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Thursday, 20 June 2013
The Justification For Urban Alternatives
Now Playing: Robin Kenyatta - Encourage The People
Topic: rants de macedonia


Back before there was a Radio BSOTS podcast or even a BSOTS website, there was an email newsletter called On The Verge.  In June of 1999, I was thinking about the music I loved and the possible reasons why there seemed to be a ceiling on its success as well as how certain music gets marketed or promoted.  The result was the essay below.  In hindsight, it's a flawed argument, but it started me down the road of championing sounds that I believe in.  In a way, it lead me to creating the podcast that I've been doing for almost eight years now.  That's gotta count for something.

The Justification For Urban Alternatives
(originally published in ON THE VERGE v1.0 e-mail monthly -June 9, 1999)

incident number one:

It was about a month and a half ago in a record shop within lower Westchester. I was purchasing a turntable along with two Rawkus singles when the clerk asked me if I was a DJ. When I replied that I was, he says, "hold on...lemme see if I have any promos I can give you."

To quote Slick Rick, it was the moment I feared. I already knew where this was gonna go. Puff Daddy to the right of me, Master P to the left of me. As soon as I saw that Bad Boy logo on the 12-inch sleeves, I said, "Really, no thank you. I'll just take what I have and go."

"You like Naughty by Nature?"

"Well, I'm not really into their new..."

"Here, take it anyway," he interjects, shoving it into my bag.

I had just been run over by the top 40/rhythmic CHR/contemporary urban radio programming formula: "HEAR THIS. Whether you like it or not." The clerk behind the counter made me a statistic with one quick motion. The statement of the motion was simple: You listen to this, don't you? You're black, aren't you? Black people that come into this store buy this. And here I am giving it to you for free. You should be happy.

"Lemme see what else I have for you..."

"PLEASE...you don't have to. I'm fine with what I have."

"You like TLC, right?"

Mind you, "No Scrubs" was alright the first 20 times I heard it. Obviously, purchasing Black Star and Common didn't tip him off, so to explain any of what I was thinking at that time would have been pointless. TLC ended up in the garbage soon after I took it.

incident number two:

About three weeks ago, I was on my way back home after putting in some work on the newsletter when I stopped into a newsstand within Grand Central Terminal. The latest issue of URB had my man Prince Paul on the cover. Happily, I picked it up and made my way over to the cashier. She closely examines the cover for a price and said four words that completely ruined my mood.

"Who is this, Tupac?"

My heart sank. Trying not to completely lose my composure, I answered, through clenched teeth, "No, that is NOT Tupac. THAT is Prince Paul. There's a big difference. 1) He is infinitely more talented. And 2) HE'S STILL ALIVE!!!!"

(No disrespect to the tragically departed, for real, but sometimes people take you to a realm that you did not want to go to. After they bring you there, you feel compelled to fire on their ass. And my tongue comes equipped with verbal ammo before I step out of the door in the morning.)

Now that I think about it, not too many people know what Prince Paul actually looks like, do they? That's because he does what a real producer is supposed to do - stay behind the scenes and behind the boards. It isn't often that the public sees his face. But to confuse him with Tupac??? You gotta get up mad early in the morning to give a good excuse for that one.

Two different incidents with two different people from two different walks of life and yet, the same ignorance plagued them both. How does that happen? To answer that, we can start by examining the practices of American major record labels and commercial radio. I specify America because I refuse to believe that other countries have this problem. These huge conglomerates are solely responsible for taking music - a universal language and a gift from GOD - and define who should listen to what, taking into consideration a bunch of nonsensical factors (age, racial background, income, etc.). Because of these factors, any hip-hop that's slightly left of center gets marketed strictly to college radio. Techno gets marketed a certain way, as does rock and other genres. Radio has not deviated from this and has only helped shape the way that record companies promote an artist. Commercial radio plays it so safe that human beings aren't even allowed to choose what song is played when - it's all done by computers now (with the obvious exceptions being stations like HOT 97 and WKTU, which occasionally feature DJs live in the mix). No longer do you have a DJ; instead, you have an on-air personality. Trust me, there's a world of difference.

Still, not all of the blame can be placed on them. The general public must also bear some responsibility. The masses have been frighteningly passive in the face of an industry that is all too quick to not just pigeonhole their musical tastes, but to create their very identities through gross stereotyping and blanket statistics. But most people don't consider this stuff while head nodding - they don't think they're supposed to. Meanwhile, there's this whole other world of music that they'll probably never know about because they're perfectly happy with someone telling them what to listen to. They may never take the chance to venture out and find something that they might dig. How unfortunate.

The necessity for urban alternatives has become all too clear. Don't you get tired of intelligent, progressive artists not getting their props? Perhaps more frustrating than this is the fear that some of our beloved groups have of the word "alternative." The Roots can't stand the term, even though it's been used to describe them. And reportedly, Lauryn Hill has said that it means "no skills" in ghetto terms (see the liner notes for The Roots' Things Fall Apart). Ultimately, who is responsible for such a definition? Once again, it goes back to major labels and commercial radio. If they didn't make the split between Jurassic 5 and Jay-Z, we wouldn't have to have this conversation. The term "playa hater" wouldn't have to be conjured up by people who rhyme for no other reason but the money, in an attempt to legitimize works that are devoid of substance. And our beloved acts wouldn't be scared to embrace the term "alternative" as they should and to define themselves and toss aside the shackles of the mainstream media.

And let's be honest: this isn't exactly the first time that the ghetto has misinterpreted a term. Once upon a time, "sellout" used to describe a person of color who has turned their back on their people and is only interested in self-gain. Nowadays it's interpreted as a rap artist's work being purchased by white consumers. How many artists in the rap game could one consider "sellouts" with such a definition? When Public Enemy remade "Bring The Noise" with Anthrax, inner-city dwellers cried "Sellout!" What they never bothered to find out was that the members of Anthrax and PE knew each other for years and had attended each other's shows. The collaboration was bound to happen sooner or later. Beyond that, PE told everyone the first time around that "wax is for Anthrax, still it can rock bells." Apparently, no one paid attention to that line. In the end, the ghetto got mad at one of their own that they claimed to love...and all because they didn't do their homework.

I have never hesitated to use the term "urban alternative" to loosely describe artists like Erykah Badu, Spearhead, Portishead, Tricky, Esthero, Bjork, Massive Attack and countless others. It just makes sense to me. It could be jazz, funk, hip-hop, jungle, techno or any number of those mixed together. They do, however, share a common thread: it's distinctly different from what's being thrown at us 5,000 times a day and it's not getting the airplay and recognition that it should. In my opinion, for every urban trend that botches billions of brain cells in the 'hood, suburbia, rural areas, and abroad, there has GOT to be an urban alternative. It's only right. Whether you are one creating the music or one who loves the music, I implore you to take back the term "alternative" and love it again, for we are the alternative to what's on the surface. The true alternatives are underground and in order to get there, you have to dig deeper. And since I'm already there and I already know, I feel that it is my obligation to climb back up to the surface every now and then and encourage someone else to come down there with me.

To the music lovers and the artists, I hope and pray that you will do the same.

{jason randall smith}

"Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. MUSIC IS THE BEST." - Frank Zappa.

Posted by macedonia at 7:38 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 20 June 2013 7:41 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Now Playing: silence in the living room after midnight...
Topic: rants de macedonia

a fellow podcaster and brother-in-Christ seemed to dig my thoughts recently and whenever that happens, i consider it a blessing.  in a moment of complete and total frustration, i took to twitter and left off a mini-rant.  before it's lost forever in the cyber-ether, i figured i'd better capture it for posterity on the blog:

Twitter has produced far too many mobile chin scratchers who think they have the perfect 140 characters to provide an antidote 4 yr stress.

don't confuse a person's thinking out loud "what do i do now?" moment for complaining. let them have that moment. it could be an AHA prelude

if a job/relationship/time in their life is painful, your downplaying someone else's pain in 140 characters won't make it any less painful.

not every moment is meant to be summed up in a Twitter or Facebook status. and i'm tired of those who think it is. TWEET DEEZ NUTS. </rant>

so where did this all come from?  a number of places.  the violent waves of anger i've been feeling for the past few months dealing with the impossible goals and deadlines of work, continually fighting a losing battle against time in so many aspects of my life, not having enough time for creative things because the 9 to 5 is the main thing.  i'm tired of feeling like i have to apologize because i no longer believe that "hey, at least you're working" is a legitimate response.  if what you do to learn a living feels like you're signing a premature death warrant, then you have a right to question whether or not that's truly living, no matter how bad the economy is.  there's a sea of "positive thinkers" out there who will tell you that you're the problem for being negative and that you're looking to put the blame at someone else's feet.  and these thinkers have come out in droves now that they have the ability to trivialize your struggle while on the go and in 140 characters or less.


rants have been building up in me regarding my customer service gig and customers in general, the problem with living amongst microwave culture in an increasingly on-demand world, and other things that have been bugging me lately.  some of them will probably come out on episode #100.  it's been a long time since i've done a "buckwild" show for Radio BSOTS, but i'm long overdue.  some of it ought to be right here in blog form so i can shut the hell up during the podcast and just play the music.  but yeah...better to get it off my chest here than say something to the wrong person while on the job.  the gig ain't no fun, but neither is being unemployed.  i've been there before.

if you ever wonder what might happen if you actually met the client on the other end of that phone line and you're pretty sure that the first thing you'd do is throw a punch...that's a problem.  i'm just saying.  more later...

Posted by macedonia at 12:38 AM EST
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Thursday, 11 September 2008
glimpses of heaven
Now Playing: superhertz - glass labyrinth ep
Topic: rants de macedonia
mr. and mrs. macedonia, cancun, november of 1999

[this one was written just before the one-year anniversary of 9/11 and originally published in the ON THE VERGE v3.0 email monthly newsletter in september of 2002. the 10th anniversary is only three years from now. rather strange to think about... - macedonia.]

With the one-year anniversary of September 11th right around the corner, everyday conversations have become more solemn and reflective. A friend’s voice over the telephone lines paraphrases a point a preacher recently brought up: “everyone talks about the tragedies of September 11th…who thanks GOD that there was a September 12th, 13th, and 14th?” I hold fast to the belief that few (if any) talk about September 12th because most want to get back to September 10th. The 10th represents “back to normal,” but the whole concept of “normal” doesn’t mean what it used to, which makes the 10th even more elusive, almost mystic. That day has taken on a romantic, nostalgic quality. I contend that America has done all it can to get back to September 10th…even if it meant suffering from convenient amnesia along the way.

In the month that followed September 11th, everyday brought astonishing acts of kindness alongside the rampant verbal assaults and paranoia. For every unkind word against Arabs and Afghanistan, there were stories of healing, sharing, and consoling. I kept wondering how would America get back to normal without forgetting the lessons in compassion learned after that tragic day. Quite frankly, we wouldn’t. All that mattered was a return to normalcy, no matter how far-fetched that concept seemed, no matter whom you had to push out of the way during rush hour. While it's a good thing to be able to move on, I can't help thinking that it feels like the scab over the wound. Either we're really focused or our attention span is frighteningly short.

That month-long outpouring of love was nothing short of a miracle and miracles weren’t meant to be eternal. Miracles come and go. In light of that understanding, I started to focus on finding the good within bad situations. One week after September 11th, Beth and I will celebrate our 3rd year anniversary. And not only three years of marriage, but also ten years of being together. We’ve been wearing silly grins for the past month just thinking about it. Beyond that, I’ve had some amazing experiences partying with friends. The vibe’s been so thick that it felt like family, nothing but smiles as heads nod, fists pump, and kids dance and make connections with each other. On occasion, this vibe has even been achieved with perfect strangers, our hands in the air, dancing unashamed. Whether I’m catching up with friends I haven’t seen in months, sharing laughs with family members, or just sitting around at home listening to music, I’ve been savoring these moments of joy for all they’re worth. I figure it’s either that or let all of my concerns get the best of me.

And the concerns have been piling up as of late. For one thing, way too many of my friends are out of work. The collapse of one business after another does nothing to help the multitude in the same boat. Seems like every other day brings a news story about another abducted child. President Bush seems hellbent on going to war with Iraq. And whatever allies the United States once had now appear to be backing away in disgust whenever we're brought up in conversation.

I hereby initiate...PROJECT HAPPY.

Our mission: Search for happy, find the happy, catch the happy, secure the happy, and only let happy out to share with like-minded others for collective uplifting purposes. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Perhaps I need to take on the attitude of a consultant that recently left my job. A sweet woman who got married a few months ago, she is due with a baby girl in January. She is also originally from Israel and is moving back there with her husband. When asked if she harbors any fears about moving back to such a volatile area, she responded (in her typically upbeat manner):

"It's a beautiful place when it's not being bombed."

I'm sure there's a response for that, but for the life of me I couldn't come up with one. All I could think to say was, "I'm really gonna miss you."

Surely someone out there would confuse my optimism for insanity. But what are my options? Sit around and mope? Take on a spirit of defeat? Join the growing ranks of the "God Can't Do Jack" society? That's not me. I have my moments, but that's not who I am. So I deal with the day as best I can and prepare for the next. Keep my headphones on, remember to laugh, kiss my wife, and focus on the good, how matter how seemingly insignificant.

