Friday, June 29, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Lecrae - Church Clothes (April-June Pt. 2)

I've been listening to Christian rap consistently for a decade now. I started with Grits then graduated to Cross Movement and eventually Lecrae, Flame, Trip Lee and Da T.R.U.T.H. I think I can say plainly that it's great to hear brothers on the mic rapping about faith that I believe in. Yet I always wondered if I'd ever hear one of them blow up to be on the mainstream level.

As a fan of Lecrae since 2006, I'm very happy that he released this mixtape with Don Cannon. He's been arguably the most versatile Christian rapper in terms of flow, skill and content (not just preaching Scripture, but talking about himself, his struggles and more). He's released 5 excellent albums and has been featured on the BET Hip hop Awards and several mainstream sites within the last 2 years (as well as a joint with Statik Selektah). 

Church Clothes combines all of his talents and adds them to beats behind producers like 9th Wonder, Boi-1da and more. Musically it's a stunning album considering most Christian rap albums have limited production. It's a reach for Lecrae to extend himself to secular producers as well as Christian ones but to me, it doesn't matter who you work with if you don't compromise yourself. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Virgo's Jukebox (April-June Pt. 1)

It's been a long time but I figure I'd give you a glimpse of what I've been listening to the last 3 months. So like Mos Def said, enough talk, let's move.

I had high hopes for this album because over the past six years, few MC's have grown as much. He's become the modern Ice Cube for his booming voice, political content and flag bearer for real hip hop. I'm a fan of his Grind Time mixtapes but after hearing he'd be having El-P produce this album, I got even more excited to hear how they'd inspire each other.

I didn't like "Big Beast" at first when I heard it in February but when I heard the whole album, it was powerful. It was like Killer Mike channeled his anger and passionate delivery and made an album to stand for mature hip hop that was still enjoyable. None stood out more than "Reagan", a song targeting hip hop's favorite Presidential punching bag with the same anger that Chuck D brought out 25 years ago.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NABJ 12 Recap (Long Read but Worth It - I Promise)

So folks have asked me how did I enjoy my 1st experience at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention & Career Fair in New Orleans? I compare it to attending your first college party – you absorb so much all at once. You shake hands, chat up strangers, make a few friends, take in the sights and sounds and somehow try to sleep afterwards.

Repeat this for 3-4 days and once it starts to become normal, you have to leave and readjust back to your life. But what a fun, amazing experience it was to finally be around so many people in your profession and learn from them.

I’ll keep it simple by just doing recaps of my 3 days there – I won’t count getting there Tuesday where I discovered 1) Gas is 70 cents cheaper – 3.15!!!!, 2) Bourbon Street was a mere 5/6 blocks away from the hotel, 3) An old mentor of mine (Mike Terry, formerly of the LA Times) was also in attendance.

Monday, June 25, 2012

LeBron James Has Become The One

When I saw the Heat win the championship last week, all I could think about was The Matrix. Mainly, the final scenes where Neo battles Mr. Smith.

Neo and Mr. Smith battle it out over the last 20 or so minutes of the movie and each time, despite Neo's incredible gifts, Mr. Smith overpowers him and eventually kills him. Despite being counted for dead, Neo came back and instead of being angry or afraid, he was focused and started to channel his energy to become the great power he was promised to be. 

You remember the rest: Bullets stopped in mid-air, countering Mr. Smith so effortlessly that he did it with one hand and finally defeating him. Everything slowed down and he was able to win by just trusting his gifts. He became The One that he was told to be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Me and New Orleans

This week, I’m heading to New Orleans to attend the annual convention for the National Association of Black Journalists. There’s a lot of folks who will be there that I’ve admired for years as well as fellow peers and colleagues that I have yet to meet. Is it intimidating? Honestly, yes and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it excites me. The same way going to the National Youth Leadership Conference and NCORE excited me in 2002 and 2005, respectively.

But this trip will be awesome for the simple fact that I’m in the city I’ve wanted to visit again for eight years. The Fatherland as I call it since my Dad called it home. It’s story time, kids, so pull up a chair and listen up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Farewell, Rodney King (Peace Go With You, Brother)

So it ends like this. Rodney King, a modern day symbol for civil rights, post traumatic stress from 1980's/90's Los Angeles and trouble with the law, was found dead in his swimming pool this morning.

I got the news from my aunt right before I walked into church. It stunned me because at a journalists meeting yesterday, we threw out his name as a potential speaker for an event. He was going to be at Leimert Park this summer doing another interview for his recently released biography.

I wrote quite a bit on King this past April, part of my LA Riot 20 series. Those words seem to summarize the mixed feelings I have on today's news. A mix of sadness and pity. Sadness because of the obvious loss of life and what he came to symbolize for so many people around the world.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Are The Isley Brothers America's Most Underrated Group?

When you hear the name The Isley Brothers, what do you think of? The funk of the 70’s? The Quiet Storm era? The songs they did with R. Kelly in the 90’s and 2000’s? Or even the old school Twist and Shout or Shout?

What about this. Do you think of them as one of the greatest American bands ever? Or perhaps one of the most underrated groups in music history? Follow me for a second.

How many bands/artists do you know have existed for over 50 years and have universal respect. The Beatles are still royalty. James Brown is an American institution. The Rolling Stones could sell out any place in the country. Ray Charles will never be forgotten especially thanks to his biopic. Stevie Wonder? Bob Dylan? Legends.

The Isleys may not have made as much groundbreaking music as the folks who came in that era. But they succeeded in so many genres that it’s amazing they aren’t more recognized as an American institution.

Monday, June 11, 2012

NBA Finals: Perspective on LeBron vs. Durant

Finally, the two folks the media and casual fans have set up against each other the last two years will meet in the Finals. LeBron James and Kevin Durant. And I will sit back and watch the predictable stereotypical comments.

“LeBron James embodies what’s wrong while Kevin Durant does it the right way”
“LeBron announced his Decision via ESPN. Kevin Durant did it via Twitter and went to the gym to hoop afterwards”
“The Super Team vs. the homegrown team constructed the old fashioned way – drafting/scouting”
“Kevin Durant is way more clutch than LeBron James” 

You see where I’m going. Despite some of that being true and some of it being opinion, it’s going to be all of this ad nauseam instead of more discussions about how they are perhaps the two best basketball players on the planet. Which they are.

But before we discuss both of them, let me remind you of the NBA circa 2007. Back when Kevin Durant was the best college player and I was fresh out of college, something was happening to the career of Mr. James.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On Justin Combs, his UCLA scholarship and misguided anger

For some reason, there’s uproar over Justin Combs, the son of Sean “Diddy” Combs, getting a scholarship to play at UCLA. National Signing Day was months ago and yet now it’s a big deal??
According to scouting reports, the younger Combs is a decent cornerback (2-star recruit on Rivals). He wasn’t a top-flight recruit but after a great showing in a 7-on-7 camp, he got attention from a few major schools. UCLA decided to offer and Combs signed his letter of intent.

I didn’t think much of it because if the school wanted to offer a scholarship, so be it. I didn’t think he’d get much playing time but a chance for a young man to live out his dreams and get a top-flight education is worth much more.

But apparently some people are crying foul. They ask why is he taking a scholarship from somebody less privileged? Why take money when his family can afford to pay his way? To them, I say shut up and listen to yourselves. You are angry that a young man earned his scholarship and that the school decided to recruit a famous person’s son.