Oct 31 2012

Who Run the World, Beyonce? Girls? Amber Thinks Not.

Remember that great song by Beyoncé that hit the charts last year and quickly became our favorite girl power anthem?

“Who run the world? Girls? Who run this mutha? Girls…”

Well, Amber recorded a YouTube video calling Mrs. Carter out on this blatant untruth, and I think everyone should definitely watch it before they vote in November. (If you agree after seeing the video, please share this post.)

Not that Amber’s YouTube video is, like, at the intellectual level of a presidential debate or anything (<-best read with sarcasm, thank you)  but here is a snippet of the kinds of thought-provoking arguments young Amber makes to counter Bey’s questionable claim.

Beyoncé: “Make your check, come at they neck.”

Amber: “Indeed, make your check, but be aware that your check is going to be significantly smaller than your male counterpart’s.”

Beyoncé: “Some of them men think they freak this like we do, but no, they don’t.

Amber: “I actually agree with you on this one, Beyoncé. Men certainly do not freak this the way our culture demands that women do. Men aren’t objectified in the same way or to the same magnitude as women are–if at all.

Beyoncé: “Disrespect us? No, they won’t.”

Amber: “Yes, they will. And they do. Often. I’d like to defer to a very famous doctor on this subject–Dr. Dre…” (She proceeds to quote Dre, which you really must see for yourself to fully appreciate.)

I don’t know about you, but I would pay big bucks to see Amber debate Mitt Binders-Full-of-Women Romney.

Can we say pay-per-view!?

Note: For those of us who have danced around the kitchen with the kids and cracked our smartphone screens from excessive jubilance while under the influence of said song, Amber has included this disclaimer to accompany her video:

“It’s a song. I get it. It’s just a song…This video is not about Beyoncé. It’s not even really about this song. My point is NOT that she shouldn’t have made this song because of X, Y, and Z. My point IS: Oh, Look! X, Y, and Z exist and this song is a great tie-in to a discussion of feminism. If you’ve watched some of my other videos, you would be able to sense the sarcastic tone. Relax.”‘

 

 


Oct 23 2012

One on One with Kumaserati: We Talk Black Wall Street, Kat Stacks and ’99 Names of God’

If you are a serious aficionado of “conscious” hip hop music, you are no doubt familiar with the name Kumasi Simmons, a.k.a., Kumaserati, a gifted hood-born poet with a unique flow that has attracted souls from as close as Brooklyn and Compton to as far as Paris, Jakarta, Tunisia and Ghana.

Kumasi has collaborated with some of the most creative and prolific artists in popular music, including Kanye West, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Malik Yusef and The Game.

When The Game heard Kumasi’s soul-stirring flow, he welcomed him to the Black Wall Street label as “Kumaserati,” BWS’s sole “conscious” contributor. After recording curse-free, drug-free, woman-respecting songs under the Black Wall Street flag, in May, 2012, Kumasi independently released a 27-track hood gospel project entitled Soul Music.

Soul Music is a majestic offering of uplifting, inspiring and cautionary songs with titles like Same Soul (f. Tara Ellis), Change (f. Mos Def), Highway to Hades, Promised Land (f. Kanye West and Malik Yusef), Be Kind to Your Mother, and, my personal favorite, Amazing Grace.

As if Kumasi wasn’t busy enough in the studio making his Soul Music dream a reality, last year this Compton, Cali native was sponsored by the U. S. State Department to travel the world as a cultural attaché, visiting developing democracies in Indonesia and Africa, where young, mostly Muslim, citizens are both curious and dubious about American culture and freedom of expression.

Kumasi performed with fellow Muslim artists via the group Remarkable Current in an unprecedented cultural exchange program through which they delivered messages of peace and brotherhood across barriers of language and ideology. For more information about this project, visit remarkablecurrent.com .

The video below (f. Kumasi), paying homage to Tunisian revolutionary hero Mohamed Bouazizi, is an example of the incredible creativity and passion hip hop music lends to messages of freedom and calls for progress around the world. Is it just me, or is this track SICK? And by sick, I mean AMAZING.

I recently caught up with this self-described “servant of God,” to find out what motivates him musically, what’s keeping him busy now and where he is headed next.