The mere fact that I take so much for granted lets me know that life is good. Waking up in the morning is a glimpse of heaven. Blue skies are a glimpse of heaven. Sunshine on my face is a glimpse of heaven. Beats that move me to tears...i'll let you finish it. You don't have to agree with me - just think about it. Keep your head up, stay positive, and pray that September 11, 2002 isn't too much of a media circus. If you need me, you know where to find me.

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 5:08 PM EDT
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Now Playing: queens artists podcast
Topic: rants de macedonia
still there in the midst of darkness...

[i hate calling today patriot day, so i won't. if i thought that voices of reason and not merely nationalistic extremes or absolutes could be counted as patriotic, then i'd have no problems with it, but that's simply not the case. i can't believe that the 9/11 attacks occurred seven years ago; the last few years have flown by. a few weeks after it all went down, i wrote this rant for my ON THE VERGE v3.0 email monthly newsletter. this was originally published on october 3, 2001.

charity tends to run out real quick in america. i say build bridges of compassion and understanding on today. be willing to listen to another person's side of things. we have to remain in touch with our humanity. some days, it's all we have... - macedonia.]

"i pledge allegiance / to the flag / of the United States of America / and to the republic / for which it stands / one nation / under God..."

since WHEN?

oh. right. the 11th. my bad. please continue...

"i took the elevator down from Windows On The World yesterday at 4:30 PM, drunk from the 18 wines i’d tasted. made 2 phone calls from the lobby of Tower 1, then jumped on the 1/9 uptown. the world trade center is no longer standing."
-dom casual a.k.a. tonypuma, OTV extended fam.

i love New York. but i hate its attitude problem. always have. i have often said that New York City could use an attitude enema. planes hitting the World Trade Center was not what i had in mind.

i was born in America, but i don’t consider myself an American. perhaps because people of color tend to be an afterthought in terms of what it means to be "American." maybe it’s because dark-shaded souls enslaved and used as forced labor to build this country weren’t even considered human when the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were drafted. and during these troubled times, i have no problems questioning our government, wanting to examine closely our foreign affairs and not buying into the cult of blind patriotism that has swept over this nation since the day after the attacks. all of this will get you ridiculed, shouted down, and/or possibly censored in the land of the free and the home of the brave, an act silently agreed upon by the United Flag Bearers of America.

then again, i guess we can thank them all for giving little kids a new game to play during those long road trips...

"there’s a flag. there’s a flag. there’s a flag. there’s a flag. there’s a flag..."

tuesday, september 11, 2001: the day that all of America put in a 911 call to GOD. i work in Connecticut and had just settled down at my desk about to fire up one of the ambient CDs i had brought in that week. man, did those come in handy. a curious buzz started around the office about a plane that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. then word came in about the other. then the Pentagon. then the plane that crashed near Camp David. then the fears set in. "who had appointments at World Trade today?" we frantically search for our consultants and members in New York. thankfully, everyone’s present and accounted for. however, one of our former consultants ended up working for one of our clients. their offices were located in one of the World Trade towers. his memorial service was a few weeks ago.

(freakier still: i’m working for a new consultant at my job. take a wild guess what he used to do before he got to Greenwich...DIRECTOR OF TERRORIST AFFAIRS FOR THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. CNN and 60 Minutes have had his phone lines lit up for the past three weeks.)

my concerns were primarily with my wife. Beth works on 40 Wall Street. close enough to see the windows of her building buckle in and out from the air pressure caused by the plane crashes. close enough to make her way through the enveloping clouds of ash, soot and debris. she, along with others, crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge and watched it all ablaze. watched it all come down. her father used to work in tower two, but his day never started before 9:30 A.M. an hour earlier and he might not be here today. many lives were taken that day, but i know of many that were spared. and somebody today is saying "thank you, GOD" for the first time in their lives. AND IT MEANS SOMETHING.

it didn’t really register with Beth for about the first day or so. then the reality of it all began to take hold. for a while, she couldn’t get the sound of the towers falling out of her head. any loud crumbling noise would set it off. she’s back at the Wall Street offices now. she even went to see the ruins recently, which is something i thought she’d never do. still, regardless of her faith, she feels vulnerable and her opinions on all that is happening around her changes from day to day. outside of prayer, the best thing i can do for her is just be an ear, to let her vent and be there for her when she needs a hug. she didn’t know what was going on at the time. she didn’t have Peter Jennings or Ted Koppel giving her the play-by-play; she just had to act. i was hundreds of miles away surrounded by radios tuned to news stations and the World Wide Web. she was there, i wasn’t. therefore, my opinion means little. my love, however, means everything. all of this happened a week before our second wedding anniversary.

"the attack on the World Trade Center was a travesty no civilized human being should have to deal with. it was deplorable, an offense to human life. so what did we do? WE GOT FLAGS!!! millions and millions of flags! "

that’s when the patriotic music started up. for reasons unknown to me, i was watching Dateline when this segment about the American flag aired. when everything got all cheery, i thought it was a mistake. as if interns with a really sick sense of humor had taken over the station. later that night, the insanity spilled over into my own actions. at one point, i was marching around my house, singing "WAR, HUNH! (GOOD GOD, Y’ALL!) what is it good for? absolutely NUTTIN’! SAY IT AGAIN!"

i stopped short after the chorus. "what the hell am i doing?"

saturday, september 15, 2001. from uptown, i take the 2, transfer to the 5, and headed straight down to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop. when i reach street level, the mood is solemn. not much noise except occasional cheers for rescue workers, police, and firemen. three out of every four people had some sort of camera and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. except for one. that’s when it hit me. the smoke hadn’t left yet. got really freaked out by that and started walking uptown. side streets blocked off, cops everywhere. by the time i got up to Canal Street, that’s when the usual hustle and bustle of the city revealed itself. same for Broadway: a steady stream of folks scurrying in and out of clothing stores. and not just because they felt it was their duty to help out the economy either. meanwhile, i was in a fog, standing between a lamppost with pictures of missing people and a vendor not only selling American flags, but framed pictures of an intact New York City skyline. near the Astor Place subway stop, the buildings began to talk with anonymous scribbles. one simply stated "You are alive," while another read "now that we have been attacked as a nation, can we finally act like brothers and sisters?" while staring at the writing on the wall, a person walked by improvising a song of retaliation at the top of his lungs.

final stop: 14th Street-Union Square. the vigil in the park had taken on a life on its own. i was in awe. this was the pinnacle of what was already a very emotional day. the steps were covered with pictures, candles, and sentiments of love, loss, and remembrance. words of peace were written everywhere. a group of patriots sang anthems and even threw in "New York, New York" (how did i not see that coming?). people milled about, cried heavy and hard and hugged each other. i observed a Tibetan group in meditation and later joined a number of Christians in a prayer circle. another believer (named Peter) and i had a rather sobering encounter with an atheist soon afterwards. while trying to convey to him that GOD was still in control, still in the midst, he wasn’t buying it – retribution and revenge were on his tongue. for an atheist, the actions of september 11th confirmed everything that they believe. satan didn’t get to be the father of lies for nothing. as our brother stormed off, Peter began to cry. i gave him a hug. we introduced ourselves formally and talked a bit. then i made my way home.

