Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In West Philadelphia....


I have two major influences in my life: Supreme Mathematics & Philadelphia. While it's pretty easy for anyone to recognize that I live out my Culture, it may not be as easy to see how being from philly affects how I see the world. It's not until you get older and have the ability to think back that you see how important location & culture are to developing your self-image. For example, most Black men aren't comfortable with wearing pink hats or pink shirts (That whole Cam thing notwithstanding), b.u.t. due to growing up in philly, I don't think twice about rocking a slightly faded pink polo shirt, due to the influences of my youth. Another example is music: I listen to 70's soul the way some of you listen to R. Kelly (don't all put you hands up at one time!). Another huge influence in Philly is Islam, b.u.t. I'm going to cover that in another post. For know, check out a list I was sent regarding 50 ways you know you're from Philly. This list is for those between 28-35, & even if you're not from the crib, I'm sure that there are things that you can reflect on in your own life of how where you're from partially shaped how you see the world. Feel free to add on...

1. You knew Will Smith when he was The Fresh Prince

2. You think South Street is Philly`s version of The Village

3. You know how to spell Schuylkill River

4. It drives you insane when someone says tennis shoes instead ofsneakers

5. You would BOO your own mom if she made a bad sports play

6. You don`t call a cheesesteak a Philly cheesesteak or a hoagie a sub

7. Seeing The Liberty Bell, and Independence Mall is not a big deal, andyou haven't been since your 6th grade class trip.

8. You own a Power 99 tshirt

9. You know what Power 99 is and remember Carter & Sanborne in the morning....let us not forget Horace the Taurus Pindaurus the THIRD and Rasheeda and her earrings.
9A. You`re an old a** Philadelphian if you remember Stanley T!

10. You know how to scam SEPTA. (I know all of yall have sold your>school tokens!)

11. An Asian person has ever served you shrimp-fried rice, three chicken>wings, a pizza roll and a homemade iced tea.

12. You know what a "Jawn" is


14. You been to club "Dances" at least once.

15. Everybody on the block is "yo cuzzin" even if they`re not related to you.

16. You used to go to the Gallery or South St. in the summer time just to chill.

17. You have a Chinese store on the corner of your block and their wings>put the local KFC out of business.

18. You have carried a City Blue bag to school in place of a book bag.

19. You grew up playin double dutch, KING ball, Catch-A-Girl-Get-A-Girl, House, Red Light Green Light, or playin ball on milk crates.

20. You hate KOBE

21. You know where the "Plat" is.

22. You go all out for Powerhouse like it`s a prom.

23. Ladies: You had an asymmetrical hair cut with parts on the side.Guys: You ever colored your hair and beard Blue Black.

24. The ice cream truck still coming making its rounds at 3 AM.

25. You know what a "TRIZZEY" is! LOL

26. You punctuate every sentence with, "YaMeeeeen" at least twice.

27. You want mayonnaise (and extra) on your "hoagie" not olive oil.

28. You hate the Redskins

29. You hate T.O..
29a. Now you REALLY HATE Dallas.!!

30. You realize that your favorite dessert is "wooder ice".

31. You ever had a hoagie, Chumpies and a red hug for lunch.

32. You pronounce ACME "ACK-A-ME" and Pathmark "Paffmark".

33. Grape Soda is not unusual!

34. You sleep soundly through gunfire and ambulance sirens and are>awaken by crickets.

35. You visit New York and are impressed by how clean it is.

36. You can`t eat french fries without Cheese Whiz.>>37. You call sprinkles on top of your ice cream cone "jimmies".

38. You don`t think Wawa sounds funny.

39. You snub a cheese steak that isn`t on an Amoroso roll.

40. You know who Jim O`Brien is and how he died.

41. You can`t imagine lunch without a Tastykake. (And you rub the tastykake on a flat surface before opening it so the icing doesn't stick to the plastic!)

42. You've purchased jewelry from Fiff Street or Market Street.

43. You vacation at Wildwood

44. You know where to find the Rocky statue.

45. You know that only tourists go to Geno`s, Pat`s and Jim`s for
authentic cheese steaks and you only go if you're drunk and its 3:00am.
45a. You know where the "Let Out" is.
45b. Club McDonald's.....

46. You know what and where "Boathouse Row" is

47. You aren`t a bandwagon Sixers fan. You loved them when they sucked,and before they had A.I.

48. You know that MOVE isn`t some new dance to do when you hear "DA ROOOF DA ROOOOF DA ROOOF IS ON FIYAHHHHHH".

49. You ever drove/walked by Channel 6 when they were doing the weather and beeped/ danced to get on TV.

And finally....50. You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends fromPhiladelphia

Monday, December 18, 2006

Food For Thought


If you read this blog, I'm sure that you're at least somewhat "Conscious" about what you eat. By "conscious", I don't mean vegetarian or vegan or fruitarian; I mean aware of what you eat & what effect it has on your body. For me, it's been a long journey towards my health & nutritional world at the date of this writing. At this point, I consider myself a "healthy" eater, which translates to me observing the dietary laws of the NGE, & maintaining a majority vegetarian diet ( although I enjoy Salmons company very much).

Below is a article from Bloomberg that I found on regarding a study done that people with higher IQ's tend to become vegetarian later in life. Firstly, I have serious doubts about the method used to identify intelligence in our society, and secondly, you have to draw up what conclusions can be drawn from the inferences stated. Check it out, & tell me what you think!

Smartest kids go vegetarian

By Eva von Schaper

Bloomberg News

Children with a higher intelligence quotient at age 10 are more likely to become vegetarians later in life, according to a study published online today by the British Medical Journal.
People with an IQ of 110 were 21/2 times more likely to avoid eating meat, the lead author of the study, Catherine Gale of the University of Southampton, said in a telephone interview. Researchers studied more than 8,000 men and women, and found vegetarians were more likely to be women, belong to a higher social class, and have higher educational degrees.

"If you are bright, you are more likely to understand health information, and more likely to act on it," Gale, a senior research fellow, said.

The results backed up findings that intelligence is associated with lower rates of heart disease.
While their intelligence may allow the vegetarian participants to be more health literate, some vegetarians act on purely ethical reasons when they give up meat, the study said.

The researchers studied participants at age 10, and followed up 20 years later. About 4.5 percent of them said they were vegetarian. Some who classified themselves as vegetarians found it acceptable to eat fish or chicken.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pouring Up

Think about this for a minute: Hip Hop is the American Dream. What I mean by this is although it may have started in the ghetto & represented the underprivileged, it's goal was to make it out & blow up, thus transcending it's environment. Not that this is necessarily wrong, as nobody poor wants to stay poor. It just means that the time will eventually when HH "sells" out, & people shouldn't be as surprised as they are when it happens.

Take HH's relationship to business. In this day & time HH sells everything from gold grills to blunt wraps usually with very little concern as to the social impact or quality of the product. Quick quiz: besides Vitamin Water (Curtis Jackson) (1), name one product that you really want your children or future generations to have? Most of the products that we hawk are specifically designed for us and in many ways continue to reinforce the same behaviors that prove to be counter-productive to our community. Besides Jay-Z (HP commercials) & Diddy (Sean John) most of our products are "ghettoized", if you will.

Which leads me to Champagne. Long the drink of choice the money getters in HH, Champ became the ultimate symbol of style & status, even leading to the absurd (See Damon Dash pouring champ all over women while in a drunken stupor). And while rappers incessantly told us about the cost of the grapes, no one ever told us how good it tasted, or how exclusive that year was. A couple of weeks ago, I read a article in Fast Company ( Branson, the Hip-Hop taste maker who was in the process of securing his own champagne for sale in his wine bar, as well as other locations throughout New York. The article peaked my interest for two reasons:

1) The fact that he's developing a product that falls outside the pale of what we expect from HH- related figures

2) The lack of visible support from artists who benefited from Branson's stature (Jay, Diddy)

I'm posting the article below so that you can see it, and dig what happens when people develop a short memory. I salute the brother Branson for going outside of the norm with his business idea,(2) and not falling victim to the same ol' same ol' with marketing & promoting the product.

Bottled Up

Just When Cristal got kicked out of the party, Hip-hop fixture Branson B. was rolling out his own champagne. So where are his famous friends now? Hey, it's just business.

Hip-hop giveth and hip-hop taketh away. Earlier this year, Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer Champagne, was asked by The Economist whether the hip-hop world's love of its flagship, Cristal, "could hurt the brand." "What can we do?" Rouzaud responded. "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom PÃrignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Chalk up another one for French diplomacy. An indignant Jay-Z, the multiplatinum rapper and Def Jam Records president and CEO, promptly slammed the statement as racist and called for a boycott, triggering a rush of nasty PR for the gold-tone bottle he helped put on the map. No more endorsements in hit songs, no more gauzy close-ups in videos or on red carpets. The embrace that made Cristal the eighth most-mentioned brand in Billboard's Top 20 chart in 2005, according to American Brandstand, was summarily withdrawn.

Cristal will survive, of course. Demand still runs high, even if some of the slack has to be picked up in the less-than-glamorous Chinese and Russian markets. But within hip-hop--and the coveted young demo that follows its cues--what will take its place?

