Sleeping Giant Music Presents: The Awakening

awakening2.jpg

Whatever happened to the compilation? It seems as if no one does a compilation unless it’s a greatest songs album or one of those “Only Sold on TV” multi-CD sets. Now we are just butchered with thousands of mix tapes with no-talent-16-track using DJs, wack writtens portrayed as freestyles, and hosted by folks who have no business putting sentences together. There are a few mix tapes that are worth their weight in gold, but most are just useful for living room coasters. Sleeping Giant Music, a label that has recently celebrated its one year anniversary, has placed a good portion of their roster on their first release.

A wonderful thing about compilations is that it allows the listener an opportunity to test several flavors. Sleeping Giant does just that by presenting Miki Vale, Move.meant, Self Sounds, Aygee Cannibal, Brown Suga Poet, oneson, Jon Phenom, and Quayludes to the world. There is no gangsta posturing here or tales of incredible one night stands with exotic women of foreign locales we cannot pronounce. Almost each artist brings their own unique form of hip-hop music.

Miki Vale, an MC who happens to be a female, brings a much needed talent to the mic. Her rhymes are hard without being male and her writing is as complex as any. Her clever rhyme flow stood out amongst her Sleeping Giant Music peers. Self Sounds continues the tradition of pouring knowledge into our consciousness in the form of edutainment. Oneson brings that sing-songy form of MCing that only few get right. Instead of trying to get in your draws, Oneson discusses the ills of society. Move.meant brings a nice flavor to the overall picture but unfortunately are featured on only one track.

Of course, every album has their flaws. On “The Awakening,” the spoken word artist Brown Suga Poet seems very out of place. I will admit, what her writing is way over my head particularly when I am just looking for dope lyrics and head nodding beats. Throwing her into the mix was just enough to interrupt the album’s flow.

Sleeping Giant Music does a fine job of finding artists that represent the cutting edge of several genres. Hopefully, with enough push and clever marketing we will all hear more from these artists. Until then, this compilation is enough to keep us searching.

www.giantsarise.com
Continue reading Sleeping Giant Music Presents: The Awakening

Speakeasy

liza2.jpg

Many performers can capture the attention of an audience – only a few can actually mesmerize a crowd. Meet Liza Lakes. A Flint, Michigan native, whose love affair with words not only charms her audience, but also brings many (including this hard-shelled journalist) to tears.

I caught up with Liza to find out about her unique blend of words, emotion and cadence, and to discuss how she is using her ownership of the spoken word to raise hip-hop’s next generation.

Describe yourself in five words.
The power of the word is immeasurable. I have to be extremely careful in everything I speak and write. Words carry energy and this can be interpreted in so many different ways. The high esteem of oneself can be dangerous, but with all that considered I will give you these words: thankful, focused, free, delicate, strong and vessel.

Interesting choice. What makes you feel free?
What I have been gifted to do is share my story and with that comes responsibility of being honorable in all my actions. So I am free in the sense that when I perform I try to never get in the way of the message. It is in some ways similar to being possessed. The higher being is using me as a vessel.

When did you first realize you had a way with words?
Everyone has a way with words. Everyone manifests his or her reality. I was blessed to awaken at an early age and realize the importance of making my speech excellent. I was always fond of letters and sounds and the power they held. I use to fill pad after pad with the cursive writing of a four-year-old. Loops and loops and loops.

You are the mother of two young boys, Ezra and Eli. Has either of them discovered the same fondness of letters and sounds that you cherish?
My oldest, who is now six, could count the number of syllables in words before he knew the names of the letters. The youngest just turned 4 and has favorite songs that he asks to hear. They are intrigued by the same combination of rhythm and words that we all find fascinating. They do their freestyle and have me make beats on the table, chairs or floor. It has been a blessing to have them involved. They attend most of my events. They love hip-hop. I try to expose them to all the elements.

Speaking of the elements, when we first met, you said you thought spoken word was hip-hop. Can you explain what you meant?
Hip-hop is self-validating, so it has a wide and broad definition. The oral tradition of the spoken word is what emceeing is, so I don’t necessarily consider there to be any boundaries. It is all related. I am hip-hop, my kids are hip-hop and we don’t need a checklist to be this.

Finish this sentence: Liza Lakes is a self-confessed…
Slave. I am only a vessel. I am a slave to the creator and the purpose he has given me with these gifts. Within this knowledge and understanding, there is immeasurable beauty. I am in no way oppressed. The more I accept this the more beautiful it becomes.

Liza Lakes is available for speaking engagements covering feminism, hip-hop and activism. You can purchase her first book, You Never Knew Until I Spoke, online at www.lizalakes.com.

Angry Black White Boy

abwb2.jpg

Author: Adam Mansbach
Publisher: Crown/Three Rivers Press

angryblack.jpg Employing the conceptual and satirical prose created by Paul Beatty in White Boy Shuffle, Adam Mansbach has penned a dynamite novel that explores race from the perspective of a hip-hop generation white male.