music has taken on a whole other realm since the 11th. ambient was mandatory after the attacks. the next week, it was free jazz, a musical fire in the belly that seemed to speak directly to the confusion and chaos in our nation that’s been taking place ever since. at home, further strength is given with Gil Scott-Heron’s "Work For Peace" and Femi Kuti’s "Truth Don Die" and "What Will Tomorrow Bring." i even spun out recently, an act which is always cathartic when i haven’t done it in a while, but even more so now.

at this moment, there is concern, sometimes even anxiety, but i cannot give into fear. the moment i do, the terrorists have won. and i can honestly say that there is no hatred in my heart. i’d rather spend energy hoping and praying for souls and spirits to be transformed. war looks likely to occur, but there are some things that bombs and bullets can’t do. i’d rather pray that a change will occur in the heart of young Afghani or Palestine youths that celebrated the deaths of innocent Americans, that a change will occur in the minds of Americans that are clogged up with anti-Arab sentiment.

many people talk about a return to normalcy, to rewind the clock back to the 10th. what does that mean, really? since the 11th, we have seen an amazing outpouring of unconditional love and compassion, the type which wasn’t visible on the 10th. the question i’ve been wrestling with is this: how do we get "back to normal" without losing those lessons of love we’ve learned in the past few weeks? "back to normal" didn’t include that.

those under the blanket of blind patriotism won’t ask why we as Americans are only concerned with Americans. they won’t ask why we don’t care to learn more about other countries. they won’t ask why we assume that the American way is the only way. AND THEY’RE NOT ABOUT TO START NOW. change begins with a reevaluation of self, a step that few stateside are willing to take at this time. so in a way, America is back to normal. didn’t take us very long, did it?

two weeks ago, i was heading down to Avenue A when i noticed an Afghani restaurant on Saint Marks Place. i’ve walked down that street i don’t know how many times and this was the first time i’ve noticed it. i couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty about that. i’ve got vacation coming up and i’ve been seriously considering going in, sitting down, ordering some lunch, and chilling out with the regulars. why not? somebody’s gotta...

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 10:48 AM EDT
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Now Playing: adam curry's daily source code (dailysourcecode.com)
Topic: rants de macedonia

...and only practice makes a real Jam Master.

(this rant was written in honor of Jam Master Jay and originally posted to Both Sides Of The Surface on November 8, 2002. i can't believe that it's been four years already since we lost our beloved brother Jason Mizell. been meaning to post this to the blog for a while now. no time like the present... - macedonia.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2002. I stood frozen in front of my television set. It was the top story on the ten o'clock news, and details were sketchy. The only certainty was that Jason Mizell, known to the world as Jam Master Jay of Run-D.M.C., had been shot in the head in a recording studio. My heart hit the floor soon after my jaw. When my legs regained mobility, I raced into the living room, pulled my copy of King of Rock from the record crates, and flipped it over. The back cover photo features all three members with matching black fedoras. Both Joseph Simmons (Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) have their faces illuminated. Jay stands in between them, his arms around them both with his head down. His face is hidden in shadow. The image was far too fitting for my comfort, and made the following morning very difficult to get through.

"He's a one-man band in his own right
Jam Master jams to the broad daylight
No instruments needed, just two record players,
A stage, a crowd, and two rhyme sayers
The ingredients are here, so have no fear
Definitely defined, definition is clear
You couldn't be late, hesitate to debate
Jam Master is here and you could not wait."
- Run-D.M.C., "Jam Master Jammin'," 1985.

In the fall of 1985, back when I attended 7th grade, I was under the mistaken impression that I could rap. I started scribbling verses onto paper and would record them to cassette, shouting into the condenser mic on my boom box while another radio blasted an instrumental behind me. You know what my MC name was? Master Jay. That took some originality, didn't it? I was one "Jam" away from defiling another man's name. And it gets worse: shortly after "My Adidas" was getting regular airplay, I wrote a similar cut for a friend of mine who thought Converse sneakers were the flavor. "My Converse?" What the hell was I thinking? They weren't even the Chuck Taylor joints, either.

The day before the one-year anniversary of the September 11th tragedies, Arista Records released Run-D.M.C.'s Greatest Hits. It's the unquestionable validation of their contributions to hip-hop (as if they needed to be proven) and every song that needs to be on it is there. The collection of tunes has now become a soundtrack for the end of an era, with "Jam Master Jay" (the first of the group's tribute cuts to their one-man band) sounding like a defiant eulogy of sorts, celebrating the life of a seasoned DJ. Jason Mizell completed the crew; his cuts and scratches added the perfect sonic spice to Darryl and Joe's rhymes. He mastered the classic intro to their live shows, flipping his own name in the mix, then doing the same for D.M.C. before he came out on stage. And then, the moment we all remember well…

"RUN…R-RUN…RUN, RUN, RUN…R-RUN…" And I KNOW y'all know what I'm talkin' about.

You could tell that Jay was a good-natured brother who liked to have fun. Go back and check the writing credits for Run-D.M.C.'s more light-hearted material like "You Talk Too Much" and "You Be Illin'" - Jay had a hand in it. People don't talk about the group's sense of humor that much. To this day, I still fall out while listening to "It's Not Funny":

"It's not funny when you buy a TV off the street
You take it home, plug it in…BAM! You got beat."

"It's not funny when you see three cars you like
And your pocket can only buy a three-speed bike."

I don't care what anybody says, that is straight comedy.

Later on in Run-D.M.C.'s career, Jay started to play drums and keyboards on a few songs. Then, there's his production and puttin' other groups on the map. More than likely, he will be remembered for Onyx in that regard…much to my chagrin. When Bacdafucup was first released, I was hoping that it was all a big mistake. No matter what I did, I couldn't escape "Throw Ya Gunz" in my house - my stepbrother loved that album. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what Jay would want with these screaming, bald-headed banshees fluent in glockspeak. In my opinion, the most amazing moment in Onyx's career was releasing "Slam" as a single for urban audiences. Think about it: they introduced slam dancing to a group of people that used to get pissed off when you stepped on their sneakers. That's pretty damn impressive.

Oh wait, I've got one for you: anybody remember The Afros? They also had the Jam Master production seal, and the group featured DJ Hurricane (originally the DJ for The Beastie Boys back in the day). Around 1990 or so, they put out an album called Kickin' Afrolistics. The single and video for "Feel It" was absolutely hysterical. Basically it was a big pool party out in front of a mansion with the group donning Afro wigs and actin' a fool. And they got a whole bunch of other heads to act a fool with them: Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Slick Rick, M.C. Serch of 3rd Bass…all wearing Afro wigs. And holdin' it down on the drum kit was our beloved Jason Mizell, with an assured smirk and a wigged-out blowout.

"I'm Jay, I make up the tre
Now, check out the dance that I display
It's called the PAUSE…
A new thing on the dance floor
First ya move, then ya stop
Combine the hustle, foxtrot, pop and wop
Put 'em all together and why, because…
It's called the PAUSE."
- Run-D.M.C., "Pause," 1989.

My personal bouts with being a part-time MC followed me right up until 2001, when I hung up my intermittent microphone for good. I don't have the heart to be as hungry as heads are nowadays. Above ground, it's about material things, player status, or thugged-out nursery rhymes. Contrary to popular opinion, the underground isn't much better. Granted, there are still some great lyricists within the under, but don't let heads fool you. It's also full of small-time pimps, players and hoods, as well as lyrical combat cats that constantly wanna battle, constantly looking for another rep to destroy. This is precisely why I don't rhyme anymore - there's no place for humility in hip-hop lyricism. Besides that, putting me in a freestyle battle is asking for trouble. Not only because I'm no good at it, but if someone disrespects me in front of a crowd of hundreds, they're not making it home. It's as simple as that. So my choice to spin records and write rants is a good thing for all involved parties. I'm not trying to donate myself as another black body to finance the prison industrial complex. And I think we can all agree that we've had more than enough senseless killing in the rap game.

But the murder of Jam Master Jay was the last straw. Just like my need to turn away from rhyme schemes, some might be set to walk away from hip-hop all together, especially the old school fans that saw the music being birthed and begin to mature. Present-day drama has taken the life of one of our heroes, an esteemed member of the genre. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see fans of the music - both old and new - look today's hip-hop nation squarely in the face and say, "Depart from me; I know you not."

The day after Jay's funeral, a number of hip-hop's most popular figures gathered at a press conference in support of the Mizell family, making contributions towards their children's education and the mortgage on their home. My hope is that Russell Simmons will sit down with those in charge over at Adidas and ask that they do right by a brother partially responsible for a sea of hip-hop fans rocking their shell-toed sneakers. Because long before product placement would find its way into every other rap song, Run-D.M.C. wrote a tribute to their favorite kicks. It was Russell who had the foresight to invite some Adidas reps to one of their concerts. I wish I could've seen the looks on their faces when the group got the fans to throw a shell toe in the air and wave it like they just don't care. Chuck D. said it more than a decade ago on "Shut 'Em Down": "I like Nike, but wait a minute / the neighborhood supports, so put some money in it." Corporate compensation is overdue. If not now, then when?

Wednesday, October 30, 2002: My television wears a live shot of Jamaica, Queens via the 11 o'clock news. People are spilling onto the street in front of the recording studio where Jam Master Jay's murder took place. Various solemn and shocked faces include D.M.C., Chuck D., and Lyor Cohen. Big brothers who'd look hard on any other day now have tears streaming down their cheeks or are staring at the ground, unable to speak. I envision Jason Mizell standing over them all, his arms around them just like that back cover photo with Darryl and Joe. His head bowed, his face in the shadows.

"His name's Jam Master, call him Jay
The crowd goes wild when he starts to play
Everything is correct and A-O.K.
Jam Master's on a move, but his sounds will stay."
- Run-D.M.C., "Jam Master Jammin'," 1985.

{jason randall smith}

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Posted by macedonia at 11:46 AM EST
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Friday, 14 April 2006
death and resurrection
Now Playing: just wrapping up the work day...my brain checked out long ago...
Topic: rants de macedonia

postcard from Audio Underground Recordings International

[this one was originally published in ON THE VERGE v3.0 e-mail monthly for May 2, 2001. it's about my reactions to the loss of a punk rock icon as well as a record store close to my heart and the variables connecting both, as well as some spiritual matters. it's Holy Week, what can i say?]

death and resurrection

I was frozen. There was nothing I could say. I had gotten the news via e-mail through a friend. Audio Underground, the premier record shop of the Capital District and home base for Albany and upstate New York ravers, burned to the ground last month. Everything was destroyed: countless records, listening booths, computers, a mother cat and a few of her kittens. Damian Galban (a.k.a. DJ Dames) served as the proud owner of A.U. for several years. I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s going through.

I hadn’t been up to Albany in a few years, hadn’t been to A.U. since I graduated college, yet I felt a severe sense of loss. There was a lump in my throat. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t sleep. It was all I could think about the following day at work. I said a prayer for Dames. I prayed for strength, for perseverance, that this wouldn’t dampen the spirits of the raving community in Albany as a whole and that they might pull together and rebuild that which was taken away from them.


A few days later on Easter Sunday, punk rock suffered a great loss. Not just punk rock, but every category of music that stepped outside the confines of music theory. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma. And some people wouldn’t have known had others not told them. As influential as the Ramones were, regardless of the fact that there aren’t many groups who have written so many songs with so few chord changes, Joey’s death didn’t get a full minute’s coverage on most news programs. And probably the hardest thing to get over for most people was that a punk rock icon died from cancer. Not drugs, not alcohol, but CANCER. As if the pills ‘n’ booze scenario would’ve sat better with some of his followers. And sadly enough, IT WOULD HAVE.

My wife was in tears. She put on “Blitzkrieg Bop” and sobbed. I dug out a Simpsons disc and played the cut where the Ramones sing “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Burns.

“We’d like to say that this gig SUCKS!”
“Yeah, up yours, Springfield.”

My friend DP tagged a train in Joey’s honor and wore an armband that read "J.R." to work the next day. Recently, he sent me an e-mail: “My co-worker made an interesting point. Joey Ramone died on Easter Sunday…that means he’s coming back, right?” Had he died on Good Friday, I might have considered that wishful thinking. But the truth is that we will never hear him count off a tune ever again. If he does come back, it will be through his legacy, which will be here a long time.

Anyone who’s lived in Albany for a period of time will tell you that it ain’t Detroit, but there are some brief similarities that can be made between the two. Not only are both working-class cities, both also feature techno as an integral part of their musical soundtracks. Other sounds have become popular within Albany’s underground sectors over the years - house, jungle, West Coast breaks - but techno was its main soundtrack prior to those (and after the rise and fall of its long-standing industrial/goth scene). It’s been that way ever since a humble little record shop opened its doors on a side street in downtown Albany, prior to its Lark Street expansion. It’s been that way since the house parties, the outlaw events, and anywhere that there was a sound system and a generator. My interest in the hows and whys of techno grew long after my time within the Capital District had passed. Back then, I was too preoccupied with my own downbeat agenda. I danced to techno, I appreciated techno, but I can’t say I completely understood techno. I do now, though. Now more than ever.

