end of semester, beginning of…

Lots of things coming to a good end lately:

The 2007 Frankford renovation.

The college semester (one more assignment and final).

Lots of good things beginning:

Wed night baseball

Shalom House Festival (May 13, 6:30pm at 2007 Frankford)

The Discerning Team has met twice about the next church plant.

Composting in the backyard, getting ready for our little garden (Japanese cukes, cilantro, some flowers already going)

I also managed to sprain my ankle during the first inning of the first game of the year.  I go to a specialist tomorrow to see how bad the damage is.  Today was the first day that the swelling went down, that’s encouraging.

Schoolly

When my teacher told me that Schoolly D was going to be coming into class, I thought it was pretty awesome and funny.  I had only heard of him because of PSK and by the word on the street that Ice T had stolen his whole deal.

Last Tuesday, Schoolly and some friends (including Umar from Street Fatigues) visited our class.  Schoolly grew up at 52nd & Parkside, and started playing guitar in a family band before he was 10yrs old.  He’s talented, personable, and hilarious.  Top moment of the day…

Nate:  “How would you describe your relation to so-called Gangsta Rap?”

Schoolly:  “I’m the father.”

Modesty may not be in the top 4 words to describe him.  Among other things lately, he’s been busy working on a new album.  You may know him also from Aqua Teen Hunger Force as he wrote the theme, most of the score, and the character Shake was loosely based on him.

Hearing him talk about hip hop was a privilege.  He still tries to do it “the old way.”  Recording, writing, and producing in-house as well as putting things out first on his own label.  It’s not made for mass consumption.   He told the kids in class about how important it was to be yourself artistically-don’t try to fit into a box that people (even you) think will sell before what you really care about.

I got to talk to him for a couple minutes after class.  I honestly wish I had brought my camera.  He’s a legend.

I used to love H.E.R.

I’ve never been a huge fan of homework.  But it’s not always doing math equations and reading 50pgs a day.  For my Hip Hop and Black Culture class part of my assignment is to listen to this song, watch the video, and read the lyrics to prepare for a class discussion.  Awesome!

Video, lyrics, then a couple of reflections.

This is Chicago-based rapper Common (when he was still Common Sense) in the 1994 song “I used to love H.E.R.” off the album Resurrection.

Verse One:

I met this girl, when I was ten years old
And what I loved most she had so much soul
She was old school, when I was just a shorty
Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me
ont he regular, not a church girl she was secular
Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her
But I respected her, she hit me in the heart
A few New York niggaz, had did her in the park
But she was there for me, and I was there for her
Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her
and just cool out, cool out and listen to her
Sittin on a bone, wishin that I could do her
Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be
because we related, physically and mentally
And she was fun then, I'd be geeked when she'd come around
Slim was fresh yo, when she was underground
Original, pure untampered and down sister
Boy I tell ya, I miss her

Verse Two:

Now periodically I would see
ol girl at the clubs, and at the house parties
She didn't have a body but she started gettin thick quick
DId a couple of videos and became afrocentric
Out goes the weave, in goes the braids beads medallions
She was on that tip about, stoppin the violence
About my people she was teachin me
By not preachin to me but speakin to me
in a method that was leisurely, so easily I approached
She dug my rap, that's how we got close
But then she broke to the West coast, and that was cool
Cause around the same time, I went away to school
And I'm a man of expandin, so why should I stand in her way
She probably get her money in L.A.
And she did stud, she got big pub but what was foul
She said that the pro-black, was goin out of style
She said, afrocentricity, was of the past
So she got into R&B hip-house bass and jazz
Now black music is black music and it's all good
I wasn't salty, she was with the boys in the hood
Cause that was good for her, she was becomin well rounded
I thought it was dope how she was on that freestyle shit
Just havin fun, not worried about anyone
And you could tell, by how her titties hung

Verse Three:

I might've failed to mention that this chick was creative
But once the man got you well he altered her native
Told her if she got an image and a gimmick
that she could make money, and she did it like a dummy
Now I see her in commercials, she's universal
She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle
Now she be in the burbs lickin rock and dressin hip
And on some dumb shit, when she comes to the city
Talkin about poppin glocks servin rocks and hittin switches
Now she's a gangsta rollin with gangsta bitches
Always smokin blunts and gettin drunk
Tellin me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk
Stressin how hardcore and real she is
She was really the realest, before she got into showbiz
I did her, not just to say that I did it
But I'm committed, but so many niggaz hit it
That she's just not the same lettin all these groupies do her
I see niggaz slammin her, and takin her to the sewer
But I'ma take her back hopin that the shit stop
Cause who I'm talkin bout y'all is hip-hop

---------------
Besides this being a classic work it is one of the great hip hop 
parables.  This would be anexample of one of those songs that is 
all-too-easy misunderstood at face value.  You could listen
and even be offended because he talks of sex or lewd observations 
about the subject's new sexy style. When this song came out you 
gotta remember what was happening in the world-especially in the 
hip hopworld.  West Coast vs. East Coast and Gangsta Rap was c
oming up.  Hip Hop had gone through the folk and art phases 
and was now in the pop phase-it was being made for mass consumption.  

Common uses the woman he always loved as a metaphor for hip hop,
 showing him the way-going through consciousness and into a place 
that he did not want to follow-making money and being about sex,
violence, and drugs.  It had sold its soul, but hope remained for 
redemption.

H.E.R. means "Hip Hop in its Essence is Real."

Great song and this was when Common was still the man.  
His last 2 albums haven't quite lived upto his old stuff, imho.

spring 09 semester underway

they call it the Spring semester, but going over to Temple didn’t feel like Spring today.  It’s nice to be back in school again.  I have some really great classes and love my profs.

I’m taking Intro to History of Africa with the same guy as last time (see earlier post).  5 books again, but this time about several different regions and not as in depth. The other one is Hip-Hop and Black Culture (African American Studies Dept).  The first class was so good.  There is a possibility that Philadelphia legend Schoolly D might even come in one class.

then

then

Schooly D now

now

pretty awesome.

“finally”

Today I had my 2 finals, officially marking the end of the semester!  whew!  In some ways I now know why it took me so long to get back in college, in other ways I’m really siked to be taking classes.  It’s not always easy, but it’s really stimulating and deepening.  I definitely felt like an “adult student” today when I was really pumped to write an essay for 2 hours for my final in History of Southern Africa (thanks, Teshale!).  The question was to state Steve Biko’s ideology of Black Consciousness and his critique of White liberalism.  It was a treat to sit for that time with Mr. Biko and reflect on his inspiring writings and life.

Steve Biko, 1946-1977

Steve Biko, 1946-1977

It’s going to be nice not having to go to class or do all that reading, at least until late January.  Next semester I set up my schedule way better and have equally cool classes so it won’t be as wild as this one.

Remember, remember

The twelfth of September

A light, once bright was dimmed.

sitting next to strangers

I love how funny people are.  Most Americans from the US have this thing about sitting next to strangers, especially when eating.  It’s not cool.  Sometimes I’ll go to a restaraunt in Center City with Martha and we’ll sit 6″ away from strangers, and it’s kind of weird for a minute.  You see what they are eating, you hear part of their conversation.  You don’t talk to them, though (although I usually will ask them for sugar or something just to break the taboo).

Temple’s campus is the same way.  Generally, even at the picnic tables, if someone is sitting there alone they have the whole thing claimed.  Unless there are Eastern Europeans involved.

One day I was sitting there jammin to tunes and checking my email on the laptop and 6 Polish people practically surrounded me slowly, one every 3 minutes or so.  I was at their table now, but I was still wearing headphones and not paying attention (besides I only understand like 10 words in Polish, sorry Nani!).

Table For One photo by Baerbel Kavanaugh

"Table For One" photo by Baerbel Kavanaugh

Today a guy sat next to me at this table and kept looking over semi-discretely to watch 2 piece rock vidoes that I was checking out while I finished my lunch.  I almost wanted to give him a headphone so he could get a taste, but I didn’t.

We can live in such proximity with others and kind of pretend that they don’t exist.  Other places in the world that I have been to aren’t so much like that.  Why do we have this idea to “respect each other by leaving one another alone”?   I don’t really want to live like that.

