Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Soul Session Vol. 12

                           Blind Faith


There are 30 more days left in what can only be described as one terribly taxing year.  History will remember 2020 as one of the worse 8,000 hours in modern memory.  I, never being one to spout pure hyperbole, thought it would be befitting to end the year by getting the perspective from one the world’s greatest pontificators.  And for this truly Honorable special guest, we decided to wheel out the welcome wagon and sit down in one of the very best gospel dens in America..., Moods Music.  Moods is a cozy, cultural, comforting corner spot located in the tie-breaking state of Georgia. 

This very quaint music burrow is sliced in a pizza-sized section of Atlanta called Little Five Points.  Moods Music is the harmonious centerpiece of a 2.5 mile-long, commercial retail strip in a distinctive district of East Atlanta.  Natives and tourists alike scurry in and out of the exclusive music enclave hoping to re-discover their inner soul.  In this quest for love and understanding, I couldn’t think of a better place to unpack the burning bumper sticker quandary…., What Would Jesus Do? Well, here at Ghetto Proverbs we decided to go straight to The Source.  

So without further adjournment, GP would like to offer a warm welcome to our clandestine guest Himself…,.  Mr. Jesus of Nazareth.

GP: Wow…, I must admit, I’m a little nervous. 

JC: A little???  I’ve witnessed better ideas in a fortune cookie!! 

GP:(smiling) I’ve always thought of your humor as vastly underrated.

JC: I hear you have many theoretical thoughts about who I am. 

GP: Well, I have less of a concern about who you are and far more concerns with who your fan base thinks you are. 

JC: Hopefully they will feel the same way about you when this is over. 

GP: I guess we’ll find out in a few hours, huh?  Well, let’s get started.  I am pretty even-tempered but for some reason this seems a bit different. I don’t know…. 

JC: (interrupting) Assuming your intentions are pure that’s all the confirmation you need, no matter how you’ll be judged in the end.

GP: Thank you, J-Hova.  Can I call you J-Hova?

JC: No.

GP: (swallowing at my failed attempt at humor) So it’s been a minute since you've been here, huh?

JC: Well, that depends… Many of my followers will tell you that I have never left them!

GP: Yeah, but those same people will tell me that your birthday is in 24 days too!

JC: So we're just going to dive right in? No warming in the bullpen or nothing, huh?

GP: You know me better than most, therefore you shouldn’t be surprised. (continuing...) Many of your followers would say it would be nice to have a more tangible example of your presence.  I mean with this being one of the worse years in recent memory, even your most loyal followers would like to witness a physical acknowledgement from you, wouldn’t you agree? 

JC: Perhaps.

GP: Well, your followers seem like a great place to start. 

JC: You keep saying “Your Followers” as if you are excluding yourself?

GP: (smiling at the obviousness of His checkmate-like posture) Most of your followers are in the Western Hemisphere.  Contrarily, people that question your physical existence seem to reside anywhere BUT the West.  Do you think that’s a coincidence?

JC: There is no such thing as coincidences.  

GP: What about the Knicks winning the first NBA Draft Lottery?


JC: Really???  You should probably leave the comedy to the veterans.

GP: Noted.  But if most of the Western Hemisphere believe that you and your Father are the ultimate deities and everyone outside of this tainted land feels as though your teachings are more allegoric in nature — that cannot be a fluke, right?

JC: What do you think?

GP: I think you aren’t used to the interview protocols!

JC: That’s pretty witty for someone with such limited, sacred schooling.

GP: Well to quote Mark Twain: “One shouldn’t let schooling interfere with a good education.”

JC: Not a bad quote coming from Missouri’s second most famous resident.

GP: Who is the first?

JC: Miles Davis.

GP: (kool-aid sized grin) So you are a music fan, huh?

JC: Music is the Key to Life. 

GP: It’s like you are reading my mind (thinking..., spoiler alert).  

JC: Really... (gazing at the sun dwindling, as if He has somewhere more important to be)

GP: I know you are busy, so I want to get your insights on some rapid-fire questions…. if you pardon pun?

JC: (shaking His head) You may want to use this valuable time more wisely and less foolishly. 

GP: Yeah, I know, sorry, JC.  Let me ask you this: Why was it necessary to write a New Testament?  That would be like someone re-making Nas’ Illmatic.  

JC: Didn’t Elzhi do that?

GP: Wow…, very impressive!!

JC: As for your New Testament question, what do your peers think?

GP: That depends on who you ask?  Many feel like the New Testament has a single, more consistent theological focus.  They feel as though your remixed “direction” in the New Testament seems more tangible or much easier to honor or obey than the laws in the Old Testament.  In fact the Old Testament consists of several different theologies and dare I say many contradictions?

JC: (curious look with eye brows raising) Care to give Thou an example of those contradictions?

GP: Hmmm..., Well, I may have to…."take off my coat/clear my throat…”

JC: (blank stare) Rakim?  Really. (shaking His head).

 
GP: Okay, Well…. according to Deuteronomy, I can’t remember where..., God commands His people to swear in His name.  Then, later in the same chapter you said: “To swear by anything is a form of evil.”  It’s like the whole east coast/west coast beef heating up again. 

JC: I know you are nervous and who trying to implement an idea best found in a fortune cookie wouldn’t be?  But you should temper your silliness. And to answer your question, that quote came from Deuteronomy 6-13, perhaps you should read it again. 

GP: Noted. (continuing, even though we both kinda knew I really wasn’t going to adhere to JC’s "less humor" suggestion) In the Old Testament, divorce was acceptable, as was polygamy. However in the New Testament, neither are acceptable. Isn’t that a blatant inconsistency?   

JC: It is, but the better question would be..., how does that make you feel?

GP: It feels like the textbook definition of a contradiction. Which I am sure the First Council of Nicaea didn’t give enough credence to.  They just assumed people would simply take their word (so to speak).  The First Council of Nicea were lucky that most of your followers truly have no idea who they are.  And, the followers that do know who they are were trained not to question.   

JC: As a journalist, and I am using the term loosely here, you should understand that the written word can lose its origin over time.  And, the more often The Word is revised or translated, the further from the original message it will be.  It’s up to the reader’s understanding to decipher the difference and draw their own conclusions.   

GP: That sounds like a pretty convenient conclusion—and a dangerous one too.  I mean, what if the people don’t understand the differences? It’s like this last election here in America with Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  We have people that think voting for the lesser of two evils is a productive way to govern a society. And most of the voters don’t even know what the 3 branches of government are.  How can you hold elected officials accountable if you don’t even know how the system works?  How can you understand the words in the Bible if you don’t understand it's origin?  

JC: (staring) So is THAT your question?

GP: Well, sort of.  My actual question is: What if the people, your followers in particular, feel like questioning anything in the Bible is a form of disrespect to you?  How can they ever understand your Ultimate plan?  What if there are metaphors and they are taking the words literally?  What if a scientist reads the Bible, how should they interpret these parables?    

JC: Everyone, including you, should take great comfort in knowing that curiosity is the foundation of wisdom.

GP: That would make a cool t-shirt!

JC: (shaking his head in disbelievement at the continued silliness) 

GP: Okay.., I have another serious question.

JC: Finally. It seems as though you are finding your footing James-Ball-of-Wind.    

GP: That ’s funny, J-Hova.  Let me ask you this: How do you explain to people that it is counterintuitive to adopt the teachings of the very people that enslaved you? 

JC: (smiling) That footing didn’t last long, huh?   Can you be more specific?

GP: Sure. Why would anyone’s faith be tied to a nation that is run by the oppressive slave owners that robbed the people of their name, their culture and history?  Why would people trust the word of the oppressor that raped and killed the women and children and castrated the men that stood up for them?  Why would anyone turn to their teachings for their salvation?  That seems ludicrous to me!   

JC: I think you spelled "Ludacris" wrong. 

GP: Sorry, I didn't know we were reading from the Book of Hip Hop!!

JC: (shaking His head) As I said in Hosea: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, ... "Lack of knowledge, of God."

GP: Hosea Williams??  

JC: More bad comedy, huh?

GP: Sorry, but I find comedy to be a huge part of my coping medicine. Besides, Hosea Williams was a lot like you.  He often fed the village of many with very little and he developed a huge following because of his humanitarian efforts.  Both Hoseas were pretty righteous. Besides, I really think comedy is underrated.

JC: Not in this exchange.  

GP: HA!!  Well, JC, do you think there is a difference between being Right and being Righteous?

JC: Of course.

GP: Which is more important?

JC: The one that is wrapped in the most honorable intent.

GP: Care to elaborate?

JC: Sure.  What is your intent of this blog?

GP: How much time do you have?

JC: An eternity.

GP: That’s witty.  Well, I love my people….

JC: (interrupts) All people or just the people that look like you?

GP: Honestly..?? 

JC: I think I would understand if you weren’t.   

GP: Well, this blog is a way for me to repay the people that shaped my life’s journey, especially the musical pioneers.  I want to give something back to a community that has helped me find my voice. I feel indebted to them.  I want my community to understand how much of my life I owe to them.  The greatest artists and poets make me unafraid to speak truth to power. They teach me to challenge the status quo…, even if the same people crucify me.   

JC: Really… (hand covering face...) Really..??

GP: I want to use this platform to thank the artists that have inspired me, like (Chuck D, Rakim, Bob Marley, Donnie, Eric Roberson, J. Dilla, KRS-1, Mos Def…

JC: (interrupting) His name is Yasiin Bey.

GP: Yeah, I like Mos Def better, its way more poetic and it has more swag!!  

JC: (grinning) I like James Baldwin, yet here I am, talking to you.  

GP: That’s cold, JC...

JC: (chuckling aloud) Continue...

GP: Finally, Ghetto Proverbs is an ode to my Uncle Eric.  He was the most amazing man I had ever met in my life.  No offense.

JC: None taken.

Uncle Eric's House of Wisdom

GP: My Uncle taught me to be who I want to attract.  He taught me to stand up for whatever I felt was my unapologetic truth, as long as my research and approach was honorable.  Uncle Eric taught me that poverty was a temporary padlock & intellect held the key.  He taught me to show the world how being a good, clever, well prepared man can help to shape or change the world’s future.  He taught me to be brave and fight for your beliefs.  Finally, he told me that if God grants me another day, the least you can do is get out of bed and help carry out some of His duties. He was an incredible role model.  I just wish he was still here to see my progress. (wiping back tears..)

JC: Do you need a minute?

GP: Nope.  These watery eyes are from the burning incense in here. (that lie was obvious to us both, but easily forgiven..., at least one would hope)  

JC: How do you know that your Uncle Eric isn’t here?

GP: "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis!!"  

JC: (shaking His head)… I see you are feeling a bit better. Not being able to see someone should strengthen your faith them, not abandon it.  You should always behave like someone is watching you, even if you cannot see them.   After all, that is what character is all about…., who you are when no one is watching.    

GP: What do you say to people that feel like seeing is believing?

JC: I would tell them that, “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”

GP: Wow. That would make a cool t-shirt too.

JC: Well... Thankfully the man who said it made a better Bible...

Stevie Wonder I Songs in the Key of Life I Tamla Records I September1976  

JC and I took a much needed break to do some reflecting on this woeful year. We instead listened to the surrounding sounds, while He examined the landscape of Moods Music and the people..., sort of doing inventory if you will. And I just continued to write...  

I know many people are dejected, hurting and scrambling to avoid this invisible pandemic that is picking off loved ones like a sniper aiming at a daycare.  I know that it is hard to keep putting on designer masks when (deep down inside) many of you feel as though this society isn’t above designing the virus to exterminate the most venerable wearing them.  Sometimes you just have to stop and ask just how truly evil can an evangelical society be?  Or more importantly, what can be done about it?   

Most of us just need to go back to the basics, like strengthening our immune systems, washing our hands more than often and strategically socializing whenever and wherever possible. Others may just put it in Jesus’ hands (which by the way is now full of CDs). 

But if you are looking for a jolt of inspiration, you can pick up one of the most historical hymns that any musical theologian has ever witnessed: Songs in the Key of Life.  ...Just might be the best musical project ever created.  And this vinyl work of genius is the ONLY LP that every household, regardless of race, creed and color should have.  When historians are discussing the 7 Wonders of the World, it seems (almost) blasphemous to omit the name Stevie Wonder (caustically speaking). The real irony, is that one of those 7 Wonders is a well-known Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Brazil.    

As our tête-à-tête with the Templed One wrapped and we decided to let the needle find the grooves on Songs in the Key of Life… we both just watched the crowd bob & weave to it...

“Love's In Need Of Love Today” – Like any great mythological mission, this LP begins with a sermon.  Stevie explained that he always wrote from a place of gratitude.  And the inspiration of this particular song was Wonder’s pregnant wife.  His wife also inspired the mega hit “Isn’t She Lovely” [found later in the LP] which was written for his newborn daughter.

“Have A Talk with God”  
JC: (breaking his silence, with an outbrust) I REALLY LOVE THIS SONG!!!

GP: Really? (sarcasm boiling) I didn’t see that coming! 

One thing that is crystal clear, no matter who you are or what you believe is your ultimate destiny.., it really helps to seek a Higher understanding for this journey through life.   This month, it just so happens that I took Stevie Wonder’s advice…, literary and literally.   

“Village Ghetto Land” – I obviously didn’t know this in 1976, but this song (in part) inspired the name of this blog.  The actual stimulation came from the Gang Star single “Above the Clouds.” "Village Ghetto Land" is a verbal mirror and we should all be saddened by the reflection.     

“Knocks Me Off My Feet” – When was the last time someone actually brought you to your knees in total admiration?  Well, this song, like this interview, is littered with those types of moments.  You will run out of superlatives describing the brilliance of Songs in the Key of Life — and this song is only track #7. 

“Joy Inside My Tears,” “Ngiculela - Es Una Historia - I Am Singing” and “As,” are all amazing pieces to this vocal puzzle and its the epitome of poetry.  Do me a favor, just find a cozy corner and let these songs stich your soul back together again. Trust me, you will feel better about the future.  

For now, I am going to end with the beginning…..

“Black Man” – It is almost unfair to call this a song.  This single is more like a historical passage. “Black Man” was written by Stevie Wonder and Gary Byrd (who also wrote the equally impactful “Living for the City”). The underpinning of this song is an ode to Crispus Attucks, who was the first black man to die in the American Revolution.  There are conflicting stories of whom this black man, Crispus Attucks really was.   Therefore, there are conflicting tales of his impact and the effect his death had on this society; and ultimately how he would be remembered…., just like the Black Man interviewed for this final session...

GP: ... (turning to JC in deep appreciation for His wisdom and understanding)  Do you have any final words for the people?

JC: Hindsight is once again 2020!  


