Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hip-Hop Is Dead (If I Said It, It Must Be) Part 1

VH1 aired a series a few months ago called “The 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs Of All Time” and it warped me back into teenhood.

My best times discovering all the adventures associated with maturing and reaching puberty were accompanied by a hip-hop score. I can chronologically account for each thought, movement, and location in my childhood according to select rap cuts.

This is what and how hip-hop from the five-sided coin perspective impacted my upbringing.

Rapper Nas, when he wants to be, is dangerous if he’s on his game. Dangerous on both sides. Illmatic is “heads”. Choosing to title his latest album “Nigger” in some attempt to “devalue” the derogatory epithet/term of endearment (depending on the party) would be hella "tails”.

The final outcome of the album’s tag was left politically correct as “Untitled” and in my opinion is the best hip-hop release of 2008.

Before “Nigger” was thrown in the “Is This N%$# crazy?” category for the year , “Hip Hop Is Dead” was a project Nas recorded in 2007 that had people buzzing specifically from the shock value of its title.

Prophetically, Nastradamus was and is literally on point with the “Dead” statement.

We are now viewing hip-hop as a rigor-mortis corpse and “the foulest stench is in the air, the funk of 40,000 years….. and grisly [ hip-hop] ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal [our] doom…..” like Vincent Price spoke of on Thriller a quarter century ago (don’t you feel old?).

Remember Michael Jackson?

I asked because Michael Jackson is one of the most unsung pioneers of rap music.

Cutmaster Cool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy and The Sugarhill Gang would be considered by most as the forefathers of hip-hop.

Nile Rodgers, Deborah Harry and Michael Jackson probably wouldn't garner honorable mention.

This piece isn't about the birth of hip-hop however. It's about the death of it.

While we are speaking on the birth, travel back 25 years and recall watching this........

That wicked bassline, the clothes, the moves, the perm, it was all a microcosm of a variety of styles and influences yet pure and definitive hip-hop from start to finish.

To this day, I have not a clearcut answer to what the song Billie Jean was about but we all can attest that T.V. moment was integral in the direction of how urban expression would be cultivated into the spectacle that spawned "Da Kulcha".

I do swear by the one verse in the bridge of Billie Jean “Be careful what you do, because a lie becomes the truth……” (how many rappers are the antithesis of that credo?)

That’s real talk.

He was singlehandedly responsible for making cable channel MTV relevant almost 30 years ago by making the music video become an event equivalent to attending a movie premiere. My family scheduled parties around the debut of his videos which would be broadcast with the magnitude of a Presidential address.

I believe Michael’s transcendental magnetism persuaded the suits at MTV into having a broader vision on the profiteering and marketing of a new youth-generated genre silhouetted in the cloak of a rhinestone-gloved moonwalking superstar.

After you recall the brilliance of each "King Of Pop" video being a graphic or technological breakthrough in special effects, think again how hip-hop was heavy in each 808 kick, the pop-locking in the choreography along with thick backbeats and gritty bass licks reminiscent of someone who was bred in the factories of both Harlem and Hitsville, U.S.A.

Showing “Thriller” to my children was like revealing a cultural heirloom in how Michael’s priceless ancestral chain of soul has the same captivating effect on any aged eyes and ears today rendering his legacy timeless and boundless.

This is also what listening to the UMC's, Three Times Dope, Poor Righteous Teachers or Diamond D and The Psychotic Neurotics provided to the typical music loving eye and ear.

Michael Jackson is every bit a part of this as Jay-Z, Andre 3000, or Nas.

He alone opened the viewing audience floodgates that welcomed the program Yo! MTV Raps into America’s living rooms and those floodgates broke hell.

Record label Def Jam was a major beneficiary which made MTV’s “programming gamble” appear to show a winning hand. The Def Jam stable of Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys were followed by other acts Whodini, UTFO, Fat Boys and the darlings of MTV, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince.

Night Of The Living Baseheads told a story that shook up the world and P.E. packed a phantom punch to the jaws of suburban 'Sonny Listons' across the nation. Those young white children also mobbed the music stores to empty the hip-hop bins after these videos told the stories of the Black experience.

The videos were short films that put movement on the picture painted from urban mouthpieces and illustrated a mural of social commentary that Chuck D referred to as "The Black CNN". Once Run DMC collaborated with rock band Aerosmith and Public Enemy with metal outfit Anthrax, not only did it "John Travoltalize" Aerosmith but hip-hop established a monumental presence afterward.

