that. I blame us. I blame all of us for accepting the system that killed Pac.
I’m not going to print this. The story is gonna be about you.
It doesn’t matter to me. When it’s about Pac, it’s about me. We nested that egg. We sat on that egg.
I can picture Harvey Keitel playing this guy.
"ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- A Walt Disney World worker who was acquitted of charges he fondled a 13-year-old girl while dressed as Tigger has been suspended again, accused of shoving two people while in a Goofy costume."
WHAT SFWEEKLY DIDN'T WANT YOU TO READ
This is an outtake from my Schoultz story, and they probably deleted it because it wasn't relevant to the story. I'm posting this as a shout-out to Cesar
-- an anti-Chavez Marxist from Venezuela. It also touches on the hypocrisy of the left playing geo-politics with South America without really being aware of the situation. I'm not taking one side or the other.
"In the midst of a thick crowd of tourist gawkers, weekend-market shoppers, and bustling locals, Andrew and I are virtually pushed across the intersection of 24th and Mission as we’re going to meet Ray Patlan at Balmy Alley. The cacophony of public debate drowns out anything that I could possibly say to Andrew. On the north corner, a woman with a microphone and a portable speaker screams nearly indecipherable religious rhetoric, while on the south corner a large group of pro-Hugo Chavez protesters decked in red tees and holding various makeshift posters have assembled and are passing out leaflets. The speakers rail against Chavez opponents, calling them Bush-supported, bourgeoisie lackeys. A group of white volunteer workers with anti-Iraq tees on crowd around us as we step onto the curb.
While I’ve never been to Venezuela and won’t pretend to speak on with any great authority on the subject, I have several acquaintances in Caracas – Venezuela’s capitol – who’ve spearhead the opposition, and I know that they’re neither bougie pigs nor surrogates for this country’s neo-cons. In fact, most of them – if living in America – would probably be standing hand in hand with the pro-Chavez crowd when it came down to our nation’s politics. When I mention this to the young woman handing out pamphlets, she shrugs her shoulders, mumbles something about “just passing out pamphlets” and turns away from me."
Silicon will meet silicone in October issue of Playboy.
I'm bout it. But Takashi Murakami
already beat them to the punch.
is just ridiculously funny. Ali G (as Borat) leading a cowboy bar in a sing-along of "In My Country There is a Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well)." Ali G is an undercover jew, and I can't imagine what must've been running through his mind.
(spotted on ILM)
The Return Of Jack Splash
In 2004 the nucleotides of funk, soul, hip hop and rock n’ roll are so intertwined that album claiming to “break down the barriers” separating them is pretty much a non-event. And though the hype surrounding Plantlife asserts just that, the claim is more of a disservice to what the group has managed to achieve on The Return of Jack Splash. Plantlife pleasantly updates the classic funk of the JBs and Sly Stone, while throwing in a dab of Prince and a pinch of the Neptunes for good measure. Like those famous funk signifiers, Plantlife slinks against the rhythm -- refusing to pound against it like hip hop or rock, yet not quite willing to plead with it like soul. Well, there may be a little supplication, but Plantlife mastermind and producer Panda One – formerly of the LA hip hop crew The Animal Pharm – does manage to infuse enough classic funk swing and early 80s electro thump to keep the party going.
The standout track here is the downtempo “Why’d You Call Me (3am).” Over a softly burnished guitar line and slow yet steady bass drums, singer Jack Splash coos about being manipulated – sexually and otherwise – by a female singer. It’s a clever reversal of traditional gender roles set to a production that’s both sensual and hypnotic. If “Why’d You Call Me (3am)” is a quintessentially late-night, chill-out number – with lyrics that deal with the aftereffects of the party – then the trashy electro of the immediately infectious “Deep Blue” was designed for a little earlier in the evening, when the dance floor’s packed and the cocaine is flowing. The old-school funk romp “Got2Get2gether4Luv” serves a similar purpose, albeit with diminishing returns.
While The Return Of Jack Splash is generally enjoyable, there are some simple missteps and even a few basic structural flaws in their music. For one, Jack Splash’s voice – which is a scratchy, nasally deviation of Pharell’s high falsetto – does tend to grate over the course of the album. And some of the album’s production is content meandering down the well-traveled boulevards of funk rather than opening up in new musical vistas. Still, there’s enough here to grab hold of that you won’t mind the derivative nature of some of the tracks.
Today I skimmed the names of the dead in Iraq
to see if they included anyone I knew. It was difficult, to say the very least, but given my rural roots and my age group (25-30, which has the highest number of casualties), I thought that it was necessary.