Tinariwen Doc online

I think I’ve been talking about this group for a while, and prob even posted about it.  I ran across this documentary about them today when I needed to return to the desert after a weird moment on campus.

I was talking to my classmate who came to the PM last night because he read about us in the PW article about our stories.  We were just reading one of the most intelligent arguments for Apartheid by Hendrik Verwoerd and had a class discussion about its ties to Calvinism in Nazi Germany among other things.  Fascinating.

As soon as we walk outside there are huge banners and large crosses with young people shouting at us to turn to Jesus. I don’t want to even get into it, but there were a few of them.  And I needed to get away from the coercion.

So while I ate my noodles, I found this short doc and got a sense of going back to the desert with one of my favorite Tuareg bands.  In this desert with Christ, I’m free to not have to judge people or be so offended by people acting like idiots.  I can let it go.  There’s a lot of sand.  One of the Tinariwen lyrics translates something like “I have never seen enough trees to make a forest.”  It’s can really be that simple.

just when I thought my life was rough…

My mind is not used to having exams.  Two in one day about tuckered me out, not to mention my right arm is about to fall off.  I feel tired, in a good way now that they are over.  I paid attention and participated in class, read the material, reviewed material, did at least okay (I think) on the exams.

When I’m tired like this I want attention.  I want sympathy.  I start to feel a little bad about my situation when the cosmic alarm clock rings while walking to my office this afternoon.

One of my neighbors wanted to talk.  Two days ago, his 5mo old son died-apparantly of some sort of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (although he is suspicious of some sort of neglect) and last night his nephew got shot in the face and stomach by Kensington High School.  He had his spleen removed and for the foreseeable future will pee and poop into a bag that he will wear by his hip.

My friend and I got to pray.  He is having his daughter 302 him tonight so he can get the help he needs.

In a moment that I feel such a need for sympathy, there is an opportunity to give some.  God works in these moments.  Sometimes I just walk by this neighbor, sometimes we talk.  Today I was going to walk by but at the last second turned around to shoot the breeze about the Phils.  Thanks, God, for a wake up call.

college becomes less fun…

1.  when it’s exam time.

2.  when I have 2 exams in the same day, like tomorrow, for instance.

3.  when I don’t have as much time to study as I would like.

Last time around I did a lot of crammage.  That seemed like a good idea.  Nowadays I like to do all the reading when it’s assigned and take a lot of notes.

I still haven’t quite made up my mind for which essay to write for my History class.  Here’ my choices.
1.    History of African societies of Southern Africa
a.    Identify the three major groups of people in Southern Africa (San, Khoi Khoi, Bantu)
b.    Write an overview of their history from the beginning until the 20th Century.  Or after you describe them you can focus on one or all three.

2.    History of Europeans in Southern Africa
a.    Which groups came and why, how, and who did they become?  Dutch/Afrikaner
b.    Focus on one of them or each one in detail.

3.    History of interaction between Africans and Europeans in Southern Africa.
a.    mid 17th century to the present
b.    peaceful, amicable relations between the two based on trade, treaties, alliances.  It could be particular to Zulu/English relations.  Gaika taking the English to fight against Makanna, for example.
c.    1838 Afrikaner-Zulu conflict
d.    1879 British-Zulu conflict.

They are all nice and open-ended.  However, I don’t know if I can remember all these names and dates, and I have 50min in which to write it so I really have to focus.  I’m leaning to the first one because I’m most interested.  The second one I think is the easiest, though, and the third has too many possibilities and I’m afraid I’ll not give enough detail.

also movin on up

My next door neighbor Mike told me yesterday that his band Philadelphia Slick just got a show next Friday at Temple opening up for Nas.  Pretty big deal for them.  The show is at the Liacouras Center, $25 w/Temple Id-liimit 2 per student (hey, it’s homecoming.  btw, I didn’t hear whether I was on the prom court this time yet).  Let me know if you need a Temple Student to get your tickets, although said student is not willing to pay for you.

They are a 10pc hip hop crew with soul/funk/R&B/Philadelphia Sound feel, 2 MC’s.   Lyrically they dabble in social consciousness and everyone I’ve met in the group is pretty chill.

Philadelphia Slick on myspace.

Become a fan on Facebook if you want here.