Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I grew up in a white middle class neighborhood. OK, that's not so surprising, I am white. But in growing up in that middle class neighborhood like I did, I never got to see the rule book that said stuff like:
*take what you want from anyone who can't fight back;
*education is for pussies;
*if someone scuffs your shoe beat them senseless;
*any and all "perceived" violations must be punishable by death;
*a stank look is grounds for a stomping;
*prey on others who are just as bad off as you;
*white is right;
*you have no value or future so fuck it;
*unity is just a word with no meaning;
*going to jail is a right of passage (we actually celebrated folks coming home from college, not coming home from the joint);
*you will be lucky if you live past 25;
*1 out of 4 of people will go to jail and 2 out of 4 will be somewhere in the justice system--on the receiving end, and that's somehow not worth resisting;
*being an entertainer or sports figure is the way out;
*moving weight is a viable source of income;
*fuck education; etc.

I don't believe this is a color problem (although African-Americans are severely disenfranchised in this wicked country). I believe this is an economic problem. So when folks do improve their economic situations and move along in life, going backwards is not an option (who wants to see a millionaire hoodrat). It's tantamount to waving a T-Bone steak in front of a starving person... Having said that, until we solve these problems in the world, ugly shit like this will continue to happen and the more have-nots we create (I don't mean in a "give birth" way) the worse the situation will get. I can't think of a more dangerous time to be on the streets, and THAT'S fucked up.

I celebrate the fact the Puffy's children (or any child of a successful person of color) will be going to the best private schools money can buy, but it really has no value until every poor and disenfranchised child has the opportunity to get a solid education. If we wait for others to help, things will only get worse. My biggest fear is that Proof wasn't a wake up call, he was just a statistic--I cry over that as much as I cry over his loss.

This post is in response to a DJ Babe email--

Now Ya Know Normally I Blast Detroit Hip Hop…..

This time I just wanted to share my insights on what we have at hand. My manz Proof is gone, not here anymore. To actually think about is crazy, like this man ain’t never gonna be around again. Not physically. I’m not one to jump up and talk about we were buddies from middle school & our mamas know each other, no. But I did know the man and had the pleasure of doing business with him several times and actually could say that we were cool. Did I agree on everything he did? No. Were there things I thought he should change? Yes. But he lived his life how he wanted and that’s how we should remember him.

Those outside of Detroit may not have been a fan, or understood his importance to Detroit hip hop. Sure, D12 sold millions of records but individually they haven’t made the mark they need to. But to Detroit, to Detroit hip hop he was called “The Mayor”. I once made a comment in one of my newsletters about how this nigga would be at the grimiest spots, spots that I wouldn’t be caught in. Sadly, he was in one of those spots last night.

I used to blast Proof & others who have been able to get in positive positions because I’ve always felt that they are maximizing their blessings. The Detroit music scene seems to be in a rut and for those who can make a few things happen, I always wondered why steps were being taken. Sure, Proof did a lot – A LOT – for local artist, but I wanted to see more results taking place. He showed love by continuously being in the hood & places where the everyday man is. You know what – Fuck The Hood. Fuck keeping it real & I’m Always Gonna Represent. I’ll always say where I’m from, but when I’m worth a certain amount, due to jealously and envy I won’t be able to be where I once was. And honestly, I don’t wanna stay in the hood! I’d like to actually be able to stand outside on New Years Eve at midnight. I’d like to be able to have rims on my truck and park in the driveway at night. Fuck the hood!!

For those who have been blessed with an opportunity to eat off this music shit, whether in Detroit or beyond, realize what you have and enjoy it, use it, hell abuse it. My manz created a label and signed some of the city’s top open mic talent & gave jobs to a few of his friends. Now all of these guys have to ponder their future. The members of D12 have to create a new album without him & with Eminem not being Eminem of 1999/2001.. what will happen with them?

In the end, Proof was a father, husband, son, and friend to many. I only hope that my black people will take an extra second to realize what we have & maximize it. Niggaz won’t… Niggaz be on some dumb shit & ain’t gonna change for shit. Black people are the ones I’m talking to. Fuck niggaz.

Once again, if you’ve been blessed to have what you have & achieve the status you have… maximize it, abuse it, don’t let an ounce of it go unused.

R.I.P. Big Proof

R.I.P. J-Dilla


Proof That He Was Alive
By his friend, Wendy Day

The headline on AOL’s main screen read “Eminem’s Close Friend Killed.” As I clicked on it I said to myself please don’t let it be Proof.

Proof was so much more than a close friend of Eminem’s that was killed.