1 ❤

Ray Lewis



Sunday, November 01, 2020

Soul Sessions Vol. 11

IT’S TIME FOR A NEW PARTY 


There are pros and cons to living in any generation.  For example, the Baby Boomers (1946-’64) proudly watched the passage of the Civil Rights Movement. Then, shortly after the new freedom rang, they were softly tapping their hearts when the face of the Movement was assassinated in a bloody act of the Master’s plan.  The Generation Xer’s (1965-’80) rode the explosive wave of the personal computer, then [nearly] burned down an entire city after witnessing the brutal beating of Rodney King.  The Millennials' (1981-'96) PR department worked overtime capturing some of their pendulum-shifting events like: gay marriage, Hurricane Katrina and the debut of MTV’s Real World—which arguably launched the game-changing reality television epidemic.  No one alive on October 3, 1995, will ever forget the O.J. Simpson Trial.  All eyes in the western hemisphere were glued to that contentious courtroom circus, which by all accounts turned the idiot box into Pandora’s.   

When the Simpson verdict tore the racial fabric of America further apart, it was hard to image that things could’ve gotten much worse—yet, here we are.  The infamous railroad tracks that historically separated black and white neighbors finally landed a hall of fame face to stir the racial tension that is now thicker than a Serena Williams seat cushion.  This intense divide blazed for a decade and a half, then in January 2009, the unthinkable happened.  On one seasonably brisk winter afternoon in D.C., the collective climate warmed when the United States of America welcomed the very first Black President, Barack Obama.  

There aren’t many pre-Millennials that would have ever thought they’d live long enough to see that day—even though there are many feeling a tinge of survivor’s remorse.   

Despite all of those extraordinary moments, something was still notably absent in the fabric of the close-knitted black community.  I believe what every post-Baby Boomer's generation is missing is far more subtle.  

The energy, emotion and the ethical make up that is missing from what every black community household should have is a partner to dance with.  

Let's turn the clock back a few decades for a moment.  I remember experiencing this really low-key vibe at this 1984 blue-lit basement party.  The mundane event got a jolt when the DJ dropped the needle on Cheryl Lynn’s 12-inch smash single, “Got To Be Real."  It felt as though everyone at the party did a black quarterback scramble looking for a partner to waltz with.  Many of the shaggy-haired, pinky-fingered ringed, notepad carrying dudes at the party, threw in a breath mint, checked their gold time piece, then poked the top of their bic pen…, were ready to capture the soon-to-be dance partner’s 7-digit (landline) number.  

The blue light party playbook repeated when a rapping New Jersey trio, called the Sugar Hill Gang, dropped “A Rapper’s Delight.” That song's 11-year radio run watched everyone from 18 to 80, take turns butchering their favorite lines, while rapping in the dancing eyes of their smiling partner.  And who alive during that time will ever forget when this obscure U.K. band, Soul II Soul ignited the States with their classic, summertime anthem, “Back to Life?” There wasn’t a person in the room that checked their beepers, because the only person in the world that mattered at that moment was dancing right in front of them. 

In the summer of 1979, the Nile Rogers foundered band, Chic, captured all of those amazing “Good Times” with their 8-minute, culturally-changing R&B single, that became the soundtrack to this fairly new phenomenon called Hip Hop.  All of this joyful music led to the explosive night club scene in America.  Many of those night spots were a safe house to asking a young lady & (a few cougars) to dance.  If someone would have written a manual, it would look like this: 

Step 1: The not-so-impromptu strategy session unfolded between songs.  Believe it or not, most men pegged their dance partner from the time she enter the room— sometimes in the parking lot.  Unbeknownst to her, he made sure she checked off all of his predetermined boxes.  a) No wedding ring (check);  b) Sexy, subtle, stroll (check); c) Real hair (ehhh…);  d) Black back-to-the-Motherland curvatures (check, check, check); e) Semi-interested facial expression when her favorite song played (check).    

Step 2Waiting for the DJ to spin his signature, sure-fire party starter..., and every DJ had one.  For some disc-jockeys, Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” was the secret weapon.  Other DJ’s flooded the floor with a Kool & the Gang crowd favorite.  For decades it was Michael Jackson that kept the sweat-pouring bodies off the wall. 

Step 3: At this point the only thing left to execute was “The Perfect Positioning.” Every man had to make sure that he was in the right striking distance, anticipating the exact time the DJ’s hypnotic fingers would drop the magical single.  After all, there is nothing worse than having to walk back across an entire dance floor after a failed attempt to secure your Brown Sugar’s permission to show off the newest moves.  If the guy wasn’t careful his plan would implode, and he'd be left watching his would-be dance partner smiling with some Howard Hewiett-lookin’cat who rehearsed the same playbook.  If you were a step slow and missed the DJ’s que, your plan had to have a contingency.  This aborted mission involved “an exit strategy” that mapped a clear pathway to maneuver and avoid the walk of shame back to the dimly-lit bathroom area.

Every Friday and Saturday for decades was filled with this fun-loving adaption of love.  Some people saved their bi-weekly paychecks in hopes of finding the perfect outfit.  Many women slept standing up on Thursday night, just to keep their hair fresh for that Gap Band single that will drop a bomb in the club and ignite a flame that will burn in their lives forever.  Meanwhile, their male counterparts got the game-plan together by fine-tuning their Thursday nights at the local car wash.  The brothers seeking love would spit-shine their rides, then conclude the plan by cracking the plastic seal on the new pine car fragrance that was shaped like a Christmas tree.  The only motivation behind these silly roleplaying rituals was to hope that the weekend parties would change their romantic lives forever.  Watching this cultural phenomenon play out every weekend is what led to the watercooler huddles on Mondays. 

Sadly, because todays generation doesn’t dance anymore, many young men and women will never experience how to court.  Many of the above-mentioned antics may have seemed silly, but they led to so much more, in-person “getting-to-know you” events.  Those treasured moments led to everything from men opening the car doors or covering women from the late-night rain.  Today's generation will never know what it’s like to feel the heartbeat of a stranger, twirling on the dance floor, being tightly hugged to a Luther Vandross or Tina Marie or James Ingram single.  These real life soundtracks are treasured moments that started families—possibly your family that is reading this now. 

There is one Generation X-er that dedicates his life to keeping this starry-eyed party alive.  Eric Roberson, born September 27, 1976, is one of life’s most prolific, romantic, rendezvous-writing poets ever.  The Rahway, New Jersey rhymester has a catalog of treats that is reminiscent of the golden era of courting.  

The Howard University grad is the ghost-writing, vocal virtuoso behind some of the more noted artists like: Jill Scott, Carl Thomas, Dwele, and Musiq Soulchild just to name a few. Some of E-Ro’s signature songs are just bursting with amorousness.  It would be impossible for me to pick my favorite Eric Roberson LP – although Music Fan First or The Vault Vol. 1 are mainstays and the perfect antidote to mending the torn fabric of this society.  Instead of dissecting one of those treasured treats, I’m going to (instead) build a streaming playlist for Generation Z and beyond.  My only request is to please find yourself a special someone to listen to the playlist with.  Who knows, you might even move some furniture around….  

1. “Can I Borrow You” (Music Fan First August, 2009): This song is the epitome of flirtation.  Right from the start E-Ro ignites a flame between a guy in the club and a woman that checks all his boxes.  The caveat is the impossible-to-ignore dangling carrot on her ring finger -- the night unfolds from there. 

2. “Shake Her Hand” (Mister Nice Guy November, 2011): On this single the feverish flirtation is reversed.  This time the man has a beautiful woman at home, but meets Mrs. Right Now in the club. The young lady senses his apprehension, despite the obvious mutual attraction.  On this song in particular, if Eric wasn’t such a brilliant song writer, he could have clearly wrote the treatments for the “hit” TV show Cheaters. 

3. “Couldn’t Hear Me” (The Vault Vol. 1 July, 2003): This is hands-down my favorite Eric Roberson LP & this single jumps starts an 11-track project of pure flames.  E-Ro’s signature love triangle takes a back seat to a man who is more in love with his craft than his woman—who tries everything in her power to remain supportive.  Her true feelings couldn’t be masked, nor can the incredible groove from this single.

4. “Rain on my Parade” (The Vault Vo. 1):  Anytime I am quizzed on my preference (or lack thereof) for gospel music (which happens often), this is the first song that pops into my head.  The 1970-like, melodic pace and deliberate lyrics will simply curl your soul.  The beach front feeling has a bridge that will have you searching for a sea of escapism.  If you ever get the chance to see Eric in concert and he does not perform this song, you need to ask for a refund.      

5. “Too Soon” (Left March 2007): Eric’s early production days are magnified on this analog-sounding masterpiece. “Too Soon” is the textbook definition of open communication.  I don’t know many people that will be THIS forthright, this early in their relationship, but it certainly worked well for the headphones.

6. “Picture Perfect” (Miser Nice Guy November, 2011):  A woman’s heart will melt at the poetic portrayal from this heavenly description.  Oddly, one of the most prolific and vastly underrated emcees, Phonte Coleman (Little Brother) wasn’t necessary on this single.  And you probably won’t live long enough to ever hear me say that about Phonte again. 

7. “Dealing” feat. Lalah Hathaway (Music Fan First August 2009):  One of the fair criticisms that I've heard detractors say about Eric Roberson is that they aren’t a fan of his voice. While I vehemently disagree, I do understand that music can be a lot like food and every taste bud differs. Well, Eric more than addressed that when he tapped the heavenly Lalah Hathaway for this one.  It’s unimanageable to love R&B music and not add this single to the rotation.., but hey, there are black people that love Chinese food & hate Jamaican food.      

8. "I'm Not Trying To Keep Score No More" (The Box July 2014): In addition to E-Ro’s implausible songwriting ability, one cannot underscore the videos that underline his dry-witted sense of humor.  I think this playful ingredient is the spice to most successful relationships and this video will underscore that fact.  

9. “God In You” (Wind 2017):  It’s impossible to miss the overt appeal of this rather simple selection.  I will say this…, you can spend your entire life searching for someone to sleep with, but real joy begins when you find the person you cannot sleep without.

10. “Summertime Anthem” feat. Chubb Rock (Mister Nice Guy November 2011): There is something electrifying about the summertime in urban cities.  The schools are out, as are the shoulders and hips of the (mostly) female teachers building the minds that shape our future.  The vacations are plentiful and the weekends seem more meaningful.  Eric Roberson has dedicated his life to harvesting the relationships between men and women and nowhere is this more evident than on this Will Smith remix & the Spike Lee iconic summertime movie classic, Do The Right Thing


In less than 72 hours the election scoreboard will sadly reveal the “winner” of one of the most quarrelsome, combative and hopeless political races any generation has ever seen.  And for the first time in my life, I will probably go to bed early, because the only thing I’ve learned over the years is…, "when the elephants and donkeys fight, it’s always the grass that suffers." 

If we are ever going to change the trajectory of life in the black community (specifically) and mankind (generally)…, we are going to have to find the perfect partner, wrap that person tightly in our arms and find a better party to attend. 


1❤

Ray Lewis

Thursday, October 01, 2020

SOUL SESSIONS Vol. 10

BEHIND THE MUSIC


For centuries black newborns have  made up roughly 15.7% of all births in the U.S.  It is astonishing how a joyous delivery can be fueled with such merciful mourning.  The ugly truth is, its nearly impossible to separate the birth day bliss of a black child, without weeping at the historical horror that awaits them.  There is a deep subconscious feeling that cutting a black child’s umbilical cord is simultaneously igniting a fuse tied to an explosive.  Naturally the newborn isn’t aware of when, why or how this explosive got attached to their innocent, infant frame.  But, like clockwork, one day the child will be [acutely] aware that it’s there.  And the only thing worse than not knowing how a bomb got there, is not knowing when it will detonate.  The only constant with black American babies is: “the talk” that every black household should have about walking gingerly through the U.S. streets.  After all, you’ll never know what will provoke the deranged assembler. 

On June 5, 1993, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a beautiful, chocolate baby girl named Breonna Taylor entered the world.  And just like that, a mere 312 months later, Breonna’s bomb exploded and the 26-year-old young lady was dead.  Her only crime was being born black in America.  

Breonna didn’t stand a chance because, from birth, her scripted fate was sealed.  Like so many others that resemble Breonna, this “random bomb” will eventually explode, and like clockwork the black survivors will take to the streets to protest the injustice. 

Yeah, we will march up & down the bloody streets, dancing around the blue uniforms that triggered the protest.  On some special occasions, we may even burn some sh_t down.  The hope is that one day this 450-year-old exercise will change the hearts and the minds of the society that rewards the bomb’s designer.  

Breonna Taylor wasn’t unlike any other 26-year-old. She often shared her stream of consciousness on the millennial digest, Facebook. One of the many posts from the budding EMT worker was describing her love for helping others.

“Working in health care is so rewarding! It makes me so happy when I know I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life!”

-- Breonna Taylor

Had Breonna lived a bit longer, her youthful optimism would have been "greeted" by four centuries of systematic hate.  In fact, these tsunami of troubles are often pacified with a dangling carrot of illusive justice.  For example there is some delusional reason this historically disfranchised black community is pinning their (new) hopes on a 77-year-old pale, white Joe Biden..., and a half-black, Kamala Devi (feel free to add the missing L) Harris, as the ticket to salvation.  You can almost feel Breonna – who only lived long enough to vote in 2 primary elections—tumbling in her soiled soil. 

Like a season full of hurricanes, we are running out of names to describe this reign of terror that is devastating the black community: slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, discrimination, xenophobia, racial profiling, willful neglect, inequality, or just good 'ole fashioned hatred.   No matter how you slice this sea of sorrow, the only real way to achieve true salvation, will be to change the way you fight the powers that be.

Well, two decades before Breonna’s umbilical cord was cut, there was a 19-year-old budding artist that was two thousand miles west of Grand Rapids; fiddling with the cords of a new single called “So Blue”.  Growing frustrated with the artist’s “secret session,” a label executive summoned two oddball gophers to expedite the delivery of the long-waited recording.  Lenny Waronker and Russ Thyret packed their bags and headed west to finally hear the brilliant song.  Captivated by the song, the "enforcers" wanted the artist to add a bass line to the single.  The artist snapped back..., “There is no f-ing bass line, now get the F@!# out of my studio!”  It should be noted the record label that paid for Lenny and Russ to check on the artist’s progress, was also paying for the (now) not-so-sercet studio session. 

On April 7, 1978, “So Blue” became the 8th single on a 9-song debut LP.  The freshman album was called For You, on Warner Bros. Records, by a 20-year-old named, Prince Rogers Nelson.

Despite not being of legal voting age, Prince fully understood the sinister history of the music business that he just started a brawl with.  Prince also knew that in order to define his success, he would have to fight very differently — no matter how mighty the opposition.  

There is a statue waiting to be sculpted for a man like Prince; who fought to his death to change the way black newborns navigated through life in AmeriKKKa.  There is absolutely no way to sum up Prince’s contribution to how much Black Lives actually Matter-ed to him.   In fact, most of his contributions were behind his music.  There are people right now in Oakland (as we speak), that are living under solar-paneled roofs that Prince quietly paid for.  Ready for more of Prince's Purple Heart? 

After getting diagnosed with cancer, the legendary JB’s drummer, Clyde Stubblefield racked up $90,000 worth of hospital bills.  Prince somehow found out about Clyde's illness, called the hospital room that Clyde was in, and sent his wife a check for $80,000.  The Stubblefield family didn’t even know that Prince was aware of the hospital stay. And when Lauryn Hill went to jail Prince wrote a check 

to take care of all her kids until Hill was released.  Initially, no one knew that Prince was the financial backer for #YesWeCode, an organization that educates urban youth about technology.  Oh, and by the way, Prince was also iTunes, before the rotten Apple platform.  In the midst of a 3-decade battle with Warner Bros., Prince was fighting for his independence..., punching in patterns the industry couldn’t fathom.  

One of his brilliant moves was when he asked Warner Bros. to send him the names and email addresses of all his fans that corresponded the “old fashioned”way.  Warner Bros. considered the minor concession a major win.  What they didn’t anticipate was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince NEVER performing any of the songs that the label kept the rights to.   Prince used the database to send sample files of his new music and upcoming concert dates directly to the consumer.  Prince essentially used the Warner Bros. information to circumvent the enslaved structure that artists have been fighting against before Prince was born and long before Breonna’s death.  

So…, if you ever want Black Lives to really Matter…, we need to cut this noose that is masked as an umbilical cord and pay attention to the Sign of the Times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9LGjn-bovI&t=236s


1 ❤

Ray Lewis

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

SOUL SESSIONS Vol. 9

THE ELEMENTS OF SALVATION

Each month it gets tougher to find the mental strength to suggest an LP that every black household should have when…, every month, another black household shrinks at the murderous hands of the local police. All American black families are forced to have this generational “chat” about..., what to do when pulled over on the very roads their ancestors paved.  

Fathers Know Best
These oxymoronic, eulogy rehearsals are supposed to somehow teach innocent kids how to behave when, in the inevitable event, they are confronted by a hate-filled, guilt-driven, public servant that their parents are paying to protect them.  It’s almost like we are unwittingly scripting our children’s trauma.  

The essence of these talks would be the equivalent to ironing your child’s clothing, then sending them into an institution, wearing the very clothing that you know the child molesting leader wanted to see them in. This country's stained black & blue fabric is tearing the community to shreds, and it has got to stop.  However, in order for it to stop, you first have understand how it got started.  

The United States' policing began in the early 1600’s as an informal communal night watchman-like crew.  Translation: a bunch of dumb, drunk-ass white males agreeing to do some communal “duties” (mainly) to avoid military services.  This informal mob of misfits, masked as community servants, continued these so-called "duties" for over 100 years, or just after the American Revolution. 

Trump's School of Policing

Now, fast-forward to the early 1800’s, when the U.S. started a more formalized department of “crime fighters” in a few major cities like: Boston, New York and Chicago.  Naturally, in the good o'le southern states, the American policing had a much clearer and sinister agenda.  Their mission was to capture slaves and return them to the slave owners’s plantations. Their (cough-cough) "post slavery" mission morphed into controlling the so-called freed slaves, who had the audacity to seek equality in the (now) Jim Crow labored south. 

So here we are in 2020…. we are getting dressed every Sunday morning, inhaling the beliefs of the oppressors’s “gospel,” praying that one day the molesting leadership will stop raping our kids.  And if they don’t, we are going to (get this) call the police on them.  This insanely sad cycle feels like a spoiler alert from an upcoming Tyler Perry plot.  

Yet, through this exhausting American navigation, we got a jolt of joy from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This pacifying gesture from the government did give American minorities a (bent) olive branch of hope.  Yeah, you’re welcome, Becky.  For most black people the Civil Rights Act was considered a major win..., that is unless you are one of those minorities that continue to ask: “Why would any human, viewed as an equal, ever need civil rights?"  Nevertheless, the 60’s was one of the more pivotal points in Black American History, because it ushered in an inspirational alternative to the traditional salvation that black people were seeking on earth.  

The 60’s actually ignited a spirit of love and an unspeakable energy of optimism.  Indeed this act of civility blew a welcomed breath of fresh air into a completely exacerbated community.  The 60’s ignited a fire in the foundation of this treasured black culture.  And, you don’t have to be my big brother to see where this is going.  Man, I know people are struggling, trying to find the right words to inspire the next generation.  I understand that it's really tough trying to adapt to this new normal.  I know you are saddened by the startling deaths of Chadwick Boseman, and unfortunate passing of hoop citizens, John Thompson and Cliff Robinson.  

And if you stop to mix-in a deadly pandemic, with an orange-haired, red state-loving, blue-eyed devil, sitting in an off White House, suggesting that a masked country drown their illness in bleach... you just cannot help but wonder --  when will the credits roll on this 2020 horror movie?  However, if you are reading this blog, that means you are still here.  And while I don't ever give advice, if I were to do so, I'd say.... let's flip the script and for once, let's do God a favor. 

Simply find a cozy corner in your sanctuary, plug in your absolute best listening device and pull out one of the world's greatest musical treasures.  Please put your headphones together for the magnificent, majestic, masterminds of melody:       

Earth Wind & Fire. 

I wanted to pause here and thank The Creator..., we really needed these elements for our salvation.  

