lyrics to go (part 3 of 7) “oldham era”

I’m a product of my environment
Things that occur
Events take place
That will wipe the smile
Right off your face!
Not my fault, but then again
Schools and teachers were never my freinds
I don’t need an education
I just need a new vocation!
Freeway traffic smog
Movie theatres
Lines of people, beliefs
What the hell am i supposed to think?

“been left of center ever since, uh, i been left centerfield

winter still remind me of my pop’s passin’ (1)

a mass of them pray and suddenly stop askin’ (2)

admin say ‘ma’am, your son is not passin” (3)

excel at self-expression, my impression felt (4)

sizable welt left on my question, mark the section of the bible belt (5)

rally roots established in a baptist church

first act of ‘ism’ was against that forbidden thirst (6)

thought it odd – all the men in my biological bottle fed

god in the women, the devil cause of my father’s death (7)

fresh clay, shaped the way they want me up in sunday school

formin’ resume the morn of monday, too ( 8 )

pioneers of integration with no relation to race, from the

earliest days they merged clergy and state

serve as deacon do a teacher; principal as a pastor

every lesson prepped for the test in the hereafter (9)

best to have the fear of the master in your heart of hearts

i tried reasoning and seen things fall apart

carved outta henry – how befitting, ‘give me liberty’ (10)

or else an alternative to dwellin’ with the merciless

the line drawn around the county i have found to be

confining – aint no bounties in the boundary

we ’bout to secede…

a colonel by default, i never fought for the continentals

though my war of independence bore some resemblance (11)

they trynna make me do like them – move right then (12)

attune my mentals, broke pencil – spoke through my pen

kinetically set it, gesture affect a ripple

imprudent, for this student body is ill and crippled (13)

i’ll walk on ’em, in partin’ ‘yall gon’ miss me when i’m gone’

now long forgotten, they pawned my saga for a song (14)

the alarm is armed – guards on watch, not one’ll abscond the box again (15)

the common anomaly of protestants (16)

i lost to the sovereign, the dominant still holdin’ office (17)

glowin’ over that oldham era’s a golden aura ( 18 )

growin’ under that old america’s something strange

bubblin’ to break-point range – awaken, take the reins! (19)

oh, there he goes again – broken and soberin’

his story told all over, the walls closin’ in (20)

the line drawn around the county i have found to be

confining, aint no bounties in the boundary

we ’bout to secede…

i’ve gone across the country, what you want from me

to die of hunger for the punditry?

you’ll never succeed…

nah, you’ll never succeed.”

(1) – to be perfectly honest (assuming it’s not too late), i know very little about the details surrounding my father’s suicide. i was too young to pose questions when it happened, and by the time my curiosity developed i felt it inappropriate to broach the subject. among the few memories i’ve kept from that time is one of a bitter chill and gray skies; cold winter death.

(2) – my kindergarten teacher’s name was mrs. watkins. she was a tall, middle-aged woman with short, dark hair. her voice was authoritative, but calming when she spoke with that soft, slow, southern drawl, and if she opened her mouth wide enough, she’d reveal a beautiful display of a dentist’s work in gold. she was like an angel to me, coddling me and catering to my every need. at the time, i had no idea she felt pity on me, but i understand it now. she was one of many.

(3) – like mrs. watkins, dozens of subsequent teachers seemed to care less and less about my personal wellbeing over the years. when the administration gave up on me, i gave up on school.

(4) – voted “most individual” by OCHS’s class of ’93, then expelled by the school for performing a rap about the principal at the homecoming dance.

(5) – maybe questioning god’s existence was my way of exploring the non-existence of my own father. in any case, the hellfire and brimstone set don’t take too kind to heathens.

(6) – oldham county was “dry” in all the years i lived there, meaning the sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited, period. every few years, a petition was organized to repeal the law, and my family’s church became campaign headquarters in the fight against change. i still love me a good rally.

(7) – pastor says drinking is a sin, and the sinners are going to hell. things looked grim for my grandfather, uncles, and most especially my father. perhaps abstinence from alcohol on the part of the women was a counterbalance to the excessive drinking by the men, or maybe it’s further evidence of patriarchy in the south, but i rarely, if ever, saw a lady in my family with a drink. that observation served to polarize the distinction between woman and man, between good and evil, respectively.

( 8 ) – this week’s lesson plan comes from the good book.