Tragedies such as these quickly separate the shortsighted from those who see the big picture. Most of us (myself included) want to see Audio Underground rebuilt. Ask those who are close to Dames and they’ll say that’s not nearly as important as rebuilding the shattered pieces of a friend’s life. It was something I needed to be reminded of, and it took my mind back to a spiritual epiphany from a few weeks ago (before the fire at A.U.). I was at church on a Sunday morning, listening attentively to the sermon, when GOD said, “If you lost all of your music in a fire, would you still love Me? If you couldn’t spin anymore, would you still trust Me? If you lost your hearing and couldn’t enjoy music anymore, would you still worship Me?” Questions like those shake me up, but they’re guaranteed to help me regain my focus.

The big picture: While Albany did lose Audio Underground, they did not lose Damian. He’s still here. That’s important to remember. A caring, kind, and giving brother is still here, and while he’s going through his own personal fire right now, he will get through this. The true heads will see to that.

There is strength and empowerment in techno. Before techno was around, that same strength could be found in punk rock. If you have a Ramones album, break it out and crank it up. If you’ve got a DJ Dames mix tape in your possession, rock that joint loud. And in either instance, don’t be surprised if you get a little emotional. I did…

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 3:05 PM EDT
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makin' due
Now Playing: daily source code for friday, april 14, 2006
Topic: rants de macedonia

a negative of a positive...

[this was originally published in ON THE VERGE v2.0 e-mail monthly for April 5, 2000. weird, though...there are parts of this that could've been written yesterday. what was true then regarding my place in the Lenten season is true right now: haven't been doing that great this year. AT ALL.]

makin' due: sacrifice and the price of knowledge

Lent has been kicking my butt this year. Not entirely, but I have been feeling the sting of sacrifice. It’s longer than it usually is: Easter Sunday doesn’t come until the end of this month. For the second year in a row, I’ve given up music purchases for Lent. I’ve included video purchases this year as well as swearing. Surprisingly enough, it’s the words that have been tripping me up.

I don’t even curse that often, but I figured that there’s always room for improvement, right? Especially since my wife had considered doing the same (good thing, too, ‘cause Beth swears like a sailor. Just kidding, honey. Kiss, kiss…). Remember that Simpsons episode with the swear jar? We figured we’d charge a quarter for any foul mouth antics and keep a tally during the day. Can you imagine my disappointment when I was averaging $1.50 per day during the workweek? If I curse at all, it’s usually at the job (that figures), but that’s still a lot for me. Meanwhile, Beth put “crap” on her list of words not to say. Now, why did she go and do that? Whenever something goes wrong, her favorite expression is “aw, CRAP!!!” needless to say, that didn’t change overnight. That was a guaranteed twenty-five cents per day.

I started to think, dag…if this keeps up, we’ll be able to buy Joseph that new Technicolor dreamcoat he’s been wanting. Beth and I have both considered each putting a five spot in the jar and calling it even, but it hasn’t come to that yet. It always seems like the moment you decide to really apply yourself to do right, obstacles come from all sides and grow in intensity.

Last month, various thoughts drove me into a state of depression that I couldn’t get out of for a while. In the wake of unarmed Black men being brutalized and/or killed by police, I re-read a book by civil rights activist Derrick Bell in order to remind myself of the realities of racism. Entitled Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence of Racism, Bell suggests that it is an indestructible part of our society and while we can come up with ways to lessen its burdens, we can’t destroy it entirely. The book holds many shocking and powerful truths - all of which come at a price. Knowing that there isn’t much that one can do to eliminate hundreds of years of institutionalized unwritten “laws” is a heavy burden to bear.

And while thinking about that, I thought about music and the intangible levels that GOD keeps showing me through it. I thought about the power it contains, how it can display and provoke emotions and feelings that can’t be summed up in words. I thought about how people who only care about money are deciding for the majority of this entire nation what music they listen to and how the masses allow it to happen. I thought about those same people buying up smaller radio stations and stripping the DJs that decide to stay of their creative freedom, demanding that they play certain songs at certain times of the day. I thought about how the greed-fueled agendas of a few are making it next to impossible for many to even have the chance to be exposed to something different, to be able to make a choice, to possibly expand their minds.

N’Sync sells two million copies of their new album in its first week and I’m supposed to believe that there are No Strings Attached? Does anybody else find that album title as ironic as I do? And does anybody realize how difficult it is sometimes to function in this life when you have all of this in your head?

It was a Friday. It was sunny outside. Absolutely gorgeous. I should’ve been happy. And I was sitting in my cubicle wondering if I was having a nervous breakdown or not. I was reminded at that moment why most tend to use music as a means of escapism. Society’s ills are the last thing that anyone wants to think about while on the dance floor. Contrary to what some might think, I don’t think that music should always be serious. Anyone who has seen me dancing and jumping around at a rave knows that (even when I spin, for goodness sake). However, I do take the art form of DJing seriously. I take the politics that record companies and radio stations have polluted music with VERY seriously. And I treat music like I know it’s a gift from GOD and not just filling up the background settings of my life. I’ve recently decided to do away with music while on the job - not because I think that it distracts me from my work, but because I think my work distracts me from music. It deserves our utmost attention, and I’ve just begun to discover the balance between losing myself in it while giving it the attention that it so rightly deserves.

Once again, we arrive in your mailbox with reviews of releases both old and new. Some artists you know about, some you don’t. There may be something here that you will never come across in life. However, there may be something here that will call out to you at a record shop tomorrow (life’s funny like that). As always, we hope there’s something that makes you laugh, makes you think, and makes you excited about music all over again. If these three things are accomplished, then we’ve done our job.

One love, one life, one universal language. And when in doubt, DIG DEEPER. Peace…

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 2:03 PM EDT
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Monday, 20 March 2006
american dreams (and personal realities)
Now Playing: the real estate agents - octivebyoctive (live)
Topic: rants de macedonia

spiritual warfare:  a self-portrait.  albany, ny, 1997.

[since we've hit the three-year anniversary mark of the u.s. invasion of iraq, i figured it was high time to dig this one up. if memory serves me correctly, i originally posted this to the BSOTS website around june of 2003. i was unemployed at the time, so i wrote about that as well as the war and other stuff that was plauging my brain at the time. out of all the rants i've written, this one still remains the high point in my humble opinion.]

american dreams (and personal realities)

One night in March of 2003, I was jolted out of bed by a series of blinding lights on my television screen. Squinting in order to get a better look at the bombs bursting in air and the rocket's red glare, I was informed that the jam of the month had hit the airwaves: Operation Iraqi Freedom (The Gulf War Remix). Number one with a M.O.A.B. on American charts, slated for heavy rotation until DJ Tommy Franks takes the needle off the record.