This is the question for Branson B., a Harlem talent manager and entrepreneur with local roots that run about as deep as they get. Branson doesn't rap, but he was once described as "hip-hop's version of the Dalai Lama." Now, with Cristal's implosion, he's looking to become hip-hop's version of Frederic Rouzaud: A self-taught oenophile, Branson has spent years developing his own high-quality champagne and has just begun rolling it out in select venues nationwide.
Branson's venture has all the makings of the perfect entrepreneurial storm. He has name recognition in a champagne-fueled subculture and a new bubbly to bring to market at precisely the moment when the dominant bottle has gone flat. But his story is an object lesson in how hard it can be to build a brand even when you seem to be the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. By his own calculations, Branson has been paid tribute in more than 50 songs over the years. Now he's hoping some of those old friends in the hip-hop community will show up to back one of their own. Hoping and still waiting.

Almost Famous

Long, neat dreadlocks fall across Branson's broad shoulders as he sits beside a line of empty champagne bottles in his Harlem wine bar, which is still under construction. Scattered among the empties are various promotional materials for rap artists and events. One glossy card plugs a DVD documentary on the notorious street thug 50 Cent, whose violent exploits inspired the chart-topping rapper who took his name. Branson narrates the project.
Branson's name, like Cristal's, is a hip-hop staple: It has popped up in hit lyrics from stars such as the Notorious B.I.G., Sean "Puffy/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy" Combs, Mase, Redman, and LL Cool J. It's "like he's a celebrity," says Jimmy Rosemond, CEO of Czar Entertainment and manager of rapper the Game, adding that for out-of-town artists, an audience with Branson is a "status symbol." Fab 5 Freddy, coexecutive producer of VH1's Hip Hop Honors, agrees: "When you go to the top of the food chain, he's a well-known guy."

In fact, Fab 5 Freddy and other industry insiders credit Branson with having triggered rap's champagne craze in the first place in the early to mid-nineties, when he'd show up at recording sessions or other events with a few bottles of his latest favorite. But Branson is not your typical upturned-pinkie connoisseur. The lyrics about him tend to be of the "smoke a little Branson inside the mansion" variety (he's quick to point out that "I don't control the lyrical content, I don't control the artist"). And his reputation in the neighborhood goes back decades, to its most storied hip-hop incubator, the Rooftop Roller Rink. He has since managed artists including major R&B star Christopher Williams and the influential producer and Jodeci member DeVante Swing. He had his own record label for a while and later worked on another with Andy Hilfiger (brother of Tommy). For more than 20 years, his candy store, the Sugar Bowl, was an uptown landmark.
Branson's love of champagne led him downtown, however, to Manhattan's finer wine shops; with their guidance, his fascination evolved into an obsession. "He was always exploring different champagnes," says J.R. Battipaglia, manager of Garnet Wines & Liquors in Manhattan, who has known Branson as a customer for more than 15 years. "He wasn't a label buyer."

Branson says it took a good decade before it occurred to him to go into the business. He gravitated toward the rare but unsung "grower-producer" champagnes--those grown and bottled on one estate--and when he first expressed interest in importing some by the acclaimed Guy Charlemagne, Battipaglia was surprised but jumped to help. He put Branson in touch with Jeanne-Marie de Champs, who represents some of the top estates in Burgundy, as well as Guy Charlemagne. "He has a personality that we are maybe not used to in France," de Champs chuckles, "but it's great." She agreed to broker an introduction overseas.

So, more than two years before the Cristal controversy even broke, Branson journeyed to the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, in the Champagne region, for the nearly three-month-long process of selecting grapes for three wines. He sweated through the rules and regulations imposed on new businesses by the French government and the region's hyperzealous governing body. (The laws, de Champs notes, "are very strict. You cannot do what you want, how you want, or what kind of label you want.") He fought off a challenge to his trademark from another company that claimed Branson's name was too similar. He created his own sleek, understated logo for the label and secured a New York State broker's license to buy and sell alcohol.
After three and a half years and an investment he puts in the mid six figures, Branson had three bottles of his own: a blanc de blanc/brut reserve, a brut rose, and a special 2000 vintage, now available as "Guy Charlemagne selected by Branson B." Retail cost: $40, $43, and $65, respectively, or roughly a quarter the retail cost of a bottle of Cristal, which can run $800 or far more in some nightclubs.

Brand Flash

"There are two realities in champagne," explains Roberto Rogness, general manager of Santa Monica's Wine Expo and a commentator on the industry for NPR and MSNBC. "It's almost exactly like the music industry. Over here is pop music and over there is the music you want to listen to." Powerhouses like LVHennesseyt Hennessy Louis Vuitton), the world's largest producer of luxury goods, dominate the game with millions in marketing muscle, while the best small vineyards in Champagne remain all but invisible despite arguably superior--and definitely cheaper--products. "You have always been able to buy our bottles of better champagne than Cristal for the same money," Rogness says flatly.
"I'm not going to lie. I'd love nothing more than for Jay-Z to stand up and say, 'Hey, I'm drinking Branson B. now.' That would be wonderful, and help sell the product."
In other words, the champagne hierarchy is no meritocracy, and the rest of the $23 billion U.S. wine market is no different. Fab 5 Freddy and others point out that rappers are expanding into wine and liquor just as they moved into apparel following Russell Simmons's striking success with Phat Farm. Meanwhile, the rise of bottle service in large clubs has made them far more influential as distribution and promotion channels--making brand flash a critical component of sales.

Both trends--rappers' entry into the wine-and-spirits business and the use of clubs to promote brands--are being built into the entire product-development strategy. For example, David McCallen, CEO of Straight Up Brands Inc., a publicly traded company, is launching a sparkling wine called Wave with rapper Foxy Brown, as well as other beverages with Ja Rule and DJ Clue. According to McCallen, because Foxy is signed to Def Jam, Jay-Z has agreed to host Wave's launch this winter, "appear around the product with her," carry it in his 40/40 Clubs, and include a promotional insert in her new CD.

The quality of the wine isn't the main point--it's all about placement and cross-promotion. McCallen stresses that deals like Foxy's aren't endorsement deals. The artist "owns a piece of the brand" and shares in revenue as a creative partner (he puts the profits on wine products at around 35% to 40%, and up to 100% on spirits). "We give them signing bonuses, just like a record deal," he explains. "I want the artist to literally work [the name] into their songs, rap about it, have it in their videos. It's all product placement." After Busta Rhymes released his hit "Pass the Courvoisier" in 2001, that tipple saw a 30% sales increase.
"This is a fit for [rap artists] from a product point of view," McCallen adds. "I mean, they're shameless promoters . So it's not a disconnect for them to rap about a liquor deal, a liquor product that they own. It's spot on."

The Shepherd

And then there's Branson, with his studiously chosen grapes, his understated bottle, his legit French label and trademark. For Branson, the quality of the wine is the point. But as wine merchant Battipaglia knows all too well from the retail side, grower-producer champagnes like Branson's, outstanding as they may be, have struggled here. "Americans, I would say, are very label conscious," he says, adding that Branson is "really working hard to get exposure. I think he initially thought it would have been a little easier."

Up at his as-yet-nameless bar in Harlem, Branson gives voice to a classic business quandary: "I don't want to pigeonhole myself to the rap community and be like, 'Hey, this is a rap champagne,'" he says. "I'd like the support of the hip-hop audience, but I'd like the hip-hop audience to be educated and aware and conscious of what they're drinking." In other words, he's serious about this stuff. And that has always been his way. "When Puff and other people in hip-hop were young and just about to do it, they were very inspired by Branson and his tastes," says Fab 5 Freddy. "Branson is a very intelligent, very aware tastemaker. He's one of those shepherds."
Wouldn't you think, then, that a guy with so much legend behind him would have the hip-hop community rallying, eager to put forward one of its own?

Branson mentions having sent some samples with a personal note in early 2006 to Jay-Z's 40/40 Club in Manhattan. He and Jay-Z aren't close, but they know each other socially through a mutual friendship with the late Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. Branson worked for Biggie as a consultant during portions of his multiplatinum career, which was cut short in 1997 in a still-unsolved homicide.

Though he's built like a linebacker, Branson comes across tonight like a self-possessed yet world-weary professor. "I mean, I'm not going to lie. I'd love nothing more than for Jay-Z to stand up and take a position and say, 'Hey, I'm drinking Branson B. now.' That would be wonderful, and that would help sell the product." After Jay-Z cited Krug--hardly a brand known for its uptown cred--as an alternative to Cristal, it saw "a nice sales increase," acknowledges Emily Cohen, Krug's New York--based senior brand manager (she says she can't link the two events, but Wine Expo's Rogness says he also noticed a spike--and does attribute it to Jay-Z's plug). Jay-Z didn't respond to repeated requests for comment about whether he would support Branson's new venture.

Combs, too, is nowhere in sight. Czar Entertainment's Rosemond says Branson's role in advising and building up Biggie was "definitely one of the components" of Combs's own ascent. ("So Branson, pass me a jar cuz these cats done went too far," he raps on one track.) For months, however, Branson has been hearing that Combs was considering launching his own champagne. "You know, it's funny," Branson says, without laughing or smiling, "here I am trying to do something, and now he's trying to do it." He adds, "Puffy and I had a good relationship for a lot of years, and I used to share champagne with him, but I wouldn'tÂ… ." His voice trails off. "I know that I had some kind of impact in his life, but I don't know if he would admit it.

"You know what I've learned?" he adds. "Everybody remembers different things."
Combs also refused to say whether he intended to support Branson's champagne--or compete with it. Fab 5 Freddy is sure he and Jay-Z will do their part (Combs owns a number of popular restaurants as well). "Oh, absolutely. It's just a matter of time, if it hasn't happened already." He relays that Combs tried some of Branson's label earlier this year and enjoyed it.