KC: When you released your first album, Change Gon’ Come, you used your given name, Kumasi. Now you have adopted this new moniker, Kumaserati. What’s the story behind this name change?

Kumaserati is an alias that was created to help young people remember my name. Kumasi is the name of a city in Ghana, and until I can popularize that name as an artist, I want to help people find me and find my music. I want to leave a positive impression on impressionable young people who will respond to that name because it is associated with something they value.  A Maserati is a vehicle. Kumasi is a  servant. Kumaserati is a servant of God first and foremost. The way that I serve may require different strategies.

Speaking of strategies, I understand you’ve joined a music group called Kaj (www.thekaj.com). What is Kaj and how is it different from the music of Kumaserati?

The Kaj is another strategy for Kumasi to exist in service to God. The word Kaj is a combination of the names of its members, Kumasi, Anas and Joel. We came together to do a project that is soulful and that is inspired by people that inspire soul music–like Curtis Mayfield. Like The Ojays. The Kaj is using the language and diction and the integrity of those times with the sound of today.

It seems to me there’s this gap in music today where some of us feel we really have to look and listen hard to find contemporary music that is still soulful or soul-filled. It sounds like this group is the perfect fit for us.

We weren’t really trying to specifically fill any void. We were just trying to make music that we like and that people like. Our intention is to create music that is about love, and is  also correct towards women. Theres’ a song about domestic violence. There’s a song called  The Sounds of Making Love.

Is there a percentage of The Kaj’s sound or style that you would call hip hop, or is it a departure from your hip hop roots?

That’s an excellent question. The attempt here is to be intelligent and at the same time be cognizant of using simple yet meaningful words. You won’t hear us saying words like “swag.” You might hear words like “darling” and “delectable.” The word choices are deliberate. Our music is supposed to make you feel happy and make you feel like you want to make love to your woman and retain the respect due to women.

On your new album, Soul Music, you included a track called “99 names of God.” Tell me three of those names that are embodied in your music.

“Sublime. Gracious. Mighty.”

How did an artist so focused on heavenly goals, end up at Black Wall Street with The Game?

He really wanted a conscious artist on his label. My affiliation with Black Wall Street provides an opportunity to broaden my reach as an artist. I will always have love for The Game for opening that door for me.

What is one quality of The Game that would surprise people?

People might be surprised that he has a great sense of humor. People may be surprised that he’s a family man. People may be surprised that he’s a man who is striving to be a better man and a better person. You might be surprised to know that he is in tune with his Creator.

You have collaborated with some heavyweights in the industry. Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?

I love Jamie Foxx as a person and Pharrell as well. After meeting and vibing with them, I would love to work with them. Also Will.i.am. I admire his creativity. Cee-lo is really gifted and down to earth–really for the people. I would love to work with him. Of course, Tupac, when he comes back.

Thank you for that awesome segue to my next question. If you died and God sent you back here as a woman. What would your mission be?

To be an example of class. An example of motherhood. We need more examples of strong women who are powerful generals who have command. A powerful woman doesn’t want a man with a nice vehicle with nice rims. She cares for her people. She cares to improve lifestyles besides her own. Some women believe that sex is their power. Their body is their power. But that is not the extent of a woman’s power by any means. If more women could set powerful examples, young women in our culture would create better humans.

Speaking of women and how we are perceived, in hip hop culture certain women are afforded a measure of respect and others are not. You were involved in a controversy in which you came to the defense of Kat Stacks, a self-described “hoe.” What made you think Kat Stacks deserved to be defended when she attracted so much drama and negative attention through her own actions?

When you meet a man in the hospital or grocery store that man is your brother. If that man is white or that man is black that man is your brother. If that man is Chinese that’s your Chinese brother. Whatever mind state a woman is in and whatever decisions she’s making that may be wrong, whether its to use drugs or to sell her body, that woman was born a princess. On earth we are all family members. Once you have that outlook, you can act accordingly. When it comes to a person like Kat Stacks you wish better for her. You don’t have rancor in your heart, you realize that that is a woman who was created by God and you have to respect that. He gave her lungs and eyes and she was not a mistake. She is a creation of God. How does God feel about that which God creates? If we ask ourselves that question we may find ourselves being careful to not dishonor that which God created, even if that creation has not begun to honor themselves.