I saw the truth stare back at me from a comic strip. It depicted Donald Rumsfeld sitting in a chair, pants around his ankles, pleasuring himself while watching explosions on four televisions (each broadcasting a different news station). Edging ever closer to climax, he shouted, "Burn, baby, burn!"

Less than 12 hours after Michael Moore pisses off everyone at the Oscars, I stand in front of my TV set bewildered as Wayne Brady gives a rousing "Yay For America" monologue to a studio audience full of stone-faced White people...all of whom look as if they're just waiting for the good Negro to forget his place. Their fears are soon put to rest as he stands center stage, belting out a rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A." And while I try not to dismiss it as another example of "shuck and jive" in the age of "shock and awe," I envision Manhattanville College basketball player Toni Smith standing before him in uniform, turning her back to this display of stars and stripes in song.

When Natalie Gilbert forgot the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" at that Portland Trailblazers game, I left the room. I figured that if a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dixie Chick could get their CDs steamrolled, watch their album sales plummet, and receive death threats along with significantly less airplay, there was no way that that thirteen year-old girl was going to make it out of there alive. Thankfully, it didn't end that way. Much love to Maurice Cheeks for stepping in and helping out a young damsel in distress. They sang it together. Twenty thousand fans joined in soon after. It was one of those uniquely American moments that you see on the big screen - everybody wins. So why wasn't I smiling? Because somewhere in that crowd, there was at least one person that stomped on a Dixie Chicks CD, won't frequent a French restaurant, and told even the most eloquent of war protesters to keep their big mouths shut.

I'll be honest: I had patriots to the right of me, protesters to the left of me, and both were getting on my nerves. Seems as if nothing in this country can be done without a subsection of the population taking actions to the furthest extreme possible. As a result, staged die-ins occurred every hour on the hour by every leftist organization known to man - a few of whom still hadn't figured out their own agenda yet or used the confusion as the perfect time to bitch about unrelated matters in the public eye. Meanwhile, on the other side of the argument, French cheese was thrown in the garbage, their wine ran like blood in the streets, and somewhere in America a star-spangled spud technician underneath the golden arches asked, "You want 'freedom fries' with that?" Apparently, turban surveillance wasn't enough: the United States decided to take up beret profiling as well.

The days soon began to run into each other, getting longer with each news report. Sandstorms against red clay made the Middle East look more like Mars. Comical Ali became the poster boy for positive thinking against all odds. A thousand dancers in Iraq collectively get their Fred Astaire on and did the liberation pogo atop the head of Saddam Hussein's statue. President Bush declares the war officially over on May first, but sniper bullets say otherwise. And as Operation Iraqi Freedom becomes Desert Scorpion, which then morphs into Haven Denial; as NBC works diligently to bring the made-for-TV movie Saving Jessica Lynch to a small screen near you; as the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein are paraded throughout the media as symbolic trophies for a bad-ass administration, I find myself on the front line back home, facing a common enemy...

One day in June, the skies opened up on New York State and a voice said, "Welcome to Seattle." Every weekend that month was a washout. The sun would show up regularly on Monday morning just to be spiteful, which ultimately means nothing if you're unemployed. While soldiers continue to feel the aftereffects of the war in Iraq, I (like so many millions of Americans) fight a war of economics. Nobody enlists for this war, you just get drafted one day. My draft date was January 31, 2003. Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed, my days are spent in attempts to master the art of being noticed. Caught in the vicious cycle of research-apply-reject, playing craps with keywords in cyberspace on company websites, I aspire to crack the code that triggers an acknowledgement of my existence.

I have recently renamed New York: welcome to CLUB DARWIN. "Survival of the fittest" is the only door policy. Nobody wants to frequent this place, but too many of us end up there through no fault of our own. And no matter how crowded the joint gets, it never seems to fill to capacity. There's always room for one more. Price of admission: pride, ego, tears, self esteem, whatever the NYPD decides to fine you for that day...the management's not picky.

A pivotal quote from a bishop's sermon has become the underlying theme to my dry season: "I don't care how holy you think you are, everybody has a breaking point. Pressure reveals character." Nowadays, these sentiments are more valid than ever. The pressures of everyday life have grown to a point where even those within their right minds have no problems doing the wrong thing. Given the right circumstances, we all could do what we said we'd never do. In desperate times such as these, never say never. At the end of the day, you just might.

Pressure will make a man bold enough to rob a bank or an armored car because they're tired of being thirty cents away from having a quarter. Pressure will make a woman beat a man to death with a high-heeled shoe because all she wanted was to be loved, but got lies instead. Pressure will make a soldier in Iraq say (on national television), "If Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask for his resignation," or off themselves before the snipers get to them first. The line between you and the extremist is frighteningly thin and in a world of extremes, we're all being pushed to the limit. So don't be so quick to judge whoever's being dragged away in handcuffs on the evening news; that person's liable to show up in your mirror someday...

I step off the number four train to be greeted by camouflage figures, machine guns in plain view by their sides, casually talking amongst themselves. It's a sight that I still haven't grown used to. I make my way towards an apartment complex near the FDR Drive for the only interview I've had since being laid off. While it went great, it raised as many questions in my mind as it answered. Afterwards, I sit by the waterside: the calm of the waves before me, the hustle and bustle of automobiles behind me. I began to ponder the struggles between the spirit and the flesh, working for personal fulfillment versus working to pay the bills, and the sobering reality that my life was never meant to be lived for myself.

A situation named "No Win" stares me in the face, a thug mug worn by countless hard rocks on any given day, Timberland boots laced and ready to leave prints on my face. Situation asks, with arms folded, "So now what?" I respond with silence, looking past a worse case scenario to watch motorboats carve through the Hudson River. The sun's rays make the waves glisten and sparkle like precious jewels, each one representing the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of a sea of survivors that have yet to be fulfilled.

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 4:40 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006 4:51 PM EST
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Wednesday, 8 March 2006
strung out
Now Playing: monica's radio show on wfmu
Topic: rants de macedonia

homework quandary.  fall of '98.

[this rant represents the first one i wrote regarding the season of Lent and was originally published in ON THE VERGE v1.0 e-mail monthly on April 7, 1999. believe it or not, i gave up music for Lent one year. while my rules aren't nearly this strict as of late, i still continue with the idea of no music purchases between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.]

strung out

Vic just shook his head in disbelief. "You have GOT to be kidding me." But my mind was mind up. This was something that I had to do for myself.

Ash Wednesday had arrived and my mom called me at work to remind me. She asked me what I was going to give up for Lent. I didn't know. When I thought about it, however, I knew what I had to do.

Some give up meat or cigarettes. Others alcohol or swearing. I knew that whatever I decided to give up had to be a real sacrifice for me. That's when it hit me: music. My strung out junkie-like addiction to music would be the very thing.

