chi theta chi means “go, baby, go!”

san fran circa ’67; the tradition lives on

the sunshine of summer rose early over palo alto this past sunday morning; by nine a.m. a small section of el camino real was buzzing with revelers in the golden goodness, leisurely setting about the business they tend to on their days off. just outside the wide-open window of my second-story motel room i heard a young girl around my daughter’s age playfully let loose a high-pitched wail with machine-gun rapidity after dipping a toe or two in the pool. i contemplated a morning swim, then remembered my trunks were folded and tucked away in the bottom drawer of my dresser, hundreds of miles away, where they’ve been for a long while. if springtime in seattle continues to forge record-breaking, mind-boggling trails, those trunks won’t see the light of day ’til late september.

devin catches forty winks during a 2-hour delay at seatac

of course, fair weather is no stranger to cali, but i was certain that this day’s favor of the sun god was less an attribute of geographical positioning than a just reward for a saturday night well spent. indeed, any diety endowed with a conscience would have to grant the goers of chi theta chi’s quarterly house party nothing less than the sky of paradise after making such merriment. stanford university sat atop the pinnacle of mt. olympus on saturday night, and dionysus himself got his ass drunk under the table.

chi theta chi, or xox as it’s known around campus, is a co-op. i thought maybe my lack of collegiate experience was to blame for me not knowing what the hell a co-op is, but as it turns out, even a vast majority of stanford students are confused about the group’s status. one thing everybody knows about xox: they’ve got co-ed communal showers there. ’nuff said.

as it was explained to me by a young scandanavian fella over a hot meal prepared for us by the house’s wholly competent head chef (don’t trip – the head chef is barefoot in soccer shorts, sippin’ import beer between trips to the kitchen to check on the risotto, and she doubles as navigator for our ride back to the airport), chi theta chi used to be a fraternity known as theta chi. new pledges began to wane sometime in the late sixties, and the brotherhood opened its doors to female enrollees (sausage houses would do well to take note here). in the heat of san fran’s summer of love, with the university’s administration refusing to recognize a co-ed fraternity fratority serenity, the collective ceded from the cardinal proper and formed a cooperative. a bunch of folks with money purchased a house on campus, and that’s where the members of xox have been supping, smoking and showering together for nearly four decades (HAHAHAHA — i’m laughin’ at you frat boys right now!)

bay area scraper on fire!

booking for the show was confirmed months ago; contract signed and deposit paid. that’s a big deal for me son – it’s not unusual to get confirmation days or hours before a show with a promise in place of a promissory note. already i was impressed, yet a little uneasy about doing a show at a frat house; the check was from chi theta chi, our contact was a dude, i was just assuming… then a week before the show, our contact information changed – now we were checkin’ in with a female. hmmmm, curious. a show at a sorority house? if this meant dealing with requests for top 40 covers or tolerating two and-a-half hours of cranking anything then i wasn’t sure which was worse. sexist, i know; i’ve been conditioned.

lo and behold! our chauffeurs awaited us near baggage claim at SFO – one male and one female. small talk through the terminal’s lengthy corridors; good flight, warm weather, he’s the DJ, i’m the rapper, etc. etc. but not two minutes into the commute i asked ’em straight up: “so, is the show at a fraternity or a sorority house?” “both,” they replied, appropriately in unison. awwww – this was gonna be a blast.

bay area limo on fire, literally!

i only lasted a semester at NKU, but something tells me had i made it all the way to graduation i would have never seen co-ed communal showers on campus. i felt like a simpleton for making such a big deal out of it, but dammit if my insecurities weren’t dashed when a quintet of mixed-gender stanford students came rushing into the bathroom as i was movin’ my bowels talkin’ about “this is it! this is shower so-and-so was tellin’ me about…” it really is a big deal.

“OMG – is that THE co-ed communal shower you were totally telling me about?”

traffic on the 101 was thick, car sickness was gettin’ the best of me and i needed something to eat. i made a promise to myself back in november to hit up In-N-Out on my next visit to california, and i do not break promises i make to myself. the burger was delectable, as if jesus christ himself had seasoned the beef, but would inevitably be the reason i found myself in the fabled co-ed xox bathroom.

In-N-Out Burger: you’ll never eat dick’s again (no homophobia)

our hosts were remarkably honest people, and it was never more evident than the moment we pulled into the parking lot of the motel 6. “this was the cheapest place we could find,” he tells me, and my level expectation for the rest of the evening drops to an 8 out of 10. the room was spacious, though, and i am never disappointed in a spot with a king-size bed. at this point i’m even thinkin’ if the show bombs i’ll be happy to get back here and spend 12 hours under this crayola-clad comforter; flight’s at noon, wake-up call at 9:30. before parting ways, the young homies tell us the house-mates would like to make us dinner – they’d be back around 7 to get us.