Michael Jackson being the only Black artist shown on steady rotation during the early stages at MTV also utilizing the music video as a cinematic companion to the artist image put a ceiling on the bar for the strides and achievements accomplished in rap’s golden era.

Believe that.

How many times have you heard people (ages 25-40) say “Man, hip-hop ain’t what it used to be”.

No, the question that should be posed is “Who the f$#% calls this shit hip-hop?”

A clear example of what is for me is Nice and Smooth’s “Funky For You” where Greg Nice raps “Dizzy Gillespie played the sax” (when in fact he played the trumpet) but to follow that with:

Me, myself, I love to max
Redbone booties I'm out to wax
Stick up kids is out to tax
Spring again, and I'm feelin fine
Pass me an ice-cold glass of wine
So I can get mellow
Lay back, and let my girl play the cello
I hate Jell-O
Let me be me, relax in my teepee
Watch a hardy boy mystery
(Please watch the video if for only to see the woman in a one-piece playing a cello. Classic)

So what we gather here is Greg manages to discuss his affinity for light-skinned apple bottomed honeys, the crime rate increases during the change of seasons, how he feels good enough to recline and watch his cellist girlfriend play some classical composition and whether we were interested or not, admits that Jell-O is not in his kitchen cabinet.

The most important line in that verse that makes it all cool is "let me be me".

That’s hip-hop, man.

Ice-T’s player flavor was there to balance the Polka Dot age of Kwame and admittedly Kwame’s flow, style, presentation was all DOPE despite Notorious B.I.G. calling him out in a verse on “Unbelievable”!

The intellectual flows of Young MC, Intelligent Hoodlum and Kool Moe Dee balanced the party vibe of Tone Loc and Digital Underground.

The precise lyricism of the architects Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-1 layed down the blueprint of what it meant to be a progenitor of pattern, pitch, measurement and the matrimony between vehicle and instrument.

We had tribes (Boo-Ya, Quest) , nations, squads (Bum, Def, Hit), clicks (Boot Camp, Cash Money), clans (X, Wu-Tang), all based on the commonality of unity and brotherhood, key elements associated with the Blaxploitation era and even more prominent with the movements of Marcus Garvey, The Black Panthers, P-Stone Nation including the initial fundamental purpose of the Bloods and Crips.

In the hip-hop arena, rappers gave us venomous MC battles, memorable collaborations, double albums, volumes, chapters, (Daisy) ages, and we were eager to exert our loyalty and attention to those artists.

Oakland on its own brought you the fiery "panther power" of Paris with militant Black nationalist sentiment and then there was Digital Underground, Hammer, Too Short and E-40 who gave you alternative subjects chronicling the life of drug use, sexuality, partying and dancing, and all the product placement your ears could bear.

Even still, E-40 developed a custom slanguage within the cadre of his rhythmic spit that was clever in and of itself and his delivery and cadence still can’t be touched as E(arl) Stevens reaches the age of 42.

Shock G from Digital Underground creating the alter-ego Humpty was a nice addition to the diversity of the broad spectrum and if it weren’t for Underground's anthem “(All Around The World) The Same Song”, we wouldn’t have heard that fresh 16 from a dude dressed like an African king in the video named Tupac Shakur.

Too Short installed the window to the world of pimps and strippers and made the term “Beeyotch” a household word.

And MC Hammer?

I'll speak on him in another installment. He was a culmination of all the great entertainment acts prior only to receive the horrendous ridicule that follows a number of award-winning careers who reach the apex of worldwide status.

Public Enemy obviously had the clown prince William “Flavor Flav” Drayton there to soften the concrete of P.E.’s message with a minstrel image to bludgeon us to death while Chuck D.’s revolutionary perspectives resuscitated us back into understanding Flav’s presence.

The themes and design concepts back then were so creative and distinct.

NWA donned the Raider caps and Starter Jackets, corduroys and white tees.

Slick Rick wore gold chains rivaling that around Mr. T’s neck but Rick was as skinny as Snoop looking like Chris Rock with an eye patch.

Wu-Tang Clan all had gold “fronts”, hoodies, Timberland boots, and some thick ass snow jacket in the summer sun.

One NY/NJ conglomerate was known as Native Tongues (“got rhymes galore”) consisting of De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and Tribe Called Quest. The other crew was known as the Flava Unit; multimedia icon Queen Latifah, Monie Love and Naughty By Nature (Treach carried his signature chain, padlock and baseball bat).

The legion of young artists out there currently probably don’t deserve much of the chastisement and criticisms we “old schoolers” give out. They’re doing what they are told by those who write and cut the checks. These are also the artists that aren’t “checked” but ultimately get “cut”.

There are a handful of rappers that do respectfully channel our joys of the late 80’s and early 90’s such as Lupe Fiasco, Saigon, Kanye West and Cory Gunz but the state of the divided union that is hip-hop couldn’t be summed up any better than comedian Maronzio Vance’s take on Sean Comb’s Bad Boy music empire.

Note to any future record labels: In all seriousness, be mindful of the permanence when naming your record label or “crew”. It’s as significant as naming a child. Back then you had the brands Def Jam, Priority, Delicious Vinyl, and No Limit.

Namely Bad Boy and Death Row equally carry so much of a confrontational, heartless, unruly and detrimental connotation that the title was a precursor to the tragedies and turmoil of each including two of the most talented superstars the business ever heard in Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace. Bad name, bad image, bad ethics, bad business, and the output has been bad ever since.

Not Michael Jackson "and-the-whole-world-has-to-answer-right-now-just-to-tell-you-once again-who's" bad..............

Yeah……….. Hip-Hop is dead.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Da Bizness Of Chocolate

All of us have some type of close knit connection to chocolate. Some of us personally make it from scratch or handed down from secret recipes, some “socially chocolize” at evening gatherings, others sample flavors from time to time and there are various cultural byproducts where chocolate in any shape or form is the base substance.

While here at AC, you will say more often than not “I never tasted that before! Where did that texture come from? Belgium? Deutschland? South Central L.A.?”

Feel welcomed to inquire about the packing factory and brand from which said chocolate is manufactured.

Now maybe the first order of business should have been the announcement of how chocolate is sampled here.

There will be sets consisting of 11 select confectionary sweets per package. Each playlist will be volumed to 24 and given a signature specific to what each box contains inside.

(The chocolates are not sold or packaged here but there is a URL you can click which will send you to the boxes where one can begin devouring the tantalizing morsels)

Come on now....... you DO know "chocolate" is the name we're giving to music, right?

The 11 signature boxes are as follows:

Chocolatier Juice- This lyrical and aural libation is an exotic tonic with erotic toxins which may contain a tannic tinge inducing body liquids to produce a manic binge

Premium Melted Liquorisque’- The melodies that mirror the moments the fire between your loins warned/worried you about

Caramel Seashells & Funkberry Sauce- Funky instrumental baptism blessing us with emotion pictures so deep underwater only your eardrums get wet

Fudge Dipped Hip Gnossis Swirls- The thought behind the front beside the annals of one’s mind lost enough to draw conclusions in the crookedest line

Sweet Sticky Honey Drippings- Self-explanatory but one can selflessly explain how a gourmelee’ style makes the canal stream fluid from the lowest lane

Sprinkled Licks & Tongue-Stirred Pretzel Sticks- The improvisators of brass, ivory & wood with their fingers tongues and lips in the places that space our ego from its trips

Praline Dreams & Tangerine Cream- You want your love made to be served with icing and gravy that tastes like this where paradise sits

Blue Amaretto Peruvian Pearls- Straight dap frum da “Boom B.A.P.P.” Rebellious Architectural Philosophy or its most noted ………. RAP!!!!!!!

Crunchy Brittle Nut Clusters- Hard infusion of palate extremes for more mature taste buds, the smell alone might burn you…………

Moroccan Sunlight Love- Selections containing the theme/word “Love” or “Sun”

Audible Chocolate Assorted Blend (24)- Two dozen randomly designed favorites decorated in a cosmic box

Now that we have an upperstanding of what’s at/in/of hand, I will also adorn A.C. with select poems fresh out of the wrapper or by revisiting vintage decadence from the old conveyor belt.

Appreciation to you for joining and I advise you to forget those napkins, that’s the beauty of fingertips!


Mr. Wone

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama: Yes We Did

Here we are. November 4, 2008.

A day of unprecedented history and the mark where America begins its course of recovery to heal from generations of wounds, scars and blemishes which have bruised our beliefs and faith in not only local, state and national governments but in each other.

Yesterday had to happen to bring us here but we shouldn’t rely on history to preside over our future.

Voting a man of true African-American descent into the highest executive position in the country is step one in our monumental challenge.

Each of us involved in the process being politically, artistically, and socially active beyond voting today is the next step.

President-elect Obama made campaigning look “dope”. As you listened to the unmatched eloquence in each speech and noticed how he doesn’t compromise his demeanor or mannerisms that genuinely define his character and personality (“the pound” he gave his wife, the brushing off the shoulders, his walk, the tone of his voice, etc.), it transformed into a reality from an improbability and charged our confidence in the audacity of hope and the prosperity of potential.

As meaningless as his declaration to Bryant Gumbel about building a basketball hoop at The White House may be against his ability to carry out policies and proposals while in office, Obama’s personality and image carries a deep relativity that I haven’t seen since forever in my lifetime.

Because I never saw or heard "me" in Washington, that was my answer to why I didn't trust in a system that was not even loosely connected to who I am.

However, I along with the majority of us could not allow any detraction or excuse to prevent us from making a move to alter how government is run and to be an activist in executing the change.

It feels like to so many of us from all ethnicities after engaging this former Senator from Illinois “yeah, my uncle’s President”.

The social networking strategy and polycultural reach the textbook "ObaMachine" (courtesy of thousands of volunteers and two namesake P.R. "beasts" David Plouffe and David Axelrod) managed to accomplish was a prototypical template of what can and will be done in future elections local to national aimed at targeting the human spirit and will of "Wemotion".

Someone sent me an e-mail a few days ago which was simple but truly profound, it read: “Crispus Attucks fell so Rosa Parks could sit, Rosa sat so Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could march, Dr. King marched so that Barack Obama could run, Obama ran so that our children and grandchildren can fly.”

Barack Obama is the result from a revolution of movements culminated by all civil rights pushes, marches, insurrections and Supreme Court decisions we have borne witness to and our ancestors have endured for decades.

I am positive that as a united state of hope we will continue the campaign for change not just by placing a body in office, but by making official use of our bodies to be active in the pursuit of improving our local governments and keeping a watchful eye on our neighborhoods, create new systems and workforces to increase our competitive standing globally, becoming more involved as parents in school districts to closely monitor how and what our children are being taught, told and fed, not turning away but turning toward our families and realizing they are a reflection of how we view the world and work feverishly to assist those who need counsel on balancing their budget, consolidating or clearing debts, keeping clean driving records, regularly getting “check-ups” in whatever it may be for men, women and children, keeping relationships respectfully open (with boundaries) between child and parent and the list continues.

November 4th brings us to task with our daily psychological assignment to achieve personal peace as much as this day defines American history in politics, civil rights, and world history in general.

The brotha’s going to have a tough time while this U.S. dollar value weakens from all the backdebt, market flux, most definitely companies will suffer record losses this quarter as consumer spending freezes this holiday season, this will trigger more borrowing from The Fed further increasing a sinkhole deficit which may take three Presidential terms to balance, there are two unfinished wars to end as safely and reasonably as possible.

At the same time, he must make sound decisions regarding foreign policy, energy alternatives, keeping up with the exorbitant budget for replenishing the military and defense not to mention ongoing NASA and infrastructure projects, doing something feasible in reforming healthcare, diplomatically easing tensions in North Korea, Russia, Iran, and he will most certainly be tapped to address Africa’s ails as no American President has ever done before.

Work is cut out but we must be the “world” in the change we want to see (to reverse Mahatma Gandhi’s quote) meaning total immersion and involvement in the magic of unifying our goals and assessing our priorities is the only way to become what we seek.

I voted, you voted, we brought family and friends to the booths, took pictures, marked that date down in our histories as being the first time for many of us and the first time we may believe “we might have somethin’ to do with this one here”.

I applaud everyone who participated in the process with numbers tallied today which hopefully will be broken four years from now and we shall surge forth to see history makers in each local government representative of all nations, backgrounds, cultures and colors who also believe in themselves as being an addition to “The Change We Need”.

Special moments call for a special segment here at Audible Chocolate and this is a sampler mix of cuts I put together just for today.

This is the first mix here at Audible Chocolate in fact...................

A playlist called “Audible Chocolate: The Obama Box”

Here at AC, we created a special selection of 24 soulful themes from this genre we can listen to that best exemplify the emotion and spirit of what we shared today. Consider this the most influential confection we can place in a box for our new President-elect Barack Obama.


  1. A Toast To The People- Gil Scott Heron with Brian Jackson
  2. Are You Ready- Sly & The Family Stone
  3. Black Man- Stevie Wonder
  4. Chocolate City-Parliament Funkadelic
  5. Come On Feet- Melvin Van Peebles
  6. Curtis Mayfield - Beautiful Brother of Mine
  7. Dream Journey- Bob James
  8. Dream On- Barry White
  9. Everything Must Change- Nina Simone
  10. Fighting For Life- Stefano Torossi
  11. Get Into Something- The Isley Brothers
  12. Holiday- Roy Ayers Ubiquity
  13. Keep Your Head To The Sky- E,W & F
  14. McFadden & Whitehead - Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now
  15. Peace and Love Movement_ii-(Now)- Mandrill
  16. People Get Ready- Vanilla Fudge
  17. Power To The People- Joe Henderson
  18. Right On (live)- Marvin Gaye
  19. Stepping Into Tomorrow- Donald Byrd
  20. The Long And Winding Road- Aretha Franklin
  21. Visions (live)- Stevie Wonder
  22. Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)- Donny Hathaway
  23. We The People- The Soul Searchers
  24. We've Only Just Begun (live)- Curtis Mayfield

Included below is a poem I wrote entitled “Barack The Hope”.

the story they told us was.......

In a small pocket of Kenya
was a large mass of water
the Sukuma tribe
named Nyanza via Lake Victoria in Kisumu

Mama Akuma
bore a native Sun
who shone earthbound tones
of browns and yellows

the Luo people migrated from Sudan
and presently divided into 12 tribal clans
survival sustained America received a young man
Hussein Onyango Obama
the father of the (future) President's Baba

President Of The United States Of America
not Kenya like Jomo Kenyatta
72 years ago will mark the inauguration anew
reverse the 72 and in the 11th month of 1942
Shirley Ann Dunham as the Wizard of Wichita she came

18 years later in Manoa
Kansas & Kenya
East met West at destiny’s behest
introducing her to Barack Hussein

translated they incarnated "a beautiful blessing"
so nice he offsprung the name
48 years back on the second of February
crowning cultures marry
the fire to the flame
185 days later on the 4th of August
a strong wind reigned supreme

8-4-1961 and 2008 both equalling 1
for the campaign
for the world
for the love
for the dream
B.A. from Columbia U. in ’83

magna cum laude from Harvard with a J.D.

back to Chicago to discover
an astronomical occurrence
rarely witnessed often
1989 the summer eclipsed
by a moon named Michelle Robinson
glowing at Sidley Austin

matrimony avowed
a journey profound
a love bound by bravery and beauty
to the end
two fighters decided to take it

joined by Malia and Sasha
delivered to make
the dreams from their father sacred

history establishes
as each second vanishes and
in entirety so much have we seen

opinions are opined as
constant judgment has maligned
the truth of our humanity
ego has dominated debates
emotion is the specific ocean
that’s drowning our faith

fresh is the face
with candor and fervor

thrown in the race
as the American life preserver

we believe and appreciate
the will in lifting up
sleeves to elbow
the work is wrenching to the gut
tooth to nail and
bolt to nut

the time is now to seize and
exert the strength of our national team
as the struggle continues
the result must shine in the gleam
we're audacious enough to hope and
revive it alive

we can define our vote and
council communities to strive
Washington cannot be apart
from the whole
the corn fields project blocks
trailer parks and cosmic slops
don’t shadow our souls
outlooks are looked off as
rich crooks off the books are shook off
the corrupted dust that’s suffocated us
by January soon will be brushed off

the change we sought to make
has now been touched off
with record breaking voter turnout

previously burned out by
non-relative candidates to claim
such as the restless weary
on the wane for
partisan division and political gain
did we mention our chief commander
has a wicked left-handed hoop game

yet and still how we aimlessly spite peace
continually ceasing to refrain
from basing a choice or
ignoring the voice
because of its name or
attack a painting from an artist
due to its color and message
abound in its frame
this will forever be
one of humanity’s calamities in shame
all three eyes
as should the three worlds
unify as one to remain

It is possible, isn’t it?

It is most certainly possible……

I suggest you access Blaxploitation Pride today as Eyes On The Prize, the most comprehensive documentary on the civil rights movement, is highlighted there which is integral for such an incredible celebration we experienced and were a part of.

Yes we did. Now, let’s DO more.

Love 4 Life,

Mr. Wone