(9) – all pretty self-explanatory, really

(10) – oldham county was formally established in 1823 from portions of 3 surrounding counties, one of them being henry, so named for patrick henry, the american revolutionary most famous for the line “give me liberty, or give me death.”

(11) – the colonel was my high school mascot, chosen in honor of col. william oldham, a veteran of the continental soldiers in the revolutionary war. though i truly cannot imagine experiencing first-hand the horrors of the battlefield, i do know what it’s like to wage war against a tyrannical regime.

(12) – can you say “red state?”

(13) – subsequent to my punishment for the episode at the homecoming dance, i felt i was ready to lead a revolt against the board of education. i came to realize that leadership is a quality, not an emotion.

(14) – i often times refer to my departure from OCHS as an expulsion, when in fact i did choose to leave the school. following the rap (which i still have and promise to post one day) the administration placed me on severe probation, and knowing i couldn’t possibly enjoy my senior year on lockdown, i bounced. i had a feeling my presence would be missed, but you remember high school; drama has a short lifespan.

(15) – the principal was in her inaugural year when she decided to make an example out of me. she made life miserable for a whole lotta young folks that year, vowing to not let another one swim against the current. to this day, my parents feel as though they should have fought harder in opposition to her uncompromising rule against free speech, but we all had the last laugh when she “resigned” in ’97 citing complications with her health. i hope she’s all better now.

(16) – you appreciate the irony, right?

(17) – sure, martha sammons resigned from her post as principal, but the school and its entire district remains under the thumb of an oppressive government. you win some, you lose some.

( 18 ) – “no, they won’t name no buildings after me,” (c) badu – but the spirit still lives.

(19) – it’s the rally cry for who got next! it’s the passing of the torch! it’s the final hour!

(20) – it’s the same zealous rhetoric i spent my formative youth trying to escape. that’s deep.

says officer james brown of a murder/suicide in the place i was born and raised: “this is an isolated incident… it’s not indicative of the community we live in or the people of this community…” really, though?

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lyrics to go (part 2 of 7) “watership down”

…I said to myself, ‘I do believe in God.’ But I have the right to protest against His ways. I have the right to be angry. And so, I do it a lot, very often, and I wouldn’t change a word of my discourse to God, my appeals to God, against God. Because I came to a certain formulation saying a man can be religious or can come from a religious background, with God or against God but not without God. So I cannot live without God.”

— Elie Wiesel

“…To fallen comrades, all i have to offer is this

word of insignificance, y’all really been missed (1)

some soldiers never enlist, but find themselves

engaged in conflict where it’s life’s stakes, regardless (2)

aint nothin’ promised from the minute we started

still it’s hard feelin’ you wasn’t robbed of any part

every bar penned in your memory’s honor, my intercession

i struggle to keep the faith, i’m bereft of possession

what’s left then, of this pathetic relic i stepped in?

the cut through the core may have severed my last connection (3)

i’m expectin’ a sign of acceptance, tethered to the axiom (4)

inadequate reception, i reckon it’s from the valium (5)

a stepson of the pallium challenge and test one (6)

nebulous response said ‘it’s better not to question’ (7)

in rejection of your slant, i’m demanding an explanation

where’s the justice or the justification in takin’ nathan? ( 8 )

brother you listenin’? send the exposition

i’m sick of pretending there’s any intent to my existence (9)

i’mma lie beneath the woodbine, lookin’ for a sign

if you could find [one] – right about now’d be a good time

CHORUS: i had a dream this morning

that the rain came pourin’ better vacate the warren, and i…

i’ve never seen such mournin’

in the wake of a storm better wake up the warden, and i…

beg you to heed this warnin’

for the sake of the pure and i’mma wait here for ’em

we gotta leave these quarters

and escape what’s in store, either face fate or break, y’all (10)

a straggling of peers in the academy

are lookin’ at me like ‘you said to move, start travelling’ (11)

a captain with no navigating skills in the galley

fightin’ to flee the feral at the peril of the menagerie (12)

within the waves [i] start waverin’

where’s this revelation when the frame comes cavin’ in? (13)

grave thoughts – where they ’bout to put mine? if you

overlook a crime, right about now’d be a good time…

it’s a long reach into vast space

lately i been slashed, maybe you could meet me halfway (14)

days passed since i got the cache tatted (15)

i’m a fast player with the match and paper in the ashtray (16)

told when i asked that the pathway is wide, though

accommodatin’ all cats attracted to the fire’s glow (17)

tough as it was i let my pride go – something said to ( 18 )

trust, but it’s nothing left inside to revive, over (19)

thin books of laws we found cause for discord

and distort every bit of wisdom it gives forth

quick to stir it up and settle shit with a fist, lord

they’d be afraid of death if they had something to live for (20)

the orb in the distance shone for the lone canoness

grantin’ ’em amnesty for tamperin’ with the manifest (21)

my mannerism a prism and should shine, light it if you would

be so kind, right now’d be a good time

CHORUS

i’m tryin’ not to feel responsible

for complicating things in relation to the chronicle

you’re free to walk away, for you to stay seems improbable

if i led you astray i pray to suffer the unconscionable

but if [there’s] truth therein, drop the

anchor deep and save me, thankfully your bravery

withstood mine, shook in the waves, but it looks fine

give praise – right about now’d be a good time.” (22)

(1) – this song was written several days after the tragic passing of a dedicated massline street-teamer, nate loyola. his death came at a time when my faith in god was extraordinarily delicate; the period of psycho-spiritual chaos that ensued reminded me of a scene from the classic richard adams novel.

(2) – much like the late, great j. dilla, nate fell victim to a rare illness which doctors were unable to combat. so often we sympathize with parents who lose sons and daughters in futile warfare, but even the smallest part of us acknowledges the risk inherent in military service. it takes a different type of compassion to understand the grieving process behind an unexpected death; when there is no enemy to blame, one tends to point the finger at god.

(3) – a fair amount of doubt in the divine came just after i underwent surgery for crohn’s disease. literally cut through the core, i was left weakened, debilitated and demoralized for quite some time (coincidentally, my father had surgery for a hernia shortly before committing suicide). i felt that my physical condition was a direct reflection of my spirit – both were essentially useless.

(4) – in this regard, i can relate to the elie wiesels of the world.

(5) – xanax and percocet, technically, but you get the point: the heart’s not open when the mind is closed.

(6) – when my mother remarried, our family dynamic changed drastically; i went from being “man of the house” to youngest of 5 kids overnight. one of the hardest labels for me to accept was that of “stepson,” despite the earnest efforts of my new father figure. i used to imagine how christ must have felt about joseph, and wondered if he ever said to the old man “you’re not my real dad.” what a terrible, terrible thing to say.

(7) – i had many sunday school teachers, all with one train of thought.

( 8 ) – some questions are far too complicated to be issued a patent response.

(9) – a direct plea to nate; not the first or the last time i’ve asked for assistance/confirmation from beyond.

(10) – a quick wiki on watership down and the chorus starts to make a little sense.

(11) – feelin’ like fiver. it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

(12) – you’re just gonna have to let that one sink in.

(13) – intuitive at all the wrong moments.

(14) – another reference to the surgical resectioning. click and read if you please, but let me assure you that perusing the overview provides very little insight into the physical demands of this procedure. i was forced out of bed by a contentious nurse on the first day of recovery. she was encouraging, but refused to help me limp along the hallway of the 5th floor at providence; i covered roughly fifteen feet. it occurred to me as i settled back into bed: there must be a spiritual equivalent to physical therapy; my soul is in such pain.

(15) – funny thing about tattoos – you get them to serve as a constant reminder of one moment in time, but the memory fades long before the ink, and soon enough the adornment becomes as innocuous as a natural, god-given beauty mark. i’m no more a baha’i with the tattoo than i would be without it, though it does occasionally remind me of more ardent days.

(16) – clean and sober for some time now, but it hasn’t always been that way (neither does it come easy).

(17) – some folks argue whether or not the baha’i faith is for everyone; i think the guidance is clear.

( 18 ) – leaving the church was kind of a big deal, and i admit i rushed into the faith just to expedite that process of separation. i think pride often times comes between man and god when the former is faced with the opportunity to adopt a doctrine; many of us prefer to be “spiritual” as opposed to “religious” beings. i was not all that different, so after declaring myself a member of the baha’i faith i reveled in its exclusivity (by nature of its relative obscurity, not its tenets). pride is a wicked beast.

(19) – it’s like exhuming a corpse to perform CPR. who does that?

(20) – a whole lot happenin’ in those 4 bars, right there. do the knowledge.

(21) – hell’s not big enough to house ronald reagan AND all the russians. evil doers get a pass.

(22) – there’s a downside to sharing your religious convictions with others – every once in a while someone decides they feel the same way, and they choose to join you on your path toward enlightenment. i do enjoy company – that’s not the issue. the problem is when you start contemplating whether or not you’re on the right path; at that point you start to wonder if you’ll be held accountable for inadvertently steering others in the wrong direction. guilt is an utterly useless emotion, and it has caused me much consternation. i found that once i favored the community-based over the individualistic approach to faith i fared much better.  good look, kirbs.

for those who’ve ever lost someone, then lost themselves:

lyrics to go (part 1 of 7) “his eminence”

hella folks been askin’ me about lyrics and liner notes for the EP. my plan, initially, was to incorporate them into the newly redesigned website; a plan that was first drawn up for tobacco road, and somewhat kinda sorta put on hold when the idea of an interim project started gaining momentum.

Now that black patch war is here, i figure i have an obligation to provide listeners with the tools necessary to dissect and digest the verbal content. this post will serve as the first in a consecutive series, where i’ll mix lyrics and liner notes together with hyperlinked nuggets of trivial information for the truest of Common Market Fanboy Stanley Cup Champions.

First up is “his eminence,” chosen due to much of the confusion i’ve overheard and read regarding the subject matter. granted, it IS on some proof-level insidery shit, so i aint even mad at ya, grynch. maybe this will help.

foreword: i lost my pops to suicide when i was six. his name was jimmy.

“…politickin’ with the big boys… prince of eminence

small town royalty… salute the procession.

jimmy had a six-string, jimmy had a drum (1)

jimmy had a six-pack, jimmy had a gun (2)

jimmy had a problem and jimmy had to run

and since, i’ve resented that jimmy ever had a son

where you been, jimmy? you know alotta things changed after you left (3)

on who rests blame? we’re all clueless (4)

effects of undue stress caused a few to lose breath

and question, ‘after you, who’s next?’

the true test of how strong the bond’s tied

comes right around the time the patriarch dies (5)

how many McKinney’s left? you can count ’em on one hand

your legacy’s as petty as you – understand? (6)

it’s a cold world & i’ve seen a grip of cats freeze

at times you had me thinkin’ i’m sick with that disease (7)

contemplatin’ my fate, .38 ways to face it

put the metal in my mouth at nineteen, just to taste it ( 8 )

the flavor of black powder requires an acquired palette

look at me preachin’ to the choir about it, i doubt it

ever even crossed your mind, tryin’ to shoulder

the weight of raisin’ a daughter demands a harder spine (9)

stunned, shocked, what one shot could do to the fam

the bough breaks, nowadays i call your mother ‘ruthann’ (10)

she hardly know me, slowly we drifted through the breeze

recently i visited to introduce my seed (11)

trouble breathin’, oxygen helps mask the wheezin’

ashtray in the kitchen overflowin’ with the reason (12)

‘them’s johnny’s.’ he passed through when we was leavin’

lookin’ like he seen a ghost in my frame – he started weepin'(13)

we talked for hours; told him ‘you gotta let go.’

imagine in twenty years how many others said so

i can’t connect with him, so i stop – he’s not ready

lost touch with reality + josh and debbie (14)

it’s a heavy burden [he] struggles to find steady work

and he hasn’t played the drums since y’all was last rehearsin’ (15)

i heard your moms gave him the house, it caused conflict

with cheryl and becky especially when he lost it (16)

it’s pitiful, your little brother is literally

trapped in a void and that bad choice was pivotal

damn, you got him stuck in a rut, i’m singin’

‘johnny was a good man…’ but you fucked that up (17)

aiyo it’s complicated commiseratin’ with the complacent

the blank stare on his face remains vacant

what a disgrace, he wastes every day he lives

and i still can’t decide if that’s your fault or his…” ( 18 )

(1) – pa dukes was an accomplished musician. well, accomplished may be overstating it a bit; his band whitehorse never really played outside of the tri-county area, but dude could certainly manhandle a host of instruments, including the guitar, drums and piano. i have a couple of old reel-to-reel tapes of him messin’ around with original compositions (though they sound an awful lot like some classic jackson browne). my favorite of them all showcases his vocal percussion skills – yeah, pops was beatboxin’ in ’72.

(2) – no doubt about it, my father was an alcoholic. of the handful of possessions he inadvertently left me, i distinctly remember a PBR trucker’s cap; i wore it for years entirely oblivious to the irony. he was also a gun owner, and that was his weapon of choice when he entered into his final battle.

(3) – perhaps the most significant change, for me as a kindergarten-aged boy, was instantly becoming the “man of the house.” the shift in perspective, if not in real responsibility, would have a profound effect on my attitude toward women for years and years to come.

(4) – the fucked up thing about suicide survivors (friends & family of the victim) is that they tend to hold everyone, to varying degrees, accountable for the death of their loved one; everyone, that is, except for the deceased.

(5) – this statement is in no way intended to discredit the ability of a mother to hold the family together. on the contrary, my mother did an extraordinary job of keeping us rock-solid through a couple of very turbulent years. my point is that after my father’s death, i fell completely out of communication with his side of the family (reason: see #4), and as a result…

(6) – … i changed my last name. not a whole hell of a lot of folks know this about me, but i was born Ryan James McKinney. when my daughter was born, i made a promise to myself to do better as a father, so i left “his” name in the past, where it belonged. incidentally, abeo means “her birth brings happiness.”

(7) – depression. i don’t know that my father was ever clinically diagnosed, but i’ve heard it from those who know better than any doctor; jimmy had them demons. note: the painting at the header is by van gogh, himself a victim of suicide.

( 8 ) – as a teenager, i was absolutely fascinated with the idea of suicide, particularly by gun-to-the-head. primarily driven by mindless chatter from know-it-all fucktards who said things like “suicide is the EASY way out,” i put a loaded revolver in my mouth and just tried to imagine what sort of balls it must take to pull the trigger. fuck all your “real talk.”

(9) – a reference to my sister and my daughter at once. jamie’s more than six years older than me, which means she was almost exactly madison’s age when my pops dies. i honestly cannot fathom how difficult my father’s death must have been for her.

(10) – you gotta know things are fallin’ apart when you start callin’ your grandma by her first name.

(11) – december 23, 2005. i stopped by my grandmother’s house (same house my dad grew up in) for the first time in more than 15 years for the purpose of introducing my wife and daughter. it was an ugly, saddening sight, as described in the lines that follow.

(12) – the house was dilapidated. when we first arrived, i made my way through the waist-high weeds to the door we used as kids to get straight to the kool-aid in the kitchen after playing tag on a hot summer day, only to find it boarded up from the inside. once we gained access through the half-rotted front door, the scene on the interior was worse. my grandmother was frail and feeble, requiring oxygen to carry on any semblance of a conversation. evidently the strict admonition against smoking was no deterrent for my uncle johnny, who, at 50+ was still living at home rent-free.

(13) – long-winded as these blogs seem, i couldn’t possibly muster the words or the energy to break down my uncle johnny for you. johnny was my dad’s little brother, and like any good sibling, positively adored his mentor. he went certifiably batshit-loony when daddy died; i’ll sum him up in a single anecdote: one cold christmas eve, the bulk of my extended family was enjoying a holiday dinner at my maternal grandmother’s house when a rather unexpected and furious knock at the back door disrupted the festivities. my uncle johnny had gotten himself a little liquored up and turned hyper-brolic; wielding a fully-loaded .357, he threatened to avenge his brother’s death by taking out my mother (who has 2 very capable brothers of her own – in short, johnny got checked on that shit). anyway, back to my paternal grandmother’s house – soon as she saw me, she called johnny (on the rotary phone, i swear to god). he was there within minutes, slightly intoxicated, and terribly overwhelmed. i am my father’s son, after all.

(14) – as you may have guessed, johnny couldn’t manage to maintain his marriage; she got custody.

(15) – if there was one thing in the world my uncle could do better than my father it was play them drums.

(16) – sure, real estate is dirt cheap in eminence, KY, but a house is a house, goddammit. and when you’re talkin’ about the family estate, albeit decrepit and worthless, it causes some sibling rivalry when it’s gifted to the youngest son – especially when he’s jobless and nutty in the noggin.

(17) – marley reference, for you thicker ones.

( 18 ) – basically.

several months after that visit, my grandmother passed away from severe complications with her health, largely due, i’m sure, to prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke. about a year later, johnny was found dead in an apartment rented by a former girlfriend; a bottle of pills was found near the bed.

for jimmy, johnny and many others:

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

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

wild dogs.

according to wiki, a source i trust explicitly with information on all things trivial, the SL-1200MK2 has been around since 1978. i find that somewhat surprising, as i would have reckoned my first pair was manufactured in the late ’40’s; busted dust covers, spliced RCA cords, broken lights and tonearms, rusty platters, etc. i was in no position to be particular, though, seeing as how i didn’t pay a dime for them – the same homie who used to take me down to the ohio river to shoot fully automatic weapons into the wooded knolls of indiana helped me lift the decks from a defunct nightclub in a swanky hotel on louisville’s east side. good lookin’ fam, i hope you’re alive and un-incarcerated well.

anyhow, the turntables turned and to my astonishment the original M44-7’s still had pick-up. i set my joints up atop the “home entertainment center” in my 4th street apartment (much to M’s chagrin) and started workin’ on my scribbles, cuts and flares. i’d been messin’ around with belt-driven pieces of shit since my first paid DJ gig in ’87 – my uncle’s wedding reception at the henry county country club, where i’m absolutely certain that “miuzi weighs a ton” has not been played since. i used that same lame crappy plastic turntable to hold down a handful of high school homecoming dances, too, including the one which ultimately led to my expulsion. i may not have been down since day one, but believe me when i tell you i was fully committed before the week’s end.

despite years of scratching on 8-track recordings in a makeshift bedroom studio and a couple dozen mostly miserable experiences spinning out (“do you have any bob seger?”) i still consider the day i got those sorry-ass 1200’s my practical beginnings as a DJ. something about a sixty-pound shiny hunk of direct-drive steel makes a man feel official, validated.  in my pre-technincs life, i used to stop by camelot to pick up twenty-five cent records from the discount bin; my post-technics existence was fueled by the urge to dig through the basement at better days.

i’ve never had a diverse musical palette. ever. thanks to a co-worker of my pop’s who hit me with a pause-button mixtape featuring morris day and the time, i’ve been favorin’ the funk since the age of 10. it was a natural progression into rap about a year later, and for better or worse, i wouldn’t really check for anything beyond the boom-baposphere for two decades.

even within rap music, my taste was hardly ever obscure. if you could imagine the parameters stretched to maximum capacity between g-funk and go-go then you have a pretty good idea just how comfortable was my zone. nevertheless, the kid still managed to come up on some certified VVS-quality gemstones. to paraphrase my late grandma gertrude, i’ve probably lost more good stuff than you’ll ever own, but i did manage to hold on to a handful of favorites whilst globe-trotting across continents. it’s not that they’re all that rare or valuable (damn, i wish i would have made more of an effort to keep big shug’s OG “crush” 12″), i just appreciate them for always making me feel like i wanna be a DJ again. just a few of the notables:

public enemy’s “shut em down” pete rock remix

just anotha case of that ol’ PTA

young doom (no lil’ sambo)

the fiend of a microphone

and then there’s this:

i don’t know if die laughing is regarded as rare amongst the vinyl elitists, but i have no reservations at all about classifying under “long forgotten.” i’ve had this joint in the crate since it dropped in ’96, but i can’t remember the last time i ever really played it. just this evening, i was workin’ in the home-office, hookin’ up a self-powered mackie i lifted from a non-defunct nightclub in a far-from swanky area of seattle’s capitol hill, when it occurred to me i should revisit this album.

if your idea of genuine horrorcore rap is even remotely related to ICP, then please, if only for a second, forget what you think you know about the genre. hell, who am i kidding, i don’t really know a damn thing about the genre, myself, but in my estimation, the degrees of separation between gravediggaz and juggalos number more than six.

while prince paul and RZA, and, to a lesser extent big L and russell simmons, are accredited with pioneering horrorcore, chuck d had a whole lot to do with the stylistic development of the movement when his slam jamz label signed hyenas in the desert. to my knowledge, this 9-track EP (including skits) is the only project these dudes ever released. it’s just as well, though – this debut can rightfully be given “classic” status. so peep game, get familiar, and live a more fruitful life die a horrific death.

sony disabled the embed option, so check the video for “concubinez” right here.

hyenas, the name rings bells, so what the hell, you can’t see – you only smell the decomposed in the cellar…”

peace to you and yours…

RA

war risin’ over the horizon.

BPW Cover Art

it occurred to me after a phone call from the homie deuce, my man a hundred grand, ace-of-spade since the third grade: i’ve done a pretty shoddy job keeping folks abreast of the musical goin’s-on. he’d just received a press release by way of a very impersonal electronic mailing list, and was surprised to learn that common market has a new album due out may 13th – one that’s not called tobacco road.

deuce: “what the hell is black patch war?!?

me: “it’s the name of a tobacco farmer’s rebellion from the early twentieth cen—”

deuce: “no, dumbass – i mean how come you didn’t tell me you were puttin’ out a new album before tobacco road?

me: “…i didn’t tell you about it?… really? oh, you got the press release, huh? damn, man – my fau—… hold on a second, fam – that’s my moms callin on the other line…”

yeah, evidently i neglected to tell her, too. i guess in the midst of all the commotion caused by our spur-of-the-moment decision to fashion a full-fledged EP out of compromise, i forgot to inform a whole lot of team players that we were changin’ up the game plan.

within an hour of sending out the press release i got a slew of text messages from folks like sharlese: “did you change the name of the album? oh, wait, nevermind – i kept reading.” and ms. youssef: “so, uh, what do i do with this long-ass review of tobacco road now?” and the young homie dawson: “if this means i have to wait another two and-a-half years for the release of tobacco road i will call in every personal favor owed to me by panamanian guerillas who will happily grant you a semblance of pimp-strut swagger by smashing your femur with a ball-peen hammer.” i’m paraphrasing.

i heard some spirited young stalwart of the massline forums even demanded an explanation for essentially fuckin’ up his expectations for TR, so here you go, lil’ mammoth – this one’s for you.

sabz first started passin’ me beats for a follow-up project in the summer of ’06. my approach to the writing was slow and unrushed since there was no sense of urgency to test our fortitude against the sophomore slump. then came the re-release; i was reluctant, at first, but in retrospect i’m glad we made the decision to blend a little business in with the art. The national release landed us on tour with dan the automator in late november, around the time that massline was negotiating a full-scale release of geeteezy’s masterpiece lovework.

though we’d put down some rough vocals, it was clear the next CM album was still about six months out. feeling fearful of slipping into creative atrophy, i spoke with sabz about putting together a series of mixtapes. with his blessing i got to work soliciting beats and rhymes from a broad association of townsfolk; the result was massline mixtape vol. 1, a compilation with flashes of brilliance that ultimately demanded more resources than we had as a label. sure, we could have just made it available for download, but i wanted something more for a project that, for me, was supposed to satisfy the need to put out a new album. i admit i’m the main reason the massline mixtape never came to fruition; sorry, nam.

the lack of motivation to follow through with the mixtape was in large part due to the fact that sabz and i were beginning to talk more specifically about a concept for the new CM album. the title was his idea, and in a single sentence he layed out the objective. tobacco road became my primary focus and pushing the pen was imperative.

but you know how priorities do – by practical definition, attention to one means negligence of another, which often times results in the rise of a whole new problem that can’t be ignored; it insists on being your newest priority. such was the case with my health when recovery from surgery for crohn’s disease became more difficult than living with the symptoms. then it was my job after a nasty corporate takeover, then my faith during the preparation for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to israel, then my family after the brutally unexpected death of my brother-in-law.

i went nearly four months without writing, but when the chaotic contemplations became coherent analyses, the words came like a torrent. TR was now twenty tracks deep, dealing heavily with the relationship between religion, labor and suicide. recording started in june at a homie’s basement studio, but an extremely demanding work schedule caused the process to move, well, kinda slow.

it was the last week of september when we were set to wrap up the tracking of the final two songs and, to put it mildly, things fell apart. i’ll save the details for a VH1 special, or a RA/MTK collaboration diss track – whichever comes first, but suffice to say fifteen weeks of work was a wash and TR was lookin’ at a major delay. a good friend caught word of the happenin’s and pulled some strings to slide us into london bridge; five days later, TR (take two) was done.

at that point i had reasonable expectations that the album would drop early ’08. we started shopping for distribution immediately, but the response from a wide variety of labels sounded remarkably similar: “great record, but now’s not a good time.” by the end of february the prospects seemed grim, and i started putting a plan together to release TR the same way we dropped the eponymous debut – with a $3500 loan and a prayer. for the record, i wasn’t the only person in the world who thought this was a good idea, but there was one person who thought it was utterly terrible. the ensuing dialogue was intensely passionate, but from the clash of conflicting opinions comes the spark of truth.

black patch war represents the essence of compromise. i agreed to hold off releasing TR (and, somewhat ironically, potentially committing professional suicide) and to continue shopping the album on the condition we put out new material in may. we got that, and for once in a really long time it feels like the kid is winning again.

hope to see you all at the VERA project may 9th. peace to you and yours…

RA

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