the atmosphere around the table kinda reminded me of my first show at seattle university, the only other time i’ve ever shared a home-cooked meal with promoters. the end result of that experience awarded me a handful of new friends and staunch comrade in the baha’i faith, and my level of expectation for the rest of the evening was back to a nine-point-five.

the way to a man’s heart…

discovering the show would be outdoors was neither a plus nor a minus for me; the weather was lookin’ good, the sound system was thumpin’, sizeable stage on a four-foot riser, and these fools had actually set up lighting – not even the swarm of mosquitoes was buggin’ me at the moment.

better than expected.

stanford do-gooders TGIFunk took the stage around 10:30, aptly warmin’ it up with covers of kool & the gang, GFR and tower of power. it became abundantly clear with every passing minute that this crowd came to have a (funky) good time, and the mass of people seemed to be multiplying across the lawn like an inebriated cancer. by the time we took the stage at a quarter-to-midnight, damn near a third of stanford’s student body was there to witness (note: i’m not very good at teh maths).

trouble is; g’dang diggy; push; gol’dust; black patch war; connect for, and so on. after more than an hour’s worth of songs from past, present and future, i made that compulsory announcement of the last song, and for the first time ever i invited a few folkers to join me on stage. it’s strange that i would even extend the offer after seeing talib, rakim and ghostface ruin great performances by callin’ up the dimes, but i was caught up in the moment. and to be fair (and to be an idiot) i held to the traditions of xox by not discriminating between genders; now here i stood in a forest of fried fanboys wantin’ to bro-me-down on some “dude you fuckin’ rocked it” type shit – and i’ve still got one jam left!

with more than 50 bouncing bodies on a mobile stage, it’s a true miracle no one was seriously injured during our finale. then again, miracles should come as no surprise when you party amongst the gods.

CM::xox::direct hit

big shouts out the entire student body for being so filthy. big up’s to stanford’s music dept for comin’ thru with the big guns (and lights!). big bubbles and love suds to xox for all the hospitality, and for throwin’ one of the best damn parties i’ve been to in ten years. extra thanks to sarah, shiva and schmooby for makin’ us feel at home – let’s do it again.

devin and lil’ erik get at the xbox 360 in the greenroom.

peace to you and yours,

RA

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me and my jeremiah.

i admit it; i was swept up alongside millions of other part-time semi-pro politicos by the media maelstrom surrounding the loose ties between barack obama and the good reverend doctor his eminence sir jeremiah wright (note: any links to fox news, past, present and future, have been and will continue to be, intended to serve a purpose geared more towards comedic relief than fair and balanced enlightenment – for the record, fuck hannity AND colmes!).

i was quick to take a lazy-footed stance against obama’s seemingly scripted dismissal of the pastor’s heated rhetoric. for one, i spent more than 16 years in the southern baptist church – a synodal similarity to the united church of christ, where the rev. dr. wright spent some thiry-odd years pushing passion from the pulpit – and i know just how deep runs the relationship between the shepherd and his lost sheep (no uncle jesse [no full house]). for two, i know a good sermon when i hear one, and at the very least, i would have appreciated hearing the young senator say “he murked that shit, didn’t he?!?,” after all the requisite partisan pandering. and for three, the honorable, venerable, baronial dr. wright was, how should i say it, ON POINT with the commentary! why would anyone move to distance themselves from such fervent insight into the hearts and minds of america’s downtrodden – most especially after pretending to harbor even a modicum of compassion in the days after hurricane katrina?

i am not a patriot. i made this realization sometime between the second grade, when my simple-minded reverence for the united states army compelled me to dress in full fatigues for career day (seriously, though — career day for second graders?!? what type of shit is that? i don’t need that kind of pressure!) and the fourth grade, when i rooted for the soviet union over the university of kentucky in a friendly game of exhibition basketball. i tried, to no avail, to organize a reagan death-celebration a couple years ago, and i’ve been equally unsuccessful at convincing sabz to let me burn a flag on stage (he keeps citing municipal fire codes, and he insists that the massline budget has no provision for hefty fines… this year). so you know how i must have felt when i heard his holiness bring the brimstone in that now-infamous tirade of truthiness; he had me at “GOD DAMN AMERICA!”

i was surprised at myself for even catching feelings over the barack debacle, as quite frankly, i’ve been more impressed by will.i.am than anyone else in this campaign. i gave not a shit when team axelrod vehemently denied any connection with indonesian madrassas. i gave a damn about plouffe’s posse posturing over the “OMFG is that a TURBAN?!?” pic. in all honesty, it really didn’t even bother me that the whole camp seemed to be altogether ignoring the importance of race in the race – that was, of course, until “the great speech of ’08” effectively popped the clutch to jump-start this vehicle of racial dialogue we’ve left sitting idle in selma, alabama since 1969 (unfortunately, due to current gas prices, the car had a brief run and now sits idle once again just outside atlanta, georgia). but something about this sticky-wicket on an otherwise perfect pitch didn’t sit well with me — barack’s cold shoulder to dr. wright was wrong.