Then, in October, the rapper Nas was quoted talking about the possibility of "Diddy/Nas champagne." A week or so later, a Jay-Z video appeared shilling for Armand de Brignac, a champagne with a gold-plated bottle and an ace-of-spades-shaped label. The company's CEO insisted there was no financial arrangement with Jay-Z but complimented him on having "the highest standards and finest taste."
Maybe it's not about community, after all.

Bubble Up

Dining in a slick Murray Hill lounge one mild fall evening, Branson seems more upbeat than he did at his wine-bar-in-progress. Honey lounge in New York has signed on to carry Branson B., and the exclusive Cain clubs are thinking about it. Megu has added it to the wine lists at its tony Japanese restaurants in Trump Towers and Tribeca (Tribeca's list is a Wine Spectator award winner). Platinum-selling rapper the Game recently wrote Branson B. Champagne into the performance rider for his upcoming world tour. Momentum is coming Branson's way.

"I'm happy being creative," Branson remarks. "I'm happy doing things, making things happen, having ideas, and seeing them manifest." Asked about the days of dropping by while Biggie was in the studio, he recalls being present the night "Rap Phenomenon" was put down on wax. "We're sitting in there, we're listening to the track, and then he just spits my name as part of the lyrical flow. You know, everybody turns and looks at you, but at the same time, it's not about you. It's about how it fits, it works, and it all feels good.
"I didn't know he was going to do that," Branson adds, sounding humbled.
Only recently did Branson decide to track down all the songs that have included his name and document them. The sheer volume took him by surprise. "I don't think there's another person who isn't an entertainer or star who has been mentioned more than myself in the lyrical content of this music," he muses.

"That, I guess, is building a brand."

1 - Who woulda thunk it?

2 - Everybody in HH starts a Vodka or Congac, and when the trend ends, they're left holding the bag

Friday, December 08, 2006

Outta Control


There's been alot going on, so on this day of Build/Destroy, it's my will to touch on a number of things that caught my eye over the last couple of days. Walk w/me:

- Iraq sure turned out to be Bush's Vietnam, didn't it? To make matters worse, he won't move with 2 of the main recommendations made by his pop's homeboys (aka The Iraq Study Group), lest he appear to be capitulating to the demands of those who slouch away from fighting for the freedom of people the world over (good mimicry, right?)

- My beloved city of Power Allah (Philadelphia) is outta control. The city is on record to have more murders than days in the year, & of course most of the casualties are young Black men. Earlier this week, there was a shooting outside the fist movie theater opened in North Philadelphia in 60 years, & a 17 year old was arrested for attempted murder. This may come off as conservative or whatever, b.u.t. we have very serious environmental & cultural issues when a 17 year old takes it into his own hands to take someone off of the planet. No amount of marches or symposiums will handle this issue, & while music itself is only one aspect of the landscape, a steady diet of "Murder Murder Kill Kill Homicide"

- On this subject, two weeks ago, there was an article done in the New York Times Sunday Magazine regarding the No Child Left Behind (Also known as the Poor Ghetto Children Still Left Behind) act, expectations, and socialization. The article highlighted studies done that point to a child's early socialization being the biggest factor in preparation for school. Specifically, the studies focused the amount of "utterances" that children hear that assist them in wiring their brains for language & idea comprehension, and the amount of affirmative vs. Negative or disparaging statements that children hear. While all of the issues in education can't be thrown out due to this study, I can't help but think about all of the young girls that I see out in the street who spew out negative comments to their children on a daily basis. Inadvertently, they could be wiring their children for failure. With that said, think about all of the negative that our babies hear on a daily basis, that can possibly impact their psychology and view on the world.

- HH is increasingly becoming outta control (in a real way). From violence at events (BARS Awards & Mixtape Awards), to the petty (b.u.t. funny) disputes that are popping up everywhere (see: young buck & gillie vs. lil wayne), the streets are beginning to affect the industry in a negative fashion. The new rift that is developing is based upon ageism, and developed out of the NY vs. the South "pork" (cause it's worse than beef).

Case in point 1: Weezy's diatribe regarding Jigga. In a sense, the fans and the magazines are to blame (along with the drugs) because they allowed him to continue with this "greatest rapper alive" garbage for a couple of years now. It was only a few years ago that he wanted to be on DJ with Jay-Z, so why the turnaround? The inference that Jay had to come back to "save" HH, when in the eyes of Wayne it's doing just fine as it is.

Case in point 2: Jeezy's diatribe against Nas. This one's a little deeper, & points to the framework for how people understand HH. To Jeezy, he IS HH, so how could it be dead? Hip Hop for him (and others of his ilk) getting paid & telling his story (In that order). to him, it has nothing to do w/ the 4 Elements or consciousness or anything else (outside of being a "real nigga"). In a way, I can't blame him, if only for this reason: Let's say that the most influential time for you to hear HH is between 11-15 years old. If your 32, the most influential artists would have been Run-Dmc, LL, Rakim, BDP, and so on. If you're 25, then the most influential artists would be Dre, Snoop, Biggie, Jay, & Pac, as they were the biggest artists during that time frame.

Now, the artists that I named as influencers for the younger crowd all looked up to the artists I mentioned earlier(Even 5-0 says that his favorite rapper is Rakim), b.u.t. took the music (as well as resulting culture) in another direction that made no mention of the foundation . For example, how many young people know that Jay's "Aint no Nigga" took the beat from an EPMD song? Or that BIG's interlude on Life After Death was a direct knock-off of P.S.K.? Or for a more modern example, how many kids (or adults) knew that Jay's "Girls, Girls, Girls" was a old-school chorus? By the time the kids got the music, there were no traces of the culture, only the music and money.

Case in point 3: Lupe Fiasco. In one of his responses to a negative review of his album, he mentioned that he didn't own one tribe album. If you so-called savior of beats & rhymes doesn't know the basics, then what do you expect out of the others?

All of yall get a grip. It ain't what it was, and never will be, as all things must change. If they want HH to be alive, put out good HH.

- Damon Dash is seeming to be outta control. On Kays Slay's satellite show earlier this week, Larry Davis called in from the injustice and stated the following, among other things:
1) Dash is a liar
2) Dash stole the SP logo from Beans
3) Dash is trying to get paid off of LD's life story without his permission
4) Jay left him because he doesn't do good business
5) Dash drained Rocawear

now, while only they know the true story, I'll say this: It's kinda odd that Dame doesn't get down with anyone anymore. No Beans, no Nore, no Jay, no nobody. I kinda looked at it like he got the bum deal, b.u.t. it appears that he may have been giving out the bum deals. He doesn't even seem to be involved in any Diplomat business, which is strange unless they know something that the general public doesn't.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Won/Lost Ones

(Jay-Z Won/Jay-Z Lost)


If it isn't already apparent, I'm very interested in the intersection of Hip-Hop, Economics, & Society. For that reason, Rocafella Records always stood out as an example of the bridge between good business and quality art. No matter where you stood on the subject matter, it was obvious that there was care & effort put into Jay-Z's music. As far as business practices, RR always seemed to see beyond the pitfall and traps of HH economics (e.g. Demanding true ownership vs. Being the owner of a "vanity" label).

However, by the time the play ended, Jay, Biggs, & Dame broke up, the music started to suffer, and RR served as yet another example of HH relationships gone bad.

What Happened?

Well in a nutshell, Jay-Z won & Jay-Z lost. Below, I will explain how he could do both at the same time.

How Jay-Z Won
When RR first broke up, I looked at the conflict as 2 different business styles, with Jay leaning towards corporate partnerships & Dame charting a course of serial entrepreneurship. At that time, I saw the differences as surface. Now, we know the cause was precipitated by Jay feeling that Dame's business whims (signing everyone w/ pulse, a foray into movies, buying pro-keds) were destroying the brand. Additionally with Steve (Puffy don't break my neck) Stoute at his side, Jay began moving into uncharted waters as far as HH, Marketing, & Brand Identity, Jay didn't have as much need for the aggressive, loud-talking Dash. One other thing that put the nail in the coffin was that many of Jay's business partners (Stoute, Lyor Cohen) weren't too fond of the way that Dash got busy.

When Jay-Z & friends threw Dash out of the matrix, I thought it was a pretty cold move to do to a person that you got paid with for the last 7 years. In reality, Dash was left without a home & without a identity due to being pushed out of RR. Most of the artists on Rocafella went with Jay, leaving Dash with Rell, Sizzla, & Beans (Who has since left dash). After being thrown under the bus, Dash tried to start his own thing, to no avail. Fast forward to 2006: Jay sells 700,000 units first week out, & Dash is more known for doing reality shows & stalking Jay. Also, for all those who are into this sort of thing, Jay's promo push is the last of the mohicans as far as the big corporate variety (More on Steve-o Stoute in another post). Right now, Jay is on top of the world, & Dash is most known for being bitter & his wife's budding fashion career. In this way, Jay won.

Jay Z Lost

Although Jay's on top of the world in one sense, in another way, he's tarnishing his legacy & image. Although Kingdom Come sold well, it will go down as one of his least well received albums from a critical perspective. When listening, you can't help but see the Jordan in him (post-Bulls,that is).