The experience was as complex as it was sobering. Each name is accompanied by a brief explanation of the date and circumstances under which they died. Each name suggests a narrative that while unique, has a common and unfortunate conclusion. Throughout the exercise, I felt angry, frustrated and fatigued. The first couple hundred names were the most difficult to get through. After that, the sense of catastrophic yet impersonal loss takes hold, and the soldiers begin to blend together.
But you keep going. You hold your breath every time you notice a hometown or name that seems familiar. You hone in on the corresponding picture and race through the mind’s rolodex to see if any memories are triggered. Did I have a class with him in ’97? Did I know his family? But it isn’t him. He’s too young, or that isn’t the right face, and you return to skimming through the freshly anonymous names.
I remember an article that I read in the New Yorker a year ago on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. According to the article, North Koreans believed that the US started the Korean War and that the North Koreans ended it with a victory over their aggressors. They believed that North Korean was the pearl of Asia, and that their leader was granted special powers that elevated him to god-like status. I remember being surprised that a country in the 21st century, smack in the middle of the information age, could live in such a state of delusion.
Scrolling through these names – less than two weeks after watching the RNC – I’m convinced that we’re not that much better off. Nearly half of us still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and around the same number believe that Saddam had significant operational ties to Al Qaeda. Before the war, I was under the impression that the American public didn’t really care about whether or not Saddam had weapons. We were still so hurt and angry over 9/11 that Bush could’ve picked any random country in the middle-east, concocted a quick pretext, and we would’ve gladly followed him into war. After all, it is Us vs. Them.
Now that the war’s cost – the 1,000 dead, 7,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent – are beginning to effect us in real ways, I think that many of us have dipped further into the realm of fantasy to avoid owning up to our responsibility in this debacle. As our collective lies are coming home to roost, we’re still hiding under the chicken feed, whispering to ourselves that it was all worth the cost.
Fortunately, I don’t think that I know any of the dead in Iraq. My heart goes out to those who weren’t as fortunate as me. I wish there was something that I could do. But I can only hope that I don’t have to repeat this exercise when the death toll reaches 2,000 (or 10,000). In 1973 John Kerry asked how you ask a man to be the last to die over a mistake. I think the appropriate question in 2004 is how you ask a man to be the last one to die over a lie.
I realize that that is kinda cheap and easy for me, but I generally overwrite for any given article and have to cut out a lot of good material. Here is a scrap that was cut and a pitch that never got picked up.
Black Wall Street
Bay Area MC/producer/ CEO JT the Bigga Figga recently started up a record labal named Black Wall Street that functions as much as a community outreach program as it a record label. This paragraph on the origin of the name was cut out, even though i think it's pretty essential.
"The name Black Wall Street comes from a district in the highly segregated Greenwood Avenue district of North Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the early 1900’s, African Americans were only allowed to live within a 35 square block area. Against all odds, the community soon developed its own economy and began to thrive, inciting the ire of the white community. By 1921, Tulsa’s African-American population of 11,000 had its own bus line, two high schools, one hospital, two newspapers, two theaters, three drug stores, four hotels, a public library, and thirteen churches.
"On May 31, 1921, all of that was destroyed. The ordeal began when a 19-year-old black male accidentally bumped into a 17-year-old white female on an elevator. Although no formal accusations were made, the Tulsa Tribune – in one of the worst journalistic missteps in history – reported the incident as a rape. The whites formed a mob, and by the end of the day torched the entire community.
"While Get Low is his bread and butter, the idea of resurrecting a modern day Black Wall Street is clearly JT’s baby."
More information on Black Wall Street right here
You can read my article right here
Rap Dreams Pitch.
I was going to write a story on upcoming filmmaker Kevin Epps for Black Book Magazine, but it fell through because Black Book's editor believes that documentarians are more journalist than they are artists. Whatevah. Anyway:
In his new film Rap Dreams, Kevin Epps contrasts his subjects’ bling bling dreams with their current surroundings -- where the interviews are routinely interrupted by outburst of violence, where the high-pitched screech of police sirens provides punctuation, and where 16-year-old drug dealers preen for the camera and brag the bags they’ve slung. Kevin Epps is one of the most exciting and effective underground filmmakers in the nation. His first film, 2001’s Straight Outta Hunters Point, captures San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point Community struggling to stop the forces of gentrification – denial of jobs, police brutality, environmental racism and more – that have pushed 23 percent of San Francisco’s Black population out of the City in the past decade. It has won the acclaim of critics and audiences (including SF Mayor Gavin Newsom) around the U.S.. It was screened at the Sundance and the Santa Fe film festivals, where it was described as “a gritty, uncompromising film about the evolution and perseverance of a black culture in the shadow of poverty, race riots and gang-related rap wars.”
His most recent film, Rap Dreams, picks up where that film left off. Imagine Making Da Band without P.Diddy, plush New York Studios, or VIP treatment. Replace those vestiges of wealth with the grimy street corners, cramped studios, and blaring police sirens that populate the various Bay Area housing projects and you’ll begin to understand the film’s scope. Some of the film’s most compelling scenes are when Epps turns away from his subjects to stare at the grime and dissolute poetry of his surrounding. Ad hoc freestyles ciphers run throughout the film and in many ways tie the films various threads together. Epps is critical of the inner-city hip hop hustle. He realizes that many of these rap dreams are illusionary. Epp’s betrays a subtle and dreadful anticipation that his subjects will inevitably awaken and find themselves working two jobs with three children, living in the same sad squalor as they started off in, with nothing to show for it but outdated demos and the mantra that they could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, but just didn’t quiet make it to where they imagined.
Despite some misgivings, Epps is an optimist at heart — realizing the power and potential of hip hop — and he finds philosophical if not physical solace in the level of self-determination exhibited in the independent hip hop hustle, where participants align themselves with the Black Panther movement and they are exposed to technology and learn the principles of business management. The music gives their lives focus and more importantly, hope. At a Q@A at the film’s debut, he commented, “Hip hop culture has become a commodity, it has value. People are saying that hip hop died, but it’s not true. It has value now. And hip hop is all we have.”
BTW, if any editors out there want to pick up this story...let me know.
My Top Ten for September:
1.Aaron Noble's murals:
Aaron's collages of psychedelic manga (this one is in Indonesia) pretty much speak for themselves. But I'll steer you here
for further reference.
2. "Father Forgive Us" Killa Cam and the Dips
Fuck Mase. Really. If not for Kanye, no one would be paying attention to that Puffy-sidekick, born again b-list MC. One of the worst Bay Boy rappers ever, and the weak link in Children of the Corn. It doesn't hurt that the King of New York brings it over some ghetto-glam production.
3. The Republican National Convention
I have so much pent up anger, frustration, and fear that if I said one word about this I'd probably have to say a million. So I'll pass for the time being.
4. "Drop it Like it's Hot" Snoop ft. Pharell
The first time I heard this song I wasn't feeling it. The rhythm seemed kinda dull. None of Snoops lyrics seemed to stick out. I definitely wasn't feeling the hook. And the production seemed a deconstruction of everything without any clear purpose.
But I guess that subsequent listens have been kinder. It's still more interesting than it is engaging, but the percussion is pretty hypnotizing, and with a buttery flow like Snoop's, I guess you really don't have to be saying much.
5. The Sundial Bridge at Redding, CA from celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava.
A bridge from the future.
Thanks to friend and fellow journalist Jonathan Zwickel for hipping me to this.
6. The promotion of close friend Cesar Suarez, and my girl Nirmala beginning to write for SFWeekly. Cesar is now the European buyer for Eluxury. And Nirmala will now contribute to the calendar section of SFWeekly. I hope that no one figures out that you're a much better writer than I am!
7. ACT's Presentation of Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, and William Burrough's The Black Rider.
What makes this the best theater performance I've seen this year isn't the perfect collusion of Burrough's heroin-tinged americana with Tom Wait's carny chaos theory. Wait's back-alley vistas and Burrough's cosmic pathologies have always struck me as two sides of the same coin, and Black Rider is the most logical -- if completely loony -- collaboration in recent memory.
And it isn't the universally lauded performance of Marianna Faithful as Satan. While her husky, bourbon-soaked performance of Tom Waits songs is compelling, she doesn't so much act as she does prop up her own personal mythology against the mercurial dreamscapes that she's been place into.
What makes the Black Rider the best theater performance I've seen this year is a visual vocabulary that delves into a collective subconciousness to unlock all of the desires and insecurities that we've spent generations suppressing. It's transcendent and eerie; a dance into an inner-oblivion; a swirling war between the superego and the id set at the brink of hell; a marriage of 20th Century Surrealism, German expressionism, and Silicon Valley multimedia. Enter at your own peril.
8. Motherfucker -- Game + Talib Kweli
Part of me is sad that Talib's gone from making references to Ayi Kwei Armah to big uppinig wrestler Kane when he played Jason in Friday the 13th Part Who Cares. But this song does bump -- and thanks in no small part to newcomer Game's excellent verse.
9. Dogville -- Lars van Triers
Never have I so quickly gone from being completely bored to being totally disturbed. Before the denouement, my girlfriend complained about how all of Triers' previous female protaginists were essentially victims, but Triers turns the notion of victimization on its head with an allegory that examines the flaccid hypocrisy of modern liberalism, the deceptive draw of "community," the immistakable allure of revenge, and much much more!
10. Happy Birthday Mom!