the epiphany made clear a revelation so spectacular that god felt the need to send with it a furious flurry of springtime snowfall to seattle as a physical representation of its magnificence; i have something in common with senator obama.

indeed, i have a jeremiah wright of my very own – he is none other than lawrence parker, better known to some of you as kris, the teacha, the god of rap, the blastmaster, KRS-ONE. similarities abound between the preacher and the teacha (check the discourse from each of them regarding september 11th) and, not surprisingly, both have established a significant following. both men speak with confidence and conviction, employing a mystical power of persuasion over the disciple-types. i know firsthand what it means to be a card-carrying member of the congregation at trinity united church of christ – i doubt it differs much from being a member of the temple of hiphop.

like tens of thousands of thirty-somethings who came up on 80’s rap, i’m a longtime fan of KRS. in theory, if not practice (shout out to geo) i was down with the self-destruction/stop the violence movement, i was down with h.uman e.ducation a.gainst l.ies, and it felt like a natural progression to be involved with the temple (“you’re not doing hiphop; you ARE hiphop” was deep philosophy in ’97). though i never bothered to send in the nominal registration fee, i did seriously consider myself to be pursuing a hiphop-centered spiritual existence (i even drew direct parallels to the baha’i faith through new york city and the number 95) . in short, that shit was real to me.

i can’t front, though – just like the overwhelming majority of my contemporaries, i felt like the blastmaster’s relevance started to wane circa sneak attack and i passed over spiritual minded without a second glance. but while a whole host of my folks were trading in kipling bags for bulletproof wallets, i was recording my first studio album; a pious, self-serving examination of music-as-movement, too sacrosanct for mass consumption. apostrophe was ‘spiritual minded’ with less impressive production and lesser distribution.

i stayed loosely connected to the temple through a dull, unimaginative website (caddy, if you’re reading this you owe me more than a dozen replies, sucka). M was more active than me, and somehow managed to maintain relationships with members despite a series of site revisions. still, neither of us was expecting a phone call from KRS’s tour manager when they passed through the town in march of ’05. the entourage was looking to kill time the night before the show, so i met ’em at the hotel and led a procession to the only spot crackin’ that night: lo-fi. it took about an hour’s worth of coaxing to get hideki off the turntables, but once he conceded to dj cocheze the shit was on and most definitely poppin’. when we parted ways at the end of the night, they invited me to “the teacha’s” speaking engagement at aki kurose the following morning.

KRS is an imposing figure. physically, he stands around six-and-a-half feet tall, weighing no less than 250 pounds. when he shakes your hand, he makes eye contact with your soul. i sincerely believe i forgot my name when he asked for it – i distinctly remember shoving maddi in front of me saying “i just wanted me to meet your daughter.” his presence is never overlooked. he commands attention. such is the nature, and the responsibility of the shepherd.

the theme of the talk at aki was “puuurrrrrrpose.” i think i would have found the monologue equally poignant had it been about 17th century trends in pox prevention – the dude is just that good at selling it. i attended a brief press conference afterward, broke bread with a few fellow temple members, then capped off the evening by standing on stage as KRS performed “criminal minded.” for me, it was the equivalent of a revival-night baptism; i was filled with the holy ghost.

in the months that followed i became more active in the temple, organizing workshops around town, trying to convince others to pay their dues (literally, the annual fee is $12), “spreading the word,” as minister server put it. i believed, more than ever, that hiphop would be the driving force in the spiritual unification of the planet – maybe even the multiverse if it pleased the goddess – this was my overstanding.

there was a temple gathering in LA that summer, and i sent M to represent our family/community. she took with her an un-mastered version of common market, seeking his blessing and endorsement. he obliged, and agreed to rock a short string of shows with us to promote the release. before he headed back to cali, he stopped in at the monroe cabin for dinner and dialog, where we snapped the photo posted at the header.

he spoke of many things that night, some rudimentary and some radical. he retold accounts of doctors’ explanations for his distinguishing facial features. he spun stories of kool herc and busy bee, then and now. he insisted if he were jesus christ, that i would never know for certain, i would just have to believe. he told me i would question my own faith. and he ate fish.

if barack obama has ever been to the mountain top then i say jeremiah wright showed him the way. it is imperative, therefore, as he makes his descent to live among the common folk, to lead this commonwealth, that he not forsake the guidance of his spiritual counsel nor reject the character of its personage. we are NOT our teachers, our mentors or our preachers, rather we are the refinement of them all, now in our maturity capable of discerning good from bad, confirmation from conjecture, the whole truth from the half-truth. aint no half-steppin’, senator — either we live and we learn or we do neither.

i’m thankful for all of my influences – zealots, cranks, diehards, try-hards, freaks, fanatics and followers alike – i wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for you. if you ever catch me offending your position or insulting your integrity out of embarrassment about our association, do me a favor – don’t vote for me.

peace to you and yours…

RA