I always have music playing no matter what I'm doing, so this was going to be a challenge. And as much as I use music for therapeutic purposes, I use it as a diversion and a tool of procrastination often. One ought not to abuse music like that (or deceive themselves, for that matter). So I made up some rules to follow for six days out of the week. Sundays were the obvious exemption. Here's what I came up with:

    This excluded anything I had ordered prior to Ash Wednesday and any promotional items that I occasionally receive. I had to do this - I was buying music like I didn't have to pay rent for a while.
    The only exceptions were two parties during March that I committed to before Ash Wednesday.
    That's very little for me. Time would be extended only if I were reviewing an album for OTV or dubbing some music for a friend. This way, I'd be concentrating on someone else's wants and not my own.
Upon hearing all of this, a friend of mine scolded me. "THAT'S JUST MEAN TO DO TO YOURSELF!!" Perhaps. But I did spin two gigs and when I wasn't reviewing stuff for OTV, I did other things…like READ!!! There were books that I hadn't picked up in a while that I really got into during the Lent period.

I also got confirmation on the fact that music doesn't have to be constantly all around me. Every day brings a different soundtrack in my head. I make up techno tracks at work around the busy signals of fax machines trying to send something to Finland. And at home I got reacquainted with pieces of wax that I hadn't heard in a while, and usually ended up saying "damn, I've been sleeping on THIS?!?"

And GOD replied, "see? Why are you in such a rush to get more? RE-EXAMINE WHAT YOU HAVE."

And I did. And I am thankful.

So with that, I encourage you to dig up something you haven't heard in ages. You may hear it with a different ear this time and catch something that you haven't heard before.

"what we gonna do right here is go back…WAYBACK…back into time…"

{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 2:50 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006 2:52 PM EST
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Thursday, 2 March 2006
the lost writings of testosterone boy
Now Playing: Dead Beat Radio (eastvillageradio.com)
Topic: rants de macedonia

where the hell am i?  and how do you get back to the womb?

[okay, so long before there was Both Sides Of The Surface, there was a monthly email newsletter called On The Verge, which ran from January 1999-December 2001. a bunch of music reviews written as well as a number of rants. since it's Women's Herstory Month, i figured i'd start off with an early rant of mine in regards to the topic of women. this was originally published in the ON THE VERGE v1.0 e-mail monthly for March 17, 1999. there are references to certain celebrities that will bring home how dated this is. the line about Lauryn Hill is either ironic, dead-on or both, given all that she's been through since this was written...]

the lost writings of testosterone boy

Don't ask me about estrogen. I don't understand it, I don't pretend to understand it, and all of you ladies out there are just gonna have to deal with the fact that most of us men don't, m'kay?

It was about five years ago that I had a dream. I had a dream that GOD was elected president, but the sisterhood had voted for Mother Nature. Her popularity had just about tripled after she had held a fundraiser to get Eve out of jail. Meanwhile, Adam was on Hard Copy talking about how Eve had paid Lorena Bobbitt to "do a little job for her." She had met with Anita Hill earlier the same day.

And right about now, Monica Lewinsky would be asking for her services (no more jokes about her "love handles," please. My ears can't take it).

Jump cut to now: I'm lost in a world of ultra-flesh that is not of my own making. 15 year-old boys gaze longingly at women they will never meet, be they Playboy pin-ups, Victoria's Secret angels, or female celebs that decided to cover up the right spots of their naked selves on the covers of Details or Maxim. In the midst of all of this, I have to wonder how many decided to skip classes on how to be a sex symbol while keeping your clothes on. More than likely, Gillian Anderson would be teaching this course.

Trying to sidestep fleshworld isn't exactly the easiest of all things, but anything to avoid being the typical male. Can you imagine my surprise on that terrible day when I woke up and realized that I was one?

Jump back to five years ago: I turned a street corner only to see Sharon Stone encircled by a group of women. Between giving her swift kicks to the mid-section, they shouted repeatedly, "What were you thinking? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?"

I watched in amazement as Angela Davis stood beside me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Y'know, she really wasn't helping matters much; the bitch had it comin'." She pointed out towards the street. "Phallus patrol's on the move, brother. They don't take too kindly to Y-chromosomes. You'd better go." Then she threw up a power fist and kept steppin'.

You wanna know what amazes me? When somebody like DMX can stand up on stage in front of tens of thousands and ask "where my bitches at?" and women actually scream with delight. You'd think his dumb ass would get booed off the set, but OH, NO. The ladies in the crowd still said "Ow!" right on cue. WHAT'S THAT ABOUT?

And all these years, I wondered why the nice guy never got the girl. Thugs and players got it made. Fellas, it has become apparent to me that if you want a woman to obsess over you, act like she doesn't exist. Ignore her like she's a chain letter. Don't even bother calling her for two weeks.


But like I said, I ain't the one to ask about the ways of estrogen.

That's about the point when I throw on my headphones. Ear travels bring me to Nina Simone. She doesn't know me from Adam, yet can somehow sing about my pain that I can't even find words for. And Betty Carter brings me out of my darkness with vocal sunshine. And the present-day sirens: Lady Miss Kier, Beth Gibbons, Martina Topley-Bird (yin to Tricky's yang), Bjork, Esthero, Tracey Thorn - each taking my emotions for a different turn.

I'll tell you what I dig - those sistas that's coming full force, making their own music and owning their own labels, like DJ Rap, Miss DJax, The Angel and Nicolette. Sayin' "this is how it should be done for the sisterhood." Women that respond to bass, straight up ball breakers like Riz Maslen and Andrea Parker, creating dark sounds that exorcise their personal demons. And hip-hop females holding their own on the microphone, goin' back to Sha Rock, the Plus One element that was down with the Funky Four. The same feeling when I dote on MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante or Sweet T, on ahead to Apani B-Fly Emcee and the Ladybug Miss Mecca. And whenever Bahamadia speaks, my face is aglow diggin' on that flow - like she's always up to somethin' sinister. or Ursula Rucker closin' out Roots joints with ill urban poetics, heartfelt and introspective.

And as for Lauryn Hill, sista woman is laughing in the face of everyone who told her that she couldn't do it.

The scribes, I'm down with them, too. Read them before I read the brothers: mothers Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, bell hooks, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Terri McMillan...read 'em all. Got vexed, infuriated and still finished the books.

And the list goes on. Talented sisters, too many to mention.

But, don't ask me to explain estrogen. Me Mars, you Venus, i-ight? It’s like that. I ain't in the mood for no verbal beatdown. It’s hard enough dealing with my own hormone, for real.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

dear sisterhood -

i'm sorry that i haven't always treated you the way that i should have (Lord knows i haven't), but never let it be said that i haven't given you the props that were due you. when you need a ear, you know where i'm at. oh yeah, one more thing...


{jason randall smith}

Posted by macedonia at 3:21 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006 3:22 PM EST
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