Proof was one of the first artists in this industry that I befriended. I met him through some friends who worked at Tommy Boy. It was around 1994. They wanted to sign him because of his charisma, but they were afraid to take a chance on a rapper from Detroit, in my opinion. I liked Proof very much as a person. I can’t say that about many rappers.

Proof was energetic, outgoing, and spoke his mind. He reminded me of a little Muppet character. Always happy, always entertaining, always moving—especially when everyone else around him was tired. He was always so alive and energetic.

With the success of Eminem, I lost touch with Proof. Tommy Boy never did sign him, but he had a better gig as Em’s right hand man. He was down for Em—stayed true, even when there were rumblings in D-12 about this or about that. Proof was always by Marshall’s side, through the good and through the bad. I imagine Marshall’s feeling it the most because it’s impossible to replace loyalty and years in. Especially when you are a household name. He was Marshall’s best friend.

Proof and I spoke by Blackberry, a few lines here and a few lines there. We spoke often when he put out his CD independently. It didn’t do as well as he had hoped, or maybe it didn’t do as well as I had hoped for him.

I saw Proof in July in Atlanta. I was backstage at the Anger Management Tour meeting with his cousin Trick-Trick. Everyone was sitting on the tour bus, tired as hell. Proof was the energetic Muppet running around entertaining all of us, clowning for the Shade 45 interviewers. He was having a good time, but I think that everywhere he went he had a good time. I wondered if he would have any energy left for the stage. He did.

When Proof first saw me he gave me shit for not returning a call to him months earlier. He had an old phone number for me so I never got his message, but that didn’t stop him. After he was done scolding me, he hugged me for what seemed like hours. We had a good time, but everywhere he went he had a good time.

Except maybe last night. He was gunned down in an afterhours club on Eight Mile in Detroit. Yes, that 8 Mile—the one his best friend made world famous in a film by the same name. More senseless violence. More Detroit shit. Apparently they caught the dude who shot him. That’s a first.

I remember a story Trick-Trick told me in September while we were in NY shopping his deal. He dropped Proof off at home early one morning after they had been recording at the studio all night. Proof got out of the car and without Trick knowing, he ran across the yard, jumped a fence, through another neighbor’s yard and ran along side of Trick’s car and banged on the window shocking the hell out of him. When Trick pulled over and asked him “What the hell are you doing man?!,” Proof just laughed and ran off through some bushes and across another yard. All Trick could do was pull off laughing thinking about how crazy Proof was.

We lose too many rappers to violence. We lose too many young Black males to violence. And now we’ve lost a Muppet to senseless violence.

I know that wherever he is, he’s in a better place. I want to say “rest in peace, dear friend,” but I know that’s not possible. I know he’s running around with incredible energy, entertaining everyone. That’s just Proof.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why I Never Did Another RapOlympics After 1997

For those of you who don’t know, RapOlympics was an event I conceived one night when I could not sleep when I lived in Brooklyn in 1996. I was watching the labels veer away from signing lyricists to sign entertainers, commercial radio rappers, and gangsta rappers. Since the lyricists were my favorite rappers, it was disheartening to see the industry going in this direction.

I decided to do an Emcee Battle. But I wanted it to be the battle of all battles. The smaller MC Battles I had been involved with, and the ones where I was just an attendee, were not effective in bringing national attention back to the lyricist. Basically, the events which were about two a year (kind of like now) drew the same folks. We were preaching to the converted, and not drawing in any fresh blood or any attention from the labels or industry. So I was watching the same 30 Battle rappers travel around the US competing against each other in front of the same crowds at the New Music Seminar years earlier to the Rap Sheet Battle to the Zulu Nation Battle to Scribble Jam (which still goes on every year, by the way). Same faces, same battles, leading to the same outcome: the artists wanted record deals and were not getting signed.

So, I decided to contact different crews in rap who I knew believed in lyrics and asked them to form teams: KRS-1, Sway & Tech, Wu-Tang, Diggin’ In The Crates, J Smoothe, Ras Kass, Canibus, the GoodLife Café, and a few others that I now can’t recall. I also formed a Rap Coalition team. But what made our team different was that it was all unsigned artists, and they were from all over the US (Eminem, Juice, Thirstin Howl III, Wordsworth, and Kwest Tha Madd Lad—I had originally had RhymeFest in place of Eminem, but the other members of the team voted him out and Eminem in—a move that would go on to change Em’s life). The other crews were hesitant to step up. Signed artists would have a lot to lose if they lost. The prize was an appearance on the Sway & Tech Show (radio Mecca for lyricists) the following night. Ras Kass became my host for the event (and had we made any money, he would have become my 50% partner, only he never knew that).