Kingdom Come finds Hov in a zone where he wants to show the world he's got it, b.u.t. make it look effortless at the same time. Instead of leaving when he (& his squad) were on top, he comes back to show that he's the best that ever did it (A title he's been chasing since HH memorialized Big as the best thing since the Hula Hoop). In this sense, I like to compare Jay/Mike with Bird. Bird knew when it was time to roll and did it gracefully, moving to the front office so that his career in basketball could take it's natural course. We don't have any Larry Legend's in HH because unfortunately, it's a bit too ego driven for that. Rapper are always forced out after their prime by a new generation (HH eats it's young & it's elders).

I do applaud him for trying to create a new zone in HH, if you will: The "Old Head" HH album. You know, the HH album for older grown & sexy, upwardly mobile types. If you're going to do that, you have to be consistent: You can't talk it, and then do bad odes to strippers ( True Old Heads are much more discreet & subtle). The other thing about KC is the preoccupation with "Young Niggas". Instead of leading without having to lead, he tries to bully the youth into taking his lead,however beneficial that road may be.

Which leads me to his issue with Jim "The Workman" Jones. You see, although Jones is outwardly flashy & arrogant, in reality, he's a hard worker with alot of initiative and drive who's taken himself from hypeman to star in his own right. He also actualized what no other rapper was able to do: create a true "movement" based on gang affiliation (The Red Team) & pavement pounding. Say what you will about his music, b.u.t. the diplomats are one of the few NY crews that have country-wide appeal. Jones has been the most outspoken in coming at Jay for sometime because in the eyes of the constituents that Jones serves (New York & Youth), the legend of Jay-Z lost some of it's luster. Along the way Jones manages to come up with a hit song, only increasing his visibility & annoying Jay even more. So now Jay finds himself in a battle of sorts with a moderately talented rapper who keeps firing shots. What does he do?

He makes a diss song over Jones's song, which only shows that he's as vulnerable as people think he is. If you are truly above the fray, then you shouldn't be pulled in by Jim of all people. On the other side, if it was a publicity stunt, then o' how the mighty have fallen. Either way, it's a lose-lose situation that he never should
have put himself in.

Finally, there's this thing about being the president of Def Jam. Without hating or anything, the question has to be asked: How can you run the label & record an album at the same time? Doesn't that seem like a huge conflict of interest where you'll turn in two half-assed efforts instead of one good one? How can a president be focused on the strategic plan for the label when the focus is on a huge corporate rollout for your own album? You can't be the president & be on your own tour at the same time. On the real, Jay had to do this album to make the numbers look right for Def Jam this year with a strong 4th Q push, in the face of a steadily declining market share for his company. In doing so, he has sacrificed the artists on the label, many of whom came to DJ because he was going to run the ship.

The best thing Jay could do for HH at this point is to prove that we can manage it just as well as we do it in a changing marketplace. In a interview Jigga noted "70,000 is the new 150,000"m b.u.t. if we buy that, how in the hell did you sell 700,000? The same way it was done in the past: promotion, marketing, & product placement. I don't knock the hustle, I knock the application

Monday, November 27, 2006

In The Place To Be


I just returned to Power Born from the Bay for a couple of days, so that's why I was off the set. A few of my observations from the last week or so:

- First of all, Homeland Security is in need of some major retooling. What am I going to do, take over the plane with Shea Butter? Catching a plane these days is like getting on a prison bus, & does anyone feel that much safer? The TSA seems like a new way to employ people, and that's all

- People have beat this Kramer thing to death, so I won't go in too far, b.u.t. didn't his character stomp on the P.R. flag a couple of seasons ago? Were we expecting anything else? This episode is what happens when some White Men get to let their pent-up feelings out. Trust me, he's not alone; only the mouthpiece. As media gets more un-pc, we'll see more of this

- I don't know the whole story regarding the 92-year old sista who was killed last week, b.u.t. I know it's a damn shame when a elder has to go to those extremes to protect herself in her own home. Frankly speaking, she might not have known who it was, as people will use a lot of tricks to get in your house

- Funny how everyone's bearing witness that the United States doesn't know what the hell it's doing in Iraq huh? This was a miscalculation of epic proportions, and may have ended up doing much more to destabilize that area than help. Remember homeboys & homegirls: sometimes relative power is more effective than absolute power, & subtle strategy always beats brute force

- Isn't is sad when you see young girls in the street yelling & screaming at their children? I do understand that the sistas are under alot of pressure, b.u.t. they have no idea of the negative implications of their actions. More to come regarding that subject...

- Isn't it deep how neighborhoods that no one wanted to live in 20 years ago are now the "hot" areas? An extension of that is how real estate developers are able to take old factories and warehouses and turn them into lofts and condos that can cost over 1 million dollars due to the view & proximity. I'm going to make sure that I buy something that white people don't want today and get rich in 20 years

- Airports need better food choices

- If you're a vegetarian & find yourself at the Harrisburg Airport, be sure to pack a lunch (cause there's nothing for you to eat) & bring a book (cause it'll be virtually empty)

- San Francisco is a beautiful city, b.u.t. they need to resolve their homelessness situation. Two blocks from the major shopping district, I found myself stepping over people to get to the whip

- With that, it is important to deal with the mental health issues that many homeless people have. They aren't all out there cause they couldn't find a job

- Being there, I got the inclination that Black people are basically persona non grata down town. While Powell square was remarkably diverse, you saw very few black people shopping.

- Why do people still teach their children to believe in Santa Claus? So that they'll continue to buy the lies later in life. If you think that someone from the North Pole is coming down your chimney to bring your presents based off of your behavior the past 365 days, you'll buy a whole bunch of other stuff.

- The Bay Area is off the hook. I met a clown(a real clown actually) in S.F. over by Niketown & decided to take a flick with him since everybody else was. Before the camera flashed, he threw up the hippie peace sign (two fingers spread apart) & screamed YEE! (R.I.P. to Furly Ghost aka Mac Dre)

- This might rub some the wrong way, b.u.t. I'm sick of Black people halfway celebrating thanksgiving! Either you do or you don't. Simple. We can't keep saying "I don't celebrate it, but it's a time for the family to come together and be thankful". Pardon Self, b.u.t. ain't that thanksgiving? And if you don't celebrate it, why are you still eating turkey?

- We should have a day to celebrate the day the Africans were brought to america and introduced to our good European friends that were already here waiting for us so that we could work together & call it "Togetherness Day". We should celebrate the day by eating chicken & having a mock auction. Sound crazy? Yeah, it's about as crazy as people celebrating the beginning of the destruction of the indigenous man. Remember, there were 17 million plus 2 million here in the wilderness of N.A.

- Word is bond, they have a energy drink called "Hyphy Juice". And it's actually better than red bull

- Alcohol is way too cheap and way too accessible in Oakland. The only place that I've been that has more liquor stores is D-Mecca (Detroit).

- For those who know today's mathematics & knowledge 120, you get the relevance of the title of the post once you reverse the polarity & deal with the place that all things are born from

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's all for sale


For today, I had some other things that I wanted to build about, b.u.t. then I saw it: The B.E.T. Hip-Hop Awards. It sat there as a topic that just would not let me ignore it, hard as I tried. For the sake of not being redundant, I'll keep my statements brief. Here we go:

- Is Hip-Hop the only musical genre that must promote itself incessantly? Every rapper doesn't have to tell us when their album comes out. Not to be sarcastic, b.u.t. that's what your marketing budget is for. I do understand that HH is somewhat crowded these days, and sales are down, b.u.t. there are times when you can focus on being a artist

- Katt Williams as Money Mike in Friday was his gift & his curse: It's what made him, b.u.t. it's doubtful that he'll ever be that funny again. I must tip my crown to the Dips on welcoming him into the fold; great marketing & branding move, as it makes this talk of a "movement" (however laughable) seem reasonable. To me the funniest thing he did last night was doing the prison-style push-ups during Jones's set

- Why were we exposed to that much outright product placement? The camera would focus on a ad for 10 seconds before going to commercial

- They could have condensed the Ozone Awards & last night into one, based on how the south ran away with all the awards. There's one concept that NY was able to ignore for about 20 years of this art form: Most black people have 1-3 degrees of separation from the south. The whole Mid-West has some family member in Mississippi, and there doesn't seem to be any real difference between LA/The Bay & the south other than location. On the serious side though, when the south started to embrace the blues, they started winning & it doesn't like it'll stop anytime soon

- I'm not convinced that Lil Wayne is the "best rapper alive". Maybe it's the Philly in me

- Doesn't Snoop come off as a dude who should be wearing a captain hat & a playboy chain?

- Jeezy wore a portrait of Big Meech (BMF) during his performance last night. When the smoke clears, it'll be a story worth writing about regarding the rise & fall of that organization

- B.G. is like the M.O.P. of the south. Eveyone recognizes that he's good, b.u.t. he doesn't sell any records

- For all of his buffoonery, Busta Ryhmes still represents some morals within the HH game. To me, his tirade was well overdue


- Where is Osama & Mullah Omar, & why aren't they part of any discussion?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

To The Victor, All The Spoils

Theme Music at the date of this writing:


As current events unfold, there are times that I choose to speak on it, & times when I don't. I don't speak on it when I think that a subject has been covered well by someone else and there's nothing else to say. In the case of election day this past Tuesday & Wednesday's resignation by the one and only Donald Rumsfeld, I'm compelled to speak on it because there are a couple of things that have been lost in the hoopla (some positive and some negative). Take a walk with me, if you will:

- Some may be congratulating the demos' at this point, b.u.t. how could anyone mess this one up? A imbecile for a president, gas rates at a all-time high, a war that has no discernible end, and you couldn't win some seats back? The election was the easy part

- Just because the demos' won, it doesn't mean that you should could confuse them for fun-loving peaceniks. Even though the netroots and other liberals supported many of the candidates and some of them gave lip service to the "pc" demo positions, most of them will legislate from the center. Bob Casey, the victor over Rick Santorum here in Pennsylvania, is definitely the lesser of two evils; a anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-war representative from a socially conservative section of the state. I don't look to him to assist in solving the issues of the poor & oppressed

- My people, stop believing that politics will bring you complete community change! At best, it is another mechanism that will enable us to change our conditions. When you confuse it with the solution, you end up chasing a tail that you can never catch (see redlining, voter recount, etc.)

- Now that the demos' have won, they have to prove that they have an agenda that they can effectively push through. You can win on being anti-, b.u.t. what are you pro-?

- Get ready for Hillary World! In my estimation, her candidacy will be one of the most interesting events of the last 50 years. In order for her to win, she has to shed Bill and be pro-war for the conservatives, and at the same time, wear the cloak of the Clinton years for nostalgic demos. Any other demos' will be left in the dust

- Nancy Pelosi has 2 years to sabotage the demos' chance at winning. In a sexist world, we'll see how America responds to a woman in power who's not afraid to use it.

- Who really thinks that Rumsfeld would've been given the can if the GOP had retained it's seats? Bush saying that is trash

- You know who's the most unpopular man in the GOP is right now? Karl Rove

- George is ready to be pragmatic because he doesn't have any other choice. If he doesn't get this right, his presidency will go down in infamy (If it hasn't already). This may be a chance to prove that he has diplomatic & strategic bones in his body

- Rumsfeld personified angry, cocky, rich White men in power. Only the natural order of balance brought their insanity to light

- Barack Obama doesn't have as good of a chance to be president as Jesse did in 1988. It will remain to be seen if he can mobilize Black people. Right now, he seems a little too moderate

- You know people are sick of the Bush dynasty when they elect a Black Muslim (See Keith Ellison in Missouri)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where Are The Rules?


In my estimation, one of the biggest issues that we have in our community is the lack of rules. Due to the lack of rules, people do whatever the hell they want to. You want to leave your children without a father? Go right ahead! Feel like pissing on your neighbor's steps? Be my guest? Have "relations" with anything with an Adam's Apple? Why not! It's a free world!

On the serious side though, the internal & external perception of our community is that we are a bunch of uncontrollable animals who live by the laws of the jungle; no rules or codes of conduct. Although media would have you see it differently, does anyone really think that we are the only ones who have crime and antisocial behavior in our communties? Of course not, b.u.t. other communities just do a better job of hiding their dirty laundry based on the spoken & unspoken rules of that community. For example, when was the last time that you saw two Jewish leaders (in america) openly feuding & calling each other names? When have you seen a famous Mexican/Chicano leader call his own people lazy on a cross-country tour? You haven't, and that's my point! (Full Disclosure: I grew up around men & women who were very big on honor, loyalty, & proper protocol)

Anyway today I happened upon the following code while travelling through the cyberworld in the country of myspace. I think that the code is somewhat appropriate (if you happen to be involved in anti-social behavior, which I don't advocate; only that often they are the ones who need rules the most) , and speakes to many of the issues in our community today. (And yes, I am anti-snitch if you are involved in that lifestyle) Check 'em out & tell me what you think!


1. All new Jacks to the game must know: a) He's going to get rich. b) He's going to jail. c) He's going to die.

2. Crew Leaders: You are responsible for legal/financial payment commitments to crew members; your word must be your bond.

3. One crew's rat is every crew's rat. Rats are now like a disease; sooner or later we all get it; and they should too.

4. Crew leader and posse should select a diplomat, and should work ways to settle disputes. In unity, there is strength!

5. Car jacking in our Hood is against the Code.

6. Slinging to children is against the Code.

7. Having children slinging is against the Code.

8. No slinging in schools.

9. Since the rat Nicky Barnes opened his mouth; ratting has become accepted by some. We're not having it.

10. Snitches is outta here.

11. The Boys in Blue don't run nothing; we do. Control the Hood, and make it safe for squares.

12. No slinging to pregnant Sisters. That's baby killing; that's genocide!

13. Know your target, who's the real enemy.

14. Civilians are not a target and should be spared.

15. Harm to children will not be forgiven.

16. Attacking someone's home where their family is known to reside, must be altered or checked.

17. Senseless brutality and rape must stop.

18. Our old folks must not be abused.

19. Respect our Sisters. Respect our Brothers.

20. Sisters in the Life must be respected if they respect themselves.

21. Military disputes concerning business areas within the community must be handled professionally and not on the block.

22. No shooting at parties.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Audio Visual


First, I want to say peace & thank you to my readers, consistent or sporadic, long-time or just tuned in. Thanks to your support, I am moving into other endeavors and continuing to push the envelope regarding ideas that are relevant & relative to the issues that communities face all across this country. While my focus is original people as well as the poor & oppressed, the ideas that are discussed are meant to be beneficial for all that read this blog.

- Since we're on the subject of adding on (+), My illustrious brother Divine Culture & I are manifesting a new addition to the blogosphere: Urban Anthropology (UA)! UA will focus on original people and the intersection of ideas & concepts that give birth to what is now conviently termed as "Urban Culture" (Read: Nigga S_ _ _). While the subjects will be exhaustively researched and analyzed, expect the writing to be engaging, and relative to a wide variety of people. The address is Come on over and learn, explore, & grow with us!

- Next, I gotta send strong universal greetings to my brothers at regarding their first "Business & Building" weekend held this past weekend in D.C. What I saw of both events was inspirational, forward-thinking & progressive. While so many profess rhetoric, there are few who walk the walk with real solutions for our people, and those brothers are in that category. They have my support & backing as they strive to elevate the condition of original people.

About a week ago, i was perusing BE and noticed a link to an article about Street Lit in TIME magazine. Now, I'm aware that there are a number of perspectives about street lit, some good and some bad. To me, there are some larger implications on the development of the genre that make it an important discussion. Below, please find the article with my comments in bold:

When St. Martin's press begins promoting the latest work from novelist K'wan next month, the campaign won't look like the marketing for, say, the corporate thrillers of Joseph Finder. Funkmaster Flex, the hip-hop evangelist, is closer to the flavor(My man is about five years late. Flex today is about of much of a tastemaker as I am. Flex was able to leverage the power and following that he has from Hot 97 to represent the "Hip-Hop" market. In my estimation, Jay-Z would have been a better example, given the sophistication of his current plan) K'wan's reading audience is loyal--he has more than 400,000 books in print. But titles like Gangsta, Road Dawgz and his latest, Hood Rat, have captured an audience well outside St. Martin's usual purview. So instead of signings at Barnes & Noble, St. Martin's is planning giveaways and readings in barber shops and beauty salons. There will be ads on urban radio and an official Hood Rat mix tape CD(I'm all about keepin it real, b.u.t. there has got to be some limits).

"When they signed me, they were like, 'Great. We got him,'" says K'wan. "But they didn't really know what to do with me until now." St. Martin's isn't alone in that dilemma. For years, book publishers have catered to the $250 million African-American market with the aspirational stories of authors like Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey(Read: Middle-Class). But attracted by the gaudy numbers generated by the genre known as street lit, such publishers as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House are hitting the pavement.

Street lit profiles the black underworld in graphic detail. Like gangsta rap, street lit often has thieves, pushers and prostitutes as protagonists. And like gangsta rap in its heyday, street lit is hot business. In an industry that considers sales of 20,000 copies of a typical novel a success, gritty street-lit authors like K'wan are routinely doubling that number.

And just as rappers reshaped the recording industry, street-lit authors have applied their own considerable entrepreneurial skills to publishing. They have insinuated themselves into every step, from negotiating the book deal to promoting the finished work. In the process, they have expanded the fiction market, a trick that has eluded mainstream publishers, making customers out of people who aren't exactly pining for E.L. Doctorow's latest(This paragraph is really the crux of the article. Using a model that's less top-heavy and more mobile, street-lit authors have been able to turn the stuffy publishing industry on it's head. For better or worse, they've been able to bypass the obstacles that make the publishing industry almost impossible to enter for the average person, as there are virtually no barriers to entry for street-lit authors).

Although street lit's roots reach back to the 1970s and the novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim, the development of cheap digital printing smashed one barrier to entry. And the advent of Amazon, which diminished the need for display space in bookstores, smashed another. So street-lit authors had a route around mainstream publishing houses. Following the success of The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah in 2000--it sold 475,000 copies--a flood of gritty, self-published crime novels hit the market. What street-lit authors may have lacked in wordsmithing (Again, a testament to the insular, slightly elitist nature of the publishing industry), they made up for in cold business savvy( Was it business savvy, or was it a untapped market?).

On a recent afternoon, Relentless Aaron parks his white SUV near Rockefeller Center in New York City and begins digging through a pile of books in the van. A giant portrait of him covers the side of the SUV along with the tagline AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, PRODUCER. In the late 1990s, Relentless, as he likes to be called, was jailed for passing bad checks. He turned to writing for therapy, and when he was sprung, restructured himself into a one-man publishing house. Now, with a Bluetooth hands-free in his ear and a stack of books in hand, he prowls tourist-filled 50th Street, approaching anyone who seems to fall within his target audience. Last year Relentless signed a four-book deal with St. Martin's Press. Two of his books have been optioned for films.

When he talks, Relentless sounds more like a marketing executive than a burgeoning author. "My goal is to sell into the future," he says. "You can't just come out here and sell nothing. But more than selling now, I want to create an awareness that I have an entertaining brand." That's exactly the sort of sales-speak that makes publishers dance. While most editors claim a love for literature, they need to move the merchandise. "You're more likely to find that sort of hustler, business mentality among street-lit authors," says Monique Patterson, a senior editor at St. Martin's. "The streets are all about going out and being competitive and hustling your own stuff(We should look at this development as inspiring & empowering for future generations: apply a DIY ethos to traditional fields in order to create value for you as well as your communities)."

Putting it in business terms, some street-lit authors have transferred their core competency to publishing from other sectors. Like drugs. K'wan was still selling marijuana at the point where his Gangsta started to fly off the shelves. He moved out of public housing in 2004--the same year he signed a book deal. But he didn't leave everything behind. "In the morning I load up my trunk and hit the streets," says K'wan. "It's the same as when I was on the block hustling, except it's a different product. I hit the street vendors in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn, talk to the kids and sign a few books." (He should be studied and spoke about in the same way that more mainstream black entrepreneurs are spoken of, regarding grassroots marketing and keeping a pulse of the demographic that you serve)

Street-lit author Vickie Stringer has become vertically integrated to protect her market share. Currently, she's enjoying the fruits of a six-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster. In the early 1990s, Stringer says, she was trafficking up to 30 kilos of cocaine weekly to street gangs in Ohio. She was busted and served seven years in prison. When she got out, she self-published her roman à clef Let That Be the Reason--and got nowhere. So she developed a business plan. "I finished the book in 2001, and I sent out letters to over 26 agents and publishers, and no one would touch it," says Stringer. Instead, she self-published. "I just took it to the streets, just trying to recoup my printing.
Stringer has repeatedly reinvented herself for the shifting dynamics of her genre. When a number of authors rejected by mainstream publishers approached her for advice, she founded a company--Triple Crown Publications--in her kitchen. When mainstream publishers began competing with her for authors, she started a literary agency, ensuring herself a cut from the contracts of writers who went big. K'wan was her first author and her first client as an agent. "Even when I was a hustler, I never wanted to sit on a street corner. I always wanted more control," she says. "I always wanted to have the freedom. I wanted to be the check signer, not just the receiver."

The boom in street lit has led to an equally potent, if not predictable, backlash from black writers with a more literary bent. "I've heard from agents and writers, all telling me the same thing," says author Nick Chiles (In Love and War), who blasted street lit in a New York Times editorial earlier this year. "There's all this talent out there that five years ago editors would have been clamoring over, and they aren't getting a shot. I've seen a waning of the industry's interest in contemporary black fiction." (The larger issue here is that many of those writers are not entrepreneurial enough to survive in a changing market, as they were used to the traditional system. They should leverage their time spent in the industry and be able to deliver product to their demo through whatever channels are applicable. At the end of the day, the book business is about selling books)

Even among its purveyors, street lit's ethos has taken some knocks. "There are so many people flooding the market, but they're not taking responsibility for what they're writing," says K'wan. "It's just a bunch of guns. The life we live is graphic and real, but authors need to have some type of moral lesson in their books."(His point is well received. I read street-lit (No really, I do), and some of it is the literary equivalent to a Gangsta rap album made in somebody's basement by a bunch of would-be criminals that can barely spell. Like "Gangsta" Hip Hop, some of it is really good, and much of it is really not. On another note, we must realize that poor people are going to follow whatever pathway they think will earn a dollar for them without any concern for the quality of the product. Everybody's got a story to tell, and they'll make one up if that's what people want)

Like every other kind of media, publishing is faddish. The rapper 50 Cent(The Black Sir Richard Branson) recently started an imprint. Vibe magazine, in conjunction with Kensington Publishing, followed suit. The expansion has left some of its authors ambivalent. "In the beginning it was about a need to express ourselves on a greater plane," says K'wan. "But now it's such a money thing. It affects how the genre is perceived by the public, and it affects authors coming in. They look at this like it's Hollywood. They don't understand that to endure this game, you have to love this game." But as he well knows, to play it, you've got to make the numbers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Pot To Piss In, A Window To Throw It Out Of


When I was younger, one of my Grandmother's favorite sayings was "____ ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." At that point, I really didn't understand the depth and wisdom present in that statement; It just served as a damn good put down to whoever was on the receiving end. As I got older, I realized that she was right: While many tended to front like they were on change (Philly Stand Up!!), most individuals that I came in contact with on a daily basis had neither. Even if they made a lot of money through their job/hustle/racket, etc., most had nothing to show for it outside of a few material trinkets that depreciated the minute you brought them.

After years of thinking, reviewing, and discussing social-economic issues with hundreds of people, I came to another realization; not only did her saying hold true individually, it was valid for the collective as well. If one is honest, there are very few social institutions in our communities that are exclusively black-owned. Now, don't misunderstand me; business is global, and money moves through many hands and there are instances where being exclusive can be counter-productive. When you look at the state of the black community in general, however, it's obvious that the lack of economic power has crippling effects on the other dimensions of our lives.

You can have power in a lot of ways in your environment (Intellectual, Political,Physical, etc..) b.u.t. if you don't have the ability to access resources, then your power to create the world you want to see will be somewhat limited. One of the main reasons that I printed up the "Get Money, Teach Kids" shirts was that for many "progressive/conscious" people, it's become anathema to talk about acquiring resources, lest you be considered a "capitalist". There are many flaws in this logic which I'll discuss at another time, b.u.t. here's an analogy; Imagine yourself in a world where being a warrior was how everyone survived, b.u.t. there was a small group of people who wouldn't call themselves "fighters" because they thought that people couldn't see the distinction between fighting for survival and fighting for fun!

In closing, I'll leave you with a article that outlines the importance of economic power. Remember: People + Money + Infrastructure = Sustainable power!

An Open Letter To Black America

It Is Time To Bring Back Black

In recent years some nationally prominent Black leaders have complained that they resent being known as Black leaders, they say they want the world to know they are capable of leading anybody. Rather than demonstrate that leadership by leading their own people to the necessary levels of self- sufficiency and competitiveness, these leaders have abandoned the critical issues facing Black people and have begun to chase an ambiguous romanticized notion of alliances with other groups without any demonstration or even an explanation as to how these alliances will actually empower Black people.

For decades these leaders have stood on the shoulders of the Black community to challenge and threaten corporate America in what we were told was a struggle for economic justice, and while the Black community is still being exploited by corporate America these nationally prominent Black leaders acknowledge that their operating budgets are now sustained by their corporate sponsors. It appears as though these leaders, a small cluster of their friends and, in some instances, members of their own families are the only ones to have received concessions from the nation’s major corporations. This mis-leadership is precisely what noted sociologist Max Weber warned against when he made the distinction between living off politics and living for politics, Weber contends, “He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives off politics as a vocation, whereas he who does not do this lives for politics.”

Leaders not only examine issues and point out inherent problems; they also craft solutions and lead by example. These nationally prominent Black leaders and organizations have actually abandoned the specific needs of Black people, Case in point: Black Americans have never received proportional benefits for the time, energy, and resources that they have devoted to voting. No major party or candidate has delivered benefits to Black people in return for their votes. Still these nationally prominent Black leaders tell Blacks simply to vote, while politicians hide behind mythical concepts and broad groupings, like people of color, minorities, poor people, multi-culture, and diversity in order to justify doing nothing specifically for Blacks in return for their votes. Unless the politician or political party is committed to repairing the damage done to Blacks by centuries of historical inequities, telling Blacks to just vote is to engage Blacks in nothing more than a keep busy activity. Too often these nationally prominent leaders have engaged in a flawed analysis of the problems confronting Blacks, and as a result have offered inadequate solutions.

Black people are offered a meaningless covenant with America that leaves all the power and resources firmly in the hands of white power brokers. These leaders have cooperated with major white developers in securing huge development contracts to build anything they please, from Stadiums in downtown Brooklyn to a $1billion urban riverfront in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rather than secure the development project itself for a consortium of Black developers they, on behalf of the white developers, urge Black people to accept temporary dead end jobs as the Black benefits, jobs they would never allow their own children to accept.

These prominent leaders argue that unemployment is so high among Blacks that any job is of value. When you consider that unemployment among Asians is 0%, among Arabs 0%, Hispanics 4.6%, with Hispanics receiving 41% of all new jobs since 2004, and among whites unemployment is 4.5%, it is clear that other groups have an economic plan working in and for their communities. With unemployment at 48 to 50% in Black urban centers throughout the country and thereby making any job acceptable, the real question becomes, how is it that under their watch unemployment among Blacks remains twice the national rate that it was for all Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930Â’s. Black leaders, where is your economic strategy to empower Black America?

While ignoring the work being done to revitalize Black communities by lesser known Blacks in various cities, and in some instances even moving to block and discourage those efforts, these prominent Black leaders have agreed to become the mouthpiece for other groups in order to make the agendas of those groups sound like an extension of the civil rights movement. Black leaders should be taking Black people to the next level, addressing the unfinished business of our civil rights movement, which will then make our people politically and economically competitive and self-sufficient.

Allowing any and all groups to use broad terms like diversity, people of color, and minorities is a ploy to avoid addressing the specific needs of Blacks, and to equate the grievances of these groups to the historical suffering of Black people does Blacks and history a great disservice. For over a century and a half, Blacks in America have marched and protested against every perceived affront. Blacks have marched and sued for equal rights, minority rights, womenÂ’s rights, poor peopleÂ’s rights, gay rights, workers rights, voting rights, and now immigrant rights. Blacks have held hands, sung songs, prayed and swayed with everyone, yet have barely moved an inch economically and politically in terms of real power and influence.

Blacks have the strongest legal and moral grounds for justice due than any other group, but have not enjoyed the full support of any of these other groups. Given our history of struggle we are offended by these national Black leaders and organizations that scold and chastise us for not embracing their newest gimmick to impress white power brokers, that of immigrant rights. They don't seem to understand that there are still critical issues unresolved that have particular consequences for Blacks.

Enough is enough, Black people are in need of leaders who without apology are committed to the very real needs of Black Americans, We urge the leaders who feel trapped by their Blackness to go quickly to the task of providing leadership for all these other groups so that we can get away from their mis-leadership long enough to get out of our current political and economic ditch.
It Is Time To Bring Back Black, and hundreds of thousands of us are ready to do just that. What about you?

Hood Research, Detroit; Black Chamber of Commerce of Akron Ohio; National Leadership Alliance, NYC;
Black Waxx, Jersey City NJ; Harvest Institute, Washington DC; The Coalition of Artists & Activists, NYC;
Los Angeles Council Of Elders; Blackonomics, Cincinnati. Ohio; Reparations Now, LA; Recycle Black Dollars,
California; BAFCA: Black American Family. Christian Agenda. California; KUJI Economic Development Initiative, Cincinnati, Ohio
Virtually Black, San Diego, CA.;

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Understanding Cipher....

Music I'm bumpin' right now: Block Tested, Hood Approved - Big Rich


Blogs are an interesting thing; they can be used for anything from from politics to romance, to rants, and sometimes you'll see all three in one (depending on the mood of the blogger). For the most part, I keep my blogs impersonal and based on the title that you see, because while I think that my life it somewhat interesting, it's not necessarily what needs to be posted for the world to dissect. I try to present the best part for readers/viewers, meaning I give what I think you'll get something from.

I'm going to depart from that somewhat for this blog, as it's about me turning 30. That's right the big 3-0. In the Culture of the NGE, it stands for Understanding Cipher ( not the other way around), and is the degree when Allah stated that a man/woman comes into the "true" Knowledge of him/herself that's based on experiential observation/analysis as well as information. For me, it gave me a chance to reflect on the different milestones and markers within my life & analyze where I've been/where I'm going. Within that, I have developed a greater understanding of my place in this world dealing with the past, present,& future.

For example, my father & uncle came to Power Born to celebrate with me & the family. My father is my living role model and example of manhood that I received as a child, so you can imagine how honored that I was that he would do so. Additionally, my uncle also played a very large role in my development through sports & other means (Inadvertently, he was also my first exposure to the NGE due to him running a rec center at 10th & Oxford during the late 80's). The relationship and closeness between my father & his brothers is the model that I use for maintaining the bond between me and the Gods that I've taught, so in a sense it was the past and present coming together to define the future through an intergenerational bond (I know, that's some sh!#, right?)

Thinking back to where I was mentally and physically @ 10, 15, 20, & 25 years of age also showed me the power of your environment and the impact of small increments of time when you review and recollect. At 10, I was a regular kid growing up in the hood listening to the Beastie Boys & Rakim; at 15, I was a avid hip-hop head who just got the knowledge of himself; at 20, I was in Pittsburgh as an expectant father teaching mathematics & organizing the youth march for the late Johnny Gammage; At 25, I was developing the Growth & Development process for the NGE, among other things. At this stage in my development, I can actually use all of my experiences to move me, my, family, my nation, and humanity forward. I'm older, wiser, & smarter, and my future activities will reflect that.

It's been a hell of a 30 years, and I'm going to keep the next 30 just as funky. Respect & love to my Old Earth, Old Dad, and all who have contributed knowingly or unknowingly to my growth & development; I'm putting you on my back and I'm standing straight up.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Keep On Movin'

Last month, I Medina & I were in Medina (Brooklyn) on a day trip. Upon realizing that the West Indian Carnival parade was being held on the next day, we decided to explore Eastern Parkway & it's surrounding areas. Usually when I travel to Medina, I'm either headed to the head (Fort Green) or the heart (Bed-Stuy), areas named for their role in the development of the NGE in New York. While I was familar w/ Eastern Parkway from my research on Hasidics from Crown Heights & the tensions between them and the So-called West Indians/African-Americans, I had no inclination of the experience that was to come.

What I found in Flatbush & East Flatbush was a vibrant neighborhood filled with businesses, beautiful homes & a strong sense of community. To be true, it seemed like another world from what I was accustomed to. There has been much research done on the earning disparity between West Indians & African Americans in various communities across. Without going too deep into the myriad of reasons, it seems as though so-called west indians have utilized the time proven method for getting a economic foothold in america: Entrepreneurship, Education, & Fiscal Discipline. This phenomenon stretches to other worlds as well. Case in point: 12 years ago, when I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, most of the Black students were middle/lower-middle class students from Philadelphia. Fast Forward 12 years later, Pitt raised their standards for admisssion in hopes of becoming a "public ivy", & now most of the students are So - called West Indians & Africans from the New York metropolitan

Below is a article about Black & White incomes in Queens from the NY Times. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Across the country, the income gap between blacks and whites remains wide, and nowhere more so than in Manhattan. But just a river away, a very different story is unfolding.
In Queens, the median income among black households, nearing $52,000 a year, has surpassed that of whites in 2005, an analysis of new census data shows. No other county in the country with a population over 65,000 can make that claim. The gains among blacks in Queens, the city’s quintessential middle-class borough, were driven largely by the growth of two-parent families and the successes of immigrants from the West Indies. Many live in tidy homes in verdant enclaves like Cambria Heights, Rosedale and Laurelton, just west of the Cross Island Parkway and the border with Nassau County.

David Veron, a 45-year-old lawyer, is one of them. He estimates that the house in St. Albans that he bought with his wife, Nitchel, three years ago for about $320,000 has nearly doubled in value since they renovated it. Two-family homes priced at $600,000 and more seem to be sprouting on every vacant lot, he says.
“Southeast Queens, especially, had a heavy influx of West Indian folks in the late 80’s and early 90’s,” said Mr. Veron, who, like his 31-year-old wife, was born on the island of Jamaica. “Those individuals came here to pursue an opportunity, and part of that opportunity was an education,” he said. “A large percentage are college graduates. We’re now maturing and reaching the peak of our earning capacity.”
Richard P. Nathan, co-director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, called Queens “the flip side of the underclass.”
“It really is the best illustration that the stereotype of blacks living in dangerous, concentrated, poor, slum, urban neighborhoods is misleading and doesn’t predominate,” he said.
Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College demographer who analyzed results of the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, released in August, for The New York Times, said of the trend: “It started in the early 1990’s, and now it’s consolidated. They’re married-couple families living the American dream in southeast Queens.”

In 1994, an analysis for The Times found that in some categories, the median income of black households in Queens was slightly higher than that of whites — a milestone in itself. By 2000, whites had pulled slightly ahead. But blacks have since rebounded.
The only other places where black household income is higher than among whites are much smaller than Queens, like Mount Vernon in Westchester, Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Brockton, Mass.; and Rialto, Calif. Most of the others also have relatively few blacks or are poor.
But Queens is unique not only because it is home to about two million people, but also because both blacks and whites there make more than the national median income, about $46,000.
Even as blacks have surged ahead of whites in Queens, over all they have fallen behind in Manhattan. With the middle class there shrinking, those remaining are largely either the wealthy, who are predominantly white, or the poor, who are mostly black and Hispanic, the new census data shows.

Median income among blacks in Manhattan was $28,116, compared with $86,494 among whites, the widest gap of any large county in the country.
In contrast, the middle-class black neighborhoods of Queens evoke the “zones of emergence” that nurtured economically rising European immigrants a century ago, experts say. “It’s how the Irish, the Italians, the Jews got out of the slums,” Professor Nathan said.
Despite the economic progress among blacks in Queens, income gaps still endure within the borough’s black community, where immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean, are generally doing better than American-born blacks.
“Racism and the lack of opportunity created a big gap and kind of put us at a deeper disadvantage,” said Steven Dennison, an American-born black resident of Springfield Gardens.
Mr. Dennison, a 49-year-old electrical contractor, has four children. One is getting her doctoral degree; another will graduate from college this school year. “It starts with the school system,” Mr. Dennison said.

Mr. Vernon, the lawyer from Jamaica, said: “It’s just that the people who left the Caribbean to come here are self-starters. It only stands to reason they would be more aggressive in pursuing their goals. And that creates a separation.”
Housing patterns do, too. While blacks make more than whites — even those in the borough’s wealthiest neighborhoods, including Douglaston — they account for fewer than 1 in 20 residents in some of those communities. And among blacks themselves, there are disparities, depending on where they live.

According to the latest analysis, black households in Queens reported a median income of $51,836 compared with $50,960 for non-Hispanic whites (and $52,998 for Asians and $43,927 among Hispanic people).
Among married couples in Queens, the gap was even greater: $78,070 among blacks, higher than any other racial or ethnic group, and $74,503 among whites.
Hector Ricketts, 50, lives with his wife, Opal, a legal secretary, and their three children in Rosedale. A Jamaican immigrant, he has a master’s degree in health care administration, but after he was laid off more than a decade ago he realized that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He established a commuter van service.

“When immigrants come here, they’re not accustomed to social programs,” he said, “and when they see opportunities they had no access to — tuition or academic or practical training — they are God-sent, and they use those programs to build themselves and move forward.”
Immigrants helped propel the gains among blacks. The median income of foreign-born black households was $61,151, compared with $45,864 for American-born blacks. The disparity was even more pronounced among black married couples.
The median for married black immigrants was $84,338, nearly as much as for native-born white couples. For married American-born blacks, it was $70,324.
One reason for the shifting income pattern is that some wealthier whites have moved away.
“As non-Hispanic whites have gotten richer, they have left Queens for the Long Island suburbs, leaving behind just middle-class whites,” said Professor Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University. “Since home ownership is easier for whites than blacks in the suburbs — mortgages are easier to get for whites — the middle-class whites left in Queens have been relatively poor. Middle-class black families have had a harder time buying homes in the Long Island suburbs, so that blacks that remain in Queens are relatively affluent.”
The white median also appeared to have been depressed slightly by the disproportionate number of elderly whites on fixed incomes.

But even among the elderly, blacks fared better. Black households headed by a person older than 65 reported a median income of $35,977, compared with $28,232 for white households.
Lloyd Hicks, 77, who moved to Cambria Heights from Harlem in 1959, used to run a freight-forwarding business near Kennedy Airport. His wife, Elvira, 71, was a teacher. Both were born in New York City, but have roots in Trinidad. He has a bachelor’s degree in business. She has a master’s in education.
“Education was always something the families from the islands thought the children should have,” Mr. Hicks said.
In addition to the larger share of whites who are elderly, said Andrew Hacker, a Queens College political scientist, “black Queens families usually need two earners to get to parity with working whites.”

Kenneth C. Holder, 46, a former prosecutor who was elected to a Civil Court judgeship last year, was born in London of Jamaican and Guyanese parents and grew up in Laurelton. His wife, Sharon, who is Guyanese, is a secretary at a Manhattan law firm. They own a home in Rosedale, where they live with their three sons.
“Queens has a lot of good places to live; I could move, but why?” Mr. Holder said. “There are quite a number of two-parent households and a lot of ancillary services available for youth, put up by organized block associations and churches, like any middle-class area.”

In smaller categories, the numbers become less precise. Still, for households headed by a man, median income was $61,151 for blacks and $54,537 for whites. Among households headed by a woman, the black and white medians were the same: $50,960.
Of the more than 800,000 households in Queens, according to the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, about 39 percent are white, 23 percent are Hispanic, 18 percent are Asian, and 17 percent are black — suggesting multiple hues rather than monotone black and white.

“It is wrong to say that America is ‘fast becoming two nations’ the way the Kerner Commission did,” said Professor Nathan, who was the research director for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1968 and disagreed with its conclusion. “It might be, though, that it was more true then than it is now.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Through The Wire


Ghetto. The word & it's many manifestations (Ghetto Life, Life in the Ghetto, The Hood, Urban Underclass, etc.) are pregnant with meaning & implications for millions of people across the world. From Paris to Philadelphia, the term conjures up both positive & negative images for inhabitants and outsiders. For some, it serves as a living hell, For others, a profit center. Regardless of vantage point, "The Ghe-toe" (So sayith James Evans Jr.) is often painted in Monochromatic terms, all good or all bad.

What results is usually years of neglect (by inhabitants & governments) followed by a social & economic overhaul which changes the population & neighborhood into a shell of it's former self (both positive & negative). The neighborhood may have better schools, & become safer and more attractive to investors, b.u.t. also loses it's charm and "soul", if you will. Additionally, there are also very clear lines of "right" and "wrong" (As in the police and block watch are right, and the drug dealers and women with 4 children from 3 fathers are wrong).

Enter The Wire. From my perspective, The Wire is the most realistic & factual portrayal of the hood that has ever come on TV. Period. It's as they just put a camera on a street corner and let it roll. Anyone who's been to B-More or knows anyone from out there can attest to how close to the mark they are. Basically, It's the realest & scariest S&!# on television, and for good reason.
Two reasons that The Wire stands out:

1) There are no heroes or villain, only players - On The Wire, "humanness" shines through. No one is all good or bad, rather you see fragility & strength on a number of levels. Also, the show doesn't take sides about what happens in the street. Rather than take sides, it just watches the cycle go on as a stoic observer.

2) The issues in our communities are often painted as a issue of "values" (read: personal responsibility and parenting) vs. social & economic breakdown. The Wire refutes that by showing all of the issues that contribute to what goes on (community apathy, economic neglect, political disregard). This season, with its focus on the school should illustrate the comprehensive nature of the problem.

Finally, I'm reposting a editorial from the Detroit Metro-Times that speaks about one of the characters, and what he represents within our community. Occasionally, I'll do a Wire check-in regarding the development of the season. Until next time... Look out for the babies, and teach those who don't know any better!

How could they kill Stringer Bell? How could they do it?I'm still trying to adjust.
If you're a fan of HBO's The Wire, you can relate to my distress. If not, then let me say briefly that this is one of the best TV programs in a long, long time. To call it a cop drama would be an extreme disservice, although that is the basic framework. What the Baltimore-based series does is portray the uglier realities of urban America with a precision and honesty that has never been attempted before. The result is a phenomenal cast of characters that gives individual voices and humanity to people many of us might otherwise ignore or, worse, write off as being all the same. And of all the characters giving the lie to that assumption, Stringer Bell took that lie and tied it up in knots.

String, as he was known on the streets, was a drug kingpin. He was also a drug kingpin who took business courses at night school in order to run a more efficient empire. He was a drug dealer who read great literature and philosophy, who translated his earnings into massive real estate holdings and other ventures. Stringer Bell was a genius who should have run a Fortune 500 company, but instead was trapped inside the twisted mind of a cold-hearted killer (who himself was killed at the conclusion of Season 3) and a drug dealer who would have made Machiavelli proud.

I was fascinated with Stringer Bell because he was a walking, talking contradiction who represented the best and worst of the streets: a highly intelligent black man whose business acumen and leadership skills were employed in all the wrong places. Still, in a perversely misguided way, String was proof of the power of an educated and analytical mind. Most of us working folks have no love for the drug trade. But no matter how much we detest what drug dealers have done to our communities, most of us know that these kids aren't stupid, and you definitely can't say they don't have a work ethic. It takes an education even if it's an education acquired largely outside of the classroom and a serious work ethic to run a drug empire, even if it's the wrong kind of education for the wrong kind of work.

The reasons why kids choose to sell drugs have been detailed in volume upon volume of newspaper articles, studies, books, etc. The bottom line is that the money seems good; there are always opportunities for advancement whenever a co-worker gets shot or locked up; and you get mad respect from your peers .Untiltil you get shot or locked up. Sure there are risks, but it's also a risk being poor and black. From the dealers' perspective, dealing is the best shot at the American Dream and they aim to take it no matter who they have to shoot to get it.

Education, the standard kind that you get in school, is supposed to be that ticket to a better life. If America worked as it's supposed to, drugs and other fringe occupations wouldn't be so appealing to so many inner-city kids. They would see that education can get you where you want to go, that it can get you out of the ghetto. But here we are, nearly four decades after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and some would argue that the black poor are as solidly locked into their wretched existence as they were during the civil rights era.
Urban public schools, the ones abandoned by just about every white and black family with options, are also the only option for most of the black poor. Those who attend are essentially stuck with patchwork education leftovers. You don't have to look any further than Detroit and the recent teachers strike to see the boiling pot of anger and frustration simmering throughout the public school system nationwide. The teachers with the most challenging job of all are the most underpaid, the most overworked and the most unappreciated. Even the most dedicated professional can't prevent that poisonous mixture from spilling over into the classroom, and it's the kids who pay the consequences. These kids know that they are being shortchanged because, like I said, they are hardly stupid. They already know that too many of those who graduate are hardly prepared for college or much of anything else, so they figure why bother with graduation?

So where does that leave us? Well, a brief look at statistics compiled by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research might give us a place to start.

Among a recent report's key findings:

- The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.

- Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.

- Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.

- The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percent fewer white male students and 3 percent fewer Asian male students graduate than their female counterparts. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma. Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males.

- Each of the nation's 10 largest public high school districts, which enroll more than 8 percent of the nation's public school student population, failed to graduate more than 60 percent of its students.

In Season 4 of The Wire, String is dead, his partner, co-kingpin Avon Barksdale, is locked up, and a new power named Marlo is taking control of the corners. But the core drama is the battle inside the schools. I don't know how it will all play out on HBO, but out here in real life I hope and pray that sooner or later the message will resonate at deafening volume throughout the corridors of power that we ignore these kids at our own peril.
If we refuse to care about their welfare for their sakes, then perhaps self-interest might be enough. According to a Detroit News special report last year, "Forty percent of Michigan residents who got cash welfare last year were high school dropouts, costing the state roughly $156 million. And about 70 percent of convicts who entered prison last year were dropouts; housing them for just one year will cost taxpayers about $200 million."
Furthermore, dropouts "are twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely as others to be in poverty. And when they do find jobs, they make two-thirds as much as a typical Michigan worker."

There's more. "Education at a Glance," an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, released a report recently that said, in part:
"The United States is losing ground internationally because other countries are making faster and bigger gains. The high school and college graduation rates of recent U.S. students are now below the international average. For example, among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. ranks 11th among nations in the share of its population that has graduated from high school. It used to be first."

This isn't about them, OK? It's about us.