I recently went into the wilderness of Yosemite National Park for three nights and four days. Here is my story.
The Marvin Gaye sample was enough to have me locked in. Every Black person in America that was raised in a traditionally Black household knows the sultry masterpiece that is “I Want You.” We’ve listened to it in our uncle’s tape decks, and during Sunday night oldies on the radio station. We’ve had it playing in the background as we spoke to girls on the phone in our sexy voice as adolescents. But then Kendrick begins rapping, and it feels even more reassuring. He punctuates every syllable with a hand gesture, a facial expression, rhythmically rocking back and forth as he does his OG dance. His eyes stay averted from the camera. He spasms with each bar as if reacting to a drug. The Marvin Gaye sample is his drug. We (his fans) are his drug–after all, he hasn’t spoken to us from his throne since “DAMN” was released 5 years ago. There is a red backdrop behind Kendrick that resembles a velvet curtain. He’s performing a one man show onstage. Incredible! I get it. Welcome back Kendrick.
That would have been enough. But enough is never the objective when it comes to a generational talent like Kendrick Lamar. He must have it all.
The first time I saw the video I blinked when I shouldn’t have. Because when I opened my eyes I saw the face of OJ Simpson rapping with dreadlocked hair. I screamed several profanities at the television. I leaned in toward the screen from my seat. I thought, “Is Kendrick trolling?” Why OJ? Why would he want to be provocative in this particular manner? I laughed while trying to figure it out. Then there was the deep fake into Jussie Smollet and it became bizarre. No cap! I got defensive. The Kingdom of Kendrick has no place for Jussie Smollet. The former Empire star who claimed he was attacked by white supremacist and still had the noose around his neck when police came to interview him does not deserve to be immortalized in a Kendrick Lamar video. The fake rapper who claimed to be the Gay Tupac in the immediate wake of that incident needs to be forgotten quickly. I did not approve.
Then he morphed into Will Smith and I understood the theme, but it wasn’t until the second time I watched the video that it came together for me. Somehow I had missed the most important quote in the entire visual; “I am. All of us.” The video is a highly stylized drone attack against cancel culture, especially when it’s levied out disproportionately against Black men.
The last cameo is that of Nipsey Hustle. Kendrick, a man from a Blood neighborhood, speaks from the perspective of Nipsey, a member of the Rolling Sixties Crips. Through Nipsey he speaks to Nipsey’s children andNipsey’s brother Sam. I became emotional as I saw this rendering of the deceased prophet. The man who literally bought his own block, and spent his entire brief career showing young black rappers the extreme importance of ownership. Nipsey has also been the recent subject of sex tape rumors and other salacious allegations by a Los Angeles gang member turned music manager named Wack 100. Perhaps one could argue, as tough as it may be, that Nipsey Hussle could have been on the brink of cancellation. Kendrick is a man who doesn’t go out of his way to stay hot in between albums. He doesn’t do a lot of features. He isn’t trying his hand at acting. He’s never hosted Saturday Night Live. He just makes really good music then disappears. He escapes into being a normal black man with exceedingly high intelligence and a deep devotion to his people.
Kendrick is an empath who expresses the pain of the world through classic albums. What Kendrick is saying in The Heart Part 5 is that he is not capable of letting his brothers and fellow entertainers be destroyed by a savage system run by sociopaths. He will not surrender Black men who have made mistakes to a justice system controlled by Europeans that have committed the most egregious transgressions in the history of the world. Kendrick will not leave his people to be eaten by wolves on social media because they made mistakes. For he is all of us. When we are cut, he bleeds. He places himself on the cross for us while everyone else celebrates when we are publicly humiliated, snatched out of our mansions, and made to crawl through town square on broken glass.
People recently cheered when Kevin Samuels was rumored to be dead. Then they celebrated when his death was confirmed. Black folks quickly removed the same R. Kelly songs from their music collections that were played at their weddings and senior proms because everything that he created was deemed to be toxic by the media. A few years ago The Cosby show was taken out of syndication because of the alleged misdeeds of Bill Cosby. When it comes to Black male creatives, society seems to be unwilling to separate their failings from their masterpieces. We aren’t given the same grace as Paul Gauguin, Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski. We are discarded. We are shamed. Our art becomes radioactive. Our legacies are forced into disrepute. And we are given to white people so that they may abuse us until the day that we die.
Kendrick is here to remind us that this is a practice engaged in by the weak. Strong civilizations don’t allow their enemies to discipline their criminals.For they understand the adage “I can talk about my brother like a dog, but if you ever disrespect him then we’ll have to fight.” Kendrick is saying that I am the greatest black man but I am also the worst. I am all of them and they are all of me. You can not come for them without coming for me. When you hurt them I cry. When you kill them then I die. You will not separate us. I am. All of us.
I like India Arie. Her Acoustic Soul album was the second album that I gave to my daughter. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the first. India came into my consciousness as a black woman singing about going against the grain of the images that were being disseminated in the Jay-Z and Dr. Dre videos of that time. She wore her hair naturally, she did not show her booty, and she rode a bicycle. Everything that she did was rebellious even if she wasn’t necessarily trying to be. Now she’s gone viral for calling out Joe Rogan and Spotify on her Instagram and I’m kind of upset.
Just to be clear, I’m not mad at Miss Arie. She stated her position very well. She doesn’t like Joe, or any other white person for that matter, using the N word at all, and Joe has used it several times. She thinks Spotify is exploitative because they do not pay their artists very well. I get it. I’m cool with that. What I am mad at is the way she’s being covered by CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and ABC as if they care about her brand. It’s almost as if she’s a regular news consultant. Since when do they care about early 2000’s R&B singers? Did they touch bases with Sunshine Anderson and Tank on this particular issue? I mean come on now.
Joe Rogan has used his platform to stand up against legacy news media lying to people in excess for going on three years now. Has anyone ever asked how every major news outlet has taken the exact same stance on Covid and the vaccine, even though it’s been the most divisive issue in modern history? None of it is genuine. It isn’t open ended and it’s extremely far from being objective. In essence corporate media is trash. The whole country has been looking for something else. And Joe Rogan, whether you like him or not, is that something else. It’s like when Puff Daddy and Mase ran hip-hop in the Shiny suit era then DMX came into the game like “Let’s take it back to the streets mutha f***a!” That’s what Joe Rogan is, but in a much more white way. He wanted to take it back to the Dick Cavett days when people actually had dialogue and debates about controversial topics and he did just that, bless his heart. The only issue is that he became too successful at it. His narrative began to bump heads with the corporate narrative, especially that of CNN and so they sought to get rid of him. CNN has lost almost half of its viewership in the same time that Rogan’s has doubled. Do the math. They want him out of there–period. And who do liberal pundits always lean on when they want someone canceled? Black people.
Once a person is accused of being racist in the way that Rogan is now being accused they become radioactive. People no longer question the issues. Critical thinking is suspended. Everyone becomes reactionary and moves based on emotion. No one comes to publicly defend a racist unless they too want to be labeled racists, so the individual is left to fight alone and more often than not after several painful apologies, they lose. But alas, this fight is not about whether Joe Rogan is racist, it’s about free speech versus corporate domination. It’s about the loss of sheep in the fold of corporate media outlets which equates to the loss of money. It’s about Joe Rogan being the embodiment of a different kind of information not to be confused with MISinformation. And this is about the old guard putting him back in his place. This isn’t about blackness, this isn’t about racism, this isn’t about Neil Young, this isn’t about India Arie. We need to look through all of the distractions to focus on what’s really at stake and finally start having real conversations again.
I spent my entire young life hating the music of Luther Vandross. It bothered me that he smiled when he sang. Even when I heard his songs on the radio, I could clearly hear that he was happy. I always liked pain. Real pain pouring out of the mouth of another black man always comforted me. The sorrow of losing your lady (Otis Redding). The sting of living a second class citizenship (Sam Cooke). The trauma that comes from having to suppress your natural impulses, being addicted to drugs, and growing up in the slums (Marvin Gaye). Those were the men who I listened to at night while I tried to talk sexy to my girlfriend, hoping my mother wouldn’t get on the line and tell me to get off the phone. But never Luther.