So RapOlympics came down to my team, J Smooth’s Project Blow'd team, and WuTang’s team (who never showed up). The event took place directly after the RapSheet MC Battle that I coordinated, and was a complete failure. Every promise made by the sponsors was broken. RapSheet (the promoter) did not supply a DJ (I called Shorty from Da Lench Mob and within 2 hours he had a DJ do the event for free) or enough hotel rooms; Interscope never paid the $5,000 they pledged as a sponsor (which is ironic since they signed one of the artists afterwards); Do Or Die never paid the $5,000 they pledged as a sponsor. RapSheet also reneged on the prizes, leaving me to run to a local bullshit jewelry store to buy what I suspected was a fake Rolex as the prize (which we always billed as a fake Rolex, but it sure did look real).

At 11 PM, I was informed the club was kicking us out in an hour because it had only been booked til Midnight even though I was told by the promoter we had it til 2 AM (and I advertised my event til 2 AM). We had one hour in which to fit three hours of events. The crew that filmed the event ran off with the footage and the money I paid them upfront (quick lesson: never pay anyone everything upfront even if they cry about having to rent equipment). A big FUCK YOU to him, oh and by the way--$1,000 to the first person who beats his ass badly (you get paid when I see the anonymous police report or a hospital confirms his stay).

This left me with $10,000 in debt on my Visa credit card which took many, many years to pay off. The RapSheet Battle ran overtime because the event was so poorly promoted by the promoter. The fans finally trickled in for my event, RapOlympics, but we had not yet even started the RapSheet Battle (which I had agreed to coordinate for free in exchange for airline tickets, a DJ-- that was never booked, and hotel rooms for my RapOlympics team which turned out to be 2 rooms for 8 people). My team, who won, were at each others throats the whole time (except for Eminem who did not stay with the team, he stayed in Paul Rosenberg’s room) because one of the team members drove everyone else nuts with his incessant whining and pointless lying.

I did a horrible job of keeping the event on point and lost control of the flow and timing after the first round. I also should have kept a better eye on the promoter to verify that what he was saying was true. I felt myself give up near the end of the night and say "fuck it; what happens, happens" which is out of character for me. I was so angry afterwards I couldn’t speak to anyone for days (except Eminem’s manager). To this day it still costs me thousands of dollars to slap lawsuits on anyone caught using the RapOlympics footage I paid for but never received. So let’s just say that the memory of RapOlympics isn’t a pleasant one.

It was not a happy loss for me financially or emotionally, but at least if I had achieved my goal, it would have been a bearable loss. My whole reason for doing the event was to bring industry attention to lyricists, and get the record labels to see their value and sign them. While all of the mainstream press covered the event (like M-TV and the major music publications) and gave it outstanding reviews (miraculously, because the event was nothing like what I had planned), none of the artists got record deals except Eminem. Em’s camp says that Interscope had his demo tape and when a savvy A&R scout saw him at the event they finally passed his demo to Dr Dre. My memory is a bit different of his discovery: I recall that Em was rhyming on the Wake Up Show (which was the prize) and that Dre was listening to the show in his car. I recall that he went up to the radio studio and scooped Em up and brought him to a hotel room where he kept him writing and working for days. Sadly, to this day, there are no outlets for a lyrically gifted rapper to put out his CD successfully--the few indies who do sign these underground MCs seem to disappear after selling around 15,000 copies further verifying the majors' fears of this genre.

So while fans of MC Battles remember RapOlympics fondly, I recall a disorganized event that cost me tens of thousands of dollars personally (credit card debt that lasted for years), a lesson in dishonest promoters, and bullshit promises from sponsors. With a real budget that event could have been outstanding! But it still wouldn’t get artists record deals and that’s why they were doing it. Very few rappers were there for the Battle. Most were there for recognition and a record deal. To continue doing Battles would mean I’d have to keep allowing these artists to believe that they could build a real career as a Battle Rapper. Eminem was an anomaly. He has the ability to think quickly in a battle, is witty enough to say some shit that would make a dead man laugh, and most importantly has the ability to write songs that can sell CDs. In almost ten years, not one other label has signed another artist like him.

I look at the trail of Battle veterans like Craig G, Supernatural, Juice, Wordsworth, Thirstin Howl III, Jin, RhymeFest, Canibus, Ras Kass, and many others. They are worthy of the fame and financial success of a Master P, or Ludacris, or 50 Cent, or Cash Money. It makes me angry and disappointed that they are not. When a young rapper calls me and asks me to help him get a deal because he won this battle or that one, I cringe. I know the truth of the matter is that when a major label hears the word Battle, they run in the opposite direction. And very few MCs are still doing it solely for the art form. I refuse to mislead them into thinking it’s anything but…