Macon is a white kid from Boston who has immersed himself knee-deep in “golden age” socio-political rap music. He becomes a cab driver spurned into robbing white fares in a narcissistic sense of racial revolutionary enlightenment. After purposely getting arrested for the crimes, Macon suddenly finds himself a media darling and newly appointed “black leader,” leading to a bizarre chain of events that culminate in a disastrous “Day of Apology.”

“I hope to jump start a discussion on race that has been dormant, largely due to a lack of investment on the part of white people.” A discussion that “when whites do participate”, Adam observes, they set the “parameters” for the discussion, or simply leave when it becomes “uncomfortable.” For the character Macon, it his refusal to accept responsibility for his rhetoric that serves to illustrate the existing myopia far too many white kids bring in their miscegenation into hip-hop culture.

The most important aspect of white experience in black culture (as Adam articulates) is whites’ false sense of absolution. “The white desire to be accepted in hip-hop is largely a desire for absolution, a desire to shed our institutional and economic privilege symbolically. Not abandon it. Just no longer be held accountable for it, to trade action for identification.” By wearing phat gear and empathizing with the struggles of black youth, many white kids are fooled into thinking they have been pardoned. However, when called to task about the continued institutional effects of white privilege, most whites are willing to retreat, continuing what Adam describes as an “individualistic experience” that ignores community responsibility in deconstructing issues of race and white privilege.

Angry White Boy is not a panacea for white self-criticism. Mansbach tackles a myriad of issues including the commercialization of hip-hop and pseudo Black nationalism. He utilizes fiction to highlight the “absurdity of the fact we are forced into these rigid identities that ultimately cannot sustain themselves, and when they bump into each other, they tend to shatter and expose their own brittleness and subjectivity, revealing the humanity inside.”

In this age of shifting racial, ethnic, and even cultural identities, what better time then now to examine what whiteness means, both “individualistically” and rhetorically? Angry White Boy is an excellent vehicle to open that discussion.
Continue reading Angry Black White Boy

A Question of the “Wife Beater”

I eagerly opened up my VERBALISMS email so that I could read the issue. I look forward to this. I was elated when I received the email that VERBALISMS would be available as a tangible mag! So you might imagine my dismay when I began digesting the article authored by Deborah Magdalena entitled “Creative Passion Comes to Life”. Within the first paragraph – the first few sentences perhaps – she lost me and I was too irritated and bothered to continue. Why would a woman who publishes in a progressive, positive, hip-hop based magazine, set forth to empower women and move beyond all the misogyny, say something like that? She is obviously skilled with the language and was well experienced with all sorts of verbal endeavors, as I noticed on her website when I attempted to respond to her directly. The fact that she is so well learned puzzles me all the more as to her choice of wording. When I hit up her page, I saw another casualty of the social construct that is “woman”. She is lovely and talented but strewn across her page without a shirt and in one pose, just shown from the back, arms embracing a blackboard. I am for celebrating ones sexuality, do not misconstrue, but at what cost? Is it irony that the topic of “Sex Sells” is VERBALISMS stance this issue? Je ne sais pas. Let’s move beyond the dirty history of the language we share and get to a place where we can use our public platform to empower woman and create change. Thanks for your ear.

Peace,
Sonda

Rock Steady

Hello. My name is Pla!n Jane and I just viewed your website. I am a female emcee in San Diego, CA. I don’t see too much out there on true hip-hop females. So I entered “female emcee” into Google and up came VERBALISMS…. nice. I read the reviews and saw the talent on the webpage and was happy to see Jean Grae rather then Lil Kim, who to me really isn’t very hip-hop. I just want to send you a decent thank you for the female support and I appreciate there being something out there dedicated to a female who can rock a show or two.

Pla!n Jane

Serving Up A Stiffed One

Inspired by dreams, spontaneity, impulse, energy and interaction, Santi has the essentials to write a song. “I don’t normally open my journal to create a song; writing doesn’t have to be premeditated.” Come to think about it, neither is life in the eyes of Santi White.

At sixteen, Santi interned for Philadelphia International record label. After a few record company gigs, she became disillusioned, and set off on a more creative path. Soon after, Santi executive produced and wrote much of the debut album of Geffen recording artist Res. After finishing that project in 2001, she began writing songs for herself, deciding to share her creativity with the world, and thus Stiffed formed. The Philadelphia based, punk-influenced rock band consists of White, Matt Schleck, Chris Shar and Chuck Treece.

First things first: while Santi respects No Doubt, she thinks “it a little simplistic to be compared to Gwen Stefani.” Since you don’t get to see the many Black women who don’t sing R&B, let alone female leads in a band, the comparison to Stefani seems to be
the only way to describe a vocal style unfamiliar to commercial listeners, which to White is thoughtless. “Just like back in 1997, everybody not singing like Mary Blige was said to sound like Erykah Badu. People need an easy reference point.”