It’s nearly impossible to love music and not have a very large corner of your soul dedicated to the contributions of this illustrious collection of musicians.  It is difficult to summarize the impact that Earth Wind & Fire has had on this world's harmony.  While the group’s founder and lead singer, Maurice White began his career as a jazz drummer in 1969, the band's well-traveled footprint demonstrates a much deeper and richer history.  
White was born December 19th, under the fire sign of Sagittarius. His astrological sign was the founding element to naming the group. That brilliant branding moniker was magically matched by tagging the vocal genius of Philip James Bailey.  The duo & brilliant band will probably never be duplicated in this lifetime. I wish we had enough lifetimes to list EWF’s stellar accomplishments which spans 5 decades & counting. Instead I will attempt to summarize
their enormous existence. 

Earth Wind & Fire’s music was a comprehensive, collaborative combination of a variety of their world views.  It was Maurice White's spiritual metamorphosis that was the inspiration to most of the band’s album covers — a fact your typical Christian, steppin’ to September, probably wasn’t aware of.  In fact, most of the Egyptian symbols on EWF’s LP covers were that of the modern African Kemtic religion that White devoted his life to. The band credits their lyrical inspirations and, most certainly, their iconic artwork concepts to the Chakra, which is an ancient Hindu meditation practice.  One day someone will write a book on those picturesque covers.  I wish them luck, as it took me 8 1/2 months to just decide which of their stellar albums to drop in this space.   And after ducking many well-intended bribes and phone calls from the 718.... I reached for the masterpiece:

All ‘n All.


Earth Wind & Fire │ All 'n All │ Columbia Records │ November 1977 

Serpentine Fire
Written by the White brothas; Verdine and Maurice, the LP is set ablaze with this senior citizen-lovin’, wheelchair-hoppin’ anthem. Despite the fun-lovin’ up-tempo groove, the song has a profoundly deep and very religious meaning that encourages living a positive & healthy lifestyle; one of yoga and prayer.  That said, all hell will break out at the high cotton, B-I-N-G-O night gala if the DJ were crazy enough to pick the needle up before the song break-down.  Young millennials, do me a favor, put your phone down and ask an elder to explain what EWF has meant to their life.  You may find out the role the band played in your arrival.   

Boogie's Wonderland
Fantasy
I remember sitting on the mailbox in the Bronx, impatiently waiting for my sister’s Boo to finish the install of my 3, 10-inch subwoofers in the back of my classic, ’85 cream-colored, Chevrolet Celebrity.  Giggle though you might, no one on the block slept for 16 hours once the installation was completed.  I imagine the only reason no one slapped the ignorance out of me was because the cassette was looping one of the EWF's greatest singles of all time. Besides, how you gonna smack a kid for playing Earth Wind & Fire too loud?    

Pimp My Ride
Credit the White brothas, once again.., as they penned the 'hood-disturbing Fantasy, -- yet another in their long line of deep, timeless hits.  The song was an ode to escapism from a world living in a cesspool of falsehoods. Sound familiar? 

This is one of those songs that will help you to understand the word, genius,and if you are still searching for a way to cope with the insanity that this year has unleashed.  If you just need a jolt, perhaps one of 4 minutes and 38 seconds... and if you want to exchange the madness for a little peace..., dim the lights, light a candle & let this one roll... on repeat... just like I did.     

Love’s Holiday
Did I say that Fantasy was my favorite EWF song?  Please don't take this time to start quoting me. If you young whipper-snappers want to remove the one-night stand from your repertoire, (trust me one day you will)..., just add this to your candlelight playlist.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the rousing reception from your mate.  The chorus at the 3-minute mark is unspeakably brilliant.    

Brazilian Rhyme aka Beijos
The 1am moonlight had just fallen on another park jam in the Forest Park section of the South Bronx.  As the block party ended, you could feel the intensity of the crowd searching for an encore.  Nevertheless, the crowd headed for the exit. Then, in a blink, the legendary, DJ Kool Herc, suprised them and let loose this classic EWF interlude. Heads swiveled, as this insane [mostly] a cappella beat jolted the cracked concrete. 

Hip Hop's Golden Era
Now I know it’s hard to imagine anyone calling a 53 second "intro" a classic.  BUT..., that was (probably) before DJ Herc spun the track for 8 straight minutes..., not missing a beat (so to speak).  

Herc’s wizardry on the 1’s & 2’s made the attendees do a complete180 & re-pack the park from fence-to-fence.  Even the elders had to admit, this EWF sh-t is blazin'... and Kool Herc was absolutely killin' it.   The crowd of people were now dripping with sweat as Herc was soaking up all of this impromptu energy.  I swear if Herc looped that song for an hour, no one would have budged.
Trump's Graduates

However this night, like so many other block parties in the 80’s, ended with the squad cars from the 43rd Precinct pulling up, and bringing the night to an official end.  

At least this time the police had a legitimate reason for not capturing this life-changing moment on a body cam. 
 

1❤

Ray Lewis

 

Soul Session Vol. 12

                           Blind Faith There are 30 more days left in what can only be described as one terribly taxing year.  History wil...