You recently traveled on behalf of the United States as a cultural ambassador where you addressed thousands of young men and women whose impressions of of this country were deeply and positively impacted. Is this a new direction for Kumasi? How does civil service fit in to your goals?

This was another opportunity to serve God. I’m not into politics. I’m into people. I’m into peace. I was able to be peaceful with the people of Indonesia. I was also able to go to northern Africa. I did a song with El General (Hamada Ben Amor), the young rap artist who got locked up for speaking out against the president of Tunisia.  Last year, Time magazine named this young rapper one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

It’s important to create alliances everywhere you go. In Paris I was able to do this. In Africa. Eventually if your voice becomes big enough you can invite people to hold hands. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

What can we look forward to next from Kumaserati?

I am currently in the conception stage of a project that will ultimately bear magnificent fruit. I am collaborating with two women whom I deeply respect and admire, not only for their amazing talents, but for their pure intentions to help heal people’s pain and to serve the human family.

 Myself, Hope Shorter and  Tilly Key, along with producer Christian Shorter, are putting together a project that, in spirit, will be like having Lauryn Hill, Sade and Bob Marley collaborating to serve. I”m not trying to equate us talent-wise, though the talent here is crazy, but spirit-wise the intention is that huge.

The project is called “Child of The World,” and it will be geared toward educating young people about nutrition, healthy lifestyles and philanthropy via a series of non-profit concerts in major urban areas like downtown L.A., Chicago and NYC. We will bring music, message, and meals to the streets with the sole purpose of connecting to and serving our fellow man. 

Follow @Kumaserati

Soul Music is available at http://hoodgospel.bandcamp.com/album/soul-music $1 per track downloaded, or download ALL 27 TRACKS for just $3 !



Feb 14 2012

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

“If I should die this very day, don’t cry, ’cause on Earth we wasn’t meant to stay…” -Whitney Houston (Your Love is My Love)

Forgive me for being blunt, but my grandmother died exactly the same way Whitney Houston did, alone in a hotel bathtub. Only, Grandma left a note. She was tired of feeling bad.

Though I was not yet born when Grandma Rita died, I can tell you that the trauma of such an event is like a tidal wave, leaving those directly in it’s path drowning in pain (and seeking an escape from that pain), and those of us further down the line wading through the ripples of the pain-induced choices made by the ones who only metaphorically drowned.

The toxicology results in Whitney’s death are not expected for weeks, but those closest to her are already discussing a combination of Xanex and alcohol as the probable cause.

In my grandmother’s day it was “tranquilizers” the doctors suggested to cure “melancholy” and “nerves”. Today, the pharmaceutical companies are pushing pushing pushing “mood stabilizers” and pain killers on the public like they are TicTacs.

I’d wager that while Bobbi Kristina was in the hospital for “extreme hysteria” (mourning) she was being “calmed down” with a drug similar to the one that likely killed her mom.

I realize medication is often a life-saver, but what has happened to our society that makes “popping a xanax or two” before or during a stressful situation “the cure?”

When will our alcohol-guzzling, pill-popping culture find healthier, non-chemical relief for the broken-hearted? Isn’t that really what depression and anxiety are? A desire to feel happy and fulfilled, with no idea what the steps are to get there, or even where the journey to bliss begins?

When my fiance died, a few people lovingly offered me anti-depressants, telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed of needing it. I wasn’t ashamed. I just figured the pain would still be there when the drug wore off and I would be looking for more drug instead of diving into the pain and dealing with it. The pain was so intense, there were days I wished I were dead, and though I’d never experienced pain like it, my intuition told me that if I could hang in there, with time my heart would heal (which, thank God, it did).

Perhaps there’s a place in me that knows the havoc wreaked by my grandmother’s substance addiction–and it kept me from ever stepping on that path to disaster.

I get that people are frightened for her, but it seems to me the last thing Bobbi Kristina needs is for someone to take her hand and lead her down the same path her mother struggled a lifetime to escape from.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. And I’ll say it again–I realize medication is often a life-saver. I’m just angry and hurt at all these people dropping dead from LEGAL drugs and alcohol (while the war on illegal drugs rages on.) Prescription drugs kill 300% more people each year than ALL of the ILLEGAL ones (heroin, cocaine, meth, etc.) combined.

Really. Enough already.

“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” -Rumi