Upholding the “rocker” identity is somewhat of a test itself. Santi considers herself an organic artist, which means music and art override style and persona. The pressure and expectations for performers to always be “on”, or that women should show more skin make it a bit difficult to focus on the artistry, which is what Santi maintains.

All you need to know about Santi White is that she is a true artist who wants her music and art to impact a lot of people. “I want to make a living doing something that will matter, that can change people”. Santi White may just leave a lasting mark on the quintessence of what the music industry has somewhat lost – a passion for the art.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Early Friday morning, six artists kicked off day two of the B-Girl Be Summit doing what they love. Zori4 (Puerto Rico), Lady K Fever (NYC), TooFly (NYC), Siloette (Phoenix), Phem9 (Kansas City) Asia One (Los Angeles) and Lady Pink (NYC) are the featured artists participating in the Aerosol Art Mural Production on the outer walls of Intermedia Arts. Along with these ladies, artists from Chicago, Minneapolis and many other places are “redecorating” the baby blue building playing host to the Summit.

This is how it starts…

Respect the Art @ B-Girl Be 2005

Blank Canvas @ B-Girl Be 2005

Blank Canvas @ B-Girl Be 2005

Weapons of Mass Destruction @ B-Girl Be 2005

Toofly (NYC) @ B-Girl Be 2005

Toofly (NYC) @ B-Girl Be 2005

Come back to see the progress…

Lights, Camera, Rehearsal

After a much too long drive from Chicago to Minneapolis for the first B-Girl Be Summit, I was weary and little tired. But as I pulled up in front of the Intermedia Arts Gallery and saw the newly painted baby blue building (a fresh canvas for the weekend’s many graffiti talents who will be showcasing their talents LIVE), I was filled with adrenaline.

This was going to be a rejuvenating weekend.

The VERBALISMS crew arrived a day early and was treated to a final rehearsal from The Central Touring Theatre (CTT), a performance group made up of juniors and seniors from Minneapolis High School.

Five minutes into the rehearsal I was moved to tears when I realized the students of CTT were taking good care of my culture. Watching how they embraced every word, calculated every move and captured every element, I knew I no longer had to worry about the history of hip-hop. This sixth, seventh or eighth generations of hip-hop were taking good care of my mother. This was even more evident when I heard a couple of the girls discussing the popularity of Jennifer Lopez. “What if J. Lo didn’t have a butt?” one girl asked. “She wouldn’t be famous,” another responded.

The students, all part of the Advanced Acting Class, a two-hour course that meets Monday – Friday, create performances (under the direction of their teacher Jan Mandell) that tackle various social issues including safe sex and racism.

They collaborate on all the writing, directing and producing of each piece and make sure to incorporate suggestions from every member. Throughout the rehearsal, it was not uncommon to hear someone suggest a change or enhancement to the multimedia piece they created for the B-Girl Be Summit, if something did not work or “feel right”.

“When she stops scratching, bring in that beat. That’s dope,” says Leah Nelson, B-Girl Be Dance Curator, to a surprised Eric Griffin, who was banging on a box but didn’t realize he was tapping out a beat that was a perfect fit with a clip of DJ Symphony from the film Nobody Knows My Name, that was rolling overhead.

CTT is a diverse group of ethnicities and encompasses both young men and women. Not all the students consider themselves part of hip-hop culture, however their participation in B-Girl Be and their interpretation of hip-hop, through their theatre production, reassures me that hip-hop is going to be in good hands for many years to come.

Jennifer Johns: heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop

jennjohns2.jpg

There are several people who run about and use the term “eclectic” very loosely. There are also quite a few so called artists who will tell you that they are taking things to the next level. Quite a few will make some bold comparisons like “she is the next Jill Scott,” “his sound is reminiscent of Al Green” or “this album is the truth!” Some argue that this is a form of marketing and that it’s just the nature of the business. While others actually believe that he or she is pushing the boundaries of whichever genre they represent. Yet the listener is still misled or foolishly convinced like a Jedi mind trick. Jennifer Johns, however, does have the skills to back any claim she or her peoples may make.

The title of the album is overwhelming even to a bookworm such as I but there is no other way to describe the album. Each track stands out on its own. When you think Johns is going to hit you with one thing, she sneaks an uppercut in there to throw you off. With a production squad consisting of Spontaneous, Josh Evans, and Ryan Smith, Johns hits all the genres squashed together in the title. The overall chemistry flows throughout the album. heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop arrangement is clever and can satisfy any listener.

The highlights of the album are “Truth,” “Do You Believe in Love,” “Beautiful,” and “Fallen.” What is amazing is that each track is totally different from one another. They demonstrate John’s unique talent in creating a dish of exotic flavors. The hidden track also throws the listener off but in a good way.

Surprisingly, the only flaw is her rendition of Sade’s “Cherish the Day.” One would assume that if any artist could tackle Sade’s catalog, it would be Johns, but she does the track no justice. Johns however represents lovely on each cut. We can safely say that Johns has set a new musical standard that everyone should check for.

heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop is available on Nayo Movement Music.
Continue reading Jennifer Johns: heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop