Separating the Darkness So That We May See the Light: Guidance for the Hip Hop Community in 2013…

tonymuhammedchitown-225The marked end of The Mayan Calendar on December 21st, 2012 as noted in the KRS-One song Aztechnical does not mean that life on planet Earth itself is going to end any time soon due to cataclysmic events. But rather, just as many Biblical Prophecies, Qur’anic Prophecies, the pyramid prophecies of Ancient Egypt (Kemet), the end of The Age of Pisces/beginning of the Age of Aquarius and other prophetic histories that are “written in advanced,” the end of The Mayan Calendar points to, above all else, the end of an old state of being and the steady movement towards a new age of spiritual and intellectual Awakening; into the very nature and reality of Self.

This is the consciousness and manifestation of God in the person of human being, which is also known as “The Hereafter.” This is not talking about a state of consciousness that we experience after we physically die, but an actual physical condition experienced here on Earth while we are still living.  Furthermore, “The Hereafter” is a state of being in which we are actively working to manifest The Divine in any way imaginable, while continuously removing obstructions that impede our progress from achieving this Ultimate Goal.  As Edgar Cayce, a legend within the New Thought Movement, said “For you grow to heaven, you don’t go to heaven. It is within thine own conscience that ye grow there …”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5M7MZh_bvjg

Hip Hop, as a culture and as a community, must move in this direction of Divine Order if it stands a chance to survive. Movement towards The Divine, in this sense, is not a partial occurrence, as it has been experienced in the Movement in the past (particularly in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s). Rather, The Time we are living in warrants a holistic change, incorporating all aspects of living – from the way that we think, perform, eat and even rest.

In essence, the root of making all things new in our way of life derives from what The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has referred to as The Most Powerful Creative Force which is Love, The Building Blocks that gave shape and form to the very Universe itself.  We along with everything in Creation itself exist because of Unconditional Love, which is Biblically synonymous with The Creator of The Heavens and The Earth Himself.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8).

Tony Muhammad and Africa BambaataaIt is because of Unconditional Love for the people, that one of the most influential Founding Fathers of Hip Hop culture, Afrika Bambaataa, was able to end gang violence in The South Bronx in the early 1970s.  It was gang violence that was leading to heightened levels of death among the youth.  In a gradual process, after entering into Divine Knowledge that he had learned from different communities at the time, including The Nation of Islam, The Nation of Gods and Earth and The Moorish Science Temple.  He utilized that knowledge to separate the darkness (or condition of gross ignorance) that lurked in his own mind and discovered the Divine Light that was buried within him the whole time of his own existence.  From there, he summoned the Divine Forces within himself and all of the Forces outside of himself.  They manifested themselves in the form of the gang members in the community, which he considered to be his family.  He called for peace, and established it under the banner of the first Hip Hop activist organization called Universal Zulu Nation.

But just in the very nature of Love being a creative force he also summoned all of the Divine Expressions or Elements in the environment that also lurked in the dark (DJing, Emceeing, Breaking, Graffiti) and gave them aim, purpose, shape and form into the Universal Cultural Expression known as Hip Hop.  Afrika Bambaataa himself says in an interview with East-3.com, which was featured on Daveyd.com:

afrika-Bambaataa-Gang“It is Afrika Bambaataa to whom named and called each entity of BBoys/BGirls/DJaying/MCs/Aerosol Writing and adding The Most important Knowledge as the main Element of Hip Hop Culture and Brother KRS One helped to add more, with a few other as Plus Elements to the main Key elements of Hip Hop Culture. No one else never used or thought of naming each entity of the Culture an Element or to say that this Movement that we all are doing is called Hip Hop Culture or to recognize it as a World Movement. The Birth of this movement is The Bronx, New York City, New York Republic, but Rap is as Ancient as The creation of Humans itself.”

As noted by Afrika Bambaataa himself, this Divine Process falls in line with the great tradition of Motion of The Ancients themselves.  It goes as far back as The Great River Valley Civilizations of Kemet, Arabia, Sumeria and China in which the richness of the environment was extracted from (cultivated), given form, given aim and given purpose.   And even long before that, it is in line with the actual Self-Creation of The Creator Himself, separating Triple Darkness from Light, and giving Himself and the Universe form using the very rich aquatic material found in the Triple Darkness itself.  This Divine process mentioned in a coded way in both Bible and Holy Qur’an:

“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters At the boundary of light and darkness.” (Job 26:10)

“Praise be to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and made darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve set up equals to their Lord.  He it is Who created you from clay, then He decreed a term. And there is a term named with Him; still you doubt.” (Holy Qur’an 6:1 – 2)

Just as it was in these Noble Divine Beginnings, so it can be with Hip Hop once again.  The culture overall has fallen in a state of spiritual darkness and has stayed there for well over a decade.  It’s most illuminating voices have been kept buried, hence “Underground.” But now, it just takes one with unconditional love within an organization, a town or a city to have the courage to unbury these luminaries, bring them together and put their gifts and talents to use for what they are Divinely intended to fulfill – UPLIFT HUMAN BEINGS, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES TO THEIR GREATEST POTENTIAL!  ARE YOU THE ONE THAT CAN FULFILL THIS?

Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 10 years and is currently involved in The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign for the development of the National Hip Hop Day of Service.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference.  He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Rasul Hakim Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.

original article: http://tonymuhammad.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/separating-the-darkness-so-that-we-may-see-the-light-guidance-for-the-hip-hop-community-in-2013-and-beyond/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4Yv1ay0CmM

Some Memorable Hip Hop Songs That Address the Issue of Gun Violence

stop the violenceWith much of our attention focused on the gun debate, Newtown, Ct and NRA (National Rifle Association) head Wayne Lapierre talking about how music, movies and video games have caused gun violence, many of us are also talking and asking hard questions.

Earlier today I was asking myself which rap artists would seize the moment and put out compelling music around the gun debate issue.. When I asked this publicly I got a lot of cynical responses, noting that rappers work for an industry that is violent prone and would discourage such efforts.. I don’t buy it. Folks in Hip Hop from day one have long spoke out against violence.

From the days of Afrika Bambaataa doing community center dances in Bronx River projects to promote peace in the early 70s to The Hip Hop Peace Summit w/ the Nation of Islam in the 1997 to Oakland rapper T-Kash running a marathon a couple of years ago to bring an end to gun violence.

In between we had KRS-One launching a Stop the Violence Movement with the Urban League which was accentuated with his landmark song Stop the Violence. In 2001 KRS went to the United Nations to unveil recently the Hip Hop Declaration of Peace.

We had songs like Self Destruction which was a famed posse cut led by KRS-One featuring everyone from MC Lyte to Kool Moe Dee to Ms Melody, D-Nice, Public Enemy, Justice and Stetsasonic speaking to gun violence.

That cut was followed up with the West Coast All-stars We’re All in the Same Gang. That song which featured everyone from NWA to Digital Underground to Tone Loc to JJ Fad was the underscore the efforts that were afoot to bring about a Gang Truce in LA.. In fact during the launch of the song, rival gang members appeared on the Arsenio Hall show to shake hands and call for peace in the hood.

Not too long ago (2005) Snoop Dogg revisited the We’re All in the Same Gang concept by bringing the West Coast Hip Hop community for a Unity Summit..

KRSOne-bfresh2

KRS-One

Three years ago, KRS-One got the Hip Hop industry including Nelly, Redman, Method Man, Styles P, Rah Diggah, Busta Rhymes to name a few, to revisit the Self Destruction project ..There were several songs done to address violence in the hood including the title track  Self Construction.

There are plenty of artists who have always and will continue to speak on issues of the day including gun violence. They may not be covered in the mainstream and many pundits may either be unaware or purposely chose to overlook their efforts, but it doesn’t mean they’ve been silent…It’s up to us to highlight them. Whether it’s the Hip Hop Chess Federation with Adisa Banjoko or artists like DLabrie of Hip Hop Congress, Queen Deehlah of the Silence the Violence Movement or Refa 1 of Aerosoul Movement all doing peace efforts in the Bay Area or artists like Wise Intelligent,  Hakim Green of Channel Live doing peace efforts in New Jersey or artists like I Self Devine, Toki Wright and Brother Ali of the Rhymesayers sparking peace in the Twin Cities to Jasiri X, Paradise Gray of X-Clan and the folks in Pittsburgh’s One Hood . There’s a lot of folks doing good things..

man-with-gunOne of the best and most timeless songs dealing with gun violence comes from Oakland rapper Frank J.. He was a member of a crew called Legion of Une  (Union City) which later became 187 Fac.. The song Brotha Put the Gun Away, was Frank J recounted all his friends who died and how he decided to put the gun away. He talks about real life incidents that took place in Oakland and around the Bay Area including losing his brother.. It’s a powerful song..the lyrics are searing.. I wish more folks would do songs like this..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGJJGFzl7jM

Another incredible and profound song comes from Organized Konfusion..Pharoah Monch and Prince Po drop lyrics that describe the path of a stray bullet..

These lyrics are haunting and all too true is far too many instances
Let the trigger finger put the pressure to the mechanism
Which gives a response, for the automatic *bang*
Clip to release projectiles in single
file forcing me to ignite then travel
through the barrel, headed for the light
At the end of a tunnel, with no specific target in sight
Slow the flow like H2O water
Visualize, the scene of a homicide, a slaughter
No remorse for the course I take when you pull it
The result’s a stray bullet
Niggaz who knew hit the ground runnin and stay down
Except for the kids who played on the playground
Cause for some little girl she’ll never see
more than six years of life, trif-le-ing
When she fell from the seesaw
But umm wait, my course isn’t over
Fled out of the other side of her head towards
a red, Range, Rover, then I ricochet
Fast past a brother’s ass, oh damn, what that nigga say
“Aww fuck it”, next target’s Margaret’s face *bang*
and I struck it

courtesy of OHHLA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNcS5Wl2qlo

We should also note as was pointed out by long time writer Spencer Abbott.. that Stray Bullet was the first of 3 songs dealing with this topic..Pharoah Monch takes it to higher levels with these other two songs When The Gun Draws and climaxed with “Damage“.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ6-FYAngvc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h4jOId8eSg

public Enemy ptAnother cut that deals with Gun Violence comes from Public Enemy… Its called Whatcha Gonna Do.. The song is incredible where Chuck D talks about how we keep shooting each other.. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

Talkin dat drive by shit
Everybody talkin dat gangsta shit

Talkin dat drive by thang
Everybody talking dat gangsta swang

Slaves to the rhythm of the master
Buck boom buck another
Neighborhood disaster
(Drummer hit me one)

A gun iz a gun iz
A muther fuckin gun
But an organized side
Keep a sellout niga on the run

What you gonna do to get paid
Step on the rest of the hood
Till the drug raid

See you runnin like roaches
Black gangstas need track coaches

The white law set you up raw
When you have his trust in killin us..

courtesy of OHHLA

The video which was rarely seen depicts a re-enactment of an attempt to shoot a fictional Black president near the grassy knoll ala JFK.. Great video, but the lyrics stand by themselves and speak to issues of self-hatred and gun violence..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhKqsIe283c

Anothers songto consider and perhaps the most potent is NasI Gave You Power

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJf2q_w7L_8

Payola: The Dirty Industry Practice-That’s Ruining Hip Hop

money_stackPayola is as old as radio. The legalities have also changed most recently allowing legal loopholes. Legal loopholes created playola the creation of corporate america to cash in legally.

For decades decision makers were individuals in each marketplace. Payola comes in the way of cash,trips, appliances, drugs, sex and anything of value for today’s marketplace.

Payola is as American as prostitution. Radio programmers and Dj’s hands are shaped like cups. Everyone expects something since it is not coming in your paycheck.

GM’s don’t ask questions while there PD’s make the annual trip to Brazil. Payola’s the lapdance that everyone wants at work or in the comfort at home.” -Paul Porter-IndustryEars-

Shady Industry Practices to Disguise Payola

Paul Porter is a 30 year industry vet and former music programmer for Radio One & BET

Paul Porter is a 30 year industry vet and former music programmer for Radio One & BET

What you read above is what longtime radio programmer and industry insider Paul Porter who used to work for Emmis and has programmed for BET and radio One has to say about the dirty illegal practice we call payola that goes on in the industry. For many, payola has completely ruined the music biz and in particular Hip Hop.

Before anyone can seriously talk about how to tone down the amount of sex, violence and misogyny heard on the public airwaves or how get more conscious music on rotation on your favorite radio station, you have to first deal with payola. This is the seedy practice employed by most major record labels and commercial radio station that determine what gets on the air and what doesn’t. It’s amazing how time after time, I’ll go to conferences and community settings where passionate individuals will tell the audience in order to change the music they hear they have to call the station and request a new song or write the program director or something along those lines. Unfortunately, such erroneous advice is indication that they don’t fully understand the business and they are ignoring the big white elephant in the living room-Payola

Back in the days payola used to be done via the envelop full of money that was slipped under the table in the dark of night to a shiesty program director or deejay. That’s what led to some love shown for particular artists. As the government began to crack down, the methodology behind the practice became slicker.

So now payola shows up in the form of concerts like Summer Jam, Winter Ball, Halloween Boo Bash etc where your favorite artists shows up and perform for free or very little money in exchange for prime time airplay, new radio station street team vans and jackets, commercials buys and ‘free trips to Hawaii or Cancun for an album release party. The other favorite ploy is the record label shopping spree where cats get hit off with lots of free gear and elaborate shopping trips via the label’s credit card. We also can’t forget the strippers and friendly girls who show up at your hotel room during industry conventions. All this is done under the guise of entertainment but with the main goal of securing airplay.

The other practice is for program directors and other shady individuals to use independent promoters who act as go betweens for the artist and radio stations. These indie promoters over the years have literally carved up the country amongst themselves. If you look at a map of the indie territories it would remind you of an old colonization map. In fact things are set in such a way that nothing goes down on the major airwaves unless these powerful indie promoters approve. Now, over the past year several radio conglomerates have publicly stated that they are severing all ties from indie promoters to avoid the appearance of any wrongdoings but that hasn’t stopped the practice of payola.

KRS-One, Funkmaster Flex and 40Gs

KRS-RockingMicWhat radio has done is find new ways to do their dirt. For example, nowadays you have situations where individuals at the stations have set up ‘fake’ consulting or record promotional companies or even record pools that can help the big record companies get commercial airplay. Some of these companies are actually owned by the program directors or key jocks at the station who will get a hefty fee and then kick it back to their bosses. This was a practice that KRS-One went on record to complain about with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex.

A few years ago KRS took a job at Warner Brothers where he became a label executive. He told Lee Bailey’s EUR Report that he had given one of Funkmaster Flex’s companies 40 thousand dollars with the understanding that he would play some of the artist on the label. This of course never happened. If memory serves me correctly think KRS noted that he only got one spin. Two or three years ago, Nas shed a bit more insight to this practice by Flex when he alluded to it during his infamous outburst on rival station Power 105 after Hot 97 denied him permission to do a performance dissing Jay-Z at their annual Summer Jam concert. Soon afterwards an open letter began circulating around the industry accusing Flex’s company Franchise Marketing and his Big Dawg Record Pool of being shields for ongoing payola practices.

Funkmaster Flex

Funkmaster Flex

While folks may be tempted to immediately zoom onto Flex and get mad at him, we can not simply make him the fall guy. We can not overlook the fact that he could not operate such any of his companies which clearly blurred the lines and created conflict of interest scenarios without the support or ‘blind eye turned’ by Hot 97’s [Emmis Broadcasting] executives such as then program directors Tracey Chlorety and Steve Smith who proceeded her and is now an executive at Clear Channel. At the time there were a couple of publications that were supposed to look into KRS’s assertions and the payola accusations including The Source Magazine, but those stories were mysteriously killed while the pay for play allegations still exist.

Around the time Flex was catching heat, another shady payola practice came to light. We’ll call it the ‘Let me do a remix for your artist’ ploy. Here a popular mixshow deejay will offer to do a remix of a particular artist or song. A large amount of money is paid for that deejay’s production services which soon lead to increased airplay. Here’s the catch- rarely do you hear the remix being played. The way people have covered their asses is to release a limited edition of these various ‘regional’ remixes or have these remixes might show up on limited edition remix records that are available only to commercial Djs.

Radio Station Programmers Owning Record Labels

Damizza

Damizza

Where this really came to light was the scenario involving the Assistant Program Director of LA’s number one music station Power 106 named Damion ‘Damizza’ Young. He took things a step further by starting his own record label Baby Ree which featured his artist/producer Shade Sheist. Shiest who relatively unknown at the time was able to get lots of love in the form of guest appearances from A-List artists who many industry insiders suspect was done in return for airplay on the giant Emmis Broadcast station.

In addition to all this, there were lots of stories floating around the industry alleging that Damizza abused his position by insisting on being allowed to rap or produce tracks for many of the artists the station played. Eventually this story was broke by LA Times writer Chuck Phillips who did a comparison with the amount of airplay Shady Shiest was receiving at Power 106 and the number of units he actually sold. Shiest who did not sell well, left a lot of folks including Phillips , asking hard questions as to why he was getting so much love. How was Shady Sheist able to get primetime airplay while other more qualified artists were left outside with little or no access. Eventually it was revealed that Emmis Broadcasting which owns Power 106 was also financially connected to the record label.

Executives at Emmis tried to flip the script by saying that the FCC said it was ok for them to do what they were doing as long as Damizza wasn’t in the room making decisions about Shady Shiest being played. Of course, people who have been in the industry for a while knew better and clearly understood this was a case of the company protecting its point person who collected monies under the guise of production in exchange for airplay. In any case Damizza is no longer at Power 106, but this does not mean there aren’t other hustles going on of a similar nature going on at other stations.

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer

With the latest crack downs earlier this week on payola lead by NY attorney general Elliott Spitzer, a lot of industry folks are likely to lay low and find other ways in which to get pay for play. Look for a lot of movement in the areas of satellite and Internet radio as major stations will began to make major investments in those entities and try and sow things up. In those arenas payola is not illegal.

The other thing to watch for is to see if the FCC which is now officially calling for an payola investigations or attorney generals like Spitzer will start going after folks on tax evasion charges. After all, while its one thing to do pay for play, it’s another thing to receive gifts above 400 dollars and not declare it in tax returns. The word sponsorship is often tossed around as a way to cover one’s butt on that tip, but not everyone has their paper work in order…Look for the industry to start lobbying lawmakers really hard to get them to turn the other way.

Why You keep Hearing the Same 10 Songs

While that goes on, we need to keep in mind a couple of things. First, the reason why you keep hearing the same 10 songs is because the airtime has been brought and paid for. If you look at a clock and note that radio rotation is based upon a 60 minute clock then you can understand what this means. Every minute on a clock is expensive real estate in which nothing can be wasted.

That means these stations are either running commercial spots or they are playing songs which ultimately will lead to a money making end.

Payola-on-the-airThis means what you hear on the air is either in support of a particular marketing campaign sparked off by a major record company, or it’s being done to return one of the aforementioned ‘sponsorship/payola’ practices which are referred to as favors. Generally speaking the commodity used to determine to value of the favor are the number of spins on the airwaves. So let’s use the following scenario to make this more understandable. Let’s say you have a record label called Label X. A rep from that label will come to a commercial station to communicate the specifics behind their upcoming artist campaign. On the label’s roster they may have 10 acts but for the spring quarter the label’s priority is the new album by their start artist Rapper X.

The station sits back and tells the label. Hey we need a new van for our street team and we have our upcoming Summer Explosion concert. Can you help us out? The label will offer to purchase a new van, get it wrapped with the station’s logo. They will put the record company’s logo on the side of the van.

Next Label X will offer up their star artist to appear exclusively in the market for the station’s Summer Explosion concert. This means no other station and promoter can do a concert with that artists no matter what. It doesn’t matter if they offer the artist a ton of money or even had a prior commitment. The label and the station will shut things down to ensure that the only way a person in that market can see or hear from the star artist is to listen to that one commercial station.

Even if the artist chooses to do otherwise he will either be in violation of his contract or find that his project and the marketing campaign behind it is no longer a priority. In some extreme cases the artist might find himself under physical threat.

So in exchange for all this, the station promises Label X 100 spins a week. This translates to roughly every hour and half that artist’s record will be played. Now on average you can only play maybe 10-12 records an hour. If they don’t have a lot of commercials on a particular station you might be bale to get away with 13. In other words a station is giving up 48- 52 minutes of music an hour.

Record player needleNow let’s go back to the promise made by the station to the label. A 100 spins a week means a crucial piece of audio real estate has been purchased. Similar scenarios with other labels repeat themselves over the week. One Label agrees to provide the station with 20 thousand dollars of X-Mas Wish money. Another label offers to fly a listener to the Grammys. Another Label offers to redecorate your house and have a private concert with a particular artist. When all is said and done, the label has agreed to 7 or 8 favors in exchange for 100 spins a week. This translates to us the listener hearing those same 10 songs over and over again with very little room for variety.

This means that we no longer have a public affairs show on the air or at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning. It means there is little room for local or independent artists. When you look at the clock and do the math, it’s literally impossible for a station to stray beyond the boundaries of their promises. To do so could cost big time money or favors. The Label and artist are also bound. This means unless that station is involved your favorite artiste is not going to show up at your community event or do a benefit concert for your school or in some cases even do an interview. If you wanna hear or see that artist, the big corporate radio giant that cut the deal with the record label is the only place to get your supply.

How Payola Devaules Artists and Hip Hop

radio_homeHopefully this gives you a general understanding of how things work. The other thing to keep in mind is that as this pay for play scenario becomes more pervasive to the point that there is no wiggle room to nurture and grow records, it ultimately devalues the artists work.

By that I mean, lets say I show up at a party with Hallie Berry who I paid a million dollars to hang out with me for the evening. Can you ever really take me seriously if I said I was a brother who had a good rap and lots of charm to win over the ladies once you know I pay for their company?

In other words is a particular artist song really good or am I just liking it because I keep hearing what is essentially a 4 minute commercial that has been brought and paid for by the label. I have artist who sometimes come up to me explaining how dope their new song is and then they will try to back it up by saying, their record is so dope that the station is playing it. Knowing that some sort of economic favor went into the airing of that song,one can no longer believe the hype. Is the record good? Or was the money to get the record on the airwaves good?

There used to be time that if a record was dope and a station in Chicago or Detroit or NY rocked it, it would mean something to folks in other markets and the record would get added on with a DJ announcing this is the bomb in Detroit or Chi-Town and he’s now bringing it to Houston or Atlanta. Them days are over. The only thing that will determine airplay is the money or expensive favors. The listeners are only privy to a one sided conversation that has been predetermined by the label and the station.

Until we deal with that aspect, very little will change. In fact it will only get worse…The biggest irony to all this was pointed out by long time music advocate and activist Lee Ballinger of Rock and Rap Confidential. He shrewdly noted that the music industry has been going after the general public by taking people to court for downloading music. The words immoral and stealing have been used to describe illegal downloaders. How ironic that those who have been entrusted with a public license to run our airwaves have been extremely dishonest when it comes to this payola situation. And many of the labels which have raised a stink about downloading are immoral and have violated the law themselves. The reason why folks are losing money is not because of illegal downloading. Its because it costs too damn much to illegally pay a station to play a crappy record.

Nuff said.. we out for now..

Davey D  2004