Luther sang about heartache in a way that sounded downright bearable. I was too ignorant to appreciate the inherent happiness in his rendering of Soul music. His voice was always there but I never gravitated toward it, until I found myself in a state of confusion and depression. I had been intensely at odds with the mother of my child which therefore put me at odds with my child. I was in an empty kitchen with pictures of my kid on the refrigerator. I was in total despair as my Spotify playlist played in the background; “Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby.” Luther sang a song full of sorrow but he was not downtrodden. He recalled the pain without living in it and somehow, the song which I thought was immensely corny in my younger wilder days, was getting me through my difficult time. And then I started back listening to his catalog.
“Aunties” used to obsess over Luther. Big women that carried very big purses and had no less than three children were guaranteed to have at least one Luther Vandross tape and they never pronounced the “er” at the end of his name. He was always LUTHA! They adored him. Conversely, I abhorred him but now my first sign of being a mature man in his 30s was my willingness to admit to myself that I had been wrong.
I had heard “If only for one Night” since I was a child but I hadn’t felt it until I was old enough to have a child of my own. It’s a song about a man trying to seduce a woman that he feels like he can’t actually be in a relationship with, for whatever reason. Maybe she’s married. Maybe he’s married. Maybe she’s devoutly Christian. We do not know. What we do know is that she’s afraid of something, and he’s afraid too. He renders himself completely vulnerable in the song.
I never hear from you
And my knees are shaking too
But I’m willing, willing to go through
I must be crazy
Standing in this place
But I’m feeling no disgrace
He’s not begging as much as he’s illustrating the beauty of their potential lovemaking. And he means it. He sounds authentic, as if he isn’t running game at all. In fact when I listen to other legendary black male singers, sometimes it sounds like they are seeking the approval of men for how they are communicating with women. For example; when Teddy Pendergrast shouts “TURN EM OFF!” in the song “Turn off the lights”, women like it but men can also respect it as well. It’s very dominant and masculine. It represents a certain aggression that men like to bring into romantic relationships. An aggression, I’ve been told several times, that women don’t always like. But while Teddy is screaming Luther is releasing a single tear as he smiles nose to nose with your lady in a secret location plotting on doing forbidden things that you will never be made aware of. That’s the appeal of his music. Sistas consider him to be safe. There is no barrier between how the Aunties feel and what he says. There is nothing rough about “Lutha’s” voice. There is no depression. There is no angst. He is not overzealous or angry. He is calming. He is happy. He is soulful, and he is love. And I am honored to be at a place in my life when I can finally recognize that.
Please check out our very first YouTube live this Friday, August 13th @6:00pm.
Imagine a woman walking into a Doctor’s Office for the second time in three months. The first time she went into his office she received a dosage of a shot that prevents pregnancy. Two months later she returns to the same office to tell her doctor that she is pregnant. She is upset and bewildered by her condition. Her doctor is very stoic and matter of fact.
“I don’t understand. I thought that the shot would prevent me from getting pregnant,” the woman says.
“Ma’am you are sadly mistaken. As I told you before, the shot only works if you have sex with sterile men.”
“But doctor, my partner isn’t sterile. I thought this shot would stop me from getting pregnant–period.”
“No. I never said that it would do that. Studies have proven that the shot is 95% effective when given to women with sterile partners and I assure you that there is nothing wrong with the science. The truth is that Fertile men tend to overpower the female reproductive organs and make the shot ineffective.”
The woman sits across from her doctor baffled and frustrated. He goes on to tell her that she should not be upset with him. She should be upset with THE FERTILE. All abandoned children are the offspring of Fertile men. All killers, and rapists are as well. All the single women led households were abandoned by Fertil men. Responsible men get vasectomies, he told her. He had been sterile for years now because sterility in men is the only thing that will save society. He then encourages her to only cavort with THE STERILE after her child is born.
The woman receives this information begrudgingly at first, but then she transfers her rage. It’s THE FERTILE that had gotten her pregnant. Why hadn’t she paid closer attention before letting one of them touch her? She leaves the doctor’s office ready to rid her life of all fertiles and she forgets that she was even mad at the doctor in the first place.
Now considering the woman’s predicament and doctor’s position is there anything wrong with how the situation was resolved? Was she taken advantage of by her doctor and the medical establishment? Is it her fault that she got pregnant or was she misled into believing something that isn’t true? Considering the power dynamic between the two of them once again, what do you think were the odds of the doctor admitting that he made any kind of mistake? And finally, what would you do if you were the woman? Would you continue to trust the medical establishment? Would you fight in a war against THE FERTILE? Or would you take the time to arrive at your own truth?
I’ve been hearing a lot about “The Unvaccinated” in regard to this new Delta strain of the COVID 19 virus so I decided to make a video. Check it out, like, share, subscribe and comment.
What if we, as black people, honored those who died fighting back? How might that impact our psyche? Watch this video and let me know your take.
A few weeks ago I rode my bike down to Lake Merritt to experience a black business utopia. A few days later I discovered while watching the news that the whole thing would be drastically scaled back. The news spoke of neighbors complaining and the proper business permits not being held by vendors, and it all felt very typical of my city. In the early to mid 1990’s we had an annual event called “Festival at the Lake” in which hundreds of black vendors would come together to celebrate righteous blackness at Lake Merritt which is undoubtedly the crown jewel of our city. Then one year young people rioted. If I’m not mistaken they broke out the window to a Foot Locker and a few other storefronts. I don’t know why. I do know that Oakland was consistently one of the most homicidal cities in the country at this time. This to my knowledge, though I was just a young boy at the time, didn’t seem to concern the power structure in the way that one would think that it should. However, when corporate businesses were attacked on Lakeshore Avenue the footage was shown on every local news station for several days and within a few years there was no more festival at the lake.
In the early 2000’s we had something called Carijama at Mosswood Park. It lasted for only a few years until it met a similar fate. Young people once again were getting rowdy. Neighbors once again complained. The news once again played its part to see to it that the festival was shut down. I remember thinking as a very young adult who looked forward to the memorial day festival as an indicator that the summer was officially here, that my city seemed to be very proud of failing black people. Instead of ironing out the edges and considering ways to make celebrations safe, Oakland would much rather shut down all things black. This brings me back to the black business utopia that I experienced a few weeks ago.
I met a black man who was selling organic honey that he along with his son and nephew had procured as beekeepers. He, like myself, is an allergy sufferer and he began making honey because it is a natural remedy for allergies. I saw a black woman selling tacos. I bought a refrigerator magnet from a sister who does custom made engraving. I bought sage from another sister. I bought an Oakanda shirt (the fictional homeland of Black Panther and Oakland combined) from a brother with a kind disposition and an entrepreneurial spirit. And everything felt so dope. It was just so righteous and so black that I knew that it wouldn’t last– at least not in Oakland. In a place like Atlanta for example they would institutionalize this vending. Maybe they would make vendors pay a fee and regulate the products more, but their first inclination would not be to scale it down to nothing. But alas, this is not Georgia this is California. A place where integration has come to mean every nationality can profit off of black people except black people. A place where residents replace actual black people with black lives matter signs. A place where the children of black southern migrants flee as soon as they graduate high school because, ironically enough, the American South is less racist. Can you imagine that? California with all of her liberal ideology is actually more hostile to black business owners than Georgia, Tennessee, or Texas. And Oakland is proving this to be true once again. Last weekend when I went to Lake Merritt there were less than a third of the businesses that were there the previous weekend. The Fire Department was there regulating parking and interrogating vendors and it was far less vibrant. It was clear that the utopia was dying. Or to be more concise–it was being killed. It was very disheartening to know that my city would rather create laws to keep black people in their respective corners of the city than to let us make legal money in the city that so many of us shed blood for. I rode my bike back to the Eastside in a somber mood with no merchandise, knowing that my beloved